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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMartin Chuzzlewit - Chapter FIFTY-ONE
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Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter FIFTY-ONE Post by :ravereview Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :January 2011 Read :1102

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Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter FIFTY-ONE

SHEDS NEW AND BRIGHTER LIGHT UPON THE VERY DARK PLACE; AND
CONTAINS THE SEQUEL OF THE ENTERPRISE OF MR JONAS AND HIS FRIEND

 

The night had now come, when the old clerk was to be delivered over

to his keepers. In the midst of his guilty distractions, Jonas had

not forgotten it.

 

It was a part of his guilty state of mind to remember it; for on his

persistence in the scheme depended one of his precautions for his

own safety. A hint, a word, from the old man, uttered at such a

moment in attentive ears, might fire the train of suspicion, and

destroy him. His watchfulness of every avenue by which the

discovery of his guilt might be approached, sharpened with his sense

of the danger by which he was encompassed. With murder on his soul,

and its innumerable alarms and terrors dragging at him night and

day, he would have repeated the crime, if he had seen a path of

safety stretching out beyond. It was in his punishment; it was in

his guilty condition. The very deed which his fears rendered

insupportable, his fears would have impelled him to commit again.

 

But keeping the old man close, according to his design, would serve

his turn. His purpose was to escape, when the first alarm and

wonder had subsided; and when he could make the attempt without

awakening instant suspicion. In the meanwhile these women would

keep him quiet; and if the talking humour came upon him, would not

be easily startled. He knew their trade.

 

Nor had he spoken idly when he said the old man should be gagged.

He had resolved to ensure his silence; and he looked to the end, not

the means. He had been rough and rude and cruel to the old man all

his life; and violence was natural to his mind in connection with

him. 'He shall be gagged if he speaks, and pinioned if he writes,'

said Jonas, looking at him; for they sat alone together. 'He is mad

enough for that; I'll go through with it!'

 

Hush!

 

Still listening! To every sound. He had listened ever since, and it

had not come yet. The exposure of the Assurance office; the flight

of Crimple and Bullamy with the plunder, and among the rest, as he

feared, with his own bill, which he had not found in the pocket-book

of the murdered man, and which with Mr Pecksniff's money had

probably been remitted to one or other of those trusty friends for

safe deposit at the banker's; his immense losses, and peril of being

still called to account as a partner in the broken firm; all these

things rose in his mind at one time and always, but he could not

contemplate them. He was aware of their presence, and of the rage,

discomfiture, and despair, they brought along with them; but he

thought--of his own controlling power and direction he thought--of

the one dread question only. When they would find the body in the

wood.

 

He tried--he had never left off trying--not to forget it was there,

for that was impossible, but to forget to weary himself by drawing

vivid pictures of it in his fancy; by going softly about it and

about it among the leaves, approaching it nearer and nearer through

a gap in the boughs, and startling the very flies that were thickly

sprinkled all over it, like heaps of dried currants. His mind was

fixed and fastened on the discovery, for intelligence of which he

listened intently to every cry and shout; listened when any one came

in or went out; watched from the window the people who passed up

and down the street; mistrusted his own looks and words. And the

more his thoughts were set upon the discovery, the stronger was the

fascination which attracted them to the thing itself; lying alone in

the wood. He was for ever showing and presenting it, as it were, to

every creature whom he saw. 'Look here! Do you know of this? Is it

found? Do you suspect ME?' If he had been condemned to bear the

body in his arms, and lay it down for recognition at the feet of

every one he met, it could not have been more constantly with him,

or a cause of more monotonous and dismal occupation than it was in

this state of his mind.

 

Still he was not sorry. It was no contrition or remorse for what he

had done that moved him; it was nothing but alarm for his own

security. The vague consciousness he possessed of having wrecked

his fortune in the murderous venture, intensified his hatred and

revenge, and made him set the greater store by what he had gained

The man was dead; nothing could undo that. He felt a triumph yet,

in the reflection.

 

He had kept a jealous watch on Chuffey ever since the deed; seldom

leaving him but on compulsion, and then for as short intervals as

possible. They were alone together now. It was twilight, and the

appointed time drew near at hand. Jonas walked up and down the

room. The old man sat in his accustomed corner.

 

The slightest circumstance was matter of disquiet to the murderer,

and he was made uneasy at this time by the absence of his wife, who

had left home early in the afternoon, and had not returned yet. No

tenderness for her was at the bottom of this; but he had a misgiving

that she might have been waylaid, and tempted into saying something

that would criminate him when the news came. For anything he knew,

she might have knocked at the door of his room, while he was away,

and discovered his plot. Confound her, it was like her pale face to

be wandering up and down the house! Where was she now?

 

'She went to her good friend, Mrs Todgers,' said the old man, when

he asked the question with an angry oath.

 

Aye! To be sure! Always stealing away into the company of that

woman. She was no friend of his. Who could tell what devil's

mischief they might hatch together! Let her be fetched home

directly.

 

The old man, muttering some words softly, rose as if he would have

gone himself, but Jonas thrust him back into his chair with an

impatient imprecation, and sent a servant-girl to fetch her. When

he had charged her with her errand he walked to and fro again, and

never stopped till she came back, which she did pretty soon; the way

being short, and the woman having made good haste.

 

Well! Where was she? Had she come?

 

No. She had left there, full three hours.

 

'Left there! Alone?'

 

The messenger had not asked; taking that for granted.

 

'Curse you for a fool. Bring candles!'

 

She had scarcely left the room when the old clerk, who had been

unusually observant of him ever since he had asked about his wife,

came suddenly upon him.

 

'Give her up!' cried the old man. 'Come! Give her up to me! Tell me

what you have done with her. Quick! I have made no promises on that

score. Tell me what you have done with her.'

 

He laid his hands upon his collar as he spoke, and grasped it;

tightly too.

 

'You shall not leave me!' cried the old man. 'I am strong enough to

cry out to the neighbours, and I will, unless you give her up. Give

her up to me!'

 

Jonas was so dismayed and conscience-stricken, that he had not even

hardihood enough to unclench the old man's hands with his own; but

stood looking at him as well as he could in the darkness, without

moving a finger. It was as much as he could do to ask him what he

meant.

 

'I will know what you have done with her!' retorted Chuffey. 'If

you hurt a hair of her head, you shall answer it. Poor thing! Poor

thing! Where is she?'

 

'Why, you old madman!' said Jonas, in a low voice, and with

trembling lips. 'What Bedlam fit has come upon you now?'

 

'It is enough to make me mad, seeing what I have seen in this

house!' cried Chuffey. 'Where is my dear old master! Where is his

only son that I have nursed upon my knee, a child! Where is she, she

who was the last; she that I've seen pining day by day, and heard

weeping in the dead of night! She was the last, the last of all my

friends! Heaven help me, she was the very last!'

 

Seeing that the tears were stealing down his face, Jonas mustered

courage to unclench his hands, and push him off before he answered:

 

'Did you hear me ask for her? Did you hear me send for her? How

can I give you up what I haven't got, idiot! Ecod, I'd give her up

to you and welcome, if I could; and a precious pair you'd be!'

 

'If she has come to any harm,' cried Chuffey, 'mind! I'm old and

silly; but I have my memory sometimes; and if she has come to any

harm--'

 

'Devil take you,' interrupted Jonas, but in a suppressed voice

still; 'what harm do you suppose she has come to? I know no more

where she is than you do; I wish I did. Wait till she comes home,

and see; she can't be long. Will that content you?'

 

'Mind!' exclaimed the old man. 'Not a hair of her head! not a hair

of her head ill-used! I won't bear it. I--I--have borne it too long

Jonas. I am silent, but I--I--I can speak. I--I--I can speak--' he

stammered, as he crept back to his chair, and turned a threatening,

though a feeble, look upon him.

 

'You can speak, can you!' thought Jonas. 'So, so, we'll stop your

speaking. It's well I knew of this in good time. Prevention is

better than cure.'

 

He had made a poor show of playing the bully and evincing a desire

to conciliate at the same time, but was so afraid of the old man

that great drops had started out upon his brow; and they stood there

yet. His unusual tone of voice and agitated manner had sufficiently

expressed his fear; but his face would have done so now, without

that aid, as he again walked to and fro, glancing at him by the

candelight.

 

He stopped at the window to think. An opposite shop was lighted up;

and the tradesman and a customer were reading some printed bill

together across the counter. The sight brought him back, instantly,

to the occupation he had forgotten. 'Look here! Do you know of

this? Is it found? Do you suspect ME?'

 

A hand upon the door. 'What's that!'

 

'A pleasant evenin',' said the voice of Mrs Gamp, 'though warm,

which, bless you, Mr Chuzzlewit, we must expect when cowcumbers is

three for twopence. How does Mr Chuffey find his self to-night,

sir?'

 

Mrs Gamp kept particularly close to the door in saying this, and

curtseyed more than usual. She did not appear to be quite so much

at her ease as she generally was.

 

'Get him to his room,' said Jonas, walking up to her, and speaking

in her ear. 'He has been raving to-night--stark mad. Don't talk

while he's here, but come down again.'

 

'Poor sweet dear!' cried Mrs Gamp, with uncommon tenderness. 'He's

all of a tremble.'

 

'Well he may be,' said Jonas, 'after the mad fit he has had. Get

him upstairs.'

 

She was by this time assisting him to rise.

 

'There's my blessed old chick!' cried Mrs Gamp, in a tone that was

at once soothing and encouraging. 'There's my darlin' Mr Chuffey!

Now come up to your own room, sir, and lay down on your bed a bit;

for you're a-shakin' all over, as if your precious jints was hung

upon wires. That's a good creetur! Come with Sairey!'

 

'Is she come home?' inquired the old man.

 

'She'll be here directly minit,' returned Mrs Gamp. 'Come with

Sairey, Mr Chuffey. Come with your own Sairey!'

 

The good woman had no reference to any female in the world in

promising this speedy advent of the person for whom Mr Chuffey

inquired, but merely threw it out as a means of pacifying the old

man. It had its effect, for he permitted her to lead him away; and

they quitted the room together.

 

Jonas looked out of the window again. They were still reading the

printed paper in the shop opposite, and a third man had joined in

the perusal. What could it be, to interest them so?'

 

A dispute or discussion seemed to arise among them, for they all

looked up from their reading together, and one of the three, who had

been glancing over the shoulder of another, stepped back to explain

or illustrate some action by his gestures.

 

Horror! How like the blow he had struck in the wood!

 

It beat him from the window as if it had lighted on himself. As he

staggered into a chair, he thought of the change in Mrs Gamp

exhibited in her new-born tenderness to her charge. Was that

because it was found?--because she knew of it?--because she

suspected him?

 

'Mr Chuffey is a-lyin' down,' said Mrs Gamp, returning, 'and much

good may it do him, Mr Chuzzlewit, which harm it can't and good it

may; be joyful!'

 

'Sit down,' said Jonas, hoarsely, 'and let us get this business

done. Where is the other woman?'

 

'The other person's with him now,' she answered.

 

'That's right,' said Jonas. 'He is not fit to be left to himself.

Why, he fastened on me to-night; here, upon my coat; like a savage

dog. Old as he is, and feeble as he is usually, I had some trouble

to shake him off. You--Hush!--It's nothing. You told me the other

woman's name. I forget it.'

 

'I mentioned Betsey Prig,' said Mrs Gamp.

 

'She is to be trusted, is she?'

 

'That she ain't!' said Mrs Gamp; 'nor have I brought her, Mr

Chuzzlewit. I've brought another, which engages to give every

satigefaction.'

 

'What is her name?' asked Jonas.

 

Mrs Gamp looked at him in an odd way without returning any answer,

but appeared to understand the question too.

 

'What is her name?' repeated Jonas.

 

'Her name,' said Mrs Gamp, 'is Harris.'

 

It was extraordinary how much effort it cost Mrs Gamp to pronounce

the name she was commonly so ready with. She made some three or

four gasps before she could get it out; and, when she had uttered

it, pressed her hand upon her side, and turned up her eyes, as if

she were going to faint away. But, knowing her to labour under a

complication of internal disorders, which rendered a few drops of

spirits indispensable at certain times to her existence, and which

came on very strong when that remedy was not at hand, Jonas merely

supposed her to be the victim of one of these attacks.

 

'Well!' he said, hastily, for he felt how incapable he was of

confining his wandering attention to the subject. 'You and she have

arranged to take care of him, have you?'

 

Mrs Gamp replied in the affirmative, and softly discharged herself

of her familiar phrase, 'Turn and turn about; one off, one on.' But

she spoke so tremulously that she felt called upon to add, 'which

fiddle-strings is weakness to expredge my nerves this night!'

 

Jonas stopped to listen. Then said, hurriedly:

 

'We shall not quarrel about terms. Let them be the same as they

were before. Keep him close, and keep him quiet. He must be

restrained. He has got it in his head to-night that my wife's dead,

and has been attacking me as if I had killed her. It's--it's common

with mad people to take the worst fancies of those they like best.

Isn't it?'

 

Mrs Gamp assented with a short groan.

 

'Keep him close, then, or in one of his fits he'll be doing me a

mischief. And don't trust him at any time; for when he seems most

rational, he's wildest in his talk. But that you know already. Let

me see the other.'

 

'The t'other person, sir?' said Mrs Gamp.

 

'Aye! Go you to him and send the other. Quick! I'm busy.'

 

Mrs Gamp took two or three backward steps towards the door, and

stopped there.

 

'It is your wishes, Mr Chuzzlewit,' she said, in a sort of quavering

croak, 'to see the t'other person. Is it?'

 

But the ghastly change in Jonas told her that the other person was

already seen. Before she could look round towards the door, she was

put aside by old Martin's hand; and Chuffey and John Westlock

entered with him.

 

'Let no one leave the house,' said Martin. 'This man is my

brother's son. Ill-met, ill-trained, ill-begotten. If he moves

from the spot on which he stands, or speaks a word above his breath

to any person here, open the window, and call for help!'

 

'What right have you to give such directions in this house?' asked

Jonas faintly.

 

'The right of your wrong-doing. Come in there!'

 

An irrepressible exclamation burst from the lips of Jonas, as

Lewsome entered at the door. It was not a groan, or a shriek, or a

word, but was wholly unlike any sound that had ever fallen on the

ears of those who heard it, while at the same time it was the most

sharp and terrible expression of what was working in his guilty

breast, that nature could have invented.

 

He had done murder for this! He had girdled himself about with

perils, agonies of mind, innumerable fears, for this! He had hidden

his secret in the wood; pressed and stamped it down into the bloody

ground; and here it started up when least expected, miles upon miles

away; known to many; proclaiming itself from the lips of an old man

who had renewed his strength and vigour as by a miracle, to give it

voice against him!

 

He leaned his hand on the back of a chair, and looked at them. It

was in vain to try to do so scornfully, or with his usual insolence.

He required the chair for his support. But he made a struggle for

it.

 

'I know that fellow,' he said, fetching his breath at every word,

and pointing his trembling finger towards Lewsome. 'He's the

greatest liar alive. What's his last tale? Ha, ha! You're rare

fellows, too! Why, that uncle of mine is childish; he's even a

greater child than his brother, my father, was, in his old age; or

than Chuffey is. What the devil do you mean,' he added, looking

fiercely at John Westlock and Mark Tapley (the latter had entered

with Lewsome), 'by coming here, and bringing two idiots and a knave

with you to take my house by storm? Hallo, there! Open the door!

Turn these strangers out!'

 

'I tell you what,' cried Mr Tapley, coming forward, 'if it wasn't

for your name, I'd drag you through the streets of my own accord,

and single-handed I would! Ah, I would! Don't try and look bold at

me. You can't do it! Now go on, sir,' this was to old Martin.

'Bring the murderin' wagabond upon his knees! If he wants noise, he

shall have enough of it; for as sure as he's a shiverin' from head

to foot I'll raise a uproar at this winder that shall bring half

London in. Go on, sir! Let him try me once, and see whether I'm a

man of my word or not.'

 

With that, Mark folded his arms, and took his seat upon the window-

ledge, with an air of general preparation for anything, which seemed

to imply that he was equally ready to jump out himself, or to throw

Jonas out, upon receiving the slightest hint that it would be

agreeable to the company.

 

Old Martin turned to Lewsome:

 

'This is the man,' he said, extending his hand towards Jonas. 'Is

it?'

 

'You need do no more than look at him to be sure of that, or of the

truth of what I have said,' was the reply. 'He is my witness.'

 

'Oh, brother!' cried old Martin, clasping his hands and lifting up

his eyes. 'Oh, brother, brother! Were we strangers half our lives

that you might breed a wretch like this, and I make life a desert by

withering every flower that grew about me! Is it the natural end of

your precepts and mine, that this should be the creature of your

rearing, training, teaching, hoarding, striving for; and I the means

of bringing him to punishment, when nothing can repair the wasted

past!'

 

He sat down upon a chair as he spoke, and turning away his face, was

silent for a few moments. Then with recovered energy he proceeded:

 

'But the accursed harvest of our mistaken lives shall be trodden

down. It is not too late for that. You are confronted with this

man, you monster there; not to be spared, but to be dealt with

justly. Hear what he says! Reply, be silent, contradict, repeat,

defy, do what you please. My course will be the same. Go on! And

you,' he said to Chuffey, 'for the love of your old friend, speak

out, good fellow!'

 

'I have been silent for his love!' cried the old man. 'He urged me

to it. He made me promise it upon his dying bed. I never would

have spoken, but for your finding out so much. I have thought about

it ever since; I couldn't help that; and sometimes I have had it all

before me in a dream; but in the day-time, not in sleep. Is there

such a kind of dream?' said Chuffey, looking anxiously in old

Martin's face.

 

As Martin made him an encouraging reply, he listened attentively to

his voice, and smiled.

 

'Ah, aye!' he cried. 'He often spoke to me like that. We were at

school together, he and I. I couldn't turn against his son, you

know--his only son, Mr Chuzzlewit!'

 

'I would to Heaven you had been his son!' said Martin.

 

'You speak so like my dear old master,' cried the old man with a

childish delight, 'that I almost think I hear him. I can hear you

quite as well as I used to hear him. It makes me young again. He

never spoke unkindly to me, and I always understood him. I could

always see him too, though my sight was dim. Well, well! He's dead,

he's dead. He was very good to me, my dear old master!'

 

He shook his head mournfully over the brother's hand. At this

moment Mark, who had been glancing out of the window, left the room.

 

'I couldn't turn against his only son, you know,' said Chuffey. 'He

has nearly driven me to do it sometimes; he very nearly did tonight.

Ah!' cried the old man, with a sudden recollection of the cause.

'Where is she? She's not come home!'

 

'Do you mean his wife?' said Mr Chuzzlewit.

 

'Yes.'

 

'I have removed her. She is in my care, and will be spared the

present knowledge of what is passing here. She has known misery

enough, without that addition.'

 

Jonas heard this with a sinking heart. He knew that they were on

his heels, and felt that they were resolute to run him to

destruction. Inch by inch the ground beneath him was sliding from

his feet; faster and faster the encircling ruin contracted and

contracted towards himself, its wicked centre, until it should close

in and crush him.

 

And now he heard the voice of his accomplice stating to his face,

with every circumstance of time and place and incident; and openly

proclaiming, with no reserve, suppression, passion, or concealment;

all the truth. The truth, which nothing would keep down; which

blood would not smother, and earth would not hide; the truth, whose

terrible inspiration seemed to change dotards into strong men; and

on whose avenging wings, one whom he had supposed to be at the

extremest corner of the earth came swooping down upon him.

 

He tried to deny it, but his tongue would not move. He conceived

some desperate thought of rushing away, and tearing through the

streets; but his limbs would as little answer to his will as his

stark, stiff staring face. All this time the voice went slowly on,

denouncing him. It was as if every drop of blood in the wood had

found a voice to jeer him with.

 

When it ceased, another voice took up the tale, but strangely; for

the old clerk, who had watched, and listened to the whole, and had

wrung his hands from time to time, as if he knew its truth and could

confirm it, broke in with these words:

 

'No, no, no! you're wrong; you're wrong--all wrong together! Have

patience, for the truth is only known to me!'

 

'How can that be,' said his old master's brother, 'after what you

have heard? Besides, you said just now, above-stairs, when I told

you of the accusation against him, that you knew he was his father's

murderer.'

 

'Aye, yes! and so he was!' cried Chuffey, wildly. 'But not as you

suppose--not as you suppose. Stay! Give me a moment's time. I have

it all here--all here! It was foul, foul, cruel, bad; but not as you

suppose. Stay, stay!'

 

He put his hands up to his head, as if it throbbed or pained him.

After looking about him in a wandering and vacant manner for some

moments, his eyes rested upon Jonas, when they kindled up with

sudden recollection and intelligence.

 

'Yes!' cried old Chuffey, 'yes! That's how it was. It's all upon me

now. He--he got up from his bed before he died, to be sure, to say

that he forgave him; and he came down with me into this room; and

when he saw him--his only son, the son he loved--his speech forsook

him; he had no speech for what he knew--and no one understood him

except me. But I did--I did!'

 

Old Martin regarded him in amazement; so did his companions. Mrs

Gamp, who had said nothing yet; but had kept two-thirds of herself

behind the door, ready for escape, and one-third in the room, ready

for siding with the strongest party; came a little further in and

remarked, with a sob, that Mr Chuffey was 'the sweetest old creetur

goin'.'

 

'He bought the stuff,' said Chuffey, stretching out his arm towards

Jonas while an unwonted fire shone in his eye, and lightened up his

face; 'he bought the stuff, no doubt, as you have heard, and brought

it home. He mixed the stuff--look at him!--with some sweetmeat in a

jar, exactly as the medicine for his father's cough was mixed, and

put it in a drawer; in that drawer yonder in the desk; he knows

which drawer I mean! He kept it there locked up. But his courage

failed him or his heart was touched--my God! I hope it was his

heart! He was his only son!--and he did not put it in the usual

place, where my old master would have taken it twenty times a day.'

 

The trembling figure of the old man shook with the strong emotions

that possessed him. But, with the same light in his eye, and with

his arm outstretched, and with his grey hair stirring on his head,

he seemed to grow in size, and was like a man inspired. Jonas

shrunk from looking at him, and cowered down into the chair by which

he had held. It seemed as if this tremendous Truth could make the

dumb speak.

 

'I know it every word now!' cried Chuffey. 'Every word! He put it

in that drawer, as I have said. He went so often there, and was so

secret, that his father took notice of it; and when he was out, had

it opened. We were there together, and we found the mixture--Mr

Chuzzlewit and I. He took it into his possession, and made light of

it at the time; but in the night he came to my bedside, weeping, and

told me that his own son had it in his mind to poison him. "Oh,

Chuff," he said, "oh, dear old Chuff! a voice came into my room

to-night, and told me that this crime began with me. It began when I

taught him to be too covetous of what I have to leave, and made the

expectation of it his great business!" Those were his words; aye,

they are his very words! If he was a hard man now and then, it was

for his only son. He loved his only son, and he was always good to

me!'

 

Jonas listened with increased attention. Hope was breaking in upon

him.

 

'"He shall not weary for my death, Chuff;" that was what he said

next,' pursued the old clerk, as he wiped his eyes; 'that was what

he said next, crying like a little child: "He shall not weary for my

death, Chuff. He shall have it now; he shall marry where he has a

fancy, Chuff, although it don't please me; and you and I will go

away and live upon a little. I always loved him; perhaps he'll love

me then. It's a dreadful thing to have my own child thirsting for

my death. But I might have known it. I have sown, and I must reap.

He shall believe that I am taking this; and when I see that he is

sorry, and has all he wants, I'll tell him that I found it out, and

I'll forgive him. He'll make a better man of his own son, and be a

better man himself, perhaps, Chuff!"'

 

Poor Chuffey paused to dry his eyes again. Old Martin's face was

hidden in his hands. Jonas listened still more keenly, and his

breast heaved like a swollen water, but with hope. With growing

hope.

 

'My dear old master made believe next day,' said Chuffey, 'that he

had opened the drawer by mistake with a key from the bunch, which

happened to fit it (we had one made and hung upon it); and that he

had been surprised to find his fresh supply of cough medicine in

such a place, but supposed it had been put there in a hurry when the

drawer stood open. We burnt it; but his son believed that he was

taking it--he knows he did. Once Mr Chuzzlewit, to try him, took

heart to say it had a strange taste; and he got up directly, and

went out.'

 

Jonas gave a short, dry cough; and, changing his position for an

easier one, folded his arms without looking at them, though they

could now see his face.

 

'Mr Chuzzlewit wrote to her father; I mean the father of the poor

thing who's his wife,' said Chuffey; 'and got him to come up,

intending to hasten on the marriage. But his mind, like mine, went

a little wrong through grief, and then his heart broke. He sank and

altered from the time when he came to me in the night; and never

held up his head again. It was only a few days, but he had never

changed so much in twice the years. "Spare him, Chuff!" he said,

before he died. They were the only words he could speak. "Spare

him, Chuff!" I promised him I would. I've tried to do it. He's

his only son.'

 

On his recollection of the last scene in his old friend's life, poor

Chuffey's voice, which had grown weaker and weaker, quite deserted

him. Making a motion with his hand, as if he would have said that

Anthony had taken it, and had died with it in his, he retreated to

the corner where he usually concealed his sorrows; and was silent.

 

Jonas could look at his company now, and vauntingly too. 'Well!' he

said, after a pause. 'Are you satisfied? or have you any more of

your plots to broach? Why that fellow, Lewsome, can invent 'em for

you by the score. Is this all? Have you nothing else?'

 

Old Martin looked at him steadily.

 

'Whether you are what you seemed to be at Pecksniff's, or are

something else and a mountebank, I don't know and I don't care,'

said Jonas, looking downward with a smile, 'but I don't want you

here. You were here so often when your brother was alive, and were

always so fond of him (your dear, dear brother, and you would have

been cuffing one another before this, ecod!), that I am not

surprised at your being attached to the place; but the place is not

attached to you, and you can't leave it too soon, though you may

leave it too late. And for my wife, old man, send her home

straight, or it will be the worse for her. Ha, ha! You carry it

with a high hand, too! But it isn't hanging yet for a man to keep a

penn'orth of poison for his own purposes, and have it taken from him

by two old crazy jolter-heads who go and act a play about it. Ha,

ha! Do you see the door?'

 

His base triumph, struggling with his cowardice, and shame, and

guilt, was so detestable, that they turned away from him, as if he

were some obscene and filthy animal, repugnant to the sight. And

here that last black crime was busy with him too; working within him

to his perdition. But for that, the old clerk's story might have

touched him, though never so lightly; but for that, the sudden

removal of so great a load might have brought about some wholesome

change even in him. With that deed done, however; with that

unnecessary wasteful danger haunting him; despair was in his very

triumph and relief; wild, ungovernable, raging despair, for the

uselessness of the peril into which he had plunged; despair that

hardened him and maddened him, and set his teeth a-grinding in a

moment of his exultation.

 

'My good friend!' said old Martin, laying his hand on Chuffey's

sleeve. 'This is no place for you to remain in. Come with me.'

 

'Just his old way!' cried Chuffey, looking up into his face. 'I

almost believe it's Mr Chuzzlewit alive again. Yes! Take me with

you! Stay, though, stay.'

 

'For what?' asked old Martin.

 

'I can't leave her, poor thing!' said Chuffey. 'She has been very

good to me. I can't leave her, Mr Chuzzlewit. Thank you kindly.

I'll remain here. I haven't long to remain; it's no great matter.'

 

As he meekly shook his poor, grey head, and thanked old Martin in

these words, Mrs Gamp, now entirely in the room, was affected to

tears.

 

'The mercy as it is!' she said, 'as sech a dear, good, reverend

creetur never got into the clutches of Betsey Prig, which but for me

he would have done, undoubted; facts bein' stubborn and not easy

drove!'

 

'You heard me speak to you just now, old man,' said Jonas to his

uncle. 'I'll have no more tampering with my people, man or woman.

Do you see the door?'

 

'Do YOU see the door?' returned the voice of Mark, coming from that

direction. 'Look at it!'

 

He looked, and his gaze was nailed there. Fatal, ill-omened

blighted threshold, cursed by his father's footsteps in his dying

hour, cursed by his young wife's sorrowing tread, cursed by the

daily shadow of the old clerk's figure, cursed by the crossing of

his murderer's feet--what men were standing in the door way!

 

Nadgett foremost.

 

Hark! It came on, roaring like a sea! Hawkers burst into the street,

crying it up and down; windows were thrown open that the inhabitants

might hear it; people stopped to listen in the road and on the

pavement; the bells, the same bells, began to ring; tumbling over

one another in a dance of boisterous joy at the discovery (that was

the sound they had in his distempered thoughts), and making their

airy play-ground rock.

 

'That is the man,' said Nadgett. 'By the window!'

 

Three others came in, laid hands upon him, and secured him. It was

so quickly done, that he had not lost sight of the informer's face

for an instant when his wrists were manacled together.

 

'Murder,' said Nadgett, looking round on the astonished group. 'Let

no one interfere.'

 

The sounding street repeated Murder; barbarous and dreadful Murder.

Murder, Murder, Murder. Rolling on from house to house, and echoing

from stone to stone, until the voices died away into the distant

hum, which seemed to mutter the same word!

 

They all stood silent: listening, and gazing in each other's faces,

as the noise passed on.

 

Old Martin was the first to speak. 'What terrible history is this?'

he demanded.

 

'Ask HIM,' said Nadgett. 'You're his friend, sir. He can tell you,

if he will. He knows more of it than I do, though I know much.'

 

'How do you know much?'

 

'I have not been watching him so long for nothing,' returned

Nadgett. 'I never watched a man so close as I have watched him.'

 

Another of the phantom forms of this terrific Truth! Another of the

many shapes in which it started up about him, out of vacancy. This

man, of all men in the world, a spy upon him; this man, changing his

identity; casting off his shrinking, purblind, unobservant

character, and springing up into a watchful enemy! The dead man

might have come out of his grave, and not confounded and appalled

him more.

 

The game was up. The race was at an end; the rope was woven for his

neck. If, by a miracle, he could escape from this strait, he had

but to turn his face another way, no matter where, and there would

rise some new avenger front to front with him; some infant in an

hour grown old, or old man in an hour grown young, or blind man with

his sight restored, or deaf man with his hearing given him. There

was no chance. He sank down in a heap against the wall, and never

hoped again from that moment.

 

'I am not his friend, although I have the honour to be his

relative,' said Mr Chuzzlewit. 'You may speak to me. Where have

you watched, and what have you seen?'

 

'I have watched in many places,' returned Nadgett, 'night and day.

I have watched him lately, almost without rest or relief;' his

anxious face and bloodshot eyes confirmed it. 'I little thought to

what my watching was to lead. As little as he did when he slipped

out in the night, dressed in those clothes which he afterwards sunk

in a bundle at London Bridge!'

 

Jonas moved upon the ground like a man in bodily torture. He

uttered a suppressed groan, as if he had been wounded by some cruel

weapon; and plucked at the iron band upon his wrists, as though (his

hands being free) he would have torn himself.

 

'Steady, kinsman!' said the chief officer of the party. 'Don't be

violent.'

 

'Whom do you call kinsman?' asked old Martin sternly.

 

'You,' said the man, 'among others.'

 

Martin turned his scrutinizing gaze upon him. He was sitting lazily

across a chair with his arms resting on the back; eating nuts, and

throwing the shells out of window as he cracked them, which he still

continued to do while speaking.

 

'Aye,' he said, with a sulky nod. 'You may deny your nephews till

you die; but Chevy Slyme is Chevy Slyme still, all the world over.

Perhaps even you may feel it some disgrace to your own blood to be

employed in this way. I'm to be bought off.'

 

'At every turn!' cried Martin. 'Self, self, self. Every one among

them for himself!'

 

'You had better save one or two among them the trouble then and be

for them as well as YOURself,' replied his nephew. 'Look here at

me! Can you see the man of your family who has more talent in his

little finger than all the rest in their united brains, dressed as a

police officer without being ashamed? I took up with this trade on

purpose to shame you. I didn't think I should have to make a

capture in the family, though.'

 

'If your debauchery, and that of your chosen friends, has really

brought you to this level,' returned the old man, 'keep it. You are

living honestly, I hope, and that's something.'

 

'Don't be hard upon my chosen friends,' returned Slyme, 'for they

were sometimes your chosen friends too. Don't say you never

employed my friend Tigg, for I know better. We quarrelled upon it.'

 

'I hired the fellow,' retorted Mr Chuzzlewit, 'and I paid him.'

 

'It's well you paid him,' said his nephew, 'for it would be too late

to do so now. He has given his receipt in full; or had it forced

from him rather.'

 

The old man looked at him as if he were curious to know what he

meant, but scorned to prolong the conversation.

 

'I have always expected that he and I would be brought together

again in the course of business,' said Slyme, taking a fresh handful

of nuts from his pocket; 'but I thought he would be wanted for some

swindling job; it never entered my head that I should hold a warrant

for the apprehension of his murderer.'

 

'HIS murderer!' cried Mr Chuzzlewit, looking from one to another.

 

'His or Mr Montague's,' said Nadgett. 'They are the same, I am

told. I accuse him yonder of the murder of Mr Montague, who was

found last night, killed, in a wood. You will ask me why I accuse

him as you have already asked me how I know so much. I'll tell you.

It can't remain a secret long.'

 

The ruling passion of the man expressed itself even then, in the

tone of regret in which he deplored the approaching publicity of

what he knew.

 

'I told you I had watched him,' he proceeded. 'I was instructed to

do so by Mr Montague, in whose employment I have been for some time.

We had our suspicions of him; and you know what they pointed at, for

you have been discussing it since we have been waiting here, outside

the room. If you care to hear, now it's all over, in what our

suspicions began, I'll tell you plainly: in a quarrel (it first came

to our ears through a hint of his own) between him and another

office in which his father's life was insured, and which had so much

doubt and distrust upon the subject, that he compounded with them,

and took half the money; and was glad to do it. Bit by bit, I

ferreted out more circumstances against him, and not a few. It

required a little patience, but it's my calling. I found the nurse

--here she is to confirm me; I found the doctor, I found the

undertaker, I found the undertaker's man. I found out how the old

gentleman there, Mr Chuffey, had behaved at the funeral; and I found

out what this man,' touching Lewsome on the arm, 'had talked about

in his fever. I found out how he conducted himself before his

father's death, and how since and how at the time; and writing it

all down, and putting it carefully together, made case enough for Mr

Montague to tax him with the crime, which (as he himself believed

until to-night) he had committed. I was by when this was done. You

see him now. He is only worse than he was then.'

 

Oh, miserable, miserable fool! oh, insupportable, excruciating

torture! To find alive and active--a party to it all--the brain and

right-hand of the secret he had thought to crush! In whom, though he

had walled the murdered man up, by enchantment in a rock, the story

would have lived and walked abroad! He tried to stop his ears with

his fettered arms, that he might shut out the rest.

 

As he crouched upon the floor, they drew away from him as if a

pestilence were in his breath. They fell off, one by one, from that

part of the room, leaving him alone upon the ground. Even those who

had him in their keeping shunned him, and (with the exception of

Slyme, who was still occupied with his nuts) kept apart.

 

'From that garret-window opposite,' said Nadgett, pointing across

the narrow street, 'I have watched this house and him for days and

nights. From that garret-window opposite I saw him return home,

alone, from a journey on which he had set out with Mr Montague.

That was my token that Mr Montague's end was gained; and I might

rest easy on my watch, though I was not to leave it until he

dismissed me. But, standing at the door opposite, after dark that

same night, I saw a countryman steal out of this house, by a side-

door in the court, who had never entered it. I knew his walk, and

that it was himself, disguised. I followed him immediately. I lost

him on the western road, still travelling westward.'

 

Jonas looked up at him for an instant, and muttered an oath.

 

'I could not comprehend what this meant,' said Nadgett; 'but, having

seen so much, I resolved to see it out, and through. And I did.

Learning, on inquiry at his house from his wife, that he was

supposed to be sleeping in the room from which I had seen him go

out, and that he had given strict orders not to be disturbed, I knew

that he was coming back; and for his coming back I watched. I kept

my watch in the street--in doorways, and such places--all that

night; at the same window, all next day; and when night came on

again, in the street once more. For I knew he would come back, as

he had gone out, when this part of the town was empty. He did.

Early in the morning, the same countryman came creeping, creeping,

creeping home.'

 

'Look sharp!' interposed Slyme, who had now finished his nuts.

'This is quite irregular, Mr Nadgett.'

 

'I kept at the window all day,' said Nadgett, without heeding him.

'I think I never closed my eyes. At night, I saw him come out with

a bundle. I followed him again. He went down the steps at London

Bridge, and sunk it in the river. I now began to entertain some

serious fears, and made a communication to the Police, which caused

that bundle to be--'

 

'To be fished up,' interrupted Slyme. 'Be alive, Mr Nadgett.'

 

'It contained the dress I had seen him wear,' said Nadgett;

'stained with clay, and spotted with blood. Information of the

murder was received in town last night. The wearer of that dress is

already known to have been seen near the place; to have been lurking

in that neighbourhood; and to have alighted from a coach coming from

that part of the country, at a time exactly tallying with the very

minute when I saw him returning home. The warrant has been out, and

these officers have been with me, some hours. We chose our time;

and seeing you come in, and seeing this person at the window--'

 

'Beckoned to him,' said Mark, taking up the thread of the narrative,

on hearing this allusion to himself, 'to open the door; which he did

with a deal of pleasure.'

 

'That's all at present,' said Nadgett, putting up his great

pocketbook, which from mere habit he had produced when he began his

revelation, and had kept in his hand all the time; 'but there is

plenty more to come. You asked me for the facts, so far I have

related them, and need not detain these gentlemen any longer. Are

you ready, Mr Slyme?'

 

'And something more,' replied that worthy, rising. 'If you walk

round to the office, we shall be there as soon as you. Tom! Get a

coach!'

 

The officer to whom he spoke departed for that purpose. Old Martin

lingered for a few moments, as if he would have addressed some words

to Jonas; but looking round, and seeing him still seated on the

floor, rocking himself in a savage manner to and fro, took Chuffey's

arm, and slowly followed Nadgett out. John Westlock and Mark Tapley

accompanied them. Mrs Gamp had tottered out first, for the better

display of her feelings, in a kind of walking swoon; for Mrs Gamp

performed swoons of different sorts, upon a moderate notice, as Mr

Mould did Funerals.

 

'Ha!' muttered Slyme, looking after them. 'Upon my soul! As

insensible of being disgraced by having such a nephew as myself, in

such a situation, as he was of my being an honour and a credit to

the family! That's the return I get for having humbled my spirit--

such a spirit as mine--to earn a livelihood, is it?'

 

He got up from his chair, and kicked it away indignantly.

 

'And such a livelihood too! When there are hundreds of men, not fit

to hold a candle to me, rolling in carriages and living on their

fortunes. Upon my soul it's a nice world!'

 

His eyes encountered Jonas, who looked earnestly towards him, and

moved his lips as if he were whispering.

 

'Eh?' said Slyme.

 

Jonas glanced at the attendant whose back was towards him, and made

a clumsy motion with his bound hands towards the door.

 

'Humph!' said Slyme, thoughtfully. 'I couldn't hope to disgrace him

into anything when you have shot so far ahead of me though. I

forgot that.'

 

Jonas repeated the same look and gesture.

 

'Jack!' said Slyme.

 

'Hallo!' returned his man.

 

'Go down to the door, ready for the coach. Call out when it comes.

I'd rather have you there. Now then,' he added, turning hastily to

Jonas, when the man was gone. 'What's the matter?'

 

Jonas essayed to rise.

 

'Stop a bit,' said Slyme. 'It's not so easy when your wrists are

tight together. Now then! Up! What is it?'

 

'Put your hand in my pocket. Here! The breast pocket, on the left!'

said Jonas.

 

He did so; and drew out a purse.

 

'There's a hundred pound in it,' said Jonas, whose words were almost

unintelligible; as his face, in its pallor and agony, was scarcely

human.

 

Slyme looked at him; gave it into his hands; and shook his head.

 

'I can't. I daren't. I couldn't if I dared. Those fellows below--'

 

'Escape's impossible,' said Jonas. 'I know it. One hundred pound

for only five minutes in the next room!'

 

'What to do?' he asked.

 

The face of his prisoner as he advanced to whisper in his ear, made

him recoil involuntarily. But he stopped and listened to him. The

words were few, but his own face changed as he heard them.

 

'I have it about me,' said Jonas, putting his hands to his throat,

as though whatever he referred to were hidden in his neckerchief.

'How should you know of it? How could you know? A hundred pound

for only five minutes in the next room! The time's passing. Speak!'

 

'It would be more--more creditable to the family,' observed Slyme,

with trembling lips. 'I wish you hadn't told me half so much. Less

would have served your purpose. You might have kept it to yourself.'

 

'A hundred pound for only five minutes in the next room! Speak!'

cried Jonas, desperately.

 

He took the purse. Jonas, with a wild unsteady step, retreated to

the door in the glass partition.

 

'Stop!' cried Slyme, catching at his skirts. 'I don't know about

this. Yet it must end so at last. Are you guilty?'

 

'Yes!' said Jonas.

 

'Are the proofs as they were told just now?'

 

'Yes!' said Jonas.

 

'Will you--will you engage to say a--a Prayer, now, or something of

that sort?' faltered Slyme.

 

Jonas broke from him without replying, and closed the door between

them.

 

Slyme listened at the keyhole. After that, he crept away on tiptoe,

as far off as he could; and looked awfully towards the place. He

was roused by the arrival of the coach, and their letting down the

steps.

 

'He's getting a few things together,' he said, leaning out of

window, and speaking to the two men below, who stood in the full

light of a street-lamp. 'Keep your eye upon the back, one of you,

for form's sake.'

 

One of the men withdrew into the court. The other, seating himself

self on the steps of the coach, remained in conversation with Slyme

at the window who perhaps had risen to be his superior, in virtue of

his old propensity (one so much lauded by the murdered man) of being

always round the corner. A useful habit in his present calling.

 

'Where is he?' asked the man.

 

Slyme looked into the room for an instant and gave his head a jerk

as much as to say, 'Close at hand. I see him.'

 

'He's booked,' observed the man.

 

'Through,' said Slyme.

 

They looked at each other, and up and down the street. The man on

the coach-steps took his hat off, and put it on again, and whistled

a little.

 

'I say! He's taking his time!' he remonstrated.

 

'I allowed him five minutes,' said Slyme. 'Time's more than up,

though. I'll bring him down.'

 

He withdrew from the window accordingly, and walked on tiptoe to the

door in the partition. He listened. There was not a sound within.

He set the candles near it, that they might shine through the glass.

 

It was not easy, he found, to make up his mind to the opening of the

door. But he flung it wide open suddenly, and with a noise; then

retreated. After peeping in and listening again, he entered.

 

He started back as his eyes met those of Jonas, standing in an angle

of the wall, and staring at him. His neckerchief was off; his face

was ashy pale.

 

'You're too soon,' said Jonas, with an abject whimper. 'I've not

had time. I have not been able to do it. I--five minutes more--two

minutes more!--only one!'

 

Slyme gave him no reply, but thrusting the purse upon him and

forcing it back into his pocket, called up his men.

 

He whined, and cried, and cursed, and entreated them, and struggled,

and submitted, in the same breath, and had no power to stand. They

got him away and into the coach, where they put him on a seat; but

he soon fell moaning down among the straw at the bottom, and lay

there.

 

The two men were with him. Slyme being on the box with the driver;

and they let him lie. Happening to pass a fruiterer's on their way;

the door of which was open, though the shop was by this time shut;

one of them remarked how faint the peaches smelled.

 

The other assented at the moment, but presently stooped down in

quick alarm, and looked at the prisoner.

 

'Stop the coach! He has poisoned himself! The smell comes from this

bottle in his hand!'

 

The hand had shut upon it tight. With that rigidity of grasp with

which no living man, in the full strength and energy of life, can

clutch a prize he has won.

 

They dragged him out into the dark street; but jury, judge, and

hangman, could have done no more, and could do nothing now. Dead,

dead, dead.

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IN WHICH THE TABLES ARE TURNED, COMPLETELY UPSIDE DOWN Old Martin's cherished projects, so long hidden in his own breast,so frequently in danger of abrupt disclosure through the burstingforth of the indignation he had hoarded up during his residence withMr Pecksniff, were retarded, but not beyond a few hours, by theoccurrences just now related. Stunned, as he had been at first bythe intelligence conveyed to him through Tom Pinch and JohnWestlock, of the supposed manner of his brother's death; overwhelmedas he was by the subsequent narratives of Chuffey and Nadgett, andthe forging of that chain of circumstances ending in the death
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SURPRISES TOM PINCH VERY MUCH, AND SHOWS HOW CERTAIN CONFIDENCES PASSED BETWEEN HIM AND HIS SISTER It was the next evening; and Tom and his sister were sittingtogether before tea, talking, in their usual quiet way, about agreat many things, but not at all about Lewsome's story or anythingconnected with it; for John Westlock--really John, for so young aman, was one of the most considerate fellows in the world--hadparticularly advised Tom not to mention it to his sister just yet,in case it should disquiet her. 'And I wouldn't, Tom,' he said,with a little hesitation, 'I wouldn't have a shadow on her
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