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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMartin Chuzzlewit - Chapter FORTY-FIVE
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Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter FORTY-FIVE Post by :Lydia Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :January 2011 Read :2955

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Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter FORTY-FIVE



Tom Pinch and his sister having to part, for the dispatch of the

morning's business, immediately after the dispersion of the other

actors in the scene upon the wharf with which the reader has been

already made acquainted, had no opportunity of discussing the

subject at that time. But Tom, in his solitary office, and Ruth, in

the triangular parlour, thought about nothing else all day; and,

when their hour of meeting in the afternoon approached, they were

very full of it, to be sure.


There was a little plot between them, that Tom should always come

out of the Temple by one way; and that was past the fountain.

Coming through Fountain Court, he was just to glance down the steps

leading into Garden Court, and to look once all round him; and if

Ruth had come to meet him, there he would see her; not sauntering,

you understand (on account of the clerks), but coming briskly up,

with the best little laugh upon her face that ever played in

opposition to the fountain, and beat it all to nothing. For, fifty

to one, Tom had been looking for her in the wrong direction, and had

quite given her up, while she had been tripping towards him from the

first; jingling that little reticule of hers (with all the keys in

it) to attract his wandering observation.


Whether there was life enough left in the slow vegetation of

Fountain Court for the smoky shrubs to have any consciousness of the

brightest and purest-hearted little woman in the world, is a

question for gardeners, and those who are learned in the loves of

plants. But, that it was a good thing for that same paved yard to

have such a delicate little figure flitting through it; that it

passed like a smile from the grimy old houses, and the worn

flagstones, and left them duller, darker, sterner than before; there

is no sort of doubt. The Temple fountain might have leaped up

twenty feet to greet the spring of hopeful maidenhood, that in her

person stole on, sparkling, through the dry and dusty channels of

the Law; the chirping sparrows, bred in Temple chinks and crannies,

might have held their peace to listen to imaginary skylarks, as so

fresh a little creature passed; the dingy boughs, unused to droop,

otherwise than in their puny growth, might have bent down in a

kindred gracefulness to shed their benedictions on her graceful

head; old love letters, shut up in iron boxes in the neighbouring

offices, and made of no account among the heaps of family papers

into which they had strayed, and of which, in their degeneracy, they

formed a part, might have stirred and fluttered with a moment's

recollection of their ancient tenderness, as she went lightly by.

Anything might have happened that did not happen, and never will,

for the love of Ruth.


Something happened, too, upon the afternoon of which the history

treats. Not for her love. Oh no! quite by accident, and without

the least reference to her at all.


Either she was a little too soon, or Tom was a little too late--she

was so precise in general, that she timed it to half a minute--but

no Tom was there. Well! But was anybody else there, that she

blushed so deeply, after looking round, and tripped off down the

steps with such unusual expedition?


Why, the fact is, that Mr Westlock was passing at that moment. The

Temple is a public thoroughfare; they may write up on the gates that

it is not, but so long as the gates are left open it is, and will

be; and Mr Westlock had as good a right to be there as anybody else.

But why did she run away, then? Not being ill dressed, for she was

much too neat for that, why did she run away? The brown hair that

had fallen down beneath her bonnet, and had one impertinent imp of a

false flower clinging to it, boastful of its licence before all men,

THAT could not have been the cause, for it looked charming. Oh!

foolish, panting, frightened little heart, why did she run away!


Merrily the tiny fountain played, and merrily the dimples sparkled

on its sunny face. John Westlock hurried after her. Softly the

whispering water broke and fell; as roguishly the dimples twinkled,

as he stole upon her footsteps.


Oh, foolish, panting, timid little heart, why did she feign to be

unconscious of his coming! Why wish herself so far away, yet be so

flutteringly happy there!


'I felt sure it was you,' said John, when he overtook her in the

sanctuary of Garden Court. 'I knew I couldn't be mistaken.'


She was SO surprised.


'You are waiting for your brother,' said John. 'Let me bear you



So light was the touch of the coy little hand, that he glanced down

to assure himself he had it on his arm. But his glance, stopping

for an instant at the bright eyes, forgot its first design, and went

no farther.


They walked up and down three or four times, speaking about Tom and

his mysterious employment. Now that was a very natural and innocent

subject, surely. Then why, whenever Ruth lifted up her eyes, did

she let them fall again immediately, and seek the uncongenial

pavement of the court? They were not such eyes as shun the light;

they were not such eyes as require to be hoarded to enhance their

value. They were much too precious and too genuine to stand in need

of arts like those. Somebody must have been looking at them!


They found out Tom, though, quickly enough. This pair of eyes

descried him in the distance, the moment he appeared. He was

staring about him, as usual, in all directions but the right one;

and was as obstinate in not looking towards them, as if he had

intended it. As it was plain that, being left to himself, he would

walk away home, John Westlock darted off to stop him.


This made the approach of poor little Ruth, by herself, one of the

most embarrassing of circumstances. There was Tom, manifesting

extreme surprise (he had no presence of mind, that Tom, on small

occasions); there was John, making as light of it as he could, but

explaining at the same time with most unnecessary elaboration; and

here was she, coming towards them, with both of them looking at her,

conscious of blushing to a terrible extent, but trying to throw up

her eyebrows carelessly, and pout her rosy lips, as if she were the

coolest and most unconcerned of little women.


Merrily the fountain plashed and plashed, until the dimples, merging

into one another, swelled into a general smile, that covered the

whole surface of the basin.


'What an extraordinary meeting!' said Tom. 'I should never have

dreamed of seeing you two together here.'


'Quite accidental,' John was heard to murmur.


'Exactly,' cried Tom; 'that's what I mean, you know. If it wasn't

accidental, there would be nothing remarkable in it.'


'To be sure,' said John.


'Such an out-of-the-way place for you to have met in,' pursued Tom,

quite delighted. 'Such an unlikely spot!'


John rather disputed that. On the contrary, he considered it a very

likely spot, indeed. He was constantly passing to and fro there, he

said. He shouldn't wonder if it were to happen again. His only

wonder was, that it had never happened before.


By this time Ruth had got round on the farther side of her brother,

and had taken his arm. She was squeezing it now, as much as to say

'Are you going to stop here all day, you dear, old, blundering Tom?'


Tom answered the squeeze as if it had been a speech. 'John,' he

said, 'if you'll give my sister your arm, we'll take her between us,

and walk on. I have a curious circumstance to relate to you. Our

meeting could not have happened better.'


Merrily the fountain leaped and danced, and merrily the smiling

dimples twinkled and expanded more and more, until they broke into a

laugh against the basin's rim, and vanished.


'Tom,' said his friend, as they turned into the noisy street, 'I

have a proposition to make. It is, that you and your sister--if she

will so far honour a poor bachelor's dwelling--give me a great

pleasure, and come and dine with me.'


'What, to-day?' cried Tom.


'Yes, to-day. It's close by, you know. Pray, Miss Pinch, insist

upon it. It will be very disinterested, for I have nothing to give



'Oh! you must not believe that, Ruth,' said Tom. 'He is the most

tremendous fellow, in his housekeeping, that I ever heard of, for a

single man. He ought to be Lord Mayor. Well! what do you say?

Shall we go?'


'If you please, Tom,' rejoined his dutiful little sister.


'But I mean,' said Tom, regarding her with smiling admiration; 'is

there anything you ought to wear, and haven't got? I am sure I

don't know, John; she may not be able to take her bonnet off, for

anything I can tell.'


There was a great deal of laughing at this, and there were divers

compliments from John Westlock--not compliments HE said at least

(and really he was right), but good, plain, honest truths, which no

one could deny. Ruth laughed, and all that, but she made no

objection; so it was an engagement.


'If I had known it a little sooner,' said John, 'I would have tried

another pudding. Not in rivalry; but merely to exalt that famous

one. I wouldn't on any account have had it made with suet.'


'Why not?' asked Tom.


'Because that cookery-book advises suet,' said John Westlock; 'and

ours was made with flour and eggs.'


'Oh good gracious!' cried Tom. 'Ours was made with flour and eggs,

was it? Ha, ha, ha! A beefsteak pudding made with flour and eggs!

Why anybody knows better than that. I know better than that! Ha,

ha, ha!'


It is unnecessary to say that Tom had been present at the making of

the pudding, and had been a devoted believer in it all through. But

he was so delighted to have this joke against his busy little sister

and was tickled to that degree at having found her out, that he

stopped in Temple Bar to laugh; and it was no more to Tom, that he

was anathematized and knocked about by the surly passengers, than it

would have been to a post; for he continued to exclaim with unabated

good humour, 'flour and eggs! A beefsteak pudding made with flour

and eggs!' until John Westlock and his sister fairly ran away from

him, and left him to have his laugh out by himself; which he had,

and then came dodging across the crowded street to them, with such

sweet temper and tenderness (it was quite a tender joke of Tom's)

beaming in his face, God bless it, that it might have purified the

air, though Temple Bar had been, as in the golden days gone by,

embellished with a row of rotting human heads.


There are snug chambers in those Inns where the bachelors live, and,

for the desolate fellows they pretend to be, it is quite surprising

how well they get on. John was very pathetic on the subject of his

dreary life, and the deplorable makeshifts and apologetic

contrivances it involved, but he really seemed to make himself

pretty comfortable. His rooms were the perfection of neatness and

convenience at any rate; and if he were anything but comfortable,

the fault was certainly not theirs.


He had no sooner ushered Tom and his sister into his best room

(where there was a beautiful little vase of fresh flowers on the

table, all ready for Ruth. Just as if he had expected her, Tom

said), than, seizing his hat, he bustled out again, in his most

energetically bustling, way; and presently came hurrying back, as

they saw through the half-opened door, attended by a fiery-faced

matron attired in a crunched bonnet, with particularly long strings

to it hanging down her back; in conjunction with whom he instantly

began to lay the cloth for dinner, polishing up the wine-glasses

with his own hands, brightening the silver top of the pepper-caster

on his coat-sleeve, drawing corks and filling decanters, with a

skill and expedition that were quite dazzling. And as if, in the

course of this rubbing and polishing, he had rubbed an enchanted

lamp or a magic ring, obedient to which there were twenty thousand

supernatural slaves at least, suddenly there appeared a being in a

white waistcoat, carrying under his arm a napkin, and attended by

another being with an oblong box upon his head, from which a

banquet, piping hot, was taken out and set upon the table.


Salmon, lamb, peas, innocent young potatoes, a cool salad, sliced

cucumber, a tender duckling, and a tart--all there. They all came at

the right time. Where they came from, didn't appear; but the oblong

box was constantly going and coming, and making its arrival known to

the man in the white waistcoat by bumping modestly against the

outside of the door; for, after its first appearance, it entered the

room no more. He was never surprised, this man; he never seemed to

wonder at the extraordinary things he found in the box, but took

them out with a face expressive of a steady purpose and impenetrable

character, and put them on the table. He was a kind man; gentle in

his manners, and much interested in what they ate and drank. He was

a learned man, and knew the flavour of John Westlock's private

sauces, which he softly and feelingly described, as he handed the

little bottles round. He was a grave man, and a noiseless; for

dinner being done, and wine and fruit arranged upon the board, he

vanished, box and all, like something that had never been.


'Didn't I say he was a tremendous fellow in his housekeeping?' cried

Tom. 'Bless my soul! It's wonderful.'


'Ah, Miss Pinch,' said John. 'This is the bright side of the life

we lead in such a place. It would be a dismal life, indeed, if it

didn't brighten up to-day'


'Don't believe a word he says,' cried Tom. 'He lives here like a

monarch, and wouldn't change his mode of life for any consideration.

He only pretends to grumble.'


No, John really did not appear to pretend; for he was uncommonly

earnest in his desire to have it understood that he was as dull,

solitary, and uncomfortable on ordinary occasions as an unfortunate

young man could, in reason, be. It was a wretched life, he said, a

miserable life. He thought of getting rid of the chambers as soon

as possible; and meant, in fact, to put a bill up very shortly.


'Well' said Tom Pinch, 'I don't know where you can go, John, to be

more comfortable. That's all I can say. What do YOU say, Ruth?'


Ruth trifled with the cherries on her plate, and said that she

thought Mr Westlock ought to be quite happy, and that she had no

doubt he was.


Ah, foolish, panting, frightened little heart, how timidly she said



'But you are forgetting what you had to tell, Tom; what occurred

this morning,' she added in the same breath.


'So I am,' said Tom. 'We have been so talkative on other topics that

I declare I have not had time to think of it. I'll tell it you at

once, John, in case I should forget it altogether.'


On Tom's relating what had passed upon the wharf, his friend was

very much surprised, and took such a great interest in the narrative

as Tom could not quite understand. He believed he knew the old lady

whose acquaintance they had made, he said; and that he might venture

to say, from their description of her, that her name was Gamp. But

of what nature the communication could have been which Tom had borne

so unexpectedly; why its delivery had been entrusted to him; how it

happened that the parties were involved together; and what secret

lay at the bottom of the whole affair; perplexed him very much. Tom

had been sure of his taking some interest in the matter; but was not

prepared for the strong interest he showed. It held John Westlock

to the subject even after Ruth had left the room; and evidently made

him anxious to pursue it further than as a mere subject of



'I shall remonstrate with my landlord, of course,' said Tom; 'though

he is a very singular secret sort of man, and not likely to afford

me much satisfaction; even if he knew what was in the letter.'


'Which you may swear he did,' John interposed.


'You think so?'


'I am certain of it.'


'Well!' said Tom, 'I shall remonstrate with him when I see him (he

goes in and out in a strange way, but I will try to catch him

tomorrow morning), on his having asked me to execute such an

unpleasant commission. And I have been thinking, John, that if I

went down to Mrs What's-her-name's in the City, where I was before,

you know--Mrs Todgers's--to-morrow morning, I might find poor Mercy

Pecksniff there, perhaps, and be able to explain to her how I came

to have any hand in the business.'


'You are perfectly right, Tom,' returned his friend, after a short

interval of reflection. 'You cannot do better. It is quite clear

to me that whatever the business is, there is little good in it; and

it is so desirable for you to disentangle yourself from any

appearance of willful connection with it, that I would counsel you to

see her husband, if you can, and wash your hands of it by a plain

statement of the facts. I have a misgiving that there is something

dark at work here, Tom. I will tell you why, at another time; when

I have made an inquiry or two myself.'


All this sounded very mysterious to Tom Pinch. But as he knew he

could rely upon his friend, he resolved to follow this advice.


Ah, but it would have been a good thing to have had a coat of

invisibility, wherein to have watched little Ruth, when she was left

to herself in John Westlock's chambers, and John and her brother

were talking thus, over their wine! The gentle way in which she

tried to get up a little conversation with the fiery-faced matron in

the crunched bonnet, who was waiting to attend her; after making a

desperate rally in regard of her dress, and attiring herself in a

washed-out yellow gown with sprigs of the same upon it, so that it

looked like a tesselated work of pats of butter. That would have

been pleasant. The grim and griffin-like inflexibility with which

the fiery-faced matron repelled these engaging advances, as

proceeding from a hostile and dangerous power, who could have no

business there, unless it were to deprive her of a customer, or

suggest what became of the self-consuming tea and sugar, and other

general trifles. That would have been agreeable. The bashful,

winning, glorious curiosity, with which little Ruth, when fiery-face

was gone, peeped into the books and nick-nacks that were lying

about, and had a particular interest in some delicate paper-matches

on the chimney-piece; wondering who could have made them. That

would have been worth seeing. The faltering hand with which she

tied those flowers together; with which, almost blushing at her own

fair self as imaged in the glass, she arranged them in her breast,

and looking at them with her head aside, now half resolved to take

them out again, now half resolved to leave them where they were.

That would have been delightful!


John seemed to think it all delightful; for coming in with Tom to

tea, he took his seat beside her like a man enchanted. And when the

tea-service had been removed, and Tom, sitting down at the piano,

became absorbed in some of his old organ tunes, he was still beside

her at the open window, looking out upon the twilight.


There is little enough to see in Furnival's Inn. It is a shady,

quiet place, echoing to the footsteps of the stragglers who have

business there; and rather monotonous and gloomy on summer

evenings. What gave it such a charm to them, that they remained at

the window as unconscious of the flight of time as Tom himself, the

dreamer, while the melodies which had so often soothed his spirit

were hovering again about him! What power infused into the fading

light, the gathering darkness; the stars that here and there

appeared; the evening air, the City's hum and stir, the very chiming

of the old church clocks; such exquisite enthrallment, that the

divinest regions of the earth spread out before their eyes could not

have held them captive in a stronger chain?


The shadows deepened, deepened, and the room became quite dark.

Still Tom's fingers wandered over the keys of the piano, and still

the window had its pair of tenants. At length, her hand upon his

shoulder, and her breath upon his forehead, roused Tom from his



'Dear me!' he cried, desisting with a start. 'I am afraid I have

been very inconsiderate and unpolite.'


Tom little thought how much consideration and politeness he had



'Sing something to us, my dear,' said Tom. 'let us hear your voice.



John Westlock added his entreaties with such earnestness that a

flinty heart alone could have resisted them. Hers was not a flinty

heart. Oh, dear no! Quite another thing.


So down she sat, and in a pleasant voice began to sing the ballads

Tom loved well. Old rhyming stories, with here and there a pause

for a few simple chords, such as a harper might have sounded in the

ancient time while looking upward for the current of some half-

remembered legend; words of old poets, wedded to such measures that

the strain of music might have been the poet's breath, giving

utterance and expression to his thoughts; and now a melody so joyous

and light-hearted, that the singer seemed incapable of sadness,

until in her inconstancy (oh wicked little singer!) she relapsed,

and broke the listeners' hearts again; these were the simple means

she used to please them. And that these simple means prevailed, and

she DID please them, let the still darkened chamber, and its long-

deferred illumination witness.


The candles came at last, and it was time for moving homeward.

Cutting paper carefully, and rolling it about the stalks of those

same flowers, occasioned some delay; but even this was done in time,

and Ruth was ready.


'Good night!' said Tom. 'A memorable and delightful visit, John!

Good night!'


John thought he would walk with them.


'No, no. Don't!' said Tom. 'What nonsense! We can get home very

well alone. I couldn't think of taking you out.'


But John said he would rather.


'Are you sure you would rather?' said Tom. 'I am afraid you only

say so out of politeness.'


John being quite sure, gave his arm to Ruth, and led her out.

Fiery-face, who was again in attendance, acknowledged her departure

with so cold a curtsey that it was hardly visible; and cut Tom, dead.


Their host was bent on walking the whole distance, and would not

listen to Tom's dissuasions. Happy time, happy walk, happy parting,

happy dreams! But there are some sweet day-dreams, so there are that

put the visions of the night to shame.


Busily the Temple fountain murmured in the moonlight, while Ruth lay

sleeping, with her flowers beside her; and John Westlock sketched a

portrait--whose?--from memory.

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IN WHICH MISS PECKSNIFF MAKES LOVE, MR JONAS MAKES WRATH, MRS GAMP MAKES TEA, AND MR CHUFFEY MAKES BUSINESS On the next day's official duties coming to a close, Tom hurriedhome without losing any time by the way; and after dinner and ashort rest sallied out again, accompanied by Ruth, to pay hisprojected visit to Todgers's. Tom took Ruth with him, not onlybecause it was a great pleasure to him to have her for his companionwhenever he could, but because he wished her to cherish and comfortpoor Merry; which she, for her own part (having heard the wretchedhistory of that young

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FURTHER CONTINUATION OF THE ENTERPRISE OF MR JONAS AND HIS FRIEND It was a special quality, among the many admirable qualitiespossessed by Mr Pecksniff, that the more he was found out, the morehypocrisy he practised. Let him be discomfited in one quarter, andhe refreshed and recompensed himself by carrying the war intoanother. If his workings and windings were detected by A, so muchthe greater reason was there for practicing without loss of time onB, if it were only to keep his hand in. He had never been such asaintly and improving spectacle to all about him, as after hisdetection