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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMartin Chuzzlewit - Chapter FORTY-THREE
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Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter FORTY-THREE Post by :PinHead_Buddy Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :January 2011 Read :2531

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Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter FORTY-THREE

HAS AN INFLUENCE ON THE FORTUNES OF SEVERAL PEOPLE. MR PECKSNIFF
IS EXHIBITED IN THE PLENITUDE OF POWER; AND WIELDS THE SAME WITH
FORTITUDE AND MAGNANIMITY

 

On the night of the storm, Mrs Lupin, hostess of the Blue Dragon,

sat by herself in her little bar. Her solitary condition, or the

bad weather, or both united, made Mrs Lupin thoughtful, not to say

sorrowful. As she sat with her chin upon her hand, looking out

through a low back lattice, rendered dim in the brightest day-time

by clustering vine-leaves, she shook her head very often, and said,

'Dear me! Oh, dear, dear me!'

 

It was a melancholy time, even in the snugness of the Dragon bar.

The rich expanse of corn-field, pasture-land, green slope, and

gentle undulation, with its sparkling brooks, its many hedgerows,

and its clumps of beautiful trees, was black and dreary, from the

diamond panes of the lattice away to the far horizon, where the

thunder seemed to roll along the hills. The heavy rain beat down

the tender branches of vine and jessamine, and trampled on them in

its fury; and when the lightning gleamed it showed the tearful

leaves shivering and cowering together at the window, and tapping at

it urgently, as if beseeching to be sheltered from the dismal night.

 

As a mark of her respect for the lightning, Mrs Lupin had removed

her candle to the chimney-piece. Her basket of needle-work stood

unheeded at her elbow; her supper, spread on a round table not far

off, was untasted; and the knives had been removed for fear of

attraction. She had sat for a long time with her chin upon her

hand, saying to herself at intervals, 'Dear me! Ah, dear, dear me!'

 

She was on the eve of saying so, once more, when the latch of the

house-door (closed to keep the rain out), rattled on its well-worn

catch, and a traveller came in, who, shutting it after him, and

walking straight up to the half-door of the bar, said, rather

gruffly:

 

'A pint of the best old beer here.'

 

He had some reason to be gruff, for if he had passed the day in a

waterfall, he could scarcely have been wetter than he was. He was

wrapped up to the eyes in a rough blue sailor's coat, and had an

oil-skin hat on, from the capacious brim of which the rain fell

trickling down upon his breast, and back, and shoulders. Judging

from a certain liveliness of chin--he had so pulled down his hat,

and pulled up his collar, to defend himself from the weather, that

she could only see his chin, and even across that he drew the wet

sleeve of his shaggy coat, as she looked at him--Mrs Lupin set him

down for a good-natured fellow, too.

 

'A bad night!' observed the hostess cheerfully.

 

The traveller shook himself like a Newfoundland dog, and said it

was, rather.

 

'There's a fire in the kitchen,' said Mrs Lupin, 'and very good

company there. Hadn't you better go and dry yourself?'

 

'No, thankee,' said the man, glancing towards the kitchen as he

spoke; he seemed to know the way.

 

'It's enough to give you your death of cold,' observed the hostess.

 

'I don't take my death easy,' returned the traveller; 'or I should

most likely have took it afore to-night. Your health, ma'am!'

 

Mrs Lupin thanked him; but in the act of lifting the tankard to his

mouth, he changed his mind, and put it down again. Throwing his

body back, and looking about him stiffly, as a man does who is

wrapped up, and has his hat low down over his eyes, he said:

 

'What do you call this house? Not the Dragon, do you?'

 

Mrs Lupin complacently made answer, 'Yes, the Dragon.'

 

'Why, then, you've got a sort of a relation of mine here, ma'am,'

said the traveller; 'a young man of the name of Tapley. What! Mark,

my boy!' apostrophizing the premises, 'have I come upon you at last,

old buck!'

 

This was touching Mrs Lupin on a tender point. She turned to trim

the candle on the chimney-piece, and said, with her back towards the

traveller:

 

'Nobody should be made more welcome at the Dragon, master, than any

one who brought me news of Mark. But it's many and many a long day

and month since he left here and England. And whether he's alive or

dead, poor fellow, Heaven above us only knows!'

 

She shook her head, and her voice trembled; her hand must have done

so too, for the light required a deal of trimming.

 

'Where did he go, ma'am?' asked the traveller, in a gentler voice.

 

'He went,' said Mrs Lupin, with increased distress, 'to America. He

was always tender-hearted and kind, and perhaps at this moment may

be lying in prison under sentence of death, for taking pity on some

miserable black, and helping the poor runaway creetur to escape.

How could he ever go to America! Why didn't he go to some of those

countries where the savages eat each other fairly, and give an equal

chance to every one!'

 

Quite subdued by this time, Mrs Lupin sobbed, and was retiring to a

chair to give her grief free vent, when the traveller caught her in

his arms, and she uttered a glad cry of recognition.

 

'Yes, I will!' cried Mark, 'another--one more--twenty more! You

didn't know me in that hat and coat? I thought you would have known

me anywheres! Ten more!'

 

'So I should have known you, if I could have seen you; but I

couldn't, and you spoke so gruff. I didn't think you could speak

gruff to me, Mark, at first coming back.'

 

'Fifteen more!' said Mr Tapley. 'How handsome and how young you

look! Six more! The last half-dozen warn't a fair one, and must be

done over again. Lord bless you, what a treat it is to see you! One

more! Well, I never was so jolly. Just a few more, on account of

there not being any credit in it!'

 

When Mr Tapley stopped in these calculations in simple addition, he

did it, not because he was at all tired of the exercise, but because

he was out of breath. The pause reminded him of other duties.

 

'Mr Martin Chuzzlewit's outside,' he said. 'I left him under the

cartshed, while I came on to see if there was anybody here. We

want to keep quiet to-night, till we know the news from you, and

what it's best for us to do.'

 

'There's not a soul in the house, except the kitchen company,'

returned the hostess. 'If they were to know you had come back,

Mark, they'd have a bonfire in the street, late as it is.'

 

'But they mustn't know it to-night, my precious soul,' said Mark;

'so have the house shut, and the kitchen fire made up; and when it's

all ready, put a light in the winder, and we'll come in. One more!

I long to hear about old friends. You'll tell me all about 'em,

won't you; Mr Pinch, and the butcher's dog down the street, and the

terrier over the way, and the wheelwright's, and every one of 'em.

When I first caught sight of the church to-night, I thought the

steeple would have choked me, I did. One more! Won't you? Not a

very little one to finish off with?'

 

'You have had plenty, I am sure,' said the hostess. 'Go along with

your foreign manners!'

 

'That ain't foreign, bless you!' cried Mark. 'Native as oysters,

that is! One more, because it's native! As a mark of respect for the

land we live in! This don't count as between you and me, you

understand,' said Mr Tapley. 'I ain't a-kissing you now, you'll

observe. I have been among the patriots; I'm a-kissin' my country.'

 

It would have been very unreasonable to complain of the exhibition

of his patriotism with which he followed up this explanation, that

it was at all lukewarm or indifferent. When he had given full

expression to his nationality, he hurried off to Martin; while Mrs

Lupin, in a state of great agitation and excitement, prepared for

their reception.

 

The company soon came tumbling out; insisting to each other that the

Dragon clock was half an hour too fast, and that the thunder must

have affected it. Impatient, wet, and weary though they were,

Martin and Mark were overjoyed to see these old faces, and watched

them with delighted interest as they departed from the house, and

passed close by them.

 

'There's the old tailor, Mark!' whispered Martin.

 

'There he goes, sir! A little bandier than he was, I think, sir,

ain't he? His figure's so far altered, as it seems to me, that you

might wheel a rather larger barrow between his legs as he walks,

than you could have done conveniently when we know'd him. There's

Sam a-coming out, sir.'

 

'Ah, to be sure!' cried Martin; 'Sam, the hostler. I wonder whether

that horse of Pecksniff's is alive still?'

 

'Not a doubt on it, sir,' returned Mark. 'That's a description of

animal, sir, as will go on in a bony way peculiar to himself for a

long time, and get into the newspapers at last under the title of

"Sing'lar Tenacity of Life in a Quadruped." As if he had ever been

alive in all his life, worth mentioning! There's the clerk, sir--

wery drunk, as usual.'

 

'I see him!' said Martin, laughing. 'But, my life, how wet you are,

Mark!'

 

'I am! What do you consider yourself, sir?'

 

'Oh, not half as bad,' said his fellow-traveller, with an air of

great vexation. 'I told you not to keep on the windy side, Mark,

but to let us change and change about. The rain has been beating on

you ever since it began.'

 

'You don't know how it pleases me, sir,' said Mark, after a short

silence, 'if I may make so bold as say so, to hear you a-going on in

that there uncommon considerate way of yours; which I don't mean to

attend to, never, but which, ever since that time when I was floored

in Eden, you have showed.'

 

'Ah, Mark!' sighed Martin, 'the less we say of that the better. Do

I see the light yonder?'

 

'That's the light!' cried Mark. 'Lord bless her, what briskness she

possesses! Now for it, sir. Neat wines, good beds, and first-rate

entertainment for man or beast.'

 

The kitchen fire burnt clear and red, the table was spread out, the

kettle boiled; the slippers were there, the boot-jack too, sheets of

ham were there, cooking on the gridiron; half-a-dozen eggs were

there, poaching in the frying-pan; a plethoric cherry-brandy bottle

was there, winking at a foaming jug of beer upon the table; rare

provisions were there, dangling from the rafters as if you had only

to open your mouth, and something exquisitely ripe and good would be

glad of the excuse for tumbling into it. Mrs Lupin, who for their

sakes had dislodged the very cook, high priestess of the temple,

with her own genial hands was dressing their repast.

 

It was impossible to help it--a ghost must have hugged her. The

Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea being, in that respect, all one,

Martin hugged her instantly. Mr Tapley (as if the idea were quite

novel, and had never occurred to him before), followed, with much

gravity, on the same side.

 

'Little did I ever think,' said Mrs Lupin, adjusting her cap and

laughing heartily; yes, and blushing too; 'often as I have said that

Mr Pecksniff's young gentlemen were the life and soul of the Dragon,

and that without them it would be too dull to live in--little did I

ever think I am sure, that any one of them would ever make so free

as you, Mr Martin! And still less that I shouldn't be angry with

him, but should be glad with all my heart to be the first to welcome

him home from America, with Mark Tapley for his--'

 

'For his friend, Mrs Lupin,' interposed Martin.

 

'For his friend,' said the hostess, evidently gratified by this

distinction, but at the same time admonishing Mr Tapley with a fork

to remain at a respectful distance. 'Little did I ever think that!

But still less, that I should ever have the changes to relate that I

shall have to tell you of, when you have done your supper!'

 

'Good Heaven!' cried Martin, changing colour, 'what changes?'

 

'SHE,' said the hostess, 'is quite well, and now at Mr Pecksniff's.

Don't be at all alarmed about her. She is everything you could

wish. It's of no use mincing matters, or making secrets, is it?'

added Mrs Lupin. 'I know all about it, you see!'

 

'My good creature,' returned Martin, 'you are exactly the person who

ought to know all about it. I am delighted to think you DO know

about that! But what changes do you hint at? Has any death

occurred?'

 

'No, no!' said the hostess. 'Not as bad as that. But I declare now

that I will not be drawn into saying another word till you have had

your supper. If you ask me fifty questions in the meantime, I won't

answer one.'

 

She was so positive, that there was nothing for it but to get the

supper over as quickly as possible; and as they had been walking a

great many miles, and had fasted since the middle of the day, they

did no great violence to their own inclinations in falling on it

tooth and nail. It took rather longer to get through than might

have been expected; for, half-a-dozen times, when they thought they

had finished, Mrs Lupin exposed the fallacy of that impression

triumphantly. But at last, in the course of time and nature, they

gave in. Then, sitting with their slippered feet stretched out upon

the kitchen hearth (which was wonderfully comforting, for the night

had grown by this time raw and chilly), and looking with involuntary

admiration at their dimpled, buxom, blooming hostess, as the

firelight sparkled in her eyes and glimmered in her raven hair, they

composed themselves to listen to her news.

 

Many were the exclamations of surprise which interrupted her, when

she told them of the separation between Mr Pecksniff and his

daughters, and between the same good gentleman and Mr Pinch. But

these were nothing to the indignant demonstrations of Martin, when

she related, as the common talk of the neighbourhood, what entire

possession he had obtained over the mind and person of old Mr

Chuzzlewit, and what high honour he designed for Mary. On receipt

of this intelligence, Martin's slippers flew off in a twinkling, and

he began pulling on his wet boots with that indefinite intention of

going somewhere instantly, and doing something to somebody, which is

the first safety-valve of a hot temper.

 

'He!' said Martin, 'smooth-tongued villain that he is! He! Give me

that other boot, Mark?'

 

'Where was you a-thinking of going to, sir?' inquired Mr Tapley

drying the sole at the fire, and looking coolly at it as he spoke,

as if it were a slice of toast.

 

'Where!' repeated Martin. 'You don't suppose I am going to remain

here, do you?'

 

The imperturbable Mark confessed that he did.

 

You do!' retorted Martin angrily. 'I am much obliged to you. What

do you take me for?'

 

'I take you for what you are, sir,' said Mark; 'and, consequently,

am quite sure that whatever you do will be right and sensible. The

boot, sir.'

 

Martin darted an impatient look at him, without taking it, and

walked rapidly up and down the kitchen several times, with one boot

and a stocking on. But, mindful of his Eden resolution, he had

already gained many victories over himself when Mark was in the case,

and he resolved to conquer now. So he came back to the book-jack,

laid his hand on Mark's shoulder to steady himself, pulled the boot

off, picked up his slippers, put them on, and sat down again. He

could not help thrusting his hands to the very bottom of his

pockets, and muttering at intervals, 'Pecksniff too! That fellow!

Upon my soul! In-deed! What next?' and so forth; nor could he help

occasionally shaking his fist at the chimney, with a very

threatening countenance; but this did not last long; and he heard

Mrs Lupin out, if not with composure, at all events in silence.

 

'As to Mr Pecksniff himself,' observed the hostess in conclusion,

spreading out the skirts of her gown with both hands, and nodding

her head a great many times as she did so, 'I don't know what to

say. Somebody must have poisoned his mind, or influenced him in

some extraordinary way. I cannot believe that such a noble-spoken

gentleman would go and do wrong of his own accord!'

 

A noble-spoken gentleman! How many people are there in the world,

who, for no better reason, uphold their Pecksniffs to the last and

abandon virtuous men, when Pecksniffs breathe upon them!

 

'As to Mr Pinch,' pursued the landlady, 'if ever there was a dear,

good, pleasant, worthy soul alive, Pinch, and no other, is his name.

But how do we know that old Mr Chuzzlewit himself was not the cause

of difference arising between him and Mr Pecksniff? No one but

themselves can tell; for Mr Pinch has a proud spirit, though he has

such a quiet way; and when he left us, and was so sorry to go, he

scorned to make his story good, even to me.'

 

'Poor old Tom!' said Martin, in a tone that sounded like remorse.

 

'It's a comfort to know,' resumed the landlady, 'that he has his

sister living with him, and is doing well. Only yesterday he sent

me back, by post, a little'--here the colour came into her cheeks--

'a little trifle I was bold enough to lend him when he went away;

saying, with many thanks, that he had good employment, and didn't

want it. It was the same note; he hadn't broken it. I never

thought I could have been so little pleased to see a bank-note come

back to me as I was to see that.'

 

'Kindly said, and heartily!' said Martin. 'Is it not, Mark?'

 

'She can't say anything as does not possess them qualities,'

returned Mr Tapley; 'which as much belongs to the Dragon as its

licence. And now that we have got quite cool and fresh, to the

subject again, sir; what will you do? If you're not proud, and can

make up your mind to go through with what you spoke of, coming along,

that's the course for you to take. If you started wrong with your

grandfather (which, you'll excuse my taking the liberty of saying,

appears to have been the case), up with you, sir, and tell him so,

and make an appeal to his affections. Don't stand out. He's a

great deal older than you, and if he was hasty, you was hasty too.

Give way, sir, give way.'

 

The eloquence of Mr Tapley was not without its effect on Martin but

he still hesitated, and expressed his reason thus:

 

'That's all very true, and perfectly correct, Mark; and if it were

a mere question of humbling myself before HIM, I would not consider

it twice. But don't you see, that being wholly under this

hypocrite's government, and having (if what we hear be true) no mind

or will of his own, I throw myself, in fact, not at his feet, but at

the feet of Mr Pecksniff? And when I am rejected and spurned away,'

said Martin, turning crimson at the thought, 'it is not by him; my

own blood stirred against me; but by Pecksniff--Pecksniff, Mark!'

 

'Well, but we know beforehand,' returned the politic Mr Tapley,

'that Pecksniff is a wagabond, a scoundrel, and a willain.'

 

'A most pernicious villain!' said Martin.

 

'A most pernicious willain. We know that beforehand, sir; and,

consequently, it's no shame to be defeated by Pecksniff. Blow

Pecksniff!' cried Mr Tapley, in the fervour of his eloquence.

'Who's he! It's not in the natur of Pecksniff to shame US, unless he

agreed with us, or done us a service; and, in case he offered any

audacity of that description, we could express our sentiments in the

English language, I hope. Pecksniff!' repeated Mr Tapley, with

ineffable disdain. 'What's Pecksniff, who's Pecksniff, where's

Pecksniff, that he's to be so much considered? We're not a-

calculating for ourselves;' he laid uncommon emphasis on the last

syllable of that word, and looked full in Martin's face; 'we're

making a effort for a young lady likewise as has undergone her

share; and whatever little hope we have, this here Pecksniff is not

to stand in its way, I expect. I never heard of any act of

Parliament, as was made by Pecksniff. Pecksniff! Why, I wouldn't

see the man myself; I wouldn't hear him; I wouldn't choose to know

he was in company. I'd scrape my shoes on the scraper of the door,

and call that Pecksniff, if you liked; but I wouldn't condescend no

further.'

 

The amazement of Mrs Lupin, and indeed of Mr Tapley himself for that

matter, at this impassioned flow of language, was immense. But

Martin, after looking thoughtfully at the fire for a short time,

said:

 

'You are right, Mark. Right or wrong, it shall be done. I'll do

it.'

 

'One word more, sir,' returned Mark. 'Only think of him so far as

not to give him a handle against you. Don't you do anything secret

that he can report before you get there. Don't you even see Miss

Mary in the morning, but let this here dear friend of ours'--Mr

Tapley bestowed a smile upon the hostess--'prepare her for what's a-

going to happen, and carry any little message as may be agreeable.

She knows how. Don't you?' Mrs Lupin laughed and tossed her head.

'Then you go in, bold and free as a gentleman should. "I haven't

done nothing under-handed," says you. "I haven't been skulking

about the premises, here I am, for-give me, I ask your pardon, God

Bless You!"'

 

Martin smiled, but felt that it was good advice notwithstanding, and

resolved to act upon it. When they had ascertained from Mrs Lupin

that Pecksniff had already returned from the great ceremonial at

which they had beheld him in his glory; and when they had fully

arranged the order of their proceedings; they went to bed, intent

upon the morrow.

 

In pursuance of their project as agreed upon at this discussion, Mr

Tapley issued forth next morning, after breakfast, charged with a

letter from Martin to his grandfather, requesting leave to wait upon

him for a few minutes. And postponing as he went along the

congratulations of his numerous friends until a more convenient

season, he soon arrived at Mr Pecksniff's house. At that

gentleman's door; with a face so immovable that it would have been

next to an impossibility for the most acute physiognomist to

determine what he was thinking about, or whether he was thinking at

all; he straightway knocked.

 

A person of Mr Tapley's observation could not long remain insensible

to the fact that Mr Pecksniff was making the end of his nose very

blunt against the glass of the parlour window, in an angular attempt

to discover who had knocked at the door. Nor was Mr Tapley slow to

baffle this movement on the part of the enemy, by perching himself

on the top step, and presenting the crown of his hat in that

direction. But possibly Mr Pecksniff had already seen him, for Mark

soon heard his shoes creaking, as he advanced to open the door with

his own hands.

 

Mr Pecksniff was as cheerful as ever, and sang a little song in the

passage.

 

'How d'ye do, sir?' said Mark.

 

'Oh!' cried Mr Pecksniff. 'Tapley, I believe? The Prodigal

returned! We don't want any beer, my friend.'

 

'Thankee, sir,' said Mark. 'I couldn't accommodate you if you did.

A letter, sir. Wait for an answer.'

 

'For me?' cried Mr Pecksniff. 'And an answer, eh?'

 

'Not for you, I think, sir,' said Mark, pointing out the direction.

'Chuzzlewit, I believe the name is, sir.'

 

'Oh!' returned Mr Pecksniff. 'Thank you. Yes. Who's it from, my

good young man?'

 

'The gentleman it comes from wrote his name inside, sir,' returned

Mr Tapley with extreme politeness. 'I see him a-signing of it at

the end, while I was a-waitin'.'

 

'And he said he wanted an answer, did he?' asked Mr Pecksniff in his

most persuasive manner.

 

Mark replied in the affirmative.

 

'He shall have an answer. Certainly,' said Mr Pecksniff, tearing

the letter into small pieces, as mildly as if that were the most

flattering attention a correspondent could receive. 'Have the

goodness to give him that, with my compliments, if you please. Good

morning!' Whereupon he handed Mark the scraps; retired, and shut the

door.

 

Mark thought it prudent to subdue his personal emotions, and return

to Martin at the Dragon. They were not unprepared for such a

reception, and suffered an hour or so to elapse before making

another attempt. When this interval had gone by, they returned to

Mr Pecksniff's house in company. Martin knocked this time, while Mr

Tapley prepared himself to keep the door open with his foot and

shoulder, when anybody came, and by that means secure an enforced

parley. But this precaution was needless, for the servant-girl

appeared almost immediately. Brushing quickly past her as he had

resolved in such a case to do, Martin (closely followed by his

faithful ally) opened the door of that parlour in which he knew a

visitor was most likely to be found; passed at once into the room;

and stood, without a word of notice or announcement, in the presence

of his grandfather.

 

Mr Pecksniff also was in the room; and Mary. In the swift instant

of their mutual recognition, Martin saw the old man droop his grey

head, and hide his face in his hands.

 

It smote him to the heart. In his most selfish and most careless

day, this lingering remnant of the old man's ancient love, this

buttress of a ruined tower he had built up in the time gone by, with

so much pride and hope, would have caused a pang in Martin's heart.

But now, changed for the better in his worst respect; looking

through an altered medium on his former friend, the guardian of his

childhood, so broken and bowed down; resentment, sullenness,

self-confidence, and pride, were all swept away, before the starting

tears upon the withered cheeks. He could not bear to see them. He

could not bear to think they fell at sight of him. He could not

bear to view reflected in them, the reproachful and irrevocable

Past.

 

He hurriedly advanced to seize the old man's hand in his, when Mr

Pecksniff interposed himself between them.

 

'No, young man!' said Mr Pecksniff, striking himself upon the

breast, and stretching out his other arm towards his guest as if it

were a wing to shelter him. 'No, sir. None of that. Strike here,

sir, here! Launch your arrows at me, sir, if you'll have the

goodness; not at Him!'

 

'Grandfather!' cried Martin. 'Hear me! I implore you, let me

speak!'

 

'Would you, sir? Would you?' said Mr Pecksniff, dodging about, so

as to keep himself always between them. 'Is it not enough, sir,

that you come into my house like a thief in the night, or I should

rather say, for we can never be too particular on the subject of

Truth, like a thief in the day-time; bringing your dissolute

companions with you, to plant themselves with their backs against

the insides of parlour doors, and prevent the entrance or issuing

forth of any of my household'--Mark had taken up this position, and

held it quite unmoved--'but would you also strike at venerable

Virtue? Would you? Know that it is not defenceless. I will be its

shield, young man. Assail me. Come on, sir. Fire away!'

 

'Pecksniff,' said the old man, in a feeble voice. 'Calm yourself.

Be quiet.'

 

'I can't be calm,' cried Mr Pecksniff, 'and I won't be quiet. My

benefactor and my friend! Shall even my house be no refuge for your

hoary pillow!'

 

'Stand aside!' said the old man, stretching out his hand; 'and let

me see what it is I used to love so dearly.'

 

'It is right that you should see it, my friend,' said Mr Pecksniff.

'It is well that you should see it, my noble sir. It is desirable

that you should contemplate it in its true proportions. Behold it!

There it is, sir. There it is!'

 

Martin could hardly be a mortal man, and not express in his face

something of the anger and disdain with which Mr Pecksniff inspired

him. But beyond this he evinced no knowledge whatever of that

gentleman's presence or existence. True, he had once, and that at

first, glanced at him involuntarily, and with supreme contempt; but

for any other heed he took of him, there might have been nothing in

his place save empty air.

 

As Mr Pecksniff withdrew from between them, agreeably to the wish

just now expressed (which he did during the delivery of the

observations last recorded), old Martin, who had taken Mary Graham's

hand in his, and whispered kindly to her, as telling her she had no

cause to be alarmed, gently pushed her from him, behind his chair;

and looked steadily at his grandson.

 

'And that,' he said, 'is he. Ah! that is he! Say what you wish to

say. But come no nearer,'

 

'His sense of justice is so fine,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'that he will

hear even him, although he knows beforehand that nothing can come of

it. Ingenuous mind!' Mr Pecksniff did not address himself

immediately to any person in saying this, but assuming the position

of the Chorus in a Greek Tragedy, delivered his opinion as a

commentary on the proceedings.

 

'Grandfather!' said Martin, with great earnestness. 'From a painful

journey, from a hard life, from a sick-bed, from privation and

distress, from gloom and disappointment, from almost hopelessness

and despair, I have come back to you.'

 

'Rovers of this sort,' observed Mr Pecksniff, as Chorus, 'very

commonly come back when they find they don't meet with the success

they expected in their marauding ravages.'

 

'But for this faithful man,' said Martin, turning towards Mark,

'whom I first knew in this place, and who went away with me

voluntarily, as a servant, but has been, throughout, my zealous and

devoted friend; but for him, I must have died abroad. Far from

home, far from any help or consolation; far from the probability

even of my wretched fate being ever known to any one who cared to

hear it--oh, that you would let me say, of being known to you!'

 

The old man looked at Mr Pecksniff. Mr Pecksniff looked at him.

'Did you speak, my worthy sir?' said Mr Pecksniff, with a smile.

The old man answered in the negative. 'I know what you thought,'

said Mr Pecksniff, with another smile. 'Let him go on my friend.

The development of self-interest in the human mind is always a

curious study. Let him go on, sir.'

 

'Go on!' observed the old man; in a mechanical obedience, it

appeared, to Mr Pecksniff's suggestion.

 

'I have been so wretched and so poor,' said Martin, 'that I am

indebted to the charitable help of a stranger, in a land of

strangers, for the means of returning here. All this tells against

me in your mind, I know. I have given you cause to think I have

been driven here wholly by want, and have not been led on, in any

degree, by affection or regret. When I parted from you,

Grandfather, I deserved that suspicion, but I do not now. I do not

now.'

 

The Chorus put its hand in its waistcoat, and smiled. 'Let him go

on, my worthy sir,' it said. 'I know what you are thinking of, but

don't express it prematurely.'

 

Old Martin raised his eyes to Mr Pecksniff's face, and appearing to

derive renewed instruction from his looks and words, said, once

again:

 

'Go on!'

 

'I have little more to say,' returned Martin. 'And as I say it now,

with little or no hope, Grandfather; whatever dawn of hope I had on

entering the room; believe it to be true. At least, believe it to

be true.'

 

'Beautiful Truth!' exclaimed the Chorus, looking upward. 'How is

your name profaned by vicious persons! You don't live in a well, my

holy principle, but on the lips of false mankind. It is hard to

bear with mankind, dear sir'--addressing the elder Mr Chuzzlewit;

'but let us do so meekly. It is our duty so to do. Let us be among

the Few who do their duty. If,' pursued the Chorus, soaring up into

a lofty flight, 'as the poet informs us, England expects Every man

to do his duty, England is the most sanguine country on the face of

the earth, and will find itself continually disappointed.'

 

'Upon that subject,' said Martin, looking calmly at the old man as

he spoke, but glancing once at Mary, whose face was now buried in

her hands, upon the back of his easy-chair; 'upon that subject which

first occasioned a division between us, my mind and heart are

incapable of change. Whatever influence they have undergone, since

that unhappy time, has not been one to weaken but to strengthen me.

I cannot profess sorrow for that, nor irresolution in that, nor

shame in that. Nor would you wish me, I know. But that I might

have trusted to your love, if I had thrown myself manfully upon it;

that I might have won you over with ease, if I had been more

yielding and more considerate; that I should have best remembered

myself in forgetting myself, and recollecting you; reflection,

solitude, and misery, have taught me. I came resolved to say this,

and to ask your forgiveness; not so much in hope for the future, as

in regret for the past; for all that I would ask of you is, that you

would aid me to live. Help me to get honest work to do, and I would

do it. My condition places me at the disadvantage of seeming to

have only my selfish ends to serve, but try if that be so or not.

Try if I be self-willed, obdurate, and haughty, as I was; or have

been disciplined in a rough school. Let the voice of nature and

association plead between us, Grandfather; and do not, for one

fault, however thankless, quite reject me!'

 

As he ceased, the grey head of the old man drooped again; and he

concealed his face behind his outspread fingers.

 

'My dear sir,' cried Mr Pecksniff, bending over him, 'you must not

give way to this. It is very natural, and very amiable, but you

must not allow the shameless conduct of one whom you long ago cast

off, to move you so far. Rouse yourself. Think,' said Pecksniff,

'think of Me, my friend.'

 

'I will,' returned old Martin, looking up into his face. 'You

recall me to myself. I will.'

 

'Why, what,' said Mr Pecksniff, sitting down beside him in a chair

which he drew up for the purpose, and tapping him playfully on the

arm, 'what is the matter with my strong-minded compatriot, if I may

venture to take the liberty of calling him by that endearing

expression? Shall I have to scold my coadjutor, or to reason with

an intellect like this? I think not.'

 

'No, no. There is no occasion,' said the old man. 'A momentary

feeling. Nothing more.'

 

'Indignation,' observed Mr Pecksniff, 'WILL bring the scalding tear

into the honest eye, I know'--he wiped his own elaborately. 'But we

have highest duties to perform than that. Rouse yourself, Mr

Chuzzlewit. Shall I give expression to your thoughts, my friend?'

 

'Yes,' said old Martin, leaning back in his chair, and looking at

him, half in vacancy and half in admiration, as if he were

fascinated by the man. 'Speak for me, Pecksniff, Thank you. You

are true to me. Thank you!'

 

'Do not unman me, sir,' said Mr Pecksniff, shaking his hand

vigorously, 'or I shall be unequal to the task. It is not agreeable

to my feelings, my good sir, to address the person who is now before

us, for when I ejected him from this house, after hearing of his

unnatural conduct from your lips, I renounced communication with him

for ever. But you desire it; and that is sufficient. Young man!

The door is immediately behind the companion of your infamy. Blush

if you can; begone without a blush, if you can't.'

 

Martin looked as steadily at his grandfather as if there had been a

dead silence all this time. The old man looked no less steadily at

Mr Pecksniff.

 

'When I ordered you to leave this house upon the last occasion of

your being dismissed from it with disgrace,' said Mr Pecksniff;

'when, stung and stimulated beyond endurance by your shameless

conduct to this extraordinarily noble-minded individual, I exclaimed

"Go forth!" I told you that I wept for your depravity. Do not

suppose that the tear which stands in my eye at this moment, is shed

for you. It is shed for him, sir. It is shed for him.'

 

Here Mr Pecksniff, accidentally dropping the tear in question on a

bald part of Mr Chuzzlewit's head, wiped the place with his pocket-

handkerchief, and begged pardon.

 

'It is shed for him, sir, whom you seek to make the victim of your

arts,' said Mr Pecksniff; 'whom you seek to plunder, to deceive, and

to mislead. It is shed in sympathy with him, and admiration of him;

not in pity for him, for happily he knows what you are. You shall

not wrong him further, sir, in any way,' said Mr Pecksniff, quite

transported with enthusiasm, 'while I have life. You may bestride

my senseless corse, sir. That is very likely. I can imagine a mind

like yours deriving great satisfaction from any measure of that

kind. But while I continue to be called upon to exist, sir, you

must strike at him through me. Awe!' said Mr Pecksniff, shaking his

head at Martin with indignant jocularity; 'and in such a cause you

will find me, my young sir, an Ugly Customer!'

 

Still Martin looked steadily and mildly at his grandfather. 'Will

you give me no answer,' he said, at length, 'not a word?'

 

'You hear what has been said,' replied the old man, without averting

his eyes from the face of Mr Pecksniff; who nodded encouragingly.

 

'I have not heard your voice. I have not heard your spirit,'

returned Martin.

 

'Tell him again,' said the old man, still gazing up in Mr

Pecksniff's face.

 

'I only hear,' replied Martin, strong in his purpose from the first,

and stronger in it as he felt how Pecksniff winced and shrunk

beneath his contempt; 'I only hear what you say to me, grandfather.'

 

Perhaps it was well for Mr Pecksniff that his venerable friend found

in his (Mr Pecksniff's) features an exclusive and engrossing object

of contemplation, for if his eyes had gone astray, and he had

compared young Martin's bearing with that of his zealous defender,

the latter disinterested gentleman would scarcely have shown to

greater advantage than on the memorable afternoon when he took Tom

Pinch's last receipt in full of all demands. One really might have

thought there was some quality in Mr Pecksniff--an emanation from

the brightness and purity within him perhaps--which set off and

adorned his foes; they looked so gallant and so manly beside him.

 

'Not a word?' said Martin, for the second time.

 

'I remember that I have a word to say, Pecksniff,' observed the old

man. 'But a word. You spoke of being indebted to the charitable

help of some stranger for the means of returning to England. Who is

he? And what help in money did he render you?'

 

Although he asked this question of Martin, he did not look towards

him, but kept his eyes on Mr Pecksniff as before. It appeared to

have become a habit with him, both in a literal and figurative

sense, to look to Mr Pecksniff alone.

 

Martin took out his pencil, tore a leaf from his pocket-book, and

hastily wrote down the particulars of his debt to Mr Bevan. The old

man stretched out his hand for the paper, and took it; but his eyes

did not wander from Mr Pecksniff's face.

 

'It would be a poor pride and a false humility,' said Martin, in a

low voice, 'to say, I do not wish that to be paid, or that I have

any present hope of being able to pay it. But I never felt my

poverty so deeply as I feel it now.'

 

'Read it to me, Pecksniff,' said the old man.

 

Mr Pecksniff, after approaching the perusal of the paper as if it

were a manuscript confession of a murder, complied.

 

'I think, Pecksniff,' said old Martin, 'I could wish that to be

discharged. I should not like the lender, who was abroad, who had

no opportunity of making inquiry, and who did (as he thought) a kind

action, to suffer.'

 

'An honourable sentiment, my dear sir. Your own entirely. But a

dangerous precedent,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'permit me to suggest.'

 

'It shall not be a precedent,' returned the old man. 'It is the

only recognition of him. But we will talk of it again. You shall

advise me. There is nothing else?'

 

'Nothing else,' said Mr Pecksniff buoyantly, 'but for you to recover

this intrusion--this cowardly and indefensible outrage on your

feelings--with all possible dispatch, and smile again.'

 

'You have nothing more to say?' inquired the old man, laying his

hand with unusual earnestness on Mr Pecksniff's sleeve.

 

Mr Pecksniff would not say what rose to his lips. For reproaches he

observed, were useless.

 

'You have nothing at all to urge? You are sure of that! If you have,

no matter what it is, speak freely. I will oppose nothing that you

ask of me,' said the old man.

 

The tears rose in such abundance to Mr Pecksniff's eyes at this

proof of unlimited confidence on the part of his friend, that he was

fain to clasp the bridge of his nose convulsively before he could at

all compose himself. When he had the power of utterance again, he

said with great emotion, that he hoped he should live to deserve

this; and added, that he had no other observation whatever to make.

 

For a few moments the old man sat looking at him, with that blank

and motionless expression which is not uncommon in the faces of

those whose faculties are on the wane, in age. But he rose up

firmly too, and walked towards the door, from which Mark withdrew to

make way for him.

 

The obsequious Mr Pecksniff proffered his arm. The old man took it.

Turning at the door, he said to Martin, waving him off with his

hand,

 

'You have heard him. Go away. It is all over. Go!'

 

Mr Pecksniff murmured certain cheering expressions of sympathy and

encouragement as they retired; and Martin, awakening from the stupor

into which the closing portion of this scene had plunged him, to the

opportunity afforded by their departure, caught the innocent cause

of all in his embrace, and pressed her to his heart.

 

'Dear girl!' said Martin. 'He has not changed you. Why, what an

impotent and harmless knave the fellow is!'

 

'You have restrained yourself so nobly! You have borne so much!'

 

'Restrained myself!' cried Martin, cheerfully. 'You were by, and

were unchanged, I knew. What more advantage did I want? The sight

of me was such a bitterness to the dog, that I had my triumph in his

being forced to endure it. But tell me, love--for the few hasty

words we can exchange now are precious--what is this which has been

rumoured to me? Is it true that you are persecuted by this knave's

addresses?'

 

'I was, dear Martin, and to some extent am now; but my chief source

of unhappiness has been anxiety for you. Why did you leave us in

such terrible suspense?'

 

'Sickness, distance; the dread of hinting at our real condition,

the impossibility of concealing it except in perfect silence; the

knowledge that the truth would have pained you infinitely more than

uncertainty and doubt,' said Martin, hurriedly; as indeed everything

else was done and said, in those few hurried moments, 'were the

causes of my writing only once. But Pecksniff? You needn't fear to

tell me the whole tale; for you saw me with him face to face,

hearing him speak, and not taking him by the throat; what is the

history of his pursuit of you? Is it known to my grandfather?'

 

'Yes.'

 

'And he assists him in it?'

 

'No,' she answered eagerly.

 

'Thank Heaven!' cried Martin, 'that it leaves his mind unclouded in

that one respect!'

 

'I do not think,' said Mary, 'it was known to him at first. When

this man had sufficiently prepared his mind, he revealed it to him

by degrees. I think so, but I only know it from my own impression:

now from anything they told me. Then he spoke to me alone.'

 

'My grandfather did?' said Martin.

 

'Yes--spoke to me alone, and told me--'

 

'What the hound had said,' cried Martin. 'Don't repeat it.'

 

'And said I knew well what qualities he possessed; that he was

moderately rich; in good repute; and high in his favour and

confidence. But seeing me very much distressed, he said that he

would not control or force my inclinations, but would content

himself with telling me the fact. He would not pain me by dwelling

on it, or reverting to it; nor has he ever done so since, but has

truly kept his word.'

 

'The man himself?--' asked Martin.

 

'He has had few opportunities of pursuing his suit. I have never

walked out alone, or remained alone an instant in his presence.

Dear Martin, I must tell you,' she continued, 'that the kindness of

your grandfather to me remains unchanged. I am his companion still.

An indescribable tenderness and compassion seem to have mingled

themselves with his old regard; and if I were his only child, I

could not have a gentler father. What former fancy or old habit

survives in this, when his heart has turned so cold to you, is a

mystery I cannot penetrate; but it has been, and it is, a happiness

to me, that I remained true to him; that if he should wake from his

delusion, even at the point of death, I am here, love, to recall you

to his thoughts.'

 

Martin looked with admiration on her glowing face, and pressed his

lips to hers.

 

'I have sometimes heard, and read,' she said, 'that those whose

powers had been enfeebled long ago, and whose lives had faded, as it

were, into a dream, have been known to rouse themselves before

death, and inquire for familiar faces once very dear to them; but

forgotten, unrecognized, hated even, in the meantime. Think, if

with his old impressions of this man, he should suddenly resume his

former self, and find in him his only friend!'

 

'I would not urge you to abandon him, dearest,' said Martin, 'though

I could count the years we are to wear out asunder. But the

influence this fellow exercises over him has steadily increased, I

fear.'

 

She could not help admitting that. Steadily, imperceptibly, and

surely, until it was paramount and supreme. She herself had none;

and yet he treated her with more affection than at any previous

time. Martin thought the inconsistency a part of his weakness and

decay.

 

'Does the influence extend to fear?' said Martin. 'Is he timid of

asserting his own opinion in the presence of this infatuation? I

fancied so just now.'

 

'I have thought so, often. Often when we are sitting alone, almost

as we used to do, and I have been reading a favourite book to him or

he has been talking quite cheerfully, I have observed that the

entrance of Mr Pecksniff has changed his whole demeanour. He has

broken off immediately, and become what you have seen to-day. When

we first came here he had his impetuous outbreaks, in which it was

not easy for Mr Pecksniff with his utmost plausibility to appease

him. But these have long since dwindled away. He defers to him in

everything, and has no opinion upon any question, but that which is

forced upon him by this treacherous man.'

 

Such was the account, rapidly furnished in whispers, and

interrupted, brief as it was, by many false alarms of Mr Pecksniff's

return; which Martin received of his grandfather's decline, and of

that good gentleman's ascendancy. He heard of Tom Pinch too, and

Jonas too, with not a little about himself into the bargain; for

though lovers are remarkable for leaving a great deal unsaid on all

occasions, and very properly desiring to come back and say it, they

are remarkable also for a wonderful power of condensation, and can,

in one way or other, give utterance to more language--eloquent

language--in any given short space of time, than all the six hundred

and fifty-eight members in the Commons House of Parliament of the

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; who are strong lovers

no doubt, but of their country only, which makes all the difference;

for in a passion of that kind (which is not always returned), it is

the custom to use as many words as possible, and express nothing

whatever.

 

A caution from Mr Tapley; a hasty interchange of farewells, and of

something else which the proverb says must not be told of

afterwards; a white hand held out to Mr Tapley himself, which he

kissed with the devotion of a knight-errant; more farewells, more

something else's; a parting word from Martin that he would write

from London and would do great things there yet (Heaven knows what,

but he quite believed it); and Mark and he stood on the outside of

the Pecksniffian halls.

 

'A short interview after such an absence!' said Martin, sorrowfully.

'But we are well out of the house. We might have placed ourselves

in a false position by remaining there, even so long, Mark.'

 

'I don't know about ourselves, sir,' he returned; 'but somebody else

would have got into a false position, if he had happened to come

back again, while we was there. I had the door all ready, sir. If

Pecksniff had showed his head, or had only so much as listened

behind it, I would have caught him like a walnut. He's the sort of

man,' added Mr Tapley, musing, 'as would squeeze soft, I know.'

 

A person who was evidently going to Mr Pecksniff's house, passed

them at this moment. He raised his eyes at the mention of the

architect's name; and when he had gone on a few yards, stopped and

gazed at them. Mr Tapley, also, looked over his shoulder, and so

did Martin; for the stranger, as he passed, had looked very sharply

at them.

 

'Who may that be, I wonder!' said Martin. 'The face seems familiar

to me, but I don't know the man.'

 

'He seems to have a amiable desire that his face should be tolerable

familiar to us,' said Mr Tapley, 'for he's a-staring pretty hard.

He'd better not waste his beauty, for he ain't got much to spare.'

 

Coming in sight of the Dragon, they saw a travelling carriage at the

door.

 

'And a Salisbury carriage, eh?' said Mr Tapley. 'That's what he

came in depend upon it. What's in the wind now? A new pupil, I

shouldn't wonder. P'raps it's a order for another grammar-school,

of the same pattern as the last.'

 

Before they could enter at the door, Mrs Lupin came running out; and

beckoning them to the carriage showed them a portmanteau with the

name of CHUZZLEWIT upon it.

 

'Miss Pecksniff's husband that was,' said the good woman to Martin.

'I didn't know what terms you might be on, and was quite in a worry

till you came back.'

 

'He and I have never interchanged a word yet,' observed Martin; 'and

as I have no wish to be better or worse acquainted with him, I will

not put myself in his way. We passed him on the road, I have no

doubt. I am glad he timed his coming as he did. Upon my word! Miss

Pecksniff's husband travels gayly!'

 

'A very fine-looking gentleman with him--in the best room now,'

whispered Mrs Lupin, glancing up at the window as they went into the

house. 'He has ordered everything that can be got for dinner; and

has the glossiest moustaches and whiskers ever you saw.'

 

'Has he?' cried Martin, 'why then we'll endeavour to avoid him too,

in the hope that our self-denial may be strong enough for the

sacrifice. It is only for a few hours,' said Martin, dropping

wearily into a chair behind the little screen in the bar. 'Our

visit has met with no success, my dear Mrs Lupin, and I must go to

London.'

 

'Dear, dear!' cried the hostess.

 

'Yes, one foul wind no more makes a winter, than one swallow makes a

summer. I'll try it again. Tom Pinch has succeeded. With his

advice to guide me, I may do the same. I took Tom under my

protection once, God save the mark!' said Martin, with a melancholy

smile; 'and promised I would make his fortune. Perhaps Tom will

take me under HIS protection now, and teach me how to earn my

bread.'

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