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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMartin Chuzzlewit - Chapter THIRTY-FIVE
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Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter THIRTY-FIVE Post by :jusrite Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :January 2011 Read :2172

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Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter THIRTY-FIVE



It was mid-day, and high water in the English port for which the

Screw was bound, when, borne in gallantly upon the fullness of the

tide, she let go her anchor in the river.


Bright as the scene was; fresh, and full of motion; airy, free, and

sparkling; it was nothing to the life and exultation in the breasts

of the two travellers, at sight of the old churches, roofs, and

darkened chimney stacks of Home. The distant roar that swelled up

hoarsely from the busy streets, was music in their ears; the lines

of people gazing from the wharves, were friends held dear; the

canopy of smoke that overhung the town was brighter and more

beautiful to them than if the richest silks of Persia had been

waving in the air. And though the water going on its glistening

track, turned, ever and again, aside to dance and sparkle round

great ships, and heave them up; and leaped from off the blades of

oars, a shower of diving diamonds; and wantoned with the idle boats,

and swiftly passed, in many a sportive chase, through obdurate old

iron rings, set deep into the stone-work of the quays; not even it

was half so buoyant, and so restless, as their fluttering hearts,

when yearning to set foot, once more, on native ground.


A year had passed since those same spires and roofs had faded from

their eyes. It seemed to them, a dozen years. Some trifling

changes, here and there, they called to mind; and wondered that they

were so few and slight. In health and fortune, prospect and

resource, they came back poorer men than they had gone away. But it

was home. And though home is a name, a word, it is a strong one;

stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit answered to, in

strongest conjuration.


Being set ashore, with very little money in their pockets, and no

definite plan of operation in their heads, they sought out a cheap

tavern, where they regaled upon a smoking steak, and certain flowing

mugs of beer, as only men just landed from the sea can revel in the

generous dainties of the earth. When they had feasted, as two

grateful-tempered giants might have done, they stirred the fire,

drew back the glowing curtain from the window, and making each a

sofa for himself, by union of the great unwieldy chairs, gazed

blissfully into the street.


Even the street was made a fairy street, by being half hidden in an

atmosphere of steak, and strong, stout, stand-up English beer. For

on the window-glass hung such a mist, that Mr Tapley was obliged to

rise and wipe it with his handkerchief, before the passengers

appeared like common mortals. And even then, a spiral little cloud

went curling up from their two glasses of hot grog, which nearly hid

them from each other.


It was one of those unaccountable little rooms which are never seen

anywhere but in a tavern, and are supposed to have got into taverns

by reason of the facilities afforded to the architect for getting

drunk while engaged in their construction. It had more corners in

it than the brain of an obstinate man; was full of mad closets, into

which nothing could be put that was not specially invented and made

for that purpose; had mysterious shelvings and bulkheads, and

indications of staircases in the ceiling; and was elaborately

provided with a bell that rung in the room itself, about two feet

from the handle, and had no connection whatever with any other part

of the establishment. It was a little below the pavement, and

abutted close upon it; so that passengers grated against the window-

panes with their buttons, and scraped it with their baskets; and

fearful boys suddenly coming between a thoughtful guest and the

light, derided him, or put out their tongues as if he were a

physician; or made white knobs on the ends of their noses by

flattening the same against the glass, and vanished awfully, like



Martin and Mark sat looking at the people as they passed, debating

every now and then what their first step should be.


'We want to see Miss Mary, of course,' said Mark.


'Of course,' said Martin. 'But I don't know where she is. Not

having had the heart to write in our distress--you yourself thought

silence most advisable--and consequently, never having heard from

her since we left New York the first time, I don't know where she

is, my good fellow.'


'My opinion is, sir,' returned Mark, 'that what we've got to do is

to travel straight to the Dragon. There's no need for you to go

there, where you're known, unless you like. You may stop ten mile

short of it. I'll go on. Mrs Lupin will tell me all the news. Mr

Pinch will give me every information that we want; and right glad Mr

Pinch will be to do it. My proposal is: To set off walking this

afternoon. To stop when we are tired. To get a lift when we can.

To walk when we can't. To do it at once, and do it cheap.'


'Unless we do it cheap, we shall have some difficulty in doing it at

all,' said Martin, pulling out the bank, and telling it over in his



'The greater reason for losing no time, sir,' replied Mark.

'Whereas, when you've seen the young lady; and know what state of

mind the old gentleman's in, and all about it; then you'll know what

to do next.'


'No doubt,' said Martin. 'You are quite right.'


They were raising their glasses to their lips, when their hands

stopped midway, and their gaze was arrested by a figure which

slowly, very slowly, and reflectively, passed the window at that



Mr Pecksniff. Placid, calm, but proud. Honestly proud. Dressed

with peculiar care, smiling with even more than usual blandness,

pondering on the beauties of his art with a mild abstraction from

all sordid thoughts, and gently travelling across the disc, as if he

were a figure in a magic lantern.


As Mr Pecksniff passed, a person coming in the opposite direction

stopped to look after him with great interest and respect, almost

with veneration; and the landlord bouncing out of the house, as if

he had seen him too, joined this person, and spoke to him, and shook

his head gravely, and looked after Mr Pecksniff likewise.


Martin and Mark sat staring at each other, as if they could not

believe it; but there stood the landlord, and the other man still.

In spite of the indignation with which this glimpse of Mr Pecksniff

had inspired him, Martin could not help laughing heartily. Neither

could Mark.


'We must inquire into this!' said Martin. 'Ask the landlord in,



Mr Tapley retired for that purpose, and immediately returned with

their large-headed host in safe convoy.


'Pray, landlord!' said Martin, 'who is that gentleman who passed

just now, and whom you were looking after?'


The landlord poked the fire as if, in his desire to make the most of

his answer, he had become indifferent even to the price of coals;

and putting his hands in his pockets, said, after inflating himself

to give still further effect to his reply:


'That, gentlemen, is the great Mr Pecksniff! The celebrated

architect, gentlemen!'


He looked from one to the other while he said it, as if he were

ready to assist the first man who might be overcome by the



'The great Mr Pecksniff, the celebrated architect, gentlemen.' said

the landlord, 'has come down here, to help to lay the first stone of

a new and splendid public building.'


'Is it to be built from his designs?' asked Martin.


'The great Mr Pecksniff, the celebrated architect, gentlemen,'

returned the landlord, who seemed to have an unspeakable delight in

the repetition of these words, 'carried off the First Premium, and

will erect the building.'


'Who lays the stone?' asked Martin.


'Our member has come down express,' returned the landlord. 'No

scrubs would do for no such a purpose. Nothing less would satisfy

our Directors than our member in the House of Commons, who is

returned upon the Gentlemanly Interest.'


'Which interest is that?' asked Martin.


'What, don't you know!' returned the landlord.


It was quite clear the landlord didn't. They always told him at

election time, that it was the Gentlemanly side, and he immediately

put on his top-boots, and voted for it.


'When does the ceremony take place?' asked Martin.


'This day,' replied the landlord. Then pulling out his watch, he

added, impressively, 'almost this minute.'


Martin hastily inquired whether there was any possibility of getting

in to witness it; and finding that there would be no objection to

the admittance of any decent person, unless indeed the ground were

full, hurried off with Mark, as hard as they could go.


They were fortunate enough to squeeze themselves into a famous

corner on the ground, where they could see all that passed, without

much dread of being beheld by Mr Pecksniff in return. They were not

a minute too soon, for as they were in the act of congratulating

each other, a great noise was heard at some distance, and everybody

looked towards the gate. Several ladies prepared their pocket

handkerchiefs for waving; and a stray teacher belonging to the

charity school being much cheered by mistake, was immensely groaned

at when detected.


'Perhaps he has Tom Pinch with him,' Martin whispered Mr Tapley.


'It would be rather too much of a treat for him, wouldn't it, sir?'

whispered Mr Tapley in return.


There was no time to discuss the probabilities either way, for the

charity school, in clean linen, came filing in two and two, so much

to the self-approval of all the people present who didn't subscribe

to it, that many of them shed tears. A band of music followed, led

by a conscientious drummer who never left off. Then came a great

many gentlemen with wands in their hands, and bows on their breasts,

whose share in the proceedings did not appear to be distinctly laid

down, and who trod upon each other, and blocked up the entry for a

considerable period. These were followed by the Mayor and

Corporation, all clustering round the member for the Gentlemanly

Interest; who had the great Mr Pecksniff, the celebrated architect

on his right hand, and conversed with him familiarly as they came

along. Then the ladies waved their handkerchiefs, and the gentlemen

their hats, and the charity children shrieked, and the member for

the Gentlemanly Interest bowed.


Silence being restored, the member for the Gentlemanly Interest

rubbed his hands, and wagged his head, and looked about him

pleasantly; and there was nothing this member did, at which some

lady or other did not burst into an ecstatic waving of her pocket

handkerchief. When he looked up at the stone, they said how

graceful! when he peeped into the hole, they said how condescending!

when he chatted with the Mayor, they said how easy! when he folded

his arms they cried with one accord, how statesman-like!


Mr Pecksniff was observed too, closely. When he talked to the

Mayor, they said, Oh, really, what a courtly man he was! When he

laid his hand upon the mason's shoulder, giving him directions, how

pleasant his demeanour to the working classes; just the sort of man

who made their toil a pleasure to them, poor dear souls!


But now a silver trowel was brought; and when the member for the

Gentlemanly Interest, tucking up his coat-sleeve, did a little

sleight of hand with the mortar, the air was rent, so loud was the

applause. The workman-like manner in which he did it was amazing.

No one could conceive where such a gentlemanly creature could have

picked the knowledge up.


When he had made a kind of dirt-pie under the direction of the

mason, they brought a little vase containing coins, the which the

member for the Gentlemanly Interest jingled, as if he were going to

conjure. Whereat they said how droll, how cheerful, what a flow of

spirits! This put into its place, an ancient scholar read the

inscription, which was in Latin; not in English; that would never

do. It gave great satisfaction; especially every time there was a

good long substantive in the third declension, ablative case, with

an adjective to match; at which periods the assembly became very

tender, and were much affected.


And now the stone was lowered down into its place, amidst the

shouting of the concourse. When it was firmly fixed, the member for

the Gentlemanly Interest struck upon it thrice with the handle of

the trowel, as if inquiring, with a touch of humour, whether anybody

was at home. Mr Pecksniff then unrolled his Plans (prodigious plans

they were), and people gathered round to look at and admire them.


Martin, who had been fretting himself--quite unnecessarily, as Mark

thought--during the whole of these proceedings, could no longer

restrain his impatience; but stepping forward among several others,

looked straight over the shoulder of the unconscious Mr Pecksniff,

at the designs and plans he had unrolled. He returned to Mark,

boiling with rage.


'Why, what's the matter, sir?' cried Mark.


'Matter! This is MY building.'


'Your building, sir!' said Mark.


'My grammar-school. I invented it. I did it all. He has only put

four windows in, the villain, and spoilt it!'


Mark could hardly believe it at first, but being assured that it was

really so, actually held him to prevent his interference foolishly,

until his temporary heat was past. In the meantime, the member

addressed the company on the gratifying deed which he had just



He said that since he had sat in Parliament to represent the

Gentlemanly Interest of that town; and he might add, the Lady

Interest, he hoped, besides (pocket handkerchiefs); it had been his

pleasant duty to come among them, and to raise his voice on their

behalf in Another Place (pocket handkerchiefs and laughter), often.

But he had never come among them, and had never raised his voice,

with half such pure, such deep, such unalloyed delight, as now.

'The present occasion,' he said, 'will ever be memorable to me; not

only for the reasons I have assigned, but because it has afforded me

an opportunity of becoming personally known to a gentleman--'


Here he pointed the trowel at Mr Pecksniff, who was greeted with

vociferous cheering, and laid his hand upon his heart.


'To a gentleman who, I am happy to believe, will reap both

distinction and profit from this field; whose fame had previously

penetrated to me--as to whose ears has it not!--but whose

intellectual countenance I never had the distinguished honour to

behold until this day, and whose intellectual conversation I had

never before the improving pleasure to enjoy.'


Everybody seemed very glad of this, and applauded more than ever.


'But I hope my Honourable Friend,' said the Gentlemanly member--of

course he added "if he will allow me to call him so," and of course

Mr Pecksniff bowed--'will give me many opportunities of cultivating

the knowledge of him; and that I may have the extraordinary

gratification of reflecting in after-time that I laid on this day

two first stones, both belonging to structures which shall last my



Great cheering again. All this time, Martin was cursing Mr

Pecksniff up hill and down dale.


'My friends!' said Mr Pecksniff, in reply. 'My duty is to build,

not speak; to act, not talk; to deal with marble, stone, and brick;

not language. I am very much affected. God bless you!'


This address, pumped out apparently from Mr Pecksniff's very heart,

brought the enthusiasm to its highest pitch. The pocket

handkerchiefs were waved again; the charity children were admonished

to grow up Pecksniffs, every boy among them; the Corporation,

gentlemen with wands, member for the Gentlemanly Interest, all

cheered for Mr Pecksniff. Three cheers for Mr Pecksniff! Three more

for Mr Pecksniff! Three more for Mr Pecksniff, gentlemen, if you

please! One more, gentlemen, for Mr Pecksniff, and let it be a good

one to finish with!


In short, Mr Pecksniff was supposed to have done a great work and

was very kindly, courteously, and generously rewarded. When the

procession moved away, and Martin and Mark were left almost alone

upon the ground, his merits and a desire to acknowledge them formed

the common topic. He was only second to the Gentlemanly member.


'Compare the fellow's situation to-day with ours!' said Martin



'Lord bless you, sir!' cried Mark, 'what's the use? Some architects

are clever at making foundations, and some architects are clever at

building on 'em when they're made. But it'll all come right in the

end, sir; it'll all come right!'


'And in the meantime--' began Martin.


'In the meantime, as you say, sir, we have a deal to do, and far to

go. So sharp's the word, and Jolly!'


'You are the best master in the world, Mark,' said Martin, 'and I

will not be a bad scholar if I can help it, I am resolved! So come!

Best foot foremost, old fellow!'

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