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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMartin Chuzzlewit - Chapter THIRTY-ONE
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Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter THIRTY-ONE Post by :mattyk23 Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :January 2011 Read :11616

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Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter THIRTY-ONE

MR PINCH IS DISCHARGED OF A DUTY WHICH HE NEVER OWED TO ANYBODY,
AND MR PECKSNIFF DISCHARGES A DUTY WHICH HE OWES TO SOCIETY

 

The closing words of the last chapter lead naturally to the

commencement of this, its successor; for it has to do with a church.

With the church, so often mentioned heretofore, in which Tom Pinch

played the organ for nothing.

 

One sultry afternoon, about a week after Miss Charity's departure

for London, Mr Pecksniff being out walking by himself, took it into

his head to stray into the churchyard. As he was lingering among

the tombstones, endeavouring to extract an available sentiment or

two from the epitaphs--for he never lost an opportunity of making up

a few moral crackers, to be let off as occasion served--Tom Pinch

began to practice. Tom could run down to the church and do so

whenever he had time to spare; for it was a simple little organ,

provided with wind by the action of the musician's feet; and he was

independent, even of a bellows-blower. Though if Tom had wanted one

at any time, there was not a man or boy in all the village, and away

to the turnpike (tollman included), but would have blown away for

him till he was black in the face.

 

Mr Pecksniff had no objection to music; not the least. He was

tolerant of everything; he often said so. He considered it a

vagabond kind of trifling, in general, just suited to Tom's

capacity. But in regard to Tom's performance upon this same organ,

he was remarkably lenient, singularly amiable; for when Tom played

it on Sundays, Mr Pecksniff in his unbounded sympathy felt as if he

played it himself, and were a benefactor to the congregation. So

whenever it was impossible to devise any other means of taking the

value of Tom's wages out of him, Mr Pecksniff gave him leave to

cultivate this instrument. For which mark of his consideration Tom

was very grateful.

 

The afternoon was remarkably warm, and Mr Pecksniff had been

strolling a long way. He had not what may be called a fine ear for

music, but he knew when it had a tranquilizing influence on his

soul; and that was the case now, for it sounded to him like a

melodious snore. He approached the church, and looking through the

diamond lattice of a window near the porch, saw Tom, with the

curtains in the loft drawn back, playing away with great expression

and tenderness.

 

The church had an inviting air of coolness. The old oak roof

supported by cross-beams, the hoary walls, the marble tablets, and

the cracked stone pavement, were refreshing to look at. There were

leaves of ivy tapping gently at the opposite windows; and the sun

poured in through only one; leaving the body of the church in

tempting shade. But the most tempting spot of all, was one red-

curtained and soft-cushioned pew, wherein the official dignitaries

of the place (of whom Mr Pecksniff was the head and chief) enshrined

themselves on Sundays. Mr Pecksniff's seat was in the corner; a

remarkably comfortable corner; where his very large Prayer-Book was

at that minute making the most of its quarto self upon the desk. He

determined to go in and rest.

 

He entered very softly; in part because it was a church; in part

because his tread was always soft; in part because Tom played a

solemn tune; in part because he thought he would surprise him when

he stopped. Unbolting the door of the high pew of state, he glided

in and shut it after him; then sitting in his usual place, and

stretching out his legs upon the hassocks, he composed himself to

listen to the music.

 

It is an unaccountable circumstance that he should have felt drowsy

there, where the force of association might surely have been enough

to keep him wide awake; but he did. He had not been in the snug

little corner five minutes before he began to nod. He had not

recovered himself one minute before he began to nod again. In the

very act of opening his eyes indolently, he nodded again. In the

very act of shutting them, he nodded again. So he fell out of one

nod into another until at last he ceased to nod at all, and was as

fast as the church itself.

 

He had a consciousness of the organ, long after he fell asleep,

though as to its being an organ he had no more idea of that than he

had of its being a bull. After a while he began to have at

intervals the same dreamy impressions of voices; and awakening to an

indolent curiosity upon the subject, opened his eyes.

 

He was so indolent, that after glancing at the hassocks and the pew,

he was already half-way off to sleep again, when it occurred to him

that there really were voices in the church; low voices, talking

earnestly hard by; while the echoes seemed to mutter responses. He

roused himself, and listened.

 

Before he had listened half a dozen seconds, he became as broad

awake as ever he had been in all his life. With eyes, and ears, and

mouth, wide open, he moved himself a very little with the utmost

caution, and gathering the curtain in his hand, peeped out.

 

Tom Pinch and Mary. Of course. He had recognized their voices, and

already knew the topic they discussed. Looking like the small end

of a guillotined man, with his chin on a level with the top of the

pew, so that he might duck down immediately in case of either of

them turning round, he listened. Listened with such concentrated

eagerness, that his very hair and shirt-collar stood bristling up to

help him.

 

'No,' cried Tom. 'No letters have ever reached me, except that one

from New York. But don't be uneasy on that account, for it's very

likely they have gone away to some far-off place, where the posts

are neither regular nor frequent. He said in that very letter that

it might be so, even in that city to which they thought of

travelling--Eden, you know.'

 

'It is a great weight upon my mind,' said Mary.

 

'Oh, but you mustn't let it be,' said Tom. 'There's a true saying

that nothing travels so fast as ill news; and if the slightest harm

had happened to Martin, you may be sure you would have heard of it

long ago. I have often wished to say this to you,' Tom continued

with an embarrassment that became him very well, 'but you have never

given me an opportunity.'

 

'I have sometimes been almost afraid,' said Mary, 'that you might

suppose I hesitated to confide in you, Mr Pinch.'

 

'No,' Tom stammered, 'I--I am not aware that I ever supposed that.

I am sure that if I have, I have checked the thought directly, as an

injustice to you. I feel the delicacy of your situation in having

to confide in me at all,' said Tom, 'but I would risk my life to

save you from one day's uneasiness; indeed I would!'

 

Poor Tom!

 

'I have dreaded sometimes,' Tom continued, 'that I might have

displeased you by--by having the boldness to try and anticipate your

wishes now and then. At other times I have fancied that your

kindness prompted you to keep aloof from me.'

 

'Indeed!'

 

'It was very foolish; very presumptuous and ridiculous, to think

so,' Tom pursued; 'but I feared you might suppose it possible that

I--I--should admire you too much for my own peace; and so denied

yourself the slight assistance you would otherwise have accepted

from me. If such an idea has ever presented itself to you,'

faltered Tom, 'pray dismiss it. I am easily made happy; and I shall

live contented here long after you and Martin have forgotten me. I

am a poor, shy, awkward creature; not at all a man of the world; and

you should think no more of me, bless you, than if I were an old

friar!'

 

If friars bear such hearts as thine, Tom, let friars multiply;

though they have no such rule in all their stern arithmetic.

 

'Dear Mr Pinch!' said Mary, giving him her hand; 'I cannot tell you

how your kindness moves me. I have never wronged you by the

lightest doubt, and have never for an instant ceased to feel that

you were all--much more than all--that Martin found you. Without

the silent care and friendship I have experienced from you, my life

here would have been unhappy. But you have been a good angel to me;

filling me with gratitude of heart, hope, and courage.'

 

'I am as little like an angel, I am afraid,' replied Tom, shaking

his head, 'as any stone cherubim among the grave-stones; and I don't

think there are many real angels of THAT pattern. But I should like

to know (if you will tell me) why you have been so very silent about

Martin.'

 

'Because I have been afraid,' said Mary, 'of injuring you.'

 

'Of injuring me!' cried Tom.

 

'Of doing you an injury with your employer.'

 

The gentleman in question dived.

 

'With Pecksniff!' rejoined Tom, with cheerful confidence. 'Oh dear,

he'd never think of us! He's the best of men. The more at ease you

were, the happier he would be. Oh dear, you needn't be afraid of

Pecksniff. He is not a spy.'

 

Many a man in Mr Pecksniff's place, if he could have dived through

the floor of the pew of state and come out at Calcutta or any

inhabited region on the other side of the earth, would have done it

instantly. Mr Pecksniff sat down upon a hassock, and listening more

attentively than ever, smiled.

 

Mary seemed to have expressed some dissent in the meanwhile, for Tom

went on to say, with honest energy:

 

'Well, I don't know how it is, but it always happens, whenever I

express myself in this way to anybody almost, that I find they won't

do justice to Pecksniff. It is one of the most extraordinary

circumstances that ever came within my knowledge, but it is so.

There's John Westlock, who used to be a pupil here, one of the best-

hearted young men in the world, in all other matters--I really

believe John would have Pecksniff flogged at the cart's tail if he

could. And John is not a solitary case, for every pupil we have had

in my time has gone away with the same inveterate hatred of him.

There was Mark Tapley, too, quite in another station of life,' said

Tom; 'the mockery he used to make of Pecksniff when he was at the

Dragon was shocking. Martin too: Martin was worse than any of 'em.

But I forgot. He prepared you to dislike Pecksniff, of course. So

you came with a prejudice, you know, Miss Graham, and are not a fair

witness.'

 

Tom triumphed very much in this discovery, and rubbed his hands with

great satisfaction.

 

'Mr Pinch,' said Mary, 'you mistake him.'

 

'No, no!' cried Tom. 'YOU mistake him. But,' he added, with a

rapid change in his tone, 'what is the matter? Miss Graham, what is

the matter?'

 

Mr Pecksniff brought up to the top of the pew, by slow degrees, his

hair, his forehead, his eyebrow, his eye. She was sitting on a

bench beside the door with her hands before her face; and Tom was

bending over her.

 

'What is the matter?' cried Tom. 'Have I said anything to hurt you?

Has any one said anything to hurt you? Don't cry. Pray tell me

what it is. I cannot bear to see you so distressed. Mercy on us, I

never was so surprised and grieved in all my life!'

 

Mr Pecksniff kept his eye in the same place. He could have moved it

now for nothing short of a gimlet or a red-hot wire.

 

'I wouldn't have told you, Mr Pinch,' said Mary, 'if I could have

helped it; but your delusion is so absorbing, and it is so necessary

that we should be upon our guard; that you should not be

compromised; and to that end that you should know by whom I am

beset; that no alternative is left me. I came here purposely to

tell you, but I think I should have wanted courage if you had not

chanced to lead me so directly to the object of my coming.'

 

Tom gazed at her steadfastly, and seemed to say, 'What else?' But he

said not a word.

 

'That person whom you think the best of men,' said Mary, looking up,

and speaking with a quivering lip and flashing eye.

 

'Lord bless me!' muttered Tom, staggering back. 'Wait a moment.

That person whom I think the best of men! You mean Pecksniff, of

course. Yes, I see you mean Pecksniff. Good gracious me, don't

speak without authority. What has he done? If he is not the best

of men, what is he?'

 

'The worst. The falsest, craftiest, meanest, cruellest, most

sordid, most shameless,' said the trembling girl--trembling with her

indignation.

 

Tom sat down on a seat, and clasped his hands.

 

'What is he,' said Mary, 'who receiving me in his house as his

guest; his unwilling guest; knowing my history, and how defenceless

and alone I am, presumes before his daughters to affront me so, that

if I had a brother but a child, who saw it, he would instinctively

have helped me?'

 

'He is a scoundrel!' exclaimed Tom. 'Whoever he may be, he is a

scoundrel.'

 

Mr Pecksniff dived again.

 

'What is he,' said Mary, 'who, when my only friend--a dear and kind

one, too--was in full health of mind, humbled himself before him,

but was spurned away (for he knew him then) like a dog. Who, in his

forgiving spirit, now that that friend is sunk into a failing state,

can crawl about him again, and use the influence he basely gains for

every base and wicked purpose, and not for one--not one--that's true

or good?'

 

'I say he is a scoundrel!' answered Tom.

 

'But what is he--oh, Mr Pinch, what IS he--who, thinking he could

compass these designs the better if I were his wife, assails me with

the coward's argument that if I marry him, Martin, on whom I have

brought so much misfortune, shall be restored to something of his

former hopes; and if I do not, shall be plunged in deeper ruin?

What is he who makes my very constancy to one I love with all my

heart a torture to myself and wrong to him; who makes me, do what I

will, the instrument to hurt a head I would heap blessings on! What

is he who, winding all these cruel snares about me, explains their

purpose to me, with a smooth tongue and a smiling face, in the broad

light of day; dragging me on, the while, in his embrace, and holding

to his lips a hand,' pursued the agitated girl, extending it, 'which

I would have struck off, if with it I could lose the shame and

degradation of his touch?'

 

'I say,' cried Tom, in great excitement, 'he is a scoundrel and a

villain! I don't care who he is, I say he is a double-dyed and most

intolerable villain!'

 

Covering her face with her hands again, as if the passion which

had sustained her through these disclosures lost itself in an

overwhelming sense of shame and grief, she abandoned herself to

tears.

 

Any sight of distress was sure to move the tenderness of Tom, but

this especially. Tears and sobs from her were arrows in his heart.

He tried to comfort her; sat down beside her; expended all his store

of homely eloquence; and spoke in words of praise and hope of

Martin. Aye, though he loved her from his soul with such a self-

denying love as woman seldom wins; he spoke from first to last of

Martin. Not the wealth of the rich Indies would have tempted Tom to

shirk one mention of her lover's name.

 

When she was more composed, she impressed upon Tom that this man she

had described, was Pecksniff in his real colours; and word by word

and phrase by phrase, as well as she remembered it, related what had

passed between them in the wood: which was no doubt a source of high

gratification to that gentleman himself, who in his desire to see

and his dread of being seen, was constantly diving down into the

state pew, and coming up again like the intelligent householder in

Punch's Show, who avoids being knocked on the head with a cudgel.

When she had concluded her account, and had besought Tom to be very

distant and unconscious in his manner towards her after this

explanation, and had thanked him very much, they parted on the alarm

of footsteps in the burial-ground; and Tom was left alone in the

church again.

 

And now the full agitation and misery of the disclosure came rushing

upon Tom indeed. The star of his whole life from boyhood had

become, in a moment, putrid vapour. It was not that Pecksniff,

Tom's Pecksniff, had ceased to exist, but that he never had existed.

In his death Tom would have had the comfort of remembering what he

used to be, but in this discovery, he had the anguish of

recollecting what he never was. For, as Tom's blindness in this

matter had been total and not partial, so was his restored sight.

HIS Pecksniff could never have worked the wickedness of which he had

just now heard, but any other Pecksniff could; and the Pecksniff who

could do that could do anything, and no doubt had been doing

anything and everything except the right thing, all through his

career. From the lofty height on which poor Tom had placed his idol

it was tumbled down headlong, and

 

 

Not all the king's horses, nor all the king's men,

Could have set Mr Pecksniff up again.

 

 

Legions of Titans couldn't have got him out of the mud; and serve

him right! But it was not he who suffered; it was Tom. His compass

was broken, his chart destroyed, his chronometer had stopped, his

masts were gone by the board; his anchor was adrift, ten thousand

leagues away.

 

Mr Pecksniff watched him with a lively interest, for he divined the

purpose of Tom's ruminations, and was curious to see how he

conducted himself. For some time, Tom wandered up and down the

aisle like a man demented, stopping occasionally to lean against a

pew and think it over; then he stood staring at a blank old monument

bordered tastefully with skulls and cross-bones, as if it were the

finest work of Art he had ever seen, although at other times he held

it in unspeakable contempt; then he sat down; then walked to and fro

again; then went wandering up into the organ-loft, and touched the

keys. But their minstrelsy was changed, their music gone; and

sounding one long melancholy chord, Tom drooped his head upon his

hands and gave it up as hopeless.

 

'I wouldn't have cared,' said Tom Pinch, rising from his stool and

looking down into the church as if he had been the Clergyman, 'I

wouldn't have cared for anything he might have done to Me, for I

have tried his patience often, and have lived upon his sufferance

and have never been the help to him that others could have been. I

wouldn't have minded, Pecksniff,' Tom continued, little thinking who

heard him, 'if you had done Me any wrong; I could have found plenty

of excuses for that; and though you might have hurt me, could have

still gone on respecting you. But why did you ever fall so low as

this in my esteem! Oh Pecksniff, Pecksniff, there is nothing I would

not have given, to have had you deserve my old opinion of you;

nothing!'

 

Mr Pecksniff sat upon the hassock pulling up his shirt-collar, while

Tom, touched to the quick, delivered this apostrophe. After a pause

he heard Tom coming down the stairs, jingling the church keys; and

bringing his eye to the top of the pew again, saw him go slowly out

and lock the door.

 

Mr Pecksniff durst not issue from his place of concealment; for

through the windows of the church he saw Tom passing on among the

graves, and sometimes stopping at a stone, and leaning there as if

he were a mourner who had lost a friend. Even when he had left the

churchyard, Mr Pecksniff still remained shut up; not being at all

secure but that in his restless state of mind Tom might come

wandering back. At length he issued forth, and walked with a

pleasant countenance into the vestry; where he knew there was a

window near the ground, by which he could release himself by merely

stepping out.

 

He was in a curious frame of mind, Mr Pecksniff; being in no hurry

to go, but rather inclining to a dilatory trifling with the time,

which prompted him to open the vestry cupboard, and look at himself

in the parson's little glass that hung within the door. Seeing that

his hair was rumpled, he took the liberty of borrowing the canonical

brush and arranging it. He also took the liberty of opening another

cupboard; but he shut it up again quickly, being rather startled by

the sight of a black and a white surplice dangling against the wall;

which had very much the appearance of two curates who had committed

suicide by hanging themselves. Remembering that he had seen in the

first cupboard a port-wine bottle and some biscuits, he peeped into

it again, and helped himself with much deliberation; cogitating all

the time though, in a very deep and weighty manner, as if his

thoughts were otherwise employed.

 

He soon made up his mind, if it had ever been in doubt; and putting

back the bottle and biscuits, opened the casement. He got out into

the churchyard without any difficulty; shut the window after him;

and walked straight home.

 

'Is Mr Pinch indoors?' asked Mr Pecksniff of his serving-maid.

 

'Just come in, sir.'

 

'Just come in, eh?' repeated Mr Pecksniff, cheerfully. 'And gone

upstairs, I suppose?'

 

'Yes sir. Gone upstairs. Shall I call him, sir?'

 

'No,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'no. You needn't call him, Jane. Thank

you, Jane. How are your relations, Jane?'

 

'Pretty well, I thank you, sir.'

 

'I am glad to hear it. Let them know I asked about them, Jane. Is

Mr Chuzzlewit in the way, Jane?'

 

'Yes, sir. He's in the parlour, reading.'

 

'He's in the parlour, reading, is he, Jane?' said Mr Pecksniff.

'Very well. Then I think I'll go and see him, Jane.'

 

Never had Mr Pecksniff been beheld in a more pleasant humour!

 

But when he walked into the parlour where the old man was engaged as

Jane had said; with pen and ink and paper on a table close at hand

(for Mr Pecksniff was always very particular to have him well

supplied with writing materials), he became less cheerful. He was

not angry, he was not vindictive, he was not cross, he was not

moody, but he was grieved; he was sorely grieved. As he sat down by

the old man's side, two tears--not tears like those with which

recording angels blot their entries out, but drops so precious that

they use them for their ink--stole down his meritorious cheeks.

 

'What is the matter?' asked old Martin. 'Pecksniff, what ails you,

man?'

 

'I am sorry to interrupt you, my dear sir, and I am still more sorry

for the cause. My good, my worthy friend, I am deceived.'

 

'You are deceived!'

 

'Ah!' cried Mr Pecksniff, in an agony, 'deceived in the tenderest

point. Cruelly deceived in that quarter, sir, in which I placed the

most unbounded confidence. Deceived, Mr Chuzzlewit, by Thomas

Pinch.'

 

'Oh! bad, bad, bad!' said Martin, laying down his book. 'Very bad!

I hope not. Are you certain?'

 

'Certain, my good sir! My eyes and ears are witnesses. I wouldn't

have believed it otherwise. I wouldn't have believed it, Mr

Chuzzlewit, if a Fiery Serpent had proclaimed it from the top of

Salisbury Cathedral. I would have said,' cried Mr Pecksniff, 'that

the Serpent lied. Such was my faith in Thomas Pinch, that I would

have cast the falsehood back into the Serpent's teeth, and would

have taken Thomas to my heart. But I am not a Serpent, sir, myself,

I grieve to say, and no excuse or hope is left me.'

 

Martin was greatly disturbed to see him so much agitated, and to

hear such unexpected news. He begged him to compose himself, and

asked upon what subject Mr Pinch's treachery had been developed.

 

'That is almost the worst of all, sir,' Mr Pecksniff answered. 'on

a subject nearly concerning YOU. Oh! is it not enough,' said Mr

Pecksniff, looking upward, 'that these blows must fall on me, but

must they also hit my friends!'

 

'You alarm me,' cried the old man, changing colour. 'I am not so

strong as I was. You terrify me, Pecksniff!'

 

'Cheer up, my noble sir,' said Mr Pecksniff, taking courage, 'and we

will do what is required of us. You shall know all, sir, and shall

be righted. But first excuse me, sir, excuse me. I have a duty to

discharge, which I owe to society.'

 

He rang the bell, and Jane appeared. 'Send Mr Pinch here, if you

please, Jane.'

 

Tom came. Constrained and altered in his manner, downcast and

dejected, visibly confused; not liking to look Pecksniff in the

face.

 

The honest man bestowed a glance on Mr Chuzzlewit, as who should say

'You see!' and addressed himself to Tom in these terms:

 

'Mr Pinch, I have left the vestry-window unfastened. Will you do me

the favour to go and secure it; then bring the keys of the sacred

edifice to me!'

 

'The vestry-window, sir?' cried Tom.

 

'You understand me, Mr Pinch, I think,' returned his patron. 'Yes,

Mr Pinch, the vestry-window. I grieve to say that sleeping in the

church after a fatiguing ramble, I overheard just now some

fragments,' he emphasised that word, 'of a dialogue between two

parties; and one of them locking the church when he went out, I was

obliged to leave it myself by the vestry-window. Do me the favour

to secure that vestry-window, Mr Pinch, and then come back to me.'

 

No physiognomist that ever dwelt on earth could have construed Tom's

face when he heard these words. Wonder was in it, and a mild look

of reproach, but certainly no fear or guilt, although a host of

strong emotions struggled to display themselves. He bowed, and

without saying one word, good or bad, withdrew.

 

'Pecksniff,' cried Martin, in a tremble, 'what does all this mean?

You are not going to do anything in haste, you may regret!'

 

'No, my good sir,' said Mr Pecksniff, firmly, 'No. But I have a

duty to discharge which I owe to society; and it shall be

discharged, my friend, at any cost!'

 

Oh, late-remembered, much-forgotten, mouthing, braggart duty, always

owed, and seldom paid in any other coin than punishment and wrath,

when will mankind begin to know thee! When will men acknowledge thee

in thy neglected cradle, and thy stunted youth, and not begin their

recognition in thy sinful manhood and thy desolate old age! Oh,

ermined Judge whose duty to society is, now, to doom the ragged

criminal to punishment and death, hadst thou never, Man, a duty to

discharge in barring up the hundred open gates that wooed him to the

felon's dock, and throwing but ajar the portals to a decent life! Oh,

prelate, prelate, whose duty to society it is to mourn in melancholy

phrase the sad degeneracy of these bad times in which thy lot of

honours has been cast, did nothing go before thy elevation to the

lofty seat, from which thou dealest out thy homilies to other

tarriers for dead men's shoes, whose duty to society has not begun!

Oh! magistrate, so rare a country gentleman and brave a squire, had

you no duty to society, before the ricks were blazing and the mob

were mad; or did it spring up, armed and booted from the earth, a

corps of yeomanry full-grown!

 

Mr Pecksniff's duty to society could not be paid till Tom came back.

The interval which preceded the return of that young man, he

occupied in a close conference with his friend; so that when Tom did

arrive, he found the two quite ready to receive him. Mary was in

her own room above, whither Mr Pecksniff, always considerate, had

besought old Martin to entreat her to remain some half-hour longer,

that her feelings might be spared.

 

When Tom came back, he found old Martin sitting by the window, and

Mr Pecksniff in an imposing attitude at the table. On one side of

him was his pocket-handkerchief; and on the other a little heap (a

very little heap) of gold and silver, and odd pence. Tom saw, at a

glance, that it was his own salary for the current quarter.

 

'Have you fastened the vestry-window, Mr Pinch?' said Pecksniff.

 

'Yes, sir.'

 

'Thank you. Put down the keys if you please, Mr Pinch.'

 

Tom placed them on the table. He held the bunch by the key of the

organ-loft (though it was one of the smallest), and looked hard at

it as he laid it down. It had been an old, old friend of Tom's; a

kind companion to him, many and many a day.

 

'Mr Pinch,' said Pecksniff, shaking his head; 'oh, Mr Pinch! I

wonder you can look me in the face!'

 

Tom did it though; and notwithstanding that he has been described as

stooping generally, he stood as upright then as man could stand.

 

'Mr Pinch,' said Pecksniff, taking up his handkerchief, as if he

felt that he should want it soon, 'I will not dwell upon the past.

I will spare you, and I will spare myself, that pain at least.'

 

Tom's was not a very bright eye, but it was a very expressive one

when he looked at Mr Pecksniff, and said:

 

'Thank you, sir. I am very glad you will not refer to the past.'

 

'The present is enough,' said Mr Pecksniff, dropping a penny, 'and

the sooner THAT is past, the better. Mr Pinch, I will not dismiss

you without a word of explanation. Even such a course would be

quite justifiable under the circumstances; but it might wear an

appearance of hurry, and I will not do it; for I am,' said Mr

Pecksniff, knocking down another penny, 'perfectly self-possessed.

Therefore I will say to you, what I have already said to Mr

Chuzzlewit.'

 

Tom glanced at the old gentleman, who nodded now and then as

approving of Mr Pecksniff's sentences and sentiments, but interposed

between them in no other way.

 

'From fragments of a conversation which I overheard in the church,

just now, Mr Pinch,' said Pecksniff, 'between yourself and Miss

Graham--I say fragments, because I was slumbering at a considerable

distance from you, when I was roused by your voices--and from what I

saw, I ascertained (I would have given a great deal not to have

ascertained, Mr Pinch) that you, forgetful of all ties of duty and

of honour, sir; regardless of the sacred laws of hospitality, to

which you were pledged as an inmate of this house; have presumed to

address Miss Graham with unreturned professions of attachment and

proposals of love.'

 

Tom looked at him steadily.

 

'Do you deny it, sir?' asked Mr Pecksniff, dropping one pound two

and fourpence, and making a great business of picking it up again.

 

'No, sir,' replied Tom. 'I do not.'

 

'You do not,' said Mr Pecksniff, glancing at the old gentleman.

'Oblige me by counting this money, Mr Pinch, and putting your name

to this receipt. You do not?'

 

No, Tom did not. He scorned to deny it. He saw that Mr Pecksniff

having overheard his own disgrace, cared not a jot for sinking lower

yet in his contempt. He saw that he had devised this fiction as the

readiest means of getting rid of him at once, but that it must end

in that any way. He saw that Mr Pecksniff reckoned on his not

denying it, because his doing so and explaining would incense the

old man more than ever against Martin and against Mary; while

Pecksniff himself would only have been mistaken in his 'fragments.'

Deny it! No.

 

'You find the amount correct, do you, Mr Pinch?' said Pecksniff.

 

'Quite correct, sir,' answered Tom.

 

'A person is waiting in the kitchen,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'to carry

your luggage wherever you please. We part, Mr Pinch, at once, and

are strangers from this time.'

 

Something without a name; compassion, sorrow, old tenderness,

mistaken gratitude, habit; none of these, and yet all of them; smote

upon Tom's gentle heart at parting. There was no such soul as

Pecksniff's in that carcase; and yet, though his speaking out had

not involved the compromise of one he loved, he couldn't have

denounced the very shape and figure of the man. Not even then.

 

'I will not say,' cried Mr Pecksniff, shedding tears, 'what a blow

this is. I will not say how much it tries me; how it works upon my

nature; how it grates upon my feelings. I do not care for that. I

can endure as well as another man. But what I have to hope, and

what you have to hope, Mr Pinch (otherwise a great responsibility

rests upon you), is, that this deception may not alter my ideas of

humanity; that it may not impair my freshness, or contract, if I may

use the expression, my Pinions. I hope it will not; I don't think

it will. It may be a comfort to you, if not now, at some future

time, to know that I shall endeavour not to think the worse of my

fellow-creatures in general, for what has passed between us.

Farewell!'

 

Tom had meant to spare him one little puncturation with a lancet,

which he had it in his power to administer, but he changed his mind

on hearing this, and said:

 

'I think you left something in the church, sir.'

 

'Thank you, Mr Pinch,' said Pecksniff. 'I am not aware that I did.'

 

'This is your double eye-glass, I believe?' said Tom.

 

'Oh!' cried Pecksniff, with some degree of confusion. 'I am obliged

to you. Put it down, if you please.'

 

'I found it,' said Tom, slowly--'when I went to bolt the vestry-

window--in the pew.'

 

So he had. Mr Pecksniff had taken it off when he was bobbing up and

down, lest it should strike against the panelling; and had forgotten

it. Going back to the church with his mind full of having been

watched, and wondering very much from what part, Tom's attention was

caught by the door of the state pew standing open. Looking into it

he found the glass. And thus he knew, and by returning it gave Mr

Pecksniff the information that he knew, where the listener had been;

and that instead of overhearing fragments of the conversation, he

must have rejoiced in every word of it.

 

'I am glad he's gone,' said Martin, drawing a long breath when Tom

had left the room.

 

'It IS a relief,' assented Mr Pecksniff. 'It is a great relief.

But having discharged--I hope with tolerable firmness--the duty

which I owed to society, I will now, my dear sir, if you will give

me leave, retire to shed a few tears in the back garden, as an

humble individual.'

 

Tom went upstairs; cleared his shelf of books; packed them up with

his music and an old fiddle in his trunk; got out his clothes (they

were not so many that they made his head ache); put them on the top

of his books; and went into the workroom for his case of

instruments. There was a ragged stool there, with the horsehair all

sticking out of the top like a wig: a very Beast of a stool in

itself; on which he had taken up his daily seat, year after year,

during the whole period of his service. They had grown older and

shabbier in company. Pupils had served their time; seasons had come

and gone. Tom and the worn-out stool had held together through it

all. That part of the room was traditionally called 'Tom's Corner.'

It had been assigned to him at first because of its being situated

in a strong draught, and a great way from the fire; and he had

occupied it ever since. There were portraits of him on the walls,

with all his weak points monstrously portrayed. Diabolical

sentiments, foreign to his character, were represented as issuing

from his mouth in fat balloons. Every pupil had added something,

even unto fancy portraits of his father with one eye, and of his

mother with a disproportionate nose, and especially of his sister;

who always being presented as extremely beautiful, made full amends

to Tom for any other jokes. Under less uncommon circumstances, it

would have cut Tom to the heart to leave these things and think that

he saw them for the last time; but it didn't now. There was no

Pecksniff; there never had been a Pecksniff; and all his other

griefs were swallowed up in that.

 

So, when he returned into the bedroom, and, having fastened his box

and a carpet-bag, put on his walking gaiters, and his great-coat,

and his hat, and taken his stick in his hand, looked round it for

the last time. Early on summer mornings, and by the light of

private candle-ends on winter nights, he had read himself half blind

in this same room. He had tried in this same room to learn the

fiddle under the bedclothes, but yielding to objections from the

other pupils, had reluctantly abandoned the design. At any other

time he would have parted from it with a pang, thinking of all he

had learned there, of the many hours he had passed there; for the

love of his very dreams. But there was no Pecksniff; there never

had been a Pecksniff, and the unreality of Pecksniff extended itself

to the chamber, in which, sitting on one particular bed, the thing

supposed to be that Great Abstraction had often preached morality

with such effect that Tom had felt a moisture in his eyes, while

hanging breathless on the words.

 

The man engaged to bear his box--Tom knew him well: a Dragon man--

came stamping up the stairs, and made a roughish bow to Tom (to whom

in common times he would have nodded with a grin) as though he were

aware of what had happened, and wished him to perceive it made no

difference to HIM. It was clumsily done; he was a mere waterer of

horses; but Tom liked the man for it, and felt it more than going

away.

 

Tom would have helped him with the box, but he made no more of it,

though it was a heavy one, than an elephant would have made of a

castle; just swinging it on his back and bowling downstairs as if,

being naturally a heavy sort of fellow, he could carry a box

infinitely better than he could go alone. Tom took the carpet-bag,

and went downstairs along with him. At the outer door stood Jane,

crying with all her might; and on the steps was Mrs Lupin, sobbing

bitterly, and putting out her hand for Tom to shake.

 

'You're coming to the Dragon, Mr Pinch?'

 

'No,' said Tom, 'no. I shall walk to Salisbury to-night. I

couldn't stay here. For goodness' sake, don't make me so unhappy,

Mrs Lupin.'

 

'But you'll come to the Dragon, Mr Pinch. If it's only for tonight.

To see me, you know; not as a traveller.'

 

'God bless my soul!' said Tom, wiping his eyes. 'The kindness of

people is enough to break one's heart! I mean to go to Salisbury

to-night, my dear good creature. If you'll take care of my box for

me till I write for it, I shall consider it the greatest kindness

you can do me.'

 

'I wish,' cried Mrs Lupin, 'there were twenty boxes, Mr Pinch, that

I might have 'em all.'

 

'Thank'ee,' said Tom. 'It's like you. Good-bye. Good-bye.'

 

There were several people, young and old, standing about the door,

some of whom cried with Mrs Lupin; while others tried to keep up a

stout heart, as Tom did; and others were absorbed in admiration of

Mr Pecksniff--a man who could build a church, as one may say, by

squinting at a sheet of paper; and others were divided between that

feeling and sympathy with Tom. Mr Pecksniff had appeared on the top

of the steps, simultaneously with his old pupil, and while Tom was

talking with Mrs Lupin kept his hand stretched out, as though he

said 'Go forth!' When Tom went forth, and had turned the corner Mr

Pecksniff shook his head, shut his eyes, and heaving a deep sigh,

shut the door. On which, the best of Tom's supporters said he must

have done some dreadful deed, or such a man as Mr Pecksniff never

could have felt like that. If it had been a common quarrel (they

observed), he would have said something, but when he didn't, Mr

Pinch must have shocked him dreadfully.

 

Tom was out of hearing of their shrewd opinions, and plodded on as

steadily as he could go, until he came within sight of the turnpike

where the tollman's family had cried out 'Mr Pinch!' that frosty

morning, when he went to meet young Martin. He had got through the

village, and this toll-bar was his last trial; but when the infant

toll-takers came screeching out, he had half a mind to run for it,

and make a bolt across the country.

 

'Why, deary Mr Pinch! oh, deary sir!' cried the tollman's wife. 'What

an unlikely time for you to be a-going this way with a bag!'

 

'I am going to Salisbury,' said Tom.

 

'Why, goodness, where's the gig, then?' cried the tollman's wife,

looking down the road, as if she thought Tom might have been upset

without observing it.

 

'I haven't got it,' said Tom. 'I--' he couldn't evade it; he felt

she would have him in the next question, if he got over this one.

'I have left Mr Pecksniff.'

 

The tollman--a crusty customer, always smoking solitary pipes in a

Windsor chair, inside, set artfully between two little windows that

looked up and down the road, so that when he saw anything coming up

he might hug himself on having toll to take, and when he saw it

going down, might hug himself on having taken it--the tollman was

out in an instant.

 

'Left Mr Pecksniff!' cried the tollman.

 

'Yes,' said Tom, 'left him.'

 

The tollman looked at his wife, uncertain whether to ask her if she

had anything to suggest, or to order her to mind the children.

Astonishment making him surly, he preferred the latter, and sent her

into the toll-house with a flea in her ear.

 

'You left Mr Pecksniff!' cried the tollman, folding his arms, and

spreading his legs. 'I should as soon have thought of his head

leaving him.'

 

'Aye!' said Tom, 'so should I, yesterday. Good night!'

 

If a heavy drove of oxen hadn't come by immediately, the tollman

would have gone down to the village straight, to inquire into it.

As things turned out, he smoked another pipe, and took his wife into

his confidence. But their united sagacity could make nothing of it,

and they went to bed--metaphorically--in the dark. But several

times that night, when a waggon or other vehicle came through, and

the driver asked the tollkeeper 'What news?' he looked at the man by

the light of his lantern, to assure himself that he had an interest

in the subject, and then said, wrapping his watch-coat round his

legs:

 

'You've heerd of Mr Pecksniff down yonder?'

 

'Ah! sure-ly!'

 

'And of his young man Mr Pinch, p'raps?'

 

'Ah!'

 

'They've parted.'

 

After every one of these disclosures, the tollman plunged into his

house again, and was seen no more, while the other side went on in

great amazement.

 

But this was long after Tom was abed, and Tom was now with his face

towards Salisbury, doing his best to get there. The evening was

beautiful at first, but it became cloudy and dull at sunset, and the

rain fell heavily soon afterwards. For ten long miles he plodded

on, wet through, until at last the lights appeared, and he came into

the welcome precincts of the city.

 

He went to the inn where he had waited for Martin, and briefly

answering their inquiries after Mr Pecksniff, ordered a bed. He had

no heart for tea or supper, meat or drink of any kind, but sat by

himself before an empty table in the public room while the bed was

getting ready, revolving in his mind all that had happened that

eventful day, and wondering what he could or should do for the

future. It was a great relief when the chambermaid came in, and

said the bed was ready.

 

It was a low four-poster, shelving downward in the centre like a

trough, and the room was crowded with impracticable tables and

exploded chests of drawers, full of damp linen. A graphic

representation in oil of a remarkably fat ox hung over the

fireplace, and the portrait of some former landlord (who might have

been the ox's brother, he was so like him) stared roundly in, at the

foot of the bed. A variety of queer smells were partially quenched

in the prevailing scent of very old lavender; and the window had not

been opened for such a long space of time that it pleaded immemorial

usage, and wouldn't come open now.

 

These were trifles in themselves, but they added to the strangeness

of the place, and did not induce Tom to forget his new position.

Pecksniff had gone out of the world--had never been in it--and it

was as much as Tom could do to say his prayers without him. But he

felt happier afterwards, and went to sleep, and dreamed about him as

he Never Was.

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