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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMartin Chuzzlewit - Chapter THIRTY-SEVEN
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Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter THIRTY-SEVEN Post by :David_C_H Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :January 2011 Read :2526

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Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter THIRTY-SEVEN

TOM PINCH, GOING ASTRAY, FINDS THAT HE IS NOT THE ONLY
PERSON IN THAT PREDICAMENT. HE RETALIATES UPON A FALLEN FOE

 

Tom's evil genius did not lead him into the dens of any of those

preparers of cannibalic pastry, who are represented in many standard

country legends as doing a lively retail business in the Metropolis;

nor did it mark him out as the prey of ring-droppers, pea and

thimble-riggers, duffers, touters, or any of those bloodless

sharpers, who are, perhaps, a little better known to the Police. He

fell into conversation with no gentleman who took him into a public-

house, where there happened to be another gentleman who swore he had

more money than any gentleman, and very soon proved he had more

money than one gentleman by taking his away from him; neither did he

fall into any other of the numerous man-traps which are set up

without notice, in the public grounds of this city. But he lost his

way. He very soon did that; and in trying to find it again he lost

it more and more.

 

Now, Tom, in his guileless distrust of London, thought himself very

knowing in coming to the determination that he would not ask to be

directed to Furnival's Inn, if he could help it; unless, indeed, he

should happen to find himself near the Mint, or the Bank of England;

in which case he would step in, and ask a civil question or two,

confiding in the perfect respectability of the concern. So on he

went, looking up all the streets he came near, and going up half of

them; and thus, by dint of not being true to Goswell Street, and

filing off into Aldermanbury, and bewildering himself in Barbican,

and being constant to the wrong point of the compass in London Wall,

and then getting himself crosswise into Thames Street, by an

instinct that would have been marvellous if he had had the least

desire or reason to go there, he found himself, at last, hard by the

Monument.

 

The Man in the Monument was quite as mysterious a being to Tom as

the Man in the Moon. It immediately occurred to him that the lonely

creature who held himself aloof from all mankind in that pillar like

some old hermit was the very man of whom to ask his way. Cold, he

might be; little sympathy he had, perhaps, with human passion--the

column seemed too tall for that; but if Truth didn't live in the

base of the Monument, notwithstanding Pope's couplet about the

outside of it, where in London (thought Tom) was she likely to be

found!

 

Coming close below the pillar, it was a great encouragement to Tom

to find that the Man in the Monument had simple tastes; that stony

and artificial as his residence was, he still preserved some rustic

recollections; that he liked plants, hung up bird-cages, was not

wholly cut off from fresh groundsel, and kept young trees in tubs.

The Man in the Monument, himself, was sitting outside the door--his

own door: the Monument-door: what a grand idea!--and was actually

yawning, as if there were no Monument to stop his mouth, and give

him a perpetual interest in his own existence.

 

Tom was advancing towards this remarkable creature, to inquire the

way to Furnival's Inn, when two people came to see the Monument.

They were a gentleman and a lady; and the gentleman said, 'How much

a-piece?'

 

The Man in the Monument replied, 'A Tanner.'

 

It seemed a low expression, compared with the Monument.

 

The gentleman put a shilling into his hand, and the Man in the

Monument opened a dark little door. When the gentleman and lady had

passed out of view, he shut it again, and came slowly back to his

chair.

 

He sat down and laughed.

 

'They don't know what a many steps there is!' he said. 'It's worth

twice the money to stop here. Oh, my eye!'

 

The Man in the Monument was a Cynic; a worldly man! Tom couldn't ask

his way of HIM. He was prepared to put no confidence in anything he

said.

 

'My gracious!' cried a well-known voice behind Mr Pinch. 'Why, to

be sure it is!'

 

At the same time he was poked in the back by a parasol. Turning

round to inquire into this salute, he beheld the eldest daughter of

his late patron.

 

'Miss Pecksniff!' said Tom.

 

'Why, my goodness, Mr Pinch!' cried Cherry. 'What are you doing

here?'

 

'I have rather wandered from my way,' said Tom. 'I--'

 

'I hope you have run away,' said Charity. 'It would be quite

spirited and proper if you had, when my Papa so far forgets

himself.'

 

'I have left him,' returned Tom. 'But it was perfectly understood

on both sides. It was not done clandestinely.'

 

'Is he married?' asked Cherry, with a spasmodic shake of her chin.

 

'No, not yet,' said Tom, colouring; 'to tell you the truth, I don't

think he is likely to be, if--if Miss Graham is the object of his

passion.'

 

'Tcha, Mr Pinch!' cried Charity, with sharp impatience, 'you're very

easily deceived. You don't know the arts of which such a creature

is capable. Oh! it's a wicked world.'

 

'You are not married?' Tom hinted, to divert the conversation.

 

'N--no!' said Cherry, tracing out one particular paving-stone in

Monument Yard with the end of her parasol. 'I--but really it's

quite impossible to explain. Won't you walk in?'

 

'You live here, then?' said Tom

 

'Yes,' returned Miss Pecksniff, pointing with her parasol to

Todgers's; 'I reside with this lady, AT PRESENT.'

 

The great stress on the two last words suggested to Tom that he was

expected to say something in reference to them. So he said.

 

'Only at present! Are you going home again soon?'

 

'No, Mr Pinch,' returned Charity. 'No, thank you. No! A mother-in-

law who is younger than--I mean to say, who is as nearly as possible

about the same age as one's self, would not quite suit my spirit.

Not quite!' said Cherry, with a spiteful shiver.

 

'I thought from your saying "at present"'--Tom observed.

 

'Really, upon my word! I had no idea you would press me so very

closely on the subject, Mr Pinch,' said Charity, blushing, 'or I

should not have been so foolish as to allude to--oh really!--won't

you walk in?'

 

Tom mentioned, to excuse himself, that he had an appointment in

Furnival's Inn, and that coming from Islington he had taken a few

wrong turnings, and arrived at the Monument instead. Miss Pecksniff

simpered very much when he asked her if she knew the way to

Furnival's Inn, and at length found courage to reply.

 

'A gentleman who is a friend of mine, or at least who is not exactly

a friend so much as a sort of acquaintance--Oh upon my word, I

hardly know what I say, Mr Pinch; you mustn't suppose there is any

engagement between us; or at least if there is, that it is at all a

settled thing as yet--is going to Furnival's Inn immediately, I

believe upon a little business, and I am sure he would be very glad

to accompany you, so as to prevent your going wrong again. You had

better walk in. You will very likely find my sister Merry here,'

she said with a curious toss of her head, and anything but an

agreeable smile.

 

'Then, I think, I'll endeavour to find my way alone,' said Tom, 'for

I fear she would not be very glad to see me. That unfortunate

occurrence, in relation to which you and I had some amicable words

together, in private, is not likely to have impressed her with any

friendly feeling towards me. Though it really was not my fault.'

 

'She has never heard of that, you may depend,' said Cherry,

gathering up the corners of her mouth, and nodding at Tom. 'I am

far from sure that she would bear you any mighty ill will for it, if

she had.'

 

'You don't say so?' cried Tom, who was really concerned by this

insinuation.

 

'I say nothing,' said Charity. 'If I had not already known what

shocking things treachery and deceit are in themselves, Mr Pinch, I

might perhaps have learnt it from the success they meet with--from

the success they meet with.' Here she smiled as before. 'But I

don't say anything. On the contrary, I should scorn it. You had

better walk in!'

 

There was something hidden here, which piqued Tom's interest and

troubled his tender heart. When, in a moment's irresolution, he

looked at Charity, he could not but observe a struggle in her face

between a sense of triumph and a sense of shame; nor could he but

remark how, meeting even his eyes, which she cared so little for,

she turned away her own, for all the splenetic defiance in her

manner.

 

An uneasy thought entered Tom's head; a shadowy misgiving that the

altered relations between himself and Pecksniff were somehow to

involve an altered knowledge on his part of other people, and were

to give him an insight into much of which he had had no previous

suspicion. And yet he put no definite construction upon Charity's

proceedings. He certainly had no idea that as he had been the

audience and spectator of her mortification, she grasped with eager

delight at any opportunity of reproaching her sister with his

presence in HER far deeper misery; for he knew nothing of it, and

only pictured that sister as the same giddy, careless, trivial

creature she always had been, with the same slight estimation of

himself which she had never been at the least pains to conceal. In

short, he had merely a confused impression that Miss Pecksniff was

not quite sisterly or kind; and being curious to set it right,

accompanied her as she desired.

 

The house-door being opened, she went in before Tom, requesting him

to follow her; and led the way to the parlour door.

 

'Oh, Merry!' she said, looking in, 'I am so glad you have not gone

home. Who do you think I have met in the street, and brought to see

you! Mr Pinch! There. Now you ARE surprised, I am sure!'

 

Not more surprised than Tom was, when he looked upon her. Not so

much. Not half so much.

 

'Mr Pinch has left Papa, my dear,' said Cherry, 'and his prospects

are quite flourishing. I have promised that Augustus, who is going

that way, shall escort him to the place he wants. Augustus, my

child, where are you?'

 

With these words Miss Pecksniff screamed her way out of the parlour,

calling on Augustus Moddle to appear; and left Tom Pinch alone with

her sister.

 

If she had always been his kindest friend; if she had treated him

through all his servitude with such consideration as was never yet

received by struggling man; if she had lightened every moment of

those many years, and had ever spared and never wounded him; his

honest heart could not have swelled before her with a deeper pity,

or a purer freedom from all base remembrance than it did then.

 

'My gracious me! You are really the last person in the world I

should have thought of seeing, I am sure!'

 

Tom was sorry to hear her speaking in her old manner. He had not

expected that. Yet he did not feel it a contradiction that he

should be sorry to see her so unlike her old self, and sorry at the

same time to hear her speaking in her old manner. The two things

seemed quite natural.

 

'I wonder you find any gratification in coming to see me. I can't

think what put it in your head. I never had much in seeing you.

There was no love lost between us, Mr Pinch, at any time, I think.'

 

Her bonnet lay beside her on the sofa, and she was very busy with

the ribbons as she spoke. Much too busy to be conscious of the work

her fingers did.

 

'We never quarrelled,' said Tom.--Tom was right in that, for one

person can no more quarrel without an adversary, than one person can

play at chess, or fight a duel. 'I hoped you would be glad to shake

hands with an old friend. Don't let us rake up bygones,' said Tom.

'If I ever offended you, forgive me.'

 

She looked at him for a moment; dropped her bonnet from her hands;

spread them before her altered face, and burst into tears.

 

'Oh, Mr Pinch!' she said, 'although I never used you well, I did

believe your nature was forgiving. I did not think you could be

cruel.'

 

She spoke as little like her old self now, for certain, as Tom could

possibly have wished. But she seemed to be appealing to him

reproachfully, and he did not understand her.

 

'I seldom showed it--never--I know that. But I had that belief in

you, that if I had been asked to name the person in the world least

likely to retort upon me, I would have named you, confidently.'

 

'Would have named me!' Tom repeated.

 

'Yes,' she said with energy, 'and I have often thought so.'

 

After a moment's reflection, Tom sat himself upon a chair beside

her.

 

'Do you believe,' said Tom, 'oh, can you think, that what I said

just now, I said with any but the true and plain intention which my

words professed? I mean it, in the spirit and the letter. If I

ever offended you, forgive me; I may have done so, many times. You

never injured or offended me. How, then, could I possibly retort,

if even I were stern and bad enough to wish to do it!'

 

After a little while she thanked him, through her tears and sobs,

and told him she had never been at once so sorry and so comforted,

since she left home. Still she wept bitterly; and it was the

greater pain to Tom to see her weeping, from her standing in

especial need, just then, of sympathy and tenderness.

 

'Come, come!' said Tom, 'you used to be as cheerful as the day was

long.'

 

'Ah! used!' she cried, in such a tone as rent Tom's heart.

 

'And will be again,' said Tom.

 

'No, never more. No, never, never more. If you should talk with

old Mr Chuzzlewit, at any time,' she added, looking hurriedly into

his face--'I sometimes thought he liked you, but suppressed it--will

you promise me to tell him that you saw me here, and that I said I

bore in mind the time we talked together in the churchyard?'

 

Tom promised that he would.

 

'Many times since then, when I have wished I had been carried there

before that day, I have recalled his words. I wish that he should

know how true they were, although the least acknowledgment to that

effect has never passed my lips and never will.'

 

Tom promised this, conditionally too. He did not tell her how

improbable it was that he and the old man would ever meet again,

because he thought it might disturb her more.

 

'If he should ever know this, through your means, dear Mr Pinch,'

said Mercy, 'tell him that I sent the message, not for myself, but

that he might be more forbearing and more patient, and more trustful

to some other person, in some other time of need. Tell him that if

he could know how my heart trembled in the balance that day, and

what a very little would have turned the scale, his own would bleed

with pity for me.'

 

'Yes, yes,' said Tom, 'I will.'

 

'When I appeared to him the most unworthy of his help, I was--I know

I was, for I have often, often, thought about it since--the most

inclined to yield to what he showed me. Oh! if he had relented but

a little more; if he had thrown himself in my way for but one other

quarter of an hour; if he had extended his compassion for a vain,

unthinking, miserable girl, in but the least degree; he might, and I

believe he would, have saved her! Tell him that I don't blame him,

but am grateful for the effort that he made; but ask him for the

love of God, and youth, and in merciful consideration for the

struggle which an ill-advised and unwakened nature makes to hide the

strength it thinks its weakness--ask him never, never, to forget

this, when he deals with one again!'

 

Although Tom did not hold the clue to her full meaning, he could

guess it pretty nearly. Touched to the quick, he took her hand and

said, or meant to say, some words of consolation. She felt and

understood them, whether they were spoken or no. He was not quite

certain, afterwards, but that she had tried to kneel down at his

feet, and bless him.

 

He found that he was not alone in the room when she had left it.

Mrs Todgers was there, shaking her head. Tom had never seen Mrs

Todgers, it is needless to say, but he had a perception of her being

the lady of the house; and he saw some genuine compassion in her

eyes, that won his good opinion.

 

'Ah, sir! You are an old friend, I see,' said Mrs Todgers.

 

'Yes,' said Tom.

 

'And yet,' quoth Mrs Todgers, shutting the door softly, 'she hasn't

told you what her troubles are, I'm certain.'

 

Tom was struck by these words, for they were quite true. 'Indeed,'

he said, 'she has not.'

 

'And never would,' said Mrs Todgers, 'if you saw her daily. She

never makes the least complaint to me, or utters a single word of

explanation or reproach. But I know,' said Mrs Todgers, drawing in

her breath, 'I know!'

 

Tom nodded sorrowfully, 'So do I.'

 

'I fully believe,' said Mrs Todgers, taking her pocket-handkerchief

from the flat reticule, 'that nobody can tell one half of what that

poor young creature has to undergo. But though she comes here,

constantly, to ease her poor full heart without his knowing it; and

saying, "Mrs Todgers, I am very low to-day; I think that I shall

soon be dead," sits crying in my room until the fit is past; I know

no more from her. And, I believe,' said Mrs Todgers, putting back

her handkerchief again, 'that she considers me a good friend too.'

 

Mrs Todgers might have said her best friend. Commercial gentlemen

and gravy had tried Mrs Todgers's temper; the main chance--it was

such a very small one in her case, that she might have been excused

for looking sharp after it, lest it should entirely vanish from her

sight--had taken a firm hold on Mrs Todgers's attention. But in

some odd nook in Mrs Todgers's breast, up a great many steps, and in

a corner easy to be overlooked, there was a secret door, with

'Woman' written on the spring, which, at a touch from Mercy's hand,

had flown wide open, and admitted her for shelter.

 

When boarding-house accounts are balanced with all other ledgers,

and the books of the Recording Angel are made up for ever, perhaps

there may be seen an entry to thy credit, lean Mrs Todgers, which

shall make thee beautiful!

 

She was growing beautiful so rapidly in Tom's eyes; for he saw that

she was poor, and that this good had sprung up in her from among the

sordid strivings of her life; that she might have been a very Venus

in a minute more, if Miss Pecksniff had not entered with her friend.

 

'Mr Thomas Pinch!' said Charity, performing the ceremony of

introduction with evident pride. 'Mr Moddle. Where's my sister?'

 

'Gone, Miss Pecksniff,' Mrs Todgers answered. 'She had appointed to

be home.'

 

'Ah!' said Charity, looking at Tom. 'Oh, dear me!'

 

'She's greatly altered since she's been Anoth--since she's been

married, Mrs Todgers!' observed Moddle.

 

'My dear Augustus!' said Miss Pecksniff, in a low voice. 'I verily

believe you have said that fifty thousand times, in my hearing.

What a Prose you are!'

 

This was succeeded by some trifling love passages, which appeared to

originate with, if not to be wholly carried on by Miss Pecksniff.

At any rate, Mr Moddle was much slower in his responses than is

customary with young lovers, and exhibited a lowness of spirits

which was quite oppressive.

 

He did not improve at all when Tom and he were in the streets, but

sighed so dismally that it was dreadful to hear him. As a means of

cheering him up, Tom told him that he wished him joy.

 

'Joy!' cried Moddle. 'Ha, ha!'

 

'What an extraordinary young man!' thought Tom.

 

'The Scorner has not set his seal upon you. YOU care what becomes

of you?' said Moddle.

 

Tom admitted that it was a subject in which he certainly felt some

interest.

 

'I don't,' said Mr Moddle. 'The Elements may have me when they

please. I'm ready.'

 

Tom inferred from these, and other expressions of the same nature,

that he was jealous. Therefore he allowed him to take his own

course; which was such a gloomy one, that he felt a load removed

from his mind when they parted company at the gate of Furnival's

Inn.

 

It was now a couple of hours past John Westlock's dinner-time; and

he was walking up and down the room, quite anxious for Tom's safety.

The table was spread; the wine was carefully decanted; and the

dinner smelt delicious.

 

'Why, Tom, old boy, where on earth have you been? Your box is here.

Get your boots off instantly, and sit down!'

 

'I am sorry to say I can't stay, John,' replied Tom Pinch, who was

breathless with the haste he had made in running up the stairs.

 

'Can't stay!'

 

'If you'll go on with your dinner,' said Tom, 'I'll tell you my

reason the while. I mustn't eat myself, or I shall have no appetite

for the chops.'

 

'There are no chops here, my food fellow.'

 

'No. But there are at Islington,' said Tom.

 

John Westlock was perfectly confounded by this reply, and vowed he

would not touch a morsel until Tom had explained himself fully. So

Tom sat down, and told him all; to which he listened with the

greatest interest.

 

He knew Tom too well, and respected his delicacy too much, to ask

him why he had taken these measures without communicating with him

first. He quite concurred in the expediency of Tom's immediately

returning to his sister, as he knew so little of the place in

which he had left her, and good-humouredly proposed to ride back

with him in a cab, in which he might convey his box. Tom's

proposition that he should sup with them that night, he flatly

rejected, but made an appointment with him for the morrow. 'And now

Tom,' he said, as they rode along, 'I have a question to ask you to

which I expect a manly and straightforward answer. Do you want any

money? I am pretty sure you do.'

 

'I don't indeed,' said Tom.

 

'I believe you are deceiving me.'

 

'No. With many thanks to you, I am quite in earnest,' Tom replied.

'My sister has some money, and so have I. If I had nothing else,

John, I have a five-pound note, which that good creature, Mrs Lupin,

of the Dragon, handed up to me outside the coach, in a letter

begging me to borrow it; and then drove off as hard as she could

go.'

 

'And a blessing on every dimple in her handsome face, say I!' cried

John, 'though why you should give her the preference over me, I

don't know. Never mind. I bide my time, Tom.'

 

'And I hope you'll continue to bide it,' returned Tom, gayly. 'For

I owe you more, already, in a hundred other ways, than I can ever

hope to pay.'

 

They parted at the door of Tom's new residence. John Westlock,

sitting in the cab, and, catching a glimpse of a blooming little

busy creature darting out to kiss Tom and to help him with his box,

would not have had the least objection to change places with him.

 

Well! she WAS a cheerful little thing; and had a quaint, bright

quietness about her that was infinitely pleasant. Surely she was

the best sauce for chops ever invented. The potatoes seemed to take

a pleasure in sending up their grateful steam before her; the froth

upon the pint of porter pouted to attract her notice. But it was

all in vain. She saw nothing but Tom. Tom was the first and last

thing in the world.

 

As she sat opposite to Tom at supper, fingering one of Tom's pet

tunes upon the table-cloth, and smiling in his face, he had never

been so happy in his life.

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