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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMartin Chuzzlewit - Chapter TWENTY-TWO
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Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter TWENTY-TWO Post by :pearsonbrown Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :January 2011 Read :3581

Click below to download : Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter TWENTY-TWO (Format : PDF)

Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter TWENTY-TWO

FROM WHICH IT WILL BE SEEN THAT MARTIN BECAME A LION
OF HIS OWN ACCOUNT. TOGETHER WITH THE REASON WHY


As soon as it was generally known in the National Hotel, that the

young Englishman, Mr Chuzzlewit, had purchased a 'lo-cation' in the

Valley of Eden, and intended to betake himself to that earthly

Paradise by the next steamboat, he became a popular character. Why

this should be, or how it had come to pass, Martin no more knew than

Mrs Gamp, of Kingsgate Street, High Holborn, did; but that he was

for the time being the lion, by popular election, of the Watertoast

community, and that his society was in rather inconvenient request

there could be no kind of doubt.

 

The first notification he received of this change in his position,

was the following epistle, written in a thin running hand--with

here and there a fat letter or two, to make the general effect more

striking--on a sheet of paper, ruled with blue lines.

 

 

'NATIONAL HOTEL,

 

'MONDAY MORNING.

 

'Dear Sir--'When I had the privillidge of being your fellow-traveller

in the cars, the day before yesterday, you offered some remarks

upon the subject of the tower of London, which (in common with my

fellow-citizens generally) I could wish to hear repeated to a public

audience.

 

'As secretary to the Young Men's Watertoast Association of this

town, I am requested to inform you that the Society will be proud to

hear you deliver a lecture upon the Tower of London, at their Hall

to-morrow evening, at seven o'clock; and as a large issue of

quarter-dollar tickets may be expected, your answer and consent by

bearer will be considered obliging.

 

'Dear Sir,

 

'Yours truly,

 

'LA FAYETTE KETTLE.

 

'The Honourable M. Chuzzlewit.

 

'P.S.--The Society would not be particular in limiting you to the

Tower of London. Permit me to suggest that any remarks upon the

Elements of Geology, or (if more convenient) upon the Writings of

your talented and witty countryman, the honourable Mr Miller, would

be well received.'

 

 

Very much aghast at this invitation, Martin wrote back, civilly

declining it; and had scarcely done so, when he received another

letter.

 

 

'No. 47, Bunker Hill Street,

 

'Monday Morning.

 

'(Private).

 

'Sir--I was raised in those interminable solitudes where our mighty

Mississippi (or Father of Waters) rolls his turbid flood.

 

'I am young, and ardent. For there is a poetry in wildness, and

every alligator basking in the slime is in himself an Epic, self-

contained. I aspirate for fame. It is my yearning and my thirst.

 

'Are you, sir, aware of any member of Congress in England, who would

undertake to pay my expenses to that country, and for six months

after my arrival?

 

'There is something within me which gives me the assurance that this

enlightened patronage would not be thrown away. In literature or

art; the bar, the pulpit, or the stage; in one or other, if not all,

I feel that I am certain to succeed.

 

'If too much engaged to write to any such yourself, please let me

have a list of three or four of those most likely to respond, and I

will address them through the Post Office. May I also ask you to

favour me with any critical observations that have ever presented

themselves to your reflective faculties, on "Cain, a Mystery," by

the Right Honourable Lord Byron?

 

'I am, Sir,

 

'Yours (forgive me if I add, soaringly),

 

'PUTNAM SMIF

 

'P.S.--Address your answer to America Junior, Messrs. Hancock &

Floby, Dry Goods Store, as above.'

 

 

Both of which letters, together with Martin's reply to each, were,

according to a laudable custom, much tending to the promotion of

gentlemanly feeling and social confidence, published in the next

number of the Watertoast Gazette.

 

He had scarcely got through this correspondence when Captain

Kedgick, the landlord, kindly came upstairs to see how he was

getting on. The Captain sat down upon the bed before he spoke; and

finding it rather hard, moved to the pillow.

 

'Well, sir!' said the Captain, putting his hat a little more on one

side, for it was rather tight in the crown: 'You're quite a public

man I calc'late.'

 

'So it seems,' retorted Martin, who was very tired.

 

'Our citizens, sir,' pursued the Captain, 'intend to pay their

respects to you. You will have to hold a sort of le-vee, sir, while

you're here.'

 

'Powers above!' cried Martin, 'I couldn't do that, my good fellow!'

 

'I reckon you MUST then,' said the Captain.

 

'Must is not a pleasant word, Captain,' urged Martin.

 

'Well! I didn't fix the mother language, and I can't unfix it,' said

the Captain coolly; 'else I'd make it pleasant. You must re-ceive.

That's all.'

 

'But why should I receive people who care as much for me as I care

for them?' asked Martin.

 

'Well! because I have had a muniment put up in the bar,' returned

the Captain.

 

'A what?' cried Martin.

 

'A muniment,' rejoined the Captain.

 

Martin looked despairingly at Mark, who informed him that the

Captain meant a written notice that Mr Chuzzlewit would receive the

Watertoasters that day, at and after two o'clock which was in effect

then hanging in the bar, as Mark, from ocular inspection of the

same, could testify.

 

'You wouldn't be unpop'lar, I know,' said the Captain, paring his

nails. 'Our citizens an't long of riling up, I tell you; and our

Gazette could flay you like a wild cat.'

 

Martin was going to be very wroth, but he thought better of it, and

said:

 

'In Heaven's name let them come, then.'

 

'Oh, THEY'll come,' returned the Captain. 'I have seen the big room

fixed a'purpose, with my eyes.'

 

'But will you,' said Martin, seeing that the Captain was about to

go; 'will you at least tell me this? What do they want to see me

for? what have I done? and how do they happen to have such a sudden

interest in me?'

 

Captain Kedgick put a thumb and three fingers to each side of the

brim of his hat; lifted it a little way off his head; put it on

again carefully; passed one hand all down his face, beginning at the

forehead and ending at the chin; looked at Martin; then at Mark;

then at Martin again; winked, and walked out.

 

'Upon my life, now!' said Martin, bringing his hand heavily upon the

table; 'such a perfectly unaccountable fellow as that, I never saw.

Mark, what do you say to this?'

 

'Why, sir,' returned his partner, 'my opinion is that we must have

got to the MOST remarkable man in the country at last. So I hope

there's an end to the breed, sir.'

 

Although this made Martin laugh, it couldn't keep off two o'clock.

Punctually, as the hour struck, Captain Kedgick returned to hand him

to the room of state; and he had no sooner got him safe there, than

he bawled down the staircase to his fellow-citizens below, that Mr

Chuzzlewit was 'receiving.'

 

Up they came with a rush. Up they came until the room was full,

and, through the open door, a dismal perspective of more to come,

was shown upon the stairs. One after another, one after another,

dozen after dozen, score after score, more, more, more, up they

came; all shaking hands with Martin. Such varieties of hands, the

thick, the thin, the short, the long, the fat, the lean, the coarse,

the fine; such differences of temperature, the hot, the cold, the

dry, the moist, the flabby; such diversities of grasp, the tight,

the loose, the short-lived, and the lingering! Still up, up, up,

more, more, more; and ever and anon the Captain's voice was heard

above the crowd--'There's more below! there's more below. Now,

gentlemen you that have been introduced to Mr Chuzzlewit, will you

clear gentlemen? Will you clear? Will you be so good as clear,

gentlemen, and make a little room for more?'

 

Regardless of the Captain's cries, they didn't clear at all, but

stood there, bolt upright and staring. Two gentlemen connected with

the Watertoast Gazette had come express to get the matter for an

article on Martin. They had agreed to divide the labour. One of

them took him below the waistcoat. One above. Each stood directly

in front of his subject with his head a little on one side, intent

on his department. If Martin put one boot before the other, the

lower gentleman was down upon him; he rubbed a pimple on his nose,

and the upper gentleman booked it. He opened his mouth to speak,

and the same gentleman was on one knee before him, looking in at his

teeth, with the nice scrutiny of a dentist. Amateurs in the

physiognomical and phrenological sciences roved about him with

watchful eyes and itching fingers, and sometimes one, more daring

than the rest, made a mad grasp at the back of his head, and

vanished in the crowd. They had him in all points of view: in

front, in profile, three-quarter face, and behind. Those who were

not professional or scientific, audibly exchanged opinions on his

looks. New lights shone in upon him, in respect of his nose.

Contradictory rumours were abroad on the subject of his hair. And

still the Captain's voice was heard--so stifled by the concourse,

that he seemed to speak from underneath a feather-bed--exclaiming--

'Gentlemen, you that have been introduced to Mr Chuzzlewit, WILL you

clear?'

 

Even when they began to clear it was no better; for then a stream of

gentlemen, every one with a lady on each arm (exactly like the

chorus to the National Anthem when Royalty goes in state to the

play), came gliding in--every new group fresher than the last, and

bent on staying to the latest moment. If they spoke to him, which

was not often, they invariably asked the same questions, in the same

tone; with no more remorse, or delicacy, or consideration, than if

he had been a figure of stone, purchased, and paid for, and set up

there for their delight. Even when, in the slow course of time,

these died off, it was as bad as ever, if not worse; for then the

boys grew bold, and came in as a class of themselves, and did

everything that the grown-up people had done. Uncouth stragglers,

too, appeared; men of a ghostly kind, who being in, didn't know how

to get out again; insomuch that one silent gentleman with glazed and

fishy eyes and only one button on his waistcoat (which was a very

large metal one, and shone prodigiously), got behind the door, and

stood there, like a clock, long after everybody else was gone.

 

Martin felt, from pure fatigue, and heat, and worry, as if he could

have fallen on the ground and willingly remained there, if they

would but have had the mercy to leave him alone. But as letters and

messages, threatening his public denouncement if he didn't see the

senders, poured in like hail; and as more visitors came while he

took his coffee by himself; and as Mark, with all his vigilance, was

unable to keep them from the door; he resolved to go to bed--not

that he felt at all sure of bed being any protection, but that he

might not leave a forlorn hope untried.

 

He had communicated this design to Mark, and was on the eve of

escaping, when the door was thrown open in a great hurry, and an

elderly gentleman entered; bringing with him a lady who certainly

could not be considered young--that was matter of fact; and probably

could not be considered handsome--but that was matter of opinion.

She was very straight, very tall, and not at all flexible in face or

figure. On her head she wore a great straw bonnet, with trimmings

of the same, in which she looked as if she had been thatched by an

unskillful labourer; and in her hand she held a most enormous fan.

 

'Mr Chuzzlewit, I believe?' said the gentleman.

 

'That is my name.'

 

'Sir,' said the gentleman, 'I am pressed for time.'

 

'Thank God!' thought Martin.

 

'I go back Toe my home, sir,' pursued the gentleman, 'by the return

train, which starts immediate. Start is not a word you use in your

country, sir.'

 

'Oh yes, it is,' said Martin.

 

'You air mistaken, sir,' returned the gentleman, with great

decision: 'but we will not pursue the subject, lest it should awake

your preju--dice. Sir, Mrs Hominy.'

 

Martin bowed.

 

'Mrs Hominy, sir, is the lady of Major Hominy, one of our chicest

spirits; and belongs Toe one of our most aristocratic families. You

air, p'raps, acquainted, sir, with Mrs Hominy's writings.'

 

Martin couldn't say he was.

 

'You have much Toe learn, and Toe enjoy, sir,' said the gentleman.

'Mrs Hominy is going Toe stay until the end of the Fall, sir, with

her married daughter at the settlement of New Thermopylae, three

days this side of Eden. Any attention, sir, that you can show Toe

Mrs Hominy upon the journey, will be very grateful Toe the Major and

our fellow-citizens. Mrs Hominy, I wish you good night, ma'am, and

a pleasant pro-gress on your route!'

 

Martin could scarcely believe it; but he had gone, and Mrs Hominy

was drinking the milk.

 

'A'most used-up I am, I do declare!' she observed. 'The jolting in

the cars is pretty nigh as bad as if the rail was full of snags and

sawyers.'

 

'Snags and sawyers, ma'am?' said Martin.

 

'Well, then, I do suppose you'll hardly realise my meaning, sir,'

said Mrs Hominy. 'My! Only think! DO tell!'

 

It did not appear that these expressions, although they seemed to

conclude with an urgent entreaty, stood in need of any answer; for

Mrs Hominy, untying her bonnet-strings, observed that she would

withdraw to lay that article of dress aside, and would return

immediately.

 

'Mark!' said Martin. 'Touch me, will you. Am I awake?'

 

'Hominy is, sir,' returned his partner--'Broad awake! Just the sort

of woman, sir, as would be discovered with her eyes wide open, and

her mind a-working for her country's good, at any hour of the day or

night.'

 

They had no opportunity of saying more, for Mrs Hominy stalked in

again--very erect, in proof of her aristocratic blood; and holding

in her clasped hands a red cotton pocket-handkerchief, perhaps a

parting gift from that choice spirit, the Major. She had laid aside

her bonnet, and now appeared in a highly aristocratic and classical

cap, meeting beneath her chin: a style of headdress so admirably

adapted to her countenance, that if the late Mr Grimaldi had

appeared in the lappets of Mrs Siddons, a more complete effect could

not have been produced.

 

Martin handed her to a chair. Her first words arrested him before

he could get back to his own seat.

 

'Pray, sir!' said Mrs Hominy, 'where do you hail from?'

 

'I am afraid I am dull of comprehension,' answered Martin, 'being

extremely tired; but upon my word I don't understand you.'

 

Mrs Hominy shook her head with a melancholy smile that said, not

inexpressively, 'They corrupt even the language in that old

country!' and added then, as coming down a step or two to meet his

low capacity, 'Where was you rose?'

 

'Oh!' said Martin 'I was born in Kent.'

 

'And how do you like our country, sir?' asked Mrs Hominy.

 

'Very much indeed,' said Martin, half asleep. 'At least--that is--

pretty well, ma'am.'

 

'Most strangers--and partick'larly Britishers--are much surprised by

what they see in the U-nited States,' remarked Mrs Hominy.

 

'They have excellent reason to be so, ma'am,' said Martin. 'I never

was so much surprised in all my life.'

 

'Our institutions make our people smart much, sir,' Mrs Hominy

remarked.

 

'The most short-sighted man could see that at a glance, with his

naked eye,' said Martin.

 

Mrs Hominy was a philosopher and an authoress, and consequently had

a pretty strong digestion; but this coarse, this indecorous phrase,

was almost too much for her. For a gentleman sitting alone with a

lady--although the door WAS open--to talk about a naked eye!

 

A long interval elapsed before even she--woman of masculine and

towering intellect though she was--could call up fortitude enough to

resume the conversation. But Mrs Hominy was a traveller. Mrs

Hominy was a writer of reviews and analytical disquisitions. Mrs

Hominy had had her letters from abroad, beginning 'My ever dearest

blank,' and signed 'The Mother of the Modern Gracchi' (meaning the

married Miss Hominy), regularly printed in a public journal, with

all the indignation in capitals, and all the sarcasm in italics.

Mrs Hominy had looked on foreign countries with the eye of a perfect

republican hot from the model oven; and Mrs Hominy could talk (or

write) about them by the hour together. So Mrs Hominy at last came

down on Martin heavily, and as he was fast asleep, she had it all

her own way, and bruised him to her heart's content.

 

It is no great matter what Mrs Hominy said, save that she had learnt

it from the cant of a class, and a large class, of her fellow

countrymen, who in their every word, avow themselves to be as

senseless to the high principles on which America sprang, a nation,

into life, as any Orson in her legislative halls. Who are no more

capable of feeling, or of caring if they did feel, that by reducing

their own country to the ebb of honest men's contempt, they put in

hazard the rights of nations yet unborn, and very progress of the

human race, than are the swine who wallow in their streets. Who

think that crying out to other nations, old in their iniquity, 'We

are no worse than you!' (No worse!) is high defence and 'vantage-

ground enough for that Republic, but yesterday let loose upon her

noble course, and but to-day so maimed and lame, so full of sores

and ulcers, foul to the eye and almost hopeless to the sense, that

her best friends turn from the loathsome creature with disgust.

Who, having by their ancestors declared and won their Independence,

because they would not bend the knee to certain Public vices and

corruptions, and would not abrogate the truth, run riot in the Bad,

and turn their backs upon the Good; and lying down contented with

the wretched boast that other Temples also are of glass, and stones

which batter theirs may be flung back; show themselves, in that

alone, as immeasurably behind the import of the trust they hold, and

as unworthy to possess it as if the sordid hucksterings of all their

little governments--each one a kingdom in its small depravity--were

brought into a heap for evidence against them.

 

Martin by degrees became so far awake, that he had a sense of a

terrible oppression on his mind; an imperfect dream that he had

murdered a particular friend, and couldn't get rid of the body.

When his eyes opened it was staring him full in the face. There was

the horrible Hominy talking deep truths in a melodious snuffle, and

pouring forth her mental endowments to such an extent that the

Major's bitterest enemy, hearing her, would have forgiven him from

the bottom of his heart. Martin might have done something desperate

if the gong had not sounded for supper; but sound it did most

opportunely; and having stationed Mrs Hominy at the upper end of the

table he took refuge at the lower end himself; whence, after a hasty

meal he stole away, while the lady was yet busied with dried beef

and a saucer-full of pickled fixings.

 

It would be difficult to give an adequate idea of Mrs Hominy's

freshness next day, or of the avidity with which she went headlong

into moral philosophy at breakfast. Some little additional degree

of asperity, perhaps, was visible in her features, but not more than

the pickles would have naturally produced. All that day she clung

to Martin. She sat beside him while he received his friends (for

there was another Reception, yet more numerous than the former),

propounded theories, and answered imaginary objections, so that

Martin really began to think he must be dreaming, and speaking for

two; she quoted interminable passages from certain essays on

government, written by herself; used the Major's pocket-handkerchief

as if the snuffle were a temporary malady, of which she was

determined to rid herself by some means or other; and, in short, was

such a remarkable companion, that Martin quite settled it between

himself and his conscience, that in any new settlement it would be

absolutely necessary to have such a person knocked on the head for

the general peace of society.

 

In the meantime Mark was busy, from early in the morning until late

at night, in getting on board the steamboat such provisions, tools

and other necessaries, as they had been forewarned it would be wise

to take. The purchase of these things, and the settlement of their

bill at the National, reduced their finances to so low an ebb, that

if the captain had delayed his departure any longer, they would have

been in almost as bad a plight as the unfortunate poorer emigrants,

who (seduced on board by solemn advertisement) had been living on

the lower deck a whole week, and exhausting their miserable stock of

provisions before the voyage commenced. There they were, all

huddled together with the engine and the fires. Farmers who had

never seen a plough; woodmen who had never used an axe; builders who

couldn't make a box; cast out of their own land, with not a hand to

aid them: newly come into an unknown world, children in

helplessness, but men in wants--with younger children at their

backs, to live or die as it might happen!

 

The morning came, and they would start at noon. Noon came, and they

would start at night. But nothing is eternal in this world; not

even the procrastination of an American skipper; and at night all

was ready.

 

Dispirited and weary to the last degree, but a greater lion than

ever (he had done nothing all the afternoon but answer letters from

strangers; half of them about nothing; half about borrowing money,

and all requiring an instantaneous reply), Martin walked down to the

wharf, through a concourse of people, with Mrs Hominy upon his arm;

and went on board. But Mark was bent on solving the riddle of this

lionship, if he could; and so, not without the risk of being left

behind, ran back to the hotel.

 

Captain Kedgick was sitting in the colonnade, with a julep on his

knee, and a cigar in his mouth. He caught Mark's eye, and said:

 

'Why, what the 'Tarnal brings you here?'

 

'I'll tell you plainly what it is, Captain,' said Mark. 'I want to

ask you a question.'

 

'A man may ASK a question, so he may,' returned Kedgick; strongly

implying that another man might not answer a question, so he

mightn't.

 

'What have they been making so much of him for, now?' said Mark,

slyly. 'Come!'

 

'Our people like ex-citement,' answered Kedgick, sucking his cigar.

 

'But how has he excited 'em?' asked Mark.

 

The Captain looked at him as if he were half inclined to unburden

his mind of a capital joke.

 

'You air a-going?' he said.

 

'Going!' cried Mark. 'Ain't every moment precious?'

 

'Our people like ex-citement,' said the Captain, whispering. 'He

ain't like emigrants in gin'ral; and he excited 'em along of this;'

he winked and burst into a smothered laugh; 'along of this. Scadder

is a smart man, and--and--nobody as goes to Eden ever comes back

alive!'

 

The wharf was close at hand, and at that instant Mark could hear

them shouting out his name; could even hear Martin calling to him to

make haste, or they would be separated. It was too late to mend the

matter, or put any face upon it but the best. He gave the Captain a

parting benediction, and ran off like a race-horse.

 

'Mark! Mark!' cried Martin.

 

'Here am I, sir!' shouted Mark, suddenly replying from the edge of

the quay, and leaping at a bound on board. 'Never was half so

jolly, sir. All right. Haul in! Go ahead!'

 

The sparks from the wood fire streamed upward from the two chimneys,

as if the vessel were a great firework just lighted; and they roared

away upon the dark water.

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