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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMartin Chuzzlewit - Chapter TWENTY
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Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter TWENTY Post by :jfm11z Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :January 2011 Read :3560

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Martin Chuzzlewit - Chapter TWENTY

IS A CHAPTER OF LOVE


'Pecksniff,' said Jonas, taking off his hat, to see that the black

crape band was all right; and finding that it was, putting it on

again, complacently; 'what do you mean to give your daughters when

they marry?'

 

'My dear Mr Jonas,' cried the affectionate parent, with an ingenuous

smile, 'what a very singular inquiry!'

 

'Now, don't you mind whether it's a singular inquiry or a plural

one,' retorted Jonas, eyeing Mr Pecksniff with no great favour, 'but

answer it, or let it alone. One or the other.'

 

'Hum! The question, my dear friend,' said Mr Pecksniff, laying his

hand tenderly upon his kinsman's knee, 'is involved with many

considerations. What would I give them? Eh?'

 

'Ah! what would you give 'em?' repeated Jonas.

 

'Why, that, 'said Mr Pecksniff, 'would naturally depend in a great

measure upon the kind of husbands they might choose, my dear young

friend.'

 

Mr Jonas was evidently disconcerted, and at a loss how to proceed.

It was a good answer. It seemed a deep one, but such is the wisdom

of simplicity!'

 

'My standard for the merits I would require in a son-in-law,' said

Mr Pecksniff, after a short silence, 'is a high one. Forgive me, my

dear Mr Jonas,' he added, greatly moved, 'if I say that you have

spoiled me, and made it a fanciful one; an imaginative one; a

prismatically tinged one, if I may be permitted to call it so.'

 

'What do you mean by that?' growled Jonas, looking at him with

increased disfavour.

 

'Indeed, my dear friend,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'you may well inquire.

The heart is not always a royal mint, with patent machinery to work

its metal into current coin. Sometimes it throws it out in strange

forms, not easily recognized as coin at all. But it is sterling

gold. It has at least that merit. It is sterling gold.'

 

'Is it?' grumbled Jonas, with a doubtful shake of the head.

 

'Aye!' said Mr Pecksniff, warming with his subject 'it is. To be

plain with you, Mr Jonas, if I could find two such sons-in-law as

you will one day make to some deserving man, capable of appreciating

a nature such as yours, I would--forgetful of myself--bestow upon my

daughters portions reaching to the very utmost limit of my means.'

 

This was strong language, and it was earnestly delivered. But who

can wonder that such a man as Mr Pecksniff, after all he had seen

and heard of Mr Jonas, should be strong and earnest upon such a

theme; a theme that touched even the worldly lips of undertakers

with the honey of eloquence!

 

Mr Jonas was silent, and looked thoughtfully at the landscape. For

they were seated on the outside of the coach, at the back, and were

travelling down into the country. He accompanied Mr Pecksniff home

for a few days' change of air and scene after his recent trials.

 

'Well,' he said, at last, with captivating bluntness, 'suppose you

got one such son-in-law as me, what then?'

 

Mr Pecksniff regarded him at first with inexpressible surprise; then

gradually breaking into a sort of dejected vivacity, said:

 

'Then well I know whose husband he would be!'

 

'Whose?' asked Jonas, drily.

 

'My eldest girl's, Mr Jonas,' replied Pecksniff, with moistening

eyes. 'My dear Cherry's; my staff, my scrip, my treasure, Mr Jonas.

A hard struggle, but it is in the nature of things! I must one day

part with her to a husband. I know it, my dear friend. I am

prepared for it.'

 

'Ecod! you've been prepared for that a pretty long time, I should

think,' said Jonas.

 

'Many have sought to bear her from me,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'All

have failed. "I never will give my hand, papa"--those were her

words--"unless my heart is won." She has not been quite so happy as

she used to be, of late. I don't know why.'

 

Again Mr Jonas looked at the landscape; then at the coachman; then

at the luggage on the roof; finally at Mr Pecksniff.

 

'I suppose you'll have to part with the other one, some of these

days?' he observed, as he caught that gentleman's eye.

 

'Probably,' said the parent. 'Years will tame down the wildness of

my foolish bird, and then it will be caged. But Cherry, Mr Jonas,

Cherry--'

 

'Oh, ah!' interrupted Jonas. 'Years have made her all right enough.

Nobody doubts that. But you haven't answered what I asked you. Of

course, you're not obliged to do it, you know, if you don't like.

You're the best judge.'

 

There was a warning sulkiness in the manner of this speech, which

admonished Mr Pecksniff that his dear friend was not to be trifled

with or fenced off, and that he must either return a straight-

forward reply to his question, or plainly give him to understand

that he declined to enlighten him upon the subject to which it

referred. Mindful in this dilemma of the caution old Anthony had

given him almost with his latest breath, he resolved to speak to the

point, and so told Mr Jonas (enlarging upon the communication as a

proof of his great attachment and confidence), that in the case he

had put; to wit, in the event of such a man as he proposing for his

daughter's hand, he would endow her with a fortune of four thousand

pounds.

 

'I should sadly pinch and cramp myself to do so,' was his fatherly

remark; 'but that would be my duty, and my conscience would reward

me. For myself, my conscience is my bank. I have a trifle invested

there--a mere trifle, Mr Jonas--but I prize it as a store of value,

I assure you.'

 

The good man's enemies would have divided upon this question into

two parties. One would have asserted without scruple that if Mr

Pecksniff's conscience were his bank, and he kept a running account

there, he must have overdrawn it beyond all mortal means of

computation. The other would have contended that it was a mere

fictitious form; a perfectly blank book; or one in which entries

were only made with a peculiar kind of invisible ink to become

legible at some indefinite time; and that he never troubled it at

all.

 

'It would sadly pinch and cramp me, my dear friend,' repeated Mr

Pecksniff, 'but Providence--perhaps I may be permitted to say a

special Providence--has blessed my endeavours, and I could guarantee

to make the sacrifice.'

 

A question of philosophy arises here, whether Mr Pecksniff had or

had not good reason to say that he was specially patronized and

encouraged in his undertakings. All his life long he had been

walking up and down the narrow ways and by-places, with a hook in

one hand and a crook in the other, scraping all sorts of valuable

odds and ends into his pouch. Now, there being a special Providence

in the fall of a sparrow, it follows (so Mr Pecksniff, and only

such admirable men, would have reasoned), that there must also

be a special Providence in the alighting of the stone or stick,

or other substance which is aimed at the sparrow. And Mr

Pecksniff's hook, or crook, having invariably knocked the sparrow

on the head and brought him down, that gentleman may have been

led to consider himself as specially licensed to bag sparrows,

and as being specially seized and possessed of all the birds he

had got together. That many undertakings, national as well as

individual--but especially the former--are held to be specially

brought to a glorious and successful issue, which never could be

so regarded on any other process of reasoning, must be clear to

all men. Therefore the precedents would seem to show that Mr

Pecksniff had (as things go) good argument for what he said and

might be permitted to say it, and did not say it presumptuously,

vainly, or arrogantly, but in a spirit of high faith and great

wisdom.

 

Mr Jonas, not being much accustomed to perplex his mind with

theories of this nature, expressed no opinion on the subject. Nor

did he receive his companion's announcement with one solitary

syllable, good, bad, or indifferent. He preserved this taciturnity

for a quarter of an hour at least, and during the whole of that time

appeared to be steadily engaged in subjecting some given amount to

the operation of every known rule in figures; adding to it, taking

from it, multiplying it, reducing it by long and short division;

working it by the rule-of-three direct and inversed; exchange or

barter; practice; simple interest; compound interest; and other

means of arithmetical calculation. The result of these labours

appeared to be satisfactory, for when he did break silence, it

was as one who had arrived at some specific result, and freed

himself from a state of distressing uncertainty.

 

'Come, old Pecksniff!'--Such was his jocose address, as he slapped

that gentleman on the back, at the end of the stage--'let's have

something!'

 

'With all my heart,' said Mr Pecksniff.

 

'Let's treat the driver,' cried Jonas.

 

'If you think it won't hurt the man, or render him discontented with

his station--certainly,' faltered Mr Pecksniff.

 

Jonas only laughed at this, and getting down from the coach-top with

great alacrity, cut a cumbersome kind of caper in the road. After

which, he went into the public-house, and there ordered spirituous

drink to such an extent, that Mr Pecksniff had some doubts of his

perfect sanity, until Jonas set them quite at rest by saying, when

the coach could wait no longer:

 

'I've been standing treat for a whole week and more, and letting you

have all the delicacies of the season. YOU shall pay for this

Pecksniff.' It was not a joke either, as Mr Pecksniff at first

supposed; for he went off to the coach without further ceremony, and

left his respected victim to settle the bill.

 

But Mr Pecksniff was a man of meek endurance, and Mr Jonas was his

friend. Moreover, his regard for that gentleman was founded, as we

know, on pure esteem, and a knowledge of the excellence of his

character. He came out from the tavern with a smiling face, and

even went so far as to repeat the performance, on a less expensive

scale, at the next ale-house. There was a certain wildness in the

spirits of Mr Jonas (not usually a part of his character) which was

far from being subdued by these means, and, for the rest of the

journey, he was so very buoyant--it may be said, boisterous--that Mr

Pecksniff had some difficulty in keeping pace with him.

 

They were not expected--oh dear, no! Mr Pecksniff had proposed in

London to give the girls a surprise, and had said he wouldn't write

a word to prepare them on any account, in order that he and Mr Jonas

might take them unawares, and just see what they were doing, when

they thought their dear papa was miles and miles away. As a

consequence of this playful device, there was nobody to meet them at

the finger-post, but that was of small consequence, for they had

come down by the day coach, and Mr Pecksniff had only a carpetbag,

while Mr Jonas had only a portmanteau. They took the portmanteau

between them, put the bag upon it, and walked off up the lane

without delay; Mr Pecksniff already going on tiptoe as if, without

this precaution, his fond children, being then at a distance of a

couple of miles or so, would have some filial sense of his approach.

 

It was a lovely evening in the spring-time of the year; and in the

soft stillness of the twilight, all nature was very calm and

beautiful. The day had been fine and warm; but at the coming on of

night, the air grew cool, and in the mellowing distance smoke was

rising gently from the cottage chimneys. There were a thousand

pleasant scents diffused around, from young leaves and fresh buds;

the cuckoo had been singing all day long, and was but just now

hushed; the smell of earth newly-upturned, first breath of hope to

the first labourer after his garden withered, was fragrant in the

evening breeze. It was a time when most men cherish good resolves,

and sorrow for the wasted past; when most men, looking on the

shadows as they gather, think of that evening which must close on

all, and that to-morrow which has none beyond.

 

'Precious dull,' said Mr Jonas, looking about. 'It's enough to make

a man go melancholy mad.'

 

'We shall have lights and a fire soon,' observed Mr Pecksniff.

 

'We shall need 'em by the time we get there,' said Jonas. 'Why the

devil don't you talk? What are you thinking of?'

 

'To tell you the truth, Mr Jonas,' said Pecksniff with great

solemnity, 'my mind was running at that moment on our late dear

friend, your departed father.'

 

Mr Jonas immediately let his burden fall, and said, threatening him

with his hand:

 

'Drop that, Pecksniff!'

 

Mr Pecksniff not exactly knowing whether allusion was made to the

subject or the portmanteau, stared at his friend in unaffected

surprise.

 

'Drop it, I say!' cried Jonas, fiercely. 'Do you hear? Drop it,

now and for ever. You had better, I give you notice!'

 

'It was quite a mistake,' urged Mr Pecksniff, very much dismayed;

'though I admit it was foolish. I might have known it was a tender

string.'

 

'Don't talk to me about tender strings,' said Jonas, wiping his

forehead with the cuff of his coat. 'I'm not going to be crowed

over by you, because I don't like dead company.'

 

Mr Pecksniff had got out the words 'Crowed over, Mr Jonas!' when

that young man, with a dark expression in his countenance, cut him

short once more:

 

'Mind!' he said. 'I won't have it. I advise you not to revive the

subject, neither to me nor anybody else. You can take a hint, if

you choose as well as another man. There's enough said about it.

Come along!'

 

Taking up his part of the load again, when he had said these words,

he hurried on so fast that Mr Pecksniff, at the other end of the

portmanteau, found himself dragged forward, in a very inconvenient

and ungraceful manner, to the great detriment of what is called by

fancy gentlemen 'the bark' upon his shins, which were most

unmercifully bumped against the hard leather and the iron buckles.

In the course of a few minutes, however, Mr Jonas relaxed his speed,

and suffered his companion to come up with him, and to bring the

portmanteau into a tolerably straight position.

 

It was pretty clear that he regretted his late outbreak, and that he

mistrusted its effect on Mr Pecksniff; for as often as that

gentleman glanced towards Mr Jonas, he found Mr Jonas glancing at

him, which was a new source of embarrassment. It was but a short-

lived one, though, for Mr Jonas soon began to whistle, whereupon Mr

Pecksniff, taking his cue from his friend, began to hum a tune

melodiously.

 

'Pretty nearly there, ain't we?' said Jonas, when this had lasted

some time.

 

'Close, my dear friend,' said Mr Pecksniff.

 

'What'll they be doing, do you suppose?' asked Jonas.

 

'Impossible to say,' cried Mr Pecksniff. 'Giddy truants! They may

be away from home, perhaps. I was going to--he! he! he!--I was

going to propose,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'that we should enter by the

back way, and come upon them like a clap of thunder, Mr Jonas.'

 

It might not have been easy to decide in respect of which of their

manifold properties, Jonas, Mr Pecksniff, the carpet-bag, and the

portmanteau, could be likened to a clap of thunder. But Mr Jonas

giving his assent to this proposal, they stole round into the back

yard, and softly advanced towards the kitchen window, through which

the mingled light of fire and candle shone upon the darkening night.

 

Truly Mr Pecksniff is blessed in his children--in one of them, at

any rate. The prudent Cherry--staff and scrip, and treasure of her

doting father--there she sits, at a little table white as driven

snow, before the kitchen fire, making up accounts! See the neat

maiden, as with pen in hand, and calculating look addressed towards

the ceiling and bunch of keys within a little basket at her side,

she checks the housekeeping expenditure! From flat-iron, dish-cover,

and warming-pan; from pot and kettle, face of brass footman, and

black-leaded stove; bright glances of approbation wink and glow upon

her. The very onions dangling from the beam, mantle and shine like

cherubs' cheeks. Something of the influence of those vegetables

sinks into Mr Pecksniff's nature. He weeps.

 

It is but for a moment, and he hides it from the observation of his

friend--very carefully--by a somewhat elaborate use of his pocket-

handkerchief, in fact; for he would not have his weakness known.

 

'Pleasant,' he murmured, 'pleasant to a father's feelings! My dear

girl! Shall we let her know we are here, Mr Jonas?'

 

'Why, I suppose you don't mean to spend the evening in the stable,

or the coach-house,' he returned.

 

'That, indeed, is not such hospitality as I would show to YOU, my

friend,' cried Mr Pecksniff, pressing his hand. And then he took a

long breath, and tapping at the window, shouted with stentorian

blandness:

 

'Boh!'

 

Cherry dropped her pen and screamed. But innocence is ever bold, or

should be. As they opened the door, the valiant girl exclaimed in a

firm voice, and with a presence of mind which even in that trying

moment did not desert her, 'Who are you? What do you want? Speak!

or I will call my Pa.'

 

Mr Pecksniff held out his arms. She knew him instantly, and rushed

into his fond embrace.

 

'It was thoughtless of us, Mr Jonas, it was very thoughtless,' said

Pecksniff, smoothing his daugther's hair. 'My darling, do you see

that I am not alone!'

 

Not she. She had seen nothing but her father until now. She saw Mr

Jonas now, though; and blushed, and hung her head down, as she gave

him welcome.

 

But where was Merry? Mr Pecksniff didn't ask the question in

reproach, but in a vein of mildness touched with a gentle sorrow.

She was upstairs, reading on the parlour couch. Ah! Domestic

details had no charms for HER. 'But call her down,' said Mr

Pecksniff, with a placid resignation. 'Call her down, my love.'

 

She was called and came, all flushed and tumbled from reposing on

the sofa; but none the worse for that. No, not at all. Rather the

better, if anything.

 

'Oh my goodness me!' cried the arch girl, turning to her cousin when

she had kissed her father on both cheeks, and in her frolicsome

nature had bestowed a supernumerary salute upon the tip of his nose,

'YOU here, fright! Well, I'm very thankful that you won't trouble ME

much!'

 

'What! you're as lively as ever, are you?' said Jonas. 'Oh! You're

a wicked one!'

 

'There, go along!' retorted Merry, pushing him away. 'I'm sure I

don't know what I shall ever do, if I have to see much of you. Go

along, for gracious' sake!'

 

Mr Pecksniff striking in here, with a request that Mr Jonas would

immediately walk upstairs, he so far complied with the young lady's

adjuration as to go at once. But though he had the fair Cherry on

his arm, he could not help looking back at her sister, and

exchanging some further dialogue of the same bantering description,

as they all four ascended to the parlour; where--for the young

ladies happened, by good fortune, to be a little later than usual

that night--the tea-board was at that moment being set out.

 

Mr Pinch was not at home, so they had it all to themselves, and were

very snug and talkative, Jonas sitting between the two sisters, and

displaying his gallantry in that engaging manner which was peculiar

to him. It was a hard thing, Mr Pecksniff said, when tea was done,

and cleared away, to leave so pleasant a little party, but having

some important papers to examine in his own apartment, he must beg

them to excuse him for half an hour. With this apology he withdrew,

singing a careless strain as he went. He had not been gone five

minutes, when Merry, who had been sitting in the window, apart from

Jonas and her sister, burst into a half-smothered laugh, and skipped

towards the door.

 

'Hallo!' cried Jonas. 'Don't go.'

 

'Oh, I dare say!' rejoined Merry, looking back. 'You're very

anxious I should stay, fright, ain't you?'

 

'Yes, I am,' said Jonas. 'Upon my word I am. I want to speak to

you.' But as she left the room notwithstanding, he ran out after

her, and brought her back, after a short struggle in the passage

which scandalized Miss Cherry very much.

 

'Upon my word, Merry,' urged that young lady, 'I wonder at you!

There are bounds even to absurdity, my dear.'

 

'Thank you, my sweet,' said Merry, pursing up her rosy Lips. 'Much

obliged to it for its advice. Oh! do leave me alone, you monster,

do!' This entreaty was wrung from her by a new proceeding on the

part of Mr Jonas, who pulled her down, all breathless as she was,

into a seat beside him on the sofa, having at the same time Miss

Cherry upon the other side.

 

'Now,' said Jonas, clasping the waist of each; 'I have got both arms

full, haven't I?'

 

'One of them will be black and blue to-morrow, if you don't let me

go,' cried the playful Merry.

 

'Ah! I don't mind YOUR pinching,' grinned Jonas, 'a bit.'

 

'Pinch him for me, Cherry, pray,' said Mercy. 'I never did hate

anybody so much as I hate this creature, I declare!'

 

'No, no, don't say that,' urged Jonas, 'and don't pinch either,

because I want to be serious. I say--Cousin Charity--'

 

'Well! what?' she answered sharply.

 

'I want to have some sober talk,' said Jonas; 'I want to prevent any

mistakes, you know, and to put everything upon a pleasant

understanding. That's desirable and proper, ain't it?'

 

Neither of the sisters spoke a word. Mr Jonas paused and cleared

his throat, which was very dry.

 

'She'll not believe what I am going to say, will she, cousin?' said

Jonas, timidly squeezing Miss Charity.

 

'Really, Mr Jonas, I don't know, until I hear what it is. It's

quite impossible!'

 

'Why, you see,' said Jonas, 'her way always being to make game of

people, I know she'll laugh, or pretend to--I know that, beforehand.

But you can tell her I'm in earnest, cousin; can't you? You'll

confess you know, won't you? You'll be honourable, I'm sure,'

he added persuasively.

 

No answer. His throat seemed to grow hotter and hotter, and to be

more and more difficult of control.

 

'You see, Cousin Charity,' said Jonas, 'nobody but you can tell her

what pains I took to get into her company when you were both at the

boarding-house in the city, because nobody's so well aware of it, you

know. Nobody else can tell her how hard I tried to get to know you

better, in order that I might get to know her without seeming to

wish it; can they? I always asked you about her, and said where

had she gone, and when would she come, and how lively she was, and

all that; didn't I, cousin? I know you'll tell her so, if you

haven't told her so already, and--and--I dare say you have, because

I'm sure you're honourable, ain't you?'

 

Still not a word. The right arm of Mr Jonas--the elder sister sat

upon his right--may have been sensible of some tumultuous throbbing

which was not within itself; but nothing else apprised him that his

words had had the least effect.

 

'Even if you kept it to yourself, and haven't told her,' resumed

Jonas, 'it don't much matter, because you'll bear honest witness

now; won't you? We've been very good friends from the first;

haven't we? and of course we shall be quite friends in future, and

so I don't mind speaking before you a bit. Cousin Mercy, you've

heard what I've been saying. She'll confirm it, every word; she

must. Will you have me for your husband? Eh?'

 

As he released his hold of Charity, to put this question with better

effect, she started up and hurried away to her own room, marking her

progress as she went by such a train of passionate and incoherent

sound, as nothing but a slighted woman in her anger could produce.

 

'Let me go away. Let me go after her,' said Merry, pushing him off,

and giving him--to tell the truth--more than one sounding slap upon

his outstretched face.

 

'Not till you say yes. You haven't told me. Will you have me for

your husband?'

 

'No, I won't. I can't bear the sight of you. I have told you so a

hundred times. You are a fright. Besides, I always thought you

liked my sister best. We all thought so.'

 

'But that wasn't my fault,' said Jonas.

 

'Yes it was; you know it was.'

 

'Any trick is fair in love,' said Jonas. 'She may have thought I

liked her best, but you didn't.'

 

'I did!'

 

'No, you didn't. You never could have thought I liked her best,

when you were by.'

 

'There's no accounting for tastes,' said Merry; 'at least I didn't

mean to say that. I don't know what I mean. Let me go to her.'

 

'Say "Yes," and then I will.'

 

'If I ever brought myself to say so, it should only be that I might

hate and tease you all my life.'

 

'That's as good,' cried Jonas, 'as saying it right out. It's a

bargain, cousin. We're a pair, if ever there was one.'

 

This gallant speech was succeeded by a confused noise of kissing and

slapping; and then the fair but much dishevelled Merry broke away,

and followed in the footsteps of her sister.

 

Now whether Mr Pecksniff had been listening--which in one of his

character appears impossible; or divined almost by inspiration what

the matter was--which, in a man of his sagacity is far more

probable; or happened by sheer good fortune to find himself in

exactly the right place, at precisely the right time--which, under

the special guardianship in which he lived might very reasonably

happen; it is quite certain that at the moment when the sisters came

together in their own room, he appeared at the chamber door. And a

marvellous contrast it was--they so heated, noisy, and vehement; he

so calm, so self-possessed, so cool and full of peace, that not a

hair upon his head was stirred.

 

'Children!' said Mr Pecksniff, spreading out his hands in wonder,

but not before he had shut the door, and set his back against it.

'Girls! Daughters! What is this?'

 

'The wretch; the apostate; the false, mean, odious villain; has

before my very face proposed to Mercy!' was his eldest daughter's

answer.

 

'Who has proposed to Mercy!' asked Mr Pecksniff.

 

'HE has. That thing, Jonas, downstairs.'

 

'Jonas proposed to Mercy?' said Mr Pecksniff. 'Aye, aye! Indeed!'

 

'Have you nothing else to say?' cried Charity. 'Am I to be driven

mad, papa? He has proposed to Mercy, not to me.'

 

'Oh, fie! For shame!' said Mr Pecksniff, gravely. 'Oh, for shame!

Can the triumph of a sister move you to this terrible display, my

child? Oh, really this is very sad! I am sorry; I am surprised and

hurt to see you so. Mercy, my girl, bless you! See to her. Ah,

envy, envy, what a passion you are!'

 

Uttering this apostrophe in a tone full of grief and lamentation, Mr

Pecksniff left the room (taking care to shut the door behind him),

and walked downstairs into the parlour. There he found his

intended son-in-law, whom he seized by both hands.

 

'Jonas!' cried Mr Pecksniff. 'Jonas! the dearest wish of my heart

is now fulfilled!'

 

'Very well; I'm glad to hear it,' said Jonas. 'That'll do. I say!

As it ain't the one you're so fond of, you must come down with

another thousand, Pecksniff. You must make it up five. It's worth

that, to keep your treasure to yourself, you know. You get off very

cheap that way, and haven't a sacrifice to make.'

 

The grin with which he accompanied this, set off his other

attractions to such unspeakable advantage, that even Mr Pecksniff

lost his presence of mind for a moment, and looked at the young man

as if he were quite stupefied with wonder and admiration. But he

quickly regained his composure, and was in the very act of changing

the subject, when a hasty step was heard without, and Tom Pinch, in

a state of great excitement, came darting into the room.

 

On seeing a stranger there, apparently engaged with Mr Pecksniff in

private conversation, Tom was very much abashed, though he still

looked as if he had something of great importance to communicate,

which would be a sufficient apology for his intrusion.

 

'Mr Pinch,' said Pecksniff, 'this is hardly decent. You will excuse

my saying that I think your conduct scarcely decent, Mr Pinch.'

 

'I beg your pardon, sir,' replied Tom, 'for not knocking at the

door.'

 

'Rather beg this gentleman's pardon, Mr Pinch,' said Pecksniff. 'I

know you; he does not.--My young man, Mr Jonas.'

 

The son-in-law that was to be gave him a slight nod--not actively

disdainful or contemptuous, only passively; for he was in a good

humour.

 

'Could I speak a word with you, sir, if you please?' said Tom.

'It's rather pressing.'

 

'It should be very pressing to justify this strange behaviour, Mr

Pinch,' returned his master. 'Excuse me for one moment, my dear

friend. Now, sir, what is the reason of this rough intrusion?'

 

'I am very sorry, sir, I am sure,' said Tom, standing, cap in hand,

before his patron in the passage; 'and I know it must have a very

rude appearance--'

 

'It HAS a very rude appearance, Mr Pinch.'

 

'Yes, I feel that, sir; but the truth is, I was so surprised to see

them, and knew you would be too, that I ran home very fast indeed,

and really hadn't enough command over myself to know what I was

doing very well. I was in the church just now, sir, touching the

organ for my own amusement, when I happened to look round, and saw a

gentleman and lady standing in the aisle listening. They seemed to

be strangers, sir, as well as I could make out in the dusk; and I

thought I didn't know them; so presently I left off, and said, would

they walk up into the organ-loft, or take a seat? No, they said,

they wouldn't do that; but they thanked me for the music they had

heard. In fact,' observed Tom, blushing, 'they said, "Delicious

music!" at least, SHE did; and I am sure that was a greater pleasure

and honour to me than any compliment I could have had. I--I--beg

your pardon sir;' he was all in a tremble, and dropped his hat for

the second time 'but I--I'm rather flurried, and I fear I've

wandered from the point.'

 

'If you will come back to it, Thomas,' said Mr Pecksniff, with an

icy look, 'I shall feel obliged.'

 

'Yes, sir,' returned Tom, 'certainly. They had a posting carriage

at the porch, sir, and had stopped to hear the organ, they said.

And then they said--SHE said, I mean, "I believe you live with Mr

Pecksniff, sir?" I said I had that honour, and I took the liberty,

sir,' added Tom, raising his eyes to his benefactor's face, 'of

saying, as I always will and must, with your permission, that I was

under great obligations to you, and never could express my sense of

them sufficiently.'

 

'That,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'was very, very wrong. Take your time,

Mr Pinch.'

 

'Thank you, sir,' cried Tom. 'On that they asked me--she asked, I

mean--"Wasn't there a bridle road to Mr Pecksniff's house?"'

 

Mr Pecksniff suddenly became full of interest.

 

'"Without going by the Dragon?" When I said there was, and said how

happy I should be to show it 'em, they sent the carriage on by the

road, and came with me across the meadows. I left 'em at the

turnstile to run forward and tell you they were coming, and they'll

be here, sir, in--in less than a minute's time, I should say,' added

Tom, fetching his breath with difficulty.

 

'Now, who,' said Mr Pecksniff, pondering, 'who may these people be?'

 

'Bless my soul, sir!' cried Tom, 'I meant to mention that at first,

I thought I had. I knew them--her, I mean--directly. The gentleman

who was ill at the Dragon, sir, last winter; and the young lady who

attended him.'

 

Tom's teeth chattered in his head, and he positively staggered with

amazement, at witnessing the extraordinary effect produced on Mr

Pecksniff by these simple words. The dread of losing the old man's

favour almost as soon as they were reconciled, through the mere fact

of having Jonas in the house; the impossibility of dismissing Jonas,

or shutting him up, or tying him hand and foot and putting him in

the coal-cellar, without offending him beyond recall; the horrible

discordance prevailing in the establishment, and the impossibility

of reducing it to decent harmony with Charity in loud hysterics,

Mercy in the utmost disorder, Jonas in the parlour, and Martin

Chuzzlewit and his young charge upon the very doorsteps; the total

hopelessness of being able to disguise or feasibly explain this

state of rampant confusion; the sudden accumulation over his devoted

head of every complicated perplexity and entanglement for his

extrication from which he had trusted to time, good fortune, chance,

and his own plotting, so filled the entrapped architect with dismay,

that if Tom could have been a Gorgon staring at Mr Pecksniff, and Mr

Pecksniff could have been a Gorgon staring at Tom, they could not

have horrified each other half so much as in their own bewildered

persons.

 

'Dear, dear!' cried Tom, 'what have I done? I hoped it would be a

pleasant surprise, sir. I thought you would like to know.'

 

But at that moment a loud knocking was heard at the hall door.

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MORE AMERICAN EXPERIENCES, MARTIN TAKES A PARTNER, AND MAKES APURCHASE. SOME ACCOUNT OF EDEN, AS IT APPEARED ON PAPER. ALSO OFTHE BRITISH LION. ALSO OF THE KIND OF SYMPATHY PROFESSED ANDENTERTAINED BY THE WATERTOAST ASSOCIATION OF UNITED SYMPATHISERSThe knocking at Mr Pecksniff's door, though loud enough, bore noresemblance whatever to the noise of an American railway train atfull speed. It may be well to begin the present chapter with thisfrank admission, lest the reader should imagine that the sounds nowdeafening this history's ears have any connection with the knocker onMr Pecksniff's door, or with the great amount
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THE READER IS BROUGHT INTO COMMUNICATION WITH SOME PROFESSIONALPERSONS, AND SHEDS A TEAR OVER THE FILAIL PIETY OF GOOD MR JONASMr Pecksniff was in a hackney cabriolet, for Jonas Chuzzlewit hadsaid 'Spare no expense.' Mankind is evil in its thoughts and in itsbase constructions, and Jonas was resolved it should not have aninch to stretch into an ell against him. It never should be chargedupon his father's son that he had grudged the money for his father'sfuneral. Hence, until the obsequies should be concluded, Jonas hadtaken for his motto 'Spend, and spare not!' Mr Pecksniff had been to the
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