Part 12 out of 20
'Ha!' said Mould. 'He's evidently gratified. Poor fellow! I am
quite glad you did it, my love. Bye bye, Mrs Gamp!' waving his
hand. 'There he goes; there he goes!'
So he did; for the coach rolled off as the words were spoken. Mr
and Mrs Mould, in high good humour, went their merry way. Mr Bailey
retired with Poll Sweedlepipe as soon as possible; but some little
time elapsed before he could remove his friend from the ground,
owing to the impression wrought upon the barber's nerves by Mrs
Prig, whom he pronounced, in admiration of her beard, to be a woman
of transcendent charms.
When the light cloud of bustle hanging round the coach was thus
dispersed, Nadgett was seen in the darkest box of the Bull coffee-
room, looking wistfully up at the clock--as if the man who never
appeared were a little behind his time.
PROVES THAT CHANGES MAY BE RUNG IN THE BEST-REGULATED FAMILIES, AND
THAT MR PECKNIFF WAS A SPECIAL HAND AT A TRIPLE-BOB-MAJOR
As the surgeon's first care after amputating a limb, is to take up
the arteries the cruel knife has severed, so it is the duty of this
history, which in its remorseless course has cut from the
Pecksniffian trunk its right arm, Mercy, to look to the parent stem,
and see how in all its various ramifications it got on without her.
And first of Mr Pecksniff it may be observed, that having provided
for his youngest daughter that choicest of blessings, a tender and
indulgent husband; and having gratified the dearest wish of his
parental heart by establishing her in life so happily; he renewed
his youth, and spreading the plumage of his own bright conscience,
felt himself equal to all kinds of flights. It is customary with
fathers in stage-plays, after giving their daughters to the men of
their hearts, to congratulate themselves on having no other business
on their hands but to die immediately; though it is rarely found
that they are in a hurry to do it. Mr Pecksniff, being a father of
a more sage and practical class, appeared to think that his
immediate business was to live; and having deprived himself of one
comfort, to surround himself with others.
But however much inclined the good man was to be jocose and playful,
and in the garden of his fancy to disport himself (if one may say
so) like an architectural kitten, he had one impediment constantly
opposed to him. The gentle Cherry, stung by a sense of slight and
injury, which far from softening down or wearing out, rankled and
festered in her heart--the gentle Cherry was in flat rebellion.
She waged fierce war against her dear papa, she led her parent
what is usually called, for want of a better figure of speech,
the life of a dog. But never did that dog live, in kennel,
stable-yard, or house, whose life was half as hard as Mr Pecksniff's
with his gentle child.
The father and daughter were sitting at their breakfast. Tom had
retired, and they were alone. Mr Pecksniff frowned at first; but
having cleared his brow, looked stealthily at his child. Her nose
was very red indeed, and screwed up tight, with hostile preparation.
'Cherry,' cried Mr Pecksniff, 'what is amiss between us? My child,
why are we disunited?'
Miss Pecksniff's answer was scarcely a response to this gush of
affection, for it was simply, 'Bother, Pa!'
'Bother!' repeated Mr Pecksniff, in a tone of anguish.
'Oh! 'tis too late, Pa,' said his daughter, calmly 'to talk to me
like this. I know what it means, and what its value is.'
'This is hard!' cried Mr Pecksniff, addressing his breakfast-cup.
'This is very hard! She is my child. I carried her in my arms when
she wore shapeless worsted shoes--I might say, mufflers--many years
'You needn't taunt me with that, Pa,' retorted Cherry, with a
spiteful look. 'I am not so many years older than my sister,
either, though she IS married to your friend!'
'Ah, human nature, human nature! Poor human nature!' said Mr
Pecksniff, shaking his head at human nature, as if he didn't belong
to it. 'To think that this discord should arise from such a cause!
oh dear, oh dear!'
'From such a cause indeed!' cried Cherry. 'State the real cause,
Pa, or I'll state it myself. Mind! I will!'
Perhaps the energy with which she said this was infectious. However
that may be, Mr Pecksniff changed his tone and the expression of his
face for one of anger, if not downright violence, when he said:
'You will! you have. You did yesterday. You do always. You have
no decency; you make no secret of your temper; you have exposed
yourself to Mr Chuzzlewit a hundred times.'
'Myself!' cried Cherry, with a bitter smile. 'Oh indeed! I don't
'Me, too, then,' said Mr Pecksniff.
His daughter answered with a scornful laugh.
'And since we have come to an explanation, Charity,' said Mr
Pecksniff, rolling his head portentously, 'let me tell you that I
won't allow it. None of your nonsense, Miss! I won't permit it to
'I shall do,' said Charity, rocking her chair backwards and
forwards, and raising her voice to a high pitch, 'I shall do, Pa,
what I please and what I have done. I am not going to be crushed in
everything, depend upon it. I've been more shamefully used than
anybody ever was in this world,' here she began to cry and sob, 'and
may expect the worse treatment from you, I know. But I don't care
for that. No, I don't!'
Mr Pecksniff was made so desperate by the loud tone in which she
spoke, that, after looking about him in frantic uncertainty for some
means of softening it, he rose and shook her until the ornamental
bow of hair upon her head nodded like a plume. She was so very much
astonished by this assault, that it really had the desired effect.
'I'll do it again!' cried Mr Pecksniff, as he resumed his seat and
fetched his breath, 'if you dare to talk in that loud manner. How
do you mean about being shamefully used? If Mr Jonas chose your
sister in preference to you, who could help it, I should wish to
know? What have I to do with it?'
'Wasn't I made a convenience of? Weren't my feelings trifled with?
Didn't he address himself to me first?' sobbed Cherry, clasping her
hands; 'and oh, good gracious, that I should live to be shook!'
'You'll live to be shaken again,' returned her parent, 'if you drive
me to that means of maintaining the decorum of this humble roof.
You surprise me. I wonder you have not more spirit. If Mr Jonas
didn't care for you, how could you wish to have him?'
'I wish to have him!' exclaimed Cherry. 'I wish to have him, Pa!'
'Then what are you making all this piece of work for,' retorted her
father, 'if you didn't wish to have him?'
'Because I was treated with duplicity,' said Cherry; 'and because my
own sister and my own father conspired against me. I am not angry
with HER,' said Cherry; looking much more angry than ever. 'I pity
her. I'm sorry for her. I know the fate that's in store for her,
with that Wretch.'
'Mr Jonas will survive your calling him a wretch, my child, I dare
say,' said Mr Pecksniff, with returning resignation; 'but call him
what you like and make an end of it.'
'Not an end, Pa,' said Charity. 'No, not an end. That's not the
only point on which we're not agreed. I won't submit to it. It's
better you should know that at once. No; I won't submit to it
indeed, Pa! I am not quite a fool, and I am not blind. All I have
got to say is, I won't submit to it.'
Whatever she meant, she shook Mr Pecksniff now; for his lame attempt
to seem composed was melancholy in the last degree. His anger
changed to meekness, and his words were mild and fawning.
'My dear,' he said; 'if in the short excitement of an angry moment I
resorted to an unjustifiable means of suppressing a little outbreak
calculated to injure you as well as myself--it's possible I may have
done so; perhaps I did--I ask your pardon. A father asking pardon
of his child,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'is, I believe, a spectacle to
soften the most rugged nature.'
But it didn't at all soften Miss Pecksniff; perhaps because her
nature was not rugged enough. On the contrary, she persisted in
saying, over and over again, that she wasn't quite a fool, and
wasn't blind, and wouldn't submit to it.
'You labour under some mistake, my child!' said Mr Pecksniff. 'but
I will not ask you what it is; I don't desire to know. No, pray!'
he added, holding out his hand and colouring again, 'let us avoid
the subject, my dear, whatever it is!'
'It's quite right that the subject should be avoided between us,
sir,' said Cherry. 'But I wish to be able to avoid it altogether,
and consequently must beg you to provide me with a home.'
Mr Pecksniff looked about the room, and said, 'A home, my child!'
'Another home, papa,' said Cherry, with increasing stateliness
'Place me at Mrs Todgers's or somewhere, on an independent footing;
but I will not live here, if such is to be the case.'
It is possible that Miss Pecksniff saw in Mrs Todgers's a vision of
enthusiastic men, pining to fall in adoration at her feet. It is
possible that Mr Pecksniff, in his new-born juvenility, saw, in the
suggestion of that same establishment, an easy means of relieving
himself from an irksome charge in the way of temper and
watchfulness. It is undoubtedly a fact that in the attentive ears
of Mr Pecksniff, the proposition did not sound quite like the dismal
knell of all his hopes.
But he was a man of great feeling and acute sensibility; and he
squeezed his pocket-handkerchief against his eyes with both hands--
as such men always do, especially when they are observed. 'One of
my birds,' Mr Pecksniff said, 'has left me for the stranger's
breast; the other would take wing to Todgers's! Well, well, what am
I? I don't know what I am, exactly. Never mind!'
Even this remark, made more pathetic perhaps by his breaking down in
the middle of it, had no effect upon Charity. She was grim, rigid,
'But I have ever,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'sacrificed my children's
happiness to my own--I mean my own happiness to my children's--and I
will not begin to regulate my life by other rules of conduct now.
If you can be happier at Mrs Todgers's than in your father's house,
my dear, go to Mrs Todgers's! Do not think of me, my girl!' said Mr
Pecksniff with emotion; 'I shall get on pretty well, no doubt.'
Miss Charity, who knew he had a secret pleasure in the contemplation
of the proposed change, suppressed her own, and went on to negotiate
the terms. His views upon this subject were at first so very
limited that another difference, involving possibly another shaking,
threatened to ensue; but by degrees they came to something like an
understanding, and the storm blew over. Indeed, Miss Charity's idea
was so agreeable to both, that it would have been strange if they
had not come to an amicable agreement. It was soon arranged between
them that the project should be tried, and that immediately; and
that Cherry's not being well, and needing change of scene, and
wishing to be near her sister, should form the excuse for her
departure to Mr Chuzzlewit and Mary, to both of whom she had pleaded
indisposition for some time past. These premises agreed on, Mr
Pecksniff gave her his blessing, with all the dignity of a self-
denying man who had made a hard sacrifice, but comforted himself
with the reflection that virtue is its own reward. Thus they were
reconciled for the first time since that not easily forgiven night,
when Mr Jonas, repudiating the elder, had confessed his passion for
the younger sister, and Mr Pecksniff had abetted him on moral
But how happened it--in the name of an unexpected addition to that
small family, the Seven Wonders of the World, whatever and wherever
they may be, how happened it--that Mr Pecksniff and his daughter
were about to part? How happened it that their mutual relations
were so greatly altered? Why was Miss Pecksniff so clamorous to
have it understood that she was neither blind nor foolish, and she
wouldn't bear it? It is not possible that Mr Pecksniff had any
thoughts of marrying again; or that his daughter, with the sharp eye
of a single woman, fathomed his design!
Let us inquire into this.
Mr Pecksniff, as a man without reproach, from whom the breath of
slander passed like common breath from any other polished surface,
could afford to do what common men could not. He knew the purity of
his own motives; and when he had a motive worked at it as only a
very good man (or a very bad one) can. Did he set before himself
any strong and palpable motives for taking a second wife? Yes; and
not one or two of them, but a combination of very many.
Old Martin Chuzzlewit had gradually undergone an important change.
Even upon the night when he made such an ill-timed arrival at Mr
Pecksniff's house, he was comparatively subdued and easy to deal
with. This Mr Pecksniff attributed, at the time, to the effect his
brother's death had had upon him. But from that hour his character
seemed to have modified by regular degrees, and to have softened
down into a dull indifference for almost every one but Mr Pecksniff.
His looks were much the same as ever, but his mind was singularly
altered. It was not that this or that passion stood out in brighter
or in dimmer hues; but that the colour of the whole man was faded.
As one trait disappeared, no other trait sprung up to take its
place. His senses dwindled too. He was less keen of sight; was
deaf sometimes; took little notice of what passed before him; and
would be profoundly taciturn for days together. The process of this
alteration was so easy that almost as soon as it began to be
observed it was complete. But Mr Pecksniff saw it first, and having
Anthony Chuzzlewit fresh in his recollection, saw in his brother
Martin the same process of decay.
To a gentleman of Mr Pecksniff's tenderness, this was a very
mournful sight. He could not but foresee the probability of his
respected relative being made the victim of designing persons, and
of his riches falling into worthless hands. It gave him so much
pain that he resolved to secure the property to himself; to keep bad
testamentary suitors at a distance; to wall up the old gentleman, as
it were, for his own use. By little and little, therefore, he began
to try whether Mr Chuzzlewit gave any promise of becoming an
instrument in his hands, and finding that he did, and indeed that he
was very supple in his plastic fingers, he made it the business of
his life--kind soul!--to establish an ascendancy over him; and every
little test he durst apply meeting with a success beyond his hopes,
he began to think he heard old Martin's cash already chinking in his
own unworldly pockets.
But when Mr Pecksniff pondered on this subject (as, in his zealous
way, he often did), and thought with an uplifted heart of the train
of circumstances which had delivered the old gentleman into his
hands for the confusion of evil-doers and the triumph of a righteous
nature, he always felt that Mary Graham was his stumbling-block.
Let the old man say what he would, Mr Pecksniff knew he had a strong
affection for her. He knew that he showed it in a thousand little
ways; that he liked to have her near him, and was never quite at
ease when she was absent long. That he had ever really sworn to
leave her nothing in his will, Mr Pecksniff greatly doubted. That
even if he had, there were many ways by which he could evade the
oath and satisfy his conscience, Mr Pecksniff knew. That her
unprotected state was no light burden on the old man's mind, he also
knew, for Mr Chuzzlewit had plainly told him so. 'Then,' said Mr
Pecksniff 'what if I married her! What,' repeated Mr Pecksniff,
sticking up his hair and glancing at his bust by Spoker; 'what if,
making sure of his approval first--he is nearly imbecile, poor
gentleman--I married her!'
Mr Pecksniff had a lively sense of the Beautiful; especially in
women. His manner towards the sex was remarkable for its
insinuating character. It is recorded of him in another part of
these pages, that he embraced Mrs Todgers on the smallest
provocation; and it was a way he had; it was a part of the gentle
placidity of his disposition. Before any thought of matrimony was
in his mind, he had bestowed on Mary many little tokens of his
spiritual admiration. They had been indignantly received, but that
was nothing. True, as the idea expanded within him, these had
become too ardent to escape the piercing eye of Cherry, who read his
scheme at once; but he had always felt the power of Mary's charms.
So Interest and Inclination made a pair, and drew the curricle of Mr
As to any thought of revenging himself on young Martin for his
insolent expressions when they parted, and of shutting him out still
more effectually from any hope of reconciliation with his
grandfather, Mr Pecksniff was much too meek and forgiving to be
suspected of harbouring it. As to being refused by Mary, Mr
Pecksniff was quite satisfied that in her position she could never
hold out if he and Mr Chuzzlewit were both against her. As to
consulting the wishes of her heart in such a case, it formed no part
of Mr Pecksniff's moral code; for he knew what a good man he was,
and what a blessing he must be to anybody. His daughter having
broken the ice, and the murder being out between them, Mr Pecksniff
had now only to pursue his design as cleverly as he could, and by
the craftiest approaches.
'Well, my good sir,' said Mr Pecksniff, meeting old Martin in the
garden, for it was his habit to walk in and out by that way, as the
fancy took him; 'and how is my dear friend this delicious morning?'
'Do you mean me?' asked the old man.
'Ah!' said Mr Pecksniff, 'one of his deaf days, I see. Could I mean
any one else, my dear sir?'
'You might have meant Mary,' said the old man.
'Indeed I might. Quite true. I might speak of her as a dear, dear
friend, I hope?' observed Mr Pecksniff.
'I hope so,' returned old Martin. 'I think she deserves it.'
'Think!' cried Pecksniff, 'think, Mr Chuzzlewit!'
'You are speaking, I know,' returned Martin, 'but I don't catch what
you say. Speak up!'
'He's getting deafer than a flint,' said Pecksniff. 'I was saying,
my dear sir, that I am afraid I must make up my mind to part with
'What has SHE been doing?' asked the old man.
'He puts the most ridiculous questions I ever heard!' muttered Mr
Pecksniff. 'He's a child to-day.' After which he added, in a mild
roar: 'She hasn't been doing anything, my dear friend.'
'What are you going to part with her for?' demanded Martin.
'She hasn't her health by any means,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'She
misses her sister, my dear sir; they doted on each other from the
cradle. And I think of giving her a run in London for a change. A
good long run, sir, if I find she likes it.'
'Quite right,' cried Martin. 'It's judicious.'
'I am glad to hear you say so. I hope you mean to bear me company
in this dull part, while she's away?' said Mr Pecksniff.
'I have no intention of removing from it,' was Martin's answer.
'Then why,' said Mr Pecksniff, taking the old man's arm in his, and
walking slowly on; 'Why, my good sir, can't you come and stay with
me? I am sure I could surround you with more comforts--lowly as is
my Cot--than you can obtain at a village house of entertainment.
And pardon me, Mr Chuzzlewit, pardon me if I say that such a place
as the Dragon, however well-conducted (and, as far as I know, Mrs
Lupin is one of the worthiest creatures in this county), is hardly a
home for Miss Graham.'
Martin mused a moment; and then said, as he shook him by the hand:
'No. You're quite right; it is not.'
'The very sight of skittles,' Mr Pecksniff eloquently pursued, 'is
far from being congenial to a delicate mind.'
'It's an amusement of the vulgar,' said old Martin, 'certainly.'
'Of the very vulgar,' Mr Pecksniff answered. 'Then why not bring
Miss Graham here, sir? Here is the house. Here am I alone in it,
for Thomas Pinch I do not count as any one. Our lovely friend shall
occupy my daughter's chamber; you shall choose your own; we shall
not quarrel, I hope!'
'We are not likely to do that,' said Martin.
Mr Pecksniff pressed his hand. 'We understand each other, my dear
sir, I see!--I can wind him,' he thought, with exultation, 'round my
'You leave the recompense to me?' said the old man, after a minute's
'Oh! do not speak of recompense!' cried Pecksniff.
'I say,' repeated Martin, with a glimmer of his old obstinacy, 'you
leave the recompense to me. Do you?'
'Since you desire it, my good sir.'
'I always desire it,' said the old man. 'You know I always desire
it. I wish to pay as I go, even when I buy of you. Not that I do
not leave a balance to be settled one day, Pecksniff.'
The architect was too much overcome to speak. He tried to drop a
tear upon his patron's hand, but couldn't find one in his dry
'May that day be very distant!' was his pious exclamation. 'Ah,
sir! If I could say how deep an interest I have in you and yours!
I allude to our beautiful young friend.'
'True,' he answered. 'True. She need have some one interested in
her. I did her wrong to train her as I did. Orphan though she was,
she would have found some one to protect her whom she might have
loved again. When she was a child, I pleased myself with the
thought that in gratifying my whim of placing her between me and
false-hearted knaves, I had done her a kindness. Now she is a
woman, I have no such comfort. She has no protector but herself. I
have put her at such odds with the world, that any dog may bark or
fawn upon her at his pleasure. Indeed she stands in need of
delicate consideration. Yes; indeed she does!'
'If her position could be altered and defined, sir?' Mr Pecksniff
'How can that be done? Should I make a seamstress of her, or a
'Heaven forbid!' said Mr Pecksniff. 'My dear sir, there are other
ways. There are indeed. But I am much excited and embarrassed at
present, and would rather not pursue the subject. I scarcely know
what I mean. Permit me to resume it at another time.'
'You are not unwell?' asked Martin anxiously.
'No, no!' cried Pecksniff. 'No. Permit me to resume it at another
time. I'll walk a little. Bless you!'
Old Martin blessed him in return, and squeezed his hand. As he
turned away, and slowly walked towards the house, Mr Pecksniff stood
gazing after him; being pretty well recovered from his late emotion,
which, in any other man, one might have thought had been assumed as
a machinery for feeling Martin's pulse. The change in the old man
found such a slight expression in his figure, that Mr Pecksniff,
looking after him, could not help saying to himself:
'And I can wind him round my little finger! Only think!'
Old Martin happening to turn his head, saluted him affectionately.
Mr Pecksniff returned the gesture.
'Why, the time was,' said Mr Pecksniff; 'and not long ago, when he
wouldn't look at me! How soothing is this change. Such is the
delicate texture of the human heart; so complicated is the process
of its being softened! Externally he looks the same, and I can wind
him round my little finger. Only think!'
In sober truth, there did appear to be nothing on which Mr Pecksniff
might not have ventured with Martin Chuzzlewit; for whatever Mr
Pecksniff said or did was right, and whatever he advised was done.
Martin had escaped so many snares from needy fortune-hunters, and
had withered in the shell of his suspicion and distrust for so many
years, but to become the good man's tool and plaything. With the
happiness of this conviction painted on his face, the architect went
forth upon his morning walk.
The summer weather in his bosom was reflected in the breast of
Nature. Through deep green vistas where the boughs arched overhead,
and showed the sunlight flashing in the beautiful perspective;
through dewy fern from which the startled hares leaped up, and fled
at his approach; by mantled pools, and fallen trees, and down in
hollow places, rustling among last year's leaves whose scent woke
memory of the past; the placid Pecksniff strolled. By meadow gates
and hedges fragrant with wild roses; and by thatched-roof cottages
whose inmates humbly bowed before him as a man both good and wise;
the worthy Pecksniff walked in tranquil meditation. The bee passed
onward, humming of the work he had to do; the idle gnats for ever
going round and round in one contracting and expanding ring, yet
always going on as fast as he, danced merrily before him; the colour
of the long grass came and went, as if the light clouds made it
timid as they floated through the distant air. The birds, so many
Pecksniff consciences, sang gayly upon every branch; and Mr
Pecksniff paid HIS homage to the day by ruminating on his projects
as he walked along.
Chancing to trip, in his abstraction, over the spreading root of an
old tree, he raised his pious eyes to take a survey of the ground
before him. It startled him to see the embodied image of his
thoughts not far ahead. Mary herself. And alone.
At first Mr Pecksniff stopped as if with the intention of avoiding
her; but his next impulse was to advance, which he did at a brisk
pace; caroling as he went so sweetly and with so much innocence
that he only wanted feathers and wings to be a bird.
Hearing notes behind her, not belonging to the songsters of the
grove, she looked round. Mr Pecksniff kissed his hand, and was at
her side immediately.
'Communing with nature?' said Mr Pecksniff. 'So am I.'
She said the morning was so beautiful that she had walked further
than she intended, and would return. Mr Pecksniff said it was
exactly his case, and he would return with her.
'Take my arm, sweet girl,' said Mr Pecksniff.
Mary declined it, and walked so very fast that he remonstrated.
'You were loitering when I came upon you,' Mr Pecksniff said. 'Why
be so cruel as to hurry now? You would not shun me, would you?'
'Yes, I would,' she answered, turning her glowing cheek indignantly
upon him, 'you know I would. Release me, Mr Pecksniff. Your touch
is disagreeable to me.'
His touch! What? That chaste patriarchal touch which Mrs Todgers--
surely a discreet lady--had endured, not only without complaint, but
with apparent satisfaction! This was positively wrong. Mr Pecksniff
was sorry to hear her say it.
'If you have not observed,' said Mary, 'that it is so, pray take
assurance from my lips, and do not, as you are a gentleman,
continue to offend me.'
'Well, well!' said Mr Pecksniff, mildly, 'I feel that I might
consider this becoming in a daughter of my own, and why should I
object to it in one so beautiful! It's harsh. It cuts me to the
soul,' said Mr Pecksniff; 'but I cannot quarrel with you, Mary.'
She tried to say she was sorry to hear it, but burst into tears. Mr
Pecksniff now repeated the Todgers performance on a comfortable
scale, as if he intended it to last some time; and in his disengaged
hand, catching hers, employed himself in separating the fingers with
his own, and sometimes kissing them, as he pursued the conversation
'I am glad we met. I am very glad we met. I am able now to ease my
bosom of a heavy load, and speak to you in confidence. Mary,' said
Mr Pecksniff in his tenderest tones, indeed they were so very
tender that he almost squeaked: 'My soul! I love you!'
A fantastic thing, that maiden affectation! She made believe to
'I love you,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'my gentle life, with a devotion
which is quite surprising, even to myself. I did suppose that the
sensation was buried in the silent tomb of a lady, only second to
you in qualities of the mind and form; but I find I am mistaken.'
She tried to disengage her hand, but might as well have tried to
free herself from the embrace of an affectionate boa-constrictor; if
anything so wily may be brought into comparison with Pecksniff.
'Although I am a widower,' said Mr Pecksniff, examining the rings
upon her fingers, and tracing the course of one delicate blue vein
with his fat thumb, 'a widower with two daughters, still I am not
encumbered, my love. One of them, as you know, is married. The
other, by her own desire, but with a view, I will confess--why not?
--to my altering my condition, is about to leave her father's house.
I have a character, I hope. People are pleased to speak well of me,
I think. My person and manner are not absolutely those of a
monster, I trust. Ah! naughty Hand!' said Mr Pecksniff,
apostrophizing the reluctant prize, 'why did you take me prisoner?
He slapped the hand to punish it; but relenting, folded it in his
waistcoat to comfort it again.
'Blessed in each other, and in the society of our venerable friend,
my darling,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'we shall be happy. When he is
wafted to a haven of rest, we will console each other. My pretty
primrose, what do you say?'
'It is possible,' Mary answered, in a hurried manner, 'that I ought
to feel grateful for this mark of your confidence. I cannot say
that I do, but I am willing to suppose you may deserve my thanks.
Take them; and pray leave me, Mr Pecksniff.'
The good man smiled a greasy smile; and drew her closer to him.
'Pray, pray release me, Mr Pecksniff. I cannot listen to your
proposal. I cannot receive it. There are many to whom it may be
acceptable, but it is not so to me. As an act of kindness and an
act of pity, leave me!'
Mr Pecksniff walked on with his arm round her waist, and her hand in
his, as contentedly as if they had been all in all to each other,
and were joined in the bonds of truest love.
'If you force me by your superior strength,' said Mary, who finding
that good words had not the least effect upon him, made no further
effort to suppress her indignation; 'if you force me by your
superior strength to accompany you back, and to be the subject of
your insolence upon the way, you cannot constrain the expression of
my thoughts. I hold you in the deepest abhorrence. I know your
real nature and despise it.'
'No, no,' said Mr Pecksniff, sweetly. 'No, no, no!'
'By what arts or unhappy chances you have gained your influence over
Mr Chuzzlewit, I do not know,' said Mary; 'it may be strong enough
to soften even this, but he shall know of this, trust me, sir.'
Mr Pecksniff raised his heavy eyelids languidly, and let them fall
again. It was saying with perfect coolness, 'Aye, aye! Indeed!'
'Is it not enough,' said Mary, 'that you warp and change his nature,
adapt his every prejudice to your bad ends, and harden a heart
naturally kind by shutting out the truth and allowing none but false
and distorted views to reach it; is it not enough that you have the
power of doing this, and that you exercise it, but must you also be
so coarse, so cruel, and so cowardly to me?'
Still Mr Pecksniff led her calmly on, and looked as mild as any lamb
that ever pastured in the fields.
'Will nothing move you, sir?' cried Mary.
'My dear,' observed Mr Pecksniff, with a placid leer, 'a habit of
self-examination, and the practice of--shall I say of virtue?'
'Of hypocrisy,' said Mary.
'No, no,' resumed Mr Pecksniff, chafing the captive hand
reproachfully, 'of virtue--have enabled me to set such guards upon
myself, that it is really difficult to ruffle me. It is a curious
fact, but it is difficult, do you know, for any one to ruffle me.
And did she think,' said Mr Pecksniff, with a playful tightening of
his grasp 'that SHE could! How little did she know his heart!'
Little, indeed! Her mind was so strangely constituted that she would
have preferred the caresses of a toad, an adder, or a serpent--nay,
the hug of a bear--to the endearments of Mr Pecksniff.
'Come, come,' said that good gentleman, 'a word or two will set this
matter right, and establish a pleasant understanding between us. I
am not angry, my love.'
'No,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'I am not. I say so. Neither are you.'
There was a beating heart beneath his hand that told another story
'I am sure you are not,' said Mr Pecksniff: 'and I will tell you
why. There are two Martin Chuzzlewits, my dear; and your carrying
your anger to one might have a serious effect--who knows!--upon the
other. You wouldn't wish to hurt him, would you?'
She trembled violently, and looked at him with such a proud disdain
that he turned his eyes away. No doubt lest he should be offended
with her in spite of his better self.
'A passive quarrel, my love,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'may be changed
into an active one, remember. It would be sad to blight even a
disinherited young man in his already blighted prospects; but how
easy to do it. Ah, how easy! HAVE I influence with our venerable
friend, do you think? Well, perhaps I have. Perhaps I have.'
He raised his eyes to hers; and nodded with an air of banter that
'No,' he continued, thoughtfully. 'Upon the whole, my sweet, if I
were you I'd keep my secret to myself. I am not at all sure--very
far from it--that it would surprise our friend in any way, for he
and I have had some conversation together only this morning, and he
is anxious, very anxious, to establish you in some more settled
manner. But whether he was surprised or not surprised, the
consequence of your imparting it might be the same. Martin junior
might suffer severely. I'd have compassion on Martin junior, do you
know?' said Mr Pecksniff, with a persuasive smile. 'Yes. He don't
deserve it, but I would.'
She wept so bitterly now, and was so much distressed, that he
thought it prudent to unclasp her waist, and hold her only by the
'As to our own share in the precious little mystery,' said Mr
Pecksniff, 'we will keep it to ourselves, and talk of it between
ourselves, and you shall think it over. You will consent, my love;
you will consent, I know. Whatever you may think; you will. I seem
to remember to have heard--I really don't know where, or how'--he
added, with bewitching frankness, 'that you and Martin junior, when
you were children, had a sort of childish fondness for each other.
When we are married, you shall have the satisfaction of thinking
that it didn't last to ruin him, but passed away to do him good; for
we'll see then what we can do to put some trifling help in Martin
junior's way. HAVE I any influence with our venerable friend?
Well! Perhaps I have. Perhaps I have.'
The outlet from the wood in which these tender passages occurred,
was close to Mr Pecksniff's house. They were now so near it that he
stopped, and holding up her little finger, said in playful accents,
as a parting fancy:
'Shall I bite it?'
Receiving no reply he kissed it instead; and then stooping down,
inclined his flabby face to hers--he had a flabby face, although he
WAS a good man--and with a blessing, which from such a source was
quite enough to set her up in life, and prosper her from that time
forth permitted her to leave him.
Gallantry in its true sense is supposed to ennoble and dignify a
man; and love has shed refinements on innumerable Cymons. But Mr
Pecksniff--perhaps because to one of his exalted nature these were
mere grossnesses--certainly did not appear to any unusual advantage,
now that he was left alone. On the contrary, he seemed to be shrunk
and reduced; to be trying to hide himself within himself; and to be
wretched at not having the power to do it. His shoes looked too
large; his sleeve looked too long; his hair looked too limp; his
features looked too mean; his exposed throat looked as if a halter
would have done it good. For a minute or two, in fact, he was hot,
and pale, and mean, and shy, and slinking, and consequently not at
all Pecksniffian. But after that, he recovered himself, and went
home with as beneficent an air as if he had been the High Priest of
the summer weather.
'I have arranged to go, Papa,' said Charity, 'to-morrow.'
'So soon, my child!'
'I can't go too soon,' said Charity, 'under the circumstances. I
have written to Mrs Todgers to propose an arrangement, and have
requested her to meet me at the coach, at all events. You'll be
quite your own master now, Mr Pinch!'
Mr Pecksniff had just gone out of the room, and Tom had just come
'My own master!' repeated Tom.
'Yes, you'll have nobody to interfere with you,' said Charity. 'At
least I hope you won't. Hem! It's a changing world.'
'What! are YOU going to be married, Miss Pecksniff?' asked Tom in
'Not exactly,' faltered Cherry. 'I haven't made up my mind to be.
I believe I could be, if I chose, Mr Pinch.'
'Of course you could!' said Tom. And he said it in perfect good
faith. He believed it from the bottom of his heart.
'No,' said Cherry, 'I am not going to be married. Nobody is, that I
know of. Hem! But I am not going to live with Papa. I have my
reasons, but it's all a secret. I shall always feel very kindly
towards you, I assure you, for the boldness you showed that night.
As to you and me, Mr Pinch, WE part the best friends possible!'
Tom thanked her for her confidence, and for her friendship, but
there was a mystery in the former which perfectly bewildered him.
In his extravagant devotion to the family, he had felt the loss of
Merry more than any one but those who knew that for all the slights
he underwent he thought his own demerits were to blame, could
possibly have understood. He had scarcely reconciled himself to
that when here was Charity about to leave them. She had grown up,
as it were, under Tom's eye. The sisters were a part of Pecksniff,
and a part of Tom; items in Pecksniff's goodness, and in Tom's
service. He couldn't bear it; not two hours' sleep had Tom that
night, through dwelling in his bed upon these dreadful changes.
When morning dawned he thought he must have dreamed this piece of
ambiguity; but no, on going downstairs he found them packing trunks
and cording boxes, and making other preparations for Miss Charity's
departure, which lasted all day long. In good time for the evening
coach, Miss Charity deposited her housekeeping keys with much
ceremony upon the parlour table; took a gracious leave of all the
house; and quitted her paternal roof--a blessing for which the
Pecksniffian servant was observed by some profane persons to be
particularly active in the thanksgiving at church next Sunday.
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
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
'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!'
'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.'
'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
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
'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
Tom triumphed very much in this discovery, and rubbed his hands with
'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
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
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
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
'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
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
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
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
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;
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
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,
'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
'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
Tom came. Constrained and altered in his manner, downcast and
dejected, visibly confused; not liking to look Pecksniff in the
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.
'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
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.
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
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
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,
'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
'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
'You've heerd of Mr Pecksniff down yonder?'
'And of his young man Mr Pinch, p'raps?'
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
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.
TREATS OF TODGER'S AGAIN; AND OF ANOTHER BLIGHTED PLANT BESIDES THE
PLANTS UPON THE LEADS
Early on the day next after that on which she bade adieu to the
halls of her youth and the scenes of her childhood, Miss Pecksniff,
arriving safely at the coach-office in London, was there received,
and conducted to her peaceful home beneath the shadow of the
Monument, by Mrs Todgers. M. Todgers looked a little worn by cares
of gravy and other such solicitudes arising out of her
establishment, but displayed her usual earnestness and warmth of
'And how, my sweet Miss Pecksniff,' said she, 'how is your princely
Miss Pecksniff signified (in confidence) that he contemplated the
introduction of a princely ma; and repeated the sentiment that she
wasn't blind, and wasn't quite a fool, and wouldn't bear it.
Mrs Todgers was more shocked by the intelligence than any one could
have expected. She was quite bitter. She said there was no truth
in man and that the warmer he expressed himself, as a general
principle, the falser and more treacherous he was. She foresaw with
astonishing clearness that the object of Mr Pecksniff's attachment
was designing, worthless, and wicked; and receiving from Charity the
fullest confirmation of these views, protested with tears in her
eyes that she loved Miss Pecksniff like a sister, and felt her
injuries as if they were her own.
'Your real darling sister, I have not seen her more than once since
her marriage,' said Mrs Todgers, 'and then I thought her looking
poorly. My sweet Miss Pecksniff, I always thought that you was to
be the lady?'
'Oh dear no!' cried Cherry, shaking her head. 'Oh no, Mrs Todgers.
Thank you. No! not for any consideration he could offer.'
'I dare say you are right,' said Mrs Todgers with a sigh. 'I feared
it all along. But the misery we have had from that match, here
among ourselves, in this house, my dear Miss Pecksniff, nobody would
'Lor, Mrs Todgers!'
'Awful, awful!' repeated Mrs Todgers, with strong emphasis. 'You
recollect our youngest gentleman, my dear?'
'Of course I do,' said Cherry.
'You might have observed,' said Mrs Todgers, 'how he used to watch
your sister; and that a kind of stony dumbness came over him
whenever she was in company?'
'I am sure I never saw anything of the sort,' said Cherry, in a
peevish manner. 'What nonsense, Mrs Todgers!'
'My dear,' returned that lady in a hollow voice, 'I have seen him
again and again, sitting over his pie at dinner, with his spoon a
perfect fixture in his mouth, looking at your sister. I have seen
him standing in a corner of our drawing-room, gazing at her, in such
a lonely, melancholy state, that he was more like a Pump than a man,
and might have drawed tears.'
'I never saw it!' cried Cherry; 'that's all I can say.'
'But when the marriage took place,' said Mrs Todgers, proceeding
with her subject, 'when it was in the paper, and was read out here
at breakfast, I thought he had taken leave of his senses, I did
indeed. The violence of that young man, my dear Miss Pecksniff; the
frightful opinions he expressed upon the subject of self-
destruction; the extraordinary actions he performed with his tea;
the clenching way in which he bit his bread and butter; the manner
in which he taunted Mr Jinkins; all combined to form a picture never
to be forgotten.'
'It's a pity he didn't destroy himself, I think,' observed Miss
'Himself!' said Mrs Todgers, 'it took another turn at night. He was
for destroying other people then. There was a little chaffing going
on--I hope you don't consider that a low expression, Miss Pecksniff;
it is always in our gentlemen's mouths--a little chaffing going on,
my dear, among 'em, all in good nature, when suddenly he rose up,
foaming with his fury, and but for being held by three would have
had Mr Jinkins's life with a bootjack.'
Miss Pecksniff's face expressed supreme indifference.
'And now,' said Mrs Todgers, 'now he is the meekest of men. You can
almost bring the tears into his eyes by looking at him. He sits
with me the whole day long on Sundays, talking in such a dismal way
that I find it next to impossible to keep my spirits up equal to the
accommodation of the boarders. His only comfort is in female
society. He takes me half-price to the play, to an extent which I
sometimes fear is beyond his means; and I see the tears a-standing
in his eyes during the whole performance--particularly if it is
anything of a comic nature. The turn I experienced only yesterday,'
said Mrs Todgers putting her hand to her side, 'when the house-maid
threw his bedside carpet out of the window of his room, while I was
sitting here, no one can imagine. I thought it was him, and that he
had done it at last!'
The contempt with which Miss Charity received this pathetic account
of the state to which the youngest gentleman in company was reduced,
did not say much for her power of sympathising with that unfortunate
character. She treated it with great levity, and went on to inform
herself, then and afterwards, whether any other changes had occurred
in the commercial boarding-house.
Mr Bailey was gone, and had been succeeded (such is the decay of
human greatness!) by an old woman whose name was reported to be
Tamaroo--which seemed an impossibility. Indeed it appeared in the
fullness of time that the jocular boarders had appropriated the word
from an English ballad, in which it is supposed to express the bold
and fiery nature of a certain hackney coachman; and that it was
bestowed upon Mr Bailey's successor by reason of her having nothing
fiery about her, except an occasional attack of that fire which is
called St. Anthony's. This ancient female had been engaged, in
fulfillment of a vow, registered by Mrs Todgers, that no more boys
should darken the commercial doors; and she was chiefly remarkable
for a total absence of all comprehension upon every subject
whatever. She was a perfect Tomb for messages and small parcels;
and when dispatched to the Post Office with letters, had been
frequently seen endeavouring to insinuate them into casual chinks in
private doors, under the delusion that any door with a hole in it
would answer the purpose. She was a very little old woman, and
always wore a very coarse apron with a bib before and a loop behind,
together with bandages on her wrists, which appeared to be afflicted
with an everlasting sprain. She was on all occasions chary of
opening the street door, and ardent to shut it again; and she waited
at table in a bonnet.
This was the only great change over and above the change which had
fallen on the youngest gentleman. As for him, he more than
corroborated the account of Mrs Todgers; possessing greater
sensibility than even she had given him credit for. He entertained
some terrible notions of Destiny, among other matters, and talked
much about people's 'Missions'; upon which he seemed to have some
private information not generally attainable, as he knew it had been
poor Merry's mission to crush him in the bud. He was very frail and
tearful; for being aware that a shepherd's mission was to pipe to
his flocks, and that a boatswain's mission was to pipe all hands,
and that one man's mission was to be a paid piper, and another man's
mission was to pay the piper, so he had got it into his head that
his own peculiar mission was to pipe his eye. Which he did
He often informed Mrs Todgers that the sun had set upon him; that
the billows had rolled over him; that the car of Juggernaut had
crushed him, and also that the deadly Upas tree of Java had blighted
him. His name was Moddle.
Towards this most unhappy Moddle, Miss Pecksniff conducted herself
at first with distant haughtiness, being in no humour to be
entertained with dirges in honour of her married sister. The poor
young gentleman was additionally crushed by this, and remonstrated
with Mrs Todgers on the subject.
'Even she turns from me, Mrs Todgers,' said Moddle.
'Then why don't you try and be a little bit more cheerful, sir?'
retorted Mrs Todgers.
'Cheerful, Mrs Todgers! cheerful!' cried the youngest gentleman;
'when she reminds me of days for ever fled, Mrs Todgers!'
'Then you had better avoid her for a short time, if she does,' said
Mrs Todgers, 'and come to know her again, by degrees. That's my
'But I can't avoid her,' replied Moddle, 'I haven't strength of mind
to do it. Oh, Mrs Todgers, if you knew what a comfort her nose is
'Her nose, sir!' Mrs Todgers cried.
'Her profile, in general,' said the youngest gentleman, 'but
particularly her nose. It's so like;' here he yielded to a burst of
grief. 'it's so like hers who is Another's, Mrs Todgers!'
The observant matron did not fail to report this conversation to
Charity, who laughed at the time, but treated Mr Moddle that very
evening with increased consideration, and presented her side face to
him as much as possible. Mr Moddle was not less sentimental than
usual; was rather more so, if anything; but he sat and stared at her
with glistening eyes, and seemed grateful.
'Well, sir!' said the lady of the Boarding-House next day. 'You
held up your head last night. You're coming round, I think.'
'Only because she's so like her who is Another's, Mrs Todgers,'
rejoined the youth. 'When she talks, and when she smiles, I think
I'm looking on HER brow again, Mrs Todgers.'
This was likewise carried to Charity, who talked and smiled next
evening in her most engaging manner, and rallying Mr Moddle on the
lowness of his spirits, challenged him to play a rubber at cribbage.
Mr Moddle taking up the gauntlet, they played several rubbers for
sixpences, and Charity won them all. This may have been partially
attributable to the gallantry of the youngest gentleman, but it was
certainly referable to the state of his feelings also; for his eyes
being frequently dimmed by tears, he thought that aces were tens,
and knaves queens, which at times occasioned some confusion in his
On the seventh night of cribbage, when Mrs Todgers, sitting by,
proposed that instead of gambling they should play for 'love,' Mr
Moddle was seen to change colour. On the fourteenth night, he
kissed Miss Pecksniff's snuffers, in the passage, when she went
upstairs to bed; meaning to have kissed her hand, but missing it.
In short, Mr Moddle began to be impressed with the idea that Miss
Pecksniff's mission was to comfort him; and Miss Pecksniff began to
speculate on the probability of its being her mission to become
ultimately Mrs Moddle. He was a young gentleman (Miss Pecksniff was
not a very young lady) with rising prospects, and 'almost' enough to
live on. Really it looked very well.
Besides--besides--he had been regarded as devoted to Merry. Merry
had joked about him, and had once spoken of it to her sister as a
conquest. He was better looking, better shaped, better spoken,
better tempered, better mannered than Jonas. He was easy to manage,
could be made to consult the humours of his Betrothed, and could be
shown off like a lamb when Jonas was a bear. There was the rub!
In the meantime the cribbage went on, and Mrs Todgers went off; for
the youngest gentleman, dropping her society, began to take Miss
Pecksniff to the play. He also began, as Mrs Todgers said, to slip
home 'in his dinner-times,' and to get away from 'the office' at
unholy seasons; and twice, as he informed Mrs Todgers himself, he
received anonymous letters, enclosing cards from Furniture
Warehouses--clearly the act of that ungentlemanly ruffian Jinkins;
only he hadn't evidence enough to call him out upon. All of which,
so Mrs Todgers told Miss Pecksniff, spoke as plain English as the
'My dear Miss Pecksniff, you may depend upon it,' said Mrs Todgers,
'that he is burning to propose.'
'My goodness me, why don't he then?' cried Cherry.
'Men are so much more timid than we think 'em, my dear,' returned
Mrs Todgers. 'They baulk themselves continually. I saw the words
on Todgers's lips for months and months and months, before he said
Miss Pecksniff submitted that Todgers might not have been a fair
'Oh yes, he was. Oh bless you, yes, my dear. I was very particular
in those days, I assure you,' said Mrs Todgers, bridling. 'No, no.
You give Mr Moddle a little encouragement, Miss Pecksniff, if you
wish him to speak; and he'll speak fast enough, depend upon it.'
'I am sure I don't know what encouragement he would have, Mrs
Todgers,' returned Charity. 'He walks with me, and plays cards with
me, and he comes and sits alone with me.'
'Quite right,' said Mrs Todgers. 'That's indispensable, my dear.'
'And he sits very close to me.'
'Also quite correct,' said Mrs Todgers.
'And he looks at me.'
'To be sure he does,' said Mrs Todgers.
'And he has his arm upon the back of the chair or sofa, or whatever
it is--behind me, you know.'
'I should think so,' said Mrs Todgers.
'And then he begins to cry!'
Mrs Todgers admitted that he might do better than that; and might
undoubtedly profit by the recollection of the great Lord Nelson's
signal at the battle of Trafalgar. Still, she said, he would come
round, or, not to mince the matter, would be brought round, if Miss
Pecksniff took up a decided position, and plainly showed him that it
must be done.
Determining to regulate her conduct by this opinion, the young lady
received Mr Moddle, on the earliest subsequent occasion, with an air
of constraint; and gradually leading him to inquire, in a dejected
manner, why she was so changed, confessed to him that she felt it
necessary for their mutual peace and happiness to take a decided
step. They had been much together lately, she observed, much
together, and had tasted the sweets of a genuine reciprocity of
sentiment. She never could forget him, nor could she ever cease to
think of him with feelings of the liveliest friendship, but people
had begun to talk, the thing had been observed, and it was necessary
that they should be nothing more to each other, than any gentleman
and lady in society usually are. She was glad she had had the
resolution to say thus much before her feelings had been tried too
far; they had been greatly tried, she would admit; but though she
was weak and silly, she would soon get the better of it, she hoped.
Moddle, who had by this time become in the last degree maudlin, and
wept abundantly, inferred from the foregoing avowal, that it was his
mission to communicate to others the blight which had fallen on
himself; and that, being a kind of unintentional Vampire, he had had
Miss Pecksniff assigned to him by the Fates, as Victim Number One.
Miss Pecksniff controverting this opinion as sinful, Moddle was
goaded on to ask whether she could be contented with a blighted
heart; and it appearing on further examination that she could be,
plighted his dismal troth, which was accepted and returned.