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CONTAINING STRANGE MATTER, ON WHICH MANY EVENTS IN THIS HISTORY MAY, FOR
THEIR GOOD OR EVIL INFLUENCE, CHIEFLY DEPEND
But Mr Pecksniff came to town on business. Had he forgotten that? Was he
always taking his pleasure with Todgers's jovial brood, unmindful of the
serious demands, whatever they might be, upon his calm consideration?
Time and tide will wait for no man, saith the adage. But all men have to
wait for time and tide. That tide which, taken at the flood, would lead
Seth Pecksniff on to fortune, was marked down in the table, and about to
flow. No idle Pecksniff lingered far inland, unmindful of the changes
of the stream; but there, upon the water's edge, over his shoes already,
stood the worthy creature, prepared to wallow in the very mud, so that
it slid towards the quarter of his hope.
The trustfulness of his two fair daughters was beautiful indeed. They
had that firm reliance on their parent's nature, which taught them to
feel certain that in all he did he had his purpose straight and full
before him. And that its noble end and object was himself, which almost
of necessity included them, they knew. The devotion of these maids was
Their filial confidence was rendered the more touching, by their having
no knowledge of their parent's real designs, in the present instance.
All that they knew of his proceedings was, that every morning, after
the early breakfast, he repaired to the post office and inquired for
letters. That task performed, his business for the day was over; and he
again relaxed, until the rising of another sun proclaimed the advent of
This went on for four or five days. At length, one morning, Mr Pecksniff
returned with a breathless rapidity, strange to observe in him, at other
times so calm; and, seeking immediate speech with his daughters, shut
himself up with them in private conference for two whole hours. Of all
that passed in this period, only the following words of Mr Pecksniff's
utterance are known:
'How he has come to change so very much (if it should turn out as I
expect, that he has), we needn't stop to inquire. My dears, I have my
thoughts upon the subject, but I will not impart them. It is enough
that we will not be proud, resentful, or unforgiving. If he wants our
friendship he shall have it. We know our duty, I hope!'
That same day at noon, an old gentleman alighted from a hackney-coach at
the post-office, and, giving his name, inquired for a letter addressed
to himself, and directed to be left till called for. It had been lying
there some days. The superscription was in Mr Pecksniff's hand, and it
was sealed with Mr Pecksniff's seal.
It was very short, containing indeed nothing more than an address
'with Mr Pecksniff's respectful, and (not withstanding what has
passed) sincerely affectionate regards.' The old gentleman tore off the
direction--scattering the rest in fragments to the winds--and giving
it to the coachman, bade him drive as near that place as he could. In
pursuance of these instructions he was driven to the Monument; where he
again alighted, and dismissed the vehicle, and walked towards Todgers's.
Though the face, and form, and gait of this old man, and even his
grip of the stout stick on which he leaned, were all expressive of a
resolution not easily shaken, and a purpose (it matters little whether
right or wrong, just now) such as in other days might have survived
the rack, and had its strongest life in weakest death; still there were
grains of hesitation in his mind, which made him now avoid the house he
sought, and loiter to and fro in a gleam of sunlight, that brightened
the little churchyard hard by. There may have been, in the presence of
those idle heaps of dust among the busiest stir of life, something to
increase his wavering; but there he walked, awakening the echoes as he
paced up and down, until the church clock, striking the quarters for
the second time since he had been there, roused him from his meditation.
Shaking off his incertitude as the air parted with the sound of the
bells, he walked rapidly to the house, and knocked at the door.
Mr Pecksniff was seated in the landlady's little room, and his visitor
found him reading--by an accident; he apologised for it--an excellent
theological work. There were cake and wine upon a little table--by
another accident, for which he also apologised. Indeed he said, he
had given his visitor up, and was about to partake of that simple
refreshment with his children, when he knocked at the door.
'Your daughters are well?' said old Martin, laying down his hat and
Mr Pecksniff endeavoured to conceal his agitation as a father when he
answered Yes, they were. They were good girls, he said, very good. He
would not venture to recommend Mr Chuzzlewit to take the easy-chair,
or to keep out of the draught from the door. If he made any such
suggestion, he would expose himself, he feared, to most unjust
suspicion. He would, therefore, content himself with remarking that
there was an easy-chair in the room, and that the door was far from
being air-tight. This latter imperfection, he might perhaps venture to
add, was not uncommonly to be met with in old houses.
The old man sat down in the easy-chair, and after a few moments'
'In the first place, let me thank you for coming to London so promptly,
at my almost unexplained request; I need scarcely add, at my cost.'
'At YOUR cost, my good sir!' cried Mr Pecksniff, in a tone of great
'It is not,' said Martin, waving his hand impatiently, 'my habit to put
my--well! my relatives--to any personal expense to gratify my caprices.'
'Caprices, my good sir!' cried Mr Pecksniff
'That is scarcely the proper word either, in this instance,' said the
old man. 'No. You are right.'
Mr Pecksniff was inwardly very much relieved to hear it, though he
didn't at all know why.
'You are right,' repeated Martin. 'It is not a caprice. It is built up
on reason, proof, and cool comparison. Caprices never are. Moreover, I
am not a capricious man. I never was.'
'Most assuredly not,' said Mr Pecksniff.
'How do you know?' returned the other quickly. 'You are to begin to know
it now. You are to test and prove it, in time to come. You and yours are
to find that I can be constant, and am not to be diverted from my end.
Do you hear?'
'Perfectly,' said Mr Pecksniff.
'I very much regret,' Martin resumed, looking steadily at him, and
speaking in a slow and measured tone; 'I very much regret that you and
I held such a conversation together, as that which passed between us at
our last meeting. I very much regret that I laid open to you what were
then my thoughts of you, so freely as I did. The intentions that I bear
towards you now are of another kind; deserted by all in whom I have ever
trusted; hoodwinked and beset by all who should help and sustain me;
I fly to you for refuge. I confide in you to be my ally; to attach
yourself to me by ties of Interest and Expectation'--he laid great
stress upon these words, though Mr Pecksniff particularly begged him
not to mention it; 'and to help me to visit the consequences of the very
worst species of meanness, dissimulation, and subtlety, on the right
'My noble sir!' cried Mr Pecksniff, catching at his outstretched hand.
'And YOU regret the having harboured unjust thoughts of me! YOU with
those grey hairs!'
'Regrets,' said Martin, 'are the natural property of grey hairs; and
I enjoy, in common with all other men, at least my share of such
inheritance. And so enough of that. I regret having been severed from
you so long. If I had known you sooner, and sooner used you as you well
deserve, I might have been a happier man.'
Mr Pecksniff looked up to the ceiling, and clasped his hands in rapture.
'Your daughters,' said Martin, after a short silence. 'I don't know
them. Are they like you?'
'In the nose of my eldest and the chin of my youngest, Mr Chuzzlewit,'
returned the widower, 'their sainted parent (not myself, their mother)
'I don't mean in person,' said the old man. 'Morally, morally.'
''Tis not for me to say,' retorted Mr Pecksniff with a gentle smile. 'I
have done my best, sir.'
'I could wish to see them,' said Martin; 'are they near at hand?'
They were, very near; for they had in fact been listening at the
door from the beginning of this conversation until now, when they
precipitately retired. Having wiped the signs of weakness from his eyes,
and so given them time to get upstairs, Mr Pecksniff opened the door,
and mildly cried in the passage,
'My own darlings, where are you?'
'Here, my dear pa!' replied the distant voice of Charity.
'Come down into the back parlour, if you please, my love,' said Mr
Pecksniff, 'and bring your sister with you.'
'Yes, my dear pa,' cried Merry; and down they came directly (being all
obedience), singing as they came.
Nothing could exceed the astonishment of the two Miss Pecksniffs when
they found a stranger with their dear papa. Nothing could surpass their
mute amazement when he said, 'My children, Mr Chuzzlewit!' But when he
told them that Mr Chuzzlewit and he were friends, and that Mr Chuzzlewit
had said such kind and tender words as pierced his very heart, the two
Miss Pecksniffs cried with one accord, 'Thank Heaven for this!' and
fell upon the old man's neck. And when they had embraced him with
such fervour of affection that no words can describe it, they grouped
themselves about his chair, and hung over him, as figuring to themselves
no earthly joy like that of ministering to his wants, and crowding into
the remainder of his life, the love they would have diffused over their
whole existence, from infancy, if he--dear obdurate!--had but consented
to receive the precious offering.
The old man looked attentively from one to the other, and then at Mr
Pecksniff, several times.
'What,' he asked of Mr Pecksniff, happening to catch his eye in its
descent; for until now it had been piously upraised, with something of
that expression which the poetry of ages has attributed to a domestic
bird, when breathing its last amid the ravages of an electric storm:
'What are their names?'
Mr Pecksniff told him, and added, rather hastily; his caluminators
would have said, with a view to any testamentary thoughts that might be
flitting through old Martin's mind; 'Perhaps, my dears, you had better
write them down. Your humble autographs are of no value in themselves,
but affection may prize them.'
'Affection,' said the old man, 'will expend itself on the living
originals. Do not trouble yourselves, my girls, I shall not so easily
forget you, Charity and Mercy, as to need such tokens of remembrance.
'Sir!' said Mr Pecksniff, with alacrity.
'Do you never sit down?'
'Why--yes--occasionally, sir,' said Mr Pecksniff, who had been standing
all this time.
'Will you do so now?'
'Can you ask me,' returned Mr Pecksniff, slipping into a chair
immediately, 'whether I will do anything that you desire?'
'You talk confidently,' said Martin, 'and you mean well; but I fear you
don't know what an old man's humours are. You don't know what it is to
be required to court his likings and dislikings; to adapt yourself to
his prejudices; to do his bidding, be it what it may; to bear with his
distrusts and jealousies; and always still be zealous in his service.
When I remember how numerous these failings are in me, and judge of
their occasional enormity by the injurious thoughts I lately entertained
of you, I hardly dare to claim you for my friend.'
'My worthy sir,' returned his relative, 'how CAN you talk in such a
painful strain! What was more natural than that you should make one
slight mistake, when in all other respects you were so very correct, and
have had such reason--such very sad and undeniable reason--to judge of
every one about you in the worst light!'
'True,' replied the other. 'You are very lenient with me.'
'We always said, my girls and I,' cried Mr Pecksniff with increasing
obsequiousness, 'that while we mourned the heaviness of our misfortune
in being confounded with the base and mercenary, still we could not
wonder at it. My dears, you remember?'
Oh vividly! A thousand times!
'We uttered no complaint,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'Occasionally we had the
presumption to console ourselves with the remark that Truth would in
the end prevail, and Virtue be triumphant; but not often. My loves, you
Recollect! Could he doubt it! Dearest pa, what strange unnecessary
'And when I saw you,' resumed Mr Pecksniff, with still greater
deference, 'in the little, unassuming village where we take the liberty
of dwelling, I said you were mistaken in me, my dear sir; that was all,
'No--not all,' said Martin, who had been sitting with his hand upon his
brow for some time past, and now looked up again; 'you said much more,
which, added to other circumstances that have come to my knowledge,
opened my eyes. You spoke to me, disinterestedly, on behalf of--I
needn't name him. You know whom I mean.'
Trouble was expressed in Mr Pecksniff's visage, as he pressed his hot
hands together, and replied, with humility, 'Quite disinterestedly, sir,
I assure you.'
'I know it,' said old Martin, in his quiet way. 'I am sure of it. I said
so. It was disinterested too, in you, to draw that herd of harpies
off from me, and be their victim yourself; most other men would have
suffered them to display themselves in all their rapacity, and would
have striven to rise, by contrast, in my estimation. You felt for me,
and drew them off, for which I owe you many thanks. Although I left the
place, I know what passed behind my back, you see!'
'You amaze me, sir!' cried Mr Pecksniff; which was true enough.
'My knowledge of your proceedings,' said the old man, does not stop at
this. You have a new inmate in your house.'
'Yes, sir,' rejoined the architect, 'I have.'
'He must quit it' said Martin.
'For--for yours?' asked Mr Pecksniff, with a quavering mildness.
'For any shelter he can find,' the old man answered. 'He has deceived
'I hope not' said Mr Pecksniff, eagerly. 'I trust not. I have been
extremely well disposed towards that young man. I hope it cannot be
shown that he has forfeited all claim to my protection. Deceit--deceit,
my dear Mr Chuzzlewit, would be final. I should hold myself bound, on
proof of deceit, to renounce him instantly.'
The old man glanced at both his fair supporters, but especially at
Miss Mercy, whom, indeed, he looked full in the face, with a greater
demonstration of interest than had yet appeared in his features. His
gaze again encountered Mr Pecksniff, as he said, composedly:
'Of course you know that he has made his matrimonial choice?'
'Oh dear!' cried Mr Pecksniff, rubbing his hair up very stiff upon
his head, and staring wildly at his daughters. 'This is becoming
'You know the fact?' repeated Martin
'Surely not without his grandfather's consent and approbation my dear
sir!' cried Mr Pecksniff. 'Don't tell me that. For the honour of human
nature, say you're not about to tell me that!'
'I thought he had suppressed it,' said the old man.
The indignation felt by Mr Pecksniff at this terrible disclosure, was
only to be equalled by the kindling anger of his daughters. What! Had
they taken to their hearth and home a secretly contracted serpent; a
crocodile, who had made a furtive offer of his hand; an imposition on
society; a bankrupt bachelor with no effects, trading with the spinster
world on false pretences! And oh, to think that he should have disobeyed
and practised on that sweet, that venerable gentleman, whose name
he bore; that kind and tender guardian; his more than father--to say
nothing at all of mother--horrible, horrible! To turn him out with
ignominy would be treatment much too good. Was there nothing else that
could be done to him? Had he incurred no legal pains and penalties?
Could it be that the statutes of the land were so remiss as to have
affixed no punishment to such delinquency? Monster; how basely had they
'I am glad to find you second me so warmly,' said the old man holding up
his hand to stay the torrent of their wrath. 'I will not deny that it
is a pleasure to me to find you so full of zeal. We will consider that
topic as disposed of.'
'No, my dear sir,' cried Mr Pecksniff, 'not as disposed of, until I have
purged my house of this pollution.'
'That will follow,' said the old man, 'in its own time. I look upon that
'You are very good, sir,' answered Mr Pecksniff, shaking his hand. 'You
do me honour. You MAY look upon it as done, I assure you.'
'There is another topic,' said Martin, 'on which I hope you will assist
me. You remember Mary, cousin?'
'The young lady that I mentioned to you, my dears, as having interested
me so very much,' remarked Mr Pecksniff. 'Excuse my interrupting you,
'I told you her history?' said the old man.
'Which I also mentioned, you will recollect, my dears,' cried Mr
Pecksniff. 'Silly girls, Mr Chuzzlewit--quite moved by it, they were!'
'Why, look now!' said Martin, evidently pleased; 'I feared I should have
had to urge her case upon you, and ask you to regard her favourably for
my sake. But I find you have no jealousies! Well! You have no cause
for any, to be sure. She has nothing to gain from me, my dears, and she
The two Miss Pecksniffs murmured their approval of this wise
arrangement, and their cordial sympathy with its interesting object.
'If I could have anticipated what has come to pass between us four,'
said the old man thoughfully; 'but it is too late to think of that. You
would receive her courteously, young ladies, and be kind to her, if need
Where was the orphan whom the two Miss Pecksniffs would not have
cherished in their sisterly bosom! But when that orphan was commended to
their care by one on whom the dammed-up love of years was gushing forth,
what exhaustless stores of pure affection yearned to expend themselves
An interval ensued, during which Mr Chuzzlewit, in an absent frame of
mind, sat gazing at the ground, without uttering a word; and as it was
plain that he had no desire to be interrupted in his meditations, Mr
Pecksniff and his daughters were profoundly silent also. During the
whole of the foregoing dialogue, he had borne his part with a cold,
passionless promptitude, as though he had learned and painfully
rehearsed it all a hundred times. Even when his expressions were warmest
and his language most encouraging, he had retained the same manner,
without the least abatement. But now there was a keener brightness in
his eye, and more expression in his voice, as he said, awakening from
his thoughtful mood:
'You know what will be said of this? Have you reflected?'
'Said of what, my dear sir?' Mr Pecksniff asked.
'Of this new understanding between us.'
Mr Pecksniff looked benevolently sagacious, and at the same time far
above all earthly misconstruction, as he shook his head, and observed
that a great many things would be said of it, no doubt.
'A great many,' rejoined the old man. 'Some will say that I dote in my
old age; that illness has shaken me; that I have lost all strength of
mind, and have grown childish. You can bear that?'
Mr Pecksniff answered that it would be dreadfully hard to bear, but he
thought he could, if he made a great effort.
'Others will say--I speak of disappointed, angry people only--that you
have lied and fawned, and wormed yourself through dirty ways into my
favour; by such concessions and such crooked deeds, such meannesses and
vile endurances, as nothing could repay; no, not the legacy of half the
world we live in. You can bear that?'
Mr Pecksniff made reply that this would be also very hard to bear, as
reflecting, in some degree, on the discernment of Mr Chuzzlewit. Still
he had a modest confidence that he could sustain the calumny, with the
help of a good conscience, and that gentleman's friendship.
'With the great mass of slanderers,' said old Martin, leaning back in
his chair, 'the tale, as I clearly foresee, will run thus: That to mark
my contempt for the rabble whom I despised, I chose from among them the
very worst, and made him do my will, and pampered and enriched him at
the cost of all the rest. That, after casting about for the means of a
punishment which should rankle in the bosoms of these kites the most,
and strike into their gall, I devised this scheme at a time when the
last link in the chain of grateful love and duty, that held me to
my race, was roughly snapped asunder; roughly, for I loved him well;
roughly, for I had ever put my trust in his affection; roughly, for that
he broke it when I loved him most--God help me!--and he without a pang
could throw me off, while I clung about his heart! Now,' said the old
man, dismissing this passionate outburst as suddenly as he had yielded
to it, 'is your mind made up to bear this likewise? Lay your account
with having it to bear, and put no trust in being set right by me.'
'My dear Mr Chuzzlewit,' cried Pecksniff in an ecstasy, 'for such a man
as you have shown yourself to be this day; for a man so injured, yet so
very humane; for a man so--I am at a loss what precise term to use--yet
at the same time so remarkably--I don't know how to express my meaning;
for such a man as I have described, I hope it is no presumption to say
that I, and I am sure I may add my children also (my dears, we perfectly
agree in this, I think?), would bear anything whatever!'
'Enough,' said Martin. 'You can charge no consequences on me. When do
you retire home?'
'Whenever you please, my dear sir. To-night if you desire it.'
'I desire nothing,' returned the old man, 'that is unreasonable. Such a
request would be. Will you be ready to return at the end of this week?'
The very time of all others that Mr Pecksniff would have suggested if
it had been left to him to make his own choice. As to his daughters--the
words, 'Let us be at home on Saturday, dear pa,' were actually upon
'Your expenses, cousin,' said Martin, taking a folded slip of paper from
his pocketbook, 'may possibly exceed that amount. If so, let me know the
balance that I owe you, when we next meet. It would be useless if I told
you where I live just now; indeed, I have no fixed abode. When I have,
you shall know it. You and your daughters may expect to see me
before long; in the meantime I need not tell you that we keep our own
confidence. What you will do when you get home is understood between us.
Give me no account of it at any time; and never refer to it in any way.
I ask that as a favour. I am commonly a man of few words, cousin; and
all that need be said just now is said, I think.'
'One glass of wine--one morsel of this homely cake?' cried Mr Pecksniff,
venturing to detain him. 'My dears--!'
The sisters flew to wait upon him.
'Poor girls!' said Mr Pecksniff. 'You will excuse their agitation, my
dear sir. They are made up of feeling. A bad commodity to go through the
world with, Mr Chuzzlewit! My youngest daughter is almost as much of a
woman as my eldest, is she not, sir?'
'Which IS the youngest?' asked the old man.
'Mercy, by five years,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'We sometimes venture to
consider her rather a fine figure, sir. Speaking as an artist, I
may perhaps be permitted to suggest that its outline is graceful and
correct. I am naturally,' said Mr Pecksniff, drying his hands upon his
handkerchief, and looking anxiously in his cousin's face at almost every
word, 'proud, if I may use the expression, to have a daughter who is
constructed on the best models.'
'She seems to have a lively disposition,' observed Martin.
'Dear me!' said Mr Pecksniff. 'That is quite remarkable. You have
defined her character, my dear sir, as correctly as if you had known her
from her birth. She HAS a lively disposition. I assure you, my dear sir,
that in our unpretending home her gaiety is delightful.'
'No doubt,' returned the old man.
'Charity, upon the other hand,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'is remarkable for
strong sense, and for rather a deep tone of sentiment, if the partiality
of a father may be excused in saying so. A wonderful affection between
them, my dear sir! Allow me to drink your health. Bless you!'
'I little thought,' retorted Martin, 'but a month ago, that I should be
breaking bread and pouring wine with you. I drink to you.'
Not at all abashed by the extraordinary abruptness with which these
latter words were spoken, Mr Pecksniff thanked him devoutly.
'Now let me go,' said Martin, putting down the wine when he had merely
touched it with his lips. 'My dears, good morning!'
But this distant form of farewell was by no means tender enough for the
yearnings of the young ladies, who again embraced him with all their
hearts--with all their arms at any rate--to which parting caresses their
new-found friend submitted with a better grace than might have been
expected from one who, not a moment before, had pledged their parent in
such a very uncomfortable manner. These endearments terminated, he took
a hasty leave of Mr Pecksniff and withdrew, followed to the door by both
father and daughters, who stood there kissing their hands and beaming
with affection until he disappeared; though, by the way, he never once
looked back, after he had crossed the threshold.
When they returned into the house, and were again alone in Mrs Todgers's
room, the two young ladies exhibited an unusual amount of gaiety;
insomuch that they clapped their hands, and laughed, and looked with
roguish aspects and a bantering air upon their dear papa. This conduct
was so very unaccountable, that Mr Pecksniff (being singularly grave
himself) could scarcely choose but ask them what it meant; and took them
to task, in his gentle manner, for yielding to such light emotions.
'If it was possible to divine any cause for this merriment, even the
most remote,' he said, 'I should not reprove you. But when you can have
none whatever--oh, really, really!'
This admonition had so little effect on Mercy, that she was obliged to
hold her handkerchief before her rosy lips, and to throw herself back in
her chair, with every demonstration of extreme amusement; which want
of duty so offended Mr Pecksniff that he reproved her in set terms,
and gave her his parental advice to correct herself in solitude and
contemplation. But at that juncture they were disturbed by the sound of
voices in dispute; and as it proceeded from the next room, the subject
matter of the altercation quickly reached their ears.
'I don't care that! Mrs Todgers,' said the young gentleman who had been
the youngest gentleman in company on the day of the festival; 'I don't
care THAT, ma'am,' said he, snapping his fingers, 'for Jinkins. Don't
suppose I do.'
'I am quite certain you don't, sir,' replied Mrs Todgers. 'You have
too independent a spirit, I know, to yield to anybody. And quite right.
There is no reason why you should give way to any gentleman. Everybody
must be well aware of that.'
'I should think no more of admitting daylight into the fellow,' said the
youngest gentleman, in a desperate voice, 'than if he was a bulldog.'
Mrs Todgers did not stop to inquire whether, as a matter of principle,
there was any particular reason for admitting daylight even into a
bulldog, otherwise than by the natural channel of his eyes, but she
seemed to wring her hands, and she moaned.
'Let him be careful,' said the youngest gentleman. 'I give him warning.
No man shall step between me and the current of my vengeance. I know
a Cove--' he used that familiar epithet in his agitation but corrected
himself by adding, 'a gentleman of property, I mean--who practices with
a pair of pistols (fellows too) of his own. If I am driven to borrow
'em, and to send at friend to Jinkins, a tragedy will get into the
papers. That's all.'
Again Mrs Todgers moaned.
'I have borne this long enough,' said the youngest gentleman but now
my soul rebels against it, and I won't stand it any longer. I left home
originally, because I had that within me which wouldn't be domineered
over by a sister; and do you think I'm going to be put down by HIM? No.'
'It is very wrong in Mr Jinkins; I know it is perfectly inexcusable in
Mr Jinkins, if he intends it,' observed Mrs Todgers
'If he intends it!' cried the youngest gentleman. 'Don't he interrupt
and contradict me on every occasion? Does he ever fail to interpose
himself between me and anything or anybody that he sees I have set my
mind upon? Does he make a point of always pretending to forget me,
when he's pouring out the beer? Does he make bragging remarks about his
razors, and insulting allusions to people who have no necessity to shave
more than once a week? But let him look out! He'll find himself shaved,
pretty close, before long, and so I tell him.'
The young gentleman was mistaken in this closing sentence, inasmuch as
he never told it to Jinkins, but always to Mrs Todgers.
'However,' he said, 'these are not proper subjects for ladies' ears.
All I've got to say to you, Mrs Todgers, is, a week's notice from next
Saturday. The same house can't contain that miscreant and me any longer.
If we get over the intermediate time without bloodshed, you may think
yourself pretty fortunate. I don't myself expect we shall.'
'Dear, dear!' cried Mrs Todgers, 'what would I have given to have
prevented this? To lose you, sir, would be like losing the house's
right-hand. So popular as you are among the gentlemen; so generally
looked up to; and so much liked! I do hope you'll think better of it; if
on nobody else's account, on mine.'
'There's Jinkins,' said the youngest gentleman, moodily. 'Your
favourite. He'll console you, and the gentlemen too, for the loss of
twenty such as me. I'm not understood in this house. I never have been.'
'Don't run away with that opinion, sir!' cried Mrs Todgers, with a show
of honest indignation. 'Don't make such a charge as that against the
establishment, I must beg of you. It is not so bad as that comes to,
sir. Make any remark you please against the gentlemen, or against me;
but don't say you're not understood in this house.'
'I'm not treated as if I was,' said the youngest gentleman.
'There you make a great mistake, sir,' returned Mrs Todgers, in the same
strain. 'As many of the gentlemen and I have often said, you are too
sensitive. That's where it is. You are of too susceptible a nature; it's
in your spirit.'
The young gentleman coughed.
'And as,' said Mrs Todgers, 'as to Mr Jinkins, I must beg of you, if we
ARE to part, to understand that I don't abet Mr Jinkins by any means.
Far from it. I could wish that Mr Jinkins would take a lower tone in
this establishment, and would not be the means of raising differences
between me and gentlemen that I can much less bear to part with than I
could with Mr Jinkins. Mr Jinkins is not such a boarder, sir,' added Mrs
Todgers, 'that all considerations of private feeling and respect give
way before him. Quite the contrary, I assure you.'
The young gentleman was so much mollified by these and similar speeches
on the part of Mrs Todgers, that he and that lady gradually changed
positions; so that she became the injured party, and he was understood
to be the injurer; but in a complimentary, not in an offensive sense;
his cruel conduct being attributable to his exalted nature, and to that
alone. So, in the end, the young gentleman withdrew his notice, and
assured Mrs Todgers of his unalterable regard; and having done so, went
back to business.
'Goodness me, Miss Pecksniffs!' cried that lady, as she came into the
back room, and sat wearily down, with her basket on her knees, and her
hands folded upon it, 'what a trial of temper it is to keep a house like
this! You must have heard most of what has just passed. Now did you ever
hear the like?'
'Never!' said the two Miss Pecksniffs.
'Of all the ridiculous young fellows that ever I had to deal with,'
resumed Mrs Todgers, 'that is the most ridiculous and unreasonable. Mr
Jinkins is hard upon him sometimes, but not half as hard as he deserves.
To mention such a gentleman as Mr Jinkins in the same breath with
HIM--you know it's too much! And yet he's as jealous of him, bless you,
as if he was his equal.'
The young ladies were greatly entertained by Mrs Todgers's account,
no less than with certain anecdotes illustrative of the youngest
gentleman's character, which she went on to tell them. But Mr Pecksniff
looked quite stern and angry; and when she had concluded, said in a
'Pray, Mrs Todgers, if I may inquire, what does that young gentleman
contribute towards the support of these premises?'
'Why, sir, for what HE has, he pays about eighteen shillings a week!'
said Mrs Todgers.
'Eighteen shillings a week!' repeated Mr Pecksniff.
'Taking one week with another; as near that as possible,' said Mrs
Mr Pecksniff rose from his chair, folded his arms, looked at her, and
shook his head.
'And do you mean to say, ma'am--is it possible, Mrs Todgers--that for
such a miserable consideration as eighteen shillings a week, a female of
your understanding can so far demean herself as to wear a double face,
even for an instant?'
'I am forced to keep things on the square if I can, sir,' faltered
Mrs Todgers. 'I must preserve peace among them, and keep my connection
together, if possible, Mr Pecksniff. The profit is very small.'
'The profit!' cried that gentleman, laying great stress upon the word.
'The profit, Mrs Todgers! You amaze me!'
He was so severe, that Mrs Todgers shed tears.
'The profit!' repeated Mr pecksniff. 'The profit of dissimulation! To
worship the golden calf of Baal, for eighteen shillings a week!'
'Don't in your own goodness be too hard upon me, Mr Pecksniff,' cried
Mrs Todgers, taking out her handkerchief.
'Oh Calf, Calf!' cried Mr Pecksniff mournfully. 'Oh, Baal, Baal! oh my
friend, Mrs Todgers! To barter away that precious jewel, self-esteem,
and cringe to any mortal creature--for eighteen shillings a week!'
He was so subdued and overcome by the reflection, that he immediately
took down his hat from its peg in the passage, and went out for a walk,
to compose his feelings. Anybody passing him in the street might have
known him for a good man at first sight; for his whole figure teemed
with a consciousness of the moral homily he had read to Mrs Todgers.
Eighteen shillings a week! Just, most just, thy censure, upright
Pecksniff! Had it been for the sake of a ribbon, star, or garter;
sleeves of lawn, a great man's smile, a seat in parliament, a tap upon
the shoulder from a courtly sword; a place, a party, or a thriving lie,
or eighteen thousand pounds, or even eighteen hundred;--but to worship
the golden calf for eighteen shillings a week! oh pitiful, pitiful!