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REPORTS PROGRESS IN CERTAIN HOMELY MATTERS OF LOVE, HATRED, JEALOUSY,
'Hallo, Pecksniff!' cried Mr Jonas from the parlour. 'Isn't somebody
a-going to open that precious old door of yours?'
'Immediately, Mr Jonas. Immediately.'
'Ecod,' muttered the orphan, 'not before it's time neither. Whoever it
is, has knocked three times, and each one loud enough to wake the--' he
had such a repugnance to the idea of waking the Dead, that he stopped
even then with the words upon his tongue, and said, instead, 'the Seven
'Immediately, Mr Jonas; immediately,' repeated Pecksniff. 'Thomas
Pinch'--he couldn't make up his mind, in his great agitation, whether to
call Tom his dear friend or a villain, so he shook his fist at him
PRO TEM--'go up to my daughters' room, and tell them who is here. Say,
Silence. Silence! Do you hear me, sir?
'Directly, sir!' cried Tom, departing, in a state of much amazement, on
'You'll--ha, ha, ha!--you'll excuse me, Mr Jonas, if I close this door
a moment, will you?' said Pecksniff. 'This may be a professional call.
Indeed I am pretty sure it is. Thank you.' Then Mr Pecksniff, gently
warbling a rustic stave, put on his garden hat, seized a spade, and
opened the street door; calmly appearing on the threshold, as if he
thought he had, from his vineyard, heard a modest rap, but was not quite
Seeing a gentleman and lady before him, he started back in as much
confusion as a good man with a crystal conscience might betray in mere
surprise. Recognition came upon him the next moment, and he cried:
'Mr Chuzzlewit! Can I believe my eyes! My dear sir; my good sir! A
joyful hour, a happy hour indeed. Pray, my dear sir, walk in. You find
me in my garden-dress. You will excuse it, I know. It is an ancient
pursuit, gardening. Primitive, my dear sir. Or, if I am not mistaken,
Adam was the first of our calling. MY Eve, I grieve to say is no more,
sir; but'--here he pointed to his spade, and shook his head as if he
were not cheerful without an effort--'but I do a little bit of Adam
He had by this time got them into the best parlour, where the portrait
by Spiller, and the bust by Spoker, were.
'My daughters,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'will be overjoyed. If I could feel
weary upon such a theme, I should have been worn out long ago, my dear
sir, by their constant anticipation of this happiness and their repeated
allusions to our meeting at Mrs Todgers's. Their fair young friend,
too,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'whom they so desire to know and love--indeed
to know her, is to love--I hope I see her well. I hope in saying,
"Welcome to my humble roof!" I find some echo in her own sentiments.
If features are an index to the heart, I have no fears of that. An
extremely engaging expression of countenance, Mr Chuzzlewit, my dear
sir--very much so!'
'Mary,' said the old man, 'Mr Pecksniff flatters you. But flattery from
him is worth the having. He is not a dealer in it, and it comes from his
heart. We thought Mr--'
'Pinch,' said Mary.
'Mr Pinch would have arrived before us, Pecksniff.'
'He did arrive before you, my dear sir,' retorted Pecksniff, raising his
voice for the edification of Tom upon the stairs, 'and was about, I dare
say, to tell me of your coming, when I begged him first to knock at my
daughters' chamber, and inquire after Charity, my dear child, who is not
so well as I could wish. No,' said Mr Pecksniff, answering their looks,
'I am sorry to say, she is not. It is merely an hysterical affection;
nothing more, I am not uneasy. Mr Pinch! Thomas!' exclaimed Pecksniff,
in his kindest accents. 'Pray come in. I shall make no stranger of you.
Thomas is a friend of mine, of rather long-standing, Mr Chuzzlewit, you
'Thank you, sir,' said Tom. 'You introduce me very kindly, and speak of
me in terms of which I am very proud.'
'Old Thomas!' cried his master, pleasantly 'God bless you!'
Tom reported that the young ladies would appear directly, and that
the best refreshments which the house afforded were even then in
preparation, under their joint superintendence. While he was speaking,
the old man looked at him intently, though with less harshness than was
common to him; nor did the mutual embarrassment of Tom and the
young lady, to whatever cause he attributed it, seem to escape his
'Pecksniff,' he said after a pause, rising and taking him aside towards
the window, 'I was much shocked on hearing of my brother's death. We
had been strangers for many years. My only comfort is that he must
have lived the happier and better man for having associated no hopes or
schemes with me. Peace to his memory! We were play-fellows once; and it
would have been better for us both if we had died then.'
Finding him in this gentle mood, Mr Pecksniff began to see another way
out of his difficulties, besides the casting overboard of Jonas.
'That any man, my dear sir, could possibly be the happier for not
knowing you,' he returned, 'you will excuse my doubting. But that Mr
Anthony, in the evening of his life, was happier in the affection of his
excellent son--a pattern, my dear sir, a pattern to all sons--and in the
care of a distant relation who, however lowly in his means of serving
him, had no bounds to his inclination; I can inform you.'
'How's this?' said the old man. 'You are not a legatee?'
'You don't,' said Mr Pecksniff, with a melancholy pressure of his hand,
'quite understand my nature yet, I find. No, sir, I am not a legatee. I
am proud to say I am not a legatee. I am proud to say that neither of my
children is a legatee. And yet, sir, I was with him at his own request.
HE understood me somewhat better, sir. He wrote and said, "I am sick. I
am sinking. Come to me!" I went to him. I sat beside his bed, sir, and
I stood beside his grave. Yes, at the risk of offending even you, I did
it, sir. Though the avowal should lead to our instant separation, and
to the severing of those tender ties between us which have recently been
formed, I make it. But I am not a legatee,' said Mr Pecksniff, smiling
dispassionately; 'and I never expected to be a legatee. I knew better!'
'His son a pattern!' cried old Martin. 'How can you tell me that? My
brother had in his wealth the usual doom of wealth, and root of misery.
He carried his corrupting influence with him, go where he would; and
shed it round him, even on his hearth. It made of his own child a
greedy expectant, who measured every day and hour the lessening distance
between his father and the grave, and cursed his tardy progress on that
'No!' cried Mr Pecksniff, boldly. 'Not at all, sir!'
'But I saw that shadow in his house,' said Martin Chuzzlewit, 'the last
time we met, and warned him of its presence. I know it when I see it, do
I not? I, who have lived within it all these years!'
'I deny it,' Mr Pecksniff answered, warmly. 'I deny it altogether. That
bereaved young man is now in this house, sir, seeking in change of scene
the peace of mind he has lost. Shall I be backward in doing justice to
that young man, when even undertakers and coffin-makers have been moved
by the conduct he has exhibited; when even mutes have spoken in his
praise, and the medical man hasn't known what to do with himself in
the excitement of his feelings! There is a person of the name of Gamp,
sir--Mrs Gamp--ask her. She saw Mr Jonas in a trying time. Ask HER, sir.
She is respectable, but not sentimental, and will state the fact. A line
addressed to Mrs Gamp, at the Bird Shop, Kingsgate Street, High Holborn,
London, will meet with every attention, I have no doubt. Let her be
examined, my good sir. Strike, but hear! Leap, Mr Chuzzlewit, but look!
Forgive me, my dear sir,' said Mr Pecksniff, taking both his hands, 'if
I am warm; but I am honest, and must state the truth.'
In proof of the character he gave himself, Mr Pecksniff suffered tears
of honesty to ooze out of his eyes.
The old man gazed at him for a moment with a look of wonder, repeating
to himself, 'Here now! In this house!' But he mastered his surprise, and
said, after a pause:
'Let me see him.'
'In a friendly spirit, I hope?' said Mr Pecksniff. 'Forgive me, sir but
he is in the receipt of my humble hospitality.'
'I said,' replied the old man, 'let me see him. If I were disposed to
regard him in any other than a friendly spirit, I should have said keep
'Certainly, my dear sir. So you would. You are frankness itself, I know.
I will break this happiness to him,' said Mr Pecksniff, as he left the
room, 'if you will excuse me for a minute--gently.'
He paved the way to the disclosure so very gently, that a quarter of an
hour elapsed before he returned with Mr Jonas. In the meantime the young
ladies had made their appearance, and the table had been set out for the
refreshment of the travellers.
Now, however well Mr Pecksniff, in his morality, had taught Jonas the
lesson of dutiful behaviour to his uncle, and however perfectly Jonas,
in the cunning of his nature, had learnt it, that young man's bearing,
when presented to his father's brother, was anything but manly or
engaging. Perhaps, indeed, so singular a mixture of defiance and
obsequiousness, of fear and hardihood, of dogged sullenness and an
attempt at enraging and propitiation, never was expressed in any one
human figure as in that of Jonas, when, having raised his downcast
eyes to Martin's face, he let them fall again, and uneasily closing
and unclosing his hands without a moment's intermission, stood swinging
himself from side to side, waiting to be addressed.
'Nephew,' said the old man. 'You have been a dutiful son, I hear.'
'As dutiful as sons in general, I suppose,' returned Jonas, looking up
and down once more. 'I don't brag to have been any better than other
sons; but I haven't been any worse, I dare say.'
'A pattern to all sons, I am told,' said the old man, glancing towards
'Ecod!' said Jonas, looking up again for a moment, and shaking his head,
'I've been as good a son as ever you were a brother. It's the pot and
the kettle, if you come to that.'
'You speak bitterly, in the violence of your regret,' said Martin, after
a pause. 'Give me your hand.'
Jonas did so, and was almost at his ease. 'Pecksniff,' he whispered,
as they drew their chairs about the table; 'I gave him as good as he
brought, eh? He had better look at home, before he looks out of window,
Mr Pecksniff only answered by a nudge of the elbow, which might either
be construed into an indignant remonstrance or a cordial assent; but
which, in any case, was an emphatic admonition to his chosen son-in-law
to be silent. He then proceeded to do the honours of the house with his
accustomed ease and amiability.
But not even Mr Pecksniff's guileless merriment could set such a
party at their ease, or reconcile materials so utterly discordant
and conflicting as those with which he had to deal. The unspeakable
jealously and hatred which that night's explanation had sown in
Charity's breast, was not to be so easily kept down; and more than
once it showed itself in such intensity, as seemed to render a full
disclosure of all the circumstances then and there, impossible to be
avoided. The beauteous Merry, too, with all the glory of her conquest
fresh upon her, so probed and lanced the rankling disappointment of her
sister by her capricious airs and thousand little trials of Mr Jonas's
obedience, that she almost goaded her into a fit of madness, and obliged
her to retire from table in a burst of passion, hardly less vehement
than that to which she had abandoned herself in the first tumult of her
wrath. The constraint imposed upon the family by the presence among
them for the first time of Mary Graham (for by that name old Martin
Chuzzlewit had introduced her) did not at all improve this state of
things; gentle and quiet though her manner was. Mr Pecksniff's situation
was peculiarly trying; for, what with having constantly to keep the
peace between his daughters; to maintain a reasonable show of affection
and unity in his household; to curb the growing ease and gaiety of
Jonas, which vented itself in sundry insolences towards Mr Pinch, and
an indefinable coarseness of manner in reference to Mary (they being the
two dependants); to make no mention at all of his having perpetually to
conciliate his rich old relative, and to smooth down, or explain
away, some of the ten thousand bad appearances and combinations of bad
appearances, by which they were surrounded on that unlucky evening--what
with having to do this, and it would be difficult to sum up how much
more, without the least relief or assistance from anybody, it may be
easily imagined that Mr Pecksniff had in his enjoyment something more
than that usual portion of alloy which is mixed up with the best of
men's delights. Perhaps he had never in his life felt such relief as
when old Martin, looking at his watch, announced that it was time to go.
'We have rooms,' he said, 'at the Dragon, for the present. I have a
fancy for the evening walk. The nights are dark just now; perhaps Mr
Pinch would not object to light us home?'
'My dear sir!' cried Pecksniff, 'I shall be delighted. Merry, my child,
'The lantern, if you please, my dear,' said Martin; 'but I couldn't
think of taking your father out of doors to-night; and, to be brief, I
Mr Pecksniff already had his hat in his hand, but it was so emphatically
said that he paused.
'I take Mr Pinch, or go alone,' said Martin. 'Which shall it be?'
'It shall be Thomas, sir,' cried Pecksniff, 'since you are so resolute
upon it. Thomas, my friend, be very careful, if you please.'
Tom was in some need of this injunction, for he felt so nervous, and
trembled to such a degree, that he found it difficult to hold the
lantern. How much more difficult when, at the old man's bidding she drew
her hand through his--Tom Pinch's--arm!
'And so, Mr Pinch,' said Martin, on the way, 'you are very comfortably
situated here; are you?'
Tom answered, with even more than his usual enthusiasm, that he was
under obligations to Mr Pecksniff which the devotion of a lifetime would
but imperfectly repay.
'How long have you known my nephew?' asked Martin.
'Your nephew, sir?' faltered Tom.
'Mr Jonas Chuzzlewit,' said Mary.
'Oh dear, yes,' cried Tom, greatly relieved, for his mind was running
upon Martin. 'Certainly. I never spoke to him before to-night, sir!'
'Perhaps half a lifetime will suffice for the acknowledgment of HIS
kindness,' observed the old man.
Tom felt that this was a rebuff for him, and could not but understand it
as a left-handed hit at his employer. So he was silent. Mary felt that
Mr Pinch was not remarkable for presence of mind, and that he could not
say too little under existing circumstances. So SHE was silent. The
old man, disgusted by what in his suspicious nature he considered a
shameless and fulsome puff of Mr Pecksniff, which was a part of Tom's
hired service and in which he was determined to persevere, set him down
at once for a deceitful, servile, miserable fawner. So HE was silent.
And though they were all sufficiently uncomfortable, it is fair to say
that Martin was perhaps the most so; for he had felt kindly towards Tom
at first, and had been interested by his seeming simplicity.
'You're like the rest,' he thought, glancing at the face of the
unconscious Tom. 'You had nearly imposed upon me, but you have lost
your labour. You are too zealous a toad-eater, and betray yourself, Mr
During the whole remainder of the walk, not another word was spoken.
First among the meetings to which Tom had long looked forward with
a beating heart, it was memorable for nothing but embarrassment
and confusion. They parted at the Dragon door; and sighing as he
extinguished the candle in the lantern, Tom turned back again over the
As he approached the first stile, which was in a lonely part, made very
dark by a plantation of young firs, a man slipped past him and went on
before. Coming to the stile he stopped, and took his seat upon it.
Tom was rather startled, and for a moment stood still, but he stepped
forward again immediately, and went close up to him.
It was Jonas; swinging his legs to and fro, sucking the head of a stick,
and looking with a sneer at Tom.
'Good gracious me!' cried Tom, 'who would have thought of its being you!
You followed us, then?'
'What's that to you?' said Jonas. 'Go to the devil!'
'You are not very civil, I think,' remarked Tom.
'Civil enough for YOU,' retorted Jonas. 'Who are you?'
'One who has as good a right to common consideration as another,' said
'You're a liar,' said Jonas. 'You haven't a right to any consideration.
You haven't a right to anything. You're a pretty sort of fellow to talk
about your rights, upon my soul! Ha, ha!--Rights, too!'
'If you proceed in this way,' returned Tom, reddening, 'you will oblige
me to talk about my wrongs. But I hope your joke is over.'
'It's the way with you curs,' said Mr Jonas, 'that when you know a man's
in real earnest, you pretend to think he's joking, so that you may turn
it off. But that won't do with me. It's too stale. Now just attend to me
for a bit, Mr Pitch, or Witch, or Stitch, or whatever your name is.'
'My name is Pinch,' observed Tom. 'Have the goodness to call me by it.'
'What! You mustn't even be called out of your name, mustn't you!' cried
Jonas. 'Pauper' prentices are looking up, I think. Ecod, we manage 'em a
little better in the city!'
'Never mind what you do in the city,' said Tom. 'What have you got to
say to me?'
'Just this, Mister Pinch,' retorted Jonas, thrusting his face so close
to Tom's that Tom was obliged to retreat a step. 'I advise you to keep
your own counsel, and to avoid title-tattle, and not to cut in where
you're not wanted. I've heard something of you, my friend, and your
meek ways; and I recommend you to forget 'em till I am married to one
of Pecksniff's gals, and not to curry favour among my relations, but
to leave the course clear. You know, when curs won't leave the course
clear, they're whipped off; so this is kind advice. Do you understand?
Eh? Damme, who are you,' cried Jonas, with increased contempt, 'that
you should walk home with THEM, unless it was behind 'em, like any other
servant out of livery?'
'Come!' cried Tom, 'I see that you had better get off the stile, and let
me pursue my way home. Make room for me, if you please.'
'Don't think it!' said Jonas, spreading out his legs. 'Not till I
choose. And I don't choose now. What! You're afraid of my making you
split upon some of your babbling just now, are you, Sneak?'
'I am not afraid of many things, I hope,' said Tom; 'and certainly not
of anything that you will do. I am not a tale-bearer, and I despise all
meanness. You quite mistake me. Ah!' cried Tom, indignantly. 'Is this
manly from one in your position to one in mine? Please to make room for
me to pass. The less I say, the better.'
'The less you say!' retorted Jonas, dangling his legs the more, and
taking no heed of this request. 'You say very little, don't you? Ecod, I
should like to know what goes on between you and a vagabond member of my
family. There's very little in that too, I dare say!'
'I know no vagabond member of your family,' cried Tom, stoutly.
'You do!' said Jonas.
'I don't,' said Tom. 'Your uncle's namesake, if you mean him, is no
vagabond. Any comparison between you and him'--Tom snapped his fingers
at him, for he was rising fast in wrath--'is immeasurably to your
'Oh indeed!' sneered Jonas. 'And what do you think of his deary--his
beggarly leavings, eh, Mister Pinch?'
'I don't mean to say another word, or stay here another instant,'
'As I told you before, you're a liar,' said Jonas, coolly. 'You'll stay
here till I give you leave to go. Now, keep where you are, will you?'
He flourished his stick over Tom's head; but in a moment it was spinning
harmlessly in the air, and Jonas himself lay sprawling in the ditch. In
the momentary struggle for the stick, Tom had brought it into violent
contact with his opponent's forehead; and the blood welled out profusely
from a deep cut on the temple. Tom was first apprised of this by seeing
that he pressed his handkerchief to the wounded part, and staggered as
he rose, being stunned.
'Are you hurt?' said Tom. 'I am very sorry. Lean on me for a moment.
You can do that without forgiving me, if you still bear me malice. But I
don't know why; for I never offended you before we met on this spot.'
He made him no answer; not appearing at first to understand him, or even
to know that he was hurt, though he several times took his handkerchief
from the cut to look vacantly at the blood upon it. After one of these
examinations, he looked at Tom, and then there was an expression in
his features, which showed that he understood what had taken place, and
would remember it.
Nothing more passed between them as they went home. Jonas kept a little
in advance, and Tom Pinch sadly followed, thinking of the grief which
the knowledge of this quarrel must occasion his excellent benefactor.
When Jonas knocked at the door, Tom's heart beat high; higher when Miss
Mercy answered it, and seeing her wounded lover, shireked aloud; higher,
when he followed them into the family parlour; higher than at any other
time, when Jonas spoke.
'Don't make a noise about it,' he said. 'It's nothing worth mentioning.
I didn't know the road; the night's very dark; and just as I came up
with Mr Pinch'--he turned his face towards Tom, but not his eyes--'I ran
against a tree. It's only skin deep.'
'Cold water, Merry, my child!' cried Mr Pecksniff. 'Brown paper!
Scissors! A piece of old linen! Charity, my dear, make a bandage. Bless
me, Mr Jonas!'
'Oh, bother YOUR nonsense,' returned the gracious son-in-law elect. 'Be
of some use if you can. If you can't, get out!'
Miss Charity, though called upon to lend her aid, sat upright in one
corner, with a smile upon her face, and didn't move a finger. Though
Mercy laved the wound herself; and Mr Pecksniff held the patient's head
between his two hands, as if without that assistance it must inevitably
come in half; and Tom Pinch, in his guilty agitation, shook a bottle of
Dutch Drops until they were nothing but English Froth, and in his other
hand sustained a formidable carving-knife, really intended to reduce the
swelling, but apparently designed for the ruthless infliction of another
wound as soon as that was dressed; Charity rendered not the least
assistance, nor uttered a word. But when Mr Jonas's head was bound up,
and he had gone to bed, and everybody else had retired, and the house
was quiet, Mr Pinch, as he sat mournfully on his bedstead, ruminating,
heard a gentle tap at his door; and opening it, saw her, to his great
astonishment, standing before him with her finger on her lip.
'Mr Pinch,' she whispered. 'Dear Mr Pinch! Tell me the truth! You did
that? There was some quarrel between you, and you struck him? I am sure
It was the first time she had ever spoken kindly to Tom, in all the many
years they had passed together. He was stupefied with amazement.
'Was it so, or not?' she eagerly demanded.
'I was very much provoked,' said Tom.
'Then it was?' cried Charity, with sparkling eyes.
'Ye-yes. We had a struggle for the path,' said Tom. 'But I didn't mean
to hurt him so much.'
'Not so much!' she repeated, clenching her hand and stamping her foot,
to Tom's great wonder. 'Don't say that. It was brave of you. I honour
you for it. If you should ever quarrel again, don't spare him for the
world, but beat him down and set your shoe upon him. Not a word of this
to anybody. Dear Mr Pinch, I am your friend from tonight. I am always
your friend from this time.'
She turned her flushed face upon Tom to confirm her words by its
kindling expression; and seizing his right hand, pressed it to her
breast, and kissed it. And there was nothing personal in this to render
it at all embarrassing, for even Tom, whose power of observation was by
no means remarkable, knew from the energy with which she did it that she
would have fondled any hand, no matter how bedaubed or dyed, that had
broken the head of Jonas Chuzzlewit.
Tom went into his room, and went to bed, full of uncomfortable thoughts.
That there should be any such tremendous division in the family as he
knew must have taken place to convert Charity Pecksniff into his friend,
for any reason, but, above all, for that which was clearly the real one;
that Jonas, who had assailed him with such exceeding coarseness, should
have been sufficiently magnanimous to keep the secret of their quarrel;
and that any train of circumstances should have led to the commission of
an assault and battery by Thomas Pinch upon any man calling himself
the friend of Seth Pecksniff; were matters of such deep and painful
cogitation that he could not close his eyes. His own violence, in
particular, so preyed upon the generous mind of Tom, that coupling it
with the many former occasions on which he had given Mr Pecksniff pain
and anxiety (occasions of which that gentleman often reminded him), he
really began to regard himself as destined by a mysterious fate to be
the evil genius and bad angel of his patron. But he fell asleep at last,
and dreamed--new source of waking uneasiness--that he had betrayed his
trust, and run away with Mary Graham.
It must be acknowledged that, asleep or awake, Tom's position in
reference to this young lady was full of uneasiness. The more he saw
of her, the more he admired her beauty, her intelligence, the amiable
qualities that even won on the divided house of Pecksniff, and in a
few days restored, at all events, the semblance of harmony and kindness
between the angry sisters. When she spoke, Tom held his breath, so
eagerly he listened; when she sang, he sat like one entranced. She
touched his organ, and from that bright epoch even it, the old companion
of his happiest hours, incapable as he had thought of elevation, began a
new and deified existence.
God's love upon thy patience, Tom! Who, that had beheld thee, for three
summer weeks, poring through half the deadlong night over the jingling
anatomy of that inscrutable old harpsichord in the back parlour, could
have missed the entrance to thy secret heart: albeit it was dimly known
to thee? Who that had seen the glow upon thy cheek when leaning down to
listen, after hours of labour, for the sound of one incorrigible note,
thou foundest that it had a voice at last, and wheezed out a flat
something, distantly akin to what it ought to be, would not have known
that it was destined for no common touch, but one that smote, though
gently as an angel's hand, upon the deepest chord within thee! And if
a friendly glance--aye, even though it were as guileless as thine own,
Dear Tom--could have but pierced the twilight of that evening, when, in
a voice well tempered to the time, sad, sweet, and low, yet hopeful, she
first sang to the altered instrument, and wondered at the change;
and thou, sitting apart at the open window, kept a glad silence and a
swelling heart--must not that glance have read perforce the dawning of a
story, Tom, that it were well for thee had never been begun!
Tom Pinch's situation was not made the less dangerous or difficult by
the fact of no one word passing between them in reference to Martin.
Honourably mindful of his promise, Tom gave her opportunities of all
kinds. Early and late he was in the church; in her favourite walks; in
the village, in the garden, in the meadows; and in any or all of these
places he might have spoken freely. But no; at all such times she
carefully avoided him, or never came in his way unaccompanied. It could
not be that she disliked or distrusted him, for by a thousand little
delicate means, too slight for any notice but his own, she singled
him out when others were present, and showed herself the very soul of
kindness. Could it be that she had broken with Martin, or had never
returned his affection, save in his own bold and heightened fancy? Tom's
cheek grew red with self-reproach as he dismissed the thought.
All this time old Martin came and went in his own strange manner, or sat
among the rest absorbed within himself, and holding little intercourse
with any one. Although he was unsocial, he was not willful in other
things, or troublesome, or morose; being never better pleased than
when they left him quite unnoticed at his book, and pursued their own
amusements in his presence, unreserved. It was impossible to discern in
whom he took an interest, or whether he had an interest in any of them.
Unless they spoke to him directly, he never showed that he had ears or
eyes for anything that passed.
One day the lively Merry, sitting with downcast eyes under a shady tree
in the churchyard, whither she had retired after fatiguing herself by
the imposition of sundry trials on the temper of Mr Jonas, felt that
a new shadow came between her and the sun. Raising her eyes in the
expectation of seeing her betrothed, she was not a little surprised to
see old Martin instead. Her surprise was not diminished when he took his
seat upon the turf beside her, and opened a conversation thus:
'When are you to be married?'
'Oh! dear Mr Chuzzlewit, my goodness me! I'm sure I don't know. Not yet
awhile, I hope.'
'You hope?' said the old man.
It was very gravely said, but she took it for banter, and giggled
'Come!' said the old man, with unusual kindness, 'you are young,
good-looking, and I think good-natured! Frivolous you are, and love to
be, undoubtedly; but you must have some heart.'
'I have not given it all away, I can tell you,' said Merry, nodding her
head shrewdly, and plucking up the grass.
'Have you parted with any of it?'
She threw the grass about, and looked another way, but said nothing.
Martin repeated his question.
'Lor, my dear Mr Chuzzlewit! really you must excuse me! How very odd you
'If it be odd in me to desire to know whether you love the young man
whom I understand you are to marry, I AM very odd,' said Martin. 'For
that is certainly my wish.'
'He's such a monster, you know,' said Merry, pouting.
'Then you don't love him?' returned the old man. 'Is that your meaning?'
'Why, my dear Mr Chuzzlewit, I'm sure I tell him a hundred times a day
that I hate him. You must have heard me tell him that.'
'Often,' said Martin.
'And so I do,' cried Merry. 'I do positively.'
'Being at the same time engaged to marry him,' observed the old man.
'Oh yes,' said Merry. 'But I told the wretch--my dear Mr Chuzzlewit, I
told him when he asked me--that if I ever did marry him, it should only
be that I might hate and tease him all my life.'
She had a suspicion that the old man regarded Jonas with anything but
favour, and intended these remarks to be extremely captivating. He did
not appear, however, to regard them in that light by any means; for when
he spoke again, it was in a tone of severity.
'Look about you,' he said, pointing to the graves; 'and remember that
from your bridal hour to the day which sees you brought as low as these,
and laid in such a bed, there will be no appeal against him. Think, and
speak, and act, for once, like an accountable creature. Is any control
put upon your inclinations? Are you forced into this match? Are you
insidiously advised or tempted to contract it, by any one? I will not
ask by whom; by any one?'
'No,' said Merry, shrugging her shoulders. 'I don't know that I am.'
'Don't know that you are! Are you?'
'No,' replied Merry. 'Nobody ever said anything to me about it. If any
one had tried to make me have him, I wouldn't have had him at all.'
'I am told that he was at first supposed to be your sister's admirer,'
'Oh, good gracious! My dear Mr Chuzzlewit, it would be very hard to make
him, though he IS a monster, accountable for other people's vanity,'
said Merry. 'And poor dear Cherry is the vainest darling!'
'It was her mistake, then?'
'I hope it was,' cried Merry; 'but, all along, the dear child has been
so dreadfully jealous, and SO cross, that, upon my word and honour, it's
impossible to please her, and it's of no use trying.'
'Not forced, persuaded, or controlled,' said Martin, thoughtfully. 'And
that's true, I see. There is one chance yet. You may have lapsed into
this engagement in very giddiness. It may have been the wanton act of a
light head. Is that so?'
'My dear Mr Chuzzlewit,' simpered Merry, 'as to light-headedness, there
never was such a feather of a head as mine. It's perfect balloon, I
declare! You never DID, you know!'
He waited quietly till she had finished, and then said, steadily
and slowly, and in a softened voice, as if he would still invite her
'Have you any wish--or is there anything within your breast that
whispers you may form the wish, if you have time to think--to be
released from this engagement?'
Again Miss Merry pouted, and looked down, and plucked the grass, and
shrugged her shoulders. No. She didn't know that she had. She was pretty
sure she hadn't. Quite sure, she might say. She 'didn't mind it.'
'Has it ever occurred to you,' said Martin, 'that your married life may
perhaps be miserable, full of bitterness, and most unhappy?'
Merry looked down again; and now she tore the grass up by the roots.
'My dear Mr Chuzzlewit, what shocking words! Of course, I shall quarrel
with him. I should quarrel with any husband. Married people always
quarrel, I believe. But as to being miserable, and bitter, and all those
dreadful things, you know, why I couldn't be absolutely that, unless he
always had the best of it; and I mean to have the best of it myself. I
always do now,' cried Merry, nodding her head and giggling very much;
'for I make a perfect slave of the creature.'
'Let it go on,' said Martin, rising. 'Let it go on! I sought to know
your mind, my dear, and you have shown it me. I wish you joy. Joy!' he
repeated, looking full upon her, and pointing to the wicket-gate where
Jonas entered at the moment. And then, without waiting for his nephew,
he passed out at another gate, and went away.
'Oh, you terrible old man!' cried the facetious Merry to herself. 'What
a perfectly hideous monster to be wandering about churchyards in the
broad daylight, frightening people out of their wits! Don't come here,
Griffin, or I'll go away directly.'
Mr Jonas was the Griffin. He sat down upon the grass at her side, in
spite of this warning, and sulkily inquired:
'What's my uncle been a-talking about?'
'About you,' rejoined Merry. 'He says you're not half good enough for
'Oh, yes, I dare say! We all know that. He means to give you some
present worth having, I hope. Did he say anything that looked like it?'
'THAT he didn't!' cried Merry, most decisively.
'A stingy old dog he is,' said Jonas. 'Well?'
'Griffin!' cried Miss Mercy, in counterfeit amazement; 'what are you
'Only giving you a squeeze,' said the discomfited Jonas. 'There's no
harm in that, I suppose?'
'But there is great deal of harm in it, if I don't consider it
agreeable,' returned his cousin. 'Do go along, will you? You make me so
Mr Jonas withdrew his arm, and for a moment looked at her more like a
murderer than a lover. But he cleared his brow by degrees, and broke
'I say, Mel!'
'What do you say, you vulgar thing--you low savage?' cried his fair
'When is it to be? I can't afford to go on dawdling about here half
my life, I needn't tell you, and Pecksniff says that father's being so
lately dead makes very little odds; for we can be married as quiet as we
please down here, and my being lonely is a good reason to the neighbours
for taking a wife home so soon, especially one that he knew. As to
crossbones (my uncle, I mean), he's sure not to put a spoke in the
wheel, whatever we settle on, for he told Pecksniff only this morning,
that if YOU liked it he'd nothing at all to say. So, Mel,' said Jonas,
venturing on another squeeze; 'when shall it be?'
'Upon my word!' cried Merry.
'Upon my soul, if you like,' said Jonas. 'What do you say to next week,
'To next week! If you had said next quarter, I should have wondered at
'But I didn't say next quarter,' retorted Jonas. 'I said next week.'
'Then, Griffin,' cried Miss Merry, pushing him off, and rising. 'I say
no! not next week. It shan't be till I choose, and I may not choose it
to be for months. There!'
He glanced up at her from the ground, almost as darkly as he had looked
at Tom Pinch; but held his peace.
'No fright of a Griffin with a patch over his eye shall dictate to me or
have a voice in the matter,' said Merry. 'There!'
Still Mr Jonas held his peace.
'If it's next month, that shall be the very earliest; but I won't say
when it shall be till to-morrow; and if you don't like that, it shall
never be at all,' said Merry; 'and if you follow me about and won't
leave me alone, it shall never be at all. There! And if you don't do
everything I order you to do, it shall never be at all. So don't follow
me. There, Griffin!'
And with that, she skipped away, among the trees.
'Ecod, my lady!' said Jonas, looking after her, and biting a piece
of straw, almost to powder; 'you'll catch it for this, when you ARE
married. It's all very well now--it keeps one on, somehow, and you know
it--but I'll pay you off scot and lot by-and-bye. This is a plaguey dull
sort of a place for a man to be sitting by himself in. I never could
abide a mouldy old churchyard.'
As he turned into the avenue himself, Miss Merry, who was far ahead,
happened to look back.
'Ah!' said Jonas, with a sullen smile, and a nod that was not addressed
to her. 'Make the most of it while it lasts. Get in your hay while the
sun shines. Take your own way as long as it's in your power, my lady!'