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IN WHICH CERTAIN OTHER PERSONS ARE INTRODUCED; ON THE SAME TERMS AS IN
THE LAST CHAPTER
Mention has been already made more than once, of a certain Dragon who
swung and creaked complainingly before the village alehouse door. A
faded, and an ancient dragon he was; and many a wintry storm of rain,
snow, sleet, and hail, had changed his colour from a gaudy blue to a
faint lack-lustre shade of grey. But there he hung; rearing, in a state
of monstrous imbecility, on his hind legs; waxing, with every month that
passed, so much more dim and shapeless, that as you gazed at him on
one side of the sign-board it seemed as if he must be gradually melting
through it, and coming out upon the other.
He was a courteous and considerate dragon, too; or had been in his
distincter days; for in the midst of his rampant feebleness, he kept
one of his forepaws near his nose, as though he would say, 'Don't
mind me--it's only my fun;' while he held out the other in polite and
hospitable entreaty. Indeed it must be conceded to the whole brood
of dragons of modern times, that they have made a great advance in
civilisation and refinement. They no longer demand a beautiful virgin
for breakfast every morning, with as much regularity as any tame single
gentleman expects his hot roll, but rest content with the society of
idle bachelors and roving married men; and they are now remarkable
rather for holding aloof from the softer sex and discouraging their
visits (especially on Saturday nights), than for rudely insisting on
their company without any reference to their inclinations, as they are
known to have done in days of yore.
Nor is this tribute to the reclaimed animals in question so wide a
digression into the realms of Natural History as it may, at first sight,
appear to be; for the present business of these pages in with the dragon
who had his retreat in Mr Pecksniff's neighbourhood, and that courteous
animal being already on the carpet, there is nothing in the way of its
For many years, then, he had swung and creaked, and flapped himself
about, before the two windows of the best bedroom of that house of
entertainment to which he lent his name; but never in all his swinging,
creaking, and flapping, had there been such a stir within its dingy
precincts, as on the evening next after that upon which the incidents,
detailed in the last chapter occurred; when there was such a hurrying up
and down stairs of feet, such a glancing of lights, such a whispering
of voices, such a smoking and sputtering of wood newly lighted in a
damp chimney, such an airing of linen, such a scorching smell of hot
warming-pans, such a domestic bustle and to-do, in short, as never
dragon, griffin, unicorn, or other animal of that species presided over,
since they first began to interest themselves in household affairs.
An old gentleman and a young lady, travelling, unattended, in a rusty
old chariot with post-horses; coming nobody knew whence and going nobody
knew whither; had turned out of the high road, and driven unexpectedly
to the Blue Dragon; and here was the old gentleman, who had taken this
step by reason of his sudden illness in the carriage, suffering the most
horrible cramps and spasms, yet protesting and vowing in the very midst
of his pain, that he wouldn't have a doctor sent for, and wouldn't take
any remedies but those which the young lady administered from a small
medicine-chest, and wouldn't, in a word, do anything but terrify the
landlady out of her five wits, and obstinately refuse compliance with
every suggestion that was made to him.
Of all the five hundred proposals for his relief which the good woman
poured out in less than half an hour, he would entertain but one. That
was that he should go to bed. And it was in the preparation of his bed
and the arrangement of his chamber, that all the stir was made in the
room behind the Dragon.
He was, beyond all question, very ill, and suffered exceedingly; not the
less, perhaps, because he was a strong and vigorous old man, with a will
of iron, and a voice of brass. But neither the apprehensions which
he plainly entertained, at times, for his life, nor the great pain he
underwent, influenced his resolution in the least degree. He would have
no person sent for. The worse he grew, the more rigid and inflexible he
became in his determination. If they sent for any person to attend him,
man, woman, or child, he would leave the house directly (so he told
them), though he quitted it on foot, and died upon the threshold of the
Now, there being no medical practitioner actually resident in the
village, but a poor apothecary who was also a grocer and general dealer,
the landlady had, upon her own responsibility, sent for him, in the
very first burst and outset of the disaster. Of course it followed, as
a necessary result of his being wanted, that he was not at home. He had
gone some miles away, and was not expected home until late at night; so
the landlady, being by this time pretty well beside herself, dispatched
the same messenger in all haste for Mr Pecksniff, as a learned man
who could bear a deal of responsibility, and a moral man who could
administer a world of comfort to a troubled mind. That her guest had
need of some efficient services under the latter head was obvious enough
from the restless expressions, importing, however, rather a worldly than
a spiritual anxiety, to which he gave frequent utterance.
From this last-mentioned secret errand, the messenger returned with no
better news than from the first; Mr Pecksniff was not at home. However,
they got the patient into bed without him; and in the course of two
hours, he gradually became so far better that there were much longer
intervals than at first between his terms of suffering. By degrees, he
ceased to suffer at all; though his exhaustion was occasionally so great
that it suggested hardly less alarm than his actual endurance had done.
It was in one of his intervals of repose, when, looking round with
great caution, and reaching uneasily out of his nest of pillows, he
endeavoured, with a strange air of secrecy and distrust, to make use
of the writing materials which he had ordered to be placed on a table
beside him, that the young lady and the mistress of the Blue Dragon
found themselves sitting side by side before the fire in the sick
The mistress of the Blue Dragon was in outward appearance just what a
landlady should be: broad, buxom, comfortable, and good looking, with a
face of clear red and white, which, by its jovial aspect, at once bore
testimony to her hearty participation in the good things of the larder
and cellar, and to their thriving and healthful influences. She was a
widow, but years ago had passed through her state of weeds, and burst
into flower again; and in full bloom she had continued ever since; and
in full bloom she was now; with roses on her ample skirts, and roses
on her bodice, roses in her cap, roses in her cheeks,--aye, and roses,
worth the gathering too, on her lips, for that matter. She had still a
bright black eye, and jet black hair; was comely, dimpled, plump, and
tight as a gooseberry; and though she was not exactly what the world
calls young, you may make an affidavit, on trust, before any mayor or
magistrate in Christendom, that there are a great many young ladies in
the world (blessings on them one and all!) whom you wouldn't like half
as well, or admire half as much, as the beaming hostess of the Blue
As this fair matron sat beside the fire, she glanced occasionally with
all the pride of ownership, about the room; which was a large apartment,
such as one may see in country places, with a low roof and a sunken
flooring, all downhill from the door, and a descent of two steps on
the inside so exquisitely unexpected, that strangers, despite the
most elaborate cautioning, usually dived in head first, as into a
plunging-bath. It was none of your frivolous and preposterously bright
bedrooms, where nobody can close an eye with any kind of propriety or
decent regard to the association of ideas; but it was a good, dull,
leaden, drowsy place, where every article of furniture reminded you
that you came there to sleep, and that you were expected to go to sleep.
There was no wakeful reflection of the fire there, as in your modern
chambers, which upon the darkest nights have a watchful consciousness of
French polish; the old Spanish mahogany winked at it now and then, as
a dozing cat or dog might, nothing more. The very size and shape, and
hopeless immovability of the bedstead, and wardrobe, and in a minor
degree of even the chairs and tables, provoked sleep; they were plainly
apoplectic and disposed to snore. There were no staring portraits
to remonstrate with you for being lazy; no round-eyed birds upon the
curtains, disgustingly wide awake, and insufferably prying. The
thick neutral hangings, and the dark blinds, and the heavy heap
of bed-clothes, were all designed to hold in sleep, and act as
nonconductors to the day and getting up. Even the old stuffed fox upon
the top of the wardrobe was devoid of any spark of vigilance, for his
glass eye had fallen out, and he slumbered as he stood.
The wandering attention of the mistress of the Blue Dragon roved to
these things but twice or thrice, and then for but an instant at a time.
It soon deserted them, and even the distant bed with its strange burden,
for the young creature immediately before her, who, with her downcast
eyes intently fixed upon the fire, sat wrapped in silent meditation.
She was very young; apparently no more than seventeen; timid and
shrinking in her manner, and yet with a greater share of self possession
and control over her emotions than usually belongs to a far more
advanced period of female life. This she had abundantly shown, but now,
in her tending of the sick gentleman. She was short in stature; and her
figure was slight, as became her years; but all the charms of youth and
maidenhood set it off, and clustered on her gentle brow. Her face was
very pale, in part no doubt from recent agitation. Her dark brown hair,
disordered from the same cause, had fallen negligently from its bonds,
and hung upon her neck; for which instance of its waywardness no male
observer would have had the heart to blame it.
Her attire was that of a lady, but extremely plain; and in her manner,
even when she sat as still as she did then, there was an indefinable
something which appeared to be in kindred with her scrupulously
unpretending dress. She had sat, at first looking anxiously towards the
bed; but seeing that the patient remained quiet, and was busy with his
writing, she had softly moved her chair into its present place; partly,
as it seemed, from an instinctive consciousness that he desired to avoid
observation; and partly that she might, unseen by him, give some vent to
the natural feelings she had hitherto suppressed.
Of all this, and much more, the rosy landlady of the Blue Dragon took
as accurate note and observation as only woman can take of woman. And at
length she said, in a voice too low, she knew, to reach the bed:
'You have seen the gentleman in this way before, miss? Is he used to
'I have seen him very ill before, but not so ill as he has been
'What a Providence!' said the landlady of the Dragon, 'that you had the
prescriptions and the medicines with you, miss!'
'They are intended for such an emergency. We never travel without them.'
'Oh!' thought the hostess, 'then we are in the habit of travelling, and
of travelling together.'
She was so conscious of expressing this in her face, that meeting
the young lady's eyes immediately afterwards, and being a very honest
hostess, she was rather confused.
'The gentleman--your grandpapa'--she resumed, after a short pause,
'being so bent on having no assistance, must terrify you very much,
'I have been very much alarmed to-night. He--he is not my grandfather.'
'Father, I should have said,' returned the hostess, sensible of having
made an awkward mistake.
'Nor my father' said the young lady. 'Nor,' she added, slightly smiling
with a quick perception of what the landlady was going to add, 'Nor my
uncle. We are not related.'
'Oh dear me!' returned the landlady, still more embarrassed than before;
'how could I be so very much mistaken; knowing, as anybody in their
proper senses might that when a gentleman is ill, he looks so much older
than he really is? That I should have called you "Miss," too, ma'am!'
But when she had proceeded thus far, she glanced involuntarily at the
third finger of the young lady's left hand, and faltered again; for
there was no ring upon it.
'When I told you we were not related,' said the other mildly, but not
without confusion on her own part, 'I meant not in any way. Not even by
marriage. Did you call me, Martin?'
'Call you?' cried the old man, looking quickly up, and hurriedly drawing
beneath the coverlet the paper on which he had been writing. 'No.'
She had moved a pace or two towards the bed, but stopped immediately,
and went no farther.
'No,' he repeated, with a petulant emphasis. 'Why do you ask me? If I
had called you, what need for such a question?'
'It was the creaking of the sign outside, sir, I dare say,' observed the
landlady; a suggestion by the way (as she felt a moment after she had
made it), not at all complimentary to the voice of the old gentleman.
'No matter what, ma'am,' he rejoined: 'it wasn't I. Why how you stand
there, Mary, as if I had the plague! But they're all afraid of me,' he
added, leaning helplessly backward on his pillow; 'even she! There is a
curse upon me. What else have I to look for?'
'Oh dear, no. Oh no, I'm sure,' said the good-tempered landlady, rising,
and going towards him. 'Be of better cheer, sir. These are only sick
'What are only sick fancies?' he retorted. 'What do you know about
fancies? Who told you about fancies? The old story! Fancies!'
'Only see again there, how you take one up!' said the mistress of the
Blue Dragon, with unimpaired good humour. 'Dear heart alive, there is
no harm in the word, sir, if it is an old one. Folks in good health have
their fancies, too, and strange ones, every day.'
Harmless as this speech appeared to be, it acted on the traveller's
distrust, like oil on fire. He raised his head up in the bed, and,
fixing on her two dark eyes whose brightness was exaggerated by the
paleness of his hollow cheeks, as they in turn, together with his
straggling locks of long grey hair, were rendered whiter by the tight
black velvet skullcap which he wore, he searched her face intently.
'Ah! you begin too soon,' he said, in so low a voice that he seemed to
be thinking it, rather than addressing her. 'But you lose no time. You
do your errand, and you earn your fee. Now, who may be your client?'
The landlady looked in great astonishment at her whom he called Mary,
and finding no rejoinder in the drooping face, looked back again at him.
At first she had recoiled involuntarily, supposing him disordered in
his mind; but the slow composure of his manner, and the settled purpose
announced in his strong features, and gathering, most of all, about his
puckered mouth, forbade the supposition.
'Come,' he said, 'tell me who is it? Being here, it is not very hard for
me to guess, you may suppose.'
'Martin,' interposed the young lady, laying her hand upon his arm;
'reflect how short a time we have been in this house, and that even your
name is unknown here.'
'Unless,' he said, 'you--' He was evidently tempted to express a
suspicion of her having broken his confidence in favour of the landlady,
but either remembering her tender nursing, or being moved in some sort
by her face, he checked himself, and changing his uneasy posture in the
bed, was silent.
'There!' said Mrs Lupin; for in that name the Blue Dragon was licensed
to furnish entertainment, both to man and beast. 'Now, you will be well
again, sir. You forgot, for the moment, that there were none but friends
'Oh!' cried the old man, moaning impatiently, as he tossed one restless
arm upon the coverlet; 'why do you talk to me of friends! Can you or
anybody teach me to know who are my friends, and who my enemies?'
'At least,' urged Mrs Lupin, gently, 'this young lady is your friend, I
'She has no temptation to be otherwise,' cried the old man, like one
whose hope and confidence were utterly exhausted. 'I suppose she is.
Heaven knows. There, let me try to sleep. Leave the candle where it is.'
As they retired from the bed, he drew forth the writing which had
occupied him so long, and holding it in the flame of the taper burnt
it to ashes. That done, he extinguished the light, and turning his face
away with a heavy sigh, drew the coverlet about his head, and lay quite
This destruction of the paper, both as being strangely inconsistent with
the labour he had devoted to it, and as involving considerable danger of
fire to the Dragon, occasioned Mrs Lupin not a little consternation. But
the young lady evincing no surprise, curiosity, or alarm, whispered her,
with many thanks for her solicitude and company, that she would remain
there some time longer; and that she begged her not to share her watch,
as she was well used to being alone, and would pass the time in reading.
Mrs Lupin had her full share and dividend of that large capital of
curiosity which is inherited by her sex, and at another time it might
have been difficult so to impress this hint upon her as to induce her to
take it. But now, in sheer wonder and amazement at these mysteries, she
withdrew at once, and repairing straightway to her own little parlour
below stairs, sat down in her easy-chair with unnatural composure.
At this very crisis, a step was heard in the entry, and Mr Pecksniff,
looking sweetly over the half-door of the bar, and into the vista of
snug privacy beyond, murmured:
'Good evening, Mrs Lupin!'
'Oh dear me, sir!' she cried, advancing to receive him, 'I am so very
glad you have come.'
'And I am very glad I have come,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'if I can be of
service. I am very glad I have come. What is the matter, Mrs Lupin?'
'A gentleman taken ill upon the road, has been so very bad upstairs,
sir,' said the tearful hostess.
'A gentleman taken ill upon the road, has been so very bad upstairs, has
he?' repeated Mr Pecksniff. 'Well, well!'
Now there was nothing that one may call decidedly original in this
remark, nor can it be exactly said to have contained any wise precept
theretofore unknown to mankind, or to have opened any hidden source of
consolation; but Mr Pecksniff's manner was so bland, and he nodded his
head so soothingly, and showed in everything such an affable sense of
his own excellence, that anybody would have been, as Mrs Lupin was,
comforted by the mere voice and presence of such a man; and, though he
had merely said 'a verb must agree with its nominative case in number
and person, my good friend,' or 'eight times eight are sixty-four, my
worthy soul,' must have felt deeply grateful to him for his humanity and
'And how,' asked Mr Pecksniff, drawing off his gloves and warming his
hands before the fire, as benevolently as if they were somebody else's,
not his; 'and how is he now?'
'He is better, and quite tranquil,' answered Mrs Lupin.
'He is better, and quite tranquil,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'Very well! Ve-ry
Here again, though the statement was Mrs Lupin's and not Mr Pecksniff's,
Mr Pecksniff made it his own and consoled her with it. It was not much
when Mrs Lupin said it, but it was a whole book when Mr Pecksniff said
it. 'I observe,' he seemed to say, 'and through me, morality in general
remarks, that he is better and quite tranquil.'
'There must be weighty matters on his mind, though,' said the hostess,
shaking her head, 'for he talks, sir, in the strangest way you ever
heard. He is far from easy in his thoughts, and wants some proper advice
from those whose goodness makes it worth his having.'
'Then,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'he is the sort of customer for me.' But
though he said this in the plainest language, he didn't speak a word. He
only shook his head; disparagingly of himself too.
'I am afraid, sir,' continued the landlady, first looking round to
assure herself that there was nobody within hearing, and then looking
down upon the floor. 'I am very much afraid, sir, that his conscience
is troubled by his not being related to--or--or even married to--a very
'Mrs Lupin!' said Mr Pecksniff, holding up his hand with something in
his manner as nearly approaching to severity as any expression of his,
mild being that he was, could ever do. 'Person! young person?'
'A very young person,' said Mrs Lupin, curtseying and blushing; '--I beg
your pardon, sir, but I have been so hurried to-night, that I don't know
what I say--who is with him now.'
'Who is with him now,' ruminated Mr Pecksniff, warming his back (as he
had warmed his hands) as if it were a widow's back, or an orphan's back,
or an enemy's back, or a back that any less excellent man would have
suffered to be cold. 'Oh dear me, dear me!'
'At the same time I am bound to say, and I do say with all my heart,'
observed the hostess, earnestly, 'that her looks and manner almost
'Your suspicion, Mrs Lupin,' said Mr Pecksniff gravely, 'is very
Touching which remark, let it be written down to their confusion, that
the enemies of this worthy man unblushingly maintained that he always
said of what was very bad, that it was very natural; and that he
unconsciously betrayed his own nature in doing so.
'Your suspicion, Mrs Lupin,' he repeated, 'is very natural, and I have
no doubt correct. I will wait upon these travellers.'
With that he took off his great-coat, and having run his fingers through
his hair, thrust one hand gently in the bosom of his waist-coat and
meekly signed to her to lead the way.
'Shall I knock?' asked Mrs Lupin, when they reached the chamber door.
'No,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'enter if you please.'
They went in on tiptoe; or rather the hostess took that precaution for
Mr Pecksniff always walked softly. The old gentleman was still asleep,
and his young companion still sat reading by the fire.
'I am afraid,' said Mr Pecksniff, pausing at the door, and giving
his head a melancholy roll, 'I am afraid that this looks artful. I am
afraid, Mrs Lupin, do you know, that this looks very artful!'
As he finished this whisper, he advanced before the hostess; and at the
same time the young lady, hearing footsteps, rose. Mr Pecksniff glanced
at the volume she held, and whispered Mrs Lupin again; if possible, with
'Yes, ma'am,' he said, 'it is a good book. I was fearful of that
beforehand. I am apprehensive that this is a very deep thing indeed!'
'What gentleman is this?' inquired the object of his virtuous doubts.
'Hush! don't trouble yourself, ma'am,' said Mr Pecksniff, as the
landlady was about to answer. 'This young'--in spite of himself he
hesitated when "person" rose to his lips, and substituted another word:
'this young stranger, Mrs Lupin, will excuse me for replying briefly,
that I reside in this village; it may be in an influential manner,
however, undeserved; and that I have been summoned here by you. I am
here, as I am everywhere, I hope, in sympathy for the sick and sorry.'
With these impressive words, Mr Pecksniff passed over to the bedside,
where, after patting the counterpane once or twice in a very solemn
manner, as if by that means he gained a clear insight into the patient's
disorder, he took his seat in a large arm-chair, and in an attitude of
some thoughtfulness and much comfort, waited for his waking. Whatever
objection the young lady urged to Mrs Lupin went no further, for nothing
more was said to Mr Pecksniff, and Mr Pecksniff said nothing more to
Full half an hour elapsed before the old man stirred, but at length he
turned himself in bed, and, though not yet awake, gave tokens that
his sleep was drawing to an end. By little and little he removed the
bed-clothes from about his head, and turned still more towards the side
where Mr Pecksniff sat. In course of time his eyes opened; and he
lay for a few moments as people newly roused sometimes will, gazing
indolently at his visitor, without any distinct consciousness of his
There was nothing remarkable in these proceedings, except the influence
they worked on Mr Pecksniff, which could hardly have been surpassed by
the most marvellous of natural phenomena. Gradually his hands became
tightly clasped upon the elbows of the chair, his eyes dilated with
surprise, his mouth opened, his hair stood more erect upon his forehead
than its custom was, until, at length, when the old man rose in bed,
and stared at him with scarcely less emotion than he showed himself, the
Pecksniff doubts were all resolved, and he exclaimed aloud:
'You ARE Martin Chuzzlewit!'
His consternation of surprise was so genuine, that the old man, with all
the disposition that he clearly entertained to believe it assumed, was
convinced of its reality.
'I am Martin Chuzzlewit,' he said, bitterly: 'and Martin Chuzzlewit
wishes you had been hanged, before you had come here to disturb him in
his sleep. Why, I dreamed of this fellow!' he said, lying down again,
and turning away his face, 'before I knew that he was near me!'
'My good cousin--' said Mr Pecksniff.
'There! His very first words!' cried the old man, shaking his grey head
to and fro upon the pillow, and throwing up his hands. 'In his very
first words he asserts his relationship! I knew he would; they all do
it! Near or distant, blood or water, it's all one. Ugh! What a calendar
of deceit, and lying, and false-witnessing, the sound of any word of
kindred opens before me!'
'Pray do not be hasty, Mr Chuzzlewit,' said Pecksniff, in a tone that
was at once in the sublimest degree compassionate and dispassionate;
for he had by this time recovered from his surprise, and was in full
possession of his virtuous self. 'You will regret being hasty, I know
'You know!' said Martin, contemptuously.
'Yes,' retorted Mr Pecksniff. 'Aye, aye, Mr Chuzzlewit; and don't
imagine that I mean to court or flatter you; for nothing is further from
my intention. Neither, sir, need you entertain the least misgiving that
I shall repeat that obnoxious word which has given you so much offence
already. Why should I? What do I expect or want from you? There is
nothing in your possession that I know of, Mr Chuzzlewit, which is much
to be coveted for the happiness it brings you.'
'That's true enough,' muttered the old man.
'Apart from that consideration,' said Mr Pecksniff, watchful of the
effect he made, 'it must be plain to you (I am sure) by this time, that
if I had wished to insinuate myself into your good opinion, I should
have been, of all things, careful not to address you as a relative;
knowing your humour, and being quite certain beforehand that I could not
have a worse letter of recommendation.'
Martin made not any verbal answer; but he as clearly implied though only
by a motion of his legs beneath the bed-clothes, that there was reason
in this, and that he could not dispute it, as if he had said as much in
good set terms.
'No,' said Mr Pecksniff, keeping his hand in his waistcoat as though
he were ready, on the shortest notice, to produce his heart for
Martin Chuzzlewit's inspection, 'I came here to offer my services to
a stranger. I make no offer of them to you, because I know you would
distrust me if I did. But lying on that bed, sir, I regard you as a
stranger, and I have just that amount of interest in you which I hope I
should feel in any stranger, circumstanced as you are. Beyond that, I am
quite as indifferent to you, Mr Chuzzlewit, as you are to me.'
Having said which, Mr Pecksniff threw himself back in the easy-chair;
so radiant with ingenuous honesty, that Mrs Lupin almost wondered not to
see a stained-glass Glory, such as the Saint wore in the church, shining
about his head.
A long pause succeeded. The old man, with increased restlessness,
changed his posture several times. Mrs Lupin and the young lady gazed
in silence at the counterpane. Mr Pecksniff toyed abstractedly with his
eye-glass, and kept his eyes shut, that he might ruminate the better.
'Eh?' he said at last, opening them suddenly, and looking towards the
bed. 'I beg your pardon. I thought you spoke. Mrs Lupin,' he continued,
slowly rising 'I am not aware that I can be of any service to you here.
The gentleman is better, and you are as good a nurse as he can have.
This last note of interrogation bore reference to another change
of posture on the old man's part, which brought his face towards Mr
Pecksniff for the first time since he had turned away from him.
'If you desire to speak to me before I go, sir,' continued that
gentleman, after another pause, 'you may command my leisure; but I
must stipulate, in justice to myself, that you do so as to a stranger,
strictly as to a stranger.'
Now if Mr Pecksniff knew, from anything Martin Chuzzlewit had expressed
in gestures, that he wanted to speak to him, he could only have found it
out on some such principle as prevails in melodramas, and in virtue of
which the elderly farmer with the comic son always knows what the dumb
girl means when she takes refuge in his garden, and relates her personal
memoirs in incomprehensible pantomime. But without stopping to make any
inquiry on this point, Martin Chuzzlewit signed to his young companion
to withdraw, which she immediately did, along with the landlady leaving
him and Mr Pecksniff alone together. For some time they looked at each
other in silence; or rather the old man looked at Mr Pecksniff, and Mr
Pecksniff again closing his eyes on all outward objects, took an inward
survey of his own breast. That it amply repaid him for his trouble,
and afforded a delicious and enchanting prospect, was clear from the
expression of his face.
'You wish me to speak to you as to a total stranger,' said the old man,
Mr Pecksniff replied, by a shrug of his shoulders and an apparent
turning round of his eyes in their sockets before he opened them, that
he was still reduced to the necessity of entertaining that desire.
'You shall be gratified,' said Martin. 'Sir, I am a rich man. Not so
rich as some suppose, perhaps, but yet wealthy. I am not a miser sir,
though even that charge is made against me, as I hear, and currently
believed. I have no pleasure in hoarding. I have no pleasure in the
possession of money, The devil that we call by that name can give me
nothing but unhappiness.'
It would be no description of Mr Pecksniff's gentleness of manner to
adopt the common parlance, and say that he looked at this moment as if
butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. He rather looked as if any quantity
of butter might have been made out of him, by churning the milk of human
kindness, as it spouted upwards from his heart.
'For the same reason that I am not a hoarder of money,' said the old
man, 'I am not lavish of it. Some people find their gratification in
storing it up; and others theirs in parting with it; but I have no
gratification connected with the thing. Pain and bitterness are the only
goods it ever could procure for me. I hate it. It is a spectre walking
before me through the world, and making every social pleasure hideous.'
A thought arose in Pecksniff's mind, which must have instantly mounted
to his face, or Martin Chuzzlewit would not have resumed as quickly and
as sternly as he did:
'You would advise me for my peace of mind, to get rid of this source of
misery, and transfer it to some one who could bear it better. Even you,
perhaps, would rid me of a burden under which I suffer so grievously.
But, kind stranger,' said the old man, whose every feature darkened as
he spoke, 'good Christian stranger, that is a main part of my trouble.
In other hands, I have known money do good; in other hands I have known
it triumphed in, and boasted of with reason, as the master-key to all
the brazen gates that close upon the paths to worldly honour,
fortune, and enjoyment. To what man or woman; to what worthy, honest,
incorruptible creature; shall I confide such a talisman, either now
or when I die? Do you know any such person? YOUR virtues are of course
inestimable, but can you tell me of any other living creature who will
bear the test of contact with myself?'
'Of contact with yourself, sir?' echoed Mr Pecksniff.
'Aye,' returned the old man, 'the test of contact with me--with me. You
have heard of him whose misery (the gratification of his own foolish
wish) was, that he turned every thing he touched into gold. The curse
of my existence, and the realisation of my own mad desire is that by the
golden standard which I bear about me, I am doomed to try the metal of
all other men, and find it false and hollow.'
Mr Pecksniff shook his head, and said, 'You think so.'
'Oh yes,' cried the old man, 'I think so! and in your telling me "I
think so," I recognize the true unworldly ring of YOUR metal. I tell
you, man,' he added, with increasing bitterness, 'that I have gone, a
rich man, among people of all grades and kinds; relatives, friends, and
strangers; among people in whom, when I was poor, I had confidence, and
justly, for they never once deceived me then, or, to me, wronged each
other. But I have never found one nature, no, not one, in which, being
wealthy and alone, I was not forced to detect the latent corruption that
lay hid within it waiting for such as I to bring it forth. Treachery,
deceit, and low design; hatred of competitors, real or fancied, for my
favour; meanness, falsehood, baseness, and servility; or,' and here
he looked closely in his cousin's eyes, 'or an assumption of honest
independence, almost worse than all; these are the beauties which my
wealth has brought to light. Brother against brother, child against
parent, friends treading on the faces of friends, this is the social
company by whom my way has been attended. There are stories told--they
may be true or false--of rich men who, in the garb of poverty, have
found out virtue and rewarded it. They were dolts and idiots for their
pains. They should have made the search in their own characters. They
should have shown themselves fit objects to be robbed and preyed upon
and plotted against and adulated by any knaves, who, but for joy, would
have spat upon their coffins when they died their dupes; and then their
search would have ended as mine has done, and they would be what I am.'
Mr Pecksniff, not at all knowing what it might be best to say in the
momentary pause which ensued upon these remarks, made an elaborate
demonstration of intending to deliver something very oracular indeed;
trusting to the certainty of the old man interrupting him, before he
should utter a word. Nor was he mistaken, for Martin Chuzzlewit having
taken breath, went on to say:
'Hear me to an end; judge what profit you are like to gain from any
repetition of this visit; and leave me. I have so corrupted and changed
the nature of all those who have ever attended on me, by breeding
avaricious plots and hopes within them; I have engendered such domestic
strife and discord, by tarrying even with members of my own family; I
have been such a lighted torch in peaceful homes, kindling up all the
inflammable gases and vapours in their moral atmosphere, which, but for
me, might have proved harmless to the end, that I have, I may say, fled
from all who knew me, and taking refuge in secret places have lived, of
late, the life of one who is hunted. The young girl whom you just now
saw--what! your eye lightens when I talk of her! You hate her already,
'Upon my word, sir!' said Mr Pecksniff, laying his hand upon his breast,
and dropping his eyelids.
'I forgot,' cried the old man, looking at him with a keenness which the
other seemed to feel, although he did not raise his eyes so as to see
it. 'I ask your pardon. I forgot you were a stranger. For the moment
you reminded me of one Pecksniff, a cousin of mine. As I was saying--the
young girl whom you just now saw, is an orphan child, whom, with one
steady purpose, I have bred and educated, or, if you prefer the word,
adopted. For a year or more she has been my constant companion, and she
is my only one. I have taken, as she knows, a solemn oath never to
leave her sixpence when I die, but while I live I make her an annual
allowance; not extravagant in its amount and yet not stinted. There is
a compact between us that no term of affectionate cajolery shall ever be
addressed by either to the other, but that she shall call me always by
my Christian name; I her, by hers. She is bound to me in life by ties
of interest, and losing by my death, and having no expectation
disappointed, will mourn it, perhaps; though for that I care little.
This is the only kind of friend I have or will have. Judge from such
premises what a profitable hour you have spent in coming here, and leave
me, to return no more.'
With these words, the old man fell slowly back upon his pillow. Mr
Pecksniff as slowly rose, and, with a prefatory hem, began as follows:
'There. Go!' interposed the other. 'Enough of this. I am weary of you.'
'I am sorry for that, sir,' rejoined Mr Pecksniff, 'because I have a
duty to discharge, from which, depend upon it, I shall not shrink. No,
sir, I shall not shrink.'
It is a lamentable fact, that as Mr Pecksniff stood erect beside the
bed, in all the dignity of Goodness, and addressed him thus, the old man
cast an angry glance towards the candlestick, as if he were possessed
by a strong inclination to launch it at his cousin's head. But he
constrained himself, and pointing with his finger to the door, informed
him that his road lay there.
'Thank you,' said Mr Pecksniff; 'I am aware of that. I am going.
But before I go, I crave your leave to speak, and more than that, Mr
Chuzzlewit, I must and will--yes indeed, I repeat it, must and will--be
heard. I am not surprised, sir, at anything you have told me tonight.
It is natural, very natural, and the greater part of it was known to
me before. I will not say,' continued Mr Pecksniff, drawing out his
pocket-handkerchief, and winking with both eyes at once, as it were,
against his will, 'I will not say that you are mistaken in me. While
you are in your present mood I would not say so for the world. I almost
wish, indeed, that I had a different nature, that I might repress even
this slight confession of weakness; which I cannot disguise from you;
which I feel is humiliating; but which you will have the goodness to
excuse. We will say, if you please,' added Mr Pecksniff, with great
tenderness of manner, 'that it arises from a cold in the head, or is
attributable to snuff, or smelling-salts, or onions, or anything but the
Here he paused for an instant, and concealed his face behind his
pocket-handkerchief. Then, smiling faintly, and holding the bed
furniture with one hand, he resumed:
'But, Mr Chuzzlewit, while I am forgetful of myself, I owe it to myself,
and to my character--aye, sir, and I HAVE a character which is very dear
to me, and will be the best inheritance of my two daughters--to tell
you, on behalf of another, that your conduct is wrong, unnatural,
indefensible, monstrous. And I tell you, sir,' said Mr Pecksniff,
towering on tiptoe among the curtains, as if he were literally rising
above all worldly considerations, and were fain to hold on tight, to
keep himself from darting skyward like a rocket, 'I tell you without
fear or favour, that it will not do for you to be unmindful of your
grandson, young Martin, who has the strongest natural claim upon you.
It will not do, sir,' repeated Mr Pecksniff, shaking his head. 'You may
think it will do, but it won't. You must provide for that young man;
you shall provide for him; you WILL provide for him. I believe,' said Mr
Pecksniff, glancing at the pen-and-ink, 'that in secret you have already
done so. Bless you for doing so. Bless you for doing right, sir. Bless
you for hating me. And good night!'
So saying, Mr Pecksniff waved his right hand with much solemnity, and
once more inserting it in his waistcoat, departed. There was emotion in
his manner, but his step was firm. Subject to human weaknesses, he was
upheld by conscience.
Martin lay for some time, with an expression on his face of silent
wonder, not unmixed with rage; at length he muttered in a whisper:
'What does this mean? Can the false-hearted boy have chosen such a
tool as yonder fellow who has just gone out? Why not! He has conspired
against me, like the rest, and they are but birds of one feather. A new
plot; a new plot! Oh self, self, self! At every turn nothing but self!'
He fell to trifling, as he ceased to speak, with the ashes of the burnt
paper in the candlestick. He did so, at first, in pure abstraction, but
they presently became the subject of his thoughts.
'Another will made and destroyed,' he said, 'nothing determined on,
nothing done, and I might have died to-night! I plainly see to what foul
uses all this money will be put at last,' he cried, almost writhing in
the bed; 'after filling me with cares and miseries all my life, it will
perpetuate discord and bad passions when I am dead. So it always is.
What lawsuits grow out of the graves of rich men, every day; sowing
perjury, hatred, and lies among near kindred, where there should be
nothing but love! Heaven help us, we have much to answer for! Oh self,
self, self! Every man for himself, and no creature for me!'
Universal self! Was there nothing of its shadow in these reflections,
and in the history of Martin Chuzzlewit, on his own showing?