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PROVES THAT CHANGES MAY BE RUNG IN THE BEST-REGULATED FAMILIES, AND THAT
MR PECKNIFF WAS A SPECIAL HAND AT A TRIPLE-BOB-MAJOR
As the surgeon's first care after amputating a limb, is to take up the
arteries the cruel knife has severed, so it is the duty of this history,
which in its remorseless course has cut from the Pecksniffian trunk its
right arm, Mercy, to look to the parent stem, and see how in all its
various ramifications it got on without her.
And first of Mr Pecksniff it may be observed, that having provided for
his youngest daughter that choicest of blessings, a tender and indulgent
husband; and having gratified the dearest wish of his parental heart by
establishing her in life so happily; he renewed his youth, and spreading
the plumage of his own bright conscience, felt himself equal to all
kinds of flights. It is customary with fathers in stage-plays, after
giving their daughters to the men of their hearts, to congratulate
themselves on having no other business on their hands but to die
immediately; though it is rarely found that they are in a hurry to do
it. Mr Pecksniff, being a father of a more sage and practical class,
appeared to think that his immediate business was to live; and having
deprived himself of one comfort, to surround himself with others.
But however much inclined the good man was to be jocose and playful, and
in the garden of his fancy to disport himself (if one may say so) like
an architectural kitten, he had one impediment constantly opposed to
him. The gentle Cherry, stung by a sense of slight and injury, which
far from softening down or wearing out, rankled and festered in her
heart--the gentle Cherry was in flat rebellion. She waged fierce war
against her dear papa, she led her parent what is usually called, for
want of a better figure of speech, the life of a dog. But never did that
dog live, in kennel, stable-yard, or house, whose life was half as hard
as Mr Pecksniff's with his gentle child.
The father and daughter were sitting at their breakfast. Tom had
retired, and they were alone. Mr Pecksniff frowned at first; but having
cleared his brow, looked stealthily at his child. Her nose was very red
indeed, and screwed up tight, with hostile preparation.
'Cherry,' cried Mr Pecksniff, 'what is amiss between us? My child, why
are we disunited?'
Miss Pecksniff's answer was scarcely a response to this gush of
affection, for it was simply, 'Bother, Pa!'
'Bother!' repeated Mr Pecksniff, in a tone of anguish.
'Oh! 'tis too late, Pa,' said his daughter, calmly 'to talk to me like
this. I know what it means, and what its value is.'
'This is hard!' cried Mr Pecksniff, addressing his breakfast-cup. 'This
is very hard! She is my child. I carried her in my arms when she wore
shapeless worsted shoes--I might say, mufflers--many years ago!'
'You needn't taunt me with that, Pa,' retorted Cherry, with a spiteful
look. 'I am not so many years older than my sister, either, though she
IS married to your friend!'
'Ah, human nature, human nature! Poor human nature!' said Mr Pecksniff,
shaking his head at human nature, as if he didn't belong to it. 'To
think that this discord should arise from such a cause! oh dear, oh
'From such a cause indeed!' cried Cherry. 'State the real cause, Pa, or
I'll state it myself. Mind! I will!'
Perhaps the energy with which she said this was infectious. However that
may be, Mr Pecksniff changed his tone and the expression of his face for
one of anger, if not downright violence, when he said:
'You will! you have. You did yesterday. You do always. You have no
decency; you make no secret of your temper; you have exposed yourself to
Mr Chuzzlewit a hundred times.'
'Myself!' cried Cherry, with a bitter smile. 'Oh indeed! I don't mind
'Me, too, then,' said Mr Pecksniff.
His daughter answered with a scornful laugh.
'And since we have come to an explanation, Charity,' said Mr Pecksniff,
rolling his head portentously, 'let me tell you that I won't allow it.
None of your nonsense, Miss! I won't permit it to be done.'
'I shall do,' said Charity, rocking her chair backwards and forwards,
and raising her voice to a high pitch, 'I shall do, Pa, what I please
and what I have done. I am not going to be crushed in everything, depend
upon it. I've been more shamefully used than anybody ever was in
this world,' here she began to cry and sob, 'and may expect the worse
treatment from you, I know. But I don't care for that. No, I don't!'
Mr Pecksniff was made so desperate by the loud tone in which she spoke,
that, after looking about him in frantic uncertainty for some means of
softening it, he rose and shook her until the ornamental bow of hair
upon her head nodded like a plume. She was so very much astonished by
this assault, that it really had the desired effect.
'I'll do it again!' cried Mr Pecksniff, as he resumed his seat and
fetched his breath, 'if you dare to talk in that loud manner. How do
you mean about being shamefully used? If Mr Jonas chose your sister in
preference to you, who could help it, I should wish to know? What have I
to do with it?'
'Wasn't I made a convenience of? Weren't my feelings trifled with?
Didn't he address himself to me first?' sobbed Cherry, clasping her
hands; 'and oh, good gracious, that I should live to be shook!'
'You'll live to be shaken again,' returned her parent, 'if you drive
me to that means of maintaining the decorum of this humble roof. You
surprise me. I wonder you have not more spirit. If Mr Jonas didn't care
for you, how could you wish to have him?'
'I wish to have him!' exclaimed Cherry. 'I wish to have him, Pa!'
'Then what are you making all this piece of work for,' retorted her
father, 'if you didn't wish to have him?'
'Because I was treated with duplicity,' said Cherry; 'and because my own
sister and my own father conspired against me. I am not angry with HER,'
said Cherry; looking much more angry than ever. 'I pity her. I'm sorry
for her. I know the fate that's in store for her, with that Wretch.'
'Mr Jonas will survive your calling him a wretch, my child, I dare say,'
said Mr Pecksniff, with returning resignation; 'but call him what you
like and make an end of it.'
'Not an end, Pa,' said Charity. 'No, not an end. That's not the only
point on which we're not agreed. I won't submit to it. It's better you
should know that at once. No; I won't submit to it indeed, Pa! I am
not quite a fool, and I am not blind. All I have got to say is, I won't
submit to it.'
Whatever she meant, she shook Mr Pecksniff now; for his lame attempt to
seem composed was melancholy in the last degree. His anger changed to
meekness, and his words were mild and fawning.
'My dear,' he said; 'if in the short excitement of an angry moment I
resorted to an unjustifiable means of suppressing a little outbreak
calculated to injure you as well as myself--it's possible I may have
done so; perhaps I did--I ask your pardon. A father asking pardon of
his child,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'is, I believe, a spectacle to soften the
most rugged nature.'
But it didn't at all soften Miss Pecksniff; perhaps because her nature
was not rugged enough. On the contrary, she persisted in saying, over
and over again, that she wasn't quite a fool, and wasn't blind, and
wouldn't submit to it.
'You labour under some mistake, my child!' said Mr Pecksniff, 'but
I will not ask you what it is; I don't desire to know. No, pray!' he
added, holding out his hand and colouring again, 'let us avoid the
subject, my dear, whatever it is!'
'It's quite right that the subject should be avoided between us,
sir,' said Cherry. 'But I wish to be able to avoid it altogether, and
consequently must beg you to provide me with a home.'
Mr Pecksniff looked about the room, and said, 'A home, my child!'
'Another home, papa,' said Cherry, with increasing stateliness 'Place me
at Mrs Todgers's or somewhere, on an independent footing; but I will not
live here, if such is to be the case.'
It is possible that Miss Pecksniff saw in Mrs Todgers's a vision
of enthusiastic men, pining to fall in adoration at her feet. It is
possible that Mr Pecksniff, in his new-born juvenility, saw, in the
suggestion of that same establishment, an easy means of relieving
himself from an irksome charge in the way of temper and watchfulness.
It is undoubtedly a fact that in the attentive ears of Mr Pecksniff, the
proposition did not sound quite like the dismal knell of all his hopes.
But he was a man of great feeling and acute sensibility; and he squeezed
his pocket-handkerchief against his eyes with both hands--as such men
always do, especially when they are observed. 'One of my birds,' Mr
Pecksniff said, 'has left me for the stranger's breast; the other would
take wing to Todgers's! Well, well, what am I? I don't know what I am,
exactly. Never mind!'
Even this remark, made more pathetic perhaps by his breaking down in
the middle of it, had no effect upon Charity. She was grim, rigid, and
'But I have ever,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'sacrificed my children's
happiness to my own--I mean my own happiness to my children's--and I
will not begin to regulate my life by other rules of conduct now. If you
can be happier at Mrs Todgers's than in your father's house, my dear, go
to Mrs Todgers's! Do not think of me, my girl!' said Mr Pecksniff with
emotion; 'I shall get on pretty well, no doubt.'
Miss Charity, who knew he had a secret pleasure in the contemplation of
the proposed change, suppressed her own, and went on to negotiate the
terms. His views upon this subject were at first so very limited that
another difference, involving possibly another shaking, threatened to
ensue; but by degrees they came to something like an understanding, and
the storm blew over. Indeed, Miss Charity's idea was so agreeable
to both, that it would have been strange if they had not come to an
amicable agreement. It was soon arranged between them that the project
should be tried, and that immediately; and that Cherry's not being well,
and needing change of scene, and wishing to be near her sister, should
form the excuse for her departure to Mr Chuzzlewit and Mary, to both of
whom she had pleaded indisposition for some time past. These premises
agreed on, Mr Pecksniff gave her his blessing, with all the dignity of
a self-denying man who had made a hard sacrifice, but comforted himself
with the reflection that virtue is its own reward. Thus they were
reconciled for the first time since that not easily forgiven night,
when Mr Jonas, repudiating the elder, had confessed his passion for the
younger sister, and Mr Pecksniff had abetted him on moral grounds.
But how happened it--in the name of an unexpected addition to that small
family, the Seven Wonders of the World, whatever and wherever they may
be, how happened it--that Mr Pecksniff and his daughter were about
to part? How happened it that their mutual relations were so greatly
altered? Why was Miss Pecksniff so clamorous to have it understood that
she was neither blind nor foolish, and she wouldn't bear it? It is not
possible that Mr Pecksniff had any thoughts of marrying again; or that
his daughter, with the sharp eye of a single woman, fathomed his design!
Let us inquire into this.
Mr Pecksniff, as a man without reproach, from whom the breath of slander
passed like common breath from any other polished surface, could afford
to do what common men could not. He knew the purity of his own motives;
and when he had a motive worked at it as only a very good man (or a very
bad one) can. Did he set before himself any strong and palpable motives
for taking a second wife? Yes; and not one or two of them, but a
combination of very many.
Old Martin Chuzzlewit had gradually undergone an important change. Even
upon the night when he made such an ill-timed arrival at Mr Pecksniff's
house, he was comparatively subdued and easy to deal with. This Mr
Pecksniff attributed, at the time, to the effect his brother's death had
had upon him. But from that hour his character seemed to have modified
by regular degrees, and to have softened down into a dull indifference
for almost every one but Mr Pecksniff. His looks were much the same as
ever, but his mind was singularly altered. It was not that this or that
passion stood out in brighter or in dimmer hues; but that the colour of
the whole man was faded. As one trait disappeared, no other trait sprung
up to take its place. His senses dwindled too. He was less keen of
sight; was deaf sometimes; took little notice of what passed before him;
and would be profoundly taciturn for days together. The process of this
alteration was so easy that almost as soon as it began to be observed
it was complete. But Mr Pecksniff saw it first, and having Anthony
Chuzzlewit fresh in his recollection, saw in his brother Martin the same
process of decay.
To a gentleman of Mr Pecksniff's tenderness, this was a very mournful
sight. He could not but foresee the probability of his respected
relative being made the victim of designing persons, and of his riches
falling into worthless hands. It gave him so much pain that he resolved
to secure the property to himself; to keep bad testamentary suitors at a
distance; to wall up the old gentleman, as it were, for his own use. By
little and little, therefore, he began to try whether Mr Chuzzlewit gave
any promise of becoming an instrument in his hands, and finding that he
did, and indeed that he was very supple in his plastic fingers, he made
it the business of his life--kind soul!--to establish an ascendancy over
him; and every little test he durst apply meeting with a success beyond
his hopes, he began to think he heard old Martin's cash already chinking
in his own unworldly pockets.
But when Mr Pecksniff pondered on this subject (as, in his zealous
way, he often did), and thought with an uplifted heart of the train of
circumstances which had delivered the old gentleman into his hands for
the confusion of evil-doers and the triumph of a righteous nature, he
always felt that Mary Graham was his stumbling-block. Let the old man
say what he would, Mr Pecksniff knew he had a strong affection for her.
He knew that he showed it in a thousand little ways; that he liked to
have her near him, and was never quite at ease when she was absent
long. That he had ever really sworn to leave her nothing in his will, Mr
Pecksniff greatly doubted. That even if he had, there were many ways by
which he could evade the oath and satisfy his conscience, Mr Pecksniff
knew. That her unprotected state was no light burden on the old man's
mind, he also knew, for Mr Chuzzlewit had plainly told him so. 'Then,'
said Mr Pecksniff 'what if I married her! What,' repeated Mr Pecksniff,
sticking up his hair and glancing at his bust by Spoker; 'what
if, making sure of his approval first--he is nearly imbecile, poor
gentleman--I married her!'
Mr Pecksniff had a lively sense of the Beautiful; especially in women.
His manner towards the sex was remarkable for its insinuating character.
It is recorded of him in another part of these pages, that he embraced
Mrs Todgers on the smallest provocation; and it was a way he had; it was
a part of the gentle placidity of his disposition. Before any thought of
matrimony was in his mind, he had bestowed on Mary many little tokens of
his spiritual admiration. They had been indignantly received, but that
was nothing. True, as the idea expanded within him, these had become
too ardent to escape the piercing eye of Cherry, who read his scheme at
once; but he had always felt the power of Mary's charms. So Interest and
Inclination made a pair, and drew the curricle of Mr Pecksniff's plan.
As to any thought of revenging himself on young Martin for his insolent
expressions when they parted, and of shutting him out still more
effectually from any hope of reconciliation with his grandfather, Mr
Pecksniff was much too meek and forgiving to be suspected of harbouring
it. As to being refused by Mary, Mr Pecksniff was quite satisfied that
in her position she could never hold out if he and Mr Chuzzlewit were
both against her. As to consulting the wishes of her heart in such a
case, it formed no part of Mr Pecksniff's moral code; for he knew what a
good man he was, and what a blessing he must be to anybody. His daughter
having broken the ice, and the murder being out between them, Mr
Pecksniff had now only to pursue his design as cleverly as he could, and
by the craftiest approaches.
'Well, my good sir,' said Mr Pecksniff, meeting old Martin in the
garden, for it was his habit to walk in and out by that way, as the
fancy took him; 'and how is my dear friend this delicious morning?'
'Do you mean me?' asked the old man.
'Ah!' said Mr Pecksniff, 'one of his deaf days, I see. Could I mean any
one else, my dear sir?'
'You might have meant Mary,' said the old man.
'Indeed I might. Quite true. I might speak of her as a dear, dear
friend, I hope?' observed Mr Pecksniff.
'I hope so,' returned old Martin. 'I think she deserves it.'
'Think!' cried Pecksniff, 'think, Mr Chuzzlewit!'
'You are speaking, I know,' returned Martin, 'but I don't catch what you
say. Speak up!'
'He's getting deafer than a flint,' said Pecksniff. 'I was saying, my
dear sir, that I am afraid I must make up my mind to part with Cherry.'
'What has SHE been doing?' asked the old man.
'He puts the most ridiculous questions I ever heard!' muttered Mr
Pecksniff. 'He's a child to-day.' After which he added, in a mild roar:
'She hasn't been doing anything, my dear friend.'
'What are you going to part with her for?' demanded Martin.
'She hasn't her health by any means,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'She misses
her sister, my dear sir; they doted on each other from the cradle. And I
think of giving her a run in London for a change. A good long run, sir,
if I find she likes it.'
'Quite right,' cried Martin. 'It's judicious.'
'I am glad to hear you say so. I hope you mean to bear me company in
this dull part, while she's away?' said Mr Pecksniff.
'I have no intention of removing from it,' was Martin's answer.
'Then why,' said Mr Pecksniff, taking the old man's arm in his, and
walking slowly on; 'Why, my good sir, can't you come and stay with me?
I am sure I could surround you with more comforts--lowly as is my
Cot--than you can obtain at a village house of entertainment. And pardon
me, Mr Chuzzlewit, pardon me if I say that such a place as the Dragon,
however well-conducted (and, as far as I know, Mrs Lupin is one of the
worthiest creatures in this county), is hardly a home for Miss Graham.'
Martin mused a moment; and then said, as he shook him by the hand:
'No. You're quite right; it is not.'
'The very sight of skittles,' Mr Pecksniff eloquently pursued, 'is far
from being congenial to a delicate mind.'
'It's an amusement of the vulgar,' said old Martin, 'certainly.'
'Of the very vulgar,' Mr Pecksniff answered. 'Then why not bring Miss
Graham here, sir? Here is the house. Here am I alone in it, for Thomas
Pinch I do not count as any one. Our lovely friend shall occupy my
daughter's chamber; you shall choose your own; we shall not quarrel, I
'We are not likely to do that,' said Martin.
Mr Pecksniff pressed his hand. 'We understand each other, my dear sir,
I see!--I can wind him,' he thought, with exultation, 'round my little
'You leave the recompense to me?' said the old man, after a minute's
'Oh! do not speak of recompense!' cried Pecksniff.
'I say,' repeated Martin, with a glimmer of his old obstinacy, 'you
leave the recompense to me. Do you?'
'Since you desire it, my good sir.'
'I always desire it,' said the old man. 'You know I always desire it. I
wish to pay as I go, even when I buy of you. Not that I do not leave a
balance to be settled one day, Pecksniff.'
The architect was too much overcome to speak. He tried to drop a tear
upon his patron's hand, but couldn't find one in his dry distillery.
'May that day be very distant!' was his pious exclamation. 'Ah, sir! If
I could say how deep an interest I have in you and yours! I allude to
our beautiful young friend.'
'True,' he answered. 'True. She need have some one interested in her.
I did her wrong to train her as I did. Orphan though she was, she would
have found some one to protect her whom she might have loved again. When
she was a child, I pleased myself with the thought that in gratifying my
whim of placing her between me and false-hearted knaves, I had done
her a kindness. Now she is a woman, I have no such comfort. She has no
protector but herself. I have put her at such odds with the world, that
any dog may bark or fawn upon her at his pleasure. Indeed she stands in
need of delicate consideration. Yes; indeed she does!'
'If her position could be altered and defined, sir?' Mr Pecksniff
'How can that be done? Should I make a seamstress of her, or a
'Heaven forbid!' said Mr Pecksniff. 'My dear sir, there are other ways.
There are indeed. But I am much excited and embarrassed at present, and
would rather not pursue the subject. I scarcely know what I mean. Permit
me to resume it at another time.'
'You are not unwell?' asked Martin anxiously.
'No, no!' cried Pecksniff. 'No. Permit me to resume it at another time.
I'll walk a little. Bless you!'
Old Martin blessed him in return, and squeezed his hand. As he turned
away, and slowly walked towards the house, Mr Pecksniff stood gazing
after him; being pretty well recovered from his late emotion, which, in
any other man, one might have thought had been assumed as a machinery
for feeling Martin's pulse. The change in the old man found such a
slight expression in his figure, that Mr Pecksniff, looking after him,
could not help saying to himself:
'And I can wind him round my little finger! Only think!'
Old Martin happening to turn his head, saluted him affectionately. Mr
Pecksniff returned the gesture.
'Why, the time was,' said Mr Pecksniff; 'and not long ago, when he
wouldn't look at me! How soothing is this change. Such is the delicate
texture of the human heart; so complicated is the process of its being
softened! Externally he looks the same, and I can wind him round my
little finger. Only think!'
In sober truth, there did appear to be nothing on which Mr Pecksniff
might not have ventured with Martin Chuzzlewit; for whatever Mr
Pecksniff said or did was right, and whatever he advised was done.
Martin had escaped so many snares from needy fortune-hunters, and had
withered in the shell of his suspicion and distrust for so many years,
but to become the good man's tool and plaything. With the happiness of
this conviction painted on his face, the architect went forth upon his
The summer weather in his bosom was reflected in the breast of Nature.
Through deep green vistas where the boughs arched overhead, and showed
the sunlight flashing in the beautiful perspective; through dewy fern
from which the startled hares leaped up, and fled at his approach; by
mantled pools, and fallen trees, and down in hollow places, rustling
among last year's leaves whose scent woke memory of the past; the placid
Pecksniff strolled. By meadow gates and hedges fragrant with wild roses;
and by thatched-roof cottages whose inmates humbly bowed before him as
a man both good and wise; the worthy Pecksniff walked in tranquil
meditation. The bee passed onward, humming of the work he had to do;
the idle gnats for ever going round and round in one contracting and
expanding ring, yet always going on as fast as he, danced merrily before
him; the colour of the long grass came and went, as if the light clouds
made it timid as they floated through the distant air. The birds,
so many Pecksniff consciences, sang gayly upon every branch; and Mr
Pecksniff paid HIS homage to the day by ruminating on his projects as he
Chancing to trip, in his abstraction, over the spreading root of an old
tree, he raised his pious eyes to take a survey of the ground before
him. It startled him to see the embodied image of his thoughts not far
ahead. Mary herself. And alone.
At first Mr Pecksniff stopped as if with the intention of avoiding
her; but his next impulse was to advance, which he did at a brisk pace;
caroling as he went so sweetly and with so much innocence that he only
wanted feathers and wings to be a bird.
Hearing notes behind her, not belonging to the songsters of the grove,
she looked round. Mr Pecksniff kissed his hand, and was at her side
'Communing with nature?' said Mr Pecksniff. 'So am I.'
She said the morning was so beautiful that she had walked further than
she intended, and would return. Mr Pecksniff said it was exactly his
case, and he would return with her.
'Take my arm, sweet girl,' said Mr Pecksniff.
Mary declined it, and walked so very fast that he remonstrated. 'You
were loitering when I came upon you,' Mr Pecksniff said. 'Why be so
cruel as to hurry now? You would not shun me, would you?'
'Yes, I would,' she answered, turning her glowing cheek indignantly
upon him, 'you know I would. Release me, Mr Pecksniff. Your touch is
disagreeable to me.'
His touch! What? That chaste patriarchal touch which Mrs Todgers--surely
a discreet lady--had endured, not only without complaint, but with
apparent satisfaction! This was positively wrong. Mr Pecksniff was sorry
to hear her say it.
'If you have not observed,' said Mary, 'that it is so, pray take
assurance from my lips, and do not, as you are a gentleman, continue to
'Well, well!' said Mr Pecksniff, mildly, 'I feel that I might consider
this becoming in a daughter of my own, and why should I object to it
in one so beautiful! It's harsh. It cuts me to the soul,' said Mr
Pecksniff; 'but I cannot quarrel with you, Mary.'
She tried to say she was sorry to hear it, but burst into tears. Mr
Pecksniff now repeated the Todgers performance on a comfortable scale,
as if he intended it to last some time; and in his disengaged hand,
catching hers, employed himself in separating the fingers with his own,
and sometimes kissing them, as he pursued the conversation thus:
'I am glad we met. I am very glad we met. I am able now to ease my
bosom of a heavy load, and speak to you in confidence. Mary,' said Mr
Pecksniff in his tenderest tones, indeed they were so very tender that
he almost squeaked: 'My soul! I love you!'
A fantastic thing, that maiden affectation! She made believe to shudder.
'I love you,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'my gentle life, with a devotion which
is quite surprising, even to myself. I did suppose that the sensation
was buried in the silent tomb of a lady, only second to you in qualities
of the mind and form; but I find I am mistaken.'
She tried to disengage her hand, but might as well have tried to free
herself from the embrace of an affectionate boa-constrictor; if anything
so wily may be brought into comparison with Pecksniff.
'Although I am a widower,' said Mr Pecksniff, examining the rings upon
her fingers, and tracing the course of one delicate blue vein with his
fat thumb, 'a widower with two daughters, still I am not encumbered,
my love. One of them, as you know, is married. The other, by her own
desire, but with a view, I will confess--why not?--to my altering my
condition, is about to leave her father's house. I have a character,
I hope. People are pleased to speak well of me, I think. My person
and manner are not absolutely those of a monster, I trust. Ah! naughty
Hand!' said Mr Pecksniff, apostrophizing the reluctant prize, 'why did
you take me prisoner? Go, go!'
He slapped the hand to punish it; but relenting, folded it in his
waistcoat to comfort it again.
'Blessed in each other, and in the society of our venerable friend, my
darling,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'we shall be happy. When he is wafted to a
haven of rest, we will console each other. My pretty primrose, what do
'It is possible,' Mary answered, in a hurried manner, 'that I ought to
feel grateful for this mark of your confidence. I cannot say that I do,
but I am willing to suppose you may deserve my thanks. Take them; and
pray leave me, Mr Pecksniff.'
The good man smiled a greasy smile; and drew her closer to him.
'Pray, pray release me, Mr Pecksniff. I cannot listen to your proposal.
I cannot receive it. There are many to whom it may be acceptable, but it
is not so to me. As an act of kindness and an act of pity, leave me!'
Mr Pecksniff walked on with his arm round her waist, and her hand in
his, as contentedly as if they had been all in all to each other, and
were joined in the bonds of truest love.
'If you force me by your superior strength,' said Mary, who finding that
good words had not the least effect upon him, made no further effort to
suppress her indignation; 'if you force me by your superior strength
to accompany you back, and to be the subject of your insolence upon the
way, you cannot constrain the expression of my thoughts. I hold you in
the deepest abhorrence. I know your real nature and despise it.'
'No, no,' said Mr Pecksniff, sweetly. 'No, no, no!'
'By what arts or unhappy chances you have gained your influence over
Mr Chuzzlewit, I do not know,' said Mary; 'it may be strong enough to
soften even this, but he shall know of this, trust me, sir.'
Mr Pecksniff raised his heavy eyelids languidly, and let them fall
again. It was saying with perfect coolness, 'Aye, aye! Indeed!'
'Is it not enough,' said Mary, 'that you warp and change his nature,
adapt his every prejudice to your bad ends, and harden a heart naturally
kind by shutting out the truth and allowing none but false and distorted
views to reach it; is it not enough that you have the power of doing
this, and that you exercise it, but must you also be so coarse, so
cruel, and so cowardly to me?'
Still Mr Pecksniff led her calmly on, and looked as mild as any lamb
that ever pastured in the fields.
'Will nothing move you, sir?' cried Mary.
'My dear,' observed Mr Pecksniff, with a placid leer, 'a habit of
self-examination, and the practice of--shall I say of virtue?'
'Of hypocrisy,' said Mary.
'No, no,' resumed Mr Pecksniff, chafing the captive hand reproachfully,
'of virtue--have enabled me to set such guards upon myself, that it
is really difficult to ruffle me. It is a curious fact, but it is
difficult, do you know, for any one to ruffle me. And did she think,'
said Mr Pecksniff, with a playful tightening of his grasp 'that SHE
could! How little did she know his heart!'
Little, indeed! Her mind was so strangely constituted that she would
have preferred the caresses of a toad, an adder, or a serpent--nay, the
hug of a bear--to the endearments of Mr Pecksniff.
'Come, come,' said that good gentleman, 'a word or two will set this
matter right, and establish a pleasant understanding between us. I am
not angry, my love.'
'No,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'I am not. I say so. Neither are you.'
There was a beating heart beneath his hand that told another story
'I am sure you are not,' said Mr Pecksniff: 'and I will tell you why.
There are two Martin Chuzzlewits, my dear; and your carrying your anger
to one might have a serious effect--who knows!--upon the other. You
wouldn't wish to hurt him, would you?'
She trembled violently, and looked at him with such a proud disdain that
he turned his eyes away. No doubt lest he should be offended with her in
spite of his better self.
'A passive quarrel, my love,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'may be changed into
an active one, remember. It would be sad to blight even a disinherited
young man in his already blighted prospects; but how easy to do it.
Ah, how easy! HAVE I influence with our venerable friend, do you think?
Well, perhaps I have. Perhaps I have.'
He raised his eyes to hers; and nodded with an air of banter that was
'No,' he continued, thoughtfully. 'Upon the whole, my sweet, if I were
you I'd keep my secret to myself. I am not at all sure--very far from
it--that it would surprise our friend in any way, for he and I have had
some conversation together only this morning, and he is anxious, very
anxious, to establish you in some more settled manner. But whether he
was surprised or not surprised, the consequence of your imparting
it might be the same. Martin junior might suffer severely. I'd have
compassion on Martin junior, do you know?' said Mr Pecksniff, with a
persuasive smile. 'Yes. He don't deserve it, but I would.'
She wept so bitterly now, and was so much distressed, that he thought it
prudent to unclasp her waist, and hold her only by the hand.
'As to our own share in the precious little mystery,' said Mr Pecksniff,
'we will keep it to ourselves, and talk of it between ourselves, and
you shall think it over. You will consent, my love; you will consent,
I know. Whatever you may think; you will. I seem to remember to have
heard--I really don't know where, or how'--he added, with bewitching
frankness, 'that you and Martin junior, when you were children, had a
sort of childish fondness for each other. When we are married, you shall
have the satisfaction of thinking that it didn't last to ruin him, but
passed away to do him good; for we'll see then what we can do to put
some trifling help in Martin junior's way. HAVE I any influence with our
venerable friend? Well! Perhaps I have. Perhaps I have.'
The outlet from the wood in which these tender passages occurred, was
close to Mr Pecksniff's house. They were now so near it that he stopped,
and holding up her little finger, said in playful accents, as a parting
'Shall I bite it?'
Receiving no reply he kissed it instead; and then stooping down,
inclined his flabby face to hers--he had a flabby face, although he
WAS a good man--and with a blessing, which from such a source was quite
enough to set her up in life, and prosper her from that time forth
permitted her to leave him.
Gallantry in its true sense is supposed to ennoble and dignify a
man; and love has shed refinements on innumerable Cymons. But Mr
Pecksniff--perhaps because to one of his exalted nature these were mere
grossnesses--certainly did not appear to any unusual advantage, now that
he was left alone. On the contrary, he seemed to be shrunk and reduced;
to be trying to hide himself within himself; and to be wretched at not
having the power to do it. His shoes looked too large; his sleeve looked
too long; his hair looked too limp; his features looked too mean; his
exposed throat looked as if a halter would have done it good. For a
minute or two, in fact, he was hot, and pale, and mean, and shy, and
slinking, and consequently not at all Pecksniffian. But after that, he
recovered himself, and went home with as beneficent an air as if he had
been the High Priest of the summer weather.
'I have arranged to go, Papa,' said Charity, 'to-morrow.'
'So soon, my child!'
'I can't go too soon,' said Charity, 'under the circumstances. I have
written to Mrs Todgers to propose an arrangement, and have requested her
to meet me at the coach, at all events. You'll be quite your own master
now, Mr Pinch!'
Mr Pecksniff had just gone out of the room, and Tom had just come into
'My own master!' repeated Tom.
'Yes, you'll have nobody to interfere with you,' said Charity. 'At least
I hope you won't. Hem! It's a changing world.'
'What! are YOU going to be married, Miss Pecksniff?' asked Tom in great
'Not exactly,' faltered Cherry. 'I haven't made up my mind to be. I
believe I could be, if I chose, Mr Pinch.'
'Of course you could!' said Tom. And he said it in perfect good faith.
He believed it from the bottom of his heart.
'No,' said Cherry, 'I am not going to be married. Nobody is, that I know
of. Hem! But I am not going to live with Papa. I have my reasons, but
it's all a secret. I shall always feel very kindly towards you, I assure
you, for the boldness you showed that night. As to you and me, Mr Pinch,
WE part the best friends possible!'
Tom thanked her for her confidence, and for her friendship, but there
was a mystery in the former which perfectly bewildered him. In his
extravagant devotion to the family, he had felt the loss of Merry more
than any one but those who knew that for all the slights he underwent he
thought his own demerits were to blame, could possibly have understood.
He had scarcely reconciled himself to that when here was Charity about
to leave them. She had grown up, as it were, under Tom's eye.
The sisters were a part of Pecksniff, and a part of Tom; items in
Pecksniff's goodness, and in Tom's service. He couldn't bear it; not two
hours' sleep had Tom that night, through dwelling in his bed upon these
When morning dawned he thought he must have dreamed this piece of
ambiguity; but no, on going downstairs he found them packing trunks
and cording boxes, and making other preparations for Miss Charity's
departure, which lasted all day long. In good time for the evening
coach, Miss Charity deposited her housekeeping keys with much ceremony
upon the parlour table; took a gracious leave of all the house; and
quitted her paternal roof--a blessing for which the Pecksniffian servant
was observed by some profane persons to be particularly active in the
thanksgiving at church next Sunday.