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TREATS OF TODGER'S AGAIN; AND OF ANOTHER BLIGHTED PLANT BESIDES THE
PLANTS UPON THE LEADS
Early on the day next after that on which she bade adieu to the halls
of her youth and the scenes of her childhood, Miss Pecksniff, arriving
safely at the coach-office in London, was there received, and conducted
to her peaceful home beneath the shadow of the Monument, by Mrs Todgers.
Todgers looked a little worn by cares of gravy and other such
solicitudes arising out of her establishment, but displayed her usual
earnestness and warmth of manner.
'And how, my sweet Miss Pecksniff,' said she, 'how is your princely pa?'
Miss Pecksniff signified (in confidence) that he contemplated the
introduction of a princely ma; and repeated the sentiment that she
wasn't blind, and wasn't quite a fool, and wouldn't bear it.
Mrs Todgers was more shocked by the intelligence than any one could have
expected. She was quite bitter. She said there was no truth in man and
that the warmer he expressed himself, as a general principle, the falser
and more treacherous he was. She foresaw with astonishing clearness that
the object of Mr Pecksniff's attachment was designing, worthless, and
wicked; and receiving from Charity the fullest confirmation of these
views, protested with tears in her eyes that she loved Miss Pecksniff
like a sister, and felt her injuries as if they were her own.
'Your real darling sister, I have not seen her more than once since her
marriage,' said Mrs Todgers, 'and then I thought her looking poorly. My
sweet Miss Pecksniff, I always thought that you was to be the lady?'
'Oh dear no!' cried Cherry, shaking her head. 'Oh no, Mrs Todgers. Thank
you. No! not for any consideration he could offer.'
'I dare say you are right,' said Mrs Todgers with a sigh. 'I feared
it all along. But the misery we have had from that match, here among
ourselves, in this house, my dear Miss Pecksniff, nobody would believe.'
'Lor, Mrs Todgers!'
'Awful, awful!' repeated Mrs Todgers, with strong emphasis. 'You
recollect our youngest gentleman, my dear?'
'Of course I do,' said Cherry.
'You might have observed,' said Mrs Todgers, 'how he used to watch your
sister; and that a kind of stony dumbness came over him whenever she was
'I am sure I never saw anything of the sort,' said Cherry, in a peevish
manner. 'What nonsense, Mrs Todgers!'
'My dear,' returned that lady in a hollow voice, 'I have seen him again
and again, sitting over his pie at dinner, with his spoon a perfect
fixture in his mouth, looking at your sister. I have seen him standing
in a corner of our drawing-room, gazing at her, in such a lonely,
melancholy state, that he was more like a Pump than a man, and might
have drawed tears.'
'I never saw it!' cried Cherry; 'that's all I can say.'
'But when the marriage took place,' said Mrs Todgers, proceeding
with her subject, 'when it was in the paper, and was read out here at
breakfast, I thought he had taken leave of his senses, I did indeed.
The violence of that young man, my dear Miss Pecksniff; the frightful
opinions he expressed upon the subject of self-destruction; the
extraordinary actions he performed with his tea; the clenching way in
which he bit his bread and butter; the manner in which he taunted Mr
Jinkins; all combined to form a picture never to be forgotten.'
'It's a pity he didn't destroy himself, I think,' observed Miss
'Himself!' said Mrs Todgers, 'it took another turn at night. He was for
destroying other people then. There was a little chaffing going on--I
hope you don't consider that a low expression, Miss Pecksniff; it is
always in our gentlemen's mouths--a little chaffing going on, my dear,
among 'em, all in good nature, when suddenly he rose up, foaming with
his fury, and but for being held by three would have had Mr Jinkins's
life with a bootjack.'
Miss Pecksniff's face expressed supreme indifference.
'And now,' said Mrs Todgers, 'now he is the meekest of men. You can
almost bring the tears into his eyes by looking at him. He sits with me
the whole day long on Sundays, talking in such a dismal way that I find
it next to impossible to keep my spirits up equal to the accommodation
of the boarders. His only comfort is in female society. He takes me
half-price to the play, to an extent which I sometimes fear is beyond
his means; and I see the tears a-standing in his eyes during the whole
performance--particularly if it is anything of a comic nature. The turn
I experienced only yesterday,' said Mrs Todgers putting her hand to her
side, 'when the house-maid threw his bedside carpet out of the window of
his room, while I was sitting here, no one can imagine. I thought it was
him, and that he had done it at last!'
The contempt with which Miss Charity received this pathetic account of
the state to which the youngest gentleman in company was reduced,
did not say much for her power of sympathising with that unfortunate
character. She treated it with great levity, and went on to inform
herself, then and afterwards, whether any other changes had occurred in
the commercial boarding-house.
Mr Bailey was gone, and had been succeeded (such is the decay of human
greatness!) by an old woman whose name was reported to be Tamaroo--which
seemed an impossibility. Indeed it appeared in the fullness of time that
the jocular boarders had appropriated the word from an English ballad,
in which it is supposed to express the bold and fiery nature of a
certain hackney coachman; and that it was bestowed upon Mr Bailey's
successor by reason of her having nothing fiery about her, except an
occasional attack of that fire which is called St. Anthony's. This
ancient female had been engaged, in fulfillment of a vow, registered by
Mrs Todgers, that no more boys should darken the commercial doors; and
she was chiefly remarkable for a total absence of all comprehension upon
every subject whatever. She was a perfect Tomb for messages and small
parcels; and when dispatched to the Post Office with letters, had been
frequently seen endeavouring to insinuate them into casual chinks in
private doors, under the delusion that any door with a hole in it would
answer the purpose. She was a very little old woman, and always wore
a very coarse apron with a bib before and a loop behind, together
with bandages on her wrists, which appeared to be afflicted with an
everlasting sprain. She was on all occasions chary of opening the street
door, and ardent to shut it again; and she waited at table in a bonnet.
This was the only great change over and above the change which had
fallen on the youngest gentleman. As for him, he more than corroborated
the account of Mrs Todgers; possessing greater sensibility than even
she had given him credit for. He entertained some terrible notions of
Destiny, among other matters, and talked much about people's 'Missions';
upon which he seemed to have some private information not generally
attainable, as he knew it had been poor Merry's mission to crush him
in the bud. He was very frail and tearful; for being aware that a
shepherd's mission was to pipe to his flocks, and that a boatswain's
mission was to pipe all hands, and that one man's mission was to be a
paid piper, and another man's mission was to pay the piper, so he had
got it into his head that his own peculiar mission was to pipe his eye.
Which he did perpetually.
He often informed Mrs Todgers that the sun had set upon him; that the
billows had rolled over him; that the car of Juggernaut had crushed him,
and also that the deadly Upas tree of Java had blighted him. His name
Towards this most unhappy Moddle, Miss Pecksniff conducted herself at
first with distant haughtiness, being in no humour to be entertained
with dirges in honour of her married sister. The poor young gentleman
was additionally crushed by this, and remonstrated with Mrs Todgers on
'Even she turns from me, Mrs Todgers,' said Moddle.
'Then why don't you try and be a little bit more cheerful, sir?'
retorted Mrs Todgers.
'Cheerful, Mrs Todgers! cheerful!' cried the youngest gentleman; 'when
she reminds me of days for ever fled, Mrs Todgers!'
'Then you had better avoid her for a short time, if she does,' said Mrs
Todgers, 'and come to know her again, by degrees. That's my advice.'
'But I can't avoid her,' replied Moddle, 'I haven't strength of mind to
do it. Oh, Mrs Todgers, if you knew what a comfort her nose is to me!'
'Her nose, sir!' Mrs Todgers cried.
'Her profile, in general,' said the youngest gentleman, 'but
particularly her nose. It's so like;' here he yielded to a burst of
grief. 'It's so like hers who is Another's, Mrs Todgers!'
The observant matron did not fail to report this conversation to
Charity, who laughed at the time, but treated Mr Moddle that very
evening with increased consideration, and presented her side face to him
as much as possible. Mr Moddle was not less sentimental than usual;
was rather more so, if anything; but he sat and stared at her with
glistening eyes, and seemed grateful.
'Well, sir!' said the lady of the Boarding-House next day. 'You held up
your head last night. You're coming round, I think.'
'Only because she's so like her who is Another's, Mrs Todgers,' rejoined
the youth. 'When she talks, and when she smiles, I think I'm looking on
HER brow again, Mrs Todgers.'
This was likewise carried to Charity, who talked and smiled next evening
in her most engaging manner, and rallying Mr Moddle on the lowness of
his spirits, challenged him to play a rubber at cribbage. Mr Moddle
taking up the gauntlet, they played several rubbers for sixpences, and
Charity won them all. This may have been partially attributable to the
gallantry of the youngest gentleman, but it was certainly referable to
the state of his feelings also; for his eyes being frequently dimmed by
tears, he thought that aces were tens, and knaves queens, which at times
occasioned some confusion in his play.
On the seventh night of cribbage, when Mrs Todgers, sitting by, proposed
that instead of gambling they should play for 'love,' Mr Moddle was seen
to change colour. On the fourteenth night, he kissed Miss Pecksniff's
snuffers, in the passage, when she went upstairs to bed; meaning to have
kissed her hand, but missing it.
In short, Mr Moddle began to be impressed with the idea that Miss
Pecksniff's mission was to comfort him; and Miss Pecksniff began
to speculate on the probability of its being her mission to become
ultimately Mrs Moddle. He was a young gentleman (Miss Pecksniff was not
a very young lady) with rising prospects, and 'almost' enough to live
on. Really it looked very well.
Besides--besides--he had been regarded as devoted to Merry. Merry had
joked about him, and had once spoken of it to her sister as a conquest.
He was better looking, better shaped, better spoken, better tempered,
better mannered than Jonas. He was easy to manage, could be made to
consult the humours of his Betrothed, and could be shown off like a lamb
when Jonas was a bear. There was the rub!
In the meantime the cribbage went on, and Mrs Todgers went off; for the
youngest gentleman, dropping her society, began to take Miss Pecksniff
to the play. He also began, as Mrs Todgers said, to slip home 'in his
dinner-times,' and to get away from 'the office' at unholy seasons;
and twice, as he informed Mrs Todgers himself, he received anonymous
letters, enclosing cards from Furniture Warehouses--clearly the act of
that ungentlemanly ruffian Jinkins; only he hadn't evidence enough to
call him out upon. All of which, so Mrs Todgers told Miss Pecksniff,
spoke as plain English as the shining sun.
'My dear Miss Pecksniff, you may depend upon it,' said Mrs Todgers,
'that he is burning to propose.'
'My goodness me, why don't he then?' cried Cherry.
'Men are so much more timid than we think 'em, my dear,' returned
Mrs Todgers. 'They baulk themselves continually. I saw the words on
Todgers's lips for months and months and months, before he said 'em.'
Miss Pecksniff submitted that Todgers might not have been a fair
'Oh yes, he was. Oh bless you, yes, my dear. I was very particular in
those days, I assure you,' said Mrs Todgers, bridling. 'No, no. You give
Mr Moddle a little encouragement, Miss Pecksniff, if you wish him to
speak; and he'll speak fast enough, depend upon it.'
'I am sure I don't know what encouragement he would have, Mrs Todgers,'
returned Charity. 'He walks with me, and plays cards with me, and he
comes and sits alone with me.'
'Quite right,' said Mrs Todgers. 'That's indispensable, my dear.'
'And he sits very close to me.'
'Also quite correct,' said Mrs Todgers.
'And he looks at me.'
'To be sure he does,' said Mrs Todgers.
'And he has his arm upon the back of the chair or sofa, or whatever it
is--behind me, you know.'
'I should think so,' said Mrs Todgers.
'And then he begins to cry!'
Mrs Todgers admitted that he might do better than that; and might
undoubtedly profit by the recollection of the great Lord Nelson's signal
at the battle of Trafalgar. Still, she said, he would come round, or,
not to mince the matter, would be brought round, if Miss Pecksniff took
up a decided position, and plainly showed him that it must be done.
Determining to regulate her conduct by this opinion, the young lady
received Mr Moddle, on the earliest subsequent occasion, with an air of
constraint; and gradually leading him to inquire, in a dejected manner,
why she was so changed, confessed to him that she felt it necessary for
their mutual peace and happiness to take a decided step. They had been
much together lately, she observed, much together, and had tasted the
sweets of a genuine reciprocity of sentiment. She never could forget
him, nor could she ever cease to think of him with feelings of the
liveliest friendship, but people had begun to talk, the thing had been
observed, and it was necessary that they should be nothing more to each
other, than any gentleman and lady in society usually are. She was glad
she had had the resolution to say thus much before her feelings had been
tried too far; they had been greatly tried, she would admit; but though
she was weak and silly, she would soon get the better of it, she hoped.
Moddle, who had by this time become in the last degree maudlin, and wept
abundantly, inferred from the foregoing avowal, that it was his mission
to communicate to others the blight which had fallen on himself; and
that, being a kind of unintentional Vampire, he had had Miss Pecksniff
assigned to him by the Fates, as Victim Number One. Miss Pecksniff
controverting this opinion as sinful, Moddle was goaded on to ask
whether she could be contented with a blighted heart; and it appearing
on further examination that she could be, plighted his dismal troth,
which was accepted and returned.
He bore his good fortune with the utmost moderation. Instead of being
triumphant, he shed more tears than he had ever been known to shed
before; and, sobbing, said:
'Oh! what a day this has been! I can't go back to the office this
afternoon. Oh, what a trying day this has been! Good Gracious!'