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THE PINCHES MAKE A NEW ACQUAINTANCE, AND HAVE FRESH OCCASION FOR
SURPRISE AND WONDER
There was a ghostly air about these uninhabited chambers in the Temple,
and attending every circumstance of Tom's employment there, which had a
strange charm in it. Every morning when he shut his door at Islington,
he turned his face towards an atmosphere of unaccountable fascination,
as surely as he turned it to the London smoke; and from that moment it
thickened round and round him all day long, until the time arrived for
going home again, and leaving it, like a motionless cloud, behind.
It seemed to Tom, every morning, that he approached this ghostly
mist, and became enveloped in it, by the easiest succession of degrees
imaginable. Passing from the roar and rattle of the streets into the
quiet court-yards of the Temple, was the first preparation. Every echo
of his footsteps sounded to him like a sound from the old walls and
pavements, wanting language to relate the histories of the dim, dismal
rooms; to tell him what lost documents were decaying in forgotten
corners of the shut-up cellars, from whose lattices such mouldy sighs
came breathing forth as he went past; to whisper of dark bins of rare
old wine, bricked up in vaults among the old foundations of the Halls;
or mutter in a lower tone yet darker legends of the cross-legged
knights, whose marble effigies were in the church. With the first
planting of his foot upon the staircase of his dusty office, all these
mysteries increased; until, ascending step by step, as Tom ascended,
they attained their full growth in the solitary labours of the day.
Every day brought one recurring, never-failing source of speculation.
This employer; would he come to-day, and what would he be like? For
Tom could not stop short at Mr Fips; he quite believed that Mr Fips had
spoken truly, when he said he acted for another; and what manner of man
that other was, became a full-blown flower of wonder in the garden of
Tom's fancy, which never faded or got trodden down.
At one time, he conceived that Mr Pecksniff, repenting of his falsehood,
might, by exertion of his influence with some third person have
devised these means of giving him employment. He found this idea so
insupportable after what had taken place between that good man and
himself, that he confided it to John Westlock on the very same day;
informing John that he would rather ply for hire as a porter, than fall
so low in his own esteem as to accept the smallest obligation from the
hands of Mr Pecksniff. But John assured him that he (Tom Pinch) was far
from doing justice to the character of Mr Pecksniff yet, if he supposed
that gentleman capable of performing a generous action; and that he
might make his mind quite easy on that head until he saw the sun turn
green and the moon black, and at the same time distinctly perceived with
the naked eye, twelve first-rate comets careering round those planets.
In which unusual state of things, he said (and not before), it might
become not absolutely lunatic to suspect Mr Pecksniff of anything
so monstrous. In short he laughed the idea down completely; and Tom,
abandoning it, was thrown upon his beam-ends again, for some other
In the meantime Tom attended to his duties daily, and made considerable
progress with the books; which were already reduced to some sort of
order, and made a great appearance in his fairly-written catalogue.
During his business hours, he indulged himself occasionally with
snatches of reading; which were often, indeed, a necessary part of
his pursuit; and as he usually made bold to carry one of these goblin
volumes home at night (always bringing it back again next morning, in
case his strange employer should appear and ask what had become of it),
he led a happy, quiet, studious kind of life, after his own heart.
But though the books were never so interesting, and never so full of
novelty to Tom, they could not so enchain him, in those mysterious
chambers, as to render him unconscious, for a moment, of the lightest
sound. Any footstep on the flags without set him listening attentively
and when it turned into that house, and came up, up, up the stairs, he
always thought with a beating heart, 'Now I am coming face to face with
him at last!' But no footstep ever passed the floor immediately below:
except his own.
This mystery and loneliness engendered fancies in Tom's mind, the folly
of which his common sense could readily discover, but which his common
sense was quite unable to keep away, notwithstanding; that quality being
with most of us, in such a case, like the old French Police--quick at
detection, but very weak as a preventive power. Misgivings, undefined,
absurd, inexplicable, that there was some one hiding in the inner
room--walking softly overhead, peeping in through the door-chink, doing
something stealthy, anywhere where he was not--came over him a
hundred times a day, making it pleasant to throw up the sash, and hold
communication even with the sparrows who had built in the roof and
water-spout, and were twittering about the windows all day long.
He sat with the outer door wide open, at all times, that he might hear
the footsteps as they entered, and turned off into the chambers on the
lower floor. He formed odd prepossessions too, regarding strangers in
the streets; and would say within himself of such or such a man, who
struck him as having anything uncommon in his dress or aspect, 'I
shouldn't wonder, now, if that were he!' But it never was. And though
he actually turned back and followed more than one of these suspected
individuals, in a singular belief that they were going to the place he
was then upon his way from, he never got any other satisfaction by it,
than the satisfaction of knowing it was not the case.
Mr Fips, of Austin Friars, rather deepened than illumined the obscurity
of his position; for on the first occasion of Tom's waiting on him to
receive his weekly pay, he said:
'Oh! by the bye, Mr Pinch, you needn't mention it, if you please!'
Tom thought he was going to tell him a secret; so he said that he
wouldn't on any account, and that Mr Fips might entirely depend upon
him. But as Mr Fips said 'Very good,' in reply, and nothing more, Tom
'Not on any account,' repeated Tom.
Mr Fips repeated: 'Very good.'
'You were going to say'--Tom hinted.
'Oh dear no!' cried Fips. 'Not at all.' However, seeing Tom confused, he
added, 'I mean that you needn't mention any particulars about your place
of employment, to people generally. You'll find it better not.'
'I have not had the pleasure of seeing my employer yet, sir,' observed
Tom, putting his week's salary in his pocket.
'Haven't you?' said Fips. 'No, I don't suppose you have though.'
'I should like to thank him, and to know that what I have done so far,
is done to his satisfaction,' faltered Tom.
'Quite right,' said Mr Fips, with a yawn. 'Highly creditable. Very
Tom hastily resolved to try him on another tack.
'I shall soon have finished with the books,' he said. 'I hope that will
not terminate my engagement, sir, or render me useless?'
'Oh dear no!' retorted Fips. 'Plenty to do; plen-ty to do! Be careful
how you go. It's rather dark.'
This was the very utmost extent of information Tom could ever get out of
HIM. So it was dark enough in all conscience; and if Mr Fips expressed
himself with a double meaning, he had good reason for doing so.
But now a circumstance occurred, which helped to divert Tom's thoughts
from even this mystery, and to divide them between it and a new channel,
which was a very Nile in itself.
The way it came about was this. Having always been an early riser and
having now no organ to engage him in sweet converse every morning,
it was his habit to take a long walk before going to the Temple; and
naturally inclining, as a stranger, towards those parts of the town
which were conspicuous for the life and animation pervading them, he
became a great frequenter of the market-places, bridges, quays, and
especially the steam-boat wharves; for it was very lively and fresh
to see the people hurrying away upon their many schemes of business or
pleasure, and it made Tom glad to think that there was that much change
and freedom in the monotonous routine of city lives.
In most of these morning excursions Ruth accompanied him. As their
landlord was always up and away at his business (whatever that might be,
no one seemed to know) at a very early hour, the habits of the people
of the house in which they lodged corresponded with their own. Thus they
had often finished their breakfast, and were out in the summer air, by
seven o'clock. After a two hours' stroll they parted at some convenient
point; Tom going to the Temple, and his sister returning home, as
methodically as you please.
Many and many a pleasant stroll they had in Covent Garden Market;
snuffing up the perfume of the fruits and flowers, wondering at the
magnificence of the pineapples and melons; catching glimpses down side
avenues, of rows and rows of old women, seated on inverted baskets,
shelling peas; looking unutterable things at the fat bundles of
asparagus with which the dainty shops were fortified as with a
breastwork; and, at the herbalist's doors, gratefully inhaling scents
as of veal-stuffing yet uncooked, dreamily mixed up with capsicums,
brown-paper, seeds, even with hints of lusty snails and fine young curly
leeches. Many and many a pleasant stroll they had among the poultry
markets, where ducks and fowls, with necks unnaturally long, lay
stretched out in pairs, ready for cooking; where there were speckled
eggs in mossy baskets, white country sausages beyond impeachment by
surviving cat or dog, or horse or donkey; new cheeses to any wild
extent, live birds in coops and cages, looking much too big to be
natural, in consequence of those receptacles being much too little;
rabbits, alive and dead, innumerable. Many a pleasant stroll they
had among the cool, refreshing, silvery fish-stalls, with a kind of
moonlight effect about their stock-in-trade, excepting always for
the ruddy lobsters. Many a pleasant stroll among the waggon-loads of
fragrant hay, beneath which dogs and tired waggoners lay fast asleep,
oblivious of the pieman and the public-house. But never half so good a
stroll as down among the steamboats on a bright morning.
There they lay, alongside of each other; hard and fast for ever, to all
appearance, but designing to get out somehow, and quite confident of
doing it; and in that faith shoals of passengers, and heaps of luggage,
were proceeding hurriedly on board. Little steam-boats dashed up and
down the stream incessantly. Tiers upon tiers of vessels, scores
of masts, labyrinths of tackle, idle sails, splashing oars, gliding
row-boats, lumbering barges, sunken piles, with ugly lodgings for
the water-rat within their mud-discoloured nooks; church steeples,
warehouses, house-roofs, arches, bridges, men and women, children,
casks, cranes, boxes horses, coaches, idlers, and hard-labourers; there
they were, all jumbled up together, any summer morning, far beyond Tom's
power of separation.
In the midst of all this turmoil there was an incessant roar from every
packet's funnel, which quite expressed and carried out the uppermost
emotion of the scene. They all appeared to be perspiring and bothering
themselves, exactly as their passengers did; they never left off
fretting and chafing, in their own hoarse manner, once; but were always
panting out, without any stops, 'Come along do make haste I'm very
nervous come along oh good gracious we shall never get there how late
you are do make haste I'm off directly come along!'
Even when they had left off, and had got safely out into the current,
on the smallest provocation they began again; for the bravest packet
of them all, being stopped by some entanglement in the river, would
immediately begin to fume and pant afresh, 'oh here's a stoppage what's
the matter do go on there I'm in a hurry it's done on purpose did you
ever oh my goodness DO go on here!' and so, in a state of mind bordering
on distraction, would be last seen drifting slowly through the mist into
the summer light beyond, that made it red.
Tom's ship, however; or, at least, the packet-boat in which Tom and his
sister took the greatest interest on one particular occasion; was not
off yet, by any means; but was at the height of its disorder. The press
of passengers was very great; another steam-boat lay on each side of
her; the gangways were choked up; distracted women, obviously bound
for Gravesend, but turning a deaf ear to all representations that this
particular vessel was about to sail for Antwerp, persisted in secreting
baskets of refreshments behind bulk-heads, and water-casks, and under
seats; and very great confusion prevailed.
It was so amusing, that Tom, with Ruth upon his arm, stood looking down
from the wharf, as nearly regardless as it was in the nature of flesh
and blood to be, of an elderly lady behind him, who had brought a large
umbrella with her, and didn't know what to do with it. This tremendous
instrument had a hooked handle; and its vicinity was first made known
to him by a painful pressure on the windpipe, consequent upon its having
caught him round the throat. Soon after disengaging himself with perfect
good humour, he had a sensation of the ferule in his back; immediately
afterwards, of the hook entangling his ankles; then of the umbrella
generally, wandering about his hat, and flapping at it like a great
bird; and, lastly, of a poke or thrust below the ribs, which give him
such exceeding anguish, that he could not refrain from turning round to
offer a mild remonstrance.
Upon his turning round, he found the owner of the umbrella struggling
on tip-toe, with a countenance expressive of violent animosity, to look
down upon the steam-boats; from which he inferred that she had attacked
him, standing in the front row, by design, and as her natural enemy.
'What a very ill-natured person you must be!' said Tom.
The lady cried out fiercely, 'Where's the pelisse!'--meaning the
constabulary--and went on to say, shaking the handle of the umbrella
at Tom, that but for them fellers never being in the way when they was
wanted, she'd have given him in charge, she would.
'If they greased their whiskers less, and minded the duties which
they're paid so heavy for, a little more,' she observed, 'no one needn't
be drove mad by scrouding so!'
She had been grievously knocked about, no doubt, for her bonnet was bent
into the shape of a cocked hat. Being a fat little woman, too, she was
in a state of great exhaustion and intense heat. Instead of pursuing the
altercation, therefore, Tom civilly inquired what boat she wanted to go
on board of?
'I suppose,' returned the lady, 'as nobody but yourself can want to look
at a steam package, without wanting to go a-boarding of it, can they!
'Which one do you want to look at then?' said Tom. 'We'll make room for
you if we can. Don't be so ill-tempered.'
'No blessed creetur as ever I was with in trying times,' returned the
lady, somewhat softened, 'and they're a many in their numbers, ever
brought it as a charge again myself that I was anythin' but mild and
equal in my spirits. Never mind a contradicting of me, if you seem
to feel it does you good, ma'am, I often says, for well you know that
Sairey may be trusted not to give it back again. But I will not denige
that I am worrited and wexed this day, and with good reagion, Lord
By this time, Mrs Gamp (for it was no other than that experienced
practitioner) had, with Tom's assistance, squeezed and worked herself
into a small corner between Ruth and the rail; where, after breathing
very hard for some little time, and performing a short series of
dangerous evolutions with her umbrella, she managed to establish herself
'And which of all them smoking monsters is the Ankworks boat, I wonder.
Goodness me!' cried Mrs Gamp.
'What boat did you want?' asked Ruth.
'The Ankworks package,' Mrs Gamp replied. 'I will not deceive you, my
sweet. Why should I?'
'That is the Antwerp packet in the middle,' said Ruth.
'And I wish it was in Jonadge's belly, I do,' cried Mrs Gamp; appearing
to confound the prophet with the whale in this miraculous aspiration.
Ruth said nothing in reply; but, as Mrs Gamp, laying her chin against
the cool iron of the rail, continued to look intently at the Antwerp
boat, and every now and then to give a little groan, she inquired
whether any child of hers was going aboard that morning? Or perhaps her
husband, she said kindly.
'Which shows,' said Mrs Gamp, casting up her eyes, 'what a little way
you've travelled into this wale of life, my dear young creetur! As a
good friend of mine has frequent made remark to me, which her name,
my love, is Harris, Mrs Harris through the square and up the steps
a-turnin' round by the tobacker shop, "Oh Sairey, Sairey, little do we
know wot lays afore us!" "Mrs Harris, ma'am," I says, "not much, it's
true, but more than you suppoge. Our calcilations, ma'am," I says,
"respectin' wot the number of a family will be, comes most times within
one, and oftener than you would suppoge, exact." "Sairey," says Mrs
Harris, in a awful way, "Tell me wot is my indiwidgle number." "No, Mrs
Harris," I says to her, "ex-cuge me, if you please. My own," I says,
"has fallen out of three-pair backs, and had damp doorsteps settled
on their lungs, and one was turned up smilin' in a bedstead unbeknown.
Therefore, ma'am," I says, "seek not to proticipate, but take 'em as
they come and as they go." Mine,' says Mrs Gamp, 'mine is all gone, my
dear young chick. And as to husbands, there's a wooden leg gone likeways
home to its account, which in its constancy of walkin' into wine vaults,
and never comin' out again 'till fetched by force, was quite as weak as
flesh, if not weaker.'
When she had delivered this oration, Mrs Gamp leaned her chin upon the
cool iron again; and looking intently at the Antwerp packet, shook her
head and groaned.
'I wouldn't,' said Mrs Gamp, 'I wouldn't be a man and have such a think
upon my mind!--but nobody as owned the name of man, could do it!'
Tom and his sister glanced at each other; and Ruth, after a moment's
hesitation, asked Mrs Gamp what troubled her so much.
'My dear,' returned that lady, dropping her voice, 'you are single,
Ruth laughed blushed, and said 'Yes.'
'Worse luck,' proceeded Mrs Gamp, 'for all parties! But others is
married, and in the marriage state; and there is a dear young creetur
a-comin' down this mornin' to that very package, which is no more fit to
trust herself to sea, than nothin' is!'
She paused here to look over the deck of the packet in question, and on
the steps leading down to it, and on the gangways. Seeming to have
thus assured herself that the object of her commiseration had not yet
arrived, she raised her eyes gradually up to the top of the escape-pipe,
and indignantly apostrophised the vessel:
'Oh, drat you!' said Mrs Gamp, shaking her umbrella at it, 'you're a
nice spluttering nisy monster for a delicate young creetur to go and
be a passinger by; ain't you! YOU never do no harm in that way, do
you? With your hammering, and roaring, and hissing, and lamp-iling, you
brute! Them Confugion steamers,' said Mrs Gamp, shaking her umbrella
again, 'has done more to throw us out of our reg'lar work and bring
ewents on at times when nobody counted on 'em (especially them
screeching railroad ones), than all the other frights that ever was
took. I have heerd of one young man, a guard upon a railway, only three
years opened--well does Mrs Harris know him, which indeed he is her own
relation by her sister's marriage with a master sawyer--as is godfather
at this present time to six-and-twenty blessed little strangers, equally
unexpected, and all on 'um named after the Ingeines as was the cause.
Ugh!' said Mrs Gamp, resuming her apostrophe, 'one might easy know you
was a man's inwention, from your disregardlessness of the weakness of
our naturs, so one might, you brute!'
It would not have been unnatural to suppose, from the first part of Mrs
Gamp's lamentations, that she was connected with the stage-coaching or
post-horsing trade. She had no means of judging of the effect of her
concluding remarks upon her young companion; for she interrupted herself
at this point, and exclaimed:
'There she identically goes! Poor sweet young creetur, there she goes,
like a lamb to the sacrifige! If there's any illness when that wessel
gets to sea,' said Mrs Gamp, prophetically, 'it's murder, and I'm the
witness for the persecution.'
She was so very earnest on the subject, that Tom's sister (being as kind
as Tom himself) could not help saying something to her in reply.
'Pray, which is the lady,' she inquired, 'in whom you are so much
'There!' groaned Mrs Gamp. 'There she goes! A-crossin' the little wooden
bridge at this minute. She's a-slippin' on a bit of orangepeel!' tightly
clutching her umbrella. 'What a turn it give me.'
'Do you mean the lady who is with that man wrapped up from head to foot
in a large cloak, so that his face is almost hidden?'
'Well he may hide it!' Mrs Gamp replied. 'He's good call to be ashamed
of himself. Did you see him a-jerking of her wrist, then?'
'He seems to be hasty with her, indeed.'
'Now he's a-taking of her down into the close cabin!' said Mrs Gamp,
impatiently. 'What's the man about! The deuce is in him, I think. Why
can't he leave her in the open air?'
He did not, whatever his reason was, but led her quickly down and
disappeared himself, without loosening his cloak, or pausing on the
crowded deck one moment longer than was necessary to clear their way to
that part of the vessel.
Tom had not heard this little dialogue; for his attention had been
engaged in an unexpected manner. A hand upon his sleeve had caused
him to look round, just when Mrs Gamp concluded her apostrophe to the
steam-engine; and on his right arm, Ruth being on his left, he found
their landlord, to his great surprise.
He was not so much surprised at the man's being there, as at his having
got close to him so quietly and swiftly; for another person had been
at his elbow one instant before; and he had not in the meantime been
conscious of any change or pressure in the knot of people among whom he
stood. He and Ruth had frequently remarked how noiselessly this landlord
of theirs came into and went out of his own house; but Tom was not the
less amazed to see him at his elbow now.
'I beg your pardon, Mr Pinch,' he said in his ear. 'I am rather infirm,
and out of breath, and my eyes are not very good. I am not as young as I
was, sir. You don't see a gentleman in a large cloak down yonder, with a
lady on his arm; a lady in a veil and a black shawl; do you?'
If HE did not, it was curious that in speaking he should have singled
out from all the crowd the very people whom he described; and should
have glanced hastily from them to Tom, as if he were burning to direct
his wandering eyes.
'A gentleman in a large cloak!' said Tom, 'and a lady in a black shawl!
Let me see!'
'Yes, yes!' replied the other, with keen impatience. 'A gentleman
muffled up from head to foot--strangely muffled up for such a morning
as this--like an invalid, with his hand to his face at this minute,
perhaps. No, no, no! not there,' he added, following Tom's gaze; 'the
other way; in that direction; down yonder.' Again he indicated, but this
time in his hurry, with his outstretched finger, the very spot on which
the progress of these persons was checked at that moment.
'There are so many people, and so much motion, and so many objects,'
said Tom, 'that I find it difficult to--no, I really don't see a
gentleman in a large cloak, and a lady in a black shawl. There's a lady
in a red shawl over there!'
'No, no, no!' cried his landlord, pointing eagerly again, 'not there.
The other way; the other way. Look at the cabin steps. To the left. They
must be near the cabin steps. Do you see the cabin steps? There's the
bell ringing already! DO you see the steps?'
'Stay!' said Tom, 'you're right. Look! there they go now. Is that the
gentleman you mean? Descending at this minute, with the folds of a great
cloak trailing down after him?'
'The very man!' returned the other, not looking at what Tom pointed out,
however, but at Tom's own face. 'Will you do me a kindness, sir, a great
kindness? Will you put that letter in his hand? Only give him that!
He expects it. I am charged to do it by my employers, but I am late in
finding him, and, not being as young as I have been, should never be
able to make my way on board and off the deck again in time. Will you
pardon my boldness, and do me that great kindness?'
His hands shook, and his face bespoke the utmost interest and agitation,
as he pressed the letter upon Tom, and pointed to its destination, like
the Tempter in some grim old carving.
To hesitate in the performance of a good-natured or compassionate office
was not in Tom's way. He took the letter; whispered Ruth to wait till
he returned, which would be immediately; and ran down the steps with all
the expedition he could make. There were so many people going down, so
many others coming up, such heavy goods in course of transit to and
fro, such a ringing of bell, blowing-off of steam, and shouting of men's
voices, that he had much ado to force his way, or keep in mind to which
boat he was going. But he reached the right one with good speed, and
going down the cabin-stairs immediately, described the object of his
search standing at the upper end of the saloon, with his back towards
him, reading some notice which was hung against the wall. As Tom
advanced to give him the letter, he started, hearing footsteps, and
What was Tom's astonishment to find in him the man with whom he had had
the conflict in the field--poor Mercy's husband. Jonas!
Tom understood him to say, what the devil did he want; but it was not
easy to make out what he said; he spoke so indistinctly.
'I want nothing with you for myself,' said Tom; 'I was asked, a moment
since, to give you this letter. You were pointed out to me, but I didn't
know you in your strange dress. Take it!'
He did so, opened it, and read the writing on the inside. The contents
were evidently very brief; not more perhaps than one line; but they
struck upon him like a stone from a sling. He reeled back as he read.
His emotion was so different from any Tom had ever seen before that he
stopped involuntarily. Momentary as his state of indecision was, the
bell ceased while he stood there, and a hoarse voice calling down the
steps, inquired if there was any to go ashore?
'Yes,' cried Jonas, 'I--I am coming. Give me time. Where's that woman!
Come back; come back here.'
He threw open another door as he spoke, and dragged, rather than led,
her forth. She was pale and frightened, and amazed to see her old
acquaintance; but had no time to speak, for they were making a great
stir above; and Jonas drew her rapidly towards the deck.
'Where are we going? What is the matter?'
'We are going back,' said Jonas. 'I have changed my mind. I can't go.
Don't question me, or I shall be the death of you, or some one else.
Stop there! Stop! We're for the shore. Do you hear? We're for the
He turned, even in the madness of his hurry, and scowling darkly back
at Tom, shook his clenched hand at him. There are not many human faces
capable of the expression with which he accompanied that gesture.
He dragged her up, and Tom followed them. Across the deck, over the
side, along the crazy plank, and up the steps, he dragged her fiercely;
not bestowing any look on her, but gazing upwards all the while among
the faces on the wharf. Suddenly he turned again, and said to Tom with a
'Where is he?'
Before Tom, in his indignation and amazement, could return an answer to
a question he so little understood, a gentleman approached Tom behind,
and saluted Jonas Chuzzlewit by name. He has a gentleman of foreign
appearance, with a black moustache and whiskers; and addressed him with
a polite composure, strangely different from his own distracted and
'Chuzzlewit, my good fellow!' said the gentleman, raising his hat in
compliment to Mrs Chuzzlewit, 'I ask your pardon twenty thousand times.
I am most unwilling to interfere between you and a domestic trip of this
nature (always so very charming and refreshing, I know, although I
have not the happiness to be a domestic man myself, which is the great
infelicity of my existence); but the beehive, my dear friend, the
beehive--will you introduce me?'
'This is Mr Montague,' said Jonas, whom the words appeared to choke.
'The most unhappy and most penitent of men, Mrs Chuzzlewit,' pursued
that gentleman, 'for having been the means of spoiling this excursion;
but as I tell my friend, the beehive, the beehive. You projected a short
little continental trip, my dear friend, of course?'
Jonas maintained a dogged silence.
'May I die,' cried Montague, 'but I am shocked! Upon my soul I am
shocked. But that confounded beehive of ours in the city must be
paramount to every other consideration, when there is honey to be made;
and that is my best excuse. Here is a very singular old female dropping
curtseys on my right,' said Montague, breaking off in his discourse,
and looking at Mrs Gamp, 'who is not a friend of mine. Does anybody know
'Ah! Well they knows me, bless their precious hearts!' said Mrs Gamp,
'not forgettin' your own merry one, sir, and long may it be so! Wishin'
as every one' (she delivered this in the form of a toast or sentiment)
'was as merry, and as handsome-lookin', as a little bird has whispered
me a certain gent is, which I will not name for fear I give offence
where none is doo! My precious lady,' here she stopped short in her
merriment, for she had until now affected to be vastly entertained,
'you're too pale by half!'
'YOU are here too, are you?' muttered Jonas. 'Ecod, there are enough of
'I hope, sir,' returned Mrs Gamp, dropping an indignant curtsey, 'as no
bones is broke by me and Mrs Harris a-walkin' down upon a public wharf.
Which was the very words she says to me (although they was the last
I ever had to speak) was these: "Sairey," she says, "is it a public
wharf?" "Mrs Harris," I makes answer, "can you doubt it? You have know'd
me now, ma'am, eight and thirty year; and did you ever know me go, or
wish to go, where I was not made welcome, say the words." "No, Sairey,"
Mrs Harris says, "contrairy quite." And well she knows it too. I am but
a poor woman, but I've been sought after, sir, though you may not think
it. I've been knocked up at all hours of the night, and warned out by
a many landlords, in consequence of being mistook for Fire. I goes out
workin' for my bread, 'tis true, but I maintains my independency, with
your kind leave, and which I will till death. I has my feelins as a
woman, sir, and I have been a mother likeways; but touch a pipkin as
belongs to me, or make the least remarks on what I eats or drinks, and
though you was the favouritest young for'ard hussy of a servant-gal as
ever come into a house, either you leaves the place, or me. My earnins
is not great, sir, but I will not be impoged upon. Bless the babe, and
save the mother, is my mortar, sir; but I makes so free as add to that,
Don't try no impogician with the Nuss, for she will not abear it!'
Mrs Gamp concluded by drawing her shawl tightly over herself with both
hands, and, as usual, referring to Mrs Harris for full corroboration of
these particulars. She had that peculiar trembling of the head which,
in ladies of her excitable nature, may be taken as a sure indication
of their breaking out again very shortly; when Jonas made a timely
'As you ARE here,' he said, 'you had better see to her, and take her
home. I am otherwise engaged.' He said nothing more; but looked at
Montague as if to give him notice that he was ready to attend him.
'I am sorry to take you away,' said Montague.
Jonas gave him a sinister look, which long lived in Tom's memory, and
which he often recalled afterwards.
'I am, upon my life,' said Montague. 'Why did you make it necessary?'
With the same dark glance as before, Jonas replied, after a moment's
'The necessity is none of my making. You have brought it about
He said nothing more. He said even this as if he were bound, and in the
other's power, but had a sullen and suppressed devil within him, which
he could not quite resist. His very gait, as they walked away together,
was like that of a fettered man; but, striving to work out at his
clenched hands, knitted brows, and fast-set lips, was the same
imprisoned devil still.
They got into a handsome cabriolet which was waiting for them and drove
The whole of this extraordinary scene had passed so rapidly and the
tumult which prevailed around as so unconscious of any impression from
it, that, although Tom had been one of the chief actors, it was like
a dream. No one had noticed him after they had left the packet. He had
stood behind Jonas, and so near him, that he could not help hearing all
that passed. He had stood there, with his sister on his arm, expecting
and hoping to have an opportunity of explaining his strange share in
this yet stranger business. But Jonas had not raised his eyes from the
ground; no one else had even looked towards him; and before he could
resolve on any course of action, they were all gone.
He gazed round for his landlord. But he had done that more than once
already, and no such man was to be seen. He was still pursuing this
search with his eyes, when he saw a hand beckoning to him from a
hackney-coach; and hurrying towards it, found it was Merry's. She
addressed him hurriedly, but bent out of the window, that she might not
be overheard by her companion, Mrs Gamp.
'What is it?' she said. 'Good heaven, what is it? Why did he tell me
last night to prepare for a long journey, and why have you brought us
back like criminals? Dear Mr Pinch!' she clasped her hands distractedly,
'be merciful to us. Whatever this dreadful secret is, be merciful, and
God will bless you!'
'If any power of mercy lay with me,' cried Tom, 'trust me, you shouldn't
ask in vain. But I am far more ignorant and weak than you.'
She withdrew into the coach again, and he saw the hand waving towards
him for a moment; but whether in reproachfulness or incredulity or
misery, or grief, or sad adieu, or what else, he could not, being so
hurried, understand. SHE was gone now; and Ruth and he were left to walk
away, and wonder.
Had Mr Nadgett appointed the man who never came, to meet him upon London
Bridge that morning? He was certainly looking over the parapet, and
down upon the steamboat-wharf at that moment. It could not have been
for pleasure; he never took pleasure. No. He must have had some business