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SURPRISES TOM PINCH VERY MUCH, AND SHOWS HOW CERTAIN CONFIDENCES PASSED
BETWEEN HIM AND HIS SISTER
It was the next evening; and Tom and his sister were sitting together
before tea, talking, in their usual quiet way, about a great many
things, but not at all about Lewsome's story or anything connected with
it; for John Westlock--really John, for so young a man, was one of the
most considerate fellows in the world--had particularly advised Tom not
to mention it to his sister just yet, in case it should disquiet her.
'And I wouldn't, Tom,' he said, with a little hesitation, 'I wouldn't
have a shadow on her happy face, or an uneasy thought in her gentle
heart, for all the wealth and honours of the universe!' Really John was
uncommonly kind; extraordinarily kind. If he had been her father, Tom
said, he could not have taken a greater interest in her.
But although Tom and his sister were extremely conversational, they were
less lively, and less cheerful, than usual. Tom had no idea that this
originated with Ruth, but took it for granted that he was rather dull
himself. In truth he was; for the lightest cloud upon the Heaven of her
quiet mind, cast its shadow upon Tom.
And there was a cloud on little Ruth that evening. Yes, indeed. When Tom
was looking in another direction, her bright eyes, stealing on towards
his face, would sparkle still more brightly than their custom was, and
then grow dim. When Tom was silent, looking out upon the summer weather,
she would sometimes make a hasty movement, as if she were about to throw
herself upon his neck; then check the impulse, and when he looked
round, show a laughing face, and speak to him very merrily; when she had
anything to give Tom, or had any excuse for coming near him, she would
flutter about him, and lay her bashful hand upon his shoulder, and not
be willing to withdraw it; and would show by all such means that there
was something on her heart which in her great love she longed to say to
him, but had not the courage to utter.
So they were sitting, she with her work before her, but not working, and
Tom with his book beside him, but not reading, when Martin knocked
at the door. Anticipating who it was, Tom went to open it; and he and
Martin came back into the room together. Tom looked surprised, for in
answer to his cordial greeting Martin had hardly spoken a word.
Ruth also saw that there was something strange in the manner of their
visitor, and raised her eyes inquiringly to Tom's face, as if she were
seeking an explanation there. Tom shook his head, and made the same mute
appeal to Martin.
Martin did not sit down but walked up to the window, and stood there
looking out. He turned round after a few moments to speak, but hastily
averted his head again, without doing so.
'What has happened, Martin?' Tom anxiously inquired. 'My dear fellow,
what bad news do you bring?'
'Oh, Tom!' replied Martin, in a tone of deep reproach. 'To hear you
feign that interest in anything that happens to me, hurts me even more
than your ungenerous dealing.'
'My ungenerous dealing! Martin! My--' Tom could say no more.
'How could you, Tom, how could you suffer me to thank you so fervently
and sincerely for your friendship; and not tell me, like a man, that you
had deserted me! Was it true, Tom! Was it honest! Was it worthy of what
you used to be--of what I am sure you used to be--to tempt me, when you
had turned against me, into pouring out my heart! Oh, Tom!'
His tone was one of such strong injury and yet of so much grief for the
loss of a friend he had trusted in--it expressed such high past love
for Tom, and so much sorrow and compassion for his supposed
unworthiness--that Tom, for a moment, put his hand before his face, and
had no more power of justifying himself, than if he had been a monster
of deceit and falsehood.
'I protest, as I must die,' said Martin, 'that I grieve over the loss
of what I thought you; and have no anger in the recollection of my own
injuries. It is only at such a time, and after such a discovery, that we
know the full measure of our old regard for the subject of it. I swear,
little as I showed it--little as I know I showed it--that when I had the
least consideration for you, Tom, I loved you like a brother.'
Tom was composed by this time, and might have been the Spirit of Truth,
in a homely dress--it very often wears a homely dress, thank God!--when
he replied to him.
'Martin,' he said, 'I don't know what is in your mind, or who has abused
it, or by what extraordinary means. But the means are false. There is
no truth whatever in the impression under which you labour. It is a
delusion from first to last; and I warn you that you will deeply regret
the wrong you do me. I can honestly say that I have been true to you,
and to myself. You will be very sorry for this. Indeed, you will be very
sorry for it, Martin.'
'I AM sorry,' returned Martin, shaking his head. 'I think I never knew
what it was to be sorry in my heart, until now.'
'At least,' said Tom, 'if I had always been what you charge me with
being now, and had never had a place in your regard, but had always been
despised by you, and had always deserved it, you should tell me in what
you have found me to be treacherous; and on what grounds you proceed. I
do not intreat you, therefore, to give me that satisfaction as a favour,
Martin, but I ask it of you as a right.'
'My own eyes are my witnesses,' returned Martin. 'Am I to believe them?'
'No,' said Tom, calmly. 'Not if they accuse me.'
'Your own words. Your own manner,' pursued Martin. 'Am I to believe
'No,' replied Tom, calmly. 'Not if they accuse me. But they never have
accused me. Whoever has perverted them to such a purpose, has wronged
me almost as cruelly'--his calmness rather failed him here--'as you have
'I came here,' said Martin; 'and I appeal to your good sister to hear
'Not to her,' interrupted Tom. 'Pray, do not appeal to her. She will
never believe you.'
He drew her arm through his own, as he said it.
'I believe it, Tom!'
'No, no,' cried Tom, 'of course not. I said so. Why, tut, tut, tut. What
a silly little thing you are!'
'I never meant,' said Martin, hastily, 'to appeal to you against your
brother. Do not think me so unmanly and unkind. I merely appealed to you
to hear my declaration, that I came here for no purpose of reproach--I
have not one reproach to vent--but in deep regret. You could not know in
what bitterness of regret, unless you knew how often I have thought of
Tom; how long in almost hopeless circumstances, I have looked forward
to the better estimation of his friendship; and how steadfastly I have
believed and trusted in him.'
'Tut, tut,' said Tom, stopping her as she was about to speak. 'He is
mistaken. He is deceived. Why should you mind? He is sure to be set
right at last.'
'Heaven bless the day that sets me right!' cried Martin, 'if it could
'Amen!' said Tom. 'And it will!'
Martin paused, and then said in a still milder voice:
'You have chosen for yourself, Tom, and will be relieved by our parting.
It is not an angry one. There is no anger on my side--'
'There is none on mine,' said Tom.
'--It is merely what you have brought about, and worked to bring about.
I say again, you have chosen for yourself. You have made the choice that
might have been expected in most people situated as you are, but which I
did not expect in you. For that, perhaps, I should blame my own judgment
more than you. There is wealth and favour worth having, on one side; and
there is the worthless friendship of an abandoned, struggling fellow, on
the other. You were free to make your election, and you made it; and the
choice was not difficult. But those who have not the courage to resist
such temptations, should have the courage to avow what they have yielded
to them; and I DO blame you for this, Tom: that you received me with a
show of warmth, encouraged me to be frank and plain-spoken, tempted me
to confide in you, and professed that you were able to be mine; when
you had sold yourself to others. I do not believe,' said Martin, with
emotion--'hear me say it from my heart--I CANNOT believe, Tom, now that
I am standing face to face with you, that it would have been in your
nature to do me any serious harm, even though I had not discovered, by
chance, in whose employment you were. But I should have encumbered you;
I should have led you into more double-dealing; I should have hazarded
your retaining the favour for which you have paid so high a price,
bartering away your former self; and it is best for both of us that I
have found out what you so much desired to keep secret.'
'Be just,' said Tom; who, had not removed his mild gaze from Martin's
face since the commencement of this last address; 'be just even in
your injustice, Martin. You forget. You have not yet told me what your
'Why should I?' returned Martin, waving his hand, and moving towards
the door. 'You could not know it the better for my dwelling on it, and
though it would be really none the worse, it might seem to me to be.
No, Tom. Bygones shall be bygones between us. I can take leave of you
at this moment, and in this place--in which you are so amiable and so
good--as heartily, if not as cheerfully, as ever I have done since we
first met. All good go with you, Tom!--I--'
'You leave me so? You can leave me so, can you?' said Tom.
'I--you--you have chosen for yourself, Tom! I--I hope it was a rash
choice,' Martin faltered. 'I think it was. I am sure it was! Good-bye!'
And he was gone.
Tom led his little sister to her chair, and sat down in his own. He took
his book, and read, or seemed to read. Presently he said aloud, turning
a leaf as he spoke: 'He will be very sorry for this.' And a tear stole
down his face, and dropped upon the page.
Ruth nestled down beside him on her knees, and clasped her arms about
'No, Tom! No, no! Be comforted! Dear Tom!'
'I am quite--comforted,' said Tom. 'It will be set right.'
'Such a cruel, bad return!' cried Ruth.
'No, no,' said Tom. 'He believes it. I cannot imagine why. But it will
be set right.'
More closely yet, she nestled down about him; and wept as if her heart
'Don't. Don't,' said Tom. 'Why do you hide your face, my dear!'
Then in a burst of tears, it all broke out at last.
'Oh Tom, dear Tom, I know your secret heart. I have found it out; you
couldn't hide the truth from me. Why didn't you tell me? I am sure I
could have made you happier, if you had! You love her, Tom, so dearly!'
Tom made a motion with his hand as if he would have put his sister
hurriedly away; but it clasped upon hers, and all his little history
was written in the action. All its pathetic eloquence was in the silent
'In spite of that,' said Ruth, 'you have been so faithful and so good,
dear; in spite of that, you have been so true and self-denying, and have
struggled with yourself; in spite of that, you have been so gentle,
and so kind, and even-tempered, that I have never seen you give a hasty
look, or heard you say one irritable word. In spite of all, you have
been so cruelly mistaken. Oh Tom, dear Tom, will THIS be set right too!
Will it, Tom? Will you always have this sorrow in your breast; you who
deserve to be so happy; or is there any hope?'
And still she hid her face from Tom, and clasped him round the neck,
and wept for him, and poured out all her woman's heart and soul in the
relief and pain of this disclosure.
It was not very long before she and Tom were sitting side by side, and
she was looking with an earnest quietness in Tom's face. Then Tom spoke
to her thus, cheerily, though gravely:
'I am very glad, my dear, that this has passed between us. Not because
it assures me of your tender affection (for I was well assured of that
before), but because it relieves my mind of a great weight.'
Tom's eyes glistened when he spoke of her affection; and he kissed her
on the cheek.
'My dear girl,' said Tom; 'with whatever feeling I regard her'--they
seemed to avoid the name by mutual consent--'I have long ago--I am sure
I may say from the very first--looked upon it as a dream. As something
that might possibly have happened under very different circumstances,
but which can never be. Now, tell me. What would you have set right?'
She gave Tom such a significant little look, that he was obliged to take
it for an answer whether he would or no; and to go on.
'By her own choice and free consent, my love, she is betrothed to
Martin; and was, long before either of them knew of my existence. You
would have her betrothed to me?'
'Yes,' she said directly.
'Yes,' rejoined Tom, 'but that might be setting it wrong, instead of
right. Do you think,' said Tom, with a grave smile, 'that even if she
had never seen him, it is very likely she would have fallen in love with
'Why not, dear Tom?'
Tom shook his head, and smiled again.
'You think of me, Ruth,' said Tom, 'and it is very natural that you
should, as if I were a character in a book; and you make it a sort of
poetical justice that I should, by some impossible means or other, come,
at last, to marry the person I love. But there is a much higher justice
than poetical justice, my dear, and it does not order events upon the
same principle. Accordingly, people who read about heroes in books, and
choose to make heroes of themselves out of books, consider it a very
fine thing to be discontented and gloomy, and misanthropical, and
perhaps a little blasphemous, because they cannot have everything
ordered for their individual accommodation. Would you like me to become
one of that sort of people?'
'No, Tom. But still I know,' she added timidly, 'that this is a sorrow
to you in your own better way.'
Tom thought of disputing the position. But it would have been mere
folly, and he gave it up.
'My dear,' said Tom, 'I will repay your affection with the Truth and all
the Truth. It is a sorrow to me. I have proved it to be so sometimes,
though I have always striven against it. But somebody who is precious to
you may die, and you may dream that you are in heaven with the departed
spirit, and you may find it a sorrow to wake to the life on earth, which
is no harder to be borne than when you fell asleep. It is sorrowful to
me to contemplate my dream which I always knew was a dream, even when
it first presented itself; but the realities about me are not to blame.
They are the same as they were. My sister, my sweet companion, who makes
this place so dear, is she less devoted to me, Ruth, than she would
have been, if this vision had never troubled me? My old friend John, who
might so easily have treated me with coldness and neglect, is he less
cordial to me? The world about me, is there less good in that? Are my
words to be harsh and my looks to be sour, and is my heart to grow cold,
because there has fallen in my way a good and beautiful creature, who
but for the selfish regret that I cannot call her my own, would, like
all other good and beautiful creatures, make me happier and better!
No, my dear sister. No,' said Tom stoutly. 'Remembering all my means of
happiness, I hardly dare to call this lurking something a sorrow; but
whatever name it may justly bear, I thank Heaven that it renders me more
sensible of affection and attachment, and softens me in fifty ways. Not
less happy. Not less happy, Ruth!'
She could not speak to him, but she loved him, as he well deserved. Even
as he deserved, she loved him.
'She will open Martin's eyes,' said Tom, with a glow of pride, 'and that
(which is indeed wrong) will be set right. Nothing will persuade her, I
know, that I have betrayed him. It will be set right through her, and he
will be very sorry for it. Our secret, Ruth, is our own, and lives and
dies with us. I don't believe I ever could have told it you,' said Tom,
with a smile, 'but how glad I am to think you have found it out!'
They had never taken such a pleasant walk as they took that night. Tom
told her all so freely and so simply, and was so desirous to return
her tenderness with his fullest confidence, that they prolonged it far
beyond their usual hour, and sat up late when they came home. And
when they parted for the night there was such a tranquil, beautiful
expression in Tom's face, that she could not bear to shut it out, but
going back on tiptoe to his chamber-door, looked in and stood there till
he saw her, and then embracing him again, withdrew. And in her prayers
and in her sleep--good times to be remembered with such fervour,
Tom!--his name was uppermost.
When he was left alone, Tom pondered very much on this discovery of
hers, and greatly wondered what had led her to it. 'Because,' thought
Tom, 'I have been so very careful. It was foolish and unnecessary in
me, as I clearly see now, when I am so relieved by her knowing it; but I
have been so very careful to conceal it from her. Of course I knew that
she was intelligent and quick, and for that reason was more upon my
guard; but I was not in the least prepared for this. I am sure her
discovery has been sudden too. Dear me!' said Tom. 'It's a most singular
instance of penetration!'
Tom could not get it out of his head. There it was, when his head was on
'How she trembled when she began to tell me she knew it!' thought Tom,
recalling all the little incidents and circumstances; 'and how her
face flushed! But that was natural! Oh, quite natural! That needs no
Tom little thought how natural it was. Tom little knew that there was
that in Ruth's own heart, but newly set there, which had helped her to
the reading of his mystery. Ah, Tom! He didn't understand the whispers
of the Temple Fountain, though he passed it every day.
Who so lively and cheerful as busy Ruth next morning! Her early tap at
Tom's door, and her light foot outside, would have been music to him
though she had not spoken. But she said it was the brightest morning
ever seen; and so it was; and if it had been otherwise, she would have
made it so to Tom.
She was ready with his neat breakfast when he went downstairs, and had
her bonnet ready for the early walk, and was so full of news, that Tom
was lost in wonder. She might have been up all night, collecting it for
his entertainment. There was Mr Nadgett not come home yet, and there was
bread down a penny a loaf, and there was twice as much strength in this
tea as in the last, and the milk-woman's husband had come out of the
hospital cured, and the curly-headed child over the way had been lost
all yesterday, and she was going to make all sorts of preserves in a
desperate hurry, and there happened to be a saucepan in the house which
was the very saucepan for the purpose; and she knew all about the last
book Tom had brought home, all through, though it was a teaser to read;
and she had so much to tell him that she had finished breakfast first.
Then she had her little bonnet on, and the tea and sugar locked up, and
the keys in her reticule, and the flower, as usual, in Tom's coat, and
was in all respects quite ready to accompany him, before Tom knew she
had begun to prepare. And in short, as Tom said, with a confidence in
his own assertion which amounted to a defiance of the public in general,
there never was such a little woman.
She made Tom talkative. It was impossible to resist her. She put such
enticing questions to him; about books, and about dates of churches,
and about organs and about the Temple, and about all kinds of things.
Indeed, she lightened the way (and Tom's heart with it) to that degree,
that the Temple looked quite blank and solitary when he parted from her
at the gate.
'No Mr Fips's friend to-day, I suppose,' thought Tom, as he ascended the
Not yet, at any rate, for the door was closed as usual, and Tom opened
it with his key. He had got the books into perfect order now, and
had mended the torn leaves, and had pasted up the broken backs, and
substituted neat labels for the worn-out letterings. It looked a
different place, it was so orderly and neat. Tom felt some pride in
comtemplating the change he had wrought, though there was no one to
approve or disapprove of it.
He was at present occupied in making a fair copy of his draught of
the catalogue; on which, as there was no hurry, he was painfully
concentrating all the ingenious and laborious neatness he had ever
expended on map or plan in Mr Pecksniff's workroom. It was a very marvel
of a catalogue; for Tom sometimes thought he was really getting his
money too easily, and he had determined within himself that this
document should take a little of his superfluous leisure out of him.
So with pens and ruler, and compasses and india-rubber, and pencil, and
black ink, and red ink, Tom worked away all the morning. He thought a
good deal about Martin, and their interview of yesterday, and would have
been far easier in his mind if he could have resolved to confide it
to his friend John, and to have taken his opinion on the subject.
But besides that he knew what John's boiling indignation would be, he
bethought himself that he was helping Martin now in a matter of great
moment, and that to deprive the latter of his assistance at such a
crisis of affairs, would be to inflict a serious injury upon him.
'So I'll keep it to myself,' said Tom, with a sigh. 'I'll keep it to
And to work he went again, more assiduously than ever, with the pens,
and the ruler, and the india-rubber, and the pencils, and the red ink,
that he might forget it.
He had laboured away another hour or more, when he heard a footstep in
the entry, down below.
'Ah!' said Tom, looking towards the door; 'time was, not long ago
either, when that would have set me wondering and expecting. But I have
left off now.'
The footstep came on, up the stairs.
'Thirty-six, thirty-seven, thirty-eight,' said Tom, counting. 'Now
you'll stop. Nobody ever comes past the thirty-eighth stair.'
The person did, certainly, but only to take breath; for up the footstep
came again. Forty, forty-one, forty-two, and so on.
The door stood open. As the tread advanced, Tom looked impatiently and
eagerly towards it. When a figure came upon the landing, and arriving
in the doorway, stopped and gazed at him, he rose up from his chair, and
half believed he saw a spirit.
Old Martin Chuzzlewit! The same whom he had left at Mr Pecksniff's, weak
The same? No, not the same, for this old man, though old, was strong,
and leaned upon his stick with a vigorous hand, while with the other
he signed to Tom to make no noise. One glance at the resolute face, the
watchful eye, the vigorous hand upon the staff, the triumphant purpose
in the figure, and such a light broke in on Tom as blinded him.
'You have expected me,' said Martin, 'a long time.'
'I was told that my employer would arrive soon,' said Tom; 'but--'
'I know. You were ignorant who he was. It was my desire. I am glad it
has been so well observed. I intended to have been with you much sooner.
I thought the time had come. I thought I could know no more, and no
worse, of him, than I did on that day when I saw you last. But I was
He had by this time come up to Tom, and now he grasped his hand.
'I have lived in his house, Pinch, and had him fawning on me days and
weeks and months. You know it. I have suffered him to treat me like
his tool and instrument. You know it; you have seen me there. I have
undergone ten thousand times as much as I could have endured if I had
been the miserable weak old man he took me for. You know it. I have seen
him offer love to Mary. You know it; who better--who better, my true
heart! I have had his base soul bare before me, day by day, and have not
betrayed myself once. I never could have undergone such torture but for
looking forward to this time.'
He stopped, even in the passion of his speech--if that can be called
passion which was so resolute and steady--to press Tom's hand again.
Then he said, in great excitement:
'Close the door, close the door. He will not be long after me, but
may come too soon. The time now drawing on,' said the old man,
hurriedly--his eyes and whole face brightening as he spoke--'will make
amends for all. I wouldn't have him die or hang himself, for millions of
golden pieces! Close the door!'
Tom did so; hardly knowing yet whether he was awake or in a dream.