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TOWN AND TODGER'S
Surely there never was, in any other borough, city, or hamlet in the
world, such a singular sort of a place as Todgers's. And surely London,
to judge from that part of it which hemmed Todgers's round and hustled
it, and crushed it, and stuck its brick-and-mortar elbows into it, and
kept the air from it, and stood perpetually between it and the
light, was worthy of Todgers's, and qualified to be on terms of close
relationship and alliance with hundreds and thousands of the odd family
to which Todgers's belonged.
You couldn't walk about Todgers's neighbourhood, as you could in any
other neighbourhood. You groped your way for an hour through lanes and
byways, and court-yards, and passages; and you never once emerged upon
anything that might be reasonably called a street. A kind of resigned
distraction came over the stranger as he trod those devious mazes, and,
giving himself up for lost, went in and out and round about and quietly
turned back again when he came to a dead wall or was stopped by an
iron railing, and felt that the means of escape might possibly present
themselves in their own good time, but that to anticipate them was
hopeless. Instances were known of people who, being asked to dine at
Todgers's, had travelled round and round for a weary time, with its very
chimney-pots in view; and finding it, at last, impossible of attainment,
had gone home again with a gentle melancholy on their spirits,
tranquil and uncomplaining. Nobody had ever found Todgers's on a verbal
direction, though given within a few minutes' walk of it. Cautious
emigrants from Scotland or the North of England had been known to reach
it safely, by impressing a charity-boy, town-bred, and bringing him
along with them; or by clinging tenaciously to the postman; but these
were rare exceptions, and only went to prove the rule that Todgers's was
in a labyrinth, whereof the mystery was known but to a chosen few.
Several fruit-brokers had their marts near Todgers's; and one of the
first impressions wrought upon the stranger's senses was of oranges--of
damaged oranges--with blue and green bruises on them, festering in
boxes, or mouldering away in cellars. All day long, a stream of porters
from the wharves beside the river, each bearing on his back a bursting
chest of oranges, poured slowly through the narrow passages; while
underneath the archway by the public-house, the knots of those who
rested and regaled within, were piled from morning until night. Strange
solitary pumps were found near Todgers's hiding themselves for the most
part in blind alleys, and keeping company with fire-ladders. There were
churches also by dozens, with many a ghostly little churchyard, all
overgrown with such straggling vegetation as springs up spontaneously
from damp, and graves, and rubbish. In some of these dingy
resting-places which bore much the same analogy to green churchyards,
as the pots of earth for mignonette and wall-flower in the windows
overlooking them did to rustic gardens, there were trees; tall trees;
still putting forth their leaves in each succeeding year, with such a
languishing remembrance of their kind (so one might fancy, looking on
their sickly boughs) as birds in cages have of theirs. Here, paralysed
old watchmen guarded the bodies of the dead at night, year after year,
until at last they joined that solemn brotherhood; and, saving that they
slept below the ground a sounder sleep than even they had ever known
above it, and were shut up in another kind of box, their condition can
hardly be said to have undergone any material change when they, in turn,
were watched themselves.
Among the narrow thoroughfares at hand, there lingered, here and there,
an ancient doorway of carved oak, from which, of old, the sounds of
revelry and feasting often came; but now these mansions, only used
for storehouses, were dark and dull, and, being filled with wool, and
cotton, and the like--such heavy merchandise as stifles sound and stops
the throat of echo--had an air of palpable deadness about them which,
added to their silence and desertion, made them very grim. In like
manner, there were gloomy courtyards in these parts, into which few but
belated wayfarers ever strayed, and where vast bags and packs of goods,
upward or downward bound, were for ever dangling between heaven and
earth from lofty cranes There were more trucks near Todgers's than
you would suppose whole city could ever need; not active trucks, but
a vagabond race, for ever lounging in the narrow lanes before
their masters' doors and stopping up the pass; so that when a stray
hackney-coach or lumbering waggon came that way, they were the cause of
such an uproar as enlivened the whole neighbourhood, and made the bells
in the next churchtower vibrate again. In the throats and maws of dark
no-thoroughfares near Todgers's, individual wine-merchants and wholesale
dealers in grocery-ware had perfect little towns of their own; and, deep
among the foundations of these buildings, the ground was undermined and
burrowed out into stables, where cart-horses, troubled by rats, might be
heard on a quiet Sunday rattling their halters, as disturbed spirits in
tales of haunted houses are said to clank their chains.
To tell of half the queer old taverns that had a drowsy and secret
existence near Todgers's, would fill a goodly book; while a second
volume no less capacious might be devoted to an account of the quaint
old guests who frequented their dimly lighted parlours. These were, in
general, ancient inhabitants of that region; born, and bred there from
boyhood, who had long since become wheezy and asthmatical, and short of
breath, except in the article of story-telling; in which respect they
were still marvellously long-winded. These gentry were much opposed to
steam and all new-fangled ways, and held ballooning to be sinful, and
deplored the degeneracy of the times; which that particular member
of each little club who kept the keys of the nearest church,
professionally, always attributed to the prevalence of dissent and
irreligion; though the major part of the company inclined to the belief
that virtue went out with hair-powder, and that Old England's greatness
had decayed amain with barbers.
As to Todgers's itself--speaking of it only as a house in that
neighbourhood, and making no reference to its merits as a commercial
boarding establishment--it was worthy to stand where it did. There was
one staircase-window in it, at the side of the house, on the ground
floor; which tradition said had not been opened for a hundred years at
least, and which, abutting on an always dirty lane, was so begrimed and
coated with a century's mud, that no one pane of glass could possibly
fall out, though all were cracked and broken twenty times. But the grand
mystery of Todgers's was the cellarage, approachable only by a little
back door and a rusty grating; which cellarage within the memory of man
had had no connection with the house, but had always been the freehold
property of somebody else, and was reported to be full of wealth; though
in what shape--whether in silver, brass, or gold, or butts of wine,
or casks of gun-powder--was matter of profound uncertainty and supreme
indifference to Todgers's and all its inmates.
The top of the house was worthy of notice. There was a sort of terrace
on the roof, with posts and fragments of rotten lines, once intended to
dry clothes upon; and there were two or three tea-chests out there,
full of earth, with forgotten plants in them, like old walking-sticks.
Whoever climbed to this observatory, was stunned at first from having
knocked his head against the little door in coming out; and after that,
was for the moment choked from having looked perforce, straight down the
kitchen chimney; but these two stages over, there were things to gaze
at from the top of Todgers's, well worth your seeing too. For first
and foremost, if the day were bright, you observed upon the house-tops,
stretching far away, a long dark path; the shadow of the Monument; and
turning round, the tall original was close beside you, with every hair
erect upon his golden head, as if the doings of the city frightened him.
Then there were steeples, towers, belfries, shining vanes, and masts of
ships; a very forest. Gables, housetops, garret-windows, wilderness upon
wilderness. Smoke and noise enough for all the world at once.
After the first glance, there were slight features in the midst of this
crowd of objects, which sprung out from the mass without any reason, as
it were, and took hold of the attention whether the spectator would or
no. Thus, the revolving chimney-pots on one great stack of buildings
seemed to be turning gravely to each other every now and then, and
whispering the result of their separate observation of what was going
on below. Others, of a crook-backed shape, appeared to be maliciously
holding themselves askew, that they might shut the prospect out and
baffle Todgers's. The man who was mending a pen at an upper window over
the way, became of paramount importance in the scene, and made a blank
in it, ridiculously disproportionate in its extent, when he retired. The
gambols of a piece of cloth upon the dyer's pole had far more interest
for the moment than all the changing motion of the crowd. Yet even while
the looker-on felt angry with himself for this, and wondered how it was,
the tumult swelled into a roar; the hosts of objects seemed to thicken
and expand a hundredfold, and after gazing round him, quite scared, he
turned into Todgers's again, much more rapidly than he came out; and ten
to one he told M. Todgers afterwards that if he hadn't done so, he would
certainly have come into the street by the shortest cut; that is to say,
So said the two Miss Pecksniffs, when they retired with Mrs Todgers from
this place of espial, leaving the youthful porter to close the door
and follow them downstairs; who, being of a playful temperament, and
contemplating with a delight peculiar to his sex and time of life, any
chance of dashing himself into small fragments, lingered behind to walk
upon the parapet.
It being the second day of their stay in London, the Miss Pecksniffs
and Mrs Todgers were by this time highly confidential, insomuch that the
last-named lady had already communicated the particulars of three early
disappointments of a tender nature; and had furthermore possessed her
young friends with a general summary of the life, conduct, and character
of Mr Todgers. Who, it seemed, had cut his matrimonial career rather
short, by unlawfully running away from his happiness, and establishing
himself in foreign countries as a bachelor.
'Your pa was once a little particular in his attentions, my dears,' said
Mrs Todgers, 'but to be your ma was too much happiness denied me. You'd
hardly know who this was done for, perhaps?'
She called their attention to an oval miniature, like a little blister,
which was tacked up over the kettle-holder, and in which there was a
dreamy shadowing forth of her own visage.
'It's a speaking likeness!' cried the two Miss Pecksniffs.
'It was considered so once,' said Mrs Todgers, warming herself in a
gentlemanly manner at the fire; 'but I hardly thought you would have
known it, my loves.'
They would have known it anywhere. If they could have met with it in
the street, or seen it in a shop window, they would have cried 'Good
gracious! Mrs Todgers!'
'Presiding over an establishment like this, makes sad havoc with the
features, my dear Miss Pecksniffs,' said Mrs Todgers. 'The gravy alone,
is enough to add twenty years to one's age, I do assure you.'
'Lor'!' cried the two Miss Pecksniffs.
'The anxiety of that one item, my dears,' said Mrs Todgers, 'keeps the
mind continually upon the stretch. There is no such passion in human
nature, as the passion for gravy among commercial gentlemen. It's
nothing to say a joint won't yield--a whole animal wouldn't yield--the
amount of gravy they expect each day at dinner. And what I have
undergone in consequence,' cried Mrs Todgers, raising her eyes and
shaking her head, 'no one would believe!'
'Just like Mr Pinch, Merry!' said Charity. 'We have always noticed it in
him, you remember?'
'Yes, my dear,' giggled Merry, 'but we have never given it him, you
'You, my dears, having to deal with your pa's pupils who can't help
themselves, are able to take your own way,' said Mrs Todgers; 'but in
a commercial establishment, where any gentleman may say any Saturday
evening, "Mrs Todgers, this day week we part, in consequence of the
cheese," it is not so easy to preserve a pleasant understanding. Your pa
was kind enough,' added the good lady, 'to invite me to take a ride with
you to-day; and I think he mentioned that you were going to call upon
Miss Pinch. Any relation to the gentleman you were speaking of just now,
'For goodness sake, Mrs Todgers,' interposed the lively Merry, 'don't
call him a gentleman. My dear Cherry, Pinch a gentleman! The idea!'
'What a wicked girl you are!' cried Mrs Todgers, embracing her with
great affection. 'You are quite a quiz, I do declare! My dear Miss
Pecksniff, what a happiness your sister's spirits must be to your pa and
'He's the most hideous, goggle-eyed creature, Mrs Todgers, in
existence,' resumed Merry: 'quite an ogre. The ugliest, awkwardest
frightfullest being, you can imagine. This is his sister, so I leave you
to suppose what SHE is. I shall be obliged to laugh outright, I know
I shall!' cried the charming girl, 'I never shall be able to keep my
countenance. The notion of a Miss Pinch presuming to exist at all is
sufficient to kill one, but to see her--oh my stars!'
Mrs Todgers laughed immensely at the dear love's humour, and declared
she was quite afraid of her, that she was. She was so very severe.
'Who is severe?' cried a voice at the door. 'There is no such thing as
severity in our family, I hope!' And then Mr Pecksniff peeped smilingly
into the room, and said, 'May I come in, Mrs Todgers?'
Mrs Todgers almost screamed, for the little door of communication
between that room and the inner one being wide open, there was a full
disclosure of the sofa bedstead in all its monstrous impropriety. But
she had the presence of mind to close this portal in the twinkling of an
eye; and having done so, said, though not without confusion, 'Oh yes, Mr
Pecksniff, you can come in, if you please.'
'How are we to-day,' said Mr Pecksniff, jocosely, 'and what are our
plans? Are we ready to go and see Tom Pinch's sister? Ha, ha, ha! Poor
'Are we ready,' returned Mrs Todgers, nodding her head with mysterious
intelligence, 'to send a favourable reply to Mr Jinkins's round-robin?
That's the first question, Mr Pecksniff.'
'Why Mr Jinkins's robin, my dear madam?' asked Mr Pecksniff, putting one
arm round Mercy, and the other round Mrs Todgers, whom he seemed, in the
abstraction of the moment, to mistake for Charity. 'Why Mr Jinkins's?'
'Because he began to get it up, and indeed always takes the lead in the
house,' said Mrs Todgers, playfully. 'That's why, sir.'
'Jinkins is a man of superior talents,' observed Mr Pecksniff. 'I have
conceived a great regard for Jinkins. I take Jinkins's desire to pay
polite attention to my daughters, as an additional proof of the friendly
feeling of Jinkins, Mrs Todgers.'
'Well now,' returned that lady, 'having said so much, you must say the
rest, Mr Pecksniff; so tell the dear young ladies all about it.'
With these words she gently eluded Mr Pecksniff's grasp, and took Miss
Charity into her own embrace; though whether she was impelled to this
proceeding solely by the irrepressible affection she had conceived for
that young lady, or whether it had any reference to a lowering, not to
say distinctly spiteful expression which had been visible in her face
for some moments, has never been exactly ascertained. Be this as it may,
Mr Pecksniff went on to inform his daughters of the purport and history
of the round-robin aforesaid, which was in brief, that the commercial
gentlemen who helped to make up the sum and substance of that noun of
multitude signifying many, called Todgers's, desired the honour of their
presence at the general table, so long as they remained in the house,
and besought that they would grace the board at dinner-time next
day, the same being Sunday. He further said, that Mrs Todgers being a
consenting party to this invitation, he was willing, for his part, to
accept it; and so left them that he might write his gracious answer, the
while they armed themselves with their best bonnets for the utter defeat
and overthrow of Miss Pinch.
Tom Pinch's sister was governess in a family, a lofty family; perhaps
the wealthiest brass and copper founders' family known to mankind.
They lived at Camberwell; in a house so big and fierce, that its mere
outside, like the outside of a giant's castle, struck terror into vulgar
minds and made bold persons quail. There was a great front gate; with a
great bell, whose handle was in itself a note of admiration; and a
great lodge; which being close to the house, rather spoilt the look-out
certainly but made the look-in tremendous. At this entry, a great porter
kept constant watch and ward; and when he gave the visitor high leave
to pass, he rang a second great bell, responsive to whose note a great
footman appeared in due time at the great halldoor, with such great
tags upon his liveried shoulder that he was perpetually entangling and
hooking himself among the chairs and tables, and led a life of torment
which could scarcely have been surpassed, if he had been a blue-bottle
in a world of cobwebs.
To this mansion Mr Pecksniff, accompanied by his daughters and Mrs
Todgers, drove gallantly in a one-horse fly. The foregoing ceremonies
having been all performed, they were ushered into the house; and so, by
degrees, they got at last into a small room with books in it, where Mr
Pinch's sister was at that moment instructing her eldest pupil; to wit,
a premature little woman of thirteen years old, who had already arrived
at such a pitch of whalebone and education that she had nothing girlish
about her, which was a source of great rejoicing to all her relations
'Visitors for Miss Pinch!' said the footman. He must have been
an ingenious young man, for he said it very cleverly; with a nice
discrimination between the cold respect with which he would have
announced visitors to the family, and the warm personal interest with
which he would have announced visitors to the cook.
'Visitors for Miss Pinch!'
Miss Pinch rose hastily; with such tokens of agitation as plainly
declared that her list of callers was not numerous. At the same time,
the little pupil became alarmingly upright, and prepared herself to take
mental notes of all that might be said and done. For the lady of the
establishment was curious in the natural history and habits of the
animal called Governess, and encouraged her daughters to report thereon
whenever occasion served; which was, in reference to all parties
concerned, very laudable, improving, and pleasant.
It is a melancholy fact; but it must be related, that Mr Pinch's sister
was not at all ugly. On the contrary, she had a good face; a very mild
and prepossessing face; and a pretty little figure--slight and short,
but remarkable for its neatness. There was something of her brother,
much of him indeed, in a certain gentleness of manner, and in her look
of timid trustfulness; but she was so far from being a fright, or
a dowdy, or a horror, or anything else, predicted by the two Miss
Pecksniffs, that those young ladies naturally regarded her with great
indignation, feeling that this was by no means what they had come to
Miss Mercy, as having the larger share of gaiety, bore up the best
against this disappointment, and carried it off, in outward show at
least, with a titter; but her sister, not caring to hide her disdain,
expressed it pretty openly in her looks. As to Mrs Todgers, she leaned
on Mr Pecksniff's arm and preserved a kind of genteel grimness, suitable
to any state of mind, and involving any shade of opinion.
'Don't be alarmed, Miss Pinch,' said Mr Pecksniff, taking her hand
condescendingly in one of his, and patting it with the other. 'I have
called to see you, in pursuance of a promise given to your brother,
Thomas Pinch. My name--compose yourself, Miss Pinch--is Pecksniff.'
The good man emphasised these words as though he would have said, 'You
see in me, young person, the benefactor of your race; the patron of your
house; the preserver of your brother, who is fed with manna daily from
my table; and in right of whom there is a considerable balance in my
favour at present standing in the books beyond the sky. But I have no
pride, for I can afford to do without it!'
The poor girl felt it all as if it had been Gospel truth. Her brother
writing in the fullness of his simple heart, had often told her so, and
how much more! As Mr Pecksniff ceased to speak, she hung her head, and
dropped a tear upon his hand.
'Oh very well, Miss Pinch!' thought the sharp pupil, 'crying before
strangers, as if you didn't like the situation!'
'Thomas is well,' said Mr Pecksniff; 'and sends his love and this
letter. I cannot say, poor fellow, that he will ever be distinguished in
our profession; but he has the will to do well, which is the next thing
to having the power; and, therefore, we must bear with him. Eh?'
'I know he has the will, sir,' said Tom Pinch's sister, 'and I know how
kindly and considerately you cherish it, for which neither he nor I can
ever be grateful enough, as we very often say in writing to each
other. The young ladies too,' she added, glancing gratefully at his two
daughters, 'I know how much we owe to them.'
'My dears,' said Mr Pecksniff, turning to them with a smile: 'Thomas's
sister is saying something you will be glad to hear, I think.'
'We can't take any merit to ourselves, papa!' cried Cherry, as they
both apprised Tom Pinch's sister, with a curtsey, that they would
feel obliged if she would keep her distance. 'Mr Pinch's being so well
provided for is owing to you alone, and we can only say how glad we are
to hear that he is as grateful as he ought to be.'
'Oh very well, Miss Pinch!' thought the pupil again. 'Got a grateful
brother, living on other people's kindness!'
'It was very kind of you,' said Tom Pinch's sister, with Tom's own
simplicity and Tom's own smile, 'to come here; very kind indeed; though
how great a kindness you have done me in gratifying my wish to see you,
and to thank you with my own lips, you, who make so light of benefits
conferred, can scarcely think.'
'Very grateful; very pleasant; very proper,' murmured Mr Pecksniff.
'It makes me happy too,' said Ruth Pinch, who now that her first
surprise was over, had a chatty, cheerful way with her, and a
single-hearted desire to look upon the best side of everything, which
was the very moral and image of Tom; 'very happy to think that you will
be able to tell him how more than comfortably I am situated here, and
how unnecessary it is that he should ever waste a regret on my being
cast upon my own resources. Dear me! So long as I heard that he was
happy, and he heard that I was,' said Tom's sister, 'we could both bear,
without one impatient or complaining thought, a great deal more than
ever we have had to endure, I am very certain.' And if ever the plain
truth were spoken on this occasionally false earth, Tom's sister spoke
it when she said that.
'Ah!' cried Mr Pecksniff whose eyes had in the meantime wandered to the
pupil; 'certainly. And how do YOU do, my very interesting child?'
'Quite well, I thank you, sir,' replied that frosty innocent.
'A sweet face this, my dears,' said Mr Pecksniff, turning to his
daughters. 'A charming manner!'
Both young ladies had been in ecstasies with the scion of a wealthy
house (through whom the nearest road and shortest cut to her parents
might be supposed to lie) from the first. Mrs Todgers vowed that
anything one quarter so angelic she had never seen. 'She wanted but
a pair of wings, a dear,' said that good woman, 'to be a young
syrup'--meaning, possibly, young sylph, or seraph.
'If you will give that to your distinguished parents, my amiable little
friend,' said Mr Pecksniff, producing one of his professional cards,
'and will say that I and my daughters--'
'And Mrs Todgers, pa,' said Merry.
'And Mrs Todgers, of London,' added Mr Pecksniff; 'that I, and my
daughters, and Mrs Todgers, of London, did not intrude upon them, as our
object simply was to take some notice of Miss Pinch, whose brother is a
young man in my employment; but that I could not leave this very chaste
mansion, without adding my humble tribute, as an Architect, to
the correctness and elegance of the owner's taste, and to his just
appreciation of that beautiful art to the cultivation of which I have
devoted a life, and to the promotion of whose glory and advancement I
have sacrified a--a fortune--I shall be very much obliged to you.'
'Missis's compliments to Miss Pinch,' said the footman, suddenly
appearing, and speaking in exactly the same key as before, 'and begs to
know wot my young lady is a-learning of just now.'
'Oh!' said Mr Pecksniff, 'Here is the young man. HE will take the
card. With my compliments, if you please, young man. My dears, we are
interrupting the studies. Let us go.'
Some confusion was occasioned for an instant by Mrs Todgers's
unstrapping her little flat hand-basket, and hurriedly entrusting the
'young man' with one of her own cards, which, in addition to
certain detailed information relative to the terms of the commercial
establishment, bore a foot-note to the effect that M. T. took that
opportunity of thanking those gentlemen who had honoured her with their
favours, and begged they would have the goodness, if satisfied with
the table, to recommend her to their friends. But Mr Pecksniff, with
admirable presence of mind, recovered this document, and buttoned it up
in his own pocket.
Then he said to Miss Pinch--with more condescension and kindness than
ever, for it was desirable the footman should expressly understand that
they were not friends of hers, but patrons:
'Good morning. Good-bye. God bless you! You may depend upon my continued
protection of your brother Thomas. Keep your mind quite at ease, Miss
'Thank you,' said Tom's sister heartily; 'a thousand times.'
'Not at all,' he retorted, patting her gently on the head. 'Don't
mention it. You will make me angry if you do. My sweet child'--to the
pupil--'farewell! That fairy creature,' said Mr Pecksniff, looking in
his pensive mood hard at the footman, as if he meant him, 'has shed
a vision on my path, refulgent in its nature, and not easily to be
obliterated. My dears, are you ready?'
They were not quite ready yet, for they were still caressing the pupil.
But they tore themselves away at length; and sweeping past Miss Pinch
with each a haughty inclination of the head and a curtsey strangled in
its birth, flounced into the passage.
The young man had rather a long job in showing them out; for Mr
Pecksniff's delight in the tastefulness of the house was such that he
could not help often stopping (particularly when they were near the
parlour door) and giving it expression, in a loud voice and very learned
terms. Indeed, he delivered, between the study and the hall, a
familiar exposition of the whole science of architecture as applied to
dwelling-houses, and was yet in the freshness of his eloquence when they
reached the garden.
'If you look,' said Mr Pecksniff, backing from the steps, with his head
on one side and his eyes half-shut that he might the better take in
the proportions of the exterior: 'If you look, my dears, at the cornice
which supports the roof, and observe the airiness of its construction,
especially where it sweeps the southern angle of the building, you will
feel with me--How do you do, sir? I hope you're well?'
Interrupting himself with these words, he very politely bowed to a
middle-aged gentleman at an upper window, to whom he spoke--not because
the gentleman could hear him (for he certainly could not), but as an
appropriate accompaniment to his salutation.
'I have no doubt, my dears,' said Mr Pecksniff, feigning to point out
other beauties with his hand, 'that this is the proprietor. I should be
glad to know him. It might lead to something. Is he looking this way,
'He is opening the window pa!'
'Ha, ha!' cried Mr Pecksniff softly. 'All right! He has found I'm
professional. He heard me inside just now, I have no doubt. Don't look!
With regard to the fluted pillars in the portico, my dears--'
'Hallo!' cried the gentleman.
'Sir, your servant!' said Mr Pecksniff, taking off his hat. 'I am proud
to make your acquaintance.'
'Come off the grass, will you!' roared the gentleman.
'I beg your pardon, sir,' said Mr Pecksniff, doubtful of his having
heard aright. 'Did you--?'
'Come off the grass!' repeated the gentleman, warmly.
'We are unwilling to intrude, sir,' Mr Pecksniff smilingly began.
'But you ARE intruding,' returned the other, 'unwarrantably intruding.
Trespassing. You see a gravel walk, don't you? What do you think it's
meant for? Open the gate there! Show that party out!'
With that he clapped down the window again, and disappeared.
Mr Pecksniff put on his hat, and walked with great deliberation and in
profound silence to the fly, gazing at the clouds as he went, with
great interest. After helping his daughters and Mrs Todgers into that
conveyance, he stood looking at it for some moments, as if he were not
quite certain whether it was a carriage or a temple; but having settled
this point in his mind, he got into his place, spread his hands out on
his knees, and smiled upon the three beholders.
But his daughters, less tranquil-minded, burst into a torrent of
indignation. This came, they said, of cherishing such creatures as the
Pinches. This came of lowering themselves to their level. This came of
putting themselves in the humiliating position of seeming to know such
bold, audacious, cunning, dreadful girls as that. They had expected
this. They had predicted it to Mrs Todgers, as she (Todgers) could
depone, that very morning. To this, they added, that the owner of the
house, supposing them to be Miss Pinch's friends, had acted, in
their opinion, quite correctly, and had done no more than, under such
circumstances, might reasonably have been expected. To that they added
(with a trifling inconsistency), that he was a brute and a bear; and
then they merged into a flood of tears, which swept away all wandering
epithets before it.
Perhaps Miss Pinch was scarcely so much to blame in the matter as the
Seraph, who, immediately on the withdrawal of the visitors, had hastened
to report them at head-quarters, with a full account of their having
presumptuously charged her with the delivery of a message afterwards
consigned to the footman; which outrage, taken in conjunction with Mr
Pecksniff's unobtrusive remarks on the establishment, might possibly
have had some share in their dismissal. Poor Miss Pinch, however, had to
bear the brunt of it with both parties; being so severely taken to task
by the Seraph's mother for having such vulgar acquaintances, that
she was fain to retire to her own room in tears, which her natural
cheerfulness and submission, and the delight of having seen Mr
Pecksniff, and having received a letter from her brother, were at first
insufficient to repress.
As to Mr Pecksniff, he told them in the fly, that a good action was its
own reward; and rather gave them to understand, that if he could have
been kicked in such a cause, he would have liked it all the better. But
this was no comfort to the young ladies, who scolded violently the whole
way back, and even exhibited, more than once, a keen desire to attack
the devoted Mrs Todgers; on whose personal appearance, but particularly
on whose offending card and hand-basket, they were secretly inclined to
lay the blame of half their failure.
Todgers's was in a great bustle that evening, partly owing to some
additional domestic preparations for the morrow, and partly to the
excitement always inseparable in that house from Saturday night, when
every gentleman's linen arrived at a different hour in its own little
bundle, with his private account pinned on the outside. There was always
a great clinking of pattens downstairs, too, until midnight or so, on
Saturdays; together with a frequent gleaming of mysterious lights in
the area; much working at the pump; and a constant jangling of the iron
handle of the pail. Shrill altercations from time to time arose between
Mrs Todgers and unknown females in remote back kitchens; and sounds were
occasionally heard, indicative of small articles of iron mongery and
hardware being thrown at the boy. It was the custom of that youth on
Saturdays, to roll up his shirt sleeves to his shoulders, and pervade
all parts of the house in an apron of coarse green baize; moreover, he
was more strongly tempted on Saturdays than on other days (it being a
busy time), to make excursive bolts into the neighbouring alleys when he
answered the door, and there to play at leap-frog and other sports with
vagrant lads, until pursued and brought back by the hair of his head or
the lobe of his ear; thus he was quite a conspicuous feature among the
peculiar incidents of the last day in the week at Todgers's.
He was especially so on this particular Saturday evening, and honoured
the Miss Pecksniffs with a deal of notice; seldom passing the door
of Mrs Todgers's private room, where they sat alone before the fire,
working by the light of a solitary candle, without putting in his head
and greeting them with some such compliments as, 'There you are agin!'
'An't it nice?'--and similar humorous attentions.
'I say,' he whispered, stopping in one of his journeys to and fro,
'young ladies, there's soup to-morrow. She's a-making it now. An't she
a-putting in the water? Oh! not at all neither!'
In the course of answering another knock, he thrust in his head again.
'I say! There's fowls to-morrow. Not skinny ones. Oh no!'
Presently he called through the key-hole:
'There's a fish to-morrow. Just come. Don't eat none of him!' And, with
this special warning, vanished again.
By-and-bye, he returned to lay the cloth for supper; it having been
arranged between Mrs Todgers and the young ladies, that they should
partake of an exclusive veal-cutlet together in the privacy of that
apartment. He entertained them on this occasion by thrusting the
lighted candle into his mouth, and exhibiting his face in a state of
transparency; after the performance of which feat, he went on with his
professional duties; brightening every knife as he laid it on the table,
by breathing on the blade and afterwards polishing the same on the apron
already mentioned. When he had completed his preparations, he grinned
at the sisters, and expressed his belief that the approaching collation
would be of 'rather a spicy sort.'
'Will it be long, before it's ready, Bailey?' asked Mercy.
'No,' said Bailey, 'it IS cooked. When I come up, she was dodging among
the tender pieces with a fork, and eating of 'em.'
But he had scarcely achieved the utterance of these words, when he
received a manual compliment on the head, which sent him staggering
against the wall; and Mrs Todgers, dish in hand, stood indignantly
'Oh you little villain!' said that lady. 'Oh you bad, false boy!'
'No worse than yerself,' retorted Bailey, guarding his head, on a
principle invented by Mr Thomas Cribb. 'Ah! Come now! Do that again,
'He's the most dreadful child,' said Mrs Todgers, setting down the dish,
'I ever had to deal with. The gentlemen spoil him to that extent, and
teach him such things, that I'm afraid nothing but hanging will ever do
him any good.'
'Won't it!' cried Bailey. 'Oh! Yes! Wot do you go a-lowerin the
table-beer for then, and destroying my constitooshun?'
'Go downstairs, you vicious boy,' said Mrs Todgers, holding the door
open. 'Do you hear me? Go along!'
After two or three dexterous feints, he went, and was seen no more that
night, save once, when he brought up some tumblers and hot water, and
much disturbed the two Miss Pecksniffs by squinting hideously behind
the back of the unconscious Mrs Todgers. Having done this justice to his
wounded feelings, he retired underground; where, in company with a swarm
of black beetles and a kitchen candle, he employed his faculties in
cleaning boots and brushing clothes until the night was far advanced.
Benjamin was supposed to be the real name of this young retainer but he
was known by a great variety of names. Benjamin, for instance, had been
converted into Uncle Ben, and that again had been corrupted into Uncle;
which, by an easy transition, had again passed into Barnwell, in memory
of the celebrated relative in that degree who was shot by his nephew
George, while meditating in his garden at Camberwell. The gentlemen at
Todgers's had a merry habit, too, of bestowing upon him, for the time
being, the name of any notorious malefactor or minister; and sometimes
when current events were flat they even sought the pages of history for
these distinctions; as Mr Pitt, Young Brownrigg, and the like. At the
period of which we write, he was generally known among the gentlemen as
Bailey junior; a name bestowed upon him in contradistinction, perhaps,
to Old Bailey; and possibly as involving the recollection of an
unfortunate lady of the same name, who perished by her own hand early in
life, and has been immortalised in a ballad.
The usual Sunday dinner-hour at Todgers's was two o'clock--a suitable
time, it was considered for all parties; convenient to Mrs Todgers, on
account of the bakers; and convenient to the gentlemen with reference
to their afternoon engagements. But on the Sunday which was to introduce
the two Miss Pecksniffs to a full knowledge of Todgers's and its
society, the dinner was postponed until five, in order that everything
might be as genteel as the occasion demanded.
When the hour drew nigh, Bailey junior, testifying great excitement,
appeared in a complete suit of cast-off clothes several sizes too large
for him, and in particular, mounted a clean shirt of such extraordinary
magnitude, that one of the gentlemen (remarkable for his ready wit)
called him 'collars' on the spot. At about a quarter before five, a
deputation, consisting of Mr Jinkins, and another gentleman, whose
name was Gander, knocked at the door of Mrs Todgers's room, and, being
formally introduced to the two Miss Pecksniffs by their parent who was
in waiting, besought the honour of conducting them upstairs.
The drawing-room at Todgers's was out of the common style; so much so
indeed, that you would hardly have taken it to be a drawingroom, unless
you were told so by somebody who was in the secret. It was floor-clothed
all over; and the ceiling, including a great beam in the middle,
was papered. Besides the three little windows, with seats in them,
commanding the opposite archway, there was another window looking point
blank, without any compromise at all about it into Jinkins's bedroom;
and high up, all along one side of the wall was a strip of panes of
glass, two-deep, giving light to the staircase. There were the oddest
closets possible, with little casements in them like eight-day clocks,
lurking in the wainscot and taking the shape of the stairs; and the very
door itself (which was painted black) had two great glass eyes in its
forehead, with an inquisitive green pupil in the middle of each.
Here the gentlemen were all assembled. There was a general cry of 'Hear,
hear!' and 'Bravo Jink!' when Mr Jinkins appeared with Charity on his
arm; which became quite rapturous as Mr Gander followed, escorting
Mercy, and Mr Pecksniff brought up the rear with Mrs Todgers.
Then the presentations took place. They included a gentleman of a
sporting turn, who propounded questions on jockey subjects to the
editors of Sunday papers, which were regarded by his friends as rather
stiff things to answer; and they included a gentleman of a theatrical
turn, who had once entertained serious thoughts of 'coming out,' but
had been kept in by the wickedness of human nature; and they included
a gentleman of a debating turn, who was strong at speech-making; and a
gentleman of a literary turn, who wrote squibs upon the rest, and
knew the weak side of everybody's character but his own. There was a
gentleman of a vocal turn, and a gentleman of a smoking turn, and a
gentleman of a convivial turn; some of the gentlemen had a turn for
whist, and a large proportion of the gentlemen had a strong turn for
billiards and betting. They had all, it may be presumed, a turn for
business; being all commercially employed in one way or other; and
had, every one in his own way, a decided turn for pleasure to boot. Mr
Jinkins was of a fashionable turn; being a regular frequenter of the
Parks on Sundays, and knowing a great many carriages by sight. He spoke
mysteriously, too, of splendid women, and was suspected of having once
committed himself with a Countess. Mr Gander was of a witty turn being
indeed the gentleman who had originated the sally about 'collars;' which
sparkling pleasantry was now retailed from mouth to mouth, under the
title of Gander's Last, and was received in all parts of the room with
great applause. Mr Jinkins it may be added, was much the oldest of
the party; being a fish-salesman's book-keeper, aged forty. He was the
oldest boarder also; and in right of his double seniority, took the lead
in the house, as Mrs Todgers had already said.
There was considerable delay in the production of dinner, and poor Mrs
Todgers, being reproached in confidence by Jinkins, slipped in and out,
at least twenty times to see about it; always coming back as though she
had no such thing upon her mind, and hadn't been out at all. But there
was no hitch in the conversation nevertheless; for one gentleman, who
travelled in the perfumery line, exhibited an interesting nick-nack,
in the way of a remarkable cake of shaving soap which he had lately
met with in Germany; and the gentleman of a literary turn repeated (by
desire) some sarcastic stanzas he had recently produced on the freezing
of the tank at the back of the house. These amusements, with the
miscellaneous conversation arising out of them, passed the time
splendidly, until dinner was announced by Bailey junior in these terms:
'The wittles is up!'
On which notice they immediately descended to the banquet-hall; some of
the more facetious spirits in the rear taking down gentlemen as if they
were ladies, in imitation of the fortunate possessors of the two Miss
Mr Pecksniff said grace--a short and pious grace, involving a blessing
on the appetites of those present, and committing all persons who had
nothing to eat, to the care of Providence; whose business (so said the
grace, in effect) it clearly was, to look after them. This done, they
fell to with less ceremony than appetite; the table groaning beneath the
weight, not only of the delicacies whereof the Miss Pecksniffs had been
previously forewarned, but of boiled beef, roast veal, bacon, pies
and abundance of such heavy vegetables as are favourably known to
housekeepers for their satisfying qualities. Besides which, there were
bottles of stout, bottles of wine, bottles of ale, and divers other
strong drinks, native and foreign.
All this was highly agreeable to the two Miss Pecksniffs, who were in
immense request; sitting one on either hand of Mr Jinkins at the bottom
of the table; and who were called upon to take wine with some new
admirer every minute. They had hardly ever felt so pleasant, and so full
of conversation, in their lives; Mercy, in particular, was uncommonly
brilliant, and said so many good things in the way of lively repartee
that she was looked upon as a prodigy. 'In short,' as that young lady
observed, 'they felt now, indeed, that they were in London, and for the
first time too.'
Their young friend Bailey sympathized in these feelings to the
fullest extent, and, abating nothing of his patronage, gave them every
encouragement in his power; favouring them, when the general attention
was diverted from his proceedings, with many nods and winks and other
tokens of recognition, and occasionally touching his nose with a
corkscrew, as if to express the Bacchanalian character of the meeting.
In truth, perhaps even the spirits of the two Miss Pecksniffs, and the
hungry watchfulness of Mrs Todgers, were less worthy of note than the
proceedings of this remarkable boy, whom nothing disconcerted or put out
of his way. If any piece of crockery, a dish or otherwise, chanced to
slip through his hands (which happened once or twice), he let it go with
perfect good breeding, and never added to the painful emotions of the
company by exhibiting the least regret. Nor did he, by hurrying to and
fro, disturb the repose of the assembly, as many well-trained servants
do; on the contrary, feeling the hopelessness of waiting upon so large a
party, he left the gentlemen to help themselves to what they wanted, and
seldom stirred from behind Mr Jinkins's chair, where, with his hands
in his pockets, and his legs planted pretty wide apart, he led the
laughter, and enjoyed the conversation.
The dessert was splendid. No waiting either. The pudding-plates had been
washed in a little tub outside the door while cheese was on, and though
they were moist and warm with friction, still there they were again,
up to the mark, and true to time. Quarts of almonds; dozens of oranges;
pounds of raisins; stacks of biffins; soup-plates full of nuts.--Oh,
Todgers's could do it when it chose! mind that.
Then more wine came on; red wines and white wines; and a large china
bowl of punch, brewed by the gentleman of a convivial turn, who adjured
the Miss Pecksniffs not to be despondent on account of its dimensions,
as there were materials in the house for the decoction of half a dozen
more of the same size. Good gracious, how they laughed! How they coughed
when they sipped it, because it was so strong; and how they laughed
again when somebody vowed that but for its colour it might have been
mistaken, in regard of its innocuous qualities, for new milk! What a
shout of 'No!' burst from the gentlemen when they pathetically implored
Mr Jinkins to suffer them to qualify it with hot water; and how
blushingly, by little and little, did each of them drink her whole
glassful, down to its very dregs!
Now comes the trying time. The sun, as Mr Jinkins says (gentlemanly
creature, Jinkins--never at a loss!), is about to leave the firmament.
'Miss Pecksniff!' says Mrs Todgers, softly, 'will you--?' 'Oh dear, no
more, Mrs Todgers.' Mrs Todgers rises; the two Miss Pecksniffs rise; all
rise. Miss Mercy Pecksniff looks downward for her scarf. Where is it?
Dear me, where CAN it be? Sweet girl, she has it on; not on her fair
neck, but loose upon her flowing figure. A dozen hands assist her. She
is all confusion. The youngest gentleman in company thirsts to murder
Jinkins. She skips and joins her sister at the door. Her sister has her
arm about the waist of Mrs Todgers. She winds her arm around her sister.
Diana, what a picture! The last things visible are a shape and a skip.
'Gentlemen, let us drink the ladies!'
The enthusiasm is tremendous. The gentleman of a debating turn rises in
the midst, and suddenly lets loose a tide of eloquence which bears down
everything before it. He is reminded of a toast--a toast to which they
will respond. There is an individual present; he has him in his eye; to
whom they owe a debt of gratitude. He repeats it--a debt of gratitude.
Their rugged natures have been softened and ameliorated that day, by
the society of lovely woman. There is a gentleman in company whom two
accomplished and delightful females regard with veneration, as the
fountain of their existence. Yes, when yet the two Miss Pecksniffs
lisped in language scarce intelligible, they called that individual
'Father!' There is great applause. He gives them 'Mr Pecksniff, and God
bless him!' They all shake hands with Mr Pecksniff, as they drink the
toast. The youngest gentleman in company does so with a thrill; for he
feels that a mysterious influence pervades the man who claims that being
in the pink scarf for his daughter.
What saith Mr Pecksniff in reply? Or rather let the question be, What
leaves he unsaid? Nothing. More punch is called for, and produced, and
drunk. Enthusiasm mounts still higher. Every man comes out freely in
his own character. The gentleman of a theatrical turn recites. The vocal
gentleman regales them with a song. Gander leaves the Gander of all
former feasts whole leagues behind. HE rises to propose a toast. It is,
The Father of Todgers's. It is their common friend Jink--it is old
Jink, if he may call him by that familiar and endearing appellation. The
youngest gentleman in company utters a frantic negative. He won't
have it--he can't bear it--it mustn't be. But his depth of feeling is
misunderstood. He is supposed to be a little elevated; and nobody heeds
Mr Jinkins thanks them from his heart. It is, by many degrees, the
proudest day in his humble career. When he looks around him on the
present occasion, he feels that he wants words in which to express
his gratitude. One thing he will say. He hopes it has been shown that
Todgers's can be true to itself; and that, an opportunity arising, it
can come out quite as strong as its neighbours--perhaps stronger. He
reminds them, amidst thunders of encouragement, that they have heard of
a somewhat similar establishment in Cannon Street; and that they have
heard it praised. He wishes to draw no invidious comparisons; he would
be the last man to do it; but when that Cannon Street establishment
shall be able to produce such a combination of wit and beauty as has
graced that board that day, and shall be able to serve up (all things
considered) such a dinner as that of which they have just partaken, he
will be happy to talk to it. Until then, gentlemen, he will stick to
More punch, more enthusiasm, more speeches. Everybody's health is drunk,
saving the youngest gentleman's in company. He sits apart, with his
elbow on the back of a vacant chair, and glares disdainfully at Jinkins.
Gander, in a convulsing speech, gives them the health of Bailey junior;
hiccups are heard; and a glass is broken. Mr Jinkins feels that it is
time to join the ladies. He proposes, as a final sentiment, Mrs Todgers.
She is worthy to be remembered separately. Hear, hear. So she is; no
doubt of it. They all find fault with her at other times; but every man
feels now, that he could die in her defence.
They go upstairs, where they are not expected so soon; for Mrs Todgers
is asleep, Miss Charity is adjusting her hair, and Mercy, who has made
a sofa of one of the window-seats is in a gracefully recumbent attitude.
She is rising hastily, when Mr Jinkins implores her, for all their
sakes, not to stir; she looks too graceful and too lovely, he remarks,
to be disturbed. She laughs, and yields, and fans herself, and drops
her fan, and there is a rush to pick it up. Being now installed, by one
consent, as the beauty of the party, she is cruel and capricious, and
sends gentlemen on messages to other gentlemen, and forgets all about
them before they can return with the answer, and invents a thousand
tortures, rending their hearts to pieces. Bailey brings up the tea and
coffee. There is a small cluster of admirers round Charity; but they
are only those who cannot get near her sister. The youngest gentleman
in company is pale, but collected, and still sits apart; for his spirit
loves to hold communion with itself, and his soul recoils from noisy
revellers. She has a consciousness of his presence and adoration.
He sees it flashing sometimes in the corner of her eye. Have a care,
Jinkins, ere you provoke a desperate man to frenzy!
Mr Pecksniff had followed his younger friends upstairs, and taken a
chair at the side of Mrs Todgers. He had also spilt a cup of coffee over
his legs without appearing to be aware of the circumstance; nor did he
seem to know that there was muffin on his knee.
'And how have they used you downstairs, sir?' asked the hostess.
'Their conduct has been such, my dear madam,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'as I
can never think of without emotion, or remember without a tear. Oh, Mrs
'My goodness!' exclaimed that lady. 'How low you are in your spirits,
'I am a man, my dear madam,' said Mr Pecksniff, shedding tears and
speaking with an imperfect articulation, 'but I am also a father. I
am also a widower. My feelings, Mrs Todgers, will not consent to be
entirely smothered, like the young children in the Tower. They are grown
up, and the more I press the bolster on them, the more they look round
the corner of it.'
He suddenly became conscious of the bit of muffin, and stared at it
intently; shaking his head the while, in a forlorn and imbecile manner,
as if he regarded it as his evil genius, and mildly reproached it.
'She was beautiful, Mrs Todgers,' he said, turning his glazed eye
again upon her, without the least preliminary notice. 'She had a small
'So I have heard,' cried Mrs Todgers with great sympathy.
'Those are her daughters,' said Mr Pecksniff, pointing out the young
ladies, with increased emotion.
Mrs Todgers had no doubt about it.
'Mercy and Charity,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'Charity and Mercy. Not unholy
names, I hope?'
'Mr Pecksniff!' cried Mrs Todgers. 'What a ghastly smile! Are you ill,
He pressed his hand upon her arm, and answered in a solemn manner, and a
faint voice, 'Chronic.'
'Cholic?' cried the frightened Mrs Todgers.
'Chron-ic,' he repeated with some difficulty. 'Chron-ic. A chronic
disorder. I have been its victim from childhood. It is carrying me to my
'Heaven forbid!' cried Mrs Todgers.
'Yes, it is,' said Mr Pecksniff, reckless with despair. 'I am rather
glad of it, upon the whole. You are like her, Mrs Todgers.'
'Don't squeeze me so tight, pray, Mr Pecksniff. If any of the gentlemen
should notice us.'
'For her sake,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'Permit me--in honour of her memory.
For the sake of a voice from the tomb. You are VERY like her Mrs
Todgers! What a world this is!'
'Ah! Indeed you may say that!' cried Mrs Todgers.
'I'm afraid it is a vain and thoughtless world,' said Mr Pecksniff,
overflowing with despondency. 'These young people about us. Oh! what
sense have they of their responsibilities? None. Give me your other
hand, Mrs Todgers.'
The lady hesitated, and said 'she didn't like.'
'Has a voice from the grave no influence?' said Mr Pecksniff, with,
dismal tenderness. 'This is irreligious! My dear creature.'
'Hush!' urged Mrs Todgers. 'Really you mustn't.'
'It's not me,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'Don't suppose it's me; it's the
voice; it's her voice.'
Mrs Pecksniff deceased, must have had an unusually thick and husky voice
for a lady, and rather a stuttering voice, and to say the truth somewhat
of a drunken voice, if it had ever borne much resemblance to that in
which Mr Pecksniff spoke just then. But perhaps this was delusion on his
'It has been a day of enjoyment, Mrs Todgers, but still it has been a
day of torture. It has reminded me of my loneliness. What am I in the
'An excellent gentleman, Mr Pecksniff,' said Mrs Todgers.
'There is consolation in that too,' cried Mr Pecksniff. 'Am I?'
'There is no better man living,' said Mrs Todgers, 'I am sure.'
Mr Pecksniff smiled through his tears, and slightly shook his head. 'You
are very good,' he said, 'thank you. It is a great happiness to me, Mrs
Todgers, to make young people happy. The happiness of my pupils is my
chief object. I dote upon 'em. They dote upon me too--sometimes.'
'Always,' said Mrs Todgers.
'When they say they haven't improved, ma'am,' whispered Mr Pecksniff,
looking at her with profound mystery, and motioning to her to advance
her ear a little closer to his mouth. 'When they say they haven't
improved, ma'am, and the premium was too high, they lie! I shouldn't
wish it to be mentioned; you will understand me; but I say to you as to
an old friend, they lie.'
'Base wretches they must be!' said Mrs Todgers.
'Madam,' said Mr Pecksniff, 'you are right. I respect you for that
observation. A word in your ear. To Parents and Guardians. This is in
confidence, Mrs Todgers?'
'The strictest, of course!' cried that lady.
'To Parents and Guardians,' repeated Mr Pecksniff. 'An eligible
opportunity now offers, which unites the advantages of the best
practical architectural education with the comforts of a home, and the
constant association with some, who, however humble their sphere and
limited their capacity--observe!--are not unmindful of their moral
Mrs Todgers looked a little puzzled to know what this might mean, as
well she might; for it was, as the reader may perchance remember, Mr
Pecksniff's usual form of advertisement when he wanted a pupil; and
seemed to have no particular reference, at present, to anything. But Mr
Pecksniff held up his finger as a caution to her not to interrupt him.
'Do you know any parent or guardian, Mrs Todgers,' said Mr Pecksniff,
'who desires to avail himself of such an opportunity for a young
gentleman? An orphan would be preferred. Do you know of any orphan with
three or four hundred pound?'
Mrs Todgers reflected, and shook her head.
'When you hear of an orphan with three or four hundred pound,' said Mr
Pecksniff, 'let that dear orphan's friends apply, by letter post-paid,
to S. P., Post Office, Salisbury. I don't know who he is exactly. Don't
be alarmed, Mrs Todgers,' said Mr Pecksniff, falling heavily against
her; 'Chronic--chronic! Let's have a little drop of something to drink.'
'Bless my life, Miss Pecksniffs!' cried Mrs Todgers, aloud, 'your dear
pa's took very poorly!'
Mr Pecksniff straightened himself by a surprising effort, as every
one turned hastily towards him; and standing on his feet, regarded the
assembly with a look of ineffable wisdom. Gradually it gave place to
a smile; a feeble, helpless, melancholy smile; bland, almost to
sickliness. 'Do not repine, my friends,' said Mr Pecksniff, tenderly.
'Do not weep for me. It is chronic.' And with these words, after making
a futile attempt to pull off his shoes, he fell into the fireplace.
The youngest gentleman in company had him out in a second. Yes, before a
hair upon his head was singed, he had him on the hearth-rug--her father!
She was almost beside herself. So was her sister. Jinkins consoled them
both. They all consoled them. Everybody had something to say, except the
youngest gentleman in company, who with a noble self-devotion did the
heavy work, and held up Mr Pecksniff's head without being taken notice
of by anybody. At last they gathered round, and agreed to carry him
upstairs to bed. The youngest gentleman in company was rebuked by
Jinkins for tearing Mr Pecksniff's coat! Ha, ha! But no matter.
They carried him upstairs, and crushed the youngest gentleman at every
step. His bedroom was at the top of the house, and it was a long way;
but they got him there in course of time. He asked them frequently
on the road for a little drop of something to drink. It seemed an
idiosyncrasy. The youngest gentleman in company proposed a draught of
water. Mr Pecksniff called him opprobious names for the suggestion.
Jinkins and Gander took the rest upon themselves, and made him as
comfortable as they could, on the outside of his bed; and when he seemed
disposed to sleep, they left him. But before they had all gained the
bottom of the staircase, a vision of Mr Pecksniff, strangely attired,
was seen to flutter on the top landing. He desired to collect their
sentiments, it seemed, upon the nature of human life.
'My friends,' cried Mr Pecksniff, looking over the banisters, 'let us
improve our minds by mutual inquiry and discussion. Let us be moral. Let
us contemplate existence. Where is Jinkins?'
'Here,' cried that gentleman. 'Go to bed again'
'To bed!' said Mr Pecksniff. 'Bed! 'Tis the voice of the sluggard, I
hear him complain, you have woke me too soon, I must slumber again. If
any young orphan will repeat the remainder of that simple piece from
Doctor Watts's collection, an eligible opportunity now offers.'
'This is very soothing,' said Mr Pecksniff, after a pause. 'Extremely
so. Cool and refreshing; particularly to the legs! The legs of the
human subject, my friends, are a beautiful production. Compare them with
wooden legs, and observe the difference between the anatomy of nature
and the anatomy of art. Do you know,' said Mr Pecksniff, leaning over
the banisters, with an odd recollection of his familiar manner among
new pupils at home, 'that I should very much like to see Mrs Todgers's
notion of a wooden leg, if perfectly agreeable to herself!'
As it appeared impossible to entertain any reasonable hopes of him after
this speech, Mr Jinkins and Mr Gander went upstairs again, and once more
got him into bed. But they had not descended to the second floor before
he was out again; nor, when they had repeated the process, had they
descended the first flight, before he was out again. In a word, as often
as he was shut up in his own room, he darted out afresh, charged
with some new moral sentiment, which he continually repeated over the
banisters, with extraordinary relish, and an irrepressible desire for
the improvement of his fellow creatures that nothing could subdue.
Under these circumstances, when they had got him into bed for the
thirtieth time or so, Mr Jinkins held him, while his companion went
downstairs in search of Bailey junior, with whom he presently returned.
That youth having been apprised of the service required of him, was in
great spirits, and brought up a stool, a candle, and his supper; to the
end that he might keep watch outside the bedroom door with tolerable
When he had completed his arrangements, they locked Mr Pecksniff in,
and left the key on the outside; charging the young page to listen
attentively for symptoms of an apoplectic nature, with which the patient
might be troubled, and, in case of any such presenting themselves, to
summon them without delay. To which Mr Bailey modestly replied that
'he hoped he knowed wot o'clock it wos in gineral, and didn't date his
letters to his friends from Todgers's for nothing.'