Life And Adventures Of Martin Chuzzlewit
Charles Dickens

Part 17 out of 20

the firmament, Mrs Lupin! how glorious is the scene! When I look up
at those shining orbs, I think that each of them is winking to the
other to take notice of the vanity of men's pursuits. My
fellowmen!' cried Mr Pecksniff, shaking his head in pity; 'you are
much mistaken; my wormy relatives, you are much deceived! The stars
are perfectly contented (I suppose so) in their several spheres.
Why are not you? Oh! do not strive and struggle to enrich
yourselves, or to get the better of each other, my deluded friends,
but look up there, with me!'

Mrs Lupin shook her head, and heaved a sigh. It was very affecting.

'Look up there, with me!' repeated Mr Pecksniff, stretching out his
hand; 'With me, a humble individual who is also an insect like
yourselves. Can silver, gold, or precious stones, sparkle like
those constellations! I think not. Then do not thirst for silver,
gold, or precious stones; but look up there, with me!'

With those words, the good man patted Mrs Lupin's hand between his
own, as if he would have added 'think of this, my good woman!' and
walked away in a sort of ecstasy or rapture, with his hat under his

Jonas sat in the attitude in which Mr Pecksniff had left him, gazing
moodily at his friend; who, surrounded by a heap of documents, was
writing something on an oblong slip of paper.

'You mean to wait at Salisbury over the day after to-morrow, do you,
then?' said Jonas.

'You heard our appointment,' returned Montague, without raising his
eyes. 'In any case I should have waited to see after the boy.'

They appeared to have changed places again; Montague being in high
spirits; Jonas gloomy and lowering.

'You don't want me, I suppose?' said Jonas.

'I want you to put your name here,' he returned, glancing at him
with a smile, 'as soon as I have filled up the stamp. I may as well
have your note of hand for that extra capital. That's all I want.
If you wish to go home, I can manage Mr Pecksniff now, alone. There
is a perfect understanding between us.'

Jonas sat scowling at him as he wrote, in silence. When he had
finished his writing, and had dried it on the blotting paper in his
travelling-desk; he looked up, and tossed the pen towards him.

'What, not a day's grace, not a day's trust, eh?' said Jonas
bitterly. 'Not after the pains I have taken with to-night's work?'

'To night's work was a part of our bargain,' replied Montague; 'and
so was this.'

'You drive a hard bargain,' said Jonas, advancing to the table.
'You know best. Give it here!'

Montague gave him the paper. After pausing as if he could not make
up his mind to put his name to it, Jonas dipped his pen hastily in
the nearest inkstand, and began to write. But he had scarcely
marked the paper when he started back, in a panic.

'Why, what the devil's this?' he said. 'It's bloody!'

He had dipped the pen, as another moment showed, into red ink. But
he attached a strange degree of importance to the mistake. He asked
how it had come there, who had brought it, why it had been brought;
and looked at Montague, at first, as if he thought he had put a
trick upon him. Even when he used a different pen, and the right
ink, he made some scratches on another paper first, as half
believing they would turn red also.

'Black enough, this time,' he said, handing the note to Montague.

'Going now! how do you mean to get away from here?'

'I shall cross early in the morning to the high road, before you are
out of bed; and catch the day-coach, going up. Good-bye!'

'You are in a hurry!'

'I have something to do,' said Jonas. 'Good-bye!'

His friend looked after him as he went out, in surprise, which
gradually gave place to an air of satisfaction and relief.

'It happens all the better. It brings about what I wanted, without
any difficulty. I shall travel home alone.'



Tom Pinch and his sister having to part, for the dispatch of the
morning's business, immediately after the dispersion of the other
actors in the scene upon the wharf with which the reader has been
already made acquainted, had no opportunity of discussing the
subject at that time. But Tom, in his solitary office, and Ruth, in
the triangular parlour, thought about nothing else all day; and,
when their hour of meeting in the afternoon approached, they were
very full of it, to be sure.

There was a little plot between them, that Tom should always come
out of the Temple by one way; and that was past the fountain.
Coming through Fountain Court, he was just to glance down the steps
leading into Garden Court, and to look once all round him; and if
Ruth had come to meet him, there he would see her; not sauntering,
you understand (on account of the clerks), but coming briskly up,
with the best little laugh upon her face that ever played in
opposition to the fountain, and beat it all to nothing. For, fifty
to one, Tom had been looking for her in the wrong direction, and had
quite given her up, while she had been tripping towards him from the
first; jingling that little reticule of hers (with all the keys in
it) to attract his wandering observation.

Whether there was life enough left in the slow vegetation of
Fountain Court for the smoky shrubs to have any consciousness of the
brightest and purest-hearted little woman in the world, is a
question for gardeners, and those who are learned in the loves of
plants. But, that it was a good thing for that same paved yard to
have such a delicate little figure flitting through it; that it
passed like a smile from the grimy old houses, and the worn
flagstones, and left them duller, darker, sterner than before; there
is no sort of doubt. The Temple fountain might have leaped up
twenty feet to greet the spring of hopeful maidenhood, that in her
person stole on, sparkling, through the dry and dusty channels of
the Law; the chirping sparrows, bred in Temple chinks and crannies,
might have held their peace to listen to imaginary skylarks, as so
fresh a little creature passed; the dingy boughs, unused to droop,
otherwise than in their puny growth, might have bent down in a
kindred gracefulness to shed their benedictions on her graceful
head; old love letters, shut up in iron boxes in the neighbouring
offices, and made of no account among the heaps of family papers
into which they had strayed, and of which, in their degeneracy, they
formed a part, might have stirred and fluttered with a moment's
recollection of their ancient tenderness, as she went lightly by.
Anything might have happened that did not happen, and never will,
for the love of Ruth.

Something happened, too, upon the afternoon of which the history
treats. Not for her love. Oh no! quite by accident, and without
the least reference to her at all.

Either she was a little too soon, or Tom was a little too late--she
was so precise in general, that she timed it to half a minute--but
no Tom was there. Well! But was anybody else there, that she
blushed so deeply, after looking round, and tripped off down the
steps with such unusual expedition?

Why, the fact is, that Mr Westlock was passing at that moment. The
Temple is a public thoroughfare; they may write up on the gates that
it is not, but so long as the gates are left open it is, and will
be; and Mr Westlock had as good a right to be there as anybody else.
But why did she run away, then? Not being ill dressed, for she was
much too neat for that, why did she run away? The brown hair that
had fallen down beneath her bonnet, and had one impertinent imp of a
false flower clinging to it, boastful of its licence before all men,
THAT could not have been the cause, for it looked charming. Oh!
foolish, panting, frightened little heart, why did she run away!

Merrily the tiny fountain played, and merrily the dimples sparkled
on its sunny face. John Westlock hurried after her. Softly the
whispering water broke and fell; as roguishly the dimples twinkled,
as he stole upon her footsteps.

Oh, foolish, panting, timid little heart, why did she feign to be
unconscious of his coming! Why wish herself so far away, yet be so
flutteringly happy there!

'I felt sure it was you,' said John, when he overtook her in the
sanctuary of Garden Court. 'I knew I couldn't be mistaken.'

She was SO surprised.

'You are waiting for your brother,' said John. 'Let me bear you

So light was the touch of the coy little hand, that he glanced down
to assure himself he had it on his arm. But his glance, stopping
for an instant at the bright eyes, forgot its first design, and went
no farther.

They walked up and down three or four times, speaking about Tom and
his mysterious employment. Now that was a very natural and innocent
subject, surely. Then why, whenever Ruth lifted up her eyes, did
she let them fall again immediately, and seek the uncongenial
pavement of the court? They were not such eyes as shun the light;
they were not such eyes as require to be hoarded to enhance their
value. They were much too precious and too genuine to stand in need
of arts like those. Somebody must have been looking at them!

They found out Tom, though, quickly enough. This pair of eyes
descried him in the distance, the moment he appeared. He was
staring about him, as usual, in all directions but the right one;
and was as obstinate in not looking towards them, as if he had
intended it. As it was plain that, being left to himself, he would
walk away home, John Westlock darted off to stop him.

This made the approach of poor little Ruth, by herself, one of the
most embarrassing of circumstances. There was Tom, manifesting
extreme surprise (he had no presence of mind, that Tom, on small
occasions); there was John, making as light of it as he could, but
explaining at the same time with most unnecessary elaboration; and
here was she, coming towards them, with both of them looking at her,
conscious of blushing to a terrible extent, but trying to throw up
her eyebrows carelessly, and pout her rosy lips, as if she were the
coolest and most unconcerned of little women.

Merrily the fountain plashed and plashed, until the dimples, merging
into one another, swelled into a general smile, that covered the
whole surface of the basin.

'What an extraordinary meeting!' said Tom. 'I should never have
dreamed of seeing you two together here.'

'Quite accidental,' John was heard to murmur.

'Exactly,' cried Tom; 'that's what I mean, you know. If it wasn't
accidental, there would be nothing remarkable in it.'

'To be sure,' said John.

'Such an out-of-the-way place for you to have met in,' pursued Tom,
quite delighted. 'Such an unlikely spot!'

John rather disputed that. On the contrary, he considered it a very
likely spot, indeed. He was constantly passing to and fro there, he
said. He shouldn't wonder if it were to happen again. His only
wonder was, that it had never happened before.

By this time Ruth had got round on the farther side of her brother,
and had taken his arm. She was squeezing it now, as much as to say
'Are you going to stop here all day, you dear, old, blundering Tom?'

Tom answered the squeeze as if it had been a speech. 'John,' he
said, 'if you'll give my sister your arm, we'll take her between us,
and walk on. I have a curious circumstance to relate to you. Our
meeting could not have happened better.'

Merrily the fountain leaped and danced, and merrily the smiling
dimples twinkled and expanded more and more, until they broke into a
laugh against the basin's rim, and vanished.

'Tom,' said his friend, as they turned into the noisy street, 'I
have a proposition to make. It is, that you and your sister--if she
will so far honour a poor bachelor's dwelling--give me a great
pleasure, and come and dine with me.'

'What, to-day?' cried Tom.

'Yes, to-day. It's close by, you know. Pray, Miss Pinch, insist
upon it. It will be very disinterested, for I have nothing to give

'Oh! you must not believe that, Ruth,' said Tom. 'He is the most
tremendous fellow, in his housekeeping, that I ever heard of, for a
single man. He ought to be Lord Mayor. Well! what do you say?
Shall we go?'

'If you please, Tom,' rejoined his dutiful little sister.

'But I mean,' said Tom, regarding her with smiling admiration; 'is
there anything you ought to wear, and haven't got? I am sure I
don't know, John; she may not be able to take her bonnet off, for
anything I can tell.'

There was a great deal of laughing at this, and there were divers
compliments from John Westlock--not compliments HE said at least
(and really he was right), but good, plain, honest truths, which no
one could deny. Ruth laughed, and all that, but she made no
objection; so it was an engagement.

'If I had known it a little sooner,' said John, 'I would have tried
another pudding. Not in rivalry; but merely to exalt that famous
one. I wouldn't on any account have had it made with suet.'

'Why not?' asked Tom.

'Because that cookery-book advises suet,' said John Westlock; 'and
ours was made with flour and eggs.'

'Oh good gracious!' cried Tom. 'Ours was made with flour and eggs,
was it? Ha, ha, ha! A beefsteak pudding made with flour and eggs!
Why anybody knows better than that. I know better than that! Ha,
ha, ha!'

It is unnecessary to say that Tom had been present at the making of
the pudding, and had been a devoted believer in it all through. But
he was so delighted to have this joke against his busy little sister
and was tickled to that degree at having found her out, that he
stopped in Temple Bar to laugh; and it was no more to Tom, that he
was anathematized and knocked about by the surly passengers, than it
would have been to a post; for he continued to exclaim with unabated
good humour, 'flour and eggs! A beefsteak pudding made with flour
and eggs!' until John Westlock and his sister fairly ran away from
him, and left him to have his laugh out by himself; which he had,
and then came dodging across the crowded street to them, with such
sweet temper and tenderness (it was quite a tender joke of Tom's)
beaming in his face, God bless it, that it might have purified the
air, though Temple Bar had been, as in the golden days gone by,
embellished with a row of rotting human heads.

There are snug chambers in those Inns where the bachelors live, and,
for the desolate fellows they pretend to be, it is quite surprising
how well they get on. John was very pathetic on the subject of his
dreary life, and the deplorable makeshifts and apologetic
contrivances it involved, but he really seemed to make himself
pretty comfortable. His rooms were the perfection of neatness and
convenience at any rate; and if he were anything but comfortable,
the fault was certainly not theirs.

He had no sooner ushered Tom and his sister into his best room
(where there was a beautiful little vase of fresh flowers on the
table, all ready for Ruth. Just as if he had expected her, Tom
said), than, seizing his hat, he bustled out again, in his most
energetically bustling, way; and presently came hurrying back, as
they saw through the half-opened door, attended by a fiery-faced
matron attired in a crunched bonnet, with particularly long strings
to it hanging down her back; in conjunction with whom he instantly
began to lay the cloth for dinner, polishing up the wine-glasses
with his own hands, brightening the silver top of the pepper-caster
on his coat-sleeve, drawing corks and filling decanters, with a
skill and expedition that were quite dazzling. And as if, in the
course of this rubbing and polishing, he had rubbed an enchanted
lamp or a magic ring, obedient to which there were twenty thousand
supernatural slaves at least, suddenly there appeared a being in a
white waistcoat, carrying under his arm a napkin, and attended by
another being with an oblong box upon his head, from which a
banquet, piping hot, was taken out and set upon the table.

Salmon, lamb, peas, innocent young potatoes, a cool salad, sliced
cucumber, a tender duckling, and a tart--all there. They all came at
the right time. Where they came from, didn't appear; but the oblong
box was constantly going and coming, and making its arrival known to
the man in the white waistcoat by bumping modestly against the
outside of the door; for, after its first appearance, it entered the
room no more. He was never surprised, this man; he never seemed to
wonder at the extraordinary things he found in the box, but took
them out with a face expressive of a steady purpose and impenetrable
character, and put them on the table. He was a kind man; gentle in
his manners, and much interested in what they ate and drank. He was
a learned man, and knew the flavour of John Westlock's private
sauces, which he softly and feelingly described, as he handed the
little bottles round. He was a grave man, and a noiseless; for
dinner being done, and wine and fruit arranged upon the board, he
vanished, box and all, like something that had never been.

'Didn't I say he was a tremendous fellow in his housekeeping?' cried
Tom. 'Bless my soul! It's wonderful.'

'Ah, Miss Pinch,' said John. 'This is the bright side of the life
we lead in such a place. It would be a dismal life, indeed, if it
didn't brighten up to-day'

'Don't believe a word he says,' cried Tom. 'He lives here like a
monarch, and wouldn't change his mode of life for any consideration.
He only pretends to grumble.'

No, John really did not appear to pretend; for he was uncommonly
earnest in his desire to have it understood that he was as dull,
solitary, and uncomfortable on ordinary occasions as an unfortunate
young man could, in reason, be. It was a wretched life, he said, a
miserable life. He thought of getting rid of the chambers as soon
as possible; and meant, in fact, to put a bill up very shortly.

'Well' said Tom Pinch, 'I don't know where you can go, John, to be
more comfortable. That's all I can say. What do YOU say, Ruth?'

Ruth trifled with the cherries on her plate, and said that she
thought Mr Westlock ought to be quite happy, and that she had no
doubt he was.

Ah, foolish, panting, frightened little heart, how timidly she said

'But you are forgetting what you had to tell, Tom; what occurred
this morning,' she added in the same breath.

'So I am,' said Tom. 'We have been so talkative on other topics that
I declare I have not had time to think of it. I'll tell it you at
once, John, in case I should forget it altogether.'

On Tom's relating what had passed upon the wharf, his friend was
very much surprised, and took such a great interest in the narrative
as Tom could not quite understand. He believed he knew the old lady
whose acquaintance they had made, he said; and that he might venture
to say, from their description of her, that her name was Gamp. But
of what nature the communication could have been which Tom had borne
so unexpectedly; why its delivery had been entrusted to him; how it
happened that the parties were involved together; and what secret
lay at the bottom of the whole affair; perplexed him very much. Tom
had been sure of his taking some interest in the matter; but was not
prepared for the strong interest he showed. It held John Westlock
to the subject even after Ruth had left the room; and evidently made
him anxious to pursue it further than as a mere subject of

'I shall remonstrate with my landlord, of course,' said Tom; 'though
he is a very singular secret sort of man, and not likely to afford
me much satisfaction; even if he knew what was in the letter.'

'Which you may swear he did,' John interposed.

'You think so?'

'I am certain of it.'

'Well!' said Tom, 'I shall remonstrate with him when I see him (he
goes in and out in a strange way, but I will try to catch him
tomorrow morning), on his having asked me to execute such an
unpleasant commission. And I have been thinking, John, that if I
went down to Mrs What's-her-name's in the City, where I was before,
you know--Mrs Todgers's--to-morrow morning, I might find poor Mercy
Pecksniff there, perhaps, and be able to explain to her how I came
to have any hand in the business.'

'You are perfectly right, Tom,' returned his friend, after a short
interval of reflection. 'You cannot do better. It is quite clear
to me that whatever the business is, there is little good in it; and
it is so desirable for you to disentangle yourself from any
appearance of willful connection with it, that I would counsel you to
see her husband, if you can, and wash your hands of it by a plain
statement of the facts. I have a misgiving that there is something
dark at work here, Tom. I will tell you why, at another time; when
I have made an inquiry or two myself.'

All this sounded very mysterious to Tom Pinch. But as he knew he
could rely upon his friend, he resolved to follow this advice.

Ah, but it would have been a good thing to have had a coat of
invisibility, wherein to have watched little Ruth, when she was left
to herself in John Westlock's chambers, and John and her brother
were talking thus, over their wine! The gentle way in which she
tried to get up a little conversation with the fiery-faced matron in
the crunched bonnet, who was waiting to attend her; after making a
desperate rally in regard of her dress, and attiring herself in a
washed-out yellow gown with sprigs of the same upon it, so that it
looked like a tesselated work of pats of butter. That would have
been pleasant. The grim and griffin-like inflexibility with which
the fiery-faced matron repelled these engaging advances, as
proceeding from a hostile and dangerous power, who could have no
business there, unless it were to deprive her of a customer, or
suggest what became of the self-consuming tea and sugar, and other
general trifles. That would have been agreeable. The bashful,
winning, glorious curiosity, with which little Ruth, when fiery-face
was gone, peeped into the books and nick-nacks that were lying
about, and had a particular interest in some delicate paper-matches
on the chimney-piece; wondering who could have made them. That
would have been worth seeing. The faltering hand with which she
tied those flowers together; with which, almost blushing at her own
fair self as imaged in the glass, she arranged them in her breast,
and looking at them with her head aside, now half resolved to take
them out again, now half resolved to leave them where they were.
That would have been delightful!

John seemed to think it all delightful; for coming in with Tom to
tea, he took his seat beside her like a man enchanted. And when the
tea-service had been removed, and Tom, sitting down at the piano,
became absorbed in some of his old organ tunes, he was still beside
her at the open window, looking out upon the twilight.

There is little enough to see in Furnival's Inn. It is a shady,
quiet place, echoing to the footsteps of the stragglers who have
business there; and rather monotonous and gloomy on summer
evenings. What gave it such a charm to them, that they remained at
the window as unconscious of the flight of time as Tom himself, the
dreamer, while the melodies which had so often soothed his spirit
were hovering again about him! What power infused into the fading
light, the gathering darkness; the stars that here and there
appeared; the evening air, the City's hum and stir, the very chiming
of the old church clocks; such exquisite enthrallment, that the
divinest regions of the earth spread out before their eyes could not
have held them captive in a stronger chain?

The shadows deepened, deepened, and the room became quite dark.
Still Tom's fingers wandered over the keys of the piano, and still
the window had its pair of tenants. At length, her hand upon his
shoulder, and her breath upon his forehead, roused Tom from his

'Dear me!' he cried, desisting with a start. 'I am afraid I have
been very inconsiderate and unpolite.'

Tom little thought how much consideration and politeness he had

'Sing something to us, my dear,' said Tom. 'let us hear your voice.

John Westlock added his entreaties with such earnestness that a
flinty heart alone could have resisted them. Hers was not a flinty
heart. Oh, dear no! Quite another thing.

So down she sat, and in a pleasant voice began to sing the ballads
Tom loved well. Old rhyming stories, with here and there a pause
for a few simple chords, such as a harper might have sounded in the
ancient time while looking upward for the current of some half-
remembered legend; words of old poets, wedded to such measures that
the strain of music might have been the poet's breath, giving
utterance and expression to his thoughts; and now a melody so joyous
and light-hearted, that the singer seemed incapable of sadness,
until in her inconstancy (oh wicked little singer!) she relapsed,
and broke the listeners' hearts again; these were the simple means
she used to please them. And that these simple means prevailed, and
she DID please them, let the still darkened chamber, and its long-
deferred illumination witness.

The candles came at last, and it was time for moving homeward.
Cutting paper carefully, and rolling it about the stalks of those
same flowers, occasioned some delay; but even this was done in time,
and Ruth was ready.

'Good night!' said Tom. 'A memorable and delightful visit, John!
Good night!'

John thought he would walk with them.

'No, no. Don't!' said Tom. 'What nonsense! We can get home very
well alone. I couldn't think of taking you out.'

But John said he would rather.

'Are you sure you would rather?' said Tom. 'I am afraid you only
say so out of politeness.'

John being quite sure, gave his arm to Ruth, and led her out.
Fiery-face, who was again in attendance, acknowledged her departure
with so cold a curtsey that it was hardly visible; and cut Tom, dead.

Their host was bent on walking the whole distance, and would not
listen to Tom's dissuasions. Happy time, happy walk, happy parting,
happy dreams! But there are some sweet day-dreams, so there are that
put the visions of the night to shame.

Busily the Temple fountain murmured in the moonlight, while Ruth lay
sleeping, with her flowers beside her; and John Westlock sketched a
portrait--whose?--from memory.



On the next day's official duties coming to a close, Tom hurried
home without losing any time by the way; and after dinner and a
short rest sallied out again, accompanied by Ruth, to pay his
projected visit to Todgers's. Tom took Ruth with him, not only
because it was a great pleasure to him to have her for his companion
whenever he could, but because he wished her to cherish and comfort
poor Merry; which she, for her own part (having heard the wretched
history of that young wife from Tom), was all eagerness to do.

'She was so glad to see me,' said Tom, 'that I am sure she will be
glad to see you. Your sympathy is certain to be much more delicate
and acceptable than mine.'

'I am very far from being certain of that, Tom,' she replied; 'and
indeed you do yourself an injustice. Indeed you do. But I hope she
may like me, Tom.'

'Oh, she is sure to do that!' cried Tom, confidently.

'What a number of friends I should have, if everybody was of your
way of thinking. Shouldn't I, Tom, dear?' said his little sister
pinching him upon the cheek.

Tom laughed, and said that with reference to this particular case he
had no doubt at all of finding a disciple in Merry. 'For you
women,' said Tom, 'you women, my dear, are so kind, and in your
kindness have such nice perception; you know so well how to be
affectionate and full of solicitude without appearing to be; your
gentleness of feeling is like your touch so light and easy, that the
one enables you to deal with wounds of the mind as tenderly as the
other enables you to deal with wounds of the body. You are such--'

'My goodness, Tom!' his sister interposed. 'You ought to fall in
love immediately.'

Tom put this observation off good humouredly, but somewhat gravely
too; and they were soon very chatty again on some other subject.

As they were passing through a street in the City, not very far from
Mrs Todgers's place of residence, Ruth checked Tom before the window
of a large Upholstery and Furniture Warehouse, to call his attention
to something very magnificent and ingenious, displayed there to the
best advantage, for the admiration and temptation of the public.
Tom had hazarded some most erroneous and extravagantly wrong guess
in relation to the price of this article, and had joined his sister
in laughing heartily at his mistake, when he pressed her arm in his,
and pointed to two persons at a little distance, who were looking in
at the same window with a deep interest in the chests of drawers and

'Hush!' Tom whispered. 'Miss Pecksniff, and the young gentleman to
whom she is going to be married.'

'Why does he look as if he was going to be buried, Tom?' inquired
his little sister.

'Why, he is naturally a dismal young gentleman, I believe,' said Tom
'but he is very civil and inoffensive.'

'I suppose they are furnishing their house,' whispered Ruth.

'Yes, I suppose they are,' replied Tom. 'We had better avoid
speaking to them.'

They could not very well avoid looking at them, however, especially
as some obstruction on the pavement, at a little distance, happened
to detain them where they were for a few moments. Miss Pecksniff
had quite the air of having taken the unhappy Moddle captive, and
brought him up to the contemplation of the furniture like a lamb to
the altar. He offered no resistance, but was perfectly resigned and
quiet. The melancholy depicted in the turn of his languishing head,
and in his dejected attitude, was extreme; and though there was a
full-sized four-post bedstead in the window, such a tear stood
trembling in his eye as seemed to blot it out.

'Augustus, my love,' said Miss Pecksniff, 'ask the price of the
eight rosewood chairs, and the loo table.'

'Perhaps they are ordered already,' said Augustus. 'Perhaps they
are Another's.'

'They can make more like them, if they are,' rejoined Miss

'No, no, they can't,' said Moddle. 'It's impossible!'

He appeared, for the moment, to be quite overwhelmed and stupefied
by the prospect of his approaching happiness; but recovering,
entered the shop. He returned immediately, saying in a tone of

'Twenty-four pound ten!'

Miss Pecksniff, turning to receive this announcement, became
conscious of the observation of Tom Pinch and his sister.

'Oh, really!' cried Miss Pecksniff, glancing about her, as if for
some convenient means of sinking into the earth. 'Upon my word, I--
there never was such a--to think that one should be so very--Mr
Augustus Moddle, Miss Pinch!'

Miss Pecksniff was quite gracious to Miss Pinch in this triumphant
introduction; exceedingly gracious. She was more than gracious; she
was kind and cordial. Whether the recollection of the old service
Tom had rendered her in knocking Mr Jonas on the head had wrought
this change in her opinions; or whether her separation from her
parent had reconciled her to all human-kind, or to all that
interesting portion of human-kind which was not friendly to him; or
whether the delight of having some new female acquaintance to whom
to communicate her interesting prospects was paramount to every
other consideration; cordial and kind Miss Pecksniff was. And twice
Miss Pecksniff kissed Miss Pinch upon the cheek.

'Augustus--Mr Pinch, you know. My dear girl!' said Miss Pecksniff,
aside. 'I never was so ashamed in my life.'

Ruth begged her not to think of it.

'I mind your brother less than anybody else,' simpered Miss
Pecksniff. 'But the indelicacy of meeting any gentleman under such
circumstances! Augustus, my child, did you--'

Here Miss Pecksniff whispered in his ear. The suffering Moddle

'Twenty-four pound ten!'

'Oh, you silly man! I don't mean them,' said Miss Pecksniff. 'I am
speaking of the--'

Here she whispered him again.

'If it's the same patterned chintz as that in the window; thirty-
two, twelve, six,' said Moddle, with a sigh. 'And very dear.'

Miss Pecksniff stopped him from giving any further explanation by
laying her hand upon his lips, and betraying a soft embarrassment.
She then asked Tom Pinch which way he was going.

'I was going to see if I could find your sister,' answered Tom, 'to
whom I wished to say a few words. We were going to Mrs Todgers's,
where I had the pleasure of seeing her before.'

'It's of no use your going on, then,' said Cherry, 'for we have not
long left there; and I know she is not at home. But I'll take you
to my sister's house, if you please. Augustus--Mr Moddle, I mean--
and myself, are on our way to tea there, now. You needn't think of
HIM,' she added, nodding her head as she observed some hesitation on
Tom's part. 'He is not at home.'

'Are you sure?' asked Tom.

'Oh, I am quite sure of that. I don't want any MORE revenge,' said
Miss Pecksniff, expressively. 'But, really, I must beg you two
gentlemen to walk on, and allow me to follow with Miss Pinch. My
dear, I never was so taken by surprise!'

In furtherance of this bashful arrangement, Moddle gave his arm to
Tom; and Miss Pecksniff linked her own in Ruth's.

'Of course, my love,' said Miss Pecksniff, 'it would be useless for
me to disguise, after what you have seen, that I am about to be
united to the gentleman who is walking with your brother. It would
be in vain to conceal it. What do you think of him? Pray, let me
have your candid opinion.'

Ruth intimated that, as far as she could judge, he was a very
eligible swain.

'I am curious to know,' said Miss Pecksniff, with loquacious
frankness, 'whether you have observed, or fancied, in this very
short space of time, that he is of a rather melancholy turn?'

'So very short a time,' Ruth pleaded.

'No, no; but don't let that interfere with your answer,' returned
Miss Pecksniff. 'I am curious to hear what you say.'

Ruth acknowledged that he had impressed her at first sight as
looking 'rather low.'

'No, really?' said Miss Pecksniff. 'Well! that is quite remarkable!
Everybody says the same. Mrs Todgers says the same; and Augustus
informs me that it is quite a joke among the gentlemen in the house.
Indeed, but for the positive commands I have laid upon him, I
believe it would have been the occasion of loaded fire-arms being
resorted to more than once. What do you think is the cause of his
appearance of depression?'

Ruth thought of several things; such as his digestion, his tailor,
his mother, and the like. But hesitating to give utterance to any
one of them, she refrained from expressing an opinion.

'My dear,' said Miss Pecksniff; 'I shouldn't wish it to be known,
but I don't mind mentioning it to you, having known your brother for
so many years--I refused Augustus three times. He is of a most
amiable and sensitive nature, always ready to shed tears if you look
at him, which is extremely charming; and he has never recovered the
effect of that cruelty. For it WAS cruel,' said Miss Pecksniff,
with a self-conviction candour that might have adorned the diadem of
her own papa. 'There is no doubt of it. I look back upon my
conduct now with blushes. I always liked him. I felt that he was not
to me what the crowd of young men who had made proposals had been,
but something very different. Then what right had I to refuse him
three times?'

'It was a severe trial of his fidelity, no doubt,' said Ruth.

'My dear,' returned Miss Pecksniff. 'It was wrong. But such is the
caprice and thoughtlessness of our sex! Let me be a warning to you.
Don't try the feelings of any one who makes you an offer, as I have
tried the feelings of Augustus; but if you ever feel towards a
person as I really felt towards him, at the very time when I was
driving him to distraction, let that feeling find expression, if
that person throws himself at your feet, as Augustus Moddle did at
mine. Think,' said Miss Pecksniff, 'what my feelings would have
been, if I had goaded him to suicide, and it had got into the

Ruth observed that she would have been full of remorse, no doubt.

'Remorse!' cried Miss Pecksniff, in a sort of snug and comfortable
penitence. 'What my remorse is at this moment, even after making
reparation by accepting him, it would be impossible to tell you!
Looking back upon my giddy self, my dear, now that I am sobered down
and made thoughtful, by treading on the very brink of matrimony; and
contemplating myself as I was when I was like what you are now; I
shudder. I shudder. What is the consequence of my past conduct?
Until Augustus leads me to the altar he is not sure of me. I have
blighted and withered the affections of his heart to that extent
that he is not sure of me. I see that preying on his mind and
feeding on his vitals. What are the reproaches of my conscience,
when I see this in the man I love!'

Ruth endeavoured to express some sense of her unbounded and
flattering confidence; and presumed that she was going to be married

'Very soon indeed,' returned Miss Pecksniff. 'As soon as our house
is ready. We are furnishing now as fast as we can.'

In the same vein of confidence Miss Pecksniff ran through a general
inventory of the articles that were already bought with the articles
that remained to be purchased; what garments she intended to be
married in, and where the ceremony was to be performed; and gave
Miss Pinch, in short (as she told her), early and exclusive
information on all points of interest connected with the event.

While this was going forward in the rear, Tom and Mr Moddle walked
on, arm in arm, in the front, in a state of profound silence, which
Tom at last broke; after thinking for a long time what he could say
that should refer to an indifferent topic, in respect of which he
might rely, with some degree of certainty, on Mr Moddle's bosom
being unruffled.

'I wonder,' said Tom, 'that in these crowded streets the foot-
passengers are not oftener run over.'

Mr Moddle, with a dark look, replied:

'The drivers won't do it.'

'Do you mean?' Tom began--

'That there are some men,' interrupted Moddle, with a hollow laugh,
'who can't get run over. They live a charmed life. Coal waggons
recoil from them, and even cabs refuse to run them down. Ah!' said
Augustus, marking Tom's astonishment. 'There are such men. One of
'em is a friend of mine.'

'Upon my word and honour,' thought Tom, 'this young gentleman is in
a state of mind which is very serious indeed!' Abandoning all idea
of conversation, he did not venture to say another word, but he was
careful to keep a tight hold upon Augustus's arm, lest he should fly
into the road, and making another and a more successful attempt,
should get up a private little Juggernaut before the eyes of his
betrothed. Tom was so afraid of his committing this rash act, that
he had scarcely ever experienced such mental relief as when they
arrived in safety at Mrs Jonas Chuzzlewit's house.

'Walk up, pray, Mr Pinch,' said Miss Pecksniff. For Tom halted,
irresolutely, at the door.

'I am doubtful whether I should be welcome,' replied Tom, 'or, I
ought rather to say, I have no doubt about it. I will send up a
message, I think.'

'But what nonsense that is!' returned Miss Pecksniff, speaking apart
to Tom. 'He is not at home, I am certain. I know he is not; and
Merry hasn't the least idea that you ever--'

'No,' interrupted Tom. 'Nor would I have her know it, on any
account. I am not so proud of that scuffle, I assure you.'

'Ah, but then you are so modest, you see,' returned Miss Pecksniff,
with a smile. 'But pray walk up. If you don't wish her to know it,
and do wish to speak to her, pray walk up. Pray walk up, Miss
Pinch. Don't stand here.'

Tom still hesitated for he felt that he was in an awkward position.
But Cherry passing him at this juncture, and leading his sister
upstairs, and the house-door being at the same time shut behind
them, he followed without quite knowing whether it was well or ill-
judged so to do.

'Merry, my darling!' said the fair Miss Pecksniff, opening the door
of the usual sitting-room. 'Here are Mr Pinch and his sister come
to see you! I thought we should find you here, Mrs Todgers! How do
you do, Mrs Gamp? And how do you do, Mr Chuffey, though it's of no
use asking you the question, I am well aware.'

Honouring each of these parties, as she severally addressed them,
with an acid smile, Miss Charity presented 'Mr Moddle.'

'I believe you have seen HIM before,' she pleasantly observed.
'Augustus, my sweet child, bring me a chair.'

The sweet child did as he was told; and was then about to retire
into a corner to mourn in secret, when Miss Charity, calling him in
an audible whisper a 'little pet,' gave him leave to come and sit
beside her. It is to be hoped, for the general cheerfulness of
mankind, that such a doleful little pet was never seen as Mr Moddle
looked when he complied. So despondent was his temper, that he
showed no outward thrill of ecstasy when Miss Pecksniff placed her
lily hand in his, and concealed this mark of her favour from the
vulgar gaze by covering it with a corner of her shawl. Indeed, he
was infinitely more rueful then than he had been before; and,
sitting uncomfortably upright in his chair, surveyed the company
with watery eyes, which seemed to say, without the aid of language,
'Oh, good gracious! look here! Won't some kind Christian help me!'

But the ecstasies of Mrs Gamp were sufficient to have furnished
forth a score of young lovers; and they were chiefly awakened by the
sight of Tom Pinch and his sister. Mrs Gamp was a lady of that
happy temperament which can be ecstatic without any other
stimulating cause than a general desire to establish a large and
profitable connection. She added daily so many strings to her bow,
that she made a perfect harp of it; and upon that instrument she now
began to perform an extemporaneous concerto.

'Why, goodness me!' she said, 'Mrs Chuzzlewit! To think as I should
see beneath this blessed 'ouse, which well I know it, Miss Pecksniff,
my sweet young lady, to be a 'ouse as there is not a many like, worse
luck, and wishin' it were not so, which then this tearful walley
would be changed into a flowerin' guardian, Mr Chuffey; to think as
I should see beneath this indiwidgle roof, identically comin', Mr
Pinch (I take the liberty, though almost unbeknown), and do assure
you of it, sir, the smilinest and sweetest face as ever, Mrs
Chuzzlewit, I see exceptin' yourn, my dear good lady, and YOUR good
lady's too, sir, Mr Moddle, if I may make so bold as speak so plain
of what is plain enough to them as needn't look through millstones,
Mrs Todgers, to find out wot is wrote upon the wall behind. Which
no offence is meant, ladies and gentlemen; none bein' took, I hope.
To think as I should see that smilinest and sweetest face which me
and another friend of mine, took notice of among the packages down
London Bridge, in this promiscous place, is a surprige in-deed!'

Having contrived, in this happy manner, to invest every member of
her audience with an individual share and immediate personal
interest in her address, Mrs Gamp dropped several curtseys to Ruth,
and smilingly shaking her head a great many times, pursued the
thread of her discourse:

'Now, ain't we rich in beauty this here joyful arternoon, I'm sure.
I knows a lady, which her name, I'll not deceive you, Mrs
Chuzzlewit, is Harris, her husband's brother bein' six foot three,
and marked with a mad bull in Wellington boots upon his left arm, on
account of his precious mother havin' been worrited by one into a
shoemaker's shop, when in a sitiwation which blessed is the man as
has his quiver full of sech, as many times I've said to Gamp when
words has roge betwixt us on account of the expense--and often have
I said to Mrs Harris, "Oh, Mrs Harris, ma'am! your countenance is
quite a angel's!" Which, but for Pimples, it would be. "No, Sairey
Gamp," says she, "you best of hard-working and industrious creeturs
as ever was underpaid at any price, which underpaid you are, quite
diff'rent. Harris had it done afore marriage at ten and six," she
says, "and wore it faithful next his heart "till the colour run,
when the money was declined to be give back, and no arrangement
could be come to. But he never said it was a angel's, Sairey,
wotever he might have thought." If Mrs Harris's husband was here
now,' said Mrs Gamp, looking round, and chuckling as she dropped a
general curtsey, 'he'd speak out plain, he would, and his dear wife
would be the last to blame him! For if ever a woman lived as know'd
not wot it was to form a wish to pizon them as had good looks, and
had no reagion give her by the best of husbands, Mrs Harris is that
ev'nly dispogician!'

With these words the worthy woman, who appeared to have dropped in
to take tea as a delicate little attention, rather than to have any
engagement on the premises in an official capacity, crossed to Mr
Chuffey, who was seated in the same corner as of old, and shook him
by the shoulder.

'Rouge yourself, and look up! Come!' said Mrs Gamp. 'Here's
company, Mr Chuffey.'

'I am sorry for it,' cried the old man, looking humbly round the
room. 'I know I'm in the way. I ask pardon, but I've nowhere else
to go to. Where is she?'

Merry went to him.

'Ah!' said the old man, patting her on the check. 'Here she is.
Here she is! She's never hard on poor old Chuffey. Poor old Chuff!'

As she took her seat upon a low chair by the old man's side, and put
herself within the reach of his hand, she looked up once at Tom. It
was a sad look that she cast upon him, though there was a faint
smile trembling on her face. It was a speaking look, and Tom knew
what it said. 'You see how misery has changed me. I can feel for a
dependant NOW, and set some value on his attachment.'

'Aye, aye!' cried Chuffey in a soothing tone. 'Aye, aye, aye! Never
mind him. It's hard to hear, but never mind him. He'll die one
day. There are three hundred and sixty-five days in the year--three
hundred and sixty-six in leap year--and he may die on any one of

'You're a wearing old soul, and that's the sacred truth,' said Mrs
Gamp, contemplating him from a little distance with anything but
favour, as he continued to mutter to himself. 'It's a pity that you
don't know wot you say, for you'd tire your own patience out if you
did, and fret yourself into a happy releage for all as knows you.'

'His son,' murmured the old man, lifting up his hand. 'His son!'

'Well, I'm sure!' said Mrs Gamp, 'you're a-settlin' of it, Mr
Chuffey. To your satigefaction, sir, I hope. But I wouldn't lay a
new pincushion on it myself, sir, though you ARE so well informed.
Drat the old creetur, he's a-layin' down the law tolerable
confident, too! A deal he knows of sons! or darters either! Suppose
you was to favour us with some remarks on twins, sir, WOULD you be
so good!'

The bitter and indignant sarcasm which Mrs Gamp conveyed into these
taunts was altogether lost on the unconscious Chuffey, who appeared
to be as little cognizant of their delivery as of his having given
Mrs Gamp offence. But that high-minded woman being sensitively
alive to any invasion of her professional province, and imagining
that Mr Chuffey had given utterance to some prediction on the
subject of sons, which ought to have emanated in the first instance
from herself as the only lawful authority, or which should at least
have been on no account proclaimed without her sanction and
concurrence, was not so easily appeased. She continued to sidle at
Mr Chuffey with looks of sharp hostility, and to defy him with many
other ironical remarks, uttered in that low key which commonly
denotes suppressed indignation; until the entrance of the teaboard,
and a request from Mrs Jonas that she would make tea at a side-table
for the party that had unexpectedly assembled, restored her to
herself. She smiled again, and entered on her ministration with her
own particular urbanity.

'And quite a family it is to make tea for,' said Mrs Gamp; 'and wot
a happiness to do it! My good young 'ooman'--to the servant-girl--
'p'raps somebody would like to try a new-laid egg or two, not biled
too hard. Likeways, a few rounds o' buttered toast, first cuttin'
off the crust, in consequence of tender teeth, and not too many of
'em; which Gamp himself, Mrs Chuzzlewit, at one blow, being in
liquor, struck out four, two single, and two double, as was took by
Mrs Harris for a keepsake, and is carried in her pocket at this
present hour, along with two cramp-bones, a bit o' ginger, and a
grater like a blessed infant's shoe, in tin, with a little heel to
put the nutmeg in; as many times I've seen and said, and used for
candle when required, within the month.'

As the privileges of the side-table--besides including the small
prerogatives of sitting next the toast, and taking two cups of tea
to other people's one, and always taking them at a crisis, that is
to say, before putting fresh water into the tea-pot, and after it
had been standing for some time--also comprehended a full view of
the company, and an opportunity of addressing them as from a
rostrum, Mrs Gamp discharged the functions entrusted to her with
extreme good-humour and affability. Sometimes resting her saucer on
the palm of her outspread hand, and supporting her elbow on the
table, she stopped between her sips of tea to favour the circle with
a smile, a wink, a roll of the head, or some other mark of notice;
and at those periods her countenance was lighted up with a degree of
intelligence and vivacity, which it was almost impossible to
separate from the benignant influence of distilled waters.

But for Mrs Gamp, it would have been a curiously silent party. Miss
Pecksniff only spoke to her Augustus, and to him in whispers.
Augustus spoke to nobody, but sighed for every one, and occasionally
gave himself such a sounding slap upon the forehead as would make
Mrs Todgers, who was rather nervous, start in her chair with an
involuntary exclamation. Mrs Todgers was occupied in knitting, and
seldom spoke. Poor Merry held the hand of cheerful little Ruth
between her own, and listening with evident pleasure to all she
said, but rarely speaking herself, sometimes smiled, and sometimes
kissed her on the cheek, and sometimes turned aside to hide the
tears that trembled in her eyes. Tom felt this change in her so
much, and was so glad to see how tenderly Ruth dealt with her, and
how she knew and answered to it, that he had not the heart to make
any movement towards their departure, although he had long since
given utterance to all he came to say.

The old clerk, subsiding into his usual state, remained profoundly
silent, while the rest of the little assembly were thus occupied,
intent upon the dreams, whatever they might be, which hardly seemed
to stir the surface of his sluggish thoughts. The bent of these
dull fancies combining probably with the silent feasting that was
going on about him, and some struggling recollection of the last
approach to revelry he had witnessed, suggested a strange question
to his mind. He looked round upon a sudden, and said:

'Who's lying dead upstairs?'

'No one,' said Merry, turning to him. 'What is the matter? We are
all here.'

'All here!' cried the old man. 'All here! Where is he then--my old
master, Mr Chuzzlewit, who had the only son? Where is he?'

'Hush! Hush!' said Merry, speaking kindly to him. 'That happened
long ago. Don't you recollect?'

'Recollect!' rejoined the old man, with a cry of grief. 'As if I
could forget! As if I ever could forget!'

He put his hand up to his face for a moment; and then repeated
turning round exactly as before:

'Who's lying dead upstairs?'

'No one!' said Merry.

At first he gazed angrily upon her, as upon a stranger who
endeavoured to deceive him; but peering into her face, and seeing
that it was indeed she, he shook his head in sorrowful compassion.

'You think not. But they don't tell you. No, no, poor thing! They
don't tell you. Who are these, and why are they merry-making here,
if there is no one dead? Foul play! Go see who it is!'

She made a sign to them not to speak to him, which indeed they had
little inclination to do; and remained silent herself. So did he
for a short time; but then he repeated the same question with an
eagerness that had a peculiar terror in it.

'There's some one dead,' he said, 'or dying; and I want to knows who
it is. Go see, go see! Where's Jonas?'

'In the country,' she replied.

The old man gazed at her as if he doubted what she said, or had not
heard her; and, rising from his chair, walked across the room and
upstairs, whispering as he went, 'Foul play!' They heard his
footsteps overhead, going up into that corner of the room in which
the bed stood (it was there old Anthony had died); and then they
heard him coming down again immediately. His fancy was not so
strong or wild that it pictured to him anything in the deserted
bedchamber which was not there; for he returned much calmer, and
appeared to have satisfied himself.

'They don't tell you,' he said to Merry in his quavering voice, as
he sat down again, and patted her upon the head. 'They don't tell
me either; but I'll watch, I'll watch. They shall not hurt you;
don't be frightened. When you have sat up watching, I have sat up
watching too. Aye, aye, I have!' he piped out, clenching his weak,
shrivelled hand. 'Many a night I have been ready!'

He said this with such trembling gaps and pauses in his want of
breath, and said it in his jealous secrecy so closely in her ear,
that little or nothing of it was understood by the visitors. But
they had heard and seen enough of the old man to be disquieted, and
to have left their seats and gathered about him; thereby affording
Mrs Gamp, whose professional coolness was not so easily disturbed,
an eligible opportunity for concentrating the whole resources of her
powerful mind and appetite upon the toast and butter, tea and eggs.
She had brought them to bear upon those viands with such vigour that
her face was in the highest state of inflammation, when she now
(there being nothing left to eat or drink) saw fit to interpose.

'Why, highty tighty, sir!' cried Mrs Gamp, 'is these your manners?
You want a pitcher of cold water throw'd over you to bring you
round; that's my belief, and if you was under Betsey Prig you'd have
it, too, I do assure you, Mr Chuffey. Spanish Flies is the only
thing to draw this nonsense out of you; and if anybody wanted to do
you a kindness, they'd clap a blister of 'em on your head, and put a
mustard poultige on your back. 'Who's dead, indeed! It wouldn't be
no grievous loss if some one was, I think!'

'He's quiet now, Mrs Gamp,' said Merry. 'Don't disturb him.'

'Oh, bother the old wictim, Mrs Chuzzlewit,' replied that zealous
lady, 'I ain't no patience with him. You give him his own way too
much by half. A worritin' wexagious creetur!'

No doubt with the view of carrying out the precepts she enforced,
and 'bothering the old wictim' in practice as well as in theory, Mrs
Gamp took him by the collar of his coat, and gave him some dozen or
two of hearty shakes backward and forward in his chair; that
exercise being considered by the disciples of the Prig school of
nursing (who are very numerous among professional ladies) as
exceedingly conducive to repose, and highly beneficial to the
performance of the nervous functions. Its effect in this instance
was to render the patient so giddy and addle-headed, that he could
say nothing more; which Mrs Gamp regarded as the triumph of her art.

'There!' she said, loosening the old man's cravat, in consequence of
his being rather black in the face, after this scientific treatment.
'Now, I hope, you're easy in your mind. If you should turn at all
faint we can soon rewive you, sir, I promige you. Bite a person's
thumbs, or turn their fingers the wrong way,' said Mrs Gamp, smiling
with the consciousness of at once imparting pleasure and instruction
to her auditors, 'and they comes to, wonderful, Lord bless you!'

As this excellent woman had been formerly entrusted with the care of
Mr Chuffey on a previous occasion, neither Mrs Jonas nor anybody
else had the resolution to interfere directly with her mode of
treatment; though all present (Tom Pinch and his sister especially)
appeared to be disposed to differ from her views. For such is the
rash boldness of the uninitiated, that they will frequently set up
some monstrous abstract principle, such as humanity, or tenderness,
or the like idle folly, in obstinate defiance of all precedent and
usage; and will even venture to maintain the same against the
persons who have made the precedents and established the usage, and
who must therefore be the best and most impartial judges of the

'Ah, Mr Pinch!' said Miss Pecksniff. 'It all comes of this
unfortunate marriage. If my sister had not been so precipitate, and
had not united herself to a Wretch, there would have been no Mr
Chuffey in the house.'

'Hush!' cried Tom. 'She'll hear you.'

'I should be very sorry if she did hear me, Mr Pinch,' said Cherry,
raising her voice a little; 'for it is not in my nature to add to
the uneasiness of any person; far less of my own sister. I know
what a sister's duties are, Mr Pinch, and I hope I always showed it
in my practice. Augustus, my dear child, find my pocket-
handkerchief, and give it to me.'

Augustus obeyed, and took Mrs Todgers aside to pour his griefs into
her friendly bosom.

'I am sure, Mr Pinch,' said Charity, looking after her betrothed and
glancing at her sister, 'that I ought to be very grateful for the
blessings I enjoy, and those which are yet in store for me. When I
contrast Augustus'--here she was modest and embarrased--'who, I
don't mind saying to you, is all softness, mildness, and devotion,
with the detestable man who is my sister's husband; and when I
think, Mr Pinch, that in the dispensations of this world, our cases
might have been reversed; I have much to be thankful for, indeed,
and much to make me humble and contented.'

Contented she might have been, but humble she assuredly was not.
Her face and manner experienced something so widely different from
humility, that Tom could not help understanding and despising the
base motives that were working in her breast. He turned away, and
said to Ruth, that it was time for them to go.

'I will write to your husband,' said Tom to Merry, 'and explain to
him, as I would have done if I had met him here, that if he has
sustained any inconvenience through my means, it is not my fault; a
postman not being more innocent of the news he brings, than I was
when I handed him that letter.'

'I thank you!' said Merry. 'It may do some good.'

She parted tenderly from Ruth, who with her brother was in the act
of leaving the room, when a key was heard in the lock of the door
below, and immediately afterwards a quick footstep in the passage.
Tom stopped, and looked at Merry.

It was Jonas, she said timidly.

'I had better not meet him on the stairs, perhaps,' said Tom,
drawing his sister's arm through his, and coming back a step or two.
'I'll wait for him here, a moment.'

He had scarcely said it when the door opened, and Jonas entered.
His wife came forward to receive him; but he put her aside with his
hand, and said in a surly tone:

'I didn't know you'd got a party.'

As he looked, at the same time, either by accident or design,
towards Miss Pecksniff; and as Miss Pecksniff was only too delighted
to quarrel with him, she instantly resented it.

'Oh dear!' she said, rising. 'Pray don't let us intrude upon your
domestic happiness! That would be a pity. We have taken tea here,
sir, in your absence; but if you will have the goodness to send us a
note of the expense, receipted, we shall be happy to pay it.
Augustus, my love, we will go, if you please. Mrs Todgers, unless
you wish to remain here, we shall be happy to take you with us. It
would be a pity, indeed, to spoil the bliss which this gentleman
always brings with him, especially into his own home.'

'Charity! Charity!' remonstrated her sister, in such a heartfelt
tone that she might have been imploring her to show the cardinal
virtue whose name she bore.

'Merry, my dear, I am much obliged to you for your advice,' returned
Miss Pecksniff, with a stately scorn--by the way, she had not been
offered any--'but I am not his slave--'

'No, nor wouldn't have been if you could,' interrupted Jonas. 'We
know all about it.'

'WHAT did you say, sir?' cried Miss Pecksniff, sharply.

'Didn't you hear?' retorted Jonas, lounging down upon a chair. 'I
am not a-going to say it again. If you like to stay, you may stay.
If you like to go, you may go. But if you stay, please to be

'Beast!' cried Miss Pecksniff, sweeping past him. 'Augustus! He is
beneath your notice!' Augustus had been making some faint and sickly
demonstration of shaking his fist. 'Come away, child,' screamed
Miss Pecksniff, 'I command you!'

The scream was elicited from her by Augustus manifesting an
intention to return and grapple with him. But Miss Pecksniff giving
the fiery youth a pull, and Mrs Todgers giving him a push they all
three tumbled out of the room together, to the music of Miss
Pecksniff's shrill remonstrances.

All this time Jonas had seen nothing of Tom and his sister; for they
were almost behind the door when he opened it, and he had sat down
with his back towards them, and had purposely kept his eyes upon the
opposite side of the street during his altercation with Miss
Pecksniff, in order that his seeming carelessness might increase the
exasperation of that wronged young damsel. His wife now faltered
out that Tom had been waiting to see him; and Tom advanced.

The instant he presented himself, Jonas got up from his chair, and
swearing a great oath, caught it in his grasp, as if he would have
felled Tom to the ground with it. As he most unquestionably would
have done, but that his very passion and surprise made him
irresolute, and gave Tom, in his calmness, an opportunity of being

'You have no cause to be violent, sir,' said Tom. 'Though what I
wish to say relates to your own affairs, I know nothing of them, and
desire to know nothing of them.'

Jonas was too enraged to speak. He held the door open; and stamping
his foot upon the ground, motioned Tom away.

'As you cannot suppose,' said Tom, 'that I am here with any view of
conciliating you or pleasing myself, I am quite indifferent to your
reception of me, or your dismissal of me. Hear what I have to say,
if you are not a madman! I gave you a letter the other day, when you
were about to go abroad.'

'You Thief, you did!' retorted Jonas. 'I'll pay you for the
carriage of it one day, and settle an old score besides. I will!'

'Tut, tut,' said Tom, 'you needn't waste words or threats. I wish
you to understand--plainly because I would rather keep clear of you
and everything that concerns you: not because I have the least
apprehension of your doing me any injury: which would be weak
indeed--that I am no party to the contents of that letter. That I
know nothing of it. That I was not even aware that it was to be
delivered to you; and that I had it from--'

'By the Lord!' cried Jonas, fiercely catching up the chair, 'I'll
knock your brains out, if you speak another word.'

Tom, nevertheless, persisting in his intention, and opening his lips
to speak again, Jonas set upon him like a savage; and in the
quickness and ferocity of his attack would have surely done him some
grievous injury, defenceless as he was, and embarrassed by having
his frightened sister clinging to his arm, if Merry had not run
between them, crying to Tom for the love of Heaven to leave the
house. The agony of this poor creature, the terror of his sister,
the impossibility of making himself audible, and the equal
impossibility of bearing up against Mrs Gamp, who threw herself upon
him like a feather-bed, and forced him backwards down the stairs by
the mere oppression of her dead weight, prevailed. Tom shook the
dust of that house off his feet, without having mentioned Nadgett's

If the name could have passed his lips; if Jonas, in the insolence
of his vile nature, had never roused him to do that old act of
manliness, for which (and not for his last offence) he hated him
with such malignity; if Jonas could have learned, as then he could
and would have learned, through Tom's means, what unsuspected spy
there was upon him; he would have been saved from the commission of
a Guilty Deed, then drawing on towards its black accomplishment.
But the fatality was of his own working; the pit was of his own
digging; the gloom that gathered round him was the shadow of his own

His wife had closed the door, and thrown herself before it, on the
ground, upon her knees. She held up her hands to him now, and
besought him not to be harsh with her, for she had interposed in
fear of bloodshed.

'So, so!' said Jonas, looking down upon her, as he fetched his
breath. 'These are your friends, are they, when I am away? You
plot and tamper with this sort of people, do you?'

'No, indeed! I have no knowledge of these secrets, and no clue to
their meaning. I have never seen him since I left home but once--
but twice--before to-day.'

'Oh!' sneered Jonas, catching at this correction. 'But once, but
twice, eh? Which do you mean? Twice and once, perhaps. Three
times! How many more, you lying jade?'

As he made an angry motion with his hand, she shrunk down hastily.
A suggestive action! Full of a cruel truth!

'How many more times?' he repeated.

'No more. The other morning, and to-day, and once besides.'

He was about to retort upon her, when the clock struck. He started
stopped, and listened; appearing to revert to some engagement, or to
some other subject, a secret within his own breast, recalled to him
by this record of the progress of the hours.

'Don't lie there! Get up!'

Having helped her to rise, or rather hauled her up by the arm, he
went on to say:

'Listen to me, young lady; and don't whine when you have no
occasion, or I may make some for you. If I find him in my house
again, or find that you have seen him in anybody else's house,
you'll repent it. If you are not deaf and dumb to everything that
concerns me, unless you have my leave to hear and speak, you'll
repent it. If you don't obey exactly what I order, you'll repent
it. Now, attend. What's the time?'

'It struck eight a minute ago.'

He looked towards her intently; and said, with a laboured
distinctness, as if he had got the words off by heart:

'I have been travelling day and night, and am tired. I have lost
some money, and that don't improve me. Put my supper in the little
off-room below, and have the truckle-bed made. I shall sleep there
to-night, and maybe to-morrow night; and if I can sleep all day to-
morrow, so much the better, for I've got trouble to sleep off, if I
can. Keep the house quiet, and don't call me. Mind! Don't call me.
Don't let anybody call me. Let me lie there.'

She said it should be done. Was that all?

'All what? You must be prying and questioning!' he angrily
retorted. 'What more do you want to know?'

'I want to know nothing, Jonas, but what you tell me. All hope of
confidence between us has long deserted me!'

'Ecod, I should hope so!' he muttered.

'But if you will tell me what you wish, I will be obedient and will
try to please you. I make no merit of that, for I have no friend in
my father or my sister, but am quite alone. I am very humble and
submissive. You told me you would break my spirit, and you have
done so. Do not break my heart too!'

She ventured, as she said these words, to lay her hand upon his
shoulder. He suffered it to rest there, in his exultation; and the
whole mean, abject, sordid, pitiful soul of the man, looked at her,
for the moment, through his wicked eyes.

For the moment only; for, with the same hurried return to something
within himself, he bade her, in a surly tone, show her obedience by
executing his commands without delay. When she had withdrawn he
paced up and down the room several times; but always with his right
hand clenched, as if it held something; which it did not, being
empty. When he was tired of this, he threw himself into a chair,
and thoughtfully turned up the sleeve of his right arm, as if he
were rather musing about its strength than examining it; but, even
then, he kept the hand clenched.

He was brooding in this chair, with his eyes cast down upon the
ground, when Mrs Gamp came in to tell him that the little room was
ready. Not being quite sure of her reception after interfering in
the quarrel, Mrs Gamp, as a means of interesting and propitiating
her patron, affected a deep solicitude in Mr Chuffey.

'How is he now, sir?' she said.

'Who?' cried Jonas, raising his head, and staring at her.

'To be sure!' returned the matron with a smile and a curtsey. 'What
am I thinking of! You wasn't here, sir, when he was took so strange.
I never see a poor dear creetur took so strange in all my life,
except a patient much about the same age, as I once nussed, which
his calling was the custom-'us, and his name was Mrs Harris's own
father, as pleasant a singer, Mr Chuzzlewit, as ever you heerd, with
a voice like a Jew's-harp in the bass notes, that it took six men to
hold at sech times, foaming frightful.'

'Chuffey, eh?' said Jonas carelessly, seeing that she went up to the
old, clerk, and looked at him. 'Ha!'

'The creetur's head's so hot,' said Mrs Gamp, 'that you might heat a
flat-iron at it. And no wonder I am sure, considerin' the things he

'Said!' cried Jonas. 'What did he say?'

Mrs Gamp laid her hand upon her heart, to put some check upon its
palpitations, and turning up her eyes replied in a faint voice:

'The awfulest things, Mr Chuzzlewit, as ever I heerd! Which Mrs
Harris's father never spoke a word when took so, some does and some
don't, except sayin' when he come round, "Where is Sairey Gamp?"
But raly, sir, when Mr Chuffey comes to ask who's lyin' dead upstairs,

'Who's lying dead upstairs!' repeated Jonas, standing aghast.

Mrs Gamp nodded, made as if she were swallowing, and went on.

'Who's lying dead upstairs; sech was his Bible language; and where
was Mr Chuzzlewit as had the only son; and when he goes upstairs a-
looking in the beds and wandering about the rooms, and comes down
again a-whisperin' softly to his-self about foul play and that; it
gives me sech a turn, I don't deny it, Mr Chuzzlewit, that I never
could have kep myself up but for a little drain o' spirits, which I
seldom touches, but could always wish to know where to find, if so
dispoged, never knowin' wot may happen next, the world bein' so

'Why, the old fool's mad!' cried Jonas, much disturbed.

'That's my opinion, sir,' said Mrs Gamp, 'and I will not deceive
you. I believe as Mr Chuffey, sir, rekwires attention (if I may
make so bold), and should not have his liberty to wex and worrit
your sweet lady as he does.'

'Why, who minds what he says?' retorted Jonas.

'Still he is worritin' sir,' said Mrs Gamp. 'No one don't mind him,
but he IS a ill conwenience.'

'Ecod you're right,' said Jonas, looking doubtfully at the subject
of this conversation. 'I have half a mind to shut him up.'

Mrs Gamp rubbed her hands, and smiled, and shook her head, and
sniffed expressively, as scenting a job.

'Could you--could you take care of such an idiot, now, in some spare
room upstairs?' asked Jonas.

'Me and a friend of mine, one off, one on, could do it, Mr
Chuzzlewit,' replied the nurse; 'our charges not bein' high, but
wishin' they was lower, and allowance made considerin' not
strangers. Me and Betsey Prig, sir, would undertake Mr Chuffey
reasonable,' said Mrs Gamp, looking at him with her head on one
side, as if he had been a piece of goods, for which she was driving
a bargain; 'and give every satigefaction. Betsey Prig has nussed a
many lunacies, and well she knows their ways, which puttin' 'em
right close afore the fire, when fractious, is the certainest and
most compoging.'

While Mrs Gamp discoursed to this effect, Jonas was walking up and
down the room again, glancing covertly at the old clerk, as he did
so. He now made a stop, and said:

'I must look after him, I suppose, or I may have him doing some
mischief. What say you?'

'Nothin' more likely!' Mrs Gamp replied. 'As well I have
experienged, I do assure you, sir.'

'Well! Look after him for the present, and--let me see--three days
from this time let the other woman come here, and we'll see if we
can make a bargain of it. About nine or ten o'clock at night, say.
Keep your eye upon him in the meanwhile, and don't talk about it.
He's as mad as a March hare!'

'Madder!' cried Mrs Gamp. 'A deal madder!'

'See to him, then; take care that he does no harm; and recollect
what I have told you.'

Leaving Mrs Gamp in the act of repeating all she had been told, and
of producing in support of her memory and trustworthiness, many
commendations selected from among the most remarkable opinions of
the celebrated Mrs Harris, he descended to the little room prepared
for him, and pulling off his coat and his boots, put them outside
the door before he locked it. In locking it, he was careful so to
adjust the key as to baffle any curious person who might try to peep
in through the key-hole; and when he had taken these precautions, he
sat down to his supper.

'Mr Chuff,' he muttered, 'it'll be pretty easy to be even with YOU.
It's of no use doing things by halves, and as long as I stop here,
I'll take good care of you. When I'm off you may say what you
please. But it's a d--d strange thing,' he added, pushing away his
untouched plate, and striding moodily to and fro, 'that his
drivellings should have taken this turn just now.'

After pacing the little room from end to end several times, he sat
down in another chair.

'I say just now, but for anything I know, he may have been carrying
on the same game all along. Old dog! He shall be gagged!'

He paced the room again in the same restless and unsteady way; and
then sat down upon the bedstead, leaning his chin upon his hand, and
looking at the table. When he had looked at it for a long time, he
remembered his supper; and resuming the chair he had first occupied,
began to eat with great rapacity; not like a hungry man, but as if
he were determined to do it. He drank too, roundly; sometimes
stopping in the middle of a draught to walk, and change his seat and
walk again, and dart back to the table and fall to, in a ravenous
hurry, as before.

It was now growing dark. As the gloom of evening, deepening into
night, came on, another dark shade emerging from within him seemed
to overspread his face, and slowly change it. Slowly, slowly;
darker and darker; more and more haggard; creeping over him by
little and little, until it was black night within him and without.

The room in which he had shut himself up, was on the ground floor,
at the back of the house. It was lighted by a dirty skylight, and
had a door in the wall, opening into a narrow covered passage or
blind-alley, very little frequented after five or six o'clock in the
evening, and not in much use as a thoroughfare at any hour. But it
had an outlet in a neighbouring street.

The ground on which this chamber stood had, at one time, not within
his recollection, been a yard; and had been converted to its present
purpose for use as an office. But the occasion for it died with the
man who built it; and saving that it had sometimes served as an
apology for a spare bedroom, and that the old clerk had once held it
(but that was years ago) as his recognized apartment, it had been
little troubled by Anthony Chuzzlewit and Son. It was a blotched,
stained, mouldering room, like a vault; and there were water-pipes
running through it, which at unexpected times in the night, when
other things were quiet, clicked and gurgled suddenly, as if they
were choking.

The door into the court had not been open for a long, long time; but
the key had always hung in one place, and there it hung now. He was
prepared for its being rusty; for he had a little bottle of oil in
his pocket and the feather of a pen, with which he lubricated the
key and the lock too, carefully. All this while he had been without
his coat, and had nothing on his feet but his stockings. He now got
softly into bed in the same state, and tossed from side to side to
tumble it. In his restless condition that was easily done.

When he arose, he took from his portmanteau, which he had caused to
be carried into that place when he came home, a pair of clumsy
shoes, and put them on his feet; also a pair of leather leggings,
such as countrymen are used to wear, with straps to fasten them to
the waistband. In these he dressed himself at leisure. Lastly, he
took out a common frock of coarse dark jean, which he drew over his
own under-clothing; and a felt hat--he had purposely left his own
upstairs. He then sat himself down by the door, with the key in his
hand, waiting.

He had no light; the time was dreary, long, and awful. The ringers
were practicing in a neighbouring church, and the clashing of the
bells was almost maddening. Curse the clamouring bells, they seemed
to know that he was listening at the door, and to proclaim it in a
crowd of voices to all the town! Would they never be still?

They ceased at last, and then the silence was so new and terrible
that it seemed the prelude to some dreadful noise. Footsteps in the
court! Two men. He fell back from the door on tiptoe, as if they
could have seen him through its wooden panels.

They passed on, talking (he could make out) about a skeleton which
had been dug up yesterday, in some work of excavation near at hand,
and was supposed to be that of a murdered man. 'So murder is not
always found out, you see,' they said to one another as they turned
the corner.


He put the key into the lock, and turned it. The door resisted for
a while, but soon came stiffly open; mingling with the sense of
fever in his mouth, a taste of rust, and dust, and earth, and
rotting wood. He looked out; passed out; locked it after him.

All was clear and quiet, as he fled away.



Did no men passing through the dim streets shrink without knowing
why, when he came stealing up behind them? As he glided on, had no
child in its sleep an indistinct perception of a guilty shadow
falling on its bed, that troubled its innocent rest? Did no dog
howl, and strive to break its rattling chain, that it might tear
him; no burrowing rat, scenting the work he had in hand, essay to
gnaw a passage after him, that it might hold a greedy revel at the
feast of his providing? When he looked back, across his shoulder,
was it to see if his quick footsteps still fell dry upon the dusty
pavement, or were already moist and clogged with the red mire that
stained the naked feet of Cain!

He shaped his course for the main western road, and soon reached it;
riding a part of the way, then alighting and walking on again. He
travelled for a considerable distance upon the roof of a stage-
coach, which came up while he was afoot; and when it turned out of
his road, bribed the driver of a return post-chaise to take him on
with him; and then made across the country at a run, and saved a
mile or two before he struck again into the road. At last, as his
plan was, he came up with a certain lumbering, slow, night-coach,
which stopped wherever it could, and was stopping then at a public-
house, while the guard and coachman ate and drank within.

He bargained for a seat outside this coach, and took it. And he
quitted it no more until it was within a few miles of its
destination, but occupied the same place all night.

All night! It is a common fancy that nature seems to sleep by night.
It is a false fancy, as who should know better than he?

The fishes slumbered in the cold, bright, glistening streams and
rivers, perhaps; and the birds roosted on the branches of the trees;
and in their stalls and pastures beasts were quiet; and human
creatures slept. But what of that, when the solemn night was
watching, when it never winked, when its darkness watched no less
than its light! The stately trees, the moon and shining stars, the
softly stirring wind, the over-shadowed lane, the broad, bright
countryside, they all kept watch. There was not a blade of growing
grass or corn, but watched; and the quieter it was, the more intent
and fixed its watch upon him seemed to be.

And yet he slept. Riding on among those sentinels of God, he slept,
and did not change the purpose of his journey. If he forgot it in
his troubled dreams, it came up steadily, and woke him. But it
never woke him to remorse, or to abandonment of his design.

He dreamed at one time that he was lying calmly in his bed, thinking
of a moonlight night and the noise of wheels, when the old clerk put
his head in at the door, and beckoned him. At this signal he arose
immediately--being already dressed in the clothes he actually wore
at that time--and accompanied him into a strange city, where the
names of the streets were written on the walls in characters quite
new to him; which gave him no surprise or uneasiness, for he
remembered in his dream to have been there before. Although these
streets were very precipitous, insomuch that to get from one to
another it was necessary to descend great heights by ladders that
were too short, and ropes that moved deep bells, and swung and
swayed as they were clung to, the danger gave him little emotion
beyond the first thrill of terror; his anxieties being concentrated
on his dress which was quite unfitted for some festival that was
about to be holden there, and in which he had come to take a part.
Already, great crowds began to fill the streets, and in one
direction myriads of people came rushing down an interminable
perspective, strewing flowers and making way for others on white
horses, when a terrible figure started from the throng, and cried
out that it was the Last Day for all the world. The cry being
spread, there was a wild hurrying on to Judgment; and the press
became so great that he and his companion (who was constantly
changing, and was never the same man two minutes together, though he
never saw one man come or another go), stood aside in a porch,
fearfully surveying the multitude; in which there were many faces
that he knew, and many that he did not know, but dreamed he did;
when all at once a struggling head rose up among the rest--livid and
deadly, but the same as he had known it--and denounced him as having
appointed that direful day to happen. They closed together. As he
strove to free the hand in which he held a club, and strike the blow
he had so often thought of, he started to the knowledge of his
waking purpose and the rising of the sun.

The sun was welcome to him. There were life and motion, and a world
astir, to divide the attention of Day. It was the eye of Night--of
wakeful, watchful, silent, and attentive Night, with so much leisure
for the observation of his wicked thoughts--that he dreaded most.
There is no glare in the night. Even Glory shows to small advantage
in the night, upon a crowded battle-field. How then shows Glory's
blood-relation, bastard Murder!

Aye! He made no compromise, and held no secret with himself now.
Murder. He had come to do it.

'Let me get down here' he said

'Short of the town, eh!' observed the coachman.

'I may get down where I please, I suppose?'

'You got up to please yourself, and may get down to please yourself.
It won't break our hearts to lose you, and it wouldn't have broken
'em if we'd never found you. Be a little quicker. That's all.'

The guard had alighted, and was waiting in the road to take his
money. In the jealousy and distrust of what he contemplated, he
thought this man looked at him with more than common curiosity

'What are you staring at?' said Jonas.

'Not at a handsome man,' returned the guard. 'If you want your
fortune told, I'll tell you a bit of it. You won't be drowned.
That's a consolation for you.'

Before he could retort or turn away, the coachman put an end to the
dialogue by giving him a cut with his whip, and biddig him get
out for a surly dog. The guard jumped up to his seat at the same
moment, and they drove off, laughing; leaving him to stand in the
road and shake his fist at them. He was not displeased though,
on second thoughts, to have been taken for an ill-conditioned
common country fellow; but rather congratulated himself upon it
as a proof that he was well disguised.

Wandering into a copse by the road-side--but not in that place; two
or three miles off--he tore out from a fence a thick, hard, knotted
stake; and, sitting down beneath a hayrick, spent some time in
shaping it, in peeling off the bark, and fashioning its jagged head
with his knife.

The day passed on. Noon, afternoon, evening. Sunset.

At that serene and peaceful time two men, riding in a gig, came out
of the city by a road not much frequented. It was the day on which
Mr Pecksniff had agreed to dine with Montague. He had kept his
appointment, and was now going home. His host was riding with him
for a short distance; meaning to return by a pleasant track, which
Mr Pecksniff had engaged to show him, through some fields. Jonas
knew their plans. He had hung about the inn-yard while they were at
dinner and had heard their orders given.

They were loud and merry in their conversation, and might have been
heard at some distance; far above the sound of their carriage wheels
or horses' hoofs. They came on noisily, to where a stile and
footpath indicated their point of separation. Here they stopped.

'It's too soon. Much too soon,' said Mr Pecksniff. 'But this is
the place, my dear sir. Keep the path, and go straight through the
little wood you'll come to. The path is narrower there, but you
can't miss it. When shall I see you again? Soon I hope?'

'I hope so,' replied Montague.

'Good night!'

'Good night. And a pleasant ride!'

So long as Mr Pecksniff was in sight, and turned his head at
intervals to salute him, Montague stood in the road smiling, and
waving his hand. But when his new partner had disappeared, and this
show was no longer necessary, he sat down on the stile with looks so
altered, that he might have grown ten years older in the meantime.

He was flushed with wine, but not gay. His scheme had succeeded,
but he showed no triumph. The effort of sustaining his difficult
part before his late companion had fatigued him, perhaps, or it may
be that the evening whispered to his conscience, or it may be (as it
HAS been) that a shadowy veil was dropping round him, closing out
all thoughts but the presentiment and vague foreknowledge of
impending doom.

If there be fluids, as we know there are, which, conscious of a
coming wind, or rain, or frost, will shrink and strive to hide
themselves in their glass arteries; may not that subtle liquor of
the blood perceive, by properties within itself, that hands are
raised to waste and spill it; and in the veins of men run cold and
dull as his did, in that hour!

So cold, although the air was warm; so dull, although the sky was
bright; that he rose up shivering from his seat, and hastily resumed
his walk. He checked himself as hastily; undecided whether to
pursue the footpath, which was lonely and retired, or to go back by
the road.

He took the footpath.

The glory of the departing sun was on his face. The music of the
birds was in his ears. Sweet wild flowers bloomed about him.
Thatched roofs of poor men's homes were in the distance; and an old
grey spire, surmounted by a Cross, rose up between him and the
coming night.

He had never read the lesson which these things conveyed; he had
ever mocked and turned away from it; but, before going down into a
hollow place, he looked round, once, upon the evening prospect,
sorrowfully. Then he went down, down, down, into the dell.

It brought him to the wood; a close, thick, shadowy wood, through
which the path went winding on, dwindling away into a slender sheep-
track. He paused before entering; for the stillness of this spot
almost daunted him.

The last rays of the sun were shining in, aslant, making a path of
golden light along the stems and branches in its range, which, even
as he looked, began to die away, yielding gently to the twilight
that came creeping on. It was so very quiet that the soft and
stealthy moss about the trunks of some old trees, seemed to have
grown out of the silence, and to be its proper offspring. Those
other trees which were subdued by blasts of wind in winter time, had
not quite tumbled down, but being caught by others, lay all bare and
scathed across their leafy arms, as if unwilling to disturb the
general repose by the crash of their fall. Vistas of silence opened
everywhere, into the heart and innermost recesses of the wood;
beginning with the likeness of an aisle, a cloister, or a ruin open
to the sky; then tangling off into a deep green rustling mystery,
through which gnarled trunks, and twisted boughs, and ivy-covered
stems, and trembling leaves, and bark-stripped bodies of old trees
stretched out at length, were faintly seen in beautiful confusion.

As the sunlight died away, and evening fell upon the wood, he
entered it. Moving, here and there a bramble or a drooping bough
which stretched across his path, he slowly disappeared. At
intervals a narrow opening showed him passing on, or the sharp
cracking of some tender branch denoted where he went; then, he was
seen or heard no more.

Never more beheld by mortal eye or heard by mortal ear; one man
excepted. That man, parting the leaves and branches on the other
side, near where the path emerged again, came leaping out soon

What had he left within the wood, that he sprang out of it as if
it were a hell!

The body of a murdered man. In one thick solitary spot, it lay
among the last year's leaves of oak and beech, just as it had fallen
headlong down. Sopping and soaking in among the leaves that formed
its pillow; oozing down into the boggy ground, as if to cover itself
from human sight; forcing its way between and through the curling
leaves, as if those senseless things rejected and forswore it and
were coiled up in abhorrence; went a dark, dark stain that dyed the
whole summer night from earth to heaven.

The doer of this deed came leaping from the wood so fiercely, that
he cast into the air a shower of fragments of young boughs, torn
away in his passage, and fell with violence upon the grass. But he
quickly gained his feet again, and keeping underneath a hedge with
his body bent, went running on towards the road. The road once
reached, he fell into a rapid walk, and set on toward London.

And he was not sorry for what he had done. He was frightened when
he thought of it--when did he not think of it!--but he was not
sorry. He had had a terror and dread of the wood when he was in it;
but being out of it, and having committed the crime, his fears were
now diverted, strangely, to the dark room he had left shut up at
home. He had a greater horror, infinitely greater, of that room
than of the wood. Now that he was on his return to it, it seemed
beyond comparison more dismal and more dreadful than the wood. His
hideous secret was shut up in the room, and all its terrors were
there; to his thinking it was not in the wood at all.

He walked on for ten miles; and then stopped at an ale-house for a
coach, which he knew would pass through, on its way to London,
before long; and which he also knew was not the coach he had
travelled down by, for it came from another place. He sat down
outside the door here, on a bench, beside a man who was smoking his
pipe. Having called for some beer, and drunk, he offered it to this
companion, who thanked him, and took a draught. He could not help
thinking that, if the man had known all, he might scarcely have
relished drinking out of the same cup with him.

'A fine night, master!' said this person. 'And a rare sunset.'

'I didn't see it,' was his hasty answer.

'Didn't see it?' returned the man.

'How the devil could I see it, if I was asleep?'

'Asleep! Aye, aye.' The man appeared surprised by his unexpected
irritability, and saying no more, smoked his pipe in silence. They
had not sat very long, when there was a knocking within.

'What's that?' cried Jonas.

'Can't say, I'm sure,' replied the man.

He made no further inquiry, for the last question had escaped him in
spite of himself. But he was thinking, at the moment, of the
closed-up room; of the possibility of their knocking at the door on
some special occasion; of their being alarmed at receiving no
answer; of their bursting it open; of their finding the room empty;
of their fastening the door into the court, and rendering it
impossible for him to get into the house without showing himself in
the garb he wore, which would lead to rumour, rumour to detection,
detection to death. At that instant, as if by some design and order
of circumstances, the knocking had come.

It still continued; like a warning echo of the dread reality he had
conjured up. As he could not sit and hear it, he paid for his beer
and walked on again. And having slunk about, in places unknown to
him all day; and being out at night, in a lonely road, in an unusual
dress and in that wandering and unsettled frame of mind; he stopped
more than once to look about him, hoping he might be in a dream.

Still he was not sorry. No. He had hated the man too much, and had
been bent, too desperately and too long, on setting himself free.
If the thing could have come over again, he would have done it
again. His malignant and revengeful passions were not so easily
laid. There was no more penitence or remorse within him now than
there had been while the deed was brewing.

Dread and fear were upon him, to an extent he had never counted on,
and could not manage in the least degree. He was so horribly afraid
of that infernal room at home. This made him, in a gloomy
murderous, mad way, not only fearful FOR himself, but OF himself;
for being, as it were, a part of the room: a something supposed to
be there, yet missing from it: he invested himself with its
mysterious terrors; and when he pictured in his mind the ugly
chamber, false and quiet, false and quiet, through the dark hours of
two nights; and the tumbled bed, and he not in it, though believed
to be; he became in a manner his own ghost and phantom, and was at
once the haunting spirit and the haunted man.

When the coach came up, which it soon did, he got a place outside
and was carried briskly onward towards home. Now, in taking his
seat among the people behind, who were chiefly country people, he
conceived a fear that they knew of the murder, and would tell him
that the body had been found; which, considering the time and place
of the commission of the crime, were events almost impossible to
have happened yet, as he very well knew. But although he did know
it, and had therefore no reason to regard their ignorance as
anything but the natural sequence to the facts, still this very
ignorance of theirs encouraged him. So far encouraged him, that he
began to believe the body never would be found, and began to
speculate on that probability. Setting off from this point, and
measuring time by the rapid hurry of his guilty thoughts, and what
had gone before the bloodshed, and the troops of incoherent and
disordered images of which he was the constant prey; he came by
daylight to regard the murder as an old murder, and to think himself
comparatively safe because it had not been discovered yet. Yet!
When the sun which looked into the wood, and gilded with its rising
light a dead man's lace, had seen that man alive, and sought to win
him to a thought of Heaven, on its going down last night!

But here were London streets again. Hush!

It was but five o'clock. He had time enough to reach his own house
unobserved, and before there were many people in the streets, if
nothing had happened so far, tending to his discovery. He slipped
down from the coach without troubling the driver to stop his horses;
and hurrying across the road, and in and out of every by-way that
lay near his course, at length approached his own dwelling. He used
additional caution in his immediate neighbourhood; halting first to
look all down the street before him; then gliding swiftly through
that one, and stopping to survey the next, and so on.

The passage-way was empty when his murderer's face looked into it.
He stole on, to the door on tiptoe, as if he dreaded to disturb his
own imaginary rest.

He listened. Not a sound. As he turned the key with a trembling
hand, and pushed the door softly open with his knee, a monstrous
fear beset his mind.

What if the murdered man were there before him!


Back to Full Books