The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit By Charles Dickens Follow story

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Andrés Burgos


The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit is a novel by Charles Dickens, considered the last of his picaresque novels.


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I HOW MARTIN LEFT ENGLAND

LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT

Published 1843–1844

Scene:London, Neighboring Towns, New York and the Mississippi Valley
Time:1842

CHARACTERS

Martin ChuzzlewitA young gentleman
ChuzzlewitHis grandfather. A rich old man
Mary GrahamOld Chuzzlewit's nurse and secretary
JonasHis grasping nephew
ChuffeyAn aged clerk to Jonas's father
PecksniffAn architect and hypocrite
A distant relative of Old Chuzzlewit's
CharityHis daughter
MercyHis daughter. Later, Jonas's wife
Tom PinchA charity pupil of Pecksniff's
RuthHis sister
John WestlockOne of Pecksniff's former pupils
Mark TapleyAn assistant at a village inn
Later, Martin's comrade in the United States
BevanAn American
Mrs. TodgersThe proprietress of a London boarding-house
Montague TiggA penniless adventurer
Later known as "Tigg Montague," and president of the
Anglo-Bengalee Company
"Sairey" GampA nurse
"Mrs. Harris"An imaginary friend of Sairey Gamp's
NadgettA police spy

[Pg 294]


[Pg 295]

MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT

I

HOW MARTIN LEFT ENGLAND

Martin Chuzzlewit was the grandson of an old man who, from being poor, became so rich that he found not only that people bowed low and flattered him, but that many of his relatives were trying by every trick to get some of his money.

The old man was naturally suspicious and obstinate, and when he saw this he began to distrust everybody and to think the whole world selfish and deceitful. He had loved most of all his grandson, Martin, but at length his heart became hardened to him also.

This was partly Martin's own fault, for he was somewhat selfish, but he had, nevertheless, a great deal of good in him. And perhaps his selfishness was partly his grandfather's fault, too, because the latter had brought him up to believe he would inherit all his money and would sometime be very rich.

At last, ill and grown suspicious of every one he met, old Chuzzlewit gave a home to a beautiful orphan girl named Mary Graham, and kept her near him as his nurse and secretary. In order that she might not have any selfish interest in being[Pg 296] kind to him, he took an oath in her presence that he would not leave her a cent when he died. He paid her monthly wages and it was agreed that there should be no affection shown between them.

In spite of his seeming harshness, Mary knew his heart was naturally kind, and she soon loved him as a father. And he, softened by her sympathy, came in spite of himself to love her as a daughter.

It was not long before young Martin, too, had fallen very deeply in love with Mary. He concluded too hastily, however, that his grandfather would not approve of his marrying her, and told the old man his intentions in such a fiery way that Chuzzlewit resented it.

The old man accused Martin of a selfish attempt to steal from him Mary's care, and at this, Martin, whose temper was as quick as his grandfather's flew to anger. They quarreled and Martin left him, declaring he would henceforth make his own way until he was able to claim Mary for his wife.

While he was wondering what he should do, Martin saw in a newspaper the advertisement of a Mr. Pecksniff, an architect, living near Salisbury, not many miles from London, who wished a pupil to board and teach. An architect was what Martin wanted to be, and he answered the advertisement at once and accepted Pecksniff's terms.

Now, to tell the truth, Martin had another reason for this. Pecksniff was his grandfather's[Pg 297] cousin, and he knew the old man thought him the worst hypocrite of all his relatives, and disliked him accordingly. And Martin was so angry with his grandfather that he went to Pecksniff's partly to vex him.

Pecksniff was just the man old Chuzzlewit thought him. He was a smooth, sleek hypocrite, with an oily manner. He had heavy eyelids and a wide, whiskerless throat, and when he talked he fairly oozed virtuous sayings, for which people deemed him a most moral and upright man. He was a widower with two daughters, Charity and Mercy, the older of whom had a very bitter temper, which made it hard for the few students as long as they stayed there.

After Pecksniff had once got a pupil's money in advance, he made no pretense of teaching him. He kept him drawing designs for buildings, and that was all. If any of the designs were good, he said nothing to the pupil, but sold them as his own, and pocketed the money. His pupils soon saw through him and none of them had ever stayed long except one.

This one was named Tom Pinch. He had been poor and Mr. Pecksniff had pretended to take him in at a reduced rate. But really Pinch paid as much as the others, beside being a clever fellow who made himself useful in a thousand ways. He was a musician, too, and played the organ in the village church, which was a credit to Pecksniff.[Pg 298]

With all this, Pinch was a generous, open-hearted lad, who believed every one honest and true, and he was so grateful to Pecksniff (whose hypocrisy he never imagined) that he was always singing his praises everywhere. In return for all this, Pecksniff treated him with contempt and made him quite like a servant.

Tom Pinch, however, was a favorite with every one else. He had a sister Ruth who loved him dearly, but he seldom saw her, for she was a governess in the house of a brass and iron founder, who did not like her to have company. One of Tom's greatest friends had been a pupil named John Westlock, who in vain had tried to open the other's eyes to Pecksniff's real character. When Westlock came into his money he had left and gone to live in London, and it was to take his vacant place that the new pupil Martin was now coming.

Another friend of Pinch's was Mark Tapley, a rakish, good-humored fellow, whose one ambition was to find a position so uncomfortable and dismal that he would get some credit for being jolly in it. Tapley was an assistant at The Blue Dragon, the village inn, whose plump, rosy landlady was so fond of him that he might have married her if he had chosen to. But, as Tapley said, there was no credit in being jolly where he was so comfortable, so he left The Blue Dragon and went off, too, to London.[Pg 299]

With neither Westlock nor Mark Tapley there Tom Pinch was lonely and welcomed the arrival of Martin, with whom he soon made friends. Mr. Pecksniff folded his new pupil to his breast, shed a crocodile tear and set him to work designing a grammar-school.

Old Chuzzlewit soon heard where Martin his grandson was, and wrote to Pecksniff asking him to meet him in London. Pecksniff was so anxious to curry favor with the rich old man that, taking his daughters with him, he left at once for London, where they put up at a boarding-house kept by a Mrs. Todgers, while Pecksniff awaited the arrival of old Chuzzlewit.

Mrs. Todgers's house smelled of cabbage and greens and mice, and Mrs. Todgers herself was bony and wore a row of curls on the front of her head like little barrels of flour. But a number of young men boarded there, and Charity and Mercy enjoyed themselves very much.

One whom they met on this trip to London was a remote relative of theirs, a nephew of old Chuzzlewit's, named Jonas. Jonas's father was eighty years old and a miser, and the son, too, was so mean and grasping that he often used to wish his father were dead so he would have his money.

The old father, indeed, would have had no friend in his own house but for an old clerk, Chuffey, who had been his schoolmate in boyhood and had always lived with him. Chuffey was as old[Pg 300] and dusty and rusty as if he had been put away and forgotten fifty years before and some one had just found him in a lumber closet. But in his own way Chuffey loved his master.

Jonas called on the two Pecksniff daughters, and Charity, the elder, determined to marry him. Jonas, however, had his own opinion, and made up his mind to marry Mercy, her younger sister.

Before long old Chuzzlewit reached London, and when Pecksniff called he told him his grandson, Martin, was an ingrate, who had left his protection, and asked the architect not to harbor him. Pecksniff, who worshiped the other's money and would have betrayed his best friend for old Chuzzlewit's favor, returned home instantly, heaped harsh names upon Martin and ordered him to leave his house at once.

Martin guessed what had caused Pecksniff to change his mind so suddenly, and with hearty contempt for his truckling action, he left that very hour in the rain, though he had only a single silver piece in his pocket. Tom Pinch, in great grief for his trouble, ran after him with a book as a parting gift, and between its leaves Martin found another silver piece—all Tom had.

Most of the way to London Martin walked. Once there he took a cheap lodging, and tried to find some vessel on which he could work his passage to America, for there, as he walked, he had made up his mind to go. But he found no such[Pg 301] opportunity. His money gone, he pawned first his watch and then his other belongings, one by one, until he had nothing left, and was even in distress for food.

Yet his pride was strong, and he gave what was almost his last coin to escape the attentions of one Montague Tigg, a dirty, jaunty, bold, mean, swaggering, slinking vagabond of the shabby-genteel sort, whom he recognized as one who had more than once tried to squeeze money out of his grandfather.

At last, when he was almost in despair, a surprise came in the shape of an envelop addressed to himself, containing no letter, but a bank-note for a generous amount. There was no clue whatever to the sender, but the sum was enough to pay his passage and he determined therefore to sail next day.

While he was still wondering at this good luck, Martin chanced to come upon Mark Tapley, the old assistant at The Blue Dragon Inn. Tapley had found London too pleasant a place to be jolly in with any credit, and, as he had heard America was a very dismal place, he proposed to go with Martin.

As it happened, Tapley knew that Mary Graham was then in London, for he had seen old Chuzzlewit going into his house. When Martin learned this he sent a letter to her by Tapley, and she met him next morning in a little park near by.[Pg 302] There he told her of his leaving Pecksniff's and of his coming voyage.

She was very sorrowful over his departure, but he cheered her by telling her he would soon return, well and prosperous, for her. She told him that Pecksniff seemed somehow to have made his grandfather trust him, and that by his advice they were both to move to The Blue Dragon Inn, near his house. Martin told her of Pecksniff's true character, warned her against him, and begged her to trust in Tom Pinch as a true friend. So they parted, pledging each other their love whatever befell.

Before Martin left next day Mary sent him a diamond ring, which he thought his grandfather had given her, but for which in reality she had paid all her savings, so that he should have with him something of value to sell if he be in want.

So Martin and Mark Tapley took ship for America, and Mary Graham and old Chuzzlewit went to live at The Blue Dragon, to the huge satisfaction of the oily Pecksniff, who thought now he could easily get the rich old man under his thumb.

May 19, 2018, 8:13 p.m. 0 Report Embed 0
Read next chapter II PECKSNIFF AND OLD CHUZZLEWIT

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