It might have yielded, however; and no doubt must have yielded soon, but for a very strange and unlooked-for occurrence.
The five weeks had quite run out, and he was in a truly desperate plight, when one evening, having just returned to his lodging, and being in the act of lighting his candle at the gas jet in the bar before stalking moodily upstairs to his own room, his landlord called him by his name. Now as he had never told it to the man, but had scrupulously kept it to himself, he was not a little startled by this; and so plainly showed his agitation that the landlord, to reassure him, said 'it was only a letter.'
'A letter!' cried Martin.
'For Mr Martin Chuzzlewit,' said the landlord, reading the superscription of one he held in his hand. 'Noon. Chief office. Paid.'
Martin took it from him, thanked him, and walked upstairs. It was not sealed, but pasted close; the handwriting was quite unknown to him. He opened it and found enclosed, without any name, address, or other inscription or explanation of any kind whatever, a Bank of England note for Twenty Pounds.
To say that he was perfectly stunned with astonishment and delight; that he looked again and again at the note and the wrapper; that he hurried below stairs to make quite certain that the note was a good note; and then hurried up again to satisfy himself for the fiftieth time that he had not overlooked some scrap of writing on the wrapper; that he exhausted and bewildered himself with conjectures; and could make nothing of it but that there the note was, and he was suddenly enriched; would be only to relate so many matters of course to no purpose. The final upshot of the business at that time was, that he resolved to treat himself to a comfortable but frugal meal in his own chamber; and having ordered a fire to be kindled, went out to purchase it forthwith.
He bought some cold beef, and ham, and French bread, and butter, and came back with his pockets pretty heavily laden. It was somewhat of a damping circumstance to find the room full of smoke, which was attributable to two causes; firstly, to the flue being naturally vicious and a smoker; and secondly, to their having forgotten, in lighting the fire, an odd sack or two and some trifles, which had been put up the chimney to keep the rain out. They had already remedied this oversight, however; and propped up the window-sash with a bundle of firewood to keep it open; so that except in being rather inflammatory to the eyes and choking to the lungs, the apartment was quite comfortable.
Martin was in no vein to quarrel with it, if it had been in less tolerable order, especially when a gleaming pint of porter was set upon the table, and the servant-girl withdrew, bearing with her particular instructions relative to the production of something hot when he should ring the bell. The cold meat being wrapped in a playbill, Martin laid the cloth by spreading that document on the little round table with the print downwards, and arranging the collation upon it. The foot of the bed, which was very close to the fire, answered for a sideboard; and when he had completed these preparations, he squeezed an old arm-chair into the warmest corner, and sat down to enjoy himself.
He had begun to eat with great appetite, glancing round the room meanwhile with a triumphant anticipation of quitting it for ever on the morrow, when his attention was arrested by a stealthy footstep on the stairs, and presently by a knock at his chamber door, which, although it was a gentle knock enough, communicated such a start to the bundle of firewood, that it instantly leaped out of window, and plunged into the street.
'More coals, I suppose,' said Martin. 'Come in!'
'It an't a liberty, sir, though it seems so,' rejoined a man's voice. 'Your servant, sir. Hope you're pretty well, sir.'
Martin stared at the face that was bowing in the doorway, perfectly remembering the features and expression, but quite forgetting to whom they belonged.
'Tapley, sir,' said his visitor.