'Now pray,' said John, 'when I tire your patience very much in what I am going to say, recollect that it has an end to it, and that the end is the point of the story.'
With this preface, he related all the circumstances connected with his having presided over the illness and slow recovery of the patient at the Bull; and tacked on to the skirts of that narrative Tom's own account of the business on the wharf. Martin was not a little puzzled when he came to an end, for the two stories seemed to have no connection with each other, and to leave him, as the phrase is, all abroad.
'If you will excuse me for one moment,' said John, rising, 'I will beg you almost immediately to come into the next room.'
Upon that, he left Martin to himself, in a state of considerable astonishment; and soon came back again to fulfil his promise. Accompanying him into the next room, Martin found there a third person; no doubt the stranger of whom his host had spoken when Tom Pinch introduced him.
He was a young man; with deep black hair and eyes. He was gaunt and pale; and evidently had not long recovered from a severe illness. He stood as Martin entered, but sat again at John's desire. His eyes were cast downward; and but for one glance at them both, half in humiliation and half in entreaty, he kept them so, and sat quite still and silent.
'This person's name is Lewsome,' said John Westlock, 'whom I have mentioned to you as having been seized with an illness at the inn near here, and undergone so much. He has had a very hard time of it, ever since he began to recover; but, as you see, he is now doing well.'
As he did not move or speak, and John Westlock made a pause, Martin, not knowing what to say, said that he was glad to hear it.
'The short statement that I wish you to hear from his own lips, Mr Chuzzlewit,' John pursued--looking attentively at him, and not at Martin--'he made to me for the first time yesterday, and repeated to me this morning, without the least variation of any essential particular. I have already told you that he informed me before he was removed from the Inn, that he had a secret to disclose to me which lay heavy on his mind. But, fluctuating between sickness and health and between his desire to relieve himself of it, and his dread of involving himself by revealing it, he has, until yesterday, avoided the disclosure. I never pressed him for it (having no idea of its weight or import, or of my right to do so), until within a few days past; when, understanding from him, on his own voluntary avowal, in a letter from the country, that it related to a person whose name was Jonas Chuzzlewit; and thinking that it might throw some light on that little mystery which made Tom anxious now and then; I urged the point upon him, and heard his statement, as you will now, from his own lips. It is due to him to say, that in the apprehension of death, he committed it to writing sometime since, and folded it in a sealed paper, addressed to me; which he could not resolve, however, to place of his own act in my hands. He has the paper in his breast, I believe, at this moment.'
The young man touched it hastily; in corroboration of the fact.
'It will be well to leave that in our charge, perhaps,' said John. 'But do not mind it now.'
As he said this, he held up his hand to bespeak Martin's attention. It was already fixed upon the man before him, who, after a short silence said, in a low, weak, hollow voice:
'What relation was Mr Anthony Chuzzlewit, who--'
'--Who died--to me?' said Martin. 'He was my grandfather's brother.'
'I fear he was made away with. Murdered!'
'My God!' said Martin. 'By whom?'
The young man, Lewsome, looked up in his face, and casting down his eyes again, replied:
'I fear, by me.'
'By you?' cried Martin.
'Not by my act, but I fear by my means.'
'Speak out!' said Martin, 'and speak the truth.'
'I fear this IS the truth.'
Martin was about to interrupt him again, but John Westlock saying softly, 'Let him tell his story in his own way,' Lewsome went on thus:
'I have been bred a surgeon, and for the last few years have served a general practitioner in the City, as his assistant.