We have never met since. I only know that the poor old father died soon afterwards, just as he would have died from this cause; and that I have undergone, and suffer now, intolerable misery. Nothing' he added, stretching out his hands, 'can paint my misery! It is well deserved, but nothing can paint it.'
With that he hung his head, and said no more, wasted and wretched, he was not a creature upon whom to heap reproaches that were unavailing.
'Let him remain at hand,' said Martin, turning from him; 'but out of sight, in Heaven's name!'
'He will remain here,' John whispered. 'Come with me!' Softly turning the key upon him as they went out, he conducted Martin into the adjoining room, in which they had been before.
Martin was so amazed, so shocked, and confounded by what he had heard that it was some time before he could reduce it to any order in his mind, or could sufficiently comprehend the bearing of one part upon another, to take in all the details at one view. When he, at length, had the whole narrative clearly before him, John Westlock went on to point out the great probability of the guilt of Jonas being known to other people, who traded in it for their own benefit, and who were, by such means, able to exert that control over him which Tom Pinch had accidentally witnessed, and unconsciously assisted. This appeared so plain, that they agreed upon it without difficulty; but instead of deriving the least assistance from this source, they found that it embarrassed them the more.
They knew nothing of the real parties who possessed this power. The only person before them was Tom's landlord. They had no right to question Tom's landlord, even if they could find him, which, according to Tom's account, it would not be easy to do. And granting that they did question him, and he answered (which was taking a good deal for granted), he had only to say, with reference to the adventure on the wharf, that he had been sent from such and such a place to summon Jonas back on urgent business, and there was an end of it.
Besides, there was the great difficulty and responsibility of moving at all in the matter. Lewsome's story might be false; in his wretched state it might be greatly heightened by a diseased brain; or admitting it to be entirely true, the old man might have died a natural death. Mr Pecksniff had been there at the time; as Tom immediately remembered, when he came back in the afternoon, and shared their counsels; and there had been no secrecy about it. Martin's grandfather was of right the person to decide upon the course that should be taken; but to get at his views would be impossible, for Mr Pecksniff's views were certain to be his. And the nature of Mr Pecksniff's views in reference to his own son-in-law might be easily reckoned upon.
Apart from these considerations, Martin could not endure the thought of seeming to grasp at this unnatural charge against his relative, and using it as a stepping-stone to his grandfather's favour. But that he would seem to do so, if he presented himself before his grandfather in Mr Pecksniff's house again, for the purpose of declaring it; and that Mr Pecksniff, of all men, would represent his conduct in that despicable light, he perfectly well knew. On the other hand to be in possession of such a statement, and take no measures of further inquiry in reference to it, was tantamount to being a partner in the guilt it professed to disclose.
In a word, they were wholly unable to discover any outlet from this maze of difficulty, which did not lie through some perplexed and entangled thicket. And although Mr Tapley was promptly taken into their confidence; and the fertile imagination of that gentleman suggested many bold expedients, which, to do him justice, he was quite ready to carry into instant operation on his own personal responsibility; still 'bating the general zeal of Mr Tapley's nature, nothing was made particularly clearer by these offers of service.
It was in this position of affairs that Tom's account of the strange behaviour of the decayed clerk, on the night of the tea-party, became of great moment, and finally convinced them that to arrive at a more accurate knowledge of the workings of that old man's mind and memory, would be to take a most important stride in their pursuit of the truth.