Chapter 18Does business with the house of Anthony Chuzzlewit and son, from which one of the partners retires unexpectedly
CHANGE BEGETS CHANGE. Nothing propagates so fast. If a man habituated to a narrow circle of cares and pleasures, out of which he seldom travels, step beyond it, though for never so brief a space, his departure from the monotonous scene on which he has been an actor of importance, would seem to be the signal for instant confusion. As if, in the gap he had left, the wedge of change were driven to the head rending what was a solid mass to fragments, things cemented and held together by the usages of years, burst asunder in as many weeks. The mine which Time has slowly dug beneath familiar objects is sprung in an instant; and what was rock before becomes but sand and dust.
Most men, at one time or other, have proved this in some degree, The extent to which the natural laws of change asserted their supremacy in that limited sphere of action which Martin had deserted, shall be faithfully set down in these pages.
`What a cold spring it is!' whimpered old Anthony, drawing near the evening fire, `It was a warmer season, sure, when I was young!'
`You needn't go scorching your clothes into holes, whether it was or not,' observed the amiable Jonas, raising his eyes from yesterday's newspaper, `Broadcloth ain't so cheap as that comes to.'
`A good lad!' cried the father, breathing on his cold hands, and feebly chafing them against each other. `A prudent lad! He never delivered himself up to the vanities of dress. No, no!'
`I don't know but I would though, mind you, if I could do it for nothing,' said his son, as he resumed the paper.
`Ah!' chuckled the old man. `If, indeed! But it's very cold.'
`Let the fire be!' cried Mr. Jonas, stopping his honoured parent's hand in the use of the poker. `Do you mean to come to want in your old age, that you take to wasting now?'
`There's not time for that, Jonas,' said the old man.
`Not time for what?' bawled his heir.
`For me to come to want. I wish there was!'
`You always were as selfish an old blade as need be,' said Jonas in a voice too low for him to hear, and looking at him with an angry frown. `You act up to your character. You wouldn't mind coming to want, wouldn't you! I dare say you wouldn't. And your own flesh and blood might come to want too, might they, for anything you cared? Oh you precious old flint!'
After this dutiful address he took his tea-cup in his hand: for that meal was in progress, and the father and son and Chuffey were partakers of it. Then, looking steadfastly at his father, and stopping now and then to carry a spoonful of tea to his lips, he proceeded in the same tone, thus:
`Want, indeed! You're a nice old man to be talking of want at this time of day. Beginning to talk of want, are you? Well, I declare! There isn't time? No, I should hope not. But you'd live to be a couple of hundred if you could; and after all be discontented. I know you!'
The old man sighed, and still sat cowering before the fire. Mr. Jonas shook his Britannia-metal teaspoon at him, and taking a loftier position went on to argue the point on high moral grounds.
`If you're in such a state of mind as that,' he grumbled, but in the same subdued key, `why don't you make over your property? Buy an annuity cheap, and make your life interesting to yourself and everybody
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