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Summary Chapter 39


Ruth happily oversees the domestic chores of the household. Tom equally enjoys their new arrangement. They go out shopping to buy ingredients for their dinner. As his sister prepares their meal, he writes a letter. Ruth asks what he is doing, and he tells her he is writing a description of his qualifications for potential employers. Ruth replies that he should write one for her too. They are not rich enough that she can stay home to take care of the house, even if she would like to.

Tom is determined that they shouldn’t part. He thinks they will be happier battling life together. Ruth doesn’t think they can manage it. Tom says they won’t know until they try, and he is certain they don’t need much to be content. He plans on asking Westlock’s advice.

His sister finds ways of distracting him from his work. She is startled when Westlock enters. He is entranced by Ruth. She is nervous when Tom invites him to dinner, for she worries that her dish won’t taste good—since she had never made it before.

John Westlock tells Tom he may not need to finish his letter. He didn’t know Tom had friends in London. Tom didn’t know this himself. John goes on to tell him about the visit he had received this morning. A gentleman told him he could employ Tom Pinch as a secretary/librarian at 100 pounds a year. The man doesn’t know Tom personally, but he is acting on the instructions of another. The people in the neighborhood of the Blue Dragon knew Tom’s abilities. Westlock was unnerved by the knowledge that this man has. The man handed Westlock a pocketbook. He expected to see Tom Pinch the following morning. The pocketbook introduced the man as Mr. Fips of Austin Friars.

Ruth thinks that John knows more about this than he is admitting to, but John Westlock denies it. When Tom and John set out to the appointment, John suggests that maybe Tom’s father was someone significant. Tom denies that either of his parents were significant.

Austin Friars is a gloomy place. Mr. Fips goes to the point, not bothering with the niceties of social interaction. Tom says he is obliged to him, but Mr. Fips says he is acting on the instructions of another. Tom then says he is obliged to this other man, and he vows not to disappoint him. Mr. Fips says the man is not in town and doesn’t know when he’ll return. However, it doesn’t matter as Mr. Fips is responsible for employing Tom and giving him his wages. He gives Tom the details about the job, saying he is hired. He orders Tom to meet him in another location in an hour, where he will begin working tomorrow.

An hour later, Fips lets him into a dusty room with piles of books. Mr. Fips tells him that the books must be organized, catalogued, and put on bookshelves. Tom looks forward to the task.

Mr. Fips doesn’t give Tom much information about his benefactor, not even his name. John begins to think that maybe there is no mystery employer, and Mr. Fips is the person responsible for everything. He hired Tom because he knows of his abilities, and maybe he has a grudge against Pecksniff.

They return to Tom’s home and have dinner, which is successful. Tom discusses the change that has come over both of Pecksniff’s daughters, particularly Mercy. Westlock is interested in her marriage. Tom also talks about younger Martin Chuzzlewit, who went off to America and hasn’t been heard from since. He tells John about Pecksniff’s triumph in gaining control over elder Martin Chuzzlewit, and his nefarious scheme to marry Mary Graham.

Charles Dickens