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Charles Dickens's new Christmas story : Dr. Marigold's prescriptions online

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I AM a Cheap Jack, and my own ^thcr^s name
was William Marigold. It was in his lif(iUme
supposed by some that his name was William,
but my own father always consistently said, No,
it was'Willum. On which point I^ntent Hoy-
self with looking at the argument tfQ way : — If
a man is not allowed to know his own name in
a free country, how much is he allowed to know
in a land of slavery ? As to looking at the ar-
gument throuil the medium of the Register,
William Marig^d come into the word before
Registers come up much — and went out of it
too. They wouldn't have been greatly in his
line neither, ly^iey had chanced to come up be-
fore him. '▼'

I was bom 'on the Queen's highway, but it
was the King's at that time. A doctor was
fetched to my own mother by my own father,
when it took place on a common ; and in conse-
quence of his being a very kind gentleman, and
accepting no fee but a tea-tray, I was named
Doctor, out of gratitude and compliment to him.
There you ^jave me. Doctor Marigold.

I am at present a middle-aged man of abroad-
ish build, in cords, leggings, and a sleeved waist-
coat the strings of which is always gone behind.
Repair them how you will, they go like fiddle-
dtrings. You have been to the theatre, and you
have seen one of the wiolin-players screw up his
wiolin, after listening to it as if it had been whis-
pering the secret to him that it feared it was out
of order, and then you have heard it snap.
That's as exactly similar to my waistcoat, as a
waistcoat and a wiolin can be Uke one another.

I am partial to a white hat, and I like a shawl
round my Heck wore loose and easy. Sitting
down is my favourite posture. If I have a taste
in point of personal jewellery, it is mother-of-
pearl buttons. There you have me again, as
large as life.

The doctor having accepted a tea-tray, you'll
guess that my father was a Cheap Jack before
roe. You are right. He was. It was a pretty
tray. It represented a large lady going along a
serpentining up-hill gravel- walk, to attend a lit-
tle church. Two swans had likewise come
astray with the same intentions. When I call
her a large lady, I don't mean in point of
breadth, for there she fell below my views, but
she more than made it up in heighth ; her heighth
and slimness was^-in short the heighth of both.

I often saw that tray, after I was the innocent-
ly smiling cause (or more likely screeching one)
of the doctor's standing it up on a table against
the wall in his consulting-room. Whenever my
own father and mother were in that part of the

country, I used to put my head (I have heard my
own mother say it was flaxen curls at that time^
though you wouldn't know an old hearth-broom
from it now, till you come to the handle and
found it wasn't me) in at the doctor's door, and
the doctor was always glad to see me, and said,
"Aha, my brother practitioner! Come in, Ut-
tle M.D. How are your inclinations as to six-
pence ?"

You can't go on for ever, you'll find, nor yet
could my father nor yet my mother. If you
don't go oflf as a whole when you are about
due, you are liable to go off in part and two
to one your head's the part. Gradually my
father went off his, and my mother went off
hers. It was in a harmless way, but it put out
the family where I boarded them. The old
couple, though retired, got to be wholly and
solely devoted to the Cheap Jack business, and
were always selling the family off. Whenever
the cloth was laid for dinner, my father began
rattling the plates and dishes, as we do in our
line when we put up crockery for a bid, only he
had lost the trick of it, and mostly let 'em drop
and broke 'em. As the old lady nad been usea
to sit in the cart, and hand the articles out one
by one to the old gentleman on the footboard to
sell, just in the same way she handed him eveiy
item of the family's property, and they disposed
of it in their own imaginations from morniisg
to night. At last the old gentleman, lying bed-
ridden in the same room with the old lady, cries
out in the old patter, fluent, after having been
silent for two days and nights: ** Now here, my
jolly companions every one — which the Night-
ingale club in a village was held. At the sign of
the Cabbage and Shears, Where the singers no
doubt would have greatly excelled, But for
want of taste voices and ears — now here, my
jolly companions every one, is a working model
of a used-up old Cheap Jack, without a tooth
in his head, and with a pain in every bone ; so
like life that it would be just as good if it
wasn't better, just as bad if it wasn't worsen
and just as new if it wasn't worn out. Bid
for the working model of the old Cheap Jack^
who has drunk more gunpowder-tea with the
ladies in his time than would blow the lid off
a washerwoman's copper, and carry it as many
thousands of miles higher than the moon as
nought nix nought, divided by the national
debt, carry nothing to the poor-rates, three un-
der, and two over. Now my hearts of oak and
men of straw, what do you say for the lot ? Two
shillings, a shilling, tenpence, eightpence, six-
pence, fourpence. Twopence ? Who said two-
pence ? The gentleman in the scarecrow's hat ?
I am ashamed of the gentleman in the scare-
crow's hat. I really am ashamed of hinh for
Digitized by VjOOQIC


his want of public spirit. Now 1*11 tell you what
m do with you. Come ! I'll throw you in a
working model of a old woman that was mar-
ried to the old Cheap Jack so long ago, that
upon my word and honour it took place in
Koah*8 Ark, before the Unicom could get in to
forbid the banns by blowing a tune upon hi?
horn. There now I Come ! What do you say
for both ? I'll tell you what I'll do with you.
I don't bear you malice for being so backward.
Here ! If you make me a bid that'll only re-
flect a little credit on your town, I'll throw you
in a warming-pan for nothing, and lend you a
toasting-fork for life. Now come ; what do you
say after that splendid offer? Say two pound,
say thirty shillings, say a pound, say ten shil-
lings, say five, say two and six. You don't say
even two and six? You say two and three?
No. You shan't have the lot for two and three.
I'-d sooner give it you, if you was good looking
enough. Here ! Missis ! Chuck the old man
and woman into the cart, put the horse to, and
drive 'em away and bury 'em !" Such were the
last words of Willum Marigold, my own father,
and they were carried out, by him and by his
wife my own mother on one and the same day,
as I ought to know, having followed as mourner.

My ikther'had been a lovely one in his time
at the Cheap Jack work, as his dying observa-
tions went to prove. But I top him. I don't
say it because it's myself, but because it has
been universally acknowledged by all that has
had the means of comparison. I have worked
at it. I have measured myself against other
public speakers, Membei-s of Parliament, Plat-
forms, Pulpits, Counsel learned in the law — and
where I have found 'em good, I have took a bit
of imitation from 'em, and where I have found
'em bad, I have let 'em alone. Now 111 tell
you what. I mean to go down into my grave
declaring that of all the callings ill used in
Great Britain, the Cheap Jack calling is the
worst used. Why ain't we a profession? Why
ain't we endowed with privileges? Why are
we forced to take out a hawker's license, when
no such thing is expected of the political hawk-
ers ? Where's the difference betwixt us ? Ex-
cept that we are Cheap Jacks and they are Dear
Jacks, / don't see any difference but what's in
our favour.

For look here! Say it's election-time. I am
on the footboard of my cart in the market-place
on a Saturday night. I put up a general mis-
cellaneous lot. I say: **Now here my free and
independent woters, I'm a going to give you
such a chance as you never had in all your l>om
days, nor yet the days preceding. Now I'll
show you what I am a going to do with you.
Here's a pair of razors that'll shave you closer
than the Board of Guardians, here's a flat-iron
worth its weight in gold, here's a frying-pan
artificially flavoured with essence of beefsteaks
to that degree that you've only got for the rest
of your lives to fry bread and dripping in it and
there you are replete with animal food, here's a
genuine chronometer watch in such a solid sil-
ver case that you may knock at the door with it
when you come horhe late from a social meet-
ing and rouse your wife and family and save up
your knocker for the postman, and here's half a
dozen dinner plates that you may play the cym-
bals with to charm the baby when it's fractious.

Stop ! I'll throw you in another article and I'll
give you that, and it's a rolling-pin, and if the
baby can only get it well into its mouth when its
teeth is coming and rub the gums once with it,
they'll come through double, in a fit of laughter
equal to being tickled. Stop again ! I'll throw
you in another article, because I don't like the
looks Q^ou, for you haven't the appearance of
buyers Sless I lose by you, and because I'd rath-
er lose than uptake money to-night, and that's
a looking-glass in which you may see how ugly
you look w^ you don't bid. What do you say
now? Comfl Do you say a pound? Not you, !J
for you haven't got it. Do you d^ten shillings ?
Not you, for you owe more to the tallyman.
Well then, I'll tell you what I'lHio walh you.
I'll heap 'emiall on the footboard of the cart —
there they are I razors, flat-iron, frying-pan,
clm)nometer watch, dinner plates, rolling-pin,
and looking-glass — take 'em all away for four
shillings, and I'll give you sixpence for your
trouble !'*^^his is me, the Cheap Jack. But
on the M^raay morning, in the same market-
place, comes the Dear Jack on the hustings —
his cart — and what does he say ? " Now my free
and independent woters, I am^Wgoing to give
you such a chance" (he begins jcKt like me) ''as
you never had in all your bom days, and that's
the chance of sending Myself to Parliament
Now I'll tell you what I am a going to do for
you. Here's the interests of tUk* magnificent
town promoted above all the rest of the civilised
and uncivilised earth. Here's your railways
carried, and your neighbours' railways jockeyea.
Here's all your sons in the Post-office. Here's
Britannia smiling on you. Here's the eyes of
Europe on you. Here's uniwersal prosperity
for you, repletion of animal food, golden corn-
fields, gladsome homesteads, and rounds of ap-
plause from your- own hearts, all iu'one lot and
that's myself. • Will you take me as I stand ?
You won't? Well then, I'll tell you what I'll
do with you. Come now! I'll throw you in
anything you ask for. There ! Church-rates,
abolition of church-rates, more malt tax, no malt
tax, uniwersal education to the highest mark or
uniwersal ignorance to the lowest, total abolition
of flogging in the army or a dozen for every pri-
vate once a month all round, Wrongs of Men or
Rights of Women, — only say which it shall be,
take 'em or leave 'em, and I'm of your opinion
altogether, and the lot's your own on your own
terms. There I You won't take it yet ? Well
then, I'll tell you what I'll do with you. Come !
You are such free and independent woters, and
I am so proud of you — you are such a noble and
enlightened constituency, and I am so ambitious
of the honour and dignity of being your member,
which is by far the highest level to which the
wiiigs of the human mind can soar — that I'll
tell you what I'll do with you. I'll throw
you in all the public-houses in your magnificent
town for nothing. Will that content you ? It
won't? You won't take the lot yet? Well
then, before I put the horse in and drive away,
and make the offer to the next most magnificent
town that can be discovered, I'll tell you what
I'll do. Take the lot, and I'll drop two thou-
sand pounds in the streets of your magnificent
town for them to pick up that can. Not enough ?
Now look here. This is the very furthest that
I'm a going to. I'll make it two thousand five

Digitized by



hundred. And still yon won't ? Here, missis !
Put the horse — no, stop half a moment, I
sbonldn't like to turn my back upon you neither
for a trifle, I'll make it two thousand seven
hundred and fifty pound. There! Take the
lot on your own terms, and I'll count out two
thousand seven hundred and fifty pound on the
footboard of the cart, to be dropped in||^ streets
of your magnificent town for them rffpick up
that can. What do you sa^ Come now!
You won't do better, and you may do worse.
Ton take it? Hooray! Siold fMG|in, and got
X. the seat!" ^

These Dea^acks soap the people shameful,
but wo Chopp Jacks don't. > We tell 'em the
truth ajbouraemselves to their faces, and scora
to court 'em. As to wenturesodleness in the
way of puffing up the lots, the Dear Jacks beat
US hollow. It is considered in the Cheap Jack
calling that better patter can be made out of a
gun than any article we put up from the cart,
except a pair of spectacles. I ofmf hold forth
about a gun for a quarter of an hiJttr, and feel
as if I never need leave off. But when I tell
'em what the gun can do, and what the gun has
brought dovrt^A. never go half so far as the Dear
Jacks do whewihey make speeches in praise of
their gnus — their great guns that set 'em on to
do it. Besides, I'm in business for myself, I
ain't sent down into the market-place to order,
as they arel^p^esides again, my guns don't
know what I say in their laudation, and their
guns do, and the whole concern of *em have
reason to be sick and ashamed all round. These
are some of my arguments for declaring that the
Cheap Jack calling is treated ill in Great Brit-
ain, and for turning warm when I think of the
other Jacks in question setting themselves up to
pretend to look down upon it,

I courted my wife from the footboard of the
cart. I did indeed. She was a Suffolk young
woman, and it was in Ipswich market-place
right opposite the corn-chandler's shop. I had
noticed her up at a window last Saturday that
was, appreciating highly. I had took to her,
and I had said to myself, "If not already dis-
posed of, I'll have that lot." Next Saturday
that come, I pitched the cart on the same pitch,
and I was in very high feather indeed, keeping
'em laughing the whole of the time and getting
off the goods briskly. At last I took out of my
wai^^coat- pocket a small lot wrapped in soft
paper, and J put it this way (looking up at the
window where she was). " Now here my bloom-
ing English maiden is an article, the hist article
of the present evening's sale, which I offer to
only you the lovely Suffolk Dumplings biling
orer with beauty, and I won't take a bid of a
thousand pound for, from any man alive. Now
what is it? Why, I'll tell you what it is. It's
made of fine gold, and it's not broke though
there's a hole in the middle of it, and it's strong-
er than any fetter that ever was forged, though
it's smaller than any finger in my set of ten.
Why ten? Because when my parents made
over my property to me, I tell you true, there
was twelve sheets, twelve towels, twelve table-
cloths, twelve knives, twelve forks, twelve table-
spoons, and twelve teaspoons, but my set of
fingers was two short of a dozen and could never
since be matched. Now what else is it ? Come

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Online LibraryCharles DickensCharles Dickens's new Christmas story : Dr. Marigold's prescriptions → online text (page 1 of 13)