Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

. (page 41 of 80)
Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 41 of 80)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


palls. They made them sometimes.

Tiie premises of Mr. Mould were hard of liearing to the
boisterous noises in the great main streets, and nestled in a quiet
^irner, where the City strife became a drowsy hum, that sometimes
rose and sometimes fell and sometimes altogether ceased : suggest-
ing to a thoughtful mind a stoppage in Cheapside. The light
^•ame sparkling in among the scarlet runners, as if the cluirchyard
winked at Mr. Mould, and said, " We understand each other ; "
and from the distant shop a pleasant sound arose of coffin-making
with a low melodious hammer, rat, tat, tat, tat, alike promoting
slumber and digestion.

" Quite the buzz of insects," said Mr. Mould, closing his eyes
in a perfect luxuiy. "It puts one iu mind of the sound of
animated nature in the agricultural districts. It's exactly like tiie
woodpecker tapping."

"Tlie woodpecker tapping the hollow elm tree," observed Mrs.
Mould, adapting the words of the i)opular melody to the description
of wood commonly used in the trade.

" Ha, ha ! " laughed Mr. Mouhl. " Not at all bad, my dear.
We shall be glad to hear from you again, Mrs. M. Hollow elm



386 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

tree, eh 1 Ha, ha ! Very good indeed. I've seen worse than
that in the Sunday papers, my love."

Mrs. Mould, thus encoiiraged, took a little more of the punch,
and handed it to her daughters, who dutifully followed tlie example
of their mother.

" Hollow elm tree, eh ? " said Mr. Mould, making a slight
motion Avith his legs in his enjoyment of the joke. " It's beech in
the song. Elm, eh 1 Yes, to be sure. Ha, ha, ha ! Upon my
soul, that's one of the best things I know ! " He was so excessively
tickled by the jest that he couldn't forget it, but repeated twenty
tunes, " Elm, eh 1 Yes, to be sure. Elm, of course. Ha, ha,
ha ! Upon my life, you know, that ought to be sent to somebody
who could make use of it. It's one of the smartest things that
ever was said. Hollow elm tree, eh ? Of course. Very hollow.
Ha, ha, ha ! "

Here a knock was heard at the room door.

"That's Tacker, /know," said Mrs. Mould, "by 'the wheezing
he makes. Who that hears him now, would suppose he'd ever
had wind enough to carry the feathers on his head ! Come in,'
Tacker." !

" Beg your pardon, ma'am," said Tacker, looking in a little!
way. "I thought our Governor was here."

" Well ! so he is," cried Mould.

" Oh ! I didn't see you, I'm sure," said Tacker, looking in s]
little farther. " You wouldn't be inclined to take a walking one
of two, with the plain wood and a tin plate, I suppose 1 "

" Certainly not," replied Mr. Mould, " much too conunon
Nothing to say to it."

"I told 'em it was precious low," observed Mr. Tacker.

" Tell 'em to go somewhere else. We don't do that style o
business here," said Mr. Mould. "Like their impudence t(
propose it. Who is it 1 "

"Why," returned Tacker, pausing, "that's where it is, you see
It's the beadle's son-in-law."

"The beadle's son-in-law, ehl" said Mould. "Well! I'll di
it if the beadle follows in his cocked hat ; not else. We ma;,
carry it off that way, by looking official, but it'll be low enougl
tlien. His cocked hat, mind ! "

" I'll take care. Sir," rejoined Tacker. " Oh ! Mrs. Gamp'ij
below, and wants to speak to you." i

" Tell Mrs. Gamp to come up stairs," said Mould. " Now'
Mrs. Gamp, what's ^otir news 1" :

The lady in question was by this time in the doorway, curtsey i
ing to Mrs. Mould. At the same moment a peculiar fragranc:



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 387

as borne upon the breeze, as if a passing iairy had hiccoughed,
id had previously been to a wine-vaults.

I\Irs. Gamp made no response to Mr. Mould, but curtseyed to
j-s. Mould again, and held up her hands and eyes, as in a devout
lanksgiving that she looked so well. She was neatly, but not
ludily attired, in the w^eeds she had worn when IMr. Pecksniff had
le pleasure of making her acquaintance ; and was perliaps the
irning of a scale more snuffy.

"There are some happy creeturs," Mrs. Gamp observed, "as
me runs back'ards with, and you are one, Mrs. Mould ; not that
3 need do nothing except use you in his most owldacious way for
;ars to come, I'm sure ; for young you are and will be. I says
I Mrs. Harris," Mrs. Gamp continued, " only t'other day ; the
st Monday evening fortnight as ever dawned upon this Piljiau's
rojiss of a mortal wale ; I says to Mrs. Harris when she says to
e, ' Years and our trials, Mrs. Gamp, sets marks upon us all.' —
Say not the-words, Mrs. Harris, if you and me is to be continual
lends, for sech is not the case. Mrs. Mould,' I says, making so
ee, I will confess, as use the name," (she curtseyed here), " ' is
le of them that goes agen the obserwation straight ; and never,
[rs. Harris, whilst I've a drop of breath to draw, will I set bj-,
ad not stand up, don't think it.' — 'I ast your pardon, ma'am,'
lys Mrs. Harris, ' and I humbly grant your grace ; for if ever a
Oman lived as would see her feller creeturs into fits to serve her
lends, well do I know that woman's name is Sairey Gamp.' "

At this point slie was fain to stop for breath ; and advantage
lay be taken of the circumstance, to state that a fearful mystery
irrounded this lady of the name of Harris, whom no one in the
rcle of Mrs. Gamp's acquaintance had ever seen ; neither did any
uman being know her place of residence, though Mrs. Gamp ap-
eared on her own showing to be in constant communication witli
er. There w^ere conflicting rumours on the subject ; but the
revalent opinion was that she was a phantom of Mrs. Gamp's
rain — as Messrs. Doe and Roe are fictions of the law — created for
le express purpose of holding visionary dialogues with her on all
lanner of subjects, and invariably winding up with a compliment
3 the excellence of her nature.

"And likeways what a pleasure," said Mrs. Gamp, turning
■ith a tearful smile towards the daughters, " to see them two
oung ladies as I know'd afore a tooth in their pretty heads was
ut, and have many a day seen — ah, the sweet creeturs I — playing
t berryins down in the shop, and follerin' the order-book to its
jng home in the iron safe ! But that's all past and over, Mr.
lould ; " as she thus got in a carefully regulated routine to that



388 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

gentleman, she shook her head waggishly ; " That's all past and
over now, Sir, an't it 1 "

" Changes, Mrs. Gamp, changes ! " returned the undertaker.

" More changes too, to come, afore we've done with changes,
Sir," said ]\Irs. G-amp, nodding yet more waggishly than before.
" Young ladies with such faces thinks of something else besides
berryins, don't they. Sir ? "

"I am sure I don't know, Mrs. Gamp,'' said Mould, with a
chuckle. — " Not bad in Mrs. Gamp, my dear 1 "

"Oh yes, you do know. Sir!" said Mrs. Gamp, "and so does
Mrs. Mould, your ansome parduer too, Sir ; and so do I, although
the blessing of a daughter was deniged me ; which, if we had had
one. Gamp would certainly have drunk its little shoes right oft" its
feet, as with our precious boy he did, and arterwards send the
child a errand to sell his wooden leg for any money it would fetch
as matches in the rough, and bring it home in liquor : which was
truly done beyond his years, for ev'ry individgle penny that child
lost at toss or buy for kidney ones ; and come home arterwards
quite bold, to break the news, and offering to drown himself if
that would be a satisfoction to his parents. — Oh yes, you do know, (
Sir," said Mrs. Gamp, wiping her eye with her shawl, and resum-
ing the thread of her discourse. " There's something besides births,
and berryins in the newspapers, an't there, Mr. Mould ? "

Mr. Mould winked at INIrs. ]\Iould, whom he had by this time
taken on his knee, and said : "No doubt. A good deal more, Mrs.i
Gamp. Upon my life, Mrs. Gamp is very far from bad, my dear ! "

There's marryings, an't there, Sir ? " said Mrs. Gamp, whi
both the daughters blushed and tittered. " Bless their preciouajj
hearts, and well they knows it ! Well yon know'd it too, and we|
did Mrs. Mould, when you was at their time of life ! But
opinion is, you're all of one age now. For as to you and Mr
Mould, Sir, ever having grandchildren — "

"Oh! Fie, fie ! Nonsense, Mrs. Gamp," replied the imder
taker. " Devilish smart, though. Ca-pi-tal ! " — This was in ;
whisper. "My dear — " aloud again — "Mrs. Gamp can drink ;
glass of rum, I dare say. Sit down, Mrs. Gamp, sit down."

Mrs. Gamp took the chair that was nearest the door, am
casting up her eyes towards the ceiling, feigned to be wholl;
insensible to the fact of a glass of rum being in preparation, unti
it was placed in her hand by one of the young ladies, when sh
exhibited the greatest surprise.

"A thing," she said, "as hardly ever, Mrs. Mould, occiu-s wit
me unless it is when I am indispoged, and find my half a pint (
porter settling heavy on the chest. IMrs. Harris often and ofte



MARTIN CHUZZLEAVIT. 380

ays to mc, 'Sairey Gamp,' she says, 'you raly do amaze me!'
IMrs. Harris,' I says to her, 'why so ? Give it a name, I beg.'
Telling the truth then, ma'am,' says Mrs. Harris, 'and shaming
,im as shall be nameless betwixt you and me, never did I think
ill I kuow'd 3'ou, as any woman could sick-nurse and monthly
ike ways, on the little that you takes to driuk.' ' Mrs. Harris,' I
ays to her, ' none on us know's what we can do till we tries ; and
must, when me and Gamp kept ouse, I thought so too. But
ow,' I says, 'my half a pint of porter fully satisfies; perwisiu',
Irs. Harris, that it is brought reglar, and draw'd mild. Whether
sicks or monthlies, ma'am, I hope I does my duty, but I am
lut a poor woman, and I earns my living hard ; therefore I do
equire it, which I makes confession, to be brought reg'Iar and
.raw"d mild.' "

The precise connexion between these observations and the
lass of rum, did not appear ; for Mrs. Gamp proposing as a toast
■ The best of lucks to all ! " took oft' the dram in quite a scientific
ianner, without any further remarks.

" And what's your news, Mrs. Gamp 1 " asked Mould again, as
hat lady wiped her lips upon her shawl, and nibbled a corner oft'
, soft biscuit, wdiich she appeared to carry in her pocket as a
irovision against contingent drams. "Howe's Mr. Chuftey'?"

"Mr. Chuffey, Sir," she replied, "is jest as u.sual ; he an't no

letter and he au't no worse. I take it very kind in the gentleman

have wrote up to you and said, ' let Mrs. Gamp take care of

lim till I come home ; ' but ev'ry think he does is kind. There an't

many like him. If there was, we shouldn't want no churches."

" What do you want to speak to me about, Mrs. Gamp 1 " said
lould, coming to the point.

"Jest this. Sir," Mrs. Gamp returned, "with thanks to you
or asking. There is a gent. Sir, at the Bull in Holborn, as has
leen took ill there, and is bad abed. They have a day -nurse as
cas recommended from Bartholomew's ; and well I knows her,
Jr. Moidd, her name bein' Mrs. Prig, the best of creeturs. But
he is otherways engaged at night, and tliey are in wants of night-
ratching; consequent she says to them, having reposed the
jeatest friendliness in me for twenty year, ' The soberest person
:oing, and the best of blessings in a sick room, is Mrs. Gamp.
>end a boy to Kingsgate Street,' she says, ' and snap lier up at
ny jjrice, for 3Irs. Gamp is worth her weiglit and more in goldian
[uineas.' ]\Iy landlord brings the message down to me, and says,
bein' in a light place wliere you are, and this job promising so
veil, why not unite the twoT 'Xo, Sir,' I says, 'not unbeknown
Sir. ]\Iould, and therefore do not think it. But I will go to



390 LIFE AND ADYEXTURES OF

Mr. Mould,' I says, ' and ast him, if j'ou like.' "' Here she looked
sideways at the undertaker, and came to a stop.

" Night-watching, eh ? " said Mould, rubbing his chin.

" From eight o'clock till eight, Sir : I will not deceive you,"
Mrs. Gamp rejoined.

" And then go back, eh 1 " said ]\Iould.

" Quite free then, Sir, to attend to Mr. Chutfey. His ways
bein' quiet, and his hours early, he'd be abed, Sir, nearly all the
time. I will not deny," said Mrs. Gamp with meekness, "that I
am but a poor woman, and that the money is a object ; but do
not let that act upon you, Mr. Mould. Rich folks may ride on
camels, but it ain't so easy for 'em to see out of a needle's eye.
That is my comfort, and I hope I knows it."

"Well, Mrs. Gamp," observed Mould, "I don't see any
particular objection to your earning an honest penny under such
circumstances. I should keep it quiet. I think, Mrs. Gamp.
I wouldn't mention it to Mr. Chuzzlewit on his return, for
instance, unless it were necessary, or he asked j^ou point-blank."

" The very words was on my lips. Sir," Mrs. Gamp rejoined.
" Suppoging that the gent should die, I hope I might take the
liberty of saying as I know'd some one in the undertaking line,!
and yet give no offence to you, Sir 1 " i

" Certainly, Mrs. Gamp," said Mould, with much condescension.
" You may casually remark, in such a case, that we do the thiuc'
pleasantly and in a great variety of styles, and are generalh
considered to make it as agreeable as possible to the feelings o
the survivors. But don't obtrude it — don't obtrude it. Easy
easy ! j\Iy dear, you may as well give Mrs. Gamp a card or two
if you please."

Mrs. Gamp received them, and scenting no more rum in the wim
(for the bottle was locked up again) rose to take her departure.

"Wishing ev'ry happiness to this happy family," said 3Irs
Gamp, " with all my heart. Good arternoon, Mrs. Moidd ! If
was Mr. Mould, I should be jealous of you, ma'am , and I'm sure
if I was you, I should be jealous of ]Mr. Mould."

"Tut, tut! Bah, bah! Go along, Mrs. Gamp!" cried th^
delighted undertaker.

"As to the young ladies," said Mrs. Gamp, dropping a curtsej'
"bless their sweet looks — how they can ever reconsize it wit!
their duties to be so grown up with such young parents, it ani
for sech as me to give a guess at."

" Nonsense, nonsense. Be off, Mrs. Gamp ! " cried Mouhj
But in the height of his gratification, he actually })inched Mr,
Mould, as he said it.



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 391

"I'll tell you ■what, my dear," he observed, when Mrs. Camp
ad at last withdrawn, and shut the door, " that's a ve-ry shrewd
reman. That's a woman whose intellect is immensely superior to
er station in life. That's a woman who observes and reflects in
n uncommon manner. She's the sort of woman now," said
lould, drawing his silk handkerchief over his head again, and
omposing himself for a nap, " one would almost feel disposed to
iiiry for nothing : and do it neatly, too ! "

Mrs. Mould and her daughteis fully concurred in these remarks ;
he subject of which had by this time reached the street, where she
xperienced so much inconvenience from the air, that she was obliged
stand under an archway for a short time, to recover herself
Wen after this precaution, she walked so unsteadily as to attract
he compassionate regards of divers kind-hearted boys, who took
he liveliest interest in her disorder ; and in their simple language,
lade her be of good cheer, for she was "only a little screwed."

Wliatever she was, or whatever name the vocabulary of
aedical science would have bestowed upon her malady, Mrs. Gamp
ras perfectly acc^uainted with the way home again ; and arriving
t the house of Anthony Chuzzlewit & Son, lay down to rest,
lemaining there until seven o'clock in the evening, and then
lersuadiug poor old ChufFey to betake himself to bed, she sallied
orth upon her new engagement. First, she went to her private
odgings in Kingsgate Street, for a bundle of robes and wrappings
omfortable in the night season ; and then repaired to the Bull in
lolborn, which she reached as the clocks were striking eight.

As she turned into the yard, she stopped ; for the landlord,
andlady, and head chambermaid, were all on the threshold
ogether, talking earnestly with a young gentleman who seemed
o have just come or to be just going away. The first words that
truck upon Mrs. Gamp's ear obviously bore reference to the
)atient ; and it being expedient that all good attendants should
:now as much as possible about the case on which their skill is
)rought to hear, INIrs. Gamp listened as a matter of duty.

" No better, then ? " observed the gentleman.

"Worse !" said the landlord.

" Much worse," added the landlady.

"Oh! a deal badder," cried the chambermaid from the back-
,Tound, opening her eyes very wide, and shaking her head.

"Poor fellow!" said the gentleman, "I am sorry to hear it.
riie worst of it is, that I have no idea what friends or relations he
las, or where they live, except that it certainly is not in London."

The landlord looked at the landlady ; the landlady looked at
:he landlord ; and the chambermaid remarked, hysterically, "that



392 LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF

of all the luaiiy Avague directions she had ever seen or lieerd of
(and they wasn't few in an hotel), that was the waguest."

"The fact is, you see," pursued the gentleman, "as I told you
yesterday when you seut to me, I really know very little about
him. We were schoolfellows together ; but since that time I
have ouly met him t-nice. On both occasions I was in Loudon
for a boy's holiday (having come up for a Aveek or so from Wiltshire),
and lost sight of him again directly. The letter bearing my name
and address which you foimd upon his table, and which led to your
api^lying to me, is in answer, you will observe, to one he wrote from
this house the very day he was taken ill, making an appointment
with him at his own request. Here is his letter, if you wish to
see it."

The landlord read it : the landlady looked over him. The
chambermaid, in the background, made out as much of it as she
could, and invented the rest ; believing it all from that time forth
as a positive piece of evidence.

" He has very little luggage, you say 1 " observed the gentleman,
who was no other than our old friend, John Westlock.

"Nothing but a portmanteau," said the landlord; "and very
little in it."

"A few pounds in his jiurse, though ? ""

"Yes. It's sealed up, and in the cash-box. I made a
memorandum of the amount, which you're welcome to see."

""Well ! " said John, "as the medical gentleman says the fever
must take its course, and nothing can be done just uow beyond
giving him his drinks regularly and having him carefully attended
to, nothing more can be said that I know of, until he is in a con-
dition to give us some information. Can you suggest anything else?"

" X-no," replied the landlord, " except — "

"Except, who's to pay, I suppose?" said John.

"Why," hesitated the landlord, "it would be as well.'"

" Quite as well," said the landlady.

" Xot forgetting to remember the servants," said the chamber
maid in a bland whisper.

" It is but reasonable, I fully admit," said John Westluck
"At all events, you have the stock in hand to go upon for th
present ; and I will readily undertake to pay the doctor and th
nurses."

" Ah I " cried Mrs. Gamp. " A rayal gentleman ! "

She gi'oaned her admiration so audibly, that they all turne
ronnd. Mrs. Gamp felt the necessity of advancing, bundle i
hand, and introducing herself

" The night-nurse," she observed, " from



MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 393

rell bekuowu to JMrs. Prig the day-iiurso, and the best of creeturs.
low is the poor clear gentleman, to-night 1 If he an't no better
et, still that is Avhat must be expected and prepared for. It an't
he fust time by a many score, ma'am," dropping a curtsey to the
mdlady, "that Mrs. Prig and me has nussed together, turn and
urn about, one oft", one on. We knows each other's ways, and
ften gives relief when others failed. Our charges is but low,
lir " — j\Irs. Gamp addressed herself to John on this head — " con-
iderin' the nater of our painful dooty. If they wos made accordin'
our wishes, they would be easy paid."

Regarding herself as having now delivered her inauguration
ddres.s, Mrs. Gamp curtseyed all round, and signified her wish to
16 conducted to the scene of her official duties. The chambermaid
3d her, through a variety of intricate passages, to the top of the
ouse ; and pointing at length to a solitary door at the end of a
allery, informed her that yonder was the chamber where the
latient lay. That done, she hurried off with all the speed she
ould make.

Mrs. Gamp traversed the gallery in a great heat from having
arried her large bundle up so many stairs, and tapped at the door,
I'hich was immediately opened by Mrs. Prig, bonneted and sliawled
nd all impatience to be gone. Mrs. Prig was of the Gamp build,
lUt not so ftit ; and her voice was deeper and more like a man's.
Ihe had also a beard.

" I began to think you warn't a coming I '' I\Irs. Prig observed,
li some displeasure.

"It shall be made good to-morrow night," said Mrs. Gamp,
■/honourable. I had to go and fetch my things." She had begun
make signs of enquiry in reference to the position of the patient
nd his overhearing them — for there was a screen before the door
-when Mrs. Prig settled that point easily.

"Oh!" she said aloud, "he's quiet, but his wits is gone. It
.n't no matter wot you say."

" Anythin' to tell afore you goes, my dear 1 " asked Mrs. Gamp,
etting her bundle down inside the door, and looking affectioiiutely
.t her partner.

"The pickled salmon," Mrs. Prig replied, "is quite delicious,
can partick'ler recommend it. Don't have nothink to say to the
old meat, for it tastes of the stable. The drinks is all good."

Mrs. Gamp expressed herself much gratified.

"The physic and them things is on the drawers and nuinkle-
helf," said Mrs. Prig, cursorily. " He took his last slime draught at
even. The easy-chair an't soft enough. You'll want his piller."

Mrs. Gamp thanked her for these hints, and giving her a friendly



394 LIFE AXD ADVENTURES OF

good night, held the door open luitil she had disappeared at the
other end of the gallery. Having thus performed the hospitable
duty of seeing her safely off, she shut it, locked it on the inside,
took up her bundle, walked round the screen, and entered on her
occuj^ation of the sick chamber.

"A little dull, but not so bad as might be,'' Mrs. Gamp re-
marked. " I'm glad to see a parapidge, in case of fire, and lots of
roofs and chimley-iDots to walk upon."

It will be seen from these remarks that Mrs. Gamp was looking
out of window. When she had exhausted the prospect, she tried
the easy-chair, which she indignantly declared was " harder than a
brickbadge." Next she pursued her researches among the physic-
bottles, glasses, jugs, and tea-cups ; and when she had entirely
satisfied her curiosity on all these subjects of investigation, she
untied her bonnet-strings and strolled up to the bedside to take a
look at the patient.

A young man — dark and not ill-looking — with long black hair,
that seemed the blacker for the wliiteness of the bed-clothes. His
eyes were partly open, and he never ceased to roll his head from ■
side to side upon the pillow, keeping his body almost quiet. He ,
did not utter words ; but every now and then gave vent to an j
expression of impatience or fatigue, sometimes of surprise ; and f
still his restless head — oh, weary, weary hour I — went to and fro
without a moment's intermission.

Mrs. Gamp solaced herself with a pinch of snuff", and stood
looking at him with her head inclined a little sideways, as a con- '
noisseur might gaze upon a doubtful work of art. By degrees, a
horrible remembrance of one branch of her calling took possession
of the woman ; and stooping down, she pinned his wandering arras
against his sides, to see how he would look if laid out as a dead
man. Hideous as it may appear, her fingers itched to compose his
limbs in that last marble attitude.

"Ah!" said Mrs. Gamp, walking away from the bed, "he'd
make a lovely corpse ! "

Slie now proceeded to unpack her bundle ; lighted a candle
with the aid of a fire-box on the drawers ; filled a small kettle, as
a preliminary to refreshing herself with a cup of tea in the course'
of the night; laid what she called "a little bit of fire," for the
same philanthropic purpose ; and also set forth a small teaboard,
that nothing might be wanting for her comfortable enjoyment.
These preparations occupied so long, that when they were brought
to a conclusion it was higli time to think about supper ; so she
rang the bell and ordered it.

"I think, young woman," said Mrs. Gamp to the assistant



^lARTIN CHUZZLEWIT. 39')

hambermaid, in a tone expressive of weakness, '"that I could pick
I little bit of pickled salmon, with a nice little sprig of fennel, and



Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 41 of 80)