Charles Dickens.

The mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories online

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repeat the assurance. It was amusing to observe
the contest in his mind w^hether he should extend
his confidence to Mr. Miles, or treat him with
dignified reserve. Half-a-dozen times he stepped
up behind him with a friendly air, and as often
stepped back again without saying a word ; at
last, when he was close at that gentleman's ear,
and upon the very point of whispering some-
thing conciliating and agreeable, Mr, Miles
happened suddenly to turn his head, upon



9^2



MASTER HUMPHREY'S CLOCK.



which Mr. Pickwick skipped away, and said,
with some fierceness, " Good night, sir — I was
about to say good night, sir, — nothing more ; "
and so made a bow and left him.

" Now, Sam," said Mr. Pickwick when he
had got down-stairs.

" All right, sir," replied Mr. Weller. " Hold
hard, sir ! Right arm fust — now the left — now
one strong conwulsion, and the great-coat's on,
, sir."

Mr. Pickwick acted upon these directions,
and being further assisted by Sam, who pulled
at one side of the collar, and Mr. Weller, who
pulled hard at the other, was speedily enrobed.
Mr. Weller, senior, then produced a full-sized
stable lantern, which he had carefully deposited
in a remote corner on his arrival, and inquired
whether Mr. Pickwick would have " the lamps
alight."

" I think not to-night," said Mr. Pickwick.

'' Then, if this here lady vill per-mit," re-
joined Mr. Weller, " we'll leave it here, ready
for next journey. This here lantern, mum,"
said Mr. Weller, handing it to the housekeeper,
" vunce belonged to the celebrated Bill Blinder
as is now at grass, as all on us vill be in our
turns. Bill, mum, wos the hostler as had charge
o' them two veil-known piebald leaders that run
in the Bristol fast coach, and vould never go to
no other tune but a sutherly vind and a cloudy
sky, which wos consekvently played incessant
by the guard, wenever they wos on duty. He
wos took wery bad one arternoon, arter having
been off his feed and wery shaky on his legs for
some veeks ; and he says to his mate, ' Matey,'
he says, * I think I'm a-goin' the wrong side o'
the post, and that my foot's wery near the
bucket. Don't say I an't,' he says, ' for I know
I am, and don't let me be interrupted,' he says,
* for I've saved a little money, and I'm a-goin'
into the stable to make my last vill and testy-
mint.' ' I'll take care as nobody interrupts,'
says his mate, ' but you on'y hold up your head,
and shake your ears a bit, and you're good for
twenty years to come.' Bill Blinder makes him
no answer, but he goes avay into the stable,
and there he soon artervards lays himself down
a'tween the two piebalds, and dies, — prevously
a writin' outside the corn-chest, * This is the last
vill and testymint of Villiam BUnder.' They
wos nat' rally wery much amazed at this, and
arter looking among the litter, and up in the
loft, and vere not, they opens the corn-chest,
and finds that he'd been and chalked his vill
inside the lid ; so the lid wos obligated to be
took off the hinges, and sent up to Doctor
Commons to be proved, and under that 'ere



wery instrument this here lantern was passed to
Tony Veller ; vich circumstarnce, mum, gives
it a wally in my eyes, and makes me rekvest, if
you vill be so kind, as to take partickler care
on it."

The housekeeper graciously promised to keep
the object of Mr. Weller's regard in the safest
possible custody, and Mr. Pickwick, with a
laughing face, took his leave. The body-guard
followed, side by side ; old Mr. Weller but-
toned and wrapped up from his boots to his
chin ; and Sam with his hands in his pockets
and his hat half off his head, remonstrating
with his father, as he went, on his extreme
loquacity.

I was not a litde surprised, on turning to go
up-stairs, to encounter the barber in the passage
at that late hour ; for his attendance is usually
confined to some half-hour in the morning.
But Jack Redburn, who finds out (by instinct, I
think) everything that happens in the house,
informed me, with great glee, that a society in
imitation of our own had been that night formed
in the kitchen, under the title of " Mr. Weller's
Watch," of which the barber was a member ;
and that he could pledge himself to find means
of making me acquainted with the whole of its
future proceedings, which I begged him, both
on my own account and that of my readers, by
no means to neglect doing.

[Old Curiosity Shop is continued here, completing
No. IV.]



V.
MR. WELLER'S WATCH.



!^T seems that the housekeeper and
the two Mr. Wellers were no sooner
left together, on the occasion of
their first becoming acquainted,
than the housekeeper called to her
assistance Mr. Slithers the barber,
who had been lurking in the kitchen in
expectation of her summons ; and, with
many smiles and much sweetness, introduced
him as one who would assist her in the respon-
sible office of entertaining her distinguished
visitors.

" Indeed," said she, " without Mr. Slithers I
should have been placed in quite an awkward
situation."

" There is no call for any hock'erdness, mum,"
said Mr. Weller with the utmost politeness ; " no




AN ENTHUSIASTIC BARBER.



293



call wotsumever. A lady," added the old gen-
tleman, looking about him with the air of one
who establishes an incontrovertible position, —
" a lady can't be hock'erd. Natur' has other-
wise purwidetl."

The housekeeper inclined her head, and smiled
yet more sweetly. The barber, who had been
fluttering about Mr, Weller and Sam in a state
of great anxiety to improve their acquaintance,
rubbed his hands and cried, " Hear, hear ! Very
true, sir ; " whereupon Sam turned about, and
steadily regarded him for some seconds in
silence.

" I never knew," said Sam, fixing his eyes in
a ruminative manner upon the blushing barber,
— " I never knew but vun o' your trade, but he
wos worth a dozen, and wos indeed dewoted to
his callin' ! "

" Was he in the easy shaving way, sir," in-
quired Mr. Slithers ; " or in the cutting and
curling line ? "

" Both," replied Sam ; " easy shavin' was his
natur', and cuttin' and curlin' was his pride and
glory. His whole delight wos in his trade. He
spent all his money in bears, and run in debt
for 'em besides, and there they wos a growling
avay down in the front cellar all day long, and
ineffectooally gnashing their teeth, vile the grease
o' their relations and friends wos being re-tailed
in gallipots in the shop above, and the first-floor
winder wos ornamented vith their heads; not to
speak o' the dreadful aggrawation it must have
been to 'em to see a man alvays a walkin' up
and down the pavement outside, vith the portrait
of a bear in his last agonies, and underneath in
large letters, ' Another fine animal wos slaugh-
tered yesterday at Jinkinson's ! ' Hows'ever,
there they wos, and there Jinkinson wos, till he
wos took wery ill with some in'ard disorder, lost
the use of his legs, and wos confined to his bed,
vere he laid a wery long time, but sich wos his
pride in his profession, even then, that, wenever
he wos worse than usual, the doctor used to go
down-stairs and say, ' Jinkinson's wery low this
mornin' ; we must give the bears a stir ; ' and as
sure as ever they stirred 'em up a bit, and made
'em roar, Jinkinson opens his eyes if he wos
ever so bad, calls out, ' There's the bears ! ' and
rewives agin."

" Astonishing ! " cried the barber.

" Not a bit," said Sam ; " human natur' neat
as imported. Vun day the doctor happenin' to
say, ' I shall look in as usual to-morrow mornin','
Jinkinson catches hold of his hand, and says,
'Doctor,' he says, 'will you grant me one favour?'
* I will, Jinkinson,' says the doctor. ' Then,
doctor,' says Jinkinson, ' vill you come unshaved,



and let me shave you ? ' * I will,' says the doctor.
' God bless you ! ' says Jinkinson. Next day the
doctor came, and arter he'd been shaved all
skilful and reg'lar, he says, * Jinkinson,' he says,
' it's wery plain this does you good. Now,' he
says, * I've got a coachman as has got a beard
that it 'ud warm your heart to work on, and
though the footman,' he says, * hasn't got much
of a beard, still he's a trying it on vith a pair o'
viskers to that extent that razors is Christian
charity. If they take it in turns to mind the
carriage when it's a waitin' below,' he says,
' wot's to hinder you from operatin' on both of
'em ev'ry day as well as upon me? You've got
six children,' he says ; ' wot's to hinder you from
shavin' all their heads, and keepin' 'em shaved ?
You've got two assistants in the shop down-
stairs ; wot's to hinder you from cuttin' and
curlin' them as often as you like? Do this,'
he says, 'and you're a man agin.' Jinkinson
squeedged the doctor's hand, and begun that
wery day ; he kept his tools upon the bed, and
wenever he felt hisself gettin' worse, he turned
to at vun o' the children who wos a runnin'
about the house vith heads like clean Dutch
cheeses, and shaved him agin. Vun day the
lawyer come to make his vill ; all the time he
wos a takin' it down, Jinkinson was secretly a
clippin' avay at his hair vith a large pair of
scissors. ' Wot's that 'ere snippin' noise ? ' says
the lawyer every now and then. ' It's like a
man havin' his hair cut.' ' It is wery like a man
havin' his hair cut,' says poor Jinkinson, hidin'
the scissors, and lookin' quite innocent. By the
time the lawyer found it out, he was wery nearly
bald. Jinkinson wos kept alive in this vay for
a long time, but at last vun day he has in all the
children vun arter another, shaves each on 'em
wery clean, and gives him vun kiss on the crown
o' his head ; then he has in the two assistants,
and arter cuttin' and curlin' of 'em in the first
style of elegance, says he should like to hear the
woice o' the greasiest bear, vich rekvest is imme-
detly complied with ; then he says that he feels
wery happy in his mind, and vishes to be left
alone ; and then he dies, previously cuttin' his
own hair and makin' one flat curl in the wery
middle of his forehead."

This anecdote produced an extraordinary
eff"ect, not only upon Mr. Slithers, but upon the
housekeeper also, who evinced so much anxiety
to please and be pleased, that Mr. Weller, with
a manner betokening some alarm, conveyed a
whispered inquiry to his son whether he had
gone " too fur.''

" Wot do you mean by too fur ? " demanded
Sam.



294



MASTER HUMPHREY'S CLOCK.



" In that 'ere little compliment respectin' the
want of hock'erdness in ladies, Sammy," replied
his father.

" You don't think she's fallen in love with
you in consekens o' that, do you ? " said Sam.

" More unlikelier things have come to pass,
my boy," replied Mr. Weller in a hoarse whis-
per ; " I'm always afeard of inadwertent capti-
wation, Sammy. If I knowed how to make
myself ugly or unpleasant, I'd do it, Samivel,
rayther than live in this here state of perpetival
terror ! "

Mr. Weller had, at that time, no further op-
portunity of dwelling upon the apprehensions
which beset his mind, for the immediate occasion
of his fears proceeded to lead the way down-
stairs, apologising as they went for conducting
him into the kitchen, which apartment, however,
she was induced to proffer for his accommoda-
tion in preference to her own little room, the
rather as it afforded greater facilities for smoking,
and was immediately adjoining the ale-cellar.
The preparations which were already made suffi-
ciently proved that these were not mere words of
course, for on the deal table were a sturdy ale-
jug and glasses, flanked with clean pipes and
a plentiful supply of tobacco for the old gentle-
man and his son, while on a dresser hard by was
goodly store of cold meat and other eatables.
At sight of these arrangements Mr. Weller was
at first distracted between his love of joviality,
and his doubts whether they were not to be con-
sidered as so many evidences of captivation
having already taken place ; but he soon yielded
to his natural impulse, and took his seat at the
table with a very jolly countenance.

" As to imbibin' any o' this here flagrant veed,
mum, in the presence of a lady," said Mr. Weller,
taking up a pipe and laying it down again, " it
couldn't be. Samivel, total abstinence, if yoii
please."

" But I like it of all things," said the house-
keeper.

" No," rejoined Mr. Weller, shaking his head,
— " no."

" Upon my word I do," said the housekeeper.
"Mr. Slithers knows I do."

Mr. Weller coughed, and, notwithstanding
the barber's confirmation of the statement, said
" No " again, but more feebly than before. The
housekeeper lighted a piece of paper, and in-
sisted on applying it to the bowl of the pipe
with her own fair hands ; Mr. Weller resisted ;
the housekeeper cried that her fingers would be
burnt; Mr. Weller gave way. The pipe was
ignited, Mr. Weller drew a long puff of smoke,
and, detecting himself in tlie very act of smiling



on the housekeeper, put a sudden constraint
upon his countenance, and looked sternly at the
candle, with a determination not to captivate
himself, or encourage thoughts of captivation in
others. From this iron frame of mind he was
roused by the voice of his son.

" I don't think," said Sam, who was smoking
with great composure and enjoyment, " that if
the lady wos agreeable, it 'ud be wery far out o'
the vay for us four to make up a club of our own
like the governors does up-stairs, and let him,"
Sam pointed with the stem of his pipe towards
his parent, " be the president."

The housekeeper affably declared that it was
the very thing she had been thinking of. The
barber said the same. Mr. Weller said nothing,
but he laid down his pipe as if in a fit of in-
spiration, and performed the following ma-
noeuvres.

Unbuttoning the three lower buttons of his
waistcoat, and pausing for a mom.ent to enjoy
the easy flow of breath consequent upon this
process, he laid violent hands upon his watch-
chain, and slowly and with extreme diflRculty
drew from his fob an immense double-cased
silver watch, which brought the lining of the
pocket with it, and was not to be disentangled
but by great exertions and an amazing redness
of face. Having fairly got it out at last, he de-
tached the outer case, and wound it up with a
key of corresponding magnitude ; then put the
case on again, and, having applied the watch to
his ear to ascertain that it was still going, gave
it some half-dozen hard knocks on the table to
improve its performance.

" That," said Mr. Weller, laying it on the
table with its face upwards, " is the title and
emblem o' this here society. Sammy, reach
them two stools this vay for the wacant cheers.
Ladies and genTmen, Mr. Weller's Watch is
vound up and now a-goin'. Order ! "

By way of enforcing this proclamation, Mr.
Weller, using the watch after the manner of a
president's hammer, and remarking with great
pride that nothing hurt it, and that falls and
concussions of all kinds materially enhanced the
excellence of the works and assisted the regu-
lator, knocked the table a great many times, and
declared the association formally constituted.

" And don't let's have no grinnin' at the
cheer, Samivel," said Mr. Weller to his son, "or
I shall be committin' you to the cellar, and
then p'raps we may get into what the 'Merrikins
call a fix, and the English a qvestion o' privi-
leges."

Having uttered this friendly caution, the Pre-
sident settled himself in his chair with great dig-



THE ROMANCE OF HAIRDRESSING.



295



nity, and requested that Mr. Samuel would
relate an anecdote.

" I've told one," said Sam.

" Wery good, sir ; tell another," returned the
chair.

"We wos a talking jist now, sir," said Sam,
turning to Slithers, " about barbers. Pursuing
that 'ere fruitful theme, sir, I'll tell you in a wery
few words a romantic little story about another
barber as p'raps you may never have heerd."

" Samivel ! " said Mr. Weller, again bringing
his watch and the table into smart collision,
" address your obserwations to the cheer, sir, and
not to priwate indiwiduals ! "

"And if I might rise to order," said the
barber in a soft voice, and looking round him
with a conciliatory smile as he leant over the
table, with the knuckles of his left hand resting
upon it — " if I might rise to order, I would sug-
gest that ' barbers ' is not exactly the kind of
language which is agreeable and soothing to our
feelings. You, sir, will correct me if I'm wrong,
but I believe there is such a word in the dic-
tionary as hairdressers."

" Well, but suppose he wasn't a hairdresser?"
suggested Sam.

" Wy, then, sir, be parliamentary, and call him
vun all the more," returned his father. " In the
same vay as ev'ry gen'l'man in another place is
a /honourable, ev'ry barber in this place is a
hairdresser. Ven you read the speeches in the
papers, and see as vun gen'l'man says of another,
* the /honourable member, if he vill allow me to
call him so,' you vill understand, sir, that that
means,' if he vill allow me to keep up that 'ere
pleasant and uniwersal fiction.'"

It is a common remark, confirmed by history
and experience, that great men rise with the
circum.stances in which they are placed. Mr.
Weller came out so strong in his capacity of
chairman, that Sam was for some time prevented
from speaking by a grin of surprise, which held
his faculties enchained, and at last subsided in a
long whistle of a single note. Nay, the old
gentleman appeared even to have astonished
himself, and that to no small extent, as was
demonstrated by the vast amount of chuckling
in which he indulged after the utterance of these
lucid remarks.

" Here's the story," said Sam. " Vunce upon
a time there wos a young hairdresser as opened
a wery smart little shop with four wax dummies
in the winder, two gen'l'men and two ladies —
the gen'l'men vith blue dots for their beards,
wery large viskers, oudacious heads of hair, un-
common clear eyes, and nostrils of amazin' pink-
ness ; the ladies vith their heads o' one side,



their right forefingers on their lips, and their
forms deweloped beautiful, in vich last respect
they had the adwantage over the gen'l'men, as
wasn't allowed but wery little shoulder, and
terminated rayther abrupt in fancy drapery. He
had also a many hair-brushes and tooth-brushes
bottled up in the winder, neat glass cases on the
counter, a floor-clothed cuttin'-room up-stairs,
and a weighin' macheen in the shop, right oppo-
site the door. But the great attraction and orna-
ment wos the dummies, which this here young
hairdresser was constantly a runnin' out in the
road to look at, and constantly a runnin' in agin
to touch up and polish ; in short, he wos so
proud on 'em, that ven Sunday come, he wos
always wretched and mis'rable to think they wos
behind the shutters, and looked anxiously for
Monday on that account. Vun o' these dum-
mies wos a fav'rite vith him beyond the others ;
and ven any of his acquaintance asked him wy
he didn't get married — as the young ladies he
knowed, in partickler, often did — he used to
say, ' Never ! I never vill enter into the bonds
of vedlock,' he says, ' until I meet vith a young
'ooman as realises my idea 'o that 'ere fairest
dummy vith the light hair. Then, and not till
then,' he says, ' I vill approach the altar.' All
the young ladies he knowed as had got dark
hair iold him this wos wery sinful, and that he
wos wurshippin' a idle ; but them as wos at all
near the same shade as the dummy coloured up
wery much, and wos observed to think him a
wery nice young man."

" Samivel," said Mr. Weller gravely, " a mem-
ber o' this associashun bein' one o' that 'ere
tender sex which is now immedelly referred to,
I have to rekvest that you vill make no re-
flections."

" I ain't a makin' any, am I ?" inquired Sam.

" Order, sir ! " rejoined Mr. Weller with severe
dignity. Then, sinking the chairman in the
father, he added, in his usual tone of voice :
" Samivel, drive on ! "

Sam interchanged a smile with the house-
keeper, and proceeded :

" The young hairdresser hadn't been in the
habit o' makin' this avowal above six months,
ven he en-countered a young lady as wos the
wery picter o' the fairest dummy. ' Now,' he
says, ' it's all up. I am a slave ! ' The young
lady wos not only the picter o' the fairest
dummy, but she was wery romantic, as the
young hairdresser was, too, and he says, * Oh ! '
he says, ' here's a community o' feelin', here's a
flow o' soul ! ' he says, ' here's a interchange o'
sentiment !' The young lady didn't say much,
o' course, but she expressed herself agreeable,



296



MASTER HUMPHREY'S CLOCK.



and shortly artervards vent to see him vith a
mutual friend. The hairdresser rushes out to
meet her, but d'recily she sees the dummies she
changes colour and falls a tremblin' wiolently.
'Look up, my love,' says the hairdresser; 'be-
hold your imige in my winder, but not correcter
than in my art ! ' ' My imige !' she says. 'Youm!'
replies the hairdresser. 'But whose imige is
Viat i ' she says, a pinting at vun o' the gen'l'men.
* No vun'fj, my love,' he says ; * it is but a idea.'



* A idea ! ' she cries : * it is a portrait, I feel it is a
portrait, and that 'ere noble face must be in the
millingtary ! ' 'Wot do I hear? ' says he, a crum-
plin' his curls. ' Villiam Gibbs,' she says, quite firm,
' never renoo the subject. I respect you as a
friend,' she says, ' but my afiections is set upon
that manly brow,' ' This,' says the hairdresser,
' is a reg'lar blight, and in it I perceive the hand
of Fate. Farevell ! ' Vith these vords he rushes
into the shop, breaks the dummy's nose vith a




"VITH THESE VORDS HE RUSHES INIU THii, SHOP, BREAKS THK DUAiAU S NUSK VliH A BLOW OK HIS
CURLIN'-IRONS, melts him down at the parlour fire, and never SMILES ARTERVARDS."



blow of his curlin'-irons, melts him down at the
parlour fire, and never smiles artervards."

"The young lady, Mr. Weller?" said the
housekeeper.

" Why, ma'am," said Sam, " finding that Fate
had a spite agin her, and everybody she come
into contact vith, she never smiled neither, but
read a deal o' poetry and pined avay, — by ray-
ther slow degrees, for she ain't dead yet. It
took a deal o' poetry to kill the hairdresser, and
some people say, arter all, that it was more the



gin-and-water as caused him to be run over;
l^'raps it was a little o' both, and came o' mixing
the two."

The barber declared that Mr. Weller had
related one of the most interesting stories that
had ever come within his knowledge, in which
opinion the housekeeper entirely concurred.

" Are you a married man, sir ? " inquired Sam.

The barber replied that he had not that
honour.

" I s'pose you mean to be ? " said Sam.



MR. WELLER'S GALLANTRY.



297



"Well," replied the barber, rubbing his hands
smirkingly, "I don't know; I don't think it's
very likely."

" That's a bad sign," said Sam ; *' if you'd
said you meant to be vun o' these days, I
should ha' looked upon you as bein' safe.
You're in a wery precarious state."

" I am not conscious of any danger, at all
events," returned the barber.

" No more wos I, sir," said the elder Mr.
Weller, interposing ; " those vere my symptoms,
exactly. I've been took that vay twice. Keep
your vether eye open, my friend, or you're
gone."

There was something so very solemn about
this admonition, both in its matter and manner,
and also in the way in which Mr. Weller still
kept his eye fixed upon the unsuspecting victim,
that nobody cared to speak for some little time,
and might not have cared to do so for some
time longer, if the housekeeper had not hap-
pened to sigh, which called off the old gentle-
man's attention, and gave rise to a gallant
inquiry whether " there wos anythin' wery
piercin' in that 'ere little heart?"

" Dear me, Mr. Weller ! " said the house-
keeper, laughing.

" No, but is there anythin' as agitates it ? "
pursued the old gentleman. "Has it always
been obderrate, always opposed to the happi-
ness o' human creeturs ? Eh ? Has it ? "

At this critical juncture for her blushes and
confusion, the housekeeper discovered that
more ale was wanted, and hastily withdrew into
the cellar to draw the same, followed by the
barber, who insisted on carrying the candle.
Having looked after her with a very complacent
expression of face, and after him with some
disdain, Mr. Weller caused his glance to travel
slowly round the kitchen, until at length it
rested on his son.

" Sammy," said Mr. Weller, " I mistrust that
barber."

"Wot for?" returned Sam. "Wot's he got
to do with you ? You're a nice man, you are,
arter pretendin' all kinds o' terror, to go a



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 57 of 103)