Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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I sprinkling of -white pepper. I takes new bread, my dear, with
est a little pat of fresh butter, and a mossel of cheese. In case
here should be such a thing as a cowcumber in the 'ouse, will you
oe so kind as bring it, for I'm rather partial to 'em, and they does
I world of good in a sick room. If they draws the Brighton
ripper here, I takes that ale at night, my love ; it bein' considered
ivakeful by the doctors. And whatever you do, young woman,
ion't bring more than a shilling's-worth of gin and water warm
.vhen I rings the bell a second time : for that is always my allow-
iince, and I never takes a drop beyond ! "

Having preferred these moderate requests, Mrs. Gamp observed
;hat she would stand at the door until the order was executed, to
;he end that the patient might not be disturbed by her opening it
second time ; and therefore she would thank the young woman
o "look sharp."

A tray was brought with everything upon it, even to the
jucumber ; and Mrs. Gamp accordingly sat down to eat and drink
n high good humour. The extent to which she availed herself of
;he vinegar, and supped up that refreshing fluid with the blade of

knife, can scarcely be expressed in narrative.

" Ah ! " sighed Mrs. Gamp, as she meditated over the warm
hilling's-worth, " what a blessed thing it is — living in a wale — to
)e contented ! What a blessed thing it is to make sick people
lappy in their beds, and never mind one's self as long as one can
lo a service ! I don't believe a finer cowcumber was ever grow'd.
!'in sure I never see one ! "

She moralised in the same vein until her glass was empty, and
hen administered the patient's medicine, by the simple process of
;lutching his windpipe to make him gasp, and immediately pouring
t down his throat.

" I a'most forgot the piller, I declare ! " said Mrs. Gamp, draw-
ng it away. " There ! Now he's as comfortable as he can be,
p'm sure ! I must try to make myself as much so as I can."

With this view, she went about the construction of an extem-
)oraneous bed in the easy chair, with the addition of the next easy
>ne for her feet. Having formed the best couch that the circum-
tances admitted of, she took out of her bundle a yellow inghtcap,
)f prodigious size, in shape resembling a cabbage ; which article of
Iress she fixed and tied on with the utmost care, previously divest-
ng herself of a row of bald old curls that could scarcely be called
alse, they were so very innocent of anything approaching to
leception. From the same repository she brought forth a night-


jacket, in which she also attired herself. Finally, she i^roduced
watchman's coat, which she tied round her neck by the sleeves,
that she became two people ; and looked, behind, as if she were i:
the act of being embraced by one of the old patrol.

All these arrangements made, she lighted the rushlight, coiled
herself up on her couch, and went to sleep. Ghostly and dark the
room became, and full of lowering shadows. The distant noises in tj
the streets were gradually hushed ; the house was quiet as a
sepulchre ; the dead of night was coffined in the silent city.

Oh, weary, weary hour ! Oh, haggard mind, groping darkly j
through the past ; incapable of detaching itself from the miserable i
present; dragging its heavy chain of care through imaginary feasts jiiie^j
and revels, and scenes of awful pomp; seeking but a moment's iiijuitt
rest among the long-forgotten haunts of childhood, and the resorts
of yesterday; and dimly finding fear and horror everywhere ! Ob,
weary, weary hour ! AVhat were the wanderings of Cain, to these !

Still, without a moment's interval, the burning head tossed to
and fro. Still, from time to time, fatigue, impatience, suftering,
and surprise, found utterance upon that rack, and plainly too,
though never once in words. At length, in the solemn hour of
midnight, he began to talk ; waiting av/fully for answers some-
times ; as though invisible companions were about his bed ; and so
replying to their speech and questioning again.

Mrs. Gamp awoke, and sat up in her bed : presenting on the,
wall the shadow of a gigantic night constable, struggling with a

" Come ! Hold your tongue ! " she cried, in sharp reproof.
" Don't make none of that noise here."

There was no alteration in the face, or in the incessant niotioii
of the head, but he talked on wildly.

" Ah ! " said Mrs. Gamp, coming out of the chair with an im
patient shiver ; " I thought I was a sleepin' too pleasant to last
The devil's in the night, I think, it's turned so chilly."

" Don't drink so much ! " cried the sick man. " You'll ruin Ui
all. Don't you see how the fountain sinks 1 Look at the marl
where the sparkling water was just now ! "

"Sparkling water, indeed!" said Mrs. Gamji. "I'll liave :'
sparkling cup o' tea, I think. I wish you'd hold your noise ! "

He burst into a laugh, which, being prolonged, fell off into .:
dismal wail. Checking himself, with fierce inconstancy he begarl
to count, fast.

" One — two — three — four — five— six."

" ' One, two, buckle my shoe,' " said Mrs. CJamp, who was uoi
on her knees, lighting the fire, " ' three, four, shut the door '




wish you'd shut your mouth, young man — 'five, six, picking- uji
sticks.' If I'd got a few handy, I sliould have the kettle biliiig all
the sooner.'"

Awaiting this desirable consummation, she sat down so close to
the fender (which was a high one) that her nose rested upon it ;
ind for some time she drowsily amused herself by sliding that
feature backwards and forwards along the brass top, as far as she
jould, without changing her position to do it. She maintained, all
the while, a running commentary upon the wanderings of the man
a bed.

"That makes five hundred and twenty- one men, all dressed
ilike, and with the same distortion on their faces, that have passed
in at the window, and out at the door," he cried, anxiously. " Look
there I Five hundred and twenty -two — twenty-three — twenty-four.
Do you see them 1 "

"Ah ! /see 'em," said Mrs. Gamp; "all the whole kit of 'em
umbered like hackney-coaches — ain't they 1 "

" Touch me ! Let me be sure of this. Touch me ! "

"You'll take yoiu* next draught when I've made the kettle
bile," retorted Mrs. Gamp, composedly, "and you'll be touched
then. You'll be touched up, too, if you don't take it quiet."

" Five hundred and twenty-eight, five hundred and twenty-nine,
five hundred and thirty — look here ! "

" What's the matter now 1 " said Mrs. Gamp.

" They're coming four abreast, each man with his arm entwined
iin the next man's, and his hand upon his shoulder. What's that
upon the arm of every man, and on the flag 1 "

" Spiders, p'raps," said Mrs. Gamp.

" Crape ! Black crape ! Good God ! why do they wear it
outside 1 "

" Woidd you have 'em carry black crape in tlieir insides 1 "
Mrs. Gamp retorted. " Hold your noise, hold your noise."

The fire beginning by this time to impart a grateful warmth,
iMrs. Gamp became silent ; gradually rubbed her nose more and
'more slowly along the top of the fender ; and fell into a heavy
idoze. She was awakened by the room ringing (as she fancied)
[with a name she knew :
1 " Chuzzlewit ! "

' The sound was so distinct and real, and so full of agonised en-
itreaty, that Mrs. Gamp jumped up in terror, and ran to the door.
She expected to find the passage filled with people, come to tell
her that the house in the City had taken fire. But the place was
empty : not a soul was there. She opened the window, and looked
out. Dark, dull, dingy, and desolate house-tops. As she parsed


to her seat again, she glanced at the jmtient. Just the same ; but
silent. Mrs. Gamp was so warm now, that she threw off the
watchman's coat, and fanned herself.

"It seemed to make the wery bottles ring," she said. "What
could I have been a-dreaming of? That dratted Chuffey, I'll be

The supposition was probable enough. At any rate, a pinch of
snuff, and the song of the steaming kettle, quite restored the tone
of Mrs. Gamp's nerves, which were none of the weakest. She
brewed her tea ; made some buttered toast ; and sat down at the
tea-board, with her face to the fire.

When once again, in a tone more terrible than that which
had vibrated in her slumbering ear, these words were shrieked
out :

" Chuzzlewit ! Jonas ! No ! "

Mrs. Gamp dropped the cup she was in the act of raising to her
lips, and turned round with a start that made the little tea-board
leap. The cry had come from the bed.

It was bright morning the next time Mrs. Gamp looked out of
window, and the sun was rising cheerfully. Lighter and lighter
grew the sky, and noisier the streets ; and high into the summer
air uprose the smoke of newly kindled fires, until the busy day was
broad awake.

Mrs. Prig relieved punctually, having passed a good night at
her other patient's. Mr. Westlock came at the same time, but he
Avas not admitted, the disorder being infectious. The doctor carae
too. The doctor shook his head. It was all he could do, under
the circumstances, and he did it well.

" What sort of a night, nurse 1 "

" Restless, Sir," said Mrs. Gamp.

" Talk much 1 "

" Middling, Sir," said Mrs. Gamp.

"Nothing to the purpose, I suppose?"

" Oh bless you no, Sir. Only jargon."

" Well ! " said the doctor, " we must keep him quiet ; keep the
room cool ; give him his draughts regularly ; and see that he's
carefully looked to. That's all ! "

"And as long as Mrs. Prig and me waits upon him. Sir, no
fear of that," said Mrs. Gamp.

" I .suppose," observed Mrs. Prig, when they had curtseyed the
doctor out : " there's nothin' new ? "

" Nothin' at all, my dear," said Mrs. Gamp. " He's rather
wearin' in his talk from making up a lot of names ; elseways you
needn't mind him." t


"Oh, I .slui'ii't mind him," Mrs. Prig returned. "I have some-
in' else to think of."

" I pays my debts to-night, you know, my dear, and comes afore
,' time," said Mrs. Gamp. "But, Betsey Prig" — speaking with
?at feeling, and laying her hand upon her arm — "try the cow-
mbers, God bless you ! "



The laws of sympathy between beards and birds, and the secret
irce of that attraction which frequently impels a shaver of the
e to be a dealer in the other, are questions for the subtle
isoning of scientific bodies : not tlie less so, because their
,'estigation would seem calculated to lead to no particular result.

is enough to know that the artist who had the honour of
tertaining Mrs. Gamp as his first-floor lodger, united the two
rsuits of barbering and bird-f;incying ; and that it was not an
ginal idea of his, but one in which he had, dispersed about the
e-streets and suburbs of the town, a host of rivals.

The name of this householder was Paid Sweedlepipe. But he
is commonly called Poll Sweedlepipe ; and was not uncommonly
lieved to have been so christened, among his friends and

With the exception of the staircase, and his lodger's private
artment. Poll Sweedlepipe's house was one great bird's nest,
ime-cocks resided in the kitchen ; pheasants wasted the bright-
ss of their golden plumage on the garret ; bantams roosted in
2 cellar ; owls had possession of the bed-room ; and specimens of

the smaller fry of birds chirrupped and twittered in the shoj).
le staircase was sacred to rabbits. There, in hutches of all
apes and kinds, made from old packing-cases, boxes, drawers,
d tea-chests, they increased in a prodigious degree, and con-
buted their share towards that complicated whitt' which, (piite
partially, and without distinction of persons, saluted every nose
at was put into Sweedlepipe's easy shaving-shop.

Many noses found their way there, for all that, especially on a
mday morning, before church-time. Even archbishops shave, or
1st be shaved, on a Sunday, and beards vnll grow after twelve
;lock on Saturday night, though it be upon the chins of base
?chanics ; who, not being able to engage their \alets by the


quarter, hire them by the job, and pay them — oh, the wickedness
of copper coin ! — iu dirty pence. Poll Sweedlepipe, the sinner,
shaved all comers at a penny each, and cut the hair of any
customer for twopence ; and being a lone unmarried man, and
having some connection in the bird line, Poll got on tolerably well.

He was a little elderly man, with a clammy cold right hand,
from which even rabbits and birds could not remove the smell of
shaving-soap. Poll had something of the bird in his nature ; not
of the hawk or eagle, but of the sjDarrow, that builds iu chimney-
stacks, and inclines to human company. He was not quarrelsome,
though, like the sparrow ; but peaceful, like the dove. In his
walk he strutted ; and, in this respect, he bore a faint resemblance
to the pigeon, as well as in a certain prosiness of speech, which
might, in its monotony, be likened to the cooing of that bird.
He was very inquisitive ; and when he stood at his shop-door in
the evening-tide, watching the neighbours, with his head on one
side, and his eye cocked knowingly, there was a dash of the raven
in him. Yet, there was no more wickedness iu Poll than in *a
robin. Happily, too, when any of his ornithological properties
were on the verge of going too far, they were quenched, dissolved,
melted down, and neutralised in the barber ; just as his bald headi
— otherwise, as the head of a shaved magpie — lost itself in a wig
of curly black ringlets, parted on one side, and cut away almost to
the crown, to indicate immense capacity of intellect.

Poll had a very small, shrill, treble voice, which might have
led the wags of Kingsgate Street to insist the- more upon hi,'
feminine designation. He had a tender heart, too ; for, when hf
had a good commission to provide three or four score sparrows fo)
a shooting-match, he would observe, in a compassionate tone, hov
singular it was that sparrows should have been made expressly fo
such purposes. The question, whether men were made to shoo
them, never entered into Poll's philosophy.

Poll wore, in his sporting character, a velveteen coat, a grea
deal of blue stocking, ankle boots, a neckerchief of some brigh:
colour, and a very tall hat. Pursuing his more quiet occupatioij
of barber, he generally subsided into an apron not over-clean, .
flannel jacket, and corduroy knee-shorts. It was in this latte'
costume, but with his apron girded round his waist, as a token C
his having shut up shop for the night, that he closed the doc;
one evening, some weeks after the occurrences detailed iu the laj.
chapter, and stood upon the steps, in Kingsgate Street, listenic
until the little cracked bell within should leave off ringing. Fo
until it did — this was Mr. Sweedlepipe's reflection — the pla(;
never seemed quiet enough to be left to itself.


"It's tlic greediest little bell to ring," said Poll, " tiiat ever
ras. Biit it's quiet at last."

He rolled his apron up a little tighter as he said these words,
nd hastened down the street. Just as he was turning into
lolborn, he ran against a young gentleman in livery. This youth
ras bold, though small, and, with several lively expressions of
ispleasure, turned upon him instantly.

"Xow, Stoo-PiD ! " cried the young gentleman. "Can't you
jok where you're a going to— eh 1 Can't you mind where you're
coming to — eh 1 What do you think your eyes was made for —
h I Ah ! Yes. Oh ! Now then ! "

The young gentleman pronounced the two last words in a very
)ud tone and with frightful emphasis, as though they contained
rithin themselves the essence of the direst aggravation. But he
ad scarcely done so, when his auger yielded to surprise, and he
ried, in a milder tone :

" What ! Polly ! "

" Why it an't you, sure 1 " cried Poll. '' It can't be you ! "

" No. It an't me," returned the youth. " It's my son : my
Idest one. He's a credit to his father, ain't he, Polly 1 " With
his delicate little piece of banter, he halted on the pavement, and
rent round and round in circles, for the better exhibition of his
igure : rather to the inconvenience of the passengers generally,
rho were not in an equal state of spirits with himself

" I wouldn't have believed it," said Poll. "What! You've
;ft your old place, then 1 Have you 1 "

" Have I ! " returned his young friend, who had by this time
tuck his hands iu the pockets of his white cord breeches, and was
waggering along at the barber's side. " D'ye know a pair of
op-boots when you see 'em, Polly 1 — Look here ! "

" Beau-ti-ful ! " cried Mr. Sweedlepipe.

" D'ye know a slap-up sort of button, when you see it ? " said
he youth. " Don't look at mine, if you ain't a judge, because
hese lions' heads was made for men of taste : not snobs."

"Beau-ti-ful ! " cried the barber again. " A grass-green frock-
oat, too, bound with gold ! And a cockade in your hat ! "

"/should hope so," replied the youth. " Blow the cockade,
hough ; for, except that it don't turn round, it's like the wentilator
hat used to be in the kitchen winder at Todgers's. You ain't
leen the old lady's name in the Gazette, have you?"

" No," returned the barber. " Is she a bankrupt 1 "

"If she ain't, she will be," retorted Bailey. "That bis'ness
lever can be carried on without me. Well ! How are you ] "

"Oh! I'm pretty well," said Poll. "Are you living at this


end of the town, or were you coming to see me ? AYas tliat the
bis'ness that brought you to Holborn 1 "

"I haven't got no bis'ness in Holborn," returned Bailey, with
some displeasure. " All my bis'ness lays at the West-end. I've
got the right sort of governor now. You can't see his face for his
whiskers, and can't see his whiskers for the dye upon 'em. That's
a gentleman, an't it ? You wouldn't like a ride in a cab, would
you? Why, it wouldn't be safe to offer it. You'd faint away,
only to see me a comin' at a mild trot round the corner."

To convey a slight idea of the effect of this approach, Mr.
Bailey counterfeited in his own person the action of a high-trotting
horse, and threw up his head so high, in backing against a pump,
that he shook his hat off.

"Why, he's own uncle to Capricorn," said Bailey, "and brother
to Cauliflower. He's been through the winders of two chaney
shops since we've had him, and wos sold for killin' his missis.
That's a horse, I hope ? "

"Ah! you'll never want to buy any more red -polls, now,"
observed Poll, looking on his young friend with an air of
melancholy. " You'll never want to bny any more red-polls now,
to hang up over the sink, will you?"

"/ should think not," reijlied Bailey. "Reether so. I
wouldn't have nothin' to say to any bird below a peacock ; and
Ae'd be wulgar. Well, how are you ? "

" Oh ! I'm pretty well," said Poll. He answered the question
again because Mr. Bailey asked it again ; Mr. Bailey asked it
again, because— accompanied with a straddling action of the white
cords, a bend of the knees, and a striking-forth of the top-boots
— it was an easy, horse-fleshy, turfy sort of thing to do.

" Wot are you up to, old feller ? " asked Mr. Bailej', with the <j
same graceful rakishness. He was quite the man-about-town of
the conversation, while the easy-shaver was the child.

" Why, I am going to fetch my lodger home," said Paul.

"A woman ! " cried Mr. Bailey, "for a twenty-pun' note ! "

The little barber hastened to explain that she was neither a
young woman, nor a handsome woman, but a luu'se, who had been
acting as a kind of housekeeper to a gentleman for some weeksi
past, and left her place that night, in consequence of being
superseded by another and a more legitimate housekeeper : to wit,
the gentleman's bride.

"He's newly -married, and he brings his young wife home
to-night," said the barber. "So I'm going to fetch my lodger
away — Mr. Chuzzlewit's, close behind the Post-office — and carry
her box for her."


"Jonas Chuzzlewit's ? " said Bailey.

"Ah!'" returned Paul: " tliat's the name sure enough. Do
ou know him ? "

" Oh, no ! " cried Mr. Bailor ; " not at all. And I don't know
er 1 Xot neither ? Why, they first kept company through me,

" All ? ■' said Paul.

"All!" said Mr. Bailej^, with a wink; "and she ain't bad-
•oking, mind you. But her sister was the best. She was the
leriy one. I often used to have a bit of fun with her, in the hold
mes ! "

Mr. Bailey spoke as if lie already had a leg and three-quarters
I the grave, and this had happened twenty or thirty years ago.
'aul Sweedlepipe, the meek, was so perfectly confounded by his
recocious self-possession, and his patronising manner, as well as
y his boots, cockade, and livery, that a mist swam before his
^•es, and he saw — not the Bailey of acknowledged juvenility,
•om Todgers's Commercial Boarding House, who had made liis
cquaintauce within a twelvemonth, by purchasing, at sundry
mes, small birds at twopence each — but a highly -condensed
inbodiment of all the sporting grooms in London ; an abstract
f all the stable-knowledge of the time ; a something at a high-
ressure that must have had existence many years, and was fraught
ith terrible experiences. And truly, though in the cloudy
tmosphere of Todgers's, Mr. Bailey's genius had ever shone out
rightly in this particular respect, it now eclijjsed both time and
pace, cheated beholders of their senses, and worked on their belief
1 defiance of all natm-al laws. He walked along the tangible and
3al stones of Holborn Hill, an under-sized boy; and j^et he
linked the winks, and thought the thoughts, and did the deeds,
nd said the sayings of an ancient man. There was an old
rinciple within him, and a young surface without. He became
n inexplicable creature : a breeched and booted Sphinx. There
,'as no course open to the barber but to go distracted himself, or
take Bailey for granted : and he wisely chose the latter.

Mr. Bailey was good enough to continue to bear liim company,
nd to entertain him, as they went, with easy conversation on
arious sporting topics ; especially on the comparative merits, as a
:eneral principle, of horses with white stockings, and liorses
without. In regard to the style of tail to be preferred, ]\Ir. Bailey
lad opinions of his own, which he explained, but begged they might
ly no means influence his friends, as here he knew he had the
iiisfortune to diflVr from some excellent authorities. He treated
ilr. Sweedlepipe to a dram, comjwunded agreeaUy tu his own


directions, which he informed him had been invented by a member
of the Jockey Club ; and, as they were by this time near the
barber's destination, he observed that, as he had an hour to spare,
and knew the parties, he would, if quite agreeable, be introduced
to Mrs. Gamp.

Paul knocked at Jonas Chuzzlewit's ; and, on the door being
opened by that lady, made the two distinguished persons known
to one another. It was a happy feature in Mrs. Gamp's twofold
profession, that it gave her an interest in everything that was
young as w^ell as in everything that was old. She received Mr.
Bailey with much kindness.

"It's very good, I'm sure, of you to come," she said to her
landlord, "as well as bring so nice a friend. But I'm afraid that
I must trouble you so far as to step in, for the young couple has
not yet made appearance."'

" They're late, ain't they 1 " inquired her landlord, when she
had conducted them down stairs into the kitchen.

"Well, Sir, considerin' the Wings of Love, they are," said
Mrs. Gamp.

Mr. Bailey inquired whether the Wings of Love had ever won i
a plate, or could be backed to do anything remarkable ; and being]
informed that it was not a horse, but merely a poetical or'
figurative expression, evinced considerable disgust. Mrs. Gamp
was so very much astonished by his affable manners and great
ease, that she was about to propound to her landlord in a whisper
the staggering inquiry, w'hether he w^as a man or a boy, when Mr.
Sweedlepipe, anticipating her design, made a timely diversion.

" He know^s Mrs. Chuzzlewit," said Paul aloud.

"There's nothin' he don't know; that's my opinion,"' observec
'Sirs. Gamp. " All the wickedness of the world is Print to him."

Mr. Bailey received this as a compliment, and said, adjusting
his cravat, " reether so."

" As you knoW' s Mrs. Chuzzlewit, you knows, p'raps, what he
chris'en name is 1 " Mrs. Gamp observed.

" Charity," said Bailey.

" That it ain't ! " cried Mrs. Gamp.

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 42 of 80)