Charles Dickens.

Life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit online

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having a free and sporting character about it, which was quite
congenial to his taste.

Arriving in 'due time at the house in the City, Mr. Bailey
jumped down, and expressed the lively nature of his feelings, in a
knock : the like of which had probably not been heard in that
quarter since the Great Fire of London. Going out into the road
to observe the effect of this feat, he saw that a dim light, pre-
viously visible at an upper window, had been already removed and
was travelling down-stairs. To obtain a foreknowledge of the
bearer of this taper, Mr. Bailey skipped back to the door again,
and put his eye to the keyhole.

It was the merry one herself. But sadly, strangely altered !
So careworn and dejected, so faltering and full of fear ; so fallen,
humbled, broken ; that to have seen her, quiet in her coffin,
would have been a less surprise.

She set the light upon a bracket in the liall, and laid her hand
upon her heart ; upon her eyes ; upon lier burning liead. Then
she came on towards the door, with such a wild and hurried step,
that Mr. Bailey lost his self-possession, and still had his eye wliere
the keyhole had been, when she opened it.

" Aha ! " said Mr. Bailey, with an effort. " There you are,
are you 1 What's the matter 1 Ain't you well, though 1 "

In the midst of her astonishment as she recognised him in his
altered dress, so much of her old smile came back to her face tliat
Bailey was glad. But next moment he was sorry again, for he
saw tears standing in her poor dim eyes.

" Don't be frightened," said Bailey. " There ain't nothing the
matter. I've brought home Mr. Chuzzlewit. He ain't ill. He's
only a little swipey you know." Mr. Bailey reeled in his ])oots,
to express intoxication.

"Have you come from Mrs. Todgers's '?" asked Merry,

"Todgers's, bless you! No!" cried Mr. Bailey. "I haven't
got nothing to do with Todgers's. I cut that connexion long ago.
He's been a dining with my governor at the West-end. Didn't i
you know he was a coming to see us ?" i

" No," she said, faintly.

" Oh yes ! We're heavy swells too, and so I tell you. Don'ti'
you come out, a catching cold in your head, /"ll wake him!"
And Mr. Bailey expressing in his demeanour a perfect confidence,
tliat he could carry him in with ease, if necessary, opened the:


coach door, lot down the steiDS, and giving Jonas a .shake, criiHl
" We've got home, my flower ! Tumble up then ! "

He was so for recovered as to be able to rcsj^ond to tins appeal,
and to come stumbling out of the coach in a heap, to the great
hazard of ]Mr. Bailey's person. When he got upon the jiavement,
Mr. Bailey first butted at him in front, and then dexterously
propi)od him up behind ; and having steadied him by these means,
he assisted him into the house.

" You uo up first with the light," said Bailey to Mrs. Jonas,
•• and we'll fuller. Don't tremble so. He won't hurt you. When
I've had a drop too much, I'm full of good natur myself"

She went on before ; and her husband and Bailey, by dint of
tumbling over each other, and knocking themselves about, got at
last into the sitting-room above stairs, where Jonas staggered into
a seat.

" There ! " said Mr. Bailey. " He's all right now. You ain't
got nothing to cry for, bless you ! He's righter than a trivet ! "

The ill-favoured brute, with dress awry, and sodden face, and
rumi^led hair, sat blinking and drooping, and rolling his idiotic
eyes about, until, becoming conscious by degrees, he recognised his
wife, and shook his fist at her.

" Ah ! " cried Mr. Bailey, squaring his arms witli a sudden
emotion. "What, you're Avicious, are you? AVould you though !
You'd better not ! "

" Pray, go away ! " said Merry. " Bailey, my good boy, go
home. Jonas ! " she said ; timidly laying her hand upon his
shoulder, and bending her head down, over him ; " Jonas ! "

"Look at her ! " cried Jonas, pushing her ofli'with his extended
arm. " Look here ! Look at her ! Here's a bargain for a man ! "

" Dear Jonas ! "

"Dear Devil!" he reijlied, with a fierce gesture. "You're a
pretty clog to be tied to a man for life, you mewling, white-faced
cat ! Get out of my sight ! "

"I know you don't mean it, Jonas. You wouldn't say it if
you were sober."

With afi'ected gaiety she gave Bailey a piece of money, and
again implored him to be gone. Her entreaty was so earnest, that
the boy had not the heart to stay there. But he stopped at the
bottom of the stairs, and listened.

"I wouldn't say it if I was sober!" retorted Jonas. "You
know better. Have I never said it when I was sober 1 "

" Often, indeed ! " she answered through her tears.

" Hark ye ! " cried Jonas, stamping his foot upon the ground.
" You made me bear your pretty humours once, and ecod I'll make


you bear mine now. I always promised myself I would.
married you that I might. I'll know who's master, and who
slave ! "

" Heaven knows I am obedient ! " said the sobbing gir
" Much more so than I ever thought to be ! "

Jonas laughed in his drunken exultation. "What! you'i
finding it out, are you ! Patience, and you will in time ! Griffii
have claws, my girl. There's not a pretty slight you ever pi
upon me, nor a pretty trick you ever played me, nor a prett
insolence you ever showed me, that I won't pay back a hundr&l
fold. What else did I marry you for. You, too ! " he said, wiij
coarse contempt. j

It might have softened him — indeed it might — to hear hj
turn a little fragment of a song he used to say he liked ; tryini
with a heart so full, to win him back. '

"Oho ! " he said, "you're deaf, are youl You don't hear m
eh ? So much the better for you. I hate you. I hate myse
for having been fool enough to strap a pack upon my back for t'
pleasure of treading on it whenever I choose. Why, things ha
opened to me, now, so that I might marry almost where I like
But I wouldn't ; I'd keep single. I ought to be single, among t
friends / know. Instead of that, here I am, tied like a log to yt
Pah ! Why do you show your 2mle face when I come home ? A
I never to forget you?"

" How late it is ! " she said cheerfully : opening the shutt'
after an interval of silence. " Broad day, Jonas ! "

" Broad day or black night, what do / care ! " was the ki

" Tlie night passed quickly, too. I don't mind sitting up,

" Sit up for me again, if you dare ! " growled Jonas.

" I was reading," she proceeded, " all night long. I beg i
when you went out, and read till you came home again. Ts
strangest story, Jonas ! And true, the book says. I'll tell it yi

" True, was it 1 " said Jonas, doggedly.

" So the book says."

" Was there anything in it, about a man's being determined )
conquer his wife, break her spirit, bend her temper, crush all 1 :"
humours like so many nutsliells — kill her, for aught I know '
said Jonas.

"No. Not a word," she answered quickly.

"Ah !" he returned. "That'll be a true story though, bef-J
long ; for all the book says nothing about it. It's a lying boi ,


sec. A tit book for a lying reader. But you're deaf. I forgot

Tliere was another interval of silence ; and the boy was stealing
way, when he heard her footstep on the floor, and stopped. She
ent up to him, as it seemed, and spoke lovingly : saying that she
ould defer to him in everytliiug, and would consult his wishes
id obey them, and they might be very happy if he would be
?utle with lier. He answered with an imprecation, and —

Not with a blow ] Yes. Stern truth against the base-souled
illain : with a blow.

No angry cries ; no loud reproaches. Even her weeping and
er sobs were stifled by her clinging round him. She only said,
jpeatiiig it in agony of heart, How could he, could he, could he !
-And lost utterance in tears.

Oh woman, God beloved in old Jerusalem ! The best among
3 need deal lightly with thy faults, if only for the punishment
ly nature will endure, in bearing heavy evidence against us, on
le Day of Judgment 1



It may have been the restless remembrance of what he had
ieu and heard overnight, or it may have been no deeper mental
peratiou than the di-scovery that he had nothing to do, which
iiused Mr. Bailey, on the following afternoon, to feel particularly
isposed for agreeable society, and prompted him to pay a visit to
is friend Poll Sweedlepipe.

On the little bell giving clamorous notice of a visitor's approach
for Mr. Bailey came in at the door with a lunge, to get as much
3und out of the bell as possible), Poll Sweedlepipe desisted from
be contemplation of a favourite owl, and gave liis young friend
earty welcome.

" ^^'hy, you look smarter by day," said Poll, " than you do by
andle-light. I never see sucli a tight young dasher."

" Reether so, Polly. How's our fair friend Sairah 1 "

"Oh, she's pretty well," said Poll. "She's at home."

" There's the remains of a fine woman about Sairah, Poll,"
bserved Mr. Bailey, with genteel indifference.

" Oh ! " thought Poll, " he's old. He must be very old ! "


'•' Too much crumb, you know," said Mr. Bailey ; " too fat,
Poll. But there's many worse at her time of life."

" The very owl's a opeuiug his eyes ! " thought Poll. " I don't
wonder at it, in a Ijird of his opinions."

He happened to have been sharpening his razors, which were
lying open in a row, while a huge strop dangled from the wall.
Glancing at these preparations, Mr. Bailey stroked his chin, and a
thought appeared to occur to him.

'•Poll," he said, "I ain't as neat as I could wish about the
gills. Being here, I may as well have a shave, and get trimmed

The barber stood aghast ; but jMr. Bailey divested himself of
his neckcloth, and sat down in the easy shaving chair with all the
dignity and confidence in life. There was no resisting his manner.
The evidence of sight and touch became as nothing. His chin
was as smooth as a new-laid egg or a scraped Dutch cheese ; but
Poll Sweedlepipe wouldn't have ventured to deny, ou affidavit,
that he had the beard of a Jewish rabbi.

" Go ti'ith the grain, Poll, all round, please," said I\Ir. Bailej',
screwing up his face for the reception of the lather. "You may
do wot you like with the bits of whisker. I don't care for 'em."

The meek little barber stood gazing at him with the brush and
soap-dish in his hand, stirring them round and round in a ludicrous
uncertainty, as if he were disabled by some fascination from
beginning. At last he made a dash at Mr. Bailey's cheek. Then
he stopped again, as if the ghost of a beard had suddenly receded
from his touch ; but receiving mild encouragement from Mr.
Bailey, in the form of an adjuration to " Go in and win," he
lathered him bountifully. IMr. Bailey smiled through the suds in
his satisfaction.

" Gently over the stones, Poll. Go a-tiptoe over the pimples ! "

Poll Sweedlepipe obeyed, and scraped the lather off again with
particular care. Mr. Bailey squinted at every successive dab, as
it was deposited on a cloth on his left shoulder, and seemed, with
a microscopic eye, to detect some bristles in it ; for he murmured
more than once, " Reether redder than I could wish. Poll." The
operation being concluded. Poll fell back and stared at him again,
while Mr. Bailey, wiping his face on the jack-towel, remarked,
" that arter late hours nothing freshened up a mau so much as a
easy shave."

He was in the act of tying his cravat at the glass, without his
coat, and Poll had wiped his razor, ready for the next customer,
when ]\Irs. Gamp, coming down stairs, looked in at the shop-
door to give the barber neighbourly good day. Feeling for her


unfortunate situation, in having conceived a regard for himsel
which it was not in the nature of things that he could return, Mr
Bailey hastened to soothe her with words of kindness.

" Hallo ! " he said, " Sairah ! I needn't ask you how you'v(
been this long time, for you're in full bloom. All a blowin' and f
growiu' ; ain't she, Polly 1 "

" Why, drat the Bragiau boldness of that boy ! " cried Mrs
Gamp, though not displeased. "What a imperent young sparrow
it is ! I wouldn't be that creetur's mother not for fifty pound ! "

Mr. Bailey regarded this as a delicate confession of her attach
ment, and a hint that no pecuniary gain could recompense her foi
its being rendered hopeless. He felt flattered. Disinterestec
affection is always flattering.

" Ah, dear ! " moaned Mrs. Gamp, sinking into the shaving chair
" That there blessed Bull, Mr. Sweedlepipe, has done his wer
best to conker me. Of all the trying invalieges in this walley o
the shadder, that one beats 'em black and blue."

It was the practice of Mrs. Gamp and her friends in the prcj
fession, to say this of all the easy customers; as having at one]
the eftect of discouraging competitors for office, and accounting fo
the necessity of high living on the part of the nurses.

" Talk of constitooshun ! " Mrs. Gamp observed. " A person'
constitooshun need be made of Bricks to stand it. Mrs. Harri
jestly says to me, but t'other day, ' Oh ! Sairey Gamp,' she say;
' how is it done ! ' ' Mrs. Harris, ma'am,' I says to her, 'we give
no trust ourselves, and puts a deal o' trust elsevere ; these is oi
religious feelins, and we finds 'em answer.' ' Sairey,' says Mr
Harris, ' sech is life. Vich likeways is the hend of all things ! ' "

The barber gave a soft murmur, as much as to say that Mr
Harris's remark, though perhaps not quite so intelligible as coul
be desired from such an authority, did equal honour to her heti
and to her heart.

"And here," continued Mrs. Gamp, "and here am I a go
twenty mile in distant, on as wentersome a chance as ever any oi;
as monthlied ever run, I do believe. Says Mrs. Harris, withj
woman's and a mother's art a beatin in her human breast, sa;,
she to me, ' You're not a goin, Sairey, Lord forgive you ! ' ' Wl;
am I not a going, Mrs. Harris?' I replies. 'Mrs. Gill,' I saj!
' wos never wrong with six ; and is it likely, ma'am — I ast you i
a mother — that she will begin to be unreg'lar now. Often aij
often have I heerd him say,' I says to Mrs. Harris, meaning M
Gill, 'that he would back his wife agen Moore's almanack, i
name the very day and hour, for ninepence farden. /*• it likeli
ma'am,' I says, 'as she will fail this oncel' Says Mrs. Harr;


0, ma'am, not in the course of nater. But,' she says, the tears
lliu in her eyes, ' you knows much bettcrer than me, with your
)erienge, how little puts us out. A Punch's show,' she says, ' a
mbley sweep, a newfundlandog, or a drunkin man, a comin
nd the corner sharp, may do it.' 80 it may, Mr. Sweedle-
es," said Mrs. Gamp, "there's no deniging of it; and though

books is clear for full a week, I takes a anxious art along with
, I do assure you. Sir."

"You're so full of zeal, you see!" said Poll. "You worrit
irself so."

" "NVorrit myself ! " cried Mrs. Gamp, i-aising her hands and
ning up her eyes. "You speak the truth in that, Sir, if you
'er speaks no more, 'twixt this and when two Sundays jines
ether. I feels tlie sufterins of other people more than I feels

own, though no one mayn't suppoge it. The families Pve
I," said Mrs. Gamp, "if all wos kuowd, and credit done where
dit's doo, would take a week to chris'en at Saint Polge's
tin I "

" Where's the patient goin ? " asked Sweedlepipe.
" Into Har'fordshire, which is his native air. But native airs

• native graces neither," Mrs. Gamp observed, " won't bring him

" So bad as that ?" inquired the wistful barber. " Indeed ! "
Mrs. Gamp shook her head mysteriously, and pursed up her
5. " There's fevers of the mind," she said, " as well as body.
u may take your slime drafts till .you flies into the air with
;rwescence ; but you won't cure that."

" Ah ! ' said the barber, opening his eyes, autl putting on his
eu aspect, " Lor ! "

"No. You may make yourself as light as any gash balloon,"
1 Mrs. Gamp. " But talk, when you're wrong in your head and
en you're in your sleep, of certain things ; and you'll be heavy
your mind."

" Of what kind of things now 1 " inquired Poll, greedily biting
nails in his great interest. "Ghosts?"

Mrs. Gamp, who perhaps had been already tempted furtlier
m she had intended to go, by the barber's stinudatiug curiosity,
r'c a snilf of uncommon significance, and said, it didn't matter.
" I'm a going down with my patient in the coach this arter-
)n," she proceeded. " I'm a going to stop with him a day or
till he gets a country nuss (drat them country nusses, much

• orkard luissies knows about their bis'ness) ; and then I'm a
uin' back; and that's my trouble, Mr. Sweedlepipes. But I
36 that everythink '11 only go on right and comfortable as long


as I'm away ; perwisin which, as Mrs. Harris says, Mrs. Gill
welcome to choose her own time : all times of the day ami nig
bein' equally the same to me."

During the progress of the foregoing remarks, which M:
Gamp had addressed exclusively to the barber, Mr. Bailey h
been tying his cravat, getting on his coat, and making hideo
faces at hhnself in the glass. Being now i^ersonally addressed
Mrs. Gamp, he turned round, and mingled in the conversation.

" You ain't been in the City, I suppose, Sir, since Ave was .
three there together," said Mrs. Gamp, "at Mr. Chuzzlewit's ? "

" Yes I have, Sairah. I Avas there, last night."

'• Last night ! " cried the barber.

" Yes, Poll, reether so. You can call it this morning if y
like to be particular. He dined with us."

" Who does that young Limb mean by ' hus 1 ' " said Mrs. Gan
with most impatient emphasis.

" Me and my Governor, Sairah. He dined at our house, "^i
wos very merry, Sairah. So much so, that I was obliged to ;
him home in a hackney coach at three o'clock in the mornin
It was on the tip of the boy's tongue to relate what had foUowc
but remembering how easily it might be carried to his inast(
ears, and the repeated cautions he had had from Mr. Crim
"not to chatter," he checked himself: adding only, "She \
sitting up, expecting him."

"And all things considered," said Mrs. Gamp sharply, ";
might have know'd better tlian to go a tiring herself out, by dc
anythink of the sort. Did they seem pretty pleasant togetl ,
Sir 1 "

"Oh, yes," answered Bailey, "pleasant enough."

" I'm glad on it," said Mrs. Gamp, with a second sniff t

" They haven't been married so long," observed Poll, rubb -
his hands, " that they need be anything but pleasant yet awhik

"No," said Mrs. Gamp, with a third significant signal.

"Especially," pursued the barber, "when the gentleman hcfi
such a character as you gave him." ,

"I speak as I find, Mr. Sweedlepipes," said Mrs. Gar>.
" Forbid it should be otherways ! But Ave never knoAA's w,&
hidden in each other's hearts; and if we had glass Avinders th !,
Ave'd need to keep the shetters up, some on us, I do assure you

" But you don't mean to say — " Poll Sweedlepipe began.

"No," said Mrs. Gamp, cutting him very short, "I dct.
Don't think I do. Tlie torters of the Imposition shouldn't m-'e
me own I did. All I says is," added the good woman rising d


ding hoi- sliawl about hor, " tliat the Bull's a waitin', and the
jcious moments is a tlyin' fast."

The little barber having in his eager curiosity a groat desire to
! ^Irs. Gamp's patient, proposed to Mr. Bailey that they should
•onipany her to the Bull, and witness the departure of the coach,
lat young gentleman assenting, they all went out together.

Arriving at the tavern, Mrs. Gamp (avIio was full-dressed for
5 journey, in her latest suit of mourning) left her friends to
tertain themselves in the yard, while she ascended to the sick
)m, where her fellow -labourer Mrs. Prig was dressing the iu-

He was so wasted, that it seemed as if his bones would rattle
len they moved him. His cheeks were sunken, and his eyes
naturally large. He lay back iu the easy chair like one more
id than living; and rolled his languid eyes towards the door
len Mrs. Gamp appeared, as painfully as if their weight alone
re burdensome to move.

" And how are we by this time 1 " Mrs. Gamp observed.
iVe looks charming."

"We looks a deal charminger than we are, then," returned
•s. Prig, a little chafed in her temper. " We got out of bed
jk'ards, I think, for we're as cross as two sticks. I never see
h a man. He wouldn't have been washed, if he'd had his own

"She put the soap in my mouth," said the unfortunate patient,

" Couldn't j'ou keep it shut then 1 " retorted ]\Irs. Prig.
iVho do you think's to wash one feater, aiul miss another, and
ar one's eyes out with all manner of fine-work of that descrip-
n, for half-a-crowii a day 1 If you wants to be tittivated, you
ist pay accordin."

" Oh dear me ! " cried the patient, " oh dear, dear '. "

" There ! " said Mrs. Prig, " that's the way he's been a con-
fting of himself, Sarah, ever since I got him out of bed, if
ii'll believe it."

"Instead of being grateful," Mrs. Gamp observed, "fur all
r little ways. Oh, fie for shame. Sir, fie for shame I "

Here Mrs. Prig seized the patient by the chin, and began to
sp his unhappy head with a hair-brush.

" I suppose you don't like that, neither ! " she observed,
ipping to look at him.

It Was just possible that he didn't, for the brush was a
■cinien of the hardest kind of instrument producible by modern
;; and ids very eye-lids were red with tiie IVictiun. Mrs, I'rig


was gratified to observe the cnrrectjiess of her supposition, and
said triumphantly, " she know'd as much."

When his hair was smoothed down comfortalily into his eyes,
Mrs. Prig and Mrs. Gamp put on his neckerchief: adjusting his
shirt-collar with great nicety, so that the starched points shoulc
also invade those organs, and afflict them with an artificia
ophthalmia. His waistcoat and coat were next arranged : and as
every button was wrenched into a wrong button-hole, and th(
order of his boots was reversed, he presented on the whole rathei
a melancholy appearance.

" I don't think it's right," said the poor weak invalid. " I feej
as if I was in somebody else's clothes. I'm all on one side ; and
you've made one of my legs shorter than the other. There's .'
bottle in my pocket too. What do you make me sit upon
bottle for ? "

" Deuce take the man ! " cried Mrs. Gamp, drawing it fortl:
"If he ain't been and got my night-bottle here. I made a littl
cupboard of his coat when it hung behind the door, and quit
forgot it, Betsey. You'll find a ingun or two, and a little tea an
sugar in his t'other pocket, my dear, if you'll jest be good enoug
to take 'em out."

Betsey produced the property in question, together with soni
other articles of general chandlery ; and Mrs. Gamp transferre
them to her own pocket, which was a species of nankeen pannie
Refreshment then arrived in the form of chops and strong a
for the ladies, and a basin of beef-tea for the patient : whic
refection was barely at an end when John Westlock appeared.

" Up and dressed ! " cried John, sitting down beside hiii
"That's brave. How do you feel?"

" Much better. But very weak."

"No wonder. You have had a hard bout of it. But count!
ail-, and change of scene," said John, "will make another man
you ! Why, Mrs. Gamp," he added, laughing, as he kind
arranged the sick man's garments, "you have odd notions of'
gentleman's dress ! " ;

" Mr. Leewsome an't a easy gent to get into his clothes. Sir;
Mrs. Gamp replied with dignity; "as me and Betsey Prig Ci
certify afore the Lord Mayor and Uncommon Counsellors,
needful ! "

John was at that moment standing close in front of the si-
man, in the act of releasing him from the torture of the colla
before mentioned, when he said in a whisper :

"Mr. Westlock! I don't wish to be overheard. I ha-
something very particular and strange to say to you ; somethi


t has been a dreadful weight on my mind, througli this knig

Quick in all his motions, Jolin was tnrning round to desire
•women to leave the room : wlien the sick man lu>ld liim by

" Not now. I've not the strength. I've not the courage.
J I tell it wlien I have 1 jNIay I write it, if I find that easier
better % "

" May you ! '" cried John. " Why, Leewsome, what is this ! "
" Don't me what it is. It's unnatural and cruel. Frightful
hink of Frightful to tell. Frightful to know. Frightful to

Online LibraryCharles DickensLife and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit → online text (page 46 of 80)