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Life And Adventures Of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens

Part 10 out of 20

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from him is worth the having. He is not a dealer in it, and it
comes from his heart. We thought Mr--'

'Pinch,' said Mary.

'Mr Pinch would have arrived before us, Pecksniff.'

'He did arrive before you, my dear sir,' retorted Pecksniff, raising
his voice for the edification of Tom upon the stairs, 'and was
about, I dare say, to tell me of your coming, when I begged him
first to knock at my daughters' chamber, and inquire after Charity,
my dear child, who is not so well as I could wish. No,' said Mr
Pecksniff, answering their looks, 'I am sorry to say, she is not.
It is merely an hysterical affection; nothing more, I am not uneasy.
Mr Pinch! Thomas!' exclaimed Pecksniff, in his kindest accents.
'Pray come in. I shall make no stranger of you. Thomas is a friend
of mine, of rather long-standing, Mr Chuzzlewit, you must know.'

'Thank you, sir,' said Tom. 'You introduce me very kindly, and
speak of me in terms of which I am very proud'

'Old Thomas!' cried his master, pleasantly 'God bless you!'

Tom reported that the young ladies would appear directly, and that
the best refreshments which the house afforded were even then in
preparation, under their joint superintendence. While he was
speaking, the old man looked at him intently, though with less
harshness than was common to him; nor did the mutual embarrassment
of Tom and the young lady, to whatever cause he attributed it, seem
to escape his observation.

'Pecksniff,' he said after a pause, rising and taking him aside
towards the window, 'I was much shocked on hearing of my brother's
death. We had been strangers for many years. My only comfort is
that he must have lived the happier and better man for having
associated no hopes or schemes with me. Peace to his memory! We
were play-fellows once; and it would have been better for us both if
we had died then.'

Finding him in this gentle mood, Mr Pecksniff began to see another
way out of his difficulties, besides the casting overboard of Jonas.

'That any man, my dear sir, could possibly be the happier for not
knowing you,' he returned, 'you will excuse my doubting. But that
Mr Anthony, in the evening of his life, was happier in the affection
of his excellent son--a pattern, my dear sir, a pattern to all sons
--and in the care of a distant relation who, however lowly in his
means of serving him, had no bounds to his inclination; I can inform
you.'

'How's this?' said the old man. 'You are not a legatee?'

'You don't,' said Mr Pecksniff, with a melancholy pressure of his
hand, 'quite understand my nature yet, I find. No, sir, I am not a
legatee. I am proud to say I am not a legatee. I am proud to say
that neither of my children is a legatee. And yet, sir, I was with
him at his own request. HE understood me somewhat better, sir. He
wrote and said, "I am sick. I am sinking. Come to me!" I went to
him. I sat beside his bed, sir, and I stood beside his grave. Yes,
at the risk of offending even you, I did it, sir. Though the avowal
should lead to our instant separation, and to the severing of those
tender ties between us which have recently been formed, I make it.
But I am not a legatee,' said Mr Pecksniff, smiling dispassionately;
'and I never expected to be a legatee. I knew better!'

'His son a pattern!' cried old Martin. 'How can you tell me that?
My brother had in his wealth the usual doom of wealth, and root of
misery. He carried his corrupting influence with him, go where he
would; and shed it round him, even on his hearth. It made of his
own child a greedy expectant, who measured every day and hour the
lessening distance between his father and the grave, and cursed his
tardy progress on that dismal road.'

'No!' cried Mr Pecksniff, boldly. 'Not at all, sir!'

'But I saw that shadow in his house,' said Martin Chuzzlewit, 'the
last time we met, and warned him of its presence. I know it when I
see it, do I not? I, who have lived within it all these years!'

'I deny it,' Mr Pecksniff answered, warmly. 'I deny it altogether.
That bereaved young man is now in this house, sir, seeking in change
of scene the peace of mind he has lost. Shall I be backward in
doing justice to that young man, when even undertakers and
coffin-makers have been moved by the conduct he has exhibited; when
even mutes have spoken in his praise, and the medical man hasn't
known what to do with himself in the excitement of his feelings!
There is a person of the name of Gamp, sir--Mrs Gamp--ask her. She
saw Mr Jonas in a trying time. Ask HER, sir. She is respectable,
but not sentimental, and will state the fact. A line addressed to
Mrs Gamp, at the BirdShop, Kingsgate Street, High Holborn, London,
will meet with every attention, I have no doubt. Let her be
examined, my good sir. Strike, but hear! Leap, Mr Chuzzlewit, but
look! Forgive me, my dear sir,' said Mr Pecksniff, taking both his
hands, 'if I am warm; but I am honest, and must state the truth.'

In proof of the character he gave himself, Mr Pecksniff suffered
tears of honesty to ooze out of his eyes.

The old man gazed at him for a moment with a look of wonder,
repeating to himself, 'Here now! In this house!' But he mastered
his surprise, and said, after a pause:

'Let me see him.'

'In a friendly spirit, I hope?' said Mr Pecksniff. 'Forgive me, sir
but he is in the receipt of my humble hospitality.'

'I said,' replied the old man, 'let me see him. If I were disposed
to regard him in any other than a friendly spirit, I should have
said keep us apart.'

'Certainly, my dear sir. So you would. You are frankness itself, I
know. I will break this happiness to him,' said Mr Pecksniff, as he
left the room, 'if you will excuse me for a minute--gently.'

He paved the way to the disclosure so very gently, that a quarter of
an hour elapsed before he returned with Mr Jonas. In the meantime
the young ladies had made their appearance, and the table had been
set out for the refreshment of the travellers.

Now, however well Mr Pecksniff, in his morality, had taught Jonas
the lesson of dutiful behaviour to his uncle, and however perfectly
Jonas, in the cunning of his nature, had learnt it, that young man's
bearing, when presented to his father's brother, was anything but
manly or engaging. Perhaps, indeed, so singular a mixture of
defiance and obsequiousness, of fear and hardihood, of dogged
sullenness and an attempt at enraging and propitiation, never was
expressed in any one human figure as in that of Jonas, when, having
raised his downcast eyes to Martin's face, he let them fall again,
and uneasily closing and unclosing his hands without a moment's
intermission, stood swinging himself from side to side, waiting to
be addressed.

'Nephew,' said the old man. 'You have been a dutiful son, I hear.'

'As dutiful as sons in general, I suppose,' returned Jonas, looking
up and down once more. 'I don't brag to have been any better than
other sons; but I haven't been any worse, I dare say.'

'A pattern to all sons, I am told,' said the old man, glancing
towards Mr Pecksniff.

'Ecod!' said Jonas, looking up again for a moment, and shaking his
head, 'I've been as good a son as ever you were a brother. It's the
pot and the kettle, if you come to that.'

'You speak bitterly, in the violence of your regret,' said Martin,
after a pause. 'Give me your hand.'

Jonas did so, and was almost at his ease. 'Pecksniff,' he
whispered, as they drew their chairs about the table; 'I gave him as
good as he brought, eh? He had better look at home, before he looks
out of window, I think?'

Mr Pecksniff only answered by a nudge of the elbow, which might
either be construed into an indignant remonstrance or a cordial
assent; but which, in any case, was an emphatic admonition to his
chosen son-in-law to be silent. He then proceeded to do the honours
of the house with his accustomed ease and amiability.

But not even Mr Pecksniff's guileless merriment could set such a
party at their ease, or reconcile materials so utterly discordant
and conflicting as those with which he had to deal. The unspeakable
jealously and hatred which that night's explanation had sown in
Charity's breast, was not to be so easily kept down; and more than
once it showed itself in such intensity, as seemed to render a full
disclosure of all the circumstances then and there, impossible to be
avoided. The beauteous Merry, too, with all the glory of her
conquest fresh upon her, so probed and lanced the rankling
disappointment of her sister by her capricious airs and thousand
little trials of Mr Jonas's obedience, that she almost goaded her
into a fit of madness, and obliged her to retire from table in a
burst of passion, hardly less vehement than that to which she had
abandoned herself in the first tumult of her wrath. The constraint
imposed upon the family by the presence among them for the first
time of Mary Graham (for by that name old Martin Chuzzlewit had
introduced her) did not at all improve this state of things; gentle
and quiet though her manner was. Mr Pecksniff's situation was
peculiarly trying; for, what with having constantly to keep the
peace between his daughters; to maintain a reasonable show of
affection and unity in his household; to curb the growing ease and
gaiety of Jonas, which vented itself in sundry insolences towards Mr
Pinch, and an indefinable coarseness of manner in reference to Mary
(they being the two dependants); to make no mention at all of his
having perpetually to conciliate his rich old relative, and to
smooth down, or explain away, some of the ten thousand bad
appearances and combinations of bad appearances, by which they were
surrounded on that unlucky evening--what with having to do this, and
it would be difficult to sum up how much more, without the least
relief or assistance from anybody, it may be easily imagined that Mr
Pecksniff had in his enjoyment something more than that usual
portion of alloy which is mixed up with the best of men's delights.
Perhaps he had never in his life felt such relief as when old
Martin, looking at his watch, announced that it was time to go.

'We have rooms,' he said, 'at the Dragon, for the present. I have a
fancy for the evening walk. The nights are dark just now; perhaps
Mr Pinch would not object to light us home?'

'My dear sir!' cried Pecksniff, 'I shall be delighted. Merry, my
child, the lantern.'

'The lantern, if you please, my dear,' said Martin; 'but I couldn't
think of taking your father out of doors to-night; and, to be brief,
I won't.'

Mr Pecksniff already had his hat in his hand, but it was so
emphatically said that he paused.

'I take Mr Pinch, or go alone,' said Martin. 'Which shall it be?'

'It shall be Thomas, sir,' cried Pecksniff, 'since you are so
resolute upon it. Thomas, my friend, be very careful, if you
please.'

Tom was in some need of this injunction, for he felt so nervous, and
trembled to such a degree, that he found it difficult to hold the
lantern. How much more difficult when, at the old man's bidding she
drew her hand through his--Tom Pinch's--arm!

'And so, Mr Pinch,' said Martin, on the way, 'you are very
comfortably situated here; are you?'

Tom answered, with even more than his usual enthusiasm, that he was
under obligations to Mr Pecksniff which the devotion of a lifetime
would but imperfectly repay.

'How long have you known my nephew?' asked Martin.

'Your nephew, sir?' faltered Tom.

'Mr Jonas Chuzzlewit,' said Mary.

'Oh dear, yes,' cried Tom, greatly relieved, for his mind was
running upon Martin. 'Certainly. I never spoke to him before to-
night, sir!'

'Perhaps half a lifetime will suffice for the acknowledgment of HIS
kindness,' observed the old man.

Tom felt that this was a rebuff for him, and could not but
understand it as a left-handed hit at his employer. So he was
silent. Mary felt that Mr Pinch was not remarkable for presence of
mind, and that he could not say too little under existing
circumstances. So SHE was silent. The old man, disgusted by what
in his suspicious nature he considered a shameless and fulsome puff
of Mr Pecksniff, which was a part of Tom's hired service and in
which he was determined to persevere, set him down at once for a
deceitful, servile, miserable fawner. So HE was silent. And though
they were all sufficiently uncomfortable, it is fair to say that
Martin was perhaps the most so; for he had felt kindly towards Tom
at first, and had been interested by his seeming simplicity.

'You're like the rest,' he thought, glancing at the face of the
unconscious Tom. 'You had nearly imposed upon me, but you have lost
your labour. You are too zealous a toad-eater, and betray yourself,
Mr Pinch.'

During the whole remainder of the walk, not another word was spoken.
First among the meetings to which Tom had long looked forward with a
beating heart, it was memorable for nothing but embarrassment and
confusion. They parted at the Dragon door; and sighing as he
extinguished the candle in the lantern, Tom turned back again over
the gloomy fields.

As he approached the first stile, which was in a lonely part, made
very dark by a plantation of young firs, a man slipped past him and
went on before. Coming to the stile he stopped, and took his seat
upon it. Tom was rather startled, and for a moment stood still, but
he stepped forward again immediately, and went close up to him.

It was Jonas; swinging his legs to and fro, sucking the head of a
stick, and looking with a sneer at Tom.

'Good gracious me!' cried Tom, 'who would have thought of its being
you! You followed us, then?'

'What's that to you?' said Jonas. 'Go to the devil!'

'You are not very civil, I think,' remarked Tom.

'Civil enough for YOU,' retorted Jonas. 'Who are you?'

'One who has as good a right to common consideration as another,'
said Tom mildly.

'You're a liar,' said Jonas. 'You haven't a right to any
consideration. You haven't a right to anything. You're a pretty
sort of fellow to talk about your rights, upon my soul! Ha, ha!--
Rights, too!'

'If you proceed in this way,' returned Tom, reddening, 'you will
oblige me to talk about my wrongs. But I hope your joke is over.'

'It's the way with you curs,' said Mr Jonas, 'that when you know a
man's in real earnest, you pretend to think he's joking, so that you
may turn it off. But that won't do with me. It's too stale. Now
just attend to me for a bit, Mr Pitch, or Witch, or Stitch, or
whatever your name is.'

'My name is Pinch,' observed Tom. 'Have the goodness to call me by
it.'

'What! You mustn't even be called out of your name, mustn't you!'
cried Jonas. 'Pauper' prentices are looking up, I think. Ecod, we
manage 'em a little better in the city!'

'Never mind what you do in the city,' said Tom. 'What have you got
to say to me?'

'Just this, Mister Pinch,' retorted Jonas, thrusting his face so
close to Tom's that Tom was obliged to retreat a step. 'I advise
you to keep your own counsel, and to avoid title-tattle, and not to
cut in where you're not wanted. I've heard something of you, my
friend, and your meek ways; and I recommend you to forget 'em till I
am married to one of Pecksniff's gals, and not to curry favour among
my relations, but to leave the course clear. You know, when curs
won't leave the course clear, they're whipped off; so this is kind
advice. Do you understand? Eh? Damme, who are you,' cried Jonas,
with increased contempt, 'that you should walk home with THEM,
unless it was behind 'em, like any other servant out of livery?'

'Come!' cried Tom, 'I see that you had better get off the stile, and
let me pursue my way home. Make room for me, if you please.'

'Don't think it!' said Jonas, spreading out his legs. 'Not till I
choose. And I don't choose now. What! You're afraid of my making
you split upon some of your babbling just now, are you, Sneak?'

'I am not afraid of many things, I hope,' said Tom; 'and certainly
not of anything that you will do. I am not a tale-bearer, and I
despise all meanness. You quite mistake me. Ah!' cried Tom,
indignantly. 'Is this manly from one in your position to one in
mine? Please to make room for me to pass. The less I say, the
better.'

'The less you say!' retorted Jonas, dangling his legs the more, and
taking no heed of this request. 'You say very little, don't you?
Ecod, I should like to know what goes on between you and a vagabond
member of my family. There's very little in that too, I dare say!'

'I know no vagabond member of your family,' cried Tom, stoutly,

'You do!' said Jonas.

'I don't,' said Tom. 'Your uncle's namesake, if you mean him, is no
vagabond. Any comparison between you and him'--Tom snapped his
fingers at him, for he was rising fast in wrath--'is immeasurably to
your disadvantage.'

'Oh indeed!' sneered Jonas. 'And what do you think of his deary--
his beggarly leavings, eh, Mister Pinch?'

'I don't mean to say another word, or stay here another instant,'
replied Tom.

'As I told you before, you're a liar,' said Jonas, coolly. 'You'll
stay here till I give you leave to go. Now, keep where you are,
will you?'

He flourished his stick over Tom's head; but in a moment it was
spinning harmlessly in the air, and Jonas himself lay sprawling in
the ditch. In the momentary struggle for the stick, Tom had brought
it into violent contact with his opponent's forehead; and the blood
welled out profusely from a deep cut on the temple. Tom was first
apprised of this by seeing that he pressed his handkerchief to the
wounded part, and staggered as he rose, being stunned.

'Are you hurt?' said Tom. 'I am very sorry. Lean on me for a
moment. You can do that without forgiving me, if you still bear me
malice. But I don't know why; for I never offended you before we
met on this spot.'

He made him no answer; not appearing at first to understand him, or
even to know that he was hurt, though he several times took his
handkerchief from the cut to look vacantly at the blood upon it.
After one of these examinations, he looked at Tom, and then there
was an expression in his features, which showed that he understood
what had taken place, and would remember it.

Nothing more passed between them as they went home. Jonas kept a
little in advance, and Tom Pinch sadly followed, thinking of the
grief which the knowledge of this quarrel must occasion his
excellent benefactor. When Jonas knocked at the door, Tom's heart
beat high; higher when Miss Mercy answered it, and seeing her
wounded lover, shireked aloud; higher, when he followed them into
the family parlour; higher than at any other time, when Jonas spoke.

'Don't make a noise about it,' he said. 'It's nothing worth
mentioning. I didn't know the road; the night's very dark; and just
as I came up with Mr Pinch'--he turned his face towards Tom, but not
his eyes--'I ran against a tree. It's only skin deep.'

'Cold water, Merry, my child!' cried Mr Pecksniff. 'Brown paper!
Scissors! A piece of old linen! Charity, my dear, make a bandage.
Bless me, Mr Jonas!'

'Oh, bother YOUR nonsense,' returned the gracious son-in-law elect.
'Be of some use if you can. If you can't, get out!'

Miss Charity, though called upon to lend her aid, sat upright in one
corner, with a smile upon her face, and didn't move a finger.
Though Mercy laved the wound herself; and Mr Pecksniff held the
patient's head between his two hands, as if without that assistance
it must inevitably come in half; and Tom Pinch, in his guilty
agitation, shook a bottle of Dutch Drops until they were nothing but
English Froth, and in his other hand sustained a formidable carving-
knife, really intended to reduce the swelling, but apparently
designed for the ruthless infliction of another wound as soon as
that was dressed; Charity rendered not the least assistance, nor
uttered a word. But when Mr Jonas's head was bound up, and he had
gone to bed, and everybody else had retired, and the house was
quiet, Mr Pinch, as he sat mournfully on his bedstead, ruminating,
heard a gentle tap at his door; and opening it, saw her, to his
great astonishment, standing before him with her finger on her lip.

'Mr Pinch,' she whispered. 'Dear Mr Pinch! Tell me the truth!
You did that? There was some quarrel between you, and you struck
him? I am sure of it!'

It was the first time she had ever spoken kindly to Tom, in all
the many years they had passed together. He was stupefied with
amazement.

'Was it so, or not?' she eagerly demanded.

'I was very much provoked,' said Tom.

'Then it was?' cried Charity, with sparkling eyes.

'Ye-yes. We had a struggle for the path,' said Tom. 'But I didn't
mean to hurt him so much.'

'Not so much!' she repeated, clenching her hand and stamping her
foot, to Tom's great wonder. 'Don't say that. It was brave of you.
I honour you for it. If you should ever quarrel again, don't spare
him for the world, but beat him down and set your shoe upon him.
Not a word of this to anybody. Dear Mr Pinch, I am your friend from
tonight. I am always your friend from this time.'

She turned her flushed face upon Tom to confirm her words by its
kindling expression; and seizing his right hand, pressed it to her
breast, and kissed it. And there was nothing personal in this to
render it at all embarrassing, for even Tom, whose power of
observation was by no means remarkable, knew from the energy with
which she did it that she would have fondled any hand, no matter how
bedaubed or dyed, that had broken the head of Jonas Chuzzlewit.

Tom went into his room, and went to bed, full of uncomfortable
thoughts. That there should be any such tremendous division in the
family as he knew must have taken place to convert Charity Pecksniff
into his friend, for any reason, but, above all, for that which was
clearly the real one; that Jonas, who had assailed him with such
exceeding coarseness, should have been sufficiently magnanimous to
keep the secret of their quarrel; and that any train of
circumstances should have led to the commission of an assault and
battery by Thomas Pinch upon any man calling himself the friend of
Seth Pecksniff; were matters of such deep and painful cogitation
that he could not close his eyes. His own violence, in particular,
so preyed upon the generous mind of Tom, that coupling it with the
many former occasions on which he had given Mr Pecksniff pain and
anxiety (occasions of which that gentleman often reminded him), he
really began to regard himself as destined by a mysterious fate to
be the evil genius and bad angel of his patron. But he fell asleep
at last, and dreamed--new source of waking uneasiness--that he had
betrayed his trust, and run away with Mary Graham.

It must be acknowledged that, asleep or awake, Tom's position in
reference to this young lady was full of uneasiness. The more he
saw of her, the more he admired her beauty, her intelligence, the
amiable qualities that even won on the divided house of Pecksniff,
and in a few days restored, at all events, the semblance of harmony
and kindness between the angry sisters. When she spoke, Tom held
his breath, so eagerly he listened; when she sang, he sat like one
entranced. She touched his organ, and from that bright epoch even
it, the old companion of his happiest hours, incapable as he had
thought of elevation, began a new and deified existence.

God's love upon thy patience, Tom! Who, that had beheld thee, for
three summer weeks, poring through half the deadlong night over the
jingling anatomy of that inscrutable old harpsichord in the back
parlour, could have missed the entrance to thy secret heart: albeit
it was dimly known to thee? Who that had seen the glow upon thy
cheek when leaning down to listen, after hours of labour, for the
sound of one incorrigible note, thou foundest that it had a voice at
last, and wheezed out a flat something, distantly akin to what it
ought to be, would not have known that it was destined for no common
touch, but one that smote, though gently as an angel's hand, upon
the deepest chord within thee! And if a friendly glance--aye, even
though it were as guileless as thine own, Dear Tom--could have but
pierced the twilight of that evening, when, in a voice well tempered
to the time, sad, sweet, and low, yet hopeful, she first sang to the
altered instrument, and wondered at the change; and thou, sitting
apart at the open window, kept a glad silence and a swelling heart--
must not that glance have read perforce the dawning of a story, Tom,
that it were well for thee had never been begun!

Tom Pinch's situation was not made the less dangerous or difficult
by the fact of no one word passing between them in reference to
Martin. Honourably mindful of his promise, Tom gave her
opportunities of all kinds. Early and late he was in the church; in
her favourite walks; in the village, in the garden, in the meadows;
and in any or all of these places he might have spoken freely. But
no; at all such times she carefully avoided him, or never came in
his way unaccompanied. It could not be that she disliked or
distrusted him, for by a thousand little delicate means, too slight
for any notice but his own, she singled him out when others were
present, and showed herself the very soul of kindness. Could it be
that she had broken with Martin, or had never returned his
affection, save in his own bold and heightened fancy? Tom's cheek
grew red with self-reproach as he dismissed the thought.

All this time old Martin came and went in his own strange manner, or
sat among the rest absorbed within himself, and holding little
intercourse with any one. Although he was unsocial, he was not
willful in other things, or troublesome, or morose; being never
better pleased than when they left him quite unnoticed at his book,
and pursued their own amusements in his presence, unreserved. It
was impossible to discern in whom he took an interest, or whether he
had an interest in any of them. Unless they spoke to him directly,
he never showed that he had ears or eyes for anything that passed.

One day the lively Merry, sitting with downcast eyes under a shady
tree in the churchyard, whither she had retired after fatiguing
herself by the imposition of sundry trials on the temper of Mr
Jonas, felt that a new shadow came between her and the sun. Raising
her eyes in the expectation of seeing her betrothed, she was not a
little surprised to see old Martin instead. Her surprise was not
diminished when he took his seat upon the turf beside her, and
opened a conversation thus:

'When are you to be married?'

'Oh! dear Mr Chuzzlewit, my goodness me! I'm sure I don't know. Not
yet awhile, I hope.'

'You hope?' said the old man.

It was very gravely said, but she took it for banter, and giggled
excessively.

'Come!' said the old man, with unusual kindness, 'you are young,
good-looking, and I think good-natured! Frivolous you are, and love
to be, undoubtedly; but you must have some heart.'

'I have not given it all away, I can tell you,' said Merry, nodding
her head shrewdly, and plucking up the grass.

'Have you parted with any of it?'

She threw the grass about, and looked another way, but said nothing.

Martin repeated his question.

'Lor, my dear Mr Chuzzlewit! really you must excuse me! How very odd
you are.'

'If it be odd in me to desire to know whether you love the young man
whom I understand you are to marry, I AM very odd,' said Martin.
'For that is certainly my wish.'

'He's such a monster, you know,' said Merry, pouting.

'Then you don't love him?' returned the old man. 'Is that your
meaning?'

'Why, my dear Mr Chuzzlewit, I'm sure I tell him a hundred times a
day that I hate him. You must have heard me tell him that.'

'Often,' said Martin.

'And so I do,' cried Merry. 'I do positively.'

'Being at the same time engaged to marry him,' observed the old man.

'Oh yes,' said Merry. 'But I told the wretch--my dear Mr
Chuzzlewit, I told him when he asked me--that if I ever did marry
him, it should only be that I might hate and tease him all my life.'

She had a suspicion that the old man regarded Jonas with anything
but favour, and intended these remarks to be extremely captivating.
He did not appear, however, to regard them in that light by any
means; for when he spoke again, it was in a tone of severity.

'Look about you,' he said, pointing to the graves; 'and remember
that from your bridal hour to the day which sees you brought as low
as these, and laid in such a bed, there will be no appeal against
him. Think, and speak, and act, for once, like an accountable
creature. Is any control put upon your inclinations? Are you
forced into this match? Are you insidiously advised or tempted to
contract it, by any one? I will not ask by whom; by any one?'

'No,' said Merry, shrugging her shoulders. 'I don't know that I
am.'

'Don't know that you are! Are you?'

'No,' replied Merry. 'Nobody ever said anything to me about it. If
any one had tried to make me have him, I wouldn't have had him at
all.'

'I am told that he was at first supposed to be your sister's
admirer,' said Martin.

'Oh, good gracious! My dear Mr Chuzzlewit, it would be very hard to
make him, though he IS a monster, accountable for other people's
vanity,' said Merry. 'And poor dear Cherry is the vainest darling!'

'It was her mistake, then?'

'I hope it was,' cried Merry; 'but, all along, the dear child has
been so dreadfully jealous, and SO cross, that, upon my word and
honour, it's impossible to please her, and it's of no use trying.'

'Not forced, persuaded, or controlled,' said Martin, thoughtfully.
'And that's true, I see. There is one chance yet. You may have
lapsed into this engagement in very giddiness. It may have been the
wanton act of a light head. Is that so?'

'My dear Mr Chuzzlewit,' simpered Merry, 'as to light-headedness,
there never was such a feather of a head as mine. It's perfect
balloon, I declare! You never DID, you know!'

He waited quietly till she had finished, and then said, steadily and
slowly, and in a softened voice, as if he would still invite her
confidence:

'Have you any wish--or is there anything within your breast that
whispers you may form the wish, if you have time to think--to be
released from this engagement?'

Again Miss Merry pouted, and looked down, and plucked the grass, and
shrugged her shoulders. No. She didn't know that she had. She was
pretty sure she hadn't. Quite sure, she might say. She 'didn't
mind it.'

'Has it ever occurred to you,' said Martin, 'that your married life
may perhaps be miserable, full of bitterness, and most unhappy?'

Merry looked down again; and now she tore the grass up by the roots.

'My dear Mr Chuzzlewit, what shocking words! Of course, I shall
quarrel with him. I should quarrel with any husband. Married
people always quarrel, I believe. But as to being miserable, and
bitter, and all those dreadful things, you know, why I couldn't be
absolutely that, unless he always had the best of it; and I mean to
have the best of it myself. I always do now,' cried Merry, nodding
her head and giggling very much; 'for I make a perfect slave of the
creature.'

'Let it go on,' said Martin, rising. 'Let it go on! I sought to
know your mind, my dear, and you have shown it me. I wish you joy.
Joy!' he repeated, looking full upon her, and pointing to the
wicket-gate where Jonas entered at the moment. And then, without
waiting for his nephew, he passed out at another gate, and went
away.

'Oh, you terrible old man!' cried the facetious Merry to herself.
'What a perfectly hideous monster to be wandering about churchyards
in the broad daylight, frightening people out of their wits! Don't
come here, Griffin, or I'll go away directly.'

Mr Jonas was the Griffin. He sat down upon the grass at her side,
in spite of this warning, and sulkily inquired:

'What's my uncle been a-talking about?'

'About you,' rejoined Merry. 'He says you're not half good enough
for me.'

'Oh, yes, I dare say! We all know that. He means to give you some
present worth having, I hope. Did he say anything that looked like
it?'

'THAT he didn't!' cried Merry, most decisively.

'A stingy old dog he is,' said Jonas. 'Well?'

'Griffin!' cried Miss Mercy, in counterfeit amazement; 'what are you
doing, Griffin?'

'Only giving you a squeeze,' said the discomfited Jonas. 'There's
no harm in that, I suppose?'

'But there is great deal of harm in it, if I don't consider it
agreeable,' returned his cousin. 'Do go along, will you? You make
me so hot!'

Mr Jonas withdrew his arm, and for a moment looked at her more like
a murderer than a lover. But he cleared his brow by degrees, and
broke silence with:

'I say, Mel!'

'What do you say, you vulgar thing--you low savage?' cried his fair
betrothed.

'When is it to be? I can't afford to go on dawdling about here half
my life, I needn't tell you, and Pecksniff says that father's being
so lately dead makes very little odds; for we can be married as
quiet as we please down here, and my being lonely is a good reason
to the neighbours for taking a wife home so soon, especially one
that he knew. As to crossbones (my uncle, I mean), he's sure not to
put a spoke in the wheel, whatever we settle on, for he told
Pecksniff only this morning, that if YOU liked it he'd nothing at
all to say. So, Mel,' said Jonas, venturing on another squeeze;
'when shall it be?'

'Upon my word!' cried Merry.

'Upon my soul, if you like,' said Jonas. 'What do you say to next
week, now?'

'To next week! If you had said next quarter, I should have wondered
at your impudence.'

'But I didn't say next quarter,' retorted Jonas. 'I said next
week.'

'Then, Griffin,' cried Miss Merry, pushing him off, and rising. 'I
say no! not next week. It shan't be till I choose, and I may not
choose it to be for months. There!'

He glanced up at her from the ground, almost as darkly as he had
looked at Tom Pinch; but held his peace.

'No fright of a Griffin with a patch over his eye shall dictate to
me or have a voice in the matter,' said Merry. 'There!'

Still Mr Jonas held his peace.

'If it's next month, that shall be the very earliest; but I won't
say when it shall be till to-morrow; and if you don't like that, it
shall never be at all,' said Merry; 'and if you follow me about and
won't leave me alone, it shall never be at all. There!v And if you
don't do everything I order you to do, it shall never be at all. So
don't follow me. There, Griffin!'

And with that, she skipped away, among the trees.

'Ecod, my lady!' said Jonas, looking after her, and biting a piece
of straw, almost to powder; 'you'll catch it for this, when you ARE
married. It's all very well now--it keeps one on, somehow, and you
know it--but I'll pay you off scot and lot by-and-bye. This is a
plaguey dull sort of a place for a man to be sitting by himself in.
I never could abide a mouldy old churchyard.'

As he turned into the avenue himself, Miss Merry, who was far ahead,
happened to look back.

'Ah!' said Jonas, with a sullen smile, and a nod that was not
addressed to her. 'Make the most of it while it lasts. Get in your
hay while the sun shines. Take your own way as long as it's in your
power, my lady!'

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

IS IN PART PROFESSIONAL, AND FURNISHES THE READER WITH SOME VALUABLE
HINTS IN RELATION TO THE MANAGEMENT OF A SICK CHAMBER

Mr Mould was surrounded by his household gods. He was enjoying
the sweets of domestic repose, and gazing on them with a calm
delight. The day being sultry, and the window open, the legs of Mr
Mould were on the window-seat, and his back reclined against the
shutter. Over his shining head a handkerchief was drawn, to guard
his baldness from the flies. The room was fragrant with the smell
of punch, a tumbler of which grateful compound stood upon a small
round table, convenient to the hand of Mr Mould; so deftly mixed
that as his eye looked down into the cool transparent drink, another
eye, peering brightly from behind the crisp lemon-peel, looked up at
him, and twinkled like a star.

Deep in the City, and within the ward of Cheap, stood Mr Mould's
establishment. His Harem, or, in other words, the common sitting
room of Mrs Mould and family, was at the back, over the little
counting-house behind the shop; abutting on a churchyard small and
shady. In this domestic chamber Mr Mould now sat; gazing, a placid
man, upon his punch and home. If, for a moment at a time, he sought
a wider prospect, whence he might return with freshened zest to
these enjoyments, his moist glance wandered like a sunbeam through a
rural screen of scarlet runners, trained on strings before the
window, and he looked down, with an artist's eye, upon the graves.

The partner of his life, and daughters twain, were Mr Mould's
companions. Plump as any partridge was each Miss Mould, and Mrs M.
was plumper than the two together. So round and chubby were their
fair proportions, that they might have been the bodies once
belonging to the angels' faces in the shop below, grown up, with
other heads attached to make them mortal. Even their peachy cheeks
were puffed out and distended, as though they ought of right to be
performing on celestial trumpets. The bodiless cherubs in the shop,
who were depicted as constantly blowing those instruments for ever
and ever without any lungs, played, it is to be presumed, entirely
by ear.

Mr Mould looked lovingly at Mrs Mould, who sat hard by, and was a
helpmate to him in his punch as in all other things. Each seraph
daughter, too, enjoyed her share of his regards, and smiled upon him
in return. So bountiful were Mr Mould's possessions, and so large
his stock in trade, that even there, within his household sanctuary,
stood a cumbrous press, whose mahogany maw was filled with shrouds,
and winding-sheets, and other furniture of funerals. But, though
the Misses Mould had been brought up, as one may say, beneath his
eye, it had cast no shadow on their timid infancy or blooming youth.
Sporting behind the scenes of death and burial from cradlehood, the
Misses Mould knew better. Hat-bands, to them, were but so many yards
of silk or crape; the final robe but such a quantity of linen. The
Misses Mould could idealise a player's habit, or a court-lady's
petticoat, or even an act of parliament. But they were not to be
taken in by palls. They made them sometimes.

The premises of Mr Mould were hard of hearing to the boisterous
noises in the great main streets, and nestled in a quiet corner,
where the City strife became a drowsy hum, that sometimes rose and
sometimes fell and sometimes altogether ceased; suggesting to a
thoughtful mind a stoppage in Cheapside. The light came sparkling
in among the scarlet runners, as if the churchyard 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 luxury. 'It puts one in mind of the sound of animated
nature in the agricultural districts. It's exactly like the
woodpecker tapping.'

'The woodpecker tapping the hollow ELM tree,' observed Mrs Mould,
adapting the words of the popular melody to the description of wood
commonly used in the trade.

'Ha, ha!' laughed Mr Mould. 'Not at all bad, my dear. We shall be
glad to hear from you again, Mrs M. Hollow elm tree, eh! Ha, ha!
Very good indeed. I've seen worse than that in the Sunday papers,
my love.'

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

'Hollow ELM tree, eh?' said Mr Mould, making a slight motion with
his legs in his enjoyment of the joke. 'It's beech in the song.
Elm, eh? 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 times, 'Elm, eh?
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, I 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 a little
farther. 'You wouldn't be inclined to take a walking one of two,
with the plain wood and a tin plate, I suppose?'

'Certainly not,' replied Mr Mould, 'much too common. 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 of business
here,' said Mr Mould. 'Like their impudence to propose it. Who is
it?'

'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, eh?' said Mould. 'Well! I'll do it if the
beadle follows in his cocked hat; not else. We carry it off that
way, by looking official, but it'll be low enough, then. His cocked
hat, mind!'

'I'll take care, sir,' rejoined Tacker. 'Oh! Mrs Gamp's below, and
wants to speak to you.'

'Tell Mrs Gamp to come upstairs,' said Mould. 'Now Mrs Gamp,
what's YOUR news?'

The lady in question was by this time in the doorway, curtseying to
Mrs Mould. At the same moment a peculiar fragrance was borne upon
the breeze, as if a passing fairy had hiccoughed, and had previously
been to a wine-vaults.

Mrs Gamp made no response to Mr Mould, but curtseyed to Mrs Mould
again, and held up her hands and eyes, as in a devout thanksgiving
that she looked so well. She was neatly, but not gaudily attired,
in the weeds she had worn when Mr Pecksniff had the pleasure of
making her acquaintance; and was perhaps the turning of a scale more
snuffy.

'There are some happy creeturs,' Mrs Gamp observed, 'as time runs
back'ards with, and you are one, Mrs Mould; not that he need do
nothing except use you in his most owldacious way for years to come,
I'm sure; for young you are and will be. I says to Mrs Harris,' Mrs
Gamp continued, 'only t'other day; the last Monday evening fortnight
as ever dawned upon this Piljian's Projiss of a mortal wale; I says
to Mrs Harris when she says to me, "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 friends, for sech is not the case. Mrs
Mould," I says, making so free, I will confess, as use the name,'
(she curtseyed here), '"is one of them that goes agen the
obserwation straight; and never, Mrs Harris, whilst I've a drop of
breath to draw, will I set by, and not stand up, don't think it."--
"I ast your pardon, ma'am," says Mrs Harris, "and I humbly grant
your grace; for if ever a woman lived as would see her feller
creeturs into fits to serve her friends, well do I know that woman's
name is Sairey Gamp."'

At this point she was fain to stop for breath; and advantage may be
taken of the circumstance, to state that a fearful mystery
surrounded this lady of the name of Harris, whom no one in the
circle of Mrs Gamp's acquaintance had ever seen; neither did any
human being know her place of residence, though Mrs Gamp appeared on
her own showing to be in constant communication with her. There
were conflicting rumours on the subject; but the prevalent opinion
was that she was a phantom of Mrs Gamp's brain--as Messrs. Doe and
Roe are fictions of the law--created for the express purpose of
holding visionary dialogues with her on all manner of subjects, and
invariably winding up with a compliment to the excellence of her
nature.

'And likeways what a pleasure,' said Mrs Gamp, turning with a
tearful smile towards the daughters, 'to see them two young ladies
as I know'd afore a tooth in their pretty heads was cut, and have
many a day seen--ah, the sweet creeturs!--playing at berryins down
in the shop, and follerin' the order-book to its long home in the
iron safe! But that's all past and over, Mr Mould;' as she thus got
in a carefully regulated routine to that gentleman, she shook her
head waggishly; 'That's all past and over now, sir, an't it?'

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

'More changes too, to come, afore we've done with changes, sir,'
said Mrs Gamp, 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?'

'Oh yes, you do know, sir!' said Mrs Gamp, 'and so does Mrs Mould,
your 'ansome pardner 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 off its feet, as with
our precious boy he did, and arterward 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 sech would be a satisfaction to his
parents.--Oh yes, you do know, sir,' said Mrs Gamp, wiping her eye
with her shawl, and resuming the thread of her discourse. 'There's
something besides births and berryins in the newspapers, an't there,
Mr Mould?'

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

'There's marryings, an't there, sir?' said Mrs Gamp, while both the
daughters blushed and tittered. 'Bless their precious hearts, and
well they knows it! Well you know'd it too, and well did Mrs Mould,
when you was at their time of life! But my opinion is, you're all of
one age now. For as to you and Mrs Mould, sir, ever having
grandchildren--'

'Oh! Fie, fie! Nonsense, Mrs Gamp,' replied the undertaker.
'Devilish smart, though. Ca-pi-tal!'--this was in a whisper. 'My
dear'--aloud again--'Mrs Gamp can drink a glass of rum, I dare say.
Sit down, Mrs Gamp, sit down.'

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

'A thing,' she said, 'as hardly ever, Mrs Mould, occurs with me
unless it is when I am indispoged, and find my half a pint of porter
settling heavy on the chest. Mrs Harris often and often says to me,
"Sairey Gamp," she says, "you raly do amaze me!" "Mrs Harris," I
says to her, "why so? Give it a name, I beg." "Telling the truth
then, ma'am," says Mrs Harris, "and shaming him as shall be nameless
betwixt you and me, never did I think till I know'd you, as any
woman could sick-nurse and monthly likeways, on the little that you
takes to drink." "Mrs Harris," I says to her, "none on us knows what
we can do till we tries; and wunst, when me and Gamp kept 'ouse, I
thought so too. But now," I says, "my half a pint of porter fully
satisfies; perwisin', Mrs Harris, that it is brought reg'lar, and
draw'd mild. Whether I sicks or monthlies, ma'am, I hope I does my
duty, but I am but a poor woman, and I earns my living hard;
therefore I DO require it, which I makes confession, to be brought
reg'lar and draw'd mild."'

The precise connection between these observations and the glass of
rum, did not appear; for Mrs Gamp proposing as a toast 'The best of
lucks to all!' took off the dram in quite a scientific manner,
without any further remarks.

'And what's your news, Mrs Gamp?' asked Mould again, as that lady
wiped her lips upon her shawl, and nibbled a corner off a soft
biscuit, which she appeared to carry in her pocket as a provision
against contingent drams. 'How's Mr Chuffey?'

'Mr Chuffey, sir,' she replied, 'is jest as usual; he an't no better
and he an't no worse. I take it very kind in the gentleman to have
wrote up to you and said, "let Mrs Gamp take care of him till I come
home;" but ev'rythink he does is kind. There an't a many like him.
If there was, we shouldn't want no churches.'

'What do you want to speak to me about, Mrs Gamp?' said Mould,
coming to the point.

'Jest this, sir,' Mrs Gamp returned, 'with thanks to you for asking.
There IS a gent, sir, at the Bull in Holborn, as has been took ill
there, and is bad abed. They have a day nurse as was recommended
from Bartholomew's; and well I knows her, Mr Mould, her name bein'
Mrs Prig, the best of creeturs. But she is otherways engaged at
night, and they are in wants of night-watching; consequent she says
to them, having reposed the greatest friendliness in me for twenty
year, "The soberest person going, and the best of blessings in a
sick room, is Mrs Gamp. Send a boy to Kingsgate Street," she says,
"and snap her up at any price, for Mrs Gamp is worth her weight and
more in goldian guineas." My landlord brings the message down to me,
and says, "bein' in a light place where you are, and this job
promising so well, why not unite the two?" "No, sir," I says, "not
unbeknown to Mr Mould, and therefore do not think it. But I will go
to Mr Mould," I says, "and ast him, if you 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?' said would.

'Quite free, then, sir, to attend to Mr Chuffey. 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 an'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 you pointblank.'

'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?'

'Certainly, Mrs Gamp,' said Mould, with much condescension. 'You
may casually remark, in such a case, that we do the thing pleasantly
and in a great variety of styles, and are generally considered to
make it as agreeable as possible to the feelings of the survivors.
But don't obtrude it, don't obtrude it. Easy, easy! My 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 wind (for
the bottle was locked up again) rose to take her departure.

'Wishing ev'ry happiness to this happy family,' said Mrs Gamp 'with
all my heart. Good arternoon, Mrs Mould! If I was Mr would 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 the delighted
undertaker.

'As to the young ladies,' said Mrs Gamp, dropping a curtsey, 'bless
their sweet looks--how they can ever reconsize it with their duties
to be so grown up with such young parents, it an't for sech as me to
give a guess at.'

'Nonsense, nonsense. Be off, Mrs Gamp!' cried Mould. But in the
height of his gratification he actually pinched Mrs Mould as he said
it.

'I'll tell you what, my dear,' he observed, when Mrs Gamp had at
last withdrawn and shut the door, 'that's a ve-ry shrewd woman.
That's a woman whose intellect is immensely superior to her station
in life. That's a woman who observes and reflects in an uncommon
manner. She's the sort of woman now,' said Mould, drawing his silk
handkerchief over his head again, and composing himself for a nap
'one would almost feel disposed to bury for nothing; and do it
neatly, too!'

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

Whatever she was, or whatever name the vocabulary of medical science
would have bestowed upon her malady, Mrs Gamp was perfectly
acquainted with the way home again; and arriving at the house of
Anthony Chuzzlewit & Son, lay down to rest. Remaining there until
seven o'clock in the evening, and then persuading poor old Chuffey
to betake himself to bed, she sallied forth upon her new engagement.
First, she went to her private lodgings in Kingsgate Street, for a
bundle of robes and wrappings comfortable in the night season; and
then repaired to the Bull in Holborn, which she reached as the
clocks were striking eight.

As she turned into the yard, she stopped; for the landlord,
landlady, and head chambermaid, were all on the threshold together
talking earnestly with a young gentleman who seemed to have just
come or to be just going away. The first words that struck upon Mrs
Gamp's ear obviously bore reference to the patient; and it being
expedient that all good attendants should know as much as possible
about the case on which their skill is brought to bear, Mrs 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 background,
opening her eyes very wide, and shaking her head.

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

The landlord looked at the landlady; the landlady looked at the
landlord; and the chambermaid remarked, hysterically, 'that of all
the many wague directions she had ever seen or heerd 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 sent to me, I really know very little about him.
We were school-fellows together; but since that time I have only met
him twice. On both occasions I was in London for a boy's holiday
(having come up for a week or so from Wiltshire), and lost sight of
him again directly. The letter bearing my name and address which
you found upon his table, and which led to your applying 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?' 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 purse, 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 now 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 condition to give
us some information. Can you suggest anything else?'

'N-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.

'Not forgetting to remember the servants,' said the chambermaid in a
bland whisper.

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

'Ah!' cried Mrs Gamp. 'A rayal gentleman!'

She groaned her admiration so audibly, that they all turned round.
Mrs Gamp felt the necessity of advancing, bundle in hand, and
introducing herself.

'The night-nurse,' she observed, 'from Kingsgate Street, well
beknown to Mrs Prig the day-nurse, and the best of creeturs. How is
the poor dear gentleman to-night? If he an't no better yet, still
that is what must be expected and prepared for. It an't the fust
time by a many score, ma'am,' dropping a curtsey to the landlady,
'that Mrs Prig and me has nussed together, turn and turn about, one
off, one on. We knows each other's ways, and often gives relief
when others fail. Our charges is but low, sir'--Mrs Gamp
addressed herself to John on this head--'considerin' the nater of
our painful dooty. If they wos made accordin' to our wishes, they
would be easy paid.'

Regarding herself as having now delivered her inauguration address,
Mrs Gamp curtseyed all round, and signified her wish to be conducted
to the scene of her official duties. The chambermaid led her,
through a variety of intricate passages, to the top of the house;
and pointing at length to a solitary door at the end of a gallery,
informed her that yonder was the chamber where the patient lay.
That done, she hurried off with all the speed she could make.

Mrs Gamp traversed the gallery in a great heat from having carried
her large bundle up so many stairs, and tapped at the door which was
immediately opened by Mrs Prig, bonneted and shawled and all
impatience to be gone. Mrs Prig was of the Gamp build, but not so
fat; and her voice was deeper and more like a man's. She had also a
beard.

'I began to think you warn't a-coming!' Mrs Prig observed, in some
displeasure.

'It shall be made good to-morrow night,' said Mrs Gamp 'Honorable.
I had to go and fetch my things.' She had begun to make signs of
inquiry in reference to the position of the patient and 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 an't no
matter wot you say.'

'Anythin' to tell afore you goes, my dear?' asked Mrs Gamp, setting
her bundle down inside the door, and looking affectionately at her
partner.

'The pickled salmon,' Mrs Prig replied, 'is quite delicious. I can
partlck'ler recommend it. Don't have nothink to say to the cold
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 mankleshelf,' said
Mrs Prig, cursorily. 'He took his last slime draught at seven. The
easy-chair an't soft enough. You'll want his piller.'

Mrs Gamp thanked her for these hints, and giving her a friendly good
night, held the door open until 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 occupation of
the sick chamber.

'A little dull, but not so bad as might be,' Mrs Gamp remarked.
'I'm glad to see a parapidge, in case of fire, and lots of roofs and
chimley-pots 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 whiteness 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 expression of
impatience or fatigue, sometimes of surprise; and still his restless
head--oh, weary, weary hour!--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 connoisseur 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 arms against his
sides, to see how he would look if laid out as a dead man. 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.'

She 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 tea-board, that
nothing might be wanting for her comfortable enjoyment. These
preparations occupied so long, that when they were brought to a
conclusion it was high time to think about supper; so she rang the
bell and ordered it.

'I think, young woman,' said Mrs Gamp to the assistant chambermaid,
in a tone expressive of weakness, 'that I could pick a little bit of
pickled salmon, with a nice little sprig of fennel, and a sprinkling
of white pepper. I takes new bread, my dear, with just a little pat
of fresh butter, and a mossel of cheese. In case there should be
such a thing as a cowcumber in the 'ouse, will you be so kind as
bring it, for I'm rather partial to 'em, and they does a world of
good in a sick room. If they draws the Brighton Old Tipper here, I
takes THAT ale at night, my love, it bein' considered wakeful by the
doctors. And whatever you do, young woman, don't bring more than a
shilling's-worth of gin and water-warm when I rings the bell a
second time; for that is always my allowance, and I never takes a
drop beyond!'

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

A tray was brought with everything upon it, even to the cucumber and
Mrs Gamp accordingly sat down to eat and drink in high good humour.
The extent to which she availed herself of the vinegar, and supped
up that refreshing fluid with the blade of her knife, can scarcely
be expressed in narrative.

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

She moralised in the same vein until her glass was empty, and then
admistered the patient's medicine, by the simple process of
clutching his windpipe to make him gasp, and immediately pouring it
down his throat.

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

With this view, she went about the construction of an extemporaneous
bed in the easy-chair, with the addition of the next easy one for
her feet. Having formed the best couch that the circumstances
admitted of, she took out of her bundle a yellow night-cap, of
prodigious size, in shape resembling a cabbage; which article of
dress she fixed and tied on with the utmost care, previously
divesting herself of a row of bald old curls that could scarcely be
called false, they were so very innocent of anything approaching to
deception. From the same repository she brought forth a night-jacket,
in which she also attired herself. Finally, she produced a
watchman's coat which she tied round her neck by the sleeves, so
that she become two people; and looked, behind, as if she were in
the act of being embraced by one of the old patrol.

All these arrangements made, she lighted the rush-light, 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
the streets were gradually hushed; the house was quiet as a
sepulchre; the dead of might was coffined in the silent city.

Oh, weary, weary hour! Oh, haggard mind, groping darkly through the
past; incapable of detaching itself from the miserable present;
dragging its heavy chain of care through imaginary feasts and
revels, and scenes of awful pomp; seeking but a moment's rest among
the long-forgotten haunts of childhood, and the resorts of
yesterday; and dimly finding fear and horror everywhere! Oh, weary,
weary hour! What 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, suffering, 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 awfully for answers sometimes; 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 prisoner.

'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 motion of
the head, but he talked on wildly.

'Ah!' said Mrs Gamp, coming out of the chair with an impatient
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 us all.
Don't you see how the fountain sinks? Look at the mark where the
sparkling water was just now!'

'Sparkling water, indeed!' said Mrs Gamp. 'I'll have a sparkling
cup o' tea, I think. I wish you'd hold your noise!'

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

'One--two--three--four--five--six.'

"One, two, buckle my shoe,"' said Mrs Gamp, who was now on her
knees, lighting the fire, "three, four, shut the door,"--I wish
you'd shut your mouth, young man--"five, six, picking up sticks."
If I'd got a few handy, I should have the kettle boiling 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; and for
some time she drowsily amused herself by sliding that feature
backwards and forwards along the brass top, as far as she could,
without changing her position to do it. She maintained, all the
while, a running commentary upon the wanderings of the man in bed.

'That makes five hundred and twenty-one men, all dressed alike, 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!
Five hundred and twenty-two--twenty-three--twenty-four. Do you see
them?'

'Ah! I see 'em,' said Mrs Gamp; 'all the whole kit of 'em numbered
like hackney-coaches, an't they?'

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

'You'll take your 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?' said Mrs Gamp.

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

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

'Crape! Black crape! Good God! why do they wear it outside?'

'Would you have 'em carry black crape in their insides?' Mrs Gamp
retorted. 'Hold your noise, hold your noise.'

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

'Chuzzlewit!'

The sound was so distinct and real, and so full of agonised
entreaty, 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 passed to her
seat again, she glanced at the patient. 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 bound.'

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 the
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 was not
admitted, the disorder being infectious. The doctor came 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?'

'Restless, sir,' said Mrs Gamp.

'Talk much?'

'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.'

'Oh, I shan't mind him,' Mrs Prig returned. 'I have somethin' else
to think of.'

'I pays my debts to-night, you know, my dear, and comes afore my
time,' said Mrs Gamp. 'But, Betsy Prig'--speaking with great
feeling, and laying her hand upon her arm--'try the cowcumbers, God
bless you!'

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

AN UNEXPECTED MEETING, AND A PROMISING PROSPECT

The laws of sympathy between beards and birds, and the secret source
of that attraction which frequently impels a shaver of the one to be
a dealer in the other, are questions for the subtle reasoning of
scientific bodies; not the less so, because their investigation
would seem calculated to lead to no particular result. It is enough
to know that the artist who had the honour of entertaining Mrs Gamp
as his first-floor lodger, united the two pursuits of barbering and
bird-fancying; and that it was not an original idea of his, but one
in which he had, dispersed about the by-streets and suburbs of the
town, a host of rivals.

The name of the householder was Paul Sweedlepipe. But he was
commonly called Poll Sweedlepipe; and was not uncommonly believed to
have been so christened, among his friends and neighbours.

With the exception of the staircase, and his lodger's private
apartment, Poll Sweedlepipe's house was one great bird's nest.
Gamecocks resided in the kitchen; pheasants wasted the brightness of
their golden plumage on the garret; bantams roosted in the cellar;
owls had possession of the bedroom; and specimens of all the smaller
fry of birds chirrupped and twittered in the shop. The staircase
was sacred to rabbits. There in hutches of all shapes and kinds,
made from old packing-cases, boxes, drawers, and tea-chests, they
increased in a prodigious degree, and contributed their share
towards that complicated whiff which, quite impartially, and without
distinction of persons, saluted every nose that was put into
Sweedlepipe's easy shaving-shop.

Many noses found their way there, for all that, especially on Sunday
morning, before church-time. Even archbishops shave, or must be
shaved, on a Sunday, and beards WILL grow after twelve o'clock on
Saturday night, though it be upon the chins of base mechanics; who,
not being able to engage their valets by the quarter, hire them by
the job, and pay them--oh, the wickedness of copper coin!--in 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 sparrow, that builds in 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 in 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 head--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 his feminine
designation. He had a tender heart, too; for, when he had a good
commission to provide three or four score sparrows for a shooting-
match, he would observe, in a compassionate tone, how singular it
was that sparrows should have been made expressly for such purposes.
The question, whether men were made to shoot them, never entered
into Poll's philosophy.

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

'It's the greediest little bell to ring,' said Poll, 'that ever was.
But it's quiet at last.'

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

'Now, STOO-PID!' cried the young gentleman. 'Can't you look where
you're a-going to--eh? Can't you mind where you're a-coming to--eh?
What do you think your eyes was made for--eh? Ah! Yes. Oh! Now
then!'

The young gentleman pronounced the two last words in a very loud
tone and with frightful emphasis, as though they contained within
themselves the essence of the direst aggravation. But he had
scarcely done so, when his anger yielded to surprise, and he cried,
in a milder tone:

'What! Polly!'

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

'No. It an't me,' returned the youth. 'It's my son, my oldest
one. He's a credit to his father, an't he, Polly?' With this
delicate little piece of banter, he halted on the pavement, and went
round and round in circles, for the better exhibition of his figure;
rather to the inconvenience of the passengers generally, who were
not in an equal state of spirits with himself.

'I wouldn't have believed it,' said Poll. 'What! You've left your
old place, then? Have you?'

'Have I!' returned his young friend, who had by this time stuck his
hands into the pockets of his white cord breeches, and was
swaggering along at the barber's side. 'D'ye know a pair of top-
boots when you see 'em, Polly?--look here!'

'Beau-ti-ful' cried Mr Sweedlepipe.

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

'Beau-ti-ful!' cried the barber again. 'A grass-green frock-coat,
too, bound with gold; and a cockade in your hat!'

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

'No,' returned the barber. 'Is she a bankrupt?'

'If she ain't, she will be,' retorted Bailey. 'That bis'ness never
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? Was that the bis'ness that
brought you to Holborn?'

'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 ain'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 was 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 buy any more red polls now, to hang up over
the sink, will you?'

'I should think not,' replied Bailey. 'Reether so. I wouldn't have
nothin' to say to any bird below a Peacock; and HE'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?' added Mr Bailey, with the 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 nurse, who had been acting as a
kind of house-keeper to a gentleman for some weeks past, and left
her place that night, in consequence of being superseded by another
and a more legitimate house-keeper--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: 'that's the name sure enough. Do you know
him?'

'Oh, no!' cried Mr Bailey; 'not at all. And I don't know her! Not
neither! Why, they first kept company through me, a'most.'

'Ah?' said Paul.

'Ah!' said Mr Bailey, with a wink; 'and she ain't bad looking mind
you. But her sister was the best. SHE was the merry one. I often
used to have a bit of fun with her, in the hold times!'

Mr Bailey spoke as if he already had a leg and three-quarters in the
grave, and this had happened twenty or thirty years ago. Paul
Sweedlepipe, the meek, was so perfectly confounded by his precocious
self-possession, and his patronizing manner, as well as by his
boots, cockade, and livery, that a mist swam before his eyes, and he
saw--not the Bailey of acknowledged juvenility from Todgers's
Commercial Boarding House, who had made his acquaintance within a
twelvemonth, by purchasing, at sundry times, small birds at twopence
each--but a highly-condensed embodiment of all the sporting grooms
in London; an abstract of all the stable-knowledge of the time; a
something at a high-pressure that must have had existence many
years, and was fraught with terrible experiences. And truly, though
in the cloudy atmosphere of Todgers's, Mr Bailey's genius had ever
shone out brightly in this particular respect, it now eclipsed both
time and space, cheated beholders of their senses, and worked on
their belief in defiance of all natural laws. He walked along the
tangible and real stones of Holborn Hill, an undersized boy; and
yet he winked the winks, and thought the thoughts, and did the
deeds, and said the sayings of an ancient man. There was an old
principle within him, and a young surface without. He became an
inexplicable creature; a breeched and booted Sphinx. There was no
course open to the barber, but to go distracted himself, or to take
Bailey for granted; and he wisely chose the latter.

Mr Bailey was good enough to continue to bear him company, and to
entertain him, as they went, with easy conversation on various
sporting topics; especially on the comparative merits, as a general
principle, of horses with white stockings, and horses without. In
regard to the style of tail to be preferred, Mr Bailey had opinions
of his own, which he explained, but begged they might by no means
influence his friend's, as here he knew he had the misfortune to
differ from some excellent authorities. He treated Mr Sweedlepipe
to a dram, compounded agreeably to 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 well 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?' inquired her landlord, when she had
conducted them downstairs into the kitchen.

'Well, sir, considern' the Wings of Love, they are,' said Mrs Gamp.

Mr Bailey inquired whether the Wings of Love had ever won 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,
whether he was a man or a boy, when Mr Sweedlepipe, anticipating her
design, made a timely diversion.

'He knows Mrs Chuzzlewit,' said Paul aloud.

'There's nothin' he don't know; that's my opinion,' observed Mrs
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 knows Mrs Chuzzlewit, you knows, p'raps, what her chris'en
name is?' Mrs Gamp observed.

'Charity,' said Bailey.

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

'Cherry, then,' said Bailey. 'Cherry's short for it. It's all the
same.'

'It don't begin with a C at all,' retorted Mrs Gamp, shaking her
head. 'It begins with a M.'

'Whew!' cried Mr Bailey, slapping a little cloud of pipe-clay out of
his left leg, 'then he's been and married the merry one!'

As these words were mysterious, Mrs Gamp called upon him to explain,
which Mr Bailey proceeded to do; that lady listening greedily to
everything he said. He was yet in the fullness of his narrative when
the sound of wheels, and a double knock at the street door,
announced the arrival of the newly married couple. Begging him to
reserve what more he had to say for her hearing on the way home,
Mrs Gamp took up the candle, and hurried away to receive and welcome
the young mistress of the house.

'Wishing you appiness and joy with all my art,' said Mrs Gamp,
dropping a curtsey as they entered the hall; 'and you, too, sir.
Your lady looks a little tired with the journey, Mr Chuzzlewit, a
pretty dear!'

'She has bothered enough about it,' grumbled Mr Jonas. 'Now, show a
light, will you?'

'This way, ma'am, if you please,' said Mrs Gamp, going upstairs
before them. 'Things has been made as comfortable as they could be,
but there's many things you'll have to alter your own self when you
gets time to look about you! Ah! sweet thing! But you don't,' added
Mrs Gamp, internally, 'you don't look much like a merry one, I must
say!'

It was true; she did not. The death that had gone before the bridal
seemed to have left its shade upon the house. The air was heavy and
oppressive; the rooms were dark; a deep gloom filled up every chink
and corner. Upon the hearthstone, like a creature of ill omen, sat
the aged clerk, with his eyes fixed on some withered branches in the
stove. He rose and looked at her.

'So there you are, Mr Chuff,' said Jonas carelessly, as he dusted
his boots; 'still in the land of the living, eh?'

'Still in the land of the living, sir,' retorted Mrs Gamp. 'And Mr
Chuffey may thank you for it, as many and many a time I've told
him.'

Mr Jonas was not in the best of humours, for he merely said, as he
looked round, 'We don't want you any more, you know, Mrs Gamp.'

'I'm a-going immediate, sir,' returned the nurse; 'unless there's
nothink I can do for you, ma'am. Ain't there,' said Mrs Gamp, with
a look of great sweetness, and rummaging all the time in her pocket;
'ain't there nothink I can do for you, my little bird?'

'No,' said Merry, almost crying. 'You had better go away, please!'

With a leer of mingled sweetness and slyness; with one eye on the
future, one on the bride, and an arch expression in her face, partly
spiritual, partly spirituous, and wholly professional and peculiar
to her art; Mrs Gamp rummaged in her pocket again, and took from it
a printed card, whereon was an inscription copied from her signboard.

'Would you be so good, my darling dovey of a dear young married
lady,' Mrs Gamp observed, in a low voice, 'as put that somewheres
where you can keep it in your mind? I'm well beknown to many
ladies, and it's my card. Gamp is my name, and Gamp my nater.
Livin' quite handy, I will make so bold as call in now and then, and
make inquiry how your health and spirits is, my precious chick!'

And with innumerable leers, winks, coughs, nods, smiles, and
curtseys, all leading to the establishment of a mysterious and
confidential understanding between herself and the bride, Mrs Gamp,
invoking a blessing upon the house, leered, winked, coughed, nodded,
smiled, and curtseyed herself out of the room.

'But I will say, and I would if I was led a Martha to the Stakes for
it,' Mrs Gamp remarked below stairs, in a whisper, 'that she don't
look much like a merry one at this present moment of time.'

'Ah! wait till you hear her laugh!' said Bailey.

'Hem!' cried Mrs Gamp, in a kind of groan. 'I will, child.'

They said no more in the house, for Mrs Gamp put on her bonnet, Mr
Sweedlepipe took up her box; and Mr Bailey accompanied them towards
Kingsgate Street; recounting to Mrs Gamp as they went along, the
origin and progress of his acquaintance with Mrs Chuzzlewit and her
sister. It was a pleasant instance of this youth's precocity, that
he fancied Mrs Gamp had conceived a tenderness for him, and was much
tickled by her misplaced attachment.

As the door closed heavily behind them, Mrs Jonas sat down in a
chair, and felt a strange chill creep upon her, whilst she looked
about the room. It was pretty much as she had known it, but
appeared more dreary. She had thought to see it brightened to
receive her.

'It ain't good enough for you, I suppose?' said Jonas, watching her
looks.

'Why, it IS dull,' said Merry, trying to be more herself.

'It'll be duller before you're done with it,' retorted Jonas, 'if
you give me any of your airs. You're a nice article, to turn sulky
on first coming home! Ecod, you used to have life enough, when you
could plague me with it. The gal's downstairs. Ring the bell for
supper, while I take my boots off!'

She roused herself from looking after him as he left the room, to do
what he had desired; when the old man Chuffey laid his hand softly
on her arm.

'You are not married?' he said eagerly. 'Not married?'

'Yes. A month ago. Good Heaven, what is the matter?'

He answered nothing was the matter; and turned from her. But in her
fear and wonder, turning also, she saw him raise his trembling hands
above his head, and heard him say:

'Oh! woe, woe, woe, upon this wicked house!'

It was her welcome--HOME.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

SHOWING THAT OLD FRIENDS MAY NOT ONLY APPEAR WITH NEW FACES, BUT IN
FALSE COLOURS. THAT PEOPLE ARE PRONE TO BITE, AND THAT BITERS MAY
SOMETIMES BE BITTEN.

Mr Bailey, Junior--for the sporting character, whilom of general
utility at Todgers's, had now regularly set up in life under that
name, without troubling himself to obtain from the legislature a
direct licence in the form of a Private Bill, which of all kinds and
classes of bills is without exception the most unreasonable in its
charges--Mr Bailey, Junior, just tall enough to be seen by an
inquiring eye, gazing indolently at society from beneath the apron
of his master's cab, drove slowly up and down Pall Mall, about the
hour of noon, in waiting for his 'Governor.' The horse of
distinguished family, who had Capricorn for his nephew, and
Cauliflower for his brother, showed himself worthy of his high
relations by champing at the bit until his chest was white with
foam, and rearing like a horse in heraldry; the plated harness and
the patent leather glittered in the sun; pedestrians admired; Mr
Bailey was complacent, but unmoved. He seemed to say, 'A barrow,
good people, a mere barrow; nothing to what we could do, if we
chose!' and on he went, squaring his short green arms outside the
apron, as if he were hooked on to it by his armpits.

Mr Bailey had a great opinion of Brother to Cauliflower, and
estimated his powers highly. But he never told him so. On the
contrary, it was his practice, in driving that animal, to assail him
with disrespectful, if not injurious, expressions, as, 'Ah! would
you!' 'Did you think it, then?' 'Where are you going to now?' 'No,
you won't, my lad!' and similar fragmentary remarks. These being
usually accompanied by a jerk of the rein, or a crack of the whip,
led to many trials of strength between them, and to many contentions
for the upper-hand, terminating, now and then, in china-shops, and
other unusual goals, as Mr Bailey had already hinted to his friend
Poll Sweedlepipe.

On the present occasion Mr Bailey, being in spirits, was more than
commonly hard upon his charge; in consequence of which that fiery
animal confined himself almost entirely to his hind legs in
displaying his paces, and constantly got himself into positions with

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