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IN WHICH SOME PEOPLE ARE PRECOCIOUS, OTHERS PROFESSIONAL, AND OTHERS
MYSTERIOUS; ALL IN THEIR SEVERAL WAYS
It may have been the restless remembrance of what he had seen and heard
overnight, or it may have been no deeper mental operation than the
discovery that he had nothing to do, which caused Mr Bailey, on the
following afternoon, to feel particularly disposed for agreeable
society, and prompted him to pay a visit to his friend Poll Sweedlepipe.
On the little bell giving clamorous notice of a visitor's approach (for
Mr Bailey came in at the door with a lunge, to get as much sound out of
the bell as possible), Poll Sweedlepipe desisted from the contemplation
of a favourite owl, and gave his young friend hearty welcome.
'Why, you look smarter by day,' said Poll, 'than you do by candle-light.
I never see such a tight young dasher.'
'Reether so, Polly. How's our fair friend, Sairah?'
'Oh, she's pretty well,' said Poll. 'She's at home.'
'There's the remains of a fine woman about Sairah, Poll,' observed Mr
Bailey, with genteel indifference.
'Oh!' thought Poll, 'he's old. He must be very old!'
'Too much crumb, you know,' said Mr Bailey; 'too fat, Poll. But there's
many worse at her time of life.'
'The very owl's a-opening his eyes!' thought Poll. 'I don't wonder at it
in a bird of his opinions.'
He happened to have been sharpening his razors, which were lying open
in a row, while a huge strop dangled from the wall. Glancing at these
preparations, Mr Bailey stroked his chin, and a thought appeared to
occur to him.
'Poll,' he said, 'I ain't as neat as I could wish about the gills. Being
here, I may as well have a shave, and get trimmed close.'
The barber stood aghast; but Mr Bailey divested himself of his
neck-cloth, and sat down in the easy shaving chair with all the dignity
and confidence in life. There was no resisting his manner. The evidence
of sight and touch became as nothing. His chin was as smooth as a
new-laid egg or a scraped Dutch cheese; but Poll Sweedlepipe wouldn't
have ventured to deny, on affidavit, that he had the beard of a Jewish
'Go WITH the grain, Poll, all round, please,' said Mr Bailey, screwing
up his face for the reception of the lather. 'You may do wot you like
with the bits of whisker. I don't care for 'em.'
The meek little barber stood gazing at him with the brush and soap-dish
in his hand, stirring them round and round in a ludicrous uncertainty,
as if he were disabled by some fascination from beginning. At last he
made a dash at Mr Bailey's cheek. Then he stopped again, as if the
ghost of a beard had suddenly receded from his touch; but receiving mild
encouragement from Mr Bailey, in the form of an adjuration to 'Go in and
win,' he lathered him bountifully. Mr Bailey smiled through the suds in
his satisfaction. 'Gently over the stones, Poll. Go a tip-toe over the
Poll Sweedlepipe obeyed, and scraped the lather off again with
particular care. Mr Bailey squinted at every successive dab, as it
was deposited on a cloth on his left shoulder, and seemed, with a
microscopic eye, to detect some bristles in it; for he murmured more
than once 'Reether redder than I could wish, Poll.' The operation being
concluded, Poll fell back and stared at him again, while Mr Bailey,
wiping his face on the jack-towel, remarked, 'that arter late hours
nothing freshened up a man so much as a easy shave.'
He was in the act of tying his cravat at the glass, without his coat,
and Poll had wiped his razor, ready for the next customer, when Mrs
Gamp, coming downstairs, looked in at the shop-door to give the barber
neighbourly good day. Feeling for her unfortunate situation, in having
conceived a regard for himself which it was not in the nature of things
that he could return, Mr Bailey hastened to soothe her with words of
'Hallo!' he said, 'Sairah! I needn't ask you how you've been this long
time, for you're in full bloom. All a-blowin and a-growin; ain't she,
'Why, drat the Bragian boldness of that boy!' cried Mrs Gamp, though
not displeased. 'What a imperent young sparrow it is! I wouldn't be that
creetur's mother not for fifty pound!'
Mr Bailey regarded this as a delicate confession of her attachment,
and a hint that no pecuniary gain could recompense her for its being
rendered hopeless. He felt flattered. Disinterested affection is always
'Ah, dear!' moaned Mrs Gamp, sinking into the shaving chair, 'that there
blessed Bull, Mr Sweedlepipe, has done his wery best to conker me. Of
all the trying inwalieges in this walley of the shadder, that one beats
'em black and blue.'
It was the practice of Mrs Gamp and her friends in the profession, to
say this of all the easy customers; as having at once the effect of
discouraging competitors for office, and accounting for the necessity of
high living on the part of the nurses.
'Talk of constitooshun!' Mrs Gamp observed. 'A person's constitooshun
need be made of bricks to stand it. Mrs Harris jestly says to me, but
t'other day, "Oh! Sairey Gamp," she says, "how is it done?" "Mrs Harris,
ma'am," I says to her, "we gives no trust ourselves, and puts a deal
o'trust elsevere; these is our religious feelins, and we finds 'em
answer." "Sairey," says Mrs Harris, "sech is life. Vich likeways is the
hend of all things!"'
The barber gave a soft murmur, as much as to say that Mrs Harris's
remark, though perhaps not quite so intelligible as could be desired
from such an authority, did equal honour to her head and to her heart.
'And here,' continued Mrs Gamp, 'and here am I a-goin twenty mile in
distant, on as wentersome a chance as ever any one as monthlied ever
run, I do believe. Says Mrs Harris, with a woman's and a mother's
art a-beatin in her human breast, she says to me, "You're not a-goin,
Sairey, Lord forgive you!" "Why am I not a-goin, Mrs Harris?" I replies.
"Mrs Gill," I says, "wos never wrong with six; and is it likely,
ma'am--I ast you as a mother--that she will begin to be unreg'lar now?
Often and often have I heerd him say," I says to Mrs Harris, meaning Mr
Gill, "that he would back his wife agen Moore's almanack, to name the
very day and hour, for ninepence farden. IS it likely, ma'am," I says,
"as she will fail this once?" Says Mrs Harris "No, ma'am, not in the
course of natur. But," she says, the tears a-fillin in her eyes, "you
knows much betterer than me, with your experienge, how little puts us
out. A Punch's show," she says, "a chimbley sweep, a newfundlan dog, or
a drunkin man a-comin round the corner sharp may do it." So it may, Mr
Sweedlepipes,' said Mrs Gamp, 'there's no deniging of it; and though my
books is clear for a full week, I takes a anxious art along with me, I
do assure you, sir.'
'You're so full of zeal, you see!' said Poll. 'You worrit yourself so.'
'Worrit myself!' cried Mrs Gamp, raising her hands and turning up her
eyes. 'You speak truth in that, sir, if you never speaks no more 'twixt
this and when two Sundays jines together. I feels the sufferins of other
people more than I feels my own, though no one mayn't suppoge it. The
families I've had,' said Mrs Gamp, 'if all was knowd and credit done
where credit's doo, would take a week to chris'en at Saint Polge's
'Where's the patient goin?' asked Sweedlepipe.
'Into Har'fordshire, which is his native air. But native airs nor native
graces neither,' Mrs Gamp observed, 'won't bring HIM round.'
'So bad as that?' inquired the wistful barber. 'Indeed!'
Mrs Gamp shook her head mysteriously, and pursed up her lips. 'There's
fevers of the mind,' she said, 'as well as body. You may take your slime
drafts till you files into the air with efferwescence; but you won't
'Ah!' said the barber, opening his eyes, and putting on his raven
'No. You may make yourself as light as any gash balloon,' said Mrs Gamp.
'But talk, when you're wrong in your head and when you're in your sleep,
of certain things; and you'll be heavy in your mind.'
'Of what kind of things now?' inquired Poll, greedily biting his nails
in his great interest. 'Ghosts?'
Mrs Gamp, who perhaps had been already tempted further than she had
intended to go, by the barber's stimulating curiosity, gave a sniff of
uncommon significance, and said, it didn't signify.
'I'm a-goin down with my patient in the coach this arternoon,' she
proceeded. 'I'm a-goin to stop with him a day or so, till he gets a
country nuss (drat them country nusses, much the orkard hussies knows
about their bis'ness); and then I'm a-comin back; and that's my trouble,
Mr Sweedlepipes. But I hope that everythink'll only go on right and
comfortable as long as I'm away; perwisin which, as Mrs Harris says, Mrs
Gill is welcome to choose her own time; all times of the day and night
bein' equally the same to me.'
During the progress of the foregoing remarks, which Mrs Gamp had
addressed exclusively to the barber, Mr Bailey had been tying his
cravat, getting on his coat, and making hideous faces at himself in the
glass. Being now personally addressed by Mrs Gamp, he turned round, and
mingled in the conversation.
'You ain't been in the City, I suppose, sir, since we was all three
there together,' said Mrs Gamp, 'at Mr Chuzzlewit's?'
'Yes, I have, Sairah. I was there last night.'
'Last night!' cried the barber.
'Yes, Poll, reether so. You can call it this morning, if you like to be
particular. He dined with us.'
'Who does that young Limb mean by "hus?"' said Mrs Gamp, with most
'Me and my Governor, Sairah. He dined at our house. We wos very merry,
Sairah. So much so, that I was obliged to see him home in a hackney
coach at three o'clock in the morning.' It was on the tip of the boy's
tongue to relate what had followed; but remembering how easily it might
be carried to his master's ears, and the repeated cautions he had had
from Mr Crimple 'not to chatter,' he checked himself; adding, only, 'She
was sitting up, expecting him.'
'And all things considered,' said Mrs Gamp sharply, 'she might have
know'd better than to go a-tirin herself out, by doin' anythink of the
sort. Did they seem pretty pleasant together, sir?'
'Oh, yes,' answered Bailey, 'pleasant enough.'
'I'm glad on it,' said Mrs Gamp, with a second sniff of significance.
'They haven't been married so long,' observed Poll, rubbing his hands,
'that they need be anything but pleasant yet awhile.'
'No,' said Mrs Gamp, with a third significant signal.
'Especially,' pursued the barber, 'when the gentleman bears such a
character as you gave him.'
'I speak; as I find, Mr Sweedlepipes,' said Mrs Gamp. 'Forbid it should
be otherways! But we never knows wot's hidden in each other's hearts;
and if we had glass winders there, we'd need keep the shetters up, some
on us, I do assure you!'
'But you don't mean to say--' Poll Sweedlepipe began.
'No,' said Mrs Gamp, cutting him very short, 'I don't. Don't think I do.
The torters of the Imposition shouldn't make me own I did. All I says
is,' added the good woman, rising and folding her shawl about her, 'that
the Bull's a-waitin, and the precious moments is a-flyin' fast.'
The little barber having in his eager curiosity a great desire to see
Mrs Gamp's patient, proposed to Mr Bailey that they should accompany
her to the Bull, and witness the departure of the coach. That young
gentleman assenting, they all went out together.
Arriving at the tavern, Mrs Gamp (who was full-dressed for the journey,
in her latest suit of mourning) left her friends to entertain
themselves in the yard, while she ascended to the sick room, where her
fellow-labourer Mrs Prig was dressing the invalid.
He was so wasted, that it seemed as if his bones would rattle when they
moved him. His cheeks were sunken, and his eyes unnaturally large. He
lay back in the easy-chair like one more dead than living; and rolled
his languid eyes towards the door when Mrs Gamp appeared, as painfully
as if their weight alone were burdensome to move.
'And how are we by this time?' Mrs Gamp observed. 'We looks charming.'
'We looks a deal charminger than we are, then,' returned Mrs Prig, a
little chafed in her temper. 'We got out of bed back'ards, I think, for
we're as cross as two sticks. I never see sich a man. He wouldn't have
been washed, if he'd had his own way.'
'She put the soap in my mouth,' said the unfortunate patient feebly.
'Couldn't you keep it shut then?' retorted Mrs Prig. 'Who do you think's
to wash one feater, and miss another, and wear one's eyes out with all
manner of fine work of that description, for half-a-crown a day! If you
wants to be tittivated, you must pay accordin'.'
'Oh dear me!' cried the patient, 'oh dear, dear!'
'There!' said Mrs Prig, 'that's the way he's been a-conductin of
himself, Sarah, ever since I got him out of bed, if you'll believe it.'
'Instead of being grateful,' Mrs Gamp observed, 'for all our little
ways. Oh, fie for shame, sir, fie for shame!'
Here Mrs Prig seized the patient by the chin, and began to rasp his
unhappy head with a hair-brush.
'I suppose you don't like that, neither!' she observed, stopping to look
It was just possible that he didn't for the brush was a specimen of
the hardest kind of instrument producible by modern art; and his very
eyelids were red with the friction. Mrs Prig was gratified to observe
the correctness of her supposition, and said triumphantly 'she know'd as
When his hair was smoothed down comfortably into his eyes, Mrs Prig and
Mrs Gamp put on his neckerchief; adjusting his shirt collar with great
nicety, so that the starched points should also invade those organs, and
afflict them with an artificial ophthalmia. His waistcoat and coat
were next arranged; and as every button was wrenched into a wrong
button-hole, and the order of his boots was reversed, he presented on
the whole rather a melancholy appearance.
'I don't think it's right,' said the poor weak invalid. 'I feel as if I
was in somebody else's clothes. I'm all on one side; and you've made one
of my legs shorter than the other. There's a bottle in my pocket too.
What do you make me sit upon a bottle for?'
'Deuce take the man!' cried Mrs Gamp, drawing it forth. 'If he ain't
been and got my night-bottle here. I made a little cupboard of his coat
when it hung behind the door, and quite forgot it, Betsey. You'll find a
ingun or two, and a little tea and sugar in his t'other pocket, my dear,
if you'll just be good enough to take 'em out.'
Betsey produced the property in question, together with some other
articles of general chandlery; and Mrs Gamp transferred them to her own
pocket, which was a species of nankeen pannier. Refreshment then arrived
in the form of chops and strong ale for the ladies, and a basin of
beef-tea for the patient; which refection was barely at an end when John
'Up and dressed!' cried John, sitting down beside him. 'That's brave.
How do you feel?'
'Much better. But very weak.'
'No wonder. You have had a hard bout of it. But country air, and change
of scene,' said John, 'will make another man of you! Why, Mrs Gamp,'
he added, laughing, as he kindly arranged the sick man's garments, 'you
have odd notions of a gentleman's dress!'
'Mr Lewsome an't a easy gent to get into his clothes, sir,' Mrs Gamp
replied with dignity; 'as me and Betsey Prig can certify afore the Lord
Mayor and Uncommon Counsellors, if needful!'
John at that moment was standing close in front of the sick man, in the
act of releasing him from the torture of the collars before mentioned,
when he said in a whisper:
'Mr Westlock! I don't wish to be overheard. I have something very
particular and strange to say to you; something that has been a dreadful
weight on my mind, through this long illness.'
Quick in all his motions, John was turning round to desire the women to
leave the room; when the sick man held him by the sleeve.
'Not now. I've not the strength. I've not the courage. May I tell it
when I have? May I write it, if I find that easier and better?'
'May you!' cried John. 'Why, Lewsome, what is this!'
'Don't ask me what it is. It's unnatural and cruel. Frightful to think
of. Frightful to tell. Frightful to know. Frightful to have helped in.
Let me kiss your hand for all your goodness to me. Be kinder still, and
don't ask me what it is!'
At first, John gazed at him in great surprise; but remembering how very
much reduced he was, and how recently his brain had been on fire with
fever, believed that he was labouring under some imaginary horror or
despondent fancy. For farther information on this point, he took an
opportunity of drawing Mrs Gamp aside, while Betsey Prig was wrapping
him in cloaks and shawls, and asked her whether he was quite collected
in his mind.
'Oh bless you, no!' said Mrs Gamp. 'He hates his nusses to this hour.
They always does it, sir. It's a certain sign. If you could have heerd
the poor dear soul a-findin fault with me and Betsey Prig, not half an
hour ago, you would have wondered how it is we don't get fretted to the
This almost confirmed John in his suspicion; so, not taking what had
passed into any serious account, he resumed his former cheerful manner,
and assisted by Mrs Gamp and Betsey Prig, conducted Lewsome downstairs
to the coach; just then upon the point of starting. Poll Sweedlepipe
was at the door with his arms tight folded and his eyes wide open, and
looked on with absorbing interest, while the sick man was slowly
moved into the vehicle. His bony hands and haggard face impressed Poll
wonderfully; and he informed Mr Bailey in confidence, that he wouldn't
have missed seeing him for a pound. Mr Bailey, who was of a different
constitution, remarked that he would have stayed away for five
It was a troublesome matter to adjust Mrs Gamp's luggage to her
satisfaction; for every package belonging to that lady had the
inconvenient property of requiring to be put in a boot by itself, and
to have no other luggage near it, on pain of actions at law for heavy
damages against the proprietors of the coach. The umbrella with the
circular patch was particularly hard to be got rid of, and several times
thrust out its battered brass nozzle from improper crevices and chinks,
to the great terror of the other passengers. Indeed, in her intense
anxiety to find a haven of refuge for this chattel, Mrs Gamp so often
moved it, in the course of five minutes, that it seemed not one umbrella
but fifty. At length it was lost, or said to be; and for the next five
minutes she was face to face with the coachman, go wherever he might,
protesting that it should be 'made good,' though she took the question
to the House of Commons.
At last, her bundle, and her pattens, and her basket, and everything
else, being disposed of, she took a friendly leave of Poll and Mr
Bailey, dropped a curtsey to John Westlock, and parted as from a
cherished member of the sisterhood with Betsey Prig.
'Wishin you lots of sickness, my darlin creetur,' Mrs Gamp observed,
'and good places. It won't be long, I hope, afore we works together, off
and on, again, Betsey; and may our next meetin' be at a large family's,
where they all takes it reg'lar, one from another, turn and turn about,
and has it business-like.'
'I don't care how soon it is,' said Mrs Prig; 'nor how many weeks it
Mrs Gamp with a reply in a congenial spirit was backing to the coach,
when she came in contact with a lady and gentleman who were passing
along the footway.
'Take care, take care here!' cried the gentleman. 'Halloo! My dear! Why,
it's Mrs Gamp!'
'What, Mr Mould!' exclaimed the nurse. 'And Mrs Mould! who would have
thought as we should ever have a meetin' here, I'm sure!'
'Going out of town, Mrs Gamp?' cried Mould. 'That's unusual, isn't it?'
'It IS unusual, sir,' said Mrs Gamp. 'But only for a day or two at most.
The gent,' she whispered, 'as I spoke about.'
'What, in the coach!' cried Mould. 'The one you thought of recommending?
Very odd. My dear, this will interest you. The gentleman that Mrs Gamp
thought likely to suit us is in the coach, my love.'
Mrs Mould was greatly interested.
'Here, my dear. You can stand upon the door-step,' said Mould, 'and take
a look at him. Ha! There he is. Where's my glass? Oh! all right. I've
got it. Do you see him, my dear?'
'Quite plain,' said Mrs Mould.
'Upon my life, you know, this is a very singular circumstance,' said
Mould, quite delighted. 'This is the sort of thing, my dear, I wouldn't
have missed on any account. It tickles one. It's interesting. It's
almost a little play, you know. Ah! There he is! To be sure. Looks
poorly, Mrs M., don't he?'
Mrs Mould assented.
'He's coming our way, perhaps, after all,' said Mould. 'Who knows! I
feel as if I ought to show him some little attention, really. He don't
seem a stranger to me. I'm very much inclined to move my hat, my dear.'
'He's looking hard this way,' said Mrs Mould.
'Then I will!' cried Mould. 'How d'ye do, sir! I wish you good day. Ha!
He bows too. Very gentlemanly. Mrs Gamp has the cards in her pocket, I
have no doubt. This is very singular, my dear--and very pleasant. I am
not superstitious, but it really seems as if one was destined to pay him
those little melancholy civilities which belong to our peculiar line of
business. There can be no kind of objection to your kissing your hand to
him, my dear.'
Mrs Mould did so.
'Ha!' said Mould. 'He's evidently gratified. Poor fellow! I am quite
glad you did it, my love. Bye bye, Mrs Gamp!' waving his hand. 'There he
goes; there he goes!'
So he did; for the coach rolled off as the words were spoken. Mr and Mrs
Mould, in high good humour, went their merry way. Mr Bailey retired
with Poll Sweedlepipe as soon as possible; but some little time
elapsed before he could remove his friend from the ground, owing to
the impression wrought upon the barber's nerves by Mrs Prig, whom he
pronounced, in admiration of her beard, to be a woman of transcendent
When the light cloud of bustle hanging round the coach was thus
dispersed, Nadgett was seen in the darkest box of the Bull coffee-room,
looking wistfully up at the clock--as if the man who never appeared were
a little behind his time.