Martin Chuzzlewit HTML version

Chapter 19
Mr Pecksniff was in a hackney cabriolet, for Jonas Chuzzlewit had said 'Spare no
expense.' Mankind is evil in its thoughts and in its base constructions, and Jonas
was resolved it should not have an inch to stretch into an ell against him. It never
should be charged upon his father's son that he had grudged the money for his
father's funeral. Hence, until the obsequies should be concluded, Jonas had
taken for his motto 'Spend, and spare not!'
Mr Pecksniff had been to the undertaker, and was now upon his way to another
officer in the train of mourning--a female functionary, a nurse, and watcher, and
performer of nameless offices about the persons of the dead--whom he had
recommended. Her name, as Mr Pecksniff gathered from a scrap of writing in his
hand, was Gamp; her residence in Kingsgate Street, High Holborn. So Mr
Pecksniff, in a hackney cab, was rattling over Holborn stones, in quest of Mrs
This lady lodged at a bird-fancier's, next door but one to the celebrated mutton-
pie shop, and directly opposite to the original cat's-meat warehouse; the renown
of which establishments was duly heralded on their respective fronts. It was a
little house, and this was the more convenient; for Mrs Gamp being, in her
highest walk of art, a monthly nurse, or, as her sign-board boldly had it, 'Midwife,'
and lodging in the first-floor front, was easily assailable at night by pebbles,
walking-sticks, and fragments of tobacco-pipe; all much more efficacious than the
street-door knocker, which was so constructed as to wake the street with ease,
and even spread alarms of fire in Holborn, without making the smallest
impression on the premises to which it was addressed.
It chanced on this particular occasion, that Mrs Gamp had been up all the
previous night, in attendance upon a ceremony to which the usage of gossips
has given that name which expresses, in two syllables, the curse pronounced on
Adam. It chanced that Mrs Gamp had not been regularly engaged, but had been
called in at a crisis, in consequence of her great repute, to assist another
professional lady with her advice; and thus it happened that, all points of interest
in the case being over, Mrs Gamp had come home again to the bird-fancier's and
gone to bed. So when Mr Pecksniff drove up in the hackney cab, Mrs Gamp's
curtains were drawn close, and Mrs Gamp was fast asleep behind them.
If the bird-fancier had been at home, as he ought to have been, there would have
been no great harm in this; but he was out, and his shop was closed. The
shutters were down certainly; and in every pane of glass there was at least one
tiny bird in a tiny bird-cage, twittering and hopping his little ballet of despair, and
knocking his head against the roof; while one unhappy goldfinch who lived
outside a red villa with his name on the door, drew the water for his own drinking,
and mutely appealed to some good man to drop a farthing's-worth of poison in it.
Still, the door was shut. Mr Pecksniff tried the latch, and shook it, causing a