Martin Chuzzlewit HTML version

Chapter 29
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 rabbi.
'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