Martin Chuzzlewit (Oxford World's Classics) by Dickens Charles

Martin Chuzzlewit (Oxford World's Classics) by Dickens Charles

Author:Dickens, Charles [Dickens, Charles]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Published: 1982-12-09T00:00:00+00:00

CHAPTER XXVI

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 honor 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 bye-streets and suburbs of the town, a host of rivals.

The name of this 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. Game-cocks 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 a 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 connexion 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.



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