The Complete Works of



Charles Dickens > Master Humphrey's Clock > Chapter V

Master Humphrey's Clock

Chapter V


IT SEEMS that the housekeeper and the two Mr. Wellers were no
sooner left together on the occasion of their first becoming
acquainted, than the housekeeper called to her assistance Mr.
Slithers the barber, who had been lurking in the kitchen in
expectation of her summons; and with many smiles and much sweetness
introduced him as one who would assist her in the responsible
office of entertaining her distinguished visitors.

'Indeed,' said she, 'without Mr. Slithers I should have been placed
in quite an awkward situation.'

'There is no call for any hock'erdness, mum,' said Mr. Weller with
the utmost politeness; 'no call wotsumever. A lady,' added the old
gentleman, looking about him with the air of one who establishes an
incontrovertible position, - 'a lady can't be hock'erd. Natur' has
otherwise purwided.'

The housekeeper inclined her head and smiled yet more sweetly. The
barber, who had been fluttering about Mr. Weller and Sam in a state
of great anxiety to improve their acquaintance, rubbed his hands
and cried, 'Hear, hear! Very true, sir;' whereupon Sam turned
about and steadily regarded him for some seconds in silence.

'I never knew,' said Sam, fixing his eyes in a ruminative manner
upon the blushing barber, - 'I never knew but vun o' your trade,
but HE wos worth a dozen, and wos indeed dewoted to his callin'!'

'Was he in the easy shaving way, sir,' inquired Mr. Slithers; 'or
in the cutting and curling line?'

'Both,' replied Sam; 'easy shavin' was his natur', and cuttin' and
curlin' was his pride and glory. His whole delight wos in his
trade. He spent all his money in bears, and run in debt for 'em
besides, and there they wos a growling avay down in the front
cellar all day long, and ineffectooally gnashing their teeth, vile
the grease o' their relations and friends wos being re-tailed in
gallipots in the shop above, and the first-floor winder wos
ornamented vith their heads; not to speak o' the dreadful
aggrawation it must have been to 'em to see a man alvays a walkin'
up and down the pavement outside, vith the portrait of a bear in
his last agonies, and underneath in large letters, "Another fine
animal wos slaughtered yesterday at Jinkinson's!" Hows'ever, there
they wos, and there Jinkinson wos, till he wos took wery ill with
some inn'ard disorder, lost the use of his legs, and wos confined
to his bed, vere he laid a wery long time, but sich wos his pride
in his profession, even then, that wenever he wos worse than usual
the doctor used to go down-stairs and say, "Jinkinson's wery low
this mornin'; we must give the bears a stir;" and as sure as ever
they stirred 'em up a bit and made 'em roar, Jinkinson opens his
eyes if he wos ever so bad, calls out, "There's the bears!" and
rewives agin.'

'Astonishing!' cried the barber.

'Not a bit,' said Sam, 'human natur' neat as imported. Vun day the
doctor happenin' to say, "I shall look in as usual to-morrow
mornin'," Jinkinson catches hold of his hand and says, "Doctor," he
says, "will you grant me one favour?" "I will, Jinkinson," says
the doctor. "Then, doctor," says Jinkinson, "vill you come
unshaved, and let me shave you?" "I will," says the doctor. "God
bless you," says Jinkinson. Next day the doctor came, and arter
he'd been shaved all skilful and reg'lar, he says, "Jinkinson," he
says, "it's wery plain this does you good. Now," he says, "I've
got a coachman as has got a beard that it 'ud warm your heart to
work on, and though the footman," he says, "hasn't got much of a
beard, still he's a trying it on vith a pair o' viskers to that
extent that razors is Christian charity. If they take it in turns
to mind the carriage when it's a waitin' below," he says, "wot's to
hinder you from operatin' on both of 'em ev'ry day as well as upon
me? you've got six children," he says, "wot's to hinder you from
shavin' all their heads and keepin' 'em shaved? you've got two
assistants in the shop down-stairs, wot's to hinder you from
cuttin' and curlin' them as often as you like? Do this," he says,
"and you're a man agin." Jinkinson squeedged the doctor's hand and
begun that wery day; he kept his tools upon the bed, and wenever he
felt his-self gettin' worse, he turned to at vun o' the children
who wos a runnin' about the house vith heads like clean Dutch
cheeses, and shaved him agin. Vun day the lawyer come to make his
vill; all the time he wos a takin' it down, Jinkinson was secretly
a clippin' avay at his hair vith a large pair of scissors. "Wot's
that 'ere snippin' noise?" says the lawyer every now and then;
"it's like a man havin' his hair cut." "It IS wery like a man
havin' his hair cut," says poor Jinkinson, hidin' the scissors, and
lookin' quite innocent. By the time the lawyer found it out, he
was wery nearly bald. Jinkinson wos kept alive in this vay for a
long time, but at last vun day he has in all the children vun arter
another, shaves each on 'em wery clean, and gives him vun kiss on
the crown o' his head; then he has in the two assistants, and arter
cuttin' and curlin' of 'em in the first style of elegance, says he
should like to hear the woice o' the greasiest bear, vich rekvest
is immediately complied with; then he says that he feels wery happy
in his mind and vishes to be left alone; and then he dies,
previously cuttin' his own hair and makin' one flat curl in the
wery middle of his forehead.'

This anecdote produced an extraordinary effect, not only upon Mr.
Slithers, but upon the housekeeper also, who evinced so much
anxiety to please and be pleased, that Mr. Weller, with a manner
betokening some alarm, conveyed a whispered inquiry to his son
whether he had gone 'too fur.'

'Wot do you mean by too fur?' demanded Sam.

'In that 'ere little compliment respectin' the want of hock'erdness
in ladies, Sammy,' replied his father.

'You don't think she's fallen in love with you in consekens o'
that, do you?' said Sam.

'More unlikelier things have come to pass, my boy,' replied Mr.
Weller in a hoarse whisper; 'I'm always afeerd of inadwertent
captiwation, Sammy. If I know'd how to make myself ugly or
unpleasant, I'd do it, Samivel, rayther than live in this here
state of perpetival terror!'

Mr. Weller had, at that time, no further opportunity of dwelling
upon the apprehensions which beset his mind, for the immediate
occasion of his fears proceeded to lead the way down-stairs,
apologising as they went for conducting him into the kitchen, which
apartment, however, she was induced to proffer for his
accommodation in preference to her own little room, the rather as
it afforded greater facilities for smoking, and was immediately
adjoining the ale-cellar. The preparations which were already made
sufficiently proved that these were not mere words of course, for
on the deal table were a sturdy ale-jug and glasses, flanked with
clean pipes and a plentiful supply of tobacco for the old gentleman
and his son, while on a dresser hard by was goodly store of cold
meat and other eatables. At sight of these arrangements Mr. Weller
was at first distracted between his love of joviality and his
doubts whether they were not to be considered as so many evidences
of captivation having already taken place; but he soon yielded to
his natural impulse, and took his seat at the table with a very
jolly countenance.

'As to imbibin' any o' this here flagrant veed, mum, in the
presence of a lady,' said Mr. Weller, taking up a pipe and laying
it down again, 'it couldn't be. Samivel, total abstinence, if YOU

'But I like it of all things,' said the housekeeper.

'No,' rejoined Mr. Weller, shaking his head, - 'no.'

'Upon my word I do,' said the housekeeper. 'Mr. Slithers knows I

Mr. Weller coughed, and notwithstanding the barber's confirmation
of the statement, said 'No' again, but more feebly than before.
The housekeeper lighted a piece of paper, and insisted on applying
it to the bowl of the pipe with her own fair hands; Mr. Weller
resisted; the housekeeper cried that her fingers would be burnt;
Mr. Weller gave way. The pipe was ignited, Mr. Weller drew a long
puff of smoke, and detecting himself in the very act of smiling on
the housekeeper, put a sudden constraint upon his countenance and
looked sternly at the candle, with a determination not to
captivate, himself, or encourage thoughts of captivation in others.
From this iron frame of mind he was roused by the voice of his son.

'I don't think,' said Sam, who was smoking with great composure and
enjoyment, 'that if the lady wos agreeable it 'ud be wery far out
o' the vay for us four to make up a club of our own like the
governors does up-stairs, and let him,' Sam pointed with the stem
of his pipe towards his parent, 'be the president.'

The housekeeper affably declared that it was the very thing she had
been thinking of. The barber said the same. Mr. Weller said
nothing, but he laid down his pipe as if in a fit of inspiration,
and performed the following manoeuvres.

Unbuttoning the three lower buttons of his waistcoat and pausing
for a moment to enjoy the easy flow of breath consequent upon this
process, he laid violent hands upon his watch-chain, and slowly and
with extreme difficulty drew from his fob an immense double-cased
silver watch, which brought the lining of the pocket with it, and
was not to be disentangled but by great exertions and an amazing
redness of face. Having fairly got it out at last, he detached the
outer case and wound it up with a key of corresponding magnitude;
then put the case on again, and having applied the watch to his ear
to ascertain that it was still going, gave it some half-dozen hard
knocks on the table to improve its performance.

'That,' said Mr. Weller, laying it on the table with its face
upwards, 'is the title and emblem o' this here society. Sammy,
reach them two stools this vay for the wacant cheers. Ladies and
gen'lmen, Mr. Weller's Watch is vound up and now a-goin'. Order!'

By way of enforcing this proclamation, Mr. Weller, using the watch
after the manner of a president's hammer, and remarking with great
pride that nothing hurt it, and that falls and concussions of all
kinds materially enhanced the excellence of the works and assisted
the regulator, knocked the table a great many times, and declared
the association formally constituted.

'And don't let's have no grinnin' at the cheer, Samivel,' said Mr.
Weller to his son, 'or I shall be committin' you to the cellar, and
then p'r'aps we may get into what the 'Merrikins call a fix, and
the English a qvestion o' privileges.'

Having uttered this friendly caution, the President settled himself
in his chair with great dignity, and requested that Mr. Samuel
would relate an anecdote.

'I've told one,' said Sam.

'Wery good, sir; tell another,' returned the chair.

'We wos a talking jist now, sir,' said Sam, turning to Slithers,
'about barbers. Pursuing that 'ere fruitful theme, sir, I'll tell
you in a wery few words a romantic little story about another
barber as p'r'aps you may never have heerd.'

'Samivel!' said Mr. Weller, again bringing his watch and the table
into smart collision, 'address your obserwations to the cheer, sir,
and not to priwate indiwiduals!'

'And if I might rise to order,' said the barber in a soft voice,
and looking round him with a conciliatory smile as he leant over
the table, with the knuckles of his left hand resting upon it, -
'if I MIGHT rise to order, I would suggest that "barbers" is not
exactly the kind of language which is agreeable and soothing to our
feelings. You, sir, will correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe
there IS such a word in the dictionary as hairdressers.'

'Well, but suppose he wasn't a hairdresser,' suggested Sam.

'Wy then, sir, be parliamentary and call him vun all the more,'
returned his father. 'In the same vay as ev'ry gen'lman in another
place is a Honourable, ev'ry barber in this place is a hairdresser.
Ven you read the speeches in the papers, and see as vun gen'lman
says of another, "the Honourable member, if he vill allow me to
call him so," you vill understand, sir, that that means, "if he
vill allow me to keep up that 'ere pleasant and uniwersal

It is a common remark, confirmed by history and experience, that
great men rise with the circumstances in which they are placed.
Mr. Weller came out so strong in his capacity of chairman, that Sam
was for some time prevented from speaking by a grin of surprise,
which held his faculties enchained, and at last subsided in a long
whistle of a single note. Nay, the old gentleman appeared even to
have astonished himself, and that to no small extent, as was
demonstrated by the vast amount of chuckling in which he indulged,
after the utterance of these lucid remarks.

'Here's the story,' said Sam. 'Vunce upon a time there wos a young
hairdresser as opened a wery smart little shop vith four wax
dummies in the winder, two gen'lmen and two ladies - the gen'lmen
vith blue dots for their beards, wery large viskers, oudacious
heads of hair, uncommon clear eyes, and nostrils of amazin'
pinkness; the ladies vith their heads o' one side, their right
forefingers on their lips, and their forms deweloped beautiful, in
vich last respect they had the adwantage over the gen'lmen, as
wasn't allowed but wery little shoulder, and terminated rayther
abrupt in fancy drapery. He had also a many hair-brushes and
tooth-brushes bottled up in the winder, neat glass-cases on the
counter, a floor-clothed cuttin'-room up-stairs, and a weighin'-
macheen in the shop, right opposite the door. But the great
attraction and ornament wos the dummies, which this here young
hairdresser wos constantly a runnin' out in the road to look at,
and constantly a runnin' in again to touch up and polish; in short,
he wos so proud on 'em, that ven Sunday come, he wos always
wretched and mis'rable to think they wos behind the shutters, and
looked anxiously for Monday on that account. Vun o' these dummies
wos a favrite vith him beyond the others; and ven any of his
acquaintance asked him wy he didn't get married - as the young
ladies he know'd, in partickler, often did - he used to say,
"Never! I never vill enter into the bonds of vedlock," he says,
"until I meet vith a young 'ooman as realises my idea o' that 'ere
fairest dummy vith the light hair. Then, and not till then," he
says, "I vill approach the altar." All the young ladies he know'd
as had got dark hair told him this wos wery sinful, and that he wos
wurshippin' a idle; but them as wos at all near the same shade as
the dummy coloured up wery much, and wos observed to think him a
wery nice young man.'

'Samivel,' said Mr. Weller, gravely, 'a member o' this associashun
bein' one o' that 'ere tender sex which is now immedetly referred
to, I have to rekvest that you vill make no reflections.'

'I ain't a makin' any, am I?' inquired Sam.

'Order, sir!' rejoined Mr. Weller, with severe dignity. Then,
sinking the chairman in the father, he added, in his usual tone of
voice: 'Samivel, drive on!'

Sam interchanged a smile with the housekeeper, and proceeded:

'The young hairdresser hadn't been in the habit o' makin' this
avowal above six months, ven he en-countered a young lady as wos
the wery picter o' the fairest dummy. "Now," he says, "it's all
up. I am a slave!" The young lady wos not only the picter o' the
fairest dummy, but she was wery romantic, as the young hairdresser
was, too, and he says, "O!" he says, "here's a community o'
feelin', here's a flow o' soul!" he says, "here's a interchange o'
sentiment!" The young lady didn't say much, o' course, but she
expressed herself agreeable, and shortly artervards vent to see him
vith a mutual friend. The hairdresser rushes out to meet her, but
d'rectly she sees the dummies she changes colour and falls a
tremblin' wiolently. "Look up, my love," says the hairdresser,
"behold your imige in my winder, but not correcter than in my art!"
"My imige!" she says. "Yourn!" replies the hairdresser. "But
whose imige is THAT?" she says, a pinting at vun o' the gen'lmen.
"No vun's, my love," he says, "it is but a idea." "A idea! " she
cries: "it is a portrait, I feel it is a portrait, and that 'ere
noble face must be in the millingtary!" "Wot do I hear!" says he,
a crumplin' his curls. "Villiam Gibbs," she says, quite firm,
"never renoo the subject. I respect you as a friend," she says,
"but my affections is set upon that manly brow." "This," says the
hairdresser, "is a reg'lar blight, and in it I perceive the hand of
Fate. Farevell!" Vith these vords he rushes into the shop, breaks
the dummy's nose vith a blow of his curlin'-irons, melts him down
at the parlour fire, and never smiles artervards.'

'The young lady, Mr. Weller?' said the housekeeper.

'Why, ma'am,' said Sam, 'finding that Fate had a spite agin her,
and everybody she come into contact vith, she never smiled neither,
but read a deal o' poetry and pined avay, - by rayther slow
degrees, for she ain't dead yet. It took a deal o' poetry to kill
the hair-dresser, and some people say arter all that it was more
the gin and water as caused him to be run over; p'r'aps it was a
little o' both, and came o' mixing the two.'

The barber declared that Mr. Weller had related one of the most
interesting stories that had ever come within his knowledge, in
which opinion the housekeeper entirely concurred.

'Are you a married man, sir?' inquired Sam.

The barber replied that he had not that honour.

'I s'pose you mean to be?' said Sam.

'Well,' replied the barber, rubbing his hands smirkingly, 'I don't
know, I don't think it's very likely.'

'That's a bad sign,' said Sam; 'if you'd said you meant to be vun
o' these days, I should ha' looked upon you as bein' safe. You're
in a wery precarious state.'

'I am not conscious of any danger, at all events,' returned the

'No more wos I, sir,' said the elder Mr. Weller, interposing;
'those vere my symptoms, exactly. I've been took that vay twice.
Keep your vether eye open, my friend, or you're gone.'

There was something so very solemn about this admonition, both in
its matter and manner, and also in the way in which Mr. Weller
still kept his eye fixed upon the unsuspecting victim, that nobody
cared to speak for some little time, and might not have cared to do
so for some time longer, if the housekeeper had not happened to
sigh, which called off the old gentleman's attention and gave rise
to a gallant inquiry whether 'there wos anythin' wery piercin' in
that 'ere little heart?'

'Dear me, Mr. Weller!' said the housekeeper, laughing.

'No, but is there anythin' as agitates it?' pursued the old
gentleman. 'Has it always been obderrate, always opposed to the
happiness o' human creeturs? Eh? Has it?'

At this critical juncture for her blushes and confusion, the
housekeeper discovered that more ale was wanted, and hastily
withdrew into the cellar to draw the same, followed by the barber,
who insisted on carrying the candle. Having looked after her with
a very complacent expression of face, and after him with some
disdain, Mr. Weller caused his glance to travel slowly round the
kitchen, until at length it rested on his son.

'Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, 'I mistrust that barber.'

'Wot for?' returned Sam; 'wot's he got to do with you? You're a
nice man, you are, arter pretendin' all kinds o' terror, to go a
payin' compliments and talkin' about hearts and piercers.'

The imputation of gallantry appeared to afford Mr. Weller the
utmost delight, for he replied in a voice choked by suppressed
laughter, and with the tears in his eyes,

'Wos I a talkin' about hearts and piercers, - wos I though, Sammy,

'Wos you? of course you wos.'

'She don't know no better, Sammy, there ain't no harm in it, - no
danger, Sammy; she's only a punster. She seemed pleased, though,
didn't she? O' course, she wos pleased, it's nat'ral she should
be, wery nat'ral.'

'He's wain of it!' exclaimed Sam, joining in his father's mirth.
'He's actually wain!'

'Hush!' replied Mr. Weller, composing his features, 'they're a
comin' back, - the little heart's a comin' back. But mark these
wurds o' mine once more, and remember 'em ven your father says he
said 'em. Samivel, I mistrust that 'ere deceitful barber.'

< Back
Forward >

Index Index

Other Authors Other Authors

Charles Dickens. Copyright © 2022,
Contact the webmaster
Disclaimer here. Privacy Policy here.