Chapter 29

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 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 smiled through the suds in his satisfaction.

`Gently over the stones, Poll. Go a tip-toe over the pimples!'

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

  By PanEris using Melati.

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