Chapter 36

Private and confidential; relating to family matters. Showing how Mr Kenwigs underwent violent agitation, and how Mrs Kenwigs was as well as could be expected

IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN seven o'clock in the evening, and it was growing dark in the narrow streets near Golden Square, when Mr Kenwigs sent out for a pair of the cheapest white kid gloves -- those at fourteen- pence -- and selecting the strongest, which happened to be the right-hand one, walked downstairs with an air of pomp and much excitement, and proceeded to muffle the knob of the street-door knocker therein. Having executed this task with great nicety, Mr Kenwigs pulled the door to, after him, and just stepped across the road to try the effect from the opposite side of the street. Satisfied that nothing could possibly look better in its way, Mr Kenwigs then stepped back again, and calling through the keyhole to Morleena to open the door, vanished into the house, and was seen no longer.

Now, considered as an abstract circumstance, there was no more obvious cause or reason why Mr Kenwigs should take the trouble of muffling this particular knocker, than there would have been for his muffling the knocker of any nobleman or gentleman resident ten miles off; because, for the greater convenience of the numerous lodgers, the street-door always stood wide open, and the knocker was never used at all. The first floor, the second floor, and the third floor, had each a bell of its own. As to the attics, no one ever called on them; if anybody wanted the parlours, they were close at hand, and all he had to do was to walk straight into them; while the kitchen had a separate entrance down the area steps. As a question of mere necessity and usefulness, therefore, this muffling of the knocker was thoroughly incomprehensible.

But knockers may be muffled for other purposes than those of mere utilitarianism, as, in the present instance, was clearly shown. There are certain polite forms and ceremonies which must be observed in civilised life, or mankind relapse into their original barbarism. No genteel lady was ever yet confined -- indeed, no genteel confinement can possibly take place -- without the accompanying symbol of a muffled knocker. Mrs Kenwigs was a lady of some pretensions to gentility; Mrs Kenwigs was confined. And, therefore, Mr Kenwigs tied up the silent knocker on the premises in a white kid glove.

`I'm not quite certain neither,' said Mr Kenwigs, arranging his shirt-collar, and walking slowly upstairs, `whether, as it's a boy, I won't have it in the papers.'

Pondering upon the advisability of this step, and the sensation it was likely to create in the neighbourhood, Mr Kenwigs betook himself to the sitting-room, where various extremely diminutive articles of clothing were airing on a horse before the fire, and Mr Lumbey, the doctor, was dandling the baby -- that is, the old baby -- not the new one.

`It's a fine boy, Mr Kenwigs,' said Mr Lumbey, the doctor.

`You consider him a fine boy, do you, sir?' returned Mr Kenwigs.

`It's the finest boy I ever saw in all my life,' said the doctor. `I never saw such a baby.'

It is a pleasant thing to reflect upon, and furnishes a complete answer to those who contend for the gradual degeneration of the human species, that every baby born into the world is a finer one than the last.

`I ne -- ver saw such a baby,' said Mr Lumbey, the doctor.

`Morleena was a fine baby,' remarked Mr Kenwigs; as if this were rather an attack, by implication, upon the family.

`They were all fine babies,' said Mr Lumbey. And Mr Lumbey went on nursing the baby with a thoughtful look. Whether he was considering under what head he could best charge the nursing in the bill, was best known to himself.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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