English Stories and books

DOCTOR MARIGOLD by Charles Dickens(read and download)

Charles Dickens. DOCTOR MARIGOLD

I am a Cheap Jack, and my own father’s name was Willum Marigold. It was

in his lifetime supposed by some that his name was William, but my own

father always consistently said, No, it was Willum. On which point I

content myself with looking at the argument this way: If a man is not

allowed to know his own name in a free country, how much is he allowed to

know in a land of slavery? As to looking at the argument through the

medium of the Register, Willum Marigold come into the world before

Registers come up much,–and went out of it too. They wouldn’t have been

greatly in his line neither, if they had chanced to come up before him.

I was born on the Queen’s highway, but it was the King’s at that time. A

doctor was fetched to my own mother by my own father, when it took place

on a common; and in consequence of his being a very kind gentleman, and

accepting no fee but a tea-tray, I was named Doctor, out of gratitude and

compliment to him. There you have me. Doctor Marigold.

I am at present a middle-aged man of a broadish build, in cords,

leggings, and a sleeved waistcoat the strings of which is always gone

behind. Repair them how you will, they go like fiddle-strings. You have

been to the theatre, and you have seen one of the wiolin-players screw up

his wiolin, after listening to it as if it had been whispering the secret

to him that it feared it was out of order, and then you have heard it

snap. That’s as exactly similar to my waistcoat as a waistcoat and a

wiolin can be like one another.

I am partial to a white hat, and I like a shawl round my neck wore loose

and easy. Sitting down is my favourite posture. If I have a taste in

point of personal jewelry, it is mother-of-pearl buttons. There you have

me again, as large as life.

The doctor having accepted a tea-tray, you’ll guess that my father was a

Cheap Jack before me. You are right. He was. It was a pretty tray. It

represented a large lady going along a serpentining up-hill gravel-walk,

to attend a little church. Two swans had likewise come astray with the

same intentions. When I call her a large lady, I don’t mean in point of

breadth, for there she fell below my views, but she more than made it up

in heighth; her heighth and slimness was–in short THE heighth of both.

I often saw that tray, after I was the innocently smiling cause (or more

likely screeching one) of the doctor’s standing it up on a table against

the wall in his consulting-room. Whenever my own father and mother were

in that part of the country, I used to put my head (I have heard my own

mother say it was flaxen curls at that time, though you wouldn’t know an

old hearth-broom from it now till you come to the handle, and found it

wasn’t me) in at the doctor’s door, and the doctor was always glad to see

me, and said, “Aha, my brother practitioner! Come in, little M.D. How

are your inclinations as to sixpence?”

You can’t go on for ever, you’ll find, nor yet could my father nor yet my

mother. If you don’t go off as a whole when you are about due, you’re

liable to go off in part, and two to one your head’s the part. Gradually

my father went off his, and my mother went off hers. It was in a

harmless way, but it put out the family where I boarded them. The old

couple, though retired, got to be wholly and solely devoted to the Cheap

Jack business, and were always selling the family off. Whenever the

cloth was laid for dinner, my father began rattling the plates and

dishes, as we do in our line when we put up crockery for a bid, only he

had lost the trick of it, and mostly let ’em drop and broke ’em. As the

old lady had been used to sit in the cart, and hand the articles out one

by one to the old gentleman on the footboard to sell, just in the same

way she handed him every item of the family’s property, and they disposed

of it in their own imaginations from morning to night. At last the old

gentleman, lying bedridden in the same room with the old lady, cries out

in the old patter, fluent, after having been silent for two days and

nights: “Now here, my jolly companions every one,–which the Nightingale

club in a village was held, At the sign of the Cabbage and Shears, Where

the singers no doubt would have greatly excelled, But for want of taste,

voices and ears,–now, here, my jolly companions, every one, is a working

model of a used-up old Cheap Jack, without a tooth in his head, and with

a pain in every bone: so like life that it would be just as good if it

wasn’t better, just as bad if it wasn’t worse, and just as new if it

wasn’t worn out. Bid for the working model of the old Cheap Jack, who

has drunk more gunpowder-tea with the ladies in his time than would blow

the lid off a washerwoman’s copper, and carry it as many thousands of

miles higher than the moon as naught nix naught, divided by the national

debt, carry nothing to the poor-rates, three under, and two over. Now,

my hearts of oak and men of straw, what do you say for the lot? Two

shillings, a shilling, tenpence, eightpence, sixpence, fourpence.

Twopence? Who said twopence? The gentleman in the scarecrow’s hat? I

am ashamed of the gentleman in the scarecrow’s hat. I really am ashamed

of him for his want of public spirit. Now I’ll tell you what I’ll do

with you. Come! I’ll throw you in a working model of a old woman that

was married to the old Cheap Jack so long ago that upon my word and

honour it took place in Noah’s Ark, before the Unicorn could get in to

forbid the banns by blowing a tune upon his horn. There now! Come! What

do you say for both? I’ll tell you what I’ll do with you. I don’t bear

you malice for being so backward. Here! If you make me a bid that’ll

only reflect a little credit on your town, I’ll throw you in a warming-

pan for nothing, and lend you a toasting-fork for life. Now come; what

do you say after that splendid offer? Say two pound, say thirty

shillings, say a pound, say ten shillings, say five, say two and six. You

don’t say even two and six? You say two and three? No. You shan’t have

the lot for two and three. I’d sooner give it to you, if you was good-

looking enough. Here! Missis! Chuck the old man and woman into the

cart, put the horse to, and drive ’em away and bury ’em!” Such were the

last words of Willum Marigold, my own father, and they were carried out,

by him and by his wife, my own mother, on one and the same day, as I

ought to know, having followed as mourner.

My father had been a lovely one in his time at the Cheap Jack work, as

his dying observations went to prove. But I top him. I don’t say it

because it’s myself, but because it has been universally acknowledged by

all that has had the means of comparison. I have worked at it. I have

measured myself against other public speakers,–Members of Parliament,

Platforms, Pulpits, Counsel learned in the law,–and where I have found

’em good, I have took a bit of imagination from ’em, and where I have

found ’em bad, I have let ’em alone. Now I’ll tell you what. I mean to

go down into my grave declaring that of all the callings ill used in

Great Britain, the Cheap Jack calling is the worst used. Why ain’t we a

profession? Why ain’t we endowed with privileges? Why are we forced to

take out a hawker’s license, when no such thing is expected of the

political hawkers? Where’s the difference betwixt us? Except that we

are Cheap Jacks and they are Dear Jacks, _I_ don’t see any difference but

what’s in our favour.

For look here! Say it’s election time. I am on the footboard of my cart

in the market-place, on a Saturday night. I put up a general

miscellaneous lot. I say: “Now here, my free and independent woters, I’m

a going to give you such a chance as you never had in all your born days,

nor yet the days preceding. Now I’ll show you what I am a going to do

with you. Here’s a pair of razors that’ll shave you closer than the

Board of Guardians; here’s a flat-iron worth its weight in gold; here’s a

frying-pan artificially flavoured with essence of beefsteaks to that

degree that you’ve only got for the rest of your lives to fry bread and

dripping in it and there you are replete with animal food; here’s a

genuine chronometer watch in such a solid silver case that you may knock

at the door with it when you come home late from a social meeting, and

rouse your wife and family, and save up your knocker for the postman; and

here’s half-a-dozen dinner plates that you may play the cymbals with to

charm baby when it’s fractious. Stop! I’ll throw in another article,

and I’ll give you that, and it’s a rolling-pin; and if the baby can only

get it well into its mouth when its teeth is coming and rub the gums once

with it, they’ll come through double, in a fit of laughter equal to being

tickled. Stop again! I’ll throw you in another article, because I don’t

like the looks of you, for you haven’t the appearance of buyers unless I

lose by you, and because I’d rather lose than not take money to-night,

and that’s a looking-glass in which you may see how ugly you look when

you don’t bid. What do you say now? Come! Do you say a pound? Not

you, for you haven’t got it. Do you say ten shillings? Not you, for you

owe more to the tallyman. Well then, I’ll tell you what I’ll do with

you. I’ll heap ’em all on the footboard of the cart,–there they are!

razors, flat watch, dinner plates, rolling-pin, and away for four

shillings, and I’ll give you sixpence for your trouble!” This is me, the

Cheap Jack. But on the Monday morning, in the same market-place, comes

the Dear Jack on the hustings–_his_ cart–and, what does _he_ say? “Now

my free and independent woters, I am a going to give you such a chance”

(he begins just like me) “as you never had in all your born days, and

that’s the chance of sending Myself to Parliament. Now I’ll tell you

what I am a going to do for you. Here’s the interests of this

magnificent town promoted above all the rest of the civilised and

uncivilised earth. Here’s your railways carried, and your neighbours’

railways jockeyed. Here’s all your sons in the Post-office. Here’s

Britannia smiling on you. Here’s the eyes of Europe on you. Here’s

uniwersal prosperity for you, repletion of animal food, golden

cornfields, gladsome homesteads, and rounds of applause from your own

hearts, all in one lot, and that’s myself. Will you take me as I stand?

You won’t? Well, then, I’ll tell you what I’ll do with you. Come now!

I’ll throw you in anything you ask for. There! Church-rates, abolition

of more malt tax, no malt tax, universal education to the highest mark,

or uniwersal ignorance to the lowest, total abolition of flogging in the

army or a dozen for every private once a month all round, Wrongs of Men

or Rights of Women–only say which it shall be, take ’em or leave ’em,

and I’m of your opinion altogether, and the lot’s your own on your own

terms. There! You won’t take it yet! Well, then, I’ll tell you what

I’ll do with you. Come! You _are_ such free and independent woters, and

I am so proud of you,–you _are_ such a noble and enlightened

constituency, and I _am_ so ambitious of the honour and dignity of being

your member, which is by far the highest level to which the wings of the

human mind can soar,–that I’ll tell you what I’ll do with you. I’ll

throw you in all the public-houses in your magnificent town for nothing.

Will that content you? It won’t? You won’t take the lot yet? Well,

then, before I put the horse in and drive away, and make the offer to the

next most magnificent town that can be discovered, I’ll tell you what

I’ll do. Take the lot, and I’ll drop two thousand pound in the streets

of your magnificent town for them to pick up that can. Not enough? Now

look here. This is the very furthest that I’m a going to. I’ll make it

two thousand five hundred. And still you won’t? Here, missis! Put the

horse–no, stop half a moment, I shouldn’t like to turn my back upon you

neither for a trifle, I’ll make it two thousand seven hundred and fifty

pound. There! Take the lot on your own terms, and I’ll count out two

thousand seven hundred and fifty pound on the footboard of the cart, to

be dropped in the streets of your magnificent town for them to pick up

that can. What do you say? Come now! You won’t do better, and you may

do worse. You take it? Hooray! Sold again, and got the seat!”

These Dear Jacks soap the people shameful, but we Cheap Jacks don’t. We

tell ’em the truth about themselves to their faces, and scorn to court

’em. As to wenturesomeness in the way of puffing up the lots, the Dear

Jacks beat us hollow. It is considered in the Cheap Jack calling, that

better patter can be made out of a gun than any article we put up from

the cart, except a pair of spectacles. I often hold forth about a gun

for a quarter of an hour, and feel as if I need never leave off. But

when I tell ’em what the gun can do, and what the gun has brought down, I

never go half so far as the Dear Jacks do when they make speeches in

praise of _their_ guns–their great guns that set ’em on to do it.

Besides, I’m in business for myself: I ain’t sent down into the market-

place to order, as they are. Besides, again, my guns don’t know what I

say in their laudation, and their guns do, and the whole concern of ’em

have reason to be sick and ashamed all round. These are some of my

arguments for declaring that the Cheap Jack calling is treated ill in

Great Britain, and for turning warm when I think of the other Jacks in

question setting themselves up to pretend to look down upon it.

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