Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 13

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Mrs. Badger overheard him and smiled.

"Yes, my dear!" Mr. Badger replied to the smile, "I was observing to Mr. Jarndyce and Miss Summerson that you had had two former husbands—both very distinguished men.  And they found it, as people generally do, difficult to believe."

"I was barely twenty," said Mrs. Badger, "when I married Captain Swosser of the Royal Navy.  I was in the Mediterranean with him; I am quite a sailor.  On the twelfth anniversary of my wedding-day, I became the wife of Professor Dingo."

"Of European reputation," added Mr. Badger in an undertone.

"And when Mr. Badger and myself were married," pursued Mrs. Badger, "we were married on the same day of the year.  I had become attached to the day."

"So that Mrs. Badger has been married to three husbands—two of them highly distinguished men," said Mr. Badger, summing up the facts, "and each time upon the twenty-first of March at eleven in the forenoon!"

We all expressed our admiration.

"But for Mr. Badger's modesty," said Mr. Jarndyce, "I would take leave to correct him and say three distinguished men."

"Thank you, Mr. Jarndyce!  What I always tell him!" observed Mrs. Badger.

"And, my dear," said Mr. Badger, "what do I always tell you?  That without any affectation of disparaging such professional distinction as I may have attained (which our friend Mr. Carstone will have many opportunities of estimating), I am not so weak—no, really," said Mr. Badger to us generally, "so unreasonable—as to put my reputation on the same footing with such first-rate men as Captain Swosser and Professor Dingo.  Perhaps you may be interested, Mr. Jarndyce," continued Mr. Bayham Badger, leading the way into the next drawing-room, "in this portrait of Captain Swosser.  It was taken on his return home from the African station, where he had suffered from the fever of the country.  Mrs. Badger considers it too yellow.  But it's a very fine head.  A very fine head!"

We all echoed, "A very fine head!"

"I feel when I look at it," said Mr. Badger, "'That's a man I should like to have seen!'  It strikingly bespeaks the first-class man that Captain Swosser pre-eminently was.  On the other side, Professor Dingo.  I knew him well—attended him in his last illness—a speaking likeness!  Over the piano, Mrs. Bayham Badger when Mrs. Swosser.  Over the sofa, Mrs. Bayham Badger when Mrs. Dingo.  Of Mrs. Bayham Badger IN ESSE, I possess the original and have no copy."

Dinner was now announced, and we went downstairs.  It was a very genteel entertainment, very handsomely served.  But the captain and the professor still ran in Mr. Badger's head, and as Ada and I had the honour of being under his particular care, we had the full benefit of them.

"Water, Miss Summerson?  Allow me!  Not in that tumbler, pray.  Bring me the professor's goblet, James!"

Ada very much admired some artificial flowers under a glass.

"Astonishing how they keep!" said Mr. Badger.  "They were presented to Mrs. Bayham Badger when she was in the Mediterranean."

He invited Mr. Jarndyce to take a glass of claret.

"Not that claret!" he said.  "Excuse me!  This is an occasion, and ON an occasion I produce some very special claret I happen to have.  (James, Captain Swosser's wine!) Mr. Jarndyce, this is a wine that was imported by the captain, we will not say how many years ago.  You will find it very curious.  My dear, I shall he happy to take some of this wine with you.  (Captain Swosser's claret to your mistress, James!)  My love, your health!"