It then appeared that she had used the word, not in its legal or business acceptation, when it merely expresses an individual, but as a noun of multitude, or signifying many: for Miss Tox escorted a plump rosy-cheeked wholesome apple-faced young woman, with an infant in her arms; a younger woman not so plump, but apple-faced also, who led a plump and apple-faced child in each hand; another plump and also apple-faced boy who walked by himself; and finally, a plump and apple-faced man, who carried in his arms another plump and apple-faced boy, whom he stood down on the floor, and admonished, in a husky whisper, to 'kitch hold of his brother Johnny.'
'My dear Louisa,' said Miss Tox, 'knowing your great anxiety, and wishing to relieve it, I posted off myself to the Queen Charlotte's Royal Married Females,' which you had forgot, and put the question, Was there anybody there that they thought would suit? No, they said there was not. When they gave me that answer, I do assure you, my dear, I was almost driven to despair on your account. But it did so happen, that one of the Royal Married Females, hearing the inquiry, reminded the matron of another who had gone to her own home, and who, she said, would in all likelihood be most satisfactory. The moment I heard this, and had it corroborated by the matron - excellent references and unimpeachable character - I got the address, my dear, and posted off again.'
'Like the dear good Tox, you are!' said Louisa.
'Not at all,' returned Miss Tox. 'Don't say so. Arriving at the house (the cleanest place, my dear! You might eat your dinner off the floor), I found the whole family sitting at table; and feeling that no account of them could be half so comfortable to you and Mr Dombey as the sight of them all together, I brought them all away. This gentleman,' said Miss Tox, pointing out the apple-faced man, 'is the father. Will you have the goodness to come a little forward, Sir?'
The apple-faced man having sheepishly complied with this request, stood chuckling and grinning in a front row.
'This is his wife, of course,' said Miss Tox, singling out the young woman with the baby. 'How do you do, Polly?'
'I'm pretty well, I thank you, Ma'am,' said Polly.
By way of bringing her out dexterously, Miss Tox had made the inquiry as in condescension to an old acquaintance whom she hadn't seen for a fortnight or so.
'I'm glad to hear it,' said Miss Tox. 'The other young woman is her unmarried sister who lives with them, and would take care of her children. Her name's Jemima. How do you do, Jemima?'
'I'm pretty well, I thank you, Ma'am,' returned Jemima.
'I'm very glad indeed to hear it,' said Miss Tox. 'I hope you'll keep so. Five children. Youngest six weeks. The fine little boy with the blister on his nose is the eldest The blister, I believe,' said Miss Tox, looking round upon the family, 'is not constitutional, but accidental?'
The apple-faced man was understood to growl, 'Flat iron.
'I beg your pardon, Sir,' said Miss Tox, 'did you?
'Flat iron,' he repeated.
'Oh yes,' said Miss Tox. 'Yes! quite true. I forgot. The little creature, in his mother's absence, smelt a warm flat iron. You're quite right, Sir. You were going to have the goodness to inform me, when we arrived at the door that you were by trade a - '
'Stoker,' said the man.
'A choker!' said Miss Tox, quite aghast.
'Stoker,' said the man. 'Steam ingine.'
'Oh-h! Yes!' returned Miss Tox, looking thoughtfully at him, and seeming still to have but a very imperfect understanding of his meaning.
'And how do you like it, Sir?'
'Which, Mum?' said the man.
'That,' replied Miss Tox. 'Your trade.'
'Oh! Pretty well, Mum.