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Summary Chapter 37

 

Mr. Bumble is contemplating in gloomy self-reflection. His clothes have become more modest. There have been some changes in his life. He is no longer a beadle. Mr. Bumble married Mrs. Corney and became master of the workhouse, but he was stripped of his rank and uniform. These were given to his successor. He believes now that he sold himself very cheaply. He finds himself with no power to intimidate his wife, who laughs at him when he tries.

When she criticizes him for just moping around all day, he retorts that if her first husband had taught her to obey, he may have lived longer…and Mr. Bumble wishes he had. Mrs. Bumble begins to cry, but he is unmoved. He is pleased, though, about gaining the upper hand. Mrs. Bumble attacks him—knocking off his hat. She orders him to leave. He does, unnerved by the violence.

He makes a tour of the workhouse, thinking perhaps the laws that punish men from running away from their wives are too harsh. He comes across his wife in a laundering room where the pauper women are doing the parish’s laundry. When Mrs. Bumble asks what he is doing there, he says he thought they were talking too much. She tells him he interferes too much and causes everyone to laugh at him. She chases him out, much to the amusement of the other women.

He realizes that in two months he has lost the respect of the paupers. He misses being his own master and everybody else’s. He vents his anger on a workhouse boy by smacking him.

He goes to a public house for a drink. There is a stranger there that stares at him and piques his curiosity. The stranger finally asks Mr. Bumble if he was looking for him. When he realizes Mr. Bumble doesn’t know his name, he suggests he doesn’t ask it.

The man recognizes him as the former beadle. Bumble confirms this, but says he is now master of the workhouse. The man asks if he looks after himself. Mr. Bumble says he doesn’t mind making extra money, particularly as he is now married. The stranger reveals that he came here to see Mr. Bumble, and what a fine chance it was that Mr. Bumble came to him instead. He wants information and is willing to pay for it.

The stranger asks about a woman who nursed Oliver Twist’s mother. Mr. Bumble tells the man that she died last winter. He then remembers that his wife had talked to the woman before she died and might know more. The man asks him to bring her to meet him the next night at nine. He tells Bumble to ask for Monks. 

Charles Dickens