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Dickens’ Short Stories


Charles Dickens' signature

Charles Dickens

This is the Bookwise complete ebook of Dickens’ Short Stories by Charles Dickens, available to read online as an alternative to epub, mobi, kindle, pdf or text only versions. For information about the status of this work, see Copyright Notice.



First Part: Short Stories


SUNDAY UNDER THREE HEADS


DEDICATION

To The Right Reverend
THE BISHOP OF LONDON

MY LORD,

You were among the first, some years ago, to expatiate on the vicious addiction of the lower classes of society to Sunday excursions; and were thus instrumental in calling forth occasional demonstrations of those extreme opinions on the subject, which are very generally received with derision, if not with contempt.

Your elevated station, my Lord, affords you countless opportunities of increasing the comforts and pleasures of the humbler classes of society — not by the expenditure of the smallest portion of your princely income, but by merely sanctioning with the influence of your example, their harmless pastimes, and innocent recreations.

That your Lordship would ever have contemplated Sunday recreations with so much horror, if you had been at all acquainted with the wants and necessities of the people who indulged in them, I cannot imagine possible.  That a Prelate of your elevated rank has the faintest conception of the extent of those wants, and the nature of those necessities, I do not believe.

For these reasons, I venture to address this little Pamphlet to your Lordship’s consideration.  I am quite conscious that the outlines I have drawn, afford but a very imperfect description of the feelings they are intended to illustrate; but I claim for them one merit — their truth and freedom from exaggeration.  I may have fallen short of the mark, but I have never overshot it: and while I have pointed out what appears to me, to be injustice on the part of others, I hope I have carefully abstained from committing it myself.

I am,
My Lord,
Your Lordship’s most obedient,
Humble Servant,
TIMOTHY SPARKS.

June, 1836.


CHAPTER I
AS IT IS

There are few things from which I derive greater pleasure, than walking through some of the principal streets of London on a fine Sunday, in summer, and watching the cheerful faces of the lively groups with which they are thronged.  There is something, to my eyes at least, exceedingly pleasing in the general desire evinced by the humbler classes of society, to appear neat and clean on this their only holiday.  There are many grave old persons, I know, who shake their heads with an air of profound wisdom, and tell you that poor people dress too well now-a-days; that when they were children, folks knew their stations in life better; that you may depend upon it, no good will come of this sort of thing in the end, — and so forth: but I fancy I can discern in the fine bonnet of the working-man’s wife, or the feather-bedizened hat of his child, no inconsiderable evidence of good feeling on the part of the man himself, and an affectionate desire to expend the few shillings he can spare from his week’s wages, in improving the appearance and adding to the happiness of those who are nearest and dearest to him.  This may be a very heinous and unbecoming degree of vanity, perhaps, and the money might possibly be applied to better uses; it must not be forgotten, however, that it might very easily be devoted to worse: and if two or three faces can be rendered happy and contented, by a trifling improvement of outward appearance, I cannot help thinking that the object is very cheaply purchased, even at the expense of a smart gown, or a gaudy riband.  There is a great deal of very unnecessary cant about the over-dressing of the common people.  There is not a manufacturer or tradesman in existence, who would not employ a man who takes a reasonable degree of pride in the appearance of himself and those about him, in preference to a sullen, slovenly fellow, who works doggedly on, regardless of his own clothing and that of his wife and children, and seeming to take pleasure or pride in nothing.

The pampered aristocrat, whose life is one continued round of licentious pleasures and sensual gratifications; or the gloomy enthusiast, who detests the cheerful amusements he can never enjoy, and envies the healthy feelings he can never know, and who would put down the one and suppress the other, until he made the minds of his fellow-beings as besotted and distorted as his own; — neither of these men can by possibility form an adequate notion of what Sunday really is to those whose lives are spent in sedentary or laborious occupations, and who are accustomed to look forward to it through their whole existence, as their only day of rest from toil, and innocent enjoyment.

The sun that rises over the quiet streets of London on a bright Sunday morning, shines till his setting, on gay and happy faces.  Here and there, so early as six o’clock, a young man and woman in their best attire, may be seen hurrying along on their way to the house of some acquaintance, who is included in their scheme of pleasure for the day; from whence, after stopping to take “a bit of breakfast,” they sally forth, accompanied by several old people, and a whole crowd of young ones, bearing large hand-baskets full of provisions, and Belcher handkerchiefs done up in bundles, with the neck of a bottle sticking out at the top, and closely-packed apples bulging out at the sides, — and away they hurry along the streets leading to the steam-packet wharfs, which are already plentifully sprinkled with parties bound for the same destination.  Their good humour and delight know no bounds — for it is a delightful morning, all blue over head, and nothing like a cloud in the whole sky; and even the air of the river at London Bridge is something to them, shut up as they have been, all the week, in close streets and heated rooms.  There are dozens of steamers to all sorts of places — Gravesend, Greenwich, and Richmond; and such numbers of people, that when you have once sat down on the deck, it is all but a moral impossibility to get up again — to say nothing of walking about, which is entirely out of the question.  Away they go, joking and laughing, and eating and drinking, and admiring everything they see, and pleased with everything they hear, to climb Windmill Hill, and catch a glimpse of the rich corn-fields and beautiful orchards of Kent; or to stroll among the fine old trees of Greenwich Park, and survey the wonders of Shooter’s Hill and Lady James’s Folly; or to glide past the beautiful meadows of Twickenham and Richmond, and to gaze with a delight which only people like them can know, on every lovely object in the fair prospect around.  Boat follows boat, and coach succeeds coach, for the next three hours; but all are filled, and all with the same kind of people — neat and clean, cheerful and contented.

They reach their places of destination, and the taverns are crowded; but there is no drunkenness or brawling, for the class of men who commit the enormity of making Sunday excursions, take their families with them: and this in itself would be a check upon them, even if they were inclined to dissipation, which they really are not.  Boisterous their mirth may be, for they have all the excitement of feeling that fresh air and green fields can impart to the dwellers in crowded cities, but it is innocent and harmless.  The glass is circulated, and the joke goes round; but the one is free from excess, and the other from offence; and nothing but good humour and hilarity prevail.

In streets like Holborn and Tottenham Court Road, which form the central market of a large neighbourhood, inhabited by a vast number of mechanics and poor people, a few shops are open at an early hour of the morning; and a very poor man, with a thin and sickly woman by his side, may be seen with their little basket in hand, purchasing the scanty quantity of necessaries they can afford, which the time at which the man receives his wages, or his having a good deal of work to do, or the woman’s having been out charing till a late hour, prevented their procuring over-night.  The coffee-shops too, at which clerks and young men employed in counting-houses can procure their breakfasts, are also open.  This class comprises, in a place like London, an enormous number of people, whose limited means prevent their engaging for their lodgings any other apartment than a bedroom, and who have consequently no alternative but to take their breakfasts at a coffee-shop, or go without it altogether.  All these places, however, are quickly closed; and by the time the church bells begin to ring, all appearance of traffic has ceased.  And then, what are the signs of immorality that meet the eye?  Churches are well filled, and Dissenters’ chapels are crowded to suffocation.  There is no preaching to empty benches, while the drunken and dissolute populace run riot in the streets.

Here is a fashionable church, where the service commences at a late hour, for the accommodation of such members of the congregation — and they are not a few — as may happen to have lingered at the Opera far into the morning of the Sabbath; an excellent contrivance for poising the balance between God and Mammon, and illustrating the ease with which a man’s duties to both, may be accommodated and adjusted.  How the carriages rattle up, and deposit their richly-dressed burdens beneath the lofty portico!  The powdered footmen glide along the aisle, place the richly-bound prayer-books on the pew desks, slam the doors, and hurry away, leaving the fashionable members of the congregation to inspect each other through their glasses, and to dazzle and glitter in the eyes of the few shabby people in the free seats.  The organ peals forth, the hired singers commence a short hymn, and the congregation condescendingly rise, stare about them, and converse in whispers.  The clergyman enters the reading-desk, — a young man of noble family and elegant demeanour, notorious at Cambridge for his knowledge of horse-flesh and dancers, and celebrated at Eton for his hopeless stupidity.  The service commences.  Mark the soft voice in which he reads, and the impressive manner in which he applies his white hand, studded with brilliants, to his perfumed hair.  Observe the graceful emphasis with which he offers up the prayers for the King, the Royal Family, and all the Nobility; and the nonchalance with which he hurries over the more uncomfortable portions of the service, the seventh commandment for instance, with a studied regard for the taste and feeling of his auditors, only to be equalled by that displayed by the sleek divine who succeeds him, who murmurs, in a voice kept down by rich feeding, most comfortable doctrines for exactly twelve minutes, and then arrives at the anxiously expected ‘Now to God,’ which is the signal for the dismissal of the congregation.  The organ is again heard; those who have been asleep wake up, and those who have kept awake, smile and seem greatly relieved; bows and congratulations are exchanged, the livery servants are all bustle and commotion, bang go the steps, up jump the footmen, and off rattle the carriages: the inmates discoursing on the dresses of the congregation, and congratulating themselves on having set so excellent an example to the community in general, and Sunday-pleasurers in particular.

Enter a less orthodox place of religious worship, and observe the contrast.  A small close chapel with a white-washed wall, and plain deal pews and pulpit, contains a closely-packed congregation, as different in dress, as they are opposed in manner, to that we have just quitted.  The hymn is sung — not by paid singers, but by the whole assembly at the loudest pitch of their voices, unaccompanied by any musical instrument, the words being given out, two lines at a time, by the clerk.  There is something in the sonorous quavering of the harsh voices, in the lank and hollow faces of the men, and the sour solemnity of the women, which bespeaks this a strong-hold of intolerant zeal and ignorant enthusiasm.  The preacher enters the pulpit.  He is a coarse, hard-faced man of forbidding aspect, clad in rusty black, and bearing in his hand a small plain Bible from which he selects some passage for his text, while the hymn is concluding.  The congregation fall upon their knees, and are hushed into profound stillness as he delivers an extempore prayer, in which he calls upon the Sacred Founder of the Christian faith to bless his ministry, in terms of disgusting and impious familiarity not to be described.  He begins his oration in a drawling tone, and his hearers listen with silent attention.  He grows warmer as he proceeds with his subject, and his gesticulation becomes proportionately violent.  He clenches his fists, beats the book upon the desk before him, and swings his arms wildly about his head.  The congregation murmur their acquiescence in his doctrines: and a short groan, occasionally bears testimony to the moving nature of his eloquence.  Encouraged by these symptoms of approval, and working himself up to a pitch of enthusiasm amounting almost to frenzy, he denounces sabbath-breakers with the direst vengeance of offended Heaven.  He stretches his body half out of the pulpit, thrusts forth his arms with frantic gestures, and blasphemously calls upon The Deity to visit with eternal torments, those who turn aside from the word, as interpreted and preached by — himself.  A low moaning is heard, the women rock their bodies to and fro, and wring their hands; the preacher’s fervour increases, the perspiration starts upon his brow, his face is flushed, and he clenches his hands convulsively, as he draws a hideous and appalling picture of the horrors preparing for the wicked in a future state.  A great excitement is visible among his hearers, a scream is heard, and some young girl falls senseless on the floor.  There is a momentary rustle, but it is only for a moment — all eyes are turned towards the preacher.  He pauses, passes his handkerchief across his face, and looks complacently round.  His voice resumes its natural tone, as with mock humility he offers up a thanksgiving for having been successful in his efforts, and having been permitted to rescue one sinner from the path of evil.  He sinks back into his seat, exhausted with the violence of his ravings; the girl is removed, a hymn is sung, a petition for some measure for securing the better observance of the Sabbath, which has been prepared by the good man, is read; and his worshipping admirers struggle who shall be the first to sign it.

But the morning service has concluded, and the streets are again crowded with people.  Long rows of cleanly-dressed charity children, preceded by a portly beadle and a withered schoolmaster, are returning to their welcome dinner; and it is evident, from the number of men with beer-trays who are running from house to house, that no inconsiderable portion of the population are about to take theirs at this early hour.  The bakers’ shops in the humbler suburbs especially, are filled with men, women, and children, each anxiously waiting for the Sunday dinner.  Look at the group of children who surround that working man who has just emerged from the baker’s shop at the corner of the street, with the reeking dish, in which a diminutive joint of mutton simmers above a vast heap of half-browned potatoes.  How the young rogues clap their hands, and dance round their father, for very joy at the prospect of the feast: and how anxiously the youngest and chubbiest of the lot, lingers on tiptoe by his side, trying to get a peep into the interior of the dish.  They turn up the street, and the chubby-faced boy trots on as fast as his little legs will carry him, to herald the approach of the dinner to ‘Mother’ who is standing with a baby in her arms on the doorstep, and who seems almost as pleased with the whole scene as the children themselves; whereupon ‘baby’ not precisely understanding the importance of the business in hand, but clearly perceiving that it is something unusually lively, kicks and crows most lustily, to the unspeakable delight of all the children and both the parents: and the dinner is borne into the house amidst a shouting of small voices, and jumping of fat legs, which would fill Sir Andrew Agnew with astonishment; as well it might, seeing that Baronets, generally speaking, eat pretty comfortable dinners all the week through, and cannot be expected to understand what people feel, who only have a meat dinner on one day out of every seven.

The bakings being all duly consigned to their respective owners, and the beer-man having gone his rounds, the church bells ring for afternoon service, the shops are again closed, and the streets are more than ever thronged with people; some who have not been to church in the morning, going to it now; others who have been to church, going out for a walk; and others — let us admit the full measure of their guilt — going for a walk, who have not been to church at all.  I am afraid the smart servant of all work, who has been loitering at the corner of the square for the last ten minutes, is one of the latter class.  She is evidently waiting for somebody, and though she may have made up her mind to go to church with him one of these mornings, I don’t think they have any such intention on this particular afternoon.  Here he is, at last.  The white trousers, blue coat, and yellow waistcoat — and more especially that cock of the hat — indicate, as surely as inanimate objects can, that Chalk Farm and not the parish church, is their destination.  The girl colours up, and puts out her hand with a very awkward affectation of indifference.  He gives it a gallant squeeze, and away they walk, arm in arm, the girl just looking back towards her ‘place’ with an air of conscious self-importance, and nodding to her fellow-servant who has gone up to the two-pair-of-stairs window, to take a full view of ‘Mary’s young man,’ which being communicated to William, he takes off his hat to the fellow-servant: a proceeding which affords unmitigated satisfaction to all parties, and impels the fellow-servant to inform Miss Emily confidentially, in the course of the evening, ‘that the young man as Mary keeps company with, is one of the most genteelest young men as ever she see.’

The two young people who have just crossed the road, and are following this happy couple down the street, are a fair specimen of another class of Sunday — pleasurers.  There is a dapper smartness, struggling through very limited means, about the young man, which induces one to set him down at once as a junior clerk to a tradesman or attorney.  The girl no one could possibly mistake.  You may tell a young woman in the employment of a large dress-maker, at any time, by a certain neatness of cheap finery and humble following of fashion, which pervade her whole attire; but unfortunately there are other tokens not to be misunderstood — the pale face with its hectic bloom, the slight distortion of form which no artifice of dress can wholly conceal, the unhealthy stoop, and the short cough — the effects of hard work and close application to a sedentary employment, upon a tender frame.  They turn towards the fields.  The girl’s countenance brightens, and an unwonted glow rises in her face.  They are going to Hampstead or Highgate, to spend their holiday afternoon in some place where they can see the sky, the fields, and trees, and breathe for an hour or two the pure air, which so seldom plays upon that poor girl’s form, or exhilarates her spirits.

I would to God, that the iron-hearted man who would deprive such people as these of their only pleasures, could feel the sinking of heart and soul, the wasting exhaustion of mind and body, the utter prostration of present strength and future hope, attendant upon that incessant toil which lasts from day to day, and from month to month; that toil which is too often protracted until the silence of midnight, and resumed with the first stir of morning.  How marvellously would his ardent zeal for other men’s souls, diminish after a short probation, and how enlightened and comprehensive would his views of the real object and meaning of the institution of the Sabbath become!

The afternoon is far advanced — the parks and public drives are crowded.  Carriages, gigs, phaetons, stanhopes, and vehicles of every description, glide smoothly on.  The promenades are filled with loungers on foot, and the road is thronged with loungers on horseback.  Persons of every class are crowded together, here, in one dense mass.  The plebeian, who takes his pleasure on no day but Sunday, jostles the patrician, who takes his, from year’s end to year’s end.  You look in vain for any outward signs of profligacy or debauchery.  You see nothing before you but a vast number of people, the denizens of a large and crowded city, in the needful and rational enjoyment of air and exercise.

It grows dusk.  The roads leading from the different places of suburban resort, are crowded with people on their return home, and the sound of merry voices rings through the gradually darkening fields.  The evening is hot and sultry.  The rich man throws open the sashes of his spacious dining-room, and quaffs his iced wine in splendid luxury.  The poor man, who has no room to take his meals in, but the close apartment to which he and his family have been confined throughout the week, sits in the tea-garden of some famous tavern, and drinks his beer in content and comfort.  The fields and roads are gradually deserted, the crowd once more pour into the streets, and disperse to their several homes; and by midnight all is silent and quiet, save where a few stragglers linger beneath the window of some great man’s house, to listen to the strains of music from within: or stop to gaze upon the splendid carriages which are waiting to convey the guests from the dinner-party of an Earl.

There is a darker side to this picture, on which, so far from its being any part of my purpose to conceal it, I wish to lay particular stress.  In some parts of London, and in many of the manufacturing towns of England, drunkenness and profligacy in their most disgusting forms, exhibit in the open streets on Sunday, a sad and a degrading spectacle.  We need go no farther than St. Giles’s, or Drury Lane, for sights and scenes of a most repulsive nature.  Women with scarcely the articles of apparel which common decency requires, with forms bloated by disease, and faces rendered hideous by habitual drunkenness — men reeling and staggering along — children in rags and filth — whole streets of squalid and miserable appearance, whose inhabitants are lounging in the public road, fighting, screaming, and swearing — these are the common objects which present themselves in, these are the well-known characteristics of, that portion of London to which I have just referred.

And why is it, that all well-disposed persons are shocked, and public decency scandalised, by such exhibitions?

These people are poor — that is notorious.  It may be said that they spend in liquor, money with which they might purchase necessaries, and there is no denying the fact; but let it be remembered that even if they applied every farthing of their earnings in the best possible way, they would still be very — very poor.  Their dwellings are necessarily uncomfortable, and to a certain degree unhealthy.  Cleanliness might do much, but they are too crowded together, the streets are too narrow, and the rooms too small, to admit of their ever being rendered desirable habitations.  They work very hard all the week.  We know that the effect of prolonged and arduous labour, is to produce, when a period of rest does arrive, a sensation of lassitude which it requires the application of some stimulus to overcome.  What stimulus have they?  Sunday comes, and with it a cessation of labour.  How are they to employ the day, or what inducement have they to employ it, in recruiting their stock of health?  They see little parties, on pleasure excursions, passing through the streets; but they cannot imitate their example, for they have not the means.  They may walk, to be sure, but it is exactly the inducement to walk that they require.  If every one of these men knew, that by taking the trouble to walk two or three miles he would be enabled to share in a good game of cricket, or some athletic sport, I very much question whether any of them would remain at home.

But you hold out no inducement, you offer no relief from listlessness, you provide nothing to amuse his mind, you afford him no means of exercising his body.  Unwashed and unshaven, he saunters moodily about, weary and dejected.  In lieu of the wholesome stimulus he might derive from nature, you drive him to the pernicious excitement to be gained from art.  He flies to the gin-shop as his only resource; and when, reduced to a worse level than the lowest brute in the scale of creation, he lies wallowing in the kennel, your saintly lawgivers lift up their hands to heaven, and exclaim for a law which shall convert the day intended for rest and cheerfulness, into one of universal gloom, bigotry, and persecution.


CHAPTER II
AS SABBATH BILLS WOULD MAKE IT

The provisions of the bill introduced into the House of Commons by Sir Andrew Agnew, and thrown out by that House on the motion for the second reading, on the 18th of May in the present year, by a majority of 32, may very fairly be taken as a test of the length to which the fanatics, of which the honourable Baronet is the distinguished leader, are prepared to go.  No test can be fairer; because while on the one hand this measure may be supposed to exhibit all that improvement which mature reflection and long deliberation may have suggested, so on the other it may very reasonably be inferred, that if it be quite as severe in its provisions, and to the full as partial in its operation, as those which have preceded it and experienced a similar fate, the disease under which the honourable Baronet and his friends labour, is perfectly hopeless, and beyond the reach of cure.

The proposed enactments of the bill are briefly these:- All work is prohibited on the Lord’s day, under heavy penalties, increasing with every repetition of the offence.  There are penalties for keeping shops open — penalties for drunkenness — penalties for keeping open houses of entertainment — penalties for being present at any public meeting or assembly — penalties for letting carriages, and penalties for hiring them — penalties for travelling in steam-boats, and penalties for taking passengers — penalties on vessels commencing their voyage on Sunday — penalties on the owners of cattle who suffer them to be driven on the Lord’s day — penalties on constables who refuse to act, and penalties for resisting them when they do.  In addition to these trifles, the constables are invested with arbitrary, vexatious, and most extensive powers; and all this in a bill which sets out with a hypocritical and canting declaration that ‘nothing is more acceptable to God than the true and sincere worship of Him according to His holy will, and that it is the bounden duty of Parliament to promote the observance of the Lord’s day, by protecting every class of society against being required to sacrifice their comfort, health, religious privileges, and conscience, for the convenience, enjoyment, or supposed advantage of any other class on the Lord’s day’!  The idea of making a man truly moral through the ministry of constables, and sincerely religious under the influence of penalties, is worthy of the mind which could form such a mass of monstrous absurdity as this bill is composed of.

The House of Commons threw the measure out certainly, and by so doing retrieved the disgrace — so far as it could be retrieved — of placing among the printed papers of Parliament, such an egregious specimen of legislative folly; but there was a degree of delicacy and forbearance about the debate that took place, which I cannot help thinking as unnecessary and uncalled for, as it is unusual in Parliamentary discussions.  If it had been the first time of Sir Andrew Agnew’s attempting to palm such a measure upon the country, we might well understand, and duly appreciate, the delicate and compassionate feeling due to the supposed weakness and imbecility of the man, which prevented his proposition being exposed in its true colours, and induced this Hon. Member to bear testimony to his excellent motives, and that Noble Lord to regret that he could not — although he had tried to do so — adopt any portion of the bill.  But when these attempts have been repeated, again and again; when Sir Andrew Agnew has renewed them session after session, and when it has become palpably evident to the whole House that

His impudence of proof in every trial,
Kens no polite, and heeds no plain denial -

it really becomes high time to speak of him and his legislation, as they appear to deserve, without that gloss of politeness, which is all very well in an ordinary case, but rather out of place when the liberties and comforts of a whole people are at stake.

In the first place, it is by no means the worst characteristic of this bill, that it is a bill of blunders: it is, from beginning to end, a piece of deliberate cruelty, and crafty injustice.  If the rich composed the whole population of this country, not a single comfort of one single man would be affected by it.  It is directed exclusively, and without the exception of a solitary instance, against the amusements and recreations of the poor.  This was the bait held out by the Hon. Baronet to a body of men, who cannot be supposed to have any very strong sympathies in common with the poor, because they cannot understand their sufferings or their struggles.  This is the bait, which will in time prevail, unless public attention is awakened, and public feeling exerted, to prevent it.

Take the very first clause, the provision that no man shall be allowed to work on Sunday — ‘That no person, upon the Lord’s day, shall do, or hire, or employ any person to do any manner of labour, or any work of his or her ordinary calling.’  What class of persons does this affect?  The rich man?  No.  Menial servants, both male and female, are specially exempted from the operation of the bill.  ‘Menial servants’ are among the poor people.  The bill has no regard for them.  The Baronet’s dinner must be cooked on Sunday, the Bishop’s horses must be groomed, and the Peer’s carriage must be driven.  So the menial servants are put utterly beyond the pale of grace; — unless indeed, they are to go to heaven through the sanctity of their masters, and possibly they might think even that, rather an uncertain passport.

There is a penalty for keeping open, houses of entertainment.  Now, suppose the bill had passed, and that half-a-dozen adventurous licensed victuallers, relying upon the excitement of public feeling on the subject, and the consequent difficulty of conviction (this is by no means an improbable supposition), had determined to keep their houses and gardens open, through the whole Sunday afternoon, in defiance of the law.  Every act of hiring or working, every act of buying or selling, or delivering, or causing anything to be bought or sold, is specifically made a separate offence — mark the effect.  A party, a man and his wife and children, enter a tea-garden, and the informer stations himself in the next box, from whence he can see and hear everything that passes.  ‘Waiter!’ says the father.  ‘Yes.  Sir.’  ‘Pint of the best ale!’  ‘Yes, Sir.’  Away runs the waiter to the bar, and gets the ale from the landlord.  Out comes the informer’s note-book — penalty on the father for hiring, on the waiter for delivering, and on the landlord for selling, on the Lord’s day.  But it does not stop here.  The waiter delivers the ale, and darts off, little suspecting the penalties in store for him.  ‘Hollo,’ cries the father, ‘waiter!’  ‘Yes, Sir.’  ‘Just get this little boy a biscuit, will you?’  ‘Yes, Sir.’  Off runs the waiter again, and down goes another case of hiring, another case of delivering, and another case of selling; and so it would go on ad infinitum, the sum and substance of the matter being, that every time a man or woman cried ‘Waiter!’ on Sunday, he or she would be fined not less than forty shillings, nor more than a hundred; and every time a waiter replied, ‘Yes, Sir,’ he and his master would be fined in the same amount: with the addition of a new sort of window duty on the landlord, to wit, a tax of twenty shillings an hour for every hour beyond the first one, during which he should have his shutters down on the Sabbath.

With one exception, there are perhaps no clauses in the whole bill, so strongly illustrative of its partial operation, and the intention of its framer, as those which relate to travelling on Sunday.  Penalties of ten, twenty, and thirty pounds, are mercilessly imposed upon coach proprietors who shall run their coaches on the Sabbath; one, two, and ten pounds upon those who hire, or let to hire, horses and carriages upon the Lord’s day, but not one syllable about those who have no necessity to hire, because they have carriages and horses of their own; not one word of a penalty on liveried coachmen and footmen.  The whole of the saintly venom is directed against the hired cabriolet, the humble fly, or the rumbling hackney-coach, which enables a man of the poorer class to escape for a few hours from the smoke and dirt, in the midst of which he has been confined throughout the week: while the escutcheoned carriage and the dashing cab, may whirl their wealthy owners to Sunday feasts and private oratorios, setting constables, informers, and penalties, at defiance.  Again, in the description of the places of public resort which it is rendered criminal to attend on Sunday, there are no words comprising a very fashionable promenade.  Public discussions, public debates, public lectures and speeches, are cautiously guarded against; for it is by their means that the people become enlightened enough to deride the last efforts of bigotry and superstition.  There is a stringent provision for punishing the poor man who spends an hour in a news-room, but there is nothing to prevent the rich one from lounging away the day in the Zoological Gardens.

There is, in four words, a mock proviso, which affects to forbid travelling ‘with any animal’ on the Lord’s day.  This, however, is revoked, as relates to the rich man, by a subsequent provision.  We have then a penalty of not less than fifty, nor more than one hundred pounds, upon any person participating in the control, or having the command of any vessel which shall commence her voyage on the Lord’s day, should the wind prove favourable.  The next time this bill is brought forward (which will no doubt be at an early period of the next session of Parliament) perhaps it will be better to amend this clause by declaring, that from and after the passing of the act, it shall be deemed unlawful for the wind to blow at all upon the Sabbath.  It would remove a great deal of temptation from the owners and captains of vessels.

The reader is now in possession of the principal enacting clauses of Sir Andrew Agnew’s bill, with the exception of one, for preventing the killing or taking of ‘fish, or other wild animals,’ and the ordinary provisions which are inserted for form’s sake in all acts of Parliament.  I now beg his attention to the clauses of exemption.

They are two in number.  The first exempts menial servants from any rest, and all poor men from any recreation: outlaws a milkman after nine o’clock in the morning, and makes eating-houses lawful for only two hours in the afternoon; permits a medical man to use his carriage on Sunday, and declares that a clergyman may either use his own, or hire one.

The second is artful, cunning, and designing; shielding the rich man from the possibility of being entrapped, and affecting at the same time, to have a tender and scrupulous regard, for the interests of the whole community.  It declares, ‘that nothing in this act contained, shall extend to works of piety, charity, or necessity.’

What is meant by the word ‘necessity’ in this clause?  Simply this — that the rich man shall be at liberty to make use of all the splendid luxuries he has collected around him, on any day in the week, because habit and custom have rendered them ‘necessary’ to his easy existence; but that the poor man who saves his money to provide some little pleasure for himself and family at lengthened intervals, shall not be permitted to enjoy it.  It is not ‘necessary’ to him:- Heaven knows, he very often goes long enough without it.  This is the plain English of the clause.  The carriage and pair of horses, the coachman, the footman, the helper, and the groom, are ‘necessary’ on Sundays, as on other days, to the bishop and the nobleman; but the hackney-coach, the hired gig, or the taxed cart, cannot possibly be ‘necessary’ to the working-man on Sunday, for he has it not at other times.  The sumptuous dinner and the rich wines, are ‘necessaries’ to a great man in his own mansion: but the pint of beer and the plate of meat, degrade the national character in an eating-house.

Such is the bill for promoting the true and sincere worship of God according to his Holy Will, and for protecting every class of society against being required to sacrifice their health and comfort on the Sabbath.  Instances in which its operation would be as unjust as it would be absurd, might be multiplied to an endless amount; but it is sufficient to place its leading provisions before the reader.  In doing so, I have purposely abstained from drawing upon the imagination for possible cases; the provisions to which I have referred, stand in so many words upon the bill as printed by order of the House of Commons; and they can neither be disowned, nor explained away.

Let us suppose such a bill as this, to have actually passed both branches of the legislature; to have received the royal assent; and to have come into operation.  Imagine its effect in a great city like London.

Sunday comes, and brings with it a day of general gloom and austerity.  The man who has been toiling hard all the week, has been looking towards the Sabbath, not as to a day of rest from labour, and healthy recreation, but as one of grievous tyranny and grinding oppression.  The day which his Maker intended as a blessing, man has converted into a curse.  Instead of being hailed by him as his period of relaxation, he finds it remarkable only as depriving him of every comfort and enjoyment.  He has many children about him, all sent into the world at an early age, to struggle for a livelihood; one is kept in a warehouse all day, with an interval of rest too short to enable him to reach home, another walks four or five miles to his employment at the docks, a third earns a few shillings weekly, as an errand boy, or office messenger; and the employment of the man himself, detains him at some distance from his home from morning till night.  Sunday is the only day on which they could all meet together, and enjoy a homely meal in social comfort; and now they sit down to a cold and cheerless dinner: the pious guardians of the man’s salvation having, in their regard for the welfare of his precious soul, shut up the bakers’ shops.  The fire blazes high in the kitchen chimney of these well-fed hypocrites, and the rich steams of the savoury dinner scent the air.  What care they to be told that this class of men have neither a place to cook in — nor means to bear the expense, if they had?

Look into your churches — diminished congregations, and scanty attendance.  People have grown sullen and obstinate, and are becoming disgusted with the faith which condemns them to such a day as this, once in every seven.  And as you cannot make people religious by Act of Parliament, or force them to church by constables, they display their feeling by staying away.

Turn into the streets, and mark the rigid gloom that reigns over everything around.  The roads are empty, the fields are deserted, the houses of entertainment are closed.  Groups of filthy and discontented-looking men, are idling about at the street corners, or sleeping in the sun; but there are no decently-dressed people of the poorer class, passing to and fro.  Where should they walk to?  It would take them an hour, at least, to get into the fields, and when they reached them, they could procure neither bite nor sup, without the informer and the penalty.  Now and then, a carriage rolls smoothly on, or a well-mounted horseman, followed by a liveried attendant, canters by; but with these exceptions, all is as melancholy and quiet as if a pestilence had fallen on the city.

Bend your steps through the narrow and thickly-inhabited streets, and observe the sallow faces of the men and women who are lounging at the doors, or lolling from the windows.  Regard well the closeness of these crowded rooms, and the noisome exhalations that rise from the drains and kennels; and then laud the triumph of religion and morality, which condemns people to drag their lives out in such stews as these, and makes it criminal for them to eat or drink in the fresh air, or under the clear sky.  Here and there, from some half-opened window, the loud shout of drunken revelry strikes upon the ear, and the noise of oaths and quarrelling — the effect of the close and heated atmosphere — is heard on all sides.  See how the men all rush to join the crowd that are making their way down the street, and how loud the execrations of the mob become as they draw nearer.  They have assembled round a little knot of constables, who have seized the stock-in-trade, heinously exposed on Sunday, of some miserable walking-stick seller, who follows clamouring for his property.  The dispute grows warmer and fiercer, until at last some of the more furious among the crowd, rush forward to restore the goods to their owner.  A general conflict takes place; the sticks of the constables are exercised in all directions; fresh assistance is procured; and half a dozen of the assailants are conveyed to the station-house, struggling, bleeding, and cursing.  The case is taken to the police-office on the following morning; and after a frightful amount of perjury on both sides, the men are sent to prison for resisting the officers, their families to the workhouse to keep them from starving: and there they both remain for a month afterwards, glorious trophies of the sanctified enforcement of the Christian Sabbath.  Add to such scenes as these, the profligacy, idleness, drunkenness, and vice, that will be committed to an extent which no man can foresee, on Monday, as an atonement for the restraint of the preceding day; and you have a very faint and imperfect picture of the religious effects of this Sunday legislation, supposing it could ever be forced upon the people.

But let those who advocate the cause of fanaticism, reflect well upon the probable issue of their endeavours.  They may by perseverance, succeed with Parliament.  Let them ponder on the probability of succeeding with the people.  You may deny the concession of a political question for a time, and a nation will bear it patiently.  Strike home to the comforts of every man’s fireside — tamper with every man’s freedom and liberty — and one month, one week, may rouse a feeling abroad, which a king would gladly yield his crown to quell, and a peer would resign his coronet to allay.

It is the custom to affect a deference for the motives of those who advocate these measures, and a respect for the feelings by which they are actuated.  They do not deserve it.  If they legislate in ignorance, they are criminal and dishonest; if they do so with their eyes open, they commit wilful injustice; in either case, they bring religion into contempt.  But they do NOT legislate in ignorance.  Public prints, and public men, have pointed out to them again and again, the consequences of their proceedings.  If they persist in thrusting themselves forward, let those consequences rest upon their own heads, and let them be content to stand upon their own merits.

It may be asked, what motives can actuate a man who has so little regard for the comfort of his fellow-beings, so little respect for their wants and necessities, and so distorted a notion of the beneficence of his Creator.  I reply, an envious, heartless, ill-conditioned dislike to seeing those whom fortune has placed below him, cheerful and happy — an intolerant confidence in his own high worthiness before God, and a lofty impression of the demerits of others — pride, selfish pride, as inconsistent with the spirit of Christianity itself, as opposed to the example of its Founder upon earth.

To these may be added another class of men — the stern and gloomy enthusiasts, who would make earth a hell, and religion a torment: men who, having wasted the earlier part of their lives in dissipation and depravity, find themselves when scarcely past its meridian, steeped to the neck in vice, and shunned like a loathsome disease.  Abandoned by the world, having nothing to fall back upon, nothing to remember but time mis-spent, and energies misdirected, they turn their eyes and not their thoughts to Heaven, and delude themselves into the impious belief, that in denouncing the lightness of heart of which they cannot partake, and the rational pleasures from which they never derived enjoyment, they are more than remedying the sins of their old career, and — like the founders of monasteries and builders of churches, in ruder days — establishing a good set claim upon their Maker.


CHAPTER III
AS IT MIGHT BE MADE

The supporters of Sabbath Bills, and more especially the extreme class of Dissenters, lay great stress upon the declarations occasionally made by criminals from the condemned cell or the scaffold, that to Sabbath-breaking they attribute their first deviation from the path of rectitude; and they point to these statements, as an incontestable proof of the evil consequences which await a departure from that strict and rigid observance of the Sabbath, which they uphold.  I cannot help thinking that in this, as in almost every other respect connected with the subject, there is a considerable degree of cant, and a very great deal of wilful blindness.  If a man be viciously disposed — and with very few exceptions, not a man dies by the executioner’s hands, who has not been in one way or other a most abandoned and profligate character for many years — if a man be viciously disposed, there is no doubt that he will turn his Sunday to bad account, that he will take advantage of it, to dissipate with other bad characters as vile as himself; and that in this way, he may trace his first yielding to temptation, possibly his first commission of crime, to an infringement of the Sabbath.  But this would be an argument against any holiday at all.  If his holiday had been Wednesday instead of Sunday, and he had devoted it to the same improper uses, it would have been productive of the same results.  It is too much to judge of the character of a whole people, by the confessions of the very worst members of society.  It is not fair, to cry down things which are harmless in themselves, because evil-disposed men may turn them to bad account.  Who ever thought of deprecating the teaching poor people to write, because some porter in a warehouse had committed forgery?  Or into what man’s head did it ever enter, to prevent the crowding of churches, because it afforded a temptation for the picking of pockets?

When the Book of Sports, for allowing the peasantry of England to divert themselves with certain games in the open air, on Sundays, after evening service, was published by Charles the First, it is needless to say the English people were comparatively rude and uncivilised.  And yet it is extraordinary to how few excesses it gave rise, even in that day, when men’s minds were not enlightened, or their passions moderated, by the influence of education and refinement.  That some excesses were committed through its means, in the remoter parts of the country, and that it was discontinued in those places, in consequence, cannot be denied: but generally speaking, there is no proof whatever on record, of its having had any tendency to increase crime, or to lower the character of the people.

The Puritans of that time, were as much opposed to harmless recreations and healthful amusements as those of the present day, and it is amusing to observe that each in their generation, advance precisely the same description of arguments.  In the British Museum, there is a curious pamphlet got up by the Agnews of Charles’s time, entitled ‘A Divine Tragedie lately acted, or a Collection of sundry memorable examples of God’s Judgements upon Sabbath Breakers, and other like Libertines in their unlawful Sports, happening within the realme of England, in the compass only of two yeares last past, since the Booke (of Sports) was published, worthy to be knowne and considered of all men, especially such who are guilty of the sinne, or archpatrons thereof.’  This amusing document, contains some fifty or sixty veritable accounts of balls of fire that fell into churchyards and upset the sporters, and sporters that quarrelled, and upset one another, and so forth: and among them is one anecdote containing an example of a rather different kind, which I cannot resist the temptation of quoting, as strongly illustrative of the fact, that this blinking of the question has not even the recommendation of novelty.

‘A woman about Northampton, the same day that she heard the booke for sports read, went immediately, and having 3. pence in her purse, hired a fellow to goe to the next towne to fetch a Minstrell, who coming, she with others fell a dauncing, which continued within night; at which time shee was got with child, which at the birth shee murthering, was detected and apprehended, and being converted before the justice, shee confessed it, and withal told the occasion of it, saying it was her falling to sport on the Sabbath, upon the reading of the Booke, so as for this treble sinfull act, her presumptuous profaning of the Sabbath, wh. brought her adultory and that murther.  Shee was according to the Law both of God and man, put to death.  Much sinne and misery followeth upon Sabbath-breaking.’

It is needless to say, that if the young lady near Northampton had ‘fallen to sport’ of such a dangerous description, on any other day but Sunday, the first result would probably have been the same: it never having been distinctly shown that Sunday is more favourable to the propagation of the human race than any other day in the week.  The second result — the murder of the child — does not speak very highly for the amiability of her natural disposition; and the whole story, supposing it to have had any foundation at all, is about as much chargeable upon the Book of Sports, as upon the Book of Kings.  Such ‘sports’ have taken place in Dissenting Chapels before now; but religion has never been blamed in consequence; nor has it been proposed to shut up the chapels on that account.

The question, then, very fairly arises, whether we have any reason to suppose that allowing games in the open air on Sundays, or even providing the means of amusement for the humbler classes of society on that day, would be hurtful and injurious to the character and morals of the people.

I was travelling in the west of England a summer or two back, and was induced by the beauty of the scenery, and the seclusion of the spot, to remain for the night in a small village, distant about seventy miles from London.  The next morning was Sunday; and I walked out, towards the church.  Groups of people — the whole population of the little hamlet apparently — were hastening in the same direction.  Cheerful and good-humoured congratulations were heard on all sides, as neighbours overtook each other, and walked on in company.  Occasionally I passed an aged couple, whose married daughter and her husband were loitering by the side of the old people, accommodating their rate of walking to their feeble pace, while a little knot of children hurried on before; stout young labourers in clean round frocks; and buxom girls with healthy, laughing faces, were plentifully sprinkled about in couples, and the whole scene was one of quiet and tranquil contentment, irresistibly captivating.  The morning was bright and pleasant, the hedges were green and blooming, and a thousand delicious scents were wafted on the air, from the wild flowers which blossomed on either side of the footpath.  The little church was one of those venerable simple buildings which abound in the English counties; half overgrown with moss and ivy, and standing in the centre of a little plot of ground, which, but for the green mounds with which it was studded, might have passed for a lovely meadow.  I fancied that the old clanking bell which was now summoning the congregation together, would seem less terrible when it rung out the knell of a departed soul, than I had ever deemed possible before — that the sound would tell only of a welcome to calmness and rest, amidst the most peaceful and tranquil scene in nature.

I followed into the church — a low-roofed building with small arched windows, through which the sun’s rays streamed upon a plain tablet on the opposite wall, which had once recorded names, now as undistinguishable on its worn surface, as were the bones beneath, from the dust into which they had resolved.  The impressive service of the Church of England was spoken — not merely read — by a grey-headed minister, and the responses delivered by his auditors, with an air of sincere devotion as far removed from affectation or display, as from coldness or indifference.  The psalms were accompanied by a few instrumental performers, who were stationed in a small gallery extending across the church at the lower end, over the door: and the voices were led by the clerk, who, it was evident, derived no slight pride and gratification from this portion of the service.  The discourse was plain, unpretending, and well adapted to the comprehension of the hearers.  At the conclusion of the service, the villagers waited in the churchyard, to salute the clergyman as he passed; and two or three, I observed, stepped aside, as if communicating some little difficulty, and asking his advice.  This, to guess from the homely bows, and other rustic expressions of gratitude, the old gentleman readily conceded.  He seemed intimately acquainted with the circumstances of all his parishioners; for I heard him inquire after one man’s youngest child, another man’s wife, and so forth; and that he was fond of his joke, I discovered from overhearing him ask a stout, fresh-coloured young fellow, with a very pretty bashful-looking girl on his arm, ‘when those banns were to be put up?’ — an inquiry which made the young fellow more fresh-coloured, and the girl more bashful, and which, strange to say, caused a great many other girls who were standing round, to colour up also, and look anywhere but in the faces of their male companions.

As I approached this spot in the evening about half an hour before sunset, I was surprised to hear the hum of voices, and occasionally a shout of merriment from the meadow beyond the churchyard; which I found, when I reached the stile, to be occasioned by a very animated game of cricket, in which the boys and young men of the place were engaged, while the females and old people were scattered about: some seated on the grass watching the progress of the game, and others sauntering about in groups of two or three, gathering little nosegays of wild roses and hedge flowers.  I could not but take notice of one old man in particular, with a bright-eyed grand-daughter by his side, who was giving a sunburnt young fellow some instructions in the game, which he received with an air of profound deference, but with an occasional glance at the girl, which induced me to think that his attention was rather distracted from the old gentleman’s narration of the fruits of his experience.  When it was his turn at the wicket, too, there was a glance towards the pair every now and then, which the old grandfather very complacently considered as an appeal to his judgment of a particular hit, but which a certain blush in the girl’s face, and a downcast look of the bright eye, led me to believe was intended for somebody else than the old man, — and understood by somebody else, too, or I am much mistaken.

I was in the very height of the pleasure which the contemplation of this scene afforded me, when I saw the old clergyman making his way towards us.  I trembled for an angry interruption to the sport, and was almost on the point of crying out, to warn the cricketers of his approach; he was so close upon me, however, that I could do nothing but remain still, and anticipate the reproof that was preparing.  What was my agreeable surprise to see the old gentleman standing at the stile, with his hands in his pockets, surveying the whole scene with evident satisfaction!  And how dull I must have been, not to have known till my friend the grandfather (who, by-the-bye, said he had been a wonderful cricketer in his time) told me, that it was the clergyman himself who had established the whole thing: that it was his field they played in; and that it was he who had purchased stumps, bats, ball, and all!

It is such scenes as this, I would see near London, on a Sunday evening.  It is such men as this, who would do more in one year to make people properly religious, cheerful, and contented, than all the legislation of a century could ever accomplish.

It will be said — it has been very often — that it would be matter of perfect impossibility to make amusements and exercises succeed in large towns, which may be very well adapted to a country population.  Here, again, we are called upon to yield to bare assertions on matters of belief and opinion, as if they were established and undoubted facts.  That there is a wide difference between the two cases, no one will be prepared to dispute; that the difference is such as to prevent the application of the same principle to both, no reasonable man, I think, will be disposed to maintain.  The great majority of the people who make holiday on Sunday now, are industrious, orderly, and well-behaved persons.  It is not unreasonable to suppose that they would be no more inclined to an abuse of pleasures provided for them, than they are to an abuse of the pleasures they provide for themselves; and if any people, for want of something better to do, resort to criminal practices on the Sabbath as at present observed, no better remedy for the evil can be imagined, than giving them the opportunity of doing something which will amuse them, and hurt nobody else.

The propriety of opening the British Museum to respectable people on Sunday, has lately been the subject of some discussion.  I think it would puzzle the most austere of the Sunday legislators to assign any valid reason for opposing so sensible a proposition.  The Museum contains rich specimens from all the vast museums and repositories of Nature, and rare and curious fragments of the mighty works of art, in bygone ages: all calculated to awaken contemplation and inquiry, and to tend to the enlightenment and improvement of the people.  But attendants would be necessary, and a few men would be employed upon the Sabbath.  They certainly would; but how many?  Why, if the British Museum, and the National Gallery, and the Gallery of Practical Science, and every other exhibition in London, from which knowledge is to be derived and information gained, were to be thrown open on a Sunday afternoon, not fifty people would be required to preside over the whole: and it would take treble the number to enforce a Sabbath bill in any three populous parishes.

I should like to see some large field, or open piece of ground, in every outskirt of London, exhibiting each Sunday evening on a larger scale, the scene of the little country meadow.  I should like to see the time arrive, when a man’s attendance to his religious duties might be left to that religious feeling which most men possess in a greater or less degree, but which was never forced into the breast of any man by menace or restraint.  I should like to see the time when Sunday might be looked forward to, as a recognised day of relaxation and enjoyment, and when every man might feel, what few men do now, that religion is not incompatible with rational pleasure and needful recreation.

How different a picture would the streets and public places then present!  The museums, and repositories of scientific and useful inventions, would be crowded with ingenious mechanics and industrious artisans, all anxious for information, and all unable to procure it at any other time.  The spacious saloons would be swarming with practical men: humble in appearance, but destined, perhaps, to become the greatest inventors and philosophers of their age.  The labourers who now lounge away the day in idleness and intoxication, would be seen hurrying along, with cheerful faces and clean attire, not to the close and smoky atmosphere of the public-house but to the fresh and airy fields.  Fancy the pleasant scene.  Throngs of people, pouring out from the lanes and alleys of the metropolis, to various places of common resort at some short distance from the town, to join in the refreshing sports and exercises of the day — the children gambolling in crowds upon the grass, the mothers looking on, and enjoying themselves the little game they seem only to direct; other parties strolling along some pleasant walks, or reposing in the shade of the stately trees; others again intent upon their different amusements.  Nothing should be heard on all sides, but the sharp stroke of the bat as it sent the ball skimming along the ground, the clear ring of the quoit, as it struck upon the iron peg: the noisy murmur of many voices, and the loud shout of mirth and delight, which would awaken the echoes far and wide, till the fields rung with it.  The day would pass away, in a series of enjoyments which would awaken no painful reflections when night arrived; for they would be calculated to bring with them, only health and contentment.  The young would lose that dread of religion, which the sour austerity of its professors too often inculcates in youthful bosoms; and the old would find less difficulty in persuading them to respect its observances.  The drunken and dissipated, deprived of any excuse for their misconduct, would no longer excite pity but disgust.  Above all, the more ignorant and humble class of men, who now partake of many of the bitters of life, and taste but few of its sweets, would naturally feel attachment and respect for that code of morality, which, regarding the many hardships of their station, strove to alleviate its rigours, and endeavoured to soften its asperity.

This is what Sunday might be made, and what it might be made without impiety or profanation.  The wise and beneficent Creator who places men upon earth, requires that they shall perform the duties of that station of life to which they are called, and He can never intend that the more a man strives to discharge those duties, the more he shall be debarred from happiness and enjoyment.  Let those who have six days in the week for all the world’s pleasures, appropriate the seventh to fasting and gloom, either for their own sins or those of other people, if they like to bewail them; but let those who employ their six days in a worthier manner, devote their seventh to a different purpose.  Let divines set the example of true morality: preach it to their flocks in the morning, and dismiss them to enjoy true rest in the afternoon; and let them select for their text, and let Sunday legislators take for their motto, the words which fell from the lips of that Master, whose precepts they misconstrue, and whose lessons they pervert — ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man to serve the Sabbath.’


THE LAMPLIGHTER

‘If you talk of Murphy and Francis Moore, gentlemen,’ said the lamplighter who was in the chair, ‘I mean to say that neither of ‘em ever had any more to do with the stars than Tom Grig had.’

‘And what had HE to do with ‘em?’ asked the lamplighter who officiated as vice.

‘Nothing at all,’ replied the other; ‘just exactly nothing at all.’

‘Do you mean to say you don’t believe in Murphy, then?’ demanded the lamplighter who had opened the discussion.

‘I mean to say I believe in Tom Grig,’ replied the chairman. ‘Whether I believe in Murphy, or not, is a matter between me and my conscience; and whether Murphy believes in himself, or not, is a matter between him and his conscience. Gentlemen, I drink your healths.’

The lamplighter who did the company this honour, was seated in the chimney-corner of a certain tavern, which has been, time out of mind, the Lamplighters’ House of Call. He sat in the midst of a circle of lamplighters, and was the cacique, or chief of the tribe.

If any of our readers have had the good fortune to behold a lamplighter’s funeral, they will not be surprised to learn that lamplighters are a strange and primitive people; that they rigidly adhere to old ceremonies and customs which have been handed down among them from father to son since the first public lamp was lighted out of doors; that they intermarry, and betroth their children in infancy; that they enter into no plots or conspiracies (for who ever heard of a traitorous lamplighter?); that they commit no crimes against the laws of their country (there being no instance of a murderous or burglarious lamplighter); that they are, in short, notwithstanding their apparently volatile and restless character, a highly moral and reflective people: having among themselves as many traditional observances as the Jews, and being, as a body, if not as old as the hills, at least as old as the streets. It is an article of their creed that the first faint glimmering of true civilisation shone in the first street-light maintained at the public expense. They trace their existence and high position in the public esteem, in a direct line to the heathen mythology; and hold that the history of Prometheus himself is but a pleasant fable, whereof the true hero is a lamplighter.

‘Gentlemen,’ said the lamplighter in the chair, ‘I drink your healths.’

‘And perhaps, Sir,’ said the vice, holding up his glass, and rising a little way off his seat and sitting down again, in token that he recognised and returned the compliment, ‘perhaps you will add to that condescension by telling us who Tom Grig was, and how he came to be connected in your mind with Francis Moore, Physician.’

‘Hear, hear, hear!’ cried the lamplighters generally.

‘Tom Grig, gentlemen,’ said the chairman, ‘was one of us; and it happened to him, as it don’t often happen to a public character in our line, that he had his what-you-may-call-it cast.’

‘His head?’ said the vice.

‘No,’ replied the chairman, ‘not his head.’

‘His face, perhaps?’ said the vice. ‘No, not his face.’ ‘His legs?’ ‘No, not his legs.’ Nor yet his arms, nor his hands, nor his feet, nor his chest, all of which were severally suggested.

‘His nativity, perhaps?’

‘That’s it,’ said the chairman, awakening from his thoughtful attitude at the suggestion. ‘His nativity. That’s what Tom had cast, gentlemen.’

‘In plaster?’ asked the vice.

‘I don’t rightly know how it’s done,’ returned the chairman. ‘But I suppose it was.’

And there he stopped as if that were all he had to say; whereupon there arose a murmur among the company, which at length resolved itself into a request, conveyed through the vice, that he would go on. This being exactly what the chairman wanted, he mused for a little time, performed that agreeable ceremony which is popularly termed wetting one’s whistle, and went on thus:

‘Tom Grig, gentlemen, was, as I have said, one of us; and I may go further, and say he was an ornament to us, and such a one as only the good old times of oil and cotton could have produced. Tom’s family, gentlemen, were all lamplighters.’

‘Not the ladies, I hope?’ asked the vice.

‘They had talent enough for it, Sir,’ rejoined the chairman, ‘and would have been, but for the prejudices of society. Let women have their rights, Sir, and the females of Tom’s family would have been every one of ‘em in office. But that emancipation hasn’t come yet, and hadn’t then, and consequently they confined themselves to the bosoms of their families, cooked the dinners, mended the clothes, minded the children, comforted their husbands, and attended to the house-keeping generally. It’s a hard thing upon the women, gentlemen, that they are limited to such a sphere of action as this; very hard.

‘I happen to know all about Tom, gentlemen, from the circumstance of his uncle by his mother’s side, having been my particular friend. His (that’s Tom’s uncle’s) fate was a melancholy one. Gas was the death of him. When it was first talked of, he laughed. He wasn’t angry; he laughed at the credulity of human nature. “They might as well talk,” he says, “of laying on an everlasting succession of glow-worms;” and then he laughed again, partly at his joke, and partly at poor humanity.

‘In course of time, however, the thing got ground, the experiment was made, and they lighted up Pall Mall. Tom’s uncle went to see it. I’ve heard that he fell off his ladder fourteen times that night, from weakness, and that he would certainly have gone on falling till he killed himself, if his last tumble hadn’t been into a wheelbarrow which was going his way, and humanely took him home. “I foresee in this,” says Tom’s uncle faintly, and taking to his bed as he spoke - “I foresee in this,” he says, “the breaking up of our profession. There’s no more going the rounds to trim by daylight, no more dribbling down of the oil on the hats and bonnets of ladies and gentlemen when one feels in spirits. Any low fellow can light a gas-lamp. And it’s all up.” In this state of mind, he petitioned the government for - I want a word again, gentlemen - what do you call that which they give to people when it’s found out, at last, that they’ve never been of any use, and have been paid too much for doing nothing?’

‘Compensation?’ suggested the vice.

‘That’s it,’ said the chairman. ‘Compensation. They didn’t give it him, though, and then he got very fond of his country all at once, and went about saying that gas was a death-blow to his native land, and that it was a plot of the radicals to ruin the country and destroy the oil and cotton trade for ever, and that the whales would go and kill themselves privately, out of sheer spite and vexation at not being caught. At last he got right-down cracked; called his tobacco-pipe a gas-pipe; thought his tears were lamp- oil; and went on with all manner of nonsense of that sort, till one night he hung himself on a lamp-iron in Saint Martin’s Lane, and there was an end of HIM.

‘Tom loved him, gentlemen, but he survived it. He shed a tear over his grave, got very drunk, spoke a funeral oration that night in the watch-house, and was fined five shillings for it, in the morning. Some men are none the worse for this sort of thing. Tom was one of ‘em. He went that very afternoon on a new beat: as clear in his head, and as free from fever as Father Mathew himself.

‘Tom’s new beat, gentlemen, was - I can’t exactly say where, for that he’d never tell; but I know it was in a quiet part of town, where there were some queer old houses. I have always had it in my head that it must have been somewhere near Canonbury Tower in Islington, but that’s a matter of opinion. Wherever it was, he went upon it, with a bran-new ladder, a white hat, a brown holland jacket and trousers, a blue neck-kerchief, and a sprig of full- blown double wall-flower in his button-hole. Tom was always genteel in his appearance, and I have heard from the best judges, that if he had left his ladder at home that afternoon, you might have took him for a lord.

‘He was always merry, was Tom, and such a singer, that if there was any encouragement for native talent, he’d have been at the opera. He was on his ladder, lighting his first lamp, and singing to himself in a manner more easily to be conceived than described, when he hears the clock strike five, and suddenly sees an old gentleman with a telescope in his hand, throw up a window and look at him very hard.

‘Tom didn’t know what could be passing in this old gentleman’s mind. He thought it likely enough that he might be saying within himself, “Here’s a new lamplighter - a good-looking young fellow - shall I stand something to drink?” Thinking this possible, he keeps quite still, pretending to be very particular about the wick, and looks at the old gentleman sideways, seeming to take no notice of him.

‘Gentlemen, he was one of the strangest and most mysterious-looking files that ever Tom clapped his eyes on. He was dressed all slovenly and untidy, in a great gown of a kind of bed-furniture pattern, with a cap of the same on his head; and a long old flapped waistcoat; with no braces, no strings, very few buttons - in short, with hardly any of those artificial contrivances that hold society together. Tom knew by these signs, and by his not being shaved, and by his not being over-clean, and by a sort of wisdom not quite awake, in his face, that he was a scientific old gentleman. He often told me that if he could have conceived the possibility of the whole Royal Society being boiled down into one man, he should have said the old gentleman’s body was that Body.

‘The old gentleman claps the telescope to his eye, looks all round, sees nobody else in sight, stares at Tom again, and cries out very loud:

‘“Hal-loa!”

‘“Halloa, Sir,” says Tom from the ladder; “and halloa again, if you come to that.”

‘“Here’s an extraordinary fulfilment,” says the old gentleman, “of a prediction of the planets.”

‘“Is there?” says Tom. “I’m very glad to hear it.”

‘“Young man,” says the old gentleman, “you don’t know me.”

‘“Sir,” says Tom, “I have not that honour; but I shall be happy to drink your health, notwithstanding.”

‘“I read,” cries the old gentleman, without taking any notice of this politeness on Tom’s part - “I read what’s going to happen, in the stars.”

‘Tom thanked him for the information, and begged to know if anything particular was going to happen in the stars, in the course of a week or so; but the old gentleman, correcting him, explained that he read in the stars what was going to happen on dry land, and that he was acquainted with all the celestial bodies.

‘“I hope they’re all well, Sir,” says Tom, - “everybody.”

‘“Hush!” cries the old gentleman. “I have consulted the book of Fate with rare and wonderful success. I am versed in the great sciences of astrology and astronomy. In my house here, I have every description of apparatus for observing the course and motion of the planets. Six months ago, I derived from this source, the knowledge that precisely as the clock struck five this afternoon a stranger would present himself - the destined husband of my young and lovely niece - in reality of illustrious and high descent, but whose birth would be enveloped in uncertainty and mystery. Don’t tell me yours isn’t,” says the old gentleman, who was in such a hurry to speak that he couldn’t get the words out fast enough, “for I know better.”

‘Gentlemen, Tom was so astonished when he heard him say this, that he could hardly keep his footing on the ladder, and found it necessary to hold on by the lamp-post. There WAS a mystery about his birth. His mother had always admitted it. Tom had never known who was his father, and some people had gone so far as to say that even SHE was in doubt.

‘While he was in this state of amazement, the old gentleman leaves the window, bursts out of the house-door, shakes the ladder, and Tom, like a ripe pumpkin, comes sliding down into his arms.

‘“Let me embrace you,” he says, folding his arms about him, and nearly lighting up his old bed-furniture gown at Tom’s link. “You’re a man of noble aspect. Everything combines to prove the accuracy of my observations. You have had mysterious promptings within you,” he says; “I know you have had whisperings of greatness, eh?” he says.

‘“I think I have,” says Tom - Tom was one of those who can persuade themselves to anything they like - “I’ve often thought I wasn’t the small beer I was taken for.”

‘“You were right,” cries the old gentleman, hugging him again. “Come in. My niece awaits us.”

‘“Is the young lady tolerable good-looking, Sir?” says Tom, hanging fire rather, as he thought of her playing the piano, and knowing French, and being up to all manner of accomplishments.

‘“She’s beautiful!” cries the old gentleman, who was in such a terrible bustle that he was all in a perspiration. “She has a graceful carriage, an exquisite shape, a sweet voice, a countenance beaming with animation and expression; and the eye,” he says, rubbing his hands, “of a startled fawn.”

‘Tom supposed this might mean, what was called among his circle of acquaintance, “a game eye;” and, with a view to this defect, inquired whether the young lady had any cash.

‘“She has five thousand pounds,” cries the old gentleman. “But what of that? what of that? A word in your ear. I’m in search of the philosopher’s stone. I have very nearly found it - not quite. It turns everything to gold; that’s its property.”

‘Tom naturally thought it must have a deal of property; and said that when the old gentleman did get it, he hoped he’d be careful to keep it in the family.

‘“Certainly,” he says, “of course. Five thousand pounds! What’s five thousand pounds to us? What’s five million?” he says. “What’s five thousand million? Money will be nothing to us. We shall never be able to spend it fast enough.”

‘“We’ll try what we can do, Sir,” says Tom.

‘“We will,” says the old gentleman. “Your name?”

‘“Grig,” says Tom.

‘The old gentleman embraced him again, very tight; and without speaking another word, dragged him into the house in such an excited manner, that it was as much as Tom could do to take his link and ladder with him, and put them down in the passage.

‘Gentlemen, if Tom hadn’t been always remarkable for his love of truth, I think you would still have believed him when he said that all this was like a dream. There is no better way for a man to find out whether he is really asleep or awake, than calling for something to eat. If he’s in a dream, gentlemen, he’ll find something wanting in flavour, depend upon it.

‘Tom explained his doubts to the old gentleman, and said that if there was any cold meat in the house, it would ease his mind very much to test himself at once. The old gentleman ordered up a venison pie, a small ham, and a bottle of very old Madeira. At the first mouthful of pie and the first glass of wine, Tom smacks his lips and cries out, “I’m awake - wide awake;” and to prove that he was so, gentlemen, he made an end of ‘em both.

‘When Tom had finished his meal (which he never spoke of afterwards without tears in his eyes), the old gentleman hugs him again, and says, “Noble stranger! let us visit my young and lovely niece.” Tom, who was a little elevated with the wine, replies, “The noble stranger is agreeable!” At which words the old gentleman took him by the hand, and led him to the parlour; crying as he opened the door, “Here is Mr. Grig, the favourite of the planets!”

‘I will not attempt a description of female beauty, gentlemen, for every one of us has a model of his own that suits his own taste best. In this parlour that I’m speaking of, there were two young ladies; and if every gentleman present, will imagine two models of his own in their places, and will be kind enough to polish ‘em up to the very highest pitch of perfection, he will then have a faint conception of their uncommon radiance.

‘Besides these two young ladies, there was their waiting-woman, that under any other circumstances Tom would have looked upon as a Venus; and besides her, there was a tall, thin, dismal-faced young gentleman, half man and half boy, dressed in a childish suit of clothes very much too short in the legs and arms; and looking, according to Tom’s comparison, like one of the wax juveniles from a tailor’s door, grown up and run to seed. Now, this youngster stamped his foot upon the ground and looked very fierce at Tom, and Tom looked fierce at him - for to tell the truth, gentlemen, Tom more than half suspected that when they entered the room he was kissing one of the young ladies; and for anything Tom knew, you observe, it might be HIS young lady - which was not pleasant.

‘“Sir,” says Tom, “before we proceed any further, will you have the goodness to inform me who this young Salamander” - Tom called him that for aggravation, you perceive, gentlemen - “who this young Salamander may be?”

‘“That, Mr. Grig,” says the old gentleman, “is my little boy. He was christened Galileo Isaac Newton Flamstead. Don’t mind him. He’s a mere child.”

‘“And a very fine child too,” says Tom - still aggravating, you’ll observe - “of his age, and as good as fine, I have no doubt. How do you do, my man?” with which kind and patronising expressions, Tom reached up to pat him on the head, and quoted two lines about little boys, from Doctor Watts’s Hymns, which he had learnt at a Sunday School.

‘It was very easy to see, gentlemen, by this youngster’s frowning and by the waiting-maid’s tossing her head and turning up her nose, and by the young ladies turning their backs and talking together at the other end of the room, that nobody but the old gentleman took very kindly to the noble stranger. Indeed, Tom plainly heard the waiting-woman say of her master, that so far from being able to read the stars as he pretended, she didn’t believe he knew his letters in ‘em, or at best that he had got further than words in one syllable; but Tom, not minding this (for he was in spirits after the Madeira), looks with an agreeable air towards the young ladies, and, kissing his hand to both, says to the old gentleman, “Which is which?”

‘“This,” says the old gentleman, leading out the handsomest, if one of ‘em could possibly be said to be handsomer than the other - “this is my niece, Miss Fanny Barker.”

‘“If you’ll permit me, Miss,” says Tom, “being a noble stranger and a favourite of the planets, I will conduct myself as such.” With these words, he kisses the young lady in a very affable way, turns to the old gentleman, slaps him on the back, and says, “When’s it to come off, my buck?”

‘The young lady coloured so deep, and her lip trembled so much, gentlemen, that Tom really thought she was going to cry. But she kept her feelings down, and turning to the old gentleman, says, “Dear uncle, though you have the absolute disposal of my hand and fortune, and though you mean well in disposing of ‘em thus, I ask you whether you don’t think this is a mistake? Don’t you think, dear uncle,” she says, “that the stars must be in error? Is it not possible that the comet may have put ‘em out?”

‘“The stars,” says the old gentleman, “couldn’t make a mistake if they tried. Emma,” he says to the other young lady.

‘“Yes, papa,” says she.

‘“The same day that makes your cousin Mrs. Grig will unite you to the gifted Mooney. No remonstrance - no tears. Now, Mr. Grig, let me conduct you to that hallowed ground, that philosophical retreat, where my friend and partner, the gifted Mooney of whom I have just now spoken, is even now pursuing those discoveries which shall enrich us with the precious metal, and make us masters of the world. Come, Mr. Grig,” he says.

‘“With all my heart, Sir,” replies Tom; “and luck to the gifted Mooney, say I - not so much on his account as for our worthy selves!” With this sentiment, Tom kissed his hand to the ladies again, and followed him out; having the gratification to perceive, as he looked back, that they were all hanging on by the arms and legs of Galileo Isaac Newton Flamstead, to prevent him from following the noble stranger, and tearing him to pieces.

‘Gentlemen, Tom’s father-in-law that was to be, took him by the hand, and having lighted a little lamp, led him across a paved court-yard at the back of the house, into a very large, dark, gloomy room: filled with all manner of bottles, globes, books, telescopes, crocodiles, alligators, and other scientific instruments of every kind. In the centre of this room was a stove or furnace, with what Tom called a pot, but which in my opinion was a crucible, in full boil. In one corner was a sort of ladder leading through the roof; and up this ladder the old gentleman pointed, as he said in a whisper:

‘“The observatory. Mr. Mooney is even now watching for the precise time at which we are to come into all the riches of the earth. It will be necessary for he and I, alone in that silent place, to cast your nativity before the hour arrives. Put the day and minute of your birth on this piece of paper, and leave the rest to me.”

‘“You don’t mean to say,” says Tom, doing as he was told and giving him back the paper, “that I’m to wait here long, do you? It’s a precious dismal place.”

‘“Hush!” says the old gentleman. “It’s hallowed ground. Farewell!”

‘“Stop a minute,” says Tom. “What a hurry you’re in! What’s in that large bottle yonder?”

‘“It’s a child with three heads,” says the old gentleman; “and everything else in proportion.”

‘“Why don’t you throw him away?” says Tom. “What do you keep such unpleasant things here for?”

‘“Throw him away!” cries the old gentleman. “We use him constantly in astrology. He’s a charm.”

‘“I shouldn’t have thought it,” says Tom, “from his appearance. MUST you go, I say?”

‘The old gentleman makes him no answer, but climbs up the ladder in a greater bustle than ever. Tom looked after his legs till there was nothing of him left, and then sat down to wait; feeling (so he used to say) as comfortable as if he was going to be made a freemason, and they were heating the pokers.

‘Tom waited so long, gentlemen, that he began to think it must be getting on for midnight at least, and felt more dismal and lonely than ever he had done in all his life. He tried every means of whiling away the time, but it never had seemed to move so slow. First, he took a nearer view of the child with three heads, and thought what a comfort it must have been to his parents. Then he looked up a long telescope which was pointed out of the window, but saw nothing particular, in consequence of the stopper being on at the other end. Then he came to a skeleton in a glass case, labelled, “Skeleton of a Gentleman - prepared by Mr. Mooney,” - which made him hope that Mr. Mooney might not be in the habit of preparing gentlemen that way without their own consent. A hundred times, at least, he looked into the pot where they were boiling the philosopher’s stone down to the proper consistency, and wondered whether it was nearly done. “When it is,” thinks Tom, “I’ll send out for six-penn’orth of sprats, and turn ‘em into gold fish for a first experiment.” Besides which, he made up his mind, gentlemen, to have a country-house and a park; and to plant a bit of it with a double row of gas-lamps a mile long, and go out every night with a French-polished mahogany ladder, and two servants in livery behind him, to light ‘em for his own pleasure.

‘At length and at last, the old gentleman’s legs appeared upon the steps leading through the roof, and he came slowly down: bringing along with him, the gifted Mooney. This Mooney, gentlemen, was even more scientific in appearance than his friend; and had, as Tom often declared upon his word and honour, the dirtiest face we can possibly know of, in this imperfect state of existence.

‘Gentlemen, you are all aware that if a scientific man isn’t absent in his mind, he’s of no good at all. Mr. Mooney was so absent, that when the old gentleman said to him, “Shake hands with Mr. Grig,” he put out his leg. “Here’s a mind, Mr. Grig!” cries the old gentleman in a rapture. “Here’s philosophy! Here’s rumination! Don’t disturb him,” he says, “for this is amazing!”

‘Tom had no wish to disturb him, having nothing particular to say; but he was so uncommonly amazing, that the old gentleman got impatient, and determined to give him an electric shock to bring him to - “for you must know, Mr. Grig,” he says, “that we always keep a strongly charged battery, ready for that purpose.” These means being resorted to, gentlemen, the gifted Mooney revived with a loud roar, and he no sooner came to himself than both he and the old gentleman looked at Tom with compassion, and shed tears abundantly.

‘“My dear friend,” says the old gentleman to the Gifted, “prepare him.”

‘“I say,” cries Tom, falling back, “none of that, you know. No preparing by Mr. Mooney if you please.”

‘“Alas!” replies the old gentleman, “you don’t understand us. My friend, inform him of his fate. - I can’t.”

‘The Gifted mustered up his voice, after many efforts, and informed Tom that his nativity had been carefully cast, and he would expire at exactly thirty-five minutes, twenty-seven seconds, and five- sixths of a second past nine o’clock, a.m., on that day two months.

‘Gentlemen, I leave you to judge what were Tom’s feelings at this announcement, on the eve of matrimony and endless riches. “I think,” he says in a trembling voice, “there must be a mistake in the working of that sum. Will you do me the favour to cast it up again?” - “There is no mistake,” replies the old gentleman, “it is confirmed by Francis Moore, Physician. Here is the prediction for to-morrow two months.” And he showed him the page, where sure enough were these words - “The decease of a great person may be looked for, about this time.”

‘“Which,” says the old gentleman, “is clearly you, Mr. Grig.”

‘“Too clearly,” cries Tom, sinking into a chair, and giving one hand to the old gentleman, and one to the Gifted. “The orb of day has set on Thomas Grig for ever!”

‘At this affecting remark, the Gifted shed tears again, and the other two mingled their tears with his, in a kind - if I may use the expression - of Mooney and Co.’s entire. But the old gentleman recovering first, observed that this was only a reason for hastening the marriage, in order that Tom’s distinguished race might be transmitted to posterity; and requesting the Gifted to console Mr. Grig during his temporary absence, he withdrew to settle the preliminaries with his niece immediately.

‘And now, gentlemen, a very extraordinary and remarkable occurrence took place; for as Tom sat in a melancholy way in one chair, and the Gifted sat in a melancholy way in another, a couple of doors were thrown violently open, the two young ladies rushed in, and one knelt down in a loving attitude at Tom’s feet, and the other at the Gifted’s. So far, perhaps, as Tom was concerned - as he used to say - you will say there was nothing strange in this: but you will be of a different opinion when you understand that Tom’s young lady was kneeling to the Gifted, and the Gifted’s young lady was kneeling to Tom.

‘“Halloa! stop a minute!” cries Tom; “here’s a mistake. I need condoling with by sympathising woman, under my afflicting circumstances; but we’re out in the figure. Change partners, Mooney.”

‘“Monster!” cries Tom’s young lady, clinging to the Gifted.

‘“Miss!” says Tom. “Is THAT your manners?”

‘“I abjure thee!” cries Tom’s young lady. “I renounce thee. I never will be thine. Thou,” she says to the Gifted, “art the object of my first and all-engrossing passion. Wrapt in thy sublime visions, thou hast not perceived my love; but, driven to despair, I now shake off the woman and avow it. Oh, cruel, cruel man!” With which reproach she laid her head upon the Gifted’s breast, and put her arms about him in the tenderest manner possible, gentlemen.

‘“And I,” says the other young lady, in a sort of ecstasy, that made Tom start - “I hereby abjure my chosen husband too. Hear me, Goblin!” - this was to the Gifted - “Hear me! I hold thee in the deepest detestation. The maddening interview of this one night has filled my soul with love - but not for thee. It is for thee, for thee, young man,” she cries to Tom. “As Monk Lewis finely observes, Thomas, Thomas, I am thine, Thomas, Thomas, thou art mine: thine for ever, mine for ever!” with which words, she became very tender likewise.

‘Tom and the Gifted, gentlemen, as you may believe, looked at each other in a very awkward manner, and with thoughts not at all complimentary to the two young ladies. As to the Gifted, I have heard Tom say often, that he was certain he was in a fit, and had it inwardly.

‘“Speak to me! Oh, speak to me!” cries Tom’s young lady to the Gifted.

‘“I don’t want to speak to anybody,” he says, finding his voice at last, and trying to push her away. “I think I had better go. I’m - I’m frightened,” he says, looking about as if he had lost something.

‘“Not one look of love!” she cries. “Hear me while I declare - “

‘“I don’t know how to look a look of love,” he says, all in a maze. “Don’t declare anything. I don’t want to hear anybody.”

‘“That’s right!” cries the old gentleman (who it seems had been listening). “That’s right! Don’t hear her. Emma shall marry you to-morrow, my friend, whether she likes it or not, and SHE shall marry Mr. Grig.”

‘Gentlemen, these words were no sooner out of his mouth than Galileo Isaac Newton Flamstead (who it seems had been listening too) darts in, and spinning round and round, like a young giant’s top, cries, “Let her. Let her. I’m fierce; I’m furious. I give her leave. I’ll never marry anybody after this - never. It isn’t safe. She is the falsest of the false,” he cries, tearing his hair and gnashing his teeth; “and I’ll live and die a bachelor!”

‘“The little boy,” observed the Gifted gravely, “albeit of tender years, has spoken wisdom. I have been led to the contemplation of woman-kind, and will not adventure on the troubled waters of matrimony.”

‘“What!” says the old gentleman, “not marry my daughter! Won’t you, Mooney? Not if I make her? Won’t you? Won’t you?”

‘“No,” says Mooney, “I won’t. And if anybody asks me any more, I’ll run away, and never come back again.”

‘“Mr. Grig,” says the old gentleman, “the stars must be obeyed. You have not changed your mind because of a little girlish folly - eh, Mr. Grig?”

‘Tom, gentlemen, had had his eyes about him, and was pretty sure that all this was a device and trick of the waiting-maid, to put him off his inclination. He had seen her hiding and skipping about the two doors, and had observed that a very little whispering from her pacified the Salamander directly. “So,” thinks Tom, “this is a plot - but it won’t fit.”

‘“Eh, Mr. Grig?” says the old gentleman.

‘“Why, Sir,” says Tom, pointing to the crucible, “if the soup’s nearly ready - “

‘“Another hour beholds the consummation of our labours,” returned the old gentleman.

‘“Very good,” says Tom, with a mournful air. “It’s only for two months, but I may as well be the richest man in the world even for that time. I’m not particular, I’ll take her, Sir. I’ll take her.”

‘The old gentleman was in a rapture to find Tom still in the same mind, and drawing the young lady towards him by little and little, was joining their hands by main force, when all of a sudden, gentlemen, the crucible blows up, with a great crash; everybody screams; the room is filled with smoke; and Tom, not knowing what may happen next, throws himself into a Fancy attitude, and says, “Come on, if you’re a man!” without addressing himself to anybody in particular.

‘“The labours of fifteen years!” says the old gentleman, clasping his hands and looking down upon the Gifted, who was saving the pieces, “are destroyed in an instant!” - And I am told, gentlemen, by-the-bye, that this same philosopher’s stone would have been discovered a hundred times at least, to speak within bounds, if it wasn’t for the one unfortunate circumstance that the apparatus always blows up, when it’s on the very point of succeeding.

‘Tom turns pale when he hears the old gentleman expressing himself to this unpleasant effect, and stammers out that if it’s quite agreeable to all parties, he would like to know exactly what has happened, and what change has really taken place in the prospects of that company.

‘“We have failed for the present, Mr. Grig,” says the old gentleman, wiping his forehead. “And I regret it the more, because I have in fact invested my niece’s five thousand pounds in this glorious speculation. But don’t be cast down,” he says, anxiously - “in another fifteen years, Mr. Grig - “

“Oh!” cries Tom, letting the young lady’s hand fall. “Were the stars very positive about this union, Sir?”

‘“They were,” says the old gentleman.

‘“I’m sorry to hear it,” Tom makes answer, “for it’s no go, Sir.”

‘“No what!” cries the old gentleman.

‘“Go, Sir,” says Tom, fiercely. “I forbid the banns.” And with these words - which are the very words he used - he sat himself down in a chair, and, laying his head upon the table, thought with a secret grief of what was to come to pass on that day two months.

‘Tom always said, gentlemen, that that waiting-maid was the artfullest minx he had ever seen; and he left it in writing in this country when he went to colonize abroad, that he was certain in his own mind she and the Salamander had blown up the philosopher’s stone on purpose, and to cut him out of his property. I believe Tom was in the right, gentlemen; but whether or no, she comes forward at this point, and says, “May I speak, Sir?” and the old gentleman answering, “Yes, you may,” she goes on to say that “the stars are no doubt quite right in every respect, but Tom is not the man.” And she says, “Don’t you remember, Sir, that when the clock struck five this afternoon, you gave Master Galileo a rap on the head with your telescope, and told him to get out of the way?” “Yes, I do,” says the old gentleman. “Then,” says the waiting- maid, “I say he’s the man, and the prophecy is fulfilled.” The old gentleman staggers at this, as if somebody had hit him a blow on the chest, and cries, “He! why he’s a boy!” Upon that, gentlemen, the Salamander cries out that he’ll be twenty-one next Lady-day; and complains that his father has always been so busy with the sun round which the earth revolves, that he has never taken any notice of the son that revolves round him; and that he hasn’t had a new suit of clothes since he was fourteen; and that he wasn’t even taken out of nankeen frocks and trousers till he was quite unpleasant in ‘em; and touches on a good many more family matters to the same purpose. To make short of a long story, gentlemen, they all talk together, and cry together, and remind the old gentleman that as to the noble family, his own grandfather would have been lord mayor if he hadn’t died at a dinner the year before; and they show him by all kinds of arguments that if the cousins are married, the prediction comes true every way. At last, the old gentleman being quite convinced, gives in; and joins their hands; and leaves his daughter to marry anybody she likes; and they are all well pleased; and the Gifted as well as any of them.

‘In the middle of this little family party, gentlemen, sits Tom all the while, as miserable as you like. But, when everything else is arranged, the old gentleman’s daughter says, that their strange conduct was a little device of the waiting-maid’s to disgust the lovers he had chosen for ‘em, and will he forgive her? and if he will, perhaps he might even find her a husband - and when she says that, she looks uncommon hard at Tom. Then the waiting-maid says that, oh dear! she couldn’t abear Mr. Grig should think she wanted him to marry her; and that she had even gone so far as to refuse the last lamplighter, who was now a literary character (having set up as a bill-sticker); and that she hoped Mr. Grig would not suppose she was on her last legs by any means, for the baker was very strong in his attentions at that moment, and as to the butcher, he was frantic. And I don’t know how much more she might have said, gentlemen (for, as you know, this kind of young women are rare ones to talk), if the old gentleman hadn’t cut in suddenly, and asked Tom if he’d have her, with ten pounds to recompense him for his loss of time and disappointment, and as a kind of bribe to keep the story secret.

‘“It don’t much matter, Sir,” says Tom, “I ain’t long for this world. Eight weeks of marriage, especially with this young woman, might reconcile me to my fate. I think,” he says, “I could go off easy after that.” With which he embraces her with a very dismal face, and groans in a way that might move a heart of stone - even of philosopher’s stone.

‘“Egad,” says the old gentleman, “that reminds me - this bustle put it out of my head - there was a figure wrong. He’ll live to a green old age - eighty-seven at least!”

‘“How much, Sir?” cries Tom.

‘“Eighty-seven!” says the old gentleman.

‘Without another word, Tom flings himself on the old gentleman’s neck; throws up his hat; cuts a caper; defies the waiting-maid; and refers her to the butcher.

‘“You won’t marry her!” says the old gentleman, angrily.

‘“And live after it!” says Tom. “I’d sooner marry a mermaid with a small-tooth comb and looking-glass.”

‘“Then take the consequences,” says the other.

‘With those words - I beg your kind attention here, gentlemen, for it’s worth your notice - the old gentleman wetted the forefinger of his right hand in some of the liquor from the crucible that was spilt on the floor, and drew a small triangle on Tom’s forehead. The room swam before his eyes, and he found himself in the watch- house.’

‘Found himself WHERE?’ cried the vice, on behalf of the company generally.

‘In the watch-house,’ said the chairman. ‘It was late at night, and he found himself in the very watch-house from which he had been let out that morning.’

‘Did he go home?’ asked the vice.

‘The watch-house people rather objected to that,’ said the chairman; ‘so he stopped there that night, and went before the magistrate in the morning. “Why, you’re here again, are you?” says the magistrate, adding insult to injury; “we’ll trouble you for five shillings more, if you can conveniently spare the money.” Tom told him he had been enchanted, but it was of no use. He told the contractors the same, but they wouldn’t believe him. It was very hard upon him, gentlemen, as he often said, for was it likely he’d go and invent such a tale? They shook their heads and told him he’d say anything but his prayers - as indeed he would; there’s no doubt about that. It was the only imputation on his moral character that ever I heard of.’


A CHILD’S DREAM OF A STAR

THERE was once a child, and he strolled about a good deal, and thought of a number of things. He had a sister, who was a child too, and his constant companion. These two used to wonder all day long. They wondered at the beauty of the flowers; they wondered at the height and blueness of the sky; they wondered at the depth of the bright water; they wondered at the goodness and the power of GOD who made the lovely world.

They used to say to one another, sometimes, Supposing all the children upon earth were to die, would the flowers, and the water, and the sky be sorry? They believed they would be sorry. For, said they, the buds are the children of the flowers, and the little playful streams that gambol down the hill-sides are the children of the water; and the smallest bright specks playing at hide and seek in the sky all night, must surely be the children of the stars; and they would all be grieved to see their playmates, the children of men, no more.

There was one clear shining star that used to come out in the sky before the rest, near the church spire, above the graves. It was larger and more beautiful, they thought, than all the others, and every night they watched for it, standing hand in hand at a window. Whoever saw it first cried out, ‘I see the star!’ And often they cried out both together, knowing so well when it would rise, and where. So they grew to be such friends with it, that, before lying down in their beds, they always looked out once again, to bid it good night; and when they were turning round to sleep, they used to say, ‘God bless the star!’

But while she was still very young, oh, very, very young, the sister drooped, and came to be so weak that she could no longer stand in the window at night; and then the child looked sadly out by himself, and when he saw the star, turned round and said to the patient pale face on the bed, ‘I see the star!’ and then a smile would come upon the face, and a little weak voice used to say, ‘God bless my brother and the star!’

And so the time came all too soon! when the child looked out alone, and when there was no face on the bed; and when there was a little grave among the graves, not there before; and when the star made long rays down towards him, as he saw it through his tears.

Now, these rays were so bright, and they seemed to make such a shining way from earth to Heaven, that when the child went to his solitary bed, he dreamed about the star; and dreamed that, lying where he was, he saw a train of people taken up that sparkling road by angels. And the star, opening, showed him a great world of light, where many more such angels waited to receive them.

All these angels, who were waiting, turned their beaming eyes upon the people who were carried up into the star; and some came out from the long rows in which they stood, and fell upon the people’s necks, and kissed them tenderly, and went away with them down avenues of light, and were so happy in their company, that lying in his bed he wept for joy.

But, there were many angels who did not go with them, and among them one he knew. The patient face that once had lain upon the bed was glorified and radiant, but his heart found out his sister among all the host.

His sister’s angel lingered near the entrance of the star, and said to the leader among those who had brought the people thither:

‘Is my brother come?’

And he said ‘No.’

She was turning hopefully away, when the child stretched out his arms, and cried, ‘O, sister, I am here! Take me!’ and then she turned her beaming eyes upon him, and it was night; and the star was shining into the room, making long rays down towards him as he saw it through his tears.

From that hour forth, the child looked out upon the star as on the home he was to go to, when his time should come; and he thought that he did not belong to the earth alone, but to the star too, because of his sister’s angel gone before.

There was a baby born to be a brother to the child; and while he was so little that he never yet had spoken word, he stretched his tiny form out on his bed, and died.

Again the child dreamed of the open star, and of the company of angels, and the train of people, and the rows of angels with their beaming eyes all turned upon those people’s faces.

Said his sister’s angel to the leader:

‘Is my brother come?’

And he said, ‘Not that one, but another.’

As the child beheld his brother’s angel in her arms, he cried, ‘O, sister, I am here! Take me!’ And she turned and smiled upon him, and the star was shining.

He grew to be a young man, and was busy at his books when an old servant came to him and said:

‘Thy mother is no more. I bring her blessing on her darling son!’

Again at night he saw the star, and all that former company. Said his sister’s angel to the leader.

‘Is my brother come?’

And he said, ‘Thy mother!’

A mighty cry of joy went forth through all the star, because the mother was re-united to her two children. And he stretched out his arms and cried, ‘O, mother, sister, and brother, I am here! Take me!’ And they answered him, ‘Not yet,’ and the star was shining.

He grew to be a man, whose hair was turning grey, and he was sitting in his chair by the fireside, heavy with grief, and with his face bedewed with tears, when the star opened once again.

Said his sister’s angel to the leader: ‘Is my brother come?’

And he said, ‘Nay, but his maiden daughter.’

And the man who had been the child saw his daughter, newly lost to him, a celestial creature among those three, and he said, ‘My daughter’s head is on my sister’s bosom, and her arm is around my mother’s neck, and at her feet there is the baby of old time, and I can bear the parting from her, GOD be praised!’

And the star was shining.

Thus the child came to be an old man, and his once smooth face was wrinkled, and his steps were slow and feeble, and his back was bent. And one night as he lay upon his bed, his children standing round, he cried, as he had cried so long ago:

‘I see the star!’

They whispered one another, ‘He is dying.’

And he said, ‘I am. My age is falling from me like a garment, and I move towards the star as a child. And O, my Father, now I thank thee that it has so often opened, to receive those dear ones who await me!’

And the star was shining; and it shines upon his grave.


CAPTAIN MURDERER

The first diabolical character who intruded himself on my peaceful youth was a certain Captain Murderer. His warning name would seem to have awakened no general prejudice against him, for he was admitted into the best society and possessed immense wealth. Captain Murderer’s mission was matrimony, and the gratification of a cannibal appetite with tender brides. On his marriage morning, he always caused both sides of the way to church to be planted with curious flowers; and when his bride said, ‘Dear Captain Murderer, I ever saw flowers like these before: what are they called?’ he answered, ‘They are called Garnish for house-lamb,’ and laughed at his ferocious practical joke in a horrid manner, disquieting the minds of the noble bridal company, with a very sharp show of teeth, then displayed for the first time. He made love in a coach and six, and married in a coach and twelve, and all his horses were milk-white horses with one red spot on the back which he caused to be hidden by the harness. For, the spot WOULD come there, though every horse was milk-white when Captain Murderer bought him. And the spot was young bride’s blood. (To this terrific point I am indebted for my first personal experience of a shudder and cold beads on the forehead.) When Captain Murderer had made an end of feasting and revelry, and had dismissed the noble guests, and was alone with his wife on the day month after their marriage, it was his whimsical custom to produce a golden rolling-pin and a silver pie-board. Now, there was this special feature in the Captain’s courtships, that he always asked if the young lady could make pie-crust; and if she couldn’t by nature or education, she was taught. Well. When the bride saw Captain Murderer produce the golden rolling-pin and silver pie-board, she remembered this, and turned up her laced-silk sleeves to make a pie. The Captain brought out a silver pie-dish of immense capacity, and the Captain brought out flour and butter and eggs and all things needful, except the inside of the pie; of materials for the staple of the pie itself, the Captain brought out none. Then said the lovely bride, ‘Dear Captain Murderer, what pie is this to be?’ He replied, ‘A meat pie.’ Then said the lovely bride, ‘Dear Captain Murderer, I see no meat.’ The Captain humorously retorted, ‘Look in the glass.’ She looked in the glass, but still she saw no meat, and then the Captain roared with laughter, and suddenly frowning and drawing his sword, bade her roll out the crust. So she rolled out the crust, dropping large tears upon it all the time because he was so cross, and when she had lined the dish with crust and had cut the crust all ready to fit the top, the Captain called out, ‘I see the meat in the glass!’ And the bride looked up at the glass, just in time to see the Captain cutting her head off; and he chopped her in pieces, and peppered her, and salted her, and put her in the pie, and sent it to the baker’s, and ate it all, and picked the bones.

Captain Murderer went on in this way, prospering exceedingly, until he came to choose a bride from two twin sisters, and at first didn’t know which to choose. For, though one was fair and the other dark, they were both equally beautiful. But the fair twin loved him, and the dark twin hated him, so he chose the fair one. The dark twin would have prevented the marriage if she could, but she couldn’t; however, on the night before it, much suspecting Captain Murderer, she stole out and climbed his garden wall, and looked in at his window through a chink in the shutter, and saw him having his teeth filed sharp. Next day she listened all day, and heard him make his joke about the house-lamb. And that day month, he had the paste rolled out, and cut the fair twin’s head off, and chopped her in pieces, and peppered her, and salted her, and put her in the pie, and sent it to the baker’s, and ate it all, and picked the bones.

Now, the dark twin had had her suspicions much increased by the filing of the Captain’s teeth, and again by the house-lamb joke. Putting all things together when he gave out that her sister was dead, she divined the truth, and determined to be revenged. So, she went up to Captain Murderer’s house, and knocked at the knocker and pulled at the bell, and when the Captain came to the door, said: ‘Dear Captain Murderer, marry me next, for I always loved you and was jealous of my sister.’ The Captain took it as a compliment, and made a polite answer, and the marriage was quickly arranged. On the night before it, the bride again climbed to his window, and again saw him having his teeth filed sharp. At this sight she laughed such a terrible laugh at the chink in the shutter, that the Captain’s blood curdled, and he said: ‘I hope nothing has disagreed with me!’ At that, she laughed again, a still more terrible laugh, and the shutter was opened and search made, but she was nimbly gone, and there was no one. Next day they went to church in a coach and twelve, and were married. And that day month, she rolled the pie-crust out, and Captain Murderer cut her head off, and chopped her in pieces, and peppered her, and salted her, and put her in the pie, and sent it to the baker’s, and ate it all, and picked the bones

But before she began to roll out the paste she had taken a deadly poison of a most awful character, distilled from toads’ eyes and spiders’ knees; and Captain Murderer had hardly picked her last bone, when he began to swell, and to turn blue, and to be all over spots, and to scream. And he went on swelling and turning bluer, and being more all over spots and screaming, until he reached from floor to ceiling and from wall to wall; and then, at one o’clock in the morning, he blew up with a loud explosion. At the sound of it, all the milk-white horses in the stables broke their halters and went mad, and then they galloped over everybody in Captain Murderer’s house (beginning with the family blacksmith who had filed his teeth) until the whole were dead, and then they galloped away.


TO BE READ AT DUSK

ONE, two, three, four, five. There were five of them.

Five couriers, sitting on a bench outside the convent on the summit of the Great St. Bernard in Switzerland, looking at the remote heights, stained by the setting sun as if a mighty quantity of red wine had been broached upon the mountain top, and had not yet had time to sink into the snow.

This is not my simile. It was made for the occasion by the stoutest courier, who was a German. None of the others took any more notice of it than they took of me, sitting on another bench on the other side of the convent door, smoking my cigar, like them, and — also like them — looking at the reddened snow, and at the lonely shed hard by, where the bodies of belated travellers, dug out of it, slowly wither away, knowing no corruption in that cold region.

The wine upon the mountain top soaked in as we looked; the mountain became white; the sky, a very dark blue; the wind rose; and the air turned piercing cold. The five couriers buttoned their rough coats. There being no safer man to imitate in all such proceedings than a courier, I buttoned mine.

The mountain in the sunset had stopped the five couriers in a conversation. It is a sublime sight, likely to stop conversation. The mountain being now out of the sunset, they resumed. Not that I had heard any part of their previous discourse; for indeed, I had not then broken away from the American gentleman, in the travellers’ parlour of the convent, who, sitting with his face to the fire, had undertaken to realise to me the whole progress of events which had led to the accumulation by the Honourable Ananias Dodger of one of the largest acquisitions of dollars ever made in our country.

‘My God!’ said the Swiss courier, speaking in French, which I do not hold (as some authors appear to do) to be such an all-sufficient excuse for a naughty word, that I have only to write it in that language to make it innocent; ‘if you talk of ghosts — ‘

‘But I don’t talk of ghosts,’ said the German.

‘Of what then?’ asked the Swiss.

‘If I knew of what then,’ said the German, ‘I should probably know a great deal more.’

It was a good answer, I thought, and it made me curious. So, I moved my position to that corner of my bench which was nearest to them, and leaning my back against the convent wall, heard perfectly, without appearing to attend.

‘Thunder and lightning!’ said the German, warming, ‘when a certain man is coming to see you, unexpectedly; and, without his own knowledge, sends some invisible messenger, to put the idea of him into your head all day, what do you call that? When you walk along a crowded street — at Frankfort, Milan, London, Paris — and think that a passing stranger is like your friend Heinrich, and then that another passing stranger is like your friend Heinrich, and so begin to have a strange foreknowledge that presently you’ll meet your friend Heinrich — which you do, though you believed him at Trieste — what do you call that?

‘It’s not uncommon, either,’ murmured the Swiss and the other three.

‘Uncommon!’ said the German. ‘It’s as common as cherries in the Black Forest. It’s as common as maccaroni at Naples. And Naples reminds me! When the old Marchesa Senzanima shrieks at a card-party on the Chiaja — as I heard and saw her, for it happened in a Bavarian family of mine, and I was overlooking the service that evening — I say, when the old Marchesa starts up at the card-table, white through her rouge, and cries, “My sister in Spain is dead! I felt her cold touch on my back!” — and when that sister is dead at the moment — what do you call that?’

‘Or when the blood of San Gennaro liquefies at the request of the clergy — as all the world knows that it does regularly once a-year, in my native city,’ said the Neapolitan courier after a pause, with a comical look, ‘what do you call that?’

That!’ cried the German. ‘Well, I think I know a name for that.’

‘Miracle?’ said the Neapolitan, with the same sly face.

The German merely smoked and laughed; and they all smoked and laughed.

‘Bah!’ said the German, presently. ‘I speak of things that really do happen. When I want to see the conjurer, I pay to see a professed one, and have my money’s worth. Very strange things do happen without ghosts. Ghosts! Giovanni Baptista, tell your story of the English bride. There’s no ghost in that, but something full as strange. Will any man tell me what?’

As there was a silence among them, I glanced around. He whom I took to be Baptista was lighting a fresh cigar. He presently went on to speak. He was a Genoese, as I judged.

‘The story of the English bride?’ said he. ‘Basta! one ought not to call so slight a thing a story. Well, it’s all one. But it’s true. Observe me well, gentlemen, it’s true. That which glitters is not always gold; but what I am going to tell, is true.’

He repeated this more than once.

Ten years ago, I took my credentials to an English gentleman at Long’s Hotel, in Bond Street, London, who was about to travel — it might be for one year, it might be for two. He approved of them; likewise of me. He was pleased to make inquiry. The testimony that he received was favourable. He engaged me by the six months, and my entertainment was generous.

He was young, handsome, very happy. He was enamoured of a fair young English lady, with a sufficient fortune, and they were going to be married. It was the wedding-trip, in short, that we were going to take. For three months’ rest in the hot weather (it was early summer then) he had hired an old place on the Riviera, at an easy distance from my city, Genoa, on the road to Nice. Did I know that place? Yes; I told him I knew it well. It was an old palace with great gardens. It was a little bare, and it was a little dark and gloomy, being close surrounded by trees; but it was spacious, ancient, grand, and on the seashore. He said it had been so described to him exactly, and he was well pleased that I knew it. For its being a little bare of furniture, all such places were. For its being a little gloomy, he had hired it principally for the gardens, and he and my mistress would pass the summer weather in their shade.

‘So all goes well, Baptista?’ said he.

‘Indubitably, signore; very well.’

We had a travelling chariot for our journey, newly built for us, and in all respects complete. All we had was complete; we wanted for nothing. The marriage took place. They were happy. I was happy, seeing all so bright, being so well situated, going to my own city, teaching my language in the rumble to the maid, la bella Carolina, whose heart was gay with laughter: who was young and rosy.

The time flew. But I observed — listen to this, I pray! (and here the courier dropped his voice) — I observed my mistress sometimes brooding in a manner very strange; in a frightened manner; in an unhappy manner; with a cloudy, uncertain alarm upon her. I think that I began to notice this when I was walking up hills by the carriage side, and master had gone on in front. At any rate, I remember that it impressed itself upon my mind one evening in the South of France, when she called to me to call master back; and when he came back, and walked for a long way, talking encouragingly and affectionately to her, with his hand upon the open window, and hers in it. Now and then, he laughed in a merry way, as if he were bantering her out of something. By-and-by, she laughed, and then all went well again.

It was curious. I asked la bella Carolina, the pretty little one, Was mistress unwell? — No. — Out of spirits? — No. — Fearful of bad roads, or brigands? — No. And what made it more mysterious was, the pretty little one would not look at me in giving answer, but would look at the view.

But, one day she told me the secret.

‘If you must know,’ said Carolina, ‘I find, from what I have overheard, that mistress is haunted.’

‘How haunted?’

‘By a dream.’

‘What dream?’

‘By a dream of a face. For three nights before her marriage, she saw a face in a dream — always the same face, and only One.’

‘A terrible face?’

‘No. The face of a dark, remarkable-looking man, in black, with black hair and a grey moustache — a handsome man except for a reserved and secret air. Not a face she ever saw, or at all like a face she ever saw. Doing nothing in the dream but looking at her fixedly, out of darkness.’

‘Does the dream come back?’

‘Never. The recollection of it is all her trouble.’

‘And why does it trouble her?’

Carolina shook her head.

‘That’s master’s question,’ said la bella. ‘She don’t know. She wonders why, herself. But I heard her tell him, only last night, that if she was to find a picture of that face in our Italian house (which she is afraid she will) she did not know how she could ever bear it.’

Upon my word I was fearful after this (said the Genoese courier) of our coming to the old palazzo, lest some such ill-starred picture should happen to be there. I knew there were many there; and, as we got nearer and nearer to the place, I wished the whole gallery in the crater of Vesuvius. To mend the matter, it was a stormy dismal evening when we, at last, approached that part of the Riviera. It thundered; and the thunder of my city and its environs, rolling among the high hills, is very loud. The lizards ran in and out of the chinks in the broken stone wall of the garden, as if they were frightened; the frogs bubbled and croaked their loudest; the sea-wind moaned, and the wet trees dripped; and the lightning — body of San Lorenzo, how it lightened!

We all know what an old palace in or near Genoa is — how time and the sea air have blotted it — how the drapery painted on the outer walls has peeled off in great flakes of plaster — how the lower windows are darkened with rusty bars of iron — how the courtyard is overgrown with grass — how the outer buildings are dilapidated — how the whole pile seems devoted to ruin. Our palazzo was one of the true kind. It had been shut up close for months. Months? — years! — it had an earthy smell, like a tomb. The scent of the orange trees on the broad back terrace, and of the lemons ripening on the wall, and of some shrubs that grew around a broken fountain, had got into the house somehow, and had never been able to get out again. There was, in every room, an aged smell, grown faint with confinement. It pined in all the cupboards and drawers. In the little rooms of communication between great rooms, it was stifling. If you turned a picture — to come back to the pictures — there it still was, clinging to the wall behind the frame, like a sort of bat.

The lattice-blinds were close shut, all over the house. There were two ugly, grey old women in the house, to take care of it; one of them with a spindle, who stood winding and mumbling in the doorway, and who would as soon have let in the devil as the air. Master, mistress, la bella Carolina, and I, went all through the palazzo. I went first, though I have named myself last, opening the windows and the lattice-blinds, and shaking down on myself splashes of rain, and scraps of mortar, and now and then a dozing mosquito, or a monstrous, fat, blotchy, Genoese spider.

When I had let the evening light into a room, master, mistress, and la bella Carolina, entered. Then, we looked round at all the pictures, and I went forward again into another room. Mistress secretly had great fear of meeting with the likeness of that face — we all had; but there was no such thing. The Madonna and Bambino, San Francisco, San Sebastiano, Venus, Santa Caterina, Angels, Brigands, Friars, Temples at Sunset, Battles, White Horses, Forests, Apostles, Doges, all my old acquaintances many times repeated? — yes. Dark, handsome man in black, reserved and secret, with black hair and grey moustache, looking fixedly at mistress out of darkness? — no.

At last we got through all the rooms and all the pictures, and came out into the gardens. They were pretty well kept, being rented by a gardener, and were large and shady. In one place there was a rustic theatre, open to the sky; the stage a green slope; the coulisses, three entrances upon a side, sweet-smelling leafy screens. Mistress moved her bright eyes, even there, as if she looked to see the face come in upon the scene; but all was well.

‘Now, Clara,’ master said, in a low voice, ‘you see that it is nothing? You are happy.’

Mistress was much encouraged. She soon accustomed herself to that grim palazzo, and would sing, and play the harp, and copy the old pictures, and stroll with master under the green trees and vines all day. She was beautiful. He was happy. He would laugh and say to me, mounting his horse for his morning ride before the heat:

‘All goes well, Baptista!’

‘Yes, signore, thank God, very well.’

We kept no company. I took la bella to the Duomo and Annunciata, to the Café, to the Opera, to the village Festa, to the Public Garden, to the Day Theatre, to the Marionetti. The pretty little one was charmed with all she saw. She learnt Italian — heavens! miraculously! Was mistress quite forgetful of that dream? I asked Carolina sometimes. Nearly, said la bella — almost. It was wearing out.

One day master received a letter, and called me.

‘Baptista!’

‘Signore!’

‘A gentleman who is presented to me will dine here to-day. He is called the Signor Dellombra. Let me dine like a prince.’

It was an odd name. I did not know that name. But, there had been many noblemen and gentlemen pursued by Austria on political suspicions, lately, and some names had changed. Perhaps this was one. Altro! Dellombra was as good a name to me as another.

When the Signor Dellombra came to dinner (said the Genoese courier in the low voice, into which he had subsided once before), I showed him into the reception-room, the great sala of the old palazzo. Master received him with cordiality, and presented him to mistress. As she rose, her face changed, she gave a cry, and fell upon the marble floor.

Then, I turned my head to the Signor Dellombra, and saw that he was dressed in black, and had a reserved and secret air, and was a dark, remarkable-looking man, with black hair and a grey moustache.

Master raised mistress in his arms, and carried her to her own room, where I sent la bella Carolina straight. La bella told me afterwards that mistress was nearly terrified to death, and that she wandered in her mind about her dream, all night.

Master was vexed and anxious — almost angry, and yet full of solicitude. The Signor Dellombra was a courtly gentleman, and spoke with great respect and sympathy of mistress’s being so ill. The African wind had been blowing for some days (they had told him at his hotel of the Maltese Cross), and he knew that it was often hurtful. He hoped the beautiful lady would recover soon. He begged permission to retire, and to renew his visit when he should have the happiness of hearing that she was better. Master would not allow of this, and they dined alone.

He withdrew early. Next day he called at the gate, on horseback, to inquire for mistress. He did so two or three times in that week.

What I observed myself, and what la bella Carolina told me, united to explain to me that master had now set his mind on curing mistress of her fanciful terror. He was all kindness, but he was sensible and firm. He reasoned with her, that to encourage such fancies was to invite melancholy, if not madness. That it rested with herself to be herself. That if she once resisted her strange weakness, so successfully as to receive the Signor Dellombra as an English lady would receive any other guest, it was for ever conquered. To make an end, the signore came again, and mistress received him without marked distress (though with constraint and apprehension still), and the evening passed serenely. Master was so delighted with this change, and so anxious to confirm it, that the Signor Dellombra became a constant guest. He was accomplished in pictures, books, and music; and his society, in any grim palazzo, would have been welcome.

I used to notice, many times, that mistress was not quite recovered. She would cast down her eyes and droop her head, before the Signor Dellombra, or would look at him with a terrified and fascinated glance, as if his presence had some evil influence or power upon her. Turning from her to him, I used to see him in the shaded gardens, or the large half-lighted sala, looking, as I might say, ‘fixedly upon her out of darkness.’ But, truly, I had not forgotten la bella Carolina’s words describing the face in the dream.

After his second visit I heard master say:

‘Now, see, my dear Clara, it’s over! Dellombra has come and gone, and your apprehension is broken like glass.’

‘Will he — will he ever come again?’ asked mistress.

‘Again? Why, surely, over and over again! Are you cold?’ (she shivered).

‘No, dear — but — he terrifies me: are you sure that he need come again?’

‘The surer for the question, Clara!’ replied master, cheerfully.

But, he was very hopeful of her complete recovery now, and grew more and more so every day. She was beautiful. He was happy.

‘All goes well, Baptista?’ he would say to me again.

‘Yes, signore, thank God; very well.’

We were all (said the Genoese courier, constraining himself to speak a little louder), we were all at Rome for the Carnival. I had been out, all day, with a Sicilian, a friend of mine, and a courier, who was there with an English family. As I returned at night to our hotel, I met the little Carolina, who never stirred from home alone, running distractedly along the Corso.

‘Carolina! What’s the matter?’

‘O Baptista! O, for the Lord’s sake! where is my mistress?’

‘Mistress, Carolina?’

‘Gone since morning — told me, when master went out on his day’s journey, not to call her, for she was tired with not resting in the night (having been in pain), and would lie in bed until the evening; then get up refreshed. She is gone! — she is gone! Master has come back, broken down the door, and she is gone! My beautiful, my good, my innocent mistress!’

The pretty little one so cried, and raved, and tore herself that I could not have held her, but for her swooning on my arm as if she had been shot. Master came up — in manner, face, or voice, no more the master that I knew, than I was he. He took me (I laid the little one upon her bed in the hotel, and left her with the chamber-women), in a carriage, furiously through the darkness, across the desolate Campagna. When it was day, and we stopped at a miserable post-house, all the horses had been hired twelve hours ago, and sent away in different directions. Mark me! by the Signor Dellombra, who had passed there in a carriage, with a frightened English lady crouching in one corner.

I never heard (said the Genoese courier, drawing a long breath) that she was ever traced beyond that spot. All I know is, that she vanished into infamous oblivion, with the dreaded face beside her that she had seen in her dream.

‘What do you call that?’ said the German courier, triumphantly. ‘Ghosts! There are no ghosts there! What do you call this, that I am going to tell you? Ghosts! There are no ghosts here!

I took an engagement once (pursued the German courier) with an English gentleman, elderly and a bachelor, to travel through my country, my Fatherland. He was a merchant who traded with my country and knew the language, but who had never been there since he was a boy — as I judge, some sixty years before.

His name was James, and he had a twin-brother John, also a bachelor. Between these brothers there was a great affection. They were in business together, at Goodman’s Fields, but they did not live together. Mr. James dwelt in Poland Street, turning out of Oxford Street, London; Mr. John resided by Epping Forest.

Mr. James and I were to start for Germany in about a week. The exact day depended on business. Mr. John came to Poland Street (where I was staying in the house), to pass that week with Mr. James. But, he said to his brother on the second day, ‘I don’t feel very well, James. There’s not much the matter with me; but I think I am a little gouty. I’ll go home and put myself under the care of my old housekeeper, who understands my ways. If I get quite better, I’ll come back and see you before you go. If I don’t feel well enough to resume my visit where I leave it off, why you will come and see me before you go.’ Mr. James, of course, said he would, and they shook hands — both hands, as they always did — and Mr. John ordered out his old-fashioned chariot and rumbled home.

It was on the second night after that — that is to say, the fourth in the week — when I was awoke out of my sound sleep by Mr. James coming into my bedroom in his flannel-gown, with a lighted candle. He sat upon the side of my bed, and looking at me, said:

‘Wilhelm, I have reason to think I have got some strange illness upon me.’

I then perceived that there was a very unusual expression in his face.

‘Wilhelm,’ said he, ‘I am not afraid or ashamed to tell you what I might be afraid or ashamed to tell another man. You come from a sensible country, where mysterious things are inquired into and are not settled to have been weighed and measured — or to have been unweighable and unmeasurable — or in either case to have been completely disposed of, for all time — ever so many years ago. I have just now seen the phantom of my brother.’

I confess (said the German courier) that it gave me a little tingling of the blood to hear it.

‘I have just now seen,’ Mr. James repeated, looking full at me, that I might see how collected he was, ‘the phantom of my brother John. I was sitting up in bed, unable to sleep, when it came into my room, in a white dress, and regarding me earnestly, passed up to the end of the room, glanced at some papers on my writing-desk, turned, and, still looking earnestly at me as it passed the bed, went out at the door. Now, I am not in the least mad, and am not in the least disposed to invest that phantom with any external existence out of myself. I think it is a warning to me that I am ill; and I think I had better be bled.’

I got out of bed directly (said the German courier) and began to get on my clothes, begging him not to be alarmed, and telling him that I would go myself to the doctor. I was just ready, when we heard a loud knocking and ringing at the street door. My room being an attic at the back, and Mr. James’s being the second-floor room in the front, we went down to his room, and put up the window, to see what was the matter.

‘Is that Mr. James?’ said a man below, falling back to the opposite side of the way to look up.

‘It is,’ said Mr. James, ‘and you are my brother’s man, Robert.’

‘Yes, Sir. I am sorry to say, Sir, that Mr. John is ill. He is very bad, Sir. It is even feared that he may be lying at the point of death. He wants to see you, Sir. I have a chaise here. Pray come to him. Pray lose no time.’

Mr. James and I looked at one another. ‘Wilhelm,’ said he, ‘this is strange. I wish you to come with me!’ I helped him to dress, partly there and partly in the chaise; and no grass grew under the horses’ iron shoes between Poland Street and the Forest.

Now, mind! (said the German courier) I went with Mr. James into his brother’s room, and I saw and heard myself what follows.

His brother lay upon his bed, at the upper end of a long bed-chamber. His old housekeeper was there, and others were there: I think three others were there, if not four, and they had been with him since early in the afternoon. He was in white, like the figure — necessarily so, because he had his night-dress on. He looked like the figure — necessarily so, because he looked earnestly at his brother when he saw him come into the room.

But, when his brother reached the bed-side, he slowly raised himself in bed, and looking full upon him, said these words:

‘JAMES, YOU HAVE SEEN ME BEFORE, TO-NIGHT — AND YOU KNOW IT!’

And so died!

I waited, when the German courier ceased, to hear something said of this strange story. The silence was unbroken. I looked round, and the five couriers were gone: so noiselessly that the ghostly mountain might have absorbed them into its eternal snows. By this time, I was by no means in a mood to sit alone in that awful scene, with the chill air coming solemnly upon me — or, if I may tell the truth, to sit alone anywhere. So I went back into the convent-parlour, and, finding the American gentleman still disposed to relate the biography of the Honourable Ananias Dodger, heard it all out.


THE LONG VOYAGE

WHEN the wind is blowing and the sleet or rain is driving against the dark windows, I love to sit by the fire, thinking of what I have read in books of voyage and travel. Such books have had a strong fascination for my mind from my earliest childhood; and I wonder it should have come to pass that I never have been round the world, never have been shipwrecked, ice-environed, tomahawked, or eaten.

Sitting on my ruddy hearth in the twilight of New Year’s Eve, I find incidents of travel rise around me from all the latitudes and longitudes of the globe. They observe no order or sequence, but appear and vanish as they will - ‘come like shadows, so depart.’ Columbus, alone upon the sea with his disaffected crew, looks over the waste of waters from his high station on the poop of his ship, and sees the first uncertain glimmer of the light, ‘rising and falling with the waves, like a torch in the bark of some fisherman,’ which is the shining star of a new world. Bruce is caged in Abyssinia, surrounded by the gory horrors which shall often startle him out of his sleep at home when years have passed away. Franklin, come to the end of his unhappy overland journey - would that it had been his last! - lies perishing of hunger with his brave companions: each emaciated figure stretched upon its miserable bed without the power to rise: all, dividing the weary days between their prayers, their remembrances of the dear ones at home, and conversation on the pleasures of eating; the last-named topic being ever present to them, likewise, in their dreams. All the African travellers, wayworn, solitary and sad, submit themselves again to drunken, murderous, man-selling despots, of the lowest order of humanity; and Mungo Park, fainting under a tree and succoured by a woman, gratefully remembers how his Good Samaritan has always come to him in woman’s shape, the wide world over.

A shadow on the wall in which my mind’s eye can discern some traces of a rocky sea-coast, recalls to me a fearful story of travel derived from that unpromising narrator of such stories, a parliamentary blue-book. A convict is its chief figure, and this man escapes with other prisoners from a penal settlement. It is an island, and they seize a boat, and get to the main land. Their way is by a rugged and precipitous sea-shore, and they have no earthly hope of ultimate escape, for the party of soldiers despatched by an easier course to cut them off, must inevitably arrive at their distant bourne long before them, and retake them if by any hazard they survive the horrors of the way. Famine, as they all must have foreseen, besets them early in their course. Some of the party die and are eaten; some are murdered by the rest and eaten. This one awful creature eats his fill, and sustains his strength, and lives on to be recaptured and taken back. The unrelateable experiences through which he has passed have been so tremendous, that he is not hanged as he might be, but goes back to his old chained-gang work. A little time, and he tempts one other prisoner away, seizes another boat, and flies once more - necessarily in the old hopeless direction, for he can take no other. He is soon cut off, and met by the pursuing party face to face, upon the beach. He is alone. In his former journey he acquired an inappeasable relish for his dreadful food. He urged the new man away, expressly to kill him and eat him. In the pockets on one side of his coarse convict- dress, are portions of the man’s body, on which he is regaling; in the pockets on the other side is an untouched store of salted pork (stolen before he left the island) for which he has no appetite. He is taken back, and he is hanged. But I shall never see that sea-beach on the wall or in the fire, without him, solitary monster, eating as he prowls along, while the sea rages and rises at him.

Captain Bligh (a worse man to be entrusted with arbitrary power there could scarcely be) is handed over the side of the Bounty, and turned adrift on the wide ocean in an open boat, by order of Fletcher Christian, one of his officers, at this very minute. Another flash of my fire, and ‘Thursday October Christian,’ five- and-twenty years of age, son of the dead and gone Fletcher by a savage mother, leaps aboard His Majesty’s ship Briton, hove-to off Pitcairn’s Island; says his simple grace before eating, in good English; and knows that a pretty little animal on board is called a dog, because in his childhood he had heard of such strange creatures from his father and the other mutineers, grown grey under the shade of the bread-fruit trees, speaking of their lost country far away.

See the Halsewell, East Indiaman outward bound, driving madly on a January night towards the rocks near Seacombe, on the island of Purbeck! The captain’s two dear daughters are aboard, and five other ladies. The ship has been driving many hours, has seven feet water in her hold, and her mainmast has been cut away. The description of her loss, familiar to me from my early boyhood, seems to be read aloud as she rushes to her destiny.

‘About two in the morning of Friday the sixth of January, the ship still driving, and approaching very fast to the shore, Mr. Henry Meriton, the second mate, went again into the cuddy, where the captain then was. Another conversation taking place, Captain Pierce expressed extreme anxiety for the preservation of his beloved daughters, and earnestly asked the officer if he could devise any method of saving them. On his answering with great concern, that he feared it would be impossible, but that their only chance would be to wait for morning, the captain lifted up his hands in silent and distressful ejaculation.

‘At this dreadful moment, the ship struck, with such violence as to dash the heads of those standing in the cuddy against the deck above them, and the shock was accompanied by a shriek of horror that burst at one instant from every quarter of the ship.

‘Many of the seamen, who had been remarkably inattentive and remiss in their duty during great part of the storm, now poured upon deck, where no exertions of the officers could keep them, while their assistance might have been useful. They had actually skulked in their hammocks, leaving the working of the pumps and other necessary labours to the officers of the ship, and the soldiers, who had made uncommon exertions. Roused by a sense of their danger, the same seamen, at this moment, in frantic exclamations, demanded of heaven and their fellow-sufferers that succour which their own efforts, timely made, might possibly have procured.

‘The ship continued to beat on the rocks; and soon bilging, fell with her broadside towards the shore. When she struck, a number of the men climbed up the ensign-staff, under an apprehension of her immediately going to pieces.

‘Mr. Meriton, at this crisis, offered to these unhappy beings the best advice which could be given; he recommended that all should come to the side of the ship lying lowest on the rocks, and singly to take the opportunities which might then offer, of escaping to the shore.

‘Having thus provided, to the utmost of his power, for the safety of the desponding crew, he returned to the round-house, where, by this time, all the passengers and most of the officers had assembled. The latter were employed in offering consolation to the unfortunate ladies; and, with unparalleled magnanimity, suffering their compassion for the fair and amiable companions of their misfortunes to prevail over the sense of their own danger.

‘In this charitable work of comfort, Mr. Meriton now joined, by assurances of his opinion, that, the ship would hold together till the morning, when all would be safe. Captain Pierce, observing one of the young gentlemen loud in his exclamations of terror, and frequently cry that the ship was parting, cheerfully bid him be quiet, remarking that though the ship should go to pieces, he would not, but would be safe enough.

‘It is difficult to convey a correct idea of the scene of this deplorable catastrophe, without describing the place where it happened. The Haleswell struck on the rocks at a part of the shore where the cliff is of vast height, and rises almost perpendicular from its base. But at this particular spot, the foot of the cliff is excavated into a cavern of ten or twelve yards in depth, and of breadth equal to the length of a large ship. The sides of the cavern are so nearly upright, as to be of extremely difficult access; and the bottom is strewed with sharp and uneven rocks, which seem, by some convulsion of the earth, to have been detached from its roof.

‘The ship lay with her broadside opposite to the mouth of this cavern, with her whole length stretched almost from side to side of it. But when she struck, it was too dark for the unfortunate persons on board to discover the real magnitude of the danger, and the extreme horror of such a situation.

‘In addition to the company already in the round-house, they had admitted three black women and two soldiers’ wives; who, with the husband of one of them, had been allowed to come in, though the seamen, who had tumultuously demanded entrance to get the lights, had been opposed and kept out by Mr. Rogers and Mr. Brimer, the third and fifth mates. The numbers there were, therefore, now increased to near fifty. Captain Pierce sat on a chair, a cot, or some other moveable, with a daughter on each side, whom he alternately pressed to his affectionate breast. The rest of the melancholy assembly were seated on the deck, which was strewed with musical instruments, and the wreck of furniture and other articles.

‘Here also Mr. Meriton, after having cut several wax-candles in pieces, and stuck them up in various parts of the round-house, and lighted up all the glass lanthorns he could find, took his seat, intending to wait the approach of dawn; and then assist the partners of his dangers to escape. But, observing that the poor ladies appeared parched and exhausted, he brought a basket of oranges and prevailed on some of them to refresh themselves by sucking a little of the juice. At this time they were all tolerably composed, except Miss Mansel, who was in hysteric fits on the floor of the deck of the round-house.

‘But on Mr. Meriton’s return to the company, he perceived a considerable alteration in the appearance of the ship; the sides were visibly giving way; the deck seemed to be lifting, and he discovered other strong indications that she could not hold much longer together. On this account, he attempted to go forward to look out, but immediately saw that the ship had separated in the middle, and that the forepart having changed its position, lay rather further out towards the sea. In such an emergency, when the next moment might plunge him into eternity, he determined to seize the present opportunity, and follow the example of the crew and the soldiers, who were now quitting the ship in numbers, and making their way to the shore, though quite ignorant of its nature and description.

‘Among other expedients, the ensign-staff had been unshipped, and attempted to be laid between the ship’s side and some of the rocks, but without success, for it snapped asunder before it reached them. However, by the light of a lanthorn, which a seaman handed through the skylight of the round-house to the deck, Mr. Meriton discovered a spar which appeared to be laid from the ship’s side to the rocks, and on this spar he resolved to attempt his escape.

‘Accordingly, lying down upon it, he thrust himself forward; however, he soon found that it had no communication with the rock; he reached the end of it, and then slipped off, receiving a very violent bruise in his fall, and before he could recover his legs, he was washed off by the surge. He now supported himself by swimming, until a returning wave dashed him against the back part of the cavern. Here he laid hold of a small projection in the rock, but was so much benumbed that he was on the point of quitting it, when a seaman, who had already gained a footing, extended his hand, and assisted him until he could secure himself a little on the rock; from which he clambered on a shelf still higher, and out of the reach of the surf.

‘Mr. Rogers, the third mate, remained with the captain and the unfortunate ladies and their companions nearly twenty minutes after Mr. Meriton had quitted the ship. Soon after the latter left the round-house, the captain asked what was become of him, to which Mr. Rogers replied, that he was gone on deck to see what could be done. After this, a heavy sea breaking over the ship, the ladies exclaimed, “Oh, poor Meriton! he is drowned; had he stayed with us he would have been safe!” and they all, particularly Miss Mary Pierce, expressed great concern at the apprehension of his loss.

‘The sea was now breaking in at the fore part of the ship, and reached as far as the mainmast. Captain Pierce gave Mr. Rogers a nod, and they took a lamp and went together into the stern-gallery, where, after viewing the rocks for some time, Captain Pierce asked Mr. Rogers if he thought there was any possibility of saving the girls; to which he replied, he feared there was none; for they could only discover the black face of the perpendicular rock, and not the cavern which afforded shelter to those who escaped. They then returned to the round-house, where Mr. Rogers hung up the lamp, and Captain Pierce sat down between his two daughters.

‘The sea continuing to break in very fast, Mr. Macmanus, a midshipman, and Mr. Schutz, a passenger, asked Mr. Rogers what they could do to escape. “Follow me,” he replied, and they all went into the stern-gallery, and from thence to the upper-quarter- gallery on the poop. While there, a very heavy sea fell on board, and the round-house gave way; Mr. Rogers heard the ladies shriek at intervals, as if the water reached them; the noise of the sea at other times drowning their voices.

‘Mr. Brimer had followed him to the poop, where they remained together about five minutes, when on the breaking of this heavy sea, they jointly seized a hen-coop. The same wave which proved fatal to some of those below, carried him and his companion to the rock, on which they were violently dashed and miserably bruised.

‘Here on the rock were twenty-seven men; but it now being low water, and as they were convinced that on the flowing of the tide all must be washed off, many attempted to get to the back or the sides of the cavern, beyond the reach of the returning sea. Scarcely more than six, besides Mr. Rogers and Mr. Brimer, succeeded.

‘Mr. Rogers, on gaining this station, was so nearly exhausted, that had his exertions been protracted only a few minutes longer, he must have sunk under them. He was now prevented from joining Mr. Meriton, by at least twenty men between them, none of whom could move, without the imminent peril of his life.

‘They found that a very considerable number of the crew, seamen and soldiers, and some petty officers, were in the same situation as themselves, though many who had reached the rocks below, perished in attempting to ascend. They could yet discern some part of the ship, and in their dreary station solaced themselves with the hopes of its remaining entire until day-break; for, in the midst of their own distress, the sufferings of the females on board affected them with the most poignant anguish; and every sea that broke inspired them with terror for their safety.

‘But, alas, their apprehensions were too soon realised! Within a very few minutes of the time that Mr. Rogers gained the rock, an universal shriek, which long vibrated in their ears, in which the voice of female distress was lamentably distinguished, announced the dreadful catastrophe. In a few moments all was hushed, except the roaring of the winds and the dashing of the waves; the wreck was buried in the deep, and not an atom of it was ever afterwards seen.’

The most beautiful and affecting incident I know, associated with a shipwreck, succeeds this dismal story for a winter night. The Grosvenor, East Indiaman, homeward bound, goes ashore on the coast of Caffraria. It is resolved that the officers, passengers, and crew, in number one hundred and thirty-five souls, shall endeavour to penetrate on foot, across trackless deserts, infested by wild beasts and cruel savages, to the Dutch settlements at the Cape of Good Hope. With this forlorn object before them, they finally separate into two parties - never more to meet on earth.

There is a solitary child among the passengers - a little boy of seven years old who has no relation there; and when the first party is moving away he cries after some member of it who has been kind to him. The crying of a child might be supposed to be a little thing to men in such great extremity; but it touches them, and he is immediately taken into that detachment.

From which time forth, this child is sublimely made a sacred charge. He is pushed, on a little raft, across broad rivers by the swimming sailors; they carry him by turns through the deep sand and long grass (he patiently walking at all other times); they share with him such putrid fish as they find to eat; they lie down and wait for him when the rough carpenter, who becomes his especial friend, lags behind. Beset by lions and tigers, by savages, by thirst, by hunger, by death in a crowd of ghastly shapes, they never - O Father of all mankind, thy name be blessed for it! - forget this child. The captain stops exhausted, and his faithful coxswain goes back and is seen to sit down by his side, and neither of the two shall be any more beheld until the great last day; but, as the rest go on for their lives, they take the child with them. The carpenter dies of poisonous berries eaten in starvation; and the steward, succeeding to the command of the party, succeeds to the sacred guardianship of the child.

God knows all he does for the poor baby; how he cheerfully carries him in his arms when he himself is weak and ill; how he feeds him when he himself is griped with want; how he folds his ragged jacket round him, lays his little worn face with a woman’s tenderness upon his sunburnt breast, soothes him in his sufferings, sings to him as he limps along, unmindful of his own parched and bleeding feet. Divided for a few days from the rest, they dig a grave in the sand and bury their good friend the cooper - these two companions alone in the wilderness - and then the time comes when they both are ill, and beg their wretched partners in despair, reduced and few in number now, to wait by them one day. They wait by them one day, they wait by them two days. On the morning of the third, they move very softly about, in making their preparations for the resumption of their journey; for, the child is sleeping by the fire, and it is agreed with one consent that he shall not be disturbed until the last moment. The moment comes, the fire is dying - and the child is dead.

His faithful friend, the steward, lingers but a little while behind him. His grief is great, he staggers on for a few days, lies down in the desert, and dies. But he shall be re-united in his immortal spirit - who can doubt it! - with the child, when he and the poor carpenter shall be raised up with the words, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto Me.’

As I recall the dispersal and disappearance of nearly all the participators in this once famous shipwreck (a mere handful being recovered at last), and the legends that were long afterwards revived from time to time among the English officers at the Cape, of a white woman with an infant, said to have been seen weeping outside a savage hut far in the interior, who was whisperingly associated with the remembrance of the missing ladies saved from the wrecked vessel, and who was often sought but never found, thoughts of another kind of travel came into my mind.

Thoughts of a voyager unexpectedly summoned from home, who travelled a vast distance, and could never return. Thoughts of this unhappy wayfarer in the depths of his sorrow, in the bitterness of his anguish, in the helplessness of his self- reproach, in the desperation of his desire to set right what he had left wrong, and do what he had left undone.

For, there were many, many things he had neglected. Little matters while he was at home and surrounded by them, but things of mighty moment when he was at an immeasurable distance. There were many many blessings that he had inadequately felt, there were many trivial injuries that he had not forgiven, there was love that he had but poorly returned, there was friendship that he had too lightly prized: there were a million kind words that he might have spoken, a million kind looks that he might have given, uncountable slight easy deeds in which he might have been most truly great and good. O for a day (he would exclaim), for but one day to make amends! But the sun never shone upon that happy day, and out of his remote captivity he never came.

Why does this traveller’s fate obscure, on New Year’s Eve, the other histories of travellers with which my mind was filled but now, and cast a solemn shadow over me! Must I one day make his journey? Even so. Who shall say, that I may not then be tortured by such late regrets: that I may not then look from my exile on my empty place and undone work? I stand upon a sea-shore, where the waves are years. They break and fall, and I may little heed them; but, with every wave the sea is rising, and I know that it will float me on this traveller’s voyage at last.


HUNTED DOWN


I.

MOST of us see some romances in life. In my capacity as Chief Manager of a Life Assurance Office, I think I have within the last thirty years seen more romances than the generality of men, however unpromising the opportunity may, at first sight, seem.

As I have retired, and live at my ease, I possess the means that I used to want, of considering what I have seen, at leisure. My experiences have a more remarkable aspect, so reviewed, than they had when they were in progress. I have come home from the Play now, and can recall the scenes of the Drama upon which the curtain has fallen, free from the glare, bewilderment, and bustle of the Theatre.

Let me recall one of these Romances of the real world.

There is nothing truer than physiognomy, taken in connection with manner. The art of reading that book of which Eternal Wisdom obliges every human creature to present his or her own page with the individual character written on it, is a difficult one, perhaps, and is little studied. It may require some natural aptitude, and it must require (for everything does) some patience and some pains. That these are not usually given to it, — that numbers of people accept a few stock commonplace expressions of the face as the whole list of characteristics, and neither seek nor know the refinements that are truest, — that You, for instance, give a great deal of time and attention to the reading of music, Greek, Latin, French, Italian, Hebrew, if you please, and do not qualify yourself to read the face of the master or mistress looking over your shoulder teaching it to you, — I assume to be five hundred times more probable than improbable. Perhaps a little self-sufficiency may be at the bottom of this; facial expression requires no study from you, you think; it comes by nature to you to know enough about it, and you are not to be taken in.

I confess, for my part, that I have been taken in, over and over again. I have been taken in by acquaintances, and I have been taken in (of course) by friends; far oftener by friends than by any other class of persons. How came I to be so deceived? Had I quite misread their faces?

No. Believe me, my first impression of those people, founded on face and manner alone, was invariably true. My mistake was in suffering them to come nearer to me and explain themselves away.


II.

The partition which separated my own office from our general outer office in the City was of thick plate-glass. I could see through it what passed in the outer office, without hearing a word. I had it put up in place of a wall that had been there for years, — ever since the house was built. It is no matter whether I did or did not make the change in order that I might derive my first impression of strangers, who came to us on business, from their faces alone, without being influenced by anything they said. Enough to mention that I turned my glass partition to that account, and that a Life Assurance Office is at all times exposed to be practised upon by the most crafty and cruel of the human race.

It was through my glass partition that I first saw the gentleman whose story I am going to tell.

He had come in without my observing it, and had put his hat and umbrella on the broad counter, and was bending over it to take some papers from one of the clerks. He was about forty or so, dark, exceedingly well dressed in black, — being in mourning, — and the hand he extended with a polite air, had a particularly well-fitting black-kid glove upon it. His hair, which was elaborately brushed and oiled, was parted straight up the middle; and he presented this parting to the clerk, exactly (to my thinking) as if he had said, in so many words: ‘You must take me, if you please, my friend, just as I show myself. Come straight up here, follow the gravel path, keep off the grass, I allow no trespassing.’

I conceived a very great aversion to that man the moment I thus saw him.

He had asked for some of our printed forms, and the clerk was giving them to him and explaining them. An obliged and agreeable smile was on his face, and his eyes met those of the clerk with a sprightly look. (I have known a vast quantity of nonsense talked about bad men not looking you in the face. Don’t trust that conventional idea. Dishonesty will stare honesty out of countenance, any day in the week, if there is anything to be got by it.)

I saw, in the corner of his eyelash, that he became aware of my looking at him. Immediately he turned the parting in his hair toward the glass partition, as if he said to me with a sweet smile, ‘Straight up here, if you please. Off the grass!’

In a few moments he had put on his hat and taken up his umbrella, and was gone.

I beckoned the clerk into my room, and asked, ‘Who was that?’

He had the gentleman’s card in his hand. ‘Mr. Julius Slinkton, Middle Temple.’

‘A barrister, Mr. Adams?’

‘I think not, sir.’

‘I should have thought him a clergyman, but for his having no Reverend here,’ said I.

‘Probably, from his appearance,’ Mr. Adams replied, ‘he is reading for orders.’

I should mention that he wore a dainty white cravat, and dainty linen altogether.

‘What did he want, Mr. Adams?’

‘Merely a form of proposal, sir, and form of reference.’

‘Recommended here? Did he say?’

‘Yes, he said he was recommended here by a friend of yours. He noticed you, but said that as he had not the pleasure of your personal acquaintance he would not trouble you.’

‘Did he know my name?’

‘O yes, sir! He said, “There is Mr. Sampson, I see!” ’

‘A well-spoken gentleman, apparently?’

‘Remarkably so, sir.’

‘Insinuating manners, apparently?’

‘Very much so, indeed, sir.’

‘Hah!’ said I. ‘I want nothing at present, Mr. Adams.’

Within a fortnight of that day I went to dine with a friend of mine, a merchant, a man of taste, who buys pictures and books, and the first man I saw among the company was Mr. Julius Slinkton. There he was, standing before the fire, with good large eyes and an open expression of face; but still (I thought) requiring everybody to come at him by the prepared way he offered, and by no other.

I noticed him ask my friend to introduce him to Mr. Sampson, and my friend did so. Mr. Slinkton was very happy to see me. Not too happy; there was no over-doing of the matter; happy in a thoroughly well-bred, perfectly unmeaning way.

‘I thought you had met,’ our host observed.

‘No,’ said Mr. Slinkton. ‘I did look in at Mr. Sampson’s office, on your recommendation; but I really did not feel justified in troubling Mr. Sampson himself, on a point in the everyday routine of an ordinary clerk.’

I said I should have been glad to show him any attention on our friend’s introduction.

‘I am sure of that,’ said he, ‘and am much obliged. At another time, perhaps, I may be less delicate. Only, however, if I have real business; for I know, Mr. Sampson, how precious business time is, and what a vast number of impertinent people there are in the world.’

I acknowledged his consideration with a slight bow. ‘You were thinking,’ said I, ‘of effecting a policy on your life.’

‘O dear no! I am afraid I am not so prudent as you pay me the compliment of supposing me to be, Mr. Sampson. I merely inquired for a friend. But you know what friends are in such matters. Nothing may ever come of it. I have the greatest reluctance to trouble men of business with inquiries for friends, knowing the probabilities to be a thousand to one that the friends will never follow them up. People are so fickle, so selfish, so inconsiderate. Don’t you, in your business, find them so every day, Mr. Sampson?’

I was going to give a qualified answer; but he turned his smooth, white parting on me with its ‘Straight up here, if you please!’ and I answered ‘Yes.’

‘I hear, Mr. Sampson,’ he resumed presently, for our friend had a new cook, and dinner was not so punctual as usual, ‘that your profession has recently suffered a great loss.’

‘In money?’ said I.

He laughed at my ready association of loss with money, and replied, ‘No, in talent and vigour.’

Not at once following out his allusion, I considered for a moment. ‘Has it sustained a loss of that kind?’ said I. ‘I was not aware of it.’

‘Understand me, Mr. Sampson. I don’t imagine that you have retired. It is not so bad as that. But Mr. Meltham — ‘

‘O, to be sure!’ said I. ‘Yes! Mr. Meltham, the young actuary of the “Inestimable.” ’

‘Just so,’ he returned in a consoling way.

‘He is a great loss. He was at once the most profound, the most original, and the most energetic man I have ever known connected with Life Assurance.’

I spoke strongly; for I had a high esteem and admiration for Meltham; and my gentleman had indefinitely conveyed to me some suspicion that he wanted to sneer at him. He recalled me to my guard by presenting that trim pathway up his head, with its internal ‘Not on the grass, if you please — the gravel.’

‘You knew him, Mr. Slinkton.’

‘Only by reputation. To have known him as an acquaintance or as a friend, is an honour I should have sought if he had remained in society, though I might never have had the good fortune to attain it, being a man of far inferior mark. He was scarcely above thirty, I suppose?’

‘About thirty.’

‘Ah!’ he sighed in his former consoling way. ‘What creatures we are! To break up, Mr. Sampson, and become incapable of business at that time of life! — Any reason assigned for the melancholy fact?’

(‘Humph!’ thought I, as I looked at him. ‘But I won’t go up the track, and I will go on the grass.’)

‘What reason have you heard assigned, Mr. Slinkton?’ I asked, point-blank.

‘Most likely a false one. You know what Rumour is, Mr. Sampson. I never repeat what I hear; it is the only way of paring the nails and shaving the head of Rumour. But when you ask me what reason I have heard assigned for Mr. Meltham’s passing away from among men, it is another thing. I am not gratifying idle gossip then. I was told, Mr. Sampson, that Mr. Meltham had relinquished all his avocations and all his prospects, because he was, in fact, broken-hearted. A disappointed attachment I heard, — though it hardly seems probable, in the case of a man so distinguished and so attractive.’

‘Attractions and distinctions are no armour against death,’ said I.

‘O, she died? Pray pardon me. I did not hear that. That, indeed, makes it very, very sad. Poor Mr. Meltham! She died? Ah, dear me! Lamentable, lamentable!’

I still thought his pity was not quite genuine, and I still suspected an unaccountable sneer under all this, until he said, as we were parted, like the other knots of talkers, by the announcement of dinner:

‘Mr. Sampson, you are surprised to see me so moved on behalf of a man whom I have never known. I am not so disinterested as you may suppose. I have suffered, and recently too, from death myself. I have lost one of two charming nieces, who were my constant companions. She died young — barely three-and-twenty; and even her remaining sister is far from strong. The world is a grave!’

He said this with deep feeling, and I felt reproached for the coldness of my manner. Coldness and distrust had been engendered in me, I knew, by my bad experiences; they were not natural to me; and I often thought how much I had lost in life, losing trustfulness, and how little I had gained, gaining hard caution. This state of mind being habitual to me, I troubled myself more about this conversation than I might have troubled myself about a greater matter. I listened to his talk at dinner, and observed how readily other men responded to it, and with what a graceful instinct he adapted his subjects to the knowledge and habits of those he talked with. As, in talking with me, he had easily started the subject I might be supposed to understand best, and to be the most interested in, so, in talking with others, he guided himself by the same rule. The company was of a varied character; but he was not at fault, that I could discover, with any member of it. He knew just as much of each man’s pursuit as made him agreeable to that man in reference to it, and just as little as made it natural in him to seek modestly for information when the theme was broached.

As he talked and talked — but really not too much, for the rest of us seemed to force it upon him — I became quite angry with myself. I took his face to pieces in my mind, like a watch, and examined it in detail. I could not say much against any of his features separately; I could say even less against them when they were put together. ‘Then is it not monstrous,’ I asked myself, ‘that because a man happens to part his hair straight up the middle of his head, I should permit myself to suspect, and even to detest him?’

(I may stop to remark that this was no proof of my sense. An observer of men who finds himself steadily repelled by some apparently trifling thing in a stranger is right to give it great weight. It may be the clue to the whole mystery. A hair or two will show where a lion is hidden. A very little key will open a very heavy door.)

I took my part in the conversation with him after a time, and we got on remarkably well. In the drawing-room I asked the host how long he had known Mr. Slinkton. He answered, not many months; he had met him at the house of a celebrated painter then present, who had known him well when he was travelling with his nieces in Italy for their health. His plans in life being broken by the death of one of them, he was reading with the intention of going back to college as a matter of form, taking his degree, and going into orders. I could not but argue with myself that here was the true explanation of his interest in poor Meltham, and that I had been almost brutal in my distrust on that simple head.


III.

On the very next day but one I was sitting behind my glass partition, as before, when he came into the outer office, as before. The moment I saw him again without hearing him, I hated him worse than ever.

It was only for a moment that I had this opportunity; for he waved his tight-fitting black glove the instant I looked at him, and came straight in.

‘Mr. Sampson, good-day! I presume, you see, upon your kind permission to intrude upon you. I don’t keep my word in being justified by business, for my business here — if I may so abuse the word — is of the slightest nature.’

I asked, was it anything I could assist him in?

‘I thank you, no. I merely called to inquire outside whether my dilatory friend had been so false to himself as to be practical and sensible. But, of course, he has done nothing. I gave him your papers with my own hand, and he was hot upon the intention, but of course he has done nothing. Apart from the general human disinclination to do anything that ought to be done, I dare say there is especially about assuring one’s life. You find it like will-making. People are so superstitious, and take it for granted they will die soon afterwards.’

‘Up here, if you please; straight up here, Mr. Sampson. Neither to the right nor to the left.’ I almost fancied I could hear him breathe the words as he sat smiling at me, with that intolerable parting exactly opposite the bridge of my nose.

‘There is such a feeling sometimes, no doubt,’ I replied; ‘but I don’t think it obtains to any great extent.’

‘Well,’ said he, with a shrug and a smile, ‘I wish some good angel would influence my friend in the right direction. I rashly promised his mother and sister in Norfolk to see it done, and he promised them that he would do it. But I suppose he never will.’

He spoke for a minute or two on indifferent topics, and went away.

I had scarcely unlocked the drawers of my writing-table next morning, when he reappeared. I noticed that he came straight to the door in the glass partition, and did not pause a single moment outside.

‘Can you spare me two minutes, my dear Mr. Sampson?’

‘By all means.’

‘Much obliged,’ laying his hat and umbrella on the table; ‘I came early, not to interrupt you. The fact is, I am taken by surprise in reference to this proposal my friend has made.’

‘Has he made one?’ said I.

‘Ye-es,’ he answered, deliberately looking at me; and then a bright idea seemed to strike him — ‘or he only tells me he has. Perhaps that may be a new way of evading the matter. By Jupiter, I never thought of that!’

Mr. Adams was opening the morning’s letters in the outer office. ‘What is the name, Mr. Slinkton?’ I asked.

‘Beckwith.’

I looked out at the door and requested Mr. Adams, if there were a proposal in that name, to bring it in. He had already laid it out of his hand on the counter. It was easily selected from the rest, and he gave it me. Alfred Beckwith. Proposal to effect a policy with us for two thousand pounds. Dated yesterday.

‘From the Middle Temple, I see, Mr. Slinkton.’

‘Yes. He lives on the same staircase with me; his door is opposite. I never thought he would make me his reference though.’

‘It seems natural enough that he should.’

‘Quite so, Mr. Sampson; but I never thought of it. Let me see.’ He took the printed paper from his pocket. ‘How am I to answer all these questions?’

‘According to the truth, of course,’ said I.

‘O, of course!’ he answered, looking up from the paper with a smile; ‘I meant they were so many. But you do right to be particular. It stands to reason that you must be particular. Will you allow me to use your pen and ink?’

‘Certainly.’

‘And your desk?’

‘Certainly.’

He had been hovering about between his hat and his umbrella for a place to write on. He now sat down in my chair, at my blotting-paper and inkstand, with the long walk up his head in accurate perspective before me, as I stood with my back to the fire.

Before answering each question he ran over it aloud, and discussed it. How long had he known Mr. Alfred Beckwith? That he had to calculate by years upon his fingers. What were his habits? No difficulty about them; temperate in the last degree, and took a little too much exercise, if anything. All the answers were satisfactory. When he had written them all, he looked them over, and finally signed them in a very pretty hand. He supposed he had now done with the business. I told him he was not likely to be troubled any farther. Should he leave the papers there? If he pleased. Much obliged. Good-morning.

I had had one other visitor before him; not at the office, but at my own house. That visitor had come to my bedside when it was not yet daylight, and had been seen by no one else but by my faithful confidential servant.

A second reference paper (for we required always two) was sent down into Norfolk, and was duly received back by post. This, likewise, was satisfactorily answered in every respect. Our forms were all complied with; we accepted the proposal, and the premium for one year was paid.


IV.

For six or seven months I saw no more of Mr. Slinkton. He called once at my house, but I was not at home; and he once asked me to dine with him in the Temple, but I was engaged. His friend’s assurance was effected in March. Late in September or early in October I was down at Scarborough for a breath of sea-air, where I met him on the beach. It was a hot evening; he came toward me with his hat in his hand; and there was the walk I had felt so strongly disinclined to take in perfect order again, exactly in front of the bridge of my nose.

He was not alone, but had a young lady on his arm.

She was dressed in mourning, and I looked at her with great interest. She had the appearance of being extremely delicate, and her face was remarkably pale and melancholy; but she was very pretty. He introduced her as his niece, Miss Niner.

‘Are you strolling, Mr. Sampson? Is it possible you can be idle?’

It was possible, and I was strolling.

‘Shall we stroll together?’

‘With pleasure.’

The young lady walked between us, and we walked on the cool sea sand, in the direction of Filey.

‘There have been wheels here,’ said Mr. Slinkton. ‘And now I look again, the wheels of a hand-carriage! Margaret, my love, your shadow without doubt!’

‘Miss Niner’s shadow?’ I repeated, looking down at it on the sand.

‘Not that one,’ Mr. Slinkton returned, laughing. ‘Margaret, my dear, tell Mr. Sampson.’

‘Indeed,’ said the young lady, turning to me, ‘there is nothing to tell — except that I constantly see the same invalid old gentleman at all times, wherever I go. I have mentioned it to my uncle, and he calls the gentleman my shadow.’

‘Does he live in Scarborough?’ I asked.

‘He is staying here.’

‘Do you live in Scarborough?’

‘No, I am staying here. My uncle has placed me with a family here, for my health.’

‘And your shadow?’ said I, smiling.

‘My shadow,’ she answered, smiling too, ‘is — like myself — not very robust, I fear; for I lose my shadow sometimes, as my shadow loses me at other times. We both seem liable to confinement to the house. I have not seen my shadow for days and days; but it does oddly happen, occasionally, that wherever I go, for many days together, this gentleman goes. We have come together in the most unfrequented nooks on this shore.’

‘Is this he?’ said I, pointing before us.

The wheels had swept down to the water’s edge, and described a great loop on the sand in turning. Bringing the loop back towards us, and spinning it out as it came, was a hand-carriage, drawn by a man.

‘Yes,’ said Miss Niner, ‘this really is my shadow, uncle.’

As the carriage approached us and we approached the carriage, I saw within it an old man, whose head was sunk on his breast, and who was enveloped in a variety of wrappers. He was drawn by a very quiet but very keen-looking man, with iron-gray hair, who was slightly lame. They had passed us, when the carriage stopped, and the old gentleman within, putting out his arm, called to me by my name. I went back, and was absent from Mr. Slinkton and his niece for about five minutes.

When I rejoined them, Mr. Slinkton was the first to speak. Indeed, he said to me in a raised voice before I came up with him:

‘It is well you have not been longer, or my niece might have died of curiosity to know who her shadow is, Mr. Sampson.’

‘An old East India Director,’ said I. ‘An intimate friend of our friend’s, at whose house I first had the pleasure of meeting you. A certain Major Banks. You have heard of him?’

‘Never.’

‘Very rich, Miss Niner; but very old, and very crippled. An amiable man, sensible — much interested in you. He has just been expatiating on the affection that he has observed to exist between you and your uncle.’

Mr. Slinkton was holding his hat again, and he passed his hand up the straight walk, as if he himself went up it serenely, after me.

‘Mr. Sampson,’ he said, tenderly pressing his niece’s arm in his, ‘our affection was always a strong one, for we have had but few near ties. We have still fewer now. We have associations to bring us together, that are not of this world, Margaret.’

‘Dear uncle!’ murmured the young lady, and turned her face aside to hide her tears.

‘My niece and I have such remembrances and regrets in common, Mr. Sampson,’ he feelingly pursued, ‘that it would be strange indeed if the relations between us were cold or indifferent. If I remember a conversation we once had together, you will understand the reference I make. Cheer up, dear Margaret. Don’t droop, don’t droop. My Margaret! I cannot bear to see you droop!’

The poor young lady was very much affected, but controlled herself. His feelings, too, were very acute. In a word, he found himself under such great need of a restorative, that he presently went away, to take a bath of sea-water, leaving the young lady and me sitting by a point of rock, and probably presuming — but that you will say was a pardonable indulgence in a luxury — that she would praise him with all her heart.

She did, poor thing! With all her confiding heart, she praised him to me, for his care of her dead sister, and for his untiring devotion in her last illness. The sister had wasted away very slowly, and wild and terrible fantasies had come over her toward the end, but he had never been impatient with her, or at a loss; had always been gentle, watchful, and self-possessed. The sister had known him, as she had known him, to be the best of men, the kindest of men, and yet a man of such admirable strength of character, as to be a very tower for the support of their weak natures while their poor lives endured.

‘I shall leave him, Mr. Sampson, very soon,’ said the young lady; ‘I know my life is drawing to an end; and when I am gone, I hope he will marry and be happy. I am sure he has lived single so long, only for my sake, and for my poor, poor sister’s.’

The little hand-carriage had made another great loop on the damp sand, and was coming back again, gradually spinning out a slim figure of eight, half a mile long.

‘Young lady,’ said I, looking around, laying my hand upon her arm, and speaking in a low voice, ‘time presses. You hear the gentle murmur of that sea?’

She looked at me with the utmost wonder and alarm, saying, ‘Yes!’

‘And you know what a voice is in it when the storm comes?’

‘Yes!’

‘You see how quiet and peaceful it lies before us, and you know what an awful sight of power without pity it might be, this very night!’

‘Yes!’

‘But if you had never heard or seen it, or heard of it in its cruelty, could you believe that it beats every inanimate thing in its way to pieces, without mercy, and destroys life without remorse?’

‘You terrify me, sir, by these questions!’

‘To save you, young lady, to save you! For God’s sake, collect your strength and collect your firmness! If you were here alone, and hemmed in by the rising tide on the flow to fifty feet above your head, you could not be in greater danger than the danger you are now to be saved from.’

The figure on the sand was spun out, and straggled off into a crooked little jerk that ended at the cliff very near us.

‘As I am, before Heaven and the Judge of all mankind, your friend, and your dead sister’s friend, I solemnly entreat you, Miss Niner, without one moment’s loss of time, to come to this gentleman with me!’

If the little carriage had been less near to us, I doubt if I could have got her away; but it was so near that we were there before she had recovered the hurry of being urged from the rock. I did not remain there with her two minutes. Certainly within five, I had the inexpressible satisfaction of seeing her — from the point we had sat on, and to which I had returned — half supported and half carried up some rude steps notched in the cliff, by the figure of an active man. With that figure beside her, I knew she was safe anywhere.

I sat alone on the rock, awaiting Mr. Slinkton’s return. The twilight was deepening and the shadows were heavy, when he came round the point, with his hat hanging at his button-hole, smoothing his wet hair with one of his hands, and picking out the old path with the other and a pocket-comb.

‘My niece not here, Mr. Sampson?’ he said, looking about.

‘Miss Niner seemed to feel a chill in the air after the sun was down, and has gone home.’

He looked surprised, as though she were not accustomed to do anything without him; even to originate so slight a proceeding.

‘I persuaded Miss Niner,’ I explained.

‘Ah!’ said he. ‘She is easily persuaded — for her good. Thank you, Mr. Sampson; she is better within doors. The bathing-place was farther than I thought, to say the truth.’

‘Miss Niner is very delicate,’ I observed.

He shook his head and drew a deep sigh. ‘Very, very, very. You may recollect my saying so. The time that has since intervened has not strengthened her. The gloomy shadow that fell upon her sister so early in life seems, in my anxious eyes, to gather over her, ever darker, ever darker. Dear Margaret, dear Margaret! But we must hope.’

The hand-carriage was spinning away before us at a most indecorous pace for an invalid vehicle, and was making most irregular curves upon the sand. Mr. Slinkton, noticing it after he had put his handkerchief to his eyes, said;

‘If I may judge from appearances, your friend will be upset, Mr. Sampson.’

‘It looks probable, certainly,’ said I.

‘The servant must be drunk.’

‘The servants of old gentlemen will get drunk sometimes,’ said I.

‘The major draws very light, Mr. Sampson.’

‘The major does draw light,’ said I.

By this time the carriage, much to my relief, was lost in the darkness. We walked on for a little, side by side over the sand, in silence. After a short while he said, in a voice still affected by the emotion that his niece’s state of health had awakened in him,

‘Do you stay here long, Mr. Sampson?’

‘Why, no. I am going away to-night.’

‘So soon? But business always holds you in request. Men like Mr. Sampson are too important to others, to be spared to their own need of relaxation and enjoyment.’

‘I don’t know about that,’ said I. ‘However, I am going back.’

‘To London?’

‘To London.’

‘I shall be there too, soon after you.’

I knew that as well as he did. But I did not tell him so. Any more than I told him what defensive weapon my right hand rested on in my pocket, as I walked by his side. Any more than I told him why I did not walk on the sea side of him with the night closing in.

We left the beach, and our ways diverged. We exchanged good-night, and had parted indeed, when he said, returning,

‘Mr. Sampson, may I ask? Poor Meltham, whom we spoke of, — dead yet?’

‘Not when I last heard of him; but too broken a man to live long, and hopelessly lost to his old calling.’

‘Dear, dear, dear!’ said he, with great feeling. ‘Sad, sad, sad! The world is a grave!’ And so went his way.

It was not his fault if the world were not a grave; but I did not call that observation after him, any more than I had mentioned those other things just now enumerated. He went his way, and I went mine with all expedition. This happened, as I have said, either at the end of September or beginning of October. The next time I saw him, and the last time, was late in November.


V.

I had a very particular engagement to breakfast in the Temple. It was a bitter north-easterly morning, and the sleet and slush lay inches deep in the streets. I could get no conveyance, and was soon wet to the knees; but I should have been true to that appointment, though I had to wade to it up to my neck in the same impediments.

The appointment took me to some chambers in the Temple. They were at the top of a lonely corner house overlooking the river. The name, MR. ALFRED BECKWITH, was painted on the outer door. On the door opposite, on the same landing, the name MR. JULIUS SLINKTON. The doors of both sets of chambers stood open, so that anything said aloud in one set could be heard in the other.

I had never been in those chambers before. They were dismal, close, unwholesome, and oppressive; the furniture, originally good, and not yet old, was faded and dirty, — the rooms were in great disorder; there was a strong prevailing smell of opium, brandy, and tobacco; the grate and fire-irons were splashed all over with unsightly blotches of rust; and on a sofa by the fire, in the room where breakfast had been prepared, lay the host, Mr. Beckwith, a man with all the appearances of the worst kind of drunkard, very far advanced upon his shameful way to death.

‘Slinkton is not come yet,’ said this creature, staggering up when I went in; ‘I’ll call him. — Halloa! Julius Caesar! Come and drink!’ As he hoarsely roared this out, he beat the poker and tongs together in a mad way, as if that were his usual manner of summoning his associate.

The voice of Mr. Slinkton was heard through the clatter from the opposite side of the staircase, and he came in. He had not expected the pleasure of meeting me. I have seen several artful men brought to a stand, but I never saw a man so aghast as he was when his eyes rested on mine.

‘Julius Caesar,’ cried Beckwith, staggering between us, ‘Mist’ Sampson! Mist’ Sampson, Julius Caesar! Julius, Mist’ Sampson, is the friend of my soul. Julius keeps me plied with liquor, morning, noon, and night. Julius is a real benefactor. Julius threw the tea and coffee out of window when I used to have any. Julius empties all the water-jugs of their contents, and fills ‘em with spirits. Julius winds me up and keeps me going. — Boil the brandy, Julius!’

There was a rusty and furred saucepan in the ashes, — the ashes looked like the accumulation of weeks, — and Beckwith, rolling and staggering between us as if he were going to plunge headlong into the fire, got the saucepan out, and tried to force it into Slinkton’s hand.

‘Boil the brandy, Julius Caesar! Come! Do your usual office. Boil the brandy!’

He became so fierce in his gesticulations with the saucepan, that I expected to see him lay open Slinkton’s head with it. I therefore put out my hand to check him. He reeled back to the sofa, and sat there panting, shaking, and red-eyed, in his rags of dressing-gown, looking at us both. I noticed then that there was nothing to drink on the table but brandy, and nothing to eat but salted herrings, and a hot, sickly, highly-peppered stew.

‘At all events, Mr. Sampson,’ said Slinkton, offering me the smooth gravel path for the last time, ‘I thank you for interfering between me and this unfortunate man’s violence. However you came here, Mr. Sampson, or with whatever motive you came here, at least I thank you for that.’

‘Boil the brandy,’ muttered Beckwith.

Without gratifying his desire to know how I came there, I said, quietly, ‘How is your niece, Mr. Slinkton?’

He looked hard at me, and I looked hard at him.

‘I am sorry to say, Mr. Sampson, that my niece has proved treacherous and ungrateful to her best friend. She left me without a word of notice or explanation. She was misled, no doubt, by some designing rascal. Perhaps you may have heard of it.’

‘I did hear that she was misled by a designing rascal. In fact, I have proof of it.’

‘Are you sure of that?’ said he.

‘Quite.’

‘Boil the brandy,’ muttered Beckwith. ‘Company to breakfast, Julius Caesar. Do your usual office, — provide the usual breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper. Boil the brandy!’

The eyes of Slinkton looked from him to me, and he said, after a moment’s consideration,

‘Mr. Sampson, you are a man of the world, and so am I. I will be plain with you.’

‘O no, you won’t,’ said I, shaking my head.

‘I tell you, sir, I will be plain with you.’

‘And I tell you you will not,’ said I. ‘I know all about you. You plain with any one? Nonsense, nonsense!’

‘I plainly tell you, Mr. Sampson,’ he went on, with a manner almost composed, ‘that I understand your object. You want to save your funds, and escape from your liabilities; these are old tricks of trade with you Office-gentlemen. But you will not do it, sir; you will not succeed. You have not an easy adversary to play against, when you play against me. We shall have to inquire, in due time, when and how Mr. Beckwith fell into his present habits. With that remark, sir, I put this poor creature, and his incoherent wanderings of speech, aside, and wish you a good morning and a better case next time.’

While he was saying this, Beckwith had filled a half-pint glass with brandy. At this moment, he threw the brandy at his face, and threw the glass after it. Slinkton put his hands up, half blinded with the spirit, and cut with the glass across the forehead. At the sound of the breakage, a fourth person came into the room, closed the door, and stood at it; he was a very quiet but very keen-looking man, with iron-gray hair, and slightly lame.

Slinkton pulled out his handkerchief, assuaged the pain in his smarting eyes, and dabbled the blood on his forehead. He was a long time about it, and I saw that in the doing of it, a tremendous change came over him, occasioned by the change in Beckwith, — who ceased to pant and tremble, sat upright, and never took his eyes off him. I never in my life saw a face in which abhorrence and determination were so forcibly painted as in Beckwith’s then.

‘Look at me, you villain,’ said Beckwith, ‘and see me as I really am. I took these rooms, to make them a trap for you. I came into them as a drunkard, to bait the trap for you. You fell into the trap, and you will never leave it alive. On the morning when you last went to Mr. Sampson’s office, I had seen him first. Your plot has been known to both of us, all along, and you have been counter-plotted all along. What? Having been cajoled into putting that prize of two thousand pounds in your power, I was to be done to death with brandy, and, brandy not proving quick enough, with something quicker? Have I never seen you, when you thought my senses gone, pouring from your little bottle into my glass? Why, you Murderer and Forger, alone here with you in the dead of night, as I have so often been, I have had my hand upon the trigger of a pistol, twenty times, to blow your brains out!’

This sudden starting up of the thing that he had supposed to be his imbecile victim into a determined man, with a settled resolution to hunt him down and be the death of him, mercilessly expressed from head to foot, was, in the first shock, too much for him. Without any figure of speech, he staggered under it. But there is no greater mistake than to suppose that a man who is a calculating criminal, is, in any phase of his guilt, otherwise than true to himself, and perfectly consistent with his whole character. Such a man commits murder, and murder is the natural culmination of his course; such a man has to outface murder, and will do it with hardihood and effrontery. It is a sort of fashion to express surprise that any notorious criminal, having such crime upon his conscience, can so brave it out. Do you think that if he had it on his conscience at all, or had a conscience to have it upon, he would ever have committed the crime?

Perfectly consistent with himself, as I believe all such monsters to be, this Slinkton recovered himself, and showed a defiance that was sufficiently cold and quiet. He was white, he was haggard, he was changed; but only as a sharper who had played for a great stake and had been outwitted and had lost the game.

‘Listen to me, you villain,’ said Beckwith, ‘and let every word you hear me say be a stab in your wicked heart. When I took these rooms, to throw myself in your way and lead you on to the scheme that I knew my appearance and supposed character and habits would suggest to such a devil, how did I know that? Because you were no stranger to me. I knew you well. And I knew you to be the cruel wretch who, for so much money, had killed one innocent girl while she trusted him implicitly, and who was by inches killing another.’

Slinkton took out a snuff-box, took a pinch of snuff, and laughed.

‘But see here,’ said Beckwith, never looking away, never raising his voice, never relaxing his face, never unclenching his hand. ‘See what a dull wolf you have been, after all! The infatuated drunkard who never drank a fiftieth part of the liquor you plied him with, but poured it away, here, there, everywhere — almost before your eyes; who bought over the fellow you set to watch him and to ply him, by outbidding you in his bribe, before he had been at his work three days — with whom you have observed no caution, yet who was so bent on ridding the earth of you as a wild beast, that he would have defeated you if you had been ever so prudent — that drunkard whom you have, many a time, left on the floor of this room, and who has even let you go out of it, alive and undeceived, when you have turned him over with your foot — has, almost as often, on the same night, within an hour, within a few minutes, watched you awake, had his hand at your pillow when you were asleep, turned over your papers, taken samples from your bottles and packets of powder, changed their contents, rifled every secret of your life!’

He had had another pinch of snuff in his hand, but had gradually let it drop from between his fingers to the floor; where he now smoothed it out with his foot, looking down at it the while.

‘That drunkard,’ said Beckwith, ‘who had free access to your rooms at all times, that he might drink the strong drinks that you left in his way and be the sooner ended, holding no more terms with you than he would hold with a tiger, has had his master-key for all your locks, his test for all your poisons, his clue to your cipher-writing. He can tell you, as well as you can tell him, how long it took to complete that deed, what doses there were, what intervals, what signs of gradual decay upon mind and body; what distempered fancies were produced, what observable changes, what physical pain. He can tell you, as well as you can tell him, that all this was recorded day by day, as a lesson of experience for future service. He can tell you, better than you can tell him, where that journal is at this moment.’

Slinkton stopped the action of his foot, and looked at Beckwith.

‘No,’ said the latter, as if answering a question from him. ‘Not in the drawer of the writing-desk that opens with a spring; it is not there, and it never will be there again.’

‘Then you are a thief!’ said Slinkton.

Without any change whatever in the inflexible purpose, which it was quite terrific even to me to contemplate, and from the power of which I had always felt convinced it was impossible for this wretch to escape, Beckwith returned,

‘And I am your niece’s shadow, too.’

With an imprecation Slinkton put his hand to his head, tore out some hair, and flung it to the ground. It was the end of the smooth walk; he destroyed it in the action, and it will soon be seen that his use for it was past.

Beckwith went on: ‘Whenever you left here, I left here. Although I understood that you found it necessary to pause in the completion of that purpose, to avert suspicion, still I watched you close, with the poor confiding girl. When I had the diary, and could read it word by word, — it was only about the night before your last visit to Scarborough, — you remember the night? you slept with a small flat vial tied to your wrist, — I sent to Mr. Sampson, who was kept out of view. This is Mr. Sampson’s trusty servant standing by the door. We three saved your niece among us.’

Slinkton looked at us all, took an uncertain step or two from the place where he had stood, returned to it, and glanced about him in a very curious way, — as one of the meaner reptiles might, looking for a hole to hide in. I noticed at the same time, that a singular change took place in the figure of the man, — as if it collapsed within his clothes, and they consequently became ill-shapen and ill-fitting.

‘You shall know,’ said Beckwith, ‘for I hope the knowledge will be bitter and terrible to you, why you have been pursued by one man, and why, when the whole interest that Mr. Sampson represents would have expended any money in hunting you down, you have been tracked to death at a single individual’s charge. I hear you have had the name of Meltham on your lips sometimes?’

I saw, in addition to those other changes, a sudden stoppage come upon his breathing.

‘When you sent the sweet girl whom you murdered (you know with what artfully made-out surroundings and probabilities you sent her) to Meltham’s office, before taking her abroad to originate the transaction that doomed her to the grave, it fell to Meltham’s lot to see her and to speak with her. It did not fall to his lot to save her, though I know he would freely give his own life to have done it. He admired her; — I would say he loved her deeply, if I thought it possible that you could understand the word. When she was sacrificed, he was thoroughly assured of your guilt. Having lost her, he had but one object left in life, and that was to avenge her and destroy you.’

I saw the villain’s nostrils rise and fall convulsively; but I saw no moving at his mouth.

‘That man Meltham,’ Beckwith steadily pursued, ‘was as absolutely certain that you could never elude him in this world, if he devoted himself to your destruction with his utmost fidelity and earnestness, and if he divided the sacred duty with no other duty in life, as he was certain that in achieving it he would be a poor instrument in the hands of Providence, and would do well before Heaven in striking you out from among living men. I am that man, and I thank God that I have done my work!’

If Slinkton had been running for his life from swift-footed savages, a dozen miles, he could not have shown more emphatic signs of being oppressed at heart and labouring for breath, than he showed now, when he looked at the pursuer who had so relentlessly hunted him down.

‘You never saw me under my right name before; you see me under my right name now. You shall see me once again in the body, when you are tried for your life. You shall see me once again in the spirit, when the cord is round your neck, and the crowd are crying against you!’

When Meltham had spoken these last words, the miscreant suddenly turned away his face, and seemed to strike his mouth with his open hand. At the same instant, the room was filled with a new and powerful odour, and, almost at the same instant, he broke into a crooked run, leap, start, — I have no name for the spasm, — and fell, with a dull weight that shook the heavy old doors and windows in their frames.

That was the fitting end of him.

When we saw that he was dead, we drew away from the room, and Meltham, giving me his hand, said, with a weary air,

‘I have no more work on earth, my friend. But I shall see her again elsewhere.’

It was in vain that I tried to rally him. He might have saved her, he said; he had not saved her, and he reproached himself; he had lost her, and he was broken-hearted.

‘The purpose that sustained me is over, Sampson, and there is nothing now to hold me to life. I am not fit for life; I am weak and spiritless; I have no hope and no object; my day is done.’

In truth, I could hardly have believed that the broken man who then spoke to me was the man who had so strongly and so differently impressed me when his purpose was before him. I used such entreaties with him, as I could; but he still said, and always said, in a patient, undemonstrative way, — nothing could avail him, — he was broken-hearted.

He died early in the next spring. He was buried by the side of the poor young lady for whom he had cherished those tender and unhappy regrets; and he left all he had to her sister. She lived to be a happy wife and mother; she married my sister’s son, who succeeded poor Meltham; she is living now, and her children ride about the garden on my walking-stick when I go to see her.


THE SIGNAL-MAN

“HALLOA! Below there!”

When he heard a voice thus calling to him, he was standing at the door of his box, with a flag in his hand, furled round its short pole. One would have thought, considering the nature of the ground, that he could not have doubted from what quarter the voice came; but instead of looking up to where I stood on the top of the steep cutting nearly over his head, he turned himself about, and looked down the Line. There was something remarkable in his manner of doing so, though I could not have said for my life what. But I know it was remarkable enough to attract my notice, even though his figure was foreshortened and shadowed, down in the deep trench, and mine was high above him, so steeped in the glow of an angry sunset, that I had shaded my eyes with my hand before I saw him at all.

“Halloa! Below!”

From looking down the Line, he turned himself about again, and, raising his eyes, saw my figure high above him.

“Is there any path by which I can come down and speak to you?”

He looked up at me without replying, and I looked down at him without pressing him too soon with a repetition of my idle question. Just then there came a vague vibration in the earth and air, quickly changing into a violent pulsation, and an oncoming rush that caused me to start back, as though it had force to draw me down. When such vapour as rose to my height from this rapid train had passed me, and was skimming away over the landscape, I looked down again, and saw him refurling the flag he had shown while the train went by.

I repeated my inquiry. After a pause, during which he seemed to regard me with fixed attention, he motioned with his rolled-up flag towards a point on my level, some two or three hundred yards distant. I called down to him, “All right!” and made for that point. There, by dint of looking closely about me, I found a rough zigzag descending path notched out, which I followed.

The cutting was extremely deep, and unusually precipitate. It was made through a clammy stone, that became oozier and wetter as I went down. For these reasons, I found the way long enough to give me time to recall a singular air of reluctance or compulsion with which he had pointed out the path.

When I came down low enough upon the zigzag descent to see him again, I saw that he was standing between the rails on the way by which the train had lately passed, in an attitude as if he were waiting for me to appear. He had his left hand at his chin, and that left elbow rested on his right hand, crossed over his breast. His attitude was one of such expectation and watchfulness that I stopped a moment, wondering at it.

I resumed my downward way, and stepping out upon the level of the railroad, and drawing nearer to him, saw that he was a dark, sallow man, with a dark beard and rather heavy eyebrows. His post was in as solitary and dismal a place as ever I saw. On either side, a dripping-wet wall of jagged stone, excluding all view but a strip of sky; the perspective one way only a crooked prolongation of this great dungeon; the shorter perspective in the other direction terminating in a gloomy red light, and the gloomier entrance to a black tunnel, in whose massive architecture there was a barbarous, depressing, and forbidding air. So little sunlight ever found its way to this spot, that it had an earthy, deadly smell; and so much cold wind rushed through it, that it struck chill to me, as if I had left the natural world.

Before he stirred, I was near enough to him to have touched him. Not even then removing his eyes from mine, he stepped back one step, and lifted his hand.

This was a lonesome post to occupy (I said), and it had riveted my attention when I looked down from up yonder. A visitor was a rarity, I should suppose; not an unwelcome rarity, I hoped? In me, he merely saw a man who had been shut up within narrow limits all his life, and who, being at last set free, had a newly-awakened interest in these great works. To such purpose I spoke to him; but I am far from sure of the terms I used; for, besides that I am not happy in opening any conversation, there was something in the man that daunted me.

He directed a most curious look towards the red light near the tunnel’s mouth, and looked all about it, as if something were missing from it, and then looked at me.

That light was part of his charge? Was it not?

He answered in a low voice, — “Don’t you know it is?”

The monstrous thought came into my mind, as I perused the fixed eyes and the saturnine face, that this was a spirit, not a man. I have speculated since, whether there may have been infection in his mind.

In my turn, I stepped back. But in making the action, I detected in his eyes some latent fear of me. This put the monstrous thought to flight.

“You look at me,” I said, forcing a smile, “as if you had a dread of me.”

“I was doubtful,” he returned, “whether I had seen you before.”

“Where?”

He pointed to the red light he had looked at.

“There?” I said.

Intently watchful of me, he replied (but without sound), “Yes.”

“My good fellow, what should I do there? However, be that as it may, I never was there, you may swear.”

“I think I may,” he rejoined. “Yes; I am sure I may.”

His manner cleared, like my own. He replied to my remarks with readiness, and in well-chosen words. Had he much to do there? Yes; that was to say, he had enough responsibility to bear; but exactness and watchfulness were what was required of him, and of actual work — manual labour — he had next to none. To change that signal, to trim those lights, and to turn this iron handle now and then, was all he had to do under that head. Regarding those many long and lonely hours of which I seemed to make so much, he could only say that the routine of his life had shaped itself into that form, and he had grown used to it. He had taught himself a language down here, — if only to know it by sight, and to have formed his own crude ideas of its pronunciation, could be called learning it. He had also worked at fractions and decimals, and tried a little algebra; but he was, and had been as a boy, a poor hand at figures. Was it necessary for him when on duty always to remain in that channel of damp air, and could he never rise into the sunshine from between those high stone walls? Why, that depended upon times and circumstances. Under some conditions there would be less upon the Line than under others, and the same held good as to certain hours of the day and night. In bright weather, he did choose occasions for getting a little above these lower shadows; but, being at all times liable to be called by his electric bell, and at such times listening for it with redoubled anxiety, the relief was less than I would suppose.

He took me into his box, where there was a fire, a desk for an official book in which he had to make certain entries, a telegraphic instrument with its dial, face, and needles, and the little bell of which he had spoken. On my trusting that he would excuse the remark that he had been well educated, and (I hoped I might say without offence) perhaps educated above that station, he observed that instances of slight incongruity in such wise would rarely be found wanting among large bodies of men; that he had heard it was so in workhouses, in the police force, even in that last desperate resource, the army; and that he knew it was so, more or less, in any great railway staff. He had been, when young (if I could believe it, sitting in that hut, — he scarcely could), a student of natural philosophy, and had attended lectures; but he had run wild, misused his opportunities, gone down, and never risen again. He had no complaint to offer about that. He had made his bed, and he lay upon it. It was far too late to make another.

All that I have here condensed he said in a quiet manner, with his grave, dark regards divided between me and the fire. He threw in the word, “Sir,” from time to time, and especially when he referred to his youth, — as though to request me to understand that he claimed to be nothing but what I found him. He was several times interrupted by the little bell, and had to read off messages, and send replies. Once he had to stand without the door, and display a flag as a train passed, and make some verbal communication to the driver. In the discharge of his duties, I observed him to be remarkably exact and vigilant, breaking off his discourse at a syllable, and remaining silent until what he had to do was done.

In a word, I should have set this man down as one of the safest of men to be employed in that capacity, but for the circumstance that while he was speaking to me he twice broke off with a fallen colour, turned his face towards the little bell when it did NOT ring, opened the door of the hut (which was kept shut to exclude the unhealthy damp), and looked out towards the red light near the mouth of the tunnel. On both of those occasions, he came back to the fire with the inexplicable air upon him which I had remarked, without being able to define, when we were so far asunder.

Said I, when I rose to leave him, “You almost make me think that I have met with a contented man.”

(I am afraid I must acknowledge that I said it to lead him on.)

“I believe I used to be so,” he rejoined, in the low voice in which he had first spoken; “but I am troubled, sir, I am troubled.”

He would have recalled the words if he could. He had said them, however, and I took them up quickly.

“With what? What is your trouble?”

“It is very difficult to impart, sir. It is very, very difficult to speak of. If ever you make me another visit, I will try to tell you.”

“But I expressly intend to make you another visit. Say, when shall it be?”

“I go off early in the morning, and I shall be on again at ten to-morrow night, sir.”

“I will come at eleven.”

He thanked me, and went out at the door with me. “I’ll show my white light, sir,” he said, in his peculiar low voice, “till you have found the way up. When you have found it, don’t call out! And when you are at the top, don’t call out!”

His manner seemed to make the place strike colder to me, but I said no more than, “Very well.”

“And when you come down to-morrow night, don’t call out! Let me ask you a parting question. What made you cry, ‘Halloa! Below there!’ to-night?”

“Heaven knows,” said I. “I cried something to that effect — “

“Not to that effect, sir. Those were the very words. I know them well.”

“Admit those were the very words. I said them, no doubt, because I saw you below.”

“For no other reason?”

“What other reason could I possibly have?”

“You had no feeling that they were conveyed to you in any supernatural way?”

“No.”

He wished me good-night, and held up his light. I walked by the side of the down Line of rails (with a very disagreeable sensation of a train coming behind me) until I found the path. It was easier to mount than to descend, and I got back to my inn without any adventure.

Punctual to my appointment, I placed my foot on the first notch of the zigzag next night, as the distant clocks were striking eleven. He was waiting for me at the bottom, with his white light on. “I have not called out,” I said, when we came close together; “may I speak now?” “By all means, sir.” “Good-night, then, and here’s my hand.” “Good-night, sir, and here’s mine.” With that we walked side by side to his box, entered it, closed the door, and sat down by the fire.

“I have made up my mind, sir,” he began, bending forward as soon as we were seated, and speaking in a tone but a little above a whisper, “that you shall not have to ask me twice what troubles me. I took you for some one else yesterday evening. That troubles me.”

“That mistake?”

“No. That some one else.”

“Who is it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Like me?”

“I don’t know. I never saw the face. The left arm is across the face, and the right arm is waved, — violently waved. This way.”

I followed his action with my eyes, and it was the action of an arm gesticulating, with the utmost passion and vehemence, “For God’s sake, clear the way!”

“One moonlight night,” said the man, “I was sitting here, when I heard a voice cry, ‘Halloa! Below there!’ I started up, looked from that door, and saw this Some one else standing by the red light near the tunnel, waving as I just now showed you. The voice seemed hoarse with shouting, and it cried, ‘Look out! Look out!’ And then again, ‘Halloa! Below there! Look out!’ I caught up my lamp, turned it on red, and ran towards the figure, calling, ‘What’s wrong? What has happened? Where?’ It stood just outside the blackness of the tunnel. I advanced so close upon it that I wondered at its keeping the sleeve across its eyes. I ran right up at it, and had my hand stretched out to pull the sleeve away, when it was gone.”

“Into the tunnel?” said I.

“No. I ran on into the tunnel, five hundred yards. I stopped, and held my lamp above my head, and saw the figures of the measured distance, and saw the wet stains stealing down the walls and trickling through the arch. I ran out again faster than I had run in (for I had a mortal abhorrence of the place upon me), and I looked all round the red light with my own red light, and I went up the iron ladder to the gallery atop of it, and I came down again, and ran back here. I telegraphed both ways, ‘An alarm has been given. Is anything wrong?’ The answer came back, both ways, ‘All well.’ ”

Resisting the slow touch of a frozen finger tracing out my spine, I showed him how that this figure must be a deception of his sense of sight; and how that figures, originating in disease of the delicate nerves that minister to the functions of the eye, were known to have often troubled patients, some of whom had become conscious of the nature of their affliction, and had even proved it by experiments upon themselves. “As to an imaginary cry,” said I, “do but listen for a moment to the wind in this unnatural valley while we speak so low, and to the wild harp it makes of the telegraph wires.”

That was all very well, he returned, after we had sat listening for a while, and he ought to know something of the wind and the wires, — he who so often passed long winter nights there, alone and watching. But he would beg to remark that he had not finished.

I asked his pardon, and he slowly added these words, touching my arm, —

“Within six hours after the Appearance, the memorable accident on this Line happened, and within ten hours the dead and wounded were brought along through the tunnel over the spot where the figure had stood.”

A disagreeable shudder crept over me, but I did my best against it. It was not to be denied, I rejoined, that this was a remarkable coincidence, calculated deeply to impress his mind. But it was unquestionable that remarkable coincidences did continually occur, and they must be taken into account in dealing with such a subject. Though to be sure I must admit, I added (for I thought I saw that he was going to bring the objection to bear upon me), men of common sense did not allow much for coincidences in making the ordinary calculations of life.

He again begged to remark that he had not finished.

I again begged his pardon for being betrayed into interruptions.

“This,” he said, again laying his hand upon my arm, and glancing over his shoulder with hollow eyes, “was just a year ago. Six or seven months passed, and I had recovered from the surprise and shock, when one morning, as the day was breaking, I, standing at the door, looked towards the red light, and saw the spectre again.” He stopped, with a fixed look at me.

“Did it cry out?”

“No. It was silent.”

“Did it wave its arm?”

“No. It leaned against the shaft of the light, with both hands before the face. Like this.”

Once more I followed his action with my eyes. It was an action of mourning. I have seen such an attitude in stone figures on tombs.

“Did you go up to it?”

“I came in and sat down, partly to collect my thoughts, partly because it had turned me faint. When I went to the door again, daylight was above me, and the ghost was gone.”

“But nothing followed? Nothing came of this?”

He touched me on the arm with his forefinger twice or thrice giving a ghastly nod each time: —

“That very day, as a train came out of the tunnel, I noticed, at a carriage window on my side, what looked like a confusion of hands and heads, and something waved. I saw it just in time to signal the driver, Stop! He shut off, and put his brake on, but the train drifted past here a hundred and fifty yards or more. I ran after it, and, as I went along, heard terrible screams and cries. A beautiful young lady had died instantaneously in one of the compartments, and was brought in here, and laid down on this floor between us.”

Involuntarily I pushed my chair back, as I looked from the boards at which he pointed to himself.

“True, sir. True. Precisely as it happened, so I tell it you.”

I could think of nothing to say, to any purpose, and my mouth was very dry. The wind and the wires took up the story with a long lamenting wail.

He resumed. “Now, sir, mark this, and judge how my mind is troubled. The spectre came back a week ago. Ever since, it has been there, now and again, by fits and starts.”

“At the light?”

“At the Danger-light.”

“What does it seem to do?”

He repeated, if possible with increased passion and vehemence, that former gesticulation of, “For God’s sake, clear the way!”

Then he went on. “I have no peace or rest for it. It calls to me, for many minutes together, in an agonised manner, ‘Below there! Look out! Look out!’ It stands waving to me. It rings my little bell — “

I caught at that. “Did it ring your bell yesterday evening when I was here, and you went to the door?”

“Twice.”

“Why, see,” said I, “how your imagination misleads you. My eyes were on the bell, and my ears were open to the bell, and if I am a living man, it did NOT ring at those times. No, nor at any other time, except when it was rung in the natural course of physical things by the station communicating with you.”

He shook his head. “I have never made a mistake as to that yet, sir. I have never confused the spectre’s ring with the man’s. The ghost’s ring is a strange vibration in the bell that it derives from nothing else, and I have not asserted that the bell stirs to the eye. I don’t wonder that you failed to hear it. But I heard it.”

“And did the spectre seem to be there, when you looked out?”

“It WAS there.”

“Both times?”

He repeated firmly: “Both times.”

“Will you come to the door with me, and look for it now?”

He bit his under lip as though he were somewhat unwilling, but arose. I opened the door, and stood on the step, while he stood in the doorway. There was the Danger-light. There was the dismal mouth of the tunnel. There were the high, wet stone walls of the cutting. There were the stars above them.

“Do you see it?” I asked him, taking particular note of his face. His eyes were prominent and strained, but not very much more so, perhaps, than my own had been when I had directed them earnestly towards the same spot.

“No,” he answered. “It is not there.”

“Agreed,” said I.

We went in again, shut the door, and resumed our seats. I was thinking how best to improve this advantage, if it might be called one, when he took up the conversation in such a matter-of-course way, so assuming that there could be no serious question of fact between us, that I felt myself placed in the weakest of positions.

“By this time you will fully understand, sir,” he said, “that what troubles me so dreadfully is the question, What does the spectre mean?”

I was not sure, I told him, that I did fully understand.

“What is its warning against?” he said, ruminating, with his eyes on the fire, and only by times turning them on me. “What is the danger? Where is the danger? There is danger overhanging somewhere on the Line. Some dreadful calamity will happen. It is not to be doubted this third time, after what has gone before. But surely this is a cruel haunting of me. What can I do?”

He pulled out his handkerchief, and wiped the drops from his heated forehead.

“If I telegraph Danger, on either side of me, or on both, I can give no reason for it,” he went on, wiping the palms of his hands. “I should get into trouble, and do no good. They would think I was mad. This is the way it would work, — Message: ‘Danger! Take care!’ Answer: ‘What Danger? Where?’ Message: ‘Don’t know. But, for God’s sake, take care!’ They would displace me. What else could they do?”

His pain of mind was most pitiable to see. It was the mental torture of a conscientious man, oppressed beyond endurance by an unintelligible responsibility involving life.

“When it first stood under the Danger-light,” he went on, putting his dark hair back from his head, and drawing his hands outward across and across his temples in an extremity of feverish distress, “why not tell me where that accident was to happen, — if it must happen? Why not tell me how it could be averted, — if it could have been averted? When on its second coming it hid its face, why not tell me, instead, ‘She is going to die. Let them keep her at home’? If it came, on those two occasions, only to show me that its warnings were true, and so to prepare me for the third, why not warn me plainly now? And I, Lord help me! A mere poor signal-man on this solitary station! Why not go to somebody with credit to be believed, and power to act?”

When I saw him in this state, I saw that for the poor man’s sake, as well as for the public safety, what I had to do for the time was to compose his mind. Therefore, setting aside all question of reality or unreality between us, I represented to him that whoever thoroughly discharged his duty must do well, and that at least it was his comfort that he understood his duty, though he did not understand these confounding Appearances. In this effort I succeeded far better than in the attempt to reason him out of his conviction. He became calm; the occupations incidental to his post as the night advanced began to make larger demands on his attention: and I left him at two in the morning. I had offered to stay through the night, but he would not hear of it.

That I more than once looked back at the red light as I ascended the pathway, that I did not like the red light, and that I should have slept but poorly if my bed had been under it, I see no reason to conceal. Nor did I like the two sequences of the accident and the dead girl. I see no reason to conceal that either.

But what ran most in my thoughts was the consideration how ought I to act, having become the recipient of this disclosure? I had proved the man to be intelligent, vigilant, painstaking, and exact; but how long might he remain so, in his state of mind? Though in a subordinate position, still he held a most important trust, and would I (for instance) like to stake my own life on the chances of his continuing to execute it with precision?

Unable to overcome a feeling that there would be something treacherous in my communicating what he had told me to his superiors in the Company, without first being plain with himself and proposing a middle course to him, I ultimately resolved to offer to accompany him (otherwise keeping his secret for the present) to the wisest medical practitioner we could hear of in those parts, and to take his opinion. A change in his time of duty would come round next night, he had apprised me, and he would be off an hour or two after sunrise, and on again soon after sunset. I had appointed to return accordingly.

Next evening was a lovely evening, and I walked out early to enjoy it. The sun was not yet quite down when I traversed the field-path near the top of the deep cutting. I would extend my walk for an hour, I said to myself, half an hour on and half an hour back, and it would then be time to go to my signal-man’s box.

Before pursuing my stroll, I stepped to the brink, and mechanically looked down, from the point from which I had first seen him. I cannot describe the thrill that seized upon me, when, close at the mouth of the tunnel, I saw the appearance of a man, with his left sleeve across his eyes, passionately waving his right arm.

The nameless horror that oppressed me passed in a moment, for in a moment I saw that this appearance of a man was a man indeed, and that there was a little group of other men, standing at a short distance, to whom he seemed to be rehearsing the gesture he made. The Danger-light was not yet lighted. Against its shaft, a little low hut, entirely new to me, had been made of some wooden supports and tarpaulin. It looked no bigger than a bed.

With an irresistible sense that something was wrong, — with a flashing self-reproachful fear that fatal mischief had come of my leaving the man there, and causing no one to be sent to overlook or correct what he did, — I descended the notched path with all the speed I could make.

“What is the matter?” I asked the men.

“Signal-man killed this morning, sir.”

“Not the man belonging to that box?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Not the man I know?”

“You will recognise him, sir, if you knew him,” said the man who spoke for the others, solemnly uncovering his own head, and raising an end of the tarpaulin, “for his face is quite composed.”

“O, how did this happen, how did this happen?” I asked, turning from one to another as the hut closed in again.

“He was cut down by an engine, sir. No man in England knew his work better. But somehow he was not clear of the outer rail. It was just at broad day. He had struck the light, and had the lamp in his hand. As the engine came out of the tunnel, his back was towards her, and she cut him down. That man drove her, and was showing how it happened. Show the gentleman, Tom.”

The man, who wore a rough dark dress, stepped back to his former place at the mouth of the tunnel.

“Coming round the curve in the tunnel, sir,” he said, “I saw him at the end, like as if I saw him down a perspective-glass. There was no time to check speed, and I knew him to be very careful. As he didn’t seem to take heed of the whistle, I shut it off when we were running down upon him, and called to him as loud as I could call.”

“What did you say?”

“I said, ‘Below there! Look out! Look out! For God’s sake, clear the way!’ ”

I started.

“Ah! it was a dreadful time, sir. I never left off calling to him. I put this arm before my eyes not to see, and I waved this arm to the last; but it was no use.”

Without prolonging the narrative to dwell on any one of its curious circumstances more than on any other, I may, in closing it, point out the coincidence that the warning of the Engine-Driver included, not only the words which the unfortunate Signal-man had repeated to me as haunting him, but also the words which I myself — not he — had attached, and that only in my own mind, to the gesticulation he had imitated.


GEORGE SILVERMAN’S EXPLANATION


FIRST CHAPTER

IT happened in this wise -

But, sitting with my pen in my hand looking at those words again, without descrying any hint in them of the words that should follow, it comes into my mind that they have an abrupt appearance. They may serve, however, if I let them remain, to suggest how very difficult I find it to begin to explain my explanation. An uncouth phrase: and yet I do not see my way to a better.


SECOND CHAPTER

IT happened in THIS wise -

But, looking at those words, and comparing them with my former opening, I find they are the self-same words repeated. This is the more surprising to me, because I employ them in quite a new connection. For indeed I declare that my intention was to discard the commencement I first had in my thoughts, and to give the preference to another of an entirely different nature, dating my explanation from an anterior period of my life. I will make a third trial, without erasing this second failure, protesting that it is not my design to conceal any of my infirmities, whether they be of head or heart.


THIRD CHAPTER

NOT as yet directly aiming at how it came to pass, I will come upon it by degrees. The natural manner, after all, for God knows that is how it came upon me.

My parents were in a miserable condition of life, and my infant home was a cellar in Preston. I recollect the sound of father’s Lancashire clogs on the street pavement above, as being different in my young hearing from the sound of all other clogs; and I recollect, that, when mother came down the cellar-steps, I used tremblingly to speculate on her feet having a good or an ill- tempered look, - on her knees, - on her waist, - until finally her face came into view, and settled the question. From this it will be seen that I was timid, and that the cellar-steps were steep, and that the doorway was very low.

Mother had the gripe and clutch of poverty upon her face, upon her figure, and not least of all upon her voice. Her sharp and high- pitched words were squeezed out of her, as by the compression of bony fingers on a leathern bag; and she had a way of rolling her eyes about and about the cellar, as she scolded, that was gaunt and hungry. Father, with his shoulders rounded, would sit quiet on a three-legged stool, looking at the empty grate, until she would pluck the stool from under him, and bid him go bring some money home. Then he would dismally ascend the steps; and I, holding my ragged shirt and trousers together with a hand (my only braces), would feint and dodge from mother’s pursuing grasp at my hair.

A worldly little devil was mother’s usual name for me. Whether I cried for that I was in the dark, or for that it was cold, or for that I was hungry, or whether I squeezed myself into a warm corner when there was a fire, or ate voraciously when there was food, she would still say, ‘O, you worldly little devil!’ And the sting of it was, that I quite well knew myself to be a worldly little devil. Worldly as to wanting to be housed and warmed, worldly as to wanting to be fed, worldly as to the greed with which I inwardly compared how much I got of those good things with how much father and mother got, when, rarely, those good things were going.

Sometimes they both went away seeking work; and then I would be locked up in the cellar for a day or two at a time. I was at my worldliest then. Left alone, I yielded myself up to a worldly yearning for enough of anything (except misery), and for the death of mother’s father, who was a machine-maker at Birmingham, and on whose decease, I had heard mother say, she would come into a whole courtful of houses ‘if she had her rights.’ Worldly little devil, I would stand about, musingly fitting my cold bare feet into cracked bricks and crevices of the damp cellar-floor, - walking over my grandfather’s body, so to speak, into the courtful of houses, and selling them for meat and drink, and clothes to wear.

At last a change came down into our cellar. The universal change came down even as low as that, - so will it mount to any height on which a human creature can perch, - and brought other changes with it.

We had a heap of I don’t know what foul litter in the darkest corner, which we called ‘the bed.’ For three days mother lay upon it without getting up, and then began at times to laugh. If I had ever heard her laugh before, it had been so seldom that the strange sound frightened me. It frightened father too; and we took it by turns to give her water. Then she began to move her head from side to side, and sing. After that, she getting no better, father fell a-laughing and a-singing; and then there was only I to give them both water, and they both died.


FOURTH CHAPTER

WHEN I was lifted out of the cellar by two men, of whom one came peeping down alone first, and ran away and brought the other, I could hardly bear the light of the street. I was sitting in the road-way, blinking at it, and at a ring of people collected around me, but not close to me, when, true to my character of worldly little devil, I broke silence by saying, ‘I am hungry and thirsty!’

‘Does he know they are dead?’ asked one of another.

‘Do you know your father and mother are both dead of fever?’ asked a third of me severely.

‘I don’t know what it is to be dead. I supposed it meant that, when the cup rattled against their teeth, and the water spilt over them. I am hungry and thirsty.’ That was all I had to say about it.

The ring of people widened outward from the inner side as I looked around me; and I smelt vinegar, and what I know to be camphor, thrown in towards where I sat. Presently some one put a great vessel of smoking vinegar on the ground near me; and then they all looked at me in silent horror as I ate and drank of what was brought for me. I knew at the time they had a horror of me, but I couldn’t help it.

I was still eating and drinking, and a murmur of discussion had begun to arise respecting what was to be done with me next, when I heard a cracked voice somewhere in the ring say, ‘My name is Hawkyard, Mr. Verity Hawkyard, of West Bromwich.’ Then the ring split in one place; and a yellow-faced, peak-nosed gentleman, clad all in iron-gray to his gaiters, pressed forward with a policeman and another official of some sort. He came forward close to the vessel of smoking vinegar; from which he sprinkled himself carefully, and me copiously.

‘He had a grandfather at Birmingham, this young boy, who is just dead too,’ said Mr. Hawkyard.

I turned my eyes upon the speaker, and said in a ravening manner, ‘Where’s his houses?’

‘Hah! Horrible worldliness on the edge of the grave,’ said Mr. Hawkyard, casting more of the vinegar over me, as if to get my devil out of me. ‘I have undertaken a slight - a very slight - trust in behalf of this boy; quite a voluntary trust: a matter of mere honour, if not of mere sentiment: still I have taken it upon myself, and it shall be (O, yes, it shall be!) discharged.’

The bystanders seemed to form an opinion of this gentleman much more favourable than their opinion of me.

‘He shall be taught,’ said Mr. Hawkyard, ‘(O, yes, he shall be taught!) but what is to be done with him for the present? He may be infected. He may disseminate infection.’ The ring widened considerably. ‘What is to be done with him?’

He held some talk with the two officials. I could distinguish no word save ‘Farm-house.’ There was another sound several times repeated, which was wholly meaningless in my ears then, but which I knew afterwards to be ‘Hoghton Towers.’

‘Yes,’ said Mr. Hawkyard. ‘I think that sounds promising; I think that sounds hopeful. And he can be put by himself in a ward, for a night or two, you say?’

It seemed to be the police-officer who had said so; for it was he who replied, Yes! It was he, too, who finally took me by the arm, and walked me before him through the streets, into a whitewashed room in a bare building, where I had a chair to sit in, a table to sit at, an iron bedstead and good mattress to lie upon, and a rug and blanket to cover me. Where I had enough to eat too, and was shown how to clean the tin porringer in which it was conveyed to me, until it was as good as a looking-glass. Here, likewise, I was put in a bath, and had new clothes brought to me; and my old rags were burnt, and I was camphored and vinegared and disinfected in a variety of ways.

When all this was done, - I don’t know in how many days or how few, but it matters not, - Mr. Hawkyard stepped in at the door, remaining close to it, and said, ‘Go and stand against the opposite wall, George Silverman. As far off as you can. That’ll do. How do you feel?’

I told him that I didn’t feel cold, and didn’t feel hungry, and didn’t feel thirsty. That was the whole round of human feelings, as far as I knew, except the pain of being beaten.

‘Well,’ said he, ‘you are going, George, to a healthy farm-house to be purified. Keep in the air there as much as you can. Live an out-of-door life there, until you are fetched away. You had better not say much - in fact, you had better be very careful not to say anything - about what your parents died of, or they might not like to take you in. Behave well, and I’ll put you to school; O, yes! I’ll put you to school, though I’m not obligated to do it. I am a servant of the Lord, George; and I have been a good servant to him, I have, these five-and-thirty years. The Lord has had a good servant in me, and he knows it.’

What I then supposed him to mean by this, I cannot imagine. As little do I know when I began to comprehend that he was a prominent member of some obscure denomination or congregation, every member of which held forth to the rest when so inclined, and among whom he was called Brother Hawkyard. It was enough for me to know, on that day in the ward, that the farmer’s cart was waiting for me at the street corner. I was not slow to get into it; for it was the first ride I ever had in my life.

It made me sleepy, and I slept. First, I stared at Preston streets as long as they lasted; and, meanwhile, I may have had some small dumb wondering within me whereabouts our cellar was; but I doubt it. Such a worldly little devil was I, that I took no thought who would bury father and mother, or where they would be buried, or when. The question whether the eating and drinking by day, and the covering by night, would be as good at the farm-house as at the ward superseded those questions.

The jolting of the cart on a loose stony road awoke me; and I found that we were mounting a steep hill, where the road was a rutty by- road through a field. And so, by fragments of an ancient terrace, and by some rugged outbuildings that had once been fortified, and passing under a ruined gateway we came to the old farm-house in the thick stone wall outside the old quadrangle of Hoghton Towers: which I looked at like a stupid savage, seeing no specially in, seeing no antiquity in; assuming all farm-houses to resemble it; assigning the decay I noticed to the one potent cause of all ruin that I knew, - poverty; eyeing the pigeons in their flights, the cattle in their stalls, the ducks in the pond, and the fowls pecking about the yard, with a hungry hope that plenty of them might be killed for dinner while I stayed there; wondering whether the scrubbed dairy vessels, drying in the sunlight, could be goodly porringers out of which the master ate his belly-filling food, and which he polished when he had done, according to my ward experience; shrinkingly doubtful whether the shadows, passing over that airy height on the bright spring day, were not something in the nature of frowns, - sordid, afraid, unadmiring, - a small brute to shudder at.

To that time I had never had the faintest impression of duty. I had had no knowledge whatever that there was anything lovely in this life. When I had occasionally slunk up the cellar-steps into the street, and glared in at shop-windows, I had done so with no higher feelings than we may suppose to animate a mangy young dog or wolf-cub. It is equally the fact that I had never been alone, in the sense of holding unselfish converse with myself. I had been solitary often enough, but nothing better.

Such was my condition when I sat down to my dinner that day, in the kitchen of the old farm-house. Such was my condition when I lay on my bed in the old farm-house that night, stretched out opposite the narrow mullioned window, in the cold light of the moon, like a young vampire.


FIFTH CHAPTER

WHAT do I know of Hoghton Towers? Very little; for I have been gratefully unwilling to disturb my first impressions. A house, centuries old, on high ground a mile or so removed from the road between Preston and Blackburn, where the first James of England, in his hurry to make money by making baronets, perhaps made some of those remunerative dignitaries. A house, centuries old, deserted and falling to pieces, its woods and gardens long since grass-land or ploughed up, the Rivers Ribble and Darwen glancing below it, and a vague haze of smoke, against which not even the supernatural prescience of the first Stuart could foresee a counter-blast, hinting at steam-power, powerful in two distances.

What did I know then of Hoghton Towers? When I first peeped in at the gate of the lifeless quadrangle, and started from the mouldering statue becoming visible to me like its guardian ghost; when I stole round by the back of the farm-house, and got in among the ancient rooms, many of them with their floors and ceilings falling, the beams and rafters hanging dangerously down, the plaster dropping as I trod, the oaken panels stripped away, the windows half walled up, half broken; when I discovered a gallery commanding the old kitchen, and looked down between balustrades upon a massive old table and benches, fearing to see I know not what dead-alive creatures come in and seat themselves, and look up with I know not what dreadful eyes, or lack of eyes, at me; when all over the house I was awed by gaps and chinks where the sky stared sorrowfully at me, where the birds passed, and the ivy rustled, and the stains of winter weather blotched the rotten floors; when down at the bottom of dark pits of staircase, into which the stairs had sunk, green leaves trembled, butterflies fluttered, and bees hummed in and out through the broken door-ways; when encircling the whole ruin were sweet scents, and sights of fresh green growth, and ever-renewing life, that I had never dreamed of, - I say, when I passed into such clouded perception of these things as my dark soul could compass, what did I know then of Hoghton Towers?

I have written that the sky stared sorrowfully at me. Therein have I anticipated the answer. I knew that all these things looked sorrowfully at me; that they seemed to sigh or whisper, not without pity for me, ‘Alas! poor worldly little devil!’

There were two or three rats at the bottom of one of the smaller pits of broken staircase when I craned over and looked in. They were scuffling for some prey that was there; and, when they started and hid themselves close together in the dark, I thought of the old life (it had grown old already) in the cellar.

How not to be this worldly little devil? how not to have a repugnance towards myself as I had towards the rats? I hid in a corner of one of the smaller chambers, frightened at myself, and crying (it was the first time I had ever cried for any cause not purely physical), and I tried to think about it. One of the farm- ploughs came into my range of view just then; and it seemed to help me as it went on with its two horses up and down the field so peacefully and quietly.

There was a girl of about my own age in the farm-house family, and she sat opposite to me at the narrow table at meal-times. It had come into my mind, at our first dinner, that she might take the fever from me. The thought had not disquieted me then. I had only speculated how she would look under the altered circumstances, and whether she would die. But it came into my mind now, that I might try to prevent her taking the fever by keeping away from her. I knew I should have but scrambling board if I did; so much the less worldly and less devilish the deed would be, I thought.

From that hour, I withdrew myself at early morning into secret corners of the ruined house, and remained hidden there until she went to bed. At first, when meals were ready, I used to hear them calling me; and then my resolution weakened. But I strengthened it again by going farther off into the ruin, and getting out of hearing. I often watched for her at the dim windows; and, when I saw that she was fresh and rosy, felt much happier.

Out of this holding her in my thoughts, to the humanising of myself, I suppose some childish love arose within me. I felt, in some sort, dignified by the pride of protecting her, - by the pride of making the sacrifice for her. As my heart swelled with that new feeling, it insensibly softened about mother and father. It seemed to have been frozen before, and now to be thawed. The old ruin and all the lovely things that haunted it were not sorrowful for me only, but sorrowful for mother and father as well. Therefore did I cry again, and often too.

The farm-house family conceived me to be of a morose temper, and were very short with me; though they never stinted me in such broken fare as was to be got out of regular hours. One night when I lifted the kitchen latch at my usual time, Sylvia (that was her pretty name) had but just gone out of the room. Seeing her ascending the opposite stairs, I stood still at the door. She had heard the clink of the latch, and looked round.

‘George,’ she called to me in a pleased voice, ‘to-morrow is my birthday; and we are to have a fiddler, and there’s a party of boys and girls coming in a cart, and we shall dance. I invite you. Be sociable for once, George.’

‘I am very sorry, miss,’ I answered; ‘but I - but, no; I can’t come.’

‘You are a disagreeable, ill-humoured lad,’ she returned disdainfully; ‘and I ought not to have asked you. I shall never speak to you again.’

As I stood with my eyes fixed on the fire, after she was gone, I felt that the farmer bent his brows upon me.

‘Eh, lad!’ said he; ‘Sylvy’s right. You’re as moody and broody a lad as never I set eyes on yet.’

I tried to assure him that I meant no harm; but he only said coldly, ‘Maybe not, maybe not! There, get thy supper, get thy supper; and then thou canst sulk to thy heart’s content again.’

Ah! if they could have seen me next day, in the ruin, watching for the arrival of the cart full of merry young guests; if they could have seen me at night, gliding out from behind the ghostly statue, listening to the music and the fall of dancing feet, and watching the lighted farm-house windows from the quadrangle when all the ruin was dark; if they could have read my heart, as I crept up to bed by the back way, comforting myself with the reflection, ‘They will take no hurt from me,’ - they would not have thought mine a morose or an unsocial nature.

It was in these ways that I began to form a shy disposition; to be of a timidly silent character under misconstruction; to have an inexpressible, perhaps a morbid, dread of ever being sordid or worldly. It was in these ways that my nature came to shape itself to such a mould, even before it was affected by the influences of the studious and retired life of a poor scholar.


SIXTH CHAPTER

BROTHER HAWKYARD (as he insisted on my calling him) put me to school, and told me to work my way. ‘You are all right, George,’ he said. ‘I have been the best servant the Lord has had in his service for this five-and-thirty year (O, I have!); and he knows the value of such a servant as I have been to him (O, yes, he does!); and he’ll prosper your schooling as a part of my reward. That’s what HE’ll do, George. He’ll do it for me.’

From the first I could not like this familiar knowledge of the ways of the sublime, inscrutable Almighty, on Brother Hawkyard’s part. As I grew a little wiser, and still a little wiser, I liked it less and less. His manner, too, of confirming himself in a parenthesis, - as if, knowing himself, he doubted his own word, - I found distasteful. I cannot tell how much these dislikes cost me; for I had a dread that they were worldly.

As time went on, I became a Foundation-boy on a good foundation, and I cost Brother Hawkyard nothing. When I had worked my way so far, I worked yet harder, in the hope of ultimately getting a presentation to college and a fellowship. My health has never been strong (some vapour from the Preston cellar cleaves to me, I think); and what with much work and some weakness, I came again to be regarded - that is, by my fellow-students - as unsocial.

All through my time as a foundation-boy, I was within a few miles of Brother Hawkyard’s congregation; and whenever I was what we called a leave-boy on a Sunday, I went over there at his desire. Before the knowledge became forced upon me that outside their place of meeting these brothers and sisters were no better than the rest of the human family, but on the whole were, to put the case mildly, as bad as most, in respect of giving short weight in their shops, and not speaking the truth, - I say, before this knowledge became forced upon me, their prolix addresses, their inordinate conceit, their daring ignorance, their investment of the Supreme Ruler of heaven and earth with their own miserable meannesses and littlenesses, greatly shocked me. Still, as their term for the frame of mind that could not perceive them to be in an exalted state of grace was the ‘worldly’ state, I did for a time suffer tortures under my inquiries of myself whether that young worldly- devilish spirit of mine could secretly be lingering at the bottom of my non-appreciation.

Brother Hawkyard was the popular expounder in this assembly, and generally occupied the platform (there was a little platform with a table on it, in lieu of a pulpit) first, on a Sunday afternoon. He was by trade a drysalter. Brother Gimblet, an elderly man with a crabbed face, a large dog’s-eared shirt-collar, and a spotted blue neckerchief reaching up behind to the crown of his head, was also a drysalter and an expounder. Brother Gimblet professed the greatest admiration for Brother Hawkyard, but (I had thought more than once) bore him a jealous grudge.

Let whosoever may peruse these lines kindly take the pains here to read twice my solemn pledge, that what I write of the language and customs of the congregation in question I write scrupulously, literally, exactly, from the life and the truth.

On the first Sunday after I had won what I had so long tried for, and when it was certain that I was going up to college, Brother Hawkyard concluded a long exhortation thus:

‘Well, my friends and fellow-sinners, now I told you when I began, that I didn’t know a word of what I was going to say to you (and no, I did not!), but that it was all one to me, because I knew the Lord would put into my mouth the words I wanted.’

(‘That’s it!’ from Brother Gimblet.)

‘And he did put into my mouth the words I wanted.’

(‘So he did!’ from Brother Gimblet.)

‘And why?’

(‘Ah, let’s have that!’ from Brother Gimblet.)

‘Because I have been his faithful servant for five-and-thirty years, and because he knows it. For five-and-thirty years! And he knows it, mind you! I got those words that I wanted on account of my wages. I got ‘em from the Lord, my fellow-sinners. Down! I said, “Here’s a heap of wages due; let us have something down, on account.” And I got it down, and I paid it over to you; and you won’t wrap it up in a napkin, nor yet in a towel, nor yet pocketankercher, but you’ll put it out at good interest. Very well. Now, my brothers and sisters and fellow-sinners, I am going to conclude with a question, and I’ll make it so plain (with the help of the Lord, after five-and-thirty years, I should rather hope!) as that the Devil shall not be able to confuse it in your heads, - which he would be overjoyed to do.’

(‘Just his way. Crafty old blackguard!’ from Brother Gimblet.)

‘And the question is this, Are the angels learned?’

(‘Not they. Not a bit on it!’ from Brother Gimblet, with the greatest confidence.)

‘Not they. And where’s the proof? sent ready-made by the hand of the Lord. Why, there’s one among us here now, that has got all the learning that can be crammed into him. I got him all the learning that could be crammed into him. His grandfather’ (this I had never heard before) ‘was a brother of ours. He was Brother Parksop. That’s what he was. Parksop; Brother Parksop. His worldly name was Parksop, and he was a brother of this brotherhood. Then wasn’t he Brother Parksop?’

(‘Must be. Couldn’t help hisself!’ from Brother Gimblet.)

‘Well, he left that one now here present among us to the care of a brother-sinner of his (and that brother-sinner, mind you, was a sinner of a bigger size in his time than any of you; praise the Lord!), Brother Hawkyard. Me. I got him without fee or reward, - without a morsel of myrrh, or frankincense, nor yet amber, letting alone the honeycomb, - all the learning that could be crammed into him. Has it brought him into our temple, in the spirit? No. Have we had any ignorant brothers and sisters that didn’t know round O from crooked S, come in among us meanwhile? Many. Then the angels are NOT learned; then they don’t so much as know their alphabet. And now, my friends and fellow-sinners, having brought it to that, perhaps some brother present - perhaps you, Brother Gimblet - will pray a bit for us?’

Brother Gimblet undertook the sacred function, after having drawn his sleeve across his mouth, and muttered, ‘Well! I don’t know as I see my way to hitting any of you quite in the right place neither.’ He said this with a dark smile, and then began to bellow. What we were specially to be preserved from, according to his solicitations, was, despoilment of the orphan, suppression of testamentary intentions on the part of a father or (say) grandfather, appropriation of the orphan’s house-property, feigning to give in charity to the wronged one from whom we withheld his due; and that class of sins. He ended with the petition, ‘Give us peace!’ which, speaking for myself, was very much needed after twenty minutes of his bellowing.

Even though I had not seen him when he rose from his knees, steaming with perspiration, glance at Brother Hawkyard, and even though I had not heard Brother Hawkyard’s tone of congratulating him on the vigour with which he had roared, I should have detected a malicious application in this prayer. Unformed suspicions to a similar effect had sometimes passed through my mind in my earlier school-days, and had always caused me great distress; for they were worldly in their nature, and wide, very wide, of the spirit that had drawn me from Sylvia. They were sordid suspicions, without a shadow of proof. They were worthy to have originated in the unwholesome cellar. They were not only without proof, but against proof; for was I not myself a living proof of what Brother Hawkyard had done? and without him, how should I ever have seen the sky look sorrowfully down upon that wretched boy at Hoghton Towers?

Although the dread of a relapse into a stage of savage selfishness was less strong upon me as I approached manhood, and could act in an increased degree for myself, yet I was always on my guard against any tendency to such relapse. After getting these suspicions under my feet, I had been troubled by not being able to like Brother Hawkyard’s manner, or his professed religion. So it came about, that, as I walked back that Sunday evening, I thought it would be an act of reparation for any such injury my struggling thoughts had unwillingly done him, if I wrote, and placed in his hands, before going to college, a full acknowledgment of his goodness to me, and an ample tribute of thanks. It might serve as an implied vindication of him against any dark scandal from a rival brother and expounder, or from any other quarter.

Accordingly, I wrote the document with much care. I may add with much feeling too; for it affected me as I went on. Having no set studies to pursue, in the brief interval between leaving the Foundation and going to Cambridge, I determined to walk out to his place of business, and give it into his own hands.

It was a winter afternoon, when I tapped at the door of his little counting-house, which was at the farther end of his long, low shop. As I did so (having entered by the back yard, where casks and boxes were taken in, and where there was the inscription, ‘Private way to the counting-house’), a shopman called to me from the counter that he was engaged.

‘Brother Gimblet’ (said the shopman, who was one of the brotherhood) ‘is with him.’

I thought this all the better for my purpose, and made bold to tap again. They were talking in a low tone, and money was passing; for I heard it being counted out.

‘Who is it?’ asked Brother Hawkyard, sharply.

‘George Silverman,’ I answered, holding the door open. ‘May I come in?’

Both brothers seemed so astounded to see me that I felt shyer than usual. But they looked quite cadaverous in the early gaslight, and perhaps that accidental circumstance exaggerated the expression of their faces.

‘What is the matter?’ asked Brother Hawkyard.

‘Ay! what is the matter?’ asked Brother Gimblet.

‘Nothing at all,’ I said, diffidently producing my document: ‘I am only the bearer of a letter from myself.’

‘From yourself, George?’ cried Brother Hawkyard.

‘And to you,’ said I.

‘And to me, George?’

He turned paler, and opened it hurriedly; but looking over it, and seeing generally what it was, became less hurried, recovered his colour, and said, ‘Praise the Lord!’

‘That’s it!’ cried Brother Gimblet. ‘Well put! Amen.’

Brother Hawkyard then said, in a livelier strain, ‘You must know, George, that Brother Gimblet and I are going to make our two businesses one. We are going into partnership. We are settling it now. Brother Gimblet is to take one clear half of the profits (O, yes! he shall have it; he shall have it to the last farthing).’

‘D.V.!’ said Brother Gimblet, with his right fist firmly clinched on his right leg.

‘There is no objection,’ pursued Brother Hawkyard, ‘to my reading this aloud, George?’

As it was what I expressly desired should be done, after yesterday’s prayer, I more than readily begged him to read it aloud. He did so; and Brother Gimblet listened with a crabbed smile.

‘It was in a good hour that I came here,’ he said, wrinkling up his eyes. ‘It was in a good hour, likewise, that I was moved yesterday to depict for the terror of evil-doers a character the direct opposite of Brother Hawkyard’s. But it was the Lord that done it: I felt him at it while I was perspiring.’

After that it was proposed by both of them that I should attend the congregation once more before my final departure. What my shy reserve would undergo, from being expressly preached at and prayed at, I knew beforehand. But I reflected that it would be for the last time, and that it might add to the weight of my letter. It was well known to the brothers and sisters that there was no place taken for me in THEIR paradise; and if I showed this last token of deference to Brother Hawkyard, notoriously in despite of my own sinful inclinations, it might go some little way in aid of my statement that he had been good to me, and that I was grateful to him. Merely stipulating, therefore, that no express endeavour should be made for my conversion, - which would involve the rolling of several brothers and sisters on the floor, declaring that they felt all their sins in a heap on their left side, weighing so many pounds avoirdupois, as I knew from what I had seen of those repulsive mysteries, - I promised.

Since the reading of my letter, Brother Gimblet had been at intervals wiping one eye with an end of his spotted blue neckerchief, and grinning to himself. It was, however, a habit that brother had, to grin in an ugly manner even when expounding. I call to mind a delighted snarl with which he used to detail from the platform the torments reserved for the wicked (meaning all human creation except the brotherhood), as being remarkably hideous.

I left the two to settle their articles of partnership, and count money; and I never saw them again but on the following Sunday. Brother Hawkyard died within two or three years, leaving all he possessed to Brother Gimblet, in virtue of a will dated (as I have been told) that very day.

Now I was so far at rest with myself, when Sunday came, knowing that I had conquered my own mistrust, and righted Brother Hawkyard in the jaundiced vision of a rival, that I went, even to that coarse chapel, in a less sensitive state than usual. How could I foresee that the delicate, perhaps the diseased, corner of my mind, where I winced and shrunk when it was touched, or was even approached, would be handled as the theme of the whole proceedings?

On this occasion it was assigned to Brother Hawkyard to pray, and to Brother Gimblet to preach. The prayer was to open the ceremonies; the discourse was to come next. Brothers Hawkyard and Gimblet were both on the platform; Brother Hawkyard on his knees at the table, unmusically ready to pray; Brother Gimblet sitting against the wall, grinningly ready to preach.

‘Let us offer up the sacrifice of prayer, my brothers and sisters and fellow-sinners.’ Yes; but it was I who was the sacrifice. It was our poor, sinful, worldly-minded brother here present who was wrestled for. The now-opening career of this our unawakened brother might lead to his becoming a minister of what was called ‘the church.’ That was what HE looked to. The church. Not the chapel, Lord. The church. No rectors, no vicars, no archdeacons, no bishops, no archbishops, in the chapel, but, O Lord! many such in the church. Protect our sinful brother from his love of lucre. Cleanse from our unawakened brother’s breast his sin of worldly- mindedness. The prayer said infinitely more in words, but nothing more to any intelligible effect.

Then Brother Gimblet came forward, and took (as I knew he would) the text, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’ Ah! but whose was, my fellow-sinners? Whose? Why, our brother’s here present was. The only kingdom he had an idea of was of this world. (‘That’s it!’ from several of the congregation.) What did the woman do when she lost the piece of money? Went and looked for it. What should our brother do when he lost his way? (‘Go and look for it,’ from a sister.) Go and look for it, true. But must he look for it in the right direction, or in the wrong? (‘In the right,’ from a brother.) There spake the prophets! He must look for it in the right direction, or he couldn’t find it. But he had turned his back upon the right direction, and he wouldn’t find it. Now, my fellow-sinners, to show you the difference betwixt worldly- mindedness and unworldly-mindedness, betwixt kingdoms not of this world and kingdoms OF this world, here was a letter wrote by even our worldly-minded brother unto Brother Hawkyard. Judge, from hearing of it read, whether Brother Hawkyard was the faithful steward that the Lord had in his mind only t’other day, when, in this very place, he drew you the picter of the unfaithful one; for it was him that done it, not me. Don’t doubt that!

Brother Gimblet then groaned and bellowed his way through my composition, and subsequently through an hour. The service closed with a hymn, in which the brothers unanimously roared, and the sisters unanimously shrieked at me, That I by wiles of worldly gain was mocked, and they on waters of sweet love were rocked; that I with mammon struggled in the dark, while they were floating in a second ark.

I went out from all this with an aching heart and a weary spirit: not because I was quite so weak as to consider these narrow creatures interpreters of the Divine Majesty and Wisdom, but because I was weak enough to feel as though it were my hard fortune to be misrepresented and misunderstood, when I most tried to subdue any risings of mere worldliness within me, and when I most hoped that, by dint of trying earnestly, I had succeeded.


SEVENTH CHAPTER

MY timidity and my obscurity occasioned me to live a secluded life at college, and to be little known. No relative ever came to visit me, for I had no relative. No intimate friends broke in upon my studies, for I made no intimate friends. I supported myself on my scholarship, and read much. My college time was otherwise not so very different from my time at Hoghton Towers.

Knowing myself to be unfit for the noisier stir of social existence, but believing myself qualified to do my duty in a moderate, though earnest way, if I could obtain some small preferment in the Church, I applied my mind to the clerical profession. In due sequence I took orders, was ordained, and began to look about me for employment. I must observe that I had taken a good degree, that I had succeeded in winning a good fellowship, and that my means were ample for my retired way of life. By this time I had read with several young men; and the occupation increased my income, while it was highly interesting to me. I once accidentally overheard our greatest don say, to my boundless joy, ‘That he heard it reported of Silverman that his gift of quiet explanation, his patience, his amiable temper, and his conscientiousness made him the best of coaches.’ May my ‘gift of quiet explanation’ come more seasonably and powerfully to my aid in this present explanation than I think it will!

It may be in a certain degree owing to the situation of my college- rooms (in a corner where the daylight was sobered), but it is in a much larger degree referable to the state of my own mind, that I seem to myself, on looking back to this time of my life, to have been always in the peaceful shade. I can see others in the sunlight; I can see our boats’ crews and our athletic young men on the glistening water, or speckled with the moving lights of sunlit leaves; but I myself am always in the shadow looking on. Not unsympathetically, - God forbid! - but looking on alone, much as I looked at Sylvia from the shadows of the ruined house, or looked at the red gleam shining through the farmer’s windows, and listened to the fall of dancing feet, when all the ruin was dark that night in the quadrangle.

I now come to the reason of my quoting that laudation of myself above given. Without such reason, to repeat it would have been mere boastfulness.

Among those who had read with me was Mr. Fareway, second son of Lady Fareway, widow of Sir Gaston Fareway, baronet. This young gentleman’s abilities were much above the average; but he came of a rich family, and was idle and luxurious. He presented himself to me too late, and afterwards came to me too irregularly, to admit of my being of much service to him. In the end, I considered it my duty to dissuade him from going up for an examination which he could never pass; and he left college without a degree. After his departure, Lady Fareway wrote to me, representing the justice of my returning half my fee, as I had been of so little use to her son. Within my knowledge a similar demand had not been made in any other case; and I most freely admit that the justice of it had not occurred to me until it was pointed out. But I at once perceived it, yielded to it, and returned the money -

Mr. Fareway had been gone two years or more, and I had forgotten him, when he one day walked into my rooms as I was sitting at my books.

Said he, after the usual salutations had passed, ‘Mr. Silverman, my mother is in town here, at the hotel, and wishes me to present you to her.’

I was not comfortable with strangers, and I dare say I betrayed that I was a little nervous or unwilling. ‘For,’ said he, without my having spoken, ‘I think the interview may tend to the advancement of your prospects.’

It put me to the blush to think that I should be tempted by a worldly reason, and I rose immediately.

Said Mr. Fareway, as we went along, ‘Are you a good hand at business?’

‘I think not,’ said I.

Said Mr. Fareway then, ‘My mother is.’

‘Truly?’ said I.

‘Yes: my mother is what is usually called a managing woman. Doesn’t make a bad thing, for instance, even out of the spendthrift habits of my eldest brother abroad. In short, a managing woman. This is in confidence.’

He had never spoken to me in confidence, and I was surprised by his doing so. I said I should respect his confidence, of course, and said no more on the delicate subject. We had but a little way to walk, and I was soon in his mother’s company. He presented me, shook hands with me, and left us two (as he said) to business.

I saw in my Lady Fareway a handsome, well-preserved lady of somewhat large stature, with a steady glare in her great round dark eyes that embarrassed me.

Said my lady, ‘I have heard from my son, Mr. Silverman, that you would be glad of some preferment in the church.’ I gave my lady to understand that was so.

‘I don’t know whether you are aware,’ my lady proceeded, ‘that we have a presentation to a living? I say WE have; but, in point of fact, I have.’

I gave my lady to understand that I had not been aware of this.

Said my lady, ‘So it is: indeed I have two presentations, - one to two hundred a year, one to six. Both livings are in our county, - North Devonshire, - as you probably know. The first is vacant. Would you like it?’

What with my lady’s eyes, and what with the suddenness of this proposed gift, I was much confused.

‘I am sorry it is not the larger presentation,’ said my lady, rather coldly; ‘though I will not, Mr. Silverman, pay you the bad compliment of supposing that YOU are, because that would be mercenary, - and mercenary I am persuaded you are not.’

Said I, with my utmost earnestness, ‘Thank you, Lady Fareway, thank you, thank you! I should be deeply hurt if I thought I bore the character.’

‘Naturally,’ said my lady. ‘Always detestable, but particularly in a clergyman. You have not said whether you will like the living?’

With apologies for my remissness or indistinctness, I assured my lady that I accepted it most readily and gratefully. I added that I hoped she would not estimate my appreciation of the generosity of her choice by my flow of words; for I was not a ready man in that respect when taken by surprise or touched at heart.

‘The affair is concluded,’ said my lady; ‘concluded. You will find the duties very light, Mr. Silverman. Charming house; charming little garden, orchard, and all that. You will be able to take pupils. By the bye! No: I will return to the word afterwards. What was I going to mention, when it put me out?’

My lady stared at me, as if I knew. And I didn’t know. And that perplexed me afresh.

Said my lady, after some consideration, ‘O, of course, how very dull of me! The last incumbent, - least mercenary man I ever saw, - in consideration of the duties being so light and the house so delicious, couldn’t rest, he said, unless I permitted him to help me with my correspondence, accounts, and various little things of that kind; nothing in themselves, but which it worries a lady to cope with. Would Mr. Silverman also like to -? Or shall I -?’

I hastened to say that my poor help would be always at her ladyship’s service.

‘I am absolutely blessed,’ said my lady, casting up her eyes (and so taking them off me for one moment), ‘in having to do with gentlemen who cannot endure an approach to the idea of being mercenary!’ She shivered at the word. ‘And now as to the pupil.’

‘The -?’ I was quite at a loss.

‘Mr. Silverman, you have no idea what she is. She is,’ said my lady, laying her touch upon my coat-sleeve, ‘I do verily believe, the most extraordinary girl in this world. Already knows more Greek and Latin than Lady Jane Grey. And taught herself! Has not yet, remember, derived a moment’s advantage from Mr. Silverman’s classical acquirements. To say nothing of mathematics, which she is bent upon becoming versed in, and in which (as I hear from my son and others) Mr. Silverman’s reputation is so deservedly high!’

Under my lady’s eyes I must have lost the clue, I felt persuaded; and yet I did not know where I could have dropped it.

‘Adelina,’ said my lady, ‘is my only daughter. If I did not feel quite convinced that I am not blinded by a mother’s partiality; unless I was absolutely sure that when you know her, Mr. Silverman, you will esteem it a high and unusual privilege to direct her studies, - I should introduce a mercenary element into this conversation, and ask you on what terms - ‘

I entreated my lady to go no further. My lady saw that I was troubled, and did me the honour to comply with my request.


EIGHTH CHAPTER

EVERYTHING in mental acquisition that her brother might have been, if he would, and everything in all gracious charms and admirable qualities that no one but herself could be, - this was Adelina.

I will not expatiate upon her beauty; I will not expatiate upon her intelligence, her quickness of perception, her powers of memory, her sweet consideration, from the first moment, for the slow-paced tutor who ministered to her wonderful gifts. I was thirty then; I am over sixty now: she is ever present to me in these hours as she was in those, bright and beautiful and young, wise and fanciful and good.

When I discovered that I loved her, how can I say? In the first day? in the first week? in the first month? Impossible to trace. If I be (as I am) unable to represent to myself any previous period of my life as quite separable from her attracting power, how can I answer for this one detail?

Whensoever I made the discovery, it laid a heavy burden on me. And yet, comparing it with the far heavier burden that I afterwards took up, it does not seem to me now to have been very hard to bear. In the knowledge that I did love her, and that I should love her while my life lasted, and that I was ever to hide my secret deep in my own breast, and she was never to find it, there was a kind of sustaining joy or pride, or comfort, mingled with my pain.

But later on, - say, a year later on, - when I made another discovery, then indeed my suffering and my struggle were strong. That other discovery was -

These words will never see the light, if ever, until my heart is dust; until her bright spirit has returned to the regions of which, when imprisoned here, it surely retained some unusual glimpse of remembrance; until all the pulses that ever beat around us shall have long been quiet; until all the fruits of all the tiny victories and defeats achieved in our little breasts shall have withered away. That discovery was that she loved me.

She may have enhanced my knowledge, and loved me for that; she may have over-valued my discharge of duty to her, and loved me for that; she may have refined upon a playful compassion which she would sometimes show for what she called my want of wisdom, according to the light of the world’s dark lanterns, and loved me for that; she may - she must - have confused the borrowed light of what I had only learned, with its brightness in its pure, original rays; but she loved me at that time, and she made me know it.

Pride of family and pride of wealth put me as far off from her in my lady’s eyes as if I had been some domesticated creature of another kind. But they could not put me farther from her than I put myself when I set my merits against hers. More than that. They could not put me, by millions of fathoms, half so low beneath her as I put myself when in imagination I took advantage of her noble trustfulness, took the fortune that I knew she must possess in her own right, and left her to find herself, in the zenith of her beauty and genius, bound to poor rusty, plodding me.

No! Worldliness should not enter here at any cost. If I had tried to keep it out of other ground, how much harder was I bound to try to keep it out from this sacred place!

But there was something daring in her broad, generous character, that demanded at so delicate a crisis to be delicately and patiently addressed. And many and many a bitter night (O, I found I could cry for reasons not purely physical, at this pass of my life!) I took my course.

My lady had, in our first interview, unconsciously overstated the accommodation of my pretty house. There was room in it for only one pupil. He was a young gentleman near coming of age, very well connected, but what is called a poor relation. His parents were dead. The charges of his living and reading with me were defrayed by an uncle; and he and I were to do our utmost together for three years towards qualifying him to make his way. At this time he had entered into his second year with me. He was well-looking, clever, energetic, enthusiastic; bold; in the best sense of the term, a thorough young Anglo-Saxon.

I resolved to bring these two together.


NINTH CHAPTER

SAID I, one night, when I had conquered myself, ‘Mr. Granville,’ - Mr. Granville Wharton his name was, - ‘I doubt if you have ever yet so much as seen Miss Fareway.’

‘Well, sir,’ returned he, laughing, ‘you see her so much yourself, that you hardly leave another fellow a chance of seeing her.’

‘I am her tutor, you know,’ said I.

And there the subject dropped for that time. But I so contrived as that they should come together shortly afterwards. I had previously so contrived as to keep them asunder; for while I loved her, - I mean before I had determined on my sacrifice, - a lurking jealousy of Mr. Granville lay within my unworthy breast.

It was quite an ordinary interview in the Fareway Park but they talked easily together for some time: like takes to like, and they had many points of resemblance. Said Mr. Granville to me, when he and I sat at our supper that night, ‘Miss Fareway is remarkably beautiful, sir, remarkably engaging. Don’t you think so?’ ‘I think so,’ said I. And I stole a glance at him, and saw that he had reddened and was thoughtful. I remember it most vividly, because the mixed feeling of grave pleasure and acute pain that the slight circumstance caused me was the first of a long, long series of such mixed impressions under which my hair turned slowly gray.

I had not much need to feign to be subdued; but I counterfeited to be older than I was in all respects (Heaven knows! my heart being all too young the while), and feigned to be more of a recluse and bookworm than I had really become, and gradually set up more and more of a fatherly manner towards Adelina. Likewise I made my tuition less imaginative than before; separated myself from my poets and philosophers; was careful to present them in their own light, and me, their lowly servant, in my own shade. Moreover, in the matter of apparel I was equally mindful; not that I had ever been dapper that way; but that I was slovenly now.

As I depressed myself with one hand, so did I labour to raise Mr. Granville with the other; directing his attention to such subjects as I too well knew interested her, and fashioning him (do not deride or misconstrue the expression, unknown reader of this writing; for I have suffered!) into a greater resemblance to myself in my solitary one strong aspect. And gradually, gradually, as I saw him take more and more to these thrown-out lures of mine, then did I come to know better and better that love was drawing him on, and was drawing her from me.

So passed more than another year; every day a year in its number of my mixed impressions of grave pleasure and acute pain; and then these two, being of age and free to act legally for themselves, came before me hand in hand (my hair being now quite white), and entreated me that I would unite them together. ‘And indeed, dear tutor,’ said Adelina, ‘it is but consistent in you that you should do this thing for us, seeing that we should never have spoken together that first time but for you, and that but for you we could never have met so often afterwards.’ The whole of which was literally true; for I had availed myself of my many business attendances on, and conferences with, my lady, to take Mr. Granville to the house, and leave him in the outer room with Adelina.

I knew that my lady would object to such a marriage for her daughter, or to any marriage that was other than an exchange of her for stipulated lands, goods, and moneys. But looking on the two, and seeing with full eyes that they were both young and beautiful; and knowing that they were alike in the tastes and acquirements that will outlive youth and beauty; and considering that Adelina had a fortune now, in her own keeping; and considering further that Mr. Granville, though for the present poor, was of a good family that had never lived in a cellar in Preston; and believing that their love would endure, neither having any great discrepancy to find out in the other, - I told them of my readiness to do this thing which Adelina asked of her dear tutor, and to send them forth, husband and wife, into the shining world with golden gates that awaited them.

It was on a summer morning that I rose before the sun to compose myself for the crowning of my work with this end; and my dwelling being near to the sea, I walked down to the rocks on the shore, in order that I might behold the sun in his majesty.

The tranquillity upon the deep, and on the firmament, the orderly withdrawal of the stars, the calm promise of coming day, the rosy suffusion of the sky and waters, the ineffable splendour that then burst forth, attuned my mind afresh after the discords of the night. Methought that all I looked on said to me, and that all I heard in the sea and in the air said to me, ‘Be comforted, mortal, that thy life is so short. Our preparation for what is to follow has endured, and shall endure, for unimaginable ages.’

I married them. I knew that my hand was cold when I placed it on their hands clasped together; but the words with which I had to accompany the action I could say without faltering, and I was at peace.

They being well away from my house and from the place after our simple breakfast, the time was come when I must do what I had pledged myself to them that I would do, - break the intelligence to my lady.

I went up to the house, and found my lady in her ordinary business- room. She happened to have an unusual amount of commissions to intrust to me that day; and she had filled my hands with papers before I could originate a word.

‘My lady,’ I then began, as I stood beside her table.

‘Why, what’s the matter?’ she said quickly, looking up.

‘Not much, I would fain hope, after you shall have prepared yourself, and considered a little.’

‘Prepared myself; and considered a little! You appear to have prepared YOURSELF but indifferently, anyhow, Mr. Silverman.’ This mighty scornfully, as I experienced my usual embarrassment under her stare.

Said I, in self-extenuation once for all, ‘Lady Fareway, I have but to say for myself that I have tried to do my duty.’

‘For yourself?’ repeated my lady. ‘Then there are others concerned, I see. Who are they?’

I was about to answer, when she made towards the bell with a dart that stopped me, and said, ‘Why, where is Adelina?’

‘Forbear! be calm, my lady. I married her this morning to Mr. Granville Wharton.’

She set her lips, looked more intently at me than ever, raised her right hand, and smote me hard upon the cheek.

‘Give me back those papers! give me back those papers!’ She tore them out of my hands, and tossed them on her table. Then seating herself defiantly in her great chair, and folding her arms, she stabbed me to the heart with the unlooked-for reproach, ‘You worldly wretch!’

‘Worldly?’ I cried. ‘Worldly?’

‘This, if you please,’ - she went on with supreme scorn, pointing me out as if there were some one there to see, - ‘this, if you please, is the disinterested scholar, with not a design beyond his books! This, if you please, is the simple creature whom any one could overreach in a bargain! This, if you please, is Mr. Silverman! Not of this world; not he! He has too much simplicity for this world’s cunning. He has too much singleness of purpose to be a match for this world’s double-dealing. What did he give you for it?’

‘For what? And who?’

‘How much,’ she asked, bending forward in her great chair, and insultingly tapping the fingers of her right hand on the palm of her left, - ‘how much does Mr. Granville Wharton pay you for getting him Adelina’s money? What is the amount of your percentage upon Adelina’s fortune? What were the terms of the agreement that you proposed to this boy when you, the Rev. George Silverman, licensed to marry, engaged to put him in possession of this girl? You made good terms for yourself, whatever they were. He would stand a poor chance against your keenness.’

Bewildered, horrified, stunned by this cruel perversion, I could not speak. But I trust that I looked innocent, being so.

‘Listen to me, shrewd hypocrite,’ said my lady, whose anger increased as she gave it utterance; ‘attend to my words, you cunning schemer, who have carried this plot through with such a practised double face that I have never suspected you. I had my projects for my daughter; projects for family connection; projects for fortune. You have thwarted them, and overreached me; but I am not one to be thwarted and overreached without retaliation. Do you mean to hold this living another month?’

‘Do you deem it possible, Lady Fareway, that I can hold it another hour, under your injurious words?’

‘Is it resigned, then?’

‘It was mentally resigned, my lady, some minutes ago.’

Don’t equivocate, sir. IS it resigned?’

‘Unconditionally and entirely; and I would that I had never, never come near it!’

‘A cordial response from me to THAT wish, Mr. Silverman! But take this with you, sir. If you had not resigned it, I would have had you deprived of it. And though you have resigned it, you will not get quit of me as easily as you think for. I will pursue you with this story. I will make this nefarious conspiracy of yours, for money, known. You have made money by it, but you have at the same time made an enemy by it. YOU will take good care that the money sticks to you; I will take good care that the enemy sticks to you.’

Then said I finally, ‘Lady Fareway, I think my heart is broken. Until I came into this room just now, the possibility of such mean wickedness as you have imputed to me never dawned upon my thoughts. Your suspicions - ‘

‘Suspicions! Pah!’ said she indignantly. ‘Certainties.’

‘Your certainties, my lady, as you call them, your suspicions as I call them, are cruel, unjust, wholly devoid of foundation in fact. I can declare no more; except that I have not acted for my own profit or my own pleasure. I have not in this proceeding considered myself. Once again, I think my heart is broken. If I have unwittingly done any wrong with a righteous motive, that is some penalty to pay.’

She received this with another and more indignant ‘Pah!’ and I made my way out of her room (I think I felt my way out with my hands, although my eyes were open), almost suspecting that my voice had a repulsive sound, and that I was a repulsive object.

There was a great stir made, the bishop was appealed to, I received a severe reprimand, and narrowly escaped suspension. For years a cloud hung over me, and my name was tarnished.

But my heart did not break, if a broken heart involves death; for I lived through it.

They stood by me, Adelina and her husband, through it all. Those who had known me at college, and even most of those who had only known me there by reputation, stood by me too. Little by little, the belief widened that I was not capable of what was laid to my charge. At length I was presented to a college-living in a sequestered place, and there I now pen my explanation. I pen it at my open window in the summer-time, before me, lying in the churchyard, equal resting-place for sound hearts, wounded hearts, and broken hearts. I pen it for the relief of my own mind, not foreseeing whether or no it will ever have a reader.


HOLIDAY ROMANCE


PART I

INTRODUCTORY ROMANCE PROM THE PEN OF WILLIAM TINKLING, ESQ. (Aged eight.)

THIS beginning-part is not made out of anybody’s head, you know. It’s real. You must believe this beginning-part more than what comes after, else you won’t understand how what comes after came to be written. You must believe it all; but you must believe this most, please. I am the editor of it. Bob Redforth (he’s my cousin, and shaking the table on purpose) wanted to be the editor of it; but I said he shouldn’t because he couldn’t. HE has no idea of being an editor.

Nettie Ashford is my bride. We were married in the right-hand closet in the corner of the dancing-school, where first we met, with a ring (a green one) from Wilkingwater’s toy-shop. I owed for it out of my pocket-money. When the rapturous ceremony was over, we all four went up the lane and let off a cannon (brought loaded in Bob Redforth’s waistcoat-pocket) to announce our nuptials. It flew right up when it went off, and turned over. Next day, Lieut.-Col. Robin Redforth was united, with similar ceremonies, to Alice Rainbird. This time the cannon burst with a most terrific explosion, and made a puppy bark.

My peerless bride was, at the period of which we now treat, in captivity at Miss Grimmer’s. Drowvey and Grimmer is the partnership, and opinion is divided which is the greatest beast. The lovely bride of the colonel was also immured in the dungeons of the same establishment. A vow was entered into, between the colonel and myself, that we would cut them out on the following Wednesday when walking two and two.

Under the desperate circumstances of the case, the active brain of the colonel, combining with his lawless pursuit (he is a pirate), suggested an attack with fireworks. This, however, from motives of humanity, was abandoned as too expensive.

Lightly armed with a paper-knife buttoned up under his jacket, and waving the dreaded black flag at the end of a cane, the colonel took command of me at two P.M. on the eventful and appointed day. He had drawn out the plan of attack on a piece of paper, which was rolled up round a hoop-stick. He showed it to me. My position and my full-length portrait (but my real ears don’t stick out horizontal) was behind a corner lamp-post, with written orders to remain there till I should see Miss Drowvey fall. The Drowvey who was to fall was the one in spectacles, not the one with the large lavender bonnet. At that signal I was to rush forth, seize my bride, and fight my way to the lane. There a junction would be effected between myself and the colonel; and putting our brides behind us, between ourselves and the palings, we were to conquer or die.

The enemy appeared, — approached. Waving his black flag, the colonel attacked. Confusion ensued. Anxiously I awaited my signal; but my signal came not. So far from falling, the hated Drowvey in spectacles appeared to me to have muffled the colonel’s head in his outlawed banner, and to be pitching into him with a parasol. The one in the lavender bonnet also performed prodigies of valour with her fists on his back. Seeing that all was for the moment lost, I fought my desperate way hand to hand to the lane. Through taking the back road, I was so fortunate as to meet nobody, and arrived there uninterrupted.

It seemed an age ere the colonel joined me. He had been to the jobbing tailor’s to be sewn up in several places, and attributed our defeat to the refusal of the detested Drowvey to fall. Finding her so obstinate, he had said to her, ‘Die, recreant!’ but had found her no more open to reason on that point than the other.

My blooming bride appeared, accompanied by the colonel’s bride, at the dancing-school next day. What? Was her face averted from me? Hah? Even so. With a look of scorn, she put into my hand a bit of paper, and took another partner. On the paper was pencilled, ‘Heavens! Can I write the word? Is my husband a cow?’

In the first bewilderment of my heated brain, I tried to think what slanderer could have traced my family to the ignoble animal mentioned above. Vain were my endeavours. At the end of that dance I whispered the colonel to come into the cloak-room, and I showed him the note.

‘There is a syllable wanting,’ said he, with a gloomy brow.

‘Hah! What syllable?’ was my inquiry.

‘She asks, can she write the word? And no; you see she couldn’t,’ said the colonel, pointing out the passage.

‘And the word was?’ said I.

‘Cow — cow — coward,’ hissed the pirate-colonel in my ear, and gave me back the note.

Feeling that I must for ever tread the earth a branded boy, — person I mean, — or that I must clear up my honour, I demanded to be tried by a court-martial. The colonel admitted my right to be tried. Some difficulty was found in composing the court, on account of the Emperor of France’s aunt refusing to let him come out. He was to be the president. Ere yet we had appointed a substitute, he made his escape over the back-wall, and stood among us, a free monarch.

The court was held on the grass by the pond. I recognised, in a certain admiral among my judges, my deadliest foe. A cocoa-nut had given rise to language that I could not brook; but confiding in my innocence, and also in the knowledge that the President of the United States (who sat next him) owed me a knife, I braced myself for the ordeal.

It was a solemn spectacle, that court. Two executioners with pinafores reversed led me in. Under the shade of an umbrella I perceived my bride, supported by the bride of the pirate-colonel. The president, having reproved a little female ensign for tittering, on a matter of life or death, called upon me to plead, ‘Coward or no coward, guilty or not guilty?’ I pleaded in a firm tone, ‘No coward and not guilty.’ (The little female ensign being again reproved by the president for misconduct, mutinied, left the court, and threw stones.)

My implacable enemy, the admiral, conducted the case against me. The colonel’s bride was called to prove that I had remained behind the corner lamp-post during the engagement. I might have been spared the anguish of my own bride’s being also made a witness to the same point, but the admiral knew where to wound me. Be still, my soul, no matter. The colonel was then brought forward with his evidence.

It was for this point that I had saved myself up, as the turning-point of my case. Shaking myself free of my guards, — who had no business to hold me, the stupids, unless I was found guilty, — I asked the colonel what he considered the first duty of a soldier? Ere he could reply, the President of the United States rose and informed the court, that my foe, the admiral, had suggested ‘Bravery,’ and that prompting a witness wasn’t fair. The president of the court immediately ordered the admiral’s mouth to be filled with leaves, and tied up with string. I had the satisfaction of seeing the sentence carried into effect before the proceedings went further.

I then took a paper from my trousers-pocket, and asked, ‘What do you consider, Col. Redford, the first duty of a soldier? Is it obedience?’

‘It is,’ said the colonel.

‘Is that paper — please to look at it — in your hand?’

‘It is,’ said the colonel.

‘Is it a military sketch?’

‘It is,’ said the colonel.

‘Of an engagement?’

‘Quite so,’ said the colonel.

‘Of the late engagement?’

‘Of the late engagement.’

‘Please to describe it, and then hand it to the president of the court.’

From that triumphant moment my sufferings and my dangers were at an end. The court rose up and jumped, on discovering that I had strictly obeyed orders. My foe, the admiral, who though muzzled was malignant yet, contrived to suggest that I was dishonoured by having quitted the field. But the colonel himself had done as much, and gave his opinion, upon his word and honour as a pirate, that when all was lost the field might be quitted without disgrace. I was going to be found ‘No coward and not guilty,’ and my blooming bride was going to be publicly restored to my arms in a procession, when an unlooked-for event disturbed the general rejoicing. This was no other than the Emperor of France’s aunt catching hold of his hair. The proceedings abruptly terminated, and the court tumultuously dissolved.

It was when the shades of the next evening but one were beginning to fall, ere yet the silver beams of Luna touched the earth, that four forms might have been descried slowly advancing towards the weeping willow on the borders of the pond, the now deserted scene of the day before yesterday’s agonies and triumphs. On a nearer approach, and by a practised eye, these might have been identified as the forms of the pirate-colonel with his bride, and of the day before yesterday’s gallant prisoner with his bride.

On the beauteous faces of the Nymphs dejection sat enthroned. All four reclined under the willow for some minutes without speaking, till at length the bride of the colonel poutingly observed, ‘It’s of no use pretending any more, and we had better give it up.’

‘Hah!’ exclaimed the pirate. ‘Pretending?’

‘Don’t go on like that; you worry me,’ returned his bride.

The lovely bride of Tinkling echoed the incredible declaration. The two warriors exchanged stony glances.

‘If,’ said the bride of the pirate-colonel, ‘grown-up people WON’T do what they ought to do, and WILL put us out, what comes of our pretending?’

‘We only get into scrapes,’ said the bride of Tinkling.

‘You know very well,’ pursued the colonel’s bride, ‘that Miss Drowvey wouldn’t fall. You complained of it yourself. And you know how disgracefully the court-martial ended. As to our marriage; would my people acknowledge it at home?’

‘Or would my people acknowledge ours?’ said the bride of Tinkling.

Again the two warriors exchanged stony glances.

‘If you knocked at the door and claimed me, after you were told to go away,’ said the colonel’s bride, ‘you would only have your hair pulled, or your ears, or your nose.’

‘If you persisted in ringing at the bell and claiming me,’ said the bride of Tinkling to that gentleman, ‘you would have things dropped on your head from the window over the handle, or you would be played upon by the garden-engine.’

‘And at your own homes,’ resumed the bride of the colonel, ‘it would be just as bad. You would be sent to bed, or something equally undignified. Again, how would you support us?’

The pirate-colonel replied in a courageous voice, ‘By rapine!’ But his bride retorted, ‘Suppose the grown-up people wouldn’t be rapined?’ ‘Then,’ said the colonel, ‘they should pay the penalty in blood.’ — ‘But suppose they should object,’ retorted his bride, ‘and wouldn’t pay the penalty in blood or anything else?’

A mournful silence ensued.

‘Then do you no longer love me, Alice?’ asked the colonel.

‘Redforth! I am ever thine,’ returned his bride.

‘Then do you no longer love me, Nettie?’ asked the present writer.

‘Tinkling! I am ever thine,’ returned my bride.

We all four embraced. Let me not be misunderstood by the giddy. The colonel embraced his own bride, and I embraced mine. But two times two make four.

‘Nettie and I,’ said Alice mournfully, ‘have been considering our position. The grown-up people are too strong for us. They make us ridiculous. Besides, they have changed the times. William Tinkling’s baby brother was christened yesterday. What took place? Was any king present? Answer, William.’

I said No, unless disguised as Great-uncle Chopper.

‘Any queen?’

There had been no queen that I knew of at our house. There might have been one in the kitchen: but I didn’t think so, or the servants would have mentioned it.

‘Any fairies?’

None that were visible.

‘We had an idea among us, I think,’ said Alice, with a melancholy smile, ‘we four, that Miss Grimmer would prove to be the wicked fairy, and would come in at the christening with her crutch-stick, and give the child a bad gift. Was there anything of that sort? Answer, William.’

I said that ma had said afterwards (and so she had), that Great-uncle Chopper’s gift was a shabby one; but she hadn’t said a bad one. She had called it shabby, electrotyped, second-hand, and below his income.

‘It must be the grown-up people who have changed all this,’ said Alice. ‘WE couldn’t have changed it, if we had been so inclined, and we never should have been. Or perhaps Miss Grimmer IS a wicked fairy after all, and won’t act up to it because the grown-up people have persuaded her not to. Either way, they would make us ridiculous if we told them what we expected.’

‘Tyrants!’ muttered the pirate-colonel.

‘Nay, my Redforth,’ said Alice, ‘say not so. Call not names, my Redforth, or they will apply to pa.’

‘Let ‘em,’ said the colonel. ‘I do not care. Who’s he?’

Tinkling here undertook the perilous task of remonstrating with his lawless friend, who consented to withdraw the moody expressions above quoted.

‘What remains for us to do?’ Alice went on in her mild, wise way. ‘We must educate, we must pretend in a new manner, we must wait.’

The colonel clenched his teeth, — four out in front, and a piece of another, and he had been twice dragged to the door of a dentist-despot, but had escaped from his guards. ‘How educate? How pretend in a new manner? How wait?’

‘Educate the grown-up people,’ replied Alice. ‘We part to-night. Yes, Redforth,’ — for the colonel tucked up his cuffs, — ‘part to-night! Let us in these next holidays, now going to begin, throw our thoughts into something educational for the grown-up people, hinting to them how things ought to be. Let us veil our meaning under a mask of romance; you, I, and Nettie. William Tinkling being the plainest and quickest writer, shall copy out. Is it agreed?’

The colonel answered sulkily, ‘I don’t mind.’ He then asked, ‘How about pretending?’

‘We will pretend,’ said Alice, ‘that we are children; not that we are those grown-up people who won’t help us out as they ought, and who understand us so badly.’

The colonel, still much dissatisfied, growled, ‘How about waiting?’

‘We will wait,’ answered little Alice, taking Nettie’s hand in hers, and looking up to the sky, ‘we will wait — ever constant and true — till the times have got so changed as that everything helps us out, and nothing makes us ridiculous, and the fairies have come back. We will wait — ever constant and true — till we are eighty, ninety, or one hundred. And then the fairies will send US children, and we will help them out, poor pretty little creatures, if they pretend ever so much.’

‘So we will, dear,’ said Nettie Ashford, taking her round the waist with both arms and kissing her. ‘And now if my husband will go and buy some cherries for us, I have got some money.’

In the friendliest manner I invited the colonel to go with me; but he so far forgot himself as to acknowledge the invitation by kicking out behind, and then lying down on his stomach on the grass, pulling it up and chewing it. When I came back, however, Alice had nearly brought him out of his vexation, and was soothing him by telling him how soon we should all be ninety.

As we sat under the willow-tree and ate the cherries (fair, for Alice shared them out), we played at being ninety. Nettie complained that she had a bone in her old back, and it made her hobble; and Alice sang a song in an old woman’s way, but it was very pretty, and we were all merry. At least, I don’t know about merry exactly, but all comfortable.

There was a most tremendous lot of cherries; and Alice always had with her some neat little bag or box or case, to hold things. In it that night was a tiny wine-glass. So Alice and Nettie said they would make some cherry-wine to drink our love at parting.

Each of us had a glassful, and it was delicious; and each of us drank the toast, ‘Our love at parting.’ The colonel drank his wine last; and it got into my head directly that it got into his directly. Anyhow, his eyes rolled immediately after he had turned the glass upside down; and he took me on one side and proposed in a hoarse whisper, that we should ‘Cut ‘em out still.’

‘How did he mean?’ I asked my lawless friend.

‘Cut our brides out,’ said the colonel, ‘and then cut our way, without going down a single turning, bang to the Spanish main!’

We might have tried it, though I didn’t think it would answer; only we looked round and saw that there was nothing but moon-light under the willow-tree, and that our pretty, pretty wives were gone. We burst out crying. The colonel gave in second, and came to first; but he gave in strong.

We were ashamed of our red eyes, and hung about for half-an-hour to whiten them. Likewise a piece of chalk round the rims, I doing the colonel’s, and he mine, but afterwards found in the bedroom looking-glass not natural, besides inflammation. Our conversation turned on being ninety. The colonel told me he had a pair of boots that wanted soling and heeling; but he thought it hardly worth while to mention it to his father, as he himself should so soon be ninety, when he thought shoes would be more convenient. The colonel also told me, with his hand upon his hip, that he felt himself already getting on in life, and turning rheumatic. And I told him the same. And when they said at our house at supper (they are always bothering about something) that I stooped, I felt so glad!

This is the end of the beginning-part that you were to believe most.


PART II.

ROMANCE. FROM THE PEN OF MISS ALICE RAINBIRD (Aged seven.)

THERE was once a king, and he had a queen; and he was the manliest of his sex, and she was the loveliest of hers. The king was, in his private profession, under government. The queen’s father had been a medical man out of town.

They had nineteen children, and were always having more. Seventeen of these children took care of the baby; and Alicia, the eldest, took care of them all. Their ages varied from seven years to seven months.

Let us now resume our story.

One day the king was going to the office, when he stopped at the fishmonger’s to buy a pound and a half of salmon not too near the tail, which the queen (who was a careful housekeeper) had requested him to send home. Mr. Pickles, the fishmonger, said, ‘Certainly, sir; is there any other article? Good-morning.’

The king went on towards the office in a melancholy mood; for quarter-day was such a long way off, and several of the dear children were growing out of their clothes. He had not proceeded far, when Mr. Pickles’s errand-boy came running after him, and said, ‘Sir, you didn’t notice the old lady in our shop.’

‘What old lady?’ inquired the king. ‘I saw none.’

Now the king had not seen any old lady, because this old lady had been invisible to him, though visible to Mr. Pickles’s boy. Probably because he messed and splashed the water about to that degree, and flopped the pairs of soles down in that violent manner, that, if she had not been visible to him, he would have spoilt her clothes.

Just then the old lady came trotting up. She was dressed in shot-silk of the richest quality, smelling of dried lavender.

‘King Watkins the First, I believe?’ said the old lady.

‘Watkins,’ replied the king, ‘is my name.’

‘Papa, if I am not mistaken, of the beautiful Princess Alicia?’ said the old lady.

‘And of eighteen other darlings,’ replied the king.

‘Listen. You are going to the office,’ said the old lady.

It instantly flashed upon the king that she must be a fairy, or how could she know that?

‘You are right,’ said the old lady, answering his thoughts. ‘I am the good Fairy Grandmarina. Attend! When you return home to dinner, politely invite the Princess Alicia to have some of the salmon you bought just now.’

‘It may disagree with her,’ said the king.

The old lady became so very angry at this absurd idea, that the king was quite alarmed, and humbly begged her pardon.

‘We hear a great deal too much about this thing disagreeing, and that thing disagreeing,’ said the old lady, with the greatest contempt it was possible to express. ‘Don’t be greedy. I think you want it all yourself.’

The king hung his head under this reproof, and said he wouldn’t talk about things disagreeing any more.

‘Be good, then,’ said the Fairy Grandmarina, ‘and don’t. When the beautiful Princess Alicia consents to partake of the salmon, — as I think she will, — you will find she will leave a fish-bone on her plate. Tell her to dry it, and to rub it, and to polish it till it shines like mother-of-pearl, and to take care of it as a present from me.’

‘Is that all?’ asked the king.

‘Don’t be impatient, sir,’ returned the Fairy Grandmarina, scolding him severely. ‘Don’t catch people short, before they have done speaking. Just the way with you grown-up persons. You are always doing it.’

The king again hung his head, and said he wouldn’t do so any more.

‘Be good, then,’ said the Fairy Grandmarina, ‘and don’t! Tell the Princess Alicia, with my love, that the fish-bone is a magic present which can only be used once; but that it will bring her, that once, whatever she wishes for, PROVIDED SHE WISHES FOR IT AT THE RIGHT TIME. That is the message. Take care of it.’

The king was beginning, ‘Might I ask the reason?’ when the fairy became absolutely furious.

‘WILL you be good, sir?’ she exclaimed, stamping her foot on the ground. ‘The reason for this, and the reason for that, indeed! You are always wanting the reason. No reason. There! Hoity toity me! I am sick of your grown-up reasons.’

The king was extremely frightened by the old lady’s flying into such a passion, and said he was very sorry to have offended her, and he wouldn’t ask for reasons any more.

‘Be good, then,’ said the old lady, ‘and don’t!’

With those words, Grandmarina vanished, and the king went on and on and on, till he came to the office. There he wrote and wrote and wrote, till it was time to go home again. Then he politely invited the Princess Alicia, as the fairy had directed him, to partake of the salmon. And when she had enjoyed it very much, he saw the fish-bone on her plate, as the fairy had told him he would, and he delivered the fairy’s message, and the Princess Alicia took care to dry the bone, and to rub it, and to polish it, till it shone like mother-of-pearl.

And so, when the queen was going to get up in the morning, she said, ‘O, dear me, dear me; my head, my head!’ and then she fainted away.

The Princess Alicia, who happened to be looking in at the chamber-door, asking about breakfast, was very much alarmed when she saw her royal mamma in this state, and she rang the bell for Peggy, which was the name of the lord chamberlain. But remembering where the smelling-bottle was, she climbed on a chair and got it; and after that she climbed on another chair by the bedside, and held the smelling-bottle to the queen’s nose; and after that she jumped down and got some water; and after that she jumped up again and wetted the queen’s forehead; and, in short, when the lord chamberlain came in, that dear old woman said to the little princess, ‘What a trot you are! I couldn’t have done it better myself!’

But that was not the worst of the good queen’s illness. O, no! She was very ill indeed, for a long time. The Princess Alicia kept the seventeen young princes and princesses quiet, and dressed and undressed and danced the baby, and made the kettle boil, and heated the soup, and swept the hearth, and poured out the medicine, and nursed the queen, and did all that ever she could, and was as busy, busy, busy as busy could be; for there were not many servants at that palace for three reasons: because the king was short of money, because a rise in his office never seemed to come, and because quarter-day was so far off that it looked almost as far off and as little as one of the stars.

But on the morning when the queen fainted away, where was the magic fish-bone? Why, there it was in the Princess Alicia’s pocket! She had almost taken it out to bring the queen to life again, when she put it back, and looked for the smelling-bottle.

After the queen had come out of her swoon that morning, and was dozing, the Princess Alicia hurried up-stairs to tell a most particular secret to a most particularly confidential friend of hers, who was a duchess. People did suppose her to be a doll; but she was really a duchess, though nobody knew it except the princess.

This most particular secret was the secret about the magic fish-bone, the history of which was well known to the duchess, because the princess told her everything. The princess kneeled down by the bed on which the duchess was lying, full-dressed and wide awake, and whispered the secret to her. The duchess smiled and nodded. People might have supposed that she never smiled and nodded; but she often did, though nobody knew it except the princess.

Then the Princess Alicia hurried down-stairs again, to keep watch in the queen’s room. She often kept watch by herself in the queen’s room; but every evening, while the illness lasted, she sat there watching with the king. And every evening the king sat looking at her with a cross look, wondering why she never brought out the magic fish-bone. As often as she noticed this, she ran up-stairs, whispered the secret to the duchess over again, and said to the duchess besides, ‘They think we children never have a reason or a meaning!’ And the duchess, though the most fashionable duchess that ever was heard of, winked her eye.

‘Alicia,’ said the king, one evening, when she wished him good-night.

‘Yes, papa.’

‘What is become of the magic fish-bone?’

‘In my pocket, papa!’

‘I thought you had lost it?’

‘O, no, papa!’

‘Or forgotten it?’

‘No, indeed, papa.’

And so another time the dreadful little snapping pug-dog, next door, made a rush at one of the young princes as he stood on the steps coming home from school, and terrified him out of his wits; and he put his hand through a pane of glass, and bled, bled, bled. When the seventeen other young princes and princesses saw him bleed, bleed, bleed, they were terrified out of their wits too, and screamed themselves black in their seventeen faces all at once. But the Princess Alicia put her hands over all their seventeen mouths, one after another, and persuaded them to be quiet because of the sick queen. And then she put the wounded prince’s hand in a basin of fresh cold water, while they stared with their twice seventeen are thirty-four, put down four and carry three, eyes, and then she looked in the hand for bits of glass, and there were fortunately no bits of glass there. And then she said to two chubby-legged princes, who were sturdy though small, ‘Bring me in the royal rag-bag: I must snip and stitch and cut and contrive.’ So these two young princes tugged at the royal rag-bag, and lugged it in; and the Princess Alicia sat down on the floor, with a large pair of scissors and a needle and thread, and snipped and stitched and cut and contrived, and made a bandage, and put it on, and it fitted beautifully; and so when it was all done, she saw the king her papa looking on by the door.

‘Alicia.’

‘Yes, papa.’

‘What have you been doing?’

‘Snipping, stitching, cutting, and contriving, papa.’

‘Where is the magic fish-bone?’

‘In my pocket, papa.’

‘I thought you had lost it?’

‘O, no, papa.’

‘Or forgotten it?’

‘No, indeed, papa.’

After that, she ran up-stairs to the duchess, and told her what had passed, and told her the secret over again; and the duchess shook her flaxen curls, and laughed with her rosy lips.

Well! and so another time the baby fell under the grate. The seventeen young princes and princesses were used to it; for they were almost always falling under the grate or down the stairs; but the baby was not used to it yet, and it gave him a swelled face and a black eye. The way the poor little darling came to tumble was, that he was out of the Princess Alicia’s lap just as she was sitting, in a great coarse apron that quite smothered her, in front of the kitchen-fire, beginning to peel the turnips for the broth for dinner; and the way she came to be doing that was, that the king’s cook had run away that morning with her own true love, who was a very tall but very tipsy soldier. Then the seventeen young princes and princesses, who cried at everything that happened, cried and roared. But the Princess Alicia (who couldn’t help crying a little herself) quietly called to them to be still, on account of not throwing back the queen up-stairs, who was fast getting well, and said, ‘Hold your tongues, you wicked little monkeys, every one of you, while I examine baby!’ Then she examined baby, and found that he hadn’t broken anything; and she held cold iron to his poor dear eye, and smoothed his poor dear face, and he presently fell asleep in her arms. Then she said to the seventeen princes and princesses, ‘I am afraid to let him down yet, lest he should wake and feel pain; be good, and you shall all be cooks.’ They jumped for joy when they heard that, and began making themselves cooks’ caps out of old newspapers. So to one she gave the salt-box, and to one she gave the barley, and to one she gave the herbs, and to one she gave the turnips, and to one she gave the carrots, and to one she gave the onions, and to one she gave the spice-box, till they were all cooks, and all running about at work, she sitting in the middle, smothered in the great coarse apron, nursing baby. By and by the broth was done; and the baby woke up, smiling, like an angel, and was trusted to the sedatest princess to hold, while the other princes and princesses were squeezed into a far-off corner to look at the Princess Alicia turning out the saucepanful of broth, for fear (as they were always getting into trouble) they should get splashed and scalded. When the broth came tumbling out, steaming beautifully, and smelling like a nosegay good to eat, they clapped their hands. That made the baby clap his hands; and that, and his looking as if he had a comic toothache, made all the princes and princesses laugh. So the Princess Alicia said, ‘Laugh and be good; and after dinner we will make him a nest on the floor in a corner, and he shall sit in his nest and see a dance of eighteen cooks.’ That delighted the young princes and princesses, and they ate up all the broth, and washed up all the plates and dishes, and cleared away, and pushed the table into a corner; and then they in their cooks’ caps, and the Princess Alicia in the smothering coarse apron that belonged to the cook that had run away with her own true love that was the very tall but very tipsy soldier, danced a dance of eighteen cooks before the angelic baby, who forgot his swelled face and his black eye, and crowed with joy.

And so then, once more the Princess Alicia saw King Watkins the First, her father, standing in the doorway looking on, and he said, ‘What have you been doing, Alicia?’

‘Cooking and contriving, papa.’

‘What else have you been doing, Alicia?’

‘Keeping the children light-hearted, papa.’

‘Where is the magic fish-bone, Alicia?

‘In my pocket, papa.’

‘I thought you had lost it?’

‘O, no, papa!’

‘Or forgotten it?’

‘No, indeed, papa.’

The king then sighed so heavily, and seemed so low-spirited, and sat down so miserably, leaning his head upon his hand, and his elbow upon the kitchen-table pushed away in the corner, that the seventeen princes and princesses crept softly out of the kitchen, and left him alone with the Princess Alicia and the angelic baby.

‘What is the matter, papa?’

‘I am dreadfully poor, my child.’

‘Have you no money at all, papa?’

‘None, my child.’

‘Is there no way of getting any, papa?’

‘No way,’ said the king. ‘I have tried very hard, and I have tried all ways.’

When she heard those last words, the Princess Alicia began to put her hand into the pocket where she kept the magic fish-bone.

‘Papa,’ said she, ‘when we have tried very hard, and tried all ways, we must have done our very, very best?’

‘No doubt, Alicia.’

‘When we have done our very, very best, papa, and that is not enough, then I think the right time must have come for asking help of others.’ This was the very secret connected with the magic fish-bone, which she had found out for herself from the good Fairy Grandmarina’s words, and which she had so often whispered to her beautiful and fashionable friend, the duchess.

So she took out of her pocket the magic fish-bone, that had been dried and rubbed and polished till it shone like mother-of-pearl; and she gave it one little kiss, and wished it was quarter-day. And immediately it WAS quarter-day; and the king’s quarter’s salary came rattling down the chimney, and bounced into the middle of the floor.

But this was not half of what happened, — no, not a quarter; for immediately afterwards the good Fairy Grandmarina came riding in, in a carriage and four (peacocks), with Mr. Pickles’s boy up behind, dressed in silver and gold, with a cocked-hat, powdered-hair, pink silk stockings, a jewelled cane, and a nosegay. Down jumped Mr. Pickles’s boy, with his cocked-hat in his hand, and wonderfully polite (being entirely changed by enchantment), and handed Grandmarina out; and there she stood, in her rich shot-silk smelling of dried lavender, fanning herself with a sparkling fan.

‘Alicia, my dear,’ said this charming old fairy, ‘how do you do? I hope I see you pretty well? Give me a kiss.’

The Princess Alicia embraced her; and then Grandmarina turned to the king, and said rather sharply, ‘Are you good?’ The king said he hoped so.

‘I suppose you know the reason NOW, why my god-daughter here,’ kissing the princess again, ‘did not apply to the fish-bone sooner?’ said the fairy.

The king made a shy bow.

‘Ah! but you didn’t THEN?’ said the fairy.

The king made a shyer bow.

‘Any more reasons to ask for?’ said the fairy.

The king said, No, and he was very sorry.

‘Be good, then,’ said the fairy, ‘and live happy ever afterwards.’

Then Grandmarina waved her fan, and the queen came in most splendidly dressed; and the seventeen young princes and princesses, no longer grown out of their clothes, came in, newly fitted out from top to toe, with tucks in everything to admit of its being let out. After that, the fairy tapped the Princess Alicia with her fan; and the smothering coarse apron flew away, and she appeared exquisitely dressed, like a little bride, with a wreath of orange-flowers and a silver veil. After that, the kitchen dresser changed of itself into a wardrobe, made of beautiful woods and gold and looking glass, which was full of dresses of all sorts, all for her and all exactly fitting her. After that, the angelic baby came in, running alone, with his face and eye not a bit the worse, but much the better. Then Grandmarina begged to be introduced to the duchess; and, when the duchess was brought down, many compliments passed between them.

A little whispering took place between the fairy and the duchess; and then the fairy said out loud, ‘Yes, I thought she would have told you.’ Grandmarina then turned to the king and queen, and said, ‘We are going in search of Prince Certainpersonio. The pleasure of your company is requested at church in half an hour precisely.’ So she and the Princess Alicia got into the carriage; and Mr. Pickles’s boy handed in the duchess, who sat by herself on the opposite seat; and then Mr. Pickles’s boy put up the steps and got up behind, and the peacocks flew away with their tails behind.

Prince Certainpersonio was sitting by himself, eating barley-sugar, and waiting to be ninety. When he saw the peacocks, followed by the carriage, coming in at the window it immediately occurred to him that something uncommon was going to happen.

‘Prince,’ said Grandmarina, ‘I bring you your bride.’ The moment the fairy said those words, Prince Certainpersonio’s face left off being sticky, and his jacket and corduroys changed to peach-bloom velvet, and his hair curled, and a cap and feather flew in like a bird and settled on his head. He got into the carriage by the fairy’s invitation; and there he renewed his acquaintance with the duchess, whom he had seen before.

In the church were the prince’s relations and friends, and the Princess Alicia’s relations and friends, and the seventeen princes and princesses, and the baby, and a crowd of the neighbours. The marriage was beautiful beyond expression. The duchess was bridesmaid, and beheld the ceremony from the pulpit, where she was supported by the cushion of the desk.

Grandmarina gave a magnificent wedding-feast afterwards, in which there was everything and more to eat, and everything and more to drink. The wedding-cake was delicately ornamented with white satin ribbons, frosted silver, and white lilies, and was forty-two yards round.

When Grandmarina had drunk her love to the young couple, and Prince Certainpersonio had made a speech, and everybody had cried, Hip, hip, hip, hurrah! Grandmarina announced to the king and queen that in future there would be eight quarter-days in every year, except in leap-year, when there would be ten. She then turned to Certainpersonio and Alicia, and said, ‘My dears, you will have thirty-five children, and they will all be good and beautiful. Seventeen of your children will be boys, and eighteen will be girls. The hair of the whole of your children will curl naturally. They will never have the measles, and will have recovered from the whooping-cough before being born.’

On hearing such good news, everybody cried out ‘Hip, hip, hip, hurrah!’ again.

‘It only remains,’ said Grandmarina in conclusion, ‘to make an end of the fish-bone.’

So she took it from the hand of the Princess Alicia, and it instantly flew down the throat of the dreadful little snapping pug-dog, next door, and choked him, and he expired in convulsions.


PART III.

ROMANCE. FROM THE PEN OF LIEUT.-COL. ROBIN REDFORTH (Aged nine.)

THE subject of our present narrative would appear to have devoted himself to the pirate profession at a comparatively early age. We find him in command of a splendid schooner of one hundred guns loaded to the muzzle, ere yet he had had a party in honour of his tenth birthday.

It seems that our hero, considering himself spited by a Latin-grammar master, demanded the satisfaction due from one man of honour to another. — Not getting it, he privately withdrew his haughty spirit from such low company, bought a second-hand pocket-pistol, folded up some sandwiches in a paper bag, made a bottle of Spanish liquorice-water, and entered on a career of valour.

It were tedious to follow Boldheart (for such was his name) through the commencing stages of his story. Suffice it, that we find him bearing the rank of Capt. Boldheart, reclining in full uniform on a crimson hearth-rug spread out upon the quarter-deck of his schooner ‘The Beauty,’ in the China seas. It was a lovely evening; and, as his crew lay grouped about him, he favoured them with the following melody:

O landsmen are folly! O pirates are jolly! O diddleum Dolly, Di! CHORUS. — Heave yo.

The soothing effect of these animated sounds floating over the waters, as the common sailors united their rough voices to take up the rich tones of Boldheart, may be more easily conceived than described.

It was under these circumstances that the look-out at the masthead gave the word, ‘Whales!’

All was now activity.

‘Where away?’ cried Capt. Boldheart, starting up.

‘On the larboard bow, sir,’ replied the fellow at the masthead, touching his hat. For such was the height of discipline on board of ‘The Beauty,’ that, even at that height, he was obliged to mind it, or be shot through the head.

‘This adventure belongs to me,’ said Boldheart. ‘Boy, my harpoon. Let no man follow;’ and leaping alone into his boat, the captain rowed with admirable dexterity in the direction of the monster.

All was now excitement.

‘He nears him!’ said an elderly seaman, following the captain through his spy-glass.

‘He strikes him!’ said another seaman, a mere stripling, but also with a spy-glass.

‘He tows him towards us!’ said another seaman, a man in the full vigour of life, but also with a spy-glass.

In fact, the captain was seen approaching, with the huge bulk following. We will not dwell on the deafening cries of ‘Boldheart! Boldheart!’ with which he was received, when, carelessly leaping on the quarter-deck, he presented his prize to his men. They afterwards made two thousand four hundred and seventeen pound ten and sixpence by it.

Ordering the sail to be braced up, the captain now stood W.N.W. ‘The Beauty’ flew rather than floated over the dark blue waters. Nothing particular occurred for a fortnight, except taking, with considerable slaughter, four Spanish galleons, and a snow from South America, all richly laden. Inaction began to tell upon the spirits of the men. Capt. Boldheart called all hands aft, and said, ‘My lads, I hear there are discontented ones among ye. Let any such stand forth.’

After some murmuring, in which the expressions, ‘Ay, ay, sir!’ ‘Union Jack,’ ‘Avast,’ ‘Starboard,’ ‘Port,’ ‘Bowsprit,’ and similar indications of a mutinous undercurrent, though subdued, were audible, Bill Boozey, captain of the foretop, came out from the rest. His form was that of a giant, but he quailed under the captain’s eye.

‘What are your wrongs?’ said the captain.

‘Why, d’ye see, Capt. Boldheart,’ replied the towering manner, ‘I’ve sailed, man and boy, for many a year, but I never yet know’d the milk served out for the ship’s company’s teas to be so sour as ‘tis aboard this craft.’

At this moment the thrilling cry, ‘Man overboard!’ announced to the astonished crew that Boozey, in stepping back, as the captain (in mere thoughtfulness) laid his hand upon the faithful pocket-pistol which he wore in his belt, had lost his balance, and was struggling with the foaming tide.

All was now stupefaction.

But with Capt. Boldheart, to throw off his uniform coat, regardless of the various rich orders with which it was decorated, and to plunge into the sea after the drowning giant, was the work of a moment. Maddening was the excitement when boats were lowered; intense the joy when the captain was seen holding up the drowning man with his teeth; deafening the cheering when both were restored to the main deck of ‘The Beauty.’ And, from the instant of his changing his wet clothes for dry ones, Capt. Boldheart had no such devoted though humble friend as William Boozey.

Boldheart now pointed to the horizon, and called the attention of his crew to the taper spars of a ship lying snug in harbour under the guns of a fort.

‘She shall be ours at sunrise,’ said he. ‘Serve out a double allowance of grog, and prepare for action.’

All was now preparation.

When morning dawned, after a sleepless night, it was seen that the stranger was crowding on all sail to come out of the harbour and offer battle. As the two ships came nearer to each other, the stranger fired a gun and hoisted Roman colours. Boldheart then perceived her to be the Latin-grammar master’s bark. Such indeed she was, and had been tacking about the world in unavailing pursuit, from the time of his first taking to a roving life.

Boldheart now addressed his men, promising to blow them up if he should feel convinced that their reputation required it, and giving orders that the Latin-grammar master should be taken alive. He then dismissed them to their quarters, and the fight began with a broadside from ‘The Beauty.’ She then veered around, and poured in another. ‘The Scorpion’ (so was the bark of the Latin-grammar master appropriately called) was not slow to return her fire; and a terrific cannonading ensued, in which the guns of ‘The Beauty’ did tremendous execution.

The Latin-grammar master was seen upon the poop, in the midst of the smoke and fire, encouraging his men. To do him justice, he was no craven, though his white hat, his short gray trousers, and his long snuff-coloured surtout reaching to his heels (the self-same coat in which he had spited Boldheart), contrasted most unfavourably with the brilliant uniform of the latter. At this moment, Boldheart, seizing a pike and putting himself at the head of his men, gave the word to board.

A desperate conflict ensued in the hammock-nettings, — or somewhere in about that direction, — until the Latin-grammar master, having all his masts gone, his hull and rigging shot through, and seeing Boldheart slashing a path towards him, hauled down his flag himself, gave up his sword to Boldheart, and asked for quarter. Scarce had he been put into the captain’s boat, ere ‘The Scorpion’ went down with all on board.

On Capt. Boldheart’s now assembling his men, a circumstance occurred. He found it necessary with one blow of his cutlass to kill the cook, who, having lost his brother in the late action, was making at the Latin-grammar master in an infuriated state, intent on his destruction with a carving-knife.

Capt. Boldheart then turned to the Latin-grammar master, severely reproaching him with his perfidy, and put it to his crew what they considered that a master who spited a boy deserved.

They answered with one voice, ‘Death.’

‘It may be so,’ said the captain; ‘but it shall never be said that Boldheart stained his hour of triumph with the blood of his enemy. Prepare the cutter.’

The cutter was immediately prepared.

‘Without taking your life,’ said the captain, ‘I must yet for ever deprive you of the power of spiting other boys. I shall turn you adrift in this boat. You will find in her two oars, a compass, a bottle of rum, a small cask of water, a piece of pork, a bag of biscuit, and my Latin grammar. Go! and spite the natives, if you can find any.’

Deeply conscious of this bitter sarcasm, the unhappy wretch was put into the cutter, and was soon left far behind. He made no effort to row, but was seen lying on his back with his legs up, when last made out by the ship’s telescopes.

A stiff breeze now beginning to blow, Capt. Boldheart gave orders to keep her S.S.W., easing her a little during the night by falling off a point or two W. by W., or even by W.S., if she complained much. He then retired for the night, having in truth much need of repose. In addition to the fatigues he had undergone, this brave officer had received sixteen wounds in the engagement, but had not mentioned it.

In the morning a white squall came on, and was succeeded by other squalls of various colours. It thundered and lightened heavily for six weeks. Hurricanes then set in for two months. Waterspouts and tornadoes followed. The oldest sailor on board — and he was a very old one — had never seen such weather. ‘The Beauty’ lost all idea where she was, and the carpenter reported six feet two of water in the hold. Everybody fell senseless at the pumps every day.

Provisions now ran very low. Our hero put the crew on short allowance, and put himself on shorter allowance than any man in the ship. But his spirit kept him fat. In this extremity, the gratitude of Boozey, the captain of the foretop, whom our readers may remember, was truly affecting. The loving though lowly William repeatedly requested to be killed, and preserved for the captain’s table.

We now approach a change of affairs. One day during a gleam of sunshine, and when the weather had moderated, the man at the masthead — too weak now to touch his hat, besides its having been blown away — called out,

‘Savages!’

All was now expectation.

Presently fifteen hundred canoes, each paddled by twenty savages, were seen advancing in excellent order. They were of a light green colour (the savages were), and sang, with great energy, the following strain:

Choo a choo a choo tooth. Muntch, muntch. Nycey! Choo a choo a choo tooth. Muntch, muntch. Nycey!

As the shades of night were by this time closing in, these expressions were supposed to embody this simple people’s views of the evening hymn. But it too soon appeared that the song was a translation of ‘For what we are going to receive,’ &c.

The chief, imposingly decorated with feathers of lively colours, and having the majestic appearance of a fighting parrot, no sooner understood (he understood English perfectly) that the ship was ‘The Beauty,’ Capt. Boldheart, than he fell upon his face on the deck, and could not be persuaded to rise until the captain had lifted him up, and told him he wouldn’t hurt him. All the rest of the savages also fell on their faces with marks of terror, and had also to be lifted up one by one. Thus the fame of the great Boldheart had gone before him, even among these children of Nature.

Turtles and oysters were now produced in astonishing numbers; and on these and yams the people made a hearty meal. After dinner the chief told Capt. Boldheart that there was better feeding up at the village, and that he would be glad to take him and his officers there. Apprehensive of treachery, Boldheart ordered his boat’s crew to attend him completely armed. And well were it for other commanders if their precautions — but let us not anticipate.

When the canoes arrived at the beach, the darkness of the night was illumined by the light of an immense fire. Ordering his boat’s crew (with the intrepid though illiterate William at their head) to keep close and be upon their guard, Boldheart bravely went on, arm in arm with the chief.

But how to depict the captain’s surprise when he found a ring of savages singing in chorus that barbarous translation of ‘For what we are going to receive,’ &c., which has been given above, and dancing hand in hand round the Latin-grammar master, in a hamper with his head shaved, while two savages floured him, before putting him to the fire to be cooked!

Boldheart now took counsel with his officers on the course to be adopted. In the mean time, the miserable captive never ceased begging pardon and imploring to be delivered. On the generous Boldheart’s proposal, it was at length resolved that he should not be cooked, but should be allowed to remain raw, on two conditions, namely:

1. That he should never, under any circumstances, presume to teach any boy anything any more.

2. That, if taken back to England, he should pass his life in travelling to find out boys who wanted their exercises done, and should do their exercises for those boys for nothing, and never say a word about it.

Drawing the sword from its sheath, Boldheart swore him to these conditions on its shining blade. The prisoner wept bitterly, and appeared acutely to feel the errors of his past career.

The captain then ordered his boat’s crew to make ready for a volley, and after firing to re-load quickly. ‘And expect a score or two on ye to go head over heels,’ murmured William Boozey; ‘for I’m a-looking at ye.’ With those words, the derisive though deadly William took a good aim.

‘Fire!’

The ringing voice of Boldheart was lost in the report of the guns and the screeching of the savages. Volley after volley awakened the numerous echoes. Hundreds of savages were killed, hundreds wounded, and thousands ran howling into the woods. The Latin-grammar master had a spare night-cap lent him, and a long-tail coat, which he wore hind side before. He presented a ludicrous though pitiable appearance, and serve him right.

We now find Capt. Boldheart, with this rescued wretch on board, standing off for other islands. At one of these, not a cannibal island, but a pork and vegetable one, he married (only in fun on his part) the king’s daughter. Here he rested some time, receiving from the natives great quantities of precious stones, gold dust, elephants’ teeth, and sandal wood, and getting very rich. This, too, though he almost every day made presents of enormous value to his men.

The ship being at length as full as she could hold of all sorts of valuable things, Boldheart gave orders to weigh the anchor, and turn ‘The Beauty’s’ head towards England. These orders were obeyed with three cheers; and ere the sun went down full many a hornpipe had been danced on deck by the uncouth though agile William.

We next find Capt. Boldheart about three leagues off Madeira, surveying through his spy-glass a stranger of suspicious appearance making sail towards him. On his firing a gun ahead of her to bring her to, she ran up a flag, which he instantly recognised as the flag from the mast in the back-garden at home.

Inferring from this, that his father had put to sea to seek his long-lost son, the captain sent his own boat on board the stranger to inquire if this was so, and, if so, whether his father’s intentions were strictly honourable. The boat came back with a present of greens and fresh meat, and reported that the stranger was ‘The Family,’ of twelve hundred tons, and had not only the captain’s father on board, but also his mother, with the majority of his aunts and uncles, and all his cousins. It was further reported to Boldheart that the whole of these relations had expressed themselves in a becoming manner, and were anxious to embrace him and thank him for the glorious credit he had done them. Boldheart at once invited them to breakfast next morning on board ‘The Beauty,’ and gave orders for a brilliant ball that should last all day.

It was in the course of the night that the captain discovered the hopelessness of reclaiming the Latin-grammar master. That thankless traitor was found out, as the two ships lay near each other, communicating with ‘The Family’ by signals, and offering to give up Boldheart. He was hanged at the yard-arm the first thing in the morning, after having it impressively pointed out to him by Boldheart that this was what spiters came to.

The meeting between the captain and his parents was attended with tears. His uncles and aunts would have attended their meeting with tears too, but he wasn’t going to stand that. His cousins were very much astonished by the size of his ship and the discipline of his men, and were greatly overcome by the splendour of his uniform. He kindly conducted them round the vessel, and pointed out everything worthy of notice. He also fired his hundred guns, and found it amusing to witness their alarm.

The entertainment surpassed everything ever seen on board ship, and lasted from ten in the morning until seven the next morning. Only one disagreeable incident occurred. Capt. Boldheart found himself obliged to put his cousin Tom in irons, for being disrespectful. On the boy’s promising amendment, however, he was humanely released after a few hours’ close confinement.

Boldheart now took his mother down into the great cabin, and asked after the young lady with whom, it was well known to the world, he was in love. His mother replied that the object of his affections was then at school at Margate, for the benefit of sea-bathing (it was the month of September), but that she feared the young lady’s friends were still opposed to the union. Boldheart at once resolved, if necessary, to bombard the town.

Taking the command of his ship with this intention, and putting all but fighting men on board ‘The Family,’ with orders to that vessel to keep in company, Boldheart soon anchored in Margate Roads. Here he went ashore well-armed, and attended by his boat’s crew (at their head the faithful though ferocious William), and demanded to see the mayor, who came out of his office.

‘Dost know the name of yon ship, mayor?’ asked Boldheart fiercely.

‘No,’ said the mayor, rubbing his eyes, which he could scarce believe, when he saw the goodly vessel riding at anchor.

‘She is named “The Beauty,”‘ said the captain.

‘Hah!’ exclaimed the mayor, with a start. ‘And you, then, are Capt. Boldheart?’

‘The same.’

A pause ensued. The mayor trembled.

‘Now, mayor,’ said the captain, ‘choose! Help me to my bride, or be bombarded.’

The mayor begged for two hours’ grace, in which to make inquiries respecting the young lady. Boldheart accorded him but one; and during that one placed William Boozey sentry over him, with a drawn sword, and instructions to accompany him wherever he went, and to run him through the body if he showed a sign of playing false.

At the end of the hour the mayor re-appeared more dead than alive, closely waited on by Boozey more alive than dead.

‘Captain,’ said the mayor, ‘I have ascertained that the young lady is going to bathe. Even now she waits her turn for a machine. The tide is low, though rising. I, in one of our town-boats, shall not be suspected. When she comes forth in her bathing-dress into the shallow water from behind the hood of the machine, my boat shall intercept her and prevent her return. Do you the rest.’

‘Mayor,’ returned Capt. Boldheart, ‘thou hast saved thy town.’

The captain then signalled his boat to take him off, and, steering her himself, ordered her crew to row towards the bathing-ground, and there to rest upon their oars. All happened as had been arranged. His lovely bride came forth, the mayor glided in behind her, she became confused, and had floated out of her depth, when, with one skilful touch of the rudder and one quivering stroke from the boat’s crew, her adoring Boldheart held her in his strong arms. There her shrieks of terror were changed to cries of joy.

Before ‘The Beauty’ could get under way, the hoisting of all the flags in the town and harbour, and the ringing of all the bells, announced to the brave Boldheart that he had nothing to fear. He therefore determined to be married on the spot, and signalled for a clergyman and clerk, who came off promptly in a sailing-boat named ‘The Skylark.’ Another great entertainment was then given on board ‘The Beauty,’ in the midst of which the mayor was called out by a messenger. He returned with the news that government had sent down to know whether Capt. Boldheart, in acknowledgment of the great services he had done his country by being a pirate, would consent to be made a lieutenant-colonel. For himself he would have spurned the worthless boon; but his bride wished it, and he consented.

Only one thing further happened before the good ship ‘Family’ was dismissed, with rich presents to all on board. It is painful to record (but such is human nature in some cousins) that Capt. Boldheart’s unmannerly Cousin Tom was actually tied up to receive three dozen with a rope’s end ‘for cheekiness and making game,’ when Capt. Boldheart’s lady begged for him, and he was spared. ‘The Beauty’ then refitted, and the captain and his bride departed for the Indian Ocean to enjoy themselves for evermore.


PART IV.

ROMANCE FROM THE PEN OF MISS NETTIE ASHFORD (Aged half-past six.)

THERE is a country, which I will show you when I get into maps, where the children have everything their own way. It is a most delightful country to live in. The grown-up people are obliged to obey the children, and are never allowed to sit up to supper, except on their birthdays. The children order them to make jam and jelly and marmalade, and tarts and pies and puddings, and all manner of pastry. If they say they won’t, they are put in the corner till they do. They are sometimes allowed to have some; but when they have some, they generally have powders given them afterwards.

One of the inhabitants of this country, a truly sweet young creature of the name of Mrs. Orange, had the misfortune to be sadly plagued by her numerous family. Her parents required a great deal of looking after, and they had connections and companions who were scarcely ever out of mischief. So Mrs. Orange said to herself, ‘I really cannot be troubled with these torments any longer: I must put them all to school.’

Mrs. Orange took off her pinafore, and dressed herself very nicely, and took up her baby, and went out to call upon another lady of the name of Mrs. Lemon, who kept a preparatory establishment. Mrs. Orange stood upon the scraper to pull at the bell, and give a ring-ting-ting.

Mrs. Lemon’s neat little housemaid, pulling up her socks as she came along the passage, answered the ring-ting-ting.

‘Good-morning,’ said Mrs. Orange. ‘Fine day. How do you do? Mrs. Lemon at home!’

‘Yes, ma’am.’

‘Will you say Mrs. Orange and baby?’

‘Yes, ma’am. Walk in.’

Mrs. Orange’s baby was a very fine one, and real wax all over. Mrs. Lemon’s baby was leather and bran. However, when Mrs. Lemon came into the drawing-room with her baby in her arms, Mrs. Orange said politely, ‘Good-morning. Fine day. How do you do? And how is little Tootleumboots?’

‘Well, she is but poorly. Cutting her teeth, ma’am,’ said Mrs. Lemon.

‘O, indeed, ma’am!’ said Mrs. Orange. ‘No fits, I hope?’

‘No, ma’am.’

‘How many teeth has she, ma’am?’

‘Five, ma’am.’

‘My Emilia, ma’am, has eight,’ said Mrs. Orange. ‘Shall we lay them on the mantelpiece side by side, while we converse?’

‘By all means, ma’am,’ said Mrs. Lemon. ‘Hem!’

‘The first question is, ma’am,’ said Mrs. Orange, ‘I don’t bore you?’

‘Not in the least, ma’am,’ said Mrs. Lemon. ‘Far from it, I assure you.’

‘Then pray HAVE you,’ said Mrs. Orange, — ‘HAVE you any vacancies?’

‘Yes, ma’am. How many might you require?’

‘Why, the truth is, ma’am,’ said Mrs. Orange, ‘I have come to the conclusion that my children,’ — O, I forgot to say that they call the grown-up people children in that country! — ‘that my children are getting positively too much for me. Let me see. Two parents, two intimate friends of theirs, one godfather, two godmothers, and an aunt. HAVE you as many as eight vacancies?’

‘I have just eight, ma’am,’ said Mrs. Lemon.

‘Most fortunate! Terms moderate, I think?’

‘Very moderate, ma’am.’

‘Diet good, I believe?’

‘Excellent, ma’am.’

‘Unlimited?’

‘Unlimited.’

‘Most satisfactory! Corporal punishment dispensed with?’

‘Why, we do occasionally shake,’ said Mrs. Lemon, ‘and we have slapped. But only in extreme cases.’

‘COULD I, ma’am,’ said Mrs. Orange, — ‘COULD I see the establishment?’

‘With the greatest of pleasure, ma’am,’ said Mrs. Lemon.

Mrs. Lemon took Mrs. Orange into the schoolroom, where there were a number of pupils. ‘Stand up, children,’ said Mrs. Lemon; and they all stood up.

Mrs. Orange whispered to Mrs. Lemon, ‘There is a pale, bald child, with red whiskers, in disgrace. Might I ask what he has done?’

‘Come here, White,’ said Mrs. Lemon, ‘and tell this lady what you have been doing.’

‘Betting on horses,’ said White sulkily.

‘Are you sorry for it, you naughty child?’ said Mrs. Lemon.

‘No,’ said White. ‘Sorry to lose, but shouldn’t be sorry to win.’

‘There’s a vicious boy for you, ma’am,’ said Mrs. Lemon. ‘Go along with you, sir. This is Brown, Mrs. Orange. O, a sad case, Brown’s! Never knows when he has had enough. Greedy. How is your gout, sir?’

‘Bad,’ said Brown.

‘What else can you expect?’ said Mrs. Lemon. ‘Your stomach is the size of two. Go and take exercise directly. Mrs. Black, come here to me. Now, here is a child, Mrs. Orange, ma’am, who is always at play. She can’t be kept at home a single day together; always gadding about and spoiling her clothes. Play, play, play, play, from morning to night, and to morning again. How can she expect to improve?’

‘Don’t expect to improve,’ sulked Mrs. Black. ‘Don’t want to.’

‘There is a specimen of her temper, ma’am,’ said Mrs. Lemon. ‘To see her when she is tearing about, neglecting everything else, you would suppose her to be at least good-humoured. But bless you! ma’am, she is as pert and flouncing a minx as ever you met with in all your days!’

‘You must have a great deal of trouble with them, ma’am,’ said Mrs. Orange.

‘Ah, I have, indeed, ma’am!’ said Mrs. Lemon. ‘What with their tempers, what with their quarrels, what with their never knowing what’s good for them, and what with their always wanting to domineer, deliver me from these unreasonable children!’

‘Well, I wish you good-morning, ma’am,’ said Mrs. Orange.

‘Well, I wish you good-morning, ma’am,’ said Mrs. Lemon.

So Mrs. Orange took up her baby and went home, and told the family that plagued her so that they were all going to be sent to school. They said they didn’t want to go to school; but she packed up their boxes, and packed them off.

‘O dear me, dear me! Rest and be thankful!’ said Mrs. Orange, throwing herself back in her little arm-chair. ‘Those troublesome troubles are got rid of, please the pigs!’

Just then another lady, named Mrs. Alicumpaine, came calling at the street-door with a ring-ting-ting.

‘My dear Mrs. Alicumpaine,’ said Mrs. Orange, ‘how do you do? Pray stay to dinner. We have but a simple joint of sweet-stuff, followed by a plain dish of bread and treacle; but, if you will take us as you find us, it will be SO kind!’

‘Don’t mention it,’ said Mrs. Alicumpaine. ‘I shall be too glad. But what do you think I have come for, ma’am? Guess, ma’am.’

‘I really cannot guess, ma’am,’ said Mrs. Orange.

‘Why, I am going to have a small juvenile party to-night,’ said Mrs. Alicumpaine; ‘and if you and Mr. Orange and baby would but join us, we should be complete.’

‘More than charmed, I am sure!’ said Mrs. Orange.

‘So kind of you!’ said Mrs. Alicumpaine. ‘But I hope the children won’t bore you?’

‘Dear things! Not at all,’ said Mrs. Orange. ‘I dote upon them.’

Mr. Orange here came home from the city; and he came, too, with a ring-ting-ting.

‘James love,’ said Mrs. Orange, ‘you look tired. What has been doing in the city to-day?’

‘Trap, bat, and ball, my dear,’ said Mr. Orange, ‘and it knocks a man up.’

‘That dreadfully anxious city, ma’am,’ said Mrs. Orange to Mrs. Alicumpaine; ‘so wearing, is it not?’

‘O, so trying!’ said Mrs. Alicumpaine. ‘John has lately been speculating in the peg-top ring; and I often say to him at night, “John, IS the result worth the wear and tear?”‘

Dinner was ready by this time: so they sat down to dinner; and while Mr. Orange carved the joint of sweet-stuff, he said, ‘It’s a poor heart that never rejoices. Jane, go down to the cellar, and fetch a bottle of the Upest ginger-beer.’

At tea-time, Mr. and Mrs. Orange, and baby, and Mrs. Alicumpaine went off to Mrs. Alicumpaine’s house. The children had not come yet; but the ball-room was ready for them, decorated with paper flowers.

‘How very sweet!’ said Mrs. Orange. ‘The dear things! How pleased they will be!’

‘I don’t care for children myself,’ said Mr. Orange, gaping.

‘Not for girls?’ said Mrs. Alicumpaine. ‘Come! you care for girls?’

Mr. Orange shook his head, and gaped again. ‘Frivolous and vain, ma’am.’

‘My dear James,’ cried Mrs. Orange, who had been peeping about, ‘do look here. Here’s the supper for the darlings, ready laid in the room behind the folding-doors. Here’s their little pickled salmon, I do declare! And here’s their little salad, and their little roast beef and fowls, and their little pastry, and their wee, wee, wee champagne!’

‘Yes, I thought it best, ma’am,’ said Mrs. Alicumpaine, ‘that they should have their supper by themselves. Our table is in the corner here, where the gentlemen can have their wineglass of negus, and their egg-sandwich, and their quiet game at beggar-my-neighbour, and look on. As for us, ma’am, we shall have quite enough to do to manage the company.’

‘O, indeed, you may say so! Quite enough, ma’am,’ said Mrs. Orange.

The company began to come. The first of them was a stout boy, with a white top-knot and spectacles. The housemaid brought him in and said, ‘Compliments, and at what time was he to be fetched!’ Mrs. Alicumpaine said, ‘Not a moment later than ten. How do you do, sir? Go and sit down.’ Then a number of other children came; boys by themselves, and girls by themselves, and boys and girls together. They didn’t behave at all well. Some of them looked through quizzing-glasses at others, and said, ‘Who are those? Don’t know them.’ Some of them looked through quizzing-glasses at others, and said, ‘How do?’ Some of them had cups of tea or coffee handed to them by others, and said, ‘Thanks; much!’ A good many boys stood about, and felt their shirt-collars. Four tiresome fat boys WOULD stand in the doorway, and talk about the newspapers, till Mrs. Alicumpaine went to them and said, ‘My dears, I really cannot allow you to prevent people from coming in. I shall be truly sorry to do it; but, if you put yourself in everybody’s way, I must positively send you home.’ One boy, with a beard and a large white waistcoat, who stood straddling on the hearth-rug warming his coat-tails, WAS sent home. ‘Highly incorrect, my dear,’ said Mrs. Alicumpaine, handing him out of the room, ‘and I cannot permit it.’

There was a children’s band, — harp, cornet, and piano, — and Mrs. Alicumpaine and Mrs. Orange bustled among the children to persuade them to take partners and dance. But they were so obstinate! For quite a long time they would not be persuaded to take partners and dance. Most of the boys said, ‘Thanks; much! But not at present.’ And most of the rest of the boys said, ‘Thanks; much! But never do.’

‘O, these children are very wearing!’ said Mrs. Alicumpaine to Mrs. Orange.

‘Dear things! I dote upon them; but they ARE wearing,’ said Mrs. Orange to Mrs. Alicumpaine.

At last they did begin in a slow and melancholy way to slide about to the music; though even then they wouldn’t mind what they were told, but would have this partner, and wouldn’t have that partner, and showed temper about it. And they wouldn’t smile, — no, not on any account they wouldn’t; but, when the music stopped, went round and round the room in dismal twos, as if everybody else was dead.

‘O, it’s very hard indeed to get these vexing children to be entertained!’ said Mrs. Alicumpaine to Mrs. Orange.

‘I dote upon the darlings; but it is hard,’ said Mrs. Orange to Mrs. Alicumpaine.

They were trying children, that’s the truth. First, they wouldn’t sing when they were asked; and then, when everybody fully believed they wouldn’t, they would. ‘If you serve us so any more, my love,’ said Mrs. Alicumpaine to a tall child, with a good deal of white back, in mauve silk trimmed with lace, ‘it will be my painful privilege to offer you a bed, and to send you to it immediately.’

The girls were so ridiculously dressed, too, that they were in rags before supper. How could the boys help treading on their trains? And yet when their trains were trodden on, they often showed temper again, and looked as black, they did! However, they all seemed to be pleased when Mrs. Alicumpaine said, ‘Supper is ready, children!’ And they went crowding and pushing in, as if they had had dry bread for dinner.

‘How are the children getting on?’ said Mr. Orange to Mrs. Orange, when Mrs. Orange came to look after baby. Mrs. Orange had left baby on a shelf near Mr. Orange while he played at beggar-my-neighbour, and had asked him to keep his eye upon her now and then.

‘Most charmingly, my dear!’ said Mrs. Orange. ‘So droll to see their little flirtations and jealousies! Do come and look!’

‘Much obliged to you, my dear,’ said Mr. Orange; ‘but I don’t care about children myself.’

So Mrs. Orange, having seen that baby was safe, went back without Mr. Orange to the room where the children were having supper.

‘What are they doing now?’ said Mrs. Orange to Mrs. Alicumpaine.

‘They are making speeches, and playing at parliament,’ said Mrs. Alicumpaine to Mrs. Orange.

On hearing this, Mrs. Orange set off once more back again to Mr. Orange, and said, ‘James dear, do come. The children are playing at parliament.’

‘Thank you, my dear,’ said Mr. Orange, ‘but I don’t care about parliament myself.’

So Mrs. Orange went once again without Mr. Orange to the room where the children were having supper, to see them playing at parliament. And she found some of the boys crying, ‘Hear, hear, hear!’ while other boys cried ‘No, no!’ and others, ‘Question!’ ‘Spoke!’ and all sorts of nonsense that ever you heard. Then one of those tiresome fat boys who had stopped the doorway told them he was on his legs (as if they couldn’t see that he wasn’t on his head, or on his anything else) to explain, and that, with the permission of his honourable friend, if he would allow him to call him so (another tiresome boy bowed), he would proceed to explain. Then he went on for a long time in a sing-song (whatever he meant), did this troublesome fat boy, about that he held in his hand a glass; and about that he had come down to that house that night to discharge what he would call a public duty; and about that, on the present occasion, he would lay his hand (his other hand) upon his heart, and would tell honourable gentlemen that he was about to open the door to general approval. Then he opened the door by saying, ‘To our hostess!’ and everybody else said ‘To our hostess!’ and then there were cheers. Then another tiresome boy started up in sing-song, and then half a dozen noisy and nonsensical boys at once. But at last Mrs. Alicumpaine said, ‘I cannot have this din. Now, children, you have played at parliament very nicely; but parliament gets tiresome after a little while, and it’s time you left off, for you will soon be fetched.’

After another dance (with more tearing to rags than before supper), they began to be fetched; and you will be very glad to be told that the tiresome fat boy who had been on his legs was walked off first without any ceremony. When they were all gone, poor Mrs. Alicumpaine dropped upon a sofa, and said to Mrs. Orange, ‘These children will be the death of me at last, ma’am, — they will indeed!’

‘I quite adore them, ma’am,’ said Mrs. Orange; ‘but they DO want variety.’

Mr. Orange got his hat, and Mrs. Orange got her bonnet and her baby, and they set out to walk home. They had to pass Mrs. Lemon’s preparatory establishment on their way.

‘I wonder, James dear,’ said Mrs. Orange, looking up at the window, ‘whether the precious children are asleep!’

‘I don’t care much whether they are or not, myself,’ said Mr. Orange.

‘James dear!’

‘You dote upon them, you know,’ said Mr. Orange. ‘That’s another thing.’

‘I do,’ said Mrs. Orange rapturously. ‘O, I DO!’

‘I don’t,’ said Mr. Orange.

‘But I was thinking, James love,’ said Mrs. Orange, pressing his arm, ‘whether our dear, good, kind Mrs. Lemon would like them to stay the holidays with her.’

‘If she was paid for it, I daresay she would,’ said Mr. Orange.

‘I adore them, James,’ said Mrs. Orange, ‘but SUPPOSE we pay her, then!’

This was what brought that country to such perfection, and made it such a delightful place to live in. The grown-up people (that would be in other countries) soon left off being allowed any holidays after Mr. and Mrs. Orange tried the experiment; and the children (that would be in other countries) kept them at school as long as ever they lived, and made them do whatever they were told.


THE QUEER CHAIR

from The Pickwick Papers

‘One winter’s evening, about five o’clock, just as it began to grow dusk, a man in a gig might have been seen urging his tired horse along the road which leads across Marlborough Downs, in the direction of Bristol. I say he might have been seen, and I have no doubt he would have been, if anybody but a blind man had happened to pass that way; but the weather was so bad, and the night so cold and wet, that nothing was out but the water, and so the traveller jogged along in the middle of the road, lonesome and dreary enough. If any bagman of that day could have caught sight of the little neck-or-nothing sort of gig, with a clay-coloured body and red wheels, and the vixenish, ill tempered, fast-going bay mare, that looked like a cross between a butcher’s horse and a twopenny post-office pony, he would have known at once, that this traveller could have been no other than Tom Smart, of the great house of Bilson and Slum, Cateaton Street, City. However, as there was no bagman to look on, nobody knew anything at all about the matter; and so Tom Smart and his clay-coloured gig with the red wheels, and the vixenish mare with the fast pace, went on together, keeping the secret among them, and nobody was a bit the wiser.

‘There are many pleasanter places even in this dreary world, than Marlborough Downs when it blows hard; and if you throw in beside, a gloomy winter’s evening, a miry and sloppy road, and a pelting fall of heavy rain, and try the effect, by way of experiment, in your own proper person, you will experience the full force of this observation.

‘The wind blew — not up the road or down it, though that’s bad enough, but sheer across it, sending the rain slanting down like the lines they used to rule in the copy-books at school, to make the boys slope well. For a moment it would die away, and the traveller would begin to delude himself into the belief that, exhausted with its previous fury, it had quietly laid itself down to rest, when, whoo! he could hear it growling and whistling in the distance, and on it would come rushing over the hill-tops, and sweeping along the plain, gathering sound and strength as it drew nearer, until it dashed with a heavy gust against horse and man, driving the sharp rain into their ears, and its cold damp breath into their very bones; and past them it would scour, far, far away, with a stunning roar, as if in ridicule of their weakness, and triumphant in the consciousness of its own strength and power.

‘The bay mare splashed away, through the mud and water, with drooping ears; now and then tossing her head as if to express her disgust at this very ungentlemanly behaviour of the elements, but keeping a good pace notwithstanding, until a gust of wind, more furious than any that had yet assailed them, caused her to stop suddenly and plant her four feet firmly against the ground, to prevent her being blown over. It’s a special mercy that she did this, for if she HAD been blown over, the vixenish mare was so light, and the gig was so light, and Tom Smart such a light weight into the bargain, that they must infallibly have all gone rolling over and over together, until they reached the confines of earth, or until the wind fell; and in either case the probability is, that neither the vixenish mare, nor the clay-coloured gig with the red wheels, nor Tom Smart, would ever have been fit for service again.

‘“Well, damn my straps and whiskers,” says Tom Smart (Tom sometimes had an unpleasant knack of swearing) — “damn my straps and whiskers,” says Tom, “if this ain’t pleasant, blow me!”

‘You’ll very likely ask me why, as Tom Smart had been pretty well blown already, he expressed this wish to be submitted to the same process again. I can’t say — all I know is, that Tom Smart said so — or at least he always told my uncle he said so, and it’s just the same thing.

“‘Blow me,” says Tom Smart; and the mare neighed as if she were precisely of the same opinion.

“‘Cheer up, old girl,” said Tom, patting the bay mare on the neck with the end of his whip. “It won’t do pushing on, such a night as this; the first house we come to we’ll put up at, so the faster you go the sooner it’s over. Soho, old girl — gently — gently.”

‘Whether the vixenish mare was sufficiently well acquainted with the tones of Tom’s voice to comprehend his meaning, or whether she found it colder standing still than moving on, of course I can’t say. But I can say that Tom had no sooner finished speaking, than she pricked up her ears, and started forward at a speed which made the clay-coloured gig rattle until you would have supposed every one of the red spokes were going to fly out on the turf of Marlborough Downs; and even Tom, whip as he was, couldn’t stop or check her pace, until she drew up of her own accord, before a roadside inn on the right-hand side of the way, about half a quarter of a mile from the end of the Downs. ‘Tom cast a hasty glance at the upper part of the house as he threw the reins to the hostler, and stuck the whip in the box. It was a strange old place, built of a kind of shingle, inlaid, as it were, with cross-beams, with gabled-topped windows projecting completely over the pathway, and a low door with a dark porch, and a couple of steep steps leading down into the house, instead of the modern fashion of half a dozen shallow ones leading up to it. It was a comfortable-looking place though, for there was a strong, cheerful light in the bar window, which shed a bright ray across the road, and even lighted up the hedge on the other side; and there was a red flickering light in the opposite window, one moment but faintly discernible, and the next gleaming strongly through the drawn curtains, which intimated that a rousing fire was blazing within. Marking these little evidences with the eye of an experienced traveller, Tom dismounted with as much agility as his half-frozen limbs would permit, and entered the house.

‘In less than five minutes’ time, Tom was ensconced in the room opposite the bar — the very room where he had imagined the fire blazing — before a substantial, matter-of-fact, roaring fire, composed of something short of a bushel of coals, and wood enough to make half a dozen decent gooseberry bushes, piled half-way up the chimney, and roaring and crackling with a sound that of itself would have warmed the heart of any reasonable man. This was comfortable, but this was not all; for a smartly-dressed girl, with a bright eye and a neat ankle, was laying a very clean white cloth on the table; and as Tom sat with his slippered feet on the fender, and his back to the open door, he saw a charming prospect of the bar reflected in the glass over the chimney-piece, with delightful rows of green bottles and gold labels, together with jars of pickles and preserves, and cheeses and boiled hams, and rounds of beef, arranged on shelves in the most tempting and delicious array. Well, this was comfortable too; but even this was not all — for in the bar, seated at tea at the nicest possible little table, drawn close up before the brightest possible little fire, was a buxom widow of somewhere about eight-and-forty or thereabouts, with a face as comfortable as the bar, who was evidently the landlady of the house, and the supreme ruler over all these agreeable possessions. There was only one drawback to the beauty of the whole picture, and that was a tall man — a very tall man — in a brown coat and bright basket buttons, and black whiskers and wavy black hair, who was seated at tea with the widow, and who it required no great penetration to discover was in a fair way of persuading her to be a widow no longer, but to confer upon him the privilege of sitting down in that bar, for and during the whole remainder of the term of his natural life.

‘Tom Smart was by no means of an irritable or envious disposition, but somehow or other the tall man with the brown coat and the bright basket buttons did rouse what little gall he had in his composition, and did make him feel extremely indignant, the more especially as he could now and then observe, from his seat before the glass, certain little affectionate familiarities passing between the tall man and the widow, which sufficiently denoted that the tall man was as high in favour as he was in size. Tom was fond of hot punch — I may venture to say he was VERY fond of hot punch — and after he had seen the vixenish mare well fed and well littered down, and had eaten every bit of the nice little hot dinner which the widow tossed up for him with her own hands, he just ordered a tumbler of it by way of experiment. Now, if there was one thing in the whole range of domestic art, which the widow could manufacture better than another, it was this identical article; and the first tumbler was adapted to Tom Smart’s taste with such peculiar nicety, that he ordered a second with the least possible delay. Hot punch is a pleasant thing, gentlemen — an extremely pleasant thing under any circumstances — but in that snug old parlour, before the roaring fire, with the wind blowing outside till every timber in the old house creaked again, Tom Smart found it perfectly delightful. He ordered another tumbler, and then another — I am not quite certain whether he didn’t order another after that — but the more he drank of the hot punch, the more he thought of the tall man.

‘“Confound his impudence!” said Tom to himself, “what business has he in that snug bar? Such an ugly villain too!” said Tom. “If the widow had any taste, she might surely pick up some better fellow than that.” Here Tom’s eye wandered from the glass on the chimney-piece to the glass on the table; and as he felt himself becoming gradually sentimental, he emptied the fourth tumbler of punch and ordered a fifth.

‘Tom Smart, gentlemen, had always been very much attached to the public line. It had been long his ambition to stand in a bar of his own, in a green coat, knee-cords, and tops. He had a great notion of taking the chair at convivial dinners, and he had often thought how well he could preside in a room of his own in the talking way, and what a capital example he could set to his customers in the drinking department. All these things passed rapidly through Tom’s mind as he sat drinking the hot punch by the roaring fire, and he felt very justly and properly indignant that the tall man should be in a fair way of keeping such an excellent house, while he, Tom Smart, was as far off from it as ever. So, after deliberating over the two last tumblers, whether he hadn’t a perfect right to pick a quarrel with the tall man for having contrived to get into the good graces of the buxom widow, Tom Smart at last arrived at the satisfactory conclusion that he was a very ill-used and persecuted individual, and had better go to bed.

‘Up a wide and ancient staircase the smart girl preceded Tom, shading the chamber candle with her hand, to protect it from the currents of air which in such a rambling old place might have found plenty of room to disport themselves in, without blowing the candle out, but which did blow it out nevertheless — thus affording Tom’s enemies an opportunity of asserting that it was he, and not the wind, who extinguished the candle, and that while he pretended to be blowing it alight again, he was in fact kissing the girl. Be this as it may, another light was obtained, and Tom was conducted through a maze of rooms, and a labyrinth of passages, to the apartment which had been prepared for his reception, where the girl bade him good-night and left him alone.

‘It was a good large room with big closets, and a bed which might have served for a whole boarding-school, to say nothing of a couple of oaken presses that would have held the baggage of a small army; but what struck Tom’s fancy most was a strange, grim-looking, high backed chair, carved in the most fantastic manner, with a flowered damask cushion, and the round knobs at the bottom of the legs carefully tied up in red cloth, as if it had got the gout in its toes. Of any other queer chair, Tom would only have thought it was a queer chair, and there would have been an end of the matter; but there was something about this particular chair, and yet he couldn’t tell what it was, so odd and so unlike any other piece of furniture he had ever seen, that it seemed to fascinate him. He sat down before the fire, and stared at the old chair for half an hour. — Damn the chair, it was such a strange old thing, he couldn’t take his eyes off it.

‘“Well,” said Tom, slowly undressing himself, and staring at the old chair all the while, which stood with a mysterious aspect by the bedside, “I never saw such a rum concern as that in my days. Very odd,” said Tom, who had got rather sage with the hot punch — “very odd.” Tom shook his head with an air of profound wisdom, and looked at the chair again. He couldn’t make anything of it though, so he got into bed, covered himself up warm, and fell asleep.

‘In about half an hour, Tom woke up with a start, from a confused dream of tall men and tumblers of punch; and the first object that presented itself to his waking imagination was the queer chair.

‘“I won’t look at it any more,” said Tom to himself, and he squeezed his eyelids together, and tried to persuade himself he was going to sleep again. No use; nothing but queer chairs danced before his eyes, kicking up their legs, jumping over each other’s backs, and playing all kinds of antics.

“‘I may as well see one real chair, as two or three complete sets of false ones,” said Tom, bringing out his head from under the bedclothes. There it was, plainly discernible by the light of the fire, looking as provoking as ever.

‘Tom gazed at the chair; and, suddenly as he looked at it, a most extraordinary change seemed to come over it. The carving of the back gradually assumed the lineaments and expression of an old, shrivelled human face; the damask cushion became an antique, flapped waistcoat; the round knobs grew into a couple of feet, encased in red cloth slippers; and the whole chair looked like a very ugly old man, of the previous century, with his arms akimbo. Tom sat up in bed, and rubbed his eyes to dispel the illusion. No. The chair was an ugly old gentleman; and what was more, he was winking at Tom Smart.

‘Tom was naturally a headlong, careless sort of dog, and he had had five tumblers of hot punch into the bargain; so, although he was a little startled at first, he began to grow rather indignant when he saw the old gentleman winking and leering at him with such an impudent air. At length he resolved that he wouldn’t stand it; and as the old face still kept winking away as fast as ever, Tom said, in a very angry tone —

‘“What the devil are you winking at me for?”

‘“Because I like it, Tom Smart,” said the chair; or the old gentleman, whichever you like to call him. He stopped winking though, when Tom spoke, and began grinning like a superannuated monkey.

‘“How do you know my name, old nut-cracker face?” inquired Tom Smart, rather staggered; though he pretended to carry it off so well.

‘“Come, come, Tom,” said the old gentleman, “that’s not the way to address solid Spanish mahogany. Damme, you couldn’t treat me with less respect if I was veneered.” When the old gentleman said this, he looked so fierce that Tom began to grow frightened.

‘“I didn’t mean to treat you with any disrespect, Sir,” said Tom, in a much humbler tone than he had spoken in at first.

‘“Well, well,” said the old fellow, “perhaps not — perhaps not. Tom — “

‘“Sir — “

‘“I know everything about you, Tom; everything. You’re very poor, Tom.”

‘“I certainly am,” said Tom Smart. “But how came you to know that?”

‘“Never mind that,” said the old gentleman; “you’re much too fond of punch, Tom.”

‘Tom Smart was just on the point of protesting that he hadn’t tasted a drop since his last birthday, but when his eye encountered that of the old gentleman he looked so knowing that Tom blushed, and was silent.

‘“Tom,” said the old gentleman, “the widow’s a fine woman — remarkably fine woman — eh, Tom?” Here the old fellow screwed up his eyes, cocked up one of his wasted little legs, and looked altogether so unpleasantly amorous, that Tom was quite disgusted with the levity of his behaviour — at his time of life, too! ‘“I am her guardian, Tom,” said the old gentleman.

‘“Are you?” inquired Tom Smart.

‘“I knew her mother, Tom,” said the old fellow: “and her grandmother. She was very fond of me — made me this waistcoat, Tom.”

‘“Did she?” said Tom Smart.

‘“And these shoes,” said the old fellow, lifting up one of the red cloth mufflers; “but don’t mention it, Tom. I shouldn’t like to have it known that she was so much attached to me. It might occasion some unpleasantness in the family.” When the old rascal said this, he looked so extremely impertinent, that, as Tom Smart afterwards declared, he could have sat upon him without remorse.

‘“I have been a great favourite among the women in my time, Tom,” said the profligate old debauchee; “hundreds of fine women have sat in my lap for hours together. What do you think of that, you dog, eh!” The old gentleman was proceeding to recount some other exploits of his youth, when he was seized with such a violent fit of creaking that he was unable to proceed.

‘“Just serves you right, old boy,” thought Tom Smart; but he didn’t say anything.

‘“Ah!” said the old fellow, “I am a good deal troubled with this now. I am getting old, Tom, and have lost nearly all my rails. I have had an operation performed, too — a small piece let into my back — and I found it a severe trial, Tom.”

‘“I dare say you did, Sir,” said Tom Smart.

‘“However,” said the old gentleman, “that’s not the point. Tom! I want you to marry the widow.”

‘“Me, Sir!” said Tom.

‘“You,” said the old gentleman.

‘“Bless your reverend locks,” said Tom (he had a few scattered horse-hairs left) — “bless your reverend locks, she wouldn’t have me.” And Tom sighed involuntarily, as he thought of the bar.

‘“Wouldn’t she?” said the old gentleman firmly.

‘“No, no,” said Tom; “there’s somebody else in the wind. A tall man — a confoundedly tall man — with black whiskers.”

‘“Tom,” said the old gentleman; “she will never have him.”

‘“Won’t she?” said Tom. “If you stood in the bar, old gentleman, you’d tell another story.” ‘“Pooh, pooh,” said the old gentleman. “I know all about that.”

‘“About what?” said Tom.

‘“The kissing behind the door, and all that sort of thing, Tom,” said the old gentleman. And here he gave another impudent look, which made Tom very wroth, because as you all know, gentlemen, to hear an old fellow, who ought to know better, talking about these things, is very unpleasant — nothing more so.

‘“I know all about that, Tom,” said the old gentleman. “I have seen it done very often in my time, Tom, between more people than I should like to mention to you; but it never came to anything after all.”

‘“You must have seen some queer things,” said Tom, with an inquisitive look.

‘“You may say that, Tom,” replied the old fellow, with a very complicated wink. “I am the last of my family, Tom,” said the old gentleman, with a melancholy sigh.

‘“Was it a large one?” inquired Tom Smart.

‘“There were twelve of us, Tom,” said the old gentleman; “fine, straight-backed, handsome fellows as you’d wish to see. None of your modern abortions — all with arms, and with a degree of polish, though I say it that should not, which it would have done your heart good to behold.”

‘“And what’s become of the others, Sir?” asked Tom Smart —

‘The old gentleman applied his elbow to his eye as he replied, “Gone, Tom, gone. We had hard service, Tom, and they hadn’t all my constitution. They got rheumatic about the legs and arms, and went into kitchens and other hospitals; and one of ‘em, with long service and hard usage, positively lost his senses — he got so crazy that he was obliged to be burnt. Shocking thing that, Tom.”

‘“Dreadful!” said Tom Smart.

‘The old fellow paused for a few minutes, apparently struggling with his feelings of emotion, and then said —

‘“However, Tom, I am wandering from the point. This tall man, Tom, is a rascally adventurer. The moment he married the widow, he would sell off all the furniture, and run away. What would be the consequence? She would be deserted and reduced to ruin, and I should catch my death of cold in some broker’s shop.”

‘“Yes, but — “

‘“Don’t interrupt me,” said the old gentleman. “Of you, Tom, I entertain a very different opinion; for I well know that if you once settled yourself in a public-house, you would never leave it, as long as there was anything to drink within its walls.”

‘“I am very much obliged to you for your good opinion, Sir,” said Tom Smart.

‘“Therefore,” resumed the old gentleman, in a dictatorial tone, “you shall have her, and he shall not.”

‘“What is to prevent it?” said Tom Smart eagerly.

‘“This disclosure,” replied the old gentleman; “he is already married.”

‘“How can I prove it?” said Tom, starting half out of bed.

‘The old gentleman untucked his arm from his side, and having pointed to one of the oaken presses, immediately replaced it, in its old position.

‘“He little thinks,” said the old gentleman, “that in the right-hand pocket of a pair of trousers in that press, he has left a letter, entreating him to return to his disconsolate wife, with six — mark me, Tom — six babes, and all of them small ones.”

‘As the old gentleman solemnly uttered these words, his features grew less and less distinct, and his figure more shadowy. A film came over Tom Smart’s eyes. The old man seemed gradually blending into the chair, the damask waistcoat to resolve into a cushion, the red slippers to shrink into little red cloth bags. The light faded gently away, and Tom Smart fell back on his pillow, and dropped asleep.

‘Morning aroused Tom from the lethargic slumber, into which he had fallen on the disappearance of the old man. He sat up in bed, and for some minutes vainly endeavoured to recall the events of the preceding night. Suddenly they rushed upon him. He looked at the chair; it was a fantastic and grim-looking piece of furniture, certainly, but it must have been a remarkably ingenious and lively imagination, that could have discovered any resemblance between it and an old man.

‘“How are you, old boy?” said Tom. He was bolder in the daylight — most men are.

‘The chair remained motionless, and spoke not a word.

‘“Miserable morning,” said Tom. No. The chair would not be drawn into conversation.

‘“Which press did you point to? — you can tell me that,” said Tom. Devil a word, gentlemen, the chair would say.

‘“It’s not much trouble to open it, anyhow,” said Tom, getting out of bed very deliberately. He walked up to one of the presses. The key was in the lock; he turned it, and opened the door. There was a pair of trousers there. He put his hand into the pocket, and drew forth the identical letter the old gentleman had described!

‘“Queer sort of thing, this,” said Tom Smart, looking first at the chair and then at the press, and then at the letter, and then at the chair again. “Very queer,” said Tom. But, as there was nothing in either, to lessen the queerness, he thought he might as well dress himself, and settle the tall man’s business at once — just to put him out of his misery.

‘Tom surveyed the rooms he passed through, on his way downstairs, with the scrutinising eye of a landlord; thinking it not impossible, that before long, they and their contents would be his property. The tall man was standing in the snug little bar, with his hands behind him, quite at home. He grinned vacantly at Tom. A casual observer might have supposed he did it, only to show his white teeth; but Tom Smart thought that a consciousness of triumph was passing through the place where the tall man’s mind would have been, if he had had any. Tom laughed in his face; and summoned the landlady.

‘“Good-morning ma’am,” said Tom Smart, closing the door of the little parlour as the widow entered.

‘“Good-morning, Sir,” said the widow. “What will you take for breakfast, sir?”

‘Tom was thinking how he should open the case, so he made no answer.

‘“There’s a very nice ham,” said the widow, “and a beautiful cold larded fowl. Shall I send ‘em in, Sir?”

‘These words roused Tom from his reflections. His admiration of the widow increased as she spoke. Thoughtful creature! Comfortable provider!

‘“Who is that gentleman in the bar, ma’am?” inquired Tom.

‘“His name is Jinkins, Sir,” said the widow, slightly blushing.

‘“He’s a tall man,” said Tom.

‘“He is a very fine man, Sir,” replied the widow, “and a very nice gentleman.”

‘“Ah!” said Tom.

‘“Is there anything more you want, Sir?” inquired the widow, rather puzzled by Tom’s manner. ‘“Why, yes,” said Tom. “My dear ma’am, will you have the kindness to sit down for one moment?”

‘The widow looked much amazed, but she sat down, and Tom sat down too, close beside her. I don’t know how it happened, gentlemen — indeed my uncle used to tell me that Tom Smart said he didn’t know how it happened either — but somehow or other the palm of Tom’s hand fell upon the back of the widow’s hand, and remained there while he spoke.

‘“My dear ma’am,” said Tom Smart — he had always a great notion of committing the amiable — “my dear ma’am, you deserve a very excellent husband — you do indeed.”

‘“Lor, Sir!” said the widow — as well she might; Tom’s mode of commencing the conversation being rather unusual, not to say startling; the fact of his never having set eyes upon her before the previous night being taken into consideration. “Lor, Sir!”

‘“I scorn to flatter, my dear ma’am,” said Tom Smart. “You deserve a very admirable husband, and whoever he is, he’ll be a very lucky man.” As Tom said this, his eye involuntarily wandered from the widow’s face to the comfort around him.

‘The widow looked more puzzled than ever, and made an effort to rise. Tom gently pressed her hand, as if to detain her, and she kept her seat. Widows, gentlemen, are not usually timorous, as my uncle used to say.

‘“I am sure I am very much obliged to you, Sir, for your good opinion,” said the buxom landlady, half laughing; “and if ever I marry again — “

‘“IF,” said Tom Smart, looking very shrewdly out of the right-hand corner of his left eye. “IF — “ “Well,” said the widow, laughing outright this time, “WHEN I do, I hope I shall have as good a husband as you describe.”

‘“Jinkins, to wit,” said Tom.

‘“Lor, sir!” exclaimed the widow.

‘“Oh, don’t tell me,” said Tom, “I know him.”

‘“I am sure nobody who knows him, knows anything bad of him,” said the widow, bridling up at the mysterious air with which Tom had spoken.

‘“Hem!” said Tom Smart.

‘The widow began to think it was high time to cry, so she took out her handkerchief, and inquired whether Tom wished to insult her, whether he thought it like a gentleman to take away the character of another gentleman behind his back, why, if he had got anything to say, he didn’t say it to the man, like a man, instead of terrifying a poor weak woman in that way; and so forth.

‘“I’ll say it to him fast enough,” said Tom, “only I want you to hear it first.”

‘“What is it?” inquired the widow, looking intently in Tom’s countenance.

‘“I’ll astonish you,” said Tom, putting his hand in his pocket.

‘“If it is, that he wants money,” said the widow, “I know that already, and you needn’t trouble yourself.” ‘“Pooh, nonsense, that’s nothing,” said Tom Smart, “I want money. ‘Tain’t that.”

‘“Oh, dear, what can it be?” exclaimed the poor widow.

‘“Don’t be frightened,” said Tom Smart. He slowly drew forth the letter, and unfolded it. “You won’t scream?” said Tom doubtfully.

‘“No, no,” replied the widow; “let me see it.”

‘“You won’t go fainting away, or any of that nonsense?” said Tom.

‘“No, no,” returned the widow hastily.

‘“And don’t run out, and blow him up,” said Tom; “because I’ll do all that for you. You had better not exert yourself.”

‘“Well, well,” said the widow, “let me see it.”

‘“I will,” replied Tom Smart; and, with these words, he placed the letter in the widow’s hand.

‘Gentlemen, I have heard my uncle say, that Tom Smart said the widow’s lamentations when she heard the disclosure would have pierced a heart of stone. Tom was certainly very tender-hearted, but they pierced his, to the very core. The widow rocked herself to and fro, and wrung her hands.

‘“Oh, the deception and villainy of the man!” said the widow.

‘“Frightful, my dear ma’am; but compose yourself,” said Tom Smart.

‘“Oh, I can’t compose myself,” shrieked the widow. “I shall never find anyone else I can love so much!”

‘“Oh, yes you will, my dear soul,” said Tom Smart, letting fall a shower of the largest-sized tears, in pity for the widow’s misfortunes. Tom Smart, in the energy of his compassion, had put his arm round the widow’s waist; and the widow, in a passion of grief, had clasped Tom’s hand. She looked up in Tom’s face, and smiled through her tears. Tom looked down in hers, and smiled through his.

‘I never could find out, gentlemen, whether Tom did or did not kiss the widow at that particular moment. He used to tell my uncle he didn’t, but I have my doubts about it. Between ourselves, gentlemen, I rather think he did.

‘At all events, Tom kicked the very tall man out at the front door half an hour later, and married the widow a month after. And he used to drive about the country, with the clay-coloured gig with the red wheels, and the vixenish mare with the fast pace, till he gave up business many years afterwards, and went to France with his wife; and then the old house was pulled down.’

‘Will you allow me to ask you,’ said the inquisitive old gentleman, ‘what became of the chair?’

‘Why,’ replied the one-eyed bagman, ‘it was observed to creak very much on the day of the wedding; but Tom Smart couldn’t say for certain whether it was with pleasure or bodily infirmity. He rather thought it was the latter, though, for it never spoke afterwards.’

‘Everybody believed the story, didn’t they?’ said the dirty-faced man, refilling his pipe.

‘Except Tom’s enemies,’ replied the bagman. ‘Some of ‘em said Tom invented it altogether; and others said he was drunk and fancied it, and got hold of the wrong trousers by mistake before he went to bed. But nobody ever minded what THEY said.’

‘Tom Smart said it was all true?’

‘Every word.’

‘And your uncle?’

‘Every letter.’

‘They must have been very nice men, both of ‘em,’ said the dirty-faced man.

‘Yes, they were,’ replied the bagman; ‘very nice men indeed!’


THE GHOSTS OF THE MAIL

from The Pickwick Papers

‘My uncle, gentlemen,’ said the bagman, ‘was one of the merriest, pleasantest, cleverest fellows, that ever lived. I wish you had known him, gentlemen. On second thoughts, gentlemen, I don’t wish you had known him, for if you had, you would have been all, by this time, in the ordinary course of nature, if not dead, at all events so near it, as to have taken to stopping at home and giving up company, which would have deprived me of the inestimable pleasure of addressing you at this moment. Gentlemen, I wish your fathers and mothers had known my uncle. They would have been amazingly fond of him, especially your respectable mothers; I know they would. If any two of his numerous virtues predominated over the many that adorned his character, I should say they were his mixed punch and his after-supper song. Excuse my dwelling on these melancholy recollections of departed worth; you won’t see a man like my uncle every day in the week.

‘I have always considered it a great point in my uncle’s character, gentlemen, that he was the intimate friend and companion of Tom Smart, of the great house of Bilson and Slum, Cateaton Street, City. My uncle collected for Tiggin and Welps, but for a long time he went pretty near the same journey as Tom; and the very first night they met, my uncle took a fancy for Tom, and Tom took a fancy for my uncle. They made a bet of a new hat before they had known each other half an hour, who should brew the best quart of punch and drink it the quickest. My uncle was judged to have won the making, but Tom Smart beat him in the drinking by about half a salt-spoonful. They took another quart apiece to drink each other’s health in, and were staunch friends ever afterwards. There’s a destiny in these things, gentlemen; we can’t help it.

‘In personal appearance, my uncle was a trifle shorter than the middle size; he was a thought stouter too, than the ordinary run of people, and perhaps his face might be a shade redder. He had the jolliest face you ever saw, gentleman: something like Punch, with a handsome nose and chin; his eyes were always twinkling and sparkling with good-humour; and a smile — not one of your unmeaning wooden grins, but a real, merry, hearty, good-tempered smile — was perpetually on his countenance. He was pitched out of his gig once, and knocked, head first, against a milestone. There he lay, stunned, and so cut about the face with some gravel which had been heaped up alongside it, that, to use my uncle’s own strong expression, if his mother could have revisited the earth, she wouldn’t have known him. Indeed, when I come to think of the matter, gentlemen, I feel pretty sure she wouldn’t, for she died when my uncle was two years and seven months old, and I think it’s very likely that, even without the gravel, his top-boots would have puzzled the good lady not a little; to say nothing of his jolly red face. However, there he lay, and I have heard my uncle say, many a time, that the man said who picked him up that he was smiling as merrily as if he had tumbled out for a treat, and that after they had bled him, the first faint glimmerings of returning animation, were his jumping up in bed, bursting out into a loud laugh, kissing the young woman who held the basin, and demanding a mutton chop and a pickled walnut. He was very fond of pickled walnuts, gentlemen. He said he always found that, taken without vinegar, they relished the beer.

‘My uncle’s great journey was in the fall of the leaf, at which time he collected debts, and took orders, in the north; going from London to Edinburgh, from Edinburgh to Glasgow, from Glasgow back to Edinburgh, and thence to London by the smack. You are to understand that his second visit to Edinburgh was for his own pleasure. He used to go back for a week, just to look up his old friends; and what with breakfasting with this one, lunching with that, dining with the third, and supping with another, a pretty tight week he used to make of it. I don’t know whether any of you, gentlemen, ever partook of a real substantial hospitable Scotch breakfast, and then went out to a slight lunch of a bushel of oysters, a dozen or so of bottled ale, and a noggin or two of whiskey to close up with. If you ever did, you will agree with me that it requires a pretty strong head to go out to dinner and supper afterwards.

‘But bless your hearts and eyebrows, all this sort of thing was nothing to my uncle! He was so well seasoned, that it was mere child’s play. I have heard him say that he could see the Dundee people out, any day, and walk home afterwards without staggering; and yet the Dundee people have as strong heads and as strong punch, gentlemen, as you are likely to meet with, between the poles. I have heard of a Glasgow man and a Dundee man drinking against each other for fifteen hours at a sitting. They were both suffocated, as nearly as could be ascertained, at the same moment, but with this trifling exception, gentlemen, they were not a bit the worse for it.

‘One night, within four-and-twenty hours of the time when he had settled to take shipping for London, my uncle supped at the house of a very old friend of his, a Bailie Mac something and four syllables after it, who lived in the old town of Edinburgh. There were the bailie’s wife, and the bailie’s three daughters, and the bailie’s grown-up son, and three or four stout, bushy eye-browed, canny, old Scotch fellows, that the bailie had got together to do honour to my uncle, and help to make merry. It was a glorious supper. There was kippered salmon, and Finnan haddocks, and a lamb’s head, and a haggis — a celebrated Scotch dish, gentlemen, which my uncle used to say always looked to him, when it came to table, very much like a Cupid’s stomach — and a great many other things besides, that I forget the names of, but very good things, notwithstanding. The lassies were pretty and agreeable; the bailie’s wife was one of the best creatures that ever lived; and my uncle was in thoroughly good cue. The consequence of which was, that the young ladies tittered and giggled, and the old lady laughed out loud, and the bailie and the other old fellows roared till they were red in the face, the whole mortal time. I don’t quite recollect how many tumblers of whiskey-toddy each man drank after supper; but this I know, that about one o’clock in the morning, the bailie’s grown-up son became insensible while attempting the first verse of “Willie brewed a peck o’ maut”; and he having been, for half an hour before, the only other man visible above the mahogany, it occurred to my uncle that it was almost time to think about going, especially as drinking had set in at seven o’clock, in order that he might get home at a decent hour. But, thinking it might not be quite polite to go just then, my uncle voted himself into the chair, mixed another glass, rose to propose his own health, addressed himself in a neat and complimentary speech, and drank the toast with great enthusiasm. Still nobody woke; so my uncle took a little drop more — neat this time, to prevent the toddy from disagreeing with him — and, laying violent hands on his hat, sallied forth into the street.

‘It was a wild, gusty night when my uncle closed the bailie’s door, and settling his hat firmly on his head to prevent the wind from taking it, thrust his hands into his pockets, and looking upward, took a short survey of the state of the weather. The clouds were drifting over the moon at their giddiest speed; at one time wholly obscuring her; at another, suffering her to burst forth in full splendour and shed her light on all the objects around; anon, driving over her again, with increased velocity, and shrouding everything in darkness. “Really, this won’t do,” said my uncle, addressing himself to the weather, as if he felt himself personally offended. “This is not at all the kind of thing for my voyage. It will not do at any price,” said my uncle, very impressively. Having repeated this, several times, he recovered his balance with some difficulty — for he was rather giddy with looking up into the sky so long — and walked merrily on.

‘The bailie’s house was in the Canongate, and my uncle was going to the other end of Leith Walk, rather better than a mile’s journey. On either side of him, there shot up against the dark sky, tall, gaunt, straggling houses, with time-stained fronts, and windows that seemed to have shared the lot of eyes in mortals, and to have grown dim and sunken with age. Six, seven, eight Storey high, were the houses; storey piled upon storey, as children build with cards — throwing their dark shadows over the roughly paved road, and making the dark night darker. A few oil lamps were scattered at long distances, but they only served to mark the dirty entrance to some narrow close, or to show where a common stair communicated, by steep and intricate windings, with the various flats above. Glancing at all these things with the air of a man who had seen them too often before, to think them worthy of much notice now, my uncle walked up the middle of the street, with a thumb in each waistcoat pocket, indulging from time to time in various snatches of song, chanted forth with such good-will and spirit, that the quiet honest folk started from their first sleep and lay trembling in bed till the sound died away in the distance; when, satisfying themselves that it was only some drunken ne’er-do-weel finding his way home, they covered themselves up warm and fell asleep again.

‘I am particular in describing how my uncle walked up the middle of the street, with his thumbs in his waistcoat pockets, gentlemen, because, as he often used to say (and with great reason too) there is nothing at all extraordinary in this story, unless you distinctly understand at the beginning, that he was not by any means of a marvellous or romantic turn.

‘Gentlemen, my uncle walked on with his thumbs in his waistcoat pockets, taking the middle of the street to himself, and singing, now a verse of a love song, and then a verse of a drinking one, and when he was tired of both, whistling melodiously, until he reached the North Bridge, which, at this point, connects the old and new towns of Edinburgh. Here he stopped for a minute, to look at the strange, irregular clusters of lights piled one above the other, and twinkling afar off so high, that they looked like stars, gleaming from the castle walls on the one side and the Calton Hill on the other, as if they illuminated veritable castles in the air; while the old picturesque town slept heavily on, in gloom and darkness below: its palace and chapel of Holyrood, guarded day and night, as a friend of my uncle’s used to say, by old Arthur’s Seat, towering, surly and dark, like some gruff genius, over the ancient city he has watched so long. I say, gentlemen, my uncle stopped here, for a minute, to look about him; and then, paying a compliment to the weather, which had a little cleared up, though the moon was sinking, walked on again, as royally as before; keeping the middle of the road with great dignity, and looking as if he would very much like to meet with somebody who would dispute possession of it with him. There was nobody at all disposed to contest the point, as it happened; and so, on he went, with his thumbs in his waistcoat pockets, like a lamb.

‘When my uncle reached the end of Leith Walk, he had to cross a pretty large piece of waste ground which separated him from a short street which he had to turn down to go direct to his lodging. Now, in this piece of waste ground, there was, at that time, an enclosure belonging to some wheelwright who contracted with the Post Office for the purchase of old, worn-out mail coaches; and my uncle, being very fond of coaches, old, young, or middle-aged, all at once took it into his head to step out of his road for no other purpose than to peep between the palings at these mails — about a dozen of which he remembered to have seen, crowded together in a very forlorn and dismantled state, inside. My uncle was a very enthusiastic, emphatic sort of person, gentlemen; so, finding that he could not obtain a good peep between the palings he got over them, and sitting himself quietly down on an old axle-tree, began to contemplate the mail coaches with a deal of gravity.

‘There might be a dozen of them, or there might be more — my uncle was never quite certain on this point, and being a man of very scrupulous veracity about numbers, didn’t like to say — but there they stood, all huddled together in the most desolate condition imaginable. The doors had been torn from their hinges and removed; the linings had been stripped off, only a shred hanging here and there by a rusty nail; the lamps were gone, the poles had long since vanished, the ironwork was rusty, the paint was worn away; the wind whistled through the chinks in the bare woodwork; and the rain, which had collected on the roofs, fell, drop by drop, into the insides with a hollow and melancholy sound. They were the decaying skeletons of departed mails, and in that lonely place, at that time of night, they looked chill and dismal.

‘My uncle rested his head upon his hands, and thought of the busy, bustling people who had rattled about, years before, in the old coaches, and were now as silent and changed; he thought of the numbers of people to whom one of these crazy, mouldering vehicles had borne, night after night, for many years, and through all weathers, the anxiously expected intelligence, the eagerly looked-for remittance, the promised assurance of health and safety, the sudden announcement of sickness and death. The merchant, the lover, the wife, the widow, the mother, the school-boy, the very child who tottered to the door at the postman’s knock — how had they all looked forward to the arrival of the old coach. And where were they all now? ‘Gentlemen, my uncle used to SAY that he thought all this at the time, but I rather suspect he learned it out of some book afterwards, for he distinctly stated that he fell into a kind of doze, as he sat on the old axle-tree looking at the decayed mail coaches, and that he was suddenly awakened by some deep church bell striking two. Now, my uncle was never a fast thinker, and if he had thought all these things, I am quite certain it would have taken him till full half-past two o’clock at the very least. I am, therefore, decidedly of opinion, gentlemen, that my uncle fell into a kind of doze, without having thought about anything at all.

‘Be this as it may, a church bell struck two. My uncle woke, rubbed his eyes, and jumped up in astonishment.

‘In one instant, after the clock struck two, the whole of this deserted and quiet spot had become a scene of most extraordinary life and animation. The mail coach doors were on their hinges, the lining was replaced, the ironwork was as good as new, the paint was restored, the lamps were alight; cushions and greatcoats were on every coach-box, porters were thrusting parcels into every boot, guards were stowing away letter-bags, hostlers were dashing pails of water against the renovated wheels; numbers of men were pushing about, fixing poles into every coach; passengers arrived, portmanteaus were handed up, horses were put to; in short, it was perfectly clear that every mail there, was to be off directly. Gentlemen, my uncle opened his eyes so wide at all this, that, to the very last moment of his life, he used to wonder how it fell out that he had ever been able to shut ‘em again.

‘“Now then!” said a voice, as my uncle felt a hand on his shoulder, “you’re booked for one inside. You’d better get in.”

‘“I booked!” said my uncle, turning round.

‘“Yes, certainly.”

‘My uncle, gentlemen, could say nothing, he was so very much astonished. The queerest thing of all was that although there was such a crowd of persons, and although fresh faces were pouring in, every moment, there was no telling where they came from. They seemed to start up, in some strange manner, from the ground, or the air, and disappear in the same way. When a porter had put his luggage in the coach, and received his fare, he turned round and was gone; and before my uncle had well begun to wonder what had become of him, half a dozen fresh ones started up, and staggered along under the weight of parcels, which seemed big enough to crush them. The passengers were all dressed so oddly too! Large, broad-skirted laced coats, with great cuffs and no collars; and wigs, gentlemen — great formal wigs with a tie behind. My uncle could make nothing of it.

‘“Now, are you going to get in?” said the person who had addressed my uncle before. He was dressed as a mail guard, with a wig on his head and most enormous cuffs to his coat, and had a lantern in one hand, and a huge blunderbuss in the other, which he was going to stow away in his little arm-chest. “ARE you going to get in, Jack Martin?” said the guard, holding the lantern to my uncle’s face.

‘“Hollo!” said my uncle, falling back a step or two. “That’s familiar!”

‘“It’s so on the way-bill,” said the guard.

‘“Isn’t there a ‘Mister’ before it?” said my uncle. For he felt, gentlemen, that for a guard he didn’t know, to call him Jack Martin, was a liberty which the Post Office wouldn’t have sanctioned if they had known it.

‘“No, there is not,” rejoined the guard coolly.

‘“Is the fare paid?” inquired my uncle.

‘“Of course it is,” rejoined the guard.

‘“It is, is it?” said my uncle. “Then here goes! Which coach?”

‘“This,” said the guard, pointing to an old-fashioned Edinburgh and London mail, which had the steps down and the door open. “Stop! Here are the other passengers. Let them get in first.”

‘As the guard spoke, there all at once appeared, right in front of my uncle, a young gentleman in a powdered wig, and a sky-blue coat trimmed with silver, made very full and broad in the skirts, which were lined with buckram. Tiggin and Welps were in the printed calico and waistcoat piece line, gentlemen, so my uncle knew all the materials at once. He wore knee breeches, and a kind of leggings rolled up over his silk stockings, and shoes with buckles; he had ruffles at his wrists, a three-cornered hat on his head, and a long taper sword by his side. The flaps of his waist-coat came half-way down his thighs, and the ends of his cravat reached to his waist. He stalked gravely to the coach door, pulled off his hat, and held it above his head at arm’s length, cocking his little finger in the air at the same time, as some affected people do, when they take a cup of tea. Then he drew his feet together, and made a low, grave bow, and then put out his left hand. My uncle was just going to step forward, and shake it heartily, when he perceived that these attentions were directed, not towards him, but to a young lady who just then appeared at the foot of the steps, attired in an old-fashioned green velvet dress with a long waist and stomacher. She had no bonnet on her head, gentlemen, which was muffled in a black silk hood, but she looked round for an instant as she prepared to get into the coach, and such a beautiful face as she disclosed, my uncle had never seen — not even in a picture. She got into the coach, holding up her dress with one hand; and as my uncle always said with a round oath, when he told the story, he wouldn’t have believed it possible that legs and feet could have been brought to such a state of perfection unless he had seen them with his own eyes.

‘But, in this one glimpse of the beautiful face, my uncle saw that the young lady cast an imploring look upon him, and that she appeared terrified and distressed. He noticed, too, that the young fellow in the powdered wig, notwithstanding his show of gallantry, which was all very fine and grand, clasped her tight by the wrist when she got in, and followed himself immediately afterwards. An uncommonly ill-looking fellow, in a close brown wig, and a plum-coloured suit, wearing a very large sword, and boots up to his hips, belonged to the party; and when he sat himself down next to the young lady, who shrank into a corner at his approach, my uncle was confirmed in his original impression that something dark and mysterious was going forward, or, as he always said himself, that “there was a screw loose somewhere.” It’s quite surprising how quickly he made up his mind to help the lady at any peril, if she needed any help.

‘“Death and lightning!” exclaimed the young gentleman, laying his hand upon his sword as my uncle entered the coach.

‘“Blood and thunder!” roared the other gentleman. With this, he whipped his sword out, and made a lunge at my uncle without further ceremony. My uncle had no weapon about him, but with great dexterity he snatched the ill-looking gentleman’s three-cornered hat from his head, and, receiving the point of his sword right through the crown, squeezed the sides together, and held it tight.

‘“Pink him behind!” cried the ill-looking gentleman to his companion, as he struggled to regain his sword.

‘“He had better not,” cried my uncle, displaying the heel of one of his shoes, in a threatening manner. “I’ll kick his brains out, if he has any — , or fracture his skull if he hasn’t.” Exerting all his strength, at this moment, my uncle wrenched the ill-looking man’s sword from his grasp, and flung it clean out of the coach window, upon which the younger gentleman vociferated, “Death and lightning!” again, and laid his hand upon the hilt of his sword, in a very fierce manner, but didn’t draw it. Perhaps, gentlemen, as my uncle used to say with a smile, perhaps he was afraid of alarming the lady.

‘“Now, gentlemen,” said my uncle, taking his seat deliberately, “I don’t want to have any death, with or without lightning, in a lady’s presence, and we have had quite blood and thundering enough for one journey; so, if you please, we’ll sit in our places like quiet insides. Here, guard, pick up that gentleman’s carving-knife.”

‘As quickly as my uncle said the words, the guard appeared at the coach window, with the gentleman’s sword in his hand. He held up his lantern, and looked earnestly in my uncle’s face, as he handed it in, when, by its light, my uncle saw, to his great surprise, that an immense crowd of mail-coach guards swarmed round the window, every one of whom had his eyes earnestly fixed upon him too. He had never seen such a sea of white faces, red bodies, and earnest eyes, in all his born days.

‘“This is the strangest sort of thing I ever had anything to do with,” thought my uncle; “allow me to return you your hat, sir.”

‘The ill-looking gentleman received his three-cornered hat in silence, looked at the hole in the middle with an inquiring air, and finally stuck it on the top of his wig with a solemnity the effect of which was a trifle impaired by his sneezing violently at the moment, and jerking it off again.

‘“All right!” cried the guard with the lantern, mounting into his little seat behind. Away they went. My uncle peeped out of the coach window as they emerged from the yard, and observed that the other mails, with coachmen, guards, horses, and passengers, complete, were driving round and round in circles, at a slow trot of about five miles an hour. My uncle burned with indignation, gentlemen. As a commercial man, he felt that the mail-bags were not to be trifled with, and he resolved to memorialise the Post Office on the subject, the very instant he reached London.

‘At present, however, his thoughts were occupied with the young lady who sat in the farthest corner of the coach, with her face muffled closely in her hood; the gentleman with the sky-blue coat sitting opposite to her; the other man in the plum-coloured suit, by her side; and both watching her intently. If she so much as rustled the folds of her hood, he could hear the ill-looking man clap his hand upon his sword, and could tell by the other’s breathing (it was so dark he couldn’t see his face) that he was looking as big as if he were going to devour her at a mouthful. This roused my uncle more and more, and he resolved, come what might, to see the end of it. He had a great admiration for bright eyes, and sweet faces, and pretty legs and feet; in short, he was fond of the whole sex. It runs in our family, gentleman — so am I.

‘Many were the devices which my uncle practised, to attract the lady’s attention, or at all events, to engage the mysterious gentlemen in conversation. They were all in vain; the gentlemen wouldn’t talk, and the lady didn’t dare. He thrust his head out of the coach window at intervals, and bawled out to know why they didn’t go faster. But he called till he was hoarse; nobody paid the least attention to him. He leaned back in the coach, and thought of the beautiful face, and the feet and legs. This answered better; it whiled away the time, and kept him from wondering where he was going, and how it was that he found himself in such an odd situation. Not that this would have worried him much, anyway — he was a mighty free and easy, roving, devil-may-care sort of person, was my uncle, gentlemen.

‘All of a sudden the coach stopped. “Hollo!” said my uncle, “what’s in the wind now?”

‘“Alight here,” said the guard, letting down the steps.

‘“Here!” cried my uncle.

‘“Here,” rejoined the guard.

‘“I’ll do nothing of the sort,” said my uncle.

‘“Very well, then stop where you are,” said the guard.

‘“I will,” said my uncle.

‘“Do,” said the guard.

‘The passengers had regarded this colloquy with great attention, and, finding that my uncle was determined not to alight, the younger man squeezed past him, to hand the lady out. At this moment, the ill-looking man was inspecting the hole in the crown of his three-cornered hat. As the young lady brushed past, she dropped one of her gloves into my uncle’s hand, and softly whispered, with her lips so close to his face that he felt her warm breath on his nose, the single word “Help!” Gentlemen, my uncle leaped out of the coach at once, with such violence that it rocked on the springs again.

‘“Oh! you’ve thought better of it, have you?” said the guard, when he saw my uncle standing on the ground.

‘My uncle looked at the guard for a few seconds, in some doubt whether it wouldn’t be better to wrench his blunderbuss from him, fire it in the face of the man with the big sword, knock the rest of the company over the head with the stock, snatch up the young lady, and go off in the smoke. On second thoughts, however, he abandoned this plan, as being a shade too melodramatic in the execution, and followed the two mysterious men, who, keeping the lady between them, were now entering an old house in front of which the coach had stopped. They turned into the passage, and my uncle followed.

‘Of all the ruinous and desolate places my uncle had ever beheld, this was the most so. It looked as if it had once been a large house of entertainment; but the roof had fallen in, in many places, and the stairs were steep, rugged, and broken. There was a huge fireplace in the room into which they walked, and the chimney was blackened with smoke; but no warm blaze lighted it up now. The white feathery dust of burned wood was still strewed over the hearth, but the stove was cold, and all was dark and gloomy.

‘“Well,” said my uncle, as he looked about him, “a mail travelling at the rate of six miles and a half an hour, and stopping for an indefinite time at such a hole as this, is rather an irregular sort of proceeding, I fancy. This shall be made known. I’ll write to the papers.”

‘My uncle said this in a pretty loud voice, and in an open, unreserved sort of manner, with the view of engaging the two strangers in conversation if he could. But, neither of them took any more notice of him than whispering to each other, and scowling at him as they did so. The lady was at the farther end of the room, and once she ventured to wave her hand, as if beseeching my uncle’s assistance.

‘At length the two strangers advanced a little, and the conversation began in earnest.

‘“You don’t know this is a private room, I suppose, fellow?” said the gentleman in sky-blue.

‘“No, I do not, fellow,” rejoined my uncle. “Only, if this is a private room specially ordered for the occasion, I should think the public room must be a VERY comfortable one;” with this, my uncle sat himself down in a high-backed chair, and took such an accurate measure of the gentleman, with his eyes, that Tiggin and Welps could have supplied him with printed calico for a suit, and not an inch too much or too little, from that estimate alone.

‘“Quit this room,” said both men together, grasping their swords.

‘“Eh?” said my uncle, not at all appearing to comprehend their meaning.

‘“Quit the room, or you are a dead man,” said the ill-looking fellow with the large sword, drawing it at the same time and flourishing it in the air.

‘“Down with him!” cried the gentleman in sky-blue, drawing his sword also, and falling back two or three yards. “Down with him!” The lady gave a loud scream.

‘Now, my uncle was always remarkable for great boldness, and great presence of mind. All the time that he had appeared so indifferent to what was going on, he had been looking slily about for some missile or weapon of defence, and at the very instant when the swords were drawn, he espied, standing in the chimney-corner, an old basket-hilted rapier in a rusty scabbard. At one bound, my uncle caught it in his hand, drew it, flourished it gallantly above his head, called aloud to the lady to keep out of the way, hurled the chair at the man in sky-blue, and the scabbard at the man in plum-colour, and taking advantage of the confusion, fell upon them both, pell-mell.

‘Gentlemen, there is an old story — none the worse for being true — regarding a fine young Irish gentleman, who being asked if he could play the fiddle, replied he had no doubt he could, but he couldn’t exactly say, for certain, because he had never tried. This is not inapplicable to my uncle and his fencing. He had never had a sword in his hand before, except once when he played Richard the Third at a private theatre, upon which occasion it was arranged with Richmond that he was to be run through, from behind, without showing fight at all. But here he was, cutting and slashing with two experienced swordsman, thrusting, and guarding, and poking, and slicing, and acquitting himself in the most manful and dexterous manner possible, although up to that time he had never been aware that he had the least notion of the science. It only shows how true the old saying is, that a man never knows what he can do till he tries, gentlemen.

‘The noise of the combat was terrific; each of the three combatants swearing like troopers, and their swords clashing with as much noise as if all the knives and steels in Newport market were rattling together, at the same time. When it was at its very height, the lady (to encourage my uncle most probably) withdrew her hood entirely from her face, and disclosed a countenance of such dazzling beauty, that he would have fought against fifty men, to win one smile from it and die. He had done wonders before, but now he began to powder away like a raving mad giant.

‘At this very moment, the gentleman in sky-blue turning round, and seeing the young lady with her face uncovered, vented an exclamation of rage and jealousy, and, turning his weapon against her beautiful bosom, pointed a thrust at her heart, which caused my uncle to utter a cry of apprehension that made the building ring. The lady stepped lightly aside, and snatching the young man’s sword from his hand, before he had recovered his balance, drove him to the wall, and running it through him, and the panelling, up to the very hilt, pinned him there, hard and fast. It was a splendid example. My uncle, with a loud shout of triumph, and a strength that was irresistible, made his adversary retreat in the same direction, and plunging the old rapier into the very centre of a large red flower in the pattern of his waistcoat, nailed him beside his friend; there they both stood, gentlemen, jerking their arms and legs about in agony, like the toy-shop figures that are moved by a piece of pack-thread. My uncle always said, afterwards, that this was one of the surest means he knew of, for disposing of an enemy; but it was liable to one objection on the ground of expense, inasmuch as it involved the loss of a sword for every man disabled.

‘“The mail, the mail!” cried the lady, running up to my uncle and throwing her beautiful arms round his neck; “we may yet escape.”

‘“May!” cried my uncle; “why, my dear, there’s nobody else to kill, is there?” My uncle was rather disappointed, gentlemen, for he thought a little quiet bit of love-making would be agreeable after the slaughtering, if it were only to change the subject.

‘“We have not an instant to lose here,” said the young lady. “He (pointing to the young gentleman in sky-blue) is the only son of the powerful Marquess of Filletoville.” ‘“Well then, my dear, I’m afraid he’ll never come to the title,” said my uncle, looking coolly at the young gentleman as he stood fixed up against the wall, in the cockchafer fashion that I have described. “You have cut off the entail, my love.”

‘“I have been torn from my home and my friends by these villains,” said the young lady, her features glowing with indignation. “That wretch would have married me by violence in another hour.”

‘“Confound his impudence!” said my uncle, bestowing a very contemptuous look on the dying heir of Filletoville.

‘“As you may guess from what you have seen,” said the young lady, “the party were prepared to murder me if I appealed to any one for assistance. If their accomplices find us here, we are lost. Two minutes hence may be too late. The mail!” With these words, overpowered by her feelings, and the exertion of sticking the young Marquess of Filletoville, she sank into my uncle’s arms. My uncle caught her up, and bore her to the house door. There stood the mail, with four long-tailed, flowing-maned, black horses, ready harnessed; but no coachman, no guard, no hostler even, at the horses’ heads.

‘Gentlemen, I hope I do no injustice to my uncle’s memory, when I express my opinion, that although he was a bachelor, he had held some ladies in his arms before this time; I believe, indeed, that he had rather a habit of kissing barmaids; and I know, that in one or two instances, he had been seen by credible witnesses, to hug a landlady in a very perceptible manner. I mention the circumstance, to show what a very uncommon sort of person this beautiful young lady must have been, to have affected my uncle in the way she did; he used to say, that as her long dark hair trailed over his arm, and her beautiful dark eyes fixed themselves upon his face when she recovered, he felt so strange and nervous that his legs trembled beneath him. But who can look in a sweet, soft pair of dark eyes, without feeling queer? I can’t, gentlemen. I am afraid to look at some eyes I know, and that’s the truth of it.

‘“You will never leave me,” murmured the young lady.

‘“Never,” said my uncle. And he meant it too.

‘“My dear preserver!” exclaimed the young lady. “My dear, kind, brave preserver!”

‘“Don’t,” said my uncle, interrupting her.

‘“‘Why?” inquired the young lady.

‘“Because your mouth looks so beautiful when you speak,” rejoined my uncle, “that I’m afraid I shall be rude enough to kiss it.”

‘The young lady put up her hand as if to caution my uncle not to do so, and said — No, she didn’t say anything — she smiled. When you are looking at a pair of the most delicious lips in the world, and see them gently break into a roguish smile — if you are very near them, and nobody else by — you cannot better testify your admiration of their beautiful form and colour than by kissing them at once. My uncle did so, and I honour him for it.

‘“Hark!” cried the young lady, starting. “The noise of wheels, and horses!”

‘“So it is,” said my uncle, listening. He had a good ear for wheels, and the trampling of hoofs; but there appeared to be so many horses and carriages rattling towards them, from a distance, that it was impossible to form a guess at their number. The sound was like that of fifty brakes, with six blood cattle in each.

‘“We are pursued!” cried the young lady, clasping her hands. “We are pursued. I have no hope but in you!”

‘There was such an expression of terror in her beautiful face, that my uncle made up his mind at once. He lifted her into the coach, told her not to be frightened, pressed his lips to hers once more, and then advising her to draw up the window to keep the cold air out, mounted to the box.

‘“Stay, love,” cried the young lady.

‘“What’s the matter?” said my uncle, from the coach-box.

‘“I want to speak to you,” said the young lady; “only a word. Only one word, dearest.”

‘“Must I get down?” inquired my uncle. The lady made no answer, but she smiled again. Such a smile, gentlemen! It beat the other one, all to nothing. My uncle descended from his perch in a twinkling.

‘“What is it, my dear?” said my uncle, looking in at the coach window. The lady happened to bend forward at the same time, and my uncle thought she looked more beautiful than she had done yet. He was very close to her just then, gentlemen, so he really ought to know.

‘“What is it, my dear?” said my uncle.

‘“Will you never love any one but me — never marry any one beside?” said the young lady.

‘My uncle swore a great oath that he never would marry anybody else, and the young lady drew in her head, and pulled up the window. He jumped upon the box, squared his elbows, adjusted the ribands, seized the whip which lay on the roof, gave one flick to the off leader, and away went the four long-tailed, flowing-maned black horses, at fifteen good English miles an hour, with the old mail-coach behind them. Whew! How they tore along!

‘The noise behind grew louder. The faster the old mail went, the faster came the pursuers — men, horses, dogs, were leagued in the pursuit. The noise was frightful, but, above all, rose the voice of the young lady, urging my uncle on, and shrieking, “Faster! Faster!”

‘They whirled past the dark trees, as feathers would be swept before a hurricane. Houses, gates, churches, haystacks, objects of every kind they shot by, with a velocity and noise like roaring waters suddenly let loose. But still the noise of pursuit grew louder, and still my uncle could hear the young lady wildly screaming, “Faster! Faster!”

‘My uncle plied whip and rein, and the horses flew onward till they were white with foam; and yet the noise behind increased; and yet the young lady cried, “Faster! Faster!” My uncle gave a loud stamp on the boot in the energy of the moment, and — found that it was gray morning, and he was sitting in the wheelwright’s yard, on the box of an old Edinburgh mail, shivering with the cold and wet and stamping his feet to warm them! He got down, and looked eagerly inside for the beautiful young lady. Alas! There was neither door nor seat to the coach. It was a mere shell.

‘Of course, my uncle knew very well that there was some mystery in the matter, and that everything had passed exactly as he used to relate it. He remained staunch to the great oath he had sworn to the beautiful young lady, refusing several eligible landladies on her account, and dying a bachelor at last. He always said what a curious thing it was that he should have found out, by such a mere accident as his clambering over the palings, that the ghosts of mail-coaches and horses, guards, coachmen, and passengers, were in the habit of making journeys regularly every night. He used to add, that he believed he was the only living person who had ever been taken as a passenger on one of these excursions. And I think he was right, gentlemen — at least I never heard of any other.’

‘I wonder what these ghosts of mail-coaches carry in their bags,’ said the landlord, who had listened to the whole story with profound attention.

‘The dead letters, of course,’ said the bagman.

‘Oh, ah! To be sure,’ rejoined the landlord. ‘I never thought of that.’


THE GOBLINS WHO STOLE A SEXTON

from The Pickwick Papers

In an old abbey town, down in this part of the country, a long, long while ago — so long, that the story must be a true one, because our great-grandfathers implicitly believed it — there officiated as sexton and grave-digger in the churchyard, one Gabriel Grub. It by no means follows that because a man is a sexton, and constantly surrounded by the emblems of mortality, therefore he should be a morose and melancholy man; your undertakers are the merriest fellows in the world; and I once had the honour of being on intimate terms with a mute, who in private life, and off duty, was as comical and jocose a little fellow as ever chirped out a devil-may-care song, without a hitch in his memory, or drained off a good stiff glass without stopping for breath. But notwithstanding these precedents to the contrary, Gabriel Grub was an ill-conditioned, cross-grained, surly fellow — a morose and lonely man, who consorted with nobody but himself, and an old wicker bottle which fitted into his large deep waistcoat pocket — and who eyed each merry face, as it passed him by, with such a deep scowl of malice and ill-humour, as it was difficult to meet without feeling something the worse for.

‘A little before twilight, one Christmas Eve, Gabriel shouldered his spade, lighted his lantern, and betook himself towards the old churchyard; for he had got a grave to finish by next morning, and, feeling very low, he thought it might raise his spirits, perhaps, if he went on with his work at once. As he went his way, up the ancient street, he saw the cheerful light of the blazing fires gleam through the old casements, and heard the loud laugh and the cheerful shouts of those who were assembled around them; he marked the bustling preparations for next day’s cheer, and smelled the numerous savoury odours consequent thereupon, as they steamed up from the kitchen windows in clouds. All this was gall and wormwood to the heart of Gabriel Grub; and when groups of children bounded out of the houses, tripped across the road, and were met, before they could knock at the opposite door, by half a dozen curly-headed little rascals who crowded round them as they flocked upstairs to spend the evening in their Christmas games, Gabriel smiled grimly, and clutched the handle of his spade with a firmer grasp, as he thought of measles, scarlet fever, thrush, whooping-cough, and a good many other sources of consolation besides.

‘In this happy frame of mind, Gabriel strode along, returning a short, sullen growl to the good-humoured greetings of such of his neighbours as now and then passed him, until he turned into the dark lane which led to the churchyard. Now, Gabriel had been looking forward to reaching the dark lane, because it was, generally speaking, a nice, gloomy, mournful place, into which the townspeople did not much care to go, except in broad daylight, and when the sun was shining; consequently, he was not a little indignant to hear a young urchin roaring out some jolly song about a merry Christmas, in this very sanctuary which had been called Coffin Lane ever since the days of the old abbey, and the time of the shaven-headed monks. As Gabriel walked on, and the voice drew nearer, he found it proceeded from a small boy, who was hurrying along, to join one of the little parties in the old street, and who, partly to keep himself company, and partly to prepare himself for the occasion, was shouting out the song at the highest pitch of his lungs. So Gabriel waited until the boy came up, and then dodged him into a corner, and rapped him over the head with his lantern five or six times, just to teach him to modulate his voice. And as the boy hurried away with his hand to his head, singing quite a different sort of tune, Gabriel Grub chuckled very heartily to himself, and entered the churchyard, locking the gate behind him.

‘He took off his coat, set down his lantern, and getting into the unfinished grave, worked at it for an hour or so with right good-will. But the earth was hardened with the frost, and it was no very easy matter to break it up, and shovel it out; and although there was a moon, it was a very young one, and shed little light upon the grave, which was in the shadow of the church. At any other time, these obstacles would have made Gabriel Grub very moody and miserable, but he was so well pleased with having stopped the small boy’s singing, that he took little heed of the scanty progress he had made, and looked down into the grave, when he had finished work for the night, with grim satisfaction, murmuring as he gathered up his things —

Brave lodgings for one, brave lodgings for one,
A few feet of cold earth, when life is done;
A stone at the head, a stone at the feet,
A rich, juicy meal for the worms to eat;
Rank grass overhead, and damp clay around,
Brave lodgings for one, these, in holy ground!

‘“Ho! ho!” laughed Gabriel Grub, as he sat himself down on a flat tombstone which was a favourite resting-place of his, and drew forth his wicker bottle. “A coffin at Christmas! A Christmas box! Ho! ho! ho!”

‘“Ho! ho! ho!” repeated a voice which sounded close behind him.

‘Gabriel paused, in some alarm, in the act of raising the wicker bottle to his lips, and looked round. The bottom of the oldest grave about him was not more still and quiet than the churchyard in the pale moonlight. The cold hoar frost glistened on the tombstones, and sparkled like rows of gems, among the stone carvings of the old church. The snow lay hard and crisp upon the ground; and spread over the thickly-strewn mounds of earth, so white and smooth a cover that it seemed as if corpses lay there, hidden only by their winding sheets. Not the faintest rustle broke the profound tranquillity of the solemn scene. Sound itself appeared to be frozen up, all was so cold and still.

‘“It was the echoes,” said Gabriel Grub, raising the bottle to his lips again.

‘“It was NOT,” said a deep voice.

‘Gabriel started up, and stood rooted to the spot with astonishment and terror; for his eyes rested on a form that made his blood run cold.

‘Seated on an upright tombstone, close to him, was a strange, unearthly figure, whom Gabriel felt at once, was no being of this world. His long, fantastic legs which might have reached the ground, were cocked up, and crossed after a quaint, fantastic fashion; his sinewy arms were bare; and his hands rested on his knees. On his short, round body, he wore a close covering, ornamented with small slashes; a short cloak dangled at his back; the collar was cut into curious peaks, which served the goblin in lieu of ruff or neckerchief; and his shoes curled up at his toes into long points. On his head, he wore a broad-brimmed sugar-loaf hat, garnished with a single feather. The hat was covered with the white frost; and the goblin looked as if he had sat on the same tombstone very comfortably, for two or three hundred years. He was sitting perfectly still; his tongue was put out, as if in derision; and he was grinning at Gabriel Grub with such a grin as only a goblin could call up.

‘“It was NOT the echoes,” said the goblin.

‘Gabriel Grub was paralysed, and could make no reply.

‘“What do you do here on Christmas Eve?” said the goblin sternly. ‘“I came to dig a grave, Sir,” stammered Gabriel Grub.

‘“What man wanders among graves and churchyards on such a night as this?” cried the goblin.

‘“Gabriel Grub! Gabriel Grub!” screamed a wild chorus of voices that seemed to fill the churchyard. Gabriel looked fearfully round — nothing was to be seen.

‘“What have you got in that bottle?” said the goblin.

‘“Hollands, sir,” replied the sexton, trembling more than ever; for he had bought it of the smugglers, and he thought that perhaps his questioner might be in the excise department of the goblins.

‘“Who drinks Hollands alone, and in a churchyard, on such a night as this?” said the goblin.

‘“Gabriel Grub! Gabriel Grub!” exclaimed the wild voices again.

‘The goblin leered maliciously at the terrified sexton, and then raising his voice, exclaimed —

‘“And who, then, is our fair and lawful prize?”

‘To this inquiry the invisible chorus replied, in a strain that sounded like the voices of many choristers singing to the mighty swell of the old church organ — a strain that seemed borne to the sexton’s ears upon a wild wind, and to die away as it passed onward; but the burden of the reply was still the same, “Gabriel Grub! Gabriel Grub!”

‘The goblin grinned a broader grin than before, as he said, “Well, Gabriel, what do you say to this?”

‘The sexton gasped for breath. ‘“What do you think of this, Gabriel?” said the goblin, kicking up his feet in the air on either side of the tombstone, and looking at the turned-up points with as much complacency as if he had been contemplating the most fashionable pair of Wellingtons in all Bond Street.

‘“It’s — it’s — very curious, Sir,” replied the sexton, half dead with fright; “very curious, and very pretty, but I think I’ll go back and finish my work, Sir, if you please.”

‘“Work!” said the goblin, “what work?”

‘“The grave, Sir; making the grave,” stammered the sexton.

‘“Oh, the grave, eh?” said the goblin; “who makes graves at a time when all other men are merry, and takes a pleasure in it?”

‘Again the mysterious voices replied, “Gabriel Grub! Gabriel Grub!”

‘“I am afraid my friends want you, Gabriel,” said the goblin, thrusting his tongue farther into his cheek than ever — and a most astonishing tongue it was — “I’m afraid my friends want you, Gabriel,” said the goblin.

‘“Under favour, Sir,” replied the horror-stricken sexton, “I don’t think they can, Sir; they don’t know me, Sir; I don’t think the gentlemen have ever seen me, Sir.”

‘“Oh, yes, they have,” replied the goblin; “we know the man with the sulky face and grim scowl, that came down the street to-night, throwing his evil looks at the children, and grasping his burying-spade the tighter. We know the man who struck the boy in the envious malice of his heart, because the boy could be merry, and he could not. We know him, we know him.”

‘Here, the goblin gave a loud, shrill laugh, which the echoes returned twentyfold; and throwing his legs up in the air, stood upon his head, or rather upon the very point of his sugar-loaf hat, on the narrow edge of the tombstone, whence he threw a Somerset with extraordinary agility, right to the sexton’s feet, at which he planted himself in the attitude in which tailors generally sit upon the shop-board.

‘“I — I — am afraid I must leave you, Sir,” said the sexton, making an effort to move.

‘“Leave us!” said the goblin, “Gabriel Grub going to leave us. Ho! ho! ho!”

‘As the goblin laughed, the sexton observed, for one instant, a brilliant illumination within the windows of the church, as if the whole building were lighted up; it disappeared, the organ pealed forth a lively air, and whole troops of goblins, the very counterpart of the first one, poured into the churchyard, and began playing at leap-frog with the tombstones, never stopping for an instant to take breath, but “overing” the highest among them, one after the other, with the most marvellous dexterity. The first goblin was a most astonishing leaper, and none of the others could come near him; even in the extremity of his terror the sexton could not help observing, that while his friends were content to leap over the common-sized gravestones, the first one took the family vaults, iron railings and all, with as much ease as if they had been so many street-posts.

‘At last the game reached to a most exciting pitch; the organ played quicker and quicker, and the goblins leaped faster and faster, coiling themselves up, rolling head over heels upon the ground, and bounding over the tombstones like footballs. The sexton’s brain whirled round with the rapidity of the motion he beheld, and his legs reeled beneath him, as the spirits flew before his eyes; when the goblin king, suddenly darting towards him, laid his hand upon his collar, and sank with him through the earth.

‘When Gabriel Grub had had time to fetch his breath, which the rapidity of his descent had for the moment taken away, he found himself in what appeared to be a large cavern, surrounded on all sides by crowds of goblins, ugly and grim; in the centre of the room, on an elevated seat, was stationed his friend of the churchyard; and close behind him stood Gabriel Grub himself, without power of motion.

‘“Cold to-night,” said the king of the goblins, “very cold. A glass of something warm here!”

‘At this command, half a dozen officious goblins, with a perpetual smile upon their faces, whom Gabriel Grub imagined to be courtiers, on that account, hastily disappeared, and presently returned with a goblet of liquid fire, which they presented to the king.

‘“Ah!” cried the goblin, whose cheeks and throat were transparent, as he tossed down the flame, “this warms one, indeed! Bring a bumper of the same, for Mr. Grub.”

‘It was in vain for the unfortunate sexton to protest that he was not in the habit of taking anything warm at night; one of the goblins held him while another poured the blazing liquid down his throat; the whole assembly screeched with laughter, as he coughed and choked, and wiped away the tears which gushed plentifully from his eyes, after swallowing the burning draught.

‘“And now,” said the king, fantastically poking the taper corner of his sugar-loaf hat into the sexton’s eye, and thereby occasioning him the most exquisite pain; “and now, show the man of misery and gloom, a few of the pictures from our own great storehouse!”

‘As the goblin said this, a thick cloud which obscured the remoter end of the cavern rolled gradually away, and disclosed, apparently at a great distance, a small and scantily furnished, but neat and clean apartment. A crowd of little children were gathered round a bright fire, clinging to their mother’s gown, and gambolling around her chair. The mother occasionally rose, and drew aside the window-curtain, as if to look for some expected object; a frugal meal was ready spread upon the table; and an elbow chair was placed near the fire. A knock was heard at the door; the mother opened it, and the children crowded round her, and clapped their hands for joy, as their father entered. He was wet and weary, and shook the snow from his garments, as the children crowded round him, and seizing his cloak, hat, stick, and gloves, with busy zeal, ran with them from the room. Then, as he sat down to his meal before the fire, the children climbed about his knee, and the mother sat by his side, and all seemed happiness and comfort.

‘But a change came upon the view, almost imperceptibly. The scene was altered to a small bedroom, where the fairest and youngest child lay dying; the roses had fled from his cheek, and the light from his eye; and even as the sexton looked upon him with an interest he had never felt or known before, he died. His young brothers and sisters crowded round his little bed, and seized his tiny hand, so cold and heavy; but they shrank back from its touch, and looked with awe on his infant face; for calm and tranquil as it was, and sleeping in rest and peace as the beautiful child seemed to be, they saw that he was dead, and they knew that he was an angel looking down upon, and blessing them, from a bright and happy Heaven.

‘Again the light cloud passed across the picture, and again the subject changed. The father and mother were old and helpless now, and the number of those about them was diminished more than half; but content and cheerfulness sat on every face, and beamed in every eye, as they crowded round the fireside, and told and listened to old stories of earlier and bygone days. Slowly and peacefully, the father sank into the grave, and, soon after, the sharer of all his cares and troubles followed him to a place of rest. The few who yet survived them, kneeled by their tomb, and watered the green turf which covered it with their tears; then rose, and turned away, sadly and mournfully, but not with bitter cries, or despairing lamentations, for they knew that they should one day meet again; and once more they mixed with the busy world, and their content and cheerfulness were restored. The cloud settled upon the picture, and concealed it from the sexton’s view.

‘“What do you think of THAT?” said the goblin, turning his large face towards Gabriel Grub.

‘Gabriel murmured out something about its being very pretty, and looked somewhat ashamed, as the goblin bent his fiery eyes upon him.

‘“You miserable man!” said the goblin, in a tone of excessive contempt. “You!” He appeared disposed to add more, but indignation choked his utterance, so he lifted up one of his very pliable legs, and, flourishing it above his head a little, to insure his aim, administered a good sound kick to Gabriel Grub; immediately after which, all the goblins in waiting crowded round the wretched sexton, and kicked him without mercy, according to the established and invariable custom of courtiers upon earth, who kick whom royalty kicks, and hug whom royalty hugs.

‘“Show him some more!” said the king of the goblins.

‘At these words, the cloud was dispelled, and a rich and beautiful landscape was disclosed to view — there is just such another, to this day, within half a mile of the old abbey town. The sun shone from out the clear blue sky, the water sparkled beneath his rays, and the trees looked greener, and the flowers more gay, beneath its cheering influence. The water rippled on with a pleasant sound, the trees rustled in the light wind that murmured among their leaves, the birds sang upon the boughs, and the lark carolled on high her welcome to the morning. Yes, it was morning; the bright, balmy morning of summer; the minutest leaf, the smallest blade of grass, was instinct with life. The ant crept forth to her daily toil, the butterfly fluttered and basked in the warm rays of the sun; myriads of insects spread their transparent wings, and revelled in their brief but happy existence. Man walked forth, elated with the scene; and all was brightness and splendour.

‘“YOU a miserable man!” said the king of the goblins, in a more contemptuous tone than before. And again the king of the goblins gave his leg a flourish; again it descended on the shoulders of the sexton; and again the attendant goblins imitated the example of their chief.

‘Many a time the cloud went and came, and many a lesson it taught to Gabriel Grub, who, although his shoulders smarted with pain from the frequent applications of the goblins’ feet thereunto, looked on with an interest that nothing could diminish. He saw that men who worked hard, and earned their scanty bread with lives of labour, were cheerful and happy; and that to the most ignorant, the sweet face of Nature was a never-failing source of cheerfulness and joy. He saw those who had been delicately nurtured, and tenderly brought up, cheerful under privations, and superior to suffering, that would have crushed many of a rougher grain, because they bore within their own bosoms the materials of happiness, contentment, and peace. He saw that women, the tenderest and most fragile of all God’s creatures, were the oftenest superior to sorrow, adversity, and distress; and he saw that it was because they bore, in their own hearts, an inexhaustible well-spring of affection and devotion. Above all, he saw that men like himself, who snarled at the mirth and cheerfulness of others, were the foulest weeds on the fair surface of the earth; and setting all the good of the world against the evil, he came to the conclusion that it was a very decent and respectable sort of world after all. No sooner had he formed it, than the cloud which had closed over the last picture, seemed to settle on his senses, and lull him to repose. One by one, the goblins faded from his sight; and, as the last one disappeared, he sank to sleep.

‘The day had broken when Gabriel Grub awoke, and found himself lying at full length on the flat gravestone in the churchyard, with the wicker bottle lying empty by his side, and his coat, spade, and lantern, all well whitened by the last night’s frost, scattered on the ground. The stone on which he had first seen the goblin seated, stood bolt upright before him, and the grave at which he had worked, the night before, was not far off. At first, he began to doubt the reality of his adventures, but the acute pain in his shoulders when he attempted to rise, assured him that the kicking of the goblins was certainly not ideal. He was staggered again, by observing no traces of footsteps in the snow on which the goblins had played at leap-frog with the gravestones, but he speedily accounted for this circumstance when he remembered that, being spirits, they would leave no visible impression behind them. So, Gabriel Grub got on his feet as well as he could, for the pain in his back; and, brushing the frost off his coat, put it on, and turned his face towards the town.

‘But he was an altered man, and he could not bear the thought of returning to a place where his repentance would be scoffed at, and his reformation disbelieved. He hesitated for a few moments; and then turned away to wander where he might, and seek his bread elsewhere.

‘The lantern, the spade, and the wicker bottle were found, that day, in the churchyard. There were a great many speculations about the sexton’s fate, at first, but it was speedily determined that he had been carried away by the goblins; and there were not wanting some very credible witnesses who had distinctly seen him whisked through the air on the back of a chestnut horse blind of one eye, with the hind-quarters of a lion, and the tail of a bear. At length all this was devoutly believed; and the new sexton used to exhibit to the curious, for a trifling emolument, a good-sized piece of the church weathercock which had been accidentally kicked off by the aforesaid horse in his aerial flight, and picked up by himself in the churchyard, a year or two afterwards.

‘Unfortunately, these stories were somewhat disturbed by the unlooked-for reappearance of Gabriel Grub himself, some ten years afterwards, a ragged, contented, rheumatic old man. He told his story to the clergyman, and also to the mayor; and in course of time it began to be received as a matter of history, in which form it has continued down to this very day. The believers in the weathercock tale, having misplaced their confidence once, were not easily prevailed upon to part with it again, so they looked as wise as they could, shrugged their shoulders, touched their foreheads, and murmured something about Gabriel Grub having drunk all the Hollands, and then fallen asleep on the flat tombstone; and they affected to explain what he supposed he had witnessed in the goblin’s cavern, by saying that he had seen the world, and grown wiser. But this opinion, which was by no means a popular one at any time, gradually died off; and be the matter how it may, as Gabriel Grub was afflicted with rheumatism to the end of his days, this story has at least one moral, if it teach no better one — and that is, that if a man turn sulky and drink by himself at Christmas time, he may make up his mind to be not a bit the better for it: let the spirits be never so good, or let them be even as many degrees beyond proof, as those which Gabriel Grub saw in the goblin’s cavern.’


A MADMAN’S MANUSCRIPT

from The Pickwick Papers

‘Yes! — a madman’s! How that word would have struck to my heart, many years ago! How it would have roused the terror that used to come upon me sometimes, sending the blood hissing and tingling through my veins, till the cold dew of fear stood in large drops upon my skin, and my knees knocked together with fright! I like it now though. It’s a fine name. Show me the monarch whose angry frown was ever feared like the glare of a madman’s eye — whose cord and axe were ever half so sure as a madman’s gripe. Ho! ho! It’s a grand thing to be mad! to be peeped at like a wild lion through the iron bars — to gnash one’s teeth and howl, through the long still night, to the merry ring of a heavy chain and to roll and twine among the straw, transported with such brave music. Hurrah for the madhouse! Oh, it’s a rare place!

‘I remember days when I was afraid of being mad; when I used to start from my sleep, and fall upon my knees, and pray to be spared from the curse of my race; when I rushed from the sight of merriment or happiness, to hide myself in some lonely place, and spend the weary hours in watching the progress of the fever that was to consume my brain. I knew that madness was mixed up with my very blood, and the marrow of my bones! that one generation had passed away without the pestilence appearing among them, and that I was the first in whom it would revive. I knew it must be so: that so it always had been, and so it ever would be: and when I cowered in some obscure corner of a crowded room, and saw men whisper, and point, and turn their eyes towards me, I knew they were telling each other of the doomed madman; and I slunk away again to mope in solitude.

‘I did this for years; long, long years they were. The nights here are long sometimes — very long; but they are nothing to the restless nights, and dreadful dreams I had at that time. It makes me cold to remember them. Large dusky forms with sly and jeering faces crouched in the corners of the room, and bent over my bed at night, tempting me to madness. They told me in low whispers, that the floor of the old house in which my father died, was stained with his own blood, shed by his own hand in raging madness. I drove my fingers into my ears, but they screamed into my head till the room rang with it, that in one generation before him the madness slumbered, but that his grandfather had lived for years with his hands fettered to the ground, to prevent his tearing himself to pieces. I knew they told the truth — I knew it well. I had found it out years before, though they had tried to keep it from me. Ha! ha! I was too cunning for them, madman as they thought me.

‘At last it came upon me, and I wondered how I could ever have feared it. I could go into the world now, and laugh and shout with the best among them. I knew I was mad, but they did not even suspect it. How I used to hug myself with delight, when I thought of the fine trick I was playing them after their old pointing and leering, when I was not mad, but only dreading that I might one day become so! And how I used to laugh for joy, when I was alone, and thought how well I kept my secret, and how quickly my kind friends would have fallen from me, if they had known the truth. I could have screamed with ecstasy when I dined alone with some fine roaring fellow, to think how pale he would have turned, and how fast he would have run, if he had known that the dear friend who sat close to him, sharpening a bright, glittering knife, was a madman with all the power, and half the will, to plunge it in his heart. Oh, it was a merry life!

‘Riches became mine, wealth poured in upon me, and I rioted in pleasures enhanced a thousandfold to me by the consciousness of my well-kept secret. I inherited an estate. The law — the eagle-eyed law itself — had been deceived, and had handed over disputed thousands to a madman’s hands. Where was the wit of the sharp-sighted men of sound mind? Where the dexterity of the lawyers, eager to discover a flaw? The madman’s cunning had overreached them all.

‘I had money. How I was courted! I spent it profusely. How I was praised! How those three proud, overbearing brothers humbled themselves before me! The old, white-headed father, too — such deference — such respect — such devoted friendship — he worshipped me! The old man had a daughter, and the young men a sister; and all the five were poor. I was rich; and when I married the girl, I saw a smile of triumph play upon the faces of her needy relatives, as they thought of their well-planned scheme, and their fine prize. It was for me to smile. To smile! To laugh outright, and tear my hair, and roll upon the ground with shrieks of merriment. They little thought they had married her to a madman.

‘Stay. If they had known it, would they have saved her? A sister’s happiness against her husband’s gold. The lightest feather I blow into the air, against the gay chain that ornaments my body!

‘In one thing I was deceived with all my cunning. If I had not been mad — for though we madmen are sharp-witted enough, we get bewildered sometimes — I should have known that the girl would rather have been placed, stiff and cold in a dull leaden coffin, than borne an envied bride to my rich, glittering house. I should have known that her heart was with the dark-eyed boy whose name I once heard her breathe in her troubled sleep; and that she had been sacrificed to me, to relieve the poverty of the old, white-headed man and the haughty brothers.

‘I don’t remember forms or faces now, but I know the girl was beautiful. I know she was; for in the bright moonlight nights, when I start up from my sleep, and all is quiet about me, I see, standing still and motionless in one corner of this cell, a slight and wasted figure with long black hair, which, streaming down her back, stirs with no earthly wind, and eyes that fix their gaze on me, and never wink or close. Hush! the blood chills at my heart as I write it down — that form is HERS; the face is very pale, and the eyes are glassy bright; but I know them well. That figure never moves; it never frowns and mouths as others do, that fill this place sometimes; but it is much more dreadful to me, even than the spirits that tempted me many years ago — it comes fresh from the grave; and is so very death-like.

‘For nearly a year I saw that face grow paler; for nearly a year I saw the tears steal down the mournful cheeks, and never knew the cause. I found it out at last though. They could not keep it from me long. She had never liked me; I had never thought she did: she despised my wealth, and hated the splendour in which she lived; but I had not expected that. She loved another. This I had never thought of. Strange feelings came over me, and thoughts, forced upon me by some secret power, whirled round and round my brain. I did not hate her, though I hated the boy she still wept for. I pitied — yes, I pitied — the wretched life to which her cold and selfish relations had doomed her. I knew that she could not live long; but the thought that before her death she might give birth to some ill-fated being, destined to hand down madness to its offspring, determined me. I resolved to kill her.

‘For many weeks I thought of poison, and then of drowning, and then of fire. A fine sight, the grand house in flames, and the madman’s wife smouldering away to cinders. Think of the jest of a large reward, too, and of some sane man swinging in the wind for a deed he never did, and all through a madman’s cunning! I thought often of this, but I gave it up at last. Oh! the pleasure of stropping the razor day after day, feeling the sharp edge, and thinking of the gash one stroke of its thin, bright edge would make! ‘At last the old spirits who had been with me so often before whispered in my ear that the time was come, and thrust the open razor into my hand. I grasped it firmly, rose softly from the bed, and leaned over my sleeping wife. Her face was buried in her hands. I withdrew them softly, and they fell listlessly on her bosom. She had been weeping; for the traces of the tears were still wet upon her cheek. Her face was calm and placid; and even as I looked upon it, a tranquil smile lighted up her pale features. I laid my hand softly on her shoulder. She started — it was only a passing dream. I leaned forward again. She screamed, and woke.

‘One motion of my hand, and she would never again have uttered cry or sound. But I was startled, and drew back. Her eyes were fixed on mine. I knew not how it was, but they cowed and frightened me; and I quailed beneath them. She rose from the bed, still gazing fixedly and steadily on me. I trembled; the razor was in my hand, but I could not move. She made towards the door. As she neared it, she turned, and withdrew her eyes from my face. The spell was broken. I bounded forward, and clutched her by the arm. Uttering shriek upon shriek, she sank upon the ground.

‘Now I could have killed her without a struggle; but the house was alarmed. I heard the tread of footsteps on the stairs. I replaced the razor in its usual drawer, unfastened the door, and called loudly for assistance.

‘They came, and raised her, and placed her on the bed. She lay bereft of animation for hours; and when life, look, and speech returned, her senses had deserted her, and she raved wildly and furiously.

‘Doctors were called in — great men who rolled up to my door in easy carriages, with fine horses and gaudy servants. They were at her bedside for weeks. They had a great meeting and consulted together in low and solemn voices in another room. One, the cleverest and most celebrated among them, took me aside, and bidding me prepare for the worst, told me — me, the madman! — that my wife was mad. He stood close beside me at an open window, his eyes looking in my face, and his hand laid upon my arm. With one effort, I could have hurled him into the street beneath. It would have been rare sport to have done it; but my secret was at stake, and I let him go. A few days after, they told me I must place her under some restraint: I must provide a keeper for her. I! I went into the open fields where none could hear me, and laughed till the air resounded with my shouts!

‘She died next day. The white-headed old man followed her to the grave, and the proud brothers dropped a tear over the insensible corpse of her whose sufferings they had regarded in her lifetime with muscles of iron. All this was food for my secret mirth, and I laughed behind the white handkerchief which I held up to my face, as we rode home, till the tears Came into my eyes.

‘But though I had carried my object and killed her, I was restless and disturbed, and I felt that before long my secret must be known. I could not hide the wild mirth and joy which boiled within me, and made me when I was alone, at home, jump up and beat my hands together, and dance round and round, and roar aloud. When I went out, and saw the busy crowds hurrying about the streets; or to the theatre, and heard the sound of music, and beheld the people dancing, I felt such glee, that I could have rushed among them, and torn them to pieces limb from limb, and howled in transport. But I ground my teeth, and struck my feet upon the floor, and drove my sharp nails into my hands. I kept it down; and no one knew I was a madman yet.

‘I remember — though it’s one of the last things I can remember: for now I mix up realities with my dreams, and having so much to do, and being always hurried here, have no time to separate the two, from some strange confusion in which they get involved — I remember how I let it out at last. Ha! ha! I think I see their frightened looks now, and feel the ease with which I flung them from me, and dashed my clenched fist into their white faces, and then flew like the wind, and left them screaming and shouting far behind. The strength of a giant comes upon me when I think of it. There — see how this iron bar bends beneath my furious wrench. I could snap it like a twig, only there are long galleries here with many doors — I don’t think I could find my way along them; and even if I could, I know there are iron gates below which they keep locked and barred. They know what a clever madman I have been, and they are proud to have me here, to show.

‘Let me see: yes, I had been out. It was late at night when I reached home, and found the proudest of the three proud brothers waiting to see me — urgent business he said: I recollect it well. I hated that man with all a madman’s hate. Many and many a time had my fingers longed to tear him. They told me he was there. I ran swiftly upstairs. He had a word to say to me. I dismissed the servants. It was late, and we were alone together — for the first time.

‘I kept my eyes carefully from him at first, for I knew what he little thought — and I gloried in the knowledge — that the light of madness gleamed from them like fire. We sat in silence for a few minutes. He spoke at last. My recent dissipation, and strange remarks, made so soon after his sister’s death, were an insult to her memory. Coupling together many circumstances which had at first escaped his observation, he thought I had not treated her well. He wished to know whether he was right in inferring that I meant to cast a reproach upon her memory, and a disrespect upon her family. It was due to the uniform he wore, to demand this explanation.

‘This man had a commission in the army — a commission, purchased with my money, and his sister’s misery! This was the man who had been foremost in the plot to ensnare me, and grasp my wealth. This was the man who had been the main instrument in forcing his sister to wed me; well knowing that her heart was given to that puling boy. Due to his uniform! The livery of his degradation! I turned my eyes upon him — I could not help it — but I spoke not a word.

‘I saw the sudden change that came upon him beneath my gaze. He was a bold man, but the colour faded from his face, and he drew back his chair. I dragged mine nearer to him; and I laughed — I was very merry then — I saw him shudder. I felt the madness rising within me. He was afraid of me.

‘“You were very fond of your sister when she was alive,” I said. — “Very.”

‘He looked uneasily round him, and I saw his hand grasp the back of his chair; but he said nothing.

‘“You villain,” said I, “I found you out: I discovered your hellish plots against me; I know her heart was fixed on some one else before you compelled her to marry me. I know it — I know it.”

‘He jumped suddenly from his chair, brandished it aloft, and bid me stand back — for I took care to be getting closer to him all the time I spoke.

‘I screamed rather than talked, for I felt tumultuous passions eddying through my veins, and the old spirits whispering and taunting me to tear his heart out.

‘“Damn you,” said I, starting up, and rushing upon him; “I killed her. I am a madman. Down with you. Blood, blood! I will have it!”

‘I turned aside with one blow the chair he hurled at me in his terror, and closed with him; and with a heavy crash we rolled upon the floor together. ‘It was a fine struggle that; for he was a tall, strong man, fighting for his life; and I, a powerful madman, thirsting to destroy him. I knew no strength could equal mine, and I was right. Right again, though a madman! His struggles grew fainter. I knelt upon his chest, and clasped his brawny throat firmly with both hands. His face grew purple; his eyes were starting from his head, and with protruded tongue, he seemed to mock me. I squeezed the tighter. ‘The door was suddenly burst open with a loud noise, and a crowd of people rushed forward, crying aloud to each other to secure the madman.

‘My secret was out; and my only struggle now was for liberty and freedom. I gained my feet before a hand was on me, threw myself among my assailants, and cleared my way with my strong arm, as if I bore a hatchet in my hand, and hewed them down before me. I gained the door, dropped over the banisters, and in an instant was in the street.

‘Straight and swift I ran, and no one dared to stop me. I heard the noise of the feet behind, and redoubled my speed. It grew fainter and fainter in the distance, and at length died away altogether; but on I bounded, through marsh and rivulet, over fence and wall, with a wild shout which was taken up by the strange beings that flocked around me on every side, and swelled the sound, till it pierced the air. I was borne upon the arms of demons who swept along upon the wind, and bore down bank and hedge before them, and spun me round and round with a rustle and a speed that made my head swim, until at last they threw me from them with a violent shock, and I fell heavily upon the earth. When I woke I found myself here — here in this gray cell, where the sunlight seldom comes, and the moon steals in, in rays which only serve to show the dark shadows about me, and that silent figure in its old corner. When I lie awake, I can sometimes hear strange shrieks and cries from distant parts of this large place. What they are, I know not; but they neither come from that pale form, nor does it regard them. For from the first shades of dusk till the earliest light of morning, it still stands motionless in the same place, listening to the music of my iron chain, and watching my gambols on my straw bed.’

At the end of the manuscript was written, in another hand, this note: —

(The unhappy man whose ravings are recorded above, was a melancholy instance of the baneful results of energies misdirected in early life, and excesses prolonged until their consequences could never be repaired. The thoughtless riot, dissipation, and debauchery of his younger days produced fever and delirium. The first effects of the latter was the strange delusion, founded upon a well-known medical theory, strongly contended for by some, and as strongly contested by others, that an hereditary madness existed in his family. This produced a settled gloom, which in time developed a morbid insanity, and finally terminated in raving madness. There is every reason to believe that the events he detailed, though distorted in the description by his diseased imagination, really happened. It is only matter of wonder to those who were acquainted with the vices of his early career, that his passions, when no longer controlled by reason, did not lead him to the commission of still more frightful deeds.)


THE BARON OF GROGZWIG

from Nicholas Nickleby

‘I knew another man — let me see — forty years ago now — who took an old, damp, rotten set of chambers, in one of the most ancient inns, that had been shut up and empty for years and years before. There were lots of old women’s stories about the place, and it certainly was very far from being a cheerful one; but he was poor, and the rooms were cheap, and that would have been quite a sufficient reason for him, if they had been ten times worse than they really were. He was obliged to take some mouldering fixtures that were on the place, and, among the rest, was a great lumbering wooden press for papers, with large glass doors, and a green curtain inside; a pretty useless thing for him, for he had no papers to put in it; and as to his clothes, he carried them about with him, and that wasn’t very hard work, either. Well, he had moved in all his furniture — it wasn’t quite a truck-full — and had sprinkled it about the room, so as to make the four chairs look as much like a dozen as possible, and was sitting down before the fire at night, drinking the first glass of two gallons of whisky he had ordered on credit, wondering whether it would ever be paid for, and if so, in how many years’ time, when his eyes encountered the glass doors of the wooden press. “Ah,” says he, “if I hadn’t been obliged to take that ugly article at the old broker’s valuation, I might have got something comfortable for the money. I’ll tell you what it is, old fellow,” he said, speaking aloud to the press, having nothing else to speak to, “if it wouldn’t cost more to break up your old carcass, than it would ever be worth afterward, I’d have a fire out of you in less than no time.” He had hardly spoken the words, when a sound resembling a faint groan, appeared to issue from the interior of the case. It startled him at first, but thinking, on a moment’s reflection, that it must be some young fellow in the next chamber, who had been dining out, he put his feet on the fender, and raised the poker to stir the fire. At that moment, the sound was repeated; and one of the glass doors slowly opening, disclosed a pale and emaciated figure in soiled and worn apparel, standing erect in the press. The figure was tall and thin, and the countenance expressive of care and anxiety; but there was something in the hue of the skin, and gaunt and unearthly appearance of the whole form, which no being of this world was ever seen to wear. “Who are you?” said the new tenant, turning very pale; poising the poker in his hand, however, and taking a very decent aim at the countenance of the figure. “Who are you?” “Don’t throw that poker at me,” replied the form; “if you hurled it with ever so sure an aim, it would pass through me, without resistance, and expend its force on the wood behind. I am a spirit.” “And pray, what do you want here?” faltered the tenant. “In this room,” replied the apparition, “my worldly ruin was worked, and I and my children beggared. In this press, the papers in a long, long suit, which accumulated for years, were deposited. In this room, when I had died of grief, and long-deferred hope, two wily harpies divided the wealth for which I had contested during a wretched existence, and of which, at last, not one farthing was left for my unhappy descendants. I terrified them from the spot, and since that day have prowled by night — the only period at which I can revisit the earth — about the scenes of my long-protracted misery. This apartment is mine: leave it to me.” “If you insist upon making your appearance here,” said the tenant, who had had time to collect his presence of mind during this prosy statement of the ghost’s, “I shall give up possession with the greatest pleasure; but I should like to ask you one question, if you will allow me.” “Say on,” said the apparition sternly. “Well,” said the tenant, “I don’t apply the observation personally to you, because it is equally applicable to most of the ghosts I ever heard of; but it does appear to me somewhat inconsistent, that when you have an opportunity of visiting the fairest spots of earth — for I suppose space is nothing to you — you should always return exactly to the very places where you have been most miserable.” “Egad, that’s very true; I never thought of that before,” said the ghost. “You see, Sir,” pursued the tenant, “this is a very uncomfortable room. From the appearance of that press, I should be disposed to say that it is not wholly free from bugs; and I really think you might find much more comfortable quarters: to say nothing of the climate of London, which is extremely disagreeable.” “You are very right, Sir,” said the ghost politely, “it never struck me till now; I’ll try change of air directly” — and, in fact, he began to vanish as he spoke; his legs, indeed, had quite disappeared. “And if, Sir,” said the tenant, calling after him, “if you WOULD have the goodness to suggest to the other ladies and gentlemen who are now engaged in haunting old empty houses, that they might be much more comfortable elsewhere, you will confer a very great benefit on society.” “I will,” replied the ghost; “we must be dull fellows — very dull fellows, indeed; I can’t imagine how we can have been so stupid.” With these words, the spirit disappeared; and what is rather remarkable,’ added the old man, with a shrewd look round the table, ‘he never came back again.’

‘That ain’t bad, if it’s true,’ said the man in the Mosaic studs, lighting a fresh cigar.

‘IF!’ exclaimed the old man, with a look of excessive contempt. ‘I suppose,’ he added, turning to Lowten, ‘he’ll say next, that my story about the queer client we had, when I was in an attorney’s office, is not true either — I shouldn’t wonder.’

‘I shan’t venture to say anything at all about it, seeing that I never heard the story,’ observed the owner of the Mosaic decorations.

‘I wish you would repeat it, Sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Ah, do,’ said Lowten, ‘nobody has heard it but me, and I have nearly forgotten it.’

The old man looked round the table, and leered more horribly than ever, as if in triumph, at the attention which was depicted in every face. Then rubbing his chin with his hand, and looking up to the ceiling as if to recall the circumstances to his memory, he began as follows: —

THE OLD MAN’S TALE ABOUT THE QUEER CLIENT

‘It matters little,’ said the old man, ‘where, or how, I picked up this brief history. If I were to relate it in the order in which it reached me, I should commence in the middle, and when I had arrived at the conclusion, go back for a beginning. It is enough for me to say that some of its circumstances passed before my own eyes; for the remainder I know them to have happened, and there are some persons yet living, who will remember them but too well.

‘In the Borough High Street, near St. George’s Church, and on the same side of the way, stands, as most people know, the smallest of our debtors’ prisons, the Marshalsea. Although in later times it has been a very different place from the sink of filth and dirt it once was, even its improved condition holds out but little temptation to the extravagant, or consolation to the improvident. The condemned felon has as good a yard for air and exercise in Newgate, as the insolvent debtor in the Marshalsea Prison. (Better. But this is past, in a better age, and the prison exists no longer.)

‘It may be my fancy, or it may be that I cannot separate the place from the old recollections associated with it, but this part of London I cannot bear. The street is broad, the shops are spacious, the noise of passing vehicles, the footsteps of a perpetual stream of people — all the busy sounds of traffic, resound in it from morn to midnight; but the streets around are mean and close; poverty and debauchery lie festering in the crowded alleys; want and misfortune are pent up in the narrow prison; an air of gloom and dreariness seems, in my eyes at least, to hang about the scene, and to impart to it a squalid and sickly hue.

‘Many eyes, that have long since been closed in the grave, have looked round upon that scene lightly enough, when entering the gate of the old Marshalsea Prison for the first time; for despair seldom comes with the first severe shock of misfortune. A man has confidence in untried friends, he remembers the many offers of service so freely made by his boon companions when he wanted them not; he has hope — the hope of happy inexperience — and however he may bend beneath the first shock, it springs up in his bosom, and flourishes there for a brief space, until it droops beneath the blight of disappointment and neglect. How soon have those same eyes, deeply sunken in the head, glared from faces wasted with famine, and sallow from confinement, in days when it was no figure of speech to say that debtors rotted in prison, with no hope of release, and no prospect of liberty! The atrocity in its full extent no longer exists, but there is enough of it left to give rise to occurrences that make the heart bleed.

‘Twenty years ago, that pavement was worn with the footsteps of a mother and child, who, day by day, so surely as the morning came, presented themselves at the prison gate; often after a night of restless misery and anxious thoughts, were they there, a full hour too soon, and then the young mother turning meekly away, would lead the child to the old bridge, and raising him in her arms to show him the glistening water, tinted with the light of the morning’s sun, and stirring with all the bustling preparations for business and pleasure that the river presented at that early hour, endeavour to interest his thoughts in the objects before him. But she would quickly set him down, and hiding her face in her shawl, give vent to the tears that blinded her; for no expression of interest or amusement lighted up his thin and sickly face. His recollections were few enough, but they were all of one kind — all connected with the poverty and misery of his parents. Hour after hour had he sat on his mother’s knee, and with childish sympathy watched the tears that stole down her face, and then crept quietly away into some dark corner, and sobbed himself to sleep. The hard realities of the world, with many of its worst privations — hunger and thirst, and cold and want — had all come home to him, from the first dawnings of reason; and though the form of childhood was there, its light heart, its merry laugh, and sparkling eyes were wanting. ‘The father and mother looked on upon this, and upon each other, with thoughts of agony they dared not breathe in words. The healthy, strong-made man, who could have borne almost any fatigue of active exertion, was wasting beneath the close confinement and unhealthy atmosphere of a crowded prison. The slight and delicate woman was sinking beneath the combined effects of bodily and mental illness. The child’s young heart was breaking.

‘Winter came, and with it weeks of cold and heavy rain. The poor girl had removed to a wretched apartment close to the spot of her husband’s imprisonment; and though the change had been rendered necessary by their increasing poverty, she was happier now, for she was nearer him. For two months, she and her little companion watched the opening of the gate as usual. One day she failed to come, for the first time. Another morning arrived, and she came alone. The child was dead.

‘They little know, who coldly talk of the poor man’s bereavements, as a happy release from pain to the departed, and a merciful relief from expense to the survivor — they little know, I say, what the agony of those bereavements is. A silent look of affection and regard when all other eyes are turned coldly away — the consciousness that we possess the sympathy and affection of one being when all others have deserted us — is a hold, a stay, a comfort, in the deepest affliction, which no wealth could purchase, or power bestow. The child had sat at his parents’ feet for hours together, with his little hands patiently folded in each other, and his thin wan face raised towards them. They had seen him pine away, from day to day; and though his brief existence had been a joyless one, and he was now removed to that peace and rest which, child as he was, he had never known in this world, they were his parents, and his loss sank deep into their souls.

‘It was plain to those who looked upon the mother’s altered face, that death must soon close the scene of her adversity and trial. Her husband’s fellow-prisoners shrank from obtruding on his grief and misery, and left to himself alone, the small room he had previously occupied in common with two companions. She shared it with him; and lingering on without pain, but without hope, her life ebbed slowly away.

‘She had fainted one evening in her husband’s arms, and he had borne her to the open window, to revive her with the air, when the light of the moon falling full upon her face, showed him a change upon her features, which made him stagger beneath her weight, like a helpless infant.

‘“Set me down, George,” she said faintly. He did so, and seating himself beside her, covered his face with his hands, and burst into tears.

‘“It is very hard to leave you, George,” she said; “but it is God’s will, and you must bear it for my sake. Oh! how I thank Him for having taken our boy! He is happy, and in heaven now. What would he have done here, without his mother!”

‘“You shall not die, Mary, you shall not die;” said the husband, starting up. He paced hurriedly to and fro, striking his head with his clenched fists; then reseating himself beside her, and supporting her in his arms, added more calmly, “Rouse yourself, my dear girl. Pray, pray do. You will revive yet.”

‘“Never again, George; never again,” said the dying woman. “Let them lay me by my poor boy now, but promise me, that if ever you leave this dreadful place, and should grow rich, you will have us removed to some quiet country churchyard, a long, long way off — very far from here — where we can rest in peace. Dear George, promise me you will.”

‘“I do, I do,” said the man, throwing himself passionately on his knees before her. “Speak to me, Mary, another word; one look — but one!”

‘He ceased to speak: for the arm that clasped his neck grew stiff and heavy. A deep sigh escaped from the wasted form before him; the lips moved, and a smile played upon the face; but the lips were pallid, and the smile faded into a rigid and ghastly stare. He was alone in the world.

‘That night, in the silence and desolation of his miserable room, the wretched man knelt down by the dead body of his wife, and called on God to witness a terrible oath, that from that hour, he devoted himself to revenge her death and that of his child; that thenceforth to the last moment of his life, his whole energies should be directed to this one object; that his revenge should be protracted and terrible; that his hatred should be undying and inextinguishable; and should hunt its object through the world.

‘The deepest despair, and passion scarcely human, had made such fierce ravages on his face and form, in that one night, that his companions in misfortune shrank affrighted from him as he passed by. His eyes were bloodshot and heavy, his face a deadly white, and his body bent as if with age. He had bitten his under lip nearly through in the violence of his mental suffering, and the blood which had flowed from the wound had trickled down his chin, and stained his shirt and neckerchief. No tear, or sound of complaint escaped him; but the unsettled look, and disordered haste with which he paced up and down the yard, denoted the fever which was burning within.

‘It was necessary that his wife’s body should be removed from the prison, without delay. He received the communication with perfect calmness, and acquiesced in its propriety. Nearly all the inmates of the prison had assembled to witness its removal; they fell back on either side when the widower appeared; he walked hurriedly forward, and stationed himself, alone, in a little railed area close to the lodge gate, from whence the crowd, with an instinctive feeling of delicacy, had retired. The rude coffin was borne slowly forward on men’s shoulders. A dead silence pervaded the throng, broken only by the audible lamentations of the women, and the shuffling steps of the bearers on the stone pavement. They reached the spot where the bereaved husband stood: and stopped. He laid his hand upon the coffin, and mechanically adjusting the pall with which it was covered, motioned them onward. The turnkeys in the prison lobby took off their hats as it passed through, and in another moment the heavy gate closed behind it. He looked vacantly upon the crowd, and fell heavily to the ground.

‘Although for many weeks after this, he was watched, night and day, in the wildest ravings of fever, neither the consciousness of his loss, nor the recollection of the vow he had made, ever left him for a moment. Scenes changed before his eyes, place succeeded place, and event followed event, in all the hurry of delirium; but they were all connected in some way with the great object of his mind. He was sailing over a boundless expanse of sea, with a blood-red sky above, and the angry waters, lashed into fury beneath, boiling and eddying up, on every side. There was another vessel before them, toiling and labouring in the howling storm; her canvas fluttering in ribbons from the mast, and her deck thronged with figures who were lashed to the sides, over which huge waves every instant burst, sweeping away some devoted creatures into the foaming sea. Onward they bore, amidst the roaring mass of water, with a speed and force which nothing could resist; and striking the stem of the foremost vessel, crushed her beneath their keel. From the huge whirlpool which the sinking wreck occasioned, arose a shriek so loud and shrill — the death-cry of a hundred drowning creatures, blended into one fierce yell — that it rung far above the war-cry of the elements, and echoed, and re-echoed till it seemed to pierce air, sky, and ocean. But what was that — that old gray head that rose above the water’s surface, and with looks of agony, and screams for aid, buffeted with the waves! One look, and he had sprung from the vessel’s side, and with vigorous strokes was swimming towards it. He reached it; he was close upon it. They were HIS features. The old man saw him coming, and vainly strove to elude his grasp. But he clasped him tight, and dragged him beneath the water. Down, down with him, fifty fathoms down; his struggles grew fainter and fainter, until they wholly ceased. He was dead; he had killed him, and had kept his oath.

‘He was traversing the scorching sands of a mighty desert, barefoot and alone. The sand choked and blinded him; its fine thin grains entered the very pores of his skin, and irritated him almost to madness. Gigantic masses of the same material, carried forward by the wind, and shone through by the burning sun, stalked in the distance like pillars of living fire. The bones of men, who had perished in the dreary waste, lay scattered at his feet; a fearful light fell on everything around; so far as the eye could reach, nothing but objects of dread and horror presented themselves. Vainly striving to utter a cry of terror, with his tongue cleaving to his mouth, he rushed madly forward. Armed with supernatural strength, he waded through the sand, until, exhausted with fatigue and thirst, he fell senseless on the earth. What fragrant coolness revived him; what gushing sound was that? Water! It was indeed a well; and the clear fresh stream was running at his feet. He drank deeply of it, and throwing his aching limbs upon the bank, sank into a delicious trance. The sound of approaching footsteps roused him. An old gray-headed man tottered forward to slake his burning thirst. It was HE again! Fe wound his arms round the old man’s body, and held him back. He struggled, and shrieked for water — for but one drop of water to save his life! But he held the old man firmly, and watched his agonies with greedy eyes; and when his lifeless head fell forward on his bosom, he rolled the corpse from him with his feet.

‘When the fever left him, and consciousness returned, he awoke to find himself rich and free, to hear that the parent who would have let him die in jail — WOULD! who HAD let those who were far dearer to him than his own existence die of want, and sickness of heart that medicine cannot cure — had been found dead in his bed of down. He had had all the heart to leave his son a beggar, but proud even of his health and strength, had put off the act till it was too late, and now might gnash his teeth in the other world, at the thought of the wealth his remissness had left him. He awoke to this, and he awoke to more. To recollect the purpose for which he lived, and to remember that his enemy was his wife’s own father — the man who had cast him into prison, and who, when his daughter and her child sued at his feet for mercy, had spurned them from his door. Oh, how he cursed the weakness that prevented him from being up, and active, in his scheme of vengeance! ‘He caused himself to be carried from the scene of his loss and misery, and conveyed to a quiet residence on the sea-coast; not in the hope of recovering his peace of mind or happiness, for both were fled for ever; but to restore his prostrate energies, and meditate on his darling object. And here, some evil spirit cast in his way the opportunity for his first, most horrible revenge.

‘It was summer-time; and wrapped in his gloomy thoughts, he would issue from his solitary lodgings early in the evening, and wandering along a narrow path beneath the cliffs, to a wild and lonely spot that had struck his fancy in his ramblings, seat himself on some fallen fragment of the rock, and burying his face in his hands, remain there for hours — sometimes until night had completely closed in, and the long shadows of the frowning cliffs above his head cast a thick, black darkness on every object near him.

‘He was seated here, one calm evening, in his old position, now and then raising his head to watch the flight of a sea-gull, or carry his eye along the glorious crimson path, which, commencing in the middle of the ocean, seemed to lead to its very verge where the sun was setting, when the profound stillness of the spot was broken by a loud cry for help; he listened, doubtful of his having heard aright, when the cry was repeated with even greater vehemence than before, and, starting to his feet, he hastened in the direction whence it proceeded.

‘The tale told itself at once: some scattered garments lay on the beach; a human head was just visible above the waves at a little distance from the shore; and an old man, wringing his hands in agony, was running to and fro, shrieking for assistance. The invalid, whose strength was now sufficiently restored, threw off his coat, and rushed towards the sea, with the intention of plunging in, and dragging the drowning man ashore.

‘“Hasten here, Sir, in God’s name; help, help, sir, for the love of Heaven. He is my son, Sir, my only son!” said the old man frantically, as he advanced to meet him. “My only son, Sir, and he is dying before his father’s eyes!”

‘At the first word the old man uttered, the stranger checked himself in his career, and, folding his arms, stood perfectly motionless.

‘“Great God!” exclaimed the old man, recoiling, “Heyling!”

‘The stranger smiled, and was silent.

‘“Heyling!” said the old man wildly; “my boy, Heyling, my dear boy, look, look!” Gasping for breath, the miserable father pointed to the spot where the young man was struggling for life.

‘“Hark!” said the old man. “He cries once more. He is alive yet. Heyling, save him, save him!”

‘The stranger smiled again, and remained immovable as a statue. ‘“I have wronged you,” shrieked the old man, falling on his knees, and clasping his hands together. “Be revenged; take my all, my life; cast me into the water at your feet, and, if human nature can repress a struggle, I will die, without stirring hand or foot. Do it, Heyling, do it, but save my boy; he is so young, Heyling, so young to die!”

‘“Listen,” said the stranger, grasping the old man fiercely by the wrist; “I will have life for life, and here is ONE. MY child died, before his father’s eyes, a far more agonising and painful death than that young slanderer of his sister’s worth is meeting while I speak. You laughed — laughed in your daughter’s face, where death had already set his hand — at our sufferings, then. What think you of them now! See there, see there!”

‘As the stranger spoke, he pointed to the sea. A faint cry died away upon its surface; the last powerful struggle of the dying man agitated the rippling waves for a few seconds; and the spot where he had gone down into his early grave, was undistinguishable from the surrounding water.

‘Three years had elapsed, when a gentleman alighted from a private carriage at the door of a London attorney, then well known as a man of no great nicety in his professional dealings, and requested a private interview on business of importance. Although evidently not past the prime of life, his face was pale, haggard, and dejected; and it did not require the acute perception of the man of business, to discern at a glance, that disease or suffering had done more to work a change in his appearance, than the mere hand of time could have accomplished in twice the period of his whole life.

‘“I wish you to undertake some legal business for me,” said the stranger.

‘The attorney bowed obsequiously, and glanced at a large packet which the gentleman carried in his hand. His visitor observed the look, and proceeded.

‘“It is no common business,” said he; “nor have these papers reached my hands without long trouble and great expense.”

‘The attorney cast a still more anxious look at the packet; and his visitor, untying the string that bound it, disclosed a quantity of promissory notes, with copies of deeds, and other documents.

‘“Upon these papers,” said the client, “the man whose name they bear, has raised, as you will see, large sums of money, for years past. There was a tacit understanding between him and the men into whose hands they originally went — and from whom I have by degrees purchased the whole, for treble and quadruple their nominal value — that these loans should be from time to time renewed, until a given period had elapsed. Such an understanding is nowhere expressed. He has sustained many losses of late; and these obligations accumulating upon him at once, would crush him to the earth.”

‘“The whole amount is many thousands of pounds,” said the attorney, looking over the papers.

‘“It is,” said the client.

‘“What are we to do?” inquired the man of business.

‘“Do!” replied the client, with sudden vehemence. “Put every engine of the law in force, every trick that ingenuity can devise and rascality execute; fair means and foul; the open oppression of the law, aided by all the craft of its most ingenious practitioners. I would have him die a harassing and lingering death. Ruin him, seize and sell his lands and goods, drive him from house and home, and drag him forth a beggar in his old age, to die in a common jail.”

‘“But the costs, my dear Sir, the costs of all this,” reasoned the attorney, when he had recovered from his momentary surprise. “If the defendant be a man of straw, who is to pay the costs, Sir?”

‘“Name any sum,” said the stranger, his hand trembling so violently with excitement, that he could scarcely hold the pen he seized as he spoke — “any sum, and it is yours. Don’t be afraid to name it, man. I shall not think it dear, if you gain my object.”

‘The attorney named a large sum, at hazard, as the advance he should require to secure himself against the possibility of loss; but more with the view of ascertaining how far his client was really disposed to go, than with any idea that he would comply with the demand. The stranger wrote a cheque upon his banker, for the whole amount, and left him.

‘The draft was duly honoured, and the attorney, finding that his strange client might be safely relied upon, commenced his work in earnest. For more than two years afterwards, Mr. Heyling would sit whole days together, in the office, poring over the papers as they accumulated, and reading again and again, his eyes gleaming with joy, the letters of remonstrance, the prayers for a little delay, the representations of the certain ruin in which the opposite party must be involved, which poured in, as suit after suit, and process after process, was commenced. To all applications for a brief indulgence, there was but one reply — the money must be paid. Land, house, furniture, each in its turn, was taken under some one of the numerous executions which were issued; and the old man himself would have been immured in prison had he not escaped the vigilance of the officers, and fled.

‘The implacable animosity of Heyling, so far from being satiated by the success of his persecution, increased a hundredfold with the ruin he inflicted. On being informed of the old man’s flight, his fury was unbounded. He gnashed his teeth with rage, tore the hair from his head, and assailed with horrid imprecations the men who had been intrusted with the writ. He was only restored to comparative calmness by repeated assurances of the certainty of discovering the fugitive. Agents were sent in quest of him, in all directions; every stratagem that could be invented was resorted to, for the purpose of discovering his place of retreat; but it was all in vain. Half a year had passed over, and he was still undiscovered.

‘At length late one night, Heyling, of whom nothing had been seen for many weeks before, appeared at his attorney’s private residence, and sent up word that a gentleman wished to see him instantly. Before the attorney, who had recognised his voice from above stairs, could order the servant to admit him, he had rushed up the staircase, and entered the drawing-room pale and breathless. Having closed the door, to prevent being overheard, he sank into a chair, and said, in a low voice —

‘“Hush! I have found him at last.”

‘“No!” said the attorney. “Well done, my dear sir, well done.”

‘“He lies concealed in a wretched lodging in Camden Town,” said Heyling. “Perhaps it is as well we DID lose sight of him, for he has been living alone there, in the most abject misery, all the time, and he is poor — very poor.”

‘“Very good,” said the attorney. “You will have the caption made to-morrow, of course?”

‘“Yes,” replied Heyling. “Stay! No! The next day. You are surprised at my wishing to postpone it,” he added, with a ghastly smile; “but I had forgotten. The next day is an anniversary in his life: let it be done then.”

‘“Very good,” said the attorney. “Will you write down instructions for the officer?”

‘“No; let him meet me here, at eight in the evening, and I will accompany him myself.”

‘They met on the appointed night, and, hiring a hackney-coach, directed the driver to stop at that corner of the old Pancras Road, at which stands the parish workhouse. By the time they alighted there, it was quite dark; and, proceeding by the dead wall in front of the Veterinary Hospital, they entered a small by-street, which is, or was at that time, called Little College Street, and which, whatever it may be now, was in those days a desolate place enough, surrounded by little else than fields and ditches.

‘Having drawn the travelling-cap he had on half over his face, and muffled himself in his cloak, Heyling stopped before the meanest-looking house in the street, and knocked gently at the door. It was at once opened by a woman, who dropped a curtsey of recognition, and Heyling, whispering the officer to remain below, crept gently upstairs, and, opening the door of the front room, entered at once.

‘The object of his search and his unrelenting animosity, now a decrepit old man, was seated at a bare deal table, on which stood a miserable candle. He started on the entrance of the stranger, and rose feebly to his feet.

‘“What now, what now?” said the old man. “What fresh misery is this? What do you want here?”

‘“A word with YOU,” replied Heyling. As he spoke, he seated himself at the other end of the table, and, throwing off his cloak and cap, disclosed his features.

‘The old man seemed instantly deprived of speech. He fell backward in his chair, and, clasping his hands together, gazed on the apparition with a mingled look of abhorrence and fear.

‘“This day six years,” said Heyling, “I claimed the life you owed me for my child’s. Beside the lifeless form of your daughter, old man, I swore to live a life of revenge. I have never swerved from my purpose for a moment’s space; but if I had, one thought of her uncomplaining, suffering look, as she drooped away, or of the starving face of our innocent child, would have nerved me to my task. My first act of requital you well remember: this is my last.”

‘The old man shivered, and his hands dropped powerless by his side.

‘“I leave England to-morrow,” said Heyling, after a moment’s pause. “To-night I consign you to the living death to which you devoted her — a hopeless prison — “

‘He raised his eyes to the old man’s countenance, and paused. He lifted the light to his face, set it gently down, and left the apartment.

‘“You had better see to the old man,” he said to the woman, as he opened the door, and motioned the officer to follow him into the street. “I think he is ill.” The woman closed the door, ran hastily upstairs, and found him lifeless.

‘Beneath a plain gravestone, in one of the most peaceful and secluded churchyards in Kent, where wild flowers mingle with the grass, and the soft landscape around forms the fairest spot in the garden of England, lie the bones of the young mother and her gentle child. But the ashes of the father do not mingle with theirs; nor, from that night forward, did the attorney ever gain the remotest clue to the subsequent history of his queer client.’ As the old man concluded his tale, he advanced to a peg in one corner, and taking down his hat and coat, put them on with great deliberation; and, without saying another word, walked slowly away. As the gentleman with the Mosaic studs had fallen asleep, and the major part of the company were deeply occupied in the humorous process of dropping melted tallow-grease into his brandy-and-water, Mr. Pickwick departed unnoticed, and having settled his own score, and that of Mr. Weller, issued forth, in company with that gentleman, from beneath the portal of the Magpie and Stump.


A GHOST IN THE BRIDE’S CHAMBER

from The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices

Mr. Goodchild drew a little nearer, and the Doctor went on thus: speaking, for the most part, in so cautious a voice, that the wind, though it was far from high, occasionally got the better of him.

When this present nineteenth century was younger by a good many years than it is now, a certain friend of mine, named Arthur Holliday, happened to arrive in the town of Doncaster, exactly in the middle of a race-week, or, in other words, in the middle of the month of September.  He was one of those reckless, rattle-pated, open-hearted, and open-mouthed young gentlemen, who possess the gift of familiarity in its highest perfection, and who scramble carelessly along the journey of life making friends, as the phrase is, wherever they go.  His father was a rich manufacturer, and had bought landed property enough in one of the midland counties to make all the born squires in his neighbourhood thoroughly envious of him.  Arthur was his only son, possessor in prospect of the great estate and the great business after his father’s death; well supplied with money, and not too rigidly looked after, during his father’s lifetime.  Report, or scandal, whichever you please, said that the old gentleman had been rather wild in his youthful days, and that, unlike most parents, he was not disposed to be violently indignant when he found that his son took after him.  This may be true or not.  I myself only knew the elder Mr. Holliday when he was getting on in years; and then he was as quiet and as respectable a gentleman as ever I met with.

Well, one September, as I told you, young Arthur comes to Doncaster, having decided all of a sudden, in his harebrained way, that he would go to the races.  He did not reach the town till towards the close of the evening, and he went at once to see about his dinner and bed at the principal hotel.  Dinner they were ready enough to give him; but as for a bed, they laughed when he mentioned it.  In the race-week at Doncaster, it is no uncommon thing for visitors who have not bespoken apartments, to pass the night in their carriages at the inn doors.  As for the lower sort of strangers, I myself have often seen them, at that full time, sleeping out on the doorsteps for want of a covered place to creep under.  Rich as he was, Arthur’s chance of getting a night’s lodging (seeing that he had not written beforehand to secure one) was more than doubtful.  He tried the second hotel, and the third hotel, and two of the inferior inns after that; and was met everywhere by the same form of answer.  No accommodation for the night of any sort was left.  All the bright golden sovereigns in his pocket would not buy him a bed at Doncaster in the race-week.

To a young fellow of Arthur’s temperament, the novelty of being turned away into the street, like a penniless vagabond, at every house where he asked for a lodging, presented itself in the light of a new and highly amusing piece of experience.  He went on, with his carpet-bag in his hand, applying for a bed at every place of entertainment for travellers that he could find in Doncaster, until he wandered into the outskirts of the town.  By this time, the last glimmer of twilight had faded out, the moon was rising dimly in a mist, the wind was getting cold, the clouds were gathering heavily, and there was every prospect that it was soon going to rain.

The look of the night had rather a lowering effect on young Holliday’s good spirits.  He began to contemplate the houseless situation in which he was placed, from the serious rather than the humorous point of view; and he looked about him, for another public-house to inquire at, with something very like downright anxiety in his mind on the subject of a lodging for the night.  The suburban part of the town towards which he had now strayed was hardly lighted at all, and he could see nothing of the houses as he passed them, except that they got progressively smaller and dirtier, the farther he went.  Down the winding road before him shone the dull gleam of an oil lamp, the one faint, lonely light that struggled ineffectually with the foggy darkness all round him.  He resolved to go on as far as this lamp, and then, if it showed him nothing in the shape of an Inn, to return to the central part of the town and to try if he could not at least secure a chair to sit down on, through the night, at one of the principal Hotels.

As he got near the lamp, he heard voices; and, walking close under it, found that it lighted the entrance to a narrow court, on the wall of which was painted a long hand in faded flesh-colour, pointing with a lean forefinger, to this inscription:-

The Two Robins.

Arthur turned into the court without hesitation, to see what The Two Robins could do for him.  Four or five men were standing together round the door of the house which was at the bottom of the court, facing the entrance from the street.  The men were all listening to one other man, better dressed than the rest, who was telling his audience something, in a low voice, in which they were apparently very much interested.

On entering the passage, Arthur was passed by a stranger with a knapsack in his hand, who was evidently leaving the house.

‘No,’ said the traveller with the knapsack, turning round and addressing himself cheerfully to a fat, sly-looking, bald-headed man, with a dirty white apron on, who had followed him down the passage.  ‘No, Mr. landlord, I am not easily scared by trifles; but, I don’t mind confessing that I can’t quite stand that.’

It occurred to young Holliday, the moment he heard these words, that the stranger had been asked an exorbitant price for a bed at The Two Robins; and that he was unable or unwilling to pay it.  The moment his back was turned, Arthur, comfortably conscious of his own well-filled pockets, addressed himself in a great hurry, for fear any other benighted traveller should slip in and forestall him, to the sly-looking landlord with the dirty apron and the bald head.

‘If you have got a bed to let,’ he said, ‘and if that gentleman who has just gone out won’t pay your price for it, I will.’

The sly landlord looked hard at Arthur.

‘Will you, sir?’ he asked, in a meditative, doubtful way.

‘Name your price,’ said young Holliday, thinking that the landlord’s hesitation sprang from some boorish distrust of him.  ‘Name your price, and I’ll give you the money at once if you like?’

‘Are you game for five shillings?’ inquired the landlord, rubbing his stubbly double chin, and looking up thoughtfully at the ceiling above him.

Arthur nearly laughed in the man’s face; but thinking it prudent to control himself, offered the five shillings as seriously as he could.  The sly landlord held out his hand, then suddenly drew it back again.

‘You’re acting all fair and above-board by me,’ he said: ‘and, before I take your money, I’ll do the same by you.  Look here, this is how it stands.  You can have a bed all to yourself for five shillings; but you can’t have more than a half-share of the room it stands in.  Do you see what I mean, young gentleman?’

‘Of course I do,’ returned Arthur, a little irritably.  ‘You mean that it is a double-bedded room, and that one of the beds is occupied?’

The landlord nodded his head, and rubbed his double chin harder than ever.  Arthur hesitated, and mechanically moved back a step or two towards the door.  The idea of sleeping in the same room with a total stranger, did not present an attractive prospect to him.  He felt more than half inclined to drop his five shillings into his pocket, and to go out into the street once more.

‘Is it yes, or no?’ asked the landlord.  ‘Settle it as quick as you can, because there’s lots of people wanting a bed at Doncaster to-night, besides you.’

Arthur looked towards the court, and heard the rain falling heavily in the street outside.  He thought he would ask a question or two before he rashly decided on leaving the shelter of The Two Robins.

‘What sort of a man is it who has got the other bed?’ he inquired.  ‘Is he a gentleman?  I mean, is he a quiet, well-behaved person?’

‘The quietest man I ever came across,’ said the landlord, rubbing his fat hands stealthily one over the other.  ‘As sober as a judge, and as regular as clock-work in his habits.  It hasn’t struck nine, not ten minutes ago, and he’s in his bed already.  I don’t know whether that comes up to your notion of a quiet man: it goes a long way ahead of mine, I can tell you.’

‘Is he asleep, do you think?’ asked Arthur.

‘I know he’s asleep,’ returned the landlord.  ‘And what’s more, he’s gone off so fast, that I’ll warrant you don’t wake him.  This way, sir,’ said the landlord, speaking over young Holliday’s shoulder, as if he was addressing some new guest who was approaching the house.

‘Here you are,’ said Arthur, determined to be beforehand with the stranger, whoever he might be.  ‘I’ll take the bed.’  And he handed the five shillings to the landlord, who nodded, dropped the money carelessly into his waistcoat-pocket, and lighted the candle.

‘Come up and see the room,’ said the host of The Two Robins, leading the way to the staircase quite briskly, considering how fat he was.

They mounted to the second-floor of the house.  The landlord half opened a door, fronting the landing, then stopped, and turned round to Arthur.

‘It’s a fair bargain, mind, on my side as well as on yours,’ he said.  ‘You give me five shillings, I give you in return a clean, comfortable bed; and I warrant, beforehand, that you won’t be interfered with, or annoyed in any way, by the man who sleeps in the same room as you.’  Saying those words, he looked hard, for a moment, in young Holliday’s face, and then led the way into the room.

It was larger and cleaner than Arthur had expected it would be.  The two beds stood parallel with each other — a space of about six feet intervening between them.  They were both of the same medium size, and both had the same plain white curtains, made to draw, if necessary, all round them.  The occupied bed was the bed nearest the window.  The curtains were all drawn round this, except the half curtain at the bottom, on the side of the bed farthest from the window.  Arthur saw the feet of the sleeping man raising the scanty clothes into a sharp little eminence, as if he was lying flat on his back.  He took the candle, and advanced softly to draw the curtain — stopped half-way, and listened for a moment — then turned to the landlord.

‘He’s a very quiet sleeper,’ said Arthur.

‘Yes,’ said the landlord, ‘very quiet.’

Young Holliday advanced with the candle, and looked in at the man cautiously.

‘How pale he is!’ said Arthur.

‘Yes,’ returned the landlord, ‘pale enough, isn’t he?’

Arthur looked closer at the man.  The bedclothes were drawn up to his chin, and they lay perfectly still over the region of his chest.  Surprised and vaguely startled, as he noticed this, Arthur stooped down closer over the stranger; looked at his ashy, parted lips; listened breathlessly for an instant; looked again at the strangely still face, and the motionless lips and chest; and turned round suddenly on the landlord, with his own cheeks as pale for the moment as the hollow cheeks of the man on the bed.

‘Come here,’ he whispered, under his breath.  ‘Come here, for God’s sake!  The man’s not asleep — he is dead!’

‘You have found that out sooner than I thought you would,’ said the landlord, composedly.  ‘Yes, he’s dead, sure enough.  He died at five o’clock to-day.’

‘How did he die?  Who is he?’ asked Arthur, staggered, for a moment, by the audacious coolness of the answer.

‘As to who is he,’ rejoined the landlord, ‘I know no more about him than you do.  There are his books and letters and things, all sealed up in that brown-paper parcel, for the Coroner’s inquest to open to-morrow or next day.  He’s been here a week, paying his way fairly enough, and stopping in-doors, for the most part, as if he was ailing.  My girl brought him up his tea at five to-day; and as he was pouring of it out, he fell down in a faint, or a fit, or a compound of both, for anything I know.  We could not bring him to — and I said he was dead.  And the doctor couldn’t bring him to — and the doctor said he was dead.  And there he is.  And the Coroner’s inquest’s coming as soon as it can.  And that’s as much as I know about it.’

Arthur held the candle close to the man’s lips.  The flame still burnt straight up, as steadily as before.  There was a moment of silence; and the rain pattered drearily through it against the panes of the window.

‘If you haven’t got nothing more to say to me,’ continued the landlord, ‘I suppose I may go.  You don’t expect your five shillings back, do you?  There’s the bed I promised you, clean and comfortable.  There’s the man I warranted not to disturb you, quiet in this world for ever.  If you’re frightened to stop alone with him, that’s not my look out.  I’ve kept my part of the bargain, and I mean to keep the money.  I’m not Yorkshire, myself, young gentleman; but I’ve lived long enough in these parts to have my wits sharpened; and I shouldn’t wonder if you found out the way to brighten up yours, next time you come amongst us.’  With these words, the landlord turned towards the door, and laughed to himself softly, in high satisfaction at his own sharpness.

Startled and shocked as he was, Arthur had by this time sufficiently recovered himself to feel indignant at the trick that had been played on him, and at the insolent manner in which the landlord exulted in it.

‘Don’t laugh,’ he said sharply, ‘till you are quite sure you have got the laugh against me.  You shan’t have the five shillings for nothing, my man.  I’ll keep the bed.’

‘Will you?’ said the landlord.  ‘Then I wish you a goodnight’s rest.’  With that brief farewell, he went out, and shut the door after him.

A good night’s rest!  The words had hardly been spoken, the door had hardly been closed, before Arthur half-repented the hasty words that had just escaped him.  Though not naturally over-sensitive, and not wanting in courage of the moral as well as the physical sort, the presence of the dead man had an instantaneously chilling effect on his mind when he found himself alone in the room — alone, and bound by his own rash words to stay there till the next morning.  An older man would have thought nothing of those words, and would have acted, without reference to them, as his calmer sense suggested.  But Arthur was too young to treat the ridicule, even of his inferiors, with contempt — too young not to fear the momentary humiliation of falsifying his own foolish boast, more than he feared the trial of watching out the long night in the same chamber with the dead.

‘It is but a few hours,’ he thought to himself, ‘and I can get away the first thing in the morning.’

He was looking towards the occupied bed as that idea passed through his mind, and the sharp, angular eminence made in the clothes by the dead man’s upturned feet again caught his eye.  He advanced and drew the curtains, purposely abstaining, as he did so, from looking at the face of the corpse, lest he might unnerve himself at the outset by fastening some ghastly impression of it on his mind.  He drew the curtain very gently, and sighed involuntarily as he closed it.  ‘Poor fellow,’ he said, almost as sadly as if he had known the man.  ‘Ah, poor fellow!’

He went next to the window.  The night was black, and he could see nothing from it.  The rain still pattered heavily against the glass.  He inferred, from hearing it, that the window was at the back of the house; remembering that the front was sheltered from the weather by the court and the buildings over it.

While he was still standing at the window — for even the dreary rain was a relief, because of the sound it made; a relief, also, because it moved, and had some faint suggestion, in consequence, of life and companionship in it — while he was standing at the window, and looking vacantly into the black darkness outside, he heard a distant church-clock strike ten.  Only ten!  How was he to pass the time till the house was astir the next morning?

Under any other circumstances, he would have gone down to the public-house parlour, would have called for his grog, and would have laughed and talked with the company assembled as familiarly as if he had known them all his life.  But the very thought of whiling away the time in this manner was distasteful to him.  The new situation in which he was placed seemed to have altered him to himself already.  Thus far, his life had been the common, trifling, prosaic, surface-life of a prosperous young man, with no troubles to conquer, and no trials to face.  He had lost no relation whom he loved, no friend whom he treasured.  Till this night, what share he had of the immortal inheritance that is divided amongst us all, had laid dormant within him.  Till this night, Death and he had not once met, even in thought.

He took a few turns up and down the room — then stopped.  The noise made by his boots on the poorly carpeted floor, jarred on his ear.  He hesitated a little, and ended by taking the boots off, and walking backwards and forwards noiselessly.  All desire to sleep or to rest had left him.  The bare thought of lying down on the unoccupied bed instantly drew the picture on his mind of a dreadful mimicry of the position of the dead man.  Who was he?  What was the story of his past life?  Poor he must have been, or he would not have stopped at such a place as The Two Robins Inn — and weakened, probably, by long illness, or he could hardly have died in the manner in which the landlord had described.  Poor, ill, lonely, — dead in a strange place; dead, with nobody but a stranger to pity him.  A sad story: truly, on the mere face of it, a very sad story.

While these thoughts were passing through his mind, he had stopped insensibly at the window, close to which stood the foot of the bed with the closed curtains.  At first he looked at it absently; then he became conscious that his eyes were fixed on it; and then, a perverse desire took possession of him to do the very thing which he had resolved not to do, up to this time — to look at the dead man.

He stretched out his hand towards the curtains; but checked himself in the very act of undrawing them, turned his back sharply on the bed, and walked towards the chimney-piece, to see what things were placed on it, and to try if he could keep the dead man out of his mind in that way.

There was a pewter inkstand on the chimney-piece, with some mildewed remains of ink in the bottle.  There were two coarse china ornaments of the commonest kind; and there was a square of embossed card, dirty and fly-blown, with a collection of wretched riddles printed on it, in all sorts of zig-zag directions, and in variously coloured inks.  He took the card, and went away, to read it, to the table on which the candle was placed; sitting down, with his back resolutely turned to the curtained bed.

He read the first riddle, the second, the third, all in one corner of the card — then turned it round impatiently to look at another.  Before he could begin reading the riddles printed here, the sound of the church-clock stopped him.  Eleven.  He had got through an hour of the time, in the room with the dead man.

Once more he looked at the card.  It was not easy to make out the letters printed on it, in consequence of the dimness of the light which the landlord had left him — a common tallow candle, furnished with a pair of heavy old-fashioned steel snuffers.  Up to this time, his mind had been too much occupied to think of the light.  He had left the wick of the candle unsnuffed, till it had risen higher than the flame, and had burnt into an odd pent-house shape at the top, from which morsels of the charred cotton fell off, from time to time, in little flakes.  He took up the snuffers now, and trimmed the wick.  The light brightened directly, and the room became less dismal.

Again he turned to the riddles; reading them doggedly and resolutely, now in one corner of the card, now in another.  All his efforts, however, could not fix his attention on them.  He pursued his occupation mechanically, deriving no sort of impression from what he was reading.  It was as if a shadow from the curtained bed had got between his mind and the gaily printed letters — a shadow that nothing could dispel.  At last, he gave up the struggle, and threw the card from him impatiently, and took to walking softly up and down the room again.

The dead man, the dead man, the hidden dead man on the bed!  There was the one persistent idea still haunting him.  Hidden?  Was it only the body being there, or was it the body being there, concealed, that was preying on his mind?  He stopped at the window, with that doubt in him; once more listening to the pattering rain, once more looking out into the black darkness.

Still the dead man!  The darkness forced his mind back upon itself, and set his memory at work, reviving, with a painfully-vivid distinctness the momentary impression it had received from the first sight of the corpse.  Before long the face seemed to be hovering out in the middle of the darkness, confronting him through the window, with the paleness whiter, with the dreadful dull line of light between the imperfectly-closed eyelids broader than he had seen it — with the parted lips slowly dropping farther and farther away from each other — with the features growing larger and moving closer, till they seemed to fill the window and to silence the rain, and to shut out the night.

The sound of a voice, shouting below-stairs, woke him suddenly from the dream of his own distempered fancy.  He recognised it as the voice of the landlord.  ‘Shut up at twelve, Ben,’ he heard it say.  ‘I’m off to bed.’

He wiped away the damp that had gathered on his forehead, reasoned with himself for a little while, and resolved to shake his mind free of the ghastly counterfeit which still clung to it, by forcing himself to confront, if it was only for a moment, the solemn reality.  Without allowing himself an instant to hesitate, he parted the curtains at the foot of the bed, and looked through.

There was a sad, peaceful, white face, with the awful mystery of stillness on it, laid back upon the pillow.  No stir, no change there!  He only looked at it for a moment before he closed the curtains again — but that moment steadied him, calmed him, restored him — mind and body — to himself.

He returned to his old occupation of walking up and down the room; persevering in it, this time, till the clock struck again.  Twelve.

As the sound of the clock-bell died away, it was succeeded by the confused noise, down-stairs, of the drinkers in the tap-room leaving the house.  The next sound, after an interval of silence, was caused by the barring of the door, and the closing of the shutters, at the back of the Inn.  Then the silence followed again, and was disturbed no more.

He was alone now — absolutely, utterly, alone with the dead man, till the next morning.

The wick of the candle wanted trimming again.  He took up the snuffers — but paused suddenly on the very point of using them, and looked attentively at the candle — then back, over his shoulder, at the curtained bed — then again at the candle.  It had been lighted, for the first time, to show him the way up-stairs, and three parts of it, at least, were already consumed.  In another hour it would be burnt out.  In another hour — unless he called at once to the man who had shut up the Inn, for a fresh candle — he would be left in the dark.

Strongly as his mind had been affected since he had entered his room, his unreasonable dread of encountering ridicule, and of exposing his courage to suspicion, had not altogether lost its influence over him, even yet.  He lingered irresolutely by the table, waiting till he could prevail on himself to open the door, and call, from the landing, to the man who had shut up the Inn.  In his present hesitating frame of mind, it was a kind of relief to gain a few moments only by engaging in the trifling occupation of snuffing the candle.  His hand trembled a little, and the snuffers were heavy and awkward to use.  When he closed them on the wick, he closed them a hair’s breadth too low.  In an instant the candle was out, and the room was plunged in pitch darkness.

The one impression which the absence of light immediately produced on his mind, was distrust of the curtained bed — distrust which shaped itself into no distinct idea, but which was powerful enough in its very vagueness, to bind him down to his chair, to make his heart beat fast, and to set him listening intently.  No sound stirred in the room but the familiar sound of the rain against the window, louder and sharper now than he had heard it yet.

Still the vague distrust, the inexpressible dread possessed him, and kept him to his chair.  He had put his carpet-bag on the table, when he first entered the room; and he now took the key from his pocket, reached out his hand softly, opened the bag, and groped in it for his travelling writing-case, in which he knew that there was a small store of matches.  When he had got one of the matches, he waited before he struck it on the coarse wooden table, and listened intently again, without knowing why.  Still there was no sound in the room but the steady, ceaseless, rattling sound of the rain.

He lighted the candle again, without another moment of delay and, on the instant of its burning up, the first object in the room that his eyes sought for was the curtained bed.

Just before the light had been put out, he had looked in that direction, and had seen no change, no disarrangement of any sort, in the folds of the closely-drawn curtains.

When he looked at the bed, now, he saw, hanging over the side of it, a long white hand.

It lay perfectly motionless, midway on the side of the bed, where the curtain at the head and the curtain at the foot met.  Nothing more was visible.  The clinging curtains hid everything but the long white hand.

He stood looking at it unable to stir, unable to call out; feeling nothing, knowing nothing, every faculty he possessed gathered up and lost in the one seeing faculty.  How long that first panic held him he never could tell afterwards.  It might have been only for a moment; it might have been for many minutes together.  How he got to the bed — whether he ran to it headlong, or whether he approached it slowly — how he wrought himself up to unclose the curtains and look in, he never has remembered, and never will remember to his dying day.  It is enough that he did go to the bed, and that he did look inside the curtains.

The man had moved.  One of his arms was outside the clothes; his face was turned a little on the pillow; his eyelids were wide open.  Changed as to position, and as to one of the features, the face was, otherwise, fearfully and wonderfully unaltered.  The dead paleness and the dead quiet were on it still

One glance showed Arthur this — one glance, before he flew breathlessly to the door, and alarmed the house.

The man whom the landlord called ‘Ben,’ was the first to appear on the stairs.  In three words, Arthur told him what had happened, and sent him for the nearest doctor.

I, who tell you this story, was then staying with a medical friend of mine, in practice at Doncaster, taking care of his patients for him, during his absence in London; and I, for the time being, was the nearest doctor.  They had sent for me from the Inn, when the stranger was taken ill in the afternoon; but I was not at home, and medical assistance was sought for elsewhere.  When the man from The Two Robins rang the night-bell, I was just thinking of going to bed.  Naturally enough, I did not believe a word of his story about ‘a dead man who had come to life again.’  However, I put on my hat, armed myself with one or two bottles of restorative medicine, and ran to the Inn, expecting to find nothing more remarkable, when I got there, than a patient in a fit.

My surprise at finding that the man had spoken the literal truth was almost, if not quite, equalled by my astonishment at finding myself face to face with Arthur Holliday as soon as I entered the bedroom.  It was no time then for giving or seeking explanations.  We just shook hands amazedly; and then I ordered everybody but Arthur out of the room, and hurried to the man on the bed.

The kitchen fire had not been long out.  There was plenty of hot water in the boiler, and plenty of flannel to be had.  With these, with my medicines, and with such help as Arthur could render under my direction, I dragged the man, literally, out of the jaws of death.  In less than an hour from the time when I had been called in, he was alive and talking in the bed on which he had been laid out to wait for the Coroner’s inquest.

You will naturally ask me, what had been the matter with him; and I might treat you, in reply, to a long theory, plentifully sprinkled with, what the children call, hard words.  I prefer telling you that, in this case, cause and effect could not be satisfactorily joined together by any theory whatever.  There are mysteries in life, and the condition of it, which human science has not fathomed yet; and I candidly confess to you, that, in bringing that man back to existence, I was, morally speaking, groping haphazard in the dark.  I know (from the testimony of the doctor who attended him in the afternoon) that the vital machinery, so far as its action is appreciable by our senses, had, in this case, unquestionably stopped; and I am equally certain (seeing that I recovered him) that the vital principle was not extinct.  When I add, that he had suffered from a long and complicated illness, and that his whole nervous system was utterly deranged, I have told you all I really know of the physical condition of my dead-alive patient at The Two Robins Inn.

When he ‘came to,’ as the phrase goes, he was a startling object to look at, with his colourless face, his sunken cheeks, his wild black eyes, and his long black hair.  The first question he asked me about himself, when he could speak, made me suspect that I had been called in to a man in my own profession.  I mentioned to him my surmise; and he told me that I was right.

He said he had come last from Paris, where he had been attached to a hospital.  That he had lately returned to England, on his way to Edinburgh, to continue his studies; that he had been taken ill on the journey; and that he had stopped to rest and recover himself at Doncaster.  He did not add a word about his name, or who he was: and, of course, I did not question him on the subject.  All I inquired, when he ceased speaking, was what branch of the profession he intended to follow.

‘Any branch,’ he said, bitterly, ‘which will put bread into the mouth of a poor man.’

At this, Arthur, who had been hitherto watching him in silent curiosity, burst out impetuously in his usual good-humoured way:-

‘My dear fellow!’ (everybody was ‘my dear fellow’ with Arthur) ‘now you have come to life again, don’t begin by being down-hearted about your prospects.  I’ll answer for it, I can help you to some capital thing in the medical line — or, if I can’t, I know my father can.’

The medical student looked at him steadily.

‘Thank you,’ he said, coldly.  Then added, ‘May I ask who your father is?’

‘He’s well enough known all about this part of the country,’ replied Arthur.  ‘He is a great manufacturer, and his name is Holliday.’

My hand was on the man’s wrist during this brief conversation.  The instant the name of Holliday was pronounced I felt the pulse under my fingers flutter, stop, go on suddenly with a bound, and beat afterwards, for a minute or two, at the fever rate.

‘How did you come here?’ asked the stranger, quickly, excitably, passionately almost.

Arthur related briefly what had happened from the time of his first taking the bed at the inn.

‘I am indebted to Mr. Holliday’s son then for the help that has saved my life,’ said the medical student, speaking to himself, with a singular sarcasm in his voice.  ‘Come here!’

He held out, as he spoke, his long, white, bony, right hand.

‘With all my heart,’ said Arthur, taking the hand-cordially.  ‘I may confess it now,’ he continued, laughing.  ‘Upon my honour, you almost frightened me out of my wits.’

The stranger did not seem to listen.  His wild black eyes were fixed with a look of eager interest on Arthur’s face, and his long bony fingers kept tight hold of Arthur’s hand.  Young Holliday, on his side, returned the gaze, amazed and puzzled by the medical student’s odd language and manners.  The two faces were close together; I looked at them; and, to my amazement, I was suddenly impressed by the sense of a likeness between them — not in features, or complexion, but solely in expression.  It must have been a strong likeness, or I should certainly not have found it out, for I am naturally slow at detecting resemblances between faces.

‘You have saved my life,’ said the strange man, still looking hard in Arthur’s face, still holding tightly by his hand.  ‘If you had been my own brother, you could not have done more for me than that.’

He laid a singularly strong emphasis on those three words ‘my own brother,’ and a change passed over his face as he pronounced them, — a change that no language of mine is competent to describe.

‘I hope I have not done being of service to you yet,’ said Arthur.  ‘I’ll speak to my father, as soon as I get home.’

‘You seem to be fond and proud of your father,’ said the medical student.  ‘I suppose, in return, he is fond and proud of you?’

‘Of course, he is!’ answered Arthur, laughing.  ‘Is there anything wonderful in that?  Isn’t your father fond — ‘

The stranger suddenly dropped young Holliday’s hand, and turned his face away.

‘I beg your pardon,’ said Arthur.  ‘I hope I have not unintentionally pained you.  I hope you have not lost your father.’

‘I can’t well lose what I have never had,’ retorted the medical student, with a harsh, mocking laugh.

‘What you have never had!’

The strange man suddenly caught Arthur’s hand again, suddenly looked once more hard in his face.

‘Yes,’ he said, with a repetition of the bitter laugh.  ‘You have brought a poor devil back into the world, who has no business there.  Do I astonish you?  Well!  I have a fancy of my own for telling you what men in my situation generally keep a secret.  I have no name and no father.  The merciful law of Society tells me I am Nobody’s Son!  Ask your father if he will be my father too, and help me on in life with the family name.’

Arthur looked at me, more puzzled than ever.  I signed to him to say nothing, and then laid my fingers again on the man’s wrist.  No!  In spite of the extraordinary speech that he had just made, he was not, as I had been disposed to suspect, beginning to get light-headed.  His pulse, by this time, had fallen back to a quiet, slow beat, and his skin was moist and cool.  Not a symptom of fever or agitation about him.

Finding that neither of us answered him, he turned to me, and began talking of the extraordinary nature of his case, and asking my advice about the future course of medical treatment to which he ought to subject himself.  I said the matter required careful thinking over, and suggested that I should submit certain prescriptions to him the next morning.  He told me to write them at once, as he would, most likely, be leaving Doncaster, in the morning, before I was up.  It was quite useless to represent to him the folly and danger of such a proceeding as this.  He heard me politely and patiently, but held to his resolution, without offering any reasons or any explanations, and repeated to me, that if I wished to give him a chance of seeing my prescription, I must write it at once.  Hearing this, Arthur volunteered the loan of a travelling writing-case, which, he said, he had with him; and, bringing it to the bed, shook the note-paper out of the pocket of the case forthwith in his usual careless way.  With the paper, there fell out on the counterpane of the bed a small packet of sticking-plaster, and a little water-colour drawing of a landscape.

The medical student took up the drawing and looked at it.  His eye fell on some initials neatly written, in cypher, in one corner.  He started and trembled; his pale face grew whiter than ever; his wild black eyes turned on Arthur, and looked through and through him.

‘A pretty drawing,’ he said in a remarkably quiet tone of voice.

‘Ah! and done by such a pretty girl,’ said Arthur.  ‘Oh, such a pretty girl!  I wish it was not a landscape — I wish it was a portrait of her!’

‘You admire her very much?’

Arthur, half in jest, half in earnest, kissed his hand for answer.

‘Love at first sight!’ he said, putting the drawing away again.  ‘But the course of it doesn’t run smooth.  It’s the old story.  She’s monopolised as usual.  Trammelled by a rash engagement to some poor man who is never likely to get money enough to marry her.  It was lucky I heard of it in time, or I should certainly have risked a declaration when she gave me that drawing.  Here, doctor!  Here is pen, ink, and paper all ready for you.’

‘When she gave you that drawing?  Gave it.  Gave it.’  He repeated the words slowly to himself, and suddenly closed his eyes.  A momentary distortion passed across his face, and I saw one of his hands clutch up the bedclothes and squeeze them hard.  I thought he was going to be ill again, and begged that there might be no more talking.  He opened his eyes when I spoke, fixed them once more searchingly on Arthur, and said, slowly and distinctly, ‘You like her, and she likes you.  The poor man may die out of your way.  Who can tell that she may not give you herself as well as her drawing, after all?’

Before young Holliday could answer, he turned to me, and said in a whisper, ‘Now for the prescription.’  From that time, though he spoke to Arthur again, he never looked at him more.

When I had written the prescription, he examined it, approved of it, and then astonished us both by abruptly wishing us good night.  I offered to sit up with him, and he shook his head.  Arthur offered to sit up with him, and he said, shortly, with his face turned away, ‘No.’  I insisted on having somebody left to watch him.  He gave way when he found I was determined, and said he would accept the services of the waiter at the Inn.

‘Thank you, both,’ he said, as we rose to go.  ‘I have one last favour to ask — not of you, doctor, for I leave you to exercise your professional discretion — but of Mr. Holliday.’  His eyes, while he spoke, still rested steadily on me, and never once turned towards Arthur.  ‘I beg that Mr. Holliday will not mention to any one — least of all to his father — the events that have occurred, and the words that have passed, in this room.  I entreat him to bury me in his memory, as, but for him, I might have been buried in my grave.  I cannot give my reasons for making this strange request.  I can only implore him to grant it.’

His voice faltered for the first time, and he hid his face on the pillow.  Arthur, completely bewildered, gave the required pledge.  I took young Holliday away with me, immediately afterwards, to the house of my friend; determining to go back to the Inn, and to see the medical student again before he had left in the morning.

I returned to the Inn at eight o’clock, purposely abstaining from waking Arthur, who was sleeping off the past night’s excitement on one of my friend’s sofas.  A suspicion had occurred to me as soon as I was alone in my bedroom, which made me resolve that Holliday and the stranger whose life he had saved should not meet again, if I could prevent it.  I have already alluded to certain reports, or scandals, which I knew of, relating to the early life of Arthur’s father.  While I was thinking, in my bed, of what had passed at the Inn — of the change in the student’s pulse when he heard the name of Holliday; of the resemblance of expression that I had discovered between his face and Arthur’s; of the emphasis he had laid on those three words, ‘my own brother;’ and of his incomprehensible acknowledgment of his own illegitimacy — while I was thinking of these things, the reports I have mentioned suddenly flew into my mind, and linked themselves fast to the chain of my previous reflections.  Something within me whispered, ‘It is best that those two young men should not meet again.’  I felt it before I slept; I felt it when I woke; and I went, as I told you, alone to the Inn the next morning.

I had missed my only opportunity of seeing my nameless patient again.  He had been gone nearly an hour when I inquired for him.


I have now told you everything that I know for certain, in relation to the man whom I brought back to life in the double-bedded room of the Inn at Doncaster.  What I have next to add is matter for inference and surmise, and is not, strictly speaking, matter of fact.

I have to tell you, first, that the medical student turned out to be strangely and unaccountably right in assuming it as more than probable that Arthur Holliday would marry the young lady who had given him the water-colour drawing of the landscape.  That marriage took place a little more than a year after the events occurred which I have just been relating.  The young couple came to live in the neighbourhood in which I was then established in practice.  I was present at the wedding, and was rather surprised to find that Arthur was singularly reserved with me, both before and after his marriage, on the subject of the young lady’s prior engagement.  He only referred to it once, when we were alone, merely telling me, on that occasion, that his wife had done all that honour and duty required of her in the matter, and that the engagement had been broken off with the full approval of her parents.  I never heard more from him than this.  For three years he and his wife lived together happily.  At the expiration of that time, the symptoms of a serious illness first declared themselves in Mrs. Arthur Holliday.  It turned out to be a long, lingering, hopeless malady.  I attended her throughout.  We had been great friends when she was well, and we became more attached to each other than ever when she was ill.  I had many long and interesting conversations with her in the intervals when she suffered least.  The result of one of these conversations I may briefly relate, leaving you to draw any inferences from it that you please.

The interview to which I refer, occurred shortly before her death.  I called one evening, as usual, and found her alone, with a look in her eyes which told me that she had been crying.  She only informed me at first, that she had been depressed in spirits; but, by little and little, she became more communicative, and confessed to me that she had been looking over some old letters, which had been addressed to her, before she had seen Arthur, by a man to whom she had been engaged to be married.  I asked her how the engagement came to be broken off.  She replied that it had not been broken off, but that it had died out in a very mysterious way.  The person to whom she was engaged — her first love, she called him — was very poor, and there was no immediate prospect of their being married.  He followed my profession, and went abroad to study.  They had corresponded regularly, until the time when, as she believed, he had returned to England.  From that period she heard no more of him.  He was of a fretful, sensitive temperament; and she feared that she might have inadvertently done or said something that offended him.  However that might be, he had never written to her again; and, after waiting a year, she had married Arthur.  I asked when the first estrangement had begun, and found that the time at which she ceased to hear anything of her first lover exactly corresponded with the time at which I had been called in to my mysterious patient at The Two Robins Inn.

A fortnight after that conversation, she died.  In course of time, Arthur married again.  Of late years, he has lived principally in London, and I have seen little or nothing of him.

I have many years to pass over before I can approach to anything like a conclusion of this fragmentary narrative.  And even when that later period is reached, the little that I have to say will not occupy your attention for more than a few minutes.  Between six and seven years ago, the gentleman to whom I introduced you in this room, came to me, with good professional recommendations, to fill the position of my assistant.  We met, not like strangers, but like friends — the only difference between us being, that I was very much surprised to see him, and that he did not appear to be at all surprised to see me.  If he was my son or my brother, I believe he could not be fonder of me than he is; but he has never volunteered any confidences since he has been here, on the subject of his past life.  I saw something that was familiar to me in his face when we first met; and yet it was also something that suggested the idea of change.  I had a notion once that my patient at the Inn might be a natural son of Mr. Holliday’s; I had another idea that he might also have been the man who was engaged to Arthur’s first wife; and I have a third idea, still clinging to me, that Mr. Lorn is the only man in England who could really enlighten me, if he chose, on both those doubtful points.  His hair is not black, now, and his eyes are dimmer than the piercing eyes that I remember, but, for all that, he is very like the nameless medical student of my young days — very like him.  And, sometimes, when I come home late at night, and find him asleep, and wake him, he looks, in coming to, wonderfully like the stranger at Doncaster, as he raised himself in the bed on that memorable night!

The Doctor paused.  Mr. Goodchild, who had been following every word that fell from his lips up to this time, leaned forward eagerly to ask a question.  Before he could say a word, the latch of the door was raised, without any warning sound of footsteps in the passage outside.  A long, white, bony hand appeared through the opening, gently pushing the door, which was prevented from working freely on its hinges by a fold in the carpet under it.

‘That hand!  Look at that hand, Doctor!’ said Mr. Goodchild, touching him.

At the same moment, the Doctor looked at Mr. Goodchild, and whispered to him, significantly:

‘Hush! he has come back.’


Second Part: The Christmas Short Stories


A CHRISTMAS TREE

I have been looking on, this evening, at a merry company of children assembled round that pretty German toy, a Christmas Tree. The tree was planted in the middle of a great round table, and towered high above their heads. It was brilliantly lighted by a multitude of little tapers; and everywhere sparkled and glittered with bright objects. There were rosy-cheeked dolls, hiding behind the green leaves; and there were real watches (with movable hands, at least, and an endless capacity of being wound up) dangling from innumerable twigs; there were French-polished tables, chairs, bedsteads, wardrobes, eight-day clocks, and various other articles of domestic furniture (wonderfully made, in tin, at Wolverhampton), perched among the boughs, as if in preparation for some fairy housekeeping; there were jolly, broad-faced little men, much more agreeable in appearance than many real men — and no wonder, for their heads took off, and showed them to be full of sugar-plums; there were fiddles and drums; there were tambourines, books, work-boxes, paint-boxes, sweetmeat-boxes, peep-show boxes, and all kinds of boxes; there were trinkets for the elder girls, far brighter than any grown-up gold and jewels; there were baskets and pincushions in all devices; there were guns, swords, and banners; there were witches standing in enchanted rings of pasteboard, to tell fortunes; there were teetotums, humming-tops, needle-cases, pen-wipers, smelling-bottles, conversation-cards, bouquet-holders; real fruit, made artificially dazzling with gold leaf; imitation apples, pears, and walnuts, crammed with surprises; in short, as a pretty child, before me, delightedly whispered to another pretty child, her bosom friend, “There was everything, and more.” This motley collection of odd objects, clustering on the tree like magic fruit, and flashing back the bright looks directed towards it from every side — some of the diamond-eyes admiring it were hardly on a level with the table, and a few were languishing in timid wonder on the bosoms of pretty mothers, aunts, and nurses — made a lively realisation of the fancies of childhood; and set me thinking how all the trees that grow and all the things that come into existence on the earth, have their wild adornments at that well-remembered time.

Being now at home again, and alone, the only person in the house awake, my thoughts are drawn back, by a fascination which I do not care to resist, to my own childhood. I begin to consider, what do we all remember best upon the branches of the Christmas Tree of our own young Christmas days, by which we climbed to real life.

Straight, in the middle of the room, cramped in the freedom of its growth by no encircling walls or soon-reached ceiling, a shadowy tree arises; and, looking up into the dreamy brightness of its top — for I observe in this tree the singular property that it appears to grow downward towards the earth — I look into my youngest Christmas recollections!

All toys at first, I find. Up yonder, among the green holly and red berries, is the Tumbler with his hands in his pockets, who wouldn’t lie down, but whenever he was put upon the floor, persisted in rolling his fat body about, until he rolled himself still, and brought those lobster eyes of his to bear upon me — when I affected to laugh very much, but in my heart of hearts was extremely doubtful of him. Close beside him is that infernal snuff-box, out of which there sprang a demoniacal Counsellor in a black gown, with an obnoxious head of hair, and a red cloth mouth, wide open, who was not to be endured on any terms, but could not be put away either; for he used suddenly, in a highly magnified state, to fly out of Mammoth Snuff-boxes in dreams, when least expected. Nor is the frog with cobbler’s wax on his tail, far off; for there was no knowing where he wouldn’t jump; and when he flew over the candle, and came upon one’s hand with that spotted back — red on a green ground — he was horrible. The cardboard lady in a blue-silk skirt, who was stood up against the candlestick to dance, and whom I see on the same branch, was milder, and was beautiful; but I can’t say as much for the larger cardboard man, who used to be hung against the wall and pulled by a string; there was a sinister expression in that nose of his; and when he got his legs round his neck (which he very often did), he was ghastly, and not a creature to be alone with.

When did that dreadful Mask first look at me? Who put it on, and why was I so frightened that the sight of it is an era in my life? It is not a hideous visage in itself; it is even meant to be droll, why then were its stolid features so intolerable? Surely not because it hid the wearer’s face. An apron would have done as much; and though I should have preferred even the apron away, it would not have been absolutely insupportable, like the mask. Was it the immovability of the mask? The doll’s face was immovable, but I was not afraid of HER. Perhaps that fixed and set change coming over a real face, infused into my quickened heart some remote suggestion and dread of the universal change that is to come on every face, and make it still? Nothing reconciled me to it. No drummers, from whom proceeded a melancholy chirping on the turning of a handle; no regiment of soldiers, with a mute band, taken out of a box, and fitted, one by one, upon a stiff and lazy little set of lazy-tongs; no old woman, made of wires and a brown-paper composition, cutting up a pie for two small children; could give me a permanent comfort, for a long time. Nor was it any satisfaction to be shown the Mask, and see that it was made of paper, or to have it locked up and be assured that no one wore it. The mere recollection of that fixed face, the mere knowledge of its existence anywhere, was sufficient to awake me in the night all perspiration and horror, with, “O I know it’s coming! O the mask!”

I never wondered what the dear old donkey with the panniers — there he is! was made of, then! His hide was real to the touch, I recollect. And the great black horse with the round red spots all over him — the horse that I could even get upon — I never wondered what had brought him to that strange condition, or thought that such a horse was not commonly seen at Newmarket. The four horses of no colour, next to him, that went into the waggon of cheeses, and could be taken out and stabled under the piano, appear to have bits of fur-tippet for their tails, and other bits for their manes, and to stand on pegs instead of legs, but it was not so when they were brought home for a Christmas present. They were all right, then; neither was their harness unceremoniously nailed into their chests, as appears to be the case now. The tinkling works of the music- cart, I DID find out, to be made of quill tooth-picks and wire; and I always thought that little tumbler in his shirt sleeves, perpetually swarming up one side of a wooden frame, and coming down, head foremost, on the other, rather a weak-minded person — though good-natured; but the Jacob’s Ladder, next him, made of little squares of red wood, that went flapping and clattering over one another, each developing a different picture, and the whole enlivened by small bells, was a mighty marvel and a great delight.

Ah! The Doll’s house! — of which I was not proprietor, but where I visited. I don’t admire the Houses of Parliament half so much as that stone-fronted mansion with real glass windows, and door-steps, and a real balcony — greener than I ever see now, except at watering places; and even they afford but a poor imitation. And though it DID open all at once, the entire house-front (which was a blow, I admit, as cancelling the fiction of a staircase), it was but to shut it up again, and I could believe. Even open, there were three distinct rooms in it: a sitting-room and bed-room, elegantly furnished, and best of all, a kitchen, with uncommonly soft fire- irons, a plentiful assortment of diminutive utensils — oh, the warming-pan! — and a tin man-cook in profile, who was always going to fry two fish. What Barmecide justice have I done to the noble feasts wherein the set of wooden platters figured, each with its own peculiar delicacy, as a ham or turkey, glued tight on to it, and garnished with something green, which I recollect as moss! Could all the Temperance Societies of these later days, united, give me such a tea-drinking as I have had through the means of yonder little set of blue crockery, which really would hold liquid (it ran out of the small wooden cask, I recollect, and tasted of matches), and which made tea, nectar. And if the two legs of the ineffectual little sugar-tongs did tumble over one another, and want purpose, like Punch’s hands, what does it matter? And if I did once shriek out, as a poisoned child, and strike the fashionable company with consternation, by reason of having drunk a little teaspoon, inadvertently dissolved in too hot tea, I was never the worse for it, except by a powder!

Upon the next branches of the tree, lower down, hard by the green roller and miniature gardening-tools, how thick the books begin to hang. Thin books, in themselves, at first, but many of them, and with deliciously smooth covers of bright red or green. What fat black letters to begin with! “A was an archer, and shot at a frog.” Of course he was. He was an apple-pie also, and there he is! He was a good many things in his time, was A, and so were most of his friends, except X, who had so little versatility, that I never knew him to get beyond Xerxes or Xantippe — like Y, who was always confined to a Yacht or a Yew Tree; and Z condemned for ever to be a Zebra or a Zany. But, now, the very tree itself changes, and becomes a bean-stalk — the marvellous bean-stalk up which Jack climbed to the Giant’s house! And now, those dreadfully interesting, double-headed giants, with their clubs over their shoulders, begin to stride along the boughs in a perfect throng, dragging knights and ladies home for dinner by the hair of their heads. And Jack — how noble, with his sword of sharpness, and his shoes of swiftness! Again those old meditations come upon me as I gaze up at him; and I debate within myself whether there was more than one Jack (which I am loth to believe possible), or only one genuine original admirable Jack, who achieved all the recorded exploits.

Good for Christmas-time is the ruddy colour of the cloak, in which — the tree making a forest of itself for her to trip through, with her basket — Little Red Riding-Hood comes to me one Christmas Eve to give me information of the cruelty and treachery of that dissembling Wolf who ate her grandmother, without making any impression on his appetite, and then ate her, after making that ferocious joke about his teeth. She was my first love. I felt that if I could have married Little Red Riding-Hood, I should have known perfect bliss. But, it was not to be; and there was nothing for it but to look out the Wolf in the Noah’s Ark there, and put him late in the procession on the table, as a monster who was to be degraded. O the wonderful Noah’s Ark! It was not found seaworthy when put in a washing-tub, and the animals were crammed in at the roof, and needed to have their legs well shaken down before they could be got in, even there — and then, ten to one but they began to tumble out at the door, which was but imperfectly fastened with a wire latch — but what was THAT against it! Consider the noble fly, a size or two smaller than the elephant: the lady-bird, the butterfly — all triumphs of art! Consider the goose, whose feet were so small, and whose balance was so indifferent, that he usually tumbled forward, and knocked down all the animal creation. Consider Noah and his family, like idiotic tobacco-stoppers; and how the leopard stuck to warm little fingers; and how the tails of the larger animals used gradually to resolve themselves into frayed bits of string!

Hush! Again a forest, and somebody up in a tree — not Robin Hood, not Valentine, not the Yellow Dwarf (I have passed him and all Mother Bunch’s wonders, without mention), but an Eastern King with a glittering scimitar and turban. By Allah! two Eastern Kings, for I see another, looking over his shoulder! Down upon the grass, at the tree’s foot, lies the full length of a coal-black Giant, stretched asleep, with his head in a lady’s lap; and near them is a glass box, fastened with four locks of shining steel, in which he keeps the lady prisoner when he is awake. I see the four keys at his girdle now. The lady makes signs to the two kings in the tree, who softly descend. It is the setting-in of the bright Arabian Nights.

Oh, now all common things become uncommon and enchanted to me. All lamps are wonderful; all rings are talismans. Common flower-pots are full of treasure, with a little earth scattered on the top; trees are for Ali Baba to hide in; beef-steaks are to throw down into the Valley of Diamonds, that the precious stones may stick to them, and be carried by the eagles to their nests, whence the traders, with loud cries, will scare them. Tarts are made, according to the recipe of the Vizier’s son of Bussorah, who turned pastrycook after he was set down in his drawers at the gate of Damascus; cobblers are all Mustaphas, and in the habit of sewing up people cut into four pieces, to whom they are taken blind-fold.

Any iron ring let into stone is the entrance to a cave which only waits for the magician, and the little fire, and the necromancy, that will make the earth shake. All the dates imported come from the same tree as that unlucky date, with whose shell the merchant knocked out the eye of the genie’s invisible son. All olives are of the stock of that fresh fruit, concerning which the Commander of the Faithful overheard the boy conduct the fictitious trial of the fraudulent olive merchant; all apples are akin to the apple purchased (with two others) from the Sultan’s gardener for three sequins, and which the tall black slave stole from the child. All dogs are associated with the dog, really a transformed man, who jumped upon the baker’s counter, and put his paw on the piece of bad money. All rice recalls the rice which the awful lady, who was a ghoule, could only peck by grains, because of her nightly feasts in the burial-place. My very rocking-horse, — there he is, with his nostrils turned completely inside-out, indicative of Blood! — should have a peg in his neck, by virtue thereof to fly away with me, as the wooden horse did with the Prince of Persia, in the sight of all his father’s Court.

Yes, on every object that I recognise among those upper branches of my Christmas Tree, I see this fairy light! When I wake in bed, at daybreak, on the cold, dark, winter mornings, the white snow dimly beheld, outside, through the frost on the window-pane, I hear Dinarzade. “Sister, sister, if you are yet awake, I pray you finish the history of the Young King of the Black Islands.” Scheherazade replies, “If my lord the Sultan will suffer me to live another day, sister, I will not only finish that, but tell you a more wonderful story yet.” Then, the gracious Sultan goes out, giving no orders for the execution, and we all three breathe again.

At this height of my tree I begin to see, cowering among the leaves — it may be born of turkey, or of pudding, or mince pie, or of these many fancies, jumbled with Robinson Crusoe on his desert island, Philip Quarll among the monkeys, Sandford and Merton with Mr. Barlow, Mother Bunch, and the Mask — or it may be the result of indigestion, assisted by imagination and over-doctoring — a prodigious nightmare. It is so exceedingly indistinct, that I don’t know why it’s frightful — but I know it is. I can only make out that it is an immense array of shapeless things, which appear to be planted on a vast exaggeration of the lazy-tongs that used to bear the toy soldiers, and to be slowly coming close to my eyes, and receding to an immeasurable distance. When it comes closest, it is worse. In connection with it I descry remembrances of winter nights incredibly long; of being sent early to bed, as a punishment for some small offence, and waking in two hours, with a sensation of having been asleep two nights; of the laden hopelessness of morning ever dawning; and the oppression of a weight of remorse.

And now, I see a wonderful row of little lights rise smoothly out of the ground, before a vast green curtain. Now, a bell rings — a magic bell, which still sounds in my ears unlike all other bells — and music plays, amidst a buzz of voices, and a fragrant smell of orange-peel and oil. Anon, the magic bell commands the music to cease, and the great green curtain rolls itself up majestically, and The Play begins! The devoted dog of Montargis avenges the death of his master, foully murdered in the Forest of Bondy; and a humorous Peasant with a red nose and a very little hat, whom I take from this hour forth to my bosom as a friend (I think he was a Waiter or an Hostler at a village Inn, but many years have passed since he and I have met), remarks that the sassigassity of that dog is indeed surprising; and evermore this jocular conceit will live in my remembrance fresh and unfading, overtopping all possible jokes, unto the end of time. Or now, I learn with bitter tears how poor Jane Shore, dressed all in white, and with her brown hair hanging down, went starving through the streets; or how George Barnwell killed the worthiest uncle that ever man had, and was afterwards so sorry for it that he ought to have been let off. Comes swift to comfort me, the Pantomime — stupendous Phenomenon! — when clowns are shot from loaded mortars into the great chandelier, bright constellation that it is; when Harlequins, covered all over with scales of pure gold, twist and sparkle, like amazing fish; when Pantaloon (whom I deem it no irreverence to compare in my own mind to my grandfather) puts red-hot pokers in his pocket, and cries “Here’s somebody coming!” or taxes the Clown with petty larceny, by saying, “Now, I sawed you do it!” when Everything is capable, with the greatest ease, of being changed into Anything; and “Nothing is, but thinking makes it so.” Now, too, I perceive my first experience of the dreary sensation — often to return in after-life — of being unable, next day, to get back to the dull, settled world; of wanting to live for ever in the bright atmosphere I have quitted; of doting on the little Fairy, with the wand like a celestial Barber’s Pole, and pining for a Fairy immortality along with her. Ah, she comes back, in many shapes, as my eye wanders down the branches of my Christmas Tree, and goes as often, and has never yet stayed by me!

Out of this delight springs the toy-theatre, — there it is, with its familiar proscenium, and ladies in feathers, in the boxes! — and all its attendant occupation with paste and glue, and gum, and water colours, in the getting-up of The Miller and his Men, and Elizabeth, or the Exile of Siberia. In spite of a few besetting accidents and failures (particularly an unreasonable disposition in the respectable Kelmar, and some others, to become faint in the legs, and double up, at exciting points of the drama), a teeming world of fancies so suggestive and all-embracing, that, far below it on my Christmas Tree, I see dark, dirty, real Theatres in the day-time, adorned with these associations as with the freshest garlands of the rarest flowers, and charming me yet.

But hark! The Waits are playing, and they break my childish sleep! What images do I associate with the Christmas music as I see them set forth on the Christmas Tree? Known before all the others, keeping far apart from all the others, they gather round my little bed. An angel, speaking to a group of shepherds in a field; some travellers, with eyes uplifted, following a star; a baby in a manger; a child in a spacious temple, talking with grave men; a solemn figure, with a mild and beautiful face, raising a dead girl by the hand; again, near a city gate, calling back the son of a widow, on his bier, to life; a crowd of people looking through the opened roof of a chamber where he sits, and letting down a sick person on a bed, with ropes; the same, in a tempest, walking on the water to a ship; again, on a sea-shore, teaching a great multitude; again, with a child upon his knee, and other children round; again, restoring sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, hearing to the deaf, health to the sick, strength to the lame, knowledge to the ignorant; again, dying upon a Cross, watched by armed soldiers, a thick darkness coming on, the earth beginning to shake, and only one voice heard, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Still, on the lower and maturer branches of the Tree, Christmas associations cluster thick. School-books shut up; Ovid and Virgil silenced; the Rule of Three, with its cool impertinent inquiries, long disposed of; Terence and Plautus acted no more, in an arena of huddled desks and forms, all chipped, and notched, and inked; cricket-bats, stumps, and balls, left higher up, with the smell of trodden grass and the softened noise of shouts in the evening air; the tree is still fresh, still gay. If I no more come home at Christmas-time, there will be boys and girls (thank Heaven!) while the World lasts; and they do! Yonder they dance and play upon the branches of my Tree, God bless them, merrily, and my heart dances and plays too!

And I do come home at Christmas. We all do, or we all should. We all come home, or ought to come home, for a short holiday — the longer, the better — from the great boarding-school, where we are for ever working at our arithmetical slates, to take, and give a rest. As to going a visiting, where can we not go, if we will; where have we not been, when we would; starting our fancy from our Christmas Tree!

Away into the winter prospect. There are many such upon the tree! On, by low-lying, misty grounds, through fens and fogs, up long hills, winding dark as caverns between thick plantations, almost shutting out the sparkling stars; so, out on broad heights, until we stop at last, with sudden silence, at an avenue. The gate-bell has a deep, half-awful sound in the frosty air; the gate swings open on its hinges; and, as we drive up to a great house, the glancing lights grow larger in the windows, and the opposing rows of trees seem to fall solemnly back on either side, to give us place. At intervals, all day, a frightened hare has shot across this whitened turf; or the distant clatter of a herd of deer trampling the hard frost, has, for the minute, crushed the silence too. Their watchful eyes beneath the fern may be shining now, if we could see them, like the icy dewdrops on the leaves; but they are still, and all is still. And so, the lights growing larger, and the trees falling back before us, and closing up again behind us, as if to forbid retreat, we come to the house.

There is probably a smell of roasted chestnuts and other good comfortable things all the time, for we are telling Winter Stories — Ghost Stories, or more shame for us — round the Christmas fire; and we have never stirred, except to draw a little nearer to it. But, no matter for that. We came to the house, and it is an old house, full of great chimneys where wood is burnt on ancient dogs upon the hearth, and grim portraits (some of them with grim legends, too) lower distrustfully from the oaken panels of the walls. We are a middle-aged nobleman, and we make a generous supper with our host and hostess and their guests — it being Christmas-time, and the old house full of company — and then we go to bed. Our room is a very old room. It is hung with tapestry. We don’t like the portrait of a cavalier in green, over the fireplace. There are great black beams in the ceiling, and there is a great black bedstead, supported at the foot by two great black figures, who seem to have come off a couple of tombs in the old baronial church in the park, for our particular accommodation. But, we are not a superstitious nobleman, and we don’t mind. Well! we dismiss our servant, lock the door, and sit before the fire in our dressing-gown, musing about a great many things. At length we go to bed. Well! we can’t sleep. We toss and tumble, and can’t sleep. The embers on the hearth burn fitfully and make the room look ghostly. We can’t help peeping out over the counterpane, at the two black figures and the cavalier — that wicked- looking cavalier — in green. In the flickering light they seem to advance and retire: which, though we are not by any means a superstitious nobleman, is not agreeable. Well! we get nervous — more and more nervous. We say “This is very foolish, but we can’t stand this; we’ll pretend to be ill, and knock up somebody.” Well! we are just going to do it, when the locked door opens, and there comes in a young woman, deadly pale, and with long fair hair, who glides to the fire, and sits down in the chair we have left there, wringing her hands. Then, we notice that her clothes are wet. Our tongue cleaves to the roof of our mouth, and we can’t speak; but, we observe her accurately. Her clothes are wet; her long hair is dabbled with moist mud; she is dressed in the fashion of two hundred years ago; and she has at her girdle a bunch of rusty keys. Well! there she sits, and we can’t even faint, we are in such a state about it. Presently she gets up, and tries all the locks in the room with the rusty keys, which won’t fit one of them; then, she fixes her eyes on the portrait of the cavalier in green, and says, in a low, terrible voice, “The stags know it!” After that, she wrings her hands again, passes the bedside, and goes out at the door. We hurry on our dressing-gown, seize our pistols (we always travel with pistols), and are following, when we find the door locked. We turn the key, look out into the dark gallery; no one there. We wander away, and try to find our servant. Can’t be done. We pace the gallery till daybreak; then return to our deserted room, fall asleep, and are awakened by our servant (nothing ever haunts him) and the shining sun. Well! we make a wretched breakfast, and all the company say we look queer. After breakfast, we go over the house with our host, and then we take him to the portrait of the cavalier in green, and then it all comes out. He was false to a young housekeeper once attached to that family, and famous for her beauty, who drowned herself in a pond, and whose body was discovered, after a long time, because the stags refused to drink of the water. Since which, it has been whispered that she traverses the house at midnight (but goes especially to that room where the cavalier in green was wont to sleep), trying the old locks with the rusty keys. Well! we tell our host of what we have seen, and a shade comes over his features, and he begs it may be hushed up; and so it is. But, it’s all true; and we said so, before we died (we are dead now) to many responsible people.

There is no end to the old houses, with resounding galleries, and dismal state-bedchambers, and haunted wings shut up for many years, through which we may ramble, with an agreeable creeping up our back, and encounter any number of ghosts, but (it is worthy of remark perhaps) reducible to a very few general types and classes; for, ghosts have little originality, and “walk” in a beaten track. Thus, it comes to pass, that a certain room in a certain old hall, where a certain bad lord, baronet, knight, or gentleman, shot himself, has certain planks in the floor from which the blood WILL NOT be taken out. You may scrape and scrape, as the present owner has done, or plane and plane, as his father did, or scrub and scrub, as his grandfather did, or burn and burn with strong acids, as his great- grandfather did, but, there the blood will still be — no redder and no paler — no more and no less — always just the same. Thus, in such another house there is a haunted door, that never will keep open; or another door that never will keep shut, or a haunted sound of a spinning-wheel, or a hammer, or a footstep, or a cry, or a sigh, or a horse’s tramp, or the rattling of a chain. Or else, there is a turret-clock, which, at the midnight hour, strikes thirteen when the head of the family is going to die; or a shadowy, immovable black carriage which at such a time is always seen by somebody, waiting near the great gates in the stable-yard. Or thus, it came to pass how Lady Mary went to pay a visit at a large wild house in the Scottish Highlands, and, being fatigued with her long journey, retired to bed early, and innocently said, next morning, at the breakfast-table, “How odd, to have so late a party last night, in this remote place, and not to tell me of it, before I went to bed!” Then, every one asked Lady Mary what she meant? Then, Lady Mary replied, “Why, all night long, the carriages were driving round and round the terrace, underneath my window!” Then, the owner of the house turned pale, and so did his Lady, and Charles Macdoodle of Macdoodle signed to Lady Mary to say no more, and every one was silent. After breakfast, Charles Macdoodle told Lady Mary that it was a tradition in the family that those rumbling carriages on the terrace betokened death. And so it proved, for, two months afterwards, the Lady of the mansion died. And Lady Mary, who was a Maid of Honour at Court, often told this story to the old Queen Charlotte; by this token that the old King always said, “Eh, eh? What, what? Ghosts, ghosts? No such thing, no such thing!” And never left off saying so, until he went to bed.

Or, a friend of somebody’s whom most of us know, when he was a young man at college, had a particular friend, with whom he made the compact that, if it were possible for the Spirit to return to this earth after its separation from the body, he of the twain who first died, should reappear to the other. In course of time, this compact was forgotten by our friend; the two young men having progressed in life, and taken diverging paths that were wide asunder. But, one night, many years afterwards, our friend being in the North of England, and staying for the night in an inn, on the Yorkshire Moors, happened to look out of bed; and there, in the moonlight, leaning on a bureau near the window, steadfastly regarding him, saw his old college friend! The appearance being solemnly addressed, replied, in a kind of whisper, but very audibly, “Do not come near me. I am dead. I am here to redeem my promise. I come from another world, but may not disclose its secrets!” Then, the whole form becoming paler, melted, as it were, into the moonlight, and faded away.

Or, there was the daughter of the first occupier of the picturesque Elizabethan house, so famous in our neighbourhood. You have heard about her? No! Why, SHE went out one summer evening at twilight, when she was a beautiful girl, just seventeen years of age, to gather flowers in the garden; and presently came running, terrified, into the hall to her father, saying, “Oh, dear father, I have met myself!” He took her in his arms, and told her it was fancy, but she said, “Oh no! I met myself in the broad walk, and I was pale and gathering withered flowers, and I turned my head, and held them up!” And, that night, she died; and a picture of her story was begun, though never finished, and they say it is somewhere in the house to this day, with its face to the wall.

Or, the uncle of my brother’s wife was riding home on horseback, one mellow evening at sunset, when, in a green lane close to his own house, he saw a man standing before him, in the very centre of a narrow way. “Why does that man in the cloak stand there!” he thought. “Does he want me to ride over him?” But the figure never moved. He felt a strange sensation at seeing it so still, but slackened his trot and rode forward. When he was so close to it, as almost to touch it with his stirrup, his horse shied, and the figure glided up the bank, in a curious, unearthly manner — backward, and without seeming to use its feet — and was gone. The uncle of my brother’s wife, exclaiming, “Good Heaven! It’s my cousin Harry, from Bombay!” put spurs to his horse, which was suddenly in a profuse sweat, and, wondering at such strange behaviour, dashed round to the front of his house. There, he saw the same figure, just passing in at the long French window of the drawing-room, opening on the ground. He threw his bridle to a servant, and hastened in after it. His sister was sitting there, alone. “Alice, where’s my cousin Harry?” “Your cousin Harry, John?” “Yes. From Bombay. I met him in the lane just now, and saw him enter here, this instant.” Not a creature had been seen by any one; and in that hour and minute, as it afterwards appeared, this cousin died in India.

Or, it was a certain sensible old maiden lady, who died at ninety- nine, and retained her faculties to the last, who really did see the Orphan Boy; a story which has often been incorrectly told, but, of which the real truth is this — because it is, in fact, a story belonging to our family — and she was a connection of our family. When she was about forty years of age, and still an uncommonly fine woman (her lover died young, which was the reason why she never married, though she had many offers), she went to stay at a place in Kent, which her brother, an Indian-Merchant, had newly bought. There was a story that this place had once been held in trust by the guardian of a young boy; who was himself the next heir, and who killed the young boy by harsh and cruel treatment. She knew nothing of that. It has been said that there was a Cage in her bedroom in which the guardian used to put the boy. There was no such thing. There was only a closet. She went to bed, made no alarm whatever in the night, and in the morning said composedly to her maid when she came in, “Who is the pretty forlorn-looking child who has been peeping out of that closet all night?” The maid replied by giving a loud scream, and instantly decamping. She was surprised; but she was a woman of remarkable strength of mind, and she dressed herself and went downstairs, and closeted herself with her brother. “Now, Walter,” she said, “I have been disturbed all night by a pretty, forlorn-looking boy, who has been constantly peeping out of that closet in my room, which I can’t open. This is some trick.” “I am afraid not, Charlotte,” said he, “for it is the legend of the house. It is the Orphan Boy. What did he do?” “He opened the door softly,” said she, “and peeped out. Sometimes, he came a step or two into the room. Then, I called to him, to encourage him, and he shrunk, and shuddered, and crept in again, and shut the door.” “The closet has no communication, Charlotte,” said her brother, “with any other part of the house, and it’s nailed up.” This was undeniably true, and it took two carpenters a whole forenoon to get it open, for examination. Then, she was satisfied that she had seen the Orphan Boy. But, the wild and terrible part of the story is, that he was also seen by three of her brother’s sons, in succession, who all died young. On the occasion of each child being taken ill, he came home in a heat, twelve hours before, and said, Oh, Mamma, he had been playing under a particular oak-tree, in a certain meadow, with a strange boy — a pretty, forlorn-looking boy, who was very timid, and made signs! From fatal experience, the parents came to know that this was the Orphan Boy, and that the course of that child whom he chose for his little playmate was surely run.

Legion is the name of the German castles, where we sit up alone to wait for the Spectre — where we are shown into a room, made comparatively cheerful for our reception — where we glance round at the shadows, thrown on the blank walls by the crackling fire — where we feel very lonely when the village innkeeper and his pretty daughter have retired, after laying down a fresh store of wood upon the hearth, and setting forth on the small table such supper-cheer as a cold roast capon, bread, grapes, and a flask of old Rhine wine — where the reverberating doors close on their retreat, one after another, like so many peals of sullen thunder — and where, about the small hours of the night, we come into the knowledge of divers supernatural mysteries. Legion is the name of the haunted German students, in whose society we draw yet nearer to the fire, while the schoolboy in the corner opens his eyes wide and round, and flies off the footstool he has chosen for his seat, when the door accidentally blows open. Vast is the crop of such fruit, shining on our Christmas Tree; in blossom, almost at the very top; ripening all down the boughs!

Among the later toys and fancies hanging there — as idle often and less pure — be the images once associated with the sweet old Waits, the softened music in the night, ever unalterable! Encircled by the social thoughts of Christmas-time, still let the benignant figure of my childhood stand unchanged! In every cheerful image and suggestion that the season brings, may the bright star that rested above the poor roof, be the star of all the Christian World! A moment’s pause, O vanishing tree, of which the lower boughs are dark to me as yet, and let me look once more! I know there are blank spaces on thy branches, where eyes that I have loved have shone and smiled; from which they are departed. But, far above, I see the raiser of the dead girl, and the Widow’s Son; and God is good! If Age be hiding for me in the unseen portion of thy downward growth, O may I, with a grey head, turn a child’s heart to that figure yet, and a child’s trustfulness and confidence!

Now, the tree is decorated with bright merriment, and song, and dance, and cheerfulness. And they are welcome. Innocent and welcome be they ever held, beneath the branches of the Christmas Tree, which cast no gloomy shadow! But, as it sinks into the ground, I hear a whisper going through the leaves. “This, in commemoration of the law of love and kindness, mercy and compassion. This, in remembrance of Me!”


WHAT CHRISTMAS IS AS WE GROW OLDER

Time was, with most of us, when Christmas Day encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and every one around the Christmas fire; and made the little picture shining in our bright young eyes, complete.

Time came, perhaps, all so soon, when our thoughts over-leaped that narrow boundary; when there was some one (very dear, we thought then, very beautiful, and absolutely perfect) wanting to the fulness of our happiness; when we were wanting too (or we thought so, which did just as well) at the Christmas hearth by which that some one sat; and when we intertwined with every wreath and garland of our life that some one’s name.

That was the time for the bright visionary Christmases which have long arisen from us to show faintly, after summer rain, in the palest edges of the rainbow! That was the time for the beatified enjoyment of the things that were to be, and never were, and yet the things that were so real in our resolute hope that it would be hard to say, now, what realities achieved since, have been stronger!

What! Did that Christmas never really come when we and the priceless pearl who was our young choice were received, after the happiest of totally impossible marriages, by the two united families previously at daggers — drawn on our account? When brothers and sisters-in-law who had always been rather cool to us before our relationship was effected, perfectly doted on us, and when fathers and mothers overwhelmed us with unlimited incomes? Was that Christmas dinner never really eaten, after which we arose, and generously and eloquently rendered honour to our late rival, present in the company, then and there exchanging friendship and forgiveness, and founding an attachment, not to be surpassed in Greek or Roman story, which subsisted until death? Has that same rival long ceased to care for that same priceless pearl, and married for money, and become usurious? Above all, do we really know, now, that we should probably have been miserable if we had won and worn the pearl, and that we are better without her?

That Christmas when we had recently achieved so much fame; when we had been carried in triumph somewhere, for doing something great and good; when we had won an honoured and ennobled name, and arrived and were received at home in a shower of tears of joy; is it possible that THAT Christmas has not come yet?

And is our life here, at the best, so constituted that, pausing as we advance at such a noticeable mile-stone in the track as this great birthday, we look back on the things that never were, as naturally and full as gravely as on the things that have been and are gone, or have been and still are? If it be so, and so it seems to be, must we come to the conclusion that life is little better than a dream, and little worth the loves and strivings that we crowd into it?

No! Far be such miscalled philosophy from us, dear Reader, on Christmas Day! Nearer and closer to our hearts be the Christmas spirit, which is the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance, cheerful discharge of duty, kindness and forbearance! It is in the last virtues especially, that we are, or should be, strengthened by the unaccomplished visions of our youth; for, who shall say that they are not our teachers to deal gently even with the impalpable nothings of the earth!

Therefore, as we grow older, let us be more thankful that the circle of our Christmas associations and of the lessons that they bring, expands! Let us welcome every one of them, and summon them to take their places by the Christmas hearth.

Welcome, old aspirations, glittering creatures of an ardent fancy, to your shelter underneath the holly! We know you, and have not outlived you yet. Welcome, old projects and old loves, however fleeting, to your nooks among the steadier lights that burn around us. Welcome, all that was ever real to our hearts; and for the earnestness that made you real, thanks to Heaven! Do we build no Christmas castles in the clouds now? Let our thoughts, fluttering like butterflies among these flowers of children, bear witness! Before this boy, there stretches out a Future, brighter than we ever looked on in our old romantic time, but bright with honour and with truth. Around this little head on which the sunny curls lie heaped, the graces sport, as prettily, as airily, as when there was no scythe within the reach of Time to shear away the curls of our first-love. Upon another girl’s face near it — placider but smiling bright — a quiet and contented little face, we see Home fairly written. Shining from the word, as rays shine from a star, we see how, when our graves are old, other hopes than ours are young, other hearts than ours are moved; how other ways are smoothed; how other happiness blooms, ripens, and decays — no, not decays, for other homes and other bands of children, not yet in being nor for ages yet to be, arise, and bloom and ripen to the end of all!

Welcome, everything! Welcome, alike what has been, and what never was, and what we hope may be, to your shelter underneath the holly, to your places round the Christmas fire, where what is sits open- hearted! In yonder shadow, do we see obtruding furtively upon the blaze, an enemy’s face? By Christmas Day we do forgive him! If the injury he has done us may admit of such companionship, let him come here and take his place. If otherwise, unhappily, let him go hence, assured that we will never injure nor accuse him.

On this day we shut out Nothing!

“Pause,” says a low voice. “Nothing? Think!”

“On Christmas Day, we will shut out from our fireside, Nothing.”

“Not the shadow of a vast City where the withered leaves are lying deep?” the voice replies. “Not the shadow that darkens the whole globe? Not the shadow of the City of the Dead?”

Not even that. Of all days in the year, we will turn our faces towards that City upon Christmas Day, and from its silent hosts bring those we loved, among us. City of the Dead, in the blessed name wherein we are gathered together at this time, and in the Presence that is here among us according to the promise, we will receive, and not dismiss, thy people who are dear to us!

Yes. We can look upon these children angels that alight, so solemnly, so beautifully among the living children by the fire, and can bear to think how they departed from us. Entertaining angels unawares, as the Patriarchs did, the playful children are unconscious of their guests; but we can see them — can see a radiant arm around one favourite neck, as if there were a tempting of that child away. Among the celestial figures there is one, a poor misshapen boy on earth, of a glorious beauty now, of whom his dying mother said it grieved her much to leave him here, alone, for so many years as it was likely would elapse before he came to her — being such a little child. But he went quickly, and was laid upon her breast, and in her hand she leads him.

There was a gallant boy, who fell, far away, upon a burning sand beneath a burning sun, and said, “Tell them at home, with my last love, how much I could have wished to kiss them once, but that I died contented and had done my duty!” Or there was another, over whom they read the words, “Therefore we commit his body to the deep,” and so consigned him to the lonely ocean and sailed on. Or there was another, who lay down to his rest in the dark shadow of great forests, and, on earth, awoke no more. O shall they not, from sand and sea and forest, be brought home at such a time!

There was a dear girl — almost a woman — never to be one — who made a mourning Christmas in a house of joy, and went her trackless way to the silent City. Do we recollect her, worn out, faintly whispering what could not be heard, and falling into that last sleep for weariness? O look upon her now! O look upon her beauty, her serenity, her changeless youth, her happiness! The daughter of Jairus was recalled to life, to die; but she, more blest, has heard the same voice, saying unto her, “Arise for ever!”

We had a friend who was our friend from early days, with whom we often pictured the changes that were to come upon our lives, and merrily imagined how we would speak, and walk, and think, and talk, when we came to be old. His destined habitation in the City of the Dead received him in his prime. Shall he be shut out from our Christmas remembrance? Would his love have so excluded us? Lost friend, lost child, lost parent, sister, brother, husband, wife, we will not so discard you! You shall hold your cherished places in our Christmas hearts, and by our Christmas fires; and in the season of immortal hope, and on the birthday of immortal mercy, we will shut out Nothing!

The winter sun goes down over town and village; on the sea it makes a rosy path, as if the Sacred tread were fresh upon the water. A few more moments, and it sinks, and night comes on, and lights begin to sparkle in the prospect. On the hill-side beyond the shapelessly-diffused town, and in the quiet keeping of the trees that gird the village-steeple, remembrances are cut in stone, planted in common flowers, growing in grass, entwined with lowly brambles around many a mound of earth. In town and village, there are doors and windows closed against the weather, there are flaming logs heaped high, there are joyful faces, there is healthy music of voices. Be all ungentleness and harm excluded from the temples of the Household Gods, but be those remembrances admitted with tender encouragement! They are of the time and all its comforting and peaceful reassurances; and of the history that re-united even upon earth the living and the dead; and of the broad beneficence and goodness that too many men have tried to tear to narrow shreds.


THE POOR RELATION’S STORY

He was very reluctant to take precedence of so many respected members of the family, by beginning the round of stories they were to relate as they sat in a goodly circle by the Christmas fire; and he modestly suggested that it would be more correct if “John our esteemed host” (whose health he begged to drink) would have the kindness to begin. For as to himself, he said, he was so little used to lead the way that really — But as they all cried out here, that he must begin, and agreed with one voice that he might, could, would, and should begin, he left off rubbing his hands, and took his legs out from under his armchair, and did begin.

I have no doubt (said the poor relation) that I shall surprise the assembled members of our family, and particularly John our esteemed host to whom we are so much indebted for the great hospitality with which he has this day entertained us, by the confession I am going to make. But, if you do me the honour to be surprised at anything that falls from a person so unimportant in the family as I am, I can only say that I shall be scrupulously accurate in all I relate.

I am not what I am supposed to be. I am quite another thing. Perhaps before I go further, I had better glance at what I AM supposed to be.

It is supposed, unless I mistake — the assembled members of our family will correct me if I do, which is very likely (here the poor relation looked mildly about him for contradiction); that I am nobody’s enemy but my own. That I never met with any particular success in anything. That I failed in business because I was unbusiness-like and credulous — in not being prepared for the interested designs of my partner. That I failed in love, because I was ridiculously trustful — in thinking it impossible that Christiana could deceive me. That I failed in my expectations from my uncle Chill, on account of not being as sharp as he could have wished in worldly matters. That, through life, I have been rather put upon and disappointed in a general way. That I am at present a bachelor of between fifty-nine and sixty years of age, living on a limited income in the form of a quarterly allowance, to which I see that John our esteemed host wishes me to make no further allusion.

The supposition as to my present pursuits and habits is to the following effect.

I live in a lodging in the Clapham Road — a very clean back room, in a very respectable house — where I am expected not to be at home in the day-time, unless poorly; and which I usually leave in the morning at nine o’clock, on pretence of going to business. I take my breakfast — my roll and butter, and my half-pint of coffee — at the old-established coffee-shop near Westminster Bridge; and then I go into the City — I don’t know why — and sit in Garraway’s Coffee House, and on ‘Change, and walk about, and look into a few offices and counting-houses where some of my relations or acquaintance are so good as to tolerate me, and where I stand by the fire if the weather happens to be cold. I get through the day in this way until five o’clock, and then I dine: at a cost, on the average, of one and threepence. Having still a little money to spend on my evening’s entertainment, I look into the old-established coffee-shop as I go home, and take my cup of tea, and perhaps my bit of toast. So, as the large hand of the clock makes its way round to the morning hour again, I make my way round to the Clapham Road again, and go to bed when I get to my lodging — fire being expensive, and being objected to by the family on account of its giving trouble and making a dirt.

Sometimes, one of my relations or acquaintances is so obliging as to ask me to dinner. Those are holiday occasions, and then I generally walk in the Park. I am a solitary man, and seldom walk with anybody. Not that I am avoided because I am shabby; for I am not at all shabby, having always a very good suit of black on (or rather Oxford mixture, which has the appearance of black and wears much better); but I have got into a habit of speaking low, and being rather silent, and my spirits are not high, and I am sensible that I am not an attractive companion.

The only exception to this general rule is the child of my first cousin, Little Frank. I have a particular affection for that child, and he takes very kindly to me. He is a diffident boy by nature; and in a crowd he is soon run over, as I may say, and forgotten. He and I, however, get on exceedingly well. I have a fancy that the poor child will in time succeed to my peculiar position in the family. We talk but little; still, we understand each other. We walk about, hand in hand; and without much speaking he knows what I mean, and I know what he means. When he was very little indeed, I used to take him to the windows of the toy-shops, and show him the toys inside. It is surprising how soon he found out that I would have made him a great many presents if I had been in circumstances to do it.

Little Frank and I go and look at the outside of the Monument — he is very fond of the Monument — and at the Bridges, and at all the sights that are free. On two of my birthdays, we have dined on e-la-mode beef, and gone at half-price to the play, and been deeply interested. I was once walking with him in Lombard Street, which we often visit on account of my having mentioned to him that there are great riches there — he is very fond of Lombard Street — when a gentleman said to me as he passed by, “Sir, your little son has dropped his glove.” I assure you, if you will excuse my remarking on so trivial a circumstance, this accidental mention of the child as mine, quite touched my heart and brought the foolish tears into my eyes.

When Little Frank is sent to school in the country, I shall be very much at a loss what to do with myself, but I have the intention of walking down there once a month and seeing him on a half holiday. I am told he will then be at play upon the Heath; and if my visits should be objected to, as unsettling the child, I can see him from a distance without his seeing me, and walk back again. His mother comes of a highly genteel family, and rather disapproves, I am aware, of our being too much together. I know that I am not calculated to improve his retiring disposition; but I think he would miss me beyond the feeling of the moment if we were wholly separated.

When I die in the Clapham Road, I shall not leave much more in this world than I shall take out of it; but, I happen to have a miniature of a bright-faced boy, with a curling head, and an open shirt-frill waving down his bosom (my mother had it taken for me, but I can’t believe that it was ever like), which will be worth nothing to sell, and which I shall beg may he given to Frank. I have written my dear boy a little letter with it, in which I have told him that I felt very sorry to part from him, though bound to confess that I knew no reason why I should remain here. I have given him some short advice, the best in my power, to take warning of the consequences of being nobody’s enemy but his own; and I have endeavoured to comfort him for what I fear he will consider a bereavement, by pointing out to him, that I was only a superfluous something to every one but him; and that having by some means failed to find a place in this great assembly, I am better out of it.

Such (said the poor relation, clearing his throat and beginning to speak a little louder) is the general impression about me. Now, it is a remarkable circumstance which forms the aim and purpose of my story, that this is all wrong. This is not my life, and these are not my habits. I do not even live in the Clapham Road. Comparatively speaking, I am very seldom there. I reside, mostly, in a — I am almost ashamed to say the word, it sounds so full of pretension — in a Castle. I do not mean that it is an old baronial habitation, but still it is a building always known to every one by the name of a Castle. In it, I preserve the particulars of my history; they run thus:

It was when I first took John Spatter (who had been my clerk) into partnership, and when I was still a young man of not more than five- and-twenty, residing in the house of my uncle Chill, from whom I had considerable expectations, that I ventured to propose to Christiana. I had loved Christiana a long time. She was very beautiful, and very winning in all respects. I rather mistrusted her widowed mother, who I feared was of a plotting and mercenary turn of mind; but, I thought as well of her as I could, for Christiana’s sake. I never had loved any one but Christiana, and she had been all the world, and O far more than all the world, to me, from our childhood!

Christiana accepted me with her mother’s consent, and I was rendered very happy indeed. My life at my uncle Chill’s was of a spare dull kind, and my garret chamber was as dull, and bare, and cold, as an upper prison room in some stern northern fortress. But, having Christiana’s love, I wanted nothing upon earth. I would not have changed my lot with any human being.

Avarice was, unhappily, my uncle Chill’s master-vice. Though he was rich, he pinched, and scraped, and clutched, and lived miserably. As Christiana had no fortune, I was for some time a little fearful of confessing our engagement to him; but, at length I wrote him a letter, saying how it all truly was. I put it into his hand one night, on going to bed.

As I came down-stairs next morning, shivering in the cold December air; colder in my uncle’s unwarmed house than in the street, where the winter sun did sometimes shine, and which was at all events enlivened by cheerful faces and voices passing along; I carried a heavy heart towards the long, low breakfast-room in which my uncle sat. It was a large room with a small fire, and there was a great bay window in it which the rain had marked in the night as if with the tears of houseless people. It stared upon a raw yard, with a cracked stone pavement, and some rusted iron railings half uprooted, whence an ugly out-building that had once been a dissecting-room (in the time of the great surgeon who had mortgaged the house to my uncle), stared at it.

We rose so early always, that at that time of the year we breakfasted by candle-light. When I went into the room, my uncle was so contracted by the cold, and so huddled together in his chair behind the one dim candle, that I did not see him until I was close to the table.

As I held out my hand to him, he caught up his stick (being infirm, he always walked about the house with a stick), and made a blow at me, and said, “You fool!”

“Uncle,” I returned, “I didn’t expect you to be so angry as this.” Nor had I expected it, though he was a hard and angry old man.

“You didn’t expect!” said he; “when did you ever expect? When did you ever calculate, or look forward, you contemptible dog?”

“These are hard words, uncle!”

“Hard words? Feathers, to pelt such an idiot as you with,” said he. “Here! Betsy Snap! Look at him!”

Betsy Snap was a withered, hard-favoured, yellow old woman — our only domestic — always employed, at this time of the morning, in rubbing my uncle’s legs. As my uncle adjured her to look at me, he put his lean grip on the crown of her head, she kneeling beside him, and turned her face towards me. An involuntary thought connecting them both with the Dissecting Room, as it must often have been in the surgeon’s time, passed across my mind in the midst of my anxiety.

“Look at the snivelling milksop!” said my uncle. “Look at the baby! This is the gentleman who, people say, is nobody’s enemy but his own. This is the gentleman who can’t say no. This is the gentleman who was making such large profits in his business that he must needs take a partner, t’other day. This is the gentleman who is going to marry a wife without a penny, and who falls into the hands of Jezabels who are speculating on my death!”

I knew, now, how great my uncle’s rage was; for nothing short of his being almost beside himself would have induced him to utter that concluding word, which he held in such repugnance that it was never spoken or hinted at before him on any account.

“On my death,” he repeated, as if he were defying me by defying his own abhorrence of the word. “On my death — death — Death! But I’ll spoil the speculation. Eat your last under this roof, you feeble wretch, and may it choke you!”

You may suppose that I had not much appetite for the breakfast to which I was bidden in these terms; but, I took my accustomed seat. I saw that I was repudiated henceforth by my uncle; still I could bear that very well, possessing Christiana’s heart.

He emptied his basin of bread and milk as usual, only that he took it on his knees with his chair turned away from the table where I sat. When he had done, he carefully snuffed out the candle; and the cold, slate-coloured, miserable day looked in upon us.

“Now, Mr. Michael,” said he, “before we part, I should like to have a word with these ladies in your presence.”

“As you will, sir,” I returned; “but you deceive yourself, and wrong us, cruelly, if you suppose that there is any feeling at stake in this contract but pure, disinterested, faithful love.”

To this, he only replied, “You lie!” and not one other word.

We went, through half-thawed snow and half-frozen rain, to the house where Christiana and her mother lived. My uncle knew them very well. They were sitting at their breakfast, and were surprised to see us at that hour.

“Your servant, ma’am,” said my uncle to the mother. “You divine the purpose of my visit, I dare say, ma’am. I understand there is a world of pure, disinterested, faithful love cooped up here. I am happy to bring it all it wants, to make it complete. I bring you your son-in-law, ma’am — and you, your husband, miss. The gentleman is a perfect stranger to me, but I wish him joy of his wise bargain.”

He snarled at me as he went out, and I never saw him again.

It is altogether a mistake (continued the poor relation) to suppose that my dear Christiana, over-persuaded and influenced by her mother, married a rich man, the dirt from whose carriage wheels is often, in these changed times, thrown upon me as she rides by. No, no. She married me.

The way we came to be married rather sooner than we intended, was this. I took a frugal lodging and was saving and planning for her sake, when, one day, she spoke to me with great earnestness, and said:

“My dear Michael, I have given you my heart. I have said that I loved you, and I have pledged myself to be your wife. I am as much yours through all changes of good and evil as if we had been married on the day when such words passed between us. I know you well, and know that if we should be separated and our union broken off, your whole life would be shadowed, and all that might, even now, be stronger in your character for the conflict with the world would then be weakened to the shadow of what it is!”

“God help me, Christiana!” said I. “You speak the truth.”

“Michael!” said she, putting her hand in mine, in all maidenly devotion, “let us keep apart no longer. It is but for me to say that I can live contented upon such means as you have, and I well know you are happy. I say so from my heart. Strive no more alone; let us strive together. My dear Michael, it is not right that I should keep secret from you what you do not suspect, but what distresses my whole life. My mother: without considering that what you have lost, you have lost for me, and on the assurance of my faith: sets her heart on riches, and urges another suit upon me, to my misery. I cannot bear this, for to bear it is to be untrue to you. I would rather share your struggles than look on. I want no better home than you can give me. I know that you will aspire and labour with a higher courage if I am wholly yours, and let it be so when you will!”

I was blest indeed, that day, and a new world opened to me. We were married in a very little while, and I took my wife to our happy home. That was the beginning of the residence I have spoken of; the Castle we have ever since inhabited together, dates from that time. All our children have been born in it. Our first child — now married — was a little girl, whom we called Christiana. Her son is so like Little Frank, that I hardly know which is which.

The current impression as to my partner’s dealings with me is also quite erroneous. He did not begin to treat me coldly, as a poor simpleton, when my uncle and I so fatally quarrelled; nor did he afterwards gradually possess himself of our business and edge me out. On the contrary, he behaved to me with the utmost good faith and honour.

Matters between us took this turn:- On the day of my separation from my uncle, and even before the arrival at our counting-house of my trunks (which he sent after me, NOT carriage paid), I went down to our room of business, on our little wharf, overlooking the river; and there I told John Spatter what had happened. John did not say, in reply, that rich old relatives were palpable facts, and that love and sentiment were moonshine and fiction. He addressed me thus:

“Michael,” said John, “we were at school together, and I generally had the knack of getting on better than you, and making a higher reputation.”

“You had, John,” I returned.

“Although” said John, “I borrowed your books and lost them; borrowed your pocket-money, and never repaid it; got you to buy my damaged knives at a higher price than I had given for them new; and to own to the windows that I had broken.”

“All not worth mentioning, John Spatter,” said I, “but certainly true.”

“When you were first established in this infant business, which promises to thrive so well,” pursued John, “I came to you, in my search for almost any employment, and you made me your clerk.”

“Still not worth mentioning, my dear John Spatter,” said I; “still, equally true.”

“And finding that I had a good head for business, and that I was really useful TO the business, you did not like to retain me in that capacity, and thought it an act of justice soon to make me your partner.”

“Still less worth mentioning than any of those other little circumstances you have recalled, John Spatter,” said I; “for I was, and am, sensible of your merits and my deficiencies.”

“Now, my good friend,” said John, drawing my arm through his, as he had had a habit of doing at school; while two vessels outside the windows of our counting-house — which were shaped like the stern windows of a ship — went lightly down the river with the tide, as John and I might then be sailing away in company, and in trust and confidence, on our voyage of life; “let there, under these friendly circumstances, be a right understanding between us. You are too easy, Michael. You are nobody’s enemy but your own. If I were to give you that damaging character among our connection, with a shrug, and a shake of the head, and a sigh; and if I were further to abuse the trust you place in me — “

“But you never will abuse it at all, John,” I observed.

“Never!” said he; “but I am putting a case — I say, and if I were further to abuse that trust by keeping this piece of our common affairs in the dark, and this other piece in the light, and again this other piece in the twilight, and so on, I should strengthen my strength, and weaken your weakness, day by day, until at last I found myself on the high road to fortune, and you left behind on some bare common, a hopeless number of miles out of the way.”

“Exactly so,” said I.

“To prevent this, Michael,” said John Spatter, “or the remotest chance of this, there must be perfect openness between us. Nothing must be concealed, and we must have but one interest.”

“My dear John Spatter,” I assured him, “that is precisely what I mean.”

“And when you are too easy,” pursued John, his face glowing with friendship, “you must allow me to prevent that imperfection in your nature from being taken advantage of, by any one; you must not expect me to humour it — “

“My dear John Spatter,” I interrupted, “I DON’T expect you to humour it. I want to correct it.”

“And I, too,” said John.

“Exactly so!” cried I. “We both have the same end in view; and, honourably seeking it, and fully trusting one another, and having but one interest, ours will be a prosperous and happy partnership.”

“I am sure of it!” returned John Spatter. And we shook hands most affectionately.

I took John home to my Castle, and we had a very happy day. Our partnership throve well. My friend and partner supplied what I wanted, as I had foreseen that he would, and by improving both the business and myself, amply acknowledged any little rise in life to which I had helped him.

I am not (said the poor relation, looking at the fire as he slowly rubbed his hands) very rich, for I never cared to be that; but I have enough, and am above all moderate wants and anxieties. My Castle is not a splendid place, but it is very comfortable, and it has a warm and cheerful air, and is quite a picture of Home.

Our eldest girl, who is very like her mother, married John Spatter’s eldest son. Our two families are closely united in other ties of attachment. It is very pleasant of an evening, when we are all assembled together — which frequently happens — and when John and I talk over old times, and the one interest there has always been between us.

I really do not know, in my Castle, what loneliness is. Some of our children or grandchildren are always about it, and the young voices of my descendants are delightful — O, how delightful! — to me to hear. My dearest and most devoted wife, ever faithful, ever loving, ever helpful and sustaining and consoling, is the priceless blessing of my house; from whom all its other blessings spring. We are rather a musical family, and when Christiana sees me, at any time, a little weary or depressed, she steals to the piano and sings a gentle air she used to sing when we were first betrothed. So weak a man am I, that I cannot bear to hear it from any other source. They played it once, at the Theatre, when I was there with Little Frank; and the child said wondering, “Cousin Michael, whose hot tears are these that have fallen on my hand!”

Such is my Castle, and such are the real particulars of my life therein preserved. I often take Little Frank home there. He is very welcome to my grandchildren, and they play together. At this time of the year — the Christmas and New Year time — I am seldom out of my Castle. For, the associations of the season seem to hold me there, and the precepts of the season seem to teach me that it is well to be there.

“And the Castle is — “ observed a grave, kind voice among the company.

“Yes. My Castle,” said the poor relation, shaking his head as he still looked at the fire, “is in the Air. John our esteemed host suggests its situation accurately. My Castle is in the Air! I have done. Will you be so good as to pass the story?”


THE CHILD’S STORY

Once upon a time, a good many years ago, there was a traveller, and he set out upon a journey. It was a magic journey, and was to seem very long when he began it, and very short when he got half way through.

He travelled along a rather dark path for some little time, without meeting anything, until at last he came to a beautiful child. So he said to the child, “What do you do here?” And the child said, “I am always at play. Come and play with me!”

So, he played with that child, the whole day long, and they were very merry. The sky was so blue, the sun was so bright, the water was so sparkling, the leaves were so green, the flowers were so lovely, and they heard such singing-birds and saw so many butteries, that everything was beautiful. This was in fine weather. When it rained, they loved to watch the falling drops, and to smell the fresh scents. When it blew, it was delightful to listen to the wind, and fancy what it said, as it came rushing from its home — where was that, they wondered! — whistling and howling, driving the clouds before it, bending the trees, rumbling in the chimneys, shaking the house, and making the sea roar in fury. But, when it snowed, that was best of all; for, they liked nothing so well as to look up at the white flakes falling fast and thick, like down from the breasts of millions of white birds; and to see how smooth and deep the drift was; and to listen to the hush upon the paths and roads.

They had plenty of the finest toys in the world, and the most astonishing picture-books: all about scimitars and slippers and turbans, and dwarfs and giants and genii and fairies, and blue- beards and bean-stalks and riches and caverns and forests and Valentines and Orsons: and all new and all true.

But, one day, of a sudden, the traveller lost the child. He called to him over and over again, but got no answer. So, he went upon his road, and went on for a little while without meeting anything, until at last he came to a handsome boy. So, he said to the boy, “What do you do here?” And the boy said, “I am always learning. Come and learn with me.”

So he learned with that boy about Jupiter and Juno, and the Greeks and the Romans, and I don’t know what, and learned more than I could tell — or he either, for he soon forgot a great deal of it. But, they were not always learning; they had the merriest games that ever were played. They rowed upon the river in summer, and skated on the ice in winter; they were active afoot, and active on horseback; at cricket, and all games at ball; at prisoner’s base, hare and hounds, follow my leader, and more sports than I can think of; nobody could beat them. They had holidays too, and Twelfth cakes, and parties where they danced till midnight, and real Theatres where they saw palaces of real gold and silver rise out of the real earth, and saw all the wonders of the world at once. As to friends, they had such dear friends and so many of them, that I want the time to reckon them up. They were all young, like the handsome boy, and were never to be strange to one another all their lives through.

Still, one day, in the midst of all these pleasures, the traveller lost the boy as he had lost the child, and, after calling to him in vain, went on upon his journey. So he went on for a little while without seeing anything, until at last he came to a young man. So, he said to the young man, “What do you do here?” And the young man said, “I am always in love. Come and love with me.”

So, he went away with that young man, and presently they came to one of the prettiest girls that ever was seen — just like Fanny in the corner there — and she had eyes like Fanny, and hair like Fanny, and dimples like Fanny’s, and she laughed and coloured just as Fanny does while I am talking about her. So, the young man fell in love directly — just as Somebody I won’t mention, the first time he came here, did with Fanny. Well! he was teased sometimes — just as Somebody used to be by Fanny; and they quarrelled sometimes — just as Somebody and Fanny used to quarrel; and they made it up, and sat in the dark, and wrote letters every day, and never were happy asunder, and were always looking out for one another and pretending not to, and were engaged at Christmas-time, and sat close to one another by the fire, and were going to be married very soon — all exactly like Somebody I won’t mention, and Fanny!

But, the traveller lost them one day, as he had lost the rest of his friends, and, after calling to them to come back, which they never did, went on upon his journey. So, he went on for a little while without seeing anything, until at last he came to a middle-aged gentleman. So, he said to the gentleman, “What are you doing here?” And his answer was, “I am always busy. Come and be busy with me!”

So, he began to be very busy with that gentleman, and they went on through the wood together. The whole journey was through a wood, only it had been open and green at first, like a wood in spring; and now began to be thick and dark, like a wood in summer; some of the little trees that had come out earliest, were even turning brown. The gentleman was not alone, but had a lady of about the same age with him, who was his Wife; and they had children, who were with them too. So, they all went on together through the wood, cutting down the trees, and making a path through the branches and the fallen leaves, and carrying burdens, and working hard.

Sometimes, they came to a long green avenue that opened into deeper woods. Then they would hear a very little, distant voice crying, “Father, father, I am another child! Stop for me!” And presently they would see a very little figure, growing larger as it came along, running to join them. When it came up, they all crowded round it, and kissed and welcomed it; and then they all went on together.

Sometimes, they came to several avenues at once, and then they all stood still, and one of the children said, “Father, I am going to sea,” and another said, “Father, I am going to India,” and another, “Father, I am going to seek my fortune where I can,” and another, “Father, I am going to Heaven!” So, with many tears at parting, they went, solitary, down those avenues, each child upon its way; and the child who went to Heaven, rose into the golden air and vanished.

Whenever these partings happened, the traveller looked at the gentleman, and saw him glance up at the sky above the trees, where the day was beginning to decline, and the sunset to come on. He saw, too, that his hair was turning grey. But, they never could rest long, for they had their journey to perform, and it was necessary for them to be always busy.

At last, there had been so many partings that there were no children left, and only the traveller, the gentleman, and the lady, went upon their way in company. And now the wood was yellow; and now brown; and the leaves, even of the forest trees, began to fall.

So, they came to an avenue that was darker than the rest, and were pressing forward on their journey without looking down it when the lady stopped.

“My husband,” said the lady. “I am called.”

They listened, and they heard a voice a long way down the avenue, say, “Mother, mother!”

It was the voice of the first child who had said, “I am going to Heaven!” and the father said, “I pray not yet. The sunset is very near. I pray not yet!”

But, the voice cried, “Mother, mother!” without minding him, though his hair was now quite white, and tears were on his face.

Then, the mother, who was already drawn into the shade of the dark avenue and moving away with her arms still round his neck, kissed him, and said, “My dearest, I am summoned, and I go!” And she was gone. And the traveller and he were left alone together.

And they went on and on together, until they came to very near the end of the wood: so near, that they could see the sunset shining red before them through the trees.

Yet, once more, while he broke his way among the branches, the traveller lost his friend. He called and called, but there was no reply, and when he passed out of the wood, and saw the peaceful sun going down upon a wide purple prospect, he came to an old man sitting on a fallen tree. So, he said to the old man, “What do you do here?” And the old man said with a calm smile, “I am always remembering. Come and remember with me!”

So the traveller sat down by the side of that old man, face to face with the serene sunset; and all his friends came softly back and stood around him. The beautiful child, the handsome boy, the young man in love, the father, mother, and children: every one of them was there, and he had lost nothing. So, he loved them all, and was kind and forbearing with them all, and was always pleased to watch them all, and they all honoured and loved him. And I think the traveller must be yourself, dear Grandfather, because this what you do to us, and what we do to you.


THE SCHOOLBOY’S STORY

Being rather young at present — I am getting on in years, but still I am rather young — I have no particular adventures of my own to fall back upon. It wouldn’t much interest anybody here, I suppose, to know what a screw the Reverend is, or what a griffin SHE is, or how they do stick it into parents — particularly hair-cutting, and medical attendance. One of our fellows was charged in his half’s account twelve and sixpence for two pills — tolerably profitable at six and threepence a-piece, I should think — and he never took them either, but put them up the sleeve of his jacket.

As to the beef, it’s shameful. It’s NOT beef. Regular beef isn’t veins. You can chew regular beef. Besides which, there’s gravy to regular beef, and you never see a drop to ours. Another of our fellows went home ill, and heard the family doctor tell his father that he couldn’t account for his complaint unless it was the beer. Of course it was the beer, and well it might be!

However, beef and Old Cheeseman are two different things. So is beer. It was Old Cheeseman I meant to tell about; not the manner in which our fellows get their constitutions destroyed for the sake of profit.

Why, look at the pie-crust alone. There’s no flakiness in it. It’s solid — like damp lead. Then our fellows get nightmares, and are bolstered for calling out and waking other fellows. Who can wonder!

Old Cheeseman one night walked in his sleep, put his hat on over his night-cap, got hold of a fishing-rod and a cricket-bat, and went down into the parlour, where they naturally thought from his appearance he was a Ghost. Why, he never would have done that if his meals had been wholesome. When we all begin to walk in our sleeps, I suppose they’ll be sorry for it.

Old Cheeseman wasn’t second Latin Master then; he was a fellow himself. He was first brought there, very small, in a post-chaise, by a woman who was always taking snuff and shaking him — and that was the most he remembered about it. He never went home for the holidays. His accounts (he never learnt any extras) were sent to a Bank, and the Bank paid them; and he had a brown suit twice a-year, and went into boots at twelve. They were always too big for him, too.

In the Midsummer holidays, some of our fellows who lived within walking distance, used to come back and climb the trees outside the playground wall, on purpose to look at Old Cheeseman reading there by himself. He was always as mild as the tea — and THAT’S pretty mild, I should hope! — so when they whistled to him, he looked up and nodded; and when they said, “Halloa, Old Cheeseman, what have you had for dinner?” he said, “Boiled mutton;” and when they said, “An’t it solitary, Old Cheeseman?” he said, “It is a little dull sometimes:” and then they said, “Well good-bye, Old Cheeseman!” and climbed down again. Of course it was imposing on Old Cheeseman to give him nothing but boiled mutton through a whole Vacation, but that was just like the system. When they didn’t give him boiled mutton, they gave him rice pudding, pretending it was a treat. And saved the butcher.

So Old Cheeseman went on. The holidays brought him into other trouble besides the loneliness; because when the fellows began to come back, not wanting to, he was always glad to see them; which was aggravating when they were not at all glad to see him, and so he got his head knocked against walls, and that was the way his nose bled. But he was a favourite in general. Once a subscription was raised for him; and, to keep up his spirits, he was presented before the holidays with two white mice, a rabbit, a pigeon, and a beautiful puppy. Old Cheeseman cried about it — especially soon afterwards, when they all ate one another.

Of course Old Cheeseman used to be called by the names of all sorts of cheeses — Double Glo’sterman, Family Cheshireman, Dutchman, North Wiltshireman, and all that. But he never minded it. And I don’t mean to say he was old in point of years — because he wasn’t — only he was called from the first, Old Cheeseman.

At last, Old Cheeseman was made second Latin Master. He was brought in one morning at the beginning of a new half, and presented to the school in that capacity as “Mr. Cheeseman.” Then our fellows all agreed that Old Cheeseman was a spy, and a deserter, who had gone over to the enemy’s camp, and sold himself for gold. It was no excuse for him that he had sold himself for very little gold — two pound ten a quarter and his washing, as was reported. It was decided by a Parliament which sat about it, that Old Cheeseman’s mercenary motives could alone be taken into account, and that he had “coined our blood for drachmas.” The Parliament took the expression out of the quarrel scene between Brutus and Cassius.

When it was settled in this strong way that Old Cheeseman was a tremendous traitor, who had wormed himself into our fellows’ secrets on purpose to get himself into favour by giving up everything he knew, all courageous fellows were invited to come forward and enrol themselves in a Society for making a set against him. The President of the Society was First boy, named Bob Tarter. His father was in the West Indies, and he owned, himself, that his father was worth Millions. He had great power among our fellows, and he wrote a parody, beginning -

”Who made believe to be so meek
That we could hardly hear him speak,
Yet turned out an Informing Sneak?
Old Cheeseman.”

  • and on in that way through more than a dozen verses, which he used to go and sing, every morning, close by the new master’s desk. He trained one of the low boys, too, a rosy-cheeked little Brass who didn’t care what he did, to go up to him with his Latin Grammar one morning, and say it so: NOMINATIVUS PRONOMINUM — Old Cheeseman, RARO EXPRIMITUR — was never suspected, NISI DISTINCTIONIS — of being an informer, AUT EMPHASIS GRATIA — until he proved one. UT — for instance, VOS DAMNASTIS — when he sold the boys. QUASI — as though, DICAT — he should say, PRETAEREA NEMO — I’m a Judas! All this produced a great effect on Old Cheeseman. He had never had much hair; but what he had, began to get thinner and thinner every day. He grew paler and more worn; and sometimes of an evening he was seen sitting at his desk with a precious long snuff to his candle, and his hands before his face, crying. But no member of the Society could pity him, even if he felt inclined, because the President said it was Old Cheeseman’s conscience.

So Old Cheeseman went on, and didn’t he lead a miserable life! Of course the Reverend turned up his nose at him, and of course SHE did — because both of them always do that at all the masters — but he suffered from the fellows most, and he suffered from them constantly. He never told about it, that the Society could find out; but he got no credit for that, because the President said it was Old Cheeseman’s cowardice.

He had only one friend in the world, and that one was almost as powerless as he was, for it was only Jane. Jane was a sort of wardrobe woman to our fellows, and took care of the boxes. She had come at first, I believe, as a kind of apprentice — some of our fellows say from a Charity, but I don’t know — and after her time was out, had stopped at so much a year. So little a year, perhaps I ought to say, for it is far more likely. However, she had put some pounds in the Savings’ Bank, and she was a very nice young woman. She was not quite pretty; but she had a very frank, honest, bright face, and all our fellows were fond of her. She was uncommonly neat and cheerful, and uncommonly comfortable and kind. And if anything was the matter with a fellow’s mother, he always went and showed the letter to Jane.

Jane was Old Cheeseman’s friend. The more the Society went against him, the more Jane stood by him. She used to give him a good- humoured look out of her still-room window, sometimes, that seemed to set him up for the day. She used to pass out of the orchard and the kitchen garden (always kept locked, I believe you!) through the playground, when she might have gone the other way, only to give a turn of her head, as much as to say “Keep up your spirits!” to Old Cheeseman. His slip of a room was so fresh and orderly that it was well known who looked after it while he was at his desk; and when our fellows saw a smoking hot dumpling on his plate at dinner, they knew with indignation who had sent it up.

Under these circumstances, the Society resolved, after a quantity of meeting and debating, that Jane should be requested to cut Old Cheeseman dead; and that if she refused, she must be sent to Coventry herself. So a deputation, headed by the President, was appointed to wait on Jane, and inform her of the vote the Society had been under the painful necessity of passing. She was very much respected for all her good qualities, and there was a story about her having once waylaid the Reverend in his own study, and got a fellow off from severe punishment, of her own kind comfortable heart. So the deputation didn’t much like the job. However, they went up, and the President told Jane all about it. Upon which Jane turned very red, burst into tears, informed the President and the deputation, in a way not at all like her usual way, that they were a parcel of malicious young savages, and turned the whole respected body out of the room. Consequently it was entered in the Society’s book (kept in astronomical cypher for fear of detection), that all communication with Jane was interdicted: and the President addressed the members on this convincing instance of Old Cheeseman’s undermining.

But Jane was as true to Old Cheeseman as Old Cheeseman was false to our fellows — in their opinion, at all events — and steadily continued to be his only friend. It was a great exasperation to the Society, because Jane was as much a loss to them as she was a gain to him; and being more inveterate against him than ever, they treated him worse than ever. At last, one morning, his desk stood empty, his room was peeped into, and found to be vacant, and a whisper went about among the pale faces of our fellows that Old Cheeseman, unable to bear it any longer, had got up early and drowned himself.

The mysterious looks of the other masters after breakfast, and the evident fact that old Cheeseman was not expected, confirmed the Society in this opinion. Some began to discuss whether the President was liable to hanging or only transportation for life, and the President’s face showed a great anxiety to know which. However, he said that a jury of his country should find him game; and that in his address he should put it to them to lay their hands upon their hearts and say whether they as Britons approved of informers, and how they thought they would like it themselves. Some of the Society considered that he had better run away until he found a forest where he might change clothes with a wood-cutter, and stain his face with blackberries; but the majority believed that if he stood his ground, his father — belonging as he did to the West Indies, and being worth millions — could buy him off.

All our fellows’ hearts beat fast when the Reverend came in, and made a sort of a Roman, or a Field Marshal, of himself with the ruler; as he always did before delivering an address. But their fears were nothing to their astonishment when he came out with the story that Old Cheeseman, “so long our respected friend and fellow- pilgrim in the pleasant plains of knowledge,” he called him — O yes! I dare say! Much of that! — was the orphan child of a disinherited young lady who had married against her father’s wish, and whose young husband had died, and who had died of sorrow herself, and whose unfortunate baby (Old Cheeseman) had been brought up at the cost of a grandfather who would never consent to see it, baby, boy, or man: which grandfather was now dead, and serve him right — that’s my putting in — and which grandfather’s large property, there being no will, was now, and all of a sudden and for ever, Old Cheeseman’s! Our so long respected friend and fellow-pilgrim in the pleasant plains of knowledge, the Reverend wound up a lot of bothering quotations by saying, would “come among us once more” that day fortnight, when he desired to take leave of us himself, in a more particular manner. With these words, he stared severely round at our fellows, and went solemnly out.

There was precious consternation among the members of the Society, now. Lots of them wanted to resign, and lots more began to try to make out that they had never belonged to it. However, the President stuck up, and said that they must stand or fall together, and that if a breach was made it should be over his body — which was meant to encourage the Society: but it didn’t. The President further said, he would consider the position in which they stood, and would give them his best opinion and advice in a few days. This was eagerly looked for, as he knew a good deal of the world on account of his father’s being in the West Indies.

After days and days of hard thinking, and drawing armies all over his slate, the President called our fellows together, and made the matter clear. He said it was plain that when Old Cheeseman came on the appointed day, his first revenge would be to impeach the Society, and have it flogged all round. After witnessing with joy the torture of his enemies, and gloating over the cries which agony would extort from them, the probability was that he would invite the Reverend, on pretence of conversation, into a private room — say the parlour into which Parents were shown, where the two great globes were which were never used — and would there reproach him with the various frauds and oppressions he had endured at his hands. At the close of his observations he would make a signal to a Prizefighter concealed in the passage, who would then appear and pitch into the Reverend, till he was left insensible. Old Cheeseman would then make Jane a present of from five to ten pounds, and would leave the establishment in fiendish triumph.

The President explained that against the parlour part, or the Jane part, of these arrangements he had nothing to say; but, on the part of the Society, he counselled deadly resistance. With this view he recommended that all available desks should be filled with stones, and that the first word of the complaint should be the signal to every fellow to let fly at Old Cheeseman. The bold advice put the Society in better spirits, and was unanimously taken. A post about Old Cheeseman’s size was put up in the playground, and all our fellows practised at it till it was dinted all over.

When the day came, and Places were called, every fellow sat down in a tremble. There had been much discussing and disputing as to how Old Cheeseman would come; but it was the general opinion that he would appear in a sort of triumphal car drawn by four horses, with two livery servants in front, and the Prizefighter in disguise up behind. So, all our fellows sat listening for the sound of wheels. But no wheels were heard, for Old Cheeseman walked after all, and came into the school without any preparation. Pretty much as he used to be, only dressed in black.

“Gentlemen,” said the Reverend, presenting him, “our so long respected friend and fellow-pilgrim in the pleasant plains of knowledge, is desirous to offer a word or two. Attention, gentlemen, one and all!”

Every fellow stole his hand into his desk and looked at the President. The President was all ready, and taking aim at old Cheeseman with his eyes.

What did Old Cheeseman then, but walk up to his old desk, look round him with a queer smile as if there was a tear in his eye, and begin in a quavering, mild voice, “My dear companions and old friends!”

Every fellow’s hand came out of his desk, and the President suddenly began to cry.

“My dear companions and old friends,” said Old Cheeseman, “you have heard of my good fortune. I have passed so many years under this roof — my entire life so far, I may say — that I hope you have been glad to hear of it for my sake. I could never enjoy it without exchanging congratulations with you. If we have ever misunderstood one another at all, pray, my dear boys, let us forgive and forget. I have a great tenderness for you, and I am sure you return it. I want in the fulness of a grateful heart to shake hands with you every one. I have come back to do it, if you please, my dear boys.”

Since the President had begun to cry, several other fellows had broken out here and there: but now, when Old Cheeseman began with him as first boy, laid his left hand affectionately on his shoulder and gave him his right; and when the President said “Indeed, I don’t deserve it, sir; upon my honour I don’t;” there was sobbing and crying all over the school. Every other fellow said he didn’t deserve it, much in the same way; but Old Cheeseman, not minding that a bit, went cheerfully round to every boy, and wound up with every master — finishing off the Reverend last.

Then a snivelling little chap in a corner, who was always under some punishment or other, set up a shrill cry of “Success to Old Cheeseman! Hooray!” The Reverend glared upon him, and said, “MR. Cheeseman, sir.” But, Old Cheeseman protesting that he liked his old name a great deal better than his new one, all our fellows took up the cry; and, for I don’t know how many minutes, there was such a thundering of feet and hands, and such a roaring of Old Cheeseman, as never was heard.

After that, there was a spread in the dining-room of the most magnificent kind. Fowls, tongues, preserves, fruits, confectionaries, jellies, neguses, barley-sugar temples, trifles, crackers — eat all you can and pocket what you like — all at Old Cheeseman’s expense. After that, speeches, whole holiday, double and treble sets of all manners of things for all manners of games, donkeys, pony-chaises and drive yourself, dinner for all the masters at the Seven Bells (twenty pounds a-head our fellows estimated it at), an annual holiday and feast fixed for that day every year, and another on Old Cheeseman’s birthday — Reverend bound down before the fellows to allow it, so that he could never back out — all at Old Cheeseman’s expense.

And didn’t our fellows go down in a body and cheer outside the Seven Bells? O no!

But there’s something else besides. Don’t look at the next story- teller, for there’s more yet. Next day, it was resolved that the Society should make it up with Jane, and then be dissolved. What do you think of Jane being gone, though! “What? Gone for ever?” said our fellows, with long faces. “Yes, to be sure,” was all the answer they could get. None of the people about the house would say anything more. At length, the first boy took upon himself to ask the Reverend whether our old friend Jane was really gone? The Reverend (he has got a daughter at home — turn-up nose, and red) replied severely, “Yes, sir, Miss Pitt is gone.” The idea of calling Jane, Miss Pitt! Some said she had been sent away in disgrace for taking money from Old Cheeseman; others said she had gone into Old Cheeseman’s service at a rise of ten pounds a year. All that our fellows knew, was, she was gone.

It was two or three months afterwards, when, one afternoon, an open carriage stopped at the cricket field, just outside bounds, with a lady and gentleman in it, who looked at the game a long time and stood up to see it played. Nobody thought much about them, until the same little snivelling chap came in, against all rules, from the post where he was Scout, and said, “It’s Jane!” Both Elevens forgot the game directly, and ran crowding round the carriage. It WAS Jane! In such a bonnet! And if you’ll believe me, Jane was married to Old Cheeseman.

It soon became quite a regular thing when our fellows were hard at it in the playground, to see a carriage at the low part of the wall where it joins the high part, and a lady and gentleman standing up in it, looking over. The gentleman was always Old Cheeseman, and the lady was always Jane.

The first time I ever saw them, I saw them in that way. There had been a good many changes among our fellows then, and it had turned out that Bob Tarter’s father wasn’t worth Millions! He wasn’t worth anything. Bob had gone for a soldier, and Old Cheeseman had purchased his discharge. But that’s not the carriage. The carriage stopped, and all our fellows stopped as soon as it was seen.

“So you have never sent me to Coventry after all!” said the lady, laughing, as our fellows swarmed up the wall to shake hands with her. “Are you never going to do it?”

“Never! never! never!” on all sides.

I didn’t understand what she meant then, but of course I do now. I was very much pleased with her face though, and with her good way, and I couldn’t help looking at her — and at him too — with all our fellows clustering so joyfully about them.

They soon took notice of me as a new boy, so I thought I might as well swarm up the wall myself, and shake hands with them as the rest did. I was quite as glad to see them as the rest were, and was quite as familiar with them in a moment.

“Only a fortnight now,” said Old Cheeseman, “to the holidays. Who stops? Anybody?”

A good many fingers pointed at me, and a good many voices cried “He does!” For it was the year when you were all away; and rather low I was about it, I can tell you.

“Oh!” said Old Cheeseman. “But it’s solitary here in the holiday time. He had better come to us.”

So I went to their delightful house, and was as happy as I could possibly be. They understand how to conduct themselves towards boys, THEY do. When they take a boy to the play, for instance, they DO take him. They don’t go in after it’s begun, or come out before it’s over. They know how to bring a boy up, too. Look at their own! Though he is very little as yet, what a capital boy he is! Why, my next favourite to Mrs. Cheeseman and Old Cheeseman, is young Cheeseman.

So, now I have told you all I know about Old Cheeseman. And it’s not much after all, I am afraid. Is it?


NOBODY’S STORY

He lived on the bank of a mighty river, broad and deep, which was always silently rolling on to a vast undiscovered ocean. It had rolled on, ever since the world began. It had changed its course sometimes, and turned into new channels, leaving its old ways dry and barren; but it had ever been upon the flow, and ever was to flow until Time should be no more. Against its strong, unfathomable stream, nothing made head. No living creature, no flower, no leaf, no particle of animate or inanimate existence, ever strayed back from the undiscovered ocean. The tide of the river set resistlessly towards it; and the tide never stopped, any more than the earth stops in its circling round the sun.

He lived in a busy place, and he worked very hard to live. He had no hope of ever being rich enough to live a month without hard work, but he was quite content, GOD knows, to labour with a cheerful will. He was one of an immense family, all of whose sons and daughters gained their daily bread by daily work, prolonged from their rising up betimes until their lying down at night. Beyond this destiny he had no prospect, and he sought none.

There was over-much drumming, trumpeting, and speech-making, in the neighbourhood where he dwelt; but he had nothing to do with that. Such clash and uproar came from the Bigwig family, at the unaccountable proceedings of which race, he marvelled much. They set up the strangest statues, in iron, marble, bronze, and brass, before his door; and darkened his house with the legs and tails of uncouth images of horses. He wondered what it all meant, smiled in a rough good-humoured way he had, and kept at his hard work.

The Bigwig family (composed of all the stateliest people thereabouts, and all the noisiest) had undertaken to save him the trouble of thinking for himself, and to manage him and his affairs. “Why truly,” said he, “I have little time upon my hands; and if you will be so good as to take care of me, in return for the money I pay over” — for the Bigwig family were not above his money — “I shall be relieved and much obliged, considering that you know best.” Hence the drumming, trumpeting, and speech-making, and the ugly images of horses which he was expected to fall down and worship.

“I don’t understand all this,” said he, rubbing his furrowed brow confusedly. “But it HAS a meaning, maybe, if I could find it out.”

“It means,” returned the Bigwig family, suspecting something of what he said, “honour and glory in the highest, to the highest merit.”

“Oh!” said he. And he was glad to hear that.

But, when he looked among the images in iron, marble, bronze, and brass, he failed to find a rather meritorious countryman of his, once the son of a Warwickshire wool-dealer, or any single countryman whomsoever of that kind. He could find none of the men whose knowledge had rescued him and his children from terrific and disfiguring disease, whose boldness had raised his forefathers from the condition of serfs, whose wise fancy had opened a new and high existence to the humblest, whose skill had filled the working man’s world with accumulated wonders. Whereas, he did find others whom he knew no good of, and even others whom he knew much ill of.

“Humph!” said he. “I don’t quite understand it.”

So, he went home, and sat down by his fireside to get it out of his mind.

Now, his fireside was a bare one, all hemmed in by blackened streets; but it was a precious place to him. The hands of his wife were hardened with toil, and she was old before her time; but she was dear to him. His children, stunted in their growth, bore traces of unwholesome nurture; but they had beauty in his sight. Above all other things, it was an earnest desire of this man’s soul that his children should be taught. “If I am sometimes misled,” said he, “for want of knowledge, at least let them know better, and avoid my mistakes. If it is hard to me to reap the harvest of pleasure and instruction that is stored in books, let it be easier to them.”

But, the Bigwig family broke out into violent family quarrels concerning what it was lawful to teach to this man’s children. Some of the family insisted on such a thing being primary and indispensable above all other things; and others of the family insisted on such another thing being primary and indispensable above all other things; and the Bigwig family, rent into factions, wrote pamphlets, held convocations, delivered charges, orations, and all varieties of discourses; impounded one another in courts Lay and courts Ecclesiastical; threw dirt, exchanged pummelings, and fell together by the ears in unintelligible animosity. Meanwhile, this man, in his short evening snatches at his fireside, saw the demon Ignorance arise there, and take his children to itself. He saw his daughter perverted into a heavy, slatternly drudge; he saw his son go moping down the ways of low sensuality, to brutality and crime; he saw the dawning light of intelligence in the eyes of his babies so changing into cunning and suspicion, that he could have rather wished them idiots.

“I don’t understand this any the better,” said he; “but I think it cannot be right. Nay, by the clouded Heaven above me, I protest against this as my wrong!”

Becoming peaceable again (for his passion was usually short-lived, and his nature kind), he looked about him on his Sundays and holidays, and he saw how much monotony and weariness there was, and thence how drunkenness arose with all its train of ruin. Then he appealed to the Bigwig family, and said, “We are a labouring people, and I have a glimmering suspicion in me that labouring people of whatever condition were made — by a higher intelligence than yours, as I poorly understand it — to be in need of mental refreshment and recreation. See what we fall into, when we rest without it. Come! Amuse me harmlessly, show me something, give me an escape!”

But, here the Bigwig family fell into a state of uproar absolutely deafening. When some few voices were faintly heard, proposing to show him the wonders of the world, the greatness of creation, the mighty changes of time, the workings of nature and the beauties of art — to show him these things, that is to say, at any period of his life when he could look upon them — there arose among the Bigwigs such roaring and raving, such pulpiting and petitioning, such maundering and memorialising, such name-calling and dirt-throwing, such a shrill wind of parliamentary questioning and feeble replying- -where “I dare not” waited on “I would” — that the poor fellow stood aghast, staring wildly around.

“Have I provoked all this,” said he, with his hands to his affrighted ears, “by what was meant to be an innocent request, plainly arising out of my familiar experience, and the common knowledge of all men who choose to open their eyes? I don’t understand, and I am not understood. What is to come of such a state of things!”

He was bending over his work, often asking himself the question, when the news began to spread that a pestilence had appeared among the labourers, and was slaying them by thousands. Going forth to look about him, he soon found this to be true. The dying and the dead were mingled in the close and tainted houses among which his life was passed. New poison was distilled into the always murky, always sickening air. The robust and the weak, old age and infancy, the father and the mother, all were stricken down alike.

What means of flight had he? He remained there, where he was, and saw those who were dearest to him die. A kind preacher came to him, and would have said some prayers to soften his heart in his gloom, but he replied:

“O what avails it, missionary, to come to me, a man condemned to residence in this foetid place, where every sense bestowed upon me for my delight becomes a torment, and where every minute of my numbered days is new mire added to the heap under which I lie oppressed! But, give me my first glimpse of Heaven, through a little of its light and air; give me pure water; help me to be clean; lighten this heavy atmosphere and heavy life, in which our spirits sink, and we become the indifferent and callous creatures you too often see us; gently and kindly take the bodies of those who die among us, out of the small room where we grow to be so familiar with the awful change that even its sanctity is lost to us; and, Teacher, then I will hear — none know better than you, how willingly- -of Him whose thoughts were so much with the poor, and who had compassion for all human sorrow!”

He was at work again, solitary and sad, when his Master came and stood near to him dressed in black. He, also, had suffered heavily. His young wife, his beautiful and good young wife, was dead; so, too, his only child.

“Master, ‘tis hard to bear — I know it — but be comforted. I would give you comfort, if I could.”

The Master thanked him from his heart, but, said he, “O you labouring men! The calamity began among you. If you had but lived more healthily and decently, I should not be the widowed and bereft mourner that I am this day.”

“Master,” returned the other, shaking his head, “I have begun to understand a little that most calamities will come from us, as this one did, and that none will stop at our poor doors, until we are united with that great squabbling family yonder, to do the things that are right. We cannot live healthily and decently, unless they who undertook to manage us provide the means. We cannot be instructed unless they will teach us; we cannot be rationally amused, unless they will amuse us; we cannot but have some false gods of our own, while they set up so many of theirs in all the public places. The evil consequences of imperfect instruction, the evil consequences of pernicious neglect, the evil consequences of unnatural restraint and the denial of humanising enjoyments, will all come from us, and none of them will stop with us. They will spread far and wide. They always do; they always have done — just like the pestilence. I understand so much, I think, at last.”

But the Master said again, “O you labouring men! How seldom do we ever hear of you, except in connection with some trouble!”

“Master,” he replied, “I am Nobody, and little likely to be heard of (nor yet much wanted to be heard of, perhaps), except when there is some trouble. But it never begins with me, and it never can end with me. As sure as Death, it comes down to me, and it goes up from me.”

There was so much reason in what he said, that the Bigwig family, getting wind of it, and being horribly frightened by the late desolation, resolved to unite with him to do the things that were right — at all events, so far as the said things were associated with the direct prevention, humanly speaking, of another pestilence. But, as their fear wore off, which it soon began to do, they resumed their falling out among themselves, and did nothing. Consequently the scourge appeared again — low down as before — and spread avengingly upward as before, and carried off vast numbers of the brawlers. But not a man among them ever admitted, if in the least degree he ever perceived, that he had anything to do with it.

So Nobody lived and died in the old, old, old way; and this, in the main, is the whole of Nobody’s story.

Had he no name, you ask? Perhaps it was Legion. It matters little what his name was. Let us call him Legion.

If you were ever in the Belgian villages near the field of Waterloo, you will have seen, in some quiet little church, a monument erected by faithful companions in arms to the memory of Colonel A, Major B, Captains C, D and E, Lieutenants F and G, Ensigns H, I and J, seven non-commissioned officers, and one hundred and thirty rank and file, who fell in the discharge of their duty on the memorable day. The story of Nobody is the story of the rank and file of the earth. They bear their share of the battle; they have their part in the victory; they fall; they leave no name but in the mass. The march of the proudest of us, leads to the dusty way by which they go. O! Let us think of them this year at the Christmas fire, and not forget them when it is burnt out.


GOING INTO SOCIETY

At one period of its reverses, the House fell into the occupation of a Showman.  He was found registered as its occupier, on the parish books of the time when he rented the House, and there was therefore no need of any clue to his name.  But, he himself was less easy to be found; for, he had led a wandering life, and settled people had lost sight of him, and people who plumed themselves on being respectable were shy of admitting that they had ever known anything of him.  At last, among the marsh lands near the river’s level, that lie about Deptford and the neighbouring market-gardens, a Grizzled Personage in velveteen, with a face so cut up by varieties of weather that he looked as if he had been tattooed, was found smoking a pipe at the door of a wooden house on wheels.  The wooden house was laid up in ordinary for the winter, near the mouth of a muddy creek; and everything near it, the foggy river, the misty marshes, and the steaming market-gardens, smoked in company with the grizzled man.  In the midst of this smoking party, the funnel-chimney of the wooden house on wheels was not remiss, but took its pipe with the rest in a companionable manner.

On being asked if it were he who had once rented the House to Let, Grizzled Velveteen looked surprised, and said yes.  Then his name was Magsman?  That was it, Toby Magsman — which lawfully christened Robert; but called in the line, from a infant, Toby.  There was nothing agin Toby Magsman, he believed?  If there was suspicion of such — mention it!

There was no suspicion of such, he might rest assured.  But, some inquiries were making about that House, and would he object to say why he left it?

Not at all; why should he?  He left it, along of a Dwarf.

Along of a Dwarf?

Mr. Magsman repeated, deliberately and emphatically, Along of a Dwarf.

Might it be compatible with Mr. Magsman’s inclination and convenience to enter, as a favour, into a few particulars?

Mr. Magsman entered into the following particulars.

It was a long time ago, to begin with; — afore lotteries and a deal more was done away with.  Mr. Magsman was looking about for a good pitch, and he see that house, and he says to himself, “I’ll have you, if you’re to be had.  If money’ll get you, I’ll have you.”

The neighbours cut up rough, and made complaints; but Mr. Magsman don’t know what they would have had.  It was a lovely thing.  First of all, there was the canvass, representin the picter of the Giant, in Spanish trunks and a ruff, who was himself half the heighth of the house, and was run up with a line and pulley to a pole on the roof, so that his Ed was coeval with the parapet.  Then, there was the canvass, representin the picter of the Albina lady, showing her white air to the Army and Navy in correct uniform.  Then, there was the canvass, representin the picter of the Wild Indian a scalpin a member of some foreign nation.  Then, there was the canvass, representin the picter of a child of a British Planter, seized by two Boa Constrictors — not that we never had no child, nor no Constrictors neither.  Similarly, there was the canvass, representin the picter of the Wild Ass of the Prairies — not that we never had no wild asses, nor wouldn’t have had ‘em at a gift.  Last, there was the canvass, representin the picter of the Dwarf, and like him too (considerin), with George the Fourth in such a state of astonishment at him as His Majesty couldn’t with his utmost politeness and stoutness express.  The front of the House was so covered with canvasses, that there wasn’t a spark of daylight ever visible on that side.  “MAGSMAN’S AMUSEMENTS,” fifteen foot long by two foot high, ran over the front door and parlour winders.  The passage was a Arbour of green baize and gardenstuff.  A barrel-organ performed there unceasing.  And as to respectability, — if threepence ain’t respectable, what is?

But, the Dwarf is the principal article at present, and he was worth the money.  He was wrote up as MAJOR TPSCHOFFKI, OF THE IMPERIAL BULGRADERIAN BRIGADE.  Nobody couldn’t pronounce the name, and it never was intended anybody should.  The public always turned it, as a regular rule, into Chopski.  In the line he was called Chops; partly on that account, and partly because his real name, if he ever had any real name (which was very dubious), was Stakes.

He was a uncommon small man, he really was.  Certainly not so small as he was made out to be, but where is your Dwarf as is?  He was a most uncommon small man, with a most uncommon large Ed; and what he had inside that Ed, nobody ever knowed but himself: even supposin himself to have ever took stock of it, which it would have been a stiff job for even him to do.

The kindest little man as never growed!  Spirited, but not proud.  When he travelled with the Spotted Baby — though he knowed himself to be a nat’ral Dwarf, and knowed the Baby’s spots to be put upon him artificial, he nursed that Baby like a mother.  You never heerd him give a ill-name to a Giant.  He did allow himself to break out into strong language respectin the Fat Lady from Norfolk; but that was an affair of the ‘art; and when a man’s ‘art has been trifled with by a lady, and the preference giv to a Indian, he ain’t master of his actions.

He was always in love, of course; every human nat’ral phenomenon is.  And he was always in love with a large woman; I never knowed the Dwarf as could be got to love a small one.  Which helps to keep ‘em the Curiosities they are.

One sing’ler idea he had in that Ed of his, which must have meant something, or it wouldn’t have been there.  It was always his opinion that he was entitled to property.  He never would put his name to anything.  He had been taught to write, by the young man without arms, who got his living with his toes (quite a writing master he was, and taught scores in the line), but Chops would have starved to death, afore he’d have gained a bit of bread by putting his hand to a paper.  This is the more curious to bear in mind, because HE had no property, nor hope of property, except his house and a sarser.  When I say his house, I mean the box, painted and got up outside like a reg’lar six-roomer, that he used to creep into, with a diamond ring (or quite as good to look at) on his forefinger, and ring a little bell out of what the Public believed to be the Drawing-room winder.  And when I say a sarser, I mean a Chaney sarser in which he made a collection for himself at the end of every Entertainment.  His cue for that, he took from me: “Ladies and gentlemen, the little man will now walk three times round the Cairawan, and retire behind the curtain.”  When he said anything important, in private life, he mostly wound it up with this form of words, and they was generally the last thing he said to me at night afore he went to bed.

He had what I consider a fine mind — a poetic mind.  His ideas respectin his property never come upon him so strong as when he sat upon a barrel-organ and had the handle turned.  Arter the wibration had run through him a little time, he would screech out, “Toby, I feel my property coming — grind away!  I’m counting my guineas by thousands, Toby — grind away!  Toby, I shall be a man of fortun!  I feel the Mint a jingling in me, Toby, and I’m swelling out into the Bank of England!”  Such is the influence of music on a poetic mind.  Not that he was partial to any other music but a barrel-organ; on the contrary, hated it.

He had a kind of a everlasting grudge agin the Public: which is a thing you may notice in many phenomenons that get their living out of it.  What riled him most in the nater of his occupation was, that it kep him out of Society.  He was continiwally saying, “Toby, my ambition is, to go into Society.  The curse of my position towards the Public is, that it keeps me hout of Society.  This don’t signify to a low beast of a Indian; he an’t formed for Society.  This don’t signify to a Spotted Baby; he an’t formed for Society. — I am.”

Nobody never could make out what Chops done with his money.  He had a good salary, down on the drum every Saturday as the day came round, besides having the run of his teeth — and he was a Woodpecker to eat — but all Dwarfs are.  The sarser was a little income, bringing him in so many halfpence that he’d carry ‘em for a week together, tied up in a pocket-handkercher.  And yet he never had money.  And it couldn’t be the Fat Lady from Norfolk, as was once supposed; because it stands to reason that when you have a animosity towards a Indian, which makes you grind your teeth at him to his face, and which can hardly hold you from Goosing him audible when he’s going through his War-Dance — it stands to reason you wouldn’t under them circumstances deprive yourself, to support that Indian in the lap of luxury.

Most unexpected, the mystery come out one day at Egham Races.  The Public was shy of bein pulled in, and Chops was ringin his little bell out of his drawing-room winder, and was snarlin to me over his shoulder as he kneeled down with his legs out at the back-door — for he couldn’t be shoved into his house without kneeling down, and the premises wouldn’t accommodate his legs — was snarlin, “Here’s a precious Public for you; why the Devil don’t they tumble up?” when a man in the crowd holds up a carrier-pigeon, and cries out, “If there’s any person here as has got a ticket, the Lottery’s just drawed, and the number as has come up for the great prize is three, seven, forty-two!  Three, seven, forty-two!”  I was givin the man to the Furies myself, for calling off the Public’s attention — for the Public will turn away, at any time, to look at anything in preference to the thing showed ‘em; and if you doubt it, get ‘em together for any indiwidual purpose on the face of the earth, and send only two people in late, and see if the whole company an’t far more interested in takin particular notice of them two than of you — I say, I wasn’t best pleased with the man for callin out, and wasn’t blessin him in my own mind, when I see Chops’s little bell fly out of winder at a old lady, and he gets up and kicks his box over, exposin the whole secret, and he catches hold of the calves of my legs and he says to me, “Carry me into the wan, Toby, and throw a pail of water over me or I’m a dead man, for I’ve come into my property!”

Twelve thousand odd hundred pound, was Chops’s winnins.  He had bought a half-ticket for the twenty-five thousand prize, and it had come up.  The first use he made of his property, was, to offer to fight the Wild Indian for five hundred pound a side, him with a poisoned darnin-needle and the Indian with a club; but the Indian being in want of backers to that amount, it went no further.

Arter he had been mad for a week — in a state of mind, in short, in which, if I had let him sit on the organ for only two minutes, I believe he would have bust — but we kep the organ from him — Mr. Chops come round, and behaved liberal and beautiful to all.  He then sent for a young man he knowed, as had a wery genteel appearance and was a Bonnet at a gaming-booth (most respectable brought up, father havin been imminent in the livery stable line but unfort’nate in a commercial crisis, through paintin a old gray, ginger-bay, and sellin him with a Pedigree), and Mr. Chops said to this Bonnet, who said his name was Normandy, which it wasn’t:

“Normandy, I’m a goin into Society.  Will you go with me?”

Says Normandy: “Do I understand you, Mr. Chops, to hintimate that the ‘ole of the expenses of that move will be borne by yourself?”

“Correct,” says Mr. Chops.  “And you shall have a Princely allowance too.”

The Bonnet lifted Mr. Chops upon a chair, to shake hands with him, and replied in poetry, with his eyes seemingly full of tears:

“My boat is on the shore,
And my bark is on the sea,
And I do not ask for more,
But I’ll Go: — along with thee.”

They went into Society, in a chay and four grays with silk jackets.  They took lodgings in Pall Mall, London, and they blazed away.

In consequence of a note that was brought to Bartlemy Fair in the autumn of next year by a servant, most wonderful got up in milk-white cords and tops, I cleaned myself and went to Pall Mall, one evening appinted.  The gentlemen was at their wine arter dinner, and Mr. Chops’s eyes was more fixed in that Ed of his than I thought good for him.  There was three of ‘em (in company, I mean), and I knowed the third well.  When last met, he had on a white Roman shirt, and a bishop’s mitre covered with leopard-skin, and played the clarionet all wrong, in a band at a Wild Beast Show.

This gent took on not to know me, and Mr. Chops said: “Gentlemen, this is a old friend of former days:” and Normandy looked at me through a eye-glass, and said, “Magsman, glad to see you!” — which I’ll take my oath he wasn’t.  Mr. Chops, to git him convenient to the table, had his chair on a throne (much of the form of George the Fourth’s in the canvass), but he hardly appeared to me to be King there in any other pint of view, for his two gentlemen ordered about like Emperors.  They was all dressed like May-Day — gorgeous! — And as to Wine, they swam in all sorts.

I made the round of the bottles, first separate (to say I had done it), and then mixed ‘em all together (to say I had done it), and then tried two of ‘em as half-and-half, and then t’other two.  Altogether, I passed a pleasin evenin, but with a tendency to feel muddled, until I considered it good manners to get up and say, “Mr. Chops, the best of friends must part, I thank you for the wariety of foreign drains you have stood so ‘ansome, I looks towards you in red wine, and I takes my leave.”  Mr. Chops replied, “If you’ll just hitch me out of this over your right arm, Magsman, and carry me down-stairs, I’ll see you out.”  I said I couldn’t think of such a thing, but he would have it, so I lifted him off his throne.  He smelt strong of Maideary, and I couldn’t help thinking as I carried him down that it was like carrying a large bottle full of wine, with a rayther ugly stopper, a good deal out of proportion.

When I set him on the door-mat in the hall, he kep me close to him by holding on to my coat-collar, and he whispers:

“I ain’t ‘appy, Magsman.”

“What’s on your mind, Mr. Chops?”

“They don’t use me well.  They an’t grateful to me.  They puts me on the mantel-piece when I won’t have in more Champagne-wine, and they locks me in the sideboard when I won’t give up my property.”

“Get rid of ‘em, Mr. Chops.”

“I can’t.  We’re in Society together, and what would Society say?”

“Come out of Society!” says I.

“I can’t.  You don’t know what you’re talking about.  When you have once gone into Society, you mustn’t come out of it.”

“Then if you’ll excuse the freedom, Mr. Chops,” were my remark, shaking my head grave, “I think it’s a pity you ever went in.”

Mr. Chops shook that deep Ed of his, to a surprisin extent, and slapped it half a dozen times with his hand, and with more Wice than I thought were in him.  Then, he says, “You’re a good fellow, but you don’t understand.  Good-night, go along.  Magsman, the little man will now walk three times round the Cairawan, and retire behind the curtain.”  The last I see of him on that occasion was his tryin, on the extremest werge of insensibility, to climb up the stairs, one by one, with his hands and knees.  They’d have been much too steep for him, if he had been sober; but he wouldn’t be helped.

It warn’t long after that, that I read in the newspaper of Mr. Chops’s being presented at court.  It was printed, “It will be recollected” — and I’ve noticed in my life, that it is sure to be printed that it will be recollected, whenever it won’t — “that Mr. Chops is the individual of small stature, whose brilliant success in the last State Lottery attracted so much attention.”  Well, I says to myself, Such is Life!  He has been and done it in earnest at last.  He has astonished George the Fourth!

(On account of which, I had that canvass new-painted, him with a bag of money in his hand, a presentin it to George the Fourth, and a lady in Ostrich Feathers fallin in love with him in a bag-wig, sword, and buckles correct.)

I took the House as is the subject of present inquiries — though not the honour of bein acquainted — and I run Magsman’s Amusements in it thirteen months — sometimes one thing, sometimes another, sometimes nothin particular, but always all the canvasses outside.  One night, when we had played the last company out, which was a shy company, through its raining Heavens hard, I was takin a pipe in the one pair back along with the young man with the toes, which I had taken on for a month (though he never drawed — except on paper), and I heard a kickin at the street door.  “Halloa!” I says to the young man, “what’s up!”  He rubs his eyebrows with his toes, and he says, “I can’t imagine, Mr. Magsman” — which he never could imagine nothin, and was monotonous company.

The noise not leavin off, I laid down my pipe, and I took up a candle, and I went down and opened the door.  I looked out into the street; but nothin could I see, and nothin was I aware of, until I turned round quick, because some creetur run between my legs into the passage.  There was Mr. Chops!

“Magsman,” he says, “take me, on the old terms, and you’ve got me; if it’s done, say done!”

I was all of a maze, but I said, “Done, sir.”

“Done to your done, and double done!” says he.  “Have you got a bit of supper in the house?”

Bearin in mind them sparklin warieties of foreign drains as we’d guzzled away at in Pall Mall, I was ashamed to offer him cold sassages and gin-and-water; but he took ‘em both and took ‘em free; havin a chair for his table, and sittin down at it on a stool, like hold times.  I, all of a maze all the while.

It was arter he had made a clean sweep of the sassages (beef, and to the best of my calculations two pound and a quarter), that the wisdom as was in that little man began to come out of him like prespiration.

“Magsman,” he says, “look upon me!  You see afore you, One as has both gone into Society and come out.”

“O!  You are out of it, Mr. Chops?  How did you get out, sir?”

“SOLD OUT!” says he.  You never saw the like of the wisdom as his Ed expressed, when he made use of them two words.

“My friend Magsman, I’ll impart to you a discovery I’ve made.  It’s wallable; it’s cost twelve thousand five hundred pound; it may do you good in life — The secret of this matter is, that it ain’t so much that a person goes into Society, as that Society goes into a person.”

Not exactly keepin up with his meanin, I shook my head, put on a deep look, and said, “You’re right there, Mr. Chops.”

“Magsman,” he says, twitchin me by the leg, “Society has gone into me, to the tune of every penny of my property.”

I felt that I went pale, and though nat’rally a bold speaker, I couldn’t hardly say, “Where’s Normandy?”

“Bolted.  With the plate,” said Mr. Chops.

“And t’other one?” meaning him as formerly wore the bishop’s mitre.

“Bolted.  With the jewels,” said Mr. Chops.

I sat down and looked at him, and he stood up and looked at me.

“Magsman,” he says, and he seemed to myself to get wiser as he got hoarser; “Society, taken in the lump, is all dwarfs.  At the court of St. James’s, they was all a doing my old business — all a goin three times round the Cairawan, in the hold court-suits and properties.  Elsewheres, they was most of ‘em ringin their little bells out of make-believes.  Everywheres, the sarser was a goin round.  Magsman, the sarser is the uniwersal Institution!”

I perceived, you understand, that he was soured by his misfortunes, and I felt for Mr. Chops.

“As to Fat Ladies,” he says, giving his head a tremendious one agin the wall, “there’s lots of them in Society, and worse than the original.  Hers was a outrage upon Taste — simply a outrage upon Taste — awakenin contempt — carryin its own punishment in the form of a Indian.”  Here he giv himself another tremendious one.  “But theirs, Magsman, theirs is mercenary outrages.  Lay in Cashmeer shawls, buy bracelets, strew ‘em and a lot of ‘andsome fans and things about your rooms, let it be known that you give away like water to all as come to admire, and the Fat Ladies that don’t exhibit for so much down upon the drum, will come from all the pints of the compass to flock about you, whatever you are.  They’ll drill holes in your ‘art, Magsman, like a Cullender.  And when you’ve no more left to give, they’ll laugh at you to your face, and leave you to have your bones picked dry by Wulturs, like the dead Wild Ass of the Prairies that you deserve to be!”  Here he giv himself the most tremendious one of all, and dropped.

I thought he was gone.  His Ed was so heavy, and he knocked it so hard, and he fell so stoney, and the sassagerial disturbance in him must have been so immense, that I thought he was gone.  But, he soon come round with care, and he sat up on the floor, and he said to me, with wisdom comin out of his eyes, if ever it come:

“Magsman!  The most material difference between the two states of existence through which your unhappy friend has passed;” he reached out his poor little hand, and his tears dropped down on the moustachio which it was a credit to him to have done his best to grow, but it is not in mortals to command success, — “the difference this.  When I was out of Society, I was paid light for being seen.  When I went into Society, I paid heavy for being seen.  I prefer the former, even if I wasn’t forced upon it.  Give me out through the trumpet, in the hold way, to-morrow.”

Arter that, he slid into the line again as easy as if he had been iled all over.  But the organ was kep from him, and no allusions was ever made, when a company was in, to his property.  He got wiser every day; his views of Society and the Public was luminous, bewilderin, awful; and his Ed got bigger and bigger as his Wisdom expanded it.

He took well, and pulled ‘em in most excellent for nine weeks.  At the expiration of that period, when his Ed was a sight, he expressed one evenin, the last Company havin been turned out, and the door shut, a wish to have a little music.

“Mr. Chops,” I said (I never dropped the “Mr.” with him; the world might do it, but not me); “Mr. Chops, are you sure as you are in a state of mind and body to sit upon the organ?”

His answer was this: “Toby, when next met with on the tramp, I forgive her and the Indian.  And I am.”

It was with fear and trembling that I began to turn the handle; but he sat like a lamb.  I will be my belief to my dying day, that I see his Ed expand as he sat; you may therefore judge how great his thoughts was.  He sat out all the changes, and then he come off.

“Toby,” he says, with a quiet smile, “the little man will now walk three times round the Cairawan, and retire behind the curtain.”

When we called him in the morning, we found him gone into a much better Society than mine or Pall Mall’s.  I giv Mr. Chops as comfortable a funeral as lay in my power, followed myself as Chief, and had the George the Fourth canvass carried first, in the form of a banner.  But, the House was so dismal arterwards, that I giv it up, and took to the Wan again.


“I don’t triumph,” said Jarber, folding up the second manuscript, and looking hard at Trottle.  “I don’t triumph over this worthy creature.  I merely ask him if he is satisfied now?”

“How can he be anything else?” I said, answering for Trottle, who sat obstinately silent.  “This time, Jarber, you have not only read us a delightfully amusing story, but you have also answered the question about the House.  Of course it stands empty now.  Who would think of taking it after it had been turned into a caravan?”  I looked at Trottle, as I said those last words, and Jarber waved his hand indulgently in the same direction.

“Let this excellent person speak,” said Jarber.  “You were about to say, my good man?” —

“I only wished to ask, sir,” said Trottle doggedly, “if you could kindly oblige me with a date or two in connection with that last story?”

“A date!” repeated Jarber.  “What does the man want with dates!”

“I should be glad to know, with great respect,” persisted Trottle, “if the person named Magsman was the last tenant who lived in the House.  It’s my opinion — if I may be excused for giving it — that he most decidedly was not.”

With those words, Trottle made a low bow, and quietly left the room.

There is no denying that Jarber, when we were left together, looked sadly discomposed.  He had evidently forgotten to inquire about dates; and, in spite of his magnificent talk about his series of discoveries, it was quite as plain that the two stories he had just read, had really and truly exhausted his present stock.  I thought myself bound, in common gratitude, to help him out of his embarrassment by a timely suggestion.  So I proposed that he should come to tea again, on the next Monday evening, the thirteenth, and should make such inquiries in the meantime, as might enable him to dispose triumphantly of Trottle’s objection.

He gallantly kissed my hand, made a neat little speech of acknowledgment, and took his leave.  For the rest of the week I would not encourage Trottle by allowing him to refer to the House at all.  I suspected he was making his own inquiries about dates, but I put no questions to him.

On Monday evening, the thirteenth, that dear unfortunate Jarber came, punctual to the appointed time.  He looked so terribly harassed, that he was really quite a spectacle of feebleness and fatigue.  I saw, at a glance, that the question of dates had gone against him, that Mr. Magsman had not been the last tenant of the House, and that the reason of its emptiness was still to seek.

“What I have gone through,” said Jarber, “words are not eloquent enough to tell.  O Sophonisba, I have begun another series of discoveries!  Accept the last two as stories laid on your shrine; and wait to blame me for leaving your curiosity unappeased, until you have heard Number Three.”

Number Three looked like a very short manuscript, and I said as much.  Jarber explained to me that we were to have some poetry this time.  In the course of his investigations he had stepped into the Circulating Library, to seek for information on the one important subject.  All the Library-people knew about the House was, that a female relative of the last tenant, as they believed, had, just after that tenant left, sent a little manuscript poem to them which she described as referring to events that had actually passed in the House; and which she wanted the proprietor of the Library to publish.  She had written no address on her letter; and the proprietor had kept the manuscript ready to be given back to her (the publishing of poems not being in his line) when she might call for it.  She had never called for it; and the poem had been lent to Jarber, at his express request, to read to me.

Before he began, I rang the bell for Trottle; being determined to have him present at the new reading, as a wholesome check on his obstinacy.  To my surprise Peggy answered the bell, and told me, that Trottle had stepped out without saying where.  I instantly felt the strongest possible conviction that he was at his old tricks: and that his stepping out in the evening, without leave, meant — Philandering.

Controlling myself on my visitor’s account, I dismissed Peggy, stifled my indignation, and prepared, as politely as might be, to listen to Jarber.


SOMEBODY’S LUGGAGE


CHAPTER I
HIS LEAVING IT TILL CALLED FOR

The writer of these humble lines being a Waiter, and having come of a family of Waiters, and owning at the present time five brothers who are all Waiters, and likewise an only sister who is a Waitress, would wish to offer a few words respecting his calling; first having the pleasure of hereby in a friendly manner offering the Dedication of the same unto Joseph, much respected Head Waiter at the Slamjam Coffee-house, London, E.C., than which a individual more eminently deserving of the name of man, or a more amenable honour to his own head and heart, whether considered in the light of a Waiter or regarded as a human being, do not exist.

In case confusion should arise in the public mind (which it is open to confusion on many subjects) respecting what is meant or implied by the term Waiter, the present humble lines would wish to offer an explanation.  It may not be generally known that the person as goes out to wait is not a Waiter.  It may not be generally known that the hand as is called in extra, at the Freemasons’ Tavern, or the London, or the Albion, or otherwise, is not a Waiter.  Such hands may be took on for Public Dinners by the bushel (and you may know them by their breathing with difficulty when in attendance, and taking away the bottle ere yet it is half out); but such are not Waiters.  For you cannot lay down the tailoring, or the shoemaking, or the brokering, or the green-grocering, or the pictorial-periodicalling, or the second-hand wardrobe, or the small fancy businesses, — you cannot lay down those lines of life at your will and pleasure by the half-day or evening, and take up Waitering.  You may suppose you can, but you cannot; or you may go so far as to say you do, but you do not.  Nor yet can you lay down the gentleman’s-service when stimulated by prolonged incompatibility on the part of Cooks (and here it may be remarked that Cooking and Incompatibility will be mostly found united), and take up Waitering.  It has been ascertained that what a gentleman will sit meek under, at home, he will not bear out of doors, at the Slamjam or any similar establishment.  Then, what is the inference to be drawn respecting true Waitering?  You must be bred to it.  You must be born to it.

Would you know how born to it, Fair Reader, — if of the adorable female sex?  Then learn from the biographical experience of one that is a Waiter in the sixty-first year of his age.

You were conveyed, — ere yet your dawning powers were otherwise developed than to harbour vacancy in your inside, — you were conveyed, by surreptitious means, into a pantry adjoining the Admiral Nelson, Civic and General Dining-Rooms, there to receive by stealth that healthful sustenance which is the pride and boast of the British female constitution.  Your mother was married to your father (himself a distant Waiter) in the profoundest secrecy; for a Waitress known to be married would ruin the best of businesses, — it is the same as on the stage.  Hence your being smuggled into the pantry, and that — to add to the infliction — by an unwilling grandmother.  Under the combined influence of the smells of roast and boiled, and soup, and gas, and malt liquors, you partook of your earliest nourishment; your unwilling grandmother sitting prepared to catch you when your mother was called and dropped you; your grandmother’s shawl ever ready to stifle your natural complainings; your innocent mind surrounded by uncongenial cruets, dirty plates, dish-covers, and cold gravy; your mother calling down the pipe for veals and porks, instead of soothing you with nursery rhymes.  Under these untoward circumstances you were early weaned.  Your unwilling grandmother, ever growing more unwilling as your food assimilated less, then contracted habits of shaking you till your system curdled, and your food would not assimilate at all.  At length she was no longer spared, and could have been thankfully spared much sooner.  When your brothers began to appear in succession, your mother retired, left off her smart dressing (she had previously been a smart dresser), and her dark ringlets (which had previously been flowing), and haunted your father late of nights, lying in wait for him, through all weathers, up the shabby court which led to the back door of the Royal Old Dust-Bin (said to have been so named by George the Fourth), where your father was Head.  But the Dust-Bin was going down then, and your father took but little, — excepting from a liquid point of view.  Your mother’s object in those visits was of a house-keeping character, and you was set on to whistle your father out.  Sometimes he came out, but generally not.  Come or not come, however, all that part of his existence which was unconnected with open Waitering was kept a close secret, and was acknowledged by your mother to be a close secret, and you and your mother flitted about the court, close secrets both of you, and would scarcely have confessed under torture that you know your father, or that your father had any name than Dick (which wasn’t his name, though he was never known by any other), or that he had kith or kin or chick or child.  Perhaps the attraction of this mystery, combined with your father’s having a damp compartment, to himself, behind a leaky cistern, at the Dust-Bin, — a sort of a cellar compartment, with a sink in it, and a smell, and a plate-rack, and a bottle-rack, and three windows that didn’t match each other or anything else, and no daylight, — caused your young mind to feel convinced that you must grow up to be a Waiter too; but you did feel convinced of it, and so did all your brothers, down to your sister.  Every one of you felt convinced that you was born to the Waitering.  At this stage of your career, what was your feelings one day when your father came home to your mother in open broad daylight, — of itself an act of Madness on the part of a Waiter, — and took to his bed (leastwise, your mother and family’s bed), with the statement that his eyes were devilled kidneys.  Physicians being in vain, your father expired, after repeating at intervals for a day and a night, when gleams of reason and old business fitfully illuminated his being, “Two and two is five.  And three is sixpence.”  Interred in the parochial department of the neighbouring churchyard, and accompanied to the grave by as many Waiters of long standing as could spare the morning time from their soiled glasses (namely, one), your bereaved form was attired in a white neckankecher, and you was took on from motives of benevolence at The George and Gridiron, theatrical and supper.  Here, supporting nature on what you found in the plates (which was as it happened, and but too often thoughtlessly, immersed in mustard), and on what you found in the glasses (which rarely went beyond driblets and lemon), by night you dropped asleep standing, till you was cuffed awake, and by day was set to polishing every individual article in the coffee-room.  Your couch being sawdust; your counterpane being ashes of cigars.  Here, frequently hiding a heavy heart under the smart tie of your white neckankecher (or correctly speaking lower down and more to the left), you picked up the rudiments of knowledge from an extra, by the name of Bishops, and by calling plate-washer, and gradually elevating your mind with chalk on the back of the corner-box partition, until such time as you used the inkstand when it was out of hand, attained to manhood, and to be the Waiter that you find yourself.

I could wish here to offer a few respectful words on behalf of the calling so long the calling of myself and family, and the public interest in which is but too often very limited.  We are not generally understood.  No, we are not.  Allowance enough is not made for us.  For, say that we ever show a little drooping listlessness of spirits, or what might be termed indifference or apathy.  Put it to yourself what would your own state of mind be, if you was one of an enormous family every member of which except you was always greedy, and in a hurry.  Put it to yourself that you was regularly replete with animal food at the slack hours of one in the day and again at nine p.m., and that the repleter you was, the more voracious all your fellow-creatures came in.  Put it to yourself that it was your business, when your digestion was well on, to take a personal interest and sympathy in a hundred gentlemen fresh and fresh (say, for the sake of argument, only a hundred), whose imaginations was given up to grease and fat and gravy and melted butter, and abandoned to questioning you about cuts of this, and dishes of that, — each of ‘em going on as if him and you and the bill of fare was alone in the world.  Then look what you are expected to know.  You are never out, but they seem to think you regularly attend everywhere.  “What’s this, Christopher, that I hear about the smashed Excursion Train?  How are they doing at the Italian Opera, Christopher?”  “Christopher, what are the real particulars of this business at the Yorkshire Bank?”  Similarly a ministry gives me more trouble than it gives the Queen.  As to Lord Palmerston, the constant and wearing connection into which I have been brought with his lordship during the last few years is deserving of a pension.  Then look at the Hypocrites we are made, and the lies (white, I hope) that are forced upon us!  Why must a sedentary-pursuited Waiter be considered to be a judge of horseflesh, and to have a most tremendous interest in horse-training and racing?  Yet it would be half our little incomes out of our pockets if we didn’t take on to have those sporting tastes.  It is the same (inconceivable why!) with Farming.  Shooting, equally so.  I am sure that so regular as the months of August, September, and October come round, I am ashamed of myself in my own private bosom for the way in which I make believe to care whether or not the grouse is strong on the wing (much their wings, or drumsticks either, signifies to me, uncooked!), and whether the partridges is plentiful among the turnips, and whether the pheasants is shy or bold, or anything else you please to mention.  Yet you may see me, or any other Waiter of my standing, holding on by the back of the box, and leaning over a gentleman with his purse out and his bill before him, discussing these points in a confidential tone of voice, as if my happiness in life entirely depended on ‘em.

I have mentioned our little incomes.  Look at the most unreasonable point of all, and the point on which the greatest injustice is done us!  Whether it is owing to our always carrying so much change in our right-hand trousers-pocket, and so many halfpence in our coat-tails, or whether it is human nature (which I were loth to believe), what is meant by the everlasting fable that Head Waiters is rich?  How did that fable get into circulation?  Who first put it about, and what are the facts to establish the unblushing statement?  Come forth, thou slanderer, and refer the public to the Waiter’s will in Doctors’ Commons supporting thy malignant hiss!  Yet this is so commonly dwelt upon — especially by the screws who give Waiters the least — that denial is vain; and we are obliged, for our credit’s sake, to carry our heads as if we were going into a business, when of the two we are much more likely to go into a union.  There was formerly a screw as frequented the Slamjam ere yet the present writer had quitted that establishment on a question of tea-ing his assistant staff out of his own pocket, which screw carried the taunt to its bitterest height.  Never soaring above threepence, and as often as not grovelling on the earth a penny lower, he yet represented the present writer as a large holder of Consols, a lender of money on mortgage, a Capitalist.  He has been overheard to dilate to other customers on the allegation that the present writer put out thousands of pounds at interest in Distilleries and Breweries.  “Well, Christopher,” he would say (having grovelled his lowest on the earth, half a moment before), “looking out for a House to open, eh?  Can’t find a business to be disposed of on a scale as is up to your resources, humph?”  To such a dizzy precipice of falsehood has this misrepresentation taken wing, that the well-known and highly-respected OLD CHARLES, long eminent at the West Country Hotel, and by some considered the Father of the Waitering, found himself under the obligation to fall into it through so many years that his own wife (for he had an unbeknown old lady in that capacity towards himself) believed it!  And what was the consequence?  When he was borne to his grave on the shoulders of six picked Waiters, with six more for change, six more acting as pall-bearers, all keeping step in a pouring shower without a dry eye visible, and a concourse only inferior to Royalty, his pantry and lodgings was equally ransacked high and low for property, and none was found!  How could it be found, when, beyond his last monthly collection of walking-sticks, umbrellas, and pocket-handkerchiefs (which happened to have been not yet disposed of, though he had ever been through life punctual in clearing off his collections by the month), there was no property existing?  Such, however, is the force of this universal libel, that the widow of Old Charles, at the present hour an inmate of the Almshouses of the Cork-Cutters’ Company, in Blue Anchor Road (identified sitting at the door of one of ‘em, in a clean cap and a Windsor arm-chair, only last Monday), expects John’s hoarded wealth to be found hourly!  Nay, ere yet he had succumbed to the grisly dart, and when his portrait was painted in oils life-size, by subscription of the frequenters of the West Country, to hang over the coffee-room chimney-piece, there were not wanting those who contended that what is termed the accessories of such a portrait ought to be the Bank of England out of window, and a strong-box on the table.  And but for better-regulated minds contending for a bottle and screw and the attitude of drawing, — and carrying their point, — it would have been so handed down to posterity.

I am now brought to the title of the present remarks.  Having, I hope without offence to any quarter, offered such observations as I felt it my duty to offer, in a free country which has ever dominated the seas, on the general subject, I will now proceed to wait on the particular question.

At a momentous period of my life, when I was off, so far as concerned notice given, with a House that shall be nameless, — for the question on which I took my departing stand was a fixed charge for waiters, and no House as commits itself to that eminently Un-English act of more than foolishness and baseness shall be advertised by me, — I repeat, at a momentous crisis, when I was off with a House too mean for mention, and not yet on with that to which I have ever since had the honour of being attached in the capacity of Head, I was casting about what to do next.  Then it were that proposals were made to me on behalf of my present establishment.  Stipulations were necessary on my part, emendations were necessary on my part: in the end, ratifications ensued on both sides, and I entered on a new career.

We are a bed business, and a coffee-room business.  We are not a general dining business, nor do we wish it.  In consequence, when diners drop in, we know what to give ‘em as will keep ‘em away another time.  We are a Private Room or Family business also; but Coffee-room principal.  Me and the Directory and the Writing Materials and cetrer occupy a place to ourselves — a place fended of up a step or two at the end of the Coffee-room, in what I call the good old-fashioned style.  The good old-fashioned style is, that whatever you want, down to a wafer, you must be olely and solely dependent on the Head Waiter for.  You must put yourself a new-born Child into his hands.  There is no other way in which a business untinged with Continental Vice can be conducted.  (It were bootless to add, that if languages is required to be jabbered and English is not good enough, both families and gentlemen had better go somewhere else.)

When I began to settle down in this right-principled and well-conducted House, I noticed, under the bed in No. 24 B (which it is up a angle off the staircase, and usually put off upon the lowly-minded), a heap of things in a corner.  I asked our Head Chambermaid in the course of the day,

“What are them things in 24 B?”

To which she answered with a careless air, “Somebody’s Luggage.”

Regarding her with a eye not free from severity, I says, “Whose Luggage?”

Evading my eye, she replied,

“Lor!  How should I know!”

— Being, it may be right to mention, a female of some pertness, though acquainted with her business.

A Head Waiter must be either Head or Tail.  He must be at one extremity or the other of the social scale.  He cannot be at the waist of it, or anywhere else but the extremities.  It is for him to decide which of the extremities.

On the eventful occasion under consideration, I give Mrs. Pratchett so distinctly to understand my decision, that I broke her spirit as towards myself, then and there, and for good.  Let not inconsistency be suspected on account of my mentioning Mrs. Pratchett as “Mrs.,” and having formerly remarked that a waitress must not be married.  Readers are respectfully requested to notice that Mrs. Pratchett was not a waitress, but a chambermaid.  Now a chambermaid may be married; if Head, generally is married, — or says so.  It comes to the same thing as expressing what is customary.  (N.B. Mr. Pratchett is in Australia, and his address there is “the Bush.”)

Having took Mrs. Pratchett down as many pegs as was essential to the future happiness of all parties, I requested her to explain herself.

“For instance,” I says, to give her a little encouragement, “who is Somebody?”

“I give you my sacred honour, Mr. Christopher,” answers Pratchett, “that I haven’t the faintest notion.”

But for the manner in which she settled her cap-strings, I should have doubted this; but in respect of positiveness it was hardly to be discriminated from an affidavit.

“Then you never saw him?” I followed her up with.

“Nor yet,” said Mrs. Pratchett, shutting her eyes and making as if she had just took a pill of unusual circumference, — which gave a remarkable force to her denial, — “nor yet any servant in this house.  All have been changed, Mr. Christopher, within five year, and Somebody left his Luggage here before then.”

Inquiry of Miss Martin yielded (in the language of the Bard of A.1.) “confirmation strong.”  So it had really and truly happened.  Miss Martin is the young lady at the bar as makes out our bills; and though higher than I could wish considering her station, is perfectly well-behaved.

Farther investigations led to the disclosure that there was a bill against this Luggage to the amount of two sixteen six.  The Luggage had been lying under the bedstead of 24 B over six year.  The bedstead is a four-poster, with a deal of old hanging and valance, and is, as I once said, probably connected with more than 24 Bs, — which I remember my hearers was pleased to laugh at, at the time.

I don’t know why, — when DO we know why? — but this Luggage laid heavy on my mind.  I fell a wondering about Somebody, and what he had got and been up to.  I couldn’t satisfy my thoughts why he should leave so much Luggage against so small a bill.  For I had the Luggage out within a day or two and turned it over, and the following were the items: — A black portmanteau, a black bag, a desk, a dressing-case, a brown-paper parcel, a hat-box, and an umbrella strapped to a walking-stick.  It was all very dusty and fluey.  I had our porter up to get under the bed and fetch it out; and though he habitually wallows in dust, — swims in it from morning to night, and wears a close-fitting waistcoat with black calimanco sleeves for the purpose, — it made him sneeze again, and his throat was that hot with it that it was obliged to be cooled with a drink of Allsopp’s draft.

The Luggage so got the better of me, that instead of having it put back when it was well dusted and washed with a wet cloth, — previous to which it was so covered with feathers that you might have thought it was turning into poultry, and would by-and-by begin to Lay, — I say, instead of having it put back, I had it carried into one of my places down-stairs.  There from time to time I stared at it and stared at it, till it seemed to grow big and grow little, and come forward at me and retreat again, and go through all manner of performances resembling intoxication.  When this had lasted weeks, — I may say months, and not be far out, — I one day thought of asking Miss Martin for the particulars of the Two sixteen six total.  She was so obliging as to extract it from the books, — it dating before her time, — and here follows a true copy:

Coffee-Room. 1856. No. 4. £ s. d.
Feb. 2d, Pen and Paper 0 0 6
Port Negus 0 2 0
Ditto 0 2 0
Pen and paper 0 0 6
Tumbler broken 0 2 6
Brandy 0 2 0
Pen and paper 0 0 6
Anchovy toast 0 2 6
Pen and paper 0 0 6
Bed 0 3 0
Feb. 3d, Pen and paper 0 0 6
Breakfast 0 2 6
Broiled ham 0 2 0
Eggs 0 1 0
Watercresses 0 1 0
Shrimps 0 1 0
Pen and paper 0 0 6
Blotting-paper 0 0 6
Messenger to Paternoster Row and back 0 1 6
Again, when No Answer 0 1 6
Brandy 2s., Devilled Pork chop 2s. 0 4 0
Pens and paper 0 1 0
Messenger to Albemarle Street and back 0 1 0
Again (detained), when No Answer 0 1 6
Salt-cellar broken 0 3 6
Large Liquour-glass Orange Brandy 0 1 6
Dinner, Soup, Fish, Joint, and bird 0 7 6
Bottle old East India Brown 0 8 0
Pen and paper 0 0 6
£2 16 6

Mem.: January 1st, 1857.  He went out after dinner, directing luggage to be ready when he called for it.  Never called.

So far from throwing a light upon the subject, this bill appeared to me, if I may so express my doubts, to involve it in a yet more lurid halo.  Speculating it over with the Mistress, she informed me that the luggage had been advertised in the Master’s time as being to be sold after such and such a day to pay expenses, but no farther steps had been taken.  (I may here remark, that the Mistress is a widow in her fourth year.  The Master was possessed of one of those unfortunate constitutions in which Spirits turns to Water, and rises in the ill-starred Victim.)

My speculating it over, not then only, but repeatedly, sometimes with the Mistress, sometimes with one, sometimes with another, led up to the Mistress’s saying to me, — whether at first in joke or in earnest, or half joke and half earnest, it matters not:

“Christopher, I am going to make you a handsome offer.”

(If this should meet her eye, — a lovely blue, — may she not take it ill my mentioning that if I had been eight or ten year younger, I would have done as much by her!  That is, I would have made her a offer.  It is for others than me to denominate it a handsome one.)

“Christopher, I am going to make you a handsome offer.”

“Put a name to it, ma’am.”

“Look here, Christopher.  Run over the articles of Somebody’s Luggage.  You’ve got it all by heart, I know.”

“A black portmanteau, ma’am, a black bag, a desk, a dressing-case, a brown-paper parcel, a hat-box, and an umbrella strapped to a walking-stick.”

“All just as they were left.  Nothing opened, nothing tampered with.”

“You are right, ma’am.  All locked but the brown-paper parcel, and that sealed.”

The Mistress was leaning on Miss Martin’s desk at the bar-window, and she taps the open book that lays upon the desk, — she has a pretty-made hand to be sure, — and bobs her head over it and laughs.

“Come,” says she, “Christopher.  Pay me Somebody’s bill, and you shall have Somebody’s Luggage.”

I rather took to the idea from the first moment; but,

“It mayn’t be worth the money,” I objected, seeming to hold back.

“That’s a Lottery,” says the Mistress, folding her arms upon the book, — it ain’t her hands alone that’s pretty made, the observation extends right up her arms.  “Won’t you venture two pound sixteen shillings and sixpence in the Lottery?  Why, there’s no blanks!” says the Mistress; laughing and bobbing her head again, “you must win.  If you lose, you must win!  All prizes in this Lottery!  Draw a blank, and remember, Gentlemen-Sportsmen, you’ll still be entitled to a black portmanteau, a black bag, a desk, a dressing-case, a sheet of brown paper, a hat-box, and an umbrella strapped to a walking-stick!”

To make short of it, Miss Martin come round me, and Mrs. Pratchett come round me, and the Mistress she was completely round me already, and all the women in the house come round me, and if it had been Sixteen two instead of Two sixteen, I should have thought myself well out of it.  For what can you do when they do come round you?

So I paid the money — down — and such a laughing as there was among ‘em!  But I turned the tables on ‘em regularly, when I said:

“My family-name is Blue-Beard.  I’m going to open Somebody’s Luggage all alone in the Secret Chamber, and not a female eye catches sight of the contents!”

Whether I thought proper to have the firmness to keep to this, don’t signify, or whether any female eye, and if any, how many, was really present when the opening of the Luggage came off.  Somebody’s Luggage is the question at present: Nobody’s eyes, nor yet noses.

What I still look at most, in connection with that Luggage, is the extraordinary quantity of writing-paper, and all written on!  And not our paper neither, — not the paper charged in the bill, for we know our paper, — so he must have been always at it.  And he had crumpled up this writing of his, everywhere, in every part and parcel of his luggage.  There was writing in his dressing-case, writing in his boots, writing among his shaving-tackle, writing in his hat-box, writing folded away down among the very whalebones of his umbrella.

His clothes wasn’t bad, what there was of ‘em.  His dressing-case was poor, — not a particle of silver stopper, — bottle apertures with nothing in ‘em, like empty little dog-kennels, — and a most searching description of tooth-powder diffusing itself around, as under a deluded mistake that all the chinks in the fittings was divisions in teeth.  His clothes I parted with, well enough, to a second-hand dealer not far from St. Clement’s Danes, in the Strand, — him as the officers in the Army mostly dispose of their uniforms to, when hard pressed with debts of honour, if I may judge from their coats and epaulets diversifying the window with their backs towards the public.  The same party bought in one lot the portmanteau, the bag, the desk, the dressing-case, the hat-box, the umbrella, strap, and walking-stick.  On my remarking that I should have thought those articles not quite in his line, he said: “No more ith a man’th grandmother, Mithter Chrithtopher; but if any man will bring hith grandmother here, and offer her at a fair trifle below what the’ll feth with good luck when the’th thcoured and turned — I’ll buy her!”

These transactions brought me home, and, indeed, more than home, for they left a goodish profit on the original investment.  And now there remained the writings; and the writings I particular wish to bring under the candid attention of the reader.

I wish to do so without postponement, for this reason.  That is to say, namely, viz. i.e., as follows, thus: — Before I proceed to recount the mental sufferings of which I became the prey in consequence of the writings, and before following up that harrowing tale with a statement of the wonderful and impressive catastrophe, as thrilling in its nature as unlooked for in any other capacity, which crowned the ole and filled the cup of unexpectedness to overflowing, the writings themselves ought to stand forth to view.  Therefore it is that they now come next.  One word to introduce them, and I lay down my pen (I hope, my unassuming pen) until I take it up to trace the gloomy sequel of a mind with something on it.

He was a smeary writer, and wrote a dreadful bad hand.  Utterly regardless of ink, he lavished it on every undeserving object — on his clothes, his desk, his hat, the handle of his tooth-brush, his umbrella.  Ink was found freely on the coffee-room carpet by No. 4 table, and two blots was on his restless couch.  A reference to the document I have given entire will show that on the morning of the third of February, eighteen fifty-six, he procured his no less than fifth pen and paper.  To whatever deplorable act of ungovernable composition he immolated those materials obtained from the bar, there is no doubt that the fatal deed was committed in bed, and that it left its evidences but too plainly, long afterwards, upon the pillow-case.

He had put no Heading to any of his writings.  Alas!  Was he likely to have a Heading without a Head, and where was his Head when he took such things into it?  In some cases, such as his Boots, he would appear to have hid the writings; thereby involving his style in greater obscurity.  But his Boots was at least pairs, — and no two of his writings can put in any claim to be so regarded.  Here follows (not to give more specimens) what was found in


CHAPTER II
HIS BOOTS

“Eh! well then, Monsieur Mutuel!  What do I know, what can I say?  I assure you that he calls himself Monsieur The Englishman.”

“Pardon.  But I think it is impossible,” said Monsieur Mutuel, — a spectacled, snuffy, stooping old gentleman in carpet shoes and a cloth cap with a peaked shade, a loose blue frock-coat reaching to his heels, a large limp white shirt-frill, and cravat to correspond, — that is to say, white was the natural colour of his linen on Sundays, but it toned down with the week.

“It is,” repeated Monsieur Mutuel, his amiable old walnut-shell countenance very walnut-shelly indeed as he smiled and blinked in the bright morning sunlight, — “it is, my cherished Madame Bouclet, I think, impossible!”

“Hey!” (with a little vexed cry and a great many tosses of her head.)  “But it is not impossible that you are a Pig!” retorted Madame Bouclet, a compact little woman of thirty-five or so.  “See then, — look there, — read!  ‘On the second floor Monsieur L’Anglais.’  Is it not so?”

“It is so,” said Monsieur Mutuel.

“Good.  Continue your morning walk.  Get out!” Madame Bouclet dismissed him with a lively snap of her fingers.

The morning walk of Monsieur Mutuel was in the brightest patch that the sun made in the Grande Place of a dull old fortified French town.  The manner of his morning walk was with his hands crossed behind him; an umbrella, in figure the express image of himself, always in one hand; a snuffbox in the other.  Thus, with the shuffling gait of the Elephant (who really does deal with the very worst trousers-maker employed by the Zoological world, and who appeared to have recommended him to Monsieur Mutuel), the old gentleman sunned himself daily when sun was to be had — of course, at the same time sunning a red ribbon at his button-hole; for was he not an ancient Frenchman?

Being told by one of the angelic sex to continue his morning walk and get out, Monsieur Mutuel laughed a walnut-shell laugh, pulled off his cap at arm’s length with the hand that contained his snuffbox, kept it off for a considerable period after he had parted from Madame Bouclet, and continued his morning walk and got out, like a man of gallantry as he was.

The documentary evidence to which Madame Bouclet had referred Monsieur Mutuel was the list of her lodgers, sweetly written forth by her own Nephew and Bookkeeper, who held the pen of an Angel, and posted up at the side of her gateway, for the information of the Police: “Au second, M. L’Anglais, Propriétaire.”  On the second floor, Mr. The Englishman, man of property.  So it stood; nothing could be plainer.

Madame Bouclet now traced the line with her forefinger, as it were to confirm and settle herself in her parting snap at Monsieur Mutuel, and so placing her right hand on her hip with a defiant air, as if nothing should ever tempt her to unsnap that snap, strolled out into the Place to glance up at the windows of Mr. The Englishman.  That worthy happening to be looking out of window at the moment, Madame Bouclet gave him a graceful salutation with her head, looked to the right and looked to the left to account to him for her being there, considered for a moment, like one who accounted to herself for somebody she had expected not being there, and reëntered her own gateway.  Madame Bouclet let all her house giving on the Place in furnished flats or floors, and lived up the yard behind in company with Monsieur Bouclet her husband (great at billiards), an inherited brewing business, several fowls, two carts, a nephew, a little dog in a big kennel, a grape-vine, a counting-house, four horses, a married sister (with a share in the brewing business), the husband and two children of the married sister, a parrot, a drum (performed on by the little boy of the married sister), two billeted soldiers, a quantity of pigeons, a fife (played by the nephew in a ravishing manner), several domestics and supernumeraries, a perpetual flavour of coffee and soup, a terrific range of artificial rocks and wooden precipices at least four feet high, a small fountain, and half-a-dozen large sunflowers.

Now the Englishman, in taking his Appartement, — or, as one might say on our side of the Channel, his set of chambers, — had given his name, correct to the letter, LANGLEY.  But as he had a British way of not opening his mouth very wide on foreign soil, except at meals, the Brewery had been able to make nothing of it but L’Anglais.  So Mr. The Englishman he had become and he remained.

“Never saw such a people!” muttered Mr. The Englishman, as he now looked out of window.  “Never did, in my life!”

This was true enough, for he had never before been out of his own country, — a right little island, a tight little island, a bright little island, a show-fight little island, and full of merit of all sorts; but not the whole round world.

“These chaps,” said Mr. The Englishman to himself, as his eye rolled over the Place, sprinkled with military here and there, “are no more like soldiers — “  Nothing being sufficiently strong for the end of his sentence, he left it unended.

This again (from the point of view of his experience) was strictly correct; for though there was a great agglomeration of soldiers in the town and neighbouring country, you might have held a grand Review and Field-day of them every one, and looked in vain among them all for a soldier choking behind his foolish stock, or a soldier lamed by his ill-fitting shoes, or a soldier deprived of the use of his limbs by straps and buttons, or a soldier elaborately forced to be self-helpless in all the small affairs of life.  A swarm of brisk, bright, active, bustling, handy, odd, skirmishing fellows, able to turn cleverly at anything, from a siege to soup, from great guns to needles and thread, from the broadsword exercise to slicing an onion, from making war to making omelets, was all you would have found.

What a swarm!  From the Great Place under the eye of Mr. The Englishman, where a few awkward squads from the last conscription were doing the goose-step — some members of those squads still as to their bodies, in the chrysalis peasant-state of Blouse, and only military butterflies as to their regimentally-clothed legs — from the Great Place, away outside the fortifications, and away for miles along the dusty roads, soldiers swarmed.  All day long, upon the grass-grown ramparts of the town, practising soldiers trumpeted and bugled; all day long, down in angles of dry trenches, practising soldiers drummed and drummed.  Every forenoon, soldiers burst out of the great barracks into the sandy gymnasium-ground hard by, and flew over the wooden horse, and hung on to flying ropes, and dangled upside-down between parallel bars, and shot themselves off wooden platforms, — splashes, sparks, coruscations, showers of soldiers.  At every corner of the town-wall, every guard-house, every gateway, every sentry-box, every drawbridge, every reedy ditch, and rushy dike, soldiers, soldiers, soldiers.  And the town being pretty well all wall, guard-house, gateway, sentry-box, drawbridge, reedy ditch, and rushy dike, the town was pretty well all soldiers.

What would the sleepy old town have been without the soldiers, seeing that even with them it had so overslept itself as to have slept its echoes hoarse, its defensive bars and locks and bolts and chains all rusty, and its ditches stagnant!  From the days when VAUBAN engineered it to that perplexing extent that to look at it was like being knocked on the head with it, the stranger becoming stunned and stertorous under the shock of its incomprehensibility, — from the days when VAUBAN made it the express incorporation of every substantive and adjective in the art of military engineering, and not only twisted you into it and twisted you out of it, to the right, to the left, opposite, under here, over there, in the dark, in the dirt, by the gateway, archway, covered way, dry way, wet way, fosse, portcullis, drawbridge, sluice, squat tower, pierced wall, and heavy battery, but likewise took a fortifying dive under the neighbouring country, and came to the surface three or four miles off, blowing out incomprehensible mounds and batteries among the quiet crops of chicory and beet-root, — from those days to these the town had been asleep, and dust and rust and must had settled on its drowsy Arsenals and Magazines, and grass had grown up in its silent streets.

On market-days alone, its Great Place suddenly leaped out of bed.  On market-days, some friendly enchanter struck his staff upon the stones of the Great Place, and instantly arose the liveliest booths and stalls, and sittings and standings, and a pleasant hum of chaffering and huckstering from many hundreds of tongues, and a pleasant, though peculiar, blending of colours, — white caps, blue blouses, and green vegetables, — and at last the Knight destined for the adventure seemed to have come in earnest, and all the Vaubanois sprang up awake.  And now, by long, low-lying avenues of trees, jolting in white-hooded donkey-cart, and on donkey-back, and in tumbril and wagon, and cart and cabriolet, and afoot with barrow and burden, — and along the dikes and ditches and canals, in little peak-prowed country boats, — came peasant-men and women in flocks and crowds, bringing articles for sale.  And here you had boots and shoes, and sweetmeats and stuffs to wear, and here (in the cool shade of the Town-hall) you had milk and cream and butter and cheese, and here you had fruits and onions and carrots, and all things needful for your soup, and here you had poultry and flowers and protesting pigs, and here new shovels, axes, spades, and bill-hooks for your farming work, and here huge mounds of bread, and here your unground grain in sacks, and here your children’s dolls, and here the cake-seller, announcing his wares by beat and roll of drum.  And hark! fanfaronade of trumpets, and here into the Great Place, resplendent in an open carriage, with four gorgeously-attired servitors up behind, playing horns, drums, and cymbals, rolled “the Daughter of a Physician” in massive golden chains and ear-rings, and blue-feathered hat, shaded from the admiring sun by two immense umbrellas of artificial roses, to dispense (from motives of philanthropy) that small and pleasant dose which had cured so many thousands!  Toothache, earache, headache, heartache, stomach-ache, debility, nervousness, fits, fainting, fever, ague, all equally cured by the small and pleasant dose of the great Physician’s great daughter!  The process was this, — she, the Daughter of a Physician, proprietress of the superb equipage you now admired with its confirmatory blasts of trumpet, drum, and cymbal, told you so: On the first day after taking the small and pleasant dose, you would feel no particular influence beyond a most harmonious sensation of indescribable and irresistible joy; on the second day you would be so astonishingly better that you would think yourself changed into somebody else; on the third day you would be entirely free from disorder, whatever its nature and however long you had had it, and would seek out the Physician’s Daughter to throw yourself at her feet, kiss the hem of her garment, and buy as many more of the small and pleasant doses as by the sale of all your few effects you could obtain; but she would be inaccessible, — gone for herbs to the Pyramids of Egypt, — and you would be (though cured) reduced to despair!  Thus would the Physician’s Daughter drive her trade (and briskly too), and thus would the buying and selling and mingling of tongues and colours continue, until the changing sunlight, leaving the Physician’s Daughter in the shadow of high roofs, admonished her to jolt out westward, with a departing effect of gleam and glitter on the splendid equipage and brazen blast.  And now the enchanter struck his staff upon the stones of the Great Place once more, and down went the booths, the sittings and standings, and vanished the merchandise, and with it the barrows, donkeys, donkey-carts, and tumbrils, and all other things on wheels and feet, except the slow scavengers with unwieldy carts and meagre horses clearing up the rubbish, assisted by the sleek town pigeons, better plumped out than on non-market days.  While there was yet an hour or two to wane before the autumn sunset, the loiterer outside town-gate and drawbridge, and postern and double-ditch, would see the last white-hooded cart lessening in the avenue of lengthening shadows of trees, or the last country boat, paddled by the last market-woman on her way home, showing black upon the reddening, long, low, narrow dike between him and the mill; and as the paddle-parted scum and weed closed over the boat’s track, he might be comfortably sure that its sluggish rest would be troubled no more until next market-day.

As it was not one of the Great Place’s days for getting out of bed, when Mr. The Englishman looked down at the young soldiers practising the goose-step there, his mind was left at liberty to take a military turn.

“These fellows are billeted everywhere about,” said he; “and to see them lighting the people’s fires, boiling the people’s pots, minding the people’s babies, rocking the people’s cradles, washing the people’s greens, and making themselves generally useful, in every sort of unmilitary way, is most ridiculous!  Never saw such a set of fellows, — never did in my life!”

All perfectly true again.  Was there not Private Valentine in that very house, acting as sole housemaid, valet, cook, steward, and nurse, in the family of his captain, Monsieur le Capitaine de la Cour, — cleaning the floors, making the beds, doing the marketing, dressing the captain, dressing the dinners, dressing the salads, and dressing the baby, all with equal readiness?  Or, to put him aside, he being in loyal attendance on his Chief, was there not Private Hyppolite, billeted at the Perfumer’s two hundred yards off, who, when not on duty, volunteered to keep shop while the fair Perfumeress stepped out to speak to a neighbour or so, and laughingly sold soap with his war-sword girded on him?  Was there not Emile, billeted at the Clock-maker’s, perpetually turning to of an evening, with his coat off, winding up the stock?  Was there not Eugène, billeted at the Tinman’s, cultivating, pipe in mouth, a garden four feet square, for the Tinman, in the little court, behind the shop, and extorting the fruits of the earth from the same, on his knees, with the sweat of his brow?  Not to multiply examples, was there not Baptiste, billeted on the poor Water-carrier, at that very instant sitting on the pavement in the sunlight, with his martial legs asunder, and one of the Water-carrier’s spare pails between them, which (to the delight and glory of the heart of the Water-carrier coming across the Place from the fountain, yoked and burdened) he was painting bright-green outside and bright-red within?  Or, to go no farther than the Barber’s at the very next door, was there not Corporal Théophile —

“No,” said Mr. The Englishman, glancing down at the Barber’s, “he is not there at present.  There’s the child, though.”

A mere mite of a girl stood on the steps of the Barber’s shop, looking across the Place.  A mere baby, one might call her, dressed in the close white linen cap which small French country children wear (like the children in Dutch pictures), and in a frock of homespun blue, that had no shape except where it was tied round her little fat throat.  So that, being naturally short and round all over, she looked, behind, as if she had been cut off at her natural waist, and had had her head neatly fitted on it.

“There’s the child, though.”

To judge from the way in which the dimpled hand was rubbing the eyes, the eyes had been closed in a nap, and were newly opened.  But they seemed to be looking so intently across the Place, that the Englishman looked in the same direction.

“O!” said he presently.  “I thought as much.  The Corporal’s there.”

The Corporal, a smart figure of a man of thirty, perhaps a thought under the middle size, but very neatly made, — a sunburnt Corporal with a brown peaked beard, — faced about at the moment, addressing voluble words of instruction to the squad in hand.  Nothing was amiss or awry about the Corporal.  A lithe and nimble Corporal, quite complete, from the sparkling dark eyes under his knowing uniform cap to his sparkling white gaiters.  The very image and presentment of a Corporal of his country’s army, in the line of his shoulders, the line of his waist, the broadest line of his Bloomer trousers, and their narrowest line at the calf of his leg.

Mr. The Englishman looked on, and the child looked on, and the Corporal looked on (but the last-named at his men), until the drill ended a few minutes afterwards, and the military sprinkling dried up directly, and was gone.  Then said Mr. The Englishman to himself, “Look here!  By George!”  And the Corporal, dancing towards the Barber’s with his arms wide open, caught up the child, held her over his head in a flying attitude, caught her down again, kissed her, and made off with her into the Barber’s house.

Now Mr. The Englishman had had a quarrel with his erring and disobedient and disowned daughter, and there was a child in that case too.  Had not his daughter been a child, and had she not taken angel-flights above his head as this child had flown above the Corporal’s?

“He’s a “ — National Participled — “fool!” said the Englishman, and shut his window.

But the windows of the house of Memory, and the windows of the house of Mercy, are not so easily closed as windows of glass and wood.  They fly open unexpectedly; they rattle in the night; they must be nailed up.  Mr. The Englishman had tried nailing them, but had not driven the nails quite home.  So he passed but a disturbed evening and a worse night.

By nature a good-tempered man?  No; very little gentleness, confounding the quality with weakness.  Fierce and wrathful when crossed?  Very, and stupendously unreasonable.  Moody?  Exceedingly so.  Vindictive?  Well; he had had scowling thoughts that he would formally curse his daughter, as he had seen it done on the stage.  But remembering that the real Heaven is some paces removed from the mock one in the great chandelier of the Theatre, he had given that up.

And he had come abroad to be rid of his repudiated daughter for the rest of his life.  And here he was.

At bottom, it was for this reason, more than for any other, that Mr. The Englishman took it extremely ill that Corporal Théophile should be so devoted to little Bebelle, the child at the Barber’s shop.  In an unlucky moment he had chanced to say to himself, “Why, confound the fellow, he is not her father!”  There was a sharp sting in the speech which ran into him suddenly, and put him in a worse mood.  So he had National Participled the unconscious Corporal with most hearty emphasis, and had made up his mind to think no more about such a mountebank.

But it came to pass that the Corporal was not to be dismissed.  If he had known the most delicate fibres of the Englishman’s mind, instead of knowing nothing on earth about him, and if he had been the most obstinate Corporal in the Grand Army of France, instead of being the most obliging, he could not have planted himself with more determined immovability plump in the midst of all the Englishman’s thoughts.  Not only so, but he seemed to be always in his view.  Mr. The Englishman had but to look out of window, to look upon the Corporal with little Bebelle.  He had but to go for a walk, and there was the Corporal walking with Bebelle.  He had but to come home again, disgusted, and the Corporal and Bebelle were at home before him.  If he looked out at his back windows early in the morning, the Corporal was in the Barber’s back yard, washing and dressing and brushing Bebelle.  If he took refuge at his front windows, the Corporal brought his breakfast out into the Place, and shared it there with Bebelle.  Always Corporal and always Bebelle.  Never Corporal without Bebelle.  Never Bebelle without Corporal.

Mr. The Englishman was not particularly strong in the French language as a means of oral communication, though he read it very well.  It is with languages as with people, — when you only know them by sight, you are apt to mistake them; you must be on speaking terms before you can be said to have established an acquaintance.

For this reason, Mr. The Englishman had to gird up his loins considerably before he could bring himself to the point of exchanging ideas with Madame Bouclet on the subject of this Corporal and this Bebelle.  But Madame Bouclet looking in apologetically one morning to remark, that, O Heaven! she was in a state of desolation because the lamp-maker had not sent home that lamp confided to him to repair, but that truly he was a lamp-maker against whom the whole world shrieked out, Mr. The Englishman seized the occasion.

“Madame, that baby — “

“Pardon, monsieur.  That lamp.”

“No, no, that little girl.”

“But, pardon!” said Madame Bonclet, angling for a clew, “one cannot light a little girl, or send her to be repaired?”

“The little girl — at the house of the barber.”

“Ah-h-h!” cried Madame Bouclet, suddenly catching the idea with her delicate little line and rod.  “Little Bebelle?  Yes, yes, yes!  And her friend the Corporal?  Yes, yes, yes, yes!  So genteel of him, — is it not?”

“He is not — ?”

“Not at all; not at all!  He is not one of her relations.  Not at all!”

“Why, then, he — “

“Perfectly!” cried Madame Bouclet, “you are right, monsieur.  It is so genteel of him.  The less relation, the more genteel.  As you say.”

“Is she — ?”

“The child of the barber?” Madame Bouclet whisked up her skilful little line and rod again.  “Not at all, not at all!  She is the child of — in a word, of no one.”

“The wife of the barber, then — ?”

“Indubitably.  As you say.  The wife of the barber receives a small stipend to take care of her.  So much by the month.  Eh, then!  It is without doubt very little, for we are all poor here.”

“You are not poor, madame.”

“As to my lodgers,” replied Madame Bouclet, with a smiling and a gracious bend of her head, “no.  As to all things else, so-so.”

“You flatter me, madame.”

“Monsieur, it is you who flatter me in living here.”

Certain fishy gasps on Mr. The Englishman’s part, denoting that he was about to resume his subject under difficulties, Madame Bouclet observed him closely, and whisked up her delicate line and rod again with triumphant success.

“O no, monsieur, certainly not.  The wife of the barber is not cruel to the poor child, but she is careless.  Her health is delicate, and she sits all day, looking out at window.  Consequently, when the Corporal first came, the poor little Bebelle was much neglected.”

“It is a curious — “ began Mr. The Englishman.

“Name?  That Bebelle?  Again you are right, monsieur.  But it is a playful name for Gabrielle.”

“And so the child is a mere fancy of the Corporal’s?” said Mr. The Englishman, in a gruffly disparaging tone of voice.

“Eh, well!” returned Madame Bouclet, with a pleading shrug: “one must love something.  Human nature is weak.”

(“Devilish weak,” muttered the Englishman, in his own language.)

“And the Corporal,” pursued Madame Bouclet, “being billeted at the barber’s, — where he will probably remain a long time, for he is attached to the General, — and finding the poor unowned child in need of being loved, and finding himself in need of loving, — why, there you have it all, you see!”

Mr. The Englishman accepted this interpretation of the matter with an indifferent grace, and observed to himself, in an injured manner, when he was again alone: “I shouldn’t mind it so much, if these people were not such a” — National Participled — “sentimental people!”

There was a Cemetery outside the town, and it happened ill for the reputation of the Vaubanois, in this sentimental connection, that he took a walk there that same afternoon.  To be sure there were some wonderful things in it (from the Englishman’s point of view), and of a certainty in all Britain you would have found nothing like it.  Not to mention the fanciful flourishes of hearts and crosses in wood and iron, that were planted all over the place, making it look very like a Firework-ground, where a most splendid pyrotechnic display might be expected after dark, there were so many wreaths upon the graves, embroidered, as it might be, “To my mother,” “To my daughter,” “To my father,” “To my brother,” “To my sister,” “To my friend,” and those many wreaths were in so many stages of elaboration and decay, from the wreath of yesterday, all fresh colour and bright beads, to the wreath of last year, a poor mouldering wisp of straw!  There were so many little gardens and grottos made upon graves, in so many tastes, with plants and shells and plaster figures and porcelain pitchers, and so many odds and ends!  There were so many tributes of remembrance hanging up, not to be discriminated by the closest inspection from little round waiters, whereon were depicted in glowing lines either a lady or a gentleman with a white pocket-handkerchief out of all proportion, leaning, in a state of the most faultless mourning and most profound affliction, on the most architectural and gorgeous urn!  There were so many surviving wives who had put their names on the tombs of their deceased husbands, with a blank for the date of their own departure from this weary world; and there were so many surviving husbands who had rendered the same homage to their deceased wives; and out of the number there must have been so many who had long ago married again!  In fine, there was so much in the place that would have seemed more frippery to a stranger, save for the consideration that the lightest paper flower that lay upon the poorest heap of earth was never touched by a rude hand, but perished there, a sacred thing!

“Nothing of the solemnity of Death here,” Mr. The Englishman had been going to say, when this last consideration touched him with a mild appeal, and on the whole he walked out without saying it.  “But these people are,” he insisted, by way of compensation, when he was well outside the gate, “they are so” — Participled — “sentimental!”

His way back lay by the military gymnasium-ground.  And there he passed the Corporal glibly instructing young soldiers how to swing themselves over rapid and deep watercourses on their way to Glory, by means of a rope, and himself deftly plunging off a platform, and flying a hundred feet or two, as an encouragement to them to begin.  And there he also passed, perched on a crowning eminence (probably the Corporal’s careful hands), the small Bebelle, with her round eyes wide open, surveying the proceeding like a wondering sort of blue and white bird.

“If that child was to die,” this was his reflection as he turned his back and went his way, — “and it would almost serve the fellow right for making such a fool of himself, — I suppose we should have him sticking up a wreath and a waiter in that fantastic burying-ground.”

Nevertheless, after another early morning or two of looking out of window, he strolled down into the Place, when the Corporal and Bebelle were walking there, and touching his hat to the Corporal (an immense achievement), wished him Good-day.

“Good-day, monsieur.”

“This is a rather pretty child you have here,” said Mr. The Englishman, taking her chin in his hand, and looking down into her astonished blue eyes.

“Monsieur, she is a very pretty child,” returned the Corporal, with a stress on his polite correction of the phrase.

“And good?” said the Englishman.

“And very good.  Poor little thing!”

“Hah!”  The Englishman stooped down and patted her cheek, not without awkwardness, as if he were going too far in his conciliation.  “And what is this medal round your neck, my little one?”

Bebelle having no other reply on her lips than her chubby right fist, the Corporal offered his services as interpreter.

“Monsieur demands, what is this, Bebelle?”

“It is the Holy Virgin,” said Bebelle.

“And who gave it you?” asked the Englishman.

“Théophile.”

“And who is Théophile?”

Bebelle broke into a laugh, laughed merrily and heartily, clapped her chubby hands, and beat her little feet on the stone pavement of the Place.

“He doesn’t know Théophile!  Why, he doesn’t know any one!  He doesn’t know anything!”  Then, sensible of a small solecism in her manners, Bebelle twisted her right hand in a leg of the Corporal’s Bloomer trousers, and, laying her cheek against the place, kissed it.

“Monsieur Théophile, I believe?” said the Englishman to the Corporal.

“It is I, monsieur.”

“Permit me.”  Mr. The Englishman shook him heartily by the hand and turned away.  But he took it mighty ill that old Monsieur Mutuel in his patch of sunlight, upon whom he came as he turned, should pull off his cap to him with a look of pleased approval.  And he muttered, in his own tongue, as he returned the salutation, “Well, walnut-shell!  And what business is it of yours?”

Mr. The Englishman went on for many weeks passing but disturbed evenings and worse nights, and constantly experiencing that those aforesaid windows in the houses of Memory and Mercy rattled after dark, and that he had very imperfectly nailed them up.  Likewise, he went on for many weeks daily improving the acquaintance of the Corporal and Bebelle.  That is to say, he took Bebelle by the chin, and the Corporal by the hand, and offered Bebelle sous and the Corporal cigars, and even got the length of changing pipes with the Corporal and kissing Bebelle.  But he did it all in a shamefaced way, and always took it extremely ill that Monsieur Mutuel in his patch of sunlight should note what he did.  Whenever that seemed to be the case, he always growled in his own tongue, “There you are again, walnut-shell!  What business is it of yours?”

In a word, it had become the occupation of Mr. The Englishman’s life to look after the Corporal and little Bebelle, and to resent old Monsieur Mutuel’s looking after him.  An occupation only varied by a fire in the town one windy night, and much passing of water-buckets from hand to hand (in which the Englishman rendered good service), and much beating of drums, — when all of a sudden the Corporal disappeared.

Next, all of a sudden, Bebelle disappeared.

She had been visible a few days later than the Corporal, — sadly deteriorated as to washing and brushing, — but she had not spoken when addressed by Mr. The Englishman, and had looked scared and had run away.  And now it would seem that she had run away for good.  And there lay the Great Place under the windows, bare and barren.

In his shamefaced and constrained way, Mr. The Englishman asked no question of any one, but watched from his front windows and watched from his back windows, and lingered about the Place, and peeped in at the Barber’s shop, and did all this and much more with a whistling and tune-humming pretence of not missing anything, until one afternoon when Monsieur Mutuel’s patch of sunlight was in shadow, and when, according to all rule and precedent, he had no right whatever to bring his red ribbon out of doors, behold here he was, advancing with his cap already in his hand twelve paces off!

Mr. The Englishman had got as far into his usual objurgation as, “What bu-si — “ when he checked himself.

“Ah, it is sad, it is sad!  Hélas, it is unhappy, it is sad!”  Thus old Monsieur Mutuel, shaking his gray head.

“What busin — at least, I would say, what do you mean, Monsieur Mutuel?”

“Our Corporal.  Hélas, our dear Corporal!”

“What has happened to him?”

“You have not heard?”

“No.”

“At the fire.  But he was so brave, so ready.  Ah, too brave, too ready!”

“May the Devil carry you away!” the Englishman broke in impatiently; “I beg your pardon, — I mean me, — I am not accustomed to speak French, — go on, will you?”

“And a falling beam — “

“Good God!” exclaimed the Englishman.  “It was a private soldier who was killed?”

“No.  A Corporal, the same Corporal, our dear Corporal.  Beloved by all his comrades.  The funeral ceremony was touching, — penetrating.  Monsieur The Englishman, your eyes fill with tears.”

“What bu-si — “

“Monsieur The Englishman, I honour those emotions.  I salute you with profound respect.  I will not obtrude myself upon your noble heart.”

Monsieur Mutuel, — a gentleman in every thread of his cloudy linen, under whose wrinkled hand every grain in the quarter of an ounce of poor snuff in his poor little tin box became a gentleman’s property, — Monsieur Mutuel passed on, with his cap in his hand.

“I little thought,” said the Englishman, after walking for several minutes, and more than once blowing his nose, “when I was looking round that cemetery — I’ll go there!”

Straight he went there, and when he came within the gate he paused, considering whether he should ask at the lodge for some direction to the grave.  But he was less than ever in a mood for asking questions, and he thought, “I shall see something on it to know it by.”

In search of the Corporal’s grave he went softly on, up this walk and down that, peering in, among the crosses and hearts and columns and obelisks and tombstones, for a recently disturbed spot.  It troubled him now to think how many dead there were in the cemetery, — he had not thought them a tenth part so numerous before, — and after he had walked and sought for some time, he said to himself, as he struck down a new vista of tombs, “I might suppose that every one was dead but I.”

Not every one.  A live child was lying on the ground asleep.  Truly he had found something on the Corporal’s grave to know it by, and the something was Bebelle.

With such a loving will had the dead soldier’s comrades worked at his resting-place, that it was already a neat garden.  On the green turf of the garden Bebelle lay sleeping, with her cheek touching it.  A plain, unpainted little wooden Cross was planted in the turf, and her short arm embraced this little Cross, as it had many a time embraced the Corporal’s neck.  They had put a tiny flag (the flag of France) at his head, and a laurel garland.

Mr. The Englishman took off his hat, and stood for a while silent.  Then, covering his head again, he bent down on one knee, and softly roused the child.

“Bebelle!  My little one!”

Opening her eyes, on which the tears were still wet, Bebelle was at first frightened; but seeing who it was, she suffered him to take her in his arms, looking steadfastly at him.

“You must not lie here, my little one.  You must come with me.”

“No, no.  I can’t leave Théophile.  I want the good dear Théophile.”

“We will go and seek him, Bebelle.  We will go and look for him in England.  We will go and look for him at my daughter’s, Bebelle.”

“Shall we find him there?”

“We shall find the best part of him there.  Come with me, poor forlorn little one.  Heaven is my witness,” said the Englishman, in a low voice, as, before he rose, he touched the turf above the gentle Corporal’s breast, “that I thankfully accept this trust!”

It was a long way for the child to have come unaided.  She was soon asleep again, with her embrace transferred to the Englishman’s neck.  He looked at her worn shoes, and her galled feet, and her tired face, and believed that she had come there every day.

He was leaving the grave with the slumbering Bebelle in his arms, when he stopped, looked wistfully down at it, and looked wistfully at the other graves around.  “It is the innocent custom of the people,” said Mr. The Englishman, with hesitation.  “I think I should like to do it.  No one sees.”

Careful not to wake Bebelle as he went, he repaired to the lodge where such little tokens of remembrance were sold, and bought two wreaths.  One, blue and white and glistening silver, “To my friend;” one of a soberer red and black and yellow, “To my friend.”  With these he went back to the grave, and so down on one knee again.  Touching the child’s lips with the brighter wreath, he guided her hand to hang it on the Cross; then hung his own wreath there.  After all, the wreaths were not far out of keeping with the little garden.  To my friend.  To my friend.

Mr. The Englishman took it very ill when he looked round a street corner into the Great Place, carrying Bebelle in his arms, that old Mutuel should be there airing his red ribbon.  He took a world of pains to dodge the worthy Mutuel, and devoted a surprising amount of time and trouble to skulking into his own lodging like a man pursued by Justice.  Safely arrived there at last, he made Bebelle’s toilet with as accurate a remembrance as he could bring to bear upon that work of the way in which he had often seen the poor Corporal make it, and having given her to eat and drink, laid her down on his own bed.  Then he slipped out into the barber’s shop, and after a brief interview with the barber’s wife, and a brief recourse to his purse and card-case, came back again with the whole of Bebelle’s personal property in such a very little bundle that it was quite lost under his arm.

As it was irreconcilable with his whole course and character that he should carry Bebelle off in state, or receive any compliments or congratulations on that feat, he devoted the next day to getting his two portmanteaus out of the house by artfulness and stealth, and to comporting himself in every particular as if he were going to run away, — except, indeed, that he paid his few debts in the town, and prepared a letter to leave for Madame Bouclet, enclosing a sufficient sum of money in lieu of notice.  A railway train would come through at midnight, and by that train he would take away Bebelle to look for Théophile in England and at his forgiven daughter’s.

At midnight, on a moonlight night, Mr. The Englishman came creeping forth like a harmless assassin, with Bebelle on his breast instead of a dagger.  Quiet the Great Place, and quiet the never-stirring streets; closed the cafés; huddled together motionless their billiard-balls; drowsy the guard or sentinel on duty here and there; lulled for the time, by sleep, even the insatiate appetite of the Office of Town-dues.

Mr. The Englishman left the Place behind, and left the streets behind, and left the civilian-inhabited town behind, and descended down among the military works of Vauban, hemming all in.  As the shadow of the first heavy arch and postern fell upon him and was left behind, as the shadow of the second heavy arch and postern fell upon him and was left behind, as his hollow tramp over the first drawbridge was succeeded by a gentler sound, as his hollow tramp over the second drawbridge was succeeded by a gentler sound, as he overcame the stagnant ditches one by one, and passed out where the flowing waters were and where the moonlight, so the dark shades and the hollow sounds and the unwholesomely locked currents of his soul were vanquished and set free.  See to it, Vaubans of your own hearts, who gird them in with triple walls and ditches, and with bolt and chain and bar and lifted bridge, — raze those fortifications, and lay them level with the all-absorbing dust, before the night cometh when no hand can work!

All went prosperously, and he got into an empty carriage in the train, where he could lay Bebelle on the seat over against him, as on a couch, and cover her from head to foot with his mantle.  He had just drawn himself up from perfecting this arrangement, and had just leaned back in his own seat contemplating it with great satisfaction, when he became aware of a curious appearance at the open carriage window, — a ghostly little tin box floating up in the moonlight, and hovering there.

He leaned forward, and put out his head.  Down among the rails and wheels and ashes, Monsieur Mutuel, red ribbon and all!

“Excuse me, Monsieur The Englishman,” said Monsieur Mutuel, holding up his box at arm’s length, the carriage being so high and he so low; “but I shall reverence the little box for ever, if your so generous hand will take a pinch from it at parting.”

Mr. The Englishman reached out of the window before complying, and — without asking the old fellow what business it was of his — shook hands and said, “Adieu!  God bless you!”

“And, Mr. The Englishman, God bless you!” cried Madame Bouclet, who was also there among the rails and wheels and ashes.  “And God will bless you in the happiness of the protected child now with you.  And God will bless you in your own child at home.  And God will bless you in your own remembrances.  And this from me!”

He had barely time to catch a bouquet from her hand, when the train was flying through the night.  Round the paper that enfolded it was bravely written (doubtless by the nephew who held the pen of an Angel), “Homage to the friend of the friendless.”

“Not bad people, Bebelle!” said Mr. The Englishman, softly drawing the mantle a little from her sleeping face, that he might kiss it, “though they are so — “

Too “sentimental” himself at the moment to be able to get out that word, he added nothing but a sob, and travelled for some miles, through the moonlight, with his hand before his eyes.


CHAPTER III
HIS BROWN-PAPER PARCEL

My works are well known.  I am a young man in the Art line.  You have seen my works many a time, though it’s fifty thousand to one if you have seen me.  You say you don’t want to see me?  You say your interest is in my works, and not in me?  Don’t be too sure about that.  Stop a bit.

Let us have it down in black and white at the first go off, so that there may be no unpleasantness or wrangling afterwards.  And this is looked over by a friend of mine, a ticket writer, that is up to literature.  I am a young man in the Art line — in the Fine-Art line.  You have seen my works over and over again, and you have been curious about me, and you think you have seen me.  Now, as a safe rule, you never have seen me, and you never do see me, and you never will see me.  I think that’s plainly put — and it’s what knocks me over.

If there’s a blighted public character going, I am the party.

It has been remarked by a certain (or an uncertain,) philosopher, that the world knows nothing of its greatest men.  He might have put it plainer if he had thrown his eye in my direction.  He might have put it, that while the world knows something of them that apparently go in and win, it knows nothing of them that really go in and don’t win.  There it is again in another form — and that’s what knocks me over.

Not that it’s only myself that suffers from injustice, but that I am more alive to my own injuries than to any other man’s.  Being, as I have mentioned, in the Fine-Art line, and not the Philanthropic line, I openly admit it.  As to company in injury, I have company enough.  Who are you passing every day at your Competitive Excruciations?  The fortunate candidates whose heads and livers you have turned upside down for life?  Not you.  You are really passing the Crammers and Coaches.  If your principle is right, why don’t you turn out to-morrow morning with the keys of your cities on velvet cushions, your musicians playing, and your flags flying, and read addresses to the Crammers and Coaches on your bended knees, beseeching them to come out and govern you?  Then, again, as to your public business of all sorts, your Financial statements and your Budgets; the Public knows much, truly, about the real doers of all that!  Your Nobles and Right Honourables are first-rate men?  Yes, and so is a goose a first-rate bird.  But I’ll tell you this about the goose; — you’ll find his natural flavour disappointing, without stuffing.

Perhaps I am soured by not being popular?  But suppose I AM popular.  Suppose my works never fail to attract.  Suppose that, whether they are exhibited by natural light or by artificial, they invariably draw the public.  Then no doubt they are preserved in some Collection?  No, they are not; they are not preserved in any Collection.  Copyright?  No, nor yet copyright.  Anyhow they must be somewhere?  Wrong again, for they are often nowhere.

Says you, “At all events, you are in a moody state of mind, my friend.”  My answer is, I have described myself as a public character with a blight upon him — which fully accounts for the curdling of the milk in that cocoa-nut.

Those that are acquainted with London are aware of a locality on the Surrey side of the river Thames, called the Obelisk, or, more generally, the Obstacle.  Those that are not acquainted with London will also be aware of it, now that I have named it.  My lodging is not far from that locality.  I am a young man of that easy disposition, that I lie abed till it’s absolutely necessary to get up and earn something, and then I lie abed again till I have spent it.

It was on an occasion when I had had to turn to with a view to victuals, that I found myself walking along the Waterloo Road, one evening after dark, accompanied by an acquaintance and fellow-lodger in the gas-fitting way of life.  He is very good company, having worked at the theatres, and, indeed, he has a theatrical turn himself, and wishes to be brought out in the character of Othello; but whether on account of his regular work always blacking his face and hands more or less, I cannot say.

“Tom,” he says, “what a mystery hangs over you!”

“Yes, Mr. Click” — the rest of the house generally give him his name, as being first, front, carpeted all over, his own furniture, and if not mahogany, an out-and-out imitation — “yes, Mr. Click, a mystery does hang over me.”

“Makes you low, you see, don’t it?” says he, eyeing me sideways.

“Why, yes, Mr. Click, there are circumstances connected with it that have,” I yielded to a sigh, “a lowering effect.”

“Gives you a touch of the misanthrope too, don’t it?” says he.  “Well, I’ll tell you what.  If I was you, I’d shake it of.”

“If I was you, I would, Mr. Click; but, if you was me, you wouldn’t.”

“Ah!” says he, “there’s something in that.”

When we had walked a little further, he took it up again by touching me on the chest.

“You see, Tom, it seems to me as if, in the words of the poet who wrote the domestic drama of The Stranger, you had a silent sorrow there.”

“I have, Mr. Click.”

“I hope, Tom,” lowering his voice in a friendly way, “it isn’t coining, or smashing?”

“No, Mr. Click.  Don’t be uneasy.”

“Nor yet forg — “  Mr. Click checked himself, and added, “counterfeiting anything, for instance?”

“No, Mr. Click.  I am lawfully in the Art line — Fine-Art line — but I can say no more.”

“Ah!  Under a species of star?  A kind of malignant spell?  A sort of a gloomy destiny?  A cankerworm pegging away at your vitals in secret, as well as I make it out?” said Mr. Click, eyeing me with some admiration.

I told Mr. Click that was about it, if we came to particulars; and I thought he appeared rather proud of me.

Our conversation had brought us to a crowd of people, the greater part struggling for a front place from which to see something on the pavement, which proved to be various designs executed in coloured chalks on the pavement stones, lighted by two candles stuck in mud sconces.  The subjects consisted of a fine fresh salmon’s head and shoulders, supposed to have been recently sent home from the fishmonger’s; a moonlight night at sea (in a circle); dead game; scroll-work; the head of a hoary hermit engaged in devout contemplation; the head of a pointer smoking a pipe; and a cherubim, his flesh creased as in infancy, going on a horizontal errand against the wind.  All these subjects appeared to me to be exquisitely done.

On his knees on one side of this gallery, a shabby person of modest appearance who shivered dreadfully (though it wasn’t at all cold), was engaged in blowing the chalk-dust off the moon, toning the outline of the back of the hermit’s head with a bit of leather, and fattening the down-stroke of a letter or two in the writing.  I have forgotten to mention that writing formed a part of the composition, and that it also — as it appeared to me — was exquisitely done.  It ran as follows, in fine round characters: “An honest man is the noblest work of God.  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0.  £ s. d.  Employment in an office is humbly requested.  Honour the Queen.  Hunger is a 0 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 sharp thorn.  Chip chop, cherry chop, fol de rol de ri do.  Astronomy and mathematics.  I do this to support my family.”

Murmurs of admiration at the exceeding beauty of this performance went about among the crowd.  The artist, having finished his touching (and having spoilt those places), took his seat on the pavement, with his knees crouched up very nigh his chin; and halfpence began to rattle in.

“A pity to see a man of that talent brought so low; ain’t it?” said one of the crowd to me.

“What he might have done in the coach-painting, or house-decorating!” said another man, who took up the first speaker because I did not.

“Why, he writes — alone — like the Lord Chancellor!” said another man.

“Better,” said another.  “I know his writing.  He couldn’t support his family this way.”

Then, a woman noticed the natural fluffiness of the hermit’s hair, and another woman, her friend, mentioned of the salmon’s gills that you could almost see him gasp.  Then, an elderly country gentleman stepped forward and asked the modest man how he executed his work?  And the modest man took some scraps of brown paper with colours in ‘em out of his pockets, and showed them.  Then a fair-complexioned donkey, with sandy hair and spectacles, asked if the hermit was a portrait?  To which the modest man, casting a sorrowful glance upon it, replied that it was, to a certain extent, a recollection of his father.  This caused a boy to yelp out, “Is the Pinter a smoking the pipe your mother?” who was immediately shoved out of view by a sympathetic carpenter with his basket of tools at his back.

At every fresh question or remark the crowd leaned forward more eagerly, and dropped the halfpence more freely, and the modest man gathered them up more meekly.  At last, another elderly gentleman came to the front, and gave the artist his card, to come to his office to-morrow, and get some copying to do.  The card was accompanied by sixpence, and the artist was profoundly grateful, and, before he put the card in his hat, read it several times by the light of his candles to fix the address well in his mind, in case he should lose it.  The crowd was deeply interested by this last incident, and a man in the second row with a gruff voice growled to the artist, “You’ve got a chance in life now, ain’t you?”  The artist answered (sniffing in a very low-spirited way, however), “I’m thankful to hope so.”  Upon which there was a general chorus of “You are all right,” and the halfpence slackened very decidedly.

I felt myself pulled away by the arm, and Mr. Click and I stood alone at the corner of the next crossing.

“Why, Tom,” said Mr. Click, “what a horrid expression of face you’ve got!”

“Have I?” says I.

“Have you?” says Mr. Click.  “Why, you looked as if you would have his blood.”

“Whose blood?”

“The artist’s.”

“The artist’s?” I repeated.  And I laughed, frantically, wildly, gloomily, incoherently, disagreeably.  I am sensible that I did.  I know I did.

Mr. Click stared at me in a scared sort of a way, but said nothing until we had walked a street’s length.  He then stopped short, and said, with excitement on the part of his forefinger:

“Thomas, I find it necessary to be plain with you.  I don’t like the envious man.  I have identified the cankerworm that’s pegging away at your vitals, and it’s envy, Thomas.”

“Is it?” says I.

“Yes, it is,” says be.  “Thomas, beware of envy.  It is the green-eyed monster which never did and never will improve each shining hour, but quite the reverse.  I dread the envious man, Thomas.  I confess that I am afraid of the envious man, when he is so envious as you are.  Whilst you contemplated the works of a gifted rival, and whilst you heard that rival’s praises, and especially whilst you met his humble glance as he put that card away, your countenance was so malevolent as to be terrific.  Thomas, I have heard of the envy of them that follows the Fine-Art line, but I never believed it could be what yours is.  I wish you well, but I take my leave of you.  And if you should ever got into trouble through knifeing — or say, garotting — a brother artist, as I believe you will, don’t call me to character, Thomas, or I shall be forced to injure your case.”

Mr. Click parted from me with those words, and we broke off our acquaintance.

I became enamoured.  Her name was Henrietta.  Contending with my easy disposition, I frequently got up to go after her.  She also dwelt in the neighbourhood of the Obstacle, and I did fondly hope that no other would interpose in the way of our union.

To say that Henrietta was volatile is but to say that she was woman.  To say that she was in the bonnet-trimming is feebly to express the taste which reigned predominant in her own.

She consented to walk with me.  Let me do her the justice to say that she did so upon trial.  “I am not,” said Henrietta, “as yet prepared to regard you, Thomas, in any other light than as a friend; but as a friend I am willing to walk with you, on the understanding that softer sentiments may flow.”

We walked.

Under the influence of Henrietta’s beguilements, I now got out of bed daily.  I pursued my calling with an industry before unknown, and it cannot fail to have been observed at that period, by those most familiar with the streets of London, that there was a larger supply.  But hold!  The time is not yet come!

One evening in October I was walking with Henrietta, enjoying the cool breezes wafted over Vauxhall Bridge.  After several slow turns, Henrietta gaped frequently (so inseparable from woman is the love of excitement), and said, “Let’s go home by Grosvenor Place, Piccadilly, and Waterloo” — localities, I may state for the information of the stranger and the foreigner, well known in London, and the last a Bridge.

“No.  Not by Piccadilly, Henrietta,” said I.

“And why not Piccadilly, for goodness’ sake?” said Henrietta.

Could I tell her?  Could I confess to the gloomy presentiment that overshadowed me?  Could I make myself intelligible to her?  No.

“I don’t like Piccadilly, Henrietta.”

“But I do,” said she.  “It’s dark now, and the long rows of lamps in Piccadilly after dark are beautiful.  I will go to Piccadilly!”

Of course we went.  It was a pleasant night, and there were numbers of people in the streets.  It was a brisk night, but not too cold, and not damp.  Let me darkly observe, it was the best of all nights — FOR THE PURPOSE.

As we passed the garden wall of the Royal Palace, going up Grosvenor Place, Henrietta murmured:

“I wish I was a Queen!”

“Why so, Henrietta?”

“I would make you Something,” said she, and crossed her two hands on my arm, and turned away her head.

Judging from this that the softer sentiments alluded to above had begun to flow, I adapted my conduct to that belief.  Thus happily we passed on into the detested thoroughfare of Piccadilly.  On the right of that thoroughfare is a row of trees, the railing of the Green Park, and a fine broad eligible piece of pavement.

“Oh my!” cried Henrietta presently.  “There’s been an accident!”

I looked to the left, and said, “Where, Henrietta?”

“Not there, stupid!” said she.  “Over by the Park railings.  Where the crowd is.  Oh no, it’s not an accident, it’s something else to look at!  What’s them lights?”

She referred to two lights twinkling low amongst the legs of the assemblage: two candles on the pavement.

“Oh, do come along!” cried Henrietta, skipping across the road with me.  I hung back, but in vain.  “Do let’s look!”

Again, designs upon the pavement.  Centre compartment, Mount Vesuvius going it (in a circle), supported by four oval compartments, severally representing a ship in heavy weather, a shoulder of mutton attended by two cucumbers, a golden harvest with distant cottage of proprietor, and a knife and fork after nature; above the centre compartment a bunch of grapes, and over the whole a rainbow.  The whole, as it appeared to me, exquisitely done.

The person in attendance on these works of art was in all respects, shabbiness excepted, unlike the former personage.  His whole appearance and manner denoted briskness.  Though threadbare, he expressed to the crowd that poverty had not subdued his spirit, or tinged with any sense of shame this honest effort to turn his talents to some account.  The writing which formed a part of his composition was conceived in a similarly cheerful tone.  It breathed the following sentiments: “The writer is poor, but not despondent.  To a British 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Public he £ s. d. appeals.  Honour to our brave Army!  And also 0 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 to our gallant Navy.  BRITONS STRIKE the A B C D E F G writer in common chalks would be grateful for any suitable employment HOME!  HURRAH!”  The whole of this writing appeared to me to be exquisitely done.

But this man, in one respect like the last, though seemingly hard at it with a great show of brown paper and rubbers, was only really fattening the down-stroke of a letter here and there, or blowing the loose chalk off the rainbow, or toning the outside edge of the shoulder of mutton.  Though he did this with the greatest confidence, he did it (as it struck me) in so ignorant a manner, and so spoilt everything he touched, that when he began upon the purple smoke from the chimney of the distant cottage of the proprietor of the golden harvest (which smoke was beautifully soft), I found myself saying aloud, without considering of it:

“Let that alone, will you?”

“Halloa!” said the man next me in the crowd, jerking me roughly from him with his elbow, “why didn’t you send a telegram?  If we had known you was coming, we’d have provided something better for you.  You understand the man’s work better than he does himself, don’t you?  Have you made your will?  You’re too clever to live long.”

“Don’t be hard upon the gentleman, sir,” said the person in attendance on the works of art, with a twinkle in his eye as he looked at me; “he may chance to be an artist himself.  If so, sir, he will have a fellow-feeling with me, sir, when I” — he adapted his action to his words as he went on, and gave a smart slap of his hands between each touch, working himself all the time about and about the composition — “when I lighten the bloom of my grapes — shade off the orange in my rainbow — dot the i of my Britons — throw a yellow light into my cow-cum-ber — insinuate another morsel of fat into my shoulder of mutton — dart another zigzag flash of lightning at my ship in distress!”

He seemed to do this so neatly, and was so nimble about it, that the halfpence came flying in.

“Thanks, generous public, thanks!” said the professor.  “You will stimulate me to further exertions.  My name will be found in the list of British Painters yet.  I shall do better than this, with encouragement.  I shall indeed.”

“You never can do better than that bunch of grapes,” said Henrietta.  “Oh, Thomas, them grapes!”

“Not better than that, lady?  I hope for the time when I shall paint anything but your own bright eyes and lips equal to life.”

“(Thomas, did you ever?)  But it must take a long time, sir,” said Henrietta, blushing, “to paint equal to that.”

“I was prenticed to it, miss,” said the young man, smartly touching up the composition — “prenticed to it in the caves of Spain and Portingale, ever so long and two year over.”

There was a laugh from the crowd; and a new man who had worked himself in next me, said, “He’s a smart chap, too; ain’t he?”

“And what a eye!” exclaimed Henrietta softly.

“Ah!  He need have a eye,” said the man.

“Ah!  He just need,” was murmured among the crowd.

“He couldn’t come that ‘ere burning mountain without a eye,” said the man.  He had got himself accepted as an authority, somehow, and everybody looked at his finger as it pointed out Vesuvius.  “To come that effect in a general illumination would require a eye; but to come it with two dips — why, it’s enough to blind him!”

That impostor, pretending not to have heard what was said, now winked to any extent with both eyes at once, as if the strain upon his sight was too much, and threw back his long hair — it was very long — as if to cool his fevered brow.  I was watching him doing it, when Henrietta suddenly whispered, “Oh, Thomas, how horrid you look!” and pulled me out by the arm.

Remembering Mr. Click’s words, I was confused when I retorted, “What do you mean by horrid?”

“Oh gracious!  Why, you looked,” said Henrietta, “as if you would have his blood.”

I was going to answer, “So I would, for twopence — from his nose,” when I checked myself and remained silent.

We returned home in silence.  Every step of the way, the softer sentiments that had flowed, ebbed twenty mile an hour.  Adapting my conduct to the ebbing, as I had done to the flowing, I let my arm drop limp, so as she could scarcely keep hold of it, and I wished her such a cold good-night at parting, that I keep within the bounds of truth when I characterise it as a Rasper.

In the course of the next day I received the following document:

“Henrietta informs Thomas that my eyes are open to you.  I must ever wish you well, but walking and us is separated by an unfarmable abyss.  One so malignant to superiority — Oh that look at him! — can never never conduct

HENRIETTA

P.S. — To the altar.”

Yielding to the easiness of my disposition, I went to bed for a week, after receiving this letter.  During the whole of such time, London was bereft of the usual fruits of my labour.  When I resumed it, I found that Henrietta was married to the artist of Piccadilly.

Did I say to the artist?  What fell words were those, expressive of what a galling hollowness, of what a bitter mockery!  I — I — I — am the artist.  I was the real artist of Piccadilly, I was the real artist of the Waterloo Road, I am the only artist of all those pavement-subjects which daily and nightly arouse your admiration.  I do ‘em, and I let ‘em out.  The man you behold with the papers of chalks and the rubbers, touching up the down-strokes of the writing and shading off the salmon, the man you give the credit to, the man you give the money to, hires — yes! and I live to tell it! — hires those works of art of me, and brings nothing to ‘em but the candles.

Such is genius in a commercial country.  I am not up to the shivering, I am not up to the liveliness, I am not up to the wanting-employment-in-an-office move; I am only up to originating and executing the work.  In consequence of which you never see me; you think you see me when you see somebody else, and that somebody else is a mere Commercial character.  The one seen by self and Mr. Click in the Waterloo Road can only write a single word, and that I taught him, and it’s MULTIPLICATION — which you may see him execute upside down, because he can’t do it the natural way.  The one seen by self and Henrietta by the Green Park railings can just smear into existence the two ends of a rainbow, with his cuff and a rubber — if very hard put upon making a show — but he could no more come the arch of the rainbow, to save his life, than he could come the moonlight, fish, volcano, shipwreck, mutton, hermit, or any of my most celebrated effects.

To conclude as I began: if there’s a blighted public character going, I am the party.  And often as you have seen, do see, and will see, my Works, it’s fifty thousand to one if you’ll ever see me, unless, when the candles are burnt down and the Commercial character is gone, you should happen to notice a neglected young man perseveringly rubbing out the last traces of the pictures, so that nobody can renew the same.  That’s me.


CHAPTER IV
HIS WONDERFUL END

It will have been, ere now, perceived that I sold the foregoing writings.  From the fact of their being printed in these pages, the inference will, ere now, have been drawn by the reader (may I add, the gentle reader?) that I sold them to One who never yet —

Having parted with the writings on most satisfactory terms, — for, in opening negotiations with the present Journal, was I not placing myself in the hands of One of whom it may be said, in the words of Another, 2, — resumed my usual functions.  But I too soon discovered that peace of mind had fled from a brow which, up to that time, Time had merely took the hair off, leaving an unruffled expanse within.

It were superfluous to veil it, — the brow to which I allude is my own.

Yes, over that brow uneasiness gathered like the sable wing of the fabled bird, as — as no doubt will be easily identified by all right-minded individuals.  If not, I am unable, on the spur of the moment, to enter into particulars of him.  The reflection that the writings must now inevitably get into print, and that He might yet live and meet with them, sat like the Hag of Night upon my jaded form.  The elasticity of my spirits departed.  Fruitless was the Bottle, whether Wine or Medicine.  I had recourse to both, and the effect of both upon my system was witheringly lowering.

In this state of depression, into which I subsided when I first began to revolve what could I ever say if He — the unknown — was to appear in the Coffee-room and demand reparation, I one forenoon in this last November received a turn that appeared to be given me by the finger of Fate and Conscience, hand in hand.  I was alone in the Coffee-room, and had just poked the fire into a blaze, and was standing with my back to it, trying whether heat would penetrate with soothing influence to the Voice within, when a young man in a cap, of an intelligent countenance, though requiring his hair cut, stood before me.

“Mr. Christopher, the Head Waiter?”

“The same.”

The young man shook his hair out of his vision, — which it impeded, — to a packet from his breast, and handing it over to me, said, with his eye (or did I dream?) fixed with a lambent meaning on me, “THE PROOFS.”

Although I smelt my coat-tails singeing at the fire, I had not the power to withdraw them.  The young man put the packet in my faltering grasp, and repeated, — let me do him the justice to add, with civility:

“THE PROOFS.  A. Y. R.”

With those words he departed.

A. Y. R.?  And You Remember.  Was that his meaning?  At Your Risk.  Were the letters short for that reminder?  Anticipate Your Retribution.  Did they stand for that warning?  Out-dacious Youth Repent?  But no; for that, a O was happily wanting, and the vowel here was a A.

I opened the packet, and found that its contents were the foregoing writings printed just as the reader (may I add the discerning reader?) peruses them.  In vain was the reassuring whisper, — A.Y.R., All the Year Round, — it could not cancel the Proofs.  Too appropriate name.  The Proofs of my having sold the Writings.

My wretchedness daily increased.  I had not thought of the risk I ran, and the defying publicity I put my head into, until all was done, and all was in print.  Give up the money to be off the bargain and prevent the publication, I could not.  My family was down in the world, Christmas was coming on, a brother in the hospital and a sister in the rheumatics could not be entirely neglected.  And it was not only ins in the family that had told on the resources of one unaided Waitering; outs were not wanting.  A brother out of a situation, and another brother out of money to meet an acceptance, and another brother out of his mind, and another brother out at New York (not the same, though it might appear so), had really and truly brought me to a stand till I could turn myself round.  I got worse and worse in my meditations, constantly reflecting “The Proofs,” and reflecting that when Christmas drew nearer, and the Proofs were published, there could be no safety from hour to hour but that He might confront me in the Coffee-room, and in the face of day and his country demand his rights.

The impressive and unlooked-for catastrophe towards which I dimly pointed the reader (shall I add, the highly intellectual reader?) in my first remarks now rapidly approaches.

It was November still, but the last echoes of the Guy Foxes had long ceased to reverberate.  We was slack, — several joints under our average mark, and wine, of course, proportionate.  So slack had we become at last, that Beds Nos. 26, 27, 28, and 31, having took their six o’clock dinners, and dozed over their respective pints, had drove away in their respective Hansoms for their respective Night Mail-trains and left us empty.

I had took the evening paper to No. 6 table, — which is warm and most to be preferred, — and, lost in the all-absorbing topics of the day, had dropped into a slumber.  I was recalled to consciousness by the well-known intimation, “Waiter!” and replying, “Sir!” found a gentleman standing at No. 4 table.  The reader (shall I add, the observant reader?) will please to notice the locality of the gentleman, — at No. 4 table.

He had one of the newfangled uncollapsable bags in his hand (which I am against, for I don’t see why you shouldn’t collapse, while you are about it, as your fathers collapsed before you), and he said:

“I want to dine, waiter.  I shall sleep here to-night.”

“Very good, sir.  What will you take for dinner, sir?”

“Soup, bit of codfish, oyster sauce, and the joint.”

“Thank you, sir.”

I rang the chambermaid’s bell; and Mrs. Pratchett marched in, according to custom, demurely carrying a lighted flat candle before her, as if she was one of a long public procession, all the other members of which was invisible.

In the meanwhile the gentleman had gone up to the mantelpiece, right in front of the fire, and had laid his forehead against the mantelpiece (which it is a low one, and brought him into the attitude of leap-frog), and had heaved a tremenjous sigh.  His hair was long and lightish; and when he laid his forehead against the mantelpiece, his hair all fell in a dusty fluff together over his eyes; and when he now turned round and lifted up his head again, it all fell in a dusty fluff together over his ears.  This give him a wild appearance, similar to a blasted heath.

“O!  The chambermaid.  Ah!”  He was turning something in his mind.  “To be sure.  Yes.  I won’t go up-stairs now, if you will take my bag.  It will be enough for the present to know my number. — Can you give me 24 B?”

(O Conscience, what a Adder art thou!)

Mrs. Pratchett allotted him the room, and took his bag to it.  He then went back before the fire, and fell a biting his nails.

“Waiter!” biting between the words, “give me,” bite, “pen and paper; and in five minutes,” bite, “let me have, if you please,” bite, “a”, bite, “Messenger.”

Unmindful of his waning soup, he wrote and sent off six notes before he touched his dinner.  Three were City; three West-End.  The City letters were to Cornhill, Ludgate-hill, and Farringdon Street.  The West-End letters were to Great Marlborough Street, New Burlington Street, and Piccadilly.  Everybody was systematically denied at every one of the six places, and there was not a vestige of any answer.  Our light porter whispered to me, when he came back with that report, “All Booksellers.”

But before then he had cleared off his dinner, and his bottle of wine.  He now — mark the concurrence with the document formerly given in full! — knocked a plate of biscuits off the table with his agitated elber (but without breakage), and demanded boiling brandy-and-water.

Now fully convinced that it was Himself, I perspired with the utmost freedom.  When he became flushed with the heated stimulant referred to, he again demanded pen and paper, and passed the succeeding two hours in producing a manuscript which he put in the fire when completed.  He then went up to bed, attended by Mrs. Pratchett.  Mrs. Pratchett (who was aware of my emotions) told me, on coming down, that she had noticed his eye rolling into every corner of the passages and staircase, as if in search of his Luggage, and that, looking back as she shut the door of 24 B, she perceived him with his coat already thrown off immersing himself bodily under the bedstead, like a chimley-sweep before the application of machinery.

The next day — I forbear the horrors of that night — was a very foggy day in our part of London, insomuch that it was necessary to light the Coffee-room gas.  We was still alone, and no feverish words of mine can do justice to the fitfulness of his appearance as he sat at No. 4 table, increased by there being something wrong with the meter.

Having again ordered his dinner, he went out, and was out for the best part of two hours.  Inquiring on his return whether any of the answers had arrived, and receiving an unqualified negative, his instant call was for mulligatawny, the cayenne pepper, and orange brandy.

Feeling that the mortal struggle was now at hand, I also felt that I must be equal to him, and with that view resolved that whatever he took I would take.  Behind my partition, but keeping my eye on him over the curtain, I therefore operated on Mulligatawny, Cayenne Pepper, and Orange Brandy.  And at a later period of the day, when he again said, “Orange Brandy,” I said so too, in a lower tone, to George, my Second Lieutenant (my First was absent on leave), who acts between me and the bar.

Throughout that awful day he walked about the Coffee-room continually.  Often he came close up to my partition, and then his eye rolled within, too evidently in search of any signs of his Luggage.  Half-past six came, and I laid his cloth.  He ordered a bottle of old Brown.  I likewise ordered a bottle of old Brown.  He drank his.  I drank mine (as nearly as my duties would permit) glass for glass against his.  He topped with coffee and a small glass.  I topped with coffee and a small glass.  He dozed.  I dozed.  At last, “Waiter!” — and he ordered his bill.  The moment was now at hand when we two must be locked in the deadly grapple.

Swift as the arrow from the bow, I had formed my resolution; in other words, I had hammered it out between nine and nine.  It was, that I would be the first to open up the subject with a full acknowledgment, and would offer any gradual settlement within my power.  He paid his bill (doing what was right by attendance) with his eye rolling about him to the last for any tokens of his Luggage.  One only time our gaze then met, with the lustrous fixedness (I believe I am correct in imputing that character to it?) of the well-known Basilisk.  The decisive moment had arrived.

With a tolerable steady hand, though with humility, I laid The Proofs before him.

“Gracious Heavens!” he cries out, leaping up, and catching hold of his hair.  “What’s this?  Print!”

“Sir,” I replied, in a calming voice, and bending forward, “I humbly acknowledge to being the unfortunate cause of it.  But I hope, sir, that when you have heard the circumstances explained, and the innocence of my intentions — “

To my amazement, I was stopped short by his catching me in both his arms, and pressing me to his breast-bone; where I must confess to my face (and particular, nose) having undergone some temporary vexation from his wearing his coat buttoned high up, and his buttons being uncommon hard.

“Ha, ha, ha!” he cries, releasing me with a wild laugh, and grasping my hand.  “What is your name, my Benefactor?”

“My name, sir” (I was crumpled, and puzzled to make him out), “is Christopher; and I hope, sir, that, as such, when you’ve heard my ex — “

“In print!” he exclaims again, dashing the proofs over and over as if he was bathing in them. — “In print!!  O Christopher!  Philanthropist!  Nothing can recompense you, — but what sum of money would be acceptable to you?”

I had drawn a step back from him, or I should have suffered from his buttons again.

“Sir, I assure you, I have been already well paid, and — “

“No, no, Christopher!  Don’t talk like that!  What sum of money would be acceptable to you, Christopher?  Would you find twenty pounds acceptable, Christopher?”

However great my surprise, I naturally found words to say, “Sir, I am not aware that the man was ever yet born without more than the average amount of water on the brain as would not find twenty pounds acceptable.  But — extremely obliged to you, sir, I’m sure;” for he had tumbled it out of his purse and crammed it in my hand in two bank-notes; “but I could wish to know, sir, if not intruding, how I have merited this liberality?”

“Know then, my Christopher,” he says, “that from boyhood’s hour I have unremittingly and unavailingly endeavoured to get into print.  Know, Christopher, that all the Booksellers alive — and several dead — have refused to put me into print.  Know, Christopher, that I have written unprinted Reams.  But they shall be read to you, my friend and brother.  You sometimes have a holiday?”

Seeing the great danger I was in, I had the presence of mind to answer, “Never!”  To make it more final, I added, “Never!  Not from the cradle to the grave.”

“Well,” says he, thinking no more about that, and chuckling at his proofs again.  “But I am in print!  The first flight of ambition emanating from my father’s lowly cot is realised at length!  The golden bow” — he was getting on, — “struck by the magic hand, has emitted a complete and perfect sound!  When did this happen, my Christopher?”

“Which happen, sir?”

“This,” he held it out at arms length to admire it, — “this Per-rint.”

When I had given him my detailed account of it, he grasped me by the hand again, and said:

“Dear Christopher, it should be gratifying to you to know that you are an instrument in the hands of Destiny.  Because you are.”

A passing Something of a melancholy cast put it into my head to shake it, and to say, “Perhaps we all are.”

“I don’t mean that,” he answered; “I don’t take that wide range; I confine myself to the special case.  Observe me well, my Christopher!  Hopeless of getting rid, through any effort of my own, of any of the manuscripts among my Luggage, — all of which, send them where I would, were always coming back to me, — it is now some seven years since I left that Luggage here, on the desperate chance, either that the too, too faithful manuscripts would come back to me no more, or that some one less accursed than I might give them to the world.  You follow me, my Christopher?”

“Pretty well, sir.”  I followed him so far as to judge that he had a weak head, and that the Orange, the Boiling, and Old Brown combined was beginning to tell.  (The Old Brown, being heady, is best adapted to seasoned cases.)

“Years elapsed, and those compositions slumbered in dust.  At length, Destiny, choosing her agent from all mankind, sent You here, Christopher, and lo! the Casket was burst asunder, and the Giant was free!”

He made hay of his hair after he said this, and he stood a-tiptoe.

“But,” he reminded himself in a state of excitement, “we must sit up all night, my Christopher.  I must correct these Proofs for the press.  Fill all the inkstands, and bring me several new pens.”

He smeared himself and he smeared the Proofs, the night through, to that degree that when Sol gave him warning to depart (in a four-wheeler), few could have said which was them, and which was him, and which was blots.  His last instructions was, that I should instantly run and take his corrections to the office of the present Journal.  I did so.  They most likely will not appear in print, for I noticed a message being brought round from Beauford Printing House, while I was a throwing this concluding statement on paper, that the ole resources of that establishment was unable to make out what they meant.  Upon which a certain gentleman in company, as I will not more particularly name, — but of whom it will be sufficient to remark, standing on the broad basis of a wave-girt isle, that whether we regard him in the light of, — laughed, and put the corrections in the fire.


MRS. LIRRIPER’S LODGINGS


CHAPTER I
HOW MRS. LIRRIPER CARRIED ON THE BUSINESS

Whoever would begin to be worried with letting Lodgings that wasn’t a lone woman with a living to get is a thing inconceivable to me, my dear; excuse the familiarity, but it comes natural to me in my own little room, when wishing to open my mind to those that I can trust, and I should be truly thankful if they were all mankind, but such is not so, for have but a Furnished bill in the window and your watch on the mantelpiece, and farewell to it if you turn your back for but a second, however gentlemanly the manners; nor is being of your own sex any safeguard, as I have reason, in the form of sugar-tongs to know, for that lady (and a fine woman she was) got me to run for a glass of water, on the plea of going to be confined, which certainly turned out true, but it was in the Station-house.

Number Eighty-one Norfolk Street, Strand — situated midway between the City and St. James’s, and within five minutes’ walk of the principal places of public amusement — is my address.  I have rented this house many years, as the parish rate-books will testify; and I could wish my landlord was as alive to the fact as I am myself; but no, bless you, not a half a pound of paint to save his life, nor so much, my dear, as a tile upon the roof, though on your bended knees.

My dear, you never have found Number Eighty-one Norfolk Street Strand advertised in Bradshaw’s Railway Guide, and with the blessing of Heaven you never will or shall so find it.  Some there are who do not think it lowering themselves to make their names that cheap, and even going the lengths of a portrait of the house not like it with a blot in every window and a coach and four at the door, but what will suit Wozenham’s lower down on the other side of the way will not suit me, Miss Wozenham having her opinions and me having mine, though when it comes to systematic underbidding capable of being proved on oath in a court of justice and taking the form of “If Mrs. Lirriper names eighteen shillings a week, I name fifteen and six,” it then comes to a settlement between yourself and your conscience, supposing for the sake of argument your name to be Wozenham, which I am well aware it is not or my opinion of you would be greatly lowered, and as to airy bedrooms and a night-porter in constant attendance the less said the better, the bedrooms being stuffy and the porter stuff.

It is forty years ago since me and my poor Lirriper got married at St. Clement’s Danes, where I now have a sitting in a very pleasant pew with genteel company and my own hassock, and being partial to evening service not too crowded.  My poor Lirriper was a handsome figure of a man, with a beaming eye and a voice as mellow as a musical instrument made of honey and steel, but he had ever been a free liver being in the commercial travelling line and travelling what he called a limekiln road — “a dry road, Emma my dear,” my poor Lirriper says to me, “where I have to lay the dust with one drink or another all day long and half the night, and it wears me Emma” — and this led to his running through a good deal and might have run through the turnpike too when that dreadful horse that never would stand still for a single instant set off, but for its being night and the gate shut and consequently took his wheel, my poor Lirriper and the gig smashed to atoms and never spoke afterwards.  He was a handsome figure of a man, and a man with a jovial heart and a sweet temper; but if they had come up then they never could have given you the mellowness of his voice, and indeed I consider photographs wanting in mellowness as a general rule and making you look like a new-ploughed field.

My poor Lirriper being behindhand with the world and being buried at Hatfield church in Hertfordshire, not that it was his native place but that he had a liking for the Salisbury Arms where we went upon our wedding-day and passed as happy a fortnight as ever happy was, I went round to the creditors and I says “Gentlemen I am acquainted with the fact that I am not answerable for my late husband’s debts but I wish to pay them for I am his lawful wife and his good name is dear to me.  I am going into the Lodgings gentlemen as a business and if I prosper every farthing that my late husband owed shall be paid for the sake of the love I bore him, by this right hand.”  It took a long time to do but it was done, and the silver cream-jug which is between ourselves and the bed and the mattress in my room up-stairs (or it would have found legs so sure as ever the Furnished bill was up) being presented by the gentlemen engraved “To Mrs. Lirriper a mark of grateful respect for her honourable conduct” gave me a turn which was too much for my feelings, till Mr. Betley which at that time had the parlours and loved his joke says “Cheer up Mrs. Lirriper, you should feel as if it was only your christening and they were your godfathers and godmothers which did promise for you.”  And it brought me round, and I don’t mind confessing to you my dear that I then put a sandwich and a drop of sherry in a little basket and went down to Hatfield church-yard outside the coach and kissed my hand and laid it with a kind of proud and swelling love on my husband’s grave, though bless you it had taken me so long to clear his name that my wedding-ring was worn quite fine and smooth when I laid it on the green green waving grass.

I am an old woman now and my good looks are gone but that’s me my dear over the plate-warmer and considered like in the times when you used to pay two guineas on ivory and took your chance pretty much how you came out, which made you very careful how you left it about afterwards because people were turned so red and uncomfortable by mostly guessing it was somebody else quite different, and there was once a certain person that had put his money in a hop business that came in one morning to pay his rent and his respects being the second floor that would have taken it down from its hook and put it in his breast-pocket — you understand my dear — for the L, he says of the original — only there was no mellowness in his voice and I wouldn’t let him, but his opinion of it you may gather from his saying to it “Speak to me Emma!” which was far from a rational observation no doubt but still a tribute to its being a likeness, and I think myself it was like me when I was young and wore that sort of stays.

But it was about the Lodgings that I was intending to hold forth and certainly I ought to know something of the business having been in it so long, for it was early in the second year of my married life that I lost my poor Lirriper and I set up at Islington directly afterwards and afterwards came here, being two houses and eight-and-thirty years and some losses and a deal of experience.

Girls are your first trial after fixtures and they try you even worse than what I call the Wandering Christians, though why they should roam the earth looking for bills and then coming in and viewing the apartments and stickling about terms and never at all wanting them or dreaming of taking them being already provided, is, a mystery I should be thankful to have explained if by any miracle it could be.  It’s wonderful they live so long and thrive so on it but I suppose the exercise makes it healthy, knocking so much and going from house to house and up and down-stairs all day, and then their pretending to be so particular and punctual is a most astonishing thing, looking at their watches and saying “Could you give me the refusal of the rooms till twenty minutes past eleven the day after to-morrow in the forenoon, and supposing it to be considered essential by my friend from the country could there be a small iron bedstead put in the little room upon the stairs?”  Why when I was new to it my dear I used to consider before I promised and to make my mind anxious with calculations and to get quite wearied out with disappointments, but now I says “Certainly by all means” well knowing it’s a Wandering Christian and I shall hear no more about it, indeed by this time I know most of the Wandering Christians by sight as well as they know me, it being the habit of each individual revolving round London in that capacity to come back about twice a year, and it’s very remarkable that it runs in families and the children grow up to it, but even were it otherwise I should no sooner hear of the friend from the country which is a certain sign than I should nod and say to myself You’re a Wandering Christian, though whether they are (as I have heard) persons of small property with a taste for regular employment and frequent change of scene I cannot undertake to tell you.

Girls as I was beginning to remark are one of your first and your lasting troubles, being like your teeth which begin with convulsions and never cease tormenting you from the time you cut them till they cut you, and then you don’t want to part with them which seems hard but we must all succumb or buy artificial, and even where you get a will nine times out of ten you’ll get a dirty face with it and naturally lodgers do not like good society to be shown in with a smear of black across the nose or a smudgy eyebrow.  Where they pick the black up is a mystery I cannot solve, as in the case of the willingest girl that ever came into a house half-starved poor thing, a girl so willing that I called her Willing Sophy down upon her knees scrubbing early and late and ever cheerful but always smiling with a black face.  And I says to Sophy, “Now Sophy my good girl have a regular day for your stoves and keep the width of the Airy between yourself and the blacking and do not brush your hair with the bottoms of the saucepans and do not meddle with the snuffs of the candles and it stands to reason that it can no longer be” yet there it was and always on her nose, which turning up and being broad at the end seemed to boast of it and caused warning from a steady gentleman and excellent lodger with breakfast by the week but a little irritable and use of a sitting-room when required, his words being “Mrs. Lirriper I have arrived at the point of admitting that the Black is a man and a brother, but only in a natural form and when it can’t be got off.”  Well consequently I put poor Sophy on to other work and forbid her answering the door or answering a bell on any account but she was so unfortunately willing that nothing would stop her flying up the kitchen-stairs whenever a bell was heard to tingle.  I put it to her “O Sophy Sophy for goodness’ goodness’ sake where does it come from?”  To which that poor unlucky willing mortal — bursting out crying to see me so vexed replied “I took a deal of black into me ma’am when I was a small child being much neglected and I think it must be, that it works out,” so it continuing to work out of that poor thing and not having another fault to find with her I says “Sophy what do you seriously think of my helping you away to New South Wales where it might not be noticed?”  Nor did I ever repent the money which was well spent, for she married the ship’s cook on the voyage (himself a Mulotter) and did well and lived happy, and so far as ever I heard it was not noticed in a new state of society to her dying day.

In what way Miss Wozenham lower down on the other side of the way reconciled it to her feelings as a lady (which she is not) to entice Mary Anne Perkinsop from my service is best known to herself, I do not know and I do not wish to know how opinions are formed at Wozenham’s on any point.  But Mary Anne Perkinsop although I behaved handsomely to her and she behaved unhandsomely to me was worth her weight in gold as overawing lodgers without driving them away, for lodgers would be far more sparing of their bells with Mary Anne than I ever knew them to be with Maid or Mistress, which is a great triumph especially when accompanied with a cast in the eye and a bag of bones, but it was the steadiness of her way with them through her father’s having failed in Pork.  It was Mary Anne’s looking so respectable in her person and being so strict in her spirits that conquered the tea-and-sugarest gentleman (for he weighed them both in a pair of scales every morning) that I have ever had to deal with and no lamb grew meeker, still it afterwards came round to me that Miss Wozenham happening to pass and seeing Mary Anne take in the milk of a milkman that made free in a rosy-faced way (I think no worse of him) with every girl in the street but was quite frozen up like the statue at Charing-cross by her, saw Mary Anne’s value in the lodging business and went as high as one pound per quarter more, consequently Mary Anne with not a word betwixt us says “If you will provide yourself Mrs. Lirriper in a month from this day I have already done the same,” which hurt me and I said so, and she then hurt me more by insinuating that her father having failed in Pork had laid her open to it.

My dear I do assure you it’s a harassing thing to know what kind of girls to give the preference to, for if they are lively they get bell’d off their legs and if they are sluggish you suffer from it yourself in complaints and if they are sparkling-eyed they get made love to, and if they are smart in their persons they try on your Lodgers’ bonnets and if they are musical I defy you to keep them away from bands and organs, and allowing for any difference you like in their heads their heads will be always out of window just the same.  And then what the gentlemen like in girls the ladies don’t, which is fruitful hot water for all parties, and then there’s temper though such a temper as Caroline Maxey’s I hope not often.  A good-looking black-eyed girl was Caroline and a comely-made girl to your cost when she did break out and laid about her, as took place first and last through a new-married couple come to see London in the first floor and the lady very high and it was supposed not liking the good looks of Caroline having none of her own to spare, but anyhow she did try Caroline though that was no excuse.  So one afternoon Caroline comes down into the kitchen flushed and flashing, and she says to me “Mrs. Lirriper that woman in the first has aggravated me past bearing,” I says “Caroline keep your temper,” Caroline says with a curdling laugh “Keep my temper?  You’re right Mrs. Lirriper, so I will.  Capital D her!” bursts out Caroline (you might have struck me into the centre of the earth with a feather when she said it) “I’ll give her a touch of the temper that I keep!”  Caroline downs with her hair my dear, screeches and rushes up-stairs, I following as fast as my trembling legs could bear me, but before I got into the room the dinner-cloth and pink-and-white service all dragged off upon the floor with a crash and the new-married couple on their backs in the firegrate, him with the shovel and tongs and a dish of cucumber across him and a mercy it was summer-time.  “Caroline” I says “be calm,” but she catches off my cap and tears it in her teeth as she passes me, then pounces on the new-married lady makes her a bundle of ribbons takes her by the two ears and knocks the back of her head upon the carpet Murder screaming all the time Policemen running down the street and Wozenham’s windows (judge of my feelings when I came to know it) thrown up and Miss Wozenham calling out from the balcony with crocodile’s tears “It’s Mrs. Lirriper been overcharging somebody to madness — she’ll be murdered — I always thought so — Pleeseman save her!”  My dear four of them and Caroline behind the chiffoniere attacking with the poker and when disarmed prize-fighting with her double fists, and down and up and up and down and dreadful!  But I couldn’t bear to see the poor young creature roughly handled and her hair torn when they got the better of her, and I says “Gentlemen Policemen pray remember that her sex is the sex of your mothers and sisters and your sweethearts, and God bless them and you!”  And there she was sitting down on the ground handcuffed, taking breath against the skirting-board and them cool with their coats in strips, and all she says was “Mrs. Lirriper I’m sorry as ever I touched you, for you’re a kind motherly old thing,” and it made me think that I had often wished I had been a mother indeed and how would my heart have felt if I had been the mother of that girl!  Well you know it turned out at the Police-office that she had done it before, and she had her clothes away and was sent to prison, and when she was to come out I trotted off to the gate in the evening with just a morsel of jelly in that little basket of mine to give her a mite of strength to face the world again, and there I met with a very decent mother waiting for her son through bad company and a stubborn one he was with his half-boots not laced.  So out came Caroline and I says “Caroline come along with me and sit down under the wall where it’s retired and eat a little trifle that I have brought with me to do you good,” and she throws her arms round my neck and says sobbing “O why were you never a mother when there are such mothers as there are!” she says, and in half a minute more she begins to laugh and says “Did I really tear your cap to shreds?” and when I told her “You certainly did so Caroline” she laughed again and said while she patted my face “Then why do you wear such queer old caps you dear old thing? if you hadn’t worn such queer old caps I don’t think I should have done it even then.”  Fancy the girl!  Nothing could get out of her what she was going to do except O she would do well enough, and we parted she being very thankful and kissing my hands, and I nevermore saw or heard of that girl, except that I shall always believe that a very genteel cap which was brought anonymous to me one Saturday night in an oilskin basket by a most impertinent young sparrow of a monkey whistling with dirty shoes on the clean steps and playing the harp on the Airy railings with a hoop-stick came from Caroline.

What you lay yourself open to my dear in the way of being the object of uncharitable suspicions when you go into the Lodging business I have not the words to tell you, but never was I so dishonourable as to have two keys nor would I willingly think it even of Miss Wozenham lower down on the other side of the way sincerely hoping that it may not be, though doubtless at the same time money cannot come from nowhere and it is not reason to suppose that Bradshaws put it in for love be it blotty as it may.  It is a hardship hurting to the feelings that Lodgers open their minds so wide to the idea that you are trying to get the better of them and shut their minds so close to the idea that they are trying to get the better of you, but as Major Jackman says to me, “I know the ways of this circular world Mrs. Lirriper, and that’s one of ‘em all round it” and many is the little ruffle in my mind that the Major has smoothed, for he is a clever man who has seen much.  Dear dear, thirteen years have passed though it seems but yesterday since I was sitting with my glasses on at the open front parlour window one evening in August (the parlours being then vacant) reading yesterday’s paper my eyes for print being poor though still I am thankful to say a long sight at a distance, when I hear a gentleman come posting across the road and up the street in a dreadful rage talking to himself in a fury and d’ing and c’ing somebody.  “By George!” says he out loud and clutching his walking-stick, “I’ll go to Mrs. Lirriper’s.  Which is Mrs. Lirriper’s?”  Then looking round and seeing me he flourishes his hat right off his head as if I had been the queen and he says, “Excuse the intrusion Madam, but pray Madam can you tell me at what number in this street there resides a well-known and much-respected lady by the name of Lirriper?”  A little flustered though I must say gratified I took off my glasses and courtesied and said “Sir, Mrs. Lirriper is your humble servant.”  “Astonishing!” says he.  “A million pardons!  Madam, may I ask you to have the kindness to direct one of your domestics to open the door to a gentleman in search of apartments, by the name of Jackman?”  I had never heard the name but a politer gentleman I never hope to see, for says he, “Madam I am shocked at your opening the door yourself to no worthier a fellow than Jemmy Jackman.  After you Madam.  I never precede a lady.”  Then he comes into the parlours and he sniffs, and he says “Hah!  These are parlours!  Not musty cupboards” he says “but parlours, and no smell of coal-sacks.”  Now my dear it having been remarked by some inimical to the whole neighbourhood that it always smells of coal-sacks which might prove a drawback to Lodgers if encouraged, I says to the Major gently though firmly that I think he is referring to Arundel or Surrey or Howard but not Norfolk.  “Madam” says he “I refer to Wozenham’s lower down over the way — Madam you can form no notion what Wozenham’s is — Madam it is a vast coal-sack, and Miss Wozenham has the principles and manners of a female heaver — Madam from the manner in which I have heard her mention you I know she has no appreciation of a lady, and from the manner in which she has conducted herself towards me I know she has no appreciation of a gentleman — Madam my name is Jackman — should you require any other reference than what I have already said, I name the Bank of England — perhaps you know it!”  Such was the beginning of the Major’s occupying the parlours and from that hour to this the same and a most obliging Lodger and punctual in all respects except one irregular which I need not particularly specify, but made up for by his being a protection and at all times ready to fill in the papers of the Assessed Taxes and Juries and that, and once collared a young man with the drawing-room clock under his coat, and once on the parapets with his own hands and blankets put out the kitchen chimney and afterwards attending the summons made a most eloquent speech against the Parish before the magistrates and saved the engine, and ever quite the gentleman though passionate.  And certainly Miss Wozenham’s detaining the trunks and umbrella was not in a liberal spirit though it may have been according to her rights in law or an act I would myself have stooped to, the Major being so much the gentleman that though he is far from tall he seems almost so when he has his shirt-frill out and his frock-coat on and his hat with the curly brims, and in what service he was I cannot truly tell you my dear whether Militia or Foreign, for I never heard him even name himself as Major but always simple “Jemmy Jackman” and once soon after he came when I felt it my duty to let him know that Miss Wozenham had put it about that he was no Major and I took the liberty of adding “which you are sir” his words were “Madam at any rate I am not a Minor, and sufficient for the day is the evil thereof” which cannot be denied to be the sacred truth, nor yet his military ways of having his boots with only the dirt brushed off taken to him in the front parlour every morning on a clean plate and varnishing them himself with a little sponge and a saucer and a whistle in a whisper so sure as ever his breakfast is ended, and so neat his ways that it never soils his linen which is scrupulous though more in quality than quantity, neither that nor his mustachios which to the best of my belief are done at the same time and which are as black and shining as his boots, his head of hair being a lovely white.

It was the third year nearly up of the Major’s being in the parlours that early one morning in the month of February when Parliament was coming on and you may therefore suppose a number of impostors were about ready to take hold of anything they could get, a gentleman and a lady from the country came in to view the Second, and I well remember that I had been looking out of window and had watched them and the heavy sleet driving down the street together looking for bills.  I did not quite take to the face of the gentleman though he was good-looking too but the lady was a very pretty young thing and delicate, and it seemed too rough for her to be out at all though she had only come from the Adelphi Hotel which would not have been much above a quarter of a mile if the weather had been less severe.  Now it did so happen my dear that I had been forced to put five shillings weekly additional on the second in consequence of a loss from running away full dressed as if going out to a dinner-party, which was very artful and had made me rather suspicious taking it along with Parliament, so when the gentleman proposed three months certain and the money in advance and leave then reserved to renew on the same terms for six months more, I says I was not quite certain but that I might have engaged myself to another party but would step down-stairs and look into it if they would take a seat.  They took a seat and I went down to the handle of the Major’s door that I had already began to consult finding it a great blessing, and I knew by his whistling in a whisper that he was varnishing his boots which was generally considered private, however he kindly calls out “If it’s you, Madam, come in,” and I went in and told him.

“Well, Madam,” says the Major rubbing his nose — as I did fear at the moment with the black sponge but it was only his knuckle, he being always neat and dexterous with his fingers — “well, Madam, I suppose you would be glad of the money?”

I was delicate of saying “Yes” too out, for a little extra colour rose into the Major’s cheeks and there was irregularity which I will not particularly specify in a quarter which I will not name.

“I am of opinion, Madam,” says the Major, “that when money is ready for you — when it is ready for you, Mrs. Lirriper — you ought to take it.  What is there against it, Madam, in this case up-stairs?”

“I really cannot say there is anything against it, sir, still I thought I would consult you.”

“You said a newly-married couple, I think, Madam?” says the Major.

I says “Ye-es.  Evidently.  And indeed the young lady mentioned to me in a casual way that she had not been married many months.”

The Major rubbed his nose again and stirred the varnish round and round in its little saucer with his piece of sponge and took to his whistling in a whisper for a few moments.  Then he says “You would call it a Good Let, Madam?”

“O certainly a Good Let sir.”

“Say they renew for the additional six months.  Would it put you about very much Madam if — if the worst was to come to the worst?” said the Major.

“Well I hardly know,” I says to the Major.  “It depends upon circumstances.  Would you object Sir for instance?”

“I?” says the Major.  “Object?  Jemmy Jackman?  Mrs. Lirriper close with the proposal.”

So I went up-stairs and accepted, and they came in next day which was Saturday and the Major was so good as to draw up a Memorandum of an agreement in a beautiful round hand and expressions that sounded to me equally legal and military, and Mr. Edson signed it on the Monday morning and the Major called upon Mr. Edson on the Tuesday and Mr. Edson called upon the Major on the Wednesday and the Second and the parlours were as friendly as could be wished.

The three months paid for had run out and we had got without any fresh overtures as to payment into May my dear, when there came an obligation upon Mr. Edson to go a business expedition right across the Isle of Man, which fell quite unexpected upon that pretty little thing and is not a place that according to my views is particularly in the way to anywhere at any time but that may be a matter of opinion.  So short a notice was it that he was to go next day, and dreadfully she cried poor pretty, and I am sure I cried too when I saw her on the cold pavement in the sharp east wind — it being a very backward spring that year — taking a last leave of him with her pretty bright hair blowing this way and that and her arms clinging round his neck and him saying “There there there.  Now let me go Peggy.”  And by that time it was plain that what the Major had been so accommodating as to say he would not object to happening in the house, would happen in it, and I told her as much when he was gone while I comforted her with my arm up the staircase, for I says “You will soon have others to keep up for my pretty and you must think of that.”

His letter never came when it ought to have come and what she went through morning after morning when the postman brought none for her the very postman himself compassionated when she ran down to the door, and yet we cannot wonder at its being calculated to blunt the feelings to have all the trouble of other people’s letters and none of the pleasure and doing it oftener in the mud and mizzle than not and at a rate of wages more resembling Little Britain than Great.  But at last one morning when she was too poorly to come running down-stairs he says to me with a pleased look in his face that made me next to love the man in his uniform coat though he was dripping wet “I have taken you first in the street this morning Mrs. Lirriper, for here’s the one for Mrs. Edson.”  I went up to her bedroom with it as fast as ever I could go, and she sat up in bed when she saw it and kissed it and tore it open and then a blank stare came upon her.  “It’s very short!” she says lifting her large eyes to my face.  “O Mrs. Lirriper it’s very short!”  I says “My dear Mrs. Edson no doubt that’s because your husband hadn’t time to write more just at that time.”  “No doubt, no doubt,” says she, and puts her two hands on her face and turns round in her bed.

I shut her softly in and I crept down-stairs and I tapped at the Major’s door, and when the Major having his thin slices of bacon in his own Dutch oven saw me he came out of his chair and put me down on the sofa.  “Hush!” says he, “I see something’s the matter.  Don’t speak — take time.”  I says “O Major I’m afraid there’s cruel work up-stairs.”  “Yes yes” says he “I had begun to be afraid of it — take time.”  And then in opposition to his own words he rages out frightfully, and says “I shall never forgive myself Madam, that I, Jemmy Jackman, didn’t see it all that morning — didn’t go straight up-stairs when my boot-sponge was in my hand — didn’t force it down his throat — and choke him dead with it on the spot!”

The Major and me agreed when we came to ourselves that just at present we could do no more than take on to suspect nothing and use our best endeavours to keep that poor young creature quiet, and what I ever should have done without the Major when it got about among the organ-men that quiet was our object is unknown, for he made lion and tiger war upon them to that degree that without seeing it I could not have believed it was in any gentleman to have such a power of bursting out with fire-irons walking-sticks water-jugs coals potatoes off his table the very hat off his head, and at the same time so furious in foreign languages that they would stand with their handles half-turned fixed like the Sleeping Ugly — for I cannot say Beauty.

Ever to see the postman come near the house now gave me such I fear that it was a reprieve when he went by, but in about another ten days or a fortnight he says again, “Here’s one for Mrs. Edson. — Is she pretty well?”  “She is pretty well postman, but not well enough to rise so early as she used” which was so far gospel-truth.

I carried the letter in to the Major at his breakfast and I says tottering “Major I have not the courage to take it up to her.”

“It’s an ill-looking villain of a letter,” says the Major.

“I have not the courage Major” I says again in a tremble “to take it up to her.”

After seeming lost in consideration for some moments the Major says, raising his head as if something new and useful had occurred to his mind “Mrs. Lirriper, I shall never forgive myself that I, Jemmy Jackman, didn’t go straight up-stairs that morning when my boot-sponge was in my hand — and force it down his throat — and choke him dead with it.”

“Major” I says a little hasty “you didn’t do it which is a blessing, for it would have done no good and I think your sponge was better employed on your own honourable boots.”

So we got to be rational, and planned that I should tap at her bedroom door and lay the letter on the mat outside and wait on the upper landing for what might happen, and never was gunpowder cannon-balls or shells or rockets more dreaded than that dreadful letter was by me as I took it to the second floor.

A terrible loud scream sounded through the house the minute after she had opened it, and I found her on the floor lying as if her life was gone.  My dear I never looked at the face of the letter which was lying, open by her, for there was no occasion.

Everything I needed to bring her round the Major brought up with his own hands, besides running out to the chemist’s for what was not in the house and likewise having the fiercest of all his many skirmishes with a musical instrument representing a ball-room I do not know in what particular country and company waltzing in and out at folding-doors with rolling eyes.  When after a long time I saw her coming to, I slipped on the landing till I heard her cry, and then I went in and says cheerily “Mrs. Edson you’re not well my dear and it’s not to be wondered at,” as if I had not been in before.  Whether she believed or disbelieved I cannot say and it would signify nothing if I could, but I stayed by her for hours and then she God ever blesses me! and says she will try to rest for her head is bad.

“Major,” I whispers, looking in at the parlours, “I beg and pray of you don’t go out.”

The Major whispers, “Madam, trust me I will do no such a thing.  How is she?”

I says “Major the good Lord above us only knows what burns and rages in her poor mind.  I left her sitting at her window.  I am going to sit at mine.”

It came on afternoon and it came on evening.  Norfolk is a delightful street to lodge in — provided you don’t go lower down — but of a summer evening when the dust and waste paper lie in it and stray children play in it and a kind of a gritty calm and bake settles on it and a peal of church-bells is practising in the neighbourhood it is a trifle dull, and never have I seen it since at such a time and never shall I see it evermore at such a time without seeing the dull June evening when that forlorn young creature sat at her open corner window on the second and me at my open corner window (the other corner) on the third.  Something merciful, something wiser and better far than my own self, had moved me while it was yet light to sit in my bonnet and shawl, and as the shadows fell and the tide rose I could sometimes — when I put out my head and looked at her window below — see that she leaned out a little looking down the street.  It was just settling dark when I saw her in the street.

So fearful of losing sight of her that it almost stops my breath while I tell it, I went down-stairs faster than I ever moved in all my life and only tapped with my hand at the Major’s door in passing it and slipping out.  She was gone already.  I made the same speed down the street and when I came to the corner of Howard Street I saw that she had turned it and was there plain before me going towards the west.  O with what a thankful heart I saw her going along!

She was quite unacquainted with London and had very seldom been out for more than an airing in our own street where she knew two or three little children belonging to neighbours and had sometimes stood among them at the street looking at the water.  She must be going at hazard I knew, still she kept the by-streets quite correctly as long as they would serve her, and then turned up into the Strand.  But at every corner I could see her head turned one way, and that way was always the river way.

It may have been only the darkness and quiet of the Adelphi that caused her to strike into it but she struck into it much as readily as if she had set out to go there, which perhaps was the case.  She went straight down to the Terrace and along it and looked over the iron rail, and I often woke afterwards in my own bed with the horror of seeing her do it.  The desertion of the wharf below and the flowing of the high water there seemed to settle her purpose.  She looked about as if to make out the way down, and she struck out the right way or the wrong way — I don’t know which, for I don’t know the place before or since — and I followed her the way she went.

It was noticeable that all this time she never once looked back.  But there was now a great change in the manner of her going, and instead of going at a steady quick walk with her arms folded before her, — among the dark dismal arches she went in a wild way with her arms opened wide, as if they were wings and she was flying to her death.

We were on the wharf and she stopped.  I stopped.  I saw her hands at her bonnet-strings, and I rushed between her and the brink and took her round the waist with both my arms.  She might have drowned me, I felt then, but she could never have got quit of me.

Down to that moment my mind had been all in a maze and not half an idea had I had in it what I should say to her, but the instant I touched her it came to me like magic and I had my natural voice and my senses and even almost my breath.

“Mrs. Edson!” I says “My dear!  Take care.  How ever did you lose your way and stumble on a dangerous place like this?  Why you must have come here by the most perplexing streets in all London.  No wonder you are lost, I’m sure.  And this place too!  Why I thought nobody ever got here, except me to order my coals and the Major in the parlours to smoke his cigar!” — for I saw that blessed man close by, pretending to it.

“Hah — Hah — Hum!” coughs the Major.

“And good gracious me” I says, “why here he is!”

“Halloa! who goes there?” says the Major in a military manner.

“Well!” I says, “if this don’t beat everything!  Don’t you know us Major Jackman?”

“Halloa!” says the Major.  “Who calls on Jemmy Jackman?” (and more out of breath he was, and did it less like life than I should have expected.)

“Why here’s Mrs. Edson Major” I says, “strolling out to cool her poor head which has been very bad, has missed her way and got lost, and Goodness knows where she might have got to but for me coming here to drop an order into my coal merchant’s letter-box and you coming here to smoke your cigar! — And you really are not well enough my dear” I says to her “to be half so far from home without me.  And your arm will be very acceptable I am sure Major” I says to him “and I know she may lean upon it as heavy as she likes.”  And now we had both got her — thanks be Above! — one on each side.

She was all in a cold shiver and she so continued till I laid her on her own bed, and up to the early morning she held me by the hand and moaned and moaned “O wicked, wicked, wicked!”  But when at last I made believe to droop my head and be overpowered with a dead sleep, I heard that poor young creature give such touching and such humble thanks for being preserved from taking her own life in her madness that I thought I should have cried my eyes out on the counterpane and I knew she was safe.

Being well enough to do and able to afford it, me and the Major laid our little plans next day while she was asleep worn out, and so I says to her as soon as I could do it nicely:

“Mrs. Edson my dear, when Mr. Edson paid me the rent for these farther six months — “

She gave a start and I felt her large eyes look at me, but I went on with it and with my needlework.

“ — I can’t say that I am quite sure I dated the receipt right.  Could you let me look at it?”

She laid her frozen cold hand upon mine and she looked through me when I was forced to look up from my needlework, but I had taken the precaution of having on my spectacles.

“I have no receipt” says she.

“Ah!  Then he has got it” I says in a careless way.  “It’s of no great consequence.  A receipt’s a receipt.”

From that time she always had hold of my hand when I could spare it which was generally only when I read to her, for of course she and me had our bits of needlework to plod at and neither of us was very handy at those little things, though I am still rather proud of my share in them too considering.  And though she took to all I read to her, I used to fancy that next to what was taught upon the Mount she took most of all to His gentle compassion for us poor women and to His young life and to how His mother was proud of Him and treasured His sayings in her heart.  She had a grateful look in her eyes that never never never will be out of mine until they are closed in my last sleep, and when I chanced to look at her without thinking of it I would always meet that look, and she would often offer me her trembling lip to kiss, much more like a little affectionate half broken-hearted child than ever I can imagine any grown person.

One time the trembling of this poor lip was so strong and her tears ran down so fast that I thought she was going to tell me all her woe, so I takes her two hands in mine and I says:

“No my dear not now, you had best not try to do it now.  Wait for better times when you have got over this and are strong, and then you shall tell me whatever you will.  Shall it be agreed?”

With our hands still joined she nodded her head many times, and she lifted my hands and put them to her lips and to her bosom.  “Only one word now my dear” I says.  “Is there any one?”

She looked inquiringly “Any one?”

“That I can go to?”

She shook her head.

“No one that I can bring?”

She shook her head.

“No one is wanted by me my dear.  Now that may be considered past and gone.”

Not much more than a week afterwards — for this was far on in the time of our being so together — I was bending over at her bedside with my ear down to her lips, by turns listening for her breath and looking for a sign of life in her face.  At last it came in a solemn way — not in a flash but like a kind of pale faint light brought very slow to the face.

She said something to me that had no sound in it, but I saw she asked me:

“Is this death?”

And I says:

“Poor dear poor dear, I think it is.”

Knowing somehow that she wanted me to move her weak right hand, I took it and laid it on her breast and then folded her other hand upon it, and she prayed a good good prayer and I joined in it poor me though there were no words spoke.  Then I brought the baby in its wrappers from where it lay, and I says:

“My dear this is sent to a childless old woman.  This is for me to take care of.”

The trembling lip was put up towards my face for the last time, and I dearly kissed it.

“Yes my dear,” I says.  “Please God!  Me and the Major.”

I don’t know how to tell it right, but I saw her soul brighten and leap up, and get free and fly away in the grateful look.


So this is the why and wherefore of its coming to pass my dear that we called him Jemmy, being after the Major his own godfather with Lirriper for a surname being after myself, and never was a dear child such a brightening thing in a Lodgings or such a playmate to his grandmother as Jemmy to this house and me, and always good and minding what he was told (upon the whole) and soothing for the temper and making everything pleasanter except when he grew old enough to drop his cap down Wozenham’s Airy and they wouldn’t hand it up to him, and being worked into a state I put on my best bonnet and gloves and parasol with the child in my hand and I says “Miss Wozenham I little thought ever to have entered your house but unless my grandson’s cap is instantly restored, the laws of this country regulating the property of the Subject shall at length decide betwixt yourself and me, cost what it may.”  With a sneer upon her face which did strike me I must say as being expressive of two keys but it may have been a mistake and if there is any doubt let Miss Wozenham have the full benefit of it as is but right, she rang the bell and she says “Jane, is there a street-child’s old cap down our Airy?”  I says “Miss Wozenham before your housemaid answers that question you must allow me to inform you to your face that my grandson is not a street-child and is not in the habit of wearing old caps.  In fact” I says “Miss Wozenham I am far from sure that my grandson’s cap may not be newer than your own” which was perfectly savage in me, her lace being the commonest machine-make washed and torn besides, but I had been put into a state to begin with fomented by impertinence.  Miss Wozenham says red in the face “Jane you heard my question, is there any child’s cap down our Airy?”  “Yes Ma’am” says Jane, “I think I did see some such rubbish a-lying there.”  “Then” says Miss Wozenham “let these visitors out, and then throw up that worthless article out of my premises.”  But here the child who had been staring at Miss Wozenham with all his eyes and more, frowns down his little eyebrows purses up his little mouth puts his chubby legs far apart turns his little dimpled fists round and round slowly over one another like a little coffee-mill, and says to her “Oo impdent to mi Gran, me tut oor hi!”  “O!” says Miss Wozenham looking down scornfully at the Mite “this is not a street-child is it not!  Really!” I bursts out laughing and I says “Miss Wozenham if this ain’t a pretty sight to you I don’t envy your feelings and I wish you good-day.  Jemmy come along with Gran.”  And I was still in the best of humours though his cap came flying up into the street as if it had been just turned on out of the water-plug, and I went home laughing all the way, all owing to that dear boy.

The miles and miles that me and the Major have travelled with Jemmy in the dusk between the lights are not to be calculated, Jemmy driving on the coach-box which is the Major’s brass-bound writing desk on the table, me inside in the easy-chair and the Major Guard up behind with a brown-paper horn doing it really wonderful.  I do assure you my dear that sometimes when I have taken a few winks in my place inside the coach and have come half awake by the flashing light of the fire and have heard that precious pet driving and the Major blowing up behind to have the change of horses ready when we got to the Inn, I have half believed we were on the old North Road that my poor Lirriper knew so well.  Then to see that child and the Major both wrapped up getting down to warm their feet and going stamping about and having glasses of ale out of the paper matchboxes on the chimney-piece is to see the Major enjoying it fully as much as the child I am very sure, and it’s equal to any play when Coachee opens the coach-door to look in at me inside and say “Wery ‘past that ‘tage. — ‘Prightened old lady?”

But what my inexpressible feelings were when we lost that child can only be compared to the Major’s which were not a shade better, through his straying out at five years old and eleven o’clock in the forenoon and never heard of by word or sign or deed till half-past nine at night, when the Major had gone to the Editor of the Times newspaper to put in an advertisement, which came out next day four-and-twenty hours after he was found, and which I mean always carefully to keep in my lavender drawer as the first printed account of him.  The more the day got on, the more I got distracted and the Major too and both of us made worse by the composed ways of the police though very civil and obliging and what I must call their obstinacy in not entertaining the idea that he was stolen.  “We mostly find Mum” says the sergeant who came round to comfort me, which he didn’t at all and he had been one of the private constables in Caroline’s time to which he referred in his opening words when he said “Don’t give way to uneasiness in your mind Mum, it’ll all come as right as my nose did when I got the same barked by that young woman in your second floor” — says this sergeant “we mostly find Mum as people ain’t over-anxious to have what I may call second-hand children.  You’ll get him back Mum.”  “O but my dear good sir” I says clasping my hands and wringing them and clasping them again “he is such an uncommon child!”  “Yes Mum” says the sergeant, “we mostly find that too Mum.  The question is what his clothes were worth.”  “His clothes” I says “were not worth much sir for he had only got his playing-dress on, but the dear child! — “  “All right Mum” says the sergeant.  “You’ll get him back Mum.  And even if he’d had his best clothes on, it wouldn’t come to worse than his being found wrapped up in a cabbage-leaf, a shivering in a lane.”  His words pierced my heart like daggers and daggers, and me and the Major ran in and out like wild things all day long till the Major returning from his interview with the Editor of the Times at night rushes into my little room hysterical and squeezes my hand and wipes his eyes and says “Joy joy — officer in plain clothes came up on the steps as I was letting myself in — compose your feelings — Jemmy’s found.”  Consequently I fainted away and when I came to, embraced the legs of the officer in plain clothes who seemed to be taking a kind of a quiet inventory in his mind of the property in my little room with brown whiskers, and I says “Blessings on you sir where is the Darling!” and he says “In Kennington Station House.”  I was dropping at his feet Stone at the image of that Innocence in cells with murderers when he adds “He followed the Monkey.”  I says deeming it slang language “O sir explain for a loving grandmother what Monkey!”  He says “Him in the spangled cap with the strap under the chin, as won’t keep on — him as sweeps the crossings on a round table and don’t want to draw his sabre more than he can help.”  Then I understood it all and most thankfully thanked him, and me and the Major and him drove over to Kennington and there we found our boy lying quite comfortable before a blazing fire having sweetly played himself to sleep upon a small accordion nothing like so big as a flat-iron which they had been so kind as to lend him for the purpose and which it appeared had been stopped upon a very young person.

My dear the system upon which the Major commenced and as I may say perfected Jemmy’s learning when he was so small that if the dear was on the other side of the table you had to look under it instead of over it to see him with his mother’s own bright hair in beautiful curls, is a thing that ought to be known to the Throne and Lords and Commons and then might obtain some promotion for the Major which he well deserves and would be none the worse for (speaking between friends) L. S. D.-ically.  When the Major first undertook his learning he says to me:

“I’m going Madam,” he says “to make our child a Calculating Boy.

“Major,” I says, “you terrify me and may do the pet a permanent injury you would never forgive yourself.”

“Madam,” says the Major, “next to my regret that when I had my boot-sponge in my hand, I didn’t choke that scoundrel with it — on the spot — “

“There!  For Gracious’ sake,” I interrupts, “let his conscience find him without sponges.”

“ — I say next to that regret, Madam,” says the Major “would be the regret with which my breast,” which he tapped, “would be surcharged if this fine mind was not early cultivated.  But mark me Madam,” says the Major holding up his forefinger “cultivated on a principle that will make it a delight.”

“Major” I says “I will be candid with you and tell you openly that if ever I find the dear child fall off in his appetite I shall know it is his calculations and shall put a stop to them at two minutes’ notice.  Or if I find them mounting to his head” I says, “or striking anyways cold to his stomach or leading to anything approaching flabbiness in his legs, the result will be the same, but Major you are a clever man and have seen much and you love the child and are his own godfather, and if you feel a confidence in trying try.”

“Spoken Madam” says the Major “like Emma Lirriper.  All I have to ask, Madam, is that you will leave my godson and myself to make a week or two’s preparations for surprising you, and that you will give me leave to have up and down any small articles not actually in use that I may require from the kitchen.”

“From the kitchen Major?” I says half feeling as if he had a mind to cook the child.

“From the kitchen” says the Major, and smiles and swells, and at the same time looks taller.

So I passed my word and the Major and the dear boy were shut up together for half an hour at a time through a certain while, and never could I hear anything going on betwixt them but talking and laughing and Jemmy clapping his hands and screaming out numbers, so I says to myself “it has not harmed him yet” nor could I on examining the dear find any signs of it anywhere about him which was likewise a great relief.  At last one day Jemmy brings me a card in joke in the Major’s neat writing “The Messrs. Jemmy Jackman” for we had given him the Major’s other name too “request the honour of Mrs. Lirriper’s company at the Jackman Institution in the front parlour this evening at five, military time, to witness a few slight feats of elementary arithmetic.”  And if you’ll believe me there in the front parlour at five punctual to the moment was the Major behind the Pembroke table with both leaves up and a lot of things from the kitchen tidily set out on old newspapers spread atop of it, and there was the Mite stood upon a chair with his rosy cheeks flushing and his eyes sparkling clusters of diamonds.

“Now Gran” says he, “oo tit down and don’t oo touch ler people” — for he saw with every one of those diamonds of his that I was going to give him a squeeze.

“Very well sir” I says “I am obedient in this good company I am sure.”  And I sits down in the easy-chair that was put for me, shaking my sides.

But picture my admiration when the Major going on almost as quick as if he was conjuring sets out all the articles he names, and says “Three saucepans, an Italian iron, a hand-bell, a toasting-fork, a nutmeg-grater, four potlids, a spice-box, two egg-cups, and a chopping-board — how many?” and when that Mite instantly cries “Tifteen, tut down tive and carry ler ‘toppin-board” and then claps his hands draws up his legs and dances on his chair.

My dear with the same astonishing ease and correctness him and the Major added up the tables chairs and sofy, the picters fenders and fire-irons their own selves me and the cat and the eyes in Miss Wozenham’s head, and whenever the sum was done Young Roses and Diamonds claps his hands and draws up his legs and dances on his chair.

The pride of the Major!  (“Here’s a mind Ma’am!” he says to me behind his hand.)

Then he says aloud, “We now come to the next elementary rule, — which is called — “

“Umtraction!” cries Jemmy.

“Right,” says the Major.  “We have here a toasting-fork, a potato in its natural state, two potlids, one egg-cup, a wooden spoon, and two skewers, from which it is necessary for commercial purposes to subtract a sprat-gridiron, a small pickle-jar, two lemons, one pepper-castor, a blackbeetle-trap, and a knob of the dresser-drawer — what remains?”

“Toatin-fork!” cries Jemmy.

“In numbers how many?” says the Major.

“One!” cries Jemmy.

(“Here’s a boy, Ma’am!” says the Major to me behind his hand.)  Then the Major goes on:

“We now approach the next elementary rule, — which is entitled — “

“Tickleication” cries Jemmy.

“Correct” says the Major.

But my dear to relate to you in detail the way in which they multiplied fourteen sticks of firewood by two bits of ginger and a larding needle, or divided pretty well everything else there was on the table by the heater of the Italian iron and a chamber candlestick, and got a lemon over, would make my head spin round and round and round as it did at the time.  So I says “if you’ll excuse my addressing the chair Professor Jackman I think the period of the lecture has now arrived when it becomes necessary that I should take a good hug of this young scholar.”  Upon which Jemmy calls out from his station on the chair, “Gran oo open oor arms and me’ll make a ‘pring into ‘em.”  So I opened my arms to him as I had opened my sorrowful heart when his poor young mother lay a dying, and he had his jump and we had a good long hug together and the Major prouder than any peacock says to me behind his hand, “You need not let him know it Madam” (which I certainly need not for the Major was quite audible) “but he is a boy!”

In this way Jemmy grew and grew and went to day-school and continued under the Major too, and in summer we were as happy as the days were long, and in winter we were as happy as the days were short and there seemed to rest a Blessing on the Lodgings for they as good as Let themselves and would have done it if there had been twice the accommodation, when sore and hard against my will I one day says to the Major.

“Major you know what I am going to break to you.  Our boy must go to boarding-school.”

It was a sad sight to see the Major’s countenance drop, and I pitied the good soul with all my heart.

“Yes Major” I says, “though he is as popular with the Lodgers as you are yourself and though he is to you and me what only you and me know, still it is in the course of things and Life is made of partings and we must part with our Pet.”

Bold as I spoke, I saw two Majors and half-a-dozen fireplaces, and when the poor Major put one of his neat bright-varnished boots upon the fender and his elbow on his knee and his head upon his hand and rocked himself a little to and fro, I was dreadfully cut up.

“But” says I clearing my throat “you have so well prepared him Major — he has had such a Tutor in you — that he will have none of the first drudgery to go through.  And he is so clever besides that he’ll soon make his way to the front rank.”

“He is a boy” says the Major — having sniffed — “that has not his like on the face of the earth.”

“True as you say Major, and it is not for us merely for our own sakes to do anything to keep him back from being a credit and an ornament wherever he goes and perhaps even rising to be a great man, is it Major?  He will have all my little savings when my work is done (being all the world to me) and we must try to make him a wise man and a good man, mustn’t we Major?”

“Madam” says the Major rising “Jemmy Jackman is becoming an older file than I was aware of, and you put him to shame.  You are thoroughly right Madam.  You are simply and undeniably right. — And if you’ll excuse me, I’ll take a walk.”

So the Major being gone out and Jemmy being at home, I got the child into my little room here and I stood him by my chair and I took his mother’s own curls in my hand and I spoke to him loving and serious.  And when I had reminded the darling how that he was now in his tenth year and when I had said to him about his getting on in life pretty much what I had said to the Major I broke to him how that we must have this same parting, and there I was forced to stop for there I saw of a sudden the well-remembered lip with its tremble, and it so brought back that time!  But with the spirit that was in him he controlled it soon and he says gravely nodding through his tears, “I understand Gran — I know it must be, Gran — go on Gran, don’t be afraid of me.”  And when I had said all that ever I could think of, he turned his bright steady face to mine and he says just a little broken here and there “You shall see Gran that I can be a man and that I can do anything that is grateful and loving to you — and if I don’t grow up to be what you would like to have me — I hope it will be — because I shall die.”  And with that he sat down by me and I went on to tell him of the school of which I had excellent recommendations and where it was and how many scholars and what games they played as I had heard and what length of holidays, to all of which he listened bright and clear.  And so it came that at last he says “And now dear Gran let me kneel down here where I have been used to say my prayers and let me fold my face for just a minute in your gown and let me cry, for you have been more than father — more than mother — more than brothers sisters friends — to me!”  And so he did cry and I too and we were both much the better for it.

From that time forth he was true to his word and ever blithe and ready, and even when me and the Major took him down into Lincolnshire he was far the gayest of the party though for sure and certain he might easily have been that, but he really was and put life into us only when it came to the last Good-bye, he says with a wistful look, “You wouldn’t have me not really sorry would you Gran?” and when I says “No dear, Lord forbid!” he says “I am glad of that!” and ran in out of sight.

But now that the child was gone out of the Lodgings the Major fell into a regularly moping state.  It was taken notice of by all the Lodgers that the Major moped.  He hadn’t even the same air of being rather tall than he used to have, and if he varnished his boots with a single gleam of interest it was as much as he did.

One evening the Major came into my little room to take a cup of tea and a morsel of buttered toast and to read Jemmy’s newest letter which had arrived that afternoon (by the very same postman more than middle-aged upon the Beat now), and the letter raising him up a little I says to the Major:

“Major you mustn’t get into a moping way.”

The Major shook his head.  “Jemmy Jackman Madam,” he says with a deep sigh, “is an older file than I thought him.”

“Moping is not the way to grow younger Major.”

“My dear Madam,” says the Major, “is there any way of growing younger?”

Feeling that the Major was getting rather the best of that point I made a diversion to another.

“Thirteen years!  Thir-teen years!  Many Lodgers have come and gone, in the thirteen years that you have lived in the parlours Major.”

“Hah!” says the Major warming.  “Many Madam, many.”

“And I should say you have been familiar with them all?”

“As a rule (with its exceptions like all rules) my dear Madam” says the Major, “they have honoured me with their acquaintance, and not unfrequently with their confidence.”

Watching the Major as he drooped his white head and stroked his black mustachios and moped again, a thought which I think must have been going about looking for an owner somewhere dropped into my old noddle if you will excuse the expression.

“The walls of my Lodgings” I says in a casual way — for my dear it is of no use going straight at a man who mopes — “might have something to tell if they could tell it.”

The Major neither moved nor said anything but I saw he was attending with his shoulders my dear — attending with his shoulders to what I said.  In fact I saw that his shoulders were struck by it.

“The dear boy was always fond of story-books” I went on, like as if I was talking to myself.  “I am sure this house — his own home — might write a story or two for his reading one day or another.”

The Major’s shoulders gave a dip and a curve and his head came up in his shirt-collar.  The Major’s head came up in his shirt-collar as I hadn’t seen it come up since Jemmy went to school.

“It is unquestionable that in intervals of cribbage and a friendly rubber, my dear Madam,” says the Major, “and also over what used to be called in my young times — in the salad days of Jemmy Jackman — the social glass, I have exchanged many a reminiscence with your Lodgers.”

My remark was — I confess I made it with the deepest and artfullest of intentions — “I wish our dear boy had heard them!”

“Are you serious Madam?” asked the Major starting and turning full round.

“Why not Major?”

“Madam” says the Major, turning up one of his cuffs, “they shall be written for him.”

“Ah!  Now you speak” I says giving my hands a pleased clap.  “Now you are in a way out of moping Major!”

“Between this and my holidays — I mean the dear boy’s” says the Major turning up his other cuff, “a good deal may be done towards it.”

“Major you are a clever man and you have seen much and not a doubt of it.”

“I’ll begin,” says the Major looking as tall as ever he did, “to-morrow.”

My dear the Major was another man in three days and he was himself again in a week and he wrote and wrote and wrote with his pen scratching like rats behind the wainscot, and whether he had many grounds to go upon or whether he did at all romance I cannot tell you, but what he has written is in the left-hand glass closet of the little bookcase close behind you.


CHAPTER II
HOW THE PARLOURS ADDED A FEW WORDS

I have the honour of presenting myself by the name of Jackman.  I esteem it a proud privilege to go down to posterity through the instrumentality of the most remarkable boy that ever lived, — by the name of JEMMY JACKMAN LIRRIPER, — and of my most worthy and most highly respected friend, Mrs. Emma Lirriper, of Eighty-one, Norfolk Street, Strand, in the County of Middlesex, in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

It is not for me to express the rapture with which we received that dear and eminently remarkable boy, on the occurrence of his first Christmas holidays.  Suffice it to observe that when he came flying into the house with two splendid prizes (Arithmetic, and Exemplary Conduct), Mrs. Lirriper and myself embraced with emotion, and instantly took him to the Play, where we were all three admirably entertained.

Nor is it to render homage to the virtues of the best of her good and honoured sex — whom, in deference to her unassuming worth, I will only here designate by the initials E. L. — that I add this record to the bundle of papers with which our, in a most distinguished degree, remarkable boy has expressed himself delighted, before re-consigning the same to the left-hand glass closet of Mrs. Lirriper’s little bookcase.

Neither is it to obtrude the name of the old original superannuated obscure Jemmy Jackman, once (to his degradation) of Wozenham’s, long (to his elevation) of Lirriper’s.  If I could be consciously guilty of that piece of bad taste, it would indeed be a work of supererogation, now that the name is borne by JEMMY JACKMAN LIRRIPER.

No, I take up my humble pen to register a little record of our strikingly remarkable boy, which my poor capacity regards as presenting a pleasant little picture of the dear boy’s mind.  The picture may be interesting to himself when he is a man.

Our first reunited Christmas-day was the most delightful one we have ever passed together.  Jemmy was never silent for five minutes, except in church-time.  He talked as we sat by the fire, he talked when we were out walking, he talked as we sat by the fire again, he talked incessantly at dinner, though he made a dinner almost as remarkable as himself.  It was the spring of happiness in his fresh young heart flowing and flowing, and it fertilised (if I may be allowed so bold a figure) my much-esteemed friend, and J. J. the present writer.

There were only we three.  We dined in my esteemed friend’s little room, and our entertainment was perfect.  But everything in the establishment is, in neatness, order, and comfort, always perfect.  After dinner our boy slipped away to his old stool at my esteemed friend’s knee, and there, with his hot chestnuts and his glass of brown sherry (really, a most excellent wine!) on a chair for a table, his face outshone the apples in the dish.

We talked of these jottings of mine, which Jemmy had read through and through by that time; and so it came about that my esteemed friend remarked, as she sat smoothing Jemmy’s curls:

“And as you belong to the house too, Jemmy, — and so much more than the Lodgers, having been born in it, — why, your story ought to be added to the rest, I think, one of these days.”

Jemmy’s eyes sparkled at this, and he said, “So I think, Gran.”

Then he sat looking at the fire, and then he began to laugh in a sort of confidence with the fire, and then he said, folding his arms across my esteemed friend’s lap, and raising his bright face to hers.  “Would you like to hear a boy’s story, Gran?”

“Of all things,” replied my esteemed friend.

“Would you, godfather?”

“Of all things,” I too replied.

“Well, then,” said Jemmy, “I’ll tell you one.”

Here our indisputably remarkable boy gave himself a hug, and laughed again, musically, at the idea of his coming out in that new line.  Then he once more took the fire into the same sort of confidence as before, and began:

“Once upon a time, When pigs drank wine, And monkeys chewed tobaccer, ‘Twas neither in your time nor mine, But that’s no macker — “

“Bless the child!” cried my esteemed friend, “what’s amiss with his brain?”

“It’s poetry, Gran,” returned Jemmy, shouting with laughter.  “We always begin stories that way at school.”

“Gave me quite a turn, Major,” said my esteemed friend, fanning herself with a plate.  “Thought he was light-headed!”

“In those remarkable times, Gran and godfather, there was once a boy, — not me, you know.”

“No, no,” says my respected friend, “not you.  Not him, Major, you understand?”

“No, no,” says I.

“And he went to school in Rutlandshire — “

“Why not Lincolnshire?” says my respected friend.

“Why not, you dear old Gran?  Because I go to school in Lincolnshire, don’t I?”

“Ah, to be sure!” says my respected friend.  “And it’s not Jemmy, you understand, Major?”

“No, no,” says I.

“Well!” our boy proceeded, hugging himself comfortably, and laughing merrily (again in confidence with the fire), before he again looked up in Mrs. Lirriper’s face, “and so he was tremendously in love with his schoolmaster’s daughter, and she was the most beautiful creature that ever was seen, and she had brown eyes, and she had brown hair all curling beautifully, and she had a delicious voice, and she was delicious altogether, and her name was Seraphina.”

“What’s the name of your schoolmaster’s daughter, Jemmy?” asks my respected friend.

“Polly!” replied Jemmy, pointing his forefinger at her.  “There now!  Caught you!  Ha, ha, ha!”

When he and my respected friend had had a laugh and a hug together, our admittedly remarkable boy resumed with a great relish:

“Well!  And so he loved her.  And so he thought about her, and dreamed about her, and made her presents of oranges and nuts, and would have made her presents of pearls and diamonds if he could have afforded it out of his pocket-money, but he couldn’t.  And so her father — O, he WAS a Tartar!  Keeping the boys up to the mark, holding examinations once a month, lecturing upon all sorts of subjects at all sorts of times, and knowing everything in the world out of book.  And so this boy — “

“Had he any name?” asks my respected friend.

“No, he hadn’t, Gran.  Ha, ha!  There now!  Caught you again!”

After this, they had another laugh and another hug, and then our boy went on.

“Well!  And so this boy, he had a friend about as old as himself at the same school, and his name (for He had a name, as it happened) was — let me remember — was Bobbo.”

“Not Bob,” says my respected friend.

“Of course not,” says Jemmy.  “What made you think it was, Gran?  Well!  And so this friend was the cleverest and bravest and best-looking and most generous of all the friends that ever were, and so he was in love with Seraphina’s sister, and so Seraphina’s sister was in love with him, and so they all grew up.”

“Bless us!” says my respected friend.  “They were very sudden about it.”

“So they all grew up,” our boy repeated, laughing heartily, “and Bobbo and this boy went away together on horseback to seek their fortunes, and they partly got their horses by favour, and partly in a bargain; that is to say, they had saved up between them seven and fourpence, and the two horses, being Arabs, were worth more, only the man said he would take that, to favour them.  Well!  And so they made their fortunes and came prancing back to the school, with their pockets full of gold, enough to last for ever.  And so they rang at the parents’ and visitors’ bell (not the back gate), and when the bell was answered they proclaimed ‘The same as if it was scarlet fever!  Every boy goes home for an indefinite period!’  And then there was great hurrahing, and then they kissed Seraphina and her sister, — each his own love, and not the other’s on any account, — and then they ordered the Tartar into instant confinement.”

“Poor man!” said my respected friend.

“Into instant confinement, Gran,” repeated Jemmy, trying to look severe and roaring with laughter; “and he was to have nothing to eat but the boys’ dinners, and was to drink half a cask of their beer every day.  And so then the preparations were made for the two weddings, and there were hampers, and potted things, and sweet things, and nuts, and postage-stamps, and all manner of things.  And so they were so jolly, that they let the Tartar out, and he was jolly too.”

“I am glad they let him out,” says my respected friend, “because he had only done his duty.”

“O, but hadn’t he overdone it, though!” cried Jemmy.  “Well!  And so then this boy mounted his horse, with his bride in his arms, and cantered away, and cantered on and on till he came to a certain place where he had a certain Gran and a certain godfather, — not you two, you know.”

“No, no,” we both said.

“And there he was received with great rejoicings, and he filled the cupboard and the bookcase with gold, and he showered it out on his Gran and his godfather because they were the two kindest and dearest people that ever lived in this world.  And so while they were sitting up to their knees in gold, a knocking was heard at the street door, and who should it be but Bobbo, also on horseback with his bride in his arms, and what had he come to say but that he would take (at double rent) all the Lodgings for ever, that were not wanted by this a boy and this Gran and this godfather, and that they would all live together, and all be happy!  And so they were, and so it never ended!”

“And was there no quarrelling?” asked my respected friend, as Jemmy sat upon her lap and hugged her.

“No!  Nobody ever quarrelled.”

“And did the money never melt away?”

“No!  Nobody could ever spend it all.”

“And did none of them ever grow older?”

“No!  Nobody ever grew older after that.”

“And did none of them ever die?”

“O, no, no, no, Gran!” exclaimed our dear boy, laying his cheek upon her breast, and drawing her closer to him.  “Nobody ever died.”

“Ah, Major, Major!” says my respected friend, smiling benignly upon me, “this beats our stories.  Let us end with the Boy’s story, Major, for the Boy’s story is the best that is ever told!”

In submission to which request on the part of the best of women, I have here noted it down as faithfully as my best abilities, coupled with my best intentions, would admit, subscribing it with my name,

J. JACKMAN.
THE PARLOURS.
MRS. LIRRIPER’S LODGINGS.



MRS. LIRRIPER’S LEGACY


CHAPTER I
MRS. LIRRIPER RELATES HOW SHE WENT ON, AND WENT OVER

Ah!  It’s pleasant to drop into my own easy-chair my dear though a little palpitating what with trotting up-stairs and what with trotting down, and why kitchen stairs should all be corner stairs is for the builders to justify though I do not think they fully understand their trade and never did, else why the sameness and why not more conveniences and fewer draughts and likewise making a practice of laying the plaster on too thick I am well convinced which holds the damp, and as to chimney-pots putting them on by guess-work like hats at a party and no more knowing what their effect will be upon the smoke bless you than I do if so much, except that it will mostly be either to send it down your throat in a straight form or give it a twist before it goes there.  And what I says speaking as I find of those new metal chimneys all manner of shapes (there’s a row of ‘em at Miss Wozenham’s lodging-house lower down on the other side of the way) is that they only work your smoke into artificial patterns for you before you swallow it and that I’d quite as soon swallow mine plain, the flavour being the same, not to mention the conceit of putting up signs on the top of your house to show the forms in which you take your smoke into your inside.

Being here before your eyes my dear in my own easy-chair in my own quiet room in my own Lodging-House Number Eighty-one Norfolk Street Strand London situated midway between the City and St. James’s — if anything is where it used to be with these hotels calling themselves Limited but called unlimited by Major Jackman rising up everywhere and rising up into flagstaffs where they can’t go any higher, but my mind of those monsters is give me a landlord’s or landlady’s wholesome face when I come off a journey and not a brass plate with an electrified number clicking out of it which it’s not in nature can be glad to see me and to which I don’t want to be hoisted like molasses at the Docks and left there telegraphing for help with the most ingenious instruments but quite in vain — being here my dear I have no call to mention that I am still in the Lodgings as a business hoping to die in the same and if agreeable to the clergy partly read over at Saint Clement’s Danes and concluded in Hatfield churchyard when lying once again by my poor Lirriper ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

Neither should I tell you any news my dear in telling you that the Major is still a fixture in the Parlours quite as much so as the roof of the house, and that Jemmy is of boys the best and brightest and has ever had kept from him the cruel story of his poor pretty young mother Mrs. Edson being deserted in the second floor and dying in my arms, fully believing that I am his born Gran and him an orphan, though what with engineering since he took a taste for it and him and the Major making Locomotives out of parasols broken iron pots and cotton-reels and them absolutely a getting off the line and falling over the table and injuring the passengers almost equal to the originals it really is quite wonderful.  And when I says to the Major, “Major can’t you by any means give us a communication with the guard?” the Major says quite huffy, “No madam it’s not to be done,” and when I says “Why not?” the Major says, “That is between us who are in the Railway Interest madam and our friend the Right Honourable Vice-President of the Board of Trade” and if you’ll believe me my dear the Major wrote to Jemmy at school to consult him on the answer I should have before I could get even that amount of unsatisfactoriness out of the man, the reason being that when we first began with the little model and the working signals beautiful and perfect (being in general as wrong as the real) and when I says laughing “What appointment am I to hold in this undertaking gentlemen?” Jemmy hugs me round the neck and tells me dancing, “You shall be the Public Gran” and consequently they put upon me just as much as ever they like and I sit a growling in my easy-chair.

My dear whether it is that a grown man as clever as the Major cannot give half his heart and mind to anything — even a plaything — but must get into right down earnest with it, whether it is so or whether it is not so I do not undertake to say, but Jemmy is far out-done by the serious and believing ways of the Major in the management of the United Grand Junction Lirriper and Jackman Great Norfolk Parlour Line, “For” says my Jemmy with the sparkling eyes when it was christened, “we must have a whole mouthful of name Gran or our dear old Public” and there the young rogue kissed me, “won’t stump up.”  So the Public took the shares — ten at ninepence, and immediately when that was spent twelve Preference at one and sixpence — and they were all signed by Jemmy and countersigned by the Major, and between ourselves much better worth the money than some shares I have paid for in my time.  In the same holidays the line was made and worked and opened and ran excursions and had collisions and burst its boilers and all sorts of accidents and offences all most regular correct and pretty.  The sense of responsibility entertained by the Major as a military style of station-master my dear starting the down train behind time and ringing one of those little bells that you buy with the little coal-scuttles off the tray round the man’s neck in the street did him honour, but noticing the Major of a night when he is writing out his monthly report to Jemmy at school of the state of the Rolling Stock and the Permanent Way and all the rest of it (the whole kept upon the Major’s sideboard and dusted with his own hands every morning before varnishing his boots) I notice him as full of thought and care as full can be and frowning in a fearful manner, but indeed the Major does nothing by halves as witness his great delight in going out surveying with Jemmy when he has Jemmy to go with, carrying a chain and a measuring-tape and driving I don’t know what improvements right through Westminster Abbey and fully believed in the streets to be knocking everything upside down by Act of Parliament.  As please Heaven will come to pass when Jemmy takes to that as a profession!

Mentioning my poor Lirriper brings into my head his own youngest brother the Doctor though Doctor of what I am sure it would be hard to say unless Liquor, for neither Physic nor Music nor yet Law does Joshua Lirriper know a morsel of except continually being summoned to the County Court and having orders made upon him which he runs away from, and once was taken in the passage of this very house with an umbrella up and the Major’s hat on, giving his name with the door-mat round him as Sir Johnson Jones, K.C.B. in spectacles residing at the Horse Guards.  On which occasion he had got into the house not a minute before, through the girl letting him on the mat when he sent in a piece of paper twisted more like one of those spills for lighting candles than a note, offering me the choice between thirty shillings in hand and his brains on the premises marked immediate and waiting for an answer.  My dear it gave me such a dreadful turn to think of the brains of my poor dear Lirriper’s own flesh and blood flying about the new oilcloth however unworthy to be so assisted, that I went out of my room here to ask him what he would take once for all not to do it for life when I found him in the custody of two gentlemen that I should have judged to be in the feather-bed trade if they had not announced the law, so fluffy were their personal appearance.  “Bring your chains, sir,” says Joshua to the littlest of the two in the biggest hat, “rivet on my fetters!”  Imagine my feelings when I pictered him clanking up Norfolk Street in irons and Miss Wozenham looking out of window!  “Gentlemen,” I says all of a tremble and ready to drop “please to bring him into Major Jackman’s apartments.”  So they brought him into the Parlours, and when the Major spies his own curly-brimmed hat on him which Joshua Lirriper had whipped off its peg in the passage for a military disguise he goes into such a tearing passion that he tips it off his head with his hand and kicks it up to the ceiling with his foot where it grazed long afterwards.  “Major” I says “be cool and advise me what to do with Joshua my dead and gone Lirriper’s own youngest brother.”  “Madam” says the Major “my advice is that you board and lodge him in a Powder Mill, with a handsome gratuity to the proprietor when exploded.”  “Major” I says “as a Christian you cannot mean your words.”  “Madam” says the Major “by the Lord I do!” and indeed the Major besides being with all his merits a very passionate man for his size had a bad opinion of Joshua on account of former troubles even unattended by liberties taken with his apparel.  When Joshua Lirriper hears this conversation betwixt us he turns upon the littlest one with the biggest hat and says “Come sir!  Remove me to my vile dungeon.  Where is my mouldy straw?”  My dear at the picter of him rising in my mind dressed almost entirely in padlocks like Baron Trenck in Jemmy’s book I was so overcome that I burst into tears and I says to the Major, “Major take my keys and settle with these gentlemen or I shall never know a happy minute more,” which was done several times both before and since, but still I must remember that Joshua Lirriper has his good feelings and shows them in being always so troubled in his mind when he cannot wear mourning for his brother.  Many a long year have I left off my widow’s mourning not being wishful to intrude, but the tender point in Joshua that I cannot help a little yielding to is when he writes “One single sovereign would enable me to wear a decent suit of mourning for my much-loved brother.  I vowed at the time of his lamented death that I would ever wear sables in memory of him but Alas how short-sighted is man, How keep that vow when penniless!”  It says a good deal for the strength of his feelings that he couldn’t have been seven year old when my poor Lirriper died and to have kept to it ever since is highly creditable.  But we know there’s good in all of us, — if we only knew where it was in some of us, — and though it was far from delicate in Joshua to work upon the dear child’s feelings when first sent to school and write down into Lincolnshire for his pocket-money by return of post and got it, still he is my poor Lirriper’s own youngest brother and mightn’t have meant not paying his bill at the Salisbury Arms when his affection took him down to stay a fortnight at Hatfield churchyard and might have meant to keep sober but for bad company.  Consequently if the Major had played on him with the garden-engine which he got privately into his room without my knowing of it, I think that much as I should have regretted it there would have been words betwixt the Major and me.  Therefore my dear though he played on Mr. Buffle by mistake being hot in his head, and though it might have been misrepresented down at Wozenham’s into not being ready for Mr. Buffle in other respects he being the Assessed Taxes, still I do not so much regret it as perhaps I ought.  And whether Joshua Lirriper will yet do well in life I cannot say, but I did hear of his coming, out at a Private Theatre in the character of a Bandit without receiving any offers afterwards from the regular managers.

Mentioning Mr. Baffle gives an instance of there being good in persons where good is not expected, for it cannot be denied that Mr. Buffle’s manners when engaged in his business were not agreeable.  To collect is one thing, and to look about as if suspicious of the goods being gradually removing in the dead of the night by a back door is another, over taxing you have no control but suspecting is voluntary.  Allowances too must ever be made for a gentleman of the Major’s warmth not relishing being spoke to with a pen in the mouth, and while I do not know that it is more irritable to my own feelings to have a low-crowned hat with a broad brim kept on in doors than any other hat still I can appreciate the Major’s, besides which without bearing malice or vengeance the Major is a man that scores up arrears as his habit always was with Joshua Lirriper.  So at last my dear the Major lay in wait for Mr. Buffle, and it worrited me a good deal.  Mr. Buffle gives his rap of two sharp knocks one day and the Major bounces to the door.  “Collector has called for two quarters’ Assessed Taxes” says Mr. Buffle.  “They are ready for him” says the Major and brings him in here.  But on the way Mr. Buffle looks about him in his usual suspicious manner and the Major fires and asks him “Do you see a Ghost sir?”  “No sir” says Mr. Buffle.  “Because I have before noticed you” says the Major “apparently looking for a spectre very hard beneath the roof of my respected friend.  When you find that supernatural agent, be so good as point him out sir.”  Mr. Buffle stares at the Major and then nods at me.  “Mrs. Lirriper sir” says the Major going off into a perfect steam and introducing me with his hand.  “Pleasure of knowing her” says Mr. Buffle.  “A — hum! — Jemmy Jackman sir!” says the Major introducing himself.  “Honour of knowing you by sight” says Mr. Buffle.  “Jemmy Jackman sir” says the Major wagging his head sideways in a sort of obstinate fury “presents to you his esteemed friend that lady Mrs. Emma Lirriper of Eighty-one Norfolk Street Strand London in the County of Middlesex in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.  Upon which occasion sir,” says the Major, “Jemmy Jackman takes your hat off.”  Mr. Buffle looks at his hat where the Major drops it on the floor, and he picks it up and puts it on again.  “Sir” says the Major very red and looking him full in the face “there are two quarters of the Gallantry Taxes due and the Collector has called.”  Upon which if you can believe my words my dear the Major drops Mr. Buffle’s hat off again.  “This — “ Mr. Buffle begins very angry with his pen in his mouth, when the Major steaming more and more says “Take your bit out sir!  Or by the whole infernal system of Taxation of this country and every individual figure in the National Debt, I’ll get upon your back and ride you like a horse!” which it’s my belief he would have done and even actually jerking his neat little legs ready for a spring as it was.  “This,” says Mr. Buffle without his pen “is an assault and I’ll have the law of you.”  “Sir” replies the Major “if you are a man of honour, your Collector of whatever may be due on the Honourable Assessment by applying to Major Jackman at the Parlours Mrs. Lirriper’s Lodgings, may obtain what he wants in full at any moment.”

When the Major glared at Mr. Buffle with those meaning words my dear I literally gasped for a teaspoonful of salvolatile in a wine-glass of water, and I says “Pray let it go no farther gentlemen I beg and beseech of you!”  But the Major could be got to do nothing else but snort long after Mr. Buffle was gone, and the effect it had upon my whole mass of blood when on the next day of Mr. Buffle’s rounds the Major spruced himself up and went humming a tune up and down the street with one eye almost obliterated by his hat there are not expressions in Johnson’s Dictionary to state.  But I safely put the street door on the jar and got behind the Major’s blinds with my shawl on and my mind made up the moment I saw danger to rush out screeching till my voice failed me and catch the Major round the neck till my strength went and have all parties bound.  I had not been behind the blinds a quarter of an hour when I saw Mr. Buffle approaching with his Collecting-books in his hand.  The Major likewise saw him approaching and hummed louder and himself approached.  They met before the Airy railings.  The Major takes off his hat at arm’s length and says “Mr. Buffle I believe?”  Mr. Buffle takes off his hat at arm’s length and says “That is my name sir.”  Says the Major “Have you any commands for me, Mr. Buffle?”  Says Mr. Buffle “Not any sir.”  Then my dear both of ‘em bowed very low and haughty and parted, and whenever Mr. Buffle made his rounds in future him and the Major always met and bowed before the Airy railings, putting me much in mind of Hamlet and the other gentleman in mourning before killing one another, though I could have wished the other gentleman had done it fairer and even if less polite no poison.

Mr. Buffle’s family were not liked in this neighbourhood, for when you are a householder my dear you’ll find it does not come by nature to like the Assessed, and it was considered besides that a one-horse pheayton ought not to have elevated Mrs. Buffle to that height especially when purloined from the Taxes which I myself did consider uncharitable.  But they were not liked and there was that domestic unhappiness in the family in consequence of their both being very hard with Miss Buffle and one another on account of Miss Buffle’s favouring Mr. Buffle’s articled young gentleman, that it was whispered that Miss Buffle would go either into a consumption or a convent she being so very thin and off her appetite and two close-shaved gentlemen with white bands round their necks peeping round the corner whenever she went out in waistcoats resembling black pinafores.  So things stood towards Mr. Buffle when one night I was woke by a frightful noise and a smell of burning, and going to my bedroom window saw the whole street in a glow.  Fortunately we had two sets empty just then and before I could hurry on some clothes I heard the Major hammering at the attics’ doors and calling out “Dress yourselves! — Fire!  Don’t be frightened! — Fire!  Collect your presence of mind! — Fire!  All right — Fire!” most tremenjously.  As I opened my bedroom door the Major came tumbling in over himself and me, and caught me in his arms.  “Major” I says breathless “where is it?”  “I don’t know dearest madam” says the Major — “Fire!  Jemmy Jackman will defend you to the last drop of his blood — Fire!  If the dear boy was at home what a treat this would be for him — Fire!” and altogether very collected and bold except that he couldn’t say a single sentence without shaking me to the very centre with roaring Fire.  We ran down to the drawing-room and put our heads out of window, and the Major calls to an unfeeling young monkey, scampering by be joyful and ready to split “Where is it? — Fire!”  The monkey answers without stopping “O here’s a lark!  Old Buffle’s been setting his house alight to prevent its being found out that he boned the Taxes.  Hurrah!  Fire!”  And then the sparks came flying up and the smoke came pouring down and the crackling of flames and spatting of water and banging of engines and hacking of axes and breaking of glass and knocking at doors and the shouting and crying and hurrying and the heat and altogether gave me a dreadful palpitation.  “Don’t be frightened dearest madam,” says the Major, “ — Fire!  There’s nothing to be alarmed at — Fire!  Don’t open the street door till I come back — Fire!  I’ll go and see if I can be of any service — Fire!  You’re quite composed and comfortable ain’t you? — Fire, Fire, Fire!”  It was in vain for me to hold the man and tell him he’d be galloped to death by the engines — pumped to death by his over-exertions — wet-feeted to death by the slop and mess — flattened to death when the roofs fell in — his spirit was up and he went scampering off after the young monkey with all the breath he had and none to spare, and me and the girls huddled together at the parlour windows looking at the dreadful flames above the houses over the way, Mr. Buffle’s being round the corner.  Presently what should we see but some people running down the street straight to our door, and then the Major directing operations in the busiest way, and then some more people and then — carried in a chair similar to Guy Fawkes — Mr. Buffle in a blanket!

My dear the Major has Mr. Buffle brought up our steps and whisked into the parlour and carted out on the sofy, and then he and all the rest of them without so much as a word burst away again full speed leaving the impression of a vision except for Mr. Buffle awful in his blanket with his eyes a rolling.  In a twinkling they all burst back again with Mrs. Buffle in another blanket, which whisked in and carted out on the sofy they all burst off again and all burst back again with Miss Buffle in another blanket, which again whisked in and carted out they all burst off again and all burst back again with Mr. Buffle’s articled young gentleman in another blanket — him a holding round the necks of two men carrying him by the legs, similar to the picter of the disgraceful creetur who has lost the fight (but where the chair I do not know) and his hair having the appearance of newly played upon.  When all four of a row, the Major rubs his hands and whispers me with what little hoarseness he can get together, “If our dear remarkable boy was only at home what a delightful treat this would be for him!”

My dear we made them some hot tea and toast and some hot brandy-and-water with a little comfortable nutmeg in it, and at first they were scared and low in their spirits but being fully insured got sociable.  And the first use Mr. Buffle made of his tongue was to call the Major his Preserver and his best of friends and to say “My for ever dearest sir let me make you known to Mrs. Buffle” which also addressed him as her Preserver and her best of friends and was fully as cordial as the blanket would admit of.  Also Miss Buffle.  The articled young gentleman’s head was a little light and he sat a moaning “Robina is reduced to cinders, Robina is reduced to cinders!”  Which went more to the heart on account of his having got wrapped in his blanket as if he was looking out of a violinceller case, until Mr. Buffle says “Robina speak to him!”  Miss Buffle says “Dear George!” and but for the Major’s pouring down brandy-and-water on the instant which caused a catching in his throat owing to the nutmeg and a violent fit of coughing it might have proved too much for his strength.  When the articled young gentleman got the better of it Mr. Buffle leaned up against Mrs. Buffle being two bundles, a little while in confidence, and then says with tears in his eyes which the Major noticing wiped, “We have not been an united family, let us after this danger become so, take her George.”  The young gentleman could not put his arm out far to do it, but his spoken expressions were very beautiful though of a wandering class.  And I do not know that I ever had a much pleasanter meal than the breakfast we took together after we had all dozed, when Miss Buffle made tea very sweetly in quite the Roman style as depicted formerly at Covent Garden Theatre and when the whole family was most agreeable, as they have ever proved since that night when the Major stood at the foot of the Fire-Escape and claimed them as they came down — the young gentleman head-foremost, which accounts.  And though I do not say that we should be less liable to think ill of one another if strictly limited to blankets, still I do say that we might most of us come to a better understanding if we kept one another less at a distance.

Why there’s Wozenham’s lower down on the other side of the street.  I had a feeling of much soreness several years respecting what I must still ever call Miss Wozenham’s systematic underbidding and the likeness of the house in Bradshaw having far too many windows and a most umbrageous and outrageous Oak which never yet was seen in Norfolk Street nor yet a carriage and four at Wozenham’s door, which it would have been far more to Bradshaw’s credit to have drawn a cab.  This frame of mind continued bitter down to the very afternoon in January last when one of my girls, Sally Rairyganoo which I still suspect of Irish extraction though family represented Cambridge, else why abscond with a bricklayer of the Limerick persuasion and be married in pattens not waiting till his black eye was decently got round with all the company fourteen in number and one horse fighting outside on the roof of the vehicle, — I repeat my dear my ill-regulated state of mind towards Miss Wozenham continued down to the very afternoon of January last past when Sally Rairyganoo came banging (I can use no milder expression) into my room with a jump which may be Cambridge and may not, and said “Hurroo Missis!  Miss Wozenham’s sold up!”  My dear when I had it thrown in my face and conscience that the girl Sally had reason to think I could be glad of the ruin of a fellow-creeter, I burst into tears and dropped back in my chair and I says “I am ashamed of myself!”

Well!  I tried to settle to my tea but I could not do it what with thinking of Miss Wozenham and her distresses.  It was a wretched night and I went up to a front window and looked over at Wozenham’s and as well as I could make it out down the street in the fog it was the dismallest of the dismal and not a light to be seen.  So at last I save to myself “This will not do,” and I puts on my oldest bonnet and shawl not wishing Miss Wozenham to be reminded of my best at such a time, and lo and behold you I goes over to Wozenham’s and knocks.  “Miss Wozenham at home?” I says turning my head when I heard the door go.  And then I saw it was Miss Wozenham herself who had opened it and sadly worn she was poor thing and her eyes all swelled and swelled with crying.  “Miss Wozenham” I says “it is several years since there was a little unpleasantness betwixt us on the subject of my grandson’s cap being down your Airy.  I have overlooked it and I hope you have done the same.”  “Yes Mrs. Lirriper” she says in a surprise, “I have.”  “Then my dear” I says “I should be glad to come in and speak a word to you.”  Upon my calling her my dear Miss Wozenham breaks out a crying most pitiful, and a not unfeeling elderly person that might have been better shaved in a nightcap with a hat over it offering a polite apology for the mumps having worked themselves into his constitution, and also for sending home to his wife on the bellows which was in his hand as a writing-desk, looks out of the back parlour and says “The lady wants a word of comfort” and goes in again.  So I was able to say quite natural “Wants a word of comfort does she sir?  Then please the pigs she shall have it!”  And Miss Wozenham and me we go into the front room with a wretched light that seemed to have been crying too and was sputtering out, and I says “Now my dear, tell me all,” and she wrings her hands and says “O Mrs. Lirriper that man is in possession here, and I have not a friend in the world who is able to help me with a shilling.”

It doesn’t signify a bit what a talkative old body like me said to Miss Wozenham when she said that, and so I’ll tell you instead my dear that I’d have given thirty shillings to have taken her over to tea, only I durstn’t on account of the Major.  Not you see but what I knew I could draw the Major out like thread and wind him round my finger on most subjects and perhaps even on that if I was to set myself to it, but him and me had so often belied Miss Wozenham to one another that I was shamefaced, and I knew she had offended his pride and never mine, and likewise I felt timid that that Rairyganoo girl might make things awkward.  So I says “My dear if you could give me a cup of tea to clear my muddle of a head I should better understand your affairs.”  And we had the tea and the affairs too and after all it was but forty pound, and — There! she’s as industrious and straight a creeter as ever lived and has paid back half of it already, and where’s the use of saying more, particularly when it ain’t the point?  For the point is that when she was a kissing my hands and holding them in hers and kissing them again and blessing blessing blessing, I cheered up at last and I says “Why what a waddling old goose I have been my dear to take you for something so very different!”  “Ah but I too” says she “how have I mistaken you!”  “Come for goodness’ sake tell me” I says “what you thought of me?”  “O” says she “I thought you had no feeling for such a hard hand-to-mouth life as mine, and were rolling in affluence.”  I says shaking my sides (and very glad to do it for I had been a choking quite long enough) “Only look at my figure my dear and give me your opinion whether if I was in affluence I should be likely to roll in it?”  That did it?  We got as merry as grigs (whatever they are, if you happen to know my dear — I don’t) and I went home to my blessed home as happy and as thankful as could be.  But before I make an end of it, think even of my having misunderstood the Major!  Yes!  For next forenoon the Major came into my little room with his brushed hat in his hand and he begins “My dearest madam — “ and then put his face in his hat as if he had just come into church.  As I sat all in a maze he came out of his hat and began again.  “My esteemed and beloved friend — “ and then went into his hat again.  “Major,” I cries out frightened “has anything happened to our darling boy?”  “No, no, no” says the Major “but Miss Wozenham has been here this morning to make her excuses to me, and by the Lord I can’t get over what she told me.”  “Hoity toity, Major,” I says “you don’t know yet that I was afraid of you last night and didn’t think half as well of you as I ought!  So come out of church Major and forgive me like a dear old friend and I’ll never do so any more.”  And I leave you to judge my dear whether I ever did or will.  And how affecting to think of Miss Wozenham out of her small income and her losses doing so much for her poor old father, and keeping a brother that had had the misfortune to soften his brain against the hard mathematics as neat as a new pin in the three back represented to lodgers as a lumber-room and consuming a whole shoulder of mutton whenever provided!

And now my dear I really am a going to tell you about my Legacy if you’re inclined to favour me with your attention, and I did fully intend to have come straight to it only one thing does so bring up another.  It was the month of June and the day before Midsummer Day when my girl Winifred Madgers — she was what is termed a Plymouth Sister, and the Plymouth Brother that made away with her was quite right, for a tidier young woman for a wife never came into a house and afterwards called with the beautifullest Plymouth Twins — it was the day before Midsummer Day when Winifred Madgers comes and says to me “A gentleman from the Consul’s wishes particular to speak to Mrs. Lirriper.”  If you’ll believe me my dear the Consols at the bank where I have a little matter for Jemmy got into my head, and I says “Good gracious I hope he ain’t had any dreadful fall!”  Says Winifred “He don’t look as if he had ma’am.”  And I says “Show him in.”

The gentleman came in dark and with his hair cropped what I should consider too close, and he says very polite “Madame Lirrwiper!”  I says, “Yes sir.  Take a chair.”  “I come,” says he “frrwom the Frrwench Consul’s.”  So I saw at once that it wasn’t the Bank of England.   “We have rrweceived,” says the gentleman turning his r’s very curious and skilful, “frrwom the Mairrwie at Sens, a communication which I will have the honour to rrwead.  Madame Lirrwiper understands Frrwench?”  “O dear no sir!” says I.  “Madame Lirriper don’t understand anything of the sort.”  “It matters not,” says the gentleman, “I will trrwanslate.”

With that my dear the gentleman after reading something about a Department and a Marie (which Lord forgive me I supposed till the Major came home was Mary, and never was I more puzzled than to think how that young woman came to have so much to do with it) translated a lot with the most obliging pains, and it came to this: — That in the town of Sons in France an unknown Englishman lay a dying.  That he was speechless and without motion.  That in his lodging there was a gold watch and a purse containing such and such money and a trunk containing such and such clothes, but no passport and no papers, except that on his table was a pack of cards and that he had written in pencil on the back of the ace of hearts: “To the authorities.  When I am dead, pray send what is left, as a last Legacy, to Mrs. Lirriper Eighty-one Norfolk Street Strand London.”  When the gentleman had explained all this, which seemed to be drawn up much more methodical than I should have given the French credit for, not at that time knowing the nation, he put the document into my hand.  And much the wiser I was for that you may be sure, except that it had the look of being made out upon grocery paper and was stamped all over with eagles.

“Does Madame Lirrwiper” says the gentleman “believe she rrwecognises her unfortunate compatrrwiot?”

You may imagine the flurry it put me into my dear to be talked to about my compatriots.

I says “Excuse me.  Would you have the kindness sir to make your language as simple as you can?”

“This Englishman unhappy, at the point of death.  This compatrrwiot afflicted,” says the gentleman.

“Thank you sir” I says “I understand you now.  No sir I have not the least idea who this can be.”

“Has Madame Lirrwiper no son, no nephew, no godson, no frrwiend, no acquaintance of any kind in Frrwance?”

“To my certain knowledge” says I “no relation or friend, and to the best of my belief no acquaintance.”

“Pardon me.  You take Locataires?” says the gentleman.

My dear fully believing he was offering me something with his obliging foreign manners, — snuff for anything I knew, — I gave a little bend of my head and I says if you’ll credit it, “No I thank you.  I have not contracted the habit.”

The gentleman looks perplexed and says “Lodgers!”

“Oh!” says I laughing.  “Bless the man!  Why yes to be sure!”

“May it not be a former lodger?” says the gentleman.  “Some lodger that you pardoned some rrwent?  You have pardoned lodgers some rrwent?”

“Hem!  It has happened sir” says I, “but I assure you I can call to mind no gentleman of that description that this is at all likely to be.”

In short my dear, we could make nothing of it, and the gentleman noted down what I said and went away.  But he left me the paper of which he had two with him, and when the Major came in I says to the Major as I put it in his hand “Major here’s Old Moore’s Almanac with the hieroglyphic complete, for your opinion.”

It took the Major a little longer to read than I should have thought, judging from the copious flow with which he seemed to be gifted when attacking the organ-men, but at last he got through it, and stood a gazing at me in amazement.

“Major” I says “you’re paralysed.”

“Madam” says the Major, “Jemmy Jackman is doubled up.”

Now it did so happen that the Major had been out to get a little information about railroads and steamboats, as our boy was coming home for his Midsummer holidays next day and we were going to take him somewhere for a treat and a change.  So while the Major stood a gazing it came into my head to say to him “Major I wish you’d go and look at some of your books and maps, and see whereabouts this same town of Sens is in France.”

The Major he roused himself and he went into the Parlours and he poked about a little, and he came back to me and he says, “Sens my dearest madam is seventy-odd miles south of Paris.”

With what I may truly call a desperate effort “Major,” I says “we’ll go there with our blessed boy.”

If ever the Major was beside himself it was at the thoughts of that journey.  All day long he was like the wild man of the woods after meeting with an advertisement in the papers telling him something to his advantage, and early next morning hours before Jemmy could possibly come home he was outside in the street ready to call out to him that we was all a going to France.  Young Rosycheeks you may believe was as wild as the Major, and they did carry on to that degree that I says “If you two children ain’t more orderly I’ll pack you both off to bed.”  And then they fell to cleaning up the Major’s telescope to see France with, and went out and bought a leather bag with a snap to hang round Jemmy, and him to carry the money like a little Fortunatus with his purse.

If I hadn’t passed my word and raised their hopes, I doubt if I could have gone through with the undertaking but it was too late to go back now.  So on the second day after Midsummer Day we went off by the morning mail.  And when we came to the sea which I had never seen but once in my life and that when my poor Lirriper was courting me, the freshness of it and the deepness and the airiness and to think that it had been rolling ever since and that it was always a rolling and so few of us minding, made me feel quite serious.  But I felt happy too and so did Jemmy and the Major and not much motion on the whole, though me with a swimming in the head and a sinking but able to take notice that the foreign insides appear to be constructed hollower than the English, leading to much more tremenjous noises when bad sailors.

But my dear the blueness and the lightness and the coloured look of everything and the very sentry-boxes striped and the shining rattling drums and the little soldiers with their waists and tidy gaiters, when we got across to the Continent — it made me feel as if I don’t know what — as if the atmosphere had been lifted off me.  And as to lunch why bless you if I kept a man-cook and two kitchen-maids I couldn’t got it done for twice the money, and no injured young woman a glaring at you and grudging you and acknowledging your patronage by wishing that your food might choke you, but so civil and so hot and attentive and every way comfortable except Jemmy pouring wine down his throat by tumblers-full and me expecting to see him drop under the table.

And the way in which Jemmy spoke his French was a real charm.  It was often wanted of him, for whenever anybody spoke a syllable to me I says “Non-comprenny, you’re very kind, but it’s no use — Now Jemmy!” and then Jemmy he fires away at ‘em lovely, the only thing wanting in Jemmy’s French being as it appeared to me that he hardly ever understood a word of what they said to him which made it scarcely of the use it might have been though in other respects a perfect Native, and regarding the Major’s fluency I should have been of the opinion judging French by English that there might have been a greater choice of words in the language though still I must admit that if I hadn’t known him when he asked a military gentleman in a gray cloak what o’clock it was I should have took him for a Frenchman born.

Before going on to look after my Legacy we were to make one regular day in Paris, and I leave you to judge my dear what a day that was with Jemmy and the Major and the telescope and me and the prowling young man at the inn door (but very civil too) that went along with us to show the sights.  All along the railway to Paris Jemmy and the Major had been frightening me to death by stooping down on the platforms at stations to inspect the engines underneath their mechanical stomachs, and by creeping in and out I don’t know where all, to find improvements for the United Grand Junction Parlour, but when we got out into the brilliant streets on a bright morning they gave up all their London improvements as a bad job and gave their minds to Paris.  Says the prowling young man to me “Will I speak Inglis No?”  So I says “If you can young man I shall take it as a favour,” but after half-an-hour of it when I fully believed the man had gone mad and me too I says “Be so good as fall back on your French sir,” knowing that then I shouldn’t have the agonies of trying to understand him, which was a happy release.  Not that I lost much more than the rest either, for I generally noticed that when he had described something very long indeed and I says to Jemmy “What does he say Jemmy?”  Jemmy says looking with vengeance in his eye “He is so jolly indistinct!” and that when he had described it longer all over again and I says to Jemmy “Well Jemmy what’s it all about?” Jemmy says “He says the building was repaired in seventeen hundred and four, Gran.”

Wherever that prowling young man formed his prowling habits I cannot be expected to know, but the way in which he went round the corner while we had our breakfasts and was there again when we swallowed the last crumb was most marvellous, and just the same at dinner and at night, prowling equally at the theatre and the inn gateway and the shop doors when we bought a trifle or two and everywhere else but troubled with a tendency to spit.  And of Paris I can tell you no more my dear than that it’s town and country both in one, and carved stone and long streets of high houses and gardens and fountains and statues and trees and gold, and immensely big soldiers and immensely little soldiers and the pleasantest nurses with the whitest caps a playing at skipping-rope with the bunchiest babies in the flattest caps, and clean table-cloths spread everywhere for dinner and people sitting out of doors smoking and sipping all day long and little plays being acted in the open air for little people and every shop a complete and elegant room, and everybody seeming to play at everything in this world.  And as to the sparkling lights my dear after dark, glittering high up and low down and on before and on behind and all round, and the crowd of theatres and the crowd of people and the crowd of all sorts, it’s pure enchantment.  And pretty well the only thing that grated on me was that whether you pay your fare at the railway or whether you change your money at a money-dealer’s or whether you take your ticket at the theatre, the lady or gentleman is caged up (I suppose by government) behind the strongest iron bars having more of a Zoological appearance than a free country.

Well to be sure when I did after all get my precious bones to bed that night, and my Young Rogue came in to kiss me and asks “What do you think of this lovely lovely Paris, Gran?”  I says “Jemmy I feel as if it was beautiful fireworks being let off in my head.”  And very cool and refreshing the pleasant country was next day when we went on to look after my Legacy, and rested me much and did me a deal of good.

So at length and at last my dear we come to Sens, a pretty little town with a great two-towered cathedral and the rooks flying in and out of the loopholes and another tower atop of one of the towers like a sort of a stone pulpit.  In which pulpit with the birds skimming below him if you’ll believe me, I saw a speck while I was resting at the inn before dinner which they made signs to me was Jemmy and which really was.  I had been a fancying as I sat in the balcony of the hotel that an Angel might light there and call down to the people to be good, but I little thought what Jemmy all unknown to himself was a calling down from that high place to some one in the town.

The pleasantest-situated inn my dear!  Right under the two towers, with their shadows a changing upon it all day like a kind of a sundial, and country people driving in and out of the courtyard in carts and hooded cabriolets and such like, and a market outside in front of the cathedral, and all so quaint and like a picter.  The Major and me agreed that whatever came of my Legacy this was the place to stay in for our holiday, and we also agreed that our dear boy had best not be checked in his joy that night by the sight of the Englishman if he was still alive, but that we would go together and alone.  For you are to understand that the Major not feeling himself quite equal in his wind to the height to which Jemmy had climbed, had come back to me and left him with the Guide.

So after dinner when Jemmy had set off to see the river, the Major went down to the Mairie, and presently came back with a military character in a sword and spurs and a cocked hat and a yellow shoulder-belt and long tags about him that he must have found inconvenient.  And the Major says “The Englishman still lies in the same state dearest madam.  This gentleman will conduct us to his lodging.”  Upon which the military character pulled off his cocked hat to me, and I took notice that he had shaved his forehead in imitation of Napoleon Bonaparte but not like.

We wont out at the courtyard gate and past the great doors of the cathedral and down a narrow High Street where the people were sitting chatting at their shop doors and the children were at play.  The military character went in front and he stopped at a pork-shop with a little statue of a pig sitting up, in the window, and a private door that a donkey was looking out of.

When the donkey saw the military character he came slipping out on the pavement to turn round and then clattered along the passage into a back yard.  So the coast being clear, the Major and me were conducted up the common stair and into the front room on the second, a bare room with a red tiled floor and the outside lattice blinds pulled close to darken it.  As the military character opened the blinds I saw the tower where I had seen Jemmy, darkening as the sun got low, and I turned to the bed by the wall and saw the Englishman.

It was some kind of brain fever he had had, and his hair was all gone, and some wetted folded linen lay upon his head.  I looked at him very attentive as he lay there all wasted away with his eyes closed, and I says to the Major —

I never saw this face before.”

The Major looked at him very attentive too, and he says “I never saw this face before.”

When the Major explained our words to the military character, that gentleman shrugged his shoulders and showed the Major the card on which it was written about the Legacy for me.  It had been written with a weak and trembling hand in bed, and I knew no more of the writing than of the face.  Neither did the Major.

Though lying there alone, the poor creetur was as well taken care of as could be hoped, and would have been quite unconscious of any one’s sitting by him then.  I got the Major to say that we were not going away at present and that I would come back to-morrow and watch a bit by the bedside.  But I got him to add — and I shook my head hard to make it stronger — “We agree that we never saw this face before.”

Our boy was greatly surprised when we told him sitting out in the balcony in the starlight, and he ran over some of those stories of former Lodgers, of the Major’s putting down, and asked wasn’t it possible that it might be this lodger or that lodger.  It was not possible, and we went to bed.

In the morning just at breakfast-time the military character came jingling round, and said that the doctor thought from the signs he saw there might be some rally before the end.  So I says to the Major and Jemmy, “You two boys go and enjoy yourselves, and I’ll take my Prayer Book and go sit by the bed.”  So I went, and I sat there some hours, reading a prayer for him poor soul now and then, and it was quite on in the day when he moved his hand.

He had been so still, that the moment he moved I knew of it, and I pulled off my spectacles and laid down my book and rose and looked at him.  From moving one hand he began to move both, and then his action was the action of a person groping in the dark.  Long after his eyes had opened, there was a film over them and he still felt for his way out into light.  But by slow degrees his sight cleared and his hands stopped.  He saw the ceiling, he saw the wall, he saw me.  As his sight cleared, mine cleared too, and when at last we looked in one another’s faces, I started back, and I cries passionately:

“O you wicked wicked man!  Your sin has found you out!”

For I knew him, the moment life looked out of his eyes, to be Mr. Edson, Jemmy’s father who had so cruelly deserted Jemmy’s young unmarried mother who had died in my arms, poor tender creetur, and left Jemmy to me.

“You cruel wicked man!  You bad black traitor!”

With the little strength he had, he made an attempt to turn over on his wretched face to hide it.  His arm dropped out of the bed and his head with it, and there he lay before me crushed in body and in mind.  Surely the miserablest sight under the summer sun!

“O blessed Heaven,” I says a crying, “teach me what to say to this broken mortal!  I am a poor sinful creetur, and the Judgment is not mine.”

As I lifted my eyes up to the clear bright sky, I saw the high tower where Jemmy had stood above the birds, seeing that very window; and the last look of that poor pretty young mother when her soul brightened and got free, seemed to shine down from it.

“O man, man, man!” I says, and I went on my knees beside the bed; “if your heart is rent asunder and you are truly penitent for what you did, Our Saviour will have mercy on you yet!”

As I leaned my face against the bed, his feeble hand could just move itself enough to touch me.  I hope the touch was penitent.  It tried to hold my dress and keep hold, but the fingers were too weak to close.

I lifted him back upon the pillows and I says to him:

“Can you hear me?”

He looked yes.

“Do you know me?”

He looked yes, even yet more plainly.

“I am not here alone.  The Major is with me.  You recollect the Major?”

Yes.  That is to say he made out yes, in the same way as before.

“And even the Major and I are not alone.  My grandson — his godson — is with us.  Do you hear?  My grandson.”

The fingers made another trial to catch my sleeve, but could only creep near it and fall.

“Do you know who my grandson is?”

Yes.

“I pitied and loved his lonely mother.  When his mother lay a dying I said to her, ‘My dear, this baby is sent to a childless old woman.’  He has been my pride and joy ever since.  I love him as dearly as if he had drunk from my breast.  Do you ask to see my grandson before you die?”

Yes.

“Show me, when I leave off speaking, if you correctly understand what I say.  He has been kept unacquainted with the story of his birth.  He has no knowledge of it.  No suspicion of it.  If I bring him here to the side of this bed, he will suppose you to be a perfect stranger.  It is more than I can do to keep from him the knowledge that there is such wrong and misery in the world; but that it was ever so near him in his innocent cradle I have kept from him, and I do keep from him, and I ever will keep from him, for his mother’s sake, and for his own.”

He showed me that he distinctly understood, and the tears fell from his eyes.

“Now rest, and you shall see him.”

So I got him a little wine and some brandy, and I put things straight about his bed.  But I began to be troubled in my mind lest Jemmy and the Major might be too long of coming back.  What with this occupation for my thoughts and hands, I didn’t hear a foot upon the stairs, and was startled when I saw the Major stopped short in the middle of the room by the eyes of the man upon the bed, and knowing him then, as I had known him a little while ago.

There was anger in the Major’s face, and there was horror and repugnance and I don’t know what.  So I went up to him and I led him to the bedside, and when I clasped my hands and lifted of them up, the Major did the like.

“O Lord” I says “Thou knowest what we two saw together of the sufferings and sorrows of that young creetur now with Thee.  If this dying man is truly penitent, we two together humbly pray Thee to have mercy on him!”

The Major says “Amen!” and then after a little stop I whispers him, “Dear old friend fetch our beloved boy.”  And the Major, so clever as to have got to understand it all without being told a word, went away and brought him.

Never never never shall I forget the fair bright face of our boy when he stood at the foot of the bed, looking at his unknown father.  And O so like his dear young mother then!

“Jemmy” I says, “I have found out all about this poor gentleman who is so ill, and he did lodge in the old house once.  And as he wants to see all belonging to it, now that he is passing away, I sent for you.”

“Ah poor man!” says Jemmy stepping forward and touching one of his hands with great gentleness.  “My heart melts for him.  Poor, poor man!”

The eyes that were so soon to close for ever turned to me, and I was not that strong in the pride of my strength that I could resist them.

“My darling boy, there is a reason in the secret history of this fellow-creetur lying as the best and worst of us must all lie one day, which I think would ease his spirit in his last hour if you would lay your cheek against his forehead and say, ‘May God forgive you!’”

“O Gran,” says Jemmy with a full heart, “I am not worthy!”  But he leaned down and did it.  Then the faltering fingers made out to catch hold of my sleeve at last, and I believe he was a-trying to kiss me when he died.


There my dear!  There you have the story of my Legacy in full, and it’s worth ten times the trouble I have spent upon it if you are pleased to like it.

You might suppose that it set us against the little French town of Sens, but no we didn’t find that.  I found myself that I never looked up at the high tower atop of the other tower, but the days came back again when that fair young creetur with her pretty bright hair trusted in me like a mother, and the recollection made the place so peaceful to me as I can’t express.  And every soul about the hotel down to the pigeons in the courtyard made friends with Jemmy and the Major, and went lumbering away with them on all sorts of expeditions in all sorts of vehicles drawn by rampagious cart-horses, — with heads and without, — mud for paint and ropes for harness, — and every new friend dressed in blue like a butcher, and every new horse standing on his hind legs wanting to devour and consume every other horse, and every man that had a whip to crack crack-crack-crack-crack-cracking it as if it was a schoolboy with his first.  As to the Major my dear that man lived the greater part of his time with a little tumbler in one hand and a bottle of small wine in the other, and whenever he saw anybody else with a little tumbler, no matter who it was, — the military character with the tags, or the inn-servants at their supper in the courtyard, or townspeople a chatting on a bench, or country people a starting home after market, — down rushes the Major to clink his glass against their glasses and cry, — Hola!  Vive Somebody! or Vive Something! as if he was beside himself.  And though I could not quite approve of the Major’s doing it, still the ways of the world are the ways of the world varying according to the different parts of it, and dancing at all in the open Square with a lady that kept a barber’s shop my opinion is that the Major was right to dance his best and to lead off with a power that I did not think was in him, though I was a little uneasy at the Barricading sound of the cries that were set up by the other dancers and the rest of the company, until when I says “What are they ever calling out Jemmy?” Jemmy says, “They’re calling out Gran, Bravo the Military English!  Bravo the Military English!” which was very gratifying to my feelings as a Briton and became the name the Major was known by.

But every evening at a regular time we all three sat out in the balcony of the hotel at the end of the courtyard, looking up at the golden and rosy light as it changed on the great towers, and looking at the shadows of the towers as they changed on all about us ourselves included, and what do you think we did there?  My dear, if Jemmy hadn’t brought some other of those stories of the Major’s taking down from the telling of former lodgers at Eighty-one Norfolk Street, and if he didn’t bring ‘em out with this speech:

“Here you are Gran!  Here you are godfather!  More of ‘em!  I’ll read.  And though you wrote ‘em for me, godfather, I know you won’t disapprove of my making ‘em over to Gran; will you?”

“No, my dear boy,” says the Major.  “Everything we have is hers, and we are hers.”

“Hers ever affectionately and devotedly J. Jackman, and J. Jackman Lirriper,” cries the Young Rogue giving me a close hug.  “Very well then godfather.  Look here.  As Gran is in the Legacy way just now, I shall make these stories a part of Gran’s Legacy.  I’ll leave ‘em to her.  What do you say godfather?”

“Hip hip Hurrah!” says the Major.

“Very well then,” cries Jemmy all in a bustle.  “Vive the Military English!  Vive the Lady Lirriper!  Vive the Jemmy Jackman Ditto!  Vive the Legacy!  Now, you look out, Gran.  And you look out, godfather.  I’ll read!  And I’ll tell you what I’ll do besides.  On the last night of our holiday here when we are all packed and going away, I’ll top up with something of my own.”

“Mind you do sir” says I.


CHAPTER II
MRS. LIRRIPER RELATES HOW JEMMY TOPPED UP

Well my dear and so the evening readings of those jottings of the Major’s brought us round at last to the evening when we were all packed and going away next day, and I do assure you that by that time though it was deliciously comfortable to look forward to the dear old house in Norfolk Street again, I had formed quite a high opinion of the French nation and had noticed them to be much more homely and domestic in their families and far more simple and amiable in their lives than I had ever been led to expect, and it did strike me between ourselves that in one particular they might be imitated to advantage by another nation which I will not mention, and that is in the courage with which they take their little enjoyments on little means and with little things and don’t let solemn big-wigs stare them out of countenance or speechify them dull, of which said solemn big-wigs I have ever had the one opinion that I wish they were all made comfortable separately in coppers with the lids on and never let out any more.

“Now young man,” I says to Jemmy when we brought our chairs into the balcony that last evening, “you please to remember who was to ‘top up.’”

“All right Gran” says Jemmy.  “I am the illustrious personage.”

But he looked so serious after he had made me that light answer, that the Major raised his eyebrows at me and I raised mine at the Major.

“Gran and godfather,” says Jemmy, “you can hardly think how much my mind has run on Mr. Edson’s death.”

It gave me a little check.  “Ah! it was a sad scene my love” I says, “and sad remembrances come back stronger than merry.  But this” I says after a little silence, to rouse myself and the Major and Jemmy all together, “is not topping up.  Tell us your story my dear.”

“I will” says Jemmy.

“What is the date sir?” says I.  “Once upon a time when pigs drank wine?”

“No Gran,” says Jemmy, still serious; “once upon a time when the French drank wine.”

Again I glanced at the Major, and the Major glanced at me.

“In short, Gran and godfather,” says Jemmy, looking up, “the date is this time, and I’m going to tell you Mr. Edson’s story.”

The flutter that it threw me into.  The change of colour on the part of the Major!

“That is to say, you understand,” our bright-eyed boy says, “I am going to give you my version of it.  I shall not ask whether it’s right or not, firstly because you said you knew very little about it, Gran, and secondly because what little you did know was a secret.”

I folded my hands in my lap and I never took my eyes off Jemmy as he went running on.

“The unfortunate gentleman” Jemmy commences, “who is the subject of our present narrative was the son of Somebody, and was born Somewhere, and chose a profession Somehow.  It is not with those parts of his career that we have to deal; but with his early attachment to a young and beautiful lady.”

I thought I should have dropped.  I durstn’t look at the Major; but I know what his state was, without looking at him.

“The father of our ill-starred hero” says Jemmy, copying as it seemed to me the style of some of his story-books, “was a worldly man who entertained ambitious views for his only son and who firmly set his face against the contemplated alliance with a virtuous but penniless orphan.  Indeed he went so far as roundly to assure our hero that unless he weaned his thoughts from the object of his devoted affection, he would disinherit him.  At the same time, he proposed as a suitable match the daughter of a neighbouring gentleman of a good estate, who was neither ill-favoured nor unamiable, and whose eligibility in a pecuniary point of view could not be disputed.  But young Mr. Edson, true to the first and only love that had inflamed his breast, rejected all considerations of self-advancement, and, deprecating his father’s anger in a respectful letter, ran away with her.”

My dear I had begun to take a turn for the better, but when it come to running away I began to take another turn for the worse.

“The lovers” says Jemmy “fled to London and were united at the altar of Saint Clement’s Danes.  And it is at this period of their simple but touching story that we find them inmates of the dwelling of a highly-respected and beloved lady of the name of Gran, residing within a hundred miles of Norfolk Street.”

I felt that we were almost safe now, I felt that the dear boy had no suspicion of the bitter truth, and I looked at the Major for the first time and drew a long breath.  The Major gave me a nod.

“Our hero’s father” Jemmy goes on “proving implacable and carrying his threat into unrelenting execution, the struggles of the young couple in London were severe, and would have been far more so, but for their good angel’s having conducted them to the abode of Mrs. Gran; who, divining their poverty (in spite of their endeavours to conceal it from her), by a thousand delicate arts smoothed their rough way, and alleviated the sharpness of their first distress.”

Here Jemmy took one of my hands in one of his, and began a marking the turns of his story by making me give a beat from time to time upon his other hand.

“After a while, they left the house of Mrs. Gran, and pursued their fortunes through a variety of successes and failures elsewhere.  But in all reverses, whether for good or evil, the words of Mr. Edson to the fair young partner of his life were, ‘Unchanging Love and Truth will carry us through all!’”

My hand trembled in the dear boy’s, those words were so wofully unlike the fact.

“Unchanging Love and Truth” says Jemmy over again, as if he had a proud kind of a noble pleasure in it, “will carry us through all!  Those were his words.  And so they fought their way, poor but gallant and happy, until Mrs. Edson gave birth to a child.”

“A daughter,” I says.

“No,” says Jemmy, “a son.  And the father was so proud of it that he could hardly bear it out of his sight.  But a dark cloud overspread the scene.  Mrs. Edson sickened, drooped, and died.”

“Ah!  Sickened, drooped, and died!” I says.

“And so Mr. Edson’s only comfort, only hope on earth, and only stimulus to action, was his darling boy.  As the child grew older, he grew so like his mother that he was her living picture.  It used to make him wonder why his father cried when he kissed him.  But unhappily he was like his mother in constitution as well as in face, and lo, died too before he had grown out of childhood.  Then Mr. Edson, who had good abilities, in his forlornness and despair, threw them all to the winds.  He became apathetic, reckless, lost.  Little by little he sank down, down, down, down, until at last he almost lived (I think) by gaming.  And so sickness overtook him in the town of Sens in France, and he lay down to die.  But now that he laid him down when all was done, and looked back upon the green Past beyond the time when he had covered it with ashes, he thought gratefully of the good Mrs. Gran long lost sight of, who had been so kind to him and his young wife in the early days of their marriage, and he left the little that he had as a last Legacy to her.  And she, being brought to see him, at first no more knew him than she would know from seeing the ruin of a Greek or Roman Temple, what it used to be before it fell; but at length she remembered him.  And then he told her, with tears, of his regret for the misspent part of his life, and besought her to think as mildly of it as she could, because it was the poor fallen Angel of his unchanging Love and Constancy after all.  And because she had her grandson with her, and he fancied that his own boy, if he had lived, might have grown to be something like him, he asked her to let him touch his forehead with his cheek and say certain parting words.”

Jemmy’s voice sank low when it got to that, and tears filled my eyes, and filled the Major’s.

“You little Conjurer” I says, “how did you ever make it all out?  Go in and write it every word down, for it’s a wonder.”

Which Jemmy did, and I have repeated it to you my dear from his writing.

Then the Major took my hand and kissed it, and said, “Dearest madam all has prospered with us.”

“Ah Major” I says drying my eyes, “we needn’t have been afraid.  We might have known it.  Treachery don’t come natural to beaming youth; but trust and pity, love and constancy, — they do, thank God!”


DOCTOR MARIGOLD’S PRESCRIPTIONS

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 foot- board 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.

I courted my wife from the footboard of the cart. I did indeed. She was a Suffolk young woman, and it was in Ipswich marketplace right opposite the corn-chandler’s shop. I had noticed her up at a window last Saturday that was, appreciating highly. I had took to her, and I had said to myself, “If not already disposed of, I’ll have that lot.” Next Saturday that come, I pitched the cart on the same pitch, and I was in very high feather indeed, keeping ‘em laughing the whole of the time, and getting off the goods briskly. At last I took out of my waistcoat-pocket a small lot wrapped in soft paper, and I put it this way (looking up at the window where she was). “Now here, my blooming English maidens, is an article, the last article of the present evening’s sale, which I offer to only you, the lovely Suffolk Dumplings biling over with beauty, and I won’t take a bid of a thousand pounds for from any man alive. Now what is it? Why, I’ll tell you what it is. It’s made of fine gold, and it’s not broke, though there’s a hole in the middle of it, and it’s stronger than any fetter that ever was forged, though it’s smaller than any finger in my set of ten. Why ten? Because, when my parents made over my property to me, I tell you true, there was twelve sheets, twelve towels, twelve table-cloths, twelve knives, twelve forks, twelve tablespoons, and twelve teaspoons, but my set of fingers was two short of a dozen, and could never since be matched. Now what else is it? Come, I’ll tell you. It’s a hoop of solid gold, wrapped in a silver curl-paper, that I myself took off the shining locks of the ever beautiful old lady in Threadneedle Street, London city; I wouldn’t tell you so if I hadn’t the paper to show, or you mightn’t believe it even of me. Now what else is it? It’s a man-trap and a handcuff, the parish stocks and a leg-lock, all in gold and all in one. Now what else is it? It’s a wedding- ring. Now I’ll tell you what I’m a going to do with it. I’m not a going to offer this lot for money; but I mean to give it to the next of you beauties that laughs, and I’ll pay her a visit to-morrow morning at exactly half after nine o’clock as the chimes go, and I’ll take her out for a walk to put up the banns.” She laughed, and got the ring handed up to her. When I called in the morning, she says, “O dear! It’s never you, and you never mean it?” “It’s ever me,” says I, “and I am ever yours, and I ever mean it.” So we got married, after being put up three times — which, by the bye, is quite in the Cheap Jack way again, and shows once more how the Cheap Jack customs pervade society.

She wasn’t a bad wife, but she had a temper. If she could have parted with that one article at a sacrifice, I wouldn’t have swopped her away in exchange for any other woman in England. Not that I ever did swop her away, for we lived together till she died, and that was thirteen year. Now, my lords and ladies and gentlefolks all, I’ll let you into a secret, though you won’t believe it. Thirteen year of temper in a Palace would try the worst of you, but thirteen year of temper in a Cart would try the best of you. You are kept so very close to it in a cart, you see. There’s thousands of couples among you getting on like sweet ile upon a whetstone in houses five and six pairs of stairs high, that would go to the Divorce Court in a cart. Whether the jolting makes it worse, I don’t undertake to decide; but in a cart it does come home to you, and stick to you. Wiolence in a cart is so wiolent, and aggrawation in a cart is so aggrawating.

We might have had such a pleasant life! A roomy cart, with the large goods hung outside, and the bed slung underneath it when on the road, an iron pot and a kettle, a fireplace for the cold weather, a chimney for the smoke, a hanging-shelf and a cupboard, a dog and a horse. What more do you want? You draw off upon a bit of turf in a green lane or by the roadside, you hobble your old horse and turn him grazing, you light your fire upon the ashes of the last visitors, you cook your stew, and you wouldn’t call the Emperor of France your father. But have a temper in the cart, flinging language and the hardest goods in stock at you, and where are you then? Put a name to your feelings.

My dog knew as well when she was on the turn as I did. Before she broke out, he would give a howl, and bolt. How he knew it, was a mystery to me; but the sure and certain knowledge of it would wake him up out of his soundest sleep, and he would give a howl, and bolt. At such times I wished I was him.

The worst of it was, we had a daughter born to us, and I love children with all my heart. When she was in her furies she beat the child. This got to be so shocking, as the child got to be four or five year old, that I have many a time gone on with my whip over my shoulder, at the old horse’s head, sobbing and crying worse than ever little Sophy did. For how could I prevent it? Such a thing is not to be tried with such a temper — in a cart — without coming to a fight. It’s in the natural size and formation of a cart to bring it to a fight. And then the poor child got worse terrified than before, as well as worse hurt generally, and her mother made complaints to the next people we lighted on, and the word went round, “Here’s a wretch of a Cheap Jack been a beating his wife.”

Little Sophy was such a brave child! She grew to be quite devoted to her poor father, though he could do so little to help her. She had a wonderful quantity of shining dark hair, all curling natural about her. It is quite astonishing to me now, that I didn’t go tearing mad when I used to see her run from her mother before the cart, and her mother catch her by this hair, and pull her down by it, and beat her.

Such a brave child I said she was! Ah! with reason.

“Don’t you mind next time, father dear,” she would whisper to me, with her little face still flushed, and her bright eyes still wet; “if I don’t cry out, you may know I am not much hurt. And even if I do cry out, it will only be to get mother to let go and leave off.” What I have seen the little spirit bear — for me — without crying out!

Yet in other respects her mother took great care of her. Her clothes were always clean and neat, and her mother was never tired of working at ‘em. Such is the inconsistency in things. Our being down in the marsh country in unhealthy weather, I consider the cause of Sophy’s taking bad low fever; but however she took it, once she got it she turned away from her mother for evermore, and nothing would persuade her to be touched by her mother’s hand. She would shiver and say, “No, no, no,” when it was offered at, and would hide her face on my shoulder, and hold me tighter round the neck.

The Cheap Jack business had been worse than ever I had known it, what with one thing and what with another (and not least with railroads, which will cut it all to pieces, I expect, at last), and I was run dry of money. For which reason, one night at that period of little Sophy’s being so bad, either we must have come to a dead- lock for victuals and drink, or I must have pitched the cart as I did.

I couldn’t get the dear child to lie down or leave go of me, and indeed I hadn’t the heart to try, so I stepped out on the footboard with her holding round my neck. They all set up a laugh when they see us, and one chuckle-headed Joskin (that I hated for it) made the bidding, “Tuppence for her!”

“Now, you country boobies,” says I, feeling as if my heart was a heavy weight at the end of a broken sashline, “I give you notice that I am a going to charm the money out of your pockets,