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Title: Master Humphrey's Clock
Author: Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1914 Chapman & Hall edition of “The Mystery of Edwin
Drood and Master Humphrey’s Clock” by David Price, email ccx074@pglaf.org



                         MASTER HUMPHREY’S CLOCK


                        [Picture: Charles Dickens]



DEDICATION OF
“MASTER HUMPHREY’S CLOCK”


                                    TO
                         SAMUEL ROGERS, ESQUIRE.

MY DEAR SIR,

Let me have _my_ Pleasures of Memory in connection with this book, by
dedicating it to a Poet whose writings (as all the world knows) are
replete with generous and earnest feeling; and to a man whose daily life
(as all the world does not know) is one of active sympathy with the
poorest and humblest of his kind.

                                                     Your faithful friend,
                                                          CHARLES DICKENS.



ADDRESS BY CHARLES DICKENS.


                                                      4_th_ _April_, 1840.

Master Humphrey earnestly hopes, (and is almost tempted to believe,) that
all degrees of readers, young or old, rich or poor, sad or merry, easy of
amusement or difficult to entertain, may find something agreeable in the
face of his old clock.  That, when they have made its acquaintance, its
voice may sound cheerfully in their ears, and be suggestive of none but
pleasant thoughts.  That they may come to have favourite and familiar
associations connected with its name, and to look for it as for a welcome
friend.

From week to week, then, Master Humphrey will set his clock, trusting
that while it counts the hours, it will sometimes cheat them of their
heaviness, and that while it marks the thread of Time, it will scatter a
few slight flowers in the Old Mower’s path.

Until the specified period arrives, and he can enter freely upon that
confidence with his readers which he is impatient to maintain, he may
only bid them a short farewell, and look forward to their next meeting.



PREFACE TO THE FIRST VOLUME


WHEN the Author commenced this Work, he proposed to himself three
objects—

First.  To establish a periodical, which should enable him to present,
under one general head, and not as separate and distinct publications,
certain fictions that he had it in contemplation to write.

Secondly.  To produce these Tales in weekly numbers, hoping that to
shorten the intervals of communication between himself and his readers,
would be to knit more closely the pleasant relations they had held, for
Forty Months.

Thirdly.  In the execution of this weekly task, to have as much regard as
its exigencies would permit, to each story as a whole, and to the
possibility of its publication at some distant day, apart from the
machinery in which it had its origin.

The characters of Master Humphrey and his three friends, and the little
fancy of the clock, were the results of these considerations.  When he
sought to interest his readers in those who talked, and read, and
listened, he revived Mr. Pickwick and his humble friends; not with any
intention of re-opening an exhausted and abandoned mine, but to connect
them in the thoughts of those whose favourites they had been, with the
tranquil enjoyments of Master Humphrey.

It was never the intention of the Author to make the Members of Master
Humphrey’s clock, active agents in the stories they are supposed to
relate.  Having brought himself in the commencement of his undertaking to
feel an interest in these quiet creatures, and to imagine them in their
chamber of meeting, eager listeners to all he had to tell, the Author
hoped—as authors will—to succeed in awakening some of his own emotion in
the bosoms of his readers.  Imagining Master Humphrey in his chimney
corner, resuming night after night the narrative,—say, of the _Old
Curiosity Shop_—picturing to himself the various sensations of his
hearers—thinking how Jack Redburn might incline to poor Kit, and perhaps
lean too favourably even towards the lighter vices of Mr. Richard
Swiveller—how the deaf gentleman would have his favourite and Mr. Miles
his—and how all these gentle spirits would trace some faint reflexion in
their past lives in the varying currents of the tale—he has insensibly
fallen into the belief that they are present to his readers as they are
to him, and has forgotten that, like one whose vision is disordered, he
may be conjuring up bright figures when there is nothing but empty space.

The short papers which are to be found at the beginning of the volume
were indispensable to the form of publication and the limited extent of
each number, as no story of length or interest could be begun until “The
Clock was wound up and fairly going.”

The Author would fain hope that there are not many who would disturb
Master Humphrey and his friends in their seclusion; who would have them
forego their present enjoyments, to exchange those confidences with each
other, the absence of which is the foundation of their mutual trust.  For
when their occupation is gone, when their tales are ended, and but their
personal histories remain, the chimney corner will be growing cold, and
the clock will be about to stop for ever.

One other word in his own person, and he returns to the more grateful
task of speaking for those imaginary people whose little world lies
within these pages.

It may be some consolation to those well-disposed ladies and gentlemen
who, in the interval between the conclusion of his last work and the
commencement of this, originated a report that he had gone raving mad, to
know that it spread as rapidly as could be desired, and was made the
subject of considerable dispute; not as regarded the fact, for that was
as thoroughly established as the duel between Sir Peter Teazle and
Charles Surface in the _School for Scandal_; but with reference to the
unfortunate lunatic’s place of confinement; one party insisting
positively on Bedlam, another inclining favourably towards St. Luke’s,
and a third swearing strongly by the asylum at Hanwell; while each backed
its case by circumstantial evidence of the same excellent nature as that
brought to bear by Sir Benjamin Backbite on the pistol shot which struck
against the little bronze bust of Shakespeare over the fireplace, grazed
out of the window at a right angle, and wounded the postman, who was
coming to the door with a double letter from Northamptonshire.

It will be a great affliction to these ladies and gentlemen to learn—and
he is so unwilling to give pain, that he would not whisper the
circumstance on any account, did he not feel in a manner bound to do so,
in gratitude to those amongst his friends who were at the trouble of
being angry at the absurdity that their inventions made the Author’s home
unusually merry, and gave rise to an extraordinary number of jests, of
which he will only add, in the words of the good Vicar of Wakefield, “I
cannot say whether we had more wit among us than usual; but I am sure we
had more laughing.”

DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, YORK GATE, _September_, 1840.



PREFACE TO THE SECOND VOLUME


“AN author,” says Fielding, in his introduction to _Tom Jones_, “ought to
consider himself, not as the gentleman who gives a private or
eleemosynary treat, but rather as one who keeps a public ordinary, to
which all persons are welcome for their money.  Men who pay for what they
eat, will insist on gratifying their palates, however nice and whimsical
these may prove; and if everything is not agreeable to their taste, will
challenge a right to censure, to abuse, and to damn their dinner without
control.

“To prevent, therefore, giving offence to their customers by any such
disappointment, it hath been usual with the honest and well-meaning host
to provide a bill of fare, which all persons may peruse at their first
entrance into the house; and having thence acquainted themselves with the
entertainment which they may expect, may either stay and regale with what
is provided for them, or may depart to some other ordinary better
accommodated to their taste.”

In the present instance, the host or author, in opening his new
establishment, provided no bill of fare.  Sensible of the difficulties of
such an undertaking in its infancy, he preferred that it should make its
own way, silently and gradually, or make no way at all.  It _has_ made
its way, and is doing such a thriving business that nothing remains for
him but to add, in the words of the good old civic ceremony, now that one
dish has been discussed and finished, and another smokes upon the board,
that he drinks to his guests in a loving-cup, and bids them a hearty
welcome.

DEVONSHIRE TERRACE, LONDON, _March_, 1841.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                                  PAGE
MASTER HUMPHREY’S CHAMBER               _George Cattermole_  215
FRIENDLY RECOGNITIONS                                _Phiz_  217
GOG AND MAGOG                                  ,,            228
A GALLANT CAVALIER                      _George Cattermole_  232
DEATH OF MASTER GRAHAM                         ,,            237
A CHARMING FELLOW                                    _Phiz_  240
THE TWO FRIENDS                                ,,            246
HUNTED DOWN                             _George Cattermole_  254
MR. PICKWICK INTRODUCES HIMSELF TO                   _Phiz_  259
MASTER HUMPHREY
WILL MARKS READING THE NEWS             _George Cattermole_  266
CONCERNING WITCHES
WILL MARKS TAKES UP HIS POSITION                     _Phiz_  270
FOR THE NIGHT
WILL MARKS ARRIVES AT THE CHURCH        _George Cattermole_  277
TONY WELLER AND HIS GRANDSON                         _Phiz_  282
PROCEEDINGS OF THE CLUB                        „             288
THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF                 ,,            292
WILLIAM BLINDER
A RIVAL CLUB                                   ,,            297
A CHIP OF THE OLD BLOCK                        ,,            302
MASTER HUMPHREY’S VISIONARY                    ,,            311
FRIENDS
THE DESERTED CHAMBER                    _George Cattermole_  318

I


MASTER HUMPHREY, FROM HIS CLOCK-SIDE IN THE CHIMNEY CORNER

                   [Picture: Master Humphrey’s Chamber]

THE reader must not expect to know where I live.  At present, it is true,
my abode may be a question of little or no import to anybody; but if I
should carry my readers with me, as I hope to do, and there should spring
up between them and me feelings of homely affection and regard attaching
something of interest to matters ever so slightly connected with my
fortunes or my speculations, even my place of residence might one day
have a kind of charm for them.  Bearing this possible contingency in
mind, I wish them to understand, in the outset, that they must never
expect to know it.

I am not a churlish old man.  Friendless I can never be, for all mankind
are my kindred, and I am on ill terms with no one member of my great
family.  But for many years I have led a lonely, solitary life;—what
wound I sought to heal, what sorrow to forget, originally, matters not
now; it is sufficient that retirement has become a habit with me, and
that I am unwilling to break the spell which for so long a time has shed
its quiet influence upon my home and heart.

I live in a venerable suburb of London, in an old house which in bygone
days was a famous resort for merry roysterers and peerless ladies, long
since departed.  It is a silent, shady place, with a paved courtyard so
full of echoes, that sometimes I am tempted to believe that faint
responses to the noises of old times linger there yet, and that these
ghosts of sound haunt my footsteps as I pace it up and down.  I am the
more confirmed in this belief, because, of late years, the echoes that
attend my walks have been less loud and marked than they were wont to be;
and it is pleasanter to imagine in them the rustling of silk brocade, and
the light step of some lovely girl, than to recognise in their altered
note the failing tread of an old man.

Those who like to read of brilliant rooms and gorgeous furniture would
derive but little pleasure from a minute description of my simple
dwelling.  It is dear to me for the same reason that they would hold it
in slight regard.  Its worm-eaten doors, and low ceilings crossed by
clumsy beams; its walls of wainscot, dark stairs, and gaping closets; its
small chambers, communicating with each other by winding passages or
narrow steps; its many nooks, scarce larger than its corner-cupboards;
its very dust and dulness, are all dear to me.  The moth and spider are
my constant tenants; for in my house the one basks in his long sleep, and
the other plies his busy loom secure and undisturbed.  I have a pleasure
in thinking on a summer’s day how many butterflies have sprung for the
first time into light and sunshine from some dark corner of these old
walls.

When I first came to live here, which was many years ago, the neighbours
were curious to know who I was, and whence I came, and why I lived so
much alone.  As time went on, and they still remained unsatisfied on
these points, I became the centre of a popular ferment, extending for
half a mile round, and in one direction for a full mile.  Various rumours
were circulated to my prejudice.  I was a spy, an infidel, a conjurer, a
kidnapper of children, a refugee, a priest, a monster.  Mothers caught up
their infants and ran into their houses as I passed; men eyed me
spitefully, and muttered threats and curses.  I was the object of
suspicion and distrust—ay, of downright hatred too.

But when in course of time they found I did no harm, but, on the
contrary, inclined towards them despite their unjust usage, they began to
relent.  I found my footsteps no longer dogged, as they had often been
before, and observed that the women and children no longer retreated, but
would stand and gaze at me as I passed their doors.  I took this for a
good omen, and waited patiently for better times.  By degrees I began to
make friends among these humble folks; and though they were yet shy of
speaking, would give them ‘good day,’ and so pass on.  In a little time,
those whom I had thus accosted would make a point of coming to their
doors and windows at the usual hour, and nod or courtesy to me; children,
too, came timidly within my reach, and ran away quite scared when I
patted their heads and bade them be good at school.  These little people
soon grew more familiar.  From exchanging mere words of course with my
older neighbours, I gradually became their friend and adviser, the
depositary of their cares and sorrows, and sometimes, it may be, the
reliever, in my small way, of their distresses.  And now I never walk
abroad but pleasant recognitions and smiling faces wait on Master
Humphrey.

                     [Picture: Friendly recognitions]

It was a whim of mine, perhaps as a whet to the curiosity of my
neighbours, and a kind of retaliation upon them for their suspicions—it
was, I say, a whim of mine, when I first took up my abode in this place,
to acknowledge no other name than Humphrey.  With my detractors, I was
Ugly Humphrey.  When I began to convert them into friends, I was Mr.
Humphrey and Old Mr. Humphrey.  At length I settled down into plain
Master Humphrey, which was understood to be the title most pleasant to my
ear; and so completely a matter of course has it become, that sometimes
when I am taking my morning walk in my little courtyard, I overhear my
barber—who has a profound respect for me, and would not, I am sure,
abridge my honours for the world—holding forth on the other side of the
wall, touching the state of ‘Master Humphrey’s’ health, and communicating
to some friend the substance of the conversation that he and Master
Humphrey have had together in the course of the shaving which he has just
concluded.

That I may not make acquaintance with my readers under false pretences,
or give them cause to complain hereafter that I have withheld any matter
which it was essential for them to have learnt at first, I wish them to
know—and I smile sorrowfully to think that the time has been when the
confession would have given me pain—that I am a misshapen, deformed old
man.

I have never been made a misanthrope by this cause.  I have never been
stung by any insult, nor wounded by any jest upon my crooked figure.  As
a child I was melancholy and timid, but that was because the gentle
consideration paid to my misfortune sunk deep into my spirit and made me
sad, even in those early days.  I was but a very young creature when my
poor mother died, and yet I remember that often when I hung around her
neck, and oftener still when I played about the room before her, she
would catch me to her bosom, and bursting into tears, would soothe me
with every term of fondness and affection.  God knows I was a happy child
at those times,—happy to nestle in her breast,—happy to weep when she
did,—happy in not knowing why.

These occasions are so strongly impressed upon my memory, that they seem
to have occupied whole years.  I had numbered very, very few when they
ceased for ever, but before then their meaning had been revealed to me.

I do not know whether all children are imbued with a quick perception of
childish grace and beauty, and a strong love for it, but I was.  I had no
thought that I remember, either that I possessed it myself or that I
lacked it, but I admired it with an intensity that I cannot describe.  A
little knot of playmates—they must have been beautiful, for I see them
now—were clustered one day round my mother’s knee in eager admiration of
some picture representing a group of infant angels, which she held in her
hand.  Whose the picture was, whether it was familiar to me or otherwise,
or how all the children came to be there, I forget; I have some dim
thought it was my birthday, but the beginning of my recollection is that
we were all together in a garden, and it was summer weather,—I am sure of
that, for one of the little girls had roses in her sash.  There were many
lovely angels in this picture, and I remember the fancy coming upon me to
point out which of them represented each child there, and that when I had
gone through my companions, I stopped and hesitated, wondering which was
most like me.  I remember the children looking at each other, and my
turning red and hot, and their crowding round to kiss me, saying that
they loved me all the same; and then, and when the old sorrow came into
my dear mother’s mild and tender look, the truth broke upon me for the
first time, and I knew, while watching my awkward and ungainly sports,
how keenly she had felt for her poor crippled boy.

I used frequently to dream of it afterwards, and now my heart aches for
that child as if I had never been he, when I think how often he awoke
from some fairy change to his own old form, and sobbed himself to sleep
again.

Well, well,—all these sorrows are past.  My glancing at them may not be
without its use, for it may help in some measure to explain why I have
all my life been attached to the inanimate objects that people my
chamber, and how I have come to look upon them rather in the light of old
and constant friends, than as mere chairs and tables which a little money
could replace at will.

Chief and first among all these is my Clock,—my old, cheerful,
companionable Clock.  How can I ever convey to others an idea of the
comfort and consolation that this old Clock has been for years to me!

It is associated with my earliest recollections.  It stood upon the
staircase at home (I call it home still mechanically), nigh sixty years
ago.  I like it for that; but it is not on that account, nor because it
is a quaint old thing in a huge oaken case curiously and richly carved,
that I prize it as I do.  I incline to it as if it were alive, and could
understand and give me back the love I bear it.

And what other thing that has not life could cheer me as it does? what
other thing that has not life (I will not say how few things that have)
could have proved the same patient, true, untiring friend?  How often
have I sat in the long winter evenings feeling such society in its
cricket-voice, that raising my eyes from my book and looking gratefully
towards it, the face reddened by the glow of the shining fire has seemed
to relax from its staid expression and to regard me kindly! how often in
the summer twilight, when my thoughts have wandered back to a melancholy
past, have its regular whisperings recalled them to the calm and peaceful
present! how often in the dead tranquillity of night has its bell broken
the oppressive silence, and seemed to give me assurance that the old
clock was still a faithful watcher at my chamber-door!  My easy-chair, my
desk, my ancient furniture, my very books, I can scarcely bring myself to
love even these last like my old clock.

It stands in a snug corner, midway between the fireside and a low arched
door leading to my bedroom.  Its fame is diffused so extensively
throughout the neighbourhood, that I have often the satisfaction of
hearing the publican, or the baker, and sometimes even the parish-clerk,
petitioning my housekeeper (of whom I shall have much to say by-and-by)
to inform him the exact time by Master Humphrey’s clock.  My barber, to
whom I have referred, would sooner believe it than the sun.  Nor are
these its only distinctions.  It has acquired, I am happy to say,
another, inseparably connecting it not only with my enjoyments and
reflections, but with those of other men; as I shall now relate.

I lived alone here for a long time without any friend or acquaintance.
In the course of my wanderings by night and day, at all hours and
seasons, in city streets and quiet country parts, I came to be familiar
with certain faces, and to take it to heart as quite a heavy
disappointment if they failed to present themselves each at its
accustomed spot.  But these were the only friends I knew, and beyond them
I had none.

It happened, however, when I had gone on thus for a long time, that I
formed an acquaintance with a deaf gentleman, which ripened into intimacy
and close companionship.  To this hour, I am ignorant of his name.  It is
his humour to conceal it, or he has a reason and purpose for so doing.
In either case, I feel that he has a right to require a return of the
trust he has reposed; and as he has never sought to discover my secret, I
have never sought to penetrate his.  There may have been something in
this tacit confidence in each other flattering and pleasant to us both,
and it may have imparted in the beginning an additional zest, perhaps, to
our friendship.  Be this as it may, we have grown to be like brothers,
and still I only know him as the deaf gentleman.

I have said that retirement has become a habit with me.  When I add, that
the deaf gentleman and I have two friends, I communicate nothing which is
inconsistent with that declaration.  I spend many hours of every day in
solitude and study, have no friends or change of friends but these, only
see them at stated periods, and am supposed to be of a retired spirit by
the very nature and object of our association.

We are men of secluded habits, with something of a cloud upon our early
fortunes, whose enthusiasm, nevertheless, has not cooled with age, whose
spirit of romance is not yet quenched, who are content to ramble through
the world in a pleasant dream, rather than ever waken again to its harsh
realities.  We are alchemists who would extract the essence of perpetual
youth from dust and ashes, tempt coy Truth in many light and airy forms
from the bottom of her well, and discover one crumb of comfort or one
grain of good in the commonest and least-regarded matter that passes
through our crucible.  Spirits of past times, creatures of imagination,
and people of to-day are alike the objects of our seeking, and, unlike
the objects of search with most philosophers, we can insure their coming
at our command.

The deaf gentleman and I first began to beguile our days with these
fancies, and our nights in communicating them to each other.  We are now
four.  But in my room there are six old chairs, and we have decided that
the two empty seats shall always be placed at our table when we meet, to
remind us that we may yet increase our company by that number, if we
should find two men to our mind.  When one among us dies, his chair will
always be set in its usual place, but never occupied again; and I have
caused my will to be so drawn out, that when we are all dead the house
shall be shut up, and the vacant chairs still left in their accustomed
places.  It is pleasant to think that even then our shades may, perhaps,
assemble together as of yore we did, and join in ghostly converse.

One night in every week, as the clock strikes ten, we meet.  At the
second stroke of two, I am alone.

And now shall I tell how that my old servant, besides giving us note of
time, and ticking cheerful encouragement of our proceedings, lends its
name to our society, which for its punctuality and my love is christened
‘Master Humphrey’s Clock’?  Now shall I tell how that in the bottom of
the old dark closet, where the steady pendulum throbs and beats with
healthy action, though the pulse of him who made it stood still long ago,
and never moved again, there are piles of dusty papers constantly placed
there by our hands, that we may link our enjoyments with my old friend,
and draw means to beguile time from the heart of time itself?  Shall I,
or can I, tell with what a secret pride I open this repository when we
meet at night, and still find new store of pleasure in my dear old Clock?

Friend and companion of my solitude! mine is not a selfish love; I would
not keep your merits to myself, but disperse something of pleasant
association with your image through the whole wide world; I would have
men couple with your name cheerful and healthy thoughts; I would have
them believe that you keep true and honest time; and how it would gladden
me to know that they recognised some hearty English work in Master
Humphrey’s clock!



THE CLOCK-CASE


It is my intention constantly to address my readers from the
chimney-corner, and I would fain hope that such accounts as I shall give
them of our histories and proceedings, our quiet speculations or more
busy adventures, will never be unwelcome.  Lest, however, I should grow
prolix in the outset by lingering too long upon our little association,
confounding the enthusiasm with which I regard this chief happiness of my
life with that minor degree of interest which those to whom I address
myself may be supposed to feel for it, I have deemed it expedient to
break off as they have seen.

But, still clinging to my old friend, and naturally desirous that all its
merits should be known, I am tempted to open (somewhat irregularly and
against our laws, I must admit) the clock-case.  The first roll of paper
on which I lay my hand is in the writing of the deaf gentleman.  I shall
have to speak of him in my next paper; and how can I better approach that
welcome task than by prefacing it with a production of his own pen,
consigned to the safe keeping of my honest Clock by his own hand?

The manuscript runs thus



INTRODUCTION TO THE GIANT CHRONICLES


Once upon a time, that is to say, in this our time,—the exact year,
month, and day are of no matter,—there dwelt in the city of London a
substantial citizen, who united in his single person the dignities of
wholesale fruiterer, alderman, common-councilman, and member of the
worshipful Company of Patten-makers; who had superadded to these
extraordinary distinctions the important post and title of Sheriff, and
who at length, and to crown all, stood next in rotation for the high and
honourable office of Lord Mayor.

He was a very substantial citizen indeed.  His face was like the full
moon in a fog, with two little holes punched out for his eyes, a very
ripe pear stuck on for his nose, and a wide gash to serve for a mouth.
The girth of his waistcoat was hung up and lettered in his tailor’s shop
as an extraordinary curiosity.  He breathed like a heavy snorer, and his
voice in speaking came thickly forth, as if it were oppressed and stifled
by feather-beds.  He trod the ground like an elephant, and eat and drank
like—like nothing but an alderman, as he was.

This worthy citizen had risen to his great eminence from small
beginnings.  He had once been a very lean, weazen little boy, never
dreaming of carrying such a weight of flesh upon his bones or of money in
his pockets, and glad enough to take his dinner at a baker’s door, and
his tea at a pump.  But he had long ago forgotten all this, as it was
proper that a wholesale fruiterer, alderman, common-councilman, member of
the worshipful Company of Patten-makers, past sheriff, and, above all, a
Lord Mayor that was to be, should; and he never forgot it more completely
in all his life than on the eighth of November in the year of his
election to the great golden civic chair, which was the day before his
grand dinner at Guildhall.

It happened that as he sat that evening all alone in his counting-house,
looking over the bill of fare for next day, and checking off the fat
capons in fifties, and the turtle-soup by the hundred quarts, for his
private amusement,—it happened that as he sat alone occupied in these
pleasant calculations, a strange man came in and asked him how he did,
adding, ‘If I am half as much changed as you, sir, you have no
recollection of me, I am sure.’

The strange man was not over and above well dressed, and was very far
from being fat or rich-looking in any sense of the word, yet he spoke
with a kind of modest confidence, and assumed an easy, gentlemanly sort
of an air, to which nobody but a rich man can lawfully presume.  Besides
this, he interrupted the good citizen just as he had reckoned three
hundred and seventy-two fat capons, and was carrying them over to the
next column; and as if that were not aggravation enough, the learned
recorder for the city of London had only ten minutes previously gone out
at that very same door, and had turned round and said, ‘Good night, my
lord.’  Yes, he had said, ‘my lord;’—he, a man of birth and education, of
the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, Barrister-at-Law,—he who had
an uncle in the House of Commons, and an aunt almost but not quite in the
House of Lords (for she had married a feeble peer, and made him vote as
she liked),—he, this man, this learned recorder, had said, ‘my lord.’
‘I’ll not wait till to-morrow to give you your title, my Lord Mayor,’
says he, with a bow and a smile; ‘you are Lord Mayor _de facto_, if not
_de jure_.  Good night, my lord.’

The Lord Mayor elect thought of this, and turning to the stranger, and
sternly bidding him ‘go out of his private counting-house,’ brought
forward the three hundred and seventy-two fat capons, and went on with
his account.

‘Do you remember,’ said the other, stepping forward,—‘_do_ you remember
little Joe Toddyhigh?’

The port wine fled for a moment from the fruiterer’s nose as he muttered,
‘Joe Toddyhigh!  What about Joe Toddyhigh?’

‘_I_ am Joe Toddyhigh,’ cried the visitor.  ‘Look at me, look hard at
me,—harder, harder.  You know me now?  You know little Joe again?  What a
happiness to us both, to meet the very night before your grandeur!  O!
give me your hand, Jack,—both hands,—both, for the sake of old times.’

‘You pinch me, sir.  You’re a-hurting of me,’ said the Lord Mayor elect
pettishly.  ‘Don’t,—suppose anybody should come,—Mr. Toddyhigh, sir.’

‘Mr. Toddyhigh!’ repeated the other ruefully.

‘O, don’t bother,’ said the Lord Mayor elect, scratching his head.  ‘Dear
me!  Why, I thought you was dead.  What a fellow you are!’

Indeed, it was a pretty state of things, and worthy the tone of vexation
and disappointment in which the Lord Mayor spoke.  Joe Toddyhigh had been
a poor boy with him at Hull, and had oftentimes divided his last penny
and parted his last crust to relieve his wants; for though Joe was a
destitute child in those times, he was as faithful and affectionate in
his friendship as ever man of might could be.  They parted one day to
seek their fortunes in different directions.  Joe went to sea, and the
now wealthy citizen begged his way to London, They separated with many
tears, like foolish fellows as they were, and agreed to remain fast
friends, and if they lived, soon to communicate again.

When he was an errand-boy, and even in the early days of his
apprenticeship, the citizen had many a time trudged to the Post-office to
ask if there were any letter from poor little Joe, and had gone home
again with tears in his eyes, when he found no news of his only friend.
The world is a wide place, and it was a long time before the letter came;
when it did, the writer was forgotten.  It turned from white to yellow
from lying in the Post-office with nobody to claim it, and in course of
time was torn up with five hundred others, and sold for waste-paper.  And
now at last, and when it might least have been expected, here was this
Joe Toddyhigh turning up and claiming acquaintance with a great public
character, who on the morrow would be cracking jokes with the Prime
Minister of England, and who had only, at any time during the next twelve
months, to say the word, and he could shut up Temple Bar, and make it no
thoroughfare for the king himself!

‘I am sure I don’t know what to say, Mr. Toddyhigh,’ said the Lord Mayor
elect; ‘I really don’t.  It’s very inconvenient.  I’d sooner have given
twenty pound,—it’s very inconvenient, really.’—A thought had come into
his mind, that perhaps his old friend might say something passionate
which would give him an excuse for being angry himself.  No such thing.
Joe looked at him steadily, but very mildly, and did not open his lips.

‘Of course I shall pay you what I owe you,’ said the Lord Mayor elect,
fidgeting in his chair.  ‘You lent me—I think it was a shilling or some
small coin—when we parted company, and that of course I shall pay with
good interest.  I can pay my way with any man, and always have done.  If
you look into the Mansion House the day after to-morrow,—some time after
dusk,—and ask for my private clerk, you’ll find he has a draft for you.
I haven’t got time to say anything more just now, unless,’—he hesitated,
for, coupled with a strong desire to glitter for once in all his glory in
the eyes of his former companion, was a distrust of his appearance, which
might be more shabby than he could tell by that feeble light,—‘unless
you’d like to come to the dinner to-morrow.  I don’t mind your having
this ticket, if you like to take it.  A great many people would give
their ears for it, I can tell you.’

His old friend took the card without speaking a word, and instantly
departed.  His sunburnt face and gray hair were present to the citizen’s
mind for a moment; but by the time he reached three hundred and
eighty-one fat capons, he had quite forgotten him.

Joe Toddyhigh had never been in the capital of Europe before, and he
wandered up and down the streets that night amazed at the number of
churches and other public buildings, the splendour of the shops, the
riches that were heaped up on every side, the glare of light in which
they were displayed, and the concourse of people who hurried to and fro,
indifferent, apparently, to all the wonders that surrounded them.  But in
all the long streets and broad squares, there were none but strangers; it
was quite a relief to turn down a by-way and hear his own footsteps on
the pavement.  He went home to his inn, thought that London was a dreary,
desolate place, and felt disposed to doubt the existence of one
true-hearted man in the whole worshipful Company of Patten-makers.
Finally, he went to bed, and dreamed that he and the Lord Mayor elect
were boys again.

He went next day to the dinner; and when in a burst of light and music,
and in the midst of splendid decorations and surrounded by brilliant
company, his former friend appeared at the head of the Hall, and was
hailed with shouts and cheering, he cheered and shouted with the best,
and for the moment could have cried.  The next moment he cursed his
weakness in behalf of a man so changed and selfish, and quite hated a
jolly-looking old gentleman opposite for declaring himself in the pride
of his heart a Patten-maker.

As the banquet proceeded, he took more and more to heart the rich
citizen’s unkindness; and that, not from any envy, but because he felt
that a man of his state and fortune could all the better afford to
recognise an old friend, even if he were poor and obscure.  The more he
thought of this, the more lonely and sad he felt.  When the company
dispersed and adjourned to the ball-room, he paced the hall and passages
alone, ruminating in a very melancholy condition upon the disappointment
he had experienced.

It chanced, while he was lounging about in this moody state, that he
stumbled upon a flight of stairs, dark, steep, and narrow, which he
ascended without any thought about the matter, and so came into a little
music-gallery, empty and deserted.  From this elevated post, which
commanded the whole hall, he amused himself in looking down upon the
attendants who were clearing away the fragments of the feast very lazily,
and drinking out of all the bottles and glasses with most commendable
perseverance.

His attention gradually relaxed, and he fell fast asleep.

When he awoke, he thought there must be something the matter with his
eyes; but, rubbing them a little, he soon found that the moonlight was
really streaming through the east window, that the lamps were all
extinguished, and that he was alone.  He listened, but no distant murmur
in the echoing passages, not even the shutting of a door, broke the deep
silence; he groped his way down the stairs, and found that the door at
the bottom was locked on the other side.  He began now to comprehend that
he must have slept a long time, that he had been overlooked, and was shut
up there for the night.

His first sensation, perhaps, was not altogether a comfortable one, for
it was a dark, chilly, earthy-smelling place, and something too large,
for a man so situated, to feel at home in.  However, when the momentary
consternation of his surprise was over, he made light of the accident,
and resolved to feel his way up the stairs again, and make himself as
comfortable as he could in the gallery until morning.  As he turned to
execute this purpose, he heard the clocks strike three.

Any such invasion of a dead stillness as the striking of distant clocks,
causes it to appear the more intense and insupportable when the sound has
ceased.  He listened with strained attention in the hope that some clock,
lagging behind its fellows, had yet to strike,—looking all the time into
the profound darkness before him, until it seemed to weave itself into a
black tissue, patterned with a hundred reflections of his own eyes.  But
the bells had all pealed out their warning for that once, and the gust of
wind that moaned through the place seemed cold and heavy with their iron
breath.

The time and circumstances were favourable to reflection.  He tried to
keep his thoughts to the current, unpleasant though it was, in which they
had moved all day, and to think with what a romantic feeling he had
looked forward to shaking his old friend by the hand before he died, and
what a wide and cruel difference there was between the meeting they had
had, and that which he had so often and so long anticipated.  Still, he
was disordered by waking to such sudden loneliness, and could not prevent
his mind from running upon odd tales of people of undoubted courage, who,
being shut up by night in vaults or churches, or other dismal places, had
scaled great heights to get out, and fled from silence as they had never
done from danger.  This brought to his mind the moonlight through the
window, and bethinking himself of it, he groped his way back up the
crooked stairs,—but very stealthily, as though he were fearful of being
overheard.

He was very much astonished when he approached the gallery again, to see
a light in the building: still more so, on advancing hastily and looking
round, to observe no visible source from which it could proceed.  But how
much greater yet was his astonishment at the spectacle which this light
revealed.

The statues of the two giants, Gog and Magog, each above fourteen feet in
height, those which succeeded to still older and more barbarous figures,
after the Great Fire of London, and which stand in the Guildhall to this
day, were endowed with life and motion.  These guardian genii of the City
had quitted their pedestals, and reclined in easy attitudes in the great
stained glass window.  Between them was an ancient cask, which seemed to
be full of wine; for the younger Giant, clapping his huge hand upon it,
and throwing up his mighty leg, burst into an exulting laugh, which
reverberated through the hall like thunder.

Joe Toddyhigh instinctively stooped down, and, more dead than alive, felt
his hair stand on end, his knees knock together, and a cold damp break
out upon his forehead.  But even at that minute curiosity prevailed over
every other feeling, and somewhat reassured by the good-humour of the
Giants and their apparent unconsciousness of his presence, he crouched in
a corner of the gallery, in as small a space as he could, and, peeping
between the rails, observed them closely.

It was then that the elder Giant, who had a flowing gray beard, raised
his thoughtful eyes to his companion’s face, and in a grave and solemn
voice addressed him thus:



FIRST NIGHT OF THE GIANT CHRONICLES


Turning towards his companion the elder Giant uttered these words in a
grave, majestic tone:

‘Magog, does boisterous mirth beseem the Giant Warder of this ancient
city?  Is this becoming demeanour for a watchful spirit over whose
bodiless head so many years have rolled, so many changes swept like empty
air—in whose impalpable nostrils the scent of blood and crime,
pestilence, cruelty, and horror, has been familiar as breath to
mortals—in whose sight Time has gathered in the harvest of centuries, and
garnered so many crops of human pride, affections, hopes, and sorrows?
Bethink you of our compact.  The night wanes; feasting, revelry, and
music have encroached upon our usual hours of solitude, and morning will
be here apace.  Ere we are stricken mute again, bethink you of our
compact.’

Pronouncing these latter words with more of impatience than quite
accorded with his apparent age and gravity, the Giant raised a long pole
(which he still bears in his hand) and tapped his brother Giant rather
smartly on the head; indeed, the blow was so smartly administered, that
the latter quickly withdrew his lips from the cask, to which they had
been applied, and, catching up his shield and halberd, assumed an
attitude of defence.  His irritation was but momentary, for he laid these
weapons aside as hastily as he had assumed them, and said as he did so:

‘You know, Gog, old friend, that when we animate these shapes which the
Londoners of old assigned (and not unworthily) to the guardian genii of
their city, we are susceptible of some of the sensations which belong to
human kind.  Thus when I taste wine, I feel blows; when I relish the one,
I disrelish the other.  Therefore, Gog, the more especially as your arm
is none of the lightest, keep your good staff by your side, else we may
chance to differ.  Peace be between us!’

‘Amen!’ said the other, leaning his staff in the window-corner.  ‘Why did
you laugh just now?’

‘To think,’ replied the Giant Magog, laying his hand upon the cask, ‘of
him who owned this wine, and kept it in a cellar hoarded from the light
of day, for thirty years,—“till it should be fit to drink,” quoth he.  He
was twoscore and ten years old when he buried it beneath his house, and
yet never thought that he might be scarcely “fit to drink” when the wine
became so.  I wonder it never occurred to him to make himself unfit to be
eaten.  There is very little of him left by this time.’

                         [Picture: Gog and Magog]

‘The night is waning,’ said Gog mournfully.

‘I know it,’ replied his companion, ‘and I see you are impatient.  But
look.  Through the eastern window—placed opposite to us, that the first
beams of the rising sun may every morning gild our giant faces—the
moon-rays fall upon the pavement in a stream of light that to my fancy
sinks through the cold stone and gushes into the old crypt below.  The
night is scarcely past its noon, and our great charge is sleeping
heavily.’

They ceased to speak, and looked upward at the moon.  The sight of their
large, black, rolling eyes filled Joe Toddyhigh with such horror that he
could scarcely draw his breath.  Still they took no note of him, and
appeared to believe themselves quite alone.

‘Our compact,’ said Magog after a pause, ‘is, if I understand it, that,
instead of watching here in silence through the dreary nights, we
entertain each other with stories of our past experience; with tales of
the past, the present, and the future; with legends of London and her
sturdy citizens from the old simple times.  That every night at midnight,
when St. Paul’s bell tolls out one, and we may move and speak, we thus
discourse, nor leave such themes till the first gray gleam of day shall
strike us dumb.  Is that our bargain, brother?’

‘Yes,’ said the Giant Gog, ‘that is the league between us who guard this
city, by day in spirit, and by night in body also; and never on ancient
holidays have its conduits run wine more merrily than we will pour forth
our legendary lore.  We are old chroniclers from this time hence.  The
crumbled walls encircle us once more, the postern-gates are closed, the
drawbridge is up, and pent in its narrow den beneath, the water foams and
struggles with the sunken starlings.  Jerkins and quarter-staves are in
the streets again, the nightly watch is set, the rebel, sad and lonely in
his Tower dungeon, tries to sleep and weeps for home and children.  Aloft
upon the gates and walls are noble heads glaring fiercely down upon the
dreaming city, and vexing the hungry dogs that scent them in the air, and
tear the ground beneath with dismal howlings.  The axe, the block, the
rack, in their dark chambers give signs of recent use.  The Thames,
floating past long lines of cheerful windows whence come a burst of music
and a stream of light, bears suddenly to the Palace wall the last red
stain brought on the tide from Traitor’s Gate.  But your pardon, brother.
The night wears, and I am talking idly.’

The other Giant appeared to be entirely of this opinion, for during the
foregoing rhapsody of his fellow-sentinel he had been scratching his head
with an air of comical uneasiness, or rather with an air that would have
been very comical if he had been a dwarf or an ordinary-sized man.  He
winked too, and though it could not be doubted for a moment that he
winked to himself, still he certainly cocked his enormous eye towards the
gallery where the listener was concealed.  Nor was this all, for he
gaped; and when he gaped, Joe was horribly reminded of the popular
prejudice on the subject of giants, and of their fabled power of smelling
out Englishmen, however closely concealed.

His alarm was such that he nearly swooned, and it was some little time
before his power of sight or hearing was restored.  When he recovered he
found that the elder Giant was pressing the younger to commence the
Chronicles, and that the latter was endeavouring to excuse himself on the
ground that the night was far spent, and it would be better to wait until
the next.  Well assured by this that he was certainly about to begin
directly, the listener collected his faculties by a great effort, and
distinctly heard Magog express himself to the following effect:

                                * * * * *

In the sixteenth century and in the reign of Queen Elizabeth of glorious
memory (albeit her golden days are sadly rusted with blood), there lived
in the city of London a bold young ’prentice who loved his master’s
daughter.  There were no doubt within the walls a great many ’prentices
in this condition, but I speak of only one, and his name was Hugh Graham.

This Hugh was apprenticed to an honest Bowyer who dwelt in the ward of
Cheype, and was rumoured to possess great wealth.  Rumour was quite as
infallible in those days as at the present time, but it happened then as
now to be sometimes right by accident.  It stumbled upon the truth when
it gave the old Bowyer a mint of money.  His trade had been a profitable
one in the time of King Henry the Eighth, who encouraged English archery
to the utmost, and he had been prudent and discreet.  Thus it came to
pass that Mistress Alice, his only daughter, was the richest heiress in
all his wealthy ward.  Young Hugh had often maintained with staff and
cudgel that she was the handsomest.  To do him justice, I believe she
was.

If he could have gained the heart of pretty Mistress Alice by knocking
this conviction into stubborn people’s heads, Hugh would have had no
cause to fear.  But though the Bowyer’s daughter smiled in secret to hear
of his doughty deeds for her sake, and though her little waiting-woman
reported all her smiles (and many more) to Hugh, and though he was at a
vast expense in kisses and small coin to recompense her fidelity, he made
no progress in his love.  He durst not whisper it to Mistress Alice save
on sure encouragement, and that she never gave him.  A glance of her dark
eye as she sat at the door on a summer’s evening after prayer-time, while
he and the neighbouring ’prentices exercised themselves in the street
with blunted sword and buckler, would fire Hugh’s blood so that none
could stand before him; but then she glanced at others quite as kindly as
on him, and where was the use of cracking crowns if Mistress Alice smiled
upon the cracked as well as on the cracker?

Still Hugh went on, and loved her more and more.  He thought of her all
day, and dreamed of her all night long.  He treasured up her every word
and gesture, and had a palpitation of the heart whenever he heard her
footstep on the stairs or her voice in an adjoining room.  To him, the
old Bowyer’s house was haunted by an angel; there was enchantment in the
air and space in which she moved.  It would have been no miracle to Hugh
if flowers had sprung from the rush-strewn floors beneath the tread of
lovely Mistress Alice.

Never did ’prentice long to distinguish himself in the eyes of his
lady-love so ardently as Hugh.  Sometimes he pictured to himself the
house taking fire by night, and he, when all drew back in fear, rushing
through flame and smoke, and bearing her from the ruins in his arms.  At
other times he thought of a rising of fierce rebels, an attack upon the
city, a strong assault upon the Bowyer’s house in particular, and he
falling on the threshold pierced with numberless wounds in defence of
Mistress Alice.  If he could only enact some prodigy of valour, do some
wonderful deed, and let her know that she had inspired it, he thought he
could die contented.

Sometimes the Bowyer and his daughter would go out to supper with a
worthy citizen at the fashionable hour of six o’clock, and on such
occasions Hugh, wearing his blue ’prentice cloak as gallantly as
’prentice might, would attend with a lantern and his trusty club to
escort them home.  These were the brightest moments of his life.  To hold
the light while Mistress Alice picked her steps, to touch her hand as he
helped her over broken ways, to have her leaning on his arm,—it sometimes
even came to that,—this was happiness indeed!

When the nights were fair, Hugh followed in the rear, his eyes riveted on
the graceful figure of the Bowyer’s daughter as she and the old man moved
on before him.  So they threaded the narrow winding streets of the city,
now passing beneath the overhanging gables of old wooden houses whence
creaking signs projected into the street, and now emerging from some dark
and frowning gateway into the clear moonlight.  At such times, or when
the shouts of straggling brawlers met her ear, the Bowyer’s daughter
would look timidly back at Hugh, beseeching him to draw nearer; and then
how he grasped his club and longed to do battle with a dozen rufflers,
for the love of Mistress Alice!

The old Bowyer was in the habit of lending money on interest to the
gallants of the Court, and thus it happened that many a richly-dressed
gentleman dismounted at his door.  More waving plumes and gallant steeds,
indeed, were seen at the Bowyer’s house, and more embroidered silks and
velvets sparkled in his dark shop and darker private closet, than at any
merchants in the city.  In those times no less than in the present it
would seem that the richest-looking cavaliers often wanted money the
most.

                      [Picture: A Gallant Cavalier]

Of these glittering clients there was one who always came alone.  He was
nobly mounted, and, having no attendant, gave his horse in charge to Hugh
while he and the Bowyer were closeted within.  Once as he sprung into the
saddle Mistress Alice was seated at an upper window, and before she could
withdraw he had doffed his jewelled cap and kissed his hand.  Hugh
watched him caracoling down the street, and burnt with indignation.  But
how much deeper was the glow that reddened in his cheeks when, raising
his eyes to the casement, he saw that Alice watched the stranger too!

He came again and often, each time arrayed more gaily than before, and
still the little casement showed him Mistress Alice.  At length one heavy
day, she fled from home.  It had cost her a hard struggle, for all her
old father’s gifts were strewn about her chamber as if she had parted
from them one by one, and knew that the time must come when these tokens
of his love would wring her heart,—yet she was gone.

She left a letter commanding her poor father to the care of Hugh, and
wishing he might be happier than ever he could have been with her, for he
deserved the love of a better and a purer heart than she had to bestow.
The old man’s forgiveness (she said) she had no power to ask, but she
prayed God to bless him,—and so ended with a blot upon the paper where
her tears had fallen.

At first the old man’s wrath was kindled, and he carried his wrong to the
Queen’s throne itself; but there was no redress he learnt at Court, for
his daughter had been conveyed abroad.  This afterwards appeared to be
the truth, as there came from France, after an interval of several years,
a letter in her hand.  It was written in trembling characters, and almost
illegible.  Little could be made out save that she often thought of home
and her old dear pleasant room,—and that she had dreamt her father was
dead and had not blessed her,—and that her heart was breaking.

The poor old Bowyer lingered on, never suffering Hugh to quit his sight,
for he knew now that he had loved his daughter, and that was the only
link that bound him to earth.  It broke at length and he
died,—bequeathing his old ’prentice his trade and all his wealth, and
solemnly charging him with his last breath to revenge his child if ever
he who had worked her misery crossed his path in life again.

From the time of Alice’s flight, the tilting-ground, the fields, the
fencing-school, the summer-evening sports, knew Hugh no more.  His spirit
was dead within him.  He rose to great eminence and repute among the
citizens, but was seldom seen to smile, and never mingled in their
revelries or rejoicings.  Brave, humane, and generous, he was beloved by
all.  He was pitied too by those who knew his story, and these were so
many that when he walked along the streets alone at dusk, even the rude
common people doffed their caps and mingled a rough air of sympathy with
their respect.

One night in May—it was her birthnight, and twenty years since she had
left her home—Hugh Graham sat in the room she had hallowed in his boyish
days.  He was now a gray-haired man, though still in the prime of life.
Old thoughts had borne him company for many hours, and the chamber had
gradually grown quite dark, when he was roused by a low knocking at the
outer door.

He hastened down, and opening it saw by the light of a lamp which he had
seized upon the way, a female figure crouching in the portal.  It hurried
swiftly past him and glided up the stairs.  He looked for pursuers.
There were none in sight.  No, not one.

He was inclined to think it a vision of his own brain, when suddenly a
vague suspicion of the truth flashed upon his mind.  He barred the door,
and hastened wildly back.  Yes, there she was,—there, in the chamber he
had quitted,—there in her old innocent, happy home, so changed that none
but he could trace one gleam of what she had been,—there upon her
knees,—with her hands clasped in agony and shame before her burning face.

‘My God, my God!’ she cried, ‘now strike me dead!  Though I have brought
death and shame and sorrow on this roof, O, let me die at home in mercy!’

There was no tear upon her face then, but she trembled and glanced round
the chamber.  Everything was in its old place.  Her bed looked as if she
had risen from it but that morning.  The sight of these familiar objects,
marking the dear remembrance in which she had been held, and the blight
she had brought upon herself, was more than the woman’s better nature
that had carried her there could bear.  She wept and fell upon the
ground.

A rumour was spread about, in a few days’ time, that the Bowyer’s cruel
daughter had come home, and that Master Graham had given her lodging in
his house.  It was rumoured too that he had resigned her fortune, in
order that she might bestow it in acts of charity, and that he had vowed
to guard her in her solitude, but that they were never to see each other
more.  These rumours greatly incensed all virtuous wives and daughters in
the ward, especially when they appeared to receive some corroboration
from the circumstance of Master Graham taking up his abode in another
tenement hard by.  The estimation in which he was held, however, forbade
any questioning on the subject; and as the Bowyer’s house was close shut
up, and nobody came forth when public shows and festivities were in
progress, or to flaunt in the public walks, or to buy new fashions at the
mercers’ booths, all the well-conducted females agreed among themselves
that there could be no woman there.

These reports had scarcely died away when the wonder of every good
citizen, male and female, was utterly absorbed and swallowed up by a
Royal Proclamation, in which her Majesty, strongly censuring the practice
of wearing long Spanish rapiers of preposterous length (as being a
bullying and swaggering custom, tending to bloodshed and public
disorder), commanded that on a particular day therein named, certain
grave citizens should repair to the city gates, and there, in public,
break all rapiers worn or carried by persons claiming admission, that
exceeded, though it were only by a quarter of an inch, three standard
feet in length.

Royal Proclamations usually take their course, let the public wonder
never so much.  On the appointed day two citizens of high repute took up
their stations at each of the gates, attended by a party of the city
guard, the main body to enforce the Queen’s will, and take custody of all
such rebels (if any) as might have the temerity to dispute it: and a few
to bear the standard measures and instruments for reducing all unlawful
sword-blades to the prescribed dimensions.  In pursuance of these
arrangements, Master Graham and another were posted at Lud Gate, on the
hill before St. Paul’s.

A pretty numerous company were gathered together at this spot, for,
besides the officers in attendance to enforce the proclamation, there was
a motley crowd of lookers-on of various degrees, who raised from time to
time such shouts and cries as the circumstances called forth.  A spruce
young courtier was the first who approached: he unsheathed a weapon of
burnished steel that shone and glistened in the sun, and handed it with
the newest air to the officer, who, finding it exactly three feet long,
returned it with a bow.  Thereupon the gallant raised his hat and crying,
‘God save the Queen!’ passed on amidst the plaudits of the mob.  Then
came another—a better courtier still—who wore a blade but two feet long,
whereat the people laughed, much to the disparagement of his honour’s
dignity.  Then came a third, a sturdy old officer of the army, girded
with a rapier at least a foot and a half beyond her Majesty’s pleasure;
at him they raised a great shout, and most of the spectators (but
especially those who were armourers or cutlers) laughed very heartily at
the breakage which would ensue.  But they were disappointed; for the old
campaigner, coolly unbuckling his sword and bidding his servant carry it
home again, passed through unarmed, to the great indignation of all the
beholders.  They relieved themselves in some degree by hooting a tall
blustering fellow with a prodigious weapon, who stopped short on coming
in sight of the preparations, and after a little consideration turned
back again.  But all this time no rapier had been broken, although it was
high noon, and all cavaliers of any quality or appearance were taking
their way towards Saint Paul’s churchyard.

During these proceedings, Master Graham had stood apart, strictly
confining himself to the duty imposed upon him, and taking little heed of
anything beyond.  He stepped forward now as a richly-dressed gentleman on
foot, followed by a single attendant, was seen advancing up the hill.

As this person drew nearer, the crowd stopped their clamour, and bent
forward with eager looks.  Master Graham standing alone in the gateway,
and the stranger coming slowly towards him, they seemed, as it were, set
face to face.  The nobleman (for he looked one) had a haughty and
disdainful air, which bespoke the slight estimation in which he held the
citizen.  The citizen, on the other hand, preserved the resolute bearing
of one who was not to be frowned down or daunted, and who cared very
little for any nobility but that of worth and manhood.  It was perhaps
some consciousness on the part of each, of these feelings in the other,
that infused a more stern expression into their regards as they came
closer together.

‘Your rapier, worthy sir!’

At the instant that he pronounced these words Graham started, and falling
back some paces, laid his hand upon the dagger in his belt.

‘You are the man whose horse I used to hold before the Bowyer’s door?
You are that man?  Speak!’

‘Out, you ’prentice hound!’ said the other.

‘You are he!  I know you well now!’ cried Graham.  ‘Let no man step
between us two, or I shall be his murderer.’  With that he drew his
dagger, and rushed in upon him.

The stranger had drawn his weapon from the scabbard ready for the
scrutiny, before a word was spoken.  He made a thrust at his assailant,
but the dagger which Graham clutched in his left hand being the dirk in
use at that time for parrying such blows, promptly turned the point
aside.  They closed.  The dagger fell rattling on the ground, and Graham,
wresting his adversary’s sword from his grasp, plunged it through his
heart.  As he drew it out it snapped in two, leaving a fragment in the
dead man’s body.

All this passed so swiftly that the bystanders looked on without an
effort to interfere; but the man was no sooner down than an uproar broke
forth which rent the air.  The attendant rushing through the gate
proclaimed that his master, a nobleman, had been set upon and slain by a
citizen; the word quickly spread from mouth to mouth; Saint Paul’s
Cathedral, and every book-shop, ordinary, and smoking-house in the
churchyard poured out its stream of cavaliers and their followers, who
mingling together in a dense tumultuous body, struggled, sword in hand,
towards the spot.

With equal impetuosity, and stimulating each other by loud cries and
shouts, the citizens and common people took up the quarrel on their side,
and encircling Master Graham a hundred deep, forced him from the gate.
In vain he waved the broken sword above his head, crying that he would
die on London’s threshold for their sacred homes.  They bore him on, and
ever keeping him in the midst, so that no man could attack him, fought
their way into the city.

The clash of swords and roar of voices, the dust and heat and pressure,
the trampling under foot of men, the distracted looks and shrieks of
women at the windows above as they recognised their relatives or lovers
in the crowd, the rapid tolling of alarm-bells, the furious rage and
passion of the scene, were fearful.  Those who, being on the outskirts of
each crowd, could use their weapons with effect, fought desperately,
while those behind, maddened with baffled rage, struck at each other over
the heads of those before them, and crushed their own fellows.  Wherever
the broken sword was seen above the people’s heads, towards that spot the
cavaliers made a new rush.  Every one of these charges was marked by
sudden gaps in the throng where men were trodden down, but as fast as
they were made, the tide swept over them, and still the multitude pressed
on again, a confused mass of swords, clubs, staves, broken plumes,
fragments of rich cloaks and doublets, and angry, bleeding faces, all
mixed up together in inextricable disorder.

The design of the people was to force Master Graham to take refuge in his
dwelling, and to defend it until the authorities could interfere, or they
could gain time for parley.  But either from ignorance or in the
confusion of the moment they stopped at his old house, which was closely
shut.  Some time was lost in beating the doors open and passing him to
the front.  About a score of the boldest of the other party threw
themselves into the torrent while this was being done, and reaching the
door at the same moment with himself cut him off from his defenders.

‘I never will turn in such a righteous cause, so help me Heaven!’ cried
Graham, in a voice that at last made itself heard, and confronting them
as he spoke.  ‘Least of all will I turn upon this threshold which owes
its desolation to such men as ye.  I give no quarter, and I will have
none!  Strike!’

For a moment they stood at bay.  At that moment a shot from an unseen
hand, apparently fired by some person who had gained access to one of the
opposite houses, struck Graham in the brain, and he fell dead.  A low
wail was heard in the air,—many people in the concourse cried that they
had seen a spirit glide across the little casement window of the Bowyer’s
house—

A dead silence succeeded.  After a short time some of the flushed and
heated throng laid down their arms and softly carried the body within
doors.  Others fell off or slunk away in knots of two or three, others
whispered together in groups, and before a numerous guard which then rode
up could muster in the street, it was nearly empty.

                    [Picture: Death of Master Graham]

Those who carried Master Graham to the bed up-stairs were shocked to see
a woman lying beneath the window with her hands clasped together.  After
trying to recover her in vain, they laid her near the citizen, who still
retained, tightly grasped in his right hand, the first and last sword
that was broken that day at Lud Gate.

                                * * * * *

The Giant uttered these concluding words with sudden precipitation; and
on the instant the strange light which had filled the hall faded away.
Joe Toddyhigh glanced involuntarily at the eastern window, and saw the
first pale gleam of morning.  He turned his head again towards the other
window in which the Giants had been seated.  It was empty.  The cask of
wine was gone, and he could dimly make out that the two great figures
stood mute and motionless upon their pedestals.

After rubbing his eyes and wondering for full half an hour, during which
time he observed morning come creeping on apace, he yielded to the
drowsiness which overpowered him and fell into a refreshing slumber.
When he awoke it was broad day; the building was open, and workmen were
busily engaged in removing the vestiges of last night’s feast.

Stealing gently down the little stairs, and assuming the air of some
early lounger who had dropped in from the street, he walked up to the
foot of each pedestal in turn, and attentively examined the figure it
supported.  There could be no doubt about the features of either; he
recollected the exact expression they had worn at different passages of
their conversation, and recognised in every line and lineament the Giants
of the night.  Assured that it was no vision, but that he had heard and
seen with his own proper senses, he walked forth, determining at all
hazards to conceal himself in the Guildhall again that evening.  He
further resolved to sleep all day, so that he might be very wakeful and
vigilant, and above all that he might take notice of the figures at the
precise moment of their becoming animated and subsiding into their old
state, which he greatly reproached himself for not having done already.



CORRESPONDENCE
TO MASTER HUMPHREY


‘SIR,—Before you proceed any further in your account of your friends and
what you say and do when you meet together, excuse me if I proffer my
claim to be elected to one of the vacant chairs in that old room of
yours.  Don’t reject me without full consideration; for if you do, you
will be sorry for it afterwards—you will, upon my life.

‘I enclose my card, sir, in this letter.  I never was ashamed of my name,
and I never shall be.  I am considered a devilish gentlemanly fellow, and
I act up to the character.  If you want a reference, ask any of the men
at our club.  Ask any fellow who goes there to write his letters, what
sort of conversation mine is.  Ask him if he thinks I have the sort of
voice that will suit your deaf friend and make him hear, if he can hear
anything at all.  Ask the servants what they think of me.  There’s not a
rascal among ’em, sir, but will tremble to hear my name.  That reminds
me—don’t you say too much about that housekeeper of yours; it’s a low
subject, damned low.

‘I tell you what, sir.  If you vote me into one of those empty chairs,
you’ll have among you a man with a fund of gentlemanly information
that’ll rather astonish you.  I can let you into a few anecdotes about
some fine women of title, that are quite high life, sir—the tiptop sort
of thing.  I know the name of every man who has been out on an affair of
honour within the last five-and-twenty years; I know the private
particulars of every cross and squabble that has taken place upon the
turf, at the gaming-table, or elsewhere, during the whole of that time.
I have been called the gentlemanly chronicle.  You may consider yourself
a lucky dog; upon my soul, you may congratulate yourself, though I say
so.

‘It’s an uncommon good notion that of yours, not letting anybody know
where you live.  I have tried it, but there has always been an anxiety
respecting me, which has found me out.  Your deaf friend is a cunning
fellow to keep his name so close.  I have tried that too, but have always
failed.  I shall be proud to make his acquaintance—tell him so, with my
compliments.

‘You must have been a queer fellow when you were a child, confounded
queer.  It’s odd, all that about the picture in your first paper—prosy,
but told in a devilish gentlemanly sort of way.  In places like that I
could come in with great effect with a touch of life—don’t you feel that?

                       [Picture: A Charming Fellow]

‘I am anxiously waiting for your next paper to know whether your friends
live upon the premises, and at your expense, which I take it for granted
is the case.  If I am right in this impression, I know a charming fellow
(an excellent companion and most delightful company) who will be proud to
join you.  Some years ago he seconded a great many prize-fighters, and
once fought an amateur match himself; since then he has driven several
mails, broken at different periods all the lamps on the right-hand side
of Oxford-street, and six times carried away every bell-handle in
Bloomsbury-square, besides turning off the gas in various thoroughfares.
In point of gentlemanliness he is unrivalled, and I should say that next
to myself he is of all men the best suited to your purpose.

                                                    ‘Expecting your reply,
                                                                    ‘I am,
                                                                 ‘&c. &c.’

                                * * * * *

Master Humphrey informs this gentleman that his application, both as it
concerns himself and his friend, is rejected.



II


MASTER HUMPHREY, FROM HIS CLOCK-SIDE IN THE CHIMNEY-CORNER

MY old companion tells me it is midnight.  The fire glows brightly,
crackling with a sharp and cheerful sound, as if it loved to burn.  The
merry cricket on the hearth (my constant visitor), this ruddy blaze, my
clock, and I, seem to share the world among us, and to be the only things
awake.  The wind, high and boisterous but now, has died away and hoarsely
mutters in its sleep.  I love all times and seasons each in its turn, and
am apt, perhaps, to think the present one the best; but past or coming I
always love this peaceful time of night, when long-buried thoughts,
favoured by the gloom and silence, steal from their graves, and haunt the
scenes of faded happiness and hope.

The popular faith in ghosts has a remarkable affinity with the whole
current of our thoughts at such an hour as this, and seems to be their
necessary and natural consequence.  For who can wonder that man should
feel a vague belief in tales of disembodied spirits wandering through
those places which they once dearly affected, when he himself, scarcely
less separated from his old world than they, is for ever lingering upon
past emotions and bygone times, and hovering, the ghost of his former
self, about the places and people that warmed his heart of old?  It is
thus that at this quiet hour I haunt the house where I was born, the
rooms I used to tread, the scenes of my infancy, my boyhood, and my
youth; it is thus that I prowl around my buried treasure (though not of
gold or silver), and mourn my loss; it is thus that I revisit the ashes
of extinguished fires, and take my silent stand at old bedsides.  If my
spirit should ever glide back to this chamber when my body is mingled
with the dust, it will but follow the course it often took in the old
man’s lifetime, and add but one more change to the subjects of its
contemplation.

In all my idle speculations I am greatly assisted by various legends
connected with my venerable house, which are current in the
neighbourhood, and are so numerous that there is scarce a cupboard or
corner that has not some dismal story of its own.  When I first
entertained thoughts of becoming its tenant, I was assured that it was
haunted from roof to cellar, and I believe that the bad opinion in which
my neighbours once held me, had its rise in my not being torn to pieces,
or at least distracted with terror, on the night I took possession; in
either of which cases I should doubtless have arrived by a short cut at
the very summit of popularity.

But traditions and rumours all taken into account, who so abets me in
every fancy and chimes with my every thought, as my dear deaf friend? and
how often have I cause to bless the day that brought us two together!  Of
all days in the year I rejoice to think that it should have been
Christmas Day, with which from childhood we associate something friendly,
hearty, and sincere.

I had walked out to cheer myself with the happiness of others, and, in
the little tokens of festivity and rejoicing, of which the streets and
houses present so many upon that day, had lost some hours.  Now I stopped
to look at a merry party hurrying through the snow on foot to their place
of meeting, and now turned back to see a whole coachful of children
safely deposited at the welcome house.  At one time, I admired how
carefully the working man carried the baby in its gaudy hat and feathers,
and how his wife, trudging patiently on behind, forgot even her care of
her gay clothes, in exchanging greeting with the child as it crowed and
laughed over the father’s shoulder; at another, I pleased myself with
some passing scene of gallantry or courtship, and was glad to believe
that for a season half the world of poverty was gay.

As the day closed in, I still rambled through the streets, feeling a
companionship in the bright fires that cast their warm reflection on the
windows as I passed, and losing all sense of my own loneliness in
imagining the sociality and kind-fellowship that everywhere prevailed.
At length I happened to stop before a Tavern, and, encountering a Bill of
Fare in the window, it all at once brought it into my head to wonder what
kind of people dined alone in Taverns upon Christmas Day.

Solitary men are accustomed, I suppose, unconsciously to look upon
solitude as their own peculiar property.  I had sat alone in my room on
many, many anniversaries of this great holiday, and had never regarded it
but as one of universal assemblage and rejoicing.  I had excepted, and
with an aching heart, a crowd of prisoners and beggars; but _these_ were
not the men for whom the Tavern doors were open.  Had they any customers,
or was it a mere form?—a form, no doubt.

Trying to feel quite sure of this, I walked away; but before I had gone
many paces, I stopped and looked back.  There was a provoking air of
business in the lamp above the door which I could not overcome.  I began
to be afraid there might be many customers—young men, perhaps, struggling
with the world, utter strangers in this great place, whose friends lived
at a long distance off, and whose means were too slender to enable them
to make the journey.  The supposition gave rise to so many distressing
little pictures, that in preference to carrying them home with me, I
determined to encounter the realities.  So I turned and walked in.

I was at once glad and sorry to find that there was only one person in
the dining-room; glad to know that there were not more, and sorry that he
should be there by himself.  He did not look so old as I, but like me he
was advanced in life, and his hair was nearly white.  Though I made more
noise in entering and seating myself than was quite necessary, with the
view of attracting his attention and saluting him in the good old form of
that time of year, he did not raise his head, but sat with it resting on
his hand, musing over his half-finished meal.

I called for something which would give me an excuse for remaining in the
room (I had dined early, as my housekeeper was engaged at night to
partake of some friend’s good cheer), and sat where I could observe
without intruding on him.  After a time he looked up.  He was aware that
somebody had entered, but could see very little of me, as I sat in the
shade and he in the light.  He was sad and thoughtful, and I forbore to
trouble him by speaking.

Let me believe it was something better than curiosity which riveted my
attention and impelled me strongly towards this gentleman.  I never saw
so patient and kind a face.  He should have been surrounded by friends,
and yet here he sat dejected and alone when all men had their friends
about them.  As often as he roused himself from his reverie he would fall
into it again, and it was plain that, whatever were the subject of his
thoughts, they were of a melancholy kind, and would not be controlled.

He was not used to solitude.  I was sure of that; for I know by myself
that if he had been, his manner would have been different, and he would
have taken some slight interest in the arrival of another.  I could not
fail to mark that he had no appetite; that he tried to eat in vain; that
time after time the plate was pushed away, and he relapsed into his
former posture.

His mind was wandering among old Christmas days, I thought.  Many of them
sprung up together, not with a long gap between each, but in unbroken
succession like days of the week.  It was a great change to find himself
for the first time (I quite settled that it _was_ the first) in an empty
silent room with no soul to care for.  I could not help following him in
imagination through crowds of pleasant faces, and then coming back to
that dull place with its bough of mistletoe sickening in the gas, and
sprigs of holly parched up already by a Simoom of roast and boiled.  The
very waiter had gone home; and his representative, a poor, lean, hungry
man, was keeping Christmas in his jacket.

I grew still more interested in my friend.  His dinner done, a decanter
of wine was placed before him.  It remained untouched for a long time,
but at length with a quivering hand he filled a glass and raised it to
his lips.  Some tender wish to which he had been accustomed to give
utterance on that day, or some beloved name that he had been used to
pledge, trembled upon them at the moment.  He put it down very
hastily—took it up once more—again put it down—pressed his hand upon his
face—yes—and tears stole down his cheeks, I am certain.

Without pausing to consider whether I did right or wrong, I stepped
across the room, and sitting down beside him laid my hand gently on his
arm.

‘My friend,’ I said, ‘forgive me if I beseech you to take comfort and
consolation from the lips of an old man.  I will not preach to you what I
have not practised, indeed.  Whatever be your grief, be of a good
heart—be of a good heart, pray!’

‘I see that you speak earnestly,’ he replied, ‘and kindly I am very sure,
but—’

I nodded my head to show that I understood what he would say; for I had
already gathered, from a certain fixed expression in his face, and from
the attention with which he watched me while I spoke, that his sense of
hearing was destroyed.  ‘There should be a freemasonry between us,’ said
I, pointing from himself to me to explain my meaning; ‘if not in our gray
hairs, at least in our misfortunes.  You see that I am but a poor
cripple.’

I never felt so happy under my affliction since the trying moment of my
first becoming conscious of it, as when he took my hand in his with a
smile that has lighted my path in life from that day, and we sat down
side by side.

This was the beginning of my friendship with the deaf gentleman; and when
was ever the slight and easy service of a kind word in season repaid by
such attachment and devotion as he has shown to me!

He produced a little set of tablets and a pencil to facilitate our
conversation, on that our first acquaintance; and I well remember how
awkward and constrained I was in writing down my share of the dialogue,
and how easily he guessed my meaning before I had written half of what I
had to say.  He told me in a faltering voice that he had not been
accustomed to be alone on that day—that it had always been a little
festival with him; and seeing that I glanced at his dress in the
expectation that he wore mourning, he added hastily that it was not that;
if it had been he thought he could have borne it better.  From that time
to the present we have never touched upon this theme.  Upon every return
of the same day we have been together; and although we make it our annual
custom to drink to each other hand in hand after dinner, and to recall
with affectionate garrulity every circumstance of our first meeting, we
always avoid this one as if by mutual consent.

Meantime we have gone on strengthening in our friendship and regard and
forming an attachment which, I trust and believe, will only be
interrupted by death, to be renewed in another existence.  I scarcely
know how we communicate as we do; but he has long since ceased to be deaf
to me.  He is frequently my companion in my walks, and even in crowded
streets replies to my slightest look or gesture, as though he could read
my thoughts.  From the vast number of objects which pass in rapid
succession before our eyes, we frequently select the same for some
particular notice or remark; and when one of these little coincidences
occurs, I cannot describe the pleasure which animates my friend, or the
beaming countenance he will preserve for half-an-hour afterwards at
least.

He is a great thinker from living so much within himself, and, having a
lively imagination, has a facility of conceiving and enlarging upon odd
ideas, which renders him invaluable to our little body, and greatly
astonishes our two friends.  His powers in this respect are much assisted
by a large pipe, which he assures us once belonged to a German Student.
Be this as it may, it has undoubtedly a very ancient and mysterious
appearance, and is of such capacity that it takes three hours and a half
to smoke it out.  I have reason to believe that my barber, who is the
chief authority of a knot of gossips, who congregate every evening at a
small tobacconist’s hard by, has related anecdotes of this pipe and the
grim figures that are carved upon its bowl, at which all the smokers in
the neighbourhood have stood aghast; and I know that my housekeeper,
while she holds it in high veneration, has a superstitious feeling
connected with it which would render her exceedingly unwilling to be left
alone in its company after dark.

Whatever sorrow my dear friend has known, and whatever grief may linger
in some secret corner of his heart, he is now a cheerful, placid, happy
creature.  Misfortune can never have fallen upon such a man but for some
good purpose; and when I see its traces in his gentle nature and his
earnest feeling, I am the less disposed to murmur at such trials as I may
have undergone myself.  With regard to the pipe, I have a theory of my
own; I cannot help thinking that it is in some manner connected with the
event that brought us together; for I remember that it was a long time
before he even talked about it; that when he did, he grew reserved and
melancholy; and that it was a long time yet before he brought it forth.
I have no curiosity, however, upon this subject; for I know that it
promotes his tranquillity and comfort, and I need no other inducement to
regard it with my utmost favour.

Such is the deaf gentleman.  I can call up his figure now, clad in sober
gray, and seated in the chimney-corner.  As he puffs out the smoke from
his favourite pipe, he casts a look on me brimful of cordiality and
friendship, and says all manner of kind and genial things in a cheerful
smile; then he raises his eyes to my clock, which is just about to
strike, and, glancing from it to me and back again, seems to divide his
heart between us.  For myself, it is not too much to say that I would
gladly part with one of my poor limbs, could he but hear the old clock’s
voice.

                        [Picture: The Two Friends]

Of our two friends, the first has been all his life one of that easy,
wayward, truant class whom the world is accustomed to designate as
nobody’s enemies but their own.  Bred to a profession for which he never
qualified himself, and reared in the expectation of a fortune he has
never inherited, he has undergone every vicissitude of which such an
existence is capable.  He and his younger brother, both orphans from
their childhood, were educated by a wealthy relative, who taught them to
expect an equal division of his property; but too indolent to court, and
too honest to flatter, the elder gradually lost ground in the affections
of a capricious old man, and the younger, who did not fail to improve his
opportunity, now triumphs in the possession of enormous wealth.  His
triumph is to hoard it in solitary wretchedness, and probably to feel
with the expenditure of every shilling a greater pang than the loss of
his whole inheritance ever cost his brother.

Jack Redburn—he was Jack Redburn at the first little school he went to,
where every other child was mastered and surnamed, and he has been Jack
Redburn all his life, or he would perhaps have been a richer man by this
time—has been an inmate of my house these eight years past.  He is my
librarian, secretary, steward, and first minister; director of all my
affairs, and inspector-general of my household.  He is something of a
musician, something of an author, something of an actor, something of a
painter, very much of a carpenter, and an extraordinary gardener, having
had all his life a wonderful aptitude for learning everything that was of
no use to him.  He is remarkably fond of children, and is the best and
kindest nurse in sickness that ever drew the breath of life.  He has
mixed with every grade of society, and known the utmost distress; but
there never was a less selfish, a more tender-hearted, a more
enthusiastic, or a more guileless man; and I dare say, if few have done
less good, fewer still have done less harm in the world than he.  By what
chance Nature forms such whimsical jumbles I don’t know; but I do know
that she sends them among us very often, and that the king of the whole
race is Jack Redburn.

I should be puzzled to say how old he is.  His health is none of the
best, and he wears a quantity of iron-gray hair, which shades his face
and gives it rather a worn appearance; but we consider him quite a young
fellow notwithstanding; and if a youthful spirit, surviving the roughest
contact with the world, confers upon its possessor any title to be
considered young, then he is a mere child.  The only interruptions to his
careless cheerfulness are on a wet Sunday, when he is apt to be unusually
religious and solemn, and sometimes of an evening, when he has been
blowing a very slow tune on the flute.  On these last-named occasions he
is apt to incline towards the mysterious, or the terrible.  As a specimen
of his powers in this mood, I refer my readers to the extract from the
clock-case which follows this paper: he brought it to me not long ago at
midnight, and informed me that the main incident had been suggested by a
dream of the night before.

His apartments are two cheerful rooms looking towards the garden, and one
of his great delights is to arrange and rearrange the furniture in these
chambers, and put it in every possible variety of position.  During the
whole time he has been here, I do not think he has slept for two nights
running with the head of his bed in the same place; and every time he
moves it, is to be the last.  My housekeeper was at first well-nigh
distracted by these frequent changes; but she has become quite reconciled
to them by degrees, and has so fallen in with his humour, that they often
consult together with great gravity upon the next final alteration.
Whatever his arrangements are, however, they are always a pattern of
neatness; and every one of the manifold articles connected with his
manifold occupations is to be found in its own particular place.  Until
within the last two or three years he was subject to an occasional fit
(which usually came upon him in very fine weather), under the influence
of which he would dress himself with peculiar care, and, going out under
pretence of taking a walk, disappeared for several days together.  At
length, after the interval between each outbreak of this disorder had
gradually grown longer and longer, it wholly disappeared; and now he
seldom stirs abroad, except to stroll out a little way on a summer’s
evening.  Whether he yet mistrusts his own constancy in this respect, and
is therefore afraid to wear a coat, I know not; but we seldom see him in
any other upper garment than an old spectral-looking dressing-gown, with
very disproportionate pockets, full of a miscellaneous collection of odd
matters, which he picks up wherever he can lay his hands upon them.

Everything that is a favourite with our friend is a favourite with us;
and thus it happens that the fourth among us is Mr. Owen Miles, a most
worthy gentleman, who had treated Jack with great kindness before my deaf
friend and I encountered him by an accident, to which I may refer on some
future occasion.  Mr. Miles was once a very rich merchant; but receiving
a severe shock in the death of his wife, he retired from business, and
devoted himself to a quiet, unostentatious life.  He is an excellent man,
of thoroughly sterling character: not of quick apprehension, and not
without some amusing prejudices, which I shall leave to their own
development.  He holds us all in profound veneration; but Jack Redburn he
esteems as a kind of pleasant wonder, that he may venture to approach
familiarly.  He believes, not only that no man ever lived who could do so
many things as Jack, but that no man ever lived who could do anything so
well; and he never calls my attention to any of his ingenious
proceedings, but he whispers in my ear, nudging me at the same time with
his elbow: ‘If he had only made it his trade, sir—if he had only made it
his trade!’

They are inseparable companions; one would almost suppose that, although
Mr. Miles never by any chance does anything in the way of assistance,
Jack could do nothing without him.  Whether he is reading, writing,
painting, carpentering, gardening, flute-playing, or what not, there is
Mr. Miles beside him, buttoned up to the chin in his blue coat, and
looking on with a face of incredulous delight, as though he could not
credit the testimony of his own senses, and had a misgiving that no man
could be so clever but in a dream.

These are my friends; I have now introduced myself and them.



THE CLOCK-CASE


A CONFESSION FOUND IN A PRISON IN THE TIME OF CHARLES THE SECOND

I held a lieutenant’s commission in his Majesty’s army, and served abroad
in the campaigns of 1677 and 1678.  The treaty of Nimeguen being
concluded, I returned home, and retiring from the service, withdrew to a
small estate lying a few miles east of London, which I had recently
acquired in right of my wife.

This is the last night I have to live, and I will set down the naked
truth without disguise.  I was never a brave man, and had always been
from my childhood of a secret, sullen, distrustful nature.  I speak of
myself as if I had passed from the world; for while I write this, my
grave is digging, and my name is written in the black-book of death.

Soon after my return to England, my only brother was seized with mortal
illness.  This circumstance gave me slight or no pain; for since we had
been men, we had associated but very little together.  He was
open-hearted and generous, handsomer than I, more accomplished, and
generally beloved.  Those who sought my acquaintance abroad or at home,
because they were friends of his, seldom attached themselves to me long,
and would usually say, in our first conversation, that they were
surprised to find two brothers so unlike in their manners and appearance.
It was my habit to lead them on to this avowal; for I knew what
comparisons they must draw between us; and having a rankling envy in my
heart, I sought to justify it to myself.

We had married two sisters.  This additional tie between us, as it may
appear to some, only estranged us the more.  His wife knew me well.  I
never struggled with any secret jealousy or gall when she was present but
that woman knew it as well as I did.  I never raised my eyes at such
times but I found hers fixed upon me; I never bent them on the ground or
looked another way but I felt that she overlooked me always.  It was an
inexpressible relief to me when we quarrelled, and a greater relief still
when I heard abroad that she was dead.  It seems to me now as if some
strange and terrible foreshadowing of what has happened since must have
hung over us then.  I was afraid of her; she haunted me; her fixed and
steady look comes back upon me now, like the memory of a dark dream, and
makes my blood run cold.

She died shortly after giving birth to a child—a boy.  When my brother
knew that all hope of his own recovery was past, he called my wife to his
bedside, and confided this orphan, a child of four years old, to her
protection.  He bequeathed to him all the property he had, and willed
that, in case of his child’s death, it should pass to my wife, as the
only acknowledgment he could make her for her care and love.  He
exchanged a few brotherly words with me, deploring our long separation;
and being exhausted, fell into a slumber, from which he never awoke.

We had no children; and as there had been a strong affection between the
sisters, and my wife had almost supplied the place of a mother to this
boy, she loved him as if he had been her own.  The child was ardently
attached to her; but he was his mother’s image in face and spirit, and
always mistrusted me.

I can scarcely fix the date when the feeling first came upon me; but I
soon began to be uneasy when this child was by.  I never roused myself
from some moody train of thought but I marked him looking at me; not with
mere childish wonder, but with something of the purpose and meaning that
I had so often noted in his mother.  It was no effort of my fancy,
founded on close resemblance of feature and expression.  I never could
look the boy down.  He feared me, but seemed by some instinct to despise
me while he did so; and even when he drew back beneath my gaze—as he
would when we were alone, to get nearer to the door—he would keep his
bright eyes upon me still.

Perhaps I hide the truth from myself, but I do not think that, when this
began, I meditated to do him any wrong.  I may have thought how
serviceable his inheritance would be to us, and may have wished him dead;
but I believe I had no thought of compassing his death.  Neither did the
idea come upon me at once, but by very slow degrees, presenting itself at
first in dim shapes at a very great distance, as men may think of an
earthquake or the last day; then drawing nearer and nearer, and losing
something of its horror and improbability; then coming to be part and
parcel—nay nearly the whole sum and substance—of my daily thoughts, and
resolving itself into a question of means and safety; not of doing or
abstaining from the deed.

While this was going on within me, I never could bear that the child
should see me looking at him, and yet I was under a fascination which
made it a kind of business with me to contemplate his slight and fragile
figure and think how easily it might be done.  Sometimes I would steal
up-stairs and watch him as he slept; but usually I hovered in the garden
near the window of the room in which he learnt his little tasks; and
there, as he sat upon a low seat beside my wife, I would peer at him for
hours together from behind a tree; starting, like the guilty wretch I
was, at every rustling of a leaf, and still gliding back to look and
start again.

Hard by our cottage, but quite out of sight, and (if there were any wind
astir) of hearing too, was a deep sheet of water.  I spent days in
shaping with my pocket-knife a rough model of a boat, which I finished at
last and dropped in the child’s way.  Then I withdrew to a secret place,
which he must pass if he stole away alone to swim this bauble, and lurked
there for his coming.  He came neither that day nor the next, though I
waited from noon till nightfall.  I was sure that I had him in my net,
for I had heard him prattling of the toy, and knew that in his infant
pleasure he kept it by his side in bed.  I felt no weariness or fatigue,
but waited patiently, and on the third day he passed me, running joyously
along, with his silken hair streaming in the wind, and he singing—God
have mercy upon me!—singing a merry ballad,—who could hardly lisp the
words.

I stole down after him, creeping under certain shrubs which grow in that
place, and none but devils know with what terror I, a strong, full-grown
man, tracked the footsteps of that baby as he approached the water’s
brink.  I was close upon him, had sunk upon my knee and raised my hand to
thrust him in, when he saw my shadow in the stream and turned him round.

His mother’s ghost was looking from his eyes.  The sun burst forth from
behind a cloud; it shone in the bright sky, the glistening earth, the
clear water, the sparkling drops of rain upon the leaves.  There were
eyes in everything.  The whole great universe of light was there to see
the murder done.  I know not what he said; he came of bold and manly
blood, and, child as he was, he did not crouch or fawn upon me.  I heard
him cry that he would try to love me,—not that he did,—and then I saw him
running back towards the house.  The next I saw was my own sword naked in
my hand, and he lying at my feet stark dead,—dabbled here and there with
blood, but otherwise no different from what I had seen him in his
sleep—in the same attitude too, with his cheek resting upon his little
hand.

I took him in my arms and laid him—very gently now that he was dead—in a
thicket.  My wife was from home that day, and would not return until the
next.  Our bedroom window, the only sleeping-room on that side of the
house, was but a few feet from the ground, and I resolved to descend from
it at night and bury him in the garden.  I had no thought that I had
failed in my design, no thought that the water would be dragged and
nothing found, that the money must now lie waste, since I must encourage
the idea that the child was lost or stolen.  All my thoughts were bound
up and knotted together in the one absorbing necessity of hiding what I
had done.

How I felt when they came to tell me that the child was missing, when I
ordered scouts in all directions, when I gasped and trembled at every
one’s approach, no tongue can tell or mind of man conceive.  I buried him
that night.  When I parted the boughs and looked into the dark thicket,
there was a glow-worm shining like the visible spirit of God upon the
murdered child.  I glanced down into his grave when I had placed him
there, and still it gleamed upon his breast; an eye of fire looking up to
Heaven in supplication to the stars that watched me at my work.

I had to meet my wife, and break the news, and give her hope that the
child would soon be found.  All this I did,—with some appearance, I
suppose, of being sincere, for I was the object of no suspicion.  This
done, I sat at the bedroom window all day long, and watched the spot
where the dreadful secret lay.

It was in a piece of ground which had been dug up to be newly turfed, and
which I had chosen on that account, as the traces of my spade were less
likely to attract attention.  The men who laid down the grass must have
thought me mad.  I called to them continually to expedite their work, ran
out and worked beside them, trod down the earth with my feet, and hurried
them with frantic eagerness.  They had finished their task before night,
and then I thought myself comparatively safe.

I slept,—not as men do who awake refreshed and cheerful, but I did sleep,
passing from vague and shadowy dreams of being hunted down, to visions of
the plot of grass, through which now a hand, and now a foot, and now the
head itself was starting out.  At this point I always woke and stole to
the window, to make sure that it was not really so.  That done, I crept
to bed again; and thus I spent the night in fits and starts, getting up
and lying down full twenty times, and dreaming the same dream over and
over again,—which was far worse than lying awake, for every dream had a
whole night’s suffering of its own.  Once I thought the child was alive,
and that I had never tried to kill him.  To wake from that dream was the
most dreadful agony of all.

The next day I sat at the window again, never once taking my eyes from
the place, which, although it was covered by the grass, was as plain to
me—its shape, its size, its depth, its jagged sides, and all—as if it had
been open to the light of day.  When a servant walked across it, I felt
as if he must sink in; when he had passed, I looked to see that his feet
had not worn the edges.  If a bird lighted there, I was in terror lest by
some tremendous interposition it should be instrumental in the discovery;
if a breath of air sighed across it, to me it whispered murder.  There
was not a sight or a sound—how ordinary, mean, or unimportant soever—but
was fraught with fear.  And in this state of ceaseless watching I spent
three days.

On the fourth there came to the gate one who had served with me abroad,
accompanied by a brother officer of his whom I had never seen.  I felt
that I could not bear to be out of sight of the place.  It was a summer
evening, and I bade my people take a table and a flask of wine into the
garden.  Then I sat down _with my chair upon the grave_, and being
assured that nobody could disturb it now without my knowledge, tried to
drink and talk.

They hoped that my wife was well,—that she was not obliged to keep her
chamber,—that they had not frightened her away.  What could I do but tell
them with a faltering tongue about the child?  The officer whom I did not
know was a down-looking man, and kept his eyes upon the ground while I
was speaking.  Even that terrified me.  I could not divest myself of the
idea that he saw something there which caused him to suspect the truth.
I asked him hurriedly if he supposed that—and stopped.  ‘That the child
has been murdered?’ said he, looking mildly at me: ‘O no! what could a
man gain by murdering a poor child?’  _I_ could have told him what a man
gained by such a deed, no one better: but I held my peace and shivered as
with an ague.

Mistaking my emotion, they were endeavouring to cheer me with the hope
that the boy would certainly be found,—great cheer that was for me!—when
we heard a low deep howl, and presently there sprung over the wall two
great dogs, who, bounding into the garden, repeated the baying sound we
had heard before.

‘Bloodhounds!’ cried my visitors.

What need to tell me that!  I had never seen one of that kind in all my
life, but I knew what they were and for what purpose they had come.  I
grasped the elbows of my chair, and neither spoke nor moved.

‘They are of the genuine breed,’ said the man whom I had known abroad,
‘and being out for exercise have no doubt escaped from their keeper.’

Both he and his friend turned to look at the dogs, who with their noses
to the ground moved restlessly about, running to and fro, and up and
down, and across, and round in circles, careering about like wild things,
and all this time taking no notice of us, but ever and again repeating
the yell we had heard already, then dropping their noses to the ground
again and tracking earnestly here and there.  They now began to snuff the
earth more eagerly than they had done yet, and although they were still
very restless, no longer beat about in such wide circuits, but kept near
to one spot, and constantly diminished the distance between themselves
and me.

At last they came up close to the great chair on which I sat, and raising
their frightful howl once more, tried to tear away the wooden rails that
kept them from the ground beneath.  I saw how I looked, in the faces of
the two who were with me.

 ‘They scent some prey,’ said they, both together.

‘They scent no prey!’ cried I.

‘In Heaven’s name, move!’ said the one I knew, very earnestly, ‘or you
will be torn to pieces.’

‘Let them tear me from limb to limb, I’ll never leave this place!’ cried
I.  ‘Are dogs to hurry men to shameful deaths?  Hew them down, cut them
in pieces.’

‘There is some foul mystery here!’ said the officer whom I did not know,
drawing his sword.  ‘In King Charles’s name, assist me to secure this
man.’

                          [Picture: Hunted down]

They both set upon me and forced me away, though I fought and bit and
caught at them like a madman.  After a struggle, they got me quietly
between them; and then, my God!  I saw the angry dogs tearing at the
earth and throwing it up into the air like water.

What more have I to tell?  That I fell upon my knees, and with chattering
teeth confessed the truth, and prayed to be forgiven.  That I have since
denied, and now confess to it again.  That I have been tried for the
crime, found guilty, and sentenced.  That I have not the courage to
anticipate my doom, or to bear up manfully against it.  That I have no
compassion, no consolation, no hope, no friend.  That my wife has happily
lost for the time those faculties which would enable her to know my
misery or hers.  That I am alone in this stone dungeon with my evil
spirit, and that I die to-morrow. {255}



CORRESPONDENCE


Master Humphrey has been favoured with the following letter written on
strongly-scented paper, and sealed in light-blue wax with the
representation of two very plump doves interchanging beaks.  It does not
commence with any of the usual forms of address, but begins as is here
set forth.

                                                    Bath, Wednesday night.

Heavens! into what an indiscretion do I suffer myself to be betrayed!  To
address these faltering lines to a total stranger, and that stranger one
of a conflicting sex!—and yet I am precipitated into the abyss, and have
no power of self-snatchation (forgive me if I coin that phrase) from the
yawning gulf before me.

Yes, I am writing to a man; but let me not think of that, for madness is
in the thought.  You will understand my feelings?  O yes, I am sure you
will; and you will respect them too, and not despise them,—will you?

Let me be calm.  That portrait,—smiling as once he smiled on me; that
cane,—dangling as I have seen it dangle from his hand I know not how oft;
those legs that have glided through my nightly dreams and never stopped
to speak; the perfectly gentlemanly, though false original,—can I be
mistaken?  O no, no.

Let me be calmer yet; I would be calm as coffins.  You have published a
letter from one whose likeness is engraved, but whose name (and
wherefore?) is suppressed.  Shall _I_ breathe that name!  Is it—but why
ask when my heart tells me too truly that it is!

I would not upbraid him with his treachery; I would not remind him of
those times when he plighted the most eloquent of vows, and procured from
me a small pecuniary accommodation; and yet I would see him—see him did I
say—_him_—alas! such is woman’s nature.  For as the poet beautifully
says—but you will already have anticipated the sentiment.  Is it not
sweet?  O yes!

It was in this city (hallowed by the recollection) that I met him first;
and assuredly if mortal happiness be recorded anywhere, then those
rubbers with their three-and-sixpenny points are scored on tablets of
celestial brass.  He always held an honour—generally two.  On that
eventful night we stood at eight.  He raised his eyes (luminous in their
seductive sweetness) to my agitated face.  ‘_Can_ you?’ said he, with
peculiar meaning.  I felt the gentle pressure of his foot on mine; our
corns throbbed in unison.  ‘_Can_ you?’ he said again; and every
lineament of his expressive countenance added the words ‘resist me?’  I
murmured ‘No,’ and fainted.

They said, when I recovered, it was the weather.  _I_ said it was the
nutmeg in the negus.  How little did they suspect the truth!  How little
did they guess the deep mysterious meaning of that inquiry!  He called
next morning on his knees; I do not mean to say that he actually came in
that position to the house-door, but that he went down upon those joints
directly the servant had retired.  He brought some verses in his hat,
which he said were original, but which I have since found were Milton’s;
likewise a little bottle labelled laudanum; also a pistol and a
sword-stick.  He drew the latter, uncorked the former, and clicked the
trigger of the pocket fire-arm.  He had come, he said, to conquer or to
die.  He did not die.  He wrested from me an avowal of my love, and let
off the pistol out of a back window previous to partaking of a slight
repast.

Faithless, inconstant man!  How many ages seem to have elapsed since his
unaccountable and perfidious disappearance!  Could I still forgive him
both that and the borrowed lucre that he promised to pay next week!
Could I spurn him from my feet if he approached in penitence, and with a
matrimonial object!  Would the blandishing enchanter still weave his
spells around me, or should I burst them all and turn away in coldness!
I dare not trust my weakness with the thought.

My brain is in a whirl again.  You know his address, his occupations, his
mode of life,—are acquainted, perhaps, with his inmost thoughts.  You are
a humane and philanthropic character; reveal all you know—all; but
especially the street and number of his lodgings.  The post is departing,
the bellman rings,—pray Heaven it be not the knell of love and hope to

                                                                  BELINDA.

P.S. Pardon the wanderings of a bad pen and a distracted mind.  Address
to the Post-office.  The bellman, rendered impatient by delay, is ringing
dreadfully in the passage.

P.P.S. I open this to say that the bellman is gone, and that you must not
expect it till the next post; so don’t be surprised when you don’t get
it.

                                * * * * *

Master Humphrey does not feel himself at liberty to furnish his fair
correspondent with the address of the gentleman in question, but he
publishes her letter as a public appeal to his faith and gallantry.



III


MASTER HUMPHREY’S VISITOR

WHEN I am in a thoughtful mood, I often succeed in diverting the current
of some mournful reflections, by conjuring up a number of fanciful
associations with the objects that surround me, and dwelling upon the
scenes and characters they suggest.

I have been led by this habit to assign to every room in my house and
every old staring portrait on its walls a separate interest of its own.
Thus, I am persuaded that a stately dame, terrible to behold in her rigid
modesty, who hangs above the chimney-piece of my bedroom, is the former
lady of the mansion.  In the courtyard below is a stone face of
surpassing ugliness, which I have somehow—in a kind of jealousy, I am
afraid—associated with her husband.  Above my study is a little room with
ivy peeping through the lattice, from which I bring their daughter, a
lovely girl of eighteen or nineteen years of age, and dutiful in all
respects save one, that one being her devoted attachment to a young
gentleman on the stairs, whose grandmother (degraded to a disused laundry
in the garden) piques herself upon an old family quarrel, and is the
implacable enemy of their love.  With such materials as these I work out
many a little drama, whose chief merit is, that I can bring it to a happy
end at will.  I have so many of them on hand, that if on my return home
one of these evenings I were to find some bluff old wight of two
centuries ago comfortably seated in my easy chair, and a lovelorn damsel
vainly appealing to his heart, and leaning her white arm upon my clock
itself, I verily believe I should only express my surprise that they had
kept me waiting so long, and never honoured me with a call before.

I was in such a mood as this, sitting in my garden yesterday morning
under the shade of a favourite tree, revelling in all the bloom and
brightness about me, and feeling every sense of hope and enjoyment
quickened by this most beautiful season of Spring, when my meditations
were interrupted by the unexpected appearance of my barber at the end of
the walk, who I immediately saw was coming towards me with a hasty step
that betokened something remarkable.

My barber is at all times a very brisk, bustling, active little man,—for
he is, as it were, chubby all over, without being stout or unwieldy,—but
yesterday his alacrity was so very uncommon that it quite took me by
surprise.  For could I fail to observe when he came up to me that his
gray eyes were twinkling in a most extraordinary manner, that his little
red nose was in an unusual glow, that every line in his round bright face
was twisted and curved into an expression of pleased surprise, and that
his whole countenance was radiant with glee?  I was still more surprised
to see my housekeeper, who usually preserves a very staid air, and stands
somewhat upon her dignity, peeping round the hedge at the bottom of the
walk, and exchanging nods and smiles with the barber, who twice or thrice
looked over his shoulder for that purpose.  I could conceive no
announcement to which these appearances could be the prelude, unless it
were that they had married each other that morning.

I was, consequently, a little disappointed when it only came out that
there was a gentleman in the house who wished to speak with me.

‘And who is it?’ said I.

The barber, with his face screwed up still tighter than before, replied
that the gentleman would not send his name, but wished to see me.  I
pondered for a moment, wondering who this visitor might be, and I
remarked that he embraced the opportunity of exchanging another nod with
the housekeeper, who still lingered in the distance.

‘Well!’ said I, ‘bid the gentleman come here.’

This seemed to be the consummation of the barber’s hopes, for he turned
sharp round, and actually ran away.

Now, my sight is not very good at a distance, and therefore when the
gentleman first appeared in the walk, I was not quite clear whether he
was a stranger to me or otherwise.  He was an elderly gentleman, but came
tripping along in the pleasantest manner conceivable, avoiding the
garden-roller and the borders of the beds with inimitable dexterity,
picking his way among the flower-pots, and smiling with unspeakable good
humour.  Before he was half-way up the walk he began to salute me; then I
thought I knew him; but when he came towards me with his hat in his hand,
the sun shining on his bald head, his bland face, his bright spectacles,
his fawn-coloured tights, and his black gaiters,—then my heart warmed
towards him, and I felt quite certain that it was Mr. Pickwick.

‘My dear sir,’ said that gentleman as I rose to receive him, ‘pray be
seated.  Pray sit down.  Now, do not stand on my account.  I must insist
upon it, really.’  With these words Mr. Pickwick gently pressed me down
into my seat, and taking my hand in his, shook it again and again with a
warmth of manner perfectly irresistible.  I endeavoured to express in my
welcome something of that heartiness and pleasure which the sight of him
awakened, and made him sit down beside me.  All this time he kept
alternately releasing my hand and grasping it again, and surveying me
through his spectacles with such a beaming countenance as I never till
then beheld.

      [Picture: Mr. Pickwick introduces himself to Master Humphrey]

‘You knew me directly!’ said Mr. Pickwick.  ‘What a pleasure it is to
think that you knew me directly!’

I remarked that I had read his adventures very often, and his features
were quite familiar to me from the published portraits.  As I thought it
a good opportunity of adverting to the circumstance, I condoled with him
upon the various libels on his character which had found their way into
print.  Mr. Pickwick shook his head, and for a moment looked very
indignant, but smiling again directly, added that no doubt I was
acquainted with Cervantes’s introduction to the second part of Don
Quixote, and that it fully expressed his sentiments on the subject.

‘But now,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘don’t you wonder how I found you out?’

‘I shall never wonder, and, with your good leave, never know,’ said I,
smiling in my turn.  ‘It is enough for me that you give me this
gratification.  I have not the least desire that you should tell me by
what means I have obtained it.’

‘You are very kind,’ returned Mr. Pickwick, shaking me by the hand again;
‘you are so exactly what I expected!  But for what particular purpose do
you think I have sought you, my dear sir?  Now what _do_ you think I have
come for?’

Mr. Pickwick put this question as though he were persuaded that it was
morally impossible that I could by any means divine the deep purpose of
his visit, and that it must be hidden from all human ken.  Therefore,
although I was rejoiced to think that I had anticipated his drift, I
feigned to be quite ignorant of it, and after a brief consideration shook
my head despairingly.

‘What should you say,’ said Mr. Pickwick, laying the forefinger of his
left hand upon my coat-sleeve, and looking at me with his head thrown
back, and a little on one side,—‘what should you say if I confessed that
after reading your account of yourself and your little society, I had
come here, a humble candidate for one of those empty chairs?’

‘I should say,’ I returned, ‘that I know of only one circumstance which
could still further endear that little society to me, and that would be
the associating with it my old friend,—for you must let me call you
so,—my old friend, Mr. Pickwick.’

As I made him this answer every feature of Mr. Pickwick’s face fused
itself into one all-pervading expression of delight.  After shaking me
heartily by both hands at once, he patted me gently on the back, and
then—I well understood why—coloured up to the eyes, and hoped with great
earnestness of manner that he had not hurt me.

If he had, I would have been content that he should have repeated the
offence a hundred times rather than suppose so; but as he had not, I had
no difficulty in changing the subject by making an inquiry which had been
upon my lips twenty times already.

‘You have not told me,’ said I, ‘anything about Sam Weller.’

‘O! Sam,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, ‘is the same as ever.  The same true,
faithful fellow that he ever was.  What should I tell you about Sam, my
dear sir, except that he is more indispensable to my happiness and
comfort every day of my life?’

‘And Mr. Weller senior?’ said I.

‘Old Mr. Weller,’ returned Mr. Pickwick, ‘is in no respect more altered
than Sam, unless it be that he is a little more opinionated than he was
formerly, and perhaps at times more talkative.  He spends a good deal of
his time now in our neighbourhood, and has so constituted himself a part
of my bodyguard, that when I ask permission for Sam to have a seat in
your kitchen on clock nights (supposing your three friends think me
worthy to fill one of the chairs), I am afraid I must often include Mr.
Weller too.’

I very readily pledged myself to give both Sam and his father a free
admission to my house at all hours and seasons, and this point settled,
we fell into a lengthy conversation which was carried on with as little
reserve on both sides as if we had been intimate friends from our youth,
and which conveyed to me the comfortable assurance that Mr. Pickwick’s
buoyancy of spirit, and indeed all his old cheerful characteristics, were
wholly unimpaired.  As he had spoken of the consent of my friends as
being yet in abeyance, I repeatedly assured him that his proposal was
certain to receive their most joyful sanction, and several times
entreated that he would give me leave to introduce him to Jack Redburn
and Mr. Miles (who were near at hand) without further ceremony.

To this proposal, however, Mr. Pickwick’s delicacy would by no means
allow him to accede, for he urged that his eligibility must be formally
discussed, and that, until this had been done, he could not think of
obtruding himself further.  The utmost I could obtain from him was a
promise that he would attend upon our next night of meeting, that I might
have the pleasure of presenting him immediately on his election.

Mr. Pickwick, having with many blushes placed in my hands a small roll of
paper, which he termed his ‘qualification,’ put a great many questions to
me touching my friends, and particularly Jack Redburn, whom he repeatedly
termed ‘a fine fellow,’ and in whose favour I could see he was strongly
predisposed.  When I had satisfied him on these points, I took him up
into my room, that he might make acquaintance with the old chamber which
is our place of meeting.

‘And this,’ said Mr. Pickwick, stopping short, ‘is the clock!  Dear me!
And this is really the old clock!’

I thought he would never have come away from it.  After advancing towards
it softly, and laying his hand upon it with as much respect and as many
smiling looks as if it were alive, he set himself to consider it in every
possible direction, now mounting on a chair to look at the top, now going
down upon his knees to examine the bottom, now surveying the sides with
his spectacles almost touching the case, and now trying to peep between
it and the wall to get a slight view of the back.  Then he would retire a
pace or two and look up at the dial to see it go, and then draw near
again and stand with his head on one side to hear it tick: never failing
to glance towards me at intervals of a few seconds each, and nod his head
with such complacent gratification as I am quite unable to describe.  His
admiration was not confined to the clock either, but extended itself to
every article in the room; and really, when he had gone through them
every one, and at last sat himself down in all the six chairs, one after
another, to try how they felt, I never saw such a picture of good-humour
and happiness as he presented, from the top of his shining head down to
the very last button of his gaiters.

I should have been well pleased, and should have had the utmost enjoyment
of his company, if he had remained with me all day, but my favourite,
striking the hour, reminded him that he must take his leave.  I could not
forbear telling him once more how glad he had made me, and we shook hands
all the way down-stairs.

We had no sooner arrived in the Hall than my housekeeper, gliding out of
her little room (she had changed her gown and cap, I observed), greeted
Mr. Pickwick with her best smile and courtesy; and the barber, feigning
to be accidentally passing on his way out, made him a vast number of
bows.  When the housekeeper courtesied, Mr. Pickwick bowed with the
utmost politeness, and when he bowed, the housekeeper courtesied again;
between the housekeeper and the barber, I should say that Mr. Pickwick
faced about and bowed with undiminished affability fifty times at least.

I saw him to the door; an omnibus was at the moment passing the corner of
the lane, which Mr. Pickwick hailed and ran after with extraordinary
nimbleness.  When he had got about half-way, he turned his head, and
seeing that I was still looking after him and that I waved my hand,
stopped, evidently irresolute whether to come back and shake hands again,
or to go on.  The man behind the omnibus shouted, and Mr. Pickwick ran a
little way towards him: then he looked round at me, and ran a little way
back again.  Then there was another shout, and he turned round once more
and ran the other way.  After several of these vibrations, the man
settled the question by taking Mr. Pickwick by the arm and putting him
into the carriage; but his last action was to let down the window and
wave his hat to me as it drove off.

I lost no time in opening the parcel he had left with me.  The following
were its contents:—



MR. PICKWICK’S TALE


A good many years have passed away since old John Podgers lived in the
town of Windsor, where he was born, and where, in course of time, he came
to be comfortably and snugly buried.  You may be sure that in the time of
King James the First, Windsor was a very quaint queer old town, and you
may take it upon my authority that John Podgers was a very quaint queer
old fellow; consequently he and Windsor fitted each other to a nicety,
and seldom parted company even for half a day.

John Podgers was broad, sturdy, Dutch-built, short, and a very hard
eater, as men of his figure often are.  Being a hard sleeper likewise, he
divided his time pretty equally between these two recreations, always
falling asleep when he had done eating, and always taking another turn at
the trencher when he had done sleeping, by which means he grew more
corpulent and more drowsy every day of his life.  Indeed it used to be
currently reported that when he sauntered up and down the sunny side of
the street before dinner (as he never failed to do in fair weather), he
enjoyed his soundest nap; but many people held this to be a fiction, as
he had several times been seen to look after fat oxen on market-days, and
had even been heard, by persons of good credit and reputation, to chuckle
at the sight, and say to himself with great glee, ‘Live beef, live beef!’
It was upon this evidence that the wisest people in Windsor (beginning
with the local authorities of course) held that John Podgers was a man of
strong, sound sense, not what is called smart, perhaps, and it might be
of a rather lazy and apoplectic turn, but still a man of solid parts, and
one who meant much more than he cared to show.  This impression was
confirmed by a very dignified way he had of shaking his head and
imparting, at the same time, a pendulous motion to his double chin; in
short, he passed for one of those people who, being plunged into the
Thames, would make no vain efforts to set it afire, but would straightway
flop down to the bottom with a deal of gravity, and be highly respected
in consequence by all good men.

Being well to do in the world, and a peaceful widower,—having a great
appetite, which, as he could afford to gratify it, was a luxury and no
inconvenience, and a power of going to sleep, which, as he had no
occasion to keep awake, was a most enviable faculty,—you will readily
suppose that John Podgers was a happy man.  But appearances are often
deceptive when they least seem so, and the truth is that, notwithstanding
his extreme sleekness, he was rendered uneasy in his mind and exceedingly
uncomfortable by a constant apprehension that beset him night and day.

You know very well that in those times there flourished divers evil old
women who, under the name of Witches, spread great disorder through the
land, and inflicted various dismal tortures upon Christian men; sticking
pins and needles into them when they least expected it, and causing them
to walk in the air with their feet upwards, to the great terror of their
wives and families, who were naturally very much disconcerted when the
master of the house unexpectedly came home, knocking at the door with his
heels and combing his hair on the scraper.  These were their commonest
pranks, but they every day played a hundred others, of which none were
less objectionable, and many were much more so, being improper besides;
the result was that vengeance was denounced against all old women, with
whom even the king himself had no sympathy (as he certainly ought to have
had), for with his own most Gracious hand he penned a most Gracious
consignment of them to everlasting wrath, and devised most Gracious means
for their confusion and slaughter, in virtue whereof scarcely a day
passed but one witch at the least was most graciously hanged, drowned, or
roasted in some part of his dominions.  Still the press teemed with
strange and terrible news from the North or the South, or the East or the
West, relative to witches and their unhappy victims in some corner of the
country, and the Public’s hair stood on end to that degree that it lifted
its hat off its head, and made its face pale with terror.

You may believe that the little town of Windsor did not escape the
general contagion.  The inhabitants boiled a witch on the king’s birthday
and sent a bottle of the broth to court, with a dutiful address
expressive of their loyalty.  The king, being rather frightened by the
present, piously bestowed it upon the Archbishop of Canterbury, and
returned an answer to the address, wherein he gave them golden rules for
discovering witches, and laid great stress upon certain protecting
charms, and especially horseshoes.  Immediately the towns-people went to
work nailing up horseshoes over every door, and so many anxious parents
apprenticed their children to farriers to keep them out of harm’s way,
that it became quite a genteel trade, and flourished exceedingly.

In the midst of all this bustle John Podgers ate and slept as usual, but
shook his head a great deal oftener than was his custom, and was observed
to look at the oxen less, and at the old women more.  He had a little
shelf put up in his sitting-room, whereon was displayed, in a row which
grew longer every week, all the witchcraft literature of the time; he
grew learned in charms and exorcisms, hinted at certain questionable
females on broomsticks whom he had seen from his chamber window, riding
in the air at night, and was in constant terror of being bewitched.  At
length, from perpetually dwelling upon this one idea, which, being alone
in his head, had all its own way, the fear of witches became the single
passion of his life.  He, who up to that time had never known what it was
to dream, began to have visions of witches whenever he fell asleep;
waking, they were incessantly present to his imagination likewise; and,
sleeping or waking, he had not a moment’s peace.  He began to set
witch-traps in the highway, and was often seen lying in wait round the
corner for hours together, to watch their effect.  These engines were of
simple construction, usually consisting of two straws disposed in the
form of a cross, or a piece of a Bible cover with a pinch of salt upon
it; but they were infallible, and if an old woman chanced to stumble over
them (as not unfrequently happened, the chosen spot being a broken and
stony place), John started from a doze, pounced out upon her, and hung
round her neck till assistance arrived, when she was immediately carried
away and drowned.  By dint of constantly inveigling old ladies and
disposing of them in this summary manner, he acquired the reputation of a
great public character; and as he received no harm in these pursuits
beyond a scratched face or so, he came, in the course of time, to be
considered witch-proof.

There was but one person who entertained the least doubt of John
Podgers’s gifts, and that person was his own nephew, a wild, roving young
fellow of twenty who had been brought up in his uncle’s house and lived
there still,—that is to say, when he was at home, which was not as often
as it might have been.  As he was an apt scholar, it was he who read
aloud every fresh piece of strange and terrible intelligence that John
Podgers bought; and this he always did of an evening in the little porch
in front of the house, round which the neighbours would flock in crowds
to hear the direful news,—for people like to be frightened, and when they
can be frightened for nothing and at another man’s expense, they like it
all the better.

One fine midsummer evening, a group of persons were gathered in this
place, listening intently to Will Marks (that was the nephew’s name), as
with his cap very much on one side, his arm coiled slyly round the waist
of a pretty girl who sat beside him, and his face screwed into a comical
expression intended to represent extreme gravity, he read—with Heaven
knows how many embellishments of his own—a dismal account of a gentleman
down in Northamptonshire under the influence of witchcraft and taken
forcible possession of by the Devil, who was playing his very self with
him.  John Podgers, in a high sugar-loaf hat and short cloak, filled the
opposite seat, and surveyed the auditory with a look of mingled pride and
horror very edifying to see; while the hearers, with their heads thrust
forward and their mouths open, listened and trembled, and hoped there was
a great deal more to come.  Sometimes Will stopped for an instant to look
round upon his eager audience, and then, with a more comical expression
of face than before and a settling of himself comfortably, which included
a squeeze of the young lady before mentioned, he launched into some new
wonder surpassing all the others.

The setting sun shed his last golden rays upon this little party, who,
absorbed in their present occupation, took no heed of the approach of
night, or the glory in which the day went down, when the sound of a
horse, approaching at a good round trot, invading the silence of the
hour, caused the reader to make a sudden stop, and the listeners to raise
their heads in wonder.  Nor was their wonder diminished when a horseman
dashed up to the porch, and abruptly checking his steed, inquired where
one John Podgers dwelt.

‘Here!’ cried a dozen voices, while a dozen hands pointed out sturdy
John, still basking in the terrors of the pamphlet.

The rider, giving his bridle to one of those who surrounded him,
dismounted, and approached John, hat in hand, but with great haste.

‘Whence come ye?’ said John.

‘From Kingston, master.’

‘And wherefore?’

‘On most pressing business.’

‘Of what nature?’

‘Witchcraft.’

Witchcraft!  Everybody looked aghast at the breathless messenger, and the
breathless messenger looked equally aghast at everybody—except Will
Marks, who, finding himself unobserved, not only squeezed the young lady
again, but kissed her twice.  Surely he must have been bewitched himself,
or he never could have done it—and the young lady too, or she never would
have let him.

‘Witchcraft!’ cried Will, drowning the sound of his last kiss, which was
rather a loud one.

The messenger turned towards him, and with a frown repeated the word more
solemnly than before; then told his errand, which was, in brief, that the
people of Kingston had been greatly terrified for some nights past by
hideous revels, held by witches beneath the gibbet within a mile of the
town, and related and deposed to by chance wayfarers who had passed
within ear-shot of the spot; that the sound of their voices in their wild
orgies had been plainly heard by many persons; that three old women
laboured under strong suspicion, and that precedents had been consulted
and solemn council had, and it was found that to identify the hags some
single person must watch upon the spot alone; that no single person had
the courage to perform the task; and that he had been despatched express
to solicit John Podgers to undertake it that very night, as being a man
of great renown, who bore a charmed life, and was proof against unholy
spells.

        [Picture: Will Marks reading the News concerning Witches]

John received this communication with much composure, and said in a few
words, that it would have afforded him inexpressible pleasure to do the
Kingston people so slight a service, if it were not for his unfortunate
propensity to fall asleep, which no man regretted more than himself upon
the present occasion, but which quite settled the question.
Nevertheless, he said, there _was_ a gentleman present (and here he
looked very hard at a tall farrier), who, having been engaged all his
life in the manufacture of horseshoes, must be quite invulnerable to the
power of witches, and who, he had no doubt, from his own reputation for
bravery and good-nature, would readily accept the commission.  The
farrier politely thanked him for his good opinion, which it would always
be his study to deserve, but added that, with regard to the present
little matter, he couldn’t think of it on any account, as his departing
on such an errand would certainly occasion the instant death of his wife,
to whom, as they all knew, he was tenderly attached.  Now, so far from
this circumstance being notorious, everybody had suspected the reverse,
as the farrier was in the habit of beating his lady rather more than
tender husbands usually do; all the married men present, however,
applauded his resolution with great vehemence, and one and all declared
that they would stop at home and die if needful (which happily it was
not) in defence of their lawful partners.

This burst of enthusiasm over, they began to look, as by one consent,
toward Will Marks, who, with his cap more on one side than ever, sat
watching the proceedings with extraordinary unconcern.  He had never been
heard openly to express his disbelief in witches, but had often cut such
jokes at their expense as left it to be inferred; publicly stating on
several occasions that he considered a broomstick an inconvenient
charger, and one especially unsuited to the dignity of the female
character, and indulging in other free remarks of the same tendency, to
the great amusement of his wild companions.

As they looked at Will they began to whisper and murmur among themselves,
and at length one man cried, ‘Why don’t you ask Will Marks?’

As this was what everybody had been thinking of, they all took up the
word, and cried in concert, ‘Ah! why don’t you ask Will?’

‘_He_ don’t care,’ said the farrier.

‘Not he,’ added another voice in the crowd.

‘He don’t believe in it, you know,’ sneered a little man with a yellow
face and a taunting nose and chin, which he thrust out from under the arm
of a long man before him.

‘Besides,’ said a red-faced gentleman with a gruff voice, ‘he’s a single
man.’

‘That’s the point!’ said the farrier; and all the married men murmured,
ah! that was it, and they only wished they were single themselves; they
would show him what spirit was, very soon.

The messenger looked towards Will Marks beseechingly.

‘It will be a wet night, friend, and my gray nag is tired after
yesterday’s work—’

Here there was a general titter.

‘But,’ resumed Will, looking about him with a smile, ‘if nobody else puts
in a better claim to go, for the credit of the town I am your man, and I
would be, if I had to go afoot.  In five minutes I shall be in the
saddle, unless I am depriving any worthy gentleman here of the honour of
the adventure, which I wouldn’t do for the world.’

But here arose a double difficulty, for not only did John Podgers combat
the resolution with all the words he had, which were not many, but the
young lady combated it too with all the tears she had, which were very
many indeed.  Will, however, being inflexible, parried his uncle’s
objections with a joke, and coaxed the young lady into a smile in three
short whispers.  As it was plain that he set his mind upon it, and would
go, John Podgers offered him a few first-rate charms out of his own
pocket, which he dutifully declined to accept; and the young lady gave
him a kiss, which he also returned.

‘You see what a rare thing it is to be married,’ said Will, ‘and how
careful and considerate all these husbands are.  There’s not a man among
them but his heart is leaping to forestall me in this adventure, and yet
a strong sense of duty keeps him back.  The husbands in this one little
town are a pattern to the world, and so must the wives be too, for that
matter, or they could never boast half the influence they have!’

Waiting for no reply to this sarcasm, he snapped his fingers and withdrew
into the house, and thence into the stable, while some busied themselves
in refreshing the messenger, and others in baiting his steed.  In less
than the specified time he returned by another way, with a good cloak
hanging over his arm, a good sword girded by his side, and leading his
good horse caparisoned for the journey.

‘Now,’ said Will, leaping into the saddle at a bound, ‘up and away.  Upon
your mettle, friend, and push on.  Good night!’

He kissed his hand to the girl, nodded to his drowsy uncle, waved his cap
to the rest—and off they flew pell-mell, as if all the witches in England
were in their horses’ legs.  They were out of sight in a minute.

The men who were left behind shook their heads doubtfully, stroked their
chins, and shook their heads again.  The farrier said that certainly Will
Marks was a good horseman, nobody should ever say he denied that: but he
was rash, very rash, and there was no telling what the end of it might
be; what did he go for, that was what he wanted to know?  He wished the
young fellow no harm, but why did he go?  Everybody echoed these words,
and shook their heads again, having done which they wished John Podgers
good night, and straggled home to bed.

The Kingston people were in their first sleep when Will Marks and his
conductor rode through the town and up to the door of a house where
sundry grave functionaries were assembled, anxiously expecting the
arrival of the renowned Podgers.  They were a little disappointed to find
a gay young man in his place; but they put the best face upon the matter,
and gave him full instructions how he was to conceal himself behind the
gibbet, and watch and listen to the witches, and how at a certain time he
was to burst forth and cut and slash among them vigorously, so that the
suspected parties might be found bleeding in their beds next day, and
thoroughly confounded.  They gave him a great quantity of wholesome
advice besides, and—which was more to the purpose with Will—a good
supper.  All these things being done, and midnight nearly come, they
sallied forth to show him the spot where he was to keep his dreary vigil.

The night was by this time dark and threatening.  There was a rumbling of
distant thunder, and a low sighing of wind among the trees, which was
very dismal.  The potentates of the town kept so uncommonly close to Will
that they trod upon his toes, or stumbled against his ankles, or nearly
tripped up his heels at every step he took, and, besides these
annoyances, their teeth chattered so with fear, that he seemed to be
accompanied by a dirge of castanets.

At last they made a halt at the opening of a lonely, desolate space, and,
pointing to a black object at some distance, asked Will if he saw that,
yonder.

‘Yes,’ he replied.  ‘What then?’

Informing him abruptly that it was the gibbet where he was to watch, they
wished him good night in an extremely friendly manner, and ran back as
fast as their feet would carry them.

Will walked boldly to the gibbet, and, glancing upwards when he came
under it, saw—certainly with satisfaction—that it was empty, and that
nothing dangled from the top but some iron chains, which swung mournfully
to and fro as they were moved by the breeze.  After a careful survey of
every quarter he determined to take his station with his face towards the
town; both because that would place him with his back to the wind, and
because, if any trick or surprise were attempted, it would probably come
from that direction in the first instance.  Having taken these
precautions, he wrapped his cloak about him so that it left the handle of
his sword free, and ready to his hand, and leaning against the
gallows-tree with his cap not quite so much on one side as it had been
before, took up his position for the night.

        [Picture: Will Marks takes up his position for the night]



SECOND CHAPTER OF MR. PICKWICK’S TALE


We left Will Marks leaning under the gibbet with his face towards the
town, scanning the distance with a keen eye, which sought to pierce the
darkness and catch the earliest glimpse of any person or persons that
might approach towards him.  But all was quiet, and, save the howling of
the wind as it swept across the heath in gusts, and the creaking of the
chains that dangled above his head, there was no sound to break the
sullen stillness of the night.  After half an hour or so this monotony
became more disconcerting to Will than the most furious uproar would have
been, and he heartily wished for some one antagonist with whom he might
have a fair stand-up fight, if it were only to warm himself.

Truth to tell, it was a bitter wind, and seemed to blow to the very heart
of a man whose blood, heated but now with rapid riding, was the more
sensitive to the chilling blast.  Will was a daring fellow, and cared not
a jot for hard knocks or sharp blades; but he could not persuade himself
to move or walk about, having just that vague expectation of a sudden
assault which made it a comfortable thing to have something at his back,
even though that something were a gallows-tree.  He had no great faith in
the superstitions of the age, still such of them as occurred to him did
not serve to lighten the time, or to render his situation the more
endurable.  He remembered how witches were said to repair at that ghostly
hour to churchyards and gibbets, and such-like dismal spots, to pluck the
bleeding mandrake or scrape the flesh from dead men’s bones, as choice
ingredients for their spells; how, stealing by night to lonely places,
they dug graves with their finger-nails, or anointed themselves before
riding in the air, with a delicate pomatum made of the fat of infants
newly boiled.  These, and many other fabled practices of a no less
agreeable nature, and all having some reference to the circumstances in
which he was placed, passed and repassed in quick succession through the
mind of Will Marks, and adding a shadowy dread to that distrust and
watchfulness which his situation inspired, rendered it, upon the whole,
sufficiently uncomfortable.  As he had foreseen, too, the rain began to
descend heavily, and driving before the wind in a thick mist, obscured
even those few objects which the darkness of the night had before
imperfectly revealed.

‘Look!’ shrieked a voice.  ‘Great Heaven, it has fallen down, and stands
erect as if it lived!’

The speaker was close behind him; the voice was almost at his ear.  Will
threw off his cloak, drew his sword, and darting swiftly round, seized a
woman by the wrist, who, recoiling from him with a dreadful shriek, fell
struggling upon her knees.  Another woman, clad, like her whom he had
grasped, in mourning garments, stood rooted to the spot on which they
were, gazing upon his face with wild and glaring eyes that quite appalled
him.

‘Say,’ cried Will, when they had confronted each other thus for some
time, ‘what are ye?’

‘Say what are _you_,’ returned the woman, ‘who trouble even this obscene
resting-place of the dead, and strip the gibbet of its honoured burden?
Where is the body?’

He looked in wonder and affright from the woman who questioned him to the
other whose arm he clutched.

‘Where is the body?’ repeated the questioner more firmly than before.
‘You wear no livery which marks you for the hireling of the government.
You are no friend to us, or I should recognise you, for the friends of
such as we are few in number.  What are you then, and wherefore are you
here?’

‘I am no foe to the distressed and helpless,’ said Will.  ‘Are ye among
that number? ye should be by your looks.’

‘We are!’ was the answer.

‘Is it ye who have been wailing and weeping here under cover of the
night?’ said Will.

‘It is,’ replied the woman sternly; and pointing, as she spoke, towards
her companion, ‘she mourns a husband, and I a brother.  Even the bloody
law that wreaks its vengeance on the dead does not make that a crime, and
if it did ’twould be alike to us who are past its fear or favour.’

Will glanced at the two females, and could barely discern that the one
whom he addressed was much the elder, and that the other was young and of
a slight figure.  Both were deadly pale, their garments wet and worn,
their hair dishevelled and streaming in the wind, themselves bowed down
with grief and misery; their whole appearance most dejected, wretched,
and forlorn.  A sight so different from any he had expected to encounter
touched him to the quick, and all idea of anything but their pitiable
condition vanished before it.

‘I am a rough, blunt yeoman,’ said Will.  ‘Why I came here is told in a
word; you have been overheard at a distance in the silence of the night,
and I have undertaken a watch for hags or spirits.  I came here expecting
an adventure, and prepared to go through with any.  If there be aught
that I can do to help or aid you, name it, and on the faith of a man who
can be secret and trusty, I will stand by you to the death.’

‘How comes this gibbet to be empty?’ asked the elder female.

‘I swear to you,’ replied Will, ‘that I know as little as yourself.  But
this I know, that when I came here an hour ago or so, it was as it is
now; and if, as I gather from your question, it was not so last night,
sure I am that it has been secretly disturbed without the knowledge of
the folks in yonder town.  Bethink you, therefore, whether you have no
friends in league with you or with him on whom the law has done its
worst, by whom these sad remains have been removed for burial.’

The women spoke together, and Will retired a pace or two while they
conversed apart.  He could hear them sob and moan, and saw that they
wrung their hands in fruitless agony.  He could make out little that they
said, but between whiles he gathered enough to assure him that his
suggestion was not very wide of the mark, and that they not only
suspected by whom the body had been removed, but also whither it had been
conveyed.  When they had been in conversation a long time, they turned
towards him once more.  This time the younger female spoke.

‘You have offered us your help?’

‘I have.’

‘And given a pledge that you are still willing to redeem?’

‘Yes.  So far as I may, keeping all plots and conspiracies at arm’s
length.’

‘Follow us, friend.’

Will, whose self-possession was now quite restored, needed no second
bidding, but with his drawn sword in his hand, and his cloak so muffled
over his left arm as to serve for a kind of shield without offering any
impediment to its free action, suffered them to lead the way.  Through
mud and mire, and wind and rain, they walked in silence a full mile.  At
length they turned into a dark lane, where, suddenly starting out from
beneath some trees where he had taken shelter, a man appeared, having in
his charge three saddled horses.  One of these (his own apparently), in
obedience to a whisper from the women, he consigned to Will, who, seeing
that they mounted, mounted also.  Then, without a word spoken, they rode
on together, leaving the attendant behind.

They made no halt nor slackened their pace until they arrived near
Putney.  At a large wooden house which stood apart from any other they
alighted, and giving their horses to one who was already waiting, passed
in by a side door, and so up some narrow creaking stairs into a small
panelled chamber, where Will was left alone.  He had not been here very
long, when the door was softly opened, and there entered to him a
cavalier whose face was concealed beneath a black mask.

Will stood upon his guard, and scrutinised this figure from head to foot.
The form was that of a man pretty far advanced in life, but of a firm and
stately carriage.  His dress was of a rich and costly kind, but so soiled
and disordered that it was scarcely to be recognised for one of those
gorgeous suits which the expensive taste and fashion of the time
prescribed for men of any rank or station.

He was booted and spurred, and bore about him even as many tokens of the
state of the roads as Will himself.  All this he noted, while the eyes
behind the mask regarded him with equal attention.  This survey over, the
cavalier broke silence.

‘Thou’rt young and bold, and wouldst be richer than thou art?’

‘The two first I am,’ returned Will.  ‘The last I have scarcely thought
of.  But be it so.  Say that I would be richer than I am; what then?’

‘The way lies before thee now,’ replied the Mask.

‘Show it me.’

‘First let me inform thee, that thou wert brought here to-night lest thou
shouldst too soon have told thy tale to those who placed thee on the
watch.’

‘I thought as much when I followed,’ said Will.  ‘But I am no blab, not
I.’

‘Good,’ returned the Mask.  ‘Now listen.  He who was to have executed the
enterprise of burying that body, which, as thou hast suspected, was taken
down to-night, has left us in our need.’

Will nodded, and thought within himself that if the Mask were to attempt
to play any tricks, the first eyelet-hole on the left-hand side of his
doublet, counting from the buttons up the front, would be a very good
place in which to pink him neatly.

‘Thou art here, and the emergency is desperate.  I propose his task to
thee.  Convey the body (now coffined in this house), by means that I
shall show, to the Church of St. Dunstan in London to-morrow night, and
thy service shall be richly paid.  Thou’rt about to ask whose corpse it
is.  Seek not to know.  I warn thee, seek not to know.  Felons hang in
chains on every moor and heath.  Believe, as others do, that this was
one, and ask no further.  The murders of state policy, its victims or
avengers, had best remain unknown to such as thee.’

‘The mystery of this service,’ said Will, ‘bespeaks its danger.  What is
the reward?’

‘One hundred golden unities,’ replied the cavalier.  ‘The danger to one
who cannot be recognised as the friend of a fallen cause is not great,
but there is some hazard to be run.  Decide between that and the reward.’

‘What if I refuse?’ said Will.

‘Depart in peace, in God’s name,’ returned the Mask in a melancholy tone,
‘and keep our secret, remembering that those who brought thee here were
crushed and stricken women, and that those who bade thee go free could
have had thy life with one word, and no man the wiser.’

Men were readier to undertake desperate adventures in those times than
they are now.  In this case the temptation was great, and the punishment,
even in case of detection, was not likely to be very severe, as Will came
of a loyal stock, and his uncle was in good repute, and a passable tale
to account for his possession of the body and his ignorance of the
identity might be easily devised.

The cavalier explained that a coveted cart had been prepared for the
purpose; that the time of departure could be arranged so that he should
reach London Bridge at dusk, and proceed through the City after the day
had closed in; that people would be ready at his journey’s end to place
the coffin in a vault without a minute’s delay; that officious inquirers
in the streets would be easily repelled by the tale that he was carrying
for interment the corpse of one who had died of the plague; and in short
showed him every reason why he should succeed, and none why he should
fail.  After a time they were joined by another gentleman, masked like
the first, who added new arguments to those which had been already urged;
the wretched wife, too, added her tears and prayers to their calmer
representations; and in the end, Will, moved by compassion and
good-nature, by a love of the marvellous, by a mischievous anticipation
of the terrors of the Kingston people when he should be missing next day,
and finally, by the prospect of gain, took upon himself the task, and
devoted all his energies to its successful execution.

The following night, when it was quite dark, the hollow echoes of old
London Bridge responded to the rumbling of the cart which contained the
ghastly load, the object of Will Marks’ care.  Sufficiently disguised to
attract no attention by his garb, Will walked at the horse’s head, as
unconcerned as a man could be who was sensible that he had now arrived at
the most dangerous part of his undertaking, but full of boldness and
confidence.

It was now eight o’clock.  After nine, none could walk the streets
without danger of their lives, and even at this hour, robberies and
murder were of no uncommon occurrence.  The shops upon the bridge were
all closed; the low wooden arches thrown across the way were like so many
black pits, in every one of which ill-favoured fellows lurked in knots of
three or four; some standing upright against the wall, lying in wait;
others skulking in gateways, and thrusting out their uncombed heads and
scowling eyes: others crossing and recrossing, and constantly jostling
both horse and man to provoke a quarrel; others stealing away and
summoning their companions in a low whistle.  Once, even in that short
passage, there was the noise of scuffling and the clash of swords behind
him, but Will, who knew the City and its ways, kept straight on and
scarcely turned his head.

The streets being unpaved, the rain of the night before had converted
them into a perfect quagmire, which the splashing water-spouts from the
gables, and the filth and offal cast from the different houses, swelled
in no small degree.  These odious matters being left to putrefy in the
close and heavy air, emitted an insupportable stench, to which every
court and passage poured forth a contribution of its own.  Many parts,
even of the main streets, with their projecting stories tottering
overhead and nearly shutting out the sky, were more like huge chimneys
than open ways.  At the corners of some of these, great bonfires were
burning to prevent infection from the plague, of which it was rumoured
that some citizens had lately died; and few, who availing themselves of
the light thus afforded paused for a moment to look around them, would
have been disposed to doubt the existence of the disease, or wonder at
its dreadful visitations.

But it was not in such scenes as these, or even in the deep and miry
road, that Will Marks found the chief obstacles to his progress.  There
were kites and ravens feeding in the streets (the only scavengers the
City kept), who, scenting what he carried, followed the cart or fluttered
on its top, and croaked their knowledge of its burden and their ravenous
appetite for prey.  There were distant fires, where the poor wood and
plaster tenements wasted fiercely, and whither crowds made their way,
clamouring eagerly for plunder, beating down all who came within their
reach, and yelling like devils let loose.  There were single-handed men
flying from bands of ruffians, who pursued them with naked weapons, and
hunted them savagely; there were drunken, desperate robbers issuing from
their dens and staggering through the open streets where no man dared
molest them; there were vagabond servitors returning from the Bear
Garden, where had been good sport that day, dragging after them their
torn and bleeding dogs, or leaving them to die and rot upon the road.
Nothing was abroad but cruelty, violence, and disorder.

Many were the interruptions which Will Marks encountered from these
stragglers, and many the narrow escapes he made.  Now some stout bully
would take his seat upon the cart, insisting to be driven to his own
home, and now two or three men would come down upon him together, and
demand that on peril of his life he showed them what he had inside.  Then
a party of the city watch, upon their rounds, would draw across the road,
and not satisfied with his tale, question him closely, and revenge
themselves by a little cuffing and hustling for maltreatment sustained at
other hands that night.  All these assailants had to be rebutted, some by
fair words, some by foul, and some by blows.  But Will Marks was not the
man to be stopped or turned back now he had penetrated so far, and though
he got on slowly, still he made his way down Fleet-street and reached the
church at last.

As he had been forewarned, all was in readiness.  Directly he stopped,
the coffin was removed by four men, who appeared so suddenly that they
seemed to have started from the earth.  A fifth mounted the cart, and
scarcely allowing Will time to snatch from it a little bundle containing
such of his own clothes as he had thrown off on assuming his disguise,
drove briskly away.  Will never saw cart or man again.

He followed the body into the church, and it was well he lost no time in
doing so, for the door was immediately closed.  There was no light in the
building save that which came from a couple of torches borne by two men
in cloaks, who stood upon the brink of a vault.  Each supported a female
figure, and all observed a profound silence.

By this dim and solemn glare, which made Will feel as though light itself
were dead, and its tomb the dreary arches that frowned above, they placed
the coffin in the vault, with uncovered heads, and closed it up.  One of
the torch-bearers then turned to Will, and stretched forth his hand, in
which was a purse of gold.  Something told him directly that those were
the same eyes which he had seen beneath the mask.

               [Picture: Will Marks arrives at the Church]

‘Take it,’ said the cavalier in a low voice, ‘and be happy.  Though these
have been hasty obsequies, and no priest has blessed the work, there will
not be the less peace with thee thereafter, for having laid his bones
beside those of his little children.  Keep thy own counsel, for thy sake
no less than ours, and God be with thee!’

‘The blessing of a widowed mother on thy head, good friend!’ cried the
younger lady through her tears; ‘the blessing of one who has now no hope
or rest but in this grave!’

Will stood with the purse in his hand, and involuntarily made a gesture
as though he would return it, for though a thoughtless fellow, he was of
a frank and generous nature.  But the two gentlemen, extinguishing their
torches, cautioned him to be gone, as their common safety would be
endangered by a longer delay; and at the same time their retreating
footsteps sounded through the church.  He turned, therefore, towards the
point at which he had entered, and seeing by a faint gleam in the
distance that the door was again partially open, groped his way towards
it and so passed into the street.

Meantime the local authorities of Kingston had kept watch and ward all
the previous night, fancying every now and then that dismal shrieks were
borne towards them on the wind, and frequently winking to each other, and
drawing closer to the fire as they drank the health of the lonely
sentinel, upon whom a clerical gentleman present was especially severe by
reason of his levity and youthful folly.  Two or three of the gravest in
company, who were of a theological turn, propounded to him the question,
whether such a character was not but poorly armed for single combat with
the Devil, and whether he himself would not have been a stronger
opponent; but the clerical gentleman, sharply reproving them for their
presumption in discussing such questions, clearly showed that a fitter
champion than Will could scarcely have been selected, not only for that
being a child of Satan, he was the less likely to be alarmed by the
appearance of his own father, but because Satan himself would be at his
ease in such company, and would not scruple to kick up his heels to an
extent which it was quite certain he would never venture before clerical
eyes, under whose influence (as was notorious) he became quite a tame and
milk-and-water character.

But when next morning arrived, and with it no Will Marks, and when a
strong party repairing to the spot, as a strong party ventured to do in
broad day, found Will gone and the gibbet empty, matters grew serious
indeed.  The day passing away and no news arriving, and the night going
on also without any intelligence, the thing grew more tremendous still;
in short, the neighbourhood worked itself up to such a comfortable pitch
of mystery and horror, that it is a great question whether the general
feeling was not one of excessive disappointment, when, on the second
morning, Will Marks returned.

However this may be, back Will came in a very cool and collected state,
and appearing not to trouble himself much about anybody except old John
Podgers, who, having been sent for, was sitting in the Town Hall crying
slowly, and dozing between whiles.  Having embraced his uncle and assured
him of his safety, Will mounted on a table and told his story to the
crowd.

And surely they would have been the most unreasonable crowd that ever
assembled together, if they had been in the least respect disappointed
with the tale he told them; for besides describing the Witches’ Dance to
the minutest motion of their legs, and performing it in character on the
table, with the assistance of a broomstick, he related how they had
carried off the body in a copper caldron, and so bewitched him, that he
lost his senses until he found himself lying under a hedge at least ten
miles off, whence he had straightway returned as they then beheld.  The
story gained such universal applause that it soon afterwards brought down
express from London the great witch-finder of the age, the Heaven-born
Hopkins, who having examined Will closely on several points, pronounced
it the most extraordinary and the best accredited witch-story ever known,
under which title it was published at the Three Bibles on London Bridge,
in small quarto, with a view of the caldron from an original drawing, and
a portrait of the clerical gentleman as he sat by the fire.

On one point Will was particularly careful: and that was to describe for
the witches he had seen, three impossible old females, whose likenesses
never were or will be.  Thus he saved the lives of the suspected parties,
and of all other old women who were dragged before him to be identified.

This circumstance occasioned John Podgers much grief and sorrow, until
happening one day to cast his eyes upon his housekeeper, and observing
her to be plainly afflicted with rheumatism, he procured her to be burnt
as an undoubted witch.  For this service to the state he was immediately
knighted, and became from that time Sir John Podgers.

Will Marks never gained any clue to the mystery in which he had been an
actor, nor did any inscription in the church, which he often visited
afterwards, nor any of the limited inquiries that he dared to make, yield
him the least assistance.  As he kept his own secret, he was compelled to
spend the gold discreetly and sparingly.  In the course of time he
married the young lady of whom I have already told you, whose maiden name
is not recorded, with whom he led a prosperous and happy life.  Years and
years after this adventure, it was his wont to tell her upon a stormy
night that it was a great comfort to him to think those bones, to
whomsoever they might have once belonged, were not bleaching in the
troubled air, but were mouldering away with the dust of their own kith
and kindred in a quiet grave.



FURTHER PARTICULARS OF MASTER HUMPHREY’S VISITOR


Being very full of Mr. Pickwick’s application, and highly pleased with
the compliment he had paid me, it will be readily supposed that long
before our next night of meeting I communicated it to my three friends,
who unanimously voted his admission into our body.  We all looked forward
with some impatience to the occasion which would enroll him among us, but
I am greatly mistaken if Jack Redburn and myself were not by many degrees
the most impatient of the party.

At length the night came, and a few minutes after ten Mr. Pickwick’s
knock was heard at the street-door.  He was shown into a lower room, and
I directly took my crooked stick and went to accompany him up-stairs, in
order that he might be presented with all honour and formality.

‘Mr. Pickwick,’ said I, on entering the room, ‘I am rejoiced to see
you,—rejoiced to believe that this is but the opening of a long series of
visits to this house, and but the beginning of a close and lasting
friendship.’

That gentleman made a suitable reply with a cordiality and frankness
peculiarly his own, and glanced with a smile towards two persons behind
the door, whom I had not at first observed, and whom I immediately
recognised as Mr. Samuel Weller and his father.

It was a warm evening, but the elder Mr. Weller was attired,
notwithstanding, in a most capacious greatcoat, and his chin enveloped in
a large speckled shawl, such as is usually worn by stage coachmen on
active service.  He looked very rosy and very stout, especially about the
legs, which appeared to have been compressed into his top-boots with some
difficulty.  His broad-brimmed hat he held under his left arm, and with
the forefinger of his right hand he touched his forehead a great many
times in acknowledgment of my presence.

‘I am very glad to see you in such good health, Mr. Weller,’ said I.

‘Why, thankee, sir,’ returned Mr. Weller, ‘the axle an’t broke yet.  We
keeps up a steady pace,—not too sewere, but vith a moderate degree o’
friction,—and the consekens is that ve’re still a runnin’ and comes in to
the time reg’lar.—My son Samivel, sir, as you may have read on in
history,’ added Mr. Weller, introducing his first-born.

I received Sam very graciously, but before he could say a word his father
struck in again.

‘Samivel Veller, sir,’ said the old gentleman, ‘has conferred upon me the
ancient title o’ grandfather vich had long laid dormouse, and wos s’posed
to be nearly hex-tinct in our family.  Sammy, relate a anecdote o’ vun o’
them boys,—that ’ere little anecdote about young Tony sayin’ as he
_would_ smoke a pipe unbeknown to his mother.’

‘Be quiet, can’t you?’ said Sam; ‘I never see such a old magpie—never!’

                 [Picture: Tony Weller and his Grandson]

‘That ’ere Tony is the blessedest boy,’ said Mr. Weller, heedless of this
rebuff, ‘the blessedest boy as ever _I_ see in _my_ days! of all the
charmin’est infants as ever I heerd tell on, includin’ them as was
kivered over by the robin-redbreasts arter they’d committed sooicide with
blackberries, there never wos any like that ’ere little Tony.  He’s
alvays a playin’ vith a quart pot, that boy is!  To see him a settin’
down on the doorstep pretending to drink out of it, and fetching a long
breath artervards, and smoking a bit of firevood, and sayin’, “Now I’m
grandfather,”—to see him a doin’ that at two year old is better than any
play as wos ever wrote.  “Now I’m grandfather!”  He wouldn’t take a pint
pot if you wos to make him a present on it, but he gets his quart, and
then he says, “Now I’m grandfather!”’

Mr. Weller was so overpowered by this picture that he straightway fell
into a most alarming fit of coughing, which must certainly have been
attended with some fatal result but for the dexterity and promptitude of
Sam, who, taking a firm grasp of the shawl just under his father’s chin,
shook him to and fro with great violence, at the same time administering
some smart blows between his shoulders.  By this curious mode of
treatment Mr. Weller was finally recovered, but with a very crimson face,
and in a state of great exhaustion.

‘He’ll do now, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, who had been in some alarm
himself.

‘He’ll do, sir!’ cried Sam, looking reproachfully at his parent.  ‘Yes,
he _will_ do one o’ these days,—he’ll do for his-self and then he’ll wish
he hadn’t.  Did anybody ever see sich a inconsiderate old file,—laughing
into conwulsions afore company, and stamping on the floor as if he’d
brought his own carpet vith him and wos under a wager to punch the
pattern out in a given time?  He’ll begin again in a minute.  There—he’s
a goin’ off—I said he would!’

In fact, Mr. Weller, whose mind was still running upon his precocious
grandson, was seen to shake his head from side to side, while a laugh,
working like an earthquake, below the surface, produced various
extraordinary appearances in his face, chest, and shoulders,—the more
alarming because unaccompanied by any noise whatever.  These emotions,
however, gradually subsided, and after three or four short relapses he
wiped his eyes with the cuff of his coat, and looked about him with
tolerable composure.

‘Afore the governor vith-draws,’ said Mr. Weller, ‘there is a pint,
respecting vich Sammy has a qvestion to ask.  Vile that qvestion is a
perwadin’ this here conwersation, p’raps the genl’men vill permit me to
re-tire.’

‘Wot are you goin’ away for?’ demanded Sam, seizing his father by the
coat-tail.

‘I never see such a undootiful boy as you, Samivel,’ returned Mr. Weller.
‘Didn’t you make a solemn promise, amountin’ almost to a speeches o’ wow,
that you’d put that ’ere qvestion on my account?’

‘Well, I’m agreeable to do it,’ said Sam, ‘but not if you go cuttin’ away
like that, as the bull turned round and mildly observed to the drover ven
they wos a goadin’ him into the butcher’s door.  The fact is, sir,’ said
Sam, addressing me, ‘that he wants to know somethin’ respectin’ that ’ere
lady as is housekeeper here.’

‘Ay.  What is that?’

‘Vy, sir,’ said Sam, grinning still more, ‘he wishes to know vether she—’

‘In short,’ interposed old Mr. Weller decisively, a perspiration breaking
out upon his forehead, ‘vether that ’ere old creetur is or is not a
widder.’

Mr. Pickwick laughed heartily, and so did I, as I replied decisively,
that ‘my housekeeper was a spinster.’

‘There!’ cried Sam, ‘now you’re satisfied.  You hear she’s a spinster.’

‘A wot?’ said his father, with deep scorn.

‘A spinster,’ replied Sam.

Mr. Weller looked very hard at his son for a minute or two, and then
said,

‘Never mind vether she makes jokes or not, that’s no matter.  Wot I say
is, is that ’ere female a widder, or is she not?’

‘Wot do you mean by her making jokes?’ demanded Sam, quite aghast at the
obscurity of his parent’s speech.

‘Never you mind, Samivel,’ returned Mr. Weller gravely; ‘puns may be wery
good things or they may be wery bad ’uns, and a female may be none the
better or she may be none the vurse for making of ’em; that’s got nothing
to do vith widders.’

‘Wy now,’ said Sam, looking round, ‘would anybody believe as a man at his
time o’ life could be running his head agin spinsters and punsters being
the same thing?’

‘There an’t a straw’s difference between ’em,’ said Mr. Weller.  ‘Your
father didn’t drive a coach for so many years, not to be ekal to his own
langvidge as far as _that_ goes, Sammy.’

Avoiding the question of etymology, upon which the old gentleman’s mind
was quite made up, he was several times assured that the housekeeper had
never been married.  He expressed great satisfaction on hearing this, and
apologised for the question, remarking that he had been greatly terrified
by a widow not long before, and that his natural timidity was increased
in consequence.

‘It wos on the rail,’ said Mr. Weller, with strong emphasis; ‘I wos a
goin’ down to Birmingham by the rail, and I wos locked up in a close
carriage vith a living widder.  Alone we wos; the widder and me wos
alone; and I believe it wos only because we _wos_ alone and there wos no
clergyman in the conwayance, that that ’ere widder didn’t marry me afore
ve reached the half-way station.  Ven I think how she began a screaming
as we wos a goin’ under them tunnels in the dark,—how she kept on a
faintin’ and ketchin’ hold o’ me,—and how I tried to bust open the door
as was tight-locked and perwented all escape—Ah!  It was a awful thing,
most awful!’

Mr. Weller was so very much overcome by this retrospect that he was
unable, until he had wiped his brow several times, to return any reply to
the question whether he approved of railway communication,
notwithstanding that it would appear from the answer which he ultimately
gave, that he entertained strong opinions on the subject.

‘I con-sider,’ said Mr. Weller, ‘that the rail is unconstitootional and
an inwaser o’ priwileges, and I should wery much like to know what that
’ere old Carter as once stood up for our liberties and wun ’em too,—I
should like to know wot he vould say, if he wos alive now, to Englishmen
being locked up vith widders, or with anybody again their wills.  Wot a
old Carter would have said, a old Coachman may say, and I as-sert that in
that pint o’ view alone, the rail is an inwaser.  As to the comfort,
vere’s the comfort o’ sittin’ in a harm-cheer lookin’ at brick walls or
heaps o’ mud, never comin’ to a public-house, never seein’ a glass o’
ale, never goin’ through a pike, never meetin’ a change o’ no kind
(horses or othervise), but alvays comin’ to a place, ven you come to one
at all, the wery picter o’ the last, vith the same p’leesemen standing
about, the same blessed old bell a ringin’, the same unfort’nate people
standing behind the bars, a waitin’ to be let in; and everythin’ the same
except the name, vich is wrote up in the same sized letters as the last
name, and vith the same colours.  As to the _h_onour and dignity o’
travellin’, vere can that be vithout a coachman; and wot’s the rail to
sich coachmen and guards as is sometimes forced to go by it, but a
outrage and a insult?  As to the pace, wot sort o’ pace do you think I,
Tony Veller, could have kept a coach goin’ at, for five hundred thousand
pound a mile, paid in adwance afore the coach was on the road?  And as to
the ingein,—a nasty, wheezin’, creakin’, gaspin’, puffin’, bustin’
monster, alvays out o’ breath, vith a shiny green-and-gold back, like a
unpleasant beetle in that ’ere gas magnifier,—as to the ingein as is
alvays a pourin’ out red-hot coals at night, and black smoke in the day,
the sensiblest thing it does, in my opinion, is, ven there’s somethin’ in
the vay, and it sets up that ’ere frightful scream vich seems to say,
“Now here’s two hundred and forty passengers in the wery greatest
extremity o’ danger, and here’s their two hundred and forty screams in
vun!”’

By this time I began to fear that my friends would be rendered impatient
by my protracted absence.  I therefore begged Mr. Pickwick to accompany
me up-stairs, and left the two Mr. Wellers in the care of the
housekeeper, laying strict injunctions upon her to treat them with all
possible hospitality.



IV


THE CLOCK

AS we were going up-stairs, Mr. Pickwick put on his spectacles, which he
had held in his hand hitherto; arranged his neckerchief, smoothed down
his waistcoat, and made many other little preparations of that kind which
men are accustomed to be mindful of, when they are going among strangers
for the first time, and are anxious to impress them pleasantly.  Seeing
that I smiled, he smiled too, and said that if it had occurred to him
before he left home, he would certainly have presented himself in pumps
and silk stockings.

‘I would, indeed, my dear sir,’ he said very seriously; ‘I would have
shown my respect for the society, by laying aside my gaiters.’

‘You may rest assured,’ said I, ‘that they would have regretted your
doing so very much, for they are quite attached to them.’

‘No, really!’ cried Mr. Pickwick, with manifest pleasure.  ‘Do you think
they care about my gaiters?  Do you seriously think that they identify me
at all with my gaiters?’

‘I am sure they do,’ I replied.

‘Well, now,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘that is one of the most charming and
agreeable circumstances that could possibly have occurred to me!’

I should not have written down this short conversation, but that it
developed a slight point in Mr. Pickwick’s character, with which I was
not previously acquainted.  He has a secret pride in his legs.  The
manner in which he spoke, and the accompanying glance he bestowed upon
his tights, convince me that Mr. Pickwick regards his legs with much
innocent vanity.

‘But here are our friends,’ said I, opening the door and taking his arm
in mine; ‘let them speak for themselves.—Gentlemen, I present to you Mr.
Pickwick.’

Mr. Pickwick and I must have been a good contrast just then.  I, leaning
quietly on my crutch-stick, with something of a care-worn, patient air;
he, having hold of my arm, and bowing in every direction with the most
elastic politeness, and an expression of face whose sprightly
cheerfulness and good-humour knew no bounds.  The difference between us
must have been more striking yet, as we advanced towards the table, and
the amiable gentleman, adapting his jocund step to my poor tread, had his
attention divided between treating my infirmities with the utmost
consideration, and affecting to be wholly unconscious that I required
any.

I made him personally known to each of my friends in turn.  First, to the
deaf gentleman, whom he regarded with much interest, and accosted with
great frankness and cordiality.  He had evidently some vague idea, at the
moment, that my friend being deaf must be dumb also; for when the latter
opened his lips to express the pleasure it afforded him to know a
gentleman of whom he had heard so much, Mr. Pickwick was so extremely
disconcerted, that I was obliged to step in to his relief.

His meeting with Jack Redburn was quite a treat to see.  Mr. Pickwick
smiled, and shook hands, and looked at him through his spectacles, and
under them, and over them, and nodded his head approvingly, and then
nodded to me, as much as to say, ‘This is just the man; you were quite
right;’ and then turned to Jack and said a few hearty words, and then did
and said everything over again with unimpaired vivacity.  As to Jack
himself, he was quite as much delighted with Mr. Pickwick as Mr. Pickwick
could possibly be with him.  Two people never can have met together since
the world began, who exchanged a warmer or more enthusiastic greeting.

It was amusing to observe the difference between this encounter and that
which succeeded, between Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Miles.  It was clear that
the latter gentleman viewed our new member as a kind of rival in the
affections of Jack Redburn, and besides this, he had more than once
hinted to me, in secret, that although he had no doubt Mr. Pickwick was a
very worthy man, still he did consider that some of his exploits were
unbecoming a gentleman of his years and gravity.  Over and above these
grounds of distrust, it is one of his fixed opinions, that the law never
can by possibility do anything wrong; he therefore looks upon Mr.
Pickwick as one who has justly suffered in purse and peace for a breach
of his plighted faith to an unprotected female, and holds that he is
called upon to regard him with some suspicion on that account.  These
causes led to a rather cold and formal reception; which Mr. Pickwick
acknowledged with the same stateliness and intense politeness as was
displayed on the other side.  Indeed, he assumed an air of such majestic
defiance, that I was fearful he might break out into some solemn protest
or declaration, and therefore inducted him into his chair without a
moment’s delay.

This piece of generalship was perfectly successful.  The instant he took
his seat, Mr. Pickwick surveyed us all with a most benevolent aspect, and
was taken with a fit of smiling full five minutes long.  His interest in
our ceremonies was immense.  They are not very numerous or complicated,
and a description of them may be comprised in very few words.  As our
transactions have already been, and must necessarily continue to be, more
or less anticipated by being presented in these pages at different times,
and under various forms, they do not require a detailed account.

Our first proceeding when we are assembled is to shake hands all round,
and greet each other with cheerful and pleasant looks.  Remembering that
we assemble not only for the promotion of our happiness, but with the
view of adding something to the common stock, an air of languor or
indifference in any member of our body would be regarded by the others as
a kind of treason.  We have never had an offender in this respect; but if
we had, there is no doubt that he would be taken to task pretty severely.

Our salutation over, the venerable piece of antiquity from which we take
our name is wound up in silence.  The ceremony is always performed by
Master Humphrey himself (in treating of the club, I may be permitted to
assume the historical style, and speak of myself in the third person),
who mounts upon a chair for the purpose, armed with a large key.  While
it is in progress, Jack Redburn is required to keep at the farther end of
the room under the guardianship of Mr. Miles, for he is known to
entertain certain aspiring and unhallowed thoughts connected with the
clock, and has even gone so far as to state that if he might take the
works out for a day or two, he thinks he could improve them.  We pardon
him his presumption in consideration of his good intentions, and his
keeping this respectful distance, which last penalty is insisted on, lest
by secretly wounding the object of our regard in some tender part, in the
ardour of his zeal for its improvement, he should fill us with dismay and
consternation.

This regulation afforded Mr. Pickwick the highest delight, and seemed, if
possible, to exalt Jack in his good opinion.

The next ceremony is the opening of the clock-case (of which Master
Humphrey has likewise the key), the taking from it as many papers as will
furnish forth our evening’s entertainment, and arranging in the recess
such new contributions as have been provided since our last meeting.
This is always done with peculiar solemnity.  The deaf gentleman then
fills and lights his pipe, and we once more take our seats round the
table before mentioned, Master Humphrey acting as president,—if we can be
said to have any president, where all are on the same social footing,—and
our friend Jack as secretary.  Our preliminaries being now concluded, we
fall into any train of conversation that happens to suggest itself, or
proceed immediately to one of our readings.  In the latter case, the
paper selected is consigned to Master Humphrey, who flattens it carefully
on the table and makes dog’s ears in the corner of every page, ready for
turning over easily; Jack Redburn trims the lamp with a small machine of
his own invention which usually puts it out; Mr. Miles looks on with
great approval notwithstanding; the deaf gentleman draws in his chair, so
that he can follow the words on the paper or on Master Humphrey’s lips as
he pleases; and Master Humphrey himself, looking round with mighty
gratification, and glancing up at his old clock, begins to read aloud.

                    [Picture: Proceedings of the Club]

Mr. Pickwick’s face, while his tale was being read, would have attracted
the attention of the dullest man alive.  The complacent motion of his
head and forefinger as he gently beat time, and corrected the air with
imaginary punctuation, the smile that mantled on his features at every
jocose passage, and the sly look he stole around to observe its effect,
the calm manner in which he shut his eyes and listened when there was
some little piece of description, the changing expression with which he
acted the dialogue to himself, his agony that the deaf gentleman should
know what it was all about, and his extraordinary anxiety to correct the
reader when he hesitated at a word in the manuscript, or substituted a
wrong one, were alike worthy of remark.  And when at last, endeavouring
to communicate with the deaf gentleman by means of the finger alphabet,
with which he constructed such words as are unknown in any civilised or
savage language, he took up a slate and wrote in large text, one word in
a line, the question, ‘How—do—you—like—it?’—when he did this, and handing
it over the table awaited the reply, with a countenance only brightened
and improved by his great excitement, even Mr. Miles relaxed, and could
not forbear looking at him for the moment with interest and favour.

‘It has occurred to me,’ said the deaf gentleman, who had watched Mr.
Pickwick and everybody else with silent satisfaction—‘it has occurred to
me,’ said the deaf gentleman, taking his pipe from his lips, ‘that now is
our time for filling our only empty chair.’

As our conversation had naturally turned upon the vacant seat, we lent a
willing ear to this remark, and looked at our friend inquiringly.

‘I feel sure,’ said he, ‘that Mr. Pickwick must be acquainted with
somebody who would be an acquisition to us; that he must know the man we
want.  Pray let us not lose any time, but set this question at rest.  Is
it so, Mr. Pickwick?’

The gentleman addressed was about to return a verbal reply, but
remembering our friend’s infirmity, he substituted for this kind of
answer some fifty nods.  Then taking up the slate and printing on it a
gigantic ‘Yes,’ he handed it across the table, and rubbing his hands as
he looked round upon our faces, protested that he and the deaf gentleman
quite understood each other, already.

‘The person I have in my mind,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘and whom I should not
have presumed to mention to you until some time hence, but for the
opportunity you have given me, is a very strange old man.  His name is
Bamber.’

‘Bamber!’ said Jack.  ‘I have certainly heard the name before.’

‘I have no doubt, then,’ returned Mr. Pickwick, ‘that you remember him in
those adventures of mine (the Posthumous Papers of our old club, I mean),
although he is only incidentally mentioned; and, if I remember right,
appears but once.’

‘That’s it,’ said Jack.  ‘Let me see.  He is the person who has a grave
interest in old mouldy chambers and the Inns of Court, and who relates
some anecdotes having reference to his favourite theme,—and an odd ghost
story,—is that the man?’

‘The very same.  Now,’ said Mr. Pickwick, lowering his voice to a
mysterious and confidential tone, ‘he is a very extraordinary and
remarkable person; living, and talking, and looking, like some strange
spirit, whose delight is to haunt old buildings; and absorbed in that one
subject which you have just mentioned, to an extent which is quite
wonderful.  When I retired into private life, I sought him out, and I do
assure you that the more I see of him, the more strongly I am impressed
with the strange and dreamy character of his mind.’

‘Where does he live?’ I inquired.

‘He lives,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘in one of those dull, lonely old places
with which his thoughts and stories are all connected; quite alone, and
often shut up close for several weeks together.  In this dusty solitude
he broods upon the fancies he has so long indulged, and when he goes into
the world, or anybody from the world without goes to see him, they are
still present to his mind and still his favourite topic.  I may say, I
believe, that he has brought himself to entertain a regard for me, and an
interest in my visits; feelings which I am certain he would extend to
Master Humphrey’s Clock if he were once tempted to join us.  All I wish
you to understand is, that he is a strange, secluded visionary, in the
world but not of it; and as unlike anybody here as he is unlike anybody
elsewhere that I have ever met or known.’

Mr. Miles received this account of our proposed companion with rather a
wry face, and after murmuring that perhaps he was a little mad, inquired
if he were rich.

‘I never asked him,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘You might know, sir, for all that,’ retorted Mr. Miles, sharply.

‘Perhaps so, sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, no less sharply than the other,
‘but I do not.  Indeed,’ he added, relapsing into his usual mildness, ‘I
have no means of judging.  He lives poorly, but that would seem to be in
keeping with his character.  I never heard him allude to his
circumstances, and never fell into the society of any man who had the
slightest acquaintance with them.  I have really told you all I know
about him, and it rests with you to say whether you wish to know more, or
know quite enough already.’

We were unanimously of opinion that we would seek to know more; and as a
sort of compromise with Mr. Miles (who, although he said ‘Yes—O
certainly—he should like to know more about the gentleman—he had no right
to put himself in opposition to the general wish,’ and so forth, shook
his head doubtfully and hemmed several times with peculiar gravity), it
was arranged that Mr. Pickwick should carry me with him on an evening
visit to the subject of our discussion, for which purpose an early
appointment between that gentleman and myself was immediately agreed
upon; it being understood that I was to act upon my own responsibility,
and to invite him to join us or not, as I might think proper.  This
solemn question determined, we returned to the clock-case (where we have
been forestalled by the reader), and between its contents, and the
conversation they occasioned, the remainder of our time passed very
quickly.

When we broke up, Mr. Pickwick took me aside to tell me that he had spent
a most charming and delightful evening.  Having made this communication
with an air of the strictest secrecy, he took Jack Redburn into another
corner to tell him the same, and then retired into another corner with
the deaf gentleman and the slate, to repeat the assurance.  It was
amusing to observe the contest in his mind whether he should extend his
confidence to Mr. Miles, or treat him with dignified reserve.  Half a
dozen times he stepped up behind him with a friendly air, and as often
stepped back again without saying a word; at last, when he was close at
that gentleman’s ear and upon the very point of whispering something
conciliating and agreeable, Mr. Miles happened suddenly to turn his head,
upon which Mr. Pickwick skipped away, and said with some fierceness,
‘Good night, sir—I was about to say good night, sir,—nothing more;’ and
so made a bow and left him.

‘Now, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, when he had got down-stairs.

‘All right, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller.  ‘Hold hard, sir.  Right arm
fust—now the left—now one strong conwulsion, and the great-coat’s on,
sir.’

Mr. Pickwick acted upon these directions, and being further assisted by
Sam, who pulled at one side of the collar, and Mr. Weller, who pulled
hard at the other, was speedily enrobed.  Mr. Weller, senior, then
produced a full-sized stable lantern, which he had carefully deposited in
a remote corner, on his arrival, and inquired whether Mr. Pickwick would
have ‘the lamps alight.’

‘I think not to-night,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Then if this here lady vill per-mit,’ rejoined Mr. Weller, ‘we’ll leave
it here, ready for next journey.  This here lantern, mum,’ said Mr.
Weller, handing it to the housekeeper, ‘vunce belonged to the celebrated
Bill Blinder as is now at grass, as all on us vill be in our turns.
Bill, mum, wos the hostler as had charge o’ them two vell-known piebald
leaders that run in the Bristol fast coach, and vould never go to no
other tune but a sutherly vind and a cloudy sky, which wos consekvently
played incessant, by the guard, wenever they wos on duty.  He wos took
wery bad one arternoon, arter having been off his feed, and wery shaky on
his legs for some veeks; and he says to his mate, “Matey,” he says, “I
think I’m a-goin’ the wrong side o’ the post, and that my foot’s wery
near the bucket.  Don’t say I an’t,” he says, “for I know I am, and don’t
let me be interrupted,” he says, “for I’ve saved a little money, and I’m
a-goin’ into the stable to make my last vill and testymint.”  “I’ll take
care as nobody interrupts,” says his mate, “but you on’y hold up your
head, and shake your ears a bit, and you’re good for twenty years to
come.”  Bill Blinder makes him no answer, but he goes avay into the
stable, and there he soon artervards lays himself down a’tween the two
piebalds, and dies,—previously a writin’ outside the corn-chest, “This is
the last vill and testymint of Villiam Blinder.”  They wos nat’rally wery
much amazed at this, and arter looking among the litter, and up in the
loft, and vere not, they opens the corn-chest, and finds that he’d been
and chalked his vill inside the lid; so the lid was obligated to be took
off the hinges, and sent up to Doctor Commons to be proved, and under
that ’ere wery instrument this here lantern was passed to Tony Veller;
vich circumstarnce, mum, gives it a wally in my eyes, and makes me
rekvest, if you vill be so kind, as to take partickler care on it.’

The housekeeper graciously promised to keep the object of Mr. Weller’s
regard in the safest possible custody, and Mr. Pickwick, with a laughing
face, took his leave.  The bodyguard followed, side by side; old Mr.
Weller buttoned and wrapped up from his boots to his chin; and Sam with
his hands in his pockets and his hat half off his head, remonstrating
with his father, as he went, on his extreme loquacity.

I was not a little surprised, on turning to go up-stairs, to encounter
the barber in the passage at that late hour; for his attendance is
usually confined to some half-hour in the morning.  But Jack Redburn, who
finds out (by instinct, I think) everything that happens in the house,
informed me with great glee, that a society in imitation of our own had
been that night formed in the kitchen, under the title of ‘Mr. Weller’s
Watch,’ of which the barber was a member; and that he could pledge
himself to find means of making me acquainted with the whole of its
future proceedings, which I begged him, both on my own account and that
of my readers, by no means to neglect doing. {292}

        [Picture: The Last Will and Testament of William Blinder]



V


MR. WELLER’S WATCH

IT seems that the housekeeper and the two Mr. Wellers were no sooner left
together on the occasion of their first becoming acquainted, than the
housekeeper called to her assistance Mr. Slithers the barber, who had
been lurking in the kitchen in expectation of her summons; and with many
smiles and much sweetness introduced him as one who would assist her in
the responsible office of entertaining her distinguished visitors.

‘Indeed,’ said she, ‘without Mr. Slithers I should have been placed in
quite an awkward situation.’

‘There is no call for any hock’erdness, mum,’ said Mr. Weller with the
utmost politeness; ‘no call wotsumever.  A lady,’ added the old
gentleman, looking about him with the air of one who establishes an
incontrovertible position,—‘a lady can’t be hock’erd.  Natur’ has
otherwise purwided.’

The housekeeper inclined her head and smiled yet more sweetly.  The
barber, who had been fluttering about Mr. Weller and Sam in a state of
great anxiety to improve their acquaintance, rubbed his hands and cried,
‘Hear, hear!  Very true, sir;’ whereupon Sam turned about and steadily
regarded him for some seconds in silence.

‘I never knew,’ said Sam, fixing his eyes in a ruminative manner upon the
blushing barber,—‘I never knew but vun o’ your trade, but _he_ wos worth
a dozen, and wos indeed dewoted to his callin’!’

‘Was he in the easy shaving way, sir,’ inquired Mr. Slithers; ‘or in the
cutting and curling line?’

‘Both,’ replied Sam; ‘easy shavin’ was his natur’, and cuttin’ and
curlin’ was his pride and glory.  His whole delight wos in his trade.  He
spent all his money in bears, and run in debt for ’em besides, and there
they wos a growling avay down in the front cellar all day long, and
ineffectooally gnashing their teeth, vile the grease o’ their relations
and friends wos being re-tailed in gallipots in the shop above, and the
first-floor winder wos ornamented vith their heads; not to speak o’ the
dreadful aggrawation it must have been to ’em to see a man alvays a
walkin’ up and down the pavement outside, vith the portrait of a bear in
his last agonies, and underneath in large letters, “Another fine animal
wos slaughtered yesterday at Jinkinson’s!”  Hows’ever, there they wos,
and there Jinkinson wos, till he wos took wery ill with some inn’ard
disorder, lost the use of his legs, and wos confined to his bed, vere he
laid a wery long time, but sich wos his pride in his profession, even
then, that wenever he wos worse than usual the doctor used to go
down-stairs and say, “Jinkinson’s wery low this mornin’; we must give the
bears a stir;” and as sure as ever they stirred ’em up a bit and made ’em
roar, Jinkinson opens his eyes if he wos ever so bad, calls out, “There’s
the bears!” and rewives agin.’

‘Astonishing!’ cried the barber.

‘Not a bit,’ said Sam, ‘human natur’ neat as imported.  Vun day the
doctor happenin’ to say, “I shall look in as usual to-morrow mornin’,”
Jinkinson catches hold of his hand and says, “Doctor,” he says, “will you
grant me one favour?”  “I will, Jinkinson,” says the doctor.  “Then,
doctor,” says Jinkinson, “vill you come unshaved, and let me shave you?”
“I will,” says the doctor.  “God bless you,” says Jinkinson.  Next day
the doctor came, and arter he’d been shaved all skilful and reg’lar, he
says, “Jinkinson,” he says, “it’s wery plain this does you good.  Now,”
he says, “I’ve got a coachman as has got a beard that it ’ud warm your
heart to work on, and though the footman,” he says, “hasn’t got much of a
beard, still he’s a trying it on vith a pair o’ viskers to that extent
that razors is Christian charity.  If they take it in turns to mind the
carriage when it’s a waitin’ below,” he says, “wot’s to hinder you from
operatin’ on both of ’em ev’ry day as well as upon me? you’ve got six
children,” he says, “wot’s to hinder you from shavin’ all their heads and
keepin’ ’em shaved? you’ve got two assistants in the shop down-stairs,
wot’s to hinder you from cuttin’ and curlin’ them as often as you like?
Do this,” he says, “and you’re a man agin.”  Jinkinson squeedged the
doctor’s hand and begun that wery day; he kept his tools upon the bed,
and wenever he felt his-self gettin’ worse, he turned to at vun o’ the
children who wos a runnin’ about the house vith heads like clean Dutch
cheeses, and shaved him agin.  Vun day the lawyer come to make his vill;
all the time he wos a takin’ it down, Jinkinson was secretly a clippin’
avay at his hair vith a large pair of scissors.  “Wot’s that ’ere
snippin’ noise?” says the lawyer every now and then; “it’s like a man
havin’ his hair cut.”  “It _is_ wery like a man havin’ his hair cut,”
says poor Jinkinson, hidin’ the scissors, and lookin’ quite innocent.  By
the time the lawyer found it out, he was wery nearly bald.  Jinkinson wos
kept alive in this vay for a long time, but at last vun day he has in all
the children vun arter another, shaves each on ’em wery clean, and gives
him vun kiss on the crown o’ his head; then he has in the two assistants,
and arter cuttin’ and curlin’ of ’em in the first style of elegance, says
he should like to hear the woice o’ the greasiest bear, vich rekvest is
immediately complied with; then he says that he feels wery happy in his
mind and vishes to be left alone; and then he dies, previously cuttin’
his own hair and makin’ one flat curl in the wery middle of his
forehead.’

This anecdote produced an extraordinary effect, not only upon Mr.
Slithers, but upon the housekeeper also, who evinced so much anxiety to
please and be pleased, that Mr. Weller, with a manner betokening some
alarm, conveyed a whispered inquiry to his son whether he had gone ‘too
fur.’

‘Wot do you mean by too fur?’ demanded Sam.

‘In that ’ere little compliment respectin’ the want of hock’erdness in
ladies, Sammy,’ replied his father.

‘You don’t think she’s fallen in love with you in consekens o’ that, do
you?’ said Sam.

‘More unlikelier things have come to pass, my boy,’ replied Mr. Weller in
a hoarse whisper; ‘I’m always afeerd of inadwertent captiwation, Sammy.
If I know’d how to make myself ugly or unpleasant, I’d do it, Samivel,
rayther than live in this here state of perpetival terror!’

Mr. Weller had, at that time, no further opportunity of dwelling upon the
apprehensions which beset his mind, for the immediate occasion of his
fears proceeded to lead the way down-stairs, apologising as they went for
conducting him into the kitchen, which apartment, however, she was
induced to proffer for his accommodation in preference to her own little
room, the rather as it afforded greater facilities for smoking, and was
immediately adjoining the ale-cellar.  The preparations which were
already made sufficiently proved that these were not mere words of
course, for on the deal table were a sturdy ale-jug and glasses, flanked
with clean pipes and a plentiful supply of tobacco for the old gentleman
and his son, while on a dresser hard by was goodly store of cold meat and
other eatables.  At sight of these arrangements Mr. Weller was at first
distracted between his love of joviality and his doubts whether they were
not to be considered as so many evidences of captivation having already
taken place; but he soon yielded to his natural impulse, and took his
seat at the table with a very jolly countenance.

‘As to imbibin’ any o’ this here flagrant veed, mum, in the presence of a
lady,’ said Mr. Weller, taking up a pipe and laying it down again, ‘it
couldn’t be.  Samivel, total abstinence, if _you_ please.’

‘But I like it of all things,’ said the housekeeper.

‘No,’ rejoined Mr. Weller, shaking his head,—‘no.’

‘Upon my word I do,’ said the housekeeper.  ‘Mr. Slithers knows I do.’

Mr. Weller coughed, and notwithstanding the barber’s confirmation of the
statement, said ‘No’ again, but more feebly than before.  The housekeeper
lighted a piece of paper, and insisted on applying it to the bowl of the
pipe with her own fair hands; Mr. Weller resisted; the housekeeper cried
that her fingers would be burnt; Mr. Weller gave way.  The pipe was
ignited, Mr. Weller drew a long puff of smoke, and detecting himself in
the very act of smiling on the housekeeper, put a sudden constraint upon
his countenance and looked sternly at the candle, with a determination
not to captivate, himself, or encourage thoughts of captivation in
others.  From this iron frame of mind he was roused by the voice of his
son.

‘I don’t think,’ said Sam, who was smoking with great composure and
enjoyment, ‘that if the lady wos agreeable it ’ud be wery far out o’ the
vay for us four to make up a club of our own like the governors does
up-stairs, and let him,’ Sam pointed with the stem of his pipe towards
his parent, ‘be the president.’

The housekeeper affably declared that it was the very thing she had been
thinking of.  The barber said the same.  Mr. Weller said nothing, but he
laid down his pipe as if in a fit of inspiration, and performed the
following manœuvres.

Unbuttoning the three lower buttons of his waistcoat and pausing for a
moment to enjoy the easy flow of breath consequent upon this process, he
laid violent hands upon his watch-chain, and slowly and with extreme
difficulty drew from his fob an immense double-cased silver watch, which
brought the lining of the pocket with it, and was not to be disentangled
but by great exertions and an amazing redness of face.  Having fairly got
it out at last, he detached the outer case and wound it up with a key of
corresponding magnitude; then put the case on again, and having applied
the watch to his ear to ascertain that it was still going, gave it some
half-dozen hard knocks on the table to improve its performance.

‘That,’ said Mr. Weller, laying it on the table with its face upwards,
‘is the title and emblem o’ this here society.  Sammy, reach them two
stools this vay for the wacant cheers.  Ladies and gen’lmen, Mr. Weller’s
Watch is vound up and now a-goin’.  Order!’

By way of enforcing this proclamation, Mr. Weller, using the watch after
the manner of a president’s hammer, and remarking with great pride that
nothing hurt it, and that falls and concussions of all kinds materially
enhanced the excellence of the works and assisted the regulator, knocked
the table a great many times, and declared the association formally
constituted.

‘And don’t let’s have no grinnin’ at the cheer, Samivel,’ said Mr. Weller
to his son, ‘or I shall be committin’ you to the cellar, and then p’r’aps
we may get into what the ‘Merrikins call a fix, and the English a
qvestion o’ privileges.’

Having uttered this friendly caution, the President settled himself in
his chair with great dignity, and requested that Mr. Samuel would relate
an anecdote.

‘I’ve told one,’ said Sam.

‘Wery good, sir; tell another,’ returned the chair.

‘We wos a talking jist now, sir,’ said Sam, turning to Slithers, ‘about
barbers.  Pursuing that ’ere fruitful theme, sir, I’ll tell you in a wery
few words a romantic little story about another barber as p’r’aps you may
never have heerd.’

‘Samivel!’ said Mr. Weller, again bringing his watch and the table into
smart collision, ‘address your obserwations to the cheer, sir, and not to
priwate indiwiduals!’

                         [Picture: A Rival Club]

‘And if I might rise to order,’ said the barber in a soft voice, and
looking round him with a conciliatory smile as he leant over the table,
with the knuckles of his left hand resting upon it,—‘if I _might_ rise to
order, I would suggest that “barbers” is not exactly the kind of language
which is agreeable and soothing to our feelings.  You, sir, will correct
me if I’m wrong, but I believe there _is_ such a word in the dictionary
as hairdressers.’

‘Well, but suppose he wasn’t a hairdresser,’ suggested Sam.

‘Wy then, sir, be parliamentary and call him vun all the more,’ returned
his father.  ‘In the same vay as ev’ry gen’lman in another place is a
_h_onourable, ev’ry barber in this place is a hairdresser.  Ven you read
the speeches in the papers, and see as vun gen’lman says of another, “the
_h_onourable member, if he vill allow me to call him so,” you vill
understand, sir, that that means, “if he vill allow me to keep up that
’ere pleasant and uniwersal fiction.”’

It is a common remark, confirmed by history and experience, that great
men rise with the circumstances in which they are placed.  Mr. Weller
came out so strong in his capacity of chairman, that Sam was for some
time prevented from speaking by a grin of surprise, which held his
faculties enchained, and at last subsided in a long whistle of a single
note.  Nay, the old gentleman appeared even to have astonished himself,
and that to no small extent, as was demonstrated by the vast amount of
chuckling in which he indulged, after the utterance of these lucid
remarks.

‘Here’s the story,’ said Sam.  ‘Vunce upon a time there wos a young
hairdresser as opened a wery smart little shop vith four wax dummies in
the winder, two gen’lmen and two ladies—the gen’lmen vith blue dots for
their beards, wery large viskers, oudacious heads of hair, uncommon clear
eyes, and nostrils of amazin’ pinkness; the ladies vith their heads o’
one side, their right forefingers on their lips, and their forms
deweloped beautiful, in vich last respect they had the adwantage over the
gen’lmen, as wasn’t allowed but wery little shoulder, and terminated
rayther abrupt in fancy drapery.  He had also a many hair-brushes and
tooth-brushes bottled up in the winder, neat glass-cases on the counter,
a floor-clothed cuttin’-room up-stairs, and a weighin’-macheen in the
shop, right opposite the door.  But the great attraction and ornament wos
the dummies, which this here young hairdresser wos constantly a runnin’
out in the road to look at, and constantly a runnin’ in again to touch up
and polish; in short, he wos so proud on ’em, that ven Sunday come, he
wos always wretched and mis’rable to think they wos behind the shutters,
and looked anxiously for Monday on that account.  Vun o’ these dummies
wos a favrite vith him beyond the others; and ven any of his acquaintance
asked him wy he didn’t get married—as the young ladies he know’d, in
partickler, often did—he used to say, “Never!  I never vill enter into
the bonds of vedlock,” he says, “until I meet vith a young ’ooman as
realises my idea o’ that ’ere fairest dummy vith the light hair.  Then,
and not till then,” he says, “I vill approach the altar.”  All the young
ladies he know’d as had got dark hair told him this wos wery sinful, and
that he wos wurshippin’ a idle; but them as wos at all near the same
shade as the dummy coloured up wery much, and wos observed to think him a
wery nice young man.’

‘Samivel,’ said Mr. Weller, gravely, ‘a member o’ this associashun bein’
one o’ that ’ere tender sex which is now immedetly referred to, I have to
rekvest that you vill make no reflections.’

‘I ain’t a makin’ any, am I?’ inquired Sam.

‘Order, sir!’ rejoined Mr. Weller, with severe dignity.  Then, sinking
the chairman in the father, he added, in his usual tone of voice:
‘Samivel, drive on!’

Sam interchanged a smile with the housekeeper, and proceeded:

‘The young hairdresser hadn’t been in the habit o’ makin’ this avowal
above six months, ven he en-countered a young lady as wos the wery picter
o’ the fairest dummy.  “Now,” he says, “it’s all up.  I am a slave!”  The
young lady wos not only the picter o’ the fairest dummy, but she was wery
romantic, as the young hairdresser was, too, and he says, “O!” he says,
“here’s a community o’ feelin’, here’s a flow o’ soul!” he says, “here’s
a interchange o’ sentiment!”  The young lady didn’t say much, o’ course,
but she expressed herself agreeable, and shortly artervards vent to see
him vith a mutual friend.  The hairdresser rushes out to meet her, but
d’rectly she sees the dummies she changes colour and falls a tremblin’
wiolently.  “Look up, my love,” says the hairdresser, “behold your imige
in my winder, but not correcter than in my art!”  “My imige!” she says.
“Yourn!” replies the hairdresser.  “But whose imige is _that_?” she says,
a pinting at vun o’ the gen’lmen.  “No vun’s, my love,” he says, “it is
but a idea.”  “A idea!” she cries: “it is a portrait, I feel it is a
portrait, and that ’ere noble face must be in the millingtary!”  “Wot do
I hear!” says he, a crumplin’ his curls.  “Villiam Gibbs,” she says,
quite firm, “never renoo the subject.  I respect you as a friend,” she
says, “but my affections is set upon that manly brow.”  “This,” says the
hairdresser, “is a reg’lar blight, and in it I perceive the hand of Fate.
Farevell!”  Vith these vords he rushes into the shop, breaks the dummy’s
nose vith a blow of his curlin’-irons, melts him down at the parlour
fire, and never smiles artervards.’

‘The young lady, Mr. Weller?’ said the housekeeper.

‘Why, ma’am,’ said Sam, ‘finding that Fate had a spite agin her, and
everybody she come into contact vith, she never smiled neither, but read
a deal o’ poetry and pined avay,—by rayther slow degrees, for she ain’t
dead yet.  It took a deal o’ poetry to kill the hairdresser, and some
people say arter all that it was more the gin and water as caused him to
be run over; p’r’aps it was a little o’ both, and came o’ mixing the
two.’

The barber declared that Mr. Weller had related one of the most
interesting stories that had ever come within his knowledge, in which
opinion the housekeeper entirely concurred.

‘Are you a married man, sir?’ inquired Sam.

The barber replied that he had not that honour.

‘I s’pose you mean to be?’ said Sam.

‘Well,’ replied the barber, rubbing his hands smirkingly, ‘I don’t know,
I don’t think it’s very likely.’

‘That’s a bad sign,’ said Sam; ‘if you’d said you meant to be vun o’
these days, I should ha’ looked upon you as bein’ safe.  You’re in a wery
precarious state.’

‘I am not conscious of any danger, at all events,’ returned the barber.

‘No more wos I, sir,’ said the elder Mr. Weller, interposing; ‘those vere
my symptoms, exactly.  I’ve been took that vay twice.  Keep your vether
eye open, my friend, or you’re gone.’

There was something so very solemn about this admonition, both in its
matter and manner, and also in the way in which Mr. Weller still kept his
eye fixed upon the unsuspecting victim, that nobody cared to speak for
some little time, and might not have cared to do so for some time longer,
if the housekeeper had not happened to sigh, which called off the old
gentleman’s attention and gave rise to a gallant inquiry whether ‘there
wos anythin’ wery piercin’ in that ’ere little heart?’

‘Dear me, Mr. Weller!’ said the housekeeper, laughing.

‘No, but is there anythin’ as agitates it?’ pursued the old gentleman.
‘Has it always been obderrate, always opposed to the happiness o’ human
creeturs?  Eh?  Has it?’

At this critical juncture for her blushes and confusion, the housekeeper
discovered that more ale was wanted, and hastily withdrew into the cellar
to draw the same, followed by the barber, who insisted on carrying the
candle.  Having looked after her with a very complacent expression of
face, and after him with some disdain, Mr. Weller caused his glance to
travel slowly round the kitchen, until at length it rested on his son.

‘Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller, ‘I mistrust that barber.’

‘Wot for?’ returned Sam; ‘wot’s he got to do with you?  You’re a nice
man, you are, arter pretendin’ all kinds o’ terror, to go a payin’
compliments and talkin’ about hearts and piercers.’

The imputation of gallantry appeared to afford Mr. Weller the utmost
delight, for he replied in a voice choked by suppressed laughter, and
with the tears in his eyes,

‘Wos I a talkin’ about hearts and piercers,—wos I though, Sammy, eh?’

‘Wos you? of course you wos.’

‘She don’t know no better, Sammy, there ain’t no harm in it,—no danger,
Sammy; she’s only a punster.  She seemed pleased, though, didn’t she?  O’
course, she wos pleased, it’s nat’ral she should be, wery nat’ral.’

‘He’s wain of it!’ exclaimed Sam, joining in his father’s mirth.  ‘He’s
actually wain!’

‘Hush!’ replied Mr. Weller, composing his features, ‘they’re a comin’
back,—the little heart’s a comin’ back.  But mark these wurds o’ mine
once more, and remember ’em ven your father says he said ’em.  Samivel, I
mistrust that ’ere deceitful barber.’ {300}



VI


MASTER HUMPHREY, FROM HIS CLOCK-SIDE IN THE CHIMNEY CORNER

TWO or three evenings after the institution of Mr. Weller’s Watch, I
thought I heard, as I walked in the garden, the voice of Mr. Weller
himself at no great distance; and stopping once or twice to listen more
attentively, I found that the sounds proceeded from my housekeeper’s
little sitting-room, which is at the back of the house.  I took no
further notice of the circumstance at that time, but it formed the
subject of a conversation between me and my friend Jack Redburn next
morning, when I found that I had not been deceived in my impression.
Jack furnished me with the following particulars; and as he appeared to
take extraordinary pleasure in relating them, I have begged him in future
to jot down any such domestic scenes or occurrences that may please his
humour, in order that they may be told in his own way.  I must confess
that, as Mr. Pickwick and he are constantly together, I have been
influenced, in making this request, by a secret desire to know something
of their proceedings.

On the evening in question, the housekeeper’s room was arranged with
particular care, and the housekeeper herself was very smartly dressed.
The preparations, however, were not confined to mere showy
demonstrations, as tea was prepared for three persons, with a small
display of preserves and jams and sweet cakes, which heralded some
uncommon occasion.  Miss Benton (my housekeeper bears that name) was in a
state of great expectation, too, frequently going to the front door and
looking anxiously down the lane, and more than once observing to the
servant-girl that she expected company, and hoped no accident had
happened to delay them.

A modest ring at the bell at length allayed her fears, and Miss Benton,
hurrying into her own room and shutting herself up, in order that she
might preserve that appearance of being taken by surprise which is so
essential to the polite reception of visitors, awaited their coming with
a smiling countenance.

‘Good ev’nin’, mum,’ said the older Mr. Weller, looking in at the door
after a prefatory tap.  ‘I’m afeerd we’ve come in rayther arter the time,
mum, but the young colt being full o’ wice, has been’ a boltin’ and
shyin’ and gettin’ his leg over the traces to sich a extent that if he
an’t wery soon broke in, he’ll wex me into a broken heart, and then he’ll
never be brought out no more except to learn his letters from the writin’
on his grandfather’s tombstone.’

With these pathetic words, which were addressed to something outside the
door about two feet six from the ground, Mr. Weller introduced a very
small boy firmly set upon a couple of very sturdy legs, who looked as if
nothing could ever knock him down.  Besides having a very round face
strongly resembling Mr. Weller’s, and a stout little body of exactly his
build, this young gentleman, standing with his little legs very wide
apart, as if the top-boots were familiar to them, actually winked upon
the housekeeper with his infant eye, in imitation of his grandfather.

                    [Picture: A Chip of the Old Block]

‘There’s a naughty boy, mum,’ said Mr. Weller, bursting with delight,
‘there’s a immoral Tony.  Wos there ever a little chap o’ four year and
eight months old as vinked his eye at a strange lady afore?’

As little affected by this observation as by the former appeal to his
feelings, Master Weller elevated in the air a small model of a coach whip
which he carried in his hand, and addressing the housekeeper with a
shrill ‘ya—hip!’ inquired if she was ‘going down the road;’ at which
happy adaptation of a lesson he had been taught from infancy, Mr. Weller
could restrain his feelings no longer, but gave him twopence on the spot.

‘It’s in wain to deny it, mum,’ said Mr. Weller, ‘this here is a boy
arter his grandfather’s own heart, and beats out all the boys as ever wos
or will be.  Though at the same time, mum,’ added Mr. Weller, trying to
look gravely down upon his favourite, ‘it was wery wrong on him to want
to—over all the posts as we come along, and wery cruel on him to force
poor grandfather to lift him cross-legged over every vun of ’em.  He
wouldn’t pass vun single blessed post, mum, and at the top o’ the lane
there’s seven-and-forty on ’em all in a row, and wery close together.’

Here Mr. Weller, whose feelings were in a perpetual conflict between
pride in his grandson’s achievements and a sense of his own
responsibility, and the importance of impressing him with moral truths,
burst into a fit of laughter, and suddenly checking himself, remarked in
a severe tone that little boys as made their grandfathers put ’em over
posts never went to heaven at any price.

By this time the housekeeper had made tea, and little Tony, placed on a
chair beside her, with his eyes nearly on a level with the top of the
table, was provided with various delicacies which yielded him extreme
contentment.  The housekeeper (who seemed rather afraid of the child,
notwithstanding her caresses) then patted him on the head, and declared
that he was the finest boy she had ever seen.

‘Wy, mum,’ said Mr. Weller, ‘I don’t think you’ll see a many sich, and
that’s the truth.  But if my son Samivel vould give me my vay, mum, and
only dis-pense vith his—_might_ I wenter to say the vurd?’

‘What word, Mr. Weller?’ said the housekeeper, blushing slightly.

‘Petticuts, mum,’ returned that gentleman, laying his hand upon the
garments of his grandson.  ‘If my son Samivel, mum, vould only dis-pense
vith these here, you’d see such a alteration in his appearance, as the
imagination can’t depicter.’

‘But what would you have the child wear instead, Mr. Weller?’ said the
housekeeper.

‘I’ve offered my son Samivel, mum, agen and agen,’ returned the old
gentleman, ‘to purwide him at my own cost vith a suit o’ clothes as ’ud
be the makin’ on him, and form his mind in infancy for those pursuits as
I hope the family o’ the Vellers vill alvays dewote themselves to.  Tony,
my boy, tell the lady wot them clothes are, as grandfather says, father
ought to let you vear.’

‘A little white hat and a little sprig weskut and little knee cords and
little top-boots and a little green coat with little bright buttons and a
little welwet collar,’ replied Tony, with great readiness and no stops.

‘That’s the cos-toom, mum,’ said Mr. Weller, looking proudly at the
housekeeper.  ‘Once make sich a model on him as that, and you’d say he
_wos_ an angel!’

Perhaps the housekeeper thought that in such a guise young Tony would
look more like the angel at Islington than anything else of that name, or
perhaps she was disconcerted to find her previously-conceived ideas
disturbed, as angels are not commonly represented in top-boots and sprig
waistcoats.  She coughed doubtfully, but said nothing.

‘How many brothers and sisters have you, my dear?’ she asked, after a
short silence.

‘One brother and no sister at all,’ replied Tony.  ‘Sam his name is, and
so’s my father’s.  Do you know my father?’

‘O yes, I know him,’ said the housekeeper, graciously.

‘Is my father fond of you?’ pursued Tony.

‘I hope so,’ rejoined the smiling housekeeper.

Tony considered a moment, and then said, ‘Is my grandfather fond of you?’

This would seem a very easy question to answer, but instead of replying
to it, the housekeeper smiled in great confusion, and said that really
children did ask such extraordinary questions that it was the most
difficult thing in the world to talk to them.  Mr. Weller took upon
himself to reply that he was very fond of the lady; but the housekeeper
entreating that he would not put such things into the child’s head, Mr.
Weller shook his own while she looked another way, and seemed to be
troubled with a misgiving that captivation was in progress.  It was,
perhaps, on this account that he changed the subject precipitately.

‘It’s wery wrong in little boys to make game o’ their grandfathers, an’t
it, mum?’ said Mr. Weller, shaking his head waggishly, until Tony looked
at him, when he counterfeited the deepest dejection and sorrow.

‘O, very sad!’ assented the housekeeper.  ‘But I hope no little boys do
that?’

‘There is vun young Turk, mum,’ said Mr. Weller, ‘as havin’ seen his
grandfather a little overcome vith drink on the occasion of a friend’s
birthday, goes a reelin’ and staggerin’ about the house, and makin’
believe that he’s the old gen’lm’n.’

‘O, quite shocking!’ cried the housekeeper,

‘Yes, mum,’ said Mr. Weller; ‘and previously to so doin’, this here young
traitor that I’m a speakin’ of, pinches his little nose to make it red,
and then he gives a hiccup and says, “I’m all right,” he says; “give us
another song!”  Ha, ha!  “Give us another song,” he says.  Ha, ha, ha!’

In his excessive delight, Mr. Weller was quite unmindful of his moral
responsibility, until little Tony kicked up his legs, and laughing
immoderately, cried, ‘That was me, that was;’ whereupon the grandfather,
by a great effort, became extremely solemn.

‘No, Tony, not you,’ said Mr. Weller.  ‘I hope it warn’t you, Tony.  It
must ha’ been that ’ere naughty little chap as comes sometimes out o’ the
empty watch-box round the corner,—that same little chap as wos found
standing on the table afore the looking-glass, pretending to shave
himself vith a oyster-knife.’

‘He didn’t hurt himself, I hope?’ observed the housekeeper.

‘Not he, mum,’ said Mr. Weller proudly; ‘bless your heart, you might
trust that ’ere boy vith a steam-engine a’most, he’s such a knowin’
young’—but suddenly recollecting himself and observing that Tony
perfectly understood and appreciated the compliment, the old gentleman
groaned and observed that ‘it wos all wery shockin’—wery.’

‘O, he’s a bad ’un,’ said Mr. Weller, ‘is that ’ere watch-box boy, makin’
such a noise and litter in the back yard, he does, waterin’ wooden horses
and feedin’ of ’em vith grass, and perpetivally spillin’ his little
brother out of a veelbarrow and frightenin’ his mother out of her vits,
at the wery moment wen she’s expectin’ to increase his stock of happiness
vith another play-feller,—O, he’s a bad one!  He’s even gone so far as to
put on a pair of paper spectacles as he got his father to make for him,
and walk up and down the garden vith his hands behind him in imitation of
Mr. Pickwick,—but Tony don’t do sich things, O no!’

‘O no!’ echoed Tony.

‘He knows better, he does,’ said Mr. Weller.  ‘He knows that if he wos to
come sich games as these nobody wouldn’t love him, and that his
grandfather in partickler couldn’t abear the sight on him; for vich
reasons Tony’s always good.’

‘Always good,’ echoed Tony; and his grandfather immediately took him on
his knee and kissed him, at the same time, with many nods and winks,
slyly pointing at the child’s head with his thumb, in order that the
housekeeper, otherwise deceived by the admirable manner in which he (Mr.
Weller) had sustained his character, might not suppose that any other
young gentleman was referred to, and might clearly understand that the
boy of the watch-box was but an imaginary creation, and a fetch of Tony
himself, invented for his improvement and reformation.

Not confining himself to a mere verbal description of his grandson’s
abilities, Mr. Weller, when tea was finished, invited him by various
gifts of pence and halfpence to smoke imaginary pipes, drink visionary
beer from real pots, imitate his grandfather without reserve, and in
particular to go through the drunken scene, which threw the old gentleman
into ecstasies and filled the housekeeper with wonder.  Nor was Mr.
Weller’s pride satisfied with even this display, for when he took his
leave he carried the child, like some rare and astonishing curiosity,
first to the barber’s house and afterwards to the tobacconist’s, at each
of which places he repeated his performances with the utmost effect to
applauding and delighted audiences.  It was half-past nine o’clock when
Mr. Weller was last seen carrying him home upon his shoulder, and it has
been whispered abroad that at that time the infant Tony was rather
intoxicated. {306}

                                * * * * *

I was musing the other evening upon the characters and incidents with
which I had been so long engaged; wondering how I could ever have looked
forward with pleasure to the completion of my tale, and reproaching
myself for having done so, as if it were a kind of cruelty to those
companions of my solitude whom I had now dismissed, and could never again
recall; when my clock struck ten.  Punctual to the hour, my friends
appeared.

On our last night of meeting, we had finished the story which the reader
has just concluded.  Our conversation took the same current as the
meditations which the entrance of my friends had interrupted, and The Old
Curiosity Shop was the staple of our discourse.

I may confide to the reader now, that in connection with this little
history I had something upon my mind; something to communicate which I
had all along with difficulty repressed; something I had deemed it,
during the progress of the story, necessary to its interest to disguise,
and which, now that it was over, I wished, and was yet reluctant, to
disclose.

To conceal anything from those to whom I am attached, is not in my
nature.  I can never close my lips where I have opened my heart.  This
temper, and the consciousness of having done some violence to it in my
narrative, laid me under a restraint which I should have had great
difficulty in overcoming, but for a timely remark from Mr. Miles, who, as
I hinted in a former paper, is a gentleman of business habits, and of
great exactness and propriety in all his transactions.

‘I could have wished,’ my friend objected, ‘that we had been made
acquainted with the single gentleman’s name.  I don’t like his
withholding his name.  It made me look upon him at first with suspicion,
and caused me to doubt his moral character, I assure you.  I am fully
satisfied by this time of his being a worthy creature; but in this
respect he certainly would not appear to have acted at all like a man of
business.’

‘My friends,’ said I, drawing to the table, at which they were by this
time seated in their usual chairs, ‘do you remember that this story bore
another title besides that one we have so often heard of late?’

Mr. Miles had his pocket-book out in an instant, and referring to an
entry therein, rejoined, ‘Certainly.  Personal Adventures of Master
Humphrey.  Here it is.  I made a note of it at the time.’

I was about to resume what I had to tell them, when the same Mr. Miles
again interrupted me, observing that the narrative originated in a
personal adventure of my own, and that was no doubt the reason for its
being thus designated.

This led me to the point at once.

‘You will one and all forgive me,’ I returned, ‘if for the greater
convenience of the story, and for its better introduction, that adventure
was fictitious.  I had my share, indeed,—no light or trivial one,—in the
pages we have read, but it was not the share I feigned to have at first.
The younger brother, the single gentleman, the nameless actor in this
little drama, stands before you now.’

It was easy to see they had not expected this disclosure.

‘Yes,’ I pursued.  ‘I can look back upon my part in it with a calm,
half-smiling pity for myself as for some other man.  But I am he, indeed;
and now the chief sorrows of my life are yours.’

I need not say what true gratification I derived from the sympathy and
kindness with which this acknowledgment was received; nor how often it
had risen to my lips before; nor how difficult I had found it—how
impossible, when I came to those passages which touched me most, and most
nearly concerned me—to sustain the character I had assumed.  It is enough
to say that I replaced in the clock-case the record of so many
trials,—sorrowfully, it is true, but with a softened sorrow which was
almost pleasure; and felt that in living through the past again, and
communicating to others the lesson it had helped to teach me, I had been
a happier man.

We lingered so long over the leaves from which I had read, that as I
consigned them to their former resting-place, the hand of my trusty clock
pointed to twelve, and there came towards us upon the wind the voice of
the deep and distant bell of St. Paul’s as it struck the hour of
midnight.

‘This,’ said I, returning with a manuscript I had taken at the moment,
from the same repository, ‘to be opened to such music, should be a tale
where London’s face by night is darkly seen, and where some deed of such
a time as this is dimly shadowed out.  Which of us here has seen the
working of that great machine whose voice has just now ceased?’

Mr. Pickwick had, of course, and so had Mr. Miles.  Jack and my deaf
friend were in the minority.

I had seen it but a few days before, and could not help telling them of
the fancy I had about it.

I paid my fee of twopence upon entering, to one of the money-changers who
sit within the Temple; and falling, after a few turns up and down, into
the quiet train of thought which such a place awakens, paced the echoing
stones like some old monk whose present world lay all within its walls.
As I looked afar up into the lofty dome, I could not help wondering what
were his reflections whose genius reared that mighty pile, when, the last
small wedge of timber fixed, the last nail driven into its home for many
centuries, the clang of hammers, and the hum of busy voices gone, and the
Great Silence whole years of noise had helped to make, reigning
undisturbed around, he mused, as I did now, upon his work, and lost
himself amid its vast extent.  I could not quite determine whether the
contemplation of it would impress him with a sense of greatness or of
insignificance; but when I remembered how long a time it had taken to
erect, in how short a space it might be traversed even to its remotest
parts, for how brief a term he, or any of those who cared to bear his
name, would live to see it, or know of its existence, I imagined him far
more melancholy than proud, and looking with regret upon his labour done.
With these thoughts in my mind, I began to ascend, almost unconsciously,
the flight of steps leading to the several wonders of the building, and
found myself before a barrier where another money-taker sat, who demanded
which among them I would choose to see.  There were the stone gallery, he
said, and the whispering gallery, the geometrical staircase, the room of
models, the clock—the clock being quite in my way, I stopped him there,
and chose that sight from all the rest.

I groped my way into the Turret which it occupies, and saw before me, in
a kind of loft, what seemed to be a great, old oaken press with folding
doors.  These being thrown back by the attendant (who was sleeping when I
came upon him, and looked a drowsy fellow, as though his close
companionship with Time had made him quite indifferent to it), disclosed
a complicated crowd of wheels and chains in iron and brass,—great,
sturdy, rattling engines,—suggestive of breaking a finger put in here or
there, and grinding the bone to powder,—and these were the Clock!  Its
very pulse, if I may use the word, was like no other clock.  It did not
mark the flight of every moment with a gentle second stroke, as though it
would check old Time, and have him stay his pace in pity, but measured it
with one sledge-hammer beat, as if its business were to crush the seconds
as they came trooping on, and remorselessly to clear a path before the
Day of Judgment.

I sat down opposite to it, and hearing its regular and never-changing
voice, that one deep constant note, uppermost amongst all the noise and
clatter in the streets below,—marking that, let that tumult rise or fall,
go on or stop,—let it be night or noon, to-morrow or to-day, this year or
next,—it still performed its functions with the same dull constancy, and
regulated the progress of the life around, the fancy came upon me that
this was London’s Heart,—and that when it should cease to beat, the City
would be no more.

It is night.  Calm and unmoved amidst the scenes that darkness favours,
the great heart of London throbs in its Giant breast.  Wealth and
beggary, vice and virtue, guilt and innocence, repletion and the direst
hunger, all treading on each other and crowding together, are gathered
round it.  Draw but a little circle above the clustering housetops, and
you shall have within its space everything, with its opposite extreme and
contradiction, close beside.  Where yonder feeble light is shining, a man
is but this moment dead.  The taper at a few yards’ distance is seen by
eyes that have this instant opened on the world.  There are two houses
separated by but an inch or two of wall.  In one, there are quiet minds
at rest; in the other, a waking conscience that one might think would
trouble the very air.  In that close corner where the roofs shrink down
and cower together as if to hide their secrets from the handsome street
hard by, there are such dark crimes, such miseries and horrors, as could
be hardly told in whispers.  In the handsome street, there are folks
asleep who have dwelt there all their lives, and have no more knowledge
of these things than if they had never been, or were transacted at the
remotest limits of the world,—who, if they were hinted at, would shake
their heads, look wise, and frown, and say they were impossible, and out
of Nature,—as if all great towns were not.  Does not this Heart of
London, that nothing moves, nor stops, nor quickens,—that goes on the
same let what will be done, does it not express the City’s character
well?

The day begins to break, and soon there is the hum and noise of life.
Those who have spent the night on doorsteps and cold stones crawl off to
beg; they who have slept in beds come forth to their occupation, too, and
business is astir.  The fog of sleep rolls slowly off, and London shines
awake.  The streets are filled with carriages and people gaily clad.  The
jails are full, too, to the throat, nor have the workhouses or hospitals
much room to spare.  The courts of law are crowded.  Taverns have their
regular frequenters by this time, and every mart of traffic has its
throng.  Each of these places is a world, and has its own inhabitants;
each is distinct from, and almost unconscious of the existence of any
other.  There are some few people well to do, who remember to have heard
it said, that numbers of men and women—thousands, they think it was—get
up in London every day, unknowing where to lay their heads at night; and
that there are quarters of the town where misery and famine always are.
They don’t believe it quite,—there may be some truth in it, but it is
exaggerated, of course.  So, each of these thousand worlds goes on,
intent upon itself, until night comes again,—first with its lights and
pleasures, and its cheerful streets; then with its guilt and darkness.

Heart of London, there is a moral in thy every stroke! as I look on at
thy indomitable working, which neither death, nor press of life, nor
grief, nor gladness out of doors will influence one jot, I seem to hear a
voice within thee which sinks into my heart, bidding me, as I elbow my
way among the crowd, have some thought for the meanest wretch that
passes, and, being a man, to turn away with scorn and pride from none
that bear the human shape.

                                * * * * *

I am by no means sure that I might not have been tempted to enlarge upon
the subject, had not the papers that lay before me on the table been a
silent reproach for even this digression.  I took them up again when I
had got thus far, and seriously prepared to read.

The handwriting was strange to me, for the manuscript had been fairly
copied.  As it is against our rules, in such a case, to inquire into the
authorship until the reading is concluded, I could only glance at the
different faces round me, in search of some expression which should
betray the writer.  Whoever he might be, he was prepared for this, and
gave no sign for my enlightenment.

I had the papers in my hand, when my deaf friend interposed with a
suggestion.

‘It has occurred to me,’ he said, ‘bearing in mind your sequel to the
tale we have finished, that if such of us as have anything to relate of
our own lives could interweave it with our contribution to the Clock, it
would be well to do so.  This need be no restraint upon us, either as to
time, or place, or incident, since any real passage of this kind may be
surrounded by fictitious circumstances, and represented by fictitious
characters.  What if we make this an article of agreement among
ourselves?’

The proposition was cordially received, but the difficulty appeared to be
that here was a long story written before we had thought of it.

‘Unless,’ said I, ‘it should have happened that the writer of this
tale—which is not impossible, for men are apt to do so when they
write—has actually mingled with it something of his own endurance and
experience.’

Nobody spoke, but I thought I detected in one quarter that this was
really the case.

‘If I have no assurance to the contrary,’ I added, therefore, ‘I shall
take it for granted that he has done so, and that even these papers come
within our new agreement.  Everybody being mute, we hold that
understanding if you please.’

And here I was about to begin again, when Jack informed us softly, that
during the progress of our last narrative, Mr. Weller’s Watch had
adjourned its sittings from the kitchen, and regularly met outside our
door, where he had no doubt that august body would be found at the
present moment.  As this was for the convenience of listening to our
stories, he submitted that they might be suffered to come in, and hear
them more pleasantly.

To this we one and all yielded a ready assent, and the party being
discovered, as Jack had supposed, and invited to walk in, entered (though
not without great confusion at having been detected), and were
accommodated with chairs at a little distance.

Then, the lamp being trimmed, the fire well stirred and burning brightly,
the hearth clean swept, the curtains closely drawn, the clock wound up,
we entered on our new story. {311}

              [Picture: Master Humphrey’s Visionary Friends]

It is again midnight.  My fire burns cheerfully; the room is filled with
my old friend’s sober voice; and I am left to muse upon the story we have
just now finished.

It makes me smile, at such a time as this, to think if there were any one
to see me sitting in my easy-chair, my gray head hanging down, my eyes
bent thoughtfully upon the glowing embers, and my crutch—emblem of my
helplessness—lying upon the hearth at my feet, how solitary I should
seem.  Yet though I am the sole tenant of this chimney-corner, though I
am childless and old, I have no sense of loneliness at this hour; but am
the centre of a silent group whose company I love.

Thus, even age and weakness have their consolations.  If I were a younger
man, if I were more active, more strongly bound and tied to life, these
visionary friends would shun me, or I should desire to fly from them.
Being what I am, I can court their society, and delight in it; and pass
whole hours in picturing to myself the shadows that perchance flock every
night into this chamber, and in imagining with pleasure what kind of
interest they have in the frail, feeble mortal who is its sole
inhabitant.

All the friends I have ever lost I find again among these visitors.  I
love to fancy their spirits hovering about me, feeling still some earthly
kindness for their old companion, and watching his decay.  ‘He is weaker,
he declines apace, he draws nearer and nearer to us, and will soon be
conscious of our existence.’  What is there to alarm me in this?  It is
encouragement and hope.

These thoughts have never crowded on me half so fast as they have done
to-night.  Faces I had long forgotten have become familiar to me once
again; traits I had endeavoured to recall for years have come before me
in an instant; nothing is changed but me; and even I can be my former
self at will.

Raising my eyes but now to the face of my old clock, I remember, quite
involuntarily, the veneration, not unmixed with a sort of childish awe,
with which I used to sit and watch it as it ticked, unheeded in a dark
staircase corner.  I recollect looking more grave and steady when I met
its dusty face, as if, having that strange kind of life within it, and
being free from all excess of vulgar appetite, and warning all the house
by night and day, it were a sage.  How often have I listened to it as it
told the beads of time, and wondered at its constancy!  How often watched
it slowly pointing round the dial, and, while I panted for the eagerly
expected hour to come, admired, despite myself, its steadiness of purpose
and lofty freedom from all human strife, impatience, and desire!

I thought it cruel once.  It was very hard of heart, to my mind, I
remember.  It was an old servant even then; and I felt as though it ought
to show some sorrow; as though it wanted sympathy with us in our
distress, and were a dull, heartless, mercenary creature.  Ah! how soon I
learnt to know that in its ceaseless going on, and in its being checked
or stayed by nothing, lay its greatest kindness, and the only balm for
grief and wounded peace of mind.

To-night, to-night, when this tranquillity and calm are on my spirits,
and memory presents so many shifting scenes before me, I take my quiet
stand at will by many a fire that has been long extinguished, and mingle
with the cheerful group that cluster round it.  If I could be sorrowful
in such a mood, I should grow sad to think what a poor blot I was upon
their youth and beauty once, and now how few remain to put me to the
blush; I should grow sad to think that such among them as I sometimes
meet with in my daily walks are scarcely less infirm than I; that time
has brought us to a level; and that all distinctions fade and vanish as
we take our trembling steps towards the grave.

But memory was given us for better purposes than this, and mine is not a
torment, but a source of pleasure.  To muse upon the gaiety and youth I
have known suggests to me glad scenes of harmless mirth that may be
passing now.  From contemplating them apart, I soon become an actor in
these little dramas, and humouring my fancy, lose myself among the beings
it invokes.

When my fire is bright and high, and a warm blush mantles in the walls
and ceiling of this ancient room; when my clock makes cheerful music,
like one of those chirping insects who delight in the warm hearth, and
are sometimes, by a good superstition, looked upon as the harbingers of
fortune and plenty to that household in whose mercies they put their
humble trust; when everything is in a ruddy genial glow, and there are
voices in the crackling flame, and smiles in its flashing light, other
smiles and other voices congregate around me, invading, with their
pleasant harmony, the silence of the time.

For then a knot of youthful creatures gather round my fireside, and the
room re-echoes to their merry voices.  My solitary chair no longer holds
its ample place before the fire, but is wheeled into a smaller corner, to
leave more room for the broad circle formed about the cheerful hearth.  I
have sons, and daughters, and grandchildren, and we are assembled on some
occasion of rejoicing common to us all.  It is a birthday, perhaps, or
perhaps it may be Christmas time; but be it what it may, there is rare
holiday among us; we are full of glee.

In the chimney-comer, opposite myself, sits one who has grown old beside
me.  She is changed, of course; much changed; and yet I recognise the
girl even in that gray hair and wrinkled brow.  Glancing from the
laughing child who half hides in her ample skirts, and half peeps
out,—and from her to the little matron of twelve years old, who sits so
womanly and so demure at no great distance from me,—and from her again,
to a fair girl in the full bloom of early womanhood, the centre of the
group, who has glanced more than once towards the opening door, and by
whom the children, whispering and tittering among themselves, _will_
leave a vacant chair, although she bids them not,—I see her image thrice
repeated, and feel how long it is before one form and set of features
wholly pass away, if ever, from among the living.  While I am dwelling
upon this, and tracing out the gradual change from infancy to youth, from
youth to perfect growth, from that to age, and thinking, with an old
man’s pride, that she is comely yet, I feel a slight thin hand upon my
arm, and, looking down, see seated at my feet a crippled boy,—a gentle,
patient child,—whose aspect I know well.  He rests upon a little
crutch,—I know it too,—and leaning on it as he climbs my footstool,
whispers in my ear, ‘I am hardly one of these, dear grandfather, although
I love them dearly.  They are very kind to me, but you will be kinder
still, I know.’

I have my hand upon his neck, and stoop to kiss him, when my clock
strikes, my chair is in its old spot, and I am alone.

What if I be?  What if this fireside be tenantless, save for the presence
of one weak old man?  From my house-top I can look upon a hundred homes,
in every one of which these social companions are matters of reality.  In
my daily walks I pass a thousand men whose cares are all forgotten, whose
labours are made light, whose dull routine of work from day to day is
cheered and brightened by their glimpses of domestic joy at home.  Amid
the struggles of this struggling town what cheerful sacrifices are made;
what toil endured with readiness; what patience shown and fortitude
displayed for the mere sake of home and its affections!  Let me thank
Heaven that I can people my fireside with shadows such as these; with
shadows of bright objects that exist in crowds about me; and let me say,
‘I am alone no more.’

I never was less so—I write it with a grateful heart—than I am to-night.
Recollections of the past and visions of the present come to bear me
company; the meanest man to whom I have ever given alms appears, to add
his mite of peace and comfort to my stock; and whenever the fire within
me shall grow cold, to light my path upon this earth no more, I pray that
it may be at such an hour as this, and when I love the world as well as I
do now.



THE DEAF GENTLEMAN FROM HIS OWN APARTMENT


Our dear friend laid down his pen at the end of the foregoing paragraph,
to take it up no more.  I little thought ever to employ mine upon so
sorrowful a task as that which he has left me, and to which I now devote
it.

As he did not appear among us at his usual hour next morning, we knocked
gently at his door.  No answer being given, it was softly opened; and
then, to our surprise, we saw him seated before the ashes of his fire,
with a little table I was accustomed to set at his elbow when I left him
for the night at a short distance from him, as though he had pushed it
away with the idea of rising and retiring to his bed.  His crutch and
footstool lay at his feet as usual, and he was dressed in his
chamber-gown, which he had put on before I left him.  He was reclining in
his chair, in his accustomed posture, with his face towards the fire, and
seemed absorbed in meditation,—indeed, at first, we almost hoped he was.

Going up to him, we found him dead.  I have often, very often, seen him
sleeping, and always peacefully, but I never saw him look so calm and
tranquil.  His face wore a serene, benign expression, which had impressed
me very strongly when we last shook hands; not that he had ever had any
other look, God knows; but there was something in this so very spiritual,
so strangely and indefinably allied to youth, although his head was gray
and venerable, that it was new even in him.  It came upon me all at once
when on some slight pretence he called me back upon the previous night to
take me by the hand again, and once more say, ‘God bless you.’

A bell-rope hung within his reach, but he had not moved towards it; nor
had he stirred, we all agreed, except, as I have said, to push away his
table, which he could have done, and no doubt did, with a very slight
motion of his hand.  He had relapsed for a moment into his late train of
meditation, and, with a thoughtful smile upon his face, had died.

I had long known it to be his wish that whenever this event should come
to pass we might be all assembled in the house.  I therefore lost no time
in sending for Mr. Pickwick and for Mr. Miles, both of whom arrived
before the messenger’s return.

It is not my purpose to dilate upon the sorrow and affectionate emotions
of which I was at once the witness and the sharer.  But I may say, of the
humbler mourners, that his faithful housekeeper was fairly heart-broken;
that the poor barber would not be comforted; and that I shall respect the
homely truth and warmth of heart of Mr. Weller and his son to the last
moment of my life.

‘And the sweet old creetur, sir,’ said the elder Mr. Weller to me in the
afternoon, ‘has bolted.  Him as had no wice, and was so free from temper
that a infant might ha’ drove him, has been took at last with that ’ere
unawoidable fit o’ staggers as we all must come to, and gone off his feed
for ever!  I see him,’ said the old gentleman, with a moisture in his
eye, which could not be mistaken,—‘I see him gettin’, every journey, more
and more groggy; I says to Samivel, “My boy! the Grey’s a-goin’ at the
knees;” and now my predilictions is fatally werified, and him as I could
never do enough to serve or show my likin’ for, is up the great uniwersal
spout o’ natur’.’

I was not the less sensible of the old man’s attachment because he
expressed it in his peculiar manner.  Indeed, I can truly assert of both
him and his son, that notwithstanding the extraordinary dialogues they
held together, and the strange commentaries and corrections with which
each of them illustrated the other’s speech, I do not think it possible
to exceed the sincerity of their regret; and that I am sure their
thoughtfulness and anxiety in anticipating the discharge of many little
offices of sympathy would have done honour to the most delicate-minded
persons.

Our friend had frequently told us that his will would be found in a box
in the Clock-case, the key of which was in his writing-desk.  As he had
told us also that he desired it to be opened immediately after his death,
whenever that should happen, we met together that night for the
fulfilment of his request.

We found it where he had told us, wrapped in a sealed paper, and with it
a codicil of recent date, in which he named Mr. Miles and Mr. Pickwick
his executors,—as having no need of any greater benefit from his estate
than a generous token (which he bequeathed to them) of his friendship and
remembrance.

After pointing out the spot in which he wished his ashes to repose, he
gave to ‘his dear old friends,’ Jack Redburn and myself, his house, his
books, his furniture,—in short, all that his house contained; and with
this legacy more ample means of maintaining it in its present state than
we, with our habits and at our terms of life, can ever exhaust.  Besides
these gifts, he left to us, in trust, an annual sum of no insignificant
amount, to be distributed in charity among his accustomed pensioners—they
are a long list—and such other claimants on his bounty as might, from
time to time, present themselves.  And as true charity not only covers a
multitude of sins, but includes a multitude of virtues, such as
forgiveness, liberal construction, gentleness and mercy to the faults of
others, and the remembrance of our own imperfections and advantages, he
bade us not inquire too closely into the venial errors of the poor, but
finding that they _were_ poor, first to relieve and then endeavour—at an
advantage—to reclaim them.

To the housekeeper he left an annuity, sufficient for her comfortable
maintenance and support through life.  For the barber, who had attended
him many years, he made a similar provision.  And I may make two remarks
in this place: first, that I think this pair are very likely to club
their means together and make a match of it; and secondly, that I think
my friend had this result in his mind, for I have heard him say, more
than once, that he could not concur with the generality of mankind in
censuring equal marriages made in later life, since there were many cases
in which such unions could not fail to be a wise and rational source of
happiness to both parties.

The elder Mr. Weller is so far from viewing this prospect with any
feelings of jealousy, that he appears to be very much relieved by its
contemplation; and his son, if I am not mistaken, participates in this
feeling.  We are all of opinion, however, that the old gentleman’s
danger, even at its crisis, was very slight, and that he merely laboured
under one of those transitory weaknesses to which persons of his
temperament are now and then liable, and which become less and less
alarming at every return, until they wholly subside.  I have no doubt he
will remain a jolly old widower for the rest of his life, as he has
already inquired of me, with much gravity, whether a writ of habeas
corpus would enable him to settle his property upon Tony beyond the
possibility of recall; and has, in my presence, conjured his son, with
tears in his eyes, that in the event of his ever becoming amorous again,
he will put him in a strait-waistcoat until the fit is past, and
distinctly inform the lady that his property is ‘made over.’

Although I have very little doubt that Sam would dutifully comply with
these injunctions in a case of extreme necessity, and that he would do so
with perfect composure and coolness, I do not apprehend things will ever
come to that pass, as the old gentleman seems perfectly happy in the
society of his son, his pretty daughter-in-law, and his grandchildren,
and has solemnly announced his determination to ‘take arter the old ’un
in all respects;’ from which I infer that it is his intention to regulate
his conduct by the model of Mr. Pickwick, who will certainly set him the
example of a single life.

I have diverged for a moment from the subject with which I set out, for I
know that my friend was interested in these little matters, and I have a
natural tendency to linger upon any topic that occupied his thoughts or
gave him pleasure and amusement.  His remaining wishes are very briefly
told.  He desired that we would make him the frequent subject of our
conversation; at the same time, that we would never speak of him with an
air of gloom or restraint, but frankly, and as one whom we still loved
and hoped to meet again.  He trusted that the old house would wear no
aspect of mourning, but that it would be lively and cheerful; and that we
would not remove or cover up his picture, which hangs in our dining-room,
but make it our companion as he had been.  His own room, our place of
meeting, remains, at his desire, in its accustomed state; our seats are
placed about the table as of old; his easy-chair, his desk, his crutch,
his footstool, hold their accustomed places, and the clock stands in its
familiar corner.  We go into the chamber at stated times to see that all
is as it should be, and to take care that the light and air are not shut
out, for on that point he expressed a strong solicitude.  But it was his
fancy that the apartment should not be inhabited; that it should be
religiously preserved in this condition, and that the voice of his old
companion should be heard no more.

My own history may be summed up in very few words; and even those I
should have spared the reader but for my friend’s allusion to me some
time since.  I have no deeper sorrow than the loss of a child,—an only
daughter, who is living, and who fled from her father’s house but a few
weeks before our friend and I first met.  I had never spoken of this even
to him, because I have always loved her, and I could not bear to tell him
of her error until I could tell him also of her sorrow and regret.
Happily I was enabled to do so some time ago.  And it will not be long,
with Heaven’s leave, before she is restored to me; before I find in her
and her husband the support of my declining years.

For my pipe, it is an old relic of home, a thing of no great worth, a
poor trifle, but sacred to me for her sake.

Thus, since the death of our venerable friend, Jack Redburn and I have
been the sole tenants of the old house; and, day by day, have lounged
together in his favourite walks.  Mindful of his injunctions, we have
long been able to speak of him with ease and cheerfulness, and to
remember him as he would be remembered.  From certain allusions which
Jack has dropped, to his having been deserted and cast off in early life,
I am inclined to believe that some passages of his youth may possibly be
shadowed out in the history of Mr. Chester and his son, but seeing that
he avoids the subject, I have not pursued it.

                     [Picture: The Deserted Chamber]

My task is done.  The chamber in which we have whiled away so many hours,
not, I hope, without some pleasure and some profit, is deserted; our
happy hour of meeting strikes no more; the chimney-corner has grown cold;
and MASTER HUMPHREY’S CLOCK has stopped for ever.



TO THE READERS OF “MASTER HUMPHREY’S CLOCK”


DEAR FRIENDS,

Next November we shall have finished the tale of which we are at present
engaged, and shall have travelled together through twenty monthly parts
and eighty-seven weekly numbers.  It is my design when we have gone so
far, to close this work.  Let me tell you why.

I should not regard the anxiety, the close confinement, or the constant
attention, inseparable from the weekly form of publication (for to
commune with you in any form is to me a labour of love) if I had found it
advantageous to the conduct of my stories, the elucidation of my meaning,
or the gradual development of my characters.  But I have not done so.  I
have often felt cramped and confined in a very irksome and harassing
degree by the space in which I have been constrained to move.  I have
wanted you to know more at once than I could tell you; and it has
frequently been of the greatest importance to my cherished intention,
that you should do so.  I have been sometimes strongly tempted (and have
been at some pains to resist the temptation) to hurry incidents on, lest
they should appear to you who waited from week to week, and had not, like
me, the result and purpose in your minds, too long delayed.  In a word, I
have found this form of publication most anxious, perplexing, and
difficult.  I cannot bear these jerky confidences which are no sooner
begun than ended, and no sooner ended than begun again.

Many passages in a tale of any length, depend materially for their
interest on the intimate relation they bear to what has gone before, or
to what is to follow.  I have sometimes found it difficult when I issued
thirty-two closely printed pages once a month, to sustain in your minds
this needful connection: in the present form of publication it is often,
especially in the first half of a story, quite impossible to preserve it
sufficiently through the current numbers.  And although in my progress, I
am gradually able to set you right, and to show you what my meaning has
been, and to work it out, I see no reason why you should ever be wrong
when I have it in my power by resorting to a better means of
communication between us to prevent it.

Considerations of immediate profit and advantage ought in such a case to
be of secondary importance.  They would lead me, at all hazards, to hold
my present course.  But for the reason I have just now mentioned, I have
after long consideration, and with especial reference to the next new
tale I bear in my mind, arrived at the conclusion that it will be better
to abandon this scheme of publication in favour of our old and well-tried
plan which has only twelve gaps in a year, instead of fifty-two.

Therefore my intention is, to close this story (with the limits of which
I am of course by this time acquainted) and this work, within, or about,
the period I have mentioned.  I should add, that for the general
convenience of subscribers, another volume of collected numbers will not
be published until the whole is brought to a conclusion.

Taking advantage of the respite which the close of this work will afford
me, I have decided, in January next, to pay a visit to America.  The
pleasure I anticipate from this realization of a wish I have long
entertained, and long hoped to gratify, is subdued by the reflection that
it must separate us for a longer time than other circumstances would have
rendered necessary.

On the first of November, eighteen hundred and forty-two, I purpose, if
it please God, to commence my book in monthly parts, under the old green
cover, in the old size and form, and at the old price.

I look forward to addressing a few more words to you in reference to this
latter theme before I close the task on which I am now engaged.  If there
be any among the numerous readers of _Master Humphrey’s Clock_ who are at
first dissatisfied with the prospect of this change—and it is not
unnatural almost to hope there may be some—I trust they will, at no very
distant day, find reason to agree with

                                                                ITS AUTHOR

_September_, 1841.



POSTSCRIPT {0}


Now that the time is come for taking leave, I find that the words I have
to add are very few indeed.

We part until next November.  It is a long parting between us, but if I
have left you anything by which to remember me, in the meanwhile, with no
unkind or distant feelings—anything by which I may be associated in
spirit with your firesides, homes, and blameless pleasures—I am happy.

Believe me it has ever been my true desire to add to the common stock of
healthful cheerfulness, good humour, and good-will, and trust me when I
return to England and to another tale of English life and manners, I
shall not slacken in this zealous work.

I take the opportunity for thanking all those who have addressed me by
letter since the appearance of the foregoing announcement; and of
expressing a hope that they will rest contented with this form of
acknowledgment, as their number renders it impossible to me to answer
them individually.

I bid farewell to them and all my readers with a regret that we feel in
taking leave of Friends who have become endeared to us by long and close
communication; and I look forward with truthfulness and pleasure to our
next meeting.

_November_, 1841.



FOOTNOTES


{0}  Postscript, printed on the wrapper of No. 87 of “Master Humphrey’s
Clock”.

{255}  Old Curiosity Shop begins here.

{292}  Old Curiosity Shop is continued here, completing No. IV.

{300}  Old Curiosity Shop is continued to the end of the number.

{306}  Old Curiosity Shop is continued from here to the end without
further break.  Master Humphrey is revived thus at the close of the Old
Curiosity Shop, merely to introduce Barnaby Rudge.

{311}  This was Barnaby Rudge, contained in vol. ix. of this Edition.
This is, as indicated, the final appearance of Master Humphrey’s Clock.
It forms the conclusion of Barnaby Rudge.





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ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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