Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Reprinted Pieces
Author: Dickens, Charles
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Reprinted Pieces" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Transcribed from the 1905 Chapman and Hall edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org



                             Reprinted Pieces


CONTENTS

                                                PAGE
_The Long Voyage_                                309
_The Begging-letter Writer_                      317
_A Child’s Dream of a Star_                      324
_Our English Watering-place_                     327
_Our French Watering-place_                      335
_Bill-sticking_                                  346
“_Births_.  _Mrs. Meek_, _of a Son_”             357
_Lying Awake_                                    361
_The Ghost of Art_                               367
_Out of Town_                                    373
_Out of the Season_                              379
_A Poor Man’s Tale of a Patent_                  386
_The Noble Savage_                               391
_A Flight_                                       397
_The Detective Police_                           406
_Three_ “_Detective_” _Anecdotes_                422
                    _I.—The Pair of
                    Gloves_
                    _II.—The Artful
                    Touch_
                    _III.—The Sofa_
_On Duty with Inspector Field_                   430
_Down with the Tide_                             442
_A Walk in a Workhouse_                          451
_Prince Bull_.  _A Fairy Tale_                   457
_A Plated Article_                               462
_Our Honourable Friend_                          470
_Our School_                                     475
_Our Vestry_                                     481
_Our Bore_                                       487
_A Monument of French Folly_                     494

                        [Picture: The long voyage]



THE LONG VOYAGE


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



THE BEGGING-LETTER WRITER


THE amount of money he annually diverts from wholesome and useful
purposes in the United Kingdom, would be a set-off against the Window
Tax.  He is one of the most shameless frauds and impositions of this
time.  In his idleness, his mendacity, and the immeasurable harm he does
to the deserving,—dirtying the stream of true benevolence, and muddling
the brains of foolish justices, with inability to distinguish between the
base coin of distress, and the true currency we have always among us,—he
is more worthy of Norfolk Island than three-fourths of the worst
characters who are sent there.  Under any rational system, he would have
been sent there long ago.

I, the writer of this paper, have been, for some time, a chosen receiver
of Begging Letters.  For fourteen years, my house has been made as
regular a Receiving House for such communications as any one of the great
branch Post-Offices is for general correspondence.  I ought to know
something of the Begging-Letter Writer.  He has besieged my door at all
hours of the day and night; he has fought my servant; he has lain in
ambush for me, going out and coming in; he has followed me out of town
into the country; he has appeared at provincial hotels, where I have been
staying for only a few hours; he has written to me from immense
distances, when I have been out of England.  He has fallen sick; he has
died and been buried; he has come to life again, and again departed from
this transitory scene: he has been his own son, his own mother, his own
baby, his idiot brother, his uncle, his aunt, his aged grandfather.  He
has wanted a greatcoat, to go to India in; a pound to set him up in life
for ever; a pair of boots to take him to the coast of China; a hat to get
him into a permanent situation under Government.  He has frequently been
exactly seven-and-sixpence short of independence.  He has had such
openings at Liverpool—posts of great trust and confidence in merchants’
houses, which nothing but seven-and-sixpence was wanting to him to
secure—that I wonder he is not Mayor of that flourishing town at the
present moment.

The natural phenomena of which he has been the victim, are of a most
astounding nature.  He has had two children who have never grown up; who
have never had anything to cover them at night; who have been continually
driving him mad, by asking in vain for food; who have never come out of
fevers and measles (which, I suppose, has accounted for his fuming his
letters with tobacco smoke, as a disinfectant); who have never changed in
the least degree through fourteen long revolving years.  As to his wife,
what that suffering woman has undergone, nobody knows.  She has always
been in an interesting situation through the same long period, and has
never been confined yet.  His devotion to her has been unceasing.  He has
never cared for himself; he could have perished—he would rather, in
short—but was it not his Christian duty as a man, a husband, and a
father,—to write begging letters when he looked at her?  (He has usually
remarked that he would call in the evening for an answer to this
question.)

He has been the sport of the strangest misfortunes.  What his brother has
done to him would have broken anybody else’s heart.  His brother went
into business with him, and ran away with the money; his brother got him
to be security for an immense sum and left him to pay it; his brother
would have given him employment to the tune of hundreds a-year, if he
would have consented to write letters on a Sunday; his brother enunciated
principles incompatible with his religious views, and he could not (in
consequence) permit his brother to provide for him.  His landlord has
never shown a spark of human feeling.  When he put in that execution I
don’t know, but he has never taken it out.  The broker’s man has grown
grey in possession.  They will have to bury him some day.

He has been attached to every conceivable pursuit.  He has been in the
army, in the navy, in the church, in the law; connected with the press,
the fine arts, public institutions, every description and grade of
business.  He has been brought up as a gentleman; he has been at every
college in Oxford and Cambridge; he can quote Latin in his letters (but
generally misspells some minor English word); he can tell you what
Shakespeare says about begging, better than you know it.  It is to be
observed, that in the midst of his afflictions he always reads the
newspapers; and rounds off his appeal with some allusion, that may be
supposed to be in my way, to the popular subject of the hour.

His life presents a series of inconsistencies.  Sometimes he has never
written such a letter before.  He blushes with shame.  That is the first
time; that shall be the last.  Don’t answer it, and let it be understood
that, then, he will kill himself quietly.  Sometimes (and more
frequently) he _has_ written a few such letters.  Then he encloses the
answers, with an intimation that they are of inestimable value to him,
and a request that they may be carefully returned.  He is fond of
enclosing something—verses, letters, pawnbrokers’ duplicates, anything to
necessitate an answer.  He is very severe upon ‘the pampered minion of
fortune,’ who refused him the half-sovereign referred to in the enclosure
number two—but he knows me better.

He writes in a variety of styles; sometimes in low spirits; sometimes
quite jocosely.  When he is in low spirits he writes down-hill and
repeats words—these little indications being expressive of the
perturbation of his mind.  When he is more vivacious, he is frank with
me; he is quite the agreeable rattle.  I know what human nature is,—who
better?  Well!  He had a little money once, and he ran through it—as many
men have done before him.  He finds his old friends turn away from him
now—many men have done that before him too!  Shall he tell me why he
writes to me?  Because he has no kind of claim upon me.  He puts it on
that ground plainly; and begs to ask for the loan (as I know human
nature) of two sovereigns, to be repaid next Tuesday six weeks, before
twelve at noon.

Sometimes, when he is sure that I have found him out, and that there is
no chance of money, he writes to inform me that I have got rid of him at
last.  He has enlisted into the Company’s service, and is off
directly—but he wants a cheese.  He is informed by the serjeant that it
is essential to his prospects in the regiment that he should take out a
single Gloucester cheese, weighing from twelve to fifteen pounds.  Eight
or nine shillings would buy it.  He does not ask for money, after what
has passed; but if he calls at nine, to-morrow morning may he hope to
find a cheese?  And is there anything he can do to show his gratitude in
Bengal?

Once he wrote me rather a special letter, proposing relief in kind.  He
had got into a little trouble by leaving parcels of mud done up in brown
paper, at people’s houses, on pretence of being a Railway-Porter, in
which character he received carriage money.  This sportive fancy he
expiated in the House of Correction.  Not long after his release, and on
a Sunday morning, he called with a letter (having first dusted himself
all over), in which he gave me to understand that, being resolved to earn
an honest livelihood, he had been travelling about the country with a
cart of crockery.  That he had been doing pretty well until the day
before, when his horse had dropped down dead near Chatham, in Kent.  That
this had reduced him to the unpleasant necessity of getting into the
shafts himself, and drawing the cart of crockery to London—a somewhat
exhausting pull of thirty miles.  That he did not venture to ask again
for money; but that if I would have the goodness _to leave him out a
donkey_, he would call for the animal before breakfast!

At another time my friend (I am describing actual experiences) introduced
himself as a literary gentleman in the last extremity of distress.  He
had had a play accepted at a certain Theatre—which was really open; its
representation was delayed by the indisposition of a leading actor—who
was really ill; and he and his were in a state of absolute starvation.
If he made his necessities known to the Manager of the Theatre, he put it
to me to say what kind of treatment he might expect?  Well! we got over
that difficulty to our mutual satisfaction.  A little while afterwards he
was in some other strait.  I think Mrs. Southcote, his wife, was in
extremity—and we adjusted that point too.  A little while afterwards he
had taken a new house, and was going headlong to ruin for want of a
water-butt.  I had my misgivings about the water-butt, and did not reply
to that epistle.  But a little while afterwards, I had reason to feel
penitent for my neglect.  He wrote me a few broken-hearted lines,
informing me that the dear partner of his sorrows died in his arms last
night at nine o’clock!

I despatched a trusty messenger to comfort the bereaved mourner and his
poor children; but the messenger went so soon, that the play was not
ready to be played out; my friend was not at home, and his wife was in a
most delightful state of health.  He was taken up by the Mendicity
Society (informally it afterwards appeared), and I presented myself at a
London Police-Office with my testimony against him.  The Magistrate was
wonderfully struck by his educational acquirements, deeply impressed by
the excellence of his letters, exceedingly sorry to see a man of his
attainments there, complimented him highly on his powers of composition,
and was quite charmed to have the agreeable duty of discharging him.  A
collection was made for the ‘poor fellow,’ as he was called in the
reports, and I left the court with a comfortable sense of being
universally regarded as a sort of monster.  Next day comes to me a friend
of mine, the governor of a large prison.  ‘Why did you ever go to the
Police-Office against that man,’ says he, ‘without coming to me first?  I
know all about him and his frauds.  He lodged in the house of one of my
warders, at the very time when he first wrote to you; and then he was
eating spring-lamb at eighteen-pence a pound, and early asparagus at I
don’t know how much a bundle!’  On that very same day, and in that very
same hour, my injured gentleman wrote a solemn address to me, demanding
to know what compensation I proposed to make him for his having passed
the night in a ‘loathsome dungeon.’  And next morning an Irish gentleman,
a member of the same fraternity, who had read the case, and was very well
persuaded I should be chary of going to that Police-Office again,
positively refused to leave my door for less than a sovereign, and,
resolved to besiege me into compliance, literally ‘sat down’ before it
for ten mortal hours.  The garrison being well provisioned, I remained
within the walls; and he raised the siege at midnight with a prodigious
alarum on the bell.

The Begging-Letter Writer often has an extensive circle of acquaintance.
Whole pages of the ‘Court Guide’ are ready to be references for him.
Noblemen and gentlemen write to say there never was such a man for
probity and virtue.  They have known him time out of mind, and there is
nothing they wouldn’t do for him.  Somehow, they don’t give him that one
pound ten he stands in need of; but perhaps it is not enough—they want to
do more, and his modesty will not allow it.  It is to be remarked of his
trade that it is a very fascinating one.  He never leaves it; and those
who are near to him become smitten with a love of it, too, and sooner or
later set up for themselves.  He employs a messenger—man, woman, or
child.  That messenger is certain ultimately to become an independent
Begging-Letter Writer.  His sons and daughters succeed to his calling,
and write begging-letters when he is no more.  He throws off the
infection of begging-letter writing, like the contagion of disease.  What
Sydney Smith so happily called ‘the dangerous luxury of dishonesty’ is
more tempting, and more catching, it would seem, in this instance than in
any other.

He always belongs to a Corresponding-Society of Begging-Letter Writers.
Any one who will, may ascertain this fact.  Give money to-day in
recognition of a begging-letter,—no matter how unlike a common
begging-letter,—and for the next fortnight you will have a rush of such
communications.  Steadily refuse to give; and the begging-letters become
Angels’ visits, until the Society is from some cause or other in a dull
way of business, and may as well try you as anybody else.  It is of
little use inquiring into the Begging-Letter Writer’s circumstances.  He
may be sometimes accidentally found out, as in the case already mentioned
(though that was not the first inquiry made); but apparent misery is
always a part of his trade, and real misery very often is, in the
intervals of spring-lamb and early asparagus.  It is naturally an
incident of his dissipated and dishonest life.

That the calling is a successful one, and that large sums of money are
gained by it, must be evident to anybody who reads the Police Reports of
such cases.  But, prosecutions are of rare occurrence, relatively to the
extent to which the trade is carried on.  The cause of this is to be
found (as no one knows better than the Begging-Letter Writer, for it is a
part of his speculation) in the aversion people feel to exhibit
themselves as having been imposed upon, or as having weakly gratified
their consciences with a lazy, flimsy substitute for the noblest of all
virtues.  There is a man at large, at the moment when this paper is
preparing for the press (on the 29th of April, 1850), and never once
taken up yet, who, within these twelvemonths, has been probably the most
audacious and the most successful swindler that even this trade has ever
known.  There has been something singularly base in this fellow’s
proceedings; it has been his business to write to all sorts and
conditions of people, in the names of persons of high reputation and
unblemished honour, professing to be in distress—the general admiration
and respect for whom has ensured a ready and generous reply.

Now, in the hope that the results of the real experience of a real person
may do something more to induce reflection on this subject than any
abstract treatise—and with a personal knowledge of the extent to which
the Begging-Letter Trade has been carried on for some time, and has been
for some time constantly increasing—the writer of this paper entreats the
attention of his readers to a few concluding words.  His experience is a
type of the experience of many; some on a smaller, some on an infinitely
larger scale.  All may judge of the soundness or unsoundness of his
conclusions from it.

Long doubtful of the efficacy of such assistance in any case whatever,
and able to recall but one, within his whole individual knowledge, in
which he had the least after-reason to suppose that any good was done by
it, he was led, last autumn, into some serious considerations.  The
begging-letters flying about by every post, made it perfectly manifest
that a set of lazy vagabonds were interposed between the general desire
to do something to relieve the sickness and misery under which the poor
were suffering, and the suffering poor themselves.  That many who sought
to do some little to repair the social wrongs, inflicted in the way of
preventible sickness and death upon the poor, were strengthening those
wrongs, however innocently, by wasting money on pestilent knaves
cumbering society.  That imagination,—soberly following one of these
knaves into his life of punishment in jail, and comparing it with the
life of one of these poor in a cholera-stricken alley, or one of the
children of one of these poor, soothed in its dying hour by the late
lamented Mr. Drouet,—contemplated a grim farce, impossible to be
presented very much longer before God or man.  That the crowning miracle
of all the miracles summed up in the New Testament, after the miracle of
the blind seeing, and the lame walking, and the restoration of the dead
to life, was the miracle that the poor had the Gospel preached to them.
That while the poor were unnaturally and unnecessarily cut off by the
thousand, in the prematurity of their age, or in the rottenness of their
youth—for of flower or blossom such youth has none—the Gospel was NOT
preached to them, saving in hollow and unmeaning voices.  That of all
wrongs, this was the first mighty wrong the Pestilence warned us to set
right.  And that no Post-Office Order to any amount, given to a
Begging-Letter Writer for the quieting of an uneasy breast, would be
presentable on the Last Great Day as anything towards it.

The poor never write these letters.  Nothing could be more unlike their
habits.  The writers are public robbers; and we who support them are
parties to their depredations.  They trade upon every circumstance within
their knowledge that affects us, public or private, joyful or sorrowful;
they pervert the lessons of our lives; they change what ought to be our
strength and virtue into weakness, and encouragement of vice.  There is a
plain remedy, and it is in our own hands.  We must resolve, at any
sacrifice of feeling, to be deaf to such appeals, and crush the trade.

There are degrees in murder.  Life must be held sacred among us in more
ways than one—sacred, not merely from the murderous weapon, or the subtle
poison, or the cruel blow, but sacred from preventible diseases,
distortions, and pains.  That is the first great end we have to set
against this miserable imposition.  Physical life respected, moral life
comes next.  What will not content a Begging-Letter Writer for a week,
would educate a score of children for a year.  Let us give all we can;
let us give more than ever.  Let us do all we can; let us do more than
ever.  But let us give, and do, with a high purpose; not to endow the
scum of the earth, to its own greater corruption, with the offals of our
duty.



A CHILD’S DREAM OF A STAR


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Is my brother come?’

And he said ‘No.’

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

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

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

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

Said his sister’s angel to the leader:

‘Is my brother come?’

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

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

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

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

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

‘Is my brother come?’

And he said, ‘Thy mother!’

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

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

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

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

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

And the star was shining.

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

‘I see the star!’

They whispered one another, ‘He is dying.’

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

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



OUR ENGLISH WATERING-PLACE


IN the Autumn-time of the year, when the great metropolis is so much
hotter, so much noisier, so much more dusty or so much more water-carted,
so much more crowded, so much more disturbing and distracting in all
respects, than it usually is, a quiet sea-beach becomes indeed a blessed
spot.  Half awake and half asleep, this idle morning in our sunny window
on the edge of a chalk-cliff in the old-fashioned watering-place to which
we are a faithful resorter, we feel a lazy inclination to sketch its
picture.

The place seems to respond.  Sky, sea, beach, and village, lie as still
before us as if they were sitting for the picture.  It is dead low-water.
A ripple plays among the ripening corn upon the cliff, as if it were
faintly trying from recollection to imitate the sea; and the world of
butterflies hovering over the crop of radish-seed are as restless in
their little way as the gulls are in their larger manner when the wind
blows.  But the ocean lies winking in the sunlight like a drowsy lion—its
glassy waters scarcely curve upon the shore—the fishing-boats in the tiny
harbour are all stranded in the mud—our two colliers (our watering-place
has a maritime trade employing that amount of shipping) have not an inch
of water within a quarter of a mile of them, and turn, exhausted, on
their sides, like faint fish of an antediluvian species.  Rusty cables
and chains, ropes and rings, undermost parts of posts and piles and
confused timber-defences against the waves, lie strewn about, in a brown
litter of tangled sea-weed and fallen cliff which looks as if a family of
giants had been making tea here for ages, and had observed an untidy
custom of throwing their tea-leaves on the shore.

In truth, our watering-place itself has been left somewhat high and dry
by the tide of years.  Concerned as we are for its honour, we must
reluctantly admit that the time when this pretty little semicircular
sweep of houses, tapering off at the end of the wooden pier into a point
in the sea, was a gay place, and when the lighthouse overlooking it shone
at daybreak on company dispersing from public balls, is but dimly
traditional now.  There is a bleak chamber in our watering-place which is
yet called the Assembly ‘Rooms,’ and understood to be available on hire
for balls or concerts; and, some few seasons since, an ancient little
gentleman came down and stayed at the hotel, who said that he had danced
there, in bygone ages, with the Honourable Miss Peepy, well known to have
been the Beauty of her day and the cruel occasion of innumerable duels.
But he was so old and shrivelled, and so very rheumatic in the legs, that
it demanded more imagination than our watering-place can usually muster,
to believe him; therefore, except the Master of the ‘Rooms’ (who to this
hour wears knee-breeches, and who confirmed the statement with tears in
his eyes), nobody did believe in the little lame old gentleman, or even
in the Honourable Miss Peepy, long deceased.

As to subscription balls in the Assembly Rooms of our watering-place now,
red-hot cannon balls are less improbable.  Sometimes, a misguided
wanderer of a Ventriloquist, or an Infant Phenomenon, or a juggler, or
somebody with an Orrery that is several stars behind the time, takes the
place for a night, and issues bills with the name of his last town lined
out, and the name of ours ignominiously written in, but you may be sure
this never happens twice to the same unfortunate person.  On such
occasions the discoloured old Billiard Table that is seldom played at
(unless the ghost of the Honourable Miss Peepy plays at pool with other
ghosts) is pushed into a corner, and benches are solemnly constituted
into front seats, back seats, and reserved seats—which are much the same
after you have paid—and a few dull candles are lighted—wind
permitting—and the performer and the scanty audience play out a short
match which shall make the other most low-spirited—which is usually a
drawn game.  After that, the performer instantly departs with maledictory
expressions, and is never heard of more.

But the most wonderful feature of our Assembly Rooms, is, that an annual
sale of ‘Fancy and other China,’ is announced here with mysterious
constancy and perseverance.  Where the china comes from, where it goes
to, why it is annually put up to auction when nobody ever thinks of
bidding for it, how it comes to pass that it is always the same china,
whether it would not have been cheaper, with the sea at hand, to have
thrown it away, say in eighteen hundred and thirty, are standing enigmas.
Every year the bills come out, every year the Master of the Rooms gets
into a little pulpit on a table, and offers it for sale, every year
nobody buys it, every year it is put away somewhere till next year, when
it appears again as if the whole thing were a new idea.  We have a faint
remembrance of an unearthly collection of clocks, purporting to be the
work of Parisian and Genevese artists—chiefly bilious-faced clocks,
supported on sickly white crutches, with their pendulums dangling like
lame legs—to which a similar course of events occurred for several years,
until they seemed to lapse away, of mere imbecility.

Attached to our Assembly Rooms is a library.  There is a wheel of fortune
in it, but it is rusty and dusty, and never turns.  A large doll, with
moveable eyes, was put up to be raffled for, by five-and-twenty members
at two shillings, seven years ago this autumn, and the list is not full
yet.  We are rather sanguine, now, that the raffle will come off next
year.  We think so, because we only want nine members, and should only
want eight, but for number two having grown up since her name was
entered, and withdrawn it when she was married.  Down the street, there
is a toy-ship of considerable burden, in the same condition.  Two of the
boys who were entered for that raffle have gone to India in real ships,
since; and one was shot, and died in the arms of his sister’s lover, by
whom he sent his last words home.

This is the library for the Minerva Press.  If you want that kind of
reading, come to our watering-place.  The leaves of the romances, reduced
to a condition very like curl-paper, are thickly studded with notes in
pencil: sometimes complimentary, sometimes jocose.  Some of these
commentators, like commentators in a more extensive way, quarrel with one
another.  One young gentleman who sarcastically writes ‘O!!!’ after every
sentimental passage, is pursued through his literary career by another,
who writes ‘Insulting Beast!’  Miss Julia Mills has read the whole
collection of these books.  She has left marginal notes on the pages, as
‘Is not this truly touching?  J. M.’  ‘How thrilling!  J. M.’  ‘Entranced
here by the Magician’s potent spell.  J. M.’  She has also italicised her
favourite traits in the description of the hero, as ‘his hair, which was
_dark_ and _wavy_, clustered in _rich profusion_ around a _marble brow_,
whose lofty paleness bespoke the intellect within.’  It reminds her of
another hero.  She adds, ‘How like B. L.  Can this be mere coincidence?
J. M.’

You would hardly guess which is the main street of our watering-place,
but you may know it by its being always stopped up with donkey-chaises.
Whenever you come here, and see harnessed donkeys eating clover out of
barrows drawn completely across a narrow thoroughfare, you may be quite
sure you are in our High Street.  Our Police you may know by his uniform,
likewise by his never on any account interfering with anybody—especially
the tramps and vagabonds.  In our fancy shops we have a capital
collection of damaged goods, among which the flies of countless summers
‘have been roaming.’  We are great in obsolete seals, and in faded
pin-cushions, and in rickety camp-stools, and in exploded cutlery, and in
miniature vessels, and in stunted little telescopes, and in objects made
of shells that pretend not to be shells.  Diminutive spades, barrows, and
baskets, are our principal articles of commerce; but even they don’t look
quite new somehow.  They always seem to have been offered and refused
somewhere else, before they came down to our watering-place.

Yet, it must not be supposed that our watering-place is an empty place,
deserted by all visitors except a few staunch persons of approved
fidelity.  On the contrary, the chances are that if you came down here in
August or September, you wouldn’t find a house to lay your head in.  As
to finding either house or lodging of which you could reduce the terms,
you could scarcely engage in a more hopeless pursuit.  For all this, you
are to observe that every season is the worst season ever known, and that
the householding population of our watering-place are ruined regularly
every autumn.  They are like the farmers, in regard that it is surprising
how much ruin they will bear.  We have an excellent hotel—capital baths,
warm, cold, and shower—first-rate bathing-machines—and as good butchers,
bakers, and grocers, as heart could desire.  They all do business, it is
to be presumed, from motives of philanthropy—but it is quite certain that
they are all being ruined.  Their interest in strangers, and their
politeness under ruin, bespeak their amiable nature.  You would say so,
if you only saw the baker helping a new comer to find suitable
apartments.

So far from being at a discount as to company, we are in fact what would
be popularly called rather a nobby place.  Some tip-top ‘Nobbs’ come down
occasionally—even Dukes and Duchesses.  We have known such carriages to
blaze among the donkey-chaises, as made beholders wink.  Attendant on
these equipages come resplendent creatures in plush and powder, who are
sure to be stricken disgusted with the indifferent accommodation of our
watering-place, and who, of an evening (particularly when it rains), may
be seen very much out of drawing, in rooms far too small for their fine
figures, looking discontentedly out of little back windows into
bye-streets.  The lords and ladies get on well enough and quite
good-humouredly: but if you want to see the gorgeous phenomena who wait
upon them at a perfect non-plus, you should come and look at the
resplendent creatures with little back parlours for servants’ halls, and
turn-up bedsteads to sleep in, at our watering-place.  You have no idea
how they take it to heart.

We have a pier—a queer old wooden pier, fortunately without the slightest
pretensions to architecture, and very picturesque in consequence.  Boats
are hauled up upon it, ropes are coiled all over it; lobster-pots, nets,
masts, oars, spars, sails, ballast, and rickety capstans, make a perfect
labyrinth of it.  For ever hovering about this pier, with their hands in
their pockets, or leaning over the rough bulwark it opposes to the sea,
gazing through telescopes which they carry about in the same profound
receptacles, are the Boatmen of our watering-place.  Looking at them, you
would say that surely these must be the laziest boatmen in the world.
They lounge about, in obstinate and inflexible pantaloons that are
apparently made of wood, the whole season through.  Whether talking
together about the shipping in the Channel, or gruffly unbending over
mugs of beer at the public-house, you would consider them the slowest of
men.  The chances are a thousand to one that you might stay here for ten
seasons, and never see a boatman in a hurry.  A certain expression about
his loose hands, when they are not in his pockets, as if he were carrying
a considerable lump of iron in each, without any inconvenience, suggests
strength, but he never seems to use it.  He has the appearance of
perpetually strolling—running is too inappropriate a word to be thought
of—to seed.  The only subject on which he seems to feel any approach to
enthusiasm, is pitch.  He pitches everything he can lay hold of,—the
pier, the palings, his boat, his house,—when there is nothing else left
he turns to and even pitches his hat, or his rough-weather clothing.  Do
not judge him by deceitful appearances.  These are among the bravest and
most skilful mariners that exist.  Let a gale arise and swell into a
storm, let a sea run that might appal the stoutest heart that ever beat,
let the Light-boat on these dangerous sands throw up a rocket in the
night, or let them hear through the angry roar the signal-guns of a ship
in distress, and these men spring up into activity so dauntless, so
valiant, and heroic, that the world cannot surpass it.  Cavillers may
object that they chiefly live upon the salvage of valuable cargoes.  So
they do, and God knows it is no great living that they get out of the
deadly risks they run.  But put that hope of gain aside.  Let these rough
fellows be asked, in any storm, who volunteers for the life-boat to save
some perishing souls, as poor and empty-handed as themselves, whose lives
the perfection of human reason does not rate at the value of a farthing
each; and that boat will be manned, as surely and as cheerfully, as if a
thousand pounds were told down on the weather-beaten pier.  For this, and
for the recollection of their comrades whom we have known, whom the
raging sea has engulfed before their children’s eyes in such brave
efforts, whom the secret sand has buried, we hold the boatmen of our
watering-place in our love and honour, and are tender of the fame they
well deserve.

So many children are brought down to our watering-place that, when they
are not out of doors, as they usually are in fine weather, it is
wonderful where they are put: the whole village seeming much too small to
hold them under cover.  In the afternoons, you see no end of salt and
sandy little boots drying on upper window-sills.  At bathing-time in the
morning, the little bay re-echoes with every shrill variety of shriek and
splash—after which, if the weather be at all fresh, the sands teem with
small blue mottled legs.  The sands are the children’s great resort.
They cluster there, like ants: so busy burying their particular friends,
and making castles with infinite labour which the next tide overthrows,
that it is curious to consider how their play, to the music of the sea,
foreshadows the realities of their after lives.

It is curious, too, to observe a natural ease of approach that there
seems to be between the children and the boatmen.  They mutually make
acquaintance, and take individual likings, without any help.  You will
come upon one of those slow heavy fellows sitting down patiently mending
a little ship for a mite of a boy, whom he could crush to death by
throwing his lightest pair of trousers on him.  You will be sensible of
the oddest contrast between the smooth little creature, and the rough man
who seems to be carved out of hard-grained wood—between the delicate hand
expectantly held out, and the immense thumb and finger that can hardly
feel the rigging of thread they mend—between the small voice and the
gruff growl—and yet there is a natural propriety in the companionship:
always to be noted in confidence between a child and a person who has any
merit of reality and genuineness: which is admirably pleasant.

We have a preventive station at our watering-place, and much the same
thing may be observed—in a lesser degree, because of their official
character—of the coast blockade; a steady, trusty, well-conditioned,
well-conducted set of men, with no misgiving about looking you full in
the face, and with a quiet thorough-going way of passing along to their
duty at night, carrying huge sou’-wester clothing in reserve, that is
fraught with all good prepossession.  They are handy fellows—neat about
their houses—industrious at gardening—would get on with their wives, one
thinks, in a desert island—and people it, too, soon.

As to the naval officer of the station, with his hearty fresh face, and
his blue eye that has pierced all kinds of weather, it warms our hearts
when he comes into church on a Sunday, with that bright mixture of blue
coat, buff waistcoat, black neck-kerchief, and gold epaulette, that is
associated in the minds of all Englishmen with brave, unpretending,
cordial, national service.  We like to look at him in his Sunday state;
and if we were First Lord (really possessing the indispensable
qualification for the office of knowing nothing whatever about the sea),
we would give him a ship to-morrow.

We have a church, by-the-by, of course—a hideous temple of flint, like a
great petrified haystack.  Our chief clerical dignitary, who, to his
honour, has done much for education both in time and money, and has
established excellent schools, is a sound, shrewd, healthy gentleman, who
has got into little occasional difficulties with the neighbouring
farmers, but has had a pestilent trick of being right.  Under a new
regulation, he has yielded the church of our watering-place to another
clergyman.  Upon the whole we get on in church well.  We are a little
bilious sometimes, about these days of fraternisation, and about nations
arriving at a new and more unprejudiced knowledge of each other (which
our Christianity don’t quite approve), but it soon goes off, and then we
get on very well.

There are two dissenting chapels, besides, in our small watering-place;
being in about the proportion of a hundred and twenty guns to a yacht.
But the dissension that has torn us lately, has not been a religious one.
It has arisen on the novel question of Gas.  Our watering-place has been
convulsed by the agitation, Gas or No Gas.  It was never reasoned why No
Gas, but there was a great No Gas party.  Broadsides were printed and
stuck about—a startling circumstance in our watering-place.  The No Gas
party rested content with chalking ‘No Gas!’ and ‘Down with Gas!’ and
other such angry war-whoops, on the few back gates and scraps of wall
which the limits of our watering-place afford; but the Gas party printed
and posted bills, wherein they took the high ground of proclaiming
against the No Gas party, that it was said Let there be light and there
was light; and that not to have light (that is gas-light) in our
watering-place, was to contravene the great decree.  Whether by these
thunderbolts or not, the No Gas party were defeated; and in this present
season we have had our handful of shops illuminated for the first time.
Such of the No Gas party, however, as have got shops, remain in
opposition and burn tallow—exhibiting in their windows the very picture
of the sulkiness that punishes itself, and a new illustration of the old
adage about cutting off your nose to be revenged on your face, in cutting
off their gas to be revenged on their business.

Other population than we have indicated, our watering-place has none.
There are a few old used-up boatmen who creep about in the sunlight with
the help of sticks, and there is a poor imbecile shoemaker who wanders
his lonely life away among the rocks, as if he were looking for his
reason—which he will never find.  Sojourners in neighbouring
watering-places come occasionally in flys to stare at us, and drive away
again as if they thought us very dull; Italian boys come, Punch comes,
the Fantoccini come, the Tumblers come, the Ethiopians come; Glee-singers
come at night, and hum and vibrate (not always melodiously) under our
windows.  But they all go soon, and leave us to ourselves again.  We once
had a travelling Circus and Wombwell’s Menagerie at the same time.  They
both know better than ever to try it again; and the Menagerie had nearly
razed us from the face of the earth in getting the elephant away—his
caravan was so large, and the watering-place so small.  We have a fine
sea, wholesome for all people; profitable for the body, profitable for
the mind.  The poet’s words are sometimes on its awful lips:

    And the stately ships go on
       To their haven under the hill;
    But O for the touch of a vanish’d hand.
       And the sound of a voice that is still!

    Break, break, break,
       At the foot of thy crags, O sea!
    But the tender grace of a day that is dead
       Will never come back to me.

Yet it is not always so, for the speech of the sea is various, and wants
not abundant resource of cheerfulness, hope, and lusty encouragement.
And since I have been idling at the window here, the tide has risen.  The
boats are dancing on the bubbling water; the colliers are afloat again;
the white-bordered waves rush in; the children

    Do chase the ebbing Neptune, and do fly him
    When he comes back;

the radiant sails are gliding past the shore, and shining on the far
horizon; all the sea is sparkling, heaving, swelling up with life and
beauty, this bright morning.



OUR FRENCH WATERING-PLACE


HAVING earned, by many years of fidelity, the right to be sometimes
inconstant to our English watering-place, we have dallied for two or
three seasons with a French watering-place: once solely known to us as a
town with a very long street, beginning with an abattoir and ending with
a steam-boat, which it seemed our fate to behold only at daybreak on
winter mornings, when (in the days before continental railroads), just
sufficiently awake to know that we were most uncomfortably asleep, it was
our destiny always to clatter through it, in the coupé of the diligence
from Paris, with a sea of mud behind us, and a sea of tumbling waves
before.  In relation to which latter monster, our mind’s eye now recalls
a worthy Frenchman in a seal-skin cap with a braided hood over it, once
our travelling companion in the coupé aforesaid, who, waking up with a
pale and crumpled visage, and looking ruefully out at the grim row of
breakers enjoying themselves fanatically on an instrument of torture
called ‘the Bar,’ inquired of us whether we were ever sick at sea?  Both
to prepare his mind for the abject creature we were presently to become,
and also to afford him consolation, we replied, ‘Sir, your servant is
always sick when it is possible to be so.’  He returned, altogether
uncheered by the bright example, ‘Ah, Heaven, but I am always sick, even
when it is impossible to be so.’

The means of communication between the French capital and our French
watering-place are wholly changed since those days; but, the Channel
remains unbridged as yet, and the old floundering and knocking about go
on there.  It must be confessed that saving in reasonable (and therefore
rare) sea-weather, the act of arrival at our French watering-place from
England is difficult to be achieved with dignity.  Several little
circumstances combine to render the visitor an object of humiliation.  In
the first place, the steamer no sooner touches the port, than all the
passengers fall into captivity: being boarded by an overpowering force of
Custom-house officers, and marched into a gloomy dungeon.  In the second
place, the road to this dungeon is fenced off with ropes breast-high, and
outside those ropes all the English in the place who have lately been
sea-sick and are now well, assemble in their best clothes to enjoy the
degradation of their dilapidated fellow-creatures.  ‘Oh, my gracious! how
ill this one has been!’  ‘Here’s a damp one coming next!’  ‘Here’s a pale
one!’  ‘Oh!  Ain’t he green in the face, this next one!’  Even we ourself
(not deficient in natural dignity) have a lively remembrance of
staggering up this detested lane one September day in a gale of wind,
when we were received like an irresistible comic actor, with a burst of
laughter and applause, occasioned by the extreme imbecility of our legs.

We were coming to the third place.  In the third place, the captives,
being shut up in the gloomy dungeon, are strained, two or three at a
time, into an inner cell, to be examined as to passports; and across the
doorway of communication, stands a military creature making a bar of his
arm.  Two ideas are generally present to the British mind during these
ceremonies; first, that it is necessary to make for the cell with violent
struggles, as if it were a life-boat and the dungeon a ship going down;
secondly, that the military creature’s arm is a national affront, which
the government at home ought instantly to ‘take up.’  The British mind
and body becoming heated by these fantasies, delirious answers are made
to inquiries, and extravagant actions performed.  Thus, Johnson persists
in giving Johnson as his baptismal name, and substituting for his
ancestral designation the national ‘Dam!’  Neither can he by any means be
brought to recognise the distinction between a portmanteau-key and a
passport, but will obstinately persevere in tendering the one when asked
for the other.  This brings him to the fourth place, in a state of mere
idiotcy; and when he is, in the fourth place, cast out at a little door
into a howling wilderness of touters, he becomes a lunatic with wild eyes
and floating hair until rescued and soothed.  If friendless and
unrescued, he is generally put into a railway omnibus and taken to Paris.

But, our French watering-place, when it is once got into, is a very
enjoyable place.  It has a varied and beautiful country around it, and
many characteristic and agreeable things within it.  To be sure, it might
have fewer bad smells and less decaying refuse, and it might be better
drained, and much cleaner in many parts, and therefore infinitely more
healthy.  Still, it is a bright, airy, pleasant, cheerful town; and if
you were to walk down either of its three well-paved main streets,
towards five o’clock in the afternoon, when delicate odours of cookery
fill the air, and its hotel windows (it is full of hotels) give glimpses
of long tables set out for dinner, and made to look sumptuous by the aid
of napkins folded fan-wise, you would rightly judge it to be an
uncommonly good town to eat and drink in.

We have an old walled town, rich in cool public wells of water, on the
top of a hill within and above the present business-town; and if it were
some hundreds of miles further from England, instead of being, on a clear
day, within sight of the grass growing in the crevices of the
chalk-cliffs of Dover, you would long ago have been bored to death about
that town.  It is more picturesque and quaint than half the innocent
places which tourists, following their leader like sheep, have made
impostors of.  To say nothing of its houses with grave courtyards, its
queer by-corners, and its many-windowed streets white and quiet in the
sunlight, there is an ancient belfry in it that would have been in all
the Annuals and Albums, going and gone, these hundred years if it had but
been more expensive to get at.  Happily it has escaped so well, being
only in our French watering-place, that you may like it of your own
accord in a natural manner, without being required to go into convulsions
about it.  We regard it as one of the later blessings of our life, that
BILKINS, the only authority on Taste, never took any notice that we can
find out, of our French watering-place.  Bilkins never wrote about it,
never pointed out anything to be seen in it, never measured anything in
it, always left it alone.  For which relief, Heaven bless the town and
the memory of the immortal Bilkins likewise!

There is a charming walk, arched and shaded by trees, on the old walls
that form the four sides of this High Town, whence you get glimpses of
the streets below, and changing views of the other town and of the river,
and of the hills and of the sea.  It is made more agreeable and peculiar
by some of the solemn houses that are rooted in the deep streets below,
bursting into a fresher existence a-top, and having doors and windows,
and even gardens, on these ramparts.  A child going in at the courtyard
gate of one of these houses, climbing up the many stairs, and coming out
at the fourth-floor window, might conceive himself another Jack,
alighting on enchanted ground from another bean-stalk.  It is a place
wonderfully populous in children; English children, with governesses
reading novels as they walk down the shady lanes of trees, or nursemaids
interchanging gossip on the seats; French children with their smiling
bonnes in snow-white caps, and themselves—if little boys—in straw
head-gear like bee-hives, work-baskets and church hassocks.  Three years
ago, there were three weazen old men, one bearing a frayed red ribbon in
his threadbare button-hole, always to be found walking together among
these children, before dinner-time.  If they walked for an appetite, they
doubtless lived en pension—were contracted for—otherwise their poverty
would have made it a rash action.  They were stooping, blear-eyed, dull
old men, slip-shod and shabby, in long-skirted short-waisted coats and
meagre trousers, and yet with a ghost of gentility hovering in their
company.  They spoke little to each other, and looked as if they might
have been politically discontented if they had had vitality enough.
Once, we overheard red-ribbon feebly complain to the other two that
somebody, or something, was ‘a Robber;’ and then they all three set their
mouths so that they would have ground their teeth if they had had any.
The ensuing winter gathered red-ribbon unto the great company of faded
ribbons, and next year the remaining two were there—getting themselves
entangled with hoops and dolls—familiar mysteries to the
children—probably in the eyes of most of them, harmless creatures who had
never been like children, and whom children could never be like.  Another
winter came, and another old man went, and so, this present year, the
last of the triumvirate, left off walking—it was no good, now—and sat by
himself on a little solitary bench, with the hoops and the dolls as
lively as ever all about him.

In the Place d’Armes of this town, a little decayed market is held, which
seems to slip through the old gateway, like water, and go rippling down
the hill, to mingle with the murmuring market in the lower town, and get
lost in its movement and bustle.  It is very agreeable on an idle summer
morning to pursue this market-stream from the hill-top.  It begins,
dozingly and dully, with a few sacks of corn; starts into a surprising
collection of boots and shoes; goes brawling down the hill in a
diversified channel of old cordage, old iron, old crockery, old clothes,
civil and military, old rags, new cotton goods, flaming prints of saints,
little looking-glasses, and incalculable lengths of tape; dives into a
backway, keeping out of sight for a little while, as streams will, or
only sparkling for a moment in the shape of a market drinking-shop; and
suddenly reappears behind the great church, shooting itself into a bright
confusion of white-capped women and blue-bloused men, poultry,
vegetables, fruits, flowers, pots, pans, praying-chairs, soldiers,
country butter, umbrellas and other sun-shades, girl-porters waiting to
be hired with baskets at their backs, and one weazen little old man in a
cocked hat, wearing a cuirass of drinking-glasses and carrying on his
shoulder a crimson temple fluttering with flags, like a glorified
pavior’s rammer without the handle, who rings a little bell in all parts
of the scene, and cries his cooling drink Hola, Hola, Ho-o-o! in a shrill
cracked voice that somehow makes itself heard, above all the chaffering
and vending hum.  Early in the afternoon, the whole course of the stream
is dry.  The praying-chairs are put back in the church, the umbrellas are
folded up, the unsold goods are carried away, the stalls and stands
disappear, the square is swept, the hackney coaches lounge there to be
hired, and on all the country roads (if you walk about, as much as we do)
you will see the peasant women, always neatly and comfortably dressed,
riding home, with the pleasantest saddle-furniture of clean milk-pails,
bright butter-kegs, and the like, on the jolliest little donkeys in the
world.

We have another market in our French watering-place—that is to say, a few
wooden hutches in the open street, down by the Port—devoted to fish.  Our
fishing-boats are famous everywhere; and our fishing people, though they
love lively colours, and taste is neutral (see Bilkins), are among the
most picturesque people we ever encountered.  They have not only a
quarter of their own in the town itself, but they occupy whole villages
of their own on the neighbouring cliffs.  Their churches and chapels are
their own; they consort with one another, they intermarry among
themselves, their customs are their own, and their costume is their own
and never changes.  As soon as one of their boys can walk, he is provided
with a long bright red nightcap; and one of their men would as soon think
of going afloat without his head, as without that indispensable appendage
to it.  Then, they wear the noblest boots, with the hugest tops—flapping
and bulging over anyhow; above which, they encase themselves in such
wonderful overalls and petticoat trousers, made to all appearance of
tarry old sails, so additionally stiffened with pitch and salt, that the
wearers have a walk of their own, and go straddling and swinging about
among the boats and barrels and nets and rigging, a sight to see.  Then,
their younger women, by dint of going down to the sea barefoot, to fling
their baskets into the boats as they come in with the tide, and bespeak
the first fruits of the haul with propitiatory promises to love and marry
that dear fisherman who shall fill that basket like an Angel, have the
finest legs ever carved by Nature in the brightest mahogany, and they
walk like Juno.  Their eyes, too, are so lustrous that their long gold
ear-rings turn dull beside those brilliant neighbours; and when they are
dressed, what with these beauties, and their fine fresh faces, and their
many petticoats—striped petticoats, red petticoats, blue petticoats,
always clean and smart, and never too long—and their home-made stockings,
mulberry-coloured, blue, brown, purple, lilac—which the older women,
taking care of the Dutch-looking children, sit in all sorts of places
knitting, knitting, knitting from morning to night—and what with their
little saucy bright blue jackets, knitted too, and fitting close to their
handsome figures; and what with the natural grace with which they wear
the commonest cap, or fold the commonest handkerchief round their
luxuriant hair—we say, in a word and out of breath, that taking all these
premises into our consideration, it has never been a matter of the least
surprise to us that we have never once met, in the cornfields, on the
dusty roads, by the breezy windmills, on the plots of short sweet grass
overhanging the sea—anywhere—a young fisherman and fisherwoman of our
French watering-place together, but the arm of that fisherman has
invariably been, as a matter of course and without any absurd attempt to
disguise so plain a necessity, round the neck or waist of that
fisherwoman.  And we have had no doubt whatever, standing looking at
their uphill streets, house rising above house, and terrace above
terrace, and bright garments here and there lying sunning on rough stone
parapets, that the pleasant mist on all such objects, caused by their
being seen through the brown nets hung across on poles to dry, is, in the
eyes of every true young fisherman, a mist of love and beauty, setting
off the goddess of his heart.

Moreover it is to be observed that these are an industrious people, and a
domestic people, and an honest people.  And though we are aware that at
the bidding of Bilkins it is our duty to fall down and worship the
Neapolitans, we make bold very much to prefer the fishing people of our
French watering-place—especially since our last visit to Naples within
these twelvemonths, when we found only four conditions of men remaining
in the whole city: to wit, lazzaroni, priests, spies, and soldiers, and
all of them beggars; the paternal government having banished all its
subjects except the rascals.

But we can never henceforth separate our French watering-place from our
own landlord of two summers, M. Loyal Devasseur, citizen and
town-councillor.  Permit us to have the pleasure of presenting M. Loyal
Devasseur.

His own family name is simply Loyal; but, as he is married, and as in
that part of France a husband always adds to his own name the family name
of his wife, he writes himself Loyal Devasseur.  He owns a compact little
estate of some twenty or thirty acres on a lofty hill-side, and on it he
has built two country houses, which he lets furnished.  They are by many
degrees the best houses that are so let near our French watering-place;
we have had the honour of living in both, and can testify.  The
entrance-hall of the first we inhabited was ornamented with a plan of the
estate, representing it as about twice the size of Ireland; insomuch that
when we were yet new to the property (M. Loyal always speaks of it as ‘La
propriété’) we went three miles straight on end in search of the bridge
of Austerlitz—which we afterwards found to be immediately outside the
window.  The Château of the Old Guard, in another part of the grounds,
and, according to the plan, about two leagues from the little
dining-room, we sought in vain for a week, until, happening one evening
to sit upon a bench in the forest (forest in the plan), a few yards from
the house-door, we observed at our feet, in the ignominious circumstances
of being upside down and greenly rotten, the Old Guard himself: that is
to say, the painted effigy of a member of that distinguished corps, seven
feet high, and in the act of carrying arms, who had had the misfortune to
be blown down in the previous winter.  It will be perceived that M. Loyal
is a staunch admirer of the great Napoleon.  He is an old soldier
himself—captain of the National Guard, with a handsome gold vase on his
chimney-piece presented to him by his company—and his respect for the
memory of the illustrious general is enthusiastic.  Medallions of him,
portraits of him, busts of him, pictures of him, are thickly sprinkled
all over the property.  During the first month of our occupation, it was
our affliction to be constantly knocking down Napoleon: if we touched a
shelf in a dark corner, he toppled over with a crash; and every door we
opened, shook him to the soul.  Yet M. Loyal is not a man of mere castles
in the air, or, as he would say, in Spain.  He has a specially practical,
contriving, clever, skilful eye and hand.  His houses are delightful.  He
unites French elegance and English comfort, in a happy manner quite his
own.  He has an extraordinary genius for making tasteful little bedrooms
in angles of his roofs, which an Englishman would as soon think of
turning to any account as he would think of cultivating the Desert.  We
have ourself reposed deliciously in an elegant chamber of M. Loyal’s
construction, with our head as nearly in the kitchen chimney-pot as we
can conceive it likely for the head of any gentleman, not by profession a
Sweep, to be.  And, into whatsoever strange nook M. Loyal’s genius
penetrates, it, in that nook, infallibly constructs a cupboard and a row
of pegs.  In either of our houses, we could have put away the knapsacks
and hung up the hats of the whole regiment of Guides.

Aforetime, M. Loyal was a tradesman in the town.  You can transact
business with no present tradesman in the town, and give your card ‘chez
M. Loyal,’ but a brighter face shines upon you directly.  We doubt if
there is, ever was, or ever will be, a man so universally pleasant in the
minds of people as M. Loyal is in the minds of the citizens of our French
watering-place.  They rub their hands and laugh when they speak of him.
Ah, but he is such a good child, such a brave boy, such a generous
spirit, that Monsieur Loyal!  It is the honest truth.  M. Loyal’s nature
is the nature of a gentleman.  He cultivates his ground with his own
hands (assisted by one little labourer, who falls into a fit now and
then); and he digs and delves from morn to eve in prodigious
perspirations—‘works always,’ as he says—but, cover him with dust, mud,
weeds, water, any stains you will, you never can cover the gentleman in
M. Loyal.  A portly, upright, broad-shouldered, brown-faced man, whose
soldierly bearing gives him the appearance of being taller than he is,
look into the bright eye of M. Loyal, standing before you in his
working-blouse and cap, not particularly well shaved, and, it may be,
very earthy, and you shall discern in M. Loyal a gentleman whose true
politeness is ingrain, and confirmation of whose word by his bond you
would blush to think of.  Not without reason is M. Loyal when he tells
that story, in his own vivacious way, of his travelling to Fulham, near
London, to buy all these hundreds and hundreds of trees you now see upon
the Property, then a bare, bleak hill; and of his sojourning in Fulham
three months; and of his jovial evenings with the market-gardeners; and
of the crowning banquet before his departure, when the market-gardeners
rose as one man, clinked their glasses all together (as the custom at
Fulham is), and cried, ‘Vive Loyal!’

M. Loyal has an agreeable wife, but no family; and he loves to drill the
children of his tenants, or run races with them, or do anything with
them, or for them, that is good-natured.  He is of a highly convivial
temperament, and his hospitality is unbounded.  Billet a soldier on him,
and he is delighted.  Five-and-thirty soldiers had M. Loyal billeted on
him this present summer, and they all got fat and red-faced in two days.
It became a legend among the troops that whosoever got billeted on M.
Loyal rolled in clover; and so it fell out that the fortunate man who
drew the billet ‘M. Loyal Devasseur’ always leaped into the air, though
in heavy marching order.  M. Loyal cannot bear to admit anything that
might seem by any implication to disparage the military profession.  We
hinted to him once, that we were conscious of a remote doubt arising in
our mind, whether a sou a day for pocket-money, tobacco, stockings,
drink, washing, and social pleasures in general, left a very large margin
for a soldier’s enjoyment.  Pardon! said Monsieur Loyal, rather wincing.
It was not a fortune, but—à la bonne heure—it was better than it used to
be!  What, we asked him on another occasion, were all those neighbouring
peasants, each living with his family in one room, and each having a
soldier (perhaps two) billeted on him every other night, required to
provide for those soldiers?  ‘Faith!’ said M. Loyal, reluctantly; a bed,
monsieur, and fire to cook with, and a candle.  And they share their
supper with those soldiers.  It is not possible that they could eat
alone.’—‘And what allowance do they get for this?’ said we.  Monsieur
Loyal drew himself up taller, took a step back, laid his hand upon his
breast, and said, with majesty, as speaking for himself and all France,
‘Monsieur, it is a contribution to the State!’

It is never going to rain, according to M. Loyal.  When it is impossible
to deny that it is now raining in torrents, he says it will be
fine—charming—magnificent—to-morrow.  It is never hot on the Property, he
contends.  Likewise it is never cold.  The flowers, he says, come out,
delighting to grow there; it is like Paradise this morning; it is like
the Garden of Eden.  He is a little fanciful in his language: smilingly
observing of Madame Loyal, when she is absent at vespers, that she is
‘gone to her salvation’—allée à son salut.  He has a great enjoyment of
tobacco, but nothing would induce him to continue smoking face to face
with a lady.  His short black pipe immediately goes into his breast
pocket, scorches his blouse, and nearly sets him on fire.  In the Town
Council and on occasions of ceremony, he appears in a full suit of black,
with a waistcoat of magnificent breadth across the chest, and a
shirt-collar of fabulous proportions.  Good M. Loyal!  Under blouse or
waistcoat, he carries one of the gentlest hearts that beat in a nation
teeming with gentle people.  He has had losses, and has been at his best
under them.  Not only the loss of his way by night in the Fulham
times—when a bad subject of an Englishman, under pretence of seeing him
home, took him into all the night public-houses, drank ‘arfanarf’ in
every one at his expense, and finally fled, leaving him shipwrecked at
Cleefeeway, which we apprehend to be Ratcliffe Highway—but heavier losses
than that.  Long ago a family of children and a mother were left in one
of his houses without money, a whole year.  M. Loyal—anything but as rich
as we wish he had been—had not the heart to say ‘you must go;’ so they
stayed on and stayed on, and paying-tenants who would have come in
couldn’t come in, and at last they managed to get helped home across the
water; and M. Loyal kissed the whole group, and said, ‘Adieu, my poor
infants!’ and sat down in their deserted salon and smoked his pipe of
peace.—‘The rent, M. Loyal?’  ‘Eh! well!  The rent!’  M. Loyal shakes his
head.  ‘Le bon Dieu,’ says M. Loyal presently, ‘will recompense me,’ and
he laughs and smokes his pipe of peace.  May he smoke it on the Property,
and not be recompensed, these fifty years!

There are public amusements in our French watering-place, or it would not
be French.  They are very popular, and very cheap.  The sea-bathing—which
may rank as the most favoured daylight entertainment, inasmuch as the
French visitors bathe all day long, and seldom appear to think of
remaining less than an hour at a time in the water—is astoundingly cheap.
Omnibuses convey you, if you please, from a convenient part of the town
to the beach and back again; you have a clean and comfortable
bathing-machine, dress, linen, and all appliances; and the charge for the
whole is half-a-franc, or fivepence.  On the pier, there is usually a
guitar, which seems presumptuously enough to set its tinkling against the
deep hoarseness of the sea, and there is always some boy or woman who
sings, without any voice, little songs without any tune: the strain we
have most frequently heard being an appeal to ‘the sportsman’ not to bag
that choicest of game, the swallow.  For bathing purposes, we have also a
subscription establishment with an esplanade, where people lounge about
with telescopes, and seem to get a good deal of weariness for their
money; and we have also an association of individual machine proprietors
combined against this formidable rival.  M. Féroce, our own particular
friend in the bathing line, is one of these.  How he ever came by his
name we cannot imagine.  He is as gentle and polite a man as M. Loyal
Devasseur himself; immensely stout withal; and of a beaming aspect.  M.
Féroce has saved so many people from drowning, and has been decorated
with so many medals in consequence, that his stoutness seems a special
dispensation of Providence to enable him to wear them; if his girth were
the girth of an ordinary man, he could never hang them on, all at once.
It is only on very great occasions that M. Féroce displays his shining
honours.  At other times they lie by, with rolls of manuscript testifying
to the causes of their presentation, in a huge glass case in the
red-sofa’d salon of his private residence on the beach, where M. Féroce
also keeps his family pictures, his portraits of himself as he appears
both in bathing life and in private life, his little boats that rock by
clockwork, and his other ornamental possessions.

Then, we have a commodious and gay Theatre—or had, for it is burned down
now—where the opera was always preceded by a vaudeville, in which (as
usual) everybody, down to the little old man with the large hat and the
little cane and tassel, who always played either my Uncle or my Papa,
suddenly broke out of the dialogue into the mildest vocal snatches, to
the great perplexity of unaccustomed strangers from Great Britain, who
never could make out when they were singing and when they were
talking—and indeed it was pretty much the same.  But, the caterers in the
way of entertainment to whom we are most beholden, are the Society of
Welldoing, who are active all the summer, and give the proceeds of their
good works to the poor.  Some of the most agreeable fêtes they contrive,
are announced as ‘Dedicated to the children;’ and the taste with which
they turn a small public enclosure into an elegant garden beautifully
illuminated; and the thorough-going heartiness and energy with which they
personally direct the childish pleasures; are supremely delightful.  For
fivepence a head, we have on these occasions donkey races with English
‘Jokeis,’ and other rustic sports; lotteries for toys; roundabouts,
dancing on the grass to the music of an admirable band, fire-balloons and
fireworks.  Further, almost every week all through the summer—never mind,
now, on what day of the week—there is a fête in some adjoining village
(called in that part of the country a Ducasse), where the people—really
the people—dance on the green turf in the open air, round a little
orchestra, that seems itself to dance, there is such an airy motion of
flags and streamers all about it.  And we do not suppose that between the
Torrid Zone and the North Pole there are to be found male dancers with
such astonishingly loose legs, furnished with so many joints in wrong
places, utterly unknown to Professor Owen, as those who here disport
themselves.  Sometimes, the fête appertains to a particular trade; you
will see among the cheerful young women at the joint Ducasse of the
milliners and tailors, a wholesome knowledge of the art of making common
and cheap things uncommon and pretty, by good sense and good taste, that
is a practical lesson to any rank of society in a whole island we could
mention.  The oddest feature of these agreeable scenes is the everlasting
Roundabout (we preserve an English word wherever we can, as we are
writing the English language), on the wooden horses of which machine
grown-up people of all ages are wound round and round with the utmost
solemnity, while the proprietor’s wife grinds an organ, capable of only
one tune, in the centre.

As to the boarding-houses of our French watering-place, they are Legion,
and would require a distinct treatise.  It is not without a sentiment of
national pride that we believe them to contain more bores from the shores
of Albion than all the clubs in London.  As you walk timidly in their
neighbourhood, the very neckcloths and hats of your elderly compatriots
cry to you from the stones of the streets, ‘We are Bores—avoid us!’  We
have never overheard at street corners such lunatic scraps of political
and social discussion as among these dear countrymen of ours.  They
believe everything that is impossible and nothing that is true.  They
carry rumours, and ask questions, and make corrections and improvements
on one another, staggering to the human intellect.  And they are for ever
rushing into the English library, propounding such incomprehensible
paradoxes to the fair mistress of that establishment, that we beg to
recommend her to her Majesty’s gracious consideration as a fit object for
a pension.

The English form a considerable part of the population of our French
watering-place, and are deservedly addressed and respected in many ways.
Some of the surface-addresses to them are odd enough, as when a laundress
puts a placard outside her house announcing her possession of that
curious British instrument, a ‘Mingle;’ or when a tavern-keeper provides
accommodation for the celebrated English game of ‘Nokemdon.’  But, to us,
it is not the least pleasant feature of our French watering-place that a
long and constant fusion of the two great nations there, has taught each
to like the other, and to learn from the other, and to rise superior to
the absurd prejudices that have lingered among the weak and ignorant in
both countries equally.

Drumming and trumpeting of course go on for ever in our French
watering-place.  Flag-flying is at a premium, too; but, we cheerfully
avow that we consider a flag a very pretty object, and that we take such
outward signs of innocent liveliness to our heart of hearts.  The people,
in the town and in the country, are a busy people who work hard; they are
sober, temperate, good-humoured, light-hearted, and generally remarkable
for their engaging manners.  Few just men, not immoderately bilious,
could see them in their recreations without very much respecting the
character that is so easily, so harmlessly, and so simply, pleased.



BILL-STICKING


IF I had an enemy whom I hated—which Heaven forbid!—and if I knew of
something which sat heavy on his conscience, I think I would introduce
that something into a Posting-Bill, and place a large impression in the
hands of an active sticker.  I can scarcely imagine a more terrible
revenge.  I should haunt him, by this means, night and day.  I do not
mean to say that I would publish his secret, in red letters two feet
high, for all the town to read: I would darkly refer to it.  It should be
between him, and me, and the Posting-Bill.  Say, for example, that, at a
certain period of his life, my enemy had surreptitiously possessed
himself of a key.  I would then embark my capital in the lock business,
and conduct that business on the advertising principle.  In all my
placards and advertisements, I would throw up the line SECRET KEYS.
Thus, if my enemy passed an uninhabited house, he would see his
conscience glaring down on him from the parapets, and peeping up at him
from the cellars.  If he took a dead wall in his walk, it would be alive
with reproaches.  If he sought refuge in an omnibus, the panels thereof
would become Belshazzar’s palace to him.  If he took boat, in a wild
endeavour to escape, he would see the fatal words lurking under the
arches of the bridges over the Thames.  If he walked the streets with
downcast eyes, he would recoil from the very stones of the pavement, made
eloquent by lamp-black lithograph.  If he drove or rode, his way would be
blocked up by enormous vans, each proclaiming the same words over and
over again from its whole extent of surface.  Until, having gradually
grown thinner and paler, and having at last totally rejected food, he
would miserably perish, and I should be revenged.  This conclusion I
should, no doubt, celebrate by laughing a hoarse laugh in three
syllables, and folding my arms tight upon my chest agreeably to most of
the examples of glutted animosity that I have had an opportunity of
observing in connexion with the Drama—which, by-the-by, as involving a
good deal of noise, appears to me to be occasionally confounded with the
Drummer.

The foregoing reflections presented themselves to my mind, the other day,
as I contemplated (being newly come to London from the East Riding of
Yorkshire, on a house-hunting expedition for next May), an old warehouse
which rotting paste and rotting paper had brought down to the condition
of an old cheese.  It would have been impossible to say, on the most
conscientious survey, how much of its front was brick and mortar, and how
much decaying and decayed plaster.  It was so thickly encrusted with
fragments of bills, that no ship’s keel after a long voyage could be half
so foul.  All traces of the broken windows were billed out, the doors
were billed across, the water-spout was billed over.  The building was
shored up to prevent its tumbling into the street; and the very beams
erected against it were less wood than paste and paper, they had been so
continually posted and reposted.  The forlorn dregs of old posters so
encumbered this wreck, that there was no hold for new posters, and the
stickers had abandoned the place in despair, except one enterprising man
who had hoisted the last masquerade to a clear spot near the level of the
stack of chimneys where it waved and drooped like a shattered flag.
Below the rusty cellar-grating, crumpled remnants of old bills torn down,
rotted away in wasting heaps of fallen leaves.  Here and there, some of
the thick rind of the house had peeled off in strips, and fluttered
heavily down, littering the street; but, still, below these rents and
gashes, layers of decomposing posters showed themselves, as if they were
interminable.  I thought the building could never even be pulled down,
but in one adhesive heap of rottenness and poster.  As to getting in—I
don’t believe that if the Sleeping Beauty and her Court had been so
billed up, the young Prince could have done it.

Knowing all the posters that were yet legible, intimately, and pondering
on their ubiquitous nature, I was led into the reflections with which I
began this paper, by considering what an awful thing it would be, ever to
have wronged—say M. JULLIEN for example—and to have his avenging name in
characters of fire incessantly before my eyes.  Or to have injured MADAME
TUSSAUD, and undergo a similar retribution.  Has any man a
self-reproachful thought associated with pills, or ointment?  What an
avenging spirit to that man is PROFESSOR HOLLOWAY!  Have I sinned in oil?
CABBURN pursues me.  Have I a dark remembrance associated with any
gentlemanly garments, bespoke or ready made?  MOSES and SON are on my
track.  Did I ever aim a blow at a defenceless fellow-creature’s head?
That head eternally being measured for a wig, or that worse head which
was bald before it used the balsam, and hirsute afterwards—enforcing the
benevolent moral, ‘Better to be bald as a Dutch cheese than come to
this,’—undoes me.  Have I no sore places in my mind which MECHI
touches—which NICOLL probes—which no registered article whatever
lacerates?  Does no discordant note within me thrill responsive to
mysterious watchwords, as ‘Revalenta Arabica,’ or ‘Number One St. Paul’s
Churchyard’?  Then may I enjoy life, and be happy.

Lifting up my eyes, as I was musing to this effect, I beheld advancing
towards me (I was then on Cornhill, near to the Royal Exchange), a solemn
procession of three advertising vans, of first-class dimensions, each
drawn by a very little horse.  As the cavalcade approached, I was at a
loss to reconcile the careless deportment of the drivers of these
vehicles, with the terrific announcements they conducted through the
city, which being a summary of the contents of a Sunday newspaper, were
of the most thrilling kind.  Robbery, fire, murder, and the ruin of the
United Kingdom—each discharged in a line by itself, like a separate
broad-side of red-hot shot—were among the least of the warnings addressed
to an unthinking people.  Yet, the Ministers of Fate who drove the awful
cars, leaned forward with their arms upon their knees in a state of
extreme lassitude, for want of any subject of interest.  The first man,
whose hair I might naturally have expected to see standing on end,
scratched his head—one of the smoothest I ever beheld—with profound
indifference.  The second whistled.  The third yawned.

Pausing to dwell upon this apathy, it appeared to me, as the fatal cars
came by me, that I descried in the second car, through the portal in
which the charioteer was seated, a figure stretched upon the floor.  At
the same time, I thought I smelt tobacco.  The latter impression passed
quickly from me; the former remained.  Curious to know whether this
prostrate figure was the one impressible man of the whole capital who had
been stricken insensible by the terrors revealed to him, and whose form
had been placed in the car by the charioteer, from motives of humanity, I
followed the procession.  It turned into Leadenhall-market, and halted at
a public-house.  Each driver dismounted.  I then distinctly heard,
proceeding from the second car, where I had dimly seen the prostrate
form, the words:

‘And a pipe!’

The driver entering the public-house with his fellows, apparently for
purposes of refreshment, I could not refrain from mounting on the shaft
of the second vehicle, and looking in at the portal.  I then beheld,
reclining on his back upon the floor, on a kind of mattress or divan, a
little man in a shooting-coat.  The exclamation ‘Dear me’ which
irresistibly escaped my lips caused him to sit upright, and survey me.  I
found him to be a good-looking little man of about fifty, with a shining
face, a tight head, a bright eye, a moist wink, a quick speech, and a
ready air.  He had something of a sporting way with him.

He looked at me, and I looked at him, until the driver displaced me by
handing in a pint of beer, a pipe, and what I understand is called ‘a
screw’ of tobacco—an object which has the appearance of a curl-paper
taken off the barmaid’s head, with the curl in it.

‘I beg your pardon,’ said I, when the removed person of the driver again
admitted of my presenting my face at the portal.  ‘But—excuse my
curiosity, which I inherit from my mother—do you live here?’

‘That’s good, too!’ returned the little man, composedly laying aside a
pipe he had smoked out, and filling the pipe just brought to him.

‘Oh, you _don’t_ live here then?’ said I.

He shook his head, as he calmly lighted his pipe by means of a German
tinder-box, and replied, ‘This is my carriage.  When things are flat, I
take a ride sometimes, and enjoy myself.  I am the inventor of these
wans.’

His pipe was now alight.  He drank his beer all at once, and he smoked
and he smiled at me.

‘It was a great idea!’ said I.

‘Not so bad,’ returned the little man, with the modesty of merit.

‘Might I be permitted to inscribe your name upon the tablets of my
memory?’ I asked.

‘There’s not much odds in the name,’ returned the little man, ‘—no name
particular—I am the King of the Bill-Stickers.’

‘Good gracious!’ said I.

The monarch informed me, with a smile, that he had never been crowned or
installed with any public ceremonies, but that he was peaceably
acknowledged as King of the Bill-Stickers in right of being the oldest
and most respected member of ‘the old school of bill-sticking.’  He
likewise gave me to understand that there was a Lord Mayor of the
Bill-Stickers, whose genius was chiefly exercised within the limits of
the city.  He made some allusion, also, to an inferior potentate, called
‘Turkey-legs;’ but I did not understand that this gentleman was invested
with much power.  I rather inferred that he derived his title from some
peculiarity of gait, and that it was of an honorary character.

‘My father,’ pursued the King of the Bill-Stickers, ‘was Engineer,
Beadle, and Bill-Sticker to the parish of St. Andrew’s, Holborn, in the
year one thousand seven hundred and eighty.  My father stuck bills at the
time of the riots of London.’

‘You must be acquainted with the whole subject of bill-sticking, from
that time to the present!’ said I.

‘Pretty well so,’ was the answer.

‘Excuse me,’ said I; ‘but I am a sort of collector—’

‘‘Not Income-tax?’ cried His Majesty, hastily removing his pipe from his
lips.

‘No, no,’ said I.

‘Water-rate?’ said His Majesty.

‘No, no,’ I returned.

‘Gas?  Assessed?  Sewers?’ said His Majesty.

‘You misunderstand me,’ I replied, soothingly.  ‘Not that sort of
collector at all: a collector of facts.’

‘Oh, if it’s only facts,’ cried the King of the Bill-Stickers, recovering
his good-humour, and banishing the great mistrust that had suddenly
fallen upon him, ‘come in and welcome!  If it had been income, or
winders, I think I should have pitched you out of the wan, upon my soul!’

Readily complying with the invitation, I squeezed myself in at the small
aperture.  His Majesty, graciously handing me a little three-legged stool
on which I took my seat in a corner, inquired if I smoked.

‘I do;—that is, I can,’ I answered.

‘Pipe and a screw!’ said His Majesty to the attendant charioteer.  ‘Do
you prefer a dry smoke, or do you moisten it?’

As unmitigated tobacco produces most disturbing effects upon my system
(indeed, if I had perfect moral courage, I doubt if I should smoke at
all, under any circumstances), I advocated moisture, and begged the
Sovereign of the Bill-Stickers to name his usual liquor, and to concede
to me the privilege of paying for it.  After some delicate reluctance on
his part, we were provided, through the instrumentality of the attendant
charioteer, with a can of cold rum-and-water, flavoured with sugar and
lemon.  We were also furnished with a tumbler, and I was provided with a
pipe.  His Majesty, then observing that we might combine business with
conversation, gave the word for the car to proceed; and, to my great
delight, we jogged away at a foot pace.

I say to my great delight, because I am very fond of novelty, and it was
a new sensation to be jolting through the tumult of the city in that
secluded Temple, partly open to the sky, surrounded by the roar without,
and seeing nothing but the clouds.  Occasionally, blows from whips fell
heavily on the Temple’s walls, when by stopping up the road longer than
usual, we irritated carters and coachmen to madness; but they fell
harmless upon us within and disturbed not the serenity of our peaceful
retreat.  As I looked upward, I felt, I should imagine, like the
Astronomer Royal.  I was enchanted by the contrast between the freezing
nature of our external mission on the blood of the populace, and the
perfect composure reigning within those sacred precincts: where His
Majesty, reclining easily on his left arm, smoked his pipe and drank his
rum-and-water from his own side of the tumbler, which stood impartially
between us.  As I looked down from the clouds and caught his royal eye,
he understood my reflections.  ‘I have an idea,’ he observed, with an
upward glance, ‘of training scarlet runners across in the season,—making
a arbour of it,—and sometimes taking tea in the same, according to the
song.’

I nodded approval.

‘And here you repose and think?’ said I.

‘And think,’ said he, ‘of posters—walls—and hoardings.’

We were both silent, contemplating the vastness of the subject.  I
remembered a surprising fancy of dear THOMAS HOOD’S, and wondered whether
this monarch ever sighed to repair to the great wall of China, and stick
bills all over it.

‘And so,’ said he, rousing himself, ‘it’s facts as you collect?’

‘Facts,’ said I.

‘The facts of bill-sticking,’ pursued His Majesty, in a benignant manner,
‘as known to myself, air as following.  When my father was Engineer,
Beadle, and Bill-Sticker to the parish of St. Andrew’s, Holborn, he
employed women to post bills for him.  He employed women to post bills at
the time of the riots of London.  He died at the age of seventy-five
year, and was buried by the murdered Eliza Grimwood, over in the Waterloo
Road.’

As this was somewhat in the nature of a royal speech, I listened with
deference and silently.  His Majesty, taking a scroll from his pocket,
proceeded, with great distinctness, to pour out the following flood of
information:—

‘“The bills being at that period mostly proclamations and declarations,
and which were only a demy size, the manner of posting the bills (as they
did not use brushes) was by means of a piece of wood which they called a
‘dabber.’  Thus things continued till such time as the State Lottery was
passed, and then the printers began to print larger bills, and men were
employed instead of women, as the State Lottery Commissioners then began
to send men all over England to post bills, and would keep them out for
six or eight months at a time, and they were called by the London
bill-stickers ‘trampers,’ their wages at the time being ten shillings per
day, besides expenses.  They used sometimes to be stationed in large
towns for five or six months together, distributing the schemes to all
the houses in the town.  And then there were more caricature wood-block
engravings for posting-bills than there are at the present time, the
principal printers, at that time, of posting-bills being Messrs. Evans
and Ruffy, of Budge Row; Thoroughgood and Whiting, of the present day;
and Messrs. Gye and Balne, Gracechurch Street, City.  The largest bills
printed at that period were a two-sheet double crown; and when they
commenced printing four-sheet bills, two bill-stickers would work
together.  They had no settled wages per week, but had a fixed price for
their work, and the London bill-stickers, during a lottery week, have
been known to earn, each, eight or nine pounds per week, till the day of
drawing; likewise the men who carried boards in the street used to have
one pound per week, and the bill-stickers at that time would not allow
any one to wilfully cover or destroy their bills, as they had a society
amongst themselves, and very frequently dined together at some
public-house where they used to go of an evening to have their work
delivered out untoe ’em.”’

All this His Majesty delivered in a gallant manner; posting it, as it
were, before me, in a great proclamation.  I took advantage of the pause
he now made, to inquire what a ‘two-sheet double crown’ might express?

‘A two-sheet double crown,’ replied the King, ‘is a bill thirty-nine
inches wide by thirty inches high.’

‘Is it possible,’ said I, my mind reverting to the gigantic admonitions
we were then displaying to the multitude—which were as infants to some of
the posting-bills on the rotten old warehouse—‘that some few years ago
the largest bill was no larger than that?’

‘The fact,’ returned the King, ‘is undoubtedly so.’  Here he instantly
rushed again into the scroll.

‘“Since the abolishing of the State Lottery all that good feeling has
gone, and nothing but jealousy exists, through the rivalry of each other.
Several bill-sticking companies have started, but have failed.  The first
party that started a company was twelve year ago; but what was left of
the old school and their dependants joined together and opposed them.
And for some time we were quiet again, till a printer of Hatton Garden
formed a company by hiring the sides of houses; but he was not supported
by the public, and he left his wooden frames fixed up for rent.  The last
company that started, took advantage of the New Police Act, and hired of
Messrs. Grissell and Peto the hoarding of Trafalgar Square, and
established a bill-sticking office in Cursitor Street, Chancery Lane, and
engaged some of the new bill-stickers to do their work, and for a time
got the half of all our work, and with such spirit did they carry on
their opposition towards us, that they used to give us in charge before
the magistrate, and get us fined; but they found it so expensive, that
they could not keep it up, for they were always employing a lot of
ruffians from the Seven Dials to come and fight us; and on one occasion
the old bill-stickers went to Trafalgar Square to attempt to post bills,
when they were given in custody by the watchman in their employ, and
fined at Queen Square five pounds, as they would not allow any of us to
speak in the office; but when they were gone, we had an interview with
the magistrate, who mitigated the fine to fifteen shillings.  During the
time the men were waiting for the fine, this company started off to a
public-house that we were in the habit of using, and waited for us coming
back, where a fighting scene took place that beggars description.
Shortly after this, the principal one day came and shook hands with us,
and acknowledged that he had broken up the company, and that he himself
had lost five hundred pound in trying to overthrow us.  We then took
possession of the hoarding in Trafalgar Square; but Messrs. Grissell and
Peto would not allow us to post our bills on the said hoarding without
paying them—and from first to last we paid upwards of two hundred pounds
for that hoarding, and likewise the hoarding of the Reform Club-house,
Pall Mall.”’

His Majesty, being now completely out of breath, laid down his scroll
(which he appeared to have finished), puffed at his pipe, and took some
rum-and-water.  I embraced the opportunity of asking how many divisions
the art and mystery of bill-sticking comprised?  He replied,
three—auctioneers’ bill-sticking, theatrical bill-sticking, general
bill-sticking.

‘The auctioneers’ porters,’ said the King, ‘who do their bill-sticking,
are mostly respectable and intelligent, and generally well paid for their
work, whether in town or country.  The price paid by the principal
auctioneers for country work is nine shillings per day; that is, seven
shillings for day’s work, one shilling for lodging, and one for paste.
Town work is five shillings a day, including paste.’

‘Town work must be rather hot work,’ said I, ‘if there be many of those
fighting scenes that beggar description, among the bill-stickers?’

‘Well,’ replied the King, ‘I an’t a stranger, I assure you, to black
eyes; a bill-sticker ought to know how to handle his fists a bit.  As to
that row I have mentioned, that grew out of competition, conducted in an
uncompromising spirit.  Besides a man in a horse-and-shay continually
following us about, the company had a watchman on duty, night and day, to
prevent us sticking bills upon the hoarding in Trafalgar Square.  We went
there, early one morning, to stick bills and to black-wash their bills if
we were interfered with.  We were interfered with, and I gave the word
for laying on the wash.  It was laid on—pretty brisk—and we were all
taken to Queen Square: but they couldn’t fine me.  I knew that,’—with a
bright smile—‘I’d only give directions—I was only the General.’  Charmed
with this monarch’s affability, I inquired if he had ever hired a
hoarding himself.

‘Hired a large one,’ he replied, ‘opposite the Lyceum Theatre, when the
buildings was there.  Paid thirty pound for it; let out places on it, and
called it “The External Paper-Hanging Station.”  But it didn’t answer.
Ah!’ said His Majesty thoughtfully, as he filled the glass,
‘Bill-stickers have a deal to contend with.  The bill-sticking clause was
got into the Police Act by a member of Parliament that employed me at his
election.  The clause is pretty stiff respecting where bills go; but he
didn’t mind where his bills went.  It was all right enough, so long as
they was his bills!’

Fearful that I observed a shadow of misanthropy on the King’s cheerful
face, I asked whose ingenious invention that was, which I greatly
admired, of sticking bills under the arches of the bridges.

‘Mine!’ said His Majesty.  ‘I was the first that ever stuck a bill under
a bridge!  Imitators soon rose up, of course.—When don’t they?  But they
stuck ’em at low-water, and the tide came and swept the bills clean away.
I knew that!’  The King laughed.

‘What may be the name of that instrument, like an immense fishing-rod,’ I
inquired, ‘with which bills are posted on high places?’

‘The joints,’ returned His Majesty.  ‘Now, we use the joints where
formerly we used ladders—as they do still in country places.  Once, when
Madame’ (Vestris, understood) ‘was playing in Liverpool, another
bill-sticker and me were at it together on the wall outside the Clarence
Dock—me with the joints—him on a ladder.  Lord!  I had my bill up, right
over his head, yards above him, ladder and all, while he was crawling to
his work.  The people going in and out of the docks, stood and
laughed!—It’s about thirty years since the joints come in.’

‘Are there any bill-stickers who can’t read?’ I took the liberty of
inquiring.

‘Some,’ said the King.  ‘But they know which is the right side up’ards of
their work.  They keep it as it’s given out to ’em.  I have seen a bill
or so stuck wrong side up’ards.  But it’s very rare.’

Our discourse sustained some interruption at this point, by the
procession of cars occasioning a stoppage of about three-quarters of a
mile in length, as nearly as I could judge.  His Majesty, however,
entreating me not to be discomposed by the contingent uproar, smoked with
great placidity, and surveyed the firmament.

When we were again in motion, I begged to be informed what was the
largest poster His Majesty had ever seen.  The King replied, ‘A
thirty-six sheet poster.’  I gathered, also, that there were about a
hundred and fifty bill-stickers in London, and that His Majesty
considered an average hand equal to the posting of one hundred bills
(single sheets) in a day.  The King was of opinion, that, although
posters had much increased in size, they had not increased in number; as
the abolition of the State Lotteries had occasioned a great falling off,
especially in the country.  Over and above which change, I bethought
myself that the custom of advertising in newspapers had greatly
increased.  The completion of many London improvements, as Trafalgar
Square (I particularly observed the singularity of His Majesty’s calling
that an improvement), the Royal Exchange, &c., had of late years reduced
the number of advantageous posting-places.  Bill-Stickers at present
rather confine themselves to districts, than to particular descriptions
of work.  One man would strike over Whitechapel, another would take round
Houndsditch, Shoreditch, and the City Road; one (the King said) would
stick to the Surrey side; another would make a beat of the West-end.

His Majesty remarked, with some approach to severity, on the neglect of
delicacy and taste, gradually introduced into the trade by the new
school: a profligate and inferior race of impostors who took jobs at
almost any price, to the detriment of the old school, and the confusion
of their own misguided employers.  He considered that the trade was
overdone with competition, and observed speaking of his subjects, ‘There
are too many of ’em.’  He believed, still, that things were a little
better than they had been; adducing, as a proof, the fact that particular
posting places were now reserved, by common consent, for particular
posters; those places, however, must be regularly occupied by those
posters, or, they lapsed and fell into other hands.  It was of no use
giving a man a Drury Lane bill this week and not next.  Where was it to
go?  He was of opinion that going to the expense of putting up your own
board on which your sticker could display your own bills, was the only
complete way of posting yourself at the present time; but, even to effect
this, on payment of a shilling a week to the keepers of steamboat piers
and other such places, you must be able, besides, to give orders for
theatres and public exhibitions, or you would be sure to be cut out by
somebody.  His Majesty regarded the passion for orders, as one of the
most unappeasable appetites of human nature.  If there were a building,
or if there were repairs, going on, anywhere, you could generally stand
something and make it right with the foreman of the works; but, orders
would be expected from you, and the man who could give the most orders
was the man who would come off best.  There was this other objectionable
point, in orders, that workmen sold them for drink, and often sold them
to persons who were likewise troubled with the weakness of thirst: which
led (His Majesty said) to the presentation of your orders at Theatre
doors, by individuals who were ‘too shakery’ to derive intellectual
profit from the entertainments, and who brought a scandal on you.
Finally, His Majesty said that you could hardly put too little in a
poster; what you wanted, was, two or three good catch-lines for the eye
to rest on—then, leave it alone—and there you were!

These are the minutes of my conversation with His Majesty, as I noted
them down shortly afterwards.  I am not aware that I have been betrayed
into any alteration or suppression.  The manner of the King was frank in
the extreme; and he seemed to me to avoid, at once that slight tendency
to repetition which may have been observed in the conversation of His
Majesty King George the Third, and—that slight under-current of egotism
which the curious observer may perhaps detect in the conversation of
Napoleon Bonaparte.

I must do the King the justice to say that it was I, and not he, who
closed the dialogue.  At this juncture, I became the subject of a
remarkable optical delusion; the legs of my stool appeared to me to
double up; the car to spin round and round with great violence; and a
mist to arise between myself and His Majesty.  In addition to these
sensations, I felt extremely unwell.  I refer these unpleasant effects,
either to the paste with which the posters were affixed to the van: which
may have contained some small portion of arsenic; or, to the printer’s
ink, which may have contained some equally deleterious ingredient.  Of
this, I cannot be sure.  I am only sure that I was not affected, either
by the smoke, or the rum-and-water.  I was assisted out of the vehicle,
in a state of mind which I have only experienced in two other places—I
allude to the Pier at Dover, and to the corresponding portion of the town
of Calais—and sat upon a door-step until I recovered.  The procession had
then disappeared.  I have since looked anxiously for the King in several
other cars, but I have not yet had the happiness of seeing His Majesty.



‘BIRTHS.  MRS. MEEK, OF A SON


MY name is Meek.  I am, in fact, Mr. Meek.  That son is mine and Mrs.
Meek’s.  When I saw the announcement in the Times, I dropped the paper.
I had put it in, myself, and paid for it, but it looked so noble that it
overpowered me.

As soon as I could compose my feelings, I took the paper up to Mrs.
Meek’s bedside.  ‘Maria Jane,’ said I (I allude to Mrs. Meek), ‘you are
now a public character.’  We read the review of our child, several times,
with feelings of the strongest emotion; and I sent the boy who cleans the
boots and shoes, to the office for fifteen copies.  No reduction was made
on taking that quantity.

It is scarcely necessary for me to say, that our child had been expected.
In fact, it had been expected, with comparative confidence, for some
months.  Mrs. Meek’s mother, who resides with us—of the name of Bigby—had
made every preparation for its admission to our circle.

I hope and believe I am a quiet man.  I will go farther.  I know I am a
quiet man.  My constitution is tremulous, my voice was never loud, and,
in point of stature, I have been from infancy, small.  I have the
greatest respect for Maria Jane’s Mama.  She is a most remarkable woman.
I honour Maria Jane’s Mama.  In my opinion she would storm a town,
single-handed, with a hearth-broom, and carry it.  I have never known her
to yield any point whatever, to mortal man.  She is calculated to terrify
the stoutest heart.

Still—but I will not anticipate.

The first intimation I had, of any preparations being in progress, on the
part of Maria Jane’s Mama, was one afternoon, several months ago.  I came
home earlier than usual from the office, and, proceeding into the
dining-room, found an obstruction behind the door, which prevented it
from opening freely.  It was an obstruction of a soft nature.  On looking
in, I found it to be a female.

The female in question stood in the corner behind the door, consuming
Sherry Wine.  From the nutty smell of that beverage pervading the
apartment, I have no doubt she was consuming a second glassful.  She wore
a black bonnet of large dimensions, and was copious in figure.  The
expression of her countenance was severe and discontented.  The words to
which she gave utterance on seeing me, were these, ‘Oh, git along with
you, Sir, if you please; me and Mrs. Bigby don’t want no male parties
here!’

That female was Mrs. Prodgit.

I immediately withdrew, of course.  I was rather hurt, but I made no
remark.  Whether it was that I showed a lowness of spirits after dinner,
in consequence of feeling that I seemed to intrude, I cannot say.  But,
Maria Jane’s Mama said to me on her retiring for the night: in a low
distinct voice, and with a look of reproach that completely subdued me:
‘George Meek, Mrs. Prodgit is your wife’s nurse!’

I bear no ill-will towards Mrs. Prodgit.  Is it likely that I, writing
this with tears in my eyes, should be capable of deliberate animosity
towards a female, so essential to the welfare of Maria Jane?  I am
willing to admit that Fate may have been to blame, and not Mrs. Prodgit;
but, it is undeniably true, that the latter female brought desolation and
devastation into my lowly dwelling.

We were happy after her first appearance; we were sometimes exceedingly
so.  But, whenever the parlour door was opened, and ‘Mrs. Prodgit!’
announced (and she was very often announced), misery ensued.  I could not
bear Mrs. Prodgit’s look.  I felt that I was far from wanted, and had no
business to exist in Mrs. Prodgit’s presence.  Between Maria Jane’s Mama,
and Mrs. Prodgit, there was a dreadful, secret, understanding—a dark
mystery and conspiracy, pointing me out as a being to be shunned.  I
appeared to have done something that was evil.  Whenever Mrs. Prodgit
called, after dinner, I retired to my dressing-room—where the temperature
is very low indeed, in the wintry time of the year—and sat looking at my
frosty breath as it rose before me, and at my rack of boots; a
serviceable article of furniture, but never, in my opinion, an
exhilarating object.  The length of the councils that were held with Mrs.
Prodgit, under these circumstances, I will not attempt to describe.  I
will merely remark, that Mrs. Prodgit always consumed Sherry Wine while
the deliberations were in progress; that they always ended in Maria
Jane’s being in wretched spirits on the sofa; and that Maria Jane’s Mama
always received me, when I was recalled, with a look of desolate triumph
that too plainly said, ‘Now, George Meek!  You see my child, Maria Jane,
a ruin, and I hope you are satisfied!’

I pass, generally, over the period that intervened between the day when
Mrs. Prodgit entered her protest against male parties, and the
ever-memorable midnight when I brought her to my unobtrusive home in a
cab, with an extremely large box on the roof, and a bundle, a bandbox,
and a basket, between the driver’s legs.  I have no objection to Mrs.
Prodgit (aided and abetted by Mrs. Bigby, who I never can forget is the
parent of Maria Jane) taking entire possession of my unassuming
establishment.  In the recesses of my own breast, the thought may linger
that a man in possession cannot be so dreadful as a woman, and that woman
Mrs. Prodgit; but, I ought to bear a good deal, and I hope I can, and do.
Huffing and snubbing, prey upon my feelings; but, I can bear them without
complaint.  They may tell in the long run; I may be hustled about, from
post to pillar, beyond my strength; nevertheless, I wish to avoid giving
rise to words in the family.

The voice of Nature, however, cries aloud in behalf of Augustus George,
my infant son.  It is for him that I wish to utter a few plaintive
household words.  I am not at all angry; I am mild—but miserable.

I wish to know why, when my child, Augustus George, was expected in our
circle, a provision of pins was made, as if the little stranger were a
criminal who was to be put to the torture immediately, on his arrival,
instead of a holy babe?  I wish to know why haste was made to stick those
pins all over his innocent form, in every direction?  I wish to be
informed why light and air are excluded from Augustus George, like
poisons?  Why, I ask, is my unoffending infant so hedged into a
basket-bedstead, with dimity and calico, with miniature sheets and
blankets, that I can only hear him snuffle (and no wonder!) deep down
under the pink hood of a little bathing-machine, and can never peruse
even so much of his lineaments as his nose?

Was I expected to be the father of a French Roll, that the brushes of All
Nations were laid in, to rasp Augustus George?  Am I to be told that his
sensitive skin was ever intended by Nature to have rashes brought out
upon it, by the premature and incessant use of those formidable little
instruments?

Is my son a Nutmeg, that he is to be grated on the stiff edges of sharp
frills?  Am I the parent of a Muslin boy, that his yielding surface is to
be crimped and small plaited?  Or is my child composed of Paper or of
Linen, that impressions of the finer getting-up art, practised by the
laundress, are to be printed off, all over his soft arms and legs, as I
constantly observe them?  The starch enters his soul; who can wonder that
he cries?

Was Augustus George intended to have limbs, or to be born a Torso?  I
presume that limbs were the intention, as they are the usual practice.
Then, why are my poor child’s limbs fettered and tied up?  Am I to be
told that there is any analogy between Augustus George Meek and Jack
Sheppard?

Analyse Castor Oil at any Institution of Chemistry that may be agreed
upon, and inform me what resemblance, in taste, it bears to that natural
provision which it is at once the pride and duty of Maria Jane to
administer to Augustus George!  Yet, I charge Mrs. Prodgit (aided and
abetted by Mrs. Bigby) with systematically forcing Castor Oil on my
innocent son, from the first hour of his birth.  When that medicine, in
its efficient action, causes internal disturbance to Augustus George, I
charge Mrs. Prodgit (aided and abetted by Mrs. Bigby) with insanely and
inconsistently administering opium to allay the storm she has raised!
What is the meaning of this?

If the days of Egyptian Mummies are past, how dare Mrs. Prodgit require,
for the use of my son, an amount of flannel and linen that would carpet
my humble roof?  Do I wonder that she requires it?  No!  This morning,
within an hour, I beheld this agonising sight.  I beheld my son—Augustus
George—in Mrs. Prodgit’s hands, and on Mrs. Prodgit’s knee, being
dressed.  He was at the moment, comparatively speaking, in a state of
nature; having nothing on, but an extremely short shirt, remarkably
disproportionate to the length of his usual outer garments.  Trailing
from Mrs. Prodgit’s lap, on the floor, was a long narrow roller or
bandage—I should say of several yards in extent.  In this, I SAW Mrs.
Prodgit tightly roll the body of my unoffending infant, turning him over
and over, now presenting his unconscious face upwards, now the back of
his bald head, until the unnatural feat was accomplished, and the bandage
secured by a pin, which I have every reason to believe entered the body
of my only child.  In this tourniquet, he passes the present phase of his
existence.  Can I know it, and smile!

I fear I have been betrayed into expressing myself warmly, but I feel
deeply.  Not for myself; for Augustus George.  I dare not interfere.
Will any one?  Will any publication?  Any doctor?  Any parent?  Any body?
I do not complain that Mrs. Prodgit (aided and abetted by Mrs. Bigby)
entirely alienates Maria Jane’s affections from me, and interposes an
impassable barrier between us.  I do not complain of being made of no
account.  I do not want to be of any account.  But, Augustus George is a
production of Nature (I cannot think otherwise), and I claim that he
should be treated with some remote reference to Nature.  In my opinion,
Mrs. Prodgit is, from first to last, a convention and a superstition.
Are all the faculty afraid of Mrs. Prodgit?  If not, why don’t they take
her in hand and improve her?

P.S.  Maria Jane’s Mama boasts of her own knowledge of the subject, and
says she brought up seven children besides Maria Jane.  But how do _I_
know that she might not have brought them up much better?  Maria Jane
herself is far from strong, and is subject to headaches, and nervous
indigestion.  Besides which, I learn from the statistical tables that one
child in five dies within the first year of its life; and one child in
three, within the fifth.  That don’t look as if we could never improve in
these particulars, I think!

P.P.S. Augustus George is in convulsions.



LYING AWAKE


‘MY uncle lay with his eyes half closed, and his nightcap drawn almost
down to his nose.  His fancy was already wandering, and began to mingle
up the present scene with the crater of Vesuvius, the French Opera, the
Coliseum at Rome, Dolly’s Chop-house in London, and all the farrago of
noted places with which the brain of a traveller is crammed; in a word,
he was just falling asleep.’

Thus, that delightful writer, WASHINGTON IRVING, in his Tales of a
Traveller.  But, it happened to me the other night to be lying: not with
my eyes half closed, but with my eyes wide open; not with my nightcap
drawn almost down to my nose, for on sanitary principles I never wear a
nightcap: but with my hair pitchforked and touzled all over the pillow;
not just falling asleep by any means, but glaringly, persistently, and
obstinately, broad awake.  Perhaps, with no scientific intention or
invention, I was illustrating the theory of the Duality of the Brain;
perhaps one part of my brain, being wakeful, sat up to watch the other
part which was sleepy.  Be that as it may, something in me was as
desirous to go to sleep as it possibly could be, but something else in me
would not go to sleep, and was as obstinate as George the Third.

Thinking of George the Third—for I devote this paper to my train of
thoughts as I lay awake: most people lying awake sometimes, and having
some interest in the subject—put me in mind of BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, and so
Benjamin Franklin’s paper on the art of procuring pleasant dreams, which
would seem necessarily to include the art of going to sleep, came into my
head.  Now, as I often used to read that paper when I was a very small
boy, and as I recollect everything I read then as perfectly as I forget
everything I read now, I quoted ‘Get out of bed, beat up and turn your
pillow, shake the bed-clothes well with at least twenty shakes, then
throw the bed open and leave it to cool; in the meanwhile, continuing
undrest, walk about your chamber.  When you begin to feel the cold air
unpleasant, then return to your bed, and you will soon fall asleep, and
your sleep will be sweet and pleasant.’  Not a bit of it!  I performed
the whole ceremony, and if it were possible for me to be more saucer-eyed
than I was before, that was the only result that came of it.

Except Niagara.  The two quotations from Washington Irving and Benjamin
Franklin may have put it in my head by an American association of ideas;
but there I was, and the Horse-shoe Fall was thundering and tumbling in
my eyes and ears, and the very rainbows that I left upon the spray when I
really did last look upon it, were beautiful to see.  The night-light
being quite as plain, however, and sleep seeming to be many thousand
miles further off than Niagara, I made up my mind to think a little about
Sleep; which I no sooner did than I whirled off in spite of myself to
Drury Lane Theatre, and there saw a great actor and dear friend of mine
(whom I had been thinking of in the day) playing Macbeth, and heard him
apostrophising ‘the death of each day’s life,’ as I have heard him many a
time, in the days that are gone.

But, Sleep.  I will think about Sleep.  I am determined to think (this is
the way I went on) about Sleep.  I must hold the word Sleep, tight and
fast, or I shall be off at a tangent in half a second.  I feel myself
unaccountably straying, already, into Clare Market.  Sleep.  It would be
curious, as illustrating the equality of sleep, to inquire how many of
its phenomena are common to all classes, to all degrees of wealth and
poverty, to every grade of education and ignorance.  Here, for example,
is her Majesty Queen Victoria in her palace, this present blessed night,
and here is Winking Charley, a sturdy vagrant, in one of her Majesty’s
jails.  Her Majesty has fallen, many thousands of times, from that same
Tower, which I claim a right to tumble off now and then.  So has Winking
Charley.  Her Majesty in her sleep has opened or prorogued Parliament, or
has held a Drawing Room, attired in some very scanty dress, the
deficiencies and improprieties of which have caused her great uneasiness.
I, in my degree, have suffered unspeakable agitation of mind from taking
the chair at a public dinner at the London Tavern in my night-clothes,
which not all the courtesy of my kind friend and host MR. BATHE could
persuade me were quite adapted to the occasion.  Winking Charley has been
repeatedly tried in a worse condition.  Her Majesty is no stranger to a
vault or firmament, of a sort of floorcloth, with an indistinct pattern
distantly resembling eyes, which occasionally obtrudes itself on her
repose.  Neither am I.  Neither is Winking Charley.  It is quite common
to all three of us to skim along with airy strides a little above the
ground; also to hold, with the deepest interest, dialogues with various
people, all represented by ourselves; and to be at our wit’s end to know
what they are going to tell us; and to be indescribably astonished by the
secrets they disclose.  It is probable that we have all three committed
murders and hidden bodies.  It is pretty certain that we have all
desperately wanted to cry out, and have had no voice; that we have all
gone to the play and not been able to get in; that we have all dreamed
much more of our youth than of our later lives; that—I have lost it!  The
thread’s broken.

And up I go.  I, lying here with the night-light before me, up I go, for
no reason on earth that I can find out, and drawn by no links that are
visible to me, up the Great Saint Bernard!  I have lived in Switzerland,
and rambled among the mountains; but, why I should go there now, and why
up the Great Saint Bernard in preference to any other mountain, I have no
idea.  As I lie here broad awake, and with every sense so sharpened that
I can distinctly hear distant noises inaudible to me at another time, I
make that journey, as I really did, on the same summer day, with the same
happy party—ah! two since dead, I grieve to think—and there is the same
track, with the same black wooden arms to point the way, and there are
the same storm-refuges here and there; and there is the same snow falling
at the top, and there are the same frosty mists, and there is the same
intensely cold convent with its ménagerie smell, and the same breed of
dogs fast dying out, and the same breed of jolly young monks whom I mourn
to know as humbugs, and the same convent parlour with its piano and the
sitting round the fire, and the same supper, and the same lone night in a
cell, and the same bright fresh morning when going out into the highly
rarefied air was like a plunge into an icy bath.  Now, see here what
comes along; and why does this thing stalk into my mind on the top of a
Swiss mountain!

It is a figure that I once saw, just after dark, chalked upon a door in a
little back lane near a country church—my first church.  How young a
child I may have been at the time I don’t know, but it horrified me so
intensely—in connexion with the churchyard, I suppose, for it smokes a
pipe, and has a big hat with each of its ears sticking out in a
horizontal line under the brim, and is not in itself more oppressive than
a mouth from ear to ear, a pair of goggle eyes, and hands like two
bunches of carrots, five in each, can make it—that it is still vaguely
alarming to me to recall (as I have often done before, lying awake) the
running home, the looking behind, the horror, of its following me; though
whether disconnected from the door, or door and all, I can’t say, and
perhaps never could.  It lays a disagreeable train.  I must resolve to
think of something on the voluntary principle.

The balloon ascents of this last season.  They will do to think about,
while I lie awake, as well as anything else.  I must hold them tight
though, for I feel them sliding away, and in their stead are the
Mannings, husband and wife, hanging on the top of Horse-monger Lane Jail.
In connexion with which dismal spectacle, I recall this curious fantasy
of the mind.  That, having beheld that execution, and having left those
two forms dangling on the top of the entrance gateway—the man’s, a limp,
loose suit of clothes as if the man had gone out of them; the woman’s, a
fine shape, so elaborately corseted and artfully dressed, that it was
quite unchanged in its trim appearance as it slowly swung from side to
side—I never could, by my uttermost efforts, for some weeks, present the
outside of that prison to myself (which the terrible impression I had
received continually obliged me to do) without presenting it with the two
figures still hanging in the morning air.  Until, strolling past the
gloomy place one night, when the street was deserted and quiet, and
actually seeing that the bodies were not there, my fancy was persuaded,
as it were, to take them down and bury them within the precincts of the
jail, where they have lain ever since.

The balloon ascents of last season.  Let me reckon them up.  There were
the horse, the bull, the parachute,—and the tumbler hanging on—chiefly by
his toes, I believe—below the car.  Very wrong, indeed, and decidedly to
be stopped.  But, in connexion with these and similar dangerous
exhibitions, it strikes me that that portion of the public whom they
entertain, is unjustly reproached.  Their pleasure is in the difficulty
overcome.  They are a public of great faith, and are quite confident that
the gentleman will not fall off the horse, or the lady off the bull or
out of the parachute, and that the tumbler has a firm hold with his toes.
They do not go to see the adventurer vanquished, but triumphant.  There
is no parallel in public combats between men and beasts, because nobody
can answer for the particular beast—unless it were always the same beast,
in which case it would be a mere stage-show, which the same public would
go in the same state of mind to see, entirely believing in the brute
being beforehand safely subdued by the man.  That they are not accustomed
to calculate hazards and dangers with any nicety, we may know from their
rash exposure of themselves in overcrowded steamboats, and unsafe
conveyances and places of all kinds.  And I cannot help thinking that
instead of railing, and attributing savage motives to a people naturally
well disposed and humane, it is better to teach them, and lead them
argumentatively and reasonably—for they are very reasonable, if you will
discuss a matter with them—to more considerate and wise conclusions.

This is a disagreeable intrusion!  Here is a man with his throat cut,
dashing towards me as I lie awake!  A recollection of an old story of a
kinsman of mine, who, going home one foggy winter night to Hampstead,
when London was much smaller and the road lonesome, suddenly encountered
such a figure rushing past him, and presently two keepers from a madhouse
in pursuit.  A very unpleasant creature indeed, to come into my mind
unbidden, as I lie awake.

—The balloon ascents of last season.  I must return to the balloons.  Why
did the bleeding man start out of them?  Never mind; if I inquire, he
will be back again.  The balloons.  This particular public have
inherently a great pleasure in the contemplation of physical difficulties
overcome; mainly, as I take it, because the lives of a large majority of
them are exceedingly monotonous and real, and further, are a struggle
against continual difficulties, and further still, because anything in
the form of accidental injury, or any kind of illness or disability is so
very serious in their own sphere.  I will explain this seeming paradox of
mine.  Take the case of a Christmas Pantomime.  Surely nobody supposes
that the young mother in the pit who falls into fits of laughter when the
baby is boiled or sat upon, would be at all diverted by such an
occurrence off the stage.  Nor is the decent workman in the gallery, who
is transported beyond the ignorant present by the delight with which he
sees a stout gentleman pushed out of a two pair of stairs window, to be
slandered by the suspicion that he would be in the least entertained by
such a spectacle in any street in London, Paris, or New York.  It always
appears to me that the secret of this enjoyment lies in the temporary
superiority to the common hazards and mischances of life; in seeing
casualties, attended when they really occur with bodily and mental
suffering, tears, and poverty, happen through a very rough sort of poetry
without the least harm being done to any one—the pretence of distress in
a pantomime being so broadly humorous as to be no pretence at all.  Much
as in the comic fiction I can understand the mother with a very
vulnerable baby at home, greatly relishing the invulnerable baby on the
stage, so in the Cremorne reality I can understand the mason who is
always liable to fall off a scaffold in his working jacket and to be
carried to the hospital, having an infinite admiration of the radiant
personage in spangles who goes into the clouds upon a bull, or upside
down, and who, he takes it for granted—not reflecting upon the thing—has,
by uncommon skill and dexterity, conquered such mischances as those to
which he and his acquaintance are continually exposed.

I wish the Morgue in Paris would not come here as I lie awake, with its
ghastly beds, and the swollen saturated clothes hanging up, and the water
dripping, dripping all day long, upon that other swollen saturated
something in the corner, like a heap of crushed over-ripe figs that I
have seen in Italy!  And this detestable Morgue comes back again at the
head of a procession of forgotten ghost stories.  This will never do.  I
must think of something else as I lie awake; or, like that sagacious
animal in the United States who recognised the colonel who was such a
dead shot, I am a gone ’Coon.  What shall I think of?  The late brutal
assaults.  Very good subject.  The late brutal assaults.

(Though whether, supposing I should see, here before me as I lie awake,
the awful phantom described in one of those ghost stories, who, with a
head-dress of shroud, was always seen looking in through a certain glass
door at a certain dead hour—whether, in such a case it would be the least
consolation to me to know on philosophical grounds that it was merely my
imagination, is a question I can’t help asking myself by the way.)

The late brutal assaults.  I strongly question the expediency of
advocating the revival of whipping for those crimes.  It is a natural and
generous impulse to be indignant at the perpetration of inconceivable
brutality, but I doubt the whipping panacea gravely.  Not in the least
regard or pity for the criminal, whom I hold in far lower estimation than
a mad wolf, but in consideration for the general tone and feeling, which
is very much improved since the whipping times.  It is bad for a people
to be familiarised with such punishments.  When the whip went out of
Bridewell, and ceased to be flourished at the carts tail and at the
whipping-post, it began to fade out of madhouses, and workhouses, and
schools and families, and to give place to a better system everywhere,
than cruel driving.  It would be hasty, because a few brutes may be
inadequately punished, to revive, in any aspect, what, in so many
aspects, society is hardly yet happily rid of.  The whip is a very
contagious kind of thing, and difficult to confine within one set of
bounds.  Utterly abolish punishment by fine—a barbarous device, quite as
much out of date as wager by battle, but particularly connected in the
vulgar mind with this class of offence—at least quadruple the term of
imprisonment for aggravated assaults—and above all let us, in such cases,
have no Pet Prisoning, vain glorifying, strong soup, and roasted meats,
but hard work, and one unchanging and uncompromising dietary of bread and
water, well or ill; and we shall do much better than by going down into
the dark to grope for the whip among the rusty fragments of the rack, and
the branding iron, and the chains and gibbet from the public roads, and
the weights that pressed men to death in the cells of Newgate.

I had proceeded thus far, when I found I had been lying awake so long
that the very dead began to wake too, and to crowd into my thoughts most
sorrowfully.  Therefore, I resolved to lie awake no more, but to get up
and go out for a night walk—which resolution was an acceptable relief to
me, as I dare say it may prove now to a great many more.



THE GHOST OF ART


I AM a bachelor, residing in rather a dreary set of chambers in the
Temple.  They are situated in a square court of high houses, which would
be a complete well, but for the want of water and the absence of a
bucket.  I live at the top of the house, among the tiles and sparrows.
Like the little man in the nursery-story, I live by myself, and all the
bread and cheese I get—which is not much—I put upon a shelf.  I need
scarcely add, perhaps, that I am in love, and that the father of my
charming Julia objects to our union.

I mention these little particulars as I might deliver a letter of
introduction.  The reader is now acquainted with me, and perhaps will
condescend to listen to my narrative.

I am naturally of a dreamy turn of mind; and my abundant leisure—for I am
called to the Bar—coupled with much lonely listening to the twittering of
sparrows, and the pattering of rain, has encouraged that disposition.  In
my ‘top set’ I hear the wind howl on a winter night, when the man on the
ground floor believes it is perfectly still weather.  The dim lamps with
which our Honourable Society (supposed to be as yet unconscious of the
new discovery called Gas) make the horrors of the staircase visible,
deepen the gloom which generally settles on my soul when I go home at
night.

I am in the Law, but not of it.  I can’t exactly make out what it means.
I sit in Westminster Hall sometimes (in character) from ten to four; and
when I go out of Court, I don’t know whether I am standing on my wig or
my boots.

It appears to me (I mention this in confidence) as if there were too much
talk and too much law—as if some grains of truth were started overboard
into a tempestuous sea of chaff.

All this may make me mystical.  Still, I am confident that what I am
going to describe myself as having seen and heard, I actually did see and
hear.

It is necessary that I should observe that I have a great delight in
pictures.  I am no painter myself, but I have studied pictures and
written about them.  I have seen all the most famous pictures in the
world; my education and reading have been sufficiently general to possess
me beforehand with a knowledge of most of the subjects to which a Painter
is likely to have recourse; and, although I might be in some doubt as to
the rightful fashion of the scabbard of King Lear’s sword, for instance,
I think I should know King Lear tolerably well, if I happened to meet
with him.

I go to all the Modern Exhibitions every season, and of course I revere
the Royal Academy.  I stand by its forty Academical articles almost as
firmly as I stand by the thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England.
I am convinced that in neither case could there be, by any rightful
possibility, one article more or less.

It is now exactly three years—three years ago, this very month—since I
went from Westminster to the Temple, one Thursday afternoon, in a cheap
steamboat.  The sky was black, when I imprudently walked on board.  It
began to thunder and lighten immediately afterwards, and the rain poured
down in torrents.  The deck seeming to smoke with the wet, I went below;
but so many passengers were there, smoking too, that I came up again, and
buttoning my pea-coat, and standing in the shadow of the paddle-box,
stood as upright as I could, and made the best of it.

It was at this moment that I first beheld the terrible Being, who is the
subject of my present recollections.

Standing against the funnel, apparently with the intention of drying
himself by the heat as fast as he got wet, was a shabby man in threadbare
black, and with his hands in his pockets, who fascinated me from the
memorable instant when I caught his eye.

Where had I caught that eye before?  Who was he?  Why did I connect him,
all at once, with the Vicar of Wakefield, Alfred the Great, Gil Blas,
Charles the Second, Joseph and his Brethren, the Fairy Queen, Tom Jones,
the Decameron of Boccaccio, Tam O’Shanter, the Marriage of the Doge of
Venice with the Adriatic, and the Great Plague of London?  Why, when he
bent one leg, and placed one hand upon the back of the seat near him, did
my mind associate him wildly with the words, ‘Number one hundred and
forty-two, Portrait of a gentleman’?  Could it be that I was going mad?

I looked at him again, and now I could have taken my affidavit that he
belonged to the Vicar of Wakefield’s family.  Whether he was the Vicar,
or Moses, or Mr. Burchill, or the Squire, or a conglomeration of all
four, I knew not; but I was impelled to seize him by the throat, and
charge him with being, in some fell way, connected with the Primrose
blood.  He looked up at the rain, and then—oh Heaven!—he became Saint
John.  He folded his arms, resigning himself to the weather, and I was
frantically inclined to address him as the Spectator, and firmly demand
to know what he had done with Sir Roger de Coverley.

The frightful suspicion that I was becoming deranged, returned upon me
with redoubled force.  Meantime, this awful stranger, inexplicably linked
to my distress, stood drying himself at the funnel; and ever, as the
steam rose from his clothes, diffusing a mist around him, I saw through
the ghostly medium all the people I have mentioned, and a score more,
sacred and profane.

I am conscious of a dreadful inclination that stole upon me, as it
thundered and lightened, to grapple with this man, or demon, and plunge
him over the side.  But, I constrained myself—I know not how—to speak to
him, and in a pause of the storm, I crossed the deck, and said:

‘What are you?’

He replied, hoarsely, ‘A Model.’

‘A what?’ said I.

‘A Model,’ he replied.  ‘I sets to the profession for a bob a-hour.’
(All through this narrative I give his own words, which are indelibly
imprinted on my memory.)

The relief which this disclosure gave me, the exquisite delight of the
restoration of my confidence in my own sanity, I cannot describe.  I
should have fallen on his neck, but for the consciousness of being
observed by the man at the wheel.

‘You then,’ said I, shaking him so warmly by the hand, that I wrung the
rain out of his coat-cuff, ‘are the gentleman whom I have so frequently
contemplated, in connection with a high-backed chair with a red cushion,
and a table with twisted legs.’

‘I am that Model,’ he rejoined moodily, ‘and I wish I was anything else.’

‘Say not so,’ I returned.  ‘I have seen you in the society of many
beautiful young women;’ as in truth I had, and always (I now remember) in
the act of making the most of his legs.

‘No doubt,’ said he.  ‘And you’ve seen me along with warses of flowers,
and any number of table-kivers, and antique cabinets, and warious
gammon.’

‘Sir?’ said I.

‘And warious gammon,’ he repeated, in a louder voice.  ‘You might have
seen me in armour, too, if you had looked sharp.  Blessed if I ha’n’t
stood in half the suits of armour as ever came out of Pratt’s shop: and
sat, for weeks together, a-eating nothing, out of half the gold and
silver dishes as has ever been lent for the purpose out of Storrses, and
Mortimerses, or Garrardses, and Davenportseseses.’

Excited, as it appeared, by a sense of injury, I thought he would never
have found an end for the last word.  But, at length it rolled sullenly
away with the thunder.

‘Pardon me,’ said I, ‘you are a well-favoured, well-made man, and
yet—forgive me—I find, on examining my mind, that I associate you
with—that my recollection indistinctly makes you, in short—excuse me—a
kind of powerful monster.’

‘It would be a wonder if it didn’t,’ he said.  ‘Do you know what my
points are?’

‘No,’ said I.

‘My throat and my legs,’ said he.  ‘When I don’t set for a head, I mostly
sets for a throat and a pair of legs.  Now, granted you was a painter,
and was to work at my throat for a week together, I suppose you’d see a
lot of lumps and bumps there, that would never be there at all, if you
looked at me, complete, instead of only my throat.  Wouldn’t you?’

‘Probably,’ said I, surveying him.

‘Why, it stands to reason,’ said the Model.  ‘Work another week at my
legs, and it’ll be the same thing.  You’ll make ’em out as knotty and as
knobby, at last, as if they was the trunks of two old trees.  Then, take
and stick my legs and throat on to another man’s body, and you’ll make a
reg’lar monster.  And that’s the way the public gets their reg’lar
monsters, every first Monday in May, when the Royal Academy Exhibition
opens.’

‘You are a critic,’ said I, with an air of deference.

‘I’m in an uncommon ill humour, if that’s it,’ rejoined the Model, with
great indignation.  ‘As if it warn’t bad enough for a bob a-hour, for a
man to be mixing himself up with that there jolly old furniter that one
‘ud think the public know’d the wery nails in by this time—or to be
putting on greasy old ‘ats and cloaks, and playing tambourines in the Bay
o’ Naples, with Wesuvius a smokin’ according to pattern in the
background, and the wines a bearing wonderful in the middle distance—or
to be unpolitely kicking up his legs among a lot o’ gals, with no reason
whatever in his mind but to show ’em—as if this warn’t bad enough, I’m to
go and be thrown out of employment too!’

‘Surely no!’ said I.

‘Surely yes,’ said the indignant Model.  ‘BUT I’LL GROW ONE.’

The gloomy and threatening manner in which he muttered the last words,
can never be effaced from my remembrance.  My blood ran cold.

I asked of myself, what was it that this desperate Being was resolved to
grow.  My breast made no response.

I ventured to implore him to explain his meaning.  With a scornful laugh,
he uttered this dark prophecy:

‘I’LL GROW ONE.  AND, MARK MY WORDS, IT SHALL HAUNT YOU!’

We parted in the storm, after I had forced half-a-crown on his
acceptance, with a trembling hand.  I conclude that something
supernatural happened to the steamboat, as it bore his reeking figure
down the river; but it never got into the papers.

Two years elapsed, during which I followed my profession without any
vicissitudes; never holding so much as a motion, of course.  At the
expiration of that period, I found myself making my way home to the
Temple, one night, in precisely such another storm of thunder and
lightning as that by which I had been overtaken on board the
steamboat—except that this storm, bursting over the town at midnight, was
rendered much more awful by the darkness and the hour.

As I turned into my court, I really thought a thunderbolt would fall, and
plough the pavement up.  Every brick and stone in the place seemed to
have an echo of its own for the thunder.  The waterspouts were
overcharged, and the rain came tearing down from the house-tops as if
they had been mountain-tops.

Mrs. Parkins, my laundress—wife of Parkins the porter, then newly dead of
a dropsy—had particular instructions to place a bedroom candle and a
match under the staircase lamp on my landing, in order that I might light
my candle there, whenever I came home.  Mrs. Parkins invariably
disregarding all instructions, they were never there.  Thus it happened
that on this occasion I groped my way into my sitting-room to find the
candle, and came out to light it.

What were my emotions when, underneath the staircase lamp, shining with
wet as if he had never been dry since our last meeting, stood the
mysterious Being whom I had encountered on the steamboat in a
thunderstorm, two years before!  His prediction rushed upon my mind, and
I turned faint.

‘I said I’d do it,’ he observed, in a hollow voice, ‘and I have done it.
May I come in?’

‘Misguided creature, what have you done?’ I returned.

‘I’ll let you know,’ was his reply, ‘if you’ll let me in.’

Could it be murder that he had done?  And had he been so successful that
he wanted to do it again, at my expense?

I hesitated.

‘May I come in?’ said he.

I inclined my head, with as much presence of mind as I could command, and
he followed me into my chambers.  There, I saw that the lower part of his
face was tied up, in what is commonly called a Belcher handkerchief.  He
slowly removed this bandage, and exposed to view a long dark beard,
curling over his upper lip, twisting about the corners of his mouth, and
hanging down upon his breast.

‘What is this?’ I exclaimed involuntarily, ‘and what have you become?’

‘I am the Ghost of Art!’ said he.

The effect of these words, slowly uttered in the thunder-storm at
midnight, was appalling in the last degree.  More dead than alive, I
surveyed him in silence.

‘The German taste came up,’ said he, ‘and threw me out of bread.  I am
ready for the taste now.’

He made his beard a little jagged with his hands, folded his arms, and
said,

‘Severity!’

I shuddered.  It was so severe.

He made his beard flowing on his breast, and, leaning both hands on the
staff of a carpet-broom which Mrs. Parkins had left among my books, said:

‘Benevolence.’

I stood transfixed.  The change of sentiment was entirely in the beard.
The man might have left his face alone, or had no face.

The beard did everything.

He lay down, on his back, on my table, and with that action of his head
threw up his beard at the chin.

‘That’s death!’ said he.

He got off my table and, looking up at the ceiling, cocked his beard a
little awry; at the same time making it stick out before him.

‘Adoration, or a vow of vengeance,’ he observed.

He turned his profile to me, making his upper lip very bulky with the
upper part of his beard.

‘Romantic character,’ said he.

He looked sideways out of his beard, as if it were an ivy-bush.
‘Jealousy,’ said he.  He gave it an ingenious twist in the air, and
informed me that he was carousing.  He made it shaggy with his
fingers—and it was Despair; lank—and it was avarice: tossed it all kinds
of ways—and it was rage.  The beard did everything.

‘I am the Ghost of Art,’ said he.  ‘Two bob a-day now, and more when it’s
longer!  Hair’s the true expression.  There is no other.  I SAID I’D GROW
IT, AND I’VE GROWN IT, AND IT SHALL HAUNT YOU!’

He may have tumbled down-stairs in the dark, but he never walked down or
ran down.  I looked over the banisters, and I was alone with the thunder.

Need I add more of my terrific fate?  IT HAS haunted me ever since.  It
glares upon me from the walls of the Royal Academy, (except when MACLISE
subdues it to his genius,) it fills my soul with terror at the British
Institution, it lures young artists on to their destruction.  Go where I
will, the Ghost of Art, eternally working the passions in hair, and
expressing everything by beard, pursues me.  The prediction is
accomplished, and the victim has no rest.



OUT OF TOWN


SITTING, on a bright September morning, among my books and papers at my
open window on the cliff overhanging the sea-beach, I have the sky and
ocean framed before me like a beautiful picture.  A beautiful picture,
but with such movement in it, such changes of light upon the sails of
ships and wake of steamboats, such dazzling gleams of silver far out at
sea, such fresh touches on the crisp wave-tops as they break and roll
towards me—a picture with such music in the billowy rush upon the
shingle, the blowing of morning wind through the corn-sheaves where the
farmers’ waggons are busy, the singing of the larks, and the distant
voices of children at play—such charms of sight and sound as all the
Galleries on earth can but poorly suggest.

So dreamy is the murmur of the sea below my window, that I may have been
here, for anything I know, one hundred years.  Not that I have grown old,
for, daily on the neighbouring downs and grassy hill-sides, I find that I
can still in reason walk any distance, jump over anything, and climb up
anywhere; but, that the sound of the ocean seems to have become so
customary to my musings, and other realities seem so to have gone aboard
ship and floated away over the horizon, that, for aught I will undertake
to the contrary, I am the enchanted son of the King my father, shut up in
a tower on the sea-shore, for protection against an old she-goblin who
insisted on being my godmother, and who foresaw at the font—wonderful
creature!—that I should get into a scrape before I was twenty-one.  I
remember to have been in a City (my Royal parent’s dominions, I suppose),
and apparently not long ago either, that was in the dreariest condition.
The principal inhabitants had all been changed into old newspapers, and
in that form were preserving their window-blinds from dust, and wrapping
all their smaller household gods in curl-papers.  I walked through gloomy
streets where every house was shut up and newspapered, and where my
solitary footsteps echoed on the deserted pavements.  In the public rides
there were no carriages, no horses, no animated existence, but a few
sleepy policemen, and a few adventurous boys taking advantage of the
devastation to swarm up the lamp-posts.  In the Westward streets there
was no traffic; in the Westward shops, no business.  The water-patterns
which the ’Prentices had trickled out on the pavements early in the
morning, remained uneffaced by human feet.  At the corners of mews,
Cochin-China fowls stalked gaunt and savage; nobody being left in the
deserted city (as it appeared to me), to feed them.  Public Houses, where
splendid footmen swinging their legs over gorgeous hammer-cloths beside
wigged coachmen were wont to regale, were silent, and the unused pewter
pots shone, too bright for business, on the shelves.  I beheld a Punch’s
Show leaning against a wall near Park Lane, as if it had fainted.  It was
deserted, and there were none to heed its desolation.  In Belgrave Square
I met the last man—an ostler—sitting on a post in a ragged red waistcoat,
eating straw, and mildewing away.

If I recollect the name of the little town, on whose shore this sea is
murmuring—but I am not just now, as I have premised, to be relied upon
for anything—it is Pavilionstone.  Within a quarter of a century, it was
a little fishing town, and they do say, that the time was, when it was a
little smuggling town.  I have heard that it was rather famous in the
hollands and brandy way, and that coevally with that reputation the
lamplighter’s was considered a bad life at the Assurance Offices.  It was
observed that if he were not particular about lighting up, he lived in
peace; but that, if he made the best of the oil-lamps in the steep and
narrow streets, he usually fell over the cliff at an early age.  Now, gas
and electricity run to the very water’s edge, and the South-Eastern
Railway Company screech at us in the dead of night.

But, the old little fishing and smuggling town remains, and is so
tempting a place for the latter purpose, that I think of going out some
night next week, in a fur cap and a pair of petticoat trousers, and
running an empty tub, as a kind of archæological pursuit.  Let nobody
with corns come to Pavilionstone, for there are breakneck flights of
ragged steps, connecting the principal streets by back-ways, which will
cripple that visitor in half an hour.  These are the ways by which, when
I run that tub, I shall escape.  I shall make a Thermopylæ of the corner
of one of them, defend it with my cutlass against the coast-guard until
my brave companions have sheered off, then dive into the darkness, and
regain my Susan’s arms.  In connection with these breakneck steps I
observe some wooden cottages, with tumble-down out-houses, and back-yards
three feet square, adorned with garlands of dried fish, in one of which
(though the General Board of Health might object) my Susan dwells.

The South-Eastern Company have brought Pavilionstone into such vogue,
with their tidal trains and splendid steam-packets, that a new
Pavilionstone is rising up.  I am, myself, of New Pavilionstone.  We are
a little mortary and limey at present, but we are getting on capitally.
Indeed, we were getting on so fast, at one time, that we rather overdid
it, and built a street of shops, the business of which may be expected to
arrive in about ten years.  We are sensibly laid out in general; and with
a little care and pains (by no means wanting, so far), shall become a
very pretty place.  We ought to be, for our situation is delightful, our
air is delicious, and our breezy hills and downs, carpeted with wild
thyme, and decorated with millions of wild flowers, are, on the faith of
a pedestrian, perfect.  In New Pavilionstone we are a little too much
addicted to small windows with more bricks in them than glass, and we are
not over-fanciful in the way of decorative architecture, and we get
unexpected sea-views through cracks in the street doors; on the whole,
however, we are very snug and comfortable, and well accommodated.  But
the Home Secretary (if there be such an officer) cannot too soon shut up
the burial-ground of the old parish church.  It is in the midst of us,
and Pavilionstone will get no good of it, if it be too long left alone.

The lion of Pavilionstone is its Great Hotel.  A dozen years ago, going
over to Paris by South-Eastern Tidal Steamer, you used to be dropped upon
the platform of the main line Pavilionstone Station (not a junction
then), at eleven o’clock on a dark winter’s night, in a roaring wind; and
in the howling wilderness outside the station, was a short omnibus which
brought you up by the forehead the instant you got in at the door; and
nobody cared about you, and you were alone in the world.  You bumped over
infinite chalk, until you were turned out at a strange building which had
just left off being a barn without having quite begun to be a house,
where nobody expected your coming, or knew what to do with you when you
were come, and where you were usually blown about, until you happened to
be blown against the cold beef, and finally into bed.  At five in the
morning you were blown out of bed, and after a dreary breakfast, with
crumpled company, in the midst of confusion, were hustled on board a
steamboat and lay wretched on deck until you saw France lunging and
surging at you with great vehemence over the bowsprit.

Now, you come down to Pavilionstone in a free and easy manner, an
irresponsible agent, made over in trust to the South-Eastern Company,
until you get out of the railway-carriage at high-water mark.  If you are
crossing by the boat at once, you have nothing to do but walk on board
and be happy there if you can—I can’t.  If you are going to our Great
Pavilionstone Hotel, the sprightliest porters under the sun, whose
cheerful looks are a pleasant welcome, shoulder your luggage, drive it
off in vans, bowl it away in trucks, and enjoy themselves in playing
athletic games with it.  If you are for public life at our great
Pavilionstone Hotel, you walk into that establishment as if it were your
club; and find ready for you, your news-room, dining-room, smoking-room,
billiard-room, music-room, public breakfast, public dinner twice a-day
(one plain, one gorgeous), hot baths and cold baths.  If you want to be
bored, there are plenty of bores always ready for you, and from Saturday
to Monday in particular, you can be bored (if you like it) through and
through.  Should you want to be private at our Great Pavilionstone Hotel,
say but the word, look at the list of charges, choose your floor, name
your figure—there you are, established in your castle, by the day, week,
month, or year, innocent of all comers or goers, unless you have my fancy
for walking early in the morning down the groves of boots and shoes,
which so regularly flourish at all the chamber-doors before breakfast,
that it seems to me as if nobody ever got up or took them in.  Are you
going across the Alps, and would you like to air your Italian at our
Great Pavilionstone Hotel?  Talk to the Manager—always conversational,
accomplished, and polite.  Do you want to be aided, abetted, comforted,
or advised, at our Great Pavilionstone Hotel?  Send for the good
landlord, and he is your friend.  Should you, or any one belonging to
you, ever be taken ill at our Great Pavilionstone Hotel, you will not
soon forget him or his kind wife.  And when you pay your bill at our
Great Pavilionstone Hotel, you will not be put out of humour by anything
you find in it.

A thoroughly good inn, in the days of coaching and posting, was a noble
place.  But no such inn would have been equal to the reception of four or
five hundred people, all of them wet through, and half of them dead sick,
every day in the year.  This is where we shine, in our Pavilionstone
Hotel.  Again—who, coming and going, pitching and tossing, boating and
training, hurrying in, and flying out, could ever have calculated the
fees to be paid at an old-fashioned house?  In our Pavilionstone Hotel
vocabulary, there is no such word as fee.  Everything is done for you;
every service is provided at a fixed and reasonable charge; all the
prices are hung up in all the rooms; and you can make out your own bill
beforehand, as well as the book-keeper.

In the case of your being a pictorial artist, desirous of studying at
small expense the physiognomies and beards of different nations, come, on
receipt of this, to Pavilionstone.  You shall find all the nations of the
earth, and all the styles of shaving and not shaving, hair cutting and
hair letting alone, for ever flowing through our hotel.  Couriers you
shall see by hundreds; fat leathern bags for five-franc pieces, closing
with violent snaps, like discharges of fire-arms, by thousands; more
luggage in a morning than, fifty years ago, all Europe saw in a week.
Looking at trains, steamboats, sick travellers, and luggage, is our great
Pavilionstone recreation.  We are not strong in other public amusements.
We have a Literary and Scientific Institution, and we have a Working
Men’s Institution—may it hold many gipsy holidays in summer fields, with
the kettle boiling, the band of music playing, and the people dancing;
and may I be on the hill-side, looking on with pleasure at a wholesome
sight too rare in England!—and we have two or three churches, and more
chapels than I have yet added up.  But public amusements are scarce with
us.  If a poor theatrical manager comes with his company to give us, in a
loft, Mary Bax, or the Murder on the Sand Hills, we don’t care much for
him—starve him out, in fact.  We take more kindly to wax-work, especially
if it moves; in which case it keeps much clearer of the second
commandment than when it is still.  Cooke’s Circus (Mr. Cooke is my
friend, and always leaves a good name behind him) gives us only a night
in passing through.  Nor does the travelling menagerie think us worth a
longer visit.  It gave us a look-in the other day, bringing with it the
residentiary van with the stained glass windows, which Her Majesty kept
ready-made at Windsor Castle, until she found a suitable opportunity of
submitting it for the proprietor’s acceptance.  I brought away five
wonderments from this exhibition.  I have wondered ever since, Whether
the beasts ever do get used to those small places of confinement; Whether
the monkeys have that very horrible flavour in their free state; Whether
wild animals have a natural ear for time and tune, and therefore every
four-footed creature began to howl in despair when the band began to
play; What the giraffe does with his neck when his cart is shut up; and,
Whether the elephant feels ashamed of himself when he is brought out of
his den to stand on his head in the presence of the whole Collection.

We are a tidal harbour at Pavilionstone, as indeed I have implied already
in my mention of tidal trains.  At low water, we are a heap of mud, with
an empty channel in it where a couple of men in big boots always shovel
and scoop: with what exact object, I am unable to say.  At that time, all
the stranded fishing-boats turn over on their sides, as if they were dead
marine monsters; the colliers and other shipping stick disconsolate in
the mud; the steamers look as if their white chimneys would never smoke
more, and their red paddles never turn again; the green sea-slime and
weed upon the rough stones at the entrance, seem records of obsolete high
tides never more to flow; the flagstaff-halyards droop; the very little
wooden lighthouse shrinks in the idle glare of the sun.  And here I may
observe of the very little wooden lighthouse, that when it is lighted at
night,—red and green,—it looks so like a medical man’s, that several
distracted husbands have at various times been found, on occasions of
premature domestic anxiety, going round and round it, trying to find the
Nightbell.

But, the moment the tide begins to make, the Pavilionstone Harbour begins
to revive.  It feels the breeze of the rising water before the water
comes, and begins to flutter and stir.  When the little shallow waves
creep in, barely overlapping one another, the vanes at the mastheads
wake, and become agitated.  As the tide rises, the fishing-boats get into
good spirits and dance, the flagstaff hoists a bright red flag, the
steamboat smokes, cranes creak, horses and carriages dangle in the air,
stray passengers and luggage appear.  Now, the shipping is afloat, and
comes up buoyantly, to look at the wharf.  Now, the carts that have come
down for coals, load away as hard as they can load.  Now, the steamer
smokes immensely, and occasionally blows at the paddle-boxes like a
vaporous whale-greatly disturbing nervous loungers.  Now, both the tide
and the breeze have risen, and you are holding your hat on (if you want
to see how the ladies hold their hats on, with a stay, passing over the
broad brim and down the nose, come to Pavilionstone).  Now, everything in
the harbour splashes, dashes, and bobs.  Now, the Down Tidal Train is
telegraphed, and you know (without knowing how you know), that two
hundred and eighty-seven people are coming.  Now, the fishing-boats that
have been out, sail in at the top of the tide.  Now, the bell goes, and
the locomotive hisses and shrieks, and the train comes gliding in, and
the two hundred and eighty-seven come scuffling out.  Now, there is not
only a tide of water, but a tide of people, and a tide of luggage—all
tumbling and flowing and bouncing about together.  Now, after infinite
bustle, the steamer steams out, and we (on the Pier) are all delighted
when she rolls as if she would roll her funnel out, and all are
disappointed when she don’t.  Now, the other steamer is coming in, and
the Custom House prepares, and the wharf-labourers assemble, and the
hawsers are made ready, and the Hotel Porters come rattling down with van
and truck, eager to begin more Olympic games with more luggage.  And this
is the way in which we go on, down at Pavilionstone, every tide.  And, if
you want to live a life of luggage, or to see it lived, or to breathe
sweet air which will send you to sleep at a moment’s notice at any period
of the day or night, or to disport yourself upon or in the sea, or to
scamper about Kent, or to come out of town for the enjoyment of all or
any of these pleasures, come to Pavilionstone.



OUT OF THE SEASON


IT fell to my lot, this last bleak Spring, to find myself in a
watering-place out of the Season.  A vicious north-east squall blew me
into it from foreign parts, and I tarried in it alone for three days,
resolved to be exceedingly busy.

On the first day, I began business by looking for two hours at the sea,
and staring the Foreign Militia out of countenance.  Having disposed of
these important engagements, I sat down at one of the two windows of my
room, intent on doing something desperate in the way of literary
composition, and writing a chapter of unheard-of excellence—with which
the present essay has no connexion.

It is a remarkable quality in a watering-place out of the season, that
everything in it, will and must be looked at.  I had no previous
suspicion of this fatal truth but, the moment I sat down to write, I
began to perceive it.  I had scarcely fallen into my most promising
attitude, and dipped my pen in the ink, when I found the clock upon the
pier—a red-faced clock with a white rim—importuning me in a highly
vexatious manner to consult my watch, and see how I was off for Greenwich
time.  Having no intention of making a voyage or taking an observation, I
had not the least need of Greenwich time, and could have put up with
watering-place time as a sufficiently accurate article.  The pier-clock,
however, persisting, I felt it necessary to lay down my pen, compare my
watch with him, and fall into a grave solicitude about half-seconds.  I
had taken up my pen again, and was about to commence that valuable
chapter, when a Custom-house cutter under the window requested that I
would hold a naval review of her, immediately.

It was impossible, under the circumstances, for any mental resolution,
merely human, to dismiss the Custom-house cutter, because the shadow of
her topmast fell upon my paper, and the vane played on the masterly blank
chapter.  I was therefore under the necessity of going to the other
window; sitting astride of the chair there, like Napoleon bivouacking in
the print; and inspecting the cutter as she lay, all that day, in the way
of my chapter, O!  She was rigged to carry a quantity of canvas, but her
hull was so very small that four giants aboard of her (three men and a
boy) who were vigilantly scraping at her, all together, inspired me with
a terror lest they should scrape her away.  A fifth giant, who appeared
to consider himself ‘below’—as indeed he was, from the waist
downwards—meditated, in such close proximity with the little gusty
chimney-pipe, that he seemed to be smoking it.  Several boys looked on
from the wharf, and, when the gigantic attention appeared to be fully
occupied, one or other of these would furtively swing himself in mid-air
over the Custom-house cutter, by means of a line pendant from her
rigging, like a young spirit of the storm.  Presently, a sixth hand
brought down two little water-casks; presently afterwards, a truck came,
and delivered a hamper.  I was now under an obligation to consider that
the cutter was going on a cruise, and to wonder where she was going, and
when she was going, and why she was going, and at what date she might be
expected back, and who commanded her?  With these pressing questions I
was fully occupied when the Packet, making ready to go across, and
blowing off her spare steam, roared, ‘Look at me!’

It became a positive duty to look at the Packet preparing to go across;
aboard of which, the people newly come down by the rail-road were
hurrying in a great fluster.  The crew had got their tarry overalls
on—and one knew what that meant—not to mention the white basins, ranged
in neat little piles of a dozen each, behind the door of the after-cabin.
One lady as I looked, one resigning and far-seeing woman, took her basin
from the store of crockery, as she might have taken a refreshment-ticket,
laid herself down on deck with that utensil at her ear, muffled her feet
in one shawl, solemnly covered her countenance after the antique manner
with another, and on the completion of these preparations appeared by the
strength of her volition to become insensible.  The mail-bags (O that I
myself had the sea-legs of a mail-bag!) were tumbled aboard; the Packet
left off roaring, warped out, and made at the white line upon the bar.
One dip, one roll, one break of the sea over her bows, and Moore’s
Almanack or the sage Raphael could not have told me more of the state of
things aboard, than I knew.

The famous chapter was all but begun now, and would have been quite
begun, but for the wind.  It was blowing stiffly from the east, and it
rumbled in the chimney and shook the house.  That was not much; but,
looking out into the wind’s grey eye for inspiration, I laid down my pen
again to make the remark to myself, how emphatically everything by the
sea declares that it has a great concern in the state of the wind.  The
trees blown all one way; the defences of the harbour reared highest and
strongest against the raging point; the shingle flung up on the beach
from the same direction; the number of arrows pointed at the common
enemy; the sea tumbling in and rushing towards them as if it were
inflamed by the sight.  This put it in my head that I really ought to go
out and take a walk in the wind; so, I gave up the magnificent chapter
for that day, entirely persuading myself that I was under a moral
obligation to have a blow.

I had a good one, and that on the high road—the very high road—on the top
of the cliffs, where I met the stage-coach with all the outsides holding
their hats on and themselves too, and overtook a flock of sheep with the
wool about their necks blown into such great ruffs that they looked like
fleecy owls.  The wind played upon the lighthouse as if it were a great
whistle, the spray was driven over the sea in a cloud of haze, the ships
rolled and pitched heavily, and at intervals long slants and flaws of
light made mountain-steeps of communication between the ocean and the
sky.  A walk of ten miles brought me to a seaside town without a cliff,
which, like the town I had come from, was out of the season too.  Half of
the houses were shut up; half of the other half were to let; the town
might have done as much business as it was doing then, if it had been at
the bottom of the sea.  Nobody seemed to flourish save the attorney; his
clerk’s pen was going in the bow-window of his wooden house; his brass
door-plate alone was free from salt, and had been polished up that
morning.  On the beach, among the rough buggers and capstans, groups of
storm-beaten boatmen, like a sort of marine monsters, watched under the
lee of those objects, or stood leaning forward against the wind, looking
out through battered spy-glasses.  The parlour bell in the Admiral Benbow
had grown so flat with being out of the season, that neither could I hear
it ring when I pulled the handle for lunch, nor could the young woman in
black stockings and strong shoes, who acted as waiter out of the season,
until it had been tinkled three times.

Admiral Benbow’s cheese was out of the season, but his home-made bread
was good, and his beer was perfect.  Deluded by some earlier spring day
which had been warm and sunny, the Admiral had cleared the firing out of
his parlour stove, and had put some flower-pots in—which was amiable and
hopeful in the Admiral, but not judicious: the room being, at that
present visiting, transcendantly cold.  I therefore took the liberty of
peeping out across a little stone passage into the Admiral’s kitchen,
and, seeing a high settle with its back towards me drawn out in front of
the Admiral’s kitchen fire, I strolled in, bread and cheese in hand,
munching and looking about.  One landsman and two boatmen were seated on
the settle, smoking pipes and drinking beer out of thick pint crockery
mugs—mugs peculiar to such places, with parti-coloured rings round them,
and ornaments between the rings like frayed-out roots.  The landsman was
relating his experience, as yet only three nights old, of a fearful
running-down case in the Channel, and therein presented to my imagination
a sound of music that it will not soon forget.

‘At that identical moment of time,’ said he (he was a prosy man by
nature, who rose with his subject), ‘the night being light and calm, but
with a grey mist upon the water that didn’t seem to spread for more than
two or three mile, I was walking up and down the wooden causeway next the
pier, off where it happened, along with a friend of mine, which his name
is Mr. Clocker.  Mr. Clocker is a grocer over yonder.’  (From the
direction in which he pointed the bowl of his pipe, I might have judged
Mr. Clocker to be a merman, established in the grocery trade in
five-and-twenty fathoms of water.)  ‘We were smoking our pipes, and
walking up and down the causeway, talking of one thing and talking of
another.  We were quite alone there, except that a few hovellers’ (the
Kentish name for ‘long-shore boatmen like his companions) ‘were hanging
about their lugs, waiting while the tide made, as hovellers will.’  (One
of the two boatmen, thoughtfully regarding me, shut up one eye; this I
understood to mean: first, that he took me into the conversation:
secondly, that he confirmed the proposition: thirdly, that he announced
himself as a hoveller.)  ‘All of a sudden Mr. Clocker and me stood rooted
to the spot, by hearing a sound come through the stillness, right over
the sea, _like a great sorrowful flute or Æolian harp_.  We didn’t in the
least know what it was, and judge of our surprise when we saw the
hovellers, to a man, leap into the boats and tear about to hoist sail and
get off, as if they had every one of ’em gone, in a moment, raving mad!
But _they_ knew it was the cry of distress from the sinking emigrant
ship.’

When I got back to my watering-place out of the season, and had done my
twenty miles in good style, I found that the celebrated Black Mesmerist
intended favouring the public that evening in the Hall of the Muses,
which he had engaged for the purpose.  After a good dinner, seated by the
fire in an easy chair, I began to waver in a design I had formed of
waiting on the Black Mesmerist, and to incline towards the expediency of
remaining where I was.  Indeed a point of gallantry was involved in my
doing so, inasmuch as I had not left France alone, but had come from the
prisons of St. Pélagie with my distinguished and unfortunate friend
Madame Roland (in two volumes which I bought for two francs each, at the
book-stall in the Place de la Concorde, Paris, at the corner of the Rue
Royale).  Deciding to pass the evening tête-à-tête with Madame Roland, I
derived, as I always do, great pleasure from that spiritual woman’s
society, and the charms of her brave soul and engaging conversation.  I
must confess that if she had only some more faults, only a few more
passionate failings of any kind, I might love her better; but I am
content to believe that the deficiency is in me, and not in her.  We
spent some sadly interesting hours together on this occasion, and she
told me again of her cruel discharge from the Abbaye, and of her being
re-arrested before her free feet had sprung lightly up half-a-dozen steps
of her own staircase, and carried off to the prison which she only left
for the guillotine.

Madame Roland and I took leave of one another before mid-night, and I
went to bed full of vast intentions for next day, in connexion with the
unparalleled chapter.  To hear the foreign mail-steamers coming in at
dawn of day, and to know that I was not aboard or obliged to get up, was
very comfortable; so, I rose for the chapter in great force.

I had advanced so far as to sit down at my window again on my second
morning, and to write the first half-line of the chapter and strike it
out, not liking it, when my conscience reproached me with not having
surveyed the watering-place out of the season, after all, yesterday, but
with having gone straight out of it at the rate of four miles and a half
an hour.  Obviously the best amends that I could make for this remissness
was to go and look at it without another moment’s delay.  So—altogether
as a matter of duty—I gave up the magnificent chapter for another day,
and sauntered out with my hands in my pockets.

All the houses and lodgings ever let to visitors, were to let that
morning.  It seemed to have snowed bills with To Let upon them.  This put
me upon thinking what the owners of all those apartments did, out of the
season; how they employed their time, and occupied their minds.  They
could not be always going to the Methodist chapels, of which I passed one
every other minute.  They must have some other recreation.  Whether they
pretended to take one another’s lodgings, and opened one another’s
tea-caddies in fun?  Whether they cut slices off their own beef and
mutton, and made believe that it belonged to somebody else?  Whether they
played little dramas of life, as children do, and said, ‘I ought to come
and look at your apartments, and you ought to ask two guineas a-week too
much, and then I ought to say I must have the rest of the day to think of
it, and then you ought to say that another lady and gentleman with no
children in family had made an offer very close to your own terms, and
you had passed your word to give them a positive answer in half an hour,
and indeed were just going to take the bill down when you heard the
knock, and then I ought to take them, you know?’  Twenty such
speculations engaged my thoughts.  Then, after passing, still clinging to
the walls, defaced rags of the bills of last year’s Circus, I came to a
back field near a timber-yard where the Circus itself had been, and where
there was yet a sort of monkish tonsure on the grass, indicating the spot
where the young lady had gone round upon her pet steed Firefly in her
daring flight.  Turning into the town again, I came among the shops, and
they were emphatically out of the season.  The chemist had no boxes of
ginger-beer powders, no beautifying sea-side soaps and washes, no
attractive scents; nothing but his great goggle-eyed red bottles, looking
as if the winds of winter and the drift of the salt-sea had inflamed
them.  The grocers’ hot pickles, Harvey’s Sauce, Doctor Kitchener’s Zest,
Anchovy Paste, Dundee Marmalade, and the whole stock of luxurious helps
to appetite, were hybernating somewhere underground.  The china-shop had
no trifles from anywhere.  The Bazaar had given in altogether, and
presented a notice on the shutters that this establishment would re-open
at Whitsuntide, and that the proprietor in the meantime might be heard of
at Wild Lodge, East Cliff.  At the Sea-bathing Establishment, a row of
neat little wooden houses seven or eight feet high, I saw the proprietor
in bed in the shower-bath.  As to the bathing-machines, they were (how
they got there, is not for me to say) at the top of a hill at least a
mile and a half off.  The library, which I had never seen otherwise than
wide open, was tight shut; and two peevish bald old gentlemen seemed to
be hermetically sealed up inside, eternally reading the paper.  That
wonderful mystery, the music-shop, carried it off as usual (except that
it had more cabinet pianos in stock), as if season or no season were all
one to it.  It made the same prodigious display of bright brazen
wind-instruments, horribly twisted, worth, as I should conceive, some
thousands of pounds, and which it is utterly impossible that anybody in
any season can ever play or want to play.  It had five triangles in the
window, six pairs of castanets, and three harps; likewise every polka
with a coloured frontispiece that ever was published; from the original
one where a smooth male and female Pole of high rank are coming at the
observer with their arms a-kimbo, to the Ratcatcher’s Daughter.
Astonishing establishment, amazing enigma!  Three other shops were pretty
much out of the season, what they were used to be in it.  First, the shop
where they sell the sailors’ watches, which had still the old collection
of enormous timekeepers, apparently designed to break a fall from the
masthead: with places to wind them up, like fire-plugs.  Secondly, the
shop where they sell the sailors’ clothing, which displayed the old
sou’-westers, and the old oily suits, and the old pea-jackets, and the
old one sea-chest, with its handles like a pair of rope ear-rings.
Thirdly, the unchangeable shop for the sale of literature that has been
left behind.  Here, Dr. Faustus was still going down to very red and
yellow perdition, under the superintendence of three green personages of
a scaly humour, with excrescential serpents growing out of their
blade-bones.  Here, the Golden Dreamer, and the Norwood Fortune Teller,
were still on sale at sixpence each, with instructions for making the
dumb cake, and reading destinies in tea-cups, and with a picture of a
young woman with a high waist lying on a sofa in an attitude so
uncomfortable as almost to account for her dreaming at one and the same
time of a conflagration, a shipwreck, an earthquake, a skeleton, a
church-porch, lightning, funerals performed, and a young man in a bright
blue coat and canary pantaloons.  Here, were Little Warblers and
Fairburn’s Comic Songsters.  Here, too, were ballads on the old ballad
paper and in the old confusion of types; with an old man in a cocked hat,
and an arm-chair, for the illustration to Will Watch the bold Smuggler;
and the Friar of Orders Grey, represented by a little girl in a hoop,
with a ship in the distance.  All these as of yore, when they were
infinite delights to me!

It took me so long fully to relish these many enjoyments, that I had not
more than an hour before bedtime to devote to Madame Roland.  We got on
admirably together on the subject of her convent education, and I rose
next morning with the full conviction that the day for the great chapter
was at last arrived.

It had fallen calm, however, in the night, and as I sat at breakfast I
blushed to remember that I had not yet been on the Downs.  I a walker,
and not yet on the Downs!  Really, on so quiet and bright a morning this
must be set right.  As an essential part of the Whole Duty of Man,
therefore, I left the chapter to itself—for the present—and went on the
Downs.  They were wonderfully green and beautiful, and gave me a good
deal to do.  When I had done with the free air and the view, I had to go
down into the valley and look after the hops (which I know nothing
about), and to be equally solicitous as to the cherry orchards.  Then I
took it on myself to cross-examine a tramping family in black (mother
alleged, I have no doubt by herself in person, to have died last week),
and to accompany eighteenpence which produced a great effect, with moral
admonitions which produced none at all.  Finally, it was late in the
afternoon before I got back to the unprecedented chapter, and then I
determined that it was out of the season, as the place was, and put it
away.

I went at night to the benefit of Mrs. B. Wedgington at the Theatre, who
had placarded the town with the admonition, ‘DON’T FORGET IT!’  I made
the house, according to my calculation, four and ninepence to begin with,
and it may have warmed up, in the course of the evening, to half a
sovereign.  There was nothing to offend any one,—the good Mr. Baines of
Leeds excepted.  Mrs. B. Wedgington sang to a grand piano.  Mr. B.
Wedgington did the like, and also took off his coat, tucked up his
trousers, and danced in clogs.  Master B. Wedgington, aged ten months,
was nursed by a shivering young person in the boxes, and the eye of Mrs.
B. Wedgington wandered that way more than once.  Peace be with all the
Wedgingtons from A. to Z.  May they find themselves in the Season
somewhere!



A POOR MAN’S TALE OF A PATENT


I AM not used to writing for print.  What working-man, that never labours
less (some Mondays, and Christmas Time and Easter Time excepted) than
twelve or fourteen hours a day, is?  But I have been asked to put down,
plain, what I have got to say; and so I take pen-and-ink, and do it to
the best of my power, hoping defects will find excuse.

I was born nigh London, but have worked in a shop at Birmingham (what you
would call Manufactories, we call Shops), almost ever since I was out of
my time.  I served my apprenticeship at Deptford, nigh where I was born,
and I am a smith by trade.  My name is John.  I have been called ‘Old
John’ ever since I was nineteen year of age, on account of not having
much hair.  I am fifty-six year of age at the present time, and I don’t
find myself with more hair, nor yet with less, to signify, than at
nineteen year of age aforesaid.

I have been married five and thirty year, come next April.  I was married
on All Fools’ Day.  Let them laugh that will.  I won a good wife that
day, and it was as sensible a day to me as ever I had.

We have had a matter of ten children, six whereof are living.  My eldest
son is engineer in the Italian steam-packet ‘Mezzo Giorno, plying between
Marseilles and Naples, and calling at Genoa, Leghorn, and Civita
Vecchia.’  He was a good workman.  He invented a many useful little
things that brought him in—nothing.  I have two sons doing well at
Sydney, New South Wales—single, when last heard from.  One of my sons
(James) went wild and for a soldier, where he was shot in India, living
six weeks in hospital with a musket-ball lodged in his shoulder-blade,
which he wrote with his own hand.  He was the best looking.  One of my
two daughters (Mary) is comfortable in her circumstances, but water on
the chest.  The other (Charlotte), her husband run away from her in the
basest manner, and she and her three children live with us.  The
youngest, six year old, has a turn for mechanics.

I am not a Chartist, and I never was.  I don’t mean to say but what I see
a good many public points to complain of, still I don’t think that’s the
way to set them right.  If I did think so, I should be a Chartist.  But I
don’t think so, and I am not a Chartist.  I read the paper, and hear
discussion, at what we call ‘a parlour,’ in Birmingham, and I know many
good men and workmen who are Chartists.  Note.  Not Physical force.

It won’t be took as boastful in me, if I make the remark (for I can’t put
down what I have got to say, without putting that down before going any
further), that I have always been of an ingenious turn.  I once got
twenty pound by a screw, and it’s in use now.  I have been twenty year,
off and on, completing an Invention and perfecting it.  I perfected of
it, last Christmas Eve at ten o’clock at night.  Me and my wife stood and
let some tears fall over the Model, when it was done and I brought her in
to take a look at it.

A friend of mine, by the name of William Butcher, is a Chartist.
Moderate.  He is a good speaker.  He is very animated.  I have often
heard him deliver that what is, at every turn, in the way of us
working-men, is, that too many places have been made, in the course of
time, to provide for people that never ought to have been provided for;
and that we have to obey forms and to pay fees to support those places
when we shouldn’t ought.  ‘True,’ (delivers William Butcher), ‘all the
public has to do this, but it falls heaviest on the working-man, because
he has least to spare; and likewise because impediments shouldn’t be put
in his way, when he wants redress of wrong or furtherance of right.’
Note.  I have wrote down those words from William Butcher’s own mouth.
W. B. delivering them fresh for the aforesaid purpose.

Now, to my Model again.  There it was, perfected of, on Christmas Eve,
gone nigh a year, at ten o’clock at night.  All the money I could spare I
had laid out upon the Model; and when times was bad, or my daughter
Charlotte’s children sickly, or both, it had stood still, months at a
spell.  I had pulled it to pieces, and made it over again with
improvements, I don’t know how often.  There it stood, at last, a
perfected Model as aforesaid.

William Butcher and me had a long talk, Christmas Day, respecting of the
Model.  William is very sensible.  But sometimes cranky.  William said,
‘What will you do with it, John?’  I said, ‘Patent it.’  William said,
‘How patent it, John?’  I said, ‘By taking out a Patent.’  William then
delivered that the law of Patent was a cruel wrong.  William said, ‘John,
if you make your invention public, before you get a Patent, any one may
rob you of the fruits of your hard work.  You are put in a cleft stick,
John.  Either you must drive a bargain very much against yourself, by
getting a party to come forward beforehand with the great expenses of the
Patent; or, you must be put about, from post to pillar, among so many
parties, trying to make a better bargain for yourself, and showing your
invention, that your invention will be took from you over your head.’  I
said, ‘William Butcher, are you cranky?  You are sometimes cranky.’
William said, ‘No, John, I tell you the truth;’ which he then delivered
more at length.  I said to W. B. I would Patent the invention myself.

My wife’s brother, George Bury of West Bromwich (his wife unfortunately
took to drinking, made away with everything, and seventeen times
committed to Birmingham Jail before happy release in every point of
view), left my wife, his sister, when he died, a legacy of one hundred
and twenty-eight pound ten, Bank of England Stocks.  Me and my wife never
broke into that money yet.  Note.  We might come to be old and past our
work.  We now agreed to Patent the invention.  We said we would make a
hole in it—I mean in the aforesaid money—and Patent the invention.
William Butcher wrote me a letter to Thomas Joy, in London.  T. J. is a
carpenter, six foot four in height, and plays quoits well.  He lives in
Chelsea, London, by the church.  I got leave from the shop, to be took on
again when I come back.  I am a good workman.  Not a Teetotaller; but
never drunk.  When the Christmas holidays were over, I went up to London
by the Parliamentary Train, and hired a lodging for a week with Thomas
Joy.  He is married.  He has one son gone to sea.

Thomas Joy delivered (from a book he had) that the first step to be took,
in Patenting the invention, was to prepare a petition unto Queen
Victoria.  William Butcher had delivered similar, and drawn it up.  Note.
William is a ready writer.  A declaration before a Master in Chancery was
to be added to it.  That, we likewise drew up.  After a deal of trouble I
found out a Master, in Southampton Buildings, Chancery Lane, nigh Temple
Bar, where I made the declaration, and paid eighteen-pence.  I was told
to take the declaration and petition to the Home Office, in Whitehall,
where I left it to be signed by the Home Secretary (after I had found the
office out), and where I paid two pound, two, and sixpence.  In six days
he signed it, and I was told to take it to the Attorney-General’s
chambers, and leave it there for a report.  I did so, and paid four
pound, four.  Note.  Nobody all through, ever thankful for their money,
but all uncivil.

                 [Picture: A poor man’s tale of a patent]

My lodging at Thomas Joy’s was now hired for another week, whereof five
days were gone.  The Attorney-General made what they called a
Report-of-course (my invention being, as William Butcher had delivered
before starting, unopposed), and I was sent back with it to the Home
Office.  They made a Copy of it, which was called a Warrant.  For this
warrant, I paid seven pound, thirteen, and six.  It was sent to the
Queen, to sign.  The Queen sent it back, signed.  The Home Secretary
signed it again.  The gentleman throwed it at me when I called, and said,
‘Now take it to the Patent Office in Lincoln’s Inn.’  I was then in my
third week at Thomas Joy’s living very sparing, on account of fees.  I
found myself losing heart.

At the Patent Office in Lincoln’s Inn, they made ‘a draft of the Queen’s
bill,’ of my invention, and a ‘docket of the bill.’  I paid five pound,
ten, and six, for this.  They ‘engrossed two copies of the bill; one for
the Signet Office, and one for the Privy-Seal Office.’  I paid one pound,
seven, and six, for this.  Stamp duty over and above, three pound.  The
Engrossing Clerk of the same office engrossed the Queen’s bill for
signature.  I paid him one pound, one.  Stamp-duty, again, one pound,
ten.  I was next to take the Queen’s bill to the Attorney-General again,
and get it signed again.  I took it, and paid five pound more.  I fetched
it away, and took it to the Home Secretary again.  He sent it to the
Queen again.  She signed it again.  I paid seven pound, thirteen, and
six, more, for this.  I had been over a month at Thomas Joy’s.  I was
quite wore out, patience and pocket.

Thomas Joy delivered all this, as it went on, to William Butcher.
William Butcher delivered it again to three Birmingham Parlours, from
which it got to all the other Parlours, and was took, as I have been told
since, right through all the shops in the North of England.  Note.
William Butcher delivered, at his Parlour, in a speech, that it was a
Patent way of making Chartists.

But I hadn’t nigh done yet.  The Queen’s bill was to be took to the
Signet Office in Somerset House, Strand—where the stamp shop is.  The
Clerk of the Signet made ‘a Signet bill for the Lord Keeper of the Privy
Seal.’  I paid him four pound, seven.  The Clerk of the Lord Keeper of
the Privy Seal made ‘a Privy-Seal bill for the Lord Chancellor.’  I paid
him, four pound, two.  The Privy-Seal bill was handed over to the Clerk
of the Patents, who engrossed the aforesaid.  I paid him five pound,
seventeen, and eight; at the same time, I paid Stamp-duty for the Patent,
in one lump, thirty pound.  I next paid for ‘boxes for the Patent,’ nine
and sixpence.  Note.  Thomas Joy would have made the same at a profit for
eighteen-pence.  I next paid ‘fees to the Deputy, the Lord Chancellor’s
Purse-bearer,’ two pound, two.  I next paid ‘fees to the Clerk of the
Hanapar,’ seven pound, thirteen.  I next paid ‘fees to the Deputy Clerk
of the Hanaper,’ ten shillings.  I next paid, to the Lord Chancellor
again, one pound, eleven, and six.  Last of all, I paid ‘fees to the
Deputy Sealer, and Deputy Chaff-wax,’ ten shillings and sixpence.  I had
lodged at Thomas Joy’s over six weeks, and the unopposed Patent for my
invention, for England only, had cost me ninety-six pound, seven, and
eightpence.  If I had taken it out for the United Kingdom, it would have
cost me more than three hundred pound.

Now, teaching had not come up but very limited when I was young.  So much
the worse for me you’ll say.  I say the same.  William Butcher is twenty
year younger than me.  He knows a hundred year more.  If William Butcher
had wanted to Patent an invention, he might have been sharper than myself
when hustled backwards and forwards among all those offices, though I
doubt if so patient.  Note.  William being sometimes cranky, and consider
porters, messengers, and clerks.

Thereby I say nothing of my being tired of my life, while I was Patenting
my invention.  But I put this: Is it reasonable to make a man feel as if,
in inventing an ingenious improvement meant to do good, he had done
something wrong?  How else can a man feel, when he is met by such
difficulties at every turn?  All inventors taking out a Patent MUST feel
so.  And look at the expense.  How hard on me, and how hard on the
country if there’s any merit in me (and my invention is took up now, I am
thankful to say, and doing well), to put me to all that expense before I
can move a finger!  Make the addition yourself, and it’ll come to
ninety-six pound, seven, and eightpence.  No more, and no less.

What can I say against William Butcher, about places?  Look at the Home
Secretary, the Attorney-General, the Patent Office, the Engrossing Clerk,
the Lord Chancellor, the Privy Seal, the Clerk of the Patents, the Lord
Chancellor’s Purse-bearer, the Clerk of the Hanaper, the Deputy Clerk of
the Hanaper, the Deputy Sealer, and the Deputy Chaff-wax.  No man in
England could get a Patent for an Indian-rubber band, or an iron-hoop,
without feeing all of them.  Some of them, over and over again.  I went
through thirty-five stages.  I began with the Queen upon the Throne.  I
ended with the Deputy Chaff-wax.  Note.  I should like to see the Deputy
Chaff-wax.  Is it a man, or what is it?

What I had to tell, I have told.  I have wrote it down.  I hope it’s
plain.  Not so much in the handwriting (though nothing to boast of
there), as in the sense of it.  I will now conclude with Thomas Joy.
Thomas said to me, when we parted, ‘John, if the laws of this country
were as honest as they ought to be, you would have come to
London—registered an exact description and drawing of your invention—paid
half-a-crown or so for doing of it—and therein and thereby have got your
Patent.’

My opinion is the same as Thomas Joy.  Further.  In William Butcher’s
delivering ‘that the whole gang of Hanapers and Chaff-waxes must be done
away with, and that England has been chaffed and waxed sufficient,’ I
agree.



THE NOBLE SAVAGE


TO come to the point at once, I beg to say that I have not the least
belief in the Noble Savage.  I consider him a prodigious nuisance, and an
enormous superstition.  His calling rum fire-water, and me a pale face,
wholly fail to reconcile me to him.  I don’t care what he calls me.  I
call him a savage, and I call a savage a something highly desirable to be
civilised off the face of the earth.  I think a mere gent (which I take
to be the lowest form of civilisation) better than a howling, whistling,
clucking, stamping, jumping, tearing savage.  It is all one to me,
whether he sticks a fish-bone through his visage, or bits of trees
through the lobes of his ears, or bird’s feathers in his head; whether he
flattens his hair between two boards, or spreads his nose over the
breadth of his face, or drags his lower lip down by great weights, or
blackens his teeth, or knocks them out, or paints one cheek red and the
other blue, or tattoos himself, or oils himself, or rubs his body with
fat, or crimps it with knives.  Yielding to whichsoever of these
agreeable eccentricities, he is a savage—cruel, false, thievish,
murderous; addicted more or less to grease, entrails, and beastly
customs; a wild animal with the questionable gift of boasting; a
conceited, tiresome, bloodthirsty, monotonous humbug.

Yet it is extraordinary to observe how some people will talk about him,
as they talk about the good old times; how they will regret his
disappearance, in the course of this world’s development, from such and
such lands where his absence is a blessed relief and an indispensable
preparation for the sowing of the very first seeds of any influence that
can exalt humanity; how, even with the evidence of himself before them,
they will either be determined to believe, or will suffer themselves to
be persuaded into believing, that he is something which their five senses
tell them he is not.

There was Mr. Catlin, some few years ago, with his Ojibbeway Indians.
Mr. Catlin was an energetic, earnest man, who had lived among more tribes
of Indians than I need reckon up here, and who had written a picturesque
and glowing book about them.  With his party of Indians squatting and
spitting on the table before him, or dancing their miserable jigs after
their own dreary manner, he called, in all good faith, upon his civilised
audience to take notice of their symmetry and grace, their perfect limbs,
and the exquisite expression of their pantomime; and his civilised
audience, in all good faith, complied and admired.  Whereas, as mere
animals, they were wretched creatures, very low in the scale and very
poorly formed; and as men and women possessing any power of truthful
dramatic expression by means of action, they were no better than the
chorus at an Italian Opera in England—and would have been worse if such a
thing were possible.

Mine are no new views of the noble savage.  The greatest writers on
natural history found him out long ago.  BUFFON knew what he was, and
showed why he is the sulky tyrant that he is to his women, and how it
happens (Heaven be praised!) that his race is spare in numbers.  For
evidence of the quality of his moral nature, pass himself for a moment
and refer to his ‘faithful dog.’  Has he ever improved a dog, or attached
a dog, since his nobility first ran wild in woods, and was brought down
(at a very long shot) by POPE?  Or does the animal that is the friend of
man, always degenerate in his low society?

It is not the miserable nature of the noble savage that is the new thing;
it is the whimpering over him with maudlin admiration, and the affecting
to regret him, and the drawing of any comparison of advantage between the
blemishes of civilisation and the tenor of his swinish life.  There may
have been a change now and then in those diseased absurdities, but there
is none in him.

Think of the Bushmen.  Think of the two men and the two women who have
been exhibited about England for some years.  Are the majority of
persons—who remember the horrid little leader of that party in his
festering bundle of hides, with his filth and his antipathy to water, and
his straddled legs, and his odious eyes shaded by his brutal hand, and
his cry of ‘Qu-u-u-u-aaa!’ (Bosjesman for something desperately insulting
I have no doubt)—conscious of an affectionate yearning towards that noble
savage, or is it idiosyncratic in me to abhor, detest, abominate, and
abjure him?  I have no reserve on this subject, and will frankly state
that, setting aside that stage of the entertainment when he counterfeited
the death of some creature he had shot, by laying his head on his hand
and shaking his left leg—at which time I think it would have been
justifiable homicide to slay him—I have never seen that group sleeping,
smoking, and expectorating round their brazier, but I have sincerely
desired that something might happen to the charcoal smouldering therein,
which would cause the immediate suffocation of the whole of the noble
strangers.

There is at present a party of Zulu Kaffirs exhibiting at the St.
George’s Gallery, Hyde Park Corner, London.  These noble savages are
represented in a most agreeable manner; they are seen in an elegant
theatre, fitted with appropriate scenery of great beauty, and they are
described in a very sensible and unpretending lecture, delivered with a
modesty which is quite a pattern to all similar exponents.  Though
extremely ugly, they are much better shaped than such of their
predecessors as I have referred to; and they are rather picturesque to
the eye, though far from odoriferous to the nose.  What a visitor left to
his own interpretings and imaginings might suppose these noblemen to be
about, when they give vent to that pantomimic expression which is quite
settled to be the natural gift of the noble savage, I cannot possibly
conceive; for it is so much too luminous for my personal civilisation
that it conveys no idea to my mind beyond a general stamping, ramping,
and raving, remarkable (as everything in savage life is) for its dire
uniformity.  But let us—with the interpreter’s assistance, of which I for
one stand so much in need—see what the noble savage does in Zulu
Kaffirland.

The noble savage sets a king to reign over him, to whom he submits his
life and limbs without a murmur or question, and whose whole life is
passed chin deep in a lake of blood; but who, after killing incessantly,
is in his turn killed by his relations and friends, the moment a grey
hair appears on his head.  All the noble savage’s wars with his
fellow-savages (and he takes no pleasure in anything else) are wars of
extermination—which is the best thing I know of him, and the most
comfortable to my mind when I look at him.  He has no moral feelings of
any kind, sort, or description; and his ‘mission’ may be summed up as
simply diabolical.

The ceremonies with which he faintly diversifies his life are, of course,
of a kindred nature.  If he wants a wife he appears before the kennel of
the gentleman whom he has selected for his father-in-law, attended by a
party of male friends of a very strong flavour, who screech and whistle
and stamp an offer of so many cows for the young lady’s hand.  The chosen
father-in-law—also supported by a high-flavoured party of male
friends—screeches, whistles, and yells (being seated on the ground, he
can’t stamp) that there never was such a daughter in the market as his
daughter, and that he must have six more cows.  The son-in-law and his
select circle of backers screech, whistle, stamp, and yell in reply, that
they will give three more cows.  The father-in-law (an old deluder,
overpaid at the beginning) accepts four, and rises to bind the bargain.
The whole party, the young lady included, then falling into epileptic
convulsions, and screeching, whistling, stamping, and yelling
together—and nobody taking any notice of the young lady (whose charms are
not to be thought of without a shudder)—the noble savage is considered
married, and his friends make demoniacal leaps at him by way of
congratulation.

When the noble savage finds himself a little unwell, and mentions the
circumstance to his friends, it is immediately perceived that he is under
the influence of witchcraft.  A learned personage, called an Imyanger or
Witch Doctor, is immediately sent for to Nooker the Umtargartie, or smell
out the witch.  The male inhabitants of the kraal being seated on the
ground, the learned doctor, got up like a grizzly bear, appears, and
administers a dance of a most terrific nature, during the exhibition of
which remedy he incessantly gnashes his teeth, and howls:—‘I am the
original physician to Nooker the Umtargartie.  Yow yow yow!  No connexion
with any other establishment.  Till till till!  All other Umtargarties
are feigned Umtargarties, Boroo Boroo! but I perceive here a genuine and
real Umtargartie, Hoosh Hoosh Hoosh! in whose blood I, the original
Imyanger and Nookerer, Blizzerum Boo! will wash these bear’s claws of
mine.  O yow yow yow!’  All this time the learned physician is looking
out among the attentive faces for some unfortunate man who owes him a
cow, or who has given him any small offence, or against whom, without
offence, he has conceived a spite.  Him he never fails to Nooker as the
Umtargartie, and he is instantly killed.  In the absence of such an
individual, the usual practice is to Nooker the quietest and most
gentlemanly person in company.  But the nookering is invariably followed
on the spot by the butchering.

Some of the noble savages in whom Mr. Catlin was so strongly interested,
and the diminution of whose numbers, by rum and smallpox, greatly
affected him, had a custom not unlike this, though much more appalling
and disgusting in its odious details.

The women being at work in the fields, hoeing the Indian corn, and the
noble savage being asleep in the shade, the chief has sometimes the
condescension to come forth, and lighten the labour by looking at it.  On
these occasions, he seats himself in his own savage chair, and is
attended by his shield-bearer: who holds over his head a shield of
cowhide—in shape like an immense mussel shell—fearfully and wonderfully,
after the manner of a theatrical supernumerary.  But lest the great man
should forget his greatness in the contemplation of the humble works of
agriculture, there suddenly rushes in a poet, retained for the purpose,
called a Praiser.  This literary gentleman wears a leopard’s head over
his own, and a dress of tigers’ tails; he has the appearance of having
come express on his hind legs from the Zoological Gardens; and he
incontinently strikes up the chief’s praises, plunging and tearing all
the while.  There is a frantic wickedness in this brute’s manner of
worrying the air, and gnashing out, ‘O what a delightful chief he is!  O
what a delicious quantity of blood he sheds!  O how majestically he laps
it up!  O how charmingly cruel he is!  O how he tears the flesh of his
enemies and crunches the bones!  O how like the tiger and the leopard and
the wolf and the bear he is!  O, row row row row, how fond I am of him!’
which might tempt the Society of Friends to charge at a hand-gallop into
the Swartz-Kop location and exterminate the whole kraal.

When war is afoot among the noble savages—which is always—the chief holds
a council to ascertain whether it is the opinion of his brothers and
friends in general that the enemy shall be exterminated.  On this
occasion, after the performance of an Umsebeuza, or war song,—which is
exactly like all the other songs,—the chief makes a speech to his
brothers and friends, arranged in single file.  No particular order is
observed during the delivery of this address, but every gentleman who
finds himself excited by the subject, instead of crying ‘Hear, hear!’ as
is the custom with us, darts from the rank and tramples out the life, or
crushes the skull, or mashes the face, or scoops out the eyes, or breaks
the limbs, or performs a whirlwind of atrocities on the body, of an
imaginary enemy.  Several gentlemen becoming thus excited at once, and
pounding away without the least regard to the orator, that illustrious
person is rather in the position of an orator in an Irish House of
Commons.  But, several of these scenes of savage life bear a strong
generic resemblance to an Irish election, and I think would be extremely
well received and understood at Cork.

In all these ceremonies the noble savage holds forth to the utmost
possible extent about himself; from which (to turn him to some civilised
account) we may learn, I think, that as egotism is one of the most
offensive and contemptible littlenesses a civilised man can exhibit, so
it is really incompatible with the interchange of ideas; inasmuch as if
we all talked about ourselves we should soon have no listeners, and must
be all yelling and screeching at once on our own separate accounts:
making society hideous.  It is my opinion that if we retained in us
anything of the noble savage, we could not get rid of it too soon.  But
the fact is clearly otherwise.  Upon the wife and dowry question,
substituting coin for cows, we have assuredly nothing of the Zulu Kaffir
left.  The endurance of despotism is one great distinguishing mark of a
savage always.  The improving world has quite got the better of that too.
In like manner, Paris is a civilised city, and the Théâtre Français a
highly civilised theatre; and we shall never hear, and never have heard
in these later days (of course) of the Praiser there.  No, no, civilised
poets have better work to do.  As to Nookering Umtargarties, there are no
pretended Umtargarties in Europe, and no European powers to Nooker them;
that would be mere spydom, subordination, small malice, superstition, and
false pretence.  And as to private Umtargarties, are we not in the year
eighteen hundred and fifty-three, with spirits rapping at our doors?

To conclude as I began.  My position is, that if we have anything to
learn from the Noble Savage, it is what to avoid.  His virtues are a
fable; his happiness is a delusion; his nobility, nonsense.

We have no greater justification for being cruel to the miserable object,
than for being cruel to a WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE or an ISAAC NEWTON; but he
passes away before an immeasurably better and higher power than ever ran
wild in any earthly woods, and the world will be all the better when his
place knows him no more.



A FLIGHT


WHEN Don Diego de—I forget his name—the inventor of the last new Flying
Machines, price so many francs for ladies, so many more for
gentlemen—when Don Diego, by permission of Deputy Chaff-wax and his noble
band, shall have taken out a Patent for the Queen’s dominions, and shall
have opened a commodious Warehouse in an airy situation; and when all
persons of any gentility will keep at least a pair of wings, and be seen
skimming about in every direction; I shall take a flight to Paris (as I
soar round the world) in a cheap and independent manner.  At present, my
reliance is on the South-Eastern Railway Company, in whose Express Train
here I sit, at eight of the clock on a very hot morning, under the very
hot roof of the Terminus at London Bridge, in danger of being ‘forced’
like a cucumber or a melon, or a pine-apple.  And talking of pine-apples,
I suppose there never were so many pine-apples in a Train as there appear
to be in this Train.

Whew!  The hot-house air is faint with pine-apples.  Every French citizen
or citizeness is carrying pine-apples home.  The compact little
Enchantress in the corner of my carriage (French actress, to whom I
yielded up my heart under the auspices of that brave child, ‘MEAT-CHELL,’
at the St. James’s Theatre the night before last) has a pine-apple in her
lap.  Compact Enchantress’s friend, confidante, mother, mystery, Heaven
knows what, has two pine-apples in her lap, and a bundle of them under
the seat.  Tobacco-smoky Frenchman in Algerine wrapper, with peaked hood
behind, who might be Abd-el-Kader dyed rifle-green, and who seems to be
dressed entirely in dirt and braid, carries pine-apples in a covered
basket.  Tall, grave, melancholy Frenchman, with black Vandyke beard, and
hair close-cropped, with expansive chest to waistcoat, and compressive
waist to coat: saturnine as to his pantaloons, calm as to his feminine
boots, precious as to his jewellery, smooth and white as to his linen:
dark-eyed, high-foreheaded, hawk-nosed—got up, one thinks, like Lucifer
or Mephistopheles, or Zamiel, transformed into a highly genteel
Parisian—has the green end of a pine-apple sticking out of his neat
valise.

Whew!  If I were to be kept here long, under this forcing-frame, I wonder
what would become of me—whether I should be forced into a giant, or
should sprout or blow into some other phenomenon!  Compact Enchantress is
not ruffled by the heat—she is always composed, always compact.  O look
at her little ribbons, frills, and edges, at her shawl, at her gloves, at
her hair, at her bracelets, at her bonnet, at everything about her!  How
is it accomplished?  What does she do to be so neat?  How is it that
every trifle she wears belongs to her, and cannot choose but be a part of
her?  And even Mystery, look at _her_!  A model.  Mystery is not young,
not pretty, though still of an average candle-light passability; but she
does such miracles in her own behalf, that, one of these days, when she
dies, they’ll be amazed to find an old woman in her bed, distantly like
her.  She was an actress once, I shouldn’t wonder, and had a Mystery
attendant on herself.  Perhaps, Compact Enchantress will live to be a
Mystery, and to wait with a shawl at the side-scenes, and to sit opposite
to Mademoiselle in railway carriages, and smile and talk subserviently,
as Mystery does now.  That’s hard to believe!

Two Englishmen, and now our carriage is full.  First Englishman, in the
monied interest—flushed, highly respectable—Stock Exchange, perhaps—City,
certainly.  Faculties of second Englishman entirely absorbed in hurry.
Plunges into the carriage, blind.  Calls out of window concerning his
luggage, deaf.  Suffocates himself under pillows of great-coats, for no
reason, and in a demented manner.  Will receive no assurance from any
porter whatsoever.  Is stout and hot, and wipes his head, and makes
himself hotter by breathing so hard.  Is totally incredulous respecting
assurance of Collected Guard, that ‘there’s no hurry.’  No hurry!  And a
flight to Paris in eleven hours!

It is all one to me in this drowsy corner, hurry or no hurry.  Until Don
Diego shall send home my wings, my flight is with the South-Eastern
Company.  I can fly with the South-Eastern, more lazily, at all events,
than in the upper air.  I have but to sit here thinking as idly as I
please, and be whisked away.  I am not accountable to anybody for the
idleness of my thoughts in such an idle summer flight; my flight is
provided for by the South-Eastern and is no business of mine.

The bell!  With all my heart.  It does not require me to do so much as
even to flap my wings.  Something snorts for me, something shrieks for
me, something proclaims to everything else that it had better keep out of
my way,—and away I go.

Ah!  The fresh air is pleasant after the forcing-frame, though it does
blow over these interminable streets, and scatter the smoke of this vast
wilderness of chimneys.  Here we are—no, I mean there we were, for it has
darted far into the rear—in Bermondsey where the tanners live.  Flash!
The distant shipping in the Thames is gone.  Whirr!  The little streets
of new brick and red tile, with here and there a flagstaff growing like a
tall weed out of the scarlet beans, and, everywhere, plenty of open sewer
and ditch for the promotion of the public health, have been fired off in
a volley.  Whizz!  Dust-heaps, market-gardens, and waste grounds.
Rattle!  New Cross Station.  Shock!  There we were at Croydon.
Bur-r-r-r!  The tunnel.

I wonder why it is that when I shut my eyes in a tunnel I begin to feel
as if I were going at an Express pace the other way.  I am clearly going
back to London now.  Compact Enchantress must have forgotten something,
and reversed the engine.  No!  After long darkness, pale fitful streaks
of light appear.  I am still flying on for Folkestone.  The streaks grow
stronger—become continuous—become the ghost of day—become the living
day—became I mean—the tunnel is miles and miles away, and here I fly
through sunlight, all among the harvest and the Kentish hops.

There is a dreamy pleasure in this flying.  I wonder where it was, and
when it was, that we exploded, blew into space somehow, a Parliamentary
Train, with a crowd of heads and faces looking at us out of cages, and
some hats waving.  Monied Interest says it was at Reigate Station.
Expounds to Mystery how Reigate Station is so many miles from London,
which Mystery again develops to Compact Enchantress.  There might be
neither a Reigate nor a London for me, as I fly away among the Kentish
hops and harvest.  What do _I_ care?

Bang!  We have let another Station off, and fly away regardless.
Everything is flying.  The hop-gardens turn gracefully towards me,
presenting regular avenues of hops in rapid flight, then whirl away.  So
do the pools and rushes, haystacks, sheep, clover in full bloom delicious
to the sight and smell, corn-sheaves, cherry-orchards, apple-orchards,
reapers, gleaners, hedges, gates, fields that taper off into little
angular corners, cottages, gardens, now and then a church.  Bang, bang!
A double-barrelled Station!  Now a wood, now a bridge, now a landscape,
now a cutting, now a—Bang! a single-barrelled Station—there was a
cricket-match somewhere with two white tents, and then four flying cows,
then turnips—now the wires of the electric telegraph are all alive, and
spin, and blurr their edges, and go up and down, and make the intervals
between each other most irregular: contracting and expanding in the
strangest manner.  Now we slacken.  With a screwing, and a grinding, and
a smell of water thrown on ashes, now we stop!

Demented Traveller, who has been for two or three minutes watchful,
clutches his great-coats, plunges at the door, rattles it, cries ‘Hi!’
eager to embark on board of impossible packets, far inland.  Collected
Guard appears.  ‘Are you for Tunbridge, sir?’  ‘Tunbridge?  No.  Paris.’
‘Plenty of time, sir.  No hurry.  Five minutes here, sir, for
refreshment.’  I am so blest (anticipating Zamiel, by half a second) as
to procure a glass of water for Compact Enchantress.

Who would suppose we had been flying at such a rate, and shall take wing
again directly?  Refreshment-room full, platform full, porter with
watering-pot deliberately cooling a hot wheel, another porter with equal
deliberation helping the rest of the wheels bountifully to ice cream.
Monied Interest and I re-entering the carriage first, and being there
alone, he intimates to me that the French are ‘no go’ as a Nation.  I ask
why?  He says, that Reign of Terror of theirs was quite enough.  I
ventured to inquire whether he remembers anything that preceded said
Reign of Terror?  He says not particularly.  ‘Because,’ I remark, ‘the
harvest that is reaped, has sometimes been sown.’  Monied Interest
repeats, as quite enough for him, that the French are revolutionary,—‘and
always at it.’

Bell.  Compact Enchantress, helped in by Zamiel (whom the stars
confound!), gives us her charming little side-box look, and smites me to
the core.  Mystery eating sponge-cake.  Pine-apple atmosphere faintly
tinged with suspicions of sherry.  Demented Traveller flits past the
carriage, looking for it.  Is blind with agitation, and can’t see it.
Seems singled out by Destiny to be the only unhappy creature in the
flight, who has any cause to hurry himself.  Is nearly left behind.  Is
seized by Collected Guard after the Train is in motion, and bundled in.
Still, has lingering suspicions that there must be a boat in the
neighbourhood, and will look wildly out of window for it.

Flight resumed.  Corn-sheaves, hop-gardens, reapers, gleaners,
apple-orchards, cherry-orchards, Stations single and double-barrelled,
Ashford.  Compact Enchantress (constantly talking to Mystery, in an
exquisite manner) gives a little scream; a sound that seems to come from
high up in her precious little head; from behind her bright little
eyebrows.  ‘Great Heaven, my pine-apple!  My Angel!  It is lost!’
Mystery is desolated.  A search made.  It is not lost.  Zamiel finds it.
I curse him (flying) in the Persian manner.  May his face be turned
upside down, and jackasses sit upon his uncle’s grave!

Now fresher air, now glimpses of unenclosed Down-land with flapping crows
flying over it whom we soon outfly, now the Sea, now Folkestone at a
quarter after ten.  ‘Tickets ready, gentlemen!’  Demented dashes at the
door.  ‘For Paris, sir?  No hurry.’

Not the least.  We are dropped slowly down to the Port, and sidle to and
fro (the whole Train) before the insensible Royal George Hotel, for some
ten minutes.  The Royal George takes no more heed of us than its namesake
under water at Spithead, or under earth at Windsor, does.  The Royal
George’s dog lies winking and blinking at us, without taking the trouble
to sit up; and the Royal George’s ‘wedding party’ at the open window (who
seem, I must say, rather tired of bliss) don’t bestow a solitary glance
upon us, flying thus to Paris in eleven hours.  The first gentleman in
Folkestone is evidently used up, on this subject.

Meanwhile, Demented chafes.  Conceives that every man’s hand is against
him, and exerting itself to prevent his getting to Paris.  Refuses
consolation.  Rattles door.  Sees smoke on the horizon, and ‘knows’ it’s
the boat gone without him.  Monied Interest resentfully explains that
_he_ is going to Paris too.  Demented signifies, that if Monied Interest
chooses to be left behind, he don’t.

‘Refreshments in the Waiting-Room, ladies and gentlemen.  No hurry,
ladies and gentlemen, for Paris.  No hurry whatever!’

Twenty minutes’ pause, by Folkestone clock, for looking at Enchantress
while she eats a sandwich, and at Mystery while she eats of everything
there that is eatable, from pork-pie, sausage, jam, and gooseberries, to
lumps of sugar.  All this time, there is a very waterfall of luggage,
with a spray of dust, tumbling slantwise from the pier into the
steamboat.  All this time, Demented (who has no business with it) watches
it with starting eyes, fiercely requiring to be shown his luggage.  When
it at last concludes the cataract, he rushes hotly to refresh—is shouted
after, pursued, jostled, brought back, pitched into the departing steamer
upside down, and caught by mariners disgracefully.

A lovely harvest-day, a cloudless sky, a tranquil sea.  The piston-rods
of the engines so regularly coming up from below, to look (as well they
may) at the bright weather, and so regularly almost knocking their iron
heads against the cross beam of the skylight, and never doing it!
Another Parisian actress is on board, attended by another Mystery.
Compact Enchantress greets her sister artist—Oh, the Compact One’s pretty
teeth!—and Mystery greets Mystery.  _My_ Mystery soon ceases to be
conversational—is taken poorly, in a word, having lunched too
miscellaneously—and goes below.  The remaining Mystery then smiles upon
the sister artists (who, I am afraid, wouldn’t greatly mind stabbing each
other), and is upon the whole ravished.

And now I find that all the French people on board begin to grow, and all
the English people to shrink.  The French are nearing home, and shaking
off a disadvantage, whereas we are shaking it on.  Zamiel is the same
man, and Abd-el-Kader is the same man, but each seems to come into
possession of an indescribable confidence that departs from us—from
Monied Interest, for instance, and from me.  Just what they gain, we
lose.  Certain British ‘Gents’ about the steersman, intellectually
nurtured at home on parody of everything and truth of nothing, become
subdued, and in a manner forlorn; and when the steersman tells them (not
exultingly) how he has ‘been upon this station now eight year, and never
see the old town of Bullum yet,’ one of them, with an imbecile reliance
on a reed, asks him what he considers to be the best hotel in Paris?

Now, I tread upon French ground, and am greeted by the three charming
words, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, painted up (in letters a little too
thin for their height) on the Custom-house wall—also by the sight of
large cocked hats, without which demonstrative head-gear nothing of a
public nature can be done upon this soil.  All the rabid Hotel population
of Boulogne howl and shriek outside a distant barrier, frantic to get at
us.  Demented, by some unlucky means peculiar to himself, is delivered
over to their fury, and is presently seen struggling in a whirlpool of
Touters—is somehow understood to be going to Paris—is, with infinite
noise, rescued by two cocked hats, and brought into Custom-house bondage
with the rest of us.

Here, I resign the active duties of life to an eager being, of
preternatural sharpness, with a shelving forehead and a shabby
snuff-coloured coat, who (from the wharf) brought me down with his eye
before the boat came into port.  He darts upon my luggage, on the floor
where all the luggage is strewn like a wreck at the bottom of the great
deep; gets it proclaimed and weighed as the property of ‘Monsieur a
traveller unknown;’ pays certain francs for it, to a certain functionary
behind a Pigeon Hole, like a pay-box at a Theatre (the arrangements in
general are on a wholesale scale, half military and half theatrical); and
I suppose I shall find it when I come to Paris—he says I shall.  I know
nothing about it, except that I pay him his small fee, and pocket the
ticket he gives me, and sit upon a counter, involved in the general
distraction.

Railway station.  ‘Lunch or dinner, ladies and gentlemen.  Plenty of time
for Paris.  Plenty of time!’  Large hall, long counter, long strips of
dining-table, bottles of wine, plates of meat, roast chickens, little
loaves of bread, basins of soup, little caraffes of brandy, cakes, and
fruit.  Comfortably restored from these resources, I begin to fly again.

I saw Zamiel (before I took wing) presented to Compact Enchantress and
Sister Artist, by an officer in uniform, with a waist like a wasp’s, and
pantaloons like two balloons.  They all got into the next carriage
together, accompanied by the two Mysteries.  They laughed.  I am alone in
the carriage (for I don’t consider Demented anybody) and alone in the
world.

Fields, windmills, low grounds, pollard-trees, windmills, fields,
fortifications, Abbeville, soldiering and drumming.  I wonder where
England is, and when I was there last—about two years ago, I should say.
Flying in and out among these trenches and batteries, skimming the
clattering drawbridges, looking down into the stagnant ditches, I become
a prisoner of state, escaping.  I am confined with a comrade in a
fortress.  Our room is in an upper story.  We have tried to get up the
chimney, but there’s an iron grating across it, imbedded in the masonry.
After months of labour, we have worked the grating loose with the poker,
and can lift it up.  We have also made a hook, and twisted our rugs and
blankets into ropes.  Our plan is, to go up the chimney, hook our ropes
to the top, descend hand over hand upon the roof of the guard-house far
below, shake the hook loose, watch the opportunity of the sentinels
pacing away, hook again, drop into the ditch, swim across it, creep into
the shelter of the wood.  The time is come—a wild and stormy night.  We
are up the chimney, we are on the guard-house roof, we are swimming in
the murky ditch, when lo!  ‘Qui v’là?’ a bugle, the alarm, a crash!  What
is it?  Death?  No, Amiens.

More fortifications, more soldiering and drumming, more basins of soup,
more little loaves of bread, more bottles of wine, more caraffes of
brandy, more time for refreshment.  Everything good, and everything
ready.  Bright, unsubstantial-looking, scenic sort of station.  People
waiting.  Houses, uniforms, beards, moustaches, some sabots, plenty of
neat women, and a few old-visaged children.  Unless it be a delusion born
of my giddy flight, the grown-up people and the children seem to change
places in France.  In general, the boys and girls are little old men and
women, and the men and women lively boys and girls.

Bugle, shriek, flight resumed.  Monied Interest has come into my
carriage.  Says the manner of refreshing is ‘not bad,’ but considers it
French.  Admits great dexterity and politeness in the attendants.  Thinks
a decimal currency may have something to do with their despatch in
settling accounts, and don’t know but what it’s sensible and convenient.
Adds, however, as a general protest, that they’re a revolutionary
people—and always at it.

Ramparts, canals, cathedral, river, soldiering and drumming, open
country, river, earthenware manufactures, Creil.  Again ten minutes.  Not
even Demented in a hurry.  Station, a drawing-room with a verandah: like
a planter’s house.  Monied Interest considers it a band-box, and not made
to last.  Little round tables in it, at one of which the Sister Artists
and attendant Mysteries are established with Wasp and Zamiel, as if they
were going to stay a week.

Anon, with no more trouble than before, I am flying again, and lazily
wondering as I fly.  What has the South-Eastern done with all the
horrible little villages we used to pass through, in the _Diligence_?
What have they done with all the summer dust, with all the winter mud,
with all the dreary avenues of little trees, with all the ramshackle
postyards, with all the beggars (who used to turn out at night with bits
of lighted candle, to look in at the coach windows), with all the
long-tailed horses who were always biting one another, with all the big
postilions in jack-boots—with all the mouldy cafés that we used to stop
at, where a long mildewed table-cloth, set forth with jovial bottles of
vinegar and oil, and with a Siamese arrangement of pepper and salt, was
never wanting?  Where are the grass-grown little towns, the wonderful
little market-places all unconscious of markets, the shops that nobody
kept, the streets that nobody trod, the churches that nobody went to, the
bells that nobody rang, the tumble-down old buildings plastered with
many-coloured bills that nobody read?  Where are the two-and-twenty weary
hours of long, long day and night journey, sure to be either
insupportably hot or insupportably cold?  Where are the pains in my
bones, where are the fidgets in my legs, where is the Frenchman with the
nightcap who never _would_ have the little coupé-window down, and who
always fell upon me when he went to sleep, and always slept all night
snoring onions?

A voice breaks in with ‘Paris!  Here we are!’

I have overflown myself, perhaps, but I can’t believe it.  I feel as if I
were enchanted or bewitched.  It is barely eight o’clock yet—it is
nothing like half-past—when I have had my luggage examined at that
briskest of Custom-houses attached to the station, and am rattling over
the pavement in a hackney-cabriolet.

Surely, not the pavement of Paris?  Yes, I think it is, too.  I don’t
know any other place where there are all these high houses, all these
haggard-looking wine shops, all these billiard tables, all these
stocking-makers with flat red or yellow legs of wood for signboard, all
these fuel shops with stacks of billets painted outside, and real billets
sawing in the gutter, all these dirty corners of streets, all these
cabinet pictures over dark doorways representing discreet matrons nursing
babies.  And yet this morning—I’ll think of it in a warm-bath.

Very like a small room that I remember in the Chinese baths upon the
Boulevard, certainly; and, though I see it through the steam, I think
that I might swear to that peculiar hot-linen basket, like a large wicker
hour-glass.  When can it have been that I left home?  When was it that I
paid ‘through to Paris’ at London Bridge, and discharged myself of all
responsibility, except the preservation of a voucher ruled into three
divisions, of which the first was snipped off at Folkestone, the second
aboard the boat, and the third taken at my journey’s end?  It seems to
have been ages ago.  Calculation is useless.  I will go out for a walk.

The crowds in the streets, the lights in the shops and balconies, the
elegance, variety, and beauty of their decorations, the number of the
theatres, the brilliant cafés with their windows thrown up high and their
vivacious groups at little tables on the pavement, the light and glitter
of the houses turned as it were inside out, soon convince me that it is
no dream; that I am in Paris, howsoever I got there.  I stroll down to
the sparkling Palais Royal, up the Rue de Rivoli, to the Place Vendôme.
As I glance into a print-shop window, Monied Interest, my late travelling
companion, comes upon me, laughing with the highest relish of disdain.
‘Here’s a people!’ he says, pointing to Napoleon in the window and
Napoleon on the column.  ‘Only one idea all over Paris!  A monomania!’
Humph!  I THINK I have seen Napoleon’s match?  There was a statue, when I
came away, at Hyde Park Corner, and another in the City, and a print or
two in the shops.

I walk up to the Barrière de l’Etoile, sufficiently dazed by my flight to
have a pleasant doubt of the reality of everything about me; of the
lively crowd, the overhanging trees, the performing dogs, the
hobby-horses, the beautiful perspectives of shining lamps: the hundred
and one enclosures, where the singing is, in gleaming orchestras of azure
and gold, and where a star-eyed Houri comes round with a box for
voluntary offerings.  So, I pass to my hotel, enchanted; sup, enchanted;
go to bed, enchanted; pushing back this morning (if it really were this
morning) into the remoteness of time, blessing the South-Eastern Company
for realising the Arabian Nights in these prose days, murmuring, as I
wing my idle flight into the land of dreams, ‘No hurry, ladies and
gentlemen, going to Paris in eleven hours.  It is so well done, that
there really is no hurry!’



THE DETECTIVE POLICE


WE are not by any means devout believers in the old Bow Street Police.
To say the truth, we think there was a vast amount of humbug about those
worthies.  Apart from many of them being men of very indifferent
character, and far too much in the habit of consorting with thieves and
the like, they never lost a public occasion of jobbing and trading in
mystery and making the most of themselves.  Continually puffed besides by
incompetent magistrates anxious to conceal their own deficiencies, and
hand-in-glove with the penny-a-liners of that time, they became a sort of
superstition.  Although as a Preventive Police they were utterly
ineffective, and as a Detective Police were very loose and uncertain in
their operations, they remain with some people a superstition to the
present day.

On the other hand, the Detective Force organised since the establishment
of the existing Police, is so well chosen and trained, proceeds so
systematically and quietly, does its business in such a workmanlike
manner, and is always so calmly and steadily engaged in the service of
the public, that the public really do not know enough of it, to know a
tithe of its usefulness.  Impressed with this conviction, and interested
in the men themselves, we represented to the authorities at Scotland
Yard, that we should be glad, if there were no official objection, to
have some talk with the Detectives.  A most obliging and ready permission
being given, a certain evening was appointed with a certain Inspector for
a social conference between ourselves and the Detectives, at The
Household Words Office in Wellington Street, Strand, London.  In
consequence of which appointment the party ‘came off,’ which we are about
to describe.  And we beg to repeat that, avoiding such topics as it might
for obvious reasons be injurious to the public, or disagreeable to
respectable individuals, to touch upon in print, our description is as
exact as we can make it.

The reader will have the goodness to imagine the Sanctum Sanctorum of
Household Words.  Anything that best suits the reader’s fancy, will best
represent that magnificent chamber.  We merely stipulate for a round
table in the middle, with some glasses and cigars arranged upon it; and
the editorial sofa elegantly hemmed in between that stately piece of
furniture and the wall.

It is a sultry evening at dusk.  The stones of Wellington Street are hot
and gritty, and the watermen and hackney-coachmen at the Theatre
opposite, are much flushed and aggravated.  Carriages are constantly
setting down the people who have come to Fairy-Land; and there is a
mighty shouting and bellowing every now and then, deafening us for the
moment, through the open windows.

Just at dusk, Inspectors Wield and Stalker are announced; but we do not
undertake to warrant the orthography of any of the names here mentioned.
Inspector Wield presents Inspector Stalker.  Inspector Wield is a
middle-aged man of a portly presence, with a large, moist, knowing eye, a
husky voice, and a habit of emphasising his conversation by the aid of a
corpulent fore-finger, which is constantly in juxtaposition with his eyes
or nose.  Inspector Stalker is a shrewd, hard-headed Scotchman—in
appearance not at all unlike a very acute, thoroughly-trained
schoolmaster, from the Normal Establishment at Glasgow.  Inspector Wield
one might have known, perhaps, for what he is—Inspector Stalker, never.

The ceremonies of reception over, Inspectors Wield and Stalker observe
that they have brought some sergeants with them.  The sergeants are
presented—five in number, Sergeant Dornton, Sergeant Witchem, Sergeant
Mith, Sergeant Fendall, and Sergeant Straw.  We have the whole Detective
Force from Scotland Yard, with one exception.  They sit down in a
semi-circle (the two Inspectors at the two ends) at a little distance
from the round table, facing the editorial sofa.  Every man of them, in a
glance, immediately takes an inventory of the furniture and an accurate
sketch of the editorial presence.  The Editor feels that any gentleman in
company could take him up, if need should be, without the smallest
hesitation, twenty years hence.

The whole party are in plain clothes.  Sergeant Dornton about fifty years
of age, with a ruddy face and a high sunburnt forehead, has the air of
one who has been a Sergeant in the army—he might have sat to Wilkie for
the Soldier in the Reading of the Will.  He is famous for steadily
pursuing the inductive process, and, from small beginnings, working on
from clue to clue until he bags his man.  Sergeant Witchem, shorter and
thicker-set, and marked with the small-pox, has something of a reserved
and thoughtful air, as if he were engaged in deep arithmetical
calculations.  He is renowned for his acquaintance with the swell mob.
Sergeant Mith, a smooth-faced man with a fresh bright complexion, and a
strange air of simplicity, is a dab at housebreakers.  Sergeant Fendall,
a light-haired, well-spoken, polite person, is a prodigious hand at
pursuing private inquiries of a delicate nature.  Straw, a little wiry
Sergeant of meek demeanour and strong sense, would knock at a door and
ask a series of questions in any mild character you choose to prescribe
to him, from a charity-boy upwards, and seem as innocent as an infant.
They are, one and all, respectable-looking men; of perfectly good
deportment and unusual intelligence; with nothing lounging or slinking in
their manners; with an air of keen observation and quick perception when
addressed; and generally presenting in their faces, traces more or less
marked of habitually leading lives of strong mental excitement.  They
have all good eyes; and they all can, and they all do, look full at
whomsoever they speak to.

We light the cigars, and hand round the glasses (which are very
temperately used indeed), and the conversation begins by a modest amateur
reference on the Editorial part to the swell mob.  Inspector Wield
immediately removes his cigar from his lips, waves his right hand, and
says, ‘Regarding the swell mob, sir, I can’t do better than call upon
Sergeant Witchem.  Because the reason why?  I’ll tell you.  Sergeant
Witchem is better acquainted with the swell mob than any officer in
London.’

Our heart leaping up when we beheld this rainbow in the sky, we turn to
Sergeant Witchem, who very concisely, and in well-chosen language, goes
into the subject forthwith.  Meantime, the whole of his brother officers
are closely interested in attending to what he says, and observing its
effect.  Presently they begin to strike in, one or two together, when an
opportunity offers, and the conversation becomes general.  But these
brother officers only come in to the assistance of each other—not to the
contradiction—and a more amicable brotherhood there could not be.  From
the swell mob, we diverge to the kindred topics of cracksmen, fences,
public-house dancers, area-sneaks, designing young people who go out
‘gonophing,’ and other ‘schools.’  It is observable throughout these
revelations, that Inspector Stalker, the Scotchman, is always exact and
statistical, and that when any question of figures arises, everybody as
by one consent pauses, and looks to him.

When we have exhausted the various schools of Art—during which discussion
the whole body have remained profoundly attentive, except when some
unusual noise at the Theatre over the way has induced some gentleman to
glance inquiringly towards the window in that direction, behind his next
neighbour’s back—we burrow for information on such points as the
following.  Whether there really are any highway robberies in London, or
whether some circumstances not convenient to be mentioned by the
aggrieved party, usually precede the robberies complained of, under that
head, which quite change their character?  Certainly the latter, almost
always.  Whether in the case of robberies in houses, where servants are
necessarily exposed to doubt, innocence under suspicion ever becomes so
like guilt in appearance, that a good officer need be cautious how he
judges it?  Undoubtedly.  Nothing is so common or deceptive as such
appearances at first.  Whether in a place of public amusement, a thief
knows an officer, and an officer knows a thief—supposing them,
beforehand, strangers to each other—because each recognises in the other,
under all disguise, an inattention to what is going on, and a purpose
that is not the purpose of being entertained?  Yes.  That’s the way
exactly.  Whether it is reasonable or ridiculous to trust to the alleged
experiences of thieves as narrated by themselves, in prisons, or
penitentiaries, or anywhere?  In general, nothing more absurd.  Lying is
their habit and their trade; and they would rather lie—even if they
hadn’t an interest in it, and didn’t want to make themselves
agreeable—than tell the truth.

From these topics, we glide into a review of the most celebrated and
horrible of the great crimes that have been committed within the last
fifteen or twenty years.  The men engaged in the discovery of almost all
of them, and in the pursuit or apprehension of the murderers, are here,
down to the very last instance.  One of our guests gave chase to and
boarded the emigrant ship, in which the murderess last hanged in London
was supposed to have embarked.  We learn from him that his errand was not
announced to the passengers, who may have no idea of it to this hour.
That he went below, with the captain, lamp in hand—it being dark, and the
whole steerage abed and sea-sick—and engaged the Mrs. Manning who was on
board, in a conversation about her luggage, until she was, with no small
pains, induced to raise her head, and turn her face towards the light.
Satisfied that she was not the object of his search, he quietly
re-embarked in the Government steamer along-side, and steamed home again
with the intelligence.

When we have exhausted these subjects, too, which occupy a considerable
time in the discussion, two or three leave their chairs, whisper Sergeant
Witchem, and resume their seat.  Sergeant Witchem, leaning forward a
little, and placing a hand on each of his legs, then modestly speaks as
follows:

‘My brother-officers wish me to relate a little account of my taking
Tally-ho Thompson.  A man oughtn’t to tell what he has done himself; but
still, as nobody was with me, and, consequently, as nobody but myself can
tell it, I’ll do it in the best way I can, if it should meet your
approval.’

We assure Sergeant Witchem that he will oblige us very much, and we all
compose ourselves to listen with great interest and attention.

‘Tally-ho Thompson,’ says Sergeant Witchem, after merely wetting his lips
with his brandy-and-water, ‘Tally-ho Thompson was a famous horse-stealer,
couper, and magsman.  Thompson, in conjunction with a pal that
occasionally worked with him, gammoned a countryman out of a good round
sum of money, under pretence of getting him a situation—the regular old
dodge—and was afterwards in the “Hue and Cry” for a horse—a horse that he
stole down in Hertfordshire.  I had to look after Thompson, and I applied
myself, of course, in the first instance, to discovering where he was.
Now, Thompson’s wife lived, along with a little daughter, at Chelsea.
Knowing that Thompson was somewhere in the country, I watched the
house—especially at post-time in the morning—thinking Thompson was pretty
likely to write to her.  Sure enough, one morning the postman comes up,
and delivers a letter at Mrs. Thompson’s door.  Little girl opens the
door, and takes it in.  We’re not always sure of postmen, though the
people at the post-offices are always very obliging.  A postman may help
us, or he may not,—just as it happens.  However, I go across the road,
and I say to the postman, after he has left the letter, “Good morning!
how are you?”  “How are _you_?” says he.  “You’ve just delivered a letter
for Mrs. Thompson.”  “Yes, I have.”  “You didn’t happen to remark what
the post-mark was, perhaps?”  “No,” says he, “I didn’t.”  “Come,” says I,
“I’ll be plain with you.  I’m in a small way of business, and I have
given Thompson credit, and I can’t afford to lose what he owes me.  I
know he’s got money, and I know he’s in the country, and if you could
tell me what the post-mark was, I should be very much obliged to you, and
you’d do a service to a tradesman in a small way of business that can’t
afford a loss.”  “Well,” he said, “I do assure you that I did not observe
what the post-mark was; all I know is, that there was money in the
letter—I should say a sovereign.”  This was enough for me, because of
course I knew that Thompson having sent his wife money, it was probable
she’d write to Thompson, by return of post, to acknowledge the receipt.
So I said “Thankee” to the postman, and I kept on the watch.  In the
afternoon I saw the little girl come out.  Of course I followed her.  She
went into a stationer’s shop, and I needn’t say to you that I looked in
at the window.  She bought some writing-paper and envelopes, and a pen.
I think to myself, “That’ll do!”—watch her home again—and don’t go away,
you may be sure, knowing that Mrs. Thompson was writing her letter to
Tally-ho, and that the letter would be posted presently.  In about an
hour or so, out came the little girl again, with the letter in her hand.
I went up, and said something to the child, whatever it might have been;
but I couldn’t see the direction of the letter, because she held it with
the seal upwards.  However, I observed that on the back of the letter
there was what we call a kiss—a drop of wax by the side of the seal—and
again, you understand, that was enough for me.  I saw her post the
letter, waited till she was gone, then went into the shop, and asked to
see the Master.  When he came out, I told him, “Now, I’m an Officer in
the Detective Force; there’s a letter with a kiss been posted here just
now, for a man that I’m in search of; and what I have to ask of you, is,
that you will let me look at the direction of that letter.”  He was very
civil—took a lot of letters from the box in the window—shook ’em out on
the counter with the faces downwards—and there among ’em was the
identical letter with the kiss.  It was directed, Mr. Thomas Pigeon, Post
Office, B—, to be left till called for.  Down I went to B— (a hundred and
twenty miles or so) that night.  Early next morning I went to the Post
Office; saw the gentleman in charge of that department; told him who I
was; and that my object was to see, and track, the party that should come
for the letter for Mr. Thomas Pigeon.  He was very polite, and said, “You
shall have every assistance we can give you; you can wait inside the
office; and we’ll take care to let you know when anybody comes for the
letter.”  Well, I waited there three days, and began to think that nobody
ever would come.  At last the clerk whispered to me, “Here!  Detective!
Somebody’s come for the letter!”  “Keep him a minute,” said I, and I ran
round to the outside of the office.  There I saw a young chap with the
appearance of an Ostler, holding a horse by the bridle—stretching the
bridle across the pavement, while he waited at the Post Office Window for
the letter.  I began to pat the horse, and that; and I said to the boy,
“Why, this is Mr. Jones’s Mare!”  “No.  It an’t.”  “No?” said I.  “She’s
very like Mr. Jones’s Mare!”  “She an’t Mr. Jones’s Mare, anyhow,” says
he.  “It’s Mr. So and So’s, of the Warwick Arms.”  And up he jumped, and
off he went—letter and all.  I got a cab, followed on the box, and was so
quick after him that I came into the stable-yard of the Warwick Arms, by
one gate, just as he came in by another.  I went into the bar, where
there was a young woman serving, and called for a glass of
brandy-and-water.  He came in directly, and handed her the letter.  She
casually looked at it, without saying anything, and stuck it up behind
the glass over the chimney-piece.  What was to be done next?

‘I turned it over in my mind while I drank my brandy-and-water (looking
pretty sharp at the letter the while), but I couldn’t see my way out of
it at all.  I tried to get lodgings in the house, but there had been a
horse-fair, or something of that sort, and it was full.  I was obliged to
put up somewhere else, but I came backwards and forwards to the bar for a
couple of days, and there was the letter always behind the glass.  At
last I thought I’d write a letter to Mr. Pigeon myself, and see what that
would do.  So I wrote one, and posted it, but I purposely addressed it,
Mr. John Pigeon, instead of Mr. Thomas Pigeon, to see what that would do.
In the morning (a very wet morning it was) I watched the postman down the
street, and cut into the bar, just before he reached the Warwick Arms.
In he came presently with my letter.  “Is there a Mr. John Pigeon staying
here?”  “No!—stop a bit though,” says the barmaid; and she took down the
letter behind the glass.  “No,” says she, “it’s Thomas, and he is not
staying here.  Would you do me a favour, and post this for me, as it is
so wet?”  The postman said Yes; she folded it in another envelope,
directed it, and gave it him.  He put it in his hat, and away he went.

‘I had no difficulty in finding out the direction of that letter.  It was
addressed Mr. Thomas Pigeon, Post Office, R—, Northamptonshire, to be
left till called for.  Off I started directly for R—; I said the same at
the Post Office there, as I had said at B—; and again I waited three days
before anybody came.  At last another chap on horseback came.  “Any
letters for Mr. Thomas Pigeon?”  “Where do you come from?”  “New Inn,
near R—.”  He got the letter, and away he went at a canter.

‘I made my inquiries about the New Inn, near R—, and hearing it was a
solitary sort of house, a little in the horse line, about a couple of
miles from the station, I thought I’d go and have a look at it.  I found
it what it had been described, and sauntered in, to look about me.  The
landlady was in the bar, and I was trying to get into conversation with
her; asked her how business was, and spoke about the wet weather, and so
on; when I saw, through an open door, three men sitting by the fire in a
sort of parlour, or kitchen; and one of those men, according to the
description I had of him, was Tally-ho Thompson!

‘I went and sat down among ’em, and tried to make things agreeable; but
they were very shy—wouldn’t talk at all—looked at me, and at one another,
in a way quite the reverse of sociable.  I reckoned ’em up, and finding
that they were all three bigger men than me, and considering that their
looks were ugly—that it was a lonely place—railroad station two miles
off—and night coming on—thought I couldn’t do better than have a drop of
brandy-and-water to keep my courage up.  So I called for my
brandy-and-water; and as I was sitting drinking it by the fire, Thompson
got up and went out.

‘Now the difficulty of it was, that I wasn’t sure it was Thompson,
because I had never set eyes on him before; and what I had wanted was to
be quite certain of him.  However, there was nothing for it now, but to
follow, and put a bold face upon it.  I found him talking, outside in the
yard, with the landlady.  It turned out afterwards that he was wanted by
a Northampton officer for something else, and that, knowing that officer
to be pock-marked (as I am myself), he mistook me for him.  As I have
observed, I found him talking to the landlady, outside.  I put my hand
upon his shoulder—this way—and said, “Tally-ho Thompson, it’s no use.  I
know you.  I’m an officer from London, and I take you into custody for
felony!”  “That be d-d!” says Tally-ho Thompson.

‘We went back into the house, and the two friends began to cut up rough,
and their looks didn’t please me at all, I assure you.  “Let the man go.
What are you going to do with him?”  “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do
with him.  I’m going to take him to London to-night, as sure as I’m
alive.  I’m not alone here, whatever you may think.  You mind your own
business, and keep yourselves to yourselves.  It’ll be better for you,
for I know you both very well.”  _I_’d never seen or heard of ’em in all
my life, but my bouncing cowed ’em a bit, and they kept off, while
Thompson was making ready to go.  I thought to myself, however, that they
might be coming after me on the dark road, to rescue Thompson; so I said
to the landlady, “What men have you got in the house, Missis?”  “We
haven’t got no men here,” she says, sulkily.  “You have got an ostler, I
suppose?”  “Yes, we’ve got an ostler.”  “Let me see him.”  Presently he
came, and a shaggy-headed young fellow he was.  “Now attend to me, young
man,” says I; “I’m a Detective Officer from London.  This man’s name is
Thompson.  I have taken him into custody for felony.  I am going to take
him to the railroad station.  I call upon you in the Queen’s name to
assist me; and mind you, my friend, you’ll get yourself into more trouble
than you know of, if you don’t!”  You never saw a person open his eyes so
wide.  “Now, Thompson, come along!” says I.  But when I took out the
handcuffs, Thompson cries, “No!  None of that!  I won’t stand _them_!
I’ll go along with you quiet, but I won’t bear none of that!”  “Tally-ho
Thompson,” I said, “I’m willing to behave as a man to you, if you are
willing to behave as a man to me.  Give me your word that you’ll come
peaceably along, and I don’t want to handcuff you.”  “I will,” says
Thompson, “but I’ll have a glass of brandy first.”  “I don’t care if I’ve
another,” said I.  “We’ll have two more, Missis,” said the friends, “and
confound you, Constable, you’ll give your man a drop, won’t you?”  I was
agreeable to that, so we had it all round, and then my man and I took
Tally-ho Thompson safe to the railroad, and I carried him to London that
night.  He was afterwards acquitted, on account of a defect in the
evidence; and I understand he always praises me up to the skies, and says
I’m one of the best of men.’

This story coming to a termination amidst general applause, Inspector
Wield, after a little grave smoking, fixes his eye on his host, and thus
delivers himself:

‘It wasn’t a bad plant that of mine, on Fikey, the man accused of forging
the Sou’-Western Railway debentures—it was only t’other day—because the
reason why?  I’ll tell you.

‘I had information that Fikey and his brother kept a factory over yonder
there,’—indicating any region on the Surrey side of the river—‘where he
bought second-hand carriages; so after I’d tried in vain to get hold of
him by other means, I wrote him a letter in an assumed name, saying that
I’d got a horse and shay to dispose of, and would drive down next day
that he might view the lot, and make an offer—very reasonable it was, I
said—a reg’lar bargain.  Straw and me then went off to a friend of mine
that’s in the livery and job business, and hired a turn-out for the day,
a precious smart turn-out it was—quite a slap-up thing!  Down we drove,
accordingly, with a friend (who’s not in the Force himself); and leaving
my friend in the shay near a public-house, to take care of the horse, we
went to the factory, which was some little way off.  In the factory,
there was a number of strong fellows at work, and after reckoning ’em up,
it was clear to me that it wouldn’t do to try it on there.  They were too
many for us.  We must get our man out of doors.  “Mr. Fikey at home?”
“No, he ain’t.”  “Expected home soon?”  “Why, no, not soon.”  “Ah!  Is
his brother here?”  “I’m his brother.”  “Oh! well, this is an
ill-conwenience, this is.  I wrote him a letter yesterday, saying I’d got
a little turn-out to dispose of, and I’ve took the trouble to bring the
turn-out down a’ purpose, and now he ain’t in the way.”  “No, he ain’t in
the way.  You couldn’t make it convenient to call again, could you?”
“Why, no, I couldn’t.  I want to sell; that’s the fact; and I can’t put
it off.  Could you find him anywheres?”  At first he said No, he
couldn’t, and then he wasn’t sure about it, and then he’d go and try.  So
at last he went up-stairs, where there was a sort of loft, and presently
down comes my man himself in his shirt-sleeves.

‘“Well,” he says, “this seems to be rayther a pressing matter of yours.”
“Yes,” I says, “it _is_ rayther a pressing matter, and you’ll find it a
bargain—dirt cheap.”  “I ain’t in partickler want of a bargain just now,”
he says, “but where is it?”  “Why,” I says, “the turn-out’s just outside.
Come and look at it.”  He hasn’t any suspicions, and away we go.  And the
first thing that happens is, that the horse runs away with my friend (who
knows no more of driving than a child) when he takes a little trot along
the road to show his paces.  You never saw such a game in your life!

‘When the bolt is over, and the turn-out has come to a standstill again,
Fikey walks round and round it as grave as a judge—me too.  “There, sir!”
I says.  “There’s a neat thing!”  “It ain’t a bad style of thing,” he
says.  “I believe you,” says I.  “And there’s a horse!”—for I saw him
looking at it.  “Rising eight!” I says, rubbing his fore-legs.  (Bless
you, there ain’t a man in the world knows less of horses than I do, but
I’d heard my friend at the Livery Stables say he was eight year old, so I
says, as knowing as possible, “Rising eight.”)  “Rising eight, is he?”
says he.  “Rising eight,” says I.  “Well,” he says, “what do you want for
it?”  “Why, the first and last figure for the whole concern is
five-and-twenty pound!”  “That’s very cheap!” he says, looking at me.
“Ain’t it?” I says.  “I told you it was a bargain!  Now, without any
higgling and haggling about it, what I want is to sell, and that’s my
price.  Further, I’ll make it easy to you, and take half the money down,
and you can do a bit of stiff {415} for the balance.”

“Well,” he says again, “that’s very cheap.”  “I believe you,” says I;
“get in and try it, and you’ll buy it.  Come! take a trial!”

‘Ecod, he gets in, and we get in, and we drive along the road, to show
him to one of the railway clerks that was hid in the public-house window
to identify him.  But the clerk was bothered, and didn’t know whether it
was him, or wasn’t—because the reason why?  I’ll tell you,—on account of
his having shaved his whiskers.  “It’s a clever little horse,” he says,
“and trots well; and the shay runs light.”  “Not a doubt about it,” I
says.  “And now, Mr. Fikey, I may as well make it all right, without
wasting any more of your time.  The fact is, I’m Inspector Wield, and
you’re my prisoner.”  “You don’t mean that?” he says.  “I do, indeed.”
“Then burn my body,” says Fikey, “if this ain’t too bad!”

‘Perhaps you never saw a man so knocked over with surprise.  “I hope
you’ll let me have my coat?” he says.  “By all means.”  “Well, then,
let’s drive to the factory.”  “Why, not exactly that, I think,” said I;
“I’ve been there, once before, to-day.  Suppose we send for it.”  He saw
it was no go, so he sent for it, and put it on, and we drove him up to
London, comfortable.’

This reminiscence is in the height of its success, when a general
proposal is made to the fresh-complexioned, smooth-faced officer, with
the strange air of simplicity, to tell the ‘Butcher’s Story.’

The fresh-complexioned, smooth-faced officer, with the strange air of
simplicity, began with a rustic smile, and in a soft, wheedling tone of
voice, to relate the Butcher’s Story, thus:

‘It’s just about six years ago, now, since information was given at
Scotland Yard of there being extensive robberies of lawns and silks going
on, at some wholesale houses in the City.  Directions were given for the
business being looked into; and Straw, and Fendall, and me, we were all
in it.’

‘When you received your instructions,’ said we, ‘you went away, and held
a sort of Cabinet Council together!’

The smooth-faced officer coaxingly replied, ‘Ye-es.  Just so.  We turned
it over among ourselves a good deal.  It appeared, when we went into it,
that the goods were sold by the receivers extraordinarily cheap—much
cheaper than they could have been if they had been honestly come by.  The
receivers were in the trade, and kept capital shops—establishments of the
first respectability—one of ’em at the West End, one down in Westminster.
After a lot of watching and inquiry, and this and that among ourselves,
we found that the job was managed, and the purchases of the stolen goods
made, at a little public-house near Smithfield, down by Saint
Bartholomew’s; where the Warehouse Porters, who were the thieves, took
’em for that purpose, don’t you see? and made appointments to meet the
people that went between themselves and the receivers.  This public-house
was principally used by journeymen butchers from the country, out of
place, and in want of situations; so, what did we do, but—ha, ha, ha!—we
agreed that I should be dressed up like a butcher myself, and go and live
there!’

Never, surely, was a faculty of observation better brought to bear upon a
purpose, than that which picked out this officer for the part.  Nothing
in all creation could have suited him better.  Even while he spoke, he
became a greasy, sleepy, shy, good-natured, chuckle-headed, unsuspicious,
and confiding young butcher.  His very hair seemed to have suet in it, as
he made it smooth upon his head, and his fresh complexion to be
lubricated by large quantities of animal food.

‘—So I—ha, ha, ha!’ (always with the confiding snigger of the foolish
young butcher) ‘so I dressed myself in the regular way, made up a little
bundle of clothes, and went to the public-house, and asked if I could
have a lodging there?  They says, “yes, you can have a lodging here,” and
I got a bedroom, and settled myself down in the tap.  There was a number
of people about the place, and coming backwards and forwards to the
house; and first one says, and then another says, “Are you from the
country, young man?”  “Yes,” I says, “I am.  I’m come out of
Northamptonshire, and I’m quite lonely here, for I don’t know London at
all, and it’s such a mighty big town.”  “It _is_ a big town,” they says.
“Oh, it’s a _very_ big town!” I says.  “Really and truly I never was in
such a town.  It quite confuses of me!” and all that, you know.

‘When some of the journeymen Butchers that used the house, found that I
wanted a place, they says, “Oh, we’ll get you a place!”  And they
actually took me to a sight of places, in Newgate Market, Newport Market,
Clare, Carnaby—I don’t know where all.  But the wages was—ha, ha, ha!—was
not sufficient, and I never could suit myself, don’t you see?  Some of
the queer frequenters of the house were a little suspicious of me at
first, and I was obliged to be very cautious indeed how I communicated
with Straw or Fendall.  Sometimes, when I went out, pretending to stop
and look into the shop windows, and just casting my eye round, I used to
see some of ’em following me; but, being perhaps better accustomed than
they thought for, to that sort of thing, I used to lead ’em on as far as
I thought necessary or convenient—sometimes a long way—and then turn
sharp round, and meet ’em, and say, “Oh, dear, how glad I am to come upon
you so fortunate!  This London’s such a place, I’m blowed if I ain’t lost
again!”  And then we’d go back all together, to the public-house, and—ha,
ha, ha! and smoke our pipes, don’t you see?

‘They were very attentive to me, I am sure.  It was a common thing, while
I was living there, for some of ’em to take me out, and show me London.
They showed me the Prisons—showed me Newgate—and when they showed me
Newgate, I stops at the place where the Porters pitch their loads, and
says, “Oh dear, is this where they hang the men?  Oh Lor!”  “That!” they
says, “what a simple cove he is!  _That_ ain’t it!”  And then, they
pointed out which was it, and I says “Lor!” and they says, “Now you’ll
know it agen, won’t you?”  And I said I thought I should if I tried
hard—and I assure you I kept a sharp look out for the City Police when we
were out in this way, for if any of ’em had happened to know me, and had
spoke to me, it would have been all up in a minute.  However, by good
luck such a thing never happened, and all went on quiet: though the
difficulties I had in communicating with my brother officers were quite
extraordinary.

‘The stolen goods that were brought to the public-house by the Warehouse
Porters, were always disposed of in a back parlour.  For a long time, I
never could get into this parlour, or see what was done there.  As I sat
smoking my pipe, like an innocent young chap, by the tap-room fire, I’d
hear some of the parties to the robbery, as they came in and out, say
softly to the landlord, “Who’s that?  What does he do here?”  “Bless your
soul,” says the landlord, “he’s only a”—ha, ha, ha!—“he’s only a green
young fellow from the country, as is looking for a butcher’s sitiwation.
Don’t mind him!”  So, in course of time, they were so convinced of my
being green, and got to be so accustomed to me, that I was as free of the
parlour as any of ’em, and I have seen as much as Seventy Pounds’ Worth
of fine lawn sold there, in one night, that was stolen from a warehouse
in Friday Street.  After the sale the buyers always stood treat—hot
supper, or dinner, or what not—and they’d say on those occasions, “Come
on, Butcher!  Put your best leg foremost, young ‘un, and walk into it!”
Which I used to do—and hear, at table, all manner of particulars that it
was very important for us Detectives to know.

‘This went on for ten weeks.  I lived in the public-house all the time,
and never was out of the Butcher’s dress—except in bed.  At last, when I
had followed seven of the thieves, and set ’em to rights—that’s an
expression of ours, don’t you see, by which I mean to say that I traced
’em, and found out where the robberies were done, and all about
’em—Straw, and Fendall, and I, gave one another the office, and at a time
agreed upon, a descent was made upon the public-house, and the
apprehensions effected.  One of the first things the officers did, was to
collar me—for the parties to the robbery weren’t to suppose yet, that I
was anything but a Butcher—on which the landlord cries out, “Don’t take
him,” he says, “whatever you do!  He’s only a poor young chap from the
country, and butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth!”  However, they—ha, ha,
ha!—they took me, and pretended to search my bedroom, where nothing was
found but an old fiddle belonging to the landlord, that had got there
somehow or another.  But, it entirely changed the landlord’s opinion, for
when it was produced, he says, “My fiddle!  The Butcher’s a purloiner!  I
give him into custody for the robbery of a musical instrument!”

‘The man that had stolen the goods in Friday Street was not taken yet.
He had told me, in confidence, that he had his suspicions there was
something wrong (on account of the City Police having captured one of the
party), and that he was going to make himself scarce.  I asked him,
“Where do you mean to go, Mr. Shepherdson?”  “Why, Butcher,” says he,
“the Setting Moon, in the Commercial Road, is a snug house, and I shall
bang out there for a time.  I shall call myself Simpson, which appears to
me to be a modest sort of a name.  Perhaps you’ll give us a look in,
Butcher?”  “Well,” says I, “I think I will give you a call”—which I fully
intended, don’t you see, because, of course, he was to be taken!  I went
over to the Setting Moon next day, with a brother officer, and asked at
the bar for Simpson.  They pointed out his room, up-stairs.  As we were
going up, he looks down over the banister, and calls out, “Halloa,
Butcher! is that you?”  “Yes, it’s me.  How do you find yourself?”
“Bobbish,” he says; “but who’s that with you?”  “It’s only a young man,
that’s a friend of mine,” I says.  “Come along, then,” says he; “any
friend of the Butcher’s is as welcome as the Butcher!”  So, I made my
friend acquainted with him, and we took him into custody.

‘You have no idea, sir, what a sight it was, in Court, when they first
knew that I wasn’t a Butcher, after all!  I wasn’t produced at the first
examination, when there was a remand; but I was at the second.  And when
I stepped into the box, in full police uniform, and the whole party saw
how they had been done, actually a groan of horror and dismay proceeded
from ’em in the dock!

‘At the Old Bailey, when their trials came on, Mr. Clarkson was engaged
for the defence, and he couldn’t make out how it was, about the Butcher.
He thought, all along, it was a real Butcher.  When the counsel for the
prosecution said, “I will now call before you, gentlemen, the
Police-officer,” meaning myself, Mr. Clarkson says, “Why Police-officer?
Why more Police-officers?  I don’t want Police.  We have had a great deal
too much of the Police.  I want the Butcher!”  However, sir, he had the
Butcher and the Police-officer, both in one.  Out of seven prisoners
committed for trial, five were found guilty, and some of ’em were
transported.  The respectable firm at the West End got a term of
imprisonment; and that’s the Butcher’s Story!’

The story done, the chuckle-headed Butcher again resolved himself into
the smooth-faced Detective.  But, he was so extremely tickled by their
having taken him about, when he was that Dragon in disguise, to show him
London, that he could not help reverting to that point in his narrative;
and gently repeating with the Butcher snigger, ‘“Oh, dear,” I says, “is
that where they hang the men?  Oh, Lor!”  “_That_!” says they.  “What a
simple cove he is!”’

It being now late, and the party very modest in their fear of being too
diffuse, there were some tokens of separation; when Sergeant Dornton, the
soldierly-looking man, said, looking round him with a smile:

‘Before we break up, sir, perhaps you might have some amusement in
hearing of the Adventures of a Carpet Bag.  They are very short; and, I
think, curious.’

We welcomed the Carpet Bag, as cordially as Mr. Shepherdson welcomed the
false Butcher at the Setting Moon.  Sergeant Dornton proceeded.

‘In 1847, I was despatched to Chatham, in search of one Mesheck, a Jew.
He had been carrying on, pretty heavily, in the bill-stealing way,
getting acceptances from young men of good connexions (in the army
chiefly), on pretence of discount, and bolting with the same.

‘Mesheck was off, before I got to Chatham.  All I could learn about him
was, that he had gone, probably to London, and had with him—a Carpet Bag.

‘I came back to town, by the last train from Blackwall, and made
inquiries concerning a Jew passenger with—a Carpet Bag.

‘The office was shut up, it being the last train.  There were only two or
three porters left.  Looking after a Jew with a Carpet Bag, on the
Blackwall Railway, which was then the high road to a great Military
Depôt, was worse than looking after a needle in a hayrick.  But it
happened that one of these porters had carried, for a certain Jew, to a
certain public-house, a certain—Carpet Bag.

‘I went to the public-house, but the Jew had only left his luggage there
for a few hours, and had called for it in a cab, and taken it away.  I
put such questions there, and to the porter, as I thought prudent, and
got at this description of—the Carpet Bag.

‘It was a bag which had, on one side of it, worked in worsted, a green
parrot on a stand.  A green parrot on a stand was the means by which to
identify that—Carpet Bag.

‘I traced Mesheck, by means of this green parrot on a stand, to
Cheltenham, to Birmingham, to Liverpool, to the Atlantic Ocean.  At
Liverpool he was too many for me.  He had gone to the United States, and
I gave up all thoughts of Mesheck, and likewise of his—Carpet Bag.

‘Many months afterwards—near a year afterwards—there was a bank in
Ireland robbed of seven thousand pounds, by a person of the name of
Doctor Dundey, who escaped to America; from which country some of the
stolen notes came home.  He was supposed to have bought a farm in New
Jersey.  Under proper management, that estate could be seized and sold,
for the benefit of the parties he had defrauded.  I was sent off to
America for this purpose.

‘I landed at Boston.  I went on to New York.  I found that he had lately
changed New York paper-money for New Jersey paper money, and had banked
cash in New Brunswick.  To take this Doctor Dundey, it was necessary to
entrap him into the State of New York, which required a deal of artifice
and trouble.  At one time, he couldn’t be drawn into an appointment.  At
another time, he appointed to come to meet me, and a New York officer, on
a pretext I made; and then his children had the measles.  At last he
came, per steamboat, and I took him, and lodged him in a New York prison
called the Tombs; which I dare say you know, sir?’

Editorial acknowledgment to that effect.

‘I went to the Tombs, on the morning after his capture, to attend the
examination before the magistrate.  I was passing through the
magistrate’s private room, when, happening to look round me to take
notice of the place, as we generally have a habit of doing, I clapped my
eyes, in one corner, on a—Carpet Bag.

‘What did I see upon that Carpet Bag, if you’ll believe me, but a green
parrot on a stand, as large as life!

‘“That Carpet Bag, with the representation of a green parrot on a stand,”
said I, “belongs to an English Jew, named Aaron Mesheck, and to no other
man, alive or dead!”

‘I give you my word the New York Police Officers were doubled up with
surprise.

‘“How did you ever come to know that?” said they.

‘“I think I ought to know that green parrot by this time,” said I; “for I
have had as pretty a dance after that bird, at home, as ever I had, in
all my life!”’

                                * * * * *

‘And was it Mesheck’s?’ we submissively inquired.

‘Was it, sir?  Of course it was!  He was in custody for another offence,
in that very identical Tombs, at that very identical time.  And, more
than that!  Some memoranda, relating to the fraud for which I had vainly
endeavoured to take him, were found to be, at that moment, lying in that
very same individual—Carpet Bag!’

                                * * * * *

Such are the curious coincidences and such is the peculiar ability,
always sharpening and being improved by practice, and always adapting
itself to every variety of circumstances, and opposing itself to every
new device that perverted ingenuity can invent, for which this important
social branch of the public service is remarkable!  For ever on the
watch, with their wits stretched to the utmost, these officers have, from
day to day and year to year, to set themselves against every novelty of
trickery and dexterity that the combined imaginations of all the lawless
rascals in England can devise, and to keep pace with every such invention
that comes out.  In the Courts of Justice, the materials of thousands of
such stories as we have narrated—often elevated into the marvellous and
romantic, by the circumstances of the case—are dryly compressed into the
set phrase, ‘in consequence of information I received, I did so and so.’
Suspicion was to be directed, by careful inference and deduction, upon
the right person; the right person was to be taken, wherever he had gone,
or whatever he was doing to avoid detection: he is taken; there he is at
the bar; that is enough.  From information I, the officer, received, I
did it; and, according to the custom in these cases, I say no more.

These games of chess, played with live pieces, are played before small
audiences, and are chronicled nowhere.  The interest of the game supports
the player.  Its results are enough for justice.  To compare great things
with small, suppose LEVERRIER or ADAMS informing the public that from
information he had received he had discovered a new planet; or COLUMBUS
informing the public of his day that from information he had received he
had discovered a new continent; so the Detectives inform it that they
have discovered a new fraud or an old offender, and the process is
unknown.

Thus, at midnight, closed the proceedings of our curious and interesting
party.  But one other circumstance finally wound up the evening, after
our Detective guests had left us.  One of the sharpest among them, and
the officer best acquainted with the Swell Mob, had his pocket picked,
going home!



THREE ‘DETECTIVE’ ANECDOTES


I.—THE PAIR OF GLOVES


‘IT’S a singler story, sir,’ said Inspector Wield, of the Detective
Police, who, in company with Sergeants Dornton and Mith, paid us another
twilight visit, one July evening; ‘and I’ve been thinking you might like
to know it.

‘It’s concerning the murder of the young woman, Eliza Grimwood, some
years ago, over in the Waterloo Road.  She was commonly called The
Countess, because of her handsome appearance and her proud way of
carrying of herself; and when I saw the poor Countess (I had known her
well to speak to), lying dead, with her throat cut, on the floor of her
bedroom, you’ll believe me that a variety of reflections calculated to
make a man rather low in his spirits, came into my head.

‘That’s neither here nor there.  I went to the house the morning after
the murder, and examined the body, and made a general observation of the
bedroom where it was.  Turning down the pillow of the bed with my hand, I
found, underneath it, a pair of gloves.  A pair of gentleman’s dress
gloves, very dirty; and inside the lining, the letters TR, and a cross.

‘Well, sir, I took them gloves away, and I showed ’em to the magistrate,
over at Union Hall, before whom the case was.  He says, “Wield,” he says,
“there’s no doubt this is a discovery that may lead to something very
important; and what you have got to do, Wield, is, to find out the owner
of these gloves.”

‘I was of the same opinion, of course, and I went at it immediately.  I
looked at the gloves pretty narrowly, and it was my opinion that they had
been cleaned.  There was a smell of sulphur and rosin about ’em, you
know, which cleaned gloves usually have, more or less.  I took ’em over
to a friend of mine at Kennington, who was in that line, and I put it to
him.  “What do you say now?  Have these gloves been cleaned?”  “These
gloves have been cleaned,” says he.  “Have you any idea who cleaned
them?” says I.  “Not at all,” says he; “I’ve a very distinct idea who
didn’t clean ’em, and that’s myself.  But I’ll tell you what, Wield,
there ain’t above eight or nine reg’lar glove-cleaners in London,”—there
were not, at that time, it seems—“and I think I can give you their
addresses, and you may find out, by that means, who did clean ’em.”
Accordingly, he gave me the directions, and I went here, and I went
there, and I looked up this man, and I looked up that man; but, though
they all agreed that the gloves had been cleaned, I couldn’t find the
man, woman, or child, that had cleaned that aforesaid pair of gloves.

‘What with this person not being at home, and that person being expected
home in the afternoon, and so forth, the inquiry took me three days.  On
the evening of the third day, coming over Waterloo Bridge from the Surrey
side of the river, quite beat, and very much vexed and disappointed, I
thought I’d have a shilling’s worth of entertainment at the Lyceum
Theatre to freshen myself up.  So I went into the Pit, at half-price, and
I sat myself down next to a very quiet, modest sort of young man.  Seeing
I was a stranger (which I thought it just as well to appear to be) he
told me the names of the actors on the stage, and we got into
conversation.  When the play was over, we came out together, and I said,
“We’ve been very companionable and agreeable, and perhaps you wouldn’t
object to a drain?”  “Well, you’re very good,” says he; “I shouldn’t
object to a drain.”  Accordingly, we went to a public-house, near the
Theatre, sat ourselves down in a quiet room up-stairs on the first floor,
and called for a pint of half-and-half, apiece, and a pipe.

‘Well, sir, we put our pipes aboard, and we drank our half-and-half, and
sat a-talking, very sociably, when the young man says, “You must excuse
me stopping very long,” he says, “because I’m forced to go home in good
time.  I must be at work all night.”  “At work all night?” says I.  “You
ain’t a baker?”  “No,” he says, laughing, “I ain’t a baker.”  “I thought
not,” says I, “you haven’t the looks of a baker.”  “No,” says he, “I’m a
glove-cleaner.”

‘I never was more astonished in my life, than when I heard them words
come out of his lips.  “You’re a glove-cleaner, are you?” says I.  “Yes,”
he says, “I am.”  “Then, perhaps,” says I, taking the gloves out of my
pocket, “you can tell me who cleaned this pair of gloves?  It’s a rum
story,” I says.  “I was dining over at Lambeth, the other day, at a
free-and-easy—quite promiscuous—with a public company—when some
gentleman, he left these gloves behind him!  Another gentleman and me,
you see, we laid a wager of a sovereign, that I wouldn’t find out who
they belonged to.  I’ve spent as much as seven shillings already, in
trying to discover; but, if you could help me, I’d stand another seven
and welcome.  You see there’s TR and a cross, inside.”  “_I_ see,” he
says.  “Bless you, _I_ know these gloves very well!  I’ve seen dozens of
pairs belonging to the same party.”  “No?” says I.  “Yes,” says he.
“Then you know who cleaned ’em?” says I.  “Rather so,” says he.  “My
father cleaned ’em.”

‘“Where does your father live?” says I.  “Just round the corner,” says
the young man, “near Exeter Street, here.  He’ll tell you who they belong
to, directly.”  “Would you come round with me now?” says I.  “Certainly,”
says he, “but you needn’t tell my father that you found me at the play,
you know, because he mightn’t like it.”  “All right!”  We went round to
the place, and there we found an old man in a white apron, with two or
three daughters, all rubbing and cleaning away at lots of gloves, in a
front parlour.  “Oh, Father!” says the young man, “here’s a person been
and made a bet about the ownership of a pair of gloves, and I’ve told him
you can settle it.”  “Good evening, sir,” says I to the old gentleman.
“Here’s the gloves your son speaks of.  Letters TR, you see, and a
cross.”  “Oh yes,” he says, “I know these gloves very well; I’ve cleaned
dozens of pairs of ’em.  They belong to Mr. Trinkle, the great
upholsterer in Cheapside.”  “Did you get ’em from Mr. Trinkle, direct,”
says I, “if you’ll excuse my asking the question?”  “No,” says he; “Mr.
Trinkle always sends ’em to Mr. Phibbs’s, the haberdasher’s, opposite his
shop, and the haberdasher sends ’em to me.”  “Perhaps you wouldn’t object
to a drain?” says I.  “Not in the least!” says he.  So I took the old
gentleman out, and had a little more talk with him and his son, over a
glass, and we parted excellent friends.

‘This was late on a Saturday night.  First thing on the Monday morning, I
went to the haberdasher’s shop, opposite Mr. Trinkle’s, the great
upholsterer’s in Cheapside.  “Mr. Phibbs in the way?”  “My name is
Phibbs.”  “Oh!  I believe you sent this pair of gloves to be cleaned?”
“Yes, I did, for young Mr. Trinkle over the way.  There he is in the
shop!”  “Oh! that’s him in the shop, is it?  Him in the green coat?”
“The same individual.”  “Well, Mr. Phibbs, this is an unpleasant affair;
but the fact is, I am Inspector Wield of the Detective Police, and I
found these gloves under the pillow of the young woman that was murdered
the other day, over in the Waterloo Road!”  “Good Heaven!” says he.
“He’s a most respectable young man, and if his father was to hear of it,
it would be the ruin of him!”  “I’m very sorry for it,” says I, “but I
must take him into custody.”  “Good Heaven!” says Mr. Phibbs, again; “can
nothing be done?”  “Nothing,” says I.  “Will you allow me to call him
over here,” says he, “that his father may not see it done?”  “I don’t
object to that,” says I; “but unfortunately, Mr. Phibbs, I can’t allow of
any communication between you.  If any was attempted, I should have to
interfere directly.  Perhaps you’ll beckon him over here?”  Mr. Phibbs
went to the door and beckoned, and the young fellow came across the
street directly; a smart, brisk young fellow.

‘“Good morning, sir,” says I.  “Good morning, sir,” says he.  “Would you
allow me to inquire, sir,” says I, “if you ever had any acquaintance with
a party of the name of Grimwood?”  “Grimwood!  Grimwood!” says he.  “No!”
“You know the Waterloo Road?”  “Oh! of course I know the Waterloo Road!”
“Happen to have heard of a young woman being murdered there?”  “Yes, I
read it in the paper, and very sorry I was to read it.”  “Here’s a pair
of gloves belonging to you, that I found under her pillow the morning
afterwards!”

‘He was in a dreadful state, sir; a dreadful state I “Mr. Wield,” he
says, “upon my solemn oath I never was there.  I never so much as saw
her, to my knowledge, in my life!”  “I am very sorry,” says I.  “To tell
you the truth; I don’t think you are the murderer, but I must take you to
Union Hall in a cab.  However, I think it’s a case of that sort, that, at
present, at all events, the magistrate will hear it in private.”

‘A private examination took place, and then it came out that this young
man was acquainted with a cousin of the unfortunate Eliza Grimwood, and
that, calling to see this cousin a day or two before the murder, he left
these gloves upon the table.  Who should come in, shortly afterwards, but
Eliza Grimwood!  “Whose gloves are these?” she says, taking ’em up.
“Those are Mr. Trinkle’s gloves,” says her cousin.  “Oh!” says she, “they
are very dirty, and of no use to him, I am sure.  I shall take ’em away
for my girl to clean the stoves with.”  And she put ’em in her pocket.
The girl had used ’em to clean the stoves, and, I have no doubt, had left
’em lying on the bedroom mantelpiece, or on the drawers, or somewhere;
and her mistress, looking round to see that the room was tidy, had caught
’em up and put ’em under the pillow where I found ’em.

That’s the story, sir.’



II.—THE ARTFUL TOUCH


‘One of the most beautiful things that ever was done, perhaps,’ said
Inspector Wield, emphasising the adjective, as preparing us to expect
dexterity or ingenuity rather than strong interest, ‘was a move of
Sergeant Witchem’s.  It was a lovely idea!

‘Witchem and me were down at Epsom one Derby Day, waiting at the station
for the Swell Mob.  As I mentioned, when we were talking about these
things before, we are ready at the station when there’s races, or an
Agricultural Show, or a Chancellor sworn in for an university, or Jenny
Lind, or anything of that sort; and as the Swell Mob come down, we send
’em back again by the next train.  But some of the Swell Mob, on the
occasion of this Derby that I refer to, so far kidded us as to hire a
horse and shay; start away from London by Whitechapel, and miles round;
come into Epsom from the opposite direction; and go to work, right and
left, on the course, while we were waiting for ’em at the Rail.  That,
however, ain’t the point of what I’m going to tell you.

‘While Witchem and me were waiting at the station, there comes up one Mr.
Tatt; a gentleman formerly in the public line, quite an amateur Detective
in his way, and very much respected.  “Halloa, Charley Wield,” he says.
“What are you doing here?  On the look out for some of your old friends?”
“Yes, the old move, Mr. Tatt.”  “Come along,” he says, “you and Witchem,
and have a glass of sherry.”  “We can’t stir from the place,” says I,
“till the next train comes in; but after that, we will with pleasure.”
Mr. Tatt waits, and the train comes in, and then Witchem and me go off
with him to the Hotel.  Mr. Tatt he’s got up quite regardless of expense,
for the occasion; and in his shirt-front there’s a beautiful diamond
prop, cost him fifteen or twenty pound—a very handsome pin indeed.  We
drink our sherry at the bar, and have had our three or four glasses, when
Witchem cries suddenly, “Look out, Mr. Wield! stand fast!” and a dash is
made into the place by the Swell Mob—four of ’em—that have come down as I
tell you, and in a moment Mr. Tatt’s prop is gone!  Witchem, he cuts ’em
off at the door, I lay about me as hard as I can, Mr. Tatt shows fight
like a good ‘un, and there we are, all down together, heads and heels,
knocking about on the floor of the bar—perhaps you never see such a scene
of confusion!  However, we stick to our men (Mr. Tatt being as good as
any officer), and we take ’em all, and carry ’em off to the station.’
The station’s full of people, who have been took on the course; and it’s
a precious piece of work to get ’em secured.  However, we do it at last,
and we search ’em; but nothing’s found upon ’em, and they’re locked up;
and a pretty state of heat we are in by that time, I assure you!

‘I was very blank over it, myself, to think that the prop had been passed
away; and I said to Witchem, when we had set ’em to rights, and were
cooling ourselves along with Mr. Tatt, “we don’t take much by _this_
move, anyway, for nothing’s found upon ’em, and it’s only the
braggadocia, {426} after all.”  “What do you mean, Mr. Wield?” says
Witchem.  “Here’s the diamond pin!” and in the palm of his hand there it
was, safe and sound!  “Why, in the name of wonder,” says me and Mr. Tatt,
in astonishment, “how did you come by that?”  “I’ll tell you how I come
by it,” says he.  “I saw which of ’em took it; and when we were all down
on the floor together, knocking about, I just gave him a little touch on
the back of his hand, as I knew his pal would; and he thought it WAS his
pal; and gave it me!”  It was beautiful, beau-ti-ful!

‘Even that was hardly the best of the case, for that chap was tried at
the Quarter Sessions at Guildford.  You know what Quarter Sessions are,
sir.  Well, if you’ll believe me, while them slow justices were looking
over the Acts of Parliament, to see what they could do to him, I’m blowed
if he didn’t cut out of the dock before their faces!  He cut out of the
dock, sir, then and there; swam across a river; and got up into a tree to
dry himself.  In the tree he was took—an old woman having seen him climb
up—and Witchem’s artful touch transported him!’



III.—THE SOFA


‘What young men will do, sometimes, to ruin themselves and break their
friends’ hearts,’ said Sergeant Dornton, ‘it’s surprising!  I had a case
at Saint Blank’s Hospital which was of this sort.  A bad case, indeed,
with a bad end!

‘The Secretary, and the House-Surgeon, and the Treasurer, of Saint
Blank’s Hospital, came to Scotland Yard to give information of numerous
robberies having been committed on the students.  The students could
leave nothing in the pockets of their great-coats, while the great-coats
were hanging at the hospital, but it was almost certain to be stolen.
Property of various descriptions was constantly being lost; and the
gentlemen were naturally uneasy about it, and anxious, for the credit of
the institution, that the thief or thieves should be discovered.  The
case was entrusted to me, and I went to the hospital.

‘“Now, gentlemen,” said I, after we had talked it over; “I understand
this property is usually lost from one room.”

‘Yes, they said.  It was.

‘“I should wish, if you please,” said I, “to see the room.”

‘It was a good-sized bare room down-stairs, with a few tables and forms
in it, and a row of pegs, all round, for hats and coats.

‘“Next, gentlemen,” said I, “do you suspect anybody?”

‘Yes, they said.  They did suspect somebody.  They were sorry to say,
they suspected one of the porters.

‘“I should like,” said I, “to have that man pointed out to me, and to
have a little time to look after him.”

‘He was pointed out, and I looked after him, and then I went back to the
hospital, and said, “Now, gentlemen, it’s not the porter.  He’s,
unfortunately for himself, a little too fond of drink, but he’s nothing
worse.  My suspicion is, that these robberies are committed by one of the
students; and if you’ll put me a sofa into that room where the pegs
are—as there’s no closet—I think I shall be able to detect the thief.  I
wish the sofa, if you please, to be covered with chintz, or something of
that sort, so that I may lie on my chest, underneath it, without being
seen.”

‘The sofa was provided, and next day at eleven o’clock, before any of the
students came, I went there, with those gentlemen, to get underneath it.
It turned out to be one of those old-fashioned sofas with a great
cross-beam at the bottom, that would have broken my back in no time if I
could ever have got below it.  We had quite a job to break all this away
in the time; however, I fell to work, and they fell to work, and we broke
it out, and made a clear place for me.  I got under the sofa, lay down on
my chest, took out my knife, and made a convenient hole in the chintz to
look through.  It was then settled between me and the gentlemen that when
the students were all up in the wards, one of the gentlemen should come
in, and hang up a great-coat on one of the pegs.  And that that
great-coat should have, in one of the pockets, a pocket-book containing
marked money.

‘After I had been there some time, the students began to drop into the
room, by ones, and twos, and threes, and to talk about all sorts of
things, little thinking there was anybody under the sofa—and then to go
up-stairs.  At last there came in one who remained until he was alone in
the room by himself.  A tallish, good-looking young man of one or two and
twenty, with a light whisker.  He went to a particular hat-peg, took off
a good hat that was hanging there, tried it on, hung his own hat in its
place, and hung that hat on another peg, nearly opposite to me.  I then
felt quite certain that he was the thief, and would come back by-and-by.

‘When they were all up-stairs, the gentleman came in with the great-coat.
I showed him where to hang it, so that I might have a good view of it;
and he went away; and I lay under the sofa on my chest, for a couple of
hours or so, waiting.

‘At last, the same young man came down.  He walked across the room,
whistling—stopped and listened—took another walk and whistled—stopped
again, and listened—then began to go regularly round the pegs, feeling in
the pockets of all the coats.  When he came to the great-coat, and felt
the pocket-book, he was so eager and so hurried that he broke the strap
in tearing it open.  As he began to put the money in his pocket, I
crawled out from under the sofa, and his eyes met mine.

                   [Picture: Dective story.  The Sofa]

‘My face, as you may perceive, is brown now, but it was pale at that
time, my health not being good; and looked as long as a horse’s.  Besides
which, there was a great draught of air from the door, underneath the
sofa, and I had tied a handkerchief round my head; so what I looked like,
altogether, I don’t know.  He turned blue—literally blue—when he saw me
crawling out, and I couldn’t feel surprised at it.

‘“I am an officer of the Detective Police,” said I, “and have been lying
here, since you first came in this morning.  I regret, for the sake of
yourself and your friends, that you should have done what you have; but
this case is complete.  You have the pocket-book in your hand and the
money upon you; and I must take you into custody!”

‘It was impossible to make out any case in his behalf, and on his trial
he pleaded guilty.  How or when he got the means I don’t know; but while
he was awaiting his sentence, he poisoned himself in Newgate.’

                                * * * * *

We inquired of this officer, on the conclusion of the foregoing anecdote,
whether the time appeared long, or short, when he lay in that constrained
position under the sofa?

‘Why, you see, sir,’ he replied, ‘if he hadn’t come in, the first time,
and I had not been quite sure he was the thief, and would return, the
time would have seemed long.  But, as it was, I being dead certain of my
man, the time seemed pretty short.’



ON DUTY WITH INSPECTOR FIELD


HOW goes the night?  Saint Giles’s clock is striking nine.  The weather
is dull and wet, and the long lines of street lamps are blurred, as if we
saw them through tears.  A damp wind blows and rakes the pieman’s fire
out, when he opens the door of his little furnace, carrying away an eddy
of sparks.

Saint Giles’s clock strikes nine.  We are punctual.  Where is Inspector
Field?  Assistant Commissioner of Police is already here, enwrapped in
oil-skin cloak, and standing in the shadow of Saint Giles’s steeple.
Detective Sergeant, weary of speaking French all day to foreigners
unpacking at the Great Exhibition, is already here.  Where is Inspector
Field?

Inspector Field is, to-night, the guardian genius of the British Museum.
He is bringing his shrewd eye to bear on every corner of its solitary
galleries, before he reports ‘all right.’  Suspicious of the Elgin
marbles, and not to be done by cat-faced Egyptian giants with their hands
upon their knees, Inspector Field, sagacious, vigilant, lamp in hand,
throwing monstrous shadows on the walls and ceilings, passes through the
spacious rooms.  If a mummy trembled in an atom of its dusty covering,
Inspector Field would say, ‘Come out of that, Tom Green.  I know you!’
If the smallest ‘Gonoph’ about town were crouching at the bottom of a
classic bath, Inspector Field would nose him with a finer scent than the
ogre’s, when adventurous Jack lay trembling in his kitchen copper.  But
all is quiet, and Inspector Field goes warily on, making little outward
show of attending to anything in particular, just recognising the
Ichthyosaurus as a familiar acquaintance, and wondering, perhaps, how the
detectives did it in the days before the Flood.

Will Inspector Field be long about this work?  He may be half-an-hour
longer.  He sends his compliments by Police Constable, and proposes that
we meet at St. Giles’s Station House, across the road.  Good.  It were as
well to stand by the fire, there, as in the shadow of Saint Giles’s
steeple.

Anything doing here to-night?  Not much.  We are very quiet.  A lost boy,
extremely calm and small, sitting by the fire, whom we now confide to a
constable to take home, for the child says that if you show him Newgate
Street, he can show you where he lives—a raving drunken woman in the
cells, who has screeched her voice away, and has hardly power enough left
to declare, even with the passionate help of her feet and arms, that she
is the daughter of a British officer, and, strike her blind and dead, but
she’ll write a letter to the Queen! but who is soothed with a drink of
water—in another cell, a quiet woman with a child at her breast, for
begging—in another, her husband in a smock-frock, with a basket of
watercresses—in another, a pickpocket—in another, a meek tremulous old
pauper man who has been out for a holiday ‘and has took but a little
drop, but it has overcome him after so many months in the house’—and
that’s all as yet.  Presently, a sensation at the Station House door.
Mr. Field, gentlemen!

Inspector Field comes in, wiping his forehead, for he is of a burly
figure, and has come fast from the ores and metals of the deep mines of
the earth, and from the Parrot Gods of the South Sea Islands, and from
the birds and beetles of the tropics, and from the Arts of Greece and
Rome, and from the Sculptures of Nineveh, and from the traces of an elder
world, when these were not.  Is Rogers ready?  Rogers is ready, strapped
and great-coated, with a flaming eye in the middle of his waist, like a
deformed Cyclops.  Lead on, Rogers, to Rats’ Castle!

How many people may there be in London, who, if we had brought them
deviously and blindfold, to this street, fifty paces from the Station
House, and within call of Saint Giles’s church, would know it for a not
remote part of the city in which their lives are passed?  How many, who
amidst this compound of sickening smells, these heaps of filth, these
tumbling houses, with all their vile contents, animate, and inanimate,
slimily overflowing into the black road, would believe that they breathe
_this_ air?  How much Red Tape may there be, that could look round on the
faces which now hem us in—for our appearance here has caused a rush from
all points to a common centre—the lowering foreheads, the sallow cheeks,
the brutal eyes, the matted hair, the infected, vermin-haunted heaps of
rags—and say, ‘I have thought of this.  I have not dismissed the thing.
I have neither blustered it away, nor frozen it away, nor tied it up and
put it away, nor smoothly said pooh, pooh! to it when it has been shown
to me?’

This is not what Rogers wants to know, however.  What Rogers wants to
know, is, whether you _will_ clear the way here, some of you, or whether
you won’t; because if you don’t do it right on end, he’ll lock you up!
‘What!  _You_ are there, are you, Bob Miles?  You haven’t had enough of
it yet, haven’t you?  You want three months more, do you?  Come away from
that gentleman!  What are you creeping round there for?’

‘What am I a doing, thinn, Mr. Rogers?’ says Bob Miles, appearing,
villainous, at the end of a lane of light, made by the lantern.

‘I’ll let you know pretty quick, if you don’t hook it.  WILL you hook
it?’

A sycophantic murmur rises from the crowd.  ‘Hook it, Bob, when Mr.
Rogers and Mr. Field tells you!  Why don’t you hook it, when you are told
to?’

The most importunate of the voices strikes familiarly on Mr. Rogers’s
ear.  He suddenly turns his lantern on the owner.

‘What!  _You_ are there, are you, Mister Click?  You hook it too—come!’

‘What for?’ says Mr. Click, discomfited.

‘You hook it, will you!’ says Mr. Rogers with stern emphasis.

Both Click and Miles _do_ ‘hook it,’ without another word, or, in plainer
English, sneak away.

‘Close up there, my men!’ says Inspector Field to two constables on duty
who have followed.  ‘Keep together, gentlemen; we are going down here.
Heads!’

Saint Giles’s church strikes half-past ten.  We stoop low, and creep down
a precipitous flight of steps into a dark close cellar.  There is a fire.
There is a long deal table.  There are benches.  The cellar is full of
company, chiefly very young men in various conditions of dirt and
raggedness.  Some are eating supper.  There are no girls or women
present.  Welcome to Rats’ Castle, gentlemen, and to this company of
noted thieves!

‘Well, my lads!  How are you, my lads?  What have you been doing to-day?
Here’s some company come to see you, my lads!—_There’s_ a plate of
beefsteak, sir, for the supper of a fine young man!  And there’s a mouth
for a steak, sir!  Why, I should be too proud of such a mouth as that, if
I had it myself!  Stand up and show it, sir!  Take off your cap.  There’s
a fine young man for a nice little party, sir!  An’t he?’

Inspector Field is the bustling speaker.  Inspector Field’s eye is the
roving eye that searches every corner of the cellar as he talks.
Inspector Field’s hand is the well-known hand that has collared half the
people here, and motioned their brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, male
and female friends, inexorably to New South Wales.  Yet Inspector Field
stands in this den, the Sultan of the place.  Every thief here cowers
before him, like a schoolboy before his schoolmaster.  All watch him, all
answer when addressed, all laugh at his jokes, all seek to propitiate
him.  This cellar company alone—to say nothing of the crowd surrounding
the entrance from the street above, and making the steps shine with
eyes—is strong enough to murder us all, and willing enough to do it; but,
let Inspector Field have a mind to pick out one thief here, and take him;
let him produce that ghostly truncheon from his pocket, and say, with his
business-air, ‘My lad, I want you!’ and all Rats’ Castle shall be
stricken with paralysis, and not a finger move against him, as he fits
the handcuffs on!

Where’s the Earl of Warwick?—Here he is, Mr. Field!  Here’s the Earl of
Warwick, Mr. Field!—O there you are, my Lord.  Come for’ard.  There’s a
chest, sir, not to have a clean shirt on.  An’t it?  Take your hat off,
my Lord.  Why, I should be ashamed if I was you—and an Earl, too—to show
myself to a gentleman with my hat on!—The Earl of Warwick laughs and
uncovers.  All the company laugh.  One pickpocket, especially, laughs
with great enthusiasm.  O what a jolly game it is, when Mr. Field comes
down—and don’t want nobody!

So, you are here, too, are you, you tall, grey, soldierly-looking, grave
man, standing by the fire?—Yes, sir.  Good evening, Mr. Field!—Let us
see.  You lived servant to a nobleman once?—Yes, Mr. Field.—And what is
it you do now; I forget?—Well, Mr. Field, I job about as well as I can.
I left my employment on account of delicate health.  The family is still
kind to me.  Mr. Wix of Piccadilly is also very kind to me when I am hard
up.  Likewise Mr. Nix of Oxford Street.  I get a trifle from them
occasionally, and rub on as well as I can, Mr. Field.  Mr. Field’s eye
rolls enjoyingly, for this man is a notorious begging-letter writer.—Good
night, my lads!—Good night, Mr. Field, and thank’ee, sir!

Clear the street here, half a thousand of you!  Cut it, Mrs. Stalker—none
of that—we don’t want you!  Rogers of the flaming eye, lead on to the
tramps’ lodging-house!

A dream of baleful faces attends to the door.  Now, stand back all of
you!  In the rear Detective Sergeant plants himself, composedly
whistling, with his strong right arm across the narrow passage.  Mrs.
Stalker, I am something’d that need not be written here, if you won’t get
yourself into trouble, in about half a minute, if I see that face of
yours again!

Saint Giles’s church clock, striking eleven, hums through our hand from
the dilapidated door of a dark outhouse as we open it, and are stricken
back by the pestilent breath that issues from within.  Rogers to the
front with the light, and let us look!

Ten, twenty, thirty—who can count them!  Men, women, children, for the
most part naked, heaped upon the floor like maggots in a cheese!  Ho!  In
that dark corner yonder!  Does anybody lie there?  Me sir, Irish me, a
widder, with six children.  And yonder?  Me sir, Irish me, with me wife
and eight poor babes.  And to the left there?  Me sir, Irish me, along
with two more Irish boys as is me friends.  And to the right there?  Me
sir and the Murphy fam’ly, numbering five blessed souls.  And what’s
this, coiling, now, about my foot?  Another Irish me, pitifully in want
of shaving, whom I have awakened from sleep—and across my other foot lies
his wife—and by the shoes of Inspector Field lie their three eldest—and
their three youngest are at present squeezed between the open door and
the wall.  And why is there no one on that little mat before the sullen
fire?  Because O’Donovan, with his wife and daughter, is not come in from
selling Lucifers!  Nor on the bit of sacking in the nearest corner?  Bad
luck!  Because that Irish family is late to-night, a-cadging in the
streets!

They are all awake now, the children excepted, and most of them sit up,
to stare.  Wheresoever Mr. Rogers turns the flaming eye, there is a
spectral figure rising, unshrouded, from a grave of rags.  Who is the
landlord here?—I am, Mr. Field! says a bundle of ribs and parchment
against the wall, scratching itself.—Will you spend this money fairly, in
the morning, to buy coffee for ’em all?—Yes, sir, I will!—O he’ll do it,
sir, he’ll do it fair.  He’s honest! cry the spectres.  And with thanks
and Good Night sink into their graves again.

Thus, we make our New Oxford Streets, and our other new streets, never
heeding, never asking, where the wretches whom we clear out, crowd.  With
such scenes at our doors, with all the plagues of Egypt tied up with bits
of cobweb in kennels so near our homes, we timorously make our Nuisance
Bills and Boards of Health, nonentities, and think to keep away the
Wolves of Crime and Filth, by our electioneering ducking to little
vestrymen and our gentlemanly handling of Red Tape!

Intelligence of the coffee-money has got abroad.  The yard is full, and
Rogers of the flaming eye is beleaguered with entreaties to show other
Lodging Houses.  Mine next!  Mine!  Mine!  Rogers, military, obdurate,
stiff-necked, immovable, replies not, but leads away; all falling back
before him.  Inspector Field follows.  Detective Sergeant, with his
barrier of arm across the little passage, deliberately waits to close the
procession.  He sees behind him, without any effort, and exceedingly
disturbs one individual far in the rear by coolly calling out, ‘It won’t
do, Mr. Michael!  Don’t try it!’

After council holden in the street, we enter other lodging-houses,
public-houses, many lairs and holes; all noisome and offensive; none so
filthy and so crowded as where Irish are.  In one, The Ethiopian party
are expected home presently—were in Oxford Street when last heard
of—shall be fetched, for our delight, within ten minutes.  In another,
one of the two or three Professors who drew Napoleon Buonaparte and a
couple of mackerel, on the pavement and then let the work of art out to a
speculator, is refreshing after his labours.  In another, the vested
interest of the profitable nuisance has been in one family for a hundred
years, and the landlord drives in comfortably from the country to his
snug little stew in town.  In all, Inspector Field is received with
warmth.  Coiners and smashers droop before him; pickpockets defer to him;
the gentle sex (not very gentle here) smile upon him.  Half-drunken hags
check themselves in the midst of pots of beer, or pints of gin, to drink
to Mr. Field, and pressingly to ask the honour of his finishing the
draught.  One beldame in rusty black has such admiration for him, that
she runs a whole street’s length to shake him by the hand; tumbling into
a heap of mud by the way, and still pressing her attentions when her very
form has ceased to be distinguishable through it.  Before the power of
the law, the power of superior sense—for common thieves are fools beside
these men—and the power of a perfect mastery of their character, the
garrison of Rats’ Castle and the adjacent Fortresses make but a skulking
show indeed when reviewed by Inspector Field.

Saint Giles’s clock says it will be midnight in half-an-hour, and
Inspector Field says we must hurry to the Old Mint in the Borough.  The
cab-driver is low-spirited, and has a solemn sense of his responsibility.
Now, what’s your fare, my lad?—O you know, Inspector Field, what’s the
good of asking me!

Say, Parker, strapped and great-coated, and waiting in dim Borough
doorway by appointment, to replace the trusty Rogers whom we left deep in
Saint Giles’s, are you ready?  Ready, Inspector Field, and at a motion of
my wrist behold my flaming eye.

This narrow street, sir, is the chief part of the Old Mint, full of low
lodging-houses, as you see by the transparent canvas-lamps and blinds,
announcing beds for travellers!  But it is greatly changed, friend Field,
from my former knowledge of it; it is infinitely quieter and more subdued
than when I was here last, some seven years ago?  O yes!  Inspector
Haynes, a first-rate man, is on this station now and plays the Devil with
them!

Well, my lads!  How are you to-night, my lads?  Playing cards here, eh?
Who wins?—Why, Mr. Field, I, the sulky gentleman with the damp flat
side-curls, rubbing my bleared eye with the end of my neckerchief which
is like a dirty eel-skin, am losing just at present, but I suppose I must
take my pipe out of my mouth, and be submissive to _you_—I hope I see you
well, Mr. Field?—Aye, all right, my lad.  Deputy, who have you got
up-stairs?  Be pleased to show the rooms!

Why Deputy, Inspector Field can’t say.  He only knows that the man who
takes care of the beds and lodgers is always called so.  Steady, O
Deputy, with the flaring candle in the blacking-bottle, for this is a
slushy back-yard, and the wooden staircase outside the house creaks and
has holes in it.

Again, in these confined intolerable rooms, burrowed out like the holes
of rats or the nests of insect-vermin, but fuller of intolerable smells,
are crowds of sleepers, each on his foul truckle-bed coiled up beneath a
rug.  Holloa here!  Come!  Let us see you!  Show your face!  Pilot Parker
goes from bed to bed and turns their slumbering heads towards us, as a
salesman might turn sheep.  Some wake up with an execration and a
threat.—What! who spoke?  O!  If it’s the accursed glaring eye that fixes
me, go where I will, I am helpless.  Here!  I sit up to be looked at.  Is
it me you want?  Not you, lie down again! and I lie down, with a woful
growl.

Whenever the turning lane of light becomes stationary for a moment, some
sleeper appears at the end of it, submits himself to be scrutinised, and
fades away into the darkness.

There should be strange dreams here, Deputy.  They sleep sound enough,
says Deputy, taking the candle out of the blacking-bottle, snuffing it
with his fingers, throwing the snuff into the bottle, and corking it up
with the candle; that’s all _I_ know.  What is the inscription, Deputy,
on all the discoloured sheets?  A precaution against loss of linen.
Deputy turns down the rug of an unoccupied bed and discloses it.  STOP
THIEF!

To lie at night, wrapped in the legend of my slinking life; to take the
cry that pursues me, waking, to my breast in sleep; to have it staring at
me, and clamouring for me, as soon as consciousness returns; to have it
for my first-foot on New-Year’s day, my Valentine, my Birthday salute, my
Christmas greeting, my parting with the old year.  STOP THIEF!

And to know that I _must_ be stopped, come what will.  To know that I am
no match for this individual energy and keenness, or this organised and
steady system!  Come across the street, here, and, entering by a little
shop and yard, examine these intricate passages and doors, contrived for
escape, flapping and counter-flapping, like the lids of the conjurer’s
boxes.  But what avail they?  Who gets in by a nod, and shows their
secret working to us?  Inspector Field.

Don’t forget the old Farm House, Parker!  Parker is not the man to forget
it.  We are going there, now.  It is the old Manor-House of these parts,
and stood in the country once.  Then, perhaps, there was something, which
was not the beastly street, to see from the shattered low fronts of the
overhanging wooden houses we are passing under—shut up now, pasted over
with bills about the literature and drama of the Mint, and mouldering
away.  This long paved yard was a paddock or a garden once, or a court in
front of the Farm House.  Perchance, with a dovecot in the centre, and
fowls peeking about—with fair elm trees, then, where discoloured
chimney-stacks and gables are now—noisy, then, with rooks which have
yielded to a different sort of rookery.  It’s likelier than not,
Inspector Field thinks, as we turn into the common kitchen, which is in
the yard, and many paces from the house.

Well, my lads and lasses, how are you all?  Where’s Blackey, who has
stood near London Bridge these five-and-twenty years, with a painted skin
to represent disease?—Here he is, Mr. Field!—How are you, Blackey?—Jolly,
sa!  Not playing the fiddle to-night, Blackey?—Not a night, sa!  A sharp,
smiling youth, the wit of the kitchen, interposes.  He an’t musical
to-night, sir.  I’ve been giving him a moral lecture; I’ve been a talking
to him about his latter end, you see.  A good many of these are my
pupils, sir.  This here young man (smoothing down the hair of one near
him, reading a Sunday paper) is a pupil of mine.  I’m a teaching of him
to read, sir.  He’s a promising cove, sir.  He’s a smith, he is, and gets
his living by the sweat of the brow, sir.  So do I, myself, sir.  This
young woman is my sister, Mr. Field.  _She’s_ getting on very well too.
I’ve a deal of trouble with ’em, sir, but I’m richly rewarded, now I see
’em all a doing so well, and growing up so creditable.  That’s a great
comfort, that is, an’t it, sir?—In the midst of the kitchen (the whole
kitchen is in ecstasies with this impromptu ‘chaff’) sits a young,
modest, gentle-looking creature, with a beautiful child in her lap.  She
seems to belong to the company, but is so strangely unlike it.  She has
such a pretty, quiet face and voice, and is so proud to hear the child
admired—thinks you would hardly believe that he is only nine months old!
Is she as bad as the rest, I wonder?  Inspectorial experience does not
engender a belief contrariwise, but prompts the answer, Not a ha’porth of
difference!

There is a piano going in the old Farm House as we approach.  It stops.
Landlady appears.  Has no objections, Mr. Field, to gentlemen being
brought, but wishes it were at earlier hours, the lodgers complaining of
ill-conwenience.  Inspector Field is polite and soothing—knows his woman
and the sex.  Deputy (a girl in this case) shows the way up a heavy,
broad old staircase, kept very clean, into clean rooms where many
sleepers are, and where painted panels of an older time look strangely on
the truckle beds.  The sight of whitewash and the smell of soap—two
things we seem by this time to have parted from in infancy—make the old
Farm House a phenomenon, and connect themselves with the so curiously
misplaced picture of the pretty mother and child long after we have left
it,—long after we have left, besides, the neighbouring nook with
something of a rustic flavour in it yet, where once, beneath a low wooden
colonnade still standing as of yore, the eminent Jack Sheppard
condescended to regale himself, and where, now, two old bachelor brothers
in broad hats (who are whispered in the Mint to have made a compact long
ago that if either should ever marry, he must forfeit his share of the
joint property) still keep a sequestered tavern, and sit o’ nights
smoking pipes in the bar, among ancient bottles and glasses, as our eyes
behold them.

How goes the night now?  Saint George of Southwark answers with twelve
blows upon his bell.  Parker, good night, for Williams is already waiting
over in the region of Ratcliffe Highway, to show the houses where the
sailors dance.

I should like to know where Inspector Field was born.  In Ratcliffe
Highway, I would have answered with confidence, but for his being equally
at home wherever we go.  _He_ does not trouble his head as I do, about
the river at night.  _He_ does not care for its creeping, black and
silent, on our right there, rushing through sluice-gates, lapping at
piles and posts and iron rings, hiding strange things in its mud, running
away with suicides and accidentally drowned bodies faster than midnight
funeral should, and acquiring such various experience between its cradle
and its grave.  It has no mystery for him.  Is there not the Thames
Police!

Accordingly, Williams leads the way.  We are a little late, for some of
the houses are already closing.  No matter.  You show us plenty.  All the
landlords know Inspector Field.  All pass him, freely and
good-humouredly, wheresoever he wants to go.  So thoroughly are all these
houses open to him and our local guide, that, granting that sailors must
be entertained in their own way—as I suppose they must, and have a right
to be—I hardly know how such places could be better regulated.  Not that
I call the company very select, or the dancing very graceful—even so
graceful as that of the German Sugar Bakers, whose assembly, by the
Minories, we stopped to visit—but there is watchful maintenance of order
in every house, and swift expulsion where need is.  Even in the midst of
drunkenness, both of the lethargic kind and the lively, there is sharp
landlord supervision, and pockets are in less peril than out of doors.
These houses show, singularly, how much of the picturesque and romantic
there truly is in the sailor, requiring to be especially addressed.  All
the songs (sung in a hailstorm of halfpence, which are pitched at the
singer without the least tenderness for the time or tune—mostly from
great rolls of copper carried for the purpose—and which he occasionally
dodges like shot as they fly near his head) are of the sentimental sea
sort.  All the rooms are decorated with nautical subjects.  Wrecks,
engagements, ships on fire, ships passing lighthouses on iron-bound
coasts, ships blowing up, ships going down, ships running ashore, men
lying out upon the main-yard in a gale of wind, sailors and ships in
every variety of peril, constitute the illustrations of fact.  Nothing
can be done in the fanciful way, without a thumping boy upon a scaly
dolphin.

How goes the night now?  Past one.  Black and Green are waiting in
Whitechapel to unveil the mysteries of Wentworth Street.  Williams, the
best of friends must part.  Adieu!

Are not Black and Green ready at the appointed place?  O yes!  They glide
out of shadow as we stop.  Imperturbable Black opens the cab-door;
Imperturbable Green takes a mental note of the driver.  Both Green and
Black then open each his flaming eye, and marshal us the way that we are
going.

The lodging-house we want is hidden in a maze of streets and courts.  It
is fast shut.  We knock at the door, and stand hushed looking up for a
light at one or other of the begrimed old lattice windows in its ugly
front, when another constable comes up—supposes that we want ‘to see the
school.’  Detective Sergeant meanwhile has got over a rail, opened a
gate, dropped down an area, overcome some other little obstacles, and
tapped at a window.  Now returns.  The landlord will send a deputy
immediately.

Deputy is heard to stumble out of bed.  Deputy lights a candle, draws
back a bolt or two, and appears at the door.  Deputy is a shivering shirt
and trousers by no means clean, a yawning face, a shock head much
confused externally and internally.  We want to look for some one.  You
may go up with the light, and take ’em all, if you like, says Deputy,
resigning it, and sitting down upon a bench in the kitchen with his ten
fingers sleepily twisting in his hair.

Halloa here!  Now then!  Show yourselves.  That’ll do.  It’s not you.
Don’t disturb yourself any more!  So on, through a labyrinth of airless
rooms, each man responding, like a wild beast, to the keeper who has
tamed him, and who goes into his cage.  What, you haven’t found him,
then? says Deputy, when we came down.  A woman mysteriously sitting up
all night in the dark by the smouldering ashes of the kitchen fire, says
it’s only tramps and cadgers here; it’s gonophs over the way.  A man
mysteriously walking about the kitchen all night in the dark, bids her
hold her tongue.  We come out.  Deputy fastens the door and goes to bed
again.

Black and Green, you know Bark, lodging-house keeper and receiver of
stolen goods?—O yes, Inspector Field.—Go to Bark’s next.

Bark sleeps in an inner wooden hutch, near his street door.  As we parley
on the step with Bark’s Deputy, Bark growls in his bed.  We enter, and
Bark flies out of bed.  Bark is a red villain and a wrathful, with a
sanguine throat that looks very much as if it were expressly made for
hanging, as he stretches it out, in pale defiance, over the half-door of
his hutch.  Bark’s parts of speech are of an awful sort—principally
adjectives.  I won’t, says Bark, have no adjective police and adjective
strangers in my adjective premises!  I won’t, by adjective and
substantive!  Give me my trousers, and I’ll send the whole adjective
police to adjective and substantive!  Give me, says Bark, my adjective
trousers!  I’ll put an adjective knife in the whole bileing of ’em.  I’ll
punch their adjective heads.  I’ll rip up their adjective substantives.
Give me my adjective trousers! says Bark, and I’ll spile the bileing of
’em!

Now, Bark, what’s the use of this?  Here’s Black and Green, Detective
Sergeant, and Inspector Field.  You know we will come in.—I know you
won’t! says Bark.  Somebody give me my adjective trousers!  Bark’s
trousers seem difficult to find.  He calls for them as Hercules might for
his club.  Give me my adjective trousers! says Bark, and I’ll spile the
bileing of ’em!

Inspector Field holds that it’s all one whether Bark likes the visit or
don’t like it.  He, Inspector Field, is an Inspector of the Detective
Police, Detective Sergeant is Detective Sergeant, Black and Green are
constables in uniform.  Don’t you be a fool, Bark, or you know it will be
the worse for you.—I don’t care, says Bark.  Give me my adjective
trousers!

At two o’clock in the morning, we descend into Bark’s low kitchen,
leaving Bark to foam at the mouth above, and Imperturbable Black and
Green to look at him.  Bark’s kitchen is crammed full of thieves, holding
a conversazione there by lamp-light.  It is by far the most dangerous
assembly we have seen yet.  Stimulated by the ravings of Bark, above,
their looks are sullen, but not a man speaks.  We ascend again.  Bark has
got his trousers, and is in a state of madness in the passage with his
back against a door that shuts off the upper staircase.  We observe, in
other respects, a ferocious individuality in Bark.  Instead of ‘STOP
THIEF!’ on his linen, he prints ‘STOLEN FROM Bark’s!’

Now, Bark, we are going up-stairs!—No, you ain’t!—You refuse admission to
the Police, do you, Bark?—Yes, I do!  I refuse it to all the adjective
police, and to all the adjective substantives.  If the adjective coves in
the kitchen was men, they’d come up now, and do for you!  Shut me that
there door! says Bark, and suddenly we are enclosed in the passage.
They’d come up and do for you! cries Bark, and waits.  Not a sound in the
kitchen!  They’d come up and do for you! cries Bark again, and waits.
Not a sound in the kitchen!  We are shut up, half-a-dozen of us, in
Bark’s house in the innermost recesses of the worst part of London, in
the dead of the night—the house is crammed with notorious robbers and
ruffians—and not a man stirs.  No, Bark.  They know the weight of the
law, and they know Inspector Field and Co. too well.

We leave bully Bark to subside at leisure out of his passion and his
trousers, and, I dare say, to be inconveniently reminded of this little
brush before long.  Black and Green do ordinary duty here, and look
serious.

As to White, who waits on Holborn Hill to show the courts that are eaten
out of Rotten Gray’s Inn, Lane, where other lodging-houses are, and where
(in one blind alley) the Thieves’ Kitchen and Seminary for the teaching
of the art to children is, the night has so worn away, being now

                 almost at odds with morning, which is which,

that they are quiet, and no light shines through the chinks in the
shutters.  As undistinctive Death will come here, one day, sleep comes
now.  The wicked cease from troubling sometimes, even in this life.



DOWN WITH THE TIDE


A VERY dark night it was, and bitter cold; the east wind blowing bleak,
and bringing with it stinging particles from marsh, and moor, and
fen—from the Great Desert and Old Egypt, may be.  Some of the component
parts of the sharp-edged vapour that came flying up the Thames at London
might be mummy-dust, dry atoms from the Temple at Jerusalem, camels’
foot-prints, crocodiles’ hatching-places, loosened grains of expression
from the visages of blunt-nosed sphynxes, waifs and strays from caravans
of turbaned merchants, vegetation from jungles, frozen snow from the
Himalayas.  O!  It was very, very dark upon the Thames, and it was
bitter, bitter cold.

‘And yet,’ said the voice within the great pea-coat at my side, ‘you’ll
have seen a good many rivers, too, I dare say?’

‘Truly,’ said I, ‘when I come to think of it, not a few.  From the
Niagara, downward to the mountain rivers of Italy, which are like the
national spirit—very tame, or chafing suddenly and bursting bounds, only
to dwindle away again.  The Moselle, and the Rhine, and the Rhone; and
the Seine, and the Saone; and the St. Lawrence, Mississippi, and Ohio;
and the Tiber, the Po, and the Arno; and the—’

Peacoat coughing as if he had had enough of that, I said no more.  I
could have carried the catalogue on to a teasing length, though, if I had
been in the cruel mind.

‘And after all,’ said he, ‘this looks so dismal?’

‘So awful,’ I returned, ‘at night.  The Seine at Paris is very gloomy
too, at such a time, and is probably the scene of far more crime and
greater wickedness; but this river looks so broad and vast, so murky and
silent, seems such an image of death in the midst of the great city’s
life, that—’

That Peacoat coughed again.  He _could not_ stand my holding forth.

We were in a four-oared Thames Police Galley, lying on our oars in the
deep shadow of Southwark Bridge—under the corner arch on the Surrey
side—having come down with the tide from Vauxhall.  We were fain to hold
on pretty tight, though close in shore, for the river was swollen and the
tide running down very strong.  We were watching certain water-rats of
human growth, and lay in the deep shade as quiet as mice; our light
hidden and our scraps of conversation carried on in whispers.  Above us,
the massive iron girders of the arch were faintly visible, and below us
its ponderous shadow seemed to sink down to the bottom of the stream.

We had been lying here some half an hour.  With our backs to the wind, it
is true; but the wind being in a determined temper blew straight through
us, and would not take the trouble to go round.  I would have boarded a
fireship to get into action, and mildly suggested as much to my friend
Pea.

‘No doubt,’ says he as patiently as possible; ‘but shore-going tactics
wouldn’t do with us.  River-thieves can always get rid of stolen property
in a moment by dropping it overboard.  We want to take them with the
property, so we lurk about and come out upon ’em sharp.  If they see us
or hear us, over it goes.’

Pea’s wisdom being indisputable, there was nothing for it but to sit
there and be blown through, for another half-hour.  The water-rats
thinking it wise to abscond at the end of that time without commission of
felony, we shot out, disappointed, with the tide.

‘Grim they look, don’t they?’ said Pea, seeing me glance over my shoulder
at the lights upon the bridge, and downward at their long crooked
reflections in the river.

‘Very,’ said I, ‘and make one think with a shudder of Suicides.  What a
night for a dreadful leap from that parapet!’

‘Aye, but Waterloo’s the favourite bridge for making holes in the water
from,’ returned Pea.  ‘By the bye—avast pulling, lads!—would you like to
speak to Waterloo on the subject?’

My face confessing a surprised desire to have some friendly conversation
with Waterloo Bridge, and my friend Pea being the most obliging of men,
we put about, pulled out of the force of the stream, and in place of
going at great speed with the tide, began to strive against it, close in
shore again.  Every colour but black seemed to have departed from the
world.  The air was black, the water was black, the barges and hulks were
black, the piles were black, the buildings were black, the shadows were
only a deeper shade of black upon a black ground.  Here and there, a coal
fire in an iron cresset blazed upon a wharf; but, one knew that it too
had been black a little while ago, and would be black again soon.
Uncomfortable rushes of water suggestive of gurgling and drowning,
ghostly rattlings of iron chains, dismal clankings of discordant engines,
formed the music that accompanied the dip of our oars and their rattling
in the rowlocks.  Even the noises had a black sound to me—as the trumpet
sounded red to the blind man.

Our dexterous boat’s crew made nothing of the tide, and pulled us
gallantly up to Waterloo Bridge.  Here Pea and I disembarked, passed
under the black stone archway, and climbed the steep stone steps.  Within
a few feet of their summit, Pea presented me to Waterloo (or an eminent
toll-taker representing that structure), muffled up to the eyes in a
thick shawl, and amply great-coated and fur-capped.

Waterloo received us with cordiality, and observed of the night that it
was ‘a Searcher.’  He had been originally called the Strand Bridge, he
informed us, but had received his present name at the suggestion of the
proprietors, when Parliament had resolved to vote three hundred thousand
pound for the erection of a monument in honour of the victory.
Parliament took the hint (said Waterloo, with the least flavour of
misanthropy) and saved the money.  Of course the late Duke of Wellington
was the first passenger, and of course he paid his penny, and of course a
noble lord preserved it evermore.  The treadle and index at the
toll-house (a most ingenious contrivance for rendering fraud impossible),
were invented by Mr. Lethbridge, then property-man at Drury Lane Theatre.

Was it suicide, we wanted to know about? said Waterloo.  Ha!  Well, he
had seen a good deal of that work, he did assure us.  He had prevented
some.  Why, one day a woman, poorish looking, came in between the hatch,
slapped down a penny, and wanted to go on without the change!  Waterloo
suspected this, and says to his mate, ‘give an eye to the gate,’ and
bolted after her.  She had got to the third seat between the piers, and
was on the parapet just a going over, when he caught her and gave her in
charge.  At the police office next morning, she said it was along of
trouble and a bad husband.

‘Likely enough,’ observed Waterloo to Pea and myself, as he adjusted his
chin in his shawl.  ‘There’s a deal of trouble about, you see—and bad
husbands too!’

Another time, a young woman at twelve o’clock in the open day, got
through, darted along; and, before Waterloo could come near her, jumped
upon the parapet, and shot herself over sideways.  Alarm given, watermen
put off, lucky escape.—Clothes buoyed her up.

‘This is where it is,’ said Waterloo.  ‘If people jump off straight
forwards from the middle of the parapet of the bays of the bridge, they
are seldom killed by drowning, but are smashed, poor things; that’s what
they are; they dash themselves upon the buttress of the bridge.  But you
jump off,’ said Waterloo to me, putting his fore-finger in a button-hole
of my great-coat; ‘you jump off from the side of the bay, and you’ll
tumble, true, into the stream under the arch.  What you have got to do,
is to mind how you jump in!  There was poor Tom Steele from Dublin.
Didn’t dive!  Bless you, didn’t dive at all!  Fell down so flat into the
water, that he broke his breast-bone, and lived two days!’

I asked Waterloo if there were a favourite side of his bridge for this
dreadful purpose?  He reflected, and thought yes, there was.  He should
say the Surrey side.

Three decent-looking men went through one day, soberly and quietly, and
went on abreast for about a dozen yards: when the middle one, he sung
out, all of a sudden, ‘Here goes, Jack!’ and was over in a minute.

Body found?  Well.  Waterloo didn’t rightly recollect about that.  They
were compositors, _they_ were.

He considered it astonishing how quick people were!  Why, there was a cab
came up one Boxing-night, with a young woman in it, who looked, according
to Waterloo’s opinion of her, a little the worse for liquor; very
handsome she was too—very handsome.  She stopped the cab at the gate, and
said she’d pay the cabman then, which she did, though there was a little
hankering about the fare, because at first she didn’t seem quite to know
where she wanted to be drove to.  However, she paid the man, and the toll
too, and looking Waterloo in the face (he thought she knew him, don’t you
see!) said, ‘I’ll finish it somehow!’  Well, the cab went off, leaving
Waterloo a little doubtful in his mind, and while it was going on at full
speed the young woman jumped out, never fell, hardly staggered, ran along
the bridge pavement a little way, passing several people, and jumped over
from the second opening.  At the inquest it was giv’ in evidence that she
had been quarrelling at the Hero of Waterloo, and it was brought in
jealousy.  (One of the results of Waterloo’s experience was, that there
was a deal of jealousy about.)

‘Do we ever get madmen?’ said Waterloo, in answer to an inquiry of mine.
‘Well, we _do_ get madmen.  Yes, we have had one or two; escaped from
‘Sylums, I suppose.  One hadn’t a halfpenny; and because I wouldn’t let
him through, he went back a little way, stooped down, took a run, and
butted at the hatch like a ram.  He smashed his hat rarely, but his head
didn’t seem no worse—in my opinion on account of his being wrong in it
afore.  Sometimes people haven’t got a halfpenny.  If they are really
tired and poor we give ’em one and let ’em through.  Other people will
leave things—pocket-handkerchiefs mostly.  I have taken cravats and
gloves, pocket-knives, tooth-picks, studs, shirt-pins, rings (generally
from young gents, early in the morning), but handkerchiefs is the general
thing.’

‘Regular customers?’ said Waterloo.  ‘Lord, yes!  We have regular
customers.  One, such a worn-out, used-up old file as you can scarcely
picter, comes from the Surrey side as regular as ten o’clock at night
comes; and goes over, _I_ think, to some flash house on the Middlesex
side.  He comes back, he does, as reg’lar as the clock strikes three in
the morning, and then can hardly drag one of his old legs after the
other.  He always turns down the water-stairs, comes up again, and then
goes on down the Waterloo Road.  He always does the same thing, and never
varies a minute.  Does it every night—even Sundays.’

I asked Waterloo if he had given his mind to the possibility of this
particular customer going down the water-stairs at three o’clock some
morning, and never coming up again?  He didn’t think that of him, he
replied.  In fact, it was Waterloo’s opinion, founded on his observation
of that file, that he know’d a trick worth two of it.

‘There’s another queer old customer,’ said Waterloo, ‘comes over, as
punctual as the almanack, at eleven o’clock on the sixth of January, at
eleven o’clock on the fifth of April, at eleven o’clock on the sixth of
July, at eleven o’clock on the tenth of October.  Drives a shaggy little,
rough pony, in a sort of a rattle-trap arm-chair sort of a thing.  White
hair he has, and white whiskers, and muffles himself up with all manner
of shawls.  He comes back again the same afternoon, and we never see more
of him for three months.  He is a captain in the navy—retired—wery
old—wery odd—and served with Lord Nelson.  He is particular about drawing
his pension at Somerset House afore the clock strikes twelve every
quarter.  I have heerd say that he thinks it wouldn’t be according to the
Act of Parliament, if he didn’t draw it afore twelve.’

Having related these anecdotes in a natural manner, which was the best
warranty in the world for their genuine nature, our friend Waterloo was
sinking deep into his shawl again, as having exhausted his communicative
powers and taken in enough east wind, when my other friend Pea in a
moment brought him to the surface by asking whether he had not been
occasionally the subject of assault and battery in the execution of his
duty?  Waterloo recovering his spirits, instantly dashed into a new
branch of his subject.  We learnt how ‘both these teeth’—here he pointed
to the places where two front teeth were not—were knocked out by an ugly
customer who one night made a dash at him (Waterloo) while his (the ugly
customer’s) pal and coadjutor made a dash at the toll-taking apron where
the money-pockets were; how Waterloo, letting the teeth go (to Blazes, he
observed indefinitely), grappled with the apron-seizer, permitting the
ugly one to run away; and how he saved the bank, and captured his man,
and consigned him to fine and imprisonment.  Also how, on another night,
‘a Cove’ laid hold of Waterloo, then presiding at the horse-gate of his
bridge, and threw him unceremoniously over his knee, having first cut his
head open with his whip.  How Waterloo ‘got right,’ and started after the
Cove all down the Waterloo Road, through Stamford Street, and round to
the foot of Blackfriars Bridge, where the Cove ‘cut into’ a public-house.
How Waterloo cut in too; but how an aider and abettor of the Cove’s, who
happened to be taking a promiscuous drain at the bar, stopped Waterloo;
and the Cove cut out again, ran across the road down Holland Street, and
where not, and into a beer-shop.  How Waterloo breaking away from his
detainer was close upon the Cove’s heels, attended by no end of people,
who, seeing him running with the blood streaming down his face, thought
something worse was ‘up,’ and roared Fire! and Murder! on the hopeful
chance of the matter in hand being one or both.  How the Cove was
ignominiously taken, in a shed where he had run to hide, and how at the
Police Court they at first wanted to make a sessions job of it; but
eventually Waterloo was allowed to be ‘spoke to,’ and the Cove made it
square with Waterloo by paying his doctor’s bill (W. was laid up for a
week) and giving him ‘Three, ten.’  Likewise we learnt what we had
faintly suspected before, that your sporting amateur on the Derby day,
albeit a captain, can be—‘if he be,’ as Captain Bobadil observes, ‘so
generously minded’—anything but a man of honour and a gentleman; not
sufficiently gratifying his nice sense of humour by the witty scattering
of flour and rotten eggs on obtuse civilians, but requiring the further
excitement of ‘bilking the toll,’ and ‘Pitching into’ Waterloo, and
‘cutting him about the head with his whip;’ finally being, when called
upon to answer for the assault, what Waterloo described as ‘Minus,’ or,
as I humbly conceived it, not to be found.  Likewise did Waterloo inform
us, in reply to my inquiries, admiringly and deferentially preferred
through my friend Pea, that the takings at the Bridge had more than
doubled in amount, since the reduction of the toll one half.  And being
asked if the aforesaid takings included much bad money, Waterloo
responded, with a look far deeper than the deepest part of the river, he
should think not!—and so retired into his shawl for the rest of the
night.

Then did Pea and I once more embark in our four-oared galley, and glide
swiftly down the river with the tide.  And while the shrewd East rasped
and notched us, as with jagged razors, did my friend Pea impart to me
confidences of interest relating to the Thames Police; we, between
whiles, finding ‘duty boats’ hanging in dark corners under banks, like
weeds—our own was a ‘supervision boat’—and they, as they reported ‘all
right!’ flashing their hidden light on us, and we flashing ours on them.
These duty boats had one sitter in each: an Inspector: and were rowed
‘Ran-dan,’ which—for the information of those who never graduated, as I
was once proud to do, under a fireman-waterman and winner of Kean’s Prize
Wherry: who, in the course of his tuition, took hundreds of gallons of
rum and egg (at my expense) at the various houses of note above and below
bridge; not by any means because he liked it, but to cure a weakness in
his liver, for which the faculty had particularly recommended it—may be
explained as rowed by three men, two pulling an oar each, and one a pair
of sculls.

Thus, floating down our black highway, sullenly frowned upon by the
knitted brows of Blackfriars, Southwark, and London, each in his lowering
turn, I was shown by my friend Pea that there are, in the Thames Police
Force, whose district extends from Battersea to Barking Creek,
ninety-eight men, eight duty boats, and two supervision boats; and that
these go about so silently, and lie in wait in such dark places, and so
seem to be nowhere, and so may be anywhere, that they have gradually
become a police of prevention, keeping the river almost clear of any
great crimes, even while the increased vigilance on shore has made it
much harder than of yore to live by ‘thieving’ in the streets.  And as to
the various kinds of water-thieves, said my friend Pea, there were the
Tier-rangers, who silently dropped alongside the tiers of shipping in the
Pool, by night, and who, going to the companion-head, listened for two
snores—snore number one, the skipper’s; snore number two, the
mate’s—mates and skippers always snoring great guns, and being dead sure
to be hard at it if they had turned in and were asleep.  Hearing the
double fire, down went the Rangers into the skippers’ cabins; groped for
the skippers’ inexpressibles, which it was the custom of those gentlemen
to shake off, watch, money, braces, boots, and all together, on the
floor; and therewith made off as silently as might be.  Then there were
the Lumpers, or labourers employed to unload vessels.  They wore loose
canvas jackets with a broad hem in the bottom, turned inside, so as to
form a large circular pocket in which they could conceal, like clowns in
pantomimes, packages of surprising sizes.  A great deal of property was
stolen in this manner (Pea confided to me) from steamers; first, because
steamers carry a larger number of small packages than other ships; next,
because of the extreme rapidity with which they are obliged to be unladen
for their return voyages.  The Lumpers dispose of their booty easily to
marine store dealers, and the only remedy to be suggested is that marine
store shops should be licensed, and thus brought under the eye of the
police as rigidly as public-houses.  Lumpers also smuggle goods ashore
for the crews of vessels.  The smuggling of tobacco is so considerable,
that it is well worth the while of the sellers of smuggled tobacco to use
hydraulic presses, to squeeze a single pound into a package small enough
to be contained in an ordinary pocket.  Next, said my friend Pea, there
were the Truckers—less thieves than smugglers, whose business it was to
land more considerable parcels of goods than the Lumpers could manage.
They sometimes sold articles of grocery and so forth, to the crews, in
order to cloak their real calling, and get aboard without suspicion.
Many of them had boats of their own, and made money.  Besides these,
there were the Dredgermen, who, under pretence of dredging up coals and
such like from the bottom of the river, hung about barges and other
undecked craft, and when they saw an opportunity, threw any property they
could lay their hands on overboard: in order slyly to dredge it up when
the vessel was gone.  Sometimes, they dexterously used their dredges to
whip away anything that might lie within reach.  Some of them were mighty
neat at this, and the accomplishment was called dry dredging.  Then,
there was a vast deal of property, such as copper nails, sheathing,
hardwood, &c., habitually brought away by shipwrights and other workmen
from their employers’ yards, and disposed of to marine store dealers,
many of whom escaped detection through hard swearing, and their
extraordinary artful ways of accounting for the possession of stolen
property.  Likewise, there were special-pleading practitioners, for whom
barges ‘drifted away of their own selves’—they having no hand in it,
except first cutting them loose, and afterwards plundering
them—innocents, meaning no harm, who had the misfortune to observe those
foundlings wandering about the Thames.

We were now going in and out, with little noise and great nicety, among
the tiers of shipping, whose many hulls, lying close together, rose out
of the water like black streets.  Here and there, a Scotch, an Irish, or
a foreign steamer, getting up her steam as the tide made, looked, with
her great chimney and high sides, like a quiet factory among the common
buildings.  Now, the streets opened into clearer spaces, now contracted
into alleys; but the tiers were so like houses, in the dark, that I could
almost have believed myself in the narrower bye-ways of Venice.
Everything was wonderfully still; for, it wanted full three hours of
flood, and nothing seemed awake but a dog here and there.

So we took no Tier-rangers captive, nor any Lumpers, nor Truckers, nor
Dredgermen, nor other evil-disposed person or persons; but went ashore at
Wapping, where the old Thames Police office is now a station-house, and
where the old Court, with its cabin windows looking on the river, is a
quaint charge room: with nothing worse in it usually than a stuffed cat
in a glass case, and a portrait, pleasant to behold, of a rare old Thames
Police officer, Mr. Superintendent Evans, now succeeded by his son.  We
looked over the charge books, admirably kept, and found the prevention so
good that there were not five hundred entries (including drunken and
disorderly) in a whole year.  Then, we looked into the store-room; where
there was an oakum smell, and a nautical seasoning of dreadnought
clothing, rope yarn, boat-hooks, sculls and oars, spare stretchers,
rudders, pistols, cutlasses, and the like.  Then, into the cell, aired
high up in the wooden wall through an opening like a kitchen plate-rack:
wherein there was a drunken man, not at all warm, and very wishful to
know if it were morning yet.  Then, into a better sort of watch and ward
room, where there was a squadron of stone bottles drawn up, ready to be
filled with hot water and applied to any unfortunate creature who might
be brought in apparently drowned.  Finally, we shook hands with our
worthy friend Pea, and ran all the way to Tower Hill, under strong Police
suspicion occasionally, before we got warm.



A WALK IN A WORKHOUSE


ON a certain Sunday, I formed one of the congregation assembled in the
chapel of a large metropolitan Workhouse.  With the exception of the
clergyman and clerk, and a very few officials, there were none but
paupers present.  The children sat in the galleries; the women in the
body of the chapel, and in one of the side aisles; the men in the
remaining aisle.  The service was decorously performed, though the sermon
might have been much better adapted to the comprehension and to the
circumstances of the hearers.  The usual supplications were offered, with
more than the usual significancy in such a place, for the fatherless
children and widows, for all sick persons and young children, for all
that were desolate and oppressed, for the comforting and helping of the
weak-hearted, for the raising-up of them that had fallen; for all that
were in danger, necessity, and tribulation.  The prayers of the
congregation were desired ‘for several persons in the various wards
dangerously ill;’ and others who were recovering returned their thanks to
Heaven.

Among this congregation, were some evil-looking young women, and
beetle-browed young men; but not many—perhaps that kind of characters
kept away.  Generally, the faces (those of the children excepted) were
depressed and subdued, and wanted colour.  Aged people were there, in
every variety.  Mumbling, blear-eyed, spectacled, stupid, deaf, lame;
vacantly winking in the gleams of sun that now and then crept in through
the open doors, from the paved yard; shading their listening ears, or
blinking eyes, with their withered hands; poring over their books,
leering at nothing, going to sleep, crouching and drooping in corners.
There were weird old women, all skeleton within, all bonnet and cloak
without, continually wiping their eyes with dirty dusters of
pocket-handkerchiefs; and there were ugly old crones, both male and
female, with a ghastly kind of contentment upon them which was not at all
comforting to see.  Upon the whole, it was the dragon, Pauperism, in a
very weak and impotent condition; toothless, fangless, drawing his breath
heavily enough, and hardly worth chaining up.

When the service was over, I walked with the humane and conscientious
gentleman whose duty it was to take that walk, that Sunday morning,
through the little world of poverty enclosed within the workhouse walls.
It was inhabited by a population of some fifteen hundred or two thousand
paupers, ranging from the infant newly born or not yet come into the
pauper world, to the old man dying on his bed.

In a room opening from a squalid yard, where a number of listless women
were lounging to and fro, trying to get warm in the ineffectual sunshine
of the tardy May morning—in the ‘Itch Ward,’ not to compromise the
truth—a woman such as HOGARTH has often drawn, was hurriedly getting on
her gown before a dusty fire.  She was the nurse, or wardswoman, of that
insalubrious department—herself a pauper—flabby, raw-boned,
untidy—unpromising and coarse of aspect as need be.  But, on being spoken
to about the patients whom she had in charge, she turned round, with her
shabby gown half on, half off, and fell a crying with all her might.  Not
for show, not querulously, not in any mawkish sentiment, but in the deep
grief and affliction of her heart; turning away her dishevelled head:
sobbing most bitterly, wringing her hands, and letting fall abundance of
great tears, that choked her utterance.  What was the matter with the
nurse of the itch-ward?  Oh, ‘the dropped child’ was dead!  Oh, the child
that was found in the street, and she had brought up ever since, had died
an hour ago, and see where the little creature lay, beneath this cloth!
The dear, the pretty dear!

The dropped child seemed too small and poor a thing for Death to be in
earnest with, but Death had taken it; and already its diminutive form was
neatly washed, composed, and stretched as if in sleep upon a box.  I
thought I heard a voice from Heaven saying, It shall be well for thee, O
nurse of the itch-ward, when some less gentle pauper does those offices
to thy cold form, that such as the dropped child are the angels who
behold my Father’s face!

In another room, were several ugly old women crouching, witch-like, round
a hearth, and chattering and nodding, after the manner of the monkeys.
‘All well here?  And enough to eat?’  A general chattering and chuckling;
at last an answer from a volunteer.  ‘Oh yes, gentleman!  Bless you,
gentleman!  Lord bless the Parish of St. So-and-So!  It feed the hungry,
sir, and give drink to the thusty, and it warm them which is cold, so it
do, and good luck to the parish of St. So-and-So, and thankee,
gentleman!’  Elsewhere, a party of pauper nurses were at dinner.  ‘How do
you get on?’  ‘Oh pretty well, sir!  We works hard, and we lives
hard—like the sodgers!’

In another room, a kind of purgatory or place of transition, six or eight
noisy madwomen were gathered together, under the superintendence of one
sane attendant.  Among them was a girl of two or three and twenty, very
prettily dressed, of most respectable appearance and good manners, who
had been brought in from the house where she had lived as domestic
servant (having, I suppose, no friends), on account of being subject to
epileptic fits, and requiring to be removed under the influence of a very
bad one.  She was by no means of the same stuff, or the same breeding, or
the same experience, or in the same state of mind, as those by whom she
was surrounded; and she pathetically complained that the daily
association and the nightly noise made her worse, and was driving her
mad—which was perfectly evident.  The case was noted for inquiry and
redress, but she said she had already been there for some weeks.

If this girl had stolen her mistress’s watch, I do not hesitate to say
she would have been infinitely better off.  We have come to this absurd,
this dangerous, this monstrous pass, that the dishonest felon is, in
respect of cleanliness, order, diet, and accommodation, better provided
for, and taken care of, than the honest pauper.

And this conveys no special imputation on the workhouse of the parish of
St. So-and-So, where, on the contrary, I saw many things to commend.  It
was very agreeable, recollecting that most infamous and atrocious
enormity committed at Tooting—an enormity which, a hundred years hence,
will still be vividly remembered in the bye-ways of English life, and
which has done more to engender a gloomy discontent and suspicion among
many thousands of the people than all the Chartist leaders could have
done in all their lives—to find the pauper children in this workhouse
looking robust and well, and apparently the objects of very great care.
In the Infant School—a large, light, airy room at the top of the
building—the little creatures, being at dinner, and eating their potatoes
heartily, were not cowed by the presence of strange visitors, but
stretched out their small hands to be shaken, with a very pleasant
confidence.  And it was comfortable to see two mangy pauper
rocking-horses rampant in a corner.  In the girls’ school, where the
dinner was also in progress, everything bore a cheerful and healthy
aspect.  The meal was over, in the boys’ school, by the time of our
arrival there, and the room was not yet quite rearranged; but the boys
were roaming unrestrained about a large and airy yard, as any other
schoolboys might have done.  Some of them had been drawing large ships
upon the schoolroom wall; and if they had a mast with shrouds and stays
set up for practice (as they have in the Middlesex House of Correction),
it would be so much the better.  At present, if a boy should feel a
strong impulse upon him to learn the art of going aloft, he could only
gratify it, I presume, as the men and women paupers gratify their
aspirations after better board and lodging, by smashing as many workhouse
windows as possible, and being promoted to prison.

In one place, the Newgate of the Workhouse, a company of boys and youths
were locked up in a yard alone; their day-room being a kind of kennel
where the casual poor used formerly to be littered down at night.  Divers
of them had been there some long time.  ‘Are they never going away?’ was
the natural inquiry.  ‘Most of them are crippled, in some form or other,’
said the Wardsman, ‘and not fit for anything.’  They slunk about, like
dispirited wolves or hyænas; and made a pounce at their food when it was
served out, much as those animals do.  The big-headed idiot shuffling his
feet along the pavement, in the sunlight outside, was a more agreeable
object everyway.

Groves of babies in arms; groves of mothers and other sick women in bed;
groves of lunatics; jungles of men in stone-paved down-stairs day-rooms,
waiting for their dinners; longer and longer groves of old people, in
up-stairs Infirmary wards, wearing out life, God knows how—this was the
scenery through which the walk lay, for two hours.  In some of these
latter chambers, there were pictures stuck against the wall, and a neat
display of crockery and pewter on a kind of sideboard; now and then it
was a treat to see a plant or two; in almost every ward there was a cat.

In all of these Long Walks of aged and infirm, some old people were
bedridden, and had been for a long time; some were sitting on their beds
half-naked; some dying in their beds; some out of bed, and sitting at a
table near the fire.  A sullen or lethargic indifference to what was
asked, a blunted sensibility to everything but warmth and food, a moody
absence of complaint as being of no use, a dogged silence and resentful
desire to be left alone again, I thought were generally apparent.  On our
walking into the midst of one of these dreary perspectives of old men,
nearly the following little dialogue took place, the nurse not being
immediately at hand:

‘All well here?’

No answer.  An old man in a Scotch cap sitting among others on a form at
the table, eating out of a tin porringer, pushes back his cap a little to
look at us, claps it down on his forehead again with the palm of his
hand, and goes on eating.

‘All well here?’ (repeated).

No answer.  Another old man sitting on his bed, paralytically peeling a
boiled potato, lifts his head and stares.

‘Enough to eat?’

No answer.  Another old man, in bed, turns himself and coughs.

‘How are you to-day?’  To the last old man.

That old man says nothing; but another old man, a tall old man of very
good address, speaking with perfect correctness, comes forward from
somewhere, and volunteers an answer.  The reply almost always proceeds
from a volunteer, and not from the person looked at or spoken to.

‘We are very old, sir,’ in a mild, distinct voice.  ‘We can’t expect to
be well, most of us.’

‘Are you comfortable?’

‘I have no complaint to make, sir.’  With a half shake of his head, a
half shrug of his shoulders, and a kind of apologetic smile.

‘Enough to eat?’

‘Why, sir, I have but a poor appetite,’ with the same air as before; ‘and
yet I get through my allowance very easily.’

‘But,’ showing a porringer with a Sunday dinner in it; ‘here is a portion
of mutton, and three potatoes.  You can’t starve on that?’

‘Oh dear no, sir,’ with the same apologetic air.  ‘Not starve.’

‘What do you want?’

‘We have very little bread, sir.  It’s an exceedingly small quantity of
bread.’

The nurse, who is now rubbing her hands at the questioner’s elbow,
interferes with, ‘It ain’t much raly, sir.  You see they’ve only six
ounces a day, and when they’ve took their breakfast, there can only be a
little left for night, sir.’

Another old man, hitherto invisible, rises out of his bed-clothes, as out
of a grave, and looks on.

‘You have tea at night?’  The questioner is still addressing the
well-spoken old man.

‘Yes, sir, we have tea at night.’

‘And you save what bread you can from the morning, to eat with it?’

‘Yes, sir—if we can save any.’

‘And you want more to eat with it?’

‘Yes, sir.’  With a very anxious face.

The questioner, in the kindness of his heart, appears a little
discomposed, and changes the subject.

‘What has become of the old man who used to lie in that bed in the
corner?’

The nurse don’t remember what old man is referred to.  There has been
such a many old men.  The well-spoken old man is doubtful.  The spectral
old man who has come to life in bed, says, ‘Billy Stevens.’  Another old
man who has previously had his head in the fireplace, pipes out,

‘Charley Walters.’

Something like a feeble interest is awakened.  I suppose Charley Walters
had conversation in him.

‘He’s dead,’ says the piping old man.

Another old man, with one eye screwed up, hastily displaces the piping
old man, and says.

‘Yes!  Charley Walters died in that bed, and—and—’

‘Billy Stevens,’ persists the spectral old man.

‘No, no! and Johnny Rogers died in that bed, and—and—they’re both on ’em
dead—and Sam’l Bowyer;’ this seems very extraordinary to him; ‘he went
out!’

With this he subsides, and all the old men (having had quite enough of
it) subside, and the spectral old man goes into his grave again, and
takes the shade of Billy Stevens with him.

As we turn to go out at the door, another previously invisible old man, a
hoarse old man in a flannel gown, is standing there, as if he had just
come up through the floor.

‘I beg your pardon, sir, could I take the liberty of saying a word?’

‘Yes; what is it?’

‘I am greatly better in my health, sir; but what I want, to get me quite
round,’ with his hand on his throat, ‘is a little fresh air, sir.  It has
always done my complaint so much good, sir.  The regular leave for going
out, comes round so seldom, that if the gentlemen, next Friday, would
give me leave to go out walking, now and then—for only an hour or so,
sir!—’

Who could wonder, looking through those weary vistas of bed and
infirmity, that it should do him good to meet with some other scenes, and
assure himself that there was something else on earth?  Who could help
wondering why the old men lived on as they did; what grasp they had on
life; what crumbs of interest or occupation they could pick up from its
bare board; whether Charley Walters had ever described to them the days
when he kept company with some old pauper woman in the bud, or Billy
Stevens ever told them of the time when he was a dweller in the far-off
foreign land called Home!

The morsel of burnt child, lying in another room, so patiently, in bed,
wrapped in lint, and looking steadfastly at us with his bright quiet eyes
when we spoke to him kindly, looked as if the knowledge of these things,
and of all the tender things there are to think about, might have been in
his mind—as if he thought, with us, that there was a fellow-feeling in
the pauper nurses which appeared to make them more kind to their charges
than the race of common nurses in the hospitals—as if he mused upon the
Future of some older children lying around him in the same place, and
thought it best, perhaps, all things considered, that he should die—as if
he knew, without fear, of those many coffins, made and unmade, piled up
in the store below—and of his unknown friend, ‘the dropped child,’ calm
upon the box-lid covered with a cloth.  But there was something wistful
and appealing, too, in his tiny face, as if, in the midst of all the hard
necessities and incongruities he pondered on, he pleaded, in behalf of
the helpless and the aged poor, for a little more liberty—and a little
more bread.



PRINCE BULL.  A FAIRY TALE


ONCE upon a time, and of course it was in the Golden Age, and I hope you
may know when that was, for I am sure I don’t, though I have tried hard
to find out, there lived in a rich and fertile country, a powerful Prince
whose name was BULL.  He had gone through a great deal of fighting, in
his time, about all sorts of things, including nothing; but, had
gradually settled down to be a steady, peaceable, good-natured,
corpulent, rather sleepy Prince.

This Puissant Prince was married to a lovely Princess whose name was Fair
Freedom.  She had brought him a large fortune, and had borne him an
immense number of children, and had set them to spinning, and farming,
and engineering, and soldiering, and sailoring, and doctoring, and
lawyering, and preaching, and all kinds of trades.  The coffers of Prince
Bull were full of treasure, his cellars were crammed with delicious wines
from all parts of the world, the richest gold and silver plate that ever
was seen adorned his sideboards, his sons were strong, his daughters were
handsome, and in short you might have supposed that if there ever lived
upon earth a fortunate and happy Prince, the name of that Prince, take
him for all in all, was assuredly Prince Bull.

But, appearances, as we all know, are not always to be trusted—far from
it; and if they had led you to this conclusion respecting Prince Bull,
they would have led you wrong as they often have led me.

For, this good Prince had two sharp thorns in his pillow, two hard knobs
in his crown, two heavy loads on his mind, two unbridled nightmares in
his sleep, two rocks ahead in his course.  He could not by any means get
servants to suit him, and he had a tyrannical old godmother, whose name
was Tape.

She was a Fairy, this Tape, and was a bright red all over.  She was
disgustingly prim and formal, and could never bend herself a hair’s
breadth this way or that way, out of her naturally crooked shape.  But,
she was very potent in her wicked art.  She could stop the fastest thing
in the world, change the strongest thing into the weakest, and the most
useful into the most useless.  To do this she had only to put her cold
hand upon it, and repeat her own name, Tape.  Then it withered away.

At the Court of Prince Bull—at least I don’t mean literally at his court,
because he was a very genteel Prince, and readily yielded to his
godmother when she always reserved that for his hereditary Lords and
Ladies—in the dominions of Prince Bull, among the great mass of the
community who were called in the language of that polite country the Mobs
and the Snobs, were a number of very ingenious men, who were always busy
with some invention or other, for promoting the prosperity of the
Prince’s subjects, and augmenting the Prince’s power.  But, whenever they
submitted their models for the Prince’s approval, his godmother stepped
forward, laid her hand upon them, and said ‘Tape.’  Hence it came to
pass, that when any particularly good discovery was made, the discoverer
usually carried it off to some other Prince, in foreign parts, who had no
old godmother who said Tape.  This was not on the whole an advantageous
state of things for Prince Bull, to the best of my understanding.

The worst of it was, that Prince Bull had in course of years lapsed into
such a state of subjection to this unlucky godmother, that he never made
any serious effort to rid himself of her tyranny.  I have said this was
the worst of it, but there I was wrong, because there is a worse
consequence still, behind.  The Prince’s numerous family became so
downright sick and tired of Tape, that when they should have helped the
Prince out of the difficulties into which that evil creature led him,
they fell into a dangerous habit of moodily keeping away from him in an
impassive and indifferent manner, as though they had quite forgotten that
no harm could happen to the Prince their father, without its inevitably
affecting themselves.

Such was the aspect of affairs at the court of Prince Bull, when this
great Prince found it necessary to go to war with Prince Bear.  He had
been for some time very doubtful of his servants, who, besides being
indolent and addicted to enriching their families at his expense,
domineered over him dreadfully; threatening to discharge themselves if
they were found the least fault with, pretending that they had done a
wonderful amount of work when they had done nothing, making the most
unmeaning speeches that ever were heard in the Prince’s name, and
uniformly showing themselves to be very inefficient indeed.  Though, that
some of them had excellent characters from previous situations is not to
be denied.  Well; Prince Bull called his servants together, and said to
them one and all, ‘Send out my army against Prince Bear.  Clothe it, arm
it, feed it, provide it with all necessaries and contingencies, and I
will pay the piper!  Do your duty by my brave troops,’ said the Prince,
‘and do it well, and I will pour my treasure out like water, to defray
the cost.  Who ever heard ME complain of money well laid out!’  Which
indeed he had reason for saying, inasmuch as he was well known to be a
truly generous and munificent Prince.

When the servants heard those words, they sent out the army against
Prince Bear, and they set the army tailors to work, and the army
provision merchants, and the makers of guns both great and small, and the
gunpowder makers, and the makers of ball, shell, and shot; and they
bought up all manner of stores and ships, without troubling their heads
about the price, and appeared to be so busy that the good Prince rubbed
his hands, and (using a favourite expression of his), said, ‘It’s all
right!’  But, while they were thus employed, the Prince’s godmother, who
was a great favourite with those servants, looked in upon them
continually all day long, and whenever she popped in her head at the door
said, How do you do, my children?  What are you doing here?’  ‘Official
business, godmother.’  ‘Oho!’ says this wicked Fairy.  ‘—Tape!’  And then
the business all went wrong, whatever it was, and the servants’ heads
became so addled and muddled that they thought they were doing wonders.

Now, this was very bad conduct on the part of the vicious old nuisance,
and she ought to have been strangled, even if she had stopped here; but,
she didn’t stop here, as you shall learn.  For, a number of the Prince’s
subjects, being very fond of the Prince’s army who were the bravest of
men, assembled together and provided all manner of eatables and
drinkables, and books to read, and clothes to wear, and tobacco to smoke,
and candies to burn, and nailed them up in great packing-cases, and put
them aboard a great many ships, to be carried out to that brave army in
the cold and inclement country where they were fighting Prince Bear.
Then, up comes this wicked Fairy as the ships were weighing anchor, and
says, ‘How do you do, my children?  What are you doing here?’—‘We are
going with all these comforts to the army, godmother.’—‘Oho!’ says she.
‘A pleasant voyage, my darlings.—Tape!’  And from that time forth, those
enchanting ships went sailing, against wind and tide and rhyme and
reason, round and round the world, and whenever they touched at any port
were ordered off immediately, and could never deliver their cargoes
anywhere.

This, again, was very bad conduct on the part of the vicious old
nuisance, and she ought to have been strangled for it if she had done
nothing worse; but, she did something worse still, as you shall learn.
For, she got astride of an official broomstick, and muttered as a spell
these two sentences, ‘On Her Majesty’s service,’ and ‘I have the honour
to be, sir, your most obedient servant,’ and presently alighted in the
cold and inclement country where the army of Prince Bull were encamped to
fight the army of Prince Bear.  On the sea-shore of that country, she
found piled together, a number of houses for the army to live in, and a
quantity of provisions for the army to live upon, and a quantity of
clothes for the army to wear: while, sitting in the mud gazing at them,
were a group of officers as red to look at as the wicked old woman
herself.  So, she said to one of them, ‘Who are _you_, my darling, and
how do _you_ do?’—‘I am the Quartermaster General’s Department,
godmother, and _I_ am pretty well.’  Then she said to another, ‘Who are
you, my darling, and how do you do?’—‘I am the Commissariat Department,
godmother, and I am pretty well!  Then she said to another, ‘Who are you,
my darling, and how do you do?’—‘I am the Head of the Medical Department,
godmother, and _I_ am pretty well.’  Then, she said to some gentlemen
scented with lavender, who kept themselves at a great distance from the
rest, ‘And who are _you_, my pretty pets, and how do _you_ do?’  And they
answered, ‘We-aw-are-the-aw-Staff-aw-Department, godmother, and we are
very well indeed.’—‘I am delighted to see you all, my beauties,’ says
this wicked old Fairy, ‘—Tape!’  Upon that, the houses, clothes, and
provisions, all mouldered away; and the soldiers who were sound, fell
sick; and the soldiers who were sick, died miserably: and the noble army
of Prince Bull perished.

When the dismal news of his great loss was carried to the Prince, he
suspected his godmother very much indeed; but, he knew that his servants
must have kept company with the malicious beldame, and must have given
way to her, and therefore he resolved to turn those servants out of their
places.  So, he called to him a Roebuck who had the gift of speech, and
he said, ‘Good Roebuck, tell them they must go.’  So, the good Roebuck
delivered his message, so like a man that you might have supposed him to
be nothing but a man, and they were turned out—but, not without warning,
for that they had had a long time.

And now comes the most extraordinary part of the history of this Prince.
When he had turned out those servants, of course he wanted others.  What
was his astonishment to find that in all his dominions, which contained
no less than twenty-seven millions of people, there were not above
five-and-twenty servants altogether!  They were so lofty about it, too,
that instead of discussing whether they should hire themselves as
servants to Prince Bull, they turned things topsy-turvy, and considered
whether as a favour they should hire Prince Bull to be their master!
While they were arguing this point among themselves quite at their
leisure, the wicked old red Fairy was incessantly going up and down,
knocking at the doors of twelve of the oldest of the five-and-twenty, who
were the oldest inhabitants in all that country, and whose united ages
amounted to one thousand, saying, ‘Will you hire Prince Bull for your
master?—Will you hire Prince Bull for your master?’  To which one
answered, ‘I will if next door will;’ and another, ‘I won’t if over the
way does;’ and another, ‘I can’t if he, she, or they, might, could,
would, or should.’  And all this time Prince Bull’s affairs were going to
rack and ruin.

At last, Prince Bull in the height of his perplexity assumed a thoughtful
face, as if he were struck by an entirely new idea.  The wicked old
Fairy, seeing this, was at his elbow directly, and said, ‘How do you do,
my Prince, and what are you thinking of?’—‘I am thinking, godmother,’
says he, ‘that among all the seven-and-twenty millions of my subjects who
have never been in service, there are men of intellect and business who
have made me very famous both among my friends and enemies.’—‘Aye,
truly?’ says the Fairy.—‘Aye, truly,’ says the Prince.—‘And what then?’
says the Fairy.—‘Why, then,’ says he, ‘since the regular old class of
servants do so ill, are so hard to get, and carry it with so high a hand,
perhaps I might try to make good servants of some of these.’  The words
had no sooner passed his lips than she returned, chuckling, ‘You think
so, do you?  Indeed, my Prince?—Tape!’  Thereupon he directly forgot what
he was thinking of, and cried out lamentably to the old servants, ‘O, do
come and hire your poor old master!  Pray do!  On any terms!’

And this, for the present, finishes the story of Prince Bull.  I wish I
could wind it up by saying that he lived happy ever afterwards, but I
cannot in my conscience do so; for, with Tape at his elbow, and his
estranged children fatally repelled by her from coming near him, I do
not, to tell you the plain truth, believe in the possibility of such an
end to it.



A PLATED ARTICLE


PUTTING up for the night in one of the chiefest towns of Staffordshire, I
find it to be by no means a lively town.  In fact, it is as dull and dead
a town as any one could desire not to see.  It seems as if its whole
population might be imprisoned in its Railway Station.  The Refreshment
Room at that Station is a vortex of dissipation compared with the extinct
town-inn, the Dodo, in the dull High Street.

Why High Street?  Why not rather Low Street, Flat Street, Low-Spirited
Street, Used-up Street?  Where are the people who belong to the High
Street?  Can they all be dispersed over the face of the country, seeking
the unfortunate Strolling Manager who decamped from the mouldy little
Theatre last week, in the beginning of his season (as his play-bills
testify), repentantly resolved to bring him back, and feed him, and be
entertained?  Or, can they all be gathered to their fathers in the two
old churchyards near to the High Street—retirement into which churchyards
appears to be a mere ceremony, there is so very little life outside their
confines, and such small discernible difference between being buried
alive in the town, and buried dead in the town tombs?  Over the way,
opposite to the staring blank bow windows of the Dodo, are a little
ironmonger’s shop, a little tailor’s shop (with a picture of the Fashions
in the small window and a bandy-legged baby on the pavement staring at
it)—a watchmakers shop, where all the clocks and watches must be stopped,
I am sure, for they could never have the courage to go, with the town in
general, and the Dodo in particular, looking at them.  Shade of Miss
Linwood, erst of Leicester Square, London, thou art welcome here, and thy
retreat is fitly chosen!  I myself was one of the last visitors to that
awful storehouse of thy life’s work, where an anchorite old man and woman
took my shilling with a solemn wonder, and conducting me to a gloomy
sepulchre of needlework dropping to pieces with dust and age and shrouded
in twilight at high noon, left me there, chilled, frightened, and alone.
And now, in ghostly letters on all the dead walls of this dead town, I
read thy honoured name, and find that thy Last Supper, worked in Berlin
Wool, invites inspection as a powerful excitement!

Where are the people who are bidden with so much cry to this feast of
little wool?  Where are they?  Who are they?  They are not the
bandy-legged baby studying the fashions in the tailor’s window.  They are
not the two earthy ploughmen lounging outside the saddler’s shop, in the
stiff square where the Town Hall stands, like a brick and mortar private
on parade.  They are not the landlady of the Dodo in the empty bar, whose
eye had trouble in it and no welcome, when I asked for dinner.  They are
not the turnkeys of the Town Jail, looking out of the gateway in their
uniforms, as if they had locked up all the balance (as my American
friends would say) of the inhabitants, and could now rest a little.  They
are not the two dusty millers in the white mill down by the river, where
the great water-wheel goes heavily round and round, like the monotonous
days and nights in this forgotten place.  Then who are they, for there is
no one else?  No; this deponent maketh oath and saith that there is no
one else, save and except the waiter at the Dodo, now laying the cloth.
I have paced the streets, and stared at the houses, and am come back to
the blank bow window of the Dodo; and the town clocks strike seven, and
the reluctant echoes seem to cry, ‘Don’t wake us!’ and the bandy-legged
baby has gone home to bed.

If the Dodo were only a gregarious bird—if he had only some confused idea
of making a comfortable nest—I could hope to get through the hours
between this and bed-time, without being consumed by devouring
melancholy.  But, the Dodo’s habits are all wrong.  It provides me with a
trackless desert of sitting-room, with a chair for every day in the year,
a table for every month, and a waste of sideboard where a lonely China
vase pines in a corner for its mate long departed, and will never make a
match with the candlestick in the opposite corner if it live till
Doomsday.  The Dodo has nothing in the larder.  Even now, I behold the
Boots returning with my sole in a piece of paper; and with that portion
of my dinner, the Boots, perceiving me at the blank bow window, slaps his
leg as he comes across the road, pretending it is something else.  The
Dodo excludes the outer air.  When I mount up to my bedroom, a smell of
closeness and flue gets lazily up my nose like sleepy snuff.  The loose
little bits of carpet writhe under my tread, and take wormy shapes.  I
don’t know the ridiculous man in the looking-glass, beyond having met him
once or twice in a dish-cover—and I can never shave _him_ to-morrow
morning!  The Dodo is narrow-minded as to towels; expects me to wash on a
freemason’s apron without the trimming: when I asked for soap, gives me a
stony-hearted something white, with no more lather in it than the Elgin
marbles.  The Dodo has seen better days, and possesses interminable
stables at the back—silent, grass-grown, broken-windowed, horseless.

This mournful bird can fry a sole, however, which is much.  Can cook a
steak, too, which is more.  I wonder where it gets its Sherry?  If I were
to send my pint of wine to some famous chemist to be analysed, what would
it turn out to be made of?  It tastes of pepper, sugar, bitter-almonds,
vinegar, warm knives, any flat drinks, and a little brandy.  Would it
unman a Spanish exile by reminding him of his native land at all?  I
think not.  If there really be any townspeople out of the churchyards,
and if a caravan of them ever do dine, with a bottle of wine per man, in
this desert of the Dodo, it must make good for the doctor next day!

Where was the waiter born?  How did he come here?  Has he any hope of
getting away from here?  Does he ever receive a letter, or take a ride
upon the railway, or see anything but the Dodo?  Perhaps he has seen the
Berlin Wool.  He appears to have a silent sorrow on him, and it may be
that.  He clears the table; draws the dingy curtains of the great bow
window, which so unwillingly consent to meet, that they must be pinned
together; leaves me by the fire with my pint decanter, and a little thin
funnel-shaped wine-glass, and a plate of pale biscuits—in themselves
engendering desperation.

No book, no newspaper!  I left the Arabian Nights in the railway
carriage, and have nothing to read but Bradshaw, and ‘that way madness
lies.’  Remembering what prisoners and ship-wrecked mariners have done to
exercise their minds in solitude, I repeat the multiplication table, the
pence table, and the shilling table: which are all the tables I happen to
know.  What if I write something?  The Dodo keeps no pens but steel pens;
and those I always stick through the paper, and can turn to no other
account.

What am I to do?  Even if I could have the bandy-legged baby knocked up
and brought here, I could offer him nothing but sherry, and that would be
the death of him.  He would never hold up his head again if he touched
it.  I can’t go to bed, because I have conceived a mortal hatred for my
bedroom; and I can’t go away, because there is no train for my place of
destination until morning.  To burn the biscuits will be but a fleeting
joy; still it is a temporary relief, and here they go on the fire!  Shall
I break the plate?  First let me look at the back, and see who made it.
COPELAND.

Copeland!  Stop a moment.  Was it yesterday I visited Copeland’s works,
and saw them making plates?  In the confusion of travelling about, it
might be yesterday or it might be yesterday month; but I think it was
yesterday.  I appeal to the plate.  The plate says, decidedly, yesterday.
I find the plate, as I look at it, growing into a companion.

Don’t you remember (says the plate) how you steamed away, yesterday
morning, in the bright sun and the east wind, along the valley of the
sparkling Trent?  Don’t you recollect how many kilns you flew past,
looking like the bowls of gigantic tobacco-pipes, cut short off from the
stem and turned upside down?  And the fires—and the smoke—and the roads
made with bits of crockery, as if all the plates and dishes in the
civilised world had been Macadamised, expressly for the laming of all the
horses?  Of course I do!

And don’t you remember (says the plate) how you alighted at Stoke—a
picturesque heap of houses, kilns, smoke, wharfs, canals, and river,
lying (as was most appropriate) in a basin—and how, after climbing up the
sides of the basin to look at the prospect, you trundled down again at a
walking-match pace, and straight proceeded to my father’s, Copeland’s,
where the whole of my family, high and low, rich and poor, are turned out
upon the world from our nursery and seminary, covering some fourteen
acres of ground?  And don’t you remember what we spring from:—heaps of
lumps of clay, partially prepared and cleaned in Devonshire and
Dorsetshire, whence said clay principally comes—and hills of flint,
without which we should want our ringing sound, and should never be
musical?  And as to the flint, don’t you recollect that it is first burnt
in kilns, and is then laid under the four iron feet of a demon slave,
subject to violent stamping fits, who, when they come on, stamps away
insanely with his four iron legs, and would crush all the flint in the
Isle of Thanet to powder, without leaving off?  And as to the clay, don’t
you recollect how it is put into mills or teazers, and is sliced, and
dug, and cut at, by endless knives, clogged and sticky, but
persistent—and is pressed out of that machine through a square trough,
whose form it takes—and is cut off in square lumps and thrown into a vat,
and there mixed with water, and beaten to a pulp by paddle-wheels—and is
then run into a rough house, all rugged beams and ladders splashed with
white,—superintended by Grindoff the Miller in his working clothes, all
splashed with white,—where it passes through no end of machinery-moved
sieves all splashed with white, arranged in an ascending scale of
fineness (some so fine, that three hundred silk threads cross each other
in a single square inch of their surface), and all in a violent state of
ague with their teeth for ever chattering, and their bodies for ever
shivering!  And as to the flint again, isn’t it mashed and mollified and
troubled and soothed, exactly as rags are in a paper-mill, until it is
reduced to a pap so fine that it contains no atom of ‘grit’ perceptible
to the nicest taste?  And as to the flint and the clay together, are they
not, after all this, mixed in the proportion of five of clay to one of
flint, and isn’t the compound—known as ‘slip’—run into oblong troughs,
where its superfluous moisture may evaporate; and finally, isn’t it
slapped and banged and beaten and patted and kneaded and wedged and
knocked about like butter, until it becomes a beautiful grey dough, ready
for the potter’s use?

In regard of the potter, popularly so called (says the plate), you don’t
mean to say you have forgotten that a workman called a Thrower is the man
under whose hand this grey dough takes the shapes of the simpler
household vessels as quickly as the eye can follow?  You don’t mean to
say you cannot call him up before you, sitting, with his attendant woman,
at his potter’s wheel—a disc about the size of a dinner-plate, revolving
on two drums slowly or quickly as he wills—who made you a complete
breakfast-set for a bachelor, as a good-humoured little off-hand joke?
You remember how he took up as much dough as he wanted, and, throwing it
on his wheel, in a moment fashioned it into a teacup—caught up more clay
and made a saucer—a larger dab and whirled it into a teapot—winked at a
smaller dab and converted it into the lid of the teapot, accurately
fitting by the measurement of his eye alone—coaxed a middle-sized dab for
two seconds, broke it, turned it over at the rim, and made a
milkpot—laughed, and turned out a slop-basin—coughed, and provided for
the sugar?  Neither, I think, are you oblivious of the newer mode of
making various articles, but especially basins, according to which
improvement a mould revolves instead of a disc?  For you must remember
(says the plate) how you saw the mould of a little basin spinning round
and round, and how the workmen smoothed and pressed a handful of dough
upon it, and how with an instrument called a profile (a piece of wood,
representing the profile of a basin’s foot) he cleverly scraped and
carved the ring which makes the base of any such basin, and then took the
basin off the lathe like a doughy skull-cap to be dried, and afterwards
(in what is called a green state) to be put into a second lathe, there to
be finished and burnished with a steel burnisher?  And as to moulding in
general (says the plate), it can’t be necessary for me to remind you that
all ornamental articles, and indeed all articles not quite circular, are
made in moulds.  For you must remember how you saw the vegetable dishes,
for example, being made in moulds; and how the handles of teacups, and
the spouts of teapots, and the feet of tureens, and so forth, are all
made in little separate moulds, and are each stuck on to the body
corporate, of which it is destined to form a part, with a stuff called
‘slag,’ as quickly as you can recollect it.  Further, you learnt—you know
you did—in the same visit, how the beautiful sculptures in the delicate
new material called Parian, are all constructed in moulds; how, into that
material, animal bones are ground up, because the phosphate of lime
contained in bones makes it translucent; how everything is moulded,
before going into the fire, one-fourth larger than it is intended to come
out of the fire, because it shrinks in that proportion in the intense
heat; how, when a figure shrinks unequally, it is spoiled—emerging from
the furnace a misshapen birth; a big head and a little body, or a little
head and a big body, or a Quasimodo with long arms and short legs, or a
Miss Biffin with neither legs nor arms worth mentioning.

And as to the Kilns, in which the firing takes place, and in which some
of the more precious articles are burnt repeatedly, in various stages of
their process towards completion,—as to the Kilns (says the plate,
warming with the recollection), if you don’t remember THEM with a
horrible interest, what did you ever go to Copeland’s for?  When you
stood inside of one of those inverted bowls of a Pre-Adamite
tobacco-pipe, looking up at the blue sky through the open top far off, as
you might have looked up from a well, sunk under the centre of the
pavement of the Pantheon at Rome, had you the least idea where you were?
And when you found yourself surrounded, in that dome-shaped cavern, by
innumerable columns of an unearthly order of architecture, supporting
nothing, and squeezed close together as if a Pre-Adamite Samson had taken
a vast Hall in his arms and crushed it into the smallest possible space,
had you the least idea what they were?  No (says the plate), of course
not!  And when you found that each of those pillars was a pile of
ingeniously made vessels of coarse clay—called Saggers—looking, when
separate, like raised-pies for the table of the mighty Giant Blunderbore,
and now all full of various articles of pottery ranged in them in baking
order, the bottom of each vessel serving for the cover of the one below,
and the whole Kiln rapidly filling with these, tier upon tier, until the
last workman should have barely room to crawl out, before the closing of
the jagged aperture in the wall and the kindling of the gradual fire; did
you not stand amazed to think that all the year round these dread
chambers are heating, white hot—and cooling—and filling—and emptying—and
being bricked up—and broken open—humanly speaking, for ever and ever?  To
be sure you did!  And standing in one of those Kilns nearly full, and
seeing a free crow shoot across the aperture a-top, and learning how the
fire would wax hotter and hotter by slow degrees, and would cool
similarly through a space of from forty to sixty hours, did no
remembrance of the days when human clay was burnt oppress you?  Yes.  I
think so!  I suspect that some fancy of a fiery haze and a shortening
breath, and a growing heat, and a gasping prayer; and a figure in black
interposing between you and the sky (as figures in black are very apt to
do), and looking down, before it grew too hot to look and live, upon the
Heretic in his edifying agony—I say I suspect (says the plate) that some
such fancy was pretty strong upon you when you went out into the air, and
blessed God for the bright spring day and the degenerate times!

After that, I needn’t remind you what a relief it was to see the simplest
process of ornamenting this ‘biscuit’ (as it is called when baked) with
brown circles and blue trees—converting it into the common crockery-ware
that is exported to Africa, and used in cottages at home.  For (says the
plate) I am well persuaded that you bear in mind how those particular
jugs and mugs were once more set upon a lathe and put in motion; and how
a man blew the brown colour (having a strong natural affinity with the
material in that condition) on them from a blowpipe as they twirled; and
how his daughter, with a common brush, dropped blotches of blue upon them
in the right places; and how, tilting the blotches upside down, she made
them run into rude images of trees, and there an end.

And didn’t you see (says the plate) planted upon my own brother that
astounding blue willow, with knobbed and gnarled trunk, and foliage of
blue ostrich feathers, which gives our family the title of ‘willow
pattern’?  And didn’t you observe, transferred upon him at the same time,
that blue bridge which spans nothing, growing out from the roots of the
willow; and the three blue Chinese going over it into a blue temple,
which has a fine crop of blue bushes sprouting out of the roof; and a
blue boat sailing above them, the mast of which is burglariously sticking
itself into the foundations of a blue villa, suspended sky-high,
surmounted by a lump of blue rock, sky-higher, and a couple of billing
blue birds, sky-highest—together with the rest of that amusing blue
landscape, which has, in deference to our revered ancestors of the
Cerulean Empire, and in defiance of every known law of perspective,
adorned millions of our family ever since the days of platters?  Didn’t
you inspect the copper-plate on which my pattern was deeply engraved?
Didn’t you perceive an impression of it taken in cobalt colour at a
cylindrical press, upon a leaf of thin paper, streaming from a
plunge-bath of soap and water?  Wasn’t the paper impression daintily
spread, by a light-fingered damsel (you know you admired her!), over the
surface of the plate, and the back of the paper rubbed prodigiously
hard—with a long tight roll of flannel, tied up like a round of hung
beef—without so much as ruffling the paper, wet as it was?  Then (says
the plate), was not the paper washed away with a sponge, and didn’t there
appear, set off upon the plate, _this_ identical piece of Pre-Raphaelite
blue distemper which you now behold?  Not to be denied!  I had seen all
this—and more.  I had been shown, at Copeland’s, patterns of beautiful
design, in faultless perspective, which are causing the ugly old willow
to wither out of public favour; and which, being quite as cheap,
insinuate good wholesome natural art into the humblest households.  When
Mr. and Mrs. Sprat have satisfied their material tastes by that equal
division of fat and lean which has made their _ménage_ immortal; and
have, after the elegant tradition, ‘licked the platter clean,’ they
can—thanks to modern artists in clay—feast their intellectual tastes upon
excellent delineations of natural objects.

This reflection prompts me to transfer my attention from the blue plate
to the forlorn but cheerfully painted vase on the sideboard.  And surely
(says the plate) you have not forgotten how the outlines of such groups
of flowers as you see there, are printed, just as I was printed, and are
afterwards shaded and filled in with metallic colours by women and girls?
As to the aristocracy of our order, made of the finer clay-porcelain
peers and peeresses;—the slabs, and panels, and table-tops, and tazze;
the endless nobility and gentry of dessert, breakfast, and tea services;
the gemmed perfume bottles, and scarlet and gold salvers; you saw that
they were painted by artists, with metallic colours laid on with
camel-hair pencils, and afterwards burnt in.

And talking of burning in (says the plate), didn’t you find that every
subject, from the willow pattern to the landscape after Turner—having
been framed upon clay or porcelain biscuit—has to be glazed?  Of course,
you saw the glaze—composed of various vitreous materials—laid over every
article; and of course you witnessed the close imprisonment of each piece
in saggers upon the separate system rigidly enforced by means of
fine-pointed earthenware stilts placed between the articles to prevent
the slightest communication or contact.  We had in my time—and I suppose
it is the same now—fourteen hours’ firing to fix the glaze and to make it
‘run’ all over us equally, so as to put a good shiny and unscratchable
surface upon us.  Doubtless, you observed that one sort of glaze—called
printing-body—is burnt into the better sort of ware _before_ it is
printed.  Upon this you saw some of the finest steel engravings
transferred, to be fixed by an after glazing—didn’t you?  Why, of course
you did!

Of course I did.  I had seen and enjoyed everything that the plate
recalled to me, and had beheld with admiration how the rotatory motion
which keeps this ball of ours in its place in the great scheme, with all
its busy mites upon it, was necessary throughout the process, and could
only be dispensed with in the fire.  So, listening to the plate’s
reminders, and musing upon them, I got through the evening after all, and
went to bed.  I made but one sleep of it—for which I have no doubt I am
also indebted to the plate—and left the lonely Dodo in the morning, quite
at peace with it, before the bandy-legged baby was up.



OUR HONOURABLE FRIEND


WE are delighted to find that he has got in!  Our honourable friend is
triumphantly returned to serve in the next Parliament.  He is the
honourable member for Verbosity—the best represented place in England.

Our honourable friend has issued an address of congratulation to the
Electors, which is worthy of that noble constituency, and is a very
pretty piece of composition.  In electing him, he says, they have covered
themselves with glory, and England has been true to herself.  (In his
preliminary address he had remarked, in a poetical quotation of great
rarity, that nought could make us rue, if England to herself did prove
but true.)

Our honourable friend delivers a prediction, in the same document, that
the feeble minions of a faction will never hold up their heads any more;
and that the finger of scorn will point at them in their dejected state,
through countless ages of time.  Further, that the hireling tools that
would destroy the sacred bulwarks of our nationality are unworthy of the
name of Englishman; and that so long as the sea shall roll around our
ocean-girded isle, so long his motto shall be, No surrender.  Certain
dogged persons of low principles and no intellect, have disputed whether
anybody knows who the minions are, or what the faction is, or which are
the hireling tools and which the sacred bulwarks, or what it is that is
never to be surrendered, and if not, why not?  But, our honourable friend
the member for Verbosity knows all about it.

Our honourable friend has sat in several parliaments, and given bushels
of votes.  He is a man of that profundity in the matter of vote-giving,
that you never know what he means.  When he seems to be voting pure
white, he may be in reality voting jet black.  When he says Yes, it is
just as likely as not—or rather more so—that he means No.  This is the
statesmanship of our honourable friend.  It is in this, that he differs
from mere unparliamentary men.  You may not know what he meant then, or
what he means now; but, our honourable friend knows, and did from the
first know, both what he meant then, and what he means now; and when he
said he didn’t mean it then, he did in fact say, that he means it now.
And if you mean to say that you did not then, and do not now, know what
he did mean then, or does mean now, our honourable friend will be glad to
receive an explicit declaration from you whether you are prepared to
destroy the sacred bulwarks of our nationality.

Our honourable friend, the member for Verbosity, has this great
attribute, that he always means something, and always means the same
thing.  When he came down to that House and mournfully boasted in his
place, as an individual member of the assembled Commons of this great and
happy country, that he could lay his hand upon his heart, and solemnly
declare that no consideration on earth should induce him, at any time or
under any circumstances, to go as far north as Berwick-upon-Tweed; and
when he nevertheless, next year, did go to Berwick-upon-Tweed, and even
beyond it, to Edinburgh; he had one single meaning, one and indivisible.
And God forbid (our honourable friend says) that he should waste another
argument upon the man who professes that he cannot understand it!  ‘I do
NOT, gentlemen,’ said our honourable friend, with indignant emphasis and
amid great cheering, on one such public occasion.  ‘I do NOT, gentlemen,
I am free to confess, envy the feelings of that man whose mind is so
constituted as that he can hold such language to me, and yet lay his head
upon his pillow, claiming to be a native of that land,

    Whose march is o’er the mountain-wave,
    Whose home is on the deep!

(Vehement cheering, and man expelled.)

When our honourable friend issued his preliminary address to the
constituent body of Verbosity on the occasion of one particular glorious
triumph, it was supposed by some of his enemies, that even he would be
placed in a situation of difficulty by the following comparatively
trifling conjunction of circumstances.  The dozen noblemen and gentlemen
whom our honourable friend supported, had ‘come in,’ expressly to do a
certain thing.  Now, four of the dozen said, at a certain place, that
they didn’t mean to do that thing, and had never meant to do it; another
four of the dozen said, at another certain place, that they did mean to
do that thing, and had always meant to do it; two of the remaining four
said, at two other certain places, that they meant to do half of that
thing (but differed about which half), and to do a variety of nameless
wonders instead of the other half; and one of the remaining two declared
that the thing itself was dead and buried, while the other as strenuously
protested that it was alive and kicking.  It was admitted that the
parliamentary genius of our honourable friend would be quite able to
reconcile such small discrepancies as these; but, there remained the
additional difficulty that each of the twelve made entirely different
statements at different places, and that all the twelve called everything
visible and invisible, sacred and profane, to witness, that they were a
perfectly impregnable phalanx of unanimity.  This, it was apprehended,
would be a stumbling-block to our honourable friend.

The difficulty came before our honourable friend, in this way.  He went
down to Verbosity to meet his free and independent constituents, and to
render an account (as he informed them in the local papers) of the trust
they had confided to his hands—that trust which it was one of the
proudest privileges of an Englishman to possess—that trust which it was
the proudest privilege of an Englishman to hold.  It may be mentioned as
a proof of the great general interest attaching to the contest, that a
Lunatic whom nobody employed or knew, went down to Verbosity with several
thousand pounds in gold, determined to give the whole away—which he
actually did; and that all the publicans opened their houses for nothing.
Likewise, several fighting men, and a patriotic group of burglars
sportively armed with life-preservers, proceeded (in barouches and very
drunk) to the scene of action at their own expense; these children of
nature having conceived a warm attachment to our honourable friend, and
intending, in their artless manner, to testify it by knocking the voters
in the opposite interest on the head.

Our honourable friend being come into the presence of his constituents,
and having professed with great suavity that he was delighted to see his
good friend Tipkisson there, in his working-dress—his good friend
Tipkisson being an inveterate saddler, who always opposes him, and for
whom he has a mortal hatred—made them a brisk, ginger-beery sort of
speech, in which he showed them how the dozen noblemen and gentlemen had
(in exactly ten days from their coming in) exercised a surprisingly
beneficial effect on the whole financial condition of Europe, had altered
the state of the exports and imports for the current half-year, had
prevented the drain of gold, had made all that matter right about the
glut of the raw material, and had restored all sorts of balances with
which the superseded noblemen and gentlemen had played the deuce—and all
this, with wheat at so much a quarter, gold at so much an ounce, and the
Bank of England discounting good bills at so much per cent.!  He might be
asked, he observed in a peroration of great power, what were his
principles?  His principles were what they always had been.  His
principles were written in the countenances of the lion and unicorn; were
stamped indelibly upon the royal shield which those grand animals
supported, and upon the free words of fire which that shield bore.  His
principles were, Britannia and her sea-king trident!  His principles
were, commercial prosperity co-existently with perfect and profound
agricultural contentment; but short of this he would never stop.  His
principles were, these,—with the addition of his colours nailed to the
mast, every man’s heart in the right place, every man’s eye open, every
man’s hand ready, every man’s mind on the alert.  His principles were
these, concurrently with a general revision of something—speaking
generally—and a possible readjustment of something else, not to be
mentioned more particularly.  His principles, to sum up all in a word,
were, Hearths and Altars, Labour and Capital, Crown and Sceptre, Elephant
and Castle.  And now, if his good friend Tipkisson required any further
explanation from him, he (our honourable friend) was there, willing and
ready to give it.

Tipkisson, who all this time had stood conspicuous in the crowd, with his
arms folded and his eyes intently fastened on our honourable friend:
Tipkisson, who throughout our honourable friend’s address had not relaxed
a muscle of his visage, but had stood there, wholly unaffected by the
torrent of eloquence: an object of contempt and scorn to mankind (by
which we mean, of course, to the supporters of our honourable friend);
Tipkisson now said that he was a plain man (Cries of ‘You are indeed!’),
and that what he wanted to know was, what our honourable friend and the
dozen noblemen and gentlemen were driving at?

Our honourable friend immediately replied, ‘At the illimitable
perspective.’

It was considered by the whole assembly that this happy statement of our
honourable friend’s political views ought, immediately, to have settled
Tipkisson’s business and covered him with confusion; but, that implacable
person, regardless of the execrations that were heaped upon him from all
sides (by which we mean, of course, from our honourable friend’s side),
persisted in retaining an unmoved countenance, and obstinately retorted
that if our honourable friend meant that, he wished to know what _that_
meant?

It was in repelling this most objectionable and indecent opposition, that
our honourable friend displayed his highest qualifications for the
representation of Verbosity.  His warmest supporters present, and those
who were best acquainted with his generalship, supposed that the moment
was come when he would fall back upon the sacred bulwarks of our
nationality.  No such thing.  He replied thus: ‘My good friend Tipkisson,
gentlemen, wishes to know what I mean when he asks me what we are driving
at, and when I candidly tell him, at the illimitable perspective, he
wishes (if I understand him) to know what I mean?’—‘I do!’ says
Tipkisson, amid cries of ‘Shame’ and ‘Down with him.’  ‘Gentlemen,’ says
our honourable friend, ‘I will indulge my good friend Tipkisson, by
telling him, both what I mean and what I don’t mean.  (Cheers and cries
of ‘Give it him!’)  Be it known to him then, and to all whom it may
concern, that I do mean altars, hearths, and homes, and that I don’t mean
mosques and Mohammedanism!’  The effect of this home-thrust was terrific.
Tipkisson (who is a Baptist) was hooted down and hustled out, and has
ever since been regarded as a Turkish Renegade who contemplates an early
pilgrimage to Mecca.  Nor was he the only discomfited man.  The charge,
while it stuck to him, was magically transferred to our honourable
friend’s opponent, who was represented in an immense variety of placards
as a firm believer in Mahomet; and the men of Verbosity were asked to
choose between our honourable friend and the Bible, and our honourable
friend’s opponent and the Koran.  They decided for our honourable friend,
and rallied round the illimitable perspective.

It has been claimed for our honourable friend, with much appearance of
reason, that he was the first to bend sacred matters to electioneering
tactics.  However this may be, the fine precedent was undoubtedly set in
a Verbosity election: and it is certain that our honourable friend (who
was a disciple of Brahma in his youth, and was a Buddhist when we had the
honour of travelling with him a few years ago) always professes in public
more anxiety than the whole Bench of Bishops, regarding the theological
and doxological opinions of every man, woman, and child, in the United
Kingdom.

As we began by saying that our honourable friend has got in again at this
last election, and that we are delighted to find that he has got in, so
we will conclude.  Our honourable friend cannot come in for Verbosity too
often.  It is a good sign; it is a great example.  It is to men like our
honourable friend, and to contests like those from which he comes
triumphant, that we are mainly indebted for that ready interest in
politics, that fresh enthusiasm in the discharge of the duties of
citizenship, that ardent desire to rush to the poll, at present so
manifest throughout England.  When the contest lies (as it sometimes
does) between two such men as our honourable friend, it stimulates the
finest emotions of our nature, and awakens the highest admiration of
which our heads and hearts are capable.

It is not too much to predict that our honourable friend will be always
at his post in the ensuing session.  Whatever the question be, or
whatever the form of its discussion; address to the crown, election
petition, expenditure of the public money, extension of the public
suffrage, education, crime; in the whole house, in committee of the whole
house, in select committee; in every parliamentary discussion of every
subject, everywhere: the Honourable Member for Verbosity will most
certainly be found.



OUR SCHOOL


WE went to look at it, only this last Midsummer, and found that the
Railway had cut it up root and branch.  A great trunk-line had swallowed
the playground, sliced away the schoolroom, and pared off the corner of
the house: which, thus curtailed of its proportions, presented itself, in
a green stage of stucco, profilewise towards the road, like a forlorn
flat-iron without a handle, standing on end.

It seems as if our schools were doomed to be the sport of change.  We
have faint recollections of a Preparatory Day-School, which we have
sought in vain, and which must have been pulled down to make a new
street, ages ago.  We have dim impressions, scarcely amounting to a
belief, that it was over a dyer’s shop.  We know that you went up steps
to it; that you frequently grazed your knees in doing so; that you
generally got your leg over the scraper, in trying to scrape the mud off
a very unsteady little shoe.  The mistress of the Establishment holds no
place in our memory; but, rampant on one eternal door-mat, in an eternal
entry long and narrow, is a puffy pug-dog, with a personal animosity
towards us, who triumphs over Time.  The bark of that baleful Pug, a
certain radiating way he had of snapping at our undefended legs, the
ghastly grinning of his moist black muzzle and white teeth, and the
insolence of his crisp tail curled like a pastoral crook, all live and
flourish.  From an otherwise unaccountable association of him with a
fiddle, we conclude that he was of French extraction, and his name
_Fidèle_.  He belonged to some female, chiefly inhabiting a back-parlour,
whose life appears to us to have been consumed in sniffing, and in
wearing a brown beaver bonnet.  For her, he would sit up and balance cake
upon his nose, and not eat it until twenty had been counted.  To the best
of our belief we were once called in to witness this performance; when,
unable, even in his milder moments, to endure our presence, he instantly
made at us, cake and all.

Why a something in mourning, called ‘Miss Frost,’ should still connect
itself with our preparatory school, we are unable to say.  We retain no
impression of the beauty of Miss Frost—if she were beautiful; or of the
mental fascinations of Miss Frost—if she were accomplished; yet her name
and her black dress hold an enduring place in our remembrance.  An
equally impersonal boy, whose name has long since shaped itself
unalterably into ‘Master Mawls,’ is not to be dislodged from our brain.
Retaining no vindictive feeling towards Mawls—no feeling whatever,
indeed—we infer that neither he nor we can have loved Miss Frost.  Our
first impression of Death and Burial is associated with this formless
pair.  We all three nestled awfully in a corner one wintry day, when the
wind was blowing shrill, with Miss Frost’s pinafore over our heads; and
Miss Frost told us in a whisper about somebody being ‘screwed down.’  It
is the only distinct recollection we preserve of these impalpable
creatures, except a suspicion that the manners of Master Mawls were
susceptible of much improvement.  Generally speaking, we may observe that
whenever we see a child intently occupied with its nose, to the exclusion
of all other subjects of interest, our mind reverts, in a flash, to
Master Mawls.

But, the School that was Our School before the Railroad came and
overthrew it, was quite another sort of place.  We were old enough to be
put into Virgil when we went there, and to get Prizes for a variety of
polishing on which the rust has long accumulated.  It was a School of
some celebrity in its neighbourhood—nobody could have said why—and we had
the honour to attain and hold the eminent position of first boy.  The
master was supposed among us to know nothing, and one of the ushers was
supposed to know everything.  We are still inclined to think the
first-named supposition perfectly correct.

We have a general idea that its subject had been in the leather trade,
and had bought us—meaning Our School—of another proprietor who was
immensely learned.  Whether this belief had any real foundation, we are
not likely ever to know now.  The only branches of education with which
he showed the least acquaintance, were, ruling and corporally punishing.
He was always ruling ciphering-books with a bloated mahogany ruler, or
smiting the palms of offenders with the same diabolical instrument, or
viciously drawing a pair of pantaloons tight with one of his large hands,
and caning the wearer with the other.  We have no doubt whatever that
this occupation was the principal solace of his existence.

A profound respect for money pervaded Our School, which was, of course,
derived from its Chief.  We remember an idiotic goggle-eyed boy, with a
big head and half-crowns without end, who suddenly appeared as a
parlour-boarder, and was rumoured to have come by sea from some
mysterious part of the earth where his parents rolled in gold.  He was
usually called ‘Mr.’ by the Chief, and was said to feed in the parlour on
steaks and gravy; likewise to drink currant wine.  And he openly stated
that if rolls and coffee were ever denied him at breakfast, he would
write home to that unknown part of the globe from which he had come, and
cause himself to be recalled to the regions of gold.  He was put into no
form or class, but learnt alone, as little as he liked—and he liked very
little—and there was a belief among us that this was because he was too
wealthy to be ‘taken down.’  His special treatment, and our vague
association of him with the sea, and with storms, and sharks, and Coral
Reefs occasioned the wildest legends to be circulated as his history.  A
tragedy in blank verse was written on the subject—if our memory does not
deceive us, by the hand that now chronicles these recollections—in which
his father figured as a Pirate, and was shot for a voluminous catalogue
of atrocities: first imparting to his wife the secret of the cave in
which his wealth was stored, and from which his only son’s half-crowns
now issued.  Dumbledon (the boy’s name) was represented as ‘yet unborn’
when his brave father met his fate; and the despair and grief of Mrs.
Dumbledon at that calamity was movingly shadowed forth as having weakened
the parlour-boarder’s mind.  This production was received with great
favour, and was twice performed with closed doors in the dining-room.
But, it got wind, and was seized as libellous, and brought the unlucky
poet into severe affliction.  Some two years afterwards, all of a sudden
one day, Dumbledon vanished.  It was whispered that the Chief himself had
taken him down to the Docks, and re-shipped him for the Spanish Main; but
nothing certain was ever known about his disappearance.  At this hour, we
cannot thoroughly disconnect him from California.

Our School was rather famous for mysterious pupils.  There was another—a
heavy young man, with a large double-cased silver watch, and a fat knife
the handle of which was a perfect tool-box—who unaccountably appeared one
day at a special desk of his own, erected close to that of the Chief,
with whom he held familiar converse.  He lived in the parlour, and went
out for his walks, and never took the least notice of us—even of us, the
first boy—unless to give us a deprecatory kick, or grimly to take our hat
off and throw it away, when he encountered us out of doors, which
unpleasant ceremony he always performed as he passed—not even
condescending to stop for the purpose.  Some of us believed that the
classical attainments of this phenomenon were terrific, but that his
penmanship and arithmetic were defective, and he had come there to mend
them; others, that he was going to set up a school, and had paid the
Chief ‘twenty-five pound down,’ for leave to see Our School at work.  The
gloomier spirits even said that he was going to buy us; against which
contingency, conspiracies were set on foot for a general defection and
running away.  However, he never did that.  After staying for a quarter,
during which period, though closely observed, he was never seen to do
anything but make pens out of quills, write small hand in a secret
portfolio, and punch the point of the sharpest blade in his knife into
his desk all over it, he too disappeared, and his place knew him no more.

There was another boy, a fair, meek boy, with a delicate complexion and
rich curling hair, who, we found out, or thought we found out (we have no
idea now, and probably had none then, on what grounds, but it was
confidentially revealed from mouth to mouth), was the son of a Viscount
who had deserted his lovely mother.  It was understood that if he had his
rights, he would be worth twenty thousand a year.  And that if his mother
ever met his father, she would shoot him with a silver pistol, which she
carried, always loaded to the muzzle, for that purpose.  He was a very
suggestive topic.  So was a young Mulatto, who was always believed
(though very amiable) to have a dagger about him somewhere.  But, we
think they were both outshone, upon the whole, by another boy who claimed
to have been born on the twenty-ninth of February, and to have only one
birthday in five years.  We suspect this to have been a fiction—but he
lived upon it all the time he was at Our School.

The principal currency of Our School was slate pencil.  It had some
inexplicable value, that was never ascertained, never reduced to a
standard.  To have a great hoard of it was somehow to be rich.  We used
to bestow it in charity, and confer it as a precious boon upon our chosen
friends.  When the holidays were coming, contributions were solicited for
certain boys whose relatives were in India, and who were appealed for
under the generic name of ‘Holiday-stoppers,’—appropriate marks of
remembrance that should enliven and cheer them in their homeless state.
Personally, we always contributed these tokens of sympathy in the form of
slate pencil, and always felt that it would be a comfort and a treasure
to them.

Our School was remarkable for white mice.  Red-polls, linnets, and even
canaries, were kept in desks, drawers, hat-boxes, and other strange
refuges for birds; but white mice were the favourite stock.  The boys
trained the mice, much better than the masters trained the boys.  We
recall one white mouse, who lived in the cover of a Latin dictionary, who
ran up ladders, drew Roman chariots, shouldered muskets, turned wheels,
and even made a very creditable appearance on the stage as the Dog of
Montargis.  He might have achieved greater things, but for having the
misfortune to mistake his way in a triumphal procession to the Capitol,
when he fell into a deep inkstand, and was dyed black and drowned.  The
mice were the occasion of some most ingenious engineering, in the
construction of their houses and instruments of performance.  The famous
one belonged to a company of proprietors, some of whom have since made
Railroads, Engines, and Telegraphs; the chairman has erected mills and
bridges in New Zealand.

The usher at Our School, who was considered to know everything as opposed
to the Chief, who was considered to know nothing, was a bony,
gentle-faced, clerical-looking young man in rusty black.  It was
whispered that he was sweet upon one of Maxby’s sisters (Maxby lived
close by, and was a day pupil), and further that he ‘favoured Maxby.’  As
we remember, he taught Italian to Maxby’s sisters on half-holidays.  He
once went to the play with them, and wore a white waistcoat and a rose:
which was considered among us equivalent to a declaration.  We were of
opinion on that occasion, that to the last moment he expected Maxby’s
father to ask him to dinner at five o’clock, and therefore neglected his
own dinner at half-past one, and finally got none.  We exaggerated in our
imaginations the extent to which he punished Maxby’s father’s cold meat
at supper; and we agreed to believe that he was elevated with wine and
water when he came home.  But, we all liked him; for he had a good
knowledge of boys, and would have made it a much better school if he had
had more power.  He was writing master, mathematical master, English
master, made out the bills, mended the pens, and did all sorts of things.
He divided the little boys with the Latin master (they were smuggled
through their rudimentary books, at odd times when there was nothing else
to do), and he always called at parents’ houses to inquire after sick
boys, because he had gentlemanly manners.  He was rather musical, and on
some remote quarter-day had bought an old trombone; but a bit of it was
lost, and it made the most extraordinary sounds when he sometimes tried
to play it of an evening.  His holidays never began (on account of the
bills) until long after ours; but, in the summer vacations he used to
take pedestrian excursions with a knapsack; and at Christmas time, he
went to see his father at Chipping Norton, who we all said (on no
authority) was a dairy-fed pork-butcher.  Poor fellow!  He was very low
all day on Maxby’s sister’s wedding-day, and afterwards was thought to
favour Maxby more than ever, though he had been expected to spite him.
He has been dead these twenty years.  Poor fellow!

Our remembrance of Our School, presents the Latin master as a colourless
doubled-up near-sighted man with a crutch, who was always cold, and
always putting onions into his ears for deafness, and always disclosing
ends of flannel under all his garments, and almost always applying a ball
of pocket-handkerchief to some part of his face with a screwing action
round and round.  He was a very good scholar, and took great pains where
he saw intelligence and a desire to learn: otherwise, perhaps not.  Our
memory presents him (unless teased into a passion) with as little energy
as colour—as having been worried and tormented into monotonous
feebleness—as having had the best part of his life ground out of him in a
Mill of boys.  We remember with terror how he fell asleep one sultry
afternoon with the little smuggled class before him, and awoke not when
the footstep of the Chief fell heavy on the floor; how the Chief aroused
him, in the midst of a dread silence, and said, ‘Mr. Blinkins, are you
ill, sir?’ how he blushingly replied, ‘Sir, rather so;’ how the Chief
retorted with severity, ‘Mr. Blinkins, this is no place to be ill in’
(which was very, very true), and walked back solemn as the ghost in
Hamlet, until, catching a wandering eye, he called that boy for
inattention, and happily expressed his feelings towards the Latin master
through the medium of a substitute.

There was a fat little dancing-master who used to come in a gig, and
taught the more advanced among us hornpipes (as an accomplishment in
great social demand in after life); and there was a brisk little French
master who used to come in the sunniest weather, with a handleless
umbrella, and to whom the Chief was always polite, because (as we
believed), if the Chief offended him, he would instantly address the
Chief in French, and for ever confound him before the boys with his
inability to understand or reply.

There was besides, a serving man, whose name was Phil.  Our retrospective
glance presents Phil as a shipwrecked carpenter, cast away upon the
desert island of a school, and carrying into practice an ingenious
inkling of many trades.  He mended whatever was broken, and made whatever
was wanted.  He was general glazier, among other things, and mended all
the broken windows—at the prime cost (as was darkly rumoured among us) of
ninepence, for every square charged three-and-six to parents.  We had a
high opinion of his mechanical genius, and generally held that the Chief
‘knew something bad of him,’ and on pain of divulgence enforced Phil to
be his bondsman.  We particularly remember that Phil had a sovereign
contempt for learning: which engenders in us a respect for his sagacity,
as it implies his accurate observation of the relative positions of the
Chief and the ushers.  He was an impenetrable man, who waited at table
between whiles, and throughout ‘the half’ kept the boxes in severe
custody.  He was morose, even to the Chief, and never smiled, except at
breaking-up, when, in acknowledgment of the toast, ‘Success to Phil!
Hooray!’ he would slowly carve a grin out of his wooden face, where it
would remain until we were all gone.  Nevertheless, one time when we had
the scarlet fever in the school, Phil nursed all the sick boys of his own
accord, and was like a mother to them.

There was another school not far off, and of course Our School could have
nothing to say to that school.  It is mostly the way with schools,
whether of boys or men.  Well! the railway has swallowed up ours, and the
locomotives now run smoothly over its ashes.

    So fades and languishes, grows dim and dies,
    All that this world is proud of,

- and is not proud of, too.  It had little reason to be proud of Our
School, and has done much better since in that way, and will do far
better yet.



OUR VESTRY


WE have the glorious privilege of being always in hot water if we like.
We are a shareholder in a Great Parochial British Joint Stock Bank of
Balderdash.  We have a Vestry in our borough, and can vote for a
vestryman—might even _be_ a vestryman, mayhap, if we were inspired by a
lofty and noble ambition.  Which we are not.

Our Vestry is a deliberative assembly of the utmost dignity and
importance.  Like the Senate of ancient Rome, its awful gravity
overpowers (or ought to overpower) barbarian visitors.  It sits in the
Capitol (we mean in the capital building erected for it), chiefly on
Saturdays, and shakes the earth to its centre with the echoes of its
thundering eloquence, in a Sunday paper.

To get into this Vestry in the eminent capacity of Vestryman, gigantic
efforts are made, and Herculean exertions used.  It is made manifest to
the dullest capacity at every election, that if we reject Snozzle we are
done for, and that if we fail to bring in Blunderbooze at the top of the
poll, we are unworthy of the dearest rights of Britons.  Flaming placards
are rife on all the dead walls in the borough, public-houses hang out
banners, hackney-cabs burst into full-grown flowers of type, and
everybody is, or should be, in a paroxysm of anxiety.

At these momentous crises of the national fate, we are much assisted in
our deliberations by two eminent volunteers; one of whom subscribes
himself A Fellow Parishioner, the other, A Rate-Payer.  Who they are, or
what they are, or where they are, nobody knows; but, whatever one
asserts, the other contradicts.  They are both voluminous writers,
indicting more epistles than Lord Chesterfield in a single week; and the
greater part of their feelings are too big for utterance in anything less
than capital letters.  They require the additional aid of whole rows of
notes of admiration, like balloons, to point their generous indignation;
and they sometimes communicate a crushing severity to stars.  As thus:

                             MEN OF MOONEYMOUNT.

    Is it, or is it not, a * * * to saddle the parish with a debt of
    £2,745 6_s._ 9_d._, yet claim to be a RIGID ECONOMIST?

    Is it, or is it not, a * * * to state as a fact what is proved to be
    _both a moral and a_ PHYSICAL IMPOSSIBILITY?

    Is it, or is it not, a * * * to call £2,745 6_s._ 9_d._ nothing; and
    nothing, something?

    Do you, or do you _not_ want a * * * TO REPRESENT YOU IN THE VESTRY?

    Your consideration of these questions is recommended to you by

                                                     A FELLOW PARISHIONER.

It was to this important public document that one of our first orators,
MR. MAGG (of Little Winkling Street), adverted, when he opened the great
debate of the fourteenth of November by saying, ‘Sir, I hold in my hand
an anonymous slander’—and when the interruption, with which he was at
that point assailed by the opposite faction, gave rise to that memorable
discussion on a point of order which will ever be remembered with
interest by constitutional assemblies.  In the animated debate to which
we refer, no fewer than thirty-seven gentlemen, many of them of great
eminence, including MR. WIGSBY (of Chumbledon Square), were seen upon
their legs at one time; and it was on the same great occasion that
DOGGINSON—regarded in our Vestry as ‘a regular John Bull:’ we believe, in
consequence of his having always made up his mind on every subject
without knowing anything about it—informed another gentleman of similar
principles on the opposite side, that if he ‘cheek’d him,’ he would
resort to the extreme measure of knocking his blessed head off.

This was a great occasion.  But, our Vestry shines habitually.  In
asserting its own pre-eminence, for instance, it is very strong.  On the
least provocation, or on none, it will be clamorous to know whether it is
to be ‘dictated to,’ or ‘trampled on,’ or ‘ridden over rough-shod.’  Its
great watchword is Self-government.  That is to say, supposing our Vestry
to favour any little harmless disorder like Typhus Fever, and supposing
the Government of the country to be, by any accident, in such ridiculous
hands, as that any of its authorities should consider it a duty to object
to Typhus Fever—obviously an unconstitutional objection—then, our Vestry
cuts in with a terrible manifesto about Self-government, and claims its
independent right to have as much Typhus Fever as pleases itself.  Some
absurd and dangerous persons have represented, on the other hand, that
though our Vestry may be able to ‘beat the bounds’ of its own parish, it
may not be able to beat the bounds of its own diseases; which (say they)
spread over the whole land, in an ever expanding circle of waste, and
misery, and death, and widowhood, and orphanage, and desolation.  But,
our Vestry makes short work of any such fellows as these.

It was our Vestry—pink of Vestries as it is—that in support of its
favourite principle took the celebrated ground of denying the existence
of the last pestilence that raged in England, when the pestilence was
raging at the Vestry doors.  Dogginson said it was plums; Mr. Wigsby (of
Chumbledon Square) said it was oysters; Mr. Magg (of Little Winkling
Street) said, amid great cheering, it was the newspapers.  The noble
indignation of our Vestry with that un-English institution the Board of
Health, under those circumstances, yields one of the finest passages in
its history.  It wouldn’t hear of rescue.  Like Mr. Joseph Miller’s
Frenchman, it would be drowned and nobody should save it.  Transported
beyond grammar by its kindled ire, it spoke in unknown tongues, and
vented unintelligible bellowings, more like an ancient oracle than the
modern oracle it is admitted on all hands to be.  Rare exigencies produce
rare things; and even our Vestry, new hatched to the woful time, came
forth a greater goose than ever.

But this, again, was a special occasion.  Our Vestry, at more ordinary
periods, demands its meed of praise.

Our Vestry is eminently parliamentary.  Playing at Parliament is its
favourite game.  It is even regarded by some of its members as a chapel
of ease to the House of Commons: a Little Go to be passed first.  It has
its strangers’ gallery, and its reported debates (see the Sunday paper
before mentioned), and our Vestrymen are in and out of order, and on and
off their legs, and above all are transcendently quarrelsome, after the
pattern of the real original.

Our Vestry being assembled, Mr. Magg never begs to trouble Mr. Wigsby
with a simple inquiry.  He knows better than that.  Seeing the honourable
gentleman, associated in their minds with Chumbledon Square, in his
place, he wishes to ask that honourable gentleman what the intentions of
himself, and those with whom he acts, may be, on the subject of the
paving of the district known as Piggleum Buildings?  Mr. Wigsby replies
(with his eye on next Sunday’s paper) that in reference to the question
which has been put to him by the honourable gentleman opposite, he must
take leave to say, that if that honourable gentleman had had the courtesy
to give him notice of that question, he (Mr. Wigsby) would have consulted
with his colleagues in reference to the advisability, in the present
state of the discussions on the new paving-rate, of answering that
question.  But, as the honourable gentleman has NOT had the courtesy to
give him notice of that question (great cheering from the Wigsby
interest), he must decline to give the honourable gentleman the
satisfaction he requires.  Mr. Magg, instantly rising to retort, is
received with loud cries of ‘Spoke!’ from the Wigsby interest, and with
cheers from the Magg side of the house.  Moreover, five gentlemen rise to
order, and one of them, in revenge for being taken no notice of,
petrifies the assembly by moving that this Vestry do now adjourn; but, is
persuaded to withdraw that awful proposal, in consideration of its
tremendous consequences if persevered in.  Mr. Magg, for the purpose of
being heard, then begs to move, that you, sir, do now pass to the order
of the day; and takes that opportunity of saying, that if an honourable
gentleman whom he has in his eye, and will not demean himself by more
particularly naming (oh, oh, and cheers), supposes that he is to be put
down by clamour, that honourable gentleman—however supported he may be,
through thick and thin, by a Fellow Parishioner, with whom he is well
acquainted (cheers and counter-cheers, Mr. Magg being invariably backed
by the Rate-Payer)—will find himself mistaken.  Upon this, twenty members
of our Vestry speak in succession concerning what the two great men have
meant, until it appears, after an hour and twenty minutes, that neither
of them meant anything.  Then our Vestry begins business.

We have said that, after the pattern of the real original, our Vestry in
playing at Parliament is transcendently quarrelsome.  It enjoys a
personal altercation above all things.  Perhaps the most redoubtable case
of this kind we have ever had—though we have had so many that it is
difficult to decide—was that on which the last extreme solemnities passed
between Mr. Tiddypot (of Gumption House) and Captain Banger (of
Wilderness Walk).

In an adjourned debate on the question whether water could be regarded in
the light of a necessary of life; respecting which there were great
differences of opinion, and many shades of sentiment; Mr. Tiddypot, in a
powerful burst of eloquence against that hypothesis, frequently made use
of the expression that such and such a rumour had ‘reached his ears.’
Captain Banger, following him, and holding that, for purposes of ablution
and refreshment, a pint of water per diem was necessary for every adult
of the lower classes, and half a pint for every child, cast ridicule upon
his address in a sparkling speech, and concluded by saying that instead
of those rumours having reached the ears of the honourable gentleman, he
rather thought the honourable gentleman’s ears must have reached the
rumours, in consequence of their well-known length.  Mr. Tiddypot
immediately rose, looked the honourable and gallant gentleman full in the
face, and left the Vestry.

The excitement, at this moment painfully intense, was heightened to an
acute degree when Captain Banger rose, and also left the Vestry.  After a
few moments of profound silence—one of those breathless pauses never to
be forgotten—Mr. Chib (of Tucket’s Terrace, and the father of the Vestry)
rose.  He said that words and looks had passed in that assembly, replete
with consequences which every feeling mind must deplore.  Time pressed.
The sword was drawn, and while he spoke the scabbard might be thrown
away.  He moved that those honourable gentlemen who had left the Vestry
be recalled, and required to pledge themselves upon their honour that
this affair should go no farther.  The motion being by a general union of
parties unanimously agreed to (for everybody wanted to have the
belligerents there, instead of out of sight: which was no fun at all),
Mr. Magg was deputed to recover Captain Banger, and Mr. Chib himself to
go in search of Mr. Tiddypot.  The Captain was found in a conspicuous
position, surveying the passing omnibuses from the top step of the
front-door immediately adjoining the beadle’s box; Mr. Tiddypot made a
desperate attempt at resistance, but was overpowered by Mr. Chib (a
remarkably hale old gentleman of eighty-two), and brought back in safety.

Mr. Tiddypot and the Captain being restored to their places, and glaring
on each other, were called upon by the chair to abandon all homicidal
intentions, and give the Vestry an assurance that they did so.  Mr.
Tiddypot remained profoundly silent.  The Captain likewise remained
profoundly silent, saying that he was observed by those around him to
fold his arms like Napoleon Buonaparte, and to snort in his
breathing—actions but too expressive of gunpowder.

The most intense emotion now prevailed.  Several members clustered in
remonstrance round the Captain, and several round Mr. Tiddypot; but, both
were obdurate.  Mr. Chib then presented himself amid tremendous cheering,
and said, that not to shrink from the discharge of his painful duty, he
must now move that both honourable gentlemen be taken into custody by the
beadle, and conveyed to the nearest police-office, there to be held to
bail.  The union of parties still continuing, the motion was seconded by
Mr. Wigsby—on all usual occasions Mr. Chib’s opponent—and rapturously
carried with only one dissentient voice.  This was Dogginson’s, who said
from his place ‘Let ’em fight it out with fistes;’ but whose coarse
remark was received as it merited.

The beadle now advanced along the floor of the Vestry, and beckoned with
his cocked hat to both members.  Every breath was suspended.  To say that
a pin might have been heard to fall, would be feebly to express the
all-absorbing interest and silence.  Suddenly, enthusiastic cheering
broke out from every side of the Vestry.  Captain Banger had risen—being,
in fact, pulled up by a friend on either side, and poked up by a friend
behind.

The Captain said, in a deep determined voice, that he had every respect
for that Vestry and every respect for that chair; that he also respected
the honourable gentleman of Gumpton House; but, that he respected his
honour more.  Hereupon the Captain sat down, leaving the whole Vestry
much affected.  Mr. Tiddypot instantly rose, and was received with the
same encouragement.  He likewise said—and the exquisite art of this
orator communicated to the observation an air of freshness and
novelty—that he too had every respect for that Vestry; that he too had
every respect for that chair.  That he too respected the honourable and
gallant gentleman of Wilderness Walk; but, that he too respected his
honour more. ‘Hows’ever,’ added the distinguished Vestryman, ‘if the
honourable and gallant gentleman’s honour is never more doubted and
damaged than it is by me, he’s all right.’  Captain Banger immediately
started up again, and said that after those observations, involving as
they did ample concession to his honour without compromising the honour
of the honourable gentleman, he would be wanting in honour as well as in
generosity, if he did not at once repudiate all intention of wounding the
honour of the honourable gentleman, or saying anything dishonourable to
his honourable feelings.  These observations were repeatedly interrupted
by bursts of cheers.  Mr. Tiddypot retorted that he well knew the spirit
of honour by which the honourable and gallant gentleman was so honourably
animated, and that he accepted an honourable explanation, offered in a
way that did him honour; but, he trusted that the Vestry would consider
that his (Mr. Tiddypot’s) honour had imperatively demanded of him that
painful course which he had felt it due to his honour to adopt.  The
Captain and Mr. Tiddypot then touched their hats to one another across
the Vestry, a great many times, and it is thought that these proceedings
(reported to the extent of several columns in next Sunday’s paper) will
bring them in as church-wardens next year.

All this was strictly after the pattern of the real original, and so are
the whole of our Vestry’s proceedings.  In all their debates, they are
laudably imitative of the windy and wordy slang of the real original, and
of nothing that is better in it.  They have head-strong party
animosities, without any reference to the merits of questions; they tack
a surprising amount of debate to a very little business; they set more
store by forms than they do by substances:—all very like the real
original!  It has been doubted in our borough, whether our Vestry is of
any utility; but our own conclusion is, that it is of the use to the
Borough that a diminishing mirror is to a painter, as enabling it to
perceive in a small focus of absurdity all the surface defects of the
real original.



OUR BORE


IT is unnecessary to say that we keep a bore.  Everybody does.  But, the
bore whom we have the pleasure and honour of enumerating among our
particular friends, is such a generic bore, and has so many traits (as it
appears to us) in common with the great bore family, that we are tempted
to make him the subject of the present notes.  May he be generally
accepted!

Our bore is admitted on all hands to be a good-hearted man.  He may put
fifty people out of temper, but he keeps his own.  He preserves a sickly
solid smile upon his face, when other faces are ruffled by the perfection
he has attained in his art, and has an equable voice which never travels
out of one key or rises above one pitch.  His manner is a manner of
tranquil interest.  None of his opinions are startling.  Among his
deepest-rooted convictions, it may be mentioned that he considers the air
of England damp, and holds that our lively neighbours—he always calls the
French our lively neighbours—have the advantage of us in that particular.
Nevertheless he is unable to forget that John Bull is John Bull all the
world over, and that England with all her faults is England still.

Our bore has travelled.  He could not possibly be a complete bore without
having travelled.  He rarely speaks of his travels without introducing,
sometimes on his own plan of construction, morsels of the language of the
country—which he always translates.  You cannot name to him any little
remote town in France, Italy, Germany, or Switzerland but he knows it
well; stayed there a fortnight under peculiar circumstances.  And talking
of that little place, perhaps you know a statue over an old fountain, up
a little court, which is the second—no, the third—stay—yes, the third
turning on the right, after you come out of the Post-house, going up the
hill towards the market?  You _don’t_ know that statue?  Nor that
fountain?  You surprise him!  They are not usually seen by travellers
(most extraordinary, he has never yet met with a single traveller who
knew them, except one German, the most intelligent man he ever met in his
life!) but he thought that YOU would have been the man to find them out.
And then he describes them, in a circumstantial lecture half an hour
long, generally delivered behind a door which is constantly being opened
from the other side; and implores you, if you ever revisit that place,
now do go and look at that statue and fountain!

Our bore, in a similar manner, being in Italy, made a discovery of a
dreadful picture, which has been the terror of a large portion of the
civilized world ever since.  We have seen the liveliest men paralysed by
it, across a broad dining-table.  He was lounging among the mountains,
sir, basking in the mellow influences of the climate, when he came to
_una piccola chiesa_—a little church—or perhaps it would be more correct
to say _una piccolissima cappella_—the smallest chapel you can possibly
imagine—and walked in.  There was nobody inside but a _cieco_—a blind
man—saying his prayers, and a _vecchio padre_—old friar-rattling a
money-box.  But, above the head of that friar, and immediately to the
right of the altar as you enter—to the right of the altar?  No.  To the
left of the altar as you enter—or say near the centre—there hung a
painting (subject, Virgin and Child) so divine in its expression, so pure
and yet so warm and rich in its tone, so fresh in its touch, at once so
glowing in its colour and so statuesque in its repose, that our bore
cried out in ecstasy, ‘That’s the finest picture in Italy!’  And so it
is, sir.  There is no doubt of it.  It is astonishing that that picture
is so little known.  Even the painter is uncertain.  He afterwards took
Blumb, of the Royal Academy (it is to be observed that our bore takes
none but eminent people to see sights, and that none but eminent people
take our bore), and you never saw a man so affected in your life as Blumb
was.  He cried like a child!  And then our bore begins his description in
detail—for all this is introductory—and strangles his hearers with the
folds of the purple drapery.

By an equally fortunate conjunction of accidental circumstances, it
happened that when our bore was in Switzerland, he discovered a Valley,
of that superb character, that Chamouni is not to be mentioned in the
same breath with it.  This is how it was, sir.  He was travelling on a
mule—had been in the saddle some days—when, as he and the guide, Pierre
Blanquo: whom you may know, perhaps?—our bore is sorry you don’t, because
he’s the only guide deserving of the name—as he and Pierre were
descending, towards evening, among those everlasting snows, to the little
village of La Croix, our bore observed a mountain track turning off
sharply to the right.  At first he was uncertain whether it _was_ a track
at all, and in fact, he said to Pierre, ‘_Qu’est que c’est donc_, _mon
ami_?—What is that, my friend?  ‘_Où_, _monsieur_?’ said Pierre—‘Where,
sir?’  ‘_Là_!—there!’ said our bore.  ‘_Monsieur_, _ce n’est rien de
tout_—sir, it’s nothing at all,’ said Pierre.  ‘_Allons_!—Make haste.
_Il va neiget_—it’s going to snow!’  But, our bore was not to be done in
that way, and he firmly replied, ‘I wish to go in that direction—_je veux
y aller_.  I am bent upon it—_je suis déterminé_.  _En avant_!—go ahead!’
In consequence of which firmness on our bore’s part, they proceeded, sir,
during two hours of evening, and three of moonlight (they waited in a
cavern till the moon was up), along the slenderest track, overhanging
perpendicularly the most awful gulfs, until they arrived, by a winding
descent, in a valley that possibly, and he may say probably, was never
visited by any stranger before.  What a valley!  Mountains piled on
mountains, avalanches stemmed by pine forests; waterfalls, chalets,
mountain-torrents, wooden bridges, every conceivable picture of Swiss
scenery!  The whole village turned out to receive our bore.  The peasant
girls kissed him, the men shook hands with him, one old lady of
benevolent appearance wept upon his breast.  He was conducted, in a
primitive triumph, to the little inn: where he was taken ill next
morning, and lay for six weeks, attended by the amiable hostess (the same
benevolent old lady who had wept over night) and her charming daughter,
Fanchette.  It is nothing to say that they were attentive to him; they
doted on him.  They called him in their simple way, _l’Ange Anglais_—the
English Angel.  When our bore left the valley, there was not a dry eye in
the place; some of the people attended him for miles.  He begs and
entreats of you as a personal favour, that if you ever go to Switzerland
again (you have mentioned that your last visit was your twenty-third),
you will go to that valley, and see Swiss scenery for the first time.
And if you want really to know the pastoral people of Switzerland, and to
understand them, mention, in that valley, our bore’s name!

Our bore has a crushing brother in the East, who, somehow or other, was
admitted to smoke pipes with Mehemet Ali, and instantly became an
authority on the whole range of Eastern matters, from Haroun Alraschid to
the present Sultan.  He is in the habit of expressing mysterious opinions
on this wide range of subjects, but on questions of foreign policy more
particularly, to our bore, in letters; and our bore is continually
sending bits of these letters to the newspapers (which they never
insert), and carrying other bits about in his pocket-book.  It is even
whispered that he has been seen at the Foreign Office, receiving great
consideration from the messengers, and having his card promptly borne
into the sanctuary of the temple.  The havoc committed in society by this
Eastern brother is beyond belief.  Our bore is always ready with him.  We
have known our bore to fall upon an intelligent young sojourner in the
wilderness, in the first sentence of a narrative, and beat all confidence
out of him with one blow of his brother.  He became omniscient, as to
foreign policy, in the smoking of those pipes with Mehemet Ali.  The
balance of power in Europe, the machinations of the Jesuits, the gentle
and humanising influence of Austria, the position and prospects of that
hero of the noble soul who is worshipped by happy France, are all easy
reading to our bore’s brother.  And our bore is so provokingly
self-denying about him!  ‘I don’t pretend to more than a very general
knowledge of these subjects myself,’ says he, after enervating the
intellects of several strong men, ‘but these are my brother’s opinions,
and I believe he is known to be well-informed.’

The commonest incidents and places would appear to have been made
special, expressly for our bore.  Ask him whether he ever chanced to
walk, between seven and eight in the morning, down St. James’s Street,
London, and he will tell you, never in his life but once.  But, it’s
curious that that once was in eighteen thirty; and that as our bore was
walking down the street you have just mentioned, at the hour you have
just mentioned—half-past seven—or twenty minutes to eight.  No!  Let him
be correct!—exactly a quarter before eight by the palace clock—he met a
fresh-coloured, grey-haired, good-humoured looking gentleman, with a
brown umbrella, who, as he passed him, touched his hat and said, ‘Fine
morning, sir, fine morning!’—William the Fourth!

Ask our bore whether he has seen Mr. Barry’s new Houses of Parliament,
and he will reply that he has not yet inspected them minutely, but, that
you remind him that it was his singular fortune to be the last man to see
the old Houses of Parliament before the fire broke out.  It happened in
this way.  Poor John Spine, the celebrated novelist, had taken him over
to South Lambeth to read to him the last few chapters of what was
certainly his best book—as our bore told him at the time, adding, ‘Now,
my dear John, touch it, and you’ll spoil it!’—and our bore was going back
to the club by way of Millbank and Parliament Street, when he stopped to
think of Canning, and look at the Houses of Parliament.  Now, you know
far more of the philosophy of Mind than our bore does, and are much
better able to explain to him than he is to explain to you why or
wherefore, at that particular time, the thought of fire should come into
his head.  But, it did.  It did.  He thought, What a national calamity if
an edifice connected with so many associations should be consumed by
fire!  At that time there was not a single soul in the street but
himself.  All was quiet, dark, and solitary.  After contemplating the
building for a minute—or, say a minute and a half, not more—our bore
proceeded on his way, mechanically repeating, What a national calamity if
such an edifice, connected with such associations, should be destroyed
by—A man coming towards him in a violent state of agitation completed the
sentence, with the exclamation, Fire!  Our bore looked round, and the
whole structure was in a blaze.

In harmony and union with these experiences, our bore never went anywhere
in a steamboat but he made either the best or the worst voyage ever known
on that station.  Either he overheard the captain say to himself, with
his hands clasped, ‘We are all lost!’ or the captain openly declared to
him that he had never made such a run before, and never should be able to
do it again.  Our bore was in that express train on that railway, when
they made (unknown to the passengers) the experiment of going at the rate
of a hundred to miles an hour.  Our bore remarked on that occasion to the
other people in the carriage, ‘This is too fast, but sit still!’  He was
at the Norwich musical festival when the extraordinary echo for which
science has been wholly unable to account, was heard for the first and
last time.  He and the bishop heard it at the same moment, and caught
each other’s eye.  He was present at that illumination of St. Peter’s, of
which the Pope is known to have remarked, as he looked at it out of his
window in the Vatican, ‘_O Cielo_!  _Questa cosa non sara fatta_, _mai
ancora_, _come questa_—O Heaven! this thing will never be done again,
like this!’  He has seen every lion he ever saw, under some remarkably
propitious circumstances.  He knows there is no fancy in it, because in
every case the showman mentioned the fact at the time, and congratulated
him upon it.

At one period of his life, our bore had an illness.  It was an illness of
a dangerous character for society at large.  Innocently remark that you
are very well, or that somebody else is very well; and our bore, with a
preface that one never knows what a blessing health is until one has lost
it, is reminded of that illness, and drags you through the whole of its
symptoms, progress, and treatment.  Innocently remark that you are not
well, or that somebody else is not well, and the same inevitable result
ensues.  You will learn how our bore felt a tightness about here, sir,
for which he couldn’t account, accompanied with a constant sensation as
if he were being stabbed—or, rather, jobbed—that expresses it more
correctly—jobbed—with a blunt knife.  Well, sir!  This went on, until
sparks began to flit before his eyes, water-wheels to turn round in his
head, and hammers to beat incessantly, thump, thump, thump, all down his
back—along the whole of the spinal vertebræ.  Our bore, when his
sensations had come to this, thought it a duty he owed to himself to take
advice, and he said, Now, whom shall I consult?  He naturally thought of
Callow, at that time one of the most eminent physicians in London, and he
went to Callow.  Callow said, ‘Liver!’ and prescribed rhubarb and
calomel, low diet, and moderate exercise.  Our bore went on with this
treatment, getting worse every day, until he lost confidence in Callow,
and went to Moon, whom half the town was then mad about.  Moon was
interested in the case; to do him justice he was very much interested in
the case; and he said, ‘Kidneys!’  He altered the whole treatment,
sir—gave strong acids, cupped, and blistered.  This went on, our bore
still getting worse every day, until he openly told Moon it would be a
satisfaction to him if he would have a consultation with Clatter.  The
moment Clatter saw our bore, he said, ‘Accumulation of fat about the
heart!’  Snugglewood, who was called in with him, differed, and said,
‘Brain!’  But, what they all agreed upon was, to lay our bore upon his
back, to shave his head, to leech him, to administer enormous quantities
of medicine, and to keep him low; so that he was reduced to a mere
shadow, you wouldn’t have known him, and nobody considered it possible
that he could ever recover.  This was his condition, sir, when he heard
of Jilkins—at that period in a very small practice, and living in the
upper part of a house in Great Portland Street; but still, you
understand, with a rising reputation among the few people to whom he was
known.  Being in that condition in which a drowning man catches at a
straw, our bore sent for Jilkins.  Jilkins came.  Our bore liked his eye,
and said, ‘Mr. Jilkins, I have a presentiment that you will do me good.’
Jilkins’s reply was characteristic of the man.  It was, ‘Sir, I mean to
do you good.’  This confirmed our bore’s opinion of his eye, and they
went into the case together—went completely into it.  Jilkins then got
up, walked across the room, came back, and sat down.  His words were
these.  ‘You have been humbugged.  This is a case of indigestion,
occasioned by deficiency of power in the Stomach.  Take a mutton chop in
half-an-hour, with a glass of the finest old sherry that can be got for
money.  Take two mutton chops to-morrow, and two glasses of the finest
old sherry.  Next day, I’ll come again.’  In a week our bore was on his
legs, and Jilkins’s success dates from that period!

Our bore is great in secret information.  He happens to know many things
that nobody else knows.  He can generally tell you where the split is in
the Ministry; he knows a great deal about the Queen; and has little
anecdotes to relate of the royal nursery.  He gives you the judge’s
private opinion of Sludge the murderer, and his thoughts when he tried
him.  He happens to know what such a man got by such a transaction, and
it was fifteen thousand five hundred pounds, and his income is twelve
thousand a year.  Our bore is also great in mystery.  He believes, with
an exasperating appearance of profound meaning, that you saw Parkins last
Sunday?—Yes, you did.—Did he say anything particular?—No, nothing
particular.—Our bore is surprised at that.—Why?—Nothing.  Only he
understood that Parkins had come to tell you something.—What about?—Well!
our bore is not at liberty to mention what about.  But, he believes you
will hear that from Parkins himself, soon, and he hopes it may not
surprise you as it did him.  Perhaps, however, you never heard about
Parkins’s wife’s sister?—No.—Ah! says our bore, that explains it!

Our bore is also great in argument.  He infinitely enjoys a long humdrum,
drowsy interchange of words of dispute about nothing.  He considers that
it strengthens the mind, consequently, he ‘don’t see that,’ very often.
Or, he would be glad to know what you mean by that.  Or, he doubts that.
Or, he has always understood exactly the reverse of that.  Or, he can’t
admit that.  Or, he begs to deny that.  Or, surely you don’t mean that.
And so on.  He once advised us; offered us a piece of advice, after the
fact, totally impracticable and wholly impossible of acceptance, because
it supposed the fact, then eternally disposed of, to be yet in abeyance.
It was a dozen years ago, and to this hour our bore benevolently wishes,
in a mild voice, on certain regular occasions, that we had thought better
of his opinion.

The instinct with which our bore finds out another bore, and closes with
him, is amazing.  We have seen him pick his man out of fifty men, in a
couple of minutes.  They love to go (which they do naturally) into a slow
argument on a previously exhausted subject, and to contradict each other,
and to wear the hearers out, without impairing their own perennial
freshness as bores.  It improves the good understanding between them, and
they get together afterwards, and bore each other amicably.  Whenever we
see our bore behind a door with another bore, we know that when he comes
forth, he will praise the other bore as one of the most intelligent men
he ever met.  And this bringing us to the close of what we had to say
about our bore, we are anxious to have it understood that he never
bestowed this praise on us.



A MONUMENT OF FRENCH FOLLY


IT was profoundly observed by a witty member of the Court of Common
Council, in Council assembled in the City of London, in the year of our
Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty, that the French are a
frog-eating people, who wear wooden shoes.

We are credibly informed, in reference to the nation whom this choice
spirit so happily disposed of, that the caricatures and stage
representations which were current in England some half a century ago,
exactly depict their present condition.  For example, we understand that
every Frenchman, without exception, wears a pigtail and curl-papers.
That he is extremely sallow, thin, long-faced, and lantern-jawed.  That
the calves of his legs are invariably undeveloped; that his legs fail at
the knees, and that his shoulders are always higher than his ears.  We
are likewise assured that he rarely tastes any food but soup maigre, and
an onion; that he always says, ‘By Gar! Aha! Vat you tell me, sare?’ at
the end of every sentence he utters; and that the true generic name of
his race is the Mounseers, or the Parly-voos.  If he be not a
dancing-master, or a barber, he must be a cook; since no other trades but
those three are congenial to the tastes of the people, or permitted by
the Institutions of the country.  He is a slave, of course.  The ladies
of France (who are also slaves) invariably have their heads tied up in
Belcher handkerchiefs, wear long earrings, carry tambourines, and beguile
the weariness of their yoke by singing in head voices through their
noses—principally to barrel-organs.

It may be generally summed up, of this inferior people, that they have no
idea of anything.

Of a great Institution like Smithfield, they are unable to form the least
conception.  A Beast Market in the heart of Paris would be regarded an
impossible nuisance.  Nor have they any notion of slaughter-houses in the
midst of a city.  One of these benighted frog-eaters would scarcely
understand your meaning, if you told him of the existence of such a
British bulwark.

It is agreeable, and perhaps pardonable, to indulge in a little
self-complacency when our right to it is thoroughly established.  At the
present time, to be rendered memorable by a final attack on that good old
market which is the (rotten) apple of the Corporation’s eye, let us
compare ourselves, to our national delight and pride as to these two
subjects of slaughter-house and beast-market, with the outlandish
foreigner.

The blessings of Smithfield are too well understood to need
recapitulation; all who run (away from mad bulls and pursuing oxen) may
read.  Any market-day they may be beheld in glorious action.  Possibly
the merits of our slaughter-houses are not yet quite so generally
appreciated.

Slaughter-houses, in the large towns of England, are always (with the
exception of one or two enterprising towns) most numerous in the most
densely crowded places, where there is the least circulation of air.
They are often underground, in cellars; they are sometimes in close back
yards; sometimes (as in Spitalfields) in the very shops where the meat is
sold.  Occasionally, under good private management, they are ventilated
and clean.  For the most part, they are unventilated and dirty; and, to
the reeking walls, putrid fat and other offensive animal matter clings
with a tenacious hold.  The busiest slaughter-houses in London are in the
neighbourhood of Smithfield, in Newgate Market, in Whitechapel, in
Newport Market, in Leadenhall Market, in Clare Market.  All these places
are surrounded by houses of a poor description, swarming with
inhabitants.  Some of them are close to the worst burial-grounds in
London.  When the slaughter-house is below the ground, it is a common
practice to throw the sheep down areas, neck and crop—which is exciting,
but not at all cruel.  When it is on the level surface, it is often
extremely difficult of approach.  Then, the beasts have to be worried,
and goaded, and pronged, and tail-twisted, for a long time before they
can be got in—which is entirely owing to their natural obstinacy.  When
it is not difficult of approach, but is in a foul condition, what they
see and scent makes them still more reluctant to enter—which is their
natural obstinacy again.  When they do get in at last, after no trouble
and suffering to speak of (for, there is nothing in the previous journey
into the heart of London, the night’s endurance in Smithfield, the
struggle out again, among the crowded multitude, the coaches, carts,
waggons, omnibuses, gigs, chaises, phaetons, cabs, trucks, dogs, boys,
whoopings, roarings, and ten thousand other distractions), they are
represented to be in a most unfit state to be killed, according to
microscopic examinations made of their fevered blood by one of the most
distinguished physiologists in the world, PROFESSOR OWEN—but that’s
humbug.  When they _are_ killed, at last, their reeking carcases are hung
in impure air, to become, as the same Professor will explain to you, less
nutritious and more unwholesome—but he is only an _un_common counsellor,
so don’t mind _him_.  In half a quarter of a mile’s length of
Whitechapel, at one time, there shall be six hundred newly slaughtered
oxen hanging up, and seven hundred sheep—but, the more the merrier—proof
of prosperity.  Hard by Snow Hill and Warwick Lane, you shall see the
little children, inured to sights of brutality from their birth, trotting
along the alleys, mingled with troops of horribly busy pigs, up to their
ankles in blood—but it makes the young rascals hardy.  Into the imperfect
sewers of this overgrown city, you shall have the immense mass of
corruption, engendered by these practices, lazily thrown out of sight, to
rise, in poisonous gases, into your house at night, when your sleeping
children will most readily absorb them, and to find its languid way, at
last, into the river that you drink—but, the French are a frog-eating
people who wear wooden shoes, and it’s O the roast beef of England, my
boy, the jolly old English roast beef.

It is quite a mistake—a newfangled notion altogether—to suppose that
there is any natural antagonism between putrefaction and health.  They
know better than that, in the Common Council.  You may talk about Nature,
in her wisdom, always warning man through his sense of smell, when he
draws near to something dangerous; but, that won’t go down in the City.
Nature very often don’t mean anything.  Mrs. Quickly says that prunes are
ill for a green wound; but whosoever says that putrid animal substances
are ill for a green wound, or for robust vigour, or for anything or for
anybody, is a humanity-monger and a humbug.  Britons never, never, never,
&c., therefore.  And prosperity to cattle-driving, cattle-slaughtering,
bone-crushing, blood-boiling, trotter-scraping, tripe-dressing,
paunch-cleaning, gut-spinning, hide-preparing, tallow-melting, and other
salubrious proceedings, in the midst of hospitals, churchyards,
workhouses, schools, infirmaries, refuges, dwellings, provision-shops
nurseries, sick-beds, every stage and baiting-place in the journey from
birth to death!

These _un_common counsellors, your Professor Owens and fellows, will
contend that to tolerate these things in a civilised city, is to reduce
it to a worse condition than BRUCE found to prevail in ABYSSINIA.  For
there (say they) the jackals and wild dogs came at night to devour the
offal; whereas, here there are no such natural scavengers, and quite as
savage customs.  Further, they will demonstrate that nothing in Nature is
intended to be wasted, and that besides the waste which such abuses
occasion in the articles of health and life—main sources of the riches of
any community—they lead to a prodigious waste of changing matters, which
might, with proper preparation, and under scientific direction, be safely
applied to the increase of the fertility of the land.  Thus (they argue)
does Nature ever avenge infractions of her beneficent laws, and so surely
as Man is determined to warp any of her blessings into curses, shall they
become curses, and shall he suffer heavily.  But, this is cant.  Just as
it is cant of the worst description to say to the London Corporation,
‘How can you exhibit to the people so plain a spectacle of dishonest
equivocation, as to claim the right of holding a market in the midst of
the great city, for one of your vested privileges, when you know that
when your last market holding charter was granted to you by King Charles
the First, Smithfield stood IN THE SUBURBS OF LONDON, and is in that very
charter so described in those five words?’—which is certainly true, but
has nothing to do with the question.

Now to the comparison, in these particulars of civilisation, between the
capital of England, and the capital of that frog-eating and wooden-shoe
wearing country, which the illustrious Common Councilman so sarcastically
settled.

In Paris, there is no Cattle Market.  Cows and calves are sold within the
city, but, the Cattle Markets are at Poissy, about thirteen miles off, on
a line of railway; and at Sceaux, about five miles off.  The Poissy
market is held every Thursday; the Sceaux market, every Monday.  In
Paris, there are no slaughter-houses, in our acceptation of the term.
There are five public Abattoirs—within the walls, though in the
suburbs—and in these all the slaughtering for the city must be performed.
They are managed by a Syndicat or Guild of Butchers, who confer with the
Minister of the Interior on all matters affecting the trade, and who are
consulted when any new regulations are contemplated for its government.
They are, likewise, under the vigilant superintendence of the police.
Every butcher must be licensed: which proves him at once to be a slave,
for we don’t license butchers in England—we only license apothecaries,
attorneys, post-masters, publicans, hawkers, retailers of tobacco, snuff,
pepper, and vinegar—and one or two other little trades, not worth
mentioning.  Every arrangement in connexion with the slaughtering and
sale of meat, is matter of strict police regulation.  (Slavery again,
though we certainly have a general sort of Police Act here.)

But, in order that the reader may understand what a monument of folly
these frog-eaters have raised in their abattoirs and cattle-markets, and
may compare it with what common counselling has done for us all these
years, and would still do but for the innovating spirit of the times,
here follows a short account of a recent visit to these places:

                                * * * * *

It was as sharp a February morning as you would desire to feel at your
fingers’ ends when I turned out—tumbling over a chiffonier with his
little basket and rake, who was picking up the bits of coloured paper
that had been swept out, over-night, from a Bon-Bon shop—to take the
Butchers’ Train to Poissy.  A cold, dim light just touched the high roofs
of the Tuileries which have seen such changes, such distracted crowds,
such riot and bloodshed; and they looked as calm, and as old, all covered
with white frost, as the very Pyramids.  There was not light enough, yet,
to strike upon the towers of Notre Dame across the water; but I thought
of the dark pavement of the old Cathedral as just beginning to be
streaked with grey; and of the lamps in the ‘House of God,’ the Hospital
close to it, burning low and being quenched; and of the keeper of the
Morgue going about with a fading lantern, busy in the arrangement of his
terrible waxwork for another sunny day.

The sun was up, and shining merrily when the butchers and I, announcing
our departure with an engine shriek to sleepy Paris, rattled away for the
Cattle Market.  Across the country, over the Seine, among a forest of
scrubby trees—the hoar frost lying cold in shady places, and glittering
in the light—and here we are—at Poissy!  Out leap the butchers, who have
been chattering all the way like madmen, and off they straggle for the
Cattle Market (still chattering, of course, incessantly), in hats and
caps of all shapes, in coats and blouses, in calf-skins, cow-skins,
horse-skins, furs, shaggy mantles, hairy coats, sacking, baize, oil-skin,
anything you please that will keep a man and a butcher warm, upon a
frosty morning.

Many a French town have I seen, between this spot of ground and Strasburg
or Marseilles, that might sit for your picture, little Poissy!  Barring
the details of your old church, I know you well, albeit we make
acquaintance, now, for the first time.  I know your narrow, straggling,
winding streets, with a kennel in the midst, and lamps slung across.  I
know your picturesque street-corners, winding up-hill Heaven knows why or
where!  I know your tradesmen’s inscriptions, in letters not quite fat
enough; your barbers’ brazen basins dangling over little shops; your
Cafés and Estaminets, with cloudy bottles of stale syrup in the windows,
and pictures of crossed billiard cues outside.  I know this identical
grey horse with his tail rolled up in a knot like the ‘back hair’ of an
untidy woman, who won’t be shod, and who makes himself heraldic by
clattering across the street on his hind-legs, while twenty voices shriek
and growl at him as a Brigand, an accursed Robber, and an
everlastingly-doomed Pig.  I know your sparkling town-fountain, too, my
Poissy, and am glad to see it near a cattle-market, gushing so freshly,
under the auspices of a gallant little sublimated Frenchman wrought in
metal, perched upon the top.  Through all the land of France I know this
unswept room at The Glory, with its peculiar smell of beans and coffee,
where the butchers crowd about the stove, drinking the thinnest of wine
from the smallest of tumblers; where the thickest of coffee-cups mingle
with the longest of loaves, and the weakest of lump sugar; where Madame
at the counter easily acknowledges the homage of all entering and
departing butchers; where the billiard-table is covered up in the midst
like a great bird-cake—but the bird may sing by-and-by!

A bell!  The Calf Market!  Polite departure of butchers.  Hasty payment
and departure on the part of amateur Visitor.  Madame reproaches
Ma’amselle for too fine a susceptibility in reference to the devotion of
a Butcher in a bear-skin.  Monsieur, the landlord of The Glory, counts a
double handful of sous, without an unobliterated inscription, or an
undamaged crowned head, among them.

There is little noise without, abundant space, and no confusion.  The
open area devoted to the market is divided into three portions: the Calf
Market, the Cattle Market, the Sheep Market.  Calves at eight, cattle at
ten, sheep at mid-day.  All is very clean.

The Calf Market is a raised platform of stone, some three or four feet
high, open on all sides, with a lofty overspreading roof, supported on
stone columns, which give it the appearance of a sort of vineyard from
Northern Italy.  Here, on the raised pavement, lie innumerable calves,
all bound hind-legs and fore-legs together, and all trembling
violently—perhaps with cold, perhaps with fear, perhaps with pain; for,
this mode of tying, which seems to be an absolute superstition with the
peasantry, can hardly fail to cause great suffering.  Here, they lie,
patiently in rows, among the straw, with their stolid faces and
inexpressive eyes, superintended by men and women, boys and girls; here
they are inspected by our friends, the butchers, bargained for, and
bought.  Plenty of time; plenty of room; plenty of good humour.
‘Monsieur Francois in the bear-skin, how do you do, my friend?  You come
from Paris by the train?  The fresh air does you good.  If you are in
want of three or four fine calves this market morning, my angel, I,
Madame Doche, shall be happy to deal with you.  Behold these calves,
Monsieur Francois!  Great Heaven, you are doubtful!  Well, sir, walk
round and look about you.  If you find better for the money, buy them.
If not, come to me!’  Monsieur Francois goes his way leisurely, and keeps
a wary eye upon the stock.  No other butcher jostles Monsieur Francois;
Monsieur Francois jostles no other butcher.  Nobody is flustered and
aggravated.  Nobody is savage.  In the midst of the country blue frocks
and red handkerchiefs, and the butchers’ coats, shaggy, furry, and hairy:
of calf-skin, cow-skin, horse-skin, and bear-skin: towers a cocked hat
and a blue cloak.  Slavery!  For _our_ Police wear great-coats and glazed
hats.

But now the bartering is over, and the calves are sold.  ‘Ho! Gregoire,
Antoine, Jean, Louis!  Bring up the carts, my children! Quick, brave
infants!  Hola!  Hi!’

The carts, well littered with straw, are backed up to the edge of the
raised pavement, and various hot infants carry calves upon their heads,
and dexterously pitch them in, while other hot infants, standing in the
carts, arrange the calves, and pack them carefully in straw.  Here is a
promising young calf, not sold, whom Madame Doche unbinds.  Pardon me,
Madame Doche, but I fear this mode of tying the four legs of a quadruped
together, though strictly à la mode, is not quite right.  You observe,
Madame Doche, that the cord leaves deep indentations in the skin, and
that the animal is so cramped at first as not to know, or even remotely
suspect that he _is_ unbound, until you are so obliging as to kick him,
in your delicate little way, and pull his tail like a bell-rope.  Then,
he staggers to his knees, not being able to stand, and stumbles about
like a drunken calf, or the horse at Franconi’s, whom you may have seen,
Madame Doche, who is supposed to have been mortally wounded in battle.
But, what is this rubbing against me, as I apostrophise Madame Doche?  It
is another heated infant with a calf upon his head.  ‘Pardon, Monsieur,
but will you have the politeness to allow me to pass?’  ‘Ah, sir,
willingly.  I am vexed to obstruct the way.’  On he staggers, calf and
all, and makes no allusion whatever either to my eyes or limbs.

Now, the carts are all full.  More straw, my Antoine, to shake over these
top rows; then, off we will clatter, rumble, jolt, and rattle, a long row
of us, out of the first town-gate, and out at the second town-gate, and
past the empty sentry-box, and the little thin square bandbox of a
guardhouse, where nobody seems to live: and away for Paris, by the paved
road, lying, a straight, straight line, in the long, long avenue of
trees.  We can neither choose our road, nor our pace, for that is all
prescribed to us.  The public convenience demands that our carts should
get to Paris by such a route, and no other (Napoleon had leisure to find
that out, while he had a little war with the world upon his hands), and
woe betide us if we infringe orders.

Drovers of oxen stand in the Cattle Market, tied to iron bars fixed into
posts of granite.  Other droves advance slowly down the long avenue, past
the second town-gate, and the first town-gate, and the sentry-box, and
the bandbox, thawing the morning with their smoky breath as they come
along.  Plenty of room; plenty of time.  Neither man nor beast is driven
out of his wits by coaches, carts, waggons, omnibuses, gigs, chaises,
phaetons, cabs, trucks, boys, whoopings, roarings, and multitudes.  No
tail-twisting is necessary—no iron pronging is necessary.  There are no
iron prongs here.  The market for cattle is held as quietly as the market
for calves.  In due time, off the cattle go to Paris; the drovers can no
more choose their road, nor their time, nor the numbers they shall drive,
than they can choose their hour for dying in the course of nature.

Sheep next.  The sheep-pens are up here, past the Branch Bank of Paris
established for the convenience of the butchers, and behind the two
pretty fountains they are making in the Market.  My name is Bull: yet I
think I should like to see as good twin fountains—not to say in
Smithfield, but in England anywhere.  Plenty of room; plenty of time.
And here are sheep-dogs, sensible as ever, but with a certain French air
about them—not without a suspicion of dominoes—with a kind of flavour of
moustache and beard—demonstrative dogs, shaggy and loose where an English
dog would be tight and close—not so troubled with business calculations
as our English drovers’ dogs, who have always got their sheep upon their
minds, and think about their work, even resting, as you may see by their
faces; but, dashing, showy, rather unreliable dogs: who might worry me
instead of their legitimate charges if they saw occasion—and might see it
somewhat suddenly.

The market for sheep passes off like the other two; and away they go, by
_their_ allotted road to Paris.  My way being the Railway, I make the
best of it at twenty miles an hour; whirling through the now high-lighted
landscape; thinking that the inexperienced green buds will be wishing,
before long, they had not been tempted to come out so soon; and wondering
who lives in this or that château, all window and lattice, and what the
family may have for breakfast this sharp morning.

After the Market comes the Abattoir.  What abattoir shall I visit first?
Montmartre is the largest.  So I will go there.

The abattoirs are all within the walls of Paris, with an eye to the
receipt of the octroi duty; but, they stand in open places in the
suburbs, removed from the press and bustle of the city.  They are managed
by the Syndicat or Guild of Butchers, under the inspection of the Police.
Certain smaller items of the revenue derived from them are in part
retained by the Guild for the payment of their expenses, and in part
devoted by it to charitable purposes in connexion with the trade.  They
cost six hundred and eighty thousand pounds; and they return to the city
of Paris an interest on that outlay, amounting to nearly six and a-half
per cent.

Here, in a sufficiently dismantled space is the Abattoir of Montmartre,
covering nearly nine acres of ground, surrounded by a high wall, and
looking from the outside like a cavalry barrack.  At the iron gates is a
small functionary in a large cocked hat. ‘Monsieur desires to see the
abattoir?  Most certainly.’  State being inconvenient in private
transactions, and Monsieur being already aware of the cocked hat, the
functionary puts it into a little official bureau which it almost fills,
and accompanies me in the modest attire—as to his head—of ordinary life.

Many of the animals from Poissy have come here.  On the arrival of each
drove, it was turned into yonder ample space, where each butcher who had
bought, selected his own purchases.  Some, we see now, in these long
perspectives of stalls with a high over-hanging roof of wood and open
tiles rising above the walls.  While they rest here, before being
slaughtered, they are required to be fed and watered, and the stalls must
be kept clean.  A stated amount of fodder must always be ready in the
loft above; and the supervision is of the strictest kind.  The same
regulations apply to sheep and calves; for which, portions of these
perspectives are strongly railed off.  All the buildings are of the
strongest and most solid description.

After traversing these lairs, through which, besides the upper provision
for ventilation just mentioned, there may be a thorough current of air
from opposite windows in the side walls, and from doors at either end, we
traverse the broad, paved, court-yard until we come to the
slaughter-houses.  They are all exactly alike, and adjoin each other, to
the number of eight or nine together, in blocks of solid building.  Let
us walk into the first.

It is firmly built and paved with stone.  It is well lighted, thoroughly
aired, and lavishly provided with fresh water.  It has two doors opposite
each other; the first, the door by which I entered from the main yard;
the second, which is opposite, opening on another smaller yard, where the
sheep and calves are killed on benches.  The pavement of that yard, I
see, slopes downward to a gutter, for its being more easily cleansed.
The slaughter-house is fifteen feet high, sixteen feet and a-half wide,
and thirty-three feet long.  It is fitted with a powerful windlass, by
which one man at the handle can bring the head of an ox down to the
ground to receive the blow from the pole-axe that is to fell him—with the
means of raising the carcass and keeping it suspended during the
after-operation of dressing—and with hooks on which carcasses can hang,
when completely prepared, without touching the walls.  Upon the pavement
of this first stone chamber, lies an ox scarcely dead.  If I except the
blood draining from him, into a little stone well in a corner of the
pavement, the place is free from offence as the Place de la Concorde.  It
is infinitely purer and cleaner, I know, my friend the functionary, than
the Cathedral of Notre Dame.  Ha, ha!  Monsieur is pleasant, but, truly,
there is reason, too, in what he says.

I look into another of these slaughter-houses.  ‘Pray enter,’ says a
gentleman in bloody boots.  ‘This is a calf I have killed this morning.
Having a little time upon my hands, I have cut and punctured this lace
pattern in the coats of his stomach.  It is pretty enough.  I did it to
divert myself.’—‘It is beautiful, Monsieur, the slaughterer!’  He tells
me I have the gentility to say so.

I look into rows of slaughter-houses.  In many, retail dealers, who have
come here for the purpose, are making bargains for meat.  There is
killing enough, certainly, to satiate an unused eye; and there are
steaming carcasses enough, to suggest the expediency of a fowl and salad
for dinner; but, everywhere, there is an orderly, clean,
well-systematised routine of work in progress—horrible work at the best,
if you please; but, so much the greater reason why it should be made the
best of.  I don’t know (I think I have observed, my name is Bull) that a
Parisian of the lowest order is particularly delicate, or that his nature
is remarkable for an infinitesimal infusion of ferocity; but, I do know,
my potent, grave, and common counselling Signors, that he is forced, when
at this work, to submit himself to a thoroughly good system, and to make
an Englishman very heartily ashamed of you.

Here, within the walls of the same abattoir, in other roomy and
commodious buildings, are a place for converting the fat into tallow and
packing it for market—a place for cleansing and scalding calves’ heads
and sheep’s feet—a place for preparing tripe—stables and coach-houses for
the butchers—innumerable conveniences, aiding in the diminution of
offensiveness to its lowest possible point, and the raising of
cleanliness and supervision to their highest.  Hence, all the meat that
goes out of the gate is sent away in clean covered carts.  And if every
trade connected with the slaughtering of animals were obliged by law to
be carried on in the same place, I doubt, my friend, now reinstated in
the cocked hat (whose civility these two francs imperfectly acknowledge,
but appear munificently to repay), whether there could be better
regulations than those which are carried out at the Abattoir of
Montmartre.  Adieu, my friend, for I am away to the other side of Paris,
to the Abattoir of Grenelle!  And there I find exactly the same thing on
a smaller scale, with the addition of a magnificent Artesian well, and a
different sort of conductor, in the person of a neat little woman with
neat little eyes, and a neat little voice, who picks her neat little way
among the bullocks in a very neat little pair of shoes and stockings.

                                * * * * *

Such is the Monument of French Folly which a foreigneering people have
erected, in a national hatred and antipathy for common counselling
wisdom.  That wisdom, assembled in the City of London, having distinctly
refused, after a debate of three days long, and by a majority of nearly
seven to one, to associate itself with any Metropolitan Cattle Market
unless it be held in the midst of the City, it follows that we shall lose
the inestimable advantages of common counselling protection, and be
thrown, for a market, on our own wretched resources.  In all human
probability we shall thus come, at last, to erect a monument of folly
very like this French monument.  If that be done, the consequences are
obvious.  The leather trade will be ruined, by the introduction of
American timber, to be manufactured into shoes for the fallen English;
the Lord Mayor will be required, by the popular voice, to live entirely
on frogs; and both these changes will (how, is not at present quite
clear, but certainly somehow or other) fall on that unhappy landed
interest which is always being killed, yet is always found to be
alive—and kicking.



FOOTNOTES


{415}  Give a bill

{426}  Three months’ imprisonment as reputed thieves.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Reprinted Pieces" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
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.



Home