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Title: The Lamplighter
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 "The Lamplighter" ***

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Transcribed from the 1905 Chapman & Hall edition (_The Works of Charles
Dickens_, volume 28) by David Price, email ccx074@pglaf.org

                          [Picture: Book cover]



                             THE LAMPLIGHTER


                                * * * * *

                            By CHARLES DICKENS

                                * * * * *

                       LONDON: CHAPMAN & HALL, LD.
                    NEW YORK: CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS
                                   1905

                                * * * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘His head?’ said the vice.

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

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

‘His nativity, perhaps?’

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

‘In plaster?’ asked the vice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Compensation?’ suggested the vice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘“Hal-loa!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘“Grig,” says Tom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘“Yes, papa,” says she.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘“They were,” says the old gentleman.

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

‘“No what!” cries the old gentleman.

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

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

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

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

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

‘“How much, Sir?” cries Tom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Did he go home?’ asked the vice.

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





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