by Charles Dickens
There are not many people -- and as it is desirable
that a story-teller and a story-reader should establish
a mutual understanding as soon as possible, I beg it
to be noticed that I confine this observation neither to
young people nor to little people, but extend it to all
conditions of people: little and big, young and old:
yet growing up, or already growing down again -- there
are not, I say, many people who would care to sleep
in a church. I don't mean at sermon-time in warm
weather (when the thing has actually been done, once
or twice), but in the night, and alone. A great multi-
tude of persons will be violently astonished, I know,
by this position, in the broad bold Day. But it
applies to Night. It must be argued by night, and I
will undertake to maintain it successfully on any
gusty winter's night appointed for the purpose, with
any one opponent chosen from the rest, who will meet
me singly in an old church-yard, before an old church-
door; and will previously empower me to lock him in,
if needful to his satisfaction, until morning.
For the night-wind has a dismal trick of wander-
ing round and round a building of that sort, and
moaning as it goes; and of trying, with its unseen
hand, the windows and the doors; and seeking out
some crevices by which to enter. And when it has
got in; as one not finding what it seeks, whatever that
may be, it wails and howls to issue forth again: and
not content with stalking through the aisles, and glid-
ing round and round the pillars, and tempting the
deep organ, soars up to the roof, and strives to rend
the rafters: then flings itself despairingly upon the
stones below, and passes, muttering, into the vaults.
Anon, it comes up stealthily, and creeps along the
walls, seeming to read, in whispers, the Inscriptions
sacred to the Dead. At some of these, it breaks out
shrilly, as with laughter; and at others, moans and
cries as if it were lamenting. It has a ghostly sound
too, lingering within the altar; where it seems to
chaunt, in its wild way, of Wrong and Murder done,
and false Gods worshipped, in defiance of the Tables
of the Law, which look so fair and smooth, but are so
flawed and broken. Ugh! Heaven preserve us, sit-
ting snugly round the fire! It has an awful voice,
that wind at Midnight, singing in a churchl
But, high up in the steeple! There the foul blast
roars and whistles! High up in the steeple, where it
is free to come and go through many an airy arch
and loophole, and to twist and twine itself about
the giddy stair, and twirl the groaning weathercock,
and make the very tower shake and shiver! High up
in the steeple, where the belfry is, and iron rails are
ragged with rust, and sheets of lead and copper
shrivelled by the changing weather, crackle and heave
beneath the unaccustomed tread; and birds stuff
shabby nests into corners of old oaken joists and
beams; and dust grows old and grey; and speckled
spiders, indolent and fat with long security, swing
idly to and fro in the vibration of the bells, and never
loose their hold upon their thread-spun castles in the
air, or climb up sailor-like in quick alarm, or drop
upon the ground and ply a score of nimble legs to
save one life! High up in the steeple of an old church
far above the light and murmur of the town and far
below the flying clouds that shadow it, is the wild and
dreary place at night: and high up in the steeple of
an old church, dwelt the Chimes I tell of.
They were old Chimes, trust me. Centuries ago,
these Bells had been baptized by bishops: so many
centuries ago, that the register of their baptism was
lost long, long before the memory of man, and no one
knew their names. They had had their Godfathers
and Godmothers, these Bells (for my own part, by
the way, I would rather incur the responsibility of
being Godfather to a Bell than a Boy), and had their
silver mugs no doubt, besides. But Time had mowed
down their sponsors, and Henry the Eighth had
melted down their mugs; and they now hung, name-
less and mugless, in the church-tower.
Not speechless, though. Far from it. They had
clear, loud, lusty, sounding voices, had these Bells;
and far and wide they might be heard upon the wind.
Much too sturdy Chimes were they, to be dependent
on the pleasure of the wind, moreover; for fighting
gallantly against it when it took an adverse whim,
they would pour their cheerful notes into a listening
ear right royally; and bent on being heard, on stormy
nights, by some poor mother watching a sick child,
or some lone wife whose husband was at sea, they had
been sometimes known to beat a blustering Nor'-
Wester, aye, 'all to fits,' as Toby Veck said; -- for
though they chose to call him Trotty Veck, his name
was Toby, and nobody could make it anything else
either (except Tobias) without a special act of parlia-
ment; he having been as lawfully christened in his
day as the Bells had been in theirs, though with not
quite so much of solemnity or public rejoicing.
For my part, I confess myself of Toby Veck's
belief, for I am sure he had opportunities enough of
forming a correct one. And whatever Tobv Veck
said, I say. And I take my stand by Toby Veck,
although he did stand all day long (and weary work it
was) just outside the church-door. In fact he was a
ticket-porter, Toby Veck, and waited there for jobs.
And a breezy, goose-skinned, blue-nosed red-eyed,
stony-toed, tooth-chattering place it was, to wait in,
in the winter-time, as Toby Veck well knew. The
wind came tearing round the corner -- especially the
east wind -- as if it had sallied forth, express, from
the confines of the earth, to have a blow at Toby.
And oftentimes it seemed to come upon him sooner
than it had expected, for bouncing round the corner,
and passing Toby, it would suddenly wheel round
again, as if it cried 'Why, here he is!' Incontinently
his little white apron would be caught up over his
head like a naughty boy's garments, and his feeble
little cane would be seen to wrestle and struggle un-
availingly in his hand, and his legs would undergo
tremendous agitation, and Toby himself all aslant,
and facing now in this direction, now in that, would
be so banged and buffeted, and touzled, and worried,
and hustled, and lifted off his feet, as to render it a
state of things but one degree removed from a posi-
tive miracle, that he wasn't carried up bodily into the
air as a colony of frogs or snails or other very port-
able creatures sometimes are, and rained down again,
to the great astonishment of the natives, on some
strange corner of the world where ticket-porters are
But, windy weather, in spite of its using him so
roughly, was, after all, a sort of holiday for Toby.
That's the fact. He didn't seem to wait so long for
sixpence in the wind, as at other times; the having
to fight with that boisterous element took off his
attention, and quite freshened him up when he was
getting hungry and low-spirited. A hard frost too,
or a fall of snow, was an Event; and it seemcd to do
him good, somehow or other -- it would have been hard
to say in what respect though, Toby! So wind and
frost and snow, and perhaps a good stiff storm of
hail, were Toby Veck's red-letter days.
Wet weather was the worst; the cold damp, clammy
wet, that wrapped him up like a moist great-coat --
the only kind of great-coat Toby owned, or could
have added to his comfort by dispensing with. Wet
days, when the rain came slowly, thickly, obstinately
down; when the streets's throat, like his own, was
choked with mist; when smoking umbrellas passed
and re-passed, spinning round and round like so many
teetotums, as they knocked against each other on the
crowded footway, throwing off a little whirlpool of
uncomfortable sprinklings; when gutters brawled and
waterspouts were full and noisy; when the wet from
the projecting stones and ledges of the church fell
drip, drip, drip, on Toby, making the wisp of straw on
which he stood mere mud in no time; those were the
days that tried him. Then indeed, you might see
Toby looking anxiously out from his shelter in an
angle of the church wall -- such a meagre shelter that
in summer time it never cast a shadow thicker than a
good-sized walking-stick upon the sunny pavement --
with a disconsolate and lengthened face. But coming
out, a minute afterwards, to warm himself by exercise,
and trotting up and down some dozen times, he would
brighten even then, and go back more brightly to his
They called him Trotty from his pace, which
meant speed if it didn't make it. He could have
Walked faster perhaps; most likely; but rob him of
his trot, and Toby would have taken to his bed and
died. It bespattered him with mud in dirty weather;
it cost him a world of trouble; he could have walked
with infinitely greater ease; but that was one reason
for his clinging to it so tenaciously. A weak, small,
spare old man, he was a very Hercules, this Toby, in
his good intentions. He loved to earn his money.
He delighted to believe -- Toby was very poor, and
couldn't well afford to part with a delight -- that he
was worth his salt. With a shilling or an eighteen-
penny message or small parcel in hand, his courage,
always hig, rose higher. As he trotted on, he
would call out to fast Postmen ahead of him, to get
out of the way; devoutly believing that in the natural
course of things he must inevitably overtake and run
them down; and he had perfect faith -- not often
tested -- in his being able to carry anything that man
Thus, even when he came out of his nook to warm
himself on a wet day, Toby trotted. Making, with
his leaky shoes, a crooked line of slushy footprints in
the mire; and blowing on his chilly hands and rubbing
them against each other, poorly defended from the
searching cold by threadbare mufflers of grey
worsted, with a private apartment only for the
thumb, and a common room or tap for the rest of
the fingers; Toby, with his knees bent and his cane
beneath his arm, still trotted. Falling out into the
road to look up at the belfry when the Chimes re-
sounded, Toby trotted still.
He made this last excursion several times a day,
for they were company to him; and when he heard
their voices, he had an interest in glancing at their
lodging-place, and thinking how they were moved, and
what hammers beat upon them. Perhaps he was the
more curious about these Bells, because there were
points of resemblance between themselves and him
They hung there, in all weathers, with the wind and
rain driving in upon them; facing only the outsides
of all those houses; never getting any nearer to the
blazing fires that gleamed and shone upon the win-
dows, or came puffing out of the chimney tops; and
incapable of participation in any of the good things
that were constantly being handed, through the street
doors and the area railings, to prodigious cooks.
Faces came and went at many windows: sometimes
pretty faces, youthful faces, pleasant faces: some-
times the reverse: but Toby knew no more (though
he often speculated on these trifles, standing idle in
the streets) whence they came, or where they went, or
whether, when the lips moved, one kind word was said
of him in all the year, than did the Chimes themselves.
Toby was not a casuist -- that he knew of, at least --
and I don't mean to say that when he began to take
to the Bells, and to knit up his first rough acquaint-
ance with them into something of a closer and more
delicate woof, he passed through these considerations
one by one, or held any formal review or great field-
day in his thoughts. But what I mean to say, and
do say is, that as the functions of Toby's body, his
digestive organs for example, did of their own cun-
ning, and by a great many operations of which he
was altogether ignorant, and the knowledge of which
would have astonished him very much, arrive at a cer-
tain end; so his mental faculties, without his privity
or concurrence, set all these wheels and springs in
motion, with a thousand others, when they worked to
bring about his liking for the Bells.
And though I had said his love, I would not have
recalled the word, though it would scarcely have ex-
pressed his complicated feeling. For, being but a
simple man, he invested them with a strange and
solemn character. They were so mysterious, often
heard and never seen; so high up, so far off, so full of
such a deep strong melody, that he regarded them
with a species of awe; and sometimes when he looked
up at the dark arched windows in the tower, he half
expected to be beckoned to by something which was
not a Bell, and yet was what he had heard so often
sounding in the Chimes. For all this. Toby scouted
with indignation a certain flying rumour that the
Chimes were haunted, as implying the possibility of
their being connected with any Evil thing. In short,
they were very often in his ears, and very often in his
thoughts, but always in his good opinion; and he
very often got such a crick in his neck by staring with
his mouth wide open, at the steeple where they hung,
that he was fain to take an extra trot or two, after-
wards, to cure it.
The very thing he was in the act of doing one cold
day, when the last drowsy sound of Twelve o'clock,
just struck, was humming like a melodious monster
of a Bee, and not by any means a busy bee, all
through the steeple!
'Dinner-time, eh!' said Toby, trotting up and down
before the church. 'Ah!'
Toby's nose was very red, and his eyelids were very
red, and he winked very much, and his shoulders were
very near his ears, and his legs were very stiff, and
altogether he was evidently a long way upon the
frosty side of cool.
'Dinner-time, eh!' repeated Toby, using his right-
hand muffler like an infantine boxing-glove, and
punishing his chest for being cold. 'Ah-h-h-hl'
He took a silent trot, after that, for a minute or
'There's nothing,' said Toby, breaking forth
afresh -- but here he stopped short in his trot, and with
a face of great interest and some alarm, felt his nose
carefully all the way up. It was but a little way
(not being much of a nose) and he had soon finished.
'I thought it was gone,' said Toby, trotting off
again. 'It's all right, however. I am sure I
couldn't blame it if it was to go. It has precious
hard service of it in the bitter weather, and precious
little to look forward to; for I don't take snuff my-
self. It's a good deal tried, poor creetur, at the best
of times; for when it does get hold of a pleasant whiff
or so (which an't too often), it's generally from
somebody else's dinner, a-coming home from the
The reflection reminded him of that other reflec-
tion, which he had left unfinished
'There's nothing,' said Toby, 'more regular in its
coming round than dinner-time, and nothing less
regular in its coming round than dinner. That's the
great difference between 'em. It's took me a long
time to find it out. I wonder whether it would be
worth any gentleman's while now, to buy that obser-
wation for the Papers; or the Parliament!'
Toby was only joking, for he gravely shook his
head in self-depreciation.
'Why! Lord!' said Toby. 'The Papers is full of
obserwations as it is; and so's the Parliament.
Here's last week's paper, now'; taking a very dirty
one from his pocket, and holding it from him at arm's
length; 'full of obserwations! Full of obserwations!
I like to know the news as well as any man,' said
Toby, slowly; folding it a little smaller, and putting
it in his pocket again; 'but it almost goes against the
grain with me to read a paper now. It frightens me
almost. I don't know what we poor people are com-
ing to. Lord send we may be coming to something
better in the New Year nigh upon us!'
'Why, father, father!' said a pleasant voice, hard
But Toby, not hearing it, continued to trot back-
wards and forwards; musing as he went, and talking
'It seems as if we can't go right, or do right, or be
righted,' said Toby. 'I hadn't much schooling, my-
self, when I was young; and I can't make out whether
we have any business on the face of the earth, or not.
Sometimes I think we must have -- a little; and some-
times I think we must be intruding. I get so puzzled
sometimes that I am not even able to make up my
mind whether there is any good at all in us, or whether
we are born bad. We seem to be dreadful things;
we seem to give a deal of trouble; we are always being
complained of and guarded against. One way or
other, we fill the papers. Talk of a New Year!'
said Toby, mournfully. 'I can bear up as well as
another man at most times; better than a good many,
for I am as strong as a lion, and all men an't; but
supposing it should really be that we have no right
to a New Year -- supposing we really are intruding --'
'Why, father, father!' said the pleasant voice again.
Toby heard it this time; started; stopped; and
shortening his sight, which had been directed a long
way off as seeking for enlightenment in the very
heart of the approaching year, found himself face
to face with his own child, and looking close into
Bright eyes they were. Eyes that would bear a
world of looking in, before their depth was fathomed.
Dark eyes, that reflected back the eyes which searched
them; not flashingly, or at the owner's will, but with
a clear, calm, honest, patient radiance, claiming kin-
dred with that light which Heaven called into being
Eyes that were beautiful and true, and beaming with
Hope. With Hope so young and fresh; with Hope
so buoyant, vigorous, and bright, despite the twenty
years of work and poverty on which they had looked
that they became a voice to Trotty Veck, and said.
'I think we have some business here -- a littlel'
Trotty kissed the lips belonging to the eyes, and
squeezed the blooming face between his hands.
'Why, Pet,' said Trotty. 'What's to do? I
didn't expect you to-day, Meg.'
'Neither did I expect to come, father,' cried the
girl, nodding her head and smiling as she spoke.
'But here I am! And not alone; not alone!'
'Why you don't mean to say,' observed Trotty,
looking curiously at a covered basket which she car-
ried in her hand, 'that you --'
'Smell it, father dear,' said Meg. 'Only smell it!'
Trotty was going to lift up the cover at once, in a
great hurry, when she gaily interposed her hand.
'No, no, no,' said Meg, with the glee of a child.
'Lengthen it out a little. Let me just lift up the
corner; just the lit-tle ti-ny cor-ner, vou know,' said
Meg, suiting the action to the word with the utmost
gentleness, and speaking very softly, as if she were
afraid of being overheard by something inside the
basket; 'there. Now. What's that?'
Toby took the shortest possible sniff at the edge of
the basket, and cried out in a rapture:
'Why, it's hot!'
'It's burning hot!' cried Meg. 'Ha, ha, ha! It's
'Ha, ha, ha!' roared Toby, with a sort of kick.
'It's scalding hot.'
'But what is it, father?' said Meg. 'Come. You
haven't guessed what it is. And you must guess
what it is. I can't think of taking it out, till you
guess what it is. Don't be in such a hurry! Wait a
minute! A little bit more of the cover. Now guess!'
Meg was in a perfect fright lest he should guess
right too soon; shrinking away, as she held the basket
towards him; curling up her pretty shoulders; stop-
ping her ear with her hand, as if by so doing she
could keep the right word out of Toby's lips; and
laughing softly the whole time.
Meanwhile Toby, putting a hand on each knee,
bent down his nose to the basket, and took a long
inspiration at the lid; the grin upon his withered face
expanding in the process, as if he were inhaling
'Ah! It's very nice,' said Toby. 'It an't -- I
suppose it an't Polonies?'
'No, no, no!' cried Meg, delighted. 'Nothing like
'No,' said Toby, after another sniff. 'It's -- it's
mellower than Polonies. It's very nice. It improves
every moment. It's too decided for Trotters. An't,
Meg was in an ecstasy. He could not have gone
wider of the mark than Trotters -- except Polonies.
'Liver?' said Toby, communing with himself. 'No.
There's a mildness about it that don't answer to liver.
Pettitoes? No. It an't faint enough for pettitoes.
It wants the stringiness of Cock's heads. And I
know it an't sausages. I'll tell you what it is. It's
'No, it an't!' cried Meg, in a burst of delight. 'No,
'Why, what am I a-thinking of!' said Toby, sud-
denly recovering a position as near the perpendicular
as it was possible for him to assume. 'I shall forget
my own name next. It's tripe!'
Tripe it was; and Meg, in high joy, protested he
should say, in half a minute more, it was the best
tripe ever stewed.
'And so,' said Meg, busying herself exultingly
with the basket, 'I'll lay the cloth at once, father, for
I have brought the tripe in a basin, and tied the basin
up in a pocket-handkerchief; and if I like to be proud
for once, and spread that for a cloth, and call it a
cloth, there's no law to prevent me; is there, father?'
'Not that I know of, my dear,' said Toby. 'But
they're always a-bringing up some new law or other.'
'And according to what I was reading you in the
paper the other day, father; what the Judge said, you
know; we poor people are supposed to know them all
Ha, ha! What a mistale! My goodness me, how
clever they think us!'
'Yes, my dear,' cried Trotty; 'and they'd be very
fond of any one of us that did know 'em all. He'd
grow fat upon the work he'd get, that man, and be
popular with the gentle-folks in his neighbourhood.
Very much so!'
'He'd eat his dinner with an appetite, whoever he
was, if it smelt like this,' said Meg, cheerfully
'Make haste, for there's a hot potato besides. and half
a pint of fresh-drawn beer in a bottle. Where will
you dine, father? On the Post, or on the Steps?
Dear, dear, how grand we are. Two places to choose
'The steps to-day, my Pct,' said Trotty. 'Steps in
dry weather. Post in wet. There's a greater con-
veniency in the steps at all times, because of the sit-
ting down; but they're rheumatic in the damp.
'Then here,' said Meg, clapping her hands, after a
moment's bustle; 'here it is, all ready! And beautiful
it looks! Come, father. Come!'
Since his discovery of the contents of the basket,
Trotty had been standing looking at her -- and had
been speaking too -- in an abstracted manner, which
showed that though she was the object of his thoughts
and eyes, to the exclusion even of tripe, he neither saw
nor thought about her as she was at that moment, but
had before him some imaginary rough sketch or
drama of her future life. Roused, now, by her cheer-
ful summons, he shook off a melancholy shake of the
head which was just coming upon him, and trotted to
her side. As she was stooping to sit down, the Chimes
'Amen!' said Trotty, pulling off his hat and look-
ing up towards them.
'Amen to the Bells, father?' cried Meg.
'They broke in like a grace, my dear,' said Trotty,
taking his seat. 'They'd say a good one, I am sure,
if they could. Many's the kind thing they say to
'The Bells do, father!' laughed Meg, as she set the
basin, and a knife and fork before him. 'Well!'
'Seem to, my Pet,' said Trotty, falling to with
great vigour. 'And where's the difference? If I
hear 'em, what does it matter whether they speak it
or not? Why bless you, my dear,' said Toby, point-
ing at the tower with his fork, and becoming more
animated under the influence of dinner, 'how often
have I heard them bells say "Toby Veck, Toby Veck,
keep a good heart, Toby! Toby Veck, Toby Veck,
keep a good heart, Toby!" A million times? More!'
'Well, I never!' cried Meg.
She had, though -- over and over again. For it was
Toby's constant topic.
'When things is very bad,' said Trotty; 'very bad
indeed, I mean; almost at the worst; then it's "Toby
Veck, Toby Veck, job coming soon, Toby! Toby
Veck, Toby Veck, job coming soon, Toby! That
'And it comes -- at last, father,' said Meg, with a
touch of sadness in her pleasant voice.
'Always,' answered the unconscious Toby. 'Never
While this discourse was holding, Trotty made no
pause in his attack upon the savoury meat before
him, but cut and ate, and cut and drank, and cut and
chewed, and dodged about, from tripe to hot potato,
and from hot potato back again to tripe, with an
unctuous and unflagging relish. But happening now
to look all round the street -- in case anybody should
be beckoning from any door or window, for a porter --
his eyes, in coming back again, encountered Meg; sit-
ting opposite to him, with her arms folded: and
only busy in watching his progress with a smile of
'Why, Lord forgive me!' said Trotty, dropping his
knife and fork. 'My dove! Meg! Why didn't you
tell me what a beast I was?'
'Sitting here,' said Trotty, in penitent explanation,
'cramming, and stuffing, and gorging myself; and
you before me there, never so much as breaking your
precious fast, not wanting to, when --'
'But I have broken it, father,' interposed his
daughter, laughing, 'all to bits. I have had my
'Nonsense,' said Trotty. 'Two dinners in one day!
It an't possible! You might as well tell me that two
New Year's days will come together, or that I have
had a gold head all my life, and never changed it.'
'I have had my dinner, father, for all that,' said
Meg, coming nearer to him. 'And if you'll go on
with yours, I'll tell you how and where; and how
your dinner came to be bought; and -- and something
Toby still appeared incredulous I but she looked
into his face with her clear eyes, and laying her hand
upon his shoulder, motioned him to go on while the
meat was hot. So Trotty took up his knife and fork
again, and went to work. But much more slowly
than before, and shaking his head, as if he were not
at all pleased with himself.
'I had my dinner, father,' said Meg, after a little
hesitation, 'with -- with Richard. His dinner-time
was early; and as he brought his dinner with him
when he came to see me, we -- we had it together,
Trotty took a little beer, and smacked his lips.
Then he said 'Oh!' -- because she waited.
'And Richard says, father --' Meg resumed.
'What does Richard say, Meg?' asked Toby.
'Richard says, father --' another stoppage.
'Richard's a long time saying it,' said Toby.
'He says then, father,' Meg continued, lifting up
her eyes at last, and speaking in a tremble, but quite
plainly; 'another year is nearly gone, and where is
the use of waiting on from year to year, when it is
so unlikely we shall ever be better off than we are
now? He says we are poor now, father, and we shall
be poor then, but we are young now, and years will
make us old before we know it. He says that if we
wait: people in our condition: until we see our way
quite clearly, the way will be a narrow one indeed --
the common way. the Grave, father.'
A bolder man than Trotty Veck must needs have
drawn upon his boldness largely, to deny it. Trotty
held his peace.
'And how hard, father, to grow old, and die, and
think we might have cheered and helped each other!
How hard in all our lives to love each other; and to
grieve, apart, to see each other working, changing,
growing old and grey. Even if I got the better of
it, and forgot him (which I never could), oh father
dear, how hard to have a heart so full as mine is now
and live to have it slowly drained out every drop
without the recollection of one happy moment of a
womans life, to stay behind and comfort me, and
make me better!'
Trotty sat quite still. Meg dried her eyes, and
said more gaily: that is to say, with here a laugh,
and there a sob, and here a laugh and sob together:
'So Richard says, father; as his work was yesterday
made certain for some time to come, and as I love
him, and have loved him full three years -- ah! longer
than that, if he knew it! -- will I marry him on New
Year's Day; the best and happiest day, he says, in
the whole year, and one that is almost sure to bring
good fortune with it. It's a short notice, father
-- isn't it? -- but I haven't my fortune to be settled
or my wedding dresses to be made, like the great
ladies, father, have I? And he said so much, and
said it in his way; so strong and earnest, and all
the time so kind and gentle; that I said I'd come
and talk to you, father. And as they paid the money
for that work of mine this morning (unexpectedly,
I am sure!) and as you have fared very poorly for
a whole week, and as I couldn't help wishing there
should be something to make this day a sort of
holiday to you as well as a dear and happy day to
me, father, I made a little treat and brought it to
'And see how he leaves it cooling on the step!'
said another voice.
It was the voice of this same Richard. who had
come upon them unobserved, and stood before the
father and daughter; looking down upon them with
a face as glowing as the iron on which his stout
sledge-hammer daily rung. A handsome, well-made
powerful youngster he was; with eyes that sparkled
like the red-hot droppings from a furnace fire; black
hair that curled about his swarthy temples rarely;
and a smile -- a smile that bore out Meg's eulogium
on his style of Conversation.
'See how he leaves it cooling on the step!' said
Richard. 'Meg don't know what he likes. Not she!'
Trotty, all action and enthusiasm, immediately
reached up his hand to Richard, and was going to
address him in a great hurry, when the house-door
opened without any warning, and a footman very
nearly put his foot into the tripe.
'Out of the vays here, will you! You must always
go and be a-settin' on our steps, must you! You
can't go and give a turn to none of the neighbours
never can't you! Will you clear the road, or won't
Strictly speaking, the last question was irrelevant,
as they had already done it.
'What's the matter, what's the matter!' said the
gentleman for whom the door was opened; coming
out of the house at that kind of light-heavy pace
-- that peculiar compromise between a walk and a
jog-trot -- with which a gentleman upon the smooth
down-hill of life, wearing creaking boots, a watch-
chain, and clean linen, may come out of his house:
not only without any abatement of his dignity, but
with an expression of having important and wealthy
engagements elsewhere. 'What's the matter! What's
'You're always a-being begged, and prayed, upon
your bended knees you are,' said the footman with
great emphasis to Trotty Veck, 'to let our door-steps
be. Why don't you let 'em be? CAN'T you let 'em
'There! That'll do, that'll do!' said the gentle-
man. 'Halloa there! Porter!' beckoning with his
head to Trotty Veck. 'Come here. What's that?
'Yes, sir,' said Trotty, leaving it behind him in
'Don't leave it there,' exclaimed the gentleman.
'Bring it here, bring it here. So! This is your
dinner, is it?'
'Yes, sir,' repeated Trotty, looking with a fixed
eye and a watery mouth, at the piece of tripe he
had reserved for a last delicious tit-bit; which the
gentleman was now turning over and over on the
end of the fork.
Two other gentlemen had come out with him.
One was a low-spirited gentleman of middle age,
of a meagre habit, and a disconsolate face who kept
his hands continually in the pockets of his scanty
pepper-and-salt trousers; very large and dog's-eared
from that custom; and was not particularly well
brushed or washed. The other, a full-sized, sleek,
well-conditioned gentleman, in a blue coat with bright
buttons, and a white cravat. This gentleman had
a very red face, as if an undue proportion of the
blood in his body were squeezed up into his head;
which perhaps accounted for his having also the ap-
pearance of being rather cold about the heart.
He who had Toby's meat upon the fork, called
to the first one by the name of Filer; and they both
drew near together. Mr. Filer being exceedingly
short-sighted, was obliged to go so close to the rem-
nant of Toby's dinner before he could make out what
it was, that Toby's heart leaped up into his mouth.
But Mr. Filer didn't eat it.
'This is a description of animal food, Alderman,'
said Filer, making little punches in it, with a pencil-
case, 'commonly known to the labouring population
of this country, by the name of tripe.'
The Alderman laughed, and winked; for he was
a merry fellow, Alderman Cute. Oh, and a sly
fellow too! A knowing fellow. Up to everything.
Not to be imposed upon. Deep in the people's
hearts! He knew them, Cute did. I believe you!
'But who eats tripe?' said Mr. Filer, looking round.
'Tripe is without an exception the least economical,
and the most wasteful article of consumption that
the markets of this country can by possibility pro-
duce. The loss upon a pound of tripe has been found
to be, in the boiling, seven-eights of a fifth more
than the loss upon a pound of any other animal sub-
stance whatever. Tripe is more expensive, properly
understood, than the hothouse pineapple. Taking
into account the number of animals slaughtered yearly
within the bills of mortality alone; and forming a
low estimate of the quantity of tripe which the car-
casses of those animals, reasonably well butchered,
would yield; I find that the waste on that amount of
tripe, if boiled, would victual a garrison of five hun-
dred men for five months of thirty-one days each,
and a February over. The Waste, the Waste!'
Trotty stood aghast, and his legs shook under him.
He seemed to have starved a garrison of five hundred
men with his own hand.
'Who eats tripe?' said Mr. Filer, warmly. 'Who
Trotty made a miserable bow.
'You do, do you?' said Mr. Filer. 'Then I'll tell
you something. You snatch your tripe, my friend,
out of the mouths of widows and orphans.'
'I hope not, sir,' said Trotty, faintly. 'I'd sooner
die of want!'
'Divide the amount of tripe before mentioned,
Alderman,' said Mr. Filer, 'by the estimated number
of existing widows and orphans, and the result will
be one pennyweight of tripe to each. Not a grain
is left for that man. Consequently, he's a robber.'
Trotty was so shocked, that it gave him no concern
to see the Alderman finish the tripe himself. It was
a relief to get rid of it, anyhow.
'And what do you say?' asked the Alderman
jocosely, of the red-faced gentleman in the blue coat.
'You have heard friend Filer. What do you say?'
'What's it possible to say?' returned the gentle-
man. 'What is to be said? Who can take any in-
terest in a fellow like this,' meaning Trotty; 'in such
degenerate times as these? Look at him! What an
object! The good old times, the grand old times,
the great old times! Those were the times for a
bold peasantry, and all that sort of thing. Those
were the times for every sort of thing, in fact. There's
nothing now-a-days. Ah!' sighed the red-faced gen-
tleman. 'The good old times, the good old timesl'
The gentleman didn't specify what particular times
he alluded to; nor did he say whether he objected
to the present times; from a distinterested conscious-
ness that they had done nothing very remarkable in
'The good old times, the good old times,' repeated
the gentleman. 'What times they were! They were
the only times. It's no use talking about any other
times, or discussing what the people are in these times
You don't call these, times, do you? I don't. Look
into Strutt's Costumes, and see what a Porter used
to be, in any of the good old English reigns.'
'He hadn't, in his very best circumstances, a shirt
to his back, or a stocking to his foot; and there was
scarcely a vegetable in all England for him to put
into his mouth,' said Mr. Filer. 'I can prove it,
But still the red-faced gentleman extolled the good
old times, the grand old times, the great old times.
No matter what anybody else said, he still went
turning round and round in one set form of words
concerning them; as a poor squirrel turns and turns
in its revolving cage; touching the mechanism, and
trick of which, it has probably quite as distinct per-
ceptions, as ever this red-faced gentleman had of his
It is possible that poor Trotty's faith in these very
vague Old Times was not entirely destroyed, for he
felt vague enough, at that moment. One thing, how-
ever, was plain to him, in the midst of his distress;
to wit, that however these gentlemen might differ in
details, his misgivings of that morning, and of many
other mornings, were well founded. 'No, no. We
can't go right or do right,' thought Trotty in despair.
'There is no good in us. We are born bad!'
But Trotty had a father's heart within him; which
had somehow got into his breast in spite of this de-
cree; and he could not bear that Meg, in the blush of
her brief joy, should have her fortune read by these
wise gentlemen. 'God help her,' thought poor Trotty.
'She will know it soon enough.'
He anxiously signed, therefore, to the young smith,
to take her away. But he was so busy, talking to
her softly at a little distance, that he only became
conscious of this desire, simultaneously with Alder-
man Cute. Now, the Alderman had not yet had his
say, but he was a philosopher, too -- practical, though!
Oh, very practical -- and, as he had no idea of losing
any portion of his audience, he cried 'Stop!'
'Now, you know,' said the Alderman, addressing
his two friends, with a self-complacent smile upon
his face which was habitual to him, 'I am a plain
man, and a practical man; and I go to work in a
plain practical way. That's my way. There is not
the least mystery or difficulty in dealing with this
sort of people if you only understand 'em, and can
talk to 'em in their own manner. Now, you Porter!
Don't you ever tell me, or anybody else, my friend,
that vou haven't always enough to eat, and of the
best: because I know better. I have tasted your
tripe, you know, and you can't "chaff" me. You
understand what "chaff" means, eh? That's the
right word, isn't it? Ha, ha, ha! Lord bless you,'
said the Alderman, turning to his friends again, 'it's
the easiest thing on earth to deal with this sort of
people, if you understand 'em.'
Famous man for the common people, Alderman
Cute! Never out of temper with them! Easy, af-
fable, joking, knowing gentleman!
'You see, my friend,' pursued the Alderman,
'there's a great deal of nonsense talked about Want
-- "hard up", you know; that's the phrase, isn't it?
ha! ha! ha! and I intend to Put It Down. There's
a certain amount of cant in vogue about Starvation,
and I mean to Put It Down. That's all! Lord
bless you', said the Alderman, turning to his friends
again, you may Put Down anything among this sort
of people, if you only know the way to set about it.'
Trotty took Meg's hand and drew it through his
arm. He didn't seem to know what he was doing
'Your daughter, eh?' said the Alderman, chucking
her familiarly under the chin.
Always affable with the working classes, Alderman
Cute! Knew what pleased them! Not a bit of
'Where's her mother?' asked the worthy gentle-
'Dead,' said Toby. 'Her mother got up linen; and
was called to Heaven when She was born.'
'Not to get up linen there, I suppose,' remarked
the Alderman pleasantly.
Toby might or might not have been able to sep-
arate his wife in Heaven from her old pursuits. But
query: If Mrs. Alderman Cute had gone to Heaven,
would Mr. Alderman Cute have pictured her as hold-
ing any state or station there?
'And you're making love to her, are you?' said
Cute to the young smith.
'Yes,' returned Richard quickly, for he was nettled
by the question. 'And we are going to be married
on New Year's Day.'
'What do you mean!' cried Filer sharply. 'Mar-
'Why, yes, we're thinking of it, Master,' said
Richard. 'We're rather in a hurry, you see, in case
it should be Put Down first.'
'Ah!' cried Filer, with a groan. 'Put that down
indeed, Alderman, and you'll do something. Mar-
ried! Married!! The ignorance of the first prin-
ciples of political economy on the part of these people;
their improvidence; their wickedness; is, by Heavens
enough to -- Now look at that couple, will you!'
Well? They were worth looking at. And mar-
riage seemed as reasonable and fair a deed as they
need have in contemplation.
'A man may live to be as old as Methuselah,' sald
Mr. Filer, 'and may labour all his life for the benefit
of such people as those; and may heap up facts on
figures, facts on figures, facts on figures, mountains
high and dry; and he can no more hope to persuade
'em that they have no right or business to be mar-
ried, than he can hope to persuade 'em that they
have no earthly right or business to be born. And
that we know they haven't. We reduced it to a
mathematical certainty long ago!
Alderman Cute was mightily diverted, and laid his
right forefinger on the side of his nose, as much as
to say to both his friends, 'Observe me, will you!
Keep yohur eye on the practical man!' -- and called
Meg to him.
'Come here, my girl!' said Alderman Cute.
The young blood of her lover had been mount-
ing, wrathfully, within the last few minutes; and he
was indisposed to let her come. But, setting a con-
straint upon himself, he came forward with a stride
as Meg approached, and stood beside her. Trotty
kept her hand within his arm still, but looked from
face to face as wildly as a sleeper in a dream.
'Now, I'm going to give you a word or two of
good advice, my girl,' said the Alderman, in his nice
easy way. 'It's my place to give advice, you know,
because I'm a Justice. You know I'm a Justice,
Meg timidly said, 'Yes.' But everybody knew
Alderman Cute was a Justice! Oh dear, so active
a Justice always! Who such a mote of brightness
in the public eye, as Cute!
'You are going to be married, you say,' pursued
the Alderman. 'Very unbecoming and indelicate in
one of your sex! But never mind that. After you
are married, you'll quarrel with your husband and
come to be a distressed wife. You may think not-
but you will, because I tell you so. Now, I give
you fair warning, that I have made up my mind to
Put distressed wives Down. So, don't be brought be-
fore me. You'll have children -- boys. Those boys
will grow up bad, of course, and run wild in the
streets, without shoes and stockings. Mind my young
friend! I'll convict 'em summarily, every one, for I
am determined to Put boys without shoes and stock-
ings, Down. Perhaps your husband will die young
(most likely) and leave you with a baby. Then
you'll be turned out of doors, and wander up and
down the streets. Now, don't wander near me, my
dear, for I am resolved to Put all wandering mothers
Down. All young mothers, of all sorts and kinds,
it's my determination to Put Down. Don't think to
plead illness as an excuse with me; or babies as an
excuse with me; for all sick persons and young chil-
dren (I hope you know the church-service, but I'm
afraid not) I am determined to Put Down. And if
you attempt, desperately, and ungratefullv. and im-
piously, and fraudulently attempt, to drown yourself,
or hang yourself, I'll have no pity for you, for I have
made up my mind to Put all suicide Down! If there
is one thing,' said the Alderman, with his self-satisfied
smile, 'on which I can be said to have made up my
mind more than on another, it is to Put suicide Down.
So don't try it on. That's the phrase, isn't it? Ha,
ha! now we understand each other.'
Toby knew not whether to be agonised or glad, to
see that Meg had turned a deadly white, and dropped
her lover's hand.
'And as for you, you dull dog,' said the Alderman,
turning with even increased cheerfulness and urbanity
to the young smith, 'what are you thinking of being
married for? What do you want to be married for,
you silly fellow? If I was a fine, young, strapping
chap like you, I should be ashamed of being milksop
enough to pin myself to a woman's apron-strings!
Why, she'll be an old woman before you're a middle-
aged man! And a pretty figure you'll cut then, with
a draggle-tailed wife and a crowd of squalling chil-
dren crying after you wherever you go!'
0, he knew how to banter the common people,
'There! Go along with you,' said the Alderman,
'and repent. Don't make such a fool of yourself as
to get married on New Year's Day. You'll think
very differently of it, long before next New Year's
Day; a trim young fellow like you, with all the girls
looking after you. There! Go along with you!'
They went along. Not arm in arm, or hand in
hand, or interchanging bright glances; but, she in
tears; he gloomy and down-looking. Were these the
hearts that had so lately made old Toby's leap up
from its faintness? No, no. The Alderman (a bless-
ing on his head!) had Put them Down.
'As you happen to be here,' said the Alderman to
Toby, 'you shall carry a letter for me. Can you be
quick? You're an old man.'
Toby, who had been looking after Meg, quite
stupidly, made shift to murmur out that he was very
quick, and very strong.
'How old are you?' inquired the Alderman.
'I'm over sixty, sir,' said Toby.
'O! This man's a great deal past the average,
you know,' cried Mr. Filer, breaking in as if his
patience would bear some trying, but this really was
carrying matters a little too far.
'I feel I'm intruding, sir,' said Toby. 'I -- I mis-
doubted it this morning. Oh dear me!'
The Alderman cut him short by giving him the
letter from his pocket. Toby would have got a
shilling too; but Mr. Filer clearly showing that in
that case he would rob a certain given number of
persons of ninepence-halfpenny a-piece, he only got
sixpence; and thought himself very well off to get
Then the Alderman gave an arm to each of his
friends, and walked off in high feather; but, he im-
mediately came hurrying back alone, as if he had
'Porter!' said the Alderman.
'Sir!' said Toby.
'Take care of that daughter of yours. She's much
'Even her good looks are stolen from somebody or
other I suppose,' thought Toby, looking at the six-
pence in his hand, and thinking of the tripe. 'She's
been and robbed five hundred ladies of a bloom a-
piece, I shouldn't wonder. It's very dreadful!'
'She's much too handsome, my man,' repeated the
Alderman. 'The chances are, that she'll come to no
good, I clearly see. Observe what I say. Take care
of her!' With which, he hurried off again.
'Wrong every way. Wrong every way!' said
Trotty, clasping his hands. 'Born bad. No business
The Chimes came clashing in upon him as he said
the words. Full, loud, and sounding -- but with no
encouragement. No, not a drop.
'The tune's changed,' cried the old man, as he
listened. 'There's not a word of all that fancy in
it. Why should there be? I have no business with
the New Year nor with the old one neither. Let
Still the Bells, pealing forth their changes, made
the very air spin. Put 'em down, Put 'em down!
Good old Times, Good old Times! Facts and Fig-
ures, Facts and Figures! Put 'em down, Put 'em
down. If they said anything they said this, until
the brain of Toby reeled.
He pressed his bewildered head between his hands,
as if to keep it from splitting asunder. A well-timed
action, as it happened; for finding the letter in one
of them, and being by that means reminded of his
charge, he fell, mechanically, into his usual trot, and
THE SECOND QUARTER
The letter Toby had received from Alderman Cute,
was addressed to a great man in the great district
of the town. The greatest district of the town. It
must have been the greatest district of the town,
because it was commonly called "the world" by its
The letter positively seemed heavier in Toby's
hand, than another letter. Not because the Alderman
had sealed it with a very large coat of arms and
no end of wax, but because of the weighty name on
the superscription, and the ponderous amount of gold
and silver with which it was associated.
'How different from us!' thought Toby, in all sim-
plicity and earnestness, as he looked at the direction.
'Divide the lively turtles in the bills of mortality, by
the number of gentlefolks able to buy 'em; and whose
share does he take but his own! As to snatching
tripe from anybody's mouth -- he'd scorn it!'
With the involuntary homage due to such an ex-
alted character, Toby interposed a corner of his
apron between the letter and his fingers
'His children,' said Trotty, and a mist rose before
his eyes; 'his daughters -- Gentlemen may win their
hearts and marry them; they may be happy wives
and mothers; they may be handsome like my dar-
ling M -- e --'
He couldn't finish the name. The final letter
swelled in his throat, to the size of the whole
'Never mind,' thought Trotty. 'I know what I
mean. That's more than enough for me.' And with
this consolatory rumination, trotted on.
It was a hard frost, that day. The air was bracing,
crisp, and clear. The wintry sun, though powerless
for warmth, looked brightly down upon the ice it
was too weak to melt, and set a radiant glory there.
At other times, Trotty might have learned a poor
man's lesson from the wintry sun; but he was past
The Year was Old, that day. The patient Year
had lived through the reproaches and misuses of its
slanderers, and faithfully performed its work. Spring,
summer, autumn, winter. It had laboured through
the destined round, and now laid down its weary
head to die. Shut out from hope, high impulse, active
happiness, itself, but active messenger of many joys
to others, it made appeal in its decline to have its
toiling days and patient hours remembered, and to die
in peace. Trotty might have read a poor man's alle-
gory in the fading year; but he was past that, now.
And only he? Or has the like appeal been ever
made, by seventy years at once upon an English
labourer's head, and made in vain!
The streets were full of motion, and the shops were
decked out gaily. The New Year, like an Infant
Heir to the whole world, was waited for, with wel-
comes, presents, and rejoicings. There were books
and toys for the New Year, glittering trinkets for the
New Year, dresses for the New Year, schemes of
fortune for the New Year; new inventions to beguile
it. Its life was parcelled out in almanacks and pocket-
books; the coming of its moons, and stars, and tides,
was known beforehand to the moment; all the work-
ings of its seasons in their days and nights, were
calculated with as much precision as Mr. Filer could
work sums in men and women.
The New Year, the New Year. Everywhere the
New Year! The Old Year was already looked upon
as dead; and its effects were selling cheap, like some
drowned mariner's aboard ship. Its patterns were
Last Year's, and going at a sacrifice, before its breath
was gone. Its treasures were mere dirt, beside the
riches of its unborn successor!
Trotty had no portion, to his thinking, in the New
Year or the Old.
'Put 'em down, Put 'em down! Facts and Fig-
ures, Facts and Figures! Good old Times, Good
old Times! Put 'em down, Put 'em down!' -- his trot
went to that measure, and would fit itself to noth-
But, even that one, melancholy as it was, brought
him, in due time, to the end of his journey. To
the mansion of Sir Joseph Bowley, Member of
The door was opened by a Porter. Such a Porter!
Not of Toby's order. Quite another thing. His place
was the ticket though; not Toby's.
This Porter underwent some hard panting before
he could speak; having breathed himself by coming
incautiously out of his chair, without first taking
time to think about it and compose his mind. When
he had found his voice -- which it took him a long
time to do, for it was a long way off, and hidden
under a load of meat -- he said in a fat whisper,
'Who's it from?'
Toby told him.
'You're to take it in, yourself,' said the Porter
pointing to a room at the end of a long passage
opening from the hall. 'Everything goes straight
in, on this day of the year. You're not a bit too
soon: for, the carriage is at the door now, and they
have only come to town for a couple of hours, a'
Toby wiped his feet (which were quite dry already)
with great care, and took the way pointed out to
him; observing as he went that it was an awfully
grand house, but hushed and covered up, as if the
family were in the country. Knocking at the room-
door, he was told to enter from within; and doing
so found himself in a spacious library, where, at a
table strewn with files and papers, were a stately lady
in a bonnet; and a not very stately gentleman in
black who wrote from her dictation; while another,
and an older, and a much statelier gentleman, whose
hat and cane were on the table, walked up and down,
with one hand in his breast, and looked complacently
from time to time at his own picture -- a full length;
a very full length -- hanging over the fireplace.
'What is this?' said the last-named gentleman.
'Mr. Fish, will you have the goodness to attend?'
Mr. Fish begged pardon, and taking the letter from
Toby, handed it, with great respect.
'From Alderman Cute, Sir Joseph.'
'Is this all? Have you nothing else, Porter?' in-
quired Sir Joseph.
Toby replied in the negative.
'You have no bill or demand upon me -- my namo
is Bowley, Sir Joseph Bowley -- of any kind from
anybody, have you?' said Sir Joseph. 'If you have,
present it. There is a cheque-book by the side of
Mr. Fish. I allow nothing to be carried into the
New Year. Every description of account is settled
in this house at the close of the old one. So that
if death was to -- to --'
'To cut,' suggested Mr. Fish.
'To sever, sir,' returned Sir Joseph, with great asper-
ity, 'the cord of existence -- my affairs would be found,
I hope, in a state of preparation.'
'My dear Sir Joseph!' said the lady, who was greatly
younger than the gentleman. 'How shocking!'
'My lady Bowley,' returned Sir Joseph, flounder-
ing now and then, as in the great depth of his obser-
vations, 'at this season of the year we should think
of -- of -- ourselves. We should look into our -- our
accounts. We should feel that every return of so
eventful a period in human transactions, involves a
matter of deep moment between a man and his --
and his banker.'
Sir Joseph delivered these words as if he felt the
full morality of what he was saying; and desired that
even Trotty should have an opportunity of being
improved by such discourse. Possibly he had this
end before him in still forbearing to break the seal
of the letter, and in telling Trotty to wait where he
was, a minute.
'You were desiring Mr. Fish to say, my lady --'
observed Sir Joseph.
'Mr. Fish has said that, I believe,' returned his
lady, glancing at the letter. 'But, upon my word,
Sir Joseph, I don't think I can let it go after all.
It is so very dear.'
'What is dear!' inquired Sir Joseph.
'That Charity, my love. They only allow two
votes for a subscription of five pounds. Really
'My lady Bowley,' returned Sir Joseph, 'you sur-
prise me. Is the luxury of feeling in proportion to
the number of votes; or is it, to a rightly constituted
mind, in proportion to the number of applicants, and
the wholesome state of mind to which their canvas-
sing reduces them? Is there no excitement of the
purest kind in having two votes to dispose of among
'Not to me, I acknowledge,' replied the lady. 'It
bores one. Besides, one can't oblige one's acquaint-
ance. But you are the Poor Man's Friend, you know,
Sir Joseph. You think otherwise.'
'I am the Poor Man's Friend,' observed Sir Joseph,
glancing at the poor man present. 'As such I may
be taunted. As such I have been taunted. But I
ask no other title.'
'Bless him for a noble gentleman!' thought Trotty.
'I don't agree with Cute here, for instance,' said
Sir Joseph, holding out the letter. 'I don't agree
with the Filer party. I don't agree with any party.
My friend the Poor Man, has no business with any-
thing of that sort, and nothing of that sort has any
business with him. My friend the Poor Man, in my
district, is my business. No man or body of men
has any right to interfere between my friend and
me. That is the ground I take. I assume a -- a
paternal character towards my friend. I say, "My
good fellow, I will treat you paternally." '
Toby listened with great gravity, and began to
feel more comfortable.
'Your only business, my good fellow,' pursued Sir
Joseph, looking abstractedly at Toby; 'your only
business in life is with me. You needn't trouble
yourself to think about anything. I will think for
you; I know what is good for you; I am your per-
petual parent. Such is the dispensation of an all-wise
Providence! Now, the design of your creation is --
not that you should swill, and guzzle, and associate
your enjoyments, brutally, with food'; Toby thought
remorsefully of the tripe; 'but that you should feel
the Dignity of Labour. Go forth erect into the cheer-
ful morning air, and -- stop there. Live hard and tem-
perately, be respectful, exercise your self-denial, bring
up your family on next to nothing, pay your rent as
regularly as the clock strikes, be punctual in your
dealings (I set you a good example; you will find
Mr. Fish, my confidential secretary, with a cash-box
before him at all times); and you may trust me to
be your Friend and Father.'
'Nice children, indeed, Sir Joseph!' said the lady,
with a shudder. 'Rheumatisms, and fevers, and
crooked legs, and asthmas, and all kinds of horrors!'
'My lady,' returned Sir Joseph, with solemnity,
'not the less am I the Poor Man's Friend and Father.
Not the less shall he receive encouragement at my
hands. Every quarter-day he will be put in com-
munication with Mr. Fish. Every New Year's Day,
myself and friends will drink his health. Once every
year, myself and friends will address him with the
deepest feeling. Once in his life, he may even per-
haps receive; in public, in the presence of the gentry;
a Trifle from a Friend. And when, upheld no more
by these stimulants, and the Dignity of Labour, he
sinks into his comfortable grave, then my lady' --
here Sir Joseph blew his nose -- 'I will be a Friend
and a Father -- on the same terms -- to his children.'
Toby was greatly moved.
'O! You have a thankful family, Sir Joseph!'
cried his wife
'My lady,' said Sir Joseph, quite majestically, 'In-
gratitude is known to be the sin of that class. I
expect no other return.'
'Ah! Born bad!' thought Toby. 'Nothing melts us.'
'What man can do, I do,' pursued Sir Joseph. 'I
do my duty as the Poor Man's Friend and Father;
and I endeavour to educate his mind, by inculcating
on all occasions the one great moral lesson which
that class requires. That is, entire Dependence on
myself. They have no business whatever with -- with
themselves. If wicked and designing persons tell
them otherwise, and they become impatient and dis-
contented, and are guilty of insubordinate conduct
and black-hearted ingratitude; which is undoubtedly
the case; I am their Friend and Father still. It is
so Ordained. It is in the nature of things.'
With that great sentiment, he opened the Alder-
man's letter; and read it.
'Very polite and attentive, I am sure!' exclaimed
Sir Joseph. 'My lady, the Alderman is so obliging
as to remind me that he has had "the distinguished
honour" -- he is very good -- of meeting me at the
house of our mutual friend Deedles, the banker; and
he does me the favour to inquire whether it will be
agreeable to me to have Will Fern put down.'
'Most agreeable!' replied my Lady Bowley. 'The
worst man among them! He has been committing
a robbery, I hope?'
'Why no,' said Sir Joseph, referring to the letter.
'Not quite. Very near. Not quite. He came up
to London, it seems, to look for employment (try-
ing to better himself -- that's his story), and being
found at night asleep in a shed, was taken into cus-
tody, and carried next morning before the Alderman.
The Alderman observes (very properly) that he is
determined to put this sort of thing down; and that
if it will be agreeable to me to have Will Fern put
down, he will be happy to begin with him.'
'Let him be made an example of, by all means,
returned the lady. 'Last winter, when I introduced
pinking and eyelet-holing among the men and boys
in the village, as a nice evening employment, and
had the lines,
O let us love our occupations,
Bless the squire and his relations,
Live upon our daily rations,
And always know our proper stations,
set to music on the new system, for them to sing
the while; this very Fern -- I see him now -- touched
that hat of his, and said, "I humbly ask your pardon,
my lady, but an't I something different from a great
girl?" I expected it, of course; who can expect any-
thing but insolence and ingratitude from that class
of people! That is not to the purpose, however. Sir
Joseph! Make an example of him!'
'Hem!' coughed Sir Joseph. 'Mr. Fish, if you'll
have the goodness to attend --'
Mr. Fish immediately seized his pen, and wrote
from Sir Joseph's dictation.
'Private. My dear Sir. I am very much indebted
to you for your courtesy in the matter of the man
William Fern, of whom, I regret to add, I can say
nothing favourable. I have uniformly considered
myself in the light of his Friend and Father, but have
been repaid (a common case I grieve to say) with
ingratitude, and constant opposition to my plans.
He is a turbulent and rebellious spirit. His character
will not bear investigation. Nothing will persuade
him to be happy when he might. Under these cir-
cumstances, it appears to me, I own, that when he
comes before you again (as you informed me he prom-
ised to do to-morrow, pending your inquiries, and
I think he may be so far relied upon), his commital
for some short term as a Vagabond, would be a
service to society, and would be a salutary example
in a country where -- for the sake of those who are,
through good and evil report, the Friends and Fathers
of the Poor, as well as with a view to that, generally
speaking misguided class themselves -- examples are
greatly needed. And I am,' and so forth.
'It appears,' remarked Sir Joseph when he had
signed this letter, and Mr. Fish was sealing it, 'as if
this were Ordained: really. At the close of the year,
I wind up my account and strike my balance, even
with William Fern!'
Trotty, who had long ago relapsed, and was very
low-spirited, stepped forward with a rueful face to
take the letter.
'With my compliments and thanks,' said Sir
'Stop!' echoed Mr. Fish
'You have heard, perhaps,' said Sir Joseph, oracu-
larly, 'certain remarks into which I have been led
respecting the solemn period of time at which we have
arrived, and the duty imposed upon us of settling
our affairs, and being prepared. You have observed
that I don't shelter myself behind my superior stand-
ing in society, but that Mr. Fishi -- that gentleman--
has a cheque-book at his elbow, and is in fact here,
to enable me to turn over a perfectly new leaf. and
enter on the epoch before us with a clean account.
Now, my friend, can you lay your hand upon your
heart, and say, that you also have made praparations
for a New Year?'
'I am afraid, sir,' stammered Trotty, looking meekly
at him, 'that I am a -- a -- little behind-hand with
'Behind-hand with the world!' repeated Sir Joseph
Bowley, in a tone of terrible distinctness.
'I am afraid, sir,' faltered Trotty, 'that there's
a matter of ten or twelve shillings owing to Mrs.
'To Mrs. Chickenstalker!' repeated Sir Joseph, in
the same tone as before.
'A shop, sir,' exclaimed Toby, 'in the general line.
Also a -- a little money on account of rent. A very
little, sir. It oughtn't to be owing, I know, but we
have been hard put to it, indeed!'
Sir Joseph looked at his lady, and at Mr. Fish,
and at Trotty, one after another, twice all round.
He then made a despondent gesture with both hands
at once, as if he gave the thing up altogether.
'How a man, even among this improvident and
impracticable race; an old man; a man grown grey;
can look a New Year in the face, with his affairs in
this condition; how he can lie down on his bed at
night, and get up again in the morning, and -- There!'
he said, turning his back on Trotty. 'Take the letter.
Take the letter!'
'I heartily wish it was otherwise, sir,' said Trotty,
anxious to excuse himself. 'We have been tried very
Sir Joseph still repeating 'Take the letter, take
the letter!' and Mr. Fish not only saying the same
thing, but giving additional force to the request by
motioning the bearer to the door, he had nothing for
it but to make his bow and leave the house. And
in the street, poor Trotty pulled his worn old hat
down on his head, to hide the grief he felt at getting
no hold on the New Year, anywhere.
He didn't even lift his hat to look up at the Bell
tower when he came to the old church on his return.
He halted there a moment, from habit: and knew
that it was growing dark, and that the steeple rose
above him, indistinct and faint, in the murky air. He
knew, too, that the Chimes would ring immediately;
and that they sounded to his fancy, at such a time,
like voices in the clouds. But he only made the
more haste to deliver the Alderman's letter, and get
out of the way before they began; for he dreaded
to hear them tagging 'Friends and Fathers, Friends
and Fathers,' to the burden they had rung out last.
Toby discharged himself of his commission, there-
fore, with all possible speed, and set off trotting home-
ward. But what with his pace, which was at best an
awkward one, in the street; and what with his hat,
which didn't improve it; he trotted against somebody
in less than no time, and was sent staggering out
into the road.
'I beg your pardon, I'm sure!' said Trotty, pulling
up his hat in great confusion, and between the hat
and the torn lining, fixing his head into a kind of
bee-hive. 'I hope I haven't hurt you.'
As to hurting anybody, Toby was not such an
absolute Samson, but that he was much more likely
to be hurt himself: and indeed, he had flown out
into the road, like a shuttlecock. He had such an
opinion of his own strength, however, that he was in
real concern for the other party: and said again,
'I hope I haven't hurt you?'
The man against whom he had run; a sun-
browned, sinewy, country-looking man, with grizzled
hair, and a rough chin; stared at him for a moment,
as if he suspected him to be in jest. But, satisfied
of his good faith, he answered:
'No friend. You have not hurt me.'
'Nor the child, I hope?' said Trotty.
'Nor the child,' returned the man. 'I thank you
As he said so, he glanced at a little girl he carried
in his arms, asleep: and shading her face with the
long end of the poor handkerchief he wore about his
throat, went slowly on.
The tone in which he said 'I thank you kindly,'
penetrated Trotty's heart. He was so jaded and
foot-sore, and so soiled with travel, and looked about
him so forlorn and strange, that it was a comfort to
him to be able to thank any one: no matter for how
little. Toby stood gazing after him as he plodded
wearily away, with the child's arm clinging round his
At the figure in the worn shoes -- now the very
shade and ghost of shoes -- rough leather leggings,
common frock, and broad slouched hat, Trotty stood
gazing, blind to the whole street. And at the child's
arm, clinging round its neck.
Before he merged into the darkness the traveller
stopped; and looking round, and seeing Trotty stand-
ing there yet, seemed undecided whether to return or
go on. After doing first the one and then the other,
he came back, and Trotty went half way to meet him.
'You can tell me, perhaps,' said the man with a
faint smile, 'and if you can I am sure you will, and
I'd rather ask you than another -- where Alderman
'Close at hand,' replied Toby. 'I'll show you his
house with pleasure.'
'I was to have gone to him elsewhere to-morrow,'
said the man, accompanying Toby, 'but I'm uneasy
under suspicion, and want to clear myself, and to be
free to go and seek my bread -- I don't know where.
So, maybe he'll forgive my going to his house tonight.'
'It's impossible,' cried Toby with a start, 'that your
'Eh!' cried the other, turning on him in aston-
'Fern! Will Fern!' said Trotty.
'Why then,' cried Trotty, seizing him by the arm,
and looking cautiously round, 'for Heaven's sake
don't go to him! Don't go to him! He'll put you
down as sure as ever you were born. Here! come up
this alley, and I'll tell you what I mean. Don't
go to him.'
His new acquaintance looked as if he thought him
mad; but he bore him company nevertheless. When
they were shrouded from observation, Trotty told him
what he knew, and what character he had received,
and all about it.
The subject of his history listened to it with a
calmness that surprised him. He did not contradict
or interrupt it, once. He nodded his head now and
then -- more in corroboration of an old and worn-out
story, it appeared, than in refutation of it; and once
or twice threw back his hat, and passed his freckled
hand over a brow, where every furrow he had
ploughed seemed to have set its image in little. But
he did no more.
'It's true enough in the main,' he said, 'master, I
could sift grain from husk here and there, but let it be
as 'tis. What odds? I have gone against his plans;
to my misfortun'. I can't help it; I should do the
like to-morrow. As to character, them gentlefolks
will search and search, and pry and pry, and have it
as free from spot or speck in us, afore they'll help
us to a dry good word! -- Well! I hope they don't lose
good opinion as easy as we do, or their lives is strict
indeed, and hardly worth the keeping. For myself,
master, I never took with that hand' -- holding it be-
fore him -- 'what wasn't my own; and never held it
back from work, however hard, or poorly paid. Who-
ever can deny it, let him chop it off! But when work
won't maintain me like a human creetur; when my
living is so bad, that I am Hungry, out of doors and
in; when I see a whole working life begin that way,
go on that way, and end that way, without a chance
or change; then I say to the gentlefolks "Keep away
from me! Let my cottage be. My doors is dark
enough without your darkening of 'em more. Don't
look for me to come up into the Park to help the show
when there's a Birthday, or a fine Speechmaking, or
what not. Act your Plays and Games without me,
and be welcome to 'em, and enjoy 'em. We've nowt
to do with one another. I'm best let alone!" '
Seeing that the child in his arms had opened her
eyes, and was looking about her in wonder, he checked
himself to say a word or two of foolish prattle in
her ear, and stand her on the ground beside him.
Then slowly winding one of her long tresses round
and round his rough forefinger like a ring, while she
hung about his dusty leg, he said to Trotty:
'I'm not a cross-grained man by natur', I believe;
and easy satisfied, I'm sure. I bear no ill-will against
none of 'em. I only want to live like one of the
Almighty's creeturs. I can't -- I don't -- and so there's
a pit dug between me, and them that can and do.
There's others like me. You might tell 'em off by
hundreds and by thousands, sooner than by ones.'
Trotty knew he spoke the Truth in this, and shook
his head to signify as much.
'I've got a bad name this way,' said Fern; 'and
I'm not likely, I'm afeared, to get a better. 'Tan't
lawful to be out of sorts, and I AM out of sorts,
though God knows I'd sooner bear a cheerful spirit if
I could. Well! I don't know as this Alderman could
hurt me much by sending me to gaol; but without a
friend to speak a word for me, he might do it; and
you see --!' pointing downward with his finger, at the
'She has a beautiful face,' said Trotty.
'Why yes!' replied the other in a low voice, as he
gently turned it up with both his hands towards his
own, and looked upon it steadfastly. 'I've thought
so, many times. I've thought so, when my hearth was
very cold, and cupboard very bare. I thought so t'
other night, when we were taken like two thieves.
But they -- they shouldn't try the little face too often,
should they, Lilian? That's hardly fair upon a man!'
He sunk his voice so low, and gazed upon her with
an air so stern and strange, that Toby, to divert the
current of his thoughts, inquired if his wife were
'I never had one,' he returned, shaking his head.
'She's my brother's child: a orphan. Nine year old,
though you'd hardly think it; but she's tired and
worn out now. They'd have taken care on her, the
Union -- eight-and-twenty mile away from where we
live -- between four walls (as they took care of my old
father when he couldn't work no more, though he
didn't trouble 'em long); but I took her instead, and
she's lived with me ever since. Her mother had a
friend once, in London here. We are trying to find
her, and to find work too; but it's a large place.
Never mind. More room for us to walk about in
Meeting the child's eyes with a smile which melted
Toby more than tears, he shook him by the hand.
'I don't so much as know your name,' he said, 'but
I've opened my heart free to you, for I'm thankful
to you; with good reason. I'll take your advice, and ,
keep clear of this --'
'Justice,' suggested Toby.
'Ah!' he said. 'If that's the name they give him.
This Justice. And to-morrow will try whether there's
better fortun' to be met with, somewheres near Lon-
don. Good-night. A Happy New Year!'
'Stay!' cried Trotty, catching at his hand, as he
relaxed his grip. 'Stay! The New Year never can be
happy to me, if we part like this. The New Year
never can be happy to me, if I see the child and you,
go wandering away, you don't know where, without
a shelter for your heads. Come home with me! I'm
a poor man, living in a poor place; but I can give
you lodging for one night and never miss it. Come
home with me! Here! I'll take her!' cried Trotty,
lifting un the child. 'A pretty one! I'd carry twenty
times her weight, and never know I'd got it. Tell
me if I go too quick for you. I'm very fast. I always
was!' Trotty said this, taking about six of his
trotting paces to one stride of his fatigued companion,
and with his thin legs quivering again, beneath the
load he bore.
'Why, she's as light,' said Trotty, trotting in his
speech as well as in his gait; for he couldn't bear to be
thanked. and dreaded a moment's pause; 'as light as
a feather. Lighter than a Peacock's feather -- a great.
deal lighter. Here we are, and here we go! Round
this first turning to the right, Uncle Will, and past
the pump, and sharp off up the passage to the left,
right opposite the public-house. Here we are and
here we go! Cross over, Uncle Will, and mind the
kidney pieman at the corner! Here we are and here
we go! Down the Mews here, Uncle Will, and stop
at the black door, with "T. Veck, Ticket Porter"
wrote upon a board; and here we are and here we go,
and here we are indeed, my precious Meg, surprising
With which words Trotty, in a breathless state, set
the child down before his daughter in the middle of
the floor. The little visitor looked once at Meg; and
doubting nothing in that face, but trusting every-
thing she saw there; ran into her arms.
'Here we are and here we go!' cried Trotty, run-
ning round the room, and choking audibly. 'Here,
Uncle Will, here's a fire you know! Why don't you
come to the fire? Oh here we are and here we go!
Meg, my precious darling, where's the kettle? Here
it is and here it goes, and it'll bile in no time! '
Trotty really had picked up the kettle somewhere
or other in the course of his wild career, and now put
it on the fire; while Meg, seating the child in a warm
corner, knelt down on the ground before her, and
pulled off her shoes, and dried her wet feet on a cloth.
Ay, and she laughed at Trotty too -- so pleasantly, so
cheerfully, that Trotty could have blessed her where
she kneeled; for he had seen that, when they entered,
she was sitting by the fire in tears.
'Why, father!' said Meg. 'You're crazy to-night,
I think. I don't know what the Bells would say to
that. Poor little feet. How cold they are!'
'Oh, they're warmer now!' exclaimed the child.
'They're quite warm now!'
'No, no, no,' said Meg. 'We haven't rubbed 'em
half enough. We're so busy. So busy! And when
they're done, we'll brush out the damp hair; and
when that's done, we'll bring some colour to the poor
pale face with fresh water; and when that's done,
we'll be so gay, and brisk, and happy!'
The child, in a burst of sobbing, clasped her round
the neck; caressed her fair cheek with its hand; and
said, 'Oh Meg! oh dear Meg!'
Toby's blessing could have done no more. Who
could do more!
'Why, father!' cried Meg, after a pause.
'Here I am and here I go, my dear!' said Trotty.
'Good Gracious me!' cried Meg. 'He's crazy! He's
put the dear child's bonnet on the kettle, and hung
the lid behind the door!'
'I didn't go for to do it, my love,' said Trotty,
hastily repairing this mistake. 'Meg, my dear?'
Meg looked towards him and saw that he had elab-
orately stationed himself behind the chair of their
male visitor, where with many mysterious gestures he
was holding up the sixpence he had earned.
'I see, my dear,' said Trotty, 'as I was coming in,
half an ounce of tea lying somewhere on the stairs;
and I'm pretty sure there was a bit of bacon too. As
I don't remember where it was exactly, I'll go myself
and try to find 'em.'
With this inscrutable artifice, Toby withdrew to
purchase the viands he had spoken of, for ready
money, at Mrs. Chickenstalker's; and presently came
back, pretending he had not been able to find them, at
first, in the dark.
'But here they are at last,' said Trotty, setting out
the tea things, 'all correct! I was pretty sure it was
tea, and a rasher. So it is, Meg, my pet, if you'll
just make the tea, while your unworthy father toasts
the bacon, we shall be ready, immediate. It's a curi-
ous circumstance,' said Trotty, proceeding in his
cookery, with the assistance of the toasting-fork,
'curious, but well known to my friends, that I never
care, myself, for rashers, nor for tea. I like to see
other people enjoy 'em,' said Trotty, speaking very
loud, to impress the fact upon his guest, 'but to me, as
food, they're disagreeable.'
Yet Trotty sniffed the savour of the hissing bacon
-- ah! -- as if he liked it; and when he poured the boil-
ing water in the tea-pot, looked lovingly down into
the depths of that snug cauldron, and suffered the
fragrant steam to curl about his nose, and wreathe his
head and face in a thick cloud. However, for all
this, he neither ate nor drank, except at the very be-
ginning, a mere morsel for form's sake, which he ap-
peared to eat with infinite relish, but declared was
perfectly uninteresting to him.
No. Trotty's occupation was, to see Will Fern
and Lilian eat and drink; and so was Meg's. And
never did spectators at a city dinner or court banquet
find such high delight in seeing others feast: although
it were a monarch or a pope: as those two did, in look-
ing on that night. Meg smiled at Trotty, Trotty
laughed at Meg. Meg shook her head, and made be-
lieve to clap her hands, applauding Trotty; Trotty
conveyed, in dumb-show, unintelligible narratives of
how and when and where he had found their visitors,
to Meg; and they were happy. Very happy.
'Although,' thought Trotty, sorrowfully, as he
watched Meg's face; 'that match is broken off, I see!'
'Now, I'll tell you what,' said Trotty after tea.
'The little one, she sleeps with Meg, I know.'
'With good Meg!' cried the child, caressing her.
'That's right,' said Trotty. 'And I shouldn't won-
der if she kiss Meg's father, won't she? I'm Meg's
Mightily delighted Troty was, when the child went
timidly towards him and having kissed him, fell back
upon Meg again.
'She's as sensible as Solomon,' said Trotty. 'Here
we come and here we -- no, we don't -- I don't mean
that -- I -- what was I saying, Meg, my precious?'
Meg looked towards their guest, who leaned upon
her chair, and with his face turned from her, fondled
the child's head, half hidden in her lap.
'To be sure,' said Toby. 'To be sure! I don't
know what I'm rambling on about, to-night. My
wits are wool-gathering, I think. Will Fern, you
come along with me. You're tired to death, and
broken down for want of rest. You come along with
The man still played with the child's curls, still
leaned upon Meg's chair, still turned away his face.
He didn't speak, but in his rough coarse fingers,
clenching and expanding in the fair hair of the child,
there was an eloquence that said enough.
'Yes, yes,' said Trotty, answering unconsciously
what he saw expressed in his daughter's face. 'Take
her with you, Meg. Get her to bed. There! Now,
Will. I'll show vou where you lie. It's not much of
a place: only a loft; but, having a loft, I always say,
is one of the great conveniences of living in a mews;
and till this coach-house and stable gets a better let,
we live here cheap. There's plenty of sweet hay up
there, belonging to a neighbour; and it's as clean as
hands, and Meg, can make it. Cheer up! Don't
give way. A new heart for a New Year, always!'
The hand released from the child's hair, had fallen,
trembling, into Trotty's hand. So Trotty, talking
without intermission, led him out as tenderly and
easily as if he had been a child himself.
Returning before Meg, he listened for an instant
at the door of her little chamber; an adjoining room.
The child was murmuring a simple Prayer before
lying down to sleep; and when she had remembered
Meg's name, 'Dearly, Dearly' -- so her words ran --
Trotty heard her stop and ask for his.
It was some short time before the foolish little old
fellow could compose himself to mend the fire, and
draw his chair to the warm hearth. But, when he had
done so, and had trimmed the light, he took his news-
paper from his pocket, and began to read. Carelessly
at first, and skimming up and down the columns; but
with an earnest and a sad attention, very soon.
For this same dreaded paper re-directed Trotty's
thoughts into the channel they had taken all that
day, and which the days' events had so marked out
and shaped. His interest in the two wanderers had
set him on another course of thinking, and a happier
one, for the time; but being alone again, and reading
of the crimes and violences of the people, he relapsed
into his former train.
In this mood, he came to an account (and it was
not the first he had ever read) of a woman who had
laid her desperate hands not only on her own life but
on that of her young child. A crime so terrible, and
so revolting; to his soul, dilated with the love of Meg,
that he let the journal drop, and fell back in his chair,
'Unnatural and cruel!' Toby cried. 'Unnatural and
cruel! None but people who were bad at heart, born
bad, who had no business on the earth, could do
such deeds. It's too true, all I've heard to-day; too
just, too full of proof. We're Bad!'
The Chimes took up the words so suddenly -- burst
out so loud, and clear, and sonorous -- that the Bells
seemed to strike him in his chair.
And what was that they said?
'Toby Veck, Toby Veck, waiting for you Toby!
Toby Veck, Toby Veck, waiting for you Toby! Come
and see us, come and see us, Drag him to us, drag him
to us, Haunt and hunt him, haunt and hunt him,
Break his slumbers, break his slumbers! Toby Veck
Toby Veck, door open wide Toby, Toby Veck Toby
Veck, door open wide Toby --' then fiercely back to
their impetuous strain again, and ringing in the very
bricks and plaster on the walls.
Toby listened. Fancy, fancy! His remorse for
having run away from them that afternoon! No, no.
Nothing of the kind. Again, again, and yet a dozen
times again. 'Haunt and hunt him, haunt and hunt
him, Drag him to us, drag him to us!' Deafening the
'Meg,' said Trotty softly: tapping at her door.
'Do you hear anything?'
'I hear the Bells, father. Surely they're very loud
'Is she asleep?' said Toby, making an excuse for
'So peacefully and happily! I can't leave her yet
though, father. Look how she holds my hand!'
'Meg,' whispered Trotty. 'Listen to the Bellsl'
She listened, with her face towards him all the
time. But it underwent no change. She didn't under-
Trotty withdrew, resumed his seat by the fire, and
once more listened by himself. He remained here a
It was impossible to bear it; their energy was
'If the tower-door is really open,' said Toby, hastily
laying aside his apron, but never thinking of his hat,
'what's to hinder me from going up into the steeple
and satisfying myself? If it's shut, I don't want
any other satisfaction. That's enough.'
He was pretty certain as he slipped out quietly into
the street that he should find it shut and locked, for
he knew the door well, and had so rarely seen it open,
that he couldn't reckon above three times in all. It
was a low arched portaI, outside the church, in a dark
nook behind a column; and had such great iron
hinges, and such a monstrous lock, that there way
much more hinge and lock than door.
But what was his astonishment when, coming bare
headed to the church; and putting his hand into this
dark nook, with a certain misgiving that it might be
unexpectedly seized, and a shivering propensity to
draw it back again; he found that the door, which
opened outwards, actually stood ajar!
He thought, on the first surprise, of going back;
or of getting a light, or a companion; but his courage
aided him immediately, and he determined to ascend
'What have I to fear?' said Trotty. 'It's a church!
Besides, the ringers may be there, and have forgotten
to shut the door.'
So he went in, feeling his way as he went, like a
blind man; for it was very dark. And very quiet,
for the Chimes were silent.
The dust from the street had blown into the recess;
and lying there, heaped up, made it so soft and velvet-
like to the foot, that there was sometifing startling,
even in that. The narrow stair was so close to the
door, too, that he stumbled at the very first; and
shutting the door upon himself, by striking it with his
foot, and causing it to rebound back heavily, he
couldn't open it again.
This was another reason, however, for going on.
Trotty groped his way, and went on. Up, up, up, and
round, and round; and up, up, up; higher, higher,
It was a disagreeable staircase for that groping
work; so low and narrow, that his gropig hand was
always touching something; and it often felt so like
a man or ghostly figure standing up erect and making
room for him to pass without discovery, that he would
rub the smooth wall upward searching for its face,
and downward searching for its feet, while a chill
tingling crept all over him. Twice or thrice, a door
or niche broke the monotonous surface; and then it
seemed a gap as wide as the whole church; and he felt
on the brink of an abyss, and going to tumble head-
long down, until he found the wall again.
Still up, up, up; and round and round, and up, up,
up; higher, higher, higher up!
At length, the dull and stifling atmosphere began
to freshen: presently to feel quite windy; presently it
blew so strong, that he could hardly keep his legs.
But, he got to an arched window in the toewr, breast
high, and holding tight, looked down upon the house-
tops, on the smoking chimneys, on the blurr and
blotch of lights (towards the place where Meg was
wondering where he was and calling to him perhaps),
all kneaded up, together in a leaven of mist and
This was the belfry, where the ringers came. He
had caught hold of one of the frayed ropes which
hung down through apertures in the oaken roof. At
first he started, thinking it was hair; then trembled
at the very thought of waking the deep Bell. The
Bells themselves were higher. Higher, Trotty, in his
fascination, or in working out the spell upon him,
groped his way. By ladders now, and toilsomely,
for it was steep, and not too certain holding for the
Up, up, up; and climb and clamber; up, up, up;
higher, higher, higher up!
Until, ascending through the floor, and pausing
with his head just raised above its beams, he came
among the Bells. It was barely possible to make out
their great shapes in the gloom; but there they were.
Shadowy, and dark, and dumb.
A heavy sense of dread and loneliness fell instantly
upon him, as he climbed into this airy nest of stone
and metal. His head went round and round. He
listened, and then raised a wild 'Holloa!'
Holloa! was mournfully protracted by the echoes.
Giddy, confused, and out of breath, and frightened,
Toby looked about him vacantly, and sunk down in
Black are the brooding clouds and troubled the deep
waters, when the Sea of Thought, first heaving from
a calm, gives up its Dead. Monsters uncouth and
wild, arise in premature, imperfect resurrection, the
several parts and shapes of different things are joined
and mixed by chance; and when, and how, and by
what wonderful degrees, each separates from each,
and every sense and object of the mind resumes its
usual form and lives again, no man -- though every
man is every day the casket of this type of the Great
Mystery -- can tell.
So, when and how the darkness of the night-black
steeple changed to shining light; when and how the
solitary tower was peopled with a myriad figures;
when and how the whispered 'Haunt and hunt him,'
breathing monotonously through his sleep or swoon,
became a voice exclaiming in the waking ears of
Trotty, 'Break his slumbers'; when and how he ceased
to have a sluggish and confused idea that such things
were, companioning a host of others that were not;
there are no dates or means to tell. But, awake and
standing on his feet upon the boards where he had
lately lain, he saw this Goblin Sight.
He saw the tower, whither his charmed footsteps
had brought him, swarming with dwarf phantoms,
spirits, elfin creatures of the Bells. He saw them
leaping, flying, dropping, pouring from the Bells
wlthout a pause. He saw them, round him on the
ground; above him, in the air, clambering from him,
by the ropes below; looking down upon him, from the
massive iron-girded beams; peeping in upon him,
through the chinks and loopholes in the walls, spread-
ing away and away from him in enlarging clrcles, as
the water ripples give way to a huge stone that sud-
denly comes plashing in among them. He saw them,
of all aspects and all shapes. He saw them ugly,
handsome, crippled, exquisitely formed. He saw them
young, he saw them old, he saw them kind, he saw
them cruel, he saw them merry, he saw them grim;
he saw them dance, and heard them sing; he saw them
tear their hair, and heard them howl. He saw the air
thick with them. He saw them come and go, inces-
santly. He saw them riding downward, soaring up-
ward, sailing off afar, perching near at hand, all rest-
less and all violently active. Stone, and brick, and
slate, and tile, became transparent to him as to them.
He saw them in the houses, busy at the sleepers' beds.
He saw them soothing people in their dreams; he saw
them beating them with knotted whips; he saw them
yelling in their ears; he saw them playing softest
music on their pillows; he saw them cheering some
with the songs of birds and the perfume of flowers;
he saw them flashing awful faces on the troubled rest
of others, from enchanted mirrors which they carried
in their hands.
He saw these creatures, not only among sleeping
men but waking also, active in pursuits irreconcilable
with one another, and possessing or assuming natures
the most opposite. He saw one buckling on innu-
merable wings to increase his speed; another loading
himself with chains and weights, to retard his. He
saw some putting the hands of clocks forward, some
putting the hands of clocks backward, some endeav-
ouring to stop the clock entirely. He saw them rep-
resenting, here a marriage ceremony, there a funeral;
in this chamber an election, in that a ball; he saw,
everywhere, restless and untiring motion.
Bewildered by the host of shifting and extraor-
dinary figures, as well as by the uproar of the Bells,
which all this while were ringing, Trotty clung to a
wooden pillar for support, and turned his white face
here and there, in mute and stunned astonishment.
As he gazed, the Chimes stopped. Instantaneous
change! The whole swarm fainted! their forms col-
lapsed, their speed deserted them; they sought to fly
but in the act of falling died and melted into air. No
fresh supply succeeded them. One straggler leaped
down pretty briskly from the surface of the Great
Bell, and alighted on his feet, but he was dead and
gone before he could turn round. Some few of the
late company who had gambolled in the tower, re-
mained there, spinning over and over a little longer;
but these became at every turn more faint, and few,
and feeble, and soon went the way of the rest. The
last of all was one small hunchback, who had got into
an echoing corner, where he twirled and twirled, and
floated by himself a long time; showing such perse-
verance, that at last he dwindled to a leg and even to
a foot, before he finally returned; but he vanished in
the end, and then the tower was silent.
Then and not before, did Trotty see in every Bell
a bearded figure of the bulk and stature of the Bell --
incomprehensibly, a figure and the Bell itself. Gi-
gantic, grave, and darkly watchful of him, as he stood
rooted to the ground.
Mysterious and awful figures! Resting on nothing;
poised in the night air of the tower, with their draped
and hooded heads merged in the dim roof; motionless
and shadowy. Shadowy and dark, although he saw
them by some light belonging to themselves -- none
else was there -- each with its muffled hand upon its
He could not plunge down wildly through the open-
ing in the floor; for all power of motion had deserted
him. Otherwise he would have done so -- aye, would
have thrown himself, headforemost, from the steeple-
top, rather than have seen them watching him with
eyes that would have waked and watched although
the pupils had been taken out.
Again, again, the dread and terror of the lonely
place, and of the wild and fearful night that reigned
there, touched him like a spectral hand. His dlstance
from all help; the long, dark, winding, ghost-be-
leaguered way that lay between him and the earth on
which men lived; his being high, high, high, up there,
where it had made him dizzy to see the birds fly in
the day; cut off from all good people, who at such an
hour were safe at home and sleeping in their beds;
all this struck coldly through him, not as a reflection
but a bodily sensation. Meantime his eyes and
thoughts and fears, were fixed upon the watchful
figures; which, rendered unlike any figures of this
world by the deep gloom and shade enwrapping and
enfolding them, as well as by their looks and forms
and supernatural hovering above the floor, were never-
theless as plainly to be seen as were the stalwart
oaken frames, cross-pieces, bars and beams, set up
there to support the Bells. These hemmed them in
a very forest of hewn timber; from the entanglements,
intricacies, and depths of which, as from among the
boughs of a dead wood blighted for their phantom
use, they kept their darksome and unwinking watch.
A blast of air -- how cold and shrill! -- came moan-
ing through the tower. As it died away, the Great
Bell, or the Goblin of the Great Bell, spoke.
'What visitor is this?' it said. The voice was low
and deep, and Trotty fancied that it sounded in the
other figures as well.
'I thought my name was called by the Chimes!'
said Trotty, raising his hands in an attitude of sup-
plication. 'I hardly know why I am here, or how I
came. I have listened to the Chimes these many
years. Thev have cheered me often.'
'And you have thanked them?' said the Bell.
'A thousand times!' cried Trotty.
'I am a poor man,' faltered Trotty, 'and could only
thank them in words.'
'And always so?' inquired the Goblin of the Bell.
'Have you never done us wrong in words?'
'No!' cried Trotty eagerly.
'Never done us foul, and false, and wicked wrong,
in words?' pursued the Goblin of the Bell.
Trotty was about to answer, 'Never!' But he
stopped, and was confused.
'The voice of Time,' said the Phantom, 'cries to
man, Advance! Time is for his advancement and
improvement; for his greater worth, his greater hap-
piness, his better life; his progress onward to that
goal within its knowledge and its view, and set there,
in the period when Time and He began. Ages of
darkness, wickedness, and violence, have come and
gone -- millions uncountable, have suffered, lived, and
died -- to point the way before him. Who seeks to
turn him back, or stay him on his course, arrests a
mighty engine which will strike the meddler dead;
and be the fiercer and the wilder, ever, for its mo-
'I never did so to my knowledge, sir,' said Trotty.
'It was quite by accident if I did. I wouldn't go to
do it, I'm sure.'
'Who puts into the mouth of Time, or of its serv-
ants,' said the Goblin of the Bell, 'a cry of lamenta-
tion for days which have had their trial and their fail-
ure, and have left deep traces of it which the blind
may see -- a cry that only serves the present time, by
showing men how much it needs their help when any
ears can listen to regrets for such a past, who does
this, does a wrong. And you have done that wrong,
to us, the Chimes.'
Trotty's first excess of fear was gone. But he had
felt tenderly and gratefully towards the Bells, as you
have seen; and when he heard himself arraigned as
one who had offended them so weightily, his heart
was touched with penitence and grief.
'If you knew,' said Trotty, clasping his hands ear-
nestly -- 'or perhaps you do know -- if you know how
often you have kept me company; how often you have
cheered me up when I've been low; how you were
quite the plaything of my little daughter Meg (al-
most the only one she ever had) when first her mother
died, and she and me were left alone; you won't bear
malice for a hasty word!'
'Who hears in us, the Chimes, one note bespeaking
disregard, or stern regard, of any hope, or joy, or
pain, or sorrow, of the many-sorrowed throng; who
hears us make response to any creed that gauges
human passions and affections, as it gauges the
amount of miserable food on which humanity may
pine and wither; does us wrong. That wrong you
have done us!' said the Bell.
'I have!' said Trotty. 'Oh forgive me!'
'Who hears us echo the dull vermin of the earth:
the Putters Down of crushed and broken natures,
formed to be raised up higher than such maggots of
the time can crawl or can conceive,' pursued the Gob-
lin of the Bell; 'who does so, does us wrong. And you
have done us wrong!'
'Not meaning it,' said Trotty. 'In my ignorance,
not meaning it!'
'Lastly, and most of all,' pursued the Bell. 'Who
turns his back upon the fallen and disfigured of his
kind; abandons them as vile; and does not trace and
track with pitying eyes the unfenced precipice by
which they fell from good -- grasping in their fall
some tufts and shreds of that lost soil, and clinging
to them still when bruised and dying in the gulf
below; does wrong to Heaven and man, to time and
to eternity. And you have done that wrong!'
'Spare me,' cried Trotty, falling on his knees; 'for
'Listen!' said the Shadow
'Listen!' cried the other Shadows
'Listen!' said a clear and childlike voice, which
Trotty thought he recognised as having heard before
The organ sounded faintly in the church below.
Swelling by degrees, the melody ascended to the roof
and filled the choir and nave. Expanding more and
more, it rose up, up; up, up; higher, higher, higher
up; awakening agitated hearts within the burly piles
of oak, the hollow bells, the iron-bound doors, the
stairs of solid stone; until the tower walls were in-
sufficient to contain it, and it soared into the sky
No wonder that, an old man's breast could not con-
tain a sound so vast and mighty. It broke from that
weak prison in a rush of tears; and Trotty put his
hands before his face
'Listen!' said the Shadow.
'Listen!' said the other Shadows
'Listen!' said the child's voice.
A solemn strain of blended voices, rose into the
It was a very low and mournful strain -- a Dirge --
and as he listened, Trotty heard his child among the
'She is dead!' exclaimed the old man. 'Meg is
dead! Her spirit calls to me. I hear it!'
'The Spirit of your child bewails the dead, and
mingles with the dead -- dead hopes, dead fancies
dead imaginings of youth,' returned the Bell, 'but she
is living. Learn from her life, a living truth. Learn
from the creature dearest to your heart, how bad the
bad are born. See every bud and leaf plucked one
by one from off the rarest stem, and know how bare
and wretched it may be. Follow her! To despera-
Each of the shadowy figures stretched its right arm
forth, and pointed downward.
'The Spirit of the Chimes is your companion, said
the figure. 'Go! It staads behind you!'
Trotty turned, and saw -- the child! The child Will
Fern had carried in the street; the child whom Meg
had watched, but now, asleep!
'I carried her myself, to-night,' said Trotty. 'In
'Show him what he calls himself,' said the dark
figures, one and all.
The tower opened at his feet. He looked down,
and beheld his own form , lying at the bottom, on the
outside: crushed and motionless.
'No more a living man!' cried Trotty. 'Dead!'
'Dead!' said the figures all together.
'Gracious Heaven! And the New Year --'
'Past,' said the figures.
'What!' he cried, shuddering. "I missed my way,
and coming on the outside of this tower in the dark,
fell down -- a year ago?'
'Nine years ago!' replied the figures.
As they gave the answer, they recalled their out-
stretched hands; and where their figures had been,
there the Bells were.
And they rung; their time being come again. And
once again, vast multitudes of phantoms sprung into
existence; once again, were incoherently engaged, as
they had been before; once again, faded on the stop-
ping of the Chimes; and dwindled into nothing.
'What are these?' he asked his guide. 'If I am not
mad, what are these?'
'Spirits of the Bells. Their sound upon the air,'
returned the child. 'They take such shapes and oc-
cupations as the hopes and thoughts of mortals, and
the recollections they have stored up, give them.'
'And you,' said Trotty wildly. 'What are you?'
'Hush, hush!' returned the child. 'Look here!'
In a poor, mean room: working at the same kind
of embroidery which he had often seen before
her; Meg, his own dear daughter, was presented to
his view. He made no effort to imprint his kisses on
her face; he did not strive to clasp her to his loving
heart; he knew that such endearments were, for him,
no more. But, he held his trembling breath, and
brushed away the blinding tears, that he might look
upon her; that he might only see her.
Ah! Changed. Changed. The light of the clear
eye, how dimmed. The bloom, how faded from the
cheek. Beautiful she was, as she had ever been, but
Hope, Hope, Hope, oh where was the fresh Hope
that had spoken to him like a voice!
She looked up from her work, at a companion. Fol-
lowing her eyes, the old man started back.
In the woman grown, he recognised her at a glance.
In the long silken hair, he saw the self-same curls;
around the lips, the child's expression lingering still.
See! In the eyes, now turned inquiringly on Meg,
there shone the very look that scanned those features
when he brought her home!
Then what was this, beside him!
Looking with awe into its face, he saw a something
reigning there: a lofty something, undefined and in-
distinct, which made it hardly more than a remem-
brance of that child -- as yonder figure might be -- yet
it was the same: the same: and wore the dress.
Hark. They were speaking!
'Meg,' said Lilian, hesitating. 'How often you raise
your head from your work to look at me!' .
'Are my looks so altered, that they frighten you?'
'Nay, dear! But you smile at that, yourself! Why
not smile, when you look at me, Meg?'
'I do so. Do I not?' she answered: smiling on her.
'Now you do,' said Lilian, 'but not usually. When
you think I'm busy, and don't see you, you look so
anxious and so doubtful, that I hardly like to raise
my eyes. There is little cause for smiling in this
hard and toilsome life, but you were once so cheerful.'
'Am I not now!' cried Meg, speaking in a tone of
strange alarm, and rising to embrace her. 'Do I
make our weary life more weary to you, Lilian!'
'You have been the only thing that made it life,'
said Lilian, fervently kissing her; 'sometimes the only
thing that made me care to live so, Meg. Such work,
such work! So many hours, so many days, so many
long, long nights of hopeless, cheerless, never-ending
work -- not to heap up riches, not to live grandly or
gaily, not to live upon enough, however coarse; but to
earn bare bread: to scrape together just enough to
toil upon, and want upon, and keep alive in us the
consciousness of our hard fate! Oh Meg, Meg!' she
raised her voice and twined her arms about her as she
spoke, like one in pain. 'How can the cruel world go
round, and bear to look upon such lives!'
'Lilly!' said Meg, soothing her, and putting back
her hair from her wet face. 'Why Lilly! You!
So pretty and so young!'
'Oh Meg!' she interrupted, holding her at arm's-
length, and looking in her face imploringly. 'The
worst of all, the worst of all! Strike me old, Meg!
Wither me, and shrivel me, and free me from the
dreadful thoughts that tempt me in my youth!'
Trotty turned to look upon his guide. But, the
Spirit of the child had taken flight. Was gone.
Neither did he himself remain in the same place;
for, Sir Joseph Bowley, Friend and Father of the
Poor, held a great festivity at Bowley Hall, in hon-
our of the natal day of Lady Bowley. And as Lady
Bowley had been born on New Year's Day (which
the local newspapers considered an especial pointing
of the finger of Providence to number One. as Lady
Bowley's destined figure in Creation). it was on a
New Year's Day that this festivity took place.
Bowley Hall was full of visitors. The red-faced
gentleman was there, Mr. Filer was there, the great
Alderman Cute was there -- Alderman Cute had a
sympathetic feeling with grat people, and had con-
siderably improved his acquaintance with Sir Joseph
Bowley on the strength of his attentive letter: indeed
had become quite a friend of the family since then --
and many guests were there. Trotty's ghost was
there, wandering about, poor phantom, drearily; and
looking for its guide.
There was to be a great dinner in the Great Hall.
At which Sir Joseph Bowley, in his celebrated char-
acter of Friend and Father, of the Poor, was to make
his great speech. Certain plum-puddings were to be
eaten by his Friends and Children in another Hall
first; and, at a given signal, Friends and Children
flocking in among their Friends and Fathers, were to
form a family assemblage, with not one manly eye
therein unmoistened by emotion.
But, there was more than this to happen. Even
more than this. Sir Joseph Bowley, Baronet and
Member of Parliament, was to play a match at skittles
-- real skittles -- with his tenants!
'Which quite reminds me,' said Alderman Cute,
'of the days of old King Hal, stout King Hal, bluff
King Hal. Ah. Fine character!'
'Very,' said Mr. Filer, dryly. 'For marrying women
and murdering 'em. Considerably more than the av-
erage number of wives by the bye.'
'You'll marry the beautiful ladies, and not murder
'em, eh?' said Alderman Cute to the heir of Bowley,
aged twelve. 'Sweet boy! We shall have this little
gentleman in Parliament now,' said the Alderman,
holding him by the shoulders, and looking as re-
flective as he could, 'before we know where we are.
We shall hear of his successes at the poll; his speeches
in the House; his overtures from Governments; his
brilliant achievements of all kinds; ah! we shall make
our little orations about him in the Common Council,
I'll be bound; before we have time to look about us!'
'Oh, the difference of shoes and stockings!' Trotty
thought. But his heart yearned towards the child,
for the love of those same shoeless and stockingless
boys, predestined (by the Alderman) to turn out bad,
who might have been the children of poor Meg.
'Richard,' moaned Trotty, roaming among the com-
pany, to and fro; 'where is he? I can't find Richard!
Where is Richard?'
Not likely to be there, if still alive! But Trotty's
grief and solitude confused him; and he still went
wandering among the gallant company, looking for
his guide, and saying, 'Where is Richard? Show me
He was wandering thus, when he encountered Mr.
Fish, the confidential Secretary: in great agitation.
'Bless my heart and soul!~ cried Mr. Fish. 'Where's
Alderman Cute? Has anybody seen the Alderman?'
Seen the Alderman? Oh dear! Who could ever
help seeing the Alderman? He was so considerate,
so affable, he bore so much in mind the natural desires
of folks to see him, that if he had a fault, it was the
being constantly On View. And wherever the great
people were, there, to be sure, attracted by the kindred
sympathy between great souls, was Cute.
Several voices cried that he was in the circle round
Sir Joseph. Mr. Fish made way there; found him;
and took him secretly into a window near at hand.
Trotty joined them. Not of his own accord. He
felt that his steps were led in that direction.
'My dear Alderman Cute,' said Mr. Fish. 'A little
more this way. The most dreadful circumstance has
occurred. I have this moment received the intelli-
gence. I think it will be best not to acquaint Sir
Joseph with it till the day is over. You understand
Sir Joseph, and will give me your opinion. The most
frightful and deplorable event!'
'Fish!' returned the Alderman. 'Fish! My good
fellow what is the matter? Nothing revolutionary,
I hope! No -- no attempted interference with the
'Deedles, the banker,' gasped the Secretary.
'Deedles Brothers -- who was to have been here to-
day -- high in office in the Goldsmiths' Company --'
'Not stopped!' exclaimed the Alderman. 'It can't
'Put a double-barrelled pistol to his mouth, in his
own counting-house,' said Mr. Fish, 'and blew his
brains out. No motive. Princely circumstances!'
'Circumstances!' exclaimed the Alderman. 'A man
of noble fortune. One of the most respectable of
men. Suicide, Mr. Fish! By his own hand!'
'This very morning,' returned Mr. Fish.
'Oh the brain, the brain!' exclaimed the pious Alder-
man, lifting up his hands. 'Oh the nerves, the nerves;
the mysteries of this machine called Man! Oh the
little that unhinges it: poor creatures that we are!
Perhaps a dinner, Mr. Fish. Perhaps the conduct
of his son, who, I have heard, ran very wild, and was
in the habit of drawing bills upon him without the
least authority! A most respectable man. One of
the most respectable men I ever knew! A lamentable
instance, Mr. Fish. A public calamity! I shall make
a point of wearing the deepest mourning. A most
respectable man! But there is One above. We must
submit, Mr. Fish. We must submit!'
What, Alderman! No word of Putting Down?
Remember, Justice, your high moral boast and pride.
Come, Alderman! Balance those scales. Throw me
into this, the empty one, no dinner, and Nature's
founts in some poor woman, dried by starving misery
and rendered obdurate to claims for which her off-
spring has authority in holy mother Eve. Weigh me
the two, you Daniel, going to judgement, when your
day shall come! Weigh them, in the eyes of suffering
thousands, audience (not unmindful) of the grim
farce you play. Or supposing that you strayed from
your five wits -- it's not so far to go, but that it might
be -- and laid hands upon that throat of yours, warn-
ing your fellows (if you have a fellow) how they
croak their comfortable wickedness to raving heads
and stricken hearts. What then?
The words rose up in Trotty's breast, as if they had
been spoken by some other voice within him. Alder-
man Cute pledged himself to Mr. Fish that he would
assist him in breaking the melancholy catastrophe to
Sir Joseph when the day was over. Then, before
they parted, wringing Mr. Fish's hand in bitterness
of soul, he said, 'The most respectable of men!' And
added that he hardly knew (not even he), why such
afflictions were allowed on earth.
'It's almost enough to make one think, if one didn't
know better,' said Alderman Cute, 'that at times some
motion of a capsizing nature was going on in things,
which affected the general economy of the social fab-
ric. Deedles Brothers!'
The skittle-playing came off which immense suc-
cess. Sir Joseph knocked the pins about quite skil-
fully; Master Bowley took an innings at a shorter
distance also; and everybody said that now, when a
Baronet and the Son of a Baronet played at skittles,
the country was coming round again, as fast as it
At its proper time, the Banquet was served up.
Trotty involuntarily repaired to the Hall with the
rest, for he felt himself conducted thither by some
stronger impulse than his own free will. The sight
was gay in the extreme; the ladies were very hand-
some; the visitors delighted, cheerful, and good-tem-
pered. When the lower doors were opened, and the
people flockcd in, in their rustic dresses, the beauty
of the spectacle was at its height; but Trotty only
murmured more and more, 'Where is Richard! He
should help and comfort her! I can't see Richard!'
There had been some speeches made; and Lady
Bowley's health had been proposed; and Sir Joseph
Bowley had returned thanks, and had made his great
speech, showing by various pieces of evidence that he
was the born Friend and Father, and so forth; and
had given as a Toast, his Friends and Children, and
the Dignity of Labour; when a slight disturbance at
the bottom of the Hall attracted Toby's notice. After
some confusion, noise, and opposition, one man broke
through the rest, and stood forward by himself.
Not Richard. No. But one whom he had thought
of, and had looked for, many times. In a scantier
supply of light, he might have doubted the identity
of that worn man, so old, and grey, and bent; but
with a blaze of lamps upon his gnarled and knotted
head, he knew Will Fern as soon as he stepped forth.
'What is this!' exclaimed Sir Joseph, rising. 'Who
gave this man admittance? This is a criminal from
prison! Mr. Fish, sir, will you have the goodness --'
'A minute!' said Will Fern. 'A minute! My
Lady, you was born on this day along with a New
Year. Get me a minute's leave to speak.'
She made some intercession for him. Sir Joseph
took his seat again, with native dignity.
The ragged visitor -- for he was miserably dressed
-- looked round upon the company, and made his
homage to them with a humble bow
'Gentlefolks!' he said. 'You've drunk the Labourer.
Look at me!'
'Just come from jail,' said Mr. Fish.
'Just come from jail,' said Will. 'And neither for
the first time, nor the second, nor the third, nor yet
Mr. Filer was heard to remark testily, that four
times was over the average; and he ought to be
ashamed of himself.
'Gentlefolks!' repeated Will Fern. 'Look at me!
You see I'm at the worst. Beyond all hurt or harm;
beyond your help; for the time when your kind words
or kind actions could have done ME good,' he struck
his hand upon his breast, and shook his head, 'is gone,
with the scent of last year's beans or clover on the
air. Let me say a word for these,' pointing to the
labouring people in the Hall; 'and when you're met
together, hear the real Truth spoke out for once.'
'There's not a man here,' said the host, 'who would
have him for a spokesman.'
'Like enough, Sir Joseph. I believe it. Not the
less true, perhaps, is what I say. Perhaps that's a
proof on it. Gentlefolks, I've lived many a year in
this place. You may see the cottage from the sunk
fence over yonder. I've seen the ladies draw it in
their books, a hundred times. It looks well in a
picter, I've heerd say; but there an't weather in pic-
ters, and maybe 'tis fitter for that, than for a place
to live in. Well! I lived there. How hard -- how bitter
hard, I lived there, I won't say. Any day in the year,
and every day, you can judge for your own selves.'
He spoke as he had spoken on the night when
Trotty found him in the street. His voice was deeper
and more husky, and had a trembling in it now and
then; but he never raised it passionately, and seldom
lifted it above the firm stern level of the homely
facts he stated.
' 'Tis harder than you think for, gentlefolks, to
grow up decent, commonly decent, in such a place.
That I growed up a man and not a brute, says some-
thing for me -- as I was then. As I am now, there's
nothing can be said for me or done for me. I'm
'I am glad this man has entered,' observed Sir
Joseph, looking round serenely. 'Don't disturb him.
It appears to be Ordained. He is an example: a
living example. I hope and trust. and confidently
expect, that it will not be lost upon my Friends here.'
'I dragged on,' said Fern, after a moment's silence,
'somehow. Neither me nor any other man knows
how; but so heavy, that I couldn't put a cheerful face
upon it, or make believe that I was anything but what
I was. Now, gentlemen -- you gentlemen that sits at
Sessions -- when you see a man with discontent writ
on his face, you says to one another, "He's suspicious.
I has my doubts," says you, "about Will Fern
Watch that fellow!" I don't say, gentlemen, it an't
quite nat'ral, but I say 'tis so; and from that hour,
whatever Will Fern does, or lets alone -- all one -- it
goes against him.'
Alderman Cute stuck his thumbs in his waistcoat-
pockets, and leaning back in his chair, and smiling
winked at a neighbouring chandelier. As much as
to say, 'Of course! I told you so. The common cry!
Lord bless you, we are up to all this sort of thing --
myself and human nature.'
'Now, gentlemen,' said Will Fern, holding out his
hands, and flushing for an instant in his haggard face,
'see how your laws are made to trap and hunt us
when we're brought to this. I tries to live elsewhere.
And I'm a vagabond. To jail with him! I comes
back here. I goes a-nutting in your woods, and breaks
-- who don't? -- a limber branch or two. To jail with
him! One of your keepers sees me in the broad day,
near my own patch of garden, with a gun. To jail
with him! I has a nat'ral angry word with that man,
when I'm free again! To jail with him! I cuts a
stick. To jail with him! I eats a rotten apple or a
turnip. To jail with him! It's twenty mile away;
and coming back I begs a trifle on the road. To jail
with him! At last, the constable, the keeper -- any-
body -- finds me anywhere, a-doing anything. To jail
with him, for he's a vagrant, and a jail-bird known;
and the jail's the only home he's got.'
The Alderman nodded sagaciously, as who should
say, 'A very good home too!'
'Do I say this to serve MY cause!' cried Fcrn.
'Who can give me back my liberty, who can give me
back my good name, who can give me back my in-
nocent niece? Not all the Lords and Ladies in wide
England. But gentlemen, gentlemen, dealing with
other men like me, begin at the right end. Give us,
in mercy, better homes when we're a-lying in our
cradles; give us better food when we're a-working for
our lives; give us kinder laws to bring us back where
we're a-going wrong; and don't set Jail, Jail, Jail,
afore us, everywhere we turn. There an't a con-
descension you can show the Labourer then, that he
won't take, as ready and as grateful as a man can
be; for, he has a patient, peaceful, willing heart. But
you must put his rightful spirit in him first; for,
whether he's a wreck and ruin such as me, or is like
one of them that stand here now, his spirit is divided
from you at this time. Bring it back, gentlefolks,
bring it back! Bring it back, afore the day comes
when even his Bible changes in his altered mind, and
the words seem to him to read, as they have some-
times read in my own eyes -- in Jail: "Whither thou
goest, I can Not go; where thou lodgest, I do Not
lodge; thy people are Not my people; Nor thy God
my God!" '
A sudden stir and agitation took place in the Hall.
Trotty though at first, that several had risen to eject
the man; and hence this change in its appearance.
But, another moment showed him that the room and
all the company had vanished from his sight, and
that his daughter was again before him, seated at her
work. But in a poorer, meaner garret than before;
and with no Lilian by her side.
The frame at which she had worked, was put away
upon a shelf and covered up. The chair in which
she had sat, was turned against the wall. A history
was Written in these little things, and in Meg's grief-
worn face. Oh! who could fail to read it!
Meg strained her eyes upon her work until it was
too dark to see the threads; and when the night closed
in, she lighted her feeble candle and worked on. Still
her old father was invisible about her; looking down
upon her; loving her -- how dearly loving her! -- and
talking to her in a tender voice about the old times,
and the Bells. Though he knew, poor Trotty, though
he knew she could not hear him.
A great part of the evening had worn away, when
a knock came at her door. She opened it. A man
was on the threshold. A slouching, moody, drunken
sloven, wasted by intemperance and vice, and with his
matted hair and unshorn beard in wild disorder; but,
with some traces on him, too, of having been a man
of good proportion and good features in his youth.
He stopped until he had her leave to enter; and
she, retiring a pace or two from the open door, silently
and sorrowfully looked upon him. Trotty had his
wish. He saw Richard.
'May I come in, Margaret?'
'Yes! Come in. Come in!'
It was well that Trotty knew him before he spoke;
for with any doubt remaining on his mind, the harsh
discordant voice would have persuaded him that it
was not Richard but some other man.
There were but two chairs in the room. She gave
him hers, and stood at some short distance from him,
waiting to hear what he had to say.
He sat, however, staring vacantly at the floor; with
a lustreless and stupid smile. A spectacle of such
deep degradation, of such abject hopelessness, of such
a miserable downfall, that she put her hands before
her face and turned away, lest he should see how
much it moved her. .
Roused by the rustling of her dress, or some such
trifling sound, he lifted his head, and began to speak
as if there had been no pause since he entered.
'Still at work, Margaret? You work late.'
'I generally do.'
'So she said. She said you never tired; or never
owned that you tired. Not all the time you lived
together. Not even when you fainted, between work
and fasting. But I told you that, the last time I
'You did,' she answered. 'And I implored you to
tell me nothing more; and you made me a solemn
promise, Richard, that you never would.'
'A solemn promise,' he repeated, with a drivelling
laugh and vacant stare. 'A solemn promise. To be
sure. A solemn promise!' Awakening, as it were,
after a time; in the same manner as before; he said
with sudden animation:
'How can I help it, Margaret? What am I to do?
She has been to me again!'
'Again!' cried Meg, clasping her hands. '0, does
she think of me so often! Has she been again!'
'Twenty times again,' said Richard. 'Margaret, she
haunts me. She comes behind me in the street, and
thrusts it in my hand. I hear her foot upon the ashes
when I'm at my work (ha, ha! that an't often), and
before I can turn my head, her voice is in my ear,
saying, "Richard, don't look round. For Heaven's
love, give her this!" She brings it where I live; she
ends it in letters; she taps at the window and lays
it on the sill. What can I do? Look at it!'
He held out in his hand a little purse, and chinked
the money it enclosed.
'Hide it,' said Meg. 'Hide it! When she comes
again, tell her, Richard, that I love her in my soul.
That I never lie down to sleep, but I bless her, and
pray for her. That, in my solitary work, I never
cease to have her in my thoughts. That she is with
me, night and day. That if I died to-morrow, I
would remember her with my last breath. But, that
I cannot look upon it!'
He slowly recalled his hand, and crushing the purse
together, said with a kind of drowsy thoughtfulness:
'I told her so. I told her so, as plain as words
could speak. I've taken this gift back and left it at
her door, a dozen times since then. But when she
came at last, and stood before me, face to face, what
could I do?'
'You saw her!' exclaimed Meg. 'You saw her!
O Lilian, my sweet girl! 0, Lilian, Lilian!'
'I saw her,' he went on to say, not answering, but
engaged in the same slow pursuit of his own thoughts.
'There she stood: trembling! "How does she look,
Richard? Does she ever speak of me? Is she
thinner? My old place at the table: what's in my old
place? And the frame she taught me our old work
on -- has she burnt it, Richard!" There she was. I
heard her say it.'
Meg checked her sobs, and with the tears stream-
ing from her eyes, bent over him to listen. Not to
lose a breath.
With his arms resting on his knees; and stooping
forward in his chair, as if what he said were written
on the ground in some half legible character, which it
was his occupation to decipher and connect; he went
' "Richard, I have fallen very low; and you may
guess how much I have suffered in having this sent
back, when I can bear to bring it in my hand to you.
But you loved her once, even in my memory, dearly.
Others stepped in between you; fears, and jealousies,
and doubts, and vanities, estranged you from her;
but you did love her, even in my memory!" I suppose
I did,' he said, interrupting himself for a moment.
'I did! That's neither here nor there. "O Richard,
if you ever did: if you have any memory for what is
gone and lost, take it to her once more. Once more!
Tell her how I laid my head upon your shoulder,
where her own head might have lain, and was so
humble to you, Richard. Tell her that you looked into
my face, and saw the beauty which she used to praise,
all gone: all gone: and in its place, a poor, wan,
hollow cheek, that she would weep to see. Tell her
everything, and take it back and she will not refuse
again. She will not have the heart!
So he sat musing, and repeating the last words,
until he woke again, and rose.
'You won't take it, Margaret?'
She shook her head, and motioned an entreaty to
him to leave her.
He turned to look upon her; struck by her sorrow,
and perhaps by the pity for himself which trembled
in her voice. It was a quick and rapid action; and
for the moment some flash of his old bearing kindled
in his form. In the next he went as he had come.
Nor did this glimmer of a quenched fire seem to light
him to a quicker sense oi his debasement.
In any mood, in any grief, in any torture of the
mind or body, Meg's work must be done. She sat
down to her task, and plied it. Night, midnight.
Still she worked.
She had a meagre fire, the night being very cold;
and rose at intervals to mend it. The Chimes rang
half-past twelve while she was thus engaged; and
when they ceased she heard a gentle knocking at the
door. Before she could so much as wonder who was
there, at that unusual hour, it opened.
O Youth and Beauty, happy as ye should be, look
at this. O Youth and Beauty, blest and blessing all
within your reach, and working out the ends of your
Beneficent Creator, look at this!
She saw the entering figure; screamed its name;
It was swift, and fell upon its knees before her:
clinging to her dress.
'Up, dear! Up! Lilian! My own dearest!'
'Never more, Meg; never more! Here! Here!
Close to you, holding to you, feeling your dear breath
upon my face'
'Sweet Lilian! Darling Lilian! Child of my heart
-- no mother's love can be more tender -- lay your
head upon my breast!'
'Never more, Meg. Never more! When I first
looked into your face, you knelt before me. On my
knees before you, let me die. Let it be here!'
'You have come back. My Treasure! We will
live together, work together, hope together, die to-
'Ah! Kiss my lips, Meg; fold your arms about
me; press me to your bosom; look kindly on me; but
don't raise me. Let it be here. Let me see the last
of your dear face upon my knees!'
O Youth and Beauty, happy as ye should be, look
at this! O Youth and Beauty, working out the ends
of your Beneficent Creator, look at this!
'Forgive me, Meg! So dear, so dear! Forgivo me!
I know you do, I see you do, but say so, Meg!'
She said so, with her lips on Lilian's cheek. And
with her arms twined round -- she knew it now -- a
'His blessing on you, dearest love. Kiss me once
more! He suffered her to sit beside His feet, and
dry them with her hair. O Meg, what Mercy and
As she died, the Spirit of the child returning, inno-
cent and radiant, touched the old man with its hand,
and beckoned him away.
Some new remembrance of the ghostly figures in the
Bell; some faint impression of the ringing of the
Chimes; some giddy consciousness of having seen
the swarm of phantoms reproduced and reproduced
until the recollection of them lost itself in the con-
fusion of their numbers; some hurried knowledge,
how conveyed to him he knew not, that more years
had passed; and Trotty, with the Spirit of the child
attending him, stood looking on at mortal company.
Fat company, rosy-cheeked company, comfortable
company. They were but two, but they were red
enough for ten. They sat before a bright fire, with
a small low table between them; and unless the fra-
grance of hot tea and muffins lingered longer in that
room than in most others, the table had seen service
very lately. But all the cups and saucers being clean,
and in their proper places in the corner-cupboard; and
the brass toasting-fork hanging in its usual nook and
spreading its four idle fingers out as if it wanted to
be measured for a glove; there remained no other
visible tokens of the meal just finished, than such as
purred and washed their whiskers in the person of
the basking cat, and glistened in the gracious, not to
say the greasy, faces of her patrons.
This cosy couple (married, evidently) had made a
fair division of the fire between them, and sat looking
at the glowing sparks that dropped into the grate;
now nodding off into a doze; now waking up again
when some hot fragment, larger than the rest, came
rattling down, as if the fire were coming with it.
It was in no danger of sudden extinction, however;
for it gleamed not only in the little room, and on the
panes of window-glass in the door, and on the cur-
tain half drawn across them, but in the little shop
beyond. A little shop, quite crammed and choked
with the abundance of its stock; a perfectly voracious
little shop, with a maw as accommodating and full aa
any shark's. Cheese, butter, firewood, soap, pickles
matches, bacon, table-beer, peg-tops, sweetmeats
boys' kites, bird-seed, cold ham, birch brooms, hearth_
stones, salt, vinegar, blacking, red-herrings, station-
ery, lard, mushroom-ketchup, staylaces, loaves of
bread, shuttlecocks, eggs, and slate pencil; everything
was fish that came to the net of this greedy little
shop, and all articles were in its net. How many
other kinds of petty merchandise were there, it would
be difficult to say; but balls of packthread, ropes of
onions, pounds of candles, cabbage-nets, and brushes,
hung in bunches from the ceiling, like extraordinary
fruit; while various odd canisters emitting aromatic
smells, established the veracity of the inscription over
the outer door, which informed the public that the
keeper of this little shop was a licensed dealer in
tea, coffee, tobacco, pepper, and snuff.
Glancing at such of these articles as were visible
in the shining of the blaze, and the less cheerful
radiance of two smoky lamps which burnt but dimly
in the shop itself, as though its plethora sat heavy on
their lungs; and glancing, then, at one of the two
faces by the parlour-fire; Trotty had small difficulty
in recognising in the stout old lady, Mrs. Chicken-
stalker: always inclined to corpulency, even in the
days when he had known her as established in the
general line, and having a small balance against him
in her books.
The features of her companion were less easy to
him. The great broad chin, with creases in it large
enough to hide a finger in; the astonished eyes, that -
seemed to expostulate with themselves for sinking
deeper and deeper into the yielding fat of the soft
face; the nose afflicted with that disordered action of
its functions which is generally termed The Snuffles;
the short thick throat and labouring chest, with other
beauties of the like description; though calculated to
impress the memory, Trotty could at first allot to
nobody he had ever known: and yet he had some
recollection of them too. At length, in Mrs. Chicken-
stalker's partner in the general line, and in the crooked
and eccentric line of life, he recognised the former
porter of Sir Joseph Bowley; an apoplectic innocent,
who had connected himself in Trotty's mind with
Mrs. Chickenstalker years ago, by giving him admis-
sion to the mansion where he had confessed his obli-
gations to that lady, and drawn on his unlucky head
such grave reproach.
Trotty had little interest in a change like this, after
the changes he had seen; but association is very
strong sometimes; and he looked involuntarily be-
hind the parlour-door, where the accounts of credit
customers were usually kept in chalk. There was no
record of his name. Some names were there, but they
were strange to him, and infinitely fewer than of old;
from which he argued that the porter was an advo-
cate of ready money transactions, and on coming into
the business had looked pretty sharp after the Chick-
So desolate was Trotty, and so mournful for the
youth and promise of his blighted child, that it was
a sorrow to him, even to have no place in Mrs.
'What sort of a night is it, Anne?' inquired the
former porter of Sir Joseph Bowley, stretching out
his legs before the fire, and rubbing as much of them
as his short arms could reach; with an air that added,
'Here I am if it's bad, and I don't want to go out
if it's good.'
'Blowing and sleeting hard,' returned his wife; 'and
threatening snow. Dark. And very cold.'
'I'm glad to think we had muffins,' said the former
porter, in the tone of one who had set his conscience
at rest. 'It's a sort of night that's meant for muf-
fins. Likewise crumpets. Also Sally Lunns.'
The former porter mentioned each successive kind
of eatable, as if he were musingly summing up his
good actions. After which he rubbed his fat legs as
before, and jerking them at the knees to get the fire
upon the yet unroasted parts, laughed as if some-
body had tickled him.
'You're in spirits, Tugby, my dear,' observed his
The firm was Tugby, late Chickenstalker.
'No,' said Tugby. 'No. Not particular. I'm a
little elewated. The muffins came so pat!'
With that he chuckled until he was black in the
face; and had so much ado to become any other
colour, that his fat legs took the strangest excursions
into the air. Nor were they reduced to anything like
decorum until Mrs. Tugby had thumped him vio-
lently on the back, and shaken him as if he were
a great bottle.
'Good gracious, goodness, lord-a-mercy bless and
save the man!' cried Mrs. Tugby, in great terror.
'What's he doing?'
Mr. Tugby wiped his eyes, and faintly repeated,
that he found himself a little elewated.
'Then don't be so again, that's a dear good soul,'
said Mrs. Tugby, 'if you don't want to frighten me
to death, with your struggling and fighting!'
Mr. Tugby said he wouldn't; but his whole exist-
ence was a fight, in which, if any judgment might be
founded on the constantly-increasing shortness of his
breath, and the deepening purple of his face, he was
always getting the worst of it.
'So it's blowing, and sleeting, and threatening
snow; and it's dark, and very cold, is it, my dear?
said Mr. Tugby, looking at the fire, and reverting
to the cream and marrow of his temporary elevation.
'Hard weather indeed,' returned his wife, shaking
'Aye, aye! Years,' said Mr. Tugby, 'are like Chris-
tians in that respect. Some of 'em die hard; some
of 'em die easy. This one hasn't many days to run,
and is making a fight for it. I like him all the better.
There's a customer, my love!'
Attentive to the rattling door, Mrs. Tugby had
'Now then!' said that lady, passing out into the
little shop. 'What's wanted? Oh! I beg your pardon,
sir, I'm sure. I didn't think it was you.'
She made this apology to a gentleman in black,
who with his wristbands tucked up, and his hat
cocked loungingly on one side, and his hands in his
pockets, sat down astride on the table-beer barrel,
and nodded in return.
'This is a bad business upstairs, Mrs. Tugby,' said
the gentleman. 'The man can't live.'
'Not the back-attic can't!' cried Tugby, coming
out into the shop to join the conference.
'The back-attic, Mr. Tugby,' said the gentleman,
'is coming downstairs fast, and will be below the
basement very soon.'
Looking by turns at Tugby and his wife, he
sounded the barrel with his knuckles for the depth
of beer, and having found it, played a tune upon
the empty part.
'The back-attic, Mr. Tugby,' said the gentleman:
Tugby having stood in silent consternation for some
time: 'is Going.'
'Then,' said Tugby, turning to his wife, 'he must
Go, you know, before he's Gone.'
'I don't think you can move him,' said the gentle-
man, shaking his head. 'I wouldn't take the respon-
sibility of saying it could be done, myself. You had
better leave him where he is. He can't live long.'
'It's the only subject,' said Tugby, bringing the
butter-scale down upon the counter with a crash, by
weighing his fist on it, 'that we've ever had a word
upon; she and me; and look what it comes to! He's
going to die here, after all. Going to die upon the
premises. Going to die in our house!'
'And where should he have died, Tugby?' cried
'In the workhouse,' he returned. 'What are work-
houses made for?'
'Not for that,' said Mrs. Tugby, with great energy.
'Not for that! Neither did I marry you for that,
Don't think it, Tugby. I won't have it. I won't.
allow it. I'd be separated first, and never see your
face again. When my widow's name stood over that
door, as it did for many years: this house being
known as Mrs. Chickenstalker's far and wide, and
never known but to its honest credit and its good
report: when my widow's name stood over that door,
Tugby, I knew him as a handsome, steady, manly,
independent youth; I knew her as the sweetest-look-
ing, sweetest-tempered girl, eyes ever saw; I knew
her father (poor old creetur, he fell down from the
steeple walking in his sleep, and killed himself), for
the simplest, hardest-working, childest-hearted man,
that ever drew the breath of life; and when I turn
them out of house and home, may angels turn me out
of Heaven. As they would! And serve me rightl'
Her old face, which had been a plump and dimpled
one before the changes which had come to pass,
seemed to shine out of her as she said these words;
and when she dried her eyes, and shook her head and
her handkerchief at Tugby, with an expression of
firmness which it was quite clear was not to be easily
resisted, Trotty said 'Bless her! Bless her!'
Then he listened, with a panting heart, for what
should follow. Knowing nothing yet, but that they
spoke of Meg.
If Tugby had been a little elevated in the parlour,
he more than balanced that account by being not a
little depressed in the shop, where he now stood star-
ing at his wife, without attempting a reply; secretly
conveying, however -- either in a fit of abstraction or
as a precautionary measure -- all the money from the
till into his own pockets, as he looked at her.
The gentleman upon the table-beer cask, who ap-
peared to be some authorised medical attendant upon
the poor, was far too well accustomed, evidently, to
little differences of opinion between man and wife,
to interpose any remark in this instance. He sat
softly whistling, and turning little drops of beer out
of the tap upon the ground, until there was a perfect
calm: when he raised his head, and said to Mrs.
Tugby, late Chickenstalker:
'There's something interesting about the woman,
even now. How did she come to marry him?'
'Why that,' said Mrs. Tugby, taking a seat near
him, 'is not the least cruel part of her story, sir. You
see they kept company, she and Richard, many years
ago. When they were a young and beautiful couple,
everything was settled, and they were to have been
married on a New Year's Day. But, somehow, Rich-
ard got it into his head, through what the gentlemen
told him, that he might do better, and that he'd soon
repent it, and that she wasn't good enough for him,
and that a young man of spirit had no business to
be married. And the gentlemen frightened her, and
made her melancholy, and timid of his deserting her,
and of her children coming to the gallows, and of
its being wicked to be man and wife, and a good deal
more of it. And in short, they lingered and lingered,
and their trust in one another was broken, and so
at last was the match. But the fault was his. She
would have married him, sir, joyfully. I've seen her
heart swell, many times afterwards, when he passed
her in a proud and careless way; and never did a
woman grieve more truly for a man, that she for
Richard when he first went wrong.'
'Oh! he went wrong, did he?' said the gentleman
pulling out the vent-peg of the table-beer, and trying
to peep down into the barrel through the hole.
'Well, sir, I don't know that he rightly understood
himself, you see. I think his mind was troubled by
their having broke with one another; and that but
for being ashamed before the gentlemen, and perhaps
for being uncertain too, how she might take it, he'd
have gone through any suffering or trial to have had
Meg's promise and Meg's hand again. That's my
belief. He never said so; more's the pity! He took
to drinking, idling, bad companions: all the fine re-
sources that were to be so much better for him than
the Home he might have had. He lost his looks, his
character, his health, his strength, his friends, his
'He didn't lose everything, Mrs. Tugby,' returned
the gentleman, 'because he gained a wife; and I want
to know how he gained her.'
'I'm coming to it, sir, in a moment. This went
on for years and years; he sinking lower and lower;
she enduring, poor thing, miseries enough to wear
her life away. At last, he was so cast down, and
cast out, that no one would employ or notice him; and
doors were shut upon him, go where he would. Ap-
plying from place to place, and door to door; and
coming for the hundredth time to one gentleman who
had often and often tried him (he was a good work-
man to the very end); that gentleman, who knew his
history, said, "I believe you are incorrigible; there is
only one person in the world who has a chance of re-
claiming you; ask me to trust you no more, until she
tries to do it." Something like that, in his anger
'Ah!' said the gentleman. 'Well?'
'Well, sir, he went to her, and kneeled to her; said
it was so: said it ever had been so; and made a
prayer to her to save him.'
'And she? -- Don't distress yourself, Mrs. Tugby.'
'She came to me that night to ask me about living
here. "What he was once to me," she said, "is buried
in a grave, side by side, with what I was to him. But
I have thought of this; and I will make the trial in
the hope of saving him; for the love of the light-
hearted girl (you remember her) who was to have
been married on a New Year's Day; and for the
love of her Richard." And she said he had come to
her from Lilian, and Lilian had trusted to him, and
she never could forget that. So they were married;
and when they came home here, and I saw them, I
hoped that such prophecies as parted them when they
were young, may not often fulfil themselves as they
did in this case, or I wouldn't be the makers of them
for a Mine of Gold.'
The gentleman got off the cask, and stretched him-
'I suppose he used her ill, as soon as they were
'I don't think he ever did that,' said Mrs. Tugby,
shaking her head, and wiping her eyes. 'He went
on better for a short time; but, his habits were too
old and strong to be got rid of; he soon fell back a
little; and was falling fast back, when his illness
came so strong upon him. I think he has always
felt for her. I am sure he has. I have seen him, in
his crying fits and tremblings, try to kiss her hand;
and I have heard him call her "Meg," and say it
was her nineteenth birthday. There he has been
lying, now, these weeks and months. Between him
and her baby, she had not been able to do her own
work; and by not being able to be regular, she has
lost it, even if she could have done it. How they
have lived. I hardly know!'
'I know,' muttered Mr. Tugby; looking at the till,
and round the shop, and at his wife; and rolling
his head with immense intelligence. 'Like Fighting
He was interrupted by a cry -- a sound of lamenta-
tion -- from the upper story of the house. The gentle-
man moved hurriedly to the door.
'My friend,' he said, looking back, 'you needn't
discuss whether he shall be removed or not. He has
spared you that trouble, I believe.'
Saying so, he ran upstairs, followed by Mrs. Tugby;
while Mr. Tugby panted and grumbled after them
at leisure: being rendered more than commonly short-
winded by the weight of the till, in which there had
been an inconvenient quantity of copper. Trotty
with the child beside him, floated up the staircase
like mere air.
'Follow her! Follow her! Follow her! ' He heard
the ghostly voices in the Bells repeat their words
as he ascended. 'Learn it, from the creature dearest
to your heart!'
It was over. It was over. And this was she, her
fathers pride and joy! This haggard, wretched
woman, weeping by the bed, if it deserved that name,
and pressing to her breast, and hanging down her
head upon, an infant. Who can tell how spare,
how sickly, and how poor an infant! Who can tell
'Thank God!' cried Trotty, holding up his folded
hands. '0, God be thanked! She loves her child!'
The gentleman, not otherwise hard-hearted or in-
different to such scenes, than that he saw them every
day, and knew that they were figures of no moment
in the Filer sums -- mere scratches in the working of
these calculations -- laid his hand upon the heart that
beat no more, and listened for the breath, and said,
'His pain is over. It's better as it is!' Mrs. Tugby
tried to comfort her with kindness. Mr. Tugby tried
'Come, come!' he said, with his hands in his pockets,
You mustn't give way, you know. That won't do.
You must fight up. What would have become of me
if I had given way when I was porter, and we had as
many as six runaway carriage-doubles at our door
in one night! But, I fell back upon my strength
of mind, and didn't open it!'
Again Trotty heard the voices, saying, 'Follow
her!' He turned towards his guide, and saw it rising
from him, passing through the air. 'Follow her!' it
said. And vanished.
He hovered round her; sat down at her feet; looked
up into her face for one trace of her old self; listened
for one note of her old pleasant voice. He flitted
round the child: so wan, so prematurely old, so
dreadful in its gravity, so plaintive in its feeble,
mournful, miserable wail. He almost worshipped it.
He clung to it as her only safeguard; as the last
unbroken link that bound her to endurance. He set
his father's hope and trust on the frail baby; watched
her every look upon it as she held it in her arms;
and cried a thousand times, 'She loves it! God be
thanked, she loves it!'
He saw the woman tend her in the night; return
to her when her grudging husband was asleep, and all
was still; encourage her, shed tears with her, set
nourishment before her. He saw the day come, and
the night again; the day, the night; the time go by;
the house of death relieved of death; the room left
to herself and to the child; he heard it moan and cry;
he saw it harass her, and tire her out, and when she
slumbered in exhaustion, drag her back to conscious-
ness, and hold her with its little hands upon the rack;
but she was constant to it, gentle with it, patient
with it. Patient! Was its loving mother in her in-
most heart and soul, and had its Being knitted up
with hers as when she carried it unborn.
All this time she was in want: languishing away,
in dire and pining want. With the baby in her arms
she wandered here and there, in quest of occupation;
and with its thin face lying in her lap, and looking up
in hers, did any work for any wretched sum; a day
and night of labour for as many farthings as there
were figures on the dial. If she had quarrelled with
it, if she had neglected it; if she had looked upon it
with a moment's hate; if, in the frenzy of an in-
stant, she had struck it! No. His comfort was, She
loved it always.
She told no one of her extremity, and wandered
abroad in the day lest she should be questioned by
her only friend: for any help she received from her
hands, occasioned fresh disputes between the good
woman and her husband; and it was new bitterness
to be the daily cause of strife and discord where
she owed so much.
She loved it still. She loved it more and more
But a change fell on the aspect of her love. One
She was singing faintly to it in its sleep, and walk-
ing to and fro to hush it, when her door was softly
opened, and a man looked in.
'For the last time,' he said
'For the last time.'
He listened like a man pursued: and spoke in
'Margaret, my race is nearly run. I couldn't finish
it, without a parting word with you. Without one
'What have you done?' she asked: regarding him
He looked at her, but gave no answer.
After a short silence, he made a gesture with his
hand, as if he set her question by; as if he brushed
it aside; and said:
'It's long ago, Margaret, now; but that night is
as fresh in my memory as ever 'twas. We little
thought then,' he added, looking round, 'that we
should ever meet like this. Your child, Margaret?
Let me have it in my arms. Let me hold your child.'
He put his hat upon the floor, and took it. And
he trembled as he took it, from head to foot.
'Is it a girl?'
He put his hand before its little face.
'See how weak I'm grown, Margaret, when I want
the courage to look at it! Let her be, a moment.
I won't hurt her. It's long ago, but -- What's her
'Margaret,' she answered, quickly.
'I'm glad of that,' he said. 'I'm glad of that!'
He seemed to breathe more freely; and after paus-
ing for an instant, took away his hand, and looked
upon the infant's face. But covered it again,
'Margaret!' he said; and gave her back the child.
'I held the same face in my arms when Lilian's
mother died and left her.'
'When Lilian's mother died and left her!' she re-
'How, shrill you speak! Why do you fix your eyes
upon me so? Margaret!'
She sunk down in a chair, and pressed the infant
to her breast, and wept over it. Sometimes, she re-
leased it from her embrace, to look anxiously in its
face: then strained it to her bosom again. At those
times, when she gazed upon it, then it was that some-
thing fierce and terrible began to mingle with her
love. Then it was that her old father quailed.
'Follow her! ' was sounded through the house.
'Learn it, from the creature dearest to your heart!'
'Margaret,' said Fern, bending over her, and kiss-
ing her upon the brow: 'I thank you for the last time.
Good-night. Good-bye! Put your hand in mine;
and tell me you'll forget me from this hour, and try
to think the end of me was here.'
'What have you done?' she asked again
'There'll be a Fire to-night,' he said, removing
from her. There'll be Fires this winter-time, to light
the dark nights, East, West, North, and South. When
you see the distant sky red, they'll be blazing. When
you see the distant sky red, think of me no more;
or, if you do, remember what a Hell was lighted
up inside of me, and think you see its flames reflected
in the clouds. Good-night. Good-bye!'
She called to him; but he was gone. She sat down
stupefied, until her infant roused her to a sense of
hunger, cold, and darkness. She paced the room with
it the livelong night, hushing it and soothing it. She
said at intervals, 'Like Lilian, when her mother died
and left her!' Why was her step so quick, her eye
so wild, her love so fierce and terrible, whenever she
repeated those words?
'But, it is Love,' said Trotty. 'It is Love. She'll
never cease to love it. My poor Meg!'
She dressed the child next morning with unusual
care -- ah, vain expenditure of care upon such squalid
robes! -- and once more tried to find some means of
life. It was the last day of the Old Year. She tried
till night, and never broke her fast. She tried in
She mingled with an abject crowd, who tarried in
the snow, until it pleased some officer appointed to
dispense the public charity (the lawful charity; not
that once preached upon a Mount), to call them in,
and question them, and say to this one, 'Go to such
a place,' to that one, 'Come next week'; to make a
football of another wretch, and pass him here and
there, from hand to hand, from house to house, until
he wearied and lay down to die; or started up and
robbed, and so became a higher sort of criminal,
whose claims allowed of no delay. Here, too, she
She loved her child, and wished to have it lying on
her breast. And that was quite enough.
It was night: a bleak, dark, cutting night: when,
pressing the child close to her for warmth, she arrived
outside the house she called her home. She was so
faint and giddy, that she saw no one standing in the
doorway until she was close upon it, and about to
enter. Then she recognised the master of the house,
who had so disposed himself -- with his person it was
not difficult -- as to fill up the whole entry.
'O!' he said softly. 'You have come back.
She looked at the child, and shook her head.
'Don't you think you have lived here long enough
without paying any rent? Don't you think that,
without any money, you've been a pretty constant
customer at this shop, now?' said Mr. Tugby.
She repeated the same mute appeal.
'Suppose you try and deal somewhere else, he sald.
'And suppose you provide yourself with another lodg-
ing. Come! Don't you think you could manage it?'
She said in a low voice, that it was very late.
'Now I see what you want,' said Tugby; 'and what
you mean. You know there are two parties in this
house about you, and you delight in setting 'em by
the ears. I don't want any quarrels; I'm speaking
softly to avoid a quarrel; but if you dont go away,
I'll speak out loud, and you shall cause words high
enough to please you. But you shan't come in. That
I am determined.'
She put her hair back with her hand, and looked
in a sudden manner at the sky, and the dark lower-
'This is the last night of an Old Year, and I won't
carry ill-blood and quarrellings and disturbances into
a New One, to please you nor anybody else,' said
Tugby, who was quite a retail Friend and Father. .
'I wonder you an't ashamed of yourself, to carry such
practices into a New Year. If you haven't any busi-
ness in the world, but to be always giving way, and
always making disturbances between man and wife,
you'd be better out of it. Go along with you.'
'Follow ner! To desperation!'
Again the old man heard the voices. Looking up,
he saw the figures hovering in the air, and pointing
where she went, down the dark street.
'She loves it!' he exclaimed, in agonised entreaty
for her. 'Chimes! she loves it still!'
'Follow her!' The shadows swept upon the track
she had taken, like a cloud.
He joined in the pursuit; he kept close to her; he
looked into her face. He saw the same fierce and
terrible expression mingling with her love, and kin-
dling in her eyes. He heard her say, 'Like Lilian! To
be changed like Lilian!' and her speed redoubled.
0, for something to awaken her! For any sight,
or sound, or scent, to call up tender recollections in
a brain on fire! For any gentle image of the Past,
to rise before her!
'I was her father! I was her father!' cried the old
man, stretching out his hands to the dark shadows
flying on above. 'Have mercy on her, and on me!
Where does she go? Turn her back! I was her
But they only pointed to her, as she hurried on;
and said, 'To desperation! Learn it from the crea-
ture dearest to your heart!'
A hundred voices echoed it. The air was made of
breath expended in those words. He seemed to take
them in, at every gasp he drew. They were every-
where, and not to be escaped. And still she hurried
on; the same light in her eyes, the same words in her
mouth, 'Like Lilian! To be changed like Lilian!'
All at once she stopped.
'Now, turn her back!' exclaimed the old man, tear-
ing his white hair. 'My child! Meg! Turn her
back! Great Father, turn her back!'
In her own scanty shawl, she wrapped the baby
warm. With her fevered hands, she smoothed its
limbs, composed its face, arranged its mean attire.
In her wasted arms she folded it, as though she never
would resign it more. And with her dry lips, kissed
it in a final pang, and last long agony of Love.
Putting its tiny hand up to her neck, and holding
it there, within her dress, next to her distracted heart,
she set its sleeping face against her: closely, steadily,
against her: and sped onward to the River.
To the rolling River, swift and dim, where Winter
Night sat brooding like the last dark thoughts of
many who had sought a refuge there before her.
Where scattered lights upon the banks gleamed sul-
len, red, and dull, as torches that were burning there,
to show the way to Death. Where no abode of living
people casts its shadow, on the deep, impenetrable,
To the River! To that portal of Eternity, her
desperate footsteps tended with the swiftness of its
rapid waters running to the sea. He tried to touch
her as she passed him, going down to its dark level;
but, the wild distempered form, the fierce and terrible
love, the desperation that had left all human check
or hold behind, swept by him like the wind.
He followed her. She paused a moment on the
brink, before the dreadful plunge. He fell down on
his knees, and in a shriek addressed the figures in the
Bells now hovering above them.
'I have learnt it!' cried the old man. 'From the
creature dearest to my heart! 0, save her, save her!'
He could wind his fingers in her dress; could hold
it! As the words escaped his lips, he felt his sense
of touch return, and knew that he had detained her.
The figures looked down steadfastly upon him
'I have learnt it!' cried the old man. 'O, have
mercy on me in this hour, if, in my love for her, so
young and good, I slandered Nature in the breasts
of mothers rendered desperate! Pity my presump-
tion, wickedness, and ignorance, and save her.'
He felt his hold relaxing. They were silent still.
'Have mercy on her!' he exclaimed, 'as one in whom
this dreadful crime has sprung from Love perverted;
from the strongest, deepest Love we fallen creatures
know! Think what her misery must have been, when
such seed bears such fruit! Heaven meant her to be
good. There is no loving mother on the earth who
might not come to this, if such a life had gone before.
0, have mercy on my child, who, even at this pass
means mercy to her own, and dies herself, and perils
her immortal soul, to save it!'
She was in his arms. He held her now. His
strength was like a giant's.
'I see the Spirit of the Chimes among you!' cried
the old man, singling out the child, and speaking in
some inspiration, which their looks conveyed to him.
'I know that our inheritance is held in store for us by
Time. I know there is a sea of Time to rise one day,
before which all who wrong us or oppress us will be
swept away like leaves. I see it, on the flow! I
know that we must trust and hope, and neither doubt
ourselves, nor doubt the good in one another. I have
learnt it from the creature dearest to my heart. I
clasp her in my arms again. O Spirits, merciful and
good, I take your lesson to my breast along with her!
O Spirits, merciful and good, I am grateful!'
He might have said more; but, the Bells, the old
familiar Bells, his own dear, constant, steady friends,
the Chimes, began to ring the joy-peals for a New
Year: so lustily, so merrily, so harppily, so gaily, that
he leapt to his feet, and broke the spell that bound
'And whatever you do, father,' said Meg, 'don't
eat tripe again, without asking some doctor whether
it's likely to agree with you; for how you have been
going on, Good gracious!'
She was working with her needle, at the little table
by the fire: dressing her simple gown with ribbons for
her wedding. So quietly happy, so blooming and
youthful, so full of beautiful promise, that he uttered
a great cry as if it were an Angel in his house; then
flew to clasp her in his arms.
But, he caught his feet in the newspaper, which
had fallen on the hearth; and somebody came rushing
in between them.
'No!' cried the voice of this same somebody; a
generous and jolly voice it was! 'Not even you.
Not even you. The first kiss of Meg in the New
Year is mine. Mine! I have been waiting outside
the house, this hour, to hear the Bells and claim it.
Meg, my precious prize, a happy year! A life of
happy years, my darling wife!'
And Richard smothered her with kisses.
You never in all your life saw anything like Trotty
after this. I don't care where you have lived or what
you have seen; you never in all your life saw any-
thing at all approaching him! He sat down in his
chair and beat his knees and cried; he sat down in
his chair and beat his knees and laughed; he sat down
in his chair and beat his knees and laughed and cried
together; he got out of his chair and hugged Meg;
he got out of his chair and hugged Richard; he got
out of his chair and hugged them both at once; he
kept running up to Meg, and squeezing her fresh face
between his hands and kissing it, going from her
backwards not to lose sight of it, and running up
again like a figure in a magic lantern; and whatever
he did, he was constantly sitting himself down in this
chair, and never stopping in it for one single moment;
being -- that's the truth -- beside himself with joy.
'And to-morrow's your your wedding-day, my pet!'
cried Trotty 'Your real, happy wedding-day!'
'To-day!' cried Richard, shaking hands with him
'To-day. The Chimes are ringing in the New Year.
They WERE ringing! Bless their sturdy hearts
they WERE ringing! Great Bells as they were; melo-
dious, deep-mouthed, noble Bells; cast in no common
metal; made by no common founder; when had they
ever chimed like that before!
'But, to-day, my pet,' said Trotty. 'You and Rich-
ard had some words to-day.'
'Because he's such a bad fellow, father,' said Meg
An't you, Richard! Such a headstrong, violent
man! He'd have made no more of speaking his mind
to that great Alderman, and putting him down I
don t know where, than he would of --'
'-- Kissing Meg,' suggested Richard. Doing it too!
'No. Not a bit more,' said Meg. 'But I wouldn't
let him, father. Where would have been the use!'
'Richard my boy!' cried Trotty. 'You was turned
up Trumps originally; and Trumps you must be, till
you die! But, you were crying by the fire to-night
my pet, when I came home! Why did you cry by
'I was thinking of the years we've passed together
father. Only that. And thinking that you might
miss me, and be lonely.'
Trotty was backing off to that extraordinary chair
again, when the child who had been awakened by
the noise, came running in half-dressed.
'Why, here she is!' cried Trotty, actching her up.
'Here's little Lilian! Ha ha ha! Here we are and
here we go! O here we are and here we go again!
And here we are and here we go! and Uncle Will
too!' Stopping in his trot to greet him heartily. 'O,
Uncle Will, the vision that I've had to-nigilt, through
lodging you! 0, Uncle Will, the obligations that
you've laid me under, by your coming, my good
Before Will Fern could make the least reply, a
band of music burst into the room attended by a lot
of neighbours, screaming 'A Happy New Year, Meg!'
'A Happy Wedding!' 'Many of 'em!' and other frag-
mentary good wishes of that sort. The Drum (who
was a private friend of Trotty's) then stepped for-
ward and said:
'Trotty Veck, my boy! It's got about, that your
daughter is going to be married to-morrow. There
an't a soul that knows you that don't wish you well,
or that knows her and don't wish her well. Or that
knows you both, and don't wish you both all the hap-
piness the New Year can bring. And here we are, to
play it in and dance it in, accordingly.'
Which was received with a general shout. The
Drum was rather drunk, by the bye; but, never mind.
'What a happiness it is, I'm sure,' said Trotty, 'to
be so esteemed! How kind and neighbourly you are;
It's all along of my dear daughter. She deserves it!'
They were ready for a dance in half a second (Meg
and Richard at the top); and the Drum was on the
very brink of leathering away with all his power;
when a combination of prodigious sounds was heard
outside, and a good-humoured comely woman of some
fifty years of age, or thereabouts, came running in,
attended by a man bearing a stone pitcher of terrific
size, and closely followed by the marrow-bones and
cleavers, and the bells; not the Bells, but a portable
collection on a frame.
Trotty said, 'It's Mrs. Chickenstalker!' And sat
down and beat his knees again.
'Married, and not tell me, Meg!' cried the good
woman 'Never! I couldn't rest on the last night
of the Old Year without coming to wish you joy.
I couldn't have done it, Meg. Not if I had been
bedridden. So here I am; and as it s New Year's
Eve, and the Eve of your wedding too, my dear
I had a little flip made and brought it with me.'
'Mrs. Chickenstalker's notion of a little flip, did
honour to her character. The pitcher steamed and
smoked and reeked like a volcano; and the man who
had carried it, was faint.
'Mrs. Tugby!' said Trotty, who had been going
round and round her, in an ecstasy. -- 'I should say
Chickenstalker -- Bless your heart and soul! A happy
New Year, and many of 'em! Mrs. Tugby,' said
Trotty when he had saluted her; -- 'I should say
Chickenstalker -- This is William Fern and Lilian.'
The worthy dame, to his surprise, turned very pale
and very red.
'Not Lilian Fern whose mother died in Dorset-
shire!' said she.
Her uncle answered 'Yes,' and meeting hastily
they exchanged some hurried words together; of
which the upshot was, that Mrs. Chickenstalker shook
him by both hands; saluted Trotty on his cheek again
of her own free will; and took the child to her capa-
'Will Fern!' said Trotty, pulling on his right-hand
muffler; 'Not the friend you was hoping to find?'
'Ay!' returned Will, putting a hand on each of
Trotty's shoulders. 'And like to prove a'most as
good a friend, if that can be, as one I found.'
'O!' said Trotty. 'Please to play up there. Will
you have the goodness!'
To the music of the band, the bells, the marrow-
bones and cleavers, all at once; and while the Chimes
were yet in lusty operation out of doors, Trotty
making Meg and Richard second couple, led off Mrs.
Chickenstalker down the dance, and danced it in a
step unknown before or since; founded on his own
Had Trotty dreamed? Or, are his joys and sor-
rows, and the actors in them, but a dream; himself
a dream; the teller of this tale a dreamer, waking
but now? If it be so, O listener, dear to him in all
his visions, try to bear in mind the stern realities
from which these shadows come; and in your sphere --
none is too wide, and none too limited for such an
end -- endeavour to correct, improve, and soften them.
So may the New Year be a happy one to you, happy
to many more whose happiness depends on you! So
may each year be happier than the last, and not the
meanest of our brethren or sisterhood debarred their
rightful share, in what our Great Creator formed
them to enjoy.