This etext was prepared from the 1894 Chapman and Hall "Christmas
Stories" edition by David Price, email email@example.com
I am a Cheap Jack, and my own father's name was Willum Marigold. It
was in his lifetime supposed by some that his name was William, but
my own father always consistently said, No, it was Willum. On which
point I content myself with looking at the argument this way: If a
man is not allowed to know his own name in a free country, how much
is he allowed to know in a land of slavery? As to looking at the
argument through the medium of the Register, Willum Marigold come
into the world before Registers come up much,--and went out of it
too. They wouldn't have been greatly in his line neither, if they
had chanced to come up before him.
I was born on the Queen's highway, but it was the King's at that
time. A doctor was fetched to my own mother by my own father, when
it took place on a common; and in consequence of his being a very
kind gentleman, and accepting no fee but a tea-tray, I was named
Doctor, out of gratitude and compliment to him. There you have me.
I am at present a middle-aged man of a broadish build, in cords,
leggings, and a sleeved waistcoat the strings of which is always
gone behind. Repair them how you will, they go like fiddle-strings.
You have been to the theatre, and you have seen one of the wiolin-
players screw up his wiolin, after listening to it as if it had been
whispering the secret to him that it feared it was out of order, and
then you have heard it snap. That's as exactly similar to my
waistcoat as a waistcoat and a wiolin can be like one another.
I am partial to a white hat, and I like a shawl round my neck wore
loose and easy. Sitting down is my favourite posture. If I have a
taste in point of personal jewelry, it is mother-of-pearl buttons.
There you have me again, as large as life.
The doctor having accepted a tea-tray, you'll guess that my father
was a Cheap Jack before me. You are right. He was. It was a
pretty tray. It represented a large lady going along a serpentining
up-hill gravel-walk, to attend a little church. Two swans had
likewise come astray with the same intentions. When I call her a
large lady, I don't mean in point of breadth, for there she fell
below my views, but she more than made it up in heighth; her heighth
and slimness was--in short THE heighth of both.
I often saw that tray, after I was the innocently smiling cause (or
more likely screeching one) of the doctor's standing it up on a
table against the wall in his consulting-room. Whenever my own
father and mother were in that part of the country, I used to put my
head (I have heard my own mother say it was flaxen curls at that
time, though you wouldn't know an old hearth-broom from it now till
you come to the handle, and found it wasn't me) in at the doctor's
door, and the doctor was always glad to see me, and said, "Aha, my
brother practitioner! Come in, little M.D. How are your
inclinations as to sixpence?"
You can't go on for ever, you'll find, nor yet could my father nor
yet my mother. If you don't go off as a whole when you are about
due, you're liable to go off in part, and two to one your head's the
part. Gradually my father went off his, and my mother went off
hers. It was in a harmless way, but it put out the family where I
boarded them. The old couple, though retired, got to be wholly and
solely devoted to the Cheap Jack business, and were always selling
the family off. Whenever the cloth was laid for dinner, my father
began rattling the plates and dishes, as we do in our line when we
put up crockery for a bid, only he had lost the trick of it, and
mostly let 'em drop and broke 'em. As the old lady had been used to
sit in the cart, and hand the articles out one by one to the old
gentleman on the footboard to sell, just in the same way she handed
him every item of the family's property, and they disposed of it in
their own imaginations from morning to night. At last the old
gentleman, lying bedridden in the same room with the old lady, cries
out in the old patter, fluent, after having been silent for two days
and nights: "Now here, my jolly companions every one,--which the
Nightingale club in a village was held, At the sign of the Cabbage
and Shears, Where the singers no doubt would have greatly excelled,
But for want of taste, voices and ears,--now, here, my jolly
companions, every one, is a working model of a used-up old Cheap
Jack, without a tooth in his head, and with a pain in every bone:
so like life that it would be just as good if it wasn't better, just
as bad if it wasn't worse, and just as new if it wasn't worn out.
Bid for the working model of the old Cheap Jack, who has drunk more
gunpowder-tea with the ladies in his time than would blow the lid
off a washerwoman's copper, and carry it as many thousands of miles
higher than the moon as naught nix naught, divided by the national
debt, carry nothing to the poor-rates, three under, and two over.
Now, my hearts of oak and men of straw, what do you say for the lot?
Two shillings, a shilling, tenpence, eightpence, sixpence,
fourpence. Twopence? Who said twopence? The gentleman in the
scarecrow's hat? I am ashamed of the gentleman in the scarecrow's
hat. I really am ashamed of him for his want of public spirit. Now
I'll tell you what I'll do with you. Come! I'll throw you in a
working model of a old woman that was married to the old Cheap Jack
so long ago that upon my word and honour it took place in Noah's
Ark, before the Unicorn could get in to forbid the banns by blowing
a tune upon his horn. There now! Come! What do you say for both?
I'll tell you what I'll do with you. I don't bear you malice for
being so backward. Here! If you make me a bid that'll only reflect
a little credit on your town, I'll throw you in a warming-pan for
nothing, and lend you a toasting-fork for life. Now come; what do
you say after that splendid offer? Say two pound, say thirty
shillings, say a pound, say ten shillings, say five, say two and
six. You don't say even two and six? You say two and three? No.
You shan't have the lot for two and three. I'd sooner give it to
you, if you was good-looking enough. Here! Missis! Chuck the old
man and woman into the cart, put the horse to, and drive 'em away
and bury 'em!" Such were the last words of Willum Marigold, my own
father, and they were carried out, by him and by his wife, my own
mother, on one and the same day, as I ought to know, having followed
My father had been a lovely one in his time at the Cheap Jack work,
as his dying observations went to prove. But I top him. I don't
say it because it's myself, but because it has been universally
acknowledged by all that has had the means of comparison. I have
worked at it. I have measured myself against other public
speakers,--Members of Parliament, Platforms, Pulpits, Counsel
learned in the law,--and where I have found 'em good, I have took a
bit of imagination from 'em, and where I have found 'em bad, I have
let 'em alone. Now I'll tell you what. I mean to go down into my
grave declaring that of all the callings ill used in Great Britain,
the Cheap Jack calling is the worst used. Why ain't we a
profession? Why ain't we endowed with privileges? Why are we
forced to take out a hawker's license, when no such thing is
expected of the political hawkers? Where's the difference betwixt
us? Except that we are Cheap Jacks and they are Dear Jacks, I don't
see any difference but what's in our favour.
For look here! Say it's election time. I am on the footboard of my
cart in the market-place, on a Saturday night. I put up a general
miscellaneous lot. I say: "Now here, my free and independent
woters, I'm a going to give you such a chance as you never had in
all your born days, nor yet the days preceding. Now I'll show you
what I am a going to do with you. Here's a pair of razors that'll
shave you closer than the Board of Guardians; here's a flat-iron
worth its weight in gold; here's a frying-pan artificially flavoured
with essence of beefsteaks to that degree that you've only got for
the rest of your lives to fry bread and dripping in it and there you
are replete with animal food; here's a genuine chronometer watch in
such a solid silver case that you may knock at the door with it when
you come home late from a social meeting, and rouse your wife and
family, and save up your knocker for the postman; and here's half-a-
dozen dinner plates that you may play the cymbals with to charm baby
when it's fractious. Stop! I'll throw in another article, and I'll
give you that, and it's a rolling-pin; and if the baby can only get
it well into its mouth when its teeth is coming and rub the gums
once with it, they'll come through double, in a fit of laughter
equal to being tickled. Stop again! I'll throw you in another
article, because I don't like the looks of you, for you haven't the
appearance of buyers unless I lose by you, and because I'd rather
lose than not take money to-night, and that's a looking-glass in
which you may see how ugly you look when you don't bid. What do you
say now? Come! Do you say a pound? Not you, for you haven't got
it. Do you say ten shillings? Not you, for you owe more to the
tallyman. Well then, I'll tell you what I'll do with you. I'll
heap 'em all on the footboard of the cart,--there they are! razors,
flat watch, dinner plates, rolling-pin, and away for four shillings,
and I'll give you sixpence for your trouble!" This is me, the Cheap
Jack. But on the Monday morning, in the same market-place, comes
the Dear Jack on the hustings--HIS cart--and, what does HE say?
"Now my free and independent woters, I am a going to give you such a
chance" (he begins just like me) "as you never had in all your born
days, and that's the chance of sending Myself to Parliament. Now
I'll tell you what I am a going to do for you. Here's the interests
of this magnificent town promoted above all the rest of the
civilised and uncivilised earth. Here's your railways carried, and
your neighbours' railways jockeyed. Here's all your sons in the
Post-office. Here's Britannia smiling on you. Here's the eyes of
Europe on you. Here's uniwersal prosperity for you, repletion of
animal food, golden cornfields, gladsome homesteads, and rounds of
applause from your own hearts, all in one lot, and that's myself.
Will you take me as I stand? You won't? Well, then, I'll tell you
what I'll do with you. Come now! I'll throw you in anything you
ask for. There! Church-rates, abolition of more malt tax, no malt
tax, universal education to the highest mark, or uniwersal ignorance
to the lowest, total abolition of flogging in the army or a dozen
for every private once a month all round, Wrongs of Men or Rights of
Women--only say which it shall be, take 'em or leave 'em, and I'm of
your opinion altogether, and the lot's your own on your own terms.
There! You won't take it yet! Well, then, I'll tell you what I'll
do with you. Come! You ARE such free and independent woters, and I
am so proud of you,--you ARE such a noble and enlightened
constituency, and I AM so ambitious of the honour and dignity of
being your member, which is by far the highest level to which the
wings of the human mind can soar,--that I'll tell you what I'll do
with you. I'll throw you in all the public-houses in your
magnificent town for nothing. Will that content you? It won't?
You won't take the lot yet? Well, then, before I put the horse in
and drive away, and make the offer to the next most magnificent town
that can be discovered, I'll tell you what I'll do. Take the lot,
and I'll drop two thousand pound in the streets of your magnificent
town for them to pick up that can. Not enough? Now look here.
This is the very furthest that I'm a going to. I'll make it two
thousand five hundred. And still you won't? Here, missis! Put the
horse--no, stop half a moment, I shouldn't like to turn my back upon
you neither for a trifle, I'll make it two thousand seven hundred
and fifty pound. There! Take the lot on your own terms, and I'll
count out two thousand seven hundred and fifty pound on the foot-
board of the cart, to be dropped in the streets of your magnificent
town for them to pick up that can. What do you say? Come now! You
won't do better, and you may do worse. You take it? Hooray! Sold
again, and got the seat!"
These Dear Jacks soap the people shameful, but we Cheap Jacks don't.
We tell 'em the truth about themselves to their faces, and scorn to
court 'em. As to wenturesomeness in the way of puffing up the lots,
the Dear Jacks beat us hollow. It is considered in the Cheap Jack
calling, that better patter can be made out of a gun than any
article we put up from the cart, except a pair of spectacles. I
often hold forth about a gun for a quarter of an hour, and feel as
if I need never leave off. But when I tell 'em what the gun can do,
and what the gun has brought down, I never go half so far as the
Dear Jacks do when they make speeches in praise of THEIR guns--their
great guns that set 'em on to do it. Besides, I'm in business for
myself: I ain't sent down into the market-place to order, as they
are. Besides, again, my guns don't know what I say in their
laudation, and their guns do, and the whole concern of 'em have
reason to be sick and ashamed all round. These are some of my
arguments for declaring that the Cheap Jack calling is treated ill
in Great Britain, and for turning warm when I think of the other
Jacks in question setting themselves up to pretend to look down upon
I courted my wife from the footboard of the cart. I did indeed.
She was a Suffolk young woman, and it was in Ipswich marketplace
right opposite the corn-chandler's shop. I had noticed her up at a
window last Saturday that was, appreciating highly. I had took to
her, and I had said to myself, "If not already disposed of, I'll
have that lot." Next Saturday that come, I pitched the cart on the
same pitch, and I was in very high feather indeed, keeping 'em
laughing the whole of the time, and getting off the goods briskly.
At last I took out of my waistcoat-pocket a small lot wrapped in
soft paper, and I put it this way (looking up at the window where
she was). "Now here, my blooming English maidens, is an article,
the last article of the present evening's sale, which I offer to
only you, the lovely Suffolk Dumplings biling over with beauty, and
I won't take a bid of a thousand pounds for from any man alive. Now
what is it? Why, I'll tell you what it is. It's made of fine gold,
and it's not broke, though there's a hole in the middle of it, and
it's stronger than any fetter that ever was forged, though it's
smaller than any finger in my set of ten. Why ten? Because, when
my parents made over my property to me, I tell you true, there was
twelve sheets, twelve towels, twelve table-cloths, twelve knives,
twelve forks, twelve tablespoons, and twelve teaspoons, but my set
of fingers was two short of a dozen, and could never since be
matched. Now what else is it? Come, I'll tell you. It's a hoop of
solid gold, wrapped in a silver curl-paper, that I myself took off
the shining locks of the ever beautiful old lady in Threadneedle
Street, London city; I wouldn't tell you so if I hadn't the paper to
show, or you mightn't believe it even of me. Now what else is it?
It's a man-trap and a handcuff, the parish stocks and a leg-lock,
all in gold and all in one. Now what else is it? It's a wedding-
ring. Now I'll tell you what I'm a going to do with it. I'm not a
going to offer this lot for money; but I mean to give it to the next
of you beauties that laughs, and I'll pay her a visit to-morrow
morning at exactly half after nine o'clock as the chimes go, and
I'll take her out for a walk to put up the banns." She laughed, and
got the ring handed up to her. When I called in the morning, she
says, "O dear! It's never you, and you never mean it?" "It's ever
me," says I, "and I am ever yours, and I ever mean it." So we got
married, after being put up three times--which, by the bye, is quite
in the Cheap Jack way again, and shows once more how the Cheap Jack
customs pervade society.
She wasn't a bad wife, but she had a temper. If she could have
parted with that one article at a sacrifice, I wouldn't have swopped
her away in exchange for any other woman in England. Not that I
ever did swop her away, for we lived together till she died, and
that was thirteen year. Now, my lords and ladies and gentlefolks
all, I'll let you into a secret, though you won't believe it.
Thirteen year of temper in a Palace would try the worst of you, but
thirteen year of temper in a Cart would try the best of you. You
are kept so very close to it in a cart, you see. There's thousands
of couples among you getting on like sweet ile upon a whetstone in
houses five and six pairs of stairs high, that would go to the
Divorce Court in a cart. Whether the jolting makes it worse, I
don't undertake to decide; but in a cart it does come home to you,
and stick to you. Wiolence in a cart is SO wiolent, and aggrawation
in a cart is SO aggrawating.
We might have had such a pleasant life! A roomy cart, with the
large goods hung outside, and the bed slung underneath it when on
the road, an iron pot and a kettle, a fireplace for the cold
weather, a chimney for the smoke, a hanging-shelf and a cupboard, a
dog and a horse. What more do you want? You draw off upon a bit of
turf in a green lane or by the roadside, you hobble your old horse
and turn him grazing, you light your fire upon the ashes of the last
visitors, you cook your stew, and you wouldn't call the Emperor of
France your father. But have a temper in the cart, flinging
language and the hardest goods in stock at you, and where are you
then? Put a name to your feelings.
My dog knew as well when she was on the turn as I did. Before she
broke out, he would give a howl, and bolt. How he knew it, was a
mystery to me; but the sure and certain knowledge of it would wake
him up out of his soundest sleep, and he would give a howl, and
bolt. At such times I wished I was him.
The worst of it was, we had a daughter born to us, and I love
children with all my heart. When she was in her furies she beat the
child. This got to be so shocking, as the child got to be four or
five year old, that I have many a time gone on with my whip over my
shoulder, at the old horse's head, sobbing and crying worse than
ever little Sophy did. For how could I prevent it? Such a thing is
not to be tried with such a temper--in a cart--without coming to a
fight. It's in the natural size and formation of a cart to bring it
to a fight. And then the poor child got worse terrified than
before, as well as worse hurt generally, and her mother made
complaints to the next people we lighted on, and the word went
round, "Here's a wretch of a Cheap Jack been a beating his wife."
Little Sophy was such a brave child! She grew to be quite devoted
to her poor father, though he could do so little to help her. She
had a wonderful quantity of shining dark hair, all curling natural
about her. It is quite astonishing to me now, that I didn't go
tearing mad when I used to see her run from her mother before the
cart, and her mother catch her by this hair, and pull her down by
it, and beat her.
Such a brave child I said she was! Ah! with reason.
"Don't you mind next time, father dear," she would whisper to me,
with her little face still flushed, and her bright eyes still wet;
"if I don't cry out, you may know I am not much hurt. And even if I
do cry out, it will only be to get mother to let go and leave off."
What I have seen the little spirit bear--for me--without crying out!
Yet in other respects her mother took great care of her. Her
clothes were always clean and neat, and her mother was never tired
of working at 'em. Such is the inconsistency in things. Our being
down in the marsh country in unhealthy weather, I consider the cause
of Sophy's taking bad low fever; but however she took it, once she
got it she turned away from her mother for evermore, and nothing
would persuade her to be touched by her mother's hand. She would
shiver and say, "No, no, no," when it was offered at, and would hide
her face on my shoulder, and hold me tighter round the neck.
The Cheap Jack business had been worse than ever I had known it,
what with one thing and what with another (and not least with
railroads, which will cut it all to pieces, I expect, at last), and
I was run dry of money. For which reason, one night at that period
of little Sophy's being so bad, either we must have come to a dead-
lock for victuals and drink, or I must have pitched the cart as I
I couldn't get the dear child to lie down or leave go of me, and
indeed I hadn't the heart to try, so I stepped out on the footboard
with her holding round my neck. They all set up a laugh when they
see us, and one chuckle-headed Joskin (that I hated for it) made the
bidding, "Tuppence for her!"
"Now, you country boobies," says I, feeling as if my heart was a
heavy weight at the end of a broken sashline, "I give you notice
that I am a going to charm the money out of your pockets, and to
give you so much more than your money's worth that you'll only
persuade yourselves to draw your Saturday night's wages ever again
arterwards by the hopes of meeting me to lay 'em out with, which you
never will, and why not? Because I've made my fortunes by selling
my goods on a large scale for seventy-five per cent. less than I
give for 'em, and I am consequently to be elevated to the House of
Peers next week, by the title of the Duke of Cheap and Markis
Jackaloorul. Now let's know what you want to-night, and you shall
have it. But first of all, shall I tell you why I have got this
little girl round my neck? You don't want to know? Then you shall.
She belongs to the Fairies. She's a fortune-teller. She can tell
me all about you in a whisper, and can put me up to whether you're
going to buy a lot or leave it. Now do you want a saw? No, she
says you don't, because you're too clumsy to use one. Else here's a
saw which would be a lifelong blessing to a handy man, at four
shillings, at three and six, at three, at two and six, at two, at
eighteen-pence. But none of you shall have it at any price, on
account of your well-known awkwardness, which would make it
manslaughter. The same objection applies to this set of three
planes which I won't let you have neither, so don't bid for 'em.
Now I am a going to ask her what you do want." (Then I whispered,
"Your head burns so, that I am afraid it hurts you bad, my pet," and
she answered, without opening her heavy eyes, "Just a little,
father.") "O! This little fortune-teller says it's a memorandum-
book you want. Then why didn't you mention it? Here it is. Look
at it. Two hundred superfine hot-pressed wire-wove pages--if you
don't believe me, count 'em--ready ruled for your expenses, an
everlastingly pointed pencil to put 'em down with, a double-bladed
penknife to scratch 'em out with, a book of printed tables to
calculate your income with, and a camp-stool to sit down upon while
you give your mind to it! Stop! And an umbrella to keep the moon
off when you give your mind to it on a pitch-dark night. Now I
won't ask you how much for the lot, but how little? How little are
you thinking of? Don't be ashamed to mention it, because my
fortune-teller knows already." (Then making believe to whisper, I
kissed her,--and she kissed me.) "Why, she says you are thinking of
as little as three and threepence! I couldn't have believed it,
even of you, unless she told me. Three and threepence! And a set
of printed tables in the lot that'll calculate your income up to
forty thousand a year! With an income of forty thousand a year, you
grudge three and sixpence. Well then, I'll tell you my opinion. I
so despise the threepence, that I'd sooner take three shillings.
There. For three shillings, three shillings, three shillings!
Gone. Hand 'em over to the lucky man."
As there had been no bid at all, everybody looked about and grinned
at everybody, while I touched little Sophy's face and asked her if
she felt faint, or giddy. "Not very, father. It will soon be
over." Then turning from the pretty patient eyes, which were opened
now, and seeing nothing but grins across my lighted grease-pot, I
went on again in my Cheap Jack style. "Where's the butcher?" (My
sorrowful eye had just caught sight of a fat young butcher on the
outside of the crowd.) "She says the good luck is the butcher's.
Where is he?" Everybody handed on the blushing butcher to the
front, and there was a roar, and the butcher felt himself obliged to
put his hand in his pocket, and take the lot. The party so picked
out, in general, does feel obliged to take the lot--good four times
out of six. Then we had another lot, the counterpart of that one,
and sold it sixpence cheaper, which is always wery much enjoyed.
Then we had the spectacles. It ain't a special profitable lot, but
I put 'em on, and I see what the Chancellor of the Exchequer is
going to take off the taxes, and I see what the sweetheart of the
young woman in the shawl is doing at home, and I see what the
Bishops has got for dinner, and a deal more that seldom fails to
fetch em 'up in their spirits; and the better their spirits, the
better their bids. Then we had the ladies' lot--the teapot, tea-
caddy, glass sugar-basin, half-a-dozen spoons, and caudle-cup--and
all the time I was making similar excuses to give a look or two and
say a word or two to my poor child. It was while the second ladies'
lot was holding 'em enchained that I felt her lift herself a little
on my shoulder, to look across the dark street. "What troubles you,
darling?" "Nothing troubles me, father. I am not at all troubled.
But don't I see a pretty churchyard over there?" "Yes, my dear."
"Kiss me twice, dear father, and lay me down to rest upon that
churchyard grass so soft and green." I staggered back into the cart
with her head dropped on my shoulder, and I says to her mother,
"Quick. Shut the door! Don't let those laughing people see!"
"What's the matter?" she cries. "O woman, woman," I tells her,
"you'll never catch my little Sophy by her hair again, for she has
flown away from you!"
Maybe those were harder words than I meant 'em; but from that time
forth my wife took to brooding, and would sit in the cart or walk
beside it, hours at a stretch, with her arms crossed, and her eyes
looking on the ground. When her furies took her (which was rather
seldomer than before) they took her in a new way, and she banged
herself about to that extent that I was forced to hold her. She got
none the better for a little drink now and then, and through some
years I used to wonder, as I plodded along at the old horse's head,
whether there was many carts upon the road that held so much
dreariness as mine, for all my being looked up to as the King of the
Cheap Jacks. So sad our lives went on till one summer evening,
when, as we were coming into Exeter, out of the farther West of
England, we saw a woman beating a child in a cruel manner, who
screamed, "Don't beat me! O mother, mother, mother!" Then my wife
stopped her ears, and ran away like a wild thing, and next day she
was found in the river.
Me and my dog were all the company left in the cart now; and the dog
learned to give a short bark when they wouldn't bid, and to give
another and a nod of his head when I asked him, "Who said half a
crown? Are you the gentleman, sir, that offered half a crown?" He
attained to an immense height of popularity, and I shall always
believe taught himself entirely out of his own head to growl at any
person in the crowd that bid as low as sixpence. But he got to be
well on in years, and one night when I was conwulsing York with the
spectacles, he took a conwulsion on his own account upon the very
footboard by me, and it finished him.
Being naturally of a tender turn, I had dreadful lonely feelings on
me arter this. I conquered 'em at selling times, having a
reputation to keep (not to mention keeping myself), but they got me
down in private, and rolled upon me. That's often the way with us
public characters. See us on the footboard, and you'd give pretty
well anything you possess to be us. See us off the footboard, and
you'd add a trifle to be off your bargain. It was under those
circumstances that I come acquainted with a giant. I might have
been too high to fall into conversation with him, had it not been
for my lonely feelings. For the general rule is, going round the
country, to draw the line at dressing up. When a man can't trust
his getting a living to his undisguised abilities, you consider him
below your sort. And this giant when on view figured as a Roman.
He was a languid young man, which I attribute to the distance
betwixt his extremities. He had a little head and less in it, he
had weak eyes and weak knees, and altogether you couldn't look at
him without feeling that there was greatly too much of him both for
his joints and his mind. But he was an amiable though timid young
man (his mother let him out, and spent the money), and we come
acquainted when he was walking to ease the horse betwixt two fairs.
He was called Rinaldo di Velasco, his name being Pickleson.
This giant, otherwise Pickleson, mentioned to me under the seal of
confidence that, beyond his being a burden to himself, his life was
made a burden to him by the cruelty of his master towards a step-
daughter who was deaf and dumb. Her mother was dead, and she had no
living soul to take her part, and was used most hard. She travelled
with his master's caravan only because there was nowhere to leave
her, and this giant, otherwise Pickleson, did go so far as to
believe that his master often tried to lose her. He was such a very
languid young man, that I don't know how long it didn't take him to
get this story out, but it passed through his defective circulation
to his top extremity in course of time.
When I heard this account from the giant, otherwise Pickleson, and
likewise that the poor girl had beautiful long dark hair, and was
often pulled down by it and beaten, I couldn't see the giant through
what stood in my eyes. Having wiped 'em, I give him sixpence (for
he was kept as short as he was long), and he laid it out in two
three-penn'orths of gin-and-water, which so brisked him up, that he
sang the Favourite Comic of Shivery Shakey, ain't it cold?--a
popular effect which his master had tried every other means to get
out of him as a Roman wholly in vain.
His master's name was Mim, a wery hoarse man, and I knew him to
speak to. I went to that Fair as a mere civilian, leaving the cart
outside the town, and I looked about the back of the Vans while the
performing was going on, and at last, sitting dozing against a muddy
cart-wheel, I come upon the poor girl who was deaf and dumb. At the
first look I might almost have judged that she had escaped from the
Wild Beast Show; but at the second I thought better of her, and
thought that if she was more cared for and more kindly used she
would be like my child. She was just the same age that my own
daughter would have been, if her pretty head had not fell down upon
my shoulder that unfortunate night.
To cut it short, I spoke confidential to Mim while he was beating
the gong outside betwixt two lots of Pickleson's publics, and I put
it to him, "She lies heavy on your own hands; what'll you take for
her?" Mim was a most ferocious swearer. Suppressing that part of
his reply which was much the longest part, his reply was, "A pair of
braces." "Now I'll tell you," says I, "what I'm a going to do with
you. I'm a going to fetch you half-a-dozen pair of the primest
braces in the cart, and then to take her away with me." Says Mim
(again ferocious), "I'll believe it when I've got the goods, and no
sooner." I made all the haste I could, lest he should think twice
of it, and the bargain was completed, which Pickleson he was thereby
so relieved in his mind that he come out at his little back door,
longways like a serpent, and give us Shivery Shakey in a whisper
among the wheels at parting.
It was happy days for both of us when Sophy and me began to travel
in the cart. I at once give her the name of Sophy, to put her ever
towards me in the attitude of my own daughter. We soon made out to
begin to understand one another, through the goodness of the
Heavens, when she knowed that I meant true and kind by her. In a
very little time she was wonderful fond of me. You have no idea
what it is to have anybody wonderful fond of you, unless you have
been got down and rolled upon by the lonely feelings that I have
mentioned as having once got the better of me.
You'd have laughed--or the rewerse--it's according to your
disposition--if you could have seen me trying to teach Sophy. At
first I was helped--you'd never guess by what--milestones. I got
some large alphabets in a box, all the letters separate on bits of
bone, and saying we was going to WINDSOR, I give her those letters
in that order, and then at every milestone I showed her those same
letters in that same order again, and pointed towards the abode of
royalty. Another time I give her CART, and then chalked the same
upon the cart. Another time I give her DOCTOR MARIGOLD, and hung a
corresponding inscription outside my waistcoat. People that met us
might stare a bit and laugh, but what did I care, if she caught the
idea? She caught it after long patience and trouble, and then we
did begin to get on swimmingly, I believe you! At first she was a
little given to consider me the cart, and the cart the abode of
royalty, but that soon wore off.
We had our signs, too, and they was hundreds in number. Sometimes
she would sit looking at me and considering hard how to communicate
with me about something fresh,--how to ask me what she wanted
explained,--and then she was (or I thought she was; what does it
signify?) so like my child with those years added to her, that I
half-believed it was herself, trying to tell me where she had been
to up in the skies, and what she had seen since that unhappy night
when she flied away. She had a pretty face, and now that there was
no one to drag at her bright dark hair, and it was all in order,
there was a something touching in her looks that made the cart most
peaceful and most quiet, though not at all melancholy. [N.B. In
the Cheap Jack patter, we generally sound it lemonjolly, and it gets
The way she learnt to understand any look of mine was truly
surprising. When I sold of a night, she would sit in the cart
unseen by them outside, and would give a eager look into my eyes
when I looked in, and would hand me straight the precise article or
articles I wanted. And then she would clap her hands, and laugh for
joy. And as for me, seeing her so bright, and remembering what she
was when I first lighted on her, starved and beaten and ragged,
leaning asleep against the muddy cart-wheel, it give me such heart
that I gained a greater heighth of reputation than ever, and I put
Pickleson down (by the name of Mim's Travelling Giant otherwise
Pickleson) for a fypunnote in my will.
This happiness went on in the cart till she was sixteen year old.
By which time I began to feel not satisfied that I had done my whole
duty by her, and to consider that she ought to have better teaching
than I could give her. It drew a many tears on both sides when I
commenced explaining my views to her; but what's right is right, and
you can't neither by tears nor laughter do away with its character.
So I took her hand in mine, and I went with her one day to the Deaf
and Dumb Establishment in London, and when the gentleman come to
speak to us, I says to him: "Now I'll tell you what I'll do with
you, sir. I am nothing but a Cheap Jack, but of late years I have
laid by for a rainy day notwithstanding. This is my only daughter
(adopted), and you can't produce a deafer nor a dumber. Teach her
the most that can be taught her in the shortest separation that can
be named,--state the figure for it,--and I am game to put the money
down. I won't bate you a single farthing, sir, but I'll put down
the money here and now, and I'll thankfully throw you in a pound to
take it. There!" The gentleman smiled, and then, "Well, well,"
says he, "I must first know what she has learned already. How do
you communicate with her?" Then I showed him, and she wrote in
printed writing many names of things and so forth; and we held some
sprightly conversation, Sophy and me, about a little story in a book
which the gentleman showed her, and which she was able to read.
"This is most extraordinary," says the gentleman; "is it possible
that you have been her only teacher?" "I have been her only
teacher, sir," I says, "besides herself." "Then," says the
gentleman, and more acceptable words was never spoke to me, "you're
a clever fellow, and a good fellow." This he makes known to Sophy,
who kisses his hands, claps her own, and laughs and cries upon it.
We saw the gentleman four times in all, and when he took down my
name and asked how in the world it ever chanced to be Doctor, it
come out that he was own nephew by the sister's side, if you'll
believe me, to the very Doctor that I was called after. This made
our footing still easier, and he says to me:
"Now, Marigold, tell me what more do you want your adopted daughter
"I want her, sir, to be cut off from the world as little as can be,
considering her deprivations, and therefore to be able to read
whatever is wrote with perfect ease and pleasure."
"My good fellow," urges the gentleman, opening his eyes wide, "why I
can't do that myself!"
I took his joke, and gave him a laugh (knowing by experience how
flat you fall without it), and I mended my words accordingly.
"What do you mean to do with her afterwards?" asks the gentleman,
with a sort of a doubtful eye. "To take her about the country?"
"In the cart, sir, but only in the cart. She will live a private
life, you understand, in the cart. I should never think of bringing
her infirmities before the public. I wouldn't make a show of her
for any money."
The gentleman nodded, and seemed to approve.
"Well," says he, "can you part with her for two years?"
"To do her that good,--yes, sir."
"There's another question," says the gentleman, looking towards
her,--"can she part with you for two years?"
I don't know that it was a harder matter of itself (for the other
was hard enough to me), but it was harder to get over. However, she
was pacified to it at last, and the separation betwixt us was
settled. How it cut up both of us when it took place, and when I
left her at the door in the dark of an evening, I don't tell. But I
know this; remembering that night, I shall never pass that same
establishment without a heartache and a swelling in the throat; and
I couldn't put you up the best of lots in sight of it with my usual
spirit,--no, not even the gun, nor the pair of spectacles,--for five
hundred pound reward from the Secretary of State for the Home
Department, and throw in the honour of putting my legs under his
Still, the loneliness that followed in the cart was not the old
loneliness, because there was a term put to it, however long to look
forward to; and because I could think, when I was anyways down, that
she belonged to me and I belonged to her. Always planning for her
coming back, I bought in a few months' time another cart, and what
do you think I planned to do with it? I'll tell you. I planned to
fit it up with shelves and books for her reading, and to have a seat
in it where I could sit and see her read, and think that I had been
her first teacher. Not hurrying over the job, I had the fittings
knocked together in contriving ways under my own inspection, and
here was her bed in a berth with curtains, and there was her
reading-table, and here was her writing-desk, and elsewhere was her
books in rows upon rows, picters and no picters, bindings and no
bindings, gilt-edged and plain, just as I could pick 'em up for her
in lots up and down the country, North and South and West and East,
Winds liked best and winds liked least, Here and there and gone
astray, Over the hills and far away. And when I had got together
pretty well as many books as the cart would neatly hold, a new
scheme come into my head, which, as it turned out, kept my time and
attention a good deal employed, and helped me over the two years'
Without being of an awaricious temper, I like to be the owner of
things. I shouldn't wish, for instance, to go partners with
yourself in the Cheap Jack cart. It's not that I mistrust you, but
that I'd rather know it was mine. Similarly, very likely you'd
rather know it was yours. Well! A kind of a jealousy began to
creep into my mind when I reflected that all those books would have
been read by other people long before they was read by her. It
seemed to take away from her being the owner of 'em like. In this
way, the question got into my head: Couldn't I have a book new-made
express for her, which she should be the first to read?
It pleased me, that thought did; and as I never was a man to let a
thought sleep (you must wake up all the whole family of thoughts
you've got and burn their nightcaps, or you won't do in the Cheap
Jack line), I set to work at it. Considering that I was in the
habit of changing so much about the country, and that I should have
to find out a literary character here to make a deal with, and
another literary character there to make a deal with, as
opportunities presented, I hit on the plan that this same book
should be a general miscellaneous lot,--like the razors, flat-iron,
chronometer watch, dinner plates, rolling-pin, and looking-glass,--
and shouldn't be offered as a single indiwidual article, like the
spectacles or the gun. When I had come to that conclusion, I come
to another, which shall likewise be yours.
Often had I regretted that she never had heard me on the footboard,
and that she never could hear me. It ain't that I am vain, but that
YOU don't like to put your own light under a bushel. What's the
worth of your reputation, if you can't convey the reason for it to
the person you most wish to value it? Now I'll put it to you. Is
it worth sixpence, fippence, fourpence, threepence, twopence, a
penny, a halfpenny, a farthing? No, it ain't. Not worth a
farthing. Very well, then. My conclusion was that I would begin
her book with some account of myself. So that, through reading a
specimen or two of me on the footboard, she might form an idea of my
merits there. I was aware that I couldn't do myself justice. A man
can't write his eye (at least I don't know how to), nor yet can a
man write his voice, nor the rate of his talk, nor the quickness of
his action, nor his general spicy way. But he can write his turns
of speech, when he is a public speaker,--and indeed I have heard
that he very often does, before he speaks 'em.
Well! Having formed that resolution, then come the question of a
name. How did I hammer that hot iron into shape? This way. The
most difficult explanation I had ever had with her was, how I come
to be called Doctor, and yet was no Doctor. After all, I felt that
I had failed of getting it correctly into her mind, with my utmost
pains. But trusting to her improvement in the two years, I thought
that I might trust to her understanding it when she should come to
read it as put down by my own hand. Then I thought I would try a
joke with her and watch how it took, by which of itself I might
fully judge of her understanding it. We had first discovered the
mistake we had dropped into, through her having asked me to
prescribe for her when she had supposed me to be a Doctor in a
medical point of view; so thinks I, "Now, if I give this book the
name of my Prescriptions, and if she catches the idea that my only
Prescriptions are for her amusement and interest,--to make her laugh
in a pleasant way, or to make her cry in a pleasant way,--it will be
a delightful proof to both of us that we have got over our
difficulty." It fell out to absolute perfection. For when she saw
the book, as I had it got up,--the printed and pressed book,--lying
on her desk in her cart, and saw the title, DOCTOR MARIGOLD'S
PRESCRIPTIONS, she looked at me for a moment with astonishment, then
fluttered the leaves, then broke out a laughing in the charmingest
way, then felt her pulse and shook her head, then turned the pages
pretending to read them most attentive, then kissed the book to me,
and put it to her bosom with both her hands. I never was better
pleased in all my life!
But let me not anticipate. (I take that expression out of a lot of
romances I bought for her. I never opened a single one of 'em--and
I have opened many--but I found the romancer saying "let me not
anticipate." Which being so, I wonder why he did anticipate, or who
asked him to it.) Let me not, I say, anticipate. This same book
took up all my spare time. It was no play to get the other articles
together in the general miscellaneous lot, but when it come to my
own article! There! I couldn't have believed the blotting, nor yet
the buckling to at it, nor the patience over it. Which again is
like the footboard. The public have no idea.
At last it was done, and the two years' time was gone after all the
other time before it, and where it's all gone to, who knows? The
new cart was finished,--yellow outside, relieved with wermilion and
brass fittings,--the old horse was put in it, a new 'un and a boy
being laid on for the Cheap Jack cart,--and I cleaned myself up to
go and fetch her. Bright cold weather it was, cart-chimneys
smoking, carts pitched private on a piece of waste ground over at
Wandsworth, where you may see 'em from the Sou'western Railway when
not upon the road. (Look out of the right-hand window going down.)
"Marigold," says the gentleman, giving his hand hearty, "I am very
glad to see you."
"Yet I have my doubts, sir," says I, "if you can be half as glad to
see me as I am to see you."
"The time has appeared so long,--has it, Marigold?"
"I won't say that, sir, considering its real length; but--"
"What a start, my good fellow!"
Ah! I should think it was! Grown such a woman, so pretty, so
intelligent, so expressive! I knew then that she must be really
like my child, or I could never have known her, standing quiet by
"You are affected," says the gentleman in a kindly manner.
"I feel, sir," says I, "that I am but a rough chap in a sleeved
" I feel," says the gentleman, "that it was you who raised her from
misery and degradation, and brought her into communication with her
kind. But why do we converse alone together, when we can converse
so well with her? Address her in your own way."
"I am such a rough chap in a sleeved waistcoat, sir," says I, "and
she is such a graceful woman, and she stands so quiet at the door!"
"TRY if she moves at the old sign," says the gentleman.
They had got it up together o' purpose to please me! For when I
give her the old sign, she rushed to my feet, and dropped upon her
knees, holding up her hands to me with pouring tears of love and
joy; and when I took her hands and lifted her, she clasped me round
the neck, and lay there; and I don't know what a fool I didn't make
of myself, until we all three settled down into talking without
sound, as if there was a something soft and pleasant spread over the
whole world for us.
[A portion is here omitted from the text, having reference to the
sketches contributed by other writers; but the reader will be
pleased to have what follows retained in a note:
"Now I'll tell you what I am a-going to do with you. I am a-going
to offer you the general miscellaneous lot, her own book, never read
by anybody else but me, added to and completed by me after her first
reading of it, eight-and-forty printed pages, six-and-ninety
columns, Whiting's own work, Beaufort House to wit, thrown off by
the steam-ingine, best of paper, beautiful green wrapper, folded
like clean linen come home from the clear-starcher's, and so
exquisitely stitched that, regarded as a piece of needlework alone,
it's better than the sampler of a seamstress undergoing a
Competitive examination for Starvation before the Civil Service
Commissioners--and I offer the lot for what? For eight pound? Not
so much. For six pound? Less. For four pound. Why, I hardly
expect you to believe me, but that's the sum. Four pound! The
stitching alone cost half as much again. Here's forty-eight
original pages, ninety-six original columns, for four pound. You
want more for the money? Take it. Three whole pages of
advertisements of thrilling interest thrown in for nothing. Read
'em and believe 'em. More? My best of wishes for your merry
Christmases and your happy New Years, your long lives and your true
prosperities. Worth twenty pound good if they are delivered as I
send them. Remember! Here's a final prescription added, "To be
taken for life," which will tell you how the cart broke down, and
where the journey ended. You think Four Pound too much? And still
you think so? Come! I'll tell you what then. Say Four Pence, and
keep the secret."]
So every item of my plan was crowned with success. Our reunited
life was more than all that we had looked forward to. Content and
joy went with us as the wheels of the two carts went round, and the
same stopped with us when the two carts stopped. I was as pleased
and as proud as a Pug-Dog with his muzzle black-leaded for a evening
party, and his tail extra curled by machinery.
But I had left something out of my calculations. Now, what had I
left out? To help you to guess I'll say, a figure. Come. Make a
guess and guess right. Nought? No. Nine? No. Eight? No.
Seven? No. Six? No. Five? No. Four? No. Three? No. Two?
No. One? No. Now I'll tell you what I'll do with you. I'll say
it's another sort of figure altogether. There. Why then, says you,
it's a mortal figure. No, nor yet a mortal figure. By such means
you got yourself penned into a corner, and you can't help guessing a
IMmortal figure. That's about it. Why didn't you say so sooner?
Yes. It was a immortal figure that I had altogether left out of my
Calculations. Neither man's, nor woman's, but a child's. Girl's or
boy's? Boy's. "I, says the sparrow with my bow and arrow." Now
you have got it.
We were down at Lancaster, and I had done two nights more than fair
average business (though I cannot in honour recommend them as a
quick audience) in the open square there, near the end of the street
where Mr. Sly's King's Arms and Royal Hotel stands. Mim's
travelling giant, otherwise Pickleson, happened at the self-same
time to be trying it on in the town. The genteel lay was adopted
with him. No hint of a van. Green baize alcove leading up to
Pickleson in a Auction Room. Printed poster, "Free list suspended,
with the exception of that proud boast of an enlightened country, a
free press. Schools admitted by private arrangement. Nothing to
raise a blush in the cheek of youth or shock the most fastidious."
Mim swearing most horrible and terrific, in a pink calico pay-place,
at the slackness of the public. Serious handbill in the shops,
importing that it was all but impossible to come to a right
understanding of the history of David without seeing Pickleson.
I went to the Auction Room in question, and I found it entirely
empty of everything but echoes and mouldiness, with the single
exception of Pickleson on a piece of red drugget. This suited my
purpose, as I wanted a private and confidential word with him, which
was: "Pickleson. Owing much happiness to you, I put you in my will
for a fypunnote; but, to save trouble, here's fourpunten down, which
may equally suit your views, and let us so conclude the
transaction." Pickleson, who up to that remark had had the dejected
appearance of a long Roman rushlight that couldn't anyhow get
lighted, brightened up at his top extremity, and made his
acknowledgments in a way which (for him) was parliamentary
eloquence. He likewise did add, that, having ceased to draw as a
Roman, Mim had made proposals for his going in as a conwerted Indian
Giant worked upon by The Dairyman's Daughter. This, Pickleson,
having no acquaintance with the tract named after that young woman,
and not being willing to couple gag with his serious views, had
declined to do, thereby leading to words and the total stoppage of
the unfortunate young man's beer. All of which, during the whole of
the interview, was confirmed by the ferocious growling of Mim down
below in the pay-place, which shook the giant like a leaf.
But what was to the present point in the remarks of the travelling
giant, otherwise Pickleson, was this: "Doctor Marigold,"--I give
his words without a hope of conweying their feebleness,--"who is the
strange young man that hangs about your carts?"--"The strange young
MAN?" I gives him back, thinking that he meant her, and his languid
circulation had dropped a syllable. "Doctor," he returns, with a
pathos calculated to draw a tear from even a manly eye, "I am weak,
but not so weak yet as that I don't know my words. I repeat them,
Doctor. The strange young man." It then appeared that Pickleson,
being forced to stretch his legs (not that they wanted it) only at
times when he couldn't be seen for nothing, to wit in the dead of
the night and towards daybreak, had twice seen hanging about my
carts, in that same town of Lancaster where I had been only two
nights, this same unknown young man.
It put me rather out of sorts. What it meant as to particulars I no
more foreboded then than you forebode now, but it put me rather out
of sorts. Howsoever, I made light of it to Pickleson, and I took
leave of Pickleson, advising him to spend his legacy in getting up
his stamina, and to continue to stand by his religion. Towards
morning I kept a look out for the strange young man, and--what was
more--I saw the strange young man. He was well dressed and well
looking. He loitered very nigh my carts, watching them like as if
he was taking care of them, and soon after daybreak turned and went
away. I sent a hail after him, but he never started or looked
round, or took the smallest notice.
We left Lancaster within an hour or two, on our way towards
Carlisle. Next morning, at daybreak, I looked out again for the
strange young man. I did not see him. But next morning I looked
out again, and there he was once more. I sent another hail after
him, but as before he gave not the slightest sign of being anyways
disturbed. This put a thought into my head. Acting on it I watched
him in different manners and at different times not necessary to
enter into, till I found that this strange young man was deaf and
The discovery turned me over, because I knew that a part of that
establishment where she had been was allotted to young men (some of
them well off), and I thought to myself, "If she favours him, where
am I? and where is all that I have worked and planned for?" Hoping-
-I must confess to the selfishness--that she might NOT favour him, I
set myself to find out. At last I was by accident present at a
meeting between them in the open air, looking on leaning behind a
fir-tree without their knowing of it. It was a moving meeting for
all the three parties concerned. I knew every syllable that passed
between them as well as they did. I listened with my eyes, which
had come to be as quick and true with deaf and dumb conversation as
my ears with the talk of people that can speak. He was a-going out
to China as clerk in a merchant's house, which his father had been
before him. He was in circumstances to keep a wife, and he wanted
her to marry him and go along with him. She persisted, no. He
asked if she didn't love him. Yes, she loved him dearly, dearly;
but she could never disappoint her beloved, good, noble, generous,
and I-don't-know-what-all father (meaning me, the Cheap Jack in the
sleeved waistcoat) and she would stay with him, Heaven bless him!
though it was to break her heart. Then she cried most bitterly, and
that made up my mind.
While my mind had been in an unsettled state about her favouring
this young man, I had felt that unreasonable towards Pickleson, that
it was well for him he had got his legacy down. For I often
thought, "If it hadn't been for this same weak-minded giant, I might
never have come to trouble my head and wex my soul about the young
man." But, once that I knew she loved him,--once that I had seen
her weep for him,--it was a different thing. I made it right in my
mind with Pickleson on the spot, and I shook myself together to do
what was right by all.
She had left the young man by that time (for it took a few minutes
to get me thoroughly well shook together), and the young man was
leaning against another of the fir-trees,--of which there was a
cluster, -with his face upon his arm. I touched him on the back.
Looking up and seeing me, he says, in our deaf-and-dumb talk, "Do
not be angry."
"I am not angry, good boy. I am your friend. Come with me."
I left him at the foot of the steps of the Library Cart, and I went
up alone. She was drying her eyes.
"You have been crying, my dear."
"Not a heartache?"
"I said a headache, father."
"Doctor Marigold must prescribe for that headache."
She took up the book of my Prescriptions, and held it up with a
forced smile; but seeing me keep still and look earnest, she softly
laid it down again, and her eyes were very attentive.
"The Prescription is not there, Sophy."
"Where is it?"
"Here, my dear."
I brought her young husband in, and I put her hand in his, and my
only farther words to both of them were these: "Doctor Marigold's
last Prescription. To be taken for life." After which I bolted.
When the wedding come off, I mounted a coat (blue, and bright
buttons), for the first and last time in all my days, and I give
Sophy away with my own hand. There were only us three and the
gentleman who had had charge of her for those two years. I give the
wedding dinner of four in the Library Cart. Pigeon-pie, a leg of
pickled pork, a pair of fowls, and suitable garden stuff. The best
of drinks. I give them a speech, and the gentleman give us a
speech, and all our jokes told, and the whole went off like a sky-
rocket. In the course of the entertainment I explained to Sophy
that I should keep the Library Cart as my living-cart when not upon
the road, and that I should keep all her books for her just as they
stood, till she come back to claim them. So she went to China with
her young husband, and it was a parting sorrowful and heavy, and I
got the boy I had another service; and so as of old, when my child
and wife were gone, I went plodding along alone, with my whip over
my shoulder, at the old horse's head.
Sophy wrote me many letters, and I wrote her many letters. About
the end of the first year she sent me one in an unsteady hand:
"Dearest father, not a week ago I had a darling little daughter, but
I am so well that they let me write these words to you. Dearest and
best father, I hope my child may not be deaf and dumb, but I do not
yet know." When I wrote back, I hinted the question; but as Sophy
never answered that question, I felt it to be a sad one, and I never
repeated it. For a long time our letters were regular, but then
they got irregular, through Sophy's husband being moved to another
station, and through my being always on the move. But we were in
one another's thoughts, I was equally sure, letters or no letters.
Five years, odd months, had gone since Sophy went away. I was still
the King of the Cheap Jacks, and at a greater height of popularity
than ever. I had had a first-rate autumn of it, and on the twenty-
third of December, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four, I
found myself at Uxbridge, Middlesex, clean sold out. So I jogged up
to London with the old horse, light and easy, to have my Christmas-
eve and Christmas-day alone by the fire in the Library Cart, and
then to buy a regular new stock of goods all round, to sell 'em
again and get the money.
I am a neat hand at cookery, and I'll tell you what I knocked up for
my Christmas-eve dinner in the Library Cart. I knocked up a
beefsteak-pudding for one, with two kidneys, a dozen oysters, and a
couple of mushrooms thrown in. It's a pudding to put a man in good
humour with everything, except the two bottom buttons of his
waistcoat. Having relished that pudding and cleared away, I turned
the lamp low, and sat down by the light of the fire, watching it as
it shone upon the backs of Sophy's books.
Sophy's books so brought Sophy's self, that I saw her touching face
quite plainly, before I dropped off dozing by the fire. This may be
a reason why Sophy, with her deaf-and-dumb child in her arms, seemed
to stand silent by me all through my nap. I was on the road, off
the road, in all sorts of places, North and South and West and East,
Winds liked best and winds liked least, Here and there and gone
astray, Over the hills and far away, and still she stood silent by
me, with her silent child in her arms. Even when I woke with a
start, she seemed to vanish, as if she had stood by me in that very
place only a single instant before.
I had started at a real sound, and the sound was on the steps of the
cart. It was the light hurried tread of a child, coming clambering
up. That tread of a child had once been so familiar to me, that for
half a moment I believed I was a-going to see a little ghost.
But the touch of a real child was laid upon the outer handle of the
door, and the handle turned, and the door opened a little way, and a
real child peeped in. A bright little comely girl with large dark
Looking full at me, the tiny creature took off her mite of a straw
hat, and a quantity of dark curls fell about her face. Then she
opened her lips, and said in a pretty voice,
"Ah, my God!" I cries out. "She can speak!"
"Yes, dear grandfather. And I am to ask you whether there was ever
any one that I remind you of?"
In a moment Sophy was round my neck, as well as the child, and her
husband was a-wringing my hand with his face hid, and we all had to
shake ourselves together before we could get over it. And when we
did begin to get over it, and I saw the pretty child a-talking,
pleased and quick and eager and busy, to her mother, in the signs
that I had first taught her mother, the happy and yet pitying tears
fell rolling down my face.
Back to Full Books