Part 1 out of 2
Transcribed from Charles Scribner's Sons "Works of Charles Dickens"
edition by David Price, email firstname.lastname@example.org
CHAPTER I--First Quarter.
Here 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
multitude 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 churchyard, 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 wandering 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 gliding 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, sitting snugly round the fire!
It has an awful voice, that wind at Midnight, singing in a church!
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, nameless and mugless, in the church-
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 parliament; 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
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
Toby 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 unavailingly 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 to touzled, and worried, and hustled, and lifted off
his feet, as to render it a state of things but one degree removed
from a positive miracle, that he wasn't carried up bodily into the
air as a colony of frogs or snails or other very portable 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 unknown.
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 a 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 seemed 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 street'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 niche.
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 eighteenpenny message or small parcel in hand, his
courage always high, 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 could lift.
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 resounded, 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 windows, or came puffing out of the
chimney tops; and incapable of participation in any of the good
things that were constantly being handled, 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: sometimes 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
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 acquaintance 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
cunning, 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 certain 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 expressed 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, afterwards, 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
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.
He took a silent trot, after that, for a minute or two.
'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 a precious hard service of it in the bitter weather, and
precious little to look forward to; for I don't take snuff myself.
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 baker's.'
The reflection reminded him of that other reflection, which he had
'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 obserwation for the Papers; or
Toby was only joking, for he gravely shook his head in self-
'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 coming
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 by.
But Toby, not hearing it, continued to trot backwards and forwards:
musing as he went, and talking to himself.
'It seems as if we can't go right, or do right, or be righted,'
said Toby. 'I hadn't much schooling, myself, 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
sometimes 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 the
enlightenment in the very heart of the approaching year, found
himself face to face with his own child, and looking close into her
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
kindred 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 little!'
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-
'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
'Why you don't mean to say,' observed Trotty, looking curiously at
a covered basket which she carried 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, you 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 scalding hot!'
'Ha, ha, ha!' roared Toby, with a sort of kick. 'It's scalding
'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
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; stopping 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
'No, no, no!' cried Meg, delighted. 'Nothing like Polonies!'
'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 it?'
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
Cocks' heads. And I know it an't sausages. I'll tell you what it
is. It's chitterlings!'
'No, it an't!' cried Meg, in a burst of delight. 'No, it an't!'
'Why, what am I a-thinking of!' said Toby, suddenly 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 mistake! 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 gentlefolks 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 from!'
'The steps to-day, my Pet,' said Trotty. 'Steps in dry weather.
Post in wet. There's a greater conveniency in the steps at all
times, because of the sitting down; but they're rheumatic in the
'Then here,' said Meg, clapping her hands, after a moment's bustle;
'here it is, all ready! And beautiful it looks! Come, father.
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 cheerful summons, he shook off a melancholy
shake of the head which was just coming upon him, and trotted to
her side. As he was stooping to sit down, the Chimes rang.
'Amen!' said Trotty, pulling off his hat and looking up towards
'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 me.'
'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, pointing
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
'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 fails.'
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: sitting opposite to him, with her arms folded and only busy
in watching his progress with a smile of happiness.
'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, nor wanting to, when--'
'But I have broken it, father,' interposed his daughter, laughing,
'all to bits. I have had my dinner.'
'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 brought; and--and
something else besides.'
Toby still appeared incredulous; 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
'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. Then stopped.
'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 woman's life, to stay behind and comfort me, and make
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 surprise you.'
'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 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 you?'
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 the matter!'
'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
'There! That'll do, that'll do!' said the gentleman. 'Halloa
there! Porter!' beckoning with his head to Trotty Veck. 'Come
here. What's that? Your dinner?'
'Yes, sir,' said Trotty, leaving it behind him in a corner.
'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 appearance 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
remnant 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
'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 produce. 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 substance whatever. Tripe is more
expensive, properly understood, than the hothouse pine-apple.
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 carcases 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 hundred 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 eats tripe?'
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
'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
'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 gentleman. 'What IS to
be said? Who can take any interest 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
gentleman. 'The good old times, the good old times!'
The gentleman didn't specify what particular times he alluded to;
nor did he say whether he objected to the present times, from a
disinterested consciousness that they had done nothing very
remarkable in producing himself.
'The good old times, the good old times,' repeated the gentleman.
'What times they were! They were the only times. It's of 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, by tables.'
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 perceptions, as ever this red-faced
gentleman had of his deceased Millennium.
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, however, 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 decree; 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 Alderman 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 you 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, affable, 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
Trotty took Meg's hand and drew it through his arm. He didn't seem
to know what he was doing though.
'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 pride!
'Where's her mother?' asked that worthy gentleman.
'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
Toby might or might not have been able to separate 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
holding any state or station there?
'And you're making love to her, are you?' said Cute to the young
'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. 'Married!'
'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. Married! Married!! The ignorance of the
first principles 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 marriage seemed as
reasonable and fair a deed as they need have in contemplation.
'A man may live to be as old as Methuselah,' said 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 married,
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 your 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 mounting, wrathfully, within
the last few minutes; and he was indisposed to let her come. But,
setting a constraint 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
before 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
stockings, 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 children (I
hope you know the church-service, but I'm afraid not) I am
determined to Put Down. And if you attempt, desperately, and
ungratefully, and impiously, 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 children
crying after you wherever you go!'
O, he knew how to banter the common people, Alderman Cute!
'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 blessing 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 age, 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 misdoubted 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 that.
Then the Alderman gave an arm to each of his friends, and walked
off in high feather; but, he immediately came hurrying back alone,
as if he had forgotten something.
'Porter!' said the Alderman.
'Sir!' said Toby.
'Take care of that daughter of yours. She's much too handsome.'
'Even her good looks are stolen from somebody or other, I suppose,'
thought Toby, looking at the sixpence 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 here!'
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 me
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 Figures, Facts and Figures! Put 'em down, Put 'em down!
If they said anything they said this, until the brain of Toby
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
CHAPTER II--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 inhabitants. 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 simplicity 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 exalted character, Toby
interposed a corner of his apron between the letter and his
'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 darling M-
He couldn't finish the name. The final letter swelled in his
throat, to the size of the whole alphabet.
'Never mind,' thought Trotty. 'I know what I mean. That's more
than enough for me.' And with this consolatory rumination, trotted
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 that, now.
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 allegory 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 welcomes, 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 workings 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 aboardship. 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
Trotty had no portion, to his thinking, in the New Year or the Old.
'Put 'em down, Put 'em down! Facts and Figures, 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 nothing else.
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 Parliament.
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
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' purpose.'
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?' inquired Sir Joseph.
Toby replied in the negative.
'You have no bill or demand upon me--my name 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 asperity, 'the
cord of existence--my affairs would be found, I hope, in a state of
'My dear Sir Joseph!' said the lady, who was greatly younger than
the gentleman. 'How shocking!'
'My lady Bowley,' returned Sir Joseph, floundering now and then, as
in the great depth of his observations, '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 monstrous!'
'My lady Bowley,' returned Sir Joseph, 'you surprise 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
canvassing reduces them? Is there no excitement of the purest kind
in having two votes to dispose of among fifty people?'
'Not to me, I acknowledge,' replied the lady. 'It bores one.
Besides, one can't oblige one's acquaintance. 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 anything 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
'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 perpetual 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 cheerful morning air, and--and
stop there. Live hard and temperately, 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 to 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
communication 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 perhaps 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
Toby was greatly moved.
'O! You have a thankful family, Sir Joseph!' cried his wife.
'My lady,' said Sir Joseph, quite majestically, 'Ingratitude 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 discontented, 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 Alderman's letter; and
'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 (trying to better himself--that's his story), and being
found at night asleep in a shed, was taken into custody, 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
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
anything but insolence and ingratitude from that class of people!
That is not to the purpose, however. Sir Joseph! Make an example
'Hem!' coughed Sir Joseph. 'Mr. Fish, if you'll have the goodness
Mr. Fish immediately seized his pen, and wrote from Sir Joseph's
'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 circumstances, it
appears to me, I own, that when he comes before you again (as you
informed me he promised to do to-morrow, pending your inquiries,
and I think he may be so far relied upon), his committal 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
'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 Joseph. 'Stop!'
'Stop!' echoed Mr. Fish.
'You have heard, perhaps,' said Sir Joseph, oracularly, '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 standing in society, but
that Mr. Fish--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 preparations for a New Year?'
'I am afraid, sir,' stammered Trotty, looking meekly at him, 'that
I am a--a--little behind-hand with the world.'
' 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. Chickenstalker.'
'To Mrs. Chickenstalker!' repeated Sir Joseph, in the same tone as
'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 hard.'
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,
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, therefore, with all
possible speed, and set off trotting homeward. 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 kindly.'
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 neck.
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 standing 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
'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 Cute lives.'
'Close at hand,' replied Toby. 'I'll show you his house with
'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 to-night.'
'It's impossible,' cried Toby with a start, 'that your name's
'Eh!' cried the other, turning on him in astonishment.
'Fern! Will Fern!' said Trotty.
'That's my name,' replied the other.
'Why then,' said 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 before
him--'what wasn't my own; and never held it back from work, however
hard, or poorly paid. Whoever 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 natu', 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 jail; but without a friend to speak a word
for me, he might do it; and you see--!' pointing downward with his
finger, at the child.
'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 living.
'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, Lilly!'
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 London. 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 up 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
'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
everything she saw there; ran into her arms.
'Here we are and here we go!' cried Trotty, running 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
'Oh, they're warmer now!' exclaimed the child. 'They're quite warm
'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
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 elaborately 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 curious 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 boiling 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 beginning, a mere morsel for
form's sake, which he appeared 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 looking
on that night. Meg smiled at Trotty, Trotty laughed at Meg. Meg
shook her head, and made belief 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. 'With Meg.'
'That's right,' said Trotty. 'And I shouldn't wonder if she kiss
Meg's father, won't she? I'M Meg's father.'
Mightily delighted Trotty 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
'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 me.' 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 you 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 newspaper 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 day's 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
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 whole town!
'Meg,' said Trotty softly: tapping at her door. 'Do you hear
'I hear the Bells, father. Surely they're very loud to-night.'
'Is she asleep?' said Toby, making an excuse for peeping in.
'So peacefully and happily! I can't leave her yet though, father.
Look how she holds my hand!'
'Meg,' whispered Trotty. 'Listen to the Bells!'
She listened, with her face towards him all the time. But it
underwent no change. She didn't understand them.
Trotty withdrew, resumed his seat by the fire, and once more
listened by himself. He remained here a little time.
It was impossible to bear it; their energy was dreadful.
'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 portal, outside the church, in a
dark nook behind a column; and had such great iron hinges, and such
a monstrous lock, that there was 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 alone.
'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 something 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, higher up!
It was a disagreeable staircase for that groping work; so low and
narrow, that his groping 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 headlong 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 tower, breast high, and holding tight, looked down upon the
house-tops, on the smoking chimneys, on the blur 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 darkness.
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
Up, up, up; and climb and clamber; up, up, up; higher, higher,
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 a swoon.
CHAPTER III--Third Quarter.
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
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 without 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; spreading away
and away from him in enlarging circles, as the water ripples give
way to a huge stone that suddenly 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, incessantly. He saw them
riding downward, soaring upward, sailing off afar, perching near at
hand, all restless 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 innumerable 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 endeavouring to stop the clock entirely. He
saw them representing, 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 extraordinary 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 collapsed, 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,
remained 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 perseverance, that at
last he dwindled to a leg and even to a foot, before he finally
retired; 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. Gigantic, 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 goblin mouth.
He could not plunge down wildly through the opening 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
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 distance from all help; the long, dark,
winding, ghost-beleaguered 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 nevertheless 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 moaning through the
tower. As it died away, the Great Bell, or the Goblin of the Great
Back to Full Books