The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices
Part 1 out of 3
Transcribed from the 1905 edition by David Price,
THE LAZY TOUR OF TWO IDLE APPRENTICES
In the autumn month of September, eighteen hundred and fifty-seven,
wherein these presents bear date, two idle apprentices, exhausted
by the long, hot summer, and the long, hot work it had brought with
it, ran away from their employer. They were bound to a highly
meritorious lady (named Literature), of fair credit and repute,
though, it must be acknowledged, not quite so highly esteemed in
the City as she might be. This is the more remarkable, as there is
nothing against the respectable lady in that quarter, but quite the
contrary; her family having rendered eminent service to many famous
citizens of London. It may be sufficient to name Sir William
Walworth, Lord Mayor under King Richard II., at the time of Wat
Tyler's insurrection, and Sir Richard Whittington: which latter
distinguished man and magistrate was doubtless indebted to the
lady's family for the gift of his celebrated cat. There is also
strong reason to suppose that they rang the Highgate bells for him
with their own hands.
The misguided young men who thus shirked their duty to the mistress
from whom they had received many favours, were actuated by the low
idea of making a perfectly idle trip, in any direction. They had
no intention of going anywhere in particular; they wanted to see
nothing, they wanted to know nothing, they wanted to learn nothing,
they wanted to do nothing. They wanted only to be idle. They took
to themselves (after HOGARTH), the names of Mr. Thomas Idle and Mr.
Francis Goodchild; but there was not a moral pin to choose between
them, and they were both idle in the last degree.
Between Francis and Thomas, however, there was this difference of
character: Goodchild was laboriously idle, and would take upon
himself any amount of pains and labour to assure himself that he
was idle; in short, had no better idea of idleness than that it was
useless industry. Thomas Idle, on the other hand, was an idler of
the unmixed Irish or Neapolitan type; a passive idler, a born-and-
bred idler, a consistent idler, who practised what he would have
preached if he had not been too idle to preach; a one entire and
perfect chrysolite of idleness.
The two idle apprentices found themselves, within a few hours of
their escape, walking down into the North of England, that is to
say, Thomas was lying in a meadow, looking at the railway trains as
they passed over a distant viaduct--which was HIS idea of walking
down into the North; while Francis was walking a mile due South
against time--which was HIS idea of walking down into the North.
In the meantime the day waned, and the milestones remained
'Tom,' said Goodchild, 'the sun is getting low. Up, and let us go
'Nay,' quoth Thomas Idle, 'I have not done with Annie Laurie yet.'
And he proceeded with that idle but popular ballad, to the effect
that for the bonnie young person of that name he would 'lay him
doon and dee'--equivalent, in prose, to lay him down and die.
'What an ass that fellow was!' cried Goodchild, with the bitter
emphasis of contempt.
'Which fellow?' asked Thomas Idle.
'The fellow in your song. Lay him doon and dee! Finely he'd show
off before the girl by doing THAT. A sniveller! Why couldn't he
get up, and punch somebody's head!'
'Whose?' asked Thomas Idle.
'Anybody's. Everybody's would be better than nobody's! If I fell
into that state of mind about a girl, do you think I'd lay me doon
and dee? No, sir,' proceeded Goodchild, with a disparaging
assumption of the Scottish accent, 'I'd get me oop and peetch into
somebody. Wouldn't you?'
'I wouldn't have anything to do with her,' yawned Thomas Idle.
'Why should I take the trouble?'
'It's no trouble, Tom, to fall in love,' said Goodchild, shaking
'It's trouble enough to fall out of it, once you're in it,'
retorted Tom. 'So I keep out of it altogether. It would be better
for you, if you did the same.'
Mr. Goodchild, who is always in love with somebody, and not
unfrequently with several objects at once, made no reply. He
heaved a sigh of the kind which is termed by the lower orders 'a
bellowser,' and then, heaving Mr. Idle on his feet (who was not
half so heavy as the sigh), urged him northward.
These two had sent their personal baggage on by train: only
retaining each a knapsack. Idle now applied himself to constantly
regretting the train, to tracking it through the intricacies of
Bradshaw's Guide, and finding out where it is now--and where now--
and where now--and to asking what was the use of walking, when you
could ride at such a pace as that. Was it to see the country? If
that was the object, look at it out of the carriage windows. There
was a great deal more of it to be seen there than here. Besides,
who wanted to see the country? Nobody. And again, whoever did
walk? Nobody. Fellows set off to walk, but they never did it.
They came back and said they did, but they didn't. Then why should
he walk? He wouldn't walk. He swore it by this milestone!
It was the fifth from London, so far had they penetrated into the
North. Submitting to the powerful chain of argument, Goodchild
proposed a return to the Metropolis, and a falling back upon Euston
Square Terminus. Thomas assented with alacrity, and so they walked
down into the North by the next morning's express, and carried
their knapsacks in the luggage-van.
It was like all other expresses, as every express is and must be.
It bore through the harvest country a smell like a large washing-
day, and a sharp issue of steam as from a huge brazen tea-urn. The
greatest power in nature and art combined, it yet glided over
dangerous heights in the sight of people looking up from fields and
roads, as smoothly and unreally as a light miniature plaything.
Now, the engine shrieked in hysterics of such intensity, that it
seemed desirable that the men who had her in charge should hold her
feet, slap her hands, and bring her to; now, burrowed into tunnels
with a stubborn and undemonstrative energy so confusing that the
train seemed to be flying back into leagues of darkness. Here,
were station after station, swallowed up by the express without
stopping; here, stations where it fired itself in like a volley of
cannon-balls, swooped away four country-people with nosegays, and
three men of business with portmanteaus, and fired itself off
again, bang, bang, bang! At long intervals were uncomfortable
refreshment-rooms, made more uncomfortable by the scorn of Beauty
towards Beast, the public (but to whom she never relented, as
Beauty did in the story, towards the other Beast), and where
sensitive stomachs were fed, with a contemptuous sharpness
occasioning indigestion. Here, again, were stations with nothing
going but a bell, and wonderful wooden razors set aloft on great
posts, shaving the air. In these fields, the horses, sheep, and
cattle were well used to the thundering meteor, and didn't mind; in
those, they were all set scampering together, and a herd of pigs
scoured after them. The pastoral country darkened, became coaly,
became smoky, became infernal, got better, got worse, improved
again, grew rugged, turned romantic; was a wood, a stream, a chain
of hills, a gorge, a moor, a cathedral town, a fortified place, a
waste. Now, miserable black dwellings, a black canal, and sick
black towers of chimneys; now, a trim garden, where the flowers
were bright and fair; now, a wilderness of hideous altars all a-
blaze; now, the water meadows with their fairy rings; now, the
mangy patch of unlet building ground outside the stagnant town,
with the larger ring where the Circus was last week. The
temperature changed, the dialect changed, the people changed, faces
got sharper, manner got shorter, eyes got shrewder and harder; yet
all so quickly, that the spruce guard in the London uniform and
silver lace, had not yet rumpled his shirt-collar, delivered half
the dispatches in his shiny little pouch, or read his newspaper.
Carlisle! Idle and Goodchild had got to Carlisle. It looked
congenially and delightfully idle. Something in the way of public
amusement had happened last month, and something else was going to
happen before Christmas; and, in the meantime there was a lecture
on India for those who liked it--which Idle and Goodchild did not.
Likewise, by those who liked them, there were impressions to be
bought of all the vapid prints, going and gone, and of nearly all
the vapid books. For those who wanted to put anything in
missionary boxes, here were the boxes. For those who wanted the
Reverend Mr. Podgers (artist's proofs, thirty shillings), here was
Mr. Podgers to any amount. Not less gracious and abundant, Mr.
Codgers also of the vineyard, but opposed to Mr. Podgers, brotherly
tooth and nail. Here, were guide-books to the neighbouring
antiquities, and eke the Lake country, in several dry and husky
sorts; here, many physically and morally impossible heads of both
sexes, for young ladies to copy, in the exercise of the art of
drawing; here, further, a large impression of MR. SPURGEON, solid
as to the flesh, not to say even something gross. The working
young men of Carlisle were drawn up, with their hands in their
pockets, across the pavements, four and six abreast, and appeared
(much to the satisfaction of Mr. Idle) to have nothing else to do.
The working and growing young women of Carlisle, from the age of
twelve upwards, promenaded the streets in the cool of the evening,
and rallied the said young men. Sometimes the young men rallied
the young women, as in the case of a group gathered round an
accordion-player, from among whom a young man advanced behind a
young woman for whom he appeared to have a tenderness, and hinted
to her that he was there and playful, by giving her (he wore clogs)
On market morning, Carlisle woke up amazingly, and became (to the
two Idle Apprentices) disagreeably and reproachfully busy. There
were its cattle market, its sheep market, and its pig market down
by the river, with raw-boned and shock-headed Rob Roys hiding their
Lowland dresses beneath heavy plaids, prowling in and out among the
animals, and flavouring the air with fumes of whiskey. There was
its corn market down the main street, with hum of chaffering over
open sacks. There was its general market in the street too, with
heather brooms on which the purple flower still flourished, and
heather baskets primitive and fresh to behold. With women trying
on clogs and caps at open stalls, and 'Bible stalls' adjoining.
With 'Doctor Mantle's Dispensary for the cure of all Human Maladies
and no charge for advice,' and with Doctor Mantle's 'Laboratory of
Medical, Chemical, and Botanical Science'--both healing
institutions established on one pair of trestles, one board, and
one sun-blind. With the renowned phrenologist from London, begging
to be favoured (at sixpence each) with the company of clients of
both sexes, to whom, on examination of their heads, he would make
revelations 'enabling him or her to know themselves.' Through all
these bargains and blessings, the recruiting-sergeant watchfully
elbowed his way, a thread of War in the peaceful skein. Likewise
on the walls were printed hints that the Oxford Blues might not be
indisposed to hear of a few fine active young men; and that whereas
the standard of that distinguished corps is full six feet, 'growing
lads of five feet eleven' need not absolutely despair of being
Scenting the morning air more pleasantly than the buried majesty of
Denmark did, Messrs. Idle and Goodchild rode away from Carlisle at
eight o'clock one forenoon, bound for the village of Hesket,
Newmarket, some fourteen miles distant. Goodchild (who had already
begun to doubt whether he was idle: as his way always is when he
has nothing to do) had read of a certain black old Cumberland hill
or mountain, called Carrock, or Carrock Fell; and had arrived at
the conclusion that it would be the culminating triumph of Idleness
to ascend the same. Thomas Idle, dwelling on the pains inseparable
from that achievement, had expressed the strongest doubts of the
expediency, and even of the sanity, of the enterprise; but
Goodchild had carried his point, and they rode away.
Up hill and down hill, and twisting to the right, and twisting to
the left, and with old Skiddaw (who has vaunted himself a great
deal more than his merits deserve; but that is rather the way of
the Lake country), dodging the apprentices in a picturesque and
pleasant manner. Good, weather-proof, warm, pleasant houses, well
white-limed, scantily dotting the road. Clean children coming out
to look, carrying other clean children as big as themselves.
Harvest still lying out and much rained upon; here and there,
harvest still unreaped. Well-cultivated gardens attached to the
cottages, with plenty of produce forced out of their hard soil.
Lonely nooks, and wild; but people can be born, and married, and
buried in such nooks, and can live and love, and be loved, there as
elsewhere, thank God! (Mr. Goodchild's remark.) By-and-by, the
village. Black, coarse-stoned, rough-windowed houses; some with
outer staircases, like Swiss houses; a sinuous and stony gutter
winding up hill and round the corner, by way of street. All the
children running out directly. Women pausing in washing, to peep
from doorways and very little windows. Such were the observations
of Messrs. Idle and Goodchild, as their conveyance stopped at the
village shoemaker's. Old Carrock gloomed down upon it all in a
very ill-tempered state; and rain was beginning.
The village shoemaker declined to have anything to do with Carrock.
No visitors went up Carrock. No visitors came there at all. Aa'
the world ganged awa' yon. The driver appealed to the Innkeeper.
The Innkeeper had two men working in the fields, and one of them
should be called in, to go up Carrock as guide. Messrs. Idle and
Goodchild, highly approving, entered the Innkeeper's house, to
drink whiskey and eat oatcake.
The Innkeeper was not idle enough--was not idle at all, which was a
great fault in him--but was a fine specimen of a north-country man,
or any kind of man. He had a ruddy cheek, a bright eye, a well-
knit frame, an immense hand, a cheery, outspeaking voice, and a
straight, bright, broad look. He had a drawing-room, too,
upstairs, which was worth a visit to the Cumberland Fells. (This
was Mr. Francis Goodchild's opinion, in which Mr. Thomas Idle did
The ceiling of this drawing-room was so crossed and recrossed by
beams of unequal lengths, radiating from a centre, in a corner,
that it looked like a broken star-fish. The room was comfortably
and solidly furnished with good mahogany and horsehair. It had a
snug fireside, and a couple of well-curtained windows, looking out
upon the wild country behind the house. What it most developed
was, an unexpected taste for little ornaments and nick-nacks, of
which it contained a most surprising number. They were not very
various, consisting in great part of waxen babies with their limbs
more or less mutilated, appealing on one leg to the parental
affections from under little cupping glasses; but, Uncle Tom was
there, in crockery, receiving theological instructions from Miss
Eva, who grew out of his side like a wen, in an exceedingly rough
state of profile propagandism. Engravings of Mr. Hunt's country
boy, before and after his pie, were on the wall, divided by a
highly-coloured nautical piece, the subject of which had all her
colours (and more) flying, and was making great way through a sea
of a regular pattern, like a lady's collar. A benevolent, elderly
gentleman of the last century, with a powdered head, kept guard, in
oil and varnish, over a most perplexing piece of furniture on a
table; in appearance between a driving seat and an angular knife-
box, but, when opened, a musical instrument of tinkling wires,
exactly like David's harp packed for travelling. Everything became
a nick-nack in this curious room. The copper tea-kettle, burnished
up to the highest point of glory, took his station on a stand of
his own at the greatest possible distance from the fireplace, and
said: 'By your leave, not a kettle, but a bijou.' The
Staffordshire-ware butter-dish with the cover on, got upon a little
round occasional table in a window, with a worked top, and
announced itself to the two chairs accidentally placed there, as an
aid to polite conversation, a graceful trifle in china to be
chatted over by callers, as they airily trifled away the visiting
moments of a butterfly existence, in that rugged old village on the
Cumberland Fells. The very footstool could not keep the floor, but
got upon a sofa, and there-from proclaimed itself, in high relief
of white and liver-coloured wool, a favourite spaniel coiled up for
repose. Though, truly, in spite of its bright glass eyes, the
spaniel was the least successful assumption in the collection:
being perfectly flat, and dismally suggestive of a recent mistake
in sitting down on the part of some corpulent member of the family.
There were books, too, in this room; books on the table, books on
the chimney-piece, books in an open press in the corner. Fielding
was there, and Smollett was there, and Steele and Addison were
there, in dispersed volumes; and there were tales of those who go
down to the sea in ships, for windy nights; and there was really a
choice of good books for rainy days or fine. It was so very
pleasant to see these things in such a lonesome by-place--so very
agreeable to find these evidences of a taste, however homely, that
went beyond the beautiful cleanliness and trimness of the house--so
fanciful to imagine what a wonder a room must be to the little
children born in the gloomy village--what grand impressions of it
those of them who became wanderers over the earth would carry away;
and how, at distant ends of the world, some old voyagers would die,
cherishing the belief that the finest apartment known to men was
once in the Hesket-Newmarket Inn, in rare old Cumberland--it was
such a charmingly lazy pursuit to entertain these rambling thoughts
over the choice oatcake and the genial whiskey, that Mr. Idle and
Mr. Goodchild never asked themselves how it came to pass that the
men in the fields were never heard of more, how the stalwart
landlord replaced them without explanation, how his dog-cart came
to be waiting at the door, and how everything was arranged without
the least arrangement for climbing to old Carrock's shoulders, and
standing on his head.
Without a word of inquiry, therefore, the Two Idle Apprentices
drifted out resignedly into a fine, soft, close, drowsy,
penetrating rain; got into the landlord's light dog-cart, and
rattled off through the village for the foot of Carrock. The
journey at the outset was not remarkable. The Cumberland road went
up and down like all other roads; the Cumberland curs burst out
from backs of cottages and barked like other curs, and the
Cumberland peasantry stared after the dog-cart amazedly, as long as
it was in sight, like the rest of their race. The approach to the
foot of the mountain resembled the approaches to the feet of most
other mountains all over the world. The cultivation gradually
ceased, the trees grew gradually rare, the road became gradually
rougher, and the sides of the mountain looked gradually more and
more lofty, and more and more difficult to get up. The dog-cart
was left at a lonely farm-house. The landlord borrowed a large
umbrella, and, assuming in an instant the character of the most
cheerful and adventurous of guides, led the way to the ascent. Mr.
Goodchild looked eagerly at the top of the mountain, and, feeling
apparently that he was now going to be very lazy indeed, shone all
over wonderfully to the eye, under the influence of the contentment
within and the moisture without. Only in the bosom of Mr. Thomas
Idle did Despondency now hold her gloomy state. He kept it a
secret; but he would have given a very handsome sum, when the
ascent began, to have been back again at the inn. The sides of
Carrock looked fearfully steep, and the top of Carrock was hidden
in mist. The rain was falling faster and faster. The knees of Mr.
Idle--always weak on walking excursions--shivered and shook with
fear and damp. The wet was already penetrating through the young
man's outer coat to a brand-new shooting-jacket, for which he had
reluctantly paid the large sum of two guineas on leaving town; he
had no stimulating refreshment about him but a small packet of
clammy gingerbread nuts; he had nobody to give him an arm, nobody
to push him gently behind, nobody to pull him up tenderly in front,
nobody to speak to who really felt the difficulties of the ascent,
the dampness of the rain, the denseness of the mist, and the
unutterable folly of climbing, undriven, up any steep place in the
world, when there is level ground within reach to walk on instead.
Was it for this that Thomas had left London? London, where there
are nice short walks in level public gardens, with benches of
repose set up at convenient distances for weary travellers--London,
where rugged stone is humanely pounded into little lumps for the
road, and intelligently shaped into smooth slabs for the pavement!
No! it was not for the laborious ascent of the crags of Carrock
that Idle had left his native city, and travelled to Cumberland.
Never did he feel more disastrously convinced that he had committed
a very grave error in judgment than when he found himself standing
in the rain at the bottom of a steep mountain, and knew that the
responsibility rested on his weak shoulders of actually getting to
the top of it.
The honest landlord went first, the beaming Goodchild followed, the
mournful Idle brought up the rear. From time to time, the two
foremost members of the expedition changed places in the order of
march; but the rearguard never altered his position. Up the
mountain or down the mountain, in the water or out of it, over the
rocks, through the bogs, skirting the heather, Mr. Thomas Idle was
always the last, and was always the man who had to be looked after
and waited for. At first the ascent was delusively easy, the sides
of the mountain sloped gradually, and the material of which they
were composed was a soft spongy turf, very tender and pleasant to
walk upon. After a hundred yards or so, however, the verdant scene
and the easy slope disappeared, and the rocks began. Not noble,
massive rocks, standing upright, keeping a certain regularity in
their positions, and possessing, now and then, flat tops to sit
upon, but little irritating, comfortless rocks, littered about
anyhow, by Nature; treacherous, disheartening rocks of all sorts of
small shapes and small sizes, bruisers of tender toes and trippers-
up of wavering feet. When these impediments were passed, heather
and slough followed. Here the steepness of the ascent was slightly
mitigated; and here the exploring party of three turned round to
look at the view below them. The scene of the moorland and the
fields was like a feeble water-colour drawing half sponged out.
The mist was darkening, the rain was thickening, the trees were
dotted about like spots of faint shadow, the division-lines which
mapped out the fields were all getting blurred together, and the
lonely farm-house where the dog-cart had been left, loomed spectral
in the grey light like the last human dwelling at the end of the
habitable world. Was this a sight worth climbing to see? Surely--
Up again--for the top of Carrock is not reached yet. The land-
lord, just as good-tempered and obliging as he was at the bottom of
the mountain. Mr. Goodchild brighter in the eyes and rosier in the
face than ever; full of cheerful remarks and apt quotations; and
walking with a springiness of step wonderful to behold. Mr. Idle,
farther and farther in the rear, with the water squeaking in the
toes of his boots, with his two-guinea shooting-jacket clinging
damply to his aching sides, with his overcoat so full of rain, and
standing out so pyramidically stiff, in consequence, from his
shoulders downwards, that he felt as if he was walking in a
gigantic extinguisher--the despairing spirit within him
representing but too aptly the candle that had just been put out.
Up and up and up again, till a ridge is reached and the outer edge
of the mist on the summit of Carrock is darkly and drizzingly near.
Is this the top? No, nothing like the top. It is an aggravating
peculiarity of all mountains, that, although they have only one top
when they are seen (as they ought always to be seen) from below,
they turn out to have a perfect eruption of false tops whenever the
traveller is sufficiently ill-advised to go out of his way for the
purpose of ascending them. Carrock is but a trumpery little
mountain of fifteen hundred feet, and it presumes to have false
tops, and even precipices, as if it were Mont Blanc. No matter;
Goodchild enjoys it, and will go on; and Idle, who is afraid of
being left behind by himself, must follow. On entering the edge of
the mist, the landlord stops, and says he hopes that it will not
get any thicker. It is twenty years since he last ascended
Carrock, and it is barely possible, if the mist increases, that the
party may be lost on the mountain. Goodchild hears this dreadful
intimation, and is not in the least impressed by it. He marches
for the top that is never to be found, as if he was the Wandering
Jew, bound to go on for ever, in defiance of everything. The
landlord faithfully accompanies him. The two, to the dim eye of
Idle, far below, look in the exaggerative mist, like a pair of
friendly giants, mounting the steps of some invisible castle
together. Up and up, and then down a little, and then up, and then
along a strip of level ground, and then up again. The wind, a wind
unknown in the happy valley, blows keen and strong; the rain-mist
gets impenetrable; a dreary little cairn of stones appears. The
landlord adds one to the heap, first walking all round the cairn as
if he were about to perform an incantation, then dropping the stone
on to the top of the heap with the gesture of a magician adding an
ingredient to a cauldron in full bubble. Goodchild sits down by
the cairn as if it was his study-table at home; Idle, drenched and
panting, stands up with his back to the wind, ascertains distinctly
that this is the top at last, looks round with all the little
curiosity that is left in him, and gets, in return, a magnificent
The effect of this sublime spectacle on the minds of the exploring
party is a little injured by the nature of the direct conclusion to
which the sight of it points--the said conclusion being that the
mountain mist has actually gathered round them, as the landlord
feared it would. It now becomes imperatively necessary to settle
the exact situation of the farm-house in the valley at which the
dog-cart has been left, before the travellers attempt to descend.
While the landlord is endeavouring to make this discovery in his
own way, Mr. Goodchild plunges his hand under his wet coat, draws
out a little red morocco-case, opens it, and displays to the view
of his companions a neat pocket-compass. The north is found, the
point at which the farm-house is situated is settled, and the
descent begins. After a little downward walking, Idle (behind as
usual) sees his fellow-travellers turn aside sharply--tries to
follow them--loses them in the mist--is shouted after, waited for,
recovered--and then finds that a halt has been ordered, partly on
his account, partly for the purpose of again consulting the
The point in debate is settled as before between Goodchild and the
landlord, and the expedition moves on, not down the mountain, but
marching straight forward round the slope of it. The difficulty of
following this new route is acutely felt by Thomas Idle. He finds
the hardship of walking at all greatly increased by the fatigue of
moving his feet straight forward along the side of a slope, when
their natural tendency, at every step, is to turn off at a right
angle, and go straight down the declivity. Let the reader imagine
himself to be walking along the roof of a barn, instead of up or
down it, and he will have an exact idea of the pedestrian
difficulty in which the travellers had now involved themselves. In
ten minutes more Idle was lost in the distance again, was shouted
for, waited for, recovered as before; found Goodchild repeating his
observation of the compass, and remonstrated warmly against the
sideway route that his companions persisted in following. It
appeared to the uninstructed mind of Thomas that when three men
want to get to the bottom of a mountain, their business is to walk
down it; and he put this view of the case, not only with emphasis,
but even with some irritability. He was answered from the
scientific eminence of the compass on which his companions were
mounted, that there was a frightful chasm somewhere near the foot
of Carrock, called The Black Arches, into which the travellers were
sure to march in the mist, if they risked continuing the descent
from the place where they had now halted. Idle received this
answer with the silent respect which was due to the commanders of
the expedition, and followed along the roof of the barn, or rather
the side of the mountain, reflecting upon the assurance which he
received on starting again, that the object of the party was only
to gain 'a certain point,' and, this haven attained, to continue
the descent afterwards until the foot of Carrock was reached.
Though quite unexceptionable as an abstract form of expression, the
phrase 'a certain point' has the disadvantage of sounding rather
vaguely when it is pronounced on unknown ground, under a canopy of
mist much thicker than a London fog. Nevertheless, after the
compass, this phrase was all the clue the party had to hold by, and
Idle clung to the extreme end of it as hopefully as he could.
More sideway walking, thicker and thicker mist, all sorts of points
reached except the 'certain point;' third loss of Idle, third
shouts for him, third recovery of him, third consultation of
compass. Mr. Goodchild draws it tenderly from his pocket, and
prepares to adjust it on a stone. Something falls on the turf--it
is the glass. Something else drops immediately after--it is the
needle. The compass is broken, and the exploring party is lost!
It is the practice of the English portion of the human race to
receive all great disasters in dead silence. Mr. Goodchild
restored the useless compass to his pocket without saying a word,
Mr. Idle looked at the landlord, and the landlord looked at Mr.
Idle. There was nothing for it now but to go on blindfold, and
trust to the chapter of chances. Accordingly, the lost travellers
moved forward, still walking round the slope of the mountain, still
desperately resolved to avoid the Black Arches, and to succeed in
reaching the 'certain point.'
A quarter of an hour brought them to the brink of a ravine, at the
bottom of which there flowed a muddy little stream. Here another
halt was called, and another consultation took place. The
landlord, still clinging pertinaciously to the idea of reaching the
'point,' voted for crossing the ravine, and going on round the
slope of the mountain. Mr. Goodchild, to the great relief of his
fellow-traveller, took another view of the case, and backed Mr.
Idle's proposal to descend Carrock at once, at any hazard--the
rather as the running stream was a sure guide to follow from the
mountain to the valley. Accordingly, the party descended to the
rugged and stony banks of the stream; and here again Thomas lost
ground sadly, and fell far behind his travelling companions. Not
much more than six weeks had elapsed since he had sprained one of
his ankles, and he began to feel this same ankle getting rather
weak when he found himself among the stones that were strewn about
the running water. Goodchild and the landlord were getting farther
and farther ahead of him. He saw them cross the stream and
disappear round a projection on its banks. He heard them shout the
moment after as a signal that they had halted and were waiting for
him. Answering the shout, he mended his pace, crossed the stream
where they had crossed it, and was within one step of the opposite
bank, when his foot slipped on a wet stone, his weak ankle gave a
twist outwards, a hot, rending, tearing pain ran through it at the
same moment, and down fell the idlest of the Two Idle Apprentices,
crippled in an instant.
The situation was now, in plain terms, one of absolute danger.
There lay Mr. Idle writhing with pain, there was the mist as thick
as ever, there was the landlord as completely lost as the strangers
whom he was conducting, and there was the compass broken in
Goodchild's pocket. To leave the wretched Thomas on unknown ground
was plainly impossible; and to get him to walk with a badly
sprained ankle seemed equally out of the question. However,
Goodchild (brought back by his cry for help) bandaged the ankle
with a pocket-handkerchief, and assisted by the landlord, raised
the crippled Apprentice to his legs, offered him a shoulder to lean
on, and exhorted him for the sake of the whole party to try if he
could walk. Thomas, assisted by the shoulder on one side, and a
stick on the other, did try, with what pain and difficulty those
only can imagine who have sprained an ankle and have had to tread
on it afterwards. At a pace adapted to the feeble hobbling of a
newly-lamed man, the lost party moved on, perfectly ignorant
whether they were on the right side of the mountain or the wrong,
and equally uncertain how long Idle would be able to contend with
the pain in his ankle, before he gave in altogether and fell down
again, unable to stir another step.
Slowly and more slowly, as the clog of crippled Thomas weighed
heavily and more heavily on the march of the expedition, the lost
travellers followed the windings of the stream, till they came to a
faintly-marked cart-track, branching off nearly at right angles, to
the left. After a little consultation it was resolved to follow
this dim vestige of a road in the hope that it might lead to some
farm or cottage, at which Idle could be left in safety. It was now
getting on towards the afternoon, and it was fast becoming more
than doubtful whether the party, delayed in their progress as they
now were, might not be overtaken by the darkness before the right
route was found, and be condemned to pass the night on the
mountain, without bit or drop to comfort them, in their wet
The cart-track grew fainter and fainter, until it was washed out
altogether by another little stream, dark, turbulent, and rapid.
The landlord suggested, judging by the colour of the water, that it
must be flowing from one of the lead mines in the neighbourhood of
Carrock; and the travellers accordingly kept by the stream for a
little while, in the hope of possibly wandering towards help in
that way. After walking forward about two hundred yards, they came
upon a mine indeed, but a mine, exhausted and abandoned; a dismal,
ruinous place, with nothing but the wreck of its works and
buildings left to speak for it. Here, there were a few sheep
feeding. The landlord looked at them earnestly, thought he
recognised the marks on them--then thought he did not--finally gave
up the sheep in despair--and walked on just as ignorant of the
whereabouts of the party as ever.
The march in the dark, literally as well as metaphorically in the
dark, had now been continued for three-quarters of an hour from the
time when the crippled Apprentice had met with his accident. Mr.
Idle, with all the will to conquer the pain in his ankle, and to
hobble on, found the power rapidly failing him, and felt that
another ten minutes at most would find him at the end of his last
physical resources. He had just made up his mind on this point,
and was about to communicate the dismal result of his reflections
to his companions, when the mist suddenly brightened, and begun to
lift straight ahead. In another minute, the landlord, who was in
advance, proclaimed that he saw a tree. Before long, other trees
appeared--then a cottage--then a house beyond the cottage, and a
familiar line of road rising behind it. Last of all, Carrock
itself loomed darkly into view, far away to the right hand. The
party had not only got down the mountain without knowing how, but
had wandered away from it in the mist, without knowing why--away,
far down on the very moor by which they had approached the base of
Carrock that morning.
The happy lifting of the mist, and the still happier discovery that
the travellers had groped their way, though by a very roundabout
direction, to within a mile or so of the part of the valley in
which the farm-house was situated, restored Mr. Idle's sinking
spirits and reanimated his failing strength. While the landlord
ran off to get the dog-cart, Thomas was assisted by Goodchild to
the cottage which had been the first building seen when the
darkness brightened, and was propped up against the garden wall,
like an artist's lay figure waiting to be forwarded, until the dog-
cart should arrive from the farm-house below. In due time--and a
very long time it seemed to Mr. Idle--the rattle of wheels was
heard, and the crippled Apprentice was lifted into the seat. As
the dog-cart was driven back to the inn, the landlord related an
anecdote which he had just heard at the farm-house, of an unhappy
man who had been lost, like his two guests and himself, on Carrock;
who had passed the night there alone; who had been found the next
morning, 'scared and starved;' and who never went out afterwards,
except on his way to the grave. Mr. Idle heard this sad story, and
derived at least one useful impression from it. Bad as the pain in
his ankle was, he contrived to bear it patiently, for he felt
grateful that a worse accident had not befallen him in the wilds of
The dog-cart, with Mr. Thomas Idle and his ankle on the hanging
seat behind, Mr. Francis Goodchild and the Innkeeper in front, and
the rain in spouts and splashes everywhere, made the best of its
way back to the little inn; the broken moor country looking like
miles upon miles of Pre-Adamite sop, or the ruins of some enormous
jorum of antediluvian toast-and-water. The trees dripped; the
eaves of the scattered cottages dripped; the barren stone walls
dividing the land, dripped; the yelping dogs dripped; carts and
waggons under ill-roofed penthouses, dripped; melancholy cocks and
hens perching on their shafts, or seeking shelter underneath them,
dripped; Mr. Goodchild dripped; Thomas Idle dripped; the Inn-keeper
dripped; the mare dripped; the vast curtains of mist and cloud
passed before the shadowy forms of the hills, streamed water as
they were drawn across the landscape. Down such steep pitches that
the mare seemed to be trotting on her head, and up such steep
pitches that she seemed to have a supplementary leg in her tail,
the dog-cart jolted and tilted back to the village. It was too wet
for the women to look out, it was too wet even for the children to
look out; all the doors and windows were closed, and the only sign
of life or motion was in the rain-punctured puddles.
Whiskey and oil to Thomas Idle's ankle, and whiskey without oil to
Francis Goodchild's stomach, produced an agreeable change in the
systems of both; soothing Mr. Idle's pain, which was sharp before,
and sweetening Mr. Goodchild's temper, which was sweet before.
Portmanteaus being then opened and clothes changed, Mr. Goodchild,
through having no change of outer garments but broadcloth and
velvet, suddenly became a magnificent portent in the Innkeeper's
house, a shining frontispiece to the fashions for the month, and a
frightful anomaly in the Cumberland village.
Greatly ashamed of his splendid appearance, the conscious Goodchild
quenched it as much as possible, in the shadow of Thomas Idle's
ankle, and in a corner of the little covered carriage that started
with them for Wigton--a most desirable carriage for any country,
except for its having a flat roof and no sides; which caused the
plumps of rain accumulating on the roof to play vigorous games of
bagatelle into the interior all the way, and to score immensely.
It was comfortable to see how the people coming back in open carts
from Wigton market made no more of the rain than if it were
sunshine; how the Wigton policeman taking a country walk of half-a-
dozen miles (apparently for pleasure), in resplendent uniform,
accepted saturation as his normal state; how clerks and
schoolmasters in black, loitered along the road without umbrellas,
getting varnished at every step; how the Cumberland girls, coming
out to look after the Cumberland cows, shook the rain from their
eyelashes and laughed it away; and how the rain continued to fall
upon all, as it only does fall in hill countries.
Wigton market was over, and its bare booths were smoking with rain
all down the street. Mr. Thomas Idle, melodramatically carried to
the inn's first floor, and laid upon three chairs (he should have
had the sofa, if there had been one), Mr. Goodchild went to the
window to take an observation of Wigton, and report what he saw to
his disabled companion.
'Brother Francis, brother Francis,' cried Thomas Idle, 'What do you
see from the turret?'
'I see,' said Brother Francis, 'what I hope and believe to be one
of the most dismal places ever seen by eyes. I see the houses with
their roofs of dull black, their stained fronts, and their dark-
rimmed windows, looking as if they were all in mourning. As every
little puff of wind comes down the street, I see a perfect train of
rain let off along the wooden stalls in the market-place and
exploded against me. I see a very big gas lamp in the centre which
I know, by a secret instinct, will not be lighted to-night. I see
a pump, with a trivet underneath its spout whereon to stand the
vessels that are brought to be filled with water. I see a man come
to pump, and he pumps very hard, but no water follows, and he
strolls empty away.'
'Brother Francis, brother Francis,' cried Thomas Idle, 'what more
do you see from the turret, besides the man and the pump, and the
trivet and the houses all in mourning and the rain?'
'I see,' said Brother Francis, 'one, two, three, four, five, linen-
drapers' shops in front of me. I see a linen-draper's shop next
door to the right--and there are five more linen-drapers' shops
down the corner to the left. Eleven homicidal linen-drapers' shops
within a short stone's throw, each with its hands at the throats of
all the rest! Over the small first-floor of one of these linen-
drapers' shops appears the wonderful inscription, BANK.'
'Brother Francis, brother Francis,' cried Thomas Idle, 'what more
do you see from the turret, besides the eleven homicidal linen-
drapers' shops, and the wonderful inscription, "Bank,"--on the
small first-floor, and the man and the pump and the trivet and the
houses all in mourning and the rain?'
'I see,' said Brother Francis, 'the depository for Christian
Knowledge, and through the dark vapour I think I again make out Mr.
Spurgeon looming heavily. Her Majesty the Queen, God bless her,
printed in colours, I am sure I see. I see the Illustrated London
News of several years ago, and I see a sweetmeat shop--which the
proprietor calls a "Salt Warehouse"--with one small female child in
a cotton bonnet looking in on tip-toe, oblivious of rain. And I
see a watchmaker's with only three great pale watches of a dull
metal hanging in his window, each in a separate pane.'
'Brother Francis, brother Francis,' cried Thomas Idle, 'what more
do you see of Wigton, besides these objects, and the man and the
pump and the trivet and the houses all in mourning and the rain?'
'I see nothing more,' said Brother Francis, 'and there is nothing
more to see, except the curlpaper bill of the theatre, which was
opened and shut last week (the manager's family played all the
parts), and the short, square, chinky omnibus that goes to the
railway, and leads too rattling a life over the stones to hold
together long. O yes! Now, I see two men with their hands in
their pockets and their backs towards me.'
'Brother Francis, brother Francis,' cried Thomas Idle, 'what do you
make out from the turret, of the expression of the two men with
their hands in their pockets and their backs towards you?'
'They are mysterious men,' said Brother Francis, 'with inscrutable
backs. They keep their backs towards me with persistency. If one
turns an inch in any direction, the other turns an inch in the same
direction, and no more. They turn very stiffly, on a very little
pivot, in the middle of the market-place. Their appearance is
partly of a mining, partly of a ploughing, partly of a stable,
character. They are looking at nothing--very hard. Their backs
are slouched, and their legs are curved with much standing about.
Their pockets are loose and dog's-eared, on account of their hands
being always in them. They stand to be rained upon, without any
movement of impatience or dissatisfaction, and they keep so close
together that an elbow of each jostles an elbow of the other, but
they never speak. They spit at times, but speak not. I see it
growing darker and darker, and still I see them, sole visible
population of the place, standing to be rained upon with their
backs towards me, and looking at nothing very hard.'
'Brother Francis, brother Francis,' cried Thomas Idle, 'before you
draw down the blind of the turret and come in to have your head
scorched by the hot gas, see if you can, and impart to me,
something of the expression of those two amazing men.'
'The murky shadows,' said Francis Goodchild, 'are gathering fast;
and the wings of evening, and the wings of coal, are folding over
Wigton. Still, they look at nothing very hard, with their backs
towards me. Ah! Now, they turn, and I see--'
'Brother Francis, brother Francis,' cried Thomas Idle, 'tell me
quickly what you see of the two men of Wigton!'
'I see,' said Francis Goodchild, 'that they have no expression at
all. And now the town goes to sleep, undazzled by the large
unlighted lamp in the market-place; and let no man wake it.'
At the close of the next day's journey, Mr. Thomas Idle's ankle
became much swollen and inflamed. There are reasons which will
presently explain themselves for not publicly indicating the exact
direction in which that journey lay, or the place in which it
ended. It was a long day's shaking of Thomas Idle over the rough
roads, and a long day's getting out and going on before the horses,
and fagging up hills, and scouring down hills, on the part of Mr.
Goodchild, who in the fatigues of such labours congratulated
himself on attaining a high point of idleness. It was at a little
town, still in Cumberland, that they halted for the night--a very
little town, with the purple and brown moor close upon its one
street; a curious little ancient market-cross set up in the midst
of it; and the town itself looking much as if it were a collection
of great stones piled on end by the Druids long ago, which a few
recluse people had since hollowed out for habitations.
'Is there a doctor here?' asked Mr. Goodchild, on his knee, of the
motherly landlady of the little Inn: stopping in his examination
of Mr. Idle's ankle, with the aid of a candle.
'Ey, my word!' said the landlady, glancing doubtfully at the ankle
for herself; 'there's Doctor Speddie.'
'Is he a good Doctor?'
'Ey!' said the landlady, 'I ca' him so. A' cooms efther nae doctor
that I ken. Mair nor which, a's just THE doctor heer.'
'Do you think he is at home?'
Her reply was, 'Gang awa', Jock, and bring him.'
Jock, a white-headed boy, who, under pretence of stirring up some
bay salt in a basin of water for the laving of this unfortunate
ankle, had greatly enjoyed himself for the last ten minutes in
splashing the carpet, set off promptly. A very few minutes had
elapsed when he showed the Doctor in, by tumbling against the door
before him and bursting it open with his head.
'Gently, Jock, gently,' said the Doctor as he advanced with a quiet
step. 'Gentlemen, a good evening. I am sorry that my presence is
required here. A slight accident, I hope? A slip and a fall?
Yes, yes, yes. Carrock, indeed? Hah! Does that pain you, sir?
No doubt, it does. It is the great connecting ligament here, you
see, that has been badly strained. Time and rest, sir! They are
often the recipe in greater cases,' with a slight sigh, 'and often
the recipe in small. I can send a lotion to relieve you, but we
must leave the cure to time and rest.'
This he said, holding Idle's foot on his knee between his two
hands, as he sat over against him. He had touched it tenderly and
skilfully in explanation of what he said, and, when his careful
examination was completed, softly returned it to its former
horizontal position on a chair.
He spoke with a little irresolution whenever he began, but
afterwards fluently. He was a tall, thin, large-boned, old
gentleman, with an appearance at first sight of being hard-
featured; but, at a second glance, the mild expression of his face
and some particular touches of sweetness and patience about his
mouth, corrected this impression and assigned his long professional
rides, by day and night, in the bleak hill-weather, as the true
cause of that appearance. He stooped very little, though past
seventy and very grey. His dress was more like that of a clergyman
than a country doctor, being a plain black suit, and a plain white
neck-kerchief tied behind like a band. His black was the worse for
wear, and there were darns in his coat, and his linen was a little
frayed at the hems and edges. He might have been poor--it was
likely enough in that out-of-the-way spot--or he might have been a
little self-forgetful and eccentric. Any one could have seen
directly, that he had neither wife nor child at home. He had a
scholarly air with him, and that kind of considerate humanity
towards others which claimed a gentle consideration for himself.
Mr. Goodchild made this study of him while he was examining the
limb, and as he laid it down. Mr. Goodchild wishes to add that he
considers it a very good likeness.
It came out in the course of a little conversation, that Doctor
Speddie was acquainted with some friends of Thomas Idle's, and had,
when a young man, passed some years in Thomas Idle's birthplace on
the other side of England. Certain idle labours, the fruit of Mr.
Goodchild's apprenticeship, also happened to be well known to him.
The lazy travellers were thus placed on a more intimate footing
with the Doctor than the casual circumstances of the meeting would
of themselves have established; and when Doctor Speddie rose to go
home, remarking that he would send his assistant with the lotion,
Francis Goodchild said that was unnecessary, for, by the Doctor's
leave, he would accompany him, and bring it back. (Having done
nothing to fatigue himself for a full quarter of an hour, Francis
began to fear that he was not in a state of idleness.)
Doctor Speddie politely assented to the proposition of Francis
Goodchild, 'as it would give him the pleasure of enjoying a few
more minutes of Mr. Goodchild's society than he could otherwise
have hoped for,' and they went out together into the village
street. The rain had nearly ceased, the clouds had broken before a
cool wind from the north-east, and stars were shining from the
peaceful heights beyond them.
Doctor Speddie's house was the last house in the place. Beyond it,
lay the moor, all dark and lonesome. The wind moaned in a low,
dull, shivering manner round the little garden, like a houseless
creature that knew the winter was coming. It was exceedingly wild
and solitary. 'Roses,' said the Doctor, when Goodchild touched
some wet leaves overhanging the stone porch; 'but they get cut to
The Doctor opened the door with a key he carried, and led the way
into a low but pretty ample hall with rooms on either side. The
door of one of these stood open, and the Doctor entered it, with a
word of welcome to his guest. It, too, was a low room, half
surgery and half parlour, with shelves of books and bottles against
the walls, which were of a very dark hue. There was a fire in the
grate, the night being damp and chill. Leaning against the
chimney-piece looking down into it, stood the Doctor's Assistant.
A man of a most remarkable appearance. Much older than Mr.
Goodchild had expected, for he was at least two-and-fifty; but,
that was nothing. What was startling in him was his remarkable
paleness. His large black eyes, his sunken cheeks, his long and
heavy iron-grey hair, his wasted hands, and even the attenuation of
his figure, were at first forgotten in his extraordinary pallor.
There was no vestige of colour in the man. When he turned his
face, Francis Goodchild started as if a stone figure had looked
round at him.
'Mr. Lorn,' said the Doctor. 'Mr. Goodchild.'
The Assistant, in a distraught way--as if he had forgotten
something--as if he had forgotten everything, even to his own name
and himself--acknowledged the visitor's presence, and stepped
further back into the shadow of the wall behind him. But, he was
so pale that his face stood out in relief again the dark wall, and
really could not be hidden so.
'Mr. Goodchild's friend has met with accident, Lorn,' said Doctor
Speddie. 'We want the lotion for a bad sprain.'
'My dear fellow, you are more than usually absent to-night. The
lotion for a bad sprain.'
'Ah! yes! Directly.'
He was evidently relieved to turn away, and to take his white face
and his wild eyes to a table in a recess among the bottles. But,
though he stood there, compounding the lotion with his back towards
them, Goodchild could not, for many moments, withdraw his gaze from
the man. When he at length did so, he found the Doctor observing
him, with some trouble in his face. 'He is absent,' explained the
Doctor, in a low voice. 'Always absent. Very absent.'
'Is he ill?'
'No, not ill.'
'I have my suspicions that he was,' assented the Doctor, 'once.'
Francis Goodchild could not but observe that the Doctor accompanied
these words with a benignant and protecting glance at their
subject, in which there was much of the expression with which an
attached father might have looked at a heavily afflicted son. Yet,
that they were not father and son must have been plain to most
eyes. The Assistant, on the other hand, turning presently to ask
the Doctor some question, looked at him with a wan smile as if he
were his whole reliance and sustainment in life.
It was in vain for the Doctor in his easy-chair, to try to lead the
mind of Mr. Goodchild in the opposite easy-chair, away from what
was before him. Let Mr. Goodchild do what he would to follow the
Doctor, his eyes and thoughts reverted to the Assistant. The
Doctor soon perceived it, and, after falling silent, and musing in
a little perplexity, said:
'My dear Doctor.'
'Would you go to the Inn, and apply that lotion? You will show the
best way of applying it, far better than Mr. Goodchild can.'
The Assistant took his hat, and passed like a shadow to the door.
'Lorn!' said the Doctor, calling after him.
'Mr. Goodchild will keep me company till you come home. Don't
hurry. Excuse my calling you back.'
'It is not,' said the Assistant, with his former smile, 'the first
time you have called me back, dear Doctor.' With those words he
'Mr. Goodchild,' said Doctor Speddie, in a low voice, and with his
former troubled expression of face, 'I have seen that your
attention has been concentrated on my friend.'
'He fascinates me. I must apologise to you, but he has quite
bewildered and mastered me.'
'I find that a lonely existence and a long secret,' said the
Doctor, drawing his chair a little nearer to Mr. Goodchild's,
'become in the course of time very heavy. I will tell you
something. You may make what use you will of it, under fictitious
names. I know I may trust you. I am the more inclined to
confidence to-night, through having been unexpectedly led back, by
the current of our conversation at the Inn, to scenes in my early
life. Will you please to draw a little nearer?'
Mr. Goodchild drew a little nearer, and the Doctor went on thus:
speaking, for the most part, in so cautious a voice, that the wind,
though it was far from high, occasionally got the better of him.
When this present nineteenth century was younger by a good many
years than it is now, a certain friend of mine, named Arthur
Holliday, happened to arrive in the town of Doncaster, exactly in
the middle of a race-week, or, in other words, in the middle of the
month of September. He was one of those reckless, rattle-pated,
open-hearted, and open-mouthed young gentlemen, who possess the
gift of familiarity in its highest perfection, and who scramble
carelessly along the journey of life making friends, as the phrase
is, wherever they go. His father was a rich manufacturer, and had
bought landed property enough in one of the midland counties to
make all the born squires in his neighbourhood thoroughly envious
of him. Arthur was his only son, possessor in prospect of the
great estate and the great business after his father's death; well
supplied with money, and not too rigidly looked after, during his
father's lifetime. Report, or scandal, whichever you please, said
that the old gentleman had been rather wild in his youthful days,
and that, unlike most parents, he was not disposed to be violently
indignant when he found that his son took after him. This may be
true or not. I myself only knew the elder Mr. Holliday when he was
getting on in years; and then he was as quiet and as respectable a
gentleman as ever I met with.
Well, one September, as I told you, young Arthur comes to
Doncaster, having decided all of a sudden, in his harebrained way,
that he would go to the races. He did not reach the town till
towards the close of the evening, and he went at once to see about
his dinner and bed at the principal hotel. Dinner they were ready
enough to give him; but as for a bed, they laughed when he
mentioned it. In the race-week at Doncaster, it is no uncommon
thing for visitors who have not bespoken apartments, to pass the
night in their carriages at the inn doors. As for the lower sort
of strangers, I myself have often seen them, at that full time,
sleeping out on the doorsteps for want of a covered place to creep
under. Rich as he was, Arthur's chance of getting a night's
lodging (seeing that he had not written beforehand to secure one)
was more than doubtful. He tried the second hotel, and the third
hotel, and two of the inferior inns after that; and was met
everywhere by the same form of answer. No accommodation for the
night of any sort was left. All the bright golden sovereigns in
his pocket would not buy him a bed at Doncaster in the race-week.
To a young fellow of Arthur's temperament, the novelty of being
turned away into the street, like a penniless vagabond, at every
house where he asked for a lodging, presented itself in the light
of a new and highly amusing piece of experience. He went on, with
his carpet-bag in his hand, applying for a bed at every place of
entertainment for travellers that he could find in Doncaster, until
he wandered into the outskirts of the town. By this time, the last
glimmer of twilight had faded out, the moon was rising dimly in a
mist, the wind was getting cold, the clouds were gathering heavily,
and there was every prospect that it was soon going to rain.
The look of the night had rather a lowering effect on young
Holliday's good spirits. He began to contemplate the houseless
situation in which he was placed, from the serious rather than the
humorous point of view; and he looked about him, for another
public-house to inquire at, with something very like downright
anxiety in his mind on the subject of a lodging for the night. The
suburban part of the town towards which he had now strayed was
hardly lighted at all, and he could see nothing of the houses as he
passed them, except that they got progressively smaller and
dirtier, the farther he went. Down the winding road before him
shone the dull gleam of an oil lamp, the one faint, lonely light
that struggled ineffectually with the foggy darkness all round him.
He resolved to go on as far as this lamp, and then, if it showed
him nothing in the shape of an Inn, to return to the central part
of the town and to try if he could not at least secure a chair to
sit down on, through the night, at one of the principal Hotels.
As he got near the lamp, he heard voices; and, walking close under
it, found that it lighted the entrance to a narrow court, on the
wall of which was painted a long hand in faded flesh-colour,
pointing with a lean forefinger, to this inscription:-
THE TWO ROBINS.
Arthur turned into the court without hesitation, to see what The
Two Robins could do for him. Four or five men were standing
together round the door of the house which was at the bottom of the
court, facing the entrance from the street. The men were all
listening to one other man, better dressed than the rest, who was
telling his audience something, in a low voice, in which they were
apparently very much interested.
On entering the passage, Arthur was passed by a stranger with a
knapsack in his hand, who was evidently leaving the house.
'No,' said the traveller with the knapsack, turning round and
addressing himself cheerfully to a fat, sly-looking, bald-headed
man, with a dirty white apron on, who had followed him down the
passage. 'No, Mr. landlord, I am not easily scared by trifles;
but, I don't mind confessing that I can't quite stand THAT.'
It occurred to young Holliday, the moment he heard these words,
that the stranger had been asked an exorbitant price for a bed at
The Two Robins; and that he was unable or unwilling to pay it. The
moment his back was turned, Arthur, comfortably conscious of his
own well-filled pockets, addressed himself in a great hurry, for
fear any other benighted traveller should slip in and forestall
him, to the sly-looking landlord with the dirty apron and the bald
'If you have got a bed to let,' he said, 'and if that gentleman who
has just gone out won't pay your price for it, I will.'
The sly landlord looked hard at Arthur.
'Will you, sir?' he asked, in a meditative, doubtful way.
'Name your price,' said young Holliday, thinking that the
landlord's hesitation sprang from some boorish distrust of him.
'Name your price, and I'll give you the money at once if you like?'
'Are you game for five shillings?' inquired the landlord, rubbing
his stubbly double chin, and looking up thoughtfully at the ceiling
Arthur nearly laughed in the man's face; but thinking it prudent to
control himself, offered the five shillings as seriously as he
could. The sly landlord held out his hand, then suddenly drew it
'You're acting all fair and above-board by me,' he said: 'and,
before I take your money, I'll do the same by you. Look here, this
is how it stands. You can have a bed all to yourself for five
shillings; but you can't have more than a half-share of the room it
stands in. Do you see what I mean, young gentleman?'
'Of course I do,' returned Arthur, a little irritably. 'You mean
that it is a double-bedded room, and that one of the beds is
The landlord nodded his head, and rubbed his double chin harder
than ever. Arthur hesitated, and mechanically moved back a step or
two towards the door. The idea of sleeping in the same room with a
total stranger, did not present an attractive prospect to him. He
felt more than half inclined to drop his five shillings into his
pocket, and to go out into the street once more.
'Is it yes, or no?' asked the landlord. 'Settle it as quick as you
can, because there's lots of people wanting a bed at Doncaster to-
night, besides you.'
Arthur looked towards the court, and heard the rain falling heavily
in the street outside. He thought he would ask a question or two
before he rashly decided on leaving the shelter of The Two Robins.
'What sort of a man is it who has got the other bed?' he inquired.
'Is he a gentleman? I mean, is he a quiet, well-behaved person?'
'The quietest man I ever came across,' said the landlord, rubbing
his fat hands stealthily one over the other. 'As sober as a judge,
and as regular as clock-work in his habits. It hasn't struck nine,
not ten minutes ago, and he's in his bed already. I don't know
whether that comes up to your notion of a quiet man: it goes a
long way ahead of mine, I can tell you.'
'Is he asleep, do you think?' asked Arthur.
'I know he's asleep,' returned the landlord. 'And what's more,
he's gone off so fast, that I'll warrant you don't wake him. This
way, sir,' said the landlord, speaking over young Holliday's
shoulder, as if he was addressing some new guest who was
approaching the house.
'Here you are,' said Arthur, determined to be beforehand with the
stranger, whoever he might be. 'I'll take the bed.' And he handed
the five shillings to the landlord, who nodded, dropped the money
carelessly into his waistcoat-pocket, and lighted the candle.
'Come up and see the room,' said the host of The Two Robins,
leading the way to the staircase quite briskly, considering how fat
They mounted to the second-floor of the house. The landlord half
opened a door, fronting the landing, then stopped, and turned round
'It's a fair bargain, mind, on my side as well as on yours,' he
said. 'You give me five shillings, I give you in return a clean,
comfortable bed; and I warrant, beforehand, that you won't be
interfered with, or annoyed in any way, by the man who sleeps in
the same room as you.' Saying those words, he looked hard, for a
moment, in young Holliday's face, and then led the way into the
It was larger and cleaner than Arthur had expected it would be.
The two beds stood parallel with each other--a space of about six
feet intervening between them. They were both of the same medium
size, and both had the same plain white curtains, made to draw, if
necessary, all round them. The occupied bed was the bed nearest
the window. The curtains were all drawn round this, except the
half curtain at the bottom, on the side of the bed farthest from
the window. Arthur saw the feet of the sleeping man raising the
scanty clothes into a sharp little eminence, as if he was lying
flat on his back. He took the candle, and advanced softly to draw
the curtain--stopped half-way, and listened for a moment--then
turned to the landlord.
'He's a very quiet sleeper,' said Arthur.
'Yes,' said the landlord, 'very quiet.'
Young Holliday advanced with the candle, and looked in at the man
'How pale he is!' said Arthur.
'Yes,' returned the landlord, 'pale enough, isn't he?'
Arthur looked closer at the man. The bedclothes were drawn up to
his chin, and they lay perfectly still over the region of his
chest. Surprised and vaguely startled, as he noticed this, Arthur
stooped down closer over the stranger; looked at his ashy, parted
lips; listened breathlessly for an instant; looked again at the
strangely still face, and the motionless lips and chest; and turned
round suddenly on the landlord, with his own cheeks as pale for the
moment as the hollow cheeks of the man on the bed.
'Come here,' he whispered, under his breath. 'Come here, for God's
sake! The man's not asleep--he is dead!'
'You have found that out sooner than I thought you would,' said the
landlord, composedly. 'Yes, he's dead, sure enough. He died at
five o'clock to-day.'
'How did he die? Who is he?' asked Arthur, staggered, for a
moment, by the audacious coolness of the answer.
'As to who is he,' rejoined the landlord, 'I know no more about him
than you do. There are his books and letters and things, all
sealed up in that brown-paper parcel, for the Coroner's inquest to
open to-morrow or next day. He's been here a week, paying his way
fairly enough, and stopping in-doors, for the most part, as if he
was ailing. My girl brought him up his tea at five to-day; and as
he was pouring of it out, he fell down in a faint, or a fit, or a
compound of both, for anything I know. We could not bring him to--
and I said he was dead. And the doctor couldn't bring him to--and
the doctor said he was dead. And there he is. And the Coroner's
inquest's coming as soon as it can. And that's as much as I know
Arthur held the candle close to the man's lips. The flame still
burnt straight up, as steadily as before. There was a moment of
silence; and the rain pattered drearily through it against the
panes of the window.
'If you haven't got nothing more to say to me,' continued the
landlord, 'I suppose I may go. You don't expect your five
shillings back, do you? There's the bed I promised you, clean and
comfortable. There's the man I warranted not to disturb you, quiet
in this world for ever. If you're frightened to stop alone with
him, that's not my look out. I've kept my part of the bargain, and
I mean to keep the money. I'm not Yorkshire, myself, young
gentleman; but I've lived long enough in these parts to have my
wits sharpened; and I shouldn't wonder if you found out the way to
brighten up yours, next time you come amongst us.' With these
words, the landlord turned towards the door, and laughed to himself
softly, in high satisfaction at his own sharpness.
Startled and shocked as he was, Arthur had by this time
sufficiently recovered himself to feel indignant at the trick that
had been played on him, and at the insolent manner in which the
landlord exulted in it.
'Don't laugh,' he said sharply, 'till you are quite sure you have
got the laugh against me. You shan't have the five shillings for
nothing, my man. I'll keep the bed.'
'Will you?' said the landlord. 'Then I wish you a goodnight's
rest.' With that brief farewell, he went out, and shut the door
A good night's rest! The words had hardly been spoken, the door
had hardly been closed, before Arthur half-repented the hasty words
that had just escaped him. Though not naturally over-sensitive,
and not wanting in courage of the moral as well as the physical
sort, the presence of the dead man had an instantaneously chilling
effect on his mind when he found himself alone in the room--alone,
and bound by his own rash words to stay there till the next
morning. An older man would have thought nothing of those words,
and would have acted, without reference to them, as his calmer
sense suggested. But Arthur was too young to treat the ridicule,
even of his inferiors, with contempt--too young not to fear the
momentary humiliation of falsifying his own foolish boast, more
than he feared the trial of watching out the long night in the same
chamber with the dead.
'It is but a few hours,' he thought to himself, 'and I can get away
the first thing in the morning.'
He was looking towards the occupied bed as that idea passed through
his mind, and the sharp, angular eminence made in the clothes by
the dead man's upturned feet again caught his eye. He advanced and
drew the curtains, purposely abstaining, as he did so, from looking
at the face of the corpse, lest he might unnerve himself at the
outset by fastening some ghastly impression of it on his mind. He
drew the curtain very gently, and sighed involuntarily as he closed
it. 'Poor fellow,' he said, almost as sadly as if he had known the
man. 'Ah, poor fellow!'
He went next to the window. The night was black, and he could see
nothing from it. The rain still pattered heavily against the
glass. He inferred, from hearing it, that the window was at the
back of the house; remembering that the front was sheltered from
the weather by the court and the buildings over it.
While he was still standing at the window--for even the dreary rain
was a relief, because of the sound it made; a relief, also, because
it moved, and had some faint suggestion, in consequence, of life
and companionship in it--while he was standing at the window, and
looking vacantly into the black darkness outside, he heard a
distant church-clock strike ten. Only ten! How was he to pass the
time till the house was astir the next morning?
Under any other circumstances, he would have gone down to the
public-house parlour, would have called for his grog, and would
have laughed and talked with the company assembled as familiarly as
if he had known them all his life. But the very thought of whiling
away the time in this manner was distasteful to him. The new
situation in which he was placed seemed to have altered him to
himself already. Thus far, his life had been the common, trifling,
prosaic, surface-life of a prosperous young man, with no troubles
to conquer, and no trials to face. He had lost no relation whom he
loved, no friend whom he treasured. Till this night, what share he
had of the immortal inheritance that is divided amongst us all, had
laid dormant within him. Till this night, Death and he had not
once met, even in thought.
He took a few turns up and down the room--then stopped. The noise
made by his boots on the poorly carpeted floor, jarred on his ear.
He hesitated a little, and ended by taking the boots off, and
walking backwards and forwards noiselessly. All desire to sleep or
to rest had left him. The bare thought of lying down on the
unoccupied bed instantly drew the picture on his mind of a dreadful
mimicry of the position of the dead man. Who was he? What was the
story of his past life? Poor he must have been, or he would not
have stopped at such a place as The Two Robins Inn--and weakened,
probably, by long illness, or he could hardly have died in the
manner in which the landlord had described. Poor, ill, lonely,--
dead in a strange place; dead, with nobody but a stranger to pity
him. A sad story: truly, on the mere face of it, a very sad
While these thoughts were passing through his mind, he had stopped
insensibly at the window, close to which stood the foot of the bed
with the closed curtains. At first he looked at it absently; then
he became conscious that his eyes were fixed on it; and then, a
perverse desire took possession of him to do the very thing which
he had resolved not to do, up to this time--to look at the dead
He stretched out his hand towards the curtains; but checked himself
in the very act of undrawing them, turned his back sharply on the
bed, and walked towards the chimney-piece, to see what things were
placed on it, and to try if he could keep the dead man out of his
mind in that way.
There was a pewter inkstand on the chimney-piece, with some
mildewed remains of ink in the bottle. There were two coarse china
ornaments of the commonest kind; and there was a square of embossed
card, dirty and fly-blown, with a collection of wretched riddles
printed on it, in all sorts of zig-zag directions, and in variously
coloured inks. He took the card, and went away, to read it, to the
table on which the candle was placed; sitting down, with his back
resolutely turned to the curtained bed.
He read the first riddle, the second, the third, all in one corner
of the card--then turned it round impatiently to look at another.
Before he could begin reading the riddles printed here, the sound
of the church-clock stopped him. Eleven. He had got through an
hour of the time, in the room with the dead man.
Once more he looked at the card. It was not easy to make out the
letters printed on it, in consequence of the dimness of the light
which the landlord had left him--a common tallow candle, furnished
with a pair of heavy old-fashioned steel snuffers. Up to this
time, his mind had been too much occupied to think of the light.
He had left the wick of the candle unsnuffed, till it had risen
higher than the flame, and had burnt into an odd pent-house shape
at the top, from which morsels of the charred cotton fell off, from
time to time, in little flakes. He took up the snuffers now, and
trimmed the wick. The light brightened directly, and the room
became less dismal.
Again he turned to the riddles; reading them doggedly and
resolutely, now in one corner of the card, now in another. All his
efforts, however, could not fix his attention on them. He pursued
his occupation mechanically, deriving no sort of impression from
what he was reading. It was as if a shadow from the curtained bed
had got between his mind and the gaily printed letters--a shadow
that nothing could dispel. At last, he gave up the struggle, and
threw the card from him impatiently, and took to walking softly up
and down the room again.
The dead man, the dead man, the HIDDEN dead man on the bed! There
was the one persistent idea still haunting him. Hidden? Was it
only the body being there, or was it the body being there,
concealed, that was preying on his mind? He stopped at the window,
with that doubt in him; once more listening to the pattering rain,
once more looking out into the black darkness.
Still the dead man! The darkness forced his mind back upon itself,
and set his memory at work, reviving, with a painfully-vivid
distinctness the momentary impression it had received from the
first sight of the corpse. Before long the face seemed to be
hovering out in the middle of the darkness, confronting him through
the window, with the paleness whiter, with the dreadful dull line
of light between the imperfectly-closed eyelids broader than he had
seen it--with the parted lips slowly dropping farther and farther
away from each other--with the features growing larger and moving
closer, till they seemed to fill the window and to silence the
rain, and to shut out the night.
The sound of a voice, shouting below-stairs, woke him suddenly from
the dream of his own distempered fancy. He recognised it as the
voice of the landlord. 'Shut up at twelve, Ben,' he heard it say.
'I'm off to bed.'
He wiped away the damp that had gathered on his forehead, reasoned
with himself for a little while, and resolved to shake his mind
free of the ghastly counterfeit which still clung to it, by forcing
himself to confront, if it was only for a moment, the solemn
reality. Without allowing himself an instant to hesitate, he
parted the curtains at the foot of the bed, and looked through.
There was a sad, peaceful, white face, with the awful mystery of
stillness on it, laid back upon the pillow. No stir, no change
there! He only looked at it for a moment before he closed the
curtains again--but that moment steadied him, calmed him, restored
him--mind and body--to himself.
He returned to his old occupation of walking up and down the room;
persevering in it, this time, till the clock struck again. Twelve.
As the sound of the clock-bell died away, it was succeeded by the
confused noise, down-stairs, of the drinkers in the tap-room
leaving the house. The next sound, after an interval of silence,
was caused by the barring of the door, and the closing of the
shutters, at the back of the Inn. Then the silence followed again,
and was disturbed no more.
He was alone now--absolutely, utterly, alone with the dead man,
till the next morning.
The wick of the candle wanted trimming again. He took up the
snuffers--but paused suddenly on the very point of using them, and
looked attentively at the candle--then back, over his shoulder, at
the curtained bed--then again at the candle. It had been lighted,
for the first time, to show him the way up-stairs, and three parts
of it, at least, were already consumed. In another hour it would
be burnt out. In another hour--unless he called at once to the man
who had shut up the Inn, for a fresh candle--he would be left in
Strongly as his mind had been affected since he had entered his
room, his unreasonable dread of encountering ridicule, and of
exposing his courage to suspicion, had not altogether lost its
influence over him, even yet. He lingered irresolutely by the
table, waiting till he could prevail on himself to open the door,
and call, from the landing, to the man who had shut up the Inn. In
his present hesitating frame of mind, it was a kind of relief to
gain a few moments only by engaging in the trifling occupation of
snuffing the candle. His hand trembled a little, and the snuffers
were heavy and awkward to use. When he closed them on the wick, he
closed them a hair's breadth too low. In an instant the candle was
out, and the room was plunged in pitch darkness.
The one impression which the absence of light immediately produced
on his mind, was distrust of the curtained bed--distrust which
shaped itself into no distinct idea, but which was powerful enough
in its very vagueness, to bind him down to his chair, to make his
heart beat fast, and to set him listening intently. No sound
stirred in the room but the familiar sound of the rain against the
window, louder and sharper now than he had heard it yet.
Still the vague distrust, the inexpressible dread possessed him,
and kept him to his chair. He had put his carpet-bag on the table,
when he first entered the room; and he now took the key from his
pocket, reached out his hand softly, opened the bag, and groped in
it for his travelling writing-case, in which he knew that there was
a small store of matches. When he had got one of the matches, he
waited before he struck it on the coarse wooden table, and listened
intently again, without knowing why. Still there was no sound in
the room but the steady, ceaseless, rattling sound of the rain.
He lighted the candle again, without another moment of delay and,
on the instant of its burning up, the first object in the room that
his eyes sought for was the curtained bed.
Just before the light had been put out, he had looked in that
direction, and had seen no change, no disarrangement of any sort,
in the folds of the closely-drawn curtains.
When he looked at the bed, now, he saw, hanging over the side of
it, a long white hand.
It lay perfectly motionless, midway on the side of the bed, where
the curtain at the head and the curtain at the foot met. Nothing
more was visible. The clinging curtains hid everything but the
long white hand.
He stood looking at it unable to stir, unable to call out; feeling
nothing, knowing nothing, every faculty he possessed gathered up
and lost in the one seeing faculty. How long that first panic held
him he never could tell afterwards. It might have been only for a
moment; it might have been for many minutes together. How he got
to the bed--whether he ran to it headlong, or whether he approached
it slowly--how he wrought himself up to unclose the curtains and
look in, he never has remembered, and never will remember to his
dying day. It is enough that he did go to the bed, and that he did
look inside the curtains.
The man had moved. One of his arms was outside the clothes; his
face was turned a little on the pillow; his eyelids were wide open.
Changed as to position, and as to one of the features, the face
was, otherwise, fearfully and wonderfully unaltered. The dead
paleness and the dead quiet were on it still
One glance showed Arthur this--one glance, before he flew
breathlessly to the door, and alarmed the house.
The man whom the landlord called 'Ben,' was the first to appear on
the stairs. In three words, Arthur told him what had happened, and
sent him for the nearest doctor.
I, who tell you this story, was then staying with a medical friend
of mine, in practice at Doncaster, taking care of his patients for
him, during his absence in London; and I, for the time being, was
the nearest doctor. They had sent for me from the Inn, when the
stranger was taken ill in the afternoon; but I was not at home, and
medical assistance was sought for elsewhere. When the man from The
Two Robins rang the night-bell, I was just thinking of going to
bed. Naturally enough, I did not believe a word of his story about
'a dead man who had come to life again.' However, I put on my hat,
armed myself with one or two bottles of restorative medicine, and
ran to the Inn, expecting to find nothing more remarkable, when I
got there, than a patient in a fit.
My surprise at finding that the man had spoken the literal truth
was almost, if not quite, equalled by my astonishment at finding
myself face to face with Arthur Holliday as soon as I entered the
bedroom. It was no time then for giving or seeking explanations.
We just shook hands amazedly; and then I ordered everybody but
Arthur out of the room, and hurried to the man on the bed.
The kitchen fire had not been long out. There was plenty of hot
water in the boiler, and plenty of flannel to be had. With these,
with my medicines, and with such help as Arthur could render under
my direction, I dragged the man, literally, out of the jaws of
death. In less than an hour from the time when I had been called
in, he was alive and talking in the bed on which he had been laid
out to wait for the Coroner's inquest.
You will naturally ask me, what had been the matter with him; and I
might treat you, in reply, to a long theory, plentifully sprinkled
with, what the children call, hard words. I prefer telling you
that, in this case, cause and effect could not be satisfactorily
joined together by any theory whatever. There are mysteries in
life, and the condition of it, which human science has not fathomed
yet; and I candidly confess to you, that, in bringing that man back
to existence, I was, morally speaking, groping haphazard in the
dark. I know (from the testimony of the doctor who attended him in
the afternoon) that the vital machinery, so far as its action is
appreciable by our senses, had, in this case, unquestionably
stopped; and I am equally certain (seeing that I recovered him)
that the vital principle was not extinct. When I add, that he had
suffered from a long and complicated illness, and that his whole
nervous system was utterly deranged, I have told you all I really
know of the physical condition of my dead-alive patient at The Two
When he 'came to,' as the phrase goes, he was a startling object to
look at, with his colourless face, his sunken cheeks, his wild
black eyes, and his long black hair. The first question he asked
me about himself, when he could speak, made me suspect that I had
been called in to a man in my own profession. I mentioned to him
my surmise; and he told me that I was right.
He said he had come last from Paris, where he had been attached to
a hospital. That he had lately returned to England, on his way to
Edinburgh, to continue his studies; that he had been taken ill on
the journey; and that he had stopped to rest and recover himself at
Doncaster. He did not add a word about his name, or who he was:
and, of course, I did not question him on the subject. All I
inquired, when he ceased speaking, was what branch of the
profession he intended to follow.
'Any branch,' he said, bitterly, 'which will put bread into the
mouth of a poor man.'
At this, Arthur, who had been hitherto watching him in silent
curiosity, burst out impetuously in his usual good-humoured way:-
'My dear fellow!' (everybody was 'my dear fellow' with Arthur) 'now
you have come to life again, don't begin by being down-hearted
about your prospects. I'll answer for it, I can help you to some
capital thing in the medical line--or, if I can't, I know my father
The medical student looked at him steadily.
'Thank you,' he said, coldly. Then added, 'May I ask who your
'He's well enough known all about this part of the country,'
replied Arthur. 'He is a great manufacturer, and his name is
My hand was on the man's wrist during this brief conversation. The
instant the name of Holliday was pronounced I felt the pulse under
my fingers flutter, stop, go on suddenly with a bound, and beat
afterwards, for a minute or two, at the fever rate.
'How did you come here?' asked the stranger, quickly, excitably,
Arthur related briefly what had happened from the time of his first
taking the bed at the inn.
'I am indebted to Mr. Holliday's son then for the help that has
saved my life,' said the medical student, speaking to himself, with
a singular sarcasm in his voice. 'Come here!'
He held out, as he spoke, his long, white, bony, right hand.
'With all my heart,' said Arthur, taking the hand-cordially. 'I
may confess it now,' he continued, laughing. 'Upon my honour, you
almost frightened me out of my wits.'
The stranger did not seem to listen. His wild black eyes were
fixed with a look of eager interest on Arthur's face, and his long
bony fingers kept tight hold of Arthur's hand. Young Holliday, on
his side, returned the gaze, amazed and puzzled by the medical
student's odd language and manners. The two faces were close
together; I looked at them; and, to my amazement, I was suddenly
impressed by the sense of a likeness between them--not in features,
or complexion, but solely in expression. It must have been a
strong likeness, or I should certainly not have found it out, for I
am naturally slow at detecting resemblances between faces.
'You have saved my life,' said the strange man, still looking hard
in Arthur's face, still holding tightly by his hand. 'If you had
been my own brother, you could not have done more for me than
He laid a singularly strong emphasis on those three words 'my own
brother,' and a change passed over his face as he pronounced them,-
-a change that no language of mine is competent to describe.
'I hope I have not done being of service to you yet,' said Arthur.
'I'll speak to my father, as soon as I get home.'
'You seem to be fond and proud of your father,' said the medical
student. 'I suppose, in return, he is fond and proud of you?'
'Of course, he is!' answered Arthur, laughing. 'Is there anything
wonderful in that? Isn't YOUR father fond--'
The stranger suddenly dropped young Holliday's hand, and turned his
'I beg your pardon,' said Arthur. 'I hope I have not
unintentionally pained you. I hope you have not lost your father.'
'I can't well lose what I have never had,' retorted the medical
student, with a harsh, mocking laugh.
'What you have never had!'
The strange man suddenly caught Arthur's hand again, suddenly
looked once more hard in his face.
'Yes,' he said, with a repetition of the bitter laugh. 'You have
brought a poor devil back into the world, who has no business
there. Do I astonish you? Well! I have a fancy of my own for
telling you what men in my situation generally keep a secret. I
have no name and no father. The merciful law of Society tells me I
am Nobody's Son! Ask your father if he will be my father too, and
help me on in life with the family name.'
Arthur looked at me, more puzzled than ever. I signed to him to
say nothing, and then laid my fingers again on the man's wrist.
No! In spite of the extraordinary speech that he had just made, he
was not, as I had been disposed to suspect, beginning to get light-
headed. His pulse, by this time, had fallen back to a quiet, slow
beat, and his skin was moist and cool. Not a symptom of fever or
agitation about him.
Finding that neither of us answered him, he turned to me, and began
talking of the extraordinary nature of his case, and asking my
advice about the future course of medical treatment to which he
ought to subject himself. I said the matter required careful
thinking over, and suggested that I should submit certain
prescriptions to him the next morning. He told me to write them at
once, as he would, most likely, be leaving Doncaster, in the
morning, before I was up. It was quite useless to represent to him
the folly and danger of such a proceeding as this. He heard me
politely and patiently, but held to his resolution, without
offering any reasons or any explanations, and repeated to me, that
if I wished to give him a chance of seeing my prescription, I must
write it at once. Hearing this, Arthur volunteered the loan of a
travelling writing-case, which, he said, he had with him; and,
bringing it to the bed, shook the note-paper out of the pocket of
the case forthwith in his usual careless way. With the paper,
there fell out on the counterpane of the bed a small packet of
sticking-plaster, and a little water-colour drawing of a landscape.
The medical student took up the drawing and looked at it. His eye
fell on some initials neatly written, in cypher, in one corner. He
started and trembled; his pale face grew whiter than ever; his wild
black eyes turned on Arthur, and looked through and through him.
'A pretty drawing,' he said in a remarkably quiet tone of voice.
'Ah! and done by such a pretty girl,' said Arthur. 'Oh, such a
pretty girl! I wish it was not a landscape--I wish it was a
portrait of her!'
'You admire her very much?'
Arthur, half in jest, half in earnest, kissed his hand for answer.
'Love at first sight!' he said, putting the drawing away again.
'But the course of it doesn't run smooth. It's the old story.
She's monopolised as usual. Trammelled by a rash engagement to
some poor man who is never likely to get money enough to marry her.
It was lucky I heard of it in time, or I should certainly have
risked a declaration when she gave me that drawing. Here, doctor!
Here is pen, ink, and paper all ready for you.'
'When she gave you that drawing? Gave it. Gave it.' He repeated
the words slowly to himself, and suddenly closed his eyes. A
momentary distortion passed across his face, and I saw one of his
hands clutch up the bedclothes and squeeze them hard. I thought he
was going to be ill again, and begged that there might be no more
talking. He opened his eyes when I spoke, fixed them once more
searchingly on Arthur, and said, slowly and distinctly, 'You like
her, and she likes you. The poor man may die out of your way. Who
can tell that she may not give you herself as well as her drawing,
Before young Holliday could answer, he turned to me, and said in a
whisper, 'Now for the prescription.' From that time, though he
spoke to Arthur again, he never looked at him more.
When I had written the prescription, he examined it, approved of
it, and then astonished us both by abruptly wishing us good night.
I offered to sit up with him, and he shook his head. Arthur
offered to sit up with him, and he said, shortly, with his face
turned away, 'No.' I insisted on having somebody left to watch
him. He gave way when he found I was determined, and said he would
accept the services of the waiter at the Inn.
'Thank you, both,' he said, as we rose to go. 'I have one last
favour to ask--not of you, doctor, for I leave you to exercise your
professional discretion--but of Mr. Holliday.' His eyes, while he
spoke, still rested steadily on me, and never once turned towards
Arthur. 'I beg that Mr. Holliday will not mention to any one--
least of all to his father--the events that have occurred, and the
words that have passed, in this room. I entreat him to bury me in
his memory, as, but for him, I might have been buried in my grave.
I cannot give my reasons for making this strange request. I can
only implore him to grant it.'
His voice faltered for the first time, and he hid his face on the
pillow. Arthur, completely bewildered, gave the required pledge.
I took young Holliday away with me, immediately afterwards, to the
house of my friend; determining to go back to the Inn, and to see
the medical student again before he had left in the morning.
I returned to the Inn at eight o'clock, purposely abstaining from
waking Arthur, who was sleeping off the past night's excitement on
one of my friend's sofas. A suspicion had occurred to me as soon
as I was alone in my bedroom, which made me resolve that Holliday
and the stranger whose life he had saved should not meet again, if
I could prevent it. I have already alluded to certain reports, or
scandals, which I knew of, relating to the early life of Arthur's
father. While I was thinking, in my bed, of what had passed at the
Inn--of the change in the student's pulse when he heard the name of
Holliday; of the resemblance of expression that I had discovered
between his face and Arthur's; of the emphasis he had laid on those
three words, 'my own brother;' and of his incomprehensible
acknowledgment of his own illegitimacy--while I was thinking of
these things, the reports I have mentioned suddenly flew into my
mind, and linked themselves fast to the chain of my previous
reflections. Something within me whispered, 'It is best that those
two young men should not meet again.' I felt it before I slept; I
felt it when I woke; and I went, as I told you, alone to the Inn
the next morning.
I had missed my only opportunity of seeing my nameless patient
again. He had been gone nearly an hour when I inquired for him.
I have now told you everything that I know for certain, in relation
to the man whom I brought back to life in the double-bedded room of
the Inn at Doncaster. What I have next to add is matter for
inference and surmise, and is not, strictly speaking, matter of
I have to tell you, first, that the medical student turned out to
be strangely and unaccountably right in assuming it as more than
probable that Arthur Holliday would marry the young lady who had
given him the water-colour drawing of the landscape. That marriage
took place a little more than a year after the events occurred
which I have just been relating. The young couple came to live in
the neighbourhood in which I was then established in practice. I
was present at the wedding, and was rather surprised to find that
Arthur was singularly reserved with me, both before and after his
marriage, on the subject of the young lady's prior engagement. He
only referred to it once, when we were alone, merely telling me, on
that occasion, that his wife had done all that honour and duty
required of her in the matter, and that the engagement had been
broken off with the full approval of her parents. I never heard
more from him than this. For three years he and his wife lived
together happily. At the expiration of that time, the symptoms of
a serious illness first declared themselves in Mrs. Arthur
Holliday. It turned out to be a long, lingering, hopeless malady.
I attended her throughout. We had been great friends when she was
well, and we became more attached to each other than ever when she
was ill. I had many long and interesting conversations with her in
the intervals when she suffered least. The result of one of these
conversations I may briefly relate, leaving you to draw any
inferences from it that you please.
The interview to which I refer, occurred shortly before her death.
I called one evening, as usual, and found her alone, with a look in
her eyes which told me that she had been crying. She only informed
me at first, that she had been depressed in spirits; but, by little
and little, she became more communicative, and confessed to me that
she had been looking over some old letters, which had been
addressed to her, before she had seen Arthur, by a man to whom she
had been engaged to be married. I asked her how the engagement
came to be broken off. She replied that it had not been broken
off, but that it had died out in a very mysterious way. The person
to whom she was engaged--her first love, she called him--was very
poor, and there was no immediate prospect of their being married.
He followed my profession, and went abroad to study. They had
corresponded regularly, until the time when, as she believed, he
had returned to England. From that period she heard no more of
him. He was of a fretful, sensitive temperament; and she feared
that she might have inadvertently done or said something that
offended him. However that might be, he had never written to her
again; and, after waiting a year, she had married Arthur. I asked
when the first estrangement had begun, and found that the time at
which she ceased to hear anything of her first lover exactly
corresponded with the time at which I had been called in to my
mysterious patient at The Two Robins Inn.
A fortnight after that conversation, she died. In course of time,
Arthur married again. Of late years, he has lived principally in
London, and I have seen little or nothing of him.
I have many years to pass over before I can approach to anything
like a conclusion of this fragmentary narrative. And even when
that later period is reached, the little that I have to say will
not occupy your attention for more than a few minutes. Between six
and seven years ago, the gentleman to whom I introduced you in this
room, came to me, with good professional recommendations, to fill
the position of my assistant. We met, not like strangers, but like
friends--the only difference between us being, that I was very much
surprised to see him, and that he did not appear to be at all
surprised to see me. If he was my son or my brother, I believe he
could not be fonder of me than he is; but he has never volunteered
any confidences since he has been here, on the subject of his past
life. I saw something that was familiar to me in his face when we
first met; and yet it was also something that suggested the idea of
change. I had a notion once that my patient at the Inn might be a
natural son of Mr. Holliday's; I had another idea that he might
also have been the man who was engaged to Arthur's first wife; and
I have a third idea, still clinging to me, that Mr. Lorn is the
only man in England who could really enlighten me, if he chose, on
both those doubtful points. His hair is not black, now, and his
eyes are dimmer than the piercing eyes that I remember, but, for
all that, he is very like the nameless medical student of my young
days--very like him. And, sometimes, when I come home late at
night, and find him asleep, and wake him, he looks, in coming to,
wonderfully like the stranger at Doncaster, as he raised himself in
the bed on that memorable night!
The Doctor paused. Mr. Goodchild, who had been following every
word that fell from his lips up to this time, leaned forward
eagerly to ask a question. Before he could say a word, the latch
of the door was raised, without any warning sound of footsteps in
the passage outside. A long, white, bony hand appeared through the
opening, gently pushing the door, which was prevented from working
freely on its hinges by a fold in the carpet under it.
'That hand! Look at that hand, Doctor!' said Mr. Goodchild,
At the same moment, the Doctor looked at Mr. Goodchild, and
whispered to him, significantly:
'Hush! he has come back.'
The Cumberland Doctor's mention of Doncaster Races, inspired Mr.
Francis Goodchild with the idea of going down to Doncaster to see
the races. Doncaster being a good way off, and quite out of the
way of the Idle Apprentices (if anything could be out of their way,
who had no way), it necessarily followed that Francis perceived
Doncaster in the race-week to be, of all possible idleness, the
particular idleness that would completely satisfy him.
Thomas, with an enforced idleness grafted on the natural and
voluntary power of his disposition, was not of this mind; objecting
that a man compelled to lie on his back on a floor, a sofa, a
table, a line of chairs, or anything he could get to lie upon, was
not in racing condition, and that he desired nothing better than to
lie where he was, enjoying himself in looking at the flies on the
ceiling. But, Francis Goodchild, who had been walking round his
companion in a circuit of twelve miles for two days, and had begun
to doubt whether it was reserved for him ever to be idle in his
life, not only overpowered this objection, but even converted
Thomas Idle to a scheme he formed (another idle inspiration), of
conveying the said Thomas to the sea-coast, and putting his injured
leg under a stream of salt-water.
Plunging into this happy conception headforemost, Mr. Goodchild
immediately referred to the county-map, and ardently discovered
that the most delicious piece of sea-coast to be found within the
limits of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, and
the Channel Islands, all summed up together, was Allonby on the
coast of Cumberland. There was the coast of Scotland opposite to
Allonby, said Mr. Goodchild with enthusiasm; there was a fine
Scottish mountain on that Scottish coast; there were Scottish
lights to be seen shining across the glorious Channel, and at
Allonby itself there was every idle luxury (no doubt) that a
watering-place could offer to the heart of idle man. Moreover,
said Mr. Goodchild, with his finger on the map, this exquisite
retreat was approached by a coach-road, from a railway-station
called Aspatria--a name, in a manner, suggestive of the departed
glories of Greece, associated with one of the most engaging and
most famous of Greek women. On this point, Mr. Goodchild continued
at intervals to breathe a vein of classic fancy and eloquence
exceedingly irksome to Mr. Idle, until it appeared that the honest
English pronunciation of that Cumberland country shortened Aspatria
into 'Spatter.' After this supplementary discovery, Mr. Goodchild
said no more about it.
By way of Spatter, the crippled Idle was carried, hoisted, pushed,
poked, and packed, into and out of carriages, into and out of beds,
into and out of tavern resting-places, until he was brought at
length within sniff of the sea. And now, behold the apprentices
gallantly riding into Allonby in a one-horse fly, bent upon staying
in that peaceful marine valley until the turbulent Doncaster time
shall come round upon the wheel, in its turn among what are in
sporting registers called the 'Fixtures' for the month.
'Do you see Allonby!' asked Thomas Idle.
'I don't see it yet,' said Francis, looking out of window.
'It must be there,' said Thomas Idle.
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