The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices
Part 2 out of 3
'I don't see it,' returned Francis.
'It must be there,' repeated Thomas Idle, fretfully.
'Lord bless me!' exclaimed Francis, drawing in his head, 'I suppose
this is it!'
'A watering-place,' retorted Thomas Idle, with the pardonable
sharpness of an invalid, 'can't be five gentlemen in straw hats, on
a form on one side of a door, and four ladies in hats and falls, on
a form on another side of a door, and three geese in a dirty little
brook before them, and a boy's legs hanging over a bridge (with a
boy's body I suppose on the other side of the parapet), and a
donkey running away. What are you talking about?'
'Allonby, gentlemen,' said the most comfortable of landladies as
she opened one door of the carriage; 'Allonby, gentlemen,' said the
most attentive of landlords, as he opened the other.
Thomas Idle yielded his arm to the ready Goodchild, and descended
from the vehicle. Thomas, now just able to grope his way along, in
a doubled-up condition, with the aid of two thick sticks, was no
bad embodiment of Commodore Trunnion, or of one of those many
gallant Admirals of the stage, who have all ample fortunes, gout,
thick sticks, tempers, wards, and nephews. With this distinguished
naval appearance upon him, Thomas made a crab-like progress up a
clean little bulk-headed staircase, into a clean little bulk-headed
room, where he slowly deposited himself on a sofa, with a stick on
either hand of him, looking exceedingly grim.
'Francis,' said Thomas Idle, 'what do you think of this place?'
'I think,' returned Mr. Goodchild, in a glowing way, 'it is
everything we expected.'
'Hah!' said Thomas Idle.
'There is the sea,' cried Mr. Goodchild, pointing out of window;
'and here,' pointing to the lunch on the table, 'are shrimps. Let
us--' here Mr. Goodchild looked out of window, as if in search of
something, and looked in again,--'let us eat 'em.'
The shrimps eaten and the dinner ordered, Mr. Goodchild went out to
survey the watering-place. As Chorus of the Drama, without whom
Thomas could make nothing of the scenery, he by-and-by returned, to
have the following report screwed out of him.
In brief, it was the most delightful place ever seen.
'But,' Thomas Idle asked, 'where is it?'
'It's what you may call generally up and down the beach, here and
there,' said Mr. Goodchild, with a twist of his hand.
'Proceed,' said Thomas Idle.
It was, Mr. Goodchild went on to say, in cross-examination, what
you might call a primitive place. Large? No, it was not large.
Who ever expected it would be large? Shape? What a question to
ask! No shape. What sort of a street? Why, no street. Shops?
Yes, of course (quite indignant). How many? Who ever went into a
place to count the shops? Ever so many. Six? Perhaps. A
library? Why, of course (indignant again). Good collection of
books? Most likely--couldn't say--had seen nothing in it but a
pair of scales. Any reading-room? Of course, there was a reading-
room. Where? Where! why, over there. Where was over there? Why,
THERE! Let Mr. Idle carry his eye to that bit of waste ground
above high-water mark, where the rank grass and loose stones were
most in a litter; and he would see a sort of long, ruinous brick
loft, next door to a ruinous brick out-house, which loft had a
ladder outside, to get up by. That was the reading-room, and if
Mr. Idle didn't like the idea of a weaver's shuttle throbbing under
a reading-room, that was his look out. HE was not to dictate, Mr.
Goodchild supposed (indignant again), to the company.
'By-the-by,' Thomas Idle observed; 'the company?'
Well! (Mr. Goodchild went on to report) very nice company. Where
were they? Why, there they were. Mr. Idle could see the tops of
their hats, he supposed. What? Those nine straw hats again, five
gentlemen's and four ladies'? Yes, to be sure. Mr. Goodchild
hoped the company were not to be expected to wear helmets, to
please Mr. Idle.
Beginning to recover his temper at about this point, Mr. Goodchild
voluntarily reported that if you wanted to be primitive, you could
be primitive here, and that if you wanted to be idle, you could be
idle here. In the course of some days, he added, that there were
three fishing-boats, but no rigging, and that there were plenty of
fishermen who never fished. That they got their living entirely by
looking at the ocean. What nourishment they looked out of it to
support their strength, he couldn't say; but, he supposed it was
some sort of Iodine. The place was full of their children, who
were always upside down on the public buildings (two small bridges
over the brook), and always hurting themselves or one another, so
that their wailings made more continual noise in the air than could
have been got in a busy place. The houses people lodged in, were
nowhere in particular, and were in capital accordance with the
beach; being all more or less cracked and damaged as its shells
were, and all empty--as its shells were. Among them, was an
edifice of destitute appearance, with a number of wall-eyed windows
in it, looking desperately out to Scotland as if for help, which
said it was a Bazaar (and it ought to know), and where you might
buy anything you wanted--supposing what you wanted, was a little
camp-stool or a child's wheelbarrow. The brook crawled or stopped
between the houses and the sea, and the donkey was always running
away, and when he got into the brook he was pelted out with stones,
which never hit him, and which always hit some of the children who
were upside down on the public buildings, and made their
lamentations louder. This donkey was the public excitement of
Allonby, and was probably supported at the public expense.
The foregoing descriptions, delivered in separate items, on
separate days of adventurous discovery, Mr. Goodchild severally
wound up, by looking out of window, looking in again, and saying,
'But there is the sea, and here are the shrimps--let us eat 'em.'
There were fine sunsets at Allonby when the low flat beach, with
its pools of water and its dry patches, changed into long bars of
silver and gold in various states of burnishing, and there were
fine views--on fine days--of the Scottish coast. But, when it
rained at Allonby, Allonby thrown back upon its ragged self, became
a kind of place which the donkey seemed to have found out, and to
have his highly sagacious reasons for wishing to bolt from. Thomas
Idle observed, too, that Mr. Goodchild, with a noble show of
disinterestedness, became every day more ready to walk to Maryport
and back, for letters; and suspicions began to harbour in the mind
of Thomas, that his friend deceived him, and that Maryport was a
Therefore, Thomas said to Francis on a day when they had looked at
the sea and eaten the shrimps, 'My mind misgives me, Goodchild,
that you go to Maryport, like the boy in the story-book, to ask IT
to be idle with you.'
'Judge, then,' returned Francis, adopting the style of the story-
book, 'with what success. I go to a region which is a bit of
water-side Bristol, with a slice of Wapping, a seasoning of
Wolverhampton, and a garnish of Portsmouth, and I say, "Will YOU
come and be idle with me?" And it answers, "No; for I am a great
deal too vaporous, and a great deal too rusty, and a great deal too
muddy, and a great deal too dirty altogether; and I have ships to
load, and pitch and tar to boil, and iron to hammer, and steam to
get up, and smoke to make, and stone to quarry, and fifty other
disagreeable things to do, and I can't be idle with you." Then I
go into jagged up-hill and down-hill streets, where I am in the
pastrycook's shop at one moment, and next moment in savage
fastnesses of moor and morass, beyond the confines of civilisation,
and I say to those murky and black-dusty streets, "Will YOU come
and be idle with me?" To which they reply, "No, we can't, indeed,
for we haven't the spirits, and we are startled by the echo of your
feet on the sharp pavement, and we have so many goods in our shop-
windows which nobody wants, and we have so much to do for a limited
public which never comes to us to be done for, that we are
altogether out of sorts and can't enjoy ourselves with any one."
So I go to the Post-office, and knock at the shutter, and I say to
the Post-master, "Will YOU come and be idle with me?" To which he
rejoins, "No, I really can't, for I live, as you may see, in such a
very little Post-office, and pass my life behind such a very little
shutter, that my hand, when I put it out, is as the hand of a giant
crammed through the window of a dwarf's house at a fair, and I am a
mere Post-office anchorite in a cell much too small for him, and I
can't get out, and I can't get in, and I have no space to be idle
in, even if I would." So, the boy,' said Mr. Goodchild, concluding
the tale, 'comes back with the letters after all, and lives happy
But it may, not unreasonably, be asked--while Francis Goodchild was
wandering hither and thither, storing his mind with perpetual
observation of men and things, and sincerely believing himself to
be the laziest creature in existence all the time--how did Thomas
Idle, crippled and confined to the house, contrive to get through
the hours of the day?
Prone on the sofa, Thomas made no attempt to get through the hours,
but passively allowed the hours to get through HIM. Where other
men in his situation would have read books and improved their
minds, Thomas slept and rested his body. Where other men would
have pondered anxiously over their future prospects, Thomas dreamed
lazily of his past life. The one solitary thing he did, which most
other people would have done in his place, was to resolve on making
certain alterations and improvements in his mode of existence, as
soon as the effects of the misfortune that had overtaken him had
all passed away. Remembering that the current of his life had
hitherto oozed along in one smooth stream of laziness, occasionally
troubled on the surface by a slight passing ripple of industry, his
present ideas on the subject of self-reform, inclined him--not as
the reader may be disposed to imagine, to project schemes for a new
existence of enterprise and exertion--but, on the contrary, to
resolve that he would never, if he could possibly help it, be
active or industrious again, throughout the whole of his future
It is due to Mr. Idle to relate that his mind sauntered towards
this peculiar conclusion on distinct and logically-producible
grounds. After reviewing, quite at his ease, and with many needful
intervals of repose, the generally-placid spectacle of his past
existence, he arrived at the discovery that all the great disasters
which had tried his patience and equanimity in early life, had been
caused by his having allowed himself to be deluded into imitating
some pernicious example of activity and industry that had been set
him by others. The trials to which he here alludes were three in
number, and may be thus reckoned up: First, the disaster of being
an unpopular and a thrashed boy at school; secondly, the disaster
of falling seriously ill; thirdly, the disaster of becoming
acquainted with a great bore.
The first disaster occurred after Thomas had been an idle and a
popular boy at school, for some happy years. One Christmas-time,
he was stimulated by the evil example of a companion, whom he had
always trusted and liked, to be untrue to himself, and to try for a
prize at the ensuing half-yearly examination. He did try, and he
got a prize--how, he did not distinctly know at the moment, and
cannot remember now. No sooner, however, had the book--Moral Hints
to the Young on the Value of Time--been placed in his hands, than
the first troubles of his life began. The idle boys deserted him,
as a traitor to their cause. The industrious boys avoided him, as
a dangerous interloper; one of their number, who had always won the
prize on previous occasions, expressing just resentment at the
invasion of his privileges by calling Thomas into the play-ground,
and then and there administering to him the first sound and genuine
thrashing that he had ever received in his life. Unpopular from
that moment, as a beaten boy, who belonged to no side and was
rejected by all parties, young Idle soon lost caste with his
masters, as he had previously lost caste with his schoolfellows.
He had forfeited the comfortable reputation of being the one lazy
member of the youthful community whom it was quite hopeless to
punish. Never again did he hear the headmaster say reproachfully
to an industrious boy who had committed a fault, 'I might have
expected this in Thomas Idle, but it is inexcusable, sir, in you,
who know better.' Never more, after winning that fatal prize, did
he escape the retributive imposition, or the avenging birch. From
that time, the masters made him work, and the boys would not let
him play. From that time his social position steadily declined,
and his life at school became a perpetual burden to him.
So, again, with the second disaster. While Thomas was lazy, he was
a model of health. His first attempt at active exertion and his
first suffering from severe illness are connected together by the
intimate relations of cause and effect. Shortly after leaving
school, he accompanied a party of friends to a cricket-field, in
his natural and appropriate character of spectator only. On the
ground it was discovered that the players fell short of the
required number, and facile Thomas was persuaded to assist in
making up the complement. At a certain appointed time, he was
roused from peaceful slumber in a dry ditch, and placed before
three wickets with a bat in his hand. Opposite to him, behind
three more wickets, stood one of his bosom friends, filling the
situation (as he was informed) of bowler. No words can describe
Mr. Idle's horror and amazement, when he saw this young man--on
ordinary occasions, the meekest and mildest of human beings--
suddenly contract his eye-brows, compress his lips, assume the
aspect of an infuriated savage, run back a few steps, then run
forward, and, without the slightest previous provocation, hurl a
detestably hard ball with all his might straight at Thomas's legs.
Stimulated to preternatural activity of body and sharpness of eye
by the instinct of self-preservation, Mr. Idle contrived, by
jumping deftly aside at the right moment, and by using his bat
(ridiculously narrow as it was for the purpose) as a shield, to
preserve his life and limbs from the dastardly attack that had been
made on both, to leave the full force of the deadly missile to
strike his wicket instead of his leg; and to end the innings, so
far as his side was concerned, by being immediately bowled out.
Grateful for his escape, he was about to return to the dry ditch,
when he was peremptorily stopped, and told that the other side was
'going in,' and that he was expected to 'field.' His conception of
the whole art and mystery of 'fielding,' may be summed up in the
three words of serious advice which he privately administered to
himself on that trying occasion--avoid the ball. Fortified by this
sound and salutary principle, he took his own course, impervious
alike to ridicule and abuse. Whenever the ball came near him, he
thought of his shins, and got out of the way immediately. 'Catch
it!' 'Stop it!' 'Pitch it up!' were cries that passed by him like
the idle wind that he regarded not. He ducked under it, he jumped
over it, he whisked himself away from it on either side. Never
once, through the whole innings did he and the ball come together
on anything approaching to intimate terms. The unnatural activity
of body which was necessarily called forth for the accomplishment
of this result threw Thomas Idle, for the first time in his life,
into a perspiration. The perspiration, in consequence of his want
of practice in the management of that particular result of bodily
activity, was suddenly checked; the inevitable chill succeeded; and
that, in its turn, was followed by a fever. For the first time
since his birth, Mr. Idle found himself confined to his bed for
many weeks together, wasted and worn by a long illness, of which
his own disastrous muscular exertion had been the sole first cause.
The third occasion on which Thomas found reason to reproach himself
bitterly for the mistake of having attempted to be industrious, was
connected with his choice of a calling in life. Having no interest
in the Church, he appropriately selected the next best profession
for a lazy man in England--the Bar. Although the Benchers of the
Inns of Court have lately abandoned their good old principles, and
oblige their students to make some show of studying, in Mr. Idle's
time no such innovation as this existed. Young men who aspired to
the honourable title of barrister were, very properly, not asked to
learn anything of the law, but were merely required to eat a
certain number of dinners at the table of their Hall, and to pay a
certain sum of money; and were called to the Bar as soon as they
could prove that they had sufficiently complied with these
extremely sensible regulations. Never did Thomas move more
harmoniously in concert with his elders and betters than when he
was qualifying himself for admission among the barristers of his
native country. Never did he feel more deeply what real laziness
was in all the serene majesty of its nature, than on the memorable
day when he was called to the Bar, after having carefully abstained
from opening his law-books during his period of probation, except
to fall asleep over them. How he could ever again have become
industrious, even for the shortest period, after that great reward
conferred upon his idleness, quite passes his comprehension. The
kind Benchers did everything they could to show him the folly of
exerting himself. They wrote out his probationary exercise for
him, and never expected him even to take the trouble of reading it
through when it was written. They invited him, with seven other
choice spirits as lazy as himself, to come and be called to the
Bar, while they were sitting over their wine and fruit after
dinner. They put his oaths of allegiance, and his dreadful
official denunciations of the Pope and the Pretender, so gently
into his mouth, that he hardly knew how the words got there. They
wheeled all their chairs softly round from the table, and sat
surveying the young barristers with their backs to their bottles,
rather than stand up, or adjourn to hear the exercises read. And
when Mr. Idle and the seven unlabouring neophytes, ranged in order,
as a class, with their backs considerately placed against a screen,
had begun, in rotation, to read the exercises which they had not
written, even then, each Bencher, true to the great lazy principle
of the whole proceeding, stopped each neophyte before he had
stammered through his first line, and bowed to him, and told him
politely that he was a barrister from that moment. This was all
the ceremony. It was followed by a social supper, and by the
presentation, in accordance with ancient custom, of a pound of
sweetmeats and a bottle of Madeira, offered in the way of needful
refreshment, by each grateful neophyte to each beneficent Bencher.
It may seem inconceivable that Thomas should ever have forgotten
the great do-nothing principle instilled by such a ceremony as
this; but it is, nevertheless, true, that certain designing
students of industrious habits found him out, took advantage of his
easy humour, persuaded him that it was discreditable to be a
barrister and to know nothing whatever about the law, and lured
him, by the force of their own evil example, into a conveyancer's
chambers, to make up for lost time, and to qualify himself for
practice at the Bar. After a fortnight of self-delusion, the
curtain fell from his eyes; he resumed his natural character, and
shut up his books. But the retribution which had hitherto always
followed his little casual errors of industry followed them still.
He could get away from the conveyancer's chambers, but he could not
get away from one of the pupils, who had taken a fancy to him,--a
tall, serious, raw-boned, hard-working, disputatious pupil, with
ideas of his own about reforming the Law of Real Property, who has
been the scourge of Mr. Idle's existence ever since the fatal day
when he fell into the mistake of attempting to study the law.
Before that time his friends were all sociable idlers like himself.
Since that time the burden of bearing with a hard-working young man
has become part of his lot in life. Go where he will now, he can
never feel certain that the raw-boned pupil is not affectionately
waiting for him round a corner, to tell him a little more about the
Law of Real Property. Suffer as he may under the infliction, he
can never complain, for he must always remember, with unavailing
regret, that he has his own thoughtless industry to thank for first
exposing him to the great social calamity of knowing a bore.
These events of his past life, with the significant results that
they brought about, pass drowsily through Thomas Idle's memory,
while he lies alone on the sofa at Allonby and elsewhere, dreaming
away the time which his fellow-apprentice gets through so actively
out of doors. Remembering the lesson of laziness which his past
disasters teach, and bearing in mind also the fact that he is
crippled in one leg because he exerted himself to go up a mountain,
when he ought to have known that his proper course of conduct was
to stop at the bottom of it, he holds now, and will for the future
firmly continue to hold, by his new resolution never to be
industrious again, on any pretence whatever, for the rest of his
life. The physical results of his accident have been related in a
previous chapter. The moral results now stand on record; and, with
the enumeration of these, that part of the present narrative which
is occupied by the Episode of The Sprained Ankle may now perhaps be
considered, in all its aspects, as finished and complete.
'How do you propose that we get through this present afternoon and
evening?' demanded Thomas Idle, after two or three hours of the
foregoing reflections at Allonby.
Mr. Goodchild faltered, looked out of window, looked in again, and
said, as he had so often said before, 'There is the sea, and here
are the shrimps;--let us eat 'em'!'
But, the wise donkey was at that moment in the act of bolting: not
with the irresolution of his previous efforts which had been
wanting in sustained force of character, but with real vigour of
purpose: shaking the dust off his mane and hind-feet at Allonby,
and tearing away from it, as if he had nobly made up his mind that
he never would be taken alive. At sight of this inspiring
spectacle, which was visible from his sofa, Thomas Idle stretched
his neck and dwelt upon it rapturously.
'Francis Goodchild,' he then said, turning to his companion with a
solemn air, 'this is a delightful little Inn, excellently kept by
the most comfortable of landladies and the most attentive of
landlords, but--the donkey's right!'
The words, 'There is the sea, and here are the--' again trembled on
the lips of Goodchild, unaccompanied however by any sound.
'Let us instantly pack the portmanteaus,' said Thomas Idle, 'pay
the bill, and order a fly out, with instructions to the driver to
follow the donkey!'
Mr. Goodchild, who had only wanted encouragement to disclose the
real state of his feelings, and who had been pining beneath his
weary secret, now burst into tears, and confessed that he thought
another day in the place would be the death of him.
So, the two idle apprentices followed the donkey until the night
was far advanced. Whether he was recaptured by the town-council,
or is bolting at this hour through the United Kingdom, they know
not. They hope he may be still bolting; if so, their best wishes
are with him.
It entered Mr. Idle's head, on the borders of Cumberland, that
there could be no idler place to stay at, except by snatches of a
few minutes each, than a railway station. 'An intermediate station
on a line--a junction--anything of that sort,' Thomas suggested.
Mr. Goodchild approved of the idea as eccentric, and they journeyed
on and on, until they came to such a station where there was an
'Here,' said Thomas, 'we may be luxuriously lazy; other people will
travel for us, as it were, and we shall laugh at their folly.'
It was a Junction-Station, where the wooden razors before mentioned
shaved the air very often, and where the sharp electric-telegraph
bell was in a very restless condition. All manner of cross-lines
of rails came zig-zagging into it, like a Congress of iron vipers;
and, a little way out of it, a pointsman in an elevated signal-box
was constantly going through the motions of drawing immense
quantities of beer at a public-house bar. In one direction,
confused perspectives of embankments and arches were to be seen
from the platform; in the other, the rails soon disentangled
themselves into two tracks and shot away under a bridge, and curved
round a corner. Sidings were there, in which empty luggage-vans
and cattle-boxes often butted against each other as if they
couldn't agree; and warehouses were there, in which great
quantities of goods seemed to have taken the veil (of the
consistency of tarpaulin), and to have retired from the world
without any hope of getting back to it. Refreshment-rooms were
there; one, for the hungry and thirsty Iron Locomotives where their
coke and water were ready, and of good quality, for they were
dangerous to play tricks with; the other, for the hungry and
thirsty human Locomotives, who might take what they could get, and
whose chief consolation was provided in the form of three terrific
urns or vases of white metal, containing nothing, each forming a
breastwork for a defiant and apparently much-injured woman.
Established at this Station, Mr. Thomas Idle and Mr. Francis
Goodchild resolved to enjoy it. But, its contrasts were very
violent, and there was also an infection in it.
First, as to its contrasts. They were only two, but they were
Lethargy and Madness. The Station was either totally unconscious,
or wildly raving. By day, in its unconscious state, it looked as
if no life could come to it,--as if it were all rust, dust, and
ashes--as if the last train for ever, had gone without issuing any
Return-Tickets--as if the last Engine had uttered its last shriek
and burst. One awkward shave of the air from the wooden razor, and
everything changed. Tight office-doors flew open, panels yielded,
books, newspapers, travelling-caps and wrappers broke out of brick
walls, money chinked, conveyances oppressed by nightmares of
luggage came careering into the yard, porters started up from
secret places, ditto the much-injured women, the shining bell, who
lived in a little tray on stilts by himself, flew into a man's hand
and clamoured violently. The pointsman aloft in the signal-box
made the motions of drawing, with some difficulty, hogsheads of
beer. Down Train! More bear! Up Train! More beer. Cross
junction Train! More beer! Cattle Train! More beer. Goods
Train! Simmering, whistling, trembling, rumbling, thundering.
Trains on the whole confusion of intersecting rails, crossing one
another, bumping one another, hissing one another, backing to go
forward, tearing into distance to come close. People frantic.
Exiles seeking restoration to their native carriages, and banished
to remoter climes. More beer and more bell. Then, in a minute,
the Station relapsed into stupor as the stoker of the Cattle Train,
the last to depart, went gliding out of it, wiping the long nose of
his oil-can with a dirty pocket-handkerchief.
By night, in its unconscious state, the Station was not so much as
visible. Something in the air, like an enterprising chemist's
established in business on one of the boughs of Jack's beanstalk,
was all that could be discerned of it under the stars. In a moment
it would break out, a constellation of gas. In another moment,
twenty rival chemists, on twenty rival beanstalks, came into
existence. Then, the Furies would be seen, waving their lurid
torches up and down the confused perspectives of embankments and
arches--would be heard, too, wailing and shrieking. Then, the
Station would be full of palpitating trains, as in the day; with
the heightening difference that they were not so clearly seen as in
the day, whereas the Station walls, starting forward under the gas,
like a hippopotamus's eyes, dazzled the human locomotives with the
sauce-bottle, the cheap music, the bedstead, the distorted range of
buildings where the patent safes are made, the gentleman in the
rain with the registered umbrella, the lady returning from the ball
with the registered respirator, and all their other embellishments.
And now, the human locomotives, creased as to their countenances
and purblind as to their eyes, would swarm forth in a heap,
addressing themselves to the mysterious urns and the much-injured
women; while the iron locomotives, dripping fire and water, shed
their steam about plentifully, making the dull oxen in their cages,
with heads depressed, and foam hanging from their mouths as their
red looks glanced fearfully at the surrounding terrors, seem as
though they had been drinking at half-frozen waters and were hung
with icicles. Through the same steam would be caught glimpses of
their fellow-travellers, the sheep, getting their white kid faces
together, away from the bars, and stuffing the interstices with
trembling wool. Also, down among the wheels, of the man with the
sledge-hammer, ringing the axles of the fast night-train; against
whom the oxen have a misgiving that he is the man with the pole-axe
who is to come by-and-by, and so the nearest of them try to get
back, and get a purchase for a thrust at him through the bars.
Suddenly, the bell would ring, the steam would stop with one hiss
and a yell, the chemists on the beanstalks would be busy, the
avenging Furies would bestir themselves, the fast night-train would
melt from eye and ear, the other trains going their ways more
slowly would be heard faintly rattling in the distance like old-
fashioned watches running down, the sauce-bottle and cheap music
retired from view, even the bedstead went to bed, and there was no
such visible thing as the Station to vex the cool wind in its
blowing, or perhaps the autumn lightning, as it found out the iron
The infection of the Station was this:- When it was in its raving
state, the Apprentices found it impossible to be there, without
labouring under the delusion that they were in a hurry. To Mr.
Goodchild, whose ideas of idleness were so imperfect, this was no
unpleasant hallucination, and accordingly that gentleman went
through great exertions in yielding to it, and running up and down
the platform, jostling everybody, under the impression that he had
a highly important mission somewhere, and had not a moment to lose.
But, to Thomas Idle, this contagion was so very unacceptable an
incident of the situation, that he struck on the fourth day, and
requested to be moved.
'This place fills me with a dreadful sensation,' said Thomas, 'of
having something to do. Remove me, Francis.'
'Where would you like to go next?' was the question of the ever-
'I have heard there is a good old Inn at Lancaster, established in
a fine old house: an Inn where they give you Bride-cake every day
after dinner,' said Thomas Idle. 'Let us eat Bride-cake without
the trouble of being married, or of knowing anybody in that
Mr. Goodchild, with a lover's sigh, assented. They departed from
the Station in a violent hurry (for which, it is unnecessary to
observe, there was not the least occasion), and were delivered at
the fine old house at Lancaster, on the same night.
It is Mr. Goodchild's opinion, that if a visitor on his arrival at
Lancaster could be accommodated with a pole which would push the
opposite side of the street some yards farther off, it would be
better for all parties. Protesting against being required to live
in a trench, and obliged to speculate all day upon what the people
can possibly be doing within a mysterious opposite window, which is
a shop-window to look at, but not a shop-window in respect of its
offering nothing for sale and declining to give any account
whatever of itself, Mr. Goodchild concedes Lancaster to be a
pleasant place. A place dropped in the midst of a charming
landscape, a place with a fine ancient fragment of castle, a place
of lovely walks, a place possessing staid old houses richly fitted
with old Honduras mahogany, which has grown so dark with time that
it seems to have got something of a retrospective mirror-quality
into itself, and to show the visitor, in the depth of its grain,
through all its polish, the hue of the wretched slaves who groaned
long ago under old Lancaster merchants. And Mr. Goodchild adds
that the stones of Lancaster do sometimes whisper, even yet, of
rich men passed away--upon whose great prosperity some of these old
doorways frowned sullen in the brightest weather--that their slave-
gain turned to curses, as the Arabian Wizard's money turned to
leaves, and that no good ever came of it, even unto the third and
fourth generations, until it was wasted and gone.
It was a gallant sight to behold, the Sunday procession of the
Lancaster elders to Church--all in black, and looking fearfully
like a funeral without the Body--under the escort of Three Beadles.
'Think,' said Francis, as he stood at the Inn window, admiring, 'of
being taken to the sacred edifice by three Beadles! I have, in my
early time, been taken out of it by one Beadle; but, to be taken
into it by three, O Thomas, is a distinction I shall never enjoy!'
When Mr. Goodchild had looked out of the Lancaster Inn window for
two hours on end, with great perseverance, he begun to entertain a
misgiving that he was growing industrious. He therefore set
himself next, to explore the country from the tops of all the steep
hills in the neighbourhood.
He came back at dinner-time, red and glowing, to tell Thomas Idle
what he had seen. Thomas, on his back reading, listened with great
composure, and asked him whether he really had gone up those hills,
and bothered himself with those views, and walked all those miles?
'Because I want to know,' added Thomas, 'what you would say of it,
if you were obliged to do it?'
'It would be different, then,' said Francis. 'It would be work,
then; now, it's play.'
'Play!' replied Thomas Idle, utterly repudiating the reply. 'Play!
Here is a man goes systematically tearing himself to pieces, and
putting himself through an incessant course of training, as if he
were always under articles to fight a match for the champion's
belt, and he calls it Play! Play!' exclaimed Thomas Idle,
scornfully contemplating his one boot in the air. 'You CAN'T play.
You don't know what it is. You make work of everything.'
The bright Goodchild amiably smiled.
'So you do,' said Thomas. 'I mean it. To me you are an absolutely
terrible fellow. You do nothing like another man. Where another
fellow would fall into a footbath of action or emotion, you fall
into a mine. Where any other fellow would be a painted butterfly,
you are a fiery dragon. Where another man would stake a sixpence,
you stake your existence. If you were to go up in a balloon, you
would make for Heaven; and if you were to dive into the depths of
the earth, nothing short of the other place would content you.
What a fellow you are, Francis!' The cheerful Goodchild laughed.
'It's all very well to laugh, but I wonder you don't feel it to be
serious,' said Idle. 'A man who can do nothing by halves appears
to me to be a fearful man.'
'Tom, Tom,' returned Goodchild, 'if I can do nothing by halves, and
be nothing by halves, it's pretty clear that you must take me as a
whole, and make the best of me.'
With this philosophical rejoinder, the airy Goodchild clapped Mr.
Idle on the shoulder in a final manner, and they sat down to
'By-the-by,' said Goodchild, 'I have been over a lunatic asylum
too, since I have been out.'
'He has been,' exclaimed Thomas Idle, casting up his eyes, 'over a
lunatic asylum! Not content with being as great an Ass as Captain
Barclay in the pedestrian way, he makes a Lunacy Commissioner of
'An immense place,' said Goodchild, 'admirable offices, very good
arrangements, very good attendants; altogether a remarkable place.'
'And what did you see there?' asked Mr. Idle, adapting Hamlet's
advice to the occasion, and assuming the virtue of interest, though
he had it not.
'The usual thing,' said Francis Goodchild, with a sigh. 'Long
groves of blighted men-and-women-trees; interminable avenues of
hopeless faces; numbers, without the slightest power of really
combining for any earthly purpose; a society of human creatures who
have nothing in common but that they have all lost the power of
being humanly social with one another.'
'Take a glass of wine with me,' said Thomas Idle, 'and let US be
'In one gallery, Tom,' pursued Francis Goodchild, 'which looked to
me about the length of the Long Walk at Windsor, more or less--'
'Probably less,' observed Thomas Idle.
'In one gallery, which was otherwise clear of patients (for they
were all out), there was a poor little dark-chinned, meagre man,
with a perplexed brow and a pensive face, stooping low over the
matting on the floor, and picking out with his thumb and forefinger
the course of its fibres. The afternoon sun was slanting in at the
large end-window, and there were cross patches of light and shade
all down the vista, made by the unseen windows and the open doors
of the little sleeping-cells on either side. In about the centre
of the perspective, under an arch, regardless of the pleasant
weather, regardless of the solitude, regardless of approaching
footsteps, was the poor little dark-chinned, meagre man, poring
over the matting. "What are you doing there?" said my conductor,
when we came to him. He looked up, and pointed to the matting. "I
wouldn't do that, I think," said my conductor, kindly; "if I were
you, I would go and read, or I would lie down if I felt tired; but
I wouldn't do that." The patient considered a moment, and vacantly
answered, "No, sir, I won't; I'll--I'll go and read," and so he
lamely shuffled away into one of the little rooms. I turned my
head before we had gone many paces. He had already come out again,
and was again poring over the matting, and tracking out its fibres
with his thumb and forefinger. I stopped to look at him, and it
came into my mind, that probably the course of those fibres as they
plaited in and out, over and under, was the only course of things
in the whole wide world that it was left to him to understand--that
his darkening intellect had narrowed down to the small cleft of
light which showed him, "This piece was twisted this way, went in
here, passed under, came out there, was carried on away here to the
right where I now put my finger on it, and in this progress of
events, the thing was made and came to be here." Then, I wondered
whether he looked into the matting, next, to see if it could show
him anything of the process through which HE came to be there, so
strangely poring over it. Then, I thought how all of us, GOD help
us! in our different ways are poring over our bits of matting,
blindly enough, and what confusions and mysteries we make in the
pattern. I had a sadder fellow-feeling with the little dark-
chinned, meagre man, by that time, and I came away.'
Mr. Idle diverting the conversation to grouse, custards, and bride-
cake, Mr. Goodchild followed in the same direction. The bride-cake
was as bilious and indigestible as if a real Bride had cut it, and
the dinner it completed was an admirable performance.
The house was a genuine old house of a very quaint description,
teeming with old carvings, and beams, and panels, and having an
excellent old staircase, with a gallery or upper staircase, cut off
from it by a curious fence-work of old oak, or of the old Honduras
Mahogany wood. It was, and is, and will be, for many a long year
to come, a remarkably picturesque house; and a certain grave
mystery lurking in the depth of the old mahogany panels, as if they
were so many deep pools of dark water--such, indeed, as they had
been much among when they were trees--gave it a very mysterious
character after nightfall.
When Mr. Goodchild and Mr. Idle had first alighted at the door, and
stepped into the sombre, handsome old hall, they had been received
by half-a-dozen noiseless old men in black, all dressed exactly
alike, who glided up the stairs with the obliging landlord and
waiter--but without appearing to get into their way, or to mind
whether they did or no--and who had filed off to the right and left
on the old staircase, as the guests entered their sitting-room. It
was then broad, bright day. But, Mr. Goodchild had said, when
their door was shut, 'Who on earth are those old men?' And
afterwards, both on going out and coming in, he had noticed that
there were no old men to be seen.
Neither, had the old men, or any one of the old men, reappeared
since. The two friends had passed a night in the house, but had
seen nothing more of the old men. Mr. Goodchild, in rambling about
it, had looked along passages, and glanced in at doorways, but had
encountered no old men; neither did it appear that any old men
were, by any member of the establishment, missed or expected.
Another odd circumstance impressed itself on their attention. It
was, that the door of their sitting-room was never left untouched
for a quarter of an hour. It was opened with hesitation, opened
with confidence, opened a little way, opened a good way,--always
clapped-to again without a word of explanation. They were reading,
they were writing, they were eating, they were drinking, they were
talking, they were dozing; the door was always opened at an
unexpected moment, and they looked towards it, and it was clapped-
to again, and nobody was to be seen. When this had happened fifty
times or so, Mr. Goodchild had said to his companion, jestingly:
'I begin to think, Tom, there was something wrong with those six
Night had come again, and they had been writing for two or three
hours: writing, in short, a portion of the lazy notes from which
these lazy sheets are taken. They had left off writing, and
glasses were on the table between them. The house was closed and
quiet. Around the head of Thomas Idle, as he lay upon his sofa,
hovered light wreaths of fragrant smoke. The temples of Francis
Goodchild, as he leaned back in his chair, with his two hands
clasped behind his head, and his legs crossed, were similarly
They had been discussing several idle subjects of speculation, not
omitting the strange old men, and were still so occupied, when Mr.
Goodchild abruptly changed his attitude to wind up his watch. They
were just becoming drowsy enough to be stopped in their talk by any
such slight check. Thomas Idle, who was speaking at the moment,
paused and said, 'How goes it?'
'One,' said Goodchild.
As if he had ordered One old man, and the order were promptly
executed (truly, all orders were so, in that excellent hotel), the
door opened, and One old man stood there.
He did not come in, but stood with the door in his hand.
'One of the six, Tom, at last!' said Mr. Goodchild, in a surprised
whisper.--'Sir, your pleasure?'
'Sir, YOUR pleasure?' said the One old man.
'I didn't ring.'
'The bell did,' said the One old man.
He said BELL, in a deep, strong way, that would have expressed the
'I had the pleasure, I believe, of seeing you, yesterday?' said
'I cannot undertake to say for certain,' was the grim reply of the
One old man.
'I think you saw me? Did you not?'
'Saw YOU?' said the old man. 'O yes, I saw you. But, I see many
who never see me.'
A chilled, slow, earthy, fixed old man. A cadaverous old man of
measured speech. An old man who seemed as unable to wink, as if
his eyelids had been nailed to his forehead. An old man whose
eyes--two spots of fire--had no more motion than if they had been
connected with the back of his skull by screws driven through it,
and rivetted and bolted outside, among his grey hair.
The night had turned so cold, to Mr. Goodchild's sensations, that
he shivered. He remarked lightly, and half apologetically, 'I
think somebody is walking over my grave.'
'No,' said the weird old man, 'there is no one there.'
Mr. Goodchild looked at Idle, but Idle lay with his head enwreathed
'No one there?' said Goodchild.
'There is no one at your grave, I assure you,' said the old man.
He had come in and shut the door, and he now sat down. He did not
bend himself to sit, as other people do, but seemed to sink bolt
upright, as if in water, until the chair stopped him.
'My friend, Mr. Idle,' said Goodchild, extremely anxious to
introduce a third person into the conversation.
'I am,' said the old man, without looking at him, 'at Mr. Idle's
'If you are an old inhabitant of this place,' Francis Goodchild
'Perhaps you can decide a point my friend and I were in doubt upon,
this morning. They hang condemned criminals at the Castle, I
'_I_ believe so,' said the old man.
'Are their faces turned towards that noble prospect?'
'Your face is turned,' replied the old man, 'to the Castle wall.
When you are tied up, you see its stones expanding and contracting
violently, and a similar expansion and contraction seem to take
place in your own head and breast. Then, there is a rush of fire
and an earthquake, and the Castle springs into the air, and you
tumble down a precipice.'
His cravat appeared to trouble him. He put his hand to his throat,
and moved his neck from side to side. He was an old man of a
swollen character of face, and his nose was immoveably hitched up
on one side, as if by a little hook inserted in that nostril. Mr.
Goodchild felt exceedingly uncomfortable, and began to think the
night was hot, and not cold.
'A strong description, sir,' he observed.
'A strong sensation,' the old man rejoined.
Again, Mr. Goodchild looked to Mr. Thomas Idle; but Thomas lay on
his back with his face attentively turned towards the One old man,
and made no sign. At this time Mr. Goodchild believed that he saw
threads of fire stretch from the old man's eyes to his own, and
there attach themselves. (Mr. Goodchild writes the present
account of his experience, and, with the utmost solemnity, protests
that he had the strongest sensation upon him of being forced to
look at the old man along those two fiery films, from that moment.)
'I must tell it to you,' said the old man, with a ghastly and a
'What?' asked Francis Goodchild.
'You know where it took place. Yonder!'
Whether he pointed to the room above, or to the room below, or to
any room in that old house, or to a room in some other old house in
that old town, Mr. Goodchild was not, nor is, nor ever can be,
sure. He was confused by the circumstance that the right
forefinger of the One old man seemed to dip itself in one of the
threads of fire, light itself, and make a fiery start in the air,
as it pointed somewhere. Having pointed somewhere, it went out.
'You know she was a Bride,' said the old man.
'I know they still send up Bride-cake,' Mr. Goodchild faltered.
'This is a very oppressive air.'
'She was a Bride,' said the old man. 'She was a fair, flaxen-
haired, large-eyed girl, who had no character, no purpose. A weak,
credulous, incapable, helpless nothing. Not like her mother. No,
no. It was her father whose character she reflected.
'Her mother had taken care to secure everything to herself, for her
own life, when the father of this girl (a child at that time) died-
-of sheer helplessness; no other disorder--and then He renewed the
acquaintance that had once subsisted between the mother and Him.
He had been put aside for the flaxen-haired, large-eyed man (or
nonentity) with Money. He could overlook that for Money. He
wanted compensation in Money.
'So, he returned to the side of that woman the mother, made love to
her again, danced attendance on her, and submitted himself to her
whims. She wreaked upon him every whim she had, or could invent.
He bore it. And the more he bore, the more he wanted compensation
in Money, and the more he was resolved to have it.
'But, lo! Before he got it, she cheated him. In one of her
imperious states, she froze, and never thawed again. She put her
hands to her head one night, uttered a cry, stiffened, lay in that
attitude certain hours, and died. And he had got no compensation
from her in Money, yet. Blight and Murrain on her! Not a penny.
'He had hated her throughout that second pursuit, and had longed
for retaliation on her. He now counterfeited her signature to an
instrument, leaving all she had to leave, to her daughter--ten
years old then--to whom the property passed absolutely, and
appointing himself the daughter's Guardian. When He slid it under
the pillow of the bed on which she lay, He bent down in the deaf
ear of Death, and whispered: "Mistress Pride, I have determined a
long time that, dead or alive, you must make me compensation in
'So, now there were only two left. Which two were, He, and the
fair flaxen-haired, large-eyed foolish daughter, who afterwards
became the Bride.
'He put her to school. In a secret, dark, oppressive, ancient
house, he put her to school with a watchful and unscrupulous woman.
"My worthy lady," he said, "here is a mind to be formed; will you
help me to form it?" She accepted the trust. For which she, too,
wanted compensation in Money, and had it.
'The girl was formed in the fear of him, and in the conviction,
that there was no escape from him. She was taught, from the first,
to regard him as her future husband--the man who must marry her--
the destiny that overshadowed her--the appointed certainty that
could never be evaded. The poor fool was soft white wax in their
hands, and took the impression that they put upon her. It hardened
with time. It became a part of herself. Inseparable from herself,
and only to be torn away from her, by tearing life away from her.
'Eleven years she had lived in the dark house and its gloomy
garden. He was jealous of the very light and air getting to her,
and they kept her close. He stopped the wide chimneys, shaded the
little windows, left the strong-stemmed ivy to wander where it
would over the house-front, the moss to accumulate on the untrimmed
fruit-trees in the red-walled garden, the weeds to over-run its
green and yellow walks. He surrounded her with images of sorrow
and desolation. He caused her to be filled with fears of the place
and of the stories that were told of it, and then on pretext of
correcting them, to be left in it in solitude, or made to shrink
about it in the dark. When her mind was most depressed and fullest
of terrors, then, he would come out of one of the hiding-places
from which he overlooked her, and present himself as her sole
'Thus, by being from her childhood the one embodiment her life
presented to her of power to coerce and power to relieve, power to
bind and power to loose, the ascendency over her weakness was
secured. She was twenty-one years and twenty-one days old, when he
brought her home to the gloomy house, his half-witted, frightened,
and submissive Bride of three weeks.
'He had dismissed the governess by that time--what he had left to
do, he could best do alone--and they came back, upon a rain night,
to the scene of her long preparation. She turned to him upon the
threshold, as the rain was dripping from the porch, and said:
'"O sir, it is the Death-watch ticking for me!"
'"Well!" he answered. "And if it were?"
'"O sir!" she returned to him, "look kindly on me, and be merciful
to me! I beg your pardon. I will do anything you wish, if you
will only forgive me!"
'That had become the poor fool's constant song: "I beg your
pardon," and "Forgive me!"
'She was not worth hating; he felt nothing but contempt for her.
But, she had long been in the way, and he had long been weary, and
the work was near its end, and had to be worked out.
'"You fool," he said. "Go up the stairs!"
'She obeyed very quickly, murmuring, "I will do anything you wish!"
When he came into the Bride's Chamber, having been a little
retarded by the heavy fastenings of the great door (for they were
alone in the house, and he had arranged that the people who
attended on them should come and go in the day), he found her
withdrawn to the furthest corner, and there standing pressed
against the paneling as if she would have shrunk through it: her
flaxen hair all wild about her face, and her large eyes staring at
him in vague terror.
'"What are you afraid of? Come and sit down by me."
'"I will do anything you wish. I beg your pardon, sir. Forgive
me!" Her monotonous tune as usual.
'"Ellen, here is a writing that you must write out to-morrow, in
your own hand. You may as well be seen by others, busily engaged
upon it. When you have written it all fairly, and corrected all
mistakes, call in any two people there may be about the house, and
sign your name to it before them. Then, put it in your bosom to
keep it safe, and when I sit here again to-morrow night, give it to
'"I will do it all, with the greatest care. I will do anything you
'"Don't shake and tremble, then."
'"I will try my utmost not to do it--if you will only forgive me!"
'Next day, she sat down at her desk, and did as she had been told.
He often passed in and out of the room, to observe her, and always
saw her slowly and laboriously writing: repeating to herself the
words she copied, in appearance quite mechanically, and without
caring or endeavouring to comprehend them, so that she did her
task. He saw her follow the directions she had received, in all
particulars; and at night, when they were alone again in the same
Bride's Chamber, and he drew his chair to the hearth, she timidly
approached him from her distant seat, took the paper from her
bosom, and gave it into his hand.
'It secured all her possessions to him, in the event of her death.
He put her before him, face to face, that he might look at her
steadily; and he asked her, in so many plain words, neither fewer
nor more, did she know that?
'There were spots of ink upon the bosom of her white dress, and
they made her face look whiter and her eyes look larger as she
nodded her head. There were spots of ink upon the hand with which
she stood before him, nervously plaiting and folding her white
'He took her by the arm, and looked her, yet more closely and
steadily, in the face. "Now, die! I have done with you."
'She shrunk, and uttered a low, suppressed cry.
'"I am not going to kill you. I will not endanger my life for
'He sat before her in the gloomy Bride's Chamber, day after day,
night after night, looking the word at her when he did not utter
it. As often as her large unmeaning eyes were raised from the
hands in which she rocked her head, to the stern figure, sitting
with crossed arms and knitted forehead, in the chair, they read in
it, "Die!" When she dropped asleep in exhaustion, she was called
back to shuddering consciousness, by the whisper, "Die!" When she
fell upon her old entreaty to be pardoned, she was answered "Die!"
When she had out-watched and out-suffered the long night, and the
rising sun flamed into the sombre room, she heard it hailed with,
"Another day and not dead?--Die!"
'Shut up in the deserted mansion, aloof from all mankind, and
engaged alone in such a struggle without any respite, it came to
this--that either he must die, or she. He knew it very well, and
concentrated his strength against her feebleness. Hours upon hours
he held her by the arm when her arm was black where he held it, and
bade her Die!
'It was done, upon a windy morning, before sunrise. He computed
the time to be half-past four; but, his forgotten watch had run
down, and he could not be sure. She had broken away from him in
the night, with loud and sudden cries--the first of that kind to
which she had given vent--and he had had to put his hands over her
mouth. Since then, she had been quiet in the corner of the
paneling where she had sunk down; and he had left her, and had gone
back with his folded arms and his knitted forehead to his chair.
'Paler in the pale light, more colourless than ever in the leaden
dawn, he saw her coming, trailing herself along the floor towards
him--a white wreck of hair, and dress, and wild eyes, pushing
itself on by an irresolute and bending hand.
'"O, forgive me! I will do anything. O, sir, pray tell me I may
'"Are you so resolved? Is there no hope for me?"
'Her large eyes strained themselves with wonder and fear; wonder
and fear changed to reproach; reproach to blank nothing. It was
done. He was not at first so sure it was done, but that the
morning sun was hanging jewels in her hair--he saw the diamond,
emerald, and ruby, glittering among it in little points, as he
stood looking down at her--when he lifted her and laid her on her
'She was soon laid in the ground. And now they were all gone, and
he had compensated himself well.
'He had a mind to travel. Not that he meant to waste his Money,
for he was a pinching man and liked his Money dearly (liked nothing
else, indeed), but, that he had grown tired of the desolate house
and wished to turn his back upon it and have done with it. But,
the house was worth Money, and Money must not be thrown away. He
determined to sell it before he went. That it might look the less
wretched and bring a better price, he hired some labourers to work
in the overgrown garden; to cut out the dead wood, trim the ivy
that drooped in heavy masses over the windows and gables, and clear
the walks in which the weeds were growing mid-leg high.
'He worked, himself, along with them. He worked later than they
did, and, one evening at dusk, was left working alone, with his
bill-hook in his hand. One autumn evening, when the Bride was five
'"It grows too dark to work longer," he said to himself, "I must
give over for the night."
'He detested the house, and was loath to enter it. He looked at
the dark porch waiting for him like a tomb, and felt that it was an
accursed house. Near to the porch, and near to where he stood, was
a tree whose branches waved before the old bay-window of the
Bride's Chamber, where it had been done. The tree swung suddenly,
and made him start. It swung again, although the night was still.
Looking up into it, he saw a figure among the branches.
'It was the figure of a young man. The face looked down, as his
looked up; the branches cracked and swayed; the figure rapidly
descended, and slid upon its feet before him. A slender youth of
about her age, with long light brown hair.
'"What thief are you?" he said, seizing the youth by the collar.
'The young man, in shaking himself free, swung him a blow with his
arm across the face and throat. They closed, but the young man got
from him and stepped back, crying, with great eagerness and horror,
"Don't touch me! I would as lieve be touched by the Devil!"
'He stood still, with his bill-hook in his hand, looking at the
young man. For, the young man's look was the counterpart of her
last look, and he had not expected ever to see that again.
'"I am no thief. Even if I were, I would not have a coin of your
wealth, if it would buy me the Indies. You murderer!"
'"I climbed it," said the young man, pointing up into the tree,
"for the first time, nigh four years ago. I climbed it, to look at
her. I saw her. I spoke to her. I have climbed it, many a time,
to watch and listen for her. I was a boy, hidden among its leaves,
when from that bay-window she gave me this!"
'He showed a tress of flaxen hair, tied with a mourning ribbon.
'"Her life," said the young man, "was a life of mourning. She gave
me this, as a token of it, and a sign that she was dead to every
one but you. If I had been older, if I had seen her sooner, I
might have saved her from you. But, she was fast in the web when I
first climbed the tree, and what could I do then to break it!"
'In saying those words, he burst into a fit of sobbing and crying:
weakly at first, then passionately.
'"Murderer! I climbed the tree on the night when you brought her
back. I heard her, from the tree, speak of the Death-watch at the
door. I was three times in the tree while you were shut up with
her, slowly killing her. I saw her, from the tree, lie dead upon
her bed. I have watched you, from the tree, for proofs and traces
of your guilt. The manner of it, is a mystery to me yet, but I
will pursue you until you have rendered up your life to the
hangman. You shall never, until then, be rid of me. I loved her!
I can know no relenting towards you. Murderer, I loved her!"
'The youth was bare-headed, his hat having fluttered away in his
descent from the tree. He moved towards the gate. He had to pass-
-Him--to get to it. There was breadth for two old-fashioned
carriages abreast; and the youth's abhorrence, openly expressed in
every feature of his face and limb of his body, and very hard to
bear, had verge enough to keep itself at a distance in. He (by
which I mean the other) had not stirred hand or foot, since he had
stood still to look at the boy. He faced round, now, to follow him
with his eyes. As the back of the bare light-brown head was turned
to him, he saw a red curve stretch from his hand to it. He knew,
before he threw the bill-hook, where it had alighted--I say, had
alighted, and not, would alight; for, to his clear perception the
thing was done before he did it. It cleft the head, and it
remained there, and the boy lay on his face.
'He buried the body in the night, at the foot of the tree. As soon
as it was light in the morning, he worked at turning up all the
ground near the tree, and hacking and hewing at the neighbouring
bushes and undergrowth. When the labourers came, there was nothing
suspicious, and nothing suspected.
'But, he had, in a moment, defeated all his precautions, and
destroyed the triumph of the scheme he had so long concerted, and
so successfully worked out. He had got rid of the Bride, and had
acquired her fortune without endangering his life; but now, for a
death by which he had gained nothing, he had evermore to live with
a rope around his neck.
'Beyond this, he was chained to the house of gloom and horror,
which he could not endure. Being afraid to sell it or to quit it,
lest discovery should be made, he was forced to live in it. He
hired two old people, man and wife, for his servants; and dwelt in
it, and dreaded it. His great difficulty, for a long time, was the
garden. Whether he should keep it trim, whether he should suffer
it to fall into its former state of neglect, what would be the
least likely way of attracting attention to it?
'He took the middle course of gardening, himself, in his evening
leisure, and of then calling the old serving-man to help him; but,
of never letting him work there alone. And he made himself an
arbour over against the tree, where he could sit and see that it
'As the seasons changed, and the tree changed, his mind perceived
dangers that were always changing. In the leafy time, he perceived
that the upper boughs were growing into the form of the young man--
that they made the shape of him exactly, sitting in a forked branch
swinging in the wind. In the time of the falling leaves, he
perceived that they came down from the tree, forming tell-tale
letters on the path, or that they had a tendency to heap themselves
into a churchyard mound above the grave. In the winter, when the
tree was bare, he perceived that the boughs swung at him the ghost
of the blow the young man had given, and that they threatened him
openly. In the spring, when the sap was mounting in the trunk, he
asked himself, were the dried-up particles of blood mounting with
it: to make out more obviously this year than last, the leaf-
screened figure of the young man, swinging in the wind?
'However, he turned his Money over and over, and still over. He
was in the dark trade, the gold-dust trade, and most secret trades
that yielded great returns. In ten years, he had turned his Money
over, so many times, that the traders and shippers who had dealings
with him, absolutely did not lie--for once--when they declared that
he had increased his fortune, Twelve Hundred Per Cent.
'He possessed his riches one hundred years ago, when people could
be lost easily. He had heard who the youth was, from hearing of
the search that was made after him; but, it died away, and the
youth was forgotten.
'The annual round of changes in the tree had been repeated ten
times since the night of the burial at its foot, when there was a
great thunder-storm over this place. It broke at midnight, and
roared until morning. The first intelligence he heard from his old
serving-man that morning, was, that the tree had been struck by
'It had been riven down the stem, in a very surprising manner, and
the stem lay in two blighted shafts: one resting against the
house, and one against a portion of the old red garden-wall in
which its fall had made a gap. The fissure went down the tree to a
little above the earth, and there stopped. There was great
curiosity to see the tree, and, with most of his former fears
revived, he sat in his arbour--grown quite an old man--watching the
people who came to see it.
'They quickly began to come, in such dangerous numbers, that he
closed his garden-gate and refused to admit any more. But, there
were certain men of science who travelled from a distance to
examine the tree, and, in an evil hour, he let them in!--Blight and
Murrain on them, let them in!
'They wanted to dig up the ruin by the roots, and closely examine
it, and the earth about it. Never, while he lived! They offered
money for it. They! Men of science, whom he could have bought by
the gross, with a scratch of his pen! He showed them the garden-
gate again, and locked and barred it.
'But they were bent on doing what they wanted to do, and they
bribed the old serving-man--a thankless wretch who regularly
complained when he received his wages, of being underpaid--and they
stole into the garden by night with their lanterns, picks, and
shovels, and fell to at the tree. He was lying in a turret-room on
the other side of the house (the Bride's Chamber had been
unoccupied ever since), but he soon dreamed of picks and shovels,
and got up.
'He came to an upper window on that side, whence he could see their
lanterns, and them, and the loose earth in a heap which he had
himself disturbed and put back, when it was last turned to the air.
It was found! They had that minute lighted on it. They were all
bending over it. One of them said, "The skull is fractured;" and
another, "See here the bones;" and another, "See here the clothes;"
and then the first struck in again, and said, "A rusty bill-hook!"
'He became sensible, next day, that he was already put under a
strict watch, and that he could go nowhere without being followed.
Before a week was out, he was taken and laid in hold. The
circumstances were gradually pieced together against him, with a
desperate malignity, and an appalling ingenuity. But, see the
justice of men, and how it was extended to him! He was further
accused of having poisoned that girl in the Bride's Chamber. He,
who had carefully and expressly avoided imperilling a hair of his
head for her, and who had seen her die of her own incapacity!
'There was doubt for which of the two murders he should be first
tried; but, the real one was chosen, and he was found Guilty, and
cast for death. Bloodthirsty wretches! They would have made him
Guilty of anything, so set they were upon having his life.
'His money could do nothing to save him, and he was hanged. _I_ am
He, and I was hanged at Lancaster Castle with my face to the wall,
a hundred years ago!'
At this terrific announcement, Mr. Goodchild tried to rise and cry
out. But, the two fiery lines extending from the old man's eyes to
his own, kept him down, and he could not utter a sound. His sense
of hearing, however, was acute, and he could hear the clock strike
Two. No sooner had he heard the clock strike Two, than he saw
before him Two old men!
The eyes of each, connected with his eyes by two films of fire:
each, exactly like the other: each, addressing him at precisely
one and the same instant: each, gnashing the same teeth in the
same head, with the same twitched nostril above them, and the same
suffused expression around it. Two old men. Differing in nothing,
equally distinct to the sight, the copy no fainter than the
original, the second as real as the first.
'At what time,' said the Two old men, 'did you arrive at the door
'And there were Six old men upon the stairs!'
Mr. Goodchild having wiped the perspiration from his brow, or tried
to do it, the Two old men proceeded in one voice, and in the
'I had been anatomised, but had not yet had my skeleton put
together and re-hung on an iron hook, when it began to be whispered
that the Bride's Chamber was haunted. It WAS haunted, and I was
'WE were there. She and I were there. I, in the chair upon the
hearth; she, a white wreck again, trailing itself towards me on the
floor. But, I was the speaker no more, and the one word that she
said to me from midnight until dawn was, 'Live!'
'The youth was there, likewise. In the tree outside the window.
Coming and going in the moonlight, as the tree bent and gave. He
has, ever since, been there, peeping in at me in my torment;
revealing to me by snatches, in the pale lights and slatey shadows
where he comes and goes, bare-headed--a bill-hook, standing
edgewise in his hair.
'In the Bride's Chamber, every night from midnight until dawn--one
month in the year excepted, as I am going to tell you--he hides in
the tree, and she comes towards me on the floor; always
approaching; never coming nearer; always visible as if by moon-
light, whether the moon shines or no; always saying, from mid-night
until dawn, her one word, "Live!"
'But, in the month wherein I was forced out of this life--this
present month of thirty days--the Bride's Chamber is empty and
quiet. Not so my old dungeon. Not so the rooms where I was
restless and afraid, ten years. Both are fitfully haunted then.
At One in the morning. I am what you saw me when the clock struck
that hour--One old man. At Two in the morning, I am Two old men.
At Three, I am Three. By Twelve at noon, I am Twelve old men, One
for every hundred per cent. of old gain. Every one of the Twelve,
with Twelve times my old power of suffering and agony. From that
hour until Twelve at night, I, Twelve old men in anguish and
fearful foreboding, wait for the coming of the executioner. At
Twelve at night, I, Twelve old men turned off, swing invisible
outside Lancaster Castle, with Twelve faces to the wall!
'When the Bride's Chamber was first haunted, it was known to me
that this punishment would never cease, until I could make its
nature, and my story, known to two living men together. I waited
for the coming of two living men together into the Bride's Chamber,
years upon years. It was infused into my knowledge (of the means I
am ignorant) that if two living men, with their eyes open, could be
in the Bride's Chamber at One in the morning, they would see me
sitting in my chair.
'At length, the whispers that the room was spiritually troubled,
brought two men to try the adventure. I was scarcely struck upon
the hearth at midnight (I come there as if the Lightning blasted me
into being), when I heard them ascending the stairs. Next, I saw
them enter. One of them was a bold, gay, active man, in the prime
of life, some five and forty years of age; the other, a dozen years
younger. They brought provisions with them in a basket, and
bottles. A young woman accompanied them, with wood and coals for
the lighting of the fire. When she had lighted it, the bold, gay,
active man accompanied her along the gallery outside the room, to
see her safely down the staircase, and came back laughing.
'He locked the door, examined the chamber, put out the contents of
the basket on the table before the fire--little recking of me, in
my appointed station on the hearth, close to him--and filled the
glasses, and ate and drank. His companion did the same, and was as
cheerful and confident as he: though he was the leader. When they
had supped, they laid pistols on the table, turned to the fire, and
began to smoke their pipes of foreign make.
'They had travelled together, and had been much together, and had
an abundance of subjects in common. In the midst of their talking
and laughing, the younger man made a reference to the leader's
being always ready for any adventure; that one, or any other. He
replied in these words:
'"Not quite so, Dick; if I am afraid of nothing else, I am afraid
'His companion seeming to grow a little dull, asked him, in what
'"Why, thus," he returned. "Here is a Ghost to be disproved.
Well! I cannot answer for what my fancy might do if I were alone
here, or what tricks my senses might play with me if they had me to
themselves. But, in company with another man, and especially with
Dick, I would consent to outface all the Ghosts that were ever of
in the universe."
'"I had not the vanity to suppose that I was of so much importance
to-night," said the other.
'"Of so much," rejoined the leader, more seriously than he had
spoken yet, "that I would, for the reason I have given, on no
account have undertaken to pass the night here alone."
'It was within a few minutes of One. The head of the younger man
had drooped when he made his last remark, and it drooped lower now.
'"Keep awake, Dick!" said the leader, gaily. "The small hours are
'He tried, but his head drooped again.
'"Dick!" urged the leader. "Keep awake!"
'"I can't," he indistinctly muttered. "I don't know what strange
influence is stealing over me. I can't."
'His companion looked at him with a sudden horror, and I, in my
different way, felt a new horror also; for, it was on the stroke of
One, and I felt that the second watcher was yielding to me, and
that the curse was upon me that I must send him to sleep.
'"Get up and walk, Dick!" cried the leader. "Try!"
'It was in vain to go behind the slumber's chair and shake him.
One o'clock sounded, and I was present to the elder man, and he
stood transfixed before me.
'To him alone, I was obliged to relate my story, without hope of
benefit. To him alone, I was an awful phantom making a quite
useless confession. I foresee it will ever be the same. The two
living men together will never come to release me. When I appear,
the senses of one of the two will be locked in sleep; he will
neither see nor hear me; my communication will ever be made to a
solitary listener, and will ever be unserviceable. Woe! Woe!
As the Two old men, with these words, wrung their hands, it shot
into Mr. Goodchild's mind that he was in the terrible situation of
being virtually alone with the spectre, and that Mr. Idle's
immoveability was explained by his having been charmed asleep at
One o'clock. In the terror of this sudden discovery which produced
an indescribable dread, he struggled so hard to get free from the
four fiery threads, that he snapped them, after he had pulled them
out to a great width. Being then out of bonds, he caught up Mr.
Idle from the sofa and rushed down-stairs with him.
'What are you about, Francis?' demanded Mr. Idle. 'My bedroom is
not down here. What the deuce are you carrying me at all for? I
can walk with a stick now. I don't want to be carried. Put me
Mr. Goodchild put him down in the old hall, and looked about him
'What are you doing? Idiotically plunging at your own sex, and
rescuing them or perishing in the attempt?' asked Mr. Idle, in a
highly petulant state.
'The One old man!' cried Mr. Goodchild, distractedly,--'and the Two
Mr. Idle deigned no other reply than 'The One old woman, I think
you mean,' as he began hobbling his way back up the staircase, with
the assistance of its broad balustrade.
'I assure you, Tom,' began Mr. Goodchild, attending at his side,
'that since you fell asleep--'
'Come, I like that!' said Thomas Idle, 'I haven't closed an eye!'
With the peculiar sensitiveness on the subject of the disgraceful
action of going to sleep out of bed, which is the lot of all
mankind, Mr. Idle persisted in this declaration. The same peculiar
sensitiveness impelled Mr. Goodchild, on being taxed with the same
crime, to repudiate it with honourable resentment. The settlement
of the question of The One old man and The Two old men was thus
presently complicated, and soon made quite impracticable. Mr. Idle
said it was all Bride-cake, and fragments, newly arranged, of
things seen and thought about in the day. Mr. Goodchild said how
could that be, when he hadn't been asleep, and what right could Mr.
Idle have to say so, who had been asleep? Mr. Idle said he had
never been asleep, and never did go to sleep, and that Mr.
Goodchild, as a general rule, was always asleep. They consequently
parted for the rest of the night, at their bedroom doors, a little
ruffled. Mr. Goodchild's last words were, that he had had, in that
real and tangible old sitting-room of that real and tangible old
Inn (he supposed Mr. Idle denied its existence?), every sensation
and experience, the present record of which is now within a line or
two of completion; and that he would write it out and print it
every word. Mr. Idle returned that he might if he liked--and he
did like, and has now done it.
Two of the many passengers by a certain late Sunday evening train,
Mr. Thomas Idle and Mr. Francis Goodchild, yielded up their tickets
at a little rotten platform (converted into artificial touchwood by
smoke and ashes), deep in the manufacturing bosom of Yorkshire. A
mysterious bosom it appeared, upon a damp, dark, Sunday night,
dashed through in the train to the music of the whirling wheels,
the panting of the engine, and the part-singing of hundreds of
third-class excursionists, whose vocal efforts 'bobbed arayound'
from sacred to profane, from hymns, to our transatlantic sisters
the Yankee Gal and Mairy Anne, in a remarkable way. There seemed
to have been some large vocal gathering near to every lonely
station on the line. No town was visible, no village was visible,
no light was visible; but, a multitude got out singing, and a
multitude got in singing, and the second multitude took up the
hymns, and adopted our transatlantic sisters, and sang of their own
egregious wickedness, and of their bobbing arayound, and of how the
ship it was ready and the wind it was fair, and they were bayound
for the sea, Mairy Anne, until they in their turn became a getting-
out multitude, and were replaced by another getting-in multitude,
who did the same. And at every station, the getting-in multitude,
with an artistic reference to the completeness of their chorus,
incessantly cried, as with one voice while scuffling into the
carriages, 'We mun aa' gang toogither!'
The singing and the multitudes had trailed off as the lonely places
were left and the great towns were neared, and the way had lain as
silently as a train's way ever can, over the vague black streets of
the great gulfs of towns, and among their branchless woods of vague
black chimneys. These towns looked, in the cinderous wet, as
though they had one and all been on fire and were just put out--a
dreary and quenched panorama, many miles long.
Thus, Thomas and Francis got to Leeds; of which enterprising and
important commercial centre it may be observed with delicacy, that
you must either like it very much or not at all. Next day, the
first of the Race-Week, they took train to Doncaster.
And instantly the character, both of travellers and of luggage,
entirely changed, and no other business than race-business any
longer existed on the face of the earth. The talk was all of
horses and 'John Scott.' Guards whispered behind their hands to
station-masters, of horses and John Scott. Men in cut-away coats
and speckled cravats fastened with peculiar pins, and with the
large bones of their legs developed under tight trousers, so that
they should look as much as possible like horses' legs, paced up
and down by twos at junction-stations, speaking low and moodily of
horses and John Scott. The young clergyman in the black strait-
waistcoat, who occupied the middle seat of the carriage, expounded
in his peculiar pulpit-accent to the young and lovely Reverend Mrs.
Crinoline, who occupied the opposite middle-seat, a few passages of
rumour relative to 'Oartheth, my love, and Mithter John Eth-COTT.'
A bandy vagabond, with a head like a Dutch cheese, in a fustian
stable-suit, attending on a horse-box and going about the platforms
with a halter hanging round his neck like a Calais burgher of the
ancient period much degenerated, was courted by the best society,
by reason of what he had to hint, when not engaged in eating straw,
concerning 't'harses and Joon Scott.' The engine-driver himself,
as he applied one eye to his large stationary double-eye-glass on
the engine, seemed to keep the other open, sideways, upon horses
and John Scott.
Breaks and barriers at Doncaster Station to keep the crowd off;
temporary wooden avenues of ingress and egress, to help the crowd
on. Forty extra porters sent down for this present blessed Race-
Week, and all of them making up their betting-books in the lamp-
room or somewhere else, and none of them to come and touch the
luggage. Travellers disgorged into an open space, a howling
wilderness of idle men. All work but race-work at a stand-still;
all men at a stand-still. 'Ey my word! Deant ask noon o' us to
help wi' t'luggage. Bock your opinion loike a mon. Coom! Dang
it, coom, t'harses and Joon Scott!' In the midst of the idle men,
all the fly horses and omnibus horses of Doncaster and parts
adjacent, rampant, rearing, backing, plunging, shying--apparently
the result of their hearing of nothing but their own order and John
Grand Dramatic Company from London for the Race-Week. Poses
Plastiques in the Grand Assembly Room up the Stable-Yard at seven
and nine each evening, for the Race-Week. Grand Alliance Circus in
the field beyond the bridge, for the Race-Week. Grand Exhibition
of Aztec Lilliputians, important to all who want to be horrified
cheap, for the Race-Week. Lodgings, grand and not grand, but all
at grand prices, ranging from ten pounds to twenty, for the Grand
Rendered giddy enough by these things, Messieurs Idle and Goodchild
repaired to the quarters they had secured beforehand, and Mr.
Goodchild looked down from the window into the surging street.
'By Heaven, Tom!' cried he, after contemplating it, 'I am in the
Lunatic Asylum again, and these are all mad people under the charge
of a body of designing keepers!'
All through the Race-Week, Mr. Goodchild never divested himself of
this idea. Every day he looked out of window, with something of
the dread of Lemuel Gulliver looking down at men after he returned
home from the horse-country; and every day he saw the Lunatics,
horse-mad, betting-mad, drunken-mad, vice-mad, and the designing
Keepers always after them. The idea pervaded, like the second
colour in shot-silk, the whole of Mr. Goodchild's impressions.
They were much as follows:
Monday, mid-day. Races not to begin until to-morrow, but all the
mob-Lunatics out, crowding the pavements of the one main street of
pretty and pleasant Doncaster, crowding the road, particularly
crowding the outside of the Betting Rooms, whooping and shouting
loudly after all passing vehicles. Frightened lunatic horses
occasionally running away, with infinite clatter. All degrees of
men, from peers to paupers, betting incessantly. Keepers very
watchful, and taking all good chances. An awful family likeness
among the Keepers, to Mr. Palmer and Mr. Thurtell. With some
knowledge of expression and some acquaintance with heads (thus
writes Mr. Goodchild), I never have seen anywhere, so many
repetitions of one class of countenance and one character of head
(both evil) as in this street at this time. Cunning, covetousness,
secrecy, cold calculation, hard callousness and dire insensibility,
are the uniform Keeper characteristics. Mr. Palmer passes me five
times in five minutes, and, so I go down the street, the back of
Mr. Thurtell's skull is always going on before me.
Monday evening. Town lighted up; more Lunatics out than ever; a
complete choke and stoppage of the thoroughfare outside the Betting
Rooms. Keepers, having dined, pervade the Betting Rooms, and
sharply snap at the moneyed Lunatics. Some Keepers flushed with
drink, and some not, but all close and calculating. A vague
echoing roar of 't'harses' and 't'races' always rising in the air,
until midnight, at about which period it dies away in occasional
drunken songs and straggling yells. But, all night, some
unmannerly drinking-house in the neighbourhood opens its mouth at
intervals and spits out a man too drunk to be retained: who
thereupon makes what uproarious protest may be left in him, and
either falls asleep where he tumbles, or is carried off in custody.
Tuesday morning, at daybreak. A sudden rising, as it were out of
the earth, of all the obscene creatures, who sell 'correct cards of
the races.' They may have been coiled in corners, or sleeping on
door-steps, and, having all passed the night under the same set of
circumstances, may all want to circulate their blood at the same
time; but, however that may be, they spring into existence all at
once and together, as though a new Cadmus had sown a race-horse's
teeth. There is nobody up, to buy the cards; but, the cards are
madly cried. There is no patronage to quarrel for; but, they madly
quarrel and fight. Conspicuous among these hyaenas, as breakfast-
time discloses, is a fearful creature in the general semblance of a
man: shaken off his next-to-no legs by drink and devilry, bare-
headed and bare-footed, with a great shock of hair like a horrible
broom, and nothing on him but a ragged pair of trousers and a pink
glazed-calico coat--made on him--so very tight that it is as
evident that he could never take it off, as that he never does.
This hideous apparition, inconceivably drunk, has a terrible power
of making a gong-like imitation of the braying of an ass: which
feat requires that he should lay his right jaw in his begrimed
right paw, double himself up, and shake his bray out of himself,
with much staggering on his next-to-no legs, and much twirling of
his horrible broom, as if it were a mop. From the present minute,
when he comes in sight holding up his cards to the windows, and
hoarsely proposing purchase to My Lord, Your Excellency, Colonel,
the Noble Captain, and Your Honourable Worship--from the present
minute until the Grand Race-Week is finished, at all hours of the
morning, evening, day, and night, shall the town reverberate, at
capricious intervals, to the brays of this frightful animal the
No very great racing to-day, so no very great amount of vehicles:
though there is a good sprinkling, too: from farmers' carts and
gigs, to carriages with post-horses and to fours-in-hand, mostly
coming by the road from York, and passing on straight through the
main street to the Course. A walk in the wrong direction may be a
better thing for Mr. Goodchild to-day than the Course, so he walks
in the wrong direction. Everybody gone to the races. Only
children in the street. Grand Alliance Circus deserted; not one
Star-Rider left; omnibus which forms the Pay-Place, having on
separate panels Pay here for the Boxes, Pay here for the Pit, Pay
here for the Gallery, hove down in a corner and locked up; nobody
near the tent but the man on his knees on the grass, who is making
the paper balloons for the Star young gentlemen to jump through to-
night. A pleasant road, pleasantly wooded. No labourers working
in the fields; all gone 't'races.' The few late wenders of their
way 't'races,' who are yet left driving on the road, stare in
amazement at the recluse who is not going 't'races.' Roadside
innkeeper has gone 't'races.' Turnpike-man has gone 't'races.'
His thrifty wife, washing clothes at the toll-house door, is going
't'races' to-morrow. Perhaps there may be no one left to take the
toll to-morrow; who knows? Though assuredly that would be neither
turnpike-like nor Yorkshire-like. The very wind and dust seem to
be hurrying 't'races,' as they briskly pass the only wayfarer on
the road. In the distance, the Railway Engine, waiting at the
town-end, shrieks despairingly. Nothing but the difficulty of
getting off the Line, restrains that Engine from going 't'races,'
too, it is very clear.
At night, more Lunatics out than last night--and more Keepers. The
latter very active at the Betting Rooms, the street in front of
which is now impassable. Mr. Palmer as before. Mr. Thurtell as
before. Roar and uproar as before. Gradual subsidence as before.
Unmannerly drinking-house expectorates as before. Drunken negro-
melodists, Gong-donkey, and correct cards, in the night.
On Wednesday morning, the morning of the great St. Leger, it
becomes apparent that there has been a great influx since
yesterday, both of Lunatics and Keepers. The families of the
tradesmen over the way are no longer within human ken; their places
know them no more; ten, fifteen, and twenty guinea-lodgers fill
them. At the pastry-cook's second-floor window, a Keeper is
brushing Mr. Thurtell's hair--thinking it his own. In the wax-
chandler's attic, another Keeper is putting on Mr. Palmer's braces.
In the gunsmith's nursery, a Lunatic is shaving himself. In the
serious stationer's best sitting-room, three Lunatics are taking a
combination-breakfast, praising the (cook's) devil, and drinking
neat brandy in an atmosphere of last midnight's cigars. No family
sanctuary is free from our Angelic messengers--we put up at the
Angel--who in the guise of extra waiters for the grand Race-Week,
rattle in and out of the most secret chambers of everybody's house,
with dishes and tin covers, decanters, soda-water bottles, and
glasses. An hour later. Down the street and up the street, as far
as eyes can see and a good deal farther, there is a dense crowd;
outside the Betting Rooms it is like a great struggle at a theatre
door--in the days of theatres; or at the vestibule of the Spurgeon
temple--in the days of Spurgeon. An hour later. Fusing into this
crowd, and somehow getting through it, are all kinds of
conveyances, and all kinds of foot-passengers; carts, with brick-
makers and brick-makeresses jolting up and down on planks; drags,
with the needful grooms behind, sitting cross-armed in the needful
manner, and slanting themselves backward from the soles of their
boots at the needful angle; postboys, in the shining hats and smart
jackets of the olden time, when stokers were not; beautiful
Yorkshire horses, gallantly driven by their own breeders and
masters. Under every pole, and every shaft, and every horse, and
every wheel as it would seem, the Gong-donkey--metallically
braying, when not struggling for life, or whipped out of the way.
By one o'clock, all this stir has gone out of the streets, and
there is no one left in them but Francis Goodchild. Francis
Goodchild will not be left in them long; for, he too is on his way,
A most beautiful sight, Francis Goodchild finds 't'races' to be,
when he has left fair Doncaster behind him, and comes out on the
free course, with its agreeable prospect, its quaint Red House
oddly changing and turning as Francis turns, its green grass, and
fresh heath. A free course and an easy one, where Francis can roll
smoothly where he will, and can choose between the start, or the
coming-in, or the turn behind the brow of the hill, or any out-of-
the-way point where he lists to see the throbbing horses straining
every nerve, and making the sympathetic earth throb as they come
by. Francis much delights to be, not in the Grand Stand, but where
he can see it, rising against the sky with its vast tiers of little
white dots of faces, and its last high rows and corners of people,
looking like pins stuck into an enormous pincushion--not quite so
symmetrically as his orderly eye could wish, when people change or
go away. When the race is nearly run out, it is as good as the
race to him to see the flutter among the pins, and the change in
them from dark to light, as hats are taken off and waved. Not less
full of interest, the loud anticipation of the winner's name, the
swelling, and the final, roar; then, the quick dropping of all the
pins out of their places, the revelation of the shape of the bare
pincushion, and the closing-in of the whole host of Lunatics and
Keepers, in the rear of the three horses with bright-coloured
riders, who have not yet quite subdued their gallop though the
contest is over.
Mr. Goodchild would appear to have been by no means free from
lunacy himself at 't'races,' though not of the prevalent kind. He
is suspected by Mr. Idle to have fallen into a dreadful state
concerning a pair of little lilac gloves and a little bonnet that
he saw there. Mr. Idle asserts, that he did afterwards repeat at
the Angel, with an appearance of being lunatically seized, some
rhapsody to the following effect: 'O little lilac gloves! And O
winning little bonnet, making in conjunction with her golden hair
quite a Glory in the sunlight round the pretty head, why anything
in the world but you and me! Why may not this day's running-of
horses, to all the rest: of precious sands of life to me--be
prolonged through an everlasting autumn-sunshine, without a sunset!
Slave of the Lamp, or Ring, strike me yonder gallant equestrian
Clerk of the Course, in the scarlet coat, motionless on the green
grass for ages! Friendly Devil on Two Sticks, for ten times ten
thousands years, keep Blink-Bonny jibbing at the post, and let us
have no start! Arab drums, powerful of old to summon Genii in the
desert, sound of yourselves and raise a troop for me in the desert
of my heart, which shall so enchant this dusty barouche (with a
conspicuous excise-plate, resembling the Collector's door-plate at
a turnpike), that I, within it, loving the little lilac gloves, the
winning little bonnet, and the dear unknown-wearer with the golden
hair, may wait by her side for ever, to see a Great St. Leger that
shall never be run!'
Thursday morning. After a tremendous night of crowding, shouting,
drinking-house expectoration, Gong-donkey, and correct cards.
Symptoms of yesterday's gains in the way of drink, and of
yesterday's losses in the way of money, abundant. Money-losses
very great. As usual, nobody seems to have won; but, large losses
and many losers are unquestionable facts. Both Lunatics and
Keepers, in general very low. Several of both kinds look in at the
chemist's while Mr. Goodchild is making a purchase there, to be
'picked up.' One red-eyed Lunatic, flushed, faded, and disordered,
enters hurriedly and cries savagely, 'Hond us a gloss of sal
volatile in wather, or soom dommed thing o' thot sart!' Faces at
the Betting Rooms very long, and a tendency to bite nails
observable. Keepers likewise given this morning to standing about
solitary, with their hands in their pockets, looking down at their
boots as they fit them into cracks of the pavement, and then
looking up whistling and walking away. Grand Alliance Circus out,
in procession; buxom lady-member of Grand Alliance, in crimson
riding-habit, fresher to look at, even in her paint under the day
sky, than the cheeks of Lunatics or Keepers. Spanish Cavalier
appears to have lost yesterday, and jingles his bossed bridle with
disgust, as if he were paying. Reaction also apparent at the
Guildhall opposite, whence certain pickpockets come out handcuffed
together, with that peculiar walk which is never seen under any
other circumstances--a walk expressive of going to jail, game, but
still of jails being in bad taste and arbitrary, and how would YOU
like it if it was you instead of me, as it ought to be! Mid-day.
Town filled as yesterday, but not so full; and emptied as
yesterday, but not so empty. In the evening, Angel ordinary where
every Lunatic and Keeper has his modest daily meal of turtle,
venison, and wine, not so crowded as yesterday, and not so noisy.
At night, the theatre. More abstracted faces in it than one ever
sees at public assemblies; such faces wearing an expression which
strongly reminds Mr. Goodchild of the boys at school who were
'going up next,' with their arithmetic or mathematics. These boys
are, no doubt, going up to-morrow with THEIR sums and figures. Mr.
Palmer and Mr. Thurtell in the boxes O. P. Mr. Thurtell and Mr.
Palmer in the boxes P. S. The firm of Thurtell, Palmer, and
Thurtell, in the boxes Centre. A most odious tendency observable
in these distinguished gentlemen to put vile constructions on
sufficiently innocent phrases in the play, and then to applaud them
in a Satyr-like manner. Behind Mr. Goodchild, with a party of
other Lunatics and one Keeper, the express incarnation of the thing
called a 'gent.' A gentleman born; a gent manufactured. A
something with a scarf round its neck, and a slipshod speech
issuing from behind the scarf; more depraved, more foolish, more
ignorant, more unable to believe in any noble or good thing of any
kind, than the stupidest Bosjesman. The thing is but a boy in
years, and is addled with drink. To do its company justice, even
its company is ashamed of it, as it drawls its slang criticisms on
the representation, and inflames Mr. Goodchild with a burning
ardour to fling it into the pit. Its remarks are so horrible, that
Mr. Goodchild, for the moment, even doubts whether that IS a
wholesome Art, which sets women apart on a high floor before such a
thing as this, though as good as its own sisters, or its own
mother--whom Heaven forgive for bringing it into the world! But,
the consideration that a low nature must make a low world of its
own to live in, whatever the real materials, or it could no more
exist than any of us could without the sense of touch, brings Mr.
Goodchild to reason: the rather, because the thing soon drops its
downy chin upon its scarf, and slobbers itself asleep.
Friday Morning. Early fights. Gong-donkey, and correct cards.
Again, a great set towards the races, though not so great a set as
on Wednesday. Much packing going on too, upstairs at the gun-
smith's, the wax-chandler's, and the serious stationer's; for there
will be a heavy drift of Lunatics and Keepers to London by the
afternoon train. The course as pretty as ever; the great
pincushion as like a pincushion, but not nearly so full of pins;
whole rows of pins wanting. On the great event of the day, both
Lunatics and Keepers become inspired with rage; and there is a
violent scuffling, and a rushing at the losing jockey, and an
emergence of the said jockey from a swaying and menacing crowd,
protected by friends, and looking the worse for wear; which is a
rough proceeding, though animating to see from a pleasant distance.
After the great event, rills begin to flow from the pincushion
towards the railroad; the rills swell into rivers; the rivers soon
unite into a lake. The lake floats Mr. Goodchild into Doncaster,
past the Itinerant personage in black, by the way-side telling him
from the vantage ground of a legibly printed placard on a pole that
for all these things the Lord will bring him to judgment. No
turtle and venison ordinary this evening; that is all over. No
Betting at the rooms; nothing there but the plants in pots, which
have, all the week, been stood about the entry to give it an
innocent appearance, and which have sorely sickened by this time.
Saturday. Mr. Idle wishes to know at breakfast, what were those
dreadful groanings in his bedroom doorway in the night? Mr.
Goodchild answers, Nightmare. Mr. Idle repels the calumny, and
calls the waiter. The Angel is very sorry--had intended to
explain; but you see, gentlemen, there was a gentleman dined down-
stairs with two more, and he had lost a deal of money, and he would
drink a deal of wine, and in the night he 'took the horrors,' and
got up; and as his friends could do nothing with him he laid
himself down and groaned at Mr. Idle's door. 'And he DID groan
there,' Mr. Idle says; 'and you will please to imagine me inside,
"taking the horrors" too!'
So far, the picture of Doncaster on the occasion of its great
sporting anniversary, offers probably a general representation of
the social condition of the town, in the past as well as in the
present time. The sole local phenomenon of the current year, which
may be considered as entirely unprecedented in its way, and which
certainly claims, on that account, some slight share of notice,
consists in the actual existence of one remarkable individual, who
is sojourning in Doncaster, and who, neither directly nor
indirectly, has anything at all to do, in any capacity whatever,
with the racing amusements of the week. Ranging throughout the
entire crowd that fills the town, and including the inhabitants as
well as the visitors, nobody is to be found altogether disconnected
with the business of the day, excepting this one unparalleled man.
He does not bet on the races, like the sporting men. He does not
assist the races, like the jockeys, starters, judges, and grooms.
He does not look on at the races, like Mr. Goodchild and his
fellow-spectators. He does not profit by the races, like the
hotel-keepers and the tradespeople. He does not minister to the
necessities of the races, like the booth-keepers, the postilions,
the waiters, and the hawkers of Lists. He does not assist the
attractions of the races, like the actors at the theatre, the
riders at the circus, or the posturers at the Poses Plastiques.
Absolutely and literally, he is the only individual in Doncaster
who stands by the brink of the full-flowing race-stream, and is not
swept away by it in common with all the rest of his species. Who
is this modern hermit, this recluse of the St. Leger-week, this
inscrutably ungregarious being, who lives apart from the amusements
and activities of his fellow-creatures? Surely, there is little
difficulty in guessing that clearest and easiest of all riddles.
Who could he be, but Mr. Thomas Idle?
Thomas had suffered himself to be taken to Doncaster, just as he
would have suffered himself to be taken to any other place in the
habitable globe which would guarantee him the temporary possession
of a comfortable sofa to rest his ankle on. Once established at
the hotel, with his leg on one cushion and his back against
another, he formally declined taking the slightest interest in any
circumstance whatever connected with the races, or with the people
who were assembled to see them. Francis Goodchild, anxious that
the hours should pass by his crippled travelling-companion as
lightly as possible, suggested that his sofa should be moved to the
window, and that he should amuse himself by looking out at the
moving panorama of humanity, which the view from it of the
principal street presented. Thomas, however, steadily declined
profiting by the suggestion.
'The farther I am from the window,' he said, 'the better, Brother
Francis, I shall be pleased. I have nothing in common with the one
prevalent idea of all those people who are passing in the street.
Why should I care to look at them?'
'I hope I have nothing in common with the prevalent idea of a great
many of them, either,' answered Goodchild, thinking of the sporting
gentlemen whom he had met in the course of his wanderings about
Doncaster. 'But, surely, among all the people who are walking by
the house, at this very moment, you may find--'
'Not one living creature,' interposed Thomas, 'who is not, in one
way or another, interested in horses, and who is not, in a greater
or less degree, an admirer of them. Now, I hold opinions in
reference to these particular members of the quadruped creation,
which may lay claim (as I believe) to the disastrous distinction of
being unpartaken by any other human being, civilised or savage,
over the whole surface of the earth. Taking the horse as an animal
in the abstract, Francis, I cordially despise him from every point
'Thomas,' said Goodchild, 'confinement to the house has begun to
affect your biliary secretions. I shall go to the chemist's and
get you some physic.'
'I object,' continued Thomas, quietly possessing himself of his
friend's hat, which stood on a table near him,--'I object, first,
to the personal appearance of the horse. I protest against the
conventional idea of beauty, as attached to that animal. I think
his nose too long, his forehead too low, and his legs (except in
the case of the cart-horse) ridiculously thin by comparison with
the size of his body. Again, considering how big an animal he is,
I object to the contemptible delicacy of his constitution. Is he
not the sickliest creature in creation? Does any child catch cold
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