Part 21 out of 21
least, it will if the case is MY case.'
Mr Sampson immediately expressed his fervent Opinion that this
was 'more than human', and was brought upon his knees at Miss
It was the crowning addition indispensable to the full enjoyment of
both mother and daughter, to bear Mr Sampson, a grateful captive,
into the glittering halls he had mentioned, and to parade him
through the same, at once a living witness of their glory, and a
bright instance of their condescension. Ascending the staircase,
Miss Lavinia permitted him to walk at her side, with the air of
saying: 'Notwithstanding all these surroundings, I am yours as yet,
George. How long it may last is another question, but I am yours
as yet.' She also benignantly intimated to him, aloud, the nature of
the objects upon which he looked, and to which he was
unaccustomed: as, 'Exotics, George,' 'An aviary, George,' 'An
ormolu clock, George,' and the like. While, through the whole of
the decorations, Mrs Wilfer led the way with the bearing of a
Savage Chief, who would feel himself compromised by
manifesting the slightest token of surprise or admiration.
Indeed, the bearing of this impressive woman, throughout the day,
was a pattern to all impressive women under similar
circumstances. She renewed the acquaintance of Mr and Mrs
Boffin, as if Mr and Mrs Boffin had said of her what she had said
of them, and as if Time alone could quite wear her injury out. She
regarded every servant who approached her, as her sworn enemy,
expressly intending to offer her affronts with the dishes, and to
pour forth outrages on her moral feelings from the decanters. She
sat erect at table, on the right hand of her son-in-law, as half
suspecting poison in the viands, and as bearing up with native
force of character against other deadly ambushes. Her carriage
towards Bella was as a carriage towards a young lady of good
position, whom she had met in society a few years ago. Even
when, slightly thawing under the influence of sparkling
champagne, she related to her son-in-law some passages of
domestic interest concerning her papa, she infused into the
narrative such Arctic suggestions of her having been an
unappreciated blessing to mankind, since her papa's days, and also
of that gentleman's having been a frosty impersonation of a frosty
race, as struck cold to the very soles of the feet of the hearers. The
Inexhaustible being produced, staring, and evidently intending a
weak and washy smile shortly, no sooner beheld her, than it was
stricken spasmodic and inconsolable. When she took her leave at
last, it would have been hard to say whether it was with the air of
going to the scaffold herself, or of leaving the inmates of the house
for immediate execution. Yet, John Harmon enjoyed it all merrily,
and told his wife, when he and she were alone, that her natural
ways had never seemed so dearly natural as beside this foil, and
that although he did not dispute her being her father's daughter, he
should ever remain stedfast in the faith that she could not be her
This visit was, as has been said, a grand event. Another event, not
grand but deemed in the house a special one, occurred at about the
same period; and this was, the first interview between Mr Sloppy
and Miss Wren.
The dolls' dressmaker, being at work for the Inexhaustible upon a
full-dressed doll some two sizes larger than that young person, Mr
Sloppy undertook to call for it, and did so.
'Come in, sir,' said Miss Wren, who was working at her bench.
'And who may you be?'
Mr Sloppy introduced himself by name and buttons.
'Oh indeed!' cried Jenny. 'Ah! I have been looking forward to
knowing you. I heard of your distinguishing yourself.'
'Did you, Miss?' grinned Sloppy. 'I am sure I am glad to hear it,
but I don't know how.'
'Pitching somebody into a mud-cart,' said Miss Wren.
'Oh! That way!' cried Sloppy. 'Yes, Miss.' And threw back his
head and laughed.
'Bless us!' exclaimed Miss Wren, with a start. 'Don't open your
mouth as wide as that, young man, or it'll catch so, and not shut
again some day.'
Mr Sloppy opened it, if possible, wider, and kept it open until his
laugh was out.
'Why, you're like the giant,' said Miss Wren, 'when he came home
in the land of Beanstalk, and wanted Jack for supper.'
'Was he good-looking, Miss?' asked Sloppy.
'No,' said Miss Wren. 'Ugly.'
Her visitor glanced round the room--which had many comforts in it
now, that had not been in it before--and said: 'This is a pretty
'Glad you think so, sir,' returned Miss Wren. 'And what do you
think of Me?'
The honesty of Mr Sloppy being severely taxed by the question, he
twisted a button, grinned, and faltered.
'Out with it!' said Miss Wren, with an arch look. 'Don't you think
me a queer little comicality?' In shaking her head at him after
asking the question, she shook her hair down.
'Oh!' cried Sloppy, in a burst of admiration. 'What a lot, and what
Miss Wren, with her usual expressive hitch, went on with her
work. But, left her hair as it was; not displeased by the effect it
'You don't live here alone; do you, Miss?' asked Sloppy.
'No,' said Miss Wren, with a chop. 'Live here with my fairy
'With;' Mr Sloppy couldn't make it out; 'with who did you say,
'Well!' replied Miss Wren, more seriously. 'With my second father.
Or with my first, for that matter.' And she shook her head, and
drew a sigh. 'If you had known a poor child I used to have here,'
she added, 'you'd have understood me. But you didn't, and you
can't. All the better!'
'You must have been taught a long time,' said Sloppy, glancing at
the array of dolls in hand, 'before you came to work so neatly,
Miss, and with such a pretty taste.'
'Never was taught a stitch, young man!' returned the dress-maker,
tossing her head. 'Just gobbled and gobbled, till I found out how
to do it. Badly enough at first, but better now.'
'And here have I,' said Sloppy, in something of a self-reproachful
tone, 'been a learning and a learning, and here has Mr Boffin been
a paying and a paying, ever so long!'
'I have heard what your trade is,' observed Miss Wren; 'it's
Mr Sloppy nodded. 'Now that the Mounds is done with, it is. I'll
tell you what, Miss. I should like to make you something.'
'Much obliged. But what?'
'I could make you,' said Sloppy, surveying the room, 'I could make
you a handy set of nests to lay the dolls in. Or I could make you a
handy little set of drawers, to keep your silks and threads and
scraps in. Or I could turn you a rare handle for that crutch-stick, if
it belongs to him you call your father.'
'It belongs to me,' returned the little creature, with a quick flush of
her face and neck. 'I am lame.'
Poor Sloppy flushed too, for there was an instinctive delicacy
behind his buttons, and his own hand had struck it. He said,
perhaps, the best thing in the way of amends that could be said. 'I
am very glad it's yours, because I'd rather ornament it for you than
for any one else. Please may I look at it?'
Miss Wren was in the act of handing it to him over her bench,
when she paused. 'But you had better see me use it,' she said,
sharply. 'This is the way. Hoppetty, Kicketty, Pep-peg-peg. Not
pretty; is it?'
'It seems to me that you hardly want it at all,' said Sloppy.
The little dressmaker sat down again, and gave it into his hand,
saying, with that better look upon her, and with a smile: 'Thank
'And as concerning the nests and the drawers,' said Sloppy, after
measuring the handle on his sleeve, and softly standing the stick
aside against the wall, 'why, it would be a real pleasure to me. I've
heerd tell that you can sing most beautiful; and I should be better
paid with a song than with any money, for I always loved the likes
of that, and often giv' Mrs Higden and Johnny a comic song
myself, with "Spoken" in it. Though that's not your sort, I'll
'You are a very kind young man,' returned the dressmaker; 'a really
kind young man. I accept your offer.--I suppose He won't mind,'
she added as an afterthought, shrugging her shoulders; 'and if he
does, he may!'
'Meaning him that you call your father, Miss,' asked Sloppy.
'No, no,' replied Miss Wren. 'Him, Him, Him!'
'Him, him, him?' repeated Sloppy; staring about, as if for Him.
'Him who is coming to court and marry me,' returned Miss Wren.
'Dear me, how slow you are!'
'Oh! HIM!' said Sloppy. And seemed to turn thoughtful and a little
troubled. 'I never thought of him. When is he coming, Miss?'
'What a question!' cried Miss Wren. 'How should I know!'
'Where is he coming from, Miss?'
'Why, good gracious, how can I tell! He is coming from
somewhere or other, I suppose, and he is coming some day or
other, I suppose. I don't know any more about him, at present.'
This tickled Mr Sloppy as an extraordinarily good joke, and he
threw back his head and laughed with measureless enjoyment. At
the sight of him laughing in that absurd way, the dolls' dressmaker
laughed very heartily indeed. So they both laughed, till they were
'There, there, there!' said Miss Wren. 'For goodness' sake, stop,
Giant, or I shall be swallowed up alive, before I know it. And to
this minute you haven't said what you've come for.'
'I have come for little Miss Harmonses doll,' said Sloppy.
'I thought as much,' remarked Miss Wren, 'and here is little Miss
Harmonses doll waiting for you. She's folded up in silver paper,
you see, as if she was wrapped from head to foot in new Bank
notes. Take care of her, and there's my hand, and thank you again.'
'I'll take more care of her than if she was a gold image,' said
Sloppy, 'and there's both MY hands, Miss, and I'll soon come back
But, the greatest event of all, in the new life of Mr and Mrs John
Harmon, was a visit from Mr and Mrs Eugene Wrayburn. Sadly
wan and worn was the once gallant Eugene, and walked resting on
his wife's arm, and leaning heavily upon a stick. But, he was daily
growing stronger and better, and it was declared by the medical
attendants that he might not be much disfigured by-and-by. It was
a grand event, indeed, when Mr and Mrs Eugene Wrayburn came
to stay at Mr and Mrs John Harmon's house: where, by the way,
Mr and Mrs Boffin (exquisitely happy, and daily cruising about, to
look at shops,) were likewise staying indefinitely.
To Mr Eugene Wrayburn, in confidence, did Mrs John Harmon
impart what she had known of the state of his wife's affections, in
his reckless time. And to Mrs John Harmon, in confidence, did Mr
Eugene Wrayburn impart that, please God, she should see how his
wife had changed him!
'I make no protestations,' said Eugene; '--who does, who means
them!--I have made a resolution.'
'But would you believe, Bella,' interposed his wife, coming to
resume her nurse's place at his side, for he never got on well
without her: 'that on our wedding day he told me he almost
thought the best thing he could do, was to die?'
'As I didn't do it, Lizzie,' said Eugene, 'I'll do that better thing you
suggested--for your sake.'
That same afternoon, Eugene lying on his couch in his own room
upstairs, Lightwood came to chat with him, while Bella took his
wife out for a ride. 'Nothing short of force will make her go,
Eugene had said; so, Bella had playfully forced her.
'Dear old fellow,' Eugene began with Lightwood, reaching up his
hand, 'you couldn't have come at a better time, for my mind is full,
and I want to empty it. First, of my present, before I touch upon
my future. M. R. F., who is a much younger cavalier than I, and a
professed admirer of beauty, was so affable as to remark the other
day (he paid us a visit of two days up the river there, and much
objected to the accommodation of the hotel), that Lizzie ought to
have her portrait painted. Which, coming from M. R. F., may be
considered equivalent to a melodramatic blessing.'
'You are getting well,' said Mortimer, with a smile.
'Really,' said Eugene, 'I mean it. When M. R. F. said that, and
followed it up by rolling the claret (for which he called, and I
paid), in his mouth, and saying, "My dear son, why do you drink
this trash?" it was tantamount in him--to a paternal benediction
on our union, accompanied with a gush of tears. The coolness of
M. R. F. is not to be measured by ordinary standards.'
'True enough,' said Lightwood.
'That's all,' pursued Eugene, 'that I shall ever hear from M. R. F.
on the subject, and he will continue to saunter through the world
with his hat on one side. My marriage being thus solemnly
recognized at the family altar, I have no further trouble on that
score. Next, you really have done wonders for me, Mortimer, in
easing my money-perplexities, and with such a guardian and
steward beside me, as the preserver of my life (I am hardly strong
yet, you see, for I am not man enough to refer to her without a
trembling voice--she is so inexpressibly dear to me, Mortimer!),
the little that I can call my own will be more than it ever has been.
It need be more, for you know what it always has been in my
'Worse than nothing, I fancy, Eugene. My own small income (I
devoutly wish that my grandfather had left it to the Ocean rather
than to me!) has been an effective Something, in the way of
preventing me from turning to at Anything. And I think yours has
been much the same.'
'There spake the voice of wisdom,' said Eugene. 'We are shepherds
both. In turning to at last, we turn to in earnest. Let us say no
more of that, for a few years to come. Now, I have had an idea,
Mortimer, of taking myself and my wife to one of the colonies, and
working at my vocation there.'
'I should be lost without you, Eugene; but you may be right.'
'No,' said Eugene, emphatically. 'Not right. Wrong!'
He said it with such a lively--almost angry--flash, that Mortimer
showed himself greatly surprised.
'You think this thumped head of mine is excited?' Eugene went on,
with a high look; 'not so, believe me. I can say to you of the
healthful music of my pulse what Hamlet said of his. My blood is
up, but wholesomely up, when I think of it. Tell me! Shall I turn
coward to Lizzie, and sneak away with her, as if I were ashamed of
her! Where would your friend's part in this world be, Mortimer, if
she had turned coward to him, and on immeasurably better
'Honourable and stanch,' said Lightwood. 'And yet, Eugene--'
'And yet what, Mortimer?'
'And yet, are you sure that you might not feel (for her sake, I say
for her sake) any slight coldness towards her on the part of--
'O! You and I may well stumble at the word,' returned Eugene,
laughing. 'Do we mean our Tippins?'
'Perhaps we do,' said Mortimer, laughing also.
'Faith, we DO!' returned Eugene, with great animation. 'We may
hide behind the bush and beat about it, but we DO! Now, my wife
is something nearer to my heart, Mortimer, than Tippins is, and I
owe her a little more than I owe to Tippins, and I am rather
prouder of her than I ever was of Tippins. Therefore, I will fight it
out to the last gasp, with her and for her, here, in the open field.
When I hide her, or strike for her, faint-heartedly, in a hole or a
corner, do you whom I love next best upon earth, tell me what I
shall most righteously deserve to be told:--that she would have
done well to turn me over with her foot that night when I lay
bleeding to death, and spat in my dastard face.'
The glow that shone upon him as he spoke the words, so irradiated
his features that he looked, for the time, as though he had never
been mutilated. His friend responded as Eugene would have had
him respond, and they discoursed of the future until Lizzie came
back. After resuming her place at his side, and tenderly touching
his hands and his head, she said:
'Eugene, dear, you made me go out, but I ought to have stayed with
you. You are more flushed than you have been for many days.
What have you been doing?'
'Nothing,' replied Eugene, 'but looking forward to your coming
'And talking to Mr Lightwood,' said Lizzie, turning to him with a
smile. 'But it cannot have been Society that disturbed you.'
'Faith, my dear love!' retorted Eugene, in his old airy manner, as he
laughed and kissed her, 'I rather think it WAS Society though!'
The word ran so much in Mortimer Lightwood's thoughts as he
went home to the Temple that night, that he resolved to take a look
at Society, which he had not seen for a considerable period.
THE VOICE OF SOCIETY
Behoves Mortimer Lightwood, therefore, to answer a dinner card
from Mr and Mrs Veneering requesting the honour, and to signify
that Mr Mortimer Lightwood will be happy to have the other
honour. The Veneerings have been, as usual, indefatigably dealing
dinner cards to Society, and whoever desires to take a hand had
best be quick about it, for it is written in the Books of the Insolvent
Fates that Veneering shall make a resounding smash next week.
Yes. Having found out the clue to that great mystery how people
can contrive to live beyond their means, and having over-jobbed
his jobberies as legislator deputed to the Universe by the pure
electors of Pocket-Breaches, it shall come to pass next week that
Veneering will accept the Chiltern Hundreds, that the legal
gentleman in Britannia's confidence will again accept the Pocket-
Breaches Thousands, and that the Veneerings will retire to Calais,
there to live on Mrs Veneering's diamonds (in which Mr
Veneering, as a good husband, has from time to time invested
considerable sums), and to relate to Neptune and others, how that,
before Veneering retired from Parliament, the House of Commons
was composed of himself and the six hundred and fifty-seven
dearest and oldest friends he had in the world. It shall likewise
come to pass, at as nearly as possible the same period, that Society
will discover that it always did despise Veneering, and distrust
Veneering, and that when it went to Veneering's to dinner it
always had misgivings--though very secretly at the time, it would
seem, and in a perfectly private and confidential manner.
The next week's books of the Insolvent Fates, however, being not
yet opened, there is the usual rush to the Veneerings, of the people
who go to their house to dine with one another and not with them.
There is Lady Tippins. There are Podsnap the Great, and Mrs
Podsnap. There is Twemlow. There are Buffer, Boots, and
Brewer. There is the Contractor, who is Providence to five
hundred thousand men. There is the Chairman, travelling three
thousand miles per week. There is the brilliant genius who turned
the shares into that remarkably exact sum of three hundred and
seventy five thousand pounds, no shillings, and nopence.
To whom, add Mortimer Lightwood, coming in among them with
a reassumption of his old languid air, founded on Eugene, and
belonging to the days when he told the story of the man from
That fresh fairy, Tippins, all but screams at sight of her false
swain. She summons the deserter to her with her fan; but the
deserter, predetermined not to come, talks Britain with Podsnap.
Podsnap always talks Britain, and talks as if he were a sort of
Private Watchman employed, in the British interests, against the
rest of the world. 'We know what Russia means, sir,' says
Podsnap; 'we know what France wants; we see what America is up
to; but we know what England is. That's enough for us.'
However, when dinner is served, and Lightwood drops into his old
place over against Lady Tippins, she can be fended off no longer.
'Long banished Robinson Crusoe,' says the charmer, exchanging
salutations, 'how did you leave the Island?'
'Thank you,' says Lightwood. 'It made no complaint of being in
'Say, how did you leave the savages?' asks Lady Tippins.
'They were becoming civilized when I left Juan Fernandez,' says
Lightwood. 'At least they were eating one another, which looked
'Tormentor!' returns the dear young creature. 'You know what I
mean, and you trifle with my impatience. Tell me something,
immediately, about the married pair. You were at the wedding.'
'Was I, by-the-by?' Mortimer pretends, at great leisure, to consider.
'So I was!'
'How was the bride dressed? In rowing costume?'
Mortimer looks gloomy, and declines to answer.
'I hope she steered herself, skiffed herself, paddled herself,
larboarded and starboarded herself, or whatever the technical term
may be, to the ceremony?' proceeds the playful Tippins.
'However she got to it, she graced it,' says Mortimer.
Lady Tippins with a skittish little scream, attracts the general
attention. 'Graced it! Take care of me if I faint, Veneering. He
means to tell us, that a horrid female waterman is graceful!'
'Pardon me. I mean to tell you nothing, Lady Tippins,' replies
Lightwood. And keeps his word by eating his dinner with a show
of the utmost indifference.
'You shall not escape me in this way, you morose
backwoodsman,' retorts Lady Tippins. 'You shall not evade the
question, to screen your friend Eugene, who has made this
exhibition of himself. The knowledge shall be brought home to
you that such a ridiculous affair is condemned by the voice of
Society. My dear Mrs Veneering, do let us resolve ourselves into
a Committee of the whole House on the subject.'
Mrs Veneering, always charmed by this rattling sylph, cries. 'Oh
yes! Do let us resolve ourselves into a Committee of the whole
House! So delicious!' Veneering says, 'As many as are of that
opinion, say Aye,--contrary, No--the Ayes have it.' But nobody
takes the slightest notice of his joke.
'Now, I am Chairwoman of Committees!' cries Lady Tippins.
('What spirits she has!' exclaims Mrs Veneering; to whom likewise
'And this,' pursues the sprightly one, 'is a Committee of the whole
House to what-you-may-call-it--elicit, I suppose--the voice of
Society. The question before the Committee is, whether a young
man of very fair family, good appearance, and some talent, makes
a fool or a wise man of himself in marrying a female waterman,
turned factory girl.'
'Hardly so, I think,' the stubborn Mortimer strikes in. 'I take the
question to be, whether such a man as you describe, Lady Tippins,
does right or wrong in marrying a brave woman (I say nothing of
her beauty), who has saved his life, with a wonderful energy and
address; whom he knows to be virtuous, and possessed of
remarkable qualities; whom he has long admired, and who is
deeply attached to him.'
'But, excuse me,' says Podsnap, with his temper and his shirt-collar
about equally rumpled; 'was this young woman ever a female
'Never. But she sometimes rowed in a boat with her father, I
General sensation against the young woman. Brewer shakes his
head. Boots shakes his head. Buffer shakes his head.
'And now, Mr Lightwood, was she ever,' pursues Podsnap, with
his indignation rising high into those hair-brushes of his, 'a factory
'Never. But she had some employment in a paper mill, I believe.'
General sensation repeated. Brewer says, 'Oh dear!' Boots says,
'Oh dear!' Buffer says, 'Oh dear!' All, in a rumbling tone of
'Then all I have to say is,' returns Podsnap, putting the thing away
with his right arm, 'that my gorge rises against such a marriage--
that it offends and disgusts me--that it makes me sick--and that I
desire to know no more about it.'
('Now I wonder,' thinks Mortimer, amused, 'whether YOU are the
Voice of Society!')
'Hear, hear, hear!' cries Lady Tippins. 'Your opinion of this
MESALLIANCE, honourable colleagues of the honourable
member who has just sat down?'
Mrs Podsnap is of opinion that in these matters there should be an
equality of station and fortune, and that a man accustomed to
Society should look out for a woman accustomed to Society and
capable of bearing her part in it with--an ease and elegance of
carriage--that.' Mrs Podsnap stops there, delicately intimating
that every such man should look out for a fine woman as nearly
resembling herself as he may hope to discover.
('Now I wonder,' thinks Mortimer, 'whether you are the Voice!')
Lady Tippins next canvasses the Contractor, of five hundred
thousand power. It appears to this potentate, that what the man in
question should have done, would have been, to buy the young
woman a boat and a small annuity, and set her up for herself.
These things are a question of beefsteaks and porter. You buy the
young woman a boat. Very good. You buy her, at the same time,
a small annuity. You speak of that annuity in pounds sterling, but
it is in reality so many pounds of beefsteaks and so many pints of
porter. On the one hand, the young woman has the boat. On the
other hand, she consumes so many pounds of beefsteaks and so
many pints of porter. Those beefsteaks and that porter are the fuel
to that young woman's engine. She derives therefrom a certain
amount of power to row the boat; that power will produce so much
money; you add that to the small annuity; and thus you get at the
young woman's income. That (it seems to the Contractor) is the
way of looking at it.
The fair enslaver having fallen into one of her gentle sleeps during
the last exposition, nobody likes to wake her. Fortunately, she
comes awake of herself, and puts the question to the Wandering
Chairman. The Wanderer can only speak of the case as if it were
his own. If such a young woman as the young woman described,
had saved his own life, he would have been very much obliged to
her, wouldn't have married her, and would have got her a berth in
an Electric Telegraph Office, where young women answer very
What does the Genius of the three hundred and seventy-five
thousand pounds, no shillings, and nopence, think? He can't say
what he thinks, without asking: Had the young woman any
'No,' says Lightwood, in an uncompromising voice; 'no money.'
'Madness and moonshine,' is then the compressed verdict of the
Genius. 'A man may do anything lawful, for money. But for no
What does Boots say?
Boots says he wouldn't have done it under twenty thousand pound.
What does Brewer say?
Brewer says what Boots says.
What does Buffer say?
Buffer says he knows a man who married a bathing-woman, and
Lady Tippins fancies she has collected the suffrages of the whole
Committee (nobody dreaming of asking the Veneerings for their
opinion), when, looking round the table through her eyeglass, she
perceives Mr Twemlow with his hand to his forehead.
Good gracious! My Twemlow forgotten! My dearest! My own!
What is his vote?
Twemlow has the air of being ill at ease, as he takes his hand from
his forehead and replies.
'I am disposed to think,' says he, 'that this is a question of the
feelings of a gentleman.'
'A gentleman can have no feelings who contracts such a marriage,'
'Pardon me, sir,' says Twemlow, rather less mildly than usual, 'I
don't agree with you. If this gentleman's feelings of gratitude, of
respect, of admiration, and affection, induced him (as I presume
they did) to marry this lady--'
'This lady!' echoes Podsnap.
'Sir,' returns Twemlow, with his wristbands bristling a little, 'YOU
repeat the word; I repeat the word. This lady. What else would
you call her, if the gentleman were present?'
This being something in the nature of a poser for Podsnap, he
merely waves it away with a speechless wave.
'I say,' resumes Twemlow, 'if such feelings on the part of this
gentleman, induced this gentleman to marry this lady, I think he is
the greater gentleman for the action, and makes her the greater
lady. I beg to say, that when I use the word, gentleman, I use it in
the sense in which the degree may be attained by any man. The
feelings of a gentleman I hold sacred, and I confess I am not
comfortable when they are made the subject of sport or general
'I should like to know,' sneers Podsnap, 'whether your noble
relation would be of your opinion.'
'Mr Podsnap,' retorts Twemlow, 'permit me. He might be, or he
might not be. I cannot say. But, I could not allow even him to
dictate to me on a point of great delicacy, on which I feel very
Somehow, a canopy of wet blanket seems to descend upon the
company, and Lady Tippins was never known to turn so very
greedy or so very cross. Mortimer Lightwood alone brightens.
He has been asking himself, as to every other member of the
Committee in turn, 'I wonder whether you are the Voice!' But he
does not ask himself the question after Twemlow has spoken, and
he glances in Twemlow's direction as if he were grateful. When
the company disperse--by which time Mr and Mrs Veneering have
had quite as much as they want of the honour, and the guests have
had quite as much as THEY want of the other honour--Mortimer
sees Twemlow home, shakes hands with him cordially at parting,
and fares to the Temple, gaily.
IN LIEU OF PREFACE
When I devised this story, I foresaw the likelihood that a class of
readers and commentators would suppose that I was at great pains
to conceal exactly what I was at great pains to suggest: namely,
that Mr John Harmon was not slain, and that Mr John Rokesmith
was he. Pleasing myself with the idea that the supposition might
in part arise out of some ingenuity in the story, and thinking it
worth while, in the interests of art, to hint to an audience that an
artist (of whatever denomination) may perhaps be trusted to know
what he is about in his vocation, if they will concede him a little
patience, I was not alarmed by the anticipation.
To keep for a long time unsuspected, yet always working itself out,
another purpose originating in that leading incident, and turning it
to a pleasant and useful account at last, was at once the most
interesting and the most difficult part of my design. Its difficulty
was much enhanced by the mode of publication; for, it would be
very unreasonable to expect that many readers, pursuing a story in
portions from month to month through nineteen months, will, until
they have it before them complete, perceive the relations of its finer
threads to the whole pattern which is always before the eyes of the
story-weaver at his loom. Yet, that I hold the advantages of the
mode of publication to outweigh its disadvantages, may be easily
believed of one who revived it in the Pickwick Papers after long
disuse, and has pursued it ever since.
There is sometimes an odd disposition in this country to dispute as
improbable in fiction, what are the commonest experiences in fact.
Therefore, I note here, though it may not be at all necessary, that
there are hundreds of Will Cases (as they are called), far more
remarkable than that fancied in this book; and that the stores of the
Prerogative Office teem with instances of testators who have made,
changed, contradicted, hidden, forgotten, left cancelled, and left
uncancelled, each many more wills than were ever made by the
elder Mr Harmon of Harmony Jail.
In my social experiences since Mrs Betty Higden came upon the
scene and left it, I have found Circumlocutional champions
disposed to be warm with me on the subject of my view of the Poor
Law. Mr friend Mr Bounderby could never see any difference
between leaving the Coketown 'hands' exactly as they were, and
requiring them to be fed with turtle soup and venison out of gold
spoons. Idiotic propositions of a parallel nature have been freely
offered for my acceptance, and I have been called upon to admit
that I would give Poor Law relief to anybody, anywhere, anyhow.
Putting this nonsense aside, I have observed a suspicious tendency
in the champions to divide into two parties; the one, contending
that there are no deserving Poor who prefer death by slow
starvation and bitter weather, to the mercies of some Relieving
Officers and some Union Houses; the other, admitting that there
are such Poor, but denying that they have any cause or reason for
what they do. The records in our newspapers, the late exposure by
THE LANCET, and the common sense and senses of common
people, furnish too abundant evidence against both defences. But,
that my view of the Poor Law may not be mistaken or
misrepresented, I will state it. I believe there has been in England,
since the days of the STUARTS, no law so often infamously
administered, no law so often openly violated, no law habitually so
ill-supervised. In the majority of the shameful cases of disease
and death from destitution, that shock the Public and disgrace the
country, the illegality is quite equal to the inhumanity--and known
language could say no more of their lawlessness.
On Friday the Ninth of June in the present year, Mr and Mrs
Boffin (in their manuscript dress of receiving Mr and Mrs Lammle
at breakfast) were on the South Eastern Railway with me, in a
terribly destructive accident. When I had done what I could to help
others, I climbed back into my carriage--nearly turned over a
viaduct, and caught aslant upon the turn--to extricate the worthy
couple. They were much soiled, but otherwise unhurt. The same
happy result attended Miss Bella Wilfer on her wedding day, and
Mr Riderhood inspecting Bradley Headstone's red neckerchief as
he lay asleep. I remember with devout thankfulness that I can
never be much nearer parting company with my readers for ever,
than I was then, until there shall be written against my life, the two
words with which I have this day closed this book:--THE END.
September 2nd, 1865.