Part 7 out of 21
'Got no more,' was the rueful answer, with an accordant shake of
'Let me make sure. You know what you've got to do. Turn all
your pockets inside out, and leave 'em so!' cried the person of the
He obeyed. And if anything could have made him look more
abject or more dismally ridiculous than before, it would have been
his so displaying himself.
'Here's but seven and eightpence halfpenny!' exclaimed Miss
Wren, after reducing the heap to order. 'Oh, you prodigal old son!
Now you shall be starved.'
'No, don't starve me,' he urged, whimpering.
'If you were treated as you ought to be,' said Miss Wren, 'you'd be
fed upon the skewers of cats' meat;--only the skewers, after the
cats had had the meat. As it is, go to bed.'
When he stumbled out of the corner to comply, he again put out
both his hands, and pleaded: 'Circumstances over which no
'Get along with you to bed!' cried Miss Wren, snapping him up.
'Don't speak to me. I'm not going to forgive you. Go to bed this
Seeing another emphatic 'What' upon its way, he evaded it by
complying and was heard to shuffle heavily up stairs, and shut his
door, and throw himself on his bed. Within a little while
afterwards, Lizzie came down.
'Shall we have our supper, Jenny dear?'
'Ah! bless us and save us, we need have something to keep us
going,' returned Miss Jenny, shrugging her shoulders.
Lizzie laid a cloth upon the little bench (more handy for the
person of the house than an ordinary table), and put upon it such
plain fare as they were accustomed to have, and drew up a stool
'Now for supper! What are you thinking of, Jenny darling?'
'I was thinking,' she returned, coming out of a deep study, 'what I
would do to Him, if he should turn out a drunkard.'
'Oh, but he won't,' said Lizzie. 'You'll take care of that,
'I shall try to take care of it beforehand, but he might deceive me.
Oh, my dear, all those fellows with their tricks and their manners
do deceive!' With the little fist in full action. 'And if so, I tell you
what I think I'd do. When he was asleep, I'd make a spoon red
hot, and I'd have some boiling liquor bubbling in a saucepan, and
I'd take it out hissing, and I'd open his mouth with the other hand--
or perhaps he'd sleep with his mouth ready open--and I'd pour it
down his throat, and blister it and choke him.'
'I am sure you would do no such horrible thing,' said Lizzie.
'Shouldn't I? Well; perhaps I shouldn't. But I should like to!'
'I am equally sure you would not.'
'Not even like to? Well, you generally know best. Only you
haven't always lived among it as I have lived--and your back isn't
bad and your legs are not queer.'
As they went on with their supper, Lizzie tried to bring her round
to that prettier and better state. But, the charm was broken. The
person of the house was the person of a house full of sordid
shames and cares, with an upper room in which that abased figure
was infecting even innocent sleep with sensual brutality and
degradation. The doll's dressmaker had become a little quaint
shrew; of the world, worldly; of the earth, earthy.
Poor doll's dressmaker! How often so dragged down by hands
that should have raised her up; how often so misdirected when
losing her way on the eternal road, and asking guidance! Poor,
poor little doll's dressmaker!
A PIECE OF WORK
Britannia, sitting meditating one fine day (perhaps in the attitude
in which she is presented on the copper coinage), discovers all of
a sudden that she wants Veneering in Parliament. It occurs to her
that Veneering is 'a representative man'--which cannot in these
times be doubted--and that Her Majesty's faithful Commons are
incomplete without him. So, Britannia mentions to a legal
gentleman of her acquaintance that if Veneering will 'put down'
five thousand pounds, he may write a couple of initial letters after
his name at the extremely cheap rate of two thousand five
hundred per letter. It is clearly understood between Britannia and
the legal gentleman that nobody is to take up the five thousand
pounds, but that being put down they will disappear by magical
conjuration and enchantment.
The legal gentleman in Britannia's confidence going straight from
that lady to Veneering, thus commissioned, Veneering declares
himself highly flattered, but requires breathing time to ascertain
'whether his friends will rally round him.' Above all things, he
says, it behoves him to be clear, at a crisis of this importance,
'whether his friends will rally round him.' The legal gentleman, in
the interests of his client cannot allow much time for this purpose,
as the lady rather thinks she knows somebody prepared to put
down six thousand pounds; but he says he will give Veneering
Veneering then says to Mrs Veneering, 'We must work,' and
throws himself into a Hansom cab. Mrs Veneering in the same
moment relinquishes baby to Nurse; presses her aquiline hands
upon her brow, to arrange the throbbing intellect within; orders
out the carriage; and repeats in a distracted and devoted manner,
compounded of Ophelia and any self-immolating female of
antiquity you may prefer, 'We must work.'
Veneering having instructed his driver to charge at the Public in
the streets, like the Life-Guards at Waterloo, is driven furiously to
Duke Street, Saint James's. There, he finds Twemlow in his
lodgings, fresh from the hands of a secret artist who has been
doing something to his hair with yolks of eggs. The process
requiring that Twemlow shall, for two hours after the application,
allow his hair to stick upright and dry gradually, he is in an
appropriate state for the receipt of startling intelligence; looking
equally like the Monument on Fish Street Hill, and King Priam on
a certain incendiary occasion not wholly unknown as a neat point
from the classics.
'My dear Twemlow,' says Veneering, grasping both his bands, as
the dearest and oldest of my friends--'
('Then there can be no more doubt about it in future,' thinks
Twemlow, 'and I AM!')
'--Are you of opinion that your cousin, Lord Snigsworth, would
give his name as a Member of my Committee? I don't go so far as
to ask for his lordship; I only ask for his name. Do you think he
would give me his name?'
In sudden low spirits, Twemlow replies, 'I don't think he would.'
'My political opinions,' says Veneering, not previously aware of
having any, 'are identical with those of Lord Snigsworth, and
perhaps as a matter of public feeling and public principle, Lord
Snigswotth would give me his name.'
'It might be so,' says Twemlow; 'but--' And perplexedly scratching
his head, forgetful of the yolks of eggs, is the more discomfited by
being reminded how stickey he is.
'Between such old and intimate friends as ourselves,' pursues
Veneering, 'there should in such a case be no reserve. Promise me
that if I ask you to do anything for me which you don't like to do,
or feel the slightest difficulty in doing, you will freely tell me so.'
This, Twemlow is so kind as to promise, with every appearance of
most heartily intending to keep his word.
'Would you have any objection to write down to Snigsworthy
Park, and ask this favour of Lord Snigsworth? Of course if it were
granted I should know that I owed it solely to you; while at the
same time you would put it to Lord Snigsworth entirely upon
public grounds. Would you have any objection?'
Says Twemlow, with his hand to his forehead, 'You have exacted
a promise from me.'
'I have, my dear Twemlow.'
'And you expect me to keep it honourably.'
'I do, my dear Twemlow.'
'ON the whole, then;--observe me,' urges Twemlow with great
nicety, as if; in the case of its having been off the whole, he would
have done it directly--'ON the whole, I must beg you to excuse me
from addressing any communication to Lord Snigsworth.'
'Bless you, bless you!' says Veneering; horribly disappointed, but
grasping him by both hands again, in a particularly fervent
It is not to be wondered at that poor Twemlow should decline to
inflict a letter on his noble cousin (who has gout in the temper),
inasmuch as his noble cousin, who allows him a small annuity on
which he lives, takes it out of him, as the phrase goes, in extreme
severity; putting him, when he visits at Snigsworthy Park, under a
kind of martial law; ordaining that he shall hang his hat on a
particular peg, sit on a particular chair, talk on particular subjects
to particular people, and perform particular exercises: such as
sounding the praises of the Family Varnish (not to say Pictures),
and abstaining from the choicest of the Family Wines unless
expressly invited to partake.
'One thing, however, I CAN do for you,' says Twemlow; 'and that
is, work for you.'
Veneering blesses him again.
'I'll go,' says Twemlow, in a rising hurry of spirits, 'to the club;--let
us see now; what o'clock is it?'
'Twenty minutes to eleven.'
'I'll be,' says Twemlow, 'at the club by ten minutes to twelve, and
I'll never leave it all day.'
Veneering feels that his friends are rallying round him, and says,
'Thank you, thank you. I knew I could rely upon you. I said to
Anastatia before leaving home just now to come to you--of course
the first friend I have seen on a subject so momentous to me, my
dear Twemlow--I said to Anastatia, "We must work."'
'You were right, you were right,' replies Twemlow. 'Tell me. Is
'She is,' says Veneering.
'Good!' cries Twemlow, polite little gentleman that he is. 'A
woman's tact is invaluable. To have the dear sex with us, is to
have everything with us.'
'But you have not imparted to me,' remarks Veneering, 'what you
think of my entering the House of Commons?'
'I think,' rejoins Twemlow, feelingly, 'that it is the best club in
Veneering again blesses him, plunges down stairs, rushes into his
Hansom, and directs the driver to be up and at the British Public,
and to charge into the City.
Meanwhile Twemlow, in an increasing hurry of spirits, gets his
hair down as well as he can--which is not very well; for, after
these glutinous applications it is restive, and has a surface on it
somewhat in the nature of pastry--and gets to the club by the
appointed time. At the club he promptly secures a large window,
writing materials, and all the newspapers, and establishes himself;
immoveable, to be respectfully contemplated by Pall Mall.
Sometimes, when a man enters who nods to him, Twemlow says,
'Do you know Veneering?' Man says, 'No; member of the club?'
Twemlow says, 'Yes. Coming in for Pocket-Breaches.' Man says,
'Ah! Hope he may find it worth the money!' yawns, and saunters
out. Towards six o'clock of the afternoon, Twemlow begins to
persuade himself that he is positively jaded with work, and thinks
it much to be regretted that he was not brought up as a
From Twemlow's, Veneering dashes at Podsnap's place of
business. Finds Podsnap reading the paper, standing, and inclined
to be oratorical over the astonishing discovery he has made, that
Italy is not England. Respectfully entreats Podsnap's pardon for
stopping the flow of his words of wisdom, and informs him what is
in the wind. Tells Podsnap that their political opinions are
identical. Gives Podsnap to understand that he, Veneering,
formed his political opinions while sitting at the feet of him,
Podsnap. Seeks earnestly to know whether Podsnap 'will rally
Says Podsnap, something sternly, 'Now, first of all, Veneering, do
you ask my advice?'
Veneering falters that as so old and so dear a friend--
'Yes, yes, that's all very well,' says Podsnap; 'but have you made
up your mind to take this borough of Pocket-Breaches on its own
terms, or do you ask my opinion whether you shall take it or leave
Veneering repeats that his heart's desire and his soul's thirst are,
that Podsnap shall rally round him.
'Now, I'll be plain with you, Veneering,' says Podsnap, knitting his
brows. 'You will infer that I don't care about Parliament, from the
fact of my not being there?'
Why, of course Veneering knows that! Of course Veneering
knows that if Podsnap chose to go there, he would be there, in a
space of time that might be stated by the light and thoughtless as a
'It is not worth my while,' pursues Podsnap, becoming handsomely
mollified, 'and it is the reverse of important to my position. But it
is not my wish to set myself up as law for another man, differently
situated. You think it IS worth YOUR while, and IS important to
YOUR position. Is that so?'
Always with the proviso that Podsnap will rally round him,
Veneering thinks it is so.
'Then you don't ask my advice,' says Podsnap. 'Good. Then I
won't give it you. But you do ask my help. Good. Then I'll work
Veneering instantly blesses him, and apprises him that Twemlow is
already working. Podsnap does not quite approve that anybody
should be already working--regarding it rather in the light of a
liberty--but tolerates Twemlow, and says he is a well-connected
old female who will do no harm.
'I have nothing very particular to do to-day,' adds Podsnap, 'and
I'll mix with some influential people. I had engaged myself to
dinner, but I'll send Mrs Podsnap and get off going myself; and I'll
dine with you at eight. It's important we should report progress
and compare notes. Now, let me see. You ought to have a couple
of active energetic fellows, of gentlemanly manners, to go about.'
Veneering, after cogitation, thinks of Boots and Brewer.
'Whom I have met at your house,' says Podsnap. 'Yes. They'll do
very well. Let them each have a cab, and go about.'
Veneering immediately mentions what a blessing he feels it, to
possess a friend capable of such grand administrative suggestions,
and really is elated at this going about of Boots and Brewer, as an
idea wearing an electioneering aspect and looking desperately like
business. Leaving Podsnap, at a hand-gallop, he descends upon
Boots and Brewer, who enthusiastically rally round him by at
once bolting off in cabs, taking opposite directions. Then
Veneering repairs to the legal gentleman in Britannia's confidence,
and with him transacts some delicate affairs of business, and
issues an address to the independent electors of Pocket-Breaches,
announcing that he is coming among them for their suffrages, as
the mariner returns to the home of his early childhood: a phrase
which is none the worse for his never having been near the place
in his life, and not even now distinctly knowing where it is.
Mrs Veneering, during the same eventful hours, is not idle. No
sooner does the carriage turn out, all complete, than she turns into
it, all complete, and gives the word 'To Lady Tippins's.' That
charmer dwells over a staymaker's in the Belgravian Borders, with
a life-size model in the window on the ground floor of a
distinguished beauty in a blue petticoat, stay-lace in hand, looking
over her shoulder at the town in innocent surprise. As well she
may, to find herself dressing under the circumstances.
Lady Tippins at home? Lady Tippins at home, with the room
darkened, and her back (like the lady's at the ground-floor
window, though for a different reason) cunningly turned towards
the light. Lady Tippins is so surprised by seeing her dear Mrs
Veneering so early--in the middle of the night, the pretty creature
calls it--that her eyelids almost go up, under the influence of that
To whom Mrs Veneering incoherently communicates, how that
Veneering has been offered Pocket-Breaches; how that it is the
time for rallying round; how that Veneering has said 'We must
work'; how that she is here, as a wife and mother, to entreat Lady
Tippins to work; how that the carriage is at Lady Tippins's
disposal for purposes of work; how that she, proprietress of said
bran new elegant equipage, will return home on foot--on bleeding
feet if need be--to work (not specifying how), until she drops by
the side of baby's crib.
'My love,' says Lady Tippins, 'compose yourself; we'll bring him
in.' And Lady Tippins really does work, and work the Veneering
horses too; for she clatters about town all day, calling upon
everybody she knows, and showing her entertaining powers and
green fan to immense advantage, by rattling on with, My dear
soul, what do you think? What do you suppose me to be? You'll
never guess. I'm pretending to be an electioneering agent. And
for what place of all places? Pocket-Breaches. And why?
Because the dearest friend I have in the world has bought it. And
who is the dearest friend I have in the world? A man of the name
of Veneering. Not omitting his wife, who is the other dearest
friend I have in the world; and I positively declare I forgot their
baby, who is the other. And we are carrying on this little farce to
keep up appearances, and isn't it refreshing! Then, my precious
child, the fun of it is that nobody knows who these Veneerings
are, and that they know nobody, and that they have a house out of
the Tales of the Genii, and give dinners out of the Arabian Nights.
Curious to see 'em, my dear? Say you'll know 'em. Come and
dine with 'em. They shan't bore you. Say who shall meet you.
We'll make up a party of our own, and I'll engage that they shall
not interfere with you for one single moment. You really ought to
see their gold and silver camels. I call their dinner-table, the
Caravan. Do come and dine with my Veneerings, my own
Veneerings, my exclusive property, the dearest friends I have in
the world! And above all, my dear, be sure you promise me your
vote and interest and all sorts of plumpers for Pocket-Breaches;
for we couldn't think of spending sixpence on it, my love, and can
only consent to be brought in by the spontaneous thingummies of
the incorruptible whatdoyoucallums.
Now, the point of view seized by the bewitching Tippins, that this
same working and rallying round is to keep up appearances, may
have something in it, but not all the truth. More is done, or
considered to be done--which does as well--by taking cabs, and
'going about,' than the fair Tippins knew of. Many vast vague
reputations have been made, solely by taking cabs and going
about. This particularly obtains in all Parliamentary affairs.
Whether the business in hand be to get a man in, or get a man out,
or get a man over, or promote a railway, or jockey a railway, or
what else, nothing is understood to be so effectual as scouring
nowhere in a violent hurry--in short, as taking cabs and going
Probably because this reason is in the air, Twemlow, far from
being singular in his persuasion that he works like a Trojan, is
capped by Podsnap, who in his turn is capped by Boots and
Brewer. At eight o'clock when all these hard workers assemble to
dine at Veneering's, it is understood that the cabs of Boots and
Brewer mustn't leave the door, but that pails of water must be
brought from the nearest baiting-place, and cast over the horses'
legs on the very spot, lest Boots and Brewer should have instant
occasion to mount and away. Those fleet messengers require the
Analytical to see that their hats are deposited where they can be
laid hold of at an instant's notice; and they dine (remarkably well
though) with the air of firemen in charge of an engine, expecting
intelligence of some tremendous conflagration.
Mrs Veneering faintly remarks, as dinner opens, that many such
days would be too much for her.
'Many such days would be too much for all of us,' says Podsnap;
'but we'll bring him in!'
'We'll bring him in,' says Lady Tippins, sportively waving her
green fan. 'Veneering for ever!'
'We'll bring him in!' says Twemlow.
'We'll bring him in!' say Boots and Brewer.
Strictly speaking, it would be hard to show cause why they should
not bring him in, Pocket-Breaches having closed its little bargain,
and there being no opposition. However, it is agreed that they
must 'work' to the last, and that if they did not work, something
indefinite would happen. It is likewise agreed that they are all so
exhausted with the work behind them, and need to be so fortified
for the work before them, as to require peculiar strengthening
from Veneering's cellar. Therefore, the Analytical has orders to
produce the cream of the cream of his binns, and therefore it falls
out that rallying becomes rather a trying word for the occasion;
Lady Tippins being observed gamely to inculcate the necessity of
rearing round their dear Veneering; Podsnap advocating roaring
round him; Boots and Brewer declaring their intention of reeling
round him; and Veneering thanking his devoted friends one and
all, with great emotion, for rarullarulling round him.
In these inspiring moments, Brewer strikes out an idea which is
the great hit of the day. He consults his watch, and says (like Guy
Fawkes), he'll now go down to the House of Commons and see
how things look.
'I'll keep about the lobby for an hour or so,' says Brewer, with a
deeply mysterious countenance, 'and if things look well, I won't
come back, but will order my cab for nine in the morning.'
'You couldn't do better,' says Podsnap.
Veneering expresses his inability ever to acknowledge this last
service. Tears stand in Mrs Veneering's affectionate eyes. Boots
shows envy, loses ground, and is regarded as possessing a second-
rate mind. They all crowd to the door, to see Brewer off. Brewer
says to his driver, 'Now, is your horse pretty fresh?' eyeing the
animal with critical scrutiny. Driver says he's as fresh as butter.
'Put him along then,' says Brewer; 'House of Commons.' Driver
darts up, Brewer leaps in, they cheer him as he departs, and Mr
Podsnap says, 'Mark my words, sir. That's a man of resource;
that's a man to make his way in life.'
When the time comes for Veneering to deliver a neat and
appropriate stammer to the men of Pocket-Breaches, only
Podsnap and Twemlow accompany him by railway to that
sequestered spot. The legal gentleman is at the Pocket-Breaches
Branch Station, with an open carriage with a printed bill
'Veneering for ever' stuck upon it, as if it were a wall; and they
gloriously proceed, amidst the grins of the populace, to a feeble
little town hall on crutches, with some onions and bootlaces under
it, which the legal gentleman says are a Market; and from the
front window of that edifice Veneering speaks to the listening
earth. In the moment of his taking his hat off, Podsnap, as per
agreement made with Mrs Veneering, telegraphs to that wife and
mother, 'He's up.'
Veneering loses his way in the usual No Thoroughfares of speech,
and Podsnap and Twemlow say Hear hear! and sometimes, when
he can't by any means back himself out of some very unlucky No
Thoroughfare, 'He-a-a-r He-a-a-r!' with an air of facetious
conviction, as if the ingenuity of the thing gave them a sensation
of exquisite pleasure. But Veneering makes two remarkably good
points; so good, that they are supposed to have been suggested to
him by the legal gentleman in Britannia's confidence, while briefly
conferring on the stairs.
Point the first is this. Veneering institutes an original comparison
between the country, and a ship; pointedly calling the ship, the
Vessel of the State, and the Minister the Man at the Helm.
Veneering's object is to let Pocket-Breaches know that his friend
on his right (Podsnap) is a man of wealth. Consequently says he,
'And, gentlemen, when the timbers of the Vessel of the State are
unsound and the Man at the Helm is unskilful, would those great
Marine Insurers, who rank among our world-famed merchant-
princes--would they insure her, gentlemen? Would they
underwrite her? Would they incur a risk in her? Would they have
confidence in her? Why, gentlemen, if I appealed to my
honourable friend upon my right, himself among the greatest and
most respected of that great and much respected class, he would
Point the second is this. The telling fact that Twemlow is related
to Lord Snigsworth, must be let off. Veneering supposes a state of
public affairs that probably never could by any possibility exist
(though this is not quite certain, in consequence of his picture
being unintelligible to himself and everybody else), and thus
proceeds. 'Why, gentlemen, if I were to indicate such a
programme to any class of society, I say it would be received with
derision, would be pointed at by the finger of scorn. If I indicated
such a programme to any worthy and intelligent tradesman of your
town--nay, I will here be personal, and say Our town--what would
he reply? He would reply, "Away with it!" That's what HE would
reply, gentlemen. In his honest indignation he would reply,
"Away with it!" But suppose I mounted higher in the social scale.
Suppose I drew my arm through the arm of my respected friend
upon my left, and, walking with him through the ancestral woods
of his family, and under the spreading beeches of Snigsworthy
Park, approached the noble hall, crossed the courtyard, entered by
the door, went up the staircase, and, passing from room to room,
found myself at last in the august presence of my friend's near
kinsman, Lord Snigsworth. And suppose I said to that venerable
earl, "My Lord, I am here before your lordship, presented by your
lordship's near kinsman, my friend upon my left, to indicate that
programme;" what would his lordship answer? Why, he would
answer, "Away with it!" That's what he would answer, gentlemen.
"Away with it!" Unconsciously using, in his exalted sphere, the
exact language of the worthy and intelligent tradesman of our
town, the near and dear kinsman of my friend upon my left would
answer in his wrath, "Away with it!"'
Veneering finishes with this last success, and Mr Podsnap
telegraphs to Mrs Veneering, 'He's down.'
Then, dinner is had at the Hotel with the legal gentleman, and then
there are in due succession, nomination, and declaration. Finally
Mr Podsnap telegraphs to Mrs Veneering, 'We have brought him
Another gorgeous dinner awaits them on their return to the
Veneering halls, and Lady Tippins awaits them, and Boots and
Brewer await them. There is a modest assertion on everybody's
part that everybody single-handed 'brought him in'; but in the main
it is conceded by all, that that stroke of business on Brewer's part,
in going down to the house that night to see how things looked,
was the master-stroke.
A touching little incident is related by Mrs Veneering, in the
course of the evening. Mrs Veneering is habitually disposed to be
tearful, and has an extra disposition that way after her late
excitement. Previous to withdrawing from the dinner-table with
Lady Tippins, she says, in a pathetic and physically weak manner:
'You will all think it foolish of me, I know, but I must mention it.
As I sat by Baby's crib, on the night before the election, Baby was
very uneasy in her sleep.'
The Analytical chemist, who is gloomily looking on, has diabolical
impulses to suggest 'Wind' and throw up his situation; but
'After an interval almost convulsive, Baby curled her little hands
in one another and smiled.'
Mrs Veneering stopping here, Mr Podsnap deems it incumbent on
him to say: 'I wonder why!'
'Could it be, I asked myself,' says Mrs Veneering, looking about
her for her pocket-handkerchief, 'that the Fairies were telling
Baby that her papa would shortly be an M. P.?'
So overcome by the sentiment is Mrs Veneering, that they all get
up to make a clear stage for Veneering, who goes round the table
to the rescue, and bears her out backward, with her feet
impressively scraping the carpet: after remarking that her work
has been too much for her strength. Whether the fairies made any
mention of the five thousand pounds, and it disagreed with Baby,
is not speculated upon.
Poor little Twemlow, quite done up, is touched. and still continues
touched after he is safely housed over the livery-stable yard in
Duke Street, Saint James's. But there, upon his sofa, a tremendous
consideration breaks in upon the mild gentleman, putting all softer
considerations to the rout.
'Gracious heavens! Now I have time to think of it, he never saw
one of his constituents in all his days, until we saw them together!'
After having paced the room in distress of mind, with his hand to
his forehead, the innocent Twemlow returns to his sofa and
'I shall either go distracted, or die, of this man. He comes upon
me too late in life. I am not strong enough to bear him!'
To use the cold language of the world, Mrs Alfred Lammle rapidly
improved the acquaintance of Miss Podsnap. To use the warm
language of Mrs Lammle, she and her sweet Georgiana soon
became one: in heart, in mind, in sentiment, in soul.
Whenever Georgiana could escape from the thraldom of
Podsnappery; could throw off the bedclothes of the custard-
coloured phaeton, and get up; could shrink out of the range of her
mother's rocking, and (so to speak) rescue her poor little frosty
toes from being rocked over; she repaired to her friend, Mrs
Alfred Lammle. Mrs Podsnap by no means objected. As a
consciously 'splendid woman,' accustomed to overhear herself so
denominated by elderly osteologists pursuing their studies in
dinner society, Mrs Podsnap could dispense with her daughter.
Mr Podsnap, for his part, on being informed where Georgiana
was, swelled with patronage of the Lammles. That they, when
unable to lay hold of him, should respectfully grasp at the hem of
his mantle; that they, when they could not bask in the glory of him
the sun, should take up with the pale reflected light of the watery
young moon his daughter; appeared quite natural, becoming, and
proper. It gave him a better opinion of the discretion of the
Lammles than he had heretofore held, as showing that they
appreciated the value of the connexion. So, Georgiana repairing
to her friend, Mr Podsnap went out to dinner, and to dinner, and
yet to dinner, arm in arm with Mrs Podsnap: settling his obstinate
head in his cravat and shirt-collar, much as if he were performing
on the Pandean pipes, in his own honour, the triumphal march,
See the conquering Podsnap comes, Sound the trumpets, beat the
It was a trait in Mr Podsnap's character (and in one form or other
it will be generally seen to pervade the depths and shallows of
Podsnappery), that he could not endure a hint of disparagement of
any friend or acquaintance of his. 'How dare you?' he would seem
to say, in such a case. 'What do you mean? I have licensed this
person. This person has taken out MY certificate. Through this
person you strike at me, Podsnap the Great. And it is not that I
particularly care for the person's dignity, but that I do most
particularly care for Podsnap's.' Hence, if any one in his presence
had presumed to doubt the responsibility of the Lammles, he
would have been mightily huffed. Not that any one did, for
Veneering, M.P., was always the authority for their being very
rich, and perhaps believed it. As indeed he might, if he chose, for
anything he knew of the matter.
Mr and Mrs Lammle's house in Sackville Street, Piccadilly, was
but a temporary residence. It has done well enough, they
informed their friends, for Mr Lammle when a bachelor, but it
would not do now. So, they were always looking at palatial
residences in the best situations, and always very nearly taking or
buying one, but never quite concluding the bargain. Hereby they
made for themselves a shining little reputation apart. People said,
on seeing a vacant palatial residence, 'The very thing for the
Lammles!' and wrote to the Lammles about it, and the Lammles
always went to look at it, but unfortunately it never exactly
answered. In short, they suffered so many disappointments, that
they began to think it would he necessary to build a palatial
residence. And hereby they made another shining reputation;
many persons of their acquaintance becoming by anticipation
dissatisfied with their own houses, and envious of the non-existent
The handsome fittings and furnishings of the house in Sackville
Street were piled thick and high over the skeleton up-stairs, and if
it ever whispered from under its load of upholstery, 'Here I am in
the closet!' it was to very few ears, and certainly never to Miss
Podsnap's. What Miss Podsnap was particularly charmed with,
next to the graces of her friend, was the happiness of her friend's
married life. This was frequently their theme of conversation.
'I am sure,' said Miss Podsnap, 'Mr Lammle is like a lover. At
least I--I should think he was.'
'Georgiana, darling!' said Mrs Lammle, holding up a forefinger,
'Oh my goodness me!' exclaimed Miss Podsnap, reddening. 'What
have I said now?'
'Alfred, you know,' hinted Mrs Lammle, playfully shaking her
head. 'You were never to say Mr Lammle any more, Georgiana.'
'Oh! Alfred, then. I am glad it's no worse. I was afraid I had said
something shocking. I am always saying something wrong to ma.'
'To me, Georgiana dearest?'
'No, not to you; you are not ma. I wish you were.'
Mrs Lammle bestowed a sweet and loving smile upon her friend,
which Miss Podsnap returned as she best could. They sat at lunch
in Mrs Lammle's own boudoir.
'And so, dearest Georgiana, Alfred is like your notion of a lover?'
'I don't say that, Sophronia,' Georgiana replied, beginning to
conceal her elbows. 'I haven't any notion of a lover. The dreadful
wretches that ma brings up at places to torment me, are not lovers.
I only mean that Mr--'
'Again, dearest Georgiana?'
'Sounds much better, darling.'
'--Loves you so. He always treats you with such delicate gallantry
and attention. Now, don't he?'
'Truly, my dear,' said Mrs Lammle, with a rather singular
expression crossing her face. 'I believe that he loves me, fully as
much as I love him.'
'Oh, what happiness!' exclaimed Miss Podsnap.
'But do you know, my Georgiana,' Mrs Lammle resumed
presently, 'that there is something suspicious in your enthusiastic
sympathy with Alfred's tenderness?'
'Good gracious no, I hope not!'
'Doesn't it rather suggest,' said Mrs Lammle archly, 'that my
Georgiana's little heart is--'
'Oh don't!' Miss Podsnap blushingly besought her. 'Please don't!
I assure you, Sophronia, that I only praise Alfred, because he is
your husband and so fond of you.'
Sophronia's glance was as if a rather new light broke in upon her.
It shaded off into a cool smile, as she said, with her eyes upon her
lunch, and her eyebrows raised:
'You are quite wrong, my love, in your guess at my meaning.
What I insinuated was, that my Georgiana's little heart was
growing conscious of a vacancy.'
'No, no, no,' said Georgiana. 'I wouldn't have anybody say
anything to me in that way for I don't know how many thousand
'In what way, my Georgiana?' inquired Mrs Lammle, still smiling
coolly with her eyes upon her lunch, and her eyebrows raised.
'YOU know,' returned poor little Miss Podsnap. 'I think I should
go out of my mind, Sophronia, with vexation and shyness and
detestation, if anybody did. It's enough for me to see how loving
you and your husband are. That's a different thing. I couldn't
bear to have anything of that sort going on with myself. I should
beg and pray to--to have the person taken away and trampled
Ah! here was Alfred. Having stolen in unobserved, he playfully
leaned on the back of Sophronia's chair, and, as Miss Podsnap saw
him, put one of Sophronia's wandering locks to his lips, and waved
a kiss from it towards Miss Podsnap.
'What is this about husbands and detestations?' inquired the
'Why, they say,' returned his wife, 'that listeners never hear any
good of themselves; though you--but pray how long have you
been here, sir?'
'This instant arrived, my own.'
'Then I may go on--though if you had been here but a moment or
two sooner, you would have heard your praises sounded by
'Only, if they were to be called praises at all which I really don't
think they were,' explained Miss Podsnap in a flutter, 'for being so
devoted to Sophronia.'
'Sophronia!' murmured Alfred. 'My life!' and kissed her hand. In
return for which she kissed his watch-chain.
'But it was not I who was to be taken away and trampled upon, I
hope?' said Alfred, drawing a seat between them.
'Ask Georgiana, my soul,' replied his wife.
Alfred touchingly appealed to Georgiana.
'Oh, it was nobody,' replied Miss Podsnap. 'It was nonsense.'
'But if you are determined to know, Mr Inquisitive Pet, as I
suppose you are,' said the happy and fond Sophronia, smiling, 'it
was any one who should venture to aspire to Georgiana.'
'Sophronia, my love,' remonstrated Mr Lammle, becoming graver,
'you are not serious?'
'Alfred, my love,' returned his wife, 'I dare say Georgiana was not,
but I am.'
'Now this,' said Mr Lammle, 'shows the accidental combinations
that there are in things! Could you believe, my Ownest, that I
came in here with the name of an aspirant to our Georgiana on my
'Of course I could believe, Alfred,' said Mrs Lammle, 'anything
that YOU told me.'
'You dear one! And I anything that YOU told me.'
How delightful those interchanges, and the looks accompanying
them! Now, if the skeleton up-stairs had taken that opportunity,
for instance, of calling out 'Here I am, suffocating in the closet!'
'I give you my honour, my dear Sophronia--'
'And I know what that is, love,' said she.
'You do, my darling--that I came into the room all but uttering
young Fledgeby's name. Tell Georgiana, dearest, about young
'Oh no, don't! Please don't!' cried Miss Podsnap, putting her
fingers in her ears. 'I'd rather not.'
Mrs Lammle laughed in her gayest manner, and, removing her
Georgiana's unresisting hands, and playfully holding them in her
own at arms' length, sometimes near together and sometimes wide
apart, went on:
'You must know, you dearly beloved little goose, that once upon a
time there was a certain person called young Fledgeby. And this
young Fledgeby, who was of an excellent family and rich, was
known to two other certain persons, dearly attached to one
another and called Mr and Mrs Alfred Lammle. So this young
Fledgeby, being one night at the play, there sees with Mr and Mrs
Alfred Lammle, a certain heroine called--'
'No, don't say Georgiana Podsnap!' pleaded that young lady
almost in tears. 'Please don't. Oh do do do say somebody else!
Not Georgiana Podsnap. Oh don't, don't, don't!'
'No other,' said Mrs Lammle, laughing airily, and, full of
affectionate blandishments, opening and closing Georgiana's arms
like a pair of compasses, than my little Georgiana Podsnap. So
this young Fledgeby goes to that Alfred Lammle and says--'
'Oh ple-e-e-ease don't!' Georgiana, as if the supplication were
being squeezed out of her by powerful compression. 'I so hate
him for saying it!'
'For saying what, my dear?' laughed Mrs Lammle.
'Oh, I don't know what he said,' cried Georgiana wildly, 'but I hate
him all the same for saying it.'
'My dear,' said Mrs Lammle, always laughing in her most
captivating way, 'the poor young fellow only says that he is
stricken all of a heap.'
'Oh, what shall I ever do!' interposed Georgiana. 'Oh my goodness
what a Fool he must be!'
'--And implores to be asked to dinner, and to make a fourth at the
play another time. And so he dines to-morrow and goes to the
Opera with us. That's all. Except, my dear Georgiana--and what
will you think of this!--that he is infinitely shyer than you, and far
more afraid of you than you ever were of any one in all your
In perturbation of mind Miss Podsnap still fumed and plucked at
her hands a little, but could not help laughing at the notion of
anybody's being afraid of her. With that advantage, Sophronia
flattered her and rallied her more successfully, and then the
insinuating Alfred flattered her and rallied her, and promised that
at any moment when she might require that service at his hands,
he would take young Fledgeby out and trample on him. Thus it
remained amicably understood that young Fledgeby was to come
to admire, and that Georgiana was to come to be admired; and
Georgiana with the entirely new sensation in her breast of having
that prospect before her, and with many kisses from her dear
Sophronia in present possession, preceded six feet one of
discontented footman (an amount of the article that always came
for her when she walked home) to her father's dwelling.
The happy pair being left together, Mrs Lammle said to her
'If I understand this girl, sir, your dangerous fascinations have
produced some effect upon her. I mention the conquest in good
time because I apprehend your scheme to be more important to
you than your vanity.'
There was a mirror on the wall before them, and her eyes just
caught him smirking in it. She gave the reflected image a look of
the deepest disdain, and the image received it in the glass. Next
moment they quietly eyed each other, as if they, the principals,
had had no part in that expressive transaction.
It may have been that Mrs Lammle tried in some manner to
excuse her conduct to herself by depreciating the poor little victim
of whom she spoke with acrimonious contempt. It may have been
too that in this she did not quite succeed, for it is very difficult to
resist confidence, and she knew she had Georgiana's.
Nothing more was said between the happy pair. Perhaps
conspirators who have once established an understanding, may
not be over-fond of repeating the terms and objects of their
conspiracy. Next day came; came Georgiana; and came
Georgiana had by this time seen a good deal of the house and its
frequenters. As there was a certain handsome room with a billiard
table in it--on the ground floor, eating out a backyard--which
might have been Mr Lammle's office, or library, but was called by
neither name, but simply Mr Lammle's room, so it would have
been hard for stronger female heads than Georgiana's to determine
whether its frequenters were men of pleasure or men of business.
Between the room and the men there were strong points of
general resemblance. Both were too gaudy, too slangey, too
odorous of cigars, and too much given to horseflesh; the latter
characteristic being exemplified in the room by its decorations,
and in the men by their conversation. High-stepping horses
seemed necessary to all Mr Lammle's friends--as necessary as
their transaction of business together in a gipsy way at untimely
hours of the morning and evening, and in rushes and snatches.
There were friends who seemed to be always coming and going
across the Channel, on errands about the Bourse, and Greek and
Spanish and India and Mexican and par and premium and discount
and three quarters and seven eighths. There were other friends
who seemed to be always lolling and lounging in and out of the
City, on questions of the Bourse, and Greek and Spanish and India
and Mexican and par and premium and discount and three
quarters and seven eighths. They were all feverish, boastful, and
indefinably loose; and they all ate and drank a great deal; and
made bets in eating and drinking. They all spoke of sums of
money, and only mentioned the sums and left the money to be
understood; as 'five and forty thousand Tom,' or 'Two hundred and
twenty-two on every individual share in the lot Joe.' They seemed
to divide the world into two classes of people; people who were
making enormous fortunes, and people who were being
enormously ruined. They were always in a hurry, and yet seemed
to have nothing tangible to do; except a few of them (these,
mostly asthmatic and thick-lipped) who were for ever
demonstrating to the rest, with gold pencil-cases which they could
hardly hold because of the big rings on their forefingers, how
money was to be made. Lastly, they all swore at their grooms,
and the grooms were not quite as respectful or complete as other
men's grooms; seeming somehow to fall short of the groom point
as their masters fell short of the gentleman point.
Young Fledgeby was none of these. Young Fledgeby had a
peachy cheek, or a cheek compounded of the peach and the red
red red wall on which it grows, and was an awkward, sandy-
haired, small-eyed youth, exceeding slim (his enemies would have
said lanky), and prone to self-examination in the articles of
whisker and moustache. While feeling for the whisker that he
anxiously expected, Fledgeby underwent remarkable fluctuations
of spirits, ranging along the whole scale from confidence to
despair. There were times when he started, as exclaiming 'By
Jupiter here it is at last!' There were other times when, being
equally depressed, he would be seen to shake his head, and give
up hope. To see him at those periods leaning on a chimneypiece,
like as on an urn containing the ashes of his ambition, with the
cheek that would not sprout, upon the hand on which that cheek
had forced conviction, was a distressing sight.
Not so was Fledgeby seen on this occasion. Arrayed in superb
raiment, with his opera hat under his arm, he concluded his self-
examination hopefully, awaited the arrival of Miss Podsnap, and
talked small-talk with Mrs Lammle. In facetious homage to the
smallness of his talk, and the jerky nature of his manners,
Fledgeby's familiars had agreed to confer upon him (behind his
back) the honorary title of Fascination Fledgeby.
'Warm weather, Mrs Lammle,' said Fascination Fledgeby. Mrs
Lammle thought it scarcely as warm as it had been yesterday.
'Perhaps not,' said Fascination Fledgeby, with great quickness of
repartee; 'but I expect it will be devilish warm to-morrow.'
He threw off another little scintillation. 'Been out to-day, Mrs
Mrs Lammle answered, for a short drive.
'Some people,' said Fascination Fledgeby, 'are accustomed to take
long drives; but it generally appears to me that if they make 'em
too long, they overdo it.'
Being in such feather, he might have surpassed himself in his next
sally, had not Miss Podsnap been announced. Mrs Lammle flew
to embrace her darling little Georgy, and when the first transports
were over, presented Mr Fledgeby. Mr Lammle came on the
scene last, for he was always late, and so were the frequenters
always late; all hands being bound to be made late, by private
information about the Bourse, and Greek and Spanish and India
and Mexican and par and premium and discount and three
quarters and seven eighths.
A handsome little dinner was served immediately, and Mr Lammle
sat sparkling at his end of the table, with his servant behind his
chair, and HIS ever-lingering doubts upon the subject of his wages
behind himself. Mr Lammle's utmost powers of sparkling were in
requisition to-day, for Fascination Fledgeby and Georgiana not
only struck each other speechless, but struck each other into
astonishing attitudes; Georgiana, as she sat facing Fledgeby,
making such efforts to conceal her elbows as were totally
incompatible with the use of a knife and fork; and Fledgeby, as he
sat facing Georgiana, avoiding her countenance by every possible
device, and betraying the discomposure of his mind in feeling for
his whiskers with his spoon, his wine glass, and his bread.
So, Mr and Mrs Alfred Lammle had to prompt, and this is how
'Georgiana,' said Mr Lammle, low and smiling, and sparkling all
over, like a harlequin; 'you are not in your usual spirits. Why are
you not in your usual spirits, Georgiana?'
Georgiana faltered that she was much the same as she was in
general; she was not aware of being different.
'Not aware of being different!' retorted Mr Alfred Lammle. 'You,
my dear Georgiana! Who are always so natural and
unconstrained with us! Who are such a relief from the crowd that
are all alike! Who are the embodiment of gentleness, simplicity,
Miss Podsnap looked at the door, as if she entertained confused
thoughts of taking refuge from these compliments in flight.
'Now, I will be judged,' said Mr Lammle, raising his voice a little,
'by my friend Fledgeby.'
'Oh DON'T!' Miss Podsnap faintly ejaculated: when Mrs Lammle
took the prompt-book.
'I beg your pardon, Alfred, my dear, but I cannot part with Mr
Fledgeby quite yet; you must wait for him a moment. Mr
Fledgeby and I are engaged in a personal discussion.'
Fledgeby must have conducted it on his side with immense art, for
no appearance of uttering one syllable had escaped him.
'A personal discussion, Sophronia, my love? What discussion?
Fledgeby, I am jealous. What discussion, Fledgeby?'
'Shall I tell him, Mr Fledgeby?' asked Mrs Lammle.
Trying to look as if he knew anything about it, Fascination replied,
'Yes, tell him.'
'We were discussing then,' said Mrs Lammle, 'if you MUST know,
Alfred, whether Mr Fledgeby was in his usual flow of spirits.'
'Why, that is the very point, Sophronia, that Georgiana and I were
discussing as to herself! What did Fledgeby say?'
'Oh, a likely thing, sir, that I am going to tell you everything, and
be told nothing! What did Georgiana say?'
'Georgiana said she was doing her usual justice to herself to-day,
and I said she was not.'
'Precisely,' exclaimed Mrs Lammle, 'what I said to Mr Fledgeby.'
Still, it wouldn't do. They would not look at one another. No, not
even when the sparkling host proposed that the quartette should
take an appropriately sparkling glass of wine. Georgiana looked
from her wine glass at Mr Lammle and at Mrs Lammle; but
mightn't, couldn't, shouldn't, wouldn't, look at Mr Fledgeby.
Fascination looked from his wine glass at Mrs Lammle and at Mr
Lammle; but mightn't, couldn't, shouldn't, wouldn't, look at
More prompting was necessary. Cupid must be brought up to the
mark. The manager had put him down in the bill for the part, and
he must play it.
'Sophronia, my dear,' said Mr Lammle, 'I don't like the colour of
'I appeal,' said Mrs Lammle, 'to Mr Fledgeby.'
'And I,' said Mr Lammle, 'to Georgiana.'
'Georgy, my love,' remarked Mrs Lammle aside to her dear girl, 'I
rely upon you not to go over to the opposition. Now, Mr
Fascination wished to know if the colour were not called rose-
colour? Yes, said Mr Lammle; actually he knew everything; it
was really rose-colour. Fascination took rose-colour to mean the
colour of roses. (In this he was very warmly supported by Mr and
Mrs Lammle.) Fascination had heard the term Queen of Flowers
applied to the Rose. Similarly, it might be said that the dress was
the Queen of Dresses. ('Very happy, Fledgeby!' from Mr
Lammle.) Notwithstanding, Fascination's opinion was that we all
had our eyes--or at least a large majority of us--and that--and--and
his farther opinion was several ands, with nothing beyond them.
'Oh, Mr Fledgeby,' said Mrs Lammle, 'to desert me in that way!
Oh, Mr Fledgeby, to abandon my poor dear injured rose and
declare for blue!'
'Victory, victory!' cried Mr Lammle; 'your dress is condemned, my
'But what,' said Mrs Lammle, stealing her affectionate hand
towards her dear girl's, 'what does Georgy say?'
'She says,' replied Mr Lammle, interpreting for her, 'that in her
eyes you look well in any colour, Sophronia, and that if she had
expected to be embarrassed by so pretty a compliment as she has
received, she would have worn another colour herself. Though I
tell her, in reply, that it would not have saved her, for whatever
colour she had worn would have been Fledgeby's colour. But
what does Fledgeby say?'
'He says,' replied Mrs Lammle, interpreting for him, and patting
the back of her dear girl's hand, as if it were Fledgeby who was
patting it, 'that it was no compliment, but a little natural act of
homage that he couldn't resist. And,' expressing more feeling as if
it were more feeling on the part of Fledgeby, 'he is right, he is
Still, no not even now, would they look at one another. Seeming
to gnash his sparkling teeth, studs, eyes, and buttons, all at once,
Mr Lammle secretly bent a dark frown on the two, expressive of
an intense desire to bring them together by knocking their heads
'Have you heard this opera of to-night, Fledgeby?' he asked,
stopping very short, to prevent himself from running on into
'Why no, not exactly,' said Fledgeby. 'In fact I don't know a note
'Neither do you know it, Georgy?' said Mrs Lammle. 'N-no,'
replied Georgiana, faintly, under the sympathetic coincidence.
'Why, then,' said Mrs Lammle, charmed by the discovery which
flowed from the premises, 'you neither of you know it! How
Even the craven Fledgeby felt that the time was now come when
he must strike a blow. He struck it by saying, partly to Mrs
Lammle and partly to the circumambient air, 'I consider myself
very fortunate in being reserved by--'
As he stopped dead, Mr Lammle, making that gingerous bush of
his whiskers to look out of, offered him the word 'Destiny.'
'No, I wasn't going to say that,' said Fledgeby. 'I was going to say
Fate. I consider it very fortunate that Fate has written in the book
of--in the book which is its own property--that I should go to that
opera for the first time under the memorable circumstances of
going with Miss Podsnap.'
To which Georgiana replied, hooking her two little fingers in one
another, and addressing the tablecloth, 'Thank you, but I generally
go with no one but you, Sophronia, and I like that very much.'
Content perforce with this success for the time, Mr Lammle let
Miss Podsnap out of the room, as if he were opening her cage
door, and Mrs Lammle followed. Coffee being presently served
up stairs, he kept a watch on Fledgeby until Miss Podsnap's cup
was empty, and then directed him with his finger (as if that young
gentleman were a slow Retriever) to go and fetch it. This feat he
performed, not only without failure, but even with the original
embellishment of informing Miss Podsnap that green tea was
considered bad for the nerves. Though there Miss Podsnap
unintentionally threw him out by faltering, 'Oh, is it indeed? How
does it act?' Which he was not prepared to elucidate.
The carriage announced, Mrs Lammle said; 'Don't mind me, Mr
Fledgeby, my skirts and cloak occupy both my hands, take Miss
Podsnap.' And he took her, and Mrs Lammle went next, and Mr
Lammle went last, savagely following his little flock, like a drover.
But he was all sparkle and glitter in the box at the Opera, and
there he and his dear wife made a conversation between Fledgeby
and Georgiana in the following ingenious and skilful manner.
They sat in this order: Mrs Lammle, Fascination Fledgeby,
Georgiana, Mr Lammle. Mrs Lammle made leading remarks to
Fledgeby, only requiring monosyllabic replies. Mr Lammle did
the like with Georgiana. At times Mrs Lammle would lean
forward to address Mr Lammle to this purpose.
'Alfred, my dear, Mr Fledgeby very justly says, apropos of the last
scene, that true constancy would not require any such stimulant as
the stage deems necessary.' To which Mr Lammle would reply,
'Ay, Sophronia, my love, but as Georgiana has observed to me, the
lady had no sufficient reason to know the state of the gentleman's
affections.' To which Mrs Lammle would rejoin, 'Very true,
Alfred; but Mr Fledgeby points out,' this. To which Alfred would
demur: 'Undoubtedly, Sophronia, but Georgiana acutely remarks,'
that. Through this device the two young people conversed at
great length and committed themselves to a variety of delicate
sentiments, without having once opened their lips, save to say yes
or no, and even that not to one another.
Fledgeby took his leave of Miss Podsnap at the carriage door, and
the Lammles dropped her at her own home, and on the way Mrs
Lammle archly rallied her, in her fond and protecting manner, by
saying at intervals, 'Oh little Georgiana, little Georgiana!' Which
was not much; but the tone added, 'You have enslaved your
And thus the Lammles got home at last, and the lady sat down
moody and weary, looking at her dark lord engaged in a deed of
violence with a bottle of soda-water as though he were wringing
the neck of some unlucky creature and pouring its blood down his
throat. As he wiped his dripping whiskers in an ogreish way, he
met her eyes, and pausing, said, with no very gentle voice:
'Was such an absolute Booby necessary to the purpose?'
'I know what I am doing. He is no such dolt as you suppose.'
'A genius, perhaps?'
'You sneer, perhaps; and you take a lofty air upon yourself
perhaps! But I tell you this:--when that young fellow's interest is
concerned, he holds as tight as a horse-leech. When money is in
question with that young fellow, he is a match for the Devil.'
'Is he a match for you?'
'He is. Almost as good a one as you thought me for you. He has
no quality of youth in him, but such as you have seen to-day.
Touch him upon money, and you touch no booby then. He really
is a dolt, I suppose, in other things; but it answers his one purpose
'Has she money in her own right in any case?'
'Ay! she has money in her own right in any case. You have done
so well to-day, Sophronia, that I answer the question, though you
know I object to any such questions. You have done so well to-
day, Sophronia, that you must be tired. Get to bed.'
Fledgeby deserved Mr Alfred Lammle's eulogium. He was the
meanest cur existing, with a single pair of legs. And instinct (a
word we all clearly understand) going largely on four legs, and
reason always on two, meanness on four legs never attains the
perfection of meanness on two.
The father of this young gentleman had been a money-lender, who
had transacted professional business with the mother of this young
gentleman, when he, the latter, was waiting in the vast dark ante-
chambers of the present world to be born. The lady, a widow,
being unable to pay the money-lender, married him; and in due
course, Fledgeby was summoned out of the vast dark ante-
chambers to come and be presented to the Registrar-General.
Rather a curious speculation how Fledgehy would otherwise have
disposed of his leisure until Doomsday.
Fledgeby's mother offended her family by marrying Fledgeby's
father. It is one of the easiest achievements in life to offend your
family when your family want to get rid of you. Fledgeby's
mother's family had been very much offended with her for being
poor, and broke with her for becoming comparatively rich.
Fledgeby's mother's family was the Snigsworth family. She had
even the high honour to be cousin to Lord Snigsworth--so many
times removed that the noble Earl would have had no
compunction in removing her one time more and dropping her
clean outside the cousinly pale; but cousin for all that.
Among her pre-matrimonial transactions with Fledgeby's father,
Fledgeby's mother had raised money of him at a great
disadvantage on a certain reversionary interest. The reversion
falling in soon after they were married, Fledgeby's father laid hold
of the cash for his separate use and benefit. This led to subjective
differences of opinion, not to say objective interchanges of boot-
jacks, backgammon boards, and other such domestic missiles,
between Fledgeby's father and Fledgeby's mother, and those led to
Fledgeby's mother spending as much money as she could, and to
Fledgeby's father doing all he couldn't to restrain her. Fledgeby's
childhood had been, in consequence, a stormy one; but the winds
and the waves had gone down in the grave, and Fledgeby
He lived in chambers in the Albany, did Fledgeby, and maintained
a spruce appearance. But his youthful fire was all composed of
sparks from the grindstone; and as the sparks flew off, went out,
and never warmed anything, be sure that Fledgeby had his tools at
the grindstone, and turned it with a wary eye.
Mr Alfred Lammle came round to the Albany to breakfast with
Fledgeby. Present on the table, one scanty pot of tea, one scanty
loaf, two scanty pats of butter, two scanty rashers of bacon, two
pitiful eggs, and an abundance of handsome china bought a
'What did you think of Georgiana?' asked Mr Lammle.
'Why, I'll tell you,' said Fledgeby, very deliberately.
'Do, my boy.'
'You misunderstand me,' said Fledgeby. 'I don't mean I'll tell you
that. I mean I'll tell you something else.'
'Tell me anything, old fellow!'
'Ah, but there you misunderstand me again,' said Fledgeby. 'I
mean I'll tell you nothing.'
Mr Lammle sparkled at him, but frowned at him too.
'Look here,' said Fledgeby. 'You're deep and you're ready.
Whether I am deep or not, never mind. I am not ready. But I can
do one thing, Lammle, I can hold my tongue. And I intend always
'You are a long-headed fellow, Fledgeby.'
'May be, or may not be. If I am a short-tongued fellow, it may
amount to the same thing. Now, Lammle, I am never going to
'My dear fellow, it was the simplest question in the world.'
'Never mind. It seemed so, but things are not always what they
seem. I saw a man examined as a witness in Westminster Hall.
Questions put to him seemed the simplest in the world, but turned
out to be anything rather than that, after he had answered 'em.
Very well. Then he should have held his tongue. If he had held
his tongue he would have kept out of scrapes that he got into.'
'If I had held my tongue, you would never have seen the subject of
my question,' remarked Lammle, darkening.
'Now, Lammle,' said Fascination Fledgeby, calmly feeling for his
whisker, 'it won't do. I won't be led on into a discussion. I can't
manage a discussion. But I can manage to hold my tongue.'
'Can?' Mr Lammie fell back upon propitiation. 'I should think you
could! Why, when these fellows of our acquaintance drink and
you drink with them, the more talkative they get, the more silent
you get. The more they let out, the more you keep in.'
'I don't object, Lammle,' returned Fledgeby, with an internal
chuckle, 'to being understood, though I object to being questioned.
That certainly IS the way I do it.'
'And when all the rest of us are discussing our ventures, none of us
ever know what a single venture of yours is!'
'And none of you ever will from me, Lammle,' replied Fledgeby,
with another internal chuckle; 'that certainly IS the way I do it.'
'Why of course it is, I know!' rejoined Lammle, with a flourish of
frankness, and a laugh, and stretching out his hands as if to show
the universe a remarkable man in Fledgeby. 'If I hadn't known it
of my Fledgeby, should I have proposed our little compact of
advantage, to my Fledgeby?'
'Ah!' remarked Fascination, shaking his head slyly. 'But I am not
to be got at in that way. I am not vain. That sort of vanity don't
pay, Lammle. No, no, no. Compliments only make me hold my
tongue the more.'
Alfred Lammle pushed his plate away (no great sacrifice under
the circumstances of there being so little in it), thrust his hands in
his pockets, leaned back in his chair, and contemplated Fledgeby
in silence. Then he slowly released his left hand from its pocket,
and made that bush of his whiskers, still contemplating him in
silence. Then he slowly broke silence, and slowly said: 'What--
the--Dev-il is this fellow about this morning?'
'Now, look here, Lammle,' said Fascination Fledgeby, with the
meanest of twinkles in his meanest of eyes: which were too near
together, by the way: 'look here, Lammle; I am very well aware
that I didn't show to advantage last night, and that you and your
wife--who, I consider, is a very clever woman and an agreeable
woman--did. I am not calculated to show to advantage under that
sort of circumstances. I know very well you two did show to
advantage, and managed capitally. But don't you on that account
come talking to me as if I was your doll and puppet, because I am
'And all this,' cried Alfred, after studying with a look the meanness
that was fain to have the meanest help, and yet was so mean as to
turn upon it: 'all this because of one simple natural question!'
'You should have waited till I thought proper to say something
about it of myself. I don't like your coming over me with your
Georgianas, as if you was her proprietor and mine too.'
'Well, when you are in the gracious mind to say anything about it
of yourself,' retorted Lammle, 'pray do.'
'I have done it. I have said you managed capitally. You and your
wife both. If you'll go on managing capitally, I'll go on doing my
part. Only don't crow.'
'I crow!' exclaimed Lammle, shrugging his shoulders.
'Or,' pursued the other--'or take it in your head that people are
your puppets because they don't come out to advantage at the
particular moments when you do, with the assistance of a very
clever and agreeable wife. All the rest keep on doing, and let Mrs
Lammle keep on doing. Now, I have held my tongue when I
thought proper, and I have spoken when I thought proper, and
there's an end of that. And now the question is,' proceeded
Fledgeby, with the greatest reluctance, 'will you have another
'No, I won't,' said Lammle, shortly.
'Perhaps you're right and will find yourself better without it,'
replied Fascination, in greatly improved spirits. 'To ask you if
you'll have another rasher would be unmeaning flattery, for it
would make you thirsty all day. Will you have some more bread
'No, I won't,' repeated Lammle.
'Then I will,' said Fascination. And it was not a mere retort for the
sound's sake, but was a cheerful cogent consequence of the
refusal; for if Lammle had applied himself again to the loaf, it
would have been so heavily visited, in Fledgeby's opinion, as to
demand abstinence from bread, on his part, for the remainder of
that meal at least, if not for the whole of the next.
Whether this young gentleman (for he was but three-and-twenty)
combined with the miserly vice of an old man, any of the open-
handed vices of a young one, was a moot point; so very
honourably did he keep his own counsel. He was sensible of the
value of appearances as an investment, and liked to dress well; but
he drove a bargain for every moveable about him, from the coat
on his back to the china on his breakfast-table; and every bargain
by representing somebody's ruin or somebody's loss, acquired a
peculiar charm for him. It was a part of his avarice to take, within
narrow bounds, long odds at races; if he won, he drove harder
bargains; if he lost, he half starved himself until next time. Why
money should be so precious to an Ass too dull and mean to
exchange it for any other satisfaction, is strange; but there is no
animal so sure to get laden with it, as the Ass who sees nothing
written on the face of the earth and sky but the three letters L. S.
D.--not Luxury, Sensuality, Dissoluteness, which they often stand
for, but the three dry letters. Your concentrated Fox is seldom
comparable to your concentrated Ass in money-breeding.
Fascination Fledgeby feigned to be a young gentleman living on
his means, but was known secretly to be a kind of outlaw in the
bill-broking line, and to put money out at high interest in various
ways. His circle of familiar acquaintance, from Mr Lammle
round, all had a touch of the outlaw, as to their rovings in the
merry greenwood of Jobbery Forest, lying on the outskirts of the
Share-Market and the Stock Exchange.
'I suppose you, Lammle,' said Fledgeby, eating his bread and
butter, 'always did go in for female society?'
'Always,' replied Lammle, glooming considerably under his late
'Came natural to you, eh?' said Fledgeby.
'The sex were pleased to like me, sir,' said Lammle sulkily, but
with the air of a man who had not been able to help himself.
'Made a pretty good thing of marrying, didn't you?' asked
The other smiled (an ugly smile), and tapped one tap upon his
'My late governor made a mess of it,' said Fledgeby. 'But Geor--is
the right name Georgina or Georgiana?'
'I was thinking yesterday, I didn't know there was such a name. I
thought it must end in ina.
'Why, you play--if you can--the Concertina, you know,' replied
Fledgeby, meditating very slowly. 'And you have--when you
catch it--the Scarlatina. And you can come down from a balloon
in a parach--no you can't though. Well, say Georgeute--I mean
'You were going to remark of Georgiana--?' Lammle moodily
hinted, after waiting in vain.
'I was going to remark of Georgiana, sir,' said Fledgeby, not at all
pleased to be reminded of his having forgotten it, 'that she don't
seem to be violent. Don't seem to be of the pitching-in order.'
'She has the gentleness of the dove, Mr Fledgeby.'
'Of course you'll say so,' replied Fledgeby, sharpening, the moment
his interest was touched by another. 'But you know, the real look-
out is this:--what I say, not what you say. I say having my late
governor and my late mother in my eye--that Georgiana don't
seem to be of the pitching-in order.'
The respected Mr Lammle was a bully, by nature and by usual
practice. Perceiving, as Fledgeby's affronts cumulated, that
conciliation by no means answered the purpose here, he now
directed a scowling look into Fledgeby's small eyes for the effect
of the opposite treatment. Satisfied by what he saw there, he
burst into a violent passion and struck his hand upon the table,
making the china ring and dance.
'You are a very offensive fellow, sir,' cried Mr Lammle, rising.
'You are a highly offensive scoundrel. What do you mean by this
'I say!' remonstrated Fledgeby. 'Don't break out.'
'You are a very offensive fellow sir,' repeated Mr Lammle. 'You
are a highly offensive scoundrel!'
'I SAY, you know!' urged Fledgeby, quailing.
'Why, you coarse and vulgar vagabond!' said Mr Lammle, looking
fiercely about him, 'if your servant was here to give me sixpence
of your money to get my boots cleaned afterwards--for you are
not worth the expenditure--I'd kick you.'
'No you wouldn't,' pleaded Fledgeby. 'I am sure you'd think better
'I tell you what, Mr Fledgeby,' said Lammle advancing on him.
'Since you presume to contradict me, I'll assert myself a little.
Give me your nose!'
Fledgeby covered it with his hand instead, and said, retreating, 'I
beg you won't!'
'Give me your nose, sir,' repeated Lammle.
Still covering that feature and backing, Mr Fledgeby reiterated
(apparently with a severe cold in his head), 'I beg, I beg, you
'And this fellow,' exclaimed Lammle, stopping and making the
most of his chest--'This fellow presumes on my having selected
him out of all the young fellows I know, for an advantageous
opportunity! This fellow presumes on my having in my desk
round the corner, his dirty note of hand for a wretched sum
payable on the occurrence of a certain event, which event can
only be of my and my wife's bringing about! This fellow,
Fledgeby, presumes to be impertinent to me, Lammle. Give me
your nose sir!'
'No! Stop! I beg your pardon,' said Fledgeby, with humility.
'What do you say, sir?' demanded Mr Lammle, seeming too
furious to understand.
'I beg your pardon,' repeated Fledgeby.
'Repeat your words louder, sir. The just indignation of a
gentleman has sent the blood boiling to my head. I don't hear
'I say,' repeated Fledgeby, with laborious explanatory politeness, 'I
beg your pardon.'
Mr Lammle paused. 'As a man of honour,' said he, throwing
himself into a chair, 'I am disarmed.'
Mr Fledgeby also took a chair, though less demonstratively, and
by slow approaches removed his hand from his nose. Some
natural diffidence assailed him as to blowing it, so shortly after its
having assumed a personal and delicate, not to say public,
character; but he overcame his scruples by degrees, and modestly
took that liberty under an implied protest.
'Lammle,' he said sneakingly, when that was done, 'I hope we are
'Mr Fledgeby,' returned Lammle, 'say no more.'
'I must have gone too far in making myself disagreeable,' said
Fledgeby, 'but I never intended it.'
'Say no more, say no more!' Mr Lammle repeated in a magnificent
tone. 'Give me your'--Fledgeby started--'hand.'
They shook hands, and on Mr Lammle's part, in particular, there
ensued great geniality. For, he was quite as much of a dastard as
the other, and had been in equal danger of falling into the second
place for good, when he took heart just in time, to act upon the
information conveyed to him by Fledgeby's eye.
The breakfast ended in a perfect understanding. Incessant
machinations were to be kept at work by Mr and Mrs Lammle;
love was to be made for Fledgeby, and conquest was to be insured
to him; he on his part very humbly admitting his defects as to the
softer social arts, and entreating to be backed to the utmost by his
two able coadjutors.
Little recked Mr Podsnap of the traps and toils besetting his
Young Person. He regarded her as safe within the Temple of
Podsnappery, hiding the fulness of time when she, Georgiana,
should take him, Fitz-Podsnap, who with all his worldly goods
should her endow. It would call a blush into the cheek of his
standard Young Person to have anything to do with such matters
save to take as directed, and with worldly goods as per settlement
to be endowed. Who giveth this woman to be married to this
man? I, Podsnap. Perish the daring thought that any smaller
creation should come between!
It was a public holiday, and Fledgeby did not recover his spirits or
his usual temperature of nose until the afternoon. Walking into
the City in the holiday afternoon, he walked against a living
stream setting out of it; and thus, when he turned into the
precincts of St Mary Axe, he found a prevalent repose and quiet
there. A yellow overhanging plaster-fronted house at which be
stopped was quiet too. The blinds were all drawn down, and the
inscription Pubsey and Co. seemed to doze in the counting-house
window on the ground-floor giving on the sleepy street.
Fledgeby knocked and rang, and Fledgeby rang and knocked, but
no one came. Fledgeby crossed the narrow street and looked up
at the house-windows, but nobody looked down at Fledgeby. He
got out of temper, crossed the narrow street again, and pulled the
housebell as if it were the house's nose, and he were taking a hint
from his late experience. His ear at the keyhole seemed then, at
last, to give him assurance that something stirred within. His eye
at the keyhole seemed to confirm his ear, for he angrily pulled the
house's nose again, and pulled and pulled and continued to pull,
until a human nose appeared in the dark doorway.
'Now you sir!' cried Fledgeby. 'These are nice games!'
He addressed an old Jewish man in an ancient coat, long of skirt,
and wide of pocket. A venerable man, bald and shining at the top
of his head, and with long grey hair flowing down at its sides and
mingling with his beard. A man who with a graceful Eastern
action of homage bent his head, and stretched out his hands with
the palms downward, as if to deprecate the wrath of a superior.
'What have you been up to?' said Fledgeby, storming at him.
'Generous Christian master,' urged the Jewish man, 'it being
holiday, I looked for no one.'
'Holiday he blowed!' said Fledgeby, entering. 'What have YOU
got to do with holidays? Shut the door.'
With his former action the old man obeyed. In the entry hung his
rusty large-brimmed low-crowned hat, as long out of date as his
coat; in the corner near it stood his staff--no walking-stick but a
veritable staff. Fledgeby turned into the counting-house, perched
himself on a business stool, and cocked his hat. There were light
boxes on shelves in the counting-house, and strings of mock beads
hanging up. There were samples of cheap clocks, and samples of
cheap vases of flowers. Foreign toys, all.
Perched on the stool with his hat cocked on his head and one of
his legs dangling, the youth of Fledgeby hardly contrasted to
advantage with the age of the Jewish man as he stood with his
bare head bowed, and his eyes (which he only raised in speaking)
on the ground. His clothing was worn down to the rusty hue of
the hat in the entry, but though he looked shabby he did not look
mean. Now, Fledgeby, though not shabby, did look mean.
'You have not told me what you were up to, you sir,' said
Fledgeby, scratching his head with the brim of his hat.
'Sir, I was breathing the air.'
'In the cellar, that you didn't hear?'
'On the house-top.'
'Upon my soul! That's a way of doing business.'
'Sir,' the old man represented with a grave and patient air, 'there
must be two parties to the transaction of business, and the holiday
has left me alone.'
'Ah! Can't be buyer and seller too. That's what the Jews say; ain't
'At least we say truly, if we say so,' answered the old man with a
'Your people need speak the truth sometimes, for they lie enough,'
remarked Fascination Fledgeby.
'Sir, there is,' returned the old man with quiet emphasis, 'too much
untruth among all denominations of men.'
Rather dashed, Fascination Fledgeby took another scratch at his
intellectual head with his hat, to gain time for rallying.
'For instance,' he resumed, as though it were he who had spoken
last, 'who but you and I ever heard of a poor Jew?'
'The Jews,' said the old man, raising his eyes from the ground with
his former smile. 'They hear of poor Jews often, and are very
good to them.'
'Bother that!' returned Fledgeby. 'You know what I mean. You'd
persuade me if you could, that you are a poor Jew. I wish you'd
confess how much you really did make out of my late governor. I
should have a better opinion of you.'
The old man only bent his head, and stretched out his hands as
'Don't go on posturing like a Deaf and Dumb School,' said the
ingenious Fledgeby, 'but express yourself like a Christian--or as
nearly as you can.'
'I had had sickness and misfortunes, and was so poor,' said the old
man, 'as hopelessly to owe the father, principal and interest. The
son inheriting, was so merciful as to forgive me both, and place
He made a little gesture as though he kissed the hem of an
imaginary garment worn by the noble youth before him. It was
humbly done, but picturesquely, and was not abasing to the doer.
'You won't say more, I see,' said Fledgeby, looking at him as if he
would like to try the effect of extracting a double-tooth or two,
'and so it's of no use my putting it to you. But confess this, Riah;
who believes you to be poor now?'
'No one,' said the old man.
'There you're right,' assented Fledgeby.
'No one,' repeated the old man with a grave slow wave of his
head. 'All scout it as a fable. Were I to say "This little fancy
business is not mine";' with a lithe sweep of his easily-turning
hand around him, to comprehend the various objects on the
shelves; '"it is the little business of a Christian young gentleman
who places me, his servant, in trust and charge here, and to whom
I am accountable for every single bead," they would laugh.
When, in the larger money-business, I tell the borrowers--'
'I say, old chap!' interposed Fledgeby, 'I hope you mind what you
DO tell 'em?'
'Sir, I tell them no more than I am about to repeat. When I tell
them, "I cannot promise this, I cannot answer for the other, I must
see my principal, I have not the money, I am a poor man and it
does not rest with me," they are so unbelieving and so impatient,
that they sometimes curse me in Jehovah's name.'
'That's deuced good, that is!' said Fascination Fledgeby.
'And at other times they say, "Can it never be done without these
tricks, Mr Riah? Come, come, Mr Riah, we know the arts of your
people"--my people!--"If the money is to be lent, fetch it, fetch it;
if it is not to be lent, keep it and say so." They never believe me.'
'THAT'S all right,' said Fascination Fledgeby.
'They say, "We know, Mr Riah, we know. We have but to look at
you, and we know."'
'Oh, a good 'un are you for the post,' thought Fledgeby, 'and a
good 'un was I to mark you out for it! I may be slow, but I am
Not a syllable of this reflection shaped itself in any scrap of Mr
Fledgeby's breath, lest it should tend to put his servant's price up.
But looking at the old man as he stood quiet with his bead bowed
and his eyes cast down, he felt that to relinquish an inch of his
baldness, an inch of his grey hair, an inch of his coat-skirt, an inch
of his hat-brim, an inch of his walking-staff, would be to relinquish
hundreds of pounds.
'Look here, Riah,' said Fledgeby, mollified by these self-approving
considerations. 'I want to go a little more into buying-up queer
bills. Look out in that direction.'
'Sir, it shall be done.'
'Casting my eye over the accounts, I find that branch of business
pays pretty fairly, and I am game for extending it. I like to know
people's affairs likewise. So look out.'
'Sir, I will, promptly.'
'Put it about in the right quarters, that you'll buy queer bills by the
lump--by the pound weight if that's all--supposing you see your
way to a fair chance on looking over the parcel. And there's one
thing more. Come to me with the books for periodical inspection
as usual, at eight on Monday morning.'
Riah drew some folding tablets from his breast and noted it down.
'That's all I wanted to say at the present time,' continued Fledgeby
in a grudging vein, as he got off the stool, 'except that I wish you'd
take the air where you can hear the bell, or the knocker, either
one of the two or both. By-the-by how DO you take the air at the
top of the house? Do you stick your head out of a chimney-pot?'
'Sir, there are leads there, and I have made a little garden there.'
'To bury your money in, you old dodger?'
'A thumbnail's space of garden would hold the treasure I bury,
master,' said Riah. 'Twelve shillings a week, even when they are
an old man's wages, bury themselves.'
'I should like to know what you really are worth,' returned
Fledgeby, with whom his growing rich on that stipend and
gratitude was a very convenient fiction. 'But come! Let's have a
look at your garden on the tiles, before I go!'
The old man took a step back, and hesitated.
'Truly, sir, I have company there.'
'Have you, by George!' said Fledgeby; 'I suppose you happen to
know whose premises these are?'
'Sir, they are yours, and I am your servant in them.'
'Oh! I thought you might have overlooked that,' retorted Fledgeby,
with his eyes on Riah's beard as he felt for his own; 'having
company on my premises, you know!'
'Come up and see the guests, sir. I hope for your admission that
they can do no harm.'
Passing him with a courteous reverence, specially unlike any
action that Mr Fledgeby could for his life have imparted to his
own head and hands, the old man began to ascend the stairs. As
he toiled on before, with his palm upon the stair-rail, and his long
black skirt, a very gaberdine, overhanging each successive step,
he might have been the leader in some pilgrimage of devotional
ascent to a prophet's tomb. Not troubled by any such weak
imagining, Fascination Fledgeby merely speculated on the time of
life at which his beard had begun, and thought once more what a
good 'un he was for the part.
Some final wooden steps conducted them, stooping under a low
penthouse roof, to the house-top. Riah stood still, and, turning to
his master, pointed out his guests.
Lizzie Hexam and Jenny Wren. For whom, perhaps with some old
instinct of his race, the gentle Jew had spread a carpet. Seated on
it, against no more romantic object than a blackened chimney-
stack over which some bumble creeper had been trained, they
both pored over one book; both with attentive faces; Jenny with
the sharper; Lizzie with the more perplexed. Another little book
or two were lying near, and a common basket of common fruit,
and another basket full of strings of beads and tinsel scraps. A
few boxes of humble flowers and evergreens completed the
garden; and the encompassing wilderness of dowager old
chimneys twirled their cowls and fluttered their smoke, rather as if
they were bridling, and fanning themselves, and looking on in a
state of airy surprise.
Taking her eyes off the book, to test her memory of something in
it, Lizzie was the first to see herself observed. As she rose, Miss
Wren likewise became conscious, and said, irreverently
addressing the great chief of the premises: 'Whoever you are, I
can't get up, because my back's bad and my legs are queer.'
'This is my master,' said Riah, stepping forward.
('Don't look like anybody's master,' observed Miss Wren to
herself, with a hitch of her chin and eyes.)
'This, sir,' pursued the old man, 'is a little dressmaker for little
people. Explain to the master, Jenny.'
'Dolls; that's all,' said Jenny, shortly. 'Very difficult to fit too,
because their figures are so uncertain. You never know where to
expect their waists.'
'Her friend,' resumed the old man, motioning towards Lizzie; 'and
as industrious as virtuous. But that they both are. They are busy
early and late, sir, early and late; and in bye-times, as on this
holiday, they go to book-learning.'
'Not much good to be got out of that,' remarked Fledgeby.
'Depends upon the person!' quoth Miss Wren, snapping him up.
'I made acquaintance with my guests, sir,' pursued the Jew, with
an evident purpose of drawing out the dressmaker, 'through their
coming here to buy of our damage and waste for Miss Jenny's
millinery. Our waste goes into the best of company, sir, on her
rosy-cheeked little customers. They wear it in their hair, and on
their ball-dresses, and even (so she tells me) are presented at
Court with it.'
'Ah!' said Fledgeby, on whose intelligence this doll-fancy made
rather strong demands; 'she's been buying that basketful to-day, I
'I suppose she has,' Miss Jenny interposed; 'and paying for it too,
'Let's have a look at it,' said the suspicious chief. Riah handed it
to him. 'How much for this now?'
'Two precious silver shillings,' said Miss Wren.
Riah confirmed her with two nods, as Fledgeby looked to him. A
nod for each shilling.
'Well,' said Fledgeby, poking into the contents of the basket with
his forefinger, 'the price is not so bad. You have got good
measure, Miss What-is-it.'
'Try Jenny,' suggested that young lady with great calmness.
'You have got good measure, Miss Jenny; but the price is not so
bad.--And you,' said Fledgeby, turning to the other visitor, 'do you
buy anything here, miss?'
'Nor sell anything neither, miss?'
Looking askew at the questioner, Jenny stole her hand up to her
friend's, and drew her friend down, so that she bent beside her on
'We are thankful to come here for rest, sir,' said Jenny. 'You see,
you don't know what the rest of this place is to us; does he,
Lizzie? It's the quiet, and the air.'
'The quiet!' repeated Fledgeby, with a contemptuous turn of his
head towards the City's roar. 'And the air!' with a 'Poof!' at the
'Ah!' said Jenny. 'But it's so high. And you see the clouds rushing
on above the narrow streets, not minding them, and you see the
golden arrows pointing at the mountains in the sky from which the
wind comes, and you feel as if you were dead.'
The little creature looked above her, holding up her slight
'How do you feel when you are dead?' asked Fledgeby, much
'Oh, so tranquil!' cried the little creature, smiling. 'Oh, so peaceful
and so thankful! And you hear the people who are alive, crying,
and working, and calling to one another down in the close dark
streets, and you seem to pity them so! And such a chain has fallen
from you, and such a strange good sorrowful happiness comes
Her eyes fell on the old man, who, with his hands folded, quietly
'Why it was only just now,' said the little creature, pointing at him,
'that I fancied I saw him come out of his grave! He toiled out at
that low door so bent and worn, and then he took his breath and
stood upright, and looked all round him at the sky, and the wind
blew upon him, and his life down in the dark was over!--Till he
was called back to life,' she added, looking round at Fledgeby with
that lower look of sharpness. 'Why did you call him back?'
'He was long enough coming, anyhow,' grumbled Fledgeby.
'But you are not dead, you know,' said Jenny Wren. 'Get down to
Mr Fledgeby seemed to think it rather a good suggestion, and with
a nod turned round. As Riah followed to attend him down the
stairs, the little creature called out to the Jew in a silvery tone,
'Don't be long gone. Come back, and be dead!' And still as they
went down they heard the little sweet voice, more and more
faintly, half calling and half singing, 'Come back and be dead,
Come back and be dead!'
When they got down into the entry, Fledgeby, pausing under the
shadow of the broad old hat, and mechanically poising the staff,
said to the old man:
'That's a handsome girl, that one in her senses.'
'And as good as handsome,' answered Riah.