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The Uncommercial Traveller by Charles Dickens

Part 4 out of 8

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was matrimony, and the gratification of a cannibal appetite with
tender brides. On his marriage morning, he always caused both
sides of the way to church to be planted with curious flowers; and
when his bride said, 'Dear Captain Murderer, I ever saw flowers
like these before: what are they called?' he answered, 'They are
called Garnish for house-lamb,' and laughed at his ferocious
practical joke in a horrid manner, disquieting the minds of the
noble bridal company, with a very sharp show of teeth, then
displayed for the first time. He made love in a coach and six, and
married in a coach and twelve, and all his horses were milk-white
horses with one red spot on the back which he caused to be hidden
by the harness. For, the spot WOULD come there, though every horse
was milk-white when Captain Murderer bought him. And the spot was
young bride's blood. (To this terrific point I am indebted for my
first personal experience of a shudder and cold beads on the
forehead.) When Captain Murderer had made an end of feasting and
revelry, and had dismissed the noble guests, and was alone with his
wife on the day month after their marriage, it was his whimsical
custom to produce a golden rolling-pin and a silver pie-board.
Now, there was this special feature in the Captain's courtships,
that he always asked if the young lady could make pie-crust; and if
she couldn't by nature or education, she was taught. Well. When
the bride saw Captain Murderer produce the golden rolling-pin and
silver pie-board, she remembered this, and turned up her laced-silk
sleeves to make a pie. The Captain brought out a silver pie-dish
of immense capacity, and the Captain brought out flour and butter
and eggs and all things needful, except the inside of the pie; of
materials for the staple of the pie itself, the Captain brought out
none. Then said the lovely bride, 'Dear Captain Murderer, what pie
is this to be?' He replied, 'A meat pie.' Then said the lovely
bride, 'Dear Captain Murderer, I see no meat.' The Captain
humorously retorted, 'Look in the glass.' She looked in the glass,
but still she saw no meat, and then the Captain roared with
laughter, and suddenly frowning and drawing his sword, bade her
roll out the crust. So she rolled out the crust, dropping large
tears upon it all the time because he was so cross, and when she
had lined the dish with crust and had cut the crust all ready to
fit the top, the Captain called out, 'I see the meat in the glass!'
And the bride looked up at the glass, just in time to see the
Captain cutting her head off; and he chopped her in pieces, and
peppered her, and salted her, and put her in the pie, and sent it
to the baker's, and ate it all, and picked the bones.

Captain Murderer went on in this way, prospering exceedingly, until
he came to choose a bride from two twin sisters, and at first
didn't know which to choose. For, though one was fair and the
other dark, they were both equally beautiful. But the fair twin
loved him, and the dark twin hated him, so he chose the fair one.
The dark twin would have prevented the marriage if she could, but
she couldn't; however, on the night before it, much suspecting
Captain Murderer, she stole out and climbed his garden wall, and
looked in at his window through a chink in the shutter, and saw him
having his teeth filed sharp. Next day she listened all day, and
heard him make his joke about the house-lamb. And that day month,
he had the paste rolled out, and cut the fair twin's head off, and
chopped her in pieces, and peppered her, and salted her, and put
her in the pie, and sent it to the baker's, and ate it all, and
picked the bones.

Now, the dark twin had had her suspicions much increased by the
filing of the Captain's teeth, and again by the house-lamb joke.
Putting all things together when he gave out that her sister was
dead, she divined the truth, and determined to be revenged. So,
she went up to Captain Murderer's house, and knocked at the knocker
and pulled at the bell, and when the Captain came to the door,
said: 'Dear Captain Murderer, marry me next, for I always loved
you and was jealous of my sister.' The Captain took it as a
compliment, and made a polite answer, and the marriage was quickly
arranged. On the night before it, the bride again climbed to his
window, and again saw him having his teeth filed sharp. At this
sight she laughed such a terrible laugh at the chink in the
shutter, that the Captain's blood curdled, and he said: 'I hope
nothing has disagreed with me!' At that, she laughed again, a
still more terrible laugh, and the shutter was opened and search
made, but she was nimbly gone, and there was no one. Next day they
went to church in a coach and twelve, and were married. And that
day month, she rolled the pie-crust out, and Captain Murderer cut
her head off, and chopped her in pieces, and peppered her, and
salted her, and put her in the pie, and sent it to the baker's, and
ate it all, and picked the bones.

But before she began to roll out the paste she had taken a deadly
poison of a most awful character, distilled from toads' eyes and
spiders' knees; and Captain Murderer had hardly picked her last
bone, when he began to swell, and to turn blue, and to be all over
spots, and to scream. And he went on swelling and turning bluer,
and being more all over spots and screaming, until he reached from
floor to ceiling and from wall to wall; and then, at one o'clock in
the morning, he blew up with a loud explosion. At the sound of it,
all the milk-white horses in the stables broke their halters and
went mad, and then they galloped over everybody in Captain
Murderer's house (beginning with the family blacksmith who had
filed his teeth) until the whole were dead, and then they galloped
away.

Hundreds of times did I hear this legend of Captain Murderer, in my
early youth, and added hundreds of times was there a mental
compulsion upon me in bed, to peep in at his window as the dark
twin peeped, and to revisit his horrible house, and look at him in
his blue and spotty and screaming stage, as he reached from floor
to ceiling and from wall to wall. The young woman who brought me
acquainted with Captain Murderer had a fiendish enjoyment of my
terrors, and used to begin, I remember--as a sort of introductory
overture--by clawing the air with both hands, and uttering a long
low hollow groan. So acutely did I suffer from this ceremony in
combination with this infernal Captain, that I sometimes used to
plead I thought I was hardly strong enough and old enough to hear
the story again just yet. But, she never spared me one word of it,
and indeed commanded the awful chalice to my lips as the only
preservative known to science against 'The Black Cat'--a weird and
glaring-eyed supernatural Tom, who was reputed to prowl about the
world by night, sucking the breath of infancy, and who was endowed
with a special thirst (as I was given to understand) for mine.

This female bard--may she have been repaid my debt of obligation to
her in the matter of nightmares and perspirations!--reappears in my
memory as the daughter of a shipwright. Her name was Mercy, though
she had none on me. There was something of a shipbuilding flavour
in the following story. As it always recurs to me in a vague
association with calomel pills, I believe it to have been reserved
for dull nights when I was low with medicine.

There was once a shipwright, and he wrought in a Government Yard,
and his name was Chips. And his father's name before him was
Chips, and HIS father's name before HIM was Chips, and they were
all Chipses. And Chips the father had sold himself to the Devil
for an iron pot and a bushel of tenpenny nails and half a ton of
copper and a rat that could speak; and Chips the grandfather had
sold himself to the Devil for an iron pot and a bushel of tenpenny
nails and half a ton of copper and a rat that could speak; and
Chips the great-grandfather had disposed of himself in the same
direction on the same terms; and the bargain had run in the family
for a long, long time. So, one day, when young Chips was at work
in the Dock Slip all alone, down in the dark hold of an old
Seventy-four that was haled up for repairs, the Devil presented
himself, and remarked:

'A Lemon has pips,
And a Yard has ships,
And _I_'ll have Chips!'

(I don't know why, but this fact of the Devil's expressing himself
in rhyme was peculiarly trying to me.) Chips looked up when he
heard the words, and there he saw the Devil with saucer eyes that
squinted on a terrible great scale, and that struck out sparks of
blue fire continually. And whenever he winked his eyes, showers of
blue sparks came out, and his eyelashes made a clattering like
flints and steels striking lights. And hanging over one of his
arms by the handle was an iron pot, and under that arm was a bushel
of tenpenny nails, and under his other arm was half a ton of
copper, and sitting on one of his shoulders was a rat that could
speak. So, the Devil said again:

'A Lemon has pips,
And a Yard has ships,
And _I_'ll have Chips!'

(The invariable effect of this alarming tautology on the part of
the Evil Spirit was to deprive me of my senses for some moments.)
So, Chips answered never a word, but went on with his work. 'What
are you doing, Chips?' said the rat that could speak. 'I am
putting in new planks where you and your gang have eaten old away,'
said Chips. 'But we'll eat them too,' said the rat that could
speak; 'and we'll let in the water and drown the crew, and we'll
eat them too.' Chips, being only a shipwright, and not a Man-of-
war's man, said, 'You are welcome to it.' But he couldn't keep his
eyes off the half a ton of copper or the bushel of tenpenny nails;
for nails and copper are a shipwright's sweethearts, and
shipwrights will run away with them whenever they can. So, the
Devil said, 'I see what you are looking at, Chips. You had better
strike the bargain. You know the terms. Your father before you
was well acquainted with them, and so were your grandfather and
great-grandfather before him.' Says Chips, 'I like the copper, and
I like the nails, and I don't mind the pot, but I don't like the
rat.' Says the Devil, fiercely, 'You can't have the metal without
him--and HE'S a curiosity. I'm going.' Chips, afraid of losing
the half a ton of copper and the bushel of nails, then said, 'Give
us hold!' So, he got the copper and the nails and the pot and the
rat that could speak, and the Devil vanished. Chips sold the
copper, and he sold the nails, and he would have sold the pot; but
whenever he offered it for sale, the rat was in it, and the dealers
dropped it, and would have nothing to say to the bargain. So,
Chips resolved to kill the rat, and, being at work in the Yard one
day with a great kettle of hot pitch on one side of him and the
iron pot with the rat in it on the other, he turned the scalding
pitch into the pot, and filled it full. Then, he kept his eye upon
it till it cooled and hardened, and then he let it stand for twenty
days, and then he heated the pitch again and turned it back into
the kettle, and then he sank the pot in water for twenty days more,
and then he got the smelters to put it in the furnace for twenty
days more, and then they gave it him out, red hot, and looking like
red-hot glass instead of iron-yet there was the rat in it, just the
same as ever! And the moment it caught his eye, it said with a
jeer:

'A Lemon has pips,
And a Yard has ships,
And _I_'ll have Chips!'

(For this Refrain I had waited since its last appearance, with
inexpressible horror, which now culminated.) Chips now felt
certain in his own mind that the rat would stick to him; the rat,
answering his thought, said, 'I will--like pitch!'

Now, as the rat leaped out of the pot when it had spoken, and made
off, Chips began to hope that it wouldn't keep its word. But, a
terrible thing happened next day. For, when dinner-time came, and
the Dock-bell rang to strike work, he put his rule into the long
pocket at the side of his trousers, and there he found a rat--not
that rat, but another rat. And in his hat, he found another; and
in his pocket-handkerchief, another; and in the sleeves of his
coat, when he pulled it on to go to dinner, two more. And from
that time he found himself so frightfully intimate with all the
rats in the Yard, that they climbed up his legs when he was at
work, and sat on his tools while he used them. And they could all
speak to one another, and he understood what they said. And they
got into his lodging, and into his bed, and into his teapot, and
into his beer, and into his boots. And he was going to be married
to a corn-chandler's daughter; and when he gave her a workbox he
had himself made for her, a rat jumped out of it; and when he put
his arm round her waist, a rat clung about her; so the marriage was
broken off, though the banns were already twice put up--which the
parish clerk well remembers, for, as he handed the book to the
clergyman for the second time of asking, a large fat rat ran over
the leaf. (By this time a special cascade of rats was rolling down
my back, and the whole of my small listening person was overrun
with them. At intervals ever since, I have been morbidly afraid of
my own pocket, lest my exploring hand should find a specimen or two
of those vermin in it.)

You may believe that all this was very terrible to Chips; but even
all this was not the worst. He knew besides, what the rats were
doing, wherever they were. So, sometimes he would cry aloud, when
he was at his club at night, 'Oh! Keep the rats out of the
convicts' burying-ground! Don't let them do that!' Or, 'There's
one of them at the cheese down-stairs!' Or, 'There's two of them
smelling at the baby in the garret!' Or, other things of that
sort. At last, he was voted mad, and lost his work in the Yard,
and could get no other work. But, King George wanted men, so
before very long he got pressed for a sailor. And so he was taken
off in a boat one evening to his ship, lying at Spithead, ready to
sail. And so the first thing he made out in her as he got near
her, was the figure-head of the old Seventy-four, where he had seen
the Devil. She was called the Argonaut, and they rowed right under
the bowsprit where the figure-head of the Argonaut, with a
sheepskin in his hand and a blue gown on, was looking out to sea;
and sitting staring on his forehead was the rat who could speak,
and his exact words were these: 'Chips ahoy! Old boy! We've
pretty well eat them too, and we'll drown the crew, and will eat
them too!' (Here I always became exceedingly faint, and would have
asked for water, but that I was speechless.)

The ship was bound for the Indies; and if you don't know where that
is, you ought to it, and angels will never love you. (Here I felt
myself an outcast from a future state.) The ship set sail that
very night, and she sailed, and sailed, and sailed. Chips's
feelings were dreadful. Nothing ever equalled his terrors. No
wonder. At last, one day he asked leave to speak to the Admiral.
The Admiral giv' leave. Chips went down on his knees in the Great
State Cabin. 'Your Honour, unless your Honour, without a moment's
loss of time, makes sail for the nearest shore, this is a doomed
ship, and her name is the Coffin!' 'Young man, your words are a
madman's words.' 'Your Honour no; they are nibbling us away.'
'They?' 'Your Honour, them dreadful rats. Dust and hollowness
where solid oak ought to be! Rats nibbling a grave for every man
on board! Oh! Does your Honour love your Lady and your pretty
children?' 'Yes, my man, to be sure.' 'Then, for God's sake, make
for the nearest shore, for at this present moment the rats are all
stopping in their work, and are all looking straight towards you
with bare teeth, and are all saying to one another that you shall
never, never, never, never, see your Lady and your children more.'
'My poor fellow, you are a case for the doctor. Sentry, take care
of this man!'

So, he was bled and he was blistered, and he was this and that, for
six whole days and nights. So, then he again asked leave to speak
to the Admiral. The Admiral giv' leave. He went down on his knees
in the Great State Cabin. 'Now, Admiral, you must die! You took
no warning; you must die! The rats are never wrong in their
calculations, and they make out that they'll be through, at twelve
to-night. So, you must die!--With me and all the rest!' And so at
twelve o'clock there was a great leak reported in the ship, and a
torrent of water rushed in and nothing could stop it, and they all
went down, every living soul. And what the rats--being water-rats-
-left of Chips, at last floated to shore, and sitting on him was an
immense overgrown rat, laughing, that dived when the corpse touched
the beach and never came up. And there was a deal of seaweed on
the remains. And if you get thirteen bits of seaweed, and dry them
and burn them in the fire, they will go off like in these thirteen
words as plain as plain can be:

'A Lemon has pips,
And a Yard has ships,
And _I_'ve got Chips!'

The same female bard--descended, possibly, from those terrible old
Scalds who seem to have existed for the express purpose of addling
the brains of mankind when they begin to investigate languages--
made a standing pretence which greatly assisted in forcing me back
to a number of hideous places that I would by all means have
avoided. This pretence was, that all her ghost stories had
occurred to her own relations. Politeness towards a meritorious
family, therefore, forbade my doubting them, and they acquired an
air of authentication that impaired my digestive powers for life.
There was a narrative concerning an unearthly animal foreboding
death, which appeared in the open street to a parlour-maid who
'went to fetch the beer' for supper: first (as I now recall it)
assuming the likeness of a black dog, and gradually rising on its
hind-legs and swelling into the semblance of some quadruped greatly
surpassing a hippopotamus: which apparition--not because I deemed
it in the least improbable, but because I felt it to be really too
large to bear--I feebly endeavoured to explain away. But, on
Mercy's retorting with wounded dignity that the parlour-maid was
her own sister-in-law, I perceived there was no hope, and resigned
myself to this zoological phenomenon as one of my many pursuers.
There was another narrative describing the apparition of a young
woman who came out of a glass-case and haunted another young woman
until the other young woman questioned it and elicited that its
bones (Lord! To think of its being so particular about its bones!)
were buried under the glass-case, whereas she required them to be
interred, with every Undertaking solemnity up to twenty-four pound
ten, in another particular place. This narrative I considered--I
had a personal interest in disproving, because we had glass-cases
at home, and how, otherwise, was I to be guaranteed from the
intrusion of young women requiring ME TO bury them up to twenty-
four pound ten, when I had only twopence a week? But my
remorseless nurse cut the ground from under my tender feet, by
informing me that She was the other young woman; and I couldn't say
'I don't believe you;' it was not possible.

Such are a few of the uncommercial journeys that I was forced to
make, against my will, when I was very young and unreasoning. And
really, as to the latter part of them, it is not so very long ago--
now I come to think of it--that I was asked to undertake them once
again, with a steady countenance.

CHAPTER XVI--ARCADIAN LONDON

Being in a humour for complete solitude and uninterrupted
meditation this autumn, I have taken a lodging for six weeks in the
most unfrequented part of England--in a word, in London.

The retreat into which I have withdrawn myself, is Bond-street.
From this lonely spot I make pilgrimages into the surrounding
wilderness, and traverse extensive tracts of the Great Desert. The
first solemn feeling of isolation overcome, the first oppressive
consciousness of profound retirement conquered, I enjoy that sense
of freedom, and feel reviving within me that latent wildness of the
original savage, which has been (upon the whole somewhat
frequently) noticed by Travellers.

My lodgings are at a hatter's--my own hatter's. After exhibiting
no articles in his window for some weeks, but sea-side wide-awakes,
shooting-caps, and a choice of rough waterproof head-gear for the
moors and mountains, he has put upon the heads of his family as
much of this stock as they could carry, and has taken them off to
the Isle of Thanet. His young man alone remains--and remains alone
in the shop. The young man has let out the fire at which the irons
are heated, and, saving his strong sense of duty, I see no reason
why he should take the shutters down.

Happily for himself and for his country the young man is a
Volunteer; most happily for himself, or I think he would become the
prey of a settled melancholy. For, to live surrounded by human
hats, and alienated from human heads to fit them on, is surely a
great endurance. But, the young man, sustained by practising his
exercise, and by constantly furbishing up his regulation plume (it
is unnecessary to observe that, as a hatter, he is in a cock's-
feather corps), is resigned, and uncomplaining. On a Saturday,
when he closes early and gets his Knickerbockers on, he is even
cheerful. I am gratefully particular in this reference to him,
because he is my companion through many peaceful hours.

My hatter has a desk up certain steps behind his counter, enclosed
like the clerk's desk at Church. I shut myself into this place of
seclusion, after breakfast, and meditate. At such times, I observe
the young man loading an imaginary rifle with the greatest
precision, and maintaining a most galling and destructive fire upon
the national enemy. I thank him publicly for his companionship and
his patriotism.

The simple character of my life, and the calm nature of the scenes
by which I am surrounded, occasion me to rise early. I go forth in
my slippers, and promenade the pavement. It is pastoral to feel
the freshness of the air in the uninhabited town, and to appreciate
the shepherdess character of the few milkwomen who purvey so little
milk that it would be worth nobody's while to adulterate it, if
anybody were left to undertake the task. On the crowded sea-shore,
the great demand for milk, combined with the strong local
temptation of chalk, would betray itself in the lowered quality of
the article. In Arcadian London I derive it from the cow.

The Arcadian simplicity of the metropolis altogether, and the
primitive ways into which it has fallen in this autumnal Golden
Age, make it entirely new to me. Within a few hundred yards of my
retreat, is the house of a friend who maintains a most sumptuous
butler. I never, until yesterday, saw that butler out of superfine
black broadcloth. Until yesterday, I never saw him off duty, never
saw him (he is the best of butlers) with the appearance of having
any mind for anything but the glory of his master and his master's
friends. Yesterday morning, walking in my slippers near the house
of which he is the prop and ornament--a house now a waste of
shutters--I encountered that butler, also in his slippers, and in a
shooting suit of one colour, and in a low-crowned straw-hat,
smoking an early cigar. He felt that we had formerly met in
another state of existence, and that we were translated into a new
sphere. Wisely and well, he passed me without recognition. Under
his arm he carried the morning paper, and shortly afterwards I saw
him sitting on a rail in the pleasant open landscape of Regent-
street, perusing it at his ease under the ripening sun.

My landlord having taken his whole establishment to be salted down,
I am waited on by an elderly woman labouring under a chronic sniff,
who, at the shadowy hour of half-past nine o'clock of every
evening, gives admittance at the street door to a meagre and mouldy
old man whom I have never yet seen detached from a flat pint of
beer in a pewter pot. The meagre and mouldy old man is her
husband, and the pair have a dejected consciousness that they are
not justified in appearing on the surface of the earth. They come
out of some hole when London empties itself, and go in again when
it fills. I saw them arrive on the evening when I myself took
possession, and they arrived with the flat pint of beer, and their
bed in a bundle. The old man is a weak old man, and appeared to me
to get the bed down the kitchen stairs by tumbling down with and
upon it. They make their bed in the lowest and remotest corner of
the basement, and they smell of bed, and have no possession but
bed: unless it be (which I rather infer from an under-current of
flavour in them) cheese. I know their name, through the chance of
having called the wife's attention, at half-past nine on the second
evening of our acquaintance, to the circumstance of there being
some one at the house door; when she apologetically explained,
'It's only Mr. Klem.' What becomes of Mr. Klem all day, or when he
goes out, or why, is a mystery I cannot penetrate; but at half-past
nine he never fails to turn up on the door-step with the flat pint
of beer. And the pint of beer, flat as it is, is so much more
important than himself, that it always seems to my fancy as if it
had found him drivelling in the street and had humanely brought him
home. In making his way below, Mr. Klem never goes down the middle
of the passage, like another Christian, but shuffles against the
wall as if entreating me to take notice that he is occupying as
little space as possible in the house; and whenever I come upon him
face to face, he backs from me in fascinated confusion. The most
extraordinary circumstance I have traced in connexion with this
aged couple, is, that there is a Miss Klem, their daughter,
apparently ten years older than either of them, who has also a bed
and smells of it, and carries it about the earth at dusk and hides
it in deserted houses. I came into this piece of knowledge through
Mrs. Klem's beseeching me to sanction the sheltering of Miss Klem
under that roof for a single night, 'between her takin' care of the
upper part in Pall Mall which the family of his back, and a 'ouse
in Serjameses-street, which the family of leaves towng ter-morrer.'
I gave my gracious consent (having nothing that I know of to do
with it), and in the shadowy hours Miss Klem became perceptible on
the door-step, wrestling with a bed in a bundle. Where she made it
up for the night I cannot positively state, but, I think, in a
sink. I know that with the instinct of a reptile or an insect, she
stowed it and herself away in deep obscurity. In the Klem family,
I have noticed another remarkable gift of nature, and that is a
power they possess of converting everything into flue. Such broken
victuals as they take by stealth, appear (whatever the nature of
the viands) invariably to generate flue; and even the nightly pint
of beer, instead of assimilating naturally, strikes me as breaking
out in that form, equally on the shabby gown of Mrs. Klem, and the
threadbare coat of her husband.

Mrs. Klem has no idea of my name--as to Mr. Klem he has no idea of
anything--and only knows me as her good gentleman. Thus, if
doubtful whether I am in my room or no, Mrs. Klem taps at the door
and says, 'Is my good gentleman here?' Or, if a messenger desiring
to see me were consistent with my solitude, she would show him in
with 'Here is my good gentleman.' I find this to be a generic
custom. For, I meant to have observed before now, that in its
Arcadian time all my part of London is indistinctly pervaded by the
Klem species. They creep about with beds, and go to bed in miles
of deserted houses. They hold no companionship except that
sometimes, after dark, two of them will emerge from opposite
houses, and meet in the middle of the road as on neutral ground, or
will peep from adjoining houses over an interposing barrier of area
railings, and compare a few reserved mistrustful notes respecting
their good ladies or good gentlemen. This I have discovered in the
course of various solitary rambles I have taken Northward from my
retirement, along the awful perspectives of Wimpole-street, Harley-
street, and similar frowning regions. Their effect would be
scarcely distinguishable from that of the primeval forests, but for
the Klem stragglers; these may be dimly observed, when the heavy
shadows fall, flitting to and fro, putting up the door-chain,
taking in the pint of beer, lowering like phantoms at the dark
parlour windows, or secretly consorting underground with the dust-
bin and the water-cistern.

In the Burlington Arcade, I observe, with peculiar pleasure, a
primitive state of manners to have superseded the baneful
influences of ultra civilisation. Nothing can surpass the
innocence of the ladies' shoe-shops, the artificial-flower
repositories, and the head-dress depots. They are in strange hands
at this time of year--hands of unaccustomed persons, who are
imperfectly acquainted with the prices of the goods, and
contemplate them with unsophisticated delight and wonder. The
children of these virtuous people exchange familiarities in the
Arcade, and temper the asperity of the two tall beadles. Their
youthful prattle blends in an unwonted manner with the harmonious
shade of the scene, and the general effect is, as of the voices of
birds in a grove. In this happy restoration of the golden time, it
has been my privilege even to see the bigger beadle's wife. She
brought him his dinner in a basin, and he ate it in his arm-chair,
and afterwards fell asleep like a satiated child. At Mr.
Truefitt's, the excellent hairdresser's, they are learning French
to beguile the time; and even the few solitaries left on guard at
Mr. Atkinson's, the perfumer's round the corner (generally the most
inexorable gentleman in London, and the most scornful of three-and-
sixpence), condescend a little, as they drowsily bide or recall
their turn for chasing the ebbing Neptune on the ribbed sea-sand.
From Messrs. Hunt and Roskell's, the jewellers, all things are
absent but the precious stones, and the gold and silver, and the
soldierly pensioner at the door with his decorated breast. I might
stand night and day for a month to come, in Saville-row, with my
tongue out, yet not find a doctor to look at it for love or money.
The dentists' instruments are rusting in their drawers, and their
horrible cool parlours, where people pretend to read the Every-Day
Book and not to be afraid, are doing penance for their grimness in
white sheets. The light-weight of shrewd appearance, with one eye
always shut up, as if he were eating a sharp gooseberry in all
seasons, who usually stands at the gateway of the livery-stables on
very little legs under a very large waistcoat, has gone to
Doncaster. Of such undesigning aspect is his guileless yard now,
with its gravel and scarlet beans, and the yellow Break housed
under a glass roof in a corner, that I almost believe I could not
be taken in there, if I tried. In the places of business of the
great tailors, the cheval-glasses are dim and dusty for lack of
being looked into. Ranges of brown paper coat and waistcoat bodies
look as funereal as if they were the hatchments of the customers
with whose names they are inscribed; the measuring tapes hang idle
on the wall; the order-taker, left on the hopeless chance of some
one looking in, yawns in the last extremity over the book of
patterns, as if he were trying to read that entertaining library.
The hotels in Brook-street have no one in them, and the staffs of
servants stare disconsolately for next season out of all the
windows. The very man who goes about like an erect Turtle, between
two boards recommendatory of the Sixteen Shilling Trousers, is
aware of himself as a hollow mockery, and eats filberts while he
leans his hinder shell against a wall.

Among these tranquillising objects, it is my delight to walk and
meditate. Soothed by the repose around me, I wander insensibly to
considerable distances, and guide myself back by the stars. Thus,
I enjoy the contrast of a few still partially inhabited and busy
spots where all the lights are not fled, where all the garlands are
not dead, whence all but I have not departed. Then, does it appear
to me that in this age three things are clamorously required of Man
in the miscellaneous thoroughfares of the metropolis. Firstly,
that he have his boots cleaned. Secondly, that he eat a penny ice.
Thirdly, that he get himself photographed. Then do I speculate,
What have those seam-worn artists been who stand at the photograph
doors in Greek caps, sample in hand, and mysteriously salute the
public--the female public with a pressing tenderness--to come in
and be 'took'? What did they do with their greasy blandishments,
before the era of cheap photography? Of what class were their
previous victims, and how victimised? And how did they get, and
how did they pay for, that large collection of likenesses, all
purporting to have been taken inside, with the taking of none of
which had that establishment any more to do than with the taking of
Delhi?

But, these are small oases, and I am soon back again in
metropolitan Arcadia. It is my impression that much of its serene
and peaceful character is attributable to the absence of customary
Talk. How do I know but there may be subtle influences in Talk, to
vex the souls of men who don't hear it? How do I know but that
Talk, five, ten, twenty miles off, may get into the air and
disagree with me? If I rise from my bed, vaguely troubled and
wearied and sick of my life, in the session of Parliament, who
shall say that my noble friend, my right reverend friend, my right
honourable friend, my honourable friend, my honourable and learned
friend, or my honourable and gallant friend, may not be responsible
for that effect upon my nervous system? Too much Ozone in the air,
I am informed and fully believe (though I have no idea what it is),
would affect me in a marvellously disagreeable way; why may not too
much Talk? I don't see or hear the Ozone; I don't see or hear the
Talk. And there is so much Talk; so much too much; such loud cry,
and such scant supply of wool; such a deal of fleecing, and so
little fleece! Hence, in the Arcadian season, I find it a
delicious triumph to walk down to deserted Westminster, and see the
Courts shut up; to walk a little further and see the Two Houses
shut up; to stand in the Abbey Yard, like the New Zealander of the
grand English History (concerning which unfortunate man, a whole
rookery of mares' nests is generally being discovered), and gloat
upon the ruins of Talk. Returning to my primitive solitude and
lying down to sleep, my grateful heart expands with the
consciousness that there is no adjourned Debate, no ministerial
explanation, nobody to give notice of intention to ask the noble
Lord at the head of her Majesty's Government five-and-twenty
bootless questions in one, no term time with legal argument, no
Nisi Prius with eloquent appeal to British Jury; that the air will
to-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, remain untroubled by this
superabundant generating of Talk. In a minor degree it is a
delicious triumph to me to go into the club, and see the carpets
up, and the Bores and the other dust dispersed to the four winds.
Again, New Zealander-like, I stand on the cold hearth, and say in
the solitude, 'Here I watched Bore A 1, with voice always
mysteriously low and head always mysteriously drooped, whispering
political secrets into the ears of Adam's confiding children.
Accursed be his memory for ever and a day!'

But, I have all this time been coming to the point, that the happy
nature of my retirement is most sweetly expressed in its being the
abode of Love. It is, as it were, an inexpensive Agapemone:
nobody's speculation: everybody's profit. The one great result of
the resumption of primitive habits, and (convertible terms) the not
having much to do, is, the abounding of Love.

The Klem species are incapable of the softer emotions; probably, in
that low nomadic race, the softer emotions have all degenerated
into flue. But, with this exception, all the sharers of my retreat
make love.

I have mentioned Saville-row. We all know the Doctor's servant.
We all know what a respectable man he is, what a hard dry man, what
a firm man, what a confidential man: how he lets us into the
waiting-room, like a man who knows minutely what is the matter with
us, but from whom the rack should not wring the secret. In the
prosaic "season," he has distinctly the appearance of a man
conscious of money in the savings bank, and taking his stand on his
respectability with both feet. At that time it is as impossible to
associate him with relaxation, or any human weakness, as it is to
meet his eye without feeling guilty of indisposition. In the blest
Arcadian time, how changed! I have seen him, in a pepper-and-salt
jacket--jacket--and drab trousers, with his arm round the waist of
a bootmaker's housemaid, smiling in open day. I have seen him at
the pump by the Albany, unsolicitedly pumping for two fair young
creatures, whose figures as they bent over their cans, were--if I
may be allowed an original expression--a model for the sculptor. I
have seen him trying the piano in the Doctor's drawing-room with
his forefinger, and have heard him humming tunes in praise of
lovely woman. I have seen him seated on a fire-engine, and going
(obviously in search of excitement) to a fire. I saw him, one
moonlight evening when the peace and purity of our Arcadian west
were at their height, polk with the lovely daughter of a cleaner of
gloves, from the door-steps of his own residence, across Saville-
row, round by Clifford-street and Old Burlington-street, back to
Burlington-gardens. Is this the Golden Age revived, or Iron
London?

The Dentist's servant. Is that man no mystery to us, no type of
invisible power? The tremendous individual knows (who else does?)
what is done with the extracted teeth; he knows what goes on in the
little room where something is always being washed or filed; he
knows what warm spicy infusion is put into the comfortable tumbler
from which we rinse our wounded mouth, with a gap in it that feels
a foot wide; he knows whether the thing we spit into is a fixture
communicating with the Thames, or could be cleared away for a
dance; he sees the horrible parlour where there are no patients in
it, and he could reveal, if he would, what becomes of the Every-Day
Book then. The conviction of my coward conscience when I see that
man in a professional light, is, that he knows all the statistics
of my teeth and gums, my double teeth, my single teeth, my stopped
teeth, and my sound. In this Arcadian rest, I am fearless of him
as of a harmless, powerless creature in a Scotch cap, who adores a
young lady in a voluminous crinoline, at a neighbouring billiard-
room, and whose passion would be uninfluenced if every one of her
teeth were false. They may be. He takes them all on trust.

In secluded corners of the place of my seclusion, there are little
shops withdrawn from public curiosity, and never two together,
where servants' perquisites are bought. The cook may dispose of
grease at these modest and convenient marts; the butler, of
bottles; the valet and lady's maid, of clothes; most servants,
indeed, of most things they may happen to lay hold of. I have been
told that in sterner times loving correspondence, otherwise
interdicted, may be maintained by letter through the agency of some
of these useful establishments. In the Arcadian autumn, no such
device is necessary. Everybody loves, and openly and blamelessly
loves. My landlord's young man loves the whole of one side of the
way of Old Bond-street, and is beloved several doors up New Bond-
street besides. I never look out of window but I see kissing of
hands going on all around me. It is the morning custom to glide
from shop to shop and exchange tender sentiments; it is the evening
custom for couples to stand hand in hand at house doors, or roam,
linked in that flowery manner, through the unpeopled streets.
There is nothing else to do but love; and what there is to do, is
done.

In unison with this pursuit, a chaste simplicity obtains in the
domestic habits of Arcadia. Its few scattered people dine early,
live moderately, sup socially, and sleep soundly. It is rumoured
that the Beadles of the Arcade, from being the mortal enemies of
boys, have signed with tears an address to Lord Shaftesbury, and
subscribed to a ragged school. No wonder! For, they might turn
their heavy maces into crooks and tend sheep in the Arcade, to the
purling of the water-carts as they give the thirsty streets much
more to drink than they can carry.

A happy Golden Age, and a serene tranquillity. Charming picture,
but it will fade. The iron age will return, London will come back
to town, if I show my tongue then in Saville-row for half a minute
I shall be prescribed for, the Doctor's man and the Dentist's man
will then pretend that these days of unprofessional innocence never
existed. Where Mr. and Mrs. Klem and their bed will be at that
time, passes human knowledge; but my hatter hermitage will then
know them no more, nor will it then know me. The desk at which I
have written these meditations will retributively assist at the
making out of my account, and the wheels of gorgeous carriages and
the hoofs of high-stepping horses will crush the silence out of
Bond-street--will grind Arcadia away, and give it to the elements
in granite powder.

CHAPTER XVII--THE ITALIAN PRISONER

The rising of the Italian people from under their unutterable
wrongs, and the tardy burst of day upon them after the long long
night of oppression that has darkened their beautiful country, have
naturally caused my mind to dwell often of late on my own small
wanderings in Italy. Connected with them, is a curious little
drama, in which the character I myself sustained was so very
subordinate that I may relate its story without any fear of being
suspected of self-display. It is strictly a true story.

I am newly arrived one summer evening, in a certain small town on
the Mediterranean. I have had my dinner at the inn, and I and the
mosquitoes are coming out into the streets together. It is far
from Naples; but a bright, brown, plump little woman-servant at the
inn, is a Neapolitan, and is so vivaciously expert in panto-mimic
action, that in the single moment of answering my request to have a
pair of shoes cleaned which I have left up-stairs, she plies
imaginary brushes, and goes completely through the motions of
polishing the shoes up, and laying them at my feet. I smile at the
brisk little woman in perfect satisfaction with her briskness; and
the brisk little woman, amiably pleased with me because I am
pleased with her, claps her hands and laughs delightfully. We are
in the inn yard. As the little woman's bright eyes sparkle on the
cigarette I am smoking, I make bold to offer her one; she accepts
it none the less merrily, because I touch a most charming little
dimple in her fat cheek, with its light paper end. Glancing up at
the many green lattices to assure herself that the mistress is not
looking on, the little woman then puts her two little dimple arms
a-kimbo, and stands on tiptoe to light her cigarette at mine. 'And
now, dear little sir,' says she, puffing out smoke in a most
innocent and cherubic manner, 'keep quite straight on, take the
first to the right and probably you will see him standing at his
door.'

I gave a commission to 'him,' and I have been inquiring about him.
I have carried the commission about Italy several months. Before I
left England, there came to me one night a certain generous and
gentle English nobleman (he is dead in these days when I relate the
story, and exiles have lost their best British friend), with this
request: 'Whenever you come to such a town, will you seek out one
Giovanni Carlavero, who keeps a little wine-shop there, mention my
name to him suddenly, and observe how it affects him?' I accepted
the trust, and am on my way to discharge it.

The sirocco has been blowing all day, and it is a hot unwholesome
evening with no cool sea-breeze. Mosquitoes and fire-flies are
lively enough, but most other creatures are faint. The coquettish
airs of pretty young women in the tiniest and wickedest of dolls'
straw hats, who lean out at opened lattice blinds, are almost the
only airs stirring. Very ugly and haggard old women with distaffs,
and with a grey tow upon them that looks as if they were spinning
out their own hair (I suppose they were once pretty, too, but it is
very difficult to believe so), sit on the footway leaning against
house walls. Everybody who has come for water to the fountain,
stays there, and seems incapable of any such energetic idea as
going home. Vespers are over, though not so long but that I can
smell the heavy resinous incense as I pass the church. No man
seems to be at work, save the coppersmith. In an Italian town he
is always at work, and always thumping in the deadliest manner.

I keep straight on, and come in due time to the first on the right:
a narrow dull street, where I see a well-favoured man of good
stature and military bearing, in a great cloak, standing at a door.
Drawing nearer to this threshold, I see it is the threshold of a
small wine-shop; and I can just make out, in the dim light, the
inscription that it is kept by Giovanni Carlavero.

I touch my hat to the figure in the cloak, and pass in, and draw a
stool to a little table. The lamp (just such another as they dig
out of Pompeii) is lighted, but the place is empty. The figure in
the cloak has followed me in, and stands before me.

'The master?'

'At your service, sir.'

'Please to give me a glass of the wine of the country.'

He turns to a little counter, to get it. As his striking face is
pale, and his action is evidently that of an enfeebled man, I
remark that I fear he has been ill. It is not much, he courteously
and gravely answers, though bad while it lasts: the fever.

As he sets the wine on the little table, to his manifest surprise I
lay my hand on the back of his, look him in the face, and say in a
low voice: 'I am an Englishman, and you are acquainted with a
friend of mine. Do you recollect--?' and I mentioned the name of
my generous countryman.

Instantly, he utters a loud cry, bursts into tears, and falls on
his knees at my feet, clasping my legs in both his arms and bowing
his head to the ground.

Some years ago, this man at my feet, whose over-fraught heart is
heaving as if it would burst from his breast, and whose tears are
wet upon the dress I wear, was a galley-slave in the North of
Italy. He was a political offender, having been concerned in the
then last rising, and was sentenced to imprisonment for life. That
he would have died in his chains, is certain, but for the
circumstance that the Englishman happened to visit his prison.

It was one of the vile old prisons of Italy, and a part of it was
below the waters of the harbour. The place of his confinement was
an arched under-ground and under-water gallery, with a grill-gate
at the entrance, through which it received such light and air as it
got. Its condition was insufferably foul, and a stranger could
hardly breathe in it, or see in it with the aid of a torch. At the
upper end of this dungeon, and consequently in the worst position,
as being the furthest removed from light and air, the Englishman
first beheld him, sitting on an iron bedstead to which he was
chained by a heavy chain. His countenance impressed the Englishmen
as having nothing in common with the faces of the malefactors with
whom he was associated, and he talked with him, and learnt how he
came to be there.

When the Englishman emerged from the dreadful den into the light of
day, he asked his conductor, the governor of the jail, why Giovanni
Carlavero was put into the worst place?

'Because he is particularly recommended,' was the stringent answer.

'Recommended, that is to say, for death?'

'Excuse me; particularly recommended,' was again the answer.

'He has a bad tumour in his neck, no doubt occasioned by the
hardship of his miserable life. If he continues to be neglected,
and he remains where he is, it will kill him.'

'Excuse me, I can do nothing. He is particularly recommended.'
The Englishman was staying in that town, and he went to his home
there; but the figure of this man chained to the bedstead made it
no home, and destroyed his rest and peace. He was an Englishman of
an extraordinarily tender heart, and he could not bear the picture.
He went back to the prison grate; went back again and again, and
talked to the man and cheered him. He used his utmost influence to
get the man unchained from the bedstead, were it only for ever so
short a time in the day, and permitted to come to the grate. It
look a long time, but the Englishman's station, personal character,
and steadiness of purpose, wore out opposition so far, and that
grace was at last accorded. Through the bars, when he could thus
get light upon the tumour, the Englishman lanced it, and it did
well, and healed. His strong interest in the prisoner had greatly
increased by this time, and he formed the desperate resolution that
he would exert his utmost self-devotion and use his utmost efforts,
to get Carlavero pardoned.

If the prisoner had been a brigand and a murderer, if he had
committed every non-political crime in the Newgate Calendar and out
of it, nothing would have been easier than for a man of any court
or priestly influence to obtain his release. As it was, nothing
could have been more difficult. Italian authorities, and English
authorities who had interest with them, alike assured the
Englishman that his object was hopeless. He met with nothing but
evasion, refusal, and ridicule. His political prisoner became a
joke in the place. It was especially observable that English
Circumlocution, and English Society on its travels, were as
humorous on the subject as Circumlocution and Society may be on any
subject without loss of caste. But, the Englishman possessed (and
proved it well in his life) a courage very uncommon among us: he
had not the least fear of being considered a bore, in a good humane
cause. So he went on persistently trying, and trying, and trying,
to get Giovanni Carlavero out. That prisoner had been rigorously
re-chained, after the tumour operation, and it was not likely that
his miserable life could last very long.

One day, when all the town knew about the Englishman and his
political prisoner, there came to the Englishman, a certain
sprightly Italian Advocate of whom he had some knowledge; and he
made this strange proposal. 'Give me a hundred pounds to obtain
Carlavero's release. I think I can get him a pardon, with that
money. But I cannot tell you what I am going to do with the money,
nor must you ever ask me the question if I succeed, nor must you
ever ask me for an account of the money if I fail.' The Englishman
decided to hazard the hundred pounds. He did so, and heard not
another word of the matter. For half a year and more, the Advocate
made no sign, and never once 'took on' in any way, to have the
subject on his mind. The Englishman was then obliged to change his
residence to another and more famous town in the North of Italy.
He parted from the poor prisoner with a sorrowful heart, as from a
doomed man for whom there was no release but Death.

The Englishman lived in his new place of abode another half-year
and more, and had no tidings of the wretched prisoner. At length,
one day, he received from the Advocate a cool, concise, mysterious
note, to this effect. 'If you still wish to bestow that benefit
upon the man in whom you were once interested, send me fifty pounds
more, and I think it can be ensured.' Now, the Englishman had long
settled in his mind that the Advocate was a heartless sharper, who
had preyed upon his credulity and his interest in an unfortunate
sufferer. So, he sat down and wrote a dry answer, giving the
Advocate to understand that he was wiser now than he had been
formerly, and that no more money was extractable from his pocket.

He lived outside the city gates, some mile or two from the post-
office, and was accustomed to walk into the city with his letters
and post them himself. On a lovely spring day, when the sky was
exquisitely blue, and the sea Divinely beautiful, he took his usual
walk, carrying this letter to the Advocate in his pocket. As he
went along, his gentle heart was much moved by the loveliness of
the prospect, and by the thought of the slowly dying prisoner
chained to the bedstead, for whom the universe had no delights. As
he drew nearer and nearer to the city where he was to post the
letter, he became very uneasy in his mind. He debated with
himself, was it remotely possible, after all, that this sum of
fifty pounds could restore the fellow-creature whom he pitied so
much, and for whom he had striven so hard, to liberty? He was not
a conventionally rich Englishman--very far from that--but, he had a
spare fifty pounds at the banker's. He resolved to risk it.
Without doubt, GOD has recompensed him for the resolution.

He went to the banker's, and got a bill for the amount, and
enclosed it in a letter to the Advocate that I wish I could have
seen. He simply told the Advocate that he was quite a poor man,
and that he was sensible it might be a great weakness in him to
part with so much money on the faith of so vague a communication;
but, that there it was, and that he prayed the Advocate to make a
good use of it. If he did otherwise no good could ever come of it,
and it would lie heavy on his soul one day.

Within a week, the Englishman was sitting at his breakfast, when he
heard some suppressed sounds of agitation on the staircase, and
Giovanni Carlavero leaped into the room and fell upon his breast, a
free man!

Conscious of having wronged the Advocate in his own thoughts, the
Englishman wrote him an earnest and grateful letter, avowing the
fact, and entreating him to confide by what means and through what
agency he had succeeded so well. The Advocate returned for answer
through the post, 'There are many things, as you know, in this
Italy of ours, that are safest and best not even spoken of--far
less written of. We may meet some day, and then I may tell you
what you want to know; not here, and now.' But, the two never did
meet again. The Advocate was dead when the Englishman gave me my
trust; and how the man had been set free, remained as great a
mystery to the Englishman, and to the man himself, as it was to me.

But, I knew this:- here was the man, this sultry night, on his
knees at my feet, because I was the Englishman's friend; here were
his tears upon my dress; here were his sobs choking his utterance;
here were his kisses on my hands, because they had touched the
hands that had worked out his release. He had no need to tell me
it would be happiness to him to die for his benefactor; I doubt if
I ever saw real, sterling, fervent gratitude of soul, before or
since.

He was much watched and suspected, he said, and had had enough to
do to keep himself out of trouble. This, and his not having
prospered in his worldly affairs, had led to his having failed in
his usual communications to the Englishman for--as I now remember
the period--some two or three years. But, his prospects were
brighter, and his wife who had been very ill had recovered, and his
fever had left him, and he had bought a little vineyard, and would
I carry to his benefactor the first of its wine? Ay, that I would
(I told him with enthusiasm), and not a drop of it should be
spilled or lost!

He had cautiously closed the door before speaking of himself, and
had talked with such excess of emotion, and in a provincial Italian
so difficult to understand, that I had more than once been obliged
to stop him, and beg him to have compassion on me and be slower and
calmer. By degrees he became so, and tranquilly walked back with
me to the hotel. There, I sat down before I went to bed and wrote
a faithful account of him to the Englishman: which I concluded by
saying that I would bring the wine home, against any difficulties,
every drop.

Early next morning, when I came out at the hotel door to pursue my
journey, I found my friend waiting with one of those immense
bottles in which the Italian peasants store their wine--a bottle
holding some half-dozen gallons--bound round with basket-work for
greater safety on the journey. I see him now, in the bright
sunshine, tears of gratitude in his eyes, proudly inviting my
attention to this corpulent bottle. (At the street-comer hard by,
two high-flavoured, able-bodied monks--pretending to talk together,
but keeping their four evil eyes upon us.)

How the bottle had been got there, did not appear; but the
difficulty of getting it into the ramshackle vetturino carriage in
which I was departing, was so great, and it took up so much room
when it was got in, that I elected to sit outside. The last I saw
of Giovanni Carlavero was his running through the town by the side
of the jingling wheels, clasping my hand as I stretched it down
from the box, charging me with a thousand last loving and dutiful
messages to his dear patron, and finally looking in at the bottle
as it reposed inside, with an admiration of its honourable way of
travelling that was beyond measure delightful.

And now, what disquiet of mind this dearly-beloved and highly-
treasured Bottle began to cost me, no man knows. It was my
precious charge through a long tour, and, for hundreds of miles, I
never had it off my mind by day or by night. Over bad roads--and
they were many--I clung to it with affectionate desperation. Up
mountains, I looked in at it and saw it helplessly tilting over on
its back, with terror. At innumerable inn doors when the weather
was bad, I was obliged to be put into my vehicle before the Bottle
could be got in, and was obliged to have the Bottle lifted out
before human aid could come near me. The Imp of the same name,
except that his associations were all evil and these associations
were all good, would have been a less troublesome travelling
companion. I might have served Mr. Cruikshank as a subject for a
new illustration of the miseries of the Bottle. The National
Temperance Society might have made a powerful Tract of me.

The suspicions that attached to this innocent Bottle, greatly
aggravated my difficulties. It was like the apple-pie in the
child's book. Parma pouted at it, Modena mocked it, Tuscany
tackled it, Naples nibbled it, Rome refused it, Austria accused it,
Soldiers suspected it, Jesuits jobbed it. I composed a neat
Oration, developing my inoffensive intentions in connexion with
this Bottle, and delivered it in an infinity of guard-houses, at a
multitude of town gates, and on every drawbridge, angle, and
rampart, of a complete system of fortifications. Fifty times a
day, I got down to harangue an infuriated soldiery about the
Bottle. Through the filthy degradation of the abject and vile
Roman States, I had as much difficulty in working my way with the
Bottle, as if it had bottled up a complete system of heretical
theology. In the Neapolitan country, where everybody was a spy, a
soldier, a priest, or a lazzarone, the shameless beggars of all
four denominations incessantly pounced on the Bottle and made it a
pretext for extorting money from me. Quires--quires do I say?
Reams--of forms illegibly printed on whity-brown paper were filled
up about the Bottle, and it was the subject of more stamping and
sanding than I had ever seen before. In consequence of which haze
of sand, perhaps, it was always irregular, and always latent with
dismal penalties of going back or not going forward, which were
only to be abated by the silver crossing of a base hand, poked
shirtless out of a ragged uniform sleeve. Under all
discouragements, however, I stuck to my Bottle, and held firm to my
resolution that every drop of its contents should reach the
Bottle's destination.

The latter refinement cost me a separate heap of troubles on its
own separate account. What corkscrews did I see the military power
bring out against that Bottle; what gimlets, spikes, divining rods,
gauges, and unknown tests and instruments! At some places, they
persisted in declaring that the wine must not be passed, without
being opened and tasted; I, pleading to the contrary, used then to
argue the question seated on the Bottle lest they should open it in
spite of me. In the southern parts of Italy more violent
shrieking, face-making, and gesticulating, greater vehemence of
speech and countenance and action, went on about that Bottle than
would attend fifty murders in a northern latitude. It raised
important functionaries out of their beds, in the dead of night. I
have known half-a-dozen military lanterns to disperse themselves at
all points of a great sleeping Piazza, each lantern summoning some
official creature to get up, put on his cocked-hat instantly, and
come and stop the Bottle. It was characteristic that while this
innocent Bottle had such immense difficulty in getting from little
town to town, Signor Mazzini and the fiery cross were traversing
Italy from end to end.

Still, I stuck to my Bottle, like any fine old English gentleman
all of the olden time. The more the Bottle was interfered with,
the stauncher I became (if possible) in my first determination that
my countryman should have it delivered to him intact, as the man
whom he had so nobly restored to life and liberty had delivered it
to me. If ever I had been obstinate in my days--and I may have
been, say, once or twice--I was obstinate about the Bottle. But, I
made it a rule always to keep a pocket full of small coin at its
service, and never to be out of temper in its cause. Thus, I and
the Bottle made our way. Once we had a break-down; rather a bad
break-down, on a steep high place with the sea below us, on a
tempestuous evening when it blew great guns. We were driving four
wild horses abreast, Southern fashion, and there was some little
difficulty in stopping them. I was outside, and not thrown off;
but no words can describe my feelings when I saw the Bottle--
travelling inside, as usual--burst the door open, and roll obesely
out into the road. A blessed Bottle with a charmed existence, he
took no hurt, and we repaired damage, and went on triumphant.

A thousand representations were made to me that the Bottle must be
left at this place, or that, and called for again. I never yielded
to one of them, and never parted from the Bottle, on any pretence,
consideration, threat, or entreaty. I had no faith in any official
receipt for the Bottle, and nothing would induce me to accept one.
These unmanageable politics at last brought me and the Bottle,
still triumphant, to Genoa. There, I took a tender and reluctant
leave of him for a few weeks, and consigned him to a trusty English
captain, to be conveyed to the Port of London by sea.

While the Bottle was on his voyage to England, I read the Shipping
Intelligence as anxiously as if I had been an underwriter. There
was some stormy weather after I myself had got to England by way of
Switzerland and France, and my mind greatly misgave me that the
Bottle might be wrecked. At last to my great joy, I received
notice of his safe arrival, and immediately went down to Saint
Katharine's Docks, and found him in a state of honourable captivity
in the Custom House.

The wine was mere vinegar when I set it down before the generous
Englishman--probably it had been something like vinegar when I took
it up from Giovanni Carlavero--but not a drop of it was spilled or
gone. And the Englishman told me, with much emotion in his face
and voice, that he had never tasted wine that seemed to him so
sweet and sound. And long afterwards, the Bottle graced his table.
And the last time I saw him in this world that misses him, he took
me aside in a crowd, to say, with his amiable smile: 'We were
talking of you only to-day at dinner, and I wished you had been
there, for I had some Claret up in Carlavero's Bottle.'

CHAPTER XVIII--THE CALAIS NIGHT MAIL

It is an unsettled question with me whether I shall leave Calais
something handsome in my will, or whether I shall leave it my
malediction. I hate it so much, and yet I am always so very glad
to see it, that I am in a state of constant indecision on this
subject. When I first made acquaintance with Calais, it was as a
maundering young wretch in a clammy perspiration and dripping
saline particles, who was conscious of no extremities but the one
great extremity, sea-sickness--who was a mere bilious torso, with a
mislaid headache somewhere in its stomach--who had been put into a
horrible swing in Dover Harbour, and had tumbled giddily out of it
on the French coast, or the Isle of Man, or anywhere. Times have
changed, and now I enter Calais self-reliant and rational. I know
where it is beforehand, I keep a look out for it, I recognise its
landmarks when I see any of them, I am acquainted with its ways,
and I know--and I can bear--its worst behaviour.

Malignant Calais! Low-lying alligator, evading the eyesight and
discouraging hope! Dodging flat streak, now on this bow, now on
that, now anywhere, now everywhere, now nowhere! In vain Cape
Grinez, coming frankly forth into the sea, exhorts the failing to
be stout of heart and stomach: sneaking Calais, prone behind its
bar, invites emetically to despair. Even when it can no longer
quite conceal itself in its muddy dock, it has an evil way of
falling off, has Calais, which is more hopeless than its
invisibility. The pier is all but on the bowsprit, and you think
you are there--roll, roar, wash!--Calais has retired miles inland,
and Dover has burst out to look for it. It has a last dip and
slide in its character, has Calais, to be especially commanded to
the infernal gods. Thrice accursed be that garrison-town, when it
dives under the boat's keel, and comes up a league or two to the
right, with the packet shivering and spluttering and staring about
for it!

Not but what I have my animosities towards Dover. I particularly
detest Dover for the self-complacency with which it goes to bed.
It always goes to bed (when I am going to Calais) with a more
brilliant display of lamp and candle than any other town. Mr. and
Mrs. Birmingham, host and hostess of the Lord Warden Hotel, are my
much esteemed friends, but they are too conceited about the
comforts of that establishment when the Night Mail is starting. I
know it is a good house to stay at, and I don't want the fact
insisted upon in all its warm bright windows at such an hour. I
know the Warden is a stationary edifice that never rolls or
pitches, and I object to its big outline seeming to insist upon
that circumstance, and, as it were, to come over me with it, when I
am reeling on the deck of the boat. Beshrew the Warden likewise,
for obstructing that corner, and making the wind so angry as it
rushes round. Shall I not know that it blows quite soon enough,
without the officious Warden's interference?

As I wait here on board the night packet, for the South-Eastern
Train to come down with the Mail, Dover appears to me to be
illuminated for some intensely aggravating festivity in my personal
dishonour. All its noises smack of taunting praises of the land,
and dispraises of the gloomy sea, and of me for going on it. The
drums upon the heights have gone to bed, or I know they would
rattle taunts against me for having my unsteady footing on this
slippery deck. The many gas eyes of the Marine Parade twinkle in
an offensive manner, as if with derision. The distant dogs of
Dover bark at me in my misshapen wrappers, as if I were Richard the
Third.

A screech, a bell, and two red eyes come gliding down the Admiralty
Pier with a smoothness of motion rendered more smooth by the
heaving of the boat. The sea makes noises against the pier, as if
several hippopotami were lapping at it, and were prevented by
circumstances over which they had no control from drinking
peaceably. We, the boat, become violently agitated--rumble, hum,
scream, roar, and establish an immense family washing-day at each
paddle-box. Bright patches break out in the train as the doors of
the post-office vans are opened, and instantly stooping figures
with sacks upon their backs begin to be beheld among the piles,
descending as it would seem in ghostly procession to Davy Jones's
Locker. The passengers come on board; a few shadowy Frenchmen,
with hatboxes shaped like the stoppers of gigantic case-bottles; a
few shadowy Germans in immense fur coats and boots; a few shadowy
Englishmen prepared for the worst and pretending not to expect it.
I cannot disguise from my uncommercial mind the miserable fact that
we are a body of outcasts; that the attendants on us are as scant
in number as may serve to get rid of us with the least possible
delay; that there are no night-loungers interested in us; that the
unwilling lamps shiver and shudder at us; that the sole object is
to commit us to the deep and abandon us. Lo, the two red eyes
glaring in increasing distance, and then the very train itself has
gone to bed before we are off!

What is the moral support derived by some sea-going amateurs from
an umbrella? Why do certain voyagers across the Channel always put
up that article, and hold it up with a grim and fierce tenacity? A
fellow-creature near me--whom I only know to BE a fellow-creature,
because of his umbrella: without which he might be a dark bit of
cliff, pier, or bulkbead--clutches that instrument with a desperate
grasp, that will not relax until he lands at Calais. Is there any
analogy, in certain constitutions, between keeping an umbrella up,
and keeping the spirits up? A hawser thrown on board with a flop
replies 'Stand by!' 'Stand by, below!' 'Half a turn a head!'
'Half a turn a head!' 'Half speed!' 'Half speed!' 'Port!'
'Port!' 'Steady!' 'Steady!' 'Go on!' 'Go on!'

A stout wooden wedge driven in at my right temple and out at my
left, a floating deposit of lukewarm oil in my throat, and a
compression of the bridge of my nose in a blunt pair of pincers,--
these are the personal sensations by which I know we are off, and
by which I shall continue to know it until I am on the soil of
France. My symptoms have scarcely established themselves
comfortably, when two or three skating shadows that have been
trying to walk or stand, get flung together, and other two or three
shadows in tarpaulin slide with them into corners and cover them
up. Then the South Foreland lights begin to hiccup at us in a way
that bodes no good.

It is at about this period that my detestation of Calais knows no
bounds. Inwardly I resolve afresh that I never will forgive that
hated town. I have done so before, many times, but that is past.
Let me register a vow. Implacable animosity to Calais everm- that
was an awkward sea, and the funnel seems of my opinion, for it
gives a complaining roar.

The wind blows stiffly from the Nor-East, the sea runs high, we
ship a deal of water, the night is dark and cold, and the shapeless
passengers lie about in melancholy bundles, as if they were sorted
out for the laundress; but for my own uncommercial part I cannot
pretend that I am much inconvenienced by any of these things. A
general howling, whistling, flopping, gurgling, and scooping, I am
aware of, and a general knocking about of Nature; but the
impressions I receive are very vague. In a sweet faint temper,
something like the smell of damaged oranges, I think I should feel
languidly benevolent if I had time. I have not time, because I am
under a curious compulsion to occupy myself with the Irish
melodies. 'Rich and rare were the gems she wore,' is the
particular melody to which I find myself devoted. I sing it to
myself in the most charming manner and with the greatest
expression. Now and then, I raise my head (I am sitting on the
hardest of wet seats, in the most uncomfortable of wet attitudes,
but I don't mind it,) and notice that I am a whirling shuttlecock
between a fiery battledore of a lighthouse on the French coast and
a fiery battledore of a lighthouse on the English coast; but I
don't notice it particularly, except to feel envenomed in my hatred
of Calais. Then I go on again, 'Rich and rare were the ge-ems she-
e-e-e wore, And a bright gold ring on her wa-and she bo-ore, But O
her beauty was fa-a-a-a-r beyond'--I am particularly proud of my
execution here, when I become aware of another awkward shock from
the sea, and another protest from the funnel, and a fellow-creature
at the paddle-box more audibly indisposed than I think he need be--
'Her sparkling gems, or snow-white wand, But O her beauty was fa-a-
a-a-a-r beyond'--another awkward one here, and the fellow-creature
with the umbrella down and picked up--'Her spa-a-rkling ge-ems, or
her Port! port! steady! steady! snow-white fellow-creature at the
paddle-box very selfishly audible, bump, roar, wash, white wand.'

As my execution of the Irish melodies partakes of my imperfect
perceptions of what is going on around me, so what is going on
around me becomes something else than what it is. The stokers open
the furnace doors below, to feed the fires, and I am again on the
box of the old Exeter Telegraph fast coach, and that is the light
of the for ever extinguished coach-lamps, and the gleam on the
hatches and paddle-boxes is THEIR gleam on cottages and haystacks,
and the monotonous noise of the engines is the steady jingle of the
splendid team. Anon, the intermittent funnel roar of protest at
every violent roll, becomes the regular blast of a high pressure
engine, and I recognise the exceedingly explosive steamer in which
I ascended the Mississippi when the American civil war was not, and
when only its causes were. A fragment of mast on which the light
of a lantern falls, an end of rope, and a jerking block or so,
become suggestive of Franconi's Circus at Paris where I shall be
this very night mayhap (for it must be morning now), and they dance
to the self-same time and tune as the trained steed, Black Raven.
What may be the speciality of these waves as they come rushing on,
I cannot desert the pressing demands made upon me by the gems she
wore, to inquire, but they are charged with something about
Robinson Crusoe, and I think it was in Yarmouth Roads that he first
went a seafaring and was near foundering (what a terrific sound
that word had for me when I was a boy!) in his first gale of wind.
Still, through all this, I must ask her (who WAS she I wonder!) for
the fiftieth time, and without ever stopping, Does she not fear to
stray, So lone and lovely through this bleak way, And are Erin's
sons so good or so cold, As not to be tempted by more fellow-
creatures at the paddle-box or gold? Sir Knight I feel not the
least alarm, No son of Erin will offer me harm, For though they
love fellow-creature with umbrella down again and golden store, Sir
Knight they what a tremendous one love honour and virtue more: For
though they love Stewards with a bull's eye bright, they'll trouble
you for your ticket, sir-rough passage to-night!

I freely admit it to be a miserable piece of human weakness and
inconsistency, but I no sooner become conscious of those last words
from the steward than I begin to soften towards Calais. Whereas I
have been vindictively wishing that those Calais burghers who came
out of their town by a short cut into the History of England, with
those fatal ropes round their necks by which they have since been
towed into so many cartoons, had all been hanged on the spot, I now
begin to regard them as highly respectable and virtuous tradesmen.
Looking about me, I see the light of Cape Grinez well astern of the
boat on the davits to leeward, and the light of Calais Harbour
undeniably at its old tricks, but still ahead and shining.
Sentiments of forgiveness of Calais, not to say of attachment to
Calais, begin to expand my bosom. I have weak notions that I will
stay there a day or two on my way back. A faded and recumbent
stranger pausing in a profound reverie over the rim of a basin,
asks me what kind of place Calais is? I tell him (Heaven forgive
me!) a very agreeable place indeed--rather hilly than otherwise.

So strangely goes the time, and on the whole so quickly--though
still I seem to have been on board a week--that I am bumped,
rolled, gurgled, washed and pitched into Calais Harbour before her
maiden smile has finally lighted her through the Green Isle, When
blest for ever is she who relied, On entering Calais at the top of
the tide. For we have not to land to-night down among those slimy
timbers--covered with green hair as if it were the mermaids'
favourite combing-place--where one crawls to the surface of the
jetty, like a stranded shrimp, but we go steaming up the harbour to
the Railway Station Quay. And as we go, the sea washes in and out
among piles and planks, with dead heavy beats and in quite a
furious manner (whereof we are proud), and the lamps shake in the
wind, and the bells of Calais striking One seem to send their
vibrations struggling against troubled air, as we have come
struggling against troubled water. And now, in the sudden relief
and wiping of faces, everybody on board seems to have had a
prodigious double-tooth out, and to be this very instant free of
the Dentist's hands. And now we all know for the first time how
wet and cold we are, and how salt we are; and now I love Calais
with my heart of hearts!

'Hotel Dessin!' (but in this one case it is not a vocal cry; it is
but a bright lustre in the eyes of the cheery representative of
that best of inns). 'Hotel Meurice!' 'Hotel de France!' 'Hotel
de Calais!' 'The Royal Hotel, Sir, Angaishe ouse!' 'You going to
Parry, Sir?' 'Your baggage, registair froo, Sir?' Bless ye, my
Touters, bless ye, my commissionaires, bless ye, my hungry-eyed
mysteries in caps of a military form, who are always here, day or
night, fair weather or foul, seeking inscrutable jobs which I never
see you get! Bless ye, my Custom House officers in green and grey;
permit me to grasp the welcome hands that descend into my
travelling-bag, one on each side, and meet at the bottom to give my
change of linen a peculiar shake up, as if it were a measure of
chaff or grain! I have nothing to declare, Monsieur le Douanier,
except that when I cease to breathe, Calais will be found written
on my heart. No article liable to local duty have I with me,
Monsieur l'Officier de l'Octroi, unless the overflowing of a breast
devoted to your charming town should be in that wise chargeable.
Ah! see at the gangway by the twinkling lantern, my dearest brother
and friend, he once of the Passport Office, he who collects the
names! May he be for ever changeless in his buttoned black
surtout, with his note-book in his hand, and his tall black hat,
surmounting his round, smiling, patient face! Let us embrace, my
dearest brother. I am yours a tout jamais--for the whole of ever.

Calais up and doing at the railway station, and Calais down and
dreaming in its bed; Calais with something of 'an ancient and fish-
like smell' about it, and Calais blown and sea-washed pure; Calais
represented at the Buffet by savoury roast fowls, hot coffee,
cognac, and Bordeaux; and Calais represented everywhere by flitting
persons with a monomania for changing money--though I never shall
be able to understand in my present state of existence how they
live by it, but I suppose I should, if I understood the currency
question--Calais en gros, and Calais en detail, forgive one who has
deeply wronged you.--I was not fully aware of it on the other side,
but I meant Dover.

Ding, ding! To the carriages, gentlemen the travellers. Ascend
then, gentlemen the travellers, for Hazebroucke, Lille, Douai,
Bruxelles, Arras, Amiens, and Paris! I, humble representative of
the uncommercial interest, ascend with the rest. The train is
light to-night, and I share my compartment with but two fellow-
travellers; one, a compatriot in an obsolete cravat, who thinks it
a quite unaccountable thing that they don't keep 'London time' on a
French railway, and who is made angry by my modestly suggesting the
possibility of Paris time being more in their way; the other, a
young priest, with a very small bird in a very small cage, who
feeds the small bird with a quill, and then puts him up in the
network above his head, where he advances twittering, to his front
wires, and seems to address me in an electioneering manner. The
compatriot (who crossed in the boat, and whom I judge to be some
person of distinction, as he was shut up, like a stately species of
rabbit, in a private hutch on deck) and the young priest (who
joined us at Calais) are soon asleep, and then the bird and I have
it all to ourselves.

A stormy night still; a night that sweeps the wires of the electric
telegraph with a wild and fitful hand; a night so very stormy, with
the added storm of the train-progress through it, that when the
Guard comes clambering round to mark the tickets while we are at
full speed (a really horrible performance in an express train,
though he holds on to the open window by his elbows in the most
deliberate manner), he stands in such a whirlwind that I grip him
fast by the collar, and feel it next to manslaughter to let him go.
Still, when he is gone, the small, small bird remains at his front
wires feebly twittering to me--twittering and twittering, until,
leaning back in my place and looking at him in drowsy fascination,
I find that he seems to jog my memory as we rush along.

Uncommercial travels (thus the small, small bird) have lain in
their idle thriftless way through all this range of swamp and dyke,
as through many other odd places; and about here, as you very well
know, are the queer old stone farm-houses, approached by
drawbridges, and the windmills that you get at by boats. Here, are
the lands where the women hoe and dig, paddling canoe-wise from
field to field, and here are the cabarets and other peasant-houses
where the stone dove-cotes in the littered yards are as strong as
warders' towers in old castles. Here, are the long monotonous
miles of canal, with the great Dutch-built barges garishly painted,
and the towing girls, sometimes harnessed by the forehead,
sometimes by the girdle and the shoulders, not a pleasant sight to
see. Scattered through this country are mighty works of VAUBAN,
whom you know about, and regiments of such corporals as you heard
of once upon a time, and many a blue-eyed Bebelle. Through these
flat districts, in the shining summer days, walk those long,
grotesque files of young novices in enormous shovel-hats, whom you
remember blackening the ground checkered by the avenues of leafy
trees. And now that Hazebroucke slumbers certain kilometres ahead,
recall the summer evening when your dusty feet strolling up from
the station tended hap-hazard to a Fair there, where the oldest
inhabitants were circling round and round a barrel-organ on hobby-
horses, with the greatest gravity, and where the principal show in
the Fair was a Religious Richardson's--literally, on its own
announcement in great letters, THEATRE RELIGIEUX. In which
improving Temple, the dramatic representation was of 'all the
interesting events in the life of our Lord, from the Manger to the
Tomb;' the principal female character, without any reservation or
exception, being at the moment of your arrival, engaged in trimming
the external Moderators (as it was growing dusk), while the next
principal female character took the money, and the Young Saint John
disported himself upside down on the platform.

Looking up at this point to confirm the small, small bird in every
particular he has mentioned, I find he has ceased to twitter, and
has put his head under his wing. Therefore, in my different way I
follow the good example.

CHAPTER XIX--SOME RECOLLECTIONS OF MORTALITY

I had parted from the small bird at somewhere about four o'clock in
the morning, when he had got out at Arras, and had been received by
two shovel-hats in waiting at the station, who presented an
appropriately ornithological and crow-like appearance. My
compatriot and I had gone on to Paris; my compatriot enlightening
me occasionally with a long list of the enormous grievances of
French railway travelling: every one of which, as I am a sinner,
was perfectly new to me, though I have as much experience of French
railways as most uncommercials. I had left him at the terminus
(through his conviction, against all explanation and remonstrance,
that his baggage-ticket was his passenger-ticket), insisting in a
very high temper to the functionary on duty, that in his own
personal identity he was four packages weighing so many
kilogrammes--as if he had been Cassim Baba! I had bathed and
breakfasted, and was strolling on the bright quays. The subject of
my meditations was the question whether it is positively in the
essence and nature of things, as a certain school of Britons would
seem to think it, that a Capital must be ensnared and enslaved
before it can be made beautiful: when I lifted up my eyes and
found that my feet, straying like my mind, had brought me to Notre-
Dame.

That is to say, Notre-Dame was before me, but there was a large
open space between us. A very little while gone, I had left that
space covered with buildings densely crowded; and now it was
cleared for some new wonder in the way of public Street, Place,
Garden, Fountain, or all four. Only the obscene little Morgue,
slinking on the brink of the river and soon to come down, was left
there, looking mortally ashamed of itself, and supremely wicked. I
had but glanced at this old acquaintance, when I beheld an airy
procession coming round in front of Notre-Dame, past the great
hospital. It had something of a Masaniello look, with fluttering
striped curtains in the midst of it, and it came dancing round the
cathedral in the liveliest manner.

I was speculating on a marriage in Blouse-life, or a Christening,
or some other domestic festivity which I would see out, when I
found, from the talk of a quick rush of Blouses past me, that it
was a Body coming to the Morgue. Having never before chanced upon
this initiation, I constituted myself a Blouse likewise, and ran
into the Morgue with the rest. It was a very muddy day, and we
took in a quantity of mire with us, and the procession coming in
upon our heels brought a quantity more. The procession was in the
highest spirits, and consisted of idlers who had come with the
curtained litter from its starting-place, and of all the
reinforcements it had picked up by the way. It set the litter down
in the midst of the Morgue, and then two Custodians proclaimed
aloud that we were all 'invited' to go out. This invitation was
rendered the more pressing, if not the more flattering, by our
being shoved out, and the folding-gates being barred upon us.

Those who have never seen the Morgue, may see it perfectly, by
presenting to themselves on indifferently paved coach-house
accessible from the street by a pair of folding-gates; on the left
of the coach-house, occupying its width, any large London tailor's
or linendraper's plate-glass window reaching to the ground; within
the window, on two rows of inclined plane, what the coach-house has
to show; hanging above, like irregular stalactites from the roof of
a cave, a quantity of clothes--the clothes of the dead and buried
shows of the coach-house.

We had been excited in the highest degree by seeing the Custodians
pull off their coats and tuck up their shirt-sleeves, as the
procession came along. It looked so interestingly like business.
Shut out in the muddy street, we now became quite ravenous to know
all about it. Was it river, pistol, knife, love, gambling,
robbery, hatred, how many stabs, how many bullets, fresh or
decomposed, suicide or murder? All wedged together, and all
staring at one another with our heads thrust forward, we propounded
these inquiries and a hundred more such. Imperceptibly, it came to
be known that Monsieur the tall and sallow mason yonder, was
acquainted with the facts. Would Monsieur the tall and sallow
mason, surged at by a new wave of us, have the goodness to impart?
It was but a poor old man, passing along the street under one of
the new buildings, on whom a stone had fallen, and who had tumbled
dead. His age? Another wave surged up against the tall and sallow
mason, and our wave swept on and broke, and he was any age from
sixty-five to ninety.

An old man was not much: moreover, we could have wished he had
been killed by human agency--his own, or somebody else's: the
latter, preferable--but our comfort was, that he had nothing about
him to lead to his identification, and that his people must seek
him here. Perhaps they were waiting dinner for him even now? We
liked that. Such of us as had pocket-handkerchiefs took a slow,
intense, protracted wipe at our noses, and then crammed our
handkerchiefs into the breast of our blouses. Others of us who had
no handkerchiefs administered a similar relief to our overwrought
minds, by means of prolonged smears or wipes of our mouths on our
sleeves. One man with a gloomy malformation of brow--a homicidal
worker in white-lead, to judge from his blue tone of colour, and a
certain flavour of paralysis pervading him--got his coat-collar
between his teeth, and bit at it with an appetite. Several decent
women arrived upon the outskirts of the crowd, and prepared to
launch themselves into the dismal coach-house when opportunity
should come; among them, a pretty young mother, pretending to bite
the forefinger of her baby-boy, kept it between her rosy lips that
it might be handy for guiding to point at the show. Meantime, all
faces were turned towards the building, and we men waited with a
fixed and stern resolution:- for the most part with folded arms.
Surely, it was the only public French sight these uncommercial eyes
had seen, at which the expectant people did not form en queue. But
there was no such order of arrangement here; nothing but a general
determination to make a rush for it, and a disposition to object to
some boys who had mounted on the two stone posts by the hinges of
the gates, with the design of swooping in when the hinges should
turn.

Now, they turned, and we rushed! Great pressure, and a scream or
two from the front. Then a laugh or two, some expressions of
disappointment, and a slackening of the pressure and subsidence of
the struggle.--Old man not there.

'But what would you have?' the Custodian reasonably argues, as he
looks out at his little door. 'Patience, patience! We make his
toilette, gentlemen. He will be exposed presently. It is
necessary to proceed according to rule. His toilette is not made
all at a blow. He will be exposed in good time, gentlemen, in good
time.' And so retires, smoking, with a wave of his sleeveless arm
towards the window, importing, 'Entertain yourselves in the
meanwhile with the other curiosities. Fortunately the Museum is
not empty to-day.'

Who would have thought of public fickleness even at the Morgue?
But there it was, on that occasion. Three lately popular articles
that had been attracting greatly when the litter was first descried
coming dancing round the corner by the great cathedral, were so
completely deposed now, that nobody save two little girls (one
showing them to a doll) would look at them. Yet the chief of the
three, the article in the front row, had received jagged injury of
the left temple; and the other two in the back row, the drowned two
lying side by side with their heads very slightly turned towards
each other, seemed to be comparing notes about it. Indeed, those
two of the back row were so furtive of appearance, and so (in their
puffed way) assassinatingly knowing as to the one of the front,
that it was hard to think the three had never come together in
their lives, and were only chance companions after death. Whether
or no this was the general, as it was the uncommercial, fancy, it
is not to be disputed that the group had drawn exceedingly within
ten minutes. Yet now, the inconstant public turned its back upon
them, and even leaned its elbows carelessly against the bar outside
the window and shook off the mud from its shoes, and also lent and
borrowed fire for pipes.

Custodian re-enters from his door. 'Again once, gentlemen, you are
invited--' No further invitation necessary. Ready dash into the
street. Toilette finished. Old man coming out.

This time, the interest was grown too hot to admit of toleration of
the boys on the stone posts. The homicidal white-lead worker made
a pounce upon one boy who was hoisting himself up, and brought him
to earth amidst general commendation. Closely stowed as we were,
we yet formed into groups--groups of conversation, without
separation from the mass--to discuss the old man. Rivals of the
tall and sallow mason sprang into being, and here again was popular
inconstancy. These rivals attracted audiences, and were greedily
listened to; and whereas they had derived their information solely
from the tall and sallow one, officious members of the crowd now
sought to enlighten HIM on their authority. Changed by this social
experience into an iron-visaged and inveterate misanthrope, the
mason glared at mankind, and evidently cherished in his breast the
wish that the whole of the present company could change places with
the deceased old man. And now listeners became inattentive, and
people made a start forward at a slight sound, and an unholy fire
kindled in the public eye, and those next the gates beat at them
impatiently, as if they were of the cannibal species and hungry.

Again the hinges creaked, and we rushed. Disorderly pressure for
some time ensued before the uncommercial unit got figured into the
front row of the sum. It was strange to see so much heat and
uproar seething about one poor spare, white-haired old man, quiet
for evermore. He was calm of feature and undisfigured, as he lay
on his back--having been struck upon the hinder part of his head,
and thrown forward--and something like a tear or two had started
from the closed eyes, and lay wet upon the face. The uncommercial
interest, sated at a glance, directed itself upon the striving
crowd on either side and behind: wondering whether one might have
guessed, from the expression of those faces merely, what kind of
sight they were looking at. The differences of expression were not
many. There was a little pity, but not much, and that mostly with
a selfish touch in it--as who would say, 'Shall I, poor I, look
like that, when the time comes!' There was more of a secretly
brooding contemplation and curiosity, as 'That man I don't like,
and have the grudge against; would such be his appearance, if some
one--not to mention names--by any chance gave him an knock?' There
was a wolfish stare at the object, in which homicidal white-lead
worker shone conspicuous. And there was a much more general,
purposeless, vacant staring at it--like looking at waxwork, without
a catalogue, and not knowing what to make of it. But all these
expressions concurred in possessing the one underlying expression
of LOOKING AT SOMETHING THAT COULD NOT RETURN A LOOK. The
uncommercial notice had established this as very remarkable, when a
new pressure all at once coming up from the street pinioned him
ignominiously, and hurried him into the arms (now sleeved again) of
the Custodian smoking at his door, and answering questions, between
puffs, with a certain placid meritorious air of not being proud,
though high in office. And mentioning pride, it may be observed,
by the way, that one could not well help investing the original
sole occupant of the front row with an air depreciatory of the
legitimate attraction of the poor old man: while the two in the
second row seemed to exult at this superseded popularity.

Pacing presently round the garden of the Tower of St. Jacques de la
Boucherie, and presently again in front of the Hotel de Ville, I
called to mind a certain desolate open-air Morgue that I happened
to light upon in London, one day in the hard winter of 1861, and
which seemed as strange to me, at the time of seeing it, as if I
had found it in China. Towards that hour of a winter's afternoon
when the lamp-lighters are beginning to light the lamps in the
streets a little before they are wanted, because the darkness
thickens fast and soon, I was walking in from the country on the
northern side of the Regent's Park--hard frozen and deserted--when
I saw an empty Hansom cab drive up to the lodge at Gloucester-gate,
and the driver with great agitation call to the man there: who
quickly reached a long pole from a tree, and, deftly collared by
the driver, jumped to the step of his little seat, and so the
Hansom rattled out at the gate, galloping over the iron-bound road.
I followed running, though not so fast but that when I came to the
right-hand Canal Bridge, near the cross-path to Chalk Farm, the
Hansom was stationary, the horse was smoking hot, the long pole was
idle on the ground, and the driver and the park-keeper were looking
over the bridge parapet. Looking over too, I saw, lying on the
towing-path with her face turned up towards us, a woman, dead a day
or two, and under thirty, as I guessed, poorly dressed in black.
The feet were lightly crossed at the ankles, and the dark hair, all
pushed back from the face, as though that had been the last action
of her desperate hands, streamed over the ground. Dabbled all
about her, was the water and the broken ice that had dropped from
her dress, and had splashed as she was got out. The policeman who
had just got her out, and the passing costermonger who had helped
him, were standing near the body; the latter with that stare at it
which I have likened to being at a waxwork exhibition without a
catalogue; the former, looking over his stock, with professional
stiffness and coolness, in the direction in which the bearers he
had sent for were expected. So dreadfully forlorn, so dreadfully
sad, so dreadfully mysterious, this spectacle of our dear sister
here departed! A barge came up, breaking the floating ice and the
silence, and a woman steered it. The man with the horse that towed
it, cared so little for the body, that the stumbling hoofs had been
among the hair, and the tow-rope had caught and turned the head,
before our cry of horror took him to the bridle. At which sound
the steering woman looked up at us on the bridge, with contempt
unutterable, and then looking down at the body with a similar
expression--as if it were made in another likeness from herself,
had been informed with other passions, had been lost by other
chances, had had another nature dragged down to perdition--steered
a spurning streak of mud at it, and passed on.

A better experience, but also of the Morgue kind, in which chance
happily made me useful in a slight degree, arose to my remembrance
as I took my way by the Boulevard de Sebastopol to the brighter
scenes of Paris.

The thing happened, say five-and-twenty years ago. I was a modest
young uncommercial then, and timid and inexperienced. Many suns
and winds have browned me in the line, but those were my pale days.
Having newly taken the lease of a house in a certain distinguished
metropolitan parish--a house which then appeared to me to be a
frightfully first-class Family Mansion, involving awful
responsibilities--I became the prey of a Beadle. I think the
Beadle must have seen me going in or coming out, and must have
observed that I tottered under the weight of my grandeur. Or he
may have been in hiding under straw when I bought my first horse
(in the desirable stable-yard attached to the first-class Family
Mansion), and when the vendor remarked to me, in an original
manner, on bringing him for approval, taking his cloth off and
smacking him, 'There, Sir! THERE'S a Orse!' And when I said
gallantly, 'How much do you want for him?' and when the vendor
said, 'No more than sixty guineas, from you,' and when I said
smartly, 'Why not more than sixty from ME?' And when he said
crushingly, 'Because upon my soul and body he'd be considered cheap
at seventy, by one who understood the subject--but you don't.'--I
say, the Beadle may have been in hiding under straw, when this
disgrace befell me, or he may have noted that I was too raw and
young an Atlas to carry the first-class Family Mansion in a knowing
manner. Be this as it may, the Beadle did what Melancholy did to
the youth in Gray's Elegy--he marked me for his own. And the way
in which the Beadle did it, was this: he summoned me as a Juryman
on his Coroner's Inquests.

In my first feverish alarm I repaired 'for safety and for succour'-
-like those sagacious Northern shepherds who, having had no
previous reason whatever to believe in young Norval, very prudently
did not originate the hazardous idea of believing in him--to a deep
householder. This profound man informed me that the Beadle counted
on my buying him off; on my bribing him not to summon me; and that
if I would attend an Inquest with a cheerful countenance, and
profess alacrity in that branch of my country's service, the Beadle
would be disheartened, and would give up the game.

I roused my energies, and the next time the wily Beadle summoned
me, I went. The Beadle was the blankest Beadle I have ever looked
on when I answered to my name; and his discomfiture gave me courage
to go through with it.

We were impanelled to inquire concerning the death of a very little
mite of a child. It was the old miserable story. Whether the
mother had committed the minor offence of concealing the birth, or
whether she had committed the major offence of killing the child,
was the question on which we were wanted. We must commit her on
one of the two issues.

The Inquest came off in the parish workhouse, and I have yet a
lively impression that I was unanimously received by my brother
Jurymen as a brother of the utmost conceivable insignificance.
Also, that before we began, a broker who had lately cheated me
fearfully in the matter of a pair of card-tables, was for the
utmost rigour of the law. I remember that we sat in a sort of
board-room, on such very large square horse-hair chairs that I
wondered what race of Patagonians they were made for; and further,
that an undertaker gave me his card when we were in the full moral
freshness of having just been sworn, as 'an inhabitant that was
newly come into the parish, and was likely to have a young family.'
The case was then stated to us by the Coroner, and then we went
down-stairs--led by the plotting Beadle--to view the body. From
that day to this, the poor little figure, on which that sounding
legal appellation was bestowed, has lain in the same place and with
the same surroundings, to my thinking. In a kind of crypt devoted
to the warehousing of the parochial coffins, and in the midst of a
perfect Panorama of coffins of all sizes, it was stretched on a
box; the mother had put it in her box--this box--almost as soon as
it was born, and it had been presently found there. It had been
opened, and neatly sewn up, and regarded from that point of view,
it looked like a stuffed creature. It rested on a clean white
cloth, with a surgical instrument or so at hand, and regarded from
that point of view, it looked as if the cloth were 'laid,' and the
Giant were coming to dinner. There was nothing repellent about the
poor piece of innocence, and it demanded a mere form of looking at.
So, we looked at an old pauper who was going about among the
coffins with a foot rule, as if he were a case of Self-Measurement;
and we looked at one another; and we said the place was well
whitewashed anyhow; and then our conversational powers as a British
Jury flagged, and the foreman said, 'All right, gentlemen? Back
again, Mr. Beadle!'

The miserable young creature who had given birth to this child
within a very few days, and who had cleaned the cold wet door-steps
immediately afterwards, was brought before us when we resumed our
horse-hair chairs, and was present during the proceedings. She had
a horse-hair chair herself, being very weak and ill; and I remember
how she turned to the unsympathetic nurse who attended her, and who
might have been the figure-head of a pauper-ship, and how she hid
her face and sobs and tears upon that wooden shoulder. I remember,
too, how hard her mistress was upon her (she was a servant-of-all-
work), and with what a cruel pertinacity that piece of Virtue spun
her thread of evidence double, by intertwisting it with the
sternest thread of construction. Smitten hard by the terrible low
wail from the utterly friendless orphan girl, which never ceased
during the whole inquiry, I took heart to ask this witness a
question or two, which hopefully admitted of an answer that might
give a favourable turn to the case. She made the turn as little
favourable as it could be, but it did some good, and the Coroner,
who was nobly patient and humane (he was the late Mr. Wakley), cast
a look of strong encouragement in my direction. Then, we had the
doctor who had made the examination, and the usual tests as to
whether the child was born alive; but he was a timid, muddle-headed
doctor, and got confused and contradictory, and wouldn't say this,
and couldn't answer for that, and the immaculate broker was too
much for him, and our side slid back again. However, I tried
again, and the Coroner backed me again, for which I ever afterwards
felt grateful to him as I do now to his memory; and we got another
favourable turn, out of some other witness, some member of the
family with a strong prepossession against the sinner; and I think
we had the doctor back again; and I know that the Coroner summed up
for our side, and that I and my British brothers turned round to
discuss our verdict, and get ourselves into great difficulties with
our large chairs and the broker. At that stage of the case I tried
hard again, being convinced that I had cause for it; and at last we
found for the minor offence of only concealing the birth; and the
poor desolate creature, who had been taken out during our
deliberation, being brought in again to be told of the verdict,
then dropped upon her knees before us, with protestations that we
were right--protestations among the most affecting that I have ever
heard in my life--and was carried away insensible.

(In private conversation after this was all over, the Coroner
showed me his reasons as a trained surgeon, for perceiving it to be
impossible that the child could, under the most favourable
circumstances, have drawn many breaths, in the very doubtful case
of its having ever breathed at all; this, owing to the discovery of
some foreign matter in the windpipe, quite irreconcilable with many
moments of life.)

When the agonised girl had made those final protestations, I had
seen her face, and it was in unison with her distracted heartbroken
voice, and it was very moving. It certainly did not impress me by
any beauty that it had, and if I ever see it again in another world
I shall only know it by the help of some new sense or intelligence.
But it came to me in my sleep that night, and I selfishly dismissed
it in the most efficient way I could think of. I caused some extra
care to be taken of her in the prison, and counsel to be retained
for her defence when she was tried at the Old Bailey; and her
sentence was lenient, and her history and conduct proved that it
was right. In doing the little I did for her, I remember to have
had the kind help of some gentle-hearted functionary to whom I
addressed myself--but what functionary I have long forgotten--who I
suppose was officially present at the Inquest.

I regard this as a very notable uncommercial experience, because
this good came of a Beadle. And to the best of my knowledge,
information, and belief, it is the only good that ever did come of
a Beadle since the first Beadle put on his cocked-hat.

CHAPTER XX--BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS

It came into my mind that I would recall in these notes a few of
the many hostelries I have rested at in the course of my journeys;
and, indeed, I had taken up my pen for the purpose, when I was
baffled by an accidental circumstance. It was the having to leave
off, to wish the owner of a certain bright face that looked in at
my door, 'many happy returns of the day.' Thereupon a new thought
came into my mind, driving its predecessor out, and I began to
recall--instead of Inns--the birthdays that I have put up at, on my
way to this present sheet of paper.

I can very well remember being taken out to visit some peach-faced
creature in a blue sash, and shoes to correspond, whose life I
supposed to consist entirely of birthdays. Upon seed-cake, sweet
wine, and shining presents, that glorified young person seemed to
me to be exclusively reared. At so early a stage of my travels did
I assist at the anniversary of her nativity (and become enamoured
of her), that I had not yet acquired the recondite knowledge that a
birthday is the common property of all who are born, but supposed
it to be a special gift bestowed by the favouring Heavens on that
one distinguished infant. There was no other company, and we sat
in a shady bower--under a table, as my better (or worse) knowledge
leads me to believe--and were regaled with saccharine substances
and liquids, until it was time to part. A bitter powder was
administered to me next morning, and I was wretched. On the whole,
a pretty accurate foreshadowing of my more mature experiences in
such wise!

Then came the time when, inseparable from one's own birthday, was a
certain sense of merit, a consciousness of well-earned distinction.
When I regarded my birthday as a graceful achievement of my own, a
monument of my perseverance, independence, and good sense,
redounding greatly to my honour. This was at about the period when
Olympia Squires became involved in the anniversary. Olympia was
most beautiful (of course), and I loved her to that degree, that I
used to be obliged to get out of my little bed in the night,
expressly to exclaim to Solitude, 'O, Olympia Squires!' Visions of
Olympia, clothed entirely in sage-green, from which I infer a
defectively educated taste on the part of her respected parents,
who were necessarily unacquainted with the South Kensington Museum,
still arise before me. Truth is sacred, and the visions are
crowned by a shining white beaver bonnet, impossibly suggestive of
a little feminine postboy. My memory presents a birthday when
Olympia and I were taken by an unfeeling relative--some cruel
uncle, or the like--to a slow torture called an Orrery. The
terrible instrument was set up at the local Theatre, and I had
expressed a profane wish in the morning that it was a Play: for
which a serious aunt had probed my conscience deep, and my pocket
deeper, by reclaiming a bestowed half-crown. It was a venerable
and a shabby Orrery, at least one thousand stars and twenty-five
comets behind the age. Nevertheless, it was awful. When the low-
spirited gentleman with a wand said, 'Ladies and gentlemen'
(meaning particularly Olympia and me), 'the lights are about to be
put out, but there is not the slightest cause for alarm,' it was
very alarming. Then the planets and stars began. Sometimes they
wouldn't come on, sometimes they wouldn't go off, sometimes they
had holes in them, and mostly they didn't seem to be good
likenesses. All this time the gentleman with the wand was going on
in the dark (tapping away at the heavenly bodies between whiles,
like a wearisome woodpecker), about a sphere revolving on its own
axis eight hundred and ninety-seven thousand millions of times--or
miles--in two hundred and sixty-three thousand five hundred and
twenty-four millions of something elses, until I thought if this
was a birthday it were better never to have been born. Olympia,
also, became much depressed, and we both slumbered and woke cross,
and still the gentleman was going on in the dark--whether up in the
stars, or down on the stage, it would have been hard to make out,
if it had been worth trying--cyphering away about planes of orbits,
to such an infamous extent that Olympia, stung to madness, actually
kicked me. A pretty birthday spectacle, when the lights were
turned up again, and all the schools in the town (including the
National, who had come in for nothing, and serve them right, for
they were always throwing stones) were discovered with exhausted
countenances, screwing their knuckles into their eyes, or clutching
their heads of hair. A pretty birthday speech when Dr. Sleek of
the City-Free bobbed up his powdered head in the stage-box, and
said that before this assembly dispersed he really must beg to
express his entire approval of a lecture as improving, as
informing, as devoid of anything that could call a blush into the
cheek of youth, as any it had ever been his lot to hear delivered.
A pretty birthday altogether, when Astronomy couldn't leave poor
Small Olympia Squires and me alone, but must put an end to our
loves! For, we never got over it; the threadbare Orrery outwore
our mutual tenderness; the man with the wand was too much for the
boy with the bow.

When shall I disconnect the combined smells of oranges, brown
paper, and straw, from those other birthdays at school, when the
coming hamper casts its shadow before, and when a week of social
harmony--shall I add of admiring and affectionate popularity--led
up to that Institution? What noble sentiments were expressed to me
in the days before the hamper, what vows of friendship were sworn
to me, what exceedingly old knives were given me, what generous
avowals of having been in the wrong emanated from else obstinate
spirits once enrolled among my enemies! The birthday of the potted
game and guava jelly, is still made special to me by the noble
conduct of Bully Globson. Letters from home had mysteriously
inquired whether I should be much surprised and disappointed if
among the treasures in the coming hamper I discovered potted game,
and guava jelly from the Western Indies. I had mentioned those
hints in confidence to a few friends, and had promised to give
away, as I now see reason to believe, a handsome covey of
partridges potted, and about a hundredweight of guava jelly. It
was now that Globson, Bully no more, sought me out in the
playground. He was a big fat boy, with a big fat head and a big
fat fist, and at the beginning of that Half had raised such a bump
on my forehead that I couldn't get my hat of state on, to go to
church. He said that after an interval of cool reflection (four
months) he now felt this blow to have been an error of judgment,
and that he wished to apologise for the same. Not only that, but
holding down his big head between his two big hands in order that I
might reach it conveniently, he requested me, as an act of justice
which would appease his awakened conscience, to raise a retributive
bump upon it, in the presence of witnesses. This handsome proposal
I modestly declined, and he then embraced me, and we walked away
conversing. We conversed respecting the West India Islands, and,
in the pursuit of knowledge he asked me with much interest whether
in the course of my reading I had met with any reliable description
of the mode of manufacturing guava jelly; or whether I had ever
happened to taste that conserve, which he had been given to
understand was of rare excellence.

Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty; and then with the waning
months came an ever augmenting sense of the dignity of twenty-one.
Heaven knows I had nothing to 'come into,' save the bare birthday,
and yet I esteemed it as a great possession. I now and then paved
the way to my state of dignity, by beginning a proposition with the
casual words, 'say that a man of twenty-one,' or by the incidental

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