Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Tom Tiddler's Ground by Charles Dickens

Adobe PDF icon
Tom Tiddler's Ground by Charles Dickens - Full Text Free Book
File size: 0.1 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

This etext was prepared from the 1894 Chapman and Hall "Christmas Stories"
edition by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk



"And why Tom Tiddler's ground?" said the Traveller.

"Because he scatters halfpence to Tramps and such-like," returned
the Landlord, "and of course they pick 'em up. And this being done
on his own land (which it IS his own land, you observe, and were his
family's before him), why it is but regarding the halfpence as gold
and silver, and turning the ownership of the property a bit round
your finger, and there you have the name of the children's game
complete. And it's appropriate too," said the Landlord, with his
favourite action of stooping a little, to look across the table out
of window at vacancy, under the window-blind which was half drawn
down. "Leastwise it has been so considered by many gentlemen which
have partook of chops and tea in the present humble parlour."

The Traveller was partaking of chops and tea in the present humble
parlour, and the Landlord's shot was fired obliquely at him.

"And you call him a Hermit?" said the Traveller.

"They call him such," returned the Landlord, evading personal
responsibility; "he is in general so considered."

"What IS a Hermit?" asked the Traveller.

"What is it?" repeated the Landlord, drawing his hand across his

"Yes, what is it?"

The Landlord stooped again, to get a more comprehensive view of
vacancy under the window-blind, and--with an asphyxiated appearance
on him as one unaccustomed to definition--made no answer.

"I'll tell you what I suppose it to be," said the Traveller. "An
abominably dirty thing."

"Mr. Mopes is dirty, it cannot be denied," said the Landlord.

"Intolerably conceited."

"Mr. Mopes is vain of the life he leads, some do say," replied the
Landlord, as another concession.

"A slothful, unsavoury, nasty reversal of the laws of human mature,"
said the Traveller; "and for the sake of GOD'S working world and its
wholesomeness, both moral and physical, I would put the thing on the
treadmill (if I had my way) wherever I found it; whether on a
pillar, or in a hole; whether on Tom Tiddler's ground, or the Pope
of Rome's ground, or a Hindoo fakeer's ground, or any other ground."

"I don't know about putting Mr. Mopes on the treadmill," said the
Landlord, shaking his head very seriously. "There ain't a doubt but
what he has got landed property."

"How far may it be to this said Tom Tiddler's ground?" asked the

"Put it at five mile," returned the Landlord.

"Well! When I have done my breakfast," said the Traveller, "I'll go
there. I came over here this morning, to find it out and see it."

"Many does," observed the Landlord.

The conversation passed, in the Midsummer weather of no remote year
of grace, down among the pleasant dales and trout-streams of a green
English county. No matter what county. Enough that you may hunt
there, shoot there, fish there, traverse long grass-grown Roman
roads there, open ancient barrows there, see many a square mile of
richly cultivated land there, and hold Arcadian talk with a bold
peasantry, their country's pride, who will tell you (if you want to
know) how pastoral housekeeping is done on nine shillings a week.

Mr. Traveller sat at his breakfast in the little sanded parlour of
the Peal of Bells village alehouse, with the dew and dust of an
early walk upon his shoes--an early walk by road and meadow and
coppice, that had sprinkled him bountifully with little blades of
grass, and scraps of new hay, and with leaves both young and old,
and with other such fragrant tokens of the freshness and wealth of
summer. The window through which the landlord had concentrated his
gaze upon vacancy was shaded, because the morning sun was hot and
bright on the village street. The village street was like most
other village streets: wide for its height, silent for its size,
and drowsy in the dullest degree. The quietest little dwellings
with the largest of window-shutters (to shut up Nothing as carefully
as if it were the Mint, or the Bank of England) had called in the
Doctor's house so suddenly, that his brass door-plate and three
stories stood among them as conspicuous and different as the doctor
himself in his broadcloth, among the smock-frocks of his patients.
The village residences seemed to have gone to law with a similar
absence of consideration, for a score of weak little lath-and-
plaster cabins clung in confusion about the Attorney's red-brick
house, which, with glaring door-steps and a most terrific scraper,
seemed to serve all manner of ejectments upon them. They were as
various as labourers--high-shouldered, wry-necked, one-eyed, goggle-
eyed, squinting, bow-legged, knock-knee'd, rheumatic, crazy. Some
of the small tradesmen's houses, such as the crockery-shop and the
harness-maker, had a Cyclops window in the middle of the gable,
within an inch or two of its apex, suggesting that some forlorn
rural Prentice must wriggle himself into that apartment
horizontally, when he retired to rest, after the manner of the worm.
So bountiful in its abundance was the surrounding country, and so
lean and scant the village, that one might have thought the village
had sown and planted everything it once possessed, to convert the
same into crops. This would account for the bareness of the little
shops, the bareness of the few boards and trestles designed for
market purposes in a corner of the street, the bareness of the
obsolete Inn and Inn Yard, with the ominous inscription "Excise
Office" not yet faded out from the gateway, as indicating the very
last thing that poverty could get rid of. This would also account
for the determined abandonment of the village by one stray dog, fast
lessening in the perspective where the white posts and the pond
were, and would explain his conduct on the hypothesis that he was
going (through the act of suicide) to convert himself into manure,
and become a part proprietor in turnips or mangold-wurzel.

Mr. Traveller having finished his breakfast and paid his moderate
score, walked out to the threshold of the Peal of Bells, and, thence
directed by the pointing finger of his host, betook himself towards
the ruined hermitage of Mr. Mopes the hermit.

For, Mr. Mopes, by suffering everything about him to go to ruin, and
by dressing himself in a blanket and skewer, and by steeping himself
in soot and grease and other nastiness, had acquired great renown in
all that country-side--far greater renown than he could ever have
won for himself, if his career had been that of any ordinary
Christian, or decent Hottentot. He had even blanketed and skewered
and sooted and greased himself, into the London papers. And it was
curious to find, as Mr. Traveller found by stopping for a new
direction at this farm-house or at that cottage as he went along,
with how much accuracy the morbid Mopes had counted on the weakness
of his neighbours to embellish him. A mist of home-brewed marvel
and romance surrounded Mopes, in which (as in all fogs) the real
proportions of the real object were extravagantly heightened. He
had murdered his beautiful beloved in a fit of jealousy and was
doing penance; he had made a vow under the influence of grief; he
had made a vow under the influence of a fatal accident; he had made
a vow under the influence of religion; he had made a vow under the
influence of drink; he had made a vow under the influence of
disappointment; he had never made any vow, but "had got led into it"
by the possession of a mighty and most awful secret; he was
enormously rich, he was stupendously charitable, he was profoundly
learned, he saw spectres, he knew and could do all kinds of wonders.
Some said he went out every night, and was met by terrified
wayfarers stalking along dark roads, others said he never went out,
some knew his penance to be nearly expired, others had positive
information that his seclusion was not a penance at all, and would
never expire but with himself. Even, as to the easy facts of how
old he was, or how long he had held verminous occupation of his
blanket and skewer, no consistent information was to be got, from
those who must know if they would. He was represented as being all
the ages between five-and-twenty and sixty, and as having been a
hermit seven years, twelve, twenty, thirty,--though twenty, on the
whole, appeared the favourite term.

"Well, well!" said Mr. Traveller. "At any rate, let us see what a
real live Hermit looks like."

So, Mr. Traveller went on, and on, and on, until he came to Tom
Tiddler's Ground.

It was a nook in a rustic by-road, which the genius of Mopes had
laid waste as completely, as if he had been born an Emperor and a
Conqueror. Its centre object was a dwelling-house, sufficiently
substantial, all the window-glass of which had been long ago
abolished by the surprising genius of Mopes, and all the windows of
which were barred across with rough-split logs of trees nailed over
them on the outside. A rickyard, hip-high in vegetable rankness and
ruin, contained outbuildings from which the thatch had lightly
fluttered away, on all the winds of all the seasons of the year, and
from which the planks and beams had heavily dropped and rotted. The
frosts and damps of winter, and the heats of summer, had warped what
wreck remained, so that not a post or a board retained the position
it was meant to hold, but everything was twisted from its purpose,
like its owner, and degraded and debased. In this homestead of the
sluggard, behind the ruined hedge, and sinking away among the ruined
grass and the nettles, were the last perishing fragments of certain
ricks: which had gradually mildewed and collapsed, until they
looked like mounds of rotten honeycomb, or dirty sponge. Tom
Tiddler's ground could even show its ruined water; for, there was a
slimy pond into which a tree or two had fallen--one soppy trunk and
branches lay across it then--which in its accumulation of stagnant
weed, and in its black decomposition, and in all its foulness and
filth, was almost comforting, regarded as the only water that could
have reflected the shameful place without seeming polluted by that
low office.

Mr. Traveller looked all around him on Tom Tiddler's ground, and his
glance at last encountered a dusky Tinker lying among the weeds and
rank grass, in the shade of the dwelling-house. A rough walking-
staff lay on the ground by his side, and his head rested on a small
wallet. He met Mr. Traveller's eye without lifting up his head,
merely depressing his chin a little (for he was lying on his back)
to get a better view of him.

"Good day!" said Mr. Traveller.

"Same to you, if you like it," returned the Tinker.

"Don't YOU like it? It's a very fine day."

"I ain't partickler in weather," returned the Tinker, with a yawn.

Mr. Traveller had walked up to where he lay, and was looking down at
him. "This is a curious place," said Mr. Traveller.

"Ay, I suppose so!" returned the Tinker. "Tom Tiddler's ground,
they call this."

"Are you well acquainted with it?"

"Never saw it afore to-day," said the Tinker, with another yawn,
"and don't care if I never see it again. There was a man here just
now, told me what it was called. If you want to see Tom himself,
you must go in at that gate." He faintly indicated with his chin a
little mean ruin of a wooden gate at the side of the house.

"Have you seen Tom?"

"No, and I ain't partickler to see him. I can see a dirty man

"He does not live in the house, then?" said Mr. Traveller, casting
his eyes upon the house anew.

"The man said," returned the Tinker, rather irritably,--"him as was
here just now, 'this what you're a laying on, mate, is Tom Tiddler's
ground. And if you want to see Tom,' he says, 'you must go in at
that gate.' The man come out at that gate himself, and he ought to

"Certainly," said Mr. Traveller.

"Though, perhaps," exclaimed the Tinker, so struck by the brightness
of his own idea, that it had the electric effect upon him of causing
him to lift up his head an inch or so, "perhaps he was a liar! He
told some rum 'uns--him as was here just now, did about this place
of Tom's. He says--him as was here just now--'When Tom shut up the
house, mate, to go to rack, the beds was left, all made, like as if
somebody was a-going to sleep in every bed. And if you was to walk
through the bedrooms now, you'd see the ragged mouldy bedclothes a
heaving and a heaving like seas. And a heaving and a heaving with
what?' he says. 'Why, with the rats under 'em.'"

"I wish I had seen that man," Mr. Traveller remarked.

"You'd have been welcome to see him instead of me seeing him,"
growled the Tinker; "for he was a long-winded one."

Not without a sense of injury in the remembrance, the Tinker
gloomily closed his eyes. Mr. Traveller, deeming the Tinker a
short-winded one, from whom no further breath of information was to
be derived, betook himself to the gate.

Swung upon its rusty hinges, it admitted him into a yard in which
there was nothing to be seen but an outhouse attached to the ruined
building, with a barred window in it. As there were traces of many
recent footsteps under this window, and as it was a low window, and
unglazed, Mr. Traveller made bold to peep within the bars. And
there to be sure he had a real live Hermit before him, and could
judge how the real dead Hermits used to look.

He was lying on a bank of soot and cinders, on the floor, in front
of a rusty fireplace. There was nothing else in the dark little
kitchen, or scullery, or whatever his den had been originally used
as, but a table with a litter of old bottles on it. A rat made a
clatter among these bottles, jumped down, and ran over the real live
Hermit on his way to his hole, or the man in HIS hole would not have
been so easily discernible. Tickled in the face by the rat's tail,
the owner of Tom Tiddler's ground opened his eyes, saw Mr.
Traveller, started up, and sprang to the window.

"Humph!" thought Mr. Traveller, retiring a pace or two from the
bars. "A compound of Newgate, Bedlam, a Debtors' Prison in the
worst time, a chimney-sweep, a mudlark, and the Noble Savage! A
nice old family, the Hermit family. Hah!"

Mr. Traveller thought this, as he silently confronted the sooty
object in the blanket and skewer (in sober truth it wore nothing
else), with the matted hair and the staring eyes. Further, Mr.
Traveller thought, as the eye surveyed him with a very obvious
curiosity in ascertaining the effect they produced, "Vanity, vanity,
vanity! Verily, all is vanity!"

"What is your name, sir, and where do you come from?" asked Mr.
Mopes the Hermit--with an air of authority, but in the ordinary
human speech of one who has been to school.

Mr. Traveller answered the inquiries.

"Did you come here, sir, to see ME?"

"I did. I heard of you, and I came to see you.--I know you like to
be seen." Mr. Traveller coolly threw the last words in, as a matter
of course, to forestall an affectation of resentment or objection
that he saw rising beneath the grease and grime of the face. They
had their effect.

"So," said the Hermit, after a momentary silence, unclasping the
bars by which he had previously held, and seating himself behind
them on the ledge of the window, with his bare legs and feet
crouched up, "you know I like to be seen?"

Mr. Traveller looked about him for something to sit on, and,
observing a billet of wood in a corner, brought it near the window.
Deliberately seating himself upon it, he answered, "Just so."

Each looked at the other, and each appeared to take some pains to
get the measure of the other.

"Then you have come to ask me why I lead this life," said the
Hermit, frowning in a stormy manner. "I never tell that to any
human being. I will not be asked that."

"Certainly you will not be asked that by me," said Mr. Traveller,
"for I have not the slightest desire to know."

"You are an uncouth man," said Mr. Mopes the Hermit.

"You are another," said Mr. Traveller.

The Hermit, who was plainly in the habit of overawing his visitors
with the novelty of his filth and his blanket and skewer, glared at
his present visitor in some discomfiture and surprise: as if he had
taken aim at him with a sure gun, and his piece had missed fire.

"Why do you come here at all?" he asked, after a pause.

"Upon my life," said Mr. Traveller, "I was made to ask myself that
very question only a few minutes ago--by a Tinker too."

As he glanced towards the gate in saying it, the Hermit glanced in
that direction likewise.

"Yes. He is lying on his back in the sunlight outside," said Mr,
Traveller, as if he had been asked concerning the man, "and he won't
come in; for he says--and really very reasonably--'What should I
come in for? I can see a dirty man anywhere.'"

"You are an insolent person. Go away from my premises. Go!" said
the Hermit, in an imperious and angry tone.

"Come, come!" returned Mr. Traveller, quite undisturbed. "This is a
little too much. You are not going to call yourself clean? Look at
your legs. And as to these being your premises:- they are in far
too disgraceful a condition to claim any privilege of ownership, or
anything else."

The Hermit bounced down from his window-ledge, and cast himself on
his bed of soot and cinders.

"I am not going," said Mr. Traveller, glancing in after him; "you
won't get rid of me in that way. You had better come and talk."

"I won't talk," said the Hermit, flouncing round to get his back
towards the window.

"Then I will," said Mr. Traveller. "Why should you take it ill that
I have no curiosity to know why you live this highly absurd and
highly indecent life? When I contemplate a man in a state of
disease, surely there is no moral obligation on me to be anxious to
know how he took it."

After a short silence, the Hermit bounced up again, and came back to
the barred window.

"What? You are not gone?" he said, affecting to have supposed that
he was.

"Nor going," Mr. Traveller replied: "I design to pass this summer
day here."

"How dare you come, sir, upon my promises--" the Hermit was
returning, when his visitor interrupted him.

"Really, you know, you must NOT talk about your premises. I cannot
allow such a place as this to be dignified with the name of

"How dare you," said the Hermit, shaking his bars, "come in at my
gate, to taunt me with being in a diseased state?"

"Why, Lord bless my soul," returned the other, very composedly, "you
have not the face to say that you are in a wholesome state? Do
allow me again to call your attention to your legs. Scrape yourself
anywhere--with anything--and then tell me you are in a wholesome
state. The fact is, Mr. Mopes, that you are not only a Nuisance--"

"A Nuisance?" repeated the Hermit, fiercely.

"What is a place in this obscene state of dilapidation but a
Nuisance? What is a man in your obscene state of dilapidation but a
Nuisance? Then, as you very well know, you cannot do without an
audience, and your audience is a Nuisance. You attract all the
disreputable vagabonds and prowlers within ten miles around, by
exhibiting yourself to them in that objectionable blanket, and by
throwing copper money among them, and giving them drink out of those
very dirty jars and bottles that I see in there (their stomachs need
be strong!); and in short," said Mr. Traveller, summing up in a
quietly and comfortably settled manner, "you are a Nuisance, and
this kennel is a Nuisance, and the audience that you cannot possibly
dispense with is a Nuisance, and the Nuisance is not merely a local
Nuisance, because it is a general Nuisance to know that there CAN BE
such a Nuisance left in civilisation so very long after its time."

"Will you go away? I have a gun in here," said the Hermit.



"Now, I put it to you. Did I say you had not? And as to going
away, didn't I say I am not going away? You have made me forget
where I was. I now remember that I was remarking on your conduct
being a Nuisance. Moreover, it is in the last and lowest degree
inconsequent foolishness and weakness."

"Weakness?" echoed the Hermit.

"Weakness," said Mr. Traveller, with his former comfortably settled
final air.

"I weak, you fool?" cried the Hermit, "I, who have held to my
purpose, and my diet, and my only bed there, all these years?"

"The more the years, the weaker you," returned Mr. Traveller.
"Though the years are not so many as folks say, and as you willingly
take credit for. The crust upon your face is thick and dark, Mr.
Mopes, but I can see enough of you through it, to see that you are
still a young man."

"Inconsequent foolishness is lunacy, I suppose?" said the Hermit.

"I suppose it is very like it," answered Mr. Traveller.

"Do I converse like a lunatic?"

"One of us two must have a strong presumption against him of being
one, whether or no. Either the clean and decorously clad man, or
the dirty and indecorously clad man. I don't say which."

"Why, you self-sufficient bear," said the Hermit, "not a day passes
but I am justified in my purpose by the conversations I hold here;
not a day passes but I am shown, by everything I hear and see here,
how right and strong I am in holding my purpose."

Mr. Traveller, lounging easily on his billet of wood, took out a
pocket pipe and began to fill it. "Now, that a man," he said,
appealing to the summer sky as he did so, "that a man--even behind
bars, in a blanket and skewer--should tell me that he can see, from
day to day, any orders or conditions of men, women, or children, who
can by any possibility teach him that it is anything but the
miserablest drivelling for a human creature to quarrel with his
social nature--not to go so far as to say, to renounce his common
human decency, for that is an extreme case; or who can teach him
that he can in any wise separate himself from his kind and the
habits of his kind, without becoming a deteriorated spectacle
calculated to give the Devil (and perhaps the monkeys) pleasure,--is
something wonderful! I repeat," said Mr. Traveller, beginning to
smoke, "the unreasoning hardihood of it is something wonderful--even
in a man with the dirt upon him an inch or two thick--behind bars--
in a blanket and skewer!"

The Hermit looked at him irresolutely, and retired to his soot and
cinders and lay down, and got up again and came to the bars, and
again looked at him irresolutely, and finally said with sharpness:
"I don't like tobacco."

"I don't like dirt," rejoined Mr. Traveller; "tobacco is an
excellent disinfectant. We shall both be the better for my pipe.
It is my intention to sit here through this summer day, until that
blessed summer sun sinks low in the west, and to show you what a
poor creature you are, through the lips of every chance wayfarer who
may come in at your gate."

"What do you mean?" inquired the Hermit, with a furious air.

"I mean that yonder is your gate, and there are you, and here am I;
I mean that I know it to be a moral impossibility that any person
can stray in at that gate from any point of the compass, with any
sort of experience, gained at first hand, or derived from another,
that can confute me and justify you."

"You are an arrogant and boastful hero," said the Hermit. "You
think yourself profoundly wise."

"Bah!" returned Mr. Traveller, quietly smoking. "There is little
wisdom in knowing that every man must be up and doing, and that all
mankind are made dependent on one another."

"You have companions outside," said the Hermit. "I am not to be
imposed upon by your assumed confidence in the people who may

"A depraved distrust," returned the visitor, compassionately raising
his eyebrows, "of course belongs to your state, I can't help that."

"Do you mean to tell me you have no confederates?"

"I mean to tell you nothing but what I have told you. What I have
told you is, that it is a moral impossibility that any son or
daughter of Adam can stand on this ground that I put my foot on, or
on any ground that mortal treads, and gainsay the healthy tenure on
which we hold our existence."

"Which is," sneered the Hermit, "according to you--"

"Which is," returned the other, "according to Eternal Providence,
that we must arise and wash our faces and do our gregarious work and
act and re-act on one another, leaving only the idiot and the
palsied to sit blinking in the corner. Come!" apostrophising the
gate. "Open Sesame! Show his eyes and grieve his heart! I don't
care who comes, for I know what must come of it!"

With that, he faced round a little on his billet of wood towards the
gate; and Mr. Mopes, the Hermit, after two or three ridiculous
bounces of indecision at his bed and back again, submitted to what
he could not help himself against, and coiled himself on his window-
ledge, holding to his bars and looking out rather anxiously.


The day was by this time waning, when the gate again opened, and,
with the brilliant golden light that streamed from the declining sun
and touched the very bars of the sooty creature's den, there passed
in a little child; a little girl with beautiful bright hair. She
wore a plain straw hat, had a door-key in her hand, and tripped
towards Mr. Traveller as if she were pleased to see him and were
going to repose some childish confidence in him, when she caught
sight of the figure behind the bars, and started back in terror.

"Don't be alarmed, darling!" said Mr. Traveller, taking her by the

"Oh, but I don't like it!" urged the shrinking child; "it's

"Well! I don't like it either," said Mr. Traveller.

"Who has put it there?" asked the little girl. "Does it bite?"

"No,--only barks. But can't you make up your mind to see it, my
dear?" For she was covering her eyes.

"O no no no!" returned the child. "I cannot bear to look at it!"

Mr. Traveller turned his head towards his friend in there, as much
as to ask him how he liked that instance of his success, and then
took the child out at the still open gate, and stood talking to her
for some half an hour in the mellow sunlight. At length he
returned, encouraging her as she held his arm with both her hands;
and laying his protecting hand upon her head and smoothing her
pretty hair, he addressed his friend behind the bars as follows:

Miss Pupford's establishment for six young ladies of tender years,
is an establishment of a compact nature, an establishment in
miniature, quite a pocket establishment. Miss Pupford, Miss
Pupford's assistant with the Parisian accent, Miss Pupford's cook,
and Miss Pupford's housemaid, complete what Miss Pupford calls the
educational and domestic staff of her Lilliputian College.

Miss Pupford is one of the most amiable of her sex; it necessarily
follows that she possesses a sweet temper, and would own to the
possession of a great deal of sentiment if she considered it quite
reconcilable with her duty to parents. Deeming it not in the bond,
Miss Pupford keeps it as far out of sight as she can--which (God
bless her!) is not very far.

Miss Pupford's assistant with the Parisian accent, may be regarded
as in some sort an inspired lady, for she never conversed with a
Parisian, and was never out of England--except once in the pleasure-
boat Lively, in the foreign waters that ebb and flow two miles off
Margate at high water. Even under those geographically favourable
circumstances for the acquisition of the French language in its
utmost politeness and purity, Miss Pupford's assistant did not fully
profit by the opportunity; for the pleasure-boat, Lively, so
strongly asserted its title to its name on that occasion, that she
was reduced to the condition of lying in the bottom of the boat
pickling in brine--as if she were being salted down for the use of
the Navy--undergoing at the same time great mental alarm, corporeal
distress, and clear-starching derangement.

When Miss Pupford and her assistant first foregathered, is not known
to men, or pupils. But, it was long ago. A belief would have
established itself among pupils that the two once went to school
together, were it not for the difficulty and audacity of imagining
Miss Pupford born without mittens, and without a front, and without
a bit of gold wire among her front teeth, and without little dabs of
powder on her neat little face and nose. Indeed, whenever Miss
Pupford gives a little lecture on the mythology of the misguided
heathens (always carefully excluding Cupid from recognition), and
tells how Minerva sprang, perfectly equipped, from the brain of
Jupiter, she is half supposed to hint, "So I myself came into the
world, completely up in Pinnock, Mangnall, Tables, and the use of
the Globes."

Howbeit, Miss Pupford and Miss Pupford's assistant are old old
friends. And it is thought by pupils that, after pupils are gone to
bed, they even call one another by their christian names in the
quiet little parlour. For, once upon a time on a thunderous
afternoon, when Miss Pupford fainted away without notice, Miss
Pupford's assistant (never heard, before or since, to address her
otherwise than as Miss Pupford) ran to her, crying out, "My dearest
Euphemia!" And Euphemia is Miss Pupford's christian name on the
sampler (date picked out) hanging up in the College-hall, where the
two peacocks, terrified to death by some German text that is
waddling down-hill after them out of a cottage, are scuttling away
to hide their profiles in two immense bean-stalks growing out of

Also, there is a notion latent among pupils, that Miss Pupford was
once in love, and that the beloved object still moves upon this
ball. Also, that he is a public character, and a personage of vast
consequence. Also, that Miss Pupford's assistant knows all about
it. For, sometimes of an afternoon when Miss Pupford has been
reading the paper through her little gold eye-glass (it is necessary
to read it on the spot, as the boy calls for it, with ill-
conditioned punctuality, in an hour), she has become agitated, and
has said to her assistant "G!" Then Miss Pupford's assistant has
gone to Miss Pupford, and Miss Pupford has pointed out, with her
eye-glass, G in the paper, and then Miss Pupford's assistant has
read about G, and has shown sympathy. So stimulated has the pupil-
mind been in its time to curiosity on the subject of G, that once,
under temporary circumstances favourable to the bold sally, one
fearless pupil did actually obtain possession of the paper, and
range all over it in search of G, who had been discovered therein by
Miss Pupford not ten minutes before. But no G could be identified,
except one capital offender who had been executed in a state of
great hardihood, and it was not to be supposed that Miss Pupford
could ever have loved HIM. Besides, he couldn't be always being
executed. Besides, he got into the paper again, alive, within a

On the whole, it is suspected by the pupil-mind that G is a short
chubby old gentleman, with little black sealing-wax boots up to his
knees, whom a sharply observant pupil, Miss Linx, when she once went
to Tunbridge Wells with Miss Pupford for the holidays, reported on
her return (privately and confidentially) to have seen come capering
up to Miss Pupford on the Promenade, and to have detected in the act
of squeezing Miss Pupford's hand, and to have heard pronounce the
words, "Cruel Euphemia, ever thine!"--or something like that. Miss
Linx hazarded a guess that he might be House of Commons, or Money
Market, or Court Circular, or Fashionable Movements; which would
account for his getting into the paper so often. But, it was
fatally objected by the pupil-mind, that none of those notabilities
could possibly be spelt with a G.

There are other occasions, closely watched and perfectly
comprehended by the pupil-mind, when Miss Pupford imparts with
mystery to her assistant that there is special excitement in the
morning paper. These occasions are, when Miss Pupford finds an old
pupil coming out under the head of Births, or Marriages.
Affectionate tears are invariably seen in Miss Pupford's meek little
eyes when this is the case; and the pupil-mind, perceiving that its
order has distinguished itself--though the fact is never mentioned
by Miss Pupford--becomes elevated, and feels that it likewise is
reserved for greatness.

Miss Pupford's assistant with the Parisian accent has a little more
bone than Miss Pupford, but is of the same trim orderly diminutive
cast, and, from long contemplation, admiration, and imitation of
Miss Pupford, has grown like her. Being entirely devoted to Miss
Pupford, and having a pretty talent for pencil-drawing, she once
made a portrait of that lady: which was so instantly identified and
hailed by the pupils, that it was done on stone at five shillings.
Surely the softest and milkiest stone that ever was quarried,
received that likeness of Miss Pupford! The lines of her placid
little nose are so undecided in it that strangers to the work of art
are observed to be exceedingly perplexed as to where the nose goes
to, and involuntarily feel their own noses in a disconcerted manner.
Miss Pupford being represented in a state of dejection at an open
window, ruminating over a bowl of gold fish, the pupil-mind has
settled that the bowl was presented by G, and that he wreathed the
bowl with flowers of soul, and that Miss Pupford is depicted as
waiting for him on a memorable occasion when he was behind his time.

The approach of the last Midsummer holidays had a particular
interest for the pupil-mind, by reason of its knowing that Miss
Pupford was bidden, on the second day of those holidays, to the
nuptials of a former pupil. As it was impossible to conceal the
fact--so extensive were the dress-making preparations--Miss Pupford
openly announced it. But, she held it due to parents to make the
announcement with an air of gentle melancholy, as if marriage were
(as indeed it exceptionally has been) rather a calamity. With an
air of softened resignation and pity, therefore, Miss Pupford went
on with her preparations: and meanwhile no pupil ever went up-
stairs, or came down, without peeping in at the door of Miss
Pupford's bedroom (when Miss Pupford wasn't there), and bringing
back some surprising intelligence concerning the bonnet.

The extensive preparations being completed on the day before the
holidays, an unanimous entreaty was preferred to Miss Pupford by the
pupil-mind--finding expression through Miss Pupford's assistant--
that she would deign to appear in all her splendour. Miss Pupford
consenting, presented a lovely spectacle. And although the oldest
pupil was barely thirteen, every one of the six became in two
minutes perfect in the shape, cut, colour, price, and quality, of
every article Miss Pupford wore.

Thus delightfully ushered in, the holidays began. Five of the six
pupils kissed little Kitty Kimmeens twenty times over (round total,
one hundred times, for she was very popular), and so went home.
Miss Kitty Kimmeens remained behind, for her relations and friends
were all in India, far away. A self-helpful steady little child is
Miss Kitty Kimmeens: a dimpled child too, and a loving.

So, the great marriage-day came, and Miss Pupford, quite as much
fluttered as any bride could be (G! thought Miss Kitty Kimmeens),
went away, splendid to behold, in the carriage that was sent for
her. But not Miss Pupford only went away; for Miss Pupford's
assistant went away with her, on a dutiful visit to an aged uncle--
though surely the venerable gentleman couldn't live in the gallery
of the church where the marriage was to be, thought Miss Kitty
Kimmeens--and yet Miss Pupford's assistant had let out that she was
going there. Where the cook was going, didn't appear, but she
generally conveyed to Miss Kimmeens that she was bound, rather
against her will, on a pilgrimage to perform some pious office that
rendered new ribbons necessary to her best bonnet, and also sandals
to her shoes.

"So you see," said the housemaid, when they were all gone, "there's
nobody left in the house but you and me, Miss Kimmeens."

"Nobody else," said Miss Kitty Kimmeens, shaking her curls a little
sadly. "Nobody!"

"And you wouldn't like your Bella to go too; would you, Miss
Kimmeens?" said the housemaid. (She being Bella.)

"N-no," answered little Miss Kimmeens.

"Your poor Bella is forced to stay with you, whether she likes it or
not; ain't she, Miss Kimmeens?"

"DON'T you like it?" inquired Kitty.

"Why, you're such a darling, Miss, that it would be unkind of your
Bella to make objections. Yet my brother-in-law has been took
unexpected bad by this morning's post. And your poor Bella is much
attached to him, letting alone her favourite sister, Miss Kimmeens."

"Is he very ill?" asked little Kitty.

"Your poor Bella has her fears so, Miss Kimmeens," returned the
housemaid, with her apron at her eyes. "It was but his inside, it
is true, but it might mount, and the doctor said that if it mounted
he wouldn't answer." Here the housemaid was so overcome that Kitty
administered the only comfort she had ready: which was a kiss.

"If it hadn't been for disappointing Cook, dear Miss Kimmeens," said
the housemaid, "your Bella would have asked her to stay with you.
For Cook is sweet company, Miss Kimmeens, much more so than your own
poor Bella."

"But you are very nice, Bella."

"Your Bella could wish to be so, Miss Kimmeens," returned the
housemaid, "but she knows full well that it do not lay in her power
this day."

With which despondent conviction, the housemaid drew a heavy sigh,
and shook her head, and dropped it on one side.

"If it had been anyways right to disappoint Cook," she pursued, in a
contemplative and abstracted manner, "it might have been so easy
done! I could have got to my brother-in-law's, and had the best
part of the day there, and got back, long before our ladies come
home at night, and neither the one nor the other of them need never
have known it. Not that Miss Pupford would at all object, but that
it might put her out, being tender-hearted. Hows'ever, your own
poor Bella, Miss Kimmeens," said the housemaid, rousing herself, "is
forced to stay with you, and you're a precious love, if not a

"Bella," said little Kitty, after a short silence.

"Call your own poor Bella, your Bella, dear," the housemaid besought

"My Bella, then."

"Bless your considerate heart!" said the housemaid.

"If you would not mind leaving me, I should not mind being left. I
am not afraid to stay in the house alone. And you need not be
uneasy on my account, for I would be very careful to do no harm."

"O! As to harm, you more than sweetest, if not a liberty,"
exclaimed the housemaid, in a rapture, "your Bella could trust you
anywhere, being so steady, and so answerable. The oldest head in
this house (me and Cook says), but for its bright hair, is Miss
Kimmeens. But no, I will not leave you; for you would think your
Bella unkind."

"But if you are my Bella, you MUST go," returned the child.

"Must I?" said the housemaid, rising, on the whole with alacrity.
"What must be, must be, Miss Kimmeens. Your own poor Bella acts
according, though unwilling. But go or stay, your own poor Bella
loves you, Miss Kimmeens."

It was certainly go, and not stay, for within five minutes Miss
Kimmeens's own poor Bella--so much improved in point of spirits as
to have grown almost sanguine on the subject of her brother-in-law--
went her way, in apparel that seemed to have been expressly prepared
for some festive occasion. Such are the changes of this fleeting
world, and so short-sighted are we poor mortals!

When the house door closed with a bang and a shake, it seemed to
Miss Kimmeens to be a very heavy house door, shutting her up in a
wilderness of a house. But, Miss Kimmeens being, as before stated,
of a self-reliant and methodical character, presently began to
parcel out the long summer-day before her.

And first she thought she would go all over the house, to make quite
sure that nobody with a great-coat on and a carving-knife in it, had
got under one of the beds or into one of the cupboards. Not that
she had ever before been troubled by the image of anybody armed with
a great-coat and a carving-knife, but that it seemed to have been
shaken into existence by the shake and the bang of the great street-
door, reverberating through the solitary house. So, little Miss
Kimmeens looked under the five empty beds of the five departed
pupils, and looked, under her own bed, and looked under Miss
Pupford's bed, and looked under Miss Pupford's assistants bed. And
when she had done this, and was making the tour of the cupboards,
the disagreeable thought came into her young head, What a very
alarming thing it would be to find somebody with a mask on, like Guy
Fawkes, hiding bolt upright in a corner and pretending not to be
alive! However, Miss Kimmeens having finished her inspection
without making any such uncomfortable discovery, sat down in her
tidy little manner to needlework, and began stitching away at a
great rate.

The silence all about her soon grew very oppressive, and the more so
because of the odd inconsistency that the more silent it was, the
more noises there were. The noise of her own needle and thread as
she stitched, was infinitely louder in her ears than the stitching
of all the six pupils, and of Miss Pupford, and of Miss Pupford's
assistant, all stitching away at once on a highly emulative
afternoon. Then, the schoolroom clock conducted itself in a way in
which it had never conducted itself before--fell lame, somehow, and
yet persisted in running on as hard and as loud as it could: the
consequence of which behaviour was, that it staggered among the
minutes in a state of the greatest confusion, and knocked them about
in all directions without appearing to get on with its regular work.
Perhaps this alarmed the stairs; but be that as it might, they began
to creak in a most unusual manner, and then the furniture began to
crack, and then poor little Miss Kimmeens, not liking the furtive
aspect of things in general, began to sing as she stitched. But, it
was not her own voice that she heard--it was somebody else making
believe to be Kitty, and singing excessively flat, without any
heart--so as that would never mend matters, she left off again.

By-and-by the stitching became so palpable a failure that Miss Kitty
Kimmeens folded her work neatly, and put it away in its box, and
gave it up. Then the question arose about reading. But no; the
book that was so delightful when there was somebody she loved for
her eyes to fall on when they rose from the page, had not more heart
in it than her own singing now. The book went to its shelf as the
needlework had gone to its box, and, since something MUST be done--
thought the child, "I'll go put my room to rights."

She shared her room with her dearest little friend among the other
five pupils, and why then should she now conceive a lurking dread of
the little friend's bedstead? But she did. There was a stealthy
air about its innocent white curtains, and there were even dark
hints of a dead girl lying under the coverlet. The great want of
human company, the great need of a human face, began now to express
itself in the facility with which the furniture put on strange
exaggerated resemblances to human looks. A chair with a menacing
frown was horribly out of temper in a corner; a most vicious chest
of drawers snarled at her from between the windows. It was no
relief to escape from those monsters to the looking-glass, for the
reflection said, "What? Is that you all alone there? How you
stare!" And the background was all a great void stare as well.

The day dragged on, dragging Kitty with it very slowly by the hair
of her head, until it was time to eat. There were good provisions
in the pantry, but their right flavour and relish had evaporated
with the five pupils, and Miss Pupford, and Miss Pupford's
assistant, and the cook and housemaid. Where was the use of laying
the cloth symmetrically for one small guest, who had gone on ever
since the morning growing smaller and smaller, while the empty house
had gone on swelling larger and larger? The very Grace came out
wrong, for who were "we" who were going to receive and be thankful?
So, Miss Kimmeens was NOT thankful, and found herself taking her
dinner in very slovenly style--gobbling it up, in short, rather
after the manner of the lower animals, not to particularise the

But, this was by no means the worst of the change wrought out in the
naturally loving and cheery little creature as the solitary day wore
on. She began to brood and be suspicious. She discovered that she
was full of wrongs and injuries. All the people she knew, got
tainted by her lonely thoughts and turned bad.

It was all very well for Papa, a widower in India, to send her home
to be educated, and to pay a handsome round sum every year for her
to Miss Pupford, and to write charming letters to his darling little
daughter; but what did he care for her being left by herself, when
he was (as no doubt he always was) enjoying himself in company from
morning till night? Perhaps he only sent her here, after all, to
get her out of the way. It looked like it--looked like it to-day,
that is, for she had never dreamed of such a thing before.

And this old pupil who was being married. It was unsupportably
conceited and selfish in the old pupil to be married. She was very
vain, and very glad to show off; but it was highly probable that she
wasn't pretty; and even if she were pretty (which Miss Kimmeens now
totally denied), she had no business to be married; and, even if
marriage were conceded, she had no business to ask Miss Pupford to
her wedding. As to Miss Pupford, she was too old to go to any
wedding. She ought to know that. She had much better attend to her
business. She had thought she looked nice in the morning, but she
didn't look nice. She was a stupid old thing. G was another stupid
old thing. Miss Pupford's assistant was another. They were all
stupid old things together.

More than that: it began to be obvious that this was a plot. They
had said to one another, "Never mind Kitty; you get off, and I'll
get off; and we'll leave Kitty to look after herself. Who cares for
her?" To be sure they were right in that question; for who DID care
for her, a poor little lonely thing against whom they all planned
and plotted? Nobody, nobody! Here Kitty sobbed.

At all other times she was the pet of the whole house, and loved her
five companions in return with a child's tenderest and most
ingenuous attachment; but now, the five companions put on ugly
colours, and appeared for the first time under a sullen cloud.
There they were, all at their homes that day, being made much of,
being taken out, being spoilt and made disagreeable, and caring
nothing for her. It was like their artful selfishness always to
tell her when they came back, under pretence of confidence and
friendship, all those details about where they had been, and what
they had done and seen, and how often they had said, "O! If we had
only darling little Kitty here!" Here indeed! I dare say! When
they came back after the holidays, they were used to being received
by Kitty, and to saying that coming to Kitty was like coming to
another home. Very well then, why did they go away? If the meant
it, why did they go away? Let them answer that. But they didn't
mean it, and couldn't answer that, and they didn't tell the truth,
and people who didn't tell the truth were hateful. When they came
back next time, they should be received in a new manner; they should
be avoided and shunned.

And there, the while she sat all alone revolving how ill she was
used, and how much better she was than the people who were not
alone, the wedding breakfast was going on: no question of it! With
a nasty great bride-cake, and with those ridiculous orange-flowers,
and with that conceited bride, and that hideous bridegroom, and
those heartless bridesmaids, and Miss Pupford stuck up at the table!
They thought they were enjoying themselves, but it would come home
to them one day to have thought so. They would all be dead in a few
years, let them enjoy themselves ever so much. It was a religious
comfort to know that.

It was such a comfort to know it, that little Miss Kitty Kimmeens
suddenly sprang from the chair in which she had been musing in a
corner, and cried out, "O those envious thoughts are not mine, O
this wicked creature isn't me! Help me, somebody! I go wrong,
alone by my weak self! Help me, anybody!"

"--Miss Kimmeens is not a professed philosopher, sir," said Mr.
Traveller, presenting her at the barred window, and smoothing her
shining hair, "but I apprehend there was some tincture of philosophy
in her words, and in the prompt action with which she followed them.
That action was, to emerge from her unnatural solitude, and look
abroad for wholesome sympathy, to bestow and to receive. Her
footsteps strayed to this gate, bringing her here by chance, as an
apposite contrast to you. The child came out, sir. If you have the
wisdom to learn from a child (but I doubt it, for that requires more
wisdom than one in your condition would seem to possess), you cannot
do better than imitate the child, and come out too--from that very
demoralising hutch of yours."


It was now sunset. The Hermit had betaken himself to his bed of
cinders half an hour ago, and lying on it in his blanket and skewer
with his back to the window, took not the smallest heed of the
appeal addressed to him.

All that had been said for the last two hours, had been said to a
tinkling accompaniment performed by the Tinker, who had got to work
upon some villager's pot or kettle, and was working briskly outside.
This music still continuing, seemed to put it into Mr. Traveller's
mind to have another word or two with the Tinker. So, holding Miss
Kimmeens (with whom he was now on the most friendly terms) by the
hand, he went out at the gate to where the Tinker was seated at his
work on the patch of grass on the opposite side of the road, with
his wallet of tools open before him, and his little fire smoking.

"I am glad to see you employed," said Mr. Traveller.

"I am glad to BE employed," returned the Tinker, looking up as he
put the finishing touches to his job. "But why are you glad?"

I thought you were a lazy fellow when I saw you this morning."

"I was only disgusted," said the Tinker.

"Do you mean with the fine weather?"

"With the fine weather?" repeated the Tinker, staring.

"You told me you were not particular as to weather, and I thought--"

"Ha, ha! How should such as me get on, if we WAS particular as to
weather? We must take it as it comes, and make the best of it.
There's something good in all weathers. If it don't happen to be
good for my work to-day, it's good for some other man's to-day, and
will come round to me to-morrow. We must all live."

"Pray shake hands," said Mr. Traveller.

"Take care, sir," was the Tinker's caution, as he reached up his
hand in surprise; "the black comes off."

"I am glad of it," said Mr. Traveller. "I have been for several
hours among other black that does not come off."

"You are speaking of Tom in there?"


"Well now," said the Tinker, blowing the dust off his job: which
was finished. "Ain't it enough to disgust a pig, if he could give
his mind to it?"

"If he could give his mind to it," returned the other, smiling, "the
probability is that he wouldn't be a pig."

"There you clench the nail," returned the Tinker. "Then what's to
be said for Tom?"

"Truly, very little."

"Truly nothing you mean, sir," said the Tinker, as he put away his

"A better answer, and (I freely acknowledge) my meaning. I infer
that he was the cause of your disgust?"

"Why, look'ee here, sir," said the Tinker, rising to his feet, and
wiping his face on the corner of his black apron energetically; "I
leave you to judge!--I ask you!--Last night I has a job that needs
to be done in the night, and I works all night. Well, there's
nothing in that. But this morning I comes along this road here,
looking for a sunny and soft spot to sleep in, and I sees this
desolation and ruination. I've lived myself in desolation and
ruination; I knows many a fellow-creetur that's forced to live life
long in desolation and ruination; and I sits me down and takes pity
on it, as I casts my eyes about. Then comes up the long-winded one
as I told you of, from that gate, and spins himself out like a
silkworm concerning the Donkey (if my Donkey at home will excuse me)
as has made it all--made it of his own choice! And tells me, if you
please, of his likewise choosing to go ragged and naked, and grimy--
maskerading, mountebanking, in what is the real hard lot of
thousands and thousands! Why, then I say it's a unbearable and
nonsensical piece of inconsistency, and I'm disgusted. I'm ashamed
and disgusted!"

"I wish you would come and look at him," said Mr. Traveller,
clapping the Tinker on the shoulder.

"Not I, sir," he rejoined. "I ain't a going to flatter him up by
looking at him!"

"But he is asleep."

"Are you sure he is asleep?" asked the Tinker, with an unwilling
air, as he shouldered his wallet.


"Then I'll look at him for a quarter of a minute," said the Tinker,
"since you so much wish it; but not a moment longer."

They all three went back across the road; and, through the barred
window, by the dying glow of the sunset coming in at the gate--which
the child held open for its admission--he could be pretty clearly
discerned lying on his bed.

"You see him?" asked Mr. Traveller.

"Yes," returned the Tinker, "and he's worse than I thought him."

Mr. Traveller then whispered in few words what he had done since
morning; and asked the Tinker what he thought of that?

"I think," returned the Tinker, as he turned from the window, "that
you've wasted a day on him."

"I think so too; though not, I hope, upon myself. Do you happen to
be going anywhere near the Peal of Bells?"

"That's my direct way, sir," said the Tinker.

"I invite you to supper there. And as I learn from this young lady
that she goes some three-quarters of a mile in the same direction,
we will drop her on the road, and we will spare time to keep her
company at her garden gate until her own Bella comes home."

So, Mr. Traveller, and the child, and the Tinker, went along very
amicably in the sweet-scented evening; and the moral with which the
Tinker dismissed the subject was, that he said in his trade that
metal that rotted for want of use, had better be left to rot, and
couldn't rot too soon, considering how much true metal rotted from
over-use and hard service.


{1} Dickens didn't write chapters 2 to 5 and they are omitted in
this edition.

Book of the day: