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everybody's father and mother for just as many
pages as you want to fill. At least that's what
the editor says."

" ^ Meleacjer ah ovo ' may be introduced with
safety when you get as far as that," suggested
Norman.

" Yes, you may bring him in too, if you like,"
said Charley, who was somewhat oblivious of his
classicalities. " Well, Sir Anthony is lying dead
and the Baron is standing over him, when out
come Sir Anthony's retainers — "

" Out — out of what ?"

" Out of the castle : that's all explained after-
wards. Out come the retainers and pitch into
the Baron till they make mincemeat of him."



AFTERNOON. 55

'' Tliey don't kill him, too ?"

" Don't tliey tliongli ? I rather think they
do, and no mistake."

"And so both your heroes are dead in the
first chapter."

" First chapter ! why that's only the second
paragraph. I'm only to he allowed ten para-
graphs for each number, and I am expected to
have an incident for every other paragraph, for
the first four days."

" That's twenty incidents."

" Yes, — its a great bother finding so many —
I'm obhged to make the retainers come by all
manner of accidents ; and I should never have
finished the job if I hadn't thought of setting
the castle on fire. ' And now forked tongues of
liquid fire and greedy lambent flames burst forth
from everv window of the devoted edifice. The
devoming element — '. That's the best passage
in the whole afiair."

" This is for the ' Daily Delight,' isn't it ?"

" Yes, for the Daily Delight. It is to begin
on the 1st of September with the partridges.
We expect a most tremendous sale. It will be
the first halfpenny publication in the market, and
as the retailers wiU get them for sixpence a score,
twenty-four to the score, they'll go ofi" like wild-
fire."

" "Well, Charley, and what do you do with the
dead bodies of your two heroes ?"



56 THE THREE CLERKS.

"Of course I needn't tell 3^011, that it was
not the Baron wlio killed Sir Anthony at all."

" Oh ! wasn't it ? Oh dear — that was a dread-
ful mistake on the part of the retainers."

" But as natural as life. You see these two
grandees were next door neighbours, and there
had been a feud between the families for seven
centuries — a sort of Capulet and Montague affair
— one Adelgitha, tlie daughter of the Thane of
Allen-a-dale — there were Thanes in those days,
you know — was betrothed to the eldest son of
Sir Waldemar de Ballyporeen. This gives me
an opjDortunity of bringing in a succinct little
account of the Conquest, which will be beneficial
to the lower classes. The editor peremptorily
insists upon that kind of thing."

" Omne tulit 2^unctum, — " said Norman.

" Yes, I dare say," said Charley, who was now
too intent on his own new profession to attend
much to his friend's quotation. " Well, where was
I ? — Oh ! the eldest son of Sir Waldemar went off
with another lady, and so the feud began. There
is a very pretty scene between Adelgitha and
her lady's-maid."

" What, seven centuries before the story
begins ?"

" Why not ? the editor saj^s that the unities
are altogether thrown over now, and that they
are regular bosh — our game is to stick in a good
bit whenever we can get it — I got to be so fond



AFTERNOON. 57

of Aclelgitlia that I ratlier think she's the
heroine."

" But doesn't that take off the interest from
your dead grandees ?"

" Not a bit ; I take it chapter and chapter
about. Well, you see the retainers had no sooner
made mincemeat of the Baron — a very elegant
young man was the Baron, just returned from the
Continent where he had learnt to throw aside all
prejudices about family feuds and everything else,
and he had just come over in a friendly way, to
say as much to Sir Anthony, when as he crossed
the draw-bridge he stumbled over the corpse of
his ancient enemy. — Well, the retainers had no
sooner made mincemeat of him, than they per-
ceived that Sir Anthony was lying with an open
bottle in his hand, and that he had taken
poison."

" Having: committed suicide ?" asked Norman.

" No, not at all. The editor says that we
must always have a slap at some of the iniquities
of the times. He gave me three or four to choose
from ; there was the adulteration of food, and
the want of education for the poor, and street
music, and the miscellaneous sale of poisons."

" And so you chose poisons and killed the
Knight?"

" Exactly ; at least I didn't kill him, for
he comes all right again after a bit. He had
gone out to get something to do him good after a

D 3



58 THE THREE CLERKS.

hard niglit, a seidlitz-powder, or sometMng of
that sort, and an apothecary's apprentice had
given him prussic acid in mistake."

" And how is it possible he should have come
to life after taking prussic acid ?"

" Why, there I have a double rap at the tr.|de.
The prussic acid is so bad of its kind, that it
only puts him into a kind of torpor for a week.
Then .we have the trial of the apothecary's boy ;
that is an excellent episode, and gives me a grand
hit at the absurdity of om- criminal code."

" Why, Charley, it seems to me that y^ are
hitting at everything."

" Oh ! ah ! right and left, that's the game for
us authors. The press is the only censor morum
going now — and who so fit ? Set a thief to catch
a thief, you know. Well, I have my hit at the
criminal code, and then Sir Anthony comes out of
his torpor."

" But how did it come to pass that the Baron's
sword was all bloody ? "

" Ah, there was the difficulty ; I saw that at
once. It was necessary to bring in something
to be killed, you know. I thought of a stray tiger
out of Womb well's menagerie ; but the editor
says that we must not trespass against the pro-
babilities, so I have introduced a big dog. The
Baron had come across a big dog, and seeing that
the brute had a wooden log tied to his throat,
thought he must be mad, and so he killed liim."



AFTERNOON. 59

" And what's the end of it, Charley ?"

" Why, the end is rather melancholy. Sir
Anthony reforms, leaves off drinking, and takes
to going to church every day. He becomes a
Puseyite, pnts up a memorial window to the
Baron, and reads the Tracts. At last he goes over
to the Pope, walks about in nasty dirty clothes
all full of vermin, and gives over his estate to
Cardinal Wiseman. Then there are the retainers ;
they all come to grief, some one way and some
another. I do that for the sake of the Ne-
mesis.'' ^

" I would not have condescended to notice
them, I think," said Norman.

" Oh 1 I must ; there must be a Nemesis. The
editor specially insists on a Nemesis."

The conclusion of Charley's novel brought
them back to the boat. Norman when he started
had intended to employ the evening in giving
good counsel to his friend, and in endeavouring
to arrange some scheme by which he might
rescue the brand from the burning ; but he had
not the heart to be severe and sententious, while
Charley was full of his fun. It was so much
pleasanter to talk to him on the easy terms of
equal friendship than turn Mentor and preach a
sermon.

"Well, Charley," said he as they were walking
up from the boat wharf — Norman to his club, and
Charley towards his lodgings, from which route.



60 THE THREE CLERKS.

however, lie meant to deviate as soon as ever lie
miglit be left alone ; — " well, Cliarley, I wish you
success with, all my heart ; I wish you could do
something, — I won't say to keep you out of mis-
chief."

"I wish I could, Harry," said Charley tho-
roughly abashed ; " I wish I could — indeed I wish
I could — but it is so hard to go right when one
has begun to go wrong."

" It is hard ; I know it is."

" But you never can know how hard, Harry, for
you have never tried," and then they went on
walking for a while in silence, side by side.

" You don't know the sort of place that office
of mine is," continued Charley. " You don't know
the sort of fellows the men are. I hate the place ;
I hate the men I live with. It is aU so dirty, so
disreputable, so false. I cannot conceive that any
fellow put in there as young as I was, should ever
do well afterwards."

" But at any rate you might try your best,
Charley."

" Yes I might do that still ; and I know I don't ;
and where should I have been noAv, if it hadn't
been for you ?"

" Never mind about that : I sometimes think
we might have done more for each other if we
had been more together. But, remember the
motto you said you'd choose, Charley — Excelsior !
"We can none of us mount the hill without hard



AFTERNOON. 61

labour. Eemember that word, Charley — excelsior !
— remember it now, now to-night ; remember
how you dream of higher things, and begin to
think of them in your waking moments also ;"
and so they parted.



CHAPTEE IV.

A DAY WITH ONE OF THE NAVVIES. EVENING.

''Excelsior!" said Charley to himself as he
walked on a few steps towards his lodgings, hav-
ing left Norman at the door of his club. " Ee-
member it now ; now to-night."

Yes — now is the time to remember it, if it is
ever to be remembered to any advantage. He went
on with stoic resolution to the end of the street,
determined to press home and put the last touch
to Crinoline and Macassar ; but as he went he
thouo^it of his interview with Mr. M'^Euen and
of the five sovereigns still in his pocket, and
altered his course.

Charley had not been so resolute with the
usurer, so determined to get 5/. from him on this
special day, without a special object in view.
His credit was at stake in a more than ordinary
manner; he had about a week since borrovv^ed
money from the woman who kept the public-house
in Norfolk Street, and having borrowed it for a
week only, felt that this was a debt of honour
which^it was incumbent on him to pay. There-
fore when he had walked the length of one street



EVENING. 63

on liis road towards his lodgings, lie retraced liis
steps and made liis way back to liis old liaunts.

Tlie house which he frequented was hardly
more hke a modern London gin palace than vfas
that other house in the city which Mr. M^Kuen
honoured Avitli his custom. It was one of those
small tranquil shrines of Bacchus in which the
god is worshipped perhaps \Yiili as constant a de-
votion, though with less noisy demonstrations of
zeal than in his larger and more public temples.
None absolutely of the lower orders were en-
couraged to come thither for oblivion. It had
about it nothing inviting to the general eye. IN^o
gas illuminations proclaimed its midnight gran-
deur. No liuo'e foldinof" doors, one set here and
another there, gave ingress and egress to a
wretched crowd of poverty-stricken midnight
revellers. 'No reiterated assertions in gaudy
letters, each a foot long, as to the peculiar merits
of the old tom or Hodge's cream of the valley,
seduced the thirsty traveller. The panelling
over the window bore the simple announcement,
in modest letters, of the name of the landlady,
Mrs. Davis ; and the same name appeared v»dth
equal modesty on the one gas lamp opposite the
door.

Mrs. Davis was a widow, and her customers
were chie% people who knevv^ her and frequented
her house regularly. Lawyers' clerks, who were
either unmarried, or whose married homes were



64 THE THREE CLERKS.

perhaps not so comfortable as tlie widow's front
parlour ; tradesmen not of tlie best sort, glad to
get away from tlie noise of tlieir cliildren ; young
men wlio had begmi the cares of life in ambi-
guous positions, just on the confines of respecta-
bility, and who finding themselves too weak in
flesh to cling on to the round of the ladder above
them, were sinking from year to year to lower
steps, and depths even below the level of Mrs.
Davis's public house. To these might be added
some few of a somewhat higher rank in life,
though perhaps of a lower rank of respectability ;
young men, who hke Charley Tudor and his
comrades, liked their ease and self-indulgence,
and were too indifferent as to the class of com-
panions against whom they might rub their
shoulders while seeking it.

The " Cat and Whistle," for such was the name
of Mrs, Davis's establishment, had been a house
of call for the young men of the Internal Navi-
gation long before Charley's time. What first
gave rise to the connection it is not now easy
to say ; but Charley had found it, and had fostered
it into a close alliance, which greatly exceeded
any amount of intimacy which existed previously
to his day.

It must not be presumed that he, in an or-
dinary way, took his place among the la^vj^ers'
clerks, and general run of customers in the front
parlour ; occasionally he condescended to preside



EVENING. 65

there over tlie quiet revels, to sing a song for
tlie guests wliicli was sure to be applauded to
the echo, and to engage in a little skirmish of
politics with a retired lamp-maker and a silver-
smith's foreman from the Strand, who always
called him " Sir," and received what he said with
the greatest respect ; but, as a rule, he quaffed his
Falernian in a little secluded parlour behind the
bar, in which sat the ^vidov/ Davis, auditing her
accounts in the morning, and giving out orders
in the evening to Norah Greraghty, her barmaid,
and to an attendant sylph, who ministered to
the front parlour, taking in goes of gin and
screws of tobacco, and bringing out the price
thereof with praiseworthy punctuality.

Latterly, indeed, Charley had utterly deserted
the front parlour ; for there had come there a
pestilent fellow, highly connected with, the press
as the lamp-maker declared, but employed as an
assistant short-hand wTiter somewhere about the
Houses of Parliament, according to the silver-
smith, who greatly interfered with our navvy's
authority. He would not at all allow that what
Charley said was law, entertained fearfally demo-
cratic principles of his own, and was not at all
the gentleman. So Charley drew himself up,
declined to converse any farther on pohtics
with a man who seemed to know more about
them than himself, and confined himself exclu-
sively to the inner room.



66 THE THREE CLERKS.

On arriving at this elysium, on the niglit in
question, he found Mrs. Davis nsefullj engaged
in darning a stocking, while Scatterall sat op-
j)Osite with a cigar in his mouth, his hat over
his nose, and a glass of gin and water before
him.

" I began to think you weren't coming/'
said Scatterall, " and I was getting so deuced
dull that I positively was thinking of going
home."

"That's very civil of you, Mr. Scatterall,"
said the widow.

" Well, you've been sitting there for the last
half hour vvdthout saying a word to me; and
it is dull. Looking at a woman mending
stockings is dull, ain't it, Charley ? "

" That depends/' said Charley, " partly on
whom the woman may be, and partly on whom
the man maybe. Where's Norah, Mrs. Davis?"

" She's not very well to-night ; she has got a
head ache : there ain't many of them here to-night,
so she's lying down."

" A little seedy, I suppose," said Scatterall.

Charley felt rather angry with his friend for
applying such an epithet to his lady-love ; how-
ever he did not resent it, but sitting down, lighted
his pipe and sipped his gin and water.

And so they sat for the next quarter of an
hour, saying very little to each other. What
was the nature of the attraction which induced



EVENING. 67

two such men as Charley Tiidor and Dick Scat-
terall to give Mrs. Davis the benefit of their
society, while she was mending her stockings, it
might be difficult to explain. They could have
smoked in their own rooms as w^ell, and have
drunk gin and w^ater there, if they had any real
predilection for that mixture. Mrs. Davis was
neither young nor beautiful, nor more than or-
dinarily witty. Charley, it is true, had an allure-
ment to entice him thither, but this could not
be said of Scatterall, to whom the lovely ISTorah
was never more than decently civil. Had they
been desired, in their own paternal halls, to sit
and see their mother's housekeeper darn the
family stockings, they w^ould, probably both of
them, have rebelled, even though the supply of
tobacco and gin and water should be gratuitous
and unlimited.

It must be presumed that the only charm of
the pursuit was in its acknowledged unpropriety.
They both understood that there was sometliing
fast in frequenting Mrs. Davis's inner parlour,
something slow in remaining at home ; and so
they both sat there, and Mrs. Davis went on with
her darnuag needle, nothing abashed.

"Well, I think I shall go," said Scatterall,
shaking off the last ash from the end of his third
cigar.

"Do," said Charley; "you should be careful;
late horn's vnll hui't your complexion."



6s THE THREE CLERKS.

" It's SO deuced dull," said Scatterall.

" Why don't you go into tlie parlour, and have
a chat with the gentlemen," suggested Mrs.
Davis ; " there's Mr. Peppermint there now,
lecturing about the war ; upon my word he talks
very well."

" He's so deuced low," said Scatterall.

"He's a bumptious noisy blackguard too,"
said Charley ; "he doesn't know how to speak to
a gentleman, when he meets one."

Scatterall gave a great yawn. "I suppose
you're not going, Charley ?" said he.

" Oh yes, I am," said Charley, " in about two
hours."

" Two hours ! well, good night, old fellow, for
I'm off. Three cigars, Mrs. Davis, and two goes
of gin and w^ater, the last cold." Then, having
made this little commercial communication to
the landlady, he gave another yawn, and took
himself away. Mrs. Davis opened her little book,
jotted down the items, and then having folded
up her stockings, and put them into a basket,
prepared herself for conversation.

But, though Mrs. Davis prepared herself for
conversation, she did not immediately commence
it. Having something special to say, she pro-
bably thought that she might improve her op-
portunity of saying it, by allowing Charley to
begin. She got up and pottered about the room,
went to. a cupboard and wiped a couple of glasses.



EVENING. 69

and then out into tlie bar and arranged the jugs
and pots. This done, she returned to the little
room, and again sat herself down in her chair.

"Here's your five pounds, Mrs. Davis," said
Charley ; " I wish you knew the trouble I have
had to get it for you."

To give Mrs. Davis her due, this was not the
subject on which she was anxious to speak. She
would have been at present well inclined that
Charley should remain her debtor. " Indeed, Mr.
Tudor, I am very sorry you should have taken
any trouble on such a trifle. If you're short of
cash, it will do for me just as well in October."

Charley looked at the sovereigns, and be-
thought himself how very short of cash he was.
Then he thought of the fight he had had to get
them, in order that he might pay the money
which he had felt so ashamed of having borrowed,
and he determined to resist the temptation.

" Did you ever know me flush of cash ? You
had better take them wdiile you can get them,"
and as he pushed them across the table with his
stick, he remembered that all he had left was
ninepence.

"I don't want the money at present, Mr.
Tudor," said the widow. "We're such old
friends that there ought not to be a word be-
tween us about such a trifle — now don't leave
yourself bare ; — take what you want and settle
with me at quarter-day."



70 THE THREE CLERKS.

"Well — I'll take a sovereign/' said lie, "for
to tell you the truth, I have only the ghost of a
shilling in my pocket." And so it was settled ;
Mrs. Davis reluctantly pocketed four of Mr.
M*^Euen's sovereigns, and Charley kept in his
own possession the fifth, as to which he had had
so hard a combat in the lobby of the bank.

He then sat silent for a while and smoked,
and Mrs. Davis again waited for him to begin
the subject on which she wished to speak.
"And what's the matter with ISTorah all this
time ?" he said at last.

" What's the matter with her !" repeated Mrs.
Davis. " Well, I think you might know w^hat's
the matter with her. You don't suppose she's
made of stone, do you ?"

Charley saw that he was in for it. It was in
vain that Norman's last word was still ringing
in his ears — Excelsior 1 Wliat had he to do with
excelsior ? What miserable reptile on Grod's
earth was more prone to crawl do\\Tiwards than
he had shown himself to be. And then again a
vision floated across his mind's eye of a young
sweet angel face with large bright eyes, with soft
delicate skin, and all the exquisite charms of
gentle birth and gentle nurture. A single soft
touch seemed to press his arm, a touch that he
had so often felt, and had never felt without ac-
knowledging to himself that there was something
in it almost divine. All this passed rapidly



EVENING. 71

through his mincl, as he was preparing to an-
swer Mrs. Davis's question touching Norah
Greraghty.

" You don't think she's made of stone, do you?"
said the widow, repeating her words.

" Indeed I don't think she's made of anything
but what's suitable to a very nice young woman,"
said Charley.

" A nice young woman ! Is that all you can
say for her ? I call her a very fine girl." Miss
Golightly's friends could not say anything more,
even for that young lady. " I don't know where
you'll pick up a handsomer, or a better-conducted
one either, for the matter of that."

'' Indeed she is," said Charley.

" Oh ! for the matter of that, no one knows it
better than yourself, Mr. Tudor — and she's as well
able to keep a man's house over his head as some
others that take a deal of pride in themselves."

" I'm quite sure of it," said Charley.

"Well, the long and the short of it is this,
Mr. Tudor " — And as she spoke the widow got a
little red in the face : she had, as Charley thought,
an unpleasant look of resolution about her — a
roundness about her mouth, and a sort of fierceness
in her eyes. " The long and the short of it is tliis,
Mr. Tudor, what do you mean to do about the girl?"

" Do about her ?" said Charley almost be^vil-
dered in his misery.

" Yes, do about her ? do you mean to make



72 THE THREE CLEUKS.

her your wife ? that's plain Englisli. Because
I'll tell you what ; I'll not see her put upon any
longer. It must be one thing or the other ; and
that at once. And if you've a grain of honour
in you, Mr. Tudor, and I think you are honour-
able, you won't go back from your word with the
girl now."

" Back from my word ?" said Charley.

" Yes, back from your word," said Mrs. Davis,
the floodgates of whose eloquence were now fairly
opened. " I'm sure you're too much of the gen-
tleman to deny your own w^ords, and them re-
peated more than once in my presence — Cheroots
- — yes, are there none there, child ? — Oh, they are
in the cupboard." These last words were not
part of her address to Charley, but were given
in reply to a requisition from the attendant
nymph outside. "You're too much of a gen-
tleman to do that, I know. And so, as I'm her
natural friend, and indeed she's my cousin not
that far off, I think it's right that we should all
understand one another."

" Oh, quite right," said Charley.

" You can't expect that she should go and sa-
crifice herself for you, you know," said Mrs. Davis,
who now that she had begun hardly knew how to
stop herself. "A girl's time is her money. She's
at her best now, and a girl like her must make
her hay while the sun shines. She can't go on
fal-lalling with you, and then nothing to come



EVENING. 73

of it. You imisn't suppose she's to lose lier
^market tliat way."

" G-od knows I should be soriy to injure lier^
Mrs. Davis."

" I believe 3'ou would, because I take you for
an honourable gentleman as will be as good as
3'our word. Now, there's Peppermint there."

"What, that fellow in the parlour?"

" And an honourable gentleman he is. Not
that I mean to compare him to you, Mr. Tudor,
nor yet doesn't Norah, not by no means. But
there he is. Well, he comes with the most
honourablest proposals, and will make her Mrs.
Peppermint to-morrow, if so that she'll have it."

" You don't mean to say that there has been
anything between them ?" said Charley, yAio in
spite of the intense desire which he felt a few
minutes since to get the lovely Norah altogether
oif his hands, now felt an acute pang of jealousy.
''You don't mean to say that there has been
anything between them."

"Nothing as you have any right to object to,
Mr. Tudor. You may be sure I wouldn't alloAV
of that, nor yet wouldn't Norah demean herself
to it."

" Then how did she get talking to him ?"

" She didn't get talking to him. But he has
eyes in his head, and you don't suppose but what


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