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he can see with them. If a girl is in the public
line, of course any man is free to speak to her. If



you don't like it, it is for you to take lier out of
it. Not but v/Iiat, for a girl tliat is in the public
line Norali Greraglity keeps herself to herself as
much as any girl you ever set eyes on."

" What the d — has she to do with this fellow

"Why, he's a widower and has three young
children ; and he's looking out for a mother for
them; and he thinks Norah will suit. There
now, you have the truth and the whole truth."

" D — his impudence," spoid Charley.

" Well I don't see that there's any impudence.
He has a house of his own and the means to keep
it. ~Now I'll tell you what it is. Norah can't
abide him" —

Charley looked a little better satisfied when
he heard this declaration.

" Norah can't abide the si2:ht of him ; nor
won't of any man as long as you are hanging
after her. She's as true as steel, and proud you
ought to be of her" — proud, thought Charley,
as he again muttered to himself, ' excelsior 1 ' —
"But, Mr. Tudor, I won't see her put upon,
that's the long and the short of it. If you like
to take her, there she is. I don't say she's just
your equal as to breeding, though she's come of
decent people too ; but she's good as gold. She'll
make a shilling go as far as any young woman I
know; and if 100/. or 150/., are wanting for
furniture or the like of that, why, I've that


regard for her, that that shan't stand in the way.
Now, Mr. Tudor, I've spoke honest ; and if
you're the gentleman as I takes you to be, you'll
do the same."

To do Mrs. Davis justice it must be acknow-
ledged that in her way she had spoken honest.
Of course she knew that such a marriage would
be a dreadful misalliance for young Tudor ; of
course she knew^ that all his Iriends would be
heart-broken when they heard of it. But what
had she to do with his friends ? Her sympathies,
her good wishes, were for her friend. Had
Norah fallen a ^dctim to Charley's admiration,
and then been cast off to eat the bitterest bread
to which any human being is ever doomed, what
then would Charley's friends have cared for her ?
There was a fair fight between them. If Norah
Geraghty, as a rev\rard for her prudence, could
get a husband in a rank of life above her, instead
of falling to utter destruction as might so easily
have been the case, Vv^lio could do other than
praise her — praise her and her clever friend who
had so assisted her in her stru^-o-le.

Dolus an virtus

Had Mrs. Davis ever studied the classics she
would have thus expressed herself.

Poor Charley was altogether thrown on his
beam-ends. He had altogether played Mrs. Davis'
game in evincing jealousy at Mr. Peppermint's
attentions. He knew this, and yet for the life

E 2


of him he could not help being jealous. He
wanted to get rid of Miss Geraghty, and yet
he could not endure that any one else should lay
claim to her favour. He was very weak. He
knew how much depended on the way in which
he might answer this woman at the present
moment ; he knew that he ought now to make
it plain to her, that however foolish he might
have been, however false he might have been, it
was quite out of the question that he should
marry her barmaid. But he did not do so. He
was worse than weak. It was not only the dis-
inclination to give pain or even the dread of the
storm that would ensue, which deterred him ;
but an absurd dislike to think that Mr. Pepper-
mint should be graciously received there as the
barmaid's acknowledged admirer.

"Is she really ill now?" said he.

"She's not so ill, but what she shall make her-
self Avell enough to welcome you, if you'll say the
word that you ought to say. The most that ails
her is fretting at the long delay. Bolt the door,
child, and go to bed ; there will be no one else
here now. Go up, and tell Miss Geraghty to
come down ; she hasn't got her clothes off yet,
I know.

Mrs. Davis was too good a general to press
Charley for an absolute, immediate, fixed answer
to her question. She knew that she had already
gained much, by talking thus of the proposed


marriage, by setting it thus plainly before
Charley, without rebuke, or denial from him. He
had not objected to receiving a visit from Norah,
on the implied understanding that she w^as to
come down to him as his affianced bride. He
had not agreed to this in words ; but silence gives
consent, and Mrs. Davis felt that should it ever
hereafter become necessary to prove anything,
what had passed would enable her to prove a
good deal.

Charley puffed at his cigar and sipped his gin
and water. It was now twelve o'clock, and
he thoroughly wished himself at home and in
bed. The longer he thought of it the more
impossible it appeared that he sliould get out of
the house without the scene which he dreaded.
The girl had bolted the door, put away her cups
and mugs, and her step up stairs had struck
heavily on his ears. The house was not large, or
high, and he fancied that he heard mutterings on
the landing-place. Indeed he did not doubt but
that Miss Gleraghty had listened to most of the
conversation which had taken place.

" Excuse me a minute, Mr. Tudor," said Mrs.
Davis, who was now smiling, and civil enough.
"I wiU go up stairs myself; the silly girl is
shamefaced, and does not like to come down ;"
and up went Mrs. Davis to see that her bar-
maid's curls and dress were nice and jaunty. It
would not do now, at this moment, for Norah


to offend lier lover by any untidiness. Charley
for a moment tlionglit of tlie front door. The
enemy had allowed him an opportunity for
retreating. He might slip out before either of
the women came down, and then never more be
heard of in Norfolk-street ao-ain. He had his
hand in his waistcoat pocket, v/ith the intent of
leaving the sovereign on the table ; but when the
moment came, he felt ashamed of the pusillani-
mity of such an escape, and therefore stood, or
rather sat his ground, with a courage worthy of
a better purpose.

Down the tvv^o v/omen came, and Charley felt
his heart beating against his ribs. As the steps
came nearer the door, he began to wish that
Mr. Peppermint had been successful. The widow
entered the room first, and at her heels, the
expectant beauty. We can hardly say that she
was blushing ; but she did look rather shamefaced,
and hung back a little at the door, as though she
still had half a mind to think better of it, and go
off to her bed.

" Come in, you little fool," said Mrs. Davis.
" You needn't be ashamed of coming down to see
him ; you have done that often enough before


Norali simpered and sidled. ''Well, I'm
sure now !" said she. " Here's a start, Mr. Tudor,
to be brought down stairs at this time of night ;
and I'm sure I don't knovv^ what it's about ;"


and tlien she shook her curls, and twitched her
dress ; and made as though she were going to
pass through the room, to her accustomed place
at the har.

Norah Geraghty w^as a fine girl. Putting her
in comparison with Miss Golightly, we are
inclined to say that she was the finer girl of the
two; and that, barring position, money and fashion,
she was qualified to make the better wife. In
point of education, that is the effects of education,
there was not perhaps much to choose between
them. IN'orah could make an excellent pudding,
and was vvilling enough to exercise her industry
and art in doing so ; Miss Golightly could copy
music, but she did not like the trouble ; and could
play a waltz badly. Neither of them had ever
read anything beyond a few novels. In this
respect, as to the amount of labour done. Miss
Golightly had certainly far sujrpassed her rival
competitor for Charley's afiections.

Charley got up and took her hand ; and as he
did so, he savf that her nails were dirty. He put
his arm round her waist and kissed her ; and as
he caressed her, his olfactory nerves perceived that
the pomatum in her hair was none of the best. He
thought of those young lustrous eyes that would
look up so wondrously into his face ; he thought
of the gentle touch, which v/ould send a thrill
tlirough all his nerves ; and then he felt very


" Well, upon my word, Mr. Tudor," said Miss
Geraglity, " you're making very free to-night.'*
She did not, however, refuse to sit down on his
knee, though while sitting there she struggled
and tossed herself, and shook her long ringlets
in Charley's face, till he wished her — safe at
home, in Mr. Peppermint's nursery.

" And is that what you brought me down for,
Mrs. Davis ?" said Norah. " Well, upon my word,
I hope the door's locked ; we shall have all the
world in here else."

" If you hadn't come down to him, he'd have
been up to you," said Mrs. Davis.

" Would he though ?" said Nor ah : " I think
he knows a trick worth two of that ; " and she
looked as though she knevv^ well how to defend
herself, if any over zeal on the part of her lover
should ever induce him to violate the sanctum
of her feminine retirement.

There was no over zeal now about Charley.
He ought to have been happy enough, for he had
his charmer in his arms ; but he showed very
little of the ecstatic joy of a favoured lover.
There he sat with Norah in his arms, and as we
have said, ISTorah was a handsome girl ; but he
Avould much sooner have been copying the Kennet
and Avon canal lock entries, in Mr. Snape's
room at the Internal Navigation.

" Lawks, Mr. Tudor, you needn't hold me so
tight," said Norah.


" He means to hold you tiglit enough now,"
said Mrs. Davis. " He's very angry because I
mentioned another gentleman's name."

" Well, now you didn't," said Norah, pretend-
ing to look very angry.

"Well, I just did; and if you'd only seen him.
You must be very careful what you say to that
gentleman, or there'll be a row in the house."

" I !" said Norah. " What I say to him ! It's
very little I have to say to the man. But I
shall tell him this ; he'd better take himself some-
where else, if he's going to make himself

All this time Charley had said nothing, but
was sitting with his hat on his head, and his
cigar in his mouth. The latter appendage he
had laid down for a moment when he saluted
Miss Greraghty, but he had resumed it, having
at the moment no intention of repeating the

" And so you were jealous, were you ?" said
she, turning round and looking at him. " Well
now some people might have more respect for
other people, than to mix up their names that
way, with the names of any men that choose to
put themselves forward. What would you say
if I was to talk to you about Miss "

Charley stopped her mouth. It was not to be
borne that she should be allowed to pronounce
the name that was about to fall from her lips.

£ 3


" So you were jealous, were you ?" said she ;
wlien she was again able to speak. " Well, my I"

'' Mrs. Davis told me flatly that you were
going to marry the man/' said Charley ; " so what
was I to think ?"

" It doesn't matter what you think now/' said
Mrs. Davis ; " for you must be off from this.
Do you know v/liat o'clock it is ? Do you want
the house to get a bad name ? Come, you two
understand each other now ; so you may as well
give over billing and cooing for this time. It's
all settled now, isn't it, Mr. Tudor ?"

" Oh ! yes, I suppose so," said Charley.

'' Well, a^nd what do you say, Norah ?"

" Oh, I'm sure, I'm agreeable, if he is. Ha !
ha ! ha ! I only hope he v\^on't think me too
forward — he ! he ! he !"

And then, with another kiss, and very few more
words of any sort, Charley took himself off.

" I'll have nothing more to do with him," said
Norah, bursting into tears, as soon as the door
was well bolted after Charley's exit. " I'm only
losing myself with him. He don't mean any-
thing, and I said he didn't all along. He'd have
pitched me to Old Scratch, while I was sitting
there on his knee, if he'd have had his own
way — so he would" — and poor Norah cried
heartily, as she went to her work in her usual
way, among the bottles and taps.

*' Why, you fool you, what do you expect ?


Yoii don't tliink lie's to jump down your throat,
do you ! You can but try it on ; and tlien if it
don't do, wliy there's the other one to fall back
on ; only, if I had the choice, I'd rather have
young Tudor, too."

" So would I," saidNorah. ''I can't abide that
other fellow."

" Well, there, that's how it is, you know —
beeears can't be choosers. But come, make us
a drop of something hot ; a little drop will do
yourself good ; but it's better not to take it before
him, unless when he presses you."

So the two ladies sat down to console them-
selves, as best they might, for the reverses w^hicli
trade and love so often bring with them.

Charley walked off a miserable man. He was
thoroughly ashamed of himself, thoroughly
acknowledged his own weakness ; and yet as he
went out from the Cat and Whistle, he felt sm-e
that he should return there again to renew the
desrradation from which he had suffered this nig^ht.
Indeed what else could he do now ? He had, as
it w^ere, solemnly plighted his troth to the girl be-
fore a third person who had brought them toge-
ther, with the acknowdedged purpose of v/itnessing
that ceremonv. He had, before Mrs. Davis, and
before the girl herself, heard her spoken of as his
wdfe, and had agreed to the understanding that
such an arrano-ement was a settled thino^. What


else liad he to do now, but to return and complete
his part of the bargam ? Wliat else but that —
and be a wretched miserable degraded man for
the rest of his days ; lower, viler, more contempt-
ible, infinitely lower, even than his brother clerks:
at the office, whom in his pride he had so much
despised ?

He walked from Norfolk Street into the
Strand, and there the world was still alive
though it was now nearly one o'clock. The
debauched misery, the wretched out-door mid-
night revelry of the world was there, streaming
in and out from gin palaces, and bawHng itself
hoarse with horrid discordant screech-owl slang.
But he went his way unheeding and uncon-
taminated. Now, novv^ that it was useless, he
was thinking of the better things of the world ;
nothing now seemed worth his grasp, nothing
now seemed pleasurable, nothing capable of
giving joy, but v/hat was decent, good, reput-
able, cleanly, and pohshed. How he hated now
that lower world with which he had for the last
three years condescended to pass so much of his
time ! how he hated himself for his own vile-
ness ! He thought of what Alaric was, of what
Norman was, of what he himself might have
been — he that was praised by Mrs. Woodward
for his talent, he that was encouraged to place
himself among the authors of the day ! He


tliouglit of all this, and then he thought o^
what he was — the affianced husband of Norah

He went along the Strand, over the crossing
under the statue of Charles on horseback, and up
Pall Mall East till he came to the opening into
the park under the Duke of York's column. The
London nisfht world was all alive as he made his
way. From the opera colonnade shrill voices
shrieked out at him as he passed, and drunken
men coming down from the night supper-houses
in the Haymarket saluted him with affectionate
cordiality ; the hoarse waterman from the cab-
stand, whose voice had perished in the night air,
croaked out at him the offer of a vehicle, and one
of the night beggar-women who cling like burrs
to those who roam the street at these unhallowed
hours still stuck to him, as she had done ever
since he had entered the Strand.

" Gret away with you," said Charley, turning
at the wretched creature in his fierce anger, " get
away, or I'll give you in charge."

" That you may never know what it is to be in
misery yourself!" said the miserable Irishwoman.

" If you follow me a step further I'll have yon
locked up," said Charley.

" Oh, then, it's you that have the hard heart,"
said she, " and it's you that will suffer yet."

Charley looked round, threw her the odd half-
pence Vvdiich he had in his pocket, and then turned


down towards tlie column. The ^vom?tn picked
up her prize, and, with a speedy blessing, took
herself off in search of other prey.

His way home would have taken him up
Waterloo Place, but the space round the column
was now deserted and quiet, and sauntering
there, without thinking of what he did, he
paced up and do^vn between the Clubs and the
steps leading into the Park. There, walking
to and fro, slowly he thought of his past career,
of all the circumstances of his life since his life
had been left to his own control, and of the
absence of all hope for the future.

What was he to do? He v/as deeply, inex-
tricably in debt. That wretch, M'^Euen, had his
name on bills which it was impossible that he
should ever pay. Tradesmen held other bills of
his which were either now over due or would
very shortly become so. He was threatened with
numerous writs, any one of which would suffice
to put him into gaol. From his poor father,
burthened as he v^^as with other cliildren, he
knew that he had no right to expect further
assistance. He was in debt to Norman, his
best, he would have said his only friend, had
it not been that in all his misery he could not
help still thinking of Mrs. Woodward as his

And yet liov/ could lie ventm^e to think longer
of her, contaminated as he now was with the


liorrid deo;radation of Ms acknov/ledo-ed love at
the Cat and Whistle. No ; he must think no
more of the Woodwards ; he must dream no
more of those angel eyes which in his waking
moments had so often peered at him out of
heaven, teaching him to think of higher tilings,
giving him higher hopes than those which had
come to him from the working: of his own un-
aided spirit. Ah ! lessons taught in vain ! vain
hopes ! lessons that had come all too late ! hopes
that had been cherished only to be deceived !
It W' as all over now. He had made his bed and
he must lie on it ; he had sown his seed and he
must reap his produce : there was now no " ex-
celsior" left for him within the bounds of human

He had promised to go to Hampton wdth
Harry JSTorman on Saturday, and he would go
there for the last time. He would ^o there and
tell Mrs. Woodward so much of the truth as he
could bring himself to utter ; he would say fare-
w^ell to that blest abode ; he would take Linda's
soft hand in his for the last time ; for the last
time he would hear the young silver-ringing
happy voice of his darling Katie ; for the last
time look into her bright face ; for the last time
play with her as with a child of heaven —
and then he would return to the Cat and

And having made this resolve he went home


to liis lodgings. It was singular tliat in all liis
misery tlie idea hardly once occurred to him of
setting himself right in the world by accepting
his cousin's offer of Miss Golightly's hand and



Before tlie follovving Saturday afternoon, Cliar-
ley's spirits had somewhat recovered their nataral
tone. Not that he was in a ha.ppy frame of
mind — the united energies of Mr. M^^Euen and
Mrs. Davis had been too powerful to allow of
that; not that he had given over his projected
plan of saying a long farevv^ell to Mrs. Wood-
ward, or at any rate of telling her something of
his position ; he still felt that he could not con-
tinue to live on terms of close intimacy both with
her daughters and with Nor ah Greraghty. But
the spirits of youth are ever buoyant, and the
spirits of no one could be endowed with more
natural buoyancy than those of the young navvy.
Charley, therefore, in spite of his misfortunes,
was ready with his manuscript when Saturday
afternoon arrived, and, according to agreement,
met Norman at the Bailway Station.

Only one evening had intervened smce the
night in which he had ratified his matrimonial
engagement, and in spite of the delicate nature
of his position he had for that evening allowed


Mr. Peppermint to exercise iiis eloqnence on the
heart of tlie fair Norali without interruption.
He the while had been engaged in completing
the memoirs of " Crinohne and Macassar."

"Well, Charley," they asked, one and all, as
soon as he reached the cottage, " have you got
the story ? Have you brought the manuscript ?
Is it all finished and ready for that dreadful
editor ? "

Charley produced a roll, and Linda and Katie
instantly pounced upon it.

" Oh ! it begins with poetry," said Linda.

" I am so glad," said Katie. " Is there much
poetry in it, Charley ? I do so hope there is."

, " 'Not a word of it," said Charley ; '' that
which Linda sees is a song that the heroine is
singing, and it isn't supposed to be written by
the author at all."

" I'm so sorry that there's no poetry," said
Katie. " Can't you v/rite poetry, Charley ? "

" At any rate there's lots of love in it," said
Linda, who was turning over the pages.

" Is there ? " said Katie. " \¥ell, that's next
best ; but they should go together. You should
have put all your love into verse, Charley, and
then your prose would have done for the funny

" Perhaps it's all fun," said Mrs. Woodv/ard.
But come, girls, this is not fair ; I won't let you
look at the story till it's read in full committee."


And so saying, Mrs. Woodward took tlie papers
from her dangliters, and tying tliem up, deposited
tliem in safe custody. " We'll have it out when
the tea-things are gone."

But before the tea-things had come, an acci-
dent happened, which had been like to dismiss
Crinoline and Macassar altogether from the minds
of the whole of the Woodward family. The
young men had, as usual, dined in tov/n, and
therefore they w^ere all able to spend the long
summer evening out of doors. Norman's boat
was down at Hampton, and it w^as therefore de-
termined that they should rov/ down as far as
Hampton Court Park and back. Charley and
Norman were to row ; and Mrs. Woodward
agreed to accompany her daughters. Uncle Bat
was left at home, to his nap and rum and water.

Norman was so expert a Thames waterman,
that he was qidte able to manage the boat with-
out a steersman, and Charley vras nearly his
equal. But there is some amusement in steering,
and Katie was allowed to sit between the tiller

" I can steer very well, mama : can't I, Harrj^ ?
I always steer when we go to the island, and we
run the boat straight into the little creek, only
just broad enough to hold it." Katie's visits to
the island, however, v/ere not so frequent as they
had heretofore been, for she w^as approaching to
sixteen vears of ai?e, and wet feet and drao-ofled


petticoats had lost some of tlieir charms. Mrs.
Woodward, trusting more to the experience of
her two knights than to the skill of the lady at
the helm, took her seat, and they went off merrily
down the stream.

All the world knows that it is but a very little
distance from Hampton Church to Hampton
Court Bridge, especially when one has the stream
with one. They were very soon near to the
bridge, and as they approached it, they had to
pass a huge barge, that v/as lazily making its
way down to Brentford.

" There's lots of time for the big arch," said

" Pull away then," said Harry.

They both pulled hard, and shot alongside,
and past the barge. But the stream was strong,
and the great ngly mass of black timber moved
behind them quicker than it seemed to do.

" It will be safer to take the one to the left,"
said Harry.

" Oh ! there's lots of time," said Charley.

" No," said Harry, " do as I tell you, and go
to the left. — Pull your left hand a little, Katie."

Charley did as he was bid, and Katie intended
to do the same ; but unfortunately she pulled
the wrong hand. They were now very near the
bridge, and the barge was so close to them as to
show that there might have been danger in at-
tempting to get through the same arch with her.


"Your left hand, Katie, your left," sliouted
Norman ; " your left string." Katie was con-
fused, and gave first a pull witli lier left, and then
a pull with her right, and then a strong pull
with her left. The two men backed water as
hard as they could, but the effect of Katie's

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Online LibraryAnthony TrollopeThe three clerks : a novel (Volume 2) → online text (page 5 of 18)