" My lady Bowley," returned Sir Joseph, " you surprise me. Is the
luxury of feeling in proportion to the -number of votes ; or is it, to a
rightly constituted mind, in proportion to the number of applicants,
and the wholesome state of mind to which their canvassing reduces
them ? Is there no excitement of the purest kind in having two votes
to dispose of among fifty people ? "
" Not to me, I acknowledge," replied the lady.
" It bores one.
Besides, one can't oblige one's acquaintance. But you are the Poor
Man's Friend, you know, Sir Joseph. You think otherwise."
" I am the Poor Man's Friend," observed Sir Joseph, glancing at
the poor man present. " As such I may be taunted. As such I have
been taunted. But I ask no other title."
" Bless him for a noble gentleman ! " thought Trotty.
" I don't agree with Cute here, for instance," said Sir Joseph, hold-
ing out the letter. " I don't agree with the Filer party. I don't agree
with any party. My friend the Poor Man, has no business with any-
thing of that sort, and nothing of that sort has any business with him.
My friend the Poor Man, in my district, is my business. No man
or body of men has any right to interfere between my friend and me.
That is the ground I take. I assume a a paternal character towards
my friend. I say, ' My good fellow, I will treat you paternally.' "
Toby listened with great gravity, and began to feel more comfortable.
" Your only business, my good fellow," pursued Sir Joseph, looking
abstractedly at Toby ; " your only business in life is with me. You
needn't trouble yourself to think about anything. I will think for
you ; I know what is good for you ; I am your perpetual parent.
92 The Chimes.
Such is the dispensation of an all-wise Providence ! Now, the design
of your creation is not that you should swill, and guzzle, and
associate your enjoyments, brutally, with food ; " Toby thought
remorsefully of the tripe ; " but that you should feel the Dignity of
Labour. Go forth erect into the cheerful morning air, and and stop
there. Live hard and temperately, be respectful, exercise your self-
denial, bring up your family on next to nothing, pay your rent as
regularly as the clock strikes, be punctual in your dealings (I set you
a good example ; you will find Mr. Fish, my confidential secretary,
with a cash-box before him at all times) ; and you may trust to me to
be your Friend and Father."
" Nice children, indeed, Sir Joseph ! " said the lady, with a shudder.
" Rheumatisms, and fevers, and crooked legs, and asthmas, and all
kinds of horrors ! "
" My lady," returned Sir Joseph, with solemnity, " not the less am
I the Poor Man's Friend and Father. Not the less shall he receive
encouragement at my hands. Every quarter-day he will be put in
communication with Mr. Fish. Every New Year's Day, myself and
friends will drink his health. Once every year, myself and friends
will address him with the deepest feeling. Once in his life, he may
even perhaps receive ; in public, in the presence of the gentry ; a
Trifle from a Friend. And when, upheld no more by these stimulants,
and the Dignity of Labour, he sinks into his comfortable grave, then
my lady " here Sir Joseph blew his nose " I will be a Friend and
a Father on the same terms to his children."
Toby was greatly moved.
" ! You have a thankful family, Sir Joseph ! " cried his wife.
" My lady," said Sir Joseph, quite majestically, " Ingratitude is
known to be the sin of that class. I expect no other return."
" Ah ! Born bad ! " thought Toby. " Nothing melts us."
" What man can do, I do," pursued Sir Joseph. " I do my duty as
the Poor Man's Friend and Father ; and I endeavour to educate his
mind, by inculcating on all occasions the one great moral lesson which
that class requires. That is, entire Dependence on myself. They
have no business whatever with with themselves. If wicked and
designing persons tell them otherwise, and they become impatient and
discontented, and are guilty of insubordinate conduct and black-
hoarted ingratitude ; which is undoubtedly the case ; I am their Friend
and Father still. It is so Ordained. It is in the nature of things."
With that great sentiment, he opened the Alderman's letter ; and
" Very polite and attentive, I am sure ! " exclaimed Sir Joseph.
" My lady, the Alderman is so obliging as to remind me that he has
had 'the distinguished honour' he is very good of meeting me at
the house of our mutual friend Deedles, the banker ; and he does me
the favour to inquire whether it will be agreeable to me to have WilJ
Fern put down,"
The Peopled Friend and FatJief. 93
u Most agreeable ! " replied my Lady Bowley. " The worst man
among them ! He has been committing a robbery, I hope ? "
"Why no," said Sir Joseph, referring to the letter. "Not quite.
Very near. Not quite. He came up to London, it seems, to look for
employment (trying to better himself that's his story), and being
found at night asleep in a shed, was taken into custody, and carried
next morning before the Alderman. The Alderman observes (very
properly) that he is determined to put this sort of thing down ; and
that if it will be agreeable to me to have Will Fern put down, he will
be happy to begin with him."
" Let him be made an example of, by all means," returned the lady.
" Last winter, Avhen I introduced pinking and eyelet-holing among the
men and boys in the village, as a nice evening employment, and had
O let us love our occupations,
Bless the squire and his relations,
Live upon our daily rations,
And al\va\ s know our proper stations,
set to music on the new system, for them to sing the while ; this very
Fern I see him now touched that hat of his, and said, ' I humbly
ask your pardon, my lady, but arii I something different from a great
girl '? ' I expected it, of course ; who can expect anything but in-
solence and ingratitude from that class of people ! That is not to the
purpose, however. Sir Joseph ! Make an example of him ! "
" Hem ! " coughed Sir Joseph. " Mr. Fish, if you'll have the good-
ness to attend
Mr. Fish immediately seized his pen, and wrote from Sir Joseph's
" Private. My dear Sir. I am very much indebted to you for your
courtesy in the matter of the man William Fern, of whom, I regret
to add, I can say nothing favourable. I have uniformly considered
myself in the light of his Friend and Father, but have been repaid
(a common case I grieve to say) with ingratitude, and constant oppo-
sition to my plans. He is a turbulent and rebellious spirit. His
character will not bear investigation. Nothing will persuade him to
be happy when he might. Under these circumstances, it appears to
me, I own, that when he comes before you again (as you informed me
ho promised to do to-morrow, pending your inquiries, and I think he
may be so far relied upon), his committal for some short term as a
Vagabond, would be a service to society, and would be a salutary
example in a country where for the sake of those who are, through
good and evil report, the Friends and Fathers of the Poor, as well as
with a view to that, generally speaking, misguided class themselves
examples are greatly needed. And I am," and so forth.
" It appears," remarked Sir Joseph when he had signed this letter,
and Mr. Fish was sealing it, " as if this were Ordained : really. At
the close of the year, I wind up my account and strike my balance,
even with William Fern ! "
4 The Chimes.
Trotty, who had long ago relapsed, and was very low-spirited,
stepped forward with a rueful face to take the letter.
" With my compliments and thanks," said Sir Joseph. " Stop ! "
" Stop ! " echoed Mr. Fish.
" You have heard, perhaps," said Sir Joseph, oracularly, " certain
remarks into which I have been led respecting the solemn period of
time at which we have arrived, and the duty imposed upon us of
settling our affairs, and being prepared. You have observed that I
don't shelter myself behind my superior standing in society, but that
Mr. Fish that gentleman has a cheque-book at his elbow, and is in
fact here, to enable me to turn over a perfectly new leaf, and enter on
the epoch before us with a clean account. Now, my friend, can you
lay your hand upon your heart, and say, that you also have made
preparations for a New Year ? "
" I am afraid sir," stammered Trotty, looking meekly at him, " that
I am a a little behind-hand with the world."
" Behind-hand with the world ! " repeated Sir Joseph Bowley, in a
tone of terrible distinctness.
" I am afraid sir," faltered Trotty, " that there's a matter of ten or
twelve shillings owing to Mrs. Chickenstalker."
" To Mrs. Chickenstalker ! " repeated Sir Joseph, in the same tone
" A shop sir," exclaimed Toby, " in the general line. Also a a
little money on account of rent. A very little sir. It oughtn't to be
owing, I know, but we have been hard put to it, indeed ! "
Sir Joseph looked at his lady, and at Mr. Fish, and at Trotty, one
after another, twice all round. He then made a despondent gesture
with both hands at once, as if he gave the thing up altogether.
" How a man, even among this improvident and impracticable race ;
an old man ; a man grown grey ; can look a New Year in the face,
with his affairs in this condition ; how he can lie down on his bed at
night, and get up again in the morning, and There ! " he said, turn-
ing his back on Trotty. " Take the letter. Take the letter ! "
" I heartily wish it was otherwise, sir," said Trotty, anxious to
excuse himself. " We have been tried very hard."
Sir Joseph still repeating " Take the letter, take the letter ! " and
Mr. Fish not only saying the same thing, but giving additional force
to the request by motioning the bearer to the door, he had nothing
for it but to make his bow and leave the house. And in the street,
poor Trotty pulled his worn old hat down on his head, to hide the
grief he felt at getting no hold on the New Year, anywhere.
He didn't even lift his hat to look tip at the Bell tower when he
came to the old church on his return. He halted there a moment,
from habit : and knew that it was growing dark, and that the steeple
rose above him, indistinct and faint, in the murky air. He knew, too,
that the Chimes would ring immediately; and that they sounded to
his fancy, at such a time, like voices in the clouds. But he only made
The Countryman and his Child. 9$
the more haste to deliver the Alderman's letter, and get out of the
way before they began ; for he dreaded to hear them tagging " Friends
and Fathers, Friends and Fathers," to the burden they had rung out
Toby discharged himself of his commission, therefore, with all
possible speed, and set off trotting homeward. But what with his
pace, which was at best an awkward one in the street ; and what with
his hat, which didn't improve it ; he trotted against somebody in less
than no time, and was sent staggering out into the road.
" I beg your pardon, I'm sure ! " said Trotty, pulling up his hat in
great confusion, and between the hat and the torn lining, fixing his
head into a kind of bee-hive. " I hope I haven't hurt you."
As to hurting anybody, Toby was not such an absolute Samson, but
that he was much more likely to be hurt himself : and indeed, he had
flown out into the road, like a shuttlecock. He had such an opinion
of his own strength, however, that he was in real concern for the other
party : and said again,
" I hope I haven't hurt you ? "
The man against whom he had run ; a sun-browned, sinewy, country-
looking man, with grizzled hair, and a rough chin ; stared at him for
a moment, as if he suspected him to be in jest. But, satisfied of his
good faith, he answered :
" No, friend. You have not hurt me."
" Nor the child, I hope ? " said Trotty.
" Nor the child," returned the man. " I thank you kindly."
As he said so, he glanced at a little girl he carried in his arms,
asleep : and shading her face with the long end of the poor handker-
chief he wore about his throat, went slowly on.
The tone in which he said "I thank you kindly," penetrated
Trotty's heart. He was so jaded and foot-sore, and so soiled with
travel, and looked about him so forlorn and strange, that it was a
comfort to him to be able to thank any one : no matter for how little.
Toby stood gazing after him us he plodded wearily away, with the
child's arm clinging round his neck.
At the figure in the worn shoes now the very shade and ghost of
shoes rcmgh leather leggings, common frock, and broad slouched hat,
Trotty stood gazing, blind to the whole street. And at the child's
arm, clinging round its neck.
Before he merged into the darkness the traveller stopped; and
looking round, and seeing Trotty standing there yet, seemed undecided
whether to return or go on. After doing first the one and then the
other, he came back, and Trotty went half way to meet him.
" You can tell me, perhaps," said the man with a faint smile, " and
if you can I am sure you will, and I'd rather ask you than another
where Alderman Cute lives."
"Close at hand," replied Toby. "I'll show you his house with
6 TJie Chimes.
" I was to have gone to him elsewhere to-morrow," said the man,
accompanying Toby, " but I'm uneasy under suspicion, aud want to
clear myself, and to be free to go and seek my bread I don't know
where. So, maybe he'll forgive my going to his house to-night."
' It's impossible," cried Toby with a start, " that your name's Fern ! "
' Eh ! " cried the other, turning on him in astonishment.
' Fern ! Will Fern ! " said Trotty.
' That's my name," replied the other.
' Why then," cried Trotty, seizing him by the arm, and looking
cautiously round, " for Heaven's sake don't go to him ! Don't go to
him! He'll put you down as sure as ever yon w<rc lx>rn. Here!
come up this alley, and I'll tell you what I mean. Don't go to him."
His new acquaintance looked as if he thought him mad ; but he
bore him company nevertheless. When they were shrouded from
observation, Trotty told him what he knew, and what character he
had received, and all about it.
The subject of his history listened to it with a calmness that
surprised him. He did not contradict or interrupt it, once. He
nodded his head now and then more in corroboration of an old and
worn-out story, it appeared, than in refutation of it ; and once or twice
threw back his hat, and passed his freckled hand over a brow, where
every furrow he had ploughed seemed to have set its image in little.
But he did no more.
" It's true enough in the main," he said, " master, I could sift grain
from husk here and there, but let it be as 'tis. What odds ? I have
gone against his plans ; to my misfortun'. I can't help it ; I should
do the like to-morrow. As to character, them gentlefolks will search
and search, and pry and pry, and have it as free from spot or speck
in us, afore they'll help us to a dry good word ! Well ! I hope they
don't lose good opinion as easy as we do, or their lives is strict indeed,
and hardly worth the keeping. For myself, master, I never took with
that hand " holding it before him " what wasn't my own ; and
never held it back from work, however hard, or poorly paid. Who-
ever can deny it, let him chop it off! But when work won't maintain
me like a human creetur ; when my living is so bad, that I am
Hungry, out of doors and in ; when I see a whole working .life begin
that way, go on that way, and end that way, without a chance or
change ; then I say to the gentlefolks ' Keep away from me ! Let my
cottage be. My doors is dark enough without your darkening of 'em
more. Don't look for me to come up into the Park to help the show
when there's a Birthday, or a fine Speechmakiug, or what not. Act
your Plays and Games without me, and be welcome to 'em, and enjoy
'em. We've nowt to do with one another. I'm best let alone ! ' '
Seeing that the child in his arms had opened her eyes, and was
looking about her in wonder, he checked himself to say a word or two
of foolish prattle in her ear, and stand her on the ground beside him.
Then slowly winding one of her long tresses round and round his
Trotty and Will Fern. 97
rough forefinger like a ring, while she hung about his dusty leg, he
said to Trotty:
" I'm not a cross-grained man by natur', I believe ; and easy satis-
fied, I'm sure. I bear no ill-will against none of 'em. I only want
to live like one of the Almighty's creeturs. I can't I don't and so
there's a pit dug between me, and them that can and do. There's
others like me. You might tell 'em off by hundreds and by thousands,
sooner than by ones."
Trotty knew he spoke the Truth in this, and shook his head to
signify as much.
" I've got a bad name this way," said Fern ; " and I'm not likely,
I'm afeared, to get a better. 'Tan't lawful to be out of sorts, and I
AM out of sorts, though God knows I'd sooner bear a cheerful spirit if,
I could. Well ! I don't know as this Alderman could hurt me much
by sending me to gaol ; but without a friend to speak a word for me,
he might do it ; and you see ! " pointing downward with his finger,
at the child.
" She has a beautiful face," said Trotty.
" Why yes ! " replied the other in a low voice, as ho gently turned
it up with both his hands towards his own, and looked upon it stead-
fastly. " I've thought so, many times. I've thought so, when ray
hearth was very cold, and cupboard very bare. I thought so t'other
night, when we were taken like two thieves. But they they shouldn't
try the little face too often, should they, Lilian ? That's hardly fair
upon a man ! "
He sunk his voice so low, and gazed upon her with an air so stern
and strange, that Toby, to divert the current of his thoughts, inquired
if his wife were living.
" I never had one," he returned, shaking his head. " She's my
brother's child : a orphan. Nine year old, though you'd hardly think
it ; but she's tired and worn out now. They'd have taken care on her,
the Union eight-and-twenty mile away from where we live between
four walls (as they took care of my old father when he couldn't work
no more, though he didn't trouble 'em long) ; but I took her instead,
and she's lived with me ever since. Her mother had a friend once, in
London here. We are trying to find her, and to find work too ; but it's
a large place. Never mind. More room for us to walk about in, Lilly ! "
Meeting the child's eyes with a smile which melted Toby more
than tears, he shook him by the hand.
" I don't so much as know your name," he said, " but I've opened
my heart free to you, for I'm thankful to you ; with good reason. I'll
take your advice, and keep clear of this "
c< Justice," suggested Toby.
" Ah ! " he said. " If that's the name they give him. This Justice.
And to-morrow will try whether there's better fortun' to be met with,
somewheres near London. Good-night. A Happy New Year ! "
" Stay ! " cried Trotty, catching at his hand, as he relaxed his grip.
98 The Chimes.
" Stay ! The New Year never can be happy to me, if we part like
this. The New Year never can be happy to me, if I see the child
and you, go wandering away, you don't know where, without a saelter
for your heads. Come home with me ! I'm a poor man, living in
a poor place ; but I can give you lodging for one night and never
miss it. Come home with me ! Here ! I'll take her ! " cried Trotty,
lifting up the child. " A pretty one ! I'd carry twenty times her
weight, and never know I'd got it. Tell me if I go too quick for you.
I'm very fast. I always was ! " Trotty said this, taking about six of
his trotting paces to one stride of his fatigued companion ; and with
his thin legs quivering again, beneath the load he bore.
" Why, she's as light," said Trotty, trotting in his speech as well
as in his gait ; for he couldn't bear to be thanked, and dreaded a
moment's pause ; " as light as a feather. Lighter than a Peacock's
feather a great deal lighter. Here we are, and here we go ! Bound
this first turning to the right, Uncle Will, and past the pump, and
sharp off up the passage to the left, right opposite the public-house.
Here we are and here we go ! Cross over, Uncle Will, and mind the
kidney pieman at the corner ! Here we are and here we go ! Down
the Mews here, Uncle Will, and stop at the black door, with T. Veck,
Ticket Porter ' wrote upon a board ; and here we are and here we go,
and here we are indeed, my precious Meg, surprising you ! "
With which words Trotty, in a breathless state, set the child down
before his daughter in the middle of the floor. The little visitor
looked once at Meg ; and doubting nothing in that face, but trusting
everything she saw there ; ran into her arms.
" Here we are and here we go ! " cried Trotty, running round the
room, and choking audibly. " Here, Uncle Will, here's a fire you
know ! Why don't you come to the fire ? Oh here we are and here
we go ! Meg, my precious darling, where's the kettle ? Here it is
and here it goes, and it'll bile in no time ! "
Troty really had picked up the kettle somewhere or other in the
course of his wild career, and now put it on the fire: while Meg,
seating the child in a warm corner, knelt down on the ground before
her, and pulled off her shoes, and dried her wet feet on a cloth. Ay,
and she laughed at Trotty too so pleasantly, so cheerfully, that
Trotty could have blessed her where she kneeled ; for he had seen
that, when they entered, she was sitting by the fire in tears.
" Why, father ! " said Meg. " You're crazy to-night, I think. I
don't know what the Bells would say to that. Poor little feet. How
cold they are ! "
" Oh, they're warmer now ! " exclaimed the child. " They're quite
warm now ! "
" No, no, no," said Meg. " We haven't rubbed 'em half enough.
We're so busy. So busy ! And when they're done, we'll brush out
the damp hair ; and when that's done, we'll bring some colour to the
poor pale face with fresh water ; and when that's done, we'll be so
gay, and brisk, and happy 1 "
Trotty Veck's Hospitality. 99
The child, in a burst of sobbing, clasped her round the neck ;
caressed her fair cheek with its hand ; and said, " Oh Meg ! oh dear
Toby's blessing could have done no more. Who could do more !
" Why father ! " cried Meg, after a pause.
" Here I am and here I go, my dear ! " said Trotty.
" Good Gracious me ! " cried Meg. " He's crazy ! He's put the dear
child's bonnet on the kettle, and hung the lid behind the door ! "
" I didn't go for to do it, my love," said Trotty, hastily repairing
this mistake. " Meg, my dear ? "
Meg looked towards him and saw that he had elaborately stationed
himself behind the chair of their male visitor, where with many
mysterious gestures he was holding up the sixpence he had earned.
" I see, my dear," said Trotty, " as I was coining in, half an ounce
of tea lying somewhere on the stairs ; and I'm pretty sure there was
a bit of bacon too. As I don't remember where it was exactly, I'll go
myself and try to find 'em."
With this inscrutable artifice, Toby withdrew to purchase the viands
he had spoken of, for ready money, at Mrs. Chickenstalker's ; and
presently came back, pretending he had not been able to find them, at
first, in the dark.
" But here they are at last," said Trotty, setting out the tea-things,
" all correct ! I was pretty sure it was tea, and a rasher. So it is.
Meg, my pet, if you'll just make the tea, while your unworthy father
toasts the bacon, we shall be ready, immediate. It's a curious circum-
stance," said Trotty, proceeding in his cookery, with the assistance of
the toasting-fork, " curious, but well known to my friends, that I never
care, myself, for rashers, nor for tea. I like to see other people enjoy
'em," said Trotty, speaking very loud, to impress the fact upon his
guest, " but to me, as food, they're disagreeable."
Yet Trotty sniffed the savour of the hissing bacon ah ! as if he
liked it ; and when he poured the boiling water in the tea-pot, looked
lovingly down into the depths of that snug cauldron, and suffered the
fragrant steam to curl about his nose, and wreathe his head and face in
a thick cloud. However, for all this, he neither ate nor drank, except
at the very beginning, a mere morsel for form's sake, which he
appeared to eat with infinite relish, but declared was perfectly un-
interesting to him.
No. Trotty's occupation was, to see Will Fern and Lilian eat and
drink ; and so was Meg's. And never did spectators at a city dinner
or court banquet find such high delight in seeing others feast : although
it were a monarch or a pope : as those two did, in looking on that