true prosperities. Worth twenty pound good if they are delivered as I
send them. Remember! Here's a final prescription added, "To be taken
for life," which will tell you how the cart broke down, and where the
journey ended. You think Four Pound too much? And still you think so?
Come! I'll tell you what then. Say Four Pence, and keep the secret."]
* * * * *
So every item of my plan was crowned with success. Our reunited life was
more than all that we had looked forward to. Content and joy went with
us as the wheels of the two carts went round, and the same stopped with
us when the two carts stopped. I was as pleased and as proud as a Pug-
Dog with his muzzle black-leaded for a evening party, and his tail extra
curled by machinery.
But I had left something out of my calculations. Now, what had I left
out? To help you to guess I'll say, a figure. Come. Make a guess and
guess right. Nought? No. Nine? No. Eight? No. Seven? No. Six?
No. Five? No. Four? No. Three? No. Two? No. One? No. Now I'll
tell you what I'll do with you. I'll say it's another sort of figure
altogether. There. Why then, says you, it's a mortal figure. No, nor
yet a mortal figure. By such means you got yourself penned into a
corner, and you can't help guessing a _im_mortal figure. That's about
it. Why didn't you say so sooner?
Yes. It was a immortal figure that I had altogether left out of my
Calculations. Neither man's, nor woman's, but a child's. Girl's or
boy's? Boy's. "I, says the sparrow with my bow and arrow." Now you
have got it.
We were down at Lancaster, and I had done two nights more than fair
average business (though I cannot in honour recommend them as a quick
audience) in the open square there, near the end of the street where Mr.
Sly's King's Arms and Royal Hotel stands. Mim's travelling giant,
otherwise Pickleson, happened at the self-same time to be trying it on in
the town. The genteel lay was adopted with him. No hint of a van. Green
baize alcove leading up to Pickleson in a Auction Room. Printed poster,
"Free list suspended, with the exception of that proud boast of an
enlightened country, a free press. Schools admitted by private
arrangement. Nothing to raise a blush in the cheek of youth or shock the
most fastidious." Mim swearing most horrible and terrific, in a pink
calico pay-place, at the slackness of the public. Serious handbill in
the shops, importing that it was all but impossible to come to a right
understanding of the history of David without seeing Pickleson.
I went to the Auction Room in question, and I found it entirely empty of
everything but echoes and mouldiness, with the single exception of
Pickleson on a piece of red drugget. This suited my purpose, as I wanted
a private and confidential word with him, which was: "Pickleson. Owing
much happiness to you, I put you in my will for a fypunnote; but, to save
trouble, here's fourpunten down, which may equally suit your views, and
let us so conclude the transaction." Pickleson, who up to that remark
had had the dejected appearance of a long Roman rushlight that couldn't
anyhow get lighted, brightened up at his top extremity, and made his
acknowledgments in a way which (for him) was parliamentary eloquence. He
likewise did add, that, having ceased to draw as a Roman, Mim had made
proposals for his going in as a conwerted Indian Giant worked upon by The
Dairyman's Daughter. This, Pickleson, having no acquaintance with the
tract named after that young woman, and not being willing to couple gag
with his serious views, had declined to do, thereby leading to words and
the total stoppage of the unfortunate young man's beer. All of which,
during the whole of the interview, was confirmed by the ferocious
growling of Mim down below in the pay-place, which shook the giant like a
But what was to the present point in the remarks of the travelling giant,
otherwise Pickleson, was this: "Doctor Marigold," - I give his words
without a hope of conweying their feebleness, - "who is the strange young
man that hangs about your carts?" - "The strange young _man_?" I gives
him back, thinking that he meant her, and his languid circulation had
dropped a syllable. "Doctor," he returns, with a pathos calculated to
draw a tear from even a manly eye, "I am weak, but not so weak yet as
that I don't know my words. I repeat them, Doctor. The strange young
man." It then appeared that Pickleson, being forced to stretch his legs
(not that they wanted it) only at times when he couldn't be seen for
nothing, to wit in the dead of the night and towards daybreak, had twice
seen hanging about my carts, in that same town of Lancaster where I had
been only two nights, this same unknown young man.
It put me rather out of sorts. What it meant as to particulars I no more
foreboded then than you forebode now, but it put me rather out of sorts.
Howsoever, I made light of it to Pickleson, and I took leave of
Pickleson, advising him to spend his legacy in getting up his stamina,
and to continue to stand by his religion. Towards morning I kept a look
out for the strange young man, and - what was more - I saw the strange
young man. He was well dressed and well looking. He loitered very nigh
my carts, watching them like as if he was taking care of them, and soon
after daybreak turned and went away. I sent a hail after him, but he
never started or looked round, or took the smallest notice.
We left Lancaster within an hour or two, on our way towards Carlisle.
Next morning, at daybreak, I looked out again for the strange young man.
I did not see him. But next morning I looked out again, and there he was
once more. I sent another hail after him, but as before he gave not the
slightest sign of being anyways disturbed. This put a thought into my
head. Acting on it I watched him in different manners and at different
times not necessary to enter into, till I found that this strange young
man was deaf and dumb.
The discovery turned me over, because I knew that a part of that
establishment where she had been was allotted to young men (some of them
well off), and I thought to myself, "If she favours him, where am I? and
where is all that I have worked and planned for?" Hoping - I must confess
to the selfishness - that she might _not_ favour him, I set myself to find
out. At last I was by accident present at a meeting between them in the
open air, looking on leaning behind a fir-tree without their knowing of
it. It was a moving meeting for all the three parties concerned. I knew
every syllable that passed between them as well as they did. I listened
with my eyes, which had come to be as quick and true with deaf and dumb
conversation as my ears with the talk of people that can speak. He was a-
going out to China as clerk in a merchant's house, which his father had
been before him. He was in circumstances to keep a wife, and he wanted
her to marry him and go along with him. She persisted, no. He asked if
she didn't love him. Yes, she loved him dearly, dearly; but she could
never disappoint her beloved, good, noble, generous, and I-don't-know-
what-all father (meaning me, the Cheap Jack in the sleeved waistcoat) and
she would stay with him, Heaven bless him! though it was to break her
heart. Then she cried most bitterly, and that made up my mind.
While my mind had been in an unsettled state about her favouring this
young man, I had felt that unreasonable towards Pickleson, that it was
well for him he had got his legacy down. For I often thought, "If it
hadn't been for this same weak-minded giant, I might never have come to
trouble my head and wex my soul about the young man." But, once that I
knew she loved him, - once that I had seen her weep for him, - it was a
different thing. I made it right in my mind with Pickleson on the spot,
and I shook myself together to do what was right by all.
She had left the young man by that time (for it took a few minutes to get
me thoroughly well shook together), and the young man was leaning against
another of the fir-trees, - of which there was a cluster, - with his face
upon his arm. I touched him on the back. Looking up and seeing me, he
says, in our deaf-and-dumb talk, "Do not be angry."
"I am not angry, good boy. I am your friend. Come with me."
I left him at the foot of the steps of the Library Cart, and I went up
alone. She was drying her eyes.
"You have been crying, my dear."
"Not a heartache?"
"I said a headache, father."
"Doctor Marigold must prescribe for that headache."
She took up the book of my Prescriptions, and held it up with a forced
smile; but seeing me keep still and look earnest, she softly laid it down
again, and her eyes were very attentive.
"The Prescription is not there, Sophy."
"Where is it?"
"Here, my dear."
I brought her young husband in, and I put her hand in his, and my only
farther words to both of them were these: "Doctor Marigold's last
Prescription. To be taken for life." After which I bolted.
When the wedding come off, I mounted a coat (blue, and bright buttons),
for the first and last time in all my days, and I give Sophy away with my
own hand. There were only us three and the gentleman who had had charge
of her for those two years. I give the wedding dinner of four in the
Library Cart. Pigeon-pie, a leg of pickled pork, a pair of fowls, and
suitable garden stuff. The best of drinks. I give them a speech, and
the gentleman give us a speech, and all our jokes told, and the whole
went off like a sky-rocket. In the course of the entertainment I
explained to Sophy that I should keep the Library Cart as my living-cart
when not upon the road, and that I should keep all her books for her just
as they stood, till she come back to claim them. So she went to China
with her young husband, and it was a parting sorrowful and heavy, and I
got the boy I had another service; and so as of old, when my child and
wife were gone, I went plodding along alone, with my whip over my
shoulder, at the old horse's head.
Sophy wrote me many letters, and I wrote her many letters. About the end
of the first year she sent me one in an unsteady hand: "Dearest father,
not a week ago I had a darling little daughter, but I am so well that
they let me write these words to you. Dearest and best father, I hope my
child may not be deaf and dumb, but I do not yet know." When I wrote
back, I hinted the question; but as Sophy never answered that question, I
felt it to be a sad one, and I never repeated it. For a long time our
letters were regular, but then they got irregular, through Sophy's
husband being moved to another station, and through my being always on
the move. But we were in one another's thoughts, I was equally sure,
letters or no letters.
Five years, odd months, had gone since Sophy went away. I was still the
King of the Cheap Jacks, and at a greater height of popularity than ever.
I had had a first-rate autumn of it, and on the twenty-third of December,
one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four, I found myself at Uxbridge,
Middlesex, clean sold out. So I jogged up to London with the old horse,
light and easy, to have my Christmas-eve and Christmas-day alone by the
fire in the Library Cart, and then to buy a regular new stock of goods
all round, to sell 'em again and get the money.
I am a neat hand at cookery, and I'll tell you what I knocked up for my
Christmas-eve dinner in the Library Cart. I knocked up a
beefsteak-pudding for one, with two kidneys, a dozen oysters, and a
couple of mushrooms thrown in. It's a pudding to put a man in good
humour with everything, except the two bottom buttons of his waistcoat.
Having relished that pudding and cleared away, I turned the lamp low, and
sat down by the light of the fire, watching it as it shone upon the backs
of Sophy's books.
Sophy's books so brought Sophy's self, that I saw her touching face quite
plainly, before I dropped off dozing by the fire. This may be a reason
why Sophy, with her deaf-and-dumb child in her arms, seemed to stand
silent by me all through my nap. I was on the road, off the road, in all
sorts of places, North and South and West and East, Winds liked best and
winds liked least, Here and there and gone astray, Over the hills and far
away, and still she stood silent by me, with her silent child in her
arms. Even when I woke with a start, she seemed to vanish, as if she had
stood by me in that very place only a single instant before.
I had started at a real sound, and the sound was on the steps of the
cart. It was the light hurried tread of a child, coming clambering up.
That tread of a child had once been so familiar to me, that for half a
moment I believed I was a-going to see a little ghost.
But the touch of a real child was laid upon the outer handle of the door,
and the handle turned, and the door opened a little way, and a real child
peeped in. A bright little comely girl with large dark eyes.
Looking full at me, the tiny creature took off her mite of a straw hat,
and a quantity of dark curls fell about her face. Then she opened her
lips, and said in a pretty voice,
"Ah, my God!" I cries out. "She can speak!"
"Yes, dear grandfather. And I am to ask you whether there was ever any
one that I remind you of?"
In a moment Sophy was round my neck, as well as the child, and her
husband was a-wringing my hand with his face hid, and we all had to shake
ourselves together before we could get over it. And when we did begin to
get over it, and I saw the pretty child a-talking, pleased and quick and
eager and busy, to her mother, in the signs that I had first taught her
mother, the happy and yet pitying tears fell rolling down my face.