Charles Dickens.

The mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories online

. (page 33 of 103)
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he muttered the last words can never be effaced
from my remembrance. My blood ran cold.

I asked of myself, what was it that this des-
perate Being was resolved to grow? My breast
made no response.

I ventured to implore him to explain his
meaning. With a scornful laugh, he uttered
this dark prophecy :

" I'll grow one. And, mark my words, it
shall haunt you ! "

We parted in the storm, after I had forced
half-a-crown on his acceptance with a trembling
hand. I conclude that something supernatural
happened to the steamboat, as it bore his reek-



THE GERMAN TASTE.



171



ing figure down the river ; but it never got into
the papers.

Two years elapsed, during which I followed
my profession without any vicissitudes : never
holding so much as a motion, of course. At
the expiration of that period, I found myself
making my way home to the Temple, one night,
in precisely such another storm of thunder and
lightning as that by which I had been overtaken
on board the steamboat — except that this storm,
bursting over the town at midnight, was ren-
dered much more awful by the darkness and tlie
hour.

As I turned into my court, I really thought a
thunderbolt would fall, and plough the pavement
up. Every brick and stone in the place seemed
to have an echo of its own for the thunder.
The water-spouts were overcharged, and the
rain came tearing down from the housetops as
if they had been mountain-tops.

Mrs. Parkins, my laundress — wife of Parkins
the porter, then newly dead of a dropsy — had
particular instructions to place a bedroom candle
and a match under the staircase lamp on my
landing, in order that I might light my candle
there whenever I came home. Mrs. Parkins
invariably disregarding all instructions, they
were never there. Thus it happened that on
this occasion I groped my way into my sitting-
room to find the candle, and came out to
light it.

What were my emotions when, underneath
the staircase lamp, shining with wet as if he had
never been dry since our last meeting, stood
the mysterious Being whom I had encountered
on the steamboat, in a thunder-storm, two years
before I His prediction rushed upon my mind,
and I turned faint.

" I said I'd do it," he observed in a hollow
voice, " and I have done it. May I come
in?''

" Misguided creature, what have you done ?"
I returned.

" I'll let you know," was his reply, " if you'll
let me in."

Could it be murder that he had done ? And
had he been so successful that he wanted to do
it again at my expense ?

I hesitated.

" May I come in?" said he.

I inclined my head with as much presence of
mind as I could command, and he followed me
into my chambers. There I saw that the lower
part of his face was tied up, in what is com-
monly called a Belcher handkerchief. He
slowly removed this bandage, and exposed to
view a long dark beard, curling over his upper



lip, twisting about the corners of his mouth, and
hanging down upon his breast.

" Wliat is this?" I exclaimed involuntarily;
" and what have you become ? "

" I am the Ghost of Art ! " said he.

The effect of these words, slowly uttered in
the thunder-storm at midnight, was appalling in
the last degree. More dead than alive, I sur-
veyed him in silence.

*' The German taste came up," said he, " and
threw me out of bread. I am ready for the
taste now."

He made his beard a litde jagged with his
hands, folded his arms, and said,

" Severity ! "

I shuddered. It was so severe.

He made his beard flowing on his breast, and,
leaning both hands on the staff of a carpet-
broom which Mrs. Parkins had left among my
books, said :

" Benevolence."

I stood transfixed. The change of sentiment
was entirely in the beard. The man might have
left his face alone, or had no face. The beard
did everything.

He lay down, on his back, on my table, and
with tliat action of his head threw up his beard
at the chin.

" That's Death ! " said he.

He got off my table, and, looking up at the
ceiling, cocked his beard a little awry ; at the
same time making it stick out before him.

" Adoration, or a vow of vengeance," he ob-
served.

He turned his profile to me, making his
upper lip very bulgy with the upper part of his
beard.

" Romantic character," said he.

He looked sideways out of his beard, as if it
were an ivy-bush. " Jealousy," said he. He
gave it an ingenious twist in the air, and in-
formed me that he was carousing. He made it
shaggy with his fingers — and it was Despair ;
lank — and it was Avarice ; tossed it all kinds
of ways — and it was Rage. The beard did
everything.

"I am the Ghost of Art," said he. "Two
bob a hour now, and more when it's longer !
Hair's the true expression. There is no other.
I SAID I'd grow it, and I've grown it, and it

SHALL haunt VOU ! "

He may have tumbled down-stairs in the
dark, but he never walked down or ran down.
I looked over the banisters, and I was alone
with the thunder.

Need I add more of my terrific fate ? It has
haunted me ever since. It glares up®n me from



172



OUT OF TOWN.




the walls of the Royal Academy, (except when
Maclise subdues it to his genius,) it fills my
soul with terror at the British Institution, it
lures young artists on to their destruction. Go
where I will, the Ghost of Art, eternally work-
ing the passions in hair, and expressing every-
thing by beard, pursues me. The prediction is
accomplished, and the victim has no rest.



OUT OF TOWN.

ITTING, on a bright September
morning, among my books and
papers at my open window on the
cliff overhanging the sea-beach, I
have the sky and ocean framed be-
fore me like a beautiful picture. A
beautiful picture, but with such move-
ment in it, such changes of light upon
the sails of ships and wake of steamboats, such
dazzling gleams of silver far out at sea, such
fresh touches on the crisp wave-tops as they
break and roll towards me — a picture with such
music in the billowy rush upon the shingle, the
blowing of the morning wind through the corn-
sheaves where the farmers' waggons are busy,
the singing of the larks, and the distant voices
of children at play — such charms of sight and
sound as all the Galleries on earth can but
poorly suggest.

So dreamy is the murmur of the sea below my
window, that I may have been here, for anything
I know, one hundred years. Not that I have
grown old, for, daily on the neighbouring downs
and grassy hill-sides, I find that I can still in
reason walk any distance, jump over anything,
and climb up anywhere ; but, that the sound of
the ocean seems to have become so customar)'
to my musings, and other realities seem so to
have gone aboard ship and floated away over
the horizon, that, for aught I will undertake to
the contrary, I am the enchanted son of the
King my father, shut up in a tower on the sea-
shore, for protection against an old she-goblin
who insisted on being my godmother, and who
foresaw at the font — wonderful creature ! — that
I should get into a scrape before I was twenty-
one. I remember to have been in a City (my
Royal parent's dominions, I suppose), and ap-
parently not long ago either, that was in the
dreariest condition. The principal inhabitants
had all been changed into old newspapers, and
in that form were preserving their window-blinds
from dust, and wrapping all their smaller house-
hold gods in curl-papers. I walked through



gloomy streets where every house was shut up
and newspapered, and where my solitary foot-
steps echoed on the deserted pavements. In
the public rides there were no carriages, no
horses, no animated existence, but a few sleepy
policemen, and a few adventurous boys taking
advantage of the devastation to swarm up the
lamp-posts. In the Westward streets there was
no traffic ; in the Westward shops, no business.
The water-patterns which the 'Prentices had
trickled out on the pavements early in the
morning, remained uneffaced by human feet.
At the corners of mews, Cochin-China fowls
stalked gaunt and savage ; nobody being left in
the deserted city (as it appeared to me) to feed
them. Public-Houses, where splendid footmen
swinging their legs over gorgeous hammer-cloths
beside wigged coachmen were wont to regale,
were silent, and the unused pewter pots shone,
too bright for business, on the shelves. I be-
held a Punch's Show leaning against a wall near
Park Lane, as if it had fainted. It was deserted,
and there were none to heed its desolation. In
Belgrave Square I met the last man — an hostler
— sitting on a post in a ragged red waistcoat,
eating straw, and mildewing away.

If I recollect the name of the little town on
whose shore this sea is murmuring — but I am
not just now, as I have premised, to be relied
upon for anything — it is Pavilionstone. Within
a quarter of a century, it was a little fishing
town, and they do say that the time was when
it was a little smuggling town. I have heard
that it was rather famous in the hollands and
brandy way, and that, coevally with that repu-
tation, the lamplighter's was considered a bad
life at the Assurance offices. It was observed
that if he were not particular about lighting up,
he lived in peace ; but, that if he made the best
of the oil-lamps in the steep and narrow streets,
he usually fell over the cHff at an early age.
Now, gas and electricity run to the very water's
edge, and the South-Eastern Railway Company
screech at us in the dead of night.

But, the old little fishing and smuggling town
remains, and is so tempting a jDlace for the
latter purpose, that I think of going out some
night next week, in a fur cap and a pair of petti-
coat trousers, and rmming an empty tub, as a
kind of archaeological pursuit. Let nobody with
corns come to Pavilionstone, for there are break-
neck flights of ragged steps, connecting the prin-
cipal streets by back-ways, which will cripple
that visitor in half an hour. These are the ways
by which, when I run tliat tub, I shall escape.
I shall make a Thermopylae of the corner of one
of them, defend it with my cutlass against the



PA VILIONSTONE.



173



coastguard until my brave companions have
sheered off, then dive into the darkness, and
regain my Susan's arms. In connection with
these break-neck steps I observe some wooden
cottages, with tumble-down out-houses, and back-
yards three feet square, adorned jvith garlands



of dried fish, in which (though the General
Board of Health might object) my Susan dwells.
The South-Eastern Company have brought
Pavilionstone into such vogue, with their tidal
trains and splendid steam-packets, that a new
Pavilionstone is rising uj). I am, myself, of




" WHETHER HE WAS THE VICAR, OR MOSES, OR MR. BURCHILL, OR THE SQUIRE, OR A CONGLOMERATION

OK ALL FOUR, I KNEW NOT."



New Pavilionstone. We are a little mortary
and limy at present, but we are getting on capi-
tally. Indeed, we were getting on so fast at one
time, that we rather overdid it, and built a
street of shops, the business of which may be
expected to arrive in aoout ten years. We are



sensibly laid out in general ; and, with a little
care and pains (by no means wanting so far),
shall become a very pretty place. We ought to
be, for our situation is delightful, our air is deli-
cious, and our breezy hills and downis, carpeted
with wild thyme, and decorated with millions of



174



OUT OF TOWN.



wild flowers, are, on the faith of a pedestrian,
perfect. In New Pavilionstone we are a little
too much addicted to small windows with more
bricks in them than glass, and we are not over-
fanciful in the way of decorative architecture,
and we get unexpected sea views through cracks
in the street-doors ; on the whole, however, we
are very snug and comfortable, and well accom-
modated. But the Home Secretary (if there be
such an officer) cannot too soon shut up the
burial-ground of the old parish church. It is in
the midst of us, and Pavilionstone will get no
good of it, if it be too long left alone.

The lion of Pavilionstone is its Great Hotel.
A dozen years ago, going over to Paris by
South-Eastern Tidal Steamer, you used to be
dropped upon the platform of the main line
Pavilionstone Station (not a junction then) at
eleven o'clock on a dark winter's night, in a
roaring wind; and in the howling wilderness
outside the station was a short omnibus, which
brought you up by the forehead the instant you
got in at the door ; and nobody cared about
you, and you were alone in the world. You
bumped over infinite chalk, until you were
turned out at a strange building which had just
left off being a barn without having quite begun
to be a house, where nobody expected your
coming, or knew what to do with you when you
were come, and where you were usually blown
about, until you happened to be blown against
the cold beef, and finally into bed. At five in
the morning you were blown out of bed, and
after a dreary breakfast, with crumpled company,
in the midst of confusion, were hustled on board
a steamboat, and lay wretched on deck until you
saw France lunging and surging at you with
great vehemence over the bowsprit.

Now, you come down to Pavilionstone in a
free and easy manner, an irresponsible agent,
made over in trust to the South-Eastern Com-
pany, until you get out of the railway carriage
at high- water mark. If you are crossing by the
boat at once, you have nothing to do but walk
on board and be happy there if you can — I can't.
If you are going to our Great Pavilionstone Hotel,
the sprightliest porters under the sun, whose
cheerful looks are a pleasant welcome, shoulder
your luggage, drive it off in vans, bowl it away
in trucks, and enjoy themselves in playing ath-
letic games with it. If you are for public life at
our Great Pavilionstone Hotel, you walk into
that establishment as if it were your club ; and
find ready for you your news-room, dining-room,
smoking-room, billiard-room, music-room, public
breakfiist, public dinner twice a day (one pkiin,
one gorgeous), hot baths and cold baths. If



you want to be bored, there are plenty of bores
always ready for you, and from Saturday to
Monday, in particular, you can be bored (if you
like it) through and through. Should you want
to be private at our Great Pavilionstone Hotel,
say but the word, look at the list of charges,
choose your floor, name your figure — there you
are, established in your castle, by the day, week,
month, or year, innocent of all comers or goers,
unless you have my fancy for walking early in
the morning down the groves of boots and shoes,
which so regularly flourish at all the chamber
doors before breakfast, that it seems to me as if
nobody ever got up or took them in. Are you
going across the Alps, and would you like to air
your Italian at our Great Pavilionstone Hotel ?
Talk to the Manager — always conversational,
accomplished, and polite. Do you want to be
aided, abetted, comforted, or advised, at our
Great PaviHonstone Hotel? Send for the good
landlord, and he is your friend. Should you, or
any one belonging to you, ever be taken ill at
our Great Pavilionstone Hotel, you will not soon
forget him or his kind wife. And when you pay
your bill at our Great Pavihonstone Hotel, you
will not be put out of humour by anything you
find in it.

A thoroughly good inn, in the days of coach-
ing and posting, was a noble place. But, no
such inn would have been equal to the reception
of four or five hundred people, all of them wet
through, and half of them dead sick, every day
in the year. This is where we shine, in our
Pavilionstone Hotel. Again — who, coming and
going, pitching and tossing, boating and train-
ing, hurrying in, and flying out, could ever have
calculated the fees to be paid at an old-fashioned
house? In our Pavilionstone Hotel vocabulary
there is no such word as fee. Everything is
done for you ; every service is provided at a
fixed and reasonable charge ; all the prices are
hung up in all the rooms ; and you can make
out your own bill beforehand, as well as the
book-keeper.

In the case of your being a pictorial artist,
desirous of studying at small expense the phy-
siognomies and beards of difterent nations, come,
on receipt of this, to Pavilionstone. You shall
find all the nations of the earth, and all the
styles of shaving and not shaving, hair-cutting
and hair letting alone, for ever flowing through
our hotel. Couriers you shall see by hundreds ;
fat leathern bags for five-franc pieces, closing
with violent snaps, like discharges of fire-arms,
by thousands ; more luggage in a morning than,
fifty years ago, all Europe saw in a week.
Looking at trains, steamboats, sick travellers,



AMUSEMENT AND INSTRUCTION.



175



and luggage, is our great Pavilionstone recrea-
tion. We are not strong in other public amuse-
ments. We have a Literary and Scientific In-
stitution, and we have a Working Men's Insti-
tution — may it hold many gipsy holidays in
summer fields with the kettle boiling, the band
of music playing, and the people dancing ; and
may I be on the hill-side, looking on with plea-
sure at a wholesome sight too rare in England !
— and we have two or three churches, and more
chapels than I have yet added up. But public
amusements are scarce with us. If a poor
theatrical manager comes with his company to
give us, in a loft, Mary Bax, or the Murder on
the- Sand Hills, we don't care much for him —
starve him out, in fact. We take more kindly
to wax-work, especially if it moves ; in which
case it keeps much clearer of the second com-
mandment than when it is still. Cook's Circus
(Mr. Cook is my friend, and always leaves a
good name behind him) gives us only a night in
passing through. Nor does the travelling
menagerie think us worth a longer visit. It
gave us a look-in the other day, bringing with it
the residentiary van with the stained-glass win-
dows, which her Majesty kept ready-made at
Windsor Castle, until she found a suitable oppor-
tunity of submitting it for the proprietor's accept-
ance. I brought away five wonderments from
this exhibition. I have wondered ever since.
Whether the beasts ever do get used to those
small places of confinement ; Whether the mon-
keys have that very horrible flavour in their free
state ; Whether wild animals have a natural ear
for time and tune, and therefore every four-
footed creature began to howl in despair when
the band began to play 3 What the giraffe does
with his neck when his cart is shut up ; and.
Whether the elephant feels ashamed of himself
when he is brought out of his den to stand on
his head in the presence of the whole Collec-
tion.

We are a tidal harbour at Pavilionstone, as
indeed I have implied already in my mention of
tidal trains. At low water we are a heap of
mud, with an empty channel in it where a couple
of men in big boots always shovel and scoop :
witli what exact object I am unable to say. At
that time, all the stranded fishing-boats turn
over on their sides, as if they were dead marine
monsters ; the colliers and other shipping stick
■disconsolate in the mud ; the steamers look as
if their white chimneys would never smoke more,
and their red paddles never turn again; the
green sea-slime and weed upon the rough stones
at the entrance seem records of obsolete high
tides never more to flow; the flagstaft'-halyards



droop ; the very little wooden lighthouse shrinks
in the idle glare of the sun. And here I may
observe of the very little wooden lighthouse, that
when it is lighted at night, — red and green, — it
looks so like a medical man's, that several dis-
tracted husbands have at various times been
found, on occasions of premature domestic
anxiety, going round and round it, trying to find
the Night-bell.

But, the moment the tide begins to make, the
Pavilionstone Harbour begins to revive. It
feels the breeze of the rising water before the
water comes, and begins to flutter and stir.
When the little shallow waves creep in, barely
overlapping one another, the vanes at the mast-
heads wake and become agitated. As the tide
rises, the fishing-boats get into good spirits and
dance, the flagstaff" hoists a bright red flag, the
steamboat smokes, cranes creak, horses and car-
riages dangle in the air, stray passengers and
luggage appear. Now, the shipping is afloat,
and comes up buoyantly to look at the wharf.
Now, the carts that have come down for coals,
load away as hard as they can load. Now, the
steamer smokes immensely, and occasionally
blows at the paddle-boxes like a vaporous whale
— greatly disturbing nervous loungers. Now,
both the tide and the breeze have risen, and you
are holding your hat on (if you want to see how
the ladies hold their hats on, with a stay, passing
over the broad brim and down the nose, come
to Pavilionstone). Now, everything in the
harbour splashes, dashes, and bobs. Now, the
Down Tidal Train is telegraphed, and you know
(without knowing how you know), that two hun-
dred and eighty-seven people are coming. Now,
the fishing-boats that have been out, sail in at
the top of the tide. Now, the bell goes, and
the locomotive hisses and shrieks, and the train
comes gliding in, and the two hundred and
eighty-seven come scuffling out. Now, there is
not only a tide of water, but a tide of people,
and a tide of luggage — all tumbling and flowing
and bouncing about together. Now, after in-
finite bustle, the steamer steams out, and we (on
the Pier) are all delighted when she rolls as if
she would roll her funnel out, and are all dis-
appointed when she don't. Now, the other
steamer is coming in, and the Custom House
prepares, and the wharf labourers assemble, and
the hawsers are made ready, and the Hotel
Porters come rattling down with van and truck,
eager to begin more Olympic games with more
luggage. And this is the way in which we go
on, down at Pavilionstone, every tide. And,
if you want to live a life of luggage, or to see it
lived, or to breathe sweet air which will send



176



OUT OF THE SEASON.



you to sleep at a moment's notice at any period
of the day or night, or to disport yourself upon
or in the sea, or to scamper about Kent, or to
come out of town for the enjoyment of all or
any of these pleasures, come to Pavilionstone.




OUT OF THE SEASON.

-"^T fell to my lot, this last bleak
spring, to find myself in a watering-
place out of the Season. A vicious
north-east squall blew me into it
from foreign parts, and I tarried in
^ it alone for three days, resolved to

^^ ^ be exceedingly busy,
a* On the first day, I began business by

looking for two hours at the sea, and staring the
Foreign Militia out of countenance. Having
disposed of these important engagements, I sat
down at one of the two windows of my room,
intent on doing something desperate in the way
of literary composition, and writing a chapter of
unheard-of excellence — with which the present
essay has no connection.

It is a remarkable quality in a watering-place
out of the season, that everything in it will and
must be looked at. I had no previous suspicion
of this fatal truth ; but, the moment I sat down
to write, I began to perceive it. I had scarcely
fallen into my most promising attitude, and
dipped my pen in the ink, when I found the
clock upon the pier — a red-faced clock with a
white rim — importuning me in a highly vexa-
tious manner to consult my watch, and see how
I was off for Greenwich time. Having no in-
tention of making a voyage or taking an obser-
vation, I had not the least need of Greenwich
time, and could have put up with watering-place
time as a sufficiently accurate article. The pier
clock, however, persisting, I felt it necessary to
lay down my pen, compare my watch with him,
and fall into a grave solicitude about half-
seconds. I had taken up my pen again, and
was about to commence that valuable chapter,
when a Custom-House cutter under the window
requested that I would hold a naval review of
her immediately.

It was impossible, under the circumstances,
for any mental resolution, merely human, to
dismiss the Custom-House cutter, because the
shadow of her topmast fell upon my paper, and
the vane played on the masterly blank chapter.
I was therefore under the necessity of going to
the other window ; sitting astride of the chair
there, like Napoleon bivouacking in the print ;



and inspecting the cutter as she lay, all that day,
in the way of my chapter, O ! She was rigged
to carry a quantity of canvas, but her hull was
so very small that four giants aboard of her
(three men and a boy), who were vigilantly
scraping at her, all together, inspired me with a



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 33 of 103)