Charles Dickens.

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

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terror lest they should scrape her away. A fifth
giant, who appeared to consider himself " be-
low " — as indeed he was, from the waist down-
wards — meditated in such close proximity with
the little gusty chimney-pipe, that he seemed to
be smoking it. Several boys looked on from
the wharf, and, when the gigantic attention ap-
peared to be fully occupied, one or other of
these would furtively swing himself in mid-air
over the Custom-House cutter, by means of a
line pendent from her rigging, like a young
spirit of the storm. Presently, a sixth hand
brought down two little water-casks ; presently
afterwards, a truck came, and delivered a ham-
per. I was now under an obligation to consider
that the cutter was going on a cruise, and to
wonder where she was going, and when she was
going, and why she was going, and at what date
she might be expected back, and who com-
manded her ? With these pressing questions I
was fully occupied when the Packet, making
ready to go across, and blowing off her spare
steam, roared, " Look at me ! "

It became a positive duty to look at the
Packet preparing to go across ; aboard of which,
the people newly come down by the lailroad
were hurrying in a great fluster. The crew had
got their tarry overalls on — and one knew what
that meant — not to mention the white basins,
ranged in neat little piles of a dozen each,
behind the door of the after-cabin. One lady
as I looked, one resigning and far-seeing woman,
took her basin from the store of crockery, as she
might have taken a refreshment ticket, laid her-
self down on deck with that utensil at her ear,
muffled her feet in one shawl, solemnly covered
her countenance after the antique manner with
another, and on the completion of these pre-
parations appeared, by the strength of her
volition, to become insensible. The mail-bags
(oh that I myself had the sea-legs of a mail-
bag !) were tumbled aboard ; the Packet left off
roaring, warped out, and made at the white
line upon the bar. One dip, one roll, one break
of the sea over her bows, and Moore's Alma-
nac or the sage Raphael could not have told
me more of the state of things aboard than I

The famous chapter was all but begun now,
and would have been quite begun, but for the
wind. It was blowing stiffly from the east, and



it rumbled in the chimney and shook the house.
That was not much ; but, looking out into the
wind's grey eye for inspiration, I laid down my
pen again to make the remark to myself, how
emphatically everything by the sea declares that
it has a great concern in the state of the wind.
The trees blown all one way ; the defences of
the harbour reared highest and strongest against
the raging point ; the shingle flung up on the
beach from the same direction ; the number of
arrows pointed at the common enemy ; the sea
tumbling in and rushing towards them as if it
were inflamed by the sight. This put it in my
head that I really ought to go out and take a
walk in the wind ; so, I gave up the magnificent
chapter for that day, entirely persuading myself
that I was under a moral obligation to have ablow.

I had a good one, and that on the high-road
— the very high road — on the top of the cliffs,
where I met the stage-coach with all the out-
sides holding their hats on and themselves too,
and overtook a flock of sheep with the wool
about their necks blown into such great ruffs
that they looked like fleecy owls. The wind
played upon the lighthouse as if it were a great
whistle, the spray was driven over the sea in a
cloud of haze, the ships rolled and pitched
heavily, and at intervals long slants and flaws
of light made mountain-steeps of communica-
tion between the ocean and the sky. A walk
of ten miles brought me to a seaside town
without a cliff, which, like the town I had come
from, was out of the season too. Half of the
houses were shut up ; half of the other half
were to let ; the town might have done as much
business as it was doing then, if it had been at
the bottom of the sea. Nobody seemed to
flourish save the attorney; his clerk's pen
was going in the bow-window of his wooden
house ; his brass door-plate alone was free from
salt, and had been polished up that morning.
On the beach, among the rough luggers and
capstans, groups of storm-beaten boatmen, like
a sort of marine monsters, watched under the
lee of those objects, or stood leaning forward
against the wind, looking out through battered
spy-glasses. The parlour bell in the Admiral
Benbow had grown so flat with being out of the
season, that neither could I hear it ring when I
pulled the handle for lunch, nor could the young
woman in black stockings and strong shoes, who
acted as waiter out of the season, until it had
been tinkled three times.

Admiral Benbow's cheese was out of the sea-
son, but his home-made bread was good, and
his beer was perfect. Deluded by some earlier
spring day which had been warm and sunny, the
Edwin Dkood, Etc, 12.

Admiral had cleared the firing out of his parlour
stove, and had put some flower-pots in — which
was amiable and hopeful in the Admiral, but
not judicious : the room being, at that present
visiting, transcendently cold. I therefore took
the liberty of peeping out across a little stone
passage into the Admiral's kitchen, and, seeing
a high settle with its back towards me drawn out
in front of the Admiral's kitchen fire, I strolled
in, bread and cheese in hand, munching and
looking about. One landsman and two boat-
men were seated on the settle, smoking pipes
and drinking beer out of thick pint crockery
mugs — mugs peculiar to such places, with party-
coloured rings round them, and ornaments be-
tween the rings like frayed -out roots. The
landsman was relating his experience, as yet
only three nights old, of a fearful running-down
case in the Channel, and therein presented to
my imagination a sound of music that it will not
soon forget.

" At that identical moment of time," said he
(he was a prosy man by nature, who rose with
his subject), " the night being light and calm,
but with a grey mist upon the water that didn't
seem to spread for more than two or three mile,
I was walking up and down the wooden cause-
way next the pier, off where it happened, along
with a friend of mine, which his name is Mr.
Clocker. Mr. Clocker is a grocer over yonder."
(From the direction in which he pointed the
bowl of his pipe, I might have judged Mr.
Clocker to be a Merman, estabhshed in the
grocery trade in five -and -twenty fathoms of
water.) " We were smoking our pipes, and
walking up and down the causeway, talking of
one thing and talking of another. We were
quite alone there, except that a few hovellers "
(the Kentish name for long-shore boatmen like
his companions) " were hanging about their lugs,
waiting while the tide made, as hovellers will."
(One of the two boatmen, thoughtfully regard-
ing me, shut up one eye ; this I understood to
mean : first, that he took me into the conversa-
tion : secondly, that he confirmed the proposi-
tion : thirdly, that he announced himself as a
hoveller.) " All of a sudden Mr. Clocker and
me stood rooted to the spot, by hearing a sound
come through the stillness, right over the sea,
like a great sorrowful fiute or ^-EoHan harp. We
didn't in the least know what it was, and judge
of our surprise when we saw the hovellers, to a
man, leap into the boats and tear about to hoist
sail and get off, as if they had every one of 'em
gone, in a moment, raving mad ! But they knew
it was the cry of distress from the sinking emi-
grant ship."



When I got back to my watering-place out of
the season, and had done my twenty miles in
good style, I found that the celebrated Black
Mesmerist intended favouring the public that
evening in the Hall of the Muses, which he had
engaged for the purpose. After a good dinner,
seated by the fire in an easy-chair, I began to
waver in a design I had formed of waiting on
the Black Mesmerist, and to incline towards the
expediency of remaining where I was. Indeed,
a point of gallantry was involved in my doing
so, inasmuch as I had not left France alone, but
had come from the prisons of St, Pelagic with
my distinguished and unfortunate friend Madame
Roland (in two volumes, which I bought for two
francs each, at the bookstall in the Place de la
Concorde, Paris, at the corner of the Rue Royale).
Deciding to pass the evening tete-a-tete with
Madame Roland, I derived, as I always do, great
pleasure from that spiritual woman's society, and
the charms of her brave soul and engaging con-
versation. I must confess that if she had only
some more faults, only a few more passionate
failings of any kind, I might love her better;
but I am content to believe that the deficiency
is in me, and not in her. We spent some sadly
interesting hours together on this occasion, and
she told me again of her cruel discharge from
the Abbaye, and of her being re-arrested before
her free feet had sprung lightly up half a-dozen
steps of her own staircase, and carried off to the
prison which slie only left for the guillotine.

Madame Roland and I took leave of one
another before midnight, and I went to bed full
of vast intentions for next day in connection
with the unparalleled chapter. To hear the
foreign mail-steamers coming in at dawn of day,
and to know that I was not aboard or obliged
to get up, was very comfortable ; so, I rose for
the chapter in great force.

I had advanced so far as to sit down at my
window again on my second morning, and to
write the first half-line of the chapter and strike
it out, not liking it, when my conscience re-
proached me with not having surveyed the
watering-place out of the season, after all, yes-
terday, but with having gone straight out of it
at the rate of four miles and a half an hour.
Obviously the best amends that I could make
for this remissness was to go and look at it
without another moment's delay. So — altogether
as a matter of duty — I gave up the magnificent
chapter for another day, and sauntered out wiih
my hands in my pockets.

All the houses and lodgings ever let to visitors
were to let that morning. It seemed to have
snowed bills with To Let upon them. This put

me upon thinking what the owners of all those
apartments did out of the season ; how they
employed their time, and occupied their minds. .
They could not be always going to the Methodist
chapels, of which I passed one every other minute.
They must have some other recreation. Whether
they pretended to take one another's lodgings,,
and opened one another's tea-caddies in fun ?
Whether they cut slices oft' their own beef and
mutton, and made believe that it belonged to
somebody else? Whether they played little
dramas of life, as children do, and said, " I
ought to come and look at your apartments,
and you ought to ask two guineas a week too
much, and then I ought to say I must have the
rest of the day to think of it, and then you
ought to say that another lady and gentleman
with no children in family had made an ofter
very close to your own terms, and you had
passed your word to give them a positive answer
in half an hour, and indeed were just going ta
take the bill down when you heard the knock,
and then I ought to take them you know?"
Twenty such speculations engaged my thoughts.
Then, after passing, still clinging to the walls,
defaced rags of the bills of last year's Circus, 1
came to a back-field near a timber-yard where
the Circus itself had been, and where there was-
yet a sort of monkish tonsure on the grass, in-
dicating the spot where the young lady had
gone round upon her pet steed Fnefly in her
daring flight. Turning into the town again, I
came among the shops, and they were emphati-
cally out of the season. The chemist had no
boxes of ginger-beer powders, no beautifying
seaside soaps and washes, no attractive scents ;
nothing but his great goggle-eyed red bottles,
looking as if the winds of winter and the drift
of the salt-sea had inflamed them. The grocers'
hot pickles, Harvey's Sauce, Dr. Kitchener's
Zest, Anchovy Paste, Dundee Marmalade, and
the whole stock of luxurious helps to appetite,,
were hibernating somewhere underground. The
china shop had no trifles from anywhere. The
Bazaar had given in altogether, and presented a
notice on the shutters that this establishment
would reopen at Whitsuntide, and that the pro-
i:)rietor in the meantime might be heard of at
Wild Lodge, East Cliff". At the Sea-bathing
Establishment, a row of neat little wooden houses-
seven or eight feet high, I saio the proprietor in
bed in the shower-bath. As to the bathing
macliines, they were (how they got there, is not
for me to say) at the top of a hill at least a mile
and a half oft'. The library, which I had never
seen otherwise than wide open, was tight shut;
and two peevish bald old gentlemen seemed to



be hermetically sealed up inside, eternally read-
ing the paper. That wonderful mystery, the
music shop, carried it oft" as usual (except that
it had more cabinet pianos in stock), as if season
or no season were all one to it. It made the
same prodij^ious display of bright brazen wind
instruments, horribly twisted, worth, as I should
conceive, some thousands of pounds, and which
it is utterly impossible that anybody in any
season can ever play or want to play. It had
five triangles in the window, six pairs of cas-
tanets, and three harps ; likewise every polka
with a coloured frontispiece that ever was pub-
lished : from the original one where a smooth
male and female Pole of high rank are coming
at the observer with their arms a-kimbo, to the
Ratcatcher's Daughter. Astonishing establish-
ment, amazing enigma ! Three other shops were
pretty much out of the season what they were
used to be in it. First, the shop where they
sell the sailors' watches, which had still the old
collection of enormous timekeepers, apparently
designed to break a fall from the masthead :
with places to wind them up like fire-plugs.
Secondly, the shop where they sell the sailors'
clothing, which displayed the old sou'-westers,
and the old oily suits, and the old pea-jackets,
and the old one sea-chest, with its handles like
a pair of rope ear-rings. Thirdly, the unchange-
able shop for the sale of literature that has been
left behind. Here, Dr. Faustus was still going
down to very red and yellow perdition, under
the superintendence of three green personages
of a scaly humour, with excrescential serpents
growing out of their blade-bones. Here, the
Golden Dreamer and the Norwood Fortune
Teller were still on sale at sixpence each, with
instructions for making the dumb cake, and
reading destinies in teacups, and with a picture
of a young woman with a high waist lying on a
sofa in an attitude so uncomfortable as almost
to account for her dreaming at one and the
same time of a conflagration, a shipwreck, an
earthquake, a skeleton, a church porch, light-
ning, funerals performed, and a young man in a
bright blue coat and canary pantaloons. Here
were Little Warblers and Fairburn's Comic
Songsters. Here, too, were ballads on the old
ballad paper and in the old confusion of types ;
with an old man in a cocked-hat, and an arm-
chair, for the illustration to Will Watch the
Bold Smuggler ; and the Friar of Orders Grey,
represented by a little girl in a hoop, with a
ship in the distance. All these as of yore, when
they were infinite dehghts to me !

It took me so long fully to relish these many
enjoyments, that I had not more than an hour

before bedtime to devote to Madame Roland.
We got on admirably together on the subject of
her convent education, and I rose next morning
with the full conviction that the day for the
great chapter was at last arrived.

It had fallen calm, however, in the night, and
as I sat at breakfast I blushed to remember that
I had not yet been on the Downs. I a walker,
and not yet on the Downs ! Really, on so
quiet and bright a morning this must be set
right. As an essential part of the Whole Duty
of Man, therefore, I left the chapter to itself —
for the present — and went on the Downs.
They were wonderfully green and beautiful, and
gave me a good deal to do. When I had done
with the free air and the view, I had to go
down into the valley and look after the hops
(which I know nothing about), and to be
equally solicitous as to the cherry orchards.
Then I took it on myself to cross-examine a
tramping family in black (mother alleged, I
have no doubt by herself in person, to have
died last week), and to accompany eighteen-
pence, which produced a great effect, with
moral admonitions which produced none at all.
Finally, it was late in the afternoon before I got
back to the unprecedented chapter, and then I
determined that it was out of the season, as the
place was, and put it away.

I went at night to the benefit of Mrs. B.
Wedgington at the Theatre, who had placarded
the town with the admonition, " Don't forget
IT ! " I made the house, according to my cal-
culation, four-and-ninepence to begin with, and
it may have warmed up, in the course of the
evening, to half-a-sovereign. There was nothing
to offend any one, — the good Mr. Baines of
Leeds excepted. Mrs. B. Wedgington sang to
a grand piano. Mr. B. Wedgington did the
like, and also took off his coat, tucked up his
trousers, and danced in clogs. Master B.
Wedgington, aged ten months, Avas nursed by a
shiA^ering young person in the boxes, and the
eye of Mrs. B. Wedgington wandered that way
more than once. Peace be with all the Wedg-
ingtons from A. to Z. May they find them-
selves in the Season somewhere !


I AM not used to writing for print. What
working-man that never labours less (some
Mondays, and Christmas Time and Easter Time
excepted) than twelve or fourteen hour a day.



is ? But I have been asked to put down, plain,
what I have got to say ; and so I take pen and
ink, and do it to the best of my power, hoping
defects will find excuse.

I was born nigh London, but have worked in
a shop at Birmingham (what you would call
Manufactories, we call Shops), almost ever since
I was out of my time. I served my apprentice-
ship at Deptford, nigh where I was born, and I
am a smith by trade. My name is John. I
have been called " Old John " ever since I was
nineteen year of age, on account of not having
much hair. I am fifty-six year of age at the
present time, and I don't find myself with more
hair, nor yet with less, to signify, than at nine-
teen year of age aforesaid.

I have been married five-and-thirty year, come
-next April. I was married on All Fools' Day.
Let them laugh that win. I won a good wife
that day, and it was as sensible a day to me as
ever I had.

We have had a matter of ten children, six
whereof are living. My eldest son is engineer
in the Italian steam-packet " Mezzo Giorno,
plying between Marseilles and Naples, and
calling at Genoa, Leghorn, and Civita Vecchia."
He was a good workman. He invented a many
useful little things that brought him in — nothing.
I have two sons doing well at Sydney, New
South Wales— single, when last heard from.
One of my sons (James) went wild and for a
soldier, where he was shot in India, living six
weeks in hospital with a musket- ball lodged in
his shoulder-blade, which he wrote with his own
hand. He was the best looking. One of my
two daughters (Mary) is comfortable in her
circumstances, but water on the chest. The
other (Charlotte), her husband run away from
her in the basest manner, and she and her three
children live with us. The youngest, six year
old, has a turn for mechanics.

I am not a Chartist, and I never was. I don't
mean to say but what I see a good many public
points to complain of; still I don't think that's
the way to set them right. If I did think so, I
should be a Chartist. But I don't think so, and I
am not a Chartist. I read the paper, and hear dis-
cussion, at what we call " a parlour" in Birming-
ham, and I know many good men and workmen
who are Chartists. Note. Not Physical force.

It won't be took as boastful in me if I make
the remark (for I can't put down what I have
got to say, without putting that down before
going any further), that I have always been of an
ingenious turn. I once got twenty pound by a
screw, and it's in use now. I have been twenty
year, off and on, completing an Invention and

perfecting it. I perfected of it last Christmas Eve
at ten o'clock at night. Me and my wife stood
and let some tears fall over the Model, when it
was done and I brought her in to take a look at it.

A friend of mine, by the name of William
Butcher, is a Chartist. Moderate. He is a
good speaker. He is very animated. I have
often heard him deliver that what is, at every
turn, in the way of us working-men, is, that too
many places have been made in the course of
time, to provide for people that never ought to
have been provided for; and that we have to
obey forms and to pay fees to support those
places when we shouldn't ought. " True," (de-
livers William Butcher,) " all the public has to
do this, but it falls heaviest on the working-
man, because he has least to spare ; and like-
wise because impediments shouldn't be put in
his way, when he wants redress of wrong, or
furtherance of right." Note. I have wrote
down those words from William Butcher's own
mouth. W. B. delivering them fresh for the
aforesaid purpose.

Now, to my Model again. There it was,
perfected of, on Christmas Eve, gone nigh a
year, at ten o'clock at night. All the money I
could spare I had laid out upon the Model;
and when times was bad, or my daughter Char-
lotte's children sickly, or both, it had stood still,
months at a spell. I had pulled it to pieces,
and made it over again with improvements, I
don't know how often. There it stood at last,
a perfected Model, as aforesaid.

William Butcher and me had a long talk,
Christmas Day, respecting of the Model. Wil-
liam is very sensible. But sometimes cranky.
William said, " What will you do with it, John ?"
I said, " Patent it." William said, " How
Patent it, John ? " I said, " By taking out a
Patent." William then deUvered that the law
of Patent was a cruel wrong. William said,
" John, if you make your invention public before
you get a Patent, any one may rob you of the
fruits of your hard work. You are put in a cleft
stick, John, Either you must drive a bargain
very much against yourself, by getting a party
to come forward beforehand with the great
expenses of the Patent ; or, you must be put
about, from post to pillar, among so many
parties, trying to make a better bargain for
yourself, and showing your invention, that your
invention will be took from you over your head."
I said, " William Butcher, are you cranky? You
are sometimes cranky." William said, " No,
John, I tell you the truth;" which he then
delivered more at length. I said to W. B. I
would Patent the invention myself.



My wife's brother, George Bury of West
Bromwich (his wife unfortunately took to drink-
ing, made away with everything, and seventeen
times committed to Birmingham Gaol before
happy release in every point of view), left my
wife, his sister, when he died, a legacy of one
hundred and twenty-eight pound ten. Bank of
England Stocks. Me and my wife had never
broke into that money yet. Note. We might
come to be old, and past our work. We now
agreed to Patent the invention. We said we
would make a hole in it — I mean in the afore-
said money — and Patent the invention. Wil-
liam Butcher wrote me a letter to Thomas Joy,
in London. T. J. is a carpenter, six foot four in
height, and plays quoits well. He lives in
Chelsea, London, by the church. I got leave
from the shop, to be took on again when I come
back. I am a good workman. Not a Teeto-
taler; but never drunk. When the Christmas
holidays were over, I went up to London by
the Parliamentary Train, and hired a lodging
for a week with Thomas Joy. He is married.
He has one son gone to sea.

Thomas Joy delivered (from a book he had)
that the first step to be took, in Patenting the
invention, was to prepare a petition unto Queen
Victoria. William Butcher had delivered simi-
lar, and drawn it up. Note. William is a ready
writer. A declaration before a Master in Chan-
cery was to be added to it. That we likewise
drew up. After a deal of trouble I found out
a Master, in Southampton Buildings, Chancery
Lane, nigh Temple Bar, where I made the de-

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 34 of 103)