Charles Dickens.

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

. (page 36 of 103)
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sit opposite to Mademoiselle in railway carriages,
and smile and talk, subserviently, as Mystery
does now. That's hard to believe !

Two Englishmen, and now our carriage is
full. First Englishman, in the moneyed in-
terest — flushed, highly respectable — Stock Ex-
change, perhaps — City, certainly. Faculties of
second Englishman entirely absorbed in hurry.
Plunges into the carriage, blind. Calls out of
window concerning his luggage, deaf. Suffo-
cates himself under pillows of great-coats, for no
reason, and in a demented manner. Will re-
ceive no assurance from any porter whatsoever.
Is stout and hot, and wipes his head, and makes
himself hotter by breathing so hard. Is totally
incredulous respecting assurance of Collected
Guard that " there's no hurry." No hurry !
And a flight to Paris in eleven hours !

It is all one to me in this drowsy corner,
hurry or no hurry. Untjl Don Diego shall send
home my wings, my flight is with the South-
Eastern Company. I can fly with the South-
Eastern more lazily, at all events, than in the
upper air. I have but to sit here thinking as
idly as 1 please, and be whisked away. I am
not accountable to anybody for the idleness of
my thoughts in such an idle summer flight ; my
flight is provided for by the South-Eastern, and
is no business of mine.

The bell ! With all my heart. It does not
require vie to do so much as even to flaj) my
wings. Something snorts for me, something
shrieks for me, something proclaims to every-
thing else that it had better keep out of my way,
— and away I go.

Ah ! The fresh air is pleasant after the
forcing-frame, though it does blow over these
interminable streets, and scatter the smoke of
this vast wilderness of chimneys. Here we are
— no, I mean there we were, for it has darted
far into the rear — in Bermondsey where the
tanners live. Flash ! The distant shipping in
the Thames is gone. Whirr ! The little streets
of new brick and red tile, with here and there a
flagstaft" growing like a tall weed out of the
scarlet beans, and, everywhere, plenty of open
sewer and ditch for the promotion of the public
health, have been fired off in a volley. Whizz !



Dust-heaps, market-gardens, and waste grounds.
Rattle 1 New Cross Station. Shock ! There
we were at Croydon. Bur-r-r-r ! The tunnel.

I wonder why it is that when I shut my eyes
in a tunnel I begin to feel as if I were going at
an Express pace the other way. I am clearly
going back to London now. Compact Enchant-
ress must have forgotten something, and reversed
the engine. No 1 After long darkness, pale
fitful streaks of light appear. I am still flying
on for Folkestone. The streaks grow stronger
— become continuous — become the ghost of day
— become the living day — became I mean — the
tunnel is miles and miles away, and here I fly
through sun-light, all among the harvest and the
Kentish hops.

There is a dreamy pleasure in this flying. I
wonder where it was, and when it was, that we ex-
ploded, blew in to space somehow, a Parliamentary
Train, with a crowd of heads and faces looking
at lis out of cages, and some hats waving.
Moneyed Interest says it was at Reigate Sta-
tion. Expounds to Mystery how Reigate Station
is so many miles from London, which Mystery
again develops to Compact Enchantress. There
might be neither a Reigate nor a London for
me, as I fly away among the Kentish hops and
harvest. What do / care ?

Bang ! We have let another Station off", and
fly away regardless. Everything is flying. The
hop gardens turn gracefully towards me, pre-
senting regular avenues of hops in rapid flight,
then whirl away. So do the pools and rushes,
haystacks, sheep, clover in full bloom delicious
to the sight and smell, corn-sheaves, cherry
orchards, apple orchards, reapers, gleaners,
hedges, gates, fields that taper off into little
angular corners, cottages, gardens, now and
then a church. Bang, Bang ! A double-bar-
relled Station ! Now a wood, now a bridge,

now a landscape, now a cutting, now a

Bang! a single-barrelled Station — there was a
cricket match somewhere with two white tents,
and then four flying cows, then turnips — now
the wires of the electric telegraph are all alive,
and spin, and blurr their edges, and go up and
down, and make the intervals between each
other most irregular: contracting and expanding
in the strangest manner. Now we slacken.
With a screwing and a grinding, and a smell of
water thrown on ashes, now we stop !

Demented Traveller, who has been for two or
three minutes watchful, clutches his great-coats,
plunges at the door, rattles it, cries " Hi ! " eager
to embark on board of impossible packets, far
inland. Collected Guard appears. " Are you
for Tunbridge, sir ? " " Tunbridge .? No.



NO HURRY.



187



Paris." "Plenty of time, sir. No hurry. Five
minutes here, sir, for refreshment." I am so
blessed (anticipating Zamiel by half a second)
as to procure a glass of water for Compact
Enchantress.

Who would suppose we had been flying at
such a rate, and shall take wing again directly ?
Refreshment-room full, platform full, porter
with watering-pot deliberately cooling a hot
wheel, another porter with equal deliberation
helping the rest of the wheels bountifully to ice
cream. Moneyed Interest and I re-entering the
carriage first, and being there alone, he intimates
to me that the French are " no go " as a Nation.
I ask why ? He says, that Reign of Terror of
theirs was quite enough. I venture to inquire
whether he remembers anything that preceded
said Reign of Terror ? He says not particularly.
''' Because," I remark, " the harvest that is
reaped has sometimes been sown." Moneyed
Interest repeats, as quite enough for him, that the
French are revolutionary, " — and always at it."

Bell. Compact Enchantress, helped in by
Zamiel, (whom the stars confound !) gives us
her charming little side-box look, and smites
me to the core. Mystery eating sponge-cake.
Pine-apple atmosphere faintly tinged with sus-
picions of sherry. Demented Traveller flits past
the carriage, looking for it. Is blind with agita-
tion, and can't see it. Seems singled out by
Destiny to be the only unhappy creature in the
flight, who has any cause to hurry himself. Is
nearly left behind. Is seized by Collected
Guard after the Train is in motion, and bun-
dled in. Still has lingering suspicions that
there must be a boat in the neighbourhood, and
will look wildly out of window for it.

Flight resumed. Corn-sheaves, hop gardens,
reapers, gleaners, apple orchards, cherry or-
chards. Stations single and double barrelled,
Ashford. Compact Enchantress (constantly
talking to Mystery in an exquisite manner)
gives a little scream ; a sound that seems to
come from high up in her precious little head ;
from behind her bright little eyebrows. " Great
Heaven, my pine-apple ! My Angel ! It is
lost ! " Mystery is desolated. A search made.
It is not lost. Zamiel finds it. I curse him
(flying) in the Persian manner. May his face
be turned upside down, and jackasses sit upon
his uncle's grave !

Now fresher air, now glimpses of unenclosed
Down-land with flapping crows flying over it
whom we soon outfly, now the Sea, now Folke-
stone at a quarter after ten. . " Tickets ready,
gentlemen ! " Demented dashes at the door.
■^' For Paris, sir ? No hurry."



Not the least. We are dropped slowly down
to the Port, and sidle to and fro (the whole
train) before the insensible Royal George Hotel,
for some ten minutes. The Royal George takes
no more heed of us than its namesake under
water at Spithead, or under earth at Windsor,
does. The Royal George's dog lies winking
and blinking at us, without taking the trouble
to sit up ; and the Royal George's " wedding
party " at the open window (who seem, I must
say, rather tired of bliss) don't bestow a solitary
glance upon us, flying thus to Paris in eleven
hours. The first gentleman in Folkestone is
evidently used up on this subject.

Meanwhile, Demented chafes. Conceives
that every man's hand is against him, and exert-
ing itself to prevent his getting to Paris. Re-
fuses consolation. Rattles door. Sees smoke
on the horizon, and " knows " it's the boat gone
without him. Moneyed Interest resentfully ex-
plains that he is going to Paris too. Demented
signifies that if Moneyed Interest chooses to be
left behind, he don't.

" Refreshments in the Waiting-Room, ladies
and gentlemen. No hurry, ladies and gentle-
men, for Paris. No hurry whatever ! "

Twenty minutes' pause, by Folkestone clock,
for looking at Enchantress while she eats a
sandwich, and at Mystery while she eats of
everything there that is eatable, from pork-pie,
sausage, jam, and gooseberries, to lumps of
sugar. All this time there is a very waterfall of
luggage, with a spray of dust, tumbling slantwise
from the pier into the steamboat. All this time,
Demented (who has no business with it)
watches it with starting eyes, fiercely requir-
ing to be shown his luggage. When it at
last concludes the cataract, he rushes hotly
to refresh — is shouted after, pursued, jostled,
brought back, pitched into the departing
steamer upside down, and caught by mariners
disgracefully.

A lovely harvest day, a cloudless sky, a tran-
quil sea. The piston-rods of the engines so
regularly coming up from below, to look (as well
they may) at the bright weather, and so regu-
larly almost knocking their iron heads against
the crossbeam of the sky-light, and never doing
it ! Another Parisian actress is on board, at-
tended by another Mystery. Compact Enchan-
tress greets her sister artist — oh, the Compact
One's pretty teeth ! — and Mystery greets Mys-
tery. My Mystery soon ceases to be conver-
sational — is taken poorly, in a word, having
lunched too miscellaneously — and goes below.
The remaining Mystery then smiles upon the
sister artists (who, I am afraid, wouldn't greatly



A FLIGHT.



mind stabbing each other), and is upon the
whole ravished.

And now I find that all the French people on
board begin to grow, and all the English people
to shrink. The French are nearing home, and
shaking off a disadvantage, whereas we are shak-
ing it on. Zamiel is the same man, and Abd-el-
Kader is the same man, but each seems to come
into possession of an indescribable confidence
that departs from us — from Moneyed Interest,
for instance, and from me. Just what they gain,
we lose. Certain British " Gents " about the
steersman, intellectually nurtured at home on
parody of everything and truth of nothing, be-
come subdued, and in a manner forlorn : and
when the steersman tells them (not unexultingly)
how he has " been upon this station now eight
year, and never see the old town of Bullum yet,"
one of them, with an imbecile reliance on a reed,
asks him what he considers to be the best hotel
in Paris?

Now, I tread upon French ground, and am
greeted by the three charming words, Liberty,
Equality, Fraternity, painted up (in letters a little
too thin for their height) on the Custom-House
wall — also by the sight of large cocked-hats, with-
out which demonstrative head-gear nothing of a
public nature can be done upon this soil. All
the rabid Hotel population of Boulogne howl
and shriek outside a distant barrier, frantic to
get at us. Demented, by some unlucky means
peculiar to himself, is delivered over to their
fury, and is presently seen struggling in a whirl-
pool of Touters — is somehow understood to be
going to Paris — is, with infinite noise, rescued
by two cocked-hats, and brought into Custom-
House bondage with the rest of us.

Here, I resign the active duties of life to an
eager being, of preternatural sharpness, with a
shelving forehead and a shabby snuft'-coloured
coat, who (from the wharf) brought me down
with his eye before the boat came into port. He
darts upon my luggage, on the floor where all
the luggage is strewn like a wreck at the bottom
of the great deep; gets it proclaimed and weighed
as the property of " Monsieur a traveller un-
known ; " pays certain francs for it, to a certain
functionary behind a Pigeon-hole, like a pay-
box at a Theatre (the arrangements in general
are on a wholesale scale, half military and half
theatrical) ; and I suppose I shall find it when I
come to Paris — he says I shall. 1 know nothing
about it, except that I pay him his small fee,
and pocket the ticket he gives me, and sit upon
a counter, involved in the general distraction.

Railway station. " Lunch or dinner, ladies
and gentlemen. Plenty of time for Paris. Plenty



of time ! " Large hall, long counter, long strips
of dining-table, bottles of wine, plates of meat,
roast chickens, little loaves of bread, basins of
soup, little caraffes of brandy, cakes and fruit.
Comfortably restored from these resources, I
begin to fly again.

I saw Zamiel (before I took wing) presented
to Compact Enchantress and Sister Artist by an
oflicer in uniform, with a waist like a wasp's,
and pantaloons like two balloons. They all got
into the next carriage together, accompanied by
the two Mysteries. They laughed. I am alone
in the carriage (for I don't consider Demented
anybody), and alone in the world.

Fields, windmills, low grounds, pollard-trees,
windmills, fields, fortifications, Abbeville, sol-
diering, and drumming. I wonder where Eng-
land is, and when I was there last — about two
years ago, I should say. Flying in and out
among these trenches and batteries, skimming
the clattering drawbridges, looking down into
the stagnant ditches, I become a prisoner of
state, escaping. I am confined with a comrade
in a fortress. Our room is in an upper story.
We have tried to get up the chimney, but there's
an iron grating across it, embedded in the
masonry. After months of labour, we have
worked the grating loose with the poker, and
can lift it up. We have also made a hook, and
twisted our rugs and blankets into ropes. Our
plan is, to go up the chimney, hook our ropes
to the top, descend hand over hand upon the
roof of the guard-house far below, shake the
hook loose, watch the opportunity of the sen-
tinel's pacing away, hook again, drop into the
ditch, swim across it, creep into the shelter of
the wood. The time is come — a wild and stormy
night. We are up the chimney, we are on the
guard-house roof, we are swimming in the murky
ditch, when lo ! " Qui v'l^l ? " a bugle, the
alarm, a crash ! What is it ? Death ? No,
Amiens.

More fortifications, more soldiering and drum-
ming, more basins of soup, more little loaves of
bread, more bottles of wine, more caraffes of
brandy, more time for refreshment. Everything
good, and everything ready. Bright, unsub-
stantial-looking, scenic sort of station. People
waiting. Houses, uniforms, beards, moustaches,
some sabots, plenty of neat women, and a few
old-visaged children. Unless it be a delusion
born of my giddy flight, the grown-up people
and the children seem to change places in
France. In general the boys and girls are little
old men and women, and the men and women
lively boys and girls.

Bugle, shriek, flight resumed. Moneyed In-



A RAPID RE VIE IV.



189



terest has come into my carriage. Says the
manner of refreshing is " not bad," but considers
it French. Admits great dexterity and pohte-
ness in the attendants. Thinks a decimal cur-
rency may have something to do with their
dispatch in setthng accounts, and don't know
but what it's sensible and convenient. Adds,
however, as a general protest, that they're a
revolutionary people — and always at it.

Ramparts, canals, cathedral, river, soldiering
and drumming, open country, river, earthenware
manufactures, Creil. Again ten minutes. Not
even Demented in a hurry. Station, a drawing-
room with a verandah ; like a planter's house.
Moneyed Interest considers it a bandbox, and
not made to last. Little round tables in it, at
one of which the Sister Artists and attendant
Mysteries are established with Wasp and Zamiel,
as if they were going to stay a week.

Anon, with no more trouble than before, I am
flying again, and lazily wondering as I fly.
What has the South-Eastern done with all the
horrible little villages we used to pass through
in the Diligence ? What have they done with
all the summer dust, with all the winter mud,
with all the dreary avenues of little trees, with
all the ramshackle post-yards, with all the beg-
gars (who used to turn out at night with bits of
lighted candle, to look in at the coach windows),
with all the long-tailed horses who were always
biting one another, with all the big postillions
in jack-boots — with all the mouldy cafes that we
used to stop at, where a long mildewed table-
cloth, set forth with jovial bottles of vinegar and
oil, and with a Siamese arrangement of pepper
and salt, was never wanting ? Where are the
grass-grown little towns, the wonderful little
market-places all unconscious of markets, the
shops that nobody kept, the streets that nobody
trod, the churches that nobody went to, the
bells that nobody rang, the tumble-down old
buildings plastered with many-coloured bills that
nobody read ? Where are the two-and-twenty
weary hours of long long day-and-night journey,
sure to be either insupportably hot or insupport-
ably cold ? Where are the pains in my bones,
where are the fidgets in my legs, where is the
Frenchman with the nightcap who never would
have the little coupe' window down, and who
always fell upon me when he went to sleep, and
always slept all night snoring onions ?

A voice breaks in with " Paris ! Here we
are ! "

I have overflown myself, perhaps, but I can't
believe it. I feel as if I were enchanted or be-
witched. It is barely eight o'clock yet — it is
nothing like half-past— when I have had my



luggage examined at that briskest of Custom
Houses attached to the station, and am rattling
over the pavement in a hackney cabriolet.

Surely, not the pavement of Paris ? Yes, I
think it is, too. I don't know any other place
where there are all these high houses, all these
haggard-looking wine-shops, all these billiard
tables, all these stocking-makers with flat red or
yellow legs of wood for signboard, all these fuel
shops with stacks of billets painted outside, and
real billets sawing in the gutter, all these dirty
corners of streets, all these cabinet pictures over
dark doorways representing discreet matrons

nursing babies. And yet this morning

I'll think of it in a warm bath.

Very like a small room that I remember in
the Chinese Baths upon the Boulevard, cer-
tainly ; and, though I see it through the steam,
I think that I might swear to that peculiar hot-
linen basket, like a large wicker hour-glass.
When can it have been that I left home ? When
was it that 1 paid " through to Paris " at Lon-
don Bridge, and discharged myself of all re-
sponsibility, except the preservation of a voucher
ruled into three divisions, of which the first was
snipped off at Folkestone, the second aboard
the boat, and the third taken at my journey's
end ? It seems to have been ages ago. Calcu-
lation is useless. I will go out for a walk.

The crowds in the streets, the lights in the
shops and balconies, the elegance, variety, and
beauty of their decorations, the number of the
theatres, the brilliant cafe's with their windows
thrown up high and their vivacious groups at
little tables on the pavement, the light and
glitter of the houses turned as it were inside
out, soon convince me that it is no dream ;
that I am in Paris, howsoever I got here. I
stroll down to the sparkling Palais Royal, up
the Rue de Rivoli, to the Place Vendome. As
I glance into a print-shop window. Moneyed
Interest, my late travelling companion, comes
upon me, laughing with the highest relish of
disdain. " Here's a people ! " he says, pointing
to Napoleon in the window and Napoleon on
the column. " Only one idea all over Paris.
A monomania ! " Humph ! I think I have
seen Napoleon's match ? There was a statue,
when I came away, at Hyde Park Corner, and
another in the City, and a print or two in the
shops.

I walk up to the Barriere de I'Etoile, suffi-
ciently dazed by my flight to have a pleasant
doubt of the reality of everything about me ; of
the lively crowd, the overhanging trees, the per-
forming dogs, the hobby-horses, the beautiful
perspectives of shining lamps : the hundred and



X90



THE DETECTIVE POLICE.




one enclosures, where the singing is, in gleam-
ing orchestras of azure and gold, and where a
star-eyed Houri comes round with a box for
voluntary offerings. So, I pass to my hotel,
enchanted; sup, enchanted; go to bed, en-
chanted ; pushing back this morning (if it really
were this morning) into the remoteness of time,
blessing the South-Eastern Company for realis-
ing the Arabian Nights in these prose days,
murmuring, as 1 wing my idle flight into the
land of dreams, " No hurry, ladies and gentle-
men, going to Paris in eleven hours. It is so
well done, that there really is no hurry ! "



THE DETECTIVE POLICE.

"^■E are not by any means devout
believers in the Old Bow-Street
Police. To say the truth, we
think there Avas a vast amount of
humbug about those worthies.
Apart from many of them being
men of very indifferent character, and far
too much in the habit of consorting with
thieves and the like, they never lost a public
occasion of jobbing and trading in mystery and
making the most of themselves. Continually
puffed besides by incompetent magistrates
anxious to conceal their own deficiencies, and
hand-in-glove with the penny-a-liners of that
time, they became a sort of superstition. Al-
though as a Preventive Police they were utterly
ineffective, and as a Detective Police were very
loose and uncertain in their operations, they
remain with some people a superstition to the
present day.

On the other hand, the Detective Force
organised since the establishment of the existing
Police is so well chosen and trained, proceeds
so systematically and quietly, does its business
in such a workman-like manner, and is always
so calmly and steadily engaged in the service of
the public, that the public really do not know
enough of it, to know a tithe of its usefulness.
Impressed with this conviction, and interested
in the men themselves, we represented to the
authorities at Scotland Yard, that we should be
glad, if there were no official objection, to have
some talk with the Detectives. A most oblig-
ing and ready permission being given, a certain
evening was appointed with a certain Inspector
for a social conference between ourselves and
the Detectives, at The Household Words Office
in Wellington Street, Strand, London. In con-
sequence of which appointment the party " came



oflf," which we are about to describe. And we
beg to repeat that, avoiding such topics as it
might for obvious reasons be injurious to the
public, or disagreeable to respectable indivi-
duals, to touch upon in print, our description is
as exact as we can make it.

The reader will have the goodness to imagine
the Sanctum Sanctorum of Household Words.
Anything that best suits the reader's fancy will
best represent that magnificent chamber. We
merely stipulate for a round table in the middle,
with some glasses and cigars arranged upon it ;
and the editorial sofa elegantly hemmed in
between that stately piece of furniture and the
wall.

It is a sultry evening at dusk. The stones of
Wellington Street are hot and gritty, and the
watermen and hackney coachmen at the Theatre
opposite are much flushed and aggravated.
Carriages are constantly setting down the peo-
ple who have come to Fairy-land ; and there is
a mighty shouting and bellowing every now and
then, deafening us for the moment, through the
open windows.

Just at dusk. Inspectors Wield and Stalker
are announced ; but we do not undertake to
warrant the orthography of any of the names
here mentioned. Inspector Wield presents In-
spector Stalker. Inspector Wield is a middle-
aged man of a portly presence, with a large,,
moist, knowing eye, a husky voice, and a habit
of emphasising his conversation by the aid of a
corpulent forefinger, which is constantly in jux-
taposition with his eyes or nose. Inspector
Stalker is a shrewd, hard-headed Scotchman —
in appearance not at all unlike a very acute,
thoroughly-trained schoolmaster from the Nor-
mal Establishment at Glasgow. Inspector Wield
one might have known, perhaps, for what he is
— Inspector Stalker, never.

The ceremonies of reception over. Inspectors
Wield and Stalker observe that they have
brought some sergeants with them. The ser-



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 36 of 103)