Charles Dickens.

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

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the enthusiasm with which I regard this chief
happiness of my life with that minor degree of
interest which those to whom I address myself
may be supposed to feel for it, I have deemed
it expedient to break off as they have seen.

But, still clinging to my old friend, and natu-
rally desirous that all its merits should be known,
I am tempted to open (somewhat irregularly and
against our laws, I must admit) the clock-case.
The first roll of paper on which I lay my hand
is in the writing of the deaf gentleman. I shall
have to speak of him in my next paper ; and
how can I better approach that welcome task
than by prefacing it with a production of his
own pen, consigned to the safe keeping of my
honest Clock by his own hand ?

The manuscript runs thus :


Once upon a time, that is to say, in this our
time, — th^ exact year, month, and day are of no
matter, — there dwelt in the city of London a
substantial citizen, who united in his single per-
son the dignities of wholesale fruiterer, alder-
man, common-councilman, and member of the
worshipful Company of Patten-makers ; who
had superadded to these extraordinary distinc-
tions the important post and title of Sheriff, and
who at length, and to crown all, stood next in
rotation for the high and honourable office of
Lord Mayor.

He was a very substantial citizen indeed.
His face was like the full moon in a fog, with
two little holes punched out for his eyes, a very
ripe pear stuck on for his nose, and a wide gash
to serve for a mouth. The girth of his waist-
coat was hung up and lettered in his tailor's
shop as an extraordinary curiosity. He breathed
like a heavy snorer, and his voice in speaking
came thickly forth, as if it were oppressed and
stifled by feather beds. He trod the ground
like an elephant, and ate and drank like — hke
nothing but an alderman, as he was.

This worthy citizen had risen to his great
eminence from small beginnings. He had once
been a very lean, weazen little boy, never
Edwin Drocd, Etc., 17.

dreaming of carrying such a weight of flesh
upon his bones or of money in his pockets, and
glad enough to take his dinner at a baker's
door, and his tea at a pump. But he had long
ago forgotten all this, as it was proper that a
wholesale fruiterer, alderman, common-council-
man, member of the worshipful Company of
Patten-makers, past Sheriff, and, above all, a
Lord Mayor that was to be, should ; and he
never forgot it more completely in all his life
than on the eighth of November in the year of
his election to the great golden civic chair,
which was the day before his grand dinner at

It happened that as he sat that evening all
alone in his counting-house, looking over the
bill of fare for next day, and checking off the
fat capons in fifties, and the turtle-soup by the
hundred quarts, for his private amusement, — it
happened that as he sat alone occupied in these
pleasant calculations, a strange man came in
and asked him how he did, adding, " If I am
half as much changed as you, sir, you have no
recollection of me, I am sure."

The strange man was not over and above
well dressed, and was very far from being fat or
rich-looking in any sense of the word, yet he
spoke with a kind of modest confidence, and
assumed an easy, gentlemanly sort of an air, to
which nobody but a rich man can lawfully pre-
sume. Besides this, he interrupted the good
citizen just as he had reckoned three hundred
and seventy-two fat capons, and was carrying
them over to the next column ; and as if that
were not aggravation enough, the learned re-
corder for the city of London had only ten
minutes previously gone out at that very same
door, and had turned round and said, "Good
night, my lord." Yes, he had said " my lord ; "
— he, a man of birth and education, of the
Honourable Society of the Middle Temple,
Barrister-at-Law, — he who had an uncle in the
House of Commons, and an aunt almost but
not quite in the House of Lords (for she had
married a feeble peer, and made him vote as
she liked), — he, this man, this learned recorder,
had said " my lord." " I'll not wait till to-
morrow to give you your title, my Lord Mayor,"
says he, with a bow and a smile ; " you are
Lord Mayor de facto, if not de Jure. Good
night, my lord ! "

The Lord Mayor elect thought of this, and
turning to the stranger, and sternly bidding him
" go out of his private counting-house," brought
forward the three hundred and seventy-two fat
capons, and went on with his account.

" Do you remember," said the other, stepping



forward, — " do you remember little Joe Toddy-
high ? "

The port wine fled for a moment from tlie
fruiterer's nose as he muttered, " Joe Toddy-
high ! What about Joe Toddyhigh ? "

" / am Joe Toddyhigh," cried the visitor.
** Look at me, look hard at me, — harder, harder.
You know me now? You know little Joe
again ? What a happiness to us both, to meet
the very night before your grandeur ! Oh !
give me your hand, Jack, — both hands, — both,
for the sake of old times."

" You pinch me, sir. You're a hurting of
me," said the Lord Mayor elect pettishly.
" Don't, — suppose anybody should come, — Mr.
Toddyhigh, sir."

•' Mr. Toddyhigh ! " repeated the other rue-

"Oh! don't bother," said the Lord Mayor
elect, scratching his head." " Dear me ! Why,
I thought you was dead. What a fellow you
are ! "

Indeed, it was a pretty state of things, and
worthy the tone of vexation and disappointment
in which the Lord Mayor spoke. Joe Toddy-
high liad been a poor boy with him at Hull,
and had oftentimes divided his last penny and
parted his last crust to relieve his wants ; for
though Joe was a destitute child in those times,
he was as faithful and affectionate in his friend-
ship as ever man of might could be. They
parted one day to seek their fortunes in differ-
ent directions. Joe went to sea, and the now
wealthy citizen begged his way to London.
They separated with many tears, like foolish
fellows as they were, and agreed to remain fast
friends, and if they lived, soon to communicate

When he was an errand-boy, and even in the
early days of his apprenticeship, the citizen had
many a time trudged to the Post Office to ask
if there were any letter from poor little Joe, and
liad gone home again with tears in his eyes,
when lie found no news of his onl}'- friend. The
world is a wide place, and it was a long time
before the letter came ; when it did, the writer
was forgotten. It turned from white to yellow
from lying in the Post Office with nobody to
claim it, and in course of time was torn up with
five hundred others, and sold for waste paper.
And now at last, and when it might least have
been expected, here was this Joe Toddyhigh
turning up and claiming acquaintance with a
great public character, who on the morrow
would be cracking jokes with the Prime
Minister of England, and who had only, at any
time during the next twelve months, to say

the word, and he could shut up Temple Bar.
and make it no thoroughfare for the king him-

" I am sure I don't know what to say, Mr.
Toddyhigh," said the Lord Mayor elect ; " I
really don't. It's very inconvenient. I'd sooner
have given twenty pound, — it's very incon-
venient, really."

A thought had come into his mind, that per-
haps his old friend might say something passion-
ate which would give him an excuse for being
angry himself. No such thing. Joe looked at
him steadily, but very mildly, and did not open
his lips.

" Of course I shall pay you what I owe you,"
said the Lord Mayor elect, fidgeting in his
chair, " You lent me — I think it was a shilling
or some small coin — when we parted company,
and that of course I shall pay, with good inter-
est. I can pay my way with any man, and
always have done. If you look into the Man-
sion House the day after to-morrow, — some
time after dusk, — and ask for my private clerk,
you'll find he has a draft for you. I haven't got
time to say anything more just now, unless," — he
hesitated, for, coupled with a strong desire to
glitter for once in all his glory in the eyes of his
former companion, was a distrust of his appear-
ance, which might be more shabby than he
could tell by that feeble light, — " unless you'd
like to come to the dinner to-morrow. I don't
mind your having this ticket, if you like to take
it. A great many people would give their ears
for it, I can tell you."

His old friend took the card without speaking
a word, and instantly departed. His sunburnt
face and grey hair were present to the citizen's
mind for a moment ; but by the time he reached
three hundred and eighty-one fat capons, he had
quite forgotten him.

Joe Toddyhigh had never been in the capital
of Europe before, and he wandered up and
down the streets that night, amazed at the
number of churches and other public buildings,
the splendour of the shops, the riches that were
heaped up on every side, the glare of light in
which they were displayed, and the concourse
of people who hurried to and fro, indifferent,
apparently, to all the wonders that surrounded
them. But in all the long streets and broad
squares, there were none but strangers : it was
quite a relief to turn down a by-way and hear
his own footsteps on the pavement. He went
home to his inn, thought that London was a
dreary, desolate place, and felt disposed to
doubt the existence of one true-hearted man in
the whole worshipful Company of Patten-makers.



Finally, he went to bed, and dreamed that he
and the Lord Mayor elect were boys again.

He went next day to the dinner ; and when,
in a burst of light and music, and in the midst
of splendid decorations and surrounded by bril-
liant com]-iany, his former frienil appeared at the
head of the Hall, and was hailed with shouts
and cheering, he cheered and shouted with the
best, and for the moment could have cried.
The next moment he cursed his weakness in
behalf of a man so changed and selfish, and
quite hated a jolly-looking old gentleman oppo-
site for declaring himself in the pride of his
heart a Patten-maker.

As the banquet proceeded, he took more and
more to heart the rich citizen's unkindness ; and
that, not from any envy, but because he felt that
a man of his state and fortune could all the
better afford to recognise an old friend, even if
he were poor and obscure. The more he
thought of this, the more lonely and sad he felt.
When the company dispersed and adjourned to
the ball-room, he paced the hall and passages
alone, ruminating in a very melancholy con-
dition upon the disappointment he had experi-

It chanced, while he was lounging about in
this moody state, that he stumbled upon a flight
of stairs, dark, steep, and narrow, which he
ascended without any thought about the matter,
and so came into a little music-gallery, empty
and deserted. From this elevated post, which
commanded the whole hall, he amused himself
in looking down upon the attendants who were
clearing away the fragments of the feast very
lazily, and drinking out of all the bottles and
glasses with most commendable perseverance.

His attention gradually relaxed, and he fell
fast asleep.

When he awoke, he thought there must be
something the matter with his eyes ; but, rub-
bing them a little, he soon found that the
moonlight was really streaming through the east
window, that the lamps were all extinguished,
and that he was alone. He listened, but no
distant murmur in the echoing passages, not
even the shutting of a door, broke the deep
silence ; he groped his way down the stairs, and
found that the door at the bottom was locked
on the other side. He began now to compre-
hend that he must have slept a long time, that
he had been overlooked, and was shut up there
for the night.

His first sensation, perhaps, was not alto-
gether a comfortable one, for it was a dark,
chilly, earthy-smelling place, and something too
large for a man so situated, to feel at home in.

However, when the m(;mentary consternation of
Jiis surprise was over, he made light of the acci-
dent, and resolved to feel his way up the stairs
again, and make himself as comfortable as he
could in the gallery until morning. As he
turned to execute this puri)Ose, he heard the
clocks strike three.

Any such invasion of a dead stillness as the
striking of distant clocks, causes it to appear
the more intense and insupportable when the
sound has ceased. He listened with strained
attention in the hope that some clock, lagging
behind its fellows, had yet to strike, — looking
all the time into the profound darkness before
him, until it seemed to weave itself into a black
tissue, patterned with a hundred reflections of
his own eyes. But the bells had all pealed out
their warning for that once, and the gust of wind
that moaned through the place seemed cold and
heavy with their iron breath.

The time and circumstances were favourable
to reflection. He tried to keep his thoughts to
the current, unpleasant though it was, in which
they had moved all day, and to think with what
a romantic feeling he had looked forward to
shaking his old friend by the hand before he
died, and what a wide and cruel difference
there was between the meeting they had had,
and that which he had so often and so long
anticipated. Still, he was disordered by waking
to such sudden loneliness, and could not pre-
vent his mind from running upon odd tales of
people of undoubted courage, who, being shut
up by night in vaults or churches, or other
dismal places, had scaled great heights to get
out, and fled from silence as they had never
done from danger. This brought to his mind
the moonlight through the window, and be-
thinking himself of it, he groped his way back
up the crooked stairs,— but very stealthily, as
though he were fearful of being overheard.

He was very much astonished, when he ap-
proached the gallery again, to see a light in the
building : still more so, on advancing hastily and
looking round, to observe no visible source from
which it could proceed. But how much greater
yet was his astonishment at the spectacle which
this light revealed !

The statues of the two giants, Gog and
Magog, each above fourteen feet in height, those
which succeeded to still older and more bar-
barous figures after the Great Fire of London,
and which stand in the Guildhall to this day,
were endowed with life and motion. These
guardian genii of the City had quitted theii:
pedestals, and reclined in easy attitudes in the
great stained-glass window. Between them was



an ancient cask, which seemed to be full of
wine; for the younger Giant, clapping his huge
hand upon it, and throwing up his mighty leg,
burst into an exulting laugh, which reverberated
through the hall like thunder.

Joe Toddyhigh instinctively stooped down,
and, more dead than alive, felt his hair stand on
end, his knees knock together, and a cold damp
break out upon his forehead. But even at that
minute curiosity prevailed over every other feel-
ing, and somewhat reassured by the good-
humour of the Giants and their apparent un-
consciousness of his presence, he crouched in a
corner of the gallery, in as small a space as he
could, and peeping between the rails, observed
them closely.

It was then that the elder Giant, who had a
flowing grey beard, raised his thoughtful eyes to
his companion's face, and in a grave and solemn
voice addressed him thus :


Turning towards his companion, the elder
Giant uttered these words in a grave, majestic
tone : —

" Magog, does boisterous mirth beseem the
Giant Warder of this ancient city? Is this
becoming demeanour for a watchful spirit
over whose bodiless head so many years have
rolled, so many changes swept like empty air
— in whose impalpable nostrils the scent of
blood and crime, pestilence, cruelty, and
horror, has been familiar as breath to mortals
— in whose sight Time has gaUiered in the
harvest of centuries, and garnered so many
crops of human pride, affections, hopes, and
sorrows ? Bethink you of our compact. The
night wanes; feasting, revelry, and music have
encroached upon our usual hours of solitude,
and morning will be here apace. Ere we are
stricken mute again, bethink you of our com-

Pronouncing these latter words with more of
impatience than quite accorded with his apparent
age and gravity, the Giant raised a long pole
(which he still bears in his hand), and tapped
his brother Giant rather smartly on the head ;
indeed, the blow was so smartly administered,
that the latter quickly withdrew his lips from the
cask, to which they had been applied, and, catch-
ing up his shield and halbert, assumed an attitude
of defence. His irritation was but momentary,
for he laid these weapons aside as hastily as he
had assumed them, and said as he did so : —

" You know, Gog, old friend, that when we
animate these shapes which the Londoners of

old assigned (and not unworthily) to the guar-
dian genii of their city, we are susceptible of
some of the sensations which belong to human-
kind. Thus when I taste wine, I feel blows ;
when I relish the one, I disrelish the other.
Therefore, Gog, the more especially as your arm
is none of the lightest, keep your good staff by
your side, else we may chance to differ. Peace
be between us ! "

" Amen ! " said the other, leaning his staff in
the window-corner. " Why did you laugh just
now ? "

" To think," replied the Giant Magog, laying
his hand upon the cask, " of him who owned
this wine, and kept it in a cellar hoarded from
the light of day, for thirty years, — ' till it should
be fit to drink,' quoth he. He was twoscore
and ten years old when he buried it beneath his
house, and yet never thought that he might be
scarcely ' fit to drink' when the wine became so.
I wonder it never occurred to him to make him-
self unfit to be eaten. There is very little of him
left by this time."

" The night is waning," said Gog mournfully.

" I know it," replied his companion, " and I
see you are impatient. But look. Through the
eastern window— placed opposite to us, that the
first beams of the rising sun may every morning
gild our giant faces — the moon-rays fall upon the
pavement in a stream of light that to my fancy
sinks through the cold stone and gushes into
the old crypt below. The night is scarcely
past its noon, and our great charge is sleeping

They ceased to speak, and looked upward at
the moon. The sight of their large, black, roll-
ing eyes filled Joe Toddyhigh with such horror
that he could scarcely draw his breath. Still
they took no note of him, and appeared to be-
lieve themselves quite alone.

" Our compact," said Magog after a pause,
" is, if I understand it, that, instead of watching
here in silence through the dreary nights, we
entertain each other with stories of our past ex-
perience ; with tales of the past, the present, and
the future ; with legends of London and her
sturdy citizens from the old simple times. That
every night at midnight, when St. Paul's bell tolls
out one, and we may move and speak, we thus
discourse, nor leave such themes till the first
grey gleam of day shall strike us dumb. Is that
our bargain, brother ? "

" Yes," said the Giant Gog, " that is the
league between us who guard this city, by day
in spirit, and by night in body also ; and never
on ancient holidays have its conduits run wine
more merrily than we will pour forth our legend-



ary lore. We are old chroniclers from this time
hence. The crumbled walls encircle us once
more, the postern-gates are closed, the draw-
bridge is up, and pent in its narrow den beneath,
the water foams and struggles with the sunken
starlings. Jerkins and (juarter-staves are in the
streets again, the nightly watch is set, the rebel,
sad and lonely in his Tower dungeon, tries to
sleep, and weeps for home and children. Aloft
upon the gates and walls are noble heads glaring
fiercely down upon the dreamin,' city, and vex-
ing the hungry dogs that scent them in the air,
and tear the ground beneath with dismal bowl-
ings. The axe, the block, the rack, in their
dark chambers give signs of recent use. The
Thames, floating past long lines of clieerful
windows whence come a burst of music and a
stream of light, bears sullenly to the Palace wall
the last red stain brought on the tide from
Traitor's Gate. But your pardon, brother. The
night wears, and I am talking idly."

The other Giant appeared to be entirely of
this opinion, for during the foregoing rhapsody
of his fellow-sentinel he had been scratching his
head with an air of comical uneasiness, or rather
with an air that would have been very comical
if he had been a dwarf or an ordinary-sized man.
He winked too, and though it could not be
doubted for a moment that he winked to himself,
still he certainly cocked his enormous eye to-
wards the gallery where the listener was con-
cealed. Nor was this all, for he gaped ; and
when he gaped, Joe was horribly reminded of
the popular prejudice on the subject of giants,
and of their fabled power of smelling out Eng-
lishmen, however closely concealed.

His alarm was such that he nearly swooned,
and it was some little time before his j^ower of
sight or hearing was restored. When he recovered
he found that the elder Giant was pressing the
younger to commence the Chronicles, and that
the latter was endeavouring to excuse himself,
on the ground that the night was far spent, and
it would be better to wait until the next. Well
assured by this that he was certainly about to
begin directly, the listener collected his faculties
by a great effort, and distinctly heard Magog
express himself to the following effect : —

In the sixteenth century, and in the reign of
Queen Elizabeth of glorious memory (albeit her
golden days are sadly rusted with blood), there
lived in the city of London a bold young 'pren-
tice who loved his master's daughter. There
were no doubt within the walls a great many
'prentices in this condition, but I speak of only
one, and his name was Hugh Graham.

This Hugh was apprenticed to an honest
Bowyer who dwelt in the ward of Cheype, and
was rumoured to possess great wealth. Rumour
was (juite as infallible in those days as at the
present time, but it happened then as now to be
sometimes right by accident. It stumbled upon
the truth when it gave the old Bowyer a mint of
money. His trade had been a profitable one in
the time of King Henry the Eighth, who encou-
raged English archery to the utmost, and he had
been prudent and discreet. Thus it came to pass
that Mistress Alice, his only daughter, was the
richest heiress in all his wealthy ward. Young
Hugh had often maintained with staff and cudgel
that she was the handsomest. To do him jus-
tice, 1 believe she was.

If he could have gamed the heart of pretty
Mistress Alice by knocking this conviction into
stubborn people's heads, Hugh would have had
no cause to fear. But though the Bowyer's
daughter smiled in secret to hear of his doughty
deeds for her sake, and though her little waiting-
woman reported all her smiles (and many more)
to Hugh, and though he was at a vast expense
in kisses and small coin to recompense her fide-
lity, he made no progress in his love. He durst
not whisper it to Mistress Alice save on sure
encouragement, and that she never gave him, A
glance of her dark eye as she sat at the door on
a summer's evening after prayer-time, while he
and the neighbouring 'prentices exercised them-
selves in the street with blunted sword and
buckler, would fire Hugh's blood so that none
could stand before him ; but then she glanced at
others quite as kindly as on him, and where was
the use of cracking crowns if Mistress Alice
smiled upon the cracked as well as on the
cracker ?

Still Hugh went on, and loved her more and
more. He thought of her all day, and dreamed
of her all night long. He treasured up her every
word and gesture, and had a palpitation of the
heart whenever he heard her footstep on the
stairs or her voice in an adjoining room. To
him, the old Bowyer's house was haunted by an
angel; there was enchantment in the air and
space in which she moved. It would have been
no miracle to Hugh if flowers had sprung from
the rush-strewn floors beneath the tread of lovely
Mistress Alice.

Never did 'prentice long to distinguish him-
self in the eyes of his lady-love so ardently as

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 50 of 103)