Charles Dickens.

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

. (page 85 of 103)
Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 85 of 103)
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Boxer, by the way, made certain delicate dis-
tinctions of his own, in his communication with
Bertha, which persuade me fully that he knew her
to be blind. He never sought to attract her atten-
tion by looking at her, as he often did with other
l^cople, but touched her invariably. What expe-
rience he could ever have had of blind people or
blind dogs I don't know. He had never lived
with a blind master; nor had Mr. Boxer the elder,
nor Mrs. Boxer, nor any of his respectable family
on either side, ever been visited with blindness,
that I am aware of He may have found it out for
himself, perhaps, but he had got hold of it some-
how ; and therefore he had hold of Bertha too,
by the skirt, and kept hold, until Mrs. Peery-
bingle and the Baby, and Miss Slowboy and the
basket, were all got safely within doors.

May Fielding was already come ; and so was
her mother — a little querulous chip of an old
lady with a peevish face, who, in right of having
preserved a waist like a bedpost, was supposed
to be a most transcendent figure ; and who, in
consequence of having once been better off, or
of labouring under an impression that she might
have been, if something had happened which
never did happen, and seemed to have never
been particularly likely to come to pass — but it's
all the same — was very genteel and patronising
indeed. Gruff and Tackleton was also there,
doing the agreeable, with the evident sensation
of being as perfectly at home, and as unques-
tionably in his ow^n element, as a fresh young
salmon on the top of the Great Pyramid.

" May ! INIy dear old friend ! " cried Dot,
running up to meet her. " What a happiness to
see you ! "

Her old friend was, to the full, as hearty and
as glad as she; and it really was, if you'll be-
lieve me, quite a pleasant sight to see them
embrace. Tackleton Avas a man of taste, be-
yond all question. May was very pretty.

You know sometimes, when you are used to a
pretty face, how, when it comes into contact
and comparison with another pretty face, it
seems for the moment to be homely and faded,
and hardly to deserve the high opinion you have
had of it. Now, this was not at all the case, either
Christmas Books, 7.



with Dot or May ; for May's face set off Dot's,
antl Dot's face set off May's, so naturally and
agreeably, that, as John Peerybingle was very
near saying when he came into the room, they
ought to have been born sisters — which was th.e
only improvement: you could have suggested.

Tackleton had brought his leg of mutton, and,
wonderful to relate, a tart besides — but we don't
mind a little dissipation when our brides are in
the case ; we don't get married everyday — and,
in addition to these dainties, there were the Veal
and Ham Pie, and " things," as Mrs. Peery-
bingle called them ; which were chiefly nuts and
oranges, and cakes, and such small deer. When
the repast was set forth on the board, flanked
by Caleb's contribution, which was a great
wooden bowl of smoking potatoes (he was pro-
hibited, by solemn compact, from producing any
other viands), Tackleton led his intended mother-
in-law to the post of honour. For the better
gracing of this place at the high festival, the
majestic old soul had adorned herself with a cap,
calculated to inspire the thoughtless with senti-
ments of awe. She also wore her gloves. But
let us be genteel, or die !

Caleb sat next his daughter ; Dot and her old
schoolfellow were side by side ; the good Carrier
took care of the bottom of the table. Miss
Slowboy was isolated, for the time being, from
every article of furniture but the chair she sat
on, that she might have nothing else to knock
the Baby's head against.

As Tilly stared about her at the dolls and toys,
they stared at her and at the company. The
venerable old gentlemen at the street-doors (who
were all in full action) showed especial interest
in the party, pausing occasionally before leap^_,':^,
as if they w-ere listening to the conversation, and
then plunging wildly over and over, a great many
times, without halting for breath^as in a frantic
state of delight with the whole proceedings.

Certainly, if these old gentlemen were inclined
to have a fiendish joy in the contemplation of
Tackleton's discomfiture, they had good reason
to be satisfied. Tackleton couldn't get on at
all ; and the more cheerful his intended bride
became in Dot's society, the less he liked it,
though he had brought them together for that
purpose. For he Avas a regular dog in the
manger, was Tackleton ; and; when they laughed
and he couldn't, he t(;ok it into his head, imme-
diately, that they must be laughing at him.

"Ah, May!" said Dot. "Dear, dear, what
changes ! To talk of those n>ury school days
makes one young again."

" Wh}', you an't particularly old at any time,
are you?" said Tackleton.



98



THE CRICKET ON THE HEARTH.



" Look at my sober, plodding husband there,"
returned Dot. " He adds twenty years to my
age at least. Don't you, John ? "
" Forty," John replied.

" How many_iv//'ll add to INIay's, I am sure I



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 85 of 103)