'I hope so,' replied Barbox Brothers.
Such was his deference that Polly, elevated on a platform of
sofa cushions in a chair at his right hand, encouraged him with a
pat or two on the face from the greasy bowl of her spoon, and
even with a gracious kiss. In getting on her feet upon her chair,
however, to give him this last reward, she toppled forward among
the dishes, and caused him to exclaim, as he effected her rescue:
'Gracious Angels! Whew! I thought we were in the fire, Polly!'
'What a coward you are, ain't you?' said Polly when replaced.
'Yes, I am rather nervous,' he replied. 'Whew! Don't, Polly!
Don't flourish your spoon, or you 11 go over sideways. Don't tilt
up your legs when you laugh, Polly, or you '11 go over backwards.
Whew! Polly, Polly, Polly,' said Barbox Brothers, nearly suc-
cumbing to despair, 'we are environed with dangers!'
Indeed, he could descry no security from the pitfalls that were
yawning for Polly, but in proposing to her, after dinner, to sit
upon a low stool. 'I will, if you will,' said Polly. So, as peace of
mind should go before all, he begged the waiter to wheel aside
the table, bring a pack of cards, a couple of footstools, and a
a screen, and close in Polly, and himself before the fire, as it
were in a snug room within the room. Then, finest sight of all,
was Barbox Brothers on his footstool, with a pint decanter on the
rug, contemplating Polly as she built successfully, and growing blue
in the face with holding his breath, lest he should blow the house
'How you stare, don't you?' said Polly in a houseless pause.
Detected in the ignoble fact, he felt obliged to admit, apolo-
getically: 'I am afraid I was looking rather hard at you, Polly.'
'Why do you stare?' asked Polly.
'I cannot,' he murmured to himself, 'recall why. â I don't
â˘You must be a simpleton to do things and not know why,
mustn't you?' said Polly.
In spite of which reproof, he looked at the child again intently,
as she bent her head over her card structure, her rich curls shading
32 MUGBY JUNCTION
her face. ^It is impossible,' he thought, 'that I can ever have seen
this pretty baby before. Can I have dreamed of her? In some
He could make nothing of it. So he went into the building
trade as a journeyman under Polly, and they built three stories
high, four stories high; even five.
'I say! Who do you think is coming?' asked Polly, rubbing her
eyes after tea.
He guessed: 'The waiter?'
'No,' said Polly 'the dustman. I am getting sleepy.'
A new embarrassment for Barbox Brothers!
'I don't think I am going to be fetched to-night,' said Polly.
â˘What do you think?'
He thought not, either. After another quarter of an hour, the
dustman not merely impending, but actually arriving, recourse
was had to the Contantinopolitan chambermaid: who cheerily
undertook that the child should sleep in a comfortable and whole-
some room, which she herself would share.
'And I know you will be careful, won't you,' said Barbox Broth-
ers, as a new fear dawned upon him, 'that she don't fall out of bed?'
Polly found this so highly entertaining that she was under the
necessity of clutching him round the neck with both arms as he sat
on his footstool picking up the cards, and rocking him to and fro,
with her dimpled chin on his shoulder.
'Oh, what a coward you are, ain't you?' said Polly. 'Do you fall
out of bed?'
'N â not generally, Polly.'
'No more do I.'
With that, Polly gave him a reassuring hug or two to keep him
going, and then giving that confiding mite of a hand of hers to be
swallowed up in the hand of the Constantinopolitan chambermaid,
trotted off, chattering, without a vestige of anxiety.
He looked after her, had the screen removed and the table and
chairs replaced, and still looked after her. He paced the room for
half an hour. 'A most engaging little creature, but it 's not that.
A most winning little voice, but it 's not that. That has much to do
with it, but there is something more, How can it be that I seem to
know this child? What was it she imperfectly recalled to me when
I felt her touch in the street, and, looking down at her, saw her
looking up at me?'
MUGBY JUNCTION 33
With a start he turned towards the sound of the subdued voice,
and saw his answer standing at the door.
'Oh, Mr. Jackson, do not be severe with me! Speak a word of
encouragement to me, I beseech you.'
'You are Polly's mother.'
Yes. Polly herself might come to this, one day. As you see what
the rose was in its faded leaves; as you see what the summer
growth of the woods was in their wintry branches; so Polly might
be traced, one day, in a careworn woman like this, with her hair
turned grey. Before him were the ashes of a dead fire that had once
burned bright. This was the woman he had loved. This was the
woman he had lost. Such had been the constancy of his imagina-
tion to her, so had Time spared her under its withholding, that
now, seeing how roughly the inexorable hand had struck her, his
soul was filled with pity and amazement.
He led her to a chair, and stood leaning on a corner of the chim-
ney-piece, with his head resting on his hand, and his face half
'Did you see me in the street, and show me to your child?' he
'Is the little creature, then, a party to deceit?'
'I hope there is no deceit. I said to her, "We have lost our way,
and I must try to find mine by myself. Go to that gentleman, and
tell him you are lost. You shall be fetched by and by." Perhaps
you have not thought how very young she is?'
'She is very self-reliant.'
'Perhaps because she is so young.'
He asked, after a short pause, 'Why did you do this?'
'Oh, Mr. Jackson, do you ask me? In the hope that you might
see something in my innocent child to soften your heart towards
me. Not only towards me, but towards my husband.'
He suddenly turned about, and walked to the opposite end of the
room. He came back again with a slower step, and resumed his
former attitude, saying:
'I thought you had emigrated to America?'
'We did. But life went ill with us there, and we came back.'
'Do you live in this town?'
34 MUGBY JUNCTION
'Yes. I am a daily teacher of music here. My husband is a
'Are you â forgive my asking â poor?'
'We earn enough for our wants. That is not our distress. My
husband is very, very ill of a lingering disorder. He will never re-
cover â '
*You check yourself. If it is for want of the encouraging word
you spoke of, take it from me. I cannot forget the old time, Bea-
'God bless you I' she replied with a burst of tears, and gave him
her trembling hand.
'Compose yourself. I cannot be composed if you are not, for to
see you weep distresses me beyond expression. Speak freely to me.
She shaded her face with her veil, and after a little while spoke
calmly. Her voice had the ring of Polly's.
'It is not that my husband's mind is at all impaired by his bodily
suffering, for I assure you that is not the case. But in his weakness,
and in his knowledge that he is incurably ill, he cannot overcome
the ascendency of one idea. It preys upon him, embitters every
moment of his painful life, and will shorten it.'
She stopping, he said again: 'Speak freely to me. Trust me.'
'We have had five children before this darling, and they all lie in
their little graves. He believes that they have withered away under
a curse, and that it will blight this child like the rest.'
'Under what curse?'
'Both I and he have it on our conscience that we tried you very
heavily, and I do not know but that, if I were as ill as he, I might
suffer in my mind as he does. This is the constant burden: â "I
believe, Beatrice, I was the only friend that Mr. Jackson ever
cared to make, though I was so much his junior. The more influ-
ence he acquired in the business, the higher he advanced me, and I
was alone in his private confidence. I came between him and you,
and I took you from him. We were both secret, and the blow fell
when he was wholly unprepared. The anguish it caused a man so
compressed must have been terrible; the wrath it awakened inap-
peasable. So, a curse came to be invoked on our poor pretty little
flowers, and they fall." '
'And you, Beatrice,' he asked, when she had ceased to speak, and
there had been a silence afterwards, 'how say you?'
MUGBY JUNCTION 35
'Until within these few weeks I was afraid of you, and I believed
that you would never, never forgive.'
'Until within these few weeks,' he repeated. 'Have you changed
your opinion of me within these few weeks?'
'For what reason?'
'I was getting some pieces of music in a shop in this town, when,
to my terror, you came in. As I veiled my face and stood in the
dark end of the shop, I heard you explain that you wanted a mu-
sical instrument for a bedridden girl. Your voice and manner were
so softened, you showed such interest in its selection, you took it
away yourself with so much tenderness of care and pleasure, that
I knew you were a man with a most gentle heart. Oh, Mr. Jackson,
Mr. Jackson, if you could have felt the refreshing rain of tears that
followed for me ! '
Was Phoebe playing at that moment on her distant couch? He
seemed to hear her.
*I inquired in the shop where you lived, but could get no infor-
mation. As I had heard you say that you were going back by the
next train (but you did not say where), I resolved to visit the sta-
tion at about that time of day, as often as I could, between my les-
sons, on the chance of seeing you again. I have been there very
often, but saw you no more until to-day. You were meditating as
you walked the street, but the calm expression of your face em-
boldened me to send my child to you. And when I saw you bend
your head to speak tenderly to her, I prayed to God to forgive me
for having ever brought a sorrow on it. I now pray to you to for-
give me, and to forgive my husband. I was very young, he was
young too, and, in the ignorant hardihood of such a time of life,
we don't know what we do to those who have undergone more dis-
cipline. You generous man! You good man! So to raise me up and
make nothing of my crime against you! ' â for he would not see her
on her knees, and soothed her as a kind father might have soothed
an erring daughter â 'thank you, bless you, thank you!'
When he next spoke, it was after having drawn aside the window
curtain and looked out awhile. Then he only said:
'Is Polly asleep?'
'Yes. As I came in, I met her going away upstairs, and put her
to bed myself.'
'Leave her with me for to-morrow, Beatrice, and write me vour
36 MUGBY JUNCTION
address on this leaf of my pocket-book. In the evening I will bring
her home to you â and to her father.'
^Hallo!' cried Polly, putting her saucy sunny face in at the door
next morning when breakfast was ready: 'I thought I was fetched
'So you were, Polly, but I asked leave to keep you here for the
day, and to take you home in the evening.'
'Upon my word!' said Polly. 'You are very cool, ain't you?'
However, Polly seemed to think it a good idea, and added:
'I suppose I must give you a kiss, though you are cool.'
The kiss given and taken, they sat down to breakfast in a highly
'Of course, you are going to amuse me?' said Polly.
'Oh, of course!' said Barbox Brothers.
In the pleasurable height of her anticipations, Polly found it in-
dispensable to put down her piece of toast, cross one of her little
fat knees over the other, and bring her little fat right hand down
into her left hand with a business-like slap. After this gathering
of herself together, Polly, by that time a mere heap of dimples,
asked in a wheedling manner:
'What are we going to do, you dear old thing?'
'Why, I was thinking,' said Barbox Brothers, ' â but are you
fond of horses, Polly?'
'Ponies, I am,' said Polly, 'especially when their tails are long.
But horses â n â no â too big, you know.'
'Well,' pursued Barbox Brothers, in a spirit of grave mysterious
confidence adapted to the importance of the consultation, 'I did see
yesterday, Polly, on the walls, pictures of two long-tailed ponies
speckled all over â '
'No, no, no!' cried Polly, in an ecstatic desire to linger on the
charming details. 'Not speckled all over!'
'Speckled all over. W^hich ponies jump through hoops â '
'No, no, no!' cried Polly as before. 'They never jump through
'Yes, they do. Oh, I assure you they do! And eat pie in pina-
fores â '
'Ponies eating pie in pinafores! ' said Polly. 'What a story-teller
you are, ain't you?'
MUGBY JUNCTION 37
^'Upon my honour. â And fire off guns.'
(Polly hardly seemed to see the force of the ponies resorting to
'And I was thinking,' pursued the exemplary Barbox, 'that if
, you and I were to go to the Circus where these ponies are, it would
do our constitutions good.'
'Does that mean amuse us?' inquired Polly. 'What long words
you do use, don't you?'
Apologetic for having wandered out of his depth, he replied:
'That means amuse us. That is exactly what it means. There
are many other wonders besides the ponies, and we shall see them
all. Ladies and gentlemen in spangled dresses, and elephants and
lions and tigers.'
Polly became observant of the teapot, with a curled-up nose in-
dicating some uneasiness of mind.
'They never get out, of course,' she remarked as a mere truism.
'The elephants and lions and tigers? Oh, dear no!'
'Oh, dear no ! ' said Polly. 'And of course nobody 's afraid of the
ponies shooting anybody.'
'Not the least in the world.'
'No, no, not the least in the world,' said Polly.
'I was also thinking,' proceeded Barbox, 'that if we were to look
in at the toy shop, to choose a doll â '
'Not dressed I ' cried Polly with a clap of her hands. 'No, no, no,
'Full-dressed. Together with a house, and all things necessary
for house-keeping â '
Polly gave a little scream, and seemed in danger of falling into
a swoon of bliss.
'What a darling you are!' she languidly exclaimed, leaning back
in her chair. 'Come and be hugged, or I must come and hug you.'
This resplendent programme was carried into execution with
the utmost rigour of the law. It being essential to make the pur-
chase of the doll its first feature â or that lady would have lost the
ponies â the toy-shop expedition took precedence. Polly in the
magic warehouse, with a doll as large as herself under each arm,
and a neat assortment of some twenty more on view upon the
counter, did indeed present a spectacle of indecision not quite com-
patible with unalloyed happiness, but the light cloud passed. The
lovely specimen oftenest chosen, oftenest rejected, and finally
38 MUGBY JUNCTION
abided by, was of Circassian descent, possessing as much boldness
of beauty as was reconcilable with extreme feebleness of mouth,
and combining a sky-blue silk pelisse with rose-coloured satin
trousers, and a black velvet hat: which this fair stranger to our
northern shores would seem to have founded on the portraits of the
late Duchess of Kent. The name this distinguished foreigner
brough with her from beneath the glowing skies of a sunny clime
was (on Polly's authority) Miss Melluka, and the costly nature of
her outfit as a housekeeper, from the Barbox coffers, may be in-
ferred from the two facts that her silver tea-spoons were as large
as her kitchen poker, and that the proportions of her watch ex-
ceeded those of her frying-pan. Miss Melluka was graciously
pleased to express her entire approbation of the Circus, and so was
Polly; for the ponies were speckled, and brought down nobody
when they fired, and the savagery of the wild beasts appeared to be
mere smoke â which article, in fact, they did produce in large quan-
tities from their insides. The Barbox absorption in the general sub-
ject throughout the realisation of these delights was again a sight
to see, nor was it less worthy to behold at dinner, when he drank to
Miss Melluka, tied stiff in a chair, opposite to Polly (the fair Cir-
cassian possessing an unbendable spine), and even induced the
waiter to assist in carrying out with due decorum the prevailing
glorious idea. To wind up, there came the agreeable fever of get-
ting Miss Melluka and all her wardrobe and rich possessions into a
fly with Polly, to be taken home. But, by that time, Polly had be-
come unable to look upon such accumulated joys with waking eyes,
and had withdrawn her consciousness into the wonderful Paradise
of a child's sleep. 'Sleep, Polly, sleep,' said Barbox Brothers, as her
head dropped on his shoulder; 'you shall not fall out of this bed
easily, at any rate ! '
What rustling piece of paper he took from his pocket, and care-
fully folded into the bosom of Polly's frock, shall not be mentioned.
He said nothing about it, and nothing shall be said about it. They
drove to a modest surburb of the great ingenious town, and stopped
at the fore-court of a small house. 'Do not wake the child,' said
Barbox Brothers softly to the driver; 'I will carry her in as she is.'
Greeting the light at the opened door which was held by Polly's
mother, Polly's bearer passed on with mother and child into a
ground-floor room. There, stretched on a sofa, lay a sick man,
sorely wasted, who covered his eyes with his emaciated hands.
MUGBY JUNCTION 39
'Tresham,' said Barbox in a kindly voice, 'I have brought you
back your Polly, fast asleep. Give me your hand, and tell me you
The sick man reached forth his right hand, and bowed his head
over the hand into which it was taken, and kissed it. Thank you,
thank you! I may say that I am well and happy.'
That 's brave,' said Barbox. Tresham, I have a fancy â Can
you make room for me beside you here?'
He sat down on the sofa as he said the words, cherishing the
plump, peachy cheek that lay uppermost on his shoulder.
T have a fancy, Tresham (I am getting quite an old fellow now,
you know, and old fellows may take fancies into their heads some-
times), to give up Polly, having found her, to no one but you. Will
you take her from me?'
As the father held out his arms for the child, each of the two men
looked steadily at the other.
'She is very dear to you, Tresham?'
'God bless her! It is not much, Polly,' he continued, turning his
eyes upon her peaceful face as he apostrophized her, 'it is not much,
Polly, for a blind and sinful man to invoke a blessing on something
so far better than himself as a little child is; but it would be much
â much upon his cruel head, and much upon his guilty soul â if he
could be so wicked as to invoke a curse. He had better have a mill-
stone round his neck, and be cast into the deepest sea. Live and
thrive, my pretty baby!' Here he kissed her. 'Live and prosper,
and become in time the mother of other little children, like the
Angels who behold The Father's face! '
He kissed her again, gave her up gently to both her parents, and
But he went not to Wales. No, he never went to Wales. He
went straightway for another stroll about the town, and he looked
in upon the people at their work, and at their play, here, there,
everywhere, and where not. For he was Barbox Brothers and Co.
now, and had taken thousands of partners into the solitary firm.
He had at length got back to his hotel room, and was standing
before his fire refreshing himself with a glass of hot drink which he
had stood upon the chimney-piece, when he heard the town clocks
striking, and, referring to his watch, found the evening to have so
slipped away, that they were striking twelve. As he put up his
40 MUGBY JUNCTION
watch again, his eyes met those of his reflection in the chimney-
'Why, it 's your birthday already/ he said, smiling. 'You are
looking very well. I wish you many happy returns of the day.'
He had never before bestowed that wish upon himself. 'By Ju-
piter!' he discovered, 'it alters the whole case of running away from
one's birthday! It 's a thing to explain to Phoebe. Besides, here is
quite a long story to tell her, that has sprung out of the road with
no story. 'I '11 go back, instead of going on. I '11 go back by my
friend Lamps's Up X presently.'
He went back to Mugby Junction, and, in point of fact, he es-
tablished himself at Mugby Junction. It was the convenient place
to live in, for brightening Phoebe's life. It was the convenient place
to live in, for having her taught music by Beatrice. It was the con-
venient place to live in, for occasionally borrowing Polly. It was
the convenient place to live in, for being joined at will to all sorts
of agreeable places and persons. So, he became settled there, and,
his house standing in an elevated situation, it is noteworthy of him
in conclusion, as Polly herself might (not irreverently) have put it:
'There was an Old Barbox who lived on a hill,
And if he ain't gone, he lives there still.'
Here follows the substance of what was seen, heard, or
OTHERWISE PICKED UP, BY THE GeNTLEMAN FOR NoWHERE, IN
HIS CAREFUL STUDY OF THE JUNCTION.
MAIN line: the boy AT MUGBY
I AM the boy at Mugby. That's about what / am.
You don't know what I mean? What a pity! But I think you
do. I think you must. Look here. I am the boy at what is called
The Refreshment Room at Mugby Junction, and what 's proudest
boast is, that it never yet refreshed a mortal being.
Up in a corner of the Down Refreshment Room at Mugby Junc-
tion, in the height of twenty-seven cross draughts (I 've often
MUGBY JUNCTION 41
counted 'em while they brush the First-Class hair twenty-seven
ways), behind the bottles, among the glasses, bounded on the nor'-
west by the beer, stood pretty far to the right of a metallic object
that's at times the tea-urn and at times the soup-tureen, according
to the nature of the last twang imparted to its contents which are
the same ground-work, fended off from the traveller by a barrier of
stale sponge-cakes erected atop of the counter, and lastly exposed
sideways to the glare of Our Missis's eye â you ask a Boy so siti-
wated, next time you stop in a hurry at Mugby, for anvlhing to
drink; you take particular notice that he '11 try to seem not to hear
you, that he "11 appear in a absent manner to survey the Line
through a transparent medium composed of your head and body,
and that he won't serve you as long as you can possibly bear it.
That 's me.
What a lark it is! We are the Model Establishment, we are, at
Mugby. Other Refreshment Rooms send their imperfect young
ladies up to be finished off by Our Missis. For some of the young
ladies, when they 're new to the business, come into it mild! Ah!
Our Missis, she soon takes that out of 'em. Why, I originally come
into the business meek myself. But Our Missis, she soon took that
out of me.
What a delightful lark it is! I look upon us Refreshmenters as
ockipying the only proudly independent footing on the Line.
There 's Papers, for instance, â my honourable friend, if he will
allow me to call him so, â him as belongs to Smith's bookstall.
Why, he no more dares to be up to our Refreshmenting games than
he dares to jump atop of a locomotive with her steam at full pres-
sure, and cut away upon her alone, driving himself, at limited-mail
speed. Papers, he 'd get his head punched at every compartment,
first, second, and third, the whole length of a train, if he was to
ventur to imitate my demeanour. It 's the same with the porters,
the same with the guards, the same with the ticket clerks, the same
the whole way up to the secretary, traffic-manager, or very chair-
man. There ain't a one among 'em on the nobly independent foot-
ing we are. Did you ever catch one of them, when you wanted any-
thing of him, making a system of surveying the Line through a
transparent medium composed of your head and body? I should
You should see our Bandolining Room at Mugby Junction. It's
led to by the door behind the counter, which you '11 notice usually
42 MUGBY JUNCTION
stands ajar, and it 's the room where Our Missis and our young
ladies Bandolines their hair. You should see 'em at it, betwixt
trains. Bandolining away, as if they was anointing themselves for
the combat. When you 're telegraphed, you should see their noses
all a-going up with scorn, as if it was a part of the working of the
same Cooke and Wheatstone electrical machinery. You should
hear Our Missis give the word, 'Here comes the Beast to be Fed!'
and then you should see 'em indignantly skipping across the Line,