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would not deny ; there is no people upon earth it would not
put to shame."

The Chemist clasped his hands, and looked, with trem-
bling fear and pity, from the sleeping boy to the Phantom, stand-
ing above him with its finger pointing down.

"Behold, I say," pursued the Spectre, "the perfect type
of what it was your choice to be. Your influence is powerless
here, because from this child's bosom you can banish nothing.
His thoughts have been in ' terrible companionship ' with yours,
because you have gone down to his unnatural level. He is
the growth of man's indifference ; you are the growth of man's
presumption. The beneficent design of Heaven is, in each
case, overthrown, and from the two poles of the immaterial
world you come together."

The Chemist stooped upon the ground beside the boy, and,
with the same kind of compassion for him that he now felt for
himself, covered him as he slept, and no longer shrunk from
him with abhorrence or indifference.

Soon, now, the distant line on the horizon brightened, the
darkness faded, the sun rose red and glorious, and the chim-
ney stacks and gables of the ancient building gleamed in the
clear air, which turned the smoke and vapor of the city into
a cloud of gold. The very sun-dial in his shady corner, where
the wind was used to spin with such un -windy constancy,
shook off the finer particles of snow that had accumulated on
his dull old face in the night, and looked out at the little white
wreaths eddying round and round him. Doubtless some
blind groping of the morning made its way down into the for-
gotten crypt so cold and earthy, where the Norman arches
were half buried in the ground, and stirred tne dull deep sap
in the lazy vegetation hanging to the walls, and quickeriCd the
slow principle of life within the little world of wonderful and
delicate creation which existed there with some faint knowledge
that the sun was up.

The Tetterbys were up, and doing. Mr. Tetterby took
down the shutters of the shop, and, strip by strip, revealed
the treasures of the window to the eyes, so proof against their
seductions, of Jerusalem Buildings. Adolphus had been out
so long already, that he was halfway on to the Morning Pep-
per. Five small Tetterbys, whose ten round eyes were much
inflamed by soap and friction, were in the tortures of a cool


wash in' the back kitchen ; Mrs. Tetterby presiding. Johnny,
who was pushed and hustled through his toilet with great
rapidity when Moloch chanced to be in an exacting frame of
mind (which was always the case), staggered up and down with
his charge before the shop door, under greater difficulties
than usual ; the weight of Moloch being much increased by a
complication of defences against the cold, composed of knitted
worsted-work, and forming a complete suit of chain-armor,
with a head-piece and blue-gaiters.

It was a peculiarity of this baby to be always cutting teeth.
Whether they never came, or whether they came and went
away again, is not in evidence ; but it had certainly cut enough,
on the showing of Mrs. Tetterby, to make a handsome dental
provision for the sign of the Bull and Mouth. All sorts of
objects were impressed for the rubbing of its gums, notwith-
standing that it always carried, dangling at its waist (which
was immediately under its chin), a bone ring, large enough to
have represented the rosary of a young nun. Knife-handles,
umbrella-tops, the heads of walking-sticks selected from the
stock, the fingers of the family in general, but especially of
Johnny, nutmeg-graters, crusts, the handles of doors, and the
cool knobs on the tops of pokers, were among the commonest
instrument indiscriminately applied for this baby's relief. The
amount of electricity that must have been rubbed out of it in
a week, is not to be calculated. Still Mrs. Tetterby always
said " it was coming through, and then the child would be
herself ; " and still it never did come through, and the child
continued to be somebody else.

The tempers of the little Tetterbys had sadly changed with
a few hours. Mr. and Mrs. Tetterby themselves were not
more altered than their offspring. Usually they were an un-
selfish, good-natured, yielding little race, sharing short-commons
when it happened (which was pretty often) contentedly and even
generously, and taking a great deal of enjoyment out of a very
little meat. But they were fighting now, not only for the
soap and water, but even for the breakfast which was yet in
perspective. The hand of every little Tetterby was against
the other little Tetterbys ; and even Johnny's hand — the
patient, much-enduring, and devoted Johnny — rose against the
bady ! Yes, Mrs. Tetterby, going to the door by a mere
accident, saw him viciously pick out a weak place in the suit
of armor where a slap would tell, and slap that blessed child.

Mrs. Tetterby had him into the parlor by the collar, in


that same flash of time, and repaid him the assault with usury

" You brute, you murdering little boy," said Mrs. Tetterby.
" Had you the heart to do it ? "

" Why don't your teeth come through, then," retorted
Johnny, in a loud rebellious voice, "instead of bothering me ?
How would you like it yourself ? "

" Like it, sir ! " said Mrs. Tetterby, relieving him of his
dishonored load.

" Yes, like it," said Johnny. " How would you ? Not at
all. If you was me, you'd go for a soldier. I will, too.
There an't no babies in the army."

Mr. Tetterby, who had arrived upon the scene of action,
rubbed his chin thoughtfully, instead of correcting the rebel,
and seemed rather struck by this view of a military life.

■" I wish I was in the army myself, if the child's in the
right," said Mrs. Tetterby, looking at her husband, " for I
have no peace of my life here. I'm a slave — a Virginia
slave ; " some indistinct association with their weak descent on
the tobacco trade perhaps suggested this aggravated expres-
sion to Mrs. Tetterby. '" I never have a holiday, or any
pleasure at all, from year's end to year's end 1 Why, Lord
bless and save the child," said Mrs. Tetterby, shaking the
baby with an irritability hardly suited to so pious an aspira-
tion, " what's the matter with her now ? "

Not being able to discover, and not rendering the subject
much clearer by shaking it, Mrs. Tetterby put the baby away
in a cradle, and, folding her arms, sat rocking it angrily with
her foot.

" How you stand there, 'Dolphus," said Mrs. Tetterby to
her husband. " Why don't you do something ? "

" Because I don't care about doing anything," Mr. Tetterby

" I am sure /don't," said Mrs. Tetterby.

"I'll take my oath /don't," said Mr. Tetterby.

A diversion arose here among Johnny and his five youn-
ger brothers, who, in preparing the family breakfast table, had
fallen to skirmishing for ihe temporary possession of the loaf,
and were buffeting one another with great heartiness ; the
smallest boy of all, with precocious discretion, hovering out-
side the knot of combatants, and harassing their legs. Into
the midst of this fray, Mr. and Mrs. Tetterby both precipitated
themselves with great ardor, as if such ground were the only


ground on which they could now agree ; and having, with no
visible remains of their late soft-heartedness, laid about them
without any lenity, and done much execution, resumed their
former relative positions.

" Ycu had better read your paper than do nothing at all,"
said Mrs. Tetterby.

" What's there to read in a paper ? " returned Mr. Tetter-
by, with excessive discontent.

"What ? " said Mrs. Tetterby. " Police."

" It's nothing to me," said Tetterby. " What do I care
what people do, or are done to."

" Suicides," suggested Mrs. Tetterby.

" No business of mine," replied her husband.

" Births, deaths, and marriages, are those nothing to you ?"
said Mrs. Tetterby.

" If the births were all over for good, and all to-day ; and
the deaths were all to begin to come off to-morrow ; I don't
see why it should interest me, till I thought it was a-coming
to my turn," grumbled Tetterby. '"As to marriages, I've
done it myself. I know quite enough about theiji."

To judge from the dissatisfied expression of her face and,
manner, Mrs. Tetterby appeared to entertain the same opin-
ions as her husband ; but she opposed him, nevertheless, for
the gratification of quarrelling with him.

" Oh, you're a consistent man," said Mrs. Tetterby, " an't
you ? You, with the screen of your own making there, made
of nothing else but bits of newspapers, which you sit and read
to the children by the half-hour together ! "

" Say used to, if you please," returned her husband. " You
won't find me doing so any more. I'm wiser, now."

" Bah ! wiser, indeed ! " said Mrs. Tetterby. " Are you
better ? "

The question sounded some discordant note in Mr. Tet-
terby's breast. He ruminated dejectedly, and passed his
hand across and across his forehead.

" Better ! " murmured Mr. Tetterby. " I don't know as
any of us are better, or happier either. Better, is it ? "

He turned to the screen, and traced about it with his
finger, until he found a certain paragraph of which he was in

" This used to be one of the family favorites, I recollect,"
said Tetterby, in a forlorn and stupid way, " and used to draw
tears from the children, and make 'em good, if there was any


little bickering or discontent among 'em, next to the story of
the robin redbreasts in the wood. ' Melancholy case of
destitution. Yesterday a small man, with a baby in his arms,
and surrounded by half-a-dozen ragged little ones, of various
ages between ten and two, the whole of Avhom were evidently
in a famishing condition, appeared before the worthy magis-
trate, and made the following recital : ' — Ha ! I don't under-
stand it, I'm sure," said Tetterby; "I don't see what it has
got to do with us."

" How old and shabby he looks," said Mrs. Tetterby,
watching him. " I never saw such a change in a man. Ah !
dear me, dear me, dear me, it was a sacrifice ! "

" What was a sacrifice ? " her husband sourly inquired.
Mrs. Tetterby shook her head ; and without replying in
words, raised a complete sea-storm about the baby, by her
violent agitation of the cradle.

" If you mean your marriage was a sacrifice, my good
woman — " said her husband.

" I do mean it," said his wife.

"Why, then I mean to say," pursued Mr. Tetterby, as
sulkily and surlily as she, " that there are two sides to that
affair ; and that / was the sacrifice ; and that I wish the
sacrifice hadn't been accepted."

" I wish it hadn't Tetterby, with all my heart and soul I
do assure you," said his wife. " You can't wish it more than
I do, Tetterby."

I don't know what I saw in her," muttered the news-
man, " I'm sure : — certainly, if I saw anything, it's not there
now. I was thinking so, last night, after supper, by the fire
She's fat, she's ageing, she won't bear comparison with most
other women."

" He's common-looking, he has no air with him, he's
small, he's beginning to stoop, and he's getting bald,"
muttered Mrs. Tetterby.

" I must have been half out of my mind when I did it,"
muttered Mr. Tetterby.

" My senses must have forsook me. That's the only
way in which I can explain it to myself," said Mrs. Tetterby,
with elaboration.

In this mood they sat down to breakfast. The little
Tetterbys were not habituated to regard that meal in the light
of a sedentary occupation, but discussed it as a dance or trot;
rather resembling a savage ceremony, in the occasional shrill


whoops, and brandishings of bread and butter, with which it
was accompanied, as well as the intricate filings off into the
street and back again, and the hoppings up and down the
doorsteps, which were incidental to the performance. In the
present instance, the contentions between these Tetterby chil-
dren for the milk-and-water jug, common to all, which stood
upon the table, presented so lamentable an instance of angiy
passions risen very high indeed, that it was an outrage on the
memory of Doctor Watts. Jt was not until Mr. Tetterby had
driven the whole herd out at the front door, that a moment's
peace was secured ; and even that was broken by the discovery
that Johnny had surreptitiously come back, and was at that
instant choking in the jug like a ventriloquist, in his indecent
and rapacious haste.

"These children will be the death of me at last ! " said
Mrs. Tetterby, after banishing the culprit. " And the sooner
the better, I think."

" Poor people," said Mr. Tetterby, " ought not to have
children at all. They give us no pleasure."

He was at that moment taking up the cup which Mrs.
Tetterby had rudely pushed tow^ards him, and Mrs. Tetterby
was lifting her own cup to her lips, when they were boti*
stopped, as if they were transfixed.

" Here ! Mother ! Father ! " cried Johnny, running in^
to the room. " Here's Mrs. William, coming down the
street ! "

And if ever, since the world began, a young boy took a
baby from a cradle with the care of an old nurse, and hushed
and soothed it tenderly, and tottered away with it cheerfully,
Johnny was that boy, and Moloch was that baby, as they went
out together !

Mr. Tetterby put down his cup ; Mrs. Tetterby put down
her cup. Mr. Tetterby rubbed his forehead ; Mrs. Tetterby
rubbed hers. Mr. Tetterby's face began to smooth and
brighten ; Mrs. Tetterby's began to smooth and brighten.

" Why, Lord forgive me," said Mr. Tetterby to himself,
*'what evil tempers have I been giving way to ? What has
been the matter here ! "

" How could I ever tr^at him ill again, after all I said and
felt last night ! " sobbed Mrs. Tetterby, with her apron to her

" Am I a brute," said Mr. Tetterby, " or is there any
good in mc at all ? Sophia ! My little woman 1 "


" 'Dolphus dear," returned his wife.

" I — I've been in a state of mind," said Mr. Tetterby,
" that I can't abear to think of, Sophy."

" Oh! It's nothing to what I've been in, Dolf," cried his
wife in a great burst of grief.

"My Sophia," said Mr. Tetterby, "don't take on. I
never shall forgive myself. I must have nearly broke your
heart, I know."

" No, Dolf, no. It was me ! Me ! " cried Mrs. Tetterby.

" My little woman," said her husband, "don't. You make
me reproach myself dreadful, when you show such a noble
spirit. Sophia, my dear, you don't know what I thought. I
showed it bad enough, no doubt ; but what I thought, my
little woman ! " —

" Oh, dear Dolf, don't ! Don't ! " cried his wife.

" Sophia," said Mr. Tetterby, " I must reveal it. I
couldn't rest in my conscience unless I mentioned it. My
little woman "

" Mrs. William's very nearly here ! " screamed Johnny at
the door.

"My little woman, I wondered how," gasped Mr. Tetterby,
supporting himself by his chair, " I wondered how 1 had ever
admired you — I forgot the precious children you have
brought about me, and thought you didn't look as slim as I
could wish. I — I never gave a recollection," said Mr. Tet-
terby, with severe self-accusation, " to the cares you've had
as my wife, and along of me and mine, when you might have
had hardly any with another man, who got on better and was
luckier than me (anybody might have found such a man
easily I am sure) ; and I quarrelled with you for having aged
a little in the rough years you have lightened for me. Can
you believe it, my little woman ? I hardly can myself."

Mrs. Tetterby, in a whirlwind of laughing and crying,
caught his face within her hands, and held it there.

" Oh, Dolf ! " she cried. " I am so happy that you thought
so ; I am so grateful that you thought so ! For I thought
that you were common-looking, Dolf ; and so you are, my
dear, and may you be the commonest of ail sights in my eyes,
till you close them with your own good hands. I thought
that you were small ; and so you are , and I'll make much of
you because you are, and more of you because I love my
husband. I thought that you began to stoop ; and so you
do, and you shall lean on me, and I'll do all I can to keep



you up. I thoiight there was no air about you ; but there is
and it's the air of home, and that's the purest and the best
there is, and God bless home once more, and all belonging
to it, Dolf ! "

" Hurrah ! Here's Mrs. William ! " cried Johnny.

So she was, and all the children with her; and as she
came in, they kissed her, and kissed one another, and kissed
the baby, and kissed their father and mother, and then ran
back and flocked and danced about her, trooping on with her
in triumph,

Mr. and Mr§. Tetterby were not a bit behind-hand in the
warmth of their reception. They were as much attracted to
her as the children were ; they ran towards her, kissed her
hands, pressed round her, could not receive her ardently or
enthusiastically enough. She came among them like the
spirit of all goodness, affection, gentle consideration, love,
and domesticity.

" What ! are you all so glad to see me, too, this bright
Christmas morning ? " said Milly, clapping her hands in a
pleasant wonder. " Oh dear, how delightful this is ! "

More shouting from the children, more kissing, more troop-
ing round her, more happiness, more love, more joy, more
honor, on all sides, than she could bear.

" Oh dear ! " said Milly, " what delicious tears you make
me shed. How can I ever have deserved this ! What have
I done to be so loved ? "

" Who can help it ! " cried Mr. Tetterby.

" Who can help it ! " cried Mrs. Tetterby.

"Who can help it!" echoed the children, in a joyful
chorus. And they danced and trooped about her again, and
clung to her, and laid their rosy faces against her dress, and
kissed and fondled it, and could not fondle it, or her, enough.

" I never was so moved," said Milly, drying her eyes, "as
I have been this morning. I must tell you, as soon as I can
speak. — Mr. Redlaw came to me at sunrise, and with a ten-
derness in his manner, more as if I had been his darling
daughter than myself, implored me to go with him to where
William's brother George is lying ill. We went together, and
all the way along he was so kind, and so subdued, and seemed
to put such trust and hope in me, that I could not help crying
with pleasure. When we got to the house, we met a woman
at the door (somebody had bruised and hurt her, I am afraid)
who caught me by the hand, and blessed me as I passed."


" She was right," said Mr. Tetterby. Mrs. Tetterby said
she was right. All the children cried out she was right.

" Ah, but there's more than that," said Milly. " When we
got up stairs, into the room, the sick man, who had lain for
hours in a state from which no effort could rouse him, rose
up in his bed, and, bursting into tears, stretched out his arms
to me, and said that he had led a mis-spent life, but that he
was truly repentant now, in his sorrow for the past, which was
all as plain to him as a great prospect, from which a dense
black cloud had cleared away, and that he entreated me to
ask his poor old father for his pardon and his blessing, and to
say a prayer beside his bed. And when I did so, Mr. Redlaw
joined in it so fervently, and then so thanked and thanked
me, and thanked Heaven, that my heart quite overflowed,
and I could have done nothing but sob and cry, if the sick
man had not begged me to sit down by him, — which made
me quiet of course. As I sat there, he held my hand i-n his
until he sunk in a doze ; and even then, when I withdrew my
hand to leave him to come here (which Mr. Redlaw was very
earnest indeed in wishing me to do), his hand felt for mine,
so that some one else was obliged to take my place and make
believe to give him my hand back. Oh dear, oh dear," said
Milly, sobbing. " How thankful and how happy I should
feel, and do feel, for all this ! "

While she was speaking, Redlaw had come in, and, aftef
pausing for a moment to observe the group of which she was
the centre, had silently ascended the stairs. Upon those
stairs he now appeared again ; remaining there, while the
young student passed him, and came running down.

"Kind nurse, gentlest, best of creatures," he said, falling
on his knee to her, and catching at her hand, " forgive my
cruel ingratitude ! "

" Oh dear, oh dear ! " cried Milly innocently, " here's
another of them ! Oh dear, here's somebody else who likes
me. What shall I ever do ! "

The guileless, simple way in which she said it, and in
which she put her hands before her eyes and wept for very
happiness, was as touching as it was delightful.

"I was not myself," he said. " I don't know what it was
— it was some consequence of my disorder perhaps — T was
mad. But I am so no longer. Almost as I speak, I am
restored. I heard the children crying out your name, and
the shade passed from me at the very sound of it. Oh don't


weep ! Dear Milly, if you could read my heart, and only
know witl? what affection and what grateful homage it is
glowing, you would not let me see you weep. It is such deep

" No, no," said Milly, " it's not that. It's not indeed.
It's joy. It's wonder that you should think it necessary to
ask me to forgive so little, and yet it's pleasure that you do."

" And will you come again .? and will you finish the little
curtain .'' "

" No," said Milly, drying her eyes, and shaking her head.
" Yo.u won't care ioxmy needlework now."

" Is it forgiving me, to say that t "

She beckoned him aside, and whispered in his ear.

" There is news from your home, Mr. Edmund."

" News ? How t "

" Either your not writing when you were very ill, or the
change in you handwriting when you began to be better,

created some suspicion of the truth ; however that is- but

you're sure you'll not be the worse for any news, if it's not
bad news ? "

" Sure."

" Then there's some one come ! " said Milly.

" My mother ? " asked the student, glancing round invol-
untarily towards Redlaw, who had come down from the stairs.

" Hush I No," said Milly.

" It can be no one else."

" Indeed," said Milly, " are you sure ? "

*' It is not " . Before he could say more, she put her

hand close upon his mouth.

" Yes it is ! " said Milly. " The young lady (she is very
like the miniature, Mr. Edmund, but she is prettier) was too
unhappy to rest without satisfying her doubts, and came up,
last night, with a little servant-maid. As you always dated
your letters from the college, she came there ; and before I
saw Mr, Redlaw this morning, I saw her. She likes me too ! "
said Milly. " Oh dear, that's another .? "

" This morning \ Where is she now ? "

" Why, she is now," said Milly, advancing her lips to his
ear, " in my little parlor in the Lodge, and waiting to seei

you-" . ^

He pressed her hand, and was darting off, but she detamed

" Mr, Redlaw is much altered, and has told me this morn-



ing that his memory is impaired. Be very considerate tohira,
Mr. Edmund ; he needs that from us all."

The young man assured her, by a look, that her cautioq
was not ill-bestowed ; and as he passed the Chemist on his
way out, bent respectfully and with an obvious interest before

Redlaw returned the salutation courteously and even
humbly, and looked after him as he passed on. He drooped
his head upon his hand too, as trying to re-awaken something
he had lost. But it was gone.

The abiding change that had come upon him since the
influence of the music, and the Phantom's reappearance, was,
that now he truly felt how much he had lost, and could com-
passionate his own condition, and contrast it, clearly, with the
natural state of those who were around him. In this, an in-
terest in those who were around him was revived, and a meek,
submissive sense of his calamity was bred, resembling that
sometimes obtains in age, when its mental powers are weak-
ened, without insensibility or sullenness being added to the
list of its infirmities.

He was conscious that, as he redeemed, through Milly,
more and more of the evil he had done, and as he was more
and more with her, this change ripened itself within him.
Therefore and because of the attachment she inspired him
with (but without other hope)^ he felt that he was quite de-
pendent on her, and that she was his staff in his affliction.

So, when she asked him whether they should go home now,
to where the old man and her husband were, and he readily
replied " yes " — being anxious in that regard — he put his
arm through hers, and walked beside her ; not as if he were

Online LibraryCharles DickensChristmas stories → online text (page 35 of 36)