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Mugby Junction

CHAPTER I--BARBOX BROTHERS


I.


"Guard! What place is this?"

"Mugby Junction, sir."

"A windy place!"

"Yes, it mostly is, sir."

"And looks comfortless indeed!"

"Yes, it generally does, sir."

"Is it a rainy night still?"

"Pours, sir."

"Open the door. I'll get out."

"You'll have, sir," said the guard, glistening with drops of wet, and
looking at the tearful face of his watch by the light of his lantern as
the traveller descended, "three minutes here."

"More, I think.--For I am not going on."

"Thought you had a through ticket, sir?"

"So I have, but I shall sacrifice the rest of it. I want my luggage."

"Please to come to the van and point it out, sir. Be good enough to look
very sharp, sir. Not a moment to spare."

The guard hurried to the luggage van, and the traveller hurried after
him. The guard got into it, and the traveller looked into it.

"Those two large black portmanteaus in the corner where your light
shines. Those are mine."

"Name upon 'em, sir?"

"Barbox Brothers."

"Stand clear, sir, if you please. One. Two. Right!"

Lamp waved. Signal lights ahead already changing. Shriek from engine.
Train gone.

"Mugby Junction!" said the traveller, pulling up the woollen muffler
round his throat with both hands. "At past three o'clock of a
tempestuous morning! So!"

He spoke to himself. There was no one else to speak to. Perhaps, though
there had been any one else to speak to, he would have preferred to speak
to himself. Speaking to himself he spoke to a man within five years of
fifty either way, who had turned grey too soon, like a neglected fire; a
man of pondering habit, brooding carriage of the head, and suppressed
internal voice; a man with many indications on him of having been much
alone.

He stood unnoticed on the dreary platform, except by the rain and by the
wind. Those two vigilant assailants made a rush at him. "Very well,"
said he, yielding. "It signifies nothing to me to what quarter I turn my
face."

Thus, at Mugby Junction, at past three o'clock of a tempestuous morning,
the traveller went where the weather drove him.

Not but what he could make a stand when he was so minded, for, coming to
the end of the roofed shelter (it is of considerable extent at Mugby
Junction), and looking out upon the dark night, with a yet darker spirit-
wing of storm beating its wild way through it, he faced about, and held
his own as ruggedly in the difficult direction as he had held it in the
easier one. Thus, with a steady step, the traveller went up and down, up
and down, up and down, seeking nothing and finding it.

A place replete with shadowy shapes, this Mugby Junction in the black
hours of the four-and-twenty. Mysterious goods trains, covered with
palls and gliding on like vast weird funerals, conveying themselves
guiltily away from the presence of the few lighted lamps, as if their
freight had come to a secret and unlawful end. Half-miles of coal
pursuing in a Detective manner, following when they lead, stopping when
they stop, backing when they back. Red-hot embers showering out upon the
ground, down this dark avenue, and down the other, as if torturing fires
were being raked clear; concurrently, shrieks and groans and grinds
invading the ear, as if the tortured were at the height of their
suffering. Iron-barred cages full of cattle jangling by midway, the
drooping beasts with horns entangled, eyes frozen with terror, and mouths
too: at least they have long icicles (or what seem so) hanging from their
lips. Unknown languages in the air, conspiring in red, green, and white
characters. An earthquake, accompanied with thunder and lightning, going
up express to London. Now, all quiet, all rusty, wind and rain in
possession, lamps extinguished, Mugby Junction dead and indistinct, with
its robe drawn over its head, like Caesar.

Now, too, as the belated traveller plodded up and down, a shadowy train
went by him in the gloom which was no other than the train of a life.
From whatsoever intangible deep cutting or dark tunnel it emerged, here
it came, unsummoned and unannounced, stealing upon him, and passing away
into obscurity. Here mournfully went by a child who had never had a
childhood or known a parent, inseparable from a youth with a bitter sense
of his namelessness, coupled to a man the enforced business of whose best
years had been distasteful and oppressive, linked to an ungrateful
friend, dragging after him a woman once beloved. Attendant, with many a
clank and wrench, were lumbering cares, dark meditations, huge dim
disappointments, monotonous years, a long jarring line of the discords of
a solitary and unhappy existence.

"--Yours, sir?"

The traveller recalled his eyes from the waste into which they had been
staring, and fell back a step or so under the abruptness, and perhaps the
chance appropriateness, of the question.

"Oh! My thoughts were not here for the moment. Yes. Yes. Those two
portmanteaus are mine. Are you a Porter?"

"On Porter's wages, sir. But I am Lamps."

The traveller looked a little confused.

"Who did you say you are?"

"Lamps, sir," showing an oily cloth in his hand, as farther explanation.

"Surely, surely. Is there any hotel or tavern here?"

"Not exactly here, sir. There is a Refreshment Room here, but--" Lamps,
with a mighty serious look, gave his head a warning roll that plainly
added--"but it's a blessed circumstance for you that it's not open."

"You couldn't recommend it, I see, if it was available?"

"Ask your pardon, sir. If it was--?"

"Open?"

"It ain't my place, as a paid servant of the company, to give my opinion
on any of the company's toepics,"--he pronounced it more like
toothpicks,--"beyond lamp-ile and cottons," returned Lamps in a
confidential tone; "but, speaking as a man, I wouldn't recommend my
father (if he was to come to life again) to go and try how he'd be
treated at the Refreshment Room. Not speaking as a man, no, I would
_not_."

The traveller nodded conviction. "I suppose I can put up in the town?
There is a town here?" For the traveller (though a stay-at-home compared
with most travellers) had been, like many others, carried on the steam
winds and the iron tides through that Junction before, without having
ever, as one might say, gone ashore there.

"Oh yes, there's a town, sir! Anyways, there's town enough to put up in.
But," following the glance of the other at his luggage, "this is a very
dead time of the night with us, sir. The deadest time. I might a'most
call it our deadest and buriedest time."

"No porters about?"

"Well, sir, you see," returned Lamps, confidential again, "they in
general goes off with the gas. That's how it is. And they seem to have
overlooked you, through your walking to the furder end of the platform.
But, in about twelve minutes or so, she may be up."

"Who may be up?"

"The three forty-two, sir. She goes off in a sidin' till the Up X
passes, and then she"--here an air of hopeful vagueness pervaded
Lamps--"does all as lays in her power."

"I doubt if I comprehend the arrangement."

"I doubt if anybody do, sir. She's a Parliamentary, sir. And, you see,
a Parliamentary, or a Skirmishun--"

"Do you mean an Excursion?"

"That's it, sir.--A Parliamentary or a Skirmishun, she mostly _does_ go
off into a sidin'. But, when she _can_ get a chance, she's whistled out
of it, and she's whistled up into doin' all as,"--Lamps again wore the
air of a highly sanguine man who hoped for the best,--"all as lays in her
power."

He then explained that the porters on duty, being required to be in
attendance on the Parliamentary matron in question, would doubtless turn
up with the gas. In the meantime, if the gentleman would not very much
object to the smell of lamp-oil, and would accept the warmth of his
little room--The gentleman, being by this time very cold, instantly
closed with the proposal.

A greasy little cabin it was, suggestive, to the sense of smell, of a
cabin in a Whaler. But there was a bright fire burning in its rusty
grate, and on the floor there stood a wooden stand of newly trimmed and
lighted lamps, ready for carriage service. They made a bright show, and
their light, and the warmth, accounted for the popularity of the room, as
borne witness to by many impressions of velveteen trousers on a form by
the fire, and many rounded smears and smudges of stooping velveteen
shoulders on the adjacent wall. Various untidy shelves accommodated a
quantity of lamps and oil-cans, and also a fragrant collection of what
looked like the pocket-handkerchiefs of the whole lamp family.

As Barbox Brothers (so to call the traveller on the warranty of his
luggage) took his seat upon the form, and warmed his now ungloved hands
at the fire, he glanced aside at a little deal desk, much blotched with
ink, which his elbow touched. Upon it were some scraps of coarse paper,
and a superannuated steel pen in very reduced and gritty circumstances.

From glancing at the scraps of paper, he turned involuntarily to his
host, and said, with some roughness:

"Why, you are never a poet, man?"

Lamps had certainly not the conventional appearance of one, as he stood
modestly rubbing his squab nose with a handkerchief so exceedingly oily,
that he might have been in the act of mistaking himself for one of his
charges. He was a spare man of about the Barbox Brothers time of life,
with his features whimsically drawn upward as if they were attracted by
the roots of his hair. He had a peculiarly shining transparent
complexion, probably occasioned by constant oleaginous application; and
his attractive hair, being cut short, and being grizzled, and standing
straight up on end as if it in its turn were attracted by some invisible
magnet above it, the top of his head was not very unlike a lamp-wick.

"But, to be sure, it's no business of mine," said Barbox Brothers. "That
was an impertinent observation on my part. Be what you like."

"Some people, sir," remarked Lamps in a tone of apology, "are sometimes
what they don't like."

"Nobody knows that better than I do," sighed the other. "I have been
what I don't like, all my life."

"When I first took, sir," resumed Lamps, "to composing little
Comic-Songs--like--"

Barbox Brothers eyed him with great disfavour.

"--To composing little Comic-Songs-like--and what was more hard--to
singing 'em afterwards," said Lamps, "it went against the grain at that
time, it did indeed."

Something that was not all oil here shining in Lamps's eye, Barbox
Brothers withdrew his own a little disconcerted, looked at the fire, and
put a foot on the top bar. "Why did you do it, then?" he asked after a
short pause; abruptly enough, but in a softer tone. "If you didn't want
to do it, why did you do it? Where did you sing them? Public-house?"

To which Mr. Lamps returned the curious reply: "Bedside."

At this moment, while the traveller looked at him for elucidation, Mugby
Junction started suddenly, trembled violently, and opened its gas eyes.
"She's got up!" Lamps announced, excited. "What lays in her power is
sometimes more, and sometimes less; but it's laid in her power to get up
to-night, by George!"

The legend "Barbox Brothers," in large white letters on two black
surfaces, was very soon afterwards trundling on a truck through a silent
street, and, when the owner of the legend had shivered on the pavement
half an hour, what time the porter's knocks at the Inn Door knocked up
the whole town first, and the Inn last, he groped his way into the close
air of a shut-up house, and so groped between the sheets of a shut-up bed
that seemed to have been expressly refrigerated for him when last made.

II.


"You remember me, Young Jackson?"

"What do I remember if not you? You are my first remembrance. It was
you who told me that was my name. It was you who told me that on every
twentieth of December my life had a penitential anniversary in it called
a birthday. I suppose the last communication was truer than the first!"

"What am I like, Young Jackson?"

"You are like a blight all through the year to me. You hard-lined, thin-
lipped, repressive, changeless woman with a wax mask on. You are like
the Devil to me; most of all when you teach me religious things, for you
make me abhor them."

"You remember me, Mr. Young Jackson?" In another voice from another
quarter.

"Most gratefully, sir. You were the ray of hope and prospering ambition
in my life. When I attended your course, I believed that I should come
to be a great healer, and I felt almost happy--even though I was still
the one boarder in the house with that horrible mask, and ate and drank
in silence and constraint with the mask before me, every day. As I had
done every, every, every day, through my school-time and from my earliest
recollection."

"What am I like, Mr. Young Jackson?"

"You are like a Superior Being to me. You are like Nature beginning to
reveal herself to me. I hear you again, as one of the hushed crowd of
young men kindling under the power of your presence and knowledge, and
you bring into my eyes the only exultant tears that ever stood in them."

"You remember Me, Mr. Young Jackson?" In a grating voice from quite
another quarter.

"Too well. You made your ghostly appearance in my life one day, and
announced that its course was to be suddenly and wholly changed. You
showed me which was my wearisome seat in the Galley of Barbox Brothers.
(When _they_ were, if they ever were, is unknown to me; there was nothing
of them but the name when I bent to the oar.) You told me what I was to
do, and what to be paid; you told me afterwards, at intervals of years,
when I was to sign for the Firm, when I became a partner, when I became
the Firm. I know no more of it, or of myself."

"What am I like, Mr. Young Jackson?"

"You are like my father, I sometimes think. You are hard enough and cold
enough so to have brought up an acknowledged son. I see your scanty
figure, your close brown suit, and your tight brown wig; but you, too,
wear a wax mask to your death. You never by a chance remove it--it never
by a chance falls off--and I know no more of you."

Throughout this dialogue, the traveller spoke to himself at his window in
the morning, as he had spoken to himself at the Junction overnight. And
as he had then looked in the darkness, a man who had turned grey too
soon, like a neglected fire: so he now looked in the sun-light, an ashier
grey, like a fire which the brightness of the sun put out.

The firm of Barbox Brothers had been some offshoot or irregular branch of
the Public Notary and bill-broking tree. It had gained for itself a
griping reputation before the days of Young Jackson, and the reputation
had stuck to it and to him. As he had imperceptibly come into possession
of the dim den up in the corner of a court off Lombard Street, on whose
grimy windows the inscription Barbox Brothers had for many long years
daily interposed itself between him and the sky, so he had insensibly
found himself a personage held in chronic distrust, whom it was essential
to screw tight to every transaction in which he engaged, whose word was
never to be taken without his attested bond, whom all dealers with openly
set up guards and wards against. This character had come upon him
through no act of his own. It was as if the original Barbox had
stretched himself down upon the office floor, and had thither caused to
be conveyed Young Jackson in his sleep, and had there effected a
metempsychosis and exchange of persons with him. The discovery--aided in
its turn by the deceit of the only woman he had ever loved, and the
deceit of the only friend he had ever made: who eloped from him to be
married together--the discovery, so followed up, completed what his
earliest rearing had begun. He shrank, abashed, within the form of
Barbox, and lifted up his head and heart no more.

But he did at last effect one great release in his condition. He broke
the oar he had plied so long, and he scuttled and sank the galley. He
prevented the gradual retirement of an old conventional business from
him, by taking the initiative and retiring from it. With enough to live
on (though, after all, with not too much), he obliterated the firm of
Barbox Brothers from the pages of the Post-Office Directory and the face
of the earth, leaving nothing of it but its name on two portmanteaus.

"For one must have some name in going about, for people to pick up," he
explained to Mugby High Street, through the Inn window, "and that name at
least was real once. Whereas, Young Jackson!--Not to mention its being a
sadly satirical misnomer for Old Jackson."

He took up his hat and walked out, just in time to see, passing along on
the opposite side of the way, a velveteen man, carrying his day's dinner
in a small bundle that might have been larger without suspicion of
gluttony, and pelting away towards the Junction at a great pace.

"There's Lamps!" said Barbox Brothers. "And by the bye--"

Ridiculous, surely, that a man so serious, so self-contained, and not yet
three days emancipated from a routine of drudgery, should stand rubbing
his chin in the street, in a brown study about Comic Songs.

"Bedside?" said Barbox Brothers testily. "Sings them at the bedside? Why
at the bedside, unless he goes to bed drunk? Does, I shouldn't wonder.
But it's no business of mine. Let me see. Mugby Junction, Mugby
Junction. Where shall I go next? As it came into my head last night
when I woke from an uneasy sleep in the carriage and found myself here, I
can go anywhere from here. Where shall I go? I'll go and look at the
Junction by daylight. There's no hurry, and I may like the look of one
Line better than another."

But there were so many Lines. Gazing down upon them from a bridge at the
Junction, it was as if the concentrating Companies formed a great
Industrial Exhibition of the works of extraordinary ground spiders that
spun iron. And then so many of the Lines went such wonderful ways, so
crossing and curving among one another, that the eye lost them. And then
some of them appeared to start with the fixed intention of going five
hundred miles, and all of a sudden gave it up at an insignificant
barrier, or turned off into a workshop. And then others, like
intoxicated men, went a little way very straight, and surprisingly slued
round and came back again. And then others were so chock-full of trucks
of coal, others were so blocked with trucks of casks, others were so
gorged with trucks of ballast, others were so set apart for wheeled
objects like immense iron cotton-reels: while others were so bright and
clear, and others were so delivered over to rust and ashes and idle
wheelbarrows out of work, with their legs in the air (looking much like
their masters on strike), that there was no beginning, middle, or end to
the bewilderment.

Barbox Brothers stood puzzled on the bridge, passing his right hand
across the lines on his forehead, which multiplied while he looked down,
as if the railway Lines were getting themselves photographed on that
sensitive plate. Then was heard a distant ringing of bells and blowing
of whistles. Then, puppet-looking heads of men popped out of boxes in
perspective, and popped in again. Then, prodigious wooden razors, set up
on end, began shaving the atmosphere. Then, several locomotive engines
in several directions began to scream and be agitated. Then, along one
avenue a train came in. Then, along another two trains appeared that
didn't come in, but stopped without. Then, bits of trains broke off.
Then, a struggling horse became involved with them. Then, the
locomotives shared the bits of trains, and ran away with the whole.

"I have not made my next move much clearer by this. No hurry. No need
to make up my mind to-day, or to-morrow, nor yet the day after. I'll
take a walk."

It fell out somehow (perhaps he meant it should) that the walk tended to
the platform at which he had alighted, and to Lamps's room. But Lamps
was not in his room. A pair of velveteen shoulders were adapting
themselves to one of the impressions on the wall by Lamps's fireplace,
but otherwise the room was void. In passing back to get out of the
station again, he learnt the cause of this vacancy, by catching sight of
Lamps on the opposite line of railway, skipping along the top of a train,
from carriage to carriage, and catching lighted namesakes thrown up to
him by a coadjutor.

"He is busy. He has not much time for composing or singing Comic Songs
this morning, I take it."

The direction he pursued now was into the country, keeping very near to
the side of one great Line of railway, and within easy view of others. "I
have half a mind,"' he said, glancing around, "to settle the question
from this point, by saying, 'I'll take this set of rails, or that, or
t'other, and stick to it.' They separate themselves from the confusion,
out here, and go their ways."

Ascending a gentle hill of some extent, he came to a few cottages. There,
looking about him as a very reserved man might who had never looked about
him in his life before, he saw some six or eight young children come
merrily trooping and whooping from one of the cottages, and disperse. But
not until they had all turned at the little garden-gate, and kissed their
hands to a face at the upper window: a low window enough, although the
upper, for the cottage had but a story of one room above the ground.

Now, that the children should do this was nothing; but that they should
do this to a face lying on the sill of the open window, turned towards
them in a horizontal position, and apparently only a face, was something
noticeable. He looked up at the window again. Could only see a very
fragile, though a very bright face, lying on one cheek on the
window-sill. The delicate smiling face of a girl or woman. Framed in
long bright brown hair, round which was tied a light blue band or fillet,
passing under the chin.

He walked on, turned back, passed the window again, shyly glanced up
again. No change. He struck off by a winding branch-road at the top of
the hill--which he must otherwise have descended--kept the cottages in
view, worked his way round at a distance so as to come out once more into
the main road, and be obliged to pass the cottages again. The face still
lay on the window-sill, but not so much inclined towards him. And now
there were a pair of delicate hands too. They had the action of
performing on some musical instrument, and yet it produced no sound that
reached his ears.

"Mugby Junction must be the maddest place in England," said Barbox
Brothers, pursuing his way down the hill. "The first thing I find here
is a Railway Porter who composes comic songs to sing at his bedside. The
second thing I find here is a face, and a pair of hands playing a musical
instrument that _don't_ play!"

The day was a fine bright day in the early beginning of November, the air
was clear and inspiriting, and the landscape was rich in beautiful
colours. The prevailing colours in the court off Lombard Street, London
city, had been few and sombre. Sometimes, when the weather elsewhere was
very bright indeed, the dwellers in those tents enjoyed a pepper-and-salt-
coloured day or two, but their atmosphere's usual wear was slate or snuff
coloured.

He relished his walk so well that he repeated it next day. He was a
little earlier at the cottage than on the day before, and he could hear
the children upstairs singing to a regular measure, and clapping out the
time with their hands.

"Still, there is no sound of any musical instrument," he said, listening
at the corner, "and yet I saw the performing hands again as I came by.
What are the children singing? Why, good Lord, they can never be singing
the multiplication table?"

They were, though, and with infinite enjoyment. The mysterious face had
a voice attached to it, which occasionally led or set the children right.
Its musical cheerfulness was delightful. The measure at length stopped,
and was succeeded by a murmuring of young voices, and then by a short
song which he made out to be about the current month of the year, and
about what work it yielded to the labourers in the fields and farmyards.
Then there was a stir of little feet, and the children came trooping and
whooping out, as on the previous day. And again, as on the previous day,
they all turned at the garden-gate, and kissed their hands--evidently to
the face on the window-sill, though Barbox Brothers from his retired post
of disadvantage at the corner could not see it.

But, as the children dispersed, he cut off one small straggler--a brown-
faced boy with flaxen hair--and said to him:

"Come here, little one. Tell me, whose house is that?"

The child, with one swarthy arm held up across his eyes, half in shyness,
and half ready for defence, said from behind the inside of his elbow:

"Phoebe's."

"And who," said Barbox Brothers, quite as much embarrassed by his part in
the dialogue as the child could possibly be by his, "is Phoebe?"

To which the child made answer: "Why, Phoebe, of course."

The small but sharp observer had eyed his questioner closely, and had
taken his moral measure. He lowered his guard, and rather assumed a tone
with him: as having discovered him to be an unaccustomed person in the
art of polite conversation.

"Phoebe," said the child, "can't be anybobby else but Phoebe. Can she?"

"No, I suppose not."

"Well," returned the child, "then why did you ask me?"

Deeming it prudent to shift his ground, Barbox Brothers took up a new
position.

"What do you do there? Up there in that room where the open window is.
What do you do there?"

"Cool," said the child.

"Eh?"

"Co-o-ol," the child repeated in a louder voice, lengthening out the word
with a fixed look and great emphasis, as much as to say: "What's the use
of your having grown up, if you're such a donkey as not to understand
me?"

"Ah! School, school," said Barbox Brothers. "Yes, yes, yes. And Phoebe
teaches you?"

The child nodded.

"Good boy."

"Tound it out, have you?" said the child.

"Yes, I have found it out. What would you do with twopence, if I gave it
you?"

"Pend it."

The knock-down promptitude of this reply leaving him not a leg to stand
upon, Barbox Brothers produced the twopence with great lameness, and
withdrew in a state of humiliation.

But, seeing the face on the window-sill as he passed the cottage, he
acknowledged its presence there with a gesture, which was not a nod, not
a bow, not a removal of his hat from his head, but was a diffident
compromise between or struggle with all three. The eyes in the face
seemed amused, or cheered, or both, and the lips modestly said: "Good-day
to you, sir."

"I find I must stick for a time to Mugby Junction," said Barbox Brothers
with much gravity, after once more stopping on his return road to look at
the Lines where they went their several ways so quietly. "I can't make
up my mind yet which iron road to take. In fact, I must get a little
accustomed to the Junction before I can decide."

So, he announced at the Inn that he was "going to stay on for the
present," and improved his acquaintance with the Junction that night, and
again next morning, and again next night and morning: going down to the
station, mingling with the people there, looking about him down all the
avenues of railway, and beginning to take an interest in the incomings
and outgoings of the trains. At first, he often put his head into
Lamps's little room, but he never found Lamps there. A pair or two of
velveteen shoulders he usually found there, stooping over the fire,
sometimes in connection with a clasped knife and a piece of bread and
meat; but the answer to his inquiry, "Where's Lamps?" was, either that he
was "t'other side the line," or, that it was his off-time, or (in the
latter case) his own personal introduction to another Lamps who was not
his Lamps. However, he was not so desperately set upon seeing Lamps now,
but he bore the disappointment. Nor did he so wholly devote himself to
his severe application to the study of Mugby Junction as to neglect
exercise. On the contrary, he took a walk every day, and always the same
walk. But the weather turned cold and wet again, and the window was
never open.

III.


At length, after a lapse of some days, there came another streak of fine
bright hardy autumn weather. It was a Saturday. The window was open,
and the children were gone. Not surprising, this, for he had patiently
watched and waited at the corner until they _were_ gone.

"Good-day," he said to the face; absolutely getting his hat clear off his
head this time.

"Good-day to you, sir."

"I am glad you have a fine sky again to look at."

"Thank you, sir. It is kind if you."

"You are an invalid, I fear?"

"No, sir. I have very good health."

"But are you not always lying down?"

"Oh yes, I am always lying down, because I cannot sit up! But I am not
an invalid."

The laughing eyes seemed highly to enjoy his great mistake.

"Would you mind taking the trouble to come in, sir? There is a beautiful
view from this window. And you would see that I am not at all ill--being
so good as to care."

It was said to help him, as he stood irresolute, but evidently desiring
to enter, with his diffident hand on the latch of the garden-gate. It
did help him, and he went in.

The room upstairs was a very clean white room with a low roof. Its only
inmate lay on a couch that brought her face to a level with the window.
The couch was white too; and her simple dress or wrapper being light
blue, like the band around her hair, she had an ethereal look, and a
fanciful appearance of lying among clouds. He felt that she
instinctively perceived him to be by habit a downcast taciturn man; it
was another help to him to have established that understanding so easily,
and got it over.

There was an awkward constraint upon him, nevertheless, as he touched her
hand, and took a chair at the side of her couch.

"I see now," he began, not at all fluently, "how you occupy your hand.
Only seeing you from the path outside, I thought you were playing upon
something."

She was engaged in very nimbly and dexterously making lace. A
lace-pillow lay upon her breast; and the quick movements and changes of
her hands upon it, as she worked, had given them the action he had
misinterpreted.

"That is curious," she answered with a bright smile. "For I often fancy,
myself, that I play tunes while I am at work."

"Have you any musical knowledge?"

She shook her head.

"I think I could pick out tunes, if I had any instrument, which could be
made as handy to me as my lace-pillow. But I dare say I deceive myself.
At all events, I shall never know."


"You have a musical voice. Excuse me; I have heard you sing."

"With the children?" she answered, slightly colouring. "Oh yes. I sing
with the dear children, if it can be called singing."

Barbox Brothers glanced at the two small forms in the room, and hazarded
the speculation that she was fond of children, and that she was learned
in new systems of teaching them?

"Very fond of them," she said, shaking her head again; "but I know
nothing of teaching, beyond the interest I have in it, and the pleasure
it gives me when they learn. Perhaps your overhearing my little scholars
sing some of their lessons has led you so far astray as to think me a
grand teacher? Ah! I thought so! No, I have only read and been told
about that system. It seemed so pretty and pleasant, and to treat them
so like the merry Robins they are, that I took up with it in my little
way. You don't need to be told what a very little way mine is, sir," she
added with a glance at the small forms and round the room.

All this time her hands were busy at her lace-pillow. As they still
continued so, and as there was a kind of substitute for conversation in
the click and play of its pegs, Barbox Brothers took the opportunity of
observing her. He guessed her to be thirty. The charm of her
transparent face and large bright brown eyes was, not that they were
passively resigned, but that they were actively and thoroughly cheerful.
Even her busy hands, which of their own thinness alone might have
besought compassion, plied their task with a gay courage that made mere
compassion an unjustifiable assumption of superiority, and an
impertinence.

He saw her eyes in the act of rising towards his, and he directed his
towards the prospect, saying: "Beautiful, indeed!"

"Most beautiful, sir. I have sometimes had a fancy that I would like to
sit up, for once, only to try how it looks to an erect head. But what a
foolish fancy that would be to encourage! It cannot look more lovely to
any one than it does to me."

Her eyes were turned to it, as she spoke, with most delighted admiration
and enjoyment. There was not a trace in it of any sense of deprivation.

"And those threads of railway, with their puffs of smoke and steam
changing places so fast, make it so lively for me," she went on. "I
think of the number of people who can go where they wish, on their
business, or their pleasure; I remember that the puffs make signs to me
that they are actually going while I look; and that enlivens the prospect
with abundance of company, if I want company. There is the great
Junction, too. I don't see it under the foot of the hill, but I can very
often hear it, and I always know it is there. It seems to join me, in a
way, to I don't know how many places and things that I shall never see."

With an abashed kind of idea that it might have already joined himself to
something he had never seen, he said constrainedly: "Just so."

"And so you see, sir," pursued Phoebe, "I am not the invalid you thought
me, and I am very well off indeed."

"You have a happy disposition," said Barbox Brothers: perhaps with a
slight excusatory touch for his own disposition.

"Ah! But you should know my father," she replied. "His is the happy
disposition!--Don't mind, sir!" For his reserve took the alarm at a step
upon the stairs, and he distrusted that he would be set down for a
troublesome intruder. "This is my father coming."

The door opened, and the father paused there.

"Why, Lamps!" exclaimed Barbox Brothers, starting from his chair. "How
do you do, Lamps?"

To which Lamps responded: "The gentleman for Nowhere! How do you DO,
sir?"

And they shook hands, to the greatest admiration and surprise of Lamp's
daughter.

"I have looked you up half-a-dozen times since that night," said Barbox
Brothers, "but have never found you."

"So I've heerd on, sir, so I've heerd on," returned Lamps. "It's your
being noticed so often down at the Junction, without taking any train,
that has begun to get you the name among us of the gentleman for Nowhere.
No offence in my having called you by it when took by surprise, I hope,
sir?"

"None at all. It's as good a name for me as any other you could call me
by. But may I ask you a question in the corner here?"

Lamps suffered himself to be led aside from his daughter's couch by one
of the buttons of his velveteen jacket.

"Is this the bedside where you sing your songs?"

Lamps nodded.

The gentleman for Nowhere clapped him on the shoulder, and they faced
about again.

"Upon my word, my dear," said Lamps then to his daughter, looking from
her to her visitor, "it is such an amaze to me, to find you brought
acquainted with this gentleman, that I must (if this gentleman will
excuse me) take a rounder."

Mr. Lamps demonstrated in action what this meant, by pulling out his oily
handkerchief rolled up in the form of a ball, and giving himself an
elaborate smear, from behind the right ear, up the cheek, across the
forehead, and down the other cheek to behind his left ear. After this
operation he shone exceedingly.

"It's according to my custom when particular warmed up by any agitation,
sir," he offered by way of apology. "And really, I am throwed into that
state of amaze by finding you brought acquainted with Phoebe, that I--that
I think I will, if you'll excuse me, take another rounder." Which he
did, seeming to be greatly restored by it.

They were now both standing by the side of her couch, and she was working
at her lace-pillow. "Your daughter tells me," said Barbox Brothers,
still in a half-reluctant shamefaced way, "that she never sits up."

"No, sir, nor never has done. You see, her mother (who died when she was
a year and two months old) was subject to very bad fits, and as she had
never mentioned to me that she _was_ subject to fits, they couldn't be
guarded against. Consequently, she dropped the baby when took, and this
happened."

"It was very wrong of her," said Barbox Brothers with a knitted brow, "to
marry you, making a secret of her infirmity.'

"Well, sir!" pleaded Lamps in behalf of the long-deceased. "You see,
Phoebe and me, we have talked that over too. And Lord bless us! Such a
number on us has our infirmities, what with fits, and what with misfits,
of one sort and another, that if we confessed to 'em all before we got
married, most of us might never get married."

"Might not that be for the better?"

"Not in this case, sir," said Phoebe, giving her hand to her father.

"No, not in this case, sir," said her father, patting it between his own.

"You correct me," returned Barbox Brothers with a blush; "and I must look
so like a Brute, that at all events it would be superfluous in me to
confess to _that_ infirmity. I wish you would tell me a little more
about yourselves. I hardly knew how to ask it of you, for I am conscious
that I have a bad stiff manner, a dull discouraging way with me, but I
wish you would."

"With all our hearts, sir," returned Lamps gaily for both. "And first of
all, that you may know my name--"

"Stay!" interposed the visitor with a slight flush. "What signifies your
name? Lamps is name enough for me. I like it. It is bright and
expressive. What do I want more?"

"Why, to be sure, sir," returned Lamps. "I have in general no other name
down at the Junction; but I thought, on account of your being here as a
first-class single, in a private character, that you might--"

The visitor waved the thought away with his hand, and Lamps acknowledged
the mark of confidence by taking another rounder.

"You are hard-worked, I take for granted?" said Barbox Brothers, when the
subject of the rounder came out of it much dirtier than be went into it.

Lamps was beginning, "Not particular so"--when his daughter took him up.

"Oh yes, sir, he is very hard-worked. Fourteen, fifteen, eighteen hours
a day. Sometimes twenty-four hours at a time."

"And you," said Barbox Brothers, "what with your school, Phoebe, and what
with your lace-making--"

"But my school is a pleasure to me," she interrupted, opening her brown
eyes wider, as if surprised to find him so obtuse. "I began it when I
was but a child, because it brought me and other children into company,
don't you see? _That_ was not work. I carry it on still, because it
keeps children about me. _That_ is not work. I do it as love, not as
work. Then my lace-pillow;" her busy hands had stopped, as if her
argument required all her cheerful earnestness, but now went on again at
the name; "it goes with my thoughts when I think, and it goes with my
tunes when I hum any, and _that's_ not work. Why, you yourself thought
it was music, you know, sir. And so it is to me."

"Everything is!" cried Lamps radiantly. "Everything is music to her,
sir."

"My father is, at any rate," said Phoebe, exultingly pointing her thin
forefinger at him. "There is more music in my father than there is in a
brass band."

"I say! My dear! It's very fillyillially done, you know; but you are
flattering your father," he protested, sparkling.

"No, I am not, sir, I assure you. No, I am not. If you could hear my
father sing, you would know I am not. But you never will hear him sing,
because he never sings to any one but me. However tired he is, he always
sings to me when he comes home. When I lay here long ago, quite a poor
little broken doll, he used to sing to me. More than that, he used to
make songs, bringing in whatever little jokes we had between us. More
than that, he often does so to this day. Oh! I'll tell of you, father,
as the gentleman has asked about you. He is a poet, sir."

"I shouldn't wish the gentleman, my dear," observed Lamps, for the moment
turning grave, "to carry away that opinion of your father, because it
might look as if I was given to asking the stars in a molloncolly manner
what they was up to. Which I wouldn't at once waste the time, and take
the liberty, my dear."

"My father," resumed Phoebe, amending her text, "is always on the bright
side, and the good side. You told me, just now, I had a happy
disposition. How can I help it?"

"Well; but, my dear," returned Lamps argumentatively, "how can I help it?
Put it to yourself sir. Look at her. Always as you see her now. Always
working--and after all, sir, for but a very few shillings a week--always
contented, always lively, always interested in others, of all sorts. I
said, this moment, she was always as you see her now. So she is, with a
difference that comes to much the same. For, when it is my Sunday off
and the morning bells have done ringing, I hear the prayers and thanks
read in the touchingest way, and I have the hymns sung to me--so soft,
sir, that you couldn't hear 'em out of this room--in notes that seem to
me, I am sure, to come from Heaven and go back to it."

It might have been merely through the association of these words with
their sacredly quiet time, or it might have been through the larger
association of the words with the Redeemer's presence beside the
bedridden; but here her dexterous fingers came to a stop on the
lace-pillow, and clasped themselves around his neck as he bent down.
There was great natural sensibility in both father and daughter, the
visitor could easily see; but each made it, for the other's sake,
retiring, not demonstrative; and perfect cheerfulness, intuitive or
acquired, was either the first or second nature of both. In a very few
moments Lamps was taking another rounder with his comical features
beaming, while Phoebe's laughing eyes (just a glistening speck or so upon
their lashes) were again directed by turns to him, and to her work, and
to Barbox Brothers.

"When my father, sir," she said brightly, "tells you about my being
interested in other people, even though they know nothing about me--which,
by the bye, I told you myself--you ought to know how that comes about.
That's my father's doing."

"No, it isn't!" he protested.

"Don't you believe him, sir; yes, it is. He tells me of everything he
sees down at his work. You would be surprised what a quantity he gets
together for me every day. He looks into the carriages, and tells me how
the ladies are dressed--so that I know all the fashions! He looks into
the carriages, and tells me what pairs of lovers he sees, and what new-
married couples on their wedding trip--so that I know all about that! He
collects chance newspapers and books--so that I have plenty to read! He
tells me about the sick people who are travelling to try to get better--so
that I know all about them! In short, as I began by saying, he tells me
everything he sees and makes out down at his work, and you can't think
what a quantity he does see and make out."

"As to collecting newspapers and books, my dear," said Lamps, "it's clear
I can have no merit in that, because they're not my perquisites. You
see, sir, it's this way: A Guard, he'll say to me, 'Hallo, here you are,
Lamps. I've saved this paper for your daughter. How is she a-going on?'
A Head-Porter, he'll say to me, 'Here! Catch hold, Lamps. Here's a
couple of wollumes for your daughter. Is she pretty much where she
were?' And that's what makes it double welcome, you see. If she had a
thousand pound in a box, they wouldn't trouble themselves about her; but
being what she is--that is, you understand," Lamps added, somewhat
hurriedly, "not having a thousand pound in a box--they take thought for
her. And as concerning the young pairs, married and unmarried, it's only
natural I should bring home what little I can about _them_, seeing that
there's not a Couple of either sort in the neighbourhood that don't come
of their own accord to confide in Phoebe."

She raised her eyes triumphantly to Barbox Brothers as she said:

"Indeed, sir, that is true. If I could have got up and gone to church, I
don't know how often I should have been a bridesmaid. But, if I could
have done that, some girls in love might have been jealous of me, and, as
it is, no girl is jealous of me. And my pillow would not have been half
as ready to put the piece of cake under, as I always find it," she added,
turning her face on it with a light sigh, and a smile at her father.

The arrival of a little girl, the biggest of the scholars, now led to an
understanding on the part of Barbox Brothers, that she was the domestic
of the cottage, and had come to take active measures in it, attended by a
pail that might have extinguished her, and a broom three times her
height. He therefore rose to take his leave, and took it; saying that,
if Phoebe had no objection, he would come again.

He had muttered that he would come "in the course of his walks." The
course of his walks must have been highly favourable to his return, for
he returned after an interval of a single day.

"You thought you would never see me any more, I suppose?" he said to
Phoebe as he touched her hand, and sat down by her couch.

"Why should I think so?" was her surprised rejoinder.

"I took it for granted you would mistrust me."

"For granted, sir? Have you been so much mistrusted?"

"I think I am justified in answering yes. But I may have mistrusted,
too, on my part. No matter just now. We were speaking of the Junction
last time. I have passed hours there since the day before yesterday."

"Are you now the gentleman for Somewhere?" she asked with a smile.

"Certainly for Somewhere; but I don't yet know Where. You would never
guess what I am travelling from. Shall I tell you? I am travelling from
my birthday."

Her hands stopped in her work, and she looked at him with incredulous
astonishment.

"Yes," said Barbox Brothers, not quite easy in his chair, "from my
birthday. I am, to myself, an unintelligible book with the earlier
chapters all torn out, and thrown away. My childhood had no grace of
childhood, my youth had no charm of youth, and what can be expected from
such a lost beginning?" His eyes meeting hers as they were addressed
intently to him, something seemed to stir within his breast, whispering:
"Was this bed a place for the graces of childhood and the charms of youth
to take to kindly? Oh, shame, shame!"

"It is a disease with me," said Barbox Brothers, checking himself, and
making as though he had a difficulty in swallowing something, "to go
wrong about that. I don't know how I came to speak of that. I hope it
is because of an old misplaced confidence in one of your sex involving an
old bitter treachery. I don't know. I am all wrong together."

Her hands quietly and slowly resumed their work. Glancing at her, he saw
that her eyes were thoughtfully following them.

"I am travelling from my birthday," he resumed, "because it has always
been a dreary day to me. My first free birthday coming round some five
or six weeks hence, I am travelling to put its predecessors far behind
me, and to try to crush the day--or, at all events, put it out of my
sight--by heaping new objects on it."

As he paused, she looked at him; but only shook her head as being quite
at a loss.

"This is unintelligible to your happy disposition," he pursued, abiding
by his former phrase as if there were some lingering virtue of
self-defence in it. "I knew it would be, and am glad it is. However, on
this travel of mine (in which I mean to pass the rest of my days, having
abandoned all thought of a fixed home), I stopped, as you have heard from
your father, at the Junction here. The extent of its ramifications quite
confused me as to whither I should go, _from_ here. I have not yet
settled, being still perplexed among so many roads. What do you think I
mean to do? How many of the branching roads can you see from your
window?"

Looking out, full of interest, she answered, "Seven."

"Seven," said Barbox Brothers, watching her with a grave smile. "Well! I
propose to myself at once to reduce the gross number to those very seven,
and gradually to fine them down to one--the most promising for me--and to
take that."

"But how will you know, sir, which _is_ the most promising?" she asked,
with her brightened eyes roving over the view.

"Ah!" said Barbox Brothers with another grave smile, and considerably
improving in his ease of speech. "To be sure. In this way. Where your
father can pick up so much every day for a good purpose, I may once and
again pick up a little for an indifferent purpose. The gentleman for
Nowhere must become still better known at the Junction. He shall
continue to explore it, until he attaches something that he has seen,
heard, or found out, at the head of each of the seven roads, to the road
itself. And so his choice of a road shall be determined by his choice
among his discoveries."

Her hands still busy, she again glanced at the prospect, as if it
comprehended something that had not been in it before, and laughed as if
it yielded her new pleasure.

"But I must not forget," said Barbox Brothers, "(having got so far) to
ask a favour. I want your help in this expedient of mine. I want to
bring you what I pick up at the heads of the seven roads that you lie
here looking out at, and to compare notes with you about it. May I? They
say two heads are better than one. I should say myself that probably
depends upon the heads concerned. But I am quite sure, though we are so
newly acquainted, that your head and your father's have found out better
things, Phoebe, than ever mine of itself discovered."

She gave him her sympathetic right hand, in perfect rapture with his
proposal, and eagerly and gratefully thanked him.

"That's well!" said Barbox Brothers. "Again I must not forget (having
got so far) to ask a favour. Will you shut your eyes?"

Laughing playfully at the strange nature of the request, she did so.

"Keep them shut," said Barbox Brothers, going softly to the door, and
coming back. "You are on your honour, mind, not to open you eyes until I
tell you that you may?"

"Yes! On my honour."

"Good. May I take your lace-pillow from you for a minute?"

Still laughing and wondering, she removed her hands from it, and he put
it aside.

"Tell me. Did you see the puffs of smoke and steam made by the morning
fast-train yesterday on road number seven from here?"

"Behind the elm-trees and the spire?"

"That's the road," said Barbox Brothers, directing his eyes towards it.

"Yes. I watched them melt away."

"Anything unusual in what they expressed?"

"No!" she answered merrily.

"Not complimentary to me, for I was in that train. I went--don't open
your eyes--to fetch you this, from the great ingenious town. It is not
half so large as your lace-pillow, and lies easily and lightly in its
place. These little keys are like the keys of a miniature piano, and you
supply the air required with your left hand. May you pick out delightful
music from it, my dear! For the present--you can open your eyes now--good-
bye!"

In his embarrassed way, he closed the door upon himself, and only saw, in
doing so, that she ecstatically took the present to her bosom and
caressed it. The glimpse gladdened his heart, and yet saddened it; for
so might she, if her youth had flourished in its natural course, having
taken to her breast that day the slumbering music of her own child's
voice.


CHAPTER II--BARBOX BROTHERS AND CO.


With good-will and earnest purpose, the gentleman for Nowhere began, on
the very next day, his researches at the heads of the seven roads. The
results of his researches, as he and Phoebe afterwards set them down in
fair writing, hold their due places in this veracious chronicle. But
they occupied a much longer time in the getting together than they ever
will in the perusal. And this is probably the case with most reading
matter, except when it is of that highly beneficial kind (for Posterity)
which is "thrown off in a few moments of leisure" by the superior poetic
geniuses who scorn to take prose pains.

It must be admitted, however, that Barbox by no means hurried himself.
His heart being in his work of good-nature, he revelled in it. There was
the joy, too (it was a true joy to him), of sometimes sitting by,
listening to Phoebe as she picked out more and more discourse from her
musical instrument, and as her natural taste and ear refined daily upon
her first discoveries. Besides being a pleasure, this was an occupation,
and in the course of weeks it consumed hours. It resulted that his
dreaded birthday was close upon him before he had troubled himself any
more about it.

The matter was made more pressing by the unforeseen circumstance that the
councils held (at which Mr. Lamps, beaming most brilliantly, on a few
rare occasions assisted) respecting the road to be selected were, after
all, in nowise assisted by his investigations. For, he had connected
this interest with this road, or that interest with the other, but could
deduce no reason from it for giving any road the preference.
Consequently, when the last council was holden, that part of the business
stood, in the end, exactly where it had stood in the beginning.

"But, sir," remarked Phoebe, "we have only six roads after all. Is the
seventh road dumb?"

"The seventh road? Oh!" said Barbox Brothers, rubbing his chin. "That
is the road I took, you know, when I went to get your little present.
That is _its_ story. Phoebe."

"Would you mind taking that road again, sir?" she asked with hesitation.

"Not in the least; it is a great high-road after all."

"I should like you to take it," returned Phoebe with a persuasive smile,
"for the love of that little present which must ever be so dear to me. I
should like you to take it, because that road can never be again like any
other road to me. I should like you to take it, in remembrance of your
having done me so much good: of your having made me so much happier! If
you leave me by the road you travelled when you went to do me this great
kindness," sounding a faint chord as she spoke, "I shall feel, lying here
watching at my window, as if it must conduct you to a prosperous end, and
bring you back some day."

"It shall be done, my dear; it shall be done."

So at last the gentleman for Nowhere took a ticket for Somewhere, and his
destination was the great ingenious town.

He had loitered so long about the Junction that it was the eighteenth of
December when he left it. "High time," he reflected, as he seated
himself in the train, "that I started in earnest! Only one clear day
remains between me and the day I am running away from. I'll push onward
for the hill-country to-morrow. I'll go to Wales."

It was with some pains that he placed before himself the undeniable
advantages to be gained in the way of novel occupation for his senses
from misty mountains, swollen streams, rain, cold, a wild seashore, and
rugged roads. And yet he scarcely made them out as distinctly as he
could have wished. Whether the poor girl, in spite of her new resource,
her music, would have any feeling of loneliness upon her now--just at
first--that she had not had before; whether she saw those very puffs of
steam and smoke that he saw, as he sat in the train thinking of her;
whether her face would have any pensive shadow on it as they died out of
the distant view from her window; whether, in telling him he had done her
so much good, she had not unconsciously corrected his old moody bemoaning
of his station in life, by setting him thinking that a man might be a
great healer, if he would, and yet not be a great doctor; these and other
similar meditations got between him and his Welsh picture. There was
within him, too, that dull sense of vacuity which follows separation from
an object of interest, and cessation of a pleasant pursuit; and this
sense, being quite new to him, made him restless. Further, in losing
Mugby Junction, he had found himself again; and he was not the more
enamoured of himself for having lately passed his time in better company.

But surely here, not far ahead, must be the great ingenious town. This
crashing and clashing that the train was undergoing, and this coupling on
to it of a multitude of new echoes, could mean nothing less than approach
to the great station. It did mean nothing less. After some stormy
flashes of town lightning, in the way of swift revelations of red brick
blocks of houses, high red brick chimney-shafts, vistas of red brick
railway arches, tongues of fire, blocks of smoke, valleys of canal, and
hills if coal, there came the thundering in at the journey's end.

Having seen his portmanteaus safely housed in the hotel he chose, and
having appointed his dinner hour, Barbox Brothers went out for a walk in
the busy streets. And now it began to be suspected by him that Mugby
Junction was a Junction of many branches, invisible as well as visible,
and had joined him to an endless number of by-ways. For, whereas he
would, but a little while ago, have walked these streets blindly
brooding, he now had eyes and thoughts for a new external world. How the
many toiling people lived, and loved, and died; how wonderful it was to
consider the various trainings of eye and hand, the nice distinctions of
sight and touch, that separated them into classes of workers, and even
into classes of workers at subdivisions of one complete whole which
combined their many intelligences and forces, though of itself but some
cheap object of use or ornament in common life; how good it was to know
that such assembling in a multitude on their part, and such contribution
of their several dexterities towards a civilising end, did not
deteriorate them as it was the fashion of the supercilious Mayflies of
humanity to pretend, but engendered among them a self-respect, and yet a
modest desire to be much wiser than they were (the first evinced in their
well-balanced bearing and manner of speech when he stopped to ask a
question; the second, in the announcements of their popular studies and
amusements on the public walls); these considerations, and a host of
such, made his walk a memorable one. "I too am but a little part of a
great whole," he began to think; "and to be serviceable to myself and
others, or to be happy, I must cast my interest into, and draw it out of,
the common stock."

Although he had arrived at his journey's end for the day by noon, he had
since insensibly walked about the town so far and so long that the lamp-
lighters were now at their work in the streets, and the shops were
sparkling up brilliantly. Thus reminded to turn towards his quarters, he
was in the act of doing so, when a very little hand crept into his, and a
very little voice said:

"Oh! if you please, I am lost!"

He looked down, and saw a very little fair-haired girl.

"Yes," she said, confirming her words with a serious nod. "I am indeed.
I am lost!"

Greatly perplexed, he stopped, looked about him for help, descried none,
and said, bending low.

"Where do you live, my child?"

"I don't know where I live," she returned. "I am lost."

"What is your name?"

"Polly."

"What is your other name?"

The reply was prompt, but unintelligible.

Imitating the sound as he caught it, he hazarded the guess, "Trivits."

"Oh no!" said the child, shaking her head. "Nothing like that."

"Say it again, little one."

An unpromising business. For this time it had quite a different sound.

He made the venture, "Paddens?"

"Oh no!" said the child. "Nothing like that."

"Once more. Let us try it again, dear."

A most hopeless business. This time it swelled into four syllables. "It
can't be Tappitarver?" said Barbox Brothers, rubbing his head with his
hat in discomfiture.

"No! It ain't," the child quietly assented.

On her trying this unfortunate name once more, with extraordinary efforts
at distinctness, it swelled into eight syllables at least.

"Ah! I think," said Barbox Brothers with a desperate air of resignation,
"that we had better give it up."

"But I am lost," said the child, nestling her little hand more closely in
his, "and you'll take care of me, won't you?"

If ever a man were disconcerted by division between compassion on the one
hand, and the very imbecility of irresolution on the other, here the man
was. "Lost!" he repeated, looking down at the child. "I am sure _I_ am.
What is to be done?"

"Where do you live?" asked the child, looking up at him wistfully.

"Over there," he answered, pointing vaguely in the direction of his
hotel.

"Hadn't we better go there?" said the child.

"Really," he replied, "I don't know but what we had."

So they set off, hand-in-hand. He, through comparison of himself against
his little companion, with a clumsy feeling on him as if he had just
developed into a foolish giant. She, clearly elevated in her own tiny
opinion by having got him so neatly out of his embarrassment.

"We are going to have dinner when we get there, I suppose?" said Polly.

"Well," he rejoined, "I--Yes, I suppose we are."

"Do you like your dinner?" asked the child.

"Why, on the whole," said Barbox Brothers, "yes, I think I do."

"I do mine," said Polly. "Have you any brothers and sisters?"

"No. Have you?"

"Mine are dead."

"Oh!" said Barbox Brothers. With that absurd sense of unwieldiness of
mind and body weighing him down, he would have not known how to pursue
the conversation beyond this curt rejoinder, but that the child was
always ready for him.

"What," she asked, turning her soft hand coaxingly in his, "are you going
to do to amuse me after dinner?"

"Upon my soul, Polly," exclaimed Barbox Brothers, very much at a loss, "I
have not the slightest idea!"

"Then I tell you what," said Polly. "Have you got any cards at your
house?"

"Plenty," said Barbox Brothers in a boastful vein.

"Very well. Then I'll build houses, and you shall look at me. You
mustn't blow, you know."

"Oh no," said Barbox Brothers. "No, no, no. No blowing. Blowing's not
fair."

He flattered himself that he had said this pretty well for an idiotic
monster; but the child, instantly perceiving the awkwardness of his
attempt to adapt himself to her level, utterly destroyed his hopeful
opinion of himself by saying compassionately: "What a funny man you are!"

Feeling, after this melancholy failure, as if he every minute grew bigger
and heavier in person, and weaker in mind, Barbox gave himself up for a
bad job. No giant ever submitted more meekly to be led in triumph by all-
conquering Jack than he to be bound in slavery to Polly.

"Do you know any stories?" she asked him.

He was reduced to the humiliating confession: "No."

"What a dunce you must be, mustn't you?" said Polly.

He was reduced to the humiliating confession: "Yes."

"Would you like me to teach you a story? But you must remember it, you
know, and be able to tell it right to somebody else afterwards."

He professed that it would afford him the highest mental gratification to
be taught a story, and that he would humbly endeavour to retain it in his
mind. Whereupon Polly, giving her hand a new little turn in his,
expressive of settling down for enjoyment, commenced a long romance, of
which every relishing clause began with the words: "So this," or, "And so
this." As, "So this boy;" or, "So this fairy;" or, "And so this pie was
four yards round, and two yards and a quarter deep." The interest of the
romance was derived from the intervention of this fairy to punish this
boy for having a greedy appetite. To achieve which purpose, this fairy
made this pie, and this boy ate and ate and ate, and his cheeks swelled
and swelled and swelled. There were many tributary circumstances, but
the forcible interest culminated in the total consumption of this pie,
and the bursting of this boy. Truly he was a fine sight, Barbox
Brothers, with serious attentive face, and ear bent down, much jostled on
the pavements of the busy town, but afraid of losing a single incident of
the epic, lest he should be examined in it by-and-by, and found
deficient.

Thus they arrived at the hotel. And there he had to say at the bar, and
said awkwardly enough; "I have found a little girl!"

The whole establishment turned out to look at the little girl. Nobody
knew her; nobody could make out her name, as she set it forth--except one
chamber-maid, who said it was Constantinople--which it wasn't.

"I will dine with my young friend in a private room," said Barbox
Brothers to the hotel authorities, "and perhaps you will be so good as to
let the police know that the pretty baby is here. I suppose she is sure
to be inquired for soon, if she has not been already. Come along,
Polly."

Perfectly at ease and peace, Polly came along, but, finding the stairs
rather stiff work, was carried up by Barbox Brothers. The dinner was a
most transcendant success, and the Barbox sheepishness, under Polly's
directions how to mince her meat for her, and how to diffuse gravy over
the plate with a liberal and equal hand, was another fine sight.

"And now," said Polly, "while we are at dinner, you be good, and tell me
that story I taught you."

With the tremors of a Civil Service examination upon him, and very
uncertain indeed, not only as to the epoch at which the pie appeared in
history, but also as to the measurements of that indispensable fact,
Barbox Brothers made a shaky beginning, but under encouragement did very
fairly. There was a want of breadth observable in his rendering of the
cheeks, as well as the appetite, of the boy; and there was a certain
tameness in his fairy, referable to an under-current of desire to account
for her. Still, as the first lumbering performance of a good-humoured
monster, it passed muster.

"I told you to be good," said Polly, "and you are good, ain't you?"

"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'll go over sideways. Don't tilt up your legs
when you laugh, Polly, or you'll go over backwards. Whew! Polly, Polly,
Polly," said Barbox Brothers, nearly succumbing 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 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 down.

"How you stare, don't you?" said Polly in a houseless pause.

Detected in the ignoble fact, he felt obliged to admit, apologetically:

"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.--I don't know, Polly."

"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 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 sorrowful dream?"

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. "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
Constantinopolitan chamber-maid: who cheerily undertook that the child
should sleep in a comfortable and wholesome room, which she herself would
share.

"And I know you will be careful, won't you," said Barbox Brothers, 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--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 chamber-maid, 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?"

"Mr. Jackson!"

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."

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 imagination 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
chimney-piece, with his head resting on his hand, and his face half
averted.

"Did you see me in the street, and show me to your child?" he asked.

"Yes."

"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?"

"Yes. I am a daily teacher of music here. My husband is a book-keeper."

"Are you--forgive my asking--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 recover--"

"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, Beatrice."

"God bless you!" 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. Trust 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
ascendancy 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:--'I believe, Beatrice, I
was the only friend that Mr. Jackson ever cared to make, though I was so
much his junior. The more influence 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
inappeasable. 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?"

"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?"

"Yes."

"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 musical 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 information. 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 station at about that time of
day, as often as I could, between my lessons, 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 emboldened 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 forgive 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 discipline. You generous man! You good
man! So to raise me up and make nothing of my crime against you!"--for
he would not see her on her knees, and soothed her as a kind father might
have soothed an erring daughter--"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 your address on
this leaf of my pocket-book. In the evening I will bring her home to
you--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 last night?"

"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
conversational tone.

"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
indispensable 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, "--but are you fond of
horses, Polly?"

"Ponies, I am," said Polly, "especially when their tails are long. But
horses--n-no--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--"

"No, no, NO!" cried Polly, in an ecstatic desire to linger on the
charming details. "Not speckled all over!"

"Speckled all over. Which ponies jump through hoops--"

"No, no, NO!" cried Polly as before. "They never jump through hoops!"

"Yes, they do. Oh, I assure you they do! And eat pie in pinafores--"

"Ponies eating pie in pinafores!" said Polly. "What a story-teller you
are, ain't you?"

"Upon my honour.--And fire off guns."

(Polly hardly seemed to see the force of the ponies resorting to fire-
arms.)

"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 indicating
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--"

"Not dressed!" cried Polly with a clap of her hands. "No, no, NO, not
dressed!"

"Full-dressed. Together with a house, and all things necessary for
housekeeping--"

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 purchase of the doll
its first feature--or that lady would have lost the ponies--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 compatible with unalloyed happiness, but the light
cloud passed. The lovely specimen oftenest chosen, oftenest rejected,
and finally 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 brought 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 inferred from the two facts that her silver tea-spoons
were as large as her kitchen poker, and that the proportions of her watch
exceeded 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--which article, in
fact, they did produce in large quantities from their insides. The
Barbox absorption in the general subject 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 Circassian 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
getting Miss Melluka and all her wardrobe and rich possessions into a fly
with Polly, to be taken home. But, by that time, Polly had become 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 carefully
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 suburb 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 in to a ground-floor room.
There, stretched on a sofa, lay a sick man, sorely wasted, who covered
his eyes with his emaciated hand.

"Tresham," said Barbox in a kindly voice, "I have brought you back your
Polly, fast asleep. Give me your hand, and tell me you are better."

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--Can you make room
for me beside you here?"

He sat down on the sofa as he said the words, cherishing the plump
peachey cheek that lay uppermost on his shoulder.

"I have a fancy, Tresham (I am getting quite an old fellow now, you know,
and old fellows may take fancies into their heads sometimes), 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?"

"Unutterably dear."

"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--much upon
his cruel head, and much upon his guilty soul--if he could be so wicked
as to invoke a curse. He had better have a millstone 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 went
out.

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, every-there, 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 watch again, his eyes met those of his
reflection in the chimney-glass.

"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 Jupiter!" 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'll go back, instead of going on. I'll go back by my friend Lamps's Up
X presently."

He went back to Mugby Junction, and, in point of fact, he established
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 convenient 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.


CHAPTER III--THE BOY AT MUGBY


I am the boy at Mugby. That's about what _I_ 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 Junction, in the
height of twenty-seven cross draughts (I've often 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 groundwork, 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--you ask a Boy so
sitiwated, next time you stop in a hurry at Mugby, for anything to drink;
you take particular notice that he'll try to seem not to hear you, that
he'll 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,--my honourable friend, if he will allow me to call him so,--him
as belongs to Smith's bookstall. Why, he no more dares to be up to our
Refreshmenting games than he dares to jump a top of a locomotive with her
steam at full pressure, 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 chairman. There
ain't a one among 'em on the nobly independent footing we are. Did you
ever catch one of them, when you wanted anything of him, making a system
of surveying the Line through a transparent medium composed of your head
and body? I should hope not.

You should see our Bandolining Room at Mugby Junction. It's led to by
the door behind the counter, which you'll notice usually 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, from
the Up to the Down, or Wicer Warsaw, and begin to pitch the stale pastry
into the plates, and chuck the sawdust sangwiches under the glass covers,
and get out the--ha, ha, ha!--the sherry,--O my eye, my eye!--for your
Refreshment.

It's only in the Isle of the Brave and Land of the Free (by which, of
course, I mean to say Britannia) that Refreshmenting is so effective, so
'olesome, so constitutional a check upon the public. There was a
Foreigner, which having politely, with his hat off, beseeched our young
ladies and Our Missis for "a leetel gloss host prarndee," and having had
the Line surveyed through him by all and no other acknowledgment, was a-
proceeding at last to help himself, as seems to be the custom in his own
country, when Our Missis, with her hair almost a-coming un-Bandolined
with rage, and her eyes omitting sparks, flew at him, cotched the
decanter out of his hand, and said, "Put it down! I won't allow that!"
The foreigner turned pale, stepped back with his arms stretched out in
front of him, his hands clasped, and his shoulders riz, and exclaimed:
"Ah! Is it possible, this! That these disdaineous females and this
ferocious old woman are placed here by the administration, not only to
empoison the voyagers, but to affront them! Great Heaven! How arrives
it? The English people. Or is he then a slave? Or idiot?" Another
time, a merry, wideawake American gent had tried the sawdust and spit it
out, and had tried the Sherry and spit that out, and had tried in vain to
sustain exhausted natur upon Butter-Scotch, and had been rather extra
Bandolined and Line-surveyed through, when, as the bell was ringing and
he paid Our Missis, he says, very loud and good-tempered: "I tell Yew
what 'tis, ma'arm. I la'af. Theer! I la'af. I Dew. I oughter ha'
seen most things, for I hail from the Onlimited side of the Atlantic
Ocean, and I haive travelled right slick over the Limited, head on
through Jeerusalemm and the East, and likeways France and Italy, Europe
Old World, and am now upon the track to the Chief Europian Village; but
such an Institution as Yew, and Yewer young ladies, and Yewer fixin's
solid and liquid, afore the glorious Tarnal I never did see yet! And if
I hain't found the eighth wonder of monarchical Creation, in finding Yew
and Yewer young ladies, and Yewer fixin's solid and liquid, all as
aforesaid, established in a country where the people air not absolute Loo-
naticks, I am Extra Double Darned with a Nip and Frizzle to the
innermostest grit! Wheerfur--Theer!--I la'af! I Dew, ma'arm. I la'af!"
And so he went, stamping and shaking his sides, along the platform all
the way to his own compartment.

I think it was her standing up agin the Foreigner as giv' Our Missis the
idea of going over to France, and droring a comparison betwixt
Refreshmenting as followed among the frog-eaters, and Refreshmenting as
triumphant in the Isle of the Brave and Land of the Free (by which, of
course, I mean to say agin, Britannia). Our young ladies, Miss Whiff,
Miss Piff, and Mrs. Sniff, was unanimous opposed to her going; for, as
they says to Our Missis one and all, it is well beknown to the hends of
the herth as no other nation except Britain has a idea of anythink, but
above all of business. Why then should you tire yourself to prove what
is already proved? Our Missis, however (being a teazer at all pints)
stood out grim obstinate, and got a return pass by Southeastern Tidal, to
go right through, if such should be her dispositions, to Marseilles.

Sniff is husband to Mrs. Sniff, and is a regular insignificant cove. He
looks arter the sawdust department in a back room, and is sometimes, when
we are very hard put to it, let behind the counter with a corkscrew; but
never when it can be helped, his demeanour towards the public being
disgusting servile. How Mrs. Sniff ever come so far to lower herself as
to marry him, I don't know; but I suppose he does, and I should think he
wished he didn't, for he leads a awful life. Mrs. Sniff couldn't be much
harder with him if he was public. Similarly, Miss Whiff and Miss Piff,
taking the tone of Mrs. Sniff, they shoulder Sniff about when he _is_ let
in with a corkscrew, and they whisk things out of his hands when in his
servility he is a-going to let the public have 'em, and they snap him up
when in the crawling baseness of his spirit he is a-going to answer a
public question, and they drore more tears into his eyes than ever the
mustard does which he all day long lays on to the sawdust. (But it ain't
strong.) Once, when Sniff had the repulsiveness to reach across to get
the milk-pot to hand over for a baby, I see Our Missis in her rage catch
him by both his shoulders, and spin him out into the Bandolining Room.

But Mrs. Sniff,--how different! She's the one! She's the one as you'll
notice to be always looking another way from you, when you look at her.
She's the one with the small waist buckled in tight in front, and with
the lace cuffs at her wrists, which she puts on the edge of the counter
before her, and stands a smoothing while the public foams. This
smoothing the cuffs and looking another way while the public foams is the
last accomplishment taught to the young ladies as come to Mugby to be
finished by Our Missis; and it's always taught by Mrs. Sniff.

When Our Missis went away upon her journey, Mrs. Sniff was left in
charge. She did hold the public in check most beautiful! In all my
time, I never see half so many cups of tea given without milk to people
as wanted it with, nor half so many cups of tea with milk given to people
as wanted it without. When foaming ensued, Mrs. Sniff would say: "Then
you'd better settle it among yourselves, and change with one another." It
was a most highly delicious lark. I enjoyed the Refreshmenting business
more than ever, and was so glad I had took to it when young.

Our Missis returned. It got circulated among the young ladies, and it as
it might be penetrated to me through the crevices of the Bandolining
Room, that she had Orrors to reveal, if revelations so contemptible could
be dignified with the name. Agitation become awakened. Excitement was
up in the stirrups. Expectation stood a-tiptoe. At length it was put
forth that on our slacked evening in the week, and at our slackest time
of that evening betwixt trains, Our Missis would give her views of
foreign Refreshmenting, in the Bandolining Room.

It was arranged tasteful for the purpose. The Bandolining table and
glass was hid in a corner, a arm-chair was elevated on a packing-case for
Our Missis's ockypation, a table and a tumbler of water (no sherry in it,
thankee) was placed beside it. Two of the pupils, the season being
autumn, and hollyhocks and dahlias being in, ornamented the wall with
three devices in those flowers. On one might be read, "MAY ALBION NEVER
LEARN;" on another "KEEP THE PUBLIC DOWN;" on another, "OUR
REFRESHMENTING CHARTER." The whole had a beautiful appearance, with
which the beauty of the sentiments corresponded.

On Our Missis's brow was wrote Severity, as she ascended the fatal
platform. (Not that that was anythink new.) Miss Whiff and Miss Piff
sat at her feet. Three chairs from the Waiting Room might have been
perceived by a average eye, in front of her, on which the pupils was
accommodated. Behind them a very close observer might have discerned a
Boy. Myself.

"Where," said Our Missis, glancing gloomily around, "is Sniff?"

"I thought it better," answered Mrs. Sniff, "that he should not be let to
come in. He is such an Ass."

"No doubt," assented Our Missis. "But for that reason is it not
desirable to improve his mind?"

"Oh, nothing will ever improve _him_," said Mrs. Sniff.

"However," pursued Our Missis, "call him in, Ezekiel."

I called him in. The appearance of the low-minded cove was hailed with
disapprobation from all sides, on account of his having brought his
corkscrew with him. He pleaded "the force of habit."

"The force!" said Mrs. Sniff. "Don't let us have you talking about
force, for Gracious' sake. There! Do stand still where you are, with
your back against the wall."

He is a smiling piece of vacancy, and he smiled in the mean way in which
he will even smile at the public if he gets a chance (language can say no
meaner of him), and he stood upright near the door with the back of his
head agin the wall, as if he was a waiting for somebody to come and
measure his heighth for the Army.

"I should not enter, ladies," says Our Missis, "on the revolting
disclosures I am about to make, if it was not in the hope that they will
cause you to be yet more implacable in the exercise of the power you
wield in a constitutional country, and yet more devoted to the
constitutional motto which I see before me,"--it was behind her, but the
words sounded better so,--"'May Albion never learn!'"

Here the pupils as had made the motto admired it, and cried, "Hear! Hear!
Hear!" Sniff, showing an inclination to join in chorus, got himself
frowned down by every brow.

"The baseness of the French," pursued Our Missis, "as displayed in the
fawning nature of their Refreshmenting, equals, if not surpasses,
anythink as was ever heard of the baseness of the celebrated Bonaparte."

Miss Whiff, Miss Piff, and me, we drored a heavy breath, equal to saying,
"We thought as much!" Miss Whiff and Miss Piff seeming to object to my
droring mine along with theirs, I drored another to aggravate 'em.

"Shall I be believed," says Our Missis, with flashing eyes, "when I tell
you that no sooner had I set my foot upon that treacherous shore--"

Here Sniff, either bursting out mad, or thinking aloud, says, in a low
voice: "Feet. Plural, you know."

The cowering that come upon him when he was spurned by all eyes, added to
his being beneath contempt, was sufficient punishment for a cove so
grovelling. In the midst of a silence rendered more impressive by the
turned-up female noses with which it was pervaded, Our Missis went on:

"Shall I be believed when I tell you, that no sooner had I landed," this
word with a killing look at Sniff, "on that treacherous shore, than I was
ushered into a Refreshment Room where there were--I do not
exaggerate--actually eatable things to eat?"

A groan burst from the ladies. I not only did myself the honour of
jining, but also of lengthening it out.

"Where there were," Our Missis added, "not only eatable things to eat,
but also drinkable things to drink?"

A murmur, swelling almost into a scream, ariz. Miss Piff, trembling with
indignation, called out, "Name?"

"I _will_ name," said Our Missis. "There was roast fowls, hot and cold;
there was smoking roast veal surrounded with browned potatoes; there was
hot soup with (again I ask shall I be credited?) nothing bitter in it,
and no flour to choke off the consumer; there was a variety of cold
dishes set off with jelly; there was salad; there was--mark me! _fresh_
pastry, and that of a light construction; there was a luscious show of
fruit; there was bottles and decanters of sound small wine, of every
size, and adapted to every pocket; the same odious statement will apply
to brandy; and these were set out upon the counter so that all could help
themselves."

Our Missis's lips so quivered, that Mrs. Sniff, though scarcely less
convulsed than she were, got up and held the tumbler to them.

"This," proceeds Our Missis, "was my first unconstitutional experience.
Well would it have been if it had been my last and worst. But no. As I
proceeded farther into that enslaved and ignorant land, its aspect became
more hideous. I need not explain to this assembly the ingredients and
formation of the British Refreshment sangwich?"

Universal laughter,--except from Sniff, who, as sangwich-cutter, shook
his head in a state of the utmost dejection as he stood with it agin the
wall.

"Well!" said Our Missis, with dilated nostrils. "Take a fresh, crisp,
long, crusty penny loaf made of the whitest and best flour. Cut it
longwise through the middle. Insert a fair and nicely fitting slice of
ham. Tie a smart piece of ribbon round the middle of the whole to bind
it together. Add at one end a neat wrapper of clean white paper by which
to hold it. And the universal French Refreshment sangwich busts on your
disgusted vision."

A cry of "Shame!" from all--except Sniff, which rubbed his stomach with a
soothing hand.

"I need not," said Our Missis, "explain to this assembly the usual
formation and fitting of the British Refreshment Room?"

No, no, and laughter. Sniff agin shaking his head in low spirits agin
the wall.

"Well," said Our Missis, "what would you say to a general decoration of
everythink, to hangings (sometimes elegant), to easy velvet furniture, to
abundance of little tables, to abundance of little seats, to brisk bright
waiters, to great convenience, to a pervading cleanliness and
tastefulness positively addressing the public, and making the Beast
thinking itself worth the pains?"

Contemptuous fury on the part of all the ladies. Mrs. Sniff looking as
if she wanted somebody to hold her, and everbody else looking as if
they'd rayther not.

"Three times," said Our Missis, working herself into a truly
terrimenjious state,--"three times did I see these shameful things, only
between the coast and Paris, and not counting either: at Hazebroucke, at
Arras, at Amiens. But worse remains. Tell me, what would you call a
person who should propose in England that there should be kept, say at
our own model Mugby Junction, pretty baskets, each holding an assorted
cold lunch and dessert for one, each at a certain fixed price, and each
within a passenger's power to take away, to empty in the carriage at
perfect leisure, and to return at another station fifty or a hundred
miles farther on?"

There was disagreement what such a person should be called. Whether
revolutionise, atheist, Bright (_I_ said him), or Un-English. Miss Piff
screeched her shrill opinion last, in the words: "A malignant maniac!"

"I adopt," says Our Missis, "the brand set upon such a person by the
righteous indignation of my friend Miss Piff. A malignant maniac. Know,
then, that that malignant maniac has sprung from the congenial soil of
France, and that his malignant madness was in unchecked action on this
same part of my journey."

I noticed that Sniff was a-rubbing his hands, and that Mrs. Sniff had got
her eye upon him. But I did not take more particular notice, owing to
the excited state in which the young ladies was, and to feeling myself
called upon to keep it up with a howl.

"On my experience south of Paris," said Our Missis, in a deep tone, "I
will not expatiate. Too loathsome were the task! But fancy this. Fancy
a guard coming round, with the train at full speed, to inquire how many
for dinner. Fancy his telegraphing forward the number of dinners. Fancy
every one expected, and the table elegantly laid for the complete party.
Fancy a charming dinner, in a charming room, and the head-cook, concerned
for the honour of every dish, superintending in his clean white jacket
and cap. Fancy the Beast travelling six hundred miles on end, very fast,
and with great punctuality, yet being taught to expect all this to be
done for it!"

A spirited chorus of "The Beast!"

I noticed that Sniff was agin a-rubbing his stomach with a soothing hand,
and that he had drored up one leg. But agin I didn't take particular
notice, looking on myself as called upon to stimulate public feeling. It
being a lark besides.

"Putting everything together," said Our Missis, "French Refreshmenting
comes to this, and oh, it comes to a nice total! First: eatable things
to eat, and drinkable things to drink."

A groan from the young ladies, kep' up by me.

"Second: convenience, and even elegance."

Another groan from the young ladies, kep' up by me.

"Third: moderate charges."

This time a groan from me, kep' up by the young ladies.

"Fourth:--and here," says Our Missis, "I claim your angriest
sympathy,--attention, common civility, nay, even politeness!"

Me and the young ladies regularly raging mad all together.

"And I cannot in conclusion," says Our Missis, with her spitefullest
sneer, "give you a completer pictur of that despicable nation (after what
I have related), than assuring you that they wouldn't bear our
constitutional ways and noble independence at Mugby Junction, for a
single month, and that they would turn us to the right-about and put
another system in our places, as soon as look at us; perhaps sooner, for
I do not believe they have the good taste to care to look at us twice."

The swelling tumult was arrested in its rise. Sniff, bore away by his
servile disposition, had drored up his leg with a higher and a higher
relish, and was now discovered to be waving his corkscrew over his head.
It was at this moment that Mrs. Sniff, who had kep' her eye upon him like
the fabled obelisk, descended on her victim. Our Missis followed them
both out, and cries was heard in the sawdust department.

You come into the Down Refreshment Room, at the Junction, making believe
you don't know me, and I'll pint you out with my right thumb over my
shoulder which is Our Missis, and which is Miss Whiff, and which is Miss
Piff, and which is Mrs. Sniff. But you won't get a chance to see Sniff,
because he disappeared that night. Whether he perished, tore to pieces,
I cannot say; but his corkscrew alone remains, to bear witness to the
servility of his disposition.

Charles Dickens