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Somebody's Luggage

CHAPTER I--HIS LEAVING IT TILL CALLED FOR

The writer of these humble lines being a Waiter, and having come of a
family of Waiters, and owning at the present time five brothers who are
all Waiters, and likewise an only sister who is a Waitress, would wish to
offer a few words respecting his calling; first having the pleasure of
hereby in a friendly manner offering the Dedication of the same unto
_Joseph_, much respected Head Waiter at the Slamjam Coffee-house, London,
E.C., than which a individual more eminently deserving of the name of
man, or a more amenable honour to his own head and heart, whether
considered in the light of a Waiter or regarded as a human being, do not
exist.

In case confusion should arise in the public mind (which it is open to
confusion on many subjects) respecting what is meant or implied by the
term Waiter, the present humble lines would wish to offer an explanation.
It may not be generally known that the person as goes out to wait is
_not_ a Waiter. It may not be generally known that the hand as is called
in extra, at the Freemasons' Tavern, or the London, or the Albion, or
otherwise, is _not_ a Waiter. Such hands may be took on for Public
Dinners by the bushel (and you may know them by their breathing with
difficulty when in attendance, and taking away the bottle ere yet it is
half out); but such are _not_ Waiters. For you cannot lay down the
tailoring, or the shoemaking, or the brokering, or the green-grocering,
or the pictorial-periodicalling, or the second-hand wardrobe, or the
small fancy businesses,--you cannot lay down those lines of life at your
will and pleasure by the half-day or evening, and take up Waitering. You
may suppose you can, but you cannot; or you may go so far as to say you
do, but you do not. Nor yet can you lay down the gentleman's-service
when stimulated by prolonged incompatibility on the part of Cooks (and
here it may be remarked that Cooking and Incompatibility will be mostly
found united), and take up Waitering. It has been ascertained that what
a gentleman will sit meek under, at home, he will not bear out of doors,
at the Slamjam or any similar establishment. Then, what is the inference
to be drawn respecting true Waitering? You must be bred to it. You must
be born to it.

Would you know how born to it, Fair Reader,--if of the adorable female
sex? Then learn from the biographical experience of one that is a Waiter
in the sixty-first year of his age.

You were conveyed,--ere yet your dawning powers were otherwise developed
than to harbour vacancy in your inside,--you were conveyed, by
surreptitious means, into a pantry adjoining the Admiral Nelson, Civic
and General Dining-Rooms, there to receive by stealth that healthful
sustenance which is the pride and boast of the British female
constitution. Your mother was married to your father (himself a distant
Waiter) in the profoundest secrecy; for a Waitress known to be married
would ruin the best of businesses,--it is the same as on the stage. Hence
your being smuggled into the pantry, and that--to add to the
infliction--by an unwilling grandmother. Under the combined influence of
the smells of roast and boiled, and soup, and gas, and malt liquors, you
partook of your earliest nourishment; your unwilling grandmother sitting
prepared to catch you when your mother was called and dropped you; your
grandmother's shawl ever ready to stifle your natural complainings; your
innocent mind surrounded by uncongenial cruets, dirty plates,
dish-covers, and cold gravy; your mother calling down the pipe for veals
and porks, instead of soothing you with nursery rhymes. Under these
untoward circumstances you were early weaned. Your unwilling
grandmother, ever growing more unwilling as your food assimilated less,
then contracted habits of shaking you till your system curdled, and your
food would not assimilate at all. At length she was no longer spared,
and could have been thankfully spared much sooner. When your brothers
began to appear in succession, your mother retired, left off her smart
dressing (she had previously been a smart dresser), and her dark ringlets
(which had previously been flowing), and haunted your father late of
nights, lying in wait for him, through all weathers, up the shabby court
which led to the back door of the Royal Old Dust-Bin (said to have been
so named by George the Fourth), where your father was Head. But the Dust-
Bin was going down then, and your father took but little,--excepting from
a liquid point of view. Your mother's object in those visits was of a
house-keeping character, and you was set on to whistle your father out.
Sometimes he came out, but generally not. Come or not come, however, all
that part of his existence which was unconnected with open Waitering was
kept a close secret, and was acknowledged by your mother to be a close
secret, and you and your mother flitted about the court, close secrets
both of you, and would scarcely have confessed under torture that you
know your father, or that your father had any name than Dick (which
wasn't his name, though he was never known by any other), or that he had
kith or kin or chick or child. Perhaps the attraction of this mystery,
combined with your father's having a damp compartment, to himself, behind
a leaky cistern, at the Dust-Bin,--a sort of a cellar compartment, with a
sink in it, and a smell, and a plate-rack, and a bottle-rack, and three
windows that didn't match each other or anything else, and no
daylight,--caused your young mind to feel convinced that you must grow up
to be a Waiter too; but you did feel convinced of it, and so did all your
brothers, down to your sister. Every one of you felt convinced that you
was born to the Waitering. At this stage of your career, what was your
feelings one day when your father came home to your mother in open broad
daylight,--of itself an act of Madness on the part of a Waiter,--and took
to his bed (leastwise, your mother and family's bed), with the statement
that his eyes were devilled kidneys. Physicians being in vain, your
father expired, after repeating at intervals for a day and a night, when
gleams of reason and old business fitfully illuminated his being, "Two
and two is five. And three is sixpence." Interred in the parochial
department of the neighbouring churchyard, and accompanied to the grave
by as many Waiters of long standing as could spare the morning time from
their soiled glasses (namely, one), your bereaved form was attired in a
white neckankecher, and you was took on from motives of benevolence at
The George and Gridiron, theatrical and supper. Here, supporting nature
on what you found in the plates (which was as it happened, and but too
often thoughtlessly, immersed in mustard), and on what you found in the
glasses (which rarely went beyond driblets and lemon), by night you
dropped asleep standing, till you was cuffed awake, and by day was set to
polishing every individual article in the coffee-room. Your couch being
sawdust; your counterpane being ashes of cigars. Here, frequently hiding
a heavy heart under the smart tie of your white neckankecher (or
correctly speaking lower down and more to the left), you picked up the
rudiments of knowledge from an extra, by the name of Bishops, and by
calling plate-washer, and gradually elevating your mind with chalk on the
back of the corner-box partition, until such time as you used the
inkstand when it was out of hand, attained to manhood, and to be the
Waiter that you find yourself.

I could wish here to offer a few respectful words on behalf of the
calling so long the calling of myself and family, and the public interest
in which is but too often very limited. We are not generally understood.
No, we are not. Allowance enough is not made for us. For, say that we
ever show a little drooping listlessness of spirits, or what might be
termed indifference or apathy. Put it to yourself what would your own
state of mind be, if you was one of an enormous family every member of
which except you was always greedy, and in a hurry. Put it to yourself
that you was regularly replete with animal food at the slack hours of one
in the day and again at nine p.m., and that the repleter you was, the
more voracious all your fellow-creatures came in. Put it to yourself
that it was your business, when your digestion was well on, to take a
personal interest and sympathy in a hundred gentlemen fresh and fresh
(say, for the sake of argument, only a hundred), whose imaginations was
given up to grease and fat and gravy and melted butter, and abandoned to
questioning you about cuts of this, and dishes of that,--each of 'em
going on as if him and you and the bill of fare was alone in the world.
Then look what you are expected to know. You are never out, but they
seem to think you regularly attend everywhere. "What's this,
Christopher, that I hear about the smashed Excursion Train? How are they
doing at the Italian Opera, Christopher?" "Christopher, what are the
real particulars of this business at the Yorkshire Bank?" Similarly a
ministry gives me more trouble than it gives the Queen. As to Lord
Palmerston, the constant and wearing connection into which I have been
brought with his lordship during the last few years is deserving of a
pension. Then look at the Hypocrites we are made, and the lies (white, I
hope) that are forced upon us! Why must a sedentary-pursuited Waiter be
considered to be a judge of horseflesh, and to have a most tremendous
interest in horse-training and racing? Yet it would be half our little
incomes out of our pockets if we didn't take on to have those sporting
tastes. It is the same (inconceivable why!) with Farming. Shooting,
equally so. I am sure that so regular as the months of August,
September, and October come round, I am ashamed of myself in my own
private bosom for the way in which I make believe to care whether or not
the grouse is strong on the wing (much their wings, or drumsticks either,
signifies to me, uncooked!), and whether the partridges is plentiful
among the turnips, and whether the pheasants is shy or bold, or anything
else you please to mention. Yet you may see me, or any other Waiter of
my standing, holding on by the back of the box, and leaning over a
gentleman with his purse out and his bill before him, discussing these
points in a confidential tone of voice, as if my happiness in life
entirely depended on 'em.

I have mentioned our little incomes. Look at the most unreasonable point
of all, and the point on which the greatest injustice is done us! Whether
it is owing to our always carrying so much change in our right-hand
trousers-pocket, and so many halfpence in our coat-tails, or whether it
is human nature (which I were loth to believe), what is meant by the
everlasting fable that Head Waiters is rich? How did that fable get into
circulation? Who first put it about, and what are the facts to establish
the unblushing statement? Come forth, thou slanderer, and refer the
public to the Waiter's will in Doctors' Commons supporting thy malignant
hiss! Yet this is so commonly dwelt upon--especially by the screws who
give Waiters the least--that denial is vain; and we are obliged, for our
credit's sake, to carry our heads as if we were going into a business,
when of the two we are much more likely to go into a union. There was
formerly a screw as frequented the Slamjam ere yet the present writer had
quitted that establishment on a question of tea-ing his assistant staff
out of his own pocket, which screw carried the taunt to its bitterest
height. Never soaring above threepence, and as often as not grovelling
on the earth a penny lower, he yet represented the present writer as a
large holder of Consols, a lender of money on mortgage, a Capitalist. He
has been overheard to dilate to other customers on the allegation that
the present writer put out thousands of pounds at interest in
Distilleries and Breweries. "Well, Christopher," he would say (having
grovelled his lowest on the earth, half a moment before), "looking out
for a House to open, eh? Can't find a business to be disposed of on a
scale as is up to your resources, humph?" To such a dizzy precipice of
falsehood has this misrepresentation taken wing, that the well-known and
highly-respected OLD CHARLES, long eminent at the West Country Hotel, and
by some considered the Father of the Waitering, found himself under the
obligation to fall into it through so many years that his own wife (for
he had an unbeknown old lady in that capacity towards himself) believed
it! And what was the consequence? When he was borne to his grave on the
shoulders of six picked Waiters, with six more for change, six more
acting as pall-bearers, all keeping step in a pouring shower without a
dry eye visible, and a concourse only inferior to Royalty, his pantry and
lodgings was equally ransacked high and low for property, and none was
found! How could it be found, when, beyond his last monthly collection
of walking-sticks, umbrellas, and pocket-handkerchiefs (which happened to
have been not yet disposed of, though he had ever been through life
punctual in clearing off his collections by the month), there was no
property existing? Such, however, is the force of this universal libel,
that the widow of Old Charles, at the present hour an inmate of the
Almshouses of the Cork-Cutters' Company, in Blue Anchor Road (identified
sitting at the door of one of 'em, in a clean cap and a Windsor
arm-chair, only last Monday), expects John's hoarded wealth to be found
hourly! Nay, ere yet he had succumbed to the grisly dart, and when his
portrait was painted in oils life-size, by subscription of the
frequenters of the West Country, to hang over the coffee-room chimney-
piece, there were not wanting those who contended that what is termed the
accessories of such a portrait ought to be the Bank of England out of
window, and a strong-box on the table. And but for better-regulated
minds contending for a bottle and screw and the attitude of drawing,--and
carrying their point,--it would have been so handed down to posterity.

I am now brought to the title of the present remarks. Having, I hope
without offence to any quarter, offered such observations as I felt it my
duty to offer, in a free country which has ever dominated the seas, on
the general subject, I will now proceed to wait on the particular
question.

At a momentous period of my life, when I was off, so far as concerned
notice given, with a House that shall be nameless,--for the question on
which I took my departing stand was a fixed charge for waiters, and no
House as commits itself to that eminently Un-English act of more than
foolishness and baseness shall be advertised by me,--I repeat, at a
momentous crisis, when I was off with a House too mean for mention, and
not yet on with that to which I have ever since had the honour of being
attached in the capacity of Head, {1} I was casting about what to do
next. Then it were that proposals were made to me on behalf of my
present establishment. Stipulations were necessary on my part,
emendations were necessary on my part: in the end, ratifications ensued
on both sides, and I entered on a new career.

We are a bed business, and a coffee-room business. We are not a general
dining business, nor do we wish it. In consequence, when diners drop in,
we know what to give 'em as will keep 'em away another time. We are a
Private Room or Family business also; but Coffee-room principal. Me and
the Directory and the Writing Materials and cetrer occupy a place to
ourselves--a place fended of up a step or two at the end of the Coffee-
room, in what I call the good old-fashioned style. The good
old-fashioned style is, that whatever you want, down to a wafer, you must
be olely and solely dependent on the Head Waiter for. You must put
yourself a new-born Child into his hands. There is no other way in which
a business untinged with Continental Vice can be conducted. (It were
bootless to add, that if languages is required to be jabbered and English
is not good enough, both families and gentlemen had better go somewhere
else.)

When I began to settle down in this right-principled and well-conducted
House, I noticed, under the bed in No. 24 B (which it is up a angle off
the staircase, and usually put off upon the lowly-minded), a heap of
things in a corner. I asked our Head Chambermaid in the course of the
day,

"What are them things in 24 B?"

To which she answered with a careless air, "Somebody's Luggage."

Regarding her with a eye not free from severity, I says, "Whose Luggage?"

Evading my eye, she replied,

"Lor! How should _I_ know!"

--Being, it may be right to mention, a female of some pertness, though
acquainted with her business.

A Head Waiter must be either Head or Tail. He must be at one extremity
or the other of the social scale. He cannot be at the waist of it, or
anywhere else but the extremities. It is for him to decide which of the
extremities.

On the eventful occasion under consideration, I give Mrs. Pratchett so
distinctly to understand my decision, that I broke her spirit as towards
myself, then and there, and for good. Let not inconsistency be suspected
on account of my mentioning Mrs. Pratchett as "Mrs.," and having formerly
remarked that a waitress must not be married. Readers are respectfully
requested to notice that Mrs. Pratchett was not a waitress, but a
chambermaid. Now a chambermaid _may_ be married; if Head, generally is
married,--or says so. It comes to the same thing as expressing what is
customary. (N.B. Mr. Pratchett is in Australia, and his address there is
"the Bush.")

Having took Mrs. Pratchett down as many pegs as was essential to the
future happiness of all parties, I requested her to explain herself.

"For instance," I says, to give her a little encouragement, "who is
Somebody?"

"I give you my sacred honour, Mr. Christopher," answers Pratchett, "that
I haven't the faintest notion."

But for the manner in which she settled her cap-strings, I should have
doubted this; but in respect of positiveness it was hardly to be
discriminated from an affidavit.

"Then you never saw him?" I followed her up with.

"Nor yet," said Mrs. Pratchett, shutting her eyes and making as if she
had just took a pill of unusual circumference,--which gave a remarkable
force to her denial,--"nor yet any servant in this house. All have been
changed, Mr. Christopher, within five year, and Somebody left his Luggage
here before then."

Inquiry of Miss Martin yielded (in the language of the Bard of A.1.)
"confirmation strong." So it had really and truly happened. Miss Martin
is the young lady at the bar as makes out our bills; and though higher
than I could wish considering her station, is perfectly well-behaved.

Farther investigations led to the disclosure that there was a bill
against this Luggage to the amount of two sixteen six. The Luggage had
been lying under the bedstead of 24 B over six year. The bedstead is a
four-poster, with a deal of old hanging and valance, and is, as I once
said, probably connected with more than 24 Bs,--which I remember my
hearers was pleased to laugh at, at the time.

I don't know why,--when DO we know why?--but this Luggage laid heavy on
my mind. I fell a wondering about Somebody, and what he had got and been
up to. I couldn't satisfy my thoughts why he should leave so much
Luggage against so small a bill. For I had the Luggage out within a day
or two and turned it over, and the following were the items:--A black
portmanteau, a black bag, a desk, a dressing-case, a brown-paper parcel,
a hat-box, and an umbrella strapped to a walking-stick. It was all very
dusty and fluey. I had our porter up to get under the bed and fetch it
out; and though he habitually wallows in dust,--swims in it from morning
to night, and wears a close-fitting waistcoat with black calimanco
sleeves for the purpose,--it made him sneeze again, and his throat was
that hot with it that it was obliged to be cooled with a drink of
Allsopp's draft.

The Luggage so got the better of me, that instead of having it put back
when it was well dusted and washed with a wet cloth,--previous to which
it was so covered with feathers that you might have thought it was
turning into poultry, and would by-and-by begin to Lay,--I say, instead
of having it put back, I had it carried into one of my places
down-stairs. There from time to time I stared at it and stared at it,
till it seemed to grow big and grow little, and come forward at me and
retreat again, and go through all manner of performances resembling
intoxication. When this had lasted weeks,--I may say months, and not be
far out,--I one day thought of asking Miss Martin for the particulars of
the Two sixteen six total. She was so obliging as to extract it from the
books,--it dating before her time,--and here follows a true copy:

Coffee-Room.
1856. No. 4. Pounds s. d.
Feb. 2d, Pen and Paper 0 0 6
Port Negus 0 2 0
Ditto 0 2 0
Pen and paper 0 0 6
Tumbler broken 0 2 6
Brandy 0 2 0
Pen and paper 0 0 6
Anchovy toast 0 2 6
Pen and paper 0 0 6
Bed 0 3 0
Feb. 3d, Pen and paper 0 0 6
Breakfast 0 2 6
Broiled ham 0 2 0
Eggs 0 1 0
Watercresses 0 1 0
Shrimps 0 1 0
Pen and paper 0 0 6
Blotting-paper 0 0 6
Messenger to Paternoster
Row and back 0 1 6
Again, when No Answer 0 1 6
Brandy 2s., Devilled
Pork chop 2s. 0 4 0
Pens and paper 0 1 0
Messenger to Albemarle
Street and back 0 1 0
Again (detained), when
No Answer 0 1 6
Salt-cellar broken 0 3 6
Large Liquour-glass
Orange Brandy 0 1 6
Dinner, Soup, Fish,
Joint, and bird 0 7 6
Bottle old East India
Brown 0 8 0
Pen and paper 0 0 6
Pounds 2 16 6

Mem.: January 1st, 1857. He went out after dinner, directing luggage to
be ready when he called for it. Never called.

* * * * *

So far from throwing a light upon the subject, this bill appeared to me,
if I may so express my doubts, to involve it in a yet more lurid halo.
Speculating it over with the Mistress, she informed me that the luggage
had been advertised in the Master's time as being to be sold after such
and such a day to pay expenses, but no farther steps had been taken. (I
may here remark, that the Mistress is a widow in her fourth year. The
Master was possessed of one of those unfortunate constitutions in which
Spirits turns to Water, and rises in the ill-starred Victim.)

My speculating it over, not then only, but repeatedly, sometimes with the
Mistress, sometimes with one, sometimes with another, led up to the
Mistress's saying to me,--whether at first in joke or in earnest, or half
joke and half earnest, it matters not:

"Christopher, I am going to make you a handsome offer."

(If this should meet her eye,--a lovely blue,--may she not take it ill my
mentioning that if I had been eight or ten year younger, I would have
done as much by her! That is, I would have made her a offer. It is for
others than me to denominate it a handsome one.)

"Christopher, I am going to make you a handsome offer."

"Put a name to it, ma'am."

"Look here, Christopher. Run over the articles of Somebody's Luggage.
You've got it all by heart, I know."

"A black portmanteau, ma'am, a black bag, a desk, a dressing-case, a
brown-paper parcel, a hat-box, and an umbrella strapped to a
walking-stick."

"All just as they were left. Nothing opened, nothing tampered with."

"You are right, ma'am. All locked but the brown-paper parcel, and that
sealed."

The Mistress was leaning on Miss Martin's desk at the bar-window, and she
taps the open book that lays upon the desk,--she has a pretty-made hand
to be sure,--and bobs her head over it and laughs.

"Come," says she, "Christopher. Pay me Somebody's bill, and you shall
have Somebody's Luggage."

I rather took to the idea from the first moment; but,

"It mayn't be worth the money," I objected, seeming to hold back.

"That's a Lottery," says the Mistress, folding her arms upon the book,--it
ain't her hands alone that's pretty made, the observation extends right
up her arms. "Won't you venture two pound sixteen shillings and sixpence
in the Lottery? Why, there's no blanks!" says the Mistress; laughing and
bobbing her head again, "you _must_ win. If you lose, you must win! All
prizes in this Lottery! Draw a blank, and remember, Gentlemen-Sportsmen,
you'll still be entitled to a black portmanteau, a black bag, a desk, a
dressing-case, a sheet of brown paper, a hat-box, and an umbrella
strapped to a walking-stick!"

To make short of it, Miss Martin come round me, and Mrs. Pratchett come
round me, and the Mistress she was completely round me already, and all
the women in the house come round me, and if it had been Sixteen two
instead of Two sixteen, I should have thought myself well out of it. For
what can you do when they do come round you?

So I paid the money--down--and such a laughing as there was among 'em!
But I turned the tables on 'em regularly, when I said:

"My family-name is Blue-Beard. I'm going to open Somebody's Luggage all
alone in the Secret Chamber, and not a female eye catches sight of the
contents!"

Whether I thought proper to have the firmness to keep to this, don't
signify, or whether any female eye, and if any, how many, was really
present when the opening of the Luggage came off. Somebody's Luggage is
the question at present: Nobody's eyes, nor yet noses.

What I still look at most, in connection with that Luggage, is the
extraordinary quantity of writing-paper, and all written on! And not our
paper neither,--not the paper charged in the bill, for we know our
paper,--so he must have been always at it. And he had crumpled up this
writing of his, everywhere, in every part and parcel of his luggage.
There was writing in his dressing-case, writing in his boots, writing
among his shaving-tackle, writing in his hat-box, writing folded away
down among the very whalebones of his umbrella.

His clothes wasn't bad, what there was of 'em. His dressing-case was
poor,--not a particle of silver stopper,--bottle apertures with nothing
in 'em, like empty little dog-kennels,--and a most searching description
of tooth-powder diffusing itself around, as under a deluded mistake that
all the chinks in the fittings was divisions in teeth. His clothes I
parted with, well enough, to a second-hand dealer not far from St.
Clement's Danes, in the Strand,--him as the officers in the Army mostly
dispose of their uniforms to, when hard pressed with debts of honour, if
I may judge from their coats and epaulets diversifying the window with
their backs towards the public. The same party bought in one lot the
portmanteau, the bag, the desk, the dressing-case, the hat-box, the
umbrella, strap, and walking-stick. On my remarking that I should have
thought those articles not quite in his line, he said: "No more ith a
man'th grandmother, Mithter Chrithtopher; but if any man will bring hith
grandmother here, and offer her at a fair trifle below what the'll feth
with good luck when the'th thcoured and turned--I'll buy her!"

These transactions brought me home, and, indeed, more than home, for they
left a goodish profit on the original investment. And now there remained
the writings; and the writings I particular wish to bring under the
candid attention of the reader.

I wish to do so without postponement, for this reason. That is to say,
namely, viz. i.e., as follows, thus:--Before I proceed to recount the
mental sufferings of which I became the prey in consequence of the
writings, and before following up that harrowing tale with a statement of
the wonderful and impressive catastrophe, as thrilling in its nature as
unlooked for in any other capacity, which crowned the ole and filled the
cup of unexpectedness to overflowing, the writings themselves ought to
stand forth to view. Therefore it is that they now come next. One word
to introduce them, and I lay down my pen (I hope, my unassuming pen)
until I take it up to trace the gloomy sequel of a mind with something on
it.

He was a smeary writer, and wrote a dreadful bad hand. Utterly
regardless of ink, he lavished it on every undeserving object--on his
clothes, his desk, his hat, the handle of his tooth-brush, his umbrella.
Ink was found freely on the coffee-room carpet by No. 4 table, and two
blots was on his restless couch. A reference to the document I have
given entire will show that on the morning of the third of February,
eighteen fifty-six, he procured his no less than fifth pen and paper. To
whatever deplorable act of ungovernable composition he immolated those
materials obtained from the bar, there is no doubt that the fatal deed
was committed in bed, and that it left its evidences but too plainly,
long afterwards, upon the pillow-case.

He had put no Heading to any of his writings. Alas! Was he likely to
have a Heading without a Head, and where was _his_ Head when he took such
things into it? In some cases, such as his Boots, he would appear to
have hid the writings; thereby involving his style in greater obscurity.
But his Boots was at least pairs,--and no two of his writings can put in
any claim to be so regarded. Here follows (not to give more specimens)
what was found in


CHAPTER II--HIS BOOTS


"Eh! well then, Monsieur Mutuel! What do I know, what can I say? I
assure you that he calls himself Monsieur The Englishman."

"Pardon. But I think it is impossible," said Monsieur Mutuel,--a
spectacled, snuffy, stooping old gentleman in carpet shoes and a cloth
cap with a peaked shade, a loose blue frock-coat reaching to his heels, a
large limp white shirt-frill, and cravat to correspond,--that is to say,
white was the natural colour of his linen on Sundays, but it toned down
with the week.

"It is," repeated Monsieur Mutuel, his amiable old walnut-shell
countenance very walnut-shelly indeed as he smiled and blinked in the
bright morning sunlight,--"it is, my cherished Madame Bouclet, I think,
impossible!"

"Hey!" (with a little vexed cry and a great many tosses of her head.)
"But it is not impossible that you are a Pig!" retorted Madame Bouclet, a
compact little woman of thirty-five or so. "See then,--look there,--read!
'On the second floor Monsieur L'Anglais.' Is it not so?"

"It is so," said Monsieur Mutuel.

"Good. Continue your morning walk. Get out!" Madame Bouclet dismissed
him with a lively snap of her fingers.

The morning walk of Monsieur Mutuel was in the brightest patch that the
sun made in the Grande Place of a dull old fortified French town. The
manner of his morning walk was with his hands crossed behind him; an
umbrella, in figure the express image of himself, always in one hand; a
snuffbox in the other. Thus, with the shuffling gait of the Elephant
(who really does deal with the very worst trousers-maker employed by the
Zoological world, and who appeared to have recommended him to Monsieur
Mutuel), the old gentleman sunned himself daily when sun was to be had--of
course, at the same time sunning a red ribbon at his button-hole; for was
he not an ancient Frenchman?

Being told by one of the angelic sex to continue his morning walk and get
out, Monsieur Mutuel laughed a walnut-shell laugh, pulled off his cap at
arm's length with the hand that contained his snuffbox, kept it off for a
considerable period after he had parted from Madame Bouclet, and
continued his morning walk and got out, like a man of gallantry as he
was.

The documentary evidence to which Madame Bouclet had referred Monsieur
Mutuel was the list of her lodgers, sweetly written forth by her own
Nephew and Bookkeeper, who held the pen of an Angel, and posted up at the
side of her gateway, for the information of the Police: "Au second, M.
L'Anglais, Proprietaire." On the second floor, Mr. The Englishman, man
of property. So it stood; nothing could be plainer.

Madame Bouclet now traced the line with her forefinger, as it were to
confirm and settle herself in her parting snap at Monsieur Mutuel, and so
placing her right hand on her hip with a defiant air, as if nothing
should ever tempt her to unsnap that snap, strolled out into the Place to
glance up at the windows of Mr. The Englishman. That worthy happening to
be looking out of window at the moment, Madame Bouclet gave him a
graceful salutation with her head, looked to the right and looked to the
left to account to him for her being there, considered for a moment, like
one who accounted to herself for somebody she had expected not being
there, and reentered her own gateway. Madame Bouclet let all her house
giving on the Place in furnished flats or floors, and lived up the yard
behind in company with Monsieur Bouclet her husband (great at billiards),
an inherited brewing business, several fowls, two carts, a nephew, a
little dog in a big kennel, a grape-vine, a counting-house, four horses,
a married sister (with a share in the brewing business), the husband and
two children of the married sister, a parrot, a drum (performed on by the
little boy of the married sister), two billeted soldiers, a quantity of
pigeons, a fife (played by the nephew in a ravishing manner), several
domestics and supernumeraries, a perpetual flavour of coffee and soup, a
terrific range of artificial rocks and wooden precipices at least four
feet high, a small fountain, and half-a-dozen large sunflowers.

Now the Englishman, in taking his Appartement,--or, as one might say on
our side of the Channel, his set of chambers,--had given his name,
correct to the letter, LANGLEY. But as he had a British way of not
opening his mouth very wide on foreign soil, except at meals, the Brewery
had been able to make nothing of it but L'Anglais. So Mr. The Englishman
he had become and he remained.

"Never saw such a people!" muttered Mr. The Englishman, as he now looked
out of window. "Never did, in my life!"

This was true enough, for he had never before been out of his own
country,--a right little island, a tight little island, a bright little
island, a show-fight little island, and full of merit of all sorts; but
not the whole round world.

"These chaps," said Mr. The Englishman to himself, as his eye rolled over
the Place, sprinkled with military here and there, "are no more like
soldiers--" Nothing being sufficiently strong for the end of his
sentence, he left it unended.

This again (from the point of view of his experience) was strictly
correct; for though there was a great agglomeration of soldiers in the
town and neighbouring country, you might have held a grand Review and
Field-day of them every one, and looked in vain among them all for a
soldier choking behind his foolish stock, or a soldier lamed by his ill-
fitting shoes, or a soldier deprived of the use of his limbs by straps
and buttons, or a soldier elaborately forced to be self-helpless in all
the small affairs of life. A swarm of brisk, bright, active, bustling,
handy, odd, skirmishing fellows, able to turn cleverly at anything, from
a siege to soup, from great guns to needles and thread, from the
broadsword exercise to slicing an onion, from making war to making
omelets, was all you would have found.

What a swarm! From the Great Place under the eye of Mr. The Englishman,
where a few awkward squads from the last conscription were doing the
goose-step--some members of those squads still as to their bodies, in the
chrysalis peasant-state of Blouse, and only military butterflies as to
their regimentally-clothed legs--from the Great Place, away outside the
fortifications, and away for miles along the dusty roads, soldiers
swarmed. All day long, upon the grass-grown ramparts of the town,
practising soldiers trumpeted and bugled; all day long, down in angles of
dry trenches, practising soldiers drummed and drummed. Every forenoon,
soldiers burst out of the great barracks into the sandy gymnasium-ground
hard by, and flew over the wooden horse, and hung on to flying ropes, and
dangled upside-down between parallel bars, and shot themselves off wooden
platforms,--splashes, sparks, coruscations, showers of soldiers. At
every corner of the town-wall, every guard-house, every gateway, every
sentry-box, every drawbridge, every reedy ditch, and rushy dike,
soldiers, soldiers, soldiers. And the town being pretty well all wall,
guard-house, gateway, sentry-box, drawbridge, reedy ditch, and rushy
dike, the town was pretty well all soldiers.

What would the sleepy old town have been without the soldiers, seeing
that even with them it had so overslept itself as to have slept its
echoes hoarse, its defensive bars and locks and bolts and chains all
rusty, and its ditches stagnant! From the days when VAUBAN engineered it
to that perplexing extent that to look at it was like being knocked on
the head with it, the stranger becoming stunned and stertorous under the
shock of its incomprehensibility,--from the days when VAUBAN made it the
express incorporation of every substantive and adjective in the art of
military engineering, and not only twisted you into it and twisted you
out of it, to the right, to the left, opposite, under here, over there,
in the dark, in the dirt, by the gateway, archway, covered way, dry way,
wet way, fosse, portcullis, drawbridge, sluice, squat tower, pierced
wall, and heavy battery, but likewise took a fortifying dive under the
neighbouring country, and came to the surface three or four miles off,
blowing out incomprehensible mounds and batteries among the quiet crops
of chicory and beet-root,--from those days to these the town had been
asleep, and dust and rust and must had settled on its drowsy Arsenals and
Magazines, and grass had grown up in its silent streets.

On market-days alone, its Great Place suddenly leaped out of bed. On
market-days, some friendly enchanter struck his staff upon the stones of
the Great Place, and instantly arose the liveliest booths and stalls, and
sittings and standings, and a pleasant hum of chaffering and huckstering
from many hundreds of tongues, and a pleasant, though peculiar, blending
of colours,--white caps, blue blouses, and green vegetables,--and at last
the Knight destined for the adventure seemed to have come in earnest, and
all the Vaubanois sprang up awake. And now, by long, low-lying avenues
of trees, jolting in white-hooded donkey-cart, and on donkey-back, and in
tumbril and wagon, and cart and cabriolet, and afoot with barrow and
burden,--and along the dikes and ditches and canals, in little
peak-prowed country boats,--came peasant-men and women in flocks and
crowds, bringing articles for sale. And here you had boots and shoes,
and sweetmeats and stuffs to wear, and here (in the cool shade of the
Town-hall) you had milk and cream and butter and cheese, and here you had
fruits and onions and carrots, and all things needful for your soup, and
here you had poultry and flowers and protesting pigs, and here new
shovels, axes, spades, and bill-hooks for your farming work, and here
huge mounds of bread, and here your unground grain in sacks, and here
your children's dolls, and here the cake-seller, announcing his wares by
beat and roll of drum. And hark! fanfaronade of trumpets, and here into
the Great Place, resplendent in an open carriage, with four gorgeously-
attired servitors up behind, playing horns, drums, and cymbals, rolled
"the Daughter of a Physician" in massive golden chains and ear-rings, and
blue-feathered hat, shaded from the admiring sun by two immense umbrellas
of artificial roses, to dispense (from motives of philanthropy) that
small and pleasant dose which had cured so many thousands! Toothache,
earache, headache, heartache, stomach-ache, debility, nervousness, fits,
fainting, fever, ague, all equally cured by the small and pleasant dose
of the great Physician's great daughter! The process was this,--she, the
Daughter of a Physician, proprietress of the superb equipage you now
admired with its confirmatory blasts of trumpet, drum, and cymbal, told
you so: On the first day after taking the small and pleasant dose, you
would feel no particular influence beyond a most harmonious sensation of
indescribable and irresistible joy; on the second day you would be so
astonishingly better that you would think yourself changed into somebody
else; on the third day you would be entirely free from disorder, whatever
its nature and however long you had had it, and would seek out the
Physician's Daughter to throw yourself at her feet, kiss the hem of her
garment, and buy as many more of the small and pleasant doses as by the
sale of all your few effects you could obtain; but she would be
inaccessible,--gone for herbs to the Pyramids of Egypt,--and you would be
(though cured) reduced to despair! Thus would the Physician's Daughter
drive her trade (and briskly too), and thus would the buying and selling
and mingling of tongues and colours continue, until the changing
sunlight, leaving the Physician's Daughter in the shadow of high roofs,
admonished her to jolt out westward, with a departing effect of gleam and
glitter on the splendid equipage and brazen blast. And now the enchanter
struck his staff upon the stones of the Great Place once more, and down
went the booths, the sittings and standings, and vanished the
merchandise, and with it the barrows, donkeys, donkey-carts, and
tumbrils, and all other things on wheels and feet, except the slow
scavengers with unwieldy carts and meagre horses clearing up the rubbish,
assisted by the sleek town pigeons, better plumped out than on non-market
days. While there was yet an hour or two to wane before the autumn
sunset, the loiterer outside town-gate and drawbridge, and postern and
double-ditch, would see the last white-hooded cart lessening in the
avenue of lengthening shadows of trees, or the last country boat, paddled
by the last market-woman on her way home, showing black upon the
reddening, long, low, narrow dike between him and the mill; and as the
paddle-parted scum and weed closed over the boat's track, he might be
comfortably sure that its sluggish rest would be troubled no more until
next market-day.

As it was not one of the Great Place's days for getting out of bed, when
Mr. The Englishman looked down at the young soldiers practising the goose-
step there, his mind was left at liberty to take a military turn.

"These fellows are billeted everywhere about," said he; "and to see them
lighting the people's fires, boiling the people's pots, minding the
people's babies, rocking the people's cradles, washing the people's
greens, and making themselves generally useful, in every sort of
unmilitary way, is most ridiculous! Never saw such a set of
fellows,--never did in my life!"

All perfectly true again. Was there not Private Valentine in that very
house, acting as sole housemaid, valet, cook, steward, and nurse, in the
family of his captain, Monsieur le Capitaine de la Cour,--cleaning the
floors, making the beds, doing the marketing, dressing the captain,
dressing the dinners, dressing the salads, and dressing the baby, all
with equal readiness? Or, to put him aside, he being in loyal attendance
on his Chief, was there not Private Hyppolite, billeted at the Perfumer's
two hundred yards off, who, when not on duty, volunteered to keep shop
while the fair Perfumeress stepped out to speak to a neighbour or so, and
laughingly sold soap with his war-sword girded on him? Was there not
Emile, billeted at the Clock-maker's, perpetually turning to of an
evening, with his coat off, winding up the stock? Was there not Eugene,
billeted at the Tinman's, cultivating, pipe in mouth, a garden four feet
square, for the Tinman, in the little court, behind the shop, and
extorting the fruits of the earth from the same, on his knees, with the
sweat of his brow? Not to multiply examples, was there not Baptiste,
billeted on the poor Water-carrier, at that very instant sitting on the
pavement in the sunlight, with his martial legs asunder, and one of the
Water-carrier's spare pails between them, which (to the delight and glory
of the heart of the Water-carrier coming across the Place from the
fountain, yoked and burdened) he was painting bright-green outside and
bright-red within? Or, to go no farther than the Barber's at the very
next door, was there not Corporal Theophile--

"No," said Mr. The Englishman, glancing down at the Barber's, "he is not
there at present. There's the child, though."

A mere mite of a girl stood on the steps of the Barber's shop, looking
across the Place. A mere baby, one might call her, dressed in the close
white linen cap which small French country children wear (like the
children in Dutch pictures), and in a frock of homespun blue, that had no
shape except where it was tied round her little fat throat. So that,
being naturally short and round all over, she looked, behind, as if she
had been cut off at her natural waist, and had had her head neatly fitted
on it.

"There's the child, though."

To judge from the way in which the dimpled hand was rubbing the eyes, the
eyes had been closed in a nap, and were newly opened. But they seemed to
be looking so intently across the Place, that the Englishman looked in
the same direction.

"O!" said he presently. "I thought as much. The Corporal's there."

The Corporal, a smart figure of a man of thirty, perhaps a thought under
the middle size, but very neatly made,--a sunburnt Corporal with a brown
peaked beard,--faced about at the moment, addressing voluble words of
instruction to the squad in hand. Nothing was amiss or awry about the
Corporal. A lithe and nimble Corporal, quite complete, from the
sparkling dark eyes under his knowing uniform cap to his sparkling white
gaiters. The very image and presentment of a Corporal of his country's
army, in the line of his shoulders, the line of his waist, the broadest
line of his Bloomer trousers, and their narrowest line at the calf of his
leg.

Mr. The Englishman looked on, and the child looked on, and the Corporal
looked on (but the last-named at his men), until the drill ended a few
minutes afterwards, and the military sprinkling dried up directly, and
was gone. Then said Mr. The Englishman to himself, "Look here! By
George!" And the Corporal, dancing towards the Barber's with his arms
wide open, caught up the child, held her over his head in a flying
attitude, caught her down again, kissed her, and made off with her into
the Barber's house.

Now Mr. The Englishman had had a quarrel with his erring and disobedient
and disowned daughter, and there was a child in that case too. Had not
his daughter been a child, and had she not taken angel-flights above his
head as this child had flown above the Corporal's?

"He's a "--National Participled--"fool!" said the Englishman, and shut
his window.

But the windows of the house of Memory, and the windows of the house of
Mercy, are not so easily closed as windows of glass and wood. They fly
open unexpectedly; they rattle in the night; they must be nailed up. Mr.
The Englishman had tried nailing them, but had not driven the nails quite
home. So he passed but a disturbed evening and a worse night.

By nature a good-tempered man? No; very little gentleness, confounding
the quality with weakness. Fierce and wrathful when crossed? Very, and
stupendously unreasonable. Moody? Exceedingly so. Vindictive? Well;
he had had scowling thoughts that he would formally curse his daughter,
as he had seen it done on the stage. But remembering that the real
Heaven is some paces removed from the mock one in the great chandelier of
the Theatre, he had given that up.

And he had come abroad to be rid of his repudiated daughter for the rest
of his life. And here he was.

At bottom, it was for this reason, more than for any other, that Mr. The
Englishman took it extremely ill that Corporal Theophile should be so
devoted to little Bebelle, the child at the Barber's shop. In an unlucky
moment he had chanced to say to himself, "Why, confound the fellow, he is
not her father!" There was a sharp sting in the speech which ran into
him suddenly, and put him in a worse mood. So he had National
Participled the unconscious Corporal with most hearty emphasis, and had
made up his mind to think no more about such a mountebank.

But it came to pass that the Corporal was not to be dismissed. If he had
known the most delicate fibres of the Englishman's mind, instead of
knowing nothing on earth about him, and if he had been the most obstinate
Corporal in the Grand Army of France, instead of being the most obliging,
he could not have planted himself with more determined immovability plump
in the midst of all the Englishman's thoughts. Not only so, but he
seemed to be always in his view. Mr. The Englishman had but to look out
of window, to look upon the Corporal with little Bebelle. He had but to
go for a walk, and there was the Corporal walking with Bebelle. He had
but to come home again, disgusted, and the Corporal and Bebelle were at
home before him. If he looked out at his back windows early in the
morning, the Corporal was in the Barber's back yard, washing and dressing
and brushing Bebelle. If he took refuge at his front windows, the
Corporal brought his breakfast out into the Place, and shared it there
with Bebelle. Always Corporal and always Bebelle. Never Corporal
without Bebelle. Never Bebelle without Corporal.

Mr. The Englishman was not particularly strong in the French language as
a means of oral communication, though he read it very well. It is with
languages as with people,--when you only know them by sight, you are apt
to mistake them; you must be on speaking terms before you can be said to
have established an acquaintance.

For this reason, Mr. The Englishman had to gird up his loins considerably
before he could bring himself to the point of exchanging ideas with
Madame Bouclet on the subject of this Corporal and this Bebelle. But
Madame Bouclet looking in apologetically one morning to remark, that, O
Heaven! she was in a state of desolation because the lamp-maker had not
sent home that lamp confided to him to repair, but that truly he was a
lamp-maker against whom the whole world shrieked out, Mr. The Englishman
seized the occasion.

"Madame, that baby--"

"Pardon, monsieur. That lamp."

"No, no, that little girl."

"But, pardon!" said Madame Bonclet, angling for a clew, "one cannot light
a little girl, or send her to be repaired?"

"The little girl--at the house of the barber."

"Ah-h-h!" cried Madame Bouclet, suddenly catching the idea with her
delicate little line and rod. "Little Bebelle? Yes, yes, yes! And her
friend the Corporal? Yes, yes, yes, yes! So genteel of him,--is it
not?"

"He is not--?"

"Not at all; not at all! He is not one of her relations. Not at all!"

"Why, then, he--"

"Perfectly!" cried Madame Bouclet, "you are right, monsieur. It is so
genteel of him. The less relation, the more genteel. As you say."

"Is she--?"

"The child of the barber?" Madame Bouclet whisked up her skilful little
line and rod again. "Not at all, not at all! She is the child of--in a
word, of no one."

"The wife of the barber, then--?"

"Indubitably. As you say. The wife of the barber receives a small
stipend to take care of her. So much by the month. Eh, then! It is
without doubt very little, for we are all poor here."

"You are not poor, madame."

"As to my lodgers," replied Madame Bouclet, with a smiling and a gracious
bend of her head, "no. As to all things else, so-so."

"You flatter me, madame."

"Monsieur, it is you who flatter me in living here."

Certain fishy gasps on Mr. The Englishman's part, denoting that he was
about to resume his subject under difficulties, Madame Bouclet observed
him closely, and whisked up her delicate line and rod again with
triumphant success.

"O no, monsieur, certainly not. The wife of the barber is not cruel to
the poor child, but she is careless. Her health is delicate, and she
sits all day, looking out at window. Consequently, when the Corporal
first came, the poor little Bebelle was much neglected."

"It is a curious--" began Mr. The Englishman.

"Name? That Bebelle? Again you are right, monsieur. But it is a
playful name for Gabrielle."

"And so the child is a mere fancy of the Corporal's?" said Mr. The
Englishman, in a gruffly disparaging tone of voice.

"Eh, well!" returned Madame Bouclet, with a pleading shrug: "one must
love something. Human nature is weak."

("Devilish weak," muttered the Englishman, in his own language.)

"And the Corporal," pursued Madame Bouclet, "being billeted at the
barber's,--where he will probably remain a long time, for he is attached
to the General,--and finding the poor unowned child in need of being
loved, and finding himself in need of loving,--why, there you have it
all, you see!"

Mr. The Englishman accepted this interpretation of the matter with an
indifferent grace, and observed to himself, in an injured manner, when he
was again alone: "I shouldn't mind it so much, if these people were not
such a"--National Participled--"sentimental people!"

There was a Cemetery outside the town, and it happened ill for the
reputation of the Vaubanois, in this sentimental connection, that he took
a walk there that same afternoon. To be sure there were some wonderful
things in it (from the Englishman's point of view), and of a certainty in
all Britain you would have found nothing like it. Not to mention the
fanciful flourishes of hearts and crosses in wood and iron, that were
planted all over the place, making it look very like a Firework-ground,
where a most splendid pyrotechnic display might be expected after dark,
there were so many wreaths upon the graves, embroidered, as it might be,
"To my mother," "To my daughter," "To my father," "To my brother," "To my
sister," "To my friend," and those many wreaths were in so many stages of
elaboration and decay, from the wreath of yesterday, all fresh colour and
bright beads, to the wreath of last year, a poor mouldering wisp of
straw! There were so many little gardens and grottos made upon graves,
in so many tastes, with plants and shells and plaster figures and
porcelain pitchers, and so many odds and ends! There were so many
tributes of remembrance hanging up, not to be discriminated by the
closest inspection from little round waiters, whereon were depicted in
glowing lines either a lady or a gentleman with a white
pocket-handkerchief out of all proportion, leaning, in a state of the
most faultless mourning and most profound affliction, on the most
architectural and gorgeous urn! There were so many surviving wives who
had put their names on the tombs of their deceased husbands, with a blank
for the date of their own departure from this weary world; and there were
so many surviving husbands who had rendered the same homage to their
deceased wives; and out of the number there must have been so many who
had long ago married again! In fine, there was so much in the place that
would have seemed more frippery to a stranger, save for the consideration
that the lightest paper flower that lay upon the poorest heap of earth
was never touched by a rude hand, but perished there, a sacred thing!

"Nothing of the solemnity of Death here," Mr. The Englishman had been
going to say, when this last consideration touched him with a mild
appeal, and on the whole he walked out without saying it. "But these
people are," he insisted, by way of compensation, when he was well
outside the gate, "they are so"--Participled--"sentimental!"

His way back lay by the military gymnasium-ground. And there he passed
the Corporal glibly instructing young soldiers how to swing themselves
over rapid and deep watercourses on their way to Glory, by means of a
rope, and himself deftly plunging off a platform, and flying a hundred
feet or two, as an encouragement to them to begin. And there he also
passed, perched on a crowning eminence (probably the Corporal's careful
hands), the small Bebelle, with her round eyes wide open, surveying the
proceeding like a wondering sort of blue and white bird.

"If that child was to die," this was his reflection as he turned his back
and went his way,--"and it would almost serve the fellow right for making
such a fool of himself,--I suppose we should have him sticking up a
wreath and a waiter in that fantastic burying-ground."

Nevertheless, after another early morning or two of looking out of
window, he strolled down into the Place, when the Corporal and Bebelle
were walking there, and touching his hat to the Corporal (an immense
achievement), wished him Good-day.

"Good-day, monsieur."

"This is a rather pretty child you have here," said Mr. The Englishman,
taking her chin in his hand, and looking down into her astonished blue
eyes.

"Monsieur, she is a very pretty child," returned the Corporal, with a
stress on his polite correction of the phrase.

"And good?" said the Englishman.

"And very good. Poor little thing!"

"Hah!" The Englishman stooped down and patted her cheek, not without
awkwardness, as if he were going too far in his conciliation. "And what
is this medal round your neck, my little one?"

Bebelle having no other reply on her lips than her chubby right fist, the
Corporal offered his services as interpreter.

"Monsieur demands, what is this, Bebelle?"

"It is the Holy Virgin," said Bebelle.

"And who gave it you?" asked the Englishman.

"Theophile."

"And who is Theophile?"

Bebelle broke into a laugh, laughed merrily and heartily, clapped her
chubby hands, and beat her little feet on the stone pavement of the
Place.

"He doesn't know Theophile! Why, he doesn't know any one! He doesn't
know anything!" Then, sensible of a small solecism in her manners,
Bebelle twisted her right hand in a leg of the Corporal's Bloomer
trousers, and, laying her cheek against the place, kissed it.

"Monsieur Theophile, I believe?" said the Englishman to the Corporal.

"It is I, monsieur."

"Permit me." Mr. The Englishman shook him heartily by the hand and
turned away. But he took it mighty ill that old Monsieur Mutuel in his
patch of sunlight, upon whom he came as he turned, should pull off his
cap to him with a look of pleased approval. And he muttered, in his own
tongue, as he returned the salutation, "Well, walnut-shell! And what
business is it of _yours_?"

Mr. The Englishman went on for many weeks passing but disturbed evenings
and worse nights, and constantly experiencing that those aforesaid
windows in the houses of Memory and Mercy rattled after dark, and that he
had very imperfectly nailed them up. Likewise, he went on for many weeks
daily improving the acquaintance of the Corporal and Bebelle. That is to
say, he took Bebelle by the chin, and the Corporal by the hand, and
offered Bebelle sous and the Corporal cigars, and even got the length of
changing pipes with the Corporal and kissing Bebelle. But he did it all
in a shamefaced way, and always took it extremely ill that Monsieur
Mutuel in his patch of sunlight should note what he did. Whenever that
seemed to be the case, he always growled in his own tongue, "There you
are again, walnut-shell! What business is it of yours?"

In a word, it had become the occupation of Mr. The Englishman's life to
look after the Corporal and little Bebelle, and to resent old Monsieur
Mutuel's looking after _him_. An occupation only varied by a fire in the
town one windy night, and much passing of water-buckets from hand to hand
(in which the Englishman rendered good service), and much beating of
drums,--when all of a sudden the Corporal disappeared.

Next, all of a sudden, Bebelle disappeared.

She had been visible a few days later than the Corporal,--sadly
deteriorated as to washing and brushing,--but she had not spoken when
addressed by Mr. The Englishman, and had looked scared and had run away.
And now it would seem that she had run away for good. And there lay the
Great Place under the windows, bare and barren.

In his shamefaced and constrained way, Mr. The Englishman asked no
question of any one, but watched from his front windows and watched from
his back windows, and lingered about the Place, and peeped in at the
Barber's shop, and did all this and much more with a whistling and tune-
humming pretence of not missing anything, until one afternoon when
Monsieur Mutuel's patch of sunlight was in shadow, and when, according to
all rule and precedent, he had no right whatever to bring his red ribbon
out of doors, behold here he was, advancing with his cap already in his
hand twelve paces off!

Mr. The Englishman had got as far into his usual objurgation as, "What bu-
si--" when he checked himself.

"Ah, it is sad, it is sad! Helas, it is unhappy, it is sad!" Thus old
Monsieur Mutuel, shaking his gray head.

"What busin--at least, I would say, what do you mean, Monsieur Mutuel?"

"Our Corporal. Helas, our dear Corporal!"

"What has happened to him?"

"You have not heard?"

"No."

"At the fire. But he was so brave, so ready. Ah, too brave, too ready!"

"May the Devil carry you away!" the Englishman broke in impatiently; "I
beg your pardon,--I mean me,--I am not accustomed to speak French,--go
on, will you?"

"And a falling beam--"

"Good God!" exclaimed the Englishman. "It was a private soldier who was
killed?"

"No. A Corporal, the same Corporal, our dear Corporal. Beloved by all
his comrades. The funeral ceremony was touching,--penetrating. Monsieur
The Englishman, your eyes fill with tears."

"What bu-si--"

"Monsieur The Englishman, I honour those emotions. I salute you with
profound respect. I will not obtrude myself upon your noble heart."

Monsieur Mutuel,--a gentleman in every thread of his cloudy linen, under
whose wrinkled hand every grain in the quarter of an ounce of poor snuff
in his poor little tin box became a gentleman's property,--Monsieur
Mutuel passed on, with his cap in his hand.

"I little thought," said the Englishman, after walking for several
minutes, and more than once blowing his nose, "when I was looking round
that cemetery--I'll go there!"

Straight he went there, and when he came within the gate he paused,
considering whether he should ask at the lodge for some direction to the
grave. But he was less than ever in a mood for asking questions, and he
thought, "I shall see something on it to know it by."

In search of the Corporal's grave he went softly on, up this walk and
down that, peering in, among the crosses and hearts and columns and
obelisks and tombstones, for a recently disturbed spot. It troubled him
now to think how many dead there were in the cemetery,--he had not
thought them a tenth part so numerous before,--and after he had walked
and sought for some time, he said to himself, as he struck down a new
vista of tombs, "I might suppose that every one was dead but I."

Not every one. A live child was lying on the ground asleep. Truly he
had found something on the Corporal's grave to know it by, and the
something was Bebelle.

With such a loving will had the dead soldier's comrades worked at his
resting-place, that it was already a neat garden. On the green turf of
the garden Bebelle lay sleeping, with her cheek touching it. A plain,
unpainted little wooden Cross was planted in the turf, and her short arm
embraced this little Cross, as it had many a time embraced the Corporal's
neck. They had put a tiny flag (the flag of France) at his head, and a
laurel garland.

Mr. The Englishman took off his hat, and stood for a while silent. Then,
covering his head again, he bent down on one knee, and softly roused the
child.

"Bebelle! My little one!"

Opening her eyes, on which the tears were still wet, Bebelle was at first
frightened; but seeing who it was, she suffered him to take her in his
arms, looking steadfastly at him.

"You must not lie here, my little one. You must come with me."

"No, no. I can't leave Theophile. I want the good dear Theophile."

"We will go and seek him, Bebelle. We will go and look for him in
England. We will go and look for him at my daughter's, Bebelle."

"Shall we find him there?"

"We shall find the best part of him there. Come with me, poor forlorn
little one. Heaven is my witness," said the Englishman, in a low voice,
as, before he rose, he touched the turf above the gentle Corporal's
breast, "that I thankfully accept this trust!"

It was a long way for the child to have come unaided. She was soon
asleep again, with her embrace transferred to the Englishman's neck. He
looked at her worn shoes, and her galled feet, and her tired face, and
believed that she had come there every day.

He was leaving the grave with the slumbering Bebelle in his arms, when he
stopped, looked wistfully down at it, and looked wistfully at the other
graves around. "It is the innocent custom of the people," said Mr. The
Englishman, with hesitation. "I think I should like to do it. No one
sees."

Careful not to wake Bebelle as he went, he repaired to the lodge where
such little tokens of remembrance were sold, and bought two wreaths. One,
blue and white and glistening silver, "To my friend;" one of a soberer
red and black and yellow, "To my friend." With these he went back to the
grave, and so down on one knee again. Touching the child's lips with the
brighter wreath, he guided her hand to hang it on the Cross; then hung
his own wreath there. After all, the wreaths were not far out of keeping
with the little garden. To my friend. To my friend.

Mr. The Englishman took it very ill when he looked round a street corner
into the Great Place, carrying Bebelle in his arms, that old Mutuel
should be there airing his red ribbon. He took a world of pains to dodge
the worthy Mutuel, and devoted a surprising amount of time and trouble to
skulking into his own lodging like a man pursued by Justice. Safely
arrived there at last, he made Bebelle's toilet with as accurate a
remembrance as he could bring to bear upon that work of the way in which
he had often seen the poor Corporal make it, and having given her to eat
and drink, laid her down on his own bed. Then he slipped out into the
barber's shop, and after a brief interview with the barber's wife, and a
brief recourse to his purse and card-case, came back again with the whole
of Bebelle's personal property in such a very little bundle that it was
quite lost under his arm.

As it was irreconcilable with his whole course and character that he
should carry Bebelle off in state, or receive any compliments or
congratulations on that feat, he devoted the next day to getting his two
portmanteaus out of the house by artfulness and stealth, and to
comporting himself in every particular as if he were going to run
away,--except, indeed, that he paid his few debts in the town, and
prepared a letter to leave for Madame Bouclet, enclosing a sufficient sum
of money in lieu of notice. A railway train would come through at
midnight, and by that train he would take away Bebelle to look for
Theophile in England and at his forgiven daughter's.

At midnight, on a moonlight night, Mr. The Englishman came creeping forth
like a harmless assassin, with Bebelle on his breast instead of a dagger.
Quiet the Great Place, and quiet the never-stirring streets; closed the
cafes; huddled together motionless their billiard-balls; drowsy the guard
or sentinel on duty here and there; lulled for the time, by sleep, even
the insatiate appetite of the Office of Town-dues.

Mr. The Englishman left the Place behind, and left the streets behind,
and left the civilian-inhabited town behind, and descended down among the
military works of Vauban, hemming all in. As the shadow of the first
heavy arch and postern fell upon him and was left behind, as the shadow
of the second heavy arch and postern fell upon him and was left behind,
as his hollow tramp over the first drawbridge was succeeded by a gentler
sound, as his hollow tramp over the second drawbridge was succeeded by a
gentler sound, as he overcame the stagnant ditches one by one, and passed
out where the flowing waters were and where the moonlight, so the dark
shades and the hollow sounds and the unwholesomely locked currents of his
soul were vanquished and set free. See to it, Vaubans of your own
hearts, who gird them in with triple walls and ditches, and with bolt and
chain and bar and lifted bridge,--raze those fortifications, and lay them
level with the all-absorbing dust, before the night cometh when no hand
can work!

All went prosperously, and he got into an empty carriage in the train,
where he could lay Bebelle on the seat over against him, as on a couch,
and cover her from head to foot with his mantle. He had just drawn
himself up from perfecting this arrangement, and had just leaned back in
his own seat contemplating it with great satisfaction, when he became
aware of a curious appearance at the open carriage window,--a ghostly
little tin box floating up in the moonlight, and hovering there.

He leaned forward, and put out his head. Down among the rails and wheels
and ashes, Monsieur Mutuel, red ribbon and all!

"Excuse me, Monsieur The Englishman," said Monsieur Mutuel, holding up
his box at arm's length, the carriage being so high and he so low; "but I
shall reverence the little box for ever, if your so generous hand will
take a pinch from it at parting."

Mr. The Englishman reached out of the window before complying,
and--without asking the old fellow what business it was of his--shook
hands and said, "Adieu! God bless you!"

"And, Mr. The Englishman, God bless _you_!" cried Madame Bouclet, who was
also there among the rails and wheels and ashes. "And God will bless you
in the happiness of the protected child now with you. And God will bless
you in your own child at home. And God will bless you in your own
remembrances. And this from me!"

He had barely time to catch a bouquet from her hand, when the train was
flying through the night. Round the paper that enfolded it was bravely
written (doubtless by the nephew who held the pen of an Angel), "Homage
to the friend of the friendless."

"Not bad people, Bebelle!" said Mr. The Englishman, softly drawing the
mantle a little from her sleeping face, that he might kiss it, "though
they are so--"

Too "sentimental" himself at the moment to be able to get out that word,
he added nothing but a sob, and travelled for some miles, through the
moonlight, with his hand before his eyes.


CHAPTER III--HIS BROWN-PAPER PARCEL


My works are well known. I am a young man in the Art line. You have
seen my works many a time, though it's fifty thousand to one if you have
seen me. You say you don't want to see me? You say your interest is in
my works, and not in me? Don't be too sure about that. Stop a bit.

Let us have it down in black and white at the first go off, so that there
may be no unpleasantness or wrangling afterwards. And this is looked
over by a friend of mine, a ticket writer, that is up to literature. I
am a young man in the Art line--in the Fine-Art line. You have seen my
works over and over again, and you have been curious about me, and you
think you have seen me. Now, as a safe rule, you never have seen me, and
you never do see me, and you never will see me. I think that's plainly
put--and it's what knocks me over.

If there's a blighted public character going, I am the party.

It has been remarked by a certain (or an uncertain,) philosopher, that
the world knows nothing of its greatest men. He might have put it
plainer if he had thrown his eye in my direction. He might have put it,
that while the world knows something of them that apparently go in and
win, it knows nothing of them that really go in and don't win. There it
is again in another form--and that's what knocks me over.

Not that it's only myself that suffers from injustice, but that I am more
alive to my own injuries than to any other man's. Being, as I have
mentioned, in the Fine-Art line, and not the Philanthropic line, I openly
admit it. As to company in injury, I have company enough. Who are you
passing every day at your Competitive Excruciations? The fortunate
candidates whose heads and livers you have turned upside down for life?
Not you. You are really passing the Crammers and Coaches. If your
principle is right, why don't you turn out to-morrow morning with the
keys of your cities on velvet cushions, your musicians playing, and your
flags flying, and read addresses to the Crammers and Coaches on your
bended knees, beseeching them to come out and govern you? Then, again,
as to your public business of all sorts, your Financial statements and
your Budgets; the Public knows much, truly, about the real doers of all
that! Your Nobles and Right Honourables are first-rate men? Yes, and so
is a goose a first-rate bird. But I'll tell you this about the
goose;--you'll find his natural flavour disappointing, without stuffing.

Perhaps I am soured by not being popular? But suppose I AM popular.
Suppose my works never fail to attract. Suppose that, whether they are
exhibited by natural light or by artificial, they invariably draw the
public. Then no doubt they are preserved in some Collection? No, they
are not; they are not preserved in any Collection. Copyright? No, nor
yet copyright. Anyhow they must be somewhere? Wrong again, for they are
often nowhere.

Says you, "At all events, you are in a moody state of mind, my friend."
My answer is, I have described myself as a public character with a blight
upon him--which fully accounts for the curdling of the milk in _that_
cocoa-nut.

Those that are acquainted with London are aware of a locality on the
Surrey side of the river Thames, called the Obelisk, or, more generally,
the Obstacle. Those that are not acquainted with London will also be
aware of it, now that I have named it. My lodging is not far from that
locality. I am a young man of that easy disposition, that I lie abed
till it's absolutely necessary to get up and earn something, and then I
lie abed again till I have spent it.

It was on an occasion when I had had to turn to with a view to victuals,
that I found myself walking along the Waterloo Road, one evening after
dark, accompanied by an acquaintance and fellow-lodger in the gas-fitting
way of life. He is very good company, having worked at the theatres,
and, indeed, he has a theatrical turn himself, and wishes to be brought
out in the character of Othello; but whether on account of his regular
work always blacking his face and hands more or less, I cannot say.

"Tom," he says, "what a mystery hangs over you!"

"Yes, Mr. Click"--the rest of the house generally give him his name, as
being first, front, carpeted all over, his own furniture, and if not
mahogany, an out-and-out imitation--"yes, Mr. Click, a mystery does hang
over me."

"Makes you low, you see, don't it?" says he, eyeing me sideways.

"Why, yes, Mr. Click, there are circumstances connected with it that
have," I yielded to a sigh, "a lowering effect."

"Gives you a touch of the misanthrope too, don't it?" says he. "Well,
I'll tell you what. If I was you, I'd shake it of."

"If I was you, I would, Mr. Click; but, if you was me, you wouldn't."

"Ah!" says he, "there's something in that."

When we had walked a little further, he took it up again by touching me
on the chest.

"You see, Tom, it seems to me as if, in the words of the poet who wrote
the domestic drama of The Stranger, you had a silent sorrow there."

"I have, Mr. Click."

"I hope, Tom," lowering his voice in a friendly way, "it isn't coining,
or smashing?"

"No, Mr. Click. Don't be uneasy."

"Nor yet forg--" Mr. Click checked himself, and added, "counterfeiting
anything, for instance?"

"No, Mr. Click. I am lawfully in the Art line--Fine-Art line--but I can
say no more."

"Ah! Under a species of star? A kind of malignant spell? A sort of a
gloomy destiny? A cankerworm pegging away at your vitals in secret, as
well as I make it out?" said Mr. Click, eyeing me with some admiration.

I told Mr. Click that was about it, if we came to particulars; and I
thought he appeared rather proud of me.

Our conversation had brought us to a crowd of people, the greater part
struggling for a front place from which to see something on the pavement,
which proved to be various designs executed in coloured chalks on the
pavement stones, lighted by two candles stuck in mud sconces. The
subjects consisted of a fine fresh salmon's head and shoulders, supposed
to have been recently sent home from the fishmonger's; a moonlight night
at sea (in a circle); dead game; scroll-work; the head of a hoary hermit
engaged in devout contemplation; the head of a pointer smoking a pipe;
and a cherubim, his flesh creased as in infancy, going on a horizontal
errand against the wind. All these subjects appeared to me to be
exquisitely done.

On his knees on one side of this gallery, a shabby person of modest
appearance who shivered dreadfully (though it wasn't at all cold), was
engaged in blowing the chalk-dust off the moon, toning the outline of the
back of the hermit's head with a bit of leather, and fattening the down-
stroke of a letter or two in the writing. I have forgotten to mention
that writing formed a part of the composition, and that it also--as it
appeared to me--was exquisitely done. It ran as follows, in fine round
characters: "An honest man is the noblest work of God. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
0. Pounds s. d. Employment in an office is humbly requested. Honour
the Queen. Hunger is a 0 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 sharp thorn. Chip chop,
cherry chop, fol de rol de ri do. Astronomy and mathematics. I do this
to support my family."

Murmurs of admiration at the exceeding beauty of this performance went
about among the crowd. The artist, having finished his touching (and
having spoilt those places), took his seat on the pavement, with his
knees crouched up very nigh his chin; and halfpence began to rattle in.

"A pity to see a man of that talent brought so low; ain't it?" said one
of the crowd to me.

"What he might have done in the coach-painting, or house-decorating!"
said another man, who took up the first speaker because I did not.

"Why, he writes--alone--like the Lord Chancellor!" said another man.

"Better," said another. "I know his writing. He couldn't support his
family this way."

Then, a woman noticed the natural fluffiness of the hermit's hair, and
another woman, her friend, mentioned of the salmon's gills that you could
almost see him gasp. Then, an elderly country gentleman stepped forward
and asked the modest man how he executed his work? And the modest man
took some scraps of brown paper with colours in 'em out of his pockets,
and showed them. Then a fair-complexioned donkey, with sandy hair and
spectacles, asked if the hermit was a portrait? To which the modest man,
casting a sorrowful glance upon it, replied that it was, to a certain
extent, a recollection of his father. This caused a boy to yelp out, "Is
the Pinter a smoking the pipe your mother?" who was immediately shoved
out of view by a sympathetic carpenter with his basket of tools at his
back.

At every fresh question or remark the crowd leaned forward more eagerly,
and dropped the halfpence more freely, and the modest man gathered them
up more meekly. At last, another elderly gentleman came to the front,
and gave the artist his card, to come to his office to-morrow, and get
some copying to do. The card was accompanied by sixpence, and the artist
was profoundly grateful, and, before he put the card in his hat, read it
several times by the light of his candles to fix the address well in his
mind, in case he should lose it. The crowd was deeply interested by this
last incident, and a man in the second row with a gruff voice growled to
the artist, "You've got a chance in life now, ain't you?" The artist
answered (sniffing in a very low-spirited way, however), "I'm thankful to
hope so." Upon which there was a general chorus of "You are all right,"
and the halfpence slackened very decidedly.

I felt myself pulled away by the arm, and Mr. Click and I stood alone at
the corner of the next crossing.

"Why, Tom," said Mr. Click, "what a horrid expression of face you've
got!"

"Have I?" says I.

"Have you?" says Mr. Click. "Why, you looked as if you would have his
blood."

"Whose blood?"

"The artist's."

"The artist's?" I repeated. And I laughed, frantically, wildly,
gloomily, incoherently, disagreeably. I am sensible that I did. I know
I did.

Mr. Click stared at me in a scared sort of a way, but said nothing until
we had walked a street's length. He then stopped short, and said, with
excitement on the part of his forefinger:

"Thomas, I find it necessary to be plain with you. I don't like the
envious man. I have identified the cankerworm that's pegging away at
_your_ vitals, and it's envy, Thomas."

"Is it?" says I.

"Yes, it is," says be. "Thomas, beware of envy. It is the green-eyed
monster which never did and never will improve each shining hour, but
quite the reverse. I dread the envious man, Thomas. I confess that I am
afraid of the envious man, when he is so envious as you are. Whilst you
contemplated the works of a gifted rival, and whilst you heard that
rival's praises, and especially whilst you met his humble glance as he
put that card away, your countenance was so malevolent as to be terrific.
Thomas, I have heard of the envy of them that follows the Fine-Art line,
but I never believed it could be what yours is. I wish you well, but I
take my leave of you. And if you should ever got into trouble through
knifeing--or say, garotting--a brother artist, as I believe you will,
don't call me to character, Thomas, or I shall be forced to injure your
case."

Mr. Click parted from me with those words, and we broke off our
acquaintance.

I became enamoured. Her name was Henrietta. Contending with my easy
disposition, I frequently got up to go after her. She also dwelt in the
neighbourhood of the Obstacle, and I did fondly hope that no other would
interpose in the way of our union.

To say that Henrietta was volatile is but to say that she was woman. To
say that she was in the bonnet-trimming is feebly to express the taste
which reigned predominant in her own.

She consented to walk with me. Let me do her the justice to say that she
did so upon trial. "I am not," said Henrietta, "as yet prepared to
regard you, Thomas, in any other light than as a friend; but as a friend
I am willing to walk with you, on the understanding that softer
sentiments may flow."

We walked.

Under the influence of Henrietta's beguilements, I now got out of bed
daily. I pursued my calling with an industry before unknown, and it
cannot fail to have been observed at that period, by those most familiar
with the streets of London, that there was a larger supply. But hold!
The time is not yet come!

One evening in October I was walking with Henrietta, enjoying the cool
breezes wafted over Vauxhall Bridge. After several slow turns, Henrietta
gaped frequently (so inseparable from woman is the love of excitement),
and said, "Let's go home by Grosvenor Place, Piccadilly, and
Waterloo"--localities, I may state for the information of the stranger
and the foreigner, well known in London, and the last a Bridge.

"No. Not by Piccadilly, Henrietta," said I.

"And why not Piccadilly, for goodness' sake?" said Henrietta.

Could I tell her? Could I confess to the gloomy presentiment that
overshadowed me? Could I make myself intelligible to her? No.

"I don't like Piccadilly, Henrietta."

"But I do," said she. "It's dark now, and the long rows of lamps in
Piccadilly after dark are beautiful. I _will_ go to Piccadilly!"

Of course we went. It was a pleasant night, and there were numbers of
people in the streets. It was a brisk night, but not too cold, and not
damp. Let me darkly observe, it was the best of all nights--FOR THE
PURPOSE.

As we passed the garden wall of the Royal Palace, going up Grosvenor
Place, Henrietta murmured:

"I wish I was a Queen!"

"Why so, Henrietta?"

"I would make _you_ Something," said she, and crossed her two hands on my
arm, and turned away her head.

Judging from this that the softer sentiments alluded to above had begun
to flow, I adapted my conduct to that belief. Thus happily we passed on
into the detested thoroughfare of Piccadilly. On the right of that
thoroughfare is a row of trees, the railing of the Green Park, and a fine
broad eligible piece of pavement.

"Oh my!" cried Henrietta presently. "There's been an accident!"

I looked to the left, and said, "Where, Henrietta?"

"Not there, stupid!" said she. "Over by the Park railings. Where the
crowd is. Oh no, it's not an accident, it's something else to look at!
What's them lights?"

She referred to two lights twinkling low amongst the legs of the
assemblage: two candles on the pavement.

"Oh, do come along!" cried Henrietta, skipping across the road with me. I
hung back, but in vain. "Do let's look!"

Again, designs upon the pavement. Centre compartment, Mount Vesuvius
going it (in a circle), supported by four oval compartments, severally
representing a ship in heavy weather, a shoulder of mutton attended by
two cucumbers, a golden harvest with distant cottage of proprietor, and a
knife and fork after nature; above the centre compartment a bunch of
grapes, and over the whole a rainbow. The whole, as it appeared to me,
exquisitely done.

The person in attendance on these works of art was in all respects,
shabbiness excepted, unlike the former personage. His whole appearance
and manner denoted briskness. Though threadbare, he expressed to the
crowd that poverty had not subdued his spirit, or tinged with any sense
of shame this honest effort to turn his talents to some account. The
writing which formed a part of his composition was conceived in a
similarly cheerful tone. It breathed the following sentiments: "The
writer is poor, but not despondent. To a British 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
Public he Pounds s. d. appeals. Honour to our brave Army! And also 0 9
8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 to our gallant Navy. BRITONS STRIKE the A B C D E F G
writer in common chalks would be grateful for any suitable employment
HOME! HURRAH!" The whole of this writing appeared to me to be
exquisitely done.

But this man, in one respect like the last, though seemingly hard at it
with a great show of brown paper and rubbers, was only really fattening
the down-stroke of a letter here and there, or blowing the loose chalk
off the rainbow, or toning the outside edge of the shoulder of mutton.
Though he did this with the greatest confidence, he did it (as it struck
me) in so ignorant a manner, and so spoilt everything he touched, that
when he began upon the purple smoke from the chimney of the distant
cottage of the proprietor of the golden harvest (which smoke was
beautifully soft), I found myself saying aloud, without considering of
it:

"Let that alone, will you?"

"Halloa!" said the man next me in the crowd, jerking me roughly from him
with his elbow, "why didn't you send a telegram? If we had known you was
coming, we'd have provided something better for you. You understand the
man's work better than he does himself, don't you? Have you made your
will? You're too clever to live long."

"Don't be hard upon the gentleman, sir," said the person in attendance on
the works of art, with a twinkle in his eye as he looked at me; "he may
chance to be an artist himself. If so, sir, he will have a
fellow-feeling with me, sir, when I"--he adapted his action to his words
as he went on, and gave a smart slap of his hands between each touch,
working himself all the time about and about the composition--"when I
lighten the bloom of my grapes--shade off the orange in my rainbow--dot
the i of my Britons--throw a yellow light into my cow-cum-_ber_--insinuate
another morsel of fat into my shoulder of mutton--dart another zigzag
flash of lightning at my ship in distress!"

He seemed to do this so neatly, and was so nimble about it, that the
halfpence came flying in.

"Thanks, generous public, thanks!" said the professor. "You will
stimulate me to further exertions. My name will be found in the list of
British Painters yet. I shall do better than this, with encouragement. I
shall indeed."

"You never can do better than that bunch of grapes," said Henrietta. "Oh,
Thomas, them grapes!"

"Not better than _that_, lady? I hope for the time when I shall paint
anything but your own bright eyes and lips equal to life."

"(Thomas, did you ever?) But it must take a long time, sir," said
Henrietta, blushing, "to paint equal to that."

"I was prenticed to it, miss," said the young man, smartly touching up
the composition--"prenticed to it in the caves of Spain and Portingale,
ever so long and two year over."

There was a laugh from the crowd; and a new man who had worked himself in
next me, said, "He's a smart chap, too; ain't he?"

"And what a eye!" exclaimed Henrietta softly.

"Ah! He need have a eye," said the man.

"Ah! He just need," was murmured among the crowd.

"He couldn't come that 'ere burning mountain without a eye," said the
man. He had got himself accepted as an authority, somehow, and everybody
looked at his finger as it pointed out Vesuvius. "To come that effect in
a general illumination would require a eye; but to come it with two
dips--why, it's enough to blind him!"

That impostor, pretending not to have heard what was said, now winked to
any extent with both eyes at once, as if the strain upon his sight was
too much, and threw back his long hair--it was very long--as if to cool
his fevered brow. I was watching him doing it, when Henrietta suddenly
whispered, "Oh, Thomas, how horrid you look!" and pulled me out by the
arm.

Remembering Mr. Click's words, I was confused when I retorted, "What do
you mean by horrid?"

"Oh gracious! Why, you looked," said Henrietta, "as if you would have
his blood."

I was going to answer, "So I would, for twopence--from his nose," when I
checked myself and remained silent.

We returned home in silence. Every step of the way, the softer
sentiments that had flowed, ebbed twenty mile an hour. Adapting my
conduct to the ebbing, as I had done to the flowing, I let my arm drop
limp, so as she could scarcely keep hold of it, and I wished her such a
cold good-night at parting, that I keep within the bounds of truth when I
characterise it as a Rasper.

In the course of the next day I received the following document:

"Henrietta informs Thomas that my eyes are open to you. I must ever
wish you well, but walking and us is separated by an unfarmable abyss.
One so malignant to superiority--Oh that look at him!--can never never
conduct

HENRIETTA

P.S.--To the altar."

Yielding to the easiness of my disposition, I went to bed for a week,
after receiving this letter. During the whole of such time, London was
bereft of the usual fruits of my labour. When I resumed it, I found that
Henrietta was married to the artist of Piccadilly.

Did I say to the artist? What fell words were those, expressive of what
a galling hollowness, of what a bitter mockery! I--I--I--am the artist.
I was the real artist of Piccadilly, I was the real artist of the
Waterloo Road, I am the only artist of all those pavement-subjects which
daily and nightly arouse your admiration. I do 'em, and I let 'em out.
The man you behold with the papers of chalks and the rubbers, touching up
the down-strokes of the writing and shading off the salmon, the man you
give the credit to, the man you give the money to, hires--yes! and I live
to tell it!--hires those works of art of me, and brings nothing to 'em
but the candles.

Such is genius in a commercial country. I am not up to the shivering, I
am not up to the liveliness, I am not up to the wanting-employment-in-an-
office move; I am only up to originating and executing the work. In
consequence of which you never see me; you think you see me when you see
somebody else, and that somebody else is a mere Commercial character. The
one seen by self and Mr. Click in the Waterloo Road can only write a
single word, and that I taught him, and it's MULTIPLICATION--which you
may see him execute upside down, because he can't do it the natural way.
The one seen by self and Henrietta by the Green Park railings can just
smear into existence the two ends of a rainbow, with his cuff and a
rubber--if very hard put upon making a show--but he could no more come
the arch of the rainbow, to save his life, than he could come the
moonlight, fish, volcano, shipwreck, mutton, hermit, or any of my most
celebrated effects.

To conclude as I began: if there's a blighted public character going, I
am the party. And often as you have seen, do see, and will see, my
Works, it's fifty thousand to one if you'll ever see me, unless, when the
candles are burnt down and the Commercial character is gone, you should
happen to notice a neglected young man perseveringly rubbing out the last
traces of the pictures, so that nobody can renew the same. That's me.


CHAPTER IV--HIS WONDERFUL END


It will have been, ere now, perceived that I sold the foregoing writings.
From the fact of their being printed in these pages, the inference will,
ere now, have been drawn by the reader (may I add, the gentle reader?)
that I sold them to One who never yet--{2}

Having parted with the writings on most satisfactory terms,--for, in
opening negotiations with the present Journal, was I not placing myself
in the hands of One of whom it may be said, in the words of Another,
{2,}--resumed my usual functions. But I too soon discovered that peace
of mind had fled from a brow which, up to that time, Time had merely took
the hair off, leaving an unruffled expanse within.

It were superfluous to veil it,--the brow to which I allude is my own.

Yes, over that brow uneasiness gathered like the sable wing of the fabled
bird, as--as no doubt will be easily identified by all right-minded
individuals. If not, I am unable, on the spur of the moment, to enter
into particulars of him. The reflection that the writings must now
inevitably get into print, and that He might yet live and meet with them,
sat like the Hag of Night upon my jaded form. The elasticity of my
spirits departed. Fruitless was the Bottle, whether Wine or Medicine. I
had recourse to both, and the effect of both upon my system was
witheringly lowering.

In this state of depression, into which I subsided when I first began to
revolve what could I ever say if He--the unknown--was to appear in the
Coffee-room and demand reparation, I one forenoon in this last November
received a turn that appeared to be given me by the finger of Fate and
Conscience, hand in hand. I was alone in the Coffee-room, and had just
poked the fire into a blaze, and was standing with my back to it, trying
whether heat would penetrate with soothing influence to the Voice within,
when a young man in a cap, of an intelligent countenance, though
requiring his hair cut, stood before me.

"Mr. Christopher, the Head Waiter?"

"The same."

The young man shook his hair out of his vision,--which it impeded,--to a
packet from his breast, and handing it over to me, said, with his eye (or
did I dream?) fixed with a lambent meaning on me, "THE PROOFS."

Although I smelt my coat-tails singeing at the fire, I had not the power
to withdraw them. The young man put the packet in my faltering grasp,
and repeated,--let me do him the justice to add, with civility:

"THE PROOFS. A. Y. R."

With those words he departed.

A. Y. R.? And You Remember. Was that his meaning? At Your Risk. Were
the letters short for _that_ reminder? Anticipate Your Retribution. Did
they stand for _that_ warning? Out-dacious Youth Repent? But no; for
that, a O was happily wanting, and the vowel here was a A.

I opened the packet, and found that its contents were the foregoing
writings printed just as the reader (may I add the discerning reader?)
peruses them. In vain was the reassuring whisper,--A.Y.R., All the Year
Round,--it could not cancel the Proofs. Too appropriate name. The
Proofs of my having sold the Writings.

My wretchedness daily increased. I had not thought of the risk I ran,
and the defying publicity I put my head into, until all was done, and all
was in print. Give up the money to be off the bargain and prevent the
publication, I could not. My family was down in the world, Christmas was
coming on, a brother in the hospital and a sister in the rheumatics could
not be entirely neglected. And it was not only ins in the family that
had told on the resources of one unaided Waitering; outs were not
wanting. A brother out of a situation, and another brother out of money
to meet an acceptance, and another brother out of his mind, and another
brother out at New York (not the same, though it might appear so), had
really and truly brought me to a stand till I could turn myself round. I
got worse and worse in my meditations, constantly reflecting "The
Proofs," and reflecting that when Christmas drew nearer, and the Proofs
were published, there could be no safety from hour to hour but that He
might confront me in the Coffee-room, and in the face of day and his
country demand his rights.

The impressive and unlooked-for catastrophe towards which I dimly pointed
the reader (shall I add, the highly intellectual reader?) in my first
remarks now rapidly approaches.

It was November still, but the last echoes of the Guy Foxes had long
ceased to reverberate. We was slack,--several joints under our average
mark, and wine, of course, proportionate. So slack had we become at
last, that Beds Nos. 26, 27, 28, and 31, having took their six o'clock
dinners, and dozed over their respective pints, had drove away in their
respective Hansoms for their respective Night Mail-trains and left us
empty.

I had took the evening paper to No. 6 table,--which is warm and most to
be preferred,--and, lost in the all-absorbing topics of the day, had
dropped into a slumber. I was recalled to consciousness by the
well-known intimation, "Waiter!" and replying, "Sir!" found a gentleman
standing at No. 4 table. The reader (shall I add, the observant reader?)
will please to notice the locality of the gentleman,--_at No. 4 table_.

He had one of the newfangled uncollapsable bags in his hand (which I am
against, for I don't see why you shouldn't collapse, while you are about
it, as your fathers collapsed before you), and he said:

"I want to dine, waiter. I shall sleep here to-night."

"Very good, sir. What will you take for dinner, sir?"

"Soup, bit of codfish, oyster sauce, and the joint."

"Thank you, sir."

I rang the chambermaid's bell; and Mrs. Pratchett marched in, according
to custom, demurely carrying a lighted flat candle before her, as if she
was one of a long public procession, all the other members of which was
invisible.

In the meanwhile the gentleman had gone up to the mantelpiece, right in
front of the fire, and had laid his forehead against the mantelpiece
(which it is a low one, and brought him into the attitude of leap-frog),
and had heaved a tremenjous sigh. His hair was long and lightish; and
when he laid his forehead against the mantelpiece, his hair all fell in a
dusty fluff together over his eyes; and when he now turned round and
lifted up his head again, it all fell in a dusty fluff together over his
ears. This give him a wild appearance, similar to a blasted heath.

"O! The chambermaid. Ah!" He was turning something in his mind. "To
be sure. Yes. I won't go up-stairs now, if you will take my bag. It
will be enough for the present to know my number.--Can you give me 24 B?"

(O Conscience, what a Adder art thou!)

Mrs. Pratchett allotted him the room, and took his bag to it. He then
went back before the fire, and fell a biting his nails.

"Waiter!" biting between the words, "give me," bite, "pen and paper; and
in five minutes," bite, "let me have, if you please," bite, "a", bite,
"Messenger."

Unmindful of his waning soup, he wrote and sent off six notes before he
touched his dinner. Three were City; three West-End. The City letters
were to Cornhill, Ludgate-hill, and Farringdon Street. The West-End
letters were to Great Marlborough Street, New Burlington Street, and
Piccadilly. Everybody was systematically denied at every one of the six
places, and there was not a vestige of any answer. Our light porter
whispered to me, when he came back with that report, "All Booksellers."

But before then he had cleared off his dinner, and his bottle of wine. He
now--mark the concurrence with the document formerly given in
full!--knocked a plate of biscuits off the table with his agitated elber
(but without breakage), and demanded boiling brandy-and-water.

Now fully convinced that it was Himself, I perspired with the utmost
freedom. When he became flushed with the heated stimulant referred to,
he again demanded pen and paper, and passed the succeeding two hours in
producing a manuscript which he put in the fire when completed. He then
went up to bed, attended by Mrs. Pratchett. Mrs. Pratchett (who was
aware of my emotions) told me, on coming down, that she had noticed his
eye rolling into every corner of the passages and staircase, as if in
search of his Luggage, and that, looking back as she shut the door of 24
B, she perceived him with his coat already thrown off immersing himself
bodily under the bedstead, like a chimley-sweep before the application of
machinery.

The next day--I forbear the horrors of that night--was a very foggy day
in our part of London, insomuch that it was necessary to light the Coffee-
room gas. We was still alone, and no feverish words of mine can do
justice to the fitfulness of his appearance as he sat at No. 4 table,
increased by there being something wrong with the meter.

Having again ordered his dinner, he went out, and was out for the best
part of two hours. Inquiring on his return whether any of the answers
had arrived, and receiving an unqualified negative, his instant call was
for mulligatawny, the cayenne pepper, and orange brandy.

Feeling that the mortal struggle was now at hand, I also felt that I must
be equal to him, and with that view resolved that whatever he took I
would take. Behind my partition, but keeping my eye on him over the
curtain, I therefore operated on Mulligatawny, Cayenne Pepper, and Orange
Brandy. And at a later period of the day, when he again said, "Orange
Brandy," I said so too, in a lower tone, to George, my Second Lieutenant
(my First was absent on leave), who acts between me and the bar.

Throughout that awful day he walked about the Coffee-room continually.
Often he came close up to my partition, and then his eye rolled within,
too evidently in search of any signs of his Luggage. Half-past six came,
and I laid his cloth. He ordered a bottle of old Brown. I likewise
ordered a bottle of old Brown. He drank his. I drank mine (as nearly as
my duties would permit) glass for glass against his. He topped with
coffee and a small glass. I topped with coffee and a small glass. He
dozed. I dozed. At last, "Waiter!"--and he ordered his bill. The
moment was now at hand when we two must be locked in the deadly grapple.

Swift as the arrow from the bow, I had formed my resolution; in other
words, I had hammered it out between nine and nine. It was, that I would
be the first to open up the subject with a full acknowledgment, and would
offer any gradual settlement within my power. He paid his bill (doing
what was right by attendance) with his eye rolling about him to the last
for any tokens of his Luggage. One only time our gaze then met, with the
lustrous fixedness (I believe I am correct in imputing that character to
it?) of the well-known Basilisk. The decisive moment had arrived.

With a tolerable steady hand, though with humility, I laid The Proofs
before him.

"Gracious Heavens!" he cries out, leaping up, and catching hold of his
hair. "What's this? Print!"

"Sir," I replied, in a calming voice, and bending forward, "I humbly
acknowledge to being the unfortunate cause of it. But I hope, sir, that
when you have heard the circumstances explained, and the innocence of my
intentions--"

To my amazement, I was stopped short by his catching me in both his arms,
and pressing me to his breast-bone; where I must confess to my face (and
particular, nose) having undergone some temporary vexation from his
wearing his coat buttoned high up, and his buttons being uncommon hard.

"Ha, ha, ha!" he cries, releasing me with a wild laugh, and grasping my
hand. "What is your name, my Benefactor?"

"My name, sir" (I was crumpled, and puzzled to make him out), "is
Christopher; and I hope, sir, that, as such, when you've heard my ex--"

"In print!" he exclaims again, dashing the proofs over and over as if he
was bathing in them.--"In print!! O Christopher! Philanthropist!
Nothing can recompense you,--but what sum of money would be acceptable to
you?"

I had drawn a step back from him, or I should have suffered from his
buttons again.

"Sir, I assure you, I have been already well paid, and--"

"No, no, Christopher! Don't talk like that! What sum of money would be
acceptable to you, Christopher? Would you find twenty pounds acceptable,
Christopher?"

However great my surprise, I naturally found words to say, "Sir, I am not
aware that the man was ever yet born without more than the average amount
of water on the brain as would not find twenty pounds acceptable.
But--extremely obliged to you, sir, I'm sure;" for he had tumbled it out
of his purse and crammed it in my hand in two bank-notes; "but I could
wish to know, sir, if not intruding, how I have merited this liberality?"

"Know then, my Christopher," he says, "that from boyhood's hour I have
unremittingly and unavailingly endeavoured to get into print. Know,
Christopher, that all the Booksellers alive--and several dead--have
refused to put me into print. Know, Christopher, that I have written
unprinted Reams. But they shall be read to you, my friend and brother.
You sometimes have a holiday?"

Seeing the great danger I was in, I had the presence of mind to answer,
"Never!" To make it more final, I added, "Never! Not from the cradle to
the grave."

"Well," says he, thinking no more about that, and chuckling at his proofs
again. "But I am in print! The first flight of ambition emanating from
my father's lowly cot is realised at length! The golden bow"--he was
getting on,--"struck by the magic hand, has emitted a complete and
perfect sound! When did this happen, my Christopher?"

"Which happen, sir?"

"This," he held it out at arms length to admire it,--"this Per-rint."

When I had given him my detailed account of it, he grasped me by the hand
again, and said:

"Dear Christopher, it should be gratifying to you to know that you are an
instrument in the hands of Destiny. Because you _are_."

A passing Something of a melancholy cast put it into my head to shake it,
and to say, "Perhaps we all are."

"I don't mean that," he answered; "I don't take that wide range; I
confine myself to the special case. Observe me well, my Christopher!
Hopeless of getting rid, through any effort of my own, of any of the
manuscripts among my Luggage,--all of which, send them where I would,
were always coming back to me,--it is now some seven years since I left
that Luggage here, on the desperate chance, either that the too, too
faithful manuscripts would come back to me no more, or that some one less
accursed than I might give them to the world. You follow me, my
Christopher?"

"Pretty well, sir." I followed him so far as to judge that he had a weak
head, and that the Orange, the Boiling, and Old Brown combined was
beginning to tell. (The Old Brown, being heady, is best adapted to
seasoned cases.)

"Years elapsed, and those compositions slumbered in dust. At length,
Destiny, choosing her agent from all mankind, sent You here, Christopher,
and lo! the Casket was burst asunder, and the Giant was free!"

He made hay of his hair after he said this, and he stood a-tiptoe.

"But," he reminded himself in a state of excitement, "we must sit up all
night, my Christopher. I must correct these Proofs for the press. Fill
all the inkstands, and bring me several new pens."

He smeared himself and he smeared the Proofs, the night through, to that
degree that when Sol gave him warning to depart (in a four-wheeler), few
could have said which was them, and which was him, and which was blots.
His last instructions was, that I should instantly run and take his
corrections to the office of the present Journal. I did so. They most
likely will not appear in print, for I noticed a message being brought
round from Beauford Printing House, while I was a throwing this
concluding statement on paper, that the ole resources of that
establishment was unable to make out what they meant. Upon which a
certain gentleman in company, as I will not more particularly name,--but
of whom it will be sufficient to remark, standing on the broad basis of a
wave-girt isle, that whether we regard him in the light of,--{3} laughed,
and put the corrections in the fire.


FOOTNOTES


{1} Its name and address at length, with other full particulars, all
editorially struck out.

{2} The remainder of this complimentary sentence editorially struck out.

{3} The remainder of this complimentary parenthesis editorially struck
out.

Charles Dickens