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Chapter 1

In the autumn month of September, eighteen hundred and fifty-seven,
wherein these presents bear date, two idle apprentices, exhausted
by the long, hot summer, and the long, hot work it had brought with
it, ran away from their employer. They were bound to a highly
meritorious lady (named Literature), of fair credit and repute,
though, it must be acknowledged, not quite so highly esteemed in
the City as she might be. This is the more remarkable, as there is
nothing against the respectable lady in that quarter, but quite the
contrary; her family having rendered eminent service to many famous
citizens of London. It may be sufficient to name Sir William
Walworth, Lord Mayor under King Richard II., at the time of Wat
Tyler's insurrection, and Sir Richard Whittington: which latter
distinguished man and magistrate was doubtless indebted to the
lady's family for the gift of his celebrated cat. There is also
strong reason to suppose that they rang the Highgate bells for him
with their own hands.

The misguided young men who thus shirked their duty to the mistress
from whom they had received many favours, were actuated by the low
idea of making a perfectly idle trip, in any direction. They had
no intention of going anywhere in particular; they wanted to see
nothing, they wanted to know nothing, they wanted to learn nothing,
they wanted to do nothing. They wanted only to be idle. They took
to themselves (after HOGARTH), the names of Mr. Thomas Idle and Mr.
Francis Goodchild; but there was not a moral pin to choose between
them, and they were both idle in the last degree.

Between Francis and Thomas, however, there was this difference of
character: Goodchild was laboriously idle, and would take upon
himself any amount of pains and labour to assure himself that he
was idle; in short, had no better idea of idleness than that it was
useless industry. Thomas Idle, on the other hand, was an idler of
the unmixed Irish or Neapolitan type; a passive idler, a born-and-
bred idler, a consistent idler, who practised what he would have
preached if he had not been too idle to preach; a one entire and
perfect chrysolite of idleness.

The two idle apprentices found themselves, within a few hours of
their escape, walking down into the North of England, that is to
say, Thomas was lying in a meadow, looking at the railway trains as
they passed over a distant viaduct--which was HIS idea of walking
down into the North; while Francis was walking a mile due South
against time--which was HIS idea of walking down into the North.
In the meantime the day waned, and the milestones remained

'Tom,' said Goodchild, 'the sun is getting low. Up, and let us go

'Nay,' quoth Thomas Idle, 'I have not done with Annie Laurie yet.'
And he proceeded with that idle but popular ballad, to the effect
that for the bonnie young person of that name he would 'lay him
doon and dee'--equivalent, in prose, to lay him down and die.

'What an ass that fellow was!' cried Goodchild, with the bitter
emphasis of contempt.

'Which fellow?' asked Thomas Idle.

'The fellow in your song. Lay him doon and dee! Finely he'd show
off before the girl by doing THAT. A sniveller! Why couldn't he
get up, and punch somebody's head!'

'Whose?' asked Thomas Idle.

'Anybody's. Everybody's would be better than nobody's! If I fell
into that state of mind about a girl, do you think I'd lay me doon
and dee? No, sir,' proceeded Goodchild, with a disparaging
assumption of the Scottish accent, 'I'd get me oop and peetch into
somebody. Wouldn't you?'

'I wouldn't have anything to do with her,' yawned Thomas Idle.
'Why should I take the trouble?'

'It's no trouble, Tom, to fall in love,' said Goodchild, shaking
his head.

'It's trouble enough to fall out of it, once you're in it,'
retorted Tom. 'So I keep out of it altogether. It would be better
for you, if you did the same.'

Mr. Goodchild, who is always in love with somebody, and not
unfrequently with several objects at once, made no reply. He
heaved a sigh of the kind which is termed by the lower orders 'a
bellowser,' and then, heaving Mr. Idle on his feet (who was not
half so heavy as the sigh), urged him northward.

These two had sent their personal baggage on by train: only
retaining each a knapsack. Idle now applied himself to constantly
regretting the train, to tracking it through the intricacies of
Bradshaw's Guide, and finding out where it is now--and where now--
and where now--and to asking what was the use of walking, when you
could ride at such a pace as that. Was it to see the country? If
that was the object, look at it out of the carriage windows. There
was a great deal more of it to be seen there than here. Besides,
who wanted to see the country? Nobody. And again, whoever did
walk? Nobody. Fellows set off to walk, but they never did it.
They came back and said they did, but they didn't. Then why should
he walk? He wouldn't walk. He swore it by this milestone!

It was the fifth from London, so far had they penetrated into the
North. Submitting to the powerful chain of argument, Goodchild
proposed a return to the Metropolis, and a falling back upon Euston
Square Terminus. Thomas assented with alacrity, and so they walked
down into the North by the next morning's express, and carried
their knapsacks in the luggage-van.

It was like all other expresses, as every express is and must be.
It bore through the harvest country a smell like a large washing-
day, and a sharp issue of steam as from a huge brazen tea-urn. The
greatest power in nature and art combined, it yet glided over
dangerous heights in the sight of people looking up from fields and
roads, as smoothly and unreally as a light miniature plaything.
Now, the engine shrieked in hysterics of such intensity, that it
seemed desirable that the men who had her in charge should hold her
feet, slap her hands, and bring her to; now, burrowed into tunnels
with a stubborn and undemonstrative energy so confusing that the
train seemed to be flying back into leagues of darkness. Here,
were station after station, swallowed up by the express without
stopping; here, stations where it fired itself in like a volley of
cannon-balls, swooped away four country-people with nosegays, and
three men of business with portmanteaus, and fired itself off
again, bang, bang, bang! At long intervals were uncomfortable
refreshment-rooms, made more uncomfortable by the scorn of Beauty
towards Beast, the public (but to whom she never relented, as
Beauty did in the story, towards the other Beast), and where
sensitive stomachs were fed, with a contemptuous sharpness
occasioning indigestion. Here, again, were stations with nothing
going but a bell, and wonderful wooden razors set aloft on great
posts, shaving the air. In these fields, the horses, sheep, and
cattle were well used to the thundering meteor, and didn't mind; in
those, they were all set scampering together, and a herd of pigs
scoured after them. The pastoral country darkened, became coaly,
became smoky, became infernal, got better, got worse, improved
again, grew rugged, turned romantic; was a wood, a stream, a chain
of hills, a gorge, a moor, a cathedral town, a fortified place, a
waste. Now, miserable black dwellings, a black canal, and sick
black towers of chimneys; now, a trim garden, where the flowers
were bright and fair; now, a wilderness of hideous altars all a-
blaze; now, the water meadows with their fairy rings; now, the
mangy patch of unlet building ground outside the stagnant town,
with the larger ring where the Circus was last week. The
temperature changed, the dialect changed, the people changed, faces
got sharper, manner got shorter, eyes got shrewder and harder; yet
all so quickly, that the spruce guard in the London uniform and
silver lace, had not yet rumpled his shirt-collar, delivered half
the dispatches in his shiny little pouch, or read his newspaper.

Carlisle! Idle and Goodchild had got to Carlisle. It looked
congenially and delightfully idle. Something in the way of public
amusement had happened last month, and something else was going to
happen before Christmas; and, in the meantime there was a lecture
on India for those who liked it--which Idle and Goodchild did not.
Likewise, by those who liked them, there were impressions to be
bought of all the vapid prints, going and gone, and of nearly all
the vapid books. For those who wanted to put anything in
missionary boxes, here were the boxes. For those who wanted the
Reverend Mr. Podgers (artist's proofs, thirty shillings), here was
Mr. Podgers to any amount. Not less gracious and abundant, Mr.
Codgers also of the vineyard, but opposed to Mr. Podgers, brotherly
tooth and nail. Here, were guide-books to the neighbouring
antiquities, and eke the Lake country, in several dry and husky
sorts; here, many physically and morally impossible heads of both
sexes, for young ladies to copy, in the exercise of the art of
drawing; here, further, a large impression of MR. SPURGEON, solid
as to the flesh, not to say even something gross. The working
young men of Carlisle were drawn up, with their hands in their
pockets, across the pavements, four and six abreast, and appeared
(much to the satisfaction of Mr. Idle) to have nothing else to do.
The working and growing young women of Carlisle, from the age of
twelve upwards, promenaded the streets in the cool of the evening,
and rallied the said young men. Sometimes the young men rallied
the young women, as in the case of a group gathered round an
accordion-player, from among whom a young man advanced behind a
young woman for whom he appeared to have a tenderness, and hinted
to her that he was there and playful, by giving her (he wore clogs)
a kick.

On market morning, Carlisle woke up amazingly, and became (to the
two Idle Apprentices) disagreeably and reproachfully busy. There
were its cattle market, its sheep market, and its pig market down
by the river, with raw-boned and shock-headed Rob Roys hiding their
Lowland dresses beneath heavy plaids, prowling in and out among the
animals, and flavouring the air with fumes of whiskey. There was
its corn market down the main street, with hum of chaffering over
open sacks. There was its general market in the street too, with
heather brooms on which the purple flower still flourished, and
heather baskets primitive and fresh to behold. With women trying
on clogs and caps at open stalls, and 'Bible stalls' adjoining.
With 'Doctor Mantle's Dispensary for the cure of all Human Maladies
and no charge for advice,' and with Doctor Mantle's 'Laboratory of
Medical, Chemical, and Botanical Science'--both healing
institutions established on one pair of trestles, one board, and
one sun-blind. With the renowned phrenologist from London, begging
to be favoured (at sixpence each) with the company of clients of
both sexes, to whom, on examination of their heads, he would make
revelations 'enabling him or her to know themselves.' Through all
these bargains and blessings, the recruiting-sergeant watchfully
elbowed his way, a thread of War in the peaceful skein. Likewise
on the walls were printed hints that the Oxford Blues might not be
indisposed to hear of a few fine active young men; and that whereas
the standard of that distinguished corps is full six feet, 'growing
lads of five feet eleven' need not absolutely despair of being

Scenting the morning air more pleasantly than the buried majesty of
Denmark did, Messrs. Idle and Goodchild rode away from Carlisle at
eight o'clock one forenoon, bound for the village of Hesket,
Newmarket, some fourteen miles distant. Goodchild (who had already
begun to doubt whether he was idle: as his way always is when he
has nothing to do) had read of a certain black old Cumberland hill
or mountain, called Carrock, or Carrock Fell; and had arrived at
the conclusion that it would be the culminating triumph of Idleness
to ascend the same. Thomas Idle, dwelling on the pains inseparable
from that achievement, had expressed the strongest doubts of the
expediency, and even of the sanity, of the enterprise; but
Goodchild had carried his point, and they rode away.

Up hill and down hill, and twisting to the right, and twisting to
the left, and with old Skiddaw (who has vaunted himself a great
deal more than his merits deserve; but that is rather the way of
the Lake country), dodging the apprentices in a picturesque and
pleasant manner. Good, weather-proof, warm, pleasant houses, well
white-limed, scantily dotting the road. Clean children coming out
to look, carrying other clean children as big as themselves.
Harvest still lying out and much rained upon; here and there,
harvest still unreaped. Well-cultivated gardens attached to the
cottages, with plenty of produce forced out of their hard soil.
Lonely nooks, and wild; but people can be born, and married, and
buried in such nooks, and can live and love, and be loved, there as
elsewhere, thank God! (Mr. Goodchild's remark.) By-and-by, the
village. Black, coarse-stoned, rough-windowed houses; some with
outer staircases, like Swiss houses; a sinuous and stony gutter
winding up hill and round the corner, by way of street. All the
children running out directly. Women pausing in washing, to peep
from doorways and very little windows. Such were the observations
of Messrs. Idle and Goodchild, as their conveyance stopped at the
village shoemaker's. Old Carrock gloomed down upon it all in a
very ill-tempered state; and rain was beginning.

The village shoemaker declined to have anything to do with Carrock.
No visitors went up Carrock. No visitors came there at all. Aa'
the world ganged awa' yon. The driver appealed to the Innkeeper.
The Innkeeper had two men working in the fields, and one of them
should be called in, to go up Carrock as guide. Messrs. Idle and
Goodchild, highly approving, entered the Innkeeper's house, to
drink whiskey and eat oatcake.

The Innkeeper was not idle enough--was not idle at all, which was a
great fault in him--but was a fine specimen of a north-country man,
or any kind of man. He had a ruddy cheek, a bright eye, a well-
knit frame, an immense hand, a cheery, outspeaking voice, and a
straight, bright, broad look. He had a drawing-room, too,
upstairs, which was worth a visit to the Cumberland Fells. (This
was Mr. Francis Goodchild's opinion, in which Mr. Thomas Idle did
not concur.)

The ceiling of this drawing-room was so crossed and recrossed by
beams of unequal lengths, radiating from a centre, in a corner,
that it looked like a broken star-fish. The room was comfortably
and solidly furnished with good mahogany and horsehair. It had a
snug fireside, and a couple of well-curtained windows, looking out
upon the wild country behind the house. What it most developed
was, an unexpected taste for little ornaments and nick-nacks, of
which it contained a most surprising number. They were not very
various, consisting in great part of waxen babies with their limbs
more or less mutilated, appealing on one leg to the parental
affections from under little cupping glasses; but, Uncle Tom was
there, in crockery, receiving theological instructions from Miss
Eva, who grew out of his side like a wen, in an exceedingly rough
state of profile propagandism. Engravings of Mr. Hunt's country
boy, before and after his pie, were on the wall, divided by a
highly-coloured nautical piece, the subject of which had all her
colours (and more) flying, and was making great way through a sea
of a regular pattern, like a lady's collar. A benevolent, elderly
gentleman of the last century, with a powdered head, kept guard, in

oil and varnish, over a most perplexing piece of furniture on a
table; in appearance between a driving seat and an angular knife-
box, but, when opened, a musical instrument of tinkling wires,
exactly like David's harp packed for travelling. Everything became
a nick-nack in this curious room. The copper tea-kettle, burnished
up to the highest point of glory, took his station on a stand of
his own at the greatest possible distance from the fireplace, and
said: 'By your leave, not a kettle, but a bijou.' The
Staffordshire-ware butter-dish with the cover on, got upon a little
round occasional table in a window, with a worked top, and
announced itself to the two chairs accidentally placed there, as an
aid to polite conversation, a graceful trifle in china to be
chatted over by callers, as they airily trifled away the visiting
moments of a butterfly existence, in that rugged old village on the
Cumberland Fells. The very footstool could not keep the floor, but
got upon a sofa, and there-from proclaimed itself, in high relief
of white and liver-coloured wool, a favourite spaniel coiled up for
repose. Though, truly, in spite of its bright glass eyes, the
spaniel was the least successful assumption in the collection:
being perfectly flat, and dismally suggestive of a recent mistake
in sitting down on the part of some corpulent member of the family.

There were books, too, in this room; books on the table, books on
the chimney-piece, books in an open press in the corner. Fielding
was there, and Smollett was there, and Steele and Addison were
there, in dispersed volumes; and there were tales of those who go
down to the sea in ships, for windy nights; and there was really a
choice of good books for rainy days or fine. It was so very
pleasant to see these things in such a lonesome by-place--so very
agreeable to find these evidences of a taste, however homely, that
went beyond the beautiful cleanliness and trimness of the house--so
fanciful to imagine what a wonder a room must be to the little
children born in the gloomy village--what grand impressions of it
those of them who became wanderers over the earth would carry away;
and how, at distant ends of the world, some old voyagers would die,
cherishing the belief that the finest apartment known to men was
once in the Hesket-Newmarket Inn, in rare old Cumberland--it was
such a charmingly lazy pursuit to entertain these rambling thoughts
over the choice oatcake and the genial whiskey, that Mr. Idle and
Mr. Goodchild never asked themselves how it came to pass that the
men in the fields were never heard of more, how the stalwart
landlord replaced them without explanation, how his dog-cart came
to be waiting at the door, and how everything was arranged without
the least arrangement for climbing to old Carrock's shoulders, and
standing on his head.

Without a word of inquiry, therefore, the Two Idle Apprentices
drifted out resignedly into a fine, soft, close, drowsy,
penetrating rain; got into the landlord's light dog-cart, and
rattled off through the village for the foot of Carrock. The
journey at the outset was not remarkable. The Cumberland road went
up and down like all other roads; the Cumberland curs burst out
from backs of cottages and barked like other curs, and the
Cumberland peasantry stared after the dog-cart amazedly, as long as
it was in sight, like the rest of their race. The approach to the
foot of the mountain resembled the approaches to the feet of most
other mountains all over the world. The cultivation gradually
ceased, the trees grew gradually rare, the road became gradually
rougher, and the sides of the mountain looked gradually more and
more lofty, and more and more difficult to get up. The dog-cart
was left at a lonely farm-house. The landlord borrowed a large
umbrella, and, assuming in an instant the character of the most
cheerful and adventurous of guides, led the way to the ascent. Mr.
Goodchild looked eagerly at the top of the mountain, and, feeling
apparently that he was now going to be very lazy indeed, shone all
over wonderfully to the eye, under the influence of the contentment
within and the moisture without. Only in the bosom of Mr. Thomas
Idle did Despondency now hold her gloomy state. He kept it a
secret; but he would have given a very handsome sum, when the
ascent began, to have been back again at the inn. The sides of
Carrock looked fearfully steep, and the top of Carrock was hidden
in mist. The rain was falling faster and faster. The knees of Mr.
Idle--always weak on walking excursions--shivered and shook with
fear and damp. The wet was already penetrating through the young
man's outer coat to a brand-new shooting-jacket, for which he had
reluctantly paid the large sum of two guineas on leaving town; he
had no stimulating refreshment about him but a small packet of
clammy gingerbread nuts; he had nobody to give him an arm, nobody
to push him gently behind, nobody to pull him up tenderly in front,
nobody to speak to who really felt the difficulties of the ascent,
the dampness of the rain, the denseness of the mist, and the
unutterable folly of climbing, undriven, up any steep place in the
world, when there is level ground within reach to walk on instead.
Was it for this that Thomas had left London? London, where there
are nice short walks in level public gardens, with benches of
repose set up at convenient distances for weary travellers--London,
where rugged stone is humanely pounded into little lumps for the
road, and intelligently shaped into smooth slabs for the pavement!
No! it was not for the laborious ascent of the crags of Carrock
that Idle had left his native city, and travelled to Cumberland.
Never did he feel more disastrously convinced that he had committed
a very grave error in judgment than when he found himself standing
in the rain at the bottom of a steep mountain, and knew that the
responsibility rested on his weak shoulders of actually getting to
the top of it.

The honest landlord went first, the beaming Goodchild followed, the
mournful Idle brought up the rear. From time to time, the two
foremost members of the expedition changed places in the order of
march; but the rearguard never altered his position. Up the
mountain or down the mountain, in the water or out of it, over the
rocks, through the bogs, skirting the heather, Mr. Thomas Idle was
always the last, and was always the man who had to be looked after
and waited for. At first the ascent was delusively easy, the sides
of the mountain sloped gradually, and the material of which they
were composed was a soft spongy turf, very tender and pleasant to
walk upon. After a hundred yards or so, however, the verdant scene
and the easy slope disappeared, and the rocks began. Not noble,
massive rocks, standing upright, keeping a certain regularity in
their positions, and possessing, now and then, flat tops to sit
upon, but little irritating, comfortless rocks, littered about
anyhow, by Nature; treacherous, disheartening rocks of all sorts of
small shapes and small sizes, bruisers of tender toes and trippers-
up of wavering feet. When these impediments were passed, heather
and slough followed. Here the steepness of the ascent was slightly
mitigated; and here the exploring party of three turned round to
look at the view below them. The scene of the moorland and the
fields was like a feeble water-colour drawing half sponged out.
The mist was darkening, the rain was thickening, the trees were
dotted about like spots of faint shadow, the division-lines which
mapped out the fields were all getting blurred together, and the
lonely farm-house where the dog-cart had been left, loomed spectral
in the grey light like the last human dwelling at the end of the
habitable world. Was this a sight worth climbing to see? Surely--
surely not!

Up again--for the top of Carrock is not reached yet. The land-
lord, just as good-tempered and obliging as he was at the bottom of
the mountain. Mr. Goodchild brighter in the eyes and rosier in the
face than ever; full of cheerful remarks and apt quotations; and
walking with a springiness of step wonderful to behold. Mr. Idle,
farther and farther in the rear, with the water squeaking in the
toes of his boots, with his two-guinea shooting-jacket clinging
damply to his aching sides, with his overcoat so full of rain, and
standing out so pyramidically stiff, in consequence, from his
shoulders downwards, that he felt as if he was walking in a
gigantic extinguisher--the despairing spirit within him
representing but too aptly the candle that had just been put out.
Up and up and up again, till a ridge is reached and the outer edge
of the mist on the summit of Carrock is darkly and drizzingly near.
Is this the top? No, nothing like the top. It is an aggravating
peculiarity of all mountains, that, although they have only one top
when they are seen (as they ought always to be seen) from below,
they turn out to have a perfect eruption of false tops whenever the
traveller is sufficiently ill-advised to go out of his way for the
purpose of ascending them. Carrock is but a trumpery little
mountain of fifteen hundred feet, and it presumes to have false
tops, and even precipices, as if it were Mont Blanc. No matter;
Goodchild enjoys it, and will go on; and Idle, who is afraid of
being left behind by himself, must follow. On entering the edge of
the mist, the landlord stops, and says he hopes that it will not
get any thicker. It is twenty years since he last ascended
Carrock, and it is barely possible, if the mist increases, that the
party may be lost on the mountain. Goodchild hears this dreadful
intimation, and is not in the least impressed by it. He marches
for the top that is never to be found, as if he was the Wandering
Jew, bound to go on for ever, in defiance of everything. The
landlord faithfully accompanies him. The two, to the dim eye of
Idle, far below, look in the exaggerative mist, like a pair of
friendly giants, mounting the steps of some invisible castle
together. Up and up, and then down a little, and then up, and then
along a strip of level ground, and then up again. The wind, a wind
unknown in the happy valley, blows keen and strong; the rain-mist
gets impenetrable; a dreary little cairn of stones appears. The
landlord adds one to the heap, first walking all round the cairn as
if he were about to perform an incantation, then dropping the stone
on to the top of the heap with the gesture of a magician adding an
ingredient to a cauldron in full bubble. Goodchild sits down by
the cairn as if it was his study-table at home; Idle, drenched and
panting, stands up with his back to the wind, ascertains distinctly
that this is the top at last, looks round with all the little
curiosity that is left in him, and gets, in return, a magnificent
view of--Nothing!

The effect of this sublime spectacle on the minds of the exploring
party is a little injured by the nature of the direct conclusion to
which the sight of it points--the said conclusion being that the
mountain mist has actually gathered round them, as the landlord
feared it would. It now becomes imperatively necessary to settle
the exact situation of the farm-house in the valley at which the
dog-cart has been left, before the travellers attempt to descend.
While the landlord is endeavouring to make this discovery in his
own way, Mr. Goodchild plunges his hand under his wet coat, draws
out a little red morocco-case, opens it, and displays to the view
of his companions a neat pocket-compass. The north is found, the
point at which the farm-house is situated is settled, and the
descent begins. After a little downward walking, Idle (behind as
usual) sees his fellow-travellers turn aside sharply--tries to
follow them--loses them in the mist--is shouted after, waited for,
recovered--and then finds that a halt has been ordered, partly on
his account, partly for the purpose of again consulting the

The point in debate is settled as before between Goodchild and the
landlord, and the expedition moves on, not down the mountain, but
marching straight forward round the slope of it. The difficulty of
following this new route is acutely felt by Thomas Idle. He finds
the hardship of walking at all greatly increased by the fatigue of
moving his feet straight forward along the side of a slope, when
their natural tendency, at every step, is to turn off at a right
angle, and go straight down the declivity. Let the reader imagine
himself to be walking along the roof of a barn, instead of up or
down it, and he will have an exact idea of the pedestrian
difficulty in which the travellers had now involved themselves. In
ten minutes more Idle was lost in the distance again, was shouted
for, waited for, recovered as before; found Goodchild repeating his
observation of the compass, and remonstrated warmly against the
sideway route that his companions persisted in following. It
appeared to the uninstructed mind of Thomas that when three men
want to get to the bottom of a mountain, their business is to walk
down it; and he put this view of the case, not only with emphasis,
but even with some irritability. He was answered from the
scientific eminence of the compass on which his companions were
mounted, that there was a frightful chasm somewhere near the foot
of Carrock, called The Black Arches, into which the travellers were
sure to march in the mist, if they risked continuing the descent
from the place where they had now halted. Idle received this
answer with the silent respect which was due to the commanders of
the expedition, and followed along the roof of the barn, or rather
the side of the mountain, reflecting upon the assurance which he
received on starting again, that the object of the party was only
to gain 'a certain point,' and, this haven attained, to continue
the descent afterwards until the foot of Carrock was reached.
Though quite unexceptionable as an abstract form of expression, the
phrase 'a certain point' has the disadvantage of sounding rather
vaguely when it is pronounced on unknown ground, under a canopy of
mist much thicker than a London fog. Nevertheless, after the
compass, this phrase was all the clue the party had to hold by, and
Idle clung to the extreme end of it as hopefully as he could.

More sideway walking, thicker and thicker mist, all sorts of points
reached except the 'certain point;' third loss of Idle, third
shouts for him, third recovery of him, third consultation of
compass. Mr. Goodchild draws it tenderly from his pocket, and
prepares to adjust it on a stone. Something falls on the turf--it
is the glass. Something else drops immediately after--it is the
needle. The compass is broken, and the exploring party is lost!

It is the practice of the English portion of the human race to
receive all great disasters in dead silence. Mr. Goodchild
restored the useless compass to his pocket without saying a word,
Mr. Idle looked at the landlord, and the landlord looked at Mr.
Idle. There was nothing for it now but to go on blindfold, and
trust to the chapter of chances. Accordingly, the lost travellers
moved forward, still walking round the slope of the mountain, still
desperately resolved to avoid the Black Arches, and to succeed in
reaching the 'certain point.'

A quarter of an hour brought them to the brink of a ravine, at the
bottom of which there flowed a muddy little stream. Here another
halt was called, and another consultation took place. The
landlord, still clinging pertinaciously to the idea of reaching the
'point,' voted for crossing the ravine, and going on round the
slope of the mountain. Mr. Goodchild, to the great relief of his
fellow-traveller, took another view of the case, and backed Mr.
Idle's proposal to descend Carrock at once, at any hazard--the
rather as the running stream was a sure guide to follow from the
mountain to the valley. Accordingly, the party descended to the
rugged and stony banks of the stream; and here again Thomas lost
ground sadly, and fell far behind his travelling companions. Not
much more than six weeks had elapsed since he had sprained one of
his ankles, and he began to feel this same ankle getting rather
weak when he found himself among the stones that were strewn about
the running water. Goodchild and the landlord were getting farther
and farther ahead of him. He saw them cross the stream and
disappear round a projection on its banks. He heard them shout the
moment after as a signal that they had halted and were waiting for
him. Answering the shout, he mended his pace, crossed the stream
where they had crossed it, and was within one step of the opposite
bank, when his foot slipped on a wet stone, his weak ankle gave a
twist outwards, a hot, rending, tearing pain ran through it at the
same moment, and down fell the idlest of the Two Idle Apprentices,
crippled in an instant.

The situation was now, in plain terms, one of absolute danger.
There lay Mr. Idle writhing with pain, there was the mist as thick
as ever, there was the landlord as completely lost as the strangers
whom he was conducting, and there was the compass broken in
Goodchild's pocket. To leave the wretched Thomas on unknown ground
was plainly impossible; and to get him to walk with a badly
sprained ankle seemed equally out of the question. However,
Goodchild (brought back by his cry for help) bandaged the ankle
with a pocket-handkerchief, and assisted by the landlord, raised
the crippled Apprentice to his legs, offered him a shoulder to lean
on, and exhorted him for the sake of the whole party to try if he
could walk. Thomas, assisted by the shoulder on one side, and a
stick on the other, did try, with what pain and difficulty those
only can imagine who have sprained an ankle and have had to tread
on it afterwards. At a pace adapted to the feeble hobbling of a
newly-lamed man, the lost party moved on, perfectly ignorant
whether they were on the right side of the mountain or the wrong,
and equally uncertain how long Idle would be able to contend with
the pain in his ankle, before he gave in altogether and fell down
again, unable to stir another step.

Slowly and more slowly, as the clog of crippled Thomas weighed
heavily and more heavily on the march of the expedition, the lost
travellers followed the windings of the stream, till they came to a
faintly-marked cart-track, branching off nearly at right angles, to
the left. After a little consultation it was resolved to follow
this dim vestige of a road in the hope that it might lead to some
farm or cottage, at which Idle could be left in safety. It was now
getting on towards the afternoon, and it was fast becoming more
than doubtful whether the party, delayed in their progress as they
now were, might not be overtaken by the darkness before the right
route was found, and be condemned to pass the night on the
mountain, without bit or drop to comfort them, in their wet

The cart-track grew fainter and fainter, until it was washed out
altogether by another little stream, dark, turbulent, and rapid.
The landlord suggested, judging by the colour of the water, that it
must be flowing from one of the lead mines in the neighbourhood of
Carrock; and the travellers accordingly kept by the stream for a
little while, in the hope of possibly wandering towards help in
that way. After walking forward about two hundred yards, they came
upon a mine indeed, but a mine, exhausted and abandoned; a dismal,
ruinous place, with nothing but the wreck of its works and
buildings left to speak for it. Here, there were a few sheep
feeding. The landlord looked at them earnestly, thought he
recognised the marks on them--then thought he did not--finally gave
up the sheep in despair--and walked on just as ignorant of the
whereabouts of the party as ever.

The march in the dark, literally as well as metaphorically in the
dark, had now been continued for three-quarters of an hour from the
time when the crippled Apprentice had met with his accident. Mr.
Idle, with all the will to conquer the pain in his ankle, and to
hobble on, found the power rapidly failing him, and felt that
another ten minutes at most would find him at the end of his last
physical resources. He had just made up his mind on this point,
and was about to communicate the dismal result of his reflections
to his companions, when the mist suddenly brightened, and begun to
lift straight ahead. In another minute, the landlord, who was in
advance, proclaimed that he saw a tree. Before long, other trees
appeared--then a cottage--then a house beyond the cottage, and a
familiar line of road rising behind it. Last of all, Carrock
itself loomed darkly into view, far away to the right hand. The
party had not only got down the mountain without knowing how, but
had wandered away from it in the mist, without knowing why--away,
far down on the very moor by which they had approached the base of
Carrock that morning.

The happy lifting of the mist, and the still happier discovery that
the travellers had groped their way, though by a very roundabout
direction, to within a mile or so of the part of the valley in
which the farm-house was situated, restored Mr. Idle's sinking
spirits and reanimated his failing strength. While the landlord
ran off to get the dog-cart, Thomas was assisted by Goodchild to
the cottage which had been the first building seen when the
darkness brightened, and was propped up against the garden wall,
like an artist's lay figure waiting to be forwarded, until the dog-
cart should arrive from the farm-house below. In due time--and a
very long time it seemed to Mr. Idle--the rattle of wheels was
heard, and the crippled Apprentice was lifted into the seat. As
the dog-cart was driven back to the inn, the landlord related an
anecdote which he had just heard at the farm-house, of an unhappy
man who had been lost, like his two guests and himself, on Carrock;
who had passed the night there alone; who had been found the next
morning, 'scared and starved;' and who never went out afterwards,
except on his way to the grave. Mr. Idle heard this sad story, and
derived at least one useful impression from it. Bad as the pain in
his ankle was, he contrived to bear it patiently, for he felt
grateful that a worse accident had not befallen him in the wilds of

Charles Dickens

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