TOBY LACKPENNY THE PHILOSOPHICAL:
A DEVOTEE OF THE MARVELLOUS.
AMONG the most remarkable events which took place in
Haxey, towards the close of the last century, was the settlement, in that
ancient village, of curious Toby Lackpenny, the philosophical tailor.
Toby's coat was usually out at the elbows; but he had long held,
throughout the whole Isle of Axholme, a high reputation as a man of deep
and singular learning. His "library" was the theme of marvel
unceasing to his plain and unsophisticated customers; and, though it
consisted but of forty or fifty ragged volumes, it constituted a wealth
that the philosophical Toby, himself, priced above rubies. To this
treasury of wisdom he nightly resorted; with ever-fresh delight, as
regularly as his manual labour closed; and many an ecstatic hour did he
live over his books in the sweet stillness and solitude of early morning.
There were tractates on the whole circle of science, in his
bibliographical collection, Toby asserted—for, like all other great
philosophers, he aspired to be an encyclopædist
in knowledge; but, up to the time at which we are commencing this brief
record of Toby's history, it was simply, by his mastery of the erudite
pages of Nicholas Culpepper,—and of a very ancient volume comprising
treatises on Astrology, Geomancy, Palmistry, and other kindred occult
studies,—that Toby had won for himself, throughout the length and breadth
of Axholmian land, so high a character for wisdom. None could doubt
the profundity of Toby's acquirements; for whoever took a wild flower to
his door was sure to be told its name,—its healing virtues,—and the names
of its presiding influences, the planets and zodiacal
constellations,—those celestial potencies from which, he assured the
visitor, every herb and flower derived their medicinal virtues. And,
oh! the decoctions, and the salves, and the ointments, and the plaisters,
and the poultices, and the liniments, and the electuaries, and the
simples, and the compounds, that were made by the old women of Haxey, and
all Axholme, by Toby Lackpenny's oracular direction! And then the
exultant looks and honeyed words with which some would return thanks to
Toby, and assure him all their tooth-ache, or head, ache, or elbow-ache,
had vanished, like magic, by their diligent attention to his prescription;
and then the reach and shrewdness he displayed in answering such as
complained that his advice had not been of the service they had
apprehended, namely, that they had not plucked the flower in the hour when
its own planet presided,—or they had not boiled it before the Moon
rose,—and she was in opposition to Jupiter, the lord of the plant
wormwood,—or some other convincing reason why the device had not
Toby's advancement in the "astral science" also brought him
an increasing number of customers,—though the naked condition of his
elbows told the fact that this growing knowledge was somewhat profitless
in a substantial sense. Nevertheless, every successive day
strengthened his confidence that he would soon be "even with Booker, or
Lilly, or Gadbury, or any of 'em that his grandfather used to talk
about;"—for he had also been eager, in his day, to be able to
prognosticate future events by tracing "the stars in their courses."
And, now, as surely as the evening returned, Toby might be seen at his own
door, seated on a low stool, drawing astrological diagrams on a fragment
of slate, and placing the symbols of the planets and signs of the zodiac
in due position in the "table of houses."
The vagueness which Toby found to be so characteristic of
what astrologers call the "rules of judgment" often brought the zealous
student to a pause, as to the real utility of his pursuit; but the extreme
credulousness of his constitution usually urged him to put an end to the
dubious reasonings that often rose within him. Now and then, a sharp
stroke from the village parson,—levelled, in full canonicals, from the
pulpit of a Sunday forenoon,—with the marksman's stern eye fixed,
meanwhile, on poor Toby,—made him stagger a little. "It was a guilty
act,"—the clergyman asserted,—"to rend away the natural veil which the
Creator had drawn over man's discernment of futurity: it was a
controversion of the order of His Providence: it was an attempt to seize
upon the Almighty's own attributes, and wield a power that belonged solely
to Himself." Such eloquent sentences bothered Toby still more, when
the well-intentioned shepherd rounded them by exclaiming, as he beat the
With fist instead of a stick,
that "star-gazers, and wizards, and enchanters, were, each and all, an
abomination to the Lord!"
But, alas! for poor Toby,—when his favourite disciple
Joe,—after being torn from him by Dame Deborah's commandment in obedience
to Toby's great foe, the vicar,—alas! for Toby, when Joe, filled with zeal
to discharge his conscience, re-entered the tailor's cottage one evening
at dusk, and attacked his old teacher in the very heart and centre of his
predilections, declaring there would be no salvation for him in this
world, till he had followed the example of the Ephesian Christians, and
burnt his cabalistical books; nor any happiness for him in the prospect of
a future life, until he had eschewed all his delusive vanities, and cried
at the footstool of his Maker for the pardon of his sins! Never was
the might with which a mind sinewed by some strong enthusiasm controls
even an elder and more experienced intellect more signally evinced than in
the contest between the orphan Joe, under his religious frenzy, and his
old teacher, the soothsaying tailor. In the outset of this strange
opposition and aggression on the part of his late scholar, Toby Lackpenny
stoutly parried the blows of his unexpected adversary by returning text
for text, and argument for argument.
"Is it not plainly declared in the Book of judges, that 'the
stars in their courses fought against Sisera'?" asked Toby, with all the
emphasis which his zeal for the hereditary honour and power of the stars
prompted; "can anything prove more clearly that they sway human affairs?
And the inspired Psalmist saith of the heavenly bodies, that 'Their line
is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the
world.' Which word line, according to Aben Ezra, and the most
skilful cabalists," continued Toby, diving into the profoundest depths of
his learning for the defence of his beloved theories, "ought to be
rendered rule or direction, and evidently sets forth the fact that the
planets exercise lordship in their respective houses,—while the latter
part of the passage makes known the precious truth that the wise and
skilful student will learn to understand their language."
"But you have studied their language a long time without
understanding it a whit the surer,—you know you have,—for you have told me
so more than once, neighbour Toby," replied Joe, with honest and
unshrinking fervour; "and as your head is fast becoming grey, and as
flowers are often nipped though but in the bud,—I think it would be wiser,
in you as an aged man, and in me as a frail youth, to get prepared for
death; therefore, I conjure you, Toby, as you value your own soul, to
forsake these vanities!"
This simple and sincere language, from one who was then
little more than a child in years, shook the old man's heart more than all
the clergyman's hortatory thunderbolts had shaken his reason. Toby
attempted to renew his sophistries, at Joe's succeeding visits; but felt,
at length, thoroughly subdued under the heartfelt and persevering
enthusiasm of a mere boy.
"Verily!" Toby Lackpenny often exclaimed, in after-times,
when relating the progress of his conversion,—"although my will was
stubborn, I often trembled before the spirit of that child, like Felix
before Paul, or like the jailor in the prison at Philippi!"
The astrologer burnt his books of the astral science, and all
the other occult, and therefore satanical sciences; and he and Joe were
thenceforth united in a novel and more elevated pursuit,—the acquirement
of a purified and spiritual nature. But the distinctness of minds,
and the force of habit in different natures, were strikingly discoverable
in the relative degrees of zeal with which the youth and Toby followed
their new object. Joe's ascetic fervour has been described.
But Toby's bent was of a diverse character: he found it impossible to
enter with Joe's vehemence into the quest of an entire renewal of
heart,—and could not resist the tendency to seek for enlightenment among
the curious treasures of his little library. With indescribable
rapture Toby found, as he thought, exactly what he wanted, in the abstruse
pages of Jacob Bœhmen. He had long kept the volumes of the mystical
German on his shelves; but he assured himself that he never saw the true
meaning of the high mysteries developed in the "Forty Questions" with so
clear a vision as he did now the films of the "old Adam" were beginning to
fall from his eyes.
It need scarcely be observed that Joe heard Toby's
announcement of these abstract discoveries with cold indifference.
Neither when the lad's fervour had abated, and disgust and melancholy
succeeded, did he feel able to receive the tailor's assurances of the
superior consolation to be derived from these puzzling studies.
Toby's exhilaration of spirits, happily for himself, suffered little
interruption after the full growth of his devoted attachment to the cloudy
exercitations of the old Quietist,—"Of a truth," he would often say to his
customers, "I can never be sufficiently thankful that a merciful
Providence shewed me the spiritual lantern of Jacob Bœhmen, wherewith I
might find, and possess, the pearl of great price!"
Within two years of the expiry of Joe's apprenticeship,
however, the devotional and marvel-loving tailor had transferred his
worship from the shrine of the mystical German shoemaker to the more
lofty, as well as more celestial, image of Baron Emanuel Swedenborg.
The Scripture histories had, thenceforth, an allegorical sense for Toby,
as well as for Joe; and the lad could scarcely hint that he thought the
transactions in the garden of Eden were to be read as figure, before the
learned Lackpenny was ready to pour out a profound descant on the
proprium, or "sensual principle," which he affirmed to be typified by
the serpent in the garden;—and declared his conviction, that the Mosaic
account of the first human pair was, in reality, a mere symbolical history
of "the First Church," and of the causes of its forfeiture of purity.
At another argumentative season, when the apprentice had
ventured to ask if Toby did not think there was something incongruous in
the account of Noah's flood, and in the size the ark was said to be,—and
how the beasts went in,—and how they were supported,—the penetrating
Swedenborgian assured the inquirer, with the utmost gravity, that he
thought there was nothing in the whole world more easy of explication.
"Know thou, my beloved Joey," said the sincere old man;
raising his spectacles, and placing them, like two additional eyes, in the
centre of his large forehead, "that whoever giveth his hearty faith to the
teaching of the celestial-minded Swedenborg will receive a second
eye-sight,—spiritual, and far more precious than the eyes of this earthly
body. The Deluge, Joey, represents the 'Second Church,' as the
garden of Paradise represents the First. The ark is the man of the
Church; and the forty days' rain is a figure for the temptations of the
senses, by which the Second Church, as well as the First, was tried: you
may see that figure plainly cleared up by our Saviour's temptation in the
wilderness. The ark is also described as having a window above,—that
signifies the intellectual principle; and a door, moreover, at the
side,—that denotes the faculty of hearing."
"I wish all these things had been described in a plainer way,
if they mean all this," interjected the youth, impatient of his mystic
"If!" exclaimed Toby, astonished out of measure that
any sane person could, for one moment, doubt what seemed to himself to be
so pellucidly clear;—"if!—why, only read it for yourself, Joe, in the
'Celestial Arcana' of the inspired Emanuel of the North!"—and, therewith,
the agile old philosopher sprang from his chair, and reached the volume
from his shelves.
"Never mind, friend Toby; not at present;" said Joe, very
"Well, well," said Toby, "another time then;—but you won't
hear me out, or otherwise I could clearly prove what I had begun to say."
"But what confidence can one place in these dreams of your
favourite Emanuel?" said Joe.
"Dreams!" retorted the mystic tailor, lowering his voice, and
changing the expression of his countenance, until Joe wondered what was
the matter with him,—"Dreams! no, no, he didn't dream, Joey. He was
favoured with heavenly visions! The angels actually took him several
times to heaven,—for he says so himself—"
"And Mahomet said the same," interjected Joe.
"Interrupt me not!" continued Toby, looking still more
awfully mysterious:—"I tell thee, the angels took him to heaven, and
unfolded to him hidden mysteries! And I tell thee, Joey, that I
believe it is possible to attain unto such a pure state here, in this
world, that we may converse with angels. I have fasted every day
this week till sunset," concluded the poor honest enthusiast, creeping
close to Joe, and speaking almost in his ear,—"and I have faith to believe
that, in a little time, after much prayer, I,—even I,—shall be permitted
to see the angelic world,—yea, and to converse with it!"
One of Joe's fellow-apprentices here lifted up the latch, and
informed him that Dame Deborah wished he would come home, for the hour was
getting late. Pressing his old friend's hand, without looking him in the
face, the youth wished him "Good-night! " not a little relieved by the
summons of his mistress.
On the morrow, the neighbourhood was thrown into a state of
alarm by a cottager having found poor Toby Lackpenny in a swoon upon his
shop-board. Finding the experiment attended with such imminent
hazard, the fervent enthusiast was persuaded the next night, by Joe, after
two hours' indefatigable argumentation, to lay aside his attempt, by
devout abstinence, at "purging the frame terrestrial till it could witness
the vision celestial."
The occurrence of a very singular incident, however, and some
effects that followed it, produced many a misgiving in poor Toby's mind
that he had done wickedly in giving up the pursuit of this spiritual and
exalted object. It was about the third night after Toby had yielded
to Joe's prudent counsel,—and while they were sitting in quiet converse on
one of their old themes,—that Toby's cottage door was suddenly burst open
by a blow which resembled the stroke of a thunderbolt in the imagination
of Joe and his ancient gossip,—and, on the centre of the floor, as
suddenly stood Frank Friskit, Joe's younger fellow-apprentice, and the
most mischievous scapegrace in the village. The face of the
unexpected visitant was like the whitened wall; and his curly locks, as if
in consternation at the unwonted pallor of his countenance, stood, "nine
ways of a Wednesday," as Toby phrased it. His trembling knees and
torn dress made confession,—the trembler himself being tongueless with
dread,—that Frank had been engaged in some fearful adventure. Joe
hastened to support him,—for the lad swooned almost instantly. Toby
hastened for cold water to aid his recovery; and, in a few seconds, Noah
Wallhead, Joe's other fellow-apprentice, also entered Toby's cottage, and
manifested considerable solicitude about Frank's alarming condition.
After a plentiful libation upon his temples, Frank began to come to his
"What's the matter, Franky?" said Toby, gently, as soon as he
thought the convalescent was able to bear the inquiry.
"I've—I've seen some'at!" replied Frank, hysterically.
"Seen!—well, but what have you seen, Frank?" asked Joe.
"A bar-ghost, Joe, or else th' old lad!" answered Friskit,
with a chattering of the teeth.
Noah Wallhead laughed; but Toby and Joe, seeing the young
ghost-seer was now able to sit up without help, requested him, when they
had closed the door, to tell his story at length, and conceal nothing.
The repentant Frank avowed himself to be the guilty
perpetrator of a series of malicious attempts upon the natural liberty of
Toby Lackpenny's cat! Every urchin in the village of Haxey had been
blamed, at one time or other, for the base machination of setting "snickles,"
or nooses of wire, in the tailor's little garden. The sage Toby
profoundly conjectured, and openly maintained, all along, that these
wicked devices were intended to ensnare his favourite tabby; but neither
he, nor any one else, had ever suspected Frank Friskit to be the foul
conspirator, inasmuch as he was so frequently in Toby's cot, and on
friendly terms with him. Under the agitation of affright, the
conscience-stricken and self-discovered culprit solemnly vowed that he
would forsake the way of transgression thenceforth; for he had seen such a
sight, while setting a snickle, as he could never forget as long as he
lived! How he had got over the hedge he could not tell:—he believed
his wits left him as soon as he saw the bar-ghost,—for he could remember
nothing besides that queer sight!
"But what was it like, Frank?" asked Joe.
"Like!—why, it had a dark-looking face, and a pair of eyes as
big as owls' heads!" replied the lad, with a shudder.
"And how big was it?" asked Joe, again.
"I only saw the great foul face grinning and staring at me,
and all on a blaze,—and then it was gone!" said Frank.
Joe received the last answer with a smile,—but, on turning
round, when Noah Wallhead touched his elbow, he could not forbear
laughter. Noah shewed Joe the hollow turnip,—with its eyes and
mouth, that had so marvellously affrighted the younger apprentice when lit
up with a bit of candle,—a common trick among rustic youngsters.
Toby, however, was not let into the secret, and took it very ill that Joe,
especially, should laugh at what he considered a very alarming narrative.
Feeling it incumbent on himself to use this advantageous opportunity for
enforcing a homily on reform, he thus addressed himself to the penitent
"Be thankful, foolish boy," he said, "that this evil spirit
has done thee no real harm; and, for the future, lay aside thy wicked
follies. And, above all, Frank, bethink thee that thou has' been
guilty of a great sin to be so long pretending good neighbourship with me,
and yet to be all the while plotting how to snickle my poor dumb creatur'.
No wonder the bar-ghost should visit thee! Say thy Belief, as well
as thy prayers, to-night, Frank,—and be a good lad in futur', and then
thou may' hope that the Lord will forgive this deceit, for that's a
greater sin than mischief!"—and then, fearing to renew the lad's
terrors,—since he already began to tremble afresh,—Toby besought Joe and
Noah Wallhead to take him home.
Toby Lackpenny felt "indescribably queer," as he afterwards
said,—when left alone that night. He tried to banish the remembrance
of Frank's strange description of the trunkless head,—but he found that to
be impossible, as long as he sat by the fire,—for every flicker of the
flames startled him with a new fear or fancy. So he betook himself
to bed. But alas! poor Tobys frame had been so completely weakened
by fasting, and his indulgence of the marvelling propensity of his
constitution had rendered his understanding and will so powerless, that he
felt like a being that has no longer any self-government. The
head,—the queer head that Frank had seen,—with its fiery eyes and
mouth,—was all Toby could think about, as he lay tossing to and fro in
bed:—"What a marvellous sight it must have been!" said Toby to
himself,—"'a grinning dark face, with eyes as big as owls' heads,'—the boy
said; 'all on a blaze in a moment, and then gone!'" And the
revolting picture, at length, burst in reality,—he believed,—before his
eyes! Nor had he the power to banish the uncouth and distorted
phantasin,—although he gathered up all his courage and tried to laugh,
once:—it was in vain,—the sound of his own forced laughter caused his skin
to creep! Then Toby shut his eyes, and turned himself on his pillow,
and bravely resolved he would sleep,—but it still was in vain:—when his
eyelids ached with the compressure he had exerted upon them, he opened his
eyes once more,—and lo! there was a real, grinning, goggle-eyed head,—all
on fire,—coming towards him, from an immense distance! The trunkless
head was a mile off, apparently;—but it was coming,—and what was he to do?
It came on rapidly,—and the heart of poor Toby beat loudly against his
ribs, and the perspiration started from his brow; and, at length, when the
glaring phantom of a head was approaching very near, he made a convulsive
effort and dashed his head beneath the bed-clothes! Half-suffocated with
heat and fear, he threw the clothes sufficiently off to obtain a breath or
two, when, to his unspeakable relief, his incomprehensible tantalizer
In a few minutes, however, the horrible spectre of a head
appeared again, in the immense, immeasurable distance. It approached
at the same rapid and threatening rate as before, and with features he
thought still more frightful; and, again, he had recourse to the
bed-clothes for protection from this terrific visitant. When the
head commenced its menacing approach for the third time Toby's horror
exceeded endurance, and he jumped from his low bed, and threw open his
little window to catch the cool air. The night breeze speedily
dispelled his giddiness, and effectually banished the disturbing figure
from his disordered sensory.
Toby stood a few moments attempting to rally his mind, by his
old employment of counting the stars in each of the more striking
constellations, which were at the time distinctly and brightly visible;
but the hour of midnight, told by the solemn tones of the church-clock,
warned him to close the window, and endeavour to find the rest he felt he
now so much needed. Exhaustion, happily, came to his relief, and
Toby forgot the fiery head without a trunk, in more gentle dreams.
Joe heard Toby's relation of this singular visit, the next
night, with a degree of phlegm and coolness that amazed the
marvel-stricken tailor. Nor could Toby receive for gospel any of the
natural explanations of his young friend: it was in vain that Joe
recounted what he had lately read of Nicolai, the printer of Berlin, and
his wondrous diseased visions,—it was equally in vain that the youth
strove to shew Toby that the very manner of the strange head's visit—so
like what was called "phantasmagoria" and other optical delusions—proved,
to a dead certainty, that it all arose from over-excitement of the brain.
Toby poohed and pshawed at everything Joe said,—and was nearer than Joe
had ever thought him towards calling his former disciple by some offensive
name. The lad was compelled to desist from his attempt to reason
Toby out of his uneasy conviction, that he had actually been visited by
some evil agent as a punishment for his infraction of the vow he took
never to eat food till sunset,—that so he might attain to communion with
Left to himself, the stricken idealist fell into still more
pernicious errors. Witchcraft was the next delusion he was fated to
experience. Not that Toby ever imagined himself to be either a witch
or a wizard; but he fell, most obstinately into the belief,—ay, as
obstinately as the knight of La Mancha himself,—that he was under the
mischievous power of some who dealt with wicked spirits and practised
enchantments. His imagination in this, as in earlier instances of
its treacherousness to his judgment, made a rapid, though gradual,
abandonment of all self-evident and common-sense conclusions, even in the
every-day affairs of life. That nest of temptation—his library—as,
also, in the case of the world-known Quixote, was, again, the source from
which Toby Lackpenny drew the written proofs for the reality of his
credulous vagaries. " Gloomy Glanvil," as critical Toby had called
him in the days of his higher spiritual-mindedness, was the superstitious
expounder of doctrine to whom the philosophical tailor now attached
himself. How could he deny that a compact with evil spirits was
possible to fallen human creatures, when he had believed, so heartily,
with Swedenborg, that it was possible for sinful man to hold communion
with celestial ministers? Besides, was there not the indubitable
history of the Witch of Endor, and innumerable other references to dealers
with familiar spirits, in the volume of Holy Writ? And were they
likely—these wicked and envious agencies of the "evil eye"—to look on any
human being so maliciously as on him who had aspired to converse with good
angels? Would they not feel an instinctive antipathy towards him?
He was convinced they would, as soon as he inwardly asked the question.
He had just lost his thimble while he was thinking thus; and,
although he hunted for it a full hour, he was not able to find it! What
though this had often fallen to his share of ill luck before? It was
not, now, to be accounted for as an accident. No; it had been
spirited away: he was bewitched; he was sure he was. It was by petty
acts of mischief that the withered hags of hell usually commenced their
annoyance of those whose aspirations after purity had raised their
devilish hate. His case, he feared, was too sure to prove a
sorrowful one, for he knew not how to counterwork their malevolence.
What a dunce he had been to neglect that branch of occult study! But
it might not be too late to acquire even a profound knowledge of it; and
so he would set about it in right earnest.
And, poor Toby! he did set about it in earnest,
insomuch that he sewed side-seams to tops and bottoms of new garments, and
stitched circular patches on square rents, and squares on circular
apertures in the damaged attire he undertook to repair, and mislaid his
thread where he could not find it for hours,—and pricked his thumbs and
fingers, half-callous though they were, with the needles,—and heated his
goose till he burnt the cloth,—and fell into blunders and mishaps of most
awful consequence to his professional reputation, day by day, more thickly
and disastrously, until the very disasters themselves convinced him that
he was approaching a climax of knowledge in the gloomy science of which he
had now become so devoted a student. The witches knew,—foul, cunning
devil-dealers that they were—they knew, although he did not, as yet, ken
who they were,—that he was about to become a match for them; and,
therefore, they were thus bedevilling him and his cloth, and goose, and
shears, and thimble, and needles, in this "heyday, hide-and-seek,
burn-it-and-bother-it," sort of way.
Toby would not "give it up," however, torment him as they
might—the spiteful fiendlings! He still read and thought, and
thought and read, and compared the description of feature which his books
contained with the physiognomies of all who visited his abode, until he
entertained a shrewd suspicion of who were the real and identical, though
secret, practisers of all this infernal mischief. Yet, as some of
these had been, for years, his best and kindest employers, the witch-seer
found it go sorely against the grain of his affectionate nature to provoke
a quarrel with them. Often did he chide his spirit when he had
permitted any of these suspicious visitors to depart with heartfelt thanks
for the kindly present of a cake, or a new cheese, or a dish of butter, or
half-score of eggs, with which they had coupled their order for the repair
of a coat, or nether habit; and as often did he resolve to prepare himself
against their next visit for a red-hot quarrel.
Months elapsed before the amiable-hearted visionary could
"screw his courage to the sticking—place," so as to enable him to "fall
out" with his friends and benefactors; not that he feared their witchery,
or the heavier harm it might bring upon him, when he had defied it.
He soon lost all dread of that kind. It was his true-heartedness—his
genuine gratitude—that precious quality which a rogue never feels, though
he talks the most loudly about it, but which honest and noble natures
cannot stifle, even when warm friends have become persecuting foes,—it was
that superlative virtue which struggled to keep its citadel in gentle
Toby's heart's core, and the contest with which was so troublous to him.
Happily for the poor mistaken philosopher, his loving-heartedness had
rendered him so dear to all who knew hint, that none would believe he was
in his right mind when he suddenly became so discourteous and
"Pr'ythee, Goody, what think'st ta?" said Dolly Dustit,
the little hard-working flax-woman, to Peggy, the staid housekeeper at
Farmer Robinson's,—"is neighbour Toby growing queerish in his heed, wi' so
much book-larning,—or, what the plague can he the matter wi' him? I
asked him to tell me what yerbs I should get to mak' a green plaister for
our Jack's sore scaup, and he grinned like a fummard, and tell'd ma to
gooa to the divvil, and as th' oud lad was a friend o' mine he would mak'
ma my plaisters, with a witness! Doesn't ta think he's gone stranny?"
"For sartain there's summat the matter wi' his wits, from
what our maister was saying aboot him this morning," answered Peggy; "but
who can wonder at it, Dolly? I wonder his knowledge-box hasn't gone
wrong-side up'ards many a year since!"
"And Maister Robinson has had some foul speech from him, has
he, then, Peggy?" asked the little flax-woman, curious to learn more of
"Sich foul speech as maks one queer to mention it," replied
Peggy, though she evidently wanted to unburthen herself of it to her
gossip, and told the shuddering news in the next breath:—"he tell'd th'
farmer that his breeches smelled o' brimstone, and he wouldn't put a
stitch in'em to please ayther him, or the divvil his maister!"
"The Lord ha' marcy on us, Peggy!" ejaculated the honest:
little flax-woman, "it's a sore thing to think on; but poor Toby's brain's
addled at last, I'm varry sewer. He's as harmless as a lamb when
he's reight: one nivver heeard a foul word come out of his mouth.
Fin varry sorry for him, Peggy;"—and so saying, Dolly Dustit sped on to
her daily work in the flax field, more deeply grieved at what she believed
to be poor Toby's affliction, than at his repulsive treatment of her
application for his medical advice.
Such conferences of inquiry, wonder and regret began to arise
daily in the ancient little town of Haxey, as Toby advanced further into
the spirit and essence of witch-knowing; but the erring philosopher, at
length, set the whole village into uproar by telling no less beloved a
personage than Dame Deborah Thrumpkinson herself that he believed she was
a witch,—nay, the queen and ring leader of all the witches in the Isle of
Axholme,—and, to complete his madness, Toby actually strove to eject the
venerable old woman from his cottage! Fortunately, his corporal
weakness prevented him from effecting the rudeness which he thus
attempted; and the hearty old dame, though pitying, rather than censuring
his folly, felt disposed to try the effect of a somewhat vigorous reproof
of it. Seizing the lean, attenuated student by the collar, she laid
him, with one sinewy lift, fairly on his back, breathless and
fear-stricken, upon the shop-board.
"'Od rabbet thee, and thy fizzlegig foolery!" she exclaimed,
setting her teeth together, as she was wont when moved more strongly than
usual, "what maggots hast thou got into thy stargazing noddle, now?
A witch, indeed! Who will take thee to be a wizard for saying so,
thou dreaming old owl? Marry, come up! I say a witch,
too!"—and then she shook poor Toby till his teeth chattered, and he would
fain have uttered a loud alarm, but durst not speak for the life of him.
The dame left him to recover his courage, and laughed
heartily, in spite of some slight feeling of vexation, as she told the
story to her customers during the day. A few hours served to bring a
crowd round the tailor's dwelling, though none would enter it; and, till
night-fall, Toby's ears were assailed with epithets which shook his nerves
till he wished himself a thousand miles off, as he afterwards said to Joe.
During the evening, the elder and more influential members of the little
population of Haxey went from house to house expressing their deep regret
for Toby Lackpenny's lunacy,—for they decided that he was lunatic,—and
conjuringly besought the younger and more frivolous people to desist from
persecution of one who had always been so good and kind-hearted a
neighbour, and who was now under a visitation of Providence that rendered
him an object of commiseration rather than ridicule. And so the victim of
imagination was delivered from the storm of persecution which he had
foreboded would be renewed on the succeeding day.
Desirous, on her part, of making Toby feel the value of her
neighbourship, Dame Deborah never crossed his threshold on that day.
Toby was thus left a solitary; and yet his mental disease had not yet
reached a stage that would render solitude curative. On the
contrary, it permitted his prurient imagination to become more mischievous
in its influence.
A neat little dove-cote was a conspicuous rural adornment to
the ancient gable of Dame Deborah's dwelling; and its cooing inhabitants
were familiarly acquainted with the tailor's threshold, and even with his
cottage-floor,—whither they were often attracted by the crumbs Toby spread
upon it, when his favourite tabby had strayed forth from the cot, and so
could give no alarm to these feathered visitants. Toby had been
reading a full description, during that solitary morning, in. one of his
witchery-books, of the way in which the most powerful of all charms might
be prepared for subjugating a witch or a wizard; and the entrance of one
of Dame Deborah's pigeons, into his cottage, seemed to give him the
opportunity he coveted of testing the efficacy of the prescribed charm.
He wilily closed his door, and, after a brief struggle, captured the
bird,—which he forthwith secured, by shutting it up in the oaken corner
cupboard, which served him for wardrobe, larder and coal cellar.
The day wore on, and the philosopher, with a struggle against
his misgivings that whispered "cruelty and barbarity," reckoned mightily
on the triumph his newly-acquired knowledge was to give him over the
powers of darkness as soon as night arrived, and the murky hour of twelve
approached. He sharpened a knife till the edge was most deadly keen;
he made up a good fire; he collected at least one hundred pins from the
patches on his shop-board and in his drawers; he prepared the string by
which the dove's heart was to be hung to roast; and he drove in the nail
to which the string was to be tied.
And now the black midnight hour was near, and, trembling with
agitation that might almost be called horror, Toby Lackpenny took the poor
fluttering pigeon out of its hiding-place, and took the fierce knife into
his hand to be ready to dash into its breast as soon as the church-clock
struck the first stroke of twelve. Need he had for self-possession
and preparedness of mind and act, in order to complete his necromantic
feat like a true adept,—for, although he was not to wound the bird till he
heard the first stroke of twelve, yet he must have its heart out, alive,
and have it stuck full of pins, and placed down at the fire to roast,—and
all before the church-clock had told the last stroke of twelve!
"Pshaw!—nonsense—what a chicken-hearted fool I am!" said poor
Toby to himself, as he stood trying to confine the bird's wings with one
hand, and holding his sharp knife in the other: "let me think of the
victory I shall obtain over these agents of the Evil One,—and not give way
in this childish manner!"
But Toby did give way, and could not help it; as he
said to Joe when he afterwards described this strange temptation to his
beloved young friend. The faster the moments flew, and the more
nearly the magical moment approached, the more Toby trembled and the more
loudly his heart beat against his ribs, and the more terrifically his
conscience menaced his peace, till—as the last half-minute was elapsing—he
threw down the knife, and, releasing the pigeon from his grasp, declared
aloud, though out of the hearing of every human being, that he neither
could nor would hurt the poor harmless dove, even if all the witches on
earth, and all the fiends they dealt with in the other place, should,
thenceforth, have power to torment him every minute of his remaining life.
There was an end of Toby's grand achievement of power over
all the witches and wizards with whom he believed the Isle of Axholme to
be infested! The hour had passed over, and it was too late—perhaps,
for ever—for him to perform the all-potent immolation,—since the sacrifice
of the same pigeon would be of no efficacy, after it had been prepared,
and yet remained unslaughtered. His better nature felt satisfaction
at the thought of the pigeon being still alive, though his superstitious
ambition led him to experience a deep shade of regret that he had not had
hardihood of spirit sufficient to enable him to grasp the grand
ideal-prize which was so nearly within his reach. Regrets were
useless, however, he reflected; and so he quenched his blazing fire, and
lay down to rest.
In the morning, a new temptation awaited the fanatical
witch-finder. Forgetting that Tabby could easily pounce upon the
pigeon while left on the cottage-floor, though she could not get at it in
the cupboard,—Toby had gone to bed without concerning himself about the
safety of the bird, being so much absorbed with the feeling of
satisfaction that he had spared its life. No sooner had her master
fallen asleep, however, and the bird placed its bill under its wing for
taking rest, than Tabby slily seized her prize and butchered it for a
secret banquet. Her bloody mouth and glistening eyes, together with
the scattered feathers, proclaimed her deed, most unmistakably, as soon
almost as Toby had opened his eyes and looked around his humble dwelling.
A new conviction sprang into his capricious brain: Tabby was
a witch, self-transfigured into a cat! There could be no doubt of
it—not the shadow of a doubt. How strange that he had not marked her
particular habits before!—and yet, it was a fact, now he came to think of
it,—that she purred and squinted just like the transfigured cat-witches he
had lately read of in his profound, mystical hook. As for the
pigeon, she hated it of course, knowing the purpose for which it had been
brought thither. It was as clear as the sun at noon,—though all cats
liked pigeon-flesh if they could get it, that Tabby devoured this pigeon
because she was a witch, and it had been secreted as a forthcoming
sacrificial charm for overthrowing witch-power.
What, then, was the discerning Lackpenny to do, under this
astounding discovery? He resolved to put an end to Tabby's life, by
the peculiar and effectual mode in which alone a catwitch could be
destroyed: she must be hung up by the heels over his cottage-door to die a
prolonged but irredeemable death! Toby shuddered; but he was
convinced it was the only righteous and wise way to be taken,—and so he
set about carrying it into effect. Tabby inflicted some vengeful
wounds on her old master while he was in course of tying the cord around
her hind feet, and then hoisting her up over the door;—but Toby fulfilled
his office of executioner—thrust on him by fate and duty, he believed—very
stoutly this time—in spite of the aversion he felt at taking away the life
of a dumb creature which had sung "three-thrum" on his hearth so often,
and borne him company through so many days of poverty, although days of
content. He hung up his cat; but how was he to stop her cries ?
A crowd again gathered round his house, and demanded that he
should release his cat. But Toby was more resolute that he would not
the more they insisted on it. Dame Deborah, at length, stepped from
her dwelling, and, cutting the poor animal loose, broke Toby's
counter-enchantment at a stroke. Then throwing open the tailor's
door, and fixing her eyes upon him very threateningly, she told him she
would certainly help to hang him by the heels, if ever he attempted again
to treat his poor harmless cat in so barbarous a manner.
Toby spake not one word. His recollection of the
fearful shake the aged dame had lately given him rendered him apprehensive
that she might renew it, and so he kept prudent silence.
The crowd gradually departed, and left the baffled
philosopher-visionary, once more, to solitary reflection—but it was now
hungry reflection,—and proved to be most effectual in dispelling his wild
fancies. Shame under the keen reproofs of his neighbours, and
failure of his cupboard, contributed to weary him of his witch notions,—so
that on the following morning he was fain to receive a little present from
Dame Deborah, with thanks for her kindness.
Gradually, he became so entirely ashamed of his recent
eccentricities that he made earnest apologies to all whom he had treated
with rudeness,—and all were so ready to forgive, and so happy to see him
restored to a neighbourly temper, that Toby found it easy to recover his
former ease of mind and habitual good humour.
The longer Toby lived the less likely was it for one so
ardently imaginative by constitution to sink into the mere matter-of-fact
quietude of thought that characterized the majority of his neighbours.
On the contrary, as he grew older, his brain became more and more prolific
of imaginations; but, happily, they were increasingly of a more pleasing
nature as he increased in years. In spite of all his life-long
dreams and fancies, and in spite of straitness in his means of living,
Toby was a happy old man; for, with all the startling activity of his
imagination, Toby had never corrupted his bodily vigour by a single act of
intemperance. When Joe returned to bury his aged foster-mother, Toby
walked, by the help of two sticks, to the grave-side, declaring that he
saw two lovely angels walking before the coffin all the way from the
dame's door, and he knew they would come for him next. Whether the
yearning of his desire and imagination, or the great effort he made to
attend the funeral, most assisted to hasten his end, cannot be said;—but
he died the very next day,—with a heaven of smiles on his aged face,—and
with the words "Heaven" and "angels" on his tongue.
THE MAN WHO WENT STRAIGHT FORWARD
DOWN CROOKED LANE.
CRINKUM CRANKUM always had a
will of his own: I mean, his grandmother and the elderly ladies of the
family used to say so. But whether they really knew anything about
it, or only spoke from guess, I will not undertake to say. I am the
more diffident about making any assertion on this point, from the fact
that Master Solomon Soundcap, the village apothecary, who knew every
argument in Jonathan Edwards by heart, always maintained that the question
of the will was one with which his neighbour Crinkum ought never to be
mixed up. Master Solomon's notion was, that the whole family of the
Crankums had invariably been governed by whim rather than will.
"The will, sir," Master Solomon would say, suspending any
compounding operation in which he happened to be busied, and laying his
forefingers across, while he looked as potently logical as any pleader at
Equity:—"the will, sir, is too high a faculty to be confounded with the
mere fits and starts of a man who never looks before he leaps; it is
determined by motive,—and is, therefore, a faculty related to the human
reason or understanding, not to the passions. A man who is
governed by impulse, or rather, who is under no government at all, ought
to be regarded as a mere compages of gross animal matter, through
which runs the smallest modicum of nervous fluid, just to render it
sensitive. And such, sir, are the constituents of all the Crankums:
ergo, you may safely assert that my neighbour has whims, but not a
will of his own."
Now, I do not say that Master Solomon Soundcap convinced me
that he understood this profound subject any more than did Crinkum
Crankum's grandmother. Nevertheless, his mode of argument, with his
reputation as a reasoner, were so imposing to one but little acquainted
with the mazes of metaphysics, that, as I have observed before, I am
somewhat diffident of placing my own immature opinion in contradiction to
But Crinkum Crankum himself had no doubt that his grandmother
was right. He never deigned to parley with Master Solomon whenever
the argumentative apothecary proposed to introduce his theory, but would
dash his hand in the air, and, with a haughty toss of his head, exclaim,
"Pooh! pish! pshaw! crotchets and quavers! leave your round-about jargon,
and come to the point at once! I always go straight forward!"
"So do you, down Crooked Lane," the subtle compounder of logic and
medicine would reply. And then Crinkurn Crankum, with a throat
swelling and crimsoning with ill-temper, would rush out hastily from the
apothecary's shop, as if he were fearful his passion would explode into
some less civil phrases than Good-night, or, Good-morning.
And why should Solomon Soundcap, or any other of Crinkum
Crankum's neighbours, have troubled themselves to thwart him in his family
notion that he always had a will of his own? What harm could it do
to him?—good-natured people may ask. Was it not better that he
should entertain such a notion, than that he should be perpetually
palliating a fault by saying he could not help it, as so many weak people
do? Was not this obstinacy in the belief that he had a will of his
own infinitely preferable to the vulgar custom of pleading that he was a
mere "creature of circumstance," and thereby slipping out of the noose of
moral culpableness at every misdemeanour?
Indeed, these questions seem sensible enough at first sight;
for a man who obstinately believes that he has a will of his own places
himself at once, one would think, in a position of responsibility to
society, by acknowledging his capacity to keep, as well as to break, its
Unluckily, the other side of this case of casuistry is
unfavourable to the lenient view taken by good-natured people.
Crinkum Crankum, like his forefathers, gloried in his belief of having a
will of his own, from a self-complacent sense of privilege that it gave
him, and thereby dislodged from his own brain every germ of a thought
about responsibility, as quickly as it was sown in that torrid soil.
In brief: by virtue of having a will of his own, he not only argued that
he could, but that he would do as he liked, and so became
excessively termagant in his disposition to subdue the wills of others.
Very strange to say, Master Solomon Soundcap was the only
apologist to be found in the parish, whenever his neighbours uttered their
indignant complaints against Crinkum Crankum's displays of despotic
"You mistake the matter, neighbours," it was his wont to
argue; "I do not care how energetic a man may be in enforcing his views,
if they tend to usefulness or edification. If one wise man can
succeed in leading fools to their own interest, and to the aid or
augmentation of the general good, I have no objection to his taking the
lead, and compelling others to follow him. But, when a man to-day is
found proclaiming every one an ass who thinks adverse from himself, and,
next week, or next year, having espoused that same asinine way of
thinking, brays out an anathema on all who have given it up, what is to be
said for his consistency? Neighbours, I would pound my fingers,
instead of this lump of rhubarb, rather than take away my townsman's
reputation; but, though I cannot join you in complaining of any man,
simply because he is wilful, I must complain because he is wilfully
Thus Master Solomon, who, the reader will have discerned, was
only half a Conservative,—apologised for his neighbour's faults, in the
customary mode of neighbourly apologists,—that is, by furnishing the
complainant with new grounds of dislike, in lieu of convincing him that
his own allegements were ungrounded.
Crinkum Crankum, however, heeded neither open complainants
nor pseudo-apologists: his life-long habit was to assert every new
doctrine which he professed,—and he professed nearly every doctrine in the
course of his life,—with equal vehemence and equal dogmatism. He was
a great advocate for "Nature," in early life, and would challenge the
clergyman of the parish, whenever he met him, to what he called "free
discussion"; yet it was only free so far as it afforded Crinkum Crankum a
renewed opportunity for abusing the clergyman to his face, and telling him
that "some people might be cozened by fables, while others might be
intimidated into a tacit profession of what their understandings rejected,
lest they should lose caste; but there was one man in the parish, the
clergyman must know, who was neither to be deluded nor frightened, for he
had a will of his own, and went straight forward."
The mild and inoffensive curate—the vicar being a
non-resident—was often hurt by these blustering attacks of Crinkum Crankum,
for his meek and sincere nature rendered him incapable of cozening or
intimidation. His gratification, therefore, was mingled with
considerable alloy when Crinkum Crankum, in the latter part of his life,
became an earnest devotee and punctual attendant on the
church-service,—wedging the quarto Prayer-book under his left arm, after
the fashion of his great-grandfather, and proceeding to his pew with
solemn visage,—but never acknowledging the impropriety and illiberality of
his former course. The curate would, conscientiously, but gently,
touch on this topic sometimes; and especially when Crinkum Crankum was in
a flourish of attachment to the Established religion. A reply he
gave to one of Crinkum's most glaring displays of effrontery so deeply
chagrined the new Churchman that he turned his religious coat once more,
and became a "sectarian," to use his own language.
"The fact is, I have a will of my own, sir," said Crinkum,
"and therefore I am not to be wheedled by these sectarians."
"And I rejoice that your will has made so profitable a
decision as that of returning to the bosom of the Church," observed the
quiet curate;—"I humbly trust you acquit me of some motives—shall I say,
somewhat ungently attributed to me, a few years ago?" and the clergyman
stopped, and smiled, with an expression of the greatest kindness.
"O! as to all that, sir," answered Crinkum Crankum, with his
customary toss of the head, "I always act independently; I always tell a
man what I think; I never mince the matter; an short, sir, I have a will
of my own, and I always go straight forward."
"Alas! I fear it is down Crooked Lane, as our good
neighbour Soundcap says," enunciated the curate, almost involuntarily, and
through the real welling-up of his pity for the man's irreclaimable
"Good morning, reverend sir!" returned Crinkum Crankum,
with an ironical emphasis on the syllables of courtesy; and turned his
back on the clergyman, to whom he never spoke afterwards.
In his youth, Crinkum was a fiery Democrat; and, though some
of his neighbours uncharitably suspected it was to spite his wealthier
cousin, who was a Tory, Crinkum himself always maintained that it was,
simply and purely, because "he had a will of his own, and always went
straight forward." Not at all to the surprise of Master Solomon
Soundcap, though it might have surprised some of the shallower students in
human nature that inhabited the village, Crinkum, one day in his middle
age, set upon the metaphysical apothecary very violently for his very
moderate, his mere "milk and water" sentiments, as a
Conservative—sentiments which Master Solomon had modestly avowed from
early manhood, while Crinkum had veered completely round to what he
himself termed "genuine" Toryism.
"I have no patience with such neutral nonsense," burst forth
the indignant Crinkum, when he had listened to half a sentence of Master
Solomon's considerate speech;—"I like to hear a man say what he
means, without so much of parenthesis and qualifying of his meaning——"
"But my good friend," interrupted Master Solomon, though he
was by no means commonly guilty of that discourteous practice, "if you
like to hear a man say what he means, you would not like a man to play the
hypocrite by saying more than he means, would you?"
"Why, as to that, sir," was Crinkum's stereotyped preface to
an answer, "I really do not see the necessity of so much wordiness; if a
man's mind be made up,—and he won't be long about it, if he possesses
one,—he will soon express it. People that ask others what they shall
think, for certain reasons, sir!"—and here the speaker gave a significant
glance at the apothecary's labelled jars and large-bellied bottles; "such
people, sir, must take time to say their say. But, let me tell you,
sir, I have a will of my own, and always go straight forward."
"Down Crooked Lane!" tittered Master Solomon; whereat Crinkum
Crankum turned his heel in high dudgeon, and with the usual resemblance to
a turkey-cock about his throat, shunning the apothecary's threshold, as a
"stumbling-block of offence," for many weeks after.
On many subjects of jurisprudence, as well as in religion and
politics, Crinkum Crankum professed "broad and enlightened" views in his
youth. For instance, he was enthusiastic in his praise of humane
treatment of criminals, and forsook the evening parlour at the "Hop-pole,"
for five nights, because the landlord,—a man most unusually slender of
abdomen,—had no "bowels of mercy," as Crinkum said, and had bluntly
declared his satisfaction that a notorious thief and burglar was hanged.
Yet, in advanced manhood, being on his journey home from the neighbouring
market, and having entered into conversation with a Quaker who resided in
his village, Crinkum's change of sentiment, but fixity of dogmatism and
intolerance, displayed themselves in the following brief conversation:—
"Is it true that you are opposed to the hanging of murderers,
Obadiah Terseverse? No! you can't be, I'm sure!"
"Yea, but I can, and I am," replied Obadiah. "Then you're not
"How so, friend Crinkum? Slander not thy neighbour, who
never did thee any harm," interposed the honest religionist.
"Pshaw! none of your cant," was Crinkum Crankum's termagant
answer. "How can you be a Christian if you deny the precept,
'Whosoever sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed'?"
"Friend, bethink thee!" answered the Quaker, with great
mildness; "that was written and spoken before a Christian was heard of "
"You infidel hypocrite!" burst forth Crinkum; "and so that's
the way you shuffle out of a plain commandment! Why, you know
as well as I do that we should none of us be safe in our beds if they did
not hang every murderer"
"Is that the way thou interpretest another plain commandment,
'Thou shalt not kill'?" quietly interposed the Quaker, once more.
"O! as for that, sir," said Crinkum, somewhat hesitatingly,
and a little puzzled, "I shall not enter on any round-about way to the
root of the matter. Without spending five words about it, I tell
you, sir, the point is so clear that no man can be sincere who talks as
you do: it is but mawkish sentimentalism; mere whining stuff to win a name
for humanity. Many people are vastly covetous of a reputation for
tenderness of feeling, and——'
"And dost thou remember thy five nights' absence from the
'Hop-pole'?" asked the Quaker, with provoking gravity.
"Zounds!" exclaimed Crinkum, in a towering passion, "do you
think I shall ask you for a rule of conduct? I have a will of my
own, sir, and I always go straight forward."
"Verily, so thou dost," retorted, the Quaker, while he
restrained his laughter with difficulty; "but, as neighbour Solomon saith,
it is down Crooked Lane!"
Crinkum Crankum struck his horse with the spurs, after
hurling an unutterable glance of ire at the Quaker, and soon got out of
sound of the hearty mirth in which the latter indulged.
I will but note another article in the list of Crinkum
Crankum's countless vagaries, and then have done. Because hard
drinking was the perverse fashion when he was young, Crinkum restricted
himself to "moderation," as he called it—for the word "temperance," as a
monopoly of expression for self-denial in only one kind of vianding, was
then unusual. His virtuous scorn of the "mere animals" was, at that
time of life, very loudly expressed. Yet he lived to become a
two-bottle man, often; and, now and then, ventured on three—professing,
the next morning, in spite of sickness and tormenting head-ache, the
utmost contempt for "these new-fangled creatures," the Teetotallers!
Two years before his death, he, nevertheless, fulfilled a prophecy of
Master Solomon Soundcap, which astounded the village when they first heard
it,—and became a Teetotaller himself.
"I have no faith in any man who takes the Total Abstinence
pledge and then breaks it," was Crinkum Crankum's charitable observation,
at the expiry of one year's water-discipleship; and the next evening
Crinkum Crankum "took a little wine for his stomach's sake!" Indeed,
it was on this occasion, only, in the remembrance of Master Solomon
Soundcap, that Crinkum vouchsafed to give a reason for his change of
"And so you have given up the Total Abstinence principles, I
learn, friend Crinkum?" said the apothecary, as he was mixing the quaking
veteran of change and positivity a salutary phial of quinine and other
"Well!" retorted Crinkum, with a frown, "and if I have?
Do you think I am such a goose as to stick by a custom when I find it
injures my health?"
"O dear, no!" exclaimed Master Solomon, fairly taken by
surprise at hearing Crinkum Crankum condescend to give a common-sense
reason for a change of sentiment or conduct.
"Then don't bother me about it," continued Crinkum; "I tell
you I have a will of my own, and ——"
But Crinkum Crankum, for very shame, and in dread that he
would hear Master Solomon's most unwelcome chorus to the old burthen once
more repeated,—here stopped short, and asked what he had to pay for the
phial of medicine.
This was the last time he visited the apothecary, though it
was not the last time the apothecary visited him. Master Solomon was
wont to say, after Crinkum's death, that the ruling passion was strong
within him, even in articulo mortis; for that he appealed to him,
Master Solomon the apothecary, very earnestly, as he poured out the last
draught of cordial, whether he had not "always had a will of his own, and
gone straight forward?"
"How strange," said I, after some minutes' silence, when the
apothecary made this relation; "how strange—that the most changeable and
most inconsistent of mortals should be the most intolerant!"
"All his weaknesses and errors were traceable to one cause,"
replied my venerable friend; "he had never learnt to reflect.
And, young man," added the old man, with a significant look, "the Crankums
are by no means extinct; they are a numerous family."
THE MAN WHO HAD "A WAY OF HIS OWN."
IN the middle of the last century,—before dwellers
in far off provincial places had learnt to imitate fine fashions which
London imports from Paris, and when people chose their garments for
capability of biding wear and tear, and not for show,—there lived in the
market-place of Sticklewick-in-Craven, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, a
notable fabricator of leathern inexpressibles, named Peter Postlethwaite.
Peter was no slop-seller. There was simply one pair of the very
useful and indispensable article he manufactured hung out over his shop
door by way of sign, but not for sale. Peter worked to order, and
not otherwise; and in the acceptance of orders he was not resembled by any
stitcher of buckskin within fifty miles of Sticklewick.
"I have a way of my own," Peter used to say; but it would not
be easy to say what his way was. The rich were among his customers;
yet, it is very certain, Peter did not prefer them. Courtesy he
invariably shewed when declining the orders of the rich; but no courtesy
on their part could persuade him to oblige them against his
disinclination. And as for threatening him with displeasure, or a
withdrawal of custom, nobody ever tried such methods with Peter
Postlethwaite: it was known they would not avail with him.
Squire Fulltilt, lord of the neighbouring manor, called at
Peter's shop-door one morning in Spring, just as he had called two seasons
before, with a very winning look.
"Good morning, Peter," he began; "I hope you will oblige me
for this next season. I like your make and fit better than any other
tailor's. Besides your seams never burst; and, you know that's a
great matter to me, for I stick at nothing,—hedge, ditch, or gate,—and am
always first in at the death."
"I know it, squire; and I honour ye for your bold riding,"
replied Peter, with a peculiar humour about the mouth, which the squire
did not perceive; "but I cannot have the honour of serving you this
"You can't, Peter! why, you have not obliged me for two
seasons past. What the deuce is the reason why you refuse me this
"I should not be able to serve ye on this side Christmas,
squire; and I could not think of being so unhandsome to ye as to keep ye
waiting for eight months."
"Then why, man, don't you act sensibly, like other tailors,
and hire journeymen, since you have more orders than you can fulfil
"Ah, squire! I'm afraid their seams would burst."
The squire still did not perceive the droll twitch about the
corners of Peter's mouth.
"Come, come," he urged, "do try to oblige me this time.
Put somebody off."
"Thank ye, squire; but I never do that," Peter said.
"You don't! and why not? Tom Lookfair will oblige me in
that way any time."
"That may be his way; but I have away of my own," Peter
replied, with a shake of his head.
The squire turned from the shop-door hastily, thrust the hook
of his whip into his mouth, and walked off angrily, not giving Peter "Good
day!" but murmuring, "Confound this way of his own!"
Now, all the simple Sticklewickers had a strong regard for
Peter; but neither did they understand this "way of his own." It was
a mystery they often talked over; but none of them could interpret it.
There was a current report—and it was held to be as credible as it was
wonderful—that the parson of the parish had tried to comprehend Peter's
"way";—that he had gone to be measured for a pair of leathern
nether-habiliments himself on the very day that Squire Fulltilt had
indignantly told him of Peter Postlethwaite's refusal, and again had
failed to comprehend Peter's "way."
This current report enhanced the public estimate of Peter's
profundity of mind, by the words it attributed to him in his conversation
with the good parson, which remarkable conversation ran thus:—
"Good-day, Mr. Postlethwaite," began the vicar, looking
through his spectacles over the half-door, as the tailor sat at work; "I
want you to measure me for an article in your way, if you please."
Peter opened the little half-door in a trice, welcoming his
visitor with a polite bow, but proceeding to put questions which somewhat
surprised the vicar:—
"Highly honoured, reverend sir, by your visit, and by the
offer of your patronage; but, since this is the first offer, may I ask why
you make it?"
"Why I make it!" repeated the vicar, in astonishment, staring
first through his spectacles at Peter, and then over them.
"Yes, sir; no offence, your reverence; but, why do you make
me the offer of your patronage?"
"Bless me! Mr. Postlethwaite, what a strange question: why,
because I want the breeches to wear, to be sure!"
"Did your reverence ever wear a pair made of leather before?"
"No—never—before," answered the good parson, slowly; "but
what of that?"
"Pray, sir, may I ask if your reverence is purposing to join
Squire Fulltilt's hounds the next season?"
"No, Mr. Postlethwaite; certainly not. I think I have
something better to do—"
"I think so too, sir, and I am glad to hear you say so,"
observed Peter, interrupting the parson, and immediately proceeding busily
to handle the measuring-strip. "Thank you, sir," he said, when he
had taken the parson's measure; "you shall have them home by the end of
next week, sir."
"Next week," repeated the vicar, in a marked tone, and
looking full at Peter in such a manner as he imagined would perplex and
confound the workman in buckskin; "if you can serve me by the end of next
week, how was it that you told Squire Fulltilt you could not oblige him
for eight months to come? I answered your questions: will you answer
"Your reverence," replied Peter, "I have a way of my own."
"Why—yes—Mr. Postlethwaite," rejoined the parson doubtfully,
"so they tell me you always say; but I cannot understand your way.
Pray may I ask—"
"Pardon me, reverend sir," interrupted Peter, with a very
polite obeisance, "I honour and respect you as an excellent Protestant
clergyman: I say, Protestant. But, you know, sir, to insist on
auricular confession is—Popish!"
"I beg pardon—I beg pardon, Mr. Postlethwaite.
Good-day—good-day!" said the parson, hurrying away from Peter's shop back
to the Vicarage, where he rehearsed the dialogue to his intelligent spouse
three times during the evening, and was as often told that he deserved his
rebuff for his busy meddling.
"My dear, I can't forget it," said the parson, rising the
third time from his arm-chair.
"My dear, I hope you never will forget it," observed his
"If the man had given me any civil and respectful reason for
declining to answer my questions, I would not have cared; but to insinuate
that I wished to put rank Popery into practice,—it was impertinent!
Upon my word, I have a good mind to go and countermand the order!"
"I hope you will not do anything so foolish. You should
not have given him an order for an article that you will never want.
But, to go now and countermand it—why, the man would raise the laughter of
the whole parish against you!"
"I fear he would. You are right, my dear," granted the
vicar, re-seating himself in the arm-chair, with the resolution to be
quiet. "Bless me!" he exclaimed, after musing uneasily some minutes,
"why, yesterday was St. Mark's Eve!"
"And what of that?" asked the lady, in surprise at her
husband's new excitement.
"What of that! Don't you remember that they say
Postlethwaite always watches through St. Mark's Eve in the church porch?"
"Watches in the church-porch! For what?"
"For the—the—visions, you know, my dear; visions of all the
people in the parish who are to be brought into the church this year as
corpses, and of all the couples who are to enter it to be married."
The lady burst into a fit of laughter. "So, I suppose
you have jumped to the conclusion that Peter Postlethwaite has had a
vision of Squire Fulltilt's corpse in the church-porch, and has therefore
refused to oblige him!" said the lady.
The good parson, after a round of visits the next morning
among his parishioners, returned to the Vicarage in a very determined
state of mind.
"My dear, I must and will," he commenced, the moment he
entered the parlour; "I must and will go again to this strange man,
Postlethwaite, and either obtain a satisfactory answer from him about this
'way of his own,' as he calls it, or countermand my order, and have no
more to do with him. The whole parish is in a buzz to-day with the
reports of the visions he has had in the church-porch on the night before
last—St. Mark's Eve, you know. And if he be an impudent impostor
playing on the weakness of his neighbours,—which I shrewdly suspect to be
the fact,—he deserves to be punished."
"Then, since you 'must and will' go, as you say," said the
lady, quietly, "let me beg that you will not commit yourself by letting
the man suspect that you believe him guilty of the folly people attribute
"Well, my dear, I will be discreet," promised the earnest
vicar; "but I must and will have the truth out of him."
At the end of the street leading from the Parsonage the vicar
slackened the hasty pace with which he had set out,—for there was Peter
Postlethwaite, talking to a poor man in very shabby nether garments.
"You must patch 'em for me once more," the parson heard the
poor man say.
"I can't. They'll not 'bide patching again," was the
sharp answer that Peter returned. "Come and be measured for a new
pair," he added.
"I can't afford a new pair," objected the poor man.
"Nonsense! come and be measured, I say," pronounced Peter,
decisively,—and off he went.
The parson marked that the poor man looked after Peter with a
smile. The next moment the man touched his hat to the vicar, who had
half a wish to ask him a few questions about Peter, but suppressed it,—for
another man was speaking to the tailor. The vicar could not hear
this man's first words; but saw Peter give a very formidable shake of the
head. Again the man seemed to entreat Peter—
"No," Peter answered loudly, "and—beware!"
"Mercy on me! Ha' ye seen my shadow in the porch?"
gasped the man, looking affrighted.
Peter left the man answerless, stalked away, and regained his
shop. A minute after, the vicar stood at the half-door, and looked
"Mr. Postlethwaite, can I have a word with you?" said the
"Twenty, sir, if you please," answered Peter; and quickly
opened the door, to let in the good parson.
"I have an important question to ask you; and, though I do
not come to play the Popish inquisitor with you, I conjure you to answer
it, as you value the health of your soul—your welfare here and hereafter!"
The vicar pronounced these words so solemnly that Peter
looked very serious, and then requested his reverend visitor, very
respectfully, to walk into an inner apartment, that they might talk
without interruption. Once seated in a room, which though small, was
better stored with books than any room in Sticklewick, except his own
study, the parson felt extreme difficulty in commencing the "case of
conscience." Lo, and behold! there were the multitudinous volumes of
Archbishop Tillotson on Peter's shelves; and there were golden-tongued
Jeremy Taylor, and majestic Hooker, and the witty and instructive Bishop
Hall, and many other of the great divines of the Church of England.
Peter must be not only a true Churchman, but a very sensible man, the
parson reflected, if minds like these were his companions. The
parson was quite taken aback. He had not entertained the least
shadow of an imagination that Peter was a person of really intellectual
habits, although it now rushed upon his recollection that he had often
thought Peter's manner, with all its eccentricity, marked the man of
Peter sat and waited respectfully; but the vicar's eyes still
wandered over the book-shelves. But he must say something, and so he
made an effort; and, after a few prefatory words commending the sound
teaching of some of the great authors on the shelves, he struck a severe
blow, by way of inuendo, at the heinous criminality of those who, despite
their enlightenment from such teaching, live immoral lives, and resort to
unhallowed practices. Postlethwaite assented most respectfully to
the truth of the vicar's observations; but sat with provoking
unconsciousness that they were meant for any party there present.
The good parson now held himself conscientiously bound to be plain, and to
strike home. What were the exact words he used the vicar could never
remember in after years: he could only certify that he poured forth a
volume of objurgations about Peter's "way of his own"; and the watching in
the church-porch on St. Mark's Eve; and the refusal of Squire Fulltilt;
and of the ragged poor man in the street, with a "beware!" and the favour
shewn by Peter to the other poor man; and a score of scandalous reports
about Peter's visions;—and that Peter sat and received the torrent with
such a look of amused wonder as was indescribable. The good parson's
memory as to what Peter replied was more perfect. Peter set out with
"Pray, sir," he asked, "has any one told you that I said I
had watched in the church-porch at St. Mark's Eve, either in this year, or
any former year?"
"No, Mr. Postlethwaite; not exactly that, though everybody in
Sticklewick talks of it as an undoubted fact. But you seem a very
different man from what I took you to be by report, and I feel that I
ought to beg your pardon for having credited, even in the smallest degree,
a report so prejudicial to you, as well as so absurd."
"You shall not ask my pardon, reverend sir," said Peter, with
a kindly dignity which surprised the vicar:—"I know that impressions are
often made on our minds by the gossiping industry with which scores around
us assert their convictions. I reverence your office, and I love you
for your personal benevolence; and, in order to relieve you of any
remaining uneasy impression, I will now endeavour to satisfy you as to
this 'way of my own.'"
"Thank you, Mr. Postlethwaite, thank you!" said the vicar,
eagerly; for, notwithstanding that his estimate of Peter's true character
was rapidly changing, he felt very fidgetty for the full explanation.
"Very early in life, sir, I became a diligent reader,"
commenced Peter: "this habit, together with a disappointment of a tender
nature,—which, I trust, you will excuse me if I do not further allude
to,—gave me a dislike to the company of inns and such like places of
resort; and, perhaps I ought to say, to the ordinary conversation of
men—though I really am not soured against my species—I only dislike the
selfishness and other vices by which I see so many are enthralled and
degraded; and I dislike vice as much in the high as in the low. I
consider that the rich, who are only the permitted stewards of wealth,
under Providence, are vicious when they waste their riches on low and
useless pleasures such as keeping packs of hounds, and pursuing
fox-hunting as the chief end of existence. Being a free Englishman
who possesses the skill to earn a good livelihood, I exercise what I
conceive to be my right to refuse to work for Squire Fulltilt."
"It is your right, certainly, if you choose to exercise it,
Mr. Postlethwaite," interjected the parson; "but don't you think you are
carrying your right to an extreme?"
"It may be so, reverend sir," yielded Peter: "but it is my
'way'; and I am telling you what my 'way' really is, at the risk of your
deeming it whimsical. Take no offence, sir, when I say that I should
still more resolutely have refused to take your offer if you had confessed
that you intended to violate the excellent pastoral character which has
distinguished you ever since you became our vicar, by joining the squire's
"There I think you would have done right," avowed the good
parson. "I do not like to speak uncharitably of any of my brethren
of the cloth, being too sensible that I have my own imperfections; but I
regard the dissipated habits of some clergymen that I could name as very
"I am happy that your reverence approves my 'way ' in some
degree," Peter went on; "and now let me briefly explain my conduct towards
the two labouring men I met in the street. The poor man to whom I
spoke encouragingly has a very large family, and, of course, it holds him
down in the world. Yet he is honest, sober and industrious. I
can afford to trust him, for the new article he so much needs. And
even if some unforeseen calamity should overtake him, and I should never
get the money—why, I have neither chick nor child to provide for—the loss
would not ruin me; and I should have pleasure in reflecting that I had
benefited a deserving, poor man."
"Mr. Postlethwaite, your 'way' is very creditable to you,"
burst in the sensitive clergyman.
"The other poor man is an habitual drunkard," continued
Peter, without seeming to hear the vicar; "he earns more than the sober
poor man, but he wastes nearly all he gets. Now, I hold that I am
not bound to work for the encouragement of drunkenness, any more than I am
for supplying the demands of people who keep up packs of useless hounds.
I have trusted that drunken man twice, and he has been three years in my
debt. I have reasoned with him, and rebuked him, for his vices; but
he does not change. To-day, I finally denied him; and I told him
that, if he did not reform, he would soon be laid in the churchyard beside
his father, who drank himself to death; and the last word I said to him,
as you heard, sir, was 'beware!"'
"Just so: and then he made that peculiar observation."
"Such peculiar observations he and others have often made,
your reverence," resumed Peter, anxious to come to an end; "and I know
that the report is circulated, from year to year, that I watch in the
church-porch at St. Mark's Eve. How such a notion ever arose I
cannot tell. Perhaps it may first have arisen from people's
knowledge that I am fond of books, and am thus unlike my plain neighbours;
and that I am often seen crossing the churchyard at unusual hours, early
and late, my solitary walks for thinking lying in that direction.
Students and solitaries, your reverence knows, have in nearly all ages and
countries been accused of 'unhallowed practices.''
"I ought to have had more sense than to accuse you of them,
Mr. Postlethwaite," confessed the vicar, catching the meaning of the droll
twitch about Peter's mouth; "but I cannot forbear to ask you one more
question since you have known for so long a time that this absurd report
was in circulation respecting you, why did you not deny its truth—why did
you not do all in your power to banish such superstitious notions from
among the people?"
"Perhaps I am blameable," acknowledged Peter, "in having
taken a little sly pleasure in letting folks talk such nonsense, and
laughing at them in my sleeve. The cynical philosophy is not the
most humane, I own. But,"—and the tailor stopped, and looked with a
gentle smile at the parson, lest the edge of the reminder he was about to
utter should be felt too keenly, "but, you know, sir, my calling is to
make nether-garments in buckskin: it is yours to correct men's hearts and
heads. To whom, then, does it belong so strictly as to yourself in
this parish to do all in your power to banish superstitious notions from
among the people?"
"My good friend," replied the honest parson, rising and
taking Peter's hand, "you give me the rebuke I most justly deserve.
I will endeavour to perform that part—that important part of my duty, for
the future. I thank you for having so patiently borne with me, and
explained this 'way of your own.' And whenever any of my
parishioners speak of your 'way' again in my hearing, I shall tell them
that I wish every man's 'way' was as good as Peter Postlethwaite's."
MISS DINAH AND HER LOVERS:
A STORY OF OLD-FASHIONED COURTSHIP.
HOW to make love successfully is a secret worth
knowing, if anybody could infallibly convey it. But the most
experienced wooers will tell you that it is an art which cannot be learnt;
or, rather, that he will be most successful who can conscientiously aver
to his mistress, "Madam, I swear I use no art at all." A sincere
avowal of passionate attachment can scarcely fail to captivate a very
young beauty, disposed as she is almost sure to be to the romantic; will
make a more mature woman pause before she pronounces a denial, and will
then compel her to convey it tenderly; while it will be treated with
"consideration," even by the fair one of a certain age, unless her own
repeated disappointments have turned her into a "Tartar."
The sex are far quicker to discover a sordid purpose in a
wooer than men usually give them credit for. And if a man have a
pecuniary interest in view while suing for a woman's affections, he had
better acknowledge it, and unaffectedly offer to her notice some
equivalent advantage. He will thereby save himself from the
mortification of being detected and mocked for his false pretensions, at
any rate. A story of a rustic courtship of over seventy years ago
will show that shrewdness was an attribute of even an unschooled woman, at
When old Clement Lovegroat died, his daughter Dinah inherited
his goods and chattels, and succeeded to his business of grocer and petty
general-dealer, in the small market-town of Lowchester. What amount
of money old Clem the shopkeeper—so he was familiarly called—left behind
him, people did not know; but there was a general belief that, whether it
were little or much, he would have liked to take it quietly away with him,
if he had had his own will, and could have made any use of it in the other
world. Yet, if people did not know how much money Dinah's father was
worth when he died, they made many guesses. Thus ran the gossip
about him, in the long room of the Rose Inn, one evening, within a month
after Clement's funeral:—
"Depend upon it, neighbours, Clem had well feathered his
nest," said the landlord, "for money was all that he seemed to live for.
I don't think he drank half-a-dozen glasses of ale, or other liquor, in
this house since I have been in it; and I have been tenant and landlord of
the 'Rose' two and forty year, come next Michaelmas, to the best of my
"The hardest man at making a bargain I ever knew," said the
miller; "I gave up the thought of getting money for grinding him a sack of
wheat, years ago: I saw it far better to bargain for so much toll."
"I' faith, that was a good notion," said the smith; "but in
my line, you know, I could not resort to that plan. I never hurried
myself over any job that he brought to me, if I had aught else to do; for
it was as hard to get money out of old Clem as it is to wring butter from
a flint, as we say."
"Ay, he kept it when he got it," chimed in the bellman; "I
never went round with the bell for him in my life, but he made me 'bate a
penny o' my fee. Dinah will be well off now he's gone. I wish
I was young again for her sake."
There was a laugh at the old bellman's declaration about
Dinah ; and yet it served to turn the conversation into a new current.
"She will be well off, I have no doubt," observed the
wheelwright: "so many years as the old man was in business, and with his
saving habits, he must have left her well provided for."
"And with the profits he had on what he sold, in the years
gone by, before the Scotch dealer set up at the other end the street, and
began to undersell him," hinted the landlord, "I'd venture a good wager,
Clem left his daughter five hundred spade-aces."
"Reckoning by his shrewdness in buying in, as well as
selling, I should rather think you might double the guineas, and say
thousand," ventured the miller, with a very knowing look.
"I shouldn't wonder," granted the landlord; "and they say a
too, that Dinah is likely to take care of it."
"I'll uphold her she will," said the miller.
"You may safely say that," said the smith.
"It will never grow less in her hands," said the wright.
"The more's the pity it is too late for me to try my luck the
way of courtship again," struck in the old bellman, who "always liked to
put in his verdict byway of
joke," as he said.
There were three other personages that night, however, in the
long room of the "Rose," to whom these subjects of conversation were felt
to be no joke, although the three joined in the laughter which usually
followed a "verdict " of the ancient bellman.
The first of these—for we must give him that rank on account
of his clerkly office—was Titus Switchem, the schoolmaster. He held
that dignity, not because he had either any native love or acquired
fitness for it, but because his father had held before him. Titus
often grumbled at his lot in life, and wished he could change it.
But whither was he to turn?—he often asked himself with a sigh. He
had never been taught an kind of handicraft; his father had left him no
money wherewith to try his luck at buying and selling; and how to form a
new scheme for getting a livelihood, without either money or skill, he
could not imagine. True, he was yet in the prime of life and he had
never despaired of his lucky star rising some day, in the shape of a
well-provided-for wife. The conversation in the "Rose" was therefore
suggestive of golden hopes to Titus Switchem.
Next of the three serious listeners, must be classed, on
account of his personal substance, the fat farmer Broadcast. He was
not a dweller in Lowchester itself, but held a farm of fifty acres in the
neighbourhood; and having been a widower for the irksome period of seven
weeks, he had come to the "Rose" that evening with the very intent of
inquiring slily after a wife who was likely to help him to a little
money—which he very much needed. The fat farmer, as may be supposed,
devoured the conversation greedily.
Scarcely, however, with such eager appetite as the lean young
barber, Snubbs. Snubbs—"Mister" Snubbs, as he always gave his name,
though everybody wondered at it in plain, old-fashioned Lowchester—had
very recently come from London, and taken the business of a septuagenarian
barber deceased. He was a clever shaver: that nobody could deny.
Neither was his custom less than that of his predecessor, who had been
able to save a few hundred golden guineas in the course of his long life,
and to leave them to a distant relative. But the dead barber had
been a great practiser of abstemiousness: the living one loved indulgence.
So far from saving, he was already pretty deeply in debt for one in his
situation of life; and Snubbs had a bright vision of happy deliverance
while the conversation went on relative to the well-provided-for Dinah
Peculiar thoughts not only darted through the brains of these
three guests of the "Rose," simultaneously; but their thoughts led to
"Good night, gentlemen," said the young barber, quickly
sipping up the remnant of his glass of gin and water, "I must away, and
shut up shop."
"And I must be going, for I've school-work to do for
tomorrow," said the pedagogue.
"And so must I, for it will be late before I reach home,"
said the farmer; and he and the schoolmaster finished their glasses of
Snubbs the barber, being sharp and London-like in his
movements, was out of the inn-door first; and farmer Broadcast, owing to
his bulk, was distanced by Titus Switchem. Titus sped along the
street with unusual haste, being very unlike the barber as a locomotive:
indeed, he was generally classed as the slowest-going man in Lowchester.
With unwonted speed he gained the shop-door of Dinah, and was going in
"right bolt," as he had vowed to himself that he would, when—behold! there
stood the barber at the shop-counter, and in close conversation with the
well-provided-for heiress. Titus saw that he was unobserved, and
softly stationed himself between the shop door and the little bow-window,
where he could see all that passed, and was sure to hear, if the parties
talked audibly. But the vexation was, that they only whispered.
And "confound the London fellow!" thought the clerkly Titus—"there's
mischief in his grimaces. See! if he has not seized her hand; and
she smirks and blushes! Why, what can she be thinking of?
She's old enough to be his mother!"
Another squeeze of the hand, and another! and Dinah smirked
again, and tittered like a maiden in her teens—although Dinah had quitted
her teens twenty years ago. But hark! Titus could hear them
now:—but who was this stumbling up against him? It was the fat
farmer. Titus pretended not to know the farmer; and the farmer
pretended not to know Titus. Neither spoke; and the farmer passed
on. There—now he could hear them, again!
"In an hour then, Miss Dinah?"
"Nay, nay—not to-night! I'll consither on't."
"But, my dear Miss Dinah! you most lovely creetshur!"
"Oh, lawks! ye'll make me split mysen wi' laughing."
"You'll break my heart! I must have the interview
to-night. I shall not be able to close my eyes. I declare I
won't go to bed! My loveliest love, I'll walk under your window all
"Nay, nay, ye mustn't do that. Folk will call ye a
fool; and say some'at about me that would be unpleasant, belike.
Come in an hour, then; and let's hear what ye've got to say."
Dinah uttered the last sentence with some gravity, but with
no enthusiasm. Snubbs, however, kissed her hand thrice with rapture,
bowed very theatrically, and disappeared.
"I'll not play the fool in that absurd way," thought Titus;
"I'll speak to her sensibly, at any rate—and, egad! I must look sharp, for
here comes the farmer again!"—and into the shop Titus moved, while the
farmer took his place, and, in turn, watched and listened.
"Good evening to ye, Miss Dinah," began the schoolmaster.
"Good evening," responded the shrewd and staid maiden; but
bit her lip while she thought, "So, so! Titus is struck too, or he
wouldn't call me 'Miss.' I see what they are after!"
"I—always—had a respect for you," said the schoolmaster, with
"'Bliged to ye!" answered Dinah, restraining a disposition to
laugh, and taking up a pair of small scales with the air of intending to
"put 'em to-rights."
"I was thinking—now you are alone—left alone like—Miss Dinah,
that—that a little help in keeping your accounts might—might be
"Oh! I see!" replied Dinah, looking up quickly; "well,
it would. My poor father's books are all a puzzle to me—for I'm no
"But you know I am, Dinah," said Titus, forgetting the
"Miss," and suddenly seizing her hand:—"make me a happy man, Dinah!"
Dinah laughed; but Titus kept hold of the hand, and,
forgetting how he had vowed not to "play the fool," he kissed it.
"I always respected ye," protested Titus fervently; "but I
did not like to say anything to ye in your poor father's time: I was
afraid he would be angry. Let me put his books to-rights!"
Dinah liked that part of the schoolmaster's love-making; she
believed there were moneys owing to her father, and she wanted to be
furnished with the accounts that she might get the money in.
"You shall look at them to-morrow," said Dinah.
"But, why not to-night?" asked Titus; "and besides, I've
something to say to you. Do let it be to-night!"
"Pooh, pooh! What can ye have to say to me, Titus?
Whatever it be ye can say it as well to-morrow."
"No, no! to-night!" insisted Titus.
"Well, then, let it be to-night," yielded Dinah, having just
then a droll thought in her head; "and in half-an-hour."
"Thank ye, thank ye!" exclaimed the schoolmaster, and then
kissed Dinah's hand again, and darted out of her little shop in too
rapturous a state to think of Farmer Broadcast.
And now rolled in the fat farmer, resolving to play his part
more soberly than the schoolmaster.
"How d'ye?" he began very steadily; "we're wanting a few
groceries at the farm. Let me see! It will be a longish order.
I'll try to remember it, and you can just make a memorandum of the things,
and I'll pay you for'em; and send the lad for 'em to-morrow. But
it's cold here. You've a nice fire i' th' little back-room, I see,"
he observed, stretching his stout-neck, and looking over the blind of the
glazed inner door; "just let me go in and sit down a bit; and I can tell
you what I want while I warm my toes."
"If ye please," answered Dinah; for she had not the slightest
suspicion that this was a third would-be wooer.
"You've a prettyish little box of a back-room here," remarked
the farmer, quite naturally, as he seated himself with the intent not to
move in a hurry; "let me see! we shall want a quarter of a stone of
ten-penny sugar. How much will that be? You are only lonelyish
here, now your poor fayther's gone, I imagine."
"Two and eleven-pence:—why yes, rayther," replied Dinah;
"what'll be the next article?"
"Quarter of a stone o' treacle. Ah!" and the farmer
heaved a deep sigh, "I know what it is myself now. How much is the
"Fourteen-pence: that'll make four and a penny. I see
you've a black crape on your hat. Some near relation dead lately?"
"Yes," answered Broadcast, "my poor wife. But you know
we must be resigned"—and he took off his hat, and put it on a table behind
him:—"well, we shall want a few currants and raisins for th' Christmas
week. It's a poor heart that never rejoices, you know."
"Very true," granted Dinah: "currants you said, and raisins.
How many think ye? Currants is a shilling a pound, and they are very
fine this year; the best raisins is ten-pence."
"Say a couple o' pound of each then."
"That'll be three and eight-pence: seven and nine-pence
"You're a capital reckoner. I wish I'd a head-piece
like yours at hand. I'm quite at a loss, at home. Will ye join
Dinah glanced sharply at the fat farmer. He smiled.
Dinah took the poker to stir up the fire.
"Is there any other article you'll be wanting, think ye?" she
asked; and then bade the farmer "excuse her," and hastened into the shop
to wait on a customer.
"Capital!" mused Broadcast; "I'm in possession; and that's
nine parts out of ten, in the law. Capital!" and he rubbed his
hands, and chuckled;—"how chop-fallen the schoolmaster will look when he
comes. I have switched out Switchem at any rate. I must mind
my P's and Q's though; for she's as sharp as a hawk. But I'll have
her consent before I leave her, or my name's not John Broadcast."
Thus mused and thus resolved the farmer. Meantime
Dinah, having waited upon the customer, proceeded to close the shutters of
her little shop, and then to close the door—going through her work
somewhat leisurely; for, now she had obtained a glimpse of the farmer's
real errand, she wished him to remain where he was that the plot might
"Seven and nine-pence, I think you said," re-commenced the
farmer, when Dinah re-entered the back-room. "You must feel very
lonely here by yourself, as I was saying?"
"Why, yes; rayther lonely at times. Seven and
nine-pence: you're right. But is there nothing else, think ye?"
"Seven and ninepence," repeated the farmer, and counted out
the money into Dinah's hand;—"and it must be very confining for you, as
well as lonely."
"Nay, I've been used to the shop from a child," answered
"But—you wouldn't—have any objection to—to a—freer, healthier
sort of life—if—if you could—make up your mind to a—a kind companion?"
Dinah laughed, and the farmer thought she looked so compliant
that he tried to seize her hand. But Dinah was not disposed to have
it imprisoned a third time.
"Not so fast," said she; "I couldn't make up my mind about a
companion in such a hurry as some people."
"Well—to be sure—it looks soon enough," stammered the
conscience-stricken farmer: "seven weeks is only a short time to be a
"Oh, oh! " thought Dinah, "seven weeks!"
"But—you know—there's wooing before marrying. We
needn't be wed for a few months to come; but—say you'll think kindly o'
me, and of nobody else. That's all I ask at present; and I'll call
and see you, now and then, in a friendly way."
Dinah was not disposed to offend a good customer to the shop,
and began to frame her answer warily.
"I've no objection, farmer, to your calling—now and then, as
you say—in a friendly way—or—or, to think kindly of ye."
A bold, smart, London rap at the outer-door cut short Dinah's
answer, just at the point the farmer was expecting the "nobody else."
"Come in!" said Dinah, instantly.
And in stepped the bold barber in his Sunday clothes—his hair
frizzed, and his fine little ivory-headed cane in his hand,—and was about
to bow to the ground in his most gallant style, when—he saw the fat
farmer; and with mouth agape, and staring eyes, stood stock still—his hat
arrested half-way in the graceful aerial semicircle he had intended to
describe! "Shall I cut my stick?" thought the barber;— but, somehow,
his legs would not obey his will: he stood still.
In spite of his vexation, the fat farmer snorted a laugh.
Dinah, with great difficulty, affected to look grave.
"Beg pardon!" gasped the barber; "shall I—call again?
"Oh, noa!" answered Dinah, "pray, sit ye down:" and she
pointed to a chair.
The barber closed the door and sat down, not liking to quit
the siege, and yet puzzled at finding an unexpected force in the garrison.
The farmer's wrath began to kindle.
"'Od rabbet the young puppy!" he said to himself;—"I'd lay a
shilling he's come on the same errand, from hearing what was said at the
'Rose.' So then there will be three of us to try for her; but I'll
break both their necks before they shall beat me!"
"Rather cold night, sir," observed the young barber—too much
of the Londoner to be at a loss for small talk.
"Ugh!" grunted the farmer.
"But very seasonable for the time of the year," added the
"Ugh!" again grunted the fat farmer.
There was another knock at the door—a timid sort of knock,
"Come in!" cried Dinah, briskly.
And in came the schoolmaster—or rather, he put one foot into
the room, and stood with the other on the threshold. Pale as death
turned Titus Switchem—Broadcast grew as red as the hottest cinders in the
fire—and the barber changed from a dingy purple to a dingy white!
"I—I—I'm sorry, Miss Dinah! I—I—I see you've company,"
stammered the pallid pedagogue.
"Oh, never mind," said Dinah, with a satirical look which the
farmer did not like: "shut the door, Titus, and sit down!"
Titus had not power to disobey. He closed the door, and
then dropped into a chair, close by the barber; and there they sat on one
side of the little room, and opposite Dinah and the farmer on the other.
"Rather cold night, sir!" said the barber to Titus Switchem.
"Thank ye—yes," stammered Titus.
"But very seasonable weather for the time of the year,"
"Yes—thank ye!" again responded Titus, half unconscious of
what he was saying.
"You said all that before," growled the farmer, glancing
irefully at the barber.
"Why, a—yes, sir!" granted Snubbs, bending politely; "but
that was to yourself, sir; not to the—the—that is to say, this gentleman."
"Gentleman!" exclaimed Broadcast; "he's no more gentleman
than you are!"
"Sir?" pronounced Snubbs, raising his eyebrows wit wonder,
and looking coolly defiant.
"Sir!—don't 'Sir' me—you London puppy!" cried the farmer,
glaring like an enraged bull.
"Upon my word, sir," declared Snubbs, not at all intimidated;
"I don't understand this. 'Pon my honour, sir! think you are very
uncivil, to say the least of it, sir."
"And what do I care what ye think? What d'ye want
here—either of ye?" demanded the farmer, whose anger had no entirely got
the better of his small reason.
"Sir, if I have an appointment to meet a lady—what is that to
you?" said the barber.
"What is that to you?" echoed Titus, trying to take courage,
since he saw the farmer included him also in the rising quarrel.
The "lady" to whom the polite Snubbs referred did not utter a
single syllable, but sat deeply enjoying the sport, yet concealing her
naughty sense of enjoyment as much as possible.
"What is that to me?" repeated Broadcast, and fixed his glare
now on the schoolmaster; "what d'ye mean by that?"
"I meant nothing offensive, farmer," answered the frightened
Titus; "I'm sure I never gave ye any offence in my life."
"May be not," grunted the farmer, feeling that the poor
schoolmaster spoke the truth; "but that other fellow meant to be
"Fellow!" retorted the nettlesome cockney: "I hope you'll
retract that expression, sir. That is offensive, at any rate, sir."
"Pshaw!" ejected Broadcast disdainfully; and, throwing one
leg over the other, he twisted his chair so as to set the back towards the
barber and the barber's companion in offence, and fixed his angry eyes on
the fire, determined to 'sit them out' in sullen silence.
The barber did not know what answer to make to the farmer's
disdainful monosyllable; and so he sat silent likewise. As for the
schoolmaster, he had no wish to draw the anger of Broadcast upon him
again; and was therefore much less disposed to talk than Snubbs. The
silence continued for several minutes.
"Missus!" called a slender voice, at length.
"Coming, Jenny!" answered Dinah; and she rose up hastily, and
passed into the kitchen.
Another period of silence was broken by the bold Snubbs, who
began to whistle "All around my hat," and to beat time to it with his
foot, much to the annoyance of the farmer. Snubbs next piped merrily
the "College Hornpipe"; and would have commenced some other strain, had
not Dinah's little handmaid entered the room.
"I'm to lock the door when ye're all gone," said Jenny.
"Lock the door!" exclaimed the farmer: "where is your mistress?"
"Gone to bed, and wishes you all 'Good-night!"' answered the
"Oh!" said the farmer, and looked foolish.
"He, he, he!" sniggered Titus, who opened the outer door, and
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the barber, and, shrugging his
shoulders at the farmer, also departed.
"Hum! it's a queer trick!" said the farmer; "but I'll know
the meaning of it another time," and so saying, he took his hat, and very
discontentedly took his way home.
The meaning of it, however, the farmer never asked: he was
too fearful of offending Miss Dinah; and so were the barber and
schoolmaster. Never was woman so anxiously and jealously bewooed as
was Miss Dinah, for two months thereafter. But the three rivals now
steadily avoided coming together in her presence. Each, before he
stepped into the shop, spied to see if either of the others were already
there; and then bobbed into some nook or corner and waited to see his
rival come out; or suddenly crossed to the other side of the street and
passed on, looking as if nothing were the matter.
People in Lowchester talked about Dinah and her lovers; and
some wondered and shook their heads censoriously; while others laughed and
winked their eye, and said Dinah knew what she was about. It really
shocked staid sort of people that a woman of forty years old should so
often be seen and heard smirking and giggling at the empty talk of the
young barber; and should be seen walking with him one evening, and then
the next with the schoolmaster Titus, and the evening after with the fat
And evening after evening, unless it rained very heavily,
Miss Dinah did walk, with one or other of her lovers, right to the end of
the street where the Scotch dealer lived, past his shop window, and then
back; and this she continued to do till the end of two months after that
curious primal visit paid her by the rivals. And now Dinah began to
see her plot likely to succeed.
"Guid morn to ye!" said the Scotch dealer, stepping into
Dinah's shop so early that she had not breakfasted.
"Good morning!" said Dinah, and she blushed and held down her
"Ye'll not tak' offence, I hope, if I give ye a hint that
your neighbours opine ye had better choose one o' the three, and that sune,
if ye mean it. It looks indecorous. I need say nae mair.
Ye ken what I mean."
"Thank ye," said Dinah, but in a gentle tone; " I've made up
my mind now."
"Ah! weel, and which one o' the three d'ye mak' choice o'?"
asked the Scotchman, with an affected indifference which did not deceive
"None of 'em," answered she, with a look and in a tone that
could not be mistaken.
"Ye are the sensible woman I took ye to be," declared the
Scotchman, with a radiant smile;—"will ye be at home this e'en?"
Dinah answered that she would; and her new visitor departed
with a very pleasant "Guid morning!"
Snubbs was in and out of Dinah's shop that day four or five
times, but could not win either smile or fair word from her. Titus
paid her one visit, but was so disheartened by her indifference, that he
did not venture to repeat it. And just as farmer Broadcast
approached the little shop in the evening, he saw the Scotch dealer enter
it. The farmer passed on, thinking the Scotchman was making a
business call and would soon be out. At the end of the street the
farmer turned, and again passed the shop-door; but the Scotchman did not
come out. Very soon, the barber and the schoolmaster were also in
the street; and all three, amidst the sneers of numerous observers,
continued to pass and repass Dinah's shop-door and each other, with
gathering discontent and ill-temper. Ashamed and angry, they, at
length, slunk away, the barber to the "Rose," the schoolmaster to his
home, and Broadcast to the road that led to his farm.
For three successive days, Snubbs, Switchem and Broadcast
continued to dangle about Miss Dinah without receiving "nod, beck or
wreathed smile" of encouragement; and to watch their opportunity for
walking with her, in the evenings, but with success—her fair favour being
engrossed by the new and unexpected rival. On the fourth day, the
bold barber demanded explanation of this strange change in Miss Dinah's
bearing, and was desired to call precisely at nine in the evening receive
it. An hour after, Titus Switchem ventured timidly prefer a like
demand, in the shape of an humble request; a received a like direction.
When the evening came, the barber was full ten minutes before
his time, and was desired to walk into the back-room, and sit down.
Titus appeared at nine to a minute, and likewise remanded to the interior
apartment. A few minutes after, Farmer Broadcast presented his
substantial person—seeing the coast clear about the shop-door. He
felt elated when Dinah requested him to step into the little back-room;
but depressed when he found the barber and schoolmaster already seat
there, in gloomy silence. Yet the farmer sat down; and the
mysterious spell of expectation and puzzlement held the three to their
chairs, until Miss Dinah walked gravely in among the accompanied by the
Scotch dealer. Miss Dinah was silent; but her companion thus
decisively addressed the triple expectant powers:—
"Ah! weel, freends, ye ken I'm deputed, on the pairt of the
mistress of the hoose, to return ye thanks for all past favours. In
especial, to our friend Snubbs, as a sprightly young man wha has given her
much polite attention; idem, to our friend Switchem, wha has vera kindly
made up the books of accompt, and enabled her to claim sums lawfully due
to her father and his heirs and assigns; and lastly, but not least, to our
friend Broadcast for his liberal custom to the shop. Freends, on the
same part, I am to say that your custom and your favours are solicited for
the future—-but with somewhat of a difference. For nae sensible
person, I tak' upon me to say, will deny that friend Snubbs is too young
and too handsome to be expected, for ony reason, to bind himself for life,
as a husband, to the staid mistress o' this hoose. Neither will it
be gainsayed that a like forcible objection applies to our friend Switchem,
inasmuch as he is too clerkly, and will need a vera wise and learned woman
for a wife. And it will be agreed to at once, that our friend
Broadcast cannot be weel paired except with a handsome widow weighing
fourteen stone, and wha understands dairy and farm-house work—all whilk is
out of Miss Dinah's line, ye ken!
"And now, freends, a word for my ainsel'. Be it known
to ye, that yestreen I put in the banns o' marriage between mysel',
Saunders McSavepenny, and Dinah Lovegroat, here present; and that ye may
hear them read and published in the parish kirk, on Sabbath first.
Furthermore, I beg to inform ye, that I shall close my business at the
ither end o' the street, and we ha'e agreed to carry it on here—whilk, I
doubt not, ye will acknowledge to be a sensible arrangement. And
hereby joining our capital, and our experience in trade and business, and
being every way suitable in age and habits o' life, I entertain a
confidence, freends, that our wedded union will be vera proper, and that
ye'll think sae.
"In conclusion, I tak' the liberty to remind ye that ye had,
all three, the start o' me by a vantage o' two months; and sith ye each
did your best for sae lang and could not succeed, ye cannot blame me that
I put in for the race, and won it at a canter. And now, freends, we
wish ye—'a vera guid evening!"'
There was no gainsaying this speech, for the rivals saw that
it had Dinah's entire and hearty acquiescence.
"Well, I see it's all over with us," said the farmer rising,
and suppressing a sigh.
"Yes; it's a done job with us," said the barber.
"However, I wish you both all happiness," said the farmer,
"I'm sure I wish 'em the same," said poor Titus.
"Oh, ay, to be sure! let us go to the 'Rose,' and drink their
healths," said the cockney, jovially.
"And ye may drink double glasses round, and I'll pay the
landlord—but nae mair!" said the successful lover.
"You are a jolly fellow!" said Snubbs, and, when the rivals
had shaken hands with the loving couple, they went and ended their rivalry
at the "Rose."
When Dinah became Mrs. McSavepenny, the Lowchest people
declared she had acted like a true daughter of Clement Lovegroat; and
said, if the old man could look out of his grave, he would smile to see
how well his gold was husbanded, and how richly the store was increased.
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF TIMOTHY
SOME folks say that this is a queer world in which
we live; but it is not so bad a world after all, if we try to make the
best of it. Indeed, the world itself is a very good world; it is
only the bad people who are in it that make it an awkward world, now and
then. Above all things, it is wise not to be discouraged with the
bad treatment we receive in it; and especially at the outset of life.
My own experience has taught me that you may often look for sunshine
before noon of life, although the morning breaks with a storm. To
cheer other life-travellers with hope who have begun their journey with
ill-weather, I jot down a few memorandums of my own pilgrimage.
My name is Timothy Twinkle; and my father was an honest man,
though he was but a greengrocer, and lived in Leather Lane, Holborn.
My mother, too, had strict notions of right and wrong, and always wrapped
up a "real gentlewoman's" change, when it was copper, in clean paper.
There was not a costermonger's wife in the entire neighbourhood who did
the like, at that period. But then, as she used to say, she had
always lived in good service before she married my father, and she knew
that "gentlefolks ought to be treated like gentlefolks." My father
was so well satisfied with the correctness of my mother's notions on this
point, that he always turned his head to the back-shop, and cried "Betty,
my dear!" when any genteel customer entered, in order that she might step
forth, and, herself, wait upon them. I was sometimes ambitious to
wait upon a lady or gentleman myself, to shew that I could do it as well
as my mother; but my father used invariably to put me back, and say "Tim,
let your mother do it: you can't do it like her: the Twinkles were never
made to shine, as my poor father used to say, but only to twinkle."
Thus early taught that people who are well dressed, wear
clean gloves, and have a superior air, ought to be regarded as the
porcelain among mankind, and not as the vulgar clay, you cannot wonder
that I grew up with proper ideas of the real difference there is, and
ought to be, between "gentle and simple," as my mother used to phrase it.
Education I had none, while a child, if by that term be meant going to
school to learn to read and write. Learn to read I did, but I can
scarcely tell how, except that I understood that the marks on the signs
and over the doors in the street indicated the names of the shopkeepers
and what they dealt in; and, having heard other boys who went to school
name the letters, I began, by degrees, to learn to spell, and make out the
words. To read in a book was a more difficult process to master.
A pictured edition of "Robinson Crusoe" was lent me by a playfellow, and
its fascination soon became so great for me that I did not rest till I had
persuaded the boy of whom I borrowed it to sell it me for a few pence.
My mastery of it was not complete for a year or more; but I then became
eager to possess other stories which I saw on the old book-stalls, and
thus acquired a love for story-reading which has endured and strengthened
through my life.
With all my father's honesty and my mother's admirable
attention to genteel people, their little business brought but a scanty
livelihood for an increasing family; and when my brother Ned was nine
years old, and I was a year older, my father thought Ned was quite strong
enough to assist him, and told me that himself and my mother had made up
their minds to find me a master. I did not like the word; for I knew
several lads who, although younger than myself, had been placed in
service, and who always complained of its hardness, and often talked of
running away. I ventured, one day, to tell my mother that I did not
like the thought of leaving home to live among strangers. But she
first chid me for my weakness, and then endeavoured to reassure me by
recounting the happy days she had spent in service compared with the
period of her wedded life, and by remarking, with a look of significant
shrewdness, that "it was a fine thing to be able, every day at dinner
time, to place your feet under a gentleman's table." Dinners at an
humble greengrocer's in Leather Lane, you may be sure, were often lean;
and there was something in the words "gentleman's table" which rendered
me, from that moment, eager to prove what was meant by going into service.
To do my father justice, I must say he seemed unwilling to
throw me away, and it was not until three months were passed that he
accepted the offer of one of his best customers on my behalf, and gave me
up as errand-boy, shoe-black and knife-cleaner to an attorney of large
practice in Great Ormond Street. Of my master I saw little, for the
sound of his harsh voice when he spoke to the man-servant, and the
trepidation of the cook when he rang for dinner, together with the kicks
and cuffs she bestowed upon me as a relief from her excitement—all which
I revenged upon the old grey cat, which scratched me savagely in
return,—caused me to shun my master's presence as the chief tyrant, and
even to hide myself behind any abutment or piece of furniture when I was
in danger of meeting him. How I used to quake when he summoned me to
carry a business-note! Yet I generally remembered well the
directions he gave me, and delivered my trust correctly. In a few
instances, his haste and fierceness threw me into such confusion that I
did not comprehend what he was saying, though I tremblingly answered "Yes,
sir," when he demanded "Do you understand me, you young beggar's whelp?"
One kind person or other, however, in the street, read the superscription
of the letters for me, when I asked their help, and directed me the
nearest way to the houses I wanted to reach, if I did not already know
where to find them. My failure on one occasion not only brought my
service with my first master to an end, but renewed my acquaintance with
one, and made me acquainted with others, whom I ever afterwards regarded
as evil omens in my life-path, whenever they crossed it.
I had, as I thought, fully and pleasantly understood my
master when he commissioned me, one morning, to hasten with a letter to
the house of a barrister in one of the squares at the West End. My
master's manner, indeed, was so unwontedly agreeable that morning, that my
young heart bounded within me for joy while I re-pictured his smile to my
imagination, and ran over the space between Great Ormond Street and the
end of Tottenham Court Road. By this time I was nearly breathless,
and was compelled to slacken my pace. Half-way along Oxford Street I
was buttoning-up my jacket and preparing for another run, when I was met
by one of my old playfellows of Leather Lane, who insisted on my staying
to talk with him a few minutes; since he had never seen me for the past
year, and he wanted to know how I liked service.
"For my part, Tim," said he, while he held me fast by the
arm, "I hated it. I often told you I would run away, and a last I
"And how do you live, now?" I asked.
A strange hoarse laugh was all the answer given me by my old
playfellow, but it seemed to be a signal for two other lads to join us.
I did not like their rakish looks, and felt uneasy to be gone, but could
not unloose my arm.
"Just listen to this 'ere green 'un!" cried my old
acquaintance to the two other lads; "he axes me how I live!"—and the two
lads laughed as hoarsely as Jack Dunton, for that was the name of my old
"Let me go," I cried, struggling to get away, "I was sent
with a letter, and bidden to make haste."
"Gammon!" shouted one and all, "you've got no letter, not
"No, no; you only want to be shabby, and cut an old friend,
because you're better off than you used to be, and you're grown proud,"
added Jack Dunton.
"Indeed, I am not lying," I replied eagerly; "here is the
letter, and I must make haste with it; so do let me go!"—and I produced
the letter to their sight.
"All my eye!" exclaimed the tallest lad of the company, and
winked at the other two, while he touched their elbows with his. I
did not know what all this meant; but they all chimed in with "All my
"It's only an old letter you've picked up somevere. Who's
the letter for now? Becos I can read writin'."
These words were addressed to me by the tallest lad, whose keen look and
strong-built frame overawed me, while he seized my other arm; and for
fear of him, I repeated the name and address I had so lately heard
pronounced by my master.
"O, I knows vere the gentleman lives," rejoined the tall lad, instantly,
"but he doesn't live there. Look at the letter!"
"I cannot read writing," I replied.
"Can't you, Tim? Vy I'm surprised," said my old playfellow—whereat, to
my amazement, the other lads burst again into laughter.
"Come, come, Tim," said the tall lad very persuasively, and with such a
complete change of his face into an expression of good nature that my
was won by it, "come, come; I'll shew you exactly vere the gentleman
lives, for I goes by it ' every day, and I am going by it now"; and he
immediately released my arm.
"'Pon my word, old fellow," said my former acquaintance, "arter all it
was lucky you met us. Good morning, Tim—good morning, Bob—good morning,
Dick!"—and he shot off to the other side of the street, and disappeared. The tall lad began to hasten on with me, and the remaining lad bade us "Good morning," and went off, apparently in the direction from which I had
My new companion chatted so very pleasantly and kindly, and, as I thought,
so very condescendingly, towards one so much younger than himself, that I
began to wonder how I had at first felt afraid of him. We took more turns,
and were longer reaching the square than I had expected from the
commencement of our conversation. At length we reached it, and my new
friend suddenly exclaimed—
"By Gosh, yon's the werry gentleman a-coming down the steps! There, at
number five! Look sharp, and pull off your hat, and give him the letter
I ran in the direction pointed out, and met the gentleman at the bottom of
the steps. He stopped, and asked in a very musical tone,
"Is that letter for me, my good boy?—Mr.— —?"
The name was the same with that given me by my master, and I delivered the
letter at once into the gentleman's hand, who patted me on the bare head,
called me "a good boy," and walked quickly away, drawing his cloak around
him with the air of one who has business to attend to.
I was looking around for the tall lad, not knowing the way into Oxford
Street out of a square I had never been in before, when I beheld all the
standing in a corner and laughing at me, while they held each his finger
and thumb to his nose—that sign since become so classically expressive of
ridicule, in London! They vanished, and I stood motionless with wonder,
unable to comprehend the meaning o£ their behaviour. "The Twinkles were
never made to shine"; and I was too unskilled in roguery to surmise that
I had been tricked. On the contrary, so soon as I had recovered from my
perplexity in threading my way, by the crooks and turns, into the wide street, I
congratulated myself on having found so fortunate and unlooked-for help to
gentleman's address. Yet, as I hastened back to Great Ormond Street, I had
many contending thoughts about the sinister looks, and that wild laugh, of
old playfellow and his two comrades.
So soon as I entered my master's house, I heard him, in his
usual harsh tone, inquiring if it were Tim who had come in, and was
summoned into his room.
"Found the gentleman at home?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," I answered, "that is—I met him on the steps just going out,
and gave him the letter. He said he was the gentleman."
My master knitted his brows, looked hard at me, and seemed about to
question me; but he stopped, looked again, and then appeared to think it
while saying more: then pushing back his chair, he rose up, pointed to a
blue bag of law-papers which it was often my office to carry, and as he
the door told me to bring it after him.
I followed him with my burden to Lincoln's Inn Square. The barrister he
wished to see had not arrived. My master said he would wait; and told me
down the bag, and stand at the outer door till he called me. There, to my
surprise, stood the ubiquitous Jack Dunton, who, before I could speak,
shoulder, and with his old hoarse laugh thus again saluted me:—
"By Jove, old fellow, I'm glad I've found you! I've been running after you
and the gaffer till I'm out o' breath to give you the letter, which the
number five in—what d'ye call the square?—let fall soon after you gave
it him. You'd ha' been in Queer Street, Tim, if you had not had a true
myself, to pick it up, and bring it you. Never be
shy again to an old friend, I say! D'ye hear, old chap? Good bye!—I'm in
a hurry!"—and with a parting gripe of my shoulder, he darted off, while I
stood staring after him till he reached a corner of the square, when he
turned towards me, grinned, repeated the classical figure at the nose, and
A small carriage had halted at the door where I stood, a gentleman had
stepped out of it and passed by me into the house, and the carriage had
before my stupid and motionless bewilderment had subsided. I cannot
remember what I was thinking of, when my master suddenly laid hold of
me, and dragged me within, saying, "Come here, you young rascal!—Why,
the young villain, he has the letter in his hand!" he added, with a look
amazement and anger; and snatched it from me.
He was about to hand the letter to the barrister; but, happening to turn
it over, in the act of doing so, he exclaimed, "Good God, what a ripe
rascal for so
young a varlet! This is not my seal: I am robbed, of course!"
The barrister bent a look upon me as overwhelming as that of my master,
and sternly bade his clerk to lock the door. My master tore open the
grasping the hair of my head, demanded, while he was almost choked with
rage, "Where's the money, you vile young thief?"
I fainted with terror, and only remembered that when I recovered
consciousness the barrister's clerk was supporting me, and attempted to
give me water
from a glass, while the barrister himself was assuaging my master's rage
by telling him to be calm, if he did not wish to defeat his own purpose. It was a
long time before I was well enough to tell my story distinctly; and then
all the three treated it with mockery, though I thought the young clerk
constraint, and now and then looked at me pitifully. My pockets had been
turned out while I was insensible, and now I was ordered to strip myself
to the skin; but no money was found upon me. They demanded, with
threats of whipping—"Where I had hidden the bank-note?" I answered with tears
protestations that I knew nothing of any bank-note; but it was all in vain: they only loaded me with foul names, and told me I should be hanged.
I need not be minute in relating what followed. I was given into custody,
and taken to Newgate Prison, where I remained for five weeks under a
of robbing my master of fifty pounds. Three times during this period a
magistrate examined me, and remanded me for future examination. Finally,
my case came on for trial, a barrister who had been employed by my father,
insisted that, since my master had no witness that he had actually
the bank-note in the letter, and the
note had not been found, there was no ease for trial. The sitting
magistrate, however, would not have it so; and said angrily, that crimes
nature were increasing so alarmingly that it would not do to be nice about
punishing young thieves. Yet the barrister again insisted that my master
have omitted, in his haste, to enclose the note; but that, even if he had
enclosed it, my boyish age and artlessness, together with the known
skill of London thieves, ought to render my story credible.
There was a general low laugh in the Court at these words; and the
barrister sat down like a man ashamed of what he had said, and immediately
laugh and talk with those who sat next him. The magistrate said little at
the end of the counsellor's speech; but what he said made my heart sick
and the singing in my ears made me cling to the railing before me, when
the words were uttered, "Gentlemen, consider your verdict! "
The jury huddled together, and my sight was growing dim, and my hands
losing their grasp of the railing, when I was roused up by the words "The jury
wished to retire." The magistrate looked amazed, and there was a profound
a few moments. The jury did retire, however, and at once the peculiar gaze
that was bent upon me by many, and the deadly look of my master, told me,
young as I was, that there was hope. My poor heart beat thick and fast,
and the sweat began to stream down my face; but my faintness went off.
lapse of several minutes, but which seemed to me an hour, the jury
re-entered the box and acquitted me. I uttered a faint shriek of joy as
and foreman of the jury exchanged words; but I knew not what they said,
nor where I was, until I found myself at the bottom of Holborn Hill borne
father's arms, and with my head resting on
his shoulder. So soon as he felt me raise my head he set me down; and,
when the curious crowd saw I was well enough to walk, they ceased to
follow us, much to my relief.
"Tim," said my father tenderly, as we were entering Leather
Lane, "I know you are not a thief, my dear lad, and I hope you are not a
liar; but is all that story true you told the long-wigged gentleman and the
"Every word of it, father," I answered.
"I'm glad of it, Tim," he rejoined, "for I'm blessed if the gentlemen did
not think it was all your own cunning invention."
"I felt that they did, father," said I; "and
it is very hard that a poor boy is not to be believed: yet they all told
me in the gaol that nobody would believe me. They said, too, that I should
transported—but they are wrong there."
"Thank God, they are wrong there, my lad!" said my father, and burst
into tears. The weight of his trouble had been borne, as I afterwards
English firmness; but his confidence in my truth, which was now fully
restored, and this reminder of what I had really escaped, together
For myself, further ability to weep, either for grief or joy, seemed worn
out of me. I had wept whole nights in the prison, especially while
smarting under the
jeers of the young thieves who were the habitants of our common day-room. A settled sadness now only remained with me; but it was mixed with a
of resolution that I would yet try to win respect in the world—and I told
my father to cheer up, for I hoped all would go well with me yet. He
grasped my hand,
sobbed "God bless the lad!" and wept the more for a few minutes; but
regained his self-possession by the time we reached home, and was thus
soothe my distressed mother.
Having endeavoured in vain to get me into new service in London, and
feeling that the narrow income of the shop would not afford the means of
kept at home, my mother devised, as she thought, an excellent plan for
giving me another and a better start in life.
"Timothy, my dear," she said to my father, as we were all sitting looking
thoughtfully into the fire, one Sunday evening, a few weeks after my
deliverance, "I'll tell you what poor Tim shall do; and I'm sure it's just what ought
to be done."
"Well, my love, let's have it!" said my father, rubbing his hands, and
looking bright with expectation,—for he saw there was something more than
sagacious in the eyes of my mother—those beams of the oracle on which he
always placed so much reliance!
"He shall go and try to get into service at good old Squire Heartwell's,
where I passed so many happy days before I knew you——"
"I hope," interrupted my father, "you have had some happy days since you
knew me, Betty; and I am sure all the days would have been happier if I—"
"Nonsense, my dear," returned my mother, "that's not my meaning. You
shouldn't take up people's words before they have had their say. Don't I
tell you so, Timothy?"
"Well, my dear, I ax pardon," said my father looking confused, " but now,
tell us how it is to be done?"
My mother was about to resume; but a sharp rap at the street door
prevented her, brought my father to his legs in a moment, and a young
gentleman, whose memory is very dear to me into our little back-room. It was the
son of my mother's old master, Squire Heartwell. He had become a
barrister, and was in the semi-circle of the horsehair-wigged men, at the
time of my trial. Not having a heart hardened against the proofs of
had sympathised with me, made inquiries, and found that I was the child of
his father's old servant.
He took me home with him, and put me into a good plain school, where I
learnt to read better, to write and to cipher. A year was thus passed very
pleasantly, I seemed to have reached Paradise after having toiled through
so much trouble and sorrow. The young barrister next bound me
to a tradesman, and I learnt a mechanical business. I need not say what it
was—for my purpose is not to make a long story: I set out with the aim of
encouraging those who experience difficulty at the outset of life; and I
intend to be very brief with my remaining history.
My apprenticeship was not all pleasure. I had many annoyances from my
fellow-apprentices, from the workmen in the
shop, and was not always well used by my master. But I became an expert at
my trade, for I applied myself to learn,
assiduously. When I became a "freeman," I soon saved a little money—not
for the love of it, but because I saw that it
was the great lever for worldly independence. In the course of a few years
I became the manager of a business, and then a partner; and now, I have a
business of my own, and am
prosperous. I don't want you to tell everybody; but I may fairly say I am
worth—but I won't tell you how much!
All I need say is—there is money to be made in Old England without going
to the gold-diggings. Economy—strict economy, in the outset—Industry and
Perseverance—these are qualities which can scarcely fail to lead to
Independence. Let the reader cultivate them, keeping his conscience clear
and oppressing his fellows, and he may reach the vale of life with the sun
shining clearly and brightly overhead—notwithstanding that when he first
set out to
climb that hill the storm threatened to overwhelm him.
Watson & Hazell, Printers London and Aylesbury.