A HOUSE TO LET
A HOUSE TO LET
CHARLES DICKENS AND OTHERS
Over the Way
The Manchester Marriage
Going into Society
Three Evenings in the House
Let at Last
OVER THE WAY
I had been living at Tunbridge Wells and nowhere else going on for
ten years when my medical man--very clever in his profession and
the prettiest player I ever saw in my life of a hand at Long Whist
which was a noble and a princely game before Short was heard of--
said to me one day as he sat feeling my pulse on the actual sofa
which my poor dear sister Jane worked before her spine came on and
laid her on a board for fifteen months at a stretch--the most
upright woman that ever lived--said to me "What we want ma'am is
"Good gracious goodness gracious Doctor Towers!" says I quite
startled at the man for he was so christened himself: "don't talk
as if you were alluding to people's names; but say what you mean."
"I mean my dear ma'am that we want a little change of air and
"Bless the man!" said I; "does he mean we or me!"
"I mean you ma'am."
"Then Lard forgive you Doctor Towers" I said; "why don't you get
into a habit of expressing yourself in a straightforward manner
like a loyal subject of our gracious Queen Victoria and a member of
the Church of England?"
Towers laughed as he generally does when he has fidgetted me into
any of my impatient ways--one of my states as I call them--and then
he began -
"Tone ma'am Tone is all you require!" He appealed to Trottle
who just then came in with the coal-scuttle looking in his nice
black suit like an amiable man putting on coals from motives of
Trottle (whom I always call my right hand) has been in my service
two-and-thirty years. He entered my service far away from England.
He is the best of creatures and the most respectable of men; but
"What you want ma'am" says Trottle making up the fire in his
quiet and skilful way "is Tone."
"Lard forgive you both!" says I bursting out a-laughing; "I see you
are in a conspiracy against me so I suppose you must do what you
like with me and take me to London for a change."
For some weeks Towers had hinted at London and consequently I was
prepared for him. When we had got to this point we got on so
expeditiously that Trottle was packed off to London next day but
one to find some sort of place for me to lay my troublesome old
Trottle came back to me at the Wells after two days' absence with
accounts of a charming place that could be taken for six months
certain with liberty to renew on the same terms for another six
and which really did afford every accommodation that I wanted.
"Could you really find no fault at all in the rooms Trottle?" I
"Not a single one ma'am. They are exactly suitable to you. There
is not a fault in them. There is but one fault outside of them."
"And what's that?"
"They are opposite a House to Let."
"O!" I said considering of it. "But is that such a very great
"I think it my duty to mention it ma'am. It is a dull object to
look at. Otherwise I was so greatly pleased with the lodging that
I should have closed with the terms at once as I had your authority
Trottle thinking so highly of the place in my interest I wished
not to disappoint him. Consequently I said:
"The empty House may let perhaps."
"O dear no ma'am" said Trottle shaking his head with decision;
"it won't let. It never does let ma'am."
"Mercy me! Why not?"
"Nobody knows ma'am. All I have to mention is ma'am that the
House won't let!"
"How long has this unfortunate House been to let in the name of
Fortune?" said I.
"Ever so long" said Trottle. "Years."
"Is it in ruins?"
"It's a good deal out of repair ma'am but it's not in ruins."
The long and the short of this business was that next day I had a
pair of post-horses put to my chariot--for I never travel by
railway: not that I have anything to say against railways except
that they came in when I was too old to take to them; and that they
made ducks and drakes of a few turnpike-bonds I had--and so I went
up myself with Trottle in the rumble to look at the inside of this
same lodging and at the outside of this same House.
As I say I went and saw for myself. The lodging was perfect.
That I was sure it would be; because Trottle is the best judge of
comfort I know. The empty house was an eyesore; and that I was sure
it would be too for the same reason. However setting the one
thing against the other the good against the bad the lodging very
soon got the victory over the House. My lawyer Mr. Squares of
Crown Office Row; Temple drew up an agreement; which his young man
jabbered over so dreadfully when he read it to me that I didn't
understand one word of it except my own name; and hardly that and I
signed it and the other party signed it and in three weeks' time
I moved my old bones bag and baggage up to London.
For the first month or so I arranged to leave Trottle at the Wells.
I made this arrangement not only because there was a good deal to
take care of in the way of my school-children and pensioners and
also of a new stove in the hall to air the house in my absence
which appeared to me calculated to blow up and burst; but likewise
because I suspect Trottle (though the steadiest of men and a
widower between sixty and seventy) to be what I call rather a
Philanderer. I mean that when any friend comes down to see me and
brings a maid Trottle is always remarkably ready to show that maid
the Wells of an evening; and that I have more than once noticed the
shadow of his arm outside the room door nearly opposite my chair
encircling that maid's waist on the landing like a table-cloth
Therefore I thought it just as well before any London Philandering
took place that I should have a little time to look round me and
to see what girls were in and about the place. So nobody stayed
with me in my new lodging at first after Trottle had established me
there safe and sound but Peggy Flobbins my maid; a most
affectionate and attached woman who never was an object of
Philandering since I have known her and is not likely to begin to
become so after nine-and-twenty years next March.
It was the fifth of November when I first breakfasted in my new
rooms. The Guys were going about in the brown fog like magnified
monsters of insects in table-beer and there was a Guy resting on
the door-steps of the House to Let. I put on my glasses partly to
see how the boys were pleased with what I sent them out by Peggy
and partly to make sure that she didn't approach too near the
ridiculous object which of course was full of sky-rockets and
might go off into bangs at any moment. In this way it happened that
the first time I ever looked at the House to Let after I became its
opposite neighbour I had my glasses on. And this might not have
happened once in fifty times for my sight is uncommonly good for my
time of life; and I wear glasses as little as I can for fear of
I knew already that it was a ten-roomed house very dirty and much
dilapidated; that the area-rails were rusty and peeling away and
that two or three of them were wanting or half-wanting; that there
were broken panes of glass in the windows and blotches of mud on
other panes which the boys had thrown at them; that there was quite
a collection of stones in the area also proceeding from those Young
Mischiefs; that there were games chalked on the pavement before the
house and likenesses of ghosts chalked on the street-door; that the
windows were all darkened by rotting old blinds or shutters or
both; that the bills "To Let" had curled up as if the damp air of
the place had given them cramps; or had dropped down into corners
as if they were no more. I had seen all this on my first visit and
I had remarked to Trottle that the lower part of the black board
about terms was split away; that the rest had become illegible and
that the very stone of the door-steps was broken across.
Notwithstanding I sat at my breakfast table on that Please to
Remember the fifth of November morning staring at the House through
my glasses as if I had never looked at it before.
All at once--in the first-floor window on my right--down in a low