CHAPTER I--First Quarter.
Here are not many people--and as it is desirable that a story-
teller and a story-reader should establish a mutual understanding
as soon as possible I beg it to be noticed that I confine this
observation neither to young people nor to little people but
extend it to all conditions of people: little and big young and
old: yet growing up or already growing down again--there are not
I say many people who would care to sleep in a church. I don't
mean at sermon-time in warm weather (when the thing has actually
been done once or twice) but in the night and alone. A great
multitude of persons will be violently astonished I know by this
position in the broad bold Day. But it applies to Night. It must
be argued by night and I will undertake to maintain it
successfully on any gusty winter's night appointed for the purpose
with any one opponent chosen from the rest who will meet me singly
in an old churchyard before an old church-door; and will
previously empower me to lock him in if needful to his
satisfaction until morning.
For the night-wind has a dismal trick of wandering round and round
a building of that sort and moaning as it goes; and of trying
with its unseen hand the windows and the doors; and seeking out
some crevices by which to enter. And when it has got in; as one
not finding what it seeks whatever that may be it wails and howls
to issue forth again: and not content with stalking through the
aisles and gliding round and round the pillars and tempting the
deep organ soars up to the roof and strives to rend the rafters:
then flings itself despairingly upon the stones below and passes
muttering into the vaults. Anon it comes up stealthily and
creeps along the walls seeming to read in whispers the
Inscriptions sacred to the Dead. At some of these it breaks out
shrilly as with laughter; and at others moans and cries as if it
were lamenting. It has a ghostly sound too lingering within the
altar; where it seems to chaunt in its wild way of Wrong and
Murder done and false Gods worshipped in defiance of the Tables
of the Law which look so fair and smooth but are so flawed and
broken. Ugh! Heaven preserve us sitting snugly round the fire!
It has an awful voice that wind at Midnight singing in a church!
But high up in the steeple! There the foul blast roars and
whistles! High up in the steeple where it is free to come and go
through many an airy arch and loophole and to twist and twine
itself about the giddy stair and twirl the groaning weathercock
and make the very tower shake and shiver! High up in the steeple
where the belfry is and iron rails are ragged with rust and
sheets of lead and copper shrivelled by the changing weather
crackle and heave beneath the unaccustomed tread; and birds stuff
shabby nests into corners of old oaken joists and beams; and dust
grows old and grey; and speckled spiders indolent and fat with
long security swing idly to and fro in the vibration of the bells
and never loose their hold upon their thread-spun castles in the
air or climb up sailor-like in quick alarm or drop upon the
ground and ply a score of nimble legs to save one life! High up in
the steeple of an old church far above the light and murmur of the
town and far below the flying clouds that shadow it is the wild
and dreary place at night: and high up in the steeple of an old
church dwelt the Chimes I tell of.
They were old Chimes trust me. Centuries ago these Bells had
been baptized by bishops: so many centuries ago that the register
of their baptism was lost long long before the memory of man and
no one knew their names. They had had their Godfathers and
Godmothers these Bells (for my own part by the way I would
rather incur the responsibility of being Godfather to a Bell than a
Boy) and had their silver mugs no doubt besides. But Time had
mowed down their sponsors and Henry the Eighth had melted down
their mugs; and they now hung nameless and mugless in the church-
Not speechless though. Far from it. They had clear loud lusty
sounding voices had these Bells; and far and wide they might be
heard upon the wind. Much too sturdy Chimes were they to be
dependent on the pleasure of the wind moreover; for fighting
gallantly against it when it took an adverse whim they would pour
their cheerful notes into a listening ear right royally; and bent
on being heard on stormy nights by some poor mother watching a
sick child or some lone wife whose husband was at sea they had
been sometimes known to beat a blustering Nor' Wester; aye 'all to
fits' as Toby Veck said;--for though they chose to call him Trotty
Veck his name was Toby and nobody could make it anything else
either (except Tobias) without a special act of parliament; he
having been as lawfully christened in his day as the Bells had been
in theirs though with not quite so much of solemnity or public
For my part I confess myself of Toby Veck's belief for I am sure
he had opportunities enough of forming a correct one. And whatever
Toby Veck said I say. And I take my stand by Toby Veck although
he DID stand all day long (and weary work it was) just outside the
church-door. In fact he was a ticket-porter Toby Veck and waited
there for jobs.
And a breezy goose-skinned blue-nosed red-eyed stony-toed
tooth-chattering place it was to wait in in the winter-time as
Toby Veck well knew. The wind came tearing round the corner--
especially the east wind--as if it had sallied forth express from
the confines of the earth to have a blow at Toby. And oftentimes
it seemed to come upon him sooner than it had expected for
bouncing round the corner and passing Toby it would suddenly
wheel round again as if it cried 'Why here he is!' Incontinently
his little white apron would be caught up over his head like a
naughty boy's garments and his feeble little cane would be seen to
wrestle and struggle unavailingly in his hand and his legs would
undergo tremendous agitation and Toby himself all aslant and
facing now in this direction now in that would be so banged and
buffeted and to touzled and worried and hustled and lifted off
his feet as to render it a state of things but one degree removed
from a positive miracle that he wasn't carried up bodily into the
air as a colony of frogs or snails or other very portable creatures
sometimes are and rained down again to the great astonishment of
the natives on some strange corner of the world where ticket-
porters are unknown.
But windy weather in spite of its using him so roughly was
after all a sort of holiday for Toby. That's the fact. He didn't
seem to wait so long for a sixpence in the wind as at other times;
the having to fight with that boisterous element took off his
attention and quite freshened him up when he was getting hungry
and low-spirited. A hard frost too or a fall of snow was an
Event; and it seemed to do him good somehow or other--it would
have been hard to say in what respect though Toby! So wind and
frost and snow and perhaps a good stiff storm of hail were Toby
Veck's red-letter days.
Wet weather was the worst; the cold damp clammy wet that wrapped
him up like a moist great-coat--the only kind of great-coat Toby
owned or could have added to his comfort by dispensing with. Wet
days when the rain came slowly thickly obstinately down; when
the street's throat like his own was choked with mist; when
smoking umbrellas passed and re-passed spinning round and round
like so many teetotums as they knocked against each other on the
crowded footway throwing off a little whirlpool of uncomfortable
sprinklings; when gutters brawled and waterspouts were full and
noisy; when the wet from the projecting stones and ledges of the
church fell drip drip drip on Toby making the wisp of straw on
which he stood mere mud in no time; those were the days that tried
him. Then indeed you might see Toby looking anxiously out from
his shelter in an angle of the church wall--such a meagre shelter
that in summer time it never cast a shadow thicker than a good-
sized walking stick upon the sunny pavement--with a disconsolate
and lengthened face. But coming out a minute afterwards to warm
himself by exercise and trotting up and down some dozen times he
would brighten even then and go back more brightly to his niche.
They called him Trotty from his pace which meant speed if it
didn't make it. He could have walked faster perhaps; most likely;
but rob him of his trot and Toby would have taken to his bed and
died. It bespattered him with mud in dirty weather; it cost him a
world of trouble; he could have walked with infinitely greater
ease; but that was one reason for his clinging to it so
tenaciously. A weak small spare old man he was a very Hercules
this Toby in his good intentions. He loved to earn his money. He
delighted to believe--Toby was very poor and couldn't well afford
to part with a delight--that he was worth his salt. With a
shilling or an eighteenpenny message or small parcel in hand his
courage always high rose higher. As he trotted on he would call
out to fast Postmen ahead of him to get out of the way; devoutly
believing that in the natural course of things he must inevitably
overtake and run them down; and he had perfect faith--not often
tested--in his being able to carry anything that man could lift.
Thus even when he came out of his nook to warm himself on a wet
day Toby trotted. Making with his leaky shoes a crooked line of
slushy footprints in the mire; and blowing on his chilly hands and
rubbing them against each other poorly defended from the searching
cold by threadbare mufflers of grey worsted with a private
apartment only for the thumb and a common room or tap for the rest
of the fingers; Toby with his knees bent and his cane beneath his
arm still trotted. Falling out into the road to look up at the
belfry when the Chimes resounded Toby trotted still.
He made this last excursion several times a day for they were
company to him; and when he heard their voices he had an interest
in glancing at their lodging-place and thinking how they were
moved and what hammers beat upon them. Perhaps he was the more
curious about these Bells because there were points of resemblance
between themselves and him. They hung there in all weathers with
the wind and rain driving in upon them; facing only the outsides of
all those houses; never getting any nearer to the blazing fires
that gleamed and shone upon the windows or came puffing out of the
chimney tops; and incapable of participation in any of the good
things that were constantly being handled through the street doors
and the area railings to prodigious cooks. Faces came and went at
many windows: sometimes pretty faces youthful faces pleasant
faces: sometimes the reverse: but Toby knew no more (though he
often speculated on these trifles standing idle in the streets)
whence they came or where they went or whether when the lips
moved one kind word was said of him in all the year than did the
Toby was not a casuist--that he knew of at least--and I don't mean
to say that when he began to take to the Bells and to knit up his
first rough acquaintance with them into something of a closer and
more delicate woof he passed through these considerations one by
one or held any formal review or great field-day in his thoughts.
But what I mean to say and do say is that as the functions of
Toby's body his digestive organs for example did of their own
cunning and by a great many operations of which he was altogether
ignorant and the knowledge of which would have astonished him very
much arrive at a certain end; so his mental faculties without his
privity or concurrence set all these wheels and springs in motion
with a thousand others when they worked to bring about his liking
for the Bells.
And though I had said his love I would not have recalled the word
though it would scarcely have expressed his complicated feeling.
For being but a simple man he invested them with a strange and
solemn character. They were so mysterious often heard and never
seen; so high up so far off so full of such a deep strong melody
that he regarded them with a species of awe; and sometimes when he
looked up at the dark arched windows in the tower he half expected
to be beckoned to by something which was not a Bell and yet was
what he had heard so often sounding in the Chimes. For all this
Toby scouted with indignation a certain flying rumour that the
Chimes were haunted as implying the possibility of their being
connected with any Evil thing. In short they were very often in
his ears and very often in his thoughts but always in his good
opinion; and he very often got such a crick in his neck by staring
with his mouth wide open at the steeple where they hung that he
was fain to take an extra trot or two afterwards to cure it.
The very thing he was in the act of doing one cold day when the
last drowsy sound of Twelve o'clock just struck was humming like
a melodious monster of a Bee and not by any means a busy bee all
through the steeple!
'Dinner-time eh!' said Toby trotting up and down before the
Toby's nose was very red and his eyelids were very red and he
winked very much and his shoulders were very near his ears and
his legs were very stiff and altogether he was evidently a long
way upon the frosty side of cool.
'Dinner-time eh!' repeated Toby using his right-hand muffler like
an infantine boxing-glove and punishing his chest for being cold.
He took a silent trot after that for a minute or two.
'There's nothing' said Toby breaking forth afresh--but here he
stopped short in his trot and with a face of great interest and
some alarm felt his nose carefully all the way up. It was but a
little way (not being much of a nose) and he had soon finished.
'I thought it was gone' said Toby trotting off again. 'It's all
right however. I am sure I couldn't blame it if it was to go. It
has a precious hard service of it in the bitter weather and
precious little to look forward to; for I don't take snuff myself.
It's a good deal tried poor creetur at the best of times; for
when it DOES get hold of a pleasant whiff or so (which an't too
often) it's generally from somebody else's dinner a-coming home
from the baker's.'
The reflection reminded him of that other reflection which he had
'There's nothing' said Toby 'more regular in its coming round
than dinner-time and nothing less regular in its coming round than
dinner. That's the great difference between 'em. It's took me a
long time to find it out. I wonder whether it would be worth any
gentleman's while now to buy that obserwation for the Papers; or
Toby was only joking for he gravely shook his head in self-
'Why! Lord!' said Toby. 'The Papers is full of obserwations as it
is; and so's the Parliament. Here's last week's paper now;'
taking a very dirty one from his pocket and holding it from him at
arm's length; 'full of obserwations! Full of obserwations! I like
to know the news as well as any man' said Toby slowly; folding it
a little smaller and putting it in his pocket again: 'but it
almost goes against the grain with me to read a paper now. It
frightens me almost. I don't know what we poor people are coming
to. Lord send we may be coming to something better in the New Year
nigh upon us!'
'Why father father!' said a pleasant voice hard by.
But Toby not hearing it continued to trot backwards and forwards:
musing as he went and talking to himself.
'It seems as if we can't go right or do right or be righted'
said Toby. 'I hadn't much schooling myself when I was young; and
I can't make out whether we have any business on the face of the
earth or not. Sometimes I think we must have--a little; and
sometimes I think we must be intruding. I get so puzzled sometimes
that I am not even able to make up my mind whether there is any
good at all in us or whether we are born bad. We seem to be
dreadful things; we seem to give a deal of trouble; we are always
being complained of and guarded against. One way or other we fill
the papers. Talk of a New Year!' said Toby mournfully. 'I can
bear up as well as another man at most times; better than a good
many for I am as strong as a lion and all men an't; but supposing
it should really be that we have no right to a New Year--supposing
we really ARE intruding--'
'Why father father!' said the pleasant voice again.
Toby heard it this time; started; stopped; and shortening his
sight which had been directed a long way off as seeking the
enlightenment in the very heart of the approaching year found
himself face to face with his own child and looking close into her
Bright eyes they were. Eyes that would bear a world of looking in
before their depth was fathomed. Dark eyes that reflected back
the eyes which searched them; not flashingly or at the owner's
will but with a clear calm honest patient radiance claiming
kindred with that light which Heaven called into being. Eyes that
were beautiful and true and beaming with Hope. With Hope so young
and fresh; with Hope so buoyant vigorous and bright despite the
twenty years of work and poverty on which they had looked; that
they became a voice to Trotty Veck and said: 'I think we have
some business here--a little!'
Trotty kissed the lips belonging to the eyes and squeezed the
blooming face between his hands.
'Why Pet' said Trotty. 'What's to do? I didn't expect you to-
'Neither did I expect to come father' cried the girl nodding her
head and smiling as she spoke. 'But here I am! And not alone; not
'Why you don't mean to say' observed Trotty looking curiously at
a covered basket which she carried in her hand 'that you--'
'Smell it father dear' said Meg. 'Only smell it!'
Trotty was going to lift up the cover at once in a great hurry
when she gaily interposed her hand.
'No no no' said Meg with the glee of a child. 'Lengthen it out
a little. Let me just lift up the corner; just the lit-tle ti-ny
cor-ner you know' said Meg suiting the action to the word with
the utmost gentleness and speaking very softly as if she were
afraid of being overheard by something inside the basket; 'there.
Now. What's that?'
Toby took the shortest possible sniff at the edge of the basket
and cried out in a rapture:
'Why it's hot!'
'It's burning hot!' cried Meg. 'Ha ha ha! It's scalding hot!'
'Ha ha ha!' roared Toby with a sort of kick. 'It's scalding
'But what is it father?' said Meg. 'Come. You haven't guessed
what it is. And you must guess what it is. I can't think of
taking it out till you guess what it is. Don't be in such a
hurry! Wait a minute! A little bit more of the cover. Now
Meg was in a perfect fright lest he should guess right too soon;
shrinking away as she held the basket towards him; curling up her
pretty shoulders; stopping her ear with her hand as if by so doing
she could keep the right word out of Toby's lips; and laughing
softly the whole time.
Meanwhile Toby putting a hand on each knee bent down his nose to
the basket and took a long inspiration at the lid; the grin upon
his withered face expanding in the process as if he were inhaling
'Ah! It's very nice' said Toby. 'It an't--I suppose it an't
'No no no!' cried Meg delighted. 'Nothing like Polonies!'
'No' said Toby after another sniff. 'It's--it's mellower than
Polonies. It's very nice. It improves every moment. It's too
decided for Trotters. An't it?'
Meg was in an ecstasy. He could not have gone wider of the mark
than Trotters--except Polonies.
'Liver?' said Toby communing with himself. 'No. There's a
mildness about it that don't answer to liver. Pettitoes? No. It
an't faint enough for pettitoes. It wants the stringiness of
Cocks' heads. And I know it an't sausages. I'll tell you what it
is. It's chitterlings!'
'No it an't!' cried Meg in a burst of delight. 'No it an't!'
'Why what am I a-thinking of!' said Toby suddenly recovering a
position as near the perpendicular as it was possible for him to
assume. 'I shall forget my own name next. It's tripe!'
Tripe it was; and Meg in high joy protested he should say in
half a minute more it was the best tripe ever stewed.
'And so' said Meg busying herself exultingly with the basket
'I'll lay the cloth at once father; for I have brought the tripe
in a basin and tied the basin up in a pocket-handkerchief; and if
I like to be proud for once and spread that for a cloth and call
it a cloth there's no law to prevent me; is there father?'
'Not that I know of my dear' said Toby. 'But they're always a-
bringing up some new law or other.'
'And according to what I was reading you in the paper the other
day father; what the Judge said you know; we poor people are
supposed to know them all. Ha ha! What a mistake! My goodness
me how clever they think us!'
'Yes my dear' cried Trotty; 'and they'd be very fond of any one
of us that DID know 'em all. He'd grow fat upon the work he'd get
that man and be popular with the gentlefolks in his neighbourhood.
Very much so!'
'He'd eat his dinner with an appetite whoever he was if it smelt
like this' said Meg cheerfully. 'Make haste for there's a hot
potato besides and half a pint of fresh-drawn beer in a bottle.
Where will you dine father? On the Post or on the Steps? Dear
dear how grand we are. Two places to choose from!'
'The steps to-day my Pet' said Trotty. 'Steps in dry weather.
Post in wet. There's a greater conveniency in the steps at all
times because of the sitting down; but they're rheumatic in the
'Then here' said Meg clapping her hands after a moment's bustle;
'here it is all ready! And beautiful it looks! Come father.
Since his discovery of the contents of the basket Trotty had been
standing looking at her--and had been speaking too--in an
abstracted manner which showed that though she was the object of
his thoughts and eyes to the exclusion even of tripe he neither
saw nor thought about her as she was at that moment but had before
him some imaginary rough sketch or drama of her future life.
Roused now by her cheerful summons he shook off a melancholy
shake of the head which was just coming upon him and trotted to
her side. As he was stooping to sit down the Chimes rang.
'Amen!' said Trotty pulling off his hat and looking up towards