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Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins
A CHRISTMAS STORY
inter the Housekeeper.
The HouteJceeper Speak*.
Hero Characters on
Vendale Makes Love.
Vendale Hakes Mischief.
In the Valley.
On the Mountain.
The Curtain Falls.
L Day of the month and year, November the
thirtieth, one thousand eight hundred and thir?
ty-five. London Time by the great clock of
Saint Paul's, ten at night. All the leeser Lon?
don churches strain their metallic throats.
Some flippantly begin before the heavy bell of
the greet cathedral ; some tardily begin three,
(tor, half a dozen stroke" behind it ; all are in
Bofficiently near accord to leave a resonance in
the air, as if the winged father who devours his
saildren had made a Hounding sweep with his
gigantic scythe hi flying over the city.
What is this dock lower than most of the rest,
and r earer to the ear, that lags so far behind
to-night az to strike into the vibration alone?
This is the clock of the Hospital for Foundling
Childrefe. Time was when the foundlings were
received without question in a cradle at the
gate. Time is when inquiries are made respect?
ing them, and they are taken aa by favoi from
the mothers who relinquish all natural knowl?
edge of them and claim to them forevermore.
The moon is at the foll, and the night is fair
with light clouds. Th? day has been otherwise
than fair, for slush and mud, thickened with the
droppings of heavy fog, lia black in the streets.
The vailed lady who flutters np and down near
the postern gate ef the Hospital for Foundling
Children has need to be well shod to-night.
She flutters to and fro, avoiding the stand of
hackney coaches, and often pausing m the
shadow of the western end of the great
quadrangle wah, with her face turned
toward the ,;*te. As above her there
is the purity of the moonlit sky, and below
ber there are the defilements of the pavement, so
k may she, haply, be divided in ber mind between
two vistas of reflection or experience ? As her
footprints, crossing and recrossing one another,
have made a labyrinth in the mire, so may her
track in life have involved iteeif in an intricate
and unravelable tangle?
The postern-gate of the hospital for foundling
children opens, and a young woman comes out.
The lady stands aside, observes cloeely, sees that
the gate is quietly closed again from within, and
follows the young woman.
Two or three streets have been traversed in si?
lence before she, following close behind the ob?
ject of her attention, stretches out her hand and
touches her. Then the young woman stops and
looks round, startled.
"Toa touched me last night, and when I
turned my head, you would not speak. Why do
you follow me like a silent ghost ?"
"It waa not," returned the lady in a low voice.
" that I would not speak, but that I could not
when I tried.*'
" What do you want of me ? I have nevor done
"Do I know you ?"
" Then what can you want of mo ?"
tt Here are two guineas in this paper. Take
my poor little present, and I will tell you."
Into the young woman's face, which is honest
and comely, comes a flush aa she replies: "There
is neither grown person nor child, in all the
large establishment that I belong to, who hasn't
a good word for Sally. I am Sally. Could I be
so well thought of, if I wss to be bought ?"
"I do net mean to buy you; I mean only to
reward you very slightly."
Sally firmly, but not ungently, closes and puta
back the offering band. " If there ia anything I
can do for you, ma'am, that I will not do for its
own sake, you are much mistaken in me if you
think that I will do it for money. What is it you
'.Your re one of the nurses or attendants at
tho hospital; I saw you leave to-night and last
" Yes, 1 am. I am Sally."
" There is a pleasant patience in your face
which makes mo believe that very young children
would take readily to you."
" God bless 'em ! So they do."
The lady lilts fcer vail, e&QTrs afo-;a 00
older than the nurse's. A face far more refined
and capable than hers, but wild and worn with
" I sm the miserable mother of a baby lately
received under your care. I have a prayer to
make to you." o
Instinctively respecting the confidence which
has drawn aside the vail Sally-whose ways are
all ways of simplicity and spontaneity-replaces
it, and begins to cry.
" You will listen to my prayer ?" the lady urges.
" You will not be deaf to the agonized entreaty
of such a broken suppliant as I am."
"0 dear, dear, dear ! cries Sally. "What
shall I say, or can I say ? Don't talk of prayers.
Prayers are to be put up to the Good Father of
Ali, and not to nurses and such.. And there 1 I
am only to hold my placo for half a year longer,
till another young woman can be trained up to
lt. I am going to be married. I shouldn't
have been out last night, and I shouldn't
have been out to-night, but that my
Dick (he ia the young man I am going
to be married to) lies ill, and I help his mother
and Bister to watch him. Don't take on so,
don't take on so !"
"0 good Sally, dear Sally, moans the lady,
catching at her dress entreatingly. "As you are
hopeful and I am hopeless-as a fair w*y in life
is before you, which can never, never be before
me-as you can aspire to become a respected
wife, and as you ean aspire to become a proud
mother-as you are> a living, loving woman, and
must die-for God's sake hear my distracted pe?
"Deary, deary, deary me!" cries 8ally, her
desperation culminating in the pronoun, "what
am I ever to do ? And there ! See how you turn
my own words back upon me. I tell you I am
going to be married on purpose to make it clearer
to you that I am going to leave, and therefore
couldn't help you if I would, Poor Thing, and
you make it seem to my own self as if I was
cruel in going to be married and not helping you.
It ain't kind. Now, ie it kind, Poor Thing ?"
"Sally ! hear me, my dear. My entreaty is for
no help in the future. It applies to what is past.
It is only to be told in two word?." (
"There! 'This is worse and worse," cries
Sally, " supposing that I understand what two
words you mean."
"You do understand. What are the names
they have given my poor baby ? I ask no more
than that. I have read of the customs of the
place. He bas been christened in the chapel,
and registered by some surname in the book; be
was received last Monday evening. Wb ul have
tbey called him ?"
Down upon her knees in tho foul mud of the by?
way into which they have strayed, an empty street
without a thoroughfare giving on the dark gardens
of the Hospital-the lady would drop in her pas?
sionate entreaty, but that Sally prevents her.
" Don't I Don't ! You make me feel as if I
was setting myself UP to be good. Let me look
in your pretty face again. Put your two hands
in mine. Now, promise. You will never ask me
anything more than the two words ?"
"Never! Never 1"
"You will never put them to a bad use, if I say
"Never! Never!" . ,
The lady lays her face upon the nurse's breast,
draws her close in her embraco with both arma,
murmurs a blessing and the words, "Kiss him
fer me !" and is gone.
Day of the month and year, the first Sunday in
October, ono thousand eight hundred and forty
seven. London Time by the great clock of Saint
Paul's, half past one in the afternoon. The clock
of the Hospital for Foundling Children is well up
with the cathedral to-day. Service in the chapel
is over, and the foundling children aro at dinner.
There are numerous lookers-on at tho dinner,
as the custom is. There are two or three gover?
nors, wholo families from the congregation,
smaller groups of both sexes, individual strag?
glers of various degrees. The bright autumnal
sun strikes froth ly into tho wards; and the heavy
framed windows through which it eh i nee, and
the paneled walls on which it strikes, are
snch windows and such walls as pervade Ho?
garth's pictures. The girl's refectory (including
that of the younger children ) is tile principal
attraction. Neat attendants silently glide about
the orderly and silent tables ; the lookers-on
move or stop as the fancy takes thom ; com?
ments in whispers on face such a number from
such a window are not unfrequent ; many of tho
faces are of a character to fix attention. Some
of the visitors from the outside public are ac?
customed visitors. They have established a
speaking acquaintance with the occupants of
particular oeats at the tables, and halt at those
points to bend down and say a word or two. It
is no disparagement to their kindness that those
points are generally points where personal at?
tractions are. The monotony of tho long spa?
cious rooms and tho double lines of faces is
agreeably relieved by these incidents, although
A vailed lady, who las no companion, goes
among the company. It would seem that cu?
riosity and opportunity have never brought her
hero before. She has the air of being a little
troubled by tho sight, and, as she goes the
length of the tables, it is wi.h a hesitating step
and an uneasy manner. At length she comes lo
the refectory of the boys. They are eo mnch
less popular than the girls that it is bare of vis?
itors when she looks in at the doorway.
But just within the doorway chances to stand,
inspecting, an elderly female attendant-some
order of matron or housekeeper. To whom the
lady addresses natural questions, as, How many
bom? At what ?ge are tbey usually rut oat ia
life ? Do they often tike % faney to the sei
So, lower and lower in tone, until the lady, pu
tho question : " Which is Walter Wilding ?"
Attendant's head shaken. Against the nile
" You know which is Walter Wilding?"
So keenly does the attendant feel the closeno
with which the lady's eyes examint her face th
she keeps her own eyes fast npon the floor, le
by wandering in the right direction they thou
MI know which is Walter Wilding, but it is n
my place, ma'am, to tell names to visitors."
11 Bnt you can show me without toiling me."
The lady's band moves quietly to the atten
ant's hand. Pause and silence.
"I am going to pass round the tables," ea;
the lady's interlocutor, without leeming toa
dress ber. ''Follow me with your eyes. Tl
boy that I stop at and speak to will not matter i
yon. But the boy that I touch will be Wa ti
Wilding. Say nothing more to me, and move
Quickly acting on the hint, the lady passes c
into the room, and looks about her. After a fe
moments, the attendant, in a staid official wa;
walks down outside the line of ta'.iles common
ing on her left band. She goes tho whole lengt
of the line, turns, and comes back on tho insidi
Very slightly glancing in the lady's directioi
she stops, bends forward, and speaks. The bc
whom she addresses lifts his head and ropliei
Good humored!; and easily, as she listens to whi
he says, she lays her hand upon the shoulder of th
next bo; on his right. That the action may b
well noticed, she keeps her hand on the should'
while speaking in return, add pata it twice c
thrice before moving away. Sho completes he
tour of the tables, touching no one elso, am
passes out by a door at the opposite end of th
Dinner is done, and the lady, too, walks dow
outside the line of tables commencing on her lei
band, goes the whole length of the line, tura
and comes back on the inside. Other peopl
have strolled in, fortunately for. ber, and stahl
sprinkled about. She lifts her vail, and, stop
ping at the touched boy, asks how old he is.
'.I am twelve, ma'am," he an,were, with bi
bright eyes fixed oh hers.
" Are you well and happy ?"
"May you take these sweetmeats from ca?
" If you please to give them to me."
In stooping low tv the purpose, the lad]
touches the boy's faca with her forehead ant
with her bair. Then, lowering ber vail again
she passes on, and passes out without lookinf
THE CURTAIN BISES.
In a court yard in the City of London, which
was No Thoroughfare either l'or vehicles or foot
passengers-a court yard di verging from a steep,
a slippery, and a winding street connecting Towel
street with the Middlesex shore of the Thames
otood the place of business of Wilding ? Co.,
wine mordants. Probably as a jocose acknowl?
edgment of the obstructive character of this
main approach, the point nearest to its base at
which one could take the river (if so inodorous!j
minded) bore the appellation Br esk-Ne ck-S tai re.
The court yard itself had likewise been descrip?
tively entitled, in old time, Cripple Corner.
Years before the year one thousand eight
hundred and sixty-one, people had left off
taking boat at Break-Neck-Stairs, and water?
men had ceased to ply there. The slimy
little causeway had dropped into the river
by a slow process of nu ic i de, and two
or three stumps of piles and a rusty iron moor
ing-ring wore all that remained of the departed
Break-Neck glories. Sometimes, indeed, a laden
coal barge would bump itself into che place, and
certain laborious heavers, seemingly mud-en?
gendered, would arise, deliver tho cargo in the
neighborhood, shove off, and vanish; but at
most times the only commerce of Break-Neck
Stairs arose out of the conveyance of casks and
bottles, both full and empty, Doth to and from
the cellars of Wilding ?4 Co., wine merchants.
Even that commerce was but occasional, and
tbrough three-fourths of its rising tides the
dirty, indecorous drab of a river would come
solitarily oozing and lapping at the rusty ring,
as if it had heard of the Doge and the Adriatic,.
and wanted to be married to the great conserver
of its filthiness, the right honorable the lord
Some two hundred and fifty yards on the right,.
np the opposite hdl (approaching it from the low t
ground of Break-Neck-Stairs), was Cripple,
Corner. There was a pump in Cripple Corner; j
there was a tree in Cripple Corner. All CripploJ
Corner belonged to Wilding & Co., wino mer- .
chants. Their cellars burrowed under it, their1
mansion towered over. It really had been a
mansion in the days when merchants inhabited*
the city, and had a ceremonious shelter to?;
the doorway j without visible eupport, like j
the sounding-board over an old pulpit. It hadi
also a number of long narrow strips of window,
so disposed in its tcravc brick front as to rendes*
it symmetrically ugly. It had also on its roof??
cupola with a boll in it.
"W hen a man at fl ve-and-twenty can put his ha*
on, and can say, * This bat covers the owner of
this property and of the business which is trans?
acted on this property,' I consider, Mr. Bintrey,
that, without being boastful, he may be allowed
to bo deeply thankful. I don't know how it may -
appear to you, but BO it appears to me."
Tims Mr. Walter Wildin 5 to his man of law,
in his own counting-house-taking his hat down
from its peg to suit the action to tho *?aiL
hanging it up wben he had done so, nob to ov
step the modesty of nature.
An innocent, o pen-a peaking, unnsod-iooki
man, Mr.. Walter Wilding, m th a remarkal
pink and whit? complexion, and ? figure mn
(oo bulky for so youn ? a man, though of go
stature, With crispy culing brown bair a
amiable bright blue eyes. An extremely comm
nicative man-aman with whom loquacity waa t
irreatrainablo outpouring of contentment a:
gratitude. Mr. Bin trey, on tba other hand,
cautions man, with twinkling beads of eyes in
large, overhanging bald bead, who inwardly b
intensely enjoyed the comicality of openness
speech, or bund, or heart.
"Yes/' said Mr. Bintrey. "Yes. Hal hal*
A decanter, two wineglasses, and a plato
bisonlt stood on th? desk.
"Yon like this forty-five year old port wine
said Mr. Willing.
" Like it ?" repeated Mr. Bin trey. " Batta
" It's from the best corner of our boat fort
five year old bin," said Mr. Wilding.
"Thank ;-on, sir," said Mr. Bmtrey. ?'Il
He laughed again, as be held np his glass ai
ogled it, at the highly ludicrous idea of giru
away such nine.
"And noir," said Wilding, with a childish ei
joyment in the discussion of affairs, '"I th ii
we have got everything straight, Mr. Bintrey/
" Everything straight, " said Bmtrey.
"A parta? secured-9
u Partner secured," said Bintrey.
" A housekeeper advertised for--"
"Housekeeper advertised for,'* said Bmtrey
u<r>PPl7 personally at Cripple Corner, Grei
i Tower etrest, from ten to twelve'-to-morroi
" My late dear mother's affairs wound up-"
" Wound up," said Bintrey.
"And all charges paid."
"Aud all charges paid," said Bintrey, with
chuckle; probably occasioned by the droll ct
cums tance that they had been paid without
"The mention of my late dear mother," Mi
Wilding cc ntinued, his eyes filling with tean
and hts pocketbandkerchief drying them, "rn
mane me still, Mr. Bmtrey. You know bow
loved her; you (her lawyer) know hew she love
me. The utmost love of mother and child wi
I cherished between us, and we never experience
L one mom eu t's division or unhappiness from tb
\ time when she took me under her car?
? Thirteen years in all. Thirteen yeal
under my dear mother's care, Mr. Bintrej
and eight of them her confidentially acknow
j edged son I You know the story, Mr. Bintrey
who but you, sb??" Mr. Wilding sobbed, an
dried his eyee, without attempt at concealment
during these remarks.
Mr. Bin ry enjoyed his comical port, and sale
aftcrrollir g it in his mouth: "I Know the story.
"My late dear mother, Mr. Bintrey," pursue
tho wine merchant, '. bad been deeply deceived
and had cruelly suffered. But ou that subjec
my late dear mother's Ups were forever sealed
By whom deceived, or nuder what circum
stances, heaven only knowe. My late dea
mother n? ver betrayed her betrayer."
"She httd made up ber mind," said Mr. Bintrey
again turning his wine on his palate, "and eh
could held her peace." An amused twinkle ii
hie eyes ipretty plainly added, "A devilish dea
better than you ever will.*
" ' Honor,' " said Mr. Wilding, sobbing as hi
quoted from the Commandments, " ' tby fathei
and thy mother, that thy days may be long ii
the land.1 When I was in the Foundling, Mr
Bintrey, X was at such a Idss bow to do it, that ]
apprehended my days would be short in tbi
land. But 1 afterward came to honor my mothei
deeply, profoundly. And I honor and revere hei
memory. Dor soven happy years, Mr. Bintrey,'
pursued Wilding, still with the same innocent
catching m his breath, and the same unabashed
tears, 1 ' did my excellent mother article me tc
my predecessor in this business. Pebblasoi
Nephew. Her affectionate forethought likewise
apprenticed me to the Vintners' Company, and
made mc in time a Free Vintner, and-and
everythinr " 'se that the|best of mothers could
desire. When I came ol' age, she bestowed hei
inherited ah are in this business upon me ; it was
ber mon 5y that afterward bought oat Pebbleson
.Nephew and painted in Wilding & Co.; it waa
she who left me everything she possessed, but
the mon ming ring you wear. And yet, Mr. Bin?
trey," with a fresh burst of honest affection,
"she is no more. It is little over half a year
since she came into the Corner to read on that
door-post, with her own eyes, Wilding & Co.,
Wine Merchants. And yet she is no more 1"
"Sad. Bnt the common lot, Mr. Wilding," ob?
served Bintrey. "At some time er other we must
all be no more." He placed the forty-five year old
port wine in the universal condition, with a rel?
" So now, Mi. Bintrey," pursued Wilding, put?
ting away hie pockethandkerchief, and emooth
I ing his eyelids with his fingers, "now that I can
no longer show my love and honor for the dear
parent to whom my heart was mysteriously
turned by Nature when she first spoke to me, a
strange lady, I sitting at our Sunday dinner
table in the Foundling, I can at least sbow that
I am not ashamed of having been a Foundling,
and that I, who never knew a father of my own,
wish to be a father to ail in my employment.
Therefore," continued Wilding, becoming en?
thusiastic in hu loquacity-" therefore, I-want
a thoroughly good housekeeper- to? undertake
this dwelling house of Wilding & Co., Wine Mer- -
? chants, i Cripple Corner, so thj.t I may res tor o in
.it s OBM j o? i?-.ftW relations b?t y,i-4.tpp?9j.?r sad j
employed 1 So that I may live in itonthe .jpot
where my money is made ! So that I mi? c aily
sit at the head of the table at which tbe pee pie
In my employment eat together, and may eat of
the same roast and boiled, and drink of the sf me?
beerl So that the people m my em ploy nen t
may ledge ander the same roof with me ! So
that we may ?ne and all - I bej your pardon,
Mi-. Bintrey, bot that old singin? in my head'
has suddenly come OD, and I shall feel obliged ii
you wil' lead me to the pomp."
Alarmed at the excessive pink ness of bis client.
Mr. Bintrey lost not a moment in leading bim
forth into the court yard, lt was easily done,
for the counting boase in which they talked to?
gether opened on to it, at one side of the dwel?
ling house. There the attorney pumped with sr
will, obedient toa sign from tb? client, and tb?
dient laved his head and face wi th both hands,
and took a hearty drink. After these remedies, *
he declared himself much better.
"Don't let your good feelings excite yon,"
said Din trey, as they returned to tho counting
house, and Mr. Wilding dried himself on a jack"
towel behind an inner door.
"No, no. I won't," be retorced, looking ont
of the towel. " I won't. I have not been ooo?
fused, have I?"
"Notated, Perfectly dear."
44 Where did I leave off, Mr. Bintrey ?"
A4'Well, you left off-. But I would'nt excite
myself, if I was you, by taking it up again just
- "intakecare? m take care. The singing
in my bead came on at where, Mr. Bintrey f
44At roast, and boiled, and beer," answered
the lawyer, prompting, -" lodging under the
same roof-and one and ali-"
"Ahl And one and all einging in the head' 1
together-" j. .
44 Do you know, I really would not let my good '
(eelings excite me, if I was you," hinted the
lawyer again, anxiously. , "Try some moro
pump." . ,
"No occasion, no* occasion.. All right, Mr. *
Bintrey. And one and all forming a kind oft -
family 1 Ton seq, Mr. Bintrey, I was not used in,
my childhood to that sort of individual exist?
ence which,most individuals liave led, more ox
less, in their childhood. After that time I be? i
came absorbed in my late de ir mother. Having
lost, her, I find that I am mora fit for being ene
of a body than one by myself.. To be that, and.
at the same time to do my duty to those do-j
pendent on me, and attach them tome, has a
patriarchal and pleasant air about it. I don's*
know, bow it may appear to you, Mr. Bintrey, j :
bat sp it appears to me."
"It is not I who am all-important in the case,
but you," returned Bintrey. "Consequently,
ho* it may appear to me, is of very small im?
? "It appears to me," said Mr. Wilding, ins
glow,.41 hopeful, useful, delightful !"
"Do you know," hinted the lawyer, again,
" I really would not ex-"
411 am not going to. Then there's Handel."
41 There's wno ?" asked Bintrey.
41 Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Sent, Purcell, Doc?
tor Arne, Greene, Mendelsshon. I know tb?
choruses to those anthems by heart. Foundling*
Chapel Coll ec. i on. Why shouldn't we learn? ?
them together P
" Who learn them together?" asked the law*
yer, rather shortly.
" Employer and employed."
"Ay. ay 1" returned Bintrey, mollified; as il
he had hair expected the answer to be, lawyer1
and client. " That's another thing."
" Not another thing, Mr. Bintrey I The same
thing. A part of the bond among us. Wo wu*
form a choir in some quiet church near the Coro?
ner here, and, having sang together of a Sun* I
day with a relish, we will come home and taktt.
an early dinner together with a relish. The ob. '
ject that I have at heart now is to get this sys*.
tem well m action without delay, so that my nev4 twa
partner may find it founded when he enters oo<.<
44 All good be with it 1" ex claimed-Bintrey, ria
ing. 44 May it prosper ! Is Joey Ladle to take,
a share in Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Kent, Pur- '
cell, Doctor Arne, Greene, and Mendelssohn?" ?
"I hope so."
"I wish them all well out out of it," returned .
Bintrey, with much heartiness. "Good by, eir."*\ I , -
They shook bands and parted. Then (finit i
knocking with his knuckles for leave) entered* ' ' '
to Mr. Wilding, from a door of communication?'
between bis private counting-house and that ir*,
which his clerks sat, the Head Cellarman of ther
cellars of Wilding & Co., Wino Merchants, -andi. .r
erst Head Cellarman of the. cellars of PebbleeontS ' ^
Nephew. Thu Joey Ladle in question. A slosj? jkyP
and ponderous man, of the drayman order-of* ;t. .'
haman architecture, dresised in a corr?gateos. ?\?
emt apd bibbed apron, apparently a commiten .
of door mat and rhinoceros-hide. ' % y^/p
" Bespe?tong this same boarding and lod^ing^ ?MV
Young Master Wilding,'' said he. * 1^
"Yes, Joey?" , KL
*4 Speaking for myaelf, Young Master Wildingf '
and I never did speak and I never do speak fodp y.
no one else-./don't want no boarding noryetf \,.
no lodging. But if you wiah to board me and lcm 3v
lodge me, take me., I can. peck aa well as moan* fe
men. Where I peck ain't so high a object withf
me as what I peck. Nor ?ven so high a object! 'M
with me as how much I peck. Is all to live ia (?
the house, Young Master Wilding? The twa ^ftf.
other ce H?rmen, the three porters, the t ?YO "preta-; K?k
tices, and the old men ?" - ?h KTO '
44 Yea. J hope we shall ill bo a united family^
ht*:" Ah*-!" said Joey. *4I hopo they may bo,"*.. , ?TWav '
; 44 They? Rather say wo, Joey." -\ 'fflfflB,
Joey Ladlo shook his heed. "Don't look'ttl ^MSaSt*
jao to" ibfcutj W9 wa it, Young ttgW ??jjtfjjH