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The Cumberland Doctor's mention of Doncaster Races, inspired Mr.
Francis Goodchild with the idea of going down to Doncaster to see
the races. Doncaster being a good way off, and quite out of the
way of the Idle Apprentices (if anything could be out of their way,
who had no way), it necessarily followed that Francis perceived
Doncaster in the race-week to be, of all possible idleness, the
particular idleness that would completely satisfy him.
Thomas, with an enforced idleness grafted on the natural and
voluntary power of his disposition, was not of this mind; objecting
that a man compelled to lie on his back on a floor, a sofa, a
table, a line of chairs, or anything he could get to lie upon, was
not in racing condition, and that he desired nothing better than to
lie where he was, enjoying himself in looking at the flies on the
ceiling. But, Francis Goodchild, who had been walking round his
companion in a circuit of twelve miles for two days, and had begun
to doubt whether it was reserved for him ever to be idle in his
life, not only overpowered this objection, but even converted
Thomas Idle to a scheme he formed (another idle inspiration), of
conveying the said Thomas to the sea-coast, and putting his injured
leg under a stream of salt-water.
Plunging into this happy conception headforemost, Mr. Goodchild
immediately referred to the county-map, and ardently discovered
that the most delicious piece of sea-coast to be found within the
limits of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, and
the Channel Islands, all summed up together, was Allonby on the
coast of Cumberland. There was the coast of Scotland opposite to
Allonby, said Mr. Goodchild with enthusiasm; there was a fine
Scottish mountain on that Scottish coast; there were Scottish
lights to be seen shining across the glorious Channel, and at
Allonby itself there was every idle luxury (no doubt) that a
watering-place could offer to the heart of idle man. Moreover,
said Mr. Goodchild, with his finger on the map, this exquisite
retreat was approached by a coach-road, from a railway-station
called Aspatria--a name, in a manner, suggestive of the departed
glories of Greece, associated with one of the most engaging and
most famous of Greek women. On this point, Mr. Goodchild continued
at intervals to breathe a vein of classic fancy and eloquence
exceedingly irksome to Mr. Idle, until it appeared that the honest
English pronunciation of that Cumberland country shortened Aspatria
into 'Spatter.' After this supplementary discovery, Mr. Goodchild
said no more about it.
By way of Spatter, the crippled Idle was carried, hoisted, pushed,
poked, and packed, into and out of carriages, into and out of beds,
into and out of tavern resting-places, until he was brought at
length within sniff of the sea. And now, behold the apprentices
gallantly riding into Allonby in a one-horse fly, bent upon staying
in that peaceful marine valley until the turbulent Doncaster time
shall come round upon the wheel, in its turn among what are in
sporting registers called the 'Fixtures' for the month.
'Do you see Allonby!' asked Thomas Idle.
'I don't see it yet,' said Francis, looking out of window.
'It must be there,' said Thomas Idle.
'I don't see it,' returned Francis.
'It must be there,' repeated Thomas Idle, fretfully.
'Lord bless me!' exclaimed Francis, drawing in his head, 'I suppose
this is it!'
'A watering-place,' retorted Thomas Idle, with the pardonable
sharpness of an invalid, 'can't be five gentlemen in straw hats, on
a form on one side of a door, and four ladies in hats and falls, on
a form on another side of a door, and three geese in a dirty little
brook before them, and a boy's legs hanging over a bridge (with a
boy's body I suppose on the other side of the parapet), and a
donkey running away. What are you talking about?'
'Allonby, gentlemen,' said the most comfortable of landladies as
she opened one door of the carriage; 'Allonby, gentlemen,' said the
most attentive of landlords, as he opened the other.
Thomas Idle yielded his arm to the ready Goodchild, and descended
from the vehicle. Thomas, now just able to grope his way along, in
a doubled-up condition, with the aid of two thick sticks, was no
bad embodiment of Commodore Trunnion, or of one of those many
gallant Admirals of the stage, who have all ample fortunes, gout,
thick sticks, tempers, wards, and nephews. With this distinguished
naval appearance upon him, Thomas made a crab-like progress up a
clean little bulk-headed staircase, into a clean little bulk-headed
room, where he slowly deposited himself on a sofa, with a stick on
either hand of him, looking exceedingly grim.
'Francis,' said Thomas Idle, 'what do you think of this place?'
'I think,' returned Mr. Goodchild, in a glowing way, 'it is
everything we expected.'
'Hah!' said Thomas Idle.
'There is the sea,' cried Mr. Goodchild, pointing out of window;
'and here,' pointing to the lunch on the table, 'are shrimps. Let
us--' here Mr. Goodchild looked out of window, as if in search of
something, and looked in again,--'let us eat 'em.'
The shrimps eaten and the dinner ordered, Mr. Goodchild went out to
survey the watering-place. As Chorus of the Drama, without whom
Thomas could make nothing of the scenery, he by-and-by returned, to
have the following report screwed out of him.
In brief, it was the most delightful place ever seen.
'But,' Thomas Idle asked, 'where is it?'
'It's what you may call generally up and down the beach, here and
there,' said Mr. Goodchild, with a twist of his hand.
'Proceed,' said Thomas Idle.
It was, Mr. Goodchild went on to say, in cross-examination, what
you might call a primitive place. Large? No, it was not large.
Who ever expected it would be large? Shape? What a question to
ask! No shape. What sort of a street? Why, no street. Shops?
Yes, of course (quite indignant). How many? Who ever went into a
place to count the shops? Ever so many. Six? Perhaps. A
library? Why, of course (indignant again). Good collection of
books? Most likely--couldn't say--had seen nothing in it but a
pair of scales. Any reading-room? Of course, there was a reading-
room. Where? Where! why, over there. Where was over there? Why,
THERE! Let Mr. Idle carry his eye to that bit of waste ground
above high-water mark, where the rank grass and loose stones were
most in a litter; and he would see a sort of long, ruinous brick
loft, next door to a ruinous brick out-house, which loft had a
ladder outside, to get up by. That was the reading-room, and if
Mr. Idle didn't like the idea of a weaver's shuttle throbbing under
a reading-room, that was his look out. HE was not to dictate, Mr.
Goodchild supposed (indignant again), to the company.
'By-the-by,' Thomas Idle observed; 'the company?'
Well! (Mr. Goodchild went on to report) very nice company. Where
were they? Why, there they were. Mr. Idle could see the tops of
their hats, he supposed. What? Those nine straw hats again, five
gentlemen's and four ladies'? Yes, to be sure. Mr. Goodchild
hoped the company were not to be expected to wear helmets, to
please Mr. Idle.
Beginning to recover his temper at about this point, Mr. Goodchild
voluntarily reported that if you wanted to be primitive, you could
be primitive here, and that if you wanted to be idle, you could be
idle here. In the course of some days, he added, that there were
three fishing-boats, but no rigging, and that there were plenty of
fishermen who never fished. That they got their living entirely by
looking at the ocean. What nourishment they looked out of it to
support their strength, he couldn't say; but, he supposed it was
some sort of Iodine. The place was full of their children, who
were always upside down on the public buildings (two small bridges
over the brook), and always hurting themselves or one another, so
that their wailings made more continual noise in the air than could
have been got in a busy place. The houses people lodged in, were
nowhere in particular, and were in capital accordance with the
beach; being all more or less cracked and damaged as its shells
were, and all empty--as its shells were. Among them, was an
edifice of destitute appearance, with a number of wall-eyed windows
in it, looking desperately out to Scotland as if for help, which
said it was a Bazaar (and it ought to know), and where you might
buy anything you wanted--supposing what you wanted, was a little
camp-stool or a child's wheelbarrow. The brook crawled or stopped
between the houses and the sea, and the donkey was always running
away, and when he got into the brook he was pelted out with stones,
which never hit him, and which always hit some of the children who
were upside down on the public buildings, and made their
lamentations louder. This donkey was the public excitement of
Allonby, and was probably supported at the public expense.
The foregoing descriptions, delivered in separate items, on
separate days of adventurous discovery, Mr. Goodchild severally
wound up, by looking out of window, looking in again, and saying,
'But there is the sea, and here are the shrimps--let us eat 'em.'
There were fine sunsets at Allonby when the low flat beach, with
its pools of water and its dry patches, changed into long bars of
silver and gold in various states of burnishing, and there were
fine views--on fine days--of the Scottish coast. But, when it
rained at Allonby, Allonby thrown back upon its ragged self, became
a kind of place which the donkey seemed to have found out, and to
have his highly sagacious reasons for wishing to bolt from. Thomas
Idle observed, too, that Mr. Goodchild, with a noble show of
disinterestedness, became every day more ready to walk to Maryport
and back, for letters; and suspicions began to harbour in the mind
of Thomas, that his friend deceived him, and that Maryport was a
Therefore, Thomas said to Francis on a day when they had looked at
the sea and eaten the shrimps, 'My mind misgives me, Goodchild,
that you go to Maryport, like the boy in the story-book, to ask IT
to be idle with you.'
'Judge, then,' returned Francis, adopting the style of the story-
book, 'with what success. I go to a region which is a bit of
water-side Bristol, with a slice of Wapping, a seasoning of
Wolverhampton, and a garnish of Portsmouth, and I say, "Will YOU
come and be idle with me?" And it answers, "No; for I am a great
deal too vaporous, and a great deal too rusty, and a great deal too
muddy, and a great deal too dirty altogether; and I have ships to
load, and pitch and tar to boil, and iron to hammer, and steam to
get up, and smoke to make, and stone to quarry, and fifty other
disagreeable things to do, and I can't be idle with you." Then I
go into jagged up-hill and down-hill streets, where I am in the
pastrycook's shop at one moment, and next moment in savage
fastnesses of moor and morass, beyond the confines of civilisation,
and I say to those murky and black-dusty streets, "Will YOU come
and be idle with me?" To which they reply, "No, we can't, indeed,
for we haven't the spirits, and we are startled by the echo of your
feet on the sharp pavement, and we have so many goods in our shop-
windows which nobody wants, and we have so much to do for a limited
public which never comes to us to be done for, that we are
altogether out of sorts and can't enjoy ourselves with any one."
So I go to the Post-office, and knock at the shutter, and I say to
the Post-master, "Will YOU come and be idle with me?" To which he
rejoins, "No, I really can't, for I live, as you may see, in such a
very little Post-office, and pass my life behind such a very little
shutter, that my hand, when I put it out, is as the hand of a giant
crammed through the window of a dwarf's house at a fair, and I am a
mere Post-office anchorite in a cell much too small for him, and I
can't get out, and I can't get in, and I have no space to be idle
in, even if I would." So, the boy,' said Mr. Goodchild, concluding
the tale, 'comes back with the letters after all, and lives happy
But it may, not unreasonably, be asked--while Francis Goodchild was
wandering hither and thither, storing his mind with perpetual
observation of men and things, and sincerely believing himself to
be the laziest creature in existence all the time--how did Thomas
Idle, crippled and confined to the house, contrive to get through
the hours of the day?
Prone on the sofa, Thomas made no attempt to get through the hours,
but passively allowed the hours to get through HIM. Where other
men in his situation would have read books and improved their
minds, Thomas slept and rested his body. Where other men would
have pondered anxiously over their future prospects, Thomas dreamed
lazily of his past life. The one solitary thing he did, which most
other people would have done in his place, was to resolve on making
certain alterations and improvements in his mode of existence, as
soon as the effects of the misfortune that had overtaken him had
all passed away. Remembering that the current of his life had
hitherto oozed along in one smooth stream of laziness, occasionally
troubled on the surface by a slight passing ripple of industry, his
present ideas on the subject of self-reform, inclined him--not as
the reader may be disposed to imagine, to project schemes for a new
existence of enterprise and exertion--but, on the contrary, to
resolve that he would never, if he could possibly help it, be
active or industrious again, throughout the whole of his future
It is due to Mr. Idle to relate that his mind sauntered towards
this peculiar conclusion on distinct and logically-producible
grounds. After reviewing, quite at his ease, and with many needful
intervals of repose, the generally-placid spectacle of his past
existence, he arrived at the discovery that all the great disasters
which had tried his patience and equanimity in early life, had been
caused by his having allowed himself to be deluded into imitating
some pernicious example of activity and industry that had been set
him by others. The trials to which he here alludes were three in
number, and may be thus reckoned up: First, the disaster of being
an unpopular and a thrashed boy at school; secondly, the disaster
of falling seriously ill; thirdly, the disaster of becoming
acquainted with a great bore.
The first disaster occurred after Thomas had been an idle and a
popular boy at school, for some happy years. One Christmas-time,
he was stimulated by the evil example of a companion, whom he had
always trusted and liked, to be untrue to himself, and to try for a
prize at the ensuing half-yearly examination. He did try, and he
got a prize--how, he did not distinctly know at the moment, and
cannot remember now. No sooner, however, had the book--Moral Hints
to the Young on the Value of Time--been placed in his hands, than
the first troubles of his life began. The idle boys deserted him,
as a traitor to their cause. The industrious boys avoided him, as
a dangerous interloper; one of their number, who had always won the
prize on previous occasions, expressing just resentment at the
invasion of his privileges by calling Thomas into the play-ground,
and then and there administering to him the first sound and genuine
thrashing that he had ever received in his life. Unpopular from
that moment, as a beaten boy, who belonged to no side and was
rejected by all parties, young Idle soon lost caste with his
masters, as he had previously lost caste with his schoolfellows.
He had forfeited the comfortable reputation of being the one lazy
member of the youthful community whom it was quite hopeless to
punish. Never again did he hear the headmaster say reproachfully
to an industrious boy who had committed a fault, 'I might have
expected this in Thomas Idle, but it is inexcusable, sir, in you,
who know better.' Never more, after winning that fatal prize, did
he escape the retributive imposition, or the avenging birch. From
that time, the masters made him work, and the boys would not let
him play. From that time his social position steadily declined,
and his life at school became a perpetual burden to him.
So, again, with the second disaster. While Thomas was lazy, he was
a model of health. His first attempt at active exertion and his
first suffering from severe illness are connected together by the
intimate relations of cause and effect. Shortly after leaving
school, he accompanied a party of friends to a cricket-field, in
his natural and appropriate character of spectator only. On the
ground it was discovered that the players fell short of the
required number, and facile Thomas was persuaded to assist in
making up the complement. At a certain appointed time, he was
roused from peaceful slumber in a dry ditch, and placed before
three wickets with a bat in his hand. Opposite to him, behind
three more wickets, stood one of his bosom friends, filling the
situation (as he was informed) of bowler. No words can describe
Mr. Idle's horror and amazement, when he saw this young man--on
ordinary occasions, the meekest and mildest of human beings--
suddenly contract his eye-brows, compress his lips, assume the
aspect of an infuriated savage, run back a few steps, then run
forward, and, without the slightest previous provocation, hurl a
detestably hard ball with all his might straight at Thomas's legs.
Stimulated to preternatural activity of body and sharpness of eye
by the instinct of self-preservation, Mr. Idle contrived, by
jumping deftly aside at the right moment, and by using his bat
(ridiculously narrow as it was for the purpose) as a shield, to
preserve his life and limbs from the dastardly attack that had been
made on both, to leave the full force of the deadly missile to
strike his wicket instead of his leg; and to end the innings, so
far as his side was concerned, by being immediately bowled out.
Grateful for his escape, he was about to return to the dry ditch,
when he was peremptorily stopped, and told that the other side was
'going in,' and that he was expected to 'field.' His conception of
the whole art and mystery of 'fielding,' may be summed up in the
three words of serious advice which he privately administered to
himself on that trying occasion--avoid the ball. Fortified by this
sound and salutary principle, he took his own course, impervious
alike to ridicule and abuse. Whenever the ball came near him, he
thought of his shins, and got out of the way immediately. 'Catch
it!' 'Stop it!' 'Pitch it up!' were cries that passed by him like
the idle wind that he regarded not. He ducked under it, he jumped
over it, he whisked himself away from it on either side. Never
once, through the whole innings did he and the ball come together
on anything approaching to intimate terms. The unnatural activity
of body which was necessarily called forth for the accomplishment
of this result threw Thomas Idle, for the first time in his life,
into a perspiration. The perspiration, in consequence of his want
of practice in the management of that particular result of bodily
activity, was suddenly checked; the inevitable chill succeeded; and
that, in its turn, was followed by a fever. For the first time
since his birth, Mr. Idle found himself confined to his bed for
many weeks together, wasted and worn by a long illness, of which
his own disastrous muscular exertion had been the sole first cause.
The third occasion on which Thomas found reason to reproach himself
bitterly for the mistake of having attempted to be industrious, was
connected with his choice of a calling in life. Having no interest
in the Church, he appropriately selected the next best profession
for a lazy man in England--the Bar. Although the Benchers of the
Inns of Court have lately abandoned their good old principles, and
oblige their students to make some show of studying, in Mr. Idle's
time no such innovation as this existed. Young men who aspired to
the honourable title of barrister were, very properly, not asked to
learn anything of the law, but were merely required to eat a
certain number of dinners at the table of their Hall, and to pay a
certain sum of money; and were called to the Bar as soon as they
could prove that they had sufficiently complied with these
extremely sensible regulations. Never did Thomas move more
harmoniously in concert with his elders and betters than when he
was qualifying himself for admission among the barristers of his
native country. Never did he feel more deeply what real laziness
was in all the serene majesty of its nature, than on the memorable
day when he was called to the Bar, after having carefully abstained
from opening his law-books during his period of probation, except
to fall asleep over them. How he could ever again have become
industrious, even for the shortest period, after that great reward
conferred upon his idleness, quite passes his comprehension. The
kind Benchers did everything they could to show him the folly of
exerting himself. They wrote out his probationary exercise for
him, and never expected him even to take the trouble of reading it
through when it was written. They invited him, with seven other
choice spirits as lazy as himself, to come and be called to the
Bar, while they were sitting over their wine and fruit after
dinner. They put his oaths of allegiance, and his dreadful
official denunciations of the Pope and the Pretender, so gently
into his mouth, that he hardly knew how the words got there. They
wheeled all their chairs softly round from the table, and sat
surveying the young barristers with their backs to their bottles,
rather than stand up, or adjourn to hear the exercises read. And
when Mr. Idle and the seven unlabouring neophytes, ranged in order,
as a class, with their backs considerately placed against a screen,
had begun, in rotation, to read the exercises which they had not
written, even then, each Bencher, true to the great lazy principle
of the whole proceeding, stopped each neophyte before he had
stammered through his first line, and bowed to him, and told him
politely that he was a barrister from that moment. This was all
the ceremony. It was followed by a social supper, and by the
presentation, in accordance with ancient custom, of a pound of
sweetmeats and a bottle of Madeira, offered in the way of needful
refreshment, by each grateful neophyte to each beneficent Bencher.
It may seem inconceivable that Thomas should ever have forgotten
the great do-nothing principle instilled by such a ceremony as
this; but it is, nevertheless, true, that certain designing
students of industrious habits found him out, took advantage of his
easy humour, persuaded him that it was discreditable to be a
barrister and to know nothing whatever about the law, and lured
him, by the force of their own evil example, into a conveyancer's
chambers, to make up for lost time, and to qualify himself for
practice at the Bar. After a fortnight of self-delusion, the
curtain fell from his eyes; he resumed his natural character, and
shut up his books. But the retribution which had hitherto always
followed his little casual errors of industry followed them still.
He could get away from the conveyancer's chambers, but he could not
get away from one of the pupils, who had taken a fancy to him,--a
tall, serious, raw-boned, hard-working, disputatious pupil, with
ideas of his own about reforming the Law of Real Property, who has
been the scourge of Mr. Idle's existence ever since the fatal day
when he fell into the mistake of attempting to study the law.
Before that time his friends were all sociable idlers like himself.
Since that time the burden of bearing with a hard-working young man
has become part of his lot in life. Go where he will now, he can
never feel certain that the raw-boned pupil is not affectionately
waiting for him round a corner, to tell him a little more about the
Law of Real Property. Suffer as he may under the infliction, he
can never complain, for he must always remember, with unavailing
regret, that he has his own thoughtless industry to thank for first
exposing him to the great social calamity of knowing a bore.
These events of his past life, with the significant results that
they brought about, pass drowsily through Thomas Idle's memory,
while he lies alone on the sofa at Allonby and elsewhere, dreaming
away the time which his fellow-apprentice gets through so actively
out of doors. Remembering the lesson of laziness which his past
disasters teach, and bearing in mind also the fact that he is
crippled in one leg because he exerted himself to go up a mountain,
when he ought to have known that his proper course of conduct was
to stop at the bottom of it, he holds now, and will for the future
firmly continue to hold, by his new resolution never to be
industrious again, on any pretence whatever, for the rest of his
life. The physical results of his accident have been related in a
previous chapter. The moral results now stand on record; and, with
the enumeration of these, that part of the present narrative which
is occupied by the Episode of The Sprained Ankle may now perhaps be
considered, in all its aspects, as finished and complete.
'How do you propose that we get through this present afternoon and
evening?' demanded Thomas Idle, after two or three hours of the
foregoing reflections at Allonby.
Mr. Goodchild faltered, looked out of window, looked in again, and
said, as he had so often said before, 'There is the sea, and here
are the shrimps;--let us eat 'em'!'
But, the wise donkey was at that moment in the act of bolting: not
with the irresolution of his previous efforts which had been
wanting in sustained force of character, but with real vigour of
purpose: shaking the dust off his mane and hind-feet at Allonby,
and tearing away from it, as if he had nobly made up his mind that
he never would be taken alive. At sight of this inspiring
spectacle, which was visible from his sofa, Thomas Idle stretched
his neck and dwelt upon it rapturously.
'Francis Goodchild,' he then said, turning to his companion with a
solemn air, 'this is a delightful little Inn, excellently kept by
the most comfortable of landladies and the most attentive of
landlords, but--the donkey's right!'
The words, 'There is the sea, and here are the--' again trembled on
the lips of Goodchild, unaccompanied however by any sound.
'Let us instantly pack the portmanteaus,' said Thomas Idle, 'pay
the bill, and order a fly out, with instructions to the driver to
follow the donkey!'
Mr. Goodchild, who had only wanted encouragement to disclose the
real state of his feelings, and who had been pining beneath his
weary secret, now burst into tears, and confessed that he thought
another day in the place would be the death of him.
So, the two idle apprentices followed the donkey until the night
was far advanced. Whether he was recaptured by the town-council,
or is bolting at this hour through the United Kingdom, they know
not. They hope he may be still bolting; if so, their best wishes
are with him.
It entered Mr. Idle's head, on the borders of Cumberland, that
there could be no idler place to stay at, except by snatches of a
few minutes each, than a railway station. 'An intermediate station
on a line--a junction--anything of that sort,' Thomas suggested.
Mr. Goodchild approved of the idea as eccentric, and they journeyed
on and on, until they came to such a station where there was an
'Here,' said Thomas, 'we may be luxuriously lazy; other people will
travel for us, as it were, and we shall laugh at their folly.'
It was a Junction-Station, where the wooden razors before mentioned
shaved the air very often, and where the sharp electric-telegraph
bell was in a very restless condition. All manner of cross-lines
of rails came zig-zagging into it, like a Congress of iron vipers;
and, a little way out of it, a pointsman in an elevated signal-box
was constantly going through the motions of drawing immense
quantities of beer at a public-house bar. In one direction,
confused perspectives of embankments and arches were to be seen
from the platform; in the other, the rails soon disentangled
themselves into two tracks and shot away under a bridge, and curved
round a corner. Sidings were there, in which empty luggage-vans
and cattle-boxes often butted against each other as if they
couldn't agree; and warehouses were there, in which great
quantities of goods seemed to have taken the veil (of the
consistency of tarpaulin), and to have retired from the world
without any hope of getting back to it. Refreshment-rooms were
there; one, for the hungry and thirsty Iron Locomotives where their
coke and water were ready, and of good quality, for they were
dangerous to play tricks with; the other, for the hungry and
thirsty human Locomotives, who might take what they could get, and
whose chief consolation was provided in the form of three terrific
urns or vases of white metal, containing nothing, each forming a
breastwork for a defiant and apparently much-injured woman.
Established at this Station, Mr. Thomas Idle and Mr. Francis
Goodchild resolved to enjoy it. But, its contrasts were very
violent, and there was also an infection in it.
First, as to its contrasts. They were only two, but they were
Lethargy and Madness. The Station was either totally unconscious,
or wildly raving. By day, in its unconscious state, it looked as
if no life could come to it,--as if it were all rust, dust, and
ashes--as if the last train for ever, had gone without issuing any
Return-Tickets--as if the last Engine had uttered its last shriek
and burst. One awkward shave of the air from the wooden razor, and
everything changed. Tight office-doors flew open, panels yielded,
books, newspapers, travelling-caps and wrappers broke out of brick
walls, money chinked, conveyances oppressed by nightmares of
luggage came careering into the yard, porters started up from
secret places, ditto the much-injured women, the shining bell, who
lived in a little tray on stilts by himself, flew into a man's hand
and clamoured violently. The pointsman aloft in the signal-box
made the motions of drawing, with some difficulty, hogsheads of
beer. Down Train! More bear! Up Train! More beer. Cross
junction Train! More beer! Cattle Train! More beer. Goods
Train! Simmering, whistling, trembling, rumbling, thundering.
Trains on the whole confusion of intersecting rails, crossing one
another, bumping one another, hissing one another, backing to go
forward, tearing into distance to come close. People frantic.
Exiles seeking restoration to their native carriages, and banished
to remoter climes. More beer and more bell. Then, in a minute,
the Station relapsed into stupor as the stoker of the Cattle Train,
the last to depart, went gliding out of it, wiping the long nose of
his oil-can with a dirty pocket-handkerchief.
By night, in its unconscious state, the Station was not so much as
visible. Something in the air, like an enterprising chemist's
established in business on one of the boughs of Jack's beanstalk,
was all that could be discerned of it under the stars. In a moment
it would break out, a constellation of gas. In another moment,
twenty rival chemists, on twenty rival beanstalks, came into
existence. Then, the Furies would be seen, waving their lurid
torches up and down the confused perspectives of embankments and
arches--would be heard, too, wailing and shrieking. Then, the
Station would be full of palpitating trains, as in the day; with
the heightening difference that they were not so clearly seen as in
the day, whereas the Station walls, starting forward under the gas,
like a hippopotamus's eyes, dazzled the human locomotives with the
sauce-bottle, the cheap music, the bedstead, the distorted range of
buildings where the patent safes are made, the gentleman in the
rain with the registered umbrella, the lady returning from the ball
with the registered respirator, and all their other embellishments.
And now, the human locomotives, creased as to their countenances
and purblind as to their eyes, would swarm forth in a heap,
addressing themselves to the mysterious urns and the much-injured
women; while the iron locomotives, dripping fire and water, shed
their steam about plentifully, making the dull oxen in their cages,
with heads depressed, and foam hanging from their mouths as their
red looks glanced fearfully at the surrounding terrors, seem as
though they had been drinking at half-frozen waters and were hung
with icicles. Through the same steam would be caught glimpses of
their fellow-travellers, the sheep, getting their white kid faces
together, away from the bars, and stuffing the interstices with
trembling wool. Also, down among the wheels, of the man with the
sledge-hammer, ringing the axles of the fast night-train; against
whom the oxen have a misgiving that he is the man with the pole-axe
who is to come by-and-by, and so the nearest of them try to get
back, and get a purchase for a thrust at him through the bars.
Suddenly, the bell would ring, the steam would stop with one hiss
and a yell, the chemists on the beanstalks would be busy, the
avenging Furies would bestir themselves, the fast night-train would
melt from eye and ear, the other trains going their ways more
slowly would be heard faintly rattling in the distance like old-
fashioned watches running down, the sauce-bottle and cheap music
retired from view, even the bedstead went to bed, and there was no
such visible thing as the Station to vex the cool wind in its
blowing, or perhaps the autumn lightning, as it found out the iron
The infection of the Station was this:- When it was in its raving
state, the Apprentices found it impossible to be there, without
labouring under the delusion that they were in a hurry. To Mr.
Goodchild, whose ideas of idleness were so imperfect, this was no
unpleasant hallucination, and accordingly that gentleman went
through great exertions in yielding to it, and running up and down
the platform, jostling everybody, under the impression that he had
a highly important mission somewhere, and had not a moment to lose.
But, to Thomas Idle, this contagion was so very unacceptable an
incident of the situation, that he struck on the fourth day, and
requested to be moved.
'This place fills me with a dreadful sensation,' said Thomas, 'of
having something to do. Remove me, Francis.'
'Where would you like to go next?' was the question of the ever-
'I have heard there is a good old Inn at Lancaster, established in
a fine old house: an Inn where they give you Bride-cake every day
after dinner,' said Thomas Idle. 'Let us eat Bride-cake without
the trouble of being married, or of knowing anybody in that
Mr. Goodchild, with a lover's sigh, assented. They departed from
the Station in a violent hurry (for which, it is unnecessary to
observe, there was not the least occasion), and were delivered at
the fine old house at Lancaster, on the same night.
It is Mr. Goodchild's opinion, that if a visitor on his arrival at
Lancaster could be accommodated with a pole which would push the
opposite side of the street some yards farther off, it would be
better for all parties. Protesting against being required to live
in a trench, and obliged to speculate all day upon what the people
can possibly be doing within a mysterious opposite window, which is
a shop-window to look at, but not a shop-window in respect of its
offering nothing for sale and declining to give any account
whatever of itself, Mr. Goodchild concedes Lancaster to be a
pleasant place. A place dropped in the midst of a charming
landscape, a place with a fine ancient fragment of castle, a place
of lovely walks, a place possessing staid old houses richly fitted
with old Honduras mahogany, which has grown so dark with time that
it seems to have got something of a retrospective mirror-quality
into itself, and to show the visitor, in the depth of its grain,
through all its polish, the hue of the wretched slaves who groaned
long ago under old Lancaster merchants. And Mr. Goodchild adds
that the stones of Lancaster do sometimes whisper, even yet, of
rich men passed away--upon whose great prosperity some of these old
doorways frowned sullen in the brightest weather--that their slave-
gain turned to curses, as the Arabian Wizard's money turned to
leaves, and that no good ever came of it, even unto the third and
fourth generations, until it was wasted and gone.
It was a gallant sight to behold, the Sunday procession of the
Lancaster elders to Church--all in black, and looking fearfully
like a funeral without the Body--under the escort of Three Beadles.
'Think,' said Francis, as he stood at the Inn window, admiring, 'of
being taken to the sacred edifice by three Beadles! I have, in my
early time, been taken out of it by one Beadle; but, to be taken
into it by three, O Thomas, is a distinction I shall never enjoy!'