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Messrs. Clothyards' house was a strange old dusty cavernous place, densely filled with merchandize and humanity ; the former the much more precious commodity. Over the twenty-five “young men” presided Mr. Twiggs, who was an Apollo of four feet eight, made just five feet by high-heeled boots ; and over the fifteen “young ladies,” the culinary "department,” the housekeeping "department, the pinching, yet withal, feathering-your-own
department,” was set Mrs. Tweek, a Venus of fifty; whilst in the little old cell of a parlour, lined with pattern-books and tin boxes, lived, eat, and recreated themselves, old Abel Clothyard and his nephew, Abbot Clothyard. From
year, to day, the same dull round of work, ill paid, ill cared for, except in its one result—the gold! No! no sunshine of the spirit, no hearts' voices, no foot light, no hard earnest, the souls of all seemed dead, except those of Tapbox, who had little slips of sunshine of his own, of Mr. Twigg, who took “out-and-out” privately, and Mrs. Tweek, who lived in the full-blowing summer of the said feathering-your-own-nest, and might be always said to be adding one pretty-much-to-the-purpose little item to another.
Some two months after the dismissal of Bloomforth and Mullins, as Abbot Clothyard was returning at his usual hour of twelve, from a certain commercial tavern, where a few young spirits of his own kind were accustomed to meet most evenings in the week, to discuss speculations on “ twills," and “plains or figured," sip brandy and water, leer at the barmaid, or joke with the waiter, he encountered, in a little dirty alley, old Tapbox, in the very act of covering a bird-cage with his apron, in order to guard it from the snow that was falling thick from the wintry sky. Now the soul of Abbot Clothyard was an unborn thing--a sort of embryo kept latent by a crust of worldliness ; yet forth at times had come signs of life and being, and those signs had concentrated themselves into a very favourable opinion of Mr. Tapbox, and a most unmitigated dislike of Tweek and Twiggs, who were however singing swans in the sight of Abel. He stayed to speak to Tapbox.
“ Well, sir, if yer must know the truth,” said Mr. Tapbox, bringing forth a rag of a pocket-handkerchief, in seeming for his nose, in reality for his eyes, “it's Mullins's bird ; it 's the only thing as in its heart misses the creetur as went forth to-day in his parish coffin. Ay, sir, Miss Kitty Merrily and I got as far as a bit o' good flannel for his shroud, but we couldn't get up to a coffin."
“ Dead and in a parish coffin ?” repeated Abbot.
“ Yes, sir, not that the dear creetur is the worse for sich a coffin, for many a plank o' parish deal has covered in a weight o? goodness, and, as for daisies on a pauper's grave, I always think they blow, sir, and look towards heaven, to ask the eye and heart of God for sich bits o' grave in Paradise, as didn't come on earth to the creeturs that are below; and so he shall have a precious bit o'turf, as sha'n't want a daisy or a blue bell to say a bit o' prayer for him as had none o' men,
“ Dead and in a parish cofin!” still repeated the hitherto heartless, because thoughtless, man.
Yes, sir, and ’scuse me, I think if you or master would have let him stayed, he would have got better o' the weakness o'the fever ; but, turned out without a home, he took to fretting, and as he kept getting on to this here bit o' coffin like a shadder faster and faster, it was the blissid heart o' our Miss Kitty Merrily, as found him out by some means, and paid the bit o' rent o' the room, and kept him from the kennel. Ay! sir, and bread, and tea, and all our blissid
ladies did a sumfen for him, and many a pair o' gloves the less, and many a bright ribbon the less. Ay, sir, and when Twigg's bin a saying at twelve at night, jist as the warehouse was closed, that one or two o'the young men were off to the tavern, or somewhere worse, there they were with Mullins, a cheering him up, dear creetur, and speaking o' things they couldn't feel in their hearts. Ay! sir, my 'pinion is, you and master don't know half the goodness that lies beneath our roof.
Why not speak to my uncle or Mrs. Tweek ?"
Please, sir, human natur takes more care o’its breath, than to preach a sermon to a stone ; and as for Tweek, ha! ha! she's got precious legs o'weal, and shoulders o'mutton to think of. No! there's a pint beyond which a creetur can't bend his knee only to God. Not that he'd a wanted a deal o’help, if he 'd let me gone to Bloomforth, as has got a precious sit-ti-a-tion, at Bobbin's, in the next street; him, sir, as you and master have bin so again in the shutting up; but, no, he wouldn't; he said it might come to the ears o' some o' you, and might be the worser for Miss Kitty. No, the creetur hadn't a bit o’selfishness in 'em, or a bit o' hardness, which he might o' had naturally, considering that this here little Tit was the only thing as seemed to droop à head for him, or flutter round his wasted hand. Ay! sir, there 's a deal in brute creeturs as shames us images o' God. Well, Tit sha'n't
want a bit o' seed whilst I 've a crust o' bread.” So saying, Mr. Tapbox covered the cage up still closer, and stepped on by the side of Abbot.
To his astonishment the young linendraper found Abel had gone to bed, as Mrs. Tweek reported, poorly,” but under the emollient and curative influence of a brandy posset of perfect Tweek compounding, and so, strangely relieved by this absence, he dismissed the housekeeper, and tapped gently at the door of what was ambitiously styled “the young ladies' parlour ;" a dull mean place, eight feet by six ; in the little pinched grate burnt a starveling fire, whilst on the long deal uncovered table was spread the night meal of bread and butter and small beer. Fifteen women sitting there, but veritably not the bright heart of one ; only tired hands, dull hair, sunken eyes, pale faces, even the natural grace of woman in her dress forgotten. Labour had crushed even the vanity of adornment! But Kitty Merrily's gray hair-for she was forty, and had lived twenty years in that dull house—absolutely brightened, and her heart shone in her cyes, when Abbot, leading her into the little patterned, booked, and tin-boxed parlour, talked long and confidentially to her of many things, and how over the barrenness of that night had come a consciousness of error and a purpose of good. “ Oh! Mr. Abbot,” spoke the little woman, “ I fear you have not known us, nor how we desire to serve in a wiser better spirit, and give and receive back something better than service, something better than money.
The curative effect of the brandy posset was a delirious fever by the morrow's dawn. A fever, too, so malignant, that it spread like wildfire through the house, disabling many hands, and leaving unconditioned liberty to the peculiarities of Tweek and Twigg. And now shone forth the bright spirit of Kitty Merrily, so good a nurse, so rare a housekeeper, that she might have served a long apprenticeship in both offices; with such wonderful result, too, that Tweek items were found to have been multiplied by an arithmetic peculiarly their own, so that on the trifling error of seven legs of veal for four, and ten shoulders of mutton for seven, she was dismissed one morning to concoct possets in whatever part of her blessed Majesty's dominions she might please. Well! the old man was very bad, so bad that his life hung on a thread ; and Mr. Twigg was taken very bad, and in such a state of delirium that he called incessantly for out-and-out, which, of course, was not given, and seven others were very bad, yet Kitty hovered over all.
The dilemma, horrerer, with regard to the business, was very great, so Mr. Tapbox with his bright heart was called into counsel.
“ Well, sir,” said Tapbox, never mind pride and bits o' bickering o' things that 'll come now quite straight; go to Bobbin's, and see Mr. Bloomfortlı ; he's the one; he'll just do for the bisnis what Miss Kitty does for the house, put a heart in 't; and, bliss ye, sir, Bobbin's a dear crecture as you haven't seen the virtues of, 'cause o' the shutting up.”.
Well! a portion of the new times had come truly over the soul of Abbot Clothyard ; and so, at the closing hour of Bobbin, he set forth to the next street : a private door opened into a wide hall, and there Bobbin, in his best black satin waistcoat, stepped forth to meet him. Clearly something was in the wind, by the little man's dress and bright spirits.
“Happy to see you, Nir. Clothyard! happy to see you. Better late than never! ha! ha! Knew conviction would come at last. Good cause never dies.' But Abbot looked grave, and stated his business. “ Well,” answered little Bobbin, now grave too, “this progressive movement is teaching us that the divinest part of Christianity lies in action, as you ’re learning I know by your coming here ; and so, sir, if Bloomforth 's agreeable, you're welcome to his services to put things right ; but as for parting with him, that can't be, sir ; he knows everything, he does everything ; and as for an examble to my young men, he's worth his hundred a year, if only for that ; for an honest heart has Matthew Bloomforth. But step this way, sir, step this way.” And verily little Mr. Bobbin did step before, and opening the door of a handsome well-lighted room, did show to Abbot the spirit of advance in action. Young men, young women, preparing the music for a concert presently to begin, under a Hullah-master, already with bow in hand, and music before him. And there, on the long handsome table, wers pretty drawings, and books and delicate feminine work, szá best and brightest, pretty faces, laughing eyes, trim dresses, fairy collars, shining hair, and such taper waists, that,
but I mustn't go on or I shall be putting on my hat, and off to Bobbin's in a trice. And there, too, sat worthy little Mrs. Robbin, with not a bit of pride, though she had dined with the L'rd Mayor, and had a gold chain worth thirty guineas; and there was little Bobbin all anxiety to begin his solfaying in a Rabelais' spirit. “Little concert of this sort twice a week,” said the little man, rubbing his hands ; “and it's wonderful, as Mrs. Bobbin
purer soul !
“ But I don't see Bloomforth.” “No, he's
to Blossom Cottage, Somers Town, to see his sister Isabella.” At this piece of information, young Clothyard resolved to take a cab, and proceed there. "Do sir, do sir,” said Mr. Bobbin, merrily, as he parted with him at the door, “ and see such a pearl as a duke might set in the front of his coronet, and look a king straight in the face, and be the richer man.
Well! there, in that trim little parlour, was found the grave and happy brother, beside that pretty Isabella Mr. Bobbin had whispered of, not a bit overpraised by-the-bye for her beauty, whilst her honest truthful mind, her industry as a music teacher, her listening ear for Matthew's wise thoughtful lessons, were a covenant with heaven that beauty should be fitly nurtured by the
At once was Matthew ready to serve ; not one syllable of reproach did he utter ; and after (to him) an extraordinary hour of enjoyment, Abbot Clothyard returned with Bloomforth to town; it was to bear bright memory of that pretty face, whilst Matthew watched the old man's fevered bed.
Need it be said, what wonders this Spirit of Advance achieves ! Need it be said that it is sunlight on the human heart, warming into sentient life divinest seeds of good, that, at the smallest care, the least caressing hand, are ready to burst forth in amplest luxuriance, and by their rare and upward springing tenderness, deck forth the dull drear round of daily life, and show it as a garnished Paradise of human charity and love! With Kitty in the house, with Bloomforth in the business, with honest little Bobbin to say a word or two, things progressed swimmingly. Mr. Twigg got better, though under interdict of “out-and-out ;” old Abel, after weeks of bed, was removed to Devonshire, as the only means left of recovery, there to think over, in a wiser spirit, that money was not the only god for man to pay a reverence to, and these thoughts paved the way for the change he should return to. For presently Abbot Clothyard was seen each evening going with a quick step towards Blossom Cottage, and its bloom ; speculations in “twills” forgotten in bright eyes, and the ear made listening for the tune the world's great spirit plays ! And so in some few months there was talk of a wedding, for which Bobbin volunteered a dress of the richest white satin ! 65 And so, dear love,” whispered Isabella, the very evening before the marriage, “ I must tell you Matthew has been paying masters to teach me many things, and I have been attentive, indeed I have : for I not