Master Humphrey s Clock
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chattering teeth confessed the truth, and prayed to be forgiven.
That I have since denied, and now confess to it again. That I have
been tried for the crime, found guilty, and sentenced. That I have
not the courage to anticipate my doom, or to bear up manfully
against it. That I have no compassion, no consolation, no hope, no
friend. That my wife has happily lost for the time those faculties
which would enable her to know my misery or hers. That I am alone
in this stone dungeon with my evil spirit, and that I die to-
Master Humphrey has been favoured with the following letter written
on strongly-scented paper, and sealed in light-blue wax with the
representation of two very plump doves interchanging beaks. It
does not commence with any of the usual forms of address, but
begins as is here set forth.
Bath, Wednesday night.
Heavens! into what an indiscretion do I suffer myself to be
betrayed! To address these faltering lines to a total stranger,
and that stranger one of a conflicting sex! - and yet I am
precipitated into the abyss, and have no power of self-snatchation
(forgive me if I coin that phrase) from the yawning gulf before me.
Yes, I am writing to a man; but let me not think of that, for
madness is in the thought. You will understand my feelings? O
yes, I am sure you will; and you will respect them too, and not
despise them, - will you?
Let me be calm. That portrait, - smiling as once he smiled on me;
that cane, - dangling as I have seen it dangle from his hand I know
not how oft; those legs that have glided through my nightly dreams
and never stopped to speak; the perfectly gentlemanly, though false
original, - can I be mistaken? O no, no.
Let me be calmer yet; I would be calm as coffins. You have
published a letter from one whose likeness is engraved, but whose
name (and wherefore?) is suppressed. Shall I breathe that name!
Is it - but why ask when my heart tells me too truly that it is!
I would not upbraid him with his treachery; I would not remind him
of those times when he plighted the most eloquent of vows, and
procured from me a small pecuniary accommodation; and yet I would
see him - see him did I say - HIM - alas! such is woman's nature.
For as the poet beautifully says - but you will already have
anticipated the sentiment. Is it not sweet? O yes!
It was in this city (hallowed by the recollection) that I met him
first; and assuredly if mortal happiness be recorded anywhere, then
those rubbers with their three-and-sixpenny points are scored on
tablets of celestial brass. He always held an honour - generally
two. On that eventful night we stood at eight. He raised his eyes
(luminous in their seductive sweetness) to my agitated face. 'CAN
you?' said he, with peculiar meaning. I felt the gentle pressure
of his foot on mine; our corns throbbed in unison. 'CAN you?' he
said again; and every lineament of his expressive countenance added
the words 'resist me?' I murmured 'No,' and fainted.
They said, when I recovered, it was the weather. I said it was the
nutmeg in the negus. How little did they suspect the truth! How
little did they guess the deep mysterious meaning of that inquiry!
He called next morning on his knees; I do not mean to say that he
actually came in that position to the house-door, but that he went
down upon those joints directly the servant had retired. He
brought some verses in his hat, which he said were original, but
which I have since found were Milton's; likewise a little bottle
labelled laudanum; also a pistol and a sword-stick. He drew the
latter, uncorked the former, and clicked the trigger of the pocket
fire-arm. He had come, he said, to conquer or to die. He did not
die. He wrested from me an avowal of my love, and let off the
pistol out of a back window previous to partaking of a slight
Faithless, inconstant man! How many ages seem to have elapsed
since his unaccountable and perfidious disappearance! Could I
still forgive him both that and the borrowed lucre that he promised
to pay next week! Could I spurn him from my feet if he approached
in penitence, and with a matrimonial object! Would the blandishing
enchanter still weave his spells around me, or should I burst them
all and turn away in coldness! I dare not trust my weakness with
My brain is in a whirl again. You know his address, his
occupations, his mode of life, - are acquainted, perhaps, with his
inmost thoughts. You are a humane and philanthropic character;
reveal all you know - all; but especially the street and number of
his lodgings. The post is departing, the bellman rings, - pray
Heaven it be not the knell of love and hope to
P.S. Pardon the wanderings of a bad pen and a distracted mind.
Address to the Post-office. The bellman, rendered impatient by
delay, is ringing dreadfully in the passage.
P.P.S. I open this to say that the bellman is gone, and that you
must not expect it till the next post; so don't be surprised when
you don't get it.
Master Humphrey does not feel himself at liberty to furnish his
fair correspondent with the address of the gentleman in question,
but he publishes her letter as a public appeal to his faith and
CHAPTER III - MASTER HUMPHREY'S VISITOR
WHEN I am in a thoughtful mood, I often succeed in diverting the
current of some mournful reflections, by conjuring up a number of
fanciful associations with the objects that surround me, and
dwelling upon the scenes and characters they suggest.
I have been led by this habit to assign to every room in my house
and every old staring portrait on its walls a separate interest of
its own. Thus, I am persuaded that a stately dame, terrible to
behold in her rigid modesty, who hangs above the chimney-piece of
my bedroom, is the former lady of the mansion. In the courtyard
below is a stone face of surpassing ugliness, which I have somehow
- in a kind of jealousy, I am afraid - associated with her husband.
Above my study is a little room with ivy peeping through the
lattice, from which I bring their daughter, a lovely girl of
eighteen or nineteen years of age, and dutiful in all respects save
one, that one being her devoted attachment to a young gentleman on
the stairs, whose grandmother (degraded to a disused laundry in the
garden) piques herself upon an old family quarrel, and is the
implacable enemy of their love. With such materials as these I
work out many a little drama, whose chief merit is, that I can
bring it to a happy end at will. I have so many of them on hand,
that if on my return home one of these evenings I were to find some
bluff old wight of two centuries ago comfortably seated in my easy
chair, and a lovelorn damsel vainly appealing to his heart, and
leaning her white arm upon my clock itself, I verily believe I
should only express my surprise that they had kept me waiting so
long, and never honoured me with a call before.
I was in such a mood as this, sitting in my garden yesterday
morning under the shade of a favourite tree, revelling in all the
bloom and brightness about me, and feeling every sense of hope and
enjoyment quickened by this most beautiful season of Spring, when
my meditations were interrupted by the unexpected appearance of my
barber at the end of the walk, who I immediately saw was coming
towards me with a hasty step that betokened something remarkable.
My barber is at all times a very brisk, bustling, active little
man, - for he is, as it were, chubby all over, without being stout
or unwieldy, - but yesterday his alacrity was so very uncommon that
it quite took me by surprise. For could I fail to observe when he
came up to me that his gray eyes were twinkling in a most
extraordinary manner, that his little red nose was in an unusual
glow, that every line in his round bright face was twisted and
curved into an expression of pleased surprise, and that his whole
countenance was radiant with glee? I was still more surprised to
see my housekeeper, who usually preserves a very staid air, and
stands somewhat upon her dignity, peeping round the hedge at the
bottom of the walk, and exchanging nods and smiles with the barber,
who twice or thrice looked over his shoulder for that purpose. I
could conceive no announcement to which these appearances could be
the prelude, unless it were that they had married each other that
I was, consequently, a little disappointed when it only came out
that there was a gentleman in the house who wished to speak with
'And who is it?' said I.
The barber, with his face screwed up still tighter than before,
replied that the gentleman would not send his name, but wished to
see me. I pondered for a moment, wondering who this visitor might
be, and I remarked that he embraced the opportunity of exchanging
another nod with the housekeeper, who still lingered in the
'Well!' said I, 'bid the gentleman come here.'
This seemed to be the consummation of the barber's hopes, for he
turned sharp round, and actually ran away.
Now, my sight is not very good at a distance, and therefore when
the gentleman first appeared in the walk, I was not quite clear
whether he was a stranger to me or otherwise. He was an elderly
gentleman, but came tripping along in the pleasantest manner
conceivable, avoiding the garden-roller and the borders of the beds
with inimitable dexterity, picking his way among the flower-pots,
and smiling with unspeakable good humour. Before he was half-way
up the walk he began to salute me; then I thought I knew him; but
when he came towards me with his hat in his hand, the sun shining
on his bald head, his bland face, his bright spectacles, his fawn-
coloured tights, and his black gaiters, - then my heart warmed
towards him, and I felt quite certain that it was Mr. Pickwick.
'My dear sir,' said that gentleman as I rose to receive him, 'pray
be seated. Pray sit down. Now, do not stand on my account. I
must insist upon it, really.' With these words Mr. Pickwick gently
pressed me down into my seat, and taking my hand in his, shook it
again and again with a warmth of manner perfectly irresistible. I
endeavoured to express in my welcome something of that heartiness
and pleasure which the sight of him awakened, and made him sit down
beside me. All this time he kept alternately releasing my hand and