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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 choaked with mist; when smoking umbrellas passed and repassed, 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 water-spouts 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
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 he 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 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 inevit. ably 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.'- pp. 6--11.
Between Toby and these chimes there was a mysterious link. "He invested them with a strange and solemn character,' though he scouted with indignation the current report of their being
haunted. They were good christian bells to Toby, though something more---so at least he had imperceptibly come to regard them—than mere metal moved by human machinery. It was on a cold day, when absorbed in one of his musing fits, he was trotting up and down before this church, that the following scene occurred, which introduces us to a lovely personification of female virtue in the person of Toby's daughter. One great charm of Mr. Dickens's writings—and it constitutes a healthful element—is the justice done to the poor. It is common with our fashionable novelists to refer to the humbler classes as destitute of all kindliness and generosity, distinct in nature as well as in station from the more affluent, and susceptible only of the baser and more sordid affections. Nothing of this sort is to be traced in the pages of our author, who has searched far deeper than these dreamers into the philosophy of man's heart. What can be more beautiful than the filial piety and woman's heart depicted in this simple sketch.
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.
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 for enlightment in the very heart of the approaching year, found himself face to face with his own child, and looking close into her eyes.
• 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-day, Megi
• 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 alone.'
" 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 corner, you know,' said Meg, suiting the action to the word with the ut. most 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 hot.'
" But what is it, father ?' said Meg. • Come! You haven't guessed what it is.
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. NO
guess!' 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 laugh
Ah! It's very nice,' said Toby. “It an't-I suppose it an't Polonies ?' • 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 ecstacy. 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 Cock's 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
“Yes, my dear,' cried Trotty; and they'd be very fond of any one
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 potatoe 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 damp.'
" Then here,' said Meg, clapping her hands, after a moment's bustle ; here it is, all ready! And beautiful it looks! Come, father. Come!'
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
"Amen to the Bells, father ?' cried Meg.
They'd say a good one, I am sure, if they could. Many's the kind
"The Bells do, father!' laughed Meg, as she set the basin, and a knife and fork before him. Well !'
"Seem to, my Pet,' said Trotty, falling to with great vigour. And
"Well, I never !' cried Meg.
" When things is very bad,' said Trotty; ‘very bad indeed, I mean ; almost at the worst; then it's Toby Veck, Toby Veck, job coming soon, Toby! Toby Veck, Toby Veck,' job coming soon, Toby!' that way.'
"And it comes
at last, father,' said Meg, with a touch of sadness in her pleasant voice.
Always,'answered the unconscious Toby. Never fails.' • While this discourse was holding, Trotty made no pause in his attack upon the
savoury meat before him, but cut and ate, and cut and drank, and cut and chewed,and dodged about, from tripe to hot potatoe, and from hot potatoe back again to tripe, with an unctuous and unflagging relish.
But happening now to look all round the street in case anybody should be beckoning from any door or window, for a porterhis eyes, in coming back again, encountered Meg: sitting opposite to him, with her arms folded : and only busy in watching his progress
with a smile of happiness.
• Why, Lord forgive me !' said Trotty, dropping his knife and fork. My dove! Meg! why didn't you tell me what a beast I was ?' • Father?'
“Sitting here,' said Trotty, in penitent explanation, 'cramming, and stuffing, and gorging myself; and you before me there, never so much as breaking your precious fast, nor wanting to, when’
“But I have broken it, father,' interposed his daughter, laughing, all to bits. I have had my dinner.'
"Nonsense,' said Trotty. "Two dinners in one day! It an't possible! You might as well tell me that two New Year's Days will come together, or that I have had a gold head all my life, and never changed it.'
" I have had my dinner, father, for all that,' said Meg, coming nearer to him.
And if you'll go on with yours, I'll tell you how and where; and how your dinner came to be brought; and—and something else besides.'
• Toby still appeared incredulous ; but she looked into his face with her clear eyes, and laying her hand upon his shoulder, motioned him to go on while the meat was hot. So Trotty took up his knife and fork again, and went to work. But much more slowly than before, and shaking his head, as if he were not at all pleased with himself.
“I had my dinner, father,' said Meg, after a little hesitation, ' with -with Richard. His dinner-time was early; and as he brought his dinner with him when he came to see me, we—we had it together, father.'
Trotty took a little beer, and smacked his lips. Then he said, • Oh!'-because she waited.
· And Richard says, father—' Meg resumed. Then stopped.'
What does Richard say, Meg?' asked Toby. * Richard says, father
Another stoppage. • Richard's a long time saying it,' said Toby. • He says then, father,' Meg continued, lifting up her eyes at last, and speaking in a tremble, but quite plainly; ' another year is nearly gone, and where is the use of waiting on from year to year, when it is so unlikely we shall ever be better off than we are now?
He says we are poor now, father, and we shall be poor then ; but we are young now, and years will make us old before we know it. He
says wait : people in our condition ; until we see our way quite clearly, the
that if we