Page:Household Words - Volume 12.djvu/203

This page needs to be proofread.


"Familiar in their Mouths as HOUSEHOLD WORDS"- Shakespeare.


HOUSEHOLD WORDS.

 

A WEEKLY JOURNAL.

CONDUCTED BY CHARLES DICKENS.

 


No. 288.] SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 1855. Price 2d.
Stamped 3d.


 

SITTING, on a bright September morning, among my books and papers at my open window on the cliff overhanging the sea- beach, I have the sky and ocean framed before me like a beautiful picture. A beau- tiful picture, but with such movement in it, such changes of light upon the sails of ships and wake of steamboats, such dazzling gleams of silver far out at sea, such fresh touches on the crisp wave-tops as they break and roll towards me a picture with such music in the billowy rush upon the shingle, the blowing of the morning wind through the corn-sheaves where the farmers' wagons are busy, the singing of the larks, and the distant voices of children at play such charms of sight and sound as all the Gal- leries on earth can but poorly suggest. So dreamy is the murmur of the sea below my window, that I may have been here, for anything I know, one hundred years. Not that I have grown old, for, daily on the neighbouring downs and grassy hill-sides, I find that I can still in reason walk any distance, jump over anything, and climb up anywhere ; but, that the sound of the ocean seems to have become so customary to my musings, and other realities seem so to have gone a- board ship and floated away over the horizon, that, for aught I will undertake to the contrary, I am the enchanted son of the King my father, shut up in a tower on the sea-shore, for protection against an old she- goblin who insisted on being my godmother, and who foresaw at the font wonderful creature !^ that I should get into a scrape before I was twenty-one. I remember to have been in a City (my Koyal parent's dominions, I suppose), and apparently not long ago either, that was in the dreariest condition. The principal inhabitants had all been changed into old newspapers, and in that form were preserving their window-blinds from dust, and wrapping all their smaller household gods in curl- papers. I walked through gloomy streets where every house was shut up and news- papered, and where my solitary footsteps echoed on the deserted pavements. In the public rides there were no carriages, no horses, no animated existence, but a few sleepy policemen, and a few adventurous boys taking advantage of the devastation to swarm up the lamp-posts. In the Westward streets there was no traffic ; in the West- ward shops, no business. The water-patterns, which the Prentices had trickled out on the pavements early in the morning, remained uneffaced by human feet. At the corners of mews, Cochin-China fowls stalked gaunt and savage ; nobody being left in the de- serted city (as it appeared to me), to feed them. Public Houses, where splendid foot- men swinging their legs over gorgeous ham- mer-cloths beside wigged coachmen were wont to regale, were silent, and the unused pewter pots shone, too bright for business, on the shelves.. I beheld a Punch's Show leaning against a wall near Park Lane, as if it had fainted. It was deserted, and there were none to heed its desolation. In Belgrave Square I met the last man an ostler- sitting on a post in a ragged red waistcoat, eating straw, and mildewing away. If I recollect the name of the little town, on whose shore this sea is murmuring but I am not just now, as I have premised, to be relied upon for anything it is Pavilioustone. Witfhin a quarter of a century, it was a little fish- ing town, and they do say, that the time was, when it was a little smuggling town. I have heard that it was rather famous in the hoi- lauds and brandy way, and that coevally with that reputation the lamplighter's was consi- dered a bad life at the Assurance offices. It was observed that if he were not particular about lighting up, he lived in peace ; but, that if he made the best of the oil-lamps in the steep and narrow streets, he usually fell over the clilf at an early age. Now, gas and elec- tricity run to the very water's edge, and the South Eastern Railway Company screech at us in the dead of night. But, the old little fishing and smuggling town remains, and is so tempting a place for the latter purpose, that I think of going out some night next week, in a fur cap and a pair of petticoat trousers, and running an empty tub, as a kind of archaeological pursuit. Let nobody with corns come to Pavilionstone, or there are break- neck nights of ragged steps, connecting the principal streets by back-ways, which will cripple that visitor in half an hour-. These are the ways by which, when I run VOL. XII.