Tom Tiddler's Ground by Charles Dickens


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Page 1

"Intolerably conceited."

"Mr. Mopes is vain of the life he leads, some do say," replied the
Landlord, as another concession.

"A slothful, unsavoury, nasty reversal of the laws of human mature," said
the Traveller; "and for the sake of GOD'S working world and its
wholesomeness, both moral and physical, I would put the thing on the
treadmill (if I had my way) wherever I found it; whether on a pillar, or
in a hole; whether on Tom Tiddler's ground, or the Pope of Rome's ground,
or a Hindoo fakeer's ground, or any other ground."

"I don't know about putting Mr. Mopes on the treadmill," said the
Landlord, shaking his head very seriously. "There ain't a doubt but what
he has got landed property."

"How far may it be to this said Tom Tiddler's ground?" asked the
Traveller.

"Put it at five mile," returned the Landlord.

"Well! When I have done my breakfast," said the Traveller, "I'll go
there. I came over here this morning, to find it out and see it."

"Many does," observed the Landlord.

The conversation passed, in the Midsummer weather of no remote year of
grace, down among the pleasant dales and trout-streams of a green English
county. No matter what county. Enough that you may hunt there, shoot
there, fish there, traverse long grass-grown Roman roads there, open
ancient barrows there, see many a square mile of richly cultivated land
there, and hold Arcadian talk with a bold peasantry, their country's
pride, who will tell you (if you want to know) how pastoral housekeeping
is done on nine shillings a week.

Mr. Traveller sat at his breakfast in the little sanded parlour of the
Peal of Bells village alehouse, with the dew and dust of an early walk
upon his shoes--an early walk by road and meadow and coppice, that had
sprinkled him bountifully with little blades of grass, and scraps of new
hay, and with leaves both young and old, and with other such fragrant
tokens of the freshness and wealth of summer. The window through which
the landlord had concentrated his gaze upon vacancy was shaded, because
the morning sun was hot and bright on the village street. The village
street was like most other village streets: wide for its height, silent
for its size, and drowsy in the dullest degree. The quietest little
dwellings with the largest of window-shutters (to shut up Nothing as
carefully as if it were the Mint, or the Bank of England) had called in
the Doctor's house so suddenly, that his brass door-plate and three
stories stood among them as conspicuous and different as the doctor
himself in his broadcloth, among the smock-frocks of his patients. The
village residences seemed to have gone to law with a similar absence of
consideration, for a score of weak little lath-and-plaster cabins clung
in confusion about the Attorney's red-brick house, which, with glaring
door-steps and a most terrific scraper, seemed to serve all manner of
ejectments upon them. They were as various as labourers--high-shouldered,
wry-necked, one-eyed, goggle-eyed, squinting, bow-legged, knock-knee'd,
rheumatic, crazy. Some of the small tradesmen's houses, such as the
crockery-shop and the harness-maker, had a Cyclops window in the middle
of the gable, within an inch or two of its apex, suggesting that some
forlorn rural Prentice must wriggle himself into that apartment
horizontally, when he retired to rest, after the manner of the worm. So
bountiful in its abundance was the surrounding country, and so lean and
scant the village, that one might have thought the village had sown and
planted everything it once possessed, to convert the same into crops.
This would account for the bareness of the little shops, the bareness of
the few boards and trestles designed for market purposes in a corner of
the street, the bareness of the obsolete Inn and Inn Yard, with the
ominous inscription "Excise Office" not yet faded out from the gateway,
as indicating the very last thing that poverty could get rid of. This
would also account for the determined abandonment of the village by one
stray dog, fast lessening in the perspective where the white posts and
the pond were, and would explain his conduct on the hypothesis that he
was going (through the act of suicide) to convert himself into manure,
and become a part proprietor in turnips or mangold-wurzel.

Mr. Traveller having finished his breakfast and paid his moderate score,
walked out to the threshold of the Peal of Bells, and, thence directed by
the pointing finger of his host, betook himself towards the ruined
hermitage of Mr. Mopes the hermit.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Sun 15th Dec 2019, 20:57