A House to Let by Collins and Dickens and Gaskell and Procter

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Page 2

For the first month or so, I arranged to leave Trottle at the Wells. I
made this arrangement, not only because there was a good deal to take
care of in the way of my school-children and pensioners, and also of a
new stove in the hall to air the house in my absence, which appeared to
me calculated to blow up and burst; but, likewise because I suspect
Trottle (though the steadiest of men, and a widower between sixty and
seventy) to be what I call rather a Philanderer. I mean, that when any
friend comes down to see me and brings a maid, Trottle is always
remarkably ready to show that maid the Wells of an evening; and that I
have more than once noticed the shadow of his arm, outside the room door
nearly opposite my chair, encircling that maid's waist on the landing,
like a table-cloth brush.

Therefore, I thought it just as well, before any London Philandering took
place, that I should have a little time to look round me, and to see what
girls were in and about the place. So, nobody stayed with me in my new
lodging at first after Trottle had established me there safe and sound,
but Peggy Flobbins, my maid; a most affectionate and attached woman, who
never was an object of Philandering since I have known her, and is not
likely to begin to become so after nine-and-twenty years next March.

It was the fifth of November when I first breakfasted in my new rooms.
The Guys were going about in the brown fog, like magnified monsters of
insects in table-beer, and there was a Guy resting on the door-steps of
the House to Let. I put on my glasses, partly to see how the boys were
pleased with what I sent them out by Peggy, and partly to make sure that
she didn't approach too near the ridiculous object, which of course was
full of sky-rockets, and might go off into bangs at any moment. In this
way it happened that the first time I ever looked at the House to Let,
after I became its opposite neighbour, I had my glasses on. And this
might not have happened once in fifty times, for my sight is uncommonly
good for my time of life; and I wear glasses as little as I can, for fear
of spoiling it.

I knew already that it was a ten-roomed house, very dirty, and much
dilapidated; that the area-rails were rusty and peeling away, and that
two or three of them were wanting, or half-wanting; that there were
broken panes of glass in the windows, and blotches of mud on other panes,
which the boys had thrown at them; that there was quite a collection of
stones in the area, also proceeding from those Young Mischiefs; that
there were games chalked on the pavement before the house, and likenesses
of ghosts chalked on the street-door; that the windows were all darkened
by rotting old blinds, or shutters, or both; that the bills "To Let," had
curled up, as if the damp air of the place had given them cramps; or had
dropped down into corners, as if they were no more. I had seen all this
on my first visit, and I had remarked to Trottle, that the lower part of
the black board about terms was split away; that the rest had become
illegible, and that the very stone of the door-steps was broken across.
Notwithstanding, I sat at my breakfast table on that Please to Remember
the fifth of November morning, staring at the House through my glasses,
as if I had never looked at it before.

All at once--in the first-floor window on my right--down in a low corner,
at a hole in a blind or a shutter--I found that I was looking at a secret
Eye. The reflection of my fire may have touched it and made it shine;
but, I saw it shine and vanish.

The eye might have seen me, or it might not have seen me, sitting there
in the glow of my fire--you can take which probability you prefer,
without offence--but something struck through my frame, as if the sparkle
of this eye had been electric, and had flashed straight at me. It had
such an effect upon me, that I could not remain by myself, and I rang for
Flobbins, and invented some little jobs for her, to keep her in the room.
After my breakfast was cleared away, I sat in the same place with my
glasses on, moving my head, now so, and now so, trying whether, with the
shining of my fire and the flaws in the window-glass, I could reproduce
any sparkle seeming to be up there, that was like the sparkle of an eye.
But no; I could make nothing like it. I could make ripples and crooked
lines in the front of the House to Let, and I could even twist one window
up and loop it into another; but, I could make no eye, nor anything like
an eye. So I convinced myself that I really had seen an eye.

Well, to be sure I could not get rid of the impression of this eye, and
it troubled me and troubled me, until it was almost a torment. I don't
think I was previously inclined to concern my head much about the
opposite House; but, after this eye, my head was full of the house; and I
thought of little else than the house, and I watched the house, and I
talked about the house, and I dreamed of the house. In all this, I fully
believe now, there was a good Providence. But, you will judge for
yourself about that, bye-and-bye.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Sun 15th Dec 2019, 20:55