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Chapter 5 Mr. Durdles and Friend

  • John Jasper, on his way home through the Close, is brought to a stand-still b_he spectacle of Stony Durdles, dinner-bundle and all, leaning his bac_gainst the iron railing of the burial-ground enclosing it from the ol_loister-arches; and a hideous small boy in rags flinging stones at him as _ell-defined mark in the moonlight. Sometimes the stones hit him, an_ometimes they miss him, but Durdles seems indifferent to either fortune. Th_ideous small boy, on the contrary, whenever he hits Durdles, blows a whistl_f triumph through a jagged gap, convenient for the purpose, in the front o_is mouth, where half his teeth are wanting; and whenever he misses him, yelp_ut 'Mulled agin!' and tries to atone for the failure by taking a more correc_nd vicious aim.
  • 'What are you doing to the man?' demands Jasper, stepping out into th_oonlight from the shade.
  • 'Making a cock-shy of him,' replies the hideous small boy.
  • 'Give me those stones in your hand.'
  • 'Yes, I'll give 'em you down your throat, if you come a-ketching hold of me,'
  • says the small boy, shaking himself loose, and backing. 'I'll smash your eye, if you don't look out!'
  • 'Baby-Devil that you are, what has the man done to you?'
  • 'He won't go home.'
  • 'What is that to you?'
  • 'He gives me a 'apenny to pelt him home if I ketches him out too late,' say_he boy. And then chants, like a little savage, half stumbling and hal_ancing among the rags and laces of his dilapidated boots:-
  • 'Widdy widdy wen! I—ket—ches—Im—out—ar—ter—ten, Widdy widdy wy!
  • Then—E—don't—go—then—I—shy— Widdy Widdy Wake-cock warning!'
  • — with a comprehensive sweep on the last word, and one more delivery a_urdles.
  • This would seem to be a poetical note of preparation, agreed upon, as _aution to Durdles to stand clear if he can, or to betake himself homeward.
  • John Jasper invites the boy with a beck of his head to follow him (feeling i_opeless to drag him, or coax him), and crosses to the iron railing where th_tony (and stoned) One is profoundly meditating.
  • 'Do you know this thing, this child?' asks Jasper, at a loss for a word tha_ill define this thing.
  • 'Deputy,' says Durdles, with a nod.
  • 'Is that its — his — name?'
  • 'Deputy,' assents Durdles.
  • 'I'm man-servant up at the Travellers' Twopenny in Gas Works Garding,' thi_hing explains. 'All us man-servants at Travellers' Lodgings is named Deputy.
  • When we're chock full and the Travellers is all a-bed I come out for my
  • 'elth.' Then withdrawing into the road, and taking aim, he resumes:-
  • 'Widdy widdy wen! I—ket—ches—Im—out—ar—ter—'
  • 'Hold your hand,' cries Jasper, 'and don't throw while I stand so near him, o_'ll kill you! Come, Durdles; let me walk home with you to-night. Shall _arry your bundle?'
  • 'Not on any account,' replies Durdles, adjusting it. 'Durdles was making hi_eflections here when you come up, sir, surrounded by his works, like a popla_uthor. — Your own brother-in-law;' introducing a sarcophagus within th_ailing, white and cold in the moonlight. 'Mrs. Sapsea;' introducing th_onument of that devoted wife. 'Late Incumbent;' introducing the Reveren_entleman's broken column. 'Departed Assessed Taxes;' introducing a vase an_owel, standing on what might represent the cake of soap. 'Former pastrycoo_nd Muffin-maker, much respected;' introducing gravestone. 'All safe and soun_ere, sir, and all Durdles's work. Of the common folk, that is merely bundle_p in turf and brambles, the less said the better. A poor lot, soon forgot.'
  • 'This creature, Deputy, is behind us,' says Jasper, looking back. 'Is he t_ollow us?'
  • The relations between Durdles and Deputy are of a capricious kind; for, o_urdles's turning himself about with the slow gravity of beery suddenness, Deputy makes a pretty wide circuit into the road and stands on the defensive.
  • 'You never cried Widdy Warning before you begun to-night,' says Durdles, unexpectedly reminded of, or imagining, an injury.
  • 'Yer lie, I did,' says Deputy, in his only form of polite contradiction.
  • 'Own brother, sir,' observes Durdles, turning himself about again, and a_nexpectedly forgetting his offence as he had recalled or conceived it; 'ow_rother to Peter the Wild Boy! But I gave him an object in life.'
  • 'At which he takes aim?' Mr. Jasper suggests.
  • 'That's it, sir,' returns Durdles, quite satisfied; 'at which he takes aim. _ook him in hand and gave him an object. What was he before? A destroyer. Wha_ork did he do? Nothing but destruction. What did he earn by it? Short term_n Cloisterham jail. Not a person, not a piece of property, not a winder, no_ horse, nor a dog, nor a cat, nor a bird, nor a fowl, nor a pig, but what h_toned, for want of an enlightened object. I put that enlightened objec_efore him, and now he can turn his honest halfpenny by the three penn'orth _eek.'
  • 'I wonder he has no competitors.'
  • 'He has plenty, Mr. Jasper, but he stones 'em all away. Now, I don't know wha_his scheme of mine comes to,' pursues Durdles, considering about it with th_ame sodden gravity; 'I don't know what you may precisely call it. It ain't _ort of a — scheme of a — National Education?'
  • 'I should say not,' replies Jasper.
  • 'I should say not,' assents Durdles; 'then we won't try to give it a name.'
  • 'He still keeps behind us,' repeats Jasper, looking over his shoulder; 'is h_o follow us?'
  • 'We can't help going round by the Travellers' Twopenny, if we go the shor_ay, which is the back way,' Durdles answers, 'and we'll drop him there.'
  • So they go on; Deputy, as a rear rank one, taking open order, and invading th_ilence of the hour and place by stoning every wall, post, pillar, and othe_nanimate object, by the deserted way.
  • 'Is there anything new down in the crypt, Durdles?' asks John Jasper.
  • 'Anything old, I think you mean,' growls Durdles. 'It ain't a spot fo_ovelty.'
  • 'Any new discovery on your part, I meant.'
  • 'There's a old 'un under the seventh pillar on the left as you go down th_roken steps of the little underground chapel as formerly was; I make him out (so fur as I've made him out yet) to be one of them old 'uns with a crook. T_udge from the size of the passages in the walls, and of the steps and doors, by which they come and went, them crooks must have been a good deal in the wa_f the old 'uns! Two on 'em meeting promiscuous must have hitched one anothe_y the mitre pretty often, I should say.'
  • Without any endeavour to correct the literality of this opinion, Jaspe_urveys his companion — covered from head to foot with old mortar, lime, an_tone grit — as though he, Jasper, were getting imbued with a romanti_nterest in his weird life.
  • 'Yours is a curious existence.'
  • Without furnishing the least clue to the question, whether he receives this a_ compliment or as quite the reverse, Durdles gruffly answers: 'Yours i_nother.'
  • 'Well! inasmuch as my lot is cast in the same old earthy, chilly, never- changing place, Yes. But there is much more mystery and interest in you_onnection with the Cathedral than in mine. Indeed, I am beginning to hav_ome idea of asking you to take me on as a sort of student, or free 'prentice, under you, and to let me go about with you sometimes, and see some of thes_dd nooks in which you pass your days.'
  • The Stony One replies, in a general way, 'All right. Everybody knows where t_ind Durdles, when he's wanted.' Which, if not strictly true, is approximatel_o, if taken to express that Durdles may always be found in a state o_agabondage somewhere.
  • 'What I dwell upon most,' says Jasper, pursuing his subject of romanti_nterest, 'is the remarkable accuracy with which you would seem to find ou_here people are buried. — What is the matter? That bundle is in your way; le_e hold it.'
  • Durdles has stopped and backed a little (Deputy, attentive to all hi_ovements, immediately skirmishing into the road), and was looking about fo_ome ledge or corner to place his bundle on, when thus relieved of it.
  • 'Just you give me my hammer out of that,' says Durdles, 'and I'll show you.'
  • Clink, clink. And his hammer is handed him.
  • 'Now, lookee here. You pitch your note, don't you, Mr. Jasper?'
  • 'Yes.'
  • 'So I sound for mine. I take my hammer, and I tap.' (Here he strikes th_avement, and the attentive Deputy skirmishes at a rather wider range, a_upposing that his head may be in requisition.) 'I tap, tap, tap. Solid! I g_n tapping. Solid still! Tap again. Holloa! Hollow! Tap again, persevering.
  • Solid in hollow! Tap, tap, tap, to try it better. Solid in hollow; and insid_olid, hollow again! There you are! Old 'un crumbled away in stone coffin, i_ault!'
  • 'Astonishing!'
  • 'I have even done this,' says Durdles, drawing out his two-foot rule (Deput_eanwhile skirmishing nearer, as suspecting that Treasure may be about to b_iscovered, which may somehow lead to his own enrichment, and the deliciou_reat of the discoverers being hanged by the neck, on his evidence, until the_re dead). 'Say that hammer of mine's a wall — my work. Two; four; and two i_ix,' measuring on the pavement. 'Six foot inside that wall is Mrs. Sapsea.'
  • 'Not really Mrs. Sapsea?'
  • 'Say Mrs. Sapsea. Her wall's thicker, but say Mrs. Sapsea. Durdles taps, tha_all represented by that hammer, and says, after good sounding: "Somethin_etwixt us!" Sure enough, some rubbish has been left in that same six-foo_pace by Durdles's men!'
  • Jasper opines that such accuracy 'is a gift.'
  • 'I wouldn't have it at a gift,' returns Durdles, by no means receiving th_bservation in good part. 'I worked it out for myself. Durdles comes by hi_nowledge through grubbing deep for it, and having it up by the roots when i_on't want to come. — Holloa you Deputy!'
  • 'Widdy!' is Deputy's shrill response, standing off again.
  • 'Catch that ha'penny. And don't let me see any more of you to- night, after w_ome to the Travellers' Twopenny.'
  • 'Warning!' returns Deputy, having caught the halfpenny, and appearing by thi_ystic word to express his assent to the arrangement.
  • They have but to cross what was once the vineyard, belonging to what was onc_he Monastery, to come into the narrow back lane wherein stands the craz_ooden house of two low stories currently known as the Travellers' Twopenny:- a house all warped and distorted, like the morals of the travellers, wit_cant remains of a lattice-work porch over the door, and also of a rusti_ence before its stamped-out garden; by reason of the travellers being s_ound to the premises by a tender sentiment (or so fond of having a fire b_he roadside in the course of the day), that they can never be persuaded o_hreatened into departure, without violently possessing themselves of som_ooden forget-me-not, and bearing it off.
  • The semblance of an inn is attempted to be given to this wretched place b_ragments of conventional red curtaining in the windows, which rags are mad_uddily transparent in the night-season by feeble lights of rush or cotton di_urning dully in the close air of the inside. As Durdles and Jasper come near, they are addressed by an inscribed paper lantern over the door, setting fort_he purport of the house. They are also addressed by some half-dozen othe_ideous small boys — whether twopenny lodgers or followers or hangers-on o_uch, who knows! — who, as if attracted by some carrion-scent of Deputy in th_ir, start into the moonlight, as vultures might gather in the desert, an_nstantly fall to stoning him and one another.
  • 'Stop, you young brutes,' cries Jasper angrily, 'and let us go by!'
  • This remonstrance being received with yells and flying stones, according to _ustom of late years comfortably established among the police regulations o_ur English communities, where Christians are stoned on all sides, as if th_ays of Saint Stephen were revived, Durdles remarks of the young savages, wit_ome point, that 'they haven't got an object,' and leads the way down th_ane.
  • At the corner of the lane, Jasper, hotly enraged, checks his companion an_ooks back. All is silent. Next moment, a stone coming rattling at his hat, and a distant yell of 'Wake-Cock! Warning!' followed by a crow, as from som_nfernally-hatched Chanticleer, apprising him under whose victorious fire h_tands, he turns the corner into safety, and takes Durdles home: Durdle_tumbling among the litter of his stony yard as if he were going to turn hea_oremost into one of the unfinished tombs.
  • John Jasper returns by another way to his gatehouse, and entering softly wit_is key, finds his fire still burning. He takes from a locked press _eculiar-looking pipe, which he fills — but not with tobacco — and, havin_djusted the contents of the bowl, very carefully, with a little instrument, ascends an inner staircase of only a few steps, leading to two rooms. One o_hese is his own sleeping chamber: the other is his nephew's. There is a ligh_n each.
  • His nephew lies asleep, calm and untroubled. John Jasper stands looking dow_pon him, his unlighted pipe in his hand, for some time, with a fixed and dee_ttention. Then, hushing his footsteps, he passes to his own room, lights hi_ipe, and delivers himself to the Spectres it invokes at midnight.