Master Humphrey's Clock HTML version

Chapter 1
Master Humphrey, From His Clock-Side In The
Chimney Corner
THE reader must not expect to know where I live. At present, it is true, my abode
may be a question of little or no import to anybody; but if I should carry my
readers with me, as I hope to do, and there should spring up between them and
me feelings of homely affection and regard attaching something of interest to
matters ever so slightly connected with my fortunes or my speculations, even my
place of residence might one day have a kind of charm for them. Bearing this
possible contingency in mind, I wish them to understand, in the outset, that they
must never expect to know it.
I am not a churlish old man. Friendless I can never be, for all mankind are my
kindred, and I am on ill terms with no one member of my great family. But for
many years I have led a lonely, solitary life; - what wound I sought to heal, what
sorrow to forget, originally, matters not now; it is sufficient that retirement has
become a habit with me, and that I am unwilling to break the spell which for so
long a time has shed its quiet influence upon my home and heart.
I live in a venerable suburb of London, in an old house which in bygone days was
a famous resort for merry roysterers and peerless ladies, long since departed. It
is a silent, shady place, with a paved courtyard so full of echoes, that sometimes
I am tempted to believe that faint responses to the noises of old times linger
there yet, and that these ghosts of sound haunt my footsteps as I pace it up and
down. I am the more confirmed in this belief, because, of late years, the echoes
that attend my walks have been less loud and marked than they were wont to be;
and it is pleasanter to imagine in them the rustling of silk brocade, and the light
step of some lovely girl, than to recognise in their altered note the failing tread of
an old man.
Those who like to read of brilliant rooms and gorgeous furniture would derive but
little pleasure from a minute description of my simple dwelling. It is dear to me for
the same reason that they would hold it in slight regard. Its worm-eaten doors,
and low ceilings crossed by clumsy beams; its walls of wainscot, dark stairs, and
gaping closets; its small chambers, communicating with each other by winding
passages or narrow steps; its many nooks, scarce larger than its corner-
cupboards; its very dust and dulness, are all dear to me. The moth and spider
are my constant tenants; for in my house the one basks in his long sleep, and the
other plies his busy loom secure and undisturbed. I have a pleasure in thinking