The Chimes HTML version

Chapter 4 - Fourth Quarter.
SOME new remembrance of the ghostly figures in the Bells; some faint
impression of the ringing of the Chimes; some giddy consciousness of having
seen the swarm of phantoms reproduced and reproduced until the recollection of
them lost itself in the confusion of their numbers; some hurried knowledge, how
conveyed to him he knew not, that more years had passed; and Trotty, with the
Spirit of the child attending him, stood looking on at mortal company.
Fat company, rosy-cheeked company, comfortable company. They were but two,
but they were red enough for ten. They sat before a bright fire, with a small low
table between them; and unless the fragrance of hot tea and muffins lingered
longer in that room than in most others, the table had seen service very lately.
But all the cups and saucers being clean, and in their proper places in the corner-
cupboard; and the brass toasting-fork hanging in its usual nook and spreading its
four idle fingers out as if it wanted to be measured for a glove; there remained no
other visible tokens of the meal just finished, than such as purred and washed
their whiskers in the person of the basking cat, and glistened in the gracious, not
to say the greasy, faces of her patrons.
This cosy couple (married, evidently) had made a fair division of the fire between
them, and sat looking at the glowing sparks that dropped into the grate; now
nodding off into a doze; now waking up again when some hot fragment, larger
than the rest, came rattling down, as if the fire were coming with it.
It was in no danger of sudden extinction, however; for it gleamed not only in the
little room, and on the panes of window-glass in the door, and on the curtain half
drawn across them, but in the little shop beyond. A little shop, quite crammed
and choked with the abundance of its stock; a perfectly voracious little shop, with
a maw as accommodating and full as any shark's. Cheese, butter, firewood,
soap, pickles, matches, bacon, table-beer, peg-tops, sweetmeats, boys' kites,
bird-seed, cold ham, birch brooms, hearth- stones, salt, vinegar, blacking, red-
herrings, stationery, lard, mushroom-ketchup, staylaces, loaves of bread,
shuttlecocks, eggs, and slate pencil; everything was fish that came to the net of
this greedy little shop, and all articles were in its net. How many other kinds of
petty merchandise were there, it would be difficult to say; but balls of packthread,
ropes of onions, pounds of candles, cabbage-nets, and brushes, hung in
bunches from the ceiling, like extraordinary fruit; while various odd canisters
emitting aromatic smells, established the veracity of the inscription over the outer
door, which informed the public that the keeper of this little shop was a licensed
dealer in tea, coffee, tobacco, pepper, and snuff.
Glancing at such of these articles as were visible in the shining of the blaze, and
the less cheerful radiance of two smoky lamps which burnt but dimly in the shop
itself, as though its plethora sat heavy on their lungs; and glancing, then, at one
of the two faces by the parlour-fire; Trotty had small difficulty in recognising in the
stout old lady, Mrs. Chickenstalker: always inclined to corpulency, even in the
days when he had known her as established in the general line, and having a
small balance against him in her books.