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STRING OF PEARLS
[the original 1846/47 penny dreadful featuring SWEENEY TODD
THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET, ed.]
THE SPECTACLE MAKER'S DAUGHTER
'Johanna, Johanna, my dear, do you know what time it is? Johanna, I say, my dear, are you going to get up? Here's your mother has trotted out to parson Lupin's and you know I have to go to Alderman Judd's house in Cripplegate the first thing, and I haven't had a morsel of breakfast yet. Johanna, my dear, do you hear me?'
These observations were made by Mr Oakley, the spectacle-maker, at the door of his daughter Johanna's chamber, on the morning after the events we have just recorded at Sweeney Todd's; and presently a soft sweet voice answered him, saying,-
'I am coming, father, I am coming: in a moment, father, I shall be down.'
'Don't hurry yourself, my darling, I can wait.'
The little old spectacle-maker descended the staircase again and
sat down in the parlour at the back of the shop where, in a few moments, he was joined by Johanna, his only and his much-loved child.
She was indeed a creature of the rarest grace and beauty. Her age was eighteen, but she looked rather younger, and upon her face she had that sweetness and intelligence of expression which almost bids defiance to the march of time. Her hair was of a glossy blackness, and what was rare in conjunction with such a feature, her eyes were of a deep and heavenly blue. There was nothing of the commanding or of the severe style of beauty about her, but the expression of her face was all grace and sweetness. It was one of those countenances which one could look at for a long summer's day, as upon the pages of some deeply interesting volume, which furnished the most abundant food for pleasant and delightful reflection.
There was a touch of sadness about her voice, which, perhaps, only tended to make it the more musical, although mournfully so, and which seemed to indicate that at the bottom of her heart there lay some grief which had not yet been spoken - some cherished aspiration of her pure soul, which looked hopeless as regards completion - some remembrance of a former joy, which had been turned to bitterness and grief: it was the cloud in the sunny sky - the shadow through which there still gleamed bright and beautiful sunshine, but which still proclaimed its presence.
'I have kept you waiting, father,' she said, as she flung her arms about the old man's neck. 'I have kept you waiting.'
'Never mind, my dear, never mind. Your mother is so taken up with Mr Lupin, that you know, this being Wednesday morning, she is off to his prayer meeting, and so I have had no breakfast; and really I think I must discharge Sam.'
'Indeed, father! what has he done?'
'Nothing at all, and that's the very reason. I had to take down the shutters myself this morning, and what do you think for? He had the coolness to tell me that he couldn't take down the shutter this morning, or sweep out the shop, because his aunt had the toothache.'
'A poor excuse, father,' said Johanna, as she bustled about and got the breakfast ready; 'a very poor excuse!'
'Poor indeed! but his month is up today, and I must get rid of him. But I suppose I shall have no end of bother with your mother, because his aunt belongs to Mr Lupin's congregation; but as sure as this is the 20th day of August -'
'It is the 20th day of August,' said Johanna, as she sank into a chair and burst into tears. 'It is, it is! I thought I could have controlled this, but I cannot, father, I cannot. It was that which made me late. I knew mother was out; I knew that I ought to be down and attending upon you, and I was praying to Heaven for strength to do so because this was the 20th of August.'
Johanna spoke these words incoherently and amidst sobs, and when she had finished them she leant her sweet face upon her small hands and wept like a child.
The astonishment, not unmingled with positive dismay, of the old spectacle-maker, was vividly depicted on his countenance, and for some minutes he sat perfectly aghast, with his hands resting on his knees, and looking in the face of his beautiful child - that is to say, as much as he could see of it between those little taper fingers that were spread upon it - as if he were newly awakened from some dream.
'Good God, Johanna!' he said at length, 'what is this? my dear child, what has happened? Tell me, my dear, unless you wish to kill me with grief.'
'You shall know, father,' she said. 'I did not think to say a word about it, but considered I had strength enough of mind to keep my sorrows in my own breast, but the effort has been too much for me, and I have been compelled to yield. If you had not looked so kindly on me - if I did not know that you loved me as you do, I should easily have kept my secret, but knowing that much, I cannot.'
'My darling,' said the old man, 'you are right, there; I do love you. What would the world be to me now without you? There was a time, twenty years ago, when your mother made up much of my happiness, but of late, what with Mr Lupin, and psalm-singing, and tea-drinking, I see very little of her, and what little I do see is not very satisfactory. Tell me, my darling, what it is that vexes you, and I'll soon put it to rights. I don't belong to the City train-bands for nothing.'
'Father, I know that your affection would do all for me that it is possible to do, but you cannot recall the dead to life; and if this day passes over and I see him not, or hear not from him, I know that, instead of finding a home for me whom he loved, he has in the effort to do so found a grave for himself. He said he would, he said he would.'
Here she wrung her hands, and wept again, and with such a bitterness of anguish that the old spectacle-maker was at his wit's end, and knew not what on earth to do or say.
'My dear, my dear!' he cried, 'who is he? I hope you don't mean -
'Hush, father, hush! I know the name that is hovering on your lips, but something seems even now to whisper to me he is no more, and, being so, speak nothing of him, father, but that which is good.'
'You mean Mark Ingestrie.'
'I do, and if he had a thousand faults, he at least loved me. He loved me truly and most sincerely.'
'My dear,' said the old spectacle-maker, 'you know that I wouldn't for all the world say anything to vex you, nor will I; but tell me what it is that makes this day more than any other so gloomy to you.
'I will, father; you shall hear. It was on this day two years ago that we last met; it was in the Temple-gardens, and he had just had a stormy interview with his uncle, Mr Grant, and you will understand, father, that Mark Ingestrie was not to blame, because -'
'Well, well, my dear, you needn't say anything more upon that point. Girls very seldom admit their lovers are to blame, but there are two ways, you know, Johanna, of telling a story.'
'Yes; but, father, why should Mr Grant seek to force him to the study of a profession he disliked?'
'My dear, one would have thought that if Mark Ingestrie really loved you, and found that he might make you his wife, and acquire an honourable subsistence both for you and himself - it seems a very wonderful thing to me that he did not do so. You see, my dear, he should have liked you well enough to do something else that he did not like.'
'Yes, but, father, you know it is hard, when disagreements once arise, for a young ardent spirit to give in entirely; and so from one word, poor Mark, in his disputes with his uncle, got to another, when perhaps one touch of kindness or conciliation from Mr Grant would have made him quite pliant in his hands.'
'Yes, that's the way,' said Mr Oakley; 'there is no end of excuses: but go on, my dear, go on, and tell me exactly how this affair now stands.'
'I will, father. It was this day two years ago then that we met, and he told me that he and his uncle had at last quarrelled irreconcilably, and that nothing could possibly now patch up the difference between them. We had a long talk.'
'Ah! no doubt of that.'
'And at length he told me that he must go and seek his fortune - that fortune which he hoped to share with me. He said that he had an opportunity of undertaking a voyage to India, and that if he were successful he should have sufficient to return with and commence some pursuit in London, more congenial to his thoughts and habits than the law.'
'Ah, well! what next?'
'He told me that he loved me.'
'And you believed him?'
'Father, you would have believed him had you heard him speak. His tones were those of such deep sincerity that no actor who ever charmed an audience with an unreal existence could have reached them. There are times and seasons when we know that we are listening to the majestic voice of truth, and there are tones which sink at once into the heart, carrying with them a conviction of their sincerity which neither time nor circumstance can alter; and such were the tones in which Mark Ingestrie spoke to me.'
'And so you suppose, Johanna, that it is easy for a young man who has not patience or energy enough to be respectable at home, to go abroad and make his fortune. Is idleness so much in request in other countries, that it receives such a rich reward, my dear?'
'You judge him harshly, father; you do not know him.'
'Heaven forbid that I should judge anyone harshly! and I will freely admit that you may know more of his real character than I can, who of course have only seen its surface; but go on, my dear, and tell me all.'
'We made an agreement, father, that on that day two years he was to come to me or send me some news of his whereabouts; if I heard nothing of him I was to conclude he was no more, and I cannot help so concluding now.
'But the day has not yet passed.'
'I know it has not, and yet I rest upon but a slender hope, father. Do you believe that dreams ever really shadow forthcoming events?'
'I cannot say, my child; I am not disposed to yield credence to any supposed fact because I have dreamt it, but I confess to having heard some strange instances where these visions of the night have come strictly true.'
'Heaven knows but this may be one of them! I had a dream last night. I thought that I was sitting upon the sea-shore, and that all before me was nothing but a fathomless waste of waters. I heard the roar and the dash of the waves distinctly, and each moment the wind grew more furious and fierce, and I saw in the distance a ship - it was battling with the waves, which at one moment lifted it mountains high, and at another plunged it far down into such an abyss, that not a vestige of it could be seen but the topmost spars of the tall masts. And still the storm increased each moment in its fury, and ever and anon there came a strange sullen sound across the waters, and I saw a flash of fire, and knew that those in the ill-fated vessel were thus endeavouring to attract attention and some friendly aid. Father, from the first to the last I knew that Mark Ingestrie was there - my heart told me so: I was certain he was there, and I was helpless - utterly helpless, utterly and entirely unable to lend the slightest aid. I could only gaze upon what was going forward as a silent and terrified spectator of the scene. And at last I heard a cry come over the deep - a strange, loud, wailing cry - which proclaimed to me the fate of the vessel. I saw its masts shiver for a moment in the blackened air, and then all was still for a few seconds, until there arose a strange, wild shriek, that I knew was the despairing cry of those who sank, never to rise again, in that vessel. Oh! that was a frightful sound - it was a sound to linger on the ears, and haunt the memory of sleep - it was a sound never to be forgotten when once heard, but such as might again and again be remembered with horror and affright.'
'And all this was in your dream?'
'It was, father, it was.'
'And you were helpless?'
'I was - utterly and entirely helpless.'
'It was very sad.'
'It was, as you shall hear. The ship went down, and that cry that I had heard was the last despairing one given by those who clung to the wreck with scarce a hope, and yet because it was their only refuge, for where else had they to look for the smallest ray of consolation? where else, save in the surging waters, were they to hunt for safety? Nowhere! all was lost! all was despair! I tried to scream - I tried to cry aloud to Heaven to have mercy upon those brave and gallant souls who had trusted their dearest possession - life itself - to the mercy of the deep; and while I so tried to render so inefficient succour, I saw a small speck in the sea, and my straining eyes perceived that it was a man floating and clinging to a piece of the wreck, and I knew it was Mark Ingestrie.'
'But, my dear, surely you are not annoyed at a dream?'
'It saddened me; I stretched out my arms to save him - I heard him pronounce my name, and call upon me for help. 'Twas all in vain; he baffled with the waves as long as human nature could baffle with them. He could do no more, and I saw him disappear before my anxious eyes.'
'Don't say you saw him, my dear, say you fancy you saw him.'
'It was such a fancy as I shall not lose the remembrance of for many a day.'
'Well, well, after all, my dear, it's only a dream; and it seems to me, without at all adverting to anything that should give you pain as regards Mark Ingestrie, that you made a very foolish bargain; for only consider how many difficulties might arise in the way of his keeping faith with you. You know I have your happiness so much at heart that, if Mark had been a worthy man and an industrious one, I should not have opposed myself to your union; but, believe me, my dear Johanna, that a young man with great facilities for spending money, and none whatever for earning any, is just about the worst husband you could choose, and such a man was Mark Ingestrie. But come, we will say nothing of this to your mother; let the secret, if we may call it such, rest with me; and if you can inform me in what capacity and in what vessel he left England, I will not carry my prejudice so far against him as to hesitate about making what enquiry I can concerning his fate.'
'I know nothing more, father; we parted, and never met again.'
'Well, well! dry your eyes, Johanna, and, as I go to Alderman Judd's, I'll think over the matter, which, after all, may not be so bad as you think. The lad is a good-enough-looking lad, and has, I believe, a good ability, if he would put it to some useful purpose; but if he goes scampering about the world in an unsettled manner, you are well rid of him, and as for his being dead, you must not conclude that by any means, for somehow or another, like a bad penny, these fellows always come back.'
There was more consolation in the kindly tone of the spectacle-maker than in the words he used; but, upon the whole, Johanna was well enough pleased that she had communicated the secret to her father, for now, at all events, she had someone to whom she could mention the name of Mark Ingestrie, without the necessity of concealing the sentiment with which she did so; and when her father had gone, she felt that, by the mere relation of it to him, some of the terrors of her dream had vanished.
She sat for some time in a pleasing reverie, till she was interrupted by Sam, the shop-boy, who came into the parlour and said, 'Please, Miss Johanna, suppose I was to go down to the docks and try and find out for you Mr Mark Ingestrie. I say, suppose I was to do that. I heard it all, and if I do find him I'll soon settle him.'
'What do you mean?'
'I means that I won't stand it; didn't I tell you, more than three weeks ago, as you was the object of my infections? Didn't I tell you that when aunt died I should come in for the soap and candle business, and make you my missus?'
The only reply which Johanna gave to this was to rise and leave the room, for her heart was too full of grief and sad speculation to enable her to do now as she had often been in the habit of doing -viz., laugh at Sam's protestations of affection, so he was left to chew the cud of sweet and bitter fancy by himself.
'A thousand damns!' said he, when he entered the shop: 'I always suspected there was some other fellow, and now I know it I am ready to gnaw my head off that ever I consented to come here. Confound him! I hope he is at the bottom of the sea, and eat up by this time. Oh! I should like to smash everybody. If I had my way now I'd just walk into society at large, as they calls it, and let it know what one, two, three, slap in the eye, is - and down it would go.'
Mr Sam, in his rage, did upset a case of spectacles, which went down with a tremendous crash, and which, however good an imitation of the manner in which society at large was to be knocked down, was not likely to be at all pleasing to Mr Oakley.
'I have done it now,' he said; 'but never mind; I'll try the old dodge whenever I break anything; that is, I'll place it in old Oakley's way, and swear he did it. I never knew such an old goose; you may persuade him into anything; the idea, now, of his pulling down all the shutters this morning because I told him my aunt had the toothache; that was a go, to be sure. But I'll be revenged of that fellow who has took away, I consider, Johanna from me; I'll let him know what a blighted heart is capable of. He won't live long enough to want a pair of spectacles, I'll be bound, or else my name ain't Sam Bolt.'
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