The Appointed Time
Phiz (Hablot K. Browne)
4 1/2 x 4 3/8 inches on a page of 8 7/16 x 5 inches
Facing p. 320 (ch. 32, "The Appointed Time") of Dickens's Bleak House [for text illustrated, see below]
Scanned image and text by George P. Landow.
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Mr. Guppy takes the light. They go down, more dead than alive, and holding one another, push open the door of the back shop. The cat has retreated close to it and stands snarling, not at them, at something on the ground before the fire. There is a very little fire left in the grate, but there is a smouldering, suffocating vapour in the room and a dark, greasy coating on the walls and ceiling. The chairs and table, and the bottle so rarely absent from the table, all stand as usual. On one chair-back hang the old man's hairy cap and coat.
"Look!" whispers the lodger, pointing his friend's attention to these objects with a trembling finger. "I told you so. When I saw him last, he took his cap off, took out the little bundle of old letters, hung his cap on the back of the chair — his coat was there already, for he had pulled that off before he went to put the shutters up — and I left him turning the letters over in his hand, standing just where that crumbled black thing is upon the floor." . . .
They advance slowly, looking at all these things. The cat remains where they found her, still snarling at the something on the ground before the fire and between the two chairs. What is it? Hold up the light.
Here is a small burnt patch of flooring; here is the tinder from a little bundle of burnt paper, but not so light as usual, seeming to be steeped in something; and here is — is it the cinder of a small charred and broken log of wood sprinkled with white ashes, or is it coal? Oh, horror, he IS here! And this from which we run away, striking out the light and overturning one another into the street, is all that represents him.
Help, help, help! Come into this house for heaven's sake! Plenty will come in, but none can help. The Lord Chancellor of that court, true to his title in his last act, has died the death of all lord chancellors in all courts and of all authorities in all places under all names soever, where false pretences are made, and where injustice is done. Call the death by any name your Highness will, attribute it to whom you will, or say it might have been prevented how you will, it is the same death eternally — inborn, inbred, engendered in the corrupted humours of the vicious body itself, and that only — spontaneous combustion, and none other of all the deaths that can be died. [Project Gutenberg etext (see bibliography below)]
Dickens, Charles. Bleak House. London: Bradbury & Evans. Bouverie Street, 1853.
Dickens, Charles. Bleak House. Project Gutenberg etext prepared by Donald Lainson, Toronto, Canada (firstname.lastname@example.org), with revision and corrections by Thomas Berger and Joseph E. Loewenstein, M.D. Seen 9 November 2007.
Last modified 12 November 2007