Its centre object was a dwelling-house, sufficiently substantial, all the window-glass of which had been long ago abolished by the surprising genius of Mopes, and all the windows of which were barred across with rough-split logs of trees nailed over them on the outside. A rickyard, hip-high in vegetable rankness and ruin, contained outbuildings from which the thatch had lightly fluttered away, on all the winds of all the seasons of the year, and from which the planks and beams had heavily dropped and rotted. The frosts and damps of winter, and the heats of summer, had warped what wreck remained, so that not a post or a board retained the position it was meant to hold, but everything was twisted from its purpose, like its owner, and degraded and debased. In this homestead of the sluggard, behind the ruined hedge, and sinking away among the ruined grass and the nettles, were the last perishing fragments of certain ricks: which had gradually mildewed and collapsed, until they looked like mounds of rotten honeycomb, or dirty sponge. Tom Tiddler's ground could even show its ruined water; for, there was a slimy pond into which a tree or two had fallen--one soppy trunk and branches lay across it then--which in its accumulation of stagnant weed, and in its black decomposition, and in all its foulness and filth, was almost comforting, regarded as the only water that could have reflected the shameful place without seeming polluted by that low office.
Mr. Traveller looked all around him on Tom Tiddler's ground, and his glance at last encountered a dusky Tinker lying among the weeds and rank grass, in the shade of the dwelling-house. A rough walking- staff lay on the ground by his side, and his head rested on a small wallet. He met Mr. Traveller's eye without lifting up his head, merely depressing his chin a little (for he was lying on his back) to get a better view of him.
"Good day!" said Mr. Traveller.
"Same to you, if you like it," returned the Tinker.
"Don't YOU like it? It's a very fine day."
"I ain't partickler in weather," returned the Tinker, with a yawn.
Mr. Traveller had walked up to where he lay, and was looking down at him. "This is a curious place," said Mr. Traveller.
"Ay, I suppose so!" returned the Tinker. "Tom Tiddler's ground, they call this."
"Are you well acquainted with it?"
"Never saw it afore to-day," said the Tinker, with another yawn, "and don't care if I never see it again. There was a man here just now, told me what it was called. If you want to see Tom himself, you must go in at that gate." He faintly indicated with his chin a little mean ruin of a wooden gate at the side of the house.
"Have you seen Tom?"
"No, and I ain't partickler to see him. I can see a dirty man anywhere."
"He does not live in the house, then?" said Mr. Traveller, casting his eyes upon the house anew.
"The man said," returned the Tinker, rather irritably,--"him as was here just now, 'this what you're a laying on, mate, is Tom Tiddler's ground. And if you want to see Tom,' he says, 'you must go in at that gate.' The man come out at that gate himself, and he ought to know."
"Certainly," said Mr. Traveller.
"Though, perhaps," exclaimed the Tinker, so struck by the brightness of his own idea, that it had the electric effect upon him of causing him to lift up his head an inch or so, "perhaps he was a liar! He told some rum 'uns--him as was here just now, did about this place of Tom's. He says--him as was here just now--'When Tom shut up the house, mate, to go to rack, the beds was left, all made, like as if somebody was a-going to sleep in every bed. And if you was to walk through the bedrooms now, you'd see the ragged mouldy bedclothes a heaving and a heaving like seas. And a heaving and a heaving with what?' he says. 'Why, with the rats under 'em.'"
"I wish I had seen that man," Mr. Traveller remarked.
"You'd have been welcome to see him instead of me seeing him," growled the Tinker; "for he was a long-winded one."
Not without a sense of injury in the remembrance, the Tinker gloomily closed his eyes.