THE SEVEN POOR TRAVELLERS.BEING THE EXTRA CHRISTMAS NUMBER OF HOUSEHOLD WORDS.
CONDUCTED BY CHARLES DICKENS.
CONTAINING THE AMOUNT OF ONE REGULAR NUMBER AND A HALF.
INDEX TO THE SEVEN POOR TRAVELLERS.
STRICTLY speaking, there were only six Poor
Travellers; but, being a Traveller myself,
though an idle one, and being withal as poor
as I hope to be, I brought the number up to
seven. This word of explanation is due at
once, for what says the inscription over the
quaint old door?
RICHARD WATTS, Esq.
by his Will, dated 22 Aug. 1579,
founded this Charity
for Six poor Travellers,
who not being ROGUES,or PROCTORS,
May receive gratis for one Night,
and Four-pence each.
It was in the ancient little city of Rochester
in Kent, of all the good days in the year
upon a Christmas Eve, that I stood reading
this inscription over the quaint old door
in question. I had been wandering about
the neighbouring Cathedral, and had seen
the tomb of Richard Watts, with the effigy of
worthy Master Richard starting out of it like
a ship's figure-head; and I had felt that I
could do no less, as I gave the Verger his
fee, than inquire the way to Watts's Charity.
The way being very short and very plain, I
had come prosperously to the inscription and
the quaint old door.
"Now," said I to myself, as I looked at the
knocker, "I know I am not a Proctor; I
wonder whether I am a Rogue!"
Upon the whole, though Conscience repro-
duced two or three pretty faces which might
have had smaller attraction for a moral Goliath
than they had had for me, who am but a
Tom Thumb in that way, I came to the con-
clusion that I was not a Rogue. So, beginning
to regard the establishment as in some sort
my property, bequeathed to me and divers
co-legatees, share and share alike, by the
Worshipful Master Richard Watts, I stepped
backward into the road to survey my inheritance.
I found it to be a clean white house, of a
staid and venerable air, with the quaint old
door already three times mentioned (an
arched door), choice little long low lattice-
windows, and a roof of three gables. The
silent High Street of Rochester is full of
gables, with old beams and timbers carved
into strange faces. It is oddly garnished with
a queer old clock that projects over the pave-
ment out of a grave red brick building, as if
Time carried on business there, and hung out
his sign. Sooth to say, he did an active stroke
of work in Rochester, in the old days of the
Romans, and the Saxons, and the Normans,
and down to the times of King John, when
the rugged castle—I will not undertake to
say how many hundreds of years old then—
was abandoned to the centuries of weather
which have so defaced the dark apertures in
its walls, that the ruin looks as if the rooks
and daws had picked its eyes out.
I was very well pleased, both with my
property and its situation. While I was yet
surveying it with growing content, I espied
at one of the upper lattices which stood open,
a decent body, of a wholesome matronly
appearance, whose eyes I caught inquiringly
addressed to mine. They said so plainly,
"Do you wish to see the house?" that I
answered aloud, "Yes, if you please." And
within a minute the old door opened, and I
bent my head, and went down two steps into
"This," said the matronly presence, ushering
me into a low room on the right, "is
where the Travellers sit by the fire, and cook
What bits of suppers they buy with their
"Oh! Then they have no Entertainment?"
said I. For, the inscription over the outer
door was still running in my head, and I
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