The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargin
Part 3 out of 3
"Don't say, afraid; it is a comfort to me; it speaks to me in so
many ways. The innocent thing that never lived on earth, is like
an angel to me, William."
"You are like an angel to father and me," said Mr. William, softly.
"I know that."
"When I think of all those hopes I built upon it, and the many
times I sat and pictured to myself the little smiling face upon my
bosom that never lay there, and the sweet eyes turned up to mine
that never opened to the light," said Milly, "I can feel a greater
tenderness, I think, for all the disappointed hopes in which there
is no harm. When I see a beautiful child in its fond mother's
arms, I love it all the better, thinking that my child might have
been like that, and might have made my heart as proud and happy."
Redlaw raised his head, and looked towards her.
"All through life, it seems by me," she continued, "to tell me
something. For poor neglected children, my little child pleads as
if it were alive, and had a voice I knew, with which to speak to
me. When I hear of youth in suffering or shame, I think that my
child might have come to that, perhaps, and that God took it from
me in His mercy. Even in age and grey hair, such as father's, it
is present: saying that it too might have lived to be old, long
and long after you and I were gone, and to have needed the respect
and love of younger people."
Her quiet voice was quieter than ever, as she took her husband's
arm, and laid her head against it.
"Children love me so, that sometimes I half fancy--it's a silly
fancy, William--they have some way I don't know of, of feeling for
my little child, and me, and understanding why their love is
precious to me. If I have been quiet since, I have been more
happy, William, in a hundred ways. Not least happy, dear, in this-
-that even when my little child was born and dead but a few days,
and I was weak and sorrowful, and could not help grieving a little,
the thought arose, that if I tried to lead a good life, I should
meet in Heaven a bright creature, who would call me, Mother!"
Redlaw fell upon his knees, with a loud cry.
"O Thou, he said, "who through the teaching of pure love, hast
graciously restored me to the memory which was the memory of Christ
upon the Cross, and of all the good who perished in His cause,
receive my thanks, and bless her!"
Then, he folded her to his heart; and Milly, sobbing more than
ever, cried, as she laughed, "He is come back to himself! He likes
me very much indeed, too! Oh, dear, dear, dear me, here's
Then, the student entered, leading by the hand a lovely girl, who
was afraid to come. And Redlaw so changed towards him, seeing in
him and his youthful choice, the softened shadow of that chastening
passage in his own life, to which, as to a shady tree, the dove so
long imprisoned in his solitary ark might fly for rest and company,
fell upon his neck, entreating them to be his children.
Then, as Christmas is a time in which, of all times in the year,
the memory of every remediable sorrow, wrong, and trouble in the
world around us, should be active with us, not less than our own
experiences, for all good, he laid his hand upon the boy, and,
silently calling Him to witness who laid His hand on children in
old time, rebuking, in the majesty of His prophetic knowledge,
those who kept them from Him, vowed to protect him, teach him, and
Then, he gave his right hand cheerily to Philip, and said that they
would that day hold a Christmas dinner in what used to be, before
the ten poor gentlemen commuted, their great Dinner Hall; and that
they would bid to it as many of that Swidger family, who, his son
had told him, were so numerous that they might join hands and make
a ring round England, as could be brought together on so short a
And it was that day done. There were so many Swidgers there, grown
up and children, that an attempt to state them in round numbers
might engender doubts, in the distrustful, of the veracity of this
history. Therefore the attempt shall not be made. But there they
were, by dozens and scores--and there was good news and good hope
there, ready for them, of George, who had been visited again by his
father and brother, and by Milly, and again left in a quiet sleep.
There, present at the dinner, too, were the Tetterbys, including
young Adolphus, who arrived in his prismatic comforter, in good
time for the beef. Johnny and the baby were too late, of course,
and came in all on one side, the one exhausted, the other in a
supposed state of double-tooth; but that was customary, and not
It was sad to see the child who had no name or lineage, watching
the other children as they played, not knowing how to talk with
them, or sport with them, and more strange to the ways of childhood
than a rough dog. It was sad, though in a different way, to see
what an instinctive knowledge the youngest children there had of
his being different from all the rest, and how they made timid
approaches to him with soft words and touches, and with little
presents, that he might not be unhappy. But he kept by Milly, and
began to love her--that was another, as she said!--and, as they all
liked her dearly, they were glad of that, and when they saw him
peeping at them from behind her chair, they were pleased that he
was so close to it.
All this, the Chemist, sitting with the student and his bride that
was to be, Philip, and the rest, saw.
Some people have said since, that he only thought what has been
herein set down; others, that he read it in the fire, one winter
night about the twilight time; others, that the Ghost was but the
representation of his gloomy thoughts, and Milly the embodiment of
his better wisdom. _I_ say nothing.
- Except this. That as they were assembled in the old Hall, by no
other light than that of a great fire (having dined early), the
shadows once more stole out of their hiding-places, and danced
about the room, showing the children marvellous shapes and faces on
the walls, and gradually changing what was real and familiar there,
to what was wild and magical. But that there was one thing in the
Hall, to which the eyes of Redlaw, and of Milly and her husband,
and of the old man, and of the student, and his bride that was to
be, were often turned, which the shadows did not obscure or change.
Deepened in its gravity by the fire-light, and gazing from the
darkness of the panelled wall like life, the sedate face in the
portrait, with the beard and ruff, looked down at them from under
its verdant wreath of holly, as they looked up at it; and, clear
and plain below, as if a voice had uttered them, were the words.
Lord keep my Memory green.
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