The Old Curiosity Shop
Part 12 out of 13
'Very well,' returned Miss Brass. 'My brother and I are just the
same. I can take any instructions, or give you any advice.'
'As there are other parties interested besides myself,' said the
single gentleman, rising and opening the door of an inner room, 'we
had better confer together. Miss Brass is here, gentlemen.'
Mr Garland and the Notary walked in, looking very grave; and,
drawing up two chairs, one on each side of the single gentleman,
formed a kind of fence round the gentle Sarah, and penned her into
a corner. Her brother Sampson under such circumstances would
certainly have evinced some confusion or anxiety, but she--all
composure--pulled out the tin box, and calmly took a pinch of
'Miss Brass,' said the Notary, taking the word at this crisis, 'we
professional people understand each other, and, when we choose, can
say what we have to say, in very few words. You advertised a
runaway servant, the other day?'
'Well,' returned Miss Sally, with a sudden flush overspreading her
features, 'what of that?'
'She is found, ma'am,' said the Notary, pulling out his pocket-
handkerchief with a flourish. 'She is found.'
'Who found her?' demanded Sarah hastily.
'We did, ma'am--we three. Only last night, or you would have
heard from us before.'
'And now I have heard from you,' said Miss Brass, folding her arms
as though she were about to deny something to the death, 'what have
you got to say? Something you have got into your heads about her,
of course. Prove it, will you--that's all. Prove it. You have
found her, you say. I can tell you (if you don't know it) that you
have found the most artful, lying, pilfering, devilish little minx
that was ever born.--Have you got her here?' she added, looking
'No, she is not here at present,' returned the Notary. 'But she is
'Ha!' cried Sally, twitching a pinch of snuff out of her box, as
spitefully as if she were in the very act of wrenching off the
small servant's nose; 'she shall be safe enough from this time, I
'I hope so,' replied the Notary. 'Did it occur to you for the
first time, when you found she had run away, that there were two
keys to your kitchen door?'
Miss Sally took another pinch, and putting her head on one side,
looked at her questioner, with a curious kind of spasm about her
mouth, but with a cunning aspect of immense expression.
'Two keys,' repeated the Notary; 'one of which gave her the
opportunities of roaming through the house at nights when you
supposed her fast locked up, and of overhearing confidential
consultations--among others, that particular conference, to be
described to-day before a justice, which you will have an
opportunity of hearing her relate; that conference which you and Mr
Brass held together, on the night before that most unfortunate and
innocent young man was accused of robbery, by a horrible device of
which I will only say that it may be characterised by the epithets
which you have applied to this wretched little witness, and by a
few stronger ones besides.'
Sally took another pinch. Although her face was wonderfully
composed, it was apparent that she was wholly taken by surprise,
and that what she had expected to be taxed with, in connection with
her small servant, was something very different from this.
'Come, come, Miss Brass,' said the Notary, 'you have great command
of feature, but you feel, I see, that by a chance which never
entered your imagination, this base design is revealed, and two of
its plotters must be brought to justice. Now, you know the pains
and penalties you are liable to, and so I need not dilate upon
them, but I have a proposal to make to you. You have the honour of
being sister to one of the greatest scoundrels unhung; and, if I
may venture to say so to a lady, you are in every respect quite
worthy of him. But connected with you two is a third party, a
villain of the name of Quilp, the prime mover of the whole
diabolical device, who I believe to be worse than either. For his
sake, Miss Brass, do us the favour to reveal the whole history of
this affair. Let me remind you that your doing so, at our
instance, will place you in a safe and comfortable position--your
present one is not desirable--and cannot injure your brother; for
against him and you we have quite sufficient evidence (as you hear)
already. I will not say to you that we suggest this course in
mercy (for, to tell you the truth, we do not entertain any regard
for you), but it is a necessity to which we are reduced, and I
recommend it to you as a matter of the very best policy. Time,'
said Mr Witherden, pulling out his watch, 'in a business like this,
is exceedingly precious. Favour us with your decision as speedily
as possible, ma'am.'
With a smile upon her face, and looking at each of the three by
turns, Miss Brass took two or three more pinches of snuff, and
having by this time very little left, travelled round and round the
box with her forefinger and thumb, scraping up another. Having
disposed of this likewise and put the box carefully in her pocket,
'I am to accept or reject at once, am I?'
'Yes,' said Mr Witherden.
The charming creature was opening her lips to speak in reply, when
the door was hastily opened too, and the head of Sampson Brass was
thrust into the room.
'Excuse me,' said the gentleman hastily. 'Wait a bit!'
So saying, and quite indifferent to the astonishment his presence
occasioned, he crept in, shut the door, kissed his greasy glove as
servilely as if it were the dust, and made a most abject bow.
'Sarah,' said Brass, 'hold your tongue if you please, and let me
speak. Gentlemen, if I could express the pleasure it gives me to
see three such men in a happy unity of feeling and concord of
sentiment, I think you would hardly believe me. But though I am
unfortunate--nay, gentlemen, criminal, if we are to use harsh
expressions in a company like this--still, I have my feelings like
other men. I have heard of a poet, who remarked that feelings were
the common lot of all. If he could have been a pig, gentlemen, and
have uttered that sentiment, he would still have been immortal.'
'If you're not an idiot,' said Miss Brass harshly, 'hold your
'Sarah, my dear,' returned her brother, 'thank you. But I know
what I am about, my love, and will take the liberty of expressing
myself accordingly. Mr Witherden, Sir, your handkerchief is
hanging out of your pocket--would you allow me to--,
As Mr Brass advanced to remedy this accident, the Notary shrunk
from him with an air of disgust. Brass, who over and above his
usual prepossessing qualities, had a scratched face, a green shade
over one eye, and a hat grievously crushed, stopped short, and
looked round with a pitiful smile.
'He shuns me,' said Sampson, 'even when I would, as I may say, heap
coals of fire upon his head. Well! Ah! But I am a falling house,
and the rats (if I may be allowed the expression in reference to a
gentleman I respect and love beyond everything) fly from me!
Gentlemen--regarding your conversation just now, I happened to see
my sister on her way here, and, wondering where she could be going
to, and being--may I venture to say?--naturally of a suspicious
turn, followed her. Since then, I have been listening.'
'If you're not mad,' interposed Miss Sally, 'stop there, and say no
'Sarah, my dear,' rejoined Brass with undiminished politeness, 'I
thank you kindly, but will still proceed. Mr Witherden, sir, as we
have the honour to be members of the same profession--to say
nothing of that other gentleman having been my lodger, and having
partaken, as one may say, of the hospitality of my roof--I think
you might have given me the refusal of this offer in the first
instance. I do indeed. Now, my dear Sir,' cried Brass, seeing
that the Notary was about to interrupt him, 'suffer me to speak, I
Mr Witherden was silent, and Brass went on.
'If you will do me the favour,' he said, holding up the green
shade, and revealing an eye most horribly discoloured, 'to look at
this, you will naturally inquire, in your own minds, how did I get
it. If you look from that, to my face, you will wonder what could
have been the cause of all these scratches. And if from them to my
hat, how it came into the state in which you see it. Gentlemen,'
said Brass, striking the hat fiercely with his clenched hand, 'to
all these questions I answer--Quilp!'
The three gentlemen looked at each other, but said nothing.
'I say,' pursued Brass, glancing aside at his sister, as though he
were talking for her information, and speaking with a snarling
malignity, in violent contrast to his usual smoothness, 'that I
answer to all these questions,--Quilp--Quilp, who deludes me into
his infernal den, and takes a delight in looking on and chuckling
while I scorch, and burn, and bruise, and maim myself--Quilp, who
never once, no never once, in all our communications together, has
treated me otherwise than as a dog--Quilp, whom I have always
hated with my whole heart, but never so much as lately. He gives
me the cold shoulder on this very matter as if he had had nothing
to do with it, instead of being the first to propose it. I can't
trust him. In one of his howling, raving, blazing humours, I
believe he'd let it out, if it was murder, and never think of
himself so long as he could terrify me. Now,' said Brass, picking
up his hat again and replacing the shade over his eye, and actually
crouching down, in the excess of his servility, 'What does all this
lead to?--what should you say it led me to, gentlemen?--could you
guess at all near the mark?'
Nobody spoke. Brass stood smirking for a little while, as if he
had propounded some choice conundrum; and then said:
'To be short with you, then, it leads me to this. If the truth has
come out, as it plainly has in a manner that there's no standing up
against--and a very sublime and grand thing is Truth, gentlemen,
in its way, though like other sublime and grand things, such as
thunder-storms and that, we're not always over and above glad to
see it--I had better turn upon this man than let this man turn
upon me. It's clear to me that I am done for. Therefore, if
anybody is to split, I had better be the person and have the
advantage of it. Sarah, my dear, comparatively speaking you're
safe. I relate these circumstances for my own profit.'
With that, Mr Brass, in a great hurry, revealed the whole story;
bearing as heavily as possible on his amiable employer, and making
himself out to be rather a saint-like and holy character, though
subject--he acknowledged--to human weaknesses. He concluded
'Now, gentlemen, I am not a man who does things by halves. Being
in for a penny, I am ready, as the saying is, to be in for a pound.
You must do with me what you please, and take me where you please.
If you wish to have this in writing, we'll reduce it into
manuscript immediately. You will be tender with me, I am sure. I
am quite confident you will be tender with me. You are men of
honour, and have feeling hearts. I yielded from necessity to
Quilp, for though necessity has no law, she has her lawyers. I
yield to you from necessity too; from policy besides; and because
of feelings that have been a pretty long time working within me.
Punish Quilp, gentlemen. Weigh heavily upon him. Grind him down.
Tread him under foot. He has done as much by me, for many and many
Having now arrived at the conclusion of his discourse, Sampson
checked the current of his wrath, kissed his glove again, and
smiled as only parasites and cowards can.
'And this,' said Miss Brass, raising her head, with which she had
hitherto sat resting on her hands, and surveying him from head to
foot with a bitter sneer, 'this is my brother, is it! This is my
brother, that I have worked and toiled for, and believed to have
had something of the man in him!'
'Sarah, my dear,' returned Sampson, rubbing his hands feebly; you
disturb our friends. Besides you--you're disappointed, Sarah,
and, not knowing what you say, expose yourself.'
'Yes, you pitiful dastard,' retorted the lovely damsel, 'I
understand you. You feared that I should be beforehand with you.
But do you think that I would have been enticed to say a word! I'd
have scorned it, if they had tried and tempted me for twenty
'He he!' simpered Brass, who, in his deep debasement, really seemed
to have changed sexes with his sister, and to have made over to her
any spark of manliness he might have possessed. 'You think so,
Sarah, you think so perhaps; but you would have acted quite
different, my good fellow. You will not have forgotten that it was
a maxim with Foxey--our revered father, gentlemen--"Always
suspect everybody." That's the maxim to go through life with! If
you were not actually about to purchase your own safety when I
showed myself, I suspect you'd have done it by this time. And
therefore I've done it myself, and spared you the trouble as well
as the shame. The shame, gentlemen,' added Brass, allowing himself
to be slightly overcome, 'if there is any, is mine. It's better
that a female should be spared it.'
With deference to the better opinion of Mr Brass, and more
particularly to the authority of his Great Ancestor, it may be
doubted, with humility, whether the elevating principle laid down
by the latter gentleman, and acted upon by his descendant, is
always a prudent one, or attended in practice with the desired
results. This is, beyond question, a bold and presumptuous doubt,
inasmuch as many distinguished characters, called men of the world,
long-headed customers, knowing dogs, shrewd fellows, capital hands
at business, and the like, have made, and do daily make, this axiom
their polar star and compass. Still, the doubt may be gently
insinuated. And in illustration it may be observed, that if Mr
Brass, not being over-suspicious, had, without prying and
listening, left his sister to manage the conference on their joint
behalf, or prying and listening, had not been in such a mighty
hurry to anticipate her (which he would not have been, but for his
distrust and jealousy), he would probably have found himself much
better off in the end. Thus, it will always happen that these men
of the world, who go through it in armour, defend themselves from
quite as much good as evil; to say nothing of the inconvenience and
absurdity of mounting guard with a microscope at all times, and of
wearing a coat of mail on the most innocent occasions.
The three gentlemen spoke together apart, for a few moments. At
the end of their consultation, which was very brief, the Notary
pointed to the writing materials on the table, and informed Mr
Brass that if he wished to make any statement in writing, he had
the opportunity of doing so. At the same time he felt bound to
tell him that they would require his attendance, presently, before
a justice of the peace, and that in what he did or said, he was
guided entirely by his own discretion.
'Gentlemen,' said Brass, drawing off his glove, and crawling in
spirit upon the ground before them, 'I will justify the tenderness
with which I know I shall be treated; and as, without tenderness,
I should, now that this discovery has been made, stand in the worst
position of the three, you may depend upon it I will make a clean
breast. Mr Witherden, sir, a kind of faintness is upon my spirits--
if you would do me the favour to ring the bell and order up a
glass of something warm and spicy, I shall, notwithstanding what
has passed, have a melancholy pleasure in drinking your good
health. I had hoped,' said Brass, looking round with a mournful
smile, 'to have seen you three gentlemen, one day or another, with
your legs under the mahogany in my humble parlour in the Marks.
But hopes are fleeting. Dear me!'
Mr Brass found himself so exceedingly affected, at this point, that
he could say or do nothing more until some refreshment arrived.
Having partaken of it, pretty freely for one in his agitated state,
he sat down to write.
The lovely Sarah, now with her arms folded, and now with her hands
clasped behind her, paced the room with manly strides while her
brother was thus employed, and sometimes stopped to pull out her
snuff-box and bite the lid. She continued to pace up and down
until she was quite tired, and then fell asleep on a chair near the
It has been since supposed, with some reason, that this slumber was
a sham or feint, as she contrived to slip away unobserved in the
dusk of the afternoon. Whether this was an intentional and waking
departure, or a somnambulistic leave-taking and walking in her
sleep, may remain a subject of contention; but, on one point (and
indeed the main one) all parties are agreed. In whatever state she
walked away, she certainly did not walk back again.
Mention having been made of the dusk of the afternoon, it will be
inferred that Mr Brass's task occupied some time in the completion.
It was not finished until evening; but, being done at last, that
worthy person and the three friends adjourned in a hackney-coach to
the private office of a justice, who, giving Mr Brass a warm
reception and detaining him in a secure place that he might insure
to himself the pleasure of seeing him on the morrow, dismissed the
others with the cheering assurance that a warrant could not fail to
be granted next day for the apprehension of Mr Quilp, and that a
proper application and statement of all the circumstances to the
secretary of state (who was fortunately in town), would no doubt
procure Kit's free pardon and liberation without delay.
And now, indeed, it seemed that Quilp's malignant career was
drawing to a close, and that retribution, which often travels
slowly--especially when heaviest--had tracked his footsteps with
a sure and certain scent and was gaining on him fast. Unmindful of
her stealthy tread, her victim holds his course in fancied triumph.
Still at his heels she comes, and once afoot, is never turned
Their business ended, the three gentlemen hastened back to the
lodgings of Mr Swiveller, whom they found progressing so favourably
in his recovery as to have been able to sit up for half an hour,
and to have conversed with cheerfulness. Mrs Garland had gone home
some time since, but Mr Abel was still sitting with him. After
telling him all they had done, the two Mr Garlands and the single
gentleman, as if by some previous understanding, took their leaves
for the night, leaving the invalid alone with the Notary and the
'As you are so much better,' said Mr Witherden, sitting down at the
bedside, 'I may venture to communicate to you a piece of news which
has come to me professionally.'
The idea of any professional intelligence from a gentleman
connected with legal matters, appeared to afford Richard any-thing
but a pleasing anticipation. Perhaps he connected it in his own
mind with one or two outstanding accounts, in reference to which he
had already received divers threatening letters. His countenance
fell as he replied,
'Certainly, sir. I hope it's not anything of a very disagreeable
'if I thought it so, I should choose some better time for
communicating it,' replied the Notary. 'Let me tell you, first,
that my friends who have been here to-day, know nothing of it, and
that their kindness to you has been quite spontaneous and with no
hope of return. It may do a thoughtless, careless man, good, to
Dick thanked him, and said he hoped it would.
'I have been making some inquiries about you,' said Mr Witherden,
'little thinking that I should find you under such circumstances as
those which have brought us together. You are the nephew of
Rebecca Swiveller, spinster, deceased, of Cheselbourne in
'Deceased!' cried Dick.
'Deceased. If you had been another sort of nephew, you would have
come into possession (so says the will, and I see no reason to
doubt it) of five-and-twenty thousand pounds. As it is, you have
fallen into an annuity of one hundred and fifty pounds a year; but
I think I may congratulate you even upon that.'
'Sir,' said Dick, sobbing and laughing together, 'you may. For,
please God, we'll make a scholar of the poor Marchioness yet! And
she shall walk in silk attire, and siller have to spare, or may I
never rise from this bed again!'
Unconscious of the proceedings faithfully narrated in the last
chapter, and little dreaming of the mine which had been sprung
beneath him (for, to the end that he should have no warning of the
business a-foot, the profoundest secrecy was observed in the whole
transaction), Mr Quilp remained shut up in his hermitage,
undisturbed by any suspicion, and extremely well satisfied with the
result of his machinations. Being engaged in the adjustment of
some accounts--an occupation to which the silence and solitude of
his retreat were very favourable--he had not strayed from his den
for two whole days. The third day of his devotion to this pursuit
found him still hard at work, and little disposed to stir abroad.
It was the day next after Mr Brass's confession, and consequently,
that which threatened the restriction of Mr Quilp's liberty, and
the abrupt communication to him of some very unpleasant and
unwelcome facts. Having no intuitive perception of the cloud which
lowered upon his house, the dwarf was in his ordinary state of
cheerfulness; and, when he found he was becoming too much engrossed
by business with a due regard to his health and spirits, he varied
its monotonous routine with a little screeching, or howling, or
some other innocent relaxation of that nature.
He was attended, as usual, by Tom Scott, who sat crouching over the
fire after the manner of a toad, and, from time to time, when his
master's back was turned, imitating his grimaces with a fearful
exactness. The figure-head had not yet disappeared, but remained
in its old place. The face, horribly seared by the frequent
application of the red-hot poker, and further ornamented by the
insertion, in the tip of the nose, of a tenpenny nail, yet smiled
blandly in its less lacerated parts, and seemed, like a sturdy
martyr, to provoke its tormentor to the commission of new outrages
The day, in the highest and brightest quarters of the town, was
damp, dark, cold and gloomy. In that low and marshy spot, the fog
filled every nook and corner with a thick dense cloud. Every
object was obscure at one or two yards' distance. The warning
lights and fires upon the river were powerless beneath this pall,
and, but for a raw and piercing chillness in the air, and now and
then the cry of some bewildered boatman as he rested on his oars
and tried to make out where he was, the river itself might have
been miles away.
The mist, though sluggish and slow to move, was of a keenly
searching kind. No muffling up in furs and broadcloth kept it out.
It seemed to penetrate into the very bones of the shrinking
wayfarers, and to rack them with cold and pains. Everything was
wet and clammy to the touch. The warm blaze alone defied it, and
leaped and sparkled merrily. It was a day to be at home, crowding
about the fire, telling stories of travellers who had lost their
way in such weather on heaths and moors; and to love a warm hearth
more than ever.
The dwarf's humour, as we know, was to have a fireside to himself;
and when he was disposed to be convivial, to enjoy himself alone.
By no means insensible to the comfort of being within doors, he
ordered Tom Scott to pile the little stove with coals, and,
dismissing his work for that day, determined to be jovial.
To this end, he lighted up fresh candles and heaped more fuel on
the fire; and having dined off a beefsteak, which he cooked himself
in somewhat of a savage and cannibal-like manner, brewed a great
bowl of hot punch, lighted his pipe, and sat down to spend the
At this moment, a low knocking at the cabin-door arrested his
attention. When it had been twice or thrice repeated, he softly
opened the little window, and thrusting his head out, demanded who
'Only me, Quilp,' replied a woman's voice.
'Only you!' cried the dwarf, stretching his neck to obtain a better
view of his visitor. 'And what brings you here, you jade? How
dare you approach the ogre's castle, eh?'
'I have come with some news,' rejoined his spouse. 'Don't be angry
'Is it good news, pleasant news, news to make a man skip and snap
his fingers?' said the dwarf. 'Is the dear old lady dead?'
'I don't know what news it is, or whether it's good or bad,'
rejoined his wife.
'Then she's alive,' said Quilp, 'and there's nothing the matter
with her. Go home again, you bird of evil note, go home!'
'I have brought a letter,' cried the meek little woman.
'Toss it in at the window here, and go your ways,' said Quilp,
interrupting her, 'or I'll come out and scratch you.'
'No, but please, Quilp--do hear me speak,' urged his submissive
wife, in tears. 'Please do!'
'Speak then,' growled the dwarf with a malicious grin. 'Be quick
and short about it. Speak, will you?'
'It was left at our house this afternoon,' said Mrs Quilp,
trembling, 'by a boy who said he didn't know from whom it came, but
that it was given to him to leave, and that he was told to say it
must be brought on to you directly, for it was of the very greatest
consequence.--But please,' she added, as her husband stretched
out his hand for it, 'please let me in. You don't know how wet and
cold I am, or how many times I have lost my way in coming here
through this thick fog. Let me dry myself at the fire for five
minutes. I'll go away directly you tell me to, Quilp. Upon my
word I will.'
Her amiable husband hesitated for a few moments; but, bethinking
himself that the letter might require some answer, of which she
could be the bearer, closed the window, opened the door, and bade
her enter. Mrs Quilp obeyed right willingly, and, kneeling down
before the fire to warm her hands, delivered into his a little
'I'm glad you're wet,' said Quilp, snatching it, and squinting at
her. 'I'm glad you're cold. I'm glad you lost your way. I'm glad
your eyes are red with crying. It does my heart good to see your
little nose so pinched and frosty.'
'Oh Quilp!' sobbed his wife. 'How cruel it is of you!'
'Did she think I was dead?' said Quilp, wrinkling his face into a
most extraordinary series of grimaces. 'Did she think she was
going to have all the money, and to marry somebody she liked? Ha
ha ha! Did she?'
These taunts elicited no reply from the poor little woman, who
remained on her knees, warming her hands, and sobbing, to Mr
Quilp's great delight. But, just as he was contemplating her, and
chuckling excessively, he happened to observe that Tom Scott was
delighted too; wherefore, that he might have no presumptuous
partner in his glee, the dwarf instantly collared him, dragged him
to the door, and after a short scuffle, kicked him into the yard.
In return for this mark of attention, Tom immediately walked upon
his hands to the window, and--if the expression be allowable--
looked in with his shoes: besides rattling his feet upon the glass
like a Banshee upside down. As a matter of course, Mr Quilp lost
no time in resorting to the infallible poker, with which, after
some dodging and lying in ambush, he paid his young friend one or
two such unequivocal compliments that he vanished precipitately,
and left him in quiet possession of the field.
'So! That little job being disposed of,' said the dwarf, coolly,
'I'll read my letter. Humph!' he muttered, looking at the
direction. 'I ought to know this writing. Beautiful Sally!'
Opening it, he read, in a fair, round, legal hand, as follows:
'Sammy has been practised upon, and has broken confidence. It has
all come out. You had better not be in the way, for strangers are
going to call upon you. They have been very quiet as yet, because
they mean to surprise you. Don't lose time. I didn't. I am not
to be found anywhere. If I was you, I wouldn't either. S. B.,
late of B. M.'
To describe the changes that passed over Quilp's face, as he read
this letter half-a-dozen times, would require some new language:
such, for power of expression, as was never written, read, or
spoken. For a long time he did not utter one word; but, after a
considerable interval, during which Mrs Quilp was almost paralysed
with the alarm his looks engendered, he contrived to gasp out,
'If I had him here. If I only had him here--'
'Oh Quilp!' said his wife, 'what's the matter? Who are you angry
'--I should drown him,' said the dwarf, not heeding her. 'Too easy
a death, too short, too quick--but the river runs close at hand.
Oh! if I had him here! just to take him to the brink coaxingly and
pleasantly,--holding him by the button-hole--joking with him,--
and, with a sudden push, to send him splashing down! Drowning men
come to the surface three times they say. Ah! To see him those
three times, and mock him as his face came bobbing up,--oh, what
a rich treat that would be!'
'Quilp!' stammered his wife, venturing at the same time to touch
him on the shoulder: 'what has gone wrong?'
She was so terrified by the relish with which he pictured this
pleasure to himself that she could scarcely make herself
'Such a bloodless cur!' said Quilp, rubbing his hands very slowly,
and pressing them tight together. 'I thought his cowardice and
servility were the best guarantee for his keeping silence. Oh
Brass, Brass--my dear, good, affectionate, faithful,
complimentary, charming friend--if I only had you here!'
His wife, who had retreated lest she should seem to listen to these
mutterings, ventured to approach him again, and was about to speak,
when he hurried to the door, and called Tom Scott, who, remembering
his late gentle admonition, deemed it prudent to appear
'There!' said the dwarf, pulling him in. 'Take her home. Don't
come here to-morrow, for this place will be shut up. Come back no
more till you hear from me or see me. Do you mind?'
Tom nodded sulkily, and beckoned Mrs Quilp to lead the way.
'As for you,' said the dwarf, addressing himself to her, 'ask no
questions about me, make no search for me, say nothing concerning
me. I shall not be dead, mistress, and that'll comfort you. He'll
take care of you.'
'But, Quilp? What is the matter? Where are you going? Do say
'I'll say that,' said the dwarf, seizing her by the arm, 'and do
that too, which undone and unsaid would be best for you, unless you
'Has anything happened?' cried his wife. 'Oh! Do tell me that?'
'Yes,' snarled the dwarf. 'No. What matter which? I have told
you what to do. Woe betide you if you fail to do it, or disobey me
by a hair's breadth. Will you go!'
'I am going, I'll go directly; but,' faltered his wife, 'answer me
one question first. Has this letter any connexion with dear little
Nell? I must ask you that--I must indeed, Quilp. You cannot
think what days and nights of sorrow I have had through having once
deceived that child. I don't know what harm I may have brought
about, but, great or little, I did it for you, Quilp. My
conscience misgave me when I did it. Do answer me this question,
if you please?'
The exasperated dwarf returned no answer, but turned round and
caught up his usual weapon with such vehemence, that Tom Scott
dragged his charge away, by main force, and as swiftly as he could.
It was well he did so, for Quilp, who was nearly mad with rage,
pursued them to the neighbouring lane, and might have prolonged the
chase but for the dense mist which obscured them from his view and
appeared to thicken every moment.
'It will be a good night for travelling anonymously,' he said, as
he returned slowly, being pretty well breathed with his run.
'Stay. We may look better here. This is too hospitable and free.'
By a great exertion of strength, he closed the two old gates, which
were deeply sunken in the mud, and barred them with a heavy beam.
That done, he shook his matted hair from about his eyes, and tried
them.--Strong and fast.
'The fence between this wharf and the next is easily climbed,' said
the dwarf, when he had taken these precautions. 'There's a back
lane, too, from there. That shall be my way out. A man need know
his road well, to find it in this lovely place to-night. I need
fear no unwelcome visitors while this lasts, I think.'
Almost reduced to the necessity of groping his way with his hands
(it had grown so dark and the fog had so much increased), he
returned to his lair; and, after musing for some time over the
fire, busied himself in preparations for a speedy departure.
While he was collecting a few necessaries and cramming them into
his pockets, he never once ceased communing with himself in a low
voice, or unclenched his teeth, which he had ground together on
finishing Miss Brass's note.
'Oh Sampson!' he muttered, 'good worthy creature--if I could but
hug you! If I could only fold you in my arms, and squeeze your
ribs, as I COULD squeeze them if I once had you tight--what a
meeting there would be between us! If we ever do cross each other
again, Sampson, we'll have a greeting not easily to be forgotten,
trust me. This time, Sampson, this moment when all had gone on so
well, was so nicely chosen! It was so thoughtful of you, so
penitent, so good. oh, if we were face to face in this room again,
my white-livered man of law, how well contented one of us would
There he stopped; and raising the bowl of punch to his lips, drank
a long deep draught, as if it were fair water and cooling to his
parched mouth. Setting it down abruptly, and resuming his
preparations, he went on with his soliloquy.
'There's Sally,' he said, with flashing eyes; 'the woman has
spirit, determination, purpose--was she asleep, or petrified? She
could have stabbed him--poisoned him safely. She might have seen
this coming on. Why does she give me notice when it's too late?
When he sat there,--yonder there, over there,--with his white
face, and red head, and sickly smile, why didn't I know what was
passing in his heart? It should have stopped beating, that night,
if I had been in his secret, or there are no drugs to lull a man to
sleep, or no fire to burn him!'
Another draught from the bowl; and, cowering over the fire with a
ferocious aspect, he muttered to himself again.
'And this, like every other trouble and anxiety I have had of late
times, springs from that old dotard and his darling child--two
wretched feeble wanderers! I'll be their evil genius yet. And
you, sweet Kit, honest Kit, virtuous, innocent Kit, look to
yourself. Where I hate, I bite. I hate you, my darling fellow,
with good cause, and proud as you are to-night, I'll have my turn.
A knocking at the gate he had closed. A loud and violent knocking.
Then, a pause; as if those who knocked had stopped to listen.
Then, the noise again, more clamorous and importunate than before.
'So soon!' said the dwarf. 'And so eager! I am afraid I shall
disappoint you. It's well I'm quite prepared. Sally, I thank
As he spoke, he extinguished the candle. In his impetuous attempts
to subdue the brightness of the fire, he overset the stove, which
came tumbling forward, and fell with a crash upon the burning
embers it had shot forth in its descent, leaving the room in pitchy
darkness. The noise at the gate still continuing, he felt his way
to the door, and stepped into the open air.
At that moment the knocking ceased. It was about eight o'clock;
but the dead of the darkest night would have been as noon-day in
comparison with the thick cloud which then rested upon the earth,
and shrouded everything from view. He darted forward for a few
paces, as if into the mouth of some dim, yawning cavern; then,
thinking he had gone wrong, changed the direction of his steps;
then stood still, not knowing where to turn.
'If they would knock again,' said Quilp, trying to peer into the
gloom by which he was surrounded, 'the sound might guide me! Come!
Batter the gate once more!'
He stood listening intently, but the noise was not renewed.
Nothing was to be heard in that deserted place, but, at intervals,
the distant barkings of dogs. The sound was far away--now in one
quarter, now answered in another--nor was it any guide, for it
often came from shipboard, as he knew.
'If I could find a wall or fence,' said the dwarf, stretching out
his arms, and walking slowly on, 'I should know which way to turn.
A good, black, devil's night this, to have my dear friend here! If
I had but that wish, it might, for anything I cared, never be day
As the word passed his lips, he staggered and fell--and next
moment was fighting with the cold dark water!
For all its bubbling up and rushing in his ears, he could hear the
knocking at the gate again--could hear a shout that followed it--
could recognise the voice. For all his struggling and plashing, he
could understand that they had lost their way, and had wandered
back to the point from which they started; that they were all but
looking on, while he was drowned; that they were close at hand, but
could not make an effort to save him; that he himself had shut and
barred them out. He answered the shout--with a yell, which seemed
to make the hundred fires that danced before his eyes tremble and
flicker, as if a gust of wind had stirred them. It was of no
avail. The strong tide filled his throat, and bore him on, upon
its rapid current.
Another mortal struggle, and he was up again, beating the water
with his hands, and looking out, with wild and glaring eyes that
showed him some black object he was drifting close upon. The hull
of a ship! He could touch its smooth and slippery surface with his
hand. One loud cry, now--but the resistless water bore him down
before he could give it utterance, and, driving him under it,
carried away a corpse.
It toyed and sported with its ghastly freight, now bruising it
against the slimy piles, now hiding it in mud or long rank grass,
now dragging it heavily over rough stones and gravel, now feigning
to yield it to its own element, and in the same action luring it
away, until, tired of the ugly plaything, it flung it on a swamp--
a dismal place where pirates had swung in chains through many a
wintry night--and left it there to bleach.
And there it lay alone. The sky was red with flame, and the water
that bore it there had been tinged with the sullen light as it
flowed along. The place the deserted carcass had left so recently,
a living man, was now a blazing ruin. There was something of the
glare upon its face. The hair, stirred by the damp breeze, played
in a kind of mockery of death--such a mockery as the dead man
himself would have delighted in when alive--about its head, and
its dress fluttered idly in the night wind.
Lighted rooms, bright fires, cheerful faces, the music of glad
voices, words of love and welcome, warm hearts, and tears of
happiness--what a change is this! But it is to such delights that
Kit is hastening. They are awaiting him, he knows. He fears he
will die of joy, before he gets among them.
They have prepared him for this, all day. He is not to be carried
off to-morrow with the rest, they tell him first. By degrees they
let him know that doubts have arisen, that inquiries are to be
made, and perhaps he may be pardoned after all. At last, the
evening being come, they bring him to a room where some gentlemen
are assembled. Foremost among them is his good old master, who
comes and takes him by the hand. He hears that his innocence is
established, and that he is pardoned. He cannot see the speaker,
but he turns towards the voice, and in trying to answer, falls down
They recover him again, and tell him he must be composed, and bear
this like a man. Somebody says he must think of his poor mother.
It is because he does think of her so much, that the happy news had
overpowered him. They crowd about him, and tell him that the truth
has gone abroad, and that all the town and country ring with
sympathy for his misfortunes. He has no ears for this. His
thoughts, as yet, have no wider range than home. Does she know it?
what did she say? who told her? He can speak of nothing else.
They make him drink a little wine, and talk kindly to him for a
while, until he is more collected, and can listen, and thank them.
He is free to go. Mr Garland thinks, if he feels better, it is
time they went away. The gentlemen cluster round him, and shake
hands with him. He feels very grateful to them for the interest
they have in him, and for the kind promises they make; but the
power of speech is gone again, and he has much ado to keep his
feet, even though leaning on his master's arm.
As they come through the dismal passages, some officers of the jail
who are in waiting there, congratulate him, in their rough way, on
his release. The newsmonger is of the number, but his manner is
not quite hearty--there is something of surliness in his
compliments. He looks upon Kit as an intruder, as one who has
obtained admission to that place on false pretences, who has
enjoyed a privilege without being duly qualified. He may be a very
good sort of young man, he thinks, but he has no business there,
and the sooner he is gone, the better.
The last door shuts behind them. They have passed the outer wall,
and stand in the open air--in the street he has so often pictured
to himself when hemmed in by the gloomy stones, and which has been
in all his dreams. It seems wider and more busy than it used to
be. The night is bad, and yet how cheerful and gay in his eyes!
One of the gentlemen, in taking leave of him, pressed some money
into his hand. He has not counted it; but when they have gone a
few paces beyond the box for poor Prisoners, he hastily returns and
drops it in.
Mr Garland has a coach waiting in a neighbouring street, and,
taking Kit inside with him, bids the man drive home. At first,
they can only travel at a foot pace, and then with torches going on
before, because of the heavy fog. But, as they get farther from
the river, and leave the closer portions of the town behind, they
are able to dispense with this precaution and to proceed at a
brisker rate. On the road, hard galloping would be too slow for
Kit; but, when they are drawing near their journey's end, he begs
they may go more slowly, and, when the house appears in sight, that
they may stop--only for a minute or two, to give him time to
But there is no stopping then, for the old gentleman speaks stoutly
to him, the horses mend their pace, and they are already at the
garden-gate. Next minute, they are at the door. There is a noise
of tongues, and tread of feet, inside. It opens. Kit rushes in,
and finds his mother clinging round his neck.
And there, too, is the ever faithful Barbara's mother, still
holding the baby as if she had never put it down since that sad day
when they little hoped to have such joy as this--there she is,
Heaven bless her, crying her eyes out, and sobbing as never woman
sobbed before; and there is little Barbara--poor little Barbara,
so much thinner and so much paler, and yet so very pretty--
trembling like a leaf and supporting herself against the wall; and
there is Mrs Garland, neater and nicer than ever, fainting away
stone dead with nobody to help her; and there is Mr Abel, violently
blowing his nose, and wanting to embrace everybody; and there is
the single gentleman hovering round them all, and constant to
nothing for an instant; and there is that good, dear, thoughtful
little Jacob, sitting all alone by himself on the bottom stair,
with his hands on his knees like an old man, roaring fearfully
without giving any trouble to anybody; and each and all of them are
for the time clean out of their wits, and do jointly and severally
commit all manner of follies.
And even when the rest have in some measure come to themselves
again, and can find words and smiles, Barbara--that soft-hearted,
gentle, foolish little Barbara--is suddenly missed, and found to
be in a swoon by herself in the back parlour, from which swoon she
falls into hysterics, and from which hysterics into a swoon again,
and is, indeed, so bad, that despite a mortal quantity of vinegar
and cold water she is hardly a bit better at last than she was at
first. Then, Kit's mother comes in and says, will he come and
speak to her; and Kit says 'Yes,' and goes; and he says in a kind
voice 'Barbara!' and Barbara's mother tells her that 'it's only
Kit;' and Barbara says (with her eyes closed all the time) 'Oh! but
is it him indeed?' and Barbara's mother says 'To be sure it is, my
dear; there's nothing the matter now.' And in further assurance
that he's safe and sound, Kit speaks to her again; and then Barbara
goes off into another fit of laughter, and then into another fit of
crying; and then Barbara's mother and Kit's mother nod to each
other and pretend to scold her--but only to bring her to herself
the faster, bless you!--and being experienced matrons, and acute
at perceiving the first dawning symptoms of recovery, they comfort
Kit with the assurance that 'she'll do now,' and so dismiss him to
the place from whence he came.
Well! In that place (which is the next room) there are decanters
of wine, and all that sort of thing, set out as grand as if Kit and
his friends were first-rate company; and there is little Jacob,
walking, as the popular phrase is, into a home-made plum-cake, at
a most surprising pace, and keeping his eye on the figs and oranges
which are to follow, and making the best use of his time, you may
believe. Kit no sooner comes in, than that single gentleman (never
was such a busy gentleman) charges all the glasses--bumpers--and
drinks his health, and tells him he shall never want a friend while
he lives; and so does Mr Garland, and so does Mrs Garland, and so
does Mr Abel. But even this honour and distinction is not all, for
the single gentleman forthwith pulls out of his pocket a massive
silver watch--going hard, and right to half a second--and upon
the back of this watch is engraved Kit's name, with flourishes all
over; and in short it is Kit's watch, bought expressly for him, and
presented to him on the spot. You may rest assured that Mr and Mrs
Garland can't help hinting about their present, in store, and that
Mr Abel tells outright that he has his; and that Kit is the
happiest of the happy.
There is one friend he has not seen yet, and as he cannot be
conveniently introduced into the family circle, by reason of his
being an iron-shod quadruped, Kit takes the first opportunity of
slipping away and hurrying to the stable. The moment he lays his
hand upon the latch, the pony neighs the loudest pony's greeting;
before he has crossed the threshold, the pony is capering about his
loose box (for he brooks not the indignity of a halter), mad to
give him welcome; and when Kit goes up to caress and pat him, the
pony rubs his nose against his coat, and fondles him more lovingly
than ever pony fondled man. It is the crowning circumstance of his
earnest, heartfelt reception; and Kit fairly puts his arm round
Whisker's neck and hugs him.
But how comes Barbara to trip in there? and how smart she is again!
she has been at her glass since she recovered. How comes Barbara
in the stable, of all places in the world? Why, since Kit has been
away, the pony would take his food from nobody but her, and
Barbara, you see, not dreaming that Christopher was there, and just
looking in, to see that everything was right, has come upon him
unawares. Blushing little Barbara!
It may be that Kit has caressed the pony enough; it may be that
there are even better things to caress than ponies. He leaves him
for Barbara at any rate, and hopes she is better. Yes. Barbara is
a great deal better. She is afraid--and here Barbara looks down
and blushes more--that he must have thought her very foolish.
'Not at all,' says Kit. Barbara is glad of that, and coughs--Hem!--
just the slightest cough possible--not more than that.
What a discreet pony when he chooses! He is as quiet now as if he
were of marble. He has a very knowing look, but that he always
has. 'We have hardly had time to shake hands, Barbara,' says Kit.
Barbara gives him hers. Why, she is trembling now! Foolish,
Arm's length? The length of an arm is not much. Barbara's was not
a long arm, by any means, and besides, she didn't hold it out
straight, but bent a little. Kit was so near her when they shook
hands, that he could see a small tiny tear, yet trembling on an
eyelash. It was natural that he should look at it, unknown to
Barbara. It was natural that Barbara should raise her eyes
unconsciously, and find him out. Was it natural that at that
instant, without any previous impulse or design, Kit should kiss
Barbara? He did it, whether or no. Barbara said 'for shame,' but
let him do it too--twice. He might have done it thrice, but the
pony kicked up his heels and shook his head, as if he were suddenly
taken with convulsions of delight, and Barbara being frightened,
ran away--not straight to where her mother and Kit's mother were,
though, lest they should see how red her cheeks were, and should
ask her why. Sly little Barbara!
When the first transports of the whole party had subsided, and Kit
and his mother, and Barbara and her mother, with little Jacob and
the baby to boot, had had their suppers together--which there was
no hurrying over, for they were going to stop there all night--Mr
Garland called Kit to him, and taking him into a room where they
could be alone, told him that he had something yet to say, which
would surprise him greatly. Kit looked so anxious and turned so
pale on hearing this, that the old gentleman hastened to add, he
would be agreeably surprised; and asked him if he would be ready
next morning for a journey.
'For a journey, sir!' cried Kit.
'In company with me and my friend in the next room. Can you guess
Kit turned paler yet, and shook his head.
'Oh yes. I think you do already,' said his master. 'Try.'
Kit murmured something rather rambling and unintelligible, but he
plainly pronounced the words 'Miss Nell,' three or four times--
shaking his head while he did so, as if he would add that there was
no hope of that.
But Mr Garland, instead of saying 'Try again,' as Kit had made sure
he would, told him very seriously, that he had guessed right.
'The place of their retreat is indeed discovered,' he said, 'at
last. And that is our journey's end.'
Kit faltered out such questions as, where was it, and how had it
been found, and how long since, and was she well and happy?
'Happy she is, beyond all doubt,' said Mr Garland. 'And well, I--
I trust she will be soon. She has been weak and ailing, as I
learn, but she was better when I heard this morning, and they were
full of hope. Sit you down, and you shall hear the rest.'
Scarcely venturing to draw his breath, Kit did as he was told. Mr
Garland then related to him, how he had a brother (of whom he would
remember to have heard him speak, and whose picture, taken when he
was a young man, hung in the best room), and how this brother lived
a long way off, in a country-place, with an old clergyman who had
been his early friend. How, although they loved each other as
brothers should, they had not met for many years, but had
communicated by letter from time to time, always looking forward to
some period when they would take each other by the hand once more,
and still letting the Present time steal on, as it was the habit
for men to do, and suffering the Future to melt into the Past. How
this brother, whose temper was very mild and quiet and retiring--
such as Mr Abel's--was greatly beloved by the simple people among
whom he dwelt, who quite revered the Bachelor (for so they called
him), and had every one experienced his charity and benevolence.
How even those slight circumstances had come to his knowledge, very
slowly and in course of years, for the Bachelor was one of those
whose goodness shuns the light, and who have more pleasure in
discovering and extolling the good deeds of others, than in
trumpeting their own, be they never so commendable. How, for that
reason, he seldom told them of his village friends; but how, for
all that, his mind had become so full of two among them--a child
and an old man, to whom he had been very kind--that, in a letter
received a few days before, he had dwelt upon them from first to
last, and had told such a tale of their wandering, and mutual love,
that few could read it without being moved to tears. How he, the
recipient of that letter, was directly led to the belief that these
must be the very wanderers for whom so much search had been made,
and whom Heaven had directed to his brother's care. How he had
written for such further information as would put the fact beyond
all doubt; how it had that morning arrived; had confirmed his first
impression into a certainty; and was the immediate cause of that
journey being planned, which they were to take to-morrow.
'In the meantime,' said the old gentleman rising, and laying his
hand on Kit's shoulder, 'you have a great need of rest; for such a
day as this would wear out the strongest man. Good night, and
Heaven send our journey may have a prosperous ending!'
Kit was no sluggard next morning, but, springing from his bed some
time before day, began to prepare for his welcome expedition. The
hurry of spirits consequent upon the events of yesterday, and the
unexpected intelligence he had heard at night, had troubled his
sleep through the long dark hours, and summoned such uneasy dreams
about his pillow that it was rest to rise.
But, had it been the beginning of some great labour with the same
end in view--had it been the commencement of a long journey, to be
performed on foot in that inclement season of the year, to be
pursued under very privation and difficulty, and to be achieved
only with great distress, fatigue, and suffering--had it been the
dawn of some painful enterprise, certain to task his utmost powers
of resolution and endurance, and to need his utmost fortitude, but
only likely to end, if happily achieved, in good fortune and
delight to Nell--Kit's cheerful zeal would have been as highly
roused: Kit's ardour and impatience would have been, at least, the
Nor was he alone excited and eager. Before he had been up a
quarter of an hour the whole house were astir and busy. Everybody
hurried to do something towards facilitating the preparations. The
single gentleman, it is true, could do nothing himself, but he
overlooked everybody else and was more locomotive than anybody.
The work of packing and making ready went briskly on, and by
daybreak every preparation for the journey was completed. Then Kit
began to wish they had not been quite so nimble; for the
travelling-carriage which had been hired for the occasion was not
to arrive until nine o'clock, and there was nothing but breakfast
to fill up the intervening blank of one hour and a half.
Yes there was, though. There was Barbara. Barbara was busy, to be
sure, but so much the better--Kit could help her, and that would
pass away the time better than any means that could be devised.
Barbara had no objection to this arrangement, and Kit, tracking out
the idea which had come upon him so suddenly overnight, began to
think that surely Barbara was fond of him, and surely he was fond
Now, Barbara, if the truth must.be told--as it must and ought to
be--Barbara seemed, of all the little household, to take least
pleasure in the bustle of the occasion; and when Kit, in the
openness of his heart, told her how glad and overjoyed it made him,
Barbara became more downcast still, and seemed to have even less
pleasure in it than before!
'You have not been home so long, Christopher,' said Barbara--and
it is impossible to tell how carelessly she said it--'You have not
been home so long, that you need to be glad to go away again, I
'But for such a purpose,' returned Kit. 'To bring back Miss Nell!
To see her again! Only think of that! I am so pleased too, to
think that you will see her, Barbara, at last.'
Barbara did not absolutely say that she felt no gratification on
this point, but she expressed the sentiment so plainly by one
little toss of her head, that Kit was quite disconcerted, and
wondered, in his simplicity, why she was so cool about it.
'You'll say she has the sweetest and beautifullest face you ever
saw, I know,' said Kit, rubbing his hands. 'I'm sure you'll say
Barbara tossed her head again.
'What's the matter, Barbara?' said Kit.
'Nothing,' cried Barbara. And Barbara pouted--not sulkily, or in
an ugly manner, but just enough to make her look more cherry-lipped
There is no school in which a pupil gets on so fast, as that in
which Kit became a scholar when he gave Barbara the kiss. He saw
what Barbara meant now--he had his lesson by heart all at once--
she was the book--there it was before him, as plain as print.
'Barbara,' said Kit, 'you're not cross with me?'
Oh dear no! Why should Barbara be cross? And what right had she
to be cross? And what did it matter whether she was cross or not?
Who minded her!
'Why, I do,' said Kit. 'Of course I do.'
Barbara didn't see why it was of course, at all.
Kit was sure she must. Would she think again?
Certainly, Barbara would think again. No, she didn't see why it
was of course. She didn't understand what Christopher meant. And
besides she was sure they wanted her up stairs by this time, and
she must go, indeed--
'No, but Barbara,' said Kit, detaining her gently, 'let us part
friends. I was always thinking of you, in my troubles. I should
have been a great deal more miserable than I was, if it hadn't been
Goodness gracious, how pretty Barbara was when she coloured--and
when she trembled, like a little shrinking bird!
'I am telling you the truth, Barbara, upon my word, but not half so
strong as I could wish,' said Kit. 'When I want you to be pleased
to see Miss Nell, it's only because I like you to be pleased with
what pleases me--that's all. As to her, Barbara, I think I could
almost die to do her service, but you would think so too, if you
knew her as I do. I am sure you would.'
Barbara was touched, and sorry to have appeared indifferent.
'I have been used, you see,' said Kit, 'to talk and think of her,
almost as if she was an angel. When I look forward to meeting her
again, I think of her smiling as she used to do, and being glad to
see me, and putting out her hand and saying, "It's my own old Kit,"
or some such words as those--like what she used to say. I think
of seeing her happy, and with friends about her, and brought up as
she deserves, and as she ought to be. When I think of myself, it's
as her old servant, and one that loved her dearly, as his kind,
good, gentle mistress; and who would have gone--yes, and still
would go--through any harm to serve her. Once, I couldn't help
being afraid that if she came back with friends about her she might
forget, or be ashamed of having known, a humble lad like me, and so
might speak coldly, which would have cut me, Barbara, deeper than
I can tell. But when I came to think again, I felt sure that I was
doing her wrong in this; and so I went on, as I did at first,
hoping to see her once more, just as she used to be. Hoping this,
and remembering what she was, has made me feel as if I would always
try to please her, and always be what I should like to seem to her
if I was still her servant. If I'm the better for that--and I
don't think I'm the worse--I am grateful to her for it, and love
and honour her the more. That's the plain honest truth, dear
Barbara, upon my word it is!'
Little Barbara was not of a wayward or capricious nature, and,
being full of remorse, melted into tears. To what more
conversation this might have led, we need not stop to inquire; for
the wheels of the carriage were heard at that moment, and, being
followed by a smart ring at the garden gate, caused the bustle in
the house, which had laid dormant for a short time, to burst again
into tenfold life and vigour.
Simultaneously with the travelling equipage, arrived Mr Chuckster
in a hackney cab, with certain papers and supplies of money for the
single gentleman, into whose hands he delivered them. This duty
discharged, he subsided into the bosom of the family; and,
entertaining himself with a strolling or peripatetic breakfast,
watched, with genteel indifference, the process of loading the
'Snobby's in this, I see, Sir?' he said to Mr Abel Garland. 'I
thought he wasn't in the last trip because it was expected that his
presence wouldn't be acceptable to the ancient buffalo.'
'To whom, Sir?' demanded Mr Abel.
'To the old gentleman,' returned Mr Chuckster, slightly abashed.
'Our client prefers to take him now,' said Mr Abel, drily. 'There
is no longer any need for that precaution, as my father's
relationship to a gentleman in whom the objects of his search have
full confidence, will be a sufficient guarantee for the friendly
nature of their errand.'
'Ah!' thought Mr Chuckster, looking out of window, 'anybody but me!
Snobby before me, of course. He didn't happen to take that
particular five-pound note, but I have not the smallest doubt that
he's always up to something of that sort. I always said it, long
before this came out. Devilish pretty girl that! 'Pon my soul, an
amazing little creature!'
Barbara was the subject of Mr Chuckster's commendations; and as she
was lingering near the carriage (all being now ready for its
departure), that gentleman was suddenly seized with a strong
interest in the proceedings, which impelled him to swagger down the
garden, and take up his position at a convenient ogling distance.
Having had great experience of the sex, and being perfectly
acquainted with all those little artifices which find the readiest
road to their hearts, Mr Chuckster, on taking his ground, planted
one hand on his hip, and with the other adjusted his flowing hair.
This is a favourite attitude in the polite circles, and, accompanied
with a graceful whistling, has been known to do immense execution.
Such, however, is the difference between town and country, that
nobody took the smallest notice of this insinuating figure; the
wretches being wholly engaged in bidding the travellers farewell,
in kissing hands to each other, waving handkerchiefs, and the like
tame and vulgar practices. For now the single gentleman and Mr
Garland were in the carriage, and the post-boy was in the saddle,
and Kit, well wrapped and muffled up, was in the rumble behind; and
Mrs Garland was there, and Mr Abel was there, and Kit's mother was
there, and little Jacob was there, and Barbara's mother was visible
in remote perspective, nursing the ever-wakeful baby; and all were
nodding, beckoning, curtseying, or crying out, 'Good bye!' with all
the energy they could express. In another minute, the carriage was
out of sight; and Mr Chuckster remained alone on the spot where it
had lately been, with a vision of Kit standing up in the rumble
waving his hand to Barbara, and of Barbara in the full light and
lustre of his eyes--his eyes--Chuckster's--Chuckster the
successful--on whom ladies of quality had looked with favour from
phaetons in the parks on Sundays--waving hers to Kit!
How Mr Chuckster, entranced by this monstrous fact, stood for some
time rooted to the earth, protesting within himself that Kit was
the Prince of felonious characters, and very Emperor or Great Mogul
of Snobs, and how he clearly traced this revolting circumstance
back to that old villany of the shilling, are matters foreign to
our purpose; which is to track the rolling wheels, and bear the
travellers company on their cold, bleak journey.
It was a bitter day. A keen wind was blowing, and rushed against
them fiercely: bleaching the hard ground, shaking the white frost
from the trees and hedges, and whirling it away like dust. But
little cared Kit for weather. There was a freedom and freshness in
the wind, as it came howling by, which, let it cut never so sharp,
was welcome. As it swept on with its cloud of frost, bearing down
the dry twigs and boughs and withered leaves, and carrying them
away pell-mell, it seemed as though some general sympathy had got
abroad, and everything was in a hurry, like themselves. The harder
the gusts, the better progress they appeared to make. It was a
good thing to go struggling and fighting forward, vanquishing them
one by one; to watch them driving up, gathering strength and fury
as they came along; to bend for a moment, as they whistled past;
and then to look back and see them speed away, their hoarse noise
dying in the distance, and the stout trees cowering down before
All day long, it blew without cessation. The night was clear and
starlight, but the wind had not fallen, and the cold was piercing.
Sometimes--towards the end of a long stage--Kit could not help
wishing it were a little warmer: but when they stopped to change
horses, and he had had a good run, and what with that, and the
bustle of paying the old postilion, and rousing the new one, and
running to and fro again until the horses were put to, he was so
warm that the blood tingled and smarted in his fingers' ends--
then, he felt as if to have it one degree less cold would be to
lose half the delight and glory of the journey: and up he jumped
again, right cheerily, singing to the merry music of the wheels as
they rolled away, and, leaving the townspeople in their warm beds,
pursued their course along the lonely road.
Meantime the two gentlemen inside, who were little disposed to
sleep, beguiled the time with conversation. As both were anxious
and expectant, it naturally turned upon the subject of their
expedition, on the manner in which it had been brought about, and
on the hopes and fears they entertained respecting it. Of the
former they had many, of the latter few--none perhaps beyond that
indefinable uneasiness which is inseparable from suddenly awakened
hope, and protracted expectation.
In one of the pauses of their discourse, and when half the night
had worn away, the single gentleman, who had gradually become more
and more silent and thoughtful, turned to his companion and said
'Are you a good listener?'
'Like most other men, I suppose,' returned Mr Garland, smiling. 'I
can be, if I am interested; and if not interested, I should still
try to appear so. Why do you ask?'
'I have a short narrative on my lips,' rejoined his friend, 'and
will try you with it. It is very brief.'
Pausing for no reply, he laid his hand on the old gentleman's
sleeve, and proceeded thus:
'There were once two brothers, who loved each other dearly. There
was a disparity in their ages--some twelve years. I am not sure
but they may insensibly have loved each other the better for that
reason. Wide as the interval between them was, however, they
became rivals too soon. The deepest and strongest affection of
both their hearts settled upon one object.
'The youngest--there were reasons for his being sensitive and
watchful--was the first to find this out. I will not tell you
what misery he underwent, what agony of soul he knew, how great his
mental struggle was. He had been a sickly child. His brother,
patient and considerate in the midst of his own high health and
strength, had many and many a day denied himself the sports he
loved, to sit beside his couch, telling him old stories till his
pale face lighted up with an unwonted glow; to carry him in his
arms to some green spot, where he could tend the poor pensive boy
as he looked upon the bright summer day, and saw all nature healthy
but himself; to be, in any way, his fond and faithful nurse. I may
not dwell on all he did, to make the poor, weak creature love him,
or my tale would have no end. But when the time of trial came, the
younger brother's heart was full of those old days. Heaven
strengthened it to repay the sacrifices of inconsiderate youth by
one of thoughtful manhood. He left his brother to be happy. The
truth never passed his lips, and he quitted the country, hoping to
'The elder brother married her. She was in Heaven before long, and
left him with an infant daughter.
'If you have seen the picture-gallery of any one old family, you
will remember how the same face and figure--often the fairest and
slightest of them all--come upon you in different generations; and
how you trace the same sweet girl through a long line of portraits--
never growing old or changing--the Good Angel of the race--
abiding by them in all reverses--redeeming all their sins--
'In this daughter the mother lived again. You may judge with what
devotion he who lost that mother almost in the winning, clung to
this girl, her breathing image. She grew to womanhood, and gave
her heart to one who could not know its worth. Well! Her fond
father could not see her pine and droop. He might be more
deserving than he thought him. He surely might become so, with a
wife like her. He joined their hands, and they were married.
'Through all the misery that followed this union; through all the
cold neglect and undeserved reproach; through all the poverty he
brought upon her; through all the struggles of their daily life,
too mean and pitiful to tell, but dreadful to endure; she toiled
on, in the deep devotion of her spirit, and in her better nature,
as only women can. Her means and substance wasted; her father
nearly beggared by her husband's hand, and the hourly witness (for
they lived now under one roof) of her ill-usage and unhappiness,--
she never, but for him, bewailed her fate. Patient, and upheld by
strong affection to the last, she died a widow of some three weeks'
date, leaving to her father's care two orphans; one a son of ten or
twelve years old; the other a girl--such another infant child--
the same in helplessness, in age, in form, in feature--as she had
been herself when her young mother died.
'The elder brother, grandfather to these two children, was now a
broken man; crushed and borne down, less by the weight of years
than by the heavy hand of sorrow. With the wreck of his
possessions, he began to trade--in pictures first, and then in
curious ancient things. He had entertained a fondness for such
matters from a boy, and the tastes he had cultivated were now to
yield him an anxious and precarious subsistence.
'The boy grew like his father in mind and person; the girl so like
her mother, that when the old man had her on his knee, and looked
into her mild blue eyes, he felt as if awakening from a wretched
dream, and his daughter were a little child again. The wayward boy
soon spurned the shelter of his roof, and sought associates more
congenial to his taste. The old man and the child dwelt alone
'It was then, when the love of two dead people who had been nearest
and dearest to his heart, was all transferred to this slight
creature; when her face, constantly before him, reminded him, from
hour to hour, of the too early change he had seen in such another--
of all the sufferings he had watched and known, and all his child
had undergone; when the young man's profligate and hardened course
drained him of money as his father's had, and even sometimes
occasioned them temporary privation and distress; it was then that
there began to beset him, and to be ever in his mind, a gloomy
dread of poverty and want. He had no thought for himself in this.
His fear was for the child. It was a spectre in his house, and
haunted him night and day.
'The younger brother had been a traveller in many countries, and
had made his pilgrimage through life alone. His voluntary
banishment had been misconstrued, and he had borne (not without
pain) reproach and slight for doing that which had wrung his heart,
and cast a mournful shadow on his path. Apart from this,
communication between him and the elder was difficult, and
uncertain, and often failed; still, it was not so wholly broken off
but that he learnt--with long blanks and gaps between each
interval of information--all that I have told you now.
'Then, dreams of their young, happy life--happy to him though
laden with pain and early care--visited his pillow yet oftener
than before; and every night, a boy again, he was at his brother's
side. With the utmost speed he could exert, he settled his
affairs; converted into money all the goods he had; and, with
honourable wealth enough for both, with open heart and hand, with
limbs that trembled as they bore him on, with emotion such as men
can hardly bear and live, arrived one evening at his brother's
The narrator, whose voice had faltered lately, stopped.
'The rest,' said Mr Garland, pressing his hand after a pause, 'I
'Yes,' rejoined his friend, 'we may spare ourselves the sequel.
You know the poor result of all my search. Even when by dint of
such inquiries as the utmost vigilance and sagacity could set on
foot, we found they had been seen with two poor travelling showmen--
and in time discovered the men themselves--and in time, the
actual place of their retreat; even then, we were too late. Pray
God, we are not too late again!'
'We cannot be,' said Mr Garland. 'This time we must succeed.'
'I have believed and hoped so,' returned the other. 'I try to
believe and hope so still. But a heavy weight has fallen on my
spirits, my good friend, and the sadness that gathers over me, will
yield to neither hope nor reason.'
'That does not surprise me,' said Mr Garland; 'it is a natural
consequence of the events you have recalled; of this dreary time
and place; and above all, of this wild and dismal night. A dismal
night, indeed! Hark! how the wind is howling!'
Day broke, and found them still upon their way. Since leaving
home, they had halted here and there for necessary refreshment, and
had frequently been delayed, especially in the night time, by
waiting for fresh horses. They had made no other stoppages, but
the weather continued rough, and the roads were often steep and
heavy. It would be night again before they reached their place of
Kit, all bluff and hardened with the cold, went on manfully; and,
having enough to do to keep his blood circulating, to picture to
himself the happy end of this adventurous journey, and to look
about him and be amazed at everything, had little spare time for
thinking of discomforts. Though his impatience, and that of his
fellow-travellers, rapidly increased as the day waned, the hours
did not stand still. The short daylight of winter soon faded away,
and it was dark again when they had yet many miles to travel.
As it grew dusk, the wind fell; its distant moanings were more low
and mournful; and, as it came creeping up the road, and rattling
covertly among the dry brambles on either hand, it seemed like some
great phantom for whom the way was narrow, whose garments rustled
as it stalked along. By degrees it lulled and died away, and then
it came on to snow.
The flakes fell fast and thick, soon covering the ground some
inches deep, and spreading abroad a solemn stillness. The rolling
wheels were noiseless, and the sharp ring and clatter of the
horses' hoofs, became a dull, muffled tramp. The life of their
progress seemed to be slowly hushed, and something death-like to
usurp its place.
Shading his eyes from the falling snow, which froze upon their
lashes and obscured his sight, Kit often tried to catch the
earliest glimpse of twinkling lights, denoting their approach to
some not distant town. He could descry objects enough at such
times, but none correctly. Now, a tall church spire appeared in
view, which presently became a tree, a barn, a shadow on the
ground, thrown on it by their own bright lamps. Now, there were
horsemen, foot-passengers, carriages, going on before, or meeting
them in narrow ways; which, when they were close upon them, turned
to shadows too. A wall, a ruin, a sturdy gable end, would rise up
in the road; and, when they were plunging headlong at it, would be
the road itself. Strange turnings too, bridges, and sheets of
water, appeared to start up here and there, making the way doubtful
and uncertain; and yet they were on the same bare road, and these
things, like the others, as they were passed, turned into dim
He descended slowly from his seat--for his limbs were numbed--
when they arrived at a lone posting-house, and inquired how far
they had to go to reach their journey's end. It was a late hour in
such by-places, and the people were abed; but a voice answered from
an upper window, Ten miles. The ten minutes that ensued appeared
an hour; but at the end of that time, a shivering figure led out
the horses they required, and after another brief delay they were
again in motion.
It was a cross-country road, full, after the first three or four
miles, of holes and cart-ruts, which, being covered by the snow,
were so many pitfalls to the trembling horses, and obliged them to
keep a footpace. As it was next to impossible for men so much
agitated as they were by this time, to sit still and move so
slowly, all three got out and plodded on behind the carriage. The
distance seemed interminable, and the walk was most laborious. As
each was thinking within himself that the driver must have lost his
way, a church bell, close at hand, struck the hour of midnight, and
the carriage stopped. It had moved softly enough, but when it
ceased to crunch the snow, the silence was as startling as if some
great noise had been replaced by perfect stillness.
'This is the place, gentlemen,' said the driver, dismounting from
his horse, and knocking at the door of a little inn. 'Halloa!
Past twelve o'clock is the dead of night here.'
The knocking was loud and long, but it failed to rouse the drowsy
inmates. All continued dark and silent as before. They fell back
a little, and looked up at the windows, which were mere black
patches in the whitened house front. No light appeared. The house
might have been deserted, or the sleepers dead, for any air of life
it had about it.
They spoke together with a strange inconsistency, in whispers;
unwilling to disturb again the dreary echoes they had just now
'Let us go on,' said the younger brother, 'and leave this good
fellow to wake them, if he can. I cannot rest until I know that we
are not too late. Let us go on, in the name of Heaven!'
They did so, leaving the postilion to order such accommodation as
the house afforded, and to renew his knocking. Kit accompanied
them with a little bundle, which he had hung in the carriage when
they left home, and had not forgotten since--the bird in his old
cage--just as she had left him. She would be glad to see her
bird, he knew.
The road wound gently downward. As they proceeded, they lost sight
of the church whose clock they had heard, and of the small village
clustering round it. The knocking, which was now renewed, and
which in that stillness they could plainly hear, troubled them.
They wished the man would forbear, or that they had told him not to
break the silence until they returned.
The old church tower, clad in a ghostly garb of pure cold white,
again rose up before them, and a few moments brought them close
beside it. A venerable building--grey, even in the midst of the
hoary landscape. An ancient sun-dial on the belfry wall was nearly
hidden by the snow-drift, and scarcely to be known for what it was.
Time itself seemed to have grown dull and old, as if no day were
ever to displace the melancholy night.
A wicket gate was close at hand, but there was more than one path
across the churchyard to which it led, and, uncertain which to
take, they came to a stand again.
The village street--if street that could be called which was an
irregular cluster of poor cottages of many heights and ages, some
with their fronts, some with their backs, and some with gable ends
towards the road, with here and there a signpost, or a shed
encroaching on the path--was close at hand. There was a faint
light in a chamber window not far off, and Kit ran towards that
house to ask their way.
His first shout was answered by an old man within, who presently
appeared at the casement, wrapping some garment round his throat as
a protection from the cold, and demanded who was abroad at that
unseasonable hour, wanting him.
''Tis hard weather this,' he grumbled, 'and not a night to call me
up in. My trade is not of that kind that I need be roused from
bed. The business on which folks want me, will keep cold,
especially at this season. What do you want?'
'I would not have roused you, if I had known you were old and ill,'
'Old!' repeated the other peevishly. 'How do you know I am old?
Not so old as you think, friend, perhaps. As to being ill, you
will find many young people in worse case than I am. More's the
pity that it should be so--not that I should be strong and hearty
for my years, I mean, but that they should be weak and tender. I
ask your pardon though,' said the old man, 'if I spoke rather rough
at first. My eyes are not good at night--that's neither age nor
illness; they never were--and I didn't see you were a stranger.'
'I am sorry to call you from your bed,' said Kit, 'but those
gentlemen you may see by the churchyard gate, are strangers too,
who have just arrived from a long journey, and seek the
parsonage-house. You can direct us?'
'I should be able to,' answered the old man, in a trembling voice,
'for, come next summer, I have been sexton here, good fifty years.
The right hand path, friend, is the road.--There is no ill news
for our good gentleman, I hope?'
Kit thanked him, and made him a hasty answer in the negative; he
was turning back, when his attention was caught
by the voice of a child. Looking up, he saw a very little creature
at a neighbouring window.
'What is that?' cried the child, earnestly. 'Has my dream come
true? Pray speak to me, whoever that is, awake and up.'
'Poor boy!' said the sexton, before Kit could answer, 'how goes it,
'Has my dream come true?' exclaimed the child again, in a voice so
fervent that it might have thrilled to the heart of any listener.
'But no, that can never be! How could it be--Oh! how could it!'
'I guess his meaning,' said the sexton. 'To bed again, poor boy!'
'Ay!' cried the child, in a burst of despair. 'I knew it could
never be, I felt too sure of that, before I asked! But, all
to-night, and last night too, it was the same. I never fall
asleep, but that cruel dream comes back.'
'Try to sleep again,' said the old man, soothingly. 'It will go in
'No no, I would rather that it staid--cruel as it is, I would
rather that it staid,' rejoined the child. 'I am not afraid to
have it in my sleep, but I am so sad--so very, very sad.'
The old man blessed him, the child in tears replied Good night, and
Kit was again alone.
He hurried back, moved by what he had heard, though more by the
child's manner than by anything he had said, as his meaning was
hidden from him. They took the path indicated by the sexton, and
soon arrived before the parsonage wall. Turning round to look
about them when they had got thus far, they saw, among some ruined
buildings at a distance, one single solitary light.
It shone from what appeared to be an old oriel window, and being
surrounded by the deep shadows of overhanging walls, sparkled like
a star. Bright and glimmering as the stars above their heads,
lonely and motionless as they, it seemed to claim some kindred with
the eternal lamps of Heaven, and to burn in fellowship with them.
'What light is that!' said the younger brother.
'It is surely,' said Mr Garland, 'in the ruin where they live. I
see no other ruin hereabouts.'
'They cannot,' returned the brother hastily, 'be waking at this
Kit interposed directly, and begged that, while they rang and
waited at the gate, they would let him make his way to where this
light was shining, and try to ascertain if any people were about.
Obtaining the permission he desired, he darted off with breathless
eagerness, and, still carrying the birdcage in his hand, made
straight towards the spot.
It was not easy to hold that pace among the graves, and at another
time he might have gone more slowly, or round by the path.
Unmindful of all obstacles, however, he pressed forward without
slackening his speed, and soon arrived within a few yards of the
He approached as softly as he could, and advancing so near the wall
as to brush the whitened ivy with his dress, listened. There was
no sound inside. The church itself was not more quiet. Touching
the glass with his cheek, he listened again. No. And yet there
was such a silence all around, that he felt sure he could have
heard even the breathing of a sleeper, if there had been one there.
A strange circumstance, a light in such a place at that time of
night, with no one near it.
A curtain was drawn across the lower portion of the window, and he
could not see into the room. But there was no shadow thrown upon
it from within. To have gained a footing on the wall and tried to
look in from above, would have been attended with some danger--
certainly with some noise, and the chance of terrifying the child,
if that really were her habitation. Again and again he listened;
again and again the same wearisome blank.
Leaving the spot with slow and cautious steps, and skirting the
ruin for a few paces, he came at length to a door. He knocked. No
answer. But there was a curious noise inside. It was difficult to
determine what it was. It bore a resemblance to the low moaning of
one in pain, but it was not that, being far too regular and
constant. Now it seemed a kind of song, now a wail--seemed, that
is, to his changing fancy, for the sound itself was never changed
or checked. It was unlike anything he had ever heard; and in its
tone there was something fearful, chilling, and unearthly.
The listener's blood ran colder now than ever it had done in frost
and snow, but he knocked again. There was no answer, and the sound
went on without any interruption. He laid his
hand softly upon the latch, and put his knee against the door. It
was secured on the inside, but yielded to the pressure, and turned
upon its hinges. He saw the glimmering of a fire upon the old
walls, and entered.
The dull, red glow of a wood fire--for no lamp or candle burnt
within the room--showed him a figure, seated on the hearth with
its back towards him, bending over the fitful light. The attitude
was that of one who sought the heat. It was, and yet was not. The
stooping posture and the cowering form were there, but no hands
were stretched out to meet the grateful warmth, no shrug or shiver
compared its luxury with the piercing cold outside. With limbs
huddled together, head bowed down, arms crossed upon the breast,
and fingers tightly clenched, it rocked to and fro upon its seat
without a moment's pause, accompanying the action with the mournful
sound he had heard.
The heavy door had closed behind him on his entrance, with a crash
that made him start. The figure neither spoke, nor turned to look,
nor gave in any other way the faintest sign of having heard the
noise. The form was that of an old man, his white head akin in
colour to the mouldering embers upon which he gazed. He, and the
failing light and dying fire, the time-worn room, the solitude, the
wasted life, and gloom, were all in fellowship. Ashes, and dust,
Kit tried to speak, and did pronounce some words, though what they
were he scarcely knew. Still the same terrible low cry went on--
still the same rocking in the chair--the same stricken figure was
there, unchanged and heedless of his presence.
He had his hand upon the latch, when something in the form--
distinctly seen as one log broke and fell, and, as it fell, blazed
up--arrested it. He returned to where he had stood before--
advanced a pace--another--another still. Another, and he saw the
face. Yes! Changed as it was, he knew it well.
'Master!' he cried, stooping on one knee and catching at his hand.
'Dear master. Speak to me!'
The old man turned slowly towards him; and muttered in a hollow
'This is another!--How many of these spirits there have been
'No spirit, master. No one but your old servant. You know me now,
I am sure? Miss Nell--where is she--where is she?'
'They all say that!' cried the old man. 'They all ask the same
question. A spirit!'
'Where is she?' demanded Kit. 'Oh tell me but that,--but that,
'She is asleep--yonder--in there.'
'Aye! Thank God!' returned the old man. 'I have prayed to Him,
many, and many, and many a livelong night, when she has been
asleep, He knows. Hark! Did she call?'
'I heard no voice.'
'You did. You hear her now. Do you tell me that you don't hear
He started up, and listened again.
'Nor that?' he cried, with a triumphant smile, 'Can any body know
that voice so well as I? Hush! Hush!'
Motioning to him to be silent, he stole away into another chamber.
After a short absence (during which he could be heard to speak in
a softened soothing tone) he returned, bearing in his hand a lamp.
'She is still asleep,' he whispered. 'You were right. She did not
call--unless she did so in her slumber. She has called to me in
her sleep before now, sir; as I have sat by, watching, I have seen
her lips move, and have known, though no sound came from them, that
she spoke of me. I feared the light might dazzle her eyes and wake
her, so I brought it here.'
He spoke rather to himself than to the visitor, but when he had put
the lamp upon the table, he took it up, as if impelled by some
momentary recollection or curiosity, and held it near his face.
Then, as if forgetting his motive in the very action, he turned
away and put it down again.
'She is sleeping soundly,' he said; 'but no wonder. Angel hands
have strewn the ground deep with snow, that the lightest footstep
may be lighter yet; and the very birds are dead, that they may not
wake her. She used to feed them, Sir. Though never so cold and
hungry, the timid things would fly from us. They never flew from
Again he stopped to listen, and scarcely drawing breath, listened
for a long, long time. That fancy past, he opened an old chest,
took out some clothes as fondly as if they had been living things,
and began to smooth and brush them with his hand.
'Why dost thou lie so idle there, dear Nell,' he murmured, 'when
there are bright red berries out of doors waiting for thee to pluck
them! Why dost thou lie so idle there, when thy little friends
come creeping to the door, crying "where is Nell--sweet Nell?"--
and sob, and weep, because they do not see thee. She was always
gentle with children. The wildest would do her bidding--she had
a tender way with them, indeed she had!'
Kit had no power to speak. His eyes were filled with tears.
'Her little homely dress,--her favourite!' cried the old man,
pressing it to his breast, and patting it with his shrivelled hand.
'She will miss it when she wakes. They have hid it here in sport,
but she shall have it--she shall have it. I would not vex my
darling, for the wide world's riches. See here--these shoes--how
worn they are--she kept them to remind her of our last
long journey. You see where the little feet went bare upon the
ground. They told me, afterwards, that the stones had cut and
bruised them. She never told me that. No, no, God bless her! and,
I have remembered since, she walked behind me, sir, that I might
not see how lame she was--but yet she had my hand in hers, and
seemed to lead me still.'
He pressed them to his lips, and having carefully put them back
again, went on communing with himself--looking wistfully from time
to time towards the chamber he had lately visited.
'She was not wont to be a lie-abed; but she was well then. We must
have patience. When she is well again, she will rise early, as she
used to do, and ramble abroad in the healthy morning time. I often
tried to track the way she had gone, but her small footstep left no
print upon the dewy ground, to guide me. Who is that? Shut the
door. Quick!--Have we not enough to do to drive away that marble
cold, and keep her warm!'
The door was indeed opened, for the entrance of Mr Garland and his
friend, accompanied by two other persons. These were the
schoolmaster, and the bachelor. The former held a light in his
hand. He had, it seemed, but gone to his own cottage to replenish
the exhausted lamp, at the moment when Kit came up and found the
old man alone.
He softened again at sight of these two friends, and, laying aside
the angry manner--if to anything so feeble and so sad the term can
be applied--in which he had spoken when the door opened, resumed
his former seat, and subsided, by little and little into the old
action, and the old, dull, wandering sound.
Of the strangers, he took no heed whatever. He had seen them, but
appeared quite incapable of interest or curiosity. The younger
brother stood apart. The bachelor drew a chair towards the old
man, and sat down close beside him. After a long silence, he
ventured to speak.
'Another night, and not in bed!' he said softly; 'I hoped you would
be more mindful of your promise to me. Why do you not take some
'Sleep has left me,' returned the old man. 'It is all with her!'
'It would pain her very much to know that you were watching thus,'
said the bachelor. 'You would not give her pain?'
'I am not so sure of that, if it would only rouse her. She has
slept so very long. And yet I am rash to say so. It is a good and
'Indeed it is,' returned the bachelor. 'Indeed, indeed, it is!'
'That's well!--and the waking--' faltered the old man.
'Happy too. Happier than tongue can tell, or heart of man
They watched him as he rose and stole on tiptoe to the other
chamber where the lamp had been replaced. They listened as he
spoke again within its silent walls. They looked into the faces of
each other, and no man's cheek was free from tears. He came back,
whispering that she was still asleep, but that he thought she had
moved. It was her hand, he said--a little--a very, very little--
but he was pretty sure she had moved it--perhaps in seeking his.
He had known her do that, before now, though in the deepest sleep
the while. And when he had said this, he dropped into his chair
again, and clasping his hands above his head, uttered a cry never
to be forgotten.
The poor schoolmaster motioned to the bachelor that he would come
on the other side, and speak to him. They gently unlocked his
fingers, which he had twisted in his grey hair, and pressed them in
'He will hear me,' said the schoolmaster, 'I am sure. He will hear
either me or you if we beseech him. She would, at all times.'
'I will hear any voice she liked to hear,' cried the old man. 'I
love all she loved!'
'I know you do,' returned the schoolmaster. 'I am certain of it.
Think of her; think of all the sorrows and afflictions you have
shared together; of all the trials, and all the peaceful pleasures,
you have jointly known.'
'I do. I do. I think of nothing else.'
'I would have you think of nothing else to-night--of nothing but
those things which will soften your heart, dear friend, and open it
to old affections and old times. It is so that she would speak to
you herself, and in her name it is that I speak now.'
'You do well to speak softly,' said the old man. 'We will not wake
her. I should be glad to see her eyes again, and to see her smile.
There is a smile upon her young face now, but it is fixed and
changeless. I would have it come and go. That shall be in
Heaven's good time. We will not wake her.'
'Let us not talk of her in her sleep, but as she used to be when
you were Journeying together, far away--as she was at home, in the
old house from which you fled together--as she was, in the old
cheerful time,' said the schoolmaster.
'She was always cheerful--very cheerful,' cried the old man,
looking steadfastly at him. 'There was ever something mild and
quiet about her, I remember, from the first; but she was of a happy
'We have heard you say,' pursued the schoolmaster, 'that in this
and in all goodness, she was like her mother. You can think of,
and remember her?'
He maintained his steadfast look, but gave no answer.
'Or even one before her,' said the bachelor. 'it is many years
ago, and affliction makes the time longer, but you have not
forgotten her whose death contributed to make this child so dear to
you, even before you knew her worth or could read her heart? Say,
that you could carry back your thoughts to very distant days--to
the time of your early life--when, unlike this fair flower, you
did not pass your youth alone. Say, that you could remember, long
ago, another child who loved you dearly, you being but a child
yourself. Say, that you had a brother, long forgotten, long
unseen, long separated from you, who now, at last, in your utmost
need came back to comfort and console you--'
'To be to you what you were once to him,' cried the younger,
falling on his knee before him; 'to repay your old affection,
brother dear, by constant care, solicitude, and love; to be, at
your right hand, what he has never ceased to be when oceans rolled
between us; to call to witness his unchanging truth and mindfulness
of bygone days, whole years of desolation. Give me but one word of
recognition, brother--and never--no never, in the brightest
moment of our youngest days, when, poor silly boys, we thought to
pass our lives together--have we been half as dear and precious to
each other as we shall be from this time hence!'
The old man looked from face to face, and his lips moved; but no
sound came from them in reply.
'If we were knit together then,' pursued the younger brother, 'what
will be the bond between us now! Our love and fellowship began in
childhood, when life was all before us, and will be resumed when we
have proved it, and are but children at the last. As many restless
spirits, who have hunted fortune, fame, or pleasure through the
world, retire in their decline to where they first drew breath,
vainly seeking to be children once again before they die, so we,
less fortunate than they in early life, but happier in its closing
scenes, will set up our rest again among our boyish haunts, and
going home with no hope realised, that had its growth in manhood--
carrying back nothing that we brought away, but our old yearnings
to each other--saving no fragment from the wreck of life, but that
which first endeared it--may be, indeed, but children as at first.
And even,' he added in an altered voice, 'even if what I dread to
name has come to pass--even if that be so, or is to be (which
Heaven forbid and spare us!)--still, dear brother, we are not
apart, and have that comfort in our great affliction.'
By little and little, the old man had drawn back towards the inner
chamber, while these words were spoken. He pointed there, as he
replied, with trembling lips.
'You plot among you to wean my heart from her. You never will do
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