Thursday, October 18, 2007


The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain by Charles Dickens

The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain by Charles Dickens
CHAPTER I - The Gift
BestowedEVERYBODY said so.Far be it from me to assert that what everybody says
must be true. Everybody is, often, as likely to be wrong as right. In the general
experience, everybody has been wrong so often, and it has taken, in most instances, such
a weary while to find out how wrong, that the authority is proved to be fallible. Everybody
may sometimes be right; "but THAT'S no rule," as the ghost of Giles Scroggins says in the
ballad.The dread word, GHOST, recalls me.Everybody said he looked like a haunted man.
The extent of my present claim for everybody is, that they were so far right. He did.Who
could have seen his hollow cheek; his sunken brilliant eye; his black-attired figure, indefinably
grim, although well-knit and well-proportioned; his grizzled hair hanging, like tangled seaweed,
about his face, - as if he had been, through his whole life, a lonely mark for the chafing
and beating of the great deep of humanity, - but might have said he looked like a haunted
man?Who could have observed his manner, taciturn, thoughtful, gloomy, shadowed by
habitual reserve, retiring always and jocund never, with a distraught air of reverting to a
bygone place and time, or of listening to some old echoes in his mind, but might have said
it was the manner of a haunted man?Who could have heard his voice, slow-speaking,
deep, and grave, with a natural fulness and melody in it which he seemed to set himself
against and stop, but might have said it was the voice of a haunted man?Who that had
seen him in his inner chamber, part library and part laboratory, - for he was, as the world
knew, far and wide, a learned man in chemistry, and a teacher on whose lips and hands a
crowd of aspiring ears and eyes hung daily, - who that had seen him there, upon a winter
night, alone, surrounded by his drugs and instruments and books; the shadow of his shaded
lamp a monstrous beetle on the wall, motionless among a crowd of spectral shapes raised
there by the flickering of the fire upon the quaint objects around him; some of these
phantoms (the reflection of glass vessels that held liquids), trembling at heart like things that
knew his power to uncombine them, and to give back their component parts to fire and
vapour; - who that had seen him then, his work done, and he pondering in his chair before
the rusted grate and red flame, moving his thin mouth as if in speech, but silent as the dead,
would not have said that the man seemed haunted and the chamber too?Who might not,
by a very easy flight of fancy, have believed that everything about him took this haunted
tone, and that he lived on haunted ground?His dwelling was so solitary and vault-like, - an
old, retired part of an ancient endowment for students, once a brave edifice, planted in an
open place, but now the obsolete whim of forgotten architects; smoke-age-and-weatherdarkened,
squeezed on every side by the overgrowing of the great city, and choked, like
an old well, with stones and bricks; its small quadrangles, lying down in very pits formed by
the streets and buildings, which, in course of time, had been constructed above its heavy
chimney stalks; its old trees, insulted by the neighbouring smoke, which deigned to droop
so low when it was very feeble and the weather very moody; its grass-plots, struggling
with the mildewed earth to be grass, or to win any show of compromise; its silent
pavements, unaccustomed to the tread of feet, and even to the observation of eyes,
except when a stray face looked down from the upper world, wondering what nook it was;
its sun-dial in a little bricked-up corner, where no sun had straggled for a hundred years, but
where, in compensation for the sun's neglect, the snow would lie for weeks when it lay
nowhere else, and the black east wind would spin like a huge humming-top, when in all
other places it was silent and still.His dwelling, at its heart and core - within doors - at his
fireside - was so lowering and old, so crazy, yet so strong, with its worn-eaten beams of
wood in the ceiling, and its sturdy floor shelving downward to the great oak chimney-piece;
so environed and hemmed in by the pressure of the town yet so remote in fashion, age,
and custom; so quiet, yet so thundering with echoes when a distant voice was raised or a
door was shut, - echoes, not confined to the many low passages and empty rooms, but
rumbling and grumbling till they were stifled in the heavy air of the forgotten Crypt where
the Norman arches were half-buried in the earth.You should have seen him in his dwelling
about twilight, in the dead winter time.When the wind was blowing, shrill and shrewd, with
the going down of the blurred sun. When it was just so dark, as that the forms of things
were indistinct and big - but not wholly lost. When sitters by the fire began to see wild
faces and figures, mountains and abysses, ambuscades and armies, in the coals. When
people in the streets bent down their heads and ran before the weather. When those who
were obliged to meet it, were stopped at angry corners, stung by wandering snow-flakes
alighting on the lashes of their eyes, - which fell too sparingly, and were blown away too
quickly, to leave a trace upon the frozen ground. When windows of private houses closed
up tight and warm. When lighted gas began to burst forth in the busy and the quiet streets,
fast blackening otherwise. When stray pedestrians, shivering along the latter, looked down
at the glowing fires in kitchens, and sharpened their sharp appetites by sniffing up the
fragrance of whole miles of dinners.When travellers by land were bitter cold, and looked
wearily on gloomy landscapes, rustling and shuddering in the blast. When mariners at sea,
outlying upon icy yards, were tossed and swung above the howling ocean dreadfully.
When lighthouses, on rocks and headlands, showed solitary and watchful; and benighted
sea-birds breasted on against their ponderous lanterns, and fell dead. When little readers
of story-books, by the firelight, trembled to think of Cassim Baba cut into quarters, hanging
in the Robbers' Cave, or had some small misgivings that the fierce little old woman, with the
crutch, who used to start out of the box in the merchant Abudah's bedroom, might, one of
these nights, be found upon the stairs, in the long, cold, dusky journey up to bed.When, in
rustic places, the last glimmering of daylight died away from the ends of avenues; and the
trees, arching overhead, were sullen and black. When, in parks and woods, the high wet
fern and sodden moss, and beds of fallen leaves, and trunks of trees, were lost to view, in
masses of impenetrable shade. When mists arose from dyke, and fen, and river. When
lights in old halls and in cottage windows, were a cheerful sight. When the mill stopped, the
wheelwright and the blacksmith shut their workshops, the turnpike-gate closed, the plough
and harrow were left lonely in the fields, the labourer and team went home, and the striking
of the church clock had a deeper sound than at noon, and the churchyard wicket would be
swung no more that night.When twilight everywhere released the shadows, prisoned up all
day, that now closed in and gathered like mustering swarms of ghosts. When they stood
lowering, in corners of rooms, and frowned out from behind half-opened doors. When they
had full possession of unoccupied apartments. When they danced upon the floors, and
walls, and ceilings of inhabited chambers, while the fire was low, and withdrew like ebbing
waters when it sprang into a blaze. When they fantastically mocked the shapes of
household objects, making the nurse an ogress, the rocking-horse a monster, the wondering
child, half-scared and half-amused, a stranger to itself, - the very tongs upon the hearth, a
straddling giant with his arms a-kimbo, evidently smelling the blood of Englishmen, and
wanting to grind people's bones to make his bread.When these shadows brought into the
minds of older people, other thoughts, and showed them different images. When they
stole from their retreats, in the likenesses of forms and faces from the past, from the grave,
from the deep, deep gulf, where the things that might have been, and never were, are
always wandering.When he sat, as already mentioned, gazing at the fire. When, as it rose
and fell, the shadows went and came. When he took no heed of them, with his bodily
eyes; but, let them come or let them go, looked fixedly at the fire. You should have seen
him, then.When the sounds that had arisen with the shadows, and come out of their lurkingplaces
at the twilight summons, seemed to make a deeper stillness all about him. When
the wind was rumbling in the chimney, and sometimes crooning, sometimes howling, in the
house. When the old trees outside were so shaken and beaten, that one querulous old
rook, unable to sleep, protested now and then, in a feeble, dozy, high-up "Caw!" When, at
intervals, the window trembled, the rusty vane upon the turret-top complained, the clock
beneath it recorded that another quarter of an hour was gone, or the fire collapsed and fell in
with a rattle.- When a knock came at his door, in short, as he was sitting so, and roused
him."Who's that?" said he. "Come in!"Surely there had been no figure leaning on the back
of his chair; no face looking over it. It is certain that no gliding footstep touched the floor, as
he lifted up his head, with a start, and spoke. And yet there was no mirror in the room on
whose surface his own form could have cast its shadow for a moment; and, Something had
passed darkly and gone!"I'm humbly fearful, sir," said a fresh-coloured busy man, holding
the door open with his foot for the admission of himself and a wooden tray he carried, and
letting it go again by very gentle and careful degrees, when he and the tray had got in, lest it
should close noisily, "that it's a good bit past the time to-night. But Mrs. William has been
taken off her legs so often" -"By the wind? Ay! I have heard it rising."" - By the wind, sir -
that it's a mercy she got home at all. Oh dear, yes. Yes. It was by the wind, Mr. Redlaw.
By the wind."He had, by this time, put down the tray for dinner, and was employed in
lighting the lamp, and spreading a cloth on the table. From this employment he desisted in
a hurry, to stir and feed the fire, and then resumed it; the lamp he had lighted, and the blaze
that rose under his hand, so quickly changing the appearance of the room, that it seemed as
if the mere coming in of his fresh red face and active manner had made the pleasant
alteration."Mrs. William is of course subject at any time, sir, to be taken off her balance by
the elements. She is not formed superior to THAT.""No," returned Mr. Redlaw goodnaturedly,
though abruptly."No, sir. Mrs. William may be taken off her balance by Earth; as
for example, last Sunday week, when sloppy and greasy, and she going out to tea with
her newest sister-in-law, and having a pride in herself, and wishing to appear perfectly
spotless though pedestrian. Mrs. William may be taken off her balance by Air; as being
once over-persuaded by a friend to try a swing at Peckham Fair, which acted on her
constitution instantly like a steam-boat. Mrs. William may be taken off her balance by Fire;
as on a false alarm of engines at her mother's, when she went two miles in her nightcap.
Mrs. William may be taken off her balance by Water; as at Battersea, when rowed into the
piers by her young nephew, Charley Swidger junior, aged twelve, which had no idea of
boats whatever. But these are elements. Mrs. William must be taken out of elements for
the strength of HER character to come into play."As he stopped for a reply, the reply was
"Yes," in the same tone as before."Yes, sir. Oh dear, yes!" said Mr. Swidger, still
proceeding with his preparations, and checking them off as he made them. "That's where it
is, sir. That's what I always say myself, sir. Such a many of us Swidgers! - Pepper. Why
there's my father, sir, superannuated keeper and custodian of this Institution, eighty-seven
year old. He's a Swidger! - Spoon.""True, William," was the patient and abstracted answer,
when he stopped again."Yes, sir," said Mr. Swidger. "That's what I always say, sir. You
may call him the trunk of the tree! - Bread. Then you come to his successor, my unworthy
self - Salt - and Mrs. William, Swidgers both. - Knife and fork. Then you come to all my
brothers and their families, Swidgers, man and woman, boy and girl. Why, what with
cousins, uncles, aunts, and relationships of this, that, and t'other degree, and whatnot
degree, and marriages, and lyings-in, the Swidgers - Tumbler - might take hold of hands,
and make a ring round England!Receiving no reply at all here, from the thoughtful man
whom he addressed, Mr. William approached, him nearer, and made a feint of accidentally
knocking the table with a decanter, to rouse him. The moment he succeeded, he went on,
as if in great alacrity of acquiescence."Yes, sir! That's just what I say myself, sir. Mrs.
William and me have often said so. 'There's Swidgers enough,' we say, 'without OUR
voluntary contributions,' - Butter. In fact, sir, my father is a family in himself - Castors - to take
care of; and it happens all for the best that we have no child of our own, though it's made
Mrs. William rather quiet-like, too. Quite ready for the fowl and mashed potatoes, sir? Mrs.
William said she'd dish in ten minutes when I left the Lodge.""I am quite ready," said the
other, waking as from a dream, and walking slowly to and fro."Mrs. William has been at it
again, sir!" said the keeper, as he stood warming a plate at the fire, and pleasantly shading
his face with it. Mr. Redlaw stopped in his walking, and an expression of interest appeared
in him."What I always say myself, sir. She WILL do it! There's a motherly feeling in Mrs.
William's breast that must and will have went.""What has she done?""Why, sir, not satisfied
with being a sort of mother to all the young gentlemen that come up from a variety of parts,
to attend your courses of lectures at this ancient foundation - its surprising how stone-chaney
catches the heat this frosty weather, to be sure!" Here he turned the plate, and cooled his
fingers."Well?" said Mr. Redlaw."That's just what I say myself, sir," returned Mr. William,
speaking over his shoulder, as if in ready and delighted assent. "That's exactly where it is,
sir! There ain't one of our students but appears to regard Mrs. William in that light. Every
day, right through the course, they puts their heads into the Lodge, one after another, and
have all got something to tell her, or something to ask her. 'Swidge' is the appellation by
which they speak of Mrs. William in general, among themselves, I'm told; but that's what I
say, sir. Better be called ever so far out of your name, if it's done in real liking, than have it
made ever so much of, and not cared about! What's a name for? To know a person by. If
Mrs. William is known by something better than her name - I allude to Mrs. William's
qualities and disposition - never mind her name, though it IS Swidger, by rights. Let 'em
call her Swidge, Widge, Bridge - Lord! London Bridge, Blackfriars, Chelsea, Putney,
Waterloo, or Hammersmith Suspension - if they like."The close of this triumphant oration
brought him and the plate to the table, upon which he half laid and half dropped it, with a
lively sense of its being thoroughly heated, just as the subject of his praises entered the
room, bearing another tray and a lantern, and followed by a venerable old man with long
grey hair.Mrs. William, like Mr. William, was a simple, innocent-looking person, in whose
smooth cheeks the cheerful red of her husband's official waistcoat was very pleasantly
repeated. But whereas Mr. William's light hair stood on end all over his head, and seemed
to draw his eyes up with it in an excess of bustling readiness for anything, the dark brown
hair of Mrs. William was carefully smoothed down, and waved away under a trim tidy cap, in
the most exact and quiet manner imaginable. Whereas Mr. William's very trousers hitched
themselves up at the ankles, as if it were not in their iron-grey nature to rest without looking
about them, Mrs. William's neatly-flowered skirts - red and white, like her own pretty face -
were as composed and orderly, as if the very wind that blew so hard out of doors could not
disturb one of their folds. Whereas his coat had something of a fly-away and half-off
appearance about the collar and breast, her little bodice was so placid and neat, that there
should have been protection for her, in it, had she needed any, with the roughest people.
Who could have had the heart to make so calm a bosom swell with grief, or throb with fear,
or flutter with a thought of shame! To whom would its repose and peace have not
appealed against disturbance, like the innocent slumber of a child!"Punctual, of course,
Milly," said her husband, relieving her of the tray, "or it wouldn't be you. Here's Mrs.
William, sir! - He looks lonelier than ever to-night," whispering to his wife, as he was taking
the tray, "and ghostlier altogether."Without any show of hurry or noise, or any show of
herself even, she was so calm and quiet, Milly set the dishes she had brought upon the
table, - Mr. William, after much clattering and running about, having only gained possession
of a butter-boat of gravy, which he stood ready to serve."What is that the old man has in his
arms?" asked Mr. Redlaw, as he sat down to his solitary meal."Holly, sir," replied the quiet
voice of Milly."That's what I say myself, sir," interposed Mr. William, striking in with the
butter-boat. "Berries is so seasonable to the time of year! - Brown gravy!""Another
Christmas come, another year gone!" murmured the Chemist, with a gloomy sigh. "More
figures in the lengthening sum of recollection that we work and work at to our torment, till
Death idly jumbles all together, and rubs all out. So, Philip!" breaking off, and raising his
voice as he addressed the old man, standing apart, with his glistening burden in his arms,
from which the quiet Mrs. William took small branches, which she noiselessly trimmed with
her scissors, and decorated the room with, while her aged father-in-law looked on much
interested in the ceremony."My duty to you, sir," returned the old man. "Should have
spoke before, sir, but know your ways, Mr. Redlaw - proud to say - and wait till spoke to!
Merry Christmas, sir, and Happy New Year, and many of 'em. Have had a pretty many of
'em myself - ha, ha! - and may take the liberty of wishing 'em. I'm eighty-seven!""Have you
had so many that were merry and happy?" asked the other."Ay, sir, ever so many,"
returned the old man."Is his memory impaired with age? It is to be expected now," said
Mr. Redlaw, turning to the son, and speaking lower."Not a morsel of it, sir," replied Mr.
William. "That's exactly what I say myself, sir. There never was such a memory as my
father's. He's the most wonderful man in the world. He don't know what forgetting means.
It's the very observation I'm always making to Mrs. William, sir, if you'll believe me!"Mr.
Swidger, in his polite desire to seem to acquiesce at all events, delivered this as if there
were no iota of contradiction in it, and it were all said in unbounded and unqualified
assent.The Chemist pushed his plate away, and, rising from the table, walked across the
room to where the old man stood looking at a little sprig of holly in his hand."It recalls the
time when many of those years were old and new, then?" he said, observing him
attentively, and touching him on the shoulder. "Does it?""Oh many, many!" said Philip, half
awaking from his reverie. "I'm eighty-seven!""Merry and happy, was it?" asked the
Chemist in a low voice. "Merry and happy, old man?""Maybe as high as that, no higher,"
said the old man, holding out his hand a little way above the level of his knee, and looking
retrospectively at his questioner, "when I first remember 'em! Cold, sunshiny day it was,
out a-walking, when some one - it was my mother as sure as you stand there, though I don't
know what her blessed face was like, for she took ill and died that Christmas-time - told me
they were food for birds. The pretty little fellow thought - that's me, you understand - that
birds' eyes were so bright, perhaps, because the berries that they lived on in the winter
were so bright. I recollect that. And I'm eighty-seven!""Merry and happy!" mused the
other, bending his dark eyes upon the stooping figure, with a smile of compassion. "Merry
and happy - and remember well?""Ay, ay, ay!" resumed the old man, catching the last
words. "I remember 'em well in my school time, year after year, and all the merry-making
that used to come along with them. I was a strong chap then, Mr. Redlaw; and, if you'll
believe me, hadn't my match at football within ten mile. Where's my son William? Hadn't
my match at football, William, within ten mile!"That's what I always say, father!" returned the
son promptly, and with great respect. "You ARE a Swidger, if ever there was one of the
family!""Dear!" said the old man, shaking his head as he again looked at the holly. "His
mother - my son William's my youngest son - and I, have sat among em' all, boys and girls,
little children and babies, many a year, when the berries like these were not shining half so
bright all round us, as their bright faces. Many of 'em are gone; she's gone; and my son
George (our eldest, who was her pride more than all the rest!) is fallen very low: but I can
see them, when I look here, alive and healthy, as they used to be in those days; and I can
see him, thank God, in his innocence. It's a blessed thing to me, at eighty-seven."The keen
look that had been fixed upon him with so much earnestness, had gradually sought the
ground."When my circumstances got to be not so good as formerly, through not being
honestly dealt by, and I first come here to be custodian," said the old man, " - which was
upwards of fifty years ago - where's my son William? More than half a century ago,
William!""That's what I say, father," replied the son, as promptly and dutifully as before,
"that's exactly where it is. Two times ought's an ought, and twice five ten, and there's a
hundred of 'em.""It was quite a pleasure to know that one of our founders - or more correctly
speaking," said the old man, with a great glory in his subject and his knowledge of it, "one of
the learned gentlemen that helped endow us in Queen Elizabeth's time, for we were
founded afore her day - left in his will, among the other bequests he made us, so much to
buy holly, for garnishing the walls and windows, come Christmas. There was something
homely and friendly in it. Being but strange here, then, and coming at Christmas time, we
took a liking for his very picter that hangs in what used to be, anciently, afore our ten poor
gentlemen commuted for an annual stipend in money, our great Dinner Hall. - A sedate
gentleman in a peaked beard, with a ruff round his neck, and a scroll below him, in old
English letters, 'Lord! keep my memory green!' You know all about him, Mr. Redlaw?""I
know the portrait hangs there, Philip.""Yes, sure, it's the second on the right, above the
panelling. I was going to say - he has helped to keep MY memory green, I thank him; for
going round the building every year, as I'm a doing now, and freshening up the bare rooms
with these branches and berries, freshens up my bare old brain. One year brings back
another, and that year another, and those others numbers! At last, it seems to me as if the
birth-time of our Lord was the birth-time of all I have ever had affection for, or mourned for,
or delighted in, - and they're a pretty many, for I'm eighty-seven!""Merry and happy,"
murmured Redlaw to himself.The room began to darken strangely."So you see, sir,"
pursued old Philip, whose hale wintry cheek had warmed into a ruddier glow, and whose
blue eyes had brightened while he spoke, "I have plenty to keep, when I keep this
present season. Now, where's my quiet Mouse? Chattering's the sin of my time of life,
and there's half the building to do yet, if the cold don't freeze us first, or the wind don't blow
us away, or the darkness don't swallow us up."The quiet Mouse had brought her calm face
to his side, and silently taken his arm, before he finished speaking."Come away, my dear,"
said the old man. "Mr. Redlaw won't settle to his dinner, otherwise, till it's cold as the winter.
I hope you'll excuse me rambling on, sir, and I wish you good night, and, once again, a
merry - ""Stay!" said Mr. Redlaw, resuming his place at the table, more, it would have
seemed from his manner, to reassure the old keeper, than in any remembrance of his own
appetite. "Spare me another moment, Philip. William, you were going to tell me
something to your excellent wife's honour. It will not be disagreeable to her to hear you
praise her. What was it?""Why, that's where it is, you see, sir," returned Mr. William
Swidger, looking towards his wife in considerable embarrassment. "Mrs. William's got her
eye upon me.""But you're not afraid of Mrs. William's eye?""Why, no, sir," returned Mr.
Swidger, "that's what I say myself. It wasn't made to be afraid of. It wouldn't have been
made so mild, if that was the intention. But I wouldn't like to - Milly! - him, you know. Down
in the Buildings."Mr. William, standing behind the table, and rummaging disconcertedly
among the objects upon it, directed persuasive glances at Mrs. William, and secret jerks of
his head and thumb at Mr. Redlaw, as alluring her towards him."Him, you know, my love,"
said Mr. William. "Down in the Buildings. Tell, my dear! You're the works of Shakespeare
in comparison with myself. Down in the Buildings, you know, my love. -
Student.""Student?" repeated Mr. Redlaw, raising his head."That's what I say, sir!" cried Mr.
William, in the utmost animation of assent. "If it wasn't the poor student down in the
Buildings, why should you wish to hear it from Mrs. William's lips? Mrs. William, my dear -
Buildings.""I didn't know," said Milly, with a quiet frankness, free from any haste or confusion,
"that William had said anything about it, or I wouldn't have come. I asked him not to. It's a
sick young gentleman, sir - and very poor, I am afraid - who is too ill to go home this
holiday-time, and lives, unknown to any one, in but a common kind of lodging for a
gentleman, down in Jerusalem Buildings. That's all, sir.""Why have I never heard of him?"
said the Chemist, rising hurriedly. "Why has he not made his situation known to me? Sick! -
give me my hat and cloak. Poor! - what house? - what number?""Oh, you mustn't go there,
sir," said Milly, leaving her father-in-law, and calmly confronting him with her collected little
face and folded hands."Not go there?""Oh dear, no!" said Milly, shaking her head as at a
most manifest and self-evident impossibility. "It couldn't be thought of!""What do you
mean? Why not?""Why, you see, sir," said Mr. William Swidger, persuasively and
confidentially, "that's what I say. Depend upon it, the young gentleman would never have
made his situation known to one of his own sex. Mrs. Williams has got into his confidence,
but that's quite different. They all confide in Mrs. William; they all trust HER. A man, sir,
couldn't have got a whisper out of him; but woman, sir, and Mrs. William combined -
!""There is good sense and delicacy in what you say, William," returned Mr. Redlaw,
observant of the gentle and composed face at his shoulder. And laying his finger on his lip,
he secretly put his purse into her hand."Oh dear no, sir!" cried Milly, giving it back again.
"Worse and worse! Couldn't be dreamed of!"Such a staid matter-of-fact housewife she
was, and so unruffled by the momentary haste of this rejection, that, an instant afterwards,
she was tidily picking up a few leaves which had strayed from between her scissors and her
apron, when she had arranged the holly.Finding, when she rose from her stooping posture,
that Mr. Redlaw was still regarding her with doubt and astonishment, she quietly repeated -
looking about, the while, for any other fragments that might have escaped her
observation:"Oh dear no, sir! He said that of all the world he would not be known to you, or
receive help from you - though he is a student in your class. I have made no terms of
secrecy with you, but I trust to your honour completely.""Why did he say so?""Indeed I
can't tell, sir," said Milly, after thinking a little, "because I am not at all clever, you know; and I
wanted to be useful to him in making things neat and comfortable about him, and employed
myself that way. But I know he is poor, and lonely, and I think he is somehow neglected
too. - How dark it is!"The room had darkened more and more. There was a very heavy
gloom and shadow gathering behind the Chemist's chair."What more about him?" he
asked."He is engaged to be married when he can afford it," said Milly, "and is studying, I
think, to qualify himself to earn a living. I have seen, a long time, that he has studied hard
and denied himself much. - How very dark it is!""It's turned colder, too," said the old man,
rubbing his hands. "There's a chill and dismal feeling in the room. Where's my son William?
William, my boy, turn the lamp, and rouse the fire!"Milly's voice resumed, like quiet music
very softly played:"He muttered in his broken sleep yesterday afternoon, after talking to
me" (this was to herself) "about some one dead, and some great wrong done that could
never be forgotten; but whether to him or to another person, I don't know. Not BY him, I
am sure.""And, in short, Mrs. William, you see - which she wouldn't say herself, Mr. Redlaw,
if she was to stop here till the new year after this next one - " said Mr. William, coming up to
him to speak in his ear, "has done him worlds of good! Bless you, worlds of good! All at
home just the same as ever - my father made as snug and comfortable - not a crumb of
litter to be found in the house, if you were to offer fifty pound ready money for it - Mrs.
William apparently never out of the way - yet Mrs. William backwards and forwards,
backwards and forwards, up and down, up and down, a mother to him!"The room turned
darker and colder, and the gloom and shadow gathering behind the chair was heavier."Not
content with this, sir, Mrs. William goes and finds, this very night, when she was coming
home (why it's not above a couple of hours ago), a creature more like a young wild beast
than a young child, shivering upon a door-step. What does Mrs. William do, but brings it
home to dry it, and feed it, and keep it till our old Bounty of food and flannel is given away,
on Christmas morning! If it ever felt a fire before, it's as much as ever it did; for it's sitting in
the old Lodge chimney, staring at ours as if its ravenous eyes would never shut again. It's
sitting there, at least," said Mr. William, correcting himself, on reflection, "unless it's
bolted!""Heaven keep her happy!" said the Chemist aloud, "and you too, Philip! and you,
William! I must consider what to do in this. I may desire to see this student, I'll not detain
you any longer now. Good-night!""I thank'ee, sir, I thank'ee!" said the old man, "for Mouse,
and for my son William, and for myself. Where's my son William? William, you take the
lantern and go on first, through them long dark passages, as you did last year and the year
afore. Ha ha! I remember - though I'm eighty-seven! 'Lord, keep my memory green!' It's
a very good prayer, Mr. Redlaw, that of the learned gentleman in the peaked beard, with a
ruff round his neck - hangs up, second on the right above the panelling, in what used to be,
afore our ten poor gentlemen commuted, our great Dinner Hall. 'Lord, keep my memory
green!' It's very good and pious, sir. Amen! Amen!"As they passed out and shut the
heavy door, which, however carefully withheld, fired a long train of thundering reverberations
when it shut at last, the room turned darker.As he fell a musing in his chair alone, the healthy
holly withered on the wall, and dropped - dead branches.As the gloom and shadow
thickened behind him, in that place where it had been gathering so darkly, it took, by slow
degrees, - or out of it there came, by some unreal, unsubstantial process - not to be traced
by any human sense, - an awful likeness of himself!Ghastly and cold, colourless in its leaden
face and hands, but with his features, and his bright eyes, and his grizzled hair, and dressed
in the gloomy shadow of his dress, it came into his terrible appearance of existence,
motionless, without a sound. As HE leaned his arm upon the elbow of his chair, ruminating
before the fire, IT leaned upon the chair-back, close above him, with its appalling copy of
his face looking where his face looked, and bearing the expression his face bore.This, then,
was the Something that had passed and gone already. This was the dread companion of
the haunted man!It took, for some moments, no more apparent heed of him, than he of it.
The Christmas Waits were playing somewhere in the distance, and, through his
thoughtfulness, he seemed to listen to the music. It seemed to listen too.At length he
spoke; without moving or lifting up his face."Here again!" he said."Here again," replied the
Phantom."I see you in the fire," said the haunted man; "I hear you in music, in the wind, in the
dead stillness of the night."The Phantom moved its head, assenting."Why do you come, to
haunt me thus?""I come as I am called," replied the Ghost."No. Unbidden," exclaimed the
Chemist."Unbidden be it," said the Spectre. "It is enough. I am here."Hitherto the light of
the fire had shone on the two faces - if the dread lineaments behind the chair might be called
a face - both addressed towards it, as at first, and neither looking at the other. But, now, the
haunted man turned, suddenly, and stared upon the Ghost. The Ghost, as sudden in its
motion, passed to before the chair, and stared on him.The living man, and the animated
image of himself dead, might so have looked, the one upon the other. An awful survey, in
a lonely and remote part of an empty old pile of building, on a winter night, with the loud
wind going by upon its journey of mystery - whence or whither, no man knowing since the
world began - and the stars, in unimaginable millions, glittering through it, from eternal space,
where the world's bulk is as a grain, and its hoary age is infancy."Look upon me!" said the
Spectre. "I am he, neglected in my youth, and miserably poor, who strove and suffered,
and still strove and suffered, until I hewed out knowledge from the mine where it was buried,
and made rugged steps thereof, for my worn feet to rest and rise on.""I AM that man,"
returned the Chemist."No mother's self-denying love," pursued the Phantom, "no father's
counsel, aided ME. A stranger came into my father's place when I was but a child, and I
was easily an alien from my mother's heart. My parents, at the best, were of that sort
whose care soon ends, and whose duty is soon done; who cast their offspring loose, early,
as birds do theirs; and, if they do well, claim the merit; and, if ill, the pity."It paused, and
seemed to tempt and goad him with its look, and with the manner of its speech, and with its
smile."I am he," pursued the Phantom, "who, in this struggle upward, found a friend. I made
him - won him - bound him to me! We worked together, side by side. All the love and
confidence that in my earlier youth had had no outlet, and found no expression, I bestowed
on him.""Not all," said Redlaw, hoarsely."No, not all," returned the Phantom. "I had a
sister."The haunted man, with his head resting on his hands, replied "I had!" The Phantom,
with an evil smile, drew closer to the chair, and resting its chin upon its folded hands, its
folded hands upon the back, and looking down into his face with searching eyes, that
seemed instinct with fire, went on:"Such glimpses of the light of home as I had ever known,
had streamed from her. How young she was, how fair, how loving! I took her to the first
poor roof that I was master of, and made it rich. She came into the darkness of my life, and
made it bright. - She is before me!""I saw her, in the fire, but now. I hear her in music, in the
wind, in the dead stillness of the night," returned the haunted man."DID he love her?" said
the Phantom, echoing his contemplative tone. "I think he did, once. I am sure he did.
Better had she loved him less - less secretly, less dearly, from the shallower depths of a
more divided heart!""Let me forget it!" said the Chemist, with an angry motion of his hand.
"Let me blot it from my memory!"The Spectre, without stirring, and with its unwinking, cruel
eyes still fixed upon his face, went on:"A dream, like hers, stole upon my own life.""It did,"
said Redlaw." A love, as like hers," pursued the Phantom, "as my inferior nature might
cherish, arose in my own heart. I was too poor to bind its object to my fortune then, by any
thread of promise or entreaty. I loved her far too well, to seek to do it. But, more than ever
I had striven in my life, I strove to climb! Only an inch gained, brought me something nearer
to the height. I toiled up! In the late pauses of my labour at that time, - my sister (sweet
companion!) still sharing with me the expiring embers and the cooling hearth, - when day
was breaking, what pictures of the future did I see!""I saw them, in the fire, but now," he
murmured. "They come back to me in music, in the wind, in the dead stillness of the night, in
the revolving years."" - Pictures of my own domestic life, in aftertime, with her who was the
inspiration of my toil. Pictures of my sister, made the wife of my dear friend, on equal terms
- for he had some inheritance, we none - pictures of our sobered age and mellowed
happiness, and of the golden links, extending back so far, that should bind us, and our
children, in a radiant garland," said the Phantom."Pictures," said the haunted man, "that were
delusions. Why is it my doom to remember them too well!""Delusions," echoed the
Phantom in its changeless voice, and glaring on him with its changeless eyes. "For my
friend (in whose breast my confidence was locked as in my own), passing between me
and the centre of the system of my hopes and struggles, won her to himself, and shattered
my frail universe. My sister, doubly dear, doubly devoted, doubly cheerful in my home,
lived on to see me famous, and my old ambition so rewarded when its spring was broken,
and then - ""Then died," he interposed. "Died, gentle as ever; happy; and with no concern
but for her brother. Peace!"The Phantom watched him silently."Remembered!" said the
haunted man, after a pause. "Yes. So well remembered, that even now, when years have
passed, and nothing is more idle or more visionary to me than the boyish love so long
outlived, I think of it with sympathy, as if it were a younger brother's or a son's. Sometimes
I even wonder when her heart first inclined to him, and how it had been affected towards
me. - Not lightly, once, I think. - But that is nothing. Early unhappiness, a wound from a hand
I loved and trusted, and a loss that nothing can replace, outlive such fancies.""Thus," said the
Phantom, "I bear within me a Sorrow and a Wrong. Thus I prey upon myself. Thus,
memory is my curse; and, if I could forget my sorrow and my wrong, I would!""Mocker!" said
the Chemist, leaping up, and making, with a wrathful hand, at the throat of his other self.
"Why have I always that taunt in my ears?""Forbear!" exclaimed the Spectre in an awful
voice. "Lay a hand on Me, and die!"He stopped midway, as if its words had paralysed
him, and stood looking on it. It had glided from him; it had its arm raised high in warning; and
a smile passed over its unearthly features, as it reared its dark figure in triumph."If I could
forget my sorrow and wrong, I would," the Ghost repeated. "If I could forget my sorrow and
my wrong, I would!""Evil spirit of myself," returned the haunted man, in a low, trembling
tone, "my life is darkened by that incessant whisper.""It is an echo," said the Phantom."If it
be an echo of my thoughts - as now, indeed, I know it is," rejoined the haunted man, "why
should I, therefore, be tormented? It is not a selfish thought. I suffer it to range beyond
myself. All men and women have their sorrows, - most of them their wrongs; ingratitude,
and sordid jealousy, and interest, besetting all degrees of life. Who would not forget their
sorrows and their wrongs?""Who would not, truly, and be happier and better for it?" said
the Phantom."These revolutions of years, which we commemorate," proceeded Redlaw,
"what do THEY recall! Are there any minds in which they do not re-awaken some sorrow,
or some trouble? What is the remembrance of the old man who was here to-night? A
tissue of sorrow and trouble.""But common natures," said the Phantom, with its evil smile
upon its glassy face, "unenlightened minds and ordinary spirits, do not feel or reason on
these things like men of higher cultivation and profounder thought.""Tempter," answered
Redlaw, "whose hollow look and voice I dread more than words can express, and from
whom some dim foreshadowing of greater fear is stealing over me while I speak, I hear
again an echo of my own mind.""Receive it as a proof that I am powerful," returned the
Ghost. "Hear what I offer! Forget the sorrow, wrong, and trouble you have known!""Forget
them!" he repeated."I have the power to cancel their remembrance - to leave but very faint,
confused traces of them, that will die out soon," returned the Spectre. "Say! Is it
done?""Stay!" cried the haunted man, arresting by a terrified gesture the uplifted hand. "I
tremble with distrust and doubt of you; and the dim fear you cast upon me deepens into a
nameless horror I can hardly bear. - I would not deprive myself of any kindly recollection, or
any sympathy that is good for me, or others. What shall I lose, if I assent to this? What
else will pass from my remembrance?""No knowledge; no result of study; nothing but the
intertwisted chain of feelings and associations, each in its turn dependent on, and nourished
by, the banished recollections. Those will go.""Are they so many?" said the haunted man,
reflecting in alarm."They have been wont to show themselves in the fire, in music, in the
wind, in the dead stillness of the night, in the revolving years," returned the Phantom
scornfully."In nothing else?"The Phantom held its peace.But having stood before him, silent,
for a little while, it moved towards the fire; then stopped."Decide!" it said, "before the
opportunity is lost!""A moment! I call Heaven to witness," said the agitated man, "that I
have never been a hater of any kind, - never morose, indifferent, or hard, to anything around
me. If, living here alone, I have made too much of all that was and might have been, and
too little of what is, the evil, I believe, has fallen on me, and not on others. But, if there were
poison in my body, should I not, possessed of antidotes and knowledge how to use them,
use them? If there be poison in my mind, and through this fearful shadow I can cast it out,
shall I not cast it out?""Say," said the Spectre, "is it done?""A moment longer!" he answered
hurriedly. "I WOULD FORGET IT IF I COULD! Have I thought that, alone, or has it been
the thought of thousands upon thousands, generation after generation? All human memory
is fraught with sorrow and trouble. My memory is as the memory of other men, but other
men have not this choice. Yes, I close the bargain. Yes! I WILL forget my sorrow, wrong,
and trouble!""Say," said the Spectre, "is it done?""It is!""IT IS. And take this with you, man
whom I here renounce! The gift that I have given, you shall give again, go where you will.
Without recovering yourself the power that you have yielded up, you shall henceforth
destroy its like in all whom you approach. Your wisdom has discovered that the memory of
sorrow, wrong, and trouble is the lot of all mankind, and that mankind would be the happier,
in its other memories, without it. Go! Be its benefactor! Freed from such remembrance,
from this hour, carry involuntarily the blessing of such freedom with you. Its diffusion is
inseparable and inalienable from you. Go! Be happy in the good you have won, and in
the good you do!"The Phantom, which had held its bloodless hand above him while it
spoke, as if in some unholy invocation, or some ban; and which had gradually advanced its
eyes so close to his, that he could see how they did not participate in the terrible smile
upon its face, but were a fixed, unalterable, steady horror melted before him and was
gone.As he stood rooted to the spot, possessed by fear and wonder, and imagining he
heard repeated in melancholy echoes, dying away fainter and fainter, the words, "Destroy
its like in all whom you approach!" a shrill cry reached his ears. It came, not from the
passages beyond the door, but from another part of the old building, and sounded like the
cry of some one in the dark who had lost the way.He looked confusedly upon his hands
and limbs, as if to be assured of his identity, and then shouted in reply, loudly and wildly; for
there was a strangeness and terror upon him, as if he too were lost.The cry responding, and
being nearer, he caught up the lamp, and raised a heavy curtain in the wall, by which he was
accustomed to pass into and out of the theatre where he lectured, - which adjoined his room.
Associated with youth and animation, and a high amphitheatre of faces which his entrance
charmed to interest in a moment, it was a ghostly place when all this life was faded out of it,
and stared upon him like an emblem of Death."Halloa!" he cried. "Halloa! This way! Come
to the light!" When, as he held the curtain with one hand, and with the other raised the lamp
and tried to pierce the gloom that filled the place, something rushed past him into the room
like a wild-cat, and crouched down in a corner."What is it?" he said, hastily.He might have
asked "What is it?" even had he seen it well, as presently he did when he stood looking at it
gathered up in its corner.A bundle of tatters, held together by a hand, in size and form
almost an infant's, but in its greedy, desperate little clutch, a bad old man's. A face rounded
and smoothed by some half-dozen years, but pinched and twisted by the experiences of
a life. Bright eyes, but not youthful. Naked feet, beautiful in their childish delicacy, - ugly in
the blood and dirt that cracked upon them. A baby savage, a young monster, a child who
had never been a child, a creature who might live to take the outward form of man, but who,
within, would live and perish a mere beast.Used, already, to be worried and hunted like a
beast, the boy crouched down as he was looked at, and looked back again, and interposed
his arm to ward off the expected blow."I'll bite," he said, "if you hit me!"The time had been,
and not many minutes since, when such a sight as this would have wrung the Chemist's
heart. He looked upon it now, coldly; but with a heavy effort to remember something - he
did not know what - he asked the boy what he did there, and whence he came."Where's
the woman?" he replied. "I want to find the woman.""Who?""The woman. Her that brought
me here, and set me by the large fire. She was so long gone, that I went to look for her,
and lost myself. I don't want you. I want the woman."He made a spring, so suddenly, to
get away, that the dull sound of his naked feet upon the floor was near the curtain, when
Redlaw caught him by his rags."Come! you let me go!" muttered the boy, struggling, and
clenching his teeth. "I've done nothing to you. Let me go, will you, to the woman!""That is
not the way. There is a nearer one," said Redlaw, detaining him, in the same blank effort to
remember some association that ought, of right, to bear upon this monstrous object. "What
is your name?""Got none.""Where do you live?"Live! What's that?"The boy shook his hair
from his eyes to look at him for a moment, and then, twisting round his legs and wrestling
with him, broke again into his repetition of "You let me go, will you? I want to find the
woman."The Chemist led him to the door. "This way," he said, looking at him still
confusedly, but with repugnance and avoidance, growing out of his coldness. "I'll take you
to her."The sharp eyes in the child's head, wandering round the room, lighted on the table
where the remnants of the dinner were."Give me some of that!" he said, covetously."Has
she not fed you?""I shall be hungry again to-morrow, sha'n't I? Ain't I hungry every
day?"Finding himself released, he bounded at the table like some small animal of prey, and
hugging to his breast bread and meat, and his own rags, all together, said:"There! Now take
me to the woman!"As the Chemist, with a new-born dislike to touch him, sternly motioned
him to follow, and was going out of the door, he trembled and stopped."The gift that I have
given, you shall give again, go where you will!"The Phantom's words were blowing in the
wind, and the wind blew chill upon him."I'll not go there, to-night," he murmured faintly. "I'll
go nowhere to-night. Boy! straight down this long-arched passage, and past the great dark
door into the yard, - you see the fire shining on the window there.""The woman's fire?"
inquired the boy.He nodded, and the naked feet had sprung away. He came back with his
lamp, locked his door hastily, and sat down in his chair, covering his face like one who was
frightened at himself.For now he was, indeed, alone. Alone, alone.CHAPTER II - The Gift
DiffusedA SMALL man sat in a small parlour, partitioned off from a small shop by a small
screen, pasted all over with small scraps of newspapers. In company with the small man,
was almost any amount of small children you may please to name - at least it seemed so;
they made, in that very limited sphere of action, such an imposing effect, in point of
numbers.Of these small fry, two had, by some strong machinery, been got into bed in a
corner, where they might have reposed snugly enough in the sleep of innocence, but for a
constitutional propensity to keep awake, and also to scuffle in and out of bed. The
immediate occasion of these predatory dashes at the waking world, was the construction of
an oyster-shell wall in a corner, by two other youths of tender age; on which fortification the
two in bed made harassing descents (like those accursed Picts and Scots who beleaguer
the early historical studies of most young Britons), and then withdrew to their own territory.In
addition to the stir attendant on these inroads, and the retorts of the invaded, who pursued
hotly, and made lunges at the bed-clothes under which the marauders took refuge, another
little boy, in another little bed, contributed his mite of confusion to the family stock, by casting
his boots upon the waters; in other words, by launching these and several small objects,
inoffensive in themselves, though of a hard substance considered as missiles, at the
disturbers of his repose, - who were not slow to return these compliments.Besides which,
another little boy - the biggest there, but still little - was tottering to and fro, bent on one
side, and considerably affected in his knees by the weight of a large baby, which he was
supposed by a fiction that obtains sometimes in sanguine families, to be hushing to sleep.
But oh! the inexhaustible regions of contemplation and watchfulness into which this baby's
eyes were then only beginning to compose themselves to stare, over his unconscious
shoulder!It was a very Moloch of a baby, on whose insatiate altar the whole existence of
this particular young brother was offered up a daily sacrifice. Its personality may be said to
have consisted in its never being quiet, in any one place, for five consecutive minutes, and
never going to sleep when required. "Tetterby's baby" was as well known in the
neighbourhood as the postman or the pot-boy. It roved from door-step to door-step, in
the arms of little Johnny Tetterby, and lagged heavily at the rear of troops of juveniles who
followed the Tumblers or the Monkey, and came up, all on one side, a little too late for
everything that was attractive, from Monday morning until Saturday night. Wherever
childhood congregated to play, there was little Moloch making Johnny fag and toil.
Wherever Johnny desired to stay, little Moloch became fractious, and would not remain.
Whenever Johnny wanted to go out, Moloch was asleep, and must be watched.
Whenever Johnny wanted to stay at home, Moloch was awake, and must be taken out.
Yet Johnny was verily persuaded that it was a faultless baby, without its peer in the realm
of England, and was quite content to catch meek glimpses of things in general from behind
its skirts, or over its limp flapping bonnet, and to go staggering about with it like a very little
porter with a very large parcel, which was not directed to anybody, and could never be
delivered anywhere.The small man who sat in the small parlour, making fruitless attempts to
read his newspaper peaceably in the midst of this disturbance, was the father of the family,
and the chief of the firm described in the inscription over the little shop front, by the name
and title of A. TETTERBY AND CO., NEWSMEN. Indeed, strictly speaking, he was the
only personage answering to that designation, as Co. was a mere poetical abstraction,
altogether baseless and impersonal.Tetterby's was the corner shop in Jerusalem Buildings.
There was a good show of literature in the window, chiefly consisting of picture-newspapers
out of date, and serial pirates, and footpads. Walking-sticks, likewise, and marbles, were
included in the stock in trade. It had once extended into the light confectionery line; but it
would seem that those elegancies of life were not in demand about Jerusalem Buildings, for
nothing connected with that branch of commerce remained in the window, except a sort of
small glass lantern containing a languishing mass of bull's-eyes, which had melted in the
summer and congealed in the winter until all hope of ever getting them out, or of eating them
without eating the lantern too, was gone for ever. Tetterby's had tried its hand at several
things. It had once made a feeble little dart at the toy business; for, in another lantern, there
was a heap of minute wax dolls, all sticking together upside down, in the direst confusion,
with their feet on one another's heads, and a precipitate of broken arms and legs at the
bottom. It had made a move in the millinery direction, which a few dry, wiry bonnet-shapes
remained in a corner of the window to attest. It had fancied that a living might lie hidden in
the tobacco trade, and had stuck up a representation of a native of each of the three integral
portions of the British Empire, in the act of consuming that fragrant weed; with a poetic
legend attached, importing that united in one cause they sat and joked, one chewed
tobacco, one took snuff, one smoked: but nothing seemed to have come of it - except
flies. Time had been when it had put a forlorn trust in imitative jewellery, for in one pane of
glass there was a card of cheap seals, and another of pencil-cases, and a mysterious black
amulet of inscrutable intention, labelled ninepence. But, to that hour, Jerusalem Buildings
had bought none of them. In short, Tetterby's had tried so hard to get a livelihood out of
Jerusalem Buildings in one way or other, and appeared to have done so indifferently in all,
that the best position in the firm was too evidently Co.'s; Co., as a bodiless creation, being
untroubled with the vulgar inconveniences of hunger and thirst, being chargeable neither to
the poor's-rates nor the assessed taxes, and having no young family to provide
for.Tetterby himself, however, in his little parlour, as already mentioned, having the
presence of a young family impressed upon his mind in a manner too clamorous to be
disregarded, or to comport with the quiet perusal of a newspaper, laid down his paper,
wheeled, in his distraction, a few times round the parlour, like an undecided carrier-pigeon,
made an ineffectual rush at one or two flying little figures in bed-gowns that skimmed past
him, and then, bearing suddenly down upon the only unoffending member of the family,
boxed the ears of little Moloch's nurse."You bad boy!" said Mr. Tetterby, "haven't you any
feeling for your poor father after the fatigues and anxieties of a hard winter's day, since five
o'clock in the morning, but must you wither his rest, and corrode his latest intelligence, with
YOUR wicious tricks? Isn't it enough, sir, that your brother 'Dolphus is toiling and moiling in
the fog and cold, and you rolling in the lap of luxury with a - with a baby, and everything you
can wish for," said Mr. Tetterby, heaping this up as a great climax of blessings, "but must
you make a wilderness of home, and maniacs of your parents? Must you, Johnny? Hey?"
At each interrogation, Mr. Tetterby made a feint of boxing his ears again, but thought better
of it, and held his hand."Oh, father!" whimpered Johnny, "when I wasn't doing anything, I'm
sure, but taking such care of Sally, and getting her to sleep. Oh, father!""I wish my little
woman would come home!" said Mr. Tetterby, relenting and repenting, "I only wish my little
woman would come home! I ain't fit to deal with 'em. They make my head go round, and
get the better of me. Oh, Johnny! Isn't it enough that your dear mother has provided you
with that sweet sister?" indicating Moloch; "isn't it enough that you were seven boys before
without a ray of gal, and that your dear mother went through what she DID go through, on
purpose that you might all of you have a little sister, but must you so behave yourself as to
make my head swim?"Softening more and more, as his own tender feelings and those of
his injured son were worked on, Mr. Tetterby concluded by embracing him, and
immediately breaking away to catch one of the real delinquents. A reasonably good start
occurring, he succeeded, after a short but smart run, and some rather severe cross-country
work under and over the bedsteads, and in and out among the intricacies of the chairs, in
capturing this infant, whom he condignly punished, and bore to bed. This example had a
powerful, and apparently, mesmeric influence on him of the boots, who instantly fell into a
deep sleep, though he had been, but a moment before, broad awake, and in the highest
possible feather. Nor was it lost upon the two young architects, who retired to bed, in an
adjoining closet, with great privacy and speed. The comrade of the Intercepted One also
shrinking into his nest with similar discretion, Mr. Tetterby, when he paused for breath, found
himself unexpectedly in a scene of peace."My little woman herself," said Mr. Tetterby,
wiping his flushed face, "could hardly have done it better! I only wish my little woman had
had it to do, I do indeed!"Mr. Tetterby sought upon his screen for a passage appropriate to
be impressed upon his children's minds on the occasion, and read the following."'It is an
undoubted fact that all remarkable men have had remarkable mothers, and have respected
them in after life as their best friends.' Think of your own remarkable mother, my boys," said
Mr. Tetterby, "and know her value while she is still among you!"He sat down again in his
chair by the fire, and composed himself, cross-legged, over his newspaper."Let anybody,
I don't care who it is, get out of bed again," said Tetterby, as a general proclamation,
delivered in a very soft-hearted manner, "and astonishment will be the portion of that
respected contemporary!" - which expression Mr. Tetterby selected from his screen.
"Johnny, my child, take care of your only sister, Sally; for she's the brightest gem that ever
sparkled on your early brow."Johnny sat down on a little stool, and devotedly crushed
himself beneath the weight of Moloch."Ah, what a gift that baby is to you, Johnny!" said his
father, "and how thankful you ought to be! 'It is not generally known, Johnny,'" he was now
referring to the screen again, "'but it is a fact ascertained, by accurate calculations, that the
following immense percentage of babies never attain to two years old; that is to say - '""Oh,
don't, father, please!" cried Johnny. "I can't bear it, when I think of Sally."Mr. Tetterby
desisting, Johnny, with a profound sense of his trust, wiped his eyes, and hushed his
sister."Your brother 'Dolphus," said his father, poking the fire, "is late to-night, Johnny, and
will come home like a lump of ice. What's got your precious mother?""Here's mother, and
'Dolphus too, father!" exclaimed Johnny, "I think.""You're right!" returned his father, listening.
"Yes, that's the footstep of my little woman."The process of induction, by which Mr
Tetterby had come to the conclusion that his wife was a little woman, was his own secret.
She would have made two editions of himself, very easily. Considered as an individual,
she was rather remarkable for being robust and portly; but considered with reference to her
husband, her dimensions became magnificent. Nor did they assume a less imposing
proportion, when studied with reference to the size of her seven sons, who were but
diminutive. In the case of Sally, however, Mrs. Tetterby had asserted herself, at last; as
nobody knew better than the victim Johnny, who weighed and measured that exacting idol
every hour in the day.Mrs. Tetterby, who had been marketing, and carried a basket, threw
back her bonnet and shawl, and sitting down, fatigued, commanded Johnny to bring his
sweet charge to her straightway, for a kiss. Johnny having complied, and gone back to his
stool, and again crushed himself, Master Adolphus Tetterby, who had by this time
unwound his torso out of a prismatic comforter, apparently interminable, requested the
same favour. Johnny having again complied, and again gone back to his stool, and again
crushed himself, Mr. Tetterby, struck by a sudden thought, preferred the same claim on his
own parental part. The satisfaction of this third desire completely exhausted the sacrifice,
who had hardly breath enough left to get back to his stool, crush himself again, and pant at
his relations."Whatever you do, Johnny," said Mrs. Tetterby, shaking her head, "take care of
her, or never look your mother in the face again.""Nor your brother," said Adolphus."Nor
your father, Johnny," added Mr. Tetterby.Johnny, much affected by this conditional
renunciation of him, looked down at Moloch's eyes to see that they were all right, so far, and
skilfully patted her back (which was uppermost), and rocked her with his foot."Are you wet,
'Dolphus, my boy?" said his father. "Come and take my chair, and dry yourself.""No, father,
thank'ee," said Adolphus, smoothing himself down with his hands. "I an't very wet, I don't
think. Does my face shine much, father?""Well, it DOES look waxy, my boy," returned Mr.
Tetterby."It's the weather, father," said Adolphus, polishing his cheeks on the worn sleeve
of his jacket. "What with rain, and sleet, and wind, and snow, and fog, my face gets quite
brought out into a rash sometimes. And shines, it does - oh, don't it, though!"Master
Adolphus was also in the newspaper line of life, being employed, by a more thriving firm
than his father and Co., to vend newspapers at a railway station, where his chubby little
person, like a shabbily-disguised Cupid, and his shrill little voice (he was not much more
than ten years old), were as well known as the hoarse panting of the locomotives, running in
and out. His juvenility might have been at some loss for a harmless outlet, in this early
application to traffic, but for a fortunate discovery he made of a means of entertaining
himself, and of dividing the long day into stages of interest, without neglecting business.
This ingenious invention, remarkable, like many great discoveries, for its simplicity, consisted
in varying the first vowel in the word "paper," and substituting, in its stead, at different
periods of the day, all the other vowels in grammatical succession. Thus, before daylight in
the winter-time, he went to and fro, in his little oilskin cap and cape, and his big comforter,
piercing the heavy air with his cry of "Morn-ing Pa-per!" which, about an hour before noon,
changed to "Morn-ing Pepper!" which, at about two, changed to "Morn-ing Pip-per!" which
in a couple of hours changed to "Morn-ing Pop-per!" and so declined with the sun into "Evening
Pup-per!" to the great relief and comfort of this young gentleman's spirits.Mrs.
Tetterby, his lady-mother, who had been sitting with her bonnet and shawl thrown back, as
aforesaid, thoughtfully turning her wedding-ring round and round upon her finger, now rose,
and divesting herself of her out-of-door attire, began to lay the cloth for supper."Ah, dear
me, dear me, dear me!" said Mrs. Tetterby. "That's the way the world goes!""Which is the
way the world goes, my dear?" asked Mr. Tetterby, looking round."Oh, nothing," said Mrs.
Tetterby.Mr. Tetterby elevated his eyebrows, folded his newspaper afresh, and carried his
eyes up it, and down it, and across it, but was wandering in his attention, and not reading
it.Mrs. Tetterby, at the same time, laid the cloth, but rather as if she were punishing the table
than preparing the family supper; hitting it unnecessarily hard with the knives and forks,
slapping it with the plates, dinting it with the salt-cellar, and coming heavily down upon it with
the loaf."Ah, dear me, dear me, dear me!" said Mrs. Tetterby. "That's the way the world
goes!""My duck," returned her husband, looking round again, "you said that before. Which
is the way the world goes?""Oh, nothing!" said Mrs. Tetterby."Sophia!" remonstrated her
husband, "you said THAT before, too.""Well, I'll say it again if you like," returned Mrs.
Tetterby. "Oh nothing - there! And again if you like, oh nothing - there! And again if you
like, oh nothing - now then!"Mr. Tetterby brought his eye to bear upon the partner of his
bosom, and said, in mild astonishment:"My little woman, what has put you out?""I'm sure I
don't know," she retorted. "Don't ask me. Who said I was put out at all? I never did."Mr.
Tetterby gave up the perusal of his newspaper as a bad job, and, taking a slow walk
across the room, with his hands behind him, and his shoulders raised - his gait according
perfectly with the resignation of his manner - addressed himself to his two eldest
offspring."Your supper will be ready in a minute, 'Dolphus," said Mr. Tetterby. "Your
mother has been out in the wet, to the cook's shop, to buy it. It was very good of your
mother so to do. YOU shall get some supper too, very soon, Johnny. Your mother's
pleased with you, my man, for being so attentive to your precious sister."Mrs. Tetterby,
without any remark, but with a decided subsidence of her animosity towards the table,
finished her preparations, and took, from her ample basket, a substantial slab of hot pease
pudding wrapped in paper, and a basin covered with a saucer, which, on being uncovered,
sent forth an odour so agreeable, that the three pair of eyes in the two beds opened wide
and fixed themselves upon the banquet. Mr. Tetterby, without regarding this tacit invitation
to be seated, stood repeating slowly, "Yes, yes, your supper will be ready in a minute,
'Dolphus - your mother went out in the wet, to the cook's shop, to buy it. It was very good
of your mother so to do" - until Mrs. Tetterby, who had been exhibiting sundry tokens of
contrition behind him, caught him round the neck, and wept."Oh, Dolphus!" said Mrs.
Tetterby, "how could I go and behave so?"This reconciliation affected Adolphus the
younger and Johnny to that degree, that they both, as with one accord, raised a dismal cry,
which had the effect of immediately shutting up the round eyes in the beds, and utterly
routing the two remaining little Tetterbys, just then stealing in from the adjoining closet to see
what was going on in the eating way."I am sure, 'Dolphus," sobbed Mrs. Tetterby, "coming
home, I had no more idea than a child unborn - "Mr. Tetterby seemed to dislike this figure of
speech, and observed, "Say than the baby, my dear."" - Had no more idea than the
baby," said Mrs. Tetterby. - "Johnny, don't look at me, but look at her, or she'll fall out of
your lap and be killed, and then you'll die in agonies of a broken heart, and serve you right. -
No more idea I hadn't than that darling, of being cross when I came home; but somehow,
'Dolphus - " Mrs. Tetterby paused, and again turned her wedding-ring round and round
upon her finger."I see!" said Mr. Tetterby. "I understand! My little woman was put out.
Hard times, and hard weather, and hard work, make it trying now and then. I see, bless your
soul! No wonder! Dolf, my man," continued Mr. Tetterby, exploring the basin with a fork,
"here's your mother been and bought, at the cook's shop, besides pease pudding, a
whole knuckle of a lovely roast leg of pork, with lots of crackling left upon it, and with
seasoning gravy and mustard quite unlimited. Hand in your plate, my boy, and begin while
it's simmering."Master Adolphus, needing no second summons, received his portion with
eyes rendered moist by appetite, and withdrawing to his particular stool, fell upon his
supper tooth and nail. Johnny was not forgotten, but received his rations on bread, lest he
should, in a flush of gravy, trickle any on the baby. He was required, for similar reasons, to
keep his pudding, when not on active service, in his pocket.There might have been more
pork on the knucklebone, - which knucklebone the carver at the cook's shop had assuredly
not forgotten in carving for previous customers - but there was no stint of seasoning, and
that is an accessory dreamily suggesting pork, and pleasantly cheating the sense of taste.
The pease pudding, too, the gravy and mustard, like the Eastern rose in respect of the
nightingale, if they were not absolutely pork, had lived near it; so, upon the whole, there
was the flavour of a middle-sized pig. It was irresistible to the Tetterbys in bed, who,
though professing to slumber peacefully, crawled out when unseen by their parents, and
silently appealed to their brothers for any gastronomic token of fraternal affection. They, not
hard of heart, presenting scraps in return, it resulted that a party of light skirmishers in
nightgowns were careering about the parlour all through supper, which harassed Mr.
Tetterby exceedingly, and once or twice imposed upon him the necessity of a charge,
before which these guerilla troops retired in all directions and in great confusion.Mrs.
Tetterby did not enjoy her supper. There seemed to be something on Mrs. Tetterby's
mind. At one time she laughed without reason, and at another time she cried without
reason, and at last she laughed and cried together in a manner so very unreasonable that
her husband was confounded."My little woman," said Mr. Tetterby, "if the world goes that
way, it appears to go the wrong way, and to choke you.""Give me a drop of water," said
Mrs. Tetterby, struggling with herself, "and don't speak to me for the present, or take any
notice of me. Don't do it!"Mr. Tetterby having administered the water, turned suddenly on
the unlucky Johnny (who was full of sympathy), and demanded why he was wallowing
there, in gluttony and idleness, instead of coming forward with the baby, that the sight of her
might revive his mother. Johnny immediately approached, borne down by its weight; but
Mrs. Tetterby holding out her hand to signify that she was not in a condition to bear that
trying appeal to her feelings, he was interdicted from advancing another inch, on pain of
perpetual hatred from all his dearest connections; and accordingly retired to his stool again,
and crushed himself as before.After a pause, Mrs. Tetterby said she was better now, and
began to laugh."My little woman," said her husband, dubiously, "are you quite sure you're
better? Or are you, Sophia, about to break out in a fresh direction?""No, 'Dolphus, no,"
replied his wife. "I'm quite myself." With that, settling her hair, and pressing the palms of
her hands upon her eyes, she laughed again."What a wicked fool I was, to think so for a
moment!" said Mrs. Tetterby. "Come nearer, 'Dolphus, and let me ease my mind, and tell
you what I mean. Let me tell you all about it."Mr. Tetterby bringing his chair closer, Mrs.
Tetterby laughed again, gave him a hug, and wiped her eyes."You know, Dolphus, my
dear," said Mrs. Tetterby, "that when I was single, I might have given myself away in
several directions. At one time, four after me at once; two of them were sons of
Mars.""We're all sons of Ma's, my dear," said Mr. Tetterby, "jointly with Pa's.""I don't mean
that," replied his wife, "I mean soldiers - serjeants.""Oh!" said Mr. Tetterby."Well, 'Dolphus,
I'm sure I never think of such things now, to regret them; and I'm sure I've got as good a
husband, and would do as much to prove that I was fond of him, as - ""As any little woman
in the world," said Mr. Tetterby. "Very good. VERY good."If Mr. Tetterby had been ten
feet high, he could not have expressed a gentler consideration for Mrs. Tetterby's fairy-like
stature; and if Mrs. Tetterby had been two feet high, she could not have felt it more
appropriately her due."But you see, 'Dolphus," said Mrs. Tetterby, "this being Christmastime,
when all people who can, make holiday, and when all people who have got money,
like to spend some, I did, somehow, get a little out of sorts when I was in the streets just
now. There were so many things to be sold - such delicious things to eat, such fine things to
look at, such delightful things to have - and there was so much calculating and calculating
necessary, before I durst lay out a sixpence for the commonest thing; and the basket was
so large, and wanted so much in it; and my stock of money was so small, and would go
such a little way; - you hate me, don't you, 'Dolphus?""Not quite," said Mr. Tetterby, "as
yet.""Well! I'll tell you the whole truth," pursued his wife, penitently, "and then perhaps you
will. I felt all this, so much, when I was trudging about in the cold, and when I saw a lot of
other calculating faces and large baskets trudging about, too, that I began to think whether I
mightn't have done better, and been happier, if - I - hadn't - " the wedding-ring went round
again, and Mrs. Tetterby shook her downcast head as she turned it."I see," said her
husband quietly; "if you hadn't married at all, or if you had married somebody else?""Yes,"
sobbed Mrs. Tetterby. "That's really what I thought. Do you hate me now,
'Dolphus?""Why no," said Mr. Tetterby. "I don't find that I do, as yet."Mrs. Tetterby gave
him a thankful kiss, and went on."I begin to hope you won't, now, 'Dolphus, though I'm afraid
I haven't told you the worst. I can't think what came over me. I don't know whether I was ill,
or mad, or what I was, but I couldn't call up anything that seemed to bind us to each other, or
to reconcile me to my fortune. All the pleasures and enjoyments we had ever had - THEY
seemed so poor and insignificant, I hated them. I could have trodden on them. And I could
think of nothing else, except our being poor, and the number of mouths there were at
home.""Well, well, my dear," said Mr. Tetterby, shaking her hand encouragingly, "that's truth,
after all. We ARE poor, and there ARE a number of mouths at home here.""Ah! but, Dolf,
Dolf!" cried his wife, laying her hands upon his neck, "my good, kind, patient fellow, when I
had been at home a very little while - how different! Oh, Dolf, dear, how different it was! I
felt as if there was a rush of recollection on me, all at once, that softened my hard heart, and
filled it up till it was bursting. All our struggles for a livelihood, all our cares and wants since
we have been married, all the times of sickness, all the hours of watching, we have ever
had, by one another, or by the children, seemed to speak to me, and say that they had
made us one, and that I never might have been, or could have been, or would have been,
any other than the wife and mother I am. Then, the cheap enjoyments that I could have
trodden on so cruelly, got to be so precious to me - Oh so priceless, and dear! - that I
couldn't bear to think how much I had wronged them; and I said, and say again a hundred
times, how could I ever behave so, 'Dolphus, how could I ever have the heart to do it!"The
good woman, quite carried away by her honest tenderness and remorse, was weeping
with all her heart, when she started up with a scream, and ran behind her husband. Her cry
was so terrified, that the children started from their sleep and from their beds, and clung
about her. Nor did her gaze belie her voice, as she pointed to a pale man in a black cloak
who had come into the room."Look at that man! Look there! What does he want?""My
dear," returned her husband, "I'll ask him if you'll let me go. What's the matter! How you
shake!""I saw him in the street, when I was out just now. He looked at me, and stood near
me. I am afraid of him.""Afraid of him! Why?""I don't know why - I - stop! husband!" for he
was going towards the stranger.She had one hand pressed upon her forehead, and one
upon her breast; and there was a peculiar fluttering all over her, and a hurried unsteady
motion of her eyes, as if she had lost something."Are you ill, my dear?""What is it that is
going from me again?" she muttered, in a low voice. "What IS this that is going
away?"Then she abruptly answered: "Ill? No, I am quite well," and stood looking vacantly
at the floor.Her husband, who had not been altogether free from the infection of her fear at
first, and whom the present strangeness of her manner did not tend to reassure, addressed
himself to the pale visitor in the black cloak, who stood still, and whose eyes were bent
upon the ground."What may be your pleasure, sir," he asked, "with us?""I fear that my
coming in unperceived," returned the visitor, "has alarmed you; but you were talking and did
not hear me.""My little woman says - perhaps you heard her say it," returned Mr. Tetterby,
"that it's not the first time you have alarmed her to-night.""I am sorry for it. I remember to
have observed her, for a few moments only, in the street. I had no intention of frightening
her."As he raised his eyes in speaking, she raised hers. It was extraordinary to see what
dread she had of him, and with what dread he observed it - and yet how narrowly and
closely."My name," he said, "is Redlaw. I come from the old college hard by. A young
gentleman who is a student there, lodges in your house, does he not?""Mr. Denham?" said
Tetterby."Yes."It was a natural action, and so slight as to be hardly noticeable; but the little
man, before speaking again, passed his hand across his forehead, and looked quickly round
the room, as though he were sensible of some change in its atmosphere. The Chemist,
instantly transferring to him the look of dread he had directed towards the wife, stepped
back, and his face turned paler."The gentleman's room," said Tetterby, "is upstairs, sir.
There's a more convenient private entrance; but as you have come in here, it will save your
going out into the cold, if you'll take this little staircase," showing one communicating directly
with the parlour, "and go up to him that way, if you wish to see him.""Yes, I wish to see
him," said the Chemist. "Can you spare a light?"The watchfulness of his haggard look, and
the inexplicable distrust that darkened it, seemed to trouble Mr. Tetterby. He paused; and
looking fixedly at him in return, stood for a minute or so, like a man stupefied, or
fascinated.At length he said, "I'll light you, sir, if you'll follow me.""No," replied the Chemist, "I
don't wish to be attended, or announced to him. He does not expect me. I would rather go
alone. Please to give me the light, if you can spare it, and I'll find the way."In the quickness
of his expression of this desire, and in taking the candle from the newsman, he touched him
on the breast. Withdrawing his hand hastily, almost as though he had wounded him by
accident (for he did not know in what part of himself his new power resided, or how it was
communicated, or how the manner of its reception varied in different persons), he turned
and ascended the stair.But when he reached the top, he stopped and looked down. The
wife was standing in the same place, twisting her ring round and round upon her finger. The
husband, with his head bent forward on his breast, was musing heavily and sullenly. The
children, still clustering about the mother, gazed timidly after the visitor, and nestled together
when they saw him looking down."Come!" said the father, roughly. "There's enough of this.
Get to bed here!""The place is inconvenient and small enough," the mother added, "without
you. Get to bed!"The whole brood, scared and sad, crept away; little Johnny and the
baby lagging last. The mother, glancing contemptuously round the sordid room, and
tossing from her the fragments of their meal, stopped on the threshold of her task of clearing
the table, and sat down, pondering idly and dejectedly. The father betook himself to the
chimney-corner, and impatiently raking the small fire together, bent over it as if he would
monopolise it all. They did not interchange a word.The Chemist, paler than before, stole
upward like a thief; looking back upon the change below, and dreading equally to go on or
return."What have I done!" he said, confusedly. "What am I going to do!""To be the
benefactor of mankind," he thought he heard a voice reply.He looked round, but there was
nothing there; and a passage now shutting out the little parlour from his view, he went on,
directing his eyes before him at the way he went."It is only since last night," he muttered
gloomily, "that I have remained shut up, and yet all things are strange to me. I am strange to
myself. I am here, as in a dream. What interest have I in this place, or in any place that I can
bring to my remembrance? My mind is going blind!"There was a door before him, and he
knocked at it. Being invited, by a voice within, to enter, he complied."Is that my kind nurse?"
said the voice. "But I need not ask her. There is no one else to come here."It spoke
cheerfully, though in a languid tone, and attracted his attention to a young man lying on a
couch, drawn before the chimney-piece, with the back towards the door. A meagre scanty
stove, pinched and hollowed like a sick man's cheeks, and bricked into the centre of a hearth
that it could scarcely warm, contained the fire, to which his face was turned. Being so near
the windy house-top, it wasted quickly, and with a busy sound, and the burning ashes
dropped down fast."They chink when they shoot out here," said the student, smiling, "so,
according to the gossips, they are not coffins, but purses. I shall be well and rich yet, some
day, if it please God, and shall live perhaps to love a daughter Milly, in remembrance of the
kindest nature and the gentlest heart in the world."He put up his hand as if expecting her to
take it, but, being weakened, he lay still, with his face resting on his other hand, and did not
turn round.The Chemist glanced about the room; - at the student's books and papers, piled
upon a table in a corner, where they, and his extinguished reading-lamp, now prohibited
and put away, told of the attentive hours that had gone before this illness, and perhaps
caused it; - at such signs of his old health and freedom, as the out-of-door attire that hung
idle on the wall; - at those remembrances of other and less solitary scenes, the little
miniatures upon the chimney-piece, and the drawing of home; - at that token of his
emulation, perhaps, in some sort, of his personal attachment too, the framed engraving of
himself, the looker-on. The time had been, only yesterday, when not one of these objects,
in its remotest association of interest with the living figure before him, would have been lost
on Redlaw. Now, they were but objects; or, if any gleam of such connexion shot upon him,
it perplexed, and not enlightened him, as he stood looking round with a dull wonder.The
student, recalling the thin hand which had remained so long untouched, raised himself on the
couch, and turned his head."Mr. Redlaw!" he exclaimed, and started up.Redlaw put out his
arm."Don't come nearer to me. I will sit here. Remain you, where you are!"He sat down on
a chair near the door, and having glanced at the young man standing leaning with his hand
upon the couch, spoke with his eyes averted towards the ground."I heard, by an accident,
by what accident is no matter, that one of my class was ill and solitary. I received no other
description of him, than that he lived in this street. Beginning my inquiries at the first house in
it, I have found him.""I have been ill, sir," returned the student, not merely with a modest
hesitation, but with a kind of awe of him, "but am greatly better. An attack of fever - of the
brain, I believe - has weakened me, but I am much better. I cannot say I have been
solitary, in my illness, or I should forget the ministering hand that has been near me.""You
are speaking of the keeper's wife," said Redlaw."Yes." The student bent his head, as if he
rendered her some silent homage.The Chemist, in whom there was a cold, monotonous
apathy, which rendered him more like a marble image on the tomb of the man who had
started from his dinner yesterday at the first mention of this student's case, than the
breathing man himself, glanced again at the student leaning with his hand upon the couch,
and looked upon the ground, and in the air, as if for light for his blinded mind."I remembered
your name," he said, "when it was mentioned to me down stairs, just now; and I recollect
your face. We have held but very little personal communication together?""Very little.""You
have retired and withdrawn from me, more than any of the rest, I think?"The student signified
assent."And why?" said the Chemist; not with the least expression of interest, but with a
moody, wayward kind of curiosity. "Why? How comes it that you have sought to keep
especially from me, the knowledge of your remaining here, at this season, when all the rest
have dispersed, and of your being ill? I want to know why this is?"The young man, who
had heard him with increasing agitation, raised his downcast eyes to his face, and clasping
his hands together, cried with sudden earnestness and with trembling lips:"Mr. Redlaw!
You have discovered me. You know my secret!""Secret?" said the Chemist, harshly. "I
know?""Yes! Your manner, so different from the interest and sympathy which endear you
to so many hearts, your altered voice, the constraint there is in everything you say, and in
your looks," replied the student, "warn me that you know me. That you would conceal it,
even now, is but a proof to me (God knows I need none!) of your natural kindness and of
the bar there is between us."A vacant and contemptuous laugh, was all his answer."But, Mr.
Redlaw," said the student, "as a just man, and a good man, think how innocent I am, except
in name and descent, of participation in any wrong inflicted on you or in any sorrow you
have borne.""Sorrow!" said Redlaw, laughing. "Wrong! What are those to me?""For
Heaven's sake," entreated the shrinking student, "do not let the mere interchange of a few
words with me change you like this, sir! Let me pass again from your knowledge and
notice. Let me occupy my old reserved and distant place among those whom you instruct.
Know me only by the name I have assumed, and not by that of Longford - ""Longford!"
exclaimed the other.He clasped his head with both his hands, and for a moment turned
upon the young man his own intelligent and thoughtful face. But the light passed from it, like
the sun-beam of an instant, and it clouded as before."The name my mother bears, sir,"
faltered the young man, "the name she took, when she might, perhaps, have taken one
more honoured. Mr. Redlaw," hesitating, "I believe I know that history. Where my
information halts, my guesses at what is wanting may supply something not remote from
the truth. I am the child of a marriage that has not proved itself a well-assorted or a happy
one. From infancy, I have heard you spoken of with honour and respect - with something
that was almost reverence. I have heard of such devotion, of such fortitude and tenderness,
of such rising up against the obstacles which press men down, that my fancy, since I learnt
my little lesson from my mother, has shed a lustre on your name. At last, a poor student
myself, from whom could I learn but you?"Redlaw, unmoved, unchanged, and looking at
him with a staring frown, answered by no word or sign."I cannot say," pursued the other, "I
should try in vain to say, how much it has impressed me, and affected me, to find the
gracious traces of the past, in that certain power of winning gratitude and confidence which is
associated among us students (among the humblest of us, most) with Mr. Redlaw's
generous name. Our ages and positions are so different, sir, and I am so accustomed to
regard you from a distance, that I wonder at my own presumption when I touch, however
lightly, on that theme. But to one who - I may say, who felt no common interest in my
mother once - it may be something to hear, now that all is past, with what indescribable
feelings of affection I have, in my obscurity, regarded him; with what pain and reluctance I
have kept aloof from his encouragement, when a word of it would have made me rich; yet
how I have felt it fit that I should hold my course, content to know him, and to be unknown.
Mr. Redlaw," said the student, faintly, "what I would have said, I have said ill, for my strength
is strange to me as yet; but for anything unworthy in this fraud of mine, forgive me, and for all
the rest forget me!"The staring frown remained on Redlaw's face, and yielded to no other
expression until the student, with these words, advanced towards him, as if to touch his
hand, when he drew back and cried to him:"Don't come nearer to me!"The young man
stopped, shocked by the eagerness of his recoil, and by the sternness of his repulsion;
and he passed his hand, thoughtfully, across his forehead."The past is past," said the
Chemist. "It dies like the brutes. Who talks to me of its traces in my life? He raves or lies!
What have I to do with your distempered dreams? If you want money, here it is. I came to
offer it; and that is all I came for. There can be nothing else that brings me here," he
muttered, holding his head again, with both his hands. "There CAN be nothing else, and
yet - "He had tossed his purse upon the table. As he fell into this dim cogitation with
himself, the student took it up, and held it out to him."Take it back, sir," he said proudly,
though not angrily. "I wish you could take from me, with it, the remembrance of your words
and offer.""You do?" he retorted, with a wild light in his eyes. "You do?""I do!"The Chemist
went close to him, for the first time, and took the purse, and turned him by the arm, and
looked him in the face."There is sorrow and trouble in sickness, is there not?" he demanded,
with a laugh.The wondering student answered, "Yes.""In its unrest, in its anxiety, in its
suspense, in all its train of physical and mental miseries?" said the Chemist, with a wild
unearthly exultation. "All best forgotten, are they not?"The student did not answer, but
again passed his hand, confusedly, across his forehead. Redlaw still held him by the
sleeve, when Milly's voice was heard outside."I can see very well now," she said, "thank
you, Dolf. Don't cry, dear. Father and mother will be comfortable again, to-morrow, and
home will be comfortable too. A gentleman with him, is there!"Redlaw released his hold, as
he listened."I have feared, from the first moment," he murmured to himself, "to meet her.
There is a steady quality of goodness in her, that I dread to influence. I may be the
murderer of what is tenderest and best within her bosom."She was knocking at the
door."Shall I dismiss it as an idle foreboding, or still avoid her?" he muttered, looking
uneasily around.She was knocking at the door again."Of all the visitors who could come
here," he said, in a hoarse alarmed voice, turning to his companion, "this is the one I should
desire most to avoid. Hide me!"The student opened a frail door in the wall, communicating
where the garret-roof began to slope towards the floor, with a small inner room. Redlaw
passed in hastily, and shut it after him.The student then resumed his place upon the couch,
and called to her to enter."Dear Mr. Edmund," said Milly, looking round, "they told me there
was a gentleman here.""There is no one here but I.""There has been some one?""Yes,
yes, there has been some one."She put her little basket on the table, and went up to the
back of the couch, as if to take the extended hand - but it was not there. A little surprised, in
her quiet way, she leaned over to look at his face, and gently touched him on the brow."Are
you quite as well to-night? Your head is not so cool as in the afternoon.""Tut!" said the
student, petulantly, "very little ails me."A little more surprise, but no reproach, was
expressed in her face, as she withdrew to the other side of the table, and took a small
packet of needlework from her basket. But she laid it down again, on second thoughts, and
going noiselessly about the room, set everything exactly in its place, and in the neatest
order; even to the cushions on the couch, which she touched with so light a hand, that he
hardly seemed to know it, as he lay looking at the fire. When all this was done, and she had
swept the hearth, she sat down, in her modest little bonnet, to her work, and was quietly
busy on it directly."It's the new muslin curtain for the window, Mr. Edmund," said Milly,
stitching away as she talked. "It will look very clean and nice, though it costs very little, and
will save your eyes, too, from the light. My William says the room should not be too light
just now, when you are recovering so well, or the glare might make you giddy."He said
nothing; but there was something so fretful and impatient in his change of position, that her
quick fingers stopped, and she looked at him anxiously."The pillows are not comfortable,"
she said, laying down her work and rising. "I will soon put them right.""They are very well,"
he answered. "Leave them alone, pray. You make so much of everything."He raised his
head to say this, and looked at her so thanklessly, that, after he had thrown himself down
again, she stood timidly pausing. However, she resumed her seat, and her needle, without
having directed even a murmuring look towards him, and was soon as busy as before."I
have been thinking, Mr. Edmund, that YOU have been often thinking of late, when I have
been sitting by, how true the saying is, that adversity is a good teacher. Health will be
more precious to you, after this illness, than it has ever been. And years hence, when this
time of year comes round, and you remember the days when you lay here sick, alone, that
the knowledge of your illness might not afflict those who are dearest to you, your home will
be doubly dear and doubly blest. Now, isn't that a good, true thing?"She was too intent
upon her work, and too earnest in what she said, and too composed and quiet altogether, to
be on the watch for any look he might direct towards her in reply; so the shaft of his
ungrateful glance fell harmless, and did not wound her."Ah!" said Milly, with her pretty head
inclining thoughtfully on one side, as she looked down, following her busy fingers with her
eyes. "Even on me - and I am very different from you, Mr. Edmund, for I have no learning,
and don't know how to think properly - this view of such things has made a great
impression, since you have been lying ill. When I have seen you so touched by the
kindness and attention of the poor people down stairs, I have felt that you thought even that
experience some repayment for the loss of health, and I have read in your face, as plain as
if it was a book, that but for some trouble and sorrow we should never know half the good
there is about us."His getting up from the couch, interrupted her, or she was going on to say
more."We needn't magnify the merit, Mrs. William," he rejoined slightingly. "The people
down stairs will be paid in good time I dare say, for any little extra service they may have
rendered me; and perhaps they anticipate no less. I am much obliged to you, too."Her
fingers stopped, and she looked at him."I can't be made to feel the more obliged by your
exaggerating the case," he said. "I am sensible that you have been interested in me, and I
say I am much obliged to you. What more would you have?"Her work fell on her lap, as
she still looked at him walking to and fro with an intolerant air, and stopping now and then."I
say again, I am much obliged to you. Why weaken my sense of what is your due in
obligation, by preferring enormous claims upon me? Trouble, sorrow, affliction, adversity!
One might suppose I had been dying a score of deaths here!""Do you believe, Mr.
Edmund," she asked, rising and going nearer to him, "that I spoke of the poor people of the
house, with any reference to myself? To me?" laying her hand upon her bosom with a
simple and innocent smile of astonishment."Oh! I think nothing about it, my good creature,"
he returned. "I have had an indisposition, which your solicitude - observe! I say solicitude -
makes a great deal more of, than it merits; and it's over, and we can't perpetuate it."He
coldly took a book, and sat down at the table.She watched him for a little while, until her
smile was quite gone, and then, returning to where her basket was, said gently:"Mr.
Edmund, would you rather be alone?""There is no reason why I should detain you here," he
replied."Except - " said Milly, hesitating, and showing her work."Oh! the curtain," he
answered, with a supercilious laugh. "That's not worth staying for."She made up the little
packet again, and put it in her basket. Then, standing before him with such an air of patient
entreaty that he could not choose but look at her, she said:"If you should want me, I will
come back willingly. When you did want me, I was quite happy to come; there was no
merit in it. I think you must be afraid, that, now you are getting well, I may be troublesome
to you; but I should not have been, indeed. I should have come no longer than your
weakness and confinement lasted. You owe me nothing; but it is right that you should deal
as justly by me as if I was a lady - even the very lady that you love; and if you suspect me
of meanly making much of the little I have tried to do to comfort your sick room, you do
yourself more wrong than ever you can do me. That is why I am sorry. That is why I am
very sorry."If she had been as passionate as she was quiet, as indignant as she was calm,
as angry in her look as she was gentle, as loud of tone as she was low and clear, she might
have left no sense of her departure in the room, compared with that which fell upon the
lonely student when she went away.He was gazing drearily upon the place where she had
been, when Redlaw came out of his concealment, and came to the door."When sickness
lays its hand on you again," he said, looking fiercely back at him, " - may it be soon! - Die
here! Rot here!""What have you done?" returned the other, catching at his cloak. "What
change have you wrought in me? What curse have you brought upon me? Give me back
MYself!""Give me back myself!" exclaimed Redlaw like a madman. "I am infected! I am
infectious! I am charged with poison for my own mind, and the minds of all mankind. Where
I felt interest, compassion, sympathy, I am turning into stone. Selfishness and ingratitude
spring up in my blighting footsteps. I am only so much less base than the wretches whom I
make so, that in the moment of their transformation I can hate them."As he spoke - the
young man still holding to his cloak - he cast him off, and struck him: then, wildly hurried out
into the night air where the wind was blowing, the snow falling, the cloud-drift sweeping on,
the moon dimly shining; and where, blowing in the wind, falling with the snow, drifting with
the clouds, shining in the moonlight, and heavily looming in the darkness, were the
Phantom's words, "The gift that I have given, you shall give again, go where you
will!"Whither he went, he neither knew nor cared, so that he avoided company. The change
he felt within him made the busy streets a desert, and himself a desert, and the multitude
around him, in their manifold endurances and ways of life, a mighty waste of sand, which the
winds tossed into unintelligible heaps and made a ruinous confusion of. Those traces in his
breast which the Phantom had told him would "die out soon," were not, as yet, so far upon
their way to death, but that he understood enough of what he was, and what he made of
others, to desire to be alone.This put it in his mind - he suddenly bethought himself, as he
was going along, of the boy who had rushed into his room. And then he recollected, that of
those with whom he had communicated since the Phantom's disappearance, that boy alone
had shown no sign of being changed.Monstrous and odious as the wild thing was to him, he
determined to seek it out, and prove if this were really so; and also to seek it with another
intention, which came into his thoughts at the same time.So, resolving with some difficulty
where he was, he directed his steps back to the old college, and to that part of it where the
general porch was, and where, alone, the pavement was worn by the tread of the students'
feet.The keeper's house stood just within the iron gates, forming a part of the chief
quadrangle. There was a little cloister outside, and from that sheltered place he knew he
could look in at the window of their ordinary room, and see who was within. The iron gates
were shut, but his hand was familiar with the fastening, and drawing it back by thrusting in his
wrist between the bars, he passed through softly, shut it again, and crept up to the window,
crumbling the thin crust of snow with his feet.The fire, to which he had directed the boy last
night, shining brightly through the glass, made an illuminated place upon the ground.
Instinctively avoiding this, and going round it, he looked in at the window. At first, he thought
that there was no one there, and that the blaze was reddening only the old beams in the
ceiling and the dark walls; but peering in more narrowly, he saw the object of his search
coiled asleep before it on the floor. He passed quickly to the door, opened it, and went
in.The creature lay in such a fiery heat, that, as the Chemist stooped to rouse him, it
scorched his head. So soon as he was touched, the boy, not half awake, clutching his rags
together with the instinct of flight upon him, half rolled and half ran into a distant corner of the
room, where, heaped upon the ground, he struck his foot out to defend himself."Get up!"
said the Chemist. "You have not forgotten me?""You let me alone!" returned the boy.
"This is the woman's house - not yours."The Chemist's steady eye controlled him
somewhat, or inspired him with enough submission to be raised upon his feet, and looked
at."Who washed them, and put those bandages where they were bruised and cracked?"
asked the Chemist, pointing to their altered state."The woman did.""And is it she who has
made you cleaner in the face, too?""Yes, the woman."Redlaw asked these questions to
attract his eyes towards himself, and with the same intent now held him by the chin, and
threw his wild hair back, though he loathed to touch him. The boy watched his eyes keenly,
as if he thought it needful to his own defence, not knowing what he might do next; and
Redlaw could see well that no change came over him."Where are they?" he inquired."The
woman's out.""I know she is. Where is the old man with the white hair, and his son?""The
woman's husband, d'ye mean?" inquired the boy."Ay. Where are those two?""Out.
Something's the matter, somewhere. They were fetched out in a hurry, and told me to stop
here.""Come with me," said the Chemist, "and I'll give you money.""Come where? and
how much will you give?""I'll give you more shillings than you ever saw, and bring you back
soon. Do you know your way to where you came from?""You let me go," returned the
boy, suddenly twisting out of his grasp. "I'm not a going to take you there. Let me be, or I'll
heave some fire at you!"He was down before it, and ready, with his savage little hand, to
pluck the burning coals out.What the Chemist had felt, in observing the effect of his charmed
influence stealing over those with whom he came in contact, was not nearly equal to the cold
vague terror with which he saw this baby-monster put it at defiance. It chilled his blood to
look on the immovable impenetrable thing, in the likeness of a child, with its sharp malignant
face turned up to his, and its almost infant hand, ready at the bars."Listen, boy!" he said.
"You shall take me where you please, so that you take me where the people are very
miserable or very wicked. I want to do them good, and not to harm them. You shall have
money, as I have told you, and I will bring you back. Get up! Come quickly!" He made a
hasty step towards the door, afraid of her returning."Will you let me walk by myself, and
never hold me, nor yet touch me?" said the boy, slowly withdrawing the hand with which he
threatened, and beginning to get up."I will!""And let me go, before, behind, or anyways I
like?""I will!""Give me some money first, then, and go."The Chemist laid a few shillings, one
by one, in his extended hand. To count them was beyond the boy's knowledge, but he
said "one," every time, and avariciously looked at each as it was given, and at the donor.
He had nowhere to put them, out of his hand, but in his mouth; and he put them
there.Redlaw then wrote with his pencil on a leaf of his pocket-book, that the boy was with
him; and laying it on the table, signed to him to follow. Keeping his rags together, as usual,
the boy complied, and went out with his bare head and naked feet into the winter
night.Preferring not to depart by the iron gate by which he had entered, where they were in
danger of meeting her whom he so anxiously avoided, the Chemist led the way, through
some of those passages among which the boy had lost himself, and by that portion of the
building where he lived, to a small door of which he had the key. When they got into the
street, he stopped to ask his guide - who instantly retreated from him - if he knew where
they were.The savage thing looked here and there, and at length, nodding his head,
pointed in the direction he designed to take. Redlaw going on at once, he followed,
something less suspiciously; shifting his money from his mouth into his hand, and back again
into his mouth, and stealthily rubbing it bright upon his shreds of dress, as he went
along.Three times, in their progress, they were side by side. Three times they stopped,
being side by side. Three times the Chemist glanced down at his face, and shuddered as
it forced upon him one reflection.The first occasion was when they were crossing an old
churchyard, and Redlaw stopped among the graves, utterly at a loss how to connect them
with any tender, softening, or consolatory thought.The second was, when the breaking forth
of the moon induced him to look up at the Heavens, where he saw her in her glory,
surrounded by a host of stars he still knew by the names and histories which human science
has appended to them; but where he saw nothing else he had been wont to see, felt
nothing he had been wont to feel, in looking up there, on a bright night.The third was when
he stopped to listen to a plaintive strain of music, but could only hear a tune, made manifest
to him by the dry mechanism of the instruments and his own ears, with no address to any
mystery within him, without a whisper in it of the past, or of the future, powerless upon him
as the sound of last year's running water, or the rushing of last year's wind.At each of these
three times, he saw with horror that, in spite of the vast intellectual distance between them,
and their being unlike each other in all physical respects, the expression on the boy's face
was the expression on his own.They journeyed on for some time - now through such
crowded places, that he often looked over his shoulder thinking he had lost his guide, but
generally finding him within his shadow on his other side; now by ways so quiet, that he
could have counted his short, quick, naked footsteps coming on behind - until they arrived at
a ruinous collection of houses, and the boy touched him and stopped."In there!" he said,
pointing out one house where there were shattered lights in the windows, and a dim lantern
in the doorway, with "Lodgings for Travellers" painted on it.Redlaw looked about him; from
the houses to the waste piece of ground on which the houses stood, or rather did not
altogether tumble down, unfenced, undrained, unlighted, and bordered by a sluggish ditch;
from that, to the sloping line of arches, part of some neighbouring viaduct or bridge with
which it was surrounded, and which lessened gradually towards them, until the last but one
was a mere kennel for a dog, the last a plundered little heap of bricks; from that, to the child,
close to him, cowering and trembling with the cold, and limping on one little foot, while he
coiled the other round his leg to warm it, yet staring at all these things with that frightful
likeness of expression so apparent in his face, that Redlaw started from him."In there!" said
the boy, pointing out the house again. "I'll wait.""Will they let me in?" asked Redlaw."Say
you're a doctor," he answered with a nod. "There's plenty ill here."Looking back on his way
to the house-door, Redlaw saw him trail himself upon the dust and crawl within the shelter of
the smallest arch, as if he were a rat. He had no pity for the thing, but he was afraid of it; and
when it looked out of its den at him, he hurried to the house as a retreat."Sorrow, wrong, and
trouble," said the Chemist, with a painful effort at some more distinct remembrance, "at least
haunt this place darkly. He can do no harm, who brings forgetfulness of such things
here!"With these words, he pushed the yielding door, and went in.There was a woman
sitting on the stairs, either asleep or forlorn, whose head was bent down on her hands and
knees. As it was not easy to pass without treading on her, and as she was perfectly
regardless of his near approach, he stopped, and touched her on the shoulder. Looking
up, she showed him quite a young face, but one whose bloom and promise were all
swept away, as if the haggard winter should unnaturally kill the spring.With little or no show
of concern on his account, she moved nearer to the wall to leave him a wider
passage."What are you?" said Redlaw, pausing, with his hand upon the broken stairrail."
What do you think I am?" she answered, showing him her face again.He looked upon
the ruined Temple of God, so lately made, so soon disfigured; and something, which was
not compassion - for the springs in which a true compassion for such miseries has its rise,
were dried up in his breast - but which was nearer to it, for the moment, than any feeling that
had lately struggled into the darkening, but not yet wholly darkened, night of his mind -
mingled a touch of softness with his next words."I am come here to give relief, if I can," he
said. "Are you thinking of any wrong?"She frowned at him, and then laughed; and then her
laugh prolonged itself into a shivering sigh, as she dropped her head again, and hid her
fingers in her hair."Are you thinking of a wrong?" he asked once more."I am thinking of my
life," she said, with a monetary look at him.He had a perception that she was one of many,
and that he saw the type of thousands, when he saw her, drooping at his feet."What are
your parents?" he demanded."I had a good home once. My father was a gardener, far
away, in the country.""Is he dead?""He's dead to me. All such things are dead to me. You
a gentleman, and not know that!" She raised her eyes again, and laughed at him."Girl!" said
Redlaw, sternly, "before this death, of all such things, was brought about, was there no
wrong done to you? In spite of all that you can do, does no remembrance of wrong cleave
to you? Are there not times upon times when it is misery to you?"So little of what was
womanly was left in her appearance, that now, when she burst into tears, he stood amazed.
But he was more amazed, and much disquieted, to note that in her awakened recollection of
this wrong, the first trace of her old humanity and frozen tenderness appeared to show
itself.He drew a little off, and in doing so, observed that her arms were black, her face cut,
and her bosom bruised."What brutal hand has hurt you so?" he asked."My own. I did it
myself!" she answered quickly."It is impossible.""I'll swear I did! He didn't touch me. I did it
to myself in a passion, and threw myself down here. He wasn't near me. He never laid a
hand upon me!"In the white determination of her face, confronting him with this untruth, he
saw enough of the last perversion and distortion of good surviving in that miserable breast,
to be stricken with remorse that he had ever come near her."Sorrow, wrong, and trouble!"
he muttered, turning his fearful gaze away. "All that connects her with the state from which
she has fallen, has those roots! In the name of God, let me go by!"Afraid to look at her
again, afraid to touch her, afraid to think of having sundered the last thread by which she held
upon the mercy of Heaven, he gathered his cloak about him, and glided swiftly up the
stairs.Opposite to him, on the landing, was a door, which stood partly open, and which, as
he ascended, a man with a candle in his hand, came forward from within to shut. But this
man, on seeing him, drew back, with much emotion in his manner, and, as if by a sudden
impulse, mentioned his name aloud.In the surprise of such a recognition there, he stopped,
endeavouring to recollect the wan and startled face. He had no time to consider it, for, to his
yet greater amazement, old Philip came out of the room, and took him by the hand."Mr.
Redlaw," said the old man, "this is like you, this is like you, sir! you have heard of it, and
have come after us to render any help you can. Ah, too late, too late!"Redlaw, with a
bewildered look, submitted to be led into the room. A man lay there, on a truckle-bed, and
William Swidger stood at the bedside."Too late!" murmured the old man, looking wistfully
into the Chemist's face; and the tears stole down his cheeks."That's what I say, father,"
interposed his son in a low voice. "That's where it is, exactly. To keep as quiet as ever we
can while he's a dozing, is the only thing to do. You're right, father!"Redlaw paused at the
bedside, and looked down on the figure that was stretched upon the mattress. It was that
of a man, who should have been in the vigour of his life, but on whom it was not likely the
sun would ever shine again. The vices of his forty or fifty years' career had so branded him,
that, in comparison with their effects upon his face, the heavy hand of Time upon the old
man's face who watched him had been merciful and beautifying."Who is this?" asked the
Chemist, looking round."My son George, Mr. Redlaw," said the old man, wringing his
hands. "My eldest son, George, who was more his mother's pride than all the
rest!"Redlaw's eyes wandered from the old man's grey head, as he laid it down upon the
bed, to the person who had recognised him, and who had kept aloof, in the remotest corner
of the room. He seemed to be about his own age; and although he knew no such
hopeless decay and broken man as he appeared to be, there was something in the turn of
his figure, as he stood with his back towards him, and now went out at the door, that made
him pass his hand uneasily across his brow."William," he said in a gloomy whisper, "who is
that man?""Why you see, sir," returned Mr. William, "that's what I say, myself. Why should
a man ever go and gamble, and the like of that, and let himself down inch by inch till he can't
let himself down any lower!""Has HE done so?" asked Redlaw, glancing after him with the
same uneasy action as before."Just exactly that, sir," returned William Swidger, "as I'm told.
He knows a little about medicine, sir, it seems; and having been wayfaring towards London
with my unhappy brother that you see here," Mr. William passed his coat-sleeve across his
eyes, "and being lodging up stairs for the night - what I say, you see, is that strange
companions come together here sometimes - he looked in to attend upon him, and came
for us at his request. What a mournful spectacle, sir! But that's where it is. It's enough to kill
my father!"Redlaw looked up, at these words, and, recalling where he was and with whom,
and the spell he carried with him - which his surprise had obscured - retired a little, hurriedly,
debating with himself whether to shun the house that moment, or remain.Yielding to a certain
sullen doggedness, which it seemed to be a part of his condition to struggle with, he argued
for remaining."Was it only yesterday," he said, "when I observed the memory of this old
man to be a tissue of sorrow and trouble, and shall I be afraid, to-night, to shake it? Are
such remembrances as I can drive away, so precious to this dying man that I need fear for
HIM? No! I'll stay here."But he stayed in fear and trembling none the less for these words;
and, shrouded in his black cloak with his face turned from them, stood away from the
bedside, listening to what they said, as if he felt himself a demon in the place."Father!"
murmured the sick man, rallying a little from stupor."My boy! My son George!" said old
Philip."You spoke, just now, of my being mother's favourite, long ago. It's a dreadful thing
to think now, of long ago!""No, no, no;" returned the old man. "Think of it. Don't say it's
dreadful. It's not dreadful to me, my son.""It cuts you to the heart, father." For the old man's
tears were falling on him."Yes, yes," said Philip, "so it does; but it does me good. It's a
heavy sorrow to think of that time, but it does me good, George. Oh, think of it too, think of
it too, and your heart will be softened more and more! Where's my son William? William,
my boy, your mother loved him dearly to the last, and with her latest breath said, 'Tell him I
forgave him, blessed him, and prayed for him.' Those were her words to me. I have never
forgotten them, and I'm eighty-seven!""Father!" said the man upon the bed, "I am dying, I
know. I am so far gone, that I can hardly speak, even of what my mind most runs on. Is
there any hope for me beyond this bed?""There is hope," returned the old man, "for all who
are softened and penitent. There is hope for all such. Oh!" he exclaimed, clasping his
hands and looking up, "I was thankful, only yesterday, that I could remember this unhappy
son when he was an innocent child. But what a comfort it is, now, to think that even God
himself has that remembrance of him!"Redlaw spread his hands upon his face, and shrank,
like a murderer."Ah!" feebly moaned the man upon the bed. "The waste since then, the
waste of life since then!""But he was a child once," said the old man. "He played with
children. Before he lay down on his bed at night, and fell into his guiltless rest, he said his
prayers at his poor mother's knee. I have seen him do it, many a time; and seen her lay his
head upon her breast, and kiss him. Sorrowful as it was to her and me, to think of this, when
he went so wrong, and when our hopes and plans for him were all broken, this gave him still
a hold upon us, that nothing else could have given. Oh, Father, so much better than the
fathers upon earth! Oh, Father, so much more afflicted by the errors of Thy children! take this
wanderer back! Not as he is, but as he was then, let him cry to Thee, as he has so often
seemed to cry to us!"As the old man lifted up his trembling hands, the son, for whom he
made the supplication, laid his sinking head against him for support and comfort, as if he
were indeed the child of whom he spoke.When did man ever tremble, as Redlaw
trembled, in the silence that ensued! He knew it must come upon them, knew that it was
coming fast."My time is very short, my breath is shorter," said the sick man, supporting
himself on one arm, and with the other groping in the air, "and I remember there is
something on my mind concerning the man who was here just now, Father and William -
wait! - is there really anything in black, out there?""Yes, yes, it is real," said his aged father."Is
it a man?""What I say myself, George," interposed his brother, bending kindly over him.
"It's Mr. Redlaw.""I thought I had dreamed of him. Ask him to come here."The Chemist,
whiter than the dying man, appeared before him. Obedient to the motion of his hand, he
sat upon the bed."It has been so ripped up, to-night, sir," said the sick man, laying his hand
upon his heart, with a look in which the mute, imploring agony of his condition was
concentrated, "by the sight of my poor old father, and the thought of all the trouble I have
been the cause of, and all the wrong and sorrow lying at my door, that - "Was it the
extremity to which he had come, or was it the dawning of another change, that made him
stop?" - that what I CAN do right, with my mind running on so much, so fast, I'll try to do.
There was another man here. Did you see him?"Redlaw could not reply by any word; for
when he saw that fatal sign he knew so well now, of the wandering hand upon the forehead,
his voice died at his lips. But he made some indication of assent."He is penniless, hungry,
and destitute. He is completely beaten down, and has no resource at all. Look after him!
Lose no time! I know he has it in his mind to kill himself."It was working. It was on his face.
His face was changing, hardening, deepening in all its shades, and losing all its sorrow."Don't
you remember? Don't you know him?" he pursued.He shut his face out for a moment, with
the hand that again wandered over his forehead, and then it lowered on Redlaw, reckless,
ruffianly, and callous."Why, d-n you!" he said, scowling round, "what have you been doing
to me here! I have lived bold, and I mean to die bold. To the Devil with you!"And so lay
down upon his bed, and put his arms up, over his head and ears, as resolute from that time
to keep out all access, and to die in his indifference.If Redlaw had been struck by lightning, it
could not have struck him from the bedside with a more tremendous shock. But the old
man, who had left the bed while his son was speaking to him, now returning, avoided it
quickly likewise, and with abhorrence."Where's my boy William?" said the old man
hurriedly. "William, come away from here. We'll go home.""Home, father!" returned
William. "Are you going to leave your own son?""Where's my own son?" replied the old
man."Where? why, there!""That's no son of mine," said Philip, trembling with resentment.
"No such wretch as that, has any claim on me. My children are pleasant to look at, and they
wait upon me, and get my meat and drink ready, and are useful to me. I've a right to it! I'm
eighty-seven!""You're old enough to be no older," muttered William, looking at him
grudgingly, with his hands in his pockets. "I don't know what good you are, myself. We
could have a deal more pleasure without you.""MY son, Mr. Redlaw!" said the old man.
"MY son, too! The boy talking to me of MY son! Why, what has he ever done to give me
any pleasure, I should like to know?""I don't know what you have ever done to give ME
any pleasure," said William, sulkily."Let me think," said the old man. "For how many
Christmas times running, have I sat in my warm place, and never had to come out in the
cold night air; and have made good cheer, without being disturbed by any such
uncomfortable, wretched sight as him there? Is it twenty, William?""Nigher forty, it seems,"
he muttered. "Why, when I look at my father, sir, and come to think of it," addressing
Redlaw, with an impatience and irritation that were quite new, "I'm whipped if I can see
anything in him but a calendar of ever so many years of eating and drinking, and making
himself comfortable, over and over again.""I - I'm eighty-seven," said the old man, rambling
on, childishly and weakly, "and I don't know as I ever was much put out by anything. I'm not
going to begin now, because of what he calls my son. He's not my son. I've had a power
of pleasant times. I recollect once - no I don't - no, it's broken off. It was something about a
game of cricket and a friend of mine, but it's somehow broken off. I wonder who he was - I
suppose I liked him? And I wonder what became of him - I suppose he died? But I don't
know. And I don't care, neither; I don't care a bit."In his drowsy chuckling, and the shaking of
his head, he put his hands into his waistcoat pockets. In one of them he found a bit of holly
(left there, probably last night), which he now took out, and looked at."Berries, eh?" said the
old man. "Ah! It's a pity they're not good to eat. I recollect, when I was a little chap about
as high as that, and out a walking with - let me see - who was I out a walking with? - no, I
don't remember how that was. I don't remember as I ever walked with any one particular,
or cared for any one, or any one for me. Berries, eh? There's good cheer when there's
berries. Well; I ought to have my share of it, and to be waited on, and kept warm and
comfortable; for I'm eighty-seven, and a poor old man. I'm eigh-ty-seven. Eigh-tyseven!"
The drivelling, pitiable manner in which, as he repeated this, he nibbled at the
leaves, and spat the morsels out; the cold, uninterested eye with which his youngest son
(so changed) regarded him; the determined apathy with which his eldest son lay hardened
in his sin; impressed themselves no more on Redlaw's observation, - for he broke his way
from the spot to which his feet seemed to have been fixed, and ran out of the house.His
guide came crawling forth from his place of refuge, and was ready for him before he reached
the arches."Back to the woman's?" he inquired."Back, quickly!" answered Redlaw. "Stop
nowhere on the way!"For a short distance the boy went on before; but their return was
more like a flight than a walk, and it was as much as his bare feet could do, to keep pace with
the Chemist's rapid strides. Shrinking from all who passed, shrouded in his cloak, and
keeping it drawn closely about him, as though there were mortal contagion in any fluttering
touch of his garments, he made no pause until they reached the door by which they had
come out. He unlocked it with his key, went in, accompanied by the boy, and hastened
through the dark passages to his own chamber.The boy watched him as he made the door
fast, and withdrew behind the table, when he looked round."Come!" he said. "Don't you
touch me! You've not brought me here to take my money away."Redlaw threw some
more upon the ground. He flung his body on it immediately, as if to hide it from him, lest the
sight of it should tempt him to reclaim it; and not until he saw him seated by his lamp, with
his face hidden in his hands, began furtively to pick it up. When he had done so, he crept
near the fire, and, sitting down in a great chair before it, took from his breast some broken
scraps of food, and fell to munching, and to staring at the blaze, and now and then to
glancing at his shillings, which he kept clenched up in a bunch, in one hand."And this," said
Redlaw, gazing on him with increased repugnance and fear, "is the only one companion I
have left on earth!"How long it was before he was aroused from his contemplation of this
creature, whom he dreaded so - whether half-an-hour, or half the night - he knew not. But
the stillness of the room was broken by the boy (whom he had seen listening) starting up,
and running towards the door."Here's the woman coming!" he exclaimed.The Chemist
stopped him on his way, at the moment when she knocked."Let me go to her, will you?"
said the boy."Not now," returned the Chemist. "Stay here. Nobody must pass in or out of
the room now. Who's that?""It's I, sir," cried Milly. "Pray, sir, let me in!""No! not for the
world!" he said."Mr. Redlaw, Mr. Redlaw, pray, sir, let me in.""What is the matter?" he said,
holding the boy."The miserable man you saw, is worse, and nothing I can say will wake him
from his terrible infatuation. William's father has turned childish in a moment, William himself
is changed. The shock has been too sudden for him; I cannot understand him; he is not like
himself. Oh, Mr. Redlaw, pray advise me, help me!""No! No! No!" he answered."Mr.
Redlaw! Dear sir! George has been muttering, in his doze, about the man you saw there,
who, he fears, will kill himself.""Better he should do it, than come near me!""He says, in his
wandering, that you know him; that he was your friend once, long ago; that he is the ruined
father of a student here - my mind misgives me, of the young gentleman who has been ill.
What is to be done? How is he to be followed? How is he to be saved? Mr. Redlaw,
pray, oh, pray, advise me! Help me!"All this time he held the boy, who was half-mad to
pass him, and let her in."Phantoms! Punishers of impious thoughts!" cried Redlaw, gazing
round in anguish, "look upon me! From the darkness of my mind, let the glimmering of
contrition that I know is there, shine up and show my misery! In the material world as I have
long taught, nothing can be spared; no step or atom in the wondrous structure could be lost,
without a blank being made in the great universe. I know, now, that it is the same with good
and evil, happiness and sorrow, in the memories of men. Pity me! Relieve me!"There was
no response, but her "Help me, help me, let me in!" and the boy's struggling to get to
her."Shadow of myself! Spirit of my darker hours!" cried Redlaw, in distraction, "come back,
and haunt me day and night, but take this gift away! Or, if it must still rest with me, deprive
me of the dreadful power of giving it to others. Undo what I have done. Leave me
benighted, but restore the day to those whom I have cursed. As I have spared this
woman from the first, and as I never will go forth again, but will die here, with no hand to tend
me, save this creature's who is proof against me, - hear me!"The only reply still was, the
boy struggling to get to her, while he held him back; and the cry, increasing in its energy,
"Help! let me in. He was your friend once, how shall he be followed, how shall he be
saved? They are all changed, there is no one else to help me, pray, pray, let me
in!"CHAPTER III - The Gift ReversedNIGHT was still heavy in the sky. On open plains,
from hill-tops, and from the decks of solitary ships at sea, a distant low-lying line, that
promised by-and-by to change to light, was visible in the dim horizon; but its promise was
remote and doubtful, and the moon was striving with the night-clouds busily.The shadows
upon Redlaw's mind succeeded thick and fast to one another, and obscured its light as the
night-clouds hovered between the moon and earth, and kept the latter veiled in darkness.
Fitful and uncertain as the shadows which the night-clouds cast, were their concealments from
him, and imperfect revelations to him; and, like the night-clouds still, if the clear light broke
forth for a moment, it was only that they might sweep over it, and make the darkness
deeper than before.Without, there was a profound and solemn hush upon the ancient pile
of building, and its buttresses and angles made dark shapes of mystery upon the ground,
which now seemed to retire into the smooth white snow and now seemed to come out of it,
as the moon's path was more or less beset. Within, the Chemist's room was indistinct and
murky, by the light of the expiring lamp; a ghostly silence had succeeded to the knocking
and the voice outside; nothing was audible but, now and then, a low sound among the
whitened ashes of the fire, as of its yielding up its last breath. Before it on the ground the
boy lay fast asleep. In his chair, the Chemist sat, as he had sat there since the calling at his
door had ceased - like a man turned to stone.At such a time, the Christmas music he had
heard before, began to play. He listened to it at first, as he had listened in the church-yard;
but presently - it playing still, and being borne towards him on the night air, in a low, sweet,
melancholy strain - he rose, and stood stretching his hands about him, as if there were some
friend approaching within his reach, on whom his desolate touch might rest, yet do no harm.
As he did this, his face became less fixed and wondering; a gentle trembling came upon
him; and at last his eyes filled with tears, and he put his hands before them, and bowed
down his head.His memory of sorrow, wrong, and trouble, had not come back to him; he
knew that it was not restored; he had no passing belief or hope that it was. But some
dumb stir within him made him capable, again, of being moved by what was hidden, afar
off, in the music. If it were only that it told him sorrowfully the value of what he had lost, he
thanked Heaven for it with a fervent gratitude.As the last chord died upon his ear, he raised
his head to listen to its lingering vibration. Beyond the boy, so that his sleeping figure lay at
its feet, the Phantom stood, immovable and silent, with its eyes upon him.Ghastly it was, as
it had ever been, but not so cruel and relentless in its aspect - or he thought or hoped so, as
he looked upon it trembling. It was not alone, but in its shadowy hand it held another
hand.And whose was that? Was the form that stood beside it indeed Milly's, or but her
shade and picture? The quiet head was bent a little, as her manner was, and her eyes were
looking down, as if in pity, on the sleeping child. A radiant light fell on her face, but did not
touch the Phantom; for, though close beside her, it was dark and colourless as
ever."Spectre!" said the Chemist, newly troubled as he looked, "I have not been stubborn
or presumptuous in respect of her. Oh, do not bring her here. Spare me that!""This is but a
shadow," said the Phantom; "when the morning shines seek out the reality whose image I
present before you.""Is it my inexorable doom to do so?" cried the Chemist."It is," replied
the Phantom."To destroy her peace, her goodness; to make her what I am myself, and
what I have made of others!""I have said seek her out," returned the Phantom. "I have said
no more.""Oh, tell me," exclaimed Redlaw, catching at the hope which he fancied might lie
hidden in the words. "Can I undo what I have done?""No," returned the Phantom."I do not
ask for restoration to myself," said Redlaw. "What I abandoned, I abandoned of my own
free will, and have justly lost. But for those to whom I have transferred the fatal gift; who
never sought it; who unknowingly received a curse of which they had no warning, and which
they had no power to shun; can I do nothing?""Nothing," said the Phantom."If I cannot, can
any one?"The Phantom, standing like a statue, kept its gaze upon him for a while; then
turned its head suddenly, and looked upon the shadow at its side."Ah! Can she?" cried
Redlaw, still looking upon the shade.The Phantom released the hand it had retained till now,
and softly raised its own with a gesture of dismissal. Upon that, her shadow, still preserving
the same attitude, began to move or melt away."Stay," cried Redlaw with an earnestness
to which he could not give enough expression. "For a moment! As an act of mercy! I know
that some change fell upon me, when those sounds were in the air just now. Tell me, have I
lost the power of harming her? May I go near her without dread? Oh, let her give me any
sign of hope!"The Phantom looked upon the shade as he did - not at him - and gave no
answer."At least, say this - has she, henceforth, the consciousness of any power to set right
what I have done?""She has not," the Phantom answered."Has she the power bestowed
on her without the consciousness?"The phantom answered: "Seek her out."And her
shadow slowly vanished.They were face to face again, and looking on each other, as
intently and awfully as at the time of the bestowal of the gift, across the boy who still lay on
the ground between them, at the Phantom's feet."Terrible instructor," said the Chemist,
sinking on his knee before it, in an attitude of supplication, "by whom I was renounced, but
by whom I am revisited (in which, and in whose milder aspect, I would fain believe I have a
gleam of hope), I will obey without inquiry, praying that the cry I have sent up in the anguish
of my soul has been, or will be, heard, in behalf of those whom I have injured beyond
human reparation. But there is one thing - ""You speak to me of what is lying here," the
phantom interposed, and pointed with its finger to the boy."I do," returned the Chemist.
"You know what I would ask. Why has this child alone been proof against my influence, and
why, why, have I detected in its thoughts a terrible companionship with mine?""This," said
the Phantom, pointing to the boy, "is the last, completest illustration of a human creature,
utterly bereft of such remembrances as you have yielded up. No softening memory of
sorrow, wrong, or trouble enters here, because this wretched mortal from his birth has been
abandoned to a worse condition than the beasts, and has, within his knowledge, no one
contrast, no humanising touch, to make a grain of such a memory spring up in his hardened
breast. All within this desolate creature is barren wilderness. All within the man bereft of
what you have resigned, is the same barren wilderness. Woe to such a man! Woe,
tenfold, to the nation that shall count its monsters such as this, lying here, by hundreds and
by thousands!"Redlaw shrank, appalled, from what he heard."There is not," said the
Phantom, "one of these - not one - but sows a harvest that mankind MUST reap. From
every seed of evil in this boy, a field of ruin is grown that shall be gathered in, and garnered
up, and sown again in many places in the world, until regions are overspread with
wickedness enough to raise the waters of another Deluge. Open and unpunished murder in
a city's streets would be less guilty in its daily toleration, than one such spectacle as this."It
seemed to look down upon the boy in his sleep. Redlaw, too, looked down upon him with
a new emotion."There is not a father," said the Phantom, "by whose side in his daily or his
nightly walk, these creatures pass; there is not a mother among all the ranks of loving
mothers in this land; there is no one risen from the state of childhood, but shall be
responsible in his or her degree for this enormity. There is not a country throughout the
earth on which it would not bring a curse. There is no religion upon earth that it would not
deny; there is no people upon earth it would not put to shame."The Chemist clasped his
hands, and looked, with trembling fear and pity, from the sleeping boy to the Phantom,
standing above him with his finger pointing down."Behold, I say," pursued the Spectre, "the
perfect type of what it was your choice to be. Your influence is powerless here, because
from this child's bosom you can banish nothing. His thoughts have been in 'terrible
companionship' with yours, because you have gone down to his unnatural level. He is the
growth of man's indifference; you are the growth of man's presumption. The beneficent
design of Heaven is, in each case, overthrown, and from the two poles of the immaterial
world you come together."The Chemist stooped upon the ground beside the boy, and,
with the same kind of compassion for him that he now felt for himself, covered him as he
slept, and no longer shrank from him with abhorrence or indifference.Soon, now, the distant
line on the horizon brightened, the darkness faded, the sun rose red and glorious, and the
chimney stacks and gables of the ancient building gleamed in the clear air, which turned the
smoke and vapour of the city into a cloud of gold. The very sun-dial in his shady corner,
where the wind was used to spin with such unwindy constancy, shook off the finer particles
of snow that had accumulated on his dull old face in the night, and looked out at the little white
wreaths eddying round and round him. Doubtless some blind groping of the morning
made its way down into the forgotten crypt so cold and earthy, where the Norman arches
were half buried in the ground, and stirred the dull sap in the lazy vegetation hanging to the
walls, and quickened the slow principle of life within the little world of wonderful and delicate
creation which existed there, with some faint knowledge that the sun was up.The Tetterbys
were up, and doing. Mr. Tetterby took down the shutters of the shop, and, strip by strip,
revealed the treasures of the window to the eyes, so proof against their seductions, of
Jerusalem Buildings. Adolphus had been out so long already, that he was halfway on to
"Morning Pepper." Five small Tetterbys, whose ten round eyes were much inflamed by
soap and friction, were in the tortures of a cool wash in the back kitchen; Mrs. Tetterby
presiding. Johnny, who was pushed and hustled through his toilet with great rapidity when
Moloch chanced to be in an exacting frame of mind (which was always the case), staggered
up and down with his charge before the shop door, under greater difficulties than usual; the
weight of Moloch being much increased by a complication of defences against the cold,
composed of knitted worsted-work, and forming a complete suit of chain-armour, with a
head-piece and blue gaiters.It was a peculiarity of this baby to be always cutting teeth.
Whether they never came, or whether they came and went away again, is not in evidence;
but it had certainly cut enough, on the showing of Mrs. Tetterby, to make a handsome
dental provision for the sign of the Bull and Mouth. All sorts of objects were impressed for
the rubbing of its gums, notwithstanding that it always carried, dangling at its waist (which
was immediately under its chin), a bone ring, large enough to have represented the rosary
of a young nun. Knife-handles, umbrella-tops, the heads of walking-sticks selected from the
stock, the fingers of the family in general, but especially of Johnny, nutmeg-graters, crusts,
the handles of doors, and the cool knobs on the tops of pokers, were among the
commonest instruments indiscriminately applied for this baby's relief. The amount of
electricity that must have been rubbed out of it in a week, is not to be calculated. Still Mrs.
Tetterby always said "it was coming through, and then the child would be herself;" and still it
never did come through, and the child continued to be somebody else.The tempers of the
little Tetterbys had sadly changed with a few hours. Mr. and Mrs. Tetterby themselves
were not more altered than their offspring. Usually they were an unselfish, good-natured,
yielding little race, sharing short commons when it happened (which was pretty often)
contentedly and even generously, and taking a great deal of enjoyment out of a very little
meat. But they were fighting now, not only for the soap and water, but even for the
breakfast which was yet in perspective. The hand of every little Tetterby was against the
other little Tetterbys; and even Johnny's hand - the patient, much-enduring, and devoted
Johnny - rose against the baby! Yes, Mrs. Tetterby, going to the door by mere accident,
saw him viciously pick out a weak place in the suit of armour where a slap would tell, and
slap that blessed child.Mrs. Tetterby had him into the parlour by the collar, in that same flash
of time, and repaid him the assault with usury thereto."You brute, you murdering little boy,"
said Mrs. Tetterby. "Had you the heart to do it?""Why don't her teeth come through, then,"
retorted Johnny, in a loud rebellious voice, "instead of bothering me? How would you like it
yourself?""Like it, sir!" said Mrs. Tetterby, relieving him of his dishonoured load."Yes, like it,"
said Johnny. "How would you? Not at all. If you was me, you'd go for a soldier. I will, too.
There an't no babies in the Army."Mr. Tetterby, who had arrived upon the scene of action,
rubbed his chin thoughtfully, instead of correcting the rebel, and seemed rather struck by this
view of a military life."I wish I was in the Army myself, if the child's in the right," said Mrs.
Tetterby, looking at her husband, "for I have no peace of my life here. I'm a slave - a
Virginia slave:" some indistinct association with their weak descent on the tobacco trade
perhaps suggested this aggravated expression to Mrs. Tetterby. "I never have a holiday,
or any pleasure at all, from year's end to year's end! Why, Lord bless and save the child,"
said Mrs. Tetterby, shaking the baby with an irritability hardly suited to so pious an
aspiration, "what's the matter with her now?"Not being able to discover, and not rendering
the subject much clearer by shaking it, Mrs. Tetterby put the baby away in a cradle, and,
folding her arms, sat rocking it angrily with her foot."How you stand there, 'Dolphus," said
Mrs. Tetterby to her husband. "Why don't you do something?""Because I don't care about
doing anything," Mr. Tetterby replied."I am sure I don't," said Mrs. Tetterby."I'll take my oath
I don't," said Mr. Tetterby.A diversion arose here among Johnny and his five younger
brothers, who, in preparing the family breakfast table, had fallen to skirmishing for the
temporary possession of the loaf, and were buffeting one another with great heartiness; the
smallest boy of all, with precocious discretion, hovering outside the knot of combatants, and
harassing their legs. Into the midst of this fray, Mr. and Mrs. Tetterby both precipitated
themselves with great ardour, as if such ground were the only ground on which they could
now agree; and having, with no visible remains of their late soft-heartedness, laid about
them without any lenity, and done much execution, resumed their former relative
positions."You had better read your paper than do nothing at all," said Mrs.
Tetterby."What's there to read in a paper?" returned Mr. Tetterby, with excessive
discontent."What?" said Mrs. Tetterby. "Police.""It's nothing to me," said Tetterby. "What
do I care what people do, or are done to?""Suicides," suggested Mrs. Tetterby."No
business of mine," replied her husband."Births, deaths, and marriages, are those nothing to
you?" said Mrs. Tetterby."If the births were all over for good, and all to-day; and the deaths
were all to begin to come off to-morrow; I don't see why it should interest me, till I thought it
was a coming to my turn," grumbled Tetterby. "As to marriages, I've done it myself. I
know quite enough about THEM."To judge from the dissatisfied expression of her face and
manner, Mrs. Tetterby appeared to entertain the same opinions as her husband; but she
opposed him, nevertheless, for the gratification of quarrelling with him."Oh, you're a
consistent man," said Mrs. Tetterby, "an't you? You, with the screen of your own making
there, made of nothing else but bits of newspapers, which you sit and read to the children
by the half-hour together!""Say used to, if you please," returned her husband. "You won't
find me doing so any more. I'm wiser now.""Bah! wiser, indeed!" said Mrs. Tetterby. "Are
you better?"The question sounded some discordant note in Mr. Tetterby's breast. He
ruminated dejectedly, and passed his hand across and across his forehead."Better!"
murmured Mr. Tetterby. "I don't know as any of us are better, or happier either. Better, is
it?"He turned to the screen, and traced about it with his finger, until he found a certain
paragraph of which he was in quest."This used to be one of the family favourites, I
recollect," said Tetterby, in a forlorn and stupid way, "and used to draw tears from the
children, and make 'em good, if there was any little bickering or discontent among 'em, next
to the story of the robin redbreasts in the wood. 'Melancholy case of destitution.
Yesterday a small man, with a baby in his arms, and surrounded by half-a-dozen ragged
little ones, of various ages between ten and two, the whole of whom were evidently in a
famishing condition, appeared before the worthy magistrate, and made the following recital:'
- Ha! I don't understand it, I'm sure," said Tetterby; "I don't see what it has got to do with
us.""How old and shabby he looks," said Mrs. Tetterby, watching him. "I never saw such a
change in a man. Ah! dear me, dear me, dear me, it was a sacrifice!""What was a sacrifice?"
her husband sourly inquired.Mrs. Tetterby shook her head; and without replying in words,
raised a complete sea-storm about the baby, by her violent agitation of the cradle."If you
mean your marriage was a sacrifice, my good woman - " said her husband."I DO mean it"
said his wife."Why, then I mean to say," pursued Mr. Tetterby, as sulkily and surlily as she,
"that there are two sides to that affair; and that I was the sacrifice; and that I wish the sacrifice
hadn't been accepted.""I wish it hadn't, Tetterby, with all my heart and soul I do assure you,"
said his wife. "You can't wish it more than I do, Tetterby.""I don't know what I saw in her,"
muttered the newsman, "I'm sure; - certainly, if I saw anything, it's not there now. I was
thinking so, last night, after supper, by the fire. She's fat, she's ageing, she won't bear
comparison with most other women.""He's common-looking, he has no air with him, he's
small, he's beginning to stoop and he's getting bald," muttered Mrs. Tetterby."I must have
been half out of my mind when I did it," muttered Mr. Tetterby."My senses must have
forsook me. That's the only way in which I can explain it to myself," said Mrs. Tetterby with
elaboration.In this mood they sat down to breakfast. The little Tetterbys were not
habituated to regard that meal in the light of a sedentary occupation, but discussed it as a
dance or trot; rather resembling a savage ceremony, in the occasionally shrill whoops, and
brandishings of bread and butter, with which it was accompanied, as well as in the intricate
filings off into the street and back again, and the hoppings up and down the door-steps,
which were incidental to the performance. In the present instance, the contentions between
these Tetterby children for the milk-and-water jug, common to all, which stood upon the
table, presented so lamentable an instance of angry passions risen very high indeed, that it
was an outrage on the memory of Dr. Watts. It was not until Mr. Tetterby had driven the
whole herd out at the front door, that a moment's peace was secured; and even that was
broken by the discovery that Johnny had surreptitiously come back, and was at that instant
choking in the jug like a ventriloquist, in his indecent and rapacious haste."These children will
be the death of me at last!" said Mrs. Tetterby, after banishing the culprit. "And the sooner
the better, I think.""Poor people," said Mr. Tetterby, "ought not to have children at all. They
give US no pleasure."He was at that moment taking up the cup which Mrs. Tetterby had
rudely pushed towards him, and Mrs. Tetterby was lifting her own cup to her lips, when
they both stopped, as if they were transfixed."Here! Mother! Father!" cried Johnny,
running into the room. "Here's Mrs. William coming down the street!"And if ever, since the
world began, a young boy took a baby from a cradle with the care of an old nurse, and
hushed and soothed it tenderly, and tottered away with it cheerfully, Johnny was that boy,
and Moloch was that baby, as they went out together!Mr. Tetterby put down his cup; Mrs.
Tetterby put down her cup. Mr. Tetterby rubbed his forehead; Mrs. Tetterby rubbed hers.
Mr. Tetterby's face began to smooth and brighten; Mrs. Tetterby's began to smooth and
brighten."Why, Lord forgive me," said Mr. Tetterby to himself, "what evil tempers have I
been giving way to? What has been the matter here!""How could I ever treat him ill again,
after all I said and felt last night!" sobbed Mrs. Tetterby, with her apron to her eyes."Am I a
brute," said Mr. Tetterby, "or is there any good in me at all? Sophia! My little
woman!""'Dolphus dear," returned his wife."I - I've been in a state of mind," said Mr.
Tetterby, "that I can't abear to think of, Sophy.""Oh! It's nothing to what I've been in, Dolf,"
cried his wife in a great burst of grief."My Sophia," said Mr. Tetterby, "don't take on. I never
shall forgive myself. I must have nearly broke your heart, I know.""No, Dolf, no. It was me!
Me!" cried Mrs. Tetterby."My little woman," said her husband, "don't. You make me
reproach myself dreadful, when you show such a noble spirit. Sophia, my dear, you don't
know what I thought. I showed it bad enough, no doubt; but what I thought, my little
woman! - ""Oh, dear Dolf, don't! Don't!" cried his wife."Sophia," said Mr. Tetterby, "I must
reveal it. I couldn't rest in my conscience unless I mentioned it. My little woman - ""Mrs.
William's very nearly here!" screamed Johnny at the door."My little woman, I wondered
how," gasped Mr. Tetterby, supporting himself by his chair, "I wondered how I had ever
admired you - I forgot the precious children you have brought about me, and thought you
didn't look as slim as I could wish. I - I never gave a recollection," said Mr. Tetterby, with
severe self-accusation, "to the cares you've had as my wife, and along of me and mine,
when you might have had hardly any with another man, who got on better and was luckier
than me (anybody might have found such a man easily I am sure); and I quarrelled with you
for having aged a little in the rough years you have lightened for me. Can you believe it,
my little woman? I hardly can myself."Mrs. Tetterby, in a whirlwind of laughing and crying,
caught his face within her hands, and held it there."Oh, Dolf!" she cried. "I am so happy that
you thought so; I am so grateful that you thought so! For I thought that you were commonlooking,
Dolf; and so you are, my dear, and may you be the commonest of all sights in my
eyes, till you close them with your own good hands. I thought that you were small; and so
you are, and I'll make much of you because you are, and more of you because I love my
husband. I thought that you began to stoop; and so you do, and you shall lean on me, and
I'll do all I can to keep you up. I thought there was no air about you; but there is, and it's the
air of home, and that's the purest and the best there is, and God bless home once more,
and all belonging to it, Dolf!""Hurrah! Here's Mrs. William!" cried Johnny.So she was, and all
the children with her; and so she came in, they kissed her, and kissed one another, and
kissed the baby, and kissed their father and mother, and then ran back and flocked and
danced about her, trooping on with her in triumph.Mr. and Mrs. Tetterby were not a bit
behind-hand in the warmth of their reception. They were as much attracted to her as the
children were; they ran towards her, kissed her hands, pressed round her, could not receive
her ardently or enthusiastically enough. She came among them like the spirit of all
goodness, affection, gentle consideration, love, and domesticity."What! are YOU all so glad
to see me, too, this bright Christmas morning?" said Milly, clapping her hands in a pleasant
wonder. "Oh dear, how delightful this is!"More shouting from the children, more kissing,
more trooping round her, more happiness, more love, more joy, more honour, on all sides,
than she could bear."Oh dear!" said Milly, "what delicious tears you make me shed. How
can I ever have deserved this! What have I done to be so loved?""Who can help it!" cried
Mr. Tetterby."Who can help it!" cried Mrs. Tetterby."Who can help it!" echoed the children,
in a joyful chorus. And they danced and trooped about her again, and clung to her, and laid
their rosy faces against her dress, and kissed and fondled it, and could not fondle it, or her,
enough."I never was so moved," said Milly, drying her eyes, "as I have been this morning.
I must tell you, as soon as I can speak. - Mr. Redlaw came to me at sunrise, and with a
tenderness in his manner, more as if I had been his darling daughter than myself, implored
me to go with him to where William's brother George is lying ill. We went together, and all
the way along he was so kind, and so subdued, and seemed to put such trust and hope in
me, that I could not help trying with pleasure. When we got to the house, we met a woman
at the door (somebody had bruised and hurt her, I am afraid), who caught me by the hand,
and blessed me as I passed.""She was right!" said Mr. Tetterby. Mrs. Tetterby said she
was right. All the children cried out that she was right."Ah, but there's more than that," said
Milly. "When we got up stairs, into the room, the sick man who had lain for hours in a state
from which no effort could rouse him, rose up in his bed, and, bursting into tears, stretched
out his arms to me, and said that he had led a mis-spent life, but that he was truly repentant
now, in his sorrow for the past, which was all as plain to him as a great prospect, from which
a dense black cloud had cleared away, and that he entreated me to ask his poor old father
for his pardon and his blessing, and to say a prayer beside his bed. And when I did so,
Mr. Redlaw joined in it so fervently, and then so thanked and thanked me, and thanked
Heaven, that my heart quite overflowed, and I could have done nothing but sob and cry, if
the sick man had not begged me to sit down by him, - which made me quiet of course. As
I sat there, he held my hand in his until he sank in a doze; and even then, when I withdrew
my hand to leave him to come here (which Mr. Redlaw was very earnest indeed in wishing
me to do), his hand felt for mine, so that some one else was obliged to take my place and
make believe to give him my hand back. Oh dear, oh dear," said Milly, sobbing. "How
thankful and how happy I should feel, and do feel, for all this!"While she was speaking,
Redlaw had come in, and, after pausing for a moment to observe the group of which she
was the centre, had silently ascended the stairs. Upon those stairs he now appeared again;
remaining there, while the young student passed him, and came running down."Kind nurse,
gentlest, best of creatures," he said, falling on his knee to her, and catching at her hand,
"forgive my cruel ingratitude!""Oh dear, oh dear!" cried Milly innocently, "here's another of
them! Oh dear, here's somebody else who likes me. What shall I ever do!"The guileless,
simple way in which she said it, and in which she put her hands before her eyes and wept
for very happiness, was as touching as it was delightful."I was not myself," he said. "I don't
know what it was - it was some consequence of my disorder perhaps - I was mad. But I
am so no longer. Almost as I speak, I am restored. I heard the children crying out your
name, and the shade passed from me at the very sound of it. Oh, don't weep! Dear Milly,
if you could read my heart, and only knew with what affection and what grateful homage it is
glowing, you would not let me see you weep. It is such deep reproach.""No, no," said
Milly, "it's not that. It's not indeed. It's joy. It's wonder that you should think it necessary to
ask me to forgive so little, and yet it's pleasure that you do.""And will you come again? and
will you finish the little curtain?""No," said Milly, drying her eyes, and shaking her head. "You
won't care for my needlework now.""Is it forgiving me, to say that?"She beckoned him
aside, and whispered in his ear."There is news from your home, Mr. Edmund.""News?
How?""Either your not writing when you were very ill, or the change in your handwriting
when you began to be better, created some suspicion of the truth; however that is - but
you're sure you'll not be the worse for any news, if it's not bad news?""Sure.""Then there's
some one come!" said Milly."My mother?" asked the student, glancing round involuntarily
towards Redlaw, who had come down from the stairs."Hush! No," said Milly."It can be no
one else.""Indeed?" said Milly, "are you sure?""It is not -" Before he could say more, she
put her hand upon his mouth."Yes it is!" said Milly. "The young lady (she is very like the
miniature, Mr. Edmund, but she is prettier) was too unhappy to rest without satisfying her
doubts, and came up, last night, with a little servant-maid. As you always dated your letters
from the college, she came there; and before I saw Mr. Redlaw this morning, I saw her.
SHE likes me too!" said Milly. "Oh dear, that's another!""This morning! Where is she
now?""Why, she is now," said Milly, advancing her lips to his ear, "in my little parlour in the
Lodge, and waiting to see you."He pressed her hand, and was darting off, but she
detained him."Mr. Redlaw is much altered, and has told me this morning that his memory is
impaired. Be very considerate to him, Mr. Edmund; he needs that from us all."The young
man assured her, by a look, that her caution was not ill-bestowed; and as he passed the
Chemist on his way out, bent respectfully and with an obvious interest before him.Redlaw
returned the salutation courteously and even humbly, and looked after him as he passed
on. He dropped his head upon his hand too, as trying to reawaken something he had lost.
But it was gone.The abiding change that had come upon him since the influence of the
music, and the Phantom's reappearance, was, that now he truly felt how much he had lost,
and could compassionate his own condition, and contrast it, clearly, with the natural state of
those who were around him. In this, an interest in those who were around him was revived,
and a meek, submissive sense of his calamity was bred, resembling that which sometimes
obtains in age, when its mental powers are weakened, without insensibility or sullenness
being added to the list of its infirmities.He was conscious that, as he redeemed, through
Milly, more and more of the evil he had done, and as he was more and more with her, this
change ripened itself within him. Therefore, and because of the attachment she inspired him
with (but without other hope), he felt that he was quite dependent on her, and that she was
his staff in his affliction.So, when she asked him whether they should go home now, to
where the old man and her husband were, and he readily replied "yes" - being anxious in
that regard - he put his arm through hers, and walked beside her; not as if he were the wise
and learned man to whom the wonders of Nature were an open book, and hers were the
uninstructed mind, but as if their two positions were reversed, and he knew nothing, and she
all.He saw the children throng about her, and caress her, as he and she went away together
thus, out of the house; he heard the ringing of their laughter, and their merry voices; he saw
their bright faces, clustering around him like flowers; he witnessed the renewed contentment
and affection of their parents; he breathed the simple air of their poor home, restored to its
tranquillity; he thought of the unwholesome blight he had shed upon it, and might, but for
her, have been diffusing then; and perhaps it is no wonder that he walked submissively
beside her, and drew her gentle bosom nearer to his own.When they arrived at the Lodge,
the old man was sitting in his chair in the chimney-corner, with his eyes fixed on the ground,
and his son was leaning against the opposite side of the fire-place, looking at him. As she
came in at the door, both started, and turned round towards her, and a radiant change came
upon their faces."Oh dear, dear, dear, they are all pleased to see me like the rest!" cried
Milly, clapping her hands in an ecstasy, and stopping short. "Here are two more!"Pleased
to see her! Pleasure was no word for it. She ran into her husband's arms, thrown wide
open to receive her, and he would have been glad to have her there, with her head lying on
his shoulder, through the short winter's day. But the old man couldn't spare her. He had
arms for her too, and he locked her in them."Why, where has my quiet Mouse been all this
time?" said the old man. "She has been a long while away. I find that it's impossible for me
to get on without Mouse. I - where's my son William? - I fancy I have been dreaming,
William.""That's what I say myself, father," returned his son. "I have been in an ugly sort of
dream, I think. - How are you, father? Are you pretty well?""Strong and brave, my boy,"
returned the old man.It was quite a sight to see Mr. William shaking hands with his father,
and patting him on the back, and rubbing him gently down with his hand, as if he could not
possibly do enough to show an interest in him."What a wonderful man you are, father! -
How are you, father? Are you really pretty hearty, though?" said William, shaking hands
with him again, and patting him again, and rubbing him gently down again."I never was
fresher or stouter in my life, my boy.""What a wonderful man you are, father! But that's
exactly where it is," said Mr. William, with enthusiasm. "When I think of all that my father's
gone through, and all the chances and changes, and sorrows and troubles, that have
happened to him in the course of his long life, and under which his head has grown grey,
and years upon years have gathered on it, I feel as if we couldn't do enough to honour the
old gentleman, and make his old age easy. - How are you, father? Are you really pretty
well, though?"Mr. William might never have left off repeating this inquiry, and shaking hands
with him again, and patting him again, and rubbing him down again, if the old man had not
espied the Chemist, whom until now he had not seen."I ask your pardon, Mr. Redlaw," said
Philip, "but didn't know you were here, sir, or should have made less free. It reminds me,
Mr. Redlaw, seeing you here on a Christmas morning, of the time when you was a student
yourself, and worked so hard that you were backwards and forwards in our Library even at
Christmas time. Ha! ha! I'm old enough to remember that; and I remember it right well, I
do, though I am eight-seven. It was after you left here that my poor wife died. You
remember my poor wife, Mr. Redlaw?"The Chemist answered yes."Yes," said the old
man. "She was a dear creetur. - I recollect you come here one Christmas morning with a
young lady - I ask your pardon, Mr. Redlaw, but I think it was a sister you was very much
attached to?"The Chemist looked at him, and shook his head. "I had a sister," he said
vacantly. He knew no more."One Christmas morning," pursued the old man, "that you
come here with her - and it began to snow, and my wife invited the lady to walk in, and sit
by the fire that is always a burning on Christmas Day in what used to be, before our ten
poor gentlemen commuted, our great Dinner Hall. I was there; and I recollect, as I was
stirring up the blaze for the young lady to warm her pretty feet by, she read the scroll out
loud, that is underneath that pictur, 'Lord, keep my memory green!' She and my poor wife
fell a talking about it; and it's a strange thing to think of, now, that they both said (both being
so unlike to die) that it was a good prayer, and that it was one they would put up very
earnestly, if they were called away young, with reference to those who were dearest to
them. 'My brother,' says the young lady - 'My husband,' says my poor wife. - 'Lord, keep
his memory of me, green, and do not let me be forgotten!'"Tears more painful, and more
bitter than he had ever shed in all his life, coursed down Redlaw's face. Philip, fully
occupied in recalling his story, had not observed him until now, nor Milly's anxiety that he
should not proceed."Philip!" said Redlaw, laying his hand upon his arm, "I am a stricken man,
on whom the hand of Providence has fallen heavily, although deservedly. You speak to
me, my friend, of what I cannot follow; my memory is gone.""Merciful power!" cried the old
man."I have lost my memory of sorrow, wrong, and trouble," said the Chemist, "and with
that I have lost all man would remember!"To see old Philip's pity for him, to see him wheel
his own great chair for him to rest in, and look down upon him with a solemn sense of his
bereavement, was to know, in some degree, how precious to old age such recollections
are.The boy came running in, and ran to Milly."Here's the man," he said, "in the other room. I
don't want HIM.""What man does he mean?" asked Mr. William."Hush!" said
Milly.Obedient to a sign from her, he and his old father softly withdrew. As they went out,
unnoticed, Redlaw beckoned to the boy to come to him."I like the woman best," he
answered, holding to her skirts."You are right," said Redlaw, with a faint smile. "But you
needn't fear to come to me. I am gentler than I was. Of all the world, to you, poor child!"The
boy still held back at first, but yielding little by little to her urging, he consented to approach,
and even to sit down at his feet. As Redlaw laid his hand upon the shoulder of the child,
looking on him with compassion and a fellow-feeling, he put out his other hand to Milly. She
stooped down on that side of him, so that she could look into his face, and after silence,
said:"Mr. Redlaw, may I speak to you?""Yes," he answered, fixing his eyes upon her.
"Your voice and music are the same to me.""May I ask you something?""What you
will.""Do you remember what I said, when I knocked at your door last night? About one
who was your friend once, and who stood on the verge of destruction?""Yes. I remember,"
he said, with some hesitation."Do you understand it?"He smoothed the boy's hair - looking
at her fixedly the while, and shook his head."This person," said Milly, in her clear, soft voice,
which her mild eyes, looking at him, made clearer and softer, "I found soon afterwards. I
went back to the house, and, with Heaven's help, traced him. I was not too soon. A very
little and I should have been too late."He took his hand from the boy, and laying it on the
back of that hand of hers, whose timid and yet earnest touch addressed him no less
appealingly than her voice and eyes, looked more intently on her."He IS the father of Mr.
Edmund, the young gentleman we saw just now. His real name is Longford. - You recollect
the name?""I recollect the name.""And the man?""No, not the man. Did he ever wrong
me?""Yes!""Ah! Then it's hopeless - hopeless."He shook his head, and softly beat upon
the hand he held, as though mutely asking her commiseration."I did not go to Mr. Edmund
last night," said Milly, - "You will listen to me just the same as if you did remember all?""To
every syllable you say.""Both, because I did not know, then, that this really was his father,
and because I was fearful of the effect of such intelligence upon him, after his illness, if it
should be. Since I have known who this person is, I have not gone either; but that is for
another reason. He has long been separated from his wife and son - has been a stranger
to his home almost from this son's infancy, I learn from him - and has abandoned and
deserted what he should have held most dear. In all that time he has been falling from the
state of a gentleman, more and more, until - " she rose up, hastily, and going out for a
moment, returned, accompanied by the wreck that Redlaw had beheld last night."Do you
know me?" asked the Chemist."I should be glad," returned the other, "and that is an
unwonted word for me to use, if I could answer no."The Chemist looked at the man,
standing in self-abasement and degradation before him, and would have looked longer, in
an ineffectual struggle for enlightenment, but that Milly resumed her late position by his side,
and attracted his attentive gaze to her own face."See how low he is sunk, how lost he is!"
she whispered, stretching out her arm towards him, without looking from the Chemist's face.
"If you could remember all that is connected with him, do you not think it would move your
pity to reflect that one you ever loved (do not let us mind how long ago, or in what belief
that he has forfeited), should come to this?""I hope it would," he answered. "I believe it
would."His eyes wandered to the figure standing near the door, but came back speedily to
her, on whom he gazed intently, as if he strove to learn some lesson from every tone of her
voice, and every beam of her eyes."I have no learning, and you have much," said Milly; "I
am not used to think, and you are always thinking. May I tell you why it seems to me a
good thing for us, to remember wrong that has been done us?""Yes.""That we may forgive
it.""Pardon me, great Heaven!" said Redlaw, lifting up his eyes, "for having thrown away
thine own high attribute!""And if," said Milly, "if your memory should one day be restored,
as we will hope and pray it may be, would it not be a blessing to you to recall at once a
wrong and its forgiveness?"He looked at the figure by the door, and fastened his attentive
eyes on her again; a ray of clearer light appeared to him to shine into his mind, from her
bright face."He cannot go to his abandoned home. He does not seek to go there. He
knows that he could only carry shame and trouble to those he has so cruelly neglected; and
that the best reparation he can make them now, is to avoid them. A very little money
carefully bestowed, would remove him to some distant place, where he might live and do
no wrong, and make such atonement as is left within his power for the wrong he has done.
To the unfortunate lady who is his wife, and to his son, this would be the best and kindest
boon that their best friend could give them - one too that they need never know of; and to
him, shattered in reputation, mind, and body, it might be salvation."He took her head
between her hands, and kissed it, and said: "It shall be done. I trust to you to do it for me,
now and secretly; and to tell him that I would forgive him, if I were so happy as to know for
what."As she rose, and turned her beaming face towards the fallen man, implying that her
mediation had been successful, he advanced a step, and without raising his eyes,
addressed himself to Redlaw."You are so generous," he said, " - you ever were - that you
will try to banish your rising sense of retribution in the spectacle that is before you. I do not
try to banish it from myself, Redlaw. If you can, believe me."The Chemist entreated Milly,
by a gesture, to come nearer to him; and, as he listened looked in her face, as if to find in it
the clue to what he heard."I am too decayed a wretch to make professions; I recollect my
own career too well, to array any such before you. But from the day on which I made my
first step downward, in dealing falsely by you, I have gone down with a certain, steady,
doomed progression. That, I say."Redlaw, keeping her close at his side, turned his face
towards the speaker, and there was sorrow in it. Something like mournful recognition too."I
might have been another man, my life might have been another life, if I had avoided that
first fatal step. I don't know that it would have been. I claim nothing for the possibility. Your
sister is at rest, and better than she could have been with me, if I had continued even what
you thought me: even what I once supposed myself to be."Redlaw made a hasty motion
with his hand, as if he would have put that subject on one side."I speak," the other went on,
"like a man taken from the grave. I should have made my own grave, last night, had it not
been for this blessed hand.""Oh dear, he likes me too!" sobbed Milly, under her breath.
"That's another!""I could not have put myself in your way, last night, even for bread. But, today,
my recollection of what has been is so strongly stirred, and is presented to me, I don't
know how, so vividly, that I have dared to come at her suggestion, and to take your bounty,
and to thank you for it, and to beg you, Redlaw, in your dying hour, to be as merciful to me
in your thoughts, as you are in your deeds."He turned towards the door, and stopped a
moment on his way forth."I hope my son may interest you, for his mother's sake. I hope he
may deserve to do so. Unless my life should be preserved a long time, and I should know
that I have not misused your aid, I shall never look upon him more."Going out, he raised his
eyes to Redlaw for the first time. Redlaw, whose steadfast gaze was fixed upon him,
dreamily held out his hand. He returned and touched it - little more - with both his own; and
bending down his head, went slowly out.In the few moments that elapsed, while Milly
silently took him to the gate, the Chemist dropped into his chair, and covered his face with
his hands. Seeing him thus, when she came back, accompanied by her husband and his
father (who were both greatly concerned for him), she avoided disturbing him, or permitting
him to be disturbed; and kneeled down near the chair to put some warm clothing on the
boy."That's exactly where it is. That's what I always say, father!" exclaimed her admiring
husband. "There's a motherly feeling in Mrs. William's breast that must and will have
went!""Ay, ay," said the old man; "you're right. My son William's right!" "It happens all for
the best, Milly dear, no doubt," said Mr. William, tenderly, "that we have no children of our
own; and yet I sometimes wish you had one to love and cherish. Our little dead child that
you built such hopes upon, and that never breathed the breath of life - it has made you
quiet-like, Milly.""I am very happy in the recollection of it, William dear," she answered. "I
think of it every day.""I was afraid you thought of it a good deal.""Don't say, afraid; it is a
comfort to me; it speaks to me in so many ways. The innocent thing that never lived on
earth, is like an angel to me, William.""You are like an angel to father and me," said Mr.
William, softly. "I know that.""When I think of all those hopes I built upon it, and the many
times I sat and pictured to myself the little smiling face upon my bosom that never lay there,
and the sweet eyes turned up to mine that never opened to the light," said Milly, "I can feel
a greater tenderness, I think, for all the disappointed hopes in which there is no harm. When
I see a beautiful child in its fond mother's arms, I love it all the better, thinking that my child
might have been like that, and might have made my heart as proud and happy."Redlaw
raised his head, and looked towards her."All through life, it seems by me," she continued,
"to tell me something. For poor neglected children, my little child pleads as if it were alive,
and had a voice I knew, with which to speak to me. When I hear of youth in suffering or
shame, I think that my child might have come to that, perhaps, and that God took it from me
in His mercy. Even in age and grey hair, such as father's, it is present: saying that it too
might have lived to be old, long and long after you and I were gone, and to have needed
the respect and love of younger people."Her quiet voice was quieter than ever, as she
took her husband's arm, and laid her head against it."Children love me so, that sometimes I
half fancy - it's a silly fancy, William - they have some way I don't know of, of feeling for my
little child, and me, and understanding why their love is precious to me. If I have been quiet
since, I have been more happy, William, in a hundred ways. Not least happy, dear, in this -
that even when my little child was born and dead but a few days, and I was weak and
sorrowful, and could not help grieving a little, the thought arose, that if I tried to lead a good
life, I should meet in Heaven a bright creature, who would call me, Mother!"Redlaw fell upon
his knees, with a loud cry."O Thou, he said, "who through the teaching of pure love, hast
graciously restored me to the memory which was the memory of Christ upon the Cross,
and of all the good who perished in His cause, receive my thanks, and bless her!"Then, he
folded her to his heart; and Milly, sobbing more than ever, cried, as she laughed, "He is
come back to himself! He likes me very much indeed, too! Oh, dear, dear, dear me, here's
another!"Then, the student entered, leading by the hand a lovely girl, who was afraid to
come. And Redlaw so changed towards him, seeing in him and his youthful choice, the
softened shadow of that chastening passage in his own life, to which, as to a shady tree, the
dove so long imprisoned in his solitary ark might fly for rest and company, fell upon his neck,
entreating them to be his children.Then, as Christmas is a time in which, of all times in the
year, the memory of every remediable sorrow, wrong, and trouble in the world around us,
should be active with us, not less than our own experiences, for all good, he laid his hand
upon the boy, and, silently calling Him to witness who laid His hand on children in old time,
rebuking, in the majesty of His prophetic knowledge, those who kept them from Him,
vowed to protect him, teach him, and reclaim him.Then, he gave his right hand cheerily to
Philip, and said that they would that day hold a Christmas dinner in what used to be, before
the ten poor gentlemen commuted, their great Dinner Hall; and that they would bid to it as
many of that Swidger family, who, his son had told him, were so numerous that they might
join hands and make a ring round England, as could be brought together on so short a
notice.And it was that day done. There were so many Swidgers there, grown up and
children, that an attempt to state them in round numbers might engender doubts, in the
distrustful, of the veracity of this history. Therefore the attempt shall not be made. But there
they were, by dozens and scores - and there was good news and good hope there, ready
for them, of George, who had been visited again by his father and brother, and by Milly,
and again left in a quiet sleep. There, present at the dinner, too, were the Tetterbys,
including young Adolphus, who arrived in his prismatic comforter, in good time for the beef.
Johnny and the baby were too late, of course, and came in all on one side, the one
exhausted, the other in a supposed state of double-tooth; but that was customary, and not
alarming.It was sad to see the child who had no name or lineage, watching the other children
as they played, not knowing how to talk with them, or sport with them, and more strange to
the ways of childhood than a rough dog. It was sad, though in a different way, to see what
an instinctive knowledge the youngest children there had of his being different from all the
rest, and how they made timid approaches to him with soft words and touches, and with
little presents, that he might not be unhappy. But he kept by Milly, and began to love her -
that was another, as she said! - and, as they all liked her dearly, they were glad of that, and
when they saw him peeping at them from behind her chair, they were pleased that he was
so close to it.All this, the Chemist, sitting with the student and his bride that was to be,
Philip, and the rest, saw.Some people have said since, that he only thought what has been
herein set down; others, that he read it in the fire, one winter night about the twilight time;
others, that the Ghost was but the representation of his gloomy thoughts, and Milly the
embodiment of his better wisdom. I say nothing.- Except this. That as they were
assembled in the old Hall, by no other light than that of a great fire (having dined early), the
shadows once more stole out of their hiding-places, and danced about the room, showing
the children marvellous shapes and faces on the walls, and gradually changing what was real
and familiar there, to what was wild and magical. But that there was one thing in the Hall, to
which the eyes of Redlaw, and of Milly and her husband, and of the old man, and of the
student, and his bride that was to be, were often turned, which the shadows did not obscure
or change. Deepened in its gravity by the fire-light, and gazing from the darkness of the
panelled wall like life, the sedate face in the portrait, with the beard and ruff, looked down at
them from under its verdant wreath of holly, as they looked up at it; and, clear and plain
below, as if a voice had uttered them, were the words.Lord keep my Memory green.

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