Part 1 out of 3
Transcribed from the 1907 J. M. Dent and Co. edition by David
Price, email firstname.lastname@example.org
THE HAUNTED MAN AND THE GHOST'S BARGAIN
CHAPTER I--The Gift Bestowed
Everybody 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
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 sea-
weed, 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
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
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
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-weather-darkened, 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 lurking-places 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
"No," returned Mr. Redlaw good-naturedly, 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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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,
"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
"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?" 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
"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
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.
"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.
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
"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
"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,
"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
"Who would not, truly, and be happier and better for it?" said the
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Say," said the Spectre, "is it done?"
"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
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
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
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."
"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
"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?"
"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
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
"The gift that I have given, you shall give again, go where you
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 Diffused
A 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
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,
"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
"'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
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
"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
"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
"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 "Eve-ning
Pup-per!" to the great relief and comfort of this young gentleman's
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
"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,
"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
"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
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,
"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
"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
"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
"I don't mean that," replied his wife, "I mean soldiers--
"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.
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 Christmas-
time, 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
"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
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
"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-
"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
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.
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"You are speaking of the keeper's wife," said Redlaw.
"Yes." The student bent his head, as if he rendered her some
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?"
"You have retired and withdrawn from me, more than any of the rest,
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"You do?" he retorted, with a wild light in his eyes. "You 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.