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Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

Part 18 out of 21

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'Then,' retorted the old woman quickly, 'you have seen it written,
and you can spell it.'

Rob, with a petulant exclamation between laughing and crying - for
he was penetrated with some admiration of Mrs Brown's cunning, even
through this persecution - after some reluctant fumbling in his
waistcoat pocket, produced from it a little piece of chalk. The old
woman's eyes sparkled when she saw it between his thumb and finger,
and hastily clearing a space on the deal table, that he might write
the word there, she once more made her signal with a shaking hand.

'Now I tell you beforehand what it is, Misses Brown,' said Rob,
'it's no use asking me anything else. I won't answer anything else; I
can't. How long it was to be before they met, or whose plan it was
that they was to go away alone, I don't know no more than you do. I
don't know any more about it. If I was to tell you how I found out
this word, you'd believe that. Shall I tell you, Misses Brown?'

'Yes, Rob.'

'Well then, Misses Brown. The way - now you won't ask any more, you
know?' said Rob, turning his eyes, which were now fast getting drowsy
and stupid, upon her.

'Not another word,' said Mrs Brown.

'Well then, the way was this. When a certain person left the lady
with me, he put a piece of paper with a direction written on it in the
lady's hand, saying it was in case she should forget. She wasn't
afraid of forgetting, for she tore it up as soon as his back was
turned, and when I put up the carriage steps, I shook out one of the
pieces - she sprinkled the rest out of the window, I suppose, for
there was none there afterwards, though I looked for 'em. There was
only one word on it, and that was this, if you must and will know. But
remember! You're upon your oath, Misses Brown!'

Mrs Brown knew that, she said. Rob, having nothing more to say,
began to chalk, slowly and laboriously, on the table.

'"D,"' the old woman read aloud, when he had formed the letter.

'Will you hold your tongue, Misses Brown?' he exclaimed, covering
it with his hand, and turning impatiently upon her. 'I won't have it
read out. Be quiet, will you!'

'Then write large, Rob,' she returned, repeating her secret signal;
'for my eyes are not good, even at print.'

Muttering to himself, and returning to his work with an ill will,
Rob went on with the word. As he bent his head down, the person for
whose information he so unconsciously laboured, moved from the door
behind him to within a short stride of his shoulder, and looked
eagerly towards the creeping track of his hand upon the table. At the
same time, Alice, from her opposite chair, watched it narrowly as it
shaped the letters, and repeated each one on her lips as he made it,
without articulating it aloud. At the end of every letter her eyes and
Mr Dombey's met, as if each of them sought to be confirmed by the
other; and thus they both spelt D.I.J.O.N.

'There!' said the Grinder, moistening the palm of his hand hastily,
to obliterate the word; and not content with smearing it out, rubbing
and planing all trace of it away with his coat-sleeve, until the very
colour of the chalk was gone from the table. 'Now, I hope you're
contented, Misses Brown!'

The old woman, in token of her being so, released his arm and
patted his back; and the Grinder, overcome with mortification,
cross-examination, and liquor, folded his arms on the table, laid his
head upon them, and fell asleep.

Not until he had been heavily asleep some time, and was snoring
roundly, did the old woman turn towards the door where Mr Dombey stood
concealed, and beckon him to come through the room, and pass out. Even
then, she hovered over Rob, ready to blind him with her hands, or
strike his head down, if he should raise it while the secret step was
crossing to the door. But though her glance took sharp cognizance of
the sleeper, it was sharp too for the waking man; and when he touched
her hand with his, and in spite of all his caution, made a chinking,
golden sound, it was as bright and greedy as a raven's.

The daughter's dark gaze followed him to the door, and noted well
how pale he was, and how his hurried tread indicated that the least
delay was an insupportable restraint upon him, and how he was burning
to be active and away. As he closed the door behind him, she looked
round at her mother. The old woman trotted to her; opened her hand to
show what was within; and, tightly closing it again in her jealousy
and avarice, whispered:

'What will he do, Ally?'

'Mischief,' said the daughter.

'Murder?' asked the old woman.

'He's a madman, in his wounded pride, and may do that, for anything
we can say, or he either.'

Her glance was brighter than her mother's, and the fire that shone
in it was fiercer; but her face was colourless, even to her lips

They said no more, but sat apart; the mother communing with her
money; the daughter with her thoughts; the glance of each, shining in
the gloom of the feebly lighted room. Rob slept and snored. The
disregarded parrot only was in action. It twisted and pulled at the
wires of its cage, with its crooked beak, and crawled up to the dome,
and along its roof like a fly, and down again head foremost, and
shook, and bit, and rattled at every slender bar, as if it knew its
master's danger, and was wild to force a passage out, and fly away to
warn him of it.

CHAPTER 53.

More Intelligence

There were two of the traitor's own blood - his renounced brother
and sister - on whom the weight of his guilt rested almost more
heavily, at this time, than on the man whom he had so deeply injured.
Prying and tormenting as the world was, it did Mr Dombey the service
of nerving him to pursuit and revenge. It roused his passion, stung
his pride, twisted the one idea of his life into a new shape, and made
some gratification of his wrath, the object into which his whole
intellectual existence resolved itself. All the stubbornness and
implacability of his nature, all its hard impenetrable quality, all
its gloom and moroseness, all its exaggerated sense of personal
importance, all its jealous disposition to resent the least flaw in
the ample recognition of his importance by others, set this way like
many streams united into one, and bore him on upon their tide. The
most impetuously passionate and violently impulsive of mankind would
have been a milder enemy to encounter than the sullen Mr Dombey
wrought to this. A wild beast would have been easier turned or soothed
than the grave gentleman without a wrinkle in his starched cravat.

But the very intensity of his purpose became almost a substitute
for action in it. While he was yet uninformed of the traitor's
retreat, it served to divert his mind from his own calamity, and to
entertain it with another prospect. The brother and sister of his
false favourite had no such relief; everything in their history, past
and present, gave his delinquency a more afflicting meaning to them.

The sister may have sometimes sadly thought that if she had
remained with him, the companion and friend she had been once, he
might have escaped the crime into which he had fallen. If she ever
thought so, it was still without regret for what she had done, without
the least doubt of her duty, without any pricing or enhancing of her
self-devotion. But when this possibility presented itself to the
erring and repentant brother, as it sometimes did, it smote upon his
heart with such a keen, reproachful touch as he could hardly bear. No
idea of retort upon his cruel brother came into his mind. New
accusation of himself, fresh inward lamentings over his own
unworthiness, and the ruin in which it was at once his consolation and
his self-reproach that he did not stand alone, were the sole kind of
reflections to which the discovery gave rise in him.

It was on the very same day whose evening set upon the last
chapter, and when Mr Dombey's world was busiest with the elopement of
his wife, that the window of the room in which the brother and sister
sat at their early breakfast, was darkened by the unexpected shadow of
a man coming to the little porch: which man was Perch the Messenger.

'I've stepped over from Balls Pond at a early hour,' said Mr Perch,
confidentially looking in at the room door, and stopping on the mat to
wipe his shoes all round, which had no mud upon them, 'agreeable to my
instructions last night. They was, to be sure and bring a note to you,
Mr Carker, before you went out in the morning. I should have been here
a good hour and a half ago,' said Mr Perch, meekly, 'but fOr the state
of health of Mrs P., who I thought I should have lost in the night, I
do assure you, five distinct times.'

'Is your wife so ill?' asked Harriet.

'Why, you see,' said Mr Perch, first turning round to shut the door
carefully, 'she takes what has happened in our House so much to heart,
Miss. Her nerves is so very delicate, you see, and soon unstrung. Not
but what the strongest nerves had good need to be shook, I'm sure. You
feel it very much yourself, no doubts.

Harriet repressed a sigh, and glanced at her brother.

'I'm sure I feel it myself, in my humble way,' Mr Perch went on to
say, with a shake of his head, 'in a manner I couldn't have believed
if I hadn't been called upon to undergo. It has almost the effect of
drink upon me. I literally feels every morning as if I had been taking
more than was good for me over-night.'

Mr Perch's appearance corroborated this recital of his symptoms.
There was an air of feverish lassitude about it, that seemed referable
to drams; and, which, in fact, might no doubt have been traced to
those numerous discoveries of himself in the bars of public-houses,
being treated and questioned, which he was in the daily habit of
making.

'Therefore I can judge,' said Mr Perch, shaking his head and
speaking in a silvery murmur, 'of the feelings of such as is at all
peculiarly sitiwated in this most painful rewelation.'

Here Mr Perch waited to be confided in; and receiving no
confidence, coughed behind his hand. This leading to nothing, he
coughed behind his hat; and that leading to nothing, he put his hat on
the ground and sought in his breast pocket for the letter.

'If I rightly recollect, there was no answer,' said Mr Perch, with
an affable smile; 'but perhaps you'll be so good as cast your eye over
it, Sir.'

John Carker broke the seal, which was Mr Dombey's, and possessing
himself of the contents, which were very brief, replied,

'No. No answer is expected.'

'Then I shall wish you good morning, Miss,' said Perch, taking a
step toward the door, and hoping, I'm sure, that you'll not permit
yourself to be more reduced in mind than you can help, by the late
painful rewelation. The Papers,' said Mr Perch, taking two steps back
again, and comprehensively addressing both the brother and sister in a
whisper of increased mystery, 'is more eager for news of it than you'd
suppose possible. One of the Sunday ones, in a blue cloak and a white
hat, that had previously offered for to bribe me - need I say with
what success? - was dodging about our court last night as late as
twenty minutes after eight o'clock. I see him myself, with his eye at
the counting-house keyhole, which being patent is impervious. Another
one,' said Mr Perch, 'with military frogs, is in the parlour of the
King's Arms all the blessed day. I happened, last week, to let a
little obserwation fall there, and next morning, which was Sunday, I
see it worked up in print, in a most surprising manner.'

Mr Perch resorted to his breast pocket, as if to produce the
paragraph but receiving no encouragement, pulled out his beaver
gloves, picked up his hat, and took his leave; and before it was high
noon, Mr Perch had related to several select audiences at the King's
Arms and elsewhere, how Miss Carker, bursting into tears, had caught
him by both hands, and said, 'Oh! dear dear Perch, the sight of you is
all the comfort I have left!' and how Mr John Carker had said, in an
awful voice, 'Perch, I disown him. Never let me hear hIm mentioned as
a brother more!'

'Dear John,' said Harriet, when they were left alone, and had
remained silent for some few moments. 'There are bad tidings in that
letter.'

'Yes. But nothing unexpected,' he replied. 'I saw the writer

yesterday.'

'The writer?'

'Mr Dombey. He passed twice through the Counting House while I was
there. I had been able to avoid him before, but of course could not
hope to do that long. I know how natural it was that he should regard
my presence as something offensive; I felt it must be so, myself.'

'He did not say so?'

'No; he said nothing: but I saw that his glance rested on me for a
moment, and I was prepared for what would happen - for what has
happened. I am dismissed!'

She looked as little shocked and as hopeful as she could, but it
was distressing news, for many reasons.

'"I need not tell you"' said John Carker, reading the letter, '"why
your name would henceforth have an unnatural sound, in however remote
a connexion with mine, or why the daily sight of anyone who bears it,
would be unendurable to me. I have to notify the cessation of all
engagements between us, from this date, and to request that no renewal
of any communication with me, or my establishment, be ever attempted
by you." - Enclosed is an equivalent in money to a generously long
notice, and this is my discharge." Heaven knows, Harriet, it is a
lenient and considerate one, when we remember all!'

'If it be lenient and considerate to punish you at all, John, for
the misdeed of another,' she replied gently, 'yes.'

'We have been an ill-omened race to him,' said John Carker. 'He has
reason to shrink from the sound of our name, and to think that there
is something cursed and wicked in our blood. I should almost think it
too, Harriet, but for you.'

'Brother, don't speak like this. If you have any special reason, as
you say you have, and think you have - though I say, No!- to love me,
spare me the hearing of such wild mad words!'

He covered his face with both his hands; but soon permitted her,
coming near him, to take one in her own.

'After so many years, this parting is a melancholy thing, I know,'
said his sister, 'and the cause of it is dreadful to us both. We have
to live, too, and must look about us for the means. Well, well! We can
do so, undismayed. It is our pride, not our trouble, to strive, John,
and to strive together!'

A smile played on her lips, as she kissed his cheek, and entreated
him to be of of good cheer.

'Oh, dearest sister! Tied, of your own noble will, to a ruined man!
whose reputation is blighted; who has no friend himself, and has
driven every friend of yours away!'

'John!' she laid her hand hastily upon his lips, 'for my sake! In
remembrance of our long companionship!' He was silent 'Now, let me
tell you, dear,' quietly sitting by his side, 'I have, as you have,
expected this; and when I have been thinking of it, and fearing that
it would happen, and preparing myself for it, as well as I could, I
have resolved to tell you, if it should be so, that I have kept a
secret from you, and that we have a friend.'

'What's our friend's name, Harriet?' he answered with a sorrowful

smile.

'Indeed, I don't know, but he once made a very earnest protestation
to me of his friendship and his wish to serve us: and to this day I
believe 'him.'

'Harriet!' exclaimed her wondering brother, 'where does this friend

live?'

'Neither do I know that,' she returned. 'But he knows us both, and
our history - all our little history, John. That is the reason why, at
his own suggestion, I have kept the secret of his coming, here, from
you, lest his acquaintance with it should distress you.

'Here! Has he been here, Harriet?'

'Here, in this room. Once.'

'What kind of man?'

'Not young. "Grey-headed," as he said, "and fast growing greyer."
But generous, and frank, and good, I am sure.'

'And only seen once, Harriet?'

'In this room only once,' said his sister, with the slightest and
most transient glow upon her cheek; 'but when here, he entreated me to
suffer him to see me once a week as he passed by, in token of our
being well, and continuing to need nothing at his hands. For I told
him, when he proffered us any service he could render - which was the
object of his visit - that we needed nothing.'

'And once a week - '

'Once every week since then, and always on the same day, and at the
same hour, he his gone past; always on foot; always going in the same
direction - towards London; and never pausing longer than to bow to
me, and wave his hand cheerfully, as a kind guardian might. He made
that promise when he proposed these curious interviews, and has kept
it so faithfully and pleasantly, that if I ever felt any trifling
uneasiness about them in the beginning (which I don't think I did,
John; his manner was so plain and true) It very soon vanished, and
left me quite glad when the day was coming. Last Monday - the first
since this terrible event - he did not go by; and I have wondered
whether his absence can have been in any way connected with what has
happened.'

'How?' inquired her brother.

'I don't know how. I have only speculated on the coincidence; I
have not tried to account for it. I feel sure he will return. When he
does, dear John, let me tell him that I have at last spoken to you,
and let me bring you together. He will certainly help us to a new
livelihood. His entreaty was that he might do something to smooth my
life and yours; and I gave him my promise that if we ever wanted a
friend, I would remember him.'

'Then his name was to be no secret, 'Harriet,' said her brother,
who had listened with close attention, 'describe this gentleman to me.
I surely ought to know one who knows me so well.'

His sister painted, as vividly as she could, the features, stature,
and dress of her visitor; but John Carker, either from having no
knowledge of the original, or from some fault in her description, or
from some abstraction of his thoughts as he walked to and fro,
pondering, could not recognise the portrait she presented to him.

However, it was agreed between them that he should see the original
when he next appeared. This concluded, the sister applied herself,
with a less anxious breast, to her domestic occupations; and the
grey-haired man, late Junior of Dombey's, devoted the first day of his
unwonted liberty to working in the garden.

It was quite late at night, and the brother was reading aloud while
the sister plied her needle, when they were interrupted by a knocking
at the door. In the atmosphere of vague anxiety and dread that lowered
about them in connexion with their fugitive brother, this sound,
unusual there, became almost alarming. The brother going to the door,
the sister sat and listened timidly. Someone spoke to him, and he
replied and seemed surprised; and after a few words, the two
approached together.

'Harriet,' said her brother, lighting in their late visitor, and
speaking in a low voice, 'Mr Morfin - the gentleman so long in
Dombey's House with James.'

His sister started back, as if a ghost had entered. In the doorway
stood the unknown friend, with the dark hair sprinkled with grey, the
ruddy face, the broad clear brow, and hazel eyes, whose secret she had
kept so long!

'John!' she said, half-breathless. 'It is the gentleman I told you
of, today!'

'The gentleman, Miss Harriet,' said the visitor, coming in - for he
had stopped a moment in the doorway - 'is greatly relieved to hear you
say that: he has been devising ways and means, all the way here, of
explaining himself, and has been satisfied with none. Mr John, I am
not quite a stranger here. You were stricken with astonishment when
you saw me at your door just now. I observe you are more astonished at
present. Well! That's reasonable enough under existing circumstances.
If we were not such creatures of habit as we are, we shouldn't have
reason to be astonished half so often.'

By this time, he had greeted Harriet with that able mingling of
cordiality and respect which she recollected so well, and had sat down
near her, pulled off his gloves, and thrown them into his hat upon the
table.

'There's nothing astonishing,' he said, 'in my having conceived a
desire to see your sister, Mr John, or in my having gratified it in my
own way. As to the regularity of my visits since (which she may have
mentioned to you), there is nothing extraordinary in that. They soon
grew into a habit; and we are creatures of habit - creatures of
habit!'

Putting his hands into his pockets, and leaning back in his chair,
he looked at the brother and sister as if it were interesting to him
to see them together; and went on to say, with a kind of irritable
thoughtfulness:

'It's this same habit that confirms some of us, who are capable of
better things, in Lucifer's own pride and stubbornness - that confirms
and deepens others of us in villainy - more of us in indifference -
that hardens us from day to day, according to the temper of our clay,
like images, and leaves us as susceptible as images to new impressions
and convictions. You shall judge of its influence on me, John. For
more years than I need name, I had my small, and exactly defined
share, in the management of Dombey's House, and saw your brother (who
has proved himself a scoundrel! Your sister will forgive my being
obliged to mention it) extending and extending his influence, until
the business and its owner were his football; and saw you toiling at
your obscure desk every day; and was quite content to be as little
troubled as I might be, out of my own strip of duty, and to let
everything about me go on, day by day, unquestioned, like a great
machine - that was its habit and mine - and to take it all for
granted, and consider it all right. My Wednesday nights came regularly
round, our quartette parties came regularly off, my violoncello was in
good tune, and there was nothing wrong in my world - or if anything
not much - or little or much, it was no affair of mine.'

'I can answer for your being more respected and beloved during all
that time than anybody in the House, Sir,' said John Carker.

'Pooh! Good-natured and easy enough, I daresay,'returned the other,
'a habit I had. It suited the Manager; it suited the man he managed:
it suited me best of all. I did what was allotted to me to do, made no
court to either of them, and was glad to occupy a station in which
none was required. So I should have gone on till now, but that my room
had a thin wall. You can tell your sister that it was divided from the
Manager's room by a wainscot partition.'

'They were adjoining rooms; had been one, Perhaps, originally; and
were separated, as Mr Morfin says,' said her brother, looking back to
him for the resumption of his explanation.

'I have whistled, hummed tunes, gone accurately through the whole
of Beethoven's Sonata in B,' to let him know that I was within
hearing,' said Mr Morfin; 'but he never heeded me. It happened seldom
enough that I was within hearing of anything of a private nature,
certainly. But when I was, and couldn't otherwise avoid knowing
something of it, I walked out. I walked out once, John, during a
conversation between two brothers, to which, in the beginning, young
Walter Gay was a party. But I overheard some of it before I left the
room. You remember it sufficiently, perhaps, to tell your sister what
its nature was?'

'It referred, Harriet,' said her brother in a low voice, 'to the
past, and to our relative positions in the House.'

'Its matter was not new to me, but was presented in a new aspect.
It shook me in my habit - the habit of nine-tenths of the world - of
believing that all was right about me, because I was used to it,' said
their visitor; 'and induced me to recall the history of the two
brothers, and to ponder on it. I think it was almost the first time in
my life when I fell into this train of reflection - how will many
things that are familiar, and quite matters of course to us now, look,
when we come to see them from that new and distant point of view which
we must all take up, one day or other? I was something less
good-natured, as the phrase goes, after that morning, less easy and
complacent altogether.'

He sat for a minute or so, drumming with one hand on the table; and
resumed in a hurry, as if he were anxious to get rid of his
confession.

'Before I knew what to do, or whether I could do anything, there
was a second conversation between the same two brothers, in which
their sister was mentioned. I had no scruples of conscience in
suffering all the waifs and strays of that conversation to float to me
as freely as they would. I considered them mine by right. After that,
I came here to see the sister for myself. The first time I stopped at
the garden gate, I made a pretext of inquiring into the character of a
poor neighbour; but I wandered out of that tract, and I think Miss
Harriet mistrusted me. The second time I asked leave to come in; came
in; and said what I wished to say. Your sister showed me reasons which
I dared not dispute, for receiving no assistance from me then; but I
established a means of communication between us, which remained
unbroken until within these few days, when I was prevented, by
important matters that have lately devolved upon me, from maintaining
them'

'How little I have suspected this,' said John Carker, 'when I have
seen you every day, Sir! If Harriet could have guessed your name - '

'Why, to tell you the truth, John,' interposed the visitor, 'I kept
it to myself for two reasons. I don't know that the first might have
been binding alone; but one has no business to take credit for good
intentions, and I made up my mind, at all events, not to disclose
myself until I should be able to do you some real service or other. My
second reason was, that I always hoped there might be some lingering
possibility of your brother's relenting towards you both; and in that
case, I felt that where there was the chance of a man of his
suspicious, watchful character, discovering that you had been secretly
befriended by me, there was the chance of a new and fatal cause of
division. I resolved, to be sure, at the risk of turning his
displeasure against myself - which would have been no matter - to
watch my opportunity of serving you with the head of the House; but
the distractions of death, courtship, marriage, and domestic
unhappiness, have left us no head but your brother for this long, long
time. And it would have been better for us,' said the visitor,
dropping his voice, 'to have been a lifeless trunk.'

He seemed conscious that these latter words had escaped hIm against
his will, and stretching out a hand to the brother, and a hand to the
sister, continued: 'All I could desire to say, and more, I have now
said. All I mean goes beyond words, as I hope you understand and
believe. The time has come, John - though most unfortunately and
unhappily come - when I may help you without interfering with that
redeeming struggle, which has lasted through so many years; since you
were discharged from it today by no act of your own. It is late; I
need say no more to-night. You will guard the treasure you have here,
without advice or reminder from me.'

With these words he rose to go.

'But go you first, John,' he said goodhumouredly, 'with a light,
without saying what you want to say, whatever that maybe;' John
Carker's heart was full, and he would have relieved it in speech,' if
he could; 'and let me have a word with your sister. We have talked
alone before, and in this room too; though it looks more natural with
you here.'

Following him out with his eyes, he turned kindly to Harriet, and
said in a lower voice, and with an altered and graver manner:

'You wish to ask me something of the man whose sister it is your
misfortune to be.'

'I dread to ask,' said Harriet.

'You have looked so earnestly at me more than once,' rejoined the
visitor, 'that I think I can divine your question. Has he taken money?
Is it that?'

'Yes.'

'He has not.'

'I thank Heaven!' said Harriet. 'For the sake of John.'

'That he has abused his trust in many ways,' said Mr Morfin; 'that
he has oftener dealt and speculated to advantage for himself, than for
the House he represented; that he has led the House on, to prodigious
ventures, often resulting in enormous losses; that he has always
pampered the vanity and ambition of his employer, when it was his duty
to have held them in check, and shown, as it was in his power to do,
to what they tended here or there; will not, perhaps, surprise you
now. Undertakings have been entered on, to swell the reputation of the
House for vast resources, and to exhibit it in magnificent contrast to
other merchants' Houses, of which it requires a steady head to
contemplate the possibly - a few disastrous changes of affairs might
render them the probably - ruinous consequences. In the midst of the
many transactions of the House, in most parts of the world: a great
labyrinth of which only he has held the clue: he has had the
opportunity, and he seems to have used it, of keeping the various
results afloat, when ascertained, and substituting estimates and
generalities for facts. But latterly - you follow me, Miss Harriet?'

'Perfectly, perfectly,' she answered, with her frightened face
fixed on his. 'Pray tell me all the worst at once.

'Latterly, he appears to have devoted the greatest pains to making
these results so plain and clear, that reference to the private books
enables one to grasp them, numerous and varying as they are, with
extraordinary ease. As if he had resolved to show his employer at one
broad view what has been brought upon him by ministration to his
ruling passion! That it has been his constant practice to minister to
that passion basely, and to flatter it corruptly, is indubitable. In
that, his criminality, as it is connected with the affairs of the
House, chiefly consists.'

'One other word before you leave me, dear Sir,' said Harriet.
'There is no danger in all this?'

'How danger?' he returned, with a little hesitation.

'To the credit of the House?'

'I cannot help answering you plainly, and trusting you completely,'
said Mr Morfin, after a moment's survey of her face.

'You may. Indeed you may!'

'I am sure I may. Danger to the House's credit? No; none There may
be difficulty, greater or less difficulty, but no danger, unless -
unless, indeed - the head of the House, unable to bring his mind to
the reduction of its enterprises, and positively refusing to believe
that it is, or can be, in any position but the position in which he
has always represented it to himself, should urge it beyond its
strength. Then it would totter.'

'But there is no apprehension of that?' said Harriet.

'There shall be no half-confidence,' he replied, shaking her hand,
'between us. Mr Dombey is unapproachable by anyone, and his state of
mind is haughty, rash, unreasonable, and ungovernable, now. But he is
disturbed and agitated now beyond all common bounds, and it may pass.
You now know all, both worst and best. No more to-night, and
good-night!'

With that he kissed her hand, and, passing out to the door where
her brother stood awaiting his coming, put him cheerfully aside when
he essayed to speak; told him that, as they would see each other soon
and often, he might speak at another time, if he would, but there was
no leisure for it then; and went away at a round pace, in order that
no word of gratitude might follow him.

The brother and sister sat conversing by the fireside, until it was
almost day; made sleepless by this glimpse of the new world that
opened before them, and feeling like two people shipwrecked long ago,
upon a solitary coast, to whom a ship had come at last, when they were
old in resignation, and had lost all thought of any other home. But
another and different kind of disquietude kept them waking too. The
darkness out of which this light had broken on them gathered around;
and the shadow of their guilty brother was in the house where his foot
had never trod.

Nor was it to be driven out, nor did it fade before the sun. Next
morning it was there; at noon; at night Darkest and most distinct at
night, as is now to be told.

John Carker had gone out, in pursuance of a letter of appointment
from their friend, and Harriet was left in the house alone. She had
been alone some hours. A dull, grave evening, and a deepening
twilight, were not favourable to the removal of the oppression on her
spirits. The idea of this brother, long unseen and unknown, flitted
about her in frightful shapes He was dead, dying, calling to her,
staring at her, frowning on her. The pictures in her mind were so
obtrusive and exact that, as the twilight deepened, she dreaded to
raise her head and look at the dark corners of the room, lest his
wraith, the offspring of her excited imagination, should be waiting
there, to startle her. Once she had such a fancy of his being in the
next room, hiding - though she knew quite well what a distempered
fancy it was, and had no belief in it - that she forced herself to go
there, for her own conviction. But in vain. The room resumed its
shadowy terrors, the moment she left it; and she had no more power to
divest herself of these vague impressions of dread, than if they had
been stone giants, rooted in the solid earth.

It was almost dark, and she was sitting near the window, with her
head upon her hand, looking down, when, sensible of a sudden increase
in the gloom of the apartment, she raised her eyes, and uttered an
involuntary cry. Close to the glass, a pale scared face gazed in;
vacantly, for an instant, as searching for an object; then the eyes
rested on herself, and lighted up.

'Let me in! Let me in! I want to speak to you!' and the hand
rattled on the glass.

She recognised immediately the woman with the long dark hair, to
whom she had given warmth, food, and shelter, one wet night. Naturally
afraid of her, remembering her violent behaviour, Harriet, retreating
a little from the window, stood undecided and alarmed.

'Let me in! Let me speak to you! I am thankful - quiet - humble -
anything you like. But let me speak to you.'

The vehement manner of the entreaty, the earnest expression of the
face, the trembling of the two hands that were raised imploringly, a
certain dread and terror in the voice akin to her own condition at the
moment, prevailed with Harriet. She hastened to the door and opened
it.

'May I come in, or shall I speak here?' said the woman, catching at
her hand.

'What is it that you want? What is it that you have to say?'

'Not much, but let me say it out, or I shall never say it. I am
tempted now to go away. There seem to be hands dragging me from the
door. Let me come in, if you can trust me for this once!'

Her energy again prevailed, and they passed into the firelight of
the little kitchen, where she had before sat, and ate, and dried her
clothes.

'Sit there,' said Alice, kneeling down beside her, 'and look at me.
You remember me?'

'I do.'

'You remember what I told you I had been, and where I came from,
ragged and lame, with the fierce wind and weather beating on my head?'

'Yes.'

'You know how I came back that night, and threw your money in the
dirt, and you and your race. Now, see me here, upon my knees. Am l
less earnest now, than I was then?'

'If what you ask,' said Harriet, gently, 'is forgiveness - '

'But it's not!' returned the other, with a proud, fierce look 'What
I ask is to be believed. Now you shall judge if I am worthy of belief,
both as I was, and as I am.'

Still upon her knees, and with her eyes upon the fire, and the fire
shining on her ruined beauty and her wild black hair, one long tress
of which she pulled over her shoulder, and wound about her hand, and
thoughtfully bit and tore while speaking, she went on:

'When I was young and pretty, and this,' plucking contemptuously at
the hair she held, was only handled delicately, and couldn't be
admired enough, my mother, who had not been very mindful of me as a
child, found out my merits, and was fond of me, and proud of me. She
was covetous and poor, and thought to make a sort of property of me.
No great lady ever thought that of a daughter yet, I'm sure, or acted
as if she did - it's never done, we all know - and that shows that the
only instances of mothers bringing up their daughters wrong, and evil
coming of it, are among such miserable folks as us.'

Looking at the fire, as if she were forgetful, for the moment, of
having any auditor, she continued in a dreamy way, as she wound the
long tress of hair tight round and round her hand.

'What came of that, I needn't say. Wretched marriages don't come of
such things, in our degree; only wretchedness and ruin. Wretchedness
and ruin came on me - came on me.

Raising her eyes swiftly from their moody gaze upon the fire, to
Harriet's face, she said:

'I am wasting time, and there is none to spare; yet if I hadn't
thought of all, I shouldn't be here now. Wretchedness and ruin came on
me, I say. I was made a short-lived toy, and flung aside more cruelly
and carelessly than even such things are. By whose hand do you think?'

'Why do you ask me?' said Harriet.

'Why do you tremble?' rejoined Alice, with an eager look. 'His
usage made a Devil of me. I sunk in wretchedness and ruin, lower and
lower yet. I was concerned in a robbery - in every part of it but the
gains - and was found out, and sent to be tried, without a friend,
without a penny. Though I was but a girl, I would have gone to Death,
sooner than ask him for a word, if a word of his could have saved me.
I would! To any death that could have been invented. But my mother,
covetous always, sent to him in my name, told the true story of my
case, and humbly prayed and petitioned for a small last gift - for not
so many pounds as I have fingers on this hand. Who was it, do you
think, who snapped his fingers at me in my misery, lying, as he
believed, at his feet, and left me without even this poor sign of
remembrance; well satisfied that I should be sent abroad, beyond the
reach of farther trouble to him, and should die, and rot there? Who
was this, do you think?'

'Why do you ask me?' repeated Harriet.

'Why do you tremble?' said Alice, laying her hand upon her arm' and
looking in her face, 'but that the answer is on your lips! It was your
brother James.

Harriet trembled more and more, but did not avert her eyes from the
eager look that rested on them.

'When I knew you were his sister - which was on that night - I came
back, weary and lame, to spurn your gift. I felt that night as if I
could have travelled, weary and lame, over the whole world, to stab
him, if I could have found him in a lonely place with no one near. Do
you believe that I was earnest in all that?'

'I do! Good Heaven, why are you come again?'

'Since then,' said Alice, with the same grasp of her arm, and the
same look in her face, 'I have seen him! I have followed him with my
eyes, In the broad day. If any spark of my resentment slumbered in my
bosom, it sprung into a blaze when my eyes rested on him. You know he
has wronged a proud man, and made him his deadly enemy. What if I had
given information of him to that man?'

'Information!' repeated Harriet.

'What if I had found out one who knew your brother's secret; who
knew the manner of his flight, who knew where he and the companion of
his flight were gone? What if I had made him utter all his knowledge,
word by word, before his enemy, concealed to hear it? What if I had
sat by at the time, looking into this enemy's face, and seeing it
change till it was scarcely human? What if I had seen him rush away,
mad, in pursuit? What if I knew, now, that he was on his road, more
fiend than man, and must, in so many hours, come up with him?'

'Remove your hand!' said Harriet, recoiling. 'Go away! Your touch
is dreadful to me!'

'I have done this,' pursued the other, with her eager look,
regardless of the interruption. 'Do I speak and look as if I really
had? Do you believe what I am saying?'

'I fear I must. Let my arm go!'

'Not yet. A moment more. You can think what my revengeful purpose
must have been, to last so long, and urge me to do this?'

'Dreadful!' said Harriet.

'Then when you see me now,' said Alice hoarsely, 'here again,
kneeling quietly on the ground, with my touch upon your arm, with my
eyes upon your face, you may believe that there is no common
earnestness in what I say, and that no common struggle has been
battling in my breast. I am ashamed to speak the words, but I relent.
I despise myself; I have fought with myself all day, and all last
night; but I relent towards him without reason, and wish to repair
what I have done, if it is possible. I wouldn't have them come
together while his pursuer is so blind and headlong. If you had seen
him as he went out last night, you would know the danger better.

'How can it be prevented? What can I do?' cried Harriet.

'All night long,' pursued the other, hurriedly, 'I had dreams of
him - and yet I didn't sleep - in his blood. All day, I have had him
near me.

'What can I do?' cried Harriet, shuddering at these words.

'If there is anyone who'll write, or send, or go to him, let them
lose no time. He is at Dijon. Do you know the name, and where it is?'

'Yes.'

'Warn him that the man he has made his enemy is in a frenzy, and
that he doesn't know him if he makes light of his approach. Tell him
that he is on the road - I know he is! - and hurrying on. Urge him to
get away while there is time - if there is time - and not to meet him
yet. A month or so will make years of difference. Let them not
encounter, through me. Anywhere but there! Any time but now! Let his
foe follow him, and find him for himself, but not through me! There is
enough upon my head without.'

The fire ceased to be reflected in her jet black hair, uplifted
face, and eager eyes; her hand was gone from Harriet's arm; and the
place where she had been was empty.

CHAPTER 54.

The Fugitives

Tea-time, an hour short of midnight; the place, a French apartment,
comprising some half-dozen rooms; - a dull cold hall or corridor, a
dining-room, a drawing-room, a bed-room, and an inner drawingroom, or
boudoir, smaller and more retired than the rest. All these shut in by
one large pair of doors on the main staircase, but each room provided
with two or three pairs of doors of its own, establishing several
means of communication with the remaining portion of the apartment, or
with certain small passages within the wall, leading, as is not
unusual in such houses, to some back stairs with an obscure outlet
below. The whole situated on the first floor of so large an Hotel,
that it did not absorb one entire row of windows upon one side of the
square court-yard in the centre, upon which the whole four sides of
the mansion looked.

An air of splendour, sufficiently faded to be melancholy, and
sufficiently dazzling to clog and embarrass the details of life with a
show of state, reigned in these rooms The walls and ceilings were
gilded and painted; the floors were waxed and polished; crimson
drapery hung in festoons from window, door, and mirror; and
candelabra, gnarled and intertwisted like the branches of trees, or
horns of animals, stuck out from the panels of the wall. But in the
day-time, when the lattice-blinds (now closely shut) were opened, and
the light let in, traces were discernible among this finery, of wear
and tear and dust, of sun and damp and smoke, and lengthened intervals
of want of use and habitation, when such shows and toys of life seem
sensitive like life, and waste as men shut up in prison do. Even
night, and clusters of burning candles, could not wholly efface them,
though the general glitter threw them in the shade.

The glitter of bright tapers, and their reflection in
looking-glasses, scraps of gilding and gay colours, were confined, on
this night, to one room - that smaller room within the rest, just now
enumerated. Seen from the hall, where a lamp was feebly burning,
through the dark perspective of open doors, it looked as shining and
precious as a gem. In the heart of its radiance sat a beautiful woman
- Edith.

She was alone. The same defiant, scornful woman still. The cheek a
little worn, the eye a little larger in appearance, and more lustrous,
but the haughty bearing just the same. No shame upon her brow; no late
repentance bending her disdainful neck. Imperious and stately yet, and
yet regardless of herself and of all else, she sat wIth her dark eyes
cast down, waiting for someone.

No book, no work, no occupation of any kind but her own thought,
beguiled the tardy time. Some purpose, strong enough to fill up any
pause, possessed her. With her lips pressed together, and quivering if
for a moment she released them from her control; with her nostril
inflated; her hands clasped in one another; and her purpose swelling
in her breast; she sat, and waited.

At the sound of a key in the outer door, and a footstep in the
hall, she started up, and cried 'Who's that?' The answer was in
French, and two men came in with jingling trays, to make preparation
for supper.

'Who had bade them to do so?' she asked.

'Monsieur had commanded it, when it was his pleasure to take the
apartment. Monsieur had said, when he stayed there for an hour, en
route, and left the letter for Madame - Madame had received it
surely?'

'Yes.'

'A thousand pardons! The sudden apprehension that it might have
been forgotten had struck hIm;' a bald man, with a large beard from a
neighbouring restaurant; 'with despair! Monsieur had said that supper
was to be ready at that hour: also that he had forewarned Madame of
the commands he had given, in his letter. Monsieur had done the Golden
Head the honour to request that the supper should be choice and
delicate. Monsieur would find that his confidence in the Golden Head
was not misplaced.'

Edith said no more, but looked on thoughtfully while they prepared
the table for two persons, and set the wine upon it. She arose before
they had finished, and taking a lamp, passed into the bed-chamber and
into the drawing-room, where she hurriedly but narrowly examined all
the doors; particularly one in the former room that opened on the
passage in the wall. From this she took the key, and put it on the
outer side. She then came back.

The men - the second of whom was a dark, bilious subject, in a
jacket, close shaved, and with a black head of hair close cropped -
had completed their preparation of the table, and were standing
looking at it. He who had spoken before, inquired whether Madame
thought it would be long before Monsieur arrived?

'She couldn't say. It was all one.'

'Pardon! There was the supper! It should be eaten on the instant.
Monsieur (who spoke French like an Angel - or a Frenchman - it was all
the same) had spoken with great emphasis of his punctuality. But the
English nation had so grand a genius for punctuality. Ah! what noise!
Great Heaven, here was Monsieur. Behold him!'

In effect, Monsieur, admitted by the other of the two, came, with
his gleaming teeth, through the dark rooms, like a mouth; and arriving
in that sanctuary of light and colour, a figure at full length,
embraced Madame, and addressed her in the French tongue as his
charming wife

'My God! Madame is going to faint. Madame is overcome with joy!'
The bald man with the beard observed it, and cried out.

Madame had only shrunk and shivered. Before the words were spoken,
she was standing with her hand upon the velvet back of a great chair;
her figure drawn up to its full height, and her face immoveable.

'Francois has flown over to the Golden Head for supper. He flies on
these occasions like an angel or a bird. The baggage of Monsieur is in
his room. All is arranged. The supper will be here this moment.' These
facts the bald man notified with bows and smiles, and presently the
supper came.

The hot dishes were on a chafing-dish; the cold already set forth,
with the change of service on a sideboard. Monsieur was satisfied with
this arrangement. The supper table being small, it pleased him very
well. Let them set the chafing-dish upon the floor, and go. He would
remove the dishes with his own hands.

'Pardon!' said the bald man, politely. 'It was impossible!'

Monsieur was of another opinion. He required no further attendance
that night.

'But Madame - ' the bald man hinted.

'Madame,' replied Monsieur, 'had her own maid. It was enough.'

'A million pardons! No! Madame had no maid!'

'I came here alone,' said Edith 'It was my choice to do so. I am
well used to travelling; I want no attendance. They need send nobody
to me.

Monsieur accordingly, persevering in his first proposed
impossibility, proceeded to follow the two attendants to the outer
door, and secure it after them for the night. The bald man turning
round to bow, as he went out, observed that Madame still stood with
her hand upon the velvet back of the great chair, and that her face
was quite regardless of him, though she was looking straight before
her.

As the sound of Carker's fastening the door resounded through the
intermediate rooms, and seemed to come hushed and stilled into that
last distant one, the sound of the Cathedral clock striking twelve
mingled with it, in Edith's ears She heard him pause, as if he heard
it too and listened; and then came back towards her, laying a long
train of footsteps through the silence, and shutting all the doors
behind him as he came along. Her hand, for a moment, left the velvet
chair to bring a knife within her reach upon the table; then she stood
as she had stood before.

'How strange to come here by yourself, my love!' he said as he
entered.

'What?' she returned.

Her tone was so harsh; the quick turn of her head so fierce; her
attitude so repellent; and her frown so black; that he stood, with the
lamp in his hand, looking at her, as if she had struck him motionless.

'I say,' he at length repeated, putting down the lamp, and smiling
his most courtly smile, 'how strange to come here alone! It was
unnecessarty caution surely, and might have defeated itself. You were
to have engaged an attendant at Havre or Rouen, and have had abundance
of time for the purpose, though you had been the most capricious and
difficult (as you are the most beautiful, my love) of women.'

Her eyes gleamed strangely on him, but she stood with her hand
resting on the chair, and said not a word.

'I have never,' resumed Carker, 'seen you look so handsome, as you
do to-night. Even the picture I have carried in my mind during this
cruel probation, and which I have contemplated night and day, is
exceeded by the reality.'

Not a word. Not a look Her eyes completely hidden by their drooping
lashes, but her head held up.

'Hard, unrelenting terms they were!' said Carker, with a smile,
'but they are all fulfilled and passed, and make the present more
delicious and more safe. Sicily shall be the Place of our retreat. In
the idlest and easiest part of the world, my soul, we'll both seek
compensation for old slavery.'

He was coming gaily towards her, when, in an instant, she caught
the knife up from the table, and started one pace back.

'Stand still!' she said, 'or I shall murder you!'

The sudden change in her, the towering fury and intense abhorrence
sparkling in her eyes and lighting up her brow, made him stop as if a
fire had stopped him.

'Stand still!' she said, 'come no nearer me, upon your life!'

They both stood looking at each other. Rage and astonishment were
in his face, but he controlled them, and said lightly,

'Come, come! Tush, we are alone, and out of everybody's sight and
hearing. Do you think to frighten me with these tricks of virtue?'

'Do you think to frighten me,' she answered fiercely, 'from any
purpose that I have, and any course I am resolved upon, by reminding
me of the solitude of this place, and there being no help near? Me,
who am here alone, designedly? If I feared you, should I not have
avoided you? If I feared you, should I be here, in the dead of night,
telling you to your face what I am going to tell?'

'And what is that,' he said, 'you handsome shrew? Handsomer so,
than any other woman in her best humour?'

'I tell you nothing,' she returned, until you go back to that chair
- except this, once again - Don't come near me! Not a step nearer. I
tell you, if you do, as Heaven sees us, I shall murder you!'

'Do you mistake me for your husband?' he retorted, with a grin.

Disdaining to reply, she stretched her arm out, pointing to the
chair. He bit his lip, frowned, laughed, and sat down in it, with a
baffled, irresolute, impatient air, he was unable to conceal; and
biting his nail nervously, and looking at her sideways, with bitter
discomfiture, even while he feigned to be amused by her caprice.

She put the knife down upon the table, and touching her bosom wIth
her hand, said:

'I have something lying here that is no love trinket, and sooner
than endure your touch once more, I would use it on you - and you know
it, while I speak - with less reluctance than I would on any other
creeping thing that lives.'

He affected to laugh jestingly, and entreated her to act her play
out quickly, for the supper was growing cold. But the secret look with
which he regarded her, was more sullen and lowering, and he struck his
foot once upon the floor with a muttered oath.

'How many times,' said Edith, bending her darkest glance upon him'
'has your bold knavery assailed me with outrage and insult? How many
times in your smooth manner, and mocking words and looks, have I been
twitted with my courtship and my marriage? How many times have you
laid bare my wound of love for that sweet, injured girl and lacerated
it? How often have you fanned the fire on which, for two years, I have
writhed; and tempted me to take a desperate revenge, when it has most
tortured me?'

'I have no doubt, Ma'am,' he replied, 'that you have kept a good
account, and that it's pretty accurate. Come, Edith. To your husband,
poor wretch, this was well enough - '

'Why, if,' she said, surveying him with a haughty contempt and
disgust, that he shrunk under, let him brave it as he would, 'if all
my other reasons for despising him could have been blown away like
feathers, his having you for his counsellor and favourite, would have
almost been enough to hold their place.'

'Is that a reason why you have run away with me?' he asked her,
tauntingly.

'Yes, and why we are face to face for the last time. Wretch! We
meet tonight, and part tonight. For not one moment after I have ceased
to speak, will I stay here!'

He turned upon her with his ugliest look, and gripped the table
with his hand; but neither rose, nor otherwise answered or threatened
her.

'I am a woman,' she said, confronting him steadfastly, 'who from
her childhood has been shamed and steeled. I have been offered and
rejected, put up and appraised, until my very soul has sickened. I
have not had an accomplishment or grace that might have been a
resource to me, but it has been paraded and vended to enhance my
value, as if the common crier had called it through the streets. My
poor, proud friends, have looked on and approved; and every tie
between us has been deadened in my breast. There is not one of them
for whom I care, as I could care for a pet dog. I stand alone in the
world, remembering well what a hollow world it has been to me, and
what a hollow part of it I have been myself. You know this, and you
know that my fame with it is worthless to me.'

'Yes; I imagined that,' he said.

'And calculated on it,' she rejoined, 'and so pursued me. Grown too
indifferent for any opposition but indifference, to the daily working
of the hands that had moulded me to this; and knowing that my marriage
would at least prevent their hawking of me up and down; I suffered
myself to be sold, as infamously as any woman with a halter round her
neck is sold in any market-place. You know that.'

'Yes,' he said, showing all his teeth 'I know that.'

'And calculated on it,' she rejoined once more, 'and so pursued me.
From my marriage day, I found myself exposed to such new shame - to
such solicitation and pursuit (expressed as clearly as if it had been
written in the coarsest words, and thrust into my hand at every turn)
from one mean villain, that I felt as if I had never known humiliation
till that time. This shame my husband fixed upon me; hemmed me round
with, himself; steeped me in, with his own hands, and of his own act,
repeated hundreds of times. And thus - forced by the two from every
point of rest I had - forced by the two to yield up the last retreat
of love and gentleness within me, or to be a new misfortune on its
innocent object - driven from each to each, and beset by one when I
escaped the other - my anger rose almost to distraction against both I
do not know against which it rose higher - the master or the man!'

He watched her closely, as she stood before him in the very triumph
of her indignant beauty. She was resolute, he saw; undauntable; with
no more fear of him than of a worm.

'What should I say of honour or of chastity to you!' she went on.
'What meaning would it have to you; what meaning would it have from
me! But if I tell you that the lightest touch of your hand makes my
blood cold with antipathy; that from the hour when I first saw and
hated you, to now, when my instinctive repugnance is enhanced by every
minute's knowledge of you I have since had, you have been a loathsome
creature to me which has not its like on earth; how then?'

He answered with a faint laugh, 'Ay! How then, my queen?'

'On that night, when, emboldened by the scene you had assisted at,
you dared come to my room and speak to me,' she said, 'what passed?'

He shrugged his shoulders, and laughed

'What passed?' she said.

'Your memory is so distinct,' he said, 'that I have no doubt you
can recall it.'

'I can,' she said. 'Hear it! Proposing then, this flight - not this
flight, but the flight you thought it - you told me that in the having
given you that meeting, and leaving you to be discovered there, if you
so thought fit; and in the having suffered you to be alone with me
many times before, - and having made the opportunities, you said, -
and in the having openly avowed to you that I had no feeling for my
husband but aversion, and no care for myself - I was lost; I had given
you the power to traduce my name; and I lived, in virtuous reputation,
at the pleasure of your breath'

'All stratagems in love - ' he interrupted, smiling. 'The old
adage - '

'On that night,' said Edith, 'and then, the struggle that I long
had had with something that was not respect for my good fame - that
was I know not what - perhaps the clinging to that last retreat- was
ended. On that night, and then, I turned from everything but passion
and resentment. I struck a blow that laid your lofty master in the
dust, and set you there, before me, looking at me now, and knowing
what I mean.'

He sprung up from his chair with a great oath. She put her hand
into her bosom, and not a finger trembled, not a hair upon her head
was stirred. He stood still: she too: the table and chair between
them.~

'When I forget that this man put his lips to mine that night, and
held me in his arms as he has done again to-night,' said Edith,
pointing at him; 'when I forget the taint of his kiss upon my cheek -
the cheek that Florence would have laid her guiltless face against -
when I forget my meeting with her, while that taint was hot upon me,
and in what a flood the knowledge rushed upon me when I saw her, that
in releasing her from the persecution I had caused by my love, I
brought a shame and degradation on her name through mine, and in all
time to come should be the solitary figure representing in her mind
her first avoidance of a guilty creature - then, Husband, from whom I
stand divorced henceforth, I will forget these last two years, and
undo what I have done, and undeceive you!'

Her flashing eyes, uplifted for a moment, lighted again on Carker,
and she held some letters out in her left hand.

'See these!' she said, contemptuously. 'You have addressed these to
me in the false name you go by; one here, some elsewhere on my road.
The seals are unbroken. Take them back!'

She crunched them in her hand, and tossed them to his feet. And as
she looked upon him now, a smile was on her face.

'We meet and part to-night,' she said. 'You have fallen on Sicilian
days and sensual rest, too soon. You might have cajoled, and fawned,
and played your traitor's part, a little longer, and grown richer. You
purchase your voluptuous retirement dear!'

'Edith!' he retorted, menacing her with his hand. 'Sit down! Have
done with this! What devil possesses you?'

'Their name is Legion,' she replied, uprearing her proud form as if
she would have crushed him; 'you and your master have raised them in a
fruitful house, and they shall tear you both. False to him, false to
his innocent child, false every way and everywhere, go forth and boast
of me, and gnash your teeth, for once, to know that you are lying!'

He stood before her, muttering and menacing, and scowling round as
if for something that would help him to conquer her; but with the same
indomitable spirit she opposed him, without faltering.

'In every vaunt you make,' she said, 'I have my triumph I single
out in you the meanest man I know, the parasite and tool of the proud
tyrant, that his wound may go the deeper, and may rankle more. Boast,
and revenge me on him! You know how you came here to-night; you know
how you stand cowering there; you see yourself in colours quite as
despicable, if not as odious, as those in which I see you. Boast then,
and revenge me on yourself.'

The foam was on his lips; the wet stood on his forehead. If she
would have faltered once for only one half-moment, he would have
pinioned her; but she was as firm as rock, and her searching eyes
never left him.

'We don't part so,' he said. 'Do you think I am drivelling, to let
you go in your mad temper?'

'Do you think,' she answered, 'that I am to be stayed?'

'I'll try, my dear,' he said with a ferocious gesture of his head.

'God's mercy on you, if you try by coming near me!' she replied.

'And what,' he said, 'if there are none of these same boasts and
vaunts on my part? What if I were to turn too? Come!' and his teeth
fairly shone again. 'We must make a treaty of this, or I may take some
unexpected course. Sit down, sit down!'

'Too late!' she cried, with eyes that seemed to sparkle fire. 'I
have thrown my fame and good name to the winds! I have resolved to
bear the shame that will attach to me - resolved to know that it
attaches falsely - that you know it too - and that he does not, never
can, and never shall. I'll die, and make no sign. For this, I am here
alone with you, at the dead of night. For this, I have met you here,
in a false name, as your wife. For this, I have been seen here by
those men, and left here. Nothing can save you now.

He would have sold his soul to root her, in her beauty, to the
floor, and make her arms drop at her sides, and have her at his mercy.
But he could not look at her, and not be afraid of her. He saw a
strength within her that was resistless. He saw that she was
desperate, and that her unquenchable hatred of him would stop at
nothing. His eyes followed the hand that was put with such rugged
uncongenial purpose into her white bosom, and he thought that if it
struck at hIm, and failed, it would strike there, just as soon.

He did not venture, therefore, to advance towards her; but the door
by which he had entered was behind him, and he stepped back to lock
it.

'Lastly, take my warning! Look to yourself!' she said, and smiled
again. 'You have been betrayed, as all betrayers are. It has been made
known that you are in this place, or were to be, or have been. If I
live, I saw my husband in a carriage in the street to-night!'

'Strumpet, it's false!' cried Carker.

At the moment, the bell rang loudly in the hall. He turned white,
as she held her hand up like an enchantress, at whose invocation the
sound had come.

'Hark! do you hear it?'

He set his back against the door; for he saw a change in her, and
fancied she was coming on to pass him. But, in a moment, she was gone
through the opposite doors communicating with the bed-chamber, and
they shut upon her.

Once turned, once changed in her inflexible unyielding look, he
felt that he could cope with her. He thought a sudden terror,
occasioned by this night-alarm, had subdued her; not the less readily,
for her overwrought condition. Throwing open the doors, he followed,
almost instantly.

But the room was dark; and as she made no answer to his call, he
was fain to go back for the lamp. He held it up, and looked round,
everywhere, expecting to see her crouching in some corner; but the
room was empty. So, into the drawing-room and dining-room he went, in
succession, with the uncertain steps of a man in a strange place;
looking fearfully about, and prying behind screens and couches; but
she was not there. No, nor in the hall, which was so bare that he
could see that, at a glance.

All this time, the ringing at the bell was constantly renewed, and
those without were beating at the door. He put his lamp down at a
distance, and going near it, listened. There were several voices
talking together: at least two of them in English; and though the door
was thick, and there was great confusion, he knew one of these too
well to doubt whose voice it was.

He took up his lamp again, and came back quickly through all the
rooms, stopping as he quitted each, and looking round for her, with
the light raised above his head. He was standing thus in the
bed-chamber, when the door, leading to the little passage in the wall,
caught his eye. He went to it, and found it fastened on the other
side; but she had dropped a veil in going through, and shut it in the
door.

All this time the people on the stairs were ringing at the bell,
and knocking with their hands and feet.

He was not a coward: but these sounds; what had gone before; the
strangeness of the place, which had confused him, even in his return
from the hall; the frustration of his schemes (for, strange to say, he
would have been much bolder, if they had succeeded); the unseasonable
time; the recollection of having no one near to whom he could appeal
for any friendly office; above all, the sudden sense, which made even
his heart beat like lead, that the man whose confidence he had
outraged, and whom he had so treacherously deceived, was there to
recognise and challenge him with his mask plucked off his face; struck
a panic through him. He tried the door in which the veil was shut, but
couldn't force it. He opened one of the windows, and looked down
through the lattice of the blind, into the court-yard; but it was a
high leap, and the stones were pitiless.

The ringing and knocking still continuing - his panic too - he went
back to the door in the bed-chamber, and with some new efforts, each
more stubborn than the last, wrenched it open. Seeing the little
staircase not far off, and feeling the night-air coming up, he stole
back for his hat and coat, made the door as secure after hIm as he
could, crept down lamp in hand, extinguished it on seeing the street,
and having put it in a corner, went out where the stars were shining.

CHAPTER 55.

Rob the Grinder loses his Place

The Porter at the iron gate which shut the court-yard from the
street, had left the little wicket of his house open, and was gone
away; no doubt to mingle in the distant noise at the door of the great
staircase. Lifting the latch softly, Carker crept out, and shutting
the jangling gate after him with as little noise as possible, hurried
off.

In the fever of his mortification and unavailing rage, the panic
that had seized upon him mastered him completely. It rose to such a
height that he would have blindly encountered almost any risk, rather
than meet the man of whom, two hours ago, he had been utterly
regardless. His fierce arrival, which he had never expected; the sound
of his voice; their having been so near a meeting, face to face; he
would have braved out this, after the first momentary shock of alarm,
and would have put as bold a front upon his guilt as any villain. But
the springing of his mine upon himself, seemed to have rent and
shivered all his hardihood and self-reliance. Spurned like any
reptile; entrapped and mocked; turned upon, and trodden down by the
proud woman whose mind he had slowly poisoned, as he thought, until
she had sunk into the mere creature of his pleasure; undeceived in his
deceit, and with his fox's hide stripped off, he sneaked away,
abashed, degraded, and afraid.

Some other terror came upon hIm quite removed from this of being
pursued, suddenly, like an electric shock, as he was creeping through
the streets Some visionary terror, unintelligible and inexplicable,
asssociated with a trembling of the ground, - a rush and sweep of
something through the air, like Death upon the wing. He shrunk, as if
to let the thing go by. It was not gone, it never had been there, yet
what a startling horror it had left behind.

He raised his wicked face so full of trouble, to the night sky,
where the stars, so full of peace, were shining on him as they had
been when he first stole out into the air; and stopped to think what
he should do. The dread of being hunted in a strange remote place,
where the laws might not protect him - the novelty of the feeling that
it was strange and remote, originating in his being left alone so
suddenly amid the ruins of his plans - his greater dread of seeking
refuge now, in Italy or in Sicily, where men might be hired to
assissinate him, he thought, at any dark street corner-the waywardness
of guilt and fear - perhaps some sympathy of action with the turning
back of all his schemes - impelled him to turn back too, and go to
England.

'I am safer there, in any case. If I should not decide,' he
thought, 'to give this fool a meeting, I am less likely to be traced
there, than abroad here, now. And if I should (this cursed fit being
over), at least I shall not be alone, with out a soul to speak to, or
advise with, or stand by me. I shall not be run in upon and worried
like a rat.'

He muttered Edith's name, and clenched his hand. As he crept along,
in the shadow of the massive buildings, he set his teeth, and muttered
dreadful imprecations on her head, and looked from side to side, as if
in search of her. Thus, he stole on to the gate of an inn-yard. The
people were a-bed; but his ringing at the bell soon produced a man
with a lantern, in company with whom he was presently in a dim
coach-house, bargaining for the hire of an old phaeton, to Paris.

The bargain was a short one; and the horses were soon sent for.
Leaving word that the carriage was to follow him when they came, he
stole away again, beyond the town, past the old ramparts, out on the
open road, which seemed to glide away along the dark plain, like a
stream.

Whither did it flow? What was the end of it? As he paused, with
some such suggestion within him, looking over the gloomy flat where
the slender trees marked out the way, again that flight of Death came
rushing up, again went on, impetuous and resistless, again was nothing
but a horror in his mind, dark as the scene and undefined as its
remotest verge.

There was no wind; there was no passing shadow on the deep shade of
the night; there was no noise. The city lay behind hIm, lighted here
and there, and starry worlds were hidden by the masonry of spire and
roof that hardly made out any shapes against the sky. Dark and lonely
distance lay around him everywhere, and the clocks were faintly
striking two.

He went forward for what appeared a long time, and a long way;
often stopping to listen. At last the ringing of horses' bells greeted
his anxious ears. Now softer, and now louder, now inaudible, now
ringing very slowly over bad ground, now brisk and merry, it came on;
until with a loud shouting and lashing, a shadowy postillion muffled
to the eyes, checked his four struggling horses at his side.

'Who goes there! Monsieur?'

'Yes.'

'Monsieur has walked a long way in the dark midnight.'

'No matter. Everyone to his task. Were there any other horses
ordered at the Post-house?'

'A thousand devils! - and pardons! other horses? at this hour? No.'

'Listen, my friend. I am much hurried. Let us see how fast we can
travel! The faster, the more money there will be to drink. Off we go
then! Quick!'

'Halloa! whoop! Halloa! Hi!' Away, at a gallop, over the black
landscape, scattering the dust and dirt like spray!

The clatter and commotion echoed to the hurry and discordance of
the fugitive's ideas. Nothing clear without, and nothing clear within.
Objects flitting past, merging into one another, dimly descried,
confusedly lost sight of, gone! Beyond the changing scraps of fence
and cottage immediately upon the road, a lowering waste. Beyond the
shifting images that rose up in his mind and vanished as they showed
themselves, a black expanse of dread and rage and baffled villainy.
Occasionally, a sigh of mountain air came from the distant Jura,
fading along the plain. Sometimes that rush which was so furious and
horrible, again came sweeping through his fancy, passed away, and left
a chill upon his blood.

The lamps, gleaming on the medley of horses' heads, jumbled with
the shadowy driver, and the fluttering of his cloak, made a thousand
indistinct shapes, answering to his thoughts. Shadows of familiar
people, stooping at their desks and books, in their remembered
attitudes; strange apparitions of the man whom he was flying from, or
of Edith; repetitions in the ringing bells and rolling wheels, of
words that had been spoken; confusions of time and place, making last
night a month ago, a month ago last night - home now distant beyond
hope, now instantly accessible; commotion, discord, hurry, darkness,
and confusion in his mind, and all around him. - Hallo! Hi! away at a
gallop over the black landscape; dust and dirt flying like spray, the
smoking horses snorting and plunging as if each of them were ridden by
a demon, away in a frantic triumph on the dark road - whither?

Again the nameless shock comes speeding up, and as it passes, the
bells ring in his ears 'whither?' The wheels roar in his ears
'whither?' All the noise and rattle shapes itself into that cry. The
lights and shadows dance upon the horses' heads like imps. No stopping
now: no slackening! On, on Away with him upon the dark road wildly!

He could not think to any purpose. He could not separate one
subject of reflection from another, sufficiently to dwell upon it, by
itself, for a minute at a time. The crash of his project for the
gaining of a voluptuous compensation for past restraint; the overthrow
of his treachery to one who had been true and generous to him, but
whose least proud word and look he had treasured up, at interest, for
years - for false and subtle men will always secretly despise and
dislike the object upon which they fawn and always resent the payment
and receipt of homage that they know to be worthless; these were the
themes uppermost in his mind. A lurking rage against the woman who had
so entrapped him and avenged herself was always there; crude and
misshapen schemes of retaliation upon her, floated in his brain; but
nothing was distinct. A hurry and contradiction pervaded all his
thoughts. Even while he was so busy with this fevered, ineffectual
thinking, his one constant idea was, that he would postpone reflection
until some indefinite time.

Then, the old days before the second marriage rose up in his
remembrance. He thought how jealous he had been of the boy, how
jealous he had been of the girl, how artfully he had kept intruders at
a distance, and drawn a circle round his dupe that none but himself
should cross; and then he thought, had he done all this to be flying
now, like a scared thief, from only the poor dupe?

He could have laid hands upon himself for his cowardice, but it was
the very shadow of his defeat, and could not be separated from it. To
have his confidence in his own knavery so shattered at a blow - to be
within his own knowledge such a miserable tool - was like being
paralysed. With an impotent ferocity he raged at Edith, and hated Mr
Dombey and hated himself, but still he fled, and could do nothing
else.

Again and again he listened for the sound of wheels behind. Again
and again his fancy heard it, coming on louder and louder. At last he
was so persuaded of this, that he cried out, 'Stop' preferring even
the loss of ground to such uncertainty.

The word soon brought carriage, horses, driver, all in a heap
together, across the road.

'The devil!' cried the driver, looking over his shoulder, 'what's
the matter?'

'Hark! What's that?'

'What?'

'That noise?'

'Ah Heaven, be quiet, cursed brigand!' to a horse who shook his
bells 'What noise?'

'Behind. Is it not another carriage at a gallop? There! what's
that?' Miscreant with a Pig's head, stand still!' to another horse,
who bit another, who frightened the other two, who plunged and backed.
'There is nothing coming.'

'Nothing.'

'No, nothing but the day yonder.'

'You are right, I think. I hear nothing now, indeed. Go on!'

The entangled equipage, half hidden in the reeking cloud from the
horses, goes on slowly at first, for the driver, checked unnecessarily
in his progress, sulkily takes out a pocket-knife, and puts a new lash
to his whip. Then 'Hallo, whoop! Hallo, hi!' Away once more, savagely.

And now the stars faded, and the day glimmered, and standing in the
carriage, looking back, he could discern the track by which he had
come, and see that there was no traveller within view, on all the
heavy expanse. And soon it was broad day, and the sun began to shine
on cornfields and vineyards; and solitary labourers, risen from little
temporary huts by heaps of stones upon the road, were, here and there,
at work repairing the highway, or eating bread. By and by, there were
peasants going to their daily labour, or to market, or lounging at the
doors of poor cottages, gazing idly at him as he passed. And then
there was a postyard, ankle-deep in mud, with steaming dunghills and
vast outhouses half ruined; and looking on this dainty prospect, an
immense, old, shadeless, glaring, stone chateau, with half its windows
blinded, and green damp crawling lazily over it, from the balustraded
terrace to the taper tips of the extinguishers upon the turrets.

Gathered up moodily in a corner of the carriage, and only intent on
going fast - except when he stood up, for a mile together, and looked
back; which he would do whenever there was a piece of open country -
he went on, still postponing thought indefinitely, and still always
tormented with thinking to no purpose.

Shame, disappointment, and discomfiture gnawed at his heart; a
constant apprehension of being overtaken, or met - for he was
groundlessly afraid even of travellers, who came towards him by the
way he was going - oppressed him heavily. The same intolerable awe and
dread that had come upon him in the night, returned unweakened in the
day. The monotonous ringing of the bells and tramping of the horses;
the monotony of his anxiety, and useless rage; the monotonous wheel of
fear, regret, and passion, he kept turning round and round; made the
journey like a vision, in which nothing was quite real but his own
torment.

It was a vision of long roads, that stretched away to an horizon,
always receding and never gained; of ill-paved towns, up hill and
down, where faces came to dark doors and ill-glazed windows, and where
rows of mudbespattered cows and oxen were tied up for sale in the long
narrow streets, butting and lowing, and receiving blows on their blunt
heads from bludgeons that might have beaten them in; of bridges,
crosses, churches, postyards, new horses being put in against their
wills, and the horses of the last stage reeking, panting, and laying
their drooping heads together dolefully at stable doors; of little
cemeteries with black crosses settled sideways in the graves, and
withered wreaths upon them dropping away; again of long, long roads,
dragging themselves out, up hill and down, to the treacherous horizon.

Of morning, noon, and sunset; night, and the rising of an early
moon. Of long roads temporarily left behind, and a rough pavement
reached; of battering and clattering over it, and looking up, among
house-roofs, at a great church-tower; of getting out and eating
hastily, and drinking draughts of wine that had no cheering influence;
of coming forth afoot, among a host of beggars - blind men with
quivering eyelids, led by old women holding candles to their faces;
idiot girls; the lame, the epileptic, and the palsied - of passing
through the clamour, and looking from his seat at the upturned
countenances and outstretched hands, with a hurried dread of
recognising some pursuer pressing forward - of galloping away again,
upon the long, long road, gathered up, dull and stunned, in his
corner, or rising to see where the moon shone faintly on a patch of
the same endless road miles away, or looking back to see who followed.

Of never sleeping, but sometimes dozing with unclosed eyes, and
springing up with a start, and a reply aloud to an imaginary voice. Of
cursing himself for being there, for having fled, for having let her
go, for not having confronted and defied him. Of having a deadly
quarrel with the whole world, but chiefly with himself. Of blighting
everything with his black mood as he was carried on and away.

It was a fevered vision of things past and present all confounded
together; of his life and journey blended into one. Of being madly
hurried somewhere, whither he must go. Of old scenes starting up among
the novelties through which he travelled. Of musing and brooding over
what was past and distant, and seeming to take no notice of the actual
objects he encountered, but with a wearisome exhausting consciousness
of being bewildered by them, and having their images all crowded in
his hot brain after they were gone.

A vision of change upon change, and still the same monotony of
bells and wheels, and horses' feet, and no rest. Of town and country,
postyards, horses, drivers, hill and valley, light and darkness, road
and pavement, height and hollow, wet weather and dry, and still the
same monotony of bells and wheels, and horses' feet, and no rest. A
vision of tending on at last, towards the distant capital, by busier
roads, and sweeping round, by old cathedrals, and dashing through
small towns and villages, less thinly scattered on the road than
formerly, and sitting shrouded in his corner, with his cloak up to his
face, as people passing by looked at him.

Of rolling on and on, always postponing thought, and always racked
with thinking; of being unable to reckon up the hours he had been upon
the road, or to comprehend the points of time and place in his
journey. Of being parched and giddy, and half mad. Of pressing on, in
spite of all, as if he could not stop, and coming into Paris, where
the turbid river held its swift course undisturbed, between two
brawling streams of life and motion.

A troubled vision, then, of bridges, quays, interminable streets;
of wine-shops, water-carriers, great crowds of people, soldiers,
coaches, military drums, arcades. Of the monotony of bells and wheels
and horses' feet being at length lost in the universal din and uproar.
Of the gradual subsidence of that noise as he passed out in another
carriage by a different barrier from that by which he had entered. Of
the restoration, as he travelled on towards the seacoast, of the
monotony of bells and wheels, and horses' feet, and no rest.

Of sunset once again, and nightfall. Of long roads again, and dead
of night, and feeble lights in windows by the roadside; and still the
old monotony of bells and wheels, and horses' feet, and no rest. Of
dawn, and daybreak, and the rising of the sun. Of tolling slowly up a
hill, and feeling on its top the fresh sea-breeze; and seeing the
morning light upon the edges of the distant waves. Of coming down into
a harbour when the tide was at its full, and seeing fishing-boats
float on, and glad women and children waiting for them. Of nets and
seamen's clothes spread out to dry upon the shore; of busy saIlors,
and their voices high among ships' masts and rigging; of the buoyancy
and brightness of the water, and the universal sparkling.

Of receding from the coast, and looking back upon it from the deck
when it was a haze upon the water, with here and there a little
opening of bright land where the Sun struck. Of the swell, and flash,
and murmur of the calm sea. Of another grey line on the ocean, on the
vessel's track, fast growing clearer and higher. Of cliffs and
buildings, and a windmill, and a church, becoming more and more
visible upon it. Of steaming on at last into smooth water, and mooring
to a pier whence groups of people looked down, greeting friends on
board. Of disembarking, passing among them quickly, shunning every
one; and of being at last again in England.

He had thought, in his dream, of going down into a remote
country-place he knew, and lying quiet there, while he secretly
informed himself of what transpired, and determined how to act, Still
in the same stunned condition, he remembered a certain station on the
railway, where he would have to branch off to his place of
destination, and where there was a quiet Inn. Here, he indistinctly
resolved to tarry and rest.

With this purpose he slunk into a railway carriage as quickly as he
could, and lying there wrapped in his cloak as if he were asleep, was
soon borne far away from the sea, and deep into the inland green.
Arrived at his destination he looked out, and surveyed it carefully.
He was not mistaken in his impression of the place. It was a retired
spot, on the borders of a little wood. Only one house, newly-built or
altered for the purpose, stood there, surrounded by its neat garden;
the small town that was nearest, was some miles away. Here he alighted
then; and going straight into the tavern, unobserved by anyone,
secured two rooms upstairs communicating with each other, and
sufficiently retired.

His object was to rest, and recover the command of himself, and the
balance of his mind. Imbecile discomfiture and rage - so that, as he
walked about his room, he ground his teeth - had complete possession
of him. His thoughts, not to be stopped or directed, still wandered
where they would, and dragged him after them. He was stupefied, and he
was wearied to death.

But, as if there were a curse upon him that he should never rest
again, his drowsy senses would not lose their consciousness. He had no
more influence with them, in this regard, than if they had been
another man's. It was not that they forced him to take note of present
sounds and objects, but that they would not be diverted from the whole
hurried vision of his journey. It was constantly before him all at
once. She stood there, with her dark disdainful eyes again upon him;
and he was riding on nevertheless, through town and country, light and
darkness, wet weather and dry, over road and pavement, hill and
valley, height and hollow, jaded and scared by the monotony of bells
and wheels, and horses' feet, and no rest.

'What day is this?' he asked of the waiter, who was making
preparations for his dinner.

'Day, Sir?'

'Is it Wednesday?'

'Wednesday, Sir? No, Sir. Thursday, Sir.'

'I forgot. How goes the time? My watch is unwound.'

'Wants a few minutes of five o'clock, Sir. Been travelling a long
time, Sir, perhaps?'

'Yes'

'By rail, Sir?'

'Yes'

'Very confusing, Sir. Not much in the habit of travelling by rail
myself, Sir, but gentlemen frequently say so.'

'Do many gentlemen come here?

'Pretty well, Sir, in general. Nobody here at present. Rather slack
just now, Sir. Everything is slack, Sir.'

He made no answer; but had risen into a sitting posture on the sofa
where he had been lying, and leaned forward with an arm on each knee,
staring at the ground. He could not master his own attention for a
minute together. It rushed away where it would, but it never, for an
instant, lost itself in sleep.

He drank a quantity of wine after dinner, in vain. No such
artificial means would bring sleep to his eyes. His thoughts, more
incoherent, dragged him more unmercifully after them - as if a wretch,
condemned to such expiation, were drawn at the heels of wild horses.
No oblivion, and no rest.

How long he sat, drinking and brooding, and being dragged in
imagination hither and thither, no one could have told less correctly
than he. But he knew that he had been sitting a long time by
candle-light, when he started up and listened, in a sudden terror.

For now, indeed, it was no fancy. The ground shook, the house
rattled, the fierce impetuous rush was in the air! He felt it come up,
and go darting by; and even when he had hurried to the window, and saw
what it was, he stood, shrinking from it, as if it were not safe to
look.

A curse upon the fiery devil, thundering along so smoothly, tracked
through the distant valley by a glare of light and lurid smoke, and
gone! He felt as if he had been plucked out of its path, and saved
from being torn asunder. It made him shrink and shudder even now, when
its faintest hum was hushed, and when the lines of iron road he could
trace in the moonlight, running to a point, were as empty and as
silent as a desert.

Unable to rest, and irresistibly attracted - or he thought so - to
this road, he went out, and lounged on the brink of it, marking the
way the train had gone, by the yet smoking cinders that were lying in
its track. After a lounge of some half hour in the direction by which
it had disappeared, he turned and walked the other way - still keeping
to the brink of the road - past the inn garden, and a long way down;
looking curiously at the bridges, signals, lamps, and wondering when
another Devil would come by.

A trembling of the ground, and quick vibration in his ears; a
distant shriek; a dull light advancing, quickly changed to two red
eyes, and a fierce fire, dropping glowing coals; an irresistible
bearing on of a great roaring and dilating mass; a high wind, and a
rattle - another come and gone, and he holding to a gate, as if to
save himself!

He waited for another, and for another. He walked back to his
former point, and back again to that, and still, through the wearisome
vision of his journey, looked for these approaching monsters. He
loitered about the station, waiting until one should stay to call
there; and when one did, and was detached for water, he stood parallel
with it, watching its heavy wheels and brazen front, and thinking what
a cruel power and might it had. Ugh! To see the great wheels slowly
turning, and to think of being run down and crushed!

Disordered with wine and want of rest - that want which nothing,
although he was so weary, would appease - these ideas and objects
assumed a diseased importance in his thoughts. When he went back to
his room, which was not until near midnight, they still haunted him,
and he sat listening for the coming of another.

So in his bed, whither he repaired with no hope of sleep. He still
lay listening; and when he felt the trembling and vibration, got up
and went to the window, to watch (as he could from its position) the
dull light changing to the two red eyes, and the fierce fire dropping
glowing coals, and the rush of the giant as it fled past, and the
track of glare and smoke along the valley. Then he would glance in the
direction by which he intended to depart at sunrise, as there was no
rest for him there; and would lie down again, to be troubled by the
vision of his journey, and the old monotony of bells and wheels and
horses' feet, until another came. This lasted all night. So far from
resuming the mastery of himself, he seemed, if possible, to lose it
more and more, as the night crept on. When the dawn appeared, he was
still tormented with thinking, still postponing thought until he
should be in a better state; the past, present, and future all floated
confusedly before him, and he had lost all power of looking steadily
at any one of them.

'At what time,' he asked the man who had waited on hIm over-night,
now entering with a candle, 'do I leave here, did you say?'

'About a quarter after four, Sir. Express comes through at four,
Sir. - It don't stop.

He passed his hand across his throbbing head, and looked at his
watch. Nearly half-past three.

'Nobody going with you, Sir, probably,' observed the man. 'Two
gentlemen here, Sir, but they're waiting for the train to London.'

'I thought you said there was nobody here,' said Carker, turning
upon him with the ghost of his old smile, when he was angry or
suspicious.

'Not then, sir. Two gentlemen came in the night by the short train
that stops here, Sir. Warm water, Sir?'

'No; and take away the candle. There's day enough for me.'

Having thrown himself upon the bed, half-dressed he was at the
window as the man left the room. The cold light of morning had
succeeded to night and there was already, in the sky, the red
suffusion of the coming sun. He bathed his head and face with water -
there was no cooling influence in it for him - hurriedly put on his
clothes, paid what he owed, and went out.

The air struck chill and comfortless as it breathed upon him. There
was a heavy dew; and, hot as he was, it made him shiver. After a
glance at the place where he had walked last night, and at the
signal-lights burning in the morning, and bereft of their
significance, he turned to where the sun was rising, and beheld it, in
its glory, as it broke upon the scene.

So awful, so transcendent in its beauty, so divinely solemn. As he
cast his faded eyes upon it, where it rose, tranquil and serene,
unmoved by all the wrong and wickedness on which its beams had shone
since the beginning of the world, who shall say that some weak sense
of virtue upon Earth, and its in Heaven, did not manifest itself, even
to him? If ever he remembered sister or brother with a touch of
tenderness and remorse, who shall say it was not then?

He needed some such touch then. Death was on him. He was marked off
- the living world, and going down into his grave.

He paid the money for his journey to the country-place he had
thought of; and was walking to and fro, alone, looking along the lines
of iron, across the valley in one direction, and towards a dark bridge
near at hand in the other; when, turning in his walk, where it was
bounded by one end of the wooden stage on which he paced up and down,
he saw the man from whom he had fled, emerging from the door by which
he himself had entered

And their eyes met.

In the quick unsteadiness of the surprise, he staggered, and
slipped on to the road below him. But recovering his feet immediately,
he stepped back a pace or two upon that road, to interpose some wider
space between them, and looked at his pursuer, breathing short and
quick.

He heard a shout - another - saw the face change from its
vindictive passion to a faint sickness and terror - felt the earth
tremble - knew in a moment that the rush was come - uttered a shriek -
looked round - saw the red eyes, bleared and dim, in the daylight,
close upon him - was beaten down, caught up, and whirled away upon a
jagged mill, that spun him round and round, and struck him limb from
limb, and licked his stream of life up with its fiery heat, and cast
his mutilated fragments in the air.

When the traveller, who had been recognised, recovered from a
swoon, he saw them bringing from a distance something covered, that
lay heavy and still, upon a board, between four men, and saw that
others drove some dogs away that sniffed upon the road, and soaked his
blood up, with a train of ashes.

CHAPTER 56.

Several People delighted, and the Game Chicken disgusted

The Midshipman was all alive. Mr Toots and Susan had arrived at
last. Susan had run upstairs like a young woman bereft of her senses,
and Mr Toots and the Chicken had gone into the Parlour.

'Oh my own pretty darling sweet Miss Floy!' cried the Nipper,
running into Florence's room, 'to think that it should come to this
and I should find you here my own dear dove with nobody to wait upon
you and no home to call your own but never never will I go away again
Miss Floy for though I may not gather moss I'm not a rolling stone nor
is my heart a stone or else it wouldn't bust as it is busting now oh
dear oh dear!'

Pouring out these words, without the faintest indication of a stop,
of any sort, Miss Nipper, on her knees beside her mistress, hugged her
close.

'Oh love!' cried Susan, 'I know all that's past I know it all my
tender pet and I'm a choking give me air!'

'Susan, dear good Susan!' said Florence. 'Oh bless her! I that was
her little maid when she was a little child! and is she really, really
truly going to be married?'exclaimed Susan, in a burst of pain and
pleasure, pride and grief, and Heaven knows how many other conflicting
feelings.

'Who told you so?' said Florence.

'Oh gracious me! that innocentest creetur Toots,' returned Susan
hysterically. 'I knew he must be right my dear, because he took on so.
He's the devotedest and innocentest infant! And is my darling,'
pursued Susan, with another close embrace and burst of tears, 'really
really going to be married!'

The mixture of compassion, pleasure, tenderness, protection, and
regret with which the Nipper constantly recurred to this subject, and
at every such once, raised her head to look in the young face and kiss
it, and then laid her head again upon her mistress's shoulder,
caressing her and sobbing, was as womanly and good a thing, in its
way, as ever was seen in the world.

'There, there!' said the soothing voice of Florence presently. 'Now

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