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    Chapter 2

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    Chapter 2
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    MY old companion tells me it is midnight. The fire glows brightly,
    crackling with a sharp and cheerful sound, as if it loved to burn.
    The merry cricket on the hearth (my constant visitor), this ruddy
    blaze, my clock, and I, seem to share the world among us, and to be
    the only things awake. The wind, high and boisterous but now, has
    died away and hoarsely mutters in its sleep. I love all times and
    seasons each in its turn, and am apt, perhaps, to think the present
    one the best; but past or coming I always love this peaceful time
    of night, when long-buried thoughts, favoured by the gloom and
    silence, steal from their graves, and haunt the scenes of faded
    happiness and hope.

    The popular faith in ghosts has a remarkable affinity with the
    whole current of our thoughts at such an hour as this, and seems to
    be their necessary and natural consequence. For who can wonder
    that man should feel a vague belief in tales of disembodied spirits
    wandering through those places which they once dearly affected,
    when he himself, scarcely less separated from his old world than
    they, is for ever lingering upon past emotions and bygone times,
    and hovering, the ghost of his former self, about the places and
    people that warmed his heart of old? It is thus that at this quiet
    hour I haunt the house where I was born, the rooms I used to tread,
    the scenes of my infancy, my boyhood, and my youth; it is thus that
    I prowl around my buried treasure (though not of gold or silver),
    and mourn my loss; it is thus that I revisit the ashes of
    extinguished fires, and take my silent stand at old bedsides. If
    my spirit should ever glide back to this chamber when my body is
    mingled with the dust, it will but follow the course it often took
    in the old man's lifetime, and add but one more change to the
    subjects of its contemplation.

    In all my idle speculations I am greatly assisted by various
    legends connected with my venerable house, which are current in the
    neighbourhood, and are so numerous that there is scarce a cupboard
    or corner that has not some dismal story of its own. When I first
    entertained thoughts of becoming its tenant, I was assured that it
    was haunted from roof to cellar, and I believe that the bad opinion
    in which my neighbours once held me, had its rise in my not being
    torn to pieces, or at least distracted with terror, on the night I
    took possession; in either of which cases I should doubtless have
    arrived by a short cut at the very summit of popularity.

    But traditions and rumours all taken into account, who so abets me
    in every fancy and chimes with my every thought, as my dear deaf
    friend? and how often have I cause to bless the day that brought us
    two together! Of all days in the year I rejoice to think that it
    should have been Christmas Day, with which from childhood we
    associate something friendly, hearty, and sincere.

    I had walked out to cheer myself with the happiness of others, and,
    in the little tokens of festivity and rejoicing, of which the
    streets and houses present so many upon that day, had lost some
    hours. Now I stopped to look at a merry party hurrying through the
    snow on foot to their place of meeting, and now turned back to see
    a whole coachful of children safely deposited at the welcome house.
    At one time, I admired how carefully the working man carried the
    baby in its gaudy hat and feathers, and how his wife, trudging
    patiently on behind, forgot even her care of her gay clothes, in
    exchanging greeting with the child as it crowed and laughed over
    the father's shoulder; at another, I pleased myself with some
    passing scene of gallantry or courtship, and was glad to believe
    that for a season half the world of poverty was gay.

    As the day closed in, I still rambled through the streets, feeling
    a companionship in the bright fires that cast their warm reflection
    on the windows as I passed, and losing all sense of my own
    loneliness in imagining the sociality and kind-fellowship that
    everywhere prevailed. At length I happened to stop before a
    Tavern, and, encountering a Bill of Fare in the window, it all at
    once brought it into my head to wonder what kind of people dined
    alone in Taverns upon Christmas Day.

    Solitary men are accustomed, I suppose, unconsciously to look upon
    solitude as their own peculiar property. I had sat alone in my
    room on many, many anniversaries of this great holiday, and had
    never regarded it but as one of universal assemblage and rejoicing.
    I had excepted, and with an aching heart, a crowd of prisoners and
    beggars; but THESE were not the men for whom the Tavern doors were
    open. Had they any customers, or was it a mere form? - a form, no

    Trying to feel quite sure of this, I walked away; but before I had
    gone many paces, I stopped and looked back. There was a provoking
    air of business in the lamp above the door which I could not
    overcome. I began to be afraid there might be many customers -
    young men, perhaps, struggling with the world, utter strangers in
    this great place, whose friends lived at a long distance off, and
    whose means were too slender to enable them to make the journey.
    The supposition gave rise to so many distressing little pictures,
    that in preference to carrying them home with me, I determined to
    encounter the realities. So I turned and walked in.

    I was at once glad and sorry to find that there was only one person
    in the dining-room; glad to know that there were not more, and
    sorry that he should be there by himself. He did not look so old
    as I, but like me he was advanced in life, and his hair was nearly
    white. Though I made more noise in entering and seating myself
    than was quite necessary, with the view of attracting his attention
    and saluting him in the good old form of that time of year, he did
    not raise his head, but sat with it resting on his hand, musing
    over his half-finished meal.

    I called for something which would give me an excuse for remaining
    in the room (I had dined early, as my housekeeper was engaged at
    night to partake of some friend's good cheer), and sat where I
    could observe without intruding on him. After a time he looked up.
    He was aware that somebody had entered, but could see very little
    of me, as I sat in the shade and he in the light. He was sad and
    thoughtful, and I forbore to trouble him by speaking.

    Let me believe it was something better than curiosity which riveted
    my attention and impelled me strongly towards this gentleman. I
    never saw so patient and kind a face. He should have been
    surrounded by friends, and yet here he sat dejected and alone when
    all men had their friends about them. As often as he roused
    himself from his reverie he would fall into it again, and it was
    plain that, whatever were the subject of his thoughts, they were of
    a melancholy kind, and would not be controlled.

    He was not used to solitude. I was sure of that; for I know by
    myself that if he had been, his manner would have been different,
    and he would have taken some slight interest in the arrival of
    another. I could not fail to mark that he had no appetite; that he
    tried to eat in vain; that time after time the plate was pushed
    away, and he relapsed into his former posture.

    His mind was wandering among old Christmas days, I thought. Many
    of them sprung up together, not with a long gap between each, but
    in unbroken succession like days of the week. It was a great
    change to find himself for the first time (I quite settled that it
    WAS the first) in an empty silent room with no soul to care for. I
    could not help following him in imagination through crowds of
    pleasant faces, and then coming back to that dull place with its
    bough of mistletoe sickening in the gas, and sprigs of holly
    parched up already by a Simoom of roast and boiled. The very
    waiter had gone home; and his representative, a poor, lean, hungry
    man, was keeping Christmas in his jacket.

    I grew still more interested in my friend. His dinner done, a
    decanter of wine was placed before him. It remained untouched for
    a long time, but at length with a quivering hand he filled a glass
    and raised it to his lips. Some tender wish to which he had been
    accustomed to give utterance on that day, or some beloved name that
    he had been used to pledge, trembled upon them at the moment. He
    put it down very hastily - took it up once more - again put it down
    - pressed his hand upon his face - yes - and tears stole down his
    cheeks, I am certain.

    Without pausing to consider whether I did right or wrong, I stepped
    across the room, and sitting down beside him laid my hand gently on
    his arm.

    'My friend,' I said, 'forgive me if I beseech you to take comfort
    and consolation from the lips of an old man. I will not preach to
    you what I have not practised, indeed. Whatever be your grief, be
    of a good heart - be of a good heart, pray!'

    'I see that you speak earnestly,' he replied, 'and kindly I am very
    sure, but - '

    I nodded my head to show that I understood what he would say; for I
    had already gathered, from a certain fixed expression in his face,
    and from the attention with which he watched me while I spoke, that
    his sense of hearing was destroyed. 'There should be a freemasonry
    between us,' said I, pointing from himself to me to explain my
    meaning; 'if not in our gray hairs, at least in our misfortunes.
    You see that I am but a poor cripple.'

    I never felt so happy under my affliction since the trying moment
    of my first becoming conscious of it, as when he took my hand in
    his with a smile that has lighted my path in life from that day,
    and we sat down side by side.

    This was the beginning of my friendship with the deaf gentleman;
    and when was ever the slight and easy service of a kind word in
    season repaid by such attachment and devotion as he has shown to

    He produced a little set of tablets and a pencil to facilitate our
    conversation, on that our first acquaintance; and I well remember
    how awkward and constrained I was in writing down my share of the
    dialogue, and how easily he guessed my meaning before I had written
    half of what I had to say. He told me in a faltering voice that he
    had not been accustomed to be alone on that day - that it had
    always been a little festival with him; and seeing that I glanced
    at his dress in the expectation that he wore mourning, he added
    hastily that it was not that; if it had been he thought he could
    have borne it better. From that time to the present we have never
    touched upon this theme. Upon every return of the same day we have
    been together; and although we make it our annual custom to drink
    to each other hand in hand after dinner, and to recall with
    affectionate garrulity every circumstance of our first meeting, we
    always avoid this one as if by mutual consent.

    Meantime we have gone on strengthening in our friendship and regard
    and forming an attachment which, I trust and believe, will only be
    interrupted by death, to be renewed in another existence. I
    scarcely know how we communicate as we do; but he has long since
    ceased to be deaf to me. He is frequently my companion in my
    walks, and even in crowded streets replies to my slightest look or
    gesture, as though he could read my thoughts. From the vast number
    of objects which pass in rapid succession before our eyes, we
    frequently select the same for some particular notice or remark;
    and when one of these little coincidences occurs, I cannot describe
    the pleasure which animates my friend, or the beaming countenance
    he will preserve for half-an-hour afterwards at least.

    He is a great thinker from living so much within himself, and,
    having a lively imagination, has a facility of conceiving and
    enlarging upon odd ideas, which renders him invaluable to our
    little body, and greatly astonishes our two friends. His powers in
    this respect are much assisted by a large pipe, which he assures us
    once belonged to a German Student. Be this as it may, it has
    undoubtedly a very ancient and mysterious appearance, and is of
    such capacity that it takes three hours and a half to smoke it out.
    I have reason to believe that my barber, who is the chief authority
    of a knot of gossips, who congregate every evening at a small
    tobacconist's hard by, has related anecdotes of this pipe and the
    grim figures that are carved upon its bowl, at which all the
    smokers in the neighbourhood have stood aghast; and I know that my
    housekeeper, while she holds it in high veneration, has a
    superstitious feeling connected with it which would render her
    exceedingly unwilling to be left alone in its company after dark.

    Whatever sorrow my dear friend has known, and whatever grief may
    linger in some secret corner of his heart, he is now a cheerful,
    placid, happy creature. Misfortune can never have fallen upon such
    a man but for some good purpose; and when I see its traces in his
    gentle nature and his earnest feeling, I am the less disposed to
    murmur at such trials as I may have undergone myself. With regard
    to the pipe, I have a theory of my own; I cannot help thinking that
    it is in some manner connected with the event that brought us
    together; for I remember that it was a long time before he even
    talked about it; that when he did, he grew reserved and melancholy;
    and that it was a long time yet before he brought it forth. I have
    no curiosity, however, upon this subject; for I know that it
    promotes his tranquillity and comfort, and I need no other
    inducement to regard it with my utmost favour.

    Such is the deaf gentleman. I can call up his figure now, clad in
    sober gray, and seated in the chimney-corner. As he puffs out the
    smoke from his favourite pipe, he casts a look on me brimful of
    cordiality and friendship, and says all manner of kind and genial
    things in a cheerful smile; then he raises his eyes to my clock,
    which is just about to strike, and, glancing from it to me and back
    again, seems to divide his heart between us. For myself, it is not
    too much to say that I would gladly part with one of my poor limbs,
    could he but hear the old clock's voice.

    Of our two friends, the first has been all his life one of that
    easy, wayward, truant class whom the world is accustomed to
    designate as nobody's enemies but their own. Bred to a profession
    for which he never qualified himself, and reared in the expectation
    of a fortune he has never inherited, he has undergone every
    vicissitude of which such an existence is capable. He and his
    younger brother, both orphans from their childhood, were educated
    by a wealthy relative, who taught them to expect an equal division
    of his property; but too indolent to court, and too honest to
    flatter, the elder gradually lost ground in the affections of a
    capricious old man, and the younger, who did not fail to improve
    his opportunity, now triumphs in the possession of enormous wealth.
    His triumph is to hoard it in solitary wretchedness, and probably
    to feel with the expenditure of every shilling a greater pang than
    the loss of his whole inheritance ever cost his brother.

    Jack Redburn - he was Jack Redburn at the first little school he
    went to, where every other child was mastered and surnamed, and he
    has been Jack Redburn all his life, or he would perhaps have been a
    richer man by this time - has been an inmate of my house these
    eight years past. He is my librarian, secretary, steward, and
    first minister; director of all my affairs, and inspector-general
    of my household. He is something of a musician, something of an
    author, something of an actor, something of a painter, very much of
    a carpenter, and an extraordinary gardener, having had all his life
    a wonderful aptitude for learning everything that was of no use to
    him. He is remarkably fond of children, and is the best and
    kindest nurse in sickness that ever drew the breath of life. He
    has mixed with every grade of society, and known the utmost
    distress; but there never was a less selfish, a more tender-
    hearted, a more enthusiastic, or a more guileless man; and I dare
    say, if few have done less good, fewer still have done less harm in
    the world than he. By what chance Nature forms such whimsical

    jumbles I don't know; but I do know that she sends them among us
    very often, and that the king of the whole race is Jack Redburn.

    I should be puzzled to say how old he is. His health is none of
    the best, and he wears a quantity of iron-gray hair, which shades
    his face and gives it rather a worn appearance; but we consider him
    quite a young fellow notwithstanding; and if a youthful spirit,
    surviving the roughest contact with the world, confers upon its
    possessor any title to be considered young, then he is a mere
    child. The only interruptions to his careless cheerfulness are on
    a wet Sunday, when he is apt to be unusually religious and solemn,
    and sometimes of an evening, when he has been blowing a very slow
    tune on the flute. On these last-named occasions he is apt to
    incline towards the mysterious, or the terrible. As a specimen of
    his powers in this mood, I refer my readers to the extract from the
    clock-case which follows this paper: he brought it to me not long
    ago at midnight, and informed me that the main incident had been
    suggested by a dream of the night before.

    His apartments are two cheerful rooms looking towards the garden,
    and one of his great delights is to arrange and rearrange the
    furniture in these chambers, and put it in every possible variety
    of position. During the whole time he has been here, I do not
    think he has slept for two nights running with the head of his bed
    in the same place; and every time he moves it, is to be the last.
    My housekeeper was at first well-nigh distracted by these frequent
    changes; but she has become quite reconciled to them by degrees,
    and has so fallen in with his humour, that they often consult
    together with great gravity upon the next final alteration.
    Whatever his arrangements are, however, they are always a pattern
    of neatness; and every one of the manifold articles connected with
    his manifold occupations is to be found in its own particular
    place. Until within the last two or three years he was subject to
    an occasional fit (which usually came upon him in very fine
    weather), under the influence of which he would dress himself with
    peculiar care, and, going out under pretence of taking a walk,
    disappeared for several days together. At length, after the
    interval between each outbreak of this disorder had gradually grown
    longer and longer, it wholly disappeared; and now he seldom stirs
    abroad, except to stroll out a little way on a summer's evening.
    Whether he yet mistrusts his own constancy in this respect, and is
    therefore afraid to wear a coat, I know not; but we seldom see him
    in any other upper garment than an old spectral-looking dressing-
    gown, with very disproportionate pockets, full of a miscellaneous
    collection of odd matters, which he picks up wherever he can lay
    his hands upon them.

    Everything that is a favourite with our friend is a favourite with
    us; and thus it happens that the fourth among us is Mr. Owen Miles,
    a most worthy gentleman, who had treated Jack with great kindness
    before my deaf friend and I encountered him by an accident, to
    which I may refer on some future occasion. Mr. Miles was once a
    very rich merchant; but receiving a severe shock in the death of
    his wife, he retired from business, and devoted himself to a quiet,
    unostentatious life. He is an excellent man, of thoroughly
    sterling character: not of quick apprehension, and not without
    some amusing prejudices, which I shall leave to their own
    development. He holds us all in profound veneration; but Jack
    Redburn he esteems as a kind of pleasant wonder, that he may
    venture to approach familiarly. He believes, not only that no man
    ever lived who could do so many things as Jack, but that no man
    ever lived who could do anything so well; and he never calls my
    attention to any of his ingenious proceedings, but he whispers in
    my ear, nudging me at the same time with his elbow: 'If he had
    only made it his trade, sir - if he had only made it his trade!'

    They are inseparable companions; one would almost suppose that,
    although Mr. Miles never by any chance does anything in the way of
    assistance, Jack could do nothing without him. Whether he is
    reading, writing, painting, carpentering, gardening, flute-playing,
    or what not, there is Mr. Miles beside him, buttoned up to the chin
    in his blue coat, and looking on with a face of incredulous
    delight, as though he could not credit the testimony of his own
    senses, and had a misgiving that no man could be so clever but in a

    These are my friends; I have now introduced myself and them.



    I held a lieutenant's commission in his Majesty's army, and served
    abroad in the campaigns of 1677 and 1678. The treaty of Nimeguen
    being concluded, I returned home, and retiring from the service,
    withdrew to a small estate lying a few miles east of London, which
    I had recently acquired in right of my wife.

    This is the last night I have to live, and I will set down the
    naked truth without disguise. I was never a brave man, and had
    always been from my childhood of a secret, sullen, distrustful
    nature. I speak of myself as if I had passed from the world; for
    while I write this, my grave is digging, and my name is written in
    the black-book of death.

    Soon after my return to England, my only brother was seized with
    mortal illness. This circumstance gave me slight or no pain; for
    since we had been men, we had associated but very little together.
    He was open-hearted and generous, handsomer than I, more
    accomplished, and generally beloved. Those who sought my
    acquaintance abroad or at home, because they were friends of his,
    seldom attached themselves to me long, and would usually say, in
    our first conversation, that they were surprised to find two
    brothers so unlike in their manners and appearance. It was my
    habit to lead them on to this avowal; for I knew what comparisons
    they must draw between us; and having a rankling envy in my heart,
    I sought to justify it to myself.

    We had married two sisters. This additional tie between us, as it
    may appear to some, only estranged us the more. His wife knew me
    well. I never struggled with any secret jealousy or gall when she
    was present but that woman knew it as well as I did. I never
    raised my eyes at such times but I found hers fixed upon me; I
    never bent them on the ground or looked another way but I felt that
    she overlooked me always. It was an inexpressible relief to me
    when we quarrelled, and a greater relief still when I heard abroad
    that she was dead. It seems to me now as if some strange and
    terrible foreshadowing of what has happened since must have hung
    over us then. I was afraid of her; she haunted me; her fixed and
    steady look comes back upon me now, like the memory of a dark
    dream, and makes my blood run cold.

    She died shortly after giving birth to a child - a boy. When my
    brother knew that all hope of his own recovery was past, he called
    my wife to his bedside, and confided this orphan, a child of four
    years old, to her protection. He bequeathed to him all the
    property he had, and willed that, in case of his child's death, it
    should pass to my wife, as the only acknowledgment he could make
    her for her care and love. He exchanged a few brotherly words with
    me, deploring our long separation; and being exhausted, fell into a
    slumber, from which he never awoke.

    We had no children; and as there had been a strong affection
    between the sisters, and my wife had almost supplied the place of a
    mother to this boy, she loved him as if he had been her own. The
    child was ardently attached to her; but he was his mother's image
    in face and spirit, and always mistrusted me.

    I can scarcely fix the date when the feeling first came upon me;
    but I soon began to be uneasy when this child was by. I never
    roused myself from some moody train of thought but I marked him
    looking at me; not with mere childish wonder, but with something of
    the purpose and meaning that I had so often noted in his mother.
    It was no effort of my fancy, founded on close resemblance of
    feature and expression. I never could look the boy down. He
    feared me, but seemed by some instinct to despise me while he did
    so; and even when he drew back beneath my gaze - as he would when
    we were alone, to get nearer to the door - he would keep his bright
    eyes upon me still.

    Perhaps I hide the truth from myself, but I do not think that, when
    this began, I meditated to do him any wrong. I may have thought
    how serviceable his inheritance would be to us, and may have wished
    him dead; but I believe I had no thought of compassing his death.
    Neither did the idea come upon me at once, but by very slow
    degrees, presenting itself at first in dim shapes at a very great
    distance, as men may think of an earthquake or the last day; then
    drawing nearer and nearer, and losing something of its horror and
    improbability; then coming to be part and parcel - nay nearly the
    whole sum and substance - of my daily thoughts, and resolving
    itself into a question of means and safety; not of doing or
    abstaining from the deed.

    While this was going on within me, I never could bear that the
    child should see me looking at him, and yet I was under a
    fascination which made it a kind of business with me to contemplate
    his slight and fragile figure and think how easily it might be
    done. Sometimes I would steal up-stairs and watch him as he slept;
    but usually I hovered in the garden near the window of the room in
    which he learnt his little tasks; and there, as he sat upon a low
    seat beside my wife, I would peer at him for hours together from
    behind a tree; starting, like the guilty wretch I was, at every
    rustling of a leaf, and still gliding back to look and start again.

    Hard by our cottage, but quite out of sight, and (if there were any
    wind astir) of hearing too, was a deep sheet of water. I spent
    days in shaping with my pocket-knife a rough model of a boat, which
    I finished at last and dropped in the child's way. Then I withdrew
    to a secret place, which he must pass if he stole away alone to
    swim this bauble, and lurked there for his coming. He came neither
    that day nor the next, though I waited from noon till nightfall. I
    was sure that I had him in my net, for I had heard him prattling of
    the toy, and knew that in his infant pleasure he kept it by his
    side in bed. I felt no weariness or fatigue, but waited patiently,
    and on the third day he passed me, running joyously along, with his
    silken hair streaming in the wind, and he singing - God have mercy
    upon me! - singing a merry ballad, - who could hardly lisp the

    I stole down after him, creeping under certain shrubs which grow in
    that place, and none but devils know with what terror I, a strong,
    full-grown man, tracked the footsteps of that baby as he approached
    the water's brink. I was close upon him, had sunk upon my knee and
    raised my hand to thrust him in, when he saw my shadow in the
    stream and turned him round.

    His mother's ghost was looking from his eyes. The sun burst forth
    from behind a cloud; it shone in the bright sky, the glistening
    earth, the clear water, the sparkling drops of rain upon the
    leaves. There were eyes in everything. The whole great universe
    of light was there to see the murder done. I know not what he
    said; he came of bold and manly blood, and, child as he was, he did
    not crouch or fawn upon me. I heard him cry that he would try to
    love me, - not that he did, - and then I saw him running back
    towards the house. The next I saw was my own sword naked in my
    hand, and he lying at my feet stark dead, - dabbled here and there
    with blood, but otherwise no different from what I had seen him in
    his sleep - in the same attitude too, with his cheek resting upon
    his little hand.

    I took him in my arms and laid him - very gently now that he was
    dead - in a thicket. My wife was from home that day, and would not
    return until the next. Our bedroom window, the only sleeping-room
    on that side of the house, was but a few feet from the ground, and
    I resolved to descend from it at night and bury him in the garden.
    I had no thought that I had failed in my design, no thought that
    the water would be dragged and nothing found, that the money must
    now lie waste, since I must encourage the idea that the child was
    lost or stolen. All my thoughts were bound up and knotted together
    in the one absorbing necessity of hiding what I had done.

    How I felt when they came to tell me that the child was missing,
    when I ordered scouts in all directions, when I gasped and trembled
    at every one's approach, no tongue can tell or mind of man
    conceive. I buried him that night. When I parted the boughs and
    looked into the dark thicket, there was a glow-worm shining like
    the visible spirit of God upon the murdered child. I glanced down
    into his grave when I had placed him there, and still it gleamed
    upon his breast; an eye of fire looking up to Heaven in
    supplication to the stars that watched me at my work.

    I had to meet my wife, and break the news, and give her hope that
    the child would soon be found. All this I did, - with some
    appearance, I suppose, of being sincere, for I was the object of no
    suspicion. This done, I sat at the bedroom window all day long,
    and watched the spot where the dreadful secret lay.

    It was in a piece of ground which had been dug up to be newly
    turfed, and which I had chosen on that account, as the traces of my
    spade were less likely to attract attention. The men who laid down
    the grass must have thought me mad. I called to them continually
    to expedite their work, ran out and worked beside them, trod down
    the earth with my feet, and hurried them with frantic eagerness.
    They had finished their task before night, and then I thought
    myself comparatively safe.

    I slept, - not as men do who awake refreshed and cheerful, but I
    did sleep, passing from vague and shadowy dreams of being hunted
    down, to visions of the plot of grass, through which now a hand,
    and now a foot, and now the head itself was starting out. At this
    point I always woke and stole to the window, to make sure that it
    was not really so. That done, I crept to bed again; and thus I
    spent the night in fits and starts, getting up and lying down full
    twenty times, and dreaming the same dream over and over again, -
    which was far worse than lying awake, for every dream had a whole
    night's suffering of its own. Once I thought the child was alive,
    and that I had never tried to kill him. To wake from that dream
    was the most dreadful agony of all.

    The next day I sat at the window again, never once taking my eyes
    from the place, which, although it was covered by the grass, was as
    plain to me - its shape, its size, its depth, its jagged sides, and
    all - as if it had been open to the light of day. When a servant
    walked across it, I felt as if he must sink in; when he had passed,
    I looked to see that his feet had not worn the edges. If a bird
    lighted there, I was in terror lest by some tremendous
    interposition it should be instrumental in the discovery; if a
    breath of air sighed across it, to me it whispered murder. There
    was not a sight or a sound - how ordinary, mean, or unimportant
    soever - but was fraught with fear. And in this state of ceaseless
    watching I spent three days.

    On the fourth there came to the gate one who had served with me
    abroad, accompanied by a brother officer of his whom I had never
    seen. I felt that I could not bear to be out of sight of the
    place. It was a summer evening, and I bade my people take a table
    and a flask of wine into the garden. Then I sat down WITH MY CHAIR
    UPON THE GRAVE, and being assured that nobody could disturb it now
    without my knowledge, tried to drink and talk.

    They hoped that my wife was well, - that she was not obliged to
    keep her chamber, - that they had not frightened her away. What
    could I do but tell them with a faltering tongue about the child?
    The officer whom I did not know was a down-looking man, and kept
    his eyes upon the ground while I was speaking. Even that terrified
    me. I could not divest myself of the idea that he saw something
    there which caused him to suspect the truth. I asked him hurriedly
    if he supposed that - and stopped. 'That the child has been
    murdered?' said he, looking mildly at me: 'O no! what could a man
    gain by murdering a poor child?' I could have told him what a man
    gained by such a deed, no one better: but I held my peace and
    shivered as with an ague.

    Mistaking my emotion, they were endeavouring to cheer me with the
    hope that the boy would certainly be found, - great cheer that was
    for me! - when we heard a low deep howl, and presently there sprung
    over the wall two great dogs, who, bounding into the garden,
    repeated the baying sound we had heard before.

    'Bloodhounds!' cried my visitors.

    What need to tell me that! I had never seen one of that kind in
    all my life, but I knew what they were and for what purpose they
    had come. I grasped the elbows of my chair, and neither spoke nor

    'They are of the genuine breed,' said the man whom I had known
    abroad, 'and being out for exercise have no doubt escaped from
    their keeper.'

    Both he and his friend turned to look at the dogs, who with their
    noses to the ground moved restlessly about, running to and fro, and
    up and down, and across, and round in circles, careering about like
    wild things, and all this time taking no notice of us, but ever and
    again repeating the yell we had heard already, then dropping their
    noses to the ground again and tracking earnestly here and there.
    They now began to snuff the earth more eagerly than they had done
    yet, and although they were still very restless, no longer beat
    about in such wide circuits, but kept near to one spot, and
    constantly diminished the distance between themselves and me.

    At last they came up close to the great chair on which I sat, and
    raising their frightful howl once more, tried to tear away the
    wooden rails that kept them from the ground beneath. I saw how I
    looked, in the faces of the two who were with me.

    'They scent some prey,' said they, both together.

    'They scent no prey!' cried I.

    'In Heaven's name, move!' said the one I knew, very earnestly, 'or
    you will be torn to pieces.'

    'Let them tear me from limb to limb, I'll never leave this place!'
    cried I. 'Are dogs to hurry men to shameful deaths? Hew them
    down, cut them in pieces.'

    'There is some foul mystery here!' said the officer whom I did not
    know, drawing his sword. 'In King Charles's name, assist me to
    secure this man.'

    They both set upon me and forced me away, though I fought and bit
    and caught at them like a madman. After a struggle, they got me
    quietly between them; and then, my God! I saw the angry dogs
    tearing at the earth and throwing it up into the air like water.

    What more have I to tell? That I fell upon my knees, and with
    chattering teeth confessed the truth, and prayed to be forgiven.
    That I have since denied, and now confess to it again. That I have
    been tried for the crime, found guilty, and sentenced. That I have
    not the courage to anticipate my doom, or to bear up manfully
    against it. That I have no compassion, no consolation, no hope, no
    friend. That my wife has happily lost for the time those faculties
    which would enable her to know my misery or hers. That I am alone
    in this stone dungeon with my evil spirit, and that I die to-


    Master Humphrey has been favoured with the following letter written
    on strongly-scented paper, and sealed in light-blue wax with the
    representation of two very plump doves interchanging beaks. It
    does not commence with any of the usual forms of address, but
    begins as is here set forth.

    Bath, Wednesday night.

    Heavens! into what an indiscretion do I suffer myself to be
    betrayed! To address these faltering lines to a total stranger,
    and that stranger one of a conflicting sex! - and yet I am
    precipitated into the abyss, and have no power of self-snatchation
    (forgive me if I coin that phrase) from the yawning gulf before me.

    Yes, I am writing to a man; but let me not think of that, for
    madness is in the thought. You will understand my feelings? O
    yes, I am sure you will; and you will respect them too, and not
    despise them, - will you?

    Let me be calm. That portrait, - smiling as once he smiled on me;
    that cane, - dangling as I have seen it dangle from his hand I know
    not how oft; those legs that have glided through my nightly dreams
    and never stopped to speak; the perfectly gentlemanly, though false
    original, - can I be mistaken? O no, no.

    Let me be calmer yet; I would be calm as coffins. You have
    published a letter from one whose likeness is engraved, but whose
    name (and wherefore?) is suppressed. Shall I breathe that name!
    Is it - but why ask when my heart tells me too truly that it is!

    I would not upbraid him with his treachery; I would not remind him
    of those times when he plighted the most eloquent of vows, and
    procured from me a small pecuniary accommodation; and yet I would
    see him - see him did I say - HIM - alas! such is woman's nature.
    For as the poet beautifully says - but you will already have
    anticipated the sentiment. Is it not sweet? O yes!

    It was in this city (hallowed by the recollection) that I met him
    first; and assuredly if mortal happiness be recorded anywhere, then
    those rubbers with their three-and-sixpenny points are scored on
    tablets of celestial brass. He always held an honour - generally
    two. On that eventful night we stood at eight. He raised his eyes
    (luminous in their seductive sweetness) to my agitated face. 'CAN
    you?' said he, with peculiar meaning. I felt the gentle pressure
    of his foot on mine; our corns throbbed in unison. 'CAN you?' he
    said again; and every lineament of his expressive countenance added
    the words 'resist me?' I murmured 'No,' and fainted.

    They said, when I recovered, it was the weather. I said it was the
    nutmeg in the negus. How little did they suspect the truth! How
    little did they guess the deep mysterious meaning of that inquiry!
    He called next morning on his knees; I do not mean to say that he
    actually came in that position to the house-door, but that he went
    down upon those joints directly the servant had retired. He
    brought some verses in his hat, which he said were original, but
    which I have since found were Milton's; likewise a little bottle
    labelled laudanum; also a pistol and a sword-stick. He drew the
    latter, uncorked the former, and clicked the trigger of the pocket
    fire-arm. He had come, he said, to conquer or to die. He did not
    die. He wrested from me an avowal of my love, and let off the
    pistol out of a back window previous to partaking of a slight

    Faithless, inconstant man! How many ages seem to have elapsed
    since his unaccountable and perfidious disappearance! Could I
    still forgive him both that and the borrowed lucre that he promised
    to pay next week! Could I spurn him from my feet if he approached
    in penitence, and with a matrimonial object! Would the blandishing
    enchanter still weave his spells around me, or should I burst them
    all and turn away in coldness! I dare not trust my weakness with
    the thought.

    My brain is in a whirl again. You know his address, his
    occupations, his mode of life, - are acquainted, perhaps, with his
    inmost thoughts. You are a humane and philanthropic character;
    reveal all you know - all; but especially the street and number of
    his lodgings. The post is departing, the bellman rings, - pray
    Heaven it be not the knell of love and hope to


    P.S. Pardon the wanderings of a bad pen and a distracted mind.
    Address to the Post-office. The bellman, rendered impatient by
    delay, is ringing dreadfully in the passage.

    P.P.S. I open this to say that the bellman is gone, and that you
    must not expect it till the next post; so don't be surprised when
    you don't get it.

    Master Humphrey does not feel himself at liberty to furnish his
    fair correspondent with the address of the gentleman in question,
    but he publishes her letter as a public appeal to his faith and
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    Chapter 2
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