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    Book The Second- Riches

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    Chapter 37
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    BOOK THE SECOND- RICHES

    CHAPTER 1

    Fellow Travellers

    In the autumn of the year, Darkness and Night were creeping up to
    the highest ridges of the Alps.

    It was vintage time in the valleys on the Swiss side of the Pass of
    the Great Saint Bernard, and along the banks of the Lake of Geneva.

    The air there was charged with the scent of gathered grapes.
    Baskets, troughs, and tubs of grapes stood in the dim village
    doorways, stopped the steep and narrow village streets, and had
    been carrying all day along the roads and lanes. Grapes, split and
    crushed under foot, lay about everywhere. The child carried in a
    sling by the laden peasant woman toiling home, was quieted with
    picked-up grapes; the idiot sunning his big goitre under the leaves
    of the wooden chalet by the way to the Waterfall, sat Munching
    grapes; the breath of the cows and goats was redolent of leaves and
    stalks of grapes; the company in every little cabaret were eating,
    drinking, talking grapes. A pity that no ripe touch of this
    generous abundance could be given to the thin, hard, stony wine,
    which after all was made from the grapes!

    The air had been warm and transparent through the whole of the
    bright day. Shining metal spires and church-roofs, distant and
    rarely seen, had sparkled in the view; and the snowy mountain-tops
    had been so clear that unaccustomed eyes, cancelling the
    intervening country, and slighting their rugged heights for
    something fabulous, would have measured them as within a few hours
    easy reach. Mountain-peaks of great celebrity in the valleys,
    whence no trace of their existence was visible sometimes for months
    together, had been since morning plain and near in the blue sky.
    And now, when it was dark below, though they seemed solemnly to
    recede, like spectres who were going to vanish, as the red dye of
    the sunset faded out of them and left them coldly white, they were
    yet distinctly defined in their loneliness above the mists and
    shadows.
    Seen from these solitudes, and from the Pass of the Great Saint
    Bernard, which was one of them, the ascending Night came up the
    mountain like a rising water. When it at last rose to the walls of
    the convent of the Great Saint Bernard, it was as if that weather-
    beaten structure were another Ark, and floated on the shadowy
    waves.

    Darkness, outstripping some visitors on mules, had risen thus to
    the rough convent walls, when those travellers were yet climbing
    the mountain. As the heat of the glowing day when they had stopped
    to drink at the streams of melted ice and snow, was changed to the
    searching cold of the frosty rarefied night air at a great height,
    so the fresh beauty of the lower journey had yielded to barrenness
    and desolation. A craggy track, up which the mules in single file
    scrambled and turned from block to block, as though they were
    ascending the broken staircase of a gigantic ruin, was their way
    now. No trees were to be seen, nor any vegetable growth save a
    poor brown scrubby moss, freezing in the chinks of rock. Blackened
    skeleton arms of wood by the wayside pointed upward to the convent
    as if the ghosts of former travellers overwhelmed by the snow
    haunted the scene of their distress. Icicle-hung caves and cellars
    built for refuges from sudden storms, were like so many whispers of
    the perils of the place; never-resting wreaths and mazes of mist
    wandered about, hunted by a moaning wind; and snow, the besetting
    danger of the mountain, against which all its defences were taken,
    drifted sharply down.

    The file of mules, jaded by their day's work, turned and wound
    slowly up the deep ascent; the foremost led by a guide on foot, in
    his broad-brimmed hat and round jacket, carrying a mountain staff
    or two upon his shoulder, with whom another guide conversed. There
    was no speaking among the string of riders. The sharp cold, the
    fatigue of the journey, and a new sensation of a catching in the
    breath, partly as if they had just emerged from very clear crisp
    water, and partly as if they had been sobbing, kept them silent.

    At length, a light on the summit of the rocky staircase gleamed
    through the snow and mist. The guides called to the mules, the
    mules pricked up their drooping heads, the travellers' tongues were
    loosened, and in a sudden burst of slipping, climbing, jingling,
    clinking, and talking, they arrived at the convent door.

    Other mules had arrived not long before, some with peasant riders
    and some with goods, and had trodden the snow about the door into
    a pool of mud. Riding-saddles and bridles, pack-saddles and
    strings of bells, mules and men, lanterns, torches, sacks,
    provender, barrels, cheeses, kegs of honey and butter, straw
    bundles and packages of many shapes, were crowded confusedly
    together in this thawed quagmire and about the steps. Up here in
    the clouds, everything was seen through cloud, and seemed
    dissolving into cloud. The breath of the men was cloud, the breath
    of the mules was cloud, the lights were encircled by cloud,
    speakers close at hand were not seen for cloud, though their voices
    and all other sounds were surprisingly clear. Of the cloudy line
    of mules hastily tied to rings in the wall, one would bite another,
    or kick another, and then the whole mist would be disturbed: with
    men diving into it, and cries of men and beasts coming out of it,
    and no bystander discerning what was wrong. In the midst of this,
    the great stable of the convent, occupying the basement story and
    entered by the basement door, outside which all the disorder was,
    poured forth its contribution of cloud, as if the whole rugged
    edifice were filled with nothing else, and would collapse as soon
    as it had emptied itself, leaving the snow to fall upon the bare
    mountain summit.

    While all this noise and hurry were rife among the living
    travellers, there, too, silently assembled in a grated house half-
    a-dozen paces removed, with the same cloud enfolding them and the
    same snow flakes drifting in upon them, were the dead travellers
    found upon the mountain. The mother, storm-belated many winters
    ago, still standing in the corner with her baby at her breast; the
    man who had frozen with his arm raised to his mouth in fear or
    hunger, still pressing it with his dry lips after years and years.
    An awful company, mysteriously come together! A wild destiny for
    that mother to have foreseen! 'Surrounded by so many and such
    companions upon whom I never looked, and never shall look, I and my
    child will dwell together inseparable, on the Great Saint Bernard,
    outlasting generations who will come to see us, and will never know
    our name, or one word of our story but the end.'

    The living travellers thought little or nothing of the dead just
    then. They thought much more of alighting at the convent door, and
    warming themselves at the convent fire. Disengaged from the
    turmoil, which was already calming down as the crowd of mules began
    to be bestowed in the stable, they hurried shivering up the steps
    and into the building. There was a smell within, coming up from
    the floor, of tethered beasts, like the smell of a menagerie of
    wild animals. There were strong arched galleries within, huge
    stone piers, great staircases, and thick walls pierced with small
    sunken windows--fortifications against the mountain storms, as if
    they had been human enemies. There were gloomy vaulted sleeping-
    rooms within, intensely cold, but clean and hospitably prepared for
    guests. Finally, there was a parlour for guests to sit in and sup
    in, where a table was already laid, and where a blazing fire shone
    red and high.

    In this room, after having had their quarters for the night
    allotted to them by two young Fathers, the travellers presently
    drew round the hearth. They were in three parties; of whom the
    first, as the most numerous and important, was the slowest, and had
    been overtaken by one of the others on the way up. It consisted of
    an elderly lady, two grey-haired gentlemen, two young ladies, and
    their brother. These were attended (not to mention four guides),
    by a courier, two footmen, and two waiting-maids: which strong body
    of inconvenience was accommodated elsewhere under the same roof.
    The party that had overtaken them, and followed in their train,
    consisted of only three members: one lady and two gentlemen. The
    third party, which had ascended from the valley on the Italian side
    of the Pass, and had arrived first, were four in number: a
    plethoric, hungry, and silent German tutor in spectacles, on a tour
    with three young men, his pupils, all plethoric, hungry, and
    silent, and all in spectacles.

    These three groups sat round the fire eyeing each other drily, and
    waiting for supper. Only one among them, one of the gentlemen
    belonging to the party of three, made advances towards
    conversation. Throwing out his lines for the Chief of the
    important tribe, while addressing himself to his own companions, he
    remarked, in a tone of voice which included all the company if they
    chose to be included, that it had been a long day, and that he felt
    for the ladies. That he feared one of the young ladies was not a
    strong or accustomed traveller, and had been over-fatigued two or
    three hours ago. That he had observed, from his station in the
    rear, that she sat her mule as if she were exhausted. That he had,
    twice or thrice afterwards, done himself the honour of inquiring of
    one of the guides, when he fell behind, how the lady did. That he
    had been enchanted to learn that she had recovered her spirits, and
    that it had been but a passing discomfort. That he trusted (by
    this time he had secured the eyes of the Chief, and addressed him)
    he might be permitted to express his hope that she was now none the
    worse, and that she would not regret having made the journey.

    'My daughter, I am obliged to you, sir,' returned the Chief, 'is
    quite restored, and has been greatly interested.'

    'New to mountains, perhaps?' said the insinuating traveller.

    'New to--ha--to mountains,' said the Chief.

    'But you are familiar with them, sir?' the insinuating traveller
    assumed.

    'I am--hum--tolerably familiar. Not of late years. Not of late
    years,' replied the Chief, with a flourish of his hand.

    The insinuating traveller, acknowledging the flourish with an
    inclination of his head, passed from the Chief to the second young
    lady, who had not yet been referred to otherwise than as one of the
    ladies in whose behalf he felt so sensitive an interest.

    He hoped she was not incommoded by the fatigues of the day.

    'Incommoded, certainly,' returned the young lady, 'but not tired.'

    The insinuating traveller complimented her on the justice of the
    distinction. It was what he had meant to say. Every lady must
    doubtless be incommoded by having to do with that proverbially
    unaccommodating animal, the mule.

    'We have had, of course,' said the young lady, who was rather
    reserved and haughty, 'to leave the carriages and fourgon at
    Martigny. And the impossibility of bringing anything that one
    wants to this inaccessible place, and the necessity of leaving
    every comfort behind, is not convenient.'

    'A savage place indeed,' said the insinuating traveller.

    The elderly lady, who was a model of accurate dressing, and whose
    manner was perfect, considered as a piece of machinery, here
    interposed a remark in a low soft voice.

    'But, like other inconvenient places,' she observed, 'it must be
    seen. As a place much spoken of, it is necessary to see it.'

    'O! I have not the least objection to seeing it, I assure you, Mrs
    General,' returned the other, carelessly.

    'You, madam,' said the insinuating traveller, 'have visited this
    spot before?'
    'Yes,' returned Mrs General. 'I have been here before. Let me
    commend you, my dear,' to the former young lady, 'to shade your
    face from the hot wood, after exposure to the mountain air and
    snow. You, too, my dear,' to the other and younger lady, who
    immediately did so; while the former merely said, 'Thank you, Mrs
    General, I am Perfectly comfortable, and prefer remaining as I am.'

    The brother, who had left his chair to open a piano that stood in
    the room, and who had whistled into it and shut it up again, now
    came strolling back to the fire with his glass in his eye. He was
    dressed in the very fullest and completest travelling trim. The
    world seemed hardly large enough to yield him an amount of travel
    proportionate to his equipment.

    'These fellows are an immense time with supper,' he drawled. 'I
    wonder what they'll give us! Has anybody any idea?'

    'Not roast man, I believe,' replied the voice of the second
    gentleman of the party of three.

    'I suppose not. What d'ye mean?' he inquired.

    'That, as you are not to be served for the general supper, perhaps
    you will do us the favour of not cooking yourself at the general
    fire,' returned the other.

    The young gentleman who was standing in an easy attitude on the
    hearth, cocking his glass at the company, with his back to the
    blaze and his coat tucked under his arms, something as if he were
    Of the Poultry species and were trussed for roasting, lost
    countenance at this reply; he seemed about to demand further
    explanation, when it was discovered--through all eyes turning on
    the speaker--that the lady with him, who was young and beautiful,
    had not heard what had passed through having fainted with her head
    upon his shoulder.

    'I think,' said the gentleman in a subdued tone, 'I had best carry
    her straight to her room. Will you call to some one to bring a
    light?' addressing his companion, 'and to show the way? In this
    strange rambling place I don't know that I could find it.'

    'Pray, let me call my maid,' cried the taller of the young ladies.

    'Pray, let me put this water to her lips,' said the shorter, who
    had not spoken yet.

    Each doing what she suggested, there was no want of assistance.
    Indeed, when the two maids came in (escorted by the courier, lest
    any one should strike them dumb by addressing a foreign language to
    them on the road), there was a prospect of too much assistance.
    Seeing this, and saying as much in a few words to the slighter and
    younger of the two ladies, the gentleman put his wife's arm over
    his shoulder, lifted her up, and carried her away.

    His friend, being left alone with the other visitors, walked slowly
    up and down the room without coming to the fire again, pulling his
    black moustache in a contemplative manner, as if he felt himself
    committed to the late retort. While the subject of it was
    breathing injury in a corner, the Chief loftily addressed this
    gentleman.

    'Your friend, sir,' said he, 'is--ha--is a little impatient; and,
    in his impatience, is not perhaps fully sensible of what he owes
    to--hum--to--but we will waive that, we will waive that. Your
    friend is a little impatient, sir.'

    'It may be so, sir,' returned the other. 'But having had the
    honour of making that gentleman's acquaintance at the hotel at
    Geneva, where we and much good company met some time ago, and
    having had the honour of exchanging company and conversation with
    that gentleman on several subsequent excursions, I can hear
    nothing--no, not even from one of your appearance and station,
    sir--detrimental to that gentleman.'

    'You are in no danger, sir, of hearing any such thing from me. In
    remarking that your friend has shown impatience, I say no such
    thing. I make that remark, because it is not to be doubted that my
    son, being by birth and by--ha--by education a--hum--a gentleman,
    would have readily adapted himself to any obligingly expressed wish
    on the subject of the fire being equally accessible to the whole of
    the present circle. Which, in principle, I--ha--for all are--hum--
    equal on these occasions--I consider right.'

    'Good,' was the reply. 'And there it ends! I am your son's
    obedient servant. I beg your son to receive the assurance of my
    profound consideration. And now, sir, I may admit, freely admit,
    that my friend is sometimes of a sarcastic temper.'

    'The lady is your friend's wife, sir?'

    'The lady is my friend's wife, sir.'
    'She is very handsome.'

    'Sir, she is peerless. They are still in the first year of their
    marriage. They are still partly on a marriage, and partly on an
    artistic, tour.'

    'Your friend is an artist, sir?'

    The gentleman replied by kissing the fingers of his right hand, and
    wafting the kiss the length of his arm towards Heaven. As who
    should say, I devote him to the celestial Powers as an immortal
    artist!

    'But he is a man of family,' he added. 'His connections are of the
    best. He is more than an artist: he is highly connected. He may,
    in effect, have repudiated his connections, proudly, impatiently,
    sarcastically (I make the concession of both words); but he has
    them. Sparks that have been struck out during our intercourse have
    shown me this.'

    'Well! I hope,' said the lofty gentleman, with the air of finally
    disposing of the subject, 'that the lady's indisposition may be
    only temporary.'

    'Sir, I hope so.'

    'Mere fatigue, I dare say.'

    'Not altogether mere fatigue, sir, for her mule stumbled to-day,
    and she fell from the saddle. She fell lightly, and was up again
    without assistance, and rode from us laughing; but she complained
    towards evening of a slight bruise in the side. She spoke of it
    more than once, as we followed your party up the mountain.'

    The head of the large retinue, who was gracious but not familiar,
    appeared by this time to think that he had condescended more than
    enough. He said no more, and there was silence for some quarter of
    an hour until supper appeared.

    With the supper came one of the young Fathers (there seemed to be
    no old Fathers) to take the head of the table. It was like the
    supper of an ordinary Swiss hotel, and good red wine grown by the
    convent in more genial air was not wanting. The artist traveller
    calmly came and took his place at table when the rest sat down,
    with no apparent sense upon him of his late skirmish with the
    completely dressed traveller.

    'Pray,' he inquired of the host, over his soup, 'has your convent
    many of its famous dogs now?'

    'Monsieur, it has three.'

    'I saw three in the gallery below. Doubtless the three in
    question.'
    The host, a slender, bright-eyed, dark young man of polite manners,
    whose garment was a black gown with strips of white crossed over it
    like braces, and who no more resembled the conventional breed of
    Saint Bernard monks than he resembled the conventional breed of
    Saint Bernard dogs, replied, doubtless those were the three in
    question.

    'And I think,' said the artist traveller, 'I have seen one of them
    before.'

    It was possible. He was a dog sufficiently well known. Monsieur
    might have easily seen him in the valley or somewhere on the lake,
    when he (the dog) had gone down with one of the order to solicit
    aid for the convent.

    'Which is done in its regular season of the year, I think?'

    Monsieur was right.

    'And never without a dog. The dog is very important.'
    Again Monsieur was right. The dog was very important. People were
    justly interested in the dog. As one of the dogs celebrated
    everywhere, Ma'amselle would observe.

    Ma'amselle was a little slow to observe it, as though she were not
    yet well accustomed to the French tongue. Mrs General, however,
    observed it for her.

    'Ask him if he has saved many lives?' said, in his native English,
    the young man who had been put out of countenance.

    The host needed no translation of the question. He promptly
    replied in French, 'No. Not this one.'

    'Why not?' the same gentleman asked.

    'Pardon,' returned the host composedly, 'give him the opportunity
    and he will do it without doubt. For example, I am well
    convinced,' smiling sedately, as he cut up the dish of veal to be
    handed round, on the young man who had been put out of countenance,
    'that if you, Monsieur, would give him the opportunity, he would
    hasten with great ardour to fulfil his duty.'

    The artist traveller laughed. The insinuating traveller (who
    evinced a provident anxiety to get his full share of the supper),
    wiping some drops of wine from his moustache with a piece of bread,
    joined the conversation.

    'It is becoming late in the year, my Father,' said he, 'for
    tourist-travellers, is it not?'

    'Yes, it is late. Yet two or three weeks, at most, and we shall be
    left to the winter snows.'
    'And then,' said the insinuating traveller, 'for the scratching
    dogs and the buried children, according to the pictures!'

    'Pardon,' said the host, not quite understanding the allusion.
    'How, then the scratching dogs and the buried children according to
    the pictures?'

    The artist traveller struck in again before an answer could be
    given.

    'Don't you know,' he coldly inquired across the table of his
    companion, 'that none but smugglers come this way in the winter or
    can have any possible business this way?'

    'Holy blue! No; never heard of it.'

    'So it is, I believe. And as they know the signs of the weather
    tolerably well, they don't give much employment to the dogs--who
    have consequently died out rather--though this house of
    entertainment is conveniently situated for themselves. Their young
    families, I am told, they usually leave at home. But it's a grand
    idea!' cried the artist traveller, unexpectedly rising into a tone
    of enthusiasm. 'It's a sublime idea. It's the finest idea in the
    world, and brings tears into a man's eyes, by Jupiter!' He then
    went on eating his veal with great composure.

    There was enough of mocking inconsistency at the bottom of this
    speech to make it rather discordant, though the manner was refined
    and the person well-favoured, and though the depreciatory part of
    it was so skilfully thrown off as to be very difficult for one not
    perfectly acquainted with the English language to understand, or ,
    even understanding, to take offence at: so simple and dispassionate
    was its tone. After finishing his veal in the midst of silence,
    the speaker again addressed his friend.

    'Look,' said he, in his former tone, 'at this gentleman our host,
    not yet in the prime of life, who in so graceful a way and with
    such courtly urbanity and modesty presides over us! Manners fit
    for a crown! Dine with the Lord Mayor of London (if you can get an
    invitation) and observe the contrast. This dear fellow, with the
    finest cut face I ever saw, a face in perfect drawing, leaves some
    laborious life and comes up here I don't know how many feet above
    the level of the sea, for no other purpose on earth (except
    enjoying himself, I hope, in a capital refectory) than to keep an
    hotel for idle poor devils like you and me, and leave the bill to
    our consciences! Why, isn't it a beautiful sacrifice? What do we
    want more to touch us? Because rescued people of interesting
    appearance are not, for eight or nine months out of every twelve,
    holding on here round the necks of the most sagacious of dogs
    carrying wooden bottles, shall we disparage the place? No! Bless
    the place. It's a great place, a glorious place!'

    The chest of the grey-haired gentleman who was the Chief of the
    important party, had swelled as if with a protest against his being
    numbered among poor devils. No sooner had the artist traveller
    ceased speaking than he himself spoke with great dignity, as having
    it incumbent on him to take the lead in most places, and having
    deserted that duty for a little while.

    He weightily communicated his opinion to their host, that his life
    must be a very dreary life here in the winter.

    The host allowed to Monsieur that it was a little monotonous. The
    air was difficult to breathe for a length of time consecutively.
    The cold was very severe. One needed youth and strength to bear
    it. However, having them and the blessing of Heaven--

    Yes, that was very good. 'But the confinement,' said the grey-
    haired gentleman.

    There were many days, even in bad weather, when it was possible to
    walk about outside. It was the custom to beat a little track, and
    take exercise there.

    'But the space,' urged the grey-haired gentleman. 'So small. So--
    ha--very limited.'

    Monsieur would recall to himself that there were the refuges to
    visit, and that tracks had to be made to them also.

    Monsieur still urged, on the other hand, that the space was so--
    ha--hum--so very contracted. More than that, it was always the
    same, always the same.

    With a deprecating smile, the host gently raised and gently lowered
    his shoulders. That was true, he remarked, but permit him to say
    that almost all objects had their various points of view. Monsieur
    and he did not see this poor life of his from the same point of
    view. Monsieur was not used to confinement.

    'I--ha--yes, very true,' said the grey-haired gentleman. He seemed
    to receive quite a shock from the force of the argument.

    Monsieur, as an English traveller, surrounded by all means of
    travelling pleasantly; doubtless possessing fortune, carriages, and
    servants--

    'Perfectly, perfectly. Without doubt,' said the gentleman.

    Monsieur could not easily place himself in the position of a person
    who had not the power to choose, I will go here to-morrow, or there
    next day; I will pass these barriers, I will enlarge those bounds.
    Monsieur could not realise, perhaps, how the mind accommodated
    itself in such things to the force of necessity.

    'It is true,' said Monsieur. 'We will--ha--not pursue the subject.

    You are--hum--quite accurate, I have no doubt. We will say no
    more.'

    The supper having come to a close, he drew his chair away as he
    spoke, and moved back to his former place by the fire. As it was
    very cold at the greater part of the table, the other guests also
    resumed their former seats by the fire, designing to toast
    themselves well before going to bed. The host, when they rose from
    the table, bowed to all present, wished them good night, and
    withdrew. But first the insinuating traveller had asked him if
    they could have some wine made hot; and as he had answered Yes, and
    had presently afterwards sent it in, that traveller, seated in the
    centre of the group, and in the full heat of the fire, was soon
    engaged in serving it out to the rest.

    At this time, the younger of the two young ladies, who had been
    silently attentive in her dark corner (the fire-light was the chief
    light in the sombre room, the lamp being smoky and dull) to what
    had been said of the absent lady, glided out. She was at a loss
    which way to turn when she had softly closed the door; but, after
    a little hesitation among the sounding passages and the many ways,
    came to a room in a corner of the main gallery, where the servants
    were at their supper. From these she obtained a lamp, and a
    direction to the lady's room.

    It was up the great staircase on the story above. Here and there,
    the bare white walls were broken by an iron grate, and she thought
    as she went along that the place was something like a prison. The
    arched door of the lady's room, or cell, was not quite shut. After
    knocking at it two or three times without receiving an answer, she
    pushed it gently open, and looked in.

    The lady lay with closed eyes on the outside of the bed, protected
    from the cold by the blankets and wrappers with which she had been
    covered when she revived from her fainting fit. A dull light
    placed in the deep recess of the window, made little impression on
    the arched room. The visitor timidly stepped to the bed, and said,
    in a soft whisper, 'Are you better?'

    The lady had fallen into a slumber, and the whisper was too low to
    awake her. Her visitor, standing quite still, looked at her
    attentively.

    'She is very pretty,' she said to herself. 'I never saw so
    beautiful a face. O how unlike me!'

    It was a curious thing to say, but it had some hidden meaning, for
    it filled her eyes with tears.

    'I know I must be right. I know he spoke of her that evening. I
    could very easily be wrong on any other subject, but not on this,
    not on this!'

    With a quiet and tender hand she put aside a straying fold of the
    sleeper's hair, and then touched the hand that lay outside the
    covering.

    'I like to look at her,' she breathed to herself. 'I like to see
    what has affected him so much.'

    She had not withdrawn her hand, when the sleeper opened her eyes
    and started.

    'Pray don't be alarmed. I am only one of the travellers from down-
    stairs. I came to ask if you were better, and if I could do
    anything for you.'

    'I think you have already been so kind as to send your servants to
    my assistance?'

    'No, not I; that was my sister. Are you better?'

    'Much better. It is only a slight bruise, and has been well looked
    to, and is almost easy now. It made me giddy and faint in a
    moment. It had hurt me before; but at last it overpowered me all
    at once.'
    'May I stay with you until some one comes? Would you like it?'

    'I should like it, for it is lonely here; but I am afraid you will
    feel the cold too much.'

    'I don't mind cold. I am not delicate, if I look so.' She quickly
    moved one of the two rough chairs to the bedside, and sat down.
    The other as quickly moved a part of some travelling wrapper from
    herself, and drew it over her, so that her arm, in keeping it about
    her, rested on her shoulder.

    'You have so much the air of a kind nurse,' said the lady, smiling
    on her, 'that you seem as if you had come to me from home.'

    'I am very glad of it.'

    'I was dreaming of home when I woke just now. Of my old home, I
    mean, before I was married.'

    'And before you were so far away from it.'

    'I have been much farther away from it than this; but then I took
    the best part of it with me, and missed nothing. I felt solitary
    as I dropped asleep here, and, missing it a little, wandered back
    to it.' There was a sorrowfully affectionate and regretful sound
    in her voice, which made her visitor refrain from looking at her
    for the moment.

    'It is a curious chance which at last brings us together, under
    this covering in which you have wrapped me,' said the visitor after
    a pause;'for do you know, I think I have been looking for you some
    time.'
    'Looking for me?'

    'I believe I have a little note here, which I was to give to you
    whenever I found you. This is it. Unless I greatly mistake, it is
    addressed to you? Is it not?'

    The lady took it, and said yes, and read it. Her visitor watched
    her as she did so. It was very short. She flushed a little as she
    put her lips to her visitor's cheek, and pressed her hand.

    'The dear young friend to whom he presents me, may be a comfort to
    me at some time, he says. She is truly a comfort to me the first
    time I see her.'

    'Perhaps you don't,' said the visitor, hesitating--'perhaps you
    don't know my story? Perhaps he never told you my story ?'

    'No.'

    'Oh no, why should he! I have scarcely the right to tell it myself
    at present, because I have been entreated not to do so. There is
    not much in it, but it might account to you for my asking you not
    to say anything about the letter here. You saw my family with me,
    perhaps? Some of them--I only say this to you--are a little proud,
    a little prejudiced.'

    'You shall take it back again,' said the other; 'and then my
    husband is sure not to see it. He might see it and speak of it,
    otherwise, by some accident. Will you put it in your bosom again,
    to be certain?'

    She did so with great care. Her small, slight hand was still upon
    the letter, when they heard some one in the gallery outside.

    'I promised,' said the visitor, rising, 'that I would write to him
    after seeing you (I could hardly fail to see you sooner or later),
    and tell him if you were well and happy. I had better say you were
    well and happy.'

    'Yes, yes, yes! Say I was very well and very happy. And that I
    thanked him affectionately, and would never forget him.'

    'I shall see you in the morning. After that we are sure to meet
    again before very long. Good night!'

    'Good night. Thank you, thank you. Good night, my dear!'

    Both of them were hurried and fluttered as they exchanged this
    parting, and as the visitor came out of the door. She had expected
    to meet the lady's husband approaching it; but the person in the
    gallery was not he: it was the traveller who had wiped the wine-
    drops from his moustache with the piece of bread. When he heard
    the step behind him, he turned round--for he was walking away in
    the dark.
    His politeness, which was extreme, would not allow of the young
    lady's lighting herself down-stairs, or going down alone. He took
    her lamp, held it so as to throw the best light on the stone steps,
    and followed her all the way to the supper-room. She went down,
    not easily hiding how much she was inclined to shrink and tremble;
    for the appearance of this traveller was particularly disagreeable
    to her. She had sat in her quiet corner before supper imagining
    what he would have been in the scenes and places within her
    experience, until he inspired her with an aversion that made him
    little less than terrific.

    He followed her down with his smiling politeness, followed her in,
    and resumed his seat in the best place in the hearth. There with
    the wood-fire, which was beginning to burn low, rising and falling
    upon him in the dark room, he sat with his legs thrust out to warm,
    drinking the hot wine down to the lees, with a monstrous shadow
    imitating him on the wall and ceiling.

    The tired company had broken up, and all the rest were gone to bed
    except the young lady's father, who dozed in his chair by the fire.

    The traveller had been at the pains of going a long way up-stairs
    to his sleeping-room to fetch his pocket-flask of brandy. He told
    them so, as he poured its contents into what was left of the wine,
    and drank with a new relish.

    'May I ask, sir, if you are on your way to Italy?'

    The grey-haired gentleman had roused himself, and was preparing to
    withdraw. He answered in the affirmative.

    'I also!' said the traveller. 'I shall hope to have the honour of
    offering my compliments in fairer scenes, and under softer
    circumstances, than on this dismal mountain.'

    The gentleman bowed, distantly enough, and said he was obliged to
    him.

    'We poor gentlemen, sir,' said the traveller, pulling his moustache
    dry with his hand, for he had dipped it in the wine and brandy; 'we
    poor gentlemen do not travel like princes, but the courtesies and
    graces of life are precious to us. To your health, sir!'

    'Sir, I thank you.'

    'To the health of your distinguished family--of the fair ladies,
    your daughters!'

    'Sir, I thank you again, I wish you good night. My dear, are our--
    ha--our people in attendance?'

    'They are close by, father.'

    'Permit me!' said the traveller, rising and holding the door open,
    as the gentleman crossed the room towards it with his arm drawn
    through his daughter's. 'Good repose! To the pleasure of seeing
    you once more! To to-morrow!'

    As he kissed his hand, with his best manner and his daintiest
    smile, the young lady drew a little nearer to her father, and
    passed him with a dread of touching him.

    'Humph!' said the insinuating traveller, whose manner shrunk, and
    whose voice dropped when he was left alone. 'If they all go to
    bed, why I must go. They are in a devil of a hurry. One would
    think the night would be long enough, in this freezing silence and
    solitude, if one went to bed two hours hence.'

    Throwing back his head in emptying his glass, he cast his eyes upon
    the travellers' book, which lay on the piano, open, with pens and
    ink beside it, as if the night's names had been registered when he
    was absent. Taking it in his hand, he read these entries.

    William Dorrit, Esquire
    Frederick Dorrit, Esquire
    Edward Dorrit, Esquire
    Miss Dorrit
    Miss Amy Dorrit
    Mrs General
    and Suite.
    From France to Italy.

    Mr and Mrs Henry Gowan.
    From France to Italy.

    To which he added, in a small complicated hand, ending with a long
    lean flourish, not unlike a lasso thrown at all the rest of the
    names:

    Blandois. Paris.
    From France to Italy.

    And then, with his nose coming down over his moustache and his
    moustache going up and under his nose, repaired to his allotted
    cell.
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    Chapter 37
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