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    To Be Read At Dusk

    by Charles Dickens
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    One, two, three, four, five. There were five of them.

    Five couriers, sitting on a bench outside the convent on the summit
    of the Great St. Bernard in Switzerland, looking at the remote
    heights, stained by the setting sun as if a mighty quantity of red
    wine had been broached upon the mountain top, and had not yet had
    time to sink into the snow.

    This is not my simile. It was made for the occasion by the
    stoutest courier, who was a German. None of the others took any
    more notice of it than they took of me, sitting on another bench on
    the other side of the convent door, smoking my cigar, like them,
    and - also like them - looking at the reddened snow, and at the
    lonely shed hard by, where the bodies of belated travellers, dug
    out of it, slowly wither away, knowing no corruption in that cold
    region.

    The wine upon the mountain top soaked in as we looked; the mountain
    became white; the sky, a very dark blue; the wind rose; and the air
    turned piercing cold. The five couriers buttoned their rough
    coats. There being no safer man to imitate in all such proceedings
    than a courier, I buttoned mine.

    The mountain in the sunset had stopped the five couriers in a
    conversation. It is a sublime sight, likely to stop conversation.
    The mountain being now out of the sunset, they resumed. Not that I
    had heard any part of their previous discourse; for indeed, I had
    not then broken away from the American gentleman, in the
    travellers' parlour of the convent, who, sitting with his face to
    the fire, had undertaken to realise to me the whole progress of
    events which had led to the accumulation by the Honourable Ananias
    Dodger of one of the largest acquisitions of dollars ever made in
    our country.

    'My God!' said the Swiss courier, speaking in French, which I do
    not hold (as some authors appear to do) to be such an all-
    sufficient excuse for a naughty word, that I have only to write it
    in that language to make it innocent; 'if you talk of ghosts - '

    'But I DON'T talk of ghosts,' said the German.

    'Of what then?' asked the Swiss.

    'If I knew of what then,' said the German, 'I should probably know
    a great deal more.'

    It was a good answer, I thought, and it made me curious. So, I
    moved my position to that corner of my bench which was nearest to
    them, and leaning my back against the convent wall, heard
    perfectly, without appearing to attend.

    'Thunder and lightning!' said the German, warming, 'when a certain
    man is coming to see you, unexpectedly; and, without his own
    knowledge, sends some invisible messenger, to put the idea of him
    into your head all day, what do you call that? When you walk along
    a crowded street - at Frankfort, Milan, London, Paris - and think
    that a passing stranger is like your friend Heinrich, and then that
    another passing stranger is like your friend Heinrich, and so begin
    to have a strange foreknowledge that presently you'll meet your
    friend Heinrich - which you do, though you believed him at Trieste
    - what do you call THAT?'

    'It's not uncommon, either,' murmured the Swiss and the other
    three.

    'Uncommon!' said the German. 'It's as common as cherries in the
    Black Forest. It's as common as maccaroni at Naples. And Naples
    reminds me! When the old Marchesa Senzanima shrieks at a card-
    party on the Chiaja - as I heard and saw her, for it happened in a
    Bavarian family of mine, and I was overlooking the service that
    evening - I say, when the old Marchesa starts up at the card-table,
    white through her rouge, and cries, "My sister in Spain is dead! I
    felt her cold touch on my back!" - and when that sister IS dead at
    the moment - what do you call that?'

    'Or when the blood of San Gennaro liquefies at the request of the
    clergy - as all the world knows that it does regularly once a-year,
    in my native city,' said the Neapolitan courier after a pause, with
    a comical look, 'what do you call that?'

    'THAT!' cried the German. 'Well, I think I know a name for that.'

    'Miracle?' said the Neapolitan, with the same sly face.

    The German merely smoked and laughed; and they all smoked and
    laughed.

    'Bah!' said the German, presently. 'I speak of things that really
    do happen. When I want to see the conjurer, I pay to see a
    professed one, and have my money's worth. Very strange things do
    happen without ghosts. Ghosts! Giovanni Baptista, tell your story
    of the English bride. There's no ghost in that, but something full
    as strange. Will any man tell me what?'

    As there was a silence among them, I glanced around. He whom I
    took to be Baptista was lighting a fresh cigar. He presently went
    on to speak. He was a Genoese, as I judged.

    'The story of the English bride?' said he. 'Basta! one ought not
    to call so slight a thing a story. Well, it's all one. But it's
    true. Observe me well, gentlemen, it's true. That which glitters
    is not always gold; but what I am going to tell, is true.'

    He repeated this more than once.

    Ten years ago, I took my credentials to an English gentleman at
    Long's Hotel, in Bond Street, London, who was about to travel - it
    might be for one year, it might be for two. He approved of them;
    likewise of me. He was pleased to make inquiry. The testimony
    that he received was favourable. He engaged me by the six months,
    and my entertainment was generous.

    He was young, handsome, very happy. He was enamoured of a fair
    young English lady, with a sufficient fortune, and they were going
    to be married. It was the wedding-trip, in short, that we were
    going to take. For three months' rest in the hot weather (it was
    early summer then) he had hired an old place on the Riviera, at an
    easy distance from my city, Genoa, on the road to Nice. Did I know
    that place? Yes; I told him I knew it well. It was an old palace
    with great gardens. It was a little bare, and it was a little dark
    and gloomy, being close surrounded by trees; but it was spacious,
    ancient, grand, and on the seashore. He said it had been so
    described to him exactly, and he was well pleased that I knew it.
    For its being a little bare of furniture, all such places were.
    For its being a little gloomy, he had hired it principally for the
    gardens, and he and my mistress would pass the summer weather in
    their shade.

    'So all goes well, Baptista?' said he.

    'Indubitably, signore; very well.'

    We had a travelling chariot for our journey, newly built for us,
    and in all respects complete. All we had was complete; we wanted
    for nothing. The marriage took place. They were happy. I was
    happy, seeing all so bright, being so well situated, going to my
    own city, teaching my language in the rumble to the maid, la bella
    Carolina, whose heart was gay with laughter: who was young and
    rosy.

    The time flew. But I observed - listen to this, I pray! (and here
    the courier dropped his voice) - I observed my mistress sometimes
    brooding in a manner very strange; in a frightened manner; in an
    unhappy manner; with a cloudy, uncertain alarm upon her. I think
    that I began to notice this when I was walking up hills by the
    carriage side, and master had gone on in front. At any rate, I
    remember that it impressed itself upon my mind one evening in the
    South of France, when she called to me to call master back; and
    when he came back, and walked for a long way, talking encouragingly
    and affectionately to her, with his hand upon the open window, and
    hers in it. Now and then, he laughed in a merry way, as if he were
    bantering her out of something. By-and-by, she laughed, and then
    all went well again.

    It was curious. I asked la bella Carolina, the pretty little one,
    Was mistress unwell? - No. - Out of spirits? - No. - Fearful of bad
    roads, or brigands? - No. And what made it more mysterious was,
    the pretty little one would not look at me in giving answer, but
    WOULD look at the view.

    But, one day she told me the secret.

    'If you must know,' said Carolina, 'I find, from what I have
    overheard, that mistress is haunted.'

    'How haunted?'

    'By a dream.'

    'What dream?'

    'By a dream of a face. For three nights before her marriage, she
    saw a face in a dream - always the same face, and only One.'

    'A terrible face?'

    'No. The face of a dark, remarkable-looking man, in black, with
    black hair and a grey moustache - a handsome man except for a
    reserved and secret air. Not a face she ever saw, or at all like a
    face she ever saw. Doing nothing in the dream but looking at her
    fixedly, out of darkness.'

    'Does the dream come back?'

    'Never. The recollection of it is all her trouble.'

    'And why does it trouble her?'

    Carolina shook her head.

    'That's master's question,' said la bella. 'She don't know. She
    wonders why, herself. But I heard her tell him, only last night,
    that if she was to find a picture of that face in our Italian house
    (which she is afraid she will) she did not know how she could ever
    bear it.'

    Upon my word I was fearful after this (said the Genoese courier) of
    our coming to the old palazzo, lest some such ill-starred picture
    should happen to be there. I knew there were many there; and, as
    we got nearer and nearer to the place, I wished the whole gallery
    in the crater of Vesuvius. To mend the matter, it was a stormy
    dismal evening when we, at last, approached that part of the
    Riviera. It thundered; and the thunder of my city and its
    environs, rolling among the high hills, is very loud. The lizards
    ran in and out of the chinks in the broken stone wall of the
    garden, as if they were frightened; the frogs bubbled and croaked
    their loudest; the sea-wind moaned, and the wet trees dripped; and
    the lightning - body of San Lorenzo, how it lightened!

    We all know what an old palace in or near Genoa is - how time and
    the sea air have blotted it - how the drapery painted on the outer
    walls has peeled off in great flakes of plaster - how the lower
    windows are darkened with rusty bars of iron - how the courtyard is
    overgrown with grass - how the outer buildings are dilapidated -
    how the whole pile seems devoted to ruin. Our palazzo was one of
    the true kind. It had been shut up close for months. Months? -
    years! - it had an earthy smell, like a tomb. The scent of the
    orange trees on the broad back terrace, and of the lemons ripening
    on the wall, and of some shrubs that grew around a broken fountain,
    had got into the house somehow, and had never been able to get out
    again. There was, in every room, an aged smell, grown faint with
    confinement. It pined in all the cupboards and drawers. In the
    little rooms of communication between great rooms, it was stifling.
    If you turned a picture - to come back to the pictures - there it
    still was, clinging to the wall behind the frame, like a sort of
    bat.

    The lattice-blinds were close shut, all over the house. There were
    two ugly, grey old women in the house, to take care of it; one of
    them with a spindle, who stood winding and mumbling in the doorway,
    and who would as soon have let in the devil as the air. Master,
    mistress, la bella Carolina, and I, went all through the palazzo.
    I went first, though I have named myself last, opening the windows
    and the lattice-blinds, and shaking down on myself splashes of
    rain, and scraps of mortar, and now and then a dozing mosquito, or
    a monstrous, fat, blotchy, Genoese spider.

    When I had let the evening light into a room, master, mistress, and
    la bella Carolina, entered. Then, we looked round at all the
    pictures, and I went forward again into another room. Mistress
    secretly had great fear of meeting with the likeness of that face -
    we all had; but there was no such thing. The Madonna and Bambino,
    San Francisco, San Sebastiano, Venus, Santa Caterina, Angels,
    Brigands, Friars, Temples at Sunset, Battles, White Horses,
    Forests, Apostles, Doges, all my old acquaintances many times
    repeated? - yes. Dark, handsome man in black, reserved and secret,
    with black hair and grey moustache, looking fixedly at mistress out
    of darkness? - no.

    At last we got through all the rooms and all the pictures, and came
    out into the gardens. They were pretty well kept, being rented by
    a gardener, and were large and shady. In one place there was a
    rustic theatre, open to the sky; the stage a green slope; the
    coulisses, three entrances upon a side, sweet-smelling leafy
    screens. Mistress moved her bright eyes, even there, as if she
    looked to see the face come in upon the scene; but all was well.

    'Now, Clara,' master said, in a low voice, 'you see that it is
    nothing? You are happy.'

    Mistress was much encouraged. She soon accustomed herself to that
    grim palazzo, and would sing, and play the harp, and copy the old
    pictures, and stroll with master under the green trees and vines
    all day. She was beautiful. He was happy. He would laugh and say
    to me, mounting his horse for his morning ride before the heat:

    'All goes well, Baptista!'

    'Yes, signore, thank God, very well.'

    We kept no company. I took la bella to the Duomo and Annunciata,
    to the Cafe, to the Opera, to the village Festa, to the Public
    Garden, to the Day Theatre, to the Marionetti. The pretty little
    one was charmed with all she saw. She learnt Italian - heavens!
    miraculously! Was mistress quite forgetful of that dream? I asked
    Carolina sometimes. Nearly, said la bella - almost. It was
    wearing out.

    One day master received a letter, and called me.

    'Baptista!'

    'Signore!'

    'A gentleman who is presented to me will dine here to-day. He is
    called the Signor Dellombra. Let me dine like a prince.'

    It was an odd name. I did not know that name. But, there had been
    many noblemen and gentlemen pursued by Austria on political
    suspicions, lately, and some names had changed. Perhaps this was
    one. Altro! Dellombra was as good a name to me as another.

    When the Signor Dellombra came to dinner (said the Genoese courier
    in the low voice, into which he had subsided once before), I showed
    him into the reception-room, the great sala of the old palazzo.
    Master received him with cordiality, and presented him to mistress.
    As she rose, her face changed, she gave a cry, and fell upon the
    marble floor.

    Then, I turned my head to the Signor Dellombra, and saw that he was
    dressed in black, and had a reserved and secret air, and was a
    dark, remarkable-looking man, with black hair and a grey moustache.

    Master raised mistress in his arms, and carried her to her own
    room, where I sent la bella Carolina straight. La bella told me
    afterwards that mistress was nearly terrified to death, and that
    she wandered in her mind about her dream, all night.

    Master was vexed and anxious - almost angry, and yet full of
    solicitude. The Signor Dellombra was a courtly gentleman, and
    spoke with great respect and sympathy of mistress's being so ill.
    The African wind had been blowing for some days (they had told him
    at his hotel of the Maltese Cross), and he knew that it was often
    hurtful. He hoped the beautiful lady would recover soon. He
    begged permission to retire, and to renew his visit when he should
    have the happiness of hearing that she was better. Master would
    not allow of this, and they dined alone.

    He withdrew early. Next day he called at the gate, on horse-back,
    to inquire for mistress. He did so two or three times in that
    week.

    What I observed myself, and what la bella Carolina told me, united
    to explain to me that master had now set his mind on curing
    mistress of her fanciful terror. He was all kindness, but he was
    sensible and firm. He reasoned with her, that to encourage such
    fancies was to invite melancholy, if not madness. That it rested
    with herself to be herself. That if she once resisted her strange
    weakness, so successfully as to receive the Signor Dellombra as an
    English lady would receive any other guest, it was for ever
    conquered. To make an end, the signore came again, and mistress
    received him without marked distress (though with constraint and
    apprehension still), and the evening passed serenely. Master was
    so delighted with this change, and so anxious to confirm it, that
    the Signor Dellombra became a constant guest. He was accomplished
    in pictures, books, and music; and his society, in any grim
    palazzo, would have been welcome.

    I used to notice, many times, that mistress was not quite
    recovered. She would cast down her eyes and droop her head, before
    the Signor Dellombra, or would look at him with a terrified and
    fascinated glance, as if his presence had some evil influence or
    power upon her. Turning from her to him, I used to see him in the
    shaded gardens, or the large half-lighted sala, looking, as I might
    say, 'fixedly upon her out of darkness.' But, truly, I had not
    forgotten la bella Carolina's words describing the face in the
    dream.

    After his second visit I heard master say:

    'Now, see, my dear Clara, it's over! Dellombra has come and gone,
    and your apprehension is broken like glass.'

    'Will he - will he ever come again?' asked mistress.

    'Again? Why, surely, over and over again! Are you cold?' (she
    shivered).

    'No, dear - but - he terrifies me: are you sure that he need come
    again?'

    'The surer for the question, Clara!' replied master, cheerfully.

    But, he was very hopeful of her complete recovery now, and grew
    more and more so every day. She was beautiful. He was happy.

    'All goes well, Baptista?' he would say to me again.

    'Yes, signore, thank God; very well.'

    We were all (said the Genoese courier, constraining himself to
    speak a little louder), we were all at Rome for the Carnival. I
    had been out, all day, with a Sicilian, a friend of mine, and a
    courier, who was there with an English family. As I returned at
    night to our hotel, I met the little Carolina, who never stirred
    from home alone, running distractedly along the Corso.

    'Carolina! What's the matter?'

    'O Baptista! O, for the Lord's sake! where is my mistress?'

    'Mistress, Carolina?'

    'Gone since morning - told me, when master went out on his day's
    journey, not to call her, for she was tired with not resting in the
    night (having been in pain), and would lie in bed until the
    evening; then get up refreshed. She is gone! - she is gone!
    Master has come back, broken down the door, and she is gone! My
    beautiful, my good, my innocent mistress!'

    The pretty little one so cried, and raved, and tore herself that I
    could not have held her, but for her swooning on my arm as if she
    had been shot. Master came up - in manner, face, or voice, no more
    the master that I knew, than I was he. He took me (I laid the
    little one upon her bed in the hotel, and left her with the
    chamber-women), in a carriage, furiously through the darkness,
    across the desolate Campagna. When it was day, and we stopped at a
    miserable post-house, all the horses had been hired twelve hours
    ago, and sent away in different directions. Mark me! by the Signor
    Dellombra, who had passed there in a carriage, with a frightened
    English lady crouching in one corner.

    I never heard (said the Genoese courier, drawing a long breath)
    that she was ever traced beyond that spot. All I know is, that she
    vanished into infamous oblivion, with the dreaded face beside her
    that she had seen in her dream.

    'What do you call THAT?' said the German courier, triumphantly.
    'Ghosts! There are no ghosts THERE! What do you call this, that I
    am going to tell you? Ghosts! There are no ghosts HERE!'

    I took an engagement once (pursued the German courier) with an
    English gentleman, elderly and a bachelor, to travel through my
    country, my Fatherland. He was a merchant who traded with my
    country and knew the language, but who had never been there since
    he was a boy - as I judge, some sixty years before.

    His name was James, and he had a twin-brother John, also a
    bachelor. Between these brothers there was a great affection.
    They were in business together, at Goodman's Fields, but they did
    not live together. Mr. James dwelt in Poland Street, turning out
    of Oxford Street, London; Mr. John resided by Epping Forest.

    Mr. James and I were to start for Germany in about a week. The
    exact day depended on business. Mr. John came to Poland Street
    (where I was staying in the house), to pass that week with Mr.
    James. But, he said to his brother on the second day, 'I don't
    feel very well, James. There's not much the matter with me; but I
    think I am a little gouty. I'll go home and put myself under the
    care of my old housekeeper, who understands my ways. If I get
    quite better, I'll come back and see you before you go. If I don't
    feel well enough to resume my visit where I leave it off, why YOU
    will come and see me before you go.' Mr. James, of course, said he
    would, and they shook hands - both hands, as they always did - and
    Mr. John ordered out his old-fashioned chariot and rumbled home.

    It was on the second night after that - that is to say, the fourth
    in the week - when I was awoke out of my sound sleep by Mr. James
    coming into my bedroom in his flannel-gown, with a lighted candle.
    He sat upon the side of my bed, and looking at me, said:

    'Wilhelm, I have reason to think I have got some strange illness
    upon me.'

    I then perceived that there was a very unusual expression in his
    face.

    'Wilhelm,' said he, 'I am not afraid or ashamed to tell you what I
    might be afraid or ashamed to tell another man. You come from a
    sensible country, where mysterious things are inquired into and are
    not settled to have been weighed and measured - or to have been
    unweighable and unmeasurable - or in either case to have been
    completely disposed of, for all time - ever so many years ago. I
    have just now seen the phantom of my brother.'

    I confess (said the German courier) that it gave me a little
    tingling of the blood to hear it.

    'I have just now seen,' Mr. James repeated, looking full at me,
    that I might see how collected he was, 'the phantom of my brother
    John. I was sitting up in bed, unable to sleep, when it came into
    my room, in a white dress, and regarding me earnestly, passed up to
    the end of the room, glanced at some papers on my writing-desk,
    turned, and, still looking earnestly at me as it passed the bed,
    went out at the door. Now, I am not in the least mad, and am not
    in the least disposed to invest that phantom with any external
    existence out of myself. I think it is a warning to me that I am
    ill; and I think I had better be bled.'

    I got out of bed directly (said the German courier) and began to
    get on my clothes, begging him not to be alarmed, and telling him
    that I would go myself to the doctor. I was just ready, when we
    heard a loud knocking and ringing at the street door. My room
    being an attic at the back, and Mr. James's being the second-floor
    room in the front, we went down to his room, and put up the window,
    to see what was the matter.

    'Is that Mr. James?' said a man below, falling back to the opposite
    side of the way to look up.

    'It is,' said Mr. James, 'and you are my brother's man, Robert.'

    'Yes, Sir. I am sorry to say, Sir, that Mr. John is ill. He is
    very bad, Sir. It is even feared that he may be lying at the point
    of death. He wants to see you, Sir. I have a chaise here. Pray
    come to him. Pray lose no time.'

    Mr. James and I looked at one another. 'Wilhelm,' said he, 'this
    is strange. I wish you to come with me!' I helped him to dress,
    partly there and partly in the chaise; and no grass grew under the
    horses' iron shoes between Poland Street and the Forest.

    Now, mind! (said the German courier) I went with Mr. James into his
    brother's room, and I saw and heard myself what follows.

    His brother lay upon his bed, at the upper end of a long bed-
    chamber. His old housekeeper was there, and others were there: I
    think three others were there, if not four, and they had been with
    him since early in the afternoon. He was in white, like the figure
    - necessarily so, because he had his night-dress on. He looked
    like the figure - necessarily so, because he looked earnestly at
    his brother when he saw him come into the room.

    But, when his brother reached the bed-side, he slowly raised
    himself in bed, and looking full upon him, said these words:

    'JAMES, YOU HAVE SEEN ME BEFORE, TO-NIGHT - AND YOU KNOW IT!'

    And so died!

    I waited, when the German courier ceased, to hear something said of
    this strange story. The silence was unbroken. I looked round, and
    the five couriers were gone: so noiselessly that the ghostly
    mountain might have absorbed them into its eternal snows. By this
    time, I was by no means in a mood to sit alone in that awful scene,
    with the chill air coming solemnly upon me - or, if I may tell the
    truth, to sit alone anywhere. So I went back into the convent-
    parlour, and, finding the American gentleman still disposed to
    relate the biography of the Honourable Ananias Dodger, heard it all
    out.
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