The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain
by Charles Dickens
CHAPTER I - The Gift Bestowed
EVERYBODY said so.
Far be it from me to assert that what everybody says must be true.
Everybody is, often, as likely to be wrong as right. In the
general experience, everybody has been wrong so often, and it has
taken, in most instances, such a weary while to find out how wrong,
that the authority is proved to be fallible. Everybody may
sometimes be right; "but THAT'S no rule," as the ghost of Giles
Scroggins says in the ballad.
The dread word, GHOST, recalls me.
Everybody said he looked like a haunted man. The extent of my
present claim for everybody is, that they were so far right. He
Who could have seen his hollow cheek; his sunken brilliant eye; his
black-attired figure, indefinably grim, although well-knit and
well-proportioned; his grizzled hair hanging, like tangled sea-
weed, about his face, - as if he had been, through his whole life,
a lonely mark for the chafing and beating of the great deep of
humanity, - but might have said he looked like a haunted man?
Who could have observed his manner, taciturn, thoughtful, gloomy,
shadowed by habitual reserve, retiring always and jocund never,
with a distraught air of reverting to a bygone place and time, or
of listening to some old echoes in his mind, but might have said it
was the manner of a haunted man?
Who could have heard his voice, slow-speaking, deep, and grave,
with a natural fulness and melody in it which he seemed to set
himself against and stop, but might have said it was the voice of a
Who that had seen him in his inner chamber, part library and part
laboratory, - for he was, as the world knew, far and wide, a
learned man in chemistry, and a teacher on whose lips and hands a
crowd of aspiring ears and eyes hung daily, - who that had seen him
there, upon a winter night, alone, surrounded by his drugs and
instruments and books; the shadow of his shaded lamp a monstrous
beetle on the wall, motionless among a crowd of spectral shapes
raised there by the flickering of the fire upon the quaint objects
around him; some of these phantoms (the reflection of glass vessels
that held liquids), trembling at heart like things that knew his
power to uncombine them, and to give back their component parts to
fire and vapour; - who that had seen him then, his work done, and
he pondering in his chair before the rusted grate and red flame,
moving his thin mouth as if in speech, but silent as the dead,
would not have said that the man seemed haunted and the chamber
Who might not, by a very easy flight of fancy, have believed that
everything about him took this haunted tone, and that he lived on
His dwelling was so solitary and vault-like, - an old, retired part
of an ancient endowment for students, once a brave edifice, planted
in an open place, but now the obsolete whim of forgotten
architects; smoke-age-and-weather-darkened, squeezed on every side
by the overgrowing of the great city, and choked, like an old well,
with stones and bricks; its small quadrangles, lying down in very
pits formed by the streets and buildings, which, in course of time,
had been constructed above its heavy chimney stalks; its old trees,
insulted by the neighbouring smoke, which deigned to droop so low
when it was very feeble and the weather very moody; its grass-
plots, struggling with the mildewed earth to be grass, or to win
any show of compromise; its silent pavements, unaccustomed to the
tread of feet, and even to the observation of eyes, except when a
stray face looked down from the upper world, wondering what nook it
was; its sun-dial in a little bricked-up corner, where no sun had
straggled for a hundred years, but where, in compensation for the
sun's neglect, the snow would lie for weeks when it lay nowhere
else, and the black east wind would spin like a huge humming-top,
when in all other places it was silent and still.
His dwelling, at its heart and core - within doors - at his
fireside - was so lowering and old, so crazy, yet so strong, with
its worn-eaten beams of wood in the ceiling, and its sturdy floor
shelving downward to the great oak chimney-piece; so environed and
hemmed in by the pressure of the town yet so remote in fashion,
age, and custom; so quiet, yet so thundering with echoes when a
distant voice was raised or a door was shut, - echoes, not confined
to the many low passages and empty rooms, but rumbling and
grumbling till they were stifled in the heavy air of the forgotten
Crypt where the Norman arches were half-buried in the earth.
You should have seen him in his dwelling about twilight, in the
dead winter time.
When the wind was blowing, shrill and shrewd, with the going down
of the blurred sun. When it was just so dark, as that the forms of
things were indistinct and big - but not wholly lost. When sitters
by the fire began to see wild faces and figures, mountains and
abysses, ambuscades and armies, in the coals. When people in the
streets bent down their heads and ran before the weather. When
those who were obliged to meet it, were stopped at angry corners,
stung by wandering snow-flakes alighting on the lashes of their
eyes, - which fell too sparingly, and were blown away too quickly,
to leave a trace upon the frozen ground. When windows of private
houses closed up tight and warm. When lighted gas began to burst
forth in the busy and the quiet streets, fast blackening otherwise.
When stray pedestrians, shivering along the latter, looked down at
the glowing fires in kitchens, and sharpened their sharp appetites
by sniffing up the fragrance of whole miles of dinners.
When travellers by land were bitter cold, and looked wearily on
gloomy landscapes, rustling and shuddering in the blast. When
mariners at sea, outlying upon icy yards, were tossed and swung
above the howling ocean dreadfully. When lighthouses, on rocks and
headlands, showed solitary and watchful; and benighted sea-birds
breasted on against their ponderous lanterns, and fell dead. When
little readers of story-books, by the firelight, trembled to think
of Cassim Baba cut into quarters, hanging in the Robbers' Cave, or
had some small misgivings that the fierce little old woman, with
the crutch, who used to start out of the box in the merchant
Abudah's bedroom, might, one of these nights, be found upon the
stairs, in the long, cold, dusky journey up to bed.
When, in rustic places, the last glimmering of daylight died away
from the ends of avenues; and the trees, arching overhead, were
sullen and black. When, in parks and woods, the high wet fern and
sodden moss, and beds of fallen leaves, and trunks of trees, were
lost to view, in masses of impenetrable shade. When mists arose
from dyke, and fen, and river. When lights in old halls and in
cottage windows, were a cheerful sight. When the mill stopped, the
wheelwright and the blacksmith shut their workshops, the turnpike-
gate closed, the plough and harrow were left lonely in the fields,
the labourer and team went home, and the striking of the church
clock had a deeper sound than at noon, and the churchyard wicket
would be swung no more that night.
When twilight everywhere released the shadows, prisoned up all day,
that now closed in and gathered like mustering swarms of ghosts.
When they stood lowering, in corners of rooms, and frowned out from
behind half-opened doors. When they had full possession of
unoccupied apartments. When they danced upon the floors, and
walls, and ceilings of inhabited chambers, while the fire was low,
and withdrew like ebbing waters when it sprang into a blaze. When
they fantastically mocked the shapes of household objects, making
the nurse an ogress, the rocking-horse a monster, the wondering
child, half-scared and half-amused, a stranger to itself, - the
very tongs upon the hearth, a straddling giant with his arms a-
kimbo, evidently smelling the blood of Englishmen, and wanting to
grind people's bones to make his bread.
When these shadows brought into the minds of older people, other
thoughts, and showed them different images. When they stole from
their retreats, in the likenesses of forms and faces from the past,
from the grave, from the deep, deep gulf, where the things that
might have been, and never were, are always wandering.
When he sat, as already mentioned, gazing at the fire. When, as it
rose and fell, the shadows went and came. When he took no heed of
them, with his bodily eyes; but, let them come or let them go,
looked fixedly at the fire. You should have seen him, then.
When the sounds that had arisen with the shadows, and come out of
their lurking-places at the twilight summons, seemed to make a
deeper stillness all about him. When the wind was rumbling in the
chimney, and sometimes crooning, sometimes howling, in the house.
When the old trees outside were so shaken and beaten, that one
querulous old rook, unable to sleep, protested now and then, in a
feeble, dozy, high-up "Caw!" When, at intervals, the window
trembled, the rusty vane upon the turret-top complained, the clock
beneath it recorded that another quarter of an hour was gone, or
the fire collapsed and fell in with a rattle.
- When a knock came at his door, in short, as he was sitting so,
and roused him.
"Who's that?" said he. "Come in!"
Surely there had been no figure leaning on the back of his chair;
no face looking over it. It is certain that no gliding footstep
touched the floor, as he lifted up his head, with a start, and
spoke. And yet there was no mirror in the room on whose surface
his own form could have cast its shadow for a moment; and,
Something had passed darkly and gone!
"I'm humbly fearful, sir," said a fresh-coloured busy man, holding
the door open with his foot for the admission of himself and a
wooden tray he carried, and letting it go again by very gentle and
careful degrees, when he and the tray had got in, lest it should
close noisily, "that it's a good bit past the time to-night. But
Mrs. William has been taken off her legs so often" -
"By the wind? Ay! I have heard it rising."
" - By the wind, sir - that it's a mercy she got home at all. Oh
dear, yes. Yes. It was by the wind, Mr. Redlaw. By the wind."
He had, by this time, put down the tray for dinner, and was
employed in lighting the lamp, and spreading a cloth on the table.
From this employment he desisted in a hurry, to stir and feed the
fire, and then resumed it; the lamp he had lighted, and the blaze
that rose under his hand, so quickly changing the appearance of the
room, that it seemed as if the mere coming in of his fresh red face
and active manner had made the pleasant alteration.
"Mrs. William is of course subject at any time, sir, to be taken
off her balance by the elements. She is not formed superior to
"No," returned Mr. Redlaw good-naturedly, though abruptly.
"No, sir. Mrs. William may be taken off her balance by Earth; as
for example, last Sunday week, when sloppy and greasy, and she
going out to tea with her newest sister-in-law, and having a pride
in herself, and wishing to appear perfectly spotless though
pedestrian. Mrs. William may be taken off her balance by Air; as
being once over-persuaded by a friend to try a swing at Peckham
Fair, which acted on her constitution instantly like a steam-boat.
Mrs. William may be taken off her balance by Fire; as on a false
alarm of engines at her mother's, when she went two miles in her
nightcap. Mrs. William may be taken off her balance by Water; as
at Battersea, when rowed into the piers by her young nephew,
Charley Swidger junior, aged twelve, which had no idea of boats
whatever. But these are elements. Mrs. William must be taken out
of elements for the strength of HER character to come into play."
As he stopped for a reply, the reply was "Yes," in the same tone as
"Yes, sir. Oh dear, yes!" said Mr. Swidger, still proceeding with
his preparations, and checking them off as he made them. "That's
where it is, sir. That's what I always say myself, sir. Such a
many of us Swidgers! - Pepper. Why there's my father, sir,
superannuated keeper and custodian of this Institution, eighty-
seven year old. He's a Swidger! - Spoon."
"True, William," was the patient and abstracted answer, when he
"Yes, sir," said Mr. Swidger. "That's what I always say, sir. You
may call him the trunk of the tree! - Bread. Then you come to his
successor, my unworthy self - Salt - and Mrs. William, Swidgers
both. - Knife and fork. Then you come to all my brothers and their
families, Swidgers, man and woman, boy and girl. Why, what with
cousins, uncles, aunts, and relationships of this, that, and
t'other degree, and whatnot degree, and marriages, and lyings-in,
the Swidgers - Tumbler - might take hold of hands, and make a ring
Receiving no reply at all here, from the thoughtful man whom he
addressed, Mr. William approached, him nearer, and made a feint of
accidentally knocking the table with a decanter, to rouse him. The
moment he succeeded, he went on, as if in great alacrity of
"Yes, sir! That's just what I say myself, sir. Mrs. William and
me have often said so. 'There's Swidgers enough,' we say, 'without
OUR voluntary contributions,' - Butter. In fact, sir, my father is
a family in himself - Castors - to take care of; and it happens all
for the best that we have no child of our own, though it's made
Mrs. William rather quiet-like, too. Quite ready for the fowl and
mashed potatoes, sir? Mrs. William said she'd dish in ten minutes
when I left the Lodge."
"I am quite ready," said the other, waking as from a dream, and
walking slowly to and fro.
"Mrs. William has been at it again, sir!" said the keeper, as he
stood warming a plate at the fire, and pleasantly shading his face
with it. Mr. Redlaw stopped in his walking, and an expression of
interest appeared in him.
"What I always say myself, sir. She WILL do it! There's a
motherly feeling in Mrs. William's breast that must and will have
"What has she done?"
"Why, sir, not satisfied with being a sort of mother to all the
young gentlemen that come up from a variety of parts, to attend
your courses of lectures at this ancient foundation - its
surprising how stone-chaney catches the heat this frosty weather,
to be sure!" Here he turned the plate, and cooled his fingers.
"Well?" said Mr. Redlaw.
"That's just what I say myself, sir," returned Mr. William,
speaking over his shoulder, as if in ready and delighted assent.
"That's exactly where it is, sir! There ain't one of our students
but appears to regard Mrs. William in that light. Every day, right
through the course, they puts their heads into the Lodge, one after
another, and have all got something to tell her, or something to
ask her. 'Swidge' is the appellation by which they speak of Mrs.
William in general, among themselves, I'm told; but that's what I
say, sir. Better be called ever so far out of your name, if it's
done in real liking, than have it made ever so much of, and not
cared about! What's a name for? To know a person by. If Mrs.
William is known by something better than her name - I allude to
Mrs. William's qualities and disposition - never mind her name,
though it IS Swidger, by rights. Let 'em call her Swidge, Widge,
Bridge - Lord! London Bridge, Blackfriars, Chelsea, Putney,
Waterloo, or Hammersmith Suspension - if they like."
The close of this triumphant oration brought him and the plate to
the table, upon which he half laid and half dropped it, with a
lively sense of its being thoroughly heated, just as the subject of
his praises entered the room, bearing another tray and a lantern,
and followed by a venerable old man with long grey hair.
Mrs. William, like Mr. William, was a simple, innocent-looking
person, in whose smooth cheeks the cheerful red of her husband's
official waistcoat was very pleasantly repeated. But whereas Mr.
William's light hair stood on end all over his head, and seemed to
draw his eyes up with it in an excess of bustling readiness for
anything, the dark brown hair of Mrs. William was carefully
smoothed down, and waved away under a trim tidy cap, in the most
exact and quiet manner imaginable. Whereas Mr. William's very
trousers hitched themselves up at the ankles, as if it were not in
their iron-grey nature to rest without looking about them, Mrs.
William's neatly-flowered skirts - red and white, like her own
pretty face - were as composed and orderly, as if the very wind
that blew so hard out of doors could not disturb one of their
folds. Whereas his coat had something of a fly-away and half-off
appearance about the collar and breast, her little bodice was so
placid and neat, that there should have been protection for her, in
it, had she needed any, with the roughest people. Who could have
had the heart to make so calm a bosom swell with grief, or throb
with fear, or flutter with a thought of shame! To whom would its
repose and peace have not appealed against disturbance, like the
innocent slumber of a child!
"Punctual, of course, Milly," said her husband, relieving her of
the tray, "or it wouldn't be you. Here's Mrs. William, sir! - He
looks lonelier than ever to-night," whispering to his wife, as he
was taking the tray, "and ghostlier altogether."
Without any show of hurry or noise, or any show of herself even,
she was so calm and quiet, Milly set the dishes she had brought
upon the table, - Mr. William, after much clattering and running
about, having only gained possession of a butter-boat of gravy,
which he stood ready to serve.
"What is that the old man has in his arms?" asked Mr. Redlaw, as he
sat down to his solitary meal.
"Holly, sir," replied the quiet voice of Milly.
"That's what I say myself, sir," interposed Mr. William, striking
in with the butter-boat. "Berries is so seasonable to the time of
year! - Brown gravy!"
"Another Christmas come, another year gone!" murmured the Chemist,
with a gloomy sigh. "More figures in the lengthening sum of
recollection that we work and work at to our torment, till Death
idly jumbles all together, and rubs all out. So, Philip!" breaking
off, and raising his voice as he addressed the old man, standing
apart, with his glistening burden in his arms, from which the quiet
Mrs. William took small branches, which she noiselessly trimmed
with her scissors, and decorated the room with, while her aged
father-in-law looked on much interested in the ceremony.
"My duty to you, sir," returned the old man. "Should have spoke
before, sir, but know your ways, Mr. Redlaw - proud to say - and
wait till spoke to! Merry Christmas, sir, and Happy New Year, and
many of 'em. Have had a pretty many of 'em myself - ha, ha! - and
may take the liberty of wishing 'em. I'm eighty-seven!"
"Have you had so many that were merry and happy?" asked the other.
"Ay, sir, ever so many," returned the old man.
"Is his memory impaired with age? It is to be expected now," said
Mr. Redlaw, turning to the son, and speaking lower.
"Not a morsel of it, sir," replied Mr. William. "That's exactly
what I say myself, sir. There never was such a memory as my
father's. He's the most wonderful man in the world. He don't know
what forgetting means. It's the very observation I'm always making
to Mrs. William, sir, if you'll believe me!"
Mr. Swidger, in his polite desire to seem to acquiesce at all
events, delivered this as if there were no iota of contradiction in
it, and it were all said in unbounded and unqualified assent.
The Chemist pushed his plate away, and, rising from the table,
walked across the room to where the old man stood looking at a
little sprig of holly in his hand.
"It recalls the time when many of those years were old and new,
then?" he said, observing him attentively, and touching him on the
shoulder. "Does it?"
"Oh many, many!" said Philip, half awaking from his reverie. "I'm
"Merry and happy, was it?" asked the Chemist in a low voice.
"Merry and happy, old man?"
"Maybe as high as that, no higher," said the old man, holding out
his hand a little way above the level of his knee, and looking
retrospectively at his questioner, "when I first remember 'em!
Cold, sunshiny day it was, out a-walking, when some one - it was my
mother as sure as you stand there, though I don't know what her
blessed face was like, for she took ill and died that Christmas-
time - told me they were food for birds. The pretty little fellow
thought - that's me, you understand - that birds' eyes were so
bright, perhaps, because the berries that they lived on in the
winter were so bright. I recollect that. And I'm eighty-seven!"
"Merry and happy!" mused the other, bending his dark eyes upon the
stooping figure, with a smile of compassion. "Merry and happy -
and remember well?"
"Ay, ay, ay!" resumed the old man, catching the last words. "I
remember 'em well in my school time, year after year, and all the
merry-making that used to come along with them. I was a strong
chap then, Mr. Redlaw; and, if you'll believe me, hadn't my match
at football within ten mile. Where's my son William? Hadn't my
match at football, William, within ten mile!"
That's what I always say, father!" returned the son promptly, and
with great respect. "You ARE a Swidger, if ever there was one of
"Dear!" said the old man, shaking his head as he again looked at
the holly. "His mother - my son William's my youngest son - and I,
have sat among em' all, boys and girls, little children and babies,
many a year, when the berries like these were not shining half so
bright all round us, as their bright faces. Many of 'em are gone;
she's gone; and my son George (our eldest, who was her pride more
than all the rest!) is fallen very low: but I can see them, when I
look here, alive and healthy, as they used to be in those days; and
I can see him, thank God, in his innocence. It's a blessed thing
to me, at eighty-seven."
The keen look that had been fixed upon him with so much
earnestness, had gradually sought the ground.
"When my circumstances got to be not so good as formerly, through
not being honestly dealt by, and I first come here to be
custodian," said the old man, " - which was upwards of fifty years
ago - where's my son William? More than half a century ago,
"That's what I say, father," replied the son, as promptly and
dutifully as before, "that's exactly where it is. Two times
ought's an ought, and twice five ten, and there's a hundred of
"It was quite a pleasure to know that one of our founders - or more
correctly speaking," said the old man, with a great glory in his
subject and his knowledge of it, "one of the learned gentlemen that
helped endow us in Queen Elizabeth's time, for we were founded
afore her day - left in his will, among the other bequests he made
us, so much to buy holly, for garnishing the walls and windows,
come Christmas. There was something homely and friendly in it.
Being but strange here, then, and coming at Christmas time, we took
a liking for his very picter that hangs in what used to be,
anciently, afore our ten poor gentlemen commuted for an annual
stipend in money, our great Dinner Hall. - A sedate gentleman in a
peaked beard, with a ruff round his neck, and a scroll below him,
in old English letters, 'Lord! keep my memory green!' You know all
about him, Mr. Redlaw?"
"I know the portrait hangs there, Philip."
"Yes, sure, it's the second on the right, above the panelling. I
was going to say - he has helped to keep MY memory green, I thank
him; for going round the building every year, as I'm a doing now,
and freshening up the bare rooms with these branches and berries,
freshens up my bare old brain. One year brings back another, and
that year another, and those others numbers! At last, it seems to
me as if the birth-time of our Lord was the birth-time of all I
have ever had affection for, or mourned for, or delighted in, - and
they're a pretty many, for I'm eighty-seven!"
"Merry and happy," murmured Redlaw to himself.
The room began to darken strangely.
"So you see, sir," pursued old Philip, whose hale wintry cheek had
warmed into a ruddier glow, and whose blue eyes had brightened
while he spoke, "I have plenty to keep, when I keep this present
season. Now, where's my quiet Mouse? Chattering's the sin of my
time of life, and there's half the building to do yet, if the cold
don't freeze us first, or the wind don't blow us away, or the
darkness don't swallow us up."
The quiet Mouse had brought her calm face to his side, and silently
taken his arm, before he finished speaking.
"Come away, my dear," said the old man. "Mr. Redlaw won't settle
to his dinner, otherwise, till it's cold as the winter. I hope
you'll excuse me rambling on, sir, and I wish you good night, and,
once again, a merry - "
"Stay!" said Mr. Redlaw, resuming his place at the table, more, it
would have seemed from his manner, to reassure the old keeper, than
in any remembrance of his own appetite. "Spare me another moment,
Philip. William, you were going to tell me something to your
excellent wife's honour. It will not be disagreeable to her to
hear you praise her. What was it?"
"Why, that's where it is, you see, sir," returned Mr. William
Swidger, looking towards his wife in considerable embarrassment.
"Mrs. William's got her eye upon me."
"But you're not afraid of Mrs. William's eye?"
"Why, no, sir," returned Mr. Swidger, "that's what I say myself.
It wasn't made to be afraid of. It wouldn't have been made so
mild, if that was the intention. But I wouldn't like to - Milly! -
him, you know. Down in the Buildings."
Mr. William, standing behind the table, and rummaging
disconcertedly among the objects upon it, directed persuasive
glances at Mrs. William, and secret jerks of his head and thumb at
Mr. Redlaw, as alluring her towards him.
"Him, you know, my love," said Mr. William. "Down in the
Buildings. Tell, my dear! You're the works of Shakespeare in
comparison with myself. Down in the Buildings, you know, my love.
"Student?" repeated Mr. Redlaw, raising his head.
"That's what I say, sir!" cried Mr. William, in the utmost
animation of assent. "If it wasn't the poor student down in the
Buildings, why should you wish to hear it from Mrs. William's lips?
Mrs. William, my dear - Buildings."
"I didn't know," said Milly, with a quiet frankness, free from any
haste or confusion, "that William had said anything about it, or I
wouldn't have come. I asked him not to. It's a sick young
gentleman, sir - and very poor, I am afraid - who is too ill to go
home this holiday-time, and lives, unknown to any one, in but a
common kind of lodging for a gentleman, down in Jerusalem
Buildings. That's all, sir."
"Why have I never heard of him?" said the Chemist, rising
hurriedly. "Why has he not made his situation known to me? Sick!
- give me my hat and cloak. Poor! - what house? - what number?"
"Oh, you mustn't go there, sir," said Milly, leaving her father-in-
law, and calmly confronting him with her collected little face and
"Not go there?"
"Oh dear, no!" said Milly, shaking her head as at a most manifest
and self-evident impossibility. "It couldn't be thought of!"
"What do you mean? Why not?"
"Why, you see, sir," said Mr. William Swidger, persuasively and
confidentially, "that's what I say. Depend upon it, the young
gentleman would never have made his situation known to one of his
own sex. Mrs. Williams has got into his confidence, but that's
quite different. They all confide in Mrs. William; they all trust
HER. A man, sir, couldn't have got a whisper out of him; but
woman, sir, and Mrs. William combined - !"
"There is good sense and delicacy in what you say, William,"
returned Mr. Redlaw, observant of the gentle and composed face at
his shoulder. And laying his finger on his lip, he secretly put
his purse into her hand.
"Oh dear no, sir!" cried Milly, giving it back again. "Worse and
worse! Couldn't be dreamed of!"
Such a staid matter-of-fact housewife she was, and so unruffled by
the momentary haste of this rejection, that, an instant afterwards,
she was tidily picking up a few leaves which had strayed from
between her scissors and her apron, when she had arranged the
Finding, when she rose from her stooping posture, that Mr. Redlaw
was still regarding her with doubt and astonishment, she quietly
repeated - looking about, the while, for any other fragments that
might have escaped her observation:
"Oh dear no, sir! He said that of all the world he would not be
known to you, or receive help from you - though he is a student in
your class. I have made no terms of secrecy with you, but I trust
to your honour completely."
"Why did he say so?"
"Indeed I can't tell, sir," said Milly, after thinking a little,
"because I am not at all clever, you know; and I wanted to be
useful to him in making things neat and comfortable about him, and
employed myself that way. But I know he is poor, and lonely, and I
think he is somehow neglected too. - How dark it is!"
The room had darkened more and more. There was a very heavy gloom
and shadow gathering behind the Chemist's chair.
"What more about him?" he asked.
"He is engaged to be married when he can afford it," said Milly,
"and is studying, I think, to qualify himself to earn a living. I
have seen, a long time, that he has studied hard and denied himself
much. - How very dark it is!"
"It's turned colder, too," said the old man, rubbing his hands.
"There's a chill and dismal feeling in the room. Where's my son
William? William, my boy, turn the lamp, and rouse the fire!"
Milly's voice resumed, like quiet music very softly played:
"He muttered in his broken sleep yesterday afternoon, after talking
to me" (this was to herself) "about some one dead, and some great
wrong done that could never be forgotten; but whether to him or to
another person, I don't know. Not BY him, I am sure."
"And, in short, Mrs. William, you see - which she wouldn't say
herself, Mr. Redlaw, if she was to stop here till the new year
after this next one - " said Mr. William, coming up to him to speak
in his ear, "has done him worlds of good! Bless you, worlds of
good! All at home just the same as ever - my father made as snug
and comfortable - not a crumb of litter to be found in the house,
if you were to offer fifty pound ready money for it - Mrs. William
apparently never out of the way - yet Mrs. William backwards and
forwards, backwards and forwards, up and down, up and down, a
mother to him!"
The room turned darker and colder, and the gloom and shadow
gathering behind the chair was heavier.
"Not content with this, sir, Mrs. William goes and finds, this very
night, when she was coming home (why it's not above a couple of
hours ago), a creature more like a young wild beast than a young
child, shivering upon a door-step. What does Mrs. William do, but
brings it home to dry it, and feed it, and keep it till our old
Bounty of food and flannel is given away, on Christmas morning! If
it ever felt a fire before, it's as much as ever it did; for it's
sitting in the old Lodge chimney, staring at ours as if its
ravenous eyes would never shut again. It's sitting there, at
least," said Mr. William, correcting himself, on reflection,
"unless it's bolted!"
"Heaven keep her happy!" said the Chemist aloud, "and you too,
Philip! and you, William! I must consider what to do in this. I
may desire to see this student, I'll not detain you any longer now.
"I thank'ee, sir, I thank'ee!" said the old man, "for Mouse, and
for my son William, and for myself. Where's my son William?
William, you take the lantern and go on first, through them long
dark passages, as you did last year and the year afore. Ha ha! I
remember - though I'm eighty-seven! 'Lord, keep my memory green!'
It's a very good prayer, Mr. Redlaw, that of the learned gentleman
in the peaked beard, with a ruff round his neck - hangs up, second
on the right above the panelling, in what used to be, afore our ten
poor gentlemen commuted, our great Dinner Hall. 'Lord, keep my
memory green!' It's very good and pious, sir. Amen! Amen!"
As they passed out and shut the heavy door, which, however
carefully withheld, fired a long train of thundering reverberations
when it shut at last, the room turned darker.
As he fell a musing in his chair alone, the healthy holly withered
on the wall, and dropped - dead branches.
As the gloom and shadow thickened behind him, in that place where
it had been gathering so darkly, it took, by slow degrees, - or out
of it there came, by some unreal, unsubstantial process - not to be
traced by any human sense, - an awful likeness of himself!
Ghastly and cold, colourless in its leaden face and hands, but with
his features, and his bright eyes, and his grizzled hair, and
dressed in the gloomy shadow of his dress, it came into his
terrible appearance of existence, motionless, without a sound. As
HE leaned his arm upon the elbow of his chair, ruminating before
the fire, IT leaned upon the chair-back, close above him, with its
appalling copy of his face looking where his face looked, and
bearing the expression his face bore.
This, then, was the Something that had passed and gone already.
This was the dread companion of the haunted man!
It took, for some moments, no more apparent heed of him, than he of
it. The Christmas Waits were playing somewhere in the distance,
and, through his thoughtfulness, he seemed to listen to the music.
It seemed to listen too.
At length he spoke; without moving or lifting up his face.
"Here again!" he said.
"Here again," replied the Phantom.
"I see you in the fire," said the haunted man; "I hear you in
music, in the wind, in the dead stillness of the night."
The Phantom moved its head, assenting.
"Why do you come, to haunt me thus?"
"I come as I am called," replied the Ghost.
"No. Unbidden," exclaimed the Chemist.
"Unbidden be it," said the Spectre. "It is enough. I am here."
Hitherto the light of the fire had shone on the two faces - if the
dread lineaments behind the chair might be called a face - both
addressed towards it, as at first, and neither looking at the
other. But, now, the haunted man turned, suddenly, and stared upon
the Ghost. The Ghost, as sudden in its motion, passed to before
the chair, and stared on him.
The living man, and the animated image of himself dead, might so
have looked, the one upon the other. An awful survey, in a lonely
and remote part of an empty old pile of building, on a winter
night, with the loud wind going by upon its journey of mystery -
whence or whither, no man knowing since the world began - and the
stars, in unimaginable millions, glittering through it, from
eternal space, where the world's bulk is as a grain, and its hoary
age is infancy.
"Look upon me!" said the Spectre. "I am he, neglected in my youth,
and miserably poor, who strove and suffered, and still strove and
suffered, until I hewed out knowledge from the mine where it was
buried, and made rugged steps thereof, for my worn feet to rest and
"I AM that man," returned the Chemist.
"No mother's self-denying love," pursued the Phantom, "no father's
counsel, aided ME. A stranger came into my father's place when I
was but a child, and I was easily an alien from my mother's heart.
My parents, at the best, were of that sort whose care soon ends,
and whose duty is soon done; who cast their offspring loose, early,
as birds do theirs; and, if they do well, claim the merit; and, if
ill, the pity."
It paused, and seemed to tempt and goad him with its look, and with
the manner of its speech, and with its smile.
"I am he," pursued the Phantom, "who, in this struggle upward,
found a friend. I made him - won him - bound him to me! We worked
together, side by side. All the love and confidence that in my
earlier youth had had no outlet, and found no expression, I
bestowed on him."
"Not all," said Redlaw, hoarsely.
"No, not all," returned the Phantom. "I had a sister."
The haunted man, with his head resting on his hands, replied "I
had!" The Phantom, with an evil smile, drew closer to the chair,
and resting its chin upon its folded hands, its folded hands upon
the back, and looking down into his face with searching eyes, that
seemed instinct with fire, went on:
"Such glimpses of the light of home as I had ever known, had
streamed from her. How young she was, how fair, how loving! I
took her to the first poor roof that I was master of, and made it
rich. She came into the darkness of my life, and made it bright. -
She is before me!"
"I saw her, in the fire, but now. I hear her in music, in the
wind, in the dead stillness of the night," returned the haunted
"DID he love her?" said the Phantom, echoing his contemplative
tone. "I think he did, once. I am sure he did. Better had she
loved him less - less secretly, less dearly, from the shallower
depths of a more divided heart!"
"Let me forget it!" said the Chemist, with an angry motion of his
hand. "Let me blot it from my memory!"
The Spectre, without stirring, and with its unwinking, cruel eyes
still fixed upon his face, went on:
"A dream, like hers, stole upon my own life."
"It did," said Redlaw.
" A love, as like hers," pursued the Phantom, "as my inferior
nature might cherish, arose in my own heart. I was too poor to
bind its object to my fortune then, by any thread of promise or
entreaty. I loved her far too well, to seek to do it. But, more
than ever I had striven in my life, I strove to climb! Only an
inch gained, brought me something nearer to the height. I toiled
up! In the late pauses of my labour at that time, - my sister
(sweet companion!) still sharing with me the expiring embers and
the cooling hearth, - when day was breaking, what pictures of the
future did I see!"
"I saw them, in the fire, but now," he murmured. "They come back
to me in music, in the wind, in the dead stillness of the night, in
the revolving years."
" - Pictures of my own domestic life, in aftertime, with her who
was the inspiration of my toil. Pictures of my sister, made the
wife of my dear friend, on equal terms - for he had some
inheritance, we none - pictures of our sobered age and mellowed
happiness, and of the golden links, extending back so far, that
should bind us, and our children, in a radiant garland," said the
"Pictures," said the haunted man, "that were delusions. Why is it
my doom to remember them too well!"
"Delusions," echoed the Phantom in its changeless voice, and
glaring on him with its changeless eyes. "For my friend (in whose
breast my confidence was locked as in my own), passing between me
and the centre of the system of my hopes and struggles, won her to
himself, and shattered my frail universe. My sister, doubly dear,
doubly devoted, doubly cheerful in my home, lived on to see me
famous, and my old ambition so rewarded when its spring was broken,
and then - "
"Then died," he interposed. "Died, gentle as ever; happy; and with
no concern but for her brother. Peace!"
The Phantom watched him silently.
"Remembered!" said the haunted man, after a pause. "Yes. So well
remembered, that even now, when years have passed, and nothing is
more idle or more visionary to me than the boyish love so long
outlived, I think of it with sympathy, as if it were a younger
brother's or a son's. Sometimes I even wonder when her heart first
inclined to him, and how it had been affected towards me. - Not
lightly, once, I think. - But that is nothing. Early unhappiness,
a wound from a hand I loved and trusted, and a loss that nothing
can replace, outlive such fancies."
"Thus," said the Phantom, "I bear within me a Sorrow and a Wrong.
Thus I prey upon myself. Thus, memory is my curse; and, if I could
forget my sorrow and my wrong, I would!"
"Mocker!" said the Chemist, leaping up, and making, with a wrathful
hand, at the throat of his other self. "Why have I always that
taunt in my ears?"
"Forbear!" exclaimed the Spectre in an awful voice. "Lay a hand on
Me, and die!"
He stopped midway, as if its words had paralysed him, and stood
looking on it. It had glided from him; it had its arm raised high
in warning; and a smile passed over its unearthly features, as it
reared its dark figure in triumph.
"If I could forget my sorrow and wrong, I would," the Ghost
repeated. "If I could forget my sorrow and my wrong, I would!"
"Evil spirit of myself," returned the haunted man, in a low,
trembling tone, "my life is darkened by that incessant whisper."
"It is an echo," said the Phantom.
"If it be an echo of my thoughts - as now, indeed, I know it is,"
rejoined the haunted man, "why should I, therefore, be tormented?
It is not a selfish thought. I suffer it to range beyond myself.
All men and women have their sorrows, - most of them their wrongs;
ingratitude, and sordid jealousy, and interest, besetting all
degrees of life. Who would not forget their sorrows and their
"Who would not, truly, and be happier and better for it?" said the
"These revolutions of years, which we commemorate," proceeded
Redlaw, "what do THEY recall! Are there any minds in which they do
not re-awaken some sorrow, or some trouble? What is the
remembrance of the old man who was here to-night? A tissue of
sorrow and trouble."
"But common natures," said the Phantom, with its evil smile upon
its glassy face, "unenlightened minds and ordinary spirits, do not
feel or reason on these things like men of higher cultivation and
"Tempter," answered Redlaw, "whose hollow look and voice I dread
more than words can express, and from whom some dim foreshadowing
of greater fear is stealing over me while I speak, I hear again an
echo of my own mind."
"Receive it as a proof that I am powerful," returned the Ghost.
"Hear what I offer! Forget the sorrow, wrong, and trouble you have
"Forget them!" he repeated.
"I have the power to cancel their remembrance - to leave but very
faint, confused traces of them, that will die out soon," returned
the Spectre. "Say! Is it done?"
"Stay!" cried the haunted man, arresting by a terrified gesture the
uplifted hand. "I tremble with distrust and doubt of you; and the
dim fear you cast upon me deepens into a nameless horror I can
hardly bear. - I would not deprive myself of any kindly
recollection, or any sympathy that is good for me, or others. What
shall I lose, if I assent to this? What else will pass from my
"No knowledge; no result of study; nothing but the intertwisted
chain of feelings and associations, each in its turn dependent on,
and nourished by, the banished recollections. Those will go."
"Are they so many?" said the haunted man, reflecting in alarm.
"They have been wont to show themselves in the fire, in music, in
the wind, in the dead stillness of the night, in the revolving
years," returned the Phantom scornfully.
"In nothing else?"
The Phantom held its peace.
But having stood before him, silent, for a little while, it moved
towards the fire; then stopped.
"Decide!" it said, "before the opportunity is lost!"
"A moment! I call Heaven to witness," said the agitated man, "that
I have never been a hater of any kind, - never morose, indifferent,
or hard, to anything around me. If, living here alone, I have made
too much of all that was and might have been, and too little of
what is, the evil, I believe, has fallen on me, and not on others.
But, if there were poison in my body, should I not, possessed of
antidotes and knowledge how to use them, use them? If there be
poison in my mind, and through this fearful shadow I can cast it
out, shall I not cast it out?"
"Say," said the Spectre, "is it done?"
"A moment longer!" he answered hurriedly. "I WOULD FORGET IT IF I
COULD! Have I thought that, alone, or has it been the thought of
thousands upon thousands, generation after generation? All human
memory is fraught with sorrow and trouble. My memory is as the
memory of other men, but other men have not this choice. Yes, I
close the bargain. Yes! I WILL forget my sorrow, wrong, and
"Say," said the Spectre, "is it done?"
"IT IS. And take this with you, man whom I here renounce! The
gift that I have given, you shall give again, go where you will.
Without recovering yourself the power that you have yielded up, you
shall henceforth destroy its like in all whom you approach. Your
wisdom has discovered that the memory of sorrow, wrong, and trouble
is the lot of all mankind, and that mankind would be the happier,
in its other memories, without it. Go! Be its benefactor! Freed
from such remembrance, from this hour, carry involuntarily the
blessing of such freedom with you. Its diffusion is inseparable
and inalienable from you. Go! Be happy in the good you have won,
and in the good you do!"
The Phantom, which had held its bloodless hand above him while it
spoke, as if in some unholy invocation, or some ban; and which had
gradually advanced its eyes so close to his, that he could see how
they did not participate in the terrible smile upon its face, but
were a fixed, unalterable, steady horror melted before him and was
As he stood rooted to the spot, possessed by fear and wonder, and
imagining he heard repeated in melancholy echoes, dying away
fainter and fainter, the words, "Destroy its like in all whom you
approach!" a shrill cry reached his ears. It came, not from the
passages beyond the door, but from another part of the old
building, and sounded like the cry of some one in the dark who had
lost the way.
He looked confusedly upon his hands and limbs, as if to be assured
of his identity, and then shouted in reply, loudly and wildly; for
there was a strangeness and terror upon him, as if he too were
The cry responding, and being nearer, he caught up the lamp, and
raised a heavy curtain in the wall, by which he was accustomed to
pass into and out of the theatre where he lectured, - which
adjoined his room. Associated with youth and animation, and a high
amphitheatre of faces which his entrance charmed to interest in a
moment, it was a ghostly place when all this life was faded out of
it, and stared upon him like an emblem of Death.
"Halloa!" he cried. "Halloa! This way! Come to the light!"
When, as he held the curtain with one hand, and with the other
raised the lamp and tried to pierce the gloom that filled the
place, something rushed past him into the room like a wild-cat, and
crouched down in a corner.
"What is it?" he said, hastily.
He might have asked "What is it?" even had he seen it well, as
presently he did when he stood looking at it gathered up in its
A bundle of tatters, held together by a hand, in size and form
almost an infant's, but in its greedy, desperate little clutch, a
bad old man's. A face rounded and smoothed by some half-dozen
years, but pinched and twisted by the experiences of a life.
Bright eyes, but not youthful. Naked feet, beautiful in their
childish delicacy, - ugly in the blood and dirt that cracked upon
them. A baby savage, a young monster, a child who had never been a
child, a creature who might live to take the outward form of man,
but who, within, would live and perish a mere beast.
Used, already, to be worried and hunted like a beast, the boy
crouched down as he was looked at, and looked back again, and
interposed his arm to ward off the expected blow.
"I'll bite," he said, "if you hit me!"
The time had been, and not many minutes since, when such a sight as
this would have wrung the Chemist's heart. He looked upon it now,
coldly; but with a heavy effort to remember something - he did not
know what - he asked the boy what he did there, and whence he came.
"Where's the woman?" he replied. "I want to find the woman."
"The woman. Her that brought me here, and set me by the large
fire. She was so long gone, that I went to look for her, and lost
myself. I don't want you. I want the woman."
He made a spring, so suddenly, to get away, that the dull sound of
his naked feet upon the floor was near the curtain, when Redlaw
caught him by his rags.
"Come! you let me go!" muttered the boy, struggling, and clenching
his teeth. "I've done nothing to you. Let me go, will you, to the
"That is not the way. There is a nearer one," said Redlaw,
detaining him, in the same blank effort to remember some
association that ought, of right, to bear upon this monstrous
object. "What is your name?"
"Where do you live?
"Live! What's that?"
The boy shook his hair from his eyes to look at him for a moment,
and then, twisting round his legs and wrestling with him, broke
again into his repetition of "You let me go, will you? I want to
find the woman."
The Chemist led him to the door. "This way," he said, looking at
him still confusedly, but with repugnance and avoidance, growing
out of his coldness. "I'll take you to her."
The sharp eyes in the child's head, wandering round the room,
lighted on the table where the remnants of the dinner were.
"Give me some of that!" he said, covetously.
"Has she not fed you?"
"I shall be hungry again to-morrow, sha'n't I? Ain't I hungry
Finding himself released, he bounded at the table like some small
animal of prey, and hugging to his breast bread and meat, and his
own rags, all together, said:
"There! Now take me to the woman!"
As the Chemist, with a new-born dislike to touch him, sternly
motioned him to follow, and was going out of the door, he trembled
"The gift that I have given, you shall give again, go where you
The Phantom's words were blowing in the wind, and the wind blew
chill upon him.
"I'll not go there, to-night," he murmured faintly. "I'll go
nowhere to-night. Boy! straight down this long-arched passage, and
past the great dark door into the yard, - you see the fire shining
on the window there."
"The woman's fire?" inquired the boy.
He nodded, and the naked feet had sprung away. He came back with
his lamp, locked his door hastily, and sat down in his chair,
covering his face like one who was frightened at himself.
For now he was, indeed, alone. Alone, alone.
CHAPTER II - The Gift Diffused
A SMALL man sat in a small parlour, partitioned off from a small
shop by a small screen, pasted all over with small scraps of
newspapers. In company with the small man, was almost any amount
of small children you may please to name - at least it seemed so;
they made, in that very limited sphere of action, such an imposing
effect, in point of numbers.
Of these small fry, two had, by some strong machinery, been got
into bed in a corner, where they might have reposed snugly enough
in the sleep of innocence, but for a constitutional propensity to
keep awake, and also to scuffle in and out of bed. The immediate
occasion of these predatory dashes at the waking world, was the
construction of an oyster-shell wall in a corner, by two other
youths of tender age; on which fortification the two in bed made
harassing descents (like those accursed Picts and Scots who
beleaguer the early historical studies of most young Britons), and
then withdrew to their own territory.
In addition to the stir attendant on these inroads, and the retorts
of the invaded, who pursued hotly, and made lunges at the bed-
clothes under which the marauders took refuge, another little boy,
in another little bed, contributed his mite of confusion to the
family stock, by casting his boots upon the waters; in other words,
by launching these and several small objects, inoffensive in
themselves, though of a hard substance considered as missiles, at
the disturbers of his repose, - who were not slow to return these
Besides which, another little boy - the biggest there, but still
little - was tottering to and fro, bent on one side, and
considerably affected in his knees by the weight of a large baby,
which he was supposed by a fiction that obtains sometimes in
sanguine families, to be hushing to sleep. But oh! the
inexhaustible regions of contemplation and watchfulness into which
this baby's eyes were then only beginning to compose themselves to
stare, over his unconscious shoulder!
It was a very Moloch of a baby, on whose insatiate altar the whole
existence of this particular young brother was offered up a daily
sacrifice. Its personality may be said to have consisted in its
never being quiet, in any one place, for five consecutive minutes,
and never going to sleep when required. "Tetterby's baby" was as
well known in the neighbourhood as the postman or the pot-boy. It
roved from door-step to door-step, in the arms of little Johnny
Tetterby, and lagged heavily at the rear of troops of juveniles who
followed the Tumblers or the Monkey, and came up, all on one side,
a little too late for everything that was attractive, from Monday
morning until Saturday night. Wherever childhood congregated to
play, there was little Moloch making Johnny fag and toil. Wherever
Johnny desired to stay, little Moloch became fractious, and would
not remain. Whenever Johnny wanted to go out, Moloch was asleep,
and must be watched. Whenever Johnny wanted to stay at home,
Moloch was awake, and must be taken out. Yet Johnny was verily
persuaded that it was a faultless baby, without its peer in the
realm of England, and was quite content to catch meek glimpses of
things in general from behind its skirts, or over its limp flapping
bonnet, and to go staggering about with it like a very little
porter with a very large parcel, which was not directed to anybody,
and could never be delivered anywhere.
The small man who sat in the small parlour, making fruitless
attempts to read his newspaper peaceably in the midst of this
disturbance, was the father of the family, and the chief of the
firm described in the inscription over the little shop front, by
the name and title of A. TETTERBY AND CO., NEWSMEN. Indeed,
strictly speaking, he was the only personage answering to that
designation, as Co. was a mere poetical abstraction, altogether
baseless and impersonal.
Tetterby's was the corner shop in Jerusalem Buildings. There was a
good show of literature in the window, chiefly consisting of
picture-newspapers out of date, and serial pirates, and footpads.
Walking-sticks, likewise, and marbles, were included in the stock
in trade. It had once extended into the light confectionery line;
but it would seem that those elegancies of life were not in demand
about Jerusalem Buildings, for nothing connected with that branch
of commerce remained in the window, except a sort of small glass
lantern containing a languishing mass of bull's-eyes, which had
melted in the summer and congealed in the winter until all hope of
ever getting them out, or of eating them without eating the lantern
too, was gone for ever. Tetterby's had tried its hand at several
things. It had once made a feeble little dart at the toy business;
for, in another lantern, there was a heap of minute wax dolls, all
sticking together upside down, in the direst confusion, with their
feet on one another's heads, and a precipitate of broken arms and
legs at the bottom. It had made a move in the millinery direction,
which a few dry, wiry bonnet-shapes remained in a corner of the
window to attest. It had fancied that a living might lie hidden in
the tobacco trade, and had stuck up a representation of a native of
each of the three integral portions of the British Empire, in the
act of consuming that fragrant weed; with a poetic legend attached,
importing that united in one cause they sat and joked, one chewed
tobacco, one took snuff, one smoked: but nothing seemed to have
come of it - except flies. Time had been when it had put a forlorn
trust in imitative jewellery, for in one pane of glass there was a
card of cheap seals, and another of pencil-cases, and a mysterious
black amulet of inscrutable intention, labelled ninepence. But, to
that hour, Jerusalem Buildings had bought none of them. In short,
Tetterby's had tried so hard to get a livelihood out of Jerusalem
Buildings in one way or other, and appeared to have done so
indifferently in all, that the best position in the firm was too
evidently Co.'s; Co., as a bodiless creation, being untroubled with
the vulgar inconveniences of hunger and thirst, being chargeable
neither to the poor's-rates nor the assessed taxes, and having no
young family to provide for.
Tetterby himself, however, in his little parlour, as already
mentioned, having the presence of a young family impressed upon his
mind in a manner too clamorous to be disregarded, or to comport
with the quiet perusal of a newspaper, laid down his paper,
wheeled, in his distraction, a few times round the parlour, like an
undecided carrier-pigeon, made an ineffectual rush at one or two
flying little figures in bed-gowns that skimmed past him, and then,
bearing suddenly down upon the only unoffending member of the
family, boxed the ears of little Moloch's nurse.
"You bad boy!" said Mr. Tetterby, "haven't you any feeling for your
poor father after the fatigues and anxieties of a hard winter's
day, since five o'clock in the morning, but must you wither his
rest, and corrode his latest intelligence, with YOUR wicious
tricks? Isn't it enough, sir, that your brother 'Dolphus is
toiling and moiling in the fog and cold, and you rolling in the lap
of luxury with a - with a baby, and everything you can wish for,"
said Mr. Tetterby, heaping this up as a great climax of blessings,
"but must you make a wilderness of home, and maniacs of your
parents? Must you, Johnny? Hey?" At each interrogation, Mr.
Tetterby made a feint of boxing his ears again, but thought better
of it, and held his hand.
"Oh, father!" whimpered Johnny, "when I wasn't doing anything, I'm
sure, but taking such care of Sally, and getting her to sleep. Oh,
"I wish my little woman would come home!" said Mr. Tetterby,
relenting and repenting, "I only wish my little woman would come
home! I ain't fit to deal with 'em. They make my head go round,
and get the better of me. Oh, Johnny! Isn't it enough that your
dear mother has provided you with that sweet sister?" indicating
Moloch; "isn't it enough that you were seven boys before without a
ray of gal, and that your dear mother went through what she DID go
through, on purpose that you might all of you have a little sister,
but must you so behave yourself as to make my head swim?"
Softening more and more, as his own tender feelings and those of
his injured son were worked on, Mr. Tetterby concluded by embracing
him, and immediately breaking away to catch one of the real
delinquents. A reasonably good start occurring, he succeeded,
after a short but smart run, and some rather severe cross-country
work under and over the bedsteads, and in and out among the
intricacies of the chairs, in capturing this infant, whom he
condignly punished, and bore to bed. This example had a powerful,
and apparently, mesmeric influence on him of the boots, who
instantly fell into a deep sleep, though he had been, but a moment
before, broad awake, and in the highest possible feather. Nor was
it lost upon the two young architects, who retired to bed, in an
adjoining closet, with great privacy and speed. The comrade of the
Intercepted One also shrinking into his nest with similar
discretion, Mr. Tetterby, when he paused for breath, found himself
unexpectedly in a scene of peace.
"My little woman herself," said Mr. Tetterby, wiping his flushed
face, "could hardly have done it better! I only wish my little
woman had had it to do, I do indeed!"
Mr. Tetterby sought upon his screen for a passage appropriate to be
impressed upon his children's minds on the occasion, and read the
"'It is an undoubted fact that all remarkable men have had
remarkable mothers, and have respected them in after life as their
best friends.' Think of your own remarkable mother, my boys," said
Mr. Tetterby, "and know her value while she is still among you!"
He sat down again in his chair by the fire, and composed himself,
cross-legged, over his newspaper.
"Let anybody, I don't care who it is, get out of bed again," said
Tetterby, as a general proclamation, delivered in a very soft-
hearted manner, "and astonishment will be the portion of that
respected contemporary!" - which expression Mr. Tetterby selected
from his screen. "Johnny, my child, take care of your only sister,
Sally; for she's the brightest gem that ever sparkled on your early
Johnny sat down on a little stool, and devotedly crushed himself
beneath the weight of Moloch.
"Ah, what a gift that baby is to you, Johnny!" said his father,
"and how thankful you ought to be! 'It is not generally known,
Johnny,'" he was now referring to the screen again, "'but it is a
fact ascertained, by accurate calculations, that the following
immense percentage of babies never attain to two years old; that is
to say - '"
"Oh, don't, father, please!" cried Johnny. "I can't bear it, when
I think of Sally."
Mr. Tetterby desisting, Johnny, with a profound sense of his trust,
wiped his eyes, and hushed his sister.
"Your brother 'Dolphus," said his father, poking the fire, "is late
to-night, Johnny, and will come home like a lump of ice. What's
got your precious mother?"
"Here's mother, and 'Dolphus too, father!" exclaimed Johnny, "I
"You're right!" returned his father, listening. "Yes, that's the
footstep of my little woman."
The process of induction, by which Mr Tetterby had come to the
conclusion that his wife was a little woman, was his own secret.
She would have made two editions of himself, very easily.
Considered as an individual, she was rather remarkable for being
robust and portly; but considered with reference to her husband,
her dimensions became magnificent. Nor did they assume a less
imposing proportion, when studied with reference to the size of her
seven sons, who were but diminutive. In the case of Sally,
however, Mrs. Tetterby had asserted herself, at last; as nobody
knew better than the victim Johnny, who weighed and measured that
exacting idol every hour in the day.
Mrs. Tetterby, who had been marketing, and carried a basket, threw
back her bonnet and shawl, and sitting down, fatigued, commanded
Johnny to bring his sweet charge to her straightway, for a kiss.
Johnny having complied, and gone back to his stool, and again
crushed himself, Master Adolphus Tetterby, who had by this time
unwound his torso out of a prismatic comforter, apparently
interminable, requested the same favour. Johnny having again
complied, and again gone back to his stool, and again crushed
himself, Mr. Tetterby, struck by a sudden thought, preferred the
same claim on his own parental part. The satisfaction of this
third desire completely exhausted the sacrifice, who had hardly
breath enough left to get back to his stool, crush himself again,
and pant at his relations.
"Whatever you do, Johnny," said Mrs. Tetterby, shaking her head,
"take care of her, or never look your mother in the face again."
"Nor your brother," said Adolphus.
"Nor your father, Johnny," added Mr. Tetterby.
Johnny, much affected by this conditional renunciation of him,
looked down at Moloch's eyes to see that they were all right, so
far, and skilfully patted her back (which was uppermost), and
rocked her with his foot.
"Are you wet, 'Dolphus, my boy?" said his father. "Come and take
my chair, and dry yourself."
"No, father, thank'ee," said Adolphus, smoothing himself down with
his hands. "I an't very wet, I don't think. Does my face shine
"Well, it DOES look waxy, my boy," returned Mr. Tetterby.
"It's the weather, father," said Adolphus, polishing his cheeks on
the worn sleeve of his jacket. "What with rain, and sleet, and
wind, and snow, and fog, my face gets quite brought out into a rash
sometimes. And shines, it does - oh, don't it, though!"
Master Adolphus was also in the newspaper line of life, being
employed, by a more thriving firm than his father and Co., to vend
newspapers at a railway station, where his chubby little person,
like a shabbily-disguised Cupid, and his shrill little voice (he
was not much more than ten years old), were as well known as the
hoarse panting of the locomotives, running in and out. His
juvenility might have been at some loss for a harmless outlet, in
this early application to traffic, but for a fortunate discovery he
made of a means of entertaining himself, and of dividing the long
day into stages of interest, without neglecting business. This
ingenious invention, remarkable, like many great discoveries, for
its simplicity, consisted in varying the first vowel in the word
"paper," and substituting, in its stead, at different periods of
the day, all the other vowels in grammatical succession. Thus,
before daylight in the winter-time, he went to and fro, in his
little oilskin cap and cape, and his big comforter, piercing the
heavy air with his cry of "Morn-ing Pa-per!" which, about an hour
before noon, changed to "Morn-ing Pepper!" which, at about two,
changed to "Morn-ing Pip-per!" which in a couple of hours changed
to "Morn-ing Pop-per!" and so declined with the sun into "Eve-ning
Pup-per!" to the great relief and comfort of this young gentleman's
Mrs. Tetterby, his lady-mother, who had been sitting with her
bonnet and shawl thrown back, as aforesaid, thoughtfully turning
her wedding-ring round and round upon her finger, now rose, and
divesting herself of her out-of-door attire, began to lay the cloth
"Ah, dear me, dear me, dear me!" said Mrs. Tetterby. "That's the
way the world goes!"
"Which is the way the world goes, my dear?" asked Mr. Tetterby,
"Oh, nothing," said Mrs. Tetterby.
Mr. Tetterby elevated his eyebrows, folded his newspaper afresh,
and carried his eyes up it, and down it, and across it, but was
wandering in his attention, and not reading it.
Mrs. Tetterby, at the same time, laid the cloth, but rather as if
she were punishing the table than preparing the family supper;
hitting it unnecessarily hard with the knives and forks, slapping
it with the plates, dinting it with the salt-cellar, and coming
heavily down upon it with the loaf.
"Ah, dear me, dear me, dear me!" said Mrs. Tetterby. "That's the
way the world goes!"
"My duck," returned her husband, looking round again, "you said
that before. Which is the way the world goes?"
"Oh, nothing!" said Mrs. Tetterby.
"Sophia!" remonstrated her husband, "you said THAT before, too."
"Well, I'll say it again if you like," returned Mrs. Tetterby. "Oh
nothing - there! And again if you like, oh nothing - there! And
again if you like, oh nothing - now then!"
Mr. Tetterby brought his eye to bear upon the partner of his bosom,
and said, in mild astonishment:
"My little woman, what has put you out?"
"I'm sure I don't know," she retorted. "Don't ask me. Who said I
was put out at all? I never did."
Mr. Tetterby gave up the perusal of his newspaper as a bad job,
and, taking a slow walk across the room, with his hands behind him,
and his shoulders raised - his gait according perfectly with the
resignation of his manner - addressed himself to his two eldest
"Your supper will be ready in a minute, 'Dolphus," said Mr.
Tetterby. "Your mother has been out in the wet, to the cook's
shop, to buy it. It was very good of your mother so to do. YOU
shall get some supper too, very soon, Johnny. Your mother's
pleased with you, my man, for being so attentive to your precious
Mrs. Tetterby, without any remark, but with a decided subsidence of
her animosity towards the table, finished her preparations, and
took, from her ample basket, a substantial slab of hot pease
pudding wrapped in paper, and a basin covered with a saucer, which,
on being uncovered, sent forth an odour so agreeable, that the
three pair of eyes in the two beds opened wide and fixed themselves
upon the banquet. Mr. Tetterby, without regarding this tacit
invitation to be seated, stood repeating slowly, "Yes, yes, your
supper will be ready in a minute, 'Dolphus - your mother went out
in the wet, to the cook's shop, to buy it. It was very good of
your mother so to do" - until Mrs. Tetterby, who had been
exhibiting sundry tokens of contrition behind him, caught him round
the neck, and wept.
"Oh, Dolphus!" said Mrs. Tetterby, "how could I go and behave so?"
This reconciliation affected Adolphus the younger and Johnny to
that degree, that they both, as with one accord, raised a dismal
cry, which had the effect of immediately shutting up the round eyes
in the beds, and utterly routing the two remaining little
Tetterbys, just then stealing in from the adjoining closet to see
what was going on in the eating way.
"I am sure, 'Dolphus," sobbed Mrs. Tetterby, "coming home, I had no
more idea than a child unborn - "
Mr. Tetterby seemed to dislike this figure of speech, and observed,
"Say than the baby, my dear."
" - Had no more idea than the baby," said Mrs. Tetterby. - "Johnny,
don't look at me, but look at her, or she'll fall out of your lap
and be killed, and then you'll die in agonies of a broken heart,
and serve you right. - No more idea I hadn't than that darling, of
being cross when I came home; but somehow, 'Dolphus - " Mrs.
Tetterby paused, and again turned her wedding-ring round and round
upon her finger.
"I see!" said Mr. Tetterby. "I understand! My little woman was
put out. Hard times, and hard weather, and hard work, make it
trying now and then. I see, bless your soul! No wonder! Dolf, my
man," continued Mr. Tetterby, exploring the basin with a fork,
"here's your mother been and bought, at the cook's shop, besides
pease pudding, a whole knuckle of a lovely roast leg of pork, with
lots of crackling left upon it, and with seasoning gravy and
mustard quite unlimited. Hand in your plate, my boy, and begin
while it's simmering."
Master Adolphus, needing no second summons, received his portion
with eyes rendered moist by appetite, and withdrawing to his
particular stool, fell upon his supper tooth and nail. Johnny was
not forgotten, but received his rations on bread, lest he should,
in a flush of gravy, trickle any on the baby. He was required, for
similar reasons, to keep his pudding, when not on active service,
in his pocket.
There might have been more pork on the knucklebone, - which
knucklebone the carver at the cook's shop had assuredly not
forgotten in carving for previous customers - but there was no
stint of seasoning, and that is an accessory dreamily suggesting
pork, and pleasantly cheating the sense of taste. The pease
pudding, too, the gravy and mustard, like the Eastern rose in
respect of the nightingale, if they were not absolutely pork, had
lived near it; so, upon the whole, there was the flavour of a
middle-sized pig. It was irresistible to the Tetterbys in bed,
who, though professing to slumber peacefully, crawled out when
unseen by their parents, and silently appealed to their brothers
for any gastronomic token of fraternal affection. They, not hard
of heart, presenting scraps in return, it resulted that a party of
light skirmishers in nightgowns were careering about the parlour
all through supper, which harassed Mr. Tetterby exceedingly, and
once or twice imposed upon him the necessity of a charge, before
which these guerilla troops retired in all directions and in great
Mrs. Tetterby did not enjoy her supper. There seemed to be
something on Mrs. Tetterby's mind. At one time she laughed without
reason, and at another time she cried without reason, and at last
she laughed and cried together in a manner so very unreasonable
that her husband was confounded.
"My little woman," said Mr. Tetterby, "if the world goes that way,
it appears to go the wrong way, and to choke you."
"Give me a drop of water," said Mrs. Tetterby, struggling with
herself, "and don't speak to me for the present, or take any notice
of me. Don't do it!"
Mr. Tetterby having administered the water, turned suddenly on the
unlucky Johnny (who was full of sympathy), and demanded why he was
wallowing there, in gluttony and idleness, instead of coming
forward with the baby, that the sight of her might revive his
mother. Johnny immediately approached, borne down by its weight;
but Mrs. Tetterby holding out her hand to signify that she was not
in a condition to bear that trying appeal to her feelings, he was
interdicted from advancing another inch, on pain of perpetual
hatred from all his dearest connections; and accordingly retired to
his stool again, and crushed himself as before.
After a pause, Mrs. Tetterby said she was better now, and began to
"My little woman," said her husband, dubiously, "are you quite sure
you're better? Or are you, Sophia, about to break out in a fresh
"No, 'Dolphus, no," replied his wife. "I'm quite myself." With
that, settling her hair, and pressing the palms of her hands upon
her eyes, she laughed again.
"What a wicked fool I was, to think so for a moment!" said Mrs.
Tetterby. "Come nearer, 'Dolphus, and let me ease my mind, and
tell you what I mean. Let me tell you all about it."
Mr. Tetterby bringing his chair closer, Mrs. Tetterby laughed
again, gave him a hug, and wiped her eyes.
"You know, Dolphus, my dear," said Mrs. Tetterby, "that when I was
single, I might have given myself away in several directions. At
one time, four after me at once; two of them were sons of Mars."
"We're all sons of Ma's, my dear," said Mr. Tetterby, "jointly with
"I don't mean that," replied his wife, "I mean soldiers -
"Oh!" said Mr. Tetterby.
"Well, 'Dolphus, I'm sure I never think of such things now, to
regret them; and I'm sure I've got as good a husband, and would do
as much to prove that I was fond of him, as - "
"As any little woman in the world," said Mr. Tetterby. "Very good.
If Mr. Tetterby had been ten feet high, he could not have expressed
a gentler consideration for Mrs. Tetterby's fairy-like stature; and
if Mrs. Tetterby had been two feet high, she could not have felt it
more appropriately her due.
"But you see, 'Dolphus," said Mrs. Tetterby, "this being Christmas-
time, when all people who can, make holiday, and when all people
who have got money, like to spend some, I did, somehow, get a
little out of sorts when I was in the streets just now. There were
so many things to be sold - such delicious things to eat, such fine
things to look at, such delightful things to have - and there was
so much calculating and calculating necessary, before I durst lay
out a sixpence for the commonest thing; and the basket was so
large, and wanted so much in it; and my stock of money was so
small, and would go such a little way; - you hate me, don't you,
"Not quite," said Mr. Tetterby, "as yet."
"Well! I'll tell you the whole truth," pursued his wife,
penitently, "and then perhaps you will. I felt all this, so much,
when I was trudging about in the cold, and when I saw a lot of
other calculating faces and large baskets trudging about, too, that
I began to think whether I mightn't have done better, and been
happier, if - I - hadn't - " the wedding-ring went round again, and
Mrs. Tetterby shook her downcast head as she turned it.
"I see," said her husband quietly; "if you hadn't married at all,
or if you had married somebody else?"
"Yes," sobbed Mrs. Tetterby. "That's really what I thought. Do
you hate me now, 'Dolphus?"
"Why no," said Mr. Tetterby. "I don't find that I do, as yet."
Mrs. Tetterby gave him a thankful kiss, and went on.
"I begin to hope you won't, now, 'Dolphus, though I'm afraid I
haven't told you the worst. I can't think what came over me. I
don't know whether I was ill, or mad, or what I was, but I couldn't
call up anything that seemed to bind us to each other, or to
reconcile me to my fortune. All the pleasures and enjoyments we
had ever had - THEY seemed so poor and insignificant, I hated them.
I could have trodden on them. And I could think of nothing else,
except our being poor, and the number of mouths there were at
"Well, well, my dear," said Mr. Tetterby, shaking her hand
encouragingly, "that's truth, after all. We ARE poor, and there
ARE a number of mouths at home here."
"Ah! but, Dolf, Dolf!" cried his wife, laying her hands upon his
neck, "my good, kind, patient fellow, when I had been at home a
very little while - how different! Oh, Dolf, dear, how different
it was! I felt as if there was a rush of recollection on me, all
at once, that softened my hard heart, and filled it up till it was
bursting. All our struggles for a livelihood, all our cares and
wants since we have been married, all the times of sickness, all
the hours of watching, we have ever had, by one another, or by the
children, seemed to speak to me, and say that they had made us one,
and that I never might have been, or could have been, or would have
been, any other than the wife and mother I am. Then, the cheap
enjoyments that I could have trodden on so cruelly, got to be so
precious to me - Oh so priceless, and dear! - that I couldn't bear
to think how much I had wronged them; and I said, and say again a
hundred times, how could I ever behave so, 'Dolphus, how could I
ever have the heart to do it!"
The good woman, quite carried away by her honest tenderness and
remorse, was weeping with all her heart, when she started up with a
scream, and ran behind her husband. Her cry was so terrified, that
the children started from their sleep and from their beds, and
clung about her. Nor did her gaze belie her voice, as she pointed
to a pale man in a black cloak who had come into the room.
"Look at that man! Look there! What does he want?"
"My dear," returned her husband, "I'll ask him if you'll let me go.
What's the matter! How you shake!"
"I saw him in the street, when I was out just now. He looked at
me, and stood near me. I am afraid of him."
"Afraid of him! Why?"
"I don't know why - I - stop! husband!" for he was going towards
She had one hand pressed upon her forehead, and one upon her
breast; and there was a peculiar fluttering all over her, and a
hurried unsteady motion of her eyes, as if she had lost something.
"Are you ill, my dear?"
"What is it that is going from me again?" she muttered, in a low
voice. "What IS this that is going away?"
Then she abruptly answered: "Ill? No, I am quite well," and
stood looking vacantly at the floor.
Her husband, who had not been altogether free from the infection of
her fear at first, and whom the present strangeness of her manner
did not tend to reassure, addressed himself to the pale visitor in
the black cloak, who stood still, and whose eyes were bent upon the
"What may be your pleasure, sir," he asked, "with us?"
"I fear that my coming in unperceived," returned the visitor, "has
alarmed you; but you were talking and did not hear me."
"My little woman says - perhaps you heard her say it," returned Mr.
Tetterby, "that it's not the first time you have alarmed her to-
"I am sorry for it. I remember to have observed her, for a few
moments only, in the street. I had no intention of frightening
As he raised his eyes in speaking, she raised hers. It was
extraordinary to see what dread she had of him, and with what dread
he observed it - and yet how narrowly and closely.
"My name," he said, "is Redlaw. I come from the old college hard
by. A young gentleman who is a student there, lodges in your
house, does he not?"
"Mr. Denham?" said Tetterby.
It was a natural action, and so slight as to be hardly noticeable;
but the little man, before speaking again, passed his hand across
his forehead, and looked quickly round the room, as though he were
sensible of some change in its atmosphere. The Chemist, instantly
transferring to him the look of dread he had directed towards the
wife, stepped back, and his face turned paler.
"The gentleman's room," said Tetterby, "is upstairs, sir. There's
a more convenient private entrance; but as you have come in here,
it will save your going out into the cold, if you'll take this
little staircase," showing one communicating directly with the
parlour, "and go up to him that way, if you wish to see him."
"Yes, I wish to see him," said the Chemist. "Can you spare a
The watchfulness of his haggard look, and the inexplicable distrust
that darkened it, seemed to trouble Mr. Tetterby. He paused; and
looking fixedly at him in return, stood for a minute or so, like a
man stupefied, or fascinated.
At length he said, "I'll light you, sir, if you'll follow me."
"No," replied the Chemist, "I don't wish to be attended, or
announced to him. He does not expect me. I would rather go alone.
Please to give me the light, if you can spare it, and I'll find the
In the quickness of his expression of this desire, and in taking
the candle from the newsman, he touched him on the breast.
Withdrawing his hand hastily, almost as though he had wounded him
by accident (for he did not know in what part of himself his new
power resided, or how it was communicated, or how the manner of its
reception varied in different persons), he turned and ascended the
But when he reached the top, he stopped and looked down. The wife
was standing in the same place, twisting her ring round and round
upon her finger. The husband, with his head bent forward on his
breast, was musing heavily and sullenly. The children, still
clustering about the mother, gazed timidly after the visitor, and
nestled together when they saw him looking down.
"Come!" said the father, roughly. "There's enough of this. Get to
"The place is inconvenient and small enough," the mother added,
"without you. Get to bed!"
The whole brood, scared and sad, crept away; little Johnny and the
baby lagging last. The mother, glancing contemptuously round the
sordid room, and tossing from her the fragments of their meal,
stopped on the threshold of her task of clearing the table, and sat
down, pondering idly and dejectedly. The father betook himself to
the chimney-corner, and impatiently raking the small fire together,
bent over it as if he would monopolise it all. They did not
interchange a word.
The Chemist, paler than before, stole upward like a thief; looking
back upon the change below, and dreading equally to go on or
"What have I done!" he said, confusedly. "What am I going to do!"
"To be the benefactor of mankind," he thought he heard a voice
He looked round, but there was nothing there; and a passage now
shutting out the little parlour from his view, he went on,
directing his eyes before him at the way he went.
"It is only since last night," he muttered gloomily, "that I have
remained shut up, and yet all things are strange to me. I am
strange to myself. I am here, as in a dream. What interest have I
in this place, or in any place that I can bring to my remembrance?
My mind is going blind!"
There was a door before him, and he knocked at it. Being invited,
by a voice within, to enter, he complied.
"Is that my kind nurse?" said the voice. "But I need not ask her.
There is no one else to come here."
It spoke cheerfully, though in a languid tone, and attracted his
attention to a young man lying on a couch, drawn before the
chimney-piece, with the back towards the door. A meagre scanty
stove, pinched and hollowed like a sick man's cheeks, and bricked
into the centre of a hearth that it could scarcely warm, contained
the fire, to which his face was turned. Being so near the windy
house-top, it wasted quickly, and with a busy sound, and the
burning ashes dropped down fast.
"They chink when they shoot out here," said the student, smiling,
"so, according to the gossips, they are not coffins, but purses. I
shall be well and rich yet, some day, if it please God, and shall
live perhaps to love a daughter Milly, in remembrance of the
kindest nature and the gentlest heart in the world."
He put up his hand as if expecting her to take it, but, being
weakened, he lay still, with his face resting on his other hand,
and did not turn round.
The Chemist glanced about the room; - at the student's books and
papers, piled upon a table in a corner, where they, and his
extinguished reading-lamp, now prohibited and put away, told of the
attentive hours that had gone before this illness, and perhaps
caused it; - at such signs of his old health and freedom, as the
out-of-door attire that hung idle on the wall; - at those
remembrances of other and less solitary scenes, the little
miniatures upon the chimney-piece, and the drawing of home; - at
that token of his emulation, perhaps, in some sort, of his personal
attachment too, the framed engraving of himself, the looker-on.
The time had been, only yesterday, when not one of these objects,
in its remotest association of interest with the living figure
before him, would have been lost on Redlaw. Now, they were but
objects; or, if any gleam of such connexion shot upon him, it
perplexed, and not enlightened him, as he stood looking round with
a dull wonder.
The student, recalling the thin hand which had remained so long
untouched, raised himself on the couch, and turned his head.
"Mr. Redlaw!" he exclaimed, and started up.
Redlaw put out his arm.
"Don't come nearer to me. I will sit here. Remain you, where you
He sat down on a chair near the door, and having glanced at the
young man standing leaning with his hand upon the couch, spoke with
his eyes averted towards the ground.
"I heard, by an accident, by what accident is no matter, that one
of my class was ill and solitary. I received no other description
of him, than that he lived in this street. Beginning my inquiries
at the first house in it, I have found him."
"I have been ill, sir," returned the student, not merely with a
modest hesitation, but with a kind of awe of him, "but am greatly
better. An attack of fever - of the brain, I believe - has
weakened me, but I am much better. I cannot say I have been
solitary, in my illness, or I should forget the ministering hand
that has been near me."
"You are speaking of the keeper's wife," said Redlaw.
"Yes." The student bent his head, as if he rendered her some
The Chemist, in whom there was a cold, monotonous apathy, which
rendered him more like a marble image on the tomb of the man who
had started from his dinner yesterday at the first mention of this
student's case, than the breathing man himself, glanced again at
the student leaning with his hand upon the couch, and looked upon
the ground, and in the air, as if for light for his blinded mind.
"I remembered your name," he said, "when it was mentioned to me
down stairs, just now; and I recollect your face. We have held but
very little personal communication together?"
"You have retired and withdrawn from me, more than any of the rest,
The student signified assent.
"And why?" said the Chemist; not with the least expression of
interest, but with a moody, wayward kind of curiosity. "Why? How
comes it that you have sought to keep especially from me, the
knowledge of your remaining here, at this season, when all the rest
have dispersed, and of your being ill? I want to know why this
The young man, who had heard him with increasing agitation, raised
his downcast eyes to his face, and clasping his hands together,
cried with sudden earnestness and with trembling lips:
"Mr. Redlaw! You have discovered me. You know my secret!"
"Secret?" said the Chemist, harshly. "I know?"
"Yes! Your manner, so different from the interest and sympathy
which endear you to so many hearts, your altered voice, the
constraint there is in everything you say, and in your looks,"
replied the student, "warn me that you know me. That you would
conceal it, even now, is but a proof to me (God knows I need none!)
of your natural kindness and of the bar there is between us."
A vacant and contemptuous laugh, was all his answer.
"But, Mr. Redlaw," said the student, "as a just man, and a good
man, think how innocent I am, except in name and descent, of
participation in any wrong inflicted on you or in any sorrow you
"Sorrow!" said Redlaw, laughing. "Wrong! What are those to me?"
"For Heaven's sake," entreated the shrinking student, "do not let
the mere interchange of a few words with me change you like this,
sir! Let me pass again from your knowledge and notice. Let me
occupy my old reserved and distant place among those whom you
instruct. Know me only by the name I have assumed, and not by that
of Longford - "
"Longford!" exclaimed the other.
He clasped his head with both his hands, and for a moment turned
upon the young man his own intelligent and thoughtful face. But
the light passed from it, like the sun-beam of an instant, and it
clouded as before.
"The name my mother bears, sir," faltered the young man, "the name
she took, when she might, perhaps, have taken one more honoured.
Mr. Redlaw," hesitating, "I believe I know that history. Where my
information halts, my guesses at what is wanting may supply
something not remote from the truth. I am the child of a marriage
that has not proved itself a well-assorted or a happy one. From
infancy, I have heard you spoken of with honour and respect - with
something that was almost reverence. I have heard of such
devotion, of such fortitude and tenderness, of such rising up
against the obstacles which press men down, that my fancy, since I
learnt my little lesson from my mother, has shed a lustre on your
name. At last, a poor student myself, from whom could I learn but
Redlaw, unmoved, unchanged, and looking at him with a staring
frown, answered by no word or sign.
"I cannot say," pursued the other, "I should try in vain to say,
how much it has impressed me, and affected me, to find the gracious
traces of the past, in that certain power of winning gratitude and
confidence which is associated among us students (among the
humblest of us, most) with Mr. Redlaw's generous name. Our ages
and positions are so different, sir, and I am so accustomed to
regard you from a distance, that I wonder at my own presumption
when I touch, however lightly, on that theme. But to one who - I
may say, who felt no common interest in my mother once - it may be
something to hear, now that all is past, with what indescribable
feelings of affection I have, in my obscurity, regarded him; with
what pain and reluctance I have kept aloof from his encouragement,
when a word of it would have made me rich; yet how I have felt it
fit that I should hold my course, content to know him, and to be
unknown. Mr. Redlaw," said the student, faintly, "what I would
have said, I have said ill, for my strength is strange to me as
yet; but for anything unworthy in this fraud of mine, forgive me,
and for all the rest forget me!"
The staring frown remained on Redlaw's face, and yielded to no
other expression until the student, with these words, advanced
towards him, as if to touch his hand, when he drew back and cried
"Don't come nearer to me!"
The young man stopped, shocked by the eagerness of his recoil, and
by the sternness of his repulsion; and he passed his hand,
thoughtfully, across his forehead.
"The past is past," said the Chemist. "It dies like the brutes.
Who talks to me of its traces in my life? He raves or lies! What
have I to do with your distempered dreams? If you want money, here
it is. I came to offer it; and that is all I came for. There can
be nothing else that brings me here," he muttered, holding his head
again, with both his hands. "There CAN be nothing else, and yet -
He had tossed his purse upon the table. As he fell into this dim
cogitation with himself, the student took it up, and held it out to
"Take it back, sir," he said proudly, though not angrily. "I wish
you could take from me, with it, the remembrance of your words and
"You do?" he retorted, with a wild light in his eyes. "You do?"
The Chemist went close to him, for the first time, and took the
purse, and turned him by the arm, and looked him in the face.
"There is sorrow and trouble in sickness, is there not?" he
demanded, with a laugh.
The wondering student answered, "Yes."
"In its unrest, in its anxiety, in its suspense, in all its train
of physical and mental miseries?" said the Chemist, with a wild
unearthly exultation. "All best forgotten, are they not?"
The student did not answer, but again passed his hand, confusedly,
across his forehead. Redlaw still held him by the sleeve, when
Milly's voice was heard outside.
"I can see very well now," she said, "thank you, Dolf. Don't cry,
dear. Father and mother will be comfortable again, to-morrow, and
home will be comfortable too. A gentleman with him, is there!"
Redlaw released his hold, as he listened.
"I have feared, from the first moment," he murmured to himself, "to
meet her. There is a steady quality of goodness in her, that I
dread to influence. I may be the murderer of what is tenderest and
best within her bosom."
She was knocking at the door.
"Shall I dismiss it as an idle foreboding, or still avoid her?" he
muttered, looking uneasily around.
She was knocking at the door again.
"Of all the visitors who could come here," he said, in a hoarse
alarmed voice, turning to his companion, "this is the one I should
desire most to avoid. Hide me!"
The student opened a frail door in the wall, communicating where
the garret-roof began to slope towards the floor, with a small
inner room. Redlaw passed in hastily, and shut it after him.
The student then resumed his place upon the couch, and called to
her to enter.
"Dear Mr. Edmund," said Milly, looking round, "they told me there
was a gentleman here."
"There is no one here but I."
"There has been some one?"
"Yes, yes, there has been some one."
She put her little basket on the table, and went up to the back of
the couch, as if to take the extended hand - but it was not there.
A little surprised, in her quiet way, she leaned over to look at
his face, and gently touched him on the brow.
"Are you quite as well to-night? Your head is not so cool as in
"Tut!" said the student, petulantly, "very little ails me."
A little more surprise, but no reproach, was expressed in her face,
as she withdrew to the other side of the table, and took a small
packet of needlework from her basket. But she laid it down again,
on second thoughts, and going noiselessly about the room, set
everything exactly in its place, and in the neatest order; even to
the cushions on the couch, which she touched with so light a hand,
that he hardly seemed to know it, as he lay looking at the fire.
When all this was done, and she had swept the hearth, she sat down,
in her modest little bonnet, to her work, and was quietly busy on
"It's the new muslin curtain for the window, Mr. Edmund," said
Milly, stitching away as she talked. "It will look very clean and
nice, though it costs very little, and will save your eyes, too,
from the light. My William says the room should not be too light
just now, when you are recovering so well, or the glare might make
He said nothing; but there was something so fretful and impatient
in his change of position, that her quick fingers stopped, and she
looked at him anxiously.
"The pillows are not comfortable," she said, laying down her work
and rising. "I will soon put them right."
"They are very well," he answered. "Leave them alone, pray. You
make so much of everything."
He raised his head to say this, and looked at her so thanklessly,
that, after he had thrown himself down again, she stood timidly
pausing. However, she resumed her seat, and her needle, without
having directed even a murmuring look towards him, and was soon as
busy as before.
"I have been thinking, Mr. Edmund, that YOU have been often
thinking of late, when I have been sitting by, how true the saying
is, that adversity is a good teacher. Health will be more precious
to you, after this illness, than it has ever been. And years
hence, when this time of year comes round, and you remember the
days when you lay here sick, alone, that the knowledge of your
illness might not afflict those who are dearest to you, your home
will be doubly dear and doubly blest. Now, isn't that a good, true
She was too intent upon her work, and too earnest in what she said,
and too composed and quiet altogether, to be on the watch for any
look he might direct towards her in reply; so the shaft of his
ungrateful glance fell harmless, and did not wound her.
"Ah!" said Milly, with her pretty head inclining thoughtfully on
one side, as she looked down, following her busy fingers with her
eyes. "Even on me - and I am very different from you, Mr. Edmund,
for I have no learning, and don't know how to think properly - this
view of such things has made a great impression, since you have
been lying ill. When I have seen you so touched by the kindness
and attention of the poor people down stairs, I have felt that you
thought even that experience some repayment for the loss of health,
and I have read in your face, as plain as if it was a book, that
but for some trouble and sorrow we should never know half the good
there is about us."
His getting up from the couch, interrupted her, or she was going on
to say more.
"We needn't magnify the merit, Mrs. William," he rejoined
slightingly. "The people down stairs will be paid in good time I
dare say, for any little extra service they may have rendered me;
and perhaps they anticipate no less. I am much obliged to you,
Her fingers stopped, and she looked at him.
"I can't be made to feel the more obliged by your exaggerating the
case," he said. "I am sensible that you have been interested in
me, and I say I am much obliged to you. What more would you have?"
Her work fell on her lap, as she still looked at him walking to and
fro with an intolerant air, and stopping now and then.
"I say again, I am much obliged to you. Why weaken my sense of
what is your due in obligation, by preferring enormous claims upon
me? Trouble, sorrow, affliction, adversity! One might suppose I
had been dying a score of deaths here!"
"Do you believe, Mr. Edmund," she asked, rising and going nearer to
him, "that I spoke of the poor people of the house, with any
reference to myself? To me?" laying her hand upon her bosom with a
simple and innocent smile of astonishment.
"Oh! I think nothing about it, my good creature," he returned. "I
have had an indisposition, which your solicitude - observe! I say
solicitude - makes a great deal more of, than it merits; and it's
over, and we can't perpetuate it."
He coldly took a book, and sat down at the table.
She watched him for a little while, until her smile was quite gone,
and then, returning to where her basket was, said gently:
"Mr. Edmund, would you rather be alone?"
"There is no reason why I should detain you here," he replied.
"Except - " said Milly, hesitating, and showing her work.
"Oh! the curtain," he answered, with a supercilious laugh. "That's
not worth staying for."
She made up the little packet again, and put it in her basket.
Then, standing before him with such an air of patient entreaty that
he could not choose but look at her, she said:
"If you should want me, I will come back willingly. When you did
want me, I was quite happy to come; there was no merit in it. I
think you must be afraid, that, now you are getting well, I may be
troublesome to you; but I should not have been, indeed. I should
have come no longer than your weakness and confinement lasted. You
owe me nothing; but it is right that you should deal as justly by
me as if I was a lady - even the very lady that you love; and if
you suspect me of meanly making much of the little I have tried to
do to comfort your sick room, you do yourself more wrong than ever
you can do me. That is why I am sorry. That is why I am very
If she had been as passionate as she was quiet, as indignant as she
was calm, as angry in her look as she was gentle, as loud of tone
as she was low and clear, she might have left no sense of her
departure in the room, compared with that which fell upon the
lonely student when she went away.
He was gazing drearily upon the place where she had been, when
Redlaw came out of his concealment, and came to the door.
"When sickness lays its hand on you again," he said, looking
fiercely back at him, " - may it be soon! - Die here! Rot here!"
"What have you done?" returned the other, catching at his cloak.
"What change have you wrought in me? What curse have you brought
upon me? Give me back MYself!"
"Give me back myself!" exclaimed Redlaw like a madman. "I am
infected! I am infectious! I am charged with poison for my own
mind, and the minds of all mankind. Where I felt interest,
compassion, sympathy, I am turning into stone. Selfishness and
ingratitude spring up in my blighting footsteps. I am only so much
less base than the wretches whom I make so, that in the moment of
their transformation I can hate them."
As he spoke - the young man still holding to his cloak - he cast
him off, and struck him: then, wildly hurried out into the night
air where the wind was blowing, the snow falling, the cloud-drift
sweeping on, the moon dimly shining; and where, blowing in the
wind, falling with the snow, drifting with the clouds, shining in
the moonlight, and heavily looming in the darkness, were the
Phantom's words, "The gift that I have given, you shall give again,
go where you will!"
Whither he went, he neither knew nor cared, so that he avoided
company. The change he felt within him made the busy streets a
desert, and himself a desert, and the multitude around him, in
their manifold endurances and ways of life, a mighty waste of sand,
which the winds tossed into unintelligible heaps and made a ruinous
confusion of. Those traces in his breast which the Phantom had
told him would "die out soon," were not, as yet, so far upon their
way to death, but that he understood enough of what he was, and
what he made of others, to desire to be alone.
This put it in his mind - he suddenly bethought himself, as he was
going along, of the boy who had rushed into his room. And then he
recollected, that of those with whom he had communicated since the
Phantom's disappearance, that boy alone had shown no sign of being
Monstrous and odious as the wild thing was to him, he determined to
seek it out, and prove if this were really so; and also to seek it
with another intention, which came into his thoughts at the same
So, resolving with some difficulty where he was, he directed his
steps back to the old college, and to that part of it where the
general porch was, and where, alone, the pavement was worn by the
tread of the students' feet.
The keeper's house stood just within the iron gates, forming a part
of the chief quadrangle. There was a little cloister outside, and
from that sheltered place he knew he could look in at the window of
their ordinary room, and see who was within. The iron gates were
shut, but his hand was familiar with the fastening, and drawing it
back by thrusting in his wrist between the bars, he passed through
softly, shut it again, and crept up to the window, crumbling the
thin crust of snow with his feet.
The fire, to which he had directed the boy last night, shining
brightly through the glass, made an illuminated place upon the
ground. Instinctively avoiding this, and going round it, he looked
in at the window. At first, he thought that there was no one
there, and that the blaze was reddening only the old beams in the
ceiling and the dark walls; but peering in more narrowly, he saw
the object of his search coiled asleep before it on the floor. He
passed quickly to the door, opened it, and went in.
The creature lay in such a fiery heat, that, as the Chemist stooped
to rouse him, it scorched his head. So soon as he was touched, the
boy, not half awake, clutching his rags together with the instinct
of flight upon him, half rolled and half ran into a distant corner
of the room, where, heaped upon the ground, he struck his foot out
to defend himself.
"Get up!" said the Chemist. "You have not forgotten me?"
"You let me alone!" returned the boy. "This is the woman's house -
The Chemist's steady eye controlled him somewhat, or inspired him
with enough submission to be raised upon his feet, and looked at.
"Who washed them, and put those bandages where they were bruised
and cracked?" asked the Chemist, pointing to their altered state.
"The woman did."
"And is it she who has made you cleaner in the face, too?"
"Yes, the woman."
Redlaw asked these questions to attract his eyes towards himself,
and with the same intent now held him by the chin, and threw his
wild hair back, though he loathed to touch him. The boy watched
his eyes keenly, as if he thought it needful to his own defence,
not knowing what he might do next; and Redlaw could see well that
no change came over him.
"Where are they?" he inquired.
"The woman's out."
"I know she is. Where is the old man with the white hair, and his
"The woman's husband, d'ye mean?" inquired the boy.
"Ay. Where are those two?"
"Out. Something's the matter, somewhere. They were fetched out in
a hurry, and told me to stop here."
"Come with me," said the Chemist, "and I'll give you money."
"Come where? and how much will you give?"
"I'll give you more shillings than you ever saw, and bring you back
soon. Do you know your way to where you came from?"
"You let me go," returned the boy, suddenly twisting out of his
grasp. "I'm not a going to take you there. Let me be, or I'll
heave some fire at you!"
He was down before it, and ready, with his savage little hand, to
pluck the burning coals out.
What the Chemist had felt, in observing the effect of his charmed
influence stealing over those with whom he came in contact, was not
nearly equal to the cold vague terror with which he saw this baby-
monster put it at defiance. It chilled his blood to look on the
immovable impenetrable thing, in the likeness of a child, with its
sharp malignant face turned up to his, and its almost infant hand,
ready at the bars.
"Listen, boy!" he said. "You shall take me where you please, so
that you take me where the people are very miserable or very
wicked. I want to do them good, and not to harm them. You shall
have money, as I have told you, and I will bring you back. Get up!
Come quickly!" He made a hasty step towards the door, afraid of
"Will you let me walk by myself, and never hold me, nor yet touch
me?" said the boy, slowly withdrawing the hand with which he
threatened, and beginning to get up.
"And let me go, before, behind, or anyways I like?"
"Give me some money first, then, and go."
The Chemist laid a few shillings, one by one, in his extended hand.
To count them was beyond the boy's knowledge, but he said "one,"
every time, and avariciously looked at each as it was given, and at
the donor. He had nowhere to put them, out of his hand, but in his
mouth; and he put them there.
Redlaw then wrote with his pencil on a leaf of his pocket-book,
that the boy was with him; and laying it on the table, signed to
him to follow. Keeping his rags together, as usual, the boy
complied, and went out with his bare head and naked feet into the
Preferring not to depart by the iron gate by which he had entered,
where they were in danger of meeting her whom he so anxiously
avoided, the Chemist led the way, through some of those passages
among which the boy had lost himself, and by that portion of the
building where he lived, to a small door of which he had the key.
When they got into the street, he stopped to ask his guide - who
instantly retreated from him - if he knew where they were.
The savage thing looked here and there, and at length, nodding his
head, pointed in the direction he designed to take. Redlaw going
on at once, he followed, something less suspiciously; shifting his
money from his mouth into his hand, and back again into his mouth,
and stealthily rubbing it bright upon his shreds of dress, as he
Three times, in their progress, they were side by side. Three
times they stopped, being side by side. Three times the Chemist
glanced down at his face, and shuddered as it forced upon him one
The first occasion was when they were crossing an old churchyard,
and Redlaw stopped among the graves, utterly at a loss how to
connect them with any tender, softening, or consolatory thought.
The second was, when the breaking forth of the moon induced him to
look up at the Heavens, where he saw her in her glory, surrounded
by a host of stars he still knew by the names and histories which
human science has appended to them; but where he saw nothing else
he had been wont to see, felt nothing he had been wont to feel, in
looking up there, on a bright night.
The third was when he stopped to listen to a plaintive strain of
music, but could only hear a tune, made manifest to him by the dry
mechanism of the instruments and his own ears, with no address to
any mystery within him, without a whisper in it of the past, or of
the future, powerless upon him as the sound of last year's running
water, or the rushing of last year's wind.
At each of these three times, he saw with horror that, in spite of
the vast intellectual distance between them, and their being unlike
each other in all physical respects, the expression on the boy's
face was the expression on his own.
They journeyed on for some time - now through such crowded places,
that he often looked over his shoulder thinking he had lost his
guide, but generally finding him within his shadow on his other
side; now by ways so quiet, that he could have counted his short,
quick, naked footsteps coming on behind - until they arrived at a
ruinous collection of houses, and the boy touched him and stopped.
"In there!" he said, pointing out one house where there were
shattered lights in the windows, and a dim lantern in the doorway,
with "Lodgings for Travellers" painted on it.
Redlaw looked about him; from the houses to the waste piece of
ground on which the houses stood, or rather did not altogether
tumble down, unfenced, undrained, unlighted, and bordered by a
sluggish ditch; from that, to the sloping line of arches, part of
some neighbouring viaduct or bridge with which it was surrounded,
and which lessened gradually towards them, until the last but one
was a mere kennel for a dog, the last a plundered little heap of
bricks; from that, to the child, close to him, cowering and
trembling with the cold, and limping on one little foot, while he
coiled the other round his leg to warm it, yet staring at all these
things with that frightful likeness of expression so apparent in
his face, that Redlaw started from him.
"In there!" said the boy, pointing out the house again. "I'll
"Will they let me in?" asked Redlaw.
"Say you're a doctor," he answered with a nod. "There's plenty ill
Looking back on his way to the house-door, Redlaw saw him trail
himself upon the dust and crawl within the shelter of the smallest
arch, as if he were a rat. He had no pity for the thing, but he
was afraid of it; and when it looked out of its den at him, he
hurried to the house as a retreat.
"Sorrow, wrong, and trouble," said the Chemist, with a painful
effort at some more distinct remembrance, "at least haunt this
place darkly. He can do no harm, who brings forgetfulness of such
With these words, he pushed the yielding door, and went in.
There was a woman sitting on the stairs, either asleep or forlorn,
whose head was bent down on her hands and knees. As it was not
easy to pass without treading on her, and as she was perfectly
regardless of his near approach, he stopped, and touched her on the
shoulder. Looking up, she showed him quite a young face, but one
whose bloom and promise were all swept away, as if the haggard
winter should unnaturally kill the spring.
With little or no show of concern on his account, she moved nearer
to the wall to leave him a wider passage.
"What are you?" said Redlaw, pausing, with his hand upon the broken
"What do you think I am?" she answered, showing him her face again.
He looked upon the ruined Temple of God, so lately made, so soon
disfigured; and something, which was not compassion - for the
springs in which a true compassion for such miseries has its rise,
were dried up in his breast - but which was nearer to it, for the
moment, than any feeling that had lately struggled into the
darkening, but not yet wholly darkened, night of his mind - mingled
a touch of softness with his next words.
"I am come here to give relief, if I can," he said. "Are you
thinking of any wrong?"
She frowned at him, and then laughed; and then her laugh prolonged
itself into a shivering sigh, as she dropped her head again, and
hid her fingers in her hair.
"Are you thinking of a wrong?" he asked once more.
"I am thinking of my life," she said, with a monetary look at him.
He had a perception that she was one of many, and that he saw the
type of thousands, when he saw her, drooping at his feet.
"What are your parents?" he demanded.
"I had a good home once. My father was a gardener, far away, in
"Is he dead?"
"He's dead to me. All such things are dead to me. You a
gentleman, and not know that!" She raised her eyes again, and
laughed at him.
"Girl!" said Redlaw, sternly, "before this death, of all such
things, was brought about, was there no wrong done to you? In
spite of all that you can do, does no remembrance of wrong cleave
to you? Are there not times upon times when it is misery to you?"
So little of what was womanly was left in her appearance, that now,
when she burst into tears, he stood amazed. But he was more
amazed, and much disquieted, to note that in her awakened
recollection of this wrong, the first trace of her old humanity and
frozen tenderness appeared to show itself.
He drew a little off, and in doing so, observed that her arms were
black, her face cut, and her bosom bruised.
"What brutal hand has hurt you so?" he asked.
"My own. I did it myself!" she answered quickly.
"It is impossible."
"I'll swear I did! He didn't touch me. I did it to myself in a
passion, and threw myself down here. He wasn't near me. He never
laid a hand upon me!"
In the white determination of her face, confronting him with this
untruth, he saw enough of the last perversion and distortion of
good surviving in that miserable breast, to be stricken with
remorse that he had ever come near her.
"Sorrow, wrong, and trouble!" he muttered, turning his fearful gaze
away. "All that connects her with the state from which she has
fallen, has those roots! In the name of God, let me go by!"
Afraid to look at her again, afraid to touch her, afraid to think
of having sundered the last thread by which she held upon the mercy
of Heaven, he gathered his cloak about him, and glided swiftly up
Opposite to him, on the landing, was a door, which stood partly
open, and which, as he ascended, a man with a candle in his hand,
came forward from within to shut. But this man, on seeing him,
drew back, with much emotion in his manner, and, as if by a sudden
impulse, mentioned his name aloud.
In the surprise of such a recognition there, he stopped,
endeavouring to recollect the wan and startled face. He had no
time to consider it, for, to his yet greater amazement, old Philip
came out of the room, and took him by the hand.
"Mr. Redlaw," said the old man, "this is like you, this is like
you, sir! you have heard of it, and have come after us to render
any help you can. Ah, too late, too late!"
Redlaw, with a bewildered look, submitted to be led into the room.
A man lay there, on a truckle-bed, and William Swidger stood at the
"Too late!" murmured the old man, looking wistfully into the
Chemist's face; and the tears stole down his cheeks.
"That's what I say, father," interposed his son in a low voice.
"That's where it is, exactly. To keep as quiet as ever we can
while he's a dozing, is the only thing to do. You're right,
Redlaw paused at the bedside, and looked down on the figure that
was stretched upon the mattress. It was that of a man, who should
have been in the vigour of his life, but on whom it was not likely
the sun would ever shine again. The vices of his forty or fifty
years' career had so branded him, that, in comparison with their
effects upon his face, the heavy hand of Time upon the old man's
face who watched him had been merciful and beautifying.
"Who is this?" asked the Chemist, looking round.
"My son George, Mr. Redlaw," said the old man, wringing his hands.
"My eldest son, George, who was more his mother's pride than all
Redlaw's eyes wandered from the old man's grey head, as he laid it
down upon the bed, to the person who had recognised him, and who
had kept aloof, in the remotest corner of the room. He seemed to
be about his own age; and although he knew no such hopeless decay
and broken man as he appeared to be, there was something in the
turn of his figure, as he stood with his back towards him, and now
went out at the door, that made him pass his hand uneasily across
"William," he said in a gloomy whisper, "who is that man?"
"Why you see, sir," returned Mr. William, "that's what I say,
myself. Why should a man ever go and gamble, and the like of that,
and let himself down inch by inch till he can't let himself down
"Has HE done so?" asked Redlaw, glancing after him with the same
uneasy action as before.
"Just exactly that, sir," returned William Swidger, "as I'm told.
He knows a little about medicine, sir, it seems; and having been
wayfaring towards London with my unhappy brother that you see
here," Mr. William passed his coat-sleeve across his eyes, "and
being lodging up stairs for the night - what I say, you see, is
that strange companions come together here sometimes - he looked in
to attend upon him, and came for us at his request. What a
mournful spectacle, sir! But that's where it is. It's enough to
kill my father!"
Redlaw looked up, at these words, and, recalling where he was and
with whom, and the spell he carried with him - which his surprise
had obscured - retired a little, hurriedly, debating with himself
whether to shun the house that moment, or remain.
Yielding to a certain sullen doggedness, which it seemed to be a
part of his condition to struggle with, he argued for remaining.
"Was it only yesterday," he said, "when I observed the memory of
this old man to be a tissue of sorrow and trouble, and shall I be
afraid, to-night, to shake it? Are such remembrances as I can
drive away, so precious to this dying man that I need fear for HIM?
No! I'll stay here."
But he stayed in fear and trembling none the less for these words;
and, shrouded in his black cloak with his face turned from them,
stood away from the bedside, listening to what they said, as if he
felt himself a demon in the place.
"Father!" murmured the sick man, rallying a little from stupor.
"My boy! My son George!" said old Philip.
"You spoke, just now, of my being mother's favourite, long ago.
It's a dreadful thing to think now, of long ago!"
"No, no, no;" returned the old man. "Think of it. Don't say it's
dreadful. It's not dreadful to me, my son."
"It cuts you to the heart, father." For the old man's tears were
falling on him.
"Yes, yes," said Philip, "so it does; but it does me good. It's a
heavy sorrow to think of that time, but it does me good, George.
Oh, think of it too, think of it too, and your heart will be
softened more and more! Where's my son William? William, my boy,
your mother loved him dearly to the last, and with her latest
breath said, 'Tell him I forgave him, blessed him, and prayed for
him.' Those were her words to me. I have never forgotten them,
and I'm eighty-seven!"
"Father!" said the man upon the bed, "I am dying, I know. I am so
far gone, that I can hardly speak, even of what my mind most runs
on. Is there any hope for me beyond this bed?"
"There is hope," returned the old man, "for all who are softened
and penitent. There is hope for all such. Oh!" he exclaimed,
clasping his hands and looking up, "I was thankful, only yesterday,
that I could remember this unhappy son when he was an innocent
child. But what a comfort it is, now, to think that even God
himself has that remembrance of him!"
Redlaw spread his hands upon his face, and shrank, like a murderer.
"Ah!" feebly moaned the man upon the bed. "The waste since then,
the waste of life since then!"
"But he was a child once," said the old man. "He played with
children. Before he lay down on his bed at night, and fell into
his guiltless rest, he said his prayers at his poor mother's knee.
I have seen him do it, many a time; and seen her lay his head upon
her breast, and kiss him. Sorrowful as it was to her and me, to
think of this, when he went so wrong, and when our hopes and plans
for him were all broken, this gave him still a hold upon us, that
nothing else could have given. Oh, Father, so much better than the
fathers upon earth! Oh, Father, so much more afflicted by the
errors of Thy children! take this wanderer back! Not as he is, but
as he was then, let him cry to Thee, as he has so often seemed to
cry to us!"
As the old man lifted up his trembling hands, the son, for whom he
made the supplication, laid his sinking head against him for
support and comfort, as if he were indeed the child of whom he
When did man ever tremble, as Redlaw trembled, in the silence that
ensued! He knew it must come upon them, knew that it was coming
"My time is very short, my breath is shorter," said the sick man,
supporting himself on one arm, and with the other groping in the
air, "and I remember there is something on my mind concerning the
man who was here just now, Father and William - wait! - is there
really anything in black, out there?"
"Yes, yes, it is real," said his aged father.
"Is it a man?"
"What I say myself, George," interposed his brother, bending kindly
over him. "It's Mr. Redlaw."
"I thought I had dreamed of him. Ask him to come here."
The Chemist, whiter than the dying man, appeared before him.
Obedient to the motion of his hand, he sat upon the bed.
"It has been so ripped up, to-night, sir," said the sick man,
laying his hand upon his heart, with a look in which the mute,
imploring agony of his condition was concentrated, "by the sight of
my poor old father, and the thought of all the trouble I have been
the cause of, and all the wrong and sorrow lying at my door, that -
Was it the extremity to which he had come, or was it the dawning of
another change, that made him stop?
" - that what I CAN do right, with my mind running on so much, so
fast, I'll try to do. There was another man here. Did you see
Redlaw could not reply by any word; for when he saw that fatal sign
he knew so well now, of the wandering hand upon the forehead, his
voice died at his lips. But he made some indication of assent.
"He is penniless, hungry, and destitute. He is completely beaten
down, and has no resource at all. Look after him! Lose no time!
I know he has it in his mind to kill himself."
It was working. It was on his face. His face was changing,
hardening, deepening in all its shades, and losing all its sorrow.
"Don't you remember? Don't you know him?" he pursued.
He shut his face out for a moment, with the hand that again
wandered over his forehead, and then it lowered on Redlaw,
reckless, ruffianly, and callous.
"Why, d-n you!" he said, scowling round, "what have you been doing
to me here! I have lived bold, and I mean to die bold. To the
Devil with you!"
And so lay down upon his bed, and put his arms up, over his head
and ears, as resolute from that time to keep out all access, and to
die in his indifference.
If Redlaw had been struck by lightning, it could not have struck
him from the bedside with a more tremendous shock. But the old
man, who had left the bed while his son was speaking to him, now
returning, avoided it quickly likewise, and with abhorrence.
"Where's my boy William?" said the old man hurriedly. "William,
come away from here. We'll go home."
"Home, father!" returned William. "Are you going to leave your own
"Where's my own son?" replied the old man.
"Where? why, there!"
"That's no son of mine," said Philip, trembling with resentment.
"No such wretch as that, has any claim on me. My children are
pleasant to look at, and they wait upon me, and get my meat and
drink ready, and are useful to me. I've a right to it! I'm
"You're old enough to be no older," muttered William, looking at
him grudgingly, with his hands in his pockets. "I don't know what
good you are, myself. We could have a deal more pleasure without
"MY son, Mr. Redlaw!" said the old man. "MY son, too! The boy
talking to me of MY son! Why, what has he ever done to give me any
pleasure, I should like to know?"
"I don't know what you have ever done to give ME any pleasure,"
said William, sulkily.
"Let me think," said the old man. "For how many Christmas times
running, have I sat in my warm place, and never had to come out in
the cold night air; and have made good cheer, without being
disturbed by any such uncomfortable, wretched sight as him there?
Is it twenty, William?"
"Nigher forty, it seems," he muttered. "Why, when I look at my
father, sir, and come to think of it," addressing Redlaw, with an
impatience and irritation that were quite new, "I'm whipped if I
can see anything in him but a calendar of ever so many years of
eating and drinking, and making himself comfortable, over and over
"I - I'm eighty-seven," said the old man, rambling on, childishly
and weakly, "and I don't know as I ever was much put out by
anything. I'm not going to begin now, because of what he calls my
son. He's not my son. I've had a power of pleasant times. I
recollect once - no I don't - no, it's broken off. It was
something about a game of cricket and a friend of mine, but it's
somehow broken off. I wonder who he was - I suppose I liked him?
And I wonder what became of him - I suppose he died? But I don't
know. And I don't care, neither; I don't care a bit."
In his drowsy chuckling, and the shaking of his head, he put his
hands into his waistcoat pockets. In one of them he found a bit of
holly (left there, probably last night), which he now took out, and
"Berries, eh?" said the old man. "Ah! It's a pity they're not
good to eat. I recollect, when I was a little chap about as high
as that, and out a walking with - let me see - who was I out a
walking with? - no, I don't remember how that was. I don't
remember as I ever walked with any one particular, or cared for any
one, or any one for me. Berries, eh? There's good cheer when
there's berries. Well; I ought to have my share of it, and to be
waited on, and kept warm and comfortable; for I'm eighty-seven, and
a poor old man. I'm eigh-ty-seven. Eigh-ty-seven!"
The drivelling, pitiable manner in which, as he repeated this, he
nibbled at the leaves, and spat the morsels out; the cold,
uninterested eye with which his youngest son (so changed) regarded
him; the determined apathy with which his eldest son lay hardened
in his sin; impressed themselves no more on Redlaw's observation, -
for he broke his way from the spot to which his feet seemed to have
been fixed, and ran out of the house.
His guide came crawling forth from his place of refuge, and was
ready for him before he reached the arches.
"Back to the woman's?" he inquired.
"Back, quickly!" answered Redlaw. "Stop nowhere on the way!"
For a short distance the boy went on before; but their return was
more like a flight than a walk, and it was as much as his bare feet
could do, to keep pace with the Chemist's rapid strides. Shrinking
from all who passed, shrouded in his cloak, and keeping it drawn
closely about him, as though there were mortal contagion in any
fluttering touch of his garments, he made no pause until they
reached the door by which they had come out. He unlocked it with
his key, went in, accompanied by the boy, and hastened through the
dark passages to his own chamber.
The boy watched him as he made the door fast, and withdrew behind
the table, when he looked round.
"Come!" he said. "Don't you touch me! You've not brought me here
to take my money away."
Redlaw threw some more upon the ground. He flung his body on it
immediately, as if to hide it from him, lest the sight of it should
tempt him to reclaim it; and not until he saw him seated by his
lamp, with his face hidden in his hands, began furtively to pick it
up. When he had done so, he crept near the fire, and, sitting down
in a great chair before it, took from his breast some broken scraps
of food, and fell to munching, and to staring at the blaze, and now
and then to glancing at his shillings, which he kept clenched up in
a bunch, in one hand.
"And this," said Redlaw, gazing on him with increased repugnance
and fear, "is the only one companion I have left on earth!"
How long it was before he was aroused from his contemplation of
this creature, whom he dreaded so - whether half-an-hour, or half
the night - he knew not. But the stillness of the room was broken
by the boy (whom he had seen listening) starting up, and running
towards the door.
"Here's the woman coming!" he exclaimed.
The Chemist stopped him on his way, at the moment when she knocked.
"Let me go to her, will you?" said the boy.
"Not now," returned the Chemist. "Stay here. Nobody must pass in
or out of the room now. Who's that?"
"It's I, sir," cried Milly. "Pray, sir, let me in!"
"No! not for the world!" he said.
"Mr. Redlaw, Mr. Redlaw, pray, sir, let me in."
"What is the matter?" he said, holding the boy.
"The miserable man you saw, is worse, and nothing I can say will
wake him from his terrible infatuation. William's father has
turned childish in a moment, William himself is changed. The shock
has been too sudden for him; I cannot understand him; he is not
like himself. Oh, Mr. Redlaw, pray advise me, help me!"
"No! No! No!" he answered.
"Mr. Redlaw! Dear sir! George has been muttering, in his doze,
about the man you saw there, who, he fears, will kill himself."
"Better he should do it, than come near me!"
"He says, in his wandering, that you know him; that he was your
friend once, long ago; that he is the ruined father of a student
here - my mind misgives me, of the young gentleman who has been
ill. What is to be done? How is he to be followed? How is he to
be saved? Mr. Redlaw, pray, oh, pray, advise me! Help me!"
All this time he held the boy, who was half-mad to pass him, and
let her in.
"Phantoms! Punishers of impious thoughts!" cried Redlaw, gazing
round in anguish, "look upon me! From the darkness of my mind, let
the glimmering of contrition that I know is there, shine up and
show my misery! In the material world as I have long taught,
nothing can be spared; no step or atom in the wondrous structure
could be lost, without a blank being made in the great universe. I
know, now, that it is the same with good and evil, happiness and
sorrow, in the memories of men. Pity me! Relieve me!"
There was no response, but her "Help me, help me, let me in!" and
the boy's struggling to get to her.
"Shadow of myself! Spirit of my darker hours!" cried Redlaw, in
distraction, "come back, and haunt me day and night, but take this
gift away! Or, if it must still rest with me, deprive me of the
dreadful power of giving it to others. Undo what I have done.
Leave me benighted, but restore the day to those whom I have
cursed. As I have spared this woman from the first, and as I never
will go forth again, but will die here, with no hand to tend me,
save this creature's who is proof against me, - hear me!"
The only reply still was, the boy struggling to get to her, while
he held him back; and the cry, increasing in its energy, "Help! let
me in. He was your friend once, how shall he be followed, how
shall he be saved? They are all changed, there is no one else to
help me, pray, pray, let me in!"
CHAPTER III - The Gift Reversed
NIGHT was still heavy in the sky. On open plains, from hill-tops,
and from the decks of solitary ships at sea, a distant low-lying
line, that promised by-and-by to change to light, was visible in
the dim horizon; but its promise was remote and doubtful, and the
moon was striving with the night-clouds busily.
The shadows upon Redlaw's mind succeeded thick and fast to one
another, and obscured its light as the night-clouds hovered between
the moon and earth, and kept the latter veiled in darkness. Fitful
and uncertain as the shadows which the night-clouds cast, were
their concealments from him, and imperfect revelations to him; and,
like the night-clouds still, if the clear light broke forth for a
moment, it was only that they might sweep over it, and make the
darkness deeper than before.
Without, there was a profound and solemn hush upon the ancient pile
of building, and its buttresses and angles made dark shapes of
mystery upon the ground, which now seemed to retire into the smooth
white snow and now seemed to come out of it, as the moon's path was
more or less beset. Within, the Chemist's room was indistinct and
murky, by the light of the expiring lamp; a ghostly silence had
succeeded to the knocking and the voice outside; nothing was
audible but, now and then, a low sound among the whitened ashes of
the fire, as of its yielding up its last breath. Before it on the
ground the boy lay fast asleep. In his chair, the Chemist sat, as
he had sat there since the calling at his door had ceased - like a
man turned to stone.
At such a time, the Christmas music he had heard before, began to
play. He listened to it at first, as he had listened in the
church-yard; but presently - it playing still, and being borne
towards him on the night air, in a low, sweet, melancholy strain -
he rose, and stood stretching his hands about him, as if there were
some friend approaching within his reach, on whom his desolate
touch might rest, yet do no harm. As he did this, his face became
less fixed and wondering; a gentle trembling came upon him; and at
last his eyes filled with tears, and he put his hands before them,
and bowed down his head.
His memory of sorrow, wrong, and trouble, had not come back to him;
he knew that it was not restored; he had no passing belief or hope
that it was. But some dumb stir within him made him capable,
again, of being moved by what was hidden, afar off, in the music.
If it were only that it told him sorrowfully the value of what he
had lost, he thanked Heaven for it with a fervent gratitude.
As the last chord died upon his ear, he raised his head to listen
to its lingering vibration. Beyond the boy, so that his sleeping
figure lay at its feet, the Phantom stood, immovable and silent,
with its eyes upon him.
Ghastly it was, as it had ever been, but not so cruel and
relentless in its aspect - or he thought or hoped so, as he looked
upon it trembling. It was not alone, but in its shadowy hand it
held another hand.
And whose was that? Was the form that stood beside it indeed
Milly's, or but her shade and picture? The quiet head was bent a
little, as her manner was, and her eyes were looking down, as if in
pity, on the sleeping child. A radiant light fell on her face, but
did not touch the Phantom; for, though close beside her, it was
dark and colourless as ever.
"Spectre!" said the Chemist, newly troubled as he looked, "I have
not been stubborn or presumptuous in respect of her. Oh, do not
bring her here. Spare me that!"
"This is but a shadow," said the Phantom; "when the morning shines
seek out the reality whose image I present before you."
"Is it my inexorable doom to do so?" cried the Chemist.
"It is," replied the Phantom.
"To destroy her peace, her goodness; to make her what I am myself,
and what I have made of others!"
"I have said seek her out," returned the Phantom. "I have said no
"Oh, tell me," exclaimed Redlaw, catching at the hope which he
fancied might lie hidden in the words. "Can I undo what I have
"No," returned the Phantom.
"I do not ask for restoration to myself," said Redlaw. "What I
abandoned, I abandoned of my own free will, and have justly lost.
But for those to whom I have transferred the fatal gift; who never
sought it; who unknowingly received a curse of which they had no
warning, and which they had no power to shun; can I do nothing?"
"Nothing," said the Phantom.
"If I cannot, can any one?"
The Phantom, standing like a statue, kept its gaze upon him for a
while; then turned its head suddenly, and looked upon the shadow at
"Ah! Can she?" cried Redlaw, still looking upon the shade.
The Phantom released the hand it had retained till now, and softly
raised its own with a gesture of dismissal. Upon that, her shadow,
still preserving the same attitude, began to move or melt away.
"Stay," cried Redlaw with an earnestness to which he could not give
enough expression. "For a moment! As an act of mercy! I know
that some change fell upon me, when those sounds were in the air
just now. Tell me, have I lost the power of harming her? May I go
near her without dread? Oh, let her give me any sign of hope!"
The Phantom looked upon the shade as he did - not at him - and gave
"At least, say this - has she, henceforth, the consciousness of any
power to set right what I have done?"
"She has not," the Phantom answered.
"Has she the power bestowed on her without the consciousness?"
The phantom answered: "Seek her out."
And her shadow slowly vanished.
They were face to face again, and looking on each other, as
intently and awfully as at the time of the bestowal of the gift,
across the boy who still lay on the ground between them, at the
"Terrible instructor," said the Chemist, sinking on his knee before
it, in an attitude of supplication, "by whom I was renounced, but
by whom I am revisited (in which, and in whose milder aspect, I
would fain believe I have a gleam of hope), I will obey without
inquiry, praying that the cry I have sent up in the anguish of my
soul has been, or will be, heard, in behalf of those whom I have
injured beyond human reparation. But there is one thing - "
"You speak to me of what is lying here," the phantom interposed,
and pointed with its finger to the boy.
"I do," returned the Chemist. "You know what I would ask. Why has
this child alone been proof against my influence, and why, why,
have I detected in its thoughts a terrible companionship with
"This," said the Phantom, pointing to the boy, "is the last,
completest illustration of a human creature, utterly bereft of such
remembrances as you have yielded up. No softening memory of
sorrow, wrong, or trouble enters here, because this wretched mortal
from his birth has been abandoned to a worse condition than the
beasts, and has, within his knowledge, no one contrast, no
humanising touch, to make a grain of such a memory spring up in his
hardened breast. All within this desolate creature is barren
wilderness. All within the man bereft of what you have resigned,
is the same barren wilderness. Woe to such a man! Woe, tenfold,
to the nation that shall count its monsters such as this, lying
here, by hundreds and by thousands!"
Redlaw shrank, appalled, from what he heard.
"There is not," said the Phantom, "one of these - not one - but
sows a harvest that mankind MUST reap. From every seed of evil in
this boy, a field of ruin is grown that shall be gathered in, and
garnered up, and sown again in many places in the world, until
regions are overspread with wickedness enough to raise the waters
of another Deluge. Open and unpunished murder in a city's streets
would be less guilty in its daily toleration, than one such
spectacle as this."
It seemed to look down upon the boy in his sleep. Redlaw, too,
looked down upon him with a new emotion.
"There is not a father," said the Phantom, "by whose side in his
daily or his nightly walk, these creatures pass; there is not a
mother among all the ranks of loving mothers in this land; there is
no one risen from the state of childhood, but shall be responsible
in his or her degree for this enormity. There is not a country
throughout the earth on which it would not bring a curse. There is
no religion upon earth that it would not deny; there is no people
upon earth it would not put to shame."
The Chemist clasped his hands, and looked, with trembling fear and
pity, from the sleeping boy to the Phantom, standing above him with
his finger pointing down.
"Behold, I say," pursued the Spectre, "the perfect type of what it
was your choice to be. Your influence is powerless here, because
from this child's bosom you can banish nothing. His thoughts have
been in 'terrible companionship' with yours, because you have gone
down to his unnatural level. He is the growth of man's
indifference; you are the growth of man's presumption. The
beneficent design of Heaven is, in each case, overthrown, and from
the two poles of the immaterial world you come together."
The Chemist stooped upon the ground beside the boy, and, with the
same kind of compassion for him that he now felt for himself,
covered him as he slept, and no longer shrank from him with
abhorrence or indifference.
Soon, now, the distant line on the horizon brightened, the darkness
faded, the sun rose red and glorious, and the chimney stacks and
gables of the ancient building gleamed in the clear air, which
turned the smoke and vapour of the city into a cloud of gold. The
very sun-dial in his shady corner, where the wind was used to spin
with such unwindy constancy, shook off the finer particles of snow
that had accumulated on his dull old face in the night, and looked
out at the little white wreaths eddying round and round him.
Doubtless some blind groping of the morning made its way down into
the forgotten crypt so cold and earthy, where the Norman arches
were half buried in the ground, and stirred the dull sap in the
lazy vegetation hanging to the walls, and quickened the slow
principle of life within the little world of wonderful and delicate
creation which existed there, with some faint knowledge that the
sun was up.
The Tetterbys were up, and doing. Mr. Tetterby took down the
shutters of the shop, and, strip by strip, revealed the treasures
of the window to the eyes, so proof against their seductions, of
Jerusalem Buildings. Adolphus had been out so long already, that
he was halfway on to "Morning Pepper." Five small Tetterbys, whose
ten round eyes were much inflamed by soap and friction, were in the
tortures of a cool wash in the back kitchen; Mrs. Tetterby
presiding. Johnny, who was pushed and hustled through his toilet
with great rapidity when Moloch chanced to be in an exacting frame
of mind (which was always the case), staggered up and down with his
charge before the shop door, under greater difficulties than usual;
the weight of Moloch being much increased by a complication of
defences against the cold, composed of knitted worsted-work, and
forming a complete suit of chain-armour, with a head-piece and blue
It was a peculiarity of this baby to be always cutting teeth.
Whether they never came, or whether they came and went away again,
is not in evidence; but it had certainly cut enough, on the showing
of Mrs. Tetterby, to make a handsome dental provision for the sign
of the Bull and Mouth. All sorts of objects were impressed for the
rubbing of its gums, notwithstanding that it always carried,
dangling at its waist (which was immediately under its chin), a
bone ring, large enough to have represented the rosary of a young
nun. Knife-handles, umbrella-tops, the heads of walking-sticks
selected from the stock, the fingers of the family in general, but
especially of Johnny, nutmeg-graters, crusts, the handles of doors,
and the cool knobs on the tops of pokers, were among the commonest
instruments indiscriminately applied for this baby's relief. The
amount of electricity that must have been rubbed out of it in a
week, is not to be calculated. Still Mrs. Tetterby always said "it
was coming through, and then the child would be herself;" and still
it never did come through, and the child continued to be somebody
The tempers of the little Tetterbys had sadly changed with a few
hours. Mr. and Mrs. Tetterby themselves were not more altered than
their offspring. Usually they were an unselfish, good-natured,
yielding little race, sharing short commons when it happened (which
was pretty often) contentedly and even generously, and taking a
great deal of enjoyment out of a very little meat. But they were
fighting now, not only for the soap and water, but even for the
breakfast which was yet in perspective. The hand of every little
Tetterby was against the other little Tetterbys; and even Johnny's
hand - the patient, much-enduring, and devoted Johnny - rose
against the baby! Yes, Mrs. Tetterby, going to the door by mere
accident, saw him viciously pick out a weak place in the suit of
armour where a slap would tell, and slap that blessed child.
Mrs. Tetterby had him into the parlour by the collar, in that same
flash of time, and repaid him the assault with usury thereto.
"You brute, you murdering little boy," said Mrs. Tetterby. "Had
you the heart to do it?"
"Why don't her teeth come through, then," retorted Johnny, in a
loud rebellious voice, "instead of bothering me? How would you
like it yourself?"
"Like it, sir!" said Mrs. Tetterby, relieving him of his
"Yes, like it," said Johnny. "How would you? Not at all. If you
was me, you'd go for a soldier. I will, too. There an't no babies
in the Army."
Mr. Tetterby, who had arrived upon the scene of action, rubbed his
chin thoughtfully, instead of correcting the rebel, and seemed
rather struck by this view of a military life.
"I wish I was in the Army myself, if the child's in the right,"
said Mrs. Tetterby, looking at her husband, "for I have no peace of
my life here. I'm a slave - a Virginia slave:" some indistinct
association with their weak descent on the tobacco trade perhaps
suggested this aggravated expression to Mrs. Tetterby. "I never
have a holiday, or any pleasure at all, from year's end to year's
end! Why, Lord bless and save the child," said Mrs. Tetterby,
shaking the baby with an irritability hardly suited to so pious an
aspiration, "what's the matter with her now?"
Not being able to discover, and not rendering the subject much
clearer by shaking it, Mrs. Tetterby put the baby away in a cradle,
and, folding her arms, sat rocking it angrily with her foot.
"How you stand there, 'Dolphus," said Mrs. Tetterby to her husband.
"Why don't you do something?"
"Because I don't care about doing anything," Mr. Tetterby replied.
"I am sure I don't," said Mrs. Tetterby.
"I'll take my oath I don't," said Mr. Tetterby.
A diversion arose here among Johnny and his five younger brothers,
who, in preparing the family breakfast table, had fallen to
skirmishing for the temporary possession of the loaf, and were
buffeting one another with great heartiness; the smallest boy of
all, with precocious discretion, hovering outside the knot of
combatants, and harassing their legs. Into the midst of this fray,
Mr. and Mrs. Tetterby both precipitated themselves with great
ardour, as if such ground were the only ground on which they could
now agree; and having, with no visible remains of their late soft-
heartedness, laid about them without any lenity, and done much
execution, resumed their former relative positions.
"You had better read your paper than do nothing at all," said Mrs.
"What's there to read in a paper?" returned Mr. Tetterby, with
"What?" said Mrs. Tetterby. "Police."
"It's nothing to me," said Tetterby. "What do I care what people
do, or are done to?"
"Suicides," suggested Mrs. Tetterby.
"No business of mine," replied her husband.
"Births, deaths, and marriages, are those nothing to you?" said
"If the births were all over for good, and all to-day; and the
deaths were all to begin to come off to-morrow; I don't see why it
should interest me, till I thought it was a coming to my turn,"
grumbled Tetterby. "As to marriages, I've done it myself. I know
quite enough about THEM."
To judge from the dissatisfied expression of her face and manner,
Mrs. Tetterby appeared to entertain the same opinions as her
husband; but she opposed him, nevertheless, for the gratification
of quarrelling with him.
"Oh, you're a consistent man," said Mrs. Tetterby, "an't you? You,
with the screen of your own making there, made of nothing else but
bits of newspapers, which you sit and read to the children by the
"Say used to, if you please," returned her husband. "You won't
find me doing so any more. I'm wiser now."
"Bah! wiser, indeed!" said Mrs. Tetterby. "Are you better?"
The question sounded some discordant note in Mr. Tetterby's breast.
He ruminated dejectedly, and passed his hand across and across his
"Better!" murmured Mr. Tetterby. "I don't know as any of us are
better, or happier either. Better, is it?"
He turned to the screen, and traced about it with his finger, until
he found a certain paragraph of which he was in quest.
"This used to be one of the family favourites, I recollect," said
Tetterby, in a forlorn and stupid way, "and used to draw tears from
the children, and make 'em good, if there was any little bickering
or discontent among 'em, next to the story of the robin redbreasts
in the wood. 'Melancholy case of destitution. Yesterday a small
man, with a baby in his arms, and surrounded by half-a-dozen ragged
little ones, of various ages between ten and two, the whole of whom
were evidently in a famishing condition, appeared before the worthy
magistrate, and made the following recital:' - Ha! I don't
understand it, I'm sure," said Tetterby; "I don't see what it has
got to do with us."
"How old and shabby he looks," said Mrs. Tetterby, watching him.
"I never saw such a change in a man. Ah! dear me, dear me, dear
me, it was a sacrifice!"
"What was a sacrifice?" her husband sourly inquired.
Mrs. Tetterby shook her head; and without replying in words, raised
a complete sea-storm about the baby, by her violent agitation of
"If you mean your marriage was a sacrifice, my good woman - " said
"I DO mean it" said his wife.
"Why, then I mean to say," pursued Mr. Tetterby, as sulkily and
surlily as she, "that there are two sides to that affair; and that
I was the sacrifice; and that I wish the sacrifice hadn't been
"I wish it hadn't, Tetterby, with all my heart and soul I do assure
you," said his wife. "You can't wish it more than I do, Tetterby."
"I don't know what I saw in her," muttered the newsman, "I'm sure;
- certainly, if I saw anything, it's not there now. I was thinking
so, last night, after supper, by the fire. She's fat, she's
ageing, she won't bear comparison with most other women."
"He's common-looking, he has no air with him, he's small, he's
beginning to stoop and he's getting bald," muttered Mrs. Tetterby.
"I must have been half out of my mind when I did it," muttered Mr.
"My senses must have forsook me. That's the only way in which I
can explain it to myself," said Mrs. Tetterby with elaboration.
In this mood they sat down to breakfast. The little Tetterbys were
not habituated to regard that meal in the light of a sedentary
occupation, but discussed it as a dance or trot; rather resembling
a savage ceremony, in the occasionally shrill whoops, and
brandishings of bread and butter, with which it was accompanied, as
well as in the intricate filings off into the street and back
again, and the hoppings up and down the door-steps, which were
incidental to the performance. In the present instance, the
contentions between these Tetterby children for the milk-and-water
jug, common to all, which stood upon the table, presented so
lamentable an instance of angry passions risen very high indeed,
that it was an outrage on the memory of Dr. Watts. It was not
until Mr. Tetterby had driven the whole herd out at the front door,
that a moment's peace was secured; and even that was broken by the
discovery that Johnny had surreptitiously come back, and was at
that instant choking in the jug like a ventriloquist, in his
indecent and rapacious haste.
"These children will be the death of me at last!" said Mrs.
Tetterby, after banishing the culprit. "And the sooner the better,
"Poor people," said Mr. Tetterby, "ought not to have children at
all. They give US no pleasure."
He was at that moment taking up the cup which Mrs. Tetterby had
rudely pushed towards him, and Mrs. Tetterby was lifting her own
cup to her lips, when they both stopped, as if they were
"Here! Mother! Father!" cried Johnny, running into the room.
"Here's Mrs. William coming down the street!"
And if ever, since the world began, a young boy took a baby from a
cradle with the care of an old nurse, and hushed and soothed it
tenderly, and tottered away with it cheerfully, Johnny was that
boy, and Moloch was that baby, as they went out together!
Mr. Tetterby put down his cup; Mrs. Tetterby put down her cup. Mr.
Tetterby rubbed his forehead; Mrs. Tetterby rubbed hers. Mr.
Tetterby's face began to smooth and brighten; Mrs. Tetterby's began
to smooth and brighten.
"Why, Lord forgive me," said Mr. Tetterby to himself, "what evil
tempers have I been giving way to? What has been the matter here!"
"How could I ever treat him ill again, after all I said and felt
last night!" sobbed Mrs. Tetterby, with her apron to her eyes.
"Am I a brute," said Mr. Tetterby, "or is there any good in me at
all? Sophia! My little woman!"
"'Dolphus dear," returned his wife.
"I - I've been in a state of mind," said Mr. Tetterby, "that I
can't abear to think of, Sophy."
"Oh! It's nothing to what I've been in, Dolf," cried his wife in a
great burst of grief.
"My Sophia," said Mr. Tetterby, "don't take on. I never shall
forgive myself. I must have nearly broke your heart, I know."
"No, Dolf, no. It was me! Me!" cried Mrs. Tetterby.
"My little woman," said her husband, "don't. You make me reproach
myself dreadful, when you show such a noble spirit. Sophia, my
dear, you don't know what I thought. I showed it bad enough, no
doubt; but what I thought, my little woman! - "
"Oh, dear Dolf, don't! Don't!" cried his wife.
"Sophia," said Mr. Tetterby, "I must reveal it. I couldn't rest in
my conscience unless I mentioned it. My little woman - "
"Mrs. William's very nearly here!" screamed Johnny at the door.
"My little woman, I wondered how," gasped Mr. Tetterby, supporting
himself by his chair, "I wondered how I had ever admired you - I
forgot the precious children you have brought about me, and thought
you didn't look as slim as I could wish. I - I never gave a
recollection," said Mr. Tetterby, with severe self-accusation, "to
the cares you've had as my wife, and along of me and mine, when you
might have had hardly any with another man, who got on better and
was luckier than me (anybody might have found such a man easily I
am sure); and I quarrelled with you for having aged a little in the
rough years you have lightened for me. Can you believe it, my
little woman? I hardly can myself."
Mrs. Tetterby, in a whirlwind of laughing and crying, caught his
face within her hands, and held it there.
"Oh, Dolf!" she cried. "I am so happy that you thought so; I am so
grateful that you thought so! For I thought that you were common-
looking, Dolf; and so you are, my dear, and may you be the
commonest of all sights in my eyes, till you close them with your
own good hands. I thought that you were small; and so you are, and
I'll make much of you because you are, and more of you because I
love my husband. I thought that you began to stoop; and so you do,
and you shall lean on me, and I'll do all I can to keep you up. I
thought there was no air about you; but there is, and it's the air
of home, and that's the purest and the best there is, and God bless
home once more, and all belonging to it, Dolf!"
"Hurrah! Here's Mrs. William!" cried Johnny.
So she was, and all the children with her; and so she came in, they
kissed her, and kissed one another, and kissed the baby, and kissed
their father and mother, and then ran back and flocked and danced
about her, trooping on with her in triumph.
Mr. and Mrs. Tetterby were not a bit behind-hand in the warmth of
their reception. They were as much attracted to her as the
children were; they ran towards her, kissed her hands, pressed
round her, could not receive her ardently or enthusiastically
enough. She came among them like the spirit of all goodness,
affection, gentle consideration, love, and domesticity.
"What! are YOU all so glad to see me, too, this bright Christmas
morning?" said Milly, clapping her hands in a pleasant wonder. "Oh
dear, how delightful this is!"
More shouting from the children, more kissing, more trooping round
her, more happiness, more love, more joy, more honour, on all
sides, than she could bear.
"Oh dear!" said Milly, "what delicious tears you make me shed. How
can I ever have deserved this! What have I done to be so loved?"
"Who can help it!" cried Mr. Tetterby.
"Who can help it!" cried Mrs. Tetterby.
"Who can help it!" echoed the children, in a joyful chorus. And
they danced and trooped about her again, and clung to her, and laid
their rosy faces against her dress, and kissed and fondled it, and
could not fondle it, or her, enough.
"I never was so moved," said Milly, drying her eyes, "as I have
been this morning. I must tell you, as soon as I can speak. - Mr.
Redlaw came to me at sunrise, and with a tenderness in his manner,
more as if I had been his darling daughter than myself, implored me
to go with him to where William's brother George is lying ill. We
went together, and all the way along he was so kind, and so
subdued, and seemed to put such trust and hope in me, that I could
not help trying with pleasure. When we got to the house, we met a
woman at the door (somebody had bruised and hurt her, I am afraid),
who caught me by the hand, and blessed me as I passed."
"She was right!" said Mr. Tetterby. Mrs. Tetterby said she was
right. All the children cried out that she was right.
"Ah, but there's more than that," said Milly. "When we got up
stairs, into the room, the sick man who had lain for hours in a
state from which no effort could rouse him, rose up in his bed,
and, bursting into tears, stretched out his arms to me, and said
that he had led a mis-spent life, but that he was truly repentant
now, in his sorrow for the past, which was all as plain to him as a
great prospect, from which a dense black cloud had cleared away,
and that he entreated me to ask his poor old father for his pardon
and his blessing, and to say a prayer beside his bed. And when I
did so, Mr. Redlaw joined in it so fervently, and then so thanked
and thanked me, and thanked Heaven, that my heart quite overflowed,
and I could have done nothing but sob and cry, if the sick man had
not begged me to sit down by him, - which made me quiet of course.
As I sat there, he held my hand in his until he sank in a doze; and
even then, when I withdrew my hand to leave him to come here (which
Mr. Redlaw was very earnest indeed in wishing me to do), his hand
felt for mine, so that some one else was obliged to take my place
and make believe to give him my hand back. Oh dear, oh dear," said
Milly, sobbing. "How thankful and how happy I should feel, and do
feel, for all this!"
While she was speaking, Redlaw had come in, and, after pausing for
a moment to observe the group of which she was the centre, had
silently ascended the stairs. Upon those stairs he now appeared
again; remaining there, while the young student passed him, and
came running down.
"Kind nurse, gentlest, best of creatures," he said, falling on his
knee to her, and catching at her hand, "forgive my cruel
"Oh dear, oh dear!" cried Milly innocently, "here's another of
them! Oh dear, here's somebody else who likes me. What shall I
The guileless, simple way in which she said it, and in which she
put her hands before her eyes and wept for very happiness, was as
touching as it was delightful.
"I was not myself," he said. "I don't know what it was - it was
some consequence of my disorder perhaps - I was mad. But I am so
no longer. Almost as I speak, I am restored. I heard the children
crying out your name, and the shade passed from me at the very
sound of it. Oh, don't weep! Dear Milly, if you could read my
heart, and only knew with what affection and what grateful homage
it is glowing, you would not let me see you weep. It is such deep
"No, no," said Milly, "it's not that. It's not indeed. It's joy.
It's wonder that you should think it necessary to ask me to forgive
so little, and yet it's pleasure that you do."
"And will you come again? and will you finish the little curtain?"
"No," said Milly, drying her eyes, and shaking her head. "You
won't care for my needlework now."
"Is it forgiving me, to say that?"
She beckoned him aside, and whispered in his ear.
"There is news from your home, Mr. Edmund."
"Either your not writing when you were very ill, or the change in
your handwriting when you began to be better, created some
suspicion of the truth; however that is - but you're sure you'll
not be the worse for any news, if it's not bad news?"
"Then there's some one come!" said Milly.
"My mother?" asked the student, glancing round involuntarily
towards Redlaw, who had come down from the stairs.
"Hush! No," said Milly.
"It can be no one else."
"Indeed?" said Milly, "are you sure?"
"It is not -" Before he could say more, she put her hand upon his
"Yes it is!" said Milly. "The young lady (she is very like the
miniature, Mr. Edmund, but she is prettier) was too unhappy to rest
without satisfying her doubts, and came up, last night, with a
little servant-maid. As you always dated your letters from the
college, she came there; and before I saw Mr. Redlaw this morning,
I saw her. SHE likes me too!" said Milly. "Oh dear, that's
"This morning! Where is she now?"
"Why, she is now," said Milly, advancing her lips to his ear, "in
my little parlour in the Lodge, and waiting to see you."
He pressed her hand, and was darting off, but she detained him.
"Mr. Redlaw is much altered, and has told me this morning that his
memory is impaired. Be very considerate to him, Mr. Edmund; he
needs that from us all."
The young man assured her, by a look, that her caution was not ill-
bestowed; and as he passed the Chemist on his way out, bent
respectfully and with an obvious interest before him.
Redlaw returned the salutation courteously and even humbly, and
looked after him as he passed on. He dropped his head upon his
hand too, as trying to reawaken something he had lost. But it was
The abiding change that had come upon him since the influence of
the music, and the Phantom's reappearance, was, that now he truly
felt how much he had lost, and could compassionate his own
condition, and contrast it, clearly, with the natural state of
those who were around him. In this, an interest in those who were
around him was revived, and a meek, submissive sense of his
calamity was bred, resembling that which sometimes obtains in age,
when its mental powers are weakened, without insensibility or
sullenness being added to the list of its infirmities.
He was conscious that, as he redeemed, through Milly, more and more
of the evil he had done, and as he was more and more with her, this
change ripened itself within him. Therefore, and because of the
attachment she inspired him with (but without other hope), he felt
that he was quite dependent on her, and that she was his staff in
So, when she asked him whether they should go home now, to where
the old man and her husband were, and he readily replied "yes" -
being anxious in that regard - he put his arm through hers, and
walked beside her; not as if he were the wise and learned man to
whom the wonders of Nature were an open book, and hers were the
uninstructed mind, but as if their two positions were reversed, and
he knew nothing, and she all.
He saw the children throng about her, and caress her, as he and she
went away together thus, out of the house; he heard the ringing of
their laughter, and their merry voices; he saw their bright faces,
clustering around him like flowers; he witnessed the renewed
contentment and affection of their parents; he breathed the simple
air of their poor home, restored to its tranquillity; he thought of
the unwholesome blight he had shed upon it, and might, but for her,
have been diffusing then; and perhaps it is no wonder that he
walked submissively beside her, and drew her gentle bosom nearer to
When they arrived at the Lodge, the old man was sitting in his
chair in the chimney-corner, with his eyes fixed on the ground, and
his son was leaning against the opposite side of the fire-place,
looking at him. As she came in at the door, both started, and
turned round towards her, and a radiant change came upon their
"Oh dear, dear, dear, they are all pleased to see me like the
rest!" cried Milly, clapping her hands in an ecstasy, and stopping
short. "Here are two more!"
Pleased to see her! Pleasure was no word for it. She ran into her
husband's arms, thrown wide open to receive her, and he would have
been glad to have her there, with her head lying on his shoulder,
through the short winter's day. But the old man couldn't spare
her. He had arms for her too, and he locked her in them.
"Why, where has my quiet Mouse been all this time?" said the old
man. "She has been a long while away. I find that it's impossible
for me to get on without Mouse. I - where's my son William? - I
fancy I have been dreaming, William."
"That's what I say myself, father," returned his son. "I have been
in an ugly sort of dream, I think. - How are you, father? Are you
"Strong and brave, my boy," returned the old man.
It was quite a sight to see Mr. William shaking hands with his
father, and patting him on the back, and rubbing him gently down
with his hand, as if he could not possibly do enough to show an
interest in him.
"What a wonderful man you are, father! - How are you, father? Are
you really pretty hearty, though?" said William, shaking hands with
him again, and patting him again, and rubbing him gently down
"I never was fresher or stouter in my life, my boy."
"What a wonderful man you are, father! But that's exactly where it
is," said Mr. William, with enthusiasm. "When I think of all that
my father's gone through, and all the chances and changes, and
sorrows and troubles, that have happened to him in the course of
his long life, and under which his head has grown grey, and years
upon years have gathered on it, I feel as if we couldn't do enough
to honour the old gentleman, and make his old age easy. - How are
you, father? Are you really pretty well, though?"
Mr. William might never have left off repeating this inquiry, and
shaking hands with him again, and patting him again, and rubbing
him down again, if the old man had not espied the Chemist, whom
until now he had not seen.
"I ask your pardon, Mr. Redlaw," said Philip, "but didn't know you
were here, sir, or should have made less free. It reminds me, Mr.
Redlaw, seeing you here on a Christmas morning, of the time when
you was a student yourself, and worked so hard that you were
backwards and forwards in our Library even at Christmas time. Ha!
ha! I'm old enough to remember that; and I remember it right well,
I do, though I am eight-seven. It was after you left here that my
poor wife died. You remember my poor wife, Mr. Redlaw?"
The Chemist answered yes.
"Yes," said the old man. "She was a dear creetur. - I recollect
you come here one Christmas morning with a young lady - I ask your
pardon, Mr. Redlaw, but I think it was a sister you was very much
The Chemist looked at him, and shook his head. "I had a sister,"
he said vacantly. He knew no more.
"One Christmas morning," pursued the old man, "that you come here
with her - and it began to snow, and my wife invited the lady to
walk in, and sit by the fire that is always a burning on Christmas
Day in what used to be, before our ten poor gentlemen commuted, our
great Dinner Hall. I was there; and I recollect, as I was stirring
up the blaze for the young lady to warm her pretty feet by, she
read the scroll out loud, that is underneath that pictur, 'Lord,
keep my memory green!' She and my poor wife fell a talking about
it; and it's a strange thing to think of, now, that they both said
(both being so unlike to die) that it was a good prayer, and that
it was one they would put up very earnestly, if they were called
away young, with reference to those who were dearest to them. 'My
brother,' says the young lady - 'My husband,' says my poor wife. -
'Lord, keep his memory of me, green, and do not let me be
Tears more painful, and more bitter than he had ever shed in all
his life, coursed down Redlaw's face. Philip, fully occupied in
recalling his story, had not observed him until now, nor Milly's
anxiety that he should not proceed.
"Philip!" said Redlaw, laying his hand upon his arm, "I am a
stricken man, on whom the hand of Providence has fallen heavily,
although deservedly. You speak to me, my friend, of what I cannot
follow; my memory is gone."
"Merciful power!" cried the old man.
"I have lost my memory of sorrow, wrong, and trouble," said the
Chemist, "and with that I have lost all man would remember!"
To see old Philip's pity for him, to see him wheel his own great
chair for him to rest in, and look down upon him with a solemn
sense of his bereavement, was to know, in some degree, how precious
to old age such recollections are.
The boy came running in, and ran to Milly.
"Here's the man," he said, "in the other room. I don't want HIM."
"What man does he mean?" asked Mr. William.
"Hush!" said Milly.
Obedient to a sign from her, he and his old father softly withdrew.
As they went out, unnoticed, Redlaw beckoned to the boy to come to
"I like the woman best," he answered, holding to her skirts.
"You are right," said Redlaw, with a faint smile. "But you needn't
fear to come to me. I am gentler than I was. Of all the world, to
you, poor child!"
The boy still held back at first, but yielding little by little to
her urging, he consented to approach, and even to sit down at his
feet. As Redlaw laid his hand upon the shoulder of the child,
looking on him with compassion and a fellow-feeling, he put out his
other hand to Milly. She stooped down on that side of him, so that
she could look into his face, and after silence, said:
"Mr. Redlaw, may I speak to you?"
"Yes," he answered, fixing his eyes upon her. "Your voice and
music are the same to me."
"May I ask you something?"
"What you will."
"Do you remember what I said, when I knocked at your door last
night? About one who was your friend once, and who stood on the
verge of destruction?"
"Yes. I remember," he said, with some hesitation.
"Do you understand it?"
He smoothed the boy's hair - looking at her fixedly the while, and
shook his head.
"This person," said Milly, in her clear, soft voice, which her mild
eyes, looking at him, made clearer and softer, "I found soon
afterwards. I went back to the house, and, with Heaven's help,
traced him. I was not too soon. A very little and I should have
been too late."
He took his hand from the boy, and laying it on the back of that
hand of hers, whose timid and yet earnest touch addressed him no
less appealingly than her voice and eyes, looked more intently on
"He IS the father of Mr. Edmund, the young gentleman we saw just
now. His real name is Longford. - You recollect the name?"
"I recollect the name."
"And the man?"
"No, not the man. Did he ever wrong me?"
"Ah! Then it's hopeless - hopeless."
He shook his head, and softly beat upon the hand he held, as though
mutely asking her commiseration.
"I did not go to Mr. Edmund last night," said Milly, - "You will
listen to me just the same as if you did remember all?"
"To every syllable you say."
"Both, because I did not know, then, that this really was his
father, and because I was fearful of the effect of such
intelligence upon him, after his illness, if it should be. Since I
have known who this person is, I have not gone either; but that is
for another reason. He has long been separated from his wife and
son - has been a stranger to his home almost from this son's
infancy, I learn from him - and has abandoned and deserted what he
should have held most dear. In all that time he has been falling
from the state of a gentleman, more and more, until - " she rose
up, hastily, and going out for a moment, returned, accompanied by
the wreck that Redlaw had beheld last night.
"Do you know me?" asked the Chemist.
"I should be glad," returned the other, "and that is an unwonted
word for me to use, if I could answer no."
The Chemist looked at the man, standing in self-abasement and
degradation before him, and would have looked longer, in an
ineffectual struggle for enlightenment, but that Milly resumed her
late position by his side, and attracted his attentive gaze to her
"See how low he is sunk, how lost he is!" she whispered, stretching
out her arm towards him, without looking from the Chemist's face.
"If you could remember all that is connected with him, do you not
think it would move your pity to reflect that one you ever loved
(do not let us mind how long ago, or in what belief that he has
forfeited), should come to this?"
"I hope it would," he answered. "I believe it would."
His eyes wandered to the figure standing near the door, but came
back speedily to her, on whom he gazed intently, as if he strove to
learn some lesson from every tone of her voice, and every beam of
"I have no learning, and you have much," said Milly; "I am not used
to think, and you are always thinking. May I tell you why it seems
to me a good thing for us, to remember wrong that has been done
"That we may forgive it."
"Pardon me, great Heaven!" said Redlaw, lifting up his eyes, "for
having thrown away thine own high attribute!"
"And if," said Milly, "if your memory should one day be restored,
as we will hope and pray it may be, would it not be a blessing to
you to recall at once a wrong and its forgiveness?"
He looked at the figure by the door, and fastened his attentive
eyes on her again; a ray of clearer light appeared to him to shine
into his mind, from her bright face.
"He cannot go to his abandoned home. He does not seek to go there.
He knows that he could only carry shame and trouble to those he has
so cruelly neglected; and that the best reparation he can make them
now, is to avoid them. A very little money carefully bestowed,
would remove him to some distant place, where he might live and do
no wrong, and make such atonement as is left within his power for
the wrong he has done. To the unfortunate lady who is his wife,
and to his son, this would be the best and kindest boon that their
best friend could give them - one too that they need never know of;
and to him, shattered in reputation, mind, and body, it might be
He took her head between her hands, and kissed it, and said: "It
shall be done. I trust to you to do it for me, now and secretly;
and to tell him that I would forgive him, if I were so happy as to
know for what."
As she rose, and turned her beaming face towards the fallen man,
implying that her mediation had been successful, he advanced a
step, and without raising his eyes, addressed himself to Redlaw.
"You are so generous," he said, " - you ever were - that you will
try to banish your rising sense of retribution in the spectacle
that is before you. I do not try to banish it from myself, Redlaw.
If you can, believe me."
The Chemist entreated Milly, by a gesture, to come nearer to him;
and, as he listened looked in her face, as if to find in it the
clue to what he heard.
"I am too decayed a wretch to make professions; I recollect my own
career too well, to array any such before you. But from the day on
which I made my first step downward, in dealing falsely by you, I
have gone down with a certain, steady, doomed progression. That, I
Redlaw, keeping her close at his side, turned his face towards the
speaker, and there was sorrow in it. Something like mournful
"I might have been another man, my life might have been another
life, if I had avoided that first fatal step. I don't know that it
would have been. I claim nothing for the possibility. Your sister
is at rest, and better than she could have been with me, if I had
continued even what you thought me: even what I once supposed
myself to be."
Redlaw made a hasty motion with his hand, as if he would have put
that subject on one side.
"I speak," the other went on, "like a man taken from the grave. I
should have made my own grave, last night, had it not been for this
"Oh dear, he likes me too!" sobbed Milly, under her breath.
"I could not have put myself in your way, last night, even for
bread. But, to-day, my recollection of what has been is so
strongly stirred, and is presented to me, I don't know how, so
vividly, that I have dared to come at her suggestion, and to take
your bounty, and to thank you for it, and to beg you, Redlaw, in
your dying hour, to be as merciful to me in your thoughts, as you
are in your deeds."
He turned towards the door, and stopped a moment on his way forth.
"I hope my son may interest you, for his mother's sake. I hope he
may deserve to do so. Unless my life should be preserved a long
time, and I should know that I have not misused your aid, I shall
never look upon him more."
Going out, he raised his eyes to Redlaw for the first time.
Redlaw, whose steadfast gaze was fixed upon him, dreamily held out
his hand. He returned and touched it - little more - with both his
own; and bending down his head, went slowly out.
In the few moments that elapsed, while Milly silently took him to
the gate, the Chemist dropped into his chair, and covered his face
with his hands. Seeing him thus, when she came back, accompanied
by her husband and his father (who were both greatly concerned for
him), she avoided disturbing him, or permitting him to be
disturbed; and kneeled down near the chair to put some warm
clothing on the boy.
"That's exactly where it is. That's what I always say, father!"
exclaimed her admiring husband. "There's a motherly feeling in
Mrs. William's breast that must and will have went!"
"Ay, ay," said the old man; "you're right. My son William's
"It happens all for the best, Milly dear, no doubt," said Mr.
William, tenderly, "that we have no children of our own; and yet I
sometimes wish you had one to love and cherish. Our little dead
child that you built such hopes upon, and that never breathed the
breath of life - it has made you quiet-like, Milly."
"I am very happy in the recollection of it, William dear," she
answered. "I think of it every day."
"I was afraid you thought of it a good deal."
"Don't say, afraid; it is a comfort to me; it speaks to me in so
many ways. The innocent thing that never lived on earth, is like
an angel to me, William."
"You are like an angel to father and me," said Mr. William, softly.
"I know that."
"When I think of all those hopes I built upon it, and the many
times I sat and pictured to myself the little smiling face upon my
bosom that never lay there, and the sweet eyes turned up to mine
that never opened to the light," said Milly, "I can feel a greater
tenderness, I think, for all the disappointed hopes in which there
is no harm. When I see a beautiful child in its fond mother's
arms, I love it all the better, thinking that my child might have
been like that, and might have made my heart as proud and happy."
Redlaw raised his head, and looked towards her.
"All through life, it seems by me," she continued, "to tell me
something. For poor neglected children, my little child pleads as
if it were alive, and had a voice I knew, with which to speak to
me. When I hear of youth in suffering or shame, I think that my
child might have come to that, perhaps, and that God took it from
me in His mercy. Even in age and grey hair, such as father's, it
is present: saying that it too might have lived to be old, long
and long after you and I were gone, and to have needed the respect
and love of younger people."
Her quiet voice was quieter than ever, as she took her husband's
arm, and laid her head against it.
"Children love me so, that sometimes I half fancy - it's a silly
fancy, William - they have some way I don't know of, of feeling for
my little child, and me, and understanding why their love is
precious to me. If I have been quiet since, I have been more
happy, William, in a hundred ways. Not least happy, dear, in this
- that even when my little child was born and dead but a few days,
and I was weak and sorrowful, and could not help grieving a little,
the thought arose, that if I tried to lead a good life, I should
meet in Heaven a bright creature, who would call me, Mother!"
Redlaw fell upon his knees, with a loud cry.
"O Thou, he said, "who through the teaching of pure love, hast
graciously restored me to the memory which was the memory of Christ
upon the Cross, and of all the good who perished in His cause,
receive my thanks, and bless her!"
Then, he folded her to his heart; and Milly, sobbing more than
ever, cried, as she laughed, "He is come back to himself! He likes
me very much indeed, too! Oh, dear, dear, dear me, here's
Then, the student entered, leading by the hand a lovely girl, who
was afraid to come. And Redlaw so changed towards him, seeing in
him and his youthful choice, the softened shadow of that chastening
passage in his own life, to which, as to a shady tree, the dove so
long imprisoned in his solitary ark might fly for rest and company,
fell upon his neck, entreating them to be his children.
Then, as Christmas is a time in which, of all times in the year,
the memory of every remediable sorrow, wrong, and trouble in the
world around us, should be active with us, not less than our own
experiences, for all good, he laid his hand upon the boy, and,
silently calling Him to witness who laid His hand on children in
old time, rebuking, in the majesty of His prophetic knowledge,
those who kept them from Him, vowed to protect him, teach him, and
Then, he gave his right hand cheerily to Philip, and said that they
would that day hold a Christmas dinner in what used to be, before
the ten poor gentlemen commuted, their great Dinner Hall; and that
they would bid to it as many of that Swidger family, who, his son
had told him, were so numerous that they might join hands and make
a ring round England, as could be brought together on so short a
And it was that day done. There were so many Swidgers there, grown
up and children, that an attempt to state them in round numbers
might engender doubts, in the distrustful, of the veracity of this
history. Therefore the attempt shall not be made. But there they
were, by dozens and scores - and there was good news and good hope
there, ready for them, of George, who had been visited again by his
father and brother, and by Milly, and again left in a quiet sleep.
There, present at the dinner, too, were the Tetterbys, including
young Adolphus, who arrived in his prismatic comforter, in good
time for the beef. Johnny and the baby were too late, of course,
and came in all on one side, the one exhausted, the other in a
supposed state of double-tooth; but that was customary, and not
It was sad to see the child who had no name or lineage, watching
the other children as they played, not knowing how to talk with
them, or sport with them, and more strange to the ways of childhood
than a rough dog. It was sad, though in a different way, to see
what an instinctive knowledge the youngest children there had of
his being different from all the rest, and how they made timid
approaches to him with soft words and touches, and with little
presents, that he might not be unhappy. But he kept by Milly, and
began to love her - that was another, as she said! - and, as they
all liked her dearly, they were glad of that, and when they saw him
peeping at them from behind her chair, they were pleased that he
was so close to it.
All this, the Chemist, sitting with the student and his bride that
was to be, Philip, and the rest, saw.
Some people have said since, that he only thought what has been
herein set down; others, that he read it in the fire, one winter
night about the twilight time; others, that the Ghost was but the
representation of his gloomy thoughts, and Milly the embodiment of
his better wisdom. I say nothing.
- Except this. That as they were assembled in the old Hall, by no
other light than that of a great fire (having dined early), the
shadows once more stole out of their hiding-places, and danced
about the room, showing the children marvellous shapes and faces on
the walls, and gradually changing what was real and familiar there,
to what was wild and magical. But that there was one thing in the
Hall, to which the eyes of Redlaw, and of Milly and her husband,
and of the old man, and of the student, and his bride that was to
be, were often turned, which the shadows did not obscure or change.
Deepened in its gravity by the fire-light, and gazing from the
darkness of the panelled wall like life, the sedate face in the
portrait, with the beard and ruff, looked down at them from under
its verdant wreath of holly, as they looked up at it; and, clear
and plain below, as if a voice had uttered them, were the words.
Lord keep my Memory green.