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´╗┐Title: Mad - A Story of Dust and Ashes
Author: Fenn, George Manville, 1831-1909
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mad - A Story of Dust and Ashes" ***

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Mad
A Story of Dust and Ashes
By George Manville Fenn
Published by Tinsley Brothers, 18 Catherine Street, Strand, London.
This edition dated 1868.

Volume One, Chapter I.

THE THIN END OF THE WEDGE.

Septimus Hardon bore his Christian name from no numerical reason, for he
was an only child; but his father, Octavius Hardon, Esquire, of
Somesham, thought that, like his own, the name had a good bold sound
with it--a sonorous classical twang.  There was a vibration with it that
should impress people in the future life of the bearer and add
importance denied by Nature; but Mrs Octavius, during her lifetime, was
always in disgrace with her lord for shortening the name into Sep, which
was decidedly not impressive; while as for Septimus himself, he too was
always in trouble with his father for being what he was--decidedly
impressive, but not in the way his father wished; for to look at
Septimus Hardon it might have been supposed that Nature, after trying
her 'prentice hand on man, and then making "the lasses, O," had had a
quantity of rough stuff left--odds and ends, snips and scraps and
awkward tags--when, sooner than there should be any waste of the
precious material, she made Septimus Hardon.  You could not say that he
was deformed, but there was an odd look about him; his head seemed too
big, and was badly thatched, while, by contrast, his body was too small;
then his nose was a trifle on one side, and his mouth too wide, though
it certainly disclosed an enviable set of teeth; his arms were long, and
swung about too much, while one leg was slightly shorter than the other,
short enough to make him limp; but there was mildness written in his
pitted face, and honesty peered at you from his clear bright eyes.  And
there was a true heart too in his breast, a large swelling heart, to
which must have been due the obtrusiveness of his breast, and the
decided roundness of his shoulders.  And while Septimus Hardon had in
some things most excellent taste--taste that his cousins sneered at,
save when they wanted their music copied neatly, or their drawings
touched up--yet dress was not his forte, since he always made the worst
of himself by wearing clothes that did not fit him, and bad as his
figure was, some tailor could have been found who would have guaranteed
fit, if not style.  Septimus generally wore shabby faded black coats and
vests, trousers of a dead leaf or baker's drab, blucher boots of the
pattern known as contract--very bulgy and wrinkly; and a real beaver
hat, with a propensity for growing irritated under the brush, and
becoming rough and startling.

Born in London, Septimus had lived since childhood with his father at
the Grange, a solitary house about a couple of miles from Somesham town;
and for years past the amusement and toil of the father and son had been
centred in a little amateur printing-office, fitted up in a side-room,
where they laboriously printed, page by page, the work that Octavius
Hardon called his brother Thomas--the doctor practising in the town--a
fool for not appreciating,--a work upon political reform, one that was
to astonish the world at large when it was completed; and though
Septimus owned to himself that the world would be easily astonished and
its state rather startling if it accepted and acted upon the opinions
there set forth, yet, at forty years of age, he was still working on day
after day at his father's beck and call, obedient as a child, and never
venturing an opinion of his own in presence of the irascible old man,
who always called him "boy."

It might have been supposed that living so secluded a life himself, and
being so strange of aspect, the idle god would have spared him as an
object for his shafts; but for long years Septimus Hardon had loved in
secret, loved and sorrowed,--for he was not happy in the choice he had
made.  Mary Phillips was the betrothed of Tom Grey, the mate of an East
Indiaman; and Septimus Hardon had been divided between love for the fair
girl and friendship for his old schoolfellow, who made him the
repository, in his frank, sailorlike fashion, of all his secrets.

So while the sailor had wooed and won, Septimus Hardon had nursed his
love for years, hardly realising the passion he had harboured, till one
night when, after a woodside ramble, he stood leaning upon a stile, and
glancing down with bitterness at his uncouth form.  The shadows were
growing deeper, when, hearing approaching footsteps, he entered the
wood, where before him lay many a dark mossy arcade--fit places for the
sighs of a sorrowful heart; and he thought as he entered one that he
could wander here in peace for a while; but the next instant the hot
blood flushed up into his face, making his veins throb as he stood with
clenched hands gazing through the thin screen of leaves at Mary, leaning
lovingly upon his friend's arm, and listening with downcast eyes to his
words.

The listener could hardly see the looks of those who passed, but their
words seemed to ring through the stillness of the summer eve, each one
falling with a heavy impact upon his ear, and vibrating through his
frame, as if a sharp blow had been struck upon sonorous metal.  For a
moment a wild fury seemed to blind him, and he stood trembling with
passion till the footsteps died away; when, half wild with agony, he
dashed headlong, deeper and deeper into the wood, crashing through the
light hazels, tripping over the tortuous roots; and at last, stumbling
over a fallen bough, he fell heavily, and lay insensible in the calm
depths of the wood.  But thought soon dawned upon him again, and he lay
and shuddered as the anguish of heart came slowly creeping back; for he
now thoroughly understood his fate, and knew that the bright dreamy
structures in which his imagination had revelled had crumbled before him
into bitter dust.

Time sped on, and after another voyage Tom Grey was back, and standing
with his hand upon Septimus Hardon's shoulder.

"Come?  Why, of course, my boy; what should we do without you?  Mary
begs that you won't refuse; and, Sep, old fellow, I shall expect you to
be her bodyguard when I'm far away at sea."

Septimus Hardon was standing opposite to a tall pier-glass in his
father's drawing-room when these words were spoken; and he glanced at
himself, and then, sighing bitterly, wondered whether, had he been as
other men, he would have been chosen.  But the next moment the thought
was crushed down, and he was returning the frank, handsome sailor's
honest grasp.

Septimus Hardon nursed his love, but he hid it, buried it in the deepest
recesses of his heart; and no one knew of the secret held by the
bridegroom's friend, who held by one of the pews when a swimming came
upon him in the church, and he would have fallen had not Tom Grey
grasped his arm.  But that soon passed, and the stricken man added his
congratulations to those of the friends assembled to follow the couple,
in whose path flowers were strewn--the couple joined together till death
did them part.

And that was soon--soon to the loving wife--soon to the husband whose
journeyings were upon the great deep; but years passed first, during
which quiet, vacillating Septimus Hardon was the faithful friend of his
schoolfellow's wife, and the patient slave of her bright-eyed child, at
whose bidding he was always ready to attend, even to the neglect of his
father's book.

Then came the day when, after whispering of hope, for many months,
Septimus learned that his fears were but too well founded, and that his
friend's ship had gone down with all on board.

A bitter trial was his to break the fatal tidings to the widow, and he
stood trembling as she, the woman he had for long years worshipped in
secret, reviled him and cursed him in her madness for the news--the
blasting news that he had brought upon her home.

Then two years glided away, when the widow, passing through many a phase
of sorrow, sickness, and misery, sat hoping on that he whom she mourned
would yet return, and all the while ignorant of the hand that supplied
her wants, or of the good friend with so great a love for fancy-work
that she sent order after order, liberally paid for by the hands of
Septimus Hardon.  The beauty of the past slowly faded, so that she
became haggard and thin; a lasting illness seemed to have her in its
grasp; but still faithful to his trust, true to the love he bore her,
Septimus Hardon set at naught the frowns of his father and the sneers of
his cousins, while he devoted himself to the alleviation of the widow's
sufferings, and kept her from the additional stings of want, for she had
been left totally unprovided for by her young and hopeful husband.

And what was the result?  Such as might have been expected from such a
nature as Septimus Hardon's.  Patient and true, the love he bore this
woman was hidden for years, and then, when in her hopeless misery the
widow turned her head upon the sick pillow and asked his advice, he told
her to give him the right to protect her, to be to her child, little
Lucy, a second father, and then shrank, crushed and trembling, from the
room, affrighted at her look of horror, and the words accusatory which
told him of faithlessness to his trust, to his schoolfellow, who she
felt yet lived.

But it was only in her hopeful heart he lived, and six months after
forbidding Septimus her house, Mary Grey, weeping bitterly over the
discovery she had made of the hand that had so long sustained her, wrote
these words and sent them to the Grange: "Forgive me!"

Volume One, Chapter II.

SEP'S COMPLAINT.

Octavius Hardon's book was at a standstill, and the world still in the
thick darkness of ignorance as regarded political reform upon his basis,
for Septimus Hardon was ill, sick almost unto death.  He had slowly
grown listless and dull, careless of everything, daily becoming weaker,
until, apparently without ailment, he had taken to his bed, over which
his uncle, Doctor Hardon; his assistant, Mr Reston, a handsome,
cynical-looking man, and the rival practitioner of the town, had all
concurred in shaking their heads and declaring that nothing could be
done, since Septimus Hardon was suffering from the effects of an
internal malformation.

They were quite right; the poor fellow had too much heart; and though
the wise of this earth declare that people do not die of or for love,
yet most assuredly Septimus Hardon would slowly have faded from his
place among men, and before many months had passed over his head gone
where there is rest.

But there was medicine of the right kind coming, and the very perusal
with lack-lustre eyes of the prescription brought to his bedroom sent a
flash of light into the glassy orbs, and in the course of a few weeks
Septimus disappointed the doctors by getting well, Nature having
arranged respecting the internal malformation.

"I don't think you did him a bit of good, Mr Brande; not a bit--not a
bit--not a bit," said Octavius to the rival practitioner.  "He never
took any of your stuffs.  Now, come and set me up again, for I'm wrong."

"Better, yes, he's better," said the old man to Mr Reston.
"Good-morning--good-morning--good-morning."

Doctor Hardon had sent his assistant over; but in place of seeing the
patient he found himself bowed out; and on loudly complaining to the
doctor, not on account of missing his interview with the patient, but
for reasons of his own, Doctor Hardon now called.

"Well, Tom--well, Tom--well, Tom?" said Octavius, smiling cynically, and
looking his younger brother well over from top to toe.  "What is it,
Tom?"

"O, about Septimus?"

"There, be off; I'm busy.  Septimus is getting on, and Mr Brande will
physic him if he wants any more.  A man who can't morally physic his own
children can't do other people's good."

Doctor Hardon, portly and pompous, rose to speak; but Octavius took hold
of his arm and led him to the door, giving him his hat at the same time.

"Good-bye, Tom--good-bye--good-bye.  Don't come till I send for you
again.  You always were a fool, and an ass, and an idiot, and a humbug,
Tom--always--always--always."

There was a slight storm at Doctor Hardon's that day, and neither his
wife nor daughters ventured much into his presence; but when, some weeks
afterwards, the doctor knew of a scene that took place in his brother's
house, he smiled softly, and after a fashion of his own he purred, while
that night he was graciousness itself.

Octavius Hardon sat writing, and listening to the words of his son till,
as he grew interested, the pen ceased to form letters, and at last he
pushed back his chair, overturning the inkstand, so that the sable
current streamed across a fresh paragraph of his book.  He thrust up his
glasses and sheltered his eyes to look at his son--the son who had
obeyed his every word and look, who had never seemed to have a thought
of his own--the son who was even now, in spite of his forty years, but a
boy; and as he looked, he saw that he seemed inches taller, that there
was an elate look in his countenance, which it would have been hard at
that moment to have called plain.

"Going to be what?" gasped the father.

"To be married," said the son firmly.

"Married?"

"Married, father."

"And to whom?  One of those hussies, your cousins?"

"To Mrs Grey," replied Septimus.

"What?" gasped the old man.  "To a woman--a widow with a family--a
proper inmate for the union--a pauper!"

"Hush, father!" cried Septimus.  "I love her;" and he said those simple
words with such reverence, such tenderness, that the old man paused and
gazed almost wonderingly at the aspect worn by his son; but by degrees
his anger gained the ascendant, and a stormy scene ensued in which the
father threatened and besought in turn, while the son remained calm and
immovable.  Once he shrunk back and held up his hands deprecatingly,
when the old man spoke harshly of the stricken woman; but directly after
his face lit up with a pride and contentment which almost maddened the
speaker.

"You cannot keep a wife!" he gasped.

Septimus smiled.

"You were always a helpless, vacillating fool, and you have nothing but
the few hundreds from your mother."

Septimus bowed his head.

"Dog!" roared the old man, "I'll leave every penny I have to your
uncle's hussies if you dare to marry this woman."

The son smiled sadly, but remained silent.

"Why don't you speak?" roared Octavius, foaming with rage.

"What would you have me say, father?" said Septimus calmly.

"Say!" gasped the old man; "why, that you are a thankless, graceless,
unnatural scoundrel.  But where do you mean to go?"

"To London," said Septimus.

"To London!" sneered the old man; "and what for?  No; go to Hanwell, or
Colney Hatch, or sink your paltry money at a private asylum, if they
will take you.  To London, to leave me to my infirmities, with my book
unfinished!  But you'll take my curse with you; and may yon brazen,
scheming woman--"

"Hush!" cried Septimus fiercely, as he laid his hand upon his father's
lips, when, beside himself with fury, Octavius struck his son heavily in
the face, and then, as he fell back, the old man seized the poker, but
only to throw it crashing back into the fender.

Just at that moment, the door opened, a tall, dark, handsome girl
hurried into the room, and stood between father and son, gazing in an
agitated way from one anger-wrought countenance to the other.

"Septimus!  Uncle!" she cried, "what is the matter?"

"He's a villain, girl--an unnatural scoundrel.  He's going to marry that
woman--Grey's wife--widow--relict--curse her!"

"What, poor Mrs Grey?" said the girl, with the tears springing to her
eyes.

"God bless you for that, Agnes!" cried Septimus passionately, as he
caught her in his arms, and kissed her affectionately.

"Yes, _poor_ Mrs Grey," sneered the old man, looking savagely at the
pair before him.  "But there, let him go; and mind _you_, or you won't
have what I've got.  But there, you will, and your sisters will have
something to fleer and jeer at then, and your father will purr in my
face, and spit and swear behind my back.  Bah! a cursed tom-cat humbug!"

"Hush, uncle dear!" whispered Agnes, laying one hand upon his arm and
the other upon his breast, her lip quivering as she spoke,--"hush! you
are angry.--Don't say any more, Septimus."

"No," replied Septimus sternly, "I have done."

"No, _no_, no! you have not," roared the old man, firing up again.  "You
have to beg my pardon, and tell me that this folly is at an end."

"I'll beg your pardon, father," said Septimus sternly, "and I do ask it
for anything I have done amiss; but I have pledged my word to the woman
I have loved these ten years."  And again there was the look of proud
elation on Septimus Hardon's countenance.

"And you are going to London, eh?" said Octavius.

"To London," said Septimus calmly.

The old man frowned, pressed his lips tightly together, and, holding
Agnes firmly by her shoulder, he stood pointing with one hand towards
the door.

"Then go!" he said; "go--go!"

"O, Septimus!" cried Agnes in appealing tones,--"uncle!"

"You're mad, Septimus Hardon," said the old man coldly.  "Mad--stark
mad: a private asylum, Septimus--an asylum--mad!  You're mad--stark mad!
Go!"

Volume One, Chapter III.

FURTHER INTRODUCTIONS.

In the faint light of early morning, some ten years after the scene
described in the last chapter, at that cold dank hour when the struggle
is going on between night and day, and the former is being slowly and
laboriously conquered,--when Chancery-lane looked at its worst, and the
passed-away region of Bennett's-rents more sordid and desolate than
ever.  The gas-lamps still glimmered in the street, while the solitary
light at the end of the Rents yet burned dimly, and as if half-destroyed
by mephitic vapour, when the door of Number 27 was opened, closed
loudly, and a man clattered heavily over the broken pavement, creating
an unnecessary amount of noise as he slowly made his way out through the
narrow archway into the street, but watching on either side with
observant eye the while.  It seemed darker when he reached the Lane,
where, after glancing hastily up and down for a minute, he softly thrust
off his boots,--a pair of heavy lace-ups,--and then, taking them in his
hand, he ran lightly back, with the stooping gait and eager hound-like
air of some savage beast on the trail of its prey.  But the next moment
he was at the door he had quitted, had opened it softly and slipped in,
ignorant that a face at the third-floor window opposite was watching his
movements with looks yet keener than his own.

Holding his breath, the man stood in the passage of the old house for a
few seconds; then, passing along softly, he stole down the damp,
half-rotten cellar-stairs, starting once and giving vent to a
half-suppressed ejaculation as a cat dashed hastily by him, when he
paused to wipe the cold perspiration from his forehead with his sleeve.
Then he stood at the bottom in front of the cellar-door, in the damp
dark place where ashes gritted beneath his feet, and the foul smell of
half-decayed vegetable refuse arose.  Apparently guided by caution, he
now carefully felt around him, letting his hands glide along the wall,
while his feet probed every corner to insure that he was alone, before,
after listening an instant at the foot of the stairs, he slipped quickly
through the door, and stood in the large front cellar.

It was lighter here, for the morning was struggling down through the
grating; and now, after a careful tour of inspection, peering into every
dim corner, the man passed through a low archway and into a back-cellar,
darker and damper than the first,--a place that had once been used for
wine, and into every one of whose cobweb-hung and sawdust-floored bins
the man looked in turn, as he made his way farther from the light.

He was a big, heavy man; but there was something soft and cat-like in
his movements as he passed along the dark cellar.  The obscurity seemed
to have but little effect upon him, for the way appeared familiar; and
when right at the end he stopped to listen attentively for a few moments
before, going down upon hands and knees, he crawled rapidly, and more
cat-like than ever, into one of the darkest bins.  Then there was a low
grating noise heard, as if a heavy stone had been pushed aside; there
was a deep expiration, as of one moving a weight; a rustling, the
grating sound once more, and then for a few minutes silence.

The light descending the grating struggled hard to illumine the obscure
place; but this was one of the strongholds of darkness--a spot where it
lurked through the bright hours of the day; and the efforts of the light
only served to faintly illumine the front cellar, where stood a huge
water-butt with a pipe leading to it for the supply of the house; and
here now began an echoing drip, drip, drip; while from the tap came a
strange, sighing, hissing sound, as the air was forced by distant
pressure along the pipe.

Now came the sharp crack of a stair, the very faint rustle of a dress,
and then slowly and cautiously appeared, coming forward, as it were, out
of the gloom like one of the phantoms of a nightmare, the face that had
been gazing from the opposite window, an old, eager, hawk-like, pinched
woman's face, peering through the opening of the ajar door, and followed
directly by the shabbily-clothed body.

Cautiously, and with eyes peering in every direction, the woman advanced
into the cellar, her head thrust forward, with her thin grey hair pushed
behind her ears, which twitched and seemed on the alert to catch the
faintest sound.  Close behind her followed a cropped poodle-dog, which
now ran forward, when at a menacing gesture it half stood up, but the
raised hand made it shrink down instantly, and crouching to the earth it
crawled for a few moments and then lay motionless, while its mistress,
as if walking in the steps of the man, nimbly examined the cellar, even
peering behind and in the great butt, which her thrust-in hand showed
her was nearly full of water.

She then softly made her way to the dark arch, and with one hand holding
by the side leaned in and tried to penetrate the darkness, but without
avail; when, muttering softly to herself, she stepped in, but only to
pass out the next moment shaking her head, as with one hand she busily
searched her pocket, from which she drew forth a box of matches.
Stepping once more beneath the arch she struck a match upon the damp
wall, and a long phosphorescent line of light shone feebly out, but the
match did not blaze.

Impatiently throwing down the splint of wood, the woman tried another
and another, but without effect, till she rubbed one upon the outside of
the box, when it ignited silently, and illumined the place for a little
distance round, when eagerly catching up the tiny splints thrown down
she lit first one and then another, and as they burned their brief span
a hasty examination was made.  Everywhere the same features: old
cobwebbed wine-bins, damp and fungoid growths, and though the woman
peered even into the bin where the man had so lately crawled, nothing
presented itself to her hurried gaze more than in the others, and as her
last lit splint burned out she stepped lightly back to the entrance.

As she stood within the front cellar she turned once more to gaze down
the dark place she had quitted, when a low grating noise struck her ear,
and starting back she was about to run to the steps; but, making an
effort over herself, she stood, trembling, and listened.

The noise continued for a few seconds, then came the sound as of clothes
rustling against a wall, then the heavy breathing, the grating once
more, and then silence as, turning her back to both entrances, the woman
stole softly to where her dog lay crouching upon the damp floor.

The next moment a sharp yelp and a succession of howls came from the
stricken dog as the woman caught it by the thick curled hair of its
neck, and beat it savagely.

"Ah, then, _mechant chien_, bad tog, how I have looked for you!" she
cried.  "Why do you steal down here?  There, there, there!" and each
word was followed by a blow, while the wretched little animal lay
cowering and yelping on the ground, till, lifted by its ears, the skin
seemed drawn out of place, the eyes elongated, and the poor brute, now
silent, the most abject specimen of canine misery imaginable.

There was a quick step behind the woman, and, as if surprised, she
started, and turned to gaze at the evil face behind her, for the man had
stepped close to the entrance-door.

"Ah!  Meester Jarker, but you did frighten me.  My bad tog he runs away.
What shall I do wis him?"

The man looked keenly at the speaker, and slowly drew a large
clasp-knife, which he opened, and the woman could hardly repress a
shudder as there in the dim light she saw him run his thumb along the
edge.

"Ah, yes!" she said with a half-laugh; "he deserves, but I cannot spare
him; I must teach him better than to come into uzzer people's house.  I
look everywhere before I think of dis cellar."

The man did not speak, but glanced first at the mistress, then at the
dog, and then at his knife and the great butt, and then involuntarily
his suspicious looks turned to the dark arch of the inner cellar, when
once more their eyes met in a long penetrating stare.

"I once knowed somethin' as got its throat cut for coming into this here
cellar.  I ain't sure, but I think that 'ere was a dawg," growled the
man.

"O yes, he must not come any more, Meester Jarker; but you will not cut
my troat.  O, no," laughed the woman jeeringly, as sending her dog on
first, and fixing her eyes upon the man, she slowly backed out of the
cellar.  "O, no, for we will both be good and come no more."

As she slowly made her way to the cellar-stairs, the man stood looking
after her; but as she mounted them he followed softly, and listened till
he heard her rustle along the passage, when he slipped through the
cellar and caught sight of her from the rusty grating as she crossed the
court, when he once more went back to the dark arch and looked about
him.

All at once his keen eye caught sight of something upon the floor--a
newly-burned scrap of match, and snatching it up, he held it to his
cheek to try and detect whether it was dry or damp.  It seemed to be
dry, so after once more going to the door, and from thence to the
stairs, to make out whether he was sure to be free from interruption, he
returned hastily, drew forth a tin match-box, lit a scrap of wax-candle
from his pocket, and then shading the light with his cap and carefully
examining the floor, he picked up three more tiny pieces of half-burned
match, lying here and there amongst the blackened dirt and sawdust.
These scraps he carefully placed in his pocket along with the piece of
candle, and then hurried out, with his lips drawn away from his teeth,
and his face wearing a diabolically savage aspect.  But the next moment
he gave his head a shake, and stole softly up the stairs muttering:

"It must have been arter the dawg."

Mr William Jarker walked out into the court with his boots on now, and
his hands very far down in his pockets, and then made his way into the
Lane, where he paused in doubt as to whether he should go to the right
or to the left; but as in the latter direction there was a policeman,
Mr Jarker betook himself to the right, and made his way into the
Strand, now nearly empty, while church-spire and chimney-pot stood out
clear in the unsmoked morning air.  But the street-sweepers were busy,
the butchers' carts from westward came rattling along, bound for
Newgate-market; watercress-girls tramped by from Farringdon, making up
their dark-green bunches as they walked; while every now and then a red
newspaper-cart dashed by with its universal budget for the various
railway termini.  London was waking again, the great heart was beating
fast, and the streams of life beginning to ebb and flow through the
street-veins of the City.

But all this affected Mr Jarker very little, he only seemed interested
at times during his walk, being apparently in a very contemplative mood.
Once he half-stopped as a tall, dark, fierce-eyed woman walked hastily
by in company with a slightly-formed girl; but they noticed him not, and
were soon out of sight, while Mr Jarker continued his walk, with eyes
directed at the ground, as if he thought that being an early bird he
must get the first peck at the worms--worms that might take the form of
some valuable waif.  However, not meeting with any reward from the earth
he turned his eyes heavenward, where he could see no waifs, but an
occasional stray in the shape of a pigeon, darting across the clear
strip of atmosphere above his head, or settling upon the housetop, and
so much did these gentle birds attract his notice, that he would now and
then stop, and inserting a couple of tolerably clean, soft, unworked
fingers in his mouth, whistle to them.

For the pigeons are many in London, and at early morn single birds may
be seen darting in swift flight like airy messengers; flocks may be seen
in circle round their home, or cooing in company upon the tower of some
lofty church--one of the many hidden amidst the labyrinths of bricks and
mortar--cooing softly sweet notes, heard plainly now, but soon to be
drowned in the roar of the busy streams of life ebbing and flowing
through the streets; now but a gentle hum as of a honey-seeking bee, but
soon increasing in intensity as the bees swarm.

There was no help for it this time, for suddenly turning a corner, Mr
Jarker come upon a sergeant and a dozen policemen walking with measured
step, on their way to relieve those who had been on duty through the
night.

"I'm gallussed!" muttered Mr Jarker, trying to look unconcerned, and
slouching on; and it was observable that though Mr Jarker looked
straight before him and whistled, the policemen, one and all, looked
very hard at Mr Jarker, as if they knew him and felt hurt at his pride;
while one man was even seen to wink to himself, and smile a very
peculiar, hard smile--the kind of smile only seen upon policemen's
faces, and one that means so much that its interpretation would be a
task of difficulty.

"I'm gallussed!" muttered Mr Jarker again, when he was well past the
men in uniform, and then, apparently satisfied with the length of his
morning walk, he took a short cut to make his way back to
Bennett's-rents, while, upon thus once more having his thoughts directed
homeward, he again muttered--"It must have been arter the dawg."

Volume One, Chapter IV.

WITH THE DRAGON'S TEETH.

In the gloomiest part of that gloomy street called Carey, and in the
darkest corner of his printing-office, sat Septimus Hardon.  The
dragon's teeth and their appurtenances lay around, but all thickly
covered with that strange black dust peculiar to the region; the dust
compounded of who can tell what, as it rests on every ledge, and settles
thickly upon every article in room or workshop, office or chamber.
Business had not prospered with Septimus, though his place looked
business-like, save for the animation that a few moving figures would
have lent to it, while for position it was all that could be desired.
But the star of Septimus Hardon was not in the ascendant.  With the
knowledge full upon him that he must work to keep the wife and child he
had taken to his breast upon leaving Somesham, he had adopted the trade
which seemed most congenial from the little knowledge that he possessed;
but as the years passed on, leaving him poorer, and with increased
expenses, he grew hopeless, helpless, and, if it were possible, less
fitted than ever for fighting his way amidst the busy throngs of the
great city.  At times, almost in despair, he would go forth into the
streets of the busy hive and canvass for work; but he always carried
with him an atmosphere of his own, so quiet, strange, and retiring a
manner, that his very appearance invited either pity or rebuff, and
often and often, when tired out, he would return to his wife for the
comfort that she, grown more sickly than ever, could ill afford to give.

But Septimus seldom complained, and there was always a pleasant smile
for Lucy Grey, now grown a blooming girl, the mainstay of the family for
cheerfulness, and the constant attendant of her invalid mother; and, in
spite of her years, almost taking the place of parent to the two
children, the fruit of Septimus Hardon's marriage.

And now, after long years of straggling, Septimus sat thinking of the
state of his affairs, of the rent he had to make up, and the silence of
his father in spite of the many humble appeals that he had made to him
for help.  Mattering and calculating, with a piece of paper and a
pencil, he suddenly stopped short, for he saw that he was not alone, and
shuffling off his high stool he hurried towards the new-comer, in the
hope that some solicitor had sent orders for some large amount of work,
or that, better still, an estimate was wanted for a new magazine.

"Any chance of a job, sir?" said the new-comer, who might have been
Septimus Hardon twenty years older, and more shabby.  There was `old
compositor' oozing out of him at every corner, and the corners in his
person were many; he smelt of stale tobacco-smoke, and he was taking
almost his last pinch of snuff out of a dirty piece of paper, with his
long, lithe, active fingers as Septimus Hardon approached him.  A shabby
black frock-coat was buttoned tightly to his chin; his shiny black
trousers had the gloss of age thick upon them; Wellington boots were
upon his feet that rivalled his tall hat for dilapidations; old, sallow,
dirty, and wild-looking, he was not the man a master would have employed
unless from some latent idea that he suited the district.  "Any chance
of a job, sir?"

Septimus Hardon shook his head and sighed, which was, to say the least
of it, unbusiness-like.

The old man echoed the sigh, leaned one hand upon the case of type at
his elbow, and began to finger the letters, bringing up the bright
unused types from the bottom of the boxes.  He then sighed again, took
in at one glance the fittings of the office, and ended by fixing his
eyes upon the owner.

"Might do a deal of work with all this, sir."

Septimus Hardon nodded drearily, and sighed again, instead of promptly
ordering the man off his premises.

"Yes; should be glad of an hour's work or so, sir.  Seems hard here in
this world of ours that when a man's ready and willing to work he can't
get it to do, sir; don't it?"

Septimus nodded, and looked hard at the man, thinking how his was after
all the worse lot.

"I'm faint, sir," continued the old printer, "and hungry, and hard up;"
and then he looked down at his clothes with a dreary smile upon his
grim, unshorn face.

"I would give you work with pleasure," said Septimus; "but I might as
well close the office for all that comes to my share."

The man scraped the last of his snuff out of the shabby piece of
newspaper, and lost it all beneath his long dirty finger and
thumb-nails; when, not to disappoint his itching organ, he ran a lean
finger along a ledge where dust lay thick, and administered it to his
nose in an absent way, snapped his fingers loudly to get rid of the
residue, and then slowly turned to go; but, on reaching the door, he
faced round again:

"If you'd stand an advance of a shilling, sir, I'd come honestly another
time and work it out; for I _am_ hard up, sir, and no mistake."

Mistake there certainly was none; but shillings were then scarce things
with Septimus Hardon.  A shilling, the sum tossed carelessly to the
cabman for a few hundred yards' ride, meant, perhaps, the dinner of
himself and family; and he knew in his heart that the odds were very
long against his ever seeing man or shilling again; but there was so
great a knowledge of want in his heart that he could not bear to see it
in others, and almost the last shilling in his pocket was slipped into
the visitor's hand.

The old printer took the money with his trembling fingers; looked at it,
then at the donor; tried to speak, but choked over it; and then, with
something like a maundering tear in each eye, he shuffled out of the
office, taking with him: The solicitor's work; The magazine estimate;
and, most needed of all, Septimus Hardon's shilling.

There was so little weight in the pocket before, that the shilling was
not missed; and in spite of the black look of his affairs there was
something in the act which made Septimus Hardon's heart feel light as
his pocket, as, thrusting his papers into the desk and locking it, he
went and stood before a piece of looking-glass and stretched his face to
take out the care-wrinkles, smiled two or three times to give a pleasant
tarnish to his countenance, and then, loudly humming a tune, he hurried
up to the first-floor, where Mrs Septimus, Lucy, and the children, were
located.

Carey-street was a most desirable place for residence or business, as
any landlord would have told you in the old days, before the houses I
write of were carted away by contractors, and huge law-courts threatened
in their stead.  Lucy Grey knew the place now by heart.  There was
generally something out of the common way to be seen there, in spite of
the place being so retired and its echoes so seldom disturbed by
carriages, unless by those of the judges, when coachman and footman
thought it advisable to wash down the legal dust of the place by copious
draughts of porter at the Barley Mow or the Blue Horse.  The dust-cart--
that hearse for bearing off the remains of many a dancing, merry, cheery
fire--might be seen there in the morning; and at every cloud of dust
raised by the emptying of the fantail man's basket, scraps of parchment
and torn folios of cold, bitter cold crabbed writing, were caught up by
the fierce winds of the place, and away they went scudding down the
street, to the amusement of Septimus Hardon's children; for the mocking
wind tossed the scraps on high, as if to show how light and empty they
were.  Interesting words they were too, mostly about "our client" and
his "heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns;" while of a morning
the man whom Septimus Hardon himself knew well as a class, "our client"
himself, might be seen in the streets; now early in his suit--Chancery
suit, perhaps,--wrapped in it and looking busy and important, glossy and
shiny, and, on the whole, apparently liking it.  Now with the suit old
and shabby, with the pocket-holes frayed and worn with the passage in
and out of papers--papers always without end, while the owner crept
along, dejected and dismal as Septimus himself, ready at times to enter
his office, and sit down and make him the repository of the fact that he
hoped the Lord Chancellor or his Vice will give judgment next week.  Now
he went along, silent and thoughtful; now he brightened up and became
energetic, and gesticulated to an audience composed of the apple-woman
at the corner, who sat there beneath the lamp summer and winter, like
some dowdy old hen in a nest, for her lower extremities were all tightly
tucked in a worn sieve-basket.

"Our client" generally went into Carey-street to eat his sandwiches; now
looking crumby, now crusty, as the case might be, while he paced
irresolutely up and down, or round into the Lane or Portugal-street, or
even into the Fields for a change, to gaze at the trees beyond those
railings, upon every spike of which a disappointed or broken heart might
be stuck by way of ornament.  As before said, "our client" had generally
plenty of papers with him; some yellow and frayed, some new, but all
carefully tied with red tape, which by its friction has a wonderful
effect upon black-kid gloves, soon wearing out the fingers, as the
papers are untied in doorways for reference while the tape-string is
held in the mouth.

"Our client" was decidedly the principal object of interest in
Carey-street; but there were thin, clever, cold-looking lawyers; thin,
cold, and underpaid clerks, blue-bag bearing; portly thick clerks, warm,
glossy, and gold-chained, red-bag bearing--bags gasping and choking
fearfully with their contents--choking horribly with the papers thrust
into them, sticking out of their very mouths; long-headed barristers,
whose eyes seemed to have turned cold and oysterish--meaningless, and as
if gazing within--men upon whose long heads briefs rained incessantly;
men in gowns, men bewigged, and with the insignia of their rank put on
all ways--straight, crooked, here awry, and there awry, with the frontal
apex descending upon the nose, and the caudal beauty behind raised at
right angles to display the undergrowth, black, brown, grey, or sandy,
or perhaps resting upon the nape of the wearer's neck, with the tails
beating a white powdery tune upon his back, like a hare's feet upon a
tabor; shabby witnesses, shabby porters, shabby inhabitants; dirt
everywhere, and a sharp, gritty, pouncey dust flying before the wind to
bring tears into the eyes.

Lucy Grey knew all this by heart, and so did Septimus Hardon's
children--lessons learned from the windows, or during their walks, when
Lucy showed them the wonders of the shops at hand, and that
ever-banging, restless door where the shabby law-writers went in and
out, night and day; the three wigs resting upon as many blockheads--
wooden blockheads--new, fresh, and cool for their future wearers; the
works in the law-booksellers', all bound in dismal paper, or
Desert-of-Sahara-coloured leather--law-calf--Tidd on this, Todd on that,
Equity Reports, Chancery Practice, Common Law, Statutes at Large,
Justice of the Peace, Stone's Manual.  Law everywhere: Simson, tin
deed-box manufacturer; Bodgers, deeds copied; Screw, law-writer; Bird,
office-furniture warehouse--valuations for probate; S Hardon, legal and
general printer; while, like a shade at the end of the street, stood the
great hospital, where the wan faces of patients might be seen gazing up
at the sky, towards where the clouds scudded before the wind, hurrying
to be once more in the country.  Away they went, each one a very
chariot, bearing with it the thoughts of the prisoned ones--captives
from sickness, or poverty, or business.  There were faces here at the
hospital that would smile, and heads that would nod to Septimus Hardon's
little golden-haired children when Lucy held them up; when perchance the
patient went back to sit upon some iron bedstead's edge, and tell some
fellow-sufferer of the bright vision she had seen,--a vision of angels
in the legal desert.

With such surroundings, no one upon entering Septimus Hardon's rooms
would have been surprised to see Mrs Septimus careworn, and lying upon
a shabby couch, and the children slight and fragile.  The rooms were
close, heavy, and dull, heavy-windowed, heavy-panelled, earthy-smelling,
and cryptish, as though the dust of dead-and-gone suitors lay thick in
the place.  There was but little accommodation for the heavy rent he
paid; and Septimus Hardon looked uneasily from face to face, crushing
down the sorrowful thoughts that tried to rise; for in that close room
there was not space for more than one complaining soul.  Mrs Septimus
told of her troubles often enough; and Septimus felt that his task was
to cheer.  Still, it was hard work when he had to think of the landlord
and the rent; the landlord who, when he complained of this said rent,
told him to look at the situation; which Septimus Hardon did, and
sighed; and then, by way of raising his spirits, took down and read the
copies of the letters he had from time to time sent to his father,
unanswered one and all; and then he sighed again, and wondered how it
would all end.

Volume One, Chapter V.

A PAIR OF SHOES.

This is a world of change; but the time was when you could turn by Saint
Clement's Church, from the roar of the waves of life in the Strand, and
make your way between a baked-potato can--perspiring violently in its
efforts to supply the demands made upon it--and a tin of hot eels,
steaming in a pasty mud; then under a gateway, past old-clothes shops
and marine-store dealers; thread your way along between crooked
tumbledown houses in dismal fever-breeding lanes, which led you into the
far-famed region of Lincoln's-inn, where law stared you in the face at
every turn.  It will doubtless behave in as barefaced a manner to you at
the present day; but you will have to approach it by a different route,
for the auctioneer's hammer has given those preliminary taps that herald
the knocking-down of a vast collection of the houses of old London; and
perhaps ere these sheets are in the press, first stones will be laid of
the buildings to occupy the site as law-courts.  But take we the region
as it was, with its frowsy abodes and their tenants.  They are clipped
away now; but in every direction, crowding in upon the great inns of
court, were dilapidated houses pressing upon it like miserable suitors
asking for their rights, or like rags of the great legal gown.  But it
is a rare place is Lincoln's-inn--a place where the law is rampant, and
the names of its disciples are piled in monuments upon the door-posts--a
place where you may pick your legal adviser according to the length of
your purse.  The doors stand open, and the halls are cold, cheerless,
and echoing, while the large carven keystone looks down at the entering
client with its stony eyes, which seem to wink and ogle as the sly,
sneering, tongue-thrusting image apparently chuckles at the folly of
man.  The cold shivers are always out in Lincoln's-inn, and they attack
you the moment you enter the precincts; probably they are spirits of
past-and-gone suitors, in past-and-gone suits, wandering to avenge
themselves upon the legal fraternity by freezing the courage of
litigants and turning them back when about to perform that wholesale
shovelling of an estate into the legal dust-cart known as "throwing it
into Chancery."  Cold stone posts stand at intervals along the sides of
the square, looking, in their grey, bleak misery, like to stripped and
bare clients waiting for redress at their legal advisers' doors.  A
dreary place for an assignation, if your friend possesses not the virtue
of punctuality; for the eye wanders in vain for some pleasant oasis
where it may rest.  You have not here in autumn those melancholy,
washed-out flowers--the chrysanthemums of the Temple, but you may gaze
through prison-like bars at soot-dusted grass--verdure apparently
splashed with ink from the surrounding offices; at the trees, adapted by
nature to the circumstances of their fate; for, as in the arctic zone
the thinly-clad animals grow furry as a protection from the cold, so
here, in this region of law costs and voluminous writing, the trees put
forth twigs and sprays of a sharp spiky nature, a compromise between
porcupine penholders and a _chevaux de frise_, to enable them to set
attack at defiance.

Enter one house here, and you would have found upon the ground-floor
your QC or Serjeant--Brother So-and-so as he is so affectionately called
by the judge; upon the first-floor, your substantial firms of family
solicitors, deep in title, lease, covenant, and tenancy in every form or
shape--men who set such store by their knowledge that they dole it out
to you at so much per dozen words--words adulterated with obsolete
expressions repeated _ad nauseam_; while upon the second-floor you would
probably find firms of sharp practitioners, ready for business in any
shape; and, as elsewhere through the house, the names of the occupants
were painted upon the doors--black letters upon a parchment ground.

But the house in question was not entirely legal in its occupants, for
if you had been ascending the stairs, before you had gone far, a loud
sniff would have made you raise your head sharply towards the skylight,
beneath which, sitting, or rather perched, upon the top balustrade,
would have been visible the doughy, big, baby-like face of Mrs Sims,
strongly resembling, with the white-muslin wings on either side, a
fat-cheeked cherub, freshly settled after some ethereal flight.

Mrs Sims was the lady who did for those gentlemen of the house who
wanted doing for, took in parcels, answered bells, and was also
well-known in the neighbourhood as a convenient party in times of
sickness, being willing to nurse a bachelor gentleman of the legal
profession, or one of the poor fraternity of the rags around.  She had
stood at many a bedside had Mrs Sims, and seen the long sleep come to
many a weary, broken-hearted suitor, and she had sniffed and sobbed at
the recital of their miseries, offering the while such consolation as
she could from the depths of a very simple but very honest heart.

After another loud sniff, and a curtsey performed invisibly, except that
the cherubic head was seen to bob out of sight, and then apparently
re-perch itself upon the balustrade, Mrs Sims would say "At home," or
"Not at home," as the case might be.  Then, as you left the staircase,
the head would disappear, and, summer or winter, Mrs Sims might be
heard refreshing herself with a blow at the fire by means of a very
creaky, asthmatic pair of bellows.

Mrs Sims was busy, and had made visible the whole of her person, as
standing at the door she pointed out into the square, calling the
attention of one of _her_ lodgers, as she termed them, to a passer-by.

"Here, you sir; fetch a cab--a four-wheeler," shouted the lodger.  "No;
confound your bird--I don't want birds, I want a cab."

The person addressed was the inhabitant of Bennett's-rents--the big,
slouchy, large-jawed gentleman, in a fur cap and a sleeved-waistcoat,
already known to the reader.  He carried a small birdcage, tied in a
cotton handkerchief, beneath his arm, while another spotted handkerchief
wrapped his bull-neck, where it was pinned with a silver-mounted
Stanhope lens, which was apparently regarded as a rare jewel.  Upon
being first called, he commenced expatiating upon the qualities of the
bird, whose cage-envelope he began to unfasten, until so unceremoniously
checked by the gentleman who summoned him.

"You're a fine sort, you are," growled the man as he went off in search
of the cab; "and if I warn't as dry as sorduss, I'd see you furder afore
I'd fetch your gallus cab, so now, then.  My name's Jarker, chrissen
William, that's about what my name is, stand or fall by it--come, now."

As nobody seemed disposed to "come, now," Mr Jarker hastened his steps,
and soon returned with the cab, placed his cage behind the hall-door,
and then, under the direction of Mrs Sims, fetched down portmanteau and
bags groaning and sighing beneath their weight, and raising up a smile
of contempt upon his employer's face as he watched the fellow's actions,
and scanned his powerful development and the idleness written so plainly
upon his countenance.  But soon the task was ended, the cab-door banged,
Mrs Sims had turned on a little more of her laughing-gas to brighten
her features by way of valediction to the departing lodger, and then, as
she sniffed loudly, the cab drove off, leaving Mr Jarker spitting upon
that curiosity, an honestly-earned sixpence in his hand.

"How's the missus? why, she's okkard, and I don't s'pose you a-coming
would do her any good, and she's a-going to spend a shillin' in
ankerchers for someone as has a cold in her head, that's what she's
a-goin' to do," said Mr Jarker, with a grin at Mrs Sims, and then he
watched the affronted dame as she sniffed her way upstairs; but before
she had reached the second flight, Mr Jarker had grinned again, drawing
his lips back from his white teeth with a smile that more resembled a
snarl.

Mr William Jarker, birdcatcher, fancier of pigeons, and of anything
else which came to his net, stood listening to the sniffs and receding
footsteps of Mrs Sims, placed the sixpence he had earned in the pocket
of his tight corduroys, pulled off his large, flat, fur cap, and gave
his head a scratch, thereby displaying a crop of hair which it would
have been useless to attempt to brush or part, for it was decidedly
short, and the barber who had last operated had not been careful, but
left the said hair nicky and notchy in places.  However, the style gave
due prominence to the peculiar phrenological development of Mr Jarker's
bumps, while his ears stood out largely, and with an air that suggested
cropping as an improvement to them as well, more especially since there
was a great deal of the bull-dog in his appearance.

Mr Jarker replaced his cap, took his little birdcage from behind the
door, and was just moving off, when a barrister came out of one of the
lower rooms in full legal costume, muttering loudly, and evidently
reciting a part of the performance he was about to go through.

Upon hearing the door open, Mr Jarker turned his head, and then gave an
involuntary shudder as he moved off, while the counsel followed closely
behind, wrapped in his brief, and at times talking loudly:

"Instead, m'lud, of the case being tried in this honourable court,
m'lud, devoted as it is to civil causes, the defendant should be
occupying the felon's dock at the Old Bailey, m'lud; for a more shameful
case of robbery--"

"I'm gallussed!" muttered Mr Jarker, quickening his steps, and
perspiring profusely, as he gave a furtive glance over his shoulder at
the barrister, still rehearsing; "I'm gallussed!  It didn't oughter be
allowed out in the public streets."

Mr Jarker felt his nerves so disarranged in consequence of low diet,
that after making his way out of the Inn, across Carey-street, and into
the rags of the legal cloak, that is to say into Bennett's-rents, he
resolved to take advantage of there being a "public" at either end of
the rents, and regardless of the whooping children who dashed by him, he
went in and had "three-ha'porth" of the celebrated cream gin advertised
outside upon a blue board with golden legend.  After which enricher of
his milk of human kindness, Mr Jarker wiped his mouth with the back of
his hand as he passed through the swinging doors, hugged his cage
against his ribs, muttered, "Didn't oughter be allowed in the public
streets," and then forcing a way through a noisy tribe of children, he
paused at Number 27 in the Rents--a dismal-looking old house, worse
perhaps by broad daylight than in the early dawn, when some of its
foulness had remained concealed.  It had been a mansion once, in the
days of the Jameses probably, when fresh air was a more abundant
commodity in the City, and was not all used up long before it could
penetrate so narrow a thoroughfare.

Mr Jarker slowly tramped up flight after flight of stairs till he came
to the attic-floor, when, without removing his hands from his pockets,
he kicked open the badly-hung door, and entered the bare room.

"O, you're here agen, are yer?" he said sulkily to a dark, well-dressed
woman, in black silk and fashionable bonnet, strangely out of place in
the wretched room, whose other occupant was pale-faced, weary-looking
Mrs Jarker, whose crimply white hands betokened a very late
acquaintanceship with the washtub by the steamy window.  "O, you're here
agen, are yer?" said Mr Jarker.

"Yes, Bill," said Mrs Jarker timidly, every word she spoke seeming to
flinch and dart out of reach of hearing almost before it was uttered.
"Yes, Bill, she's come again, and we've been talking it over--and--and--
and--if you wouldn't mind, Bill, I'd--"

"How much?" growled Mr Jarker.

"Five shillings," said his wife timidly; "five shillings a-week."

"'Tain't enough," said Mr Jarker; "it's worth six.  Look at the
trouble."

Mrs Jarker looked from her husband to the stranger and back again, and
was about to speak, when her lord exclaimed roughly, "Shut Up!"

The visitor's eyes flashed for a moment, and then she glanced hastily
round the room, her gaze resting for a moment upon the ruffianly,
bull-dog face of Jarker, and she hesitated; but another glance at the
timid, gentle countenance of his wife seemed to reassure her, and she
said hoarsely, with her look fixed upon the flinching woman, "I'll give
you six."

"And if 'tain't paid up reg'lar, I'm blest if I sha'n't chuck it outer
winder, or somethin'; so look out," said Mr Jarker.

The visitor's lips quivered, but, still gazing fixedly upon the woman,
she said in the same hoarse voice: "I shall bring the money once
a-week."

"In advance, yer know," growled Mr Jarker.

"Yes, yes; only be kind to it," exclaimed the visitor with something
like a sob, but without removing her eyes.

"O, ah! in course we will.  We're the right sort here, ain't we, Poll?"
growled Mr Jarker.

"Yes, Bill," said his wife in a husky whisper.

"And now," said Mr Bill Jarker, with what was meant for a pleasant
smile, but which consisted of the closing of his eyes, and the display
of his teeth,--"and now as we've made it all snug, you'll stand
somethin'; that's what you'll do, ain't it now?"

Still without removing her eyes from the pale-faced woman before her,
the visitor drew a shilling from a little bead-purse, and laid it upon
the table, her lips now moving as if trying to form words for Mrs
Jarker to understand.

"Go away now, Bill," whispered she to her husband.

"What for?" growled Bill, untying the knots of his handkerchief with his
teeth, to set his cage at liberty, and nearly frightening the soul out
of the tiny, fluttering, panting body contained therein.  Then, by way
of reply to a whisper, he sullenly took the shilling from the table, bit
it, spat upon it, and spun it up, before depositing it in his pocket;
made his way to the back part of the attic, where birdcages and the
paraphernalia of his profession lay thick; ascended a ladder to a trap
in the ceiling, and then, only his legs visible as he stood upon one of
the top rounds, Mr Jarker, with half his body above the tiles, busied
himself amongst his pigeons, and started them for a flight over the
houses.

The next moment, after a hurried glance at the ceiling, where the light
streamed down past the ruffian's legs, the visitor's face was seen to
work, and, rising from her seat, she went down upon her knees before
poor Mrs Jarker, kissing her work-worn hands, and bathing them with the
tears that streamed from her eyes.

"God--God bless you!" she whispered passionately.  "O, be kind to it!"

But Mrs Jarker could not answer for something swelling in her throat;
and the next minute she too was weeping, with her hand resting upon her
visitor's shoulder.

This paroxysm of tears seemed to have its effect upon the visitor, for,
forcing back her own emotion, she appeared more at ease within herself,
as, gazing once more into the pale, worn, common face of the
birdcatcher's wife, she kissed her in so loving and sisterly a way, that
the tears flowed faster from Mrs Jarker's eyes.  And yet, knowing full
well who was her visitor, Mrs Jarker did not shudder, but rose from her
choir, glanced timorously at the open trap, and then drew the stranger
towards a box--a common deal-box, with the blue-stained paper that had
once covered it hanging here and there in rags.  She went upon her knees
now, and raised the creaking lid, when an impatient movement of the feet
upon the ladder made her start up hastily, and close the lid again.  But
a long, loud whistling from above showed her that Mr Jarker was still
busy with his birds; so once more raising the lid, the poor creature
thrust her hand down to a well-known spot beneath the few rags of
clothes the box contained, and brought out a pair of little, stained red
boots, which she pressed passionately to her lips, the tears gushing
from her eyes the while, and a broken hysterical wail burst from her
overladen breast.  But it was checked instantly, for Jarker's feet
scraped on the ladder, and the boots were hidden beneath the woman's
apron; then the whistling was heard again, and the little boots were
brought forth once more.

A pair of tiny red boots, the only relic she had of something that was
not--something that she had once warmed within her breast--the breast
before now bruised and blackened by a ruffian hand, but beneath which
was the same warm, God-implanted love for her offspring that glows in
the bosom of the noblest of her sex.

For a moment or two the younger woman gazed in the other's eyes with a
soft, tender, pitying look--a look in this case of true sympathy; and
the hand of the lost rested lovingly upon Mrs Jarker's breast as she
whispered softly: "How old was it?"

"Only a twelvemonth," was the reply, followed by a moan.  "But perhaps
it was best--perhaps it was best."

The visitor's hand still rested upon the other's breast, and she was
about to speak, when an impatient shuffle startled both, for it seemed
that Mr Jarker was about to descend; but he came not.  And now a look
of ineffable sweetness and content came over the well-moulded features
of the visitor.  She was satisfied now respecting the step she was about
to take; for Mrs Jarker's heart had been laid open to her.  A true
chord of sympathy existed between them, and she could feel that her
little one would be taken to a motherly breast, and protected--
protected; but who, she asked herself, would injure one so tender and
frail?

But there was no time for further communion between these motherly
hearts, for a loud rasp on the ladder told that Mr Jarker was
descending, and the visitor prepared to leave.

"You've been a-pipin' again," growled Mr Jarker to his wife, who had
hastily concealed the boots--"pipin' about that 'ere kid as has gone;
and a good thing too.  Wot's the good when here's another a-coming?" and
he looked menacingly at the shivering woman.  "I say," he continued to
the visitor, who now stood at the door, "you'll pay up reg'lar, and in
advance!"

"Yes, yes!" she said hoarsely, almost fiercely, as she turned to him
with a steady contemptuous look, which made the great brute shuffle
about uneasily--"yes, yes, so long as I live;" and the next moment the
door closed upon her retreating form.

"Long as you live?  Yes; I should just think you will, or else there'll
precious soon be a kid found at somebody's door, with the perlice, cuss
'em, taking the brat to the workus.--And don't you pipe no more," he
snarled to the trembling woman, who slowly retreated to the washtub.  "A
taking of it to the workus, cuss 'em," muttered Mr Jarker again,
removing his fur cap and passing his hand over his cropped head, as if
the name of the police, and their probable future duty, had reminded him
of former injuries.  "Now then, you!" he shouted, as if calling his dog,
and he threw the shilling upon the table--"d'yer hear?"

"Yes, Bill," said the woman meekly, and hastily passing her hands over
her dull red eyes before she turned to him the face from which all that
was attractive had long since fled.

"Tripe!" said Mr Jarker.

"Yes, Bill," said his wife.

"Pipe and screw," growled Mr Jarker.

"Yes, Bill," said the woman, hurriedly tying on a miserable bonnet.

"And here, you!"

"I wasn't going, Bill," said the woman meekly.

"Who said you was?" growled the ruffian; "don't you be so sharp, now,
then.  Now, where's that money?"

"What money, Bill?"

The next moment the ruffian had seized her by the front of her dress and
dragged her to him, so that she went down upon her knees.  "Don't you
try to put none of your games on me.  What did she give you when I was
out of sight?"  And he put his black face down close to hers, as, half
from fear, half from bitterness, her lower lip worked as she tried to
keep back the tears, and to answer; but no words would come.

"D'yer hear?  What did she give yer?"

"Nothing, Bill," whispered the woman.

He looked at her fiercely; but though faded and lack-lustre, her eyes
blenched not, but gave him back the same true steady look that had
always shone for him since--young, ignorant, ill-taught, weak--she had
believed he cared for her, and she could be happy with him: not the
first of Eve's daughters that has made the same mistake.

"Get up!" snarled Jarker, loosing his hold; and his wife rose hastily
without a word.

"Pint of porter, with half-a-quartern of gin in it."

"Yes, Bill," she whispered, and drew on a washed-out shawl.

"And no fiddling, you know; put all the gin in."

"Yes, Bill," said the woman, hastily taking the shilling, and descending
the creaking stairs to procure her lord's refreshments; tripe stewed,
and gin and beer, being special weaknesses of his when in funds.

"Don't let her forget to bring some inguns, that's all," he muttered as
he listened to the retreating steps.  He then crushed down the fire with
the heel of his heavy boot, and, putting his hand in his
waistcoat-pocket, his fingers came in contact with two or three scraps
of burnt match, which he took out, looked at thoughtfully, and then
burned.  "She must have been arter the dawg," he muttered, and walking
to one of the lattice-windows, he opened it and framed himself as he
leaned out with his arms resting upon the rotten sill, a splinter of
which he picked off to chew.  Then he gazed steadfastly across the court
at the opposite window, which was hung round with birdcages, whose
occupants twittered sweetly, while one, a lark, seemed to fill the court
with his joyous song.

This reminded Mr Jarker of his own birds, and, stepping back growling,
he looked to see if the little cages hung over his nets all contained
water, which they did.

"And a blessed good job for her as they do!" he muttered on finding that
his wife had performed this duty.  Then walking again towards the front
he watched the opposite window, where he could see a pale, sallow face
eagerly looking at the birds, while from behind came the sharp sound as
of the lash of a whip striking the floor, followed by the shrill yelp of
a dog.

Mr Jarker stood thoughtfully watching and listening, as if in doubt
upon some particular subject; and as he watched he pulled out that ugly
clasp-knife of his that he had opened a short time before in the cellar,
and now opening and closing it again, his brow lowered--that is, a
trifle more than usual.  But he seemed to grow easier in his mind, for
he shut the knife with a snap, and thrust it into his pocket; and now he
appeared to be moved by that spirit which prompts so many people who can
hardly keep themselves to have dumb animals about their homes, probably
for the reason that the dumb brutes are faithful, and friends are few--
who knows?

"I think I shall have a dawg," said Mr Jarker to himself, as a louder
yelp than usual rang across the court; when he shut the window, and went
and stood gazing into the fire once more, till he heard the returning
step of his wife, when he roused himself:

"Yes," said Mr Jarker half-aloud; "I'll have a bull-pup."

Volume One, Chapter VI.

THE SORROWS OF SEPTIMUS HARDON.

With a pleasant smile upon his countenance, and a bunch of watercresses
in his hand, Septimus Hardon hummed loudly, like some jocular bee, as he
entered his rooms one day, when he ceased, for there was a visitor
gazing with sympathising eyes upon the flush-cheeked child lying upon
Mrs Hardon's arm.

"I think you had better have advice, Mrs Hardon," said the visitor, the
Rev. Arthur Sterne, the calm, earnest, quiet-looking curate of the
neighbouring church.

Lucy Grey, now budding into womanhood, was seated upon the floor by the
couch, with a little boy in her lap, and letting the hands of the child
on her mother's arm stray amongst the glossy tresses of her hair.

"Advice?  What? doctor?" said Septimus, gazing in his wife's anxious
face; "is Letty really ill, then?" and then in a bewildered way he began
rubbing his hands together as if washing them in emptiness, and
afterwards drying them upon nothing.

"Let me send in a doctor," said Mr Sterne kindly, as he took his hat to
leave; "there are symptoms of fever, I think.  Don't let it get too firm
a hold before you have advice."

"Thank you, thank you; do send him, please," said Septimus helplessly.
"But--" He was about to alter his request, for just then his hand came
in contact with the light leather purse in his pocket, but the curate
had hurriedly left the room.  Then taking his step-child's place by the
sofa the father parted the golden hair upon the sick girl's forehead,
and anxiously questioned Mrs Septimus respecting the illness.

As the night came on the little one grew wild and restless, and what the
mother had taken to be but a slight childish ailment, began to assume a
form that added anxiety where it was hardly needed.  The doctor had
been, and spoken Seriously, and the medicine he had sent had been
administered; but the fever seemed to increase, for the child grew
worse, starting from fitful sleeps, and calling for sister Lucy to take
something away from her.  Septimus looked weakly from face to face for
comfort, and then wandered about the room, wringing his hands and trying
to think this new trouble some horrible dream.

And so days passed--days of trouble and anxiety--during which Mrs
Septimus forgot her own ailments, and watched and nursed in turn with
Lucy.  The doctor had talked as so many doctors will talk, in an
indefinite strain, which left the anxious parents in a state of doubt
and bewilderment, though it never occurred to Septimus Hardon that so
great an affliction could fall upon him, as that he should lose his
little one.

About a week after the seizure, Mrs Septimus was watching by the child,
who, after partaking eagerly of some tea, had apparently dropped off to
sleep.

"Take little Tom down into the office," whispered Mrs Hardon, "perhaps
she will sleep awhile if we keep her quiet."

So Septimus Hardon, looking dazed and worn with mental anxiety, took his
boy in his arms, and Lucy being asleep after watching nearly all night,
he left Mrs Septimus with the sick child, and carried the little fellow
down into the dusty, unused office, where, taking advantage of his
father's abstraction, the child proceeded to make a heap of type upon
the floor, thoroughly covering himself with the black dust, and even
going so far as to try the flavour of some of the pieces of metal.

At last the little one began to grow tired, and tried to gain the
attention of its father--no light task, for with his face buried in his
hands he was seated at his desk trying to see his way clearly through
the future--a task so many of us attempt, and some even fancy we have
achieved, but only to find the falseness of our hopes when the days we
looked forward to have come upon us.

But the child was at last successful, and as Septimus raised his head
from the desk, he became aware of the presence of the old man of a few
days before, and apparently as far from prosperity as ever.

"Nothing doing; no work," said Septimus.

"Any little job will do, sir," said the old man.  "Just come to get out
of debt, that's all.  What's it to be, sir?"

"Another time," said Septimus.  "I've--"

A loud cry from above cut short his words, and darting to the door,
forgetting his customary indecision, he bounded up the stairs, while,
finding himself left with a stranger, the little fellow burst into a
dismal wail.

"O, Sep, Sep, Sep!" cried his wife, throwing herself into his arms, "is
it always to be sorrow; is there always to be a black cloud over our
lives?" then tearing herself away she frantically caught the child from
Lucy, who, pale and frightened, sat nursing.

"Run, run, Lucy!" cried Septimus hoarsely as he caught a glimpse of his
blue-eyed darling's face; "the doctor, quick!" and then, as the
frightened girl ran from the room, he threw himself upon his knees
beside his sobbing wife, praying that they might be spared this new
sorrow.  But before the doctor could reach Carey-street the agonised
couple had seen the little weary head cease its restless tossings from
side to side, the blue eyes unclose, dilate, and gaze wildly, as if at
some wondrous vision; then a plaintive shuddering sigh passed from the
pale lips, and Septimus Hardon and his wife were alone, though they knew
it not.

The Rev. Arthur Sterne was at the door as Lucy returned, overtaken by
the doctor's brougham at the same moment; but to the agony of all the
man of medicine gave one glance at the little form in its mother's lap,
shook his head, and left the room on tiptoe.

"O, sir, Mr Sterne," cried Lucy, turning with quivering lips and
streaming eyes to the clergyman, "tell me, tell me," she sobbed,
clasping one of his hands in hers; "tell me--is it, is it death?"

There was silence in the room for a few moments, and then placing his
disengaged hand upon the fair head of the weeping girl, the curate, in
low reverent tones, but loud enough to thrill the hearts of the living,
said, "No, it is life--the life eternal!"

And now, amidst the bitter sobs of those who mourned, the curate stepped
softly from the room, and left the house with bended head.  Then there
was silence, till a step was heard upon the stairs, which stopped by the
partly-closed door, where stood the old compositor with little Tom
asleep in his arms, the bright, soft, golden locks mingling like dashes
of sunshine with the old man's ragged, grizzly whiskers.  For a few
moments the old printer stood gazing into the room, when, waking to the
consciousness of the affliction that had befallen its inmates, he
turned, and with halting step descended to the office.

At last the recollection of the living came to the stricken mother's
heart, and wildly sobbing as she clasped Lucy in her arms, she asked for
her boy.

Half-stunned with this new shock, Septimus Hardon staggered down to
where he had left the child, having till his wife spoke forgotten its
very existence; but when he reached the office, stricken as he was, he
could not but stop to gaze at the group before him.  Seated upon a low
stool, beneath the dingy skylight of the back-office, where the light
that filtered through the foul panes looked dim and gloomy, was the old
man with the child in his lap, gazing, too, intently down at the little
fair face which so wonderingly looked up into his own--not fearfully,
but with a puzzled expression, as if some problem were there that the
little brain could not solve; while the biscuit the tiny fist held was
hardly touched, but told its own tale of how the old man had carried the
child to the nearest baker's for its purchase.  The printer's back was
towards Septimus as he stood in the doorway, and as he listened the old
man was apostrophising the child:

"Why, God bless your little innocent face, this is me, old Matt--Matthew
Space--old Quad, as they call me; a battered, snuff-taking, drinking old
scamp; and here have I been these two hours drinking innocence, and
feeling my heart swell till it cracked and the scales fell off.  Why--
save and bless his little heart, sir!" he cried, for the child saw its
father and sprang up--"see how good he is!  Work's slack, sir; let him
stop, for it seems to do one good--it does indeed, sir.  Why, how rich
you must be!"

Septimus Hardon thought mournfully of the treasure he had just lost,
and, taking the child, he hurriedly bore it to its mother, telling the
old man to wait.

Matthew Space, compositor, waited until the owner of the office came
down, when, friendless as he was, Septimus Hardon was glad to turn even
to this rough old waif of the streets in his helplessness.

"Why, I wouldn't do that, sir," said the old man, after listening for
some time in silence; "you may want it to-morrow."

"But I want money to-day," cried Septimus fiercely.  "Will you give me
money? will the world outside? will anybody here in this city of wealth
trust me the money to bury my child?  Would you have me go to the
parish?"  He stopped, and the animation that had flashed into his face
began to fade again, to leave it dull and despairing.

"Why, as to the first, sir," said the old man, "I would, upon my soul,
if I had it,--I would indeed; but as to the people outside--" and he
began to shake his head grimly.  "Poor men have no friends, sir--as a
rule, you know--as a rule."

"None!" said Septimus bitterly; "none!"

"But it would be a pity," said the old man; "such a new, well-cut letter
too; and you'll get next to nothing for it.  Gave 'most half-a-crown a
pound for it, I dessay?"

Septimus nodded.

"Thought so, sir, and--well, if you must, sir, I'll help you all the
same, and gladly--only too gladly; but I don't like to see it pawned or
sold.  You helped me, sir, when it was harder with me than ever it was
in my life before, sir; and damme, sir, I'll sell my shirt, sir, to help
you, if it will do any good.  In the morning, then, sir, I'll be here
with a barrow."

"A barrow?" said Septimus.

"Yes; you know, type's heavy stuff."

"Matthew Space," said the snuffly old fellow, screwing his face up as if
with disgust, when he stood once more in Carey-street, "Matthew Space,
follower of the profession of noble Caxton, as a rule, sir, I respect
you.  I don't despise you for your poverty, or your seedy coat, for you
are a man of parts and education; but at the present moment, sir, I'm
disgusted with you.  You have been drinking innocence from the tiny
prattling lips of that little child--God bless it!" he cried earnestly,
dashing a maundering tear from one eye--"God bless it! a child like that
would have made another man of me; and now that poor fellow has lost one
like it.  But there, sir, I'm disgusted with your ways: a man does what
nine hundred and ninety-nine men out of a thousand wouldn't do--lends
you almost his last shilling--and now, sir, that an opportunity offers
of helping him in his trouble, you make empty professions, false
promises, and offer to sell your shirt, you humbug, you--to sell your
shirt, sir, when you haven't got a shirt in the world!"

"That's true enough," said the old man, after walking a little way,
"true, if it ain't decent; but it's a kind of poverty that buttons will
always conceal, which they won't if it's a coat; while if there is
anything that looks beggarly, it's the want of boots.  I'd sooner be
without a hat any day in the week.  But you're taking fresh copy, Matt
Space, before you've finished the old, and leaving out your points."

The old man cocked his hat very fiercely over the left ear, stuck his
hands into his coat-tail pockets, and walked on for some distance,
muttering, "Poor fellow--good sort--trump."  All at once he stopped
short before a lamp-post, drew his hands from his pockets, and took a
pinch of snuff; he then slapped the cold iron upon the shoulder, and, as
if addressing the post confidentially, he exclaimed:

"His name's Hardon, sir; but he isn't a hard un.  He's as soft as
butter, sir, easy as a glove, sir, deep as a halfpenny plate.  You might
turn him inside out like a stocking.  He'd never get on here, he's too
honest.  Business! why, he's about as business-like as--as--as--well,
sir, as I am.  He'd never any business to be in business; but after all,
what's the good of being a business man, and sharp, and knowing, and
deep, if it's to be hammering on, beating out money day after day to
make a hard case for a man's heart, so as there ain't room for a kind
thought to get in, or a gentle word to come out?"

Old Matt stuck his hat a little more on one side, and giving the post a
parting slap, he left the freshly-lit light, quivering and winking down
at him as he gave it a nod, and then he crossed the road diagonally to
the next post, which he favoured as the last.

"Damme, sir," he cried, "don't tell me.  I ought to know what the world
is, and I think I do.  That man's a trump, sir, if I know anything of
character.  Soft? well, suppose he is.  Don't tell me: men were never
made to be sharp-edged tools, chiselling and cutting one another as hard
as ever they can, while the keenest ones chisel the most.  They weren't
meant for it; but that's what they are.  And what's worse, they do so
much under the cloak of religion, and snuffle and cant, and tell you to
do the same.  Things are all wrong, sir, all wrong; and I'm wrong, and
according to some people, I'm I don't know what; but there, sir; there;
I've done."

Old Matt walked to another post, to prove he had not done, and began
again; but someone coming along the pavement, he shuffled off to the
public-house he frequented in Bell-yard, where he discoursed for long
enough upon human nature in general, to the great delight of his
audience, till his pint of porter was finished, when he hurried off
through the wet streets to his lodging.

Volume One, Chapter VII.

THE DOCTOR AND HIS DAME.

"A tom-cat, smooth-coated, purring rascal," said old Octavius when he
heard the news.  "_Doctor_ Hardon, indeed; _doctor_, bah!"  And many of
the townspeople of Somesham, though they did not use Octavius Hardon's
language, agreed with him in spirit, and sneered at the new doctor's
visit to Scotland, and the paragraph that by some means found its way
into the paper, congratulating the people on the acquisition to their
town of a physician.  Of course the doctor himself did not know of its
existence until it was pointed out to him at one of the public meetings,
when he looked perfectly astonished, and declared that it was a matter
that he meant to have kept a profound secret from everybody.  However,
as it was made so public, and in such a manner, of course he felt
himself bound to take steps to inform his friends and patients that the
fact of his being a physician should make no difference, that he looked
upon the degree merely in the light of an honour; and hoped for many
years to come to be the simple country apothecary, in whose humble skill
his fellow-townsmen would have confidence.  Guinea-fees and
prescriptions had never been in his thoughts, the honour having been
completely thrust upon him, so he said, for he knew that he could
command a practice as a country apothecary while he would have starved
as a physician.  For he had practised for many years in Somesham, while
he was greatly annoyed that his brother Octavius would reside there, as
the doctor told his lady, to quarrel with him and lower him in the eyes
of the people.  Doctor Hardon had stood at many sick-beds in the
district; spoken smooth nothings respecting the various increases in
families which took place beneath his watchful eyes; when in every case,
whatever the sex, the child was sure to be the finest he had ever seen
in the whole course of his career as a medical practitioner.  But the
doctor had also worn a great many pairs of black-kid gloves, and many a
long-flowing silk scarf upon those other occasions--at those
stopping-places of the journey of life; and ill-natured persons had been
known to declare that one of Mrs Hardon's dresses had been composed of
these long black-silk strips sewn together.  But then people will be
ill-natured.

"Thomas Hardon, Esq, MD," sat at his breakfast-table in his
dressing-gown, but his black frock-coat lay upon a chair at his side,
ready brushed, and the rest of his costume was of the correct doctorial
black.  He did not even allow himself to sit down in slippers, but wore
boots of the most lustrous black until bedtime.  Of an imposing
presence, with fine grey hair, a good complexion, sufficiently stout, he
was the very acme of a quiet family doctor; and even if he was not so
skilful as he might have been, there was that in his quiet ease and
assumption which often gave confidence, and insured faith in trembling
patients--matters which had before now worked wonders when the doctor's
medicine alone would have failed.  The world is much given to taking
people at their own value, and undoubtedly by those who merely looked at
the surface, a much higher price would have been set upon the doctor in
that imposing suit of black, and that stiffest of stiff white
neckcloths, than upon friend Matthew Space in his black shabbiness.  But
then, of course, the doctor's double gold eyeglass, gold-chain, studs,
diamond ring, and the shape of his repeater seen through the soft black
kerseymere waistcoat, added weight in people's estimation, without
taking into consideration that air of profundity, and shake of the noble
grey head, which implied so much at so little expense of thought.
People at Somesham shook their heads with the doctor, and declared him
to be a man of worth; while other people there were who shook their
heads with his brother Octavius, and considered him a sham.

But people joined in speaking well of his wife--downright, blunt,
plain-spoken Mrs Hardon--who now sat, pale-faced and anxious, opposite
to her husband, supplying his wants, while she waited for an answer to
her last question, her hand slightly trembling as it held a letter the
doctor had lately passed to her.

"You will let me answer this, Tom, won't you?" she said gently, with all
the motherly woman in her tones, and the hard, business, doctor's wife,
who often made up his medicines, and even prescribed in simple cases in
his absence, gone.  "You will let me answer this, Tom?"

The doctor kept his paper before his face, and read on without
condescending to reply.

"Tom," she repeated, leaning towards him, "Tom, be tender and gentle
now, Tom; and--"

Mrs Hardon stopped; for a maid had entered the room with a note, which
she handed to Mrs Hardon.

"Confound you!" hissed the doctor as soon as the door was closed; and
then, instead of the mild, beaming doctorial countenance, there was his
brother's angry face scowling on his wife--"Confound you! how many times
have I told you not to `Tom' me before the servants?  No, no, no! if you
will have an answer," he shouted; "let her starve--let her die--let her
jump off one of the bridges if she likes; she left me, and she may
suffer for it.  She sha'n't come back here to disgrace me in my
profession."

Mrs Hardon was not at all afraid of her husband, and in many of their
little matrimonial differences she had been known to come off the
better.  The blood rose to her cheeks, and she was about to answer
angrily, but she checked herself, and, crossing over, laid her hand upon
her husband's shoulder.

"Tom!" she whispered.

"Damn!  I tell you I won't have it!" roared the doctor.

"Hush!" said Mrs Hardon sternly, but with a touch of softness in her
voice.  "You know I was ill, Tom, when I came back from town last week."

"Well?" said the doctor, shuffling impatiently in his seat.

"I did not tell you the reason, Tom."

"Well, what of that?" said the doctor savagely.

"O, Tom!" she said, her voice breaking as she sank at his feet, "I saw
her; I met her.  She passed me as I was going to my cab, wild-eyed,
pale, worn-looking; and O, Tom, if you had seen her too--seen her as I
saw her then, when I held out my arms to her and she fled away
shamefaced before me--you would have felt, as I did, as I do now,
something tugging at your heartstrings, and whispering to you that it
was your child that you did not use well, and telling you that if you
had done your duty by her she would never have gone to Octavius, and
then fled with that base villain.  Tom," she continued softly, "I feel
all this.  We are getting old, Tom, and what are we to say at the last
hour, what forgiveness can we ask for, if our own child is driven from
us?  She hurried from me then; but see now how it has made her write.
Look at the address here; where is it? some horrible part of--O, Tom!"

The exclamation was hardly shrieked from Mrs Hardon's lips before the
letter the doctor had snatched from her hand was blazing upon the fire,
he fiercely dragging off his dressing-gown, and preparing to put on his
black coat; while, the softness gone from her face, Mrs Hardon stood
before him frowning and hard; but far from noticing her husband's acts,
she was gazing introspectively, and trying to recall the address she had
so lately read; an address which the more she tried to bring back, the
more it seemed to glide from her mind; first a number, then a word, then
the whole, and it was gone.

The doctor pulled on his coat by snatches, ejaculated, and went through
many of the evolutions favoured by persons who wish to impress others
with the fact that they are in a tempestuous passion; but he had
resisted the advances made by his wife when she had thrown off the mask
that years of worldliness had fixed there, and now she was ready to
engage him with his own weapons.  As to his real or simulated anger, she
valued it not in the least, holding it in the most profound contempt,
while a stranger would hardly have believed her to be the same woman who
a few minutes before had kneeled at the doctor's feet.

"I want some money before you go out," said Mrs Hardon coldly; and the
doctor started with surprise at the change the conversation had taken.
"I want some money," said Mrs Hardon in a louder key.

"How much?" said the doctor, calming down as his wife seemed disposed to
take the upper hand.

"Twenty-five--thirty pounds," said Mrs Hardon.

"What for?" said the doctor.

"What for?" said Mrs Hardon fiercely.  "Not to send away--not for
_that_, but for the tradespeople's bills; since you are so proud of your
reputation--your professional reputation--have them cleared off.
Richards has sent twice, and threatens proceedings;" and she held out
the note the maid had brought in; "and now I insist upon knowing how you
stand.  I will not be kept here in the dark over these speculations.  I
know matters are going wrong; and do you suppose that I will sit by like
a child and see ruin come upon my home; I who was always trusted to keep
your books and purse, until you became a physician?  There is something
wrong, Thomas Hardon, or there would not always be this pinching and
holding back of every sovereign.  You drive me from your side--me, the
wife of five-and-thirty years--when I would be the loving woman.  Now,
then, I will be the firm woman of the world, and be satisfied upon these
points at issue.  You had better write me a cheque at once; for I will
not be disgraced by the tradespeople, since we are to stand so upon our
dignity."

Doctor Hardon looked viciously at his wife, spoiling his generally
placid countenance to a degree that, had one of his best patients seen
him then, it would have been a serious loss to the doctor and a gain to
the rival practitioner; but he made no movement towards drawing the
cheque for which Mrs Hardon stood waiting, till, seeing that nothing
was to be gained, she left the room in anger; but the next minute she
had returned, to once more lay her hand gently upon the doctor's arm:

"Have you a heart, Tom?" she whispered.  "Is our old age to be an old
age of regret?  Think of Octavius and his son; look at his desolate,
wretched life, and don't let ours be quite the same."

Mrs Hardon had had a hard battle with self, and crushed down the angry
feelings that had been fighting for exit; for there was the thought of
her child in her heart--maternity asserting itself and thrusting aside
in its greatness all that was petty and contemptible; but as she stood
there appealing to the doctor the struggle grew harder.  Obstinate,
bitter, cruel, the doctor masked all beneath his cold, calm,
professional aspect, treating the weeping woman with a cutting
indifference that roused her indignation thoroughly at last; and to
conceal her anger she hurried from the room, but this time not to
return.

The doctor may have had a heart, but it was thoroughly unmoved by all
that his wife had said; in fact the appeal had come at a wrong time,
since the same post which brought the letter he had passed over to Mrs
Hardon had given him other letters whose contents he so thoroughly knew
that he had not even opened them, but, glancing at their directions,
thrust them hastily into his pocket, where they acted as so much fuel to
feed the fire of his wrath.  There was something so unmistakable in the
particularly-distinct handwriting upon the envelopes--something so very
blue about the paper--that, expecting unpleasant communications, the
doctor detected them at a glance, and mentally he went over the
contents.

The fact was the doctor was short of cash, and that through more than
one unfortunate speculation in which he had embarked.  Like a great many
more men of moderate income, he had been bitten with the desire to
increase it, though the bite came in the first instance from his wife,
who scolded him fiercely when, after the MD honour had been thrust upon
him, he gave up the union practice, which entailed the loss of the
regular salary of one hundred pounds per annum.  The doctor said that it
was not becoming for a physician to be the medical attendant of the
parish; and Mrs Hardon, who was then in a worldly, everyday phase,
declared that it was "all fiddlesticks' ends," when there was his cheque
regularly at certain times, while the greater part of the work could be
done by the assistant, who would do very well for the poor people.  It
was a sin and a shame, she declared, though how connected with
fiddlesticks' ends was best known to herself.  There was, however,
something relating to the musical science in the matter, for Mrs Doctor
Hardon kept harping upon the same string until the doctor snapped it by
furiously threatening her if another word was said about it--threats
which Mrs Hardon noticed so much that she certainly held her tongue;
and she held her hand too, and tried to annoy the doctor by keeping a
bad table, which she said so great a loss every year necessitated.  Poor
woman! she little knew that the time would come when such economy would
be forced upon her.  What, she asked the doctor, was honour without
money?  What was the use of her being a physician's wife if they had
nothing to support it with?  And, then, too for him to be such an ass--
the doctor started and puffed out his cheeks at this--"Yes, ass," said
Mrs Hardon, "as to play into your adversary's hand like that, when he
was on the verge of ruin, as everybody said, and could not have kept on
another six months; for you to throw the union practice and a hundred
a-year into his lap, and supply him with the material for carrying on
the war!"

Mrs Doctor Hardon spoke of the rival practitioner, a poor, gentlemanly
man, who had set up some years before in the dusty town of Somesham, and
had been fighting ever since with difficulties; for, as in all small
country towns in this land of liberty, every new-comer was looked upon
as an intruder--a foreigner--and one who will probably interfere with
the fine old conservative notions of the place.  They don't want him,
and they won't have him if they can help it.  He is clever, perhaps; but
they don't want clever people, and they would prefer being half-killed
by the old practitioner to being cured by the new.  Trade or profession,
it is just the same; and perhaps the acts of the town are only the acts
of the country in miniature.  Hospitality we have in plenty, and our
share of the virtues, no doubt; but truly we English have most strongly
in us the propensity for turning our backs upon those who are trying to
fight their way on, until they can manage to do without help, when we
turn round, smiling with the features that frowned before, pat the
successful man upon the back, and say, "Well done!"

Mr Brande, "the new man," as he was called, had found all this, and had
been ready to despair again and again through the many years he had been
trying to make a practice; but now the turning-point had come in the
honours of Thomas Hardon, Esq, MD; not that he had reaped much present
advantage, and it was doubtful if he would have had the practice at all
if Doctor Hardon had not had immediate want for a hundred and fifty
pounds, and, trusting to Mr Brande's honour as a gentleman, offered to
throw up the parish work on condition of receiving that sum, which Mr
Brande gave him in bills, and, what was more, screwed, economised, and
met them as they fell due.  But Mrs Doctor Hardon did not know this,
nor yet the extent of the liabilities her lord had incurred; while the
deeper he sunk in that black, clinging mire of debt, the more reticent
he grew.

Volume One, Chapter VIII.

MR PAWLEY'S PERFORMANCE.

"Such a beautiful, well-cut letter too!" said old Matt Space, as he
stood looking at the empty type-rack from whence the cases had been
taken to furnish money for Septimus Hardon's present expenses.  "In such
good order too.  Puts me in mind of being so low down that I had to sell
my own stick.  Fellow always seems so badly off when he gets selling his
tools."

A tap at the door, following the sound of wheels, interrupted the old
man's soliloquy, and going to the door he admitted the undertaker, who
had just arrived with his shabby Shillibeer hearse and mourning-coach in
one, with which he performed the economic funerals so frequent in his
district.

"Here you are, then," said old Matt, grimly surveying the new-comer.

"Yes, here we are," said the undertaker, in a subdued, melancholy tone;
and then he drew out a pocket-handkerchief and wiped his eye, as if to
remove a tear--in fact, he did remove a tear--though not sorrow-shed,
for Mr Pawley was in very good spirits just then; but he had an eye
afflicted with a watery weakness which necessitated the constant
application of a handkerchief, and this had passed with a certain class
of people for the manifestation of sorrow for their griefs.  Some said
that this eye had been a little fortune to him.  Perhaps it had, but
doubtless the crowded courts clustering round Lincoln's-inn had done
more to keep up the incessant "rat-tat-tat-tat" heard in his shop, a
sound as if grim Death were tapping with those bony fingers of his at
the door.

"Such a feeling man!" said Mrs Sims, who was always at home upon such
occasions as this, and had now come to mind Septimus Hardon's boy, and
help; "if she could be of service leastways, for it's few berrins take
place about here, mom, that they don't send for me," she said with a
sniff, and the corner of her apron to her eye.

"Here you are, then," said old Matt to the undertaker.

"Yes, here we are," said Mr Pawley; "but you ain't a-going, are you?"

"Well, who said I was?" said Matt gruffly.  "You're a-going, ain't you?
and that's enough for you."

Mr Pawley took so much pride in his funerals being properly performed,
that going himself did not seem enough for him, and he continued to gaze
doubtfully over a very uncomfortable white cravat, one of which the bow
was supposed to be tied behind, giving him a good deal the aspect of a
man who had been decapitated, and then had his head secured in its place
by a bandage.

But old Matt did not give the undertaker an opportunity for a long
inspection of his shabby black clothes, for having announced the grim
functionary, that gentleman went up the creaking stairs upon the points
of his toes to proceed with the duties he had in hand; while, as old
Matt stood in the passage watching his long black body it seemed to him
that the stairs cracked and creaked mournfully, as if resenting the feet
laid upon them, in anticipation of a heavier descent.

But there was to be no heavy load for them to bear this time, for it was
but a little coffin--a little white coffin that had been gazed into for
the last time, where the gentle waxen features seemed to wear a smile,
so sad, speaking such a tender farewell in its sweetness, that Lucy Grey
sobbed aloud with the parents, until Mrs Sims entered the room,
whispered to Septimus, and then they all slowly passed out to give place
to Mr Pawley.  And then standing in the next room, Mrs Septimus, weak
and ailing, almost fainted as she heard the harsh noise of the driver as
it slipped first in one and then another of the screws.

But now the last screw had been tightened, the light burden placed in
the receptacle, and Mrs Sims, quite a regular aid to Mr Goffer,
arranged the scarf upon Septimus Hardon's hat; pinned and tied the hoods
and cloaks upon mother and daughter; and then, in a simple but feeling
way, wept many a salt tear into her black-alpaca apron, sniffing
terribly the while Mr Pawley, satisfied in his mind that the
respectability of his performance was not to be damaged by so doubtful a
character as the old compositor, stood holding open the door of the
carriage with one hand, wiping his eye with the other, and awaiting the
mourners' descent.

For this was no grand funeral; there had been no mutes standing with
draped staves at the door; there was no squadron of men with scarves and
brass-tipped truncheons; no tray of black plumes to be carried in
advance; no high-stepping, long-tailed black horses, with velvet
housings and tossing heads; nothing to make a funeral imposing and
attractive.  But there were spectators even for this: inhabitants of
Carey-street were stealthily watching from door-steps, or from the
corners of windows, as if afraid of intruding upon the mourners' sorrow;
a knot of dirty children from Bennett's-rents had collected, many of
whom toiled beneath shawl-wrapped burdens of heavy babies almost equal
to themselves in bulk; two women stood upon the opposite side with arms
wrapped in their aprons; a ticket-porter, in apron and badge, leaned
against the nearest lamp-post; the apple-woman at the corner did
something unusual, she left her basket, knocked the ashes out of her
short black pipe, and then rubbed a tear--a bright, gem-like tear--off
her poor old cheek, withered as one of her own pippins, before placing
her pipe in her pocket, and leaning with arms akimbo against the
railings to see the hearse pass with a little customer of hers, for whom
she had always picked out the best lot, and in her simple homely way
called down heavenly favour with a hearty "God bless you!"  An old
law-writer, a man who reckoned life as a long brief in so many folios,
old and snuffy, and shabby almost as Matt himself, walked by house and
hearse to the office where he worked, pretending to whistle; but no
sound came, and he blew his nose in a way that raised an echo in the
silent street as soon as he was a few yards past the place; even the
policeman, beating his Berlin gloves together, quietly sent off the
children gathered in the way, and posted them at a distance, that they
might not annoy the sad party so soon to leave the house.

And now a tall dark woman, carrying a child, appeared upon the scene,
and stood with dimmed eye watching till the mourners descended, when,
catching sight of Septimus Hardon's bent form, she stepped forward
eagerly, but only to shrink back shivering as she clutched her babe to
her breast, pressing her lips upon its plump cheek, while an air of
wonderment came into the woman's face as the announcement above the door
now caught her eye:--"S Hardon, Legal and General Printer."

For there was sorrow in Carey-street that day--sorrow of a novel kind.
All the neighbourhood knew why the blinds were down at Hardon's; for all
knew the tall graceful girl who led about the two golden-haired children
that seemed so out of place in the legal region; all knew that one of
these little ones had passed away--that the little flower, sweet and
fragrant, so lately blooming in the cold harsh place, and raising its
heaven-whispering head amongst them, had been cut down by the cold winds
that swept the weary waste.  "Our client" had stopped at this oasis in
the desert he was crossing, for he had often paused to look up at the
golden head at the upper window, gazed at it awhile, and then passed on,
refreshed and gladdened in heart.  Every dweller in the neighbourhood
had had a kind word or look for Lucy's charges; and there was a sun in
those golden tresses, a warm light, that would often melt the icy frost
of some old lawyer's countenance, and bring there a smile of pleasure.
But a month before, two men were passing Carey-street with Punch, bound
westward to the district where there is less constraint and
mind-engrossing; and the man who bore the show, following the usage
which to him was second nature, looked up at the dirty windows with
wandering eye, caught sight of the blue-eyed fairy, looked at her with
doubt for an instant, and then pitched his theatre, to the astonishment
of his drum-and-pan-pipe "pardner," who would as soon have thought of
playing in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey.

"Jest five minutes," whispered his mate, pointing upwards; when, as if
by magic, the pipes squeaked, the drum rolled, raising up the wondering
ghosts of echoes from amidst the pouncy dust of ages, while the yellowy,
torn green baize fell, to conceal the motive power of the puppets; and
then for "jest five minutes" "our client" was startled, the parchments
in the offices crackled, dust floated from ledges out upon the murky
air, and the sanctity of the place was broken by the ribald jokes of our
old friend.  Then, just as an astonished troop of children came with a
rush out of Bennett's-rents, up went the green curtain; there came a
friendly nod from one of the men, who placed himself Atlas-like beneath
his drum, a broad grin from the other at the child's delight, and then
off due west.

And now the change had come; the cold blast that sweeps down
Carey-street had been colder and keener; the fragile flower-stalk was
broken; the white coffin was in its place, the mourners in the coach;
the door banged gently, for the wood had warped.  Mr Pawley had climbed
beside his red-nosed driver, and sat wiping his eye; while the poor old
broken-kneed black horse ambled and shambled off with its head down, as
if ashamed of the false tail that it knew was fastened to the crupper of
its harness.

Then the rest,--the sad rite, the solemn words, the swelling hearts
aching to leave so sweet a form in so cold and damp a bed, loth to
believe that what they had loved could turn to corruption, and then to
the dust of the earth.  Then back to the shabby carriage, whose driver
had refreshed himself with gin, which attacked his nose; while the horse
yet twisted an obstinate wisp of hay that hung sideways in his bit, and
would not be ground into nutriment.  Once more the banging of the door,
and Mr Pawley up beside the driver, with his grief still unassuaged;
while as the poor beast that drew the carriage shambled back, his load
was so little lightened that he knew not the difference.

The house in Carey-street had looked sad and gloomy for days past, for
even the lodgers had drawn down their blinds, and ascended the stairs
carefully and even stealthily, speaking, too, in whispers; but now the
light was freely admitted, and Mrs Sims had blown up a good fire, only
stopping to sniff, and drop a tear or two upon the bellows now and then,
the last being a domestic implement that she had run home to the Square
and fetched for the occasion.  The tea was prepared, and she had made
what she called the most of the place,--not that that was much,--ready
for the mourners' return; while old Matt was ruining the knees of his
trousers by making himself a horse, and crawling up and down the dirty
printing-office floor with the little boy upon his back.  The rooms
looked almost cheerful now, for, save in the returned mourners' hearts,
all was over, and the solemn scene, the dark, damp grave, the catching
of the breath as the first earth fell, the long last look at the white
coffin--all things of the past.

Old Matthew Space was a wise man in his way; and as soon as he thought
that there had been time for the changing of habiliments,--that is to
say, about a quarter of an hour after Mr Pawley had presented his
account, been paid, and taken his departure, offering old Matt sixpence,
which he indignantly refused to take,--he put on a bright face, and took
the little fellow in his charge upstairs, crowing and chattering with
delight at riding upon the old man's shoulders.

"No, thankee, sir," said the old man, in answer to Septimus Hardon's
invitation to stay to tea; and as he declined he glanced down at his
clothes.

"I did not ask the clothes," said Septimus warmly, "but the man who has
shown sympathy in this weary time of trouble; and God knows I did not
expect to find friends where I have," muttered the dejected man, who
looked ten years older; while at times his eyes wandered in a weary
abstracted way about the room, and his hands were wrung together, till
Lucy came to his side and spoke to him, when the lost, helpless look
would pass off, and he would brighten up for a few minutes.

"Such a beautiful, well-cut letter, though!" muttered old Matt as he
took the chair placed for him by Mrs Sims, when the little fellow
forced himself off his mother's lap, and climbed upon the old man's
knee.

"You must hold up, mum," whispered Mrs Sims to poor, broken-down,
invalid Mrs Septimus.  "I know what it all is; for when I lived in the
Rents, mum, I lost four; and all within three year."

"_You_ did!" said Mrs Septimus, laying a tender hand upon the poor
woman's arm.

"O yes!" said Mrs Sims.  "It was before I went to mind the house in the
Square, and used to wash; but it was sich work, mum! nowhere to dry
except a bit of leads, and the strings tied across the room, and the
blacks allus a-coming down like a shower, while every drop o' water had
to be fetched from right at the bottom of the house.  One was obliged to
do it, though, for times were very hard just then; but having so much
washing ain't good and healthy for children, let alone being stived up
so closte.  You see, 'm, it's a bad place to live in, them Rents,
there's too many in a house, and there's so much wants doing; but then,
when you're a bit behind with your rent, you can't grumble, or there's
your few bits of sticks taken, and plenty more glad to have your room.
But the way the poor little children is snatched off there, mum, 's
terrible, though I do sometimes say, as it's a happy release.  Mr
Pawley, mum, he 'ave told me that them Rents is as good as an annuity to
him; for you see, though it isn't a big place, there's a many families
in each house; and where there's families, mum, there's mostly
children."

Mrs Septimus sighed bitterly at the last word, while, poor woman, she
was too much intent upon her cares to notice the wisdom of the speech.

"But you hold up now, mum, there's a good creetur.  I know it's very
hard, but then we all has to suffer alike, and you've got to recklect
what you owes to that poor dear child there, and young miss, and the
master."

As for Septimus Hardon, he was talking in an abstracted way to old Matt,
who was discussing business matters, and urging energetic measures in
the office; but talking to Septimus Hardon was a difficult matter, and
put you much in mind of catching a grazing horse: you held a bait before
him, and then gradually edged him up into a corner, when, just as you
thought you had him, he was off and away full gallop to another part of
the mental field; and so the work had to be done all over again.  Old
Matt found it so, and after several times over waking to the fact that
while he was talking upon one subject Septimus Hardon was thinking upon
another, he rose and took his departure.

Volume One, Chapter IX.

OLD MATT ON MANNERS.

Old Matt Space came daily to Carey-street in search of a job, and
generally made an excuse for seeing little Tom, for whom he had a cake,
a biscuit, or some small penny toy, purchased of one of the peripatetic
vendors in the street.

"I always like to support honest industry," said the old man; and when
in work, and with a few shillings in his pocket, he would take a walk
along the busy streets, and perhaps spend a couple of his shillings with
the people whose place of business is the edge of the pavement.  "Well,
suppose I am a fool for doing it, what then?" said Matt one day.  "Ain't
ninety per cent of the inhabitants of this precious country of ours what
you call fools; and if I, in my folly, help twenty or thirty poor folks
up a step in getting their bit of a living, where's the harm?  Don't
tell me," old Matt would say to his fellow-workmen, beginning to unload
the pockets which made his coat-tails stick out almost at right angles;
"I don't buy the things because I want them, I do it to help them as
wants it; and their name, as it says in the Testament, is `legion.'
Now, that's a jumping frog, made of wood, a bit of paint, a bit of
string, and a bit of my friend Ike's wax.  That's an ingenious toy, that
is: who'll have it? whose got a youngster?"

Speaking in a large printing-office, amongst twenty or thirty men, there
was soon a market for the jumping frog; and then the old man drew out a
scrap of something soft and flabby, and held it up.

"You wouldn't tell what that is in a hurry," said Matt.  "All to
encourage industry, you know; that's a big indy-rubber balloon, that is,
only I couldn't pocket it, so I made it collapse first; so that's no
good to nobody--pitch it away.  Here we have--ah, this is an out-and-out
toy, this is, only I've broke the stick, and it wants a bit of glue--
who'll have a climbing monkey?"

And so the old man would pull out perhaps twenty toys, balls, dolls,
gelatine cards, to the infinite amusement of his companions, who laughed
on, but without discomposing Matt in the least, who practised his humble
philanthropy as long as he had money, and often, in consequence, went
without a meal; for saving was an utter impossibility with the old man--
a feat, he said, he had often tried to accomplish; but how, he said,
could a man keep money in his pocket when he saw others wanting?  "It is
done," said Matt; "but old as I am, I can't quite see it."

But there had been no toy distributions lately, for old Matt had found
times very hard, and even if they had been better, there would have been
no more such amusements for the denizens of the offices he worked at,
for there was another way for Matt's philanthropical purchases to go,
namely, to Carey-street, to Septimus Hardon's little boy, for whose
special benefit the old man had made several purchases on credit, which
was freely accorded by those to whom he was known; but as to work at
Septimus Hardon's printing-office, there was none for him, further than
that of disposing of type and materials at one or another of the
brokers', which duties he performed without recompense, grumbling sorely
the while at the wretched sums he obtained for the goods.

"You ought to find fault then, sir," he would say to Septimus; "I can't
help it; but I'm ashamed, that I am, to think that people will give such
a beggarly price.  It grieves me, sir, to see the stuff go like that."

But Septimus did not find fault, only smiled feebly; for in this time of
his sore distress he had so aged, and grown so helpless and wanting in
reliance, that he trusted to the old compositor in almost everything.

"Might rob him right and left, sir," said old Matt to a favourite
lamp-post in Carey-street.  "He's no business up here at all.  I could
quarrel with him sometimes for being so simple, if it wasn't that he's
such a thorough good sort at bottom.  What's to become of them when the
things are all gone, goodness knows; for he'll never do what I've done,
sir--lived two days upon a large dose of sleep, a penn'orth of snuff,
and three back numbers of the _London Journal_."

For troubles now came thickly crowding on Septimus Hardon's horizon.
His wife's health failed fast, and the means were wanting to procure her
the necessary comforts.  But there is always light behind the darkest
cloud; and now it was that Lucy, young in years, but a woman in
self-reliance, proved a stay to the family.  Ever busily plying her
needle, ever cheerful, she was a ray of sunshine in their sad home,
shedding her brightness in the darkest hours.  And though Septimus
Hardon querulously complained of his standing so friendless in the
world, there was another who watched anxiously the failing fortunes of
the family, and was always ready with counsel and aid--the Reverend
Arthur Sterne, who became more constant in his visits as the affairs of
Septimus grew darker.  Old Matt and he, too, often met, but somehow not
without feelings of distrust on either side--distrust perhaps excusable
on the side of the clergyman; for the ways of Matthew Space shed no
softening lustre upon his outer man.

One day old Matt went into Carey-street to find the broker in
possession; for Septimus was far behind with his heavy rent, and the
landlord was alarmed at seeing his tenant's worldly possessions
shrinking at so rapid a rate; while, when the old man made his way into
the sitting-room, he found weary-looking Septimus waiting with aching
heart for a reply to the appealing letter he had sent to his father.

Old Matt went again, day after day, asking himself how he could be such
an old idiot as to care for other people's affairs to the neglect of his
own; but there was always the same weary shake of the head, and the same
answer--"No letter, Matt."

At last there was a cart at the door, and Septimus Hardon, roused up
into something like energy for the time being, busily helped old Matt to
remove the remnants of his furniture to the rooms the old man had
secured for him in that salubrious court, Bennett's-rents.

"'Tain't the nicest of spots," old Matt had owned; "but then look at the
convenience; and for what you are going to do, sir, you must be right on
the spot; for though law's very slow work for them as goes into it, it's
very quick, sharp work for them as does the copying."

That evening Septimus Hardon looked dolefully round the front room of
the two the old man had secured for him; then he glanced at his wife,
who tried to smile; at Lucy, busily arranging; and lastly at old Matt,
who looked very cheerful and happy as he helped Lucy in her
arrangements, and was now lustily polishing a table that did not require
it with a duster.

"Good luck to you, sir, don't look like that; why, you're fetching the
tears into Miss Lucy's eyes--as is quite bright enough without,"
muttered Matt to himself.  "Don't be down, sir, the wheel's always going
round--bottom spokes to-day, top spokes to-morrow; and not the best
place neither, for folks often knocks their heads through going too
high.  This ain't nothing, bless you; this is riches, this is--cheerful
prospect of ten foot in front; pigeons on the roof; birds a-singing
upstairs; children a-rollicking in the court; orgin three times a-day;
writers popping in and out at the corner this side, public at the corner
on t'other--brown stout threepence a pot in your own jugs; side-view
almost into Carey-street, through the alley.  Why, you're well off here,
sir; and I've known the time when a ha'porth o' snuff and a recess in
one of the bridges has been board and lodging to me; and--Servant,
sir.--Anything more I can do for you to-day, Mr Hardon?  If not, I'll
go, sir," said the old man, suddenly becoming very distant and
respectful; for a new-comer appeared upon the scene in the shape of Mr
Sterne; when, after a very stiff bow all round, old Matt departed,
stumbling more than once as he descended the worn stairs.

Matthew Space's cheerfulness was gone as soon as he left the court, and
it took him some considerable time to reach his resting-place--a
neighbouring public-house; for he was troubled and anxious, and had to
stop every now and then to think; but he could not think aloud to his
old friends the lamps, on account of its being daylight; though after an
hour or two's sojourn at first one and then another of his places of
resort when making his way homewards, he paused frequently and long.

"Now I tell you what it is, sir!" he exclaimed, on stopping at the
corner of Carey-street once more, and slapping a favourite post on the
shoulder, "things are coming to a pretty pass; here we are sending our
thousands to prison and penal servitude for dishonesty, robbery, and
petty theft; and out of those thousands no end wanted to be honest, and
we would not give them the chance.  There are thousands wanting to get
an honest living, and we won't let them.  Rogue, sir!" he cried,
excitedly slapping the cold iron with such energy that his hand ached,
"don't tell me; you may talk of your charity and benevolence till all's
blue; but I mean to say that, in the eyes of the world, sir, there isn't
a greater rogue than a poor man.  Beat him, kick him, turn him out, off
with him--a vagabond, what business has he to be poor?"

Old Matt was out of breath, and strode on to another post.

"What business has he to be poor--a villain?  What do we want with a
Septimus Hardon, legal and general printer, and poor man?  `Nothing at
all,' says the world, and it won't go to his shop; `see him starve
first,' says the world; `we'll go to the people who don't want help, who
keep their carriages and country-seats; and if the little men fail and
become bankrupt, serve 'em right, too, what business had they to aspire?
why weren't they content as shopmen or journeymen?  Too many already!
Pooh! then let them get out.  Let them plod and crawl, or turn
agricultural labourers, and earn eight or nine shillings a-week.  Won't
they get premiums, sir, for bringing up their families without parish
help, eh?  And what more can they want in this great and glorious land?
Won't that do?  Well, then, let 'em go to the workhouse, where there's
every convenience for letting 'em die off out of the way.'"

The old man crossed the muddy street to another lamp, chuckling to
himself the while, when, laying both hands upon the post, he began
again: "It's a strange thing, sir, a wonderful thing, how lonesome a man
may be here in this great city of London: he may work till he drops for
a living, and not get it; and he may then go and lie down and die, and
all that, while nobody has known him or helped him; but when he's found
there's a fuss in the papers for a few hours, and then--on we go again.
We're all wrong, sir.  What's the use of our spending our hundreds of
thousands, sir, in converting a few Indians, or Africans, or
Australians, sir, and then holding our meetings, with the Bishop of
Somewhere-or-another coming home to hold forth upon the benefits that
have followed the missionary enterprise, but saying nothing about the
miseries that have followed wherever the white man has set his foot?
Very fine, sir; very fine, this civilisation, and town and village and
church springing up; but what has become of the Indian? what has become
of the Australian? and what will become of the New Zealander?  It's
aggrandisement from beginning to end, sir,--dead robbery; call it
conquest if you will; but there, it's all for the extension of our
glorious empire.  Let's see, sir," said Matt, stopping; "I'm getting it
into a knot; what was I going to say?  How dare we go on so busily
cleaning other people's houses when our own is in a state that we ought
as a nation to blush for?  Convert savages, benighted heathen!  Why, I
can take you, sir, where, here in the heart of this Christian city,
London, you shall see savages ten times worse than any you shall find in
Africa--more cruel, more licentious.  There, hang it, sir, if it warn't
for the fear of being eaten, I'd sooner trust myself amongst the blacks
ten times over than the whites, hang me if I wouldn't!  I know what
you'll say to me, sir!  `Go and preach the Gospel to every creature!'
Ah, but oughtn't we to be fit to do it first? oughtn't we to look at
home first?  I say yes, sir, yes; and what we're doing now, sir, 's
playing the Pharisee and whitening the outside of the sepulchre; and
there's no mistake about it, sir, some parts of this London of ours make
a very foul sepulchre indeed."

Another fifty yards brought Matt to the next post, where he again
stopped.

"I'm a leveller, am I, sir?  P'r'aps so; but we levellers make the way
smooth for those poor folks who are to tramp the road of life in days to
come.  I'm very sorry for the blacks, sir; and no doubt here and there
you may find one who, under proper management, would turn out bright;
but they can't be much account, or else they would have made some
progress among themselves, whereas they're just where they were hundreds
of years ago.  It's a good job slavery is done away with; but you'll
never make white men of 'em, never, sir; and they all look just as if,
when their father Ham was cursed, he scowled like a naughty boy, and was
cross and pouted his lips, and so all his children have looked
thick-lipped since.  But there, sir, that's neither here nor there, as
you may say; though I've begun here in Carey-street and got right over
into Africa; and that's the way I always do go on when I'm speaking in
public.  Now look here, sir; now what am I, eh? a battered, worn-out,
seedy old stamp--good for nothing.  `Whose fault is that?' you say.
`Halves!'  I cry, with the world: we share the blame between us.  I've
been foolish: I've given way good-humouredly in the squeeze for place,
and everyone has pushed by me and got in front.  Now, sir, what ought I
to have done, eh?  Why, told the world that I was a big man; caressed
those who believed me, and kicked and bullied those who did not.  I
ought to have shoved my way through the crowd; and what would have
followed, eh? why, people would have pushed again and grumbled; but they
would have given way until I got a good standing.  Now look at that man,
sir,--Hardon, sir, a gentleman every inch of him, but as helpless and
unbusiness-like as a baby.  Why, he'll starve, sir, before he'll ask for
help, if his father don't send.  `More fool he,' says the world.  To be
sure: what business has he with a heart and feelings and nerves, that
make him flinch because he has got an ugly shell over his beautiful
works, and so feels every slight put upon him.  Why, he's just one of
those men who would go in despair and make an end of himself; and then
you have your inquest, and people say `How shocking!' and never stop to
think that such things keep on happening every day; and will, too, so
long as the world goes round; and I'm blest sometimes if I believe that
it does go round, sir, or else things would come right in time for
everybody.  But they don't, for they mend worse every day.  Here we are,
with one man rolling in riches he never did a stroke to gain, and don't
even know the value of; and here's Septimus Hardon, with a sick wife,
and with hardly common necessaries.  I might have introduced myself to
your notice, sir, but present company is always excepted.  The fact of
it is, sir, that things are all wrong; and though I've been studying the
matter these twenty years I can't see how to put 'em all right."

Old Matt drew a long breath, for he had been speaking loudly and with
vehemence; and now, upon reaching another post, he began gesticulating
fiercely, for he had warmed to his subject.

"But if I had time, sir, I'd go into the matter, sir.  I'd take the poor
man as he stands, and the rich man as _he_ stands; and I'd--"

"Now, come; that's about enough for one night, anyhow.  I don't mind a
little, now and then, but they'll be hearing of you acrost the square
d'reckly."

"I'd take him, sir," continued Matt, "and hold him up for the whole
world--"

"O, ah! all right," said Matt's interrupter, the policeman on the beat;
"I dessay you would; only the world wouldn't look at him.  For why?
'cause the world's too busy.  Good-night, old chap."

"Good-night," said Matt, cooling down suddenly, and shuffling off in a
quiet spiritless way, the fire out, and his head bent as he thrust his
hands in his pockets.  "Ah, he's about right; so he is.  `The world's
too busy!' so it is; and I ain't got a morsel of snuff left."

Volume One, Chapter X.

BROTHERLY LOVE.

"There, there, there; sit down, sit down, sit down!" croaked old
Octavius Hardon as he cowered over a miserable fire in his paper-strewn
room.  "Sit down, sit down, sit down," he kept on repeating, after just
glancing over his shoulder as his brother, sleek, pompous, and
black-clothed, entered the room--"such a gentlemanly man," as the old
women of Somesham declared over cups of tea.  "Sit down, Tom," croaked
the withered, dry old man, pulling his black skull-cap close down to his
yellow ears, and peering sideways from under his shaggy grey eyebrows at
the chair he meant his brother to take.  There was a dry, mocking sneer
upon his thin lips, while the grey unshorn beard wagged and twitched
about as he spoke, as, without taking further notice of his visitor, he
made his chair scroop on the worn carpet as he dragged it closer to the
fire and warmed his lean shins.

Doctor Hardon slowly subsided into a seat, giving a hasty glance round
the cheerless room as he did so, and then finishing with a long curious
look at the lean figure before him, with its wrinkled bony face and
attenuated form showing through the faded dressing-gown drawn tightly
round him, and tucked-in between his knees, while the trembling hands
were stretched out over the fire.

"How are we?" said Octavius after a long silence, broken with an effort
by his brother; "how are we?  Shall I put out my tongue, Tom?  Would you
like to feel my pulse, Tom, and sound my chest, eh, Tom?  Come and try,
Tom, and perhaps I shall knock you down--you humbug, you; for I'm sound
as a roach yet, Tom, and shall live a score of years.  Only
seventy-five, Tom; that's boyish, isn't it?  Better than being sixty,
and fat, and a humbug like you, ain't it?  `How are we?'  Ugh! drop that
professional cant, or else stand up and rub your hands together softly,
as you ought.  What did you come for?  Did you come to quarrel?"

"I came because you sent for me, sir," said Doctor Hardon with dignity,
settling his chin in his voluminous white neckcloth and using a gold
toothpick as he leaned back in his easy-chair.

"Sent for you--sent for you?  Well, yes; so I did--so I did, Tom,"
chuckled Octavius; "but not to doctor me, Tom, nor to send `the mixture
as before,' nor to send `the pill at bedtime and the draught in the
morning.'  No, Tom, no.  How long would it take you to kill me decently,
Tom, eh?--decently and respectably; eh, Tom, eh?"

"Fond of your joke as ever, Octy," said the doctor with a sickly smile.

"Just so, Tom; just so," croaked and chuckled Octavius; "but you are no
joke, Tom.  I'm not fond of you.  Brande's bad enough, but you're a
devil, Tom."

"I've been thinking of coming over to see you several times," said the
doctor, trying to change the conversation; "and I should have called
when passing, only you will misconstrue my ways, Octy."

"Me? misconstrue?  No, no, Tom, not I," chuckled Octavius; "I don't
misconstrue.  I believe you want to come, that I do.  Now what's up,
Tom, eh?" said the old man, fixing his keen grey eyes upon the doctor.
"You want money, Tom, don't you?  But, there, you won't own to it like a
man, but be indignant and offended.  You've a soul above money, you
have, Tom; and you wouldn't stoop to borrow money of your poor brother,
Tom, even if he'd lend it to you."

The doctor moved uneasily in his chair, glancing again and again round
the room, while his brother continued to watch him with his keen
unflinching eyes.

"Yes, I sent for you, Tom,--I sent for you," continued Octavius; "but
not to doctor me.  I should be afraid of your not thoroughly
understanding my constitution, Tom, and overdosing me.  But look here,
Tom," chuckled the old man, leaving his seat and coughing drily, as,
bent and failing, he crossed the room to a bureau and brought out a
silver teaspoon and a bottle containing some dark liquid.  "Look here,
Tom," he said, reseating himself, and then pouring with trembling hand a
portion of the liquid into the spoon, and in the act spilling a few
drops over the side.  "There," he said, smacking his lips after
swallowing the fluid, and then stooping fumbling about in the fender for
the stopper, that had slipped through his fingers.

"There, Tom, there; that's nectar, Tom; that's son, and daughter, and
wife, and brother, and doctor, and friend, and everything but lawyer.
That's how I doctor myself, Tom; that's how I doctor myself.  'Tain't
lawyer, Tom; but I can manage that myself and arrange about my few bits
of things.  You'd like my mourning-ring when I'm gone, wouldn't you now,
my dear brother?"

Doctor Hardon did not speak, but again shuffled in his chair, glancing
uneasily at the sneering face before him; and as he thought of the
goodly lands lying fallow, and the tenements in ruins, belonging to his
brother, he recalled a case where he had been one of the certifiers
respecting the sanity of an elderly lady; and then he wondered whether
his brother had made a will, and what it specified.

"That's how I doctor myself, Tom.  That's a cure for every kind of ache,
Tom; try it.  It's good for runaway scoundrels of sons, and it's good
for runaway daughters, Tom, and runaway nieces, Tom.  It's good for
everything, Tom; and I live on it," chuckled the old man.  "I didn't
want you for that, you see.  You all left me; Septimus, and your jade of
a girl, and you keep away; so I have it all to myself."

"You are not going to take any more of that now?" said the doctor, as
his brother once more drew the stopper from the bottle.

"No, no; not yet, not yet, Tom," said the old man, placing the bottle on
the chimney-piece.  "Not yet, Tom, till after business.  I wanted you
about my will, Tom.  D'ye hear? about my will."

Doctor Hardon could not conceal the start he gave at hearing this last
sentence; but he made an effort, and began to take snuff from a massive
gold box.

"Ha, ha!  I thought that would interest you, Tom," chuckled the old man,
watching his brother narrowly, and shading his keen eyes with his hand.
"My will, Tom, my will, and what I shall do with my money; for I haven't
a soul belonging to me; not a soul, Tom.  So you were coming to see me,
Tom, were you, eh?  Then you want money, don't you?  What have you been
at, now?  Mining-shares, eh?  Just like one of your fool's tricks."

"Hadn't you better refer to your solicitor?" said the doctor with
assumed nonchalance, and not noticing the latter part of the speech.

"What for--what for, eh?  No, no; I can do what I want with little help;
and I have had nearly all I want done; and you can do the rest.  It's
about money, Tom; and you always worshipped it--always--always.  Now
look here, Tom," he continued, going back to the bureau and taking out a
large envelope; "that's my will, Tom, and I want it witnessed; d'ye
hear, Tom?--witnessed.  I've had it made for years; and it only wants
another signature and then I think it will do, and it will be off my
mind and be at rest; for I want to finish my reform work, Tom,--reform--
reform--reform.  Now look here, Tom; but see first that there's no one
listening at the door."

Doctor Hardon rose and went across the room upon the points of his toes,
peered out into the passage, closed the door silently, and then returned
smiling, without having made a sound.  But the smile of
self-satisfaction at his successful management gave way the next moment
to a look of astonishment, and then of anger, as Octavius exclaimed,
"You sleek-looking, tom-cat humbug, you!  I almost wish I had not sent
for you--you treacherous-looking, smooth-coated rascal!"

Doctor Hardon turned almost purple with rage, but by an effort he choked
it down.

"So you are, Tom; so you are," snarled the old man, watching him keenly,
and enjoying his discomfiture; "but you can't afford to be affronted,
Tom, can you?"

The doctor tried to laugh it off.  "You always did love to tease me,
Octy," he said, with a twist of his whole body, as if the mental torture
shot through every nerve.

"Tease!" snarled the old man--"yes; call it teasing if you like; but
look here," he said, drawing out the will, and folding it back so that
only the bottom was visible--"bring that pen and ink, and come to the
table here and sign;" and then he placed both hands tightly upon the
paper, holding it down upon the table, and just leaving room for his
brother to sign his name, all the while watching him suspiciously.

Doctor Hardon took the inkstand from a side-table, and placed it beside
the will, glancing as he did so at the paper, but only to gaze upon the
blank space.  He then drew out a morocco case, and set at liberty an
elaborate pair of gold-rimmed spectacles, ignoring for the time being
the hand some double eyeglass hanging by a black ribbon from his neck.
The glasses were wiped upon a delicately-scented cambric handkerchief;
there was a soft professional cough given as they were fitted in their
place; and then, taking a fresh dip of ink, the doctor again advanced
majestically towards the table.

All this while Octavius Hardon had been watching his every action with a
cynical smile upon his withered face, apparently deriving great pleasure
from the ostentatious performance of his brother.

"Why don't you purr, eh, Tom?" he snarled; "why don't you purr, eh?"

Doctor Hardon tried to laugh pleasantly, but it was only a fat copy of
his brother's snarl; and then, once more dipping the pen, he leant over
the table, placing a hand upon the paper, while at the same moment
Octavius slid one of his own on one side, to give more room--perhaps to
save it from touching the doctor's plump, white, beringed digits.

The lamp was shaded, and cast a light full down upon the paper; and as
the doctor stooped to write, he suddenly started as if he had been
stung, and then stood trembling and wiping the perspiration from his
forehead.

"Humbug, Tom! humbug!" snarled his brother; "that's your baggage of a
girl's name; but it don't upset you like that?  What did you act like a
brute for, and drive her away, eh?  You did, Tom; you did!"

"But I cannot sign the paper without knowing its contents," stammered
the doctor.

"Bah, fool! tom-cat! humbug!" snarled the old man, snatching up the
paper, and trying with trembling hands to force it back into the
envelope.  "It's my will, I tell you.  There, be off!" and he began to
shuffle back again to his chair.

"I'll sign," said the doctor reluctantly.

Octavius took not the slightest notice, only reseated himself.

"I'll sign the paper, Octy," said the doctor, in a tone of voice that
seemed to prove his brother's words--that he could not afford to offend
him.

"You can do as you like," croaked Octavius, shuffling the envelope into
the breast-pocket of his dressing-gown, where it stuck out tantalisingly
before the doctor, who would have given a week's income to have known
its contents.  "You can do as you like, Tom--as you like."

"I know that," growled the doctor, in an undertone; but the old man
heard him.

"There, go!" he shouted, in a harsh, cracked voice.

"Don't I tell you I'll sign?" said the doctor, in a lachrymose, injured
tone.

The old man looked at him from beneath his hand for a few moments, with
a cynical grin wrinkling up his eyes, and then, slowly leaving his seat,
he took out and replaced the paper upon the table, jealously holding it
down with both hands; and then the doctor signed his name just beneath
the fair, clear characters of his daughter's writing, while he ended
with a flourish and a ponderous "MD."

"Ha, ha, ha!" chuckled Octavius, snatching the paper up hastily, and
then holding it over the lamp, and afterwards to the fire to dry the
ink.

"MD!  Ha, ha, ha!  Got your diploma framed and glazed, Tom? you purring,
sleek, tom-cat humbug, you!"  Then, without waiting to double the will
in its original folds, the old man hastily replaced it in the envelope,
took the shade and globe from the lamp, an old gold signet-ring and a
stick of wax from the bureau; and then with his half-palsied hand he
sealed the great envelope, and stamped the sprawling, blotchy patch of
wax with the crest in the ring.

"There, Tom; that's done!" chuckled the old man, replacing the will in
the bureau, turning the key, and dropping it on the carpet as he tried
to place it in his pocket.  "Now, look here, Tom," he said, taking the
poker, and making a hole in the fire, "that envelope isn't to be opened
till I'm gone, Tom; and I'll tell you this--you're one of the executors,
and then you'll know what's in it, eh?--what's in it.  Now, I won't
tamper with it any more, and no one else shall."  As he spoke he dropped
the fine old ring into the hot pit he had prepared for its reception,
and sat down, chuckling at his brother.

Doctor Hardon sat down breathing heavily, with strange thoughts in his
heart, as he looked upon the weak old man before him, and thought of his
possessions.

"Now, Tom," said Octavius, chuckling and placid, as he took the little
bottle and spoon from the chimney-piece, "there's a decanter with some
old port in that sideboard cellaret, and a glass with it.  Help
yourself, Tom; help yourself; this is my wine."

"But you took a quantity of that laudanum just now," said the doctor.

"You're a fool, Tom!  You're a purring, sleek-coated fool!" chuckled the
old man, hastily filling the spoon again, and swallowing its contents,
"Help yourself--you like port, Tom--and then go, and don't come here any
more till you're sent for."

Doctor Hardon drew himself up to display his offended dignity, but the
old man only watched him and chuckled sneeringly; so he slowly rose, and
with his professional roll walked to the sideboard and back, filled his
glass, and then placed the decanter upon the table.  He then sat down,
curiously watching his brother, who lay back in his chair, apparently
gazing into the fire.  The doctor raised the glass to his lips, lowered
it once more, and then his fat white hand played nervously round his
mouth, for there were strange thoughts in his heart again--strange,
undefined thoughts that did not take any particular shape, though there
was the glint and chink of money in them all, and its uselessness to the
wreck before him; while the hints he had wanted to give him respecting a
loan had been passed for want of opportunity.

The doctor sighed, and seemed relieved; and then he wiped his forehead,
which had turned damp; performed the same operation upon his hands, till
the neat white cambric handkerchief was reduced to a miserable wisp;
when, apparently further relieved, he took up his glass and drained it,
but only to fill it again directly.

The port was good, certainly.  The doctor played with his glass
amorously, touching the rim with his lips, sipping at the bell of the
ruby flower like some mammoth bee; held it before the light, and closed
one eye to get a more concentrated look at the deep, rich, tawny hue of
the fine old wine.  Soon he sipped again--largely this time--and rinsed
the generous liquor round his mouth, assuming all the airs of a
connoisseur; and then he finished the second glassful, and sighed
gently, for the effect was decidedly mollifying.

All this while Octavius Hardon never moved, but lay back in his chair.
The doctor drew out his watch, and found it was ten; but he felt in no
hurry to move, for he was accustomed to being late, and it would cause
no uneasiness at home; besides, something might come of this, he
thought; and as the idea crossed his mind, his forehead again turned
slightly moist, and he glanced uneasily at the motionless figure before
him.  Then he started, for there was a rustle in the passage, and a tap
at the door, which was directly after opened, and the housekeeper
brought in a chamber-candlestick.

"Shall I wait up till you go, sir?" she said to the doctor.

"O, no; not for me," said he.  "My brother will let me out.  Good-night,
Mrs Berry!"  And the doctor's voice was soft and amiable.

"Good-night, sir!" said the woman, and then the door closed.  There was
once more the rustle in the passage, the sound of a chain and bolts
being shot somewhere in the back, the closing of a door, which sent a
hollow echo through the deserted house; and then there was silence--a
stillness that was quite oppressive; for Octavius lived with but one
servant here at the Grange, a middle-aged woman, who attended to the
whole of his simple wants.  And now the wind sighed mournfully through
the trees, a few spots of rain pattered against the window, and the
doctor thought uneasily of his long walk home, but not for long, for,
softly rubbing his hands, he now turned once more to the decanter.

"A good glass of wine, brother.  I think I'll take another," he said
unctuously; but there was no reply.  So the doctor took another; and
then, after thoroughly enjoying that glass, another; when now feeling
decidedly comfortable, and that the awkward, sharp-cornered, acid
crystals his brother's words had caused to form in his nature were
dissolved by the good wine, he rose, smiling, put the decanter carefully
away, and began to don his overcoat, which lay across a chair.

It is possible that had the doctor been less intent upon his thoughts
and the wine, he might have heard something more than the pattering of a
drop or two of rain upon the window, the soughing of the wind, and the
regular "tick-tick" of his own large gold watch--a something that
sounded like the working of a sharp gimlet boring through the panel of a
door, cautiously and softly, to render that door pervious to a sharp,
bright eye; but the doctor heard no sound, and turning towards Octavius,
he said, "Good-night, Brother Octy!"

There was no answer, and the doctor repeated his valediction, but still
without effect; so he knocked the glass over, making it jingle loudly
against the lamp, and still Octavius did not move.

Doctor Hardon's forehead grew damp again, but very slightly now; he drew
out his watch--it was half-past eleven, and he was surprised to see how
the time had gone.  He walked round in his soft, silent way, in those
boots of his that never creaked, to the fireplace on the other side of
his brother; took the phial, removed the stopper, and smelt at the
contents; replaced the bottle, and after looking in the withered face
for a few moments, he lightly rested a finger upon the uncovered wrist
before him.

Apparently satisfied, he leaned over the fire where the signet-ring had
been cast; then stooped to pick up the tongs, but shook his head, rose
again, and stepping silently towards the door, he gave one glance at the
bureau, when his toe struck something, kicking it along the carpet.

The doctor stopped and stooped again, feeling about the floor; took the
lamp from the table, whose glass jingled loudly, so that he stopped to
gaze at his brother, who, however, never stirred; while, after a
moment's search, the doctor picked up the bureau-key, and then replacing
the lamp, stood beside the table quite irresolute.  He glanced at his
brother, then at the door and window, and lastly at the bureau; sighed,
laid down the key beside the lamp, said "Good-night" again, stepped
softly to the door, passed through and closed it after him; when, for
the space of five minutes, there was a silence in the room, broken only
by the sighing of the wind, and the tinkle of the cinders falling into
the ash-pan.

Did Octavius Hardon, in his opium-produced sleep, dream of his son
struggling with sorrow and despair in the desolation of his heart; of
the son who had appealed to him again and again for the help the
father's obstinacy refused?  Perhaps so, for more than once he moaned,
but so softly that it might have been but the wind with whose sighs the
sound was strangely mingled.

The lamp burned brightly, shedding a well-defined halo for a certain
space around; but the shadows that it cast in the distant parts of the
room were wild and grotesque.  The motionless figure of Octavius Hardon,
with the light full upon the skull-cap, was thrown in strange relief
upon the ground in the semblance of a sleeping goblin; chairs were
elongated, while the easy _prie-dieu_ that the doctor had occupied
seemed turned into some strange beast stooping for its spring upon the
sleeping man.  The corners of the room were full of dark moving shades,
as the lamp-flame danced; while the tall bureau and bookcases looked in
their black solemnity the repositories of mysteries untold.

Suddenly the door opened again very softly, and Doctor Hardon's face
appeared.  His brother had not moved--he was satisfied of that before he
entered.  He came in, closed the door, and stepped softly up to the
chair, and touched the sleeping figure; but there was no pretence, as
far as he could tell--it was the heavy stupor produced by laudanum.  The
doctor paused for a few moments irresolutely, then, taking up the key
from beside the lamp, crossed to the bureau, when, turning the key in
the lock, the bolt flew back with a loud snap, while, starting round,
the doctor stood gazing with pallid face at the sleeping man, who,
however, did not move.  To cross to where the wine stood in the
sideboard cupboard was the next act, and, removing the stopper, the
doctor drank eagerly from the decanter's mouth.  This gave him fresh
courage; and, replacing the wine, he crossed once more to the bureau,
opened it quickly, stepped back again, and walked over to his brother,
still motionless; then once more to the door, to open it and peer out.

All silent; and he returned to the bureau.

There was the large blue envelope with its great seal; and now, with his
forehead covered with big drops, where before it had been but damp, the
doctor, trembling visibly, put the paper to the light, when a sharp cry
as of pain from his brother made him drop it upon the table, and turn as
if to flee.  But the old man only moaned the word "Septimus" in a bitter
tone of voice, and then all was silent.

Assuring himself once more that all was well, the doctor again took the
envelope and held it to the light to see if it was transparent enough
for him to make out anything of its contents; but no: all was firm and
close--close and secret as Octavius himself: the folds would not give
way, nor bulge so that he could look inside, the great seal was fast,
and nothing was to be seen but the words, "My Will--Octavius Hardon,"
scrawled in a large hand upon the front.

The doctor stood irresolute.  There was the fire, with its warm glow;
and he thought of how soon it would devour the will; and how that if
there was no will he would be the next of kin; and--but about Septimus?
Perhaps Septimus was dead; for he had not heard of him for years; and
besides, possession--and--yes--that would do, if he should ever show
himself.  Then Doctor Hardon smiled bitterly, for he had been
Castle-building, and thinking of the matter as if his brother were past
away; while now, even if the will were destroyed, Octavius would suspect
him and make another.  But why wish it destroyed?  It might contain all
he could desire!  Could he but have seen inside--and the paper crackled
as his trembling hands bent the envelope here and there.  Should he
break the wax and reseal the envelope?  He looked in the fire, but could
not see a trace of the ring; while, upon comparing his own massive seals
with the impression upon the wax, there was not one that bore the
faintest resemblance, so as to give him a chance of deception.

Sighing, he replaced the will, locked the bureau, and threw the key upon
the carpet, and had once more reached the door, when a sudden thought
struck him.  He darted almost, in spite of his weight, to the bureau,
the slow ponderous motions giving place to an eager activity.

He tried to open it with his nails inserted beneath the lid, forgetting
that it was locked; but he soon had the key again, opened the flap, and
seizing the will, stood with it by the lamp, whose shade and glass he
removed with trembling hands.

Holding lamp in one hand and envelope in the other, he turned the lamp
sideways, so that the oil began to flow, and the light to sputter, and
go out on one side of the wick; but out flowed the clear oil--drip,
drip, drip--upon the envelope, till a tiny pool was formed upon the
paper.  This he spread lightly over the front with his finger, and held
the envelope to the fire for a few minutes, when, returning to the lamp,
he could distinctly trace, in faint characters, through the now
transparent paper, "Son Septimus Hardon the whole of houses, lands,
hereditaments--" then the paper was folded, so that no more was visible,
but he knew enough now: he knew that Septimus was forgiven, and if
living, that he would be in possession of his father's property.  But
would he if there were no will?  Could it be managed that he should not
succeed?  Doctor Hardon apparently thought it could, for there was a
strange smile upon his countenance.  But what should he do? replace the
soiled envelope in the bureau? or should he burn it?  How it would burn
now, soaked in oil as it was!  And what if his brother thought he had
destroyed it?  What mattered? he had evidently left him nothing.  But he
was not sure of that; he might have left him something--something
pitiful--a mourning-ring, as he hinted; or a watch, or suit of mourning.
Better play the bold game, and burn the will; he might never make
another--he might not live; and as his thoughts took this bent, the
doctor shudderingly gazed at the laudanum-bottle.

Once he advanced towards the fire, and then shrunk back; a second time
he advanced and receded, trembling visibly, for it was an act of felony
he thought of performing; then, fiercely crushing the envelope in his
hand, he stepped forward, when the lamp was dashed over, and as he
started round a cold chill struck through him, for he was forced upon
his knees, while, ever tightening and crushing down even the gurgling
cry he half uttered, there was a bony set of fingers at his throat.

Volume One, Chapter XI.

HARD TIMES.

Times were hard with Septimus Hardon, and too often he was quite in
despair.  There was that difficult problem before him, always waiting to
be solved, and he not able to solve it: given so many mouths to feed,
how to do it.  It was a problem that many a better man had failed over,
and those who knew him, while commiserating, saw how weak and helpless
and unfitted he was for the task.  But times might have been worse; for
he learned now that even in the lowest depths of poverty, whatever may
have been written to the contrary, there are such people as friends, any
one of whom, in his genuine truth of heart, is worth a score of the
parasites who cling to a man in the hours of his prosperity.  Old
Matthew Space, oddly as his acquaintanceship had begun, was such a
friend; and so, to a certain extent, was Mr Sterne; but there was, and
he knew it too, a tinge of selfishness in the latter's friendship
towards Septimus Hardon, and though he battled with it, and thought
again and again that he had beaten it down, there it still was in spite
of all.  The mistrust he had felt for old Matt had somewhat softened
down, after seeing his disinterested attention towards the Hardon
family; while the curate argued, upon seeing the old man with Septimus
Hardon's child, that no man could be bad at heart who had so true a love
for innocence as embodied in a child, almost fresh and pure from the
hands of its Maker.  But somehow, he and Matt never seemed to get a jot
nearer to each other.  Difference of position had nothing to do with it,
for Arthur Sterne was ready to extend the hand of friendship to the
humblest dweller in the court, and aid and teach to the best of his
ability.  But Matt said he daresay it was all right, but somehow he was
one who did not like to be patronised; while as to being taught, the
clay had grown too stiff, and hard, and cracked, to submit to the
moulding of the potter's hands.  "And you see, sir, to be able to do
anything with me, you must moisten my clay with beer, which softens me a
little; and it isn't likely as a clergyman is going to supply me with my
malt liquor, and all for the sake of giving me a few lessons.  I respect
him, sir, and always shall, but we don't seem the sort to mix."  This to
Septimus Hardon.

Mr Sterne, finding his advances of no avail, ceased to make any; and
soon he and old Matt were upon a friendly neutral ground, while the
extent of their communications was a bow upon either side.  Their visits
to the first-floor in Bennett's-rents were frequent, and in time they so
arranged their calls that they should not clash; while, for further
convenience, by a tacit understanding, it was come curate, go printer;
and _vice versa_.

"I much wish you had chosen some better neighbourhood," said Mr Sterne
one day, "for your wife and child's sake; and this is not a nice place
for Miss Grey."

Lucy looked up in the curate's subdued face with a grateful smile; and
then there was a faint blush upon her cheek as she looked down again.

"No, it's not a nice place--not at all nice," said Septimus drearily;
"but then it seemed right in the thick of the law-writing, which I'm
trying to acquire; but it's very hard work--it's so crooked and crabbed
and hard to make out.  One ought to have begun young.  I've been trying
for weeks now; but they all find fault with my hand."

"It is too good--too flowing and clear," said the curate, looking at
some sheets of foolscap Septimus laid before him.  "But patience, and
you will do it.  Keep your elbow more away from your side--so."  And he
leaned over the paper, and wrote a couple of lines so rapidly, and
exactly in the style required, that Septimus looked on in admiration,
but only to sigh directly after for his own want of skill.

"Never mind," he said, "I shall manage it some day;" and he smiled
cheerfully, for he had just caught sight of the worn face of his wife.
"'Tis a bad neighbourhood this, sir," he said, to change the
conversation; "but it's cheap for London, I suppose."

"Doubtless--doubtless," said the curate; "but it is a sad place; and I
know it well, as you may easily suppose.  And now, Mr Hardon," he said
as he rose to leave, "do not let me be so great a stranger to you.  Ask
my advice on matters, and take me into your counsels at all times.
Come; you promise?"

Septimus Hardon did not speak, but wrung the curate's hand; and in the
future he did precisely what might have been expected of him--let
matters get from bad to worse, and never once spoke to the visitor upon
his dreary prospects--prospects that from delicacy the curate forbore to
inquire into, while to old Matt, Septimus was openness itself.

One day Septimus sat gnawing his nails in despair, for some law-copying
that he had hoped would bring him in a few shillings had been thrown
back upon his hands, with some very sharp language from the keen,
business-like law-stationer who, after many solicitations, had employed
him.

"Don't grieve, papa," whispered Lucy, looking up from the paid warehouse
needlework she was employed upon--"don't grieve, papa, they will pay me
for this when I take it home;" and the words were spoken in a sweet
soothing strain that comforted the poor fellow in his trouble.

"He said I must be a fool to undertake work I could not perform," said
Septimus lugubriously; "and I suppose I must be."

"Don't, don't talk so, dear," whispered Lucy, glancing uneasily at the
door of the back-room.  "Don't let her hear you."

"Well, I won't," said Septimus, rousing up and crossing the room to kiss
the soft cheek held up so lovingly to him--"I won't, pet Lucy; and I'll
try again, that I will;" and he returned to his seat.

"Yes, do; yes, do!" cried Lucy, with smiles and tears at one and the
same time.  "Don't mind what they said; you are so clever, you must
succeed."

Septimus screwed up his face, but Lucy shook her head at him, still
busily stitching, while, with his head resting upon his hand, Septimus
gazed on that budding figure before him, growing fast into the
similitude of the woman who had first taught him that he had a heart;
but she looked up again, and Septimus turned to his papers.

"Were there many mistakes, dear?" said Lucy.

"Well, not so many," said Septimus; "only the writing I copied from was
so bad; and I've put in the contractions where I ought not, and altered
them where they should have stayed; and you see, my child, I don't know
how it is, but I do get so wild in my spelling.  I know when the worst
of it was, it was when Tom would sit on my knee and put his fingers in
the ink-bottle; and that is distracting, you know, when one copies
crabbed handwriting.  But the worst fault was what I didn't see--and how
I came to put it in, I'm sure I don't know, but it was a part of that
line of Goldsmith's, `But times are altered, trade's unfeeling train.'
I don't know how it came there, only that it was there, and I must have
written it when I was half-asleep.  Let me see, it was--ah, yes, here it
is, in folio 15, and I began that at half-past two this morning.  I
couldn't say anything, you know, my child, could I? for of course it
didn't look well in amongst a lot about a man's executors and
administrators, and all that sort of thing.  It's a bad job, ain't it?"

Poor Lucy looked up at the wretchedly-doleful face before her, hardly
knowing whether to smile or be serious; and then, in spite of the
trouble they were in, and perhaps from the fact of tears being so near
akin to smiles, they both laughed merrily over the disaster; and
Septimus set to work to try and remedy the wrong doings, by rewriting
several of the sheets--a task he was busily engaged upon when old Matt
came with his tap at the door and entered.

"And how's Mrs Hardon, sir?" said Matt respectfully.

A faint voice responded from the back-room, for Mrs Septimus spent much
of her time in a reclining position.

"Busy as ever, miss, I see," said Matt; "and bright as a rose."

Lucy, bright as a rose truly, but only as the pale white blossom that
shows the faintest tinge of pink, looked up from the hard sewing which
made sore her little fingers, and smiled upon the old man.

"And how's the writing, sir?" said Matt.

"No good--no good, Matt," said Septimus wearily.  "I'm out of my
element, and shall never do any good at it, I'm afraid."

"Don't have nothing to do with it, then, sir; come and finger the types
again.  I've no opinion of copying, only as a combination of
law-stationers to do honest printers out of their work.  Try setting
again, sir, and I'll give you grass first time I get a chance."

"Grass!" said Septimus absently.

"Well, yes, sir; put you on a job instead of doing it myself; first
chance I have."

Septimus shook his head, went and thrust some sheets of paper into the
fire, and then walked to the window, where his apathetic air passed off
for an instant, as he seemed to recognise the face of a woman who passed
quickly from the opposite house, and then hurriedly made her way out of
the court.

"Strange!" muttered Septimus to himself; "but there, it couldn't be
her."

"And where's my little di'mond?" said Matt to Lucy.

"Asleep by mamma," replied Lucy.

"Bless him!  I've brought him a steam-ingin," said Matt, bringing a
toy-model, with a glorious display of cotton-wool steam, out of his
pocket; "and I don't know what this here's meant for," he continued,
drawing a wooden quadruped from the other pocket.  "Stands well, don't
he, miss?  Wonder what it's meant for!  'Tain't a horse, nor a
halligator, nor a elephant--can't be a elephant, you know, because they
haven't got these Berlin-wool-looking sides; no, nor it ain't no trunk
neither.  Let's call it a hippopotamus, and see how he'll tie his pretty
little tongue in a knot, bless him! a-trying to say it when he wakes.
You'll tell him Uncle Matt brought 'em, won't you, miss?" he said,
holding them behind his back.

Lucy nodded, while Matt blew out and arranged the cotton-wool steam as
carefully as if it was a matter of the greatest importance, or a jewel
for a queen; and who shall say that the old printer's task was not of as
great importance, and that the pleasure of the child is not of equal
value with that of the greatest potentate that ever ruled; while as to
the amount of enjoyment derived, there can be no doubt.

"And what time is the work to go home, miss?" said Matt, after
contriving with great difficulty to make the wild quadruped use his four
supports in the way intended by his manufacturer--the beast's idea being
that its nose was the proper front rest for its body, and that by rights
it was a tripod.

"I'm afraid I shall not be ready before eight," said Lucy, bending to
her task.

"I'll be here to the moment, brushed up and smart," said the old man.
"Why, how proud you ought to be of having such a bodyguard, Miss Lucy!"

The girl looked up and smiled, half sadly, at the old man as she held
out her hand, which he took in his own for a moment, kissed
respectfully, and then he shuffled from the room.

Ten minutes after, old Matt's step was again heard upon the stairs, and
he directly after appeared with a pot of porter in one hand, and
something tied up in a cotton handkerchief in the other; while, as he
entered, he glanced stealthily from face to face to see what effect his
proceedings would have before he spoke.

"You see, Mr Hardon, sir, it's a busy morning with me, and as I'm so
far from my lodging--what a fib!" he thought to himself--"I thought I'd
ask the favour of being allowed to have a bite here."

Of course there was no objection raised, and the old man's roast
potatoes were soon warming, while Lucy left her work to frizzle the
large portion of prime steak over the fire.

"No, no, miss; none of that," said Matt, taking the fork out of Lucy's
hand; "I've cooked hundreds of bits of steak, miss, and I'm too
particular to trust you; and, besides, you'll be keeping me waiting
to-night when it's time the work was taken home; and my time's the only
valuable possession I'm worth."

Here old Matt directed a very knowing wink at Septimus Hardon; but he
was deep in thought, with his head resting upon his hand.  However, Lucy
understood the old man's quaint kindness, and resumed her work; but
there was a tear twinkling in her eye.

"Lord, Miss Lucy," said Matt, turning the steak upon the gridiron, and
distributing a most appetising odour through the room, where more than
once of late hunger had sat gaunt and staring,--"Lord, Miss Lucy, how I
should like to see you with one of those new machines; stitch away they
do, and the work comes running out by the yard."

Lucy sighed, and pressed a sore finger to her rosy lips.

"'Spose I may put the cloth on, miss, mayn't I?" said Matt, who was
quite at home in the place.

Lucy nodded; and the old man soon had the cloth spread, and the steak
done; when, pulling a long face, he groaned heavily.

"There!" he exclaimed, "that's always the way.  Who'd be troubled with a
complaint?  Thought I could just pick a bit; but now it's all nice and
ready, and as prime as can be, I'm done.  Such a steak as that is, too,
juicy and done to a twist, and the very best cut out of the whole beast.
But there, don't let it be spoiled, miss, please;" and before anyone
could stay him the old man was shuffling down the stairs, chuckling to
himself as he made his way into the court, while Septimus, stung to the
heart by his poverty, and overcome by the old man's kindness, left his
chair, and began to pace the room wringing his hands.

"O, that it should have come to this!  O, that it should have come to
this!" he groaned; but the next moment Mrs Septimus had forgotten her
own trouble, and was weeping upon his breast, while Lucy had work enough
to pacify the frightened child.

"Don't, don't, darling," whispered Mrs Septimus in a supplicating
voice.  "I know it is all my fault, and I'm thinking of it constantly;
but don't let me think that you reproach me, or it will kill me
outright."

There was such agony of spirit in Mrs Hardon's words that Septimus
forgot his own wounded pride and misery by turn, in busily trying to
soothe the poor invalid, who gladly took her seat at the table, while
Septimus, with a smile upon his countenance, kept on vowing how hopeful
he would be, as, casting pride to the winds, he distributed old Matt's
much-needed steak, not hesitating to partake himself of the old man's
bounty.

A gleam of hopeful sunshine seemed to have darted into the room that
afternoon as Septimus sat busily writing, and the sharp click of needle
upon thimble could be heard from the back-room, where Mrs Septimus was
busy helping Lucy, so that the work might be finished in time, though
every now and then it fell to someone's lot to amuse the little boy,
who, a very spoiled tyrant, seemed bent upon being as capricious and
unreasonable as children can be at times.  But ever and again the
wrinkles would deepen upon Septimus Hardon's forehead, and he would lay
down his pen, in dread lest he should include some of his busy thoughts
in his copying.  What should he do to better his condition?  Time back
it had seemed so easy a task, that of keeping his wife and children;
but, put to the proof, how difficult.  Some that he saw were almost
without trouble; wealth poured in upon them in return for their bright
thoughts.  And why should not he be rich when schemes in plenty came
flashing to his brain?  There were scores of fortunes to be made had he
but capital--that golden key that should open the treasure-house; but he
was poor--a beggar, as he told himself again and again, when, to drive
away the thoughts, he stooped over his copying, but only to lay it aside
once more and sigh.

Old Matt came again that evening, vowing that he was much better, for he
had been trying a favourite remedy of his--abstinence.  "A first-rate
thing, sir, for indigestion," said Matt; "rather lowering, certainly,
but surprisingly efficacious as a medicine, while it costs nothing, and
saves at the same time.  A good walk helps, too, but then that requires
what the shoe-shops call a pair of `stout walking,' and my old feet want
an easy style of boot.  I wouldn't use a new boot on any consideration,"
said Matt, stretching out a dilapidated and crushed Wellington, polished
to the highest pitch of lustre by a scarlet-coated brigadier.  "I study
comfort, sir; ease before appearances."

Lucy was soon ready, and then, with a couple of inches added to his
stature, the old man proudly escorted her through court, lane, and
street, to the warehouse; and then patiently waited till her business
was transacted.  Many a glance was directed at the strangely-assorted
couple, but he would have been a bold man who would have insulted the
poor girl, who leaned so trustingly upon the old printer's arm till they
reached the court, where he allowed her to go first, stopping and
scratching his cheek viciously as he saw Lucy tremblingly hold out her
hand to a woman who hurriedly passed from the house opposite that
occupied by Septimus.  They seemed to have met before; but old Matt
looked vexed and undecided.  Once he closed up, but a glance from Lucy
sent him back, when he passed the rest of his time in returning with
interest the bold, inquisitive stare of Mr William Jarker, who stood
with a couple of friends in the entrance of the court, watching Lucy and
the stranger with some degree of interest, till Mr Jarker caught Matt's
eye, when he turned to his companions, said something, and they walked
off together, Matt's quick ear catching the words, "9:30," and a click
or two as if one of the men carried tools in the pocket of his
shooting-jacket.

Directly after, the stranger passed old Matt with a quiet appealing
look, to which he replied with a nod of a very undecided description,
half civil, half angry; and then, still scratching his silver-stubbled
cheek, he wished Lucy good-night, shaking his head the while, to which
she replied, "Please don't be angry," in a way that brought a smile into
the old man's countenance; a sunny smile that began at one corner of his
month, and then spread through stubbly whisker, and over wrinkle, till
it was all over his face, clearing away the shadow that had lain there;
but as old Matt turned away, his head began to shake, and the shadow
that had been lurking in the farther whisker crept back again, slowly
and surely, as night crept down over Bennett's-rents to hide the sordid
misery that chose the court for its home.

"What's `9:30'?" said Matt to himself, as passing out of the court his
thoughts took a fresh direction.  "Nice-looking party that.  'Spose I
button up my coat over my gold repeater.  They were thinking about
what's o'clock, they were, hang 'em."

Old Matt Space suited the action to the word, bursting off a button in
the operation, and then carefully picking it up and saving it, as he
strode off muttering.

"`Nine-thirty'?  What's their little game?"

Volume One, Chapter XII.

FRIENDS FROM TOWN.

"For God's sake, Octy," gurgled Doctor Hardon almost inaudibly, so
tightly were the fingers clutching his throat,--"don't! don't!  I was
only looking."

"Turn on the glim, Joe," croaked a harsh voice; when a bright light
flashed in a broad, well-defined, ever-widening path right across the
room, leaving the untouched portion in a darkness of the blackest; but
the light shone where the doctor could see his brother upon the floor,
with a rough fellow kneeling beside him, while a coarse, big-jawed
ruffian, the upper portion of whose face was covered with crape, held on
tightly by the doctor's throat with fingers whose bony force he had at
first taken for his brother's.  It was evident that another man was
present holding the lantern; but from the position of the light he was
in the shadow, and so invisible.

"Light that there lamp again," croaked the same voice; and at the same
time the doctor felt himself dragged at until he rose to his feet, when
he was backed into a chair, one hand being loosened from his throat.
Directly after a heavy blow fell upon his head, causing the light to
dance and sparkle before his eyes.

"There," growled the voice; "that's jest a reminder, that is.  That
didn't hurt, that didn't; but it's jest to show what we could do if yer
get to be troublesome.  Now, then," growled the ruffian to his
companion, who was stooping over the fire, "light that lamp, d'yer hear?
You're gallus sharp, you are."

"Who's to light the butcherly thing when hain't got no ile in?" growled
the ruffian addressed.

"I wish you'd got a little more ile in you," croaked the first speaker
in a voice that seemed to ascend through a tubular rasp.  "Hang on here,
will yer, and give us holt."

The doctor felt himself delivered over into another pair of hands, the
change not being for the better; for the new gaoler seemed to be
experimentalising, and trying to find out the best place for holding on
by when doing a little modern Thuggee, consequently the doctor's was not
a pleasant situation.

Directly after, a little oil was spilt upon the fire, causing it to
blaze up and illumine the room, displaying to the doctor's starting eyes
the three costermonger-like figures of the men in the room; when, seeing
his quiescence, the one acting as gaoler called attention to a couple of
candles in old bronze-holders upon the chimney-piece, and, loosing his
hold of his prisoner, leaned forward to reach them down.

It was a tempting moment for the doctor, and, without pausing to think
of its uselessness, he seized the bell-rope within his reach, and
dragged at it heavily.  But the next instant he had fallen back in his
chair from a well-planted blow between the eyes, and then, half-stunned,
he listened to the faint tones of the bell as the men produced what
seemed to be so much clothes-line from a small carpet-bag, with which
they dexterously and firmly bound him to his chair.

"You improves, you do," growled the first ruffian to the man lighting
the candles.  "Been all the same if that there jangler had alarmed the
whole blessed country."

"How was I to know as he'd jump up like so much watchworks?" said the
other, placing the lighted candles, whose tops were encrusted with ash
from the fire, upon the table.

"Know! not you; but you knows how to claim yer share of the swag."

Then the poor old man upon the floor, whose wild, staring eyes seemed to
betoken some violent seizure, was lifted into a chair opposite his
brother, and bound after the same fashion, when the spokesman of the
party shook the heavy leaden knob of that misnamed article a
life-preserver in the doctor's face, saying: "Don't you try no more
games, my kiddy, or else"--a playful tap illustrated his meaning.
"She's safe in bed, and tied up so as she won't answer no ringing nohow.
She's tucked up all right, she is; d'yer hear?"

The preserver-handle was very elastic, and the knob tapped playfully
upon the doctor's forehead as the ruffian spoke; but the bound man was
too confused to answer, and though what followed seemed to him like a
wild dream, yet his heart leaped once as he saw the fellow snatch the
will from the floor, where it had fallen, tear open the seal, and hold
the paper to the light.

"What's in it, Bill?" growled another of the gentry.

"Gallussed if I know," said the other; "but 'tain't no good;" and the
doctor saw it crushed together and thrown upon the fire, where it blazed
up and was soon consumed.  But confused as the doctor was, the next
proceedings of the ruffians produced groan after groan from his breast,
as they attacked his vanity, and metaphorically rolled him in the dust;
for removing a fur cap that he wore, so as to cool his brain perhaps,
and displaying thereby a very closely-cropped bullet-head, the leader of
the gang, as he seemed to be, first snapped the doctor's gold-chain, and
set it and watch at liberty; for the doctor's bonds would have impeded
their being taken off in the normal fashion.  Then followed, one after
the other, to be placed in a small carpet-bag with the watch and chain,
the spectacle-case and gold eyeglass; the handsomely-chased gold
snuff-box from one pocket, gold toothpick from another.  The set of
studs were dragged from the cambric front; a massively-set diamond ring
from the doctor's right hand, and a signet from his left; while as the
various ornaments were passed from one to the other, and deposited in
the bag, a broad grin followed each groan from the doctor.

"Where's his puss, Bill?" said Number 8 ruffian, who was the Judas
Iscariot of the party, and carried the bag.

"Here it is," growled Bill, whose hands were wonderfully active for so
heavy, burly-looking a man, diving in and out of pocket after pocket,
and now drawing forth a very handsome, elaborately-gilt, russia-leather
portemonnaie--half purse, half pocket-book--and grinning as he opened
it, he drew out and laid upon the table, first a railway insurance
ticket, next a lancet, then a crooked sixpence, and lastly a
threepenny-piece.

"Here, lay holt o' this 'ere, and slit it up," said Number 2 ruffian,
handing his companion an open clasp-knife.

The gentleman called Bill took the knife and ripped the purse all to
pieces, tearing leather from lining everywhere; but no notes fell out,
no secret pocket was disclosed; and throwing the remains of the purse
upon the fire with an aspect of the most profound disgust upon his face,
the fellow exclaimed, "I'm gallussed!"

"Let's wet it, Bill, afore we goes any further," said Number 8, and as
he crossed silently to the sideboard, and brought out the port and
another decanter, the doctor saw that the men were without boots, which
accounted to him for their sudden attack.

The wine and glasses were placed upon the table, and the burglars very
coolly proceeded to refresh themselves--one seating himself upon the
table, another upon a chair, and the last taking his place upon the
coal-scuttle--treating it as if it were a saddle.

"Here's towards yer, old un!" growled the big-jawed gentleman called
Bill, tossing, or rather pouring, a glass of wine down his bull throat
as he looked at the doctor--his companions paying the same compliment to
Octavius, who, however, seemed to be perfectly insensible.

All at once a faint scream was heard from another part of the house,
when one of the men rose.

"She thinks as we're gone, Bill," said ruffian Number 2, with a grin.
"Just go and show her that mug of yours, and she'll soon shut them
pipes."

Bill of the big jaw rose, displaying his teeth so that the lips seemed
to assimilate with the gums; and he, apparently taking his comrade's
remark for a compliment, walked out on the points of his toes, in a
peculiar fashion of his own; when, winking to his companion, Number 2
stole softly to the sideboard, looked about a bit, and then seizing a
small silver salver, doubled it by main force, and slipped it into the
pocket of his velveteen coat.  He then darted back to his place,
whispered "halves" to his companion, and began helping himself to more
wine, just as Bill hurried in again, glancing suspiciously about him
with his peculiarly restless, chameleon-like eyes, which seemed to be on
the watch for plunder, trickery, and Nemesis, at one and the same time,
and now it was evident that he suspected a march to have been stolen
upon him.

However, a few more glasses of wine were drunk, and then the men
proceeded to methodically ransack the place, finding a tolerable booty
of old-fashioned plate in the sideboard; while from the bureau, another
gold watch, with its old-fashioned broad chain and seals; a ring or two,
some quaint jewellery, and a few sovereigns and small change were
obtained.

The cords which bound the brothers were then carefully examined, and a
knot or two tightened, so that the doctor winced; then the candles were
extinguished, and the big-jawed man growled in the doctor's ear, "Now,
jest you move, that's all; and I'm gallussed--"

The fellow did not finish his speech verbally, but again illustrated his
meaning with a tap of the life-preserver.

"We ain't a-goin' yet," growled Number 8; "so don't you think it.  I
_have_ used this 'ere, and I ain't used it," he said, showing his
clasp-knife; "but it's a sharp un--so I tell you; and where it does go,
it goes--so look out."

"This one's been a-drinkin'; smell his breath," said Number 2, nodding
at old Octavius, as he cast the light from the lantern upon his wild
face.

Just then the doctor gave a loud groan, for his cords hurt him.

"Shove a bit in his mouth, Bill, or he'll begin to pipe, p'r'aps,"
growled Number 8.

"He'd best not," said Bill savagely; "but how-so-be he shall have it;
there's some knives in that there drawer."

Doctor Hardon's eyes rolled in their sockets as he saw one of the men go
to the sideboard drawer and bring out a large table-knife.  Then the
head of the party took it from his companion's hand and held the blade
between the bars, where the fire yet glowed, when the effect in a few
minutes was to loosen the handle, for the resin melted, and the blade
slipped out.  The man then took the handle, untied and slipped off the
doctor's white cravat, and then turning his back, rolled the knife-haft
tightly in its folds; while, wondering what was to follow, the
horror-stricken captive began to groan dismally.

"Now for it," cried Bill sharply, seizing the bound and helpless man by
the throat, when, fancying that his last hour had come, the doctor
opened his mouth to cry out, when the knife-handle was thrust between
his teeth, and the cravat tightly tied behind his head, keeping the gag
securely in its place, and thoroughly robbing him of the power of even
crying out.

"Now t'other," said Bill.  "Get another knife out."

"Ah! he's all right," said Number 2.  "I'd leave him."

"P'r'aps you would," said Bill; "but we two don't want to be blowed on,
if you do."

"But he's a-most dead now," said Number 2; "and if you stop his mouth
that way, I'm blessed if I don't think he will be quite afore morning."

"And what then?" said Bill contemptuously; "what if he is?  What's the
good of an old cove like him?  Yah!"

However, that part of the ceremony was left undone.  The doctor heard
the door close, open again, for the key to be dragged out of the lock
and replaced in the other side; when once more the door was closed and
double-locked.  Then followed the sound as of a whispered dispute, and
again silence, till it was broken by a faint scream from upstairs;
while, with every nerve on the stretch, the doctor listened for the next
movement, as, still somewhat confused in mind, he kept fancying that the
stertorous breathing of his brother was that of one of the ruffians on
guard at the door.

An hour must have passed, during which time the doctor still fancied
there was a man on guard, and dared not move, though at that time the
three visitors were coolly taking their tickets of a sleepy porter, the
only one of the railway company's servants in charge of the station, and
soon after they were being whirled up by the night mail which called at
Somesham for the letter-bags at two o'clock.  But at last, as the
doctor's mind became clearer, he made out that the breathing must be
that of his brother; and rousing himself, he tried to free his hands.
The cord only cut deeply into his plump flesh, though, and a sharp pain
was the sole result, though he could tell that his arms and legs were
swelling, and that the circulation was almost stopped.  He tried to get
rid of the gag in his mouth, but only made it press the harder upon his
false teeth, so that the gold setting seemed almost to crush his gums.
Then he waited awhile, to gain strength, and as his head grew clearer,
he recalled how that the will had been destroyed, and thought of how,
had he known what was to happen, he would have opened and read it.  If
now Octavius would neglect to make another!  He was old and helpless,
and no doubt getting to be imbecile--at least, in his doctorial eyes;
and if he would but neglect to make another!  Then he remembered how the
villains had denuded his person, and he writhed with fury so that his
chair cracked.

Back to the thoughts of the will and of Septimus Hardon; and for a time
so deep was his musing, that the doctor almost forgot his own position
till the pain recalled him, and he found he was fast growing numb and
cold.

All at once a terrible shudder ran through his frame, for a rustling and
squeaking behind the oak wainscot startled him.

"Rats!" he thought to himself; and he recalled how the house was said to
swarm with them, and how that they had once attacked a child in bed.
Started upon that train of thought, there were plenty of anecdotes to
startle him with the reputed courage of the fierce little animals when
hunger-driven.

Another hour passed in the darkness, as regularly and slow came the
stertorous breathing of Octavius, interrupted at times by the fierce
scratching of the rats behind the wainscot, or their scampering beneath
the floor in their many galleries; and again and again the doctor
shivered with fear, as he sat listening and longing for help.

But no help came--neither was it likely to come, since the lonely house
might have been passed again and again without there being a suspicion
excited of anything being wrong.  Besides, late in the night it was a
great chance if a soul passed.  He knew, from his professional habits,
that no surprise would be felt at home because of his absence, and he
had not said where he was going.

Another hour passed, and the doctor sat listening eagerly for his
brother's breath, which, from being loud and stertorous, had now become
so faint as to be hardly perceptible; indeed at times it appeared to
have ceased, and in his then excited condition he began to dread that
the overdose of laudanum, or the shock, had been too much for the old
man, and that he was to pass the remainder of the night with a corpse.
He dreaded the corpse horribly, but did he dread that such was the
case--that his brother was dead?  He was old and useless certainly, but
he was rich, and his will was destroyed; and were there no Septimus, or
could he be put aside, that property would come to him.  But was his
brother dead?  Death was nothing new to him; he had stood by hundreds of
deathbeds; but under these circumstances, bound down there, with nerves
unstrung, numbed, cold, and in agony, Doctor Hardon had at times a
difficult matter to contain himself, and he trembled fearfully with a
new horror lest he should lose control over himself.

He listened, and the breathings had ceased; the only sounds he could
hear were the horrible gnawings of the vermin.  At last, though, he
heard a breath; but he shuddered again, for his excited fancy told him
that it was the harsh, rattling expiration that he had often heard--that
last effort of the lungs ere stilled for ever.

The tearing and scratching of the vermin now grew louder, and the doctor
asked himself why? as, beside himself with horror, he sat listening.
His temples throbbed, the cold sweat stood upon his face, and he
struggled again and again to free himself, but only to tighten the
well-tied knots.  At times he could hardly breathe, while at last a
thrill ran through him--a thrill of indescribable terror--such a shock
as would have made him yell, had he been able; for quickly, and with a
sharp scratching, he felt something run up one of his bound legs, across
his lap, and then he heard the soft "pat" as a rat leaped upon the
carpet.

Doctor Hardon could bear no more; horrible, stifled groans burst from
his breast, as, mad with dread, he leaped and bounded spasmodically in
his seat, making the cords cut deeply into his flesh till, in one of his
agonised convulsions, the chair went over backwards with a crash; when,
stunned and helpless, the wretched man lay in a wild dream of horror,
from which he only awoke to relapse again and again.

Volume One, Chapter XIII.

AT THE COUNTY ARMS.

The people of Somesham, whom Doctor Hardon regulated as to their
internal economy, were of opinion that there was not such another town
as theirs in the whole kingdom; and no doubt they were right.  It was
situated at the foot of a range of chalky wolds, and in dry weather
always gave the visitors an idea that its inhabitants were a slovenly
race, and had not dusted their town lately.  There was a long, white,
dusty road that led to it on one side, and a long, dusty road that led
to or from it on the other side; there was one long, dusty street, with
shops and private houses mixed up anyhow; there were a few dusty cross
streets which led nowhere; a market-place where pigs squealed and butter
was sold on Tuesdays; a town-hall, combined with a corn-exchange and an
assembly-room, forming an ugly dust-coloured building, which was like
the memoranda and papers in people's pocket-books when they are
advertised as lost--of no value to anyone but the owners; and the
sole use it would have been to them was to sell it for old
building-materials.  There were public-houses, and, above all, a
commercial inn, kept by one Mrs Lower, a stout, elderly lady, who had
formerly occupied the post of nurse in Octavius Hardon's house until
such times as a nurse was no longer required, when she did needlework,
and helped in the domestic concerns till her mistress died, and then
acted as housekeeper up to the advent of Agnes Hardon, when one John
Lower, keeper of the County Arms in Somesham market-place, persuaded her
to say "Yes" to the question he had so many times asked her, and she
became landlady of the goodly inn; nurse again to the failing old man
her husband; and lastly, sole owner of the goods, chattels, and
tenements of the said John Lower, who went to his long sleep with a
blessing upon his lips for the good woman who had smoothed the last
hours of his life.

Mrs Lower made a very comfortable widow--one whose hostelry was much
frequented by commercial gentlemen, and those given to running down from
town once or twice a week for the purpose of having a turn with the Low
Wold hounds; stout, as a matter of course, for no woman could be
expected to make a good landlady who was angular or pointed in her
person.  Mrs Lower was stout, but not uncomfortably so, and this
stoutness she kept in its proper proportion by a comfortable diet, and
by being a woman without one of those unpleasant parasites known as
cares.  Doubtless she had plenty of the little troubles of life to
encounter--those little three-cornered affairs that bother everyone--
matters that to some people would be cares; but in her case, being a
mild, cheerful, and amiable woman, they made but little impression, the
consequence being that these acidities of life never ate into her
countenance, running down it in wrinkles, and puckers, and channels; and
at an age one never dare mention in her presence, or out of it either,
for fear of not being believed, she was plump of face, rosy, and
comfortable-looking, to an extent that made more than one well-to-do
farmer, and tradesman too, make her an offer that she would not accept.

Mrs Lower sat very comfortably enjoying her breakfast in the bar of the
County Arms, which bar was a pleasant-looking glass bower, with a view
one way of the sawdusty passage leading out into the market-place, and
in the other direction a prospect of divers pendent articles of
consumption--to wit, a turkey, joints of mutton and beef, poultry, and a
couple of long-tailed pheasants.  There was a cozy air about Mrs
Lower's bar, for everything in it looked snug, from the big-stomached
bottles to the great tom-cat blinking on the hearth-rug.  No fireplace
ever shone to such an extent as Mrs Lower's, for it was a very race
between black-lead and flame which should glow most, the result being a
warm combination, in which the fender, copper tea-kettle, and fire-irons
joined, and which every bottle, glass, and object with shine in its
composition laughed over and reflected.  Everything in Mrs Lower's cozy
bar seemed in keeping, and as if belonging to it--beginning with the
principal object animate, Mrs Lower herself, and descending through the
blind, fat spaniel and the black, blinking tom-cat, to the stout
bullfinch in the cage hung in the window--a finch so fat that he very
seldom hopped, while there was a general aspect about him that his
feather jacket was too tight, for it never seemed smooth.  There was a
tradition that this bullfinch used to pipe "God save the King;" but that
when William the Fourth died, he went into mourning for him, and had
never opened his beak to honour the successor.  True or not, Mrs Lower
believed it; and at all events, if people doubted the bird's age, she
could declare the part of the story to be true which related to its
never opening its beak to pipe the anthem in its altered form.

Mrs Lower mostly had "a snack," as she termed it, for her breakfast;
such snack being generally something very savoury and appetising, and
frequently taking the form of mushrooms, devilled drumsticks, or
kidneys; while Hides, the butcher in the market-place, had been known to
tell fibs, his wife said, on Mrs Lower's account, and to deny that he
had any sweetbreads when even aristocratic customers had wanted them, so
that Mrs Lower might not be disappointed.  But then Mrs Lower was no
mean customer; and Hides said, with a wink to his wife, her money was
always there when he wanted it, and that was more than some people's was
who held their heads very high.  Mrs Hardon had been heard to say that
she believed Hides' calves never had any sweetbreads--a remark conveyed,
per the cook, to Hides himself, at a time when that gentleman evinced
very little pleasure in supplying the Hardon house, and always made a
point of sending in dry beef and mean tough mutton.

But Mrs Lower could always have sweetbreads, and she was enjoying one
cooked to perfection, sipping too, from time to time, a fine rich cup of
tea, with an odour of a great-many-spoons-to-the-pot power, when
Charles, head--and foot--waiter, made his appearance at the bar-door,
with his head on one side, and a sharp cocksparrow-look about him, from
his beaky nose, prominent chest, and thin legs,--his tail-coat aiding
the simile.

"Heard the news, mem?" said Charles, raising the napkin he carried over
his arm, and nearly wiping his nose upon it by mistake.

"No, Charles," said Mrs Lower, peeping into the pot by raising the lid.

"The whole town, mem, 's in a--"

"Take that pot out, Charles, and put in one cupful,--not more, the
tea-kettle's low, and the water's all furry."

"Yes, mem; town's in a fermin, mem, and--"

"One cupful mind, Charles," said Mrs Lower, interrupting him.

"Fermin, mem," continued Charles, "and--"

"Bless the man, go and fill the pot!" exclaimed Mrs Lower.  "No--no!
not fill it--one cup, Charles;" and the waiter disappeared.

"And now what's the matter?" said Mrs Lower blandly, as, somewhat
ruffled and reticent, Charles brought back the pot, having forgotten
that the most important matter to Mrs Lower at meal-time was the meal
itself.

"Matter, mem--why, everything's the matter--burglary and robbery, and
murder almost; and all sorts, mem," said Charles, again making a dash at
his napkin, but recollecting himself in time in favour of a red-silk
handkerchief.

"Nonsense!" said Mrs Lower, thoroughly enjoying a piece of the very
brownest sweetbread outside, rich in glorious osmazome; "nonsense,
Charles!" and so far from being startled, she cut two or three
dice-shaped pieces of bread, soaked them in the rich gravy, and went on
enjoying her breakfast.

"Fact, mem, I assure you," said Charles.  "That's what Keenings sent for
our fly for, mem."

"What for? the burglars or the murderers, Charles?" said Mrs Lower
composedly.

"No, mem; neither, mem; but ordered it at eight, mem, to go to the
Grange, to fetch the doctor, mem."

"What, Mr Brande?" said Mrs Lower, taking a little more interest in
the matter.

"No, mem; old Hardon, mem," said Charles.

"But he never goes to the Grange, Charles; it's all a mistake."

"No, mem, not a bit," exclaimed Charles.  "Jem's in the yard now, mem,
just come back from Hardon's, and he helped the doctor in and out, too;
and Mrs Hardon coming flying down in her dressing-gownd as soon as they
got him down home, and a-going on dreadful, and saying it was all a
judgment for not forgiving Miss Hagniss; and the doctor taking three men
to carry him, being heavy and cold, and almost dead; and Mr Brande's
with him, mem, they say now."  Charles paused for breath.

"But what was it all? what does it mean?" cried Mrs Lower, stirring her
tea with her knife.

"Why, mem, that's what I'm a-telling you: it's a burglary, you know,"
said Charles excitedly.  "The Grange attacked by robbers, and the doctor
tied in a chair with the clothes-line, and laid down on his back, as Mr
Keening and Doctor Brande found him, with a knife stuck in his throat."

"But not dead?" exclaimed Mrs Lower.

"O, no, mem, only stuck so as he couldn't speak."

"And where was Squire Octy?" cried Mrs Lower, quite forgetting the
remains of her sweetbread.

"Why, didn't I tell you, mem?  Tied down in another chair, and Mrs
Berry, the housekeeper, tied down in her bed, with a blanket over her
head, and she got loose at six o'clock this morning, and came over and
alarmed the town.  Says she'll never go back any more.  Gang of ten
ruffians with black faces, and the police are on their tract."

"But about Squire Octy, Charles.  How's he?"

"Not hurt a mossle, mem, so they says.  Jem says that he heard as Mr
Keening cut the rope when he went in, and the old gentleman got up and
shook hisself, and then took a spoonful of loddlum, and he was all right
again directly, and stood laughing at his brother, the doctor, mem, who
was strange and bad."

"And no one knew anything about it?" said Mrs Lower.

"Not a word, mem," cried Charles, "and it's a mercy as we weren't all
murdered, I'm sure.  And Jem says he saw old Squire Octy laugh when they
lifted the doctor into the fly, while he'd got no chain, nor studs, nor
rings, as you know he wears a lot of them things, mem."

Mrs Lower nodded.

"And I hear as all the plate's gone; and they've had the wine, and I
don't know what, mem; but what caps all, mem, was for the squire, old
Mr Octy, mem, to be quite laughing like, and Jem says he looks more
like an old ghost than anything, mem, with a black-velvet cap and a
dressin-gownd."

A ringing bell summoned Charles away, and, quite forgetful of the
remainder of her breakfast, Mrs Lower sat thinking of her old master in
his present character of the facsimile of a ghost in a black-velvet cap
and a dressing-gown, thinking of the changes in the family, wondering,
too, what had become of the doctor's daughter, Agnes; but above all, of
the shabby-looking elderly man whom she always spoke of as "Master Sep."

Volume One, Chapter XIV.

MATT MAKES A DISCOVERY.

People about Lincoln's-inn began in these days to turn their heads and
look after the shabbily-dressed old printer, who passed them to stop
every now and then at a lamp-post, and then go on again, shaking his
head like an anglicised mandarin, for old Matt was sorely troubled about
the state of affairs in Bennett's-rents.  At times he would be for
making a confidant of Mr Sterne, and asking his advice and guidance,
but somehow there always seemed a certain amount of suspicion on either
side, and Matt and the curate maintained a gap between them which
neither attempted to cross.  But the old man was after all not unhappy,
for he was enjoying that supreme pleasure which fills the heart, making
it swell almost painfully--that pleasure which never satiates, while it
is like the seed of the parable cast into the ground, some may be
blighted, some trampled down, but there are always certain grains which
flourish and give to the sower a hundredfold of grain in return.  Old
Matt was enjoying the pleasure of doing good and helping a fellow-man in
distress.  It may be questioned whether the old man's path was ever
easier or more brightly irradiated than during his connection with the
Hardons.  True, his income was of the very smallest; but then it is not
the extent of a man's income that gives him pleasure in this life, but
the secret of having all the possible enjoyment out of it.  Some with
wealth seek for this enjoyment after a wrong fashion, and find only
bitterness, while in the homes of poverty joy often finds an
abiding-place.

Septimus Hardon often wondered afterwards how they had managed to live
in this time of trouble; but one way and another the days passed by.
Now he would make a few shillings by his copying, then there was Lucy's
work, while, in spite of remonstrances, old Matt persisted in enjoying
his income after his own fashion, playing his little miserable farces to
his own satisfaction, and then grinning to himself over the little bits
of deceit.  He never stopped, shrewd as he was, to ask himself whether
his subterfuges were not of the most transparent; they gained him his
end, and he considered that it was a novel and a neat way of managing
the matter, when a hint at lending money would have given offence.

One day succeeded another, with the family struggling on, Mrs Septimus
helping Lucy when she could, while, as for Septimus, the most
satisfactory work he obtained was that of copying sermons out for Mr
Sterne; though, strange as it may seem, that gentleman never once used
Septimus Hardon's clear, unblurred transcript, but put it away week
after week, sighing that his income was not greater.

Septimus had now given up all hope of hearing from his father, and,
resigned somewhat to his fate, he bent over his writing-table trying to
make up by perseverance what he wanted in ability--a capital plan, and
one that has succeeded where talent has made a miserable failure, as old
Aesop knew hundreds of years ago.  As for asking his uncle for aid, such
a thought never crossed Septimus Hardon's mind, and perhaps it was well,
for it spared the poor sensitive man the unpleasantry of a refusal.

One day, all in a hurry and bustle, up came old Matt, just at
dinner-time, to find Mrs Septimus making a sorry failure in her attempt
to find an invalid's dinner in some bread and a long slice of cheese
that a laundress would easily have seized by mistake, under the
impression that it was "best yellow soap."

"There, just like me!" exclaimed the old man, with a hasty glance round
the room; "just like me; but you won't mind, I know.  I always drop in
at mealtimes.--There, give us a kiss, my man.  God bless you!  `What I
dot for 'oo?'  There's a pretty way to talk!  Why, let's see; I think
there's something here--down in here somewhere;" and the old man began
to dive behind into one of his pockets.  "To be sure, here it is!" he
cried; "and if all the rich jam isn't coming through the paper!  Here we
are," he cried, bringing out of a little bag a small oval paste-dish
with a crimped edge, full of a very luscious treacly-looking preserve,
one that, ten minutes before, had been danced over by the flies in the
pastrycook's shop in the Lane.

Off went little Tom rejoicing, to prepare himself for the after-dinner
wash by gumming his chubby face and hands with the jam.

"You won't mind, sir; and, ma'am, I hope?" said Matt apologetically.
"But I'm full of work, and haven't time to go home--my lodgings you
know; and if you wouldn't mind.  I'm as hungry as a hunter--
money-hunter, you know; and there's as nice a bit of roast veal and
bacon, piping hot, in the Lane as ever I did see, and that's saying a
good deal.  Talk about the smell of it! there, you didn't look in at the
shop-door or you'd never give a fellow such a cold-shouldery look,
ma'am.  Whatever you do, ma'am, lend me a couple of plates; I won't
intrude long."

Mrs Septimus hesitated and glanced at her husband, who was making a
feint of eating.

"There," cried old Matt, making a grimace, and glancing at Lucy, "I knew
it would come to this; they're growing proud, and I may go.  They might
have put it off another day, and not showed it just when I feel so well
and jolly, and could have enjoyed a bit of dinner, which ain't often
with me."

Septimus Hardon saw his wife's appealing glance, and peered about him in
every direction, as if to avoid giving an answer; but on one side there
was Tom, sticky and happy with the old man's bounty; before him was his
invalid wife, with her wretched face; again, there was Lucy working, and
relieving hunger by occasional mouthfuls of the bread-and-cheese at her
side; while on turning his eyes in another direction, there stood Matt,
just as he had stood on the day when he borrowed a shilling on their
first encounter.

What was he to do?  He had as much pride, or false pride, as most men,
and he would gladly have been independent of old Matt's assistance; but
there seemed no help for it, and once more in his life, humbled and
mortified, he nodded to Mrs Septimus; and the next moment old Matt
stood irresolutely by the table clattering a couple of plates together,
to the great endangering of their safety, as he seemed to be turning
them into a pair of earthenware cymbals.

"There, sir; don't, now," said Matt earnestly; "don't let's have any
more pretence or nonsense about it; don't be put out because I'm doing
this, sir.  'Tain't that I don't respect you; I didn't get on the
stilts, sir, when you helped me.  I asked you for it, which is a thing I
know you couldn't do; but when it's offered you free and humble-like,
don't take on, sir, and fancy I respect you any the less.  I sha'n't
forget my place, sir, 'pon my soul I sha'n't, begging your pardon,
ma'am, and Miss Lucy's; but you see I'm in earnest, and it worries me to
see Mr Hardon here put out, because--because--Well, you know," said
Matt, with a twinkle in his eye, "because an old battered type of
humanity like me wants to sit down and have a bit of dinner here, and
it's all getting spoilt; best cut's gone, you know, I'm sure.  I know I
_am_ shabby."

Septimus waved his hand deprecatingly.

"There, sir; there," continued Matt; "don't be down; don't let the world
see as there's no more fight in you.  See what a son and daughter you've
got.  Why, God bless 'em, they're enough to make a man of a chap if he's
ever so bad.  Never say die, sir.  I'm often in the downs, I am, you
know; but then I say to the world, `Come on, and let's have it out at
once and done with it.'  Let's take it like a dose of physic, and then
have the sugar that's to come and take the taste out of one's mouth
afterwards.  Sure to be a bit of sugar to come some time, you know, sir;
some gets more than others, but then there's always a share for you if
you won't be soft enough to get your mouth out of taste and fancy it's
bitter when it comes, and so not enjoy it.  Lots do, you know, sir;
while lots more, sir, think so much of their sugar of life, sir, that
they spoil it, sir,--foul it, and damp it, and turn it into a muddy,
sticky, dirty treacle, sir; and then, sir, loving nothing but
pleasure,--or sugar, as we call it,--how they buzz about it like so many
flies, till they are surfeited and get their legs and wings fixed, and
die miserably, sir.  Sugar's no good, sir, unless you have a taste of
bitter before it.  You don't want to be having all pleasure, you know;
it wouldn't do.  Bound the wheel of fortune, you know, sir; now down,
now up, just as times go."

All these meant-to-be-philosophical remarks old Matt accompanied by a
cymbalic tune upon the two plates, while Septimus sat moody and silent.

"Now, you see, sir," said Matt gently, "I know what you feel,--you don't
like having such a battered old hulk about your place, and feel a bit
offended at me for imposing upon your good-nature."

Septimus made a gesture of dissent.

"Well then, sir, we won't play with the matter.  You don't like my
having a bit of dinner here, and all that sort of thing; but don't you
make no mistake, sir, I ain't kicked about in a selfish world all these
years without ketching the complaint.  I was never vaccinated against
selfishness, sir, so I've took it badly, I can tell you.  You may look
out, sir, for I've a long score chalked up against you, and you'll have
it some day."

And then old Matt stuck his hat on very fiercely and shuffled out of the
room, muttering and chuckling as he went down, "Ho, ho, ho!--creditor!
New position for me as have been in debt all my life!"

The old man soon returned after his fashion, bringing in a large portion
of the veal and bacon from the cook-shop in the Lane; for the best cuts
were not all gone.  Then followed the old farce of what he called his
chronometric complaint, from its always coming on just at mealtimes; and
helping himself to a slice of bread, in spite of all appeals, the old
man took a sticky kiss from Tom and shuffled out of the room.

It was a sight worth seeing--the satisfaction of that grim old man, as
he went chuckling down the creaking stairs, and out into the court.  His
was not the shape a painter would have chosen for the embodiment of
gratitude; but there it was--even the battered, ill-used carcass of that
old printer--a body misused by the hard world till he had grown careless
of it himself, and misused it in his turn.  Alone in the world, what had
he to care for beyond a little present enjoyment?  For as to the future,
it is to be feared that Mr Sterne would have pronounced him as being
beneath a dense black cloud.  Twice was the old man stopped by
lamp-posts, but he recollected himself and continued his route to where
the open door of the cook-shop sent out a thick, kitcheny vapour,
pleasant or the reverse, according to whose organs it assailed--to the
well-fed perhaps disgusting, but to the poor and hungry an odour as of
paradise.  There upon the shining pewter dishes, that in the early morn
had been such a dry metallic desert, were now displayed, in gravy-oozing
majesty, what Matt looked upon as all the delicacies of the season.
There were round of beef and brisket, boiled; roast leg, shoulder, and
loin of mutton; roast beef, and the remains of the veal; while as to
gravy--whence comes the gravy that meanders in streams over cook-shop
joints, flooding the dishes, and making glad the hearts of the hungry?--
there was gravy to an extent never known in private life, for the joints
soaked in the tissue-renovating fluid.

Ah! that fat cook-shop-keeper, as he wielded his long-bladed, keen
carver, and equitably and glibly sliced it through fat and lean,
well-done, under-done, and brown, with a facility that made one think he
had been apprenticed to a ham in the palmy days of Vauxhall--dealing
with the porcine joint with similar intentions to those of the
gold-beater with his morsel of the yellow ore.  Ah! that fat, rosy-faced
man in the white cap and jacket had much to answer for in the way of
tempting hungry sinners.  Fat! he might well be fat, for was he not
existing upon the very essences of the meats always beneath his
nostrils, which must have inhaled sustaining wealth at every breath he
drew, to the saving of both teeth and digestion?

But he did not tempt old Matt, who entered and asked for a "small
German," for which he paid twopence, asking no questions regarding its
composition, while it was delivered to him after the fashion that buns
are presented to our old ursine friends at the "Zoo"--stuck at the end
of a fork.

Old Matt turned his back stolidly upon the luxuries of the cook-shop,
strolled into the big street, and began to nibble his small German, in
company with the dusty, fluey slice of bread he brought out of his
pocket.  There was a parish pump there, with its swinging copper handle;
and regardless of medical reports, and chemical analyses, and cholera
germs contained in the clear, sparkling fluid, old Matt had a hearty
draught, and smacked his lips after as if he enjoyed it--and doubtless
he did.  There was the prospect of a murky old inn down a gateway, and
the busy throng of people passing him; but Matt noticed nothing, for his
thoughts were upon matters in Bennett's-rents--though, for all that, he
was enjoying his simple meal, which was eaten without a thought of the
prime veal and bacon, or his sad complaint, which had now fled till next
dinner-time, as, by way of amusement, he turned down Castle-street to
witness the performance of a gentleman in tights and spangles--a
gentleman evidently high in his profession, but blessed with a nose of
the Whitechapel mould, black, greasy, tucked-under hair, confined by a
blue ribbon, slightly oiled; a pimply face, and a body apparently
furnished with gristle in the place of bones.

As Matt came up, the gentleman was balancing a peacock's feather upon
the tip of his nose, to the accompaniment of a popular air performed by
a partner upon drum and pan-pipes--the arrangement of the air apparently
necessitating more muscular action with the arms than from the lungs;
for though now and then a shrill and piercing note was heard from the
pipes, it was not often, while the rumble of the beaten drum was
incessant.  The next performance was the balancing and twirling of a
barrel on the acrobat's feet, he all that time lying down upon a cushion
in a very uncomfortable, determination-of-the-blood-to-the-head
position, what time the band, tucking his pipes inside his coat and
setting his drum on end, came round the attentive circle, shaking the
performer's greasy, private-life cap in the observers' faces, after the
fashion of zealous deacons in churches of high proclivities--save that
in this case the cap was of very common cloth, while in the other the
little bags would probably be of red velvet, lined with white satin.

The band stopped opposite old Matt, who had loudly applauded the
performance, for he had felt so at peace with the world at large, that
he was in the humour to be pleased with any and everything.  So the old
man thrust a willing hand into his pocket, and the band smiled
expectant; but the next moment Matt's face turned very serious, and with
the loud taunt of the band ringing in his ears, he shuffled down
Castle-street and into Cursitor-street, in the direction of the office
where he had a job; far more piercing than the shrillest note of the
pipes, and more impressive than the heaviest bang of the drum, came the
words of the musician:--

"Well, if I hadn't ha' had a brown I'd ha' said so, and not made
believe."

For the old printer's pocket did not contain a coin of any description,
the last two having been expended for his simple meal; so hurrying along
the old fellow looked very serious for quite fifty yards; then he began
to whistle; then he stopped at a lamp-post, but wrenched himself away
again directly and hurried down Fetter-lane, for the clocks were
striking two, and his dinner-hour was over.  But before turning into
Typeland Matt entered into one of those well-known places of business
with swinging doors, and shuffling up to the pewter-covered counter,
asked for a pint of porter on trust.

And went away wiping his mouth upon the back of his hand, of course?
Nothing of the kind; for the landlord smiled pleasantly, shook his head,
and declared that whenever he gave trust he lost a customer.  So old
Matt slinked away, and soon came to another swing-door, when, passing
through, a far different odour saluted his nostrils--an odour commingled
of steam, oil, treacle, glue, turpentine, stale breath, fresh paint, wet
paper, and gas; where there was a continual noise of hissing, and
rumbling of wheels, rattling of straps and bands, with a constant
vibration of the great building, which heavily brooded over the reeking
mass, as if hatching earthquakes.  Up a staircase, whose walls shone
with the marks of inky and oily hands, past dirty-faced boys in
paper-caps and aprons, whose shirt-sleeves were rolled high above their
elbows; past a window, a glance through which showed mighty engine and
machine rushing off their work in never-tiring mode, wheels spinning,
cylinders slowly revolving, with white sheets of paper running in,
printed sheets running out, to be piled in stacks; here the portion of a
magazine whose pages should rivet the attention of some fair reader;
there the newspaper, to be spread in thousands through the length and
breadth of the land; while again, close at hand, lumbered the heavy
press to turn off by hand copies of the broad-margined, large-typed,
thick-papered Chancery bill, whose legible words should nearly drive
some weary disputant mad, although but a short time before its well-paid
pages and open work had made glad the heart of a round-shouldered
compositor--sower of the dragons' teeth of knowledge.  Up still went old
Matt Space--past boys bearing proof-sheets--boys who read copy in a
sing-song, nasal, pointless twang to keen-eyed readers, ready to give
angry stabs at ill-spelt words, to stick their pens through eyeless i's,
and condemn the mutilated letters to the melting-pot; past pressmen
toiling--down, Benjamin-Franklin-like, with heavy forms of type; up--up,
till he reached the top story, where, beneath rows of skylights, men
formed themselves into the hotbeds that generated disease, as they
toiled on day after day at the cases of type, before a pair of which old
Matt posted himself, took a pinch of snuff, and then prepared for work.

In a few more minutes he was hard at his task, picking up letter by
letter the component parts of the words spoken the day before at a
public meeting, where an orator discoursed at length upon the financial
greatness of this our country; after which he dived into statistics, so
that the old compositor was soon realising the facts, and revelling in
sums of money eight figures in length, and that, too, without a single
penny in his pocket.

Click, click; click, click; letter after letter passing into the metal
composing-sticks; thirty men busily engaged, and not a word spoken
beyond the occasional muttering whisper of the worker, who sought to
impress his MS more fully upon his mind by reading it aloud; while old
Matt, poring over his copy by the aid of a pair of horn spectacles, now
and then paused for a stimulator from the snuff loose by accident in his
coat-pocket hanging from a nail in the wall--snuff that had to be hunted
into corners and brought forth in pinches, the greater proportion of
which consisted of flue and crumbs.

"Pound, nine, comma; eight, four, three, comma; six, four, two,"
muttered the old man, arranging the figures.  "Ah, bless my soul! now,
what could I do with nine--nearly ten millions of money?  And that sum's
nothing at all.  Poverty?  Pooh! all humbug!  There isn't such a thing;
it's all a mistake.  Somebody's got more than his share, and made things
crooked."

Old Matt finished his task, and, on applying to the overseer for a fresh
supply, he was set to correct a slip proof, when, taking the long column
of type from which it had been printed, the old man was soon busy at
work once more, correcting a misspelt word in this paragraph, removing a
broken letter in that, and all the while muttering to himself, to the
great amusement of the other men.  But all at once he stopped short and
stared at his work, looked eagerly round the office, as if to assure
himself that all was real, and then devoured the words before him.  Then
he went on with his work in a flurried, nervous way, dropping words,
misplacing letters, scattering type upon the floor, and making his
fellow-workmen look up with wonder--attentions that made the old man
more nervous and fidgety; until, as his nervousness increased, so did
his task become more difficult of completion, the perspiration standing
upon his forehead, and the expression of his face growing pitiful in the
extreme.

But it was complete at last, though, through anxiety, old Matt had been
twice as long as he would have been in an ordinary way; and then
secretly tearing off a portion of the proof, he slipped it into his
pocket, made an excuse to the overseer that he was unwell, and hurried
into the street, where he jostled first one, and now another; now
walking in the road, now upon the pavement, but all the while with one
hand clasping tightly a scrap of paper he held in his pocket.  As to
what was going on around him he seemed so utterly oblivious that twice
over he was nearly knocked down by passing vehicles.  Again and again he
would have stopped, but for the busy throng constantly hurrying along
the street; and for the time being the old man strongly resembled a cork
tossed about in some busy eddying stream; but he had evidently some
object in view, for he kept pressing on in one particular direction, and
his lips were incessantly in motion, forming words that savoured
continually of that much-sought-for object--money.

Volume One, Chapter XV.

ANOTHER VISITOR FROM TOWN.

How ever great the shock of his night's adventure may have been to his
system, Dr Hardon, beyond missing his attentions to a few patients,
displayed very little of it to the world at large comprised in Somesham
and its neighbourhood.  There were certainly two or three discolorations
about his face, caused by the playful taps of the burglar's
life-preserver, but they very soon disappeared.  The doctor's greatest
grievance was the loss of his numerous articles of jewellery, though
even upon that subject he talked lightly and affably to his patients,
evidently having a soul above the loss of such trifles, and people
thought more of him than ever.  The police had certainly been upon what
waiter Charles of the County Arms called the "tract" of the burglars,
but only discovered that they had entered the house by opening a window
and stepping in; that they had taken all the plate; that three
heavy-featured men came from London by the down-mail on the night of the
robbery, arriving at Somesham at half-past ten; and the porter thought
he gave tickets to three stoutish men who went by the up-mail at 2:30;
when the police-sergeant came to the conclusion that it was a
prearranged affair, and people talked about it for a few days, till they
had something else to take their attention.

Doctor Hardon, portly and comfortable-looking, sat reading the evening
paper just delivered from the stationer.  No one to have seen him could
have imagined that care had ever sat for a moment upon his ample
forehead; and though, taking into consideration the incidents of the
past few weeks, it might have been expected that he would look anxious
and worn, on the contrary, he seemed greatly at ease within himself, and
turned and rustled his newspaper importantly, refreshing himself from
time to time with a sip of port from the glass at his elbow.

"I declare!" he exclaimed, suddenly throwing down the paper; "it's
abominable--it's disgusting."

"What is?" said Mrs Hardon, roused from the thoughtful mood into which
she seemed to have fallen.

"Why, to have the privacy of one's life dragged into publicity in this
way.  The matter ought to have been hushed-up."

"But what do you mean?" said Mrs Hardon.  "Is it anything about--"

"Yes, of course it is!" cried the doctor savagely.  "They've got it in
the London papers, condensed from the _County Press_--a filthy penny
rag.  Just look here--made into a sensation paragraph.

"`Eaten of Rats.--A shocking discovery was made at Somesham on Monday
last.  A rather eccentric gentleman, named Hardon, residing entirely
alone at a short distance from the town, was found in bed with his lower
extremities horribly mutilated by the rats which infest the place.  The
medical evidence at the inquest showed that death had probably taken
place some eight-and-forty hours before the body was discovered; while
the bottle of laudanum and teaspoon at the bedside pointed to an end
which the post-mortem examination proved to have been the case; an
overdose of the subtle extract having evidently been the cause of death.
The deceased was without servants; for, in consequence of a burglary
committed at the house shortly before this discovery, his housekeeper
had left him, and her place remained unsupplied.  As may be supposed,
this tragic affair, following so closely upon the burglary, has caused
intense excitement throughout the neighbourhood.'

"Isn't it disgusting?" exclaimed the doctor, after a few moments' pause;
while during the reading he had not displayed the slightest emotion, but
read the paragraph from beginning to end without faltering.  Receiving
no answer, he looked up to see Mrs Hardon sitting staring at him with a
horrified aspect, while her fingers were stopping her ears.

"O, Tom!" she gasped at last, "haven't we had enough of that horrid
affair lately without bringing it up again?  I shall be glad when it's
all over, and we begin to look upon it as a thing of the past.  I
declare I shall never like to use any of the money; I shall fancy a
curse hangs to it.  But do you think Septimus is dead?"

"Of course I do," said the doctor; "and if he is not, what does it
matter?"

"Nothing at all, I suppose," replied Mrs Hardon; "but really, Tom, it
came upon me like a thunder-clap.  Was that what poor Octavius sent for
you about--to tell you that?  I often thought there must be some reason
for his long-continued obstinacy.  What did he say to you about it?"

"Don't ask questions," said the doctor abruptly.  "It is enough for you
to know that it is so, and that the money comes at a time when we want
it badly."

"Then we have no business to have been wanting it badly!" exclaimed Mrs
Hardon; "and I shall make it my business to go to Keening's one of these
days, and ask them the state of your affairs."

"Yes, you had better!" snarled the doctor, displaying a bright speck of
the gold setting of his teeth.

"But such a saint as poor Lavinia always seemed!" said Mrs Hardon.  "I
should never have thought it of her; and if it was not that the poor
thing is dead and gone, I should have called it quite disgraceful.  But
there, we can't afford to talk about such matters, I'm sure;" and she
began to rock herself to and fro in her chair and to sob: "O, Tom! you
drove that poor girl away,--you did.  She would never have left if--"

"Hold your tongue!" cried the doctor fiercely.

"But you did, Tom; and I shall never forget her look that day I met her
in the street--it went like a knife to my heart."

Mrs Hardon sat crying silently for some time, while the doctor savagely
rustled his paper, but all the while reading not a word, for his lips
moved, and he talked fiercely to himself.

"There!" cried Mrs Hardon at last, "I won't take on, for it seems of no
use, and whether she or I live or die, don't seem to matter to you, Tom.
And now I want to know about Octavius's property.  How much is it? and
are you certain that there was no will?"

"I've told you there was none ten times over," said the doctor; "and now
wait till the funeral's over, for I won't be bothered."

"But, Tom," said Mrs Hardon, "I want to know what is the extent--what
it is really worth, and how much you owe."

"Never mind," said the doctor.

"But I have a right to know," cried Mrs Hardon.

"There!  I don't know myself," said the doctor.

"Then perhaps your solicitors do," said Mrs Hardon; "and I shall, as I
have often threatened, ask them."

"And much good it will do you," muttered the doctor; but, not liking to
run the risk of any exposure of his present differences with his wife,
he compromised.  "Well," he said, "what is it that you wish to know?"

"Why, I told you," said Mrs Hardon; "what Octavius's property is worth,
and whether you are quite sure that Septimus--"

"You are wanted, sir, if you please," said the maid, appearing at the
door.

"Who is it?" said the doctor testily, for this was an hour when he
objected to being disturbed.

"Wouldn't give any name, sir," replied the girl.

"Send him round to the surgery," said the doctor.

"Please, sir, he's in the front passage, and he said he didn't want the
sudgery."

"What sort of a man is it?" said the doctor.

"Look's like a poor man, sir," said the girl.

"How many times have you been told not to leave strangers in the
passage!" exclaimed Mrs Hardon angrily.  "There'll be another coat gone
directly; go and stay with him till your master comes."

The maid disappeared, giving the door so loud a shut that it sounded
almost like a bang, when the doctor began to complain of fatigue, and
being worn out, and Mrs Hardon, who wished to propitiate, offered to
go.

"Do, please, my love," murmured the doctor, in the most gentle of
tones--the professional.

Mrs Hardon slightly drew down the corners of her mouth in a
contemptuous grimace as she left the room, but returned in a few minutes
looking pale and scared; and then she carefully closed the door after
her.

"It's quite taken my breath away!" exclaimed Mrs Hardon.  "He
frightened me: what made you tell me that Septimus was dead?"

"Well, isn't he?" said the doctor, shuffling hastily round in his chair.

"Dead?" exclaimed Mrs Hardon.  "If he is, it's his ghost that has come
down: that's all."

"Come down?" cried the doctor, turning of a dirty pallid hue.

"And he's walked all the way from London.  And you never saw such a
poor, deplorable-looking object in your life.  He looks twenty years
older, that he does."

"What does he want?" cried the doctor, panting in spite of his efforts
to keep down his emotion.

"Says he's come down to see his father, and to attend to his affairs."

"Well, tell him to go to Keening's.  I won't see him--I won't see him.
My nerves won't bear it; they have not recovered from the last shock
yet, let alone that horrible night of the robbery."

"But you'd better see him," said Mrs Hardon, whose woman's heart was
touched by her visitor's aspect.

"No, no; I can't--I can't bear it, and it's better that I should not;"
and as he spoke there was no dissimulation in the doctor's words or
mien: he was undoubtedly very much moved.

"But you must see him; and besides, it will seem so strange if it's
known in the town that you sent him away like that."

"Well--er--well--perhaps I had better," said the doctor; "where is he?
I'll go to him, or--no, let him come in here; but put away the wine
first."

Mrs Hardon took no notice of the last remark, but went out, and
returned directly with Septimus Hardon, footsore, dusty, and
travel-stained.

"Good-evening, Mr Septimus," said the doctor, in the tone of voice he
had heard so often from his patients, and as he spoke he slightly bent
forward, but lay back again directly in his chair, without offering his
visitor a seat.  "Good-evening, Mr Septimus.  I suppose we must say
Hardon?"

"If you please, uncle," said Septimus, somewhat startled at his strange
reception--a reception more chilling even than in his diffidence he had
anticipated.

"Sit down, Septimus, you look tired," said Mrs Hardon, pouring out a
glass of wine for the visitor, who drank it with avidity, for he was
faint and agitated, feeling somewhat like the Prodigal, though this was
no prodigal's welcome.

"How do you find business, Mr Septimus?" said the doctor, perspiring
freely, but now speaking calmly and slowly.

"Bad--bad," said Septimus.  "I have lost all, and been put to great
shifts, while my poor wife is a confirmed invalid."

"Dear me, dear me!" said the doctor blandly, "how sad!  I might perhaps
be able to give her advice.  I suppose she could not call at my surgery
any morning before ten?"

"She always was delicate," put in Mrs Hardon hastily, for she was
annoyed at her husband's behaviour; while something kept, as it were,
whispering to her, "He is from London, and may know something of my poor
girl."

There was a dead silence then for some few minutes, which the doctor
broke.

"I--er--er--I--er--I think you have hardly come on a visit of ceremony,"
he said; "you wished to see me?" and after coughing away something which
seemed to form in his throat, he spoke in his most unguental tones--in
the voice he kept for married ladies upon particular occasions.

"I came down," said Septimus, in a broken voice, "upon seeing my poor
father's death.  It was shown to me--by a friend--newspaper--torn
scrap--I have walked down--weak--and ill."

Mrs Hardon uttered an exclamation, for Septimus had risen as he spoke,
and stood working his hands together, as he gazed appealingly at his
uncle; and then, as he trailed off in his speech, he reeled and clutched
at the table, sweeping off a wine-glass in his effort to save himself
from falling.

"Better now," said Septimus faintly, as he sank into the chair behind
him.  "I am sorry, but I feel overcome, and weak, and giddy.  I have had
much sorrow and trouble lately, and my father's death was so sudden."

The doctor winced a little, but recovered himself in a moment, for he
was used to witnessing trouble, and could bear it.

"Yes--yes--a sad thing,--very sad--mournful I may say," he observed.
"But my poor brother always was so distant and peculiar in his dealings
with his relations.  Of course you know that the funeral takes place
to-morrow?"

"No," replied Septimus; "I know nothing beyond what I have told you, and
I come to my father's brother for information."

"Yes, just so," said the doctor; "but I can not refrain from blaming my
poor brother; doubtless you had given him great cause of offence, but he
ought to have made some provision for you."

"I did write to him again and again," said Septimus, "but I suppose he
felt too angry, and--let it rest now; I have struggled through all my
trouble without his help, and I do not complain."

"Just so," said the doctor; "but it would have been more just if he had
made some provision."

"You have seen his will, I suppose?" said Septimus.

"O no!" said the doctor, "there is no will."

"Then he has left no legacies?" said Septimus.

"Not one," replied the doctor; "but I am not surprised--he never was a
business man."

"I am sorry too," said Septimus softly, "for the sake of my cousins and
yourselves;" and Septimus started as he saw the wince Mrs Hardon gave
at the mention of the word "cousins."

"Yes," said the doctor blandly; "it would have been more just towards
you.  For even if he had only left you a hundred or two they would have
been acceptable, no doubt."

"I don't understand you," said Septimus.

"I was alluding to your being left so unprovided for," said the doctor.
"It seems so sad."

"But you told me he left no will," said Septimus wonderingly; "and I am
his only child."

The doctor smiled compassionately upon his nephew, with the air of a man
removing a leg or an arm.

"There, for goodness' sake don't go on torturing the poor fellow in that
way!" cried downright Mrs Hardon.  "Why don't you speak out?  You see,
Septimus--"

"I beg that you will be silent, Mrs Hardon," exclaimed the doctor.

"I shall be nothing of the kind," cried Mrs Hardon.  "The poor man has
enough to suffer as it is, without being grilled over a slow fire."

Septimus gazed from uncle to aunt in a strange bewildered way, prepared
for some new shock, but unable to comprehend what blow Fate meant to
deal him now.

"You see, Septimus," continued Mrs Hardon, without heeding her
husband's uplifted hands,--"you see the property comes to my husband as
next of kin."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Septimus, as if relieved that his aunt's
communication was of no more weight.  "I am the only child, and besides,
_I_ have a son."

"Now just see what a painful scene you have brought about," whined the
doctor, reproachfully eyeing his wife.

"Indeed," interrupted Septimus, "I am sorry that the matter should be
discussed, for it appears unseemly at such a time: before my poor
father's remains are beneath the earth."

"If you would only have been silent," continued the doctor, not heeding
the interruption.--"Now pray, my good sir," he said, turning to
Septimus, "go to Messrs. Keening and Keening, my solicitors, and--"

"Tell me what it all means, aunt, or I shall go mad!" cried Septimus,
catching Mrs Hardon's hand in both of his, and gazing imploringly in
her face.

"Well, the plain truth of the matter is this," said Mrs Hardon--

"Pray be silent, Mrs Hardon," said the doctor.  "My solicitors--"

"You were not born in wedlock," said Mrs Hardon.

"Who dares say that is true?" shouted Septimus, with eyes flashing; "who
dares speak in that way of my poor mother?" he exclaimed.  "It's a lie--
a base lie!" and in spite of Septimus Hardon's plainness, his years, the
dust and shabby clothing, there was in him a nobleness of aspect that
made the doctor look mean by comparison, as he stood there furiously
eyeing both in turn, and thinking then no more of his father's money
than if it had been so much dirt beneath his feet.  That such an
aspersion should be cast upon the fame of the mother whose memory he
tenderly loved seemed to him monstrous; and it was well for Doctor
Hardon that he did not think it necessary to answer the sternly-put
question; for most assuredly, had he replied, Septimus would have taken
him by the throat.

"I'm sure _I_ don't know," said Mrs Hardon.  "All I know is, that it's
very sad, and I'm very, very sorry for you."

But Doctor Hardon, taken aback at first by the fierce mien of Septimus,
had now somewhat recovered his confidence, while the anger of the nephew
was as short-lived, so utterly bewildering was the news he now heard;
the insult to his mother's memory, the snatching away of the competence
that seemed in his hands, the cool self-possession of his uncle,--all
completely staggered him, and he knew not what to say or do.

"Sir," said the doctor, rising and placing a hand within his waistcoat
as he spoke with great dignity,--"sir, I must beg that this scene, this
unseemly brawling, may not be continued in my house.  You can find my
solicitors, who will give you all the information you may require.  The
funeral takes place to-morrow, and, under the circumstances, I have
taken upon myself the duty of seeing that proper respect is paid to the
departed.  You are folly aware that your presence would not have been
even tolerated for an instant in my brother's house during his lifetime,
and you presume on my forbearance by treating me as you do.  Under the
circumstances, I decline to hold any further communication with you.
Had you come in humbleness and treated me with respect, I will not say
what I might not have been tempted to do for you out of pity.  As to
your assumption of ignorance of your illegitimacy, it is simply absurd,
for it is a matter of which you must have been fully aware.  You know
well, that when my brother declined to hold any further communication
with you, it was not merely on account of your opposition to his wishes,
but because it was painful to his feelings to be constantly reminded in
daily life of the sins of his youth.  I think too, now, that if you have
any right feeling left, you will have the decency to end this most
unseemly meeting by leaving at once, for it is to me, after my late
sufferings, most painful.  My poor brother!"

Doctor Hardon paused to bury his face in his handkerchief, and
congratulate himself upon the very effective way in which he had acted
his part.  He then made a show of wiping away a tear, and Mrs Hardon
did likewise; but in the one case the tear was genuine, in the other
counterfeit coin.

As for Septimus Hardon he had never made but one enemy in his life--
himself; but had he owned a score, and they had stood around him at that
minute, not a man of them could have struck a blow at the abject,
crushed, spiritless, broken man, as, without word, almost without
thought, he mechanically glanced round the room, turned, and then slowly
walked out, closely followed by Mrs Hardon, who passed something into
his hand as she closed the door upon his retreating form.

Volume One, Chapter XVI.

SEEKING HOSPITALITY.

"Why, if it ain't you, Master Sep, as I thought we were never going to
see no more!" cried Mrs Lower to the desolate-looking man outside her
snug bar.  "But, my; you do look bad, and it's close upon ten years
since I've set eyes upon you.  There, do come in and sit down.  Yes;
that's poor Lower's chair; he's been gone years now, Master Sep, and I'm
left a lone widow, my dear; but your name was one of the last words he
spoke--your name and poor Miss Agnes's.  Do you ever see her in the big
city, Master Sep?"

Septimus shook his head.

"Has she left here?" he said.

"Didn't you know?" said Mrs Lower.  "Ah, yes, long enough ago!" and she
stooped her head and whispered in her visitor's ear.  "But there, we
needn't talk about troubles now.  How haggard and worn you do look!  And
how's Mrs Septimus?  I always think of her as Mrs Grey.  But what's it
to be now?  Isn't it awful about poor master, whom I'd never have left
if I'd known what was to happen?  No, Master Sep, not to marry a dozen
Lowers, and be the mistress of fifty County Arms; though, rest him! poor
Lower was a good, kind husband, for all we were elderly folk to wed, and
had forgotten how to make love.  Now, say a hot cup of tea, Master Sep,
or a hot steak with a little ketchup.  If you'd been a bit sooner, there
was a lovely sweetbread in the house; but there, it's no use to talk of
that; so say the steak and tea.  I _am_ glad to see you, my dear boy!"

Septimus signified his desire for the tea, and Charles was summoned, and
dismissed with his orders, but not without making a tolerable
investigation of the guest whom his mistress delighted to honour--an
investigation apparently not very satisfactory, from the imperious way
in which he gave his orders in the kitchen.

"Now, just a toothful of my orange cordial, Master Sep.  Now, don't say
no, because you must.  I make it myself, and the gentlemen take it on
hunting-days.  Now, tip it up like a good boy; and here's a biscuit.
See now; don't it put you in mind of old times, when you were a naughty
child, and wouldn't take your physic?  How time does go, to be sure;
why, it's only like yesterday.  But there, I won't bother you.  Have a
pair of slippers and a comfortable wash.  Did you bring any luggage?"

Ten minutes passed, and then Septimus was again seated in the snug bar,
with the kettle singing its song of welcome upon the hob; a savoury
steak was before him; and the comely old dame, in her rustling black
silk, smilingly pouring out the strong tea she had been brewing, taking
a cup too herself, "just for sociability sake," as she told her visitor.

"And so poor master's gone, and you're coming down to the old place
again?" said Mrs Lower.

Septimus groaned.

"Ah, Master Sep, I can respect your feelings; but though poor master's
dead and gone, he had his failings, while he never did his duty either
by you or your poor mother."

Septimus Hardon nearly dropped his cup as he gazed blankly in his old
nurse's face.

"What--what do you mean?" he exclaimed.

"Why, he was always hard, and--But there, poor man, he's dead and gone,
and we all have our failings, and plenty of them.  But come, my dear
boy, pray do eat something."

Septimus tried to eat a few morsels, but his appetite was gone, and he
soon laid down his knife and fork.

"Of course you'll come down and live at the old place, Master Sep?" said
Mrs Lower.

Septimus shook his head sadly.

"O, Master Sep!" cried the old lady, "don't sell it; don't part with it,
it would be a sin."

"But it will never be mine!" cried Septimus passionately.  "O, nurse,
nurse! this is a hard and a bitter world.  I came down here almost in
rags, tramping down like a beggar, and now, in cold and brutal terms, my
uncle tells me that I am a bastard--that I have no right to enter my own
father's house; while, if this is true, I am a beggar still."

Mrs Lower looked astounded.  "What," she exclaimed, "does he mean to
say?  But there, it's nonsense.  You can soon prove to him that you are
not."

"How?" exclaimed Septimus wearily.  "Everything goes against me.  I have
been away ten years; my father sent me from his house; he refused all
communications with me; and now I return on the day before the funeral."

"O, but you must go to the lawyers!" cried Mrs Lower.  "They can put
you right."

The couple sat talking for some time.  It was refreshing to Septimus to
find so sincere a welcome, for he had put Mrs Lower's hospitality to
the test on the strength of the sovereign his aunt had slipped into his
hand.  But the old dame could give him no information touching his
birth, and but little respecting the place and time of his father's
marriage.

Weary at length of the subject, Septimus listened to the history of
Somesham during the past few years, till, taking compassion upon her
visitor's jaded looks, Mrs Lower showed him his bedroom, where he tried
to forget his present sorrows in sleep.

But sleep came not, and he tossed feverishly from side to side,
bewildered by the thoughts that rushed through his brain: old faces, old
scenes, and, foremost among them, home, and the stern countenance of his
father, came crowding back.  Now he would doze, but to start up in a few
minutes under the impression that he was called.  He dozed off again and
again, but always to start up with the same fancy, and once he felt so
sure that he leaped out of bed and opened his door; but the dark passage
was empty, and all without quite still, so he returned to his bed, sat
there for a few minutes thinking, and then went to the window, drew the
blind, and stood gazing out upon the buildings of the familiar
market-place.

The wind swept by, swinging the old sign to and fro, while all looked so
calm and peaceful that he returned to his bed, and again tried for rest,
falling into a fevered, half sleeping, half waking state, wherein the
old faces still came crowding back, now nearer and nearer, now seeming
to vanish away into nothingness, till at last that one old face seemed
to exclude all others, and he saw his father as he saw him last,
frowning harshly upon him; but soon the face assumed an aspect of pity,
a look that told the suffering man that he was forgiven, before it
changed into the frigid hardness of death.

Septimus Hardon started up in bed and gazed at the dim, shaded window,
hardly realising where he was, as he tried to get rid of the dread image
which oppressed him; but the night through, hour after hour, as soon as
he closed his eyes, there was the same cold, stern face, as though
impressed upon his brain, and wanting but the exclusion of the light for
him to direct his gaze inward upon the fixed lineaments.  So on, hour
after hour, dozing and starting up, till the first streaks of the coming
day appeared in the east, and as they grew stronger, peering in through
the bedroom window, and holding forth to view the various objects in the
room in a half-shadowed, ghostly manner that completely chased away the
remaining desire for sleep that lingered with the unnerved man.

"Knocked three times, mem," said Charles, "and can't make him hear."

"Never mind," said Mrs Lower.  "I'll go myself presently."

Mrs Lower had carefully prepared what she considered a snug breakfast,
and put her regular body to no slight inconvenience by waiting past her
usual hour for the morning meal; but she thought of her visitor's
fatigue and trouble.

"He can't do better than sleep, poor boy," she muttered, descending the
stairs, after listening at the bedroom door for the third time; when she
sat in the bar and waited for quite an hour, till suddenly a thought
struck her, which set her trembling and wringing her hands, and her
comely old face worked as she tried to keep back the tears.

"O, if he has--if he has!  O, my poor boy!" she exclaimed, hurrying up
the staircase, and stumbling at every second step in her agitation.  "O,
Charles, come with me!"

The door yielded to her touch, and almost falling against the bed, Mrs
Lower found it empty, while the pillow was quite cold.

"O, look round--look round, Charles!" she gasped, as she sank upon her
knees at the bedside, and buried her face in the clothes.

"No one here, mem," said Charles, after a cursory glance round--not
being able to comprehend his mistress's emotion.

"O, look behind the door, Charles!" gasped Mrs Lower; "and at the
bedposts."

"Silk dress behind the fust, and wallance and hangings on the seconds,"
said Charles methodically.  "What next, mem?"

"Can't you see him, Charles?" said Mrs Lower, slowly raising her head.

"No, mem," said Charles; "he's gone, safe.  Did he pay, mem?"

"Nonsense!" cried Mrs Lower angrily; "he was a friend of mine;" and
then the doubting dame carefully examined the room, looking in the most
impossible of corners for the missing visitor, and only stopping as she
was about to peer up the chimney by seeing a half-concealed grin upon
the face of Charles.

"I'll ask Boots if he's seen him, mem," said Charles, to get out of his
difficulty.

But that gentleman had neither seen Septimus Hardon nor the articles of
clothing after which he was named; so that it seemed evident that the
visitor had taken his unbrushed boots and departed.

"So very strange!" muttered Mrs Lower to herself.

"The seediest pair of boots we've ever had in the place," said Charles
in confidence to the chambermaid; and then, after due cogitation, he
came to the conclusion that if many of the visitors to the County Arms
were like the unknown of the past night, his situation would not be
worth the energy he displayed for the comfort of all who sought there
rest and refreshment.

Volume One, Chapter XVII.

"NOTHING LIKE LEATHER."

The very morning upon which waiter Charles of the County Arms, Somesham,
spoke so disparagingly of Septimus Hardon's boots, the maker, or rather
re-maker, of the said boots sat, as soon as it was broad daylight--not
an extremely early hour in his home--industriously plying his craft,
till, after divers muttered anathemas, a voice growled:

"Confound it, Ike, I wish that old lapstone was at the bottom of the
Thames.  Who's to sleep?"

"Get up, then," said the lapstone-smiter slowly and heavily.

"Get up!" growled the voice, "get up!"

"What, in the middle of the night!  Ain't six yet, is it?"

"Just struck," said the lapstone-man, following the example of the
clock, and hammering vigorously at a scrap of leather about to be used
in the repair of an old boot before him; while from sundry smothered
growls coming from the room behind the shop where the shoemaker was at
work, it was evident that the idler had buried a portion, if not the
whole of his face, beneath the blankets, and again offered sacrifice to
the sleepy god.

It had always been a matter of dispute amongst the confraternity as to
where Matthew Space slept.  Some said that he reposed nightly amongst
the casuals at Saint Martin's Workhouse; but as, when he had work, he
would often be at it by half-past eight in the morning, it was evident
that he did not lodge there; for the most industrious would not be at
liberty for another hour, on account of the work to be done in payment
for the lodging.  Others talked of the Adelphi, and the recesses of
Waterloo Bridge.  In short, there was always plenty of chaff flying
concerning old Matt's lodgings; but the cleverest never threshed out the
grain of wheat they sought, for the old man was as close a tusk as was
ever attacked by flail.  His club was generally considered to be the
mouldy, fungoid-looking house in Hemlock-court, where he could mostly be
found of an evening, if the seeker had failed to see him sitting over
his pint-pot in Bell-yard; and, according to circumstances, he dined at
various places.  If trade flourished, and the ill wind that blew misery
to Chancery suitors wafted half-crowns to his pocket, he dined in state
at the cook-shop, shut up in one of the little elbow-cramping boxes,
where there were dirty table-cloths, and everything was steamy and
sticky with the pervading vapour, whose odour was as that of the
soup-copper after the "inmates" have had their pauper repast; sometimes
in the street, as we have seen, when his dinners varied--kidney-pies,
saveloys, peas-pudding served on paper, or perhaps only the warm tuber
taken from a potato can; though, when funds were low, Matt generally
leaned towards the kidney pieman, an old friend with a red nose and a
white apron, augmented at night by very business-like white sleeves,
when, extinguishing the coke-fire of his tin, he became a trotter
himself for the time being, as he went from public-house to gin-palace
disposing of his stock of succulent sheep's-feet.  There was a great
deal of the epicure in Matt Space, and had he been a Roman emperor he
might have been as lavish in the recorded worship of the gastric region.
As it was, he had always looked upon money as of value only for the
pleasure it afforded his palate, till better feelings had been roused
within him.  Well versed was Matt in the edibles best suited for
families of large size but small income; he was deep in tripe, was old
Matt Space, and he knew the shop in Clare-market and Newport-market best
worthy of confidence.  You never caught him buying sausages at random,
nor yet purchasing his baked sheep's-heads or fagots in Leather-lane.
No; Matt knew better; and if he could not get the prime article, he
would content himself with a penny-loaf and two ounces of single
Glo'ster.  No one could get such scraps from the butcher's as Matt; and
if any one of his acquaintance wanted a pound or two, it was almost
worth their while to ask the old man to dinner, for the sake of getting
him to undertake the commission.  For did not the old fox always go into
the Lane by Lincoln's-inn, where such a trade was done in chops that the
butcher must have bought his sheep nearly all loin, and that, too, of
the primest, for the legal gentlemen of the district were rather
particular.  As to distance Matt never studied that when he was bent
upon any delicacy, being ready to visit Saint Martin's-lane for hot
black-puddings, Leadenhall-market for cocks'-heads or giblets,
Billingsgate for cockles or mussels; but all to oblige friends.

Now, although old Matt made great shifts over his dinners, he revelled
in his tea; that is to say, his evening coffee--coffee-shop tea being a
decoction, as the tea is carefully boiled to the extraction of all its
strength, but to the destruction of all flavour, and Matt foolishly
preferred the simple infusion of everyday life.  So Matt enjoyed his
evening coffee--a half-pint cup for a penny, and three large greasy
slices of bread-and-butter for the same coin--the butter being always
the best Dorset, slightly rank in the eating, and prepared by some
peculiar Dutch process without the assistance of cows.  Old Matt never
missed his tea if his funds would at all hold out; for at this
delectable coffee-house there were newspapers and, better still,
magazines of so tempting a nature that they often made the old man late
back to his duties.  The real enjoyment that he felt over his book must
have flavoured the repast, for he always seemed to relish these meals
immensely.  Generally speaking, men of his trade--haunters of his
haunts--are rabid politicians; but not so Matt: missing a glance at the
morning or evening paper never troubled him; but still there were times
when the old printer took an interest in questions current; and if "the
poor man" happened to be on the _tapis_, Matt digested the leading
articles most carefully.

But no one knew where Matt slept, and many a job he lost in consequence;
though this he set down to the score of his ill-luck.  And yet he need
not have been so nervous about anyone tracking him to his den; for Lower
Series-place was once the resort of many of the choice spirits of a
bygone age: lordly gallants strutted there in the showy costumes of
their day; here, too, was the famous Kit-cat Club; but the glory had
departed when Matt chose the court for his resting-place: where the wits
made their rendezvous, were misery and dirt, frouzy rotting tenements,
vice and disease.  Trade was in the place, but in its lowest and least
attractive forms; for there might be bought "half-hundreds" of coals in
little sacks; ginger-beer; great spongy-shelled oysters, opened by dirty
women, ready to place a discoloured thumb upon the loosened bivalve, and
to rinse it in the muddy tub from which it was fished; fruit, too, in
its seasons; potatoes and greens always; mussels, farthing balls of
cotton, brass thimbles, comic songs, and sweets.  But the two most
flourishing trades here were those of translating, and dealing in
marine-stores--businesses carried on next door to one another by Isaac
Gross and Mrs Slagg.  And a busy shop was Mrs Slagg's, a shop where,
in place of the customary gibbeted black doll, hung a painted and
lettered huge bladebone that might, from its size, have belonged to the
celebrated vastotherium itself, only that it was composed of wood,
carved in his leisure hours with a shoemaker's knife, as a delicate
attention to Mrs Slagg, by her neighbour, Isaac Gross.  Gay was Mrs
Slagg's shop with gaudily-illustrated placards, touching the wealth,
ease, and comfort to be obtained by carrying all the worn apparel, rags,
bones, and old iron to Slagg's; serving-maids were walking out in the
gayest of dresses bought with kitchen-stuff; men were fitting on
impossible tail-coats and solid-looking hats bought with old iron,
brass, and pewter; while the demand for white and coloured rags,
waste-paper, bones, and horsehair, appeared insatiable; and to obtain
them, it seemed that Mrs Slagg was ready to ruin herself outright by
giving unheard-of prices.  A wonderfully heterogeneous collection was
here of the odds and ends of civilisation: one pane of the window
resembled the foul comb of some mammoth bee, filled up as it was with
bottles presenting their ends to the spectator, who shuddered as he
thought of the labels that once decked those vials, such as "The draught
at bedtime," "The mixture as before," "A tablespoonful every two hours,"
etc; while many a wild and fevered dream that shudder brought back, of
nights followed by days of pain and misery, aching heads, watching,
anxious faces, sleek doctors of the Hardon class, wondering thoughts of
the future, and of past hours unappreciated, unvalued.  Every
medicine-bottle in Mrs Slagg's shop was a very telescope, which, if
applied to the eye, presented such a diorama of sickness and sorrow as
caused sensations as of grits getting into the cogs of the wheels of
life and staying their would-be even course.  Mrs Slagg's was an
obtrusive shop, irrespective of the flaming placards that literally
shouted at you, and the black board, painted in old-bony skeleton
letters, with the legend "Keziah Slagg, Dealer in Marine-stores," though
the terrene ruled to the exclusion of the marine.  In its way, it was in
everybody's way, and seemed to have taken the disease rampant in the
region of Lowther Arcadia--"a breaking out"--in this case a hideous
leprosy of loathsome objects, that would have at you, catching skirt or
umbrella, or being run over after they had been kicked in the way by
racing children.  The shop was gorged, and its contents oozed out, ran
over, and trickled down the steps into the cellar, which was also full
and repulsive, sending foul fungoid growths up through the trap to the
pavement, and also apparently dipping under where the traffic lay to
force its way up on the other side, where the growth spread again along
the wall, so that passengers had to run the gauntlet on their journey to
and from Temple Bar.  In fact, Mrs Slagg's shop was a very refiner's
furnace for old refuse, which boiled and bubbled over into court and
cellar, as we have seen; while in front of the shop of Mr Isaac Gross,
extended trays of old iron, bundles of white and coloured rags, odorous
bones, crippled tools, wormy screws, screws without worms, odds and
ends--odds without ends, and ends that seemed at odds with the world,
and tried to trip it up as it went by.

Watching over her treasures would sit Mrs Slagg, just inside her door,
stout, happy, and dirty, in a bower of old garments, which waved in
every passing breeze; and, saving when clients came to obtain the
unheard-of prices for the rags and metal, and the bones and grease, upon
which this ogress lived, Mrs Slagg's time was divided between shouting,
"You bring that 'ere back!" to the children, and playing "Bo-peep" with
Mr Isaac Gross, who, also working just inside his shop, would lean out
occasionally to look at Mrs Slagg; though it took upon an average about
nine peeps before both peeped together, when Mrs Slagg would nod and
smile at Mr Gross, and Mr Gross would nod and smile at Mrs Slagg; and
then work would be resumed, while it was understood in the court that
something was to come of it.

But, beyond what has been described, there was another fact which
pointed towards something coming of the neighbours' intimacy; for Mrs
Slagg's cellar being, as she termed it, "chock!" a portion of her
stock-in-trade had worked its way into Mr Gross's back-parlour, and
there stood in the shape of a large heap of waste-paper--a heap that Mr
Gross would look at occasionally, and then smile in a very slow, heavy
manner, as if smiling was a difficult task, and took time, for fear it
should be broken if hastily performed, and become a laugh.

And a nice spot was Lower Series-place!  Like Bennett's-rents, it seemed
as if every house was a school, and it was always leaving-time; for if,
for a short cut, you hazarded a walk through the court, you were
attacked by hordes of little savages, who pegged at you with tops, ran
hoops between your legs, yelled in your ears, knocked tipcats in your
eyes, kicked your shins at hopscotch, drove shuttlecocks upon your hat,
lassoed you with skipping-ropes, and forming rings around, apostrophised
you in tuneful, metrical language.

No doubt old Matt was used to all this, and so enjoyed a second nature;
for be it known that he lodged with Mr Isaac Gross, boot and shoemaker,
in Lower Series-place, otherwise Rogue's, otherwise Shire-lane.

Matt's landlord was a big bachelor of six-and-thirty, with much more
body than he seemed to have muscles to control, the effect being that he
was slow--Mrs Slagg said, "And sure," which is doubtful.  Mr Gross had
round high shoulders, and more hair than he knew what to do with, or he
would have had it cut; but he did not, only oiled it, brushed it down
straightly, parted it in the middle, and then stopped it from falling
down over his eyes when at work, by confining it with a band of black
ribbon crossing his forehead and tied behind--the effect altogether,
when taken in conjunction with his fat, heavy, sparsely-bearded face,
being decidedly pleasing--judging by Mrs Slagg's standard.  He was not
a dirty man, but he never by any chance looked clean, on account of a
peculiar tinge in his skin, due perhaps to his trade, the short pipe in
his mouth from morn till night, and the salubrious air of the court.
Mr Gross was a doctor in his way, buying boots and shoes in the last
stage of consumption, and then, by a grafting, splicing, and budding
process, with the sounder portions of many he produced a few wearable
articles, which, blacked to the highest pitch of lustre, shone upon his
board to tempt purchasers from amongst those who could not afford the
new article.  You might buy a pair of boots from Isaac whose component
parts were the work, perhaps, of the cordwainers of many lands, which
scraps he would build up again as if they were so many bricks, or
perhaps mere bats, rough with mortar; and in this way Isaac Gross lived
and flourished.

It was from first wearing his boots that old Matt came to lodge with
Isaac Gross, sharing with him the back-parlour, turned for their
accommodation into a double-bedded room without bedsteads; but of itself
a pleasant grove, whose fruitful sides teemed with boots and shoes in
every stage of decay or remanufacture, hung upon nails wherever a nail
would hold, the window-frame and its cross-bars not being spared.  As to
the large and ever-increasing pile of waste-paper owned by Mrs Slagg,
old Matt resisted the encroachment with some bitterness; but still it
grew, and though the old man grumbled, he would not move, for he liked
his abode for its freedom from all restraint, since he could go to bed
when he liked, stay as long as he liked, and use his own discretion
respecting the removal of boots or other articles of clothing.  The
place was dirty, but that he did not mind; odorous, but then it was the
true sherry twang; but what suited Matt best was, that his landlord
troubled him little about rent, leaving him to pay when so minded, and
never hinting at arrears; while still another advantage was that, next
to a lamp-post, old Matt found his landlord the most satisfactory
listener he knew, one ready to be talked to upon any subject, and to
fall into the talker's way of thinking.

On the morning when the words at the head of this chapter were spoken,
in spite of the hammering, Matt continued to sleep on until nearly
eight, when he rose, had his boots polished at half-price in the shade
of Temple Bar, and then walked to the barber's, declaring a brushing to
be the finest thing in the world for corns.  Here he had an easy shave
and a wash for a penny; breakfasted heartily and sumptuously to the
surprise of _habitues_ and waitress, by calling for a rasher of bacon,
and having a crumpled, greasy, brown dog's ear brought him to devour
with his bread-and-butter and coffee.  For Matt was in high spirits: he
was in full work upon a newspaper for a few days, and he had discovered
the paragraph which, in spite of the drawback of its terrible contents,
was a piece of news that should give Mr Septimus Hardon the income and
position "of what I always said he was, sir,--a gentleman."  So old Matt
breakfasted, as he said, "like a prince," for fivepence, spent the
change of his sixpence in a morning paper, and walked back to his
lodging to read it at leisure, for his work would not begin till the
afternoon.

Mr Isaac Gross had finished his economical bachelor breakfast,
consisting of bread-and-butter and packet-cocoa, combining cheapness,
succulence, and convenience.  The breakfast-things were cleared away--
not a long task--and Isaac was about to add a pile of old account-books
to the waste-paper heap in the back-room.

"She bring them in?" said Matt.

Isaac, with his pipe in his mouth, nodded, and said in a gruff, slow
growl, "Waste-paper."

"So it seems," said Matt, opening one or two of the books, and then
closing them with an air of disgust, when his landlord took them up,
added them to the heap, and before returning to his bench, had a peep
out towards Mrs Slagg's; but evidently the look was wasted, for he
sighed, and took up his stirrup-leather, while old Matt drew down his
mouth and bestowed a grim, contemptuous smile upon him as he rustled his
paper, and, sitting down on a low workman's bench, began to read.

"Ah!" said Matt, stopping in his reading to refresh himself with a pinch
of snuff from a pill-box, "I thought so; they had an adjourned inquest
about that case I told you of; but there's only a short para here."

"Umph!" ejaculated Isaac, taking a good pull at his wax-end, and then
readjusting his boot in the stirrup, but directly after disarranging it,
to take a peep at Mrs Slagg--this time with success; but he frowned at
her--a telegram that she knew meant the lodger was at home, and that
friendly communications must stop.

"They've brought it in--"

"Ain't seen my wax, have you?" said Isaac slowly.

"Accidental death," said Matt, not noticing the interruption; "and it's
my opinion that--What?"

"I want my wax," said Isaac, hunting about.

"Well, get it," growled Matt, rather annoyed at being interrupted.

"Ain't seen it, have you?" said Isaac.

"No!" growled the old man, turning over his paper.

"Had it along with the dubbin just before breakfast," said Isaac.

"And then," continued Matt, "the coroner gave his order for the burial,
and--"

But Isaac Gross, who, in his slow fashion, was as industrious as the
bees, like them, could not get on without his wax, so he interrupted the
speaker with, "I want my wax," as he routed amongst his tools for the
missing necessary.

"You're waxing a great nuisance, Ike," said Matt, "and I wish you'd find
your wax;" and then he readjusted his spectacles, and had another pinch
of snuff.  "Hullo!" he growled, starting up and going to the door to
speak to a woman who stood there, and who eagerly, whispered a few words
as she passed a note and a shilling into his hand.  "Yes; I'll take the
note, but I don't want that," he said, refusing the shilling, which fell
upon the door-step.  "Now, look here," he said aloud, and very gruffly--
for the woman had already turned to go--"I don't like this business at
all; but if I'm to do it, I don't want paying for it; and if you don't
take back that money, I sha'n't take the letter."

"Hush, pray!" whispered the woman, glancing at Isaac's round, wide-open
eyes.  "Don't be angry with me, please--don't speak so loud."

The appealing voice somewhat softened the old man, but he kept on
growling and muttering, as, after a few more words, the woman--the same
who had visited the Jarkers--picked up the shilling and left him,
watched all the while most eagerly by Mrs Slagg, who did not seem to be
easy in her mind respecting female visitors to her neighbour's place of
business.

"It won't do, it won't do," muttered the old man, taking his seat after
glancing at the note.  "I don't like it.--Well," he said aloud, "have
you found that wax?"

"It was in my pocket," said Isaac, slowly and seriously pointing to the
discovered necessary covered with bread-crumbs, tobacco-dust, and flue.

"Now then, let's have a bit more news," said Matt, once more settling
himself.

"Ain't there a murder nowheres?" said Isaac, whose work was now
progressing.

"No, there ain't!" said Matt gruffly.  "Nice taste you've got; but
here's two fires--p'r'aps they'll do for you?"

"Ah!" said Isaac slowly, "let's have them;" but again, to Matt's
annoyance, further progress was stayed by the entrance of a man to
dispose of three pairs of old boots.

Old Matt crumpled up his paper and put it away in disgust, and as soon
as the man had taken his departure he began to examine the boots.

"Ah!" he said, "nice trade yours--three pair of decent boots for three
shillings; and then you'll touch them up and sell them for five
shillings a pair.  Tell you what--I'll give you a shilling and my old
ones for this pair."

"Why, you can't wear 'em till they're mended," said Isaac.

"Can't I?" replied Mat with a grim smile; "I can wear these, old fellow,
which are a deal worse;" and he placed one of his old ones on the bench.

This was unanswerable, so Isaac only smoked.

"Try which pair fits you best," he said at last, "and I'll do them up a
little bit for another shilling."

"No book-cover soles," said Matt, pointing with his thumb over his
shoulder at the heap in the back-room.

Isaac grinned after his slow fashion, and then growled, "Fust-class
leather and good workmanship."

"For two shillings?" said Matt.

"And the old ones," said Isaac.

"Why, they're worth nothing to you," said Matt.

"And they ain't worth nothing to you," said Isaac.

"S'pose I'm going out to dinner and want a change?" said the old man
with a grin.

"'Nother shilling, then," said Isaac determinedly.

"Why, they ain't worth sixpence!" exclaimed Matt indignantly.

"Not to you," said Isaac slowly.

"No, nor you, nor anybody, except the owner," said Matt.

"Which is it to be?" said Isaac in intervals, between drawing home
stitches.  "Two bob and the old uns, or three bob wi'out?"

"Done up?" said Matt.

"Done up," said Isaac.

"With new leather?" said Matt.

"With fust-class, well-seasoned leather," said Isaac, cutting off his
wax-ends.

"Take 'em at two, then," said Matt, rising; "and I'll tell you what it
is, Ike, I put up with your smoke and your courting; but if you don't
make an end of choking me up with your confounded waste-paper, I'll
move, Ike--I'll move."

Isaac Gross smiled, faster this time, for he took his pipe out of his
mouth to allow the smile to break into a grin; he then had a peep at
Mrs Slagg, who was on the watch, having seen Matt outside; and then, as
the old man made his way through the impedimenta of Lower Series-place,
turning the note he had received over and over in his hand, and
muttering as he went, Isaac's hammer went on "tap, tap, tap," till he
was out of hearing.

END OF VOLUME ONE.

Volume Two, Chapter I.

HOME.

Softly along the dark passages of the County Arms stole Septimus Hardon,
and with stealthy hand he loosened bar and bolt, till the front-door
yielded to his touch, and he stood in the grey dawn of the morning,
looking round the marketplace for a few minutes before making his way
along a road not travelled by him for years.

How familiar every spot seemed as he left the town behind!--spots dimly
seen as yet, but familiar enough to cause a swelling sensation at his
heart, and tears to rise unbidden to his eyes.  Now he stopped to gaze
upon some old half-forgotten scene; now to listen to the morning hymn
rising from the wood upon his left--loud and high notes from thrush and
finch, mingled with the starling's mocking whistle, the mellow
flute-tones of the blackbird, and the incessant caw of the rooks.  All
around seemed so peaceful, so utter a change from the miseries of a
close London court, that his thoughts went back from the present to the
old days of his boyhood, and for a while a sense of elation coursed
through his veins, his eyes sparkled, and he gazed round with delight
till they rested upon the spire of the old church, when a chill fell
upon his spirit once more, as he remembered the funeral and the miseries
of the present.  Then, for the hundredth time, he recalled his father's
lonely and fearful end--passing away without a word of forgiveness; his
own return as a beggar to his old home, without a right therein--to be
met as it were upon the threshold, and to be told that he was an
intruder who could be admitted only upon sufferance.  But he would
enter, he said, if only to ask of the dead to give him a sign respecting
the truth of his uncle's words.

Septimus Hardon's brow furrowed, and he walked on hastily; then he fell
back into his listless, weary way.  It was very early, or his
gesticulations would have excited attention; but he met no one, and once
more hurrying on, he at last stood before the clump of trees within
whose shades was the gloomy moss-grown house where so large a portion of
his life had been spent.  He passed through the rusty iron gate, which
creaked mournfully, and then stood before the old place, which looked
more gloomy, moss-grown, and damp than ever.  Desolation everywhere; for
when the son left his home, the father had shut himself up, discharging
the gardener and all the indoor servants but the one who filled the post
of housekeeper.  The vine still hung to the large trellis-work, but here
and there, tangled with ivy, it had fallen away, and lay across the
path; the windows were dim, the paths overgrown with weeds; while
between the door-steps the withered herbage that had grown up the
previous year, rustled in the breeze of the early spring.  Over such
windows as yet possessed them, yellow time-stained blinds were drawn,
while here and there upon the ground-[four pages missing from the scan.]
the perspiration in large drops upon his forehead, as the blind slowly
flapped to and fro, and the lath rapped in a strange ghostly way upon
the framework of the window.

For a few minutes Septimus Hardon stopped, leaning against the
window-sill, trembling and undecided, till, mustering his strength of
mind and body, he slowly drew himself up, climbed within the room, and
then as the blind fell back to its place, stood in the presence of the
dead, listening to the "rap-rap" of the blind-lath against the
window-frame, and a sharp vicious gnawing that proceeded from behind the
wainscot of the old house, and all the while not daring to turn his eyes
in the direction of the bed whose position he knew so well, and upon
which he could feel that the coffin was resting.

Gnaw, gnaw; tear, tear; sharp little teeth savagely working at the thin
hard wood, and evidently making rapid progress towards their goal.

The sound was hideous, and the sweat dropped from Septimus Hardon's
forehead with a tiny plash upon the bare boards, where he could see more
than one little star-like mark, and then rousing himself, he ran towards
the spot from whence the noise proceeded, and kicked furiously at the
wainscot, when there was a scuffling noise, followed by a deep
stillness, broken only at intervals by the gentle rapping of the
blind-lath upon the window-frame.

And there stood the careworn man in his own old room--the old
plainly-furnished room that he might have slept in but the previous
night, so unaltered was everything, as, with eyes putting off that which
he had come to see until the very last, he gazed around.  There were the
quaint old black-framed prints of Hudibras, whose strange, uncouth
figures had frightened him as a boy--figures that, in the half-lights of
evening or early morn, he had looked upon until they had seemed to stand
forth from the frames as he lay quaking with childish terror; there was
the old wall-paper, in whose pattern he had been wont to trace grotesque
faces; there again the marbled ceiling, whose blue veins he had been
used to follow in their maze-like wanderings, when he lay fevered and
wakeful with some childish ailment; the same strips of lean-looking
striped carpet; the same old hook in the beam, round which the flies
darted and circled in summer; the same rickety corner washstand, with
its cracked ewer, and quaint water-bottle and glass, which tinkled when
a footstep passed along the passage; the fire-board, which blew down on
windy nights, and almost frightened him into a fit, while there it was,
even now, half-fallen and leaning against a chair, with a faint dust of
the old fine soot, just as it used to be, scattered upon the
hearthstone; the same drawers, whose old jingling brass knobs caught in
his pinafore, and held him that dark night when he let fall the candle,
and stood screaming for help; the same shells upon the chimney-piece--
shells that of old he had held to his ear to listen to the roaring sea;
even the old rushlight shade--big, and pierced with holes--was there,
the old shade that used to stand upon the floor in the wash-hand basin,
and throw its great hole-pierced shadow all over ceiling and wall--while
each hole formed a glaring eye to stare at him and frighten away sleep.

Familiar sights that made him disbelieve in the lapse of time, and think
it impossible that he could be standing there an elderly man; for all
his association with the room seemed those first-formed impressions of
childhood.  But he cast away the dreamy, musing fit; for he felt that he
had driven it to the last, and he must look now.  Yes; there was his old
bed, with the great black-cloth coffin, nearly covered by its lid, now
drawn down a little from the head.

"Tap-tap, tap-tap," went the blind-lath; while outside shone the sun,
and through the open window came the cheery twitter of the birds.
Within the room Septimus Hardon could hear the heavy beating of his own
heart.  Then again, close behind him, came the sound of hurried
scuffling beyond the wainscot; then a shrill squealing; and directly
after, the loud sharp tearing of hungry teeth, gnaw, gnaw, gnaw
incessantly, for the scared rats had again returned to the charge.

Septimus Hardon roused himself from his stupor, and kicked angrily at
the wainscot, and once again he heard the hurrying rush of the
hunger-driven little animals as they fled, and a shuddering sensation
ran through his veins as he recalled the past.

And now he nerved himself to approach the bed, and stretched out his
hand to remove the coffin-lid; but for some time he stood with his hands
resting upon it.  A dread had overshadowed him that he was about to gaze
upon something too hideous for human eyes to bear; but at last he thrust
the covering aside, and it fell upon the bed, when, with swimming head,
he clung to the bedstead for a few minutes to save himself from falling.
But the tremor passed off, for he was once more roused by the
indefatigable gnawing of the rats; and he asked himself how long it
would be before they would work their way through the thin oaken panel,
and then whether they would attack the coffin.

Gnaw, gnaw, gnaw incessantly, till he once more angrily struck at the
wall, when the noise ceased.  And now Septimus Hardon strode firmly up
to the bedside and gazed upon his father's face, not hideously
disfigured, or frightful to look upon, but pale, calm, stern, with the
brow slightly contracted, and, seen there in the twilight of that shaded
room, apparently sleeping.

Dead--not sleeping.  Gone from him without a word, without a sign, of
forgiveness; leaving him a beggar with a name that was fouled and
stained for ever in the sight of men.  Gone--taking with him a secret of
such vital importance; but Septimus Hardon thought not now of all this,
for his memory was back amidst those early days when his mother was
living, and his father would relax from his stern fits, so that for a
while happiness seemed to dwell within their home.  Then came the
recollection of his mother's death, and the cold indifference into which
his father had sunk.  Then again all the sorrows and pains were
forgotten, and the old man's virtues shone forth, as his shabby,
travel-stained son sank upon his knees by the coffin and buried his face
in his hands.

The sun streamed through the loose corner of the blind and shone like a
golden bar-sinister across the kneeling man; the sparrows twittered in
the eaves, and ever upon the window-frame the blind kept up its
monotonous tap, tap, tap, at regular intervals, while at times a puff of
light air made it shiver and shudder from top to bottom.  But, above
all, came from behind the wainscot the incessant gnaw, gnaw, gnaw, as
though the rats knew, that their time was short, and that their prey
would soon be beyond their reach; gnaw, gnaw, gnaw, as though
splintering off large pieces of the woodwork, while now no
angrily-stricken blow scared them off; gnaw, gnaw, gnaw, until little
ragged splinters and chips began to be thrust out beneath the
skirting-board; then more, and more, and more, till a tiny, light heap,
that a breath would have scattered, appeared close to a ragged hole.
Then heap and hole grew larger, and as the noise increased a sharp nose
was seen moving quickly, as a rat worked vigorously, till, as it
obtained room to tear away at the board, the heap grew bigger, fragments
were thrust out hastily into the room, and at last the little archway
afforded space for the passage of the worker, a sharp-eyed,
keen-looking, little animal, which, after peering about eagerly for a
few moments, darted into the room, darted back again, and then renewed
its attack upon the skirting-board until the hole was enlarged.

Then for a while all was silent, but a keen observer might have detected
within the darkness the sharp nose of the rat, and the eager glint of
its watching orbs.  Then came a faint rustle, and the rat seemed to
glide out into the room; then another head appeared at the hole, and
another lean, vicious animal was out, but a louder tap than usual from
the blind sent them darting back to their lair.

Another five minutes and they were out again--one, two, three; another,
and another, and another--a swarm of rats, savage with hunger; but now
the loud, chirrupping squabble of a pair of sparrows which settled on
the window-sill scared the little animals once more, and they fled in
haste to their corner.

Out again, for all was silent; first one peering into the room, with its
black, bead-like eyes scanning the place, then darting back at some
false alarm, but out again directly, followed by its fellows, till there
was a swarm once more, now running a few feet, now darting back to the
hole; and still Septimus Hardon knelt, as he had knelt for hours,
motionless beside his father's coffin.

The golden bar shone into and across the room, a bar-sinister no longer,
for it played upon the features of the dead, seeming to illumine them
with a smile; the sparrows twittered in the eaves, the faint whistle of
a carter, cheering his way with some old minor strain, was heard from
the road; the blind still tapped softly and shuddered from top to
bottom; but the gnawing sounds from the skirting-board had ceased, and
the kneeling man remained motionless by the bedside.

Tap, tap, tap, in a strange warning way, as the shuddering motion of the
old blind continued.  Warning taps, as if softly made by unseen
watchers--signals to rouse the kneeling figure whose face was buried in
his hands, and whose worn, lean fingers touched the black-cloth of the
coffin; taps that now grew louder, for there was a faint, scratching
noise, as of little vicious claws passing over a counterpane.

Volume Two, Chapter II.

MEETINGS.

With something like the wondering pleasure that must have been felt by
the first photographer who applied his developing liquid to a sensitised
plate and then saw spring out by magic, as it were, first faint, then
stronger lines, feature by feature, the lineaments of a beautiful face,
gazed old Matt Space upon Lucy Grey as Time, that wonderful developer,
caused her day by day to take more and more the aspect of a beautiful
woman.  Yesterday almost it seemed to him that she was a mere girl, a
child; but the transition had been rapid.  True, hers was a time of life
when the bud is seen to expand rapidly; but here there had been forcing
powers at work.  In fact, in quiet self-dependence, thought, and her
managing ways, Lucy had been for years a woman, and the friend and
counsellor of her mother in many a sore trial.  Familiarity with sorrow,
poverty, her step-father's struggles, and their life in the busy streets
of London, had all tended to develop the mind of Lucy Grey, who might
truly be said never to have known a girlhood: nurse to her little sister
and brother in sickness and health, attendant of her ailing mother,
housekeeper, cheerer of Septimus Hardon's misery, and now busy worker
for the family's support, it were strange indeed if she had not stepped
as it were from child to woman, for in such cases as hers years seem
secondary.

But the years had not been stationary, for Lucy Grey was now seventeen,
and the old printer used to gaze with pride upon the fair girl, who
chose him gladly for her companion to and from the warehouse for which
she worked.

But Matt was angry and annoyed, for he had been made the half confidant
of a secret which galled and worried him.  Twenty times a day he vowed
that he would have no more of it; and at such times the consumption of
his snuff was terrible.  There was hardly a lamp-post in Carey-street to
which he had not fiercely declared that he would "split," nodding
mysteriously the whole while; but night after night, when he met the
appealing look of Lucy, all his resolutions faded like mist in the sun,
and he would whisper the next post he passed that he was getting to be a
fool in his old age.

The old man had carried the letter he received to Lucy, giving it to her
at dinner-time, while Mrs Hardon was lying down; and then furtively
watched the eager looks, the flushing cheeks, and tear-wet eyes, as the
reader devoured the contents.

"You'll be here to-night, Mr Space?" said Lucy, looking up.  "You'll go
with me?"

"Old Matt Space, miss, is your humble servant, and he'll do what you
tell him; but he don't like that at all.  He don't like secrets;" and
the old man pointed to the note.  "Why not tell her?" and he nodded
towards the inner room.

"No, no," whispered Lucy hurriedly.

"All right, miss, all right.  I'll be here at seven.  Be taken bad, I
suppose, and slip off for an hour."  And at the appointed time the old
man hurried from the office where he was employed, at the great risk of
being told that he would be wanted no more, and accompanied Lucy to
where in the dusk of evening, she stood talking to the dark,
showily-dressed woman, whose agitated, mobile countenance made the paint
upon her cheeks look weird and strange.  She had hold tightly of Lucy's
hand, and more than once old Matt saw her kiss it fondly, clinging to it
as if it were her last hold upon innocence and purity.

Twice during their interview the old man advanced, signing that it was
time they went, by many a hasty jerk with his thumb; but the appealing
looks he encountered sent him muttering back to his former post beneath
a lamp, where he stood watching uneasily.

And old Matt had something to watch, too; for twice he saw the
villainously-countenanced Mr Jarker slink by on the opposite side of
the way, trying very hard to appear ignorant of a meeting taking place,
but failing dismally, for from time to time his head was turned in the
direction, besides which many a passer-by paused to gaze, with something
like effrontery, upon the sweet, candid face of Lucy, while more than
one seemed disposed to turn back.  All this troubled the old man, and
made him redouble his watchfulness as he walked a little nearer to the
speakers; but he did not see that, some fifty yards down the street,
standing in a doorway, there was another watcher, from beneath whose
broad white brow a pair of keen grey eyes were fixed uneasily upon the
group, with a troubled, puzzled expression.

"God--God bless you!" whispered the woman; "you must go now, my
darling!" just as a well-dressed man sauntered back, cigar in hand, and,
slightly stooping, addressed some observation to the startled girl; when
old Matt, who had been watching his movements and followed close behind,
suddenly shouldered him on one side, and so vigorously, that he stepped
into the road to save himself from falling.  Then there was a shout from
a passing cabman, a half-uttered cry, and the daintily-dressed lounger
was rubbing the marks of a muddy wheel from his dark trousers, while old
Matt, with a gruff "Come along, miss!" drew Lucy's arm through his own,
and with a short, sharp nod to her companion, marched her off.

But Matt did not turn back to see the next change in the scene, or he
might have looked upon Mr William Jarker crossing the road and speaking
to the dark woman, who replied fiercely and shortly, as she turned from
him in an abrupt manner, but only to return and say a few words quietly
ere she hurried off.  Then the city dandy, recovered from his fright,
followed the steps of old Matt and Lucy, till a firm hand was laid upon
his shoulder, when turning, he encountered the calm, fixed gaze of a man
of some one- or two-and-thirty, dressed as a clergyman.

"Stand back, sir, or I give you into custody for insulting that young
lady," he said, in quiet, hard, measured tones.

"Young what?" was the reply; but there was a something so firm and
convincing in the look of the keen grey eyes upon him, that, muttering
inaudibly, the fellow shrank back, and was soon lost in the passing
crowd.

The Reverend Arthur Sterne then looked hastily round, to see that Lucy
Grey had passed down the next street, to whose corner he hurried, where
he could see her nearly at the bottom, with old Matt striding fiercely
along.  He then turned to look for the woman who had been Lucy's
companion, but she had disappeared.  However, he walked hastily in the
direction she had taken, and searched eagerly for some distance, now
thinking that he caught sight of her bonnet on this side, now upon that,
but always disappointed; several times he was about to return, but a
delusive glimpse of some figure in the distance led him on, till, tired
and disheartened, he turned to reach his apartments, when he
encountered, first, the ill-looking countenance of Mr William Jarker,
who made a sort of slouching attempt at a bow, and directly after, a
quiet-looking individual, with a straw in his mouth and his hands in his
pockets, whom Mr Sterne passed without notice, though he had recognised
the birdcatcher, whose wife he had from time to time visited.  But Mr
Sterne was not aware that he had been followed by the ruffian, as a
bull-dog would follow his master, or a hound his quarry--though it is
disgracing the latter simile to use it.  Nor was Mr Jarker aware that
that quiet-looking individual had been following him in turn till he was
once more about to track the curate, when for a moment he and the quiet
individual stood face to face, apparently without seeing one another;
but it was observable that Mr Jarker immediately went off in quite
another direction, while, after slowly twisting his straw and winking to
himself, the quiet man slowly took the same route as Mr Sterne.

Volume Two, Chapter III.

ANOTHER FUNERAL.

Septimus Hardon leaped to his feet, as suddenly a key turned and the
bedroom-door opened; there was a sharp scuffling noise, as of a swarm of
rats leaping hurriedly from the bed, and tearing over one another, in
their haste to reach the hole; a wild shriek from a woman, a heavy fall,
and then all was again silent.

As soon as he could recall his scattered energies, Septimus Hardon
raised the woman's head and bathed her face, when she soon opened her
eyes and sat up, gazing at him with a horrified aspect.

"Hush!" he said softly; "don't be alarmed.  My name is Hardon; I came to
see my father for the last time.  I think I used to know you in the
town?"

"O, yes; I remember you now, sir," stammered the woman; "but you gave me
a dreadful turn."

"Hush!  Come down-stairs now," whispered Septimus, and he motioned her
to follow him to the door.

The woman was about to obey, but, glancing round the room, she pointed
to the freshly-gnawed wood and the heap of chips.

Septimus shuddered, and they went together and closed the coffin-lid.

"Stop a minute, sir, please," said the woman--a poor cottager's wife
from the town, who followed the same road in Somesham adopted by Mrs
Sims of Lincoln's-inn,--"stop a minute, sir, please, and I'll be back
directly."  The poor thing trembled so that her teeth chattered, as she
hurried away; but she returned in a few minutes with a huge black cat,
which struggled from her arms and ran, with dilated eyes, towards the
rats' hole, where it softly couched, motionless but for the writhings of
its lithe tail, as it sat there watching for the coming of its enemies.

There were funeral cake and wine upon the table below, and an extra
supply of the former was cut up and sealed in squares of paper, bearing
a couple of verses of a psalm, and the pastrycook's name and address as
a serious advertisement.

After waiting a couple of hours, most of which he spent wandering about
the old house, Septimus Hardon took his old place in the little
dining-room, opposite to the sealed-up bureau and cupboards.  The
undertaker and his man had arrived, and soon after came Doctor Hardon's
rival, who had been called in to the deceased.  The undertaker knew
Septimus and bowed; the surgeon, too, knew him again and shook hands,
not being at all surprised to see him there; while he invited him to
dinner before he should leave the town.  But although Doctor Hardon, who
came soon after, well knew Septimus Hardon, he _was_ surprised to see
him there, and did not shake hands, but started as though someone had
struck him a violent blow.  Mr Keening--Keening and Keening--then
entered the room, when the gentlemen all took wine in a heavy,
impressive way, and talked in a low tone about matters as far removed as
possible from the purpose for which they had met together.

Then came the undertaker to ask in a subdued way if any gentleman wished
to go up-stairs; but no gentleman save the son wished to go; and he
stole away to stand and gaze for a few moments upon the calm pale
features, and then returned to where the undertaker was distributing
gloves of the best black kid, asking the size each gentleman took with a
smooth oily courtesy.  Scarves were then produced of the richest and
stiffest corded-silk, cloaks were tied on, and as each mourner was
dressed for his part of the performance, he was inspected all round, and
from top to toe, by the undertaker before he was allowed to reseat
himself.  Then more wine, and more subdued conversation followed,
interrupted by the grating of wheels upon the gravel drive.  Heavy
footsteps overhead now; trampling; someone slipping upon the stairs, and
the balustrade heard to creak loudly as an exclamation was heard; a
shuffling noise; more footsteps heavily descending; a sharp pattering of
feet on the passage oilcloth, and much rustling past the room-door,
followed by an interval of a few minutes, and the noise of wheels going
and wheels coming; and then the undertaker stood bowing in the open
door, and motioned Septimus Hardon to follow.

This was almost too much for Doctor Hardon, who had ordered that
everything possible to make the funeral impressive should be done.  The
large hearse and two mourning-coaches had been hired expressly from the
county-town; velvet and ostrich plumes were in plenty; and, as chief
mourner, the doctor had reckoned upon a very imposing spectacle, one
that should to a certain extent erase the horrors of his brother's end,
and help to raise him, the doctor, in the estimation of the inhabitants
of Somesham.  But now this was spoiled by the coming of the shabby, worn
son, towards whom the undertaker had leaned in the belief, in his
ignorance, that he was the chief mourner.

Septimus rose, and moved towards the door, while Doctor Hardon hesitated
to obey the beckoning finger of the undertaker; but the dread of drawing
attention to his tremor made him more himself, and, putting a
white-cambric kerchief to his face, he followed his nephew, to be
directly after shut up with him in the mourning-coach.  But Septimus
noticed him not, as he sat stern and with knitted brow, no muscle
betraying the wild emotions struggling within.

The surgeon and solicitor followed in the next coach; and then the
funeral procession moved slowly off towards the town, making as great a
show as the undertaker's strict adherence to his employer's orders could
effect.  Doctor Hardon said he wished to keep up appearances for his
dear brother's sake; but he had not reckoned upon the presence of the
stern, careworn man by his side, and he shrank into his corner of the
mourning-coach, angry, but at the same time fearful lest a scene might
ensue which should damage his reputation in the good town of Somesham;
besides, it would have been so painful to the feelings of his three
daughters--he only thought of three, even though one was married and two
resided at a distance.  Nothing could have been more unfortunate than
the appearance of Septimus at such a time, and during the silent ride
the doctor's wishes were anything but loving towards his nephew; while
upon reaching the church the gall of bitterness was made more bitter,
for the doctor again found himself made of secondary importance by
Septimus, who seemed to have roused himself into action for the time,
and strode on in front, close behind the coffin, to take his place in
the church so crowded with familiar recollections.  There, bowed down in
the same pew, but with very different thoughts, uncle and nephew
listened to the service ere they stood together by the bricked vault
prepared for the remains of old Octavius, and here again the doctor
seemed to have shrunk into a nonentity, for every eye was fixed upon the
shabby mourner by his side.

The clergyman had concluded, and, closing his book, was slowly walking
away; the clerk had followed, and at the church-gate the foremost
mourning-coach stood waiting, with a crowd of children and idlers
around, the hearse being drawn up at a distance, already half denuded of
its plumes by one of the deputies of the furnisher.  There was a crowd,
too, thickly clustered amidst grave and tombstone in the churchyard, for
plenty of interest attached to the death of old Octavius Hardon, and the
people of Somesham seemed bound to see the matter to the end.

Nothing now remained for the mourners but to take a last glance at the
coffin and come away.  Septimus had stood for a few moments looking down
into the vault, with the stern aspect of resolution fading from his
face, to give way to one of helpless misery, when, turning to leave, he
encountered the mourning brother advancing with drooping head and raised
handkerchief to take his farewell look.

Septimus Hardon shrank back as from a serpent, and made room for his
uncle to pass; but the next moment a sudden rage possessed him, and,
stepping forward, he laid a hand upon the doctor's shoulder, whispering
a few words in his ear.

Hastily confronting his nephew, the doctor turned, when, shaking a
threatening finger in his face, Septimus exclaimed: "Hypocrite!  I
know--" But before he could finish the sentence, the doctor started back
as if to avoid the threatening hand; his foot slipped upon the very edge
of one of the boards, and the next moment, before a hand could be
stretched out to save him, he fell with a crash into the vault.

For a while no one moved, a thrill of horror running through the
assembled crowd; but soon help in plenty was there to raise the fallen
man from the coffin upon which he lay, apparently senseless, and amidst
a buzz of suggestions the sexton nimbly descended, rope in hand, and,
slipping the strong cord around the doctor's chest, he was dragged out
and borne to the waiting coach.

Septimus, shocked, and almost paralysed at the effect of his threatening
gesture, stood for a few minutes looking on, till, seeing relief
afforded to the fallen man, he turned slowly away, people giving place
right and left to allow him to pass.  On reaching the second coach, he
hastily disencumbered himself of his trappings of woe, and threw them to
the astonished man at the door, who had never before witnessed such
unseemly conduct at a funeral.  Then, after another hasty glance towards
the crowd around his uncle, Septimus strode off in the direction of the
County Arms; while, gaping, talking, and wondering, the people slowly
dispersed, saving such as followed the coach to the doctor's residence
in the High-street, where they hung about, clinging helplessly to the
iron railings, and staring at the dining-room windows, until Mr Brande,
the surgeon, and Mr Keening, the solicitor, came out together, looking
very important, and walked down the street; when several of the railing
barnacles followed at a distance, as if the gentlemen had brought out a
printed account of the gossip-engendering scene in their pockets ready
for distribution.

With his mourning habiliments Septimus Hardon seemed to have cast off
the interest the crowd might be supposed to have taken in him; for no
one followed the thin shabby man in dusty clothes and battered hat, as
he strode on, till abreast of the old inn, where he paused, as if about
to enter; but the next moment, shaking his head wearily, he walked on,
and was soon past the first mile-stone on his way to the great city.

Volume Two, Chapter IV.

AFTER A LAPSE.

"Do, sir?" exclaimed old Matt, pausing in his occupation of pulling the
string to make a lathen figure throw out arms and legs for the
delectation of little Tom,--"do, sir?  Why, what I've always told you,
and you say the parson's told you,--go in for it, you've nothing to
lose; so if anything happens, you must win.  A year last spring now
since I come running in here with that para thinking I'd made your
fortune for you, sir; and now--Look there, what you've done, you've
pulled one of his legs off!"--This in a parenthesis to the little boy
between his knees.--"And where are you?  Certainly, you get on a bit
with the writing, sir; but if it was me I couldn't have settled down
without making him prove his words."

"But, you see," said Septimus, looking up from his copying, "I'm not
clever, I'm not a business man; and what could I do without money for
legal advice?  It's a sad life this; and ours is, and always was, a
miserable family, and my uncle's too.  Look at him: his children are
always away, while Agnes came to us through some love-affair with the
assistant, and soon after I came away she disappeared, and has never
been heard of since.  Did you speak?"

"No," said Matt, whose face was puckered up, while he had been trying to
catch the eye of Lucy, who sat at the window busily preparing some work
for a bright new sewing-machine which had lately been supplied to her
from the warehouse where she was employed.

"He has the money," continued Septimus, "but that can't compensate for
the loss of his child.  Poor Agnes!"

"Don't speak of her," exclaimed Mrs Septimus angrily, "she was a very
weak, bad woman, and--"

"Hush!" said Septimus sternly, "we are all weak; and who made us
judges?"

Mrs Septimus fidgeted about in her easy-chair, looking nettled and
angry as she sat near the window, while with flushed cheek Lucy bent
lower and lower over her work, once only catching Matt's eye, when the
old man looked so alarmingly mysterious that the flush upon her face
deepened, and she rose and left the room.

"You see, sir," said Matt, continuing a conversation that had evidently
been broken off, "it's been let go by so long now, when steps ought to
have been taken at once.  No offence meant--you won't be put out if I
speak plain?"

Septimus shook his head, and went on copying.

"You see," said Matt, "you ought to have gone to Doctors' Commons, and
entered a something against your uncle, and done a something else, and
had a lawyer to engage counsel, and then this precious uncle of yours
couldn't have touched the property till the matter had been tried in the
Court of Probate; when, of course, you must have come out with flying
colours.  But here, you see, you do nothing; first letting one month
slip away, and then another, and all the while he goes to work, gets
uninterrupted possession, sticks tighter and tighter to it, and for
aught you know, he's spent it all by this time.  You ought, you know, to
have carried on the war at once."

"And about the sinews?" said Septimus drearily, without raising his
head.

"Blame them sinews!" cried the old man; "they're about the tightest, and
hardest, and toughest things in the whole world.  It seems to me, you
know, sir, thinking it over--and I've had it in bed with me scores of
nights--it seems to me that your uncle rather reckoned on his meeting no
opposition; and on your--snuff, snuff, snuff," muttered the old man in a
confused way, as he fumbled about in his pockets.

"Say it out, Matt," said Septimus with a sad smile, "my weakness--no
doubt of it, for he could never have believed his own words."

"Well, that was the word, certainly, sir," said Matt; "and after all
your fuss, I don't know that a man's any the better for being strong,
mind you.  I wasn't going to say weakness, for I was hanging fire for a
word that meant the same with the corners rubbed off a bit; but there
wasn't letter enough in the case to make it up."

"Can't help it, Matt," said Septimus, removing a hair from his pen by
wiping it upon his coat-tail, and then smearing his forehead with his
inky fingers, ready for Lucy, who entered the room directly after, to
take his careworn head upon her arm, wet a corner of her handkerchief
between her rosy lips, and then wipe away the obstinate smear--Septimus
the while as still and patient as possible, till the fair girl concluded
her performance with a kiss, when he went on with his task.  "Exors--
ecutors--and assigns," muttered Septimus, writing.  "Can't help it,
Matt, I suppose it's my nature to be weak."

"And let everyone kick you," said Matt to himself.--"Well, sir," he
continued aloud, "it's my belief that this uncle of yours, not to put
too fine a point upon it, is a rogue.  He's a deep one, that's what he
is; but then, you know, he isn't the only deep one in the world, and if
you'd begun when you should have done--there, I won't say so any more,"
he exclaimed hastily, for Septimus made an impatient movement.  "Now,
you see, you've taken this sudden whim--very well, sir, all right--we've
talked you into it, say then--and you mean now to see if you can't go on
with the matter.  Better late than never, say I; so now, how does it
stand?  He has possession, and that's what they call nine points of the
law; and he's had possession for above a year, and you haven't taken a
step to dispute his right.--Well, I can't go into the thing without
speaking of the rights and wrongs of it, can I?" exclaimed the old man
in an injured tone, for Septimus shuffled nervously in his seat.

"There, go on!" said Septimus.

"But, there, p'raps I'm making too free," said the old man, snatching at
the string so angrily that he broke the other leg of the figure he had
brought the child.--"Never mind, my man," he whispered; "I'll bring you
such a good un next time I come."

"Go on, Matt," said Septimus quietly; "you ought to make allowances for
me."

"So I do, sir, so I do--heaps," cried the old man eagerly.

"We have not so many friends," continued Septimus, laying down his pen
and stretching out his hand, "that we can afford to behave slightingly
to their advice, even if it is unpalatable."

Old Matt took the proffered hand, and shook it warmly, before going on
with his subject.

"Well, sir," said Matt, "you say he told you out flat that you were a--
a--well, you know what I mean."

"Yes, yes," said Septimus drearily, for he had so familiarised himself
in thought with the word, that it had ceased to bring up an indignant
flush to his cheek.

"Well," said Matt, "then the whole of our work--I say `our,' you know--"

Septimus nodded.

"The whole of our work consists in proving him false."

"Exactly," said Septimus, sticking his pen behind his ear; "but how?"

"Documentary evidence," said the old man, "that's it; documentary
evidence," and he took snuff loudly.  "Marriage stiffikits, baptism
registers, and so on.  Let's see; I don't think there was any regular
registration in those days.  Now then, to begin with, sir.  Where were
your father and mother married?--that is, if they were," muttered the
old man in what was meant for an undertone, but Septimus heard the
words.

"O yes," he said quietly, "they were married in the City."

"Very good," said Matt.  "Then suppose we get a copy of the marriage
stiffikit, sworn to and witnessed, how then?"

"Well, that proves the marriage," said Septimus.

"To be sure," said Matt; "but then you'll find he bases his claim upon
your being born before.  You don't think he denies that your father and
mother were married?  He don't, does he?"

"No," said Septimus wearily, as he opened a pocket-book and drew out a
frayed and broken letter, which had separated here and there in the
folds from frequent reference.  "You are right, Matt," he said, after
reading a few lines.  "The marriage register would be no good."

"Yes, it would," said Matt; "it's documentary evidence, and it will be
one brick in the tower we want to build up; so don't you get sneezing at
it because it ain't everything.  It will be one thing; and so far so
good, when we get it.  You see it's a ticklish thing, and before you put
it in a solicitor's hands--a respectable solicitor's hands, for cheap
law's the dearest thing in Lincoln's-inn--you must have something to
show him.  Now, so far so good, only recollect your uncle's on firm
ground, while as yet you're nowhere.  Now say we go to a good solicitor.
`Were you born in wedlock?' says he.  `Yes,' says you.  `Now then,'
says he, `prove it.'"

Septimus sighed, and began to wonder whether his uncle was right.

"Now, then," said Matt, "family Bible with birth in, eh?"

"We had one, full of plates," said Septimus, recalling the old Sunday
afternoons, when he had leaned over the table, amusing himself with the
engravings; "but there were no entries in it, only my grandfather's
name.  I fancy, though, now you mention it, my father had a little
pocket-Bible with some entries in, but I never took particular notice."

"Rotten reed--a rotten reed," said the old man.  "You are not sure; and
even if you were, your uncle's been foxy enough to hunt the place over
and over, and that book's gone up the chimney in smoke, or under the
grate in ashes, long enough ago.  No will, you say?"

"Not that I could hear of," said Septimus.

"We might, p'r'aps, find the nurse, or doctor, or some old friend; but
then, unless they can bring up documentary evidence, 'tain't much good.
You know, when old folks are made to swear about things that took place
fifty years ago, people shake their heads and think about failing
memories, and so on.  You see we must have something strong to work
upon.  If we could get the date of your birth, and the marriage
stiffikit, we should be all right, shouldn't we?"

"Yes, they would prove all we want," said Septimus.

"Exactly so," said Matt; "and if we couldn't get the date of your birth,
how about date of baptism?"

"That would do just as well," exclaimed Septimus.

"No, it wouldn't," said the old man, "without it's got in how old you
were when the parson made a cross on your forehead--eh?"

Septimus was damped directly.

"It's no use to be sanguine, you know, sir.  What we've got to do is to
expect nothing, and then all we do get is clear profit.  Now, where were
you baptised--do you know that?"

"Yes," said Septimus.

"Well, that's all right, if it contains the entry of your age at the
time, but we won't be sure; and if it does, you see if your uncle don't
bring someone to swear it's false, and that they nursed you a
twelvemonth before you really were born.  Most likely, you know, there'd
be half-a-score done at the same time as yours, and they never asked
your age.  I don't say so, you know, only that perhaps it was so.  Now,
what do you call your birthday, sir?"

"Tenth of January 17--," said Septimus.

"Very good, sir; but then, that's only what you say, mind, and a bare
word's not worth much in a court of law when a case is being tried.
`'Tis,' says you.  `'Tisn't,' says your uncle, who's rich, and
prosperous, and respectable, and has the money, and lives in a big
house, with plenty of well-to-do friends round him.  `Prove your case,'
says the judge to you; and mind you, sir, this is the ticklish point; it
ain't a question of who's to have your father's money.  He's got it, and
it's a question of your turning him out.  So, `Prove your case,' says
the judge.  `You've left this man in possession for a year, and now you
say he does not hold the property lawfully.  Prove your case.'  `Can't
my lord,' says you--`no documentary evidence.'  And now do you know what
the judge would say?"

Septimus shook his head dismally.

"`Judgment for the defendant'--that's your uncle, you know."  And then,
as if highly satisfied with his logical mode of putting the case.  Matt
snapped his fingers loudly after a large pinch of snuff.

"But," said Mrs Septimus, "my doctor told me that he always kept a
register of all the births he attended."

Mrs Septimus said no more, for old Matt's fist went down upon the table
with a bang that made some of the ink leap from the stand, but
fortunately not upon Septimus Hardon's clean sheets of paper.

"I beg your pardon, ma'am!" cried Matt, hurriedly sopping up the ink
with his wisp of a handkerchief; "but blame me if I don't wish I'd been
born a woman! trust them for getting to the bottom of everything.  Why,
Lord bless you, sir, there you are--there's the case in a nutshell!--
that's the matter hit right in the bull's-eye!  Why didn't you begin
about it before?  You're right as a trivet.  There's the date of the
marriage, and there's the doctor's book--such-and-such a day,
such-and-such a time; medicine and attendance, two pound twelve
shillings and sixpence.  Hallo!" exclaimed Matt, scratching his head,
"that comes very pat; where did I hear those words before?  But there,
look here, sir; I think we've got hold of the right end of the tangle,
and here it is.  You go down to Somesham and tell nunky how it stands.
`Here we are,' says you, `and now give up peaceable and quiet, and I'll
say nothing at all about what's gone by.'  Of course he won't, and
begins to talk big about kicking out of the house, and all that sort of
thing.  `Two can play at that,' says you; and as he won't be civil, he
must have it hot.  Back you come; put it in a decent solicitor's hands;
with your good documentary evidence out he goes--in you go; and my
di'mond has a pony with a long silky tail; Miss Lucy a carriage, and
missis here an invalid chair, and old Matt to push it--eh, ma'am?"

"But about finding the doctor," said Septimus sadly.

"Well, yes--true, to be sure," said Matt, over a fresh pinch of snuff;
"but I think we can manage that part, sir.  Don't you see, we can tell
our road now we've got our line cut out; and we've only got it to do.
There's some pye in the case, of course, but we can correct as we go on,
eh?  There's a doctors' directory, and we can soon find him."

"There's a hitch directly," said Septimus.  "I don't know his name."

"Phillips!" exclaimed Mrs Hardon excitedly.

"There we are again," cried Matt; "who'd be without a good partner?"

"But how do you know?" said Septimus.

"I remember in your mother's last illness," said Mrs Septimus, "that
she told me how she longed for her old doctor, for she felt sure Mr
Thomas Hardon did not understand her complaint; and that was the first
cause of disagreement between your father and Dr Hardon.  I heard your
father tell him afterwards that he had killed his Sister, and to leave
the house."

"But the name?" said Septimus, anxious to change the conversation.

"Phillips--the same as my own; and that was why it made an impression
upon my memory."

"Talk about cards to play, sir!" cried Matt, "why, that's winning: your
partner has played the leading trump."

Septimus Hardon rose from his seat to begin anxiously pacing up and down
the room.  He could see plainly enough the value of the position he was
nerving himself to fight for, but he shrank, as he had shrunk again and
again, from the exposure certain, whether he succeeded or not.
Vacillating in the extreme, he was at one time telling himself that it
was his duty to try and clear his mother's fame, though the next moment
would find him shrinking from the task, while his brow wrinkled up as he
sighed and looked from face to face, lastly on that of old Matt, who,
having relieved himself of the child, was taking snuff extravagantly,
and chuckling and rubbing his hands in anticipation of the coming
triumph.

"Now, sir," he said upon catching the troubled man's eye, "about this
doctor."

"Dead before now," said Septimus.  "Allowing him to have been quite
young for a doctor, he would be eighty now, and how few men reach that
age!"

"Pooh! nonsense!" cried Matt; "scores do--hundreds do--ninety either.
Eighty?  Pooh! nothing! youth, sir.  Why, I'm past sixty, and see what a
boy I look, eh?  Why, I believe Miss Lucy would pick me out from scores
to take care of her,--wouldn't you, miss?"

Lucy looked up from her work, nodded and smiled.

"But now business," said the old man.--"Where did you live, sir, before
you went down in the country?"

"Finsbury," said Septimus.

"And you were born there, eh?"

"I believe so," said Septimus, wondering in his own mind whether it was
worth all this trouble, perhaps to gain nothing.

"To be sure," cried Matt; "and now we shall soon find it out.  Brass
plate on the door--`Mr Phillips, Surgeon;' big lamp sticking out, red
bull's-eye one side, green t'other, like railway signals; `danger' and
`all right' to the people in the street."

Old Matt rose to go, after appointing to meet Septimus on the following
morning to take the first steps for obtaining the "documentary evidence"
so necessary for their future plans.

"Ten to the moment, you'll see me, sir," said Matt.  "Good afternoon,
ma'am, and--Ah, Miss Lucy's gone!"

But Septimus only sighed, and sat down once more to his weary copying,
sheets of which he so often spoiled by letting his thoughts wander from
the task in hand.

"No more business in him, sir," said Matt as he descended the stairs,
"than--Ah, here we are, then!  Thought I was going away without seeing
you again, miss;" for he had encountered Lucy upon the stairs.

"Hush!" she whispered, "I only wanted to ask you to please be careful.
I was so frightened this afternoon."

Old Matt buttoned up his coat as tightly as if his honour were inside
it, pursed up his lips, nodded his head seriously, and then laying one
finger upon the side of his nose he shuffled off, looking as mysterious
as if he were the repository of state secrets, and ready to bid defiance
to all the racks and thumbscrews of the good old times.

Lucy Grey stood for a minute gazing after the shabby figure, and then,
turning to ascend, she coloured slightly upon finding herself face to
face with the old Frenchwoman who occupied the attic floor, and who now,
with a sneering smile upon her thin lips and an inquisitive light
peering from her half-closed eyes, looked at her, and then passed softly
and silently as a cat down the stairs without saying a word.

Volume Two, Chapter V.

HOMES IN LONDON.

Bennett's-rents still upon that day--a bright breezy day--when for a
whole hour the god that kisseth carrion shone down into the court to
lick up every trace of green damp and moisture from the foul, broken
pavement.  There was a pump in Bennett's-rents, and a channel ran down
the centre of the paving, whose broken slabs rose and fell in wet
weather to the passing step, spurting out little founts of dirty water,
while the channel itself was choked, from being turned into a receptacle
for the superfluous odds and ends of the inhabitants--to wit: potato,
turnip, and carrot peelings; the shells of whelks, periwinkles, mussels,
and crabs; egg-shells were at times seen there, as also the nacreous
covering of the oyster, but not as the debris of banquets, since these
latter were only brought in by the grotto-building children, and the
former thrown out by the jobbing bookbinder's-finisher when robbed of
their albumen for purposes of trade.  Heads, tails, and the vertebra of
plaice, or the real Yarmouth bloater, were common objects of the shore.
Babies had been seen in that channel, which possessed a certain charm
from its safety, since the child that rolled in rolled no farther.  It
was the favourite resort of the small fry of the neighbourhood,--a
neighbourhood that rejoiced in small children, and big babies of an
elastic nature, which prevented falls and contusions from stopping their
growth,--for the refuse in that channel could be raked about and poked
at with bits of stick to the formation of dams, where walnut cock-boats
could be sailed, or mussel-prows launched; and occasional visitants from
as far off as Lower Series-place had been known to perch there and peck,
for the channel was famed for its ample supply of impromptu playthings
for the little savages of the place.  A large lobster-claw found therein
had formed the coral of Dredge minor, whose father worked at
Covent-garden Market, and never slept at home by night.  Little Jenny
Perkins wore a necklace composed of periwinkle-shells; while
whelk-shells, stuck at the end of thick pieces of firewood, and
previously filled with peas, formed rattles that were indestructible.

Like Lower Series-place, Bennett's-rents was famous for its prolific
inhabitants.  Long as daylight lasted, there was a dense small
population of half-dressed aborigines, hooting, racing about, playing,
and quarrelling, aided in their efforts by levies from others of the
rags of Lincoln's-inn.  Why called Bennett's-rents was not obvious,
though it might have been from the hideous cracks and seams in the
frowzy old houses, whose windows looked as if they had been in a
brown-paper-and-rag war, in which glass had suffered a terrible defeat,
and submitted now, with an ill grace, to the presence of the new
settlers.

But the children did not have the channel all up themselves, for at
early dawn the pigeons from the housetops paid it visits, and, in spite
of broken, dissipated-looking chimney-pots, falling-out mortar, and
shattered, soot-covered tiles, there were many soft-eyed, iridescent--
hued birds dwelling upon the roofs of the houses in Bennett's-rents;
and, more especially upon Sunday mornings, an observer from some high
edifice might have seen dirty-faced men, in hairy caps, rising out of
trap-doors in roofs, like "Mr F's aunt" through the factory-floor, and,
when half-way out, and forming prominent objects among little
wildernesses of sooty, lath-made cages and traps, amusing themselves by
waving red-cotton handkerchiefs tied to the end of sticks, for the
purpose of keeping their flights of pigeons high in air.

A rumour had spread through the court that something was to be seen in
the neighbouring street, when out trooped the children from the narrow
entrance, and comparative silence reigned, till place and echoes were
alike mocked by a man with his cry of "Rag--bone!" but his was labour in
vain: he took nothing further from the Rents to glut the shop of Mrs
Slagg, and, reaching the end of the place, he departed with his bag
still light, and the court knew him no more that day, though there were
rags enough in every house to have filled his sack again and again, and
drawn down the index of his portable weighing-machine to the furthest
limit.  Still there was another sound to be heard, for Mr William
Jarker, of the heavy jaw, flattened nose, and general bull-dog aspect,
was above his attic, whistling to his pigeons, as the Reverend Arthur
Sterne stood by the reeking channel, gazing up into the strip of blue
sky above his head, and following the circling flight of the birds as he
muttered sadly to himself, "O, that I had wings like a dove; for then
would I fly away and be at rest!" but the next instant he smiled sadly,
as he recalled work undone, duties to perform, and then thought of the
rest and fate of these birds, wondering, too, how it came that they
should form the "fancy" of the roughest of the rough.  Then he paused
with his foot upon the threshold of the house where Septimus Hardon
lodged, for there, in the hot, close London court, came gushing down in
tones of purest liquid melody, the wild, heaven-gate trill of a lark:
"Tsweet-tsweet-tsweet-tsweet!" every trill an intoxicating, magic
draught, drunk in by the ear, and--a very opium--bearing the hearer far,
far away to green fields, shady woodlands, golden hill-sides, and
sparkling brooks; louder, louder and more rapturous, thrilling the air
around; rising and falling, echoing from far and near, but ever sweet
and pure, even joyous at times; and praise the song of the wild bird as
you may, there is that in the trill of its caged brother in some close
London alley that shall sound the sweeter in the sadness engendered by
the surroundings, for it whispers of brighter scenes and purer homes,
bearing you with it far, far away from the misery where you stay.

Even Bill Jarker ceased waving his handkerchief, took his short, black
pipe from his mouth, and listened; the curate thought of days when, with
a soft white hand in his, he had wandered over the downs, listening to
those ever-sweet English notes; while from the window above was
stretched forth the fair, shapely head of Lucy Grey, her eyes sparkling,
and lips apart, as if to command silence; and then, as the curate looked
up, there was a slight start, a faint flush of colour in the girl's pale
cheeks, and her head was quickly withdrawn.

A tall, slight, careworn man was the curate of Saint Magdalen's; hair
sprinkled with grey, deep lines crossing his brow, and yet there was a
smile of ineffable sweetness lingering about his mouth--a smile which,
far from telling of weakness, whispered of sorrow, tenderness, patience,
and charity.

The few minutes of tranquillity had passed.  The door of the house stood
open--as, in fact, did that of every other house in the
thickly-inhabited court; the children began to troop back, Bill Jarker
took to his pipe and pigeon-flying, and with thoughts trembling between
the ideal and the real, the curate entered the door before him.

It was not a Saturday, or he would have found the ascent of the stairs
troublesome; but he well knew the manners and customs of the natives,
and abstained from making his visits on that day of the week, for on
Saturdays there was a rule carried out (one set in force by the
landlady), that the attics cleaned down to the second-floor, the
second-floor to the first, the first-floor to the passage, which last
portion fell to the lot of the occupants of the parlours, front and
back--two families who took it in turns to make the dirt upon the said
passage wet, and then to smear it from side to side with a flannel, so
that the boards always wore the aspect of having been newly hearthstoned
with a lump of brown clay, if the simile will stand.  Consequently, upon
this seventh day of the week, when the lodgers were busy, and Mrs Sims
could be heard sniffing as she "did Hardons' bit," the journey upwards
was dangerous, for if the traveller avoided the snares and pitfalls
formed by divers pails and brown pans, or even, maybe, a half-gallon can
from the public at the corner if the pail was engaged; if he saved
himself from slipping on the sloping, wet boards, and fell over no
kneeling scrubber in a dark corner, he most certainly heard low-muttered
abuse heaped upon his head for "trapesing" over the newly-cleaned
stairs--abuse direct or indirect, according to the quality of the
traveller.

Not, then, being a Saturday, Mr Sterne entered the house known as
Number 7--by tradition only, for the brass number, after being spun
round by one pin for some months, suddenly disappeared--passed along to
the worn stairs, two flights of which he ascended, creaking and cracking
the while beneath his weight, and every one sloping, so that it seemed
hanging to the wall to save itself from falling.  He paused for an
instant upon the landing opposite Septimus Hardon's rooms, and listened
to the rapid beating "click-click" of Lucy's sewing-machine; then up two
more flights; and again, without pause, up two more, which groaned with
weakness and old age; while sunken door-frames, doors that would not
shut, and various other indications, told of the insecure condition of
the house.  And now once more he paused upon the top landing, where some
domestic spider had spun a web of string, stretching it from rusty nail
to rusty nail, for the purpose of drying clothes--garments now,
fortunately for the visitor, absent.

Here fell upon the ear the twitterings of many birds, and the curate's
face again lighted up as the song of the lark once more rang out loud
and clear, apparently from outside the window of the attic before whose
door he stood.  But his reverie was interrupted by a sharp shrill voice,
which he could hear at intervals giving orders in a quick angry tone.
Then followed the lashing of a whip, a loud yelp, or the occasional
rapid beat of a dog's tail upon the floor.  At last, turning the handle
of the rickety door, the visitor entered.

"_En avant!  Halte la!  Ah-h-h! bete_!  O, 'tis monsieur," were the
words which greeted Mr Sterne as he entered the sloping-roofed attic,
one side of which was almost entirely window--old lead-framed lattice,
mended in every conceivable way with pasted paper and book-covers; and
there, in the middle of the worn floor, stood the thin, sharp-faced
woman of the cellar, holding in one hand a whip, in the other a hoop;
while two half-shaven French poodle-dogs crouched at her feet.  Seated
by the open window surrounded by birdcages, conspicuous among which was
that of the lark whose notes enlivened the court, was a sallow,
dark-haired, dark-eyed youth, eager-looking and well-featured, but sadly
deformed, for his head seemed to rest upon his shoulders, and the leg
twisted round the crutch which leaned against his chair was miserably
attenuated.

"_Bon jour_!  How are the pupils, Madame la Mere?" said the curate,
taking a broken chair and seating himself.

"_Bete, bete, bete_!" hissed the woman, making feigned cuts with her
little whip at the crouching dogs, which yelped miserably as they shrunk
closer to the boards.  "Ah, what you deserve!" she said.

"And how are the birds, Jean?" continued the visitor, addressing the
young man, who was looking at him half-askance.  "Your lark gives me the
heartache, and sets me longing for the bright country."

The curate had touched the right chord, for the youth's face brightened
into a pleasant smile directly.

"Does he not sing!" he said, with a slight French accent; and he leaned
towards the cage where the bird, with crest erect, was breasting the
wooden bars, and gazing with bright bead-like eyes up at the blue sky;
but as soon as the cripple's finger was inserted between the bars, the
bird pecked at it playfully, fluttered its wings, and then, with head on
one side, stood looking keenly at its master.

"O yes, he sings," hissed the woman; "but he is obstinate, is Jean; he
should sell his bird, and make money, and not let his poor _mere_ always
keep him."

"Pst, pst!" ejaculated Jean, frowning upon his mother; but she only
stamped one foot angrily, and continued:

"He is _bete_ and obstinate.  The doll down-stairs with the
needle-machine loves the bird, and she would buy it, and it is worth
four shillings; but Jean will that his mother seek his bread for him in
de street, wis de stupid dogs; and they are _bete_, and will not learn
nosing at all.  _Allez donc_!"

As the woman grew more voluble in her speech, she passed from tolerable
English to words with a broader and broader accent, till the command
given at last to the dogs, each word being accompanied by a sharp cut of
the whip, when the animals rose upon their hind-legs, drooped their
fore-paws, and then subsided once more into their natural posture, but
now to bend their fore-legs, as if kneeling.  Then they rose again,
drooped, and afterwards meekly crossed, their paws, winking their eyes
dolefully the while, and, with an aspect of gravity made absurd, walked
slowly off to separate corners of the room, where they again went down
upon all-fours, and then sat wistfully winking at and watching their
task-mistress.

"See, then!" she exclaimed, in her harsh shrill voice.  "They would not
do it, though I try thousand time; but now the task is ended they walk.
Ah-h-h!"

The cut in the air which accompanied the exclamation might have fallen
upon the dogs themselves, for the miserable little objects yelped as
they saw it fall, and, as if moved by one muscle, laid their heads
against the whitewashed wall till, seeing themselves unnoticed, they
curled up, but never for a moment took their blinking eyes off their
mistress.

Amidst much muttering, and with many frowns and short sharp shakes of
the head, while her lips were pressed closely together, the woman, after
much fumbling in her pocket, drew forth a partly-knitted stocking; when,
sitting down, she began furiously clicking her needles, watching the
while, with half-closed eyes, the curate and her son.

"So, then, you will not sell your lark, Jean?" said Mr Sterne.

The cripple knit his brow slightly, shook his head, and then drawing a
long, delicate, girlish finger over the bars of his favourite's cage,
the lark set up its crest, twittered, fluttered its wings, and again
pecked at the finger.

"No, no, no," he said softly; "why does she complain?  I would work if I
could; but I sell and make money of these, though it seems cruel to keep
them shut up, and they beat themselves against their prison-bars to get
out into the free air and the green woods.  And I'm sorry for them when
the little breasts grow bare, and the feathers lie in the bottom of the
cage; and she says--_ma mere_ there--that I am _bete_."

The woman seemed to compress every feature, as she shook her head
fiercely, and went on with her knitting.

"Look!" continued Jean softly, as he smiled and pointed rapidly from
cage to cage, "canaries, linnets, redpoles, goldfinches, and a
blackbird.  The thrush broke his heart with singing, they said--the
birdcatchers--but it was not that: I know why.  I have sold four birds
this week; but I keep the lark; he is a favourite."

"Bah!" ejaculated the mother softly; "but he is _bete_;" when, as the
curate turned, she was bending over her knitting, shaking her head and
frowning, while she stabbed fiercely again and again at the worsted ball
till it was transfixed by her needle, when she replaced the ball in her
pocket, where the first drag she gave at the thread drew the ball from
its place and it rolled on the floor.  "Ah! good dog, _bon chien_!" she
cried, as one of the poodles ran forward, caught the errant ball, and
bore it to his mistress, returning immediately to his corner; but not to
be unrewarded, for the woman rose, and forcing up the sliding socket,
caused a little scrap of tallow-candle end to shoot out of a
tin-candlestick as from a gun, when, receiving permission, the dog
snatched it from the floor, and devoured the savoury morsel in its
corner.

"But he should sell the lark, monsieur," said the woman.

"Hush, _ma mere_," said the cripple angrily; "the bird is not to sell."

The mother shrugged her shoulders, and clicked her needles furiously.

"We all have our loves and likes, madame," said the curate quietly.

"O, yes, yes, you rich; but we poor?  No.  We must live, and eat and
drink, and have clothes; and Jean, there, has ruined me in medicine.
What do we want with favourites, we poor?  But that they help to keep
us, I would sell the dogs.  We are all slaves here, we poor; and we sell
ourselves, our work, our hands, our beauty, some of us,--is it not so?
and you rich buy,--or we starve.  It is a bad world for us old and ugly.
I am not like the doll upon the floor down-stairs."

A sharp angry glance passed between mother and son, as the former rose
from her seat, and with a short quick step left the room, driving back
the dogs as they tried to follow; while it was evident that her words
jarred painfully upon the curate.  "Our beauty, some of us," seemed to
ring in his ears again and again, and he could not help associating
these words with the latter part of her speech.

"How do you get your birds, Jean?" said the curate, making an effort,
and breaking the silence.

"From him," said the young man, nodding across the court to where Bill
Jarker sat half out of his trap-door, still keeping up his pigeons, for
a stray was in sight, and he was in hopes of an amalgamation, in spite
of the efforts being made by neighbouring flights.  "From him: he goes
into the country with his nets--far off, where the green trees wave,
while I can only read of them.  But the book; did you bring the book?"

Thinking of other birds breasting their prison-bars: now of the fair
bright face that he had seen at the window below, now of that of the
cripple before him, the curate produced a volume from his pocket, and
smiled as he watched the glittering eyes and eager aspect of the young
man, as, hastily grasping the volume, he gazed with avidity upon the
title.

"You love reading, then, Jean?" said the curate.

"Yes, yes," cried the cripple.  "What could I do without it?  Always
here; for I cannot walk much--only about the room.  Ah, no!  I could not
live without reading--and my birds.  She is good and kind," he
continued, nodding towards the door; "but we are poor, and it makes her
angry and jealous."

The lark burst forth with one of its sweetest strains as it heard its
master's voice, and then, rising, the curate left the attic, closing the
door after him slowly, and peering through the narrowing slit to look
upon the cripple eagerly devouring a page of the work he had brought.

The Frenchwoman was upon the first landing, and saluted the curate with
a sinister meaning smile as he passed her and thoughtfully descended.

"But he is mean, I tell you," cried _ma mere_ angrily, as she once more
stood beside her son.  "What does he give us but words--words which are
worth nothing?  But what is that?  My faith, a book he brought you?  You
shall not read; it makes you silly, and to forget your mother, who does
so much for you.  But I will!"

"Ah!" cried Jean, painfully starting from his seat, and snatching back
the volume, and just in time, for the next moment would have seen it
flying from the open window.

"Then I will sell the lark when you are asleep," cried the woman
spitefully.

The youth's eyes glittered, as, with an angry look, he hissed between
his teeth, "Then I will kill the dogs!"  But the anger passed from his
countenance in a few moments, and smiling softly, he said, "No, no, _ma
mere_; you would not sell my poor bird, because I love it, and it would
hurt me;" and then, casting down her knitting, the woman sprang across
the room, throwing her arms round the cripple, and kissing him
passionately, calling him by every endearing name, as she parted the
hair from his broad forehead, and gazed in his bright dark eyes with all
a mother's fondness.

But the curate heard nothing of this--nothing but the loud song of the
lark, which rang through the house--as slowly and thoughtfully he
descended the worn and creaking stairs, while the woman's words seemed
to keep repeating themselves in a slow measured way, vibrating in his
ears, and troubling him sorely with their cutting meaning; and more than
once he found himself forming with his lips, "Our beauty, some of us."

Volume Two, Chapter VI.

SHADES.

The lark was silent once more; and now from the open door of the
first-floor, rising and falling, with a loud and rapid "click, click,
click," came the sound of Lucy Grey's sewing-machine--"click, click,"
the sharp pulsations of the little throbbing engine, whose needle darted
in and out of the soft material held beneath it by those white fingers.
But as one of the stairs gave a louder crack than ordinary, the machine
stopped, and the quiet, earnest, watching face of Lucy Grey appeared at
the door, which she now held open, bowing with a naive grace in answer
to the curate's salutation.

"My mother wished me to watch that you did not go down without seeing
her to-day," said Lucy apologetically; for Mrs Hardon was far from well
that week, and, since the long discussion that morning between old Matt
and Septimus, she had been bemoaning her lot in a weak spiritless way,
till, finding all his attempts at consolation of none effect, Septimus
had taken his hat and gone out for a walk with his boy.  To-day Mrs
Septimus would be tolerably well; to-morrow, in a weak fit, exacting
sympathy from husband and child in a way that would have wearied less
loving natures.  Now she would refuse food, upon the plea that it could
not be afforded for her; consolation, because she was a wretched,
miserable burden; and medicine, because she was sure that it would do
her no good.

"Be patient with her, my darling," Septimus would say to Lucy--a
needless request.  "Think of the troubles she has gone through, and then
look at me."

"What for?"  Lucy would cry, laughingly prisoning him by seizing his
scrubby bits of whisker in her little fingers, and then kissing him on
either cheek,--"what for?  To see the dearest father that ever lived?"
And then memories of the past would float through Septimus Hardon's
brain as he smoothed down the soft braided hair about the girl's white
forehead.  But there were tearful eyes above the smiling lips, and
Septimus Hardon's voice used to tremble a little as he said, "God bless
you, my darling!"

"Our beauty, some of us," seemed vibrating in the curate's ears as Lucy
spoke; but the bright look of welcome, the maidenly reserve, and sweet
air of innocence emanating from the fair girl before him, seemed to waft
away the words, and, returning to the present, he followed her to where
Mrs Hardon was lying down.  Drawing a chair to the bedside, he seated
himself, to listen patiently to the querulous complaints he had so often
heard before--murmurings which often brought a hot flush to Lucy's cheek
as she listened, until reassured by the quiet smile of the curate--a
look which told her how well he read her mother's heart, and pitied her
for the long sufferings she had endured,--sickness and sorrow,--which
had somewhat warped a fond and loving disposition.

Perhaps it was unmaidenly, perhaps wrong in the giver and taker, but,
seated at her sewing-machine in the next room, Lucy would watch through
the open door for these looks, and treasure them up, never pausing to
think that they might be the pioneers of a deeper understanding.  She
looked forward to his visits, and yet dreaded them, trembling when she
heard his foot upon the stairs; and more than once she had timed her
journeys to the warehouse so that they might take her away when he was
likely to call; while often and often afterwards, long tearful hours of
misery would be spent as she thought of the gap between them, and bent
hopelessly over her sewing-machine.

A long interview was Mr Sterne's this day, for Mrs Hardon was more
than ordinarily miserable, and had informed him two or three times over
that she was about to take to her bed for good.

"But it does not matter, sir; it's only for a little while, and then
perhaps I shall be taken altogether.  I'm of no use here, only to be a
burden to that poor girl and my husband.  But for me and the different
fancies I have, that poor child need not be always working her fingers
to the bone.  But she will grow tired of it, and Mr Hardon's health
will fail, and our bit of furniture will be seized; and I'm sure I'd
rather die at once than that we should all be in the workhouse."

"But," said Mr Sterne, smiling, "don't you think matters might just as
likely take the other direction?  See now if it does not come a brighter
day to-morrow, with a little mental sunshine in return for resignation;"
and he whispered the last few words.

Now there was some truth in what Mrs Septimus Hardon said; for had it
not been for her liking for strange luxuries when her sick fits were on,
Lucy need not have worked so hard.  At other times Mrs Hardon was
self-denying to an excess; but when in bed, probably from the effort of
complaining, her appetite increased to a terrible extent, and she found
that she required sticks of larks roasted, fried soles, oysters, pickled
salmon, or chicken, to keep her up, while port-wine was indispensable.
But if she had preferred ortolans to larks, game and truffles to chicken
and oysters, if the money could have been obtained she would have had
them.  And many a day Septimus and Lucy dined off bread-and-cheese, and
many a night went supperless to bed, that the invalid's fancies might be
gratified.

The conversation went on, and Lucy at her work more than once raised her
eyes; but when her mother's complaints were like the last, she bent her
head, and the tears she could not restrain fell hot and fast upon the
material before her.

"What have I to hope for?" moaned Mrs Hardon, taking refuge in tears
herself when she saw how Lucy was moved.  "What have I to hope for?"

"Hope itself, Mrs Hardon," said the curate firmly.  "You suffer from a
diseased mind as well as from your bodily ailment; and could you but
come with me for once, only during a day's visiting, I think you would
afterwards bow your head in thankfulness even for your lot in life, as
compared with those of many you would see."

"Yes, yes, yes, I know," sobbed the poor woman; "but don't be angry with
me.  I know how weak and wicked I am to murmur, when they study me as
they do; but when I am like this, this weary time comes on, I am never
satisfied.  Don't--don't be angry with me."

Mrs Hardon's sobs became so violent that Lucy hurried to the bed and
took the weary head upon her breast; when, drawing his chair nearer, the
curate took the thin worn hand held out so deprecatingly to him.

"Hush!" he whispered; and as he breathed words of tender sympathy that
should awaken her faith, the mother looked earnestly on the sad smile on
the speaker's face, a smile that mother and daughter had before now
tried to interpret, as it came like balm to the murmuring woman, while
to her child it spoke volumes; and as her own yearned, it seemed to see
into the depths of their visitor's heart, where she read of patience,
long-suffering, and crushed and beaten-down hopes.

All at once a heavy step was heard upon the stairs, and Lucy started
from her mother's side as a loud rough noise called "Mrs Hardon!  Mrs
Hardon!"  But before she could reach the door of the other room, the
handle rattled, and the curate could hear a man's step upon the floor.

"Hush!" exclaimed Mrs Hardon, "it must be a letter;" and involuntarily,
as he rose from his chair to leave, the curate had to stand and listen,
gazing upon Lucy, who stood in the middle of the next room, now flooded
with light from the sunshine which streamed through staircase window and
open door, and he could not but mark the timid face of the girl as she
stood wrapped as it were in the warm glow.

But it was no letter, only Mr William Jarker, who, invisible from where
the curate stood, was telling Lucy in familiar easy tones that his
"missus wanted to see the parson afore he went."

As Mr Sterne stepped forward and saw the ruffian's leering look and
manner, and the familiar sneering smile upon his coarse lips, he
shivered and turned paler than was his wont before knitting his brows
angrily, while, troubled and confused, Lucy looked from one to the other
as if expecting Mr Sterne should speak.

But the look made no impression upon Mr Jarker, who directed a
half-laugh at Lucy, and then, nodding surlily towards the curate, he
turned, and directly after there came the sounds of his heavy descending
steps as he went down, leaving the room impregnated with the odour of
the bad tobacco he had been smoking.

"Our beauty, some of us," rang in the curate's ears once more, and like
a flash came the recollection of the meeting he had witnessed in the
street.  His mind was in a whirl with thoughts that he could not
analyse; while as his eyes met those of Lucy, the girl stood with face
aflame, trembling before him--looks that might have meant indignation or
shame, as, with the smile still upon his lip, but so altered, the curate
turned to go; but he stopped for a moment at the door, where out of
sight of Mrs Hardon, he could again confront the shrinking girl with a
long inquiring gaze; but trembling, agitated, with lips void of
utterance, though parted as if to speak, Lucy stood back, her eyes now
cast down, and, when she raised them once again, he was gone.

Then, with the colour slowly fading, to leave her face ashy pale, Lucy
stood with outstretched hands, gazing at the closed door.  Something
seemed rising in her throat which she tried to force back, and it was
only by an effort that she kept from crying out, as, falling upon her
knees by a chair, she buried her face in her hands, choking down the
sobs, lest her mother should hear; though she, poor woman, slowly turned
her face to the wall, ignorant of her child's suffering, and slept.

And now again came ringing down the sweet clear trill of Jean's lark,
till, worn out with the impetuosity of her grief, the poor girl raised
her head, smoothed back her dark hair, and half-sitting, half-kneeling,
listened to the strain.

The song ceased as suddenly as it had commenced, and the void was filled
by a long, loud whistling; when, with lips set firm, and angry
countenance, Lucy rose and stepped lightly across the room to her
sewing-machine by the open window, where, raising her eyes, she could
see Mr Jarker, pipe in hand, presenting himself once more as a
half-length study, as he whistled and cheered on his flight of pigeons,
which sailed round and round, till the whirring and flapping of their
wings brought up early days of her childhood, and Lucy seemed to gaze
upon some half-forgotten woodland scene in the country, with ring-necked
stockdoves crowding on a bending branch after their return from flight.

But no such visions floated before the mind's eye of Mr Jarker, for his
pipe was out; so, ceasing his whistle, he proceeded to ignite a match
upon the blackened pipe-bowl, screening the tiny flame between his hands
till the tobacco was in a glow--all the while in happy oblivion of a
pair of indignant flashing eyes that rested upon him till their
brightness was once more dimmed by tears.  Heedless, too, was Mr Jarker
of the strange sardonic leer directed at him from the attic-window
opposite his own, where _ma mere_, with her dim grey eyes, glanced at
him from time to time as she busily knitted, or stabbed her ball of
worsted; for Mr Jarker was evidently interested in what was taking
place beneath him, as he glanced through his trap from time to time.
And now once more, with rapid beat, rose the "click, click, click," of
Lucy's sewing-machine, as, flashing in and out of the fine material the
needle laid in its chain-like stitches; but Lucy Grey's finely-stitched
lines were far from even that afternoon.

Volume Two, Chapter VII.

WITH MRS JARKER.

Always at the call of the poor of his district, the Reverend Arthur
Sterne sighed as, slowly descending towards the court, he tried to drive
away the words that seemed to ring in his ears; but in vain, for the
next moment he was muttering them once more; and the thought came upon
him that, for many months past, he had been gazing at the Hardon family
through a pleasant medium--a softening mist, glowing with bright
colours, but now swept away by one rude blast, so that he looked upon
this scene of life in all its rugged truthfulness.  He told himself that
the mist had once opened to afford him a glimpse, while again and again
he smiled at the folly which had led him to expect romance in a London
court.  The pleasant outlines and softened distance, toned down by the
light mists, were gone now, and he gazed upon nothing but the cold, bare
reality.  It was strange; but he did not ask himself whether the bitter
blast might not have brought with it some murky, distorted cloud, whose
shade had been cast athwart the picture upon which, he now woke to the
fact, he had dearly loved to gaze; and still muttering to himself, he
slowly went down step by step.

"So young, so pure-looking!  But who could wonder, living in this
atmosphere of misery?  But what is it to me?" he cried angrily; for
strange thoughts and fancies came upon him, and his mind was whispering
of a wild tale.  The thoughts of the past, too, came--of the happy days
when, in early manhood, he had loved one as fair and bright--one whom
another bridegroom had claimed, as having been betrothed to him from her
birth.  The cold earth had been her nuptial-bed, and he, the lover,
became the gloomy retired student until his appointment to a city
curacy, and the devotion of his life to the sorrows of the poor.  But
again he bit his lip angrily, at making the comparison between the dead
and the living.  What connection was there between them, and of what had
he been dreaming?  What indeed!  After years upon years of floating down
life's stream,--a calm and sad, but placid journey, unruffled but by the
sorrows of others,--he now awoke to the fact that unwittingly he had
halted by a pleasant spot, where he had been loitering and dreaming of
something undefined--something fraught with memories of the past; and
now he had been rudely awakened and recalled to the duties he had
chosen.

He passed into the court, and stood for a few moments gazing at where
there was a cellar opened, with half a score of children collected to
drop themselves or their toys down; while, being a fresh arrival upon
the scene, a cluster of the little ones began to get beneath his feet,
and run against him, or give themselves that pleasant cramp known as "a
crick in the neck," by staring up in his face; but he freed himself from
his visitors by hastily entering the opposite house.

More than one door was opened, and more than one head thrust out, as Mr
Sterne ascended the staircase; but in every instance there was a smile
and a rude curtsey to greet him, for he had that happy way of visiting
learned by so few, and his visits always seemed welcome.  Those who,
moved by curiosity, appeared, were ladies, who directly after became
exceedingly anxious concerning their personal appearance.  Aprons, where
they were worn, were carefully stroked down; hair was smoothed or made
less rough; sundry modest ideas seemed to rise respecting a too great
freedom of habit where a junior was partaking of nourishment; but
everywhere the curate met with cordial glances, till he once more stood
in front of an attic and entered.

Mr Sterne had so far only encountered females; for "the master" of the
several establishments was out at work, or down in the country after the
birds, or at the corner of some street where there was a public-house,
at whose door he slouched, in the feeble anticipation that work would
come there to find him, or that the landlord or a passing friend would
invite him to have "a drain;" but Mr William Jarker was, as has been
seen, at home, though, with the exception of his legs, invisible; for he
was among his pigeons, emulating the chimneys around by the rate at
which he smoked--chimneys smoking here the year round, since in most
cases one room formed the mansion of a family.

But Mr Sterne had not come to see Jarker, but at the summons of his
wife, in whom some eighteen months had wrought a terrible change.  She
sat wrapped in an old shawl, shivering beside the few cinders burning in
the rusty grate--shivering though burned up with fever, the two or three
large half-filled bottles of dispensary medicine telling of a long and
weary illness.  The wide windows admitted ample light, but only seemed
to make more repulsive the poverty-stricken place, with its worn,
rush-bottomed chairs, rickety table, upon which stood the fragments of
the last meal; the stump bedstead, with its patched patchwork
counterpane; the heaped-up ashes beneath the grate; the battered and
blackened quart-pot from the neighbouring public-house standing upon the
hob to do duty as saucepan; while here and there stood in corners the
stakes and nets used by Mr Jarker in his profession of birdcatcher.  A
few cages of call-birds hung against the wall; but Mr Jarker's custom
was, when he had captured feathered prey, to dispose of it immediately--
pigeons being his "fancy."

A sad smile lit up the woman's face as the curate entered,--a face once
doubtless pleasing, but now hollow, yellow, and ghastly; where hung out
flauntingly were the bright colours which told of the enemy that held
full sway in the citadel of life.

"I knew you would come, sir," she whispered, letting her thin white
fingers play amongst the golden curls of a little head, but
half-concealed in her lap, where one bright round eye as peeping timidly
out to watch the stranger; and then, as the curate took one of the
broken chairs and sat beside the sick woman, whenever she spoke it was
in a whisper, and with many a timid glance at the ladder and open trap
in the roof, where her master stood, as though she feared to call down
punishment upon her head,--"I knew you would come; and Bill was easy
to-day, and come and fetched you, though he came back and said you were
busy, and would not stop."

"Look alive, there, and get that over!" cried Mr Jarker from the trap.
"I ain't a-goin' to stand here all day;" and by way of giving effect, or
for emphasis, this remark was accompanied by a kick at the ladder, and a
shake of the trap.  Then followed an interval of peace, during which the
presence of the domestic tyrant was made known only by the fumes of his
tobacco, which floated down into the room, and made the poor woman cough
terribly.

Once Mr Sterne was about to tell the fellow to cease, but the look of
horror in the woman's face, and the supplicating joining of her hands,
made him pause, for he knew that he would be but adding to her suffering
when his back was turned.  The open trap seemed to act as a sort of
retiring-room for Mr Jarker when anyone was in the attic that he did
not wish to see; but every now and then during the earnest conversation
with the suffering woman, there came a kick and a growl, and a shake of
the ladder, which made Mr Sterne frown, and the poor woman start as if
in dread.  And so, during the remainder of the curate's stay, the
consolatory words he uttered were again and again interrupted; while at
last the voice came growling down as if in answer to a statement Mrs
Jarker had just made:

"Don't you tell no lies, now, come, or I shall make it hot for yer!"
When in the involuntary shudder the woman gave, there was plainly enough
written for the curate's reading the long and cruel records of how "hot"
for her it had often been made.

And now the importunities of the child by her knee aroused the poor
woman to a forgetfulness of self in motherly cares, when the curate took
his leave, but in nowise hurried by the savage shake that Jarker gave to
the ladder--a shake which brought down a few scraps of plaster, to fall
upon the cages and make the songsters flutter timidly against their
prison-bars.

Half-way down the stairs Mr Sterne encountered the woman with whom he
had seen Lucy in the Lane; the woman he presumed to be the mother of the
child Mrs Jarker had now for some time nursed.

For a moment he stopped, as if to speak; but he remembered the next
instant that he had no right to question her, and he stood gazing
sternly at her, while, as she shrank back into a corner of the landing,
her look was keen and defiant--the look of the hunted at bay.  Once he
had followed her for some distance, and then perhaps he would have
spoken; but now the desire seemed gone, and linked together in his mind
were Lucy, _ma mere_, the ruffian he had left up-stairs, and this woman.

"But what is it to me?" he thought bitterly; and, hurrying down the
stairs, he stood for a moment at the doorway, heedless of the children
scampering over the broken pavement--heedless that, with hot eyes and
fevered cheeks, Lucy had left her sewing-machine and stepped back from
the window that she should neither see nor be seen--heedless of all
around; for his thoughts were a strange medley--pride, duty, and passion
seeking to lead him by different roads.  Then for a while he remembered
the poor woman he had left, whose leave-taking he felt was near--a
parting that he could not but feel would be a happy release from sorrow
and suffering.

At last, turning to go, he cast his eyes towards the open window that
Lucy had so lately left, when, with knitted brow and care gnawing at his
heart, he passed out into the street, and walked towards his lodgings;
but even there, in the midst of the busy throng, where the deafening hum
of the traffic of the great city was ever rising and falling, now
swelling into a roar, and again sinking to the hurried buzz of the busy
workers, ever rang in his ears the bitter words of the old
Frenchwoman--"Our beauty, some of us!"

Volume Two, Chapter VIII.

DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE.

"Now, sir," said old Matt, as he appeared, brushed-up and smart for the
occasion, punctual to his appointment; "now, sir; here we are--baptism,
marriage, and doctor.  First ought to come last, you know, only Saint
Mark's Church comes before Finsbury, don't you see?"

Septimus Hardon rose from his writing with a sigh, for he was far from
sanguine of success, and would fain even now have given up his task
entirely, so feeble seemed to him the likelihood of any advantage
accruing; but in obedience to instructions from Mrs Septimus, old Matt
rattled on about the future, thoroughly doing his duty in keeping the
shrinking man to his part; and so they started.

They made their way out into Holborn, and then up Skinner-street, past
the frowning walls of Newgate, and into the street of the same name;
when old Matt could not get along for stopping to admire the various
joints displayed, and giving his opinion upon their merits.

"Here, let's go this way, sir," he said, turning into Warwick-lane.
"Pretty game this, sir, isn't it?  Slaughtered sheep, and murdered
novels, and books of all sorts close together.  Authors' sheep's-heads,
and butchers' sheep's-heads cheek by jowl.  Rum thing for both trades to
get so close together.  Regular bit of philosophy if you like to take it
up, sir; stomach and brains, you see, food for both--books for the
brains, meat for the stomach; and then backwards and forwards, one feeds
the other, and one couldn't get on without the other; and here they are
situated close to the very heart of the City.  Look at the circulation
going on--wonderful, ain't it, sir?"

Old Matt stopped by a slaughter-house, not to pity the simple animal
just killed, but to point out sundry choice portions that might be had
bargains, if they could have availed themselves of the opportunity.

"Wouldn't do, though, to go about such a job as we have on hand carrying
a sheep's-head, would it, sir?" he observed to Septimus.

"No; pray come along, and let's get our task over," exclaimed the
latter.

"To be sure," said Matt, coming to himself, and the next minute they
were in Paternoster-row.  "Lots of my old friends here," said Matt,
stopping short in the middle of the narrow way, to be hustled by boys
laden with sheets of paper fresh from the press, lads carrying reams, or
newly-bound works tied between boards; men with blue bags over their
shoulders heavily laden with books; men with oblong "mems" in their
hands which they consulted as they hurried from swinging door to
swinging door, collecting the publications of the different firms.  Once
the old man was nearly run over by a truck full of type-galleys driven
by a pair of reckless imps of some neighbouring printing-office; while
at least four times he came into contact with the fruit-baskets of the
nymphs in stout boots and flattened bonnets, whose haunt is the
labyrinth of learning known as "the Row."--"Lots of my old friends
here," said Matt as his companion looked bewildered, and was thrust off
the pavement; on to it again; into booksellers' where he did not want to
go; and once against the muddy wheel of a cab, whose driver roundly
abused him for nearly getting himself injured.--"Lots of my old friends
here.  Ah, you needn't mind a bit of pushing, sir--it's a busy place.
Now, you know, if I liked to hunt about, I could find more than one bit
of my work here, for I've done things and bits of things that's come out
in more than half these places.  All sorts of stuff; and what a sight of
work a man can be put upon in a matter of fifty year, from playbills to
prayer-books, and down again to penny-a-lining and posters!  Law and
physic's been my strongest points: but there; I've been on your
magazines, and newspapers, and three-volume novels, and pamphlets, and
everything else that's printed on a leaf, 'cept' last dying-speeches and
halfpenny songs; and I never did get down, quite so low as that.  I've
taken hold of author's copy so queer that it's made you scratch your
head and torn the paper t'other way up to see which is tops and which is
bottoms, and then back again, for you've been as wise as ever.  Talk
about ants and bluebottles running over the paper with inky feet, that's
nothing, sir.  You've seen them painter-chaps, sir, graining the
shetters of shops?"

Septimus, seeing that he was expected to say something, roused himself
from his brown study, and nodded.

"Well," continued Matt, "you see they have what they call a tool, though
it's only a flat brush made like a comb, and with that they make lines
cross and across the panels, all about the same distance apart, and then
they dab them lightly with a long soft brush to keep the grain from
looking too stiff and hard.  Well, I've had copy that's looked as if the
author had used one of these tools dipped in ink, and streaked it across
and across the paper, and then dabbed it, not with a very soft brush,
but with a very hard one, shoving in, too, a few smears and blots, just
to fill up as knots and specimens of cross-grain.  Up one goes to the
overseer and asks him to help you, giving the other men a side-grin at
the same time.  He takes it, looks at it, turns it over, and then can't
make anything of it, though he won't say so; for overseers must of
course seem to know everything.  So he sticks it back in your hand, and
says he, `Go and make the best you can of it; for I'm busy.'  Well, you
go back, and make the best you can of it; puzzles out one word, jumps at
another, puts in two, and guesses two more, while you make a couple more
out of the next line fit in somewhere after 'em; and so, one way or
another, it gets scrambled up, and the proof goes to the reader, who
cuffs his boy's head because he blunders so over the stuff he can't make
head nor tail of, though he's as much bothered as his boy; while, though
some of them are clever, intelligent fellows, some of those readers,
sir, have about as much imagination as a mop.  They're down upon a wrong
letter, or bad pointing or spelling, and stick a big qy? against a bit
of slack grammar, like lightning; but give 'em a take of stuff where the
author goes a little out of the regular rut, and it bothers them as much
as the bit of copy I'm talking about.  Well, sir, corrections get made,
and the proof is sent in to the author, who most likely don't know it
again; but he sends it back so as one has a better chance of getting it
together; and so it goes on, backwards and forwards, till it's all
right, and they write `press' in one corner, when it's printed, and, as
far as we're concerned, there's an end of it.  Strange ways, ain't they,
sir?"

Septimus Hardon stared in a bewildered manner at the speaker, but did
not answer.

"Blest if I think he's heard a word I've said," muttered the old fellow.

"Strange?" said Septimus, rousing himself; "yes, very."

"'Tis, sir," said Matt, who was interested in his subject.  "Now, do you
know, sir," he continued after they had walked part of the way along the
Row,--"do you know that if I was younger, I should be for founding a
society, to be called the `Printers' Spectacle Association,' supported
by contributions from writers for the press, who by this means would
supply us with glasses, for often and often they quite destroy our
sight."

Old Matt's dissertation was put an end to by the driver of one of the
Delivery carts, when, returning to the matter which had brought them
from home, the strange couple were soon threading their way along
Cheapside.

There was but little difficulty in getting access to the registers of
the old church, and a not very long search brought the seekers to the
entry, in brown ink upon yellow paper, of the baptism of Septimus, son
of Octavius and Lavinia Hardon, January 17--; but though the ages of the
children before and after were entered, by some omission, his was
absent.

A copy was taken by both, and then they stood once more in the open
street.

"Just as I told you, sir," said Matt, "isn't it? there's the date; but
it don't say how old you were."

"No," replied Septimus; "but still it is satisfactory, so far.  Now
we'll see about the marriage, and then visit Finsbury."

"You know the church?" said Matt.

"Well, not exactly," said Septimus dreamily.

"There are two in the street; but it was at one of them."

"Good," said the old man; and soon after they stood in the street of two
churches, and, taking the most imposing, they obtained admission to the
vestry, where, after a long and careful search of the time-stained
register, they were compelled to give up, for there was no result; while
the regular way in which the leaves followed proved that none were
missing.

"Try t'other," said Matt laconically; and soon after they entered the
damp, mouldy-smelling receptacle of the registers at the second church--
a quaint, queerly-built place that looked as if architecture had been
set at defiance when it was erected.

Old Matt was quiet and laconic enough in his speech; but as leaf after
leaf was turned over, it was evident that the old man was more deeply
interested than Septimus himself; for he grew so excited, that he was
quite voracious with his snuff, his nose becoming a very devouring
dragon of Scotch and rappee, till the supposed date of the marriage was
neared, when the snuff was hastily pocketed.

"Rayther rheumatic spot this, I should think," said Matt to the sexton,
so as to appear quite at his ease.

"Well, yes, it _is_ damp," said the sexton, who would have had no
difficulty in passing himself off as Matt's brother; "but we have a fire
here on Sundays all through the winter."

"Don't have many berrin's now, I s'pose," said Matt, again bringing out
the snuff, but this time for hospitable purposes.

"Bless you, no," said the sexton, "ain't had one for years upon years.
All cemetery work now."

"To be sure, of course," said Matt, trying to converse in a cool
pleasant way, but with one eye fixed upon the trembling searcher; for
some of Matt's eagerness seemed now to be transferred to his companion.

"There's a great piece of the book out here," said Septimus
suddenly--"most of the year before the baptism."

"Torn out, by Jove!" muttered Matt, shaking his head, and looking
suspicion's self.

"Dessay there is, sir," said the sexton coolly; "the damp here would
spile the binding of any book."

"But, I say; look here, you sir; here's a good four months gone: no
Jennywerry, nor Feberwerry, nor March, nor April.  Looks precious
queer," said Matt.

"Ah, so there is--good big bit gone; all but a leaf here and there."
And then, to get a better look, the sexton took out an old leathern
case, drew out his spectacles, replaced the case very carefully, wiped
the glasses upon the tail of his coat, and then very leisurely put them
on, a process not directly completed; for, like their master, the
springs of the spectacles had grown weak, and were joined by a piece of
black tape, which had to be passed carefully over the sexton's head to
keep the glasses in their place.  "Ah," he said again, while the
searchers looked on, astonished at his coolness, "so there is--a good
big bit gone; but 'tain't no wonder, for the thread's as rotten as
tinder, and--"

"I say, old un, don't tear any more out," cried Matt excitedly; for the
sexton was experimentally disposed, and testing the endurance of the
thread and glue.

"There's plenty loose," said the old sexton, "and I shouldn't be a bit
surprised if you find a lot more gone."

Septimus Hardon looked at Matt, who returned the look, for the feeling
of suspicion was now fully shared.  However, they still went on
carefully searching.

"It's of no use," said Septimus at last, mournfully; "we may as well go.
I never had any hope."

"Don't be in a hurry, sir," said Matt.  "You know there are other ways
of killing the cat, as the old saying says; wait a bit.  Looks
suspicious, certainly," he said, treating himself to a fresh pinch of
snuff.--"I say, guv'nor, you haven't got the loose leaves lying about
anywheres, have you?  Not been taken away that you know of, eh?"

The sexton shook his head, thrust his hands to the bottoms of his
trousers-pockets, shrugged his shoulders to his ears, and then stood
gazing at his visitors with his spectacles high up on his forehead.

"No," said he, "nobody never meddles with 'em, 'cept a lawyer's clerk
now and then; and they're very civil, and just copies out something, and
gives me a shilling, and then goes."

Septimus Hardon took the hint in its first acceptation, while the mouldy
old sexton removed one hand from his pocket to accept the proffered
shilling held to him, before his visitors were about to take the second
part of the hint.

As they moved off through the damp old church, Septimus Hardon wondered
whether, upon some bright morning half a century before, his father and
mother had knelt before that altar and been made one.  He sighed as he
walked on, meeting in the entrance a tall, gentlemanly--looking man who
was passing in.

"What's to be done next, Matt?" said Septimus, in a dispirited tone.

"Pint of porter and crust o' bread-and-cheese," said the old man
decidedly.  "I'm faint, sir--got a fit of my chronics; but it's taking
me the wrong way to-day; I'm hungry, and you must want support.  Keep
your chin in the air, sir; we can't win every time.  You've had two
tries this morning, and one's come all right.  That register looks
suspicious, certainly; but after all you can't even go and swear that
your old people were married in that church; and even if you could, and
had the copy of the stiffikit, that ain't all we want, for it don't
prove that you weren't a year old then."

"Hi!" cried a voice behind them; and upon the cry being repeated, they
both turned to find that the old sexton was telegraphing them to come
back, by wagging his head in the direction of the church-door.

"What's up now?" said old Matt when they reached him.

"Parson wants to see you in the westry," was the reply.

Anxiously following the old man, Septimus Hardon found himself in the
presence of the gentleman he had encountered at the door.

"I think," said he, "that you have been complaining of the bad state of
our registers, and really we deserve it.  I have only been here a few
weeks, and have done but little towards getting them right.  However, I
have quite fifty loose leaves and pieces arranged here ready for pasting
back, though I can assure you it is no light task."

As he spoke, he took down from a little closet on the wall a heap of
damp-stained, ragged, worthless-looking paper, and then set himself to
try and help discover the required name.

"Hardon," he said,--"Hardon, Octavius Hardon and Lavinia Addison.  We'll
lay those that are done with down here, if you please; for, though they
do not appear so, the leaves are in a certain order.  Hardon, Hardon,
Octavius, and Lavinia Addison," he kept on muttering, as Septimus and he
carefully examined column after column amongst the dilapidated leaves;
though Septimus progressed but slowly, for his hand trembled and a mist
swam before his eyes.

"Take a glass of wine," said the curate kindly, producing a decanter and
glass from the little cupboard; "you seem agitated."

Septimus took the glass with trembling hand, and then resumed his task
with increased energy, till at last there were not above half a dozen
leaves to scan, when he uttered an exclamation of joy, for there, upon a
scrap before him--torn, stained, and almost illegible--was the
sought-for entry, bearing the well-known signature of his father, and
the trembling handwriting of his mother.

"Here, here, Matt," he whispered, "look!" and the paper quivered in his
hands--"`Octavius Hardon, Lavinia Addison,' and signed by her old friend
Miss Morris."

"Right it is, so far," said Matt, holding his glasses to his eyes wrong
way foremost, with both hands, "and just a year and a half before the
baptism.  Now you know, sir, I pitched it pretty strong before now, so
as you shouldn't expect too much; but it's my belief that, after all
said and done, we've got enough documentary evidence; and things seeming
so very regular, if you had begun as you should have done, unless there
was something very strong on the other side that we can't see through,
you must have got a verdict.  But then I hardly like for you to try on
this only; for the law's a ticklish thing to deal with, and though this
all looks so straightforward, it don't prove against what your uncle
says, and will bring witnesses to swear."

"But how can he?" exclaimed Septimus, in a whisper.

"Ah," said Matt, refreshing himself after his wont, "how can he?  Why,
by means of that comical stuff as he's been so anxious to get hold of.
Why, sir, he could find witnesses as would swear to any mortal thing on
the face of this earth; they'd almost undertake to prove as you weren't
born at all, sir.  Mind, I don't say that they'd carry the day, sir; but
I'm only telling you of what villainy there is in this world, and how
you must be prepared, even to fighting the dev--I beg your pardon, sir,"
said Matt bashfully, as he pulled up short, having in his earnestness
forgotten the presence of the third party.

"I'm sorry to say that there's a great deal of truth in what you
assert," said the curate quietly; for Septimus was looking at him in an
appealing way as if expecting that he would demolish all that Matt had
advanced.  "Suborned witnesses are nothing new in this world of ours."

"Pull out your note-book, sir, and let's take it down," said Matt; and
as he spoke, he drew out an old dog's-eared memorandum-book and a stumpy
fragment of lead pencil that would not mark without being kissed and
coaxed every moment, when he copied the entry most carefully, compared
it with the original, and then with that just made by Septimus Hardon.

"Really," said the clergyman at parting, "I am extremely glad to have
met you this morning, and you may depend upon finding us in better order
at your next visit."

"There has been no trickery there you see, Matt," said Septimus, as they
stood once more in the street; "all seems straightforward."

"Just so, sir; your uncle seems to have some game of his own that I
can't quite see through as yet; but stop a bit.  Good sort o' chap that
young parson.  I'll ask him to dinner some day, though he didn't say,
`Take a glass of sherry, Matthew Space.'  Then how careful you ought to
be!  Now I should have been ready to swear that your precious uncle had
been at them books.  S'pose he ain't so much older than you, sir?"

"Not many years," replied Septimus.  "He was my poor father's younger
brother.  But now for the doctor!" he said in an elated tone.

"Thanky, sir, but suppose we have the porter and bread-and-cheese first.
You youngsters are so rash and impatient; and besides, I didn't taste
that fine old dry sherry, you know.  One thing at a time's the best
plan, and it seems to me that a little refreshment's the next thing
wanted.  'Tain't no use to suppose, sir, that because a horse has won
one race he'll go and polish off the next the same hour.  D'yer see,
sir?"

Septimus expressed himself as being able to see, and he submitted
forthwith to his companion's guidance.

Now most people would imagine that Matt entered the first inviting open
portal that presented itself, where the gorgeously-emblazoned boards
announced the retailing of So-and-so's entire; but no.  Old Matt seemed
very particular and hard to please, passing house after house before he
could meet with one to his satisfaction; and in a quarter of an hour's
brisk walk a few public-houses can be passed in London streets.  But
Matt had something else on his mind besides draught stout; and at last,
when Septimus Hardon's patience was well-nigh exhausted, the old man
stopped short before a place where the window displayed a notice to the
effect that the Post-office Directory was at the bar.

"There," said Matt, pointing to the window, "thought me a nuisance now,
didn't you, sir?  But that's what I wanted.  So now we'll have our stout
and cheese, and a look at the doctors too."

Seated in the public-house parlour, fragrant with the fumes of flat beer
and stale tobacco, they were soon discussing the foaming stout and more
solid refreshments, though Septimus spent the greater part of his time
poring over the volume he had laid open upon the gum-ringed table--a
volume that Matt considered would be as useful as a medical directory.
Surgeons there were in plenty; but only one answering to the name of
Phillips, and he was practising at Newington.

"Moved there, perhaps," said Matt.

Septimus Hardon shook his head, and read again, "Phillips, EJ, Terrace,
Newington."

"Stop a bit, sir," said Matt, rising and catching the ring hung from the
ceiling, and pulling the bell.--"Here, fill that pint again, my man;
and, I say, got another of these d'rectories anywheres?"

"Yes," said the pot-boy, "there's another somewheres--an old un."

"That's the ticket, my lad, bring it in."

The boy performed the, to him, satisfactory feat of pitching the pot in
the air, and catching it with one hand as he went out, though the
performance was somewhat marred by the vessel turning in its flight, and
announcing its descent by a small frothy brown shower, which sprinkled
the performer's countenance.  However, he was soon back with the
refilled measure, and a very dirty, very dusty, and dog's-eared old copy
of the Directory, with one cover torn off, and a general aspect of its
having been used for generations as the original London Spelling-book.

Septimus seized the bulky tome, and soon had the right page found; and
in this volume there was no mention of EJ Phillips of Newington.

"Young beginner," said Matt hollowly; for he had the pewter-vessel to
his lips.  "Anyone else same name?"

"Two more!" cried Septimus in a husky voice: "Phillips, Thomas,
Camden-town; Phillips, Nicholas, Chiswell-street."

"Hooray!" cried Matt, thumping down the pewter-pot, so that a portion of
the contents splashed over into the cheese-dish.  "That's the man we
want, sir; so finish your crust and cheese, and then off we go."  And
shrewd old Matt forgot to ask himself in his excitement how it was that
the name was not in the Directory often years later date, but acted up
to what he was advising, and, then late in the afternoon, they again
started on their search.

It was not a very long walk from Walbrook to Chiswell-street; but old
Matt made very little progress, halting at times as if in pain, while in
answer to inquiries he only smiled and declared that it was his
"chronics."  Now he panted and seemed out of breath, then he paused at
one of his favourite halting-places, but too short of breath to make a
speech, even had he felt so disposed.  At the last stoppage, induced by
Septimus Hardon's eager strides, the old man panted out:

"Let's see, sir; you walked down to Somesham, didn't you?"

"Yes," replied Septimus somewhat surprised at the question.  "Come
along;" for he was now as eager to continue the quest as he had formerly
been to avoid it.

"That's all very well," said Matt, panting; "but I shouldn't have liked
to walk with you, and if Chiswell-street had been t'other side the
square, you'd have had to carry me, so I tell you; and--"

"Is anything wrong?" exclaimed Septimus anxiously, for his companion had
turned very pale and haggard.

"Not much," he gasped; "better d'rectly--out of breath rather."

But he seemed to grow so much worse, that all thought of farther search
was forgotten in the anxiety to get the old man to the principal
thoroughfare, for he stoutly refused to hear of a cab being called;
though he sank back thoroughly exhausted in a corner of the omnibus,
when at last the right one passed with room inside.

A quiet cup of tea and an hour's rest seemed to restore the old man, and
he rose to leave Bennett's-rents, firmly refusing to allow Septimus to
walk home with him, though it was only by slow stages and great exertion
that he reached his lodging.

Volume Two, Chapter IX.

THE CURATE AT HOME.

The task of the Reverend Arthur Sterne was weary, and one that might
have made him sigh had he known no other troubles.  Work, work, work, of
the most disheartening character for the most part; and it was only in
rare instances that he could feel in his own heart that his labours had
been of any avail.  Here he would listen to a hypocritical tale of woe,
there to a story of real sorrow; now his task would be to try and point
out some foolish reckless piece of extravagance; then to call to account
for folly and idleness.  Everywhere there was the same display of live
to-day, and let to-morrow take care of itself.  Forethought and
providence seemed to know no home in Bennett's-rents and the
neighbourhood, perhaps because hope had often been so long deferred that
the sickened hearts believed in it no more.  Dirt everywhere,
drunkenness frequently, vice often, with their followings of sorrow,
repentance, disease, and death.  Years, however, had made him to be
looked upon as a friend, and his step was always welcomed, while,
effecting what good he could, he toiled patiently on; fearing no fever,
dreading no epidemic, but ever ready, he visited the bedside of the
stricken--the vilest or the most unfortunate--ready to join his prayers
to theirs for pardon--to point out the long neglected road that should
have been taken--to teach the ignorant the words they had never known,
or perhaps forgotten years upon years before.  His was a task that knew
but little earthly recompense, save the knowledge of duty done; but many
a parting soul blessed him with lips soon to be motionless for ever, or
thanked him with those glazing eyes from which the wild despairing look
had faded, as he knelt in intercession for one whose opportunity for
better things had never come, but who, born into the misery and
wretchedness of a great town, had passed in it the life now about to be
given up at the stern call that knows no refusal.

It was a weary task amidst so poor and wretched a flock; but could the
curate have been at rest, he would have been happy in the good he
effected, and the simple confidence now placed in him by those he
visited.  Even Bill Jarker had of late taken to pulling off his fur-cap
and picking it when they met; and there was no hypocrisy in the
salutation, for it was wrung from him by the genuine respect he felt.
But then the curate was not at rest, for he had now thoroughly awakened
to the germs which had rooted themselves in his heart, growing more and
more till his very life was interlaced with the strong fibres.  Now, he
would deliberately try to eradicate the growth, tearing and lacerating
himself in his efforts to rid himself of the unbidden guest; but the
progress he made was slow in comparison with the growth he fought
against.  Blindly, though, he would tell himself that he had conquered,
that the last root was torn out, and the door of his heart closed
against further entrance.  And then, in the pride of his believed
victory, he would tell himself of how he had been about to lavish riches
upon one beneath him, and unworthy, when his heart would reply that love
was a leveller, and laugh to scorn the subtle distinctions of caste;
reminding him, too, that this maiden had grown up as it were beneath his
eye, that he had watched her for years, while she was as well born,
perhaps, as he.  And then, in his heart, there would shoot forth a tiny
green blade, then there was the opening leaf, and soon again the
blossom; while roots spread here and there lacing and interlacing
stronger and stronger than ever, as if he had been by his efforts merely
preparing the soil for a richer growth of the ever-verdant clinging
plant that he sought in vain to tear away.

So wearily on, day after day, passed the curate's life, a struggle
between the natural affection and self-imposed duty, while night after
night in his sleepless hours he heaped up reproaches upon himself for
work neglected, and the dreamy musings into which he was wont to fall.
Self-deceiving, he had gone on taking more and more interest in the
Hardon family, blinding himself to his real sentiments, until now that
the veil had been so rudely snatched from his eyes he writhed hourly,
maddened almost, that he should have allowed his peace to have been
disturbed for what he fiercely told himself was worthless.

It was not a long walk from the Bennett's-rents region to Surrey-street,
where he had rooms in a gloomy wilderness of a house, which he shared
with a solicitor, an accountant, and a company that seemed to be
composed of a small secretary and a large heap of prospectuses.  Here he
would seek for the rest he could not find, anxious and worn, day after
day, since his last visit to the Hardons, much to the discomposure of
Aunt Fanny, who dwelt with him in the double capacity of housekeeper and
companion.

A prim, pleasant old dame, proud of her great age, and of her bright
silver hair, smoothed in bands beneath her quaint old widow's cap;
sitting or standing, ever with her arms crossed over her black
corded-silk apron, while a mitten-covered hand clasped each elbow.  A
prim, pleasant-looking old dame, always dressed in lavender poplin,
whose stiff plaits seemed to have been carved out of the solid, as she
stood at the window watching for the coming of her boy.  For "Arty"
always had been, and doubtless always would be, a boy in her pleasant
old eyes--eyes that spoke the truth of her tender old heart; though
there was one point upon which Aunt Fanny would err, and that was her
age.  Unlike ladies of a certain time of life, she was proud of her
years, and, doubtless from some haziness in her arithmetic, she was
given to adding to them, so that more than once in her arguments
respecting points of time, she somewhat upset her calculations.

"Why, aunt," the curate would say, "you cannot be so old as you say by
eight years."

"Nonsense, my dear boy, how can you know anything about it?  I'm
eighty-two."

"Then," he would say loudly, "you must have been thirty when you were
married."

"Nonsense, child; how can you be so silly!  And you need not shout so.
I was twenty-two when your poor uncle led me to the altar."  And then
she would fall to smoothing her black apron, and arranging the folds of
her dress, with hands that trembled in an agitated manner, a tear
standing in one of the still bright eyes, as the old recollections
sprang up, when, ceasing the discussion, her nephew would tenderly kiss
her hand, and sit affectionately gazing in her handsome old face.
Indeed time had paid a certain respect to Aunt Fanny, so that she looked
years younger than she really was, while all her faculties save one were
bright as ever; for proud though she was of the fine stitching placed
with her own needle round Arty's shirt-fronts--stitching aided by no
spectacles--and ignorant though she was of her failing, yet Aunt Fanny
was terribly deaf.

But she hardly felt the affliction, speaking of it as a slight weakness
which affected her when she had a cold, always remaining unconscious
that what she looked upon as a whisper was a conversation carried on in
a loud key.  Poor Aunt Fanny could not hear very well from her pew in
the gallery, right in front of the organ, for the thing would make, she
said, such a terrible buzzing sound; so a seat was provided for her just
beneath the pulpit, which she found necessary, for clergymen were not
what they used to be.  On the following Sunday, her nephew had ascended
to his place, spread out the black-velvet case she had made for his
sermons, prayed, and given out his text twice, when, before the first
words of the sermon were uttered, Aunt Fanny began to mutter to herself,
though her muttering was so loud that everyone present in the little
church must have heard it, her nephew himself being overwhelmed with
confusion.

"Dear, dear, dear!" she exclaimed; "it's of no use, and I can't hear a
bit.  I might just as well have stayed where I was.  O Arty, Arty, you
sad boy, why will you mumble so?"

Arty did not mumble any more that evening, but dashed headlong into his
discourse; so that when they returned, Aunt Fanny thought she rather
liked the new seat the better of the two.  Still it was of no avail; the
old lady could never hear well in that church; for rector and curate had
both got into a bad habit of speaking in a low tone, and drawling out
their words.  But Aunt Fanny's pity was sublime in the case of a friend
also troubled with deafness; though he knew it, and did not scruple to
make an ear-trumpet of his hand, though this was needless when Aunt
Fanny was the speaker; for her sentences were always perfectly audible.
"Poor Edwards!" she would say, as she smoothed down her apron, "what a
nice man you would be if you weren't so deaf!  It's a pity--a great
pity!"  And then she would sigh, in profound ignorance that "poor
Edwards's" confusion was caused by her habit of thinking aloud.

And this was the companion of Arthur Sterne's solitude; but there were
pleasant smiles to welcome him, and beneath their sunny rays the
deeply-cut lines that seamed his forehead grew less marked, while the
light of the pleasant old sunny face was reflected in his own.

Aunt Fanny had seen the change that had come over her nephew, and waited
patiently for his complaints, which came not; and after many days,
unable to contain her anxiety, she crossed to where the curate was
sitting, and, taking his hand, frowned severely as she felt his pulse.

"Well, aunty, and how is it?" he said, smiling at the earnest
countenance beside his.

But Aunt Fanny was too much occupied with her thoughts to speak, and
only nodded, and then shook her head, as, in her own mind, she went over
her long catalogue of simples suited to the various ills of human life,
till at last she settled upon camomile-tea as being the most efficacious
remedy for her nephew's complaint, which she settled to be disorder of
the liver, produced from over-work, and not a word would she hear to the
contrary.

"Now, don't shout, my dear; I'm not deaf.  You know you do too much; and
if you won't petition the bishop for a change, I shall.  What do you say
to a pleasant curacy in some pretty country place?"

Nothing.  What could he say, when he had wakened to the fact that, in
spite of pride and doubts, that court was all the world to him?

Appeal was useless; so, yielding with as good a grace as he could, the
curate suffered himself to be doctored for his complaint, turning to his
books for rest at every reprieve.  If it had not been for the heat of
the next few days, he would not have been allowed to stir out without
the thick muffler that had been aired for his throat; while the many
appellants who visited the lodging of a morning were answered by Aunt
Fanny herself; for many came to ask advice and comfort of the curate,
more especially from amongst the poor Irish; but though they came
ostensibly for spiritual, they generally managed to explain that a
little solid help would be most acceptable.

Till now, living in their quiet, simple way, the relations between them
being more like those existent with mother and son, Arthur Sterne had
had no secret from the dame; but now, when he would gladly have eased
his burdened heart by confidence, he shrank from laying bare its
secrets, even though he was in that state when men are most prone to be
confidential.  But there was to him something repugnant in the idea of
shouting words that seemed to demand that they should be whispered in
the twilight of some calm eve, when the reassuring pressure of that
time-marked hand would have been loving and tender.  For she had been to
him as a mother, taking that duty on herself when he had been left an
orphan, and now there seemed ingratitude in keeping back any of the
troubles of his life.  He had no doubts respecting Aunt Fanny.  Did he
but bring there a wife, and say, "I love this woman," she would take her
to her heart and believe in her; for, saving the mumbling in his speech,
Arthur Sterne could not, in her eyes, do wrong.  Still the secret was
kept--feverishly kept--and brooded over in the sleepless nights, or in
those dark watches, when, impatiently quitting the pillow that brought
no rest, he walked the streets of the sleeping city, alone, or in
company with some policeman; when mostly his steps would lead him to the
end of the court, where, in Septimus Hardon's window, generally
glimmered a feeble light--one whose purpose he often asked himself.

At times he would determine to flee the place, and in some far-off
country retreat try again to root out the love that had taken hold on
him; for here he felt that he could not reason with himself.  In vain he
conjured up visions of a calm, pale face, whose marble cheek he had once
kissed, an hour before it was laid in the grave; in vain he told himself
that he was faithless to that old love, and failing in his duty.  There
still was the sweet, gentle face of Lucy Grey haunting him ever; and
though he recalled the words of the old Frenchwoman, and her sinister
meaning--the meeting in the Lane, and, above all, the look of shame and
confusion--there was the same sense of love beating down all else.  But
he had made a resolve at last; and that was, to see and question the
woman he had seen in Lucy's company; he would see her, and then seek for
rest somewhere, since the idol he had unconsciously set up was sullied
and broken.

Twice over he had met this woman, but now his efforts to see her seemed
in vain.  He called at the Jarkers' again and again; but, in place of
her coming, as Mrs Jarker said, to see her child and leave the weekly
payment for its support, week after week, as if she knew that she was
watched, she came not, but sent money-orders by post.  He shrank from
speaking to Mrs Jarker concerning her connection with Lucy; while Lucy
herself he had not seen.  Watching seemed useless, for the woman came
not; and at last, almost in despair, he had determined to undertake that
which his heart shrank from--the questioning of Lucy herself.

At last, after a long and busy day, as now had become his wont, he
wandered through the streets for hours, apparently feeling no fatigue,
till, late in the night, he stopped by the Rents, walked slowly up the
deserted court, lit by its solitary flickering lamp, whose broken glass
made the flame dance and tremble, while when an extra puff of wind
passed down the court it was but extinct.  There was the faint light,
though, in one of the rooms occupied by the Hardons, and after standing
watching it for some time he hurried away, calling himself foolish,
romantic, boy, madman.  It was but a passing fancy, he told himself,
such a one as might have moved him in his youth; but his heart would not
harbour the belief, and mockingly cast it forth.

He was angry and half-maddened to feel how helpless he was, and what a
sway the impulse now moving him had obtained; to think that he--the
minister of religion, the teacher of others--should have so little power
over self that he should be swayed here and driven there helplessly; the
whole current of his quiet life turned from its course, and that too in
spite of the way in which he had battled, while the doubts that assailed
him only added to his misery.

Now as he hurried on he would meet some policeman, who turned to watch
him; now it would be some drunken reveller, or a wretched homeless being
just started from some corner where he had been sleeping, and compelled
to wander the streets till daybreak; but ever and again he would
encounter the flauntingly--dressed outcast humming the snatch of a
popular air with a wretched attempt at gaiety, which lasted till she had
passed, and then almost broke into a wail.  But he managed that they
should always meet face to face beneath some gas-lamp, when he would
sigh and pass on, for not one that he met during his search was the
woman of the Lane.

Mrs Jarker did not know her name, nor yet where she lodged; but the
little girl was to be called Agnes.  That was all the information the
curate could obtain; and at times he would frown, bite his lips, and
give up the search, but only to take it up once again for what he always
told himself was the last time.  Then he would play the hypocrite, and
tell himself that his motives were unselfish; that to marry a girl in
Lucy's position of life would be folly--absurd: he was only anxious for
her well-being and future life.

But these fits lasted only for a short time, and then, smiling bitterly,
he would, as upon this night, betake himself to the search once more.

And yet it was not on his account she came not to Bennett's-rents, for
Agnes Hardon knew not of his quest; she had other reasons, though the
visits to her child and Lucy were the only bright spots in her wretched
life.  Lucy heard from her from time to time through old Matt, who bore
her notes always under protest, but still obediently, though Lucy was
the only one who knew the poor creature's secret, and she dared not make
it known to Septimus lest he should forbid their meetings; for,
abandoned by all, hopeless, and in misery, Agnes Hardon clung to her
connection with Lucy as the only hope left on earth for self and child.
Her appeals to Somesham remaining unanswered, she had ceased to send,
and, removing from lodging to lodging, any attempt upon Mrs Hardon's
part to find her would have been vain.  She had shrunk from the keen
searching glances of the curate when they had met, seeing in everyone
now an enemy whose object was to break her intimacy with Lucy, whom she,
therefore, saw only by stealth.  Her heart bled for the misery of the
family, for she learned all from time to time at their meetings; while,
knowing full well that there was a will made, to which she had signed
her name as witness, yet could she not declare her knowledge, from a
shrewd suspicion that the doctor had made away with it, and she told
herself that she had already brought sorrow and shame enough upon her
home.

And to meet her, night by night stole Arthur Sterne through the streets,
ever hating himself for his madness, ever resolving that each search
should be the last, and still weakly yielding to the one great anxiety
that troubled him.  Now he would be seeing Lucy's candid face
reproachfully gazing at him, and directly after would come again the
bitter, spiteful countenance of the Frenchwoman, and he seemed to hear
her words, "Our beauty, some of us;" and at such times all faith in the
girl had gone.  "Our beauty, some of us!"  How the words seemed to ring
in his ears; they were borne to him in the echo of the far-off vehicle,
chimed by the clocks; the very air seemed alive with the words, till he
hurried on through street after street again to try and thoroughly wear
himself out, that sleep might come, and with it rest from the mental
anxiety and doubt he suffered.

At last he stood on one of the bridges, leaning against the parapet and
gazing down at the hurrying river, feeling the soft sweet breeze of
early dawn sweep up with the tide, whispering of the moaning sea and
far-off reaches where the green reeds sighed and rustled, and the wide
green marshes were spread out.  There was a faint light coming in the
east, and the stars were paling, as the gas grew sickly-hued and dim.
All was still and peaceful, so that he could hear the lapping of the
water far below as it seemed to whisper peace to his perturbed spirit,
telling of the far-off sea and its mysteries, the hopes and fears there
buried, and then of the many lost whom the river had borne down, when,
from perhaps where he then stood, they had taken the last fearful
plunge.  And who were they? he asked himself; who were they that plunged
daringly into the rushing river? and for reply the faint breeze seemed
to whisper, and the tide to sigh, "Our beauty, some of us!"  And then
trembling he leaned his hot brow against the cold stone balustrade,
fighting with the thoughts that oppressed him, with duty, religion, the
world, till, with almost a groan, burst from his lips:

"Save her?  My God! yes, as I hope to be saved!"

The early untainted breeze breathed upon his fevered lips as it rode
upon the breast of the coming tide; the stars paled more and more, the
faint pearly light in the east became roseate; and at last Arthur Sterne
stood gazing up towards the glowing cross of the great cathedral,
glittering as it was in the morning sun, while now, weary and jaded, he
turned to seek his home, but only to gaze with doubting eyes, for he
stood face to face with the woman he had sought through the night.

Volume Two, Chapter X.

ON THE SEARCH.

Doctor Thomas Hardon, of Somesham, seemed likely to have full enjoyment
of his brother's property, for Time kept on busy at work over his
harvest.  Septimus Hardon slowly and laboriously did copying for the
law-stationers, apparently quite content with his lot, for he scarcely
ever gave a thought now to the quest he had commenced with old Matt;
Lucy toiled on incessantly at her sewing-machine, the bright needle
flashing up and down, and the treadles set in motion by her feet were
hardly ever still.  Journeys were made to and from the warehouse from
whence she had her work, but mostly alone, for Lucy had lost her
protector: he had not returned since the day upon which he had been
taken ill, and they knew not where he lodged.  The information might
have been obtained from Agnes, but save a short note or two enclosed in
the regular letters sent to Mrs Jarker, in which she implored her to
watch over the child, Lucy had not heard from her.  Mr Sterne came and
went, visiting them as he would have visited at any other house,
treating Lucy with a calm, cold deference that made her weep bitterly
after each visit, and grow paler day by day; for the curate told himself
that he had at last conquered a foolish fancy, that he had triumphed as
became him, and that all he felt now was a sublime pity which prompted
him to watch her when she went out alone, and follow her at a distance
till he saw her once more in safety, when he would hurry home; for his
heart was very full of pity for Lucy Grey, even though he knew not of
the tears she shed in secret.

As to carrying on his researches alone, the very thought of such a
proceeding never occurred to Septimus Hardon--it seemed to border too
much upon the impossible; and besides, he was deep in that Slough of
Despond--poverty, which, instead of prompting men to energetic action,
too often enervates and breeds despair.  So he waited on day after day,
hoping to see old Matt again, and yet dreading the prosecution of his
claim-shrinking when it was named, for he seemed to grow less hopeful as
time wore on.  The curate had hinted more than once how willing he would
be to aid him; but Septimus always shrank so from entering upon the
matter, that Mr Sterne, from motives of delicacy, soon ceased to broach
the subject.

The sewing-machine clicked on early and late, and Jean's lark, when he
heard it, would set up his crest and whistle away, waking the echoes of
the court, while at the open window, when the bird was silent, Jean
Marais himself would crane forward and listen eagerly to the fragment of
some mournful little air which he could just catch at times, as the
machine stopped, and Lucy arranged a portion of her work.  But the sweet
notes from the first-floor seemed to rouse the lark to fresh exertions,
when its master would angrily chide it, and perhaps cover it with a
handkerchief, but only to snatch it away hurriedly.

"For she loves to hear him whistle," he would say; and then he would
smile again, as the bird burst forth once more in its joyous carol.

At times Lucy would ascend to the attic to take up a bunch of green food
she had bought for the birds, or a few flowers for the cripple, whose
eyes brightened when he saw her, but these visits were mostly paid when
_ma mere_ was from home; for in spite of her civil words, there was
something in the old woman's quiet smile that chilled her; so that she
dreaded meeting her more than if her looks had been those of anger.  But
she knew not the bitter words that had passed between mother and son
upon the subject, when _ma mere_ once angrily crushed a bunch of violets
Lucy had taken up to the suffering youth.

The sewing-machine was clicking away merrily one day, so that Mrs
Jarker could hear it from her sick-bed; Septimus Hardon was busily
copying at his little table, and the lark jocund as ever, when a slow
step was heard upon the stairs.  Lucy stopped her machine to listen, and
even Septimus raised his head from his work.  But there was no mistake--
it was not a visitor for up-stairs, but old Matt's own shuffling
footstep, and Lucy run to admit him.

Paler, thinner, more haggard, he came slowly into the room, rubbing his
hands and smiling with pleasure at the warmth of the greeting he
received.

"Never better," he said; "capital, thank you; been ill, though, and not
able to get out before, though I was afraid you would get all the work
done without me.  What have you done since I saw you, sir?"

"Nothing," said Septimus quietly.

"Didn't expect you had," said Matt drily.  "No offence, sir; but I
thought perhaps you might want me; so if you'll get your hat, sir, we'll
start at the point where we left off, and see after the doctor."

"But you will not be well enough," said Septimus, hanging back from the
task--more on his own account than on that of the old man.

"Don't you be afraid of that, sir.  I should have been well weeks ago if
it hadn't been for fidgeting about your affairs, and wanting to get out.
I'm as strong as a lion now, sir; but let's be at it.  I want a new
suit of clothes out of the estate, you know, sir, when you get it;" and
the old man chuckled and nodded at Lucy.

Septimus slowly wiped his pen, and carefully put away his paper, sighing
the while, for he was unwilling to start, and the fit of eagerness had
long ago evaporated; but at last he declared himself to be in readiness,
and the pair once more started off upon their search.

Upon this occasion they directed their steps at once to Finsbury, and,
after a slow, and what seemed to Matt a painful, walk, they reached
their destination.

"Here is the house," said Septimus, after a reference to his
pocket-book; "this is the number."

"H'm!--`Tollicks' Registry Office for Servants,'" read Matt from the
board over the door.  "This isn't the doctor's.  Sure of the number,
sir?"

"Yes," said Septimus, referring once more to his pocket-book; "yes; this
is the number I took down."

"So it is," said Matt, after a reference to his own memorandum-book.
"That's right enough; but wait a bit, one never knows where to be right
or wrong with numbers; they always were things as bothered a man; for
you have your numbers so-and-so a, and b, and c, and goodness knows how
many more, until you're regularly puzzled.  Perhaps that's an a, or a b,
or something of that kind, and the number we want is somewhere else."

"Let's walk on a little," said Septimus; and they went slowly down one
side and up the other, but this proved to be the only house numbered as
they wanted.

"Do you know of a Mr Phillips, a surgeon, in this neighbourhood?" said
Septimus to the first policeman they met.

The man of order shook his head, beat his white gloves together, and
then rearranged the shaken head in his shiny stock before continuing his
walk.

"Let's go to the fountain-head at once," said Matt; "perhaps they know
something about him.  Here we are again--`Tollicks' Registry Office for
Servants.'  Let's see what Mr Tollicks knows about him."

"Stop a minute," said Septimus, to keep procrastination alive for a few
moments longer.  "Perhaps there is another door."

"No more doors there, unless they're backdoors," growled Matt; and
leading the way, they stood in a floor-clothed room,--the office
itself,--furnished with a green--baize--covered table, bearing a
stencil-plate, inkstand, and brush; and beside the wall a long bench,
upon which sat apparently one of the servants waiting to be hired from
ten to four, as announced by a bill in the window, which spoke of cooks,
housemaids, and general servants as being regularly in attendance; but
most probably the others, tired, had gone home for the day, for the
damsel in question was the only one visible.  She was "Corrnwall sure,"
as indicated by the shape of her nose, though any ignorant person might
have been excused for mistaking her for an inhabitant of the sister
isle.

The door gave a sharp "ting" as it was opened, and another as it was
closed,--the refinement of the old jingling door bell of the chandler's
shop,--when the young lady on the bench rose, and made a bob and sat
down again, and someone from an inner chamber cried, "Coming!"  Then a
small dog with a very apoplectic voice barked loudly to the tune of a
little bell secured to its neck, and came waddling round the counter to
smell Septimus Hardon's legs; when visiting old Matt for the same
purpose, that gentleman favoured him with a pinch of snuff dropped
softly towards his nose, provoking a most violent fit of sneezing, and a
loud and agitated jingling of the tiny bell.

With the exception of the sneezing, there was now silence in the office
for a few moments, till the sound of rattling milk-cans upon the
pavement was heard.  A man gave vent to the well-known melodious London
yodel, and then opened the door, which again said "ting," when from the
inner chamber appeared a tall, stoutish, elderly-young female of very
grand deportment, which she displayed to great advantage by making a
most ceremonious salute--one that would have been invaluable to a
governess in a large-minded family of small means.  So elegant was the
salute, that even old Matt was staggered, and performed an operation
rather rare with him--he took off his hat.

"The side-door, my good man," said the lady to the milkman, who grinned,
winked to himself, and drew the door after him, when, quietly placing
the customary "ha'porth" in a cream-tin, he set it in a corner by the
door, jangled his cans as he took them up, and then yelled his way down
the street.

"Mrs Tollicks?" said Septimus, raising his shabby hat.

"Miss Tollicks," said the lady, with another profound courtesy almost
equal to the former.  "Perhaps you will be seated, sir."

Perhaps he would have been; but as there was only the form upon which
the auburn-haired damsel sat whilst waiting to be hired, Septimus merely
bowed again, and said, "Thank you," at the same moment inadvertently
directing a glance at the maiden in question.

"Thoroughly trustworthy, and has an excellent character from her last
place," said Miss Tollicks, who had seen the glance; "a very good cook--
plain cook, early riser, strictly temperate; in fact, a disciple of the
late Father Matthew.  Requires no followers, and only one half-day out
in the month.  Only twenty-two; wages twelve pounds; and a capital
washer."

The damsel had risen, and stood with her eyes half-closed, head on one
side, and her rather large mouth squeezed up into a modest smirk; and as
Septimus Hardon knew nothing of the maiden, he was bound to accept Miss
Tollicks' eulogium; but as to the last-named quality, it was very
evident that the girl was not a capital washer of self, while a
detergent applied to her hair would have made a manifest improvement.

"Indeed," said Septimus, bowing; "I am obliged, but--"

"Only _twelve_ pounds wages," said Miss Tollicks with emphasis.

"And very reasonable," said Septimus; "but--"

"You will find very few general servants willing to go for less than
fourteen," said Miss Tollicks.

"I suppose not," said Septimus; "but at present--"

"Then you don't think this young person would suit your requirements?"
said Miss Tollicks.

"Decidedly not," said Septimus eagerly, for he was getting so
exceedingly confused, that had Miss Tollicks pressed her point, he would
most probably have ended by hiring the damsel off-hand; for every glance
directed for help at old Matt glanced off the impenetrable armour in
which the old man had encased himself.

"Mary Donovan," said the lady of the house with dignity, "it is five
minutes past four; you need not wait any longer to-day."

Mary Donovan rose at the instant, and made a bob to Miss Tollicks, and
one each to Matt and Septimus--bobs that were a disgrace to her after
the elaborate obeisances she had so lately seen made; and then she took
her departure, played out by a couple of "tings," Miss Tollicks smiling
blandly, and courteously holding her head on one side as she stood
waiting to know the object of her visitors' call.

Miss Tollicks was a lady whom no one would have supposed to have been
born a genius, from the utter absence of ennobling qualities in her
face; but for all that she made-up showily, possessed a good figure, had
two little corkscrew curls on either side of her face, a suspicion of
thinness about her hair--parting, which on a small scale exhibited
somewhat the appearance of certain stout ladies' dresses in the back
when they have been without assistance in the hooking department; for
the said parting began correctly, and then gradually opened out, but
only to contract again and finish evenly some distance farther back.  By
way of head-dress, Miss Tollicks wore a black-velvet blackbird, with
handsome gold-bead eyes, the said ornithological head-dress being kept
in its place by means of a fillet of black-velvet and gold twist.  A
very thick, plain-linked, jet chain was round her neck, a very glossy
buckle at her waist, fastening the cincture of her very rusty black-silk
dress, slightly rubbed at the plaits; so that altogether Miss Tollicks
presented the aspect of a lady superior at the very least.

"We merely called," said Septimus, after an awkward pause, during which
he had been waiting for Matt to begin, "to--er--er--to--er--that is to
ask if you could give us any information respecting a Mr Phillips, a
surgeon, who once resided here."

"Dear me, how disappointing!" said Miss Tollicks.  "Now do you know I
thought you had come after servants; I did indeed."

"Really," said Septimus sadly, "I am sorry to have caused you
disappointment; but it was important that I should know, and I called--
urgent--troubled you," he stammered again, looking in vain at Matt, who
only took snuff.

"O, don't apologise, pray," said Miss Tollicks; "come in and sit down,
and let's--let me," she said, correcting herself,--"let me hear what it
is.  There, don't laugh at me, for one is obliged to be so particular
how one speaks to the grand people who come for servants."

Miss Tollicks led the way into her inner chamber, where the fat dog
slept snoringly in the sunshine; and, after a little hesitation, her two
visitors took the proffered chairs.

"Mr Flips, surgeon," said the lady of the place, after a little
preliminary conversation, "no, I never heard the name, and I've been
here two years this next week, when my landlord will most likely call.
He says he has a bad memory, but he always recollects the quarter-days.
He lives down in Dorsetshire, and when he comes up I can ask him if you
like; perhaps he would know; or you might write; but he's sure to write
to me directly to say he is coming, so that, as he says, I may be ready
for him, just as if one ever was ready for one's landlord.  Two years--
yes, just two years," she continued musingly.  "There was a whole year
at the millinery, which didn't half-pay the rent; for people here don't
seem to wear bonnets, and when they do, they've been turned and cleaned
and altered or somethinged or anothered, although I put my prices so low
that there was no room for a bit of profit.  Then there was the fancy
stationery three months, which was worse, for the only kind of
stationery the people fancied was penny-stamps, which cost me a penny
a-piece, and then people either wanted them to be stuck on their
letters, or else wrapped, up in paper.  Then there was the newspaper and
periodical trade, which was worse than all; for, as if just out of
aggravation, the people always came and asked for the very thing you had
not got.  I declare that if it wasn't that you can sit down and read
your stock, the periodical trade would be unbearable.  Only think of the
trouble people gave you by ordering things regularly and never coming
and fetching them; so that the back numbers used to get piled up most
terribly.  And now, you know, I've been six months at this, and it's so
trying, you can't think; for, you see, I'm worse off than anybody: I've
not got to please the missuses--I beg pardon, the mistresses only, but
the servants; and really, after my experience I can say that there's no
pleasing anyone."

Septimus Hardon glanced hopelessly at Matt, but he would not see him,
and took pinch after pinch of snuff furiously, with a comical expression
upon his countenance the former could not interpret.

"You see, though," continued Miss Tollicks, who seemed to have made up
her mind to thoroughly enjoy herself with a good talk; "you see, though,
there is one advantage--there's no stock required, and it is genteel;
but really, after all, it is so vexatious and pays so badly that I think
I shall give it up, and take to tobacco.  I suppose it's a business that
pays well, and people do use it to such an extent that it's quite
wonderful.  But let me see!  Phillips--Flips--Flips--no, I never even
heard of the name; but, do you know, I shouldn't wonder if a doctor did
once live here; for there's a regular street-door bell that rings
down-stairs, and another that rings up in the second-floor front, just
as the night-bell used to at Doctor Masters's, where I once lived at,
as--ahem, ahem!--excuse my cough, pray," said Miss Tollicks, colouring;
"but there!" she said sharply the next moment, "where I lived as
lady's-maid, and I don't see why I should be ashamed of it."

"Hear, hear!" said old Matt, speaking for the first time.

"But can you tell who lived here before you?" said Septimus.

"O, yes; a dairy," replied Miss Tollicks; "but it was only here six
months, and my landlord told me the people didn't pay any rent, but went
off in the night so shabby, leaving nothing behind but a black-and-white
plaster cow, and a moss-basket with three chalk eggs, in the window; and
my landlord says that's why he looks so sharp after me, which isn't
nice, you know; but then you can't be surprised.  Let me see, I think it
was a coffee-house before that."

"Perhaps," said Septimus, rising, "you will find that out for me when
your landlord calls.  I don't think we will trouble him by writing; and
maybe you'll ask him how long it is since a Mr Phillips lived here, and
if he can tell you to where he removed."

"That I will," said Miss Tollicks pleasantly; "and if you would not mind
taking one of my cards, you might be able to recommend me to one or two
patrons; and you too, sir," she continued, handing one to Matt, which he
took with a comical amused expression, and carefully placed inside the
lining of his hat.

"Hadn't you better ask for the landlord's address, and write at once?"
growled Matt, as soon as they were outside the house.

"Perhaps it would be better," said Septimus, hesitating; "but no, we
won't trouble her again; and it would only hasten the matter a day or
two--possibly not at all.  She has been very civil and obliging."

"Very," said Matt.  "Good sort of woman, she seems; but what a tongue!
As soon as ever she had trapped us in that room, `Matt, my lad,' I said,
`the people in this world are divided into two classes--talkers and
listeners.  You belong to the second class, so keep your place;' and I
did, sir, as you know.  I never attempt to tackle a woman on her own
ground, sir, which is talking.  I can talk, sir, leastwise I could when
I was well; but it's my humble opinion that that woman would have rapped
out three words to my one."

"There," said Matt, after they had walked a little way along the street,
he all the while rubbing his forefinger slowly round and round his pill
snuff-box, "I've taken all my snuff, as ought to have lasted till
to-morrow night, and all through that precious woman's tongue.  Let's go
in here, sir, and get a penn'orth."

"Here" was a very dirty-looking little tobacconist's and news-agent's;
and, so as to leave no stone unturned, Matt, whilst being served, made
inquiry touching Mr Phillips, a surgeon.

"No," said the woman who served, as she allayed the irritation of her
nasal organ by rubbing it with the back of the hand which held the
snuff-scoop, and so provoked a loud fit of sneezing,--"no, not in my
time."

"How long has that been?" said Matt.

"Five years," replied the woman.

Septimus Hardon walked out of the shop, and, after paying for his snuff,
old Matt followed him into the street, and they bent their steps
homewards.

"I'm dull and stupid and not right, you see," said Matt, "or else I
should have known why the name wasn't in the newest of those two
Directories.  One, you see, was more than ten years old, and the other--
well, it wasn't the newest.  But you leave it to me, sir, and I'll try
and find a medical directory, for I think there is such a thing.  I know
there is a legal one, for I helped print it; and there's one for the
parsons, so there's safe to be one for the doctors.  I'll ferret it out,
sir; and I shall be better to-morrow.  Those look nice, don't they?"
said the old man, stopping short in front of a pork-butcher's shop.

"Very," said Septimus dreamily, and without glancing at the freshly-made
chains of sausages hanging from the hooks in the window.

"You may always buy your sausages here, and depend upon 'em," said Matt;
"and if you'll listen to my advice, you'll take a pound back with you.
They'll wrap 'em in a bit of paper for you, and you can slip them in
your pocket, and have a nice fry for tea when you get home, and then
rest content; for, though we haven't done much, and I should have liked
you to have taken that landlord's name and address, yet things are
getting in train, I can tell you.  So you wait quietly at home, sir,
till I come again, for I suppose you won't want to do anything yourself.
I shall be stronger and better to-morrow or next day, I hope, for
somehow I can't get along as I used, and feel weak and muddled.  But
there, sir, slip in and get them sausages, and have a bit of patience,
and don't try to build any more till our mortar's a bit settled."

Septimus Hardon smiled sadly at the idea of his being impatient to go on
with the search, and, obeying his companion's hest, he obtained the
pound of flesh; and then they walked slowly on till they were once more
within the shadow of the law.

"And now I'm off, sir," said Matt, stopping short in Carey-street.  "I
think I shall go and lie down."

"Can I do anything for you?" said Septimus earnestly.

"Yes, sir," said Matt; "let me have my own way, please.  You let me go
my way, and I'll work the matter out for you if it's possible, so that
it shall be in trim for the lawyers, and then I'll give up.  But there,
I won't do anything without consulting you first, and--no, thank you;
I'd rather not.  No; I like sausages well enough sometimes, but not
to-day, thank you; I'm off in a moment.  Don't you do anything, whatever
you do, to put your uncle on his guard.  Depend upon it, he thinks now,
after all this time, that you've given it quite up; while, if things go
on as I hope, we shall come down upon him one of these days in a way
that shall startle him--shake his nerves so that he sha'n't find a tonic
for them."

Old Matt shuffled off, once more steadily refusing to partake of any
refreshment; while Septimus slowly and thoughtfully made his way towards
the entrance to the Rents, pondering over his visit to the churches some
weeks back, and then thinking that it would be better to settle down
contentedly in his present state, for fear that after research, labour,
and endless publicity, the words of his uncle should prove to be those
of truth, and his condition worse than it was at the present time.

"Better the present doubt and obscurity," he muttered.  "Octavius
Hardon, Lavinia Addison, Ellen Morris--all witnesses to the truth, but
dead, dead."

"Stop, stop!" cried a voice, as he turned into the Rents; and the next
moment, with his hand to his side, old Matt stood by him, gasping.  "I
ain't the thing to-night, sir; I'm ill, but I've got it here--here
somewhere," he said, tapping his forehead, "and I can't get it out.
It's here, though.  It's `medicine and attendance, Mrs Hardon--so
much,' isn't it?  That's it, sir, ain't it?"

Septimus stared wonderingly at him.

"You may well look, sir," said Matt, panting still; "but that's it, and
I've seen it somewhere, and I'll tell you where directly.  It all came
like a flash just after I left you; there it was, just as I saw it
written down: `Medicine and attendance, Mrs Hardon--so much;' and I can
keep seeming to see the words dance before my eyes now.  I saw them
written down somewhere once, and I can't just now say where; but I seem
to feel that I've got them all right, and I shall have it.  Good-night,
sir.  Remember me to Miss Lucy;" and the old man staggered away,
muttering aloud, "Medicine and attendance--medicine and attendance;"
while more than one person in the street turned to look at the bent
figure, to shake a sapient head, and mutter, "Or hospital."

For poor old Matt looked sick unto death, though Septimus Hardon, deep
in his own thoughts, had taken but little notice of the old man's
indisposition.

Volume Two, Chapter XI.

LUCY'S BEST.

Night after night, noticed by the curate during his wanderings, by _ma
mere_, and by Mr William Jarker, birdcatcher, when distant trips had
detained him until late hours, there still burned a feeble light in one
of the windows at Bennett's-rents; and by its gleam, until the moon rose
above the houses, and looked inquisitively down upon her paper, shedding
a silvery light that seemed to quench the rushlight's sickly yellow
flame, now sat Lucy Grey far into the long watches, with naught to
interrupt her but the occasional long-drawn breath or sigh from the
back-room, or the rumble of some vehicle through the distant streets.
Once she started up and stood trembling, for a shrill scream rang upon
the night breeze, but silence soon reigned again, and she retook her
seat.  Patiently bending over her task, with her large eager eyes
strained to follow the work of her fingers, the pale girl was busily
toiling on.  Toiling on at what?  Not at the sewing-machine, for its
busy throbbing pulse was still, but carefully and slowly writing line
after line in a common school copy-book to improve a handwriting already
fine, delicate, and ladylike.  A slate covered with figures lay too upon
the table, while beside it was a French grammar, and the words written
in the copy-book were in the same tongue.

And this had been Lucy's task night after night, till the red-rimmed
eyes would keep open no longer, and, wearied out, she lay down to dream
dreams that brought smiles to her lips, for her visions were of the
prize for which she studied.  But these nights of toil and the anxiety
of her heart had told upon her, and upon this night, the one succeeding
the journey to Finsbury, Lucy sat, looking more pale and wan than usual,
and her work progressed but slowly.  The place too, and the summer heat,
had had their share in producing her sickly pallor, for in
Bennett's-rents there was a faint lung-clinging odour that almost seemed
to tell that Death had passed over the place to put his seal upon those
soon to pass away.  Or was it the foul incense men burn to his dread
shrine, calling him to their homes--the thin invisible mist rising from
filth and rottenness, to blight the rosy cheek of health?  There was
enough in Bennett's-rents to drive away health, strength, and youth; for
premature old age lurked in the foul cisterns, rose from the drains, and
dwelt in the crowded habitations, houses made to accommodate six, yet
containing perhaps thirty or forty, souls.  But Lucy was sick at heart
as well.  Months upon months had she dwelt in the wretched court, though
until now its impurities had not seemed to touch her as she passed to
and fro.

The work went on slowly, and, weary and sad at heart, she stopped at
times, gazing up at the bright moon, till, recalling her wandering
thoughts, she again bent eagerly to her task.  Still her thoughts would
not be controlled, and soon the slate took the place of the paper, and
her pencil formed two words over which she bent lovingly, and yet with a
shudder, as if it were ominous to her hopes that she had written these
words, for the pencil gritted loudly over the slate, and the last stroke
was made with a harsh grating shriek which sounded loudly in the silence
of the night.  Still she bent lovingly over the characters, until, drip,
drip, drip, the tears fell upon them, and then, as her white forehead
sank upon her hands, the long gleaming clusters of her bright hair swept
over the slate, and the words were gone, while the girl wept long and
bitterly, for her dream of the future seemed rudely broken--that happy
dream of her life whose rosy hues had served to soften the misery of her
lot.  Toiling hard by day to supply the wants of her suffering mother,
working by night to make herself more worthy--to raise herself if but a
step nearer to him; and now it seemed to her that she had been roughly
dashed from the point to which she had climbed, by the words and looks
of a low ruffian whose very presence was repelling.

Suddenly Lucy raised her head, for the night was hot, and the window
open, and in the stillness of the hour she heard approaching footsteps--
steps that she seemed to know, and her pulses beat tumultuously as they
appeared to stop at the end of the court for a few minutes, and then
pass on; when, as if a weight had been removed from her heart, the poor
girl sighed, breathed more freely, and again bent over her books.

An hour passed, and then once more Lucy looked up, for, clear and sharp,
"tap, tap, tap," came the sound as of something hard, a tiny shot, a
pebble striking against the window-panes, and then once more there was
silence.

Lucy rose softly, her cheeks pale and lips apart, and stole on tiptoe to
the door of the back-room and listened.

All was silent there but the heavy breathing of sleepers, so she again
crossed the room, and with the nail of one finger gave a sharp tap upon
the pane, then hastily tying on her bonnet and drawing on a shawl, she
once more stood trembling and eagerly listening at the back-room, her
pale young face wearing a strange, frightened expression, and then
slowly and softly she stole to the door, opened it quietly, and closed
it again, to stand outside upon the dark landing gazing fearfully up and
down, as if in dread of being molested.

Slowly down she then passed step by step, with the old worn boards now
and again creaking sharply beneath her light weight, every rustle of her
dress sounding loud and distinct in the silence--down slowly to the dark
passage and the front-door, left always on the latch for the convenience
of the many lodgers.  And now Lucy's heart beat heavily, for she had
passed along the entry in an agony of fear, lest she might encounter
someone sleeping upon the floor, for at times homeless ones had stolen
in and rested there, glad of such a refuge from the night wind.

But Lucy stood at the door in safety, and raised the latch.  The paint
cracked loudly as the door opened, and admitted the faint light of moon
and lamp, while now the wind sighed mournfully down the court.  The next
moment the door was closed, and a dark figure had seized Lucy by the
hand, and drawn her towards one of the many gloomy entrances, as the
heavy step of a policeman was heard to pass the end of the court, his
ringing paces gradually growing fainter and fainter, till once more all
was still but the moaning sigh of the night wind, as it seemed at times
almost to wail for the miseries of Bennett's-rents.

A quarter of an hour, half an hour, an hour passed; but save the
occasional rattle of wheels in the great thoroughfare, all was silent.
The many doorways in Bennett's-rents seemed to frown darkly and
mysteriously as the one lamp flickered, while, where the moonbeams did
not fall, there were gloomy shadows.  But at last came the light step of
Lucy and the soft rustle of her dress as she crept up to the door,
passed through to steal once more up the creaking stairs, to throw off
bonnet and shawl, and sit down panting and trembling, her breath coming
hardly for a while, till tears came to her relief, when she wept long
and bitterly, the heavy booming of a neighbouring clock sending a
shudder through her frame.

Now pushing back her hair from her forehead, she looked out angrily upon
the night, now drooping and weeping bitterly, her head again sank upon
her hands as the tears of hopeless misery gushed from her eyes.  The
moonbeams shed their silvery lustre upon her head as she bent there,
playing amidst the riches of her beautiful hair, caressing it, hiding
and glancing from amidst the thick tresses, lingering there, and seeming
to shed a halo around.  But slowly the radiant orb rode on till but half
the bright tresses were in the light, and still slowly the shadows
increased as the rays swept by, flooding first one and then another part
of the room.  Soon all within was darkness, while the court was light;
and then slowly the shadow began to climb the houses on the other side,
making their dingy walls less loathsome as seen through the silvery
medium.  But before the lower part of the court was quite in darkness, a
heavy, slouching figure might have been seen to creep up to the house on
the opposite side and enter the door.  A few minutes after, Lucy Grey
started and listened, for, in the strange stillness of the time, a
rustling was heard upon the stairs, followed by a faint but laboured
breathing; while, though her light was extinguished, Lucy crouched
trembling in her chair, for it seemed to her that she had been watched,
and that even now there was a piercing eye at the keyhole, which fixed
her to her seat so that she dare not move.  But at last, from sheer
exhaustion, her fair young head drooped lower and lower towards the
table, sinking upon her shapely arms; when once more came the rumble of
a vehicle in the street, the heavy tread of the policeman upon the
pavement--this time right along the court--in firm, ringing steps, that
gave wrong-doers ample notice of his coming, and then again silence.

They were wild dreams that made fevered the sleep of Lucy Grey.  Now it
was Arthur Sterne; now _ma mere_ and her son, or the low, bull-dog face
of Jarker, that disturbed her rest, and she moaned in her sleep again
and again as the night wore on.  The writing upon her slate was gone;
the copies were blurred and tear-blistered, and the poor girl slept
heavily and painfully.  Now she sighed, now she started, for her heart
was rent and torn--as gentle a heart as ever beat in woman's breast;
but, like a blight, the breath of suspicion had rested on her, and she
had shrunk back scathed before the man for whose coming it had been the
pleasure of her life to watch.

What was there to live for now? she asked herself again and again.  Was
life to be only a dreary blank--a struggle for mere existence?  And then
she blamed herself for her folly and ambition.  Had Arthur Sterne never
crossed the light of her life she could have patiently toiled on, never
wearying of the plaints of her mother; but now, after months, almost
years of hopefulness, to come to this!  Well might the sleep be fitful,
and the dreams those which brought trouble, for the sun of her life
seemed clouded, and hope a thing of the past.

Again a sigh, and a few muttered words, and then the weary head was
turned a little so that when the first grey dawn of the coming day crept
down the court, and struggled into the room, driving forth shadow after
shadow, it rested smilingly upon Lucy's cheek, pausing lovingly upon the
first pure thing it had encountered that morning in the misery-smitten
region around.  Had Arthur Sterne known all, he would have given
position, advancement, all, to have pressed his lips where the pale
light now rested, and asked for pardon.  But he knew only that which he
had seen, and, racked by suspicion, he wearied himself with doubt and
surmise without end.

Again a sigh, and again a restless turn, when the colour flushed through
Lucy's pale cheeks.  It was sunrise, and some hopeful thoughts must have
come with its brightness; or was it that the words breathed far off
above the rushing river had at length reached their goal?  But the
cheeks soon paled again, the sigh was repeated, and Lucy slept heavily.

"Tsu weet, tsu weet, tsweet, tsweet, tsweet!" sang in long and joyous
trill the speckled-breasted lark, as, raising its crest and the plumage
of its throat, it fluttered by the prison-bars, and poured forth that
joyous song whose every note told of bright skies, pure air, and the
daisy-sprinkled mead; of waving cornfields, rippling brooks, and
many-tinted woods.  "Tsweet, tsweet, tsweet!" sang the bird of the
joyous heart-stirring song, prisoned here in a foul court, but panting
for the elastic air and some loving mate.

Lucy started up and looked confusedly round, then gazing towards the sky
she became conscious that Mr William Jarker was upon the housetop
amongst his pigeons and sooty lathen architecture, gazing heavily down
upon her window.  There was a frown upon her brow as she slowly and
wearily put aside books and slate, bathed her throbbing temples, and
smoothed the escaped locks; and then she stole softly to the corner of
the window, where, unseen from above, she could lean her cheek against
the paintless frame, and listen to the song of the bird.  Sighing
heavily as it ceased, she uncovered her sewing-machine, wiped off the
dust, and prepared her work for the coming day.  Now she had to cross
the room and make sundry little domestic arrangements; now to seek here,
now there; but all was done silently, so as not to rouse the sleepers in
the next room; though there was none of the old elasticity, for she
moved about wearily, sighing as she went.

And now, first one and then another familiar sound told her that the
time for labour--that morning was there once more; many steps were heard
descending the stairs and passing along the court, the cooing of the
pigeons came from the housetops, and the rattle of vehicles rose more
loudly from the distant streets.

"Up and dressed, Lucy?" said a voice from the adjoining room.

"Yes, mother dear," was the reply; and now, after waiting some time for
this signal, the wheel spun round, the keen needle darted up and down,
and with its sharp click, click, click, sped on Lucy's sewing-machine.

Then the bedroom-door opened, and Septimus Hardon made his appearance--a
worn expression struggling hard with the smile that greeted Lucy, as he
tenderly kissed her, and then hurrying out, he went for his morning
walk, to puzzle over his own weakness, his poverty, and the great
problem of things in general.

Volume Two, Chapter XII.

IN HOSPITAL.

The more a poor and sensitive man confines himself within doors, the
more he troubles himself with the fancy that everyone he meets is
staring at and watching him when he stirs out; and this fancy was very
strong on Septimus Hardon one day--one very miserable sloppy wet day, as
he made his way towards Lower Series-place, on account of dilapidations
in his boots.

Now experience has taught that holes or seediness generally of the other
apparel may to a certain extent be managed, and something like a decent
appearance made; the hat may be sponged and ironed, while the brown
napless spots are inked, and the bruises, to a certain extent, rubbed
out; holes in the coat may be fine-drawn, and a vigorous brushing will
always do something towards renovating the nap, even as soap and flannel
will remove the grease; then, too, a good button-up, and a paper collar
neatly arranged beneath a clean face and shortly-cut hair, give a finish
to a costume by no means rare in London streets.  It is only when in
company with dirt and squalor that long hair shows to its greatest
advantage; and if the hair be long, vain are the efforts made to reform
a shabby garb.  Your artist may fancy he paints the better by saving the
sixpences that should by rights find their way into the pocket of the
man of the long tongue and sharp scissors; your poet with rolling eye
may also find some hidden advantage, some Samson-like strength in
flowing locks; and no doubt Italian liberty would suffer, and Vaterland
be blotted and wiped out, if from foreign heads much of the
collar-greasing, eye-offending, cheek-tickling appendage were shorn off.
We know how the strength of the old judge lay in his locks, and when we
meet some brawny hirsute fellow, we are apt to consider him a very
Hercules of strength; but when we encounter long hair in a state of
wealth, petted, perfumed, and glossed, after the fashion of the dandies
of the Merry Monarch's time, how the mind will feel disposed to look
upon the owner of the flowing locks, not as a star of the intellectual
sphere, but as a comet of weak intensity; while, when the same lengthy
locks are met with in a state of poverty, even the short prison-barber
coiffure of the Jarker kind seems preferable.

Taught by adversity, Septimus Hardon had learned to contend with the
dilapidations in his clothes,--at times quite ingeniously,--but, like
far better men, he had not been able to control his boots.  Custom has
so much to do with matters of dress, that though shabbiness will pass
unnoticed in the throng, any departure from the ordinary laws will draw
as much attention to the offender as if he were a visitor from some
foreign clime.  Sandal-shoon were of course once the correct thing for
promenading the crust of the earth; but who now, unless he were an
extreme Ritualist, would think of traversing our muddy streets with bare
feet strapped to a sole, and great-toes working in a most obtrusive
manner?  Certainly not a man of Septimus Hardon's retiring disposition,
though, had he felt so disposed, he could not have done so in the
present instance, since his boots almost lacked soles.  Their decay had
been so rapid, that scarcely anything remained but the uppers.  He had
even taken to wearing his wife's goloshes, until the policeman became
more attentive to his quiet footfall than was agreeable.  But there is a
stretch beyond which even the elasticity of indiarubber will not extend;
and now, after putting up with much hard usage, the goloshes had
succumbed, and, suffering under a complete reverse of circumstances, the
indiarubber was itself completely rubbed out.

As before said, there are many little contrivances for bettering worn
costume; but somehow or another a boot bothers the cleverest.  String is
a wonderful adjunct to garments generally, often acting as a substitute
for buttons or braces; in fact, for a man wrecked on a desert island,
there would not be the slightest cause for despair so long as he had
string; but even it falls powerless before boots; glue is useless from
the damp; while as to paste, it is no better than sealing-wax or grim.
Taken altogether, boots are a great nuisance to a poor man; and when
they have arrived at such a pitch that they are not worth mending, the
best plan to adopt is not to throw them away, or offer them up as an
odorous sacrifice to the goddess of poverty upon your household fire,
watching their life-like contortions as the leather twists and turns in
the hot blaze, but to do as Septimus Hardon did, with many a sigh, as
though they had been old friends--sell them.

Septimus sold his boots to Isaac Gross, in Lower Series--place, after
trying hard to get another day's wear out of them.  It had been a fierce
battle, and he had found the arguments adduced by his leather friends
too strong to be resisted.  He parted from them with regret, although
they had never been to him the friends he tried to believe.  To begin
with, they had always pinched him terribly, raising blisters upon his
heels, painfully chafing his toes, bringing a tender place upon one
foot, and fostering a corn upon the other; but now they had been parted
with in exchange, with so much current coin added, for a pair of Isaac
Gross's translations.

It might reasonably be supposed that old Matt had introduced Septimus as
a customer; but no, this would have been introducing him to the abode of
which he was ashamed; and Septimus had long since discovered the spot
for himself, and come to the conclusion that it was a place where he
could well suit himself, or rather the requirements of his pocket.

Isaac was smoking away as usual, and giving the finishing touch to a
boot-sole by means of a piece of broken glass, whose keen edge took off
minute shavings of the leather.  Mrs Slagg was busily carrying on
trading transactions with a dirty man, and giving the best price for a
barrowful of old newspapers; but both Isaac and Mrs Slagg seemed out of
spirits, and when a customer presented himself in the shape of Septimus
Hardon, the translator put down his work slowly, sighed, laid his pipe
upon a shelf, and seemed to carry out his bargain with more than his
usual heaviness.  As a rule, Isaac was a man given to smiling--smiling
very slowly, and bringing his visage back to its normal state, a solid
aspect; but there was no smile visible now; and when his visitor for
"three-and-nine and the old uns," became the lucky possessor of a pair--
no, not a pair--of two Oxonian shoes, Isaac took the money with another
sigh, put it in an old blacking-bottle upon the shelf, which he used as
a till, dropped the old boots upon a heap close by, took up his pipe,
smoked, sighed, and then scraped away at his boot-sole without taking a
single peep at his neighbour.

For Isaac Gross was sore at heart concerning the state of his old friend
Matt, as sore at heart as was his customer; and when, slightly limping
and pinched, Septimus creaked away in his new shoes, Mrs Slagg having
finished her paper purchases, and retaken her seat inside her door,--a
seat she seldom quitted, making her customers perform the weighing and
lifting when practicable,--she peeped round the door-jamb twice in vain;
and though trade was prosperous as her love, in spite of its being
enshrined so softly in fat, Mrs Keziah Slagg's heart was also sore, and
she too sighed.

The feeling that everyone was watching him was stronger than ever upon
Septimus Hardon that morning as he made his way along the big streets
and alleys on his way towards one of the hospitals, and after letting
the matter sleep as it were for some time, he had now awakened to the
fact that he should like to prosecute his claim; though he told himself
frequently that he was too weak and wanting in decision to go on without
help--the help he could not now obtain.  He knew that Mr Sterne would
willingly assist him, but his was not the required help; and he shrank
from making him his confidant, while he eagerly sought the aid of the
old printer now it was not forthcoming.

There are some strange contradictions in the human heart; and at the
present time, had old Matt presented himself to go on with the search in
the unbusiness-like way already followed, the chances are that Septimus
Hardon would have shrunk from it, or allowed himself unwillingly to be
dragged into farther proceedings.

But old Matt was not present; and now, with the idea troubling him that
much time had been wasted, and the matter must be at once seen to,
Septimus Hardon made his way towards the hospital; not that he was ill
in body, though troubled greatly in mind concerning the man who had been
his friend in the hardest struggle of his life.  For there were strong
passions in the vacillating soul of Septimus Hardon, and he had been
greatly moved when, after another long absence, during which he had
anxiously waited for the old man, a letter had been delivered, telling
how that Matthew Space lay seriously ill in a hospital-ward.

For the first few days after their parting, Matt's last words had
strangely haunted Septimus, and he could not rest for thinking of them;
but they grew fainter with the lapse of time; Matt came not to spur him
once more to his task, and he sank lower and lower, while Doctor Hardon
of Somesham, portly and smiling, grew great in the estimation of the
people of the little town.

Septimus had tried more than once in his unbusiness-like, haphazard way
to find out the residence of old Matt, at such times as the thoughts of
his last words were strong upon him.  "He said he was ill, and then
talked of medicine and attendance.  He was wandering," said Septimus.
"I remember I had great difficulty in getting him along.  Perhaps he is
dead.  Well, well; so with all of us.  Let it rest, for I'll take no
farther steps."

A rash promise to make, as he felt himself when one day came the few
lines written in a strange hand, asking his attendance at the hospital.
Only a few lines in a crabbed hand, without a reference to the search;
but now the desire had risen strong in him once more, though he called
himself selfish to think of his own affairs at such a time.

Septimus was not long in responding to the note, but he found the old
man delirious.  The second time, Lucy begged to go and see her old
friend, and wept bitterly over his shrivelled hand; but the old man was
incoherent, and knew them not.

And now for the third visit Septimus made his way to the hospital, where
he found the old man apparently sinking from the effects of some
operation.  The doctor had just left, when one of the nurses, a great,
gaunt, bony woman, with a catlike smile, and a fine high colour in her
cheeks, ushered the visitor to the bedside--a bed, one of many in the
light, clean, airy ward.

Septimus Hardon was shocked at the change which had taken place in the
old man, as he lay with his hands spread out upon the white coverlet of
the bed, pale and glassy-eyed, and rather disposed to wander in his
speech; but his face seemed to light up when he heard his visitor's
voice.

"No; no better," he whispered.  "Let's see, I told you, didn't I?  Mrs
Hardon, medicine and attendance, wasn't it?  To be sure it was.  Yes,
medicine and shocking bad attendance here.  That's it; and I can't tell
you any more.  I'm falling out of the forme, sir, unless some of these
doctors precious soon tighten up the quoins."

"No, no," said Septimus cheerily, "not so bad as that; a good heart is
half the battle."

"Yes, yes, yes, so it is," whispered the old man feebly; "but, I say, is
she gone?"

Septimus told him the nurse had left the room, and the old man
continued:

"You can't keep a good heart here, sir, nohow.  I wouldn't have come if
I'd known all I know now.  You saw her, didn't you?"

"The nurse?" said Septimus.

"Yes, her," replied the old man, shuddering; "she's a wretch, with no
more feeling in her than a post.  She'll do what the porters shrink
from, sir.  They have to carry the--you know what I mean, sir--down to
the deadhouse; and I've known her laugh at the young one, and do it
herself in a way that makes your blood run cold.  Just wink, sir, if you
see her coming.  She'll be here directly with my wine or jelly: says I'm
to have some on the little board, don't it?"

Septimus looked at the board above his head, and found that wine was
ordered.

"Yes," said the old man, "the doctors are trumps, sir, everyone of them;
and no poor fellow out of the place could get the care and attention
I've done here.  My doctor couldn't do more if I paid him ten pound a
day; and I always feel wonderful after he's gone; seems to understand my
chronics, sir, as you wouldn't believe in.  But those nurses, sir--don't
tell 'em I said so, but they're devils, sir, devils.  Medicine and
attendance, sir; it's all the first and none of the last."

"Hush," said his visitor, seeing as he thought that the old man was
beginning to wander, "Mrs Hardon would have liked to see you, and Lucy;
but she could not leave her mother to-day."

"God bless her!" said the old man fervently.  "He asleep in the bed
there told me she came the other day, looking like an angel of comfort
in this dreary place, sir.  God bless her!  Tell her, sir, that the old
man's true as steel, sir; the old blade's notched and rusty, but he's
true as steel, sir.  Do you hear? tell her that old Matt's true as
steel.  But these nurses, sir," he whispered, holding by his visitor's
coat, and drawing him nearer, "they're devils, sir, regular devils!"

"Not quite so bad as that," said Septimus, smiling.

"Not so bad, sir?  Worse, sir, worse; ever so much worse.  They'd do
anything.  There's no Sisters of Mercy here, sir, like they're talking
of having at some places; they're sisters of something else--she-demons,
sir, and one daren't complain or say a word.  They'd kill a poor fellow
as soon as look at him, and do, too,--dozens."

"Nonsense," said Septimus, smiling, "don't be too hard, Matt."

"'Tain't nonsense, sir," whispered the old man eagerly.  "I ain't
wandering now, though I have been sending up some queer proofs--been
touched in the head, you know, and thought I was going; but it didn't
seem to matter much if I could only have been easy in my mind, for I
wanted to be out of my misery.  But I couldn't be comfortable on account
of the medicine and attendance, and your uncle.  What business has he to
get himself made head doctor here, sir, just because I came; and then to
set the nurses against me to get me out of the way?  He knows I'm
against him, and mean you to have your rights, and he's trying with
medicine and attendance to--no, stop, that's not it," whispered the old
man, "I've got wrong sorts in my case, and that's not what I wanted to
say."  And then for a few moments it was pitiable to witness the
struggle going on against the wandering thoughts that oppressed him; but
he seemed to get the better of his weakness, and went on again.

"There, that's better, sir; your coming has seemed to do me good, and
brightened me up.  I get like that sometimes, and it seems that I've no
power over my tongue, and it says just what it likes.  Tell Miss Lucy
I'm getting better, and that I want to get out of this place.  I know
what I'm saying now, sir, though I can't make it quite right about that
medicine and attendance that we wanted to know about; for it bothers me,
and makes my head hot, and gets mixed up with the medicine and
attendance here.  But I shall have it right one of these days; I did
nearly, once, but it got away again."

In his anxiety now to know more, Septimus drew out paper and pencil.

"Don't think about it now," he said; "but keep these under your pillow,
and put it down the next time you think anything."

Old Matt smiled feebly, and drew forth his old memorandum-book, and
slowly opening it, showed the worn stumpy piece of pencil inside.

"I'd thought of that, sir, and should have done so before, only I was
afraid that I might put down the wrong thing--something about the
nurses, you know, when they would have read it, and then, perhaps, I
shouldn't have had a chance to say any more.  And 'tisn't really, sir,
it isn't nonsense about them.  You think I'm wandering, and don't
believe it; and it's just the same with the doctors--they don't believe
it neither.  There was one poor chap on the other side of the ward, down
at the bottom there--he told the doctor his nurse neglected him, and
drank his wine, putting in water instead, beside not giving him his
medicine regular; so the old doctor called for the nurse, and--"

"But you must not talk any more," said Septimus kindly, "you are getting
exhausted."

"I ain't," said the old man angrily; "it does me good, revives me; and
you don't believe me, that's what it is."

"Yes, I do, indeed," cried Septimus.  "Then let me finish," whispered
the old man.  "Doctor Hardon called and asked her where she saw the
entry.  There, now, there," whimpered Matt, "see what you've done: you
made me upset a stickful of matter, and got me all in a pye again.  No;
all right, sir, I see, I see--he asked her about it before the patient,
speaking very sharply, for the doctors mean well, sir.  And then what
did the old crocodile do, sir, but just turn her eyes towards the
whitewash, smooth her apron, raise her hands a bit, and then, half
smiling, looks at the doctor like so much pickled innocence, but never
says a word; while he, just to comfort the poor fellow, told him to keep
up, and it should all be seen to; and then there was a bit of whispering
between the doctor and the nurse, and then he went off.  But I could see
who was believed, for I heard the doctor mutter something about sick
man's fancies as he came across to me.  That poor chap died, sir!"

Just then, Septimus gave the old man a meaning look, for one of the
nurses came up with a glass of wine, and smiled and curtsied to the
visitor.

"I hope he ain't been talking, sir?" said the woman, in a harsh grating
voice with the corners a little rubbed down; "getting on charming, ain't
he, sir? only he will talk too much.--Now drink your wine up, there's a
good soul.  Don't sip it, but toss it down, and it will do you twice as
much good;" and while the old man, with the assistance of his visitor,
raised himself a little, she gave his pillow two or three vengeful
punches and shakes as she snatched it off the bed, the result of her
efforts being visible in a slit across the middle, which she placed
undermost.

"Yes," muttered Matt when the woman had gone.  "Yes; toss it down, so as
not to taste it.  Why, that was half water--beautiful wines and spirits
as they have here, sir.  That's the very one herself, sir.  She killed
him."

"Killed who?" exclaimed Septimus, horrified.

"Don't shout, sir; leastwise, not if you want to see me again," said
Matt grimly.  "Killed that poor fellow I was telling you about.  She
never forgave him, and a week afterwards and there was the screen round
his bed, and the porters came and carried him away.  She killed him,
sure enough, and I ain't agoing to tell you about the bother there was
with his friends about the doctors, and what they did to him afterwards,
it might upset you.  It almost does me; not that I care much, for it
don't matter when you're gone, and I've got no friends."

"Hush, pray; it can't be so," exclaimed Septimus, shuddering.

"No, of course not," chuckled the old man, brightening up from the
effects of his stimulant, "O, no; sick man's fancies, sir, ain't they?
Just what everyone would say; but she killed him all the same, just as
dozens more have been killed here.  It don't take much to kill a poor
fellow hanging in the balance--him in one scale, and his complaint in
the other.  The doctor comes and gets in the same scale with him, and
bears him down a bit right way; but then as soon as the doctor's gone,
the nurse goes and sits in the other scale, and sends him wrong way
again.  Good nursing's of more consequence sometimes than the doctoring,
I can tell you, sir, and if I'd had good nursing I shouldn't have been
here at all.  Ikey means well, you know, sir; and so does Mother Slagg,
eh? but you don't know them, sir, and it don't matter."

"But had you not better be silent now?" hinted Septimus.

"No," said the old man testily; "being so quiet, and having no one to
talk to has half-killed me as it is.  I don't want to be killed, I want
to get out, sir.  And, mind you, I don't say about that poor fellow that
she poisoned him, or choked him, or played at she-Othello with the
pillow, sir; but there's plenty of other ways of doing it.  The doctor
knows the man's condition, and his danger, and orders him such and such
things to keep him going, and bring him round, eh?"

Septimus nodded, for the old man paused for breath; though the wine he
had taken made him talk in a voluble and excited manner, but still with
perfect coherence.

"Well, sir; and who's got to carry out the doctor's orders?  Why, the
nurse, to be sure.  Just push the pillow a little more under my head,
sir; she's made it uncomfortable.  That's it; thanky, sir.  Well, you
nor no one else won't believe that a nurse here would do anything wrong.
But now, look here: suppose you see that a lamp wants trimming, what do
you do?  You give orders for it to be trimmed, sir, don't you?"

Septimus nodded again.

"Well, then," whispered the old man, hooking one of his long fingers in
a buttonhole of his visitor's coat; "suppose they don't trim the lamp;
suppose it isn't trimmed, eh? what then?"

"It goes out!" said Septimus.

"To be sure--exactly, sir; and there have been lots of lamps go out
here.  They won't trim them, or forget to trim them, and tell themselves
they're only sparing the poor creatures misery, while no one dares to
speak about it.  Talk of death, sir, they think no more of it here, sir,
than one does of snuffing out a candle.  You see, decent women won't
come to a place like this to do the work these nurses do.  It's only to
be done for money or love.  Now it's done for money, and while it's done
for money it can only be done by hard, heartless, drinking creatures
who've got women's shapes and devils' hearts, sir.  But the doctors are
all right, sir, only that they don't see all we poor patients see.  If
skill and doctoring will put me right, sir, I shall be put right, sir.
But I'm scared about it sometimes, and half afraid that some of those
beauties will weight the wrong scale so heavily that the doctors won't
pull me square.  Sick man's fancies, sir, eh?  Wanderings, ain't they?"

Septimus Hardon knew not what to say, but whispered such comfort as he
could.

"Something ought to be done, you know," said the old man feebly; "but
don't hint a word of what I've said, sir, to a soul--please don't," he
said pitifully.  "You see that all these goings on prey upon a poor
fellow's mind; and if he isn't low-spirited lying in a hospital-ward,
when is he likely to be?  One wants sympathy and comfort, sir, and to
feel that there's someone belonging to you who cares for you, and is
ready to smooth your pillow, and lay a cold hand upon your hot forehead,
and say `God bless you!' and I've no one, no one;" and the old man's
voice grew weak and quavering.

"Come, come," whispered Septimus, "take heart, Matt; we'll come as often
as they will let us.  And you are getting better; see how you have
chatted.  You are only low now from the reaction.  Try and rest a bit,
and get rid of some of these fancies."

Old Matt's eyes turned angrily upon his visitor as he exclaimed, "I tell
you they are not fancies, sir, but truth.  I wouldn't have come if I'd
known, for I've seen men drink, and women drink; but never anyone like
these she-wolves.  Would you trust anyone you loved to the care of a
woman who drank, sir?"

"No!"

"They say they must have support, and I suppose they must; but it's
hard, hard, hard!" groaned the old man, and he shut his eyes, seeking
out the hand of his visitor, and holding it tightly, until, by the rules
of the place, he was obliged to leave.

Volume Two, Chapter XIII.

MR JARKER IS "A BIT ODD."

There had been no occasion for Mr William Jarker to carry out the
threat he had once made, for in all the long space of time during which
Agnes Hardon's child was in Mrs Jarker's care, the money was always
paid, faithfully and regularly, once a week, but at how great a cost to
its mother none but the Seer of all hearts could tell; and always, in
spite of sickness and misery, pain, and the hard bondage of her life,
Jarker's wife was tender and loving to the little one within her charge.
Perhaps it was the memory of another pair of bright eyes that had once
gazed up into her own, perhaps only the loving promptings of her woman's
heart; but when, by stealth almost, Agnes Hardon came to kiss her child,
she left tearfully but rejoicing, for there was proof always before her
of the gentle usage in the fond way in which the little thing clung to
its nurse.  The preference may have wrung her heart, but it was but
another sorrow to bear, and, bending beneath her weight of care, she
came and went at such times as seemed best for avoiding Jarker, the
curate, and Septimus Hardon.

It was in her power to have let Lucy know where old Matt lodged; but of
late they had met but little, and then, in their hurried interviews, his
name was not mentioned, for the sorrows of the present filled their
hearts.

But now Agnes Hardon was in greater trouble, for something whispered her
that this sickness of poor Mrs Jarker was a sickness unto death, and
her soul clave to the suffering, ill-used woman who had filled the place
of mother to her child; while, at the same time, she trembled for the
future of her little one after each visit--ever feeling the necessity,
but ever dreading, to take it away, for truly there was a change coming;
and time after time when she left the garret, it was with a shudder, for
there seemed to be a shadow in the room.

It was almost impossible to ascend the creaking stairs to the garret
tenanted by Mr Jarker without hearing Mrs Sims, who, through some
spiritual weakness, had left the house in the square to return once more
to the Rents--a court honoured by most of those unfortunates who, from
unforeseen circumstances, fell from the heights of the square; while the
latter was always looked up to, in its topmost or basement floors, for
promotion by the more fortunate tenants of the Rents; and now an
ascending visitor was almost certain to hear the melancholy, sniffing
woman blowing her fire.  Generally speaking, we see bellows hang by the
mantelpiece, with a time-honoured, bees'-waxy polish glossing them, as
though they were family relics whose services were seldom called into
requisition; but _chez_ Mrs Sims, the bellows had rather a bad time of
it, and were worked hardly enough to make them short-winded.  They
already wheezed so loudly that it was impossible to take Mrs Sims'
bellows for anybody else's bellows; and this was probably due to their
having inhaled a sufficiency of ashy dust to make them asthmatic, while
the nozzle was decayed and burned away from constant resting upon the
specially-cleared bottom-bar; the left half of the broken tongs doing
duty for the vanished poker, borrowed once to clear the grating in the
court, and never returned, for the simple reason that it found its way
to Mrs Slagg's marine-store shop, where it stayed in consideration of
the porter receiving the best price given, namely, twopence.

Your boots might creak, and, as was their wont, the stairs would crack
and groan, but still there was the sound of the bellows to be heard as
you ascended the staircase--puff, puff, puff; and the stooping woman's
stays crackled and crumpled at every motion, for Mrs Sims, from always
requiring support, external as well as internal, sought the external in
whalebone, though for the internal she preferred rum.  There was always
"suthin' as wanted a bit of fire:" perhaps it was washing-day, which,
from the small size of Bennett's-rents' wardrobes, happened irregularly,
with Mrs Sims three times a week, when the big tin saucepan used for
boiling divers articles of wearing-apparel, in company with a packet of
washing-powder, would be placed upon the little damaged grate, upon
which it would sit like Incubus, putting the poor weak fire quite out of
heart, when it had to be coaxed accordingly.  Sometimes the bellows were
required to hurry the "kittle," a battered old copper vessel that never
boiled if it could help it, and, when compelled by the said hurrying,
only did so after passing through a regular course of defiant snorts,
even going so far as to play the deceiver, and sputter over into the
fire, pretending to be on the boil when many degrees off, and so
spoiling Mrs Sims' tea--never the strongest to be obtained.  Sometimes,
again, the bellows were required to get a decent fire to cook a bit of
steak for the master's dinner, or even "to bile the taters."  At all
events, of all Mrs Sims' weaknesses, the principal lay in her bellows,
and she could generally find an excuse for a good blow, accompanied
sometimes by a cry over the wind-exhalers, as she sniffed loudly at her
task.

There is no doubt but that in her natural good-heartedness Mrs Sims
would have operated quite as cheerfully upon any neighbour's fire as she
did now upon the handful of cinders in Mrs Jarker's grate; for, in
spite of her sniffs, her weakness for the internal and external support,
and her whining voice, Mrs Sims was one of those women who are a glory
to their sex.  Only a very humble private was she in the noble army, but
one ever ready for the fight: fever, cholera, black death, or death of
any shade, were all one to Mrs Sims, who only seemed happy when she was
in trouble.  If it was a neighbour who could pay her, so much the
better; if it was a neighbour who could not, it mattered little; send
for Mrs Sims, and Mrs Sims came, ready to nurse, comfort, sit up, or
do anything to aid the needy; and old Matt had been heard more than once
to wish she had been a widow.

Poor Mrs Jarker would have suffered badly but for this woman's
kindness; many a little neighbourly act had been done by Lucy, but Mrs
Jarker's need was sore, and beyond minding the child for her
occasionally, Lucy's powers of doing good were circumscribed.  And now,
one night, sat Mrs Sims, sniffing, and forcing a glow from the few
embers in the Jarker grate as she made the sick woman a little gruel.

Mr William Jarker ascended the stairs after having had "a drop" at the
corner--that is to say, two pints of porter with a quartern of gin in
each; and upon hearing the noise of the bellows he uttered what he would
have denominated "a cuss," since he bore no love for Mrs Sims, and her
sniff annoyed him; but when, upon ascending higher, he found that the
sound did not proceed, as he expected, from the second-floor, but from
his own room, he began to growl so audibly that the women heard him
coming like a small storm, and trembled, since Mr Jarker was a great
stickler for the privacy of his own dwelling, which he seemed to look
upon as a larger sort of cage in which he kept his wife.

But although forbidden to enter the room, Mrs Sims glanced at the
pallid sufferer lying in the bed, with the feeble light of a rush candle
playing upon her features; and muttering to herself, "Not if he kills
me," resolved not to abdicate; and then, after a few final triumphant
puffs, dropping at the same time a tear upon the top of the bellows--a
tear of weakness and sympathy--she laid down the wind instrument upon
which she had been playing, and thrust an iron spoon into the gruel upon
the fire, stirring it round so energetically that a small portion was
jerked out of the saucepan upon the glowing cinders, and hissed
viciously, forming a fitting finale to Mr Jarker's feline swearing.

But the gruel did not hiss and sputter as angrily, nor did the erst
glowing cinders look so black, as did Mr William Jarker when he found
"the missus still abed," and Mrs Sims in possession.

"I have said as I won't have it," growled Mr Jarker; "and I says agen
as I won't have it.  So let people wait till I arsts 'em afore they
takes liberties with my place.  So now p'r'aps you'll make yourself
scarce, Missus Sims;" and then the birdcatcher crossed over to, and
began muttering something to, his wife.

But Mrs Sims was nothing daunted; she was in the right, and she knew
it, and though her hands trembled, and more of the gruel fell hissing
into the fire, as the tears of weakness fell fast, she stood her ground
firmly.

"When I've done my dooty by her, as other people, whom I won't bemean
myself to name, oughter have done, Mister Jarker, I shall go, and not
before," said Mrs Sims.  "It's not me as could sit down-stairs and know
as that pore creetur there was dying for want of a drop of gruel, and me
not come and make it, which didn't cost you a farden, so now then!"
Here Mrs Sims bridled a great deal and sniffed very loudly; a couple of
tears falling into the fender "pit-pat."

"Don't jaw," said Bill gruffly, making a kind of feint with his hand as
he stooped down to light his short black pipe by thrusting the bowl
between the bars.

Mrs Sims flinched as if to avoid a blow, to the great delight of Mr
Jarker; but exasperated him directly after by sniffing loudly, over and
over again, producing, by way of accompaniment to each sniff, a low and
savage growl and an oath.

"Well, I'm sure," exclaimed Mrs Sims, "how polite we're a-growing!"
But catching sight of the smouldering fire in the ruffian's eye, she
hastily poured out the gruel, repenting all the while, for the poor
woman's sake, that she had spoken; but upon taking the hot preparation
with some toast to the invalid she found her kindness unavailing, for
though Mrs Jarker sat up for a minute and tried to take it, she sank
back with a faint sigh, and with an imploring look, she whispered her
neighbour to please go.

"Not till I've seen you eat this, my pore dear soul," said Mrs Sims
boldly, though, poor woman, she was all in a tremble, and kept glancing
over her shoulder at Jarker, who, with his back to the fire and his
hands in his pockets, glowered and scowled at the scene before him.
Mrs Sims passed her arm round the thin, wasted form, and supported the
invalid; but, after vainly trying to swallow a few spoonfuls, the poor
woman again sank back upon her pillow, sighing wearily, while the sharp,
pecking sound made by one of the caged birds against its perch, sounded
strangely like the falling of a few scraps of soil upon a coffin--"Ashes
to ashes--dust to dust."  And then, for some minutes, there was silence
in the room, till Mrs Jarker turned whisperingly to her friendly
neighbour, to beg that she would go now and not rouse Bill, who was a
bit odd sometimes.

So, saucepan in hand, Mrs Sims wished the invalid "Good-night;" and
then, trembling visibly, sidled towards the door, evidently fearing to
turn her back to Mr Jarker, who was still growling and muttering, as if
a storm were brewing and ready to burst; but Mrs Sims' agitation caused
her first to drop her iron spoon from the saucepan, and then, as she
stooped to recover it, to flinch once more, to the ruffian's great
delight, as he made another pugilistic feint--a gymnastic feat that he
had learnt through visiting some marsh or another when a fight was to
come off between Fibbing Phil and Chancery Joe--a feat that consisted of
a violent effort to throw away the right fist, and a quick attempt at
catching it with the left hand.  But Mrs Sims managed to get herself
safely outside the door, and lost no time in hurrying down, the stairs,
breathing more freely with every step placed between her and the
ruffian; but she shrieked loudly on reaching the first landing, and
dropped both saucepan and spoon, for the door was savagely thrown open,
and the bellows came clattering after her down the stairs; and all in
consequence of Mr Jarker being a bit odd.

"A bit odd!"--in one of those fits which had often prompted him to
strike down his weak, suffering, patient wife with dastardly, cruel
hand, and then to kick her with his heavy boots, or drag at her hair
until her head was bleeding--oddness which made the tiny child in the
room shrink from him; while before now it had been traced on the poor
woman's features in blackened and swollen bruises.  But shrieks, and the
falling of heavy blows, were common sounds in Bennett's-rents, and
people took but little notice of Mr Jarker's odd fits.

Bill took no heed to the weary, strangling cough which shook his wife's
feeble frame, but smoked on furiously till the fire went out.  She would
not get up to put on more coals, and he wasn't agoing to muck his hands;
for, as has been before hinted, Mr Jarker had soft, whitish hands,
which looked as though they had never done a hard day's work; and at
last, when the place looked more cheerless and dull than usual, he
prepared himself for rest.

"You're allus ill," growled the ruffian, who had had just drink enough
to make him savage; "and it's my belief as you wants rousing up."  But
there came no answer to his remark.  The little one slept soundly upon
the two chairs which formed its bed, and, with half-closed eyes, the
woman lay, breathing very faintly, as her lips moved, forming words she
had heard from Mr Sterne.

Bill felt himself to be ill-used, and was very sulky, a feeling which
made him kick his boots to the end of the room, where one knocked over a
linnet's cage, when, still growling, the owner had to go and pick it up,
which he did at the expense of his dignity, and there and then shook the
cage till the unoffending bird rustled and fluttered about, panting and
terror-stricken, to be half-drowned by the water he poured into its
little glass the next minute.  For, what business had his wife to be ill
and allus having parsons and Mrs Simses a-pottering about in his place?
Hadn't he made a row about it when she came when the kid was born, and
hadn't she allus come at uncomfortable times since?  Didn't she come
when it died, and weren't things uncomfortable now, and she a-making
them worse?  He wouldn't have it--that he wouldn't; and, growling and
swearing in a low tone, Mr Jarker divested himself of a part of his
attire, and threw himself upon the bed.

The rushlight danced and flickered, and a few drops of rain pattered
against the window as the night breeze sighed mournfully down the court;
first one and then another bird scraped at its perch, roused as it had
been by the noise and light, so that it sounded again and again like the
earth upon the coffin-lid; some loose woodwork amongst the pigeon-traps
upon the roof swung in the wind, and beat against the tiles, and then
all was very quiet and still in the wretched attic.

"Bill--Bill, dear," murmured a voice after a while--a strange
harsh-sounding voice, as if it came from a parched and fevered throat;
"Bill!"

No answer, only the heavy breathing of the ruffian, and the pattering as
of earth upon the coffin-lid.

"Bill--Bill, dear--water!" whispered the voice once more; but there was
no answer, only the restless pattering noise of the birds.  Then again
silence so still and profound that it seemed hardly to be London.  But
the silence was broken by a little liquid trilling laugh, the laugh of
the child, as some bright-hued happy dream passed over its imagination;
though there was silence again the next moment, to be broken once more
by the strange husky voice, a voice that seemed new to the place, as in
almost agonising tones it whispered:

"Kiss me, Bill!"

But there was for response only the sound as of the earth pattering upon
the coffin-lid more fitfully and hollow.  While now, slowly and timidly,
a thin white arm was raised, and, seen there in the dim light, it was as
though it was waved threateningly above the drunken ruffian's head; but
no--there was no threat in the act--no calling down of judgment from on
high; for the arm was passed lovingly, tenderly, round the coarse bull
neck, and still there was no response to the appeal.

"Kiss me, Bill!" was once more whispered; but a long, deep-drawn,
stertorous breath told that William Jarker slept heavily, as the arm lay
motionless, clasping his neck; and then came a sigh, as piteous and
heart-rending as ever rose from suffering breast.

On sped the hours; the rushlight burned down into the socket, flickered
once, and expired; the distant sounds of traffic floated by once or
twice; the customary heavy tramp of the policeman was heard to pass
along the court; and now and then the ruffian breathed more stertorously
than usual, or ejaculated some unconnected words in his sleep.  Then the
child started and whimpered for a few minutes, but sank to sleep again;
and still through the night came that restless, pattering noise, that
hollow rattle as of dry earth--"ashes to ashes, dust to dust"--the sound
as of dry earth falling upon a coffin-lid.

The stars paled as they set; the morning came, and the red-eyed
lamplighter hurried from post to post, extinguishing the sickly-looking
gas-jets; the noises in the streets grew louder and louder, and many a
weary client lodging near woke to wonder whether his case would come on
that day.  The men in Bennett's-rents who had work slowly tramped to it,
many who were without rose to seek it, while others, again, to use their
own words, took it out in sleep, and amongst these was Mr William
Jarker.

"Mammy, mammy!" at length rang in pitiful tones upon the ruffian's ear,
and as he woke to the sensations of a hot, aching, fevered head and
furred tongue, he tried to clear his misty, spirit-clouded faculties.

"Mammy, mammy!" again cried the child, who had climbed upon the bed, and
was shaking her foster-mother; "mammy, mammy!" she cried more pitifully,
and then burst into a loud wail at her inability to wake her.

"Yah-h-h-h!" roared Bill without moving; when, at the dreaded sound, the
little thing ceased its cry, and, cowering beside the sleeping woman,
laid a sunny head upon her cheek, and passed two tiny, plump arms round
her neck, in a soft, sweet embrace that has power in its innocent love
to warm even the coldest, though futile here.

"Blame it, how cold!" growled Mr Jarker, trying to raise the arm that
had lain upon his neck the long night through; but it was stiff and
heavy; and, shrinking hastily away, the frightened man sat up, gazed for
an instant at the face beside him, and then leaping, with a howl of
terror, from the bed, rushed half-clad from the room.

And why did he flee?  Was it that there was still the sound as of
falling earth rattling upon a coffin-lid?  For what was there to fear in
the pale face of that sleeping woman, with the earthly pains and
sorrow-traces faded away, to leave the countenance calm, softened, and
almost beautiful; for there had come back something of the old, old look
of maidenhood and happier times, when she had looked with admiration
upon the stalwart form of the ruffian she had wed, and believed in him,
wedding him to become his willing slave?  Hers had been a hard life;
born in misery and suffering, growing under sorrow and poverty and vice;
yet had she been a woman with a woman's heart.  But now she slept, to
wake, we hope, where justice is tempered by mercy, and the secrets and
sorrows of every heart are known.  But now she slept, and her sleep must
have been peaceful--happy--for the lines of sorrow had passed away, and
there was a smile upon her lip.

Nothing to fear.  Guilt fled, but Innocence stayed, and the soft, silky
curls of the child were mingled with the thin dark locks of the woman,
as a tiny smooth round cheek rested upon the marble temple, and a little
hand played in the cold breast that should never warm it more.

Nothing to fear; though the simple people who soon assembled in the room
spoke in whispers, passing in and out on tiptoe, many with their aprons
to their eyes; while poor Mrs Sims, when she returned to her own room
with the child, quieted it by means of a large slice of sugared
bread-and-butter, and relieved her own mind by sitting down to have a
good long, soft blow at the fire, what time the tears pattered down
plenteously on the bellows.

Nothing to fear; for calm and still was the face of the sleeping woman,
who with her latest breath had rendered the love she had sworn to her
husband, and now in peace she rested; but still through the long day,
through the long night, and when the hard, harsh shape of the coffin
stood in the room, there came at intervals the sharp, hollow, rattling
noise, as of earth falling upon its lid, when the listeners' ears would
strain to catch those awful accompanying words--"Ashes to ashes, dust to
dust!"

Volume Two, Chapter XIV.

SICK MAN'S FANCIES.

There was a strange battle in the breast of the Reverend Arthur Sterne
about this time.  Now he would feel satisfied in his own mind that he
had obtained the victory over self, while directly after, an encounter
with Lucy, or some little incident that occurred during one of his
visits, would teach him his weakness.  Pained, and yet pleased, he left
Septimus Hardon's rooms on the day after Mrs Jarker's death, for he had
been gazing upon a picture that an artist would have been delighted to
copy: Lucy Grey weeping over the sunny-haired child she had just fetched
from Mrs Sims' room.  He was pained, for the scene had brought up the
thoughts of its mother, and her strange intimacy with Lucy, though the
gentle, loving interest shown for the helpless, worse than orphan child,
made his heart swell and beat faster as he thought of the mine of
wealth, the tenderness the fair girl could bestow were she all he could
have wished.

But the pain and sorrow predominated as he left the house and slowly
descended, for he encountered _ma mere_ upon the staircase, and he felt
the colour mount to his temples as he met her sardonic smile and thought
of her words; and then he hurried away, feeling at times that he must
leave the place and seek another home, for his present life was wearying
in the extreme.  He would have done so before but for one powerful
thought, one which he could feel would maintain its sway, so that he
would be drawn back and his efforts rendered useless--efforts that he
made to break the chain that fettered him.  For her part, Lucy avoided
him, meeting him but seldom, and then with flushed cheek and averted
eye; while though in any other instance he would have declared instantly
that flush to have been that of shame or modesty, yet here, tortured by
doubt, he could not satisfy himself, for at such times as he tried to be
content came the memory of the scene in the Lane, and the words of the
old Frenchwoman.

Lucy had fetched the child from across the court, but it was only
admitted by Mrs Septimus under sufferance, for she was in one of her
weak fits that day, and if it had not been that Septimus encouraged the
act, the little thing would have remained in Mrs Sims' charge.

"Keep her, at all events, till I come back," Septimus had said, and his
evident desire to go out had somewhat shortened the curate's visit, for
the desire was strong now upon Septimus to gain fresh information
touching the legitimacy of his birth.  The more now that obstacles
sprung up, the more he felt disposed to assert his right; but he
acknowledged to himself that it was but a passing fit, and that he would
soon return to his old weakness and despondency.  Still there was a warm
feeling of friendship for Matt to prompt him to revisit the hospital at
an early day, and, soon after the curate had left Bennett's-rents,
Septimus was on his way to the sick-bed of the old man.

He thought a great deal of old Matt's assertion that he had seen an
entry somewhere; but the more he thought, the more it seemed that this
was merely a hallucination produced by his illness, for he could not but
recall how he had confused it with matters of the past and present.

The old man slept when Septimus reached his bedside, and some time
elapsed before he unclosed his dim eyes, and then they gazed blankly
into his visitor's before he recognised him, when a light seemed to
spread across his features, and he smiled faintly.

"Come again?  That's right.  I wanted to ask you something, sir," he
said.

"Indeed!" said Septimus eagerly, for he felt that it had to do with the
matter in which he was interested.

"Why," said the old man, hesitating, "it was about the nurses, and your
father, and--do you think that they had anything to do with the rats?"

Shuddering, and with the cold sweat breaking out upon his face at the
bare recollection, Septimus laid a hand upon the old man's breast, and
gazed wonderingly at him.

"Hush," said Matt in a whisper, "don't speak loud, sir.  I've been
trying to put it all into shape.  I think they had; and it's that woman
who drinks my wine that knows all about it.  They're keeping you out of
your rights, sir, and they're all in the plot.  Stoop down, please, a
little closer; I want to whisper," and he drew his visitor nearer to
him, so that his lips nearly touched his ear.  "Medicine and attendance,
sir, eh?  That was it, wasn't it?"

Septimus felt his heart sink with disappointment, as he slowly nodded
his head.

"I've found it out, sir," continued the old man; "found it out for you
after travelling all over London.  They think I've been here all the
time; but, bless you, I've been out every night, and had it over with
the posts in the street.  They don't know it, bless you; but I've been
tracking that entry, and, after the doctor has dodged me all over
London, I've followed him here.  It's not Doctor Hardon, sir, and yet it
is, you know; but I've not quite separated them, for they're somehow
mixed up together, and I've not had time to put that quite right; but
I'll do it yet.  Interest for that shilling you once gave me, sir, just
at the time I was that low that I'd nearly made up my mind to go off one
of the bridges, and make a finish.  But just see if either of the nurses
is coming, sir, and tell me, for they're all in it, and they'll keep you
and Miss Lucy out of your rights.  Tell her I'm true as steel, sir, will
you?"

"Yes, yes," said Septimus anxiously, for the old man seemed to be
growing excited.

"But about that doctor, sir, and the entry," he continued, "it's here,
sir; it's the house-surgeon, and I saw him make a memorandum here by my
bedside: `Medicine and attendance: Mrs Hardon.'  He put it down in his
pocket-book, after sharpening his pencil upon a bright shining lancet;
and he did not know that I was watching him.  Take him by the throat,
sir, as soon as you see him, and make him give it to you."

"Try and compose yourself, Matt," said Septimus sadly, for he now felt
that the whole history of the entry was but the offspring of a diseased
mind.  For a while he had suffered himself to hope that by some strange
interposition of chance, with the old man for instrument, the whole
matter was likely to be cleared up; but now the air-built castles were
broken down--swept away by the sick man's incoherent speeches, and,
after seeing him turn upon his side and close his eyes, the visitor rose
to leave.

But old Matt heard the movement of his chair, and unclosed his eyes
directly.

"You'll come again, sir, won't you?" he said, speaking quite calmly.
"That always seems to make me clearer--shutting my eyes and having five
minutes' doze.  I'm weak, sir--very weak now; but I'm getting right, and
I'll turn that over in my mind about the entry against you come again,
when I can talk better, and try to set it right.  But stop; let me see,"
he exclaimed,--"stop, I have it.  I remember now, I did think all about
it, and where it was I saw the entry; and for fear it should slip my
mind again, I did as you told me, and as I always meant to do--put it
down in my pocket-book under the pillow here;" and he drew forth the
tattered memorandum-book, and held it out to his visitor.

Septimus turned over the leaves with trembling hands, coming upon
technical references to trade matters,--amounts in money of work done;
calculations of quantity in pages of type.  Then there were the
baptismal and marriage entries they had made out, and beneath them some
tremblingly--traced characters, evidently formed by the old man when in
a reclining position; but, with the exception of the one word "Hardon,"
they were completely illegible.  He then turned to the old man; but his
eyes were closed, and he seemed sleeping; so he replaced book and pencil
beneath the pillow, and then, passing between the beds of other
sufferers, each intent upon his own misery, he came suddenly upon the
smiling nurse, evidently waiting to see if there was a gratuity ready
for her hand.

It was hard work parting with that shilling; but Septimus felt it to be
a duty to slip it into the Jezebel's hand, and to whisper a few
beseeching words that she would be kind and attentive to the old man.

"A quiet, patient old creature; you may rest quite happy about that,
sir," said the nurse.  "I'll treat him just as I would my own brother."

"He will get better?" said Septimus interrogatively.

The woman screwed her lips up very tightly as she said she hoped he
might, but Septimus thought of the expiring lamp and its supply of oil;
and it was little of his own affairs, and the possibility of there being
an entry locked in the old man's clouded memory, that he thought of as
he stammered, "Pray do all you can for him.  I am sorry I can offer you
no more."

"Bless you, sir, you needn't even have done that.  If it had been a
guinea, it would have been all the same, and I shouldn't have thought a
bit the better of you.  We have a painful duty to perform here, sir, and
it's an unthankful task, for there's no gratitude from the patients; but
when a friend or relative makes one a little offering, why, setting
aside the value, sir, it does seem to make things better, and to sweeten
the toil.  We never do expect any praise; while as to some of the tales
the patients make up, you'd be surprised.  Poor things! you see, their
minds wander a bit, and they always seem to take a dislike to those who
are like mothers to them.  But there, sir, I always says to myself, I
says, it's no use to take any notice of the poor things' whims, so long
as we know we do our duty by them."

"I suppose," said Septimus, "their complaints weaken their intellects a
good deal?"

"Wonderfully, I do assure you, sir.  Now I shouldn't be a bit surprised
if that poor gentleman, your friend, has been telling you all sorts of
things?"

Septimus did not believe all that Matt had said, but he evaded the
question.

"You'd be surprised, sir, if you only knew one-half the tales they make
up, sir.  There, I can't help it, sir; I laugh, I do, when I think of
them; for we must be able to eat and drink like bore-constructors, sir,
to manage a quarter of what they says.  They say we eat their chicking
and jelly, and drink their wine, and gin, and fancy things the doctors
order for them.  Some even goes further than that; but then the doctors
know what people are in such a state, and don't take any notice of
them."

"`Mrs Hardon; medicine and attendance.'  I wonder whether it's true, or
only a sick man's fancy?" muttered Septimus aloud, as he went down the
steps, and stood once more in the open air, feeling as though a weight
had been raised from his spirits.  "Poor creatures, poor creatures! left
to the tender mercies of those women, and often neglected and left to
die."

"No, no, no! pray don't say so," sobbed a voice at his elbow.  "It's bad
enough, I know; but not so bad as that, please!"  And then a burst of
sobs choked the speaker's utterance.

Septimus started, for the voice seemed familiar, and he saw beside him a
tall, well-dressed female, with a thick wool-veil drawn down over her
face, so that he could not distinguish her features.

"I knew you again, Mr--Mr--Mr--you did tell me your name, but I've
forgotten it; and I asked him, and he said--but dear, dear," she sobbed,
"can you see that I have been crying?  And have you been in that
dreadful place?"

"Yes," replied Septimus; "but I really do not know to whom I am
talking."

"O dear, O dear!" sobbed the woman, "it's me; you know me, that you
called on in Chiswell-street; and I can't take up my fall, for my poor
eyes are so red with crying, and people would see.  Registry--office for
servants, you know; and O dear, O dear!" and she sobbed more loudly than
ever.

"Indeed, I beg your pardon," said Septimus kindly; "but I could not know
you through that thick veil."

"Then you could not see that I had been crying?" sobbed the poor woman.

"No, indeed," replied Septimus, "and--"

"Don't speak to me yet," ejaculated Miss Tollicks; "I'm almost
heart-broken, and you set me off saying those cruel words.  I'd give
anything for a place where I could sit down and have a good cry, if it
was only a doorstep, where people could not see me.  I'm nearly blind
now, and can't tell which way to go.  It's ever so much worse than any
trouble I ever had with my business."

"Take my arm," said Septimus gently, after an apologetic glance at his
shabby clothes.  "Lean upon me, and we'll walk slowly down this street.
It is quieter here, and you will feel relieved soon."

"O, thank you, thank you," exclaimed Miss Tollicks, taking the proffered
arm, and still sobbing loudly; "but you are sure that people cannot see
I have been crying?"

"Certain," said Septimus as they walked on.

"And so you think," said Miss Tollicks, "that they are neglected and
die, do you, Mr Hardon? and I'm afraid the poor things are.  I've just
been to see my poor sister that the doctor recommended to go in, and
she's been telling me such dreadful tales about the nurses; and I can't
tell whether it's the truth, or whether the poor thing is only
light-headed.  It was horrible to listen to her, that it was; and you've
been to see some one too, Mr Harding?"

"Yes," replied Septimus, "the poor old gentleman who was with me when I
called upon you."

"Dear, dear, dear, what a sorrowful world this is!" sobbed Miss
Tollicks; "nothing but trouble, always trouble; and how is he, poor
man?"

"Not long for this world, I fear," said Septimus softly.

"And did he say anything about the nurses too?" sobbed Miss Tollicks.

"Yes, yes," said Septimus hastily; "but it can't be true.  No woman
could be such a wretch."

"O, I don't know, Mr Harding; but is my veil quite down? there--thank
you.  We're strange creatures, and we are either very good or else very
bad--especially servants, Mr Harding," sobbed Miss Tollicks.  "I'm
afraid that it's all true enough, and if they'd only let me stop and
nurse my poor sister, I wouldn't care.  The business might go and take
its chance, for what's the good of money without life?  But O, Mr
Harding, I did ask my landlord, and he said--and he said--but O! you
must not ask me now."  And here the poor woman burst out sobbing, quite
hysterically, so that more than one person turned round to gaze upon
her; but her troubles attracted little notice, for this was no uncommon
scene in the long dreary street: the inhabitants were too much
accustomed to the sight of weeping friends coming from the great
building, where, but a few minutes before, they had been taking,
perhaps, a last farewell of a dear one whom they would see no more--a
dear one whose face was perhaps already sealed by the angel of death; a
sad parting, maybe, from one whose hopeless malady had rendered it
necessary for the interior of the hospital to afford the attentions that
took the place of those that would have been supplied at home.  Poverty
and sickness, twin sisters that so often go hand-in-hand, brought here
their victims to ask for aid; and those who dwelt hard by paid little
heed to pallid out-patients seeking their daily portion of advice, some
on crutches, some leaning upon the arms of friends, some in cabs.  They
were used to painful scenes, and knew by sight patient, student, and
doctor; and therefore hardly bestowed a thought upon the sad couple
passing slowly down the street, at the end of which Septimus saw poor
weeping Miss Tollicks into a cab, and left her unquestioned to pace
slowly back towards Bennett's-rents.

He walked on and thought--thought of all his troubles, and the want of
decision in his character; of how he ought boldly to have investigated
his uncle's claim, setting aside his own feelings for the sake of those
dependent upon his arm for their support; and he sighed again and again
as he took himself to task.  And then a prayer rose to his lips as he
recalled the scene which he had left--a prayer fervently breathed there
in the midst of London's busy flowing stream, as fervent as ever
emanated from devotee kneeling in some solemn fane--a prayer that, for
the sake of those at home, he might be spared from the smiting of
sickness; and then he shuddered as he remembered his father's words, and
thought of his wife's increasing helplessness.

"Stark mad!  Yes, I must have been," he muttered; "and yet no, why was I
to crush down my unselfish love?"  And then he stopped short to examine
himself as to whether his love had really been unselfish.  But he passed
on again unsatisfied, lost in abstracting thoughts, heedless of being
jostled here, pushed there, a walking ensample in his short walk of what
he was in his longer journey of life, a man whom everyone would expect
to give place, while he full readily made way.  Now he was shouted at by
a cabman as he crossed the road, then dragged back by a crossing-sweeper
as he was about to step in front of an omnibus.  But he looked elate,
and thoughts of a brighter future rose before his mind as something
seemed to whisper that all would yet be well; and as brighter thoughts
came lighting in upon his heart's dark places, he saw old Matt well, and
finding the entry that should restore him to ease and comfort; his wife
and Lucy happy and smiling upon him; and then his head was lifted, his
form grew more erect, his nerves and muscles became terse, and, swinging
his arms, he strode forward till, turning down a side-street, he set off
and ran--ran hard to the bottom, in the lightness of spirit that had
come over him.  He had no object in view, no reason for hastening, and
the act seemed one of folly in a man of his years; but he felt the
desire come upon him, and he ran, inflating his chest with the free air;
and perhaps there have been times when, moved by similar impulses, men
of the present day have felt, if they have not acted, the same as
Septimus Hardon.

On again once more, this time to come in contact with a baker, whom he
swung round basket and all, and when sworn at he apologised so
cheerfully, and with such an aspect of genuine contrition, that the
baker closed his voluble harangue with "Well, don't do it again, that's
all."  And perhaps, after all, the acts of Septimus Hardon were not of
so very insane a character.  True, they seemed strange for a man who had
just come from a bed of sickness, and whose own affairs were in a most
unsatisfactory state; but may there not have been something reactive
after the oppression of much sorrow, the elasticity of life asserting
itself?  Be it what it may, certain it is that Septimus Hardon, aged
fifty, acted as has been described, though it seemed strange conduct in
a man who had suffered as he had.

Breathed again, he once more ran on, full of resolutions for the future,
touching the vigorous prosecution of his claim, smiling, too, as he made
the vows in doubt as to their fulfilment, for he knew his weakness; but
he ran on, feeling more light-hearted than he had felt for years, till
suddenly he stopped and proceeded at a more moderate pace; for he
trembled for his shoes, in whose durability he had not much faith,
trusting their strength but little, for, placing the standard of
boot-strength at twenty-six shillings, he remembered that he stood at
three shillings and ninepence, plus his old ones, and he trembled.

Near home at last, where he arrived just in time to encounter _ma mere_
the sinister, with her poodles, starting to give select entertainments
through the evening in the far West; and, as he turned into the court,
his light-heartedness passed away, the many hopeful thoughts vanished,
and he sighed, for truly it was being under a cloud literally, as well
as figuratively, to enter the precincts of Bennett's-rents.

Volume Two, Chapter XV.

THE COMMON LOT AGAIN.

All the renters appertaining to Bennett's were either out in the court,
or at door and window, on the day that Mrs Jarker was buried; while
Lucy gladdened the heart of Jean Marais by taking charge of the little
golden-haired child and carrying it up to his room to see the birds and
dogs.  Women stood in knots talking, with their arms rolled in their
aprons, and a strong smell of rum, of the kind known as "pine-apple,"
and vended at the corner, pervaded these little assemblies.  The sports
of the children were interrupted, and slapping was greatly in vogue in
consequence of mothers never having known their offspring to have been
so tiresome before.  Hopscotch was banished from the court, tops and
buttons confiscated, and there was not a boy or girl present who, in the
face of so much tyranny, would not have emigrated to some more
freedom-giving district, but for the fact that there was a "berryin;"
and the shabby Shillibeer hearse, and its doleful horse and red-nosed
driver, already stood at the end of the court, where the public-house
doors were so carefully strapped-back for the convenience of customers.

The time at which the funeral would take place was already well-known,
but for hours past the court had been in a state of excitement which
prevented domestic concerns from receiving due attention.  It was an
observable fact that quite a large trade was done at the chandler's shop
in halfpenny bundles of wood, consequent upon fires being neglected, and
doing what fires will do, going out.  Babies screamed until they were
hoarse, and then fell asleep to wake up and scream again.  There were no
bones broken, on account of the elasticity of the juvenile framework;
but several children in the quadrupedal stage of development were known
to have fallen down flights of stairs during their maternal search;
while another diversion had been caused by a morsel forcing its foot
through the grating over the drain, and refusing to be extricated.  It
was also observable that there were very few men about, and those
visible confined themselves to the cellar-flap of one of the
public-houses, only looking down the court at intervals.

At last there was an increased interest, for Mr Pawley and one of his
men had entered the house, women parting left and right to let them
through.  Then there was a buzz of excitement, for Mr Jarker had been
seen to enter the public and come out, to stand wiping his mouth with
the back of his hand, apparently undecided as to which way he should go;
but at length, pale and scared-looking, walking up the court and
following the undertaker.

And now the Jarkers were thoroughly canvassed, and many allusions made
concerning Bill's treatment of his poor wife.  Worn, dejected, hard--
featured women, whose lives had been as hard a bondage as that of the
one passed away, but who made their brick without straw unrepining, told
of her sufferings, and of how she had always been weak and sickly; while
it was on all sides allowed that though, as a matter of course, a master
might be a little hard sometimes, Jarker had been too hard, as she was
so sickly.  One thought it was the drains, another fancied the place
wasn't quite healthy; but all agreed that there was nothing better to be
had at the price; while the market was _so_ handy.  What was to become
of the child too, formed a surmise in which Mrs Sims took great
interest; while, as soon as that lady's back was turned, it was
universally agreed that she was "a good soul."

Another buzz of excitement.  Mr Jarker has been seen to come out with a
crape scarf fastened upon his fur-cap, while a short skimpy cloak hangs
awkwardly from his ample shoulders.  Mr Jarker is very low-spirited,
and finds it necessary to take something short once more in the way of a
stimulant, and imbibes half-a-quartern of gin at the public-house, his
emblems of woe inducing a great amount of respect being paid to him by
the occupants of the place, while one end of the scarf will keep getting
in his way.

Mr Jarker is a very great man this day, and comports himself with much
dignity; he feels that he is being looked up to, and that he deserves
it, but for all that he seems nervous and uncomfortable, and is now
fetched back by the undertaker, who regularly takes him into custody,
for he rightly fears that very little would make Mr Jarker run off
altogether and show himself no more for some days, when perhaps there
might be a difficulty about the payment of the expenses.  Not that Mr
Pawley has much fear upon that score, for there was always a certain
pride respecting a decent "berryin" at Bennett's-rents; and supposing
any one was very much pressed, there were always friendly hands ready to
add their mites, with the understanding that one good turn deserved
another.  Mr Pawley never suffered much in his transactions at the
Rents, of which place he had the monopoly; and he always made a point of
insisting that all funerals should be not only what he termed economic,
but strictly respectable.

"It's a dooty we owe to the departed," he would observe, while never
once could he recall a dissentient, though assistance was often called
in to defray the cost, and the well-known avuncular relative of the poor
appealed to.  Not that Mr Pawley had very hard work to induce the poor
of the district to do their "dooty" by the departed, for the desire was
always there to pay the last sad rites decently and in order, even those
who were obliged to stoop to get an order for a parish coffin often
raising a tiny fund to induce Mr Pawley to embellish the hard outlines
of the common plain elm shell with a plate and a few rows of nails, to
take off the workhouse look of the charity they grudged to accept.

Mr Pawley managed to get Jarker safely back to the house, and then the
excitement increased, for after the former gentleman had prisoned his
client in a lodger's room he came down wiping his eye, that seemed more
moist than ever, and stood mute-like at the door, surrounded by half the
inhabitants of the court, whom he calmly informed that _they_ were
coming down directly.  Mr Pawley spoke slowly and impressively, for he
was a man who had not much to say, but who made the most of it, as if
his words were gold and to be beaten out to cover the largest space at
the least possible cost.  He considered his words of value, and as he
doled them out people listened eagerly, looking upon the day's
performance as something of which not the slightest item should be lost;
while Mr Pawley made much of his funerals, regarding each one as an
advertisement to procure another, as he laboured hard to impress upon
the dwellers of Bennett's-rents how friendly were his feelings towards
them, and how little he thought of the money.

"Now they're a-coming!" he whispered, motioning the people away right
and left--a very marshal of management--and then there was the shuffling
of feet, the creaking and groaning of the stairs, and the chipping of
the wall, as down flight after flight the coffin was carried, resting at
the landings, and more than once some neighbour's door was sent flying
open.  Mrs Sims' was the first, as one of the bearers backed against
it, and a lodger's on the first-floor was the next; but the occupiers
were down in the court, and so escaped being disturbed.

At last, with the top covered with the powdery whitewash chipped from
wall and ceiling, the coffin stood in the passage, then in the court for
an instant, before being borne into the shabby Shillibeer hearse; while,
amidst a suppressed hum of voices, more than one genuine tear was seen
to fall, and more than one apron to be held up by those who saw the poor
woman's remains borne away.  Then back came Mr Pawley on tiptoe with
his handkerchief to his eye, and disappeared in the house, from which he
soon reappeared with his prisoner, followed by two relatives; and, as
Bill Jarker was marched down to the hearse with his ill-fitting cloak,
and long crape scarf hanging from his fur-cap, he held his hands
together in a strange, peculiar way--a way that, but for the trappings
of woe, would have suggested that Mr Jarker was really in custody, and
bore steel handcuffs upon his wrists.

Then there was a crowding towards the entrance of the court to see Mr
Jarker shut in, Mr Pawley mount beside his red-nosed driver, and then
the old broken-kneed horse went bowing its head and shambling along
through the streets, with no more way made for it than if its doleful
load had been so much merchandise.

Septimus Hardon had stood at his window watching the proceedings, as he
slowly wiped again and again his pen upon a coat-tail; for the scene
brought up a sad day in Carey-street, and he could not but recall the
bright-eyed, yellow-haired child he had lost, and this set him thinking
of the little one up-stairs in Lucy's charge.  But Septimus Hardon never
thought very long upon any one particular subject; and, sighing deeply,
he returned to his writing, while the people in the court slowly flocked
back to form groups and talk until such time as it was necessary to get
"master's tea."  There was a considerable amount of thirst engendered
though, and the public-houses at the top and bottom of the court must
have done quite a powerful stroke, of trade that day in cream-gin and
pine-apple rum; for the dull soft bang of the strapped-back doors was
heard incessantly.  For now, _a la militaire_, people's feelings seemed
to undergo a reaction; children played and hooted again unabashed; the
organ-man played the Olga waltz to a select circle of youthful dancers,
while admiring mammas looked on and smiled; a party of "nigger"
serenaders arrived at the lower public-house, and played and sang for a
full hour, the coppers rattling in the reversed banjo freely, after the
fortunes of the celebrated Old Bob Ridley had been musically rendered by
a melodious gentleman of intense blackness, who had thrummed the wires
of his instrument until his fingers were worn white.  Then, too, after
the departure of the sable minstrels, a lady volunteered a song; but she
sang not, for an interdict was placed upon the proceedings by the
landlord, who "couldn't stand none o' that, now."  Then an altercation
ensued, which ended in an adjournment, and the voluble declaration of
some half-dozen departing matrons that they'd have no more to do with
the goose-club.

But Mrs Sims was not there.  Ten minutes after the starting of the
shabby funeral she went up to Septimus Hardon's rooms to fetch the
little girl, but had to ascend to the attic, where she found her leaning
against Lucy, who was seated upon the floor, laughing at the little
thing's delight as first one and then the other of the poodles stood up
and carried a stick in its mouth, while the dark eyes of Jean were fixed
upon the beautiful group before him, ardently though with a speechless
admiration.

With many thanks Mrs Sims bore away the tiny girl, whose sleeves Lucy
had tied up with bows of crape, and, as she accompanied the woman down
the stairs it was only by an effort that she refrained from snatching
the little one back and bearing it into her own room.  But Mrs Sims
bore the prattling little thing away and seated it upon the carpet in
her lodging, when, preparing to relieve herself after so much sorrow,
she took up the bellows: but as the fire was out she only made a dust,
and, laying the pneumatic comfort aside, she took to "spazzums," which
necessitated the sending of Marry Hann, a neighbour's child, for
half-a-quartern of rum, which relieved the pain so much that she
repeated the dose more than once, and, carrying the little girl with
her, went down again for a social chat, being now insensible to pain.
Half-an-hour had not elapsed, though, before a fresh twinge induced her
to try another instalment of her "spefizzick," and now she not only
became insensible to pain but to everything else.  Mr Jarker did not at
once return after the funeral, but parted with his fellow-mourners
without a word, after stopping at a public-house honoured by Mr Pawley,
and settling the expenses readily over some gin and beer, accompanied by
pipes; and, though more than one neighbour declared they saw him enter
the door quite late, and come out early next morning, it was certain
that he did not go up to his attic, a place which for some time he
shunned after dark.

Mrs Sims declared she saw nothing of him, and doubtless her testimony
was very trustworthy, for she had not the slightest recollection of what
took place that night after the last administration of the "spefizzick,"
nor of how she came into her own room till her angry husband explained.
For when in the dusk of evening Lucy returned from the warehouse with a
fresh pile of work, she found Mrs Sims seated nodding upon the doorstep
with the sleeping child in her flaccid arms, and in momentary danger of
falling upon the broken flags.  So taking the little thing, Lucy bore it
to her own room; and from that time forth it often came to pass that she
crossed the court when Mr Jarker was from home, and attended to the
wants of the little neglected child.

Volume Two, Chapter XVI.

A BATTLE: SCIENCE WINS.

"What! another operation?" said old Matt with a groan.

"To be sure," said the house-surgeon cheerily; "why not?"

"But I'm so much better," said Matt; "and I've no end of work to get
through."

"I daresay, my man," said the surgeon sadly, "and so we all have; and I
fear that when the day comes upon which we are called away, we shall
have as much to do as ever."

"But I'm so much better now; all but my head, sir, and I can't quite
think as I used to.  Things bother me, and when I want to remember one
particular matter, I get confused."

"We shall put you all right this time, my man, and then start you off to
make room for someone else.  We don't want a parcel of great lazy
fellows here, fattening on our wine and jelly."

Old Matt smiled grimly as he said: "I say, sir, is it really necessary?"

"Why, of course, my man.  We did you a great deal of good last time, did
we not?"

"Ye-e-e-s, yes," said Matt; "you did, certainly, sir; but is it
necessary that my poor old carcass should be touched again?  It ain't
for the sake of experiment now, is it, sir?  I'm afraid, you know,
you'll kill me; and, just for the sake of being fair, as you've had one
turn at me, wouldn't it be better to try it on someone else--on some
other subject?"  And "O, dear!" thought the old man to himself, "what a
difference between a Queen's subject and a doctor's subject!"

"Pooh, nonsense, old friend!" said the surgeon, laughing; "we'll make a
man of you again; so cheer up, or you'll be working your nerves too
much.  Why, you've picked up wonderfully this last day or two."

"What's the use of picking up, sir, if you get knocking me down again,
eh, sir?"

The surgeon smiled and continued his round, and old Matt sat and
grumbled by his bedside, for he was now up, and able to walk about the
ward.

"Now let's see," muttered the old man.  "I always did fancy, and it
always seems so, that the more you try to think straightforward of a
thing, the more it bothers you; so let's try and get round to it
back-way, if I can.  Well, here goes.  Now here's Mr Septimus Hardon--a
man--well, not clever, but what of that?  I hate your clever men;
they've no room to be amiable, or time to be generous.  He's a good one,
and that's sufficient.  Well, he's kept, say, for sake of argument, out
of his rights by his rogue of an uncle.  Now he proves his baptism and
his father's marriage, and then he wants to prove the date of his birth
to have been after the marriage.  Easy enough that seems; but how to do
it when t'other party has took possession, and declares all the other
way.  Doctor's books will do it, failing any other means; and as we do
fail other means, why we want the doctor's books.  I tell you what it
is; I believe we have both bungled the matter from beginning to end, and
ought to have gone to a good lawyer.  But there, what's the good of
talking?  We had no money, and people without money always bungle
things.  Now where's the doctor's books, or the doctor?  Doctor's dead--
safe; but then are his books dead--cut up--burnt?  That's the question.
I say no, because I'm sure I saw that entry somewhere; and here's the
nuisance.  When I was situated so that it would have been almost a
blessing to be shut up here in hospital, I wasn't ill; now I want all my
energies, I'm chained by the leg.  I'd give up bothering about the
thing, but I'm sure I read it somewhere, and I'm sure, too, I
recollected once where it was; and it was while I was so bad," he said,
pulling out his tattered memorandum-book, and referring to the
hieroglyphics it contained.  "No," he said, after a long inspection; "I
have read a good deal, and taken some copy in my time, but I never
thought I should live to write stuff I couldn't read myself.  There,
it's of no use; it'll come some day."  And he closed his eyes, and
leaned his head upon his hand; for his brain seemed weary and restless
with his long and painful illness.

A morning or two after, the old man was again seated at his bedside,
trying to amuse himself with a book; but with little success, for his
eyes were weak.

"I shall let well alone," growled the old man; "and if they want to
operate, they may cut and carve someone else.  I shall do for the few
years I have to live; but they might find a poor fellow a scrap of
snuff, hang 'em!"

"Here, you Number 19, into bed with you directly!"

"Why, I'm only just up," grumbled Matt, who was the said number.

"Never mind, old fellow," said the speaker; "be smart, for they will be
after you directly."

Old Matt shivered and trembled, and his lips moved as he slowly returned
to his bed, and there lay waiting.  He had almost determined to be
content, and bear his burden to the grave; for, said he, "I can't live
much longer."  But then he thought of the wondrous skill and care of
those in whose hands he would be, and of the rest that would afterwards
be his were his life spared.

"I won't turn coward now," he muttered, letting his eyes rest upon some
flowers in a window near his bed, and gazing at them in a strange
earnest way,--"No, I won't turn coward, not even if they kill me.  But
that's hard to think of, that is.  Mine has been a rough life, and I've
put up with a deal; but I never tired of it--not to say thoroughly tired
of it, though I've been very near more than once; and I should like to
keep grinding on for a long time yet.  Life's sweet, somehow, when
you've got friends, and I seem to have found 'em at last.  I should have
liked to have helped him out with that entry, though.  Where did I see
it?"

The old man paused thoughtfully, and kept passing his hand across his
dew-wet forehead; but the memory was still defective, and he sighed
wearily: "Why didn't I begin sooner, or make him begin?  Ah, that's it--
that's it! why don't we begin hundreds of things sooner, and not leave
them till it's too late!"

The old man paused again, and his lean, bony fingers clutched and clawed
restlessly to get at the flowers.  But his old train of thought now
seemed to have returned, for he continued: "Don't often see anything
about hospital operations, but I have had copy about them--`Death from
the Administration of Chloroform.'  What an ugly word that first is, and
what a shiver it seems to give one when we think of it in connection
with ourselves, though it seems so little when it has to do with anyone
else!  Wonder whether any of the old 'stab or piece hands would get hold
of it to set, and feel sorry for the battered old stamp they used to
laugh at, and whether it would get into the papers if I was to--"

The old man stopped once more, and wiped the dew from his wet forehead.

"Well, well," he said half-aloud, "what is to be will be.  God help me
well through it all, for I'm a miserable coward; and if it's to be the
end of old Matt, why, I don't think I've been so very bad, and--there,
hang it!" he whined, "they might have left me a pinch of snuff.  Here, I
say, though," he cried, rousing up, "this won't do.  I'm on the wrong
folio, and shall have to re-set."

"I wonder whether it's hard to die?" he muttered, after another pause.
"Don't seem as if it was, for they look almost as if they were asleep,
and wanting to be woke up again.  One must go sometime or another; but
it would have been happier like to have had hold of someone's hand, and
seen two or three faces round one's bed, faces of people sorry I was
going--going.  There, there," he gasped, "I can't stand it.  They
sha'n't touch me.  It's like running headlong into one's grave.  They
sha'n't touch me, for I must live and find out about the doctor, for
that poor helpless fellow in the Rents; or he'll never do it himself.
They sha'n't touch me, for I am nearly clear now, and I can grub on as I
am; while, if my chronics kill me in time, why they do, and there's an
end of it.  They sha'n't--"

"Now, Number 19," said a voice, and to his dismay poor old Matt saw a
couple of porters enter the ward with a stretcher.

The old man moaned and closed his eyes, muttering the whole while as he
resigned himself, meekly as a child and without a word of opposition, to
the men, who tenderly lifted him upon their portable couch, and then
bore him along the whitewashed passages, whose walls seemed so familiar
to him, and struck him as being so particularly white and clean--white
as were ceiling and floor.  He only saw one cobweb, and that was out of
reach in a far corner; and in his nervous state this greatly attracted
his attention, so that he could fancy the large spider grinned at him as
if he were a larger kind of fly in the trammels of a net.  He felt that
he should have liked for the men to set down the stretcher and remove
that cobweb, but he stifled the desire to speak.  Then he noticed how
strangely the hair of his foremost bearer grew, and this, too, troubled
him: there were no short hairs on the poll, and for some distance up the
back of his neck was a barren land.  Then he fell to studying the man's
coat-buttons, the depth of his collar, and how easily he tramped along
with the handles of the portable couch, whose motion was so easy with
the light, regular, springy pace of the man; while the dread of what was
impending seemed quite to have passed away, and he began, now the peril
was so near, to think of himself as though he were someone else in whom
he took an interest; and then came a very important question:

How would they bring him back?

Would he be lighter with the loss of blood, and would he be gradually
stiffening, and growing colder and colder, till the icy temperature of
death pervaded him through and through?  And then, too, what would they
do with him?  He had no relations--no one to come and claim his body.
And even this thought seemed to trouble him but little, for he smiled
grimly, muttering to himself:

"Cause of science, sir, cause of science; and besides, it won't matter
then."

On still, with a light swinging motion and an easy tread, the porters
bore their load, and in the minute or two the removal occupied old Matt
thought of the last time he had made that journey, and his sensations
then: how that he had looked upon it all as a dream, and felt that he
should soon wake up to find himself in bed.  But the old man's musings
ceased as he was borne into the theatre, save for an instant when the
thought flashed across his mind, Suppose he died without seeing the
entry? and this troubled him for a few moments; but directly after he
was gazing up with anxious eye at the tier upon tier of benches, some
crowded, some nearly empty, and looking from face to face; but there
seemed not one that sympathised with him, as, after a glance when he was
first borne in, a quiet light, chatty conversation was carried on in an
undertone.  Then there was almost perfect silence, and the old man felt
himself to be the centre upon which every eye was fixed.  His heart told
him now that in the low-murmured buzz of conversation that rose,
students who had again and again stood at his bedside were discussing
his case, and that if the operation were unsuccessful or unskilfully
performed, they would merely say that the patient did not rally, and
then go home or to their studies, regardless of the little gap left in
the ranks of life; while Septimus Hardon would probably never succeed in
his endeavours to recover his lost position.

Then he half-smiled as he thought of the importance with which he rated
himself, and looked eagerly round.  Close by he could see the earnest,
study-lined faces of several older men, many of them grey-haired and
thoughtful-eyed--men of eminence in their profession, but strongly
imbued with the belief of the man of wisdom, that we are ever but
learners.  Then he looked straight above, even at the skylight, where he
could see that the sun illumined the thick ground-glass; and now once
more, in a quiet musing vein, he set to wondering how it would be after
the operation.

Plenty of faces round, but mostly cool, calm, and matter-of-fact.  Here
were the hospital dressers and assistants, standing by the table--a
curious-looking table in the centre of an open space; and a hasty glance
showed him sponges, and water, and cloths, and lint, and mahogany cases,
that at another time, if some other sufferer were to have been operated
upon, would have caused him to shudder.  But all that was past now, and
he merely looked earnestly round till his gaze rested upon a stout
grey-haired, keen-eyed man, whose black clothes and white neck-tie were
spotless, and who now advanced to the table with a quiet business-like
aspect, as he bowed somewhat stiffly to the assembled surgeons and
students, and then spoke a few cheering words to the patient as he felt
his pulse.

"I hope he won't turn nervous over it," thought Matt.  "Be serious to a
man in his position, with so many looking on.--Can't I have the
chloroform?" he then whispered to a dresser by his side.

"Yes, of course: here he is with it," said the man; and for the second
time in his life Matt gazed curiously at a polished mahogany box which
was being brought forward.

"I say," whispered Matt earnestly to the man at his side, "if anyone
comes afterwards--afterwards, you know, and asks for me, you'll say,
`Medicine and attendance,'--there, don't laugh--it's particular--you'll
say, `Medicine and attendance;' and that old Matt tried to think it out
to the last.  You'll do that for me?" he whispered earnestly.

The man repeated the words over, and smiled as he made the required
promise.

"Tell him not to give me too much," said Matt, now with the first
display of anxiety, as he glanced at the inhaling apparatus.

The time since old Matt had been brought into the theatre might be
reckoned by moments; and now, in the midst of a profound stillness, the
grey-haired man calmly raised his eyebrows, turned up his sleeves, and
then walked a step or two from the patient, now inhaling the wondrous
vapour of that simple-looking limpid fluid, whose first effect was to
cause him to push away the apparatus and struggle feebly with those who
administered it.  But there was a strong hand upon his pulse and a pair
of stern eyes watching him, and, as the mouthpiece was kept firmly
against his face, old Matt gave one or two more inspirations and became
insensible.  Then every eye was fixed upon the calm, business-like man,
whose nerves seemed of kindred material to the blades he drew from their
delicate purple-velvet resting-places and quietly inspected for an
instant, his eyes flashing brightly as their grey-hued blades--knives
whose keen edges were formed of the finest-tempered metal that human
skill and ingenuity could produce.

A breathless silence ensued, and the gay thoughtless aspect was gone
from the young faces crowding the benches.  Here and there an assumed
cynical smile could be seen, but the effects of a strange clutching at
the heart, a curious vibration of the nerves, was visible in the pallor
of cheeks and fevered aspect of the onlookers of the upper seats.  Two
young men right at the back surreptitiously drank from small flasks, and
when wiping their lips paused, too, to pass their handkerchiefs over
their damp foreheads, before thrusting them in their moist palms as the
great surgeon--one who had climbed by slow degrees to his present
eminence in the profession, and upon whose knowledge and skill now
depended the life of a fellow-creature--gave his quick, sharp orders,
and changed the position of one or two assistants at the
operating-table, pointing, like a general preparing for battle, with the
keen blade he held in his hand.  Short, quick orders as he grasped the
flashing steel and made ready for the fight--for the _combat a
l'outrance_, with the grim, slow-crawling, dragon disease--a fight where
skill and genius took the place of physical force and daring.

A painful silence, and then, while every eye was fixed upon his
movements, the great surgeon gave a hasty glance round to see that all
was in readiness for the time when moments were more than grains of
gold, and would add their weight in one scale of the balance--life or
death; but all seemed there, ready hands and the many appliances for
checking the rapid flow of life's stream, and then, with almost an air
of nonchalance, he stretched out his arms to secure freedom of action.

Not a whisper, not a movement, the spectators of the scene with craning
necks, immovable as groups of statuary, as they gazed from their tiers
of benches in this modern amphitheatre down upon the gladiatorial combat
taking place, even as of old the Roman citizens may have watched some
fight for life or death.

A keen bright flash of the blade in the softened light, and the surgeon
thoughtfully describing an imaginary curve in the air with the point
just above the insensible patient; then, with a satisfied nod, he leaned
forward.  There was once more a bright flash of the knife, followed by a
bold, firmly-directed cut, deep and long, but clear of vital parts in
the wondrous organisation.  Then came the spouting gush from many a
vessel as the old man's life-blood rushed from its maze; busy fingers at
work, here upon arteries to stay their waste, there applying sponge; one
blade changed for another, more manipulation, and orders performed after
being given in a calm impressive whisper; a few more busy moments, and
the throbbing flow of life arrested; rapidly-moving fingers with
sponges, silk, strapping, towels; and the great surgeon softly wiping
his hands, cool, calm, and unruffled.

"Very little loss, Mr Grant," to the next general in command.

"Extremely little," with a bow and a smile; "most successful operation."

"Well, well, I think so," said the great man, unbending somewhat as he
arranged his cuffs and brushed off an imaginary speck of dust.  He then
felt the patient's pulse for a few moments, nodded with a satisfied air,
said a few words to the chief of his staff, bowed once more, and by the
time the hospital-dressers had finished their task and the patient was
lifted back upon his portable conch, the operator was in the brougham
waiting in the street.

Then came once more the murmuring buzz of voices, the reaction and the
pallor tried to be laughed down, the porters, and then in a few minutes
old Matt was once more in his bed and comfortably arranged before he
recovered consciousness.

The house-surgeon and an assistant were beside his bed as he opened his
eyes and stared vacantly about, trying to recall what had taken place.

"How sick and faint--what a nasty dream!" he muttered; "but I don't
know, sir,--been as well if it had been true."

"What would?" said the surgeon, smiling.

"Why, I dreamed, sir, that--why, so it was--so it was, then," muttered
the old man fervently; "thank God, thank God!"

A calm heavy sleep soon fell upon Matt, but he was not free from trouble
then.  There was the entry continually worrying him; now he knew he had
seen it, now he felt that it was only a dream, or a dream within a
dream.  At last, though, a change came over the scene, and all was
prosperity; he had entered into partnership with Septimus Hardon, and
purchased the copyright of the Times, whose columns they regularly
filled every day with a complete exposure of Doctor Hardon.

But the dream was not founded upon fact, for Septimus Hardon, with hope
in his breast, had been to the entrance of the hospital, thinking that
now Matt was so much better he would perhaps be ready with some
information.  But the visitor had been told of the operation, and the
old man's present critical state, while being advised not to see him at
that visit; and receiving a promise that a message should be sent in the
event of a change for the worse, Septimus Hardon slowly, and sadly
disheartened, returned to his law-copying.

END OF VOLUME TWO.

Volume Three, Chapter I.

THE BREAKING OF A BARRIER.

It was about this time that Aunt Fanny, in the large room at
Surrey-street, took to complaining of her neck, and wore a narrow strip
of flannel beneath the stiff white-muslin kerchief, while night and morn
her servant had to rub the said neck with hartshorn and oil.  And truly
the old dame's neck was stiff, and cold might have had some share in
producing the stiffness; but undoubtedly it was principally caused by
the many sage shakes she gave her head when pondering over her nephew's
state; for in spite of all the medicaments which he patiently allowed
her to administer, the old lady effected no cure, and was in consequence
sorely troubled in her own mind.

But she was not so sorely troubled as the object of her interest, who
angered himself in vain because of the chaotic state of his mind.
Battle, battle--ever the same useless struggle, till he was ashamed of
his weakness and want of self-control.  To-day victor, to-morrow
vanquished; now reviling himself for his want of faith and cruel
suspicions, which he owned were almost baseless; the next day a slave to
duty, and forbidding his heart to harbour further thoughts of her he now
called his enemy.  Work seemed the only refuge, and he toiled on.  Study
he could not; but he visited from house to house in the fold of
Bennett's-rents, where the tainted sheep of his flock were gathered; and
hiding from himself his real feelings--a shallow pretence--he knew the
while how anxious he was respecting that little ewe-lamb.

But he drew a mask over his face, telling himself it was his true
countenance; and with a calmness that was but on the surface, he called
frequently to see the invalid mother, timing, however, his visits that
they might be made while Lucy was absent--for duty's sake (and he now
knew pretty well when she was likely to visit the warehouse); while,
when he had visited the Bents, and returned without seeing her, he
credited duty largely, and praised his own self-denial.  All steps, he
flattered himself, towards the final conquest which he would achieve;
but though casting out the weak thoughts, he told himself that it was
his duty to satisfy his heart concerning the doubts which so constantly
tormented him.

How often the hours came when he scorned his dissimulation, and tore off
the mask, none knew; but his face grew more pale and livid, and the grey
hairs that sprinkled his temples were thicker than of old.

It happened one day, though, when he and Lucy had not encountered since
he saw her bending over the child from Mrs Jarker's room, that,
visiting from house to house and room to room, Mr Sterne stood in front
of Mrs Sims'; but that lady was from home; so hearing the merry voice
of the laughing child, he had ascended the stairs to find Lucy in the
bird-catcher's attic.  For the little face had been pressed against the
blackened window, and a pair of bright little eyes had peered, hour
after hour, from beneath the tangled golden hair, watching the busy
fingers at the sewing-machine, till with heart aching for the neglected
babe, and to study her mother, who objected to its being brought into
the room, Lucy had crossed the court, and gone up and played with the
little thing, laughing merrily at the child's delight, though a tear
stood in her eye more than once as she evaded the child's eager,
oft-repeated question of "When mammy come back?"  Bill had gone out with
his nets, and most probably would not be back until night; so the child
had been left alone with some food in the dreary room, to play or cry
itself to sleep, unless Mrs Sims should be there to attend to its
wants.  But there was that one spot by the window where she could look
down upon Lucy; and there, day after day, she would stand without
murmuring, attracted by that wondrous sense which draws children to the
loveable and true.  Lucy's heart yearned as she gazed up from time to
time at the child, and she longed earnestly for the season when its
mother should make fresh arrangements; but for some reason she came not,
and Lucy had not seen her since Mrs Jarker's death.

And now the golden hours for which the little soul had longed had come
again.  Lucy was with her, and, herself a child for the time, she
laughed merrily at the little one's delight.

Panting, tumbled, and flushed with exercise, Lucy stood at last,
returning an escaped curl to its bondage, a bright smile playing round
her ruddy lips, which parted to display the white teeth beneath, when
the door opened, and, with a frown upon his brow, the curate stood in
the entrance gazing upon the scene before him.

"In that ruffian's room--there of all places in the world!" doubt
whispered to him; at a time, too, when their chance meetings had been
attended by a cold reserve on Lucy's part--a reserve which his doubting
heart misinterpreted; for he could not in his blindness see the cost at
which it was maintained.  And yet this reserve had pleased him while it
pained, for he at times acknowledged the interest he took in her
welfare.  But it mattered not, he said, for his desire was but to try
and save her from evil, nothing more; and the oftener he listened to
these delusive whisperings the stronger grew a voice within, telling him
that his reasoning was false, and that he was forgetting duty,
position--all, in a love for one who grew colder and more distant at
every meeting.  Wearily, though, he kept on building up a wall between
them--a wall built upon the sand.  Stone by stone he laid, telling
himself that it was for duty's sake, as he toiled on helplessly at his
self-imposed task.  True, he might have satisfied himself of the motive
for Lucy's actions, which to him wore a blurred and strange aspect; but
to others her name seemed a sealed book, one which he shrank from
opening, lest he should at the same time reveal the secret of his own
heart.

And now he stood at the door of that beggarly room, where was the bed
over which he had so lately bent to whisper comfort to the suffering
woman, or knelt by its side to ask mercy for the poor sufferer and a
blessing on the helpless child.  There was the same bare look of misery
in the wretched place; but as the sun streamed through the great leaden
lattice, all seemed glorified and brightened by the presence there.
Unseen he gazed on, while the glow of orange light flooded the room, and
played round the graceful form of Lucy, as, starting again, she was
pursued by the laughing child, varying her attitude each moment as she
eluded its grasp.

Suddenly the child struck itself sharply against a chair, and broke into
a whimpering cry; but the caressing arms, the words of endearment, and
the loving kiss soothed the pain instantly, and a smile came over the
sunny face once more; when Lucy stood as if transfixed, the merry light
faded from her eyes, the smile from her lip, and then the blood flushed
to her temples, but only to retreat and leave her deadly pale, for in an
instant the wall so laboriously built up, and at so great a cost in
suffering, was swept down by the flood of passion.  Arthur Sterne knew
that the battle had been in vain, and that he was but man; while doubt,
everything, was cast to the winds as he was by her side, her hands
clasped in his, telling her of his beaten-down love, his hopes, his
fears,--all, all in the impassioned burst of words raised by the tempest
of a strong man's love; for the sandy foundation was undermined, and the
last trace of the barrier swept away.

And what said she?  No words came in reply to his appeal.  At first,
startled, confused, overcome, she shrank from him, pale and trembling;
but as his words came pouring forth, making cheek and neck burn, she
knew that no greater bliss could be hers; and the trembling lids of her
dark-blue eyes were slowly lifted to meet his, when, as if scathing her
once more, came the recollection of his bitter, contemptuous look, his
long coldness, and even scorn; and snatching away her hands, she burst
into tears and darted from the room.

Pale and troubled in mind as to what to attribute Lucy's behaviour, his
brain in a whirl of doubt, Arthur Sterne stood gazing at the door,
until, turning, he became aware that the opposite attic window was being
opened.  The lark began to twitter as the hand of Jean Marais secured it
outside; and then he saw the wild dark eyes of the youth begin to
earnestly watch the room.

Turning with a few kind words to the astonished child, who crouched in a
corner, Arthur Sterne made his way from the house; and a sad evening
spent Aunt Fanny, in her anxiety for the "wilful boy" who angrily
rejected her advice.  He was not ill, he said; but the good dame nipped
her lips together; while, retiring at last, the curate spent the night
pacing his chamber-floor, trying to examine the tangle in his heart, but
only to conclude that, come what might, difference of position should be
no bar between him and Lucy; for, driving away, as he thought
successfully, the doubt that still assailed him, he declared to himself
that she possessed virtues before which birth and dowry paled and became
as naught.

"Unstable as water," muttered the curate to himself, though, days after,
when meeting with Lucy alone in the front-room of their place in
Bennett's-rents, the barrier was again broken down--the barrier that
time had forced him to renew--while the words he could not but utter
came pouring forth, to bring no response.

Septimus was away with his boy, and Mrs Hardon slept in the back-room;
and the words of Arthur Sterne were low and deep as the passion that
prompted them.  But there was no response--no loving look in reply--
naught but the pale cheek and quivering eyelid, tears and looks of
half-anger; for still clung to Lucy the recollection of his scorn and
contempt, his misinterpretation of her motives; and the hands he clasped
were cold and drawn away.

Then anger took the place of love--a foolish, mad anger, which robbed
him of his self-control, and made him utter words beneath whose passion
the poor girl bent as bends flower before the storm.  He uttered words
then that an hour after he would have given anything to recall; telling
her angrily of _ma mere_ and her slighting hints, of Jarker's
familiarity, and lastly of the meeting he had witnessed in the Lane;
unheeding the hands held up so deprecatingly, the appealing looks, and
the tear-wet, pallid cheeks; for, as he told himself again and again
that night, he was mad--mad in his passionate love for one unworthy--mad
in his words; and he writhed as he recalled the way in which he felt
that he had lowered himself.

"I insist--I hold it as a right!" he had exclaimed; "tell me, Lucy, who
was that woman?  Do you know her character?"  And he clutched her wrist
angrily as he spoke.

He said no more then, for Lucy's face was aflame, and she started
hastily to her feet, facing him almost as it were at bay, and vainly
trying to free her hand from his grasp.

"Do your parents know of your meetings?" he exclaimed.

"No, no, no!" she cried excitedly, as she glanced towards the back-room
door.

"Then I must--nay," he added with almost a cowardly look of triumph, for
the weakness of the man was triumphant that afternoon, and he yielded to
all that he had hitherto triumphed over--"I will tell them," he said,
"for your good."

"For pity's sake," whispered Lucy, "Mr Sterne.  Ah, pray, sir, stop--
pray stay!  Do not think ill of me--"

But there Lucy ceased, for she was alone; and once more scornfully, with
the cold bitter look, Mr Sterne had dashed her hand from him in
contempt and turned from the room, into which Mrs Hardon now came to
find Lucy weeping as though her heart would break.

Volume Three, Chapter II.

SNUFF.

Old Matt did not wake again for many hours, but, as the days slipped by,
he partook with avidity of all that was allowed him, and grumbled for
more.  His friend the house-surgeon, whom he could look at now without
imagining that he took notes inimical to his friend Septimus Hardon's
interest, reported favourably of his condition; while Septimus himself
came again and again, each time more eager to get at that which was
hidden by the confusion in old Matt's brain.

"If he had only been so jolly anxious about the Somesham affair, first
start off, what a difference it would have made!" grumbled Matt.

But it seemed useless to try and draw the old man's attention to things
he had talked of in the days shortly before his entry of the hospital,
for here all seemed blank.

"Well, yes, sir," Matt would say, "I have some faint recollection of
saying something about medicine and attendance; but do you know, sir, I
begin to think that one's memory is in one's blood? and they took so
much out of me that last time, that I can't remember anything at all.
`Medicine and attendance,' did I say?  Why, it must have been the
medicine and attendance here, and those old cats of nurses.  My thinking
apparatus is terribly out of order, sir; and when I try to look back at
anything, it's like peeping at it through a dirty window.  P'r'aps it
won't come bright and clean again, eh?"

"Don't try to think," said Septimus with a sigh.  "You will recollect
some day; so let it rest."

"Well, sir, that's just what I should like to do; but since you've asked
me, I can't; for things won't go just as I like, and I feel all in a
muddle.  Let's see, now: you said something about this at your last
visit, didn't you, sir? when I asked you about that talking woman and
the office for servants; for I do recollect that, you know."

"Yes," replied Septimus, "at every visit."

"Just so," said Matt; "I thought you did; but I can't tell a bit about
it now.  Sometimes it seems that I heard it; sometimes that I read it,
or saw it against a wall, or dancing before my eyes; but let's see," he
said vacantly, as he held his hand to his head, "what was it we wanted
to find?"

"The doctor's books, or the doctor," said Septimus.

"To be sure," said the old man; "I haven't got it right yet; and really
you know, sir, this isn't a first-class place to get right in, and they
won't part with me yet, though I do long now to be well, and at liberty
for a peep at the old law-courts and Lincoln's-inn once more.  I mean to
have a holiday, and spend it among all the posts in the old square as
soon as I'm out; I'm getting so light-hearted and jolly, sir.  Why, it
will be quite a treat to be somewhere amongst a bit or two of dirt once
more; we're so clean here."

"Only a little longer, Matt," said Septimus smiling.

"You see," said Matt, "there's so much to upset one about.  What with
the screen round this bed, and the screen round that bed, and the groans
and sighs, ah, and even shouts sometimes, there's plenty to make a poor
fellow feel low-spirited.  Now there's a chap over there in that bed
seems to have taken it into his head that he suffers more than anyone
who ever came into the place, and howls and goes on terribly; while the
bigger and stronger people are, sir, the more weak they seem to me to be
in bearing pain.  I believe, after all, you know, sir, that the little
weak women beat us hollow."

"Ah!" said the patient spoken of, surmising from Matt's gestures that he
was being referred to--"ah!  Mr Space, you are talking about me, sir,
and my groans, and it's very hard and unfeeling, sir.  You may suffer
yourself some day."

The visitor felt uncomfortable; but old Matt took it up directly.

"That's cool, anyhow," he gasped; "why, what do you mean? haven't I
suffered as much as any of you, and been through two operations, and
lived 'em out too?  Why, what more would you have?  It would have killed
a big fellow like you, I know."

The patient replied with a groan, and began muttering about the
unfeeling behaviour of those about him, from whom, he said, he had
expected a little sympathy.

This roused the ire of a neighbour who had lost a leg through being run
over by a coal-wagon, and he now took up the matter, followed by several
others; so that a wordy warfare seemed imminent.

"That's it, go on," growled Matt in an undertone.  "They're all getting
better, sir; and, consequently, they're as cross as two sticks.  What a
thing it is!  There seems to be no gratitude amongst them; and really,
sir, if it wasn't for the nurses, it wouldn't be such a bad place to
come to--that is, for a man with strong nerves, you know.  Now just look
at 'em, how they are going it!"

The murmurings and dissensions of the other patients seemed to have
quite a good effect upon old Matt, who forgot his own pains in the
troubles of those around him.

"You don't know how much longer you will be here?" said Septimus.

"Not for certain, sir; but I think only for a few more days.  But it's
wonderful what a difference they have made in me.  I mean to go in for a
fortune, sir, as soon as I'm out; and then I shall make my will, and
leave half to the hospital.  Now I've got the worst of it all over, I
amuse myself with taking a bit of notice of what goes on around me, and
listening to what's said; and it's wonderful what an amount of misery
comes into this place--wonderful.  I've known of more trouble since I've
been in here, sir, than I should have thought there had been in the
whole of London; and that's saying no little, sir.  Lots die, you know;
but then see how many they send out cured.  I don't see all, but one
hears so much from the talking of the nurses.  I expected when I came
here that there would be plenty of accidents, broken bones--legs, arms,
and ribs, and so on; but there, bless you, the place is full of it; and
they're getting to such a wonderful pitch now, with their doctoring and
surgery, that they'll be making a new man next, out of the odd bits they
always have on hand here."

"I suppose so," said Septimus drily.

"Ah, you may laugh, sir," said Matt; "but it's wonderful to what a pitch
surgery has got.  Now, for instance, just fancy--"

"There," cried Septimus, "pray stop, or I must leave you.  I fancy quite
enough involuntarily, without wishing to hear fresh horrors.  It's bad
enough having to come into the place."

"Lor' bless you, sir," said Matt, "you should listen to the nurses, when
one of 'em happens to be in a good humour.  Do you know when that is,
sir?"

"When pleased, I suppose," said Septimus.

"Just so, sir; the very time.  And when do you suppose that last is?"

Septimus shook his head.

"You don't know, of course, sir.  Why, when the patients are getting
better."

"I might have supposed that," said Septimus wearily.

The old man chuckled, and looked brighter than he had looked for weeks.
"Yes," he said, "it's when the patients are getting better, and there's
plenty of port-wine and gin on the way.  That's the time to find the
nurse in a good humour; and she'll tell you anything, or do anything for
you."

Septimus Hardon looked weary and anxious, and fidgeted in his chair, as
if he longed to change the conversation, but the garrulous old man kept
on.

"Tell you what, sir, these nurses seem to get their hearts hardened and
crusted over; and then when you give them a little alcohol, as the
teetotallers call it, the crust gets softened a bit, and things go
better.  I used to growl and go on terribly at first; but it's no use to
swim against the stream.  I used to grumble when I found that they drunk
half my wine and watered my gin; but I'm used to that sort of thing now:
for which is best--to drink all one's liquor, or keep friends with the
nurse?  Last's best; and they say I'm a dear patient old creature.  I
look it too, don't I?" said the old man with a grim smile.

"But," said Septimus, "I must soon go; and I should like a word or two
about my affairs first."

"All right, sir; we'll come to that directly.  I'm an invalid, and you
must humour me.  But this is the way of it.  My nurse comes to me, like
an old foxey vixen as she is, and--`Now, my dear, how are we?' she says.
`Only middling, nurse,' I say.  `I've brought you a glass of wine to
cheer you up,' she says.  `Don't care about it a bit,' I say; `don't
feel wine-hungry.'  `O,' she says, `but the doctor ordered it.  Now,
take it, like a good soul.  You must want it.'  `Not half so bad as some
people do,' I say.  `Toss it off, nurse; and just punch my pillow up a
bit, it's got hard and hot.'  `Bless my heart, no,' she says, `I
couldn't think of such a thing!' so she sets the wine down, and puts my
head a bit comfortable.  `The wine's for you; so, now, take it directly;
I couldn't touch it--I don't care for wine.'

"`Of course you don't,' I say to myself; and then I begin to talk to her
a bit, and to tell her that she must have a sad wearing life of it, when
the old tabby sets up her back and purrs, and likes it all--looking the
while as tigerish, and sleek, and clawey, as the old cats can look.
Then I tell her she wants more support, and so on, when all at once she
finds out that there's some one else to attend upon, and I must drink my
wine directly; so I take the glass and perhaps drink it; but more often
I only just put it to my lips and set it back upon the tray, when she's
satisfied.  Of course, you know, it would be instant dismissal for a
nurse to drink a patient's wine or spirits if it was known; but any
thing left is different altogether.  You know, sir, it's a dreadfully
beggarly way of going to work, only as the saying goes, you must fight
some one we know of with his own weapons: and now we are the very best
of friends possible.  You'd be surprised how we get along, and all
through going without a glass now and then.  The best of it is, though,
that she never thinks of watering it now, like she would for another
patient; so that what I miss in quantity I get in strength, and, you
know, she'll do anything for me in a minute--that is, if she feels
disposed."

"But," said Septimus, "it seems strange that you should be so left at
the mercy of these women."

"What can you do?" said the old man.--"There, I 've just done, sir, and
we'll go into that directly.--Who can you get to go through what these
women do, unless it's these Sisters of Mercy, who many say are to become
general?  Suppose there was a strike, eh?  Look how few people you can
get to come and run the risk of fevers and all sorts of diseases.
Sisters of Mercy, eh?  God bless them for it then, if they will; but I
hope I may never want their help, all the same.  But there, we won't
talk about it, only you want iron women a'most to go through it all, and
it's not a life to be envied.  Why, if it ain't almost leaving-time,
sir, and you've kept me chatting about my affairs here, and yours are
nowhere.  How are you getting on?"

"Badly, Matt, badly.  But I've very little to say, Matt, for I was
unable to get on without you," replied Septimus, smiling at the old
man's coolness.

"'Spose so," said Matt laconically; "let's see, sir, I think you never
went any more to Finsbury?"

"Where was the use," said Septimus drearily; "who can tell where a
day-book fifty years old can be?"

"True," said the old man thoughtfully; "butter-shop, most likely; and it
wouldn't pay to go all over London buying half-pounds of `best Dorset,'
on the chance of getting the right sheet.  I can't see it yet, sir; and
still I seem to fancy we shall do it, though everything about it seems
to be all in a muddle."

Septimus Hardon seemed to be of the same opinion, for he sighed, took
his hat, and went homeward in a frame of mind that made him feel
disposed to bury the past and its cares, and look only to the future;
while old Matt picked up a newspaper, and began mechanically folding it
into small squares--butter-shop size.

"No," he muttered, "not much chance of finding that particular scrap of
paper, if we don't get hold of the book through the old doctor's heirs,
executors, administrators, and assigns.  And that's where we ought to
begin; putting ads in the _Times_, and setting private inquirers to
work, and all on to that tune; only, to play that tune, sir, you want
money.  Some careless hussy has burnt that scrap of paper, sir, long
ago, to light a fire; or it has been used for twisting-up screws of
tobacco, or ha'porths of toffee, or hundreds of other things as some
beggarly shop or another is licensed to deal in.  Only fancy someone
lighting his pipe with that valuable little scrap of paper!  `Medicine
and attendance, Mrs Hardon, two, twelve, six!'  I'll be bound to say
that was the figure, and I'd give something to get hold of that bit.
Wonder whether it's selfishness, and thinking of what it would be worth
to me?  S'pose be; for this is a rum world, and I'm no better than I
should be.  But who'd ever have thought this would have come out of my
going to his office and asking for a job?  Don't matter, though, about
what I feel, for he'd have come to see me here safe enough, even if it
had not been about his affairs; for he's a trump, sir, a trump: but all
the same, it's a pity he ain't got more in him--worldly stuff, you
know."

Old Matt sat very thoughtfully for awhile, and then began to mutter
again.

"Wish I had a pinch of snuff once more.  There now; I'm blest.  Only to
think of that! me having my box in my pocket, and to forget all about
it--shows what my head's worth now.  Bravo! though; that seems to clear
one's head wonderfully.  I shall recommend its use in lunatic asylums
for mental diseases; fine thing, I believe.  Only to think, though, for
me to get that into my head about that entry I had seen, and trying to
write it down, and then for it to be clean gone once more!  S'pose I did
think of something of the kind, or see it, or something.  Heigho!" he
sighed; "I must have been precious bad though, sir, confoundedly bad.
Thank goodness it's all over, though, for this time; and I'm going to
walk out soon, instead of, as I expected, being taken to the students'
lodgings in small pieces, wrapped up in paper--paper--waste-paper--by
jingo! though, I'll have a go at the waste-paper everywhere.  I'll
search every waste-paper shop in London, beginning at Mother Slagg's--
beg her pardon, Gross by this time I suppose, and--and--hooray!" he
shouted wildly, to the intense astonishment of the fellow-patients, as
he tossed his newspaper in the air.  "Snuff for ever! that pinch did it.
Only let me get out of this place.  At last!"

Volume Three, Chapter III.

MR JARKER'S TRAITS.

Men of business cannot afford to continue their grief for any length of
time, hence at a very short date after the death of his wife, Mr
William Jarker, bird-fancier, bird-catcher, and pigeon-trapper, to be
heard of at any time at the Blue Posts, Hemlock-court, by such gents as
wanted a few dozen of blue-rocks or sparrows for the next trap-match at
Wormwood Scrubbs, stood before a piece of looking-glass nailed to the
wall of his room with three tin-tacks, a ragged, three-cornered,
wavy-looking scrap, from which, if a little more of the quicksilver had
been rubbed off, it would never again have been guilty of distorting the
human face divine.  Upon this occasion it played strange pranks with the
expressive countenance of Mr Jarker, as he stood, with oily fingers,
giving the required gloss and under-turn to his side-locks, which were
of the true "Newgate-knocker" pattern, their length denoting how long a
time Mr Jarker had been running fancy free without troubling her
Majesty's officials for his daily rations and lodging, in return for
which he would scrub, polish, and clean to order.  Mr Jarker seemed to
take extra pains over his toilet, arranging his neck-tie and the
silver-mounted lens, buttoning-up his red-plush waistcoat with the
fustian back and sleeves, cleaning his finger-nails with the broken-out
tooth of a comb, before he stood in front of the glass and smirked at
himself.

Now this was a mistake on Mr Jarker's part, for his was a style of
countenance that would not bear a smirking; there was too much stiffness
of contour in the various features, a blunt angularity which resisted
the softening sweetness of a smirky smile, and the consequence was, that
if he had smirked at a stranger, the said stranger would have flinched,
from a very strong impression that Mr Jarker was rabid and about to
bite.  However, mistaken or not, Mr Jarker smirked several times, and
after various patterns, before he frowned, which gave a much more
respectable cast to his countenance, the scowl being most thoroughly in
harmony.  Mr Jarker frowned, for one of the side-locks would not keep
in position and retain the required bend when he had crowned himself
with his slouchy fur-cap; so the erring hair had to be again oiled,
combed, and wetted with a solution of brown sugar, which the operator
moistened in a natural way in the palms of his hands, then the lock was
smoothed and tucked under, and proved a fixture; and now the cap was
again placed in position, and displayed a thin wisp of crape fastened
round it by means of a piece of string; for being a soldier engaged in
the battle of life, Mr Jarker did not doff his uniform, but confined
himself to the above slight manifestation of the fact that he was a
widower.

Apparently satisfied with his aspect, which was a little more villainous
than usual, Mr Jarker turned his attention to the child, who crouched
in a corner of the room with a piece of bread in her hand, watching him
with her large blue eyes, very round and staring, but evidently pressing
her little self as far away from the fellow as possible.

"Ah! and so she comes and plays with the kid when I'm out, does she?"
said Mr Jarker, in a ruminating tone.  "Ah! we knows what that means,
my chicking, don't we?"

The little thing pressed herself closer to the wall, and Mr Jarker
stood very thoughtfully at the window for a few minutes, gazing down at
where Lucy's sewing-machine beat rapidly; but Mr Jarker was not aware
that in his turn Jean Marais was watching him fiercely, his dark eyes
seeming to flash beneath his overhanging penthouse brows, as he eagerly
scanned every motion of the ruffian, looking the while as if prepared to
spring across the court at his throat.

"Ah! we knows what that means, don't we, my chicking?" repeated Mr
Jarker, turning once more from the window.  "Come here to yer daddy,
d'yer hear!"

But though hearing plainly enough, the little thing only shrank back
closer into her corner; when, with an oath, the fellow took two steps
forward and seized the little thing by its pinky shelly ear, and dragged
it, whimpering and trembling, into the middle of the attic, where he
made "an offer" at it as if to strike, but the frailty and helplessness
of the little one disarmed even him, and as his eyes wandered to the
window to see that no opposite neighbour could watch them where they
stood, his arm fell to his side as he sat down.

"Now, then!" cried Mr Jarker, "no pipin'; don't you try none of them
games with me, my young warmin'.  'Cos why, it's ware hawks to yer if
yer does.  Now hook it back to that there corner."

The child's eyes were turned timidly and wonderingly up to his, as it
shrank back once more to the corner of the attic.

"Now, then!" cried Jarker sharply, "come here again."

Like an obedient dog in the course of training, the little thing crept
back to his side, and then the tiny face grew more wondering and timid,
the eyes more round, and it was very evident that the little brain,
soft, plastic, and ready to receive any impression, was working hard to
understand the meaning of the ruffian's words.  Bright and beautiful as
the faces shown to us on canvas as those of angels, the little
countenance, shining the brighter for the squalor around, was turned up
more and more towards Jarker, gazing so fixedly and earnestly at him
that he grew uneasy, fidgeted and shuffled his feet, and then his eyes
sank, guilt cowering before innocence; for, quite disconcerted by the
long, steady gaze, the ruffian rose and turned away, growling and
muttering, "She's gallus deep for such a little un."  He then took a
short peep at his pigeons, walked back to the window, and stared long
and heavily at the white hands he could see busy at the sewing-machine,
and then turned once more to the wondering atom, trying to soften
himself as he stooped down, but the child only flinched as from a coming
blow when he patted the soft, bright curls.

"Here, come here," he said gently, and he drew the child between his
knees as he sat down.

"Now mind this here: nex' time she comes and plays with you, my
chickin', perhaps she'll say, `Would you like me to be your new mammy?'
she'll say; and then, `Yes,' says you; d'yer hear? `yes,' says you.  Now
say it."

But the little one only continued her wondering gaze till the fellow
left her, and slouched out of the room, after raking the last cinder
from the fire, in performing which he knocked the bottom of the grate
from its frail hold, and then, in his endeavours to replace it, burned
his fingers, and ejaculated so loudly that the eyes of the child were
turned upon him more wonderingly than ever.

And then--was it that sympathy for the child moved the inmate of the
opposite attic, or that he had a natural hatred for Jarker?  Jean turned
angrily from the window to a cage of half-a-dozen linnets the fellow had
brought him an hour or two before, and to his mother's rage and
astonishment, seemed about to wreak his fury upon the birds.  He seized
one in his hand, and was about to wring its neck, but _ma mere_ leaped
forward to stay him, when his fierce gesture sent her back to her seat
to watch him.  But he did not kill the birds, but carried the cage to
the window, and then let them go, one by one, till the last bird
hesitated at the wire door for a few moments, and then fled, with a wild
chirp of joy, far away into the smoky air.

"Jean, Jean! but you are _bete--fou_!" exclaimed his mother, trembling
with fear and rage at this folly, as she thought of the money he had
given for the birds.

"I hate him, I hate him!" hissed Jean furiously, while, watching him
through her closed eyes, the old woman nodded quickly to herself, as she
muttered and thought of her own early days, and it seemed to her that
Jean's heart was as easy to read as that printed book at his side.

But at this time Mr Jarker was slouching out of his room, and
shouldering his way down the stairs, stopping the blowing of Mrs Sims'
fire for an instant, as he growled audibly in passing; then down into
the court, where the index fingers of his hands were thrust into his
mouth, and he was about to make a long and piercing whistle for the
delectation of some passing pigeons as they flew over the strip of
heaven seen from the flags of the court; but a glance at the first-floor
window where dwelt the Hardons checked him.  The next minute, though,
the birds repassed, and Bill whistled loudly again and again; but the
birds would not listen to this shrill voice of the charmer, the charmer
himself, side-locks and all, went and stood at the bottom of the court,
against the bright blue gilt-lettered boards of the public, where he
rubbed the shoulders of his sleeve-waistcoat shiny, as he stood
slouching about, and sucking one end of his spotted neck-tie.

"Whatcher going to stand, Bill?" said a gentleman of his acquaintance, a
gentleman with a voice singularly like one that had been heard in the
old Grange at Somesham upon a memorable night.  This gentleman had a
piece of straw in his mouth, and his hands in his pockets, his coiffure
being of the same order as that of Mr Jarker, while, being evidently of
a terpsichorean turn of mind, he enlivened the street with a
"pitter-patter, pitter-patter, pit-pit, pat," toe-and-heel dance upon
the cellar-flap of the public-house, where, his boots being stout and
well-nailed, and the flap very hollow beneath, his efforts were attended
with so much noise that the potboy of the establishment thrust out a
closely-cropped head between the swing doors, where he held it as if in
the process of being shorn off, at the same time requesting the
light-heeled gentleman to "Drop that 'ere now, come!"

But instead of standing anything to quench the thirst of the new-comer,
Mr Jarker stood upon the order of his going; for just then, laden with
a large parcel of work, Lucy Grey passed out of the court and
encountered Mr Sterne, who saluted, and then turned with a grave,
pained countenance to gaze after her, as he saw Jarker follow, slouching
along as if his boots were soled with lead, diver fashion, and he of so
ethereal a nature that the ponderous metal was necessary to prevent him
from shooting up into heaven like a stickless rocket minus the tail of
fire.

The curate turned thoughtfully up the court, and began his round of
visits, listening to complaints here, supplications there, but finding
nowhere rest.  He went thoughtfully through his round of duties that
day, hearing and speaking mechanically, for always before his eyes there
was the light, graceful form of Lucy, followed by the hound-like Jarker,
and as he thought the lines grew deeper and deeper in his forehead.  He
listened to Mrs Sims' praises of the child--praises delivered in a
lachrymose tone, as a strong odour of rum pervaded the place.  He
listened to _ma mere's_ complaints of Jean, and felt an insinuation
against her fellow-lodger's fair fame stab him as it were to the heart;
while surprised he gazed upon the fury with which the son turned upon
his mother; and then descending, his task nearly done, the curate sat by
the bedside of Mrs Hardon.

There stood the sewing-machine in the next room; there was the chair in
which Lucy had been so lately seated, and where even now he could
picture her form.  But, silent and abstracted, he listened for the
twentieth time to the story of the murmuring woman's troubles, and what
she had suffered since they had been in town.  He listened, but he was
asking himself the while whether Lucy merited the love he would pour at
her feet--asking himself whether it was possible for a pure, fair,
spotless lily to bloom amidst the pollution around.  Still, too, came
the remembrance of the words of the old Frenchwoman--"Our beauty, some
of us."  Once admitting doubt to his breast, the strange thoughts teemed
in, bringing up the woman he had seen and tracked in vain, and above all
the low ruffian whom he had seen dogging the fair girl's footsteps but
that very day, when love had whispered, "Follow!" and pride cried, "Nay,
stand aloof!" for he recalled their last interview.  Then, again, he
asked himself how dared he believe words that slurred her fair fame,
when his conscience whispered to him that they were like their source--
vile; but, surrounded as he was by vice and misery, might he not well
wonder whether Lucy's fair face spoke truth in its candour-tinged
aspect, or was like the hundreds he encountered in his daily walks--fair
to view, but with a canker within?

He told himself that he could watch her no longer--that he could not
play the spy; and once again he prayed for strength to conquer the
passion that seemed to sway him at its will; for he could not comprehend
the behaviour of its object.  Love he had thought to be buried for ever
with his betrothed; but from her grave the seed seemed to have returned
to him untainted by time, and with all its quickening, germinating
powers ready to shoot forth and blossom in a wealth of profusion for
another.  And he knew that it must be lavished upon Lucy, even though
she still repulsed him.  And now, again, his eye brightened as, dashing
down the sinister thoughts, he would see only her faith and truth,
smiling at poverty when he called up the riches of her heart--riches
that he saw poured forth for the murmuring parent, for whose wants she
toiled on incessantly, winning for her many a comfort that the sick
woman could not else have enjoyed; and even then with the overflowings
of her young heart ready for the neglected child.

"For the neglected child!"  What a gloomy starting-point for another
train of thought, embracing its mother, tall, dark, and rouge-cheeked;
Jarker, the ruffian, tracking Lucy's steps; and lastly, _ma mere_, who
seemed even then whispering in his ear, "Our beauty, some of us!"
Arthur Sterne acknowledged that he was weak, though he fought hard with
his soul-assailing enemies; while the track of the storm he was
encountering was marked in his face, as he strolled slowly homewards,
but only to pause startled at the mouth of the court.

Volume Three, Chapter IV.

LUCY'S TROUBLE.

Lucy's eyes turned very dim as soon as she had passed Mr Sterne, and
things wore a strangely blurred aspect.  She would have given worlds to
have thrown herself upon his breast, and told all--of Agnes Hardon and
her sorrow, confided to her alone, as the suffering woman begged of her
to love her for her child's sake, and not to turn upon her the cold
bitter eyes of the world at large; and again and again Lucy had taken
the passive, wasted, tearful face of Agnes to her breast, in the rare
and stealthy meetings they had had, and wept over her, little knowing
that Agnes possessed a secret which she felt that she could not divulge
for the sake of those whom she had injured.  Again and again Lucy had
implored her leave to confide in Septimus Hardon, but Agnes had refused
so firmly, telling her that the day her presence was betrayed would be
that of their last meeting--telling her so angrily, but only to kneel at
her feet the next moment, and ask her to bear for a little longer with
an erring woman, whose stay in this world might not be for long.  And so
Lucy toiled on, bearing the scathing breath of calumny; pointed at by
suspicion; and wounded again and again in her tenderest feelings by the
only man she had ever felt that she could love.  They were her own
words, poor girl, though little had she seen of the world at large.  She
told herself that it was cruel of him to treat her as he did; but what
could she do?  And then she shivered as she thought of stolen meetings
by night--meetings which should take place no more--while she wept
bitterly as she hurried through the streets thinking of the misery of
her lot.

She had no veil to her shabby bonnet, and it was only at last by a
strong effort that she forced back the tears; for she felt that people
were staring hard at her as she passed.  But it was no unusual thing for
people to look hard at Lucy Grey, while there was variety in those
glances; there were, from women, the glance of envy, the look of
sisterly admiration, and that bordering upon motherly love; and there
were the hard stare from puppydom, the snobbish ogle, looks of love and
respect, every glance that could dart from human eye; but the poor girl
hurried on as in a dream, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, but bent upon
the object of her journey.  It was nothing to her that behind at a few
yards' distance came Mr William Jarker, favouring everyone with a
fierce scowl in return for the glances bestowed upon her, as he tracked
her with the pertinacity of a bloodhound, turning when she turned,
crossing when she crossed.  Once only on her way back did Lucy tremble,
when a fiercely-bearded, middle-aged dandy half stopped in front of her,
so that she was compelled to turn a little out of her path, as with a
heightened colour her eyes sunk before the fellow's insulting stare.
But she did not hear his words, as, fervently wishing old Matt were by
her side, she hurried on.

It sometimes happens, though, that those who are working for their own
devices do us many a good turn; and it was so here, for as the
studiously-dressed and bejewelled dandy turned and followed the fair
girl, he suddenly became aware of a rough shoulder forcing him aside,
when turning angrily, with umbrella raised to strike, he gazed full into
the heavy, bull-dog countenance of Mr Jarker, whose white teeth gleamed
beneath his flattened nose as though he were preparing to fasten on his
victim.

The next moment the lemon-gloved hands were covering chain and pin, and
the heavy swell of the London current subsided slowly and disappeared,
leaving Lucy unmolested as she hurried on, followed still closely by her
self-constituted bodyguard, of whoso presence she was ignorant; while,
five minutes after, he made a side-bound into a doorway, where he stood
peering round the post and smiling like some hideous satyr of old, as
Lucy encountered Agnes Hardon, and stopped in the quiet street where
they then were.

The sight must have been very gratifying to Mr Jarker, for he stood
leering, and rubbing his soft, whitish hands, pausing every now and then
to have a good gnaw at the nails, already nearly worn down to the quick;
and then stepping lightly from his concealment, he passed close behind
Agnes as she was whispering:

"God bless you!  Don't stay talking to me; go now.  I'll get it away
directly he will let me.  I have been five times already; but he was
either there, or some one of his companions waiting about."

Mr Jarker gave a short, husky, forced cough as he passed, when, turning
hastily, fear and anger seemed to combine in Agnes Hardon's face, as she
caught Lucy's hands in her own, interposing herself, as if for
protection, till Mr Jarker had disappeared, when she hurried her away
by another route, and hastily took her leave.  But Lucy did not see her
troubled, anxious face following at a short distance, and keeping her in
sight till she reached the end of the court in time to encounter Mr
Sterne, who saw almost at one glance Lucy, with Jarker standing aside to
let her pass as he bestowed upon her a familiar smile and nod, and Agnes
Hardon some fifty yards beyond, turning hastily and hurrying off; but
her he followed angrily, and with a suffocating sensation at his breast,
as if he were, knight-errant like, about to attack one of the evil genii
who shadowed the life of her he loved.  Fifty yards in advance, though,
was Agnes, when he commenced following her steps, till a crowd around
that common object of our streets, a fallen horse intercepted his view;
and, when he had passed the throng, the figure he sought had
disappeared.

"O, this weary, weary deceit!" sobbed Lucy, throwing herself on her
knees by her bedside and weeping bitterly.  Then, sighing, she rose,
folded her mantle, and bathed her eyes before going to the sitting-room,
where in a few more minutes her sewing-machine was rapidly beating until
Septimus came and, with one loving hand laid across her red eyes, took
away the candle.

Volume Three, Chapter V.

MATT'S DISCOVERY.

"Hold hard here!" cried a voice from a cab-window; and the driver of as
jangling a conveyance as ever rattled over London stones drew up at the
corner of Carey-street, Chancery-lane.

"I'll get out here," cried the voice; and very slowly, and with the aid
of a stick, old Matt extricated himself from amongst the straw, a part
of which he managed to drag out into the road.

The next minute the cabman was paid and had driven off.  The boy who,
with a basket slung across his back, had stopped to witness the
disembarkation, and cut his popular song in half the while, resumed the
refrain and went on along the Lane; while, with a smile on his pale
face, old Matt slowly made his way down Carey-street, stopping to rest
at the first lamp-post.

"Here I am," he said; "King Space come back to my dominions.  I wasn't
going to ride and lose the pleasure of seeing it all.  Thank God there's
no whitewash here, and everything's just as I left it; things looking as
if they hadn't stirred a peg; and I don't suppose they have, if they
haven't been costs, which certainly do grow and flourish well here.
Lord, sir, how beautiful and smoky and natural everything looks once
more!  There's Hardon's old printing-office--ah, to be sure!  `Grimp,
Deeds copied.'  That's the trade to flourish here.  Now then, sir,
good-morning!  Let's get on a bit farther."

According to his old custom, and heedless now of its being broad
daylight, Matt made his way slowly to the next post, making his crippled
state an excuse now for stopping, though there was hardly a soul to be
seen in Carey-street, and those who passed were too intent upon their
own affairs to notice him.

"Slow work, sir," said Matt, stopping again, "glad to see you, though,
once more.  Thought at one time, if ever I did it would have been upon a
cork-leg, sir; for I couldn't have stood a wooden peg, sir, anyhow; a
cork-leg all springs and watchwork, like old Tim Christy's, as used to
squeak with every step he took, just as if, being of cork, someone was
trying to draw it; and he never oiled that leg, for fear it should go
too easy.  But there, I'm all right again," he continued, taking a pinch
of snuff, "and I call this real enjoyment, sir--real enjoyment.  Only
wait till I've put him all right upon that point, and I'll have a bit of
dissipation.  Let's see: the Vice-chancellor will be sitting like a
great god, listening to the prayers of the petitioners in Chancery.
I'll have an hour there, sir, and then take a sniff of the ink in one of
the old offices; and confound it all, sir, I wish you could join me!
I'll have half-a-pint of porter in Fetter-lane.  I'm in for a regular
round of dissipation, I am, just to make up for all this being shut up."

On again went the old man, rather short of breath, till he was well in
sight of the hospital at the end of the street; when, raising his eyes
just as he was about to stop, he caught sight of a pale, weary face at
one of the windows, and shuddered and turned away; but the next moment
he had stopped and turned, and was waving a hand to the patient gazing
from his prison-window.

"God bless you, mate!" said Matt aloud, "and may you soon be out of it!"
And then there was a reply waved to his salute, and the old man turned
down the courts to the left, and soon stood in Bennett's-rents.

"What, Matt!" cried Septimus Hardon, hurrying to open the door as he
heard his slow step upon the stairs; while Lucy took the old man's other
hand and helped him to a seat.

"What's left of me, sir--what's left," said the old man cheerily; "and
here I am right and clear-headed, and I did see it all, sir: and I've
recollected it, and got it all put down here, so as you can read it, and
safe in my head too.  It wasn't fancy, it was all right; and I did see
it, as I told you, in what must have been the old doctor's books."

"But where? when?" cried Septimus eagerly.

"And there was the name--`Mrs Hardon, medicine and attendance, so
much;' but of course I thought nothing of it then."

"But," cried Septimus, as he hooked a finger in a button-hole of the old
man's coat, "where was it?"

"Gently, sir, gently," said Matt, unhooking the finger; "mind what
you're after: stuff's tender.  But there: you'll fit me out with a new
suit when you're all right--won't you, sir, eh?"

"A dozen, Matt, a dozen!" cried Septimus eagerly.

"And Miss Lucy here's to have as full a compassed pianner as can be got,
without having one as would burst and break all the strings--eh, miss,
eh?"

Lucy smiled sadly.

"But where did you see it, Matt--where was it?" exclaimed Septimus,
inking his face in his excitement, and totally destroying his last
hour's work.

"Why, sir, no farther off than at my lodgings," cried Matt triumphantly.
"I did mean to be of use to you if I could, and I've lived to do it,
sir, and I'm thankful; but come along, sir--come along.  I'm weak and
poorly yet, and there seems to be a deal of water collected in my
system--a sort of dropsy, you know; and it all flies to my eyes on the
least provocation, and comes dripping out like that, just as if I was a
great gal, and cried, d'ye see?"

There was a tear in Septimus Hardon's eye as he warmly wrung the old
man's hand, and ten minutes after they were standing in Lower Series--
place, with Matt smiling grimly at a freshly-painted set of skeleton old
bone letters upon a glossy-black board, announcing "Isaac Gross, Dealer
in Marine-stores;" but that was the only alteration visible, for Isaac
and the stout lady occupied the same places as of yore, and were at that
very moment engaged in an affectionate, smiling game of bo-peep.

"Might have waited for me to dance at the wedding," muttered Matt.

But there had been very little dancing at the said wedding; while the
trip necessary upon such occasions was one made to the Rye House, where
Isaac's attention was principally taken up by the jack-boot shown
amongst the curiosities--a boot which filled his imagination for days
after, as he sighed and thought of the evanescent nature of his own
manufacture.

The greeting was warm on both sides, Isaac smiling at a quicker rate
than had ever before been known.  But the visitors meant business, and
Matt exclaimed:

"Now, Ike, we want to go over the waste-paper."

Matt was outside as he spoke, and then Mrs Gross, whose head had been
stretched out to listen, found that what had been her property was in
question, so she cried, "Stop!" and waddled from her seat to where Matt
stood, seized him by the arm, and waddled him into Isaac's workshop,
from whence she waddled him into the back-parlour, where his bed, now
the only one in the room, was neatly made up, and the place somewhat
tidier than of yore, though the waste-paper heap was bigger than ever.

"Now," said Mrs Gross, with a very fat smile and a knowing twinkle of
her eye as she sank her voice to a whisper, "Is it deeds?" and then she
looked at Isaac as if for approbation, that gentleman having followed
them into the room and being engaged in vain endeavours to thrust a very
large finger into his very small pipe-bowl.

"Who married the kitchen-stuff?" shouted a small voice at the door, and
Mrs Gross angrily waddled out in pursuit, to the great delight of half
a score of the small inhabitants of Serle's-place, one of whom danced a
defiant _pas seul_ in a tray of rusty keys as he fled, laughing the
while at the fat threatening hand held up.  But Isaac stirred not, from
having been accustomed to the gibes of the juveniles of the place, and
his skin being too thick for such banderillos as "Waxy," "Welty," or
"Strap-oil," to penetrate, so he merely stood wiping his nose upon his
leather apron till his partner returned.

"Is it deeds?" whispered Mrs Gross again, and then in a parenthesis,
"Drat them boys!"

"No," said Matt gruffly, "it ain't."

"Then it's bank-bills," said the lady mysteriously, as she slily winked
at everyone in turn, her husband smiling at her acute business
perceptions.

"No, nor it ain't them neither," said Matt.

"Then it's a will," said Mrs Gross in a disappointed tone; "and there
ain't a scrap of that sort in the place, for I sold out last week."

"'Tain't a will, I tell you," growled Matt.

"Then it's dockymens," said Mrs Gross triumphantly, and she nudged Matt
in the side.

"No it ain't; nor receipts, nor letters, nor nothing of the kind.  If
you must know, it's them old doctor's books; that's what it is.  Now,
where are they?"

But Mrs Gross, though she had not the slightest idea as to what
doctor's books were meant, was not yet satisfied, but cried:

"Halves!"

"What's halves?" said Matt.

"Why, we goes halves in what turns up," said Mrs Gross, who had a
famous eye for business, though she would keep dimming its...

_Some lines missing here from the scans_.

"Gross!" cried a sepulchral voice, which made Septimus start, till he
found that it had proceeded from Mr Isaac himself, though his face did
not betray that he had spoken.

"Gross, then," growled Matt.  "Now look here," he continued; "it's
nothing but an old entry as I once saw in some doctor's books on your
counter here, and we want to see it; for I hadn't sense then to know it
was any good; but if we find it, and it's what we want, my guv'nor here
will stand a sovereign, I dessay."

"Put it down on paper, then," said Isaac, "and make him sign;" to the
great admiration of his partner, who patted him upon the back for his
display of business ability; and then, before a paper was touched,
Septimus Hardon, greatly to Matt's disgust, signed a promissory and
conditional note for the amount named.

"Ikey," growled Matt, "I didn't think you had been such a Jew.  If you
haven't let my rooms, you can get yourself a fresh tenant."

But Isaac only smiled, and the task commenced--no light one--of turning
over the huge stack of waste-paper piled up before them.  Dust, dirt,
and mildew; brief-paper, copying-paper, newspaper, old books, old
magazines and pamphlets, account-books with covers and account-books
without; paper in every phase; while eagerly was everything in the shape
of an account-book seized upon, and the search continued until, faint
and weary, they had gone through the whole heap, when with a despairing,
doleful look Septimus gazed upon Matt.

"I'll take my Bible oath it was in a book I saw laid upon that heap.
Now then, where's some more?" and the old man said it feebly, as if
nearly exhausted.

"No more anywheres," said Mrs Gross assuringly, as she smoothed her
husband's oily hair.

"Sure?" cried Matt.

Mrs Gross nodded, and retied the ribbon which confined her husband's
locks.

"Where is it, then?" cried Matt.

"Where is it?" repeated Mrs Gross.  "Why, if it ain't here, in this
heap, it's everywheres.  It's sold, and burnt, and wrapped round 'bacca,
and butter, and all sorts."

"Hadn't we better go, Matt?" whispered Septimus, dreamily washing his
hands together after his dry custom.

"S'pose we had," muttered Matt.  "Just, too, sir, as I'd made so sure as
it was all coming right, and for the second time, too.  Never mind, sir,
it'll all come right yet.  Third time never fails.  What do you say to
hunting up the Miss Thingumy at Finsbury, and hearing what she's got to
say?--plenty, depend upon it.  News, perhaps, and it can't do no harm."

But Septimus Hardon was in a weary, absent fit, and went away muttering
homewards, as, worn-out and weak, Matt sat down upon the waste-paper
ruins of the palace he had built in his own mind, and grimly listened to
the congratulations of his friends upon his return.

Volume Three, Chapter VI.

WEAKNESS AND STRENGTH.

For a good hour together Mr Jarker would rest in a broken-bottomed
chair, smoking a short black pipe, his hands supporting his heavy chin,
and his elbows making pits in his knees, as, like some hideous old
cathedral gargoyle, he sat gazing fixedly at the little wondering face
of the child.  From time to time he reversed his position to re-refresh
himself with a draught of his favourite beverage--gin and beer, a
beverage which always produced a loud smack from his thick negro lips.
If there was no fascination in the child's face for Bill Jarker, there
was most certainly fascination in the ruffian's face for the child; and
unconsciously imitating his attitude, it would rest its dimply plump
cheeks upon its tiny fists, and gaze again wonderingly, without a
thought of moving, till the lids slowly sank over the violet eyes, and
the little golden-haired, soft, lovable head sank sideways, with all
those prettiest of pretty motions seen in one of the most beautiful
sights in nature--a child dropping off into its simple trusting sleep of
innocence; but soon it would start into wakefulness again, with a
frightened air, and its little face drawn and ready to cry; but a glance
at the hideous face before it subdued the disposition, and once more the
same long, weary gaze commenced.

This took place day after day, and a stranger seeing it might have
fancied that in this case innocence was exercising its power over guilt;
but one who knew Mr Jarker well would have arrived at the right idea,
namely, that this gentleman was making his plans.  A pipe or two of
tobacco, a pint of beer strengthened with gin, and a long stare at the
face of his wife when living, a cat, a dog, or of late the child, had
been the preliminaries of more than one desperate burglary in a country
place somewhere within a circle of fifty miles' radius, taking Saint
Paul's as the centre.  Bill's _confreres_ in the bird-catching
profession contented themselves with trips countryward to the extent of
eight or ten miles; but, though on the whole Bill and his two or three
companions caught fewer birds, he never let distance interfere with his
pursuits, and used to boast that the birds he netted were of a rarer
kind.  Bill would travel third-class almost any distance to find good
pitches for his nets; and even then, perhaps, after a three or four
days' trip, and returning with hardly a bird, he seemed to be so
infatuated with the place and its prospects, that he would gather
together his two or three intimates, and go down again, travelling
slowly by road, setting off too in such a hurry, in a miserable cart
drawn by a wretched-looking hack, that friends and self would entirely
forget nets and call-birds, when they would console themselves with the
remark that they might take a few nightingales.

So that Mr Jarker was not undergoing a softening process as he sat
staring at the child, for he was really making his plans; and this time
these plans had nothing to do with either birds or nocturnal visits.
There was something particular in Mr Jarker's head, or else he would
not have burdened himself with the child for a single day; while he had
carefully retained it in his custody now for many weeks; and the
ruffian's ideas must have been of a somewhat strange character, for now
and then he would shake his head at the drowsy child, and say:

"Yes, my little chickin', you do for a bait."

So of late, apparently for the sake of the child, Mr Jarker had
suffered the bellows; and, in consideration of a small sum weekly, Mrs
Sims had sniffed about the room, and, to use her own expressive words,
"done for him."  But now, probably from too much spiritual exercise,
Mrs Sims was ill, and no one dared go near the ruffian's room but Lucy,
whose heart bled for the little thing.  Left still for hours together
alone in the dreary room, sometimes but half fed, afraid to do more than
whimper softly, her sole amusement was to press her little face against
the closed window, and watch until she could catch a glimpse of her
neighbour, when the tiny hands would be clapped with glee.  The
neighbours said it was a shame; but they had their own affairs to attend
to, and said no more.  While, as might be expected, Lucy seized every
opportunity of tending the child most lovingly; watching for Jarker's
absence, and then hurrying up and spending perhaps an hour in the
miserable attic.

"She must be ill," Lucy would think, "or something is wrong; for surely
it was fancy on her part that he should wish to retain the child;" and,
though anxious that it should be better tended, she looked forward with
dread to the time when it should be taken away; while, as anxiously she
watched for a visit from Agnes.  Night after night the candle burned in
her window, as she worked on at some exercise; but Agnes Hardon came
not, telling her weary heart that it was for Lucy's good.

Sometimes Jarker would omit to turn the key he always left in his door,
as if to provoke inquiry into his affairs, and to show the guilelessness
of his life; and then, after waiting until his footstep became
inaudible, the child would steal softly down step by step, fleeing back
if she heard a door open or a foot upon the stairs, but only to
persevere till, unobserved, she reached the entrance, when, watching
till the attention of the children of the court was directed elsewhere,
she would dart across the pavement, enter the opposite house, creep up
to the first-floor, and then crouch down by the step which led into the
front-room, and peer beneath the door, through the opening made by the
long hard wear of feet for a century and a half-watching, perhaps for a
couple of hours, the bright guiding spirit of the sewing-machine.  But
at last Lucy would catch sight of the two round bright eyes, peering
beneath the door; and to her mother's great annoyance at one time, and
supreme satisfaction upon another, she would fetch in the child, when
according to Mrs Hardon's mood she would act; for if the invalid was
fretful and weary, the little thing would be taken up to Jean, where she
would stay willingly amongst the birds, as the cripple eagerly tried to
be of service to his beautiful neighbour.  But there were difficulties
here, for Jean could only render this aid when _ma mere_ was absent,
though this was more frequently now since Bijou had learned to stand
upon his head, and so brought in more remuneration, without taking into
consideration his later accomplishment of climbing two chairs, rail by
rail, forefeet upon one, hindfeet upon another, and then smoking a
tobacco-less pipe in triumph upon the summit, as he spanned the distance
between the two chairs, and turned himself into a canine arch.  But
Bijou doubtless did not enjoy his pipe for remembering how that he was
_bete_, and for thinking of the whip, and the rapping his poor legs
received before he was able to obey his mistress's commands--that is if
dogs can think.

There seemed to be a tacit understanding between _ma mere_ and Lucy; an
acknowledged dislike upon the old woman's part, which made the latter
carefully avoid her, shrinking back into the room if she heard her
footstep, so as not to encounter the quiet bitter smile and sneering
gaze of the old woman, while _ma mere_ reviled Jean angrily, calling him
nurse-girl, _bonne_, when by chance she learned of his past occupation.
But Jean cared not, so long as there was something that should bring
Lucy to his attic, where he could feast greedily upon her bright face
and graceful form; and, could he have gone about, he would have followed
her like a dog.

Jean's lark sang more loudly than ever, and Lucy's eyes had brightened
as she told the cripple again and again how she loved its sweet notes;
and, watching her press her lips once to the cage-wires, inviting the
speckled bird to take a seed from the rosy prison, Jean's eyes dimmed as
he gazed at her with a reverence approaching adoration.  Visitor after
visitor came to that attic, and went, buying and selling, and the little
prisoners were constantly being changed; but the lark was there still,
though more than once of late Jean had pressed its acceptance upon Lucy
Grey; but with a sweet smile she had thanked him, begging that he would
keep it for her sake; and he kept it, in spite of many an angry word
from _ma mere_ when some advantageous offer had been made by a visitor;
and it still whistled from its perch in the window.

"I will sell the bird myself; it is waste, it is pity, when we are so
poor," _ma mere_ would exclaim; and then Jean would turn upon her a
peculiar soft, sweet smile, and whisper, "No, _ma mere_, you will not
sell my bird, because I love it;" when passionately the old woman would
now scold, now fondle the cripple, as she hung over the back of his
chair.

One evening when the moon hung high in air, waiting the fading of day
before shedding her pale light, Jean sat in his usual place in the
window, dreaming of scenes of which he had read, and thinking himself in
some sweet woodland home, forgetting the presence of squalor and misery,
and even of the cages, as he listened to the twittering of the many
birds hung around his head.  There was a brightness in his eye and a
smile upon his lip, for he was gazing across the court at just such a
scene as once almost spellbound the curate.  Merrily romping with the
child, he could see Lucy in Jarker's room, flitting backwards and
forwards past the open window.  The child's happy laugh could be heard
mingled with its shouts of pleasure, for the pent-up joyousness of its
little nature was now having free vent.

All at once Jean's look of quiet enjoyment changed to one of unutterable
rage and despair; the lips, but now apart in a soft smile, were drawn,
as if by some fearful pain, his teeth were clenched, and his eyes wild
and dilated.  He tried to rise, but his helplessness was such that he
sank back in his chair panting; but, raising his crutch, he struck
savagely on the casement, shivering two or three of the little panes.
He tried again and again to get up, and inarticulate sounds came from
his lips.  It was pitiful to gaze upon the struggle between the strong
mind and the weak body, which would not obey his will as he tried again
to rise; till, with a savage, guttural cry, more like that of some
disappointed beast of prey than a human being, he threw himself towards
the open window, as in his efforts his chair was overturned and he fell
upon the floor, where he lay agonisingly writhing in his impotence, as
he absolutely foamed at the mouth.

Just then the door behind him opened, and, with a book beneath his arm,
Mr Sterne entered the room; when seeing, as he thought, the cripple in
a fit, he sprang forward and raised him in his arms to place him in a
chair, at the same time running over in his own mind what would be the
best course of action.  But as he gazed in the poor fellow's dilated
eyes, and saw their look of unutterable despair, one of Jean's hands was
fiercely clutching his shoulder, and the other was pointing and waving
frantically towards the open window.

The next instant, as if some strange suspicion had flashed upon his
mind, the curate was gazing across the court, to utter almost the
counterpart of the cry that had issued from the throat of Jean, as he
caught sight of Lucy, frightened and horror-stricken, backing towards
the room door, and Jarker, evidently half-mad with drink, holding her
tightly by one arm; for he had returned unexpectedly, and taking
advantage of the girl's preoccupation, had stolen softly into the room
and closed the door.

Arthur Sterne saw this at one glance, and his face turned pale as ashes
with the thoughts that this hasty look engendered.  The next moment he
had half-climbed from the window and stood holding by one hand,
measuring the distance across the court, as he stooped, lithe and
elastic, ready for the bound; but reason told him that it was utter
madness to attempt so wild a leap--a leap certainly death for himself,
and probably worse than death for her he sought to save; and dashing
back into the room he tore down the staircase.

Recovering somewhat, Jean now let himself slide down upon the floor,
and, panting heavily, began to walk painfully across the room; for a
moment he looked at the window, but the next he was making for the door,
and then lowering himself from stair to stair.  But before he was down
the first flight, there was rescue at hand for Lucy.  Bounding up the
frail old staircase of the opposite house, Arthur Sterne dashed
frantically on, so that at every leap the woodwork cracked and trembled
as if ready to give way.  The height never seemed so great before, as
landing after landing was passed, till he reached the last, to launch
himself against the frail door, which, driven from its hinges, fell with
a crash; and the next moment, dropping like some inert mass from the
blow which fell upon his face, Jarker made the old place quiver beneath
his weight.  And there he lay, stupid and helpless from the sudden
shock; the effect of the blow being apparently enough to destroy life,
for the ruffian did not move.

Hardly breathing, and uttering no sound, the child crouched fearfully in
a corner; while Lucy, trembling and half-fainting, clung to the curate,
as sob after sob burst from her breast; and at last, as if stricken by
death, she sank back pale and inanimate upon his supporting arm.

But there were no looks of love in Arthur Sterne's face; for, with brow
knit, nostrils distended, and every vein in his face swollen and
knotted, he stood with his heel crushed down upon Jarker's bull-throat,
no mean incarnation of vengeance.  Soon, though, the breath he had drawn
with difficulty as he stood there holding the fainting girl to his
throbbing heart, came more lightly, the expression of rage fled from his
features, and as he gazed tenderly upon the pale face so near his own he
pressed his lips reverently upon her forehead.

"Lucy, my poor dove," he whispered, "will you not give me the right to
protect you, and take you from this place?"--"Our beauty, some of us,"
seemed sighed at his ear.

"A lie, a base lie!" he muttered fiercely; though even then a change
came over his face, the veins swelled once more in his forehead, and an
agony of strange thoughts passed through his breast.  And now, pale and
anxious, two or three of the women lodgers came trembling to the door,
amongst whom was Mrs Sims, ready to take possession of the child, as,
hurriedly passing through the wondering group, the curate bore his light
burden to her home.

Volume Three, Chapter VII.

A MEETING AND ITS RESULT.

It was late before Arthur Sterne left Bennett's-rents that night.
Septimus Hardon had been terribly excited--talking long and wildly of
his poverty being the cause of the insult offered to his child.  He had
walked hurriedly up and down the room, gesticulating and threatening the
scoundrel who had so repaid Lucy's kindness; and again and again it was
upon the curate's lips to speak of the little one, and of Lucy's strange
intimacy with its mother; but his spirit revolted from the task.  In
another case he would have spoken instantly; but here duty seemed to
move in fetters that he could not break.  In all concerning the poor
girl he seemed bound to preserve silence till such time as some
explanation should be given, and through all he had been in constant
dread lest he should give her pain.

"I must prosecute the villain!" exclaimed Septimus.

"But the pain--the exposure--your child?" said the curate.

"What! would you have him go unpunished?" exclaimed Septimus.

"I would say `No!' directly," replied the curate; "but I cannot help
thinking of the painful scene in court, the public examination, and the
cross-examination by the prisoner's counsel; and these men can always
among themselves manage to get some able person to undertake their
cause.  It would be a most painful position in which to place your
child.  Her actions would be distorted to suit a purpose; and such a
scene--"

Mr Sterne's speech dwindled off, and became inaudible; for he felt that
he had spoken unadvisedly, and a strange chill came over him as he
thought, in the event of the affair being in court, what hold the
opposing counsel could take of certain acts in Lucy's life; for, let
them he ever so innocent, the light in which they would place her would
be of the most painful character; and his lips were rather white as he
said, "Sleep on it, Mr Hardon, sleep on it."

"I will," said Septimus proudly.  "We are poor, Mr Sterne; but there is
no act in my dear child's life that will not bear the light of day."

"Doubtless, doubtless," replied the curate in a low tone; "but, believe
me, my advice is given with the best of wishes and intentions, Mr
Hardon.  Have I not always tried to be a friend?  And if there was
somewhat of selfishness in my advances, I feel no shame in owning to you
that I am moved by a feeling of more than esteem for Miss Grey; to whom
any proceedings would, I am sure, be as painful as to myself."

Septimus Hardon started, for this was as sudden as unexpected.  Such a
thought had never entered his breast, and he gazed wonderingly at the
calm, pale face before him; as in the silence which ensued they both sat
listening to the painful, low sob which came now and again from the next
room, where, forgetful of her own infirmities, Mrs Hardon had been
trying to soothe the agitated girl.

And then, hour after hour, Septimus sat talking with Mr Sterne--for the
first time now giving himself up entirely to his advice, and promising
to give up all thought of prosecution, while he sought at once for some
more suitable home for his wife and child, though, as he thought of his
narrow, precarious income, he made the latter promise with a sigh.  He
talked long and earnestly, too, about his own affairs, being ready now
to take the counsel that Mr Sterne so freely offered; and when, with a
lighter heart, the curate rose to leave, Septimus shook hands, with a
puzzled expression upon his face, as if he hardly believed in the events
of the past evening.

Upon slowly descending and reaching the door, Mr Sterne drew back,
asking himself whether he should be content, or seize the opportunity
that now offered for him to know that of which it was evident, from his
language, Septimus Hardon was still ignorant.  The desire was strong to
know more, and he yielded to it; for there before him, standing in the
open court, and gazing anxiously up at the lighted window, was the woman
who had caused him so much uneasiness; but neither he nor the woman saw
that in the shade of the opposite doorway a villainous pair of eyes were
on the watch.

Again and again he had encountered this woman since he had determined to
question her--upon the bridge at early dawn; by night, in the crowded
streets, dressed in the extreme of fashion; shabbily dressed by day; but
she always fled, and contrived to elude him.  Who was she?  What was
she?  How came she intimate with Lucy?  Was it merely for the child's
sake?  Then why Lucy's dread?

The opportunity was here, he told himself, and he would know; and then,
as he formed the determination, he stepped quickly out; but no sooner
did Agnes Hardon catch sight of the curate's pale, stern face by the
sickly flicker of the one lamp than she turned and fled, while, without
pausing to think, the curate closed the door and pursued her.

A dark, gusty time, late, for two had struck but a minute before by
church after church--some sending their booming announcement clearly out
upon the night air, others discordantly, and jangling with the bells of
others.  Turning towards the end of the court, Agnes ran swiftly, her
dress rustling, and fashionable boots pattering upon the pavement; but
her pursuer was quick of foot, and followed her along the end row,
through Harker's-alley, Ray's-court, along one labyrinth and down
another of the old district, now falling beneath the contractor's pick,
till they had nearly returned to the point from whence they started.
But flight was of no avail, and soon Arthur Sterne overtook the panting
woman, himself breathless, and, heedless of her fierce looks, caught her
by the wrist.

"Come with me," he said sternly, as he drew her towards the entrance of
the dark court where they stood.

"Why, why?" she exclaimed passionately, struggling with him the while.
"Why do you stop me?  Why do you pursue me--you, too, a clergyman?"

The answer to the taunt was a cold look, which Agnes Hardon saw and
felt; for the next moment she was weeping passionately.  "Why do you
track and follow me, sir?" she exclaimed through her tears.  "Let me go;
you hurt my arm!"

"Will you stand and answer my questions, then?" said the curate, as they
now stood at the entrance of the court--a dark, gloomy archway, with a
doorway here and there.

"Yes, yes," exclaimed Agnes wearily, "if you will be quick; but there, I
know what you would say, and it is of no use; I am past all that!"

"Past all what?" cried the curate sternly.

"Hope of better things," said the woman with so weary and despondent a
wail, that her hearer shuddered.

"Hush!" he said; "you speak rashly, and without thinking;" and releasing
her wrist, he laid his hand gently upon her arm.  "Listen," he said;
"you have your woman's feelings yet!"

"No," she replied hastily, "all--all gone; driven out of me--dead.  Let
me go, please; it's late, sir.  I am a wretch, and it is useless to
talk."

"But why do you pursue that young girl?" he said, pointing across the
street to where Bennett's-rents debouched.  "Would you tempt her to be
your companion?"

"No, no, no; my God, no!" half-shrieked Agnes, as she caught at his
hands; "don't think that, sir."

"Then you _have_ some womanly feeling left," said Mr Sterne.

"Towards her, perhaps, yes."

"And your child?"

"Yes, yes, yes," wailed Agnes; "but don't torture me.  What do you
know?--what do you wish me to do?--why do you follow me?"

"What is your name?" said the curate sternly; "and how came you to know
her?" and he pointed again towards Bennett's-rents.

"Don't ask me, I cannot tell you," sobbed Agnes.

"But you bring misery on her and on her home.  You have some hold upon
her?"

"No, no, no," sobbed Agnes hysterically; "none, none; but she knows who
I am, and pities me and my poor child.  God's blessing on her!"

"Amen!" muttered the curate under his breath, and his companion sobbed
so convulsively that she could not speak, while, as they stood in the
dark entry, a policeman came slowly by, flashed the light of his
bull's-eye upon them for an instant, recognised the curate and passed
on, and, till he was out of hearing, Agnes Hardon clutched the curate's
arm.

"You are not afraid of the world and it's opinions," she said bitterly;
"it cannot hurt you.  Stay with me and I will tell you all, for I
believe you mean me well."

The curate bowed his head.

"I am miserable, wretched," she sobbed, "and what can I do?  That man in
the court has my poor child, and for some reason he will not give it up.
I have tried to get it away again and again, even to stealing it, sir--
my own little one; but something has always prevented me, and he watches
me till, hardened as I am, I am afraid of him, for he comes over my
spirit like the shadow of some great horror about to crush me.  I love
my child, my pure little angel, for--O sir, have pity on me, have
pity!--I am its mother, and what else have I here to cling to?  Can you
not think how I must love it though I left it with that poor dead woman?
But she had a mother's heart, and was kind to it always.  I could see
it in my darling's blue eyes even when it racked my heart; but I was
glad, though it would not come to me, and called her mother.  I was
happy then, for did not she--she you say I injure--watch over it for me,
and tell me of its bright eyes and sunny hair and winning ways, while,
when I have listened to her, the tears have come gently to quench the
fire in my brain, and I could think of home and the past, while she--she
who loves my little one--lets me weep upon her breast, and I forget for
a while that I am lost, lost, lost for ever!"

"Lost, lost, lost for ever!"  She uttered these words so hopelessly,
with such a wail of agony, that they seemed to echo along the archway,
and to float off upon the night breeze, rising and falling, an utterance
never to fade away, but to go on for ever and ever while this world
lasts; to smite upon the sleeping ears of the cruel, the dissolute, and
the profligate; to awaken here, perhaps, one sorrowful thought for wrong
done, one thought of repentance; there, a desire to pause, ere it be too
late, on the brink of some iniquity that should break a trusting woman's
heart.

Tenderly, and with such a strange feeling of compassion in his heart as
might have pervaded that of his Master whose words he taught, Arthur
Sterne took the weeping woman's hands in his, as, sobbing more bitterly
than ever, she sank upon her knees on the cold stones at his feet,
weeping as though her heart would break; nay, as if through the torn
walls of that broken citadel the flood of tears went seething and
hissing, the ruins yet smouldering and burning with the fire of the
fatal passion that had been their fall.

"What shall I do, sir?" she cried at length, wearily looking up in the
face that bent over her.  "I would take my little one away and go near
the place no more, for I have been seldom lately, not liking that he
should see me with her, for he followed us once, and I did not like it.
I would have told her not to go near my child, but there is a woman
sometimes there.  He will not let me take it away.  But tell me what to
do, sir," she said wearily, "and I will do it."

"What!" she cried, starting up, "what!" she half-shrieked, as he related
to her the incident of the past night; "and this through me?  Am I to
bring misery everywhere?  O God, O God!" she cried, "that my weakness,
my sin, should be ever growing and bringing its misery upon others!  But
stop, sir; listen," she exclaimed huskily, as she clung to his arm;
"what shall we do?  If I could have seen this, sir, I'd have died sooner
than it should have happened; believe me, I would."

The curate bent his head once more, as they stood facing the street, and
said, in low, impressive tones, "I do believe you;" but he took no heed
to a light, stealthy pace in the alley behind.

"What shall I do, sir?" cried Agnes eagerly.

"Take the child away at once," replied Mr Sterne, "and leave this life.
But will you?"

"If the gates of heaven were opened, sir, and One said, `Come in, poor
sinner, and rest,' should I go?"

The stealthy step came nearer, but was unnoticed.

"Now tell me your name, and how came the intimacy of which I complain,"
said Mr Sterne.

"I--I knew the family; I knew Lucy--Miss Grey--before her father--and--
pray, pray ask me no more," gasped Agnes appealingly.  "I will do all
you wish, sir.  Help me to get my child, and I will go anywhere you may
tell me; but don't ask me that, sir."

"Nay," said Mr Sterne, with beating heart, for he felt that her reply
would drive away his last doubt, "tell me now; you may trust me."

"Yes, yes," sobbed Agnes; "I know, but I cannot."

The step sounded very close now, while the light from the lamp in the
alley was for a moment obscured.

"I will do all that you ask," sobbed Agnes.  "Tell me what else you
wish, and I will be as obedient as a child, but--"

"Prove it, then, by telling me how began your intimacy with Miss--"

There was a wild scream from Agnes Hardon as she thrust the curate
aside; but too late, for a heavy, dull blow from behind crushed through
his hat, and stretched him upon the pavement, where, for an instant, a
thousand lights seemed dancing before his eyes, and then all was blank.

It was no unusual sound that, a woman's shriek, especially the
half-drunken cry of some street wanderer; but one window was opened, and
a head thrust out, whose owner muttered for a moment and then closed the
sash, for though he had seen a woman struggling with a man, he did not
hear the words that passed, nor could he see that the man was trying
hard to extricate himself from the woman's grasp; but there were other
wakeful eyes upon the watch.

Volume Three, Chapter VIII.

WASTE-PAPER.

"Well, yes, sir," said Matt, standing hat in hand, "'tis snug and
comfortable, sir; and I'm glad to see the change, and I'm sure I wish
you long life to enjoy it.  Glad you've got here all right, sir; and
sorry I was too weak to help you move.  I've got the address down all
right in my memo-book: look here, sir--150 Essex-street, Strand, sir."

"And now we'll go, then, Matt," said Septimus, rising.

"Go, sir?" said Matt.

"Yes," said Septimus, "if you will; for the thing has been too long
neglected already."

"Very true, sir," said Matt: "but you told me as the parson, sir, Mr
Sterne, was going to take it in hand; and if so--"

"Now, Matt," said Septimus appealingly, "isn't he lying upon a bed of
sickness, weak and helpless, and unable to move?"

"Well, yes, sir, that's true; and a rum start that was, too.  Wonder who
would have a spite against him?  But I thought that now, sir, as
you'd--"

Septimus Hardon took the old man by the arm and placed him in a chair;
for it was evident that he was a little testy and jealous of other
interposition in the matters in which he had taken so much interest; but
the cordiality of Mrs Septimus seemed to chase it away; while Lucy,
returning from a walk, beamed so happily upon the old man, that he
looked his old self again, and owned to the feeling that, as he
expressed it, he had expected that he was going to be "pitched
overboard," now there were new friends.

It was partly by Mr Sterne's advice that Septimus had sought out and
asked Matt to accompany him this day; for though much hurt, and weak
from loss of blood, the curate had taken great interest in the future of
the Hardon family.  At his request Septimus had sought and removed to
lodgings in Essex-street, and since then passed an evening by the
curate's bedside; for he had been found by a policeman perfectly
insensible, and carried home; and, though nearly certain of who was his
assailant, he felt indisposed to take any steps in the matter for fear
that affairs might be made public which he wished concealed.  He had not
seen Lucy since; but somehow there was a feeling of repose and content
within his breast that it had not known for months; and he longed for
the time when he could again meet with the woman whose words would have,
he now felt, set him at rest for ever.

There seemed, too, a brightness in Lucy foreign to her looks, as
Septimus leaned over her and whispered a few words before leaving; then,
after kissing her tenderly, he descended to the street with old Matt,
who, though weak, still refused sturdily every offer of a ride, and they
trudged steadily on till they reached Finsbury.

"Hallo!" said Matt, "what d'ye call this?  Same name, but the business
is changed, and that's her a-cutting up paper.  To be sure--why it is
her!  I thought I knew her face, but I was in such a muddle just then
that all my letter was mixed, and whenever I wanted a p, I got a q, and
all on like that.  Why, she came and chattered away, and bought an old
set of tobacco-jars and covers and a heap of waste-paper of Mother
Slagg, just before I went into hospital; and there they are, sir--that's
them, fresh varnished and painted, and stuck on the shelf.  Ikey took
'em home for her, and I remember asking myself ever so long as to where
I'd seen her before.  Well, come on, sir.  I want a bit of snuff, so
that's an excuse for going in.  P'r'aps, after all, she's bought the
very paper."

The visitors made their way into the old formal registry-office, turned
into a very smart little shop, fitted up with some taste; where Miss
Tollicks herself was busily weighing and packing a pile of those little
rolls of tobacco known as "screws."  Fine thick paper, too, she was
using, such as would weigh well and add to the rather fine profit she
obtained upon her fragrant weed.  For there was no mistake: Miss
Tollicks had executed her threat, turned the registering out of doors,
and taken to the business most popular in the streets of London.  No
seat now existed for maids to sit and wait to be hired from ten to four;
no green baize; no intense air of respectability, but all quite the
correct thing as established by custom in the weedy way.  There was a
monster cigar outside, set perpendicularly, with an internal gas-jet,
and a transparency bearing the legend, "Take a light."  On the other
side of the door was a little, freshly-varnished, red-nosed,
chip-elbowed Scotchman, taking snuff in the imperfect tense, with his
fingers half-way to his nose; an imitation roll of tobacco hung over the
door; while just inside, upon a tub, stood a small black gentleman in a
very light feather petticoat, smoking a pipe about double the length of
his body.  Then there were clay pipes, crossed and tied into
diamond-pattern d'oyleys, swung in the top panes of the windows; while
beneath them "so gracefully curled" a perfect anaconda of a hookah--one
that it would have taken a bold Turk to smoke.  There were meerschaums
and brier-roots, cutty- and billiard-pipes; glass, cherry, and jasmine
stems; tobacco-pouches of india-rubber, looking like fresh-flayed
negro-skin; snuff-boxes of all sorts and sizes, embracing miniature,
scene, and tartan of every pattern; stacks of cigar-boxes carefully
branded but very European in their look; bundles of cigars tied with
fancy ribbon; the day's playbills on the walls; rows of snuff- and
tobacco-jars, as pointed out by Matt, and labelled from "Scotch" to
"Hardham's 37," and from "Returns" to "Latakia."  There was a whole
tubful of odorous shag, and a stack of packets of Bristol bird's-eye;
the scales were of the glossiest, the glass-case of the cleanest, and
altogether the shop owned by Miss Tollicks seemed to be of the most
prosperous; for things looked smart and well attended to--a rare sign of
plenty of business, as, according to the old saying, "the less there is
to do, the worse it is done;" but there was a strong smell of varnish,
and it was evident that Miss Tollicks had been picking up her fittings
here and there at various secondhand stores, or, as Matt Space called
it, "on the cheap."

Matt advanced to the counter and asked for his penn'orth of snuff.

"Then you're not dead!" exclaimed Miss Tollicks, putting down the jar in
a most businesslike way, with motions rapid as her speech; for she had
banished the black-velvet blackbird and deportment along with the green
baize; but, not quite used to her business, in spite of her ability of
adapting herself to circumstances, she sneezed loudly as she lifted the
lid.  "And how do you do?--there, dear me, how I do sneeze!--and I
thought I had quite conquered it, for it does look so--tchisher-er--so--
er-tchisher!  There, I'm sure I beg your pardon.  And how do you do? and
you've got well again, like poor Mary did, in that horrible place, who
was dying too, and didn't.  And Mr Harding too! and I'm so glad to see
you, for you were _that_ kind to me, I don't know what I should have
done else.  Now you've come to ask me about the doctor again--now
haven't you?"

Septimus said he had.

"Well, now, I hadn't forgotten it, and you were both right, you know;
but I shall never forget your kindness, Mr Harding, for but for you
that day, everyone must have seen that I had been crying.  But you were
right; and the doctor did live here, and died here too, ages ago; and
then his widow went to live somewhere in one of those quiet streets by
the Strand, going down to the river, you know; and then she died, and
there was a sale, and that's all; and it isn't much, is it?"

Septimus said it was not, certainly.

"But then, you know," said Miss Tollicks, "it's no use to try and make
more of things of that sort, is it?  No, he didn't know the street, nor
anything more about it, for he bought the lease of the house of someone
else."

As for Matt, he did not speak, but took snuff ferociously, and glared at
the paper squares upon the counter.

"But there, do come in," cried Miss Tollicks; "and, dear me, Mr--Mr--I
don't know your name, but don't, pray, take snuff like that; you'll make
yourself ill.  But there, do come in;" and in spite of refusals Miss
Tollicks soon had her visitors seated in her bower, in company with a
spirit-bottle and a couple of tumblers and sugar, a tiny kettle upon the
fire singing merrily.

"I do suffer so from spasms," said Miss Tollicks as she placed the
suspicious-looking spirit-bottle upon the table; but all these
preparations were not made at once, for, from her many pops in and out
of the shop, and the rattling of the scales, it was evident that Miss
Tollicks had chosen the right business at last, and was prospering
famously.  The decanter was brought out of a Berlin-wool-worked
overgrown dice-box on one side of the fire, the glasses from its ditto
on the other, the kettle out of a window-locker, and divers other ways
of economising space were shown; while the visitors were informed that
so much of the house was let off.  "It all helps so," said Miss
Tollicks; "for London rents are enough to kill you; and you doing
nothing but feed your landlord."

Old Matt grunted acquiescence.

"Now one each, please," said Miss Tollicks, "just to be sociable; and
then you can speak up for the quality of my goods.  How do you find the
snuff, Mr --?"

"Space, ma'am," said Matt.  "Good; very good, ma'am, but not durable."

"That's right," exclaimed Miss Tollicks, as she pressed the two mild
Havannas she had brought in upon her visitors.  "Don't mind me, pray--I
am trying to get used to smoke as well as snuff."

Septimus and Matt were both non-smokers, but as they exchanged glances
they came to the conclusion that they could extinguish their cigars as
soon as they were outside.  So Septimus set the example, with a very
ludicrous cast of countenance, by placing the little vegetable roll in
his mouth, and Miss Tollicks tore off a piece of paper from a square on
the counter, doubled, lit, and handed it to the smoker.

Septimus Hardon's face was a regular study as Matt, grumbling to
himself, "Why didn't she make it snuff?" watched him trying to light his
cigar--a new feat to him entirely.

"The other end first, sir," growled Matt; and in a rather confused way
Septimus made the requisite alteration, and then sucked and puffed so
vigorously that he extinguished the light, which he re-lit at the fire.
But the next moment his face changed from one of comical resignation to
a state of intense wonder, as old Matt, under the excuse of helping
himself to a light, was turning over some leaves of a heap of
waste-paper on a chair by the door.

Suddenly Septimus dashed the lighted paper upon the table, hurriedly
extinguishing it with trembling hands, but not without oversetting his
glass of spirits-and-water.

"What is the matter?  Have you burnt yourself?" cried Miss Tollicks.

"Is it, sir?" cried old Matt, reaching across the table.

But Septimus Hardon did not move for a few seconds, but stood with his
hands pressed down over the roughly-folded piece of paper, into which
the spirits-and-water was now soaking, as it made a way between his
fingers.

"Why didn't I give you a splint!" exclaimed Miss Tollicks, whose mind
was full of goose-grease, starch-powder, and cotton-wool.  "Is it very
bad?"

But Septimus Hardon did not speak, only slowly and with palsied hands
unfolded the soaked paper; but even then he could hardly read it for the
mist that swam before his eyes.  Old Matt, though, not to be behindhand,
pulled out his glasses, and stretched out his hand to reach the paper;
but Septimus shrank back, and then read with difficulty, for the ink had
begun to look blurred with the wet:

  S. Hardon,
  Medicine and at-dance 2.

And that was all.  Septimus turned it over carefully and found a list of
names, but no other entry; there was a figure, part of a date evidently,
at one edge, but it was charred, and as he touched it and held it
towards the window it crumbled away into brown tinder.  He read the
entry again and again, and then looked at the ashes of the paper to see
if anything could be made of them.  Then, as if for a forlorn hope, he
turned to his hostess, saying in a strange, husky voice:

"The date's burnt off.  Where did you get this?"

"O, what have I done?" exclaimed Miss Tollicks.  "What is the matter?"

"Nothing, nothing," said Septimus, looking in a dreary, bewildered way
at Matt.  "It's of no use; it's my usual ill luck, and it's of no use to
fight against it."

"I never saw such a thing in my life!" cried Matt, bringing his fist
down upon the table so that the glasses jumped again.  "Put it in a
book, and no one would believe it: and yet there it is.  I wouldn't have
believed it myself if I had not seen it with my own eyes."

"But where is the piece you tore it from?" exclaimed Septimus, trembling
still.

"To be sure!" cried Matt exultingly.  "But I was right--I did see it,
and she bought it, and Ikey brought it here, and it'll all come right
yet.--Where's the piece you tore it from, ma'am?" and he again greatly
endangered Miss Tollicks' glasses by thumping the table.

Miss Tollicks hastily produced the other half of the square of paper;
but on one side the list of names was continued, while upon the other
there was the tail of a flourish, the tops of a few letters, and the
rest was blank.

"Have you any more of these sheets--these book-leaves?" exclaimed
Septimus; when Miss Tollicks hastily took up the little heap on the
chair by the door, the same that had excited Matt's curiosity, and into
which he had been quietly peering.

"Those are not the same," said Septimus despondently; "this is thicker."

"Yes," said Miss Tollicks dolefully, as she examined the few remaining
squares upon the counter; "these are all different, too, and I don't
know how that scrap came to be left.  I used all that thick paper first,
because it weighed well, and I used it for screws."

"But," stammered Septimus, "it is a part of the very man's books--the
very man who lived here, and about whom we came to ask you."

"Bless me!" said Miss Tollicks dolefully, "and I've been letting it go
for weeks past in screws to the Sun, and the Green Dragon, and the
Duke."

"But let's see if there's any more," said Matt.  "A leaf would almost do
all we want if it has only got the right dates."

Matt's advice was taken: screws were examined, turned over, unrolled;
the tied-up squares of paper were looked at; Matt went down upon his
knees behind the counter and routed about amongst some rubbish; the
squares freshly cut up were looked over; and then once more the heap on
the chair in the room was scanned, leaf by leaf, but only one more
fragment was found, evidently a portion of the same book; but it bore a
date four years prior to the marriage of Septimus Hardon's parents.

"Makes worse of it," muttered old Matt to himself; "but perhaps he was
only a young doctor, and one book lasted him a long time.  S'pose we go
and have a look round at some of the publics," he said aloud, "eh, sir?"

Septimus jumped at the suggestion, and together they noted down the
names of Miss Tollicks' principal customers for screws, for she said
that she was sure the thick paper had been used entirely for that
purpose; but on making inquiry at the different pewter-covered bars, one
and all of the stout gentlemen in shirt-sleeves and short white aprons
declared that they were sold out, and could have got rid of "twiced as
much."

"I suppose," said Septimus to one red-faced gentleman, "it would be of
no use to ask you who bought the screws?"

The man stood, and softly rubbed with a strange rasping noise his
well-shorn range of stubble on chin and cheek; then pulled open the
screw-drawer, looked in it, then at the counter, then at Septimus, as if
doubtful of his sanity, and said:

"Well, no, sir, I don't think as it would."

They returned to the little tobacconist's shop, Septimus holding tightly
to the newly-found scrap of paper.  And yet it was useless--waste-paper;
no more.  There could be no doubt about it's being the entry made when
he saw the light; but now it was found, with his own hand he had
destroyed the most precious part, for without date it was of no avail.

Septimus Hardon felt sick at heart when he again sat down in Miss
Tollicks' room, and gazed with woebegone looks in his companion's face.
The prize as it were within his reach; his old troubles swept away; his
legitimacy proved--the cup almost at his lips, and then dashed away.  It
was in vain that Miss Tollicks vented her well-meant platitudes, and
shone with hospitable warmth; Septimus Hardon seemed crushed, and Matt
had scarcely a word to say.

"Have a little more sugar," said Miss Tollicks to the man of the bitter
cup.  "What a tiresome world this is!  And only to think of me buying
that very paper, and the great dirty ruffian of a man bringing it home,
and wanting to buy half-a-pound of tobacco before I began business and
had a license; and then asking me if I had any old boots, while he
chipped two of the jars shamefully."

"Only think," muttered old Matt as they went slowly homewards, "for me
to have had that entry under my very nose, and then only turned it up
and wouldn't look at it."

Volume Three, Chapter IX.

BY NIGHT.

Old Matt Space had a certain amount of pride in his composition, and,
like most people, he suffered for it.  He would gladly have received
assistance of the most trifling nature from Septimus Hardon the day they
returned from Finsbury; but his companion seemed so dejected and doleful
that he had not the heart to bring forward his own troubles, and so it
followed that the same night he was complaining to himself about hard
times--those ever-recurring, inhospitable seasons when mental storms
beat upon the rocks of a man's faith, and many a shipwreck follows.
Hard times--times that the science, charity, and statistics of our days
soften so little.  Warm sunshine, genial rain, bright skies, have but
little influence, and the times keep hard for some, though others, by
means of softening mediums, contrive to remain uninjured.

In his dry way old Matt would sometimes say that if he did not cut up
well when he died, he should certainly cut up streaky--like thin bacon;
for times so fluctuated with him that before a small layer of fat was
well established, the lean would again commence; while, if it is fair so
to speak of a man whose life had been one long struggle for bare
existence, Matt had been somewhat improvident.  What he called runs upon
the bank were common events with the old printer--times when there were
no deposits made, and trade was slack; it was a pleasant trade,
printing, he said--nothing to do to-day, and to-morrow busy, up all
night afterwards, and then perhaps another long rest.

Old Matt stood in front of the Royal Exchange that night at eleven
o'clock, weak from his long illness, tired and faint too, as he lingered
there thinking of how he would like to make an onslaught upon the Bank
of England, and fill his pockets, now reduced to the lowest ebb, for he
had not sixpence wherewith to pay for a night's lodging.  He had not
been to the mansion of Mr Gross to sleep but once since his return from
the hospital; for he was largely indebted to that gentleman, and though
scarcely anything had been said, Mrs Gross had dropped just a mild
hint, what she considered an exceedingly mild hint, to the effect that,
when it was convenient, they would be glad to receive one or two
instalments on account.

This made Matt more shy, and after a day or two he stopped away
altogether, so that when Septimus Hardon sought at his lodgings, he
found him not, and had to inspect the interior of two or three
hostelries favoured by the fraternity before he found him out.

"Ah, sir," said Matt, as he hugged a lamp-post, "the times that I've
seen them lugging the little chests and barrels in there--heavy so that
they could scarcely lift them, and any one of 'em would have set me up
for life.  Specie, they call it, sir; species as I was always unable to
collect much of in my rambles through life; and it wouldn't take a deal
to make me comfortable, anyhow.  Precious cold here, sir, for an old man
like me, and I don't know that I'd say no, just now, to one of those
little iron bedsteads with its clean sheets in the hospital--leastways,
if one could feel sure nobody had just died upon it, for the thought of
that gives one a turn like, and seems to fidget.  Precious cold, sir!
Talk about the internal heat of the earth, I wish there was a little
more external.  Crust of the earth, sir?  Yes, sir, there's plenty of
crust, and precious little crumb.  Red-hot fluid state inside, eh?  Then
I shall move, sir--move.  I was a good will to when I was in the
hospital; but I think I shall make up my mind soon, for the world ain't
safe--a volcanic, earthquaky place.  I shall flit, as they say down
north."

"Cold, cold, cold, sir!" shivered the poor old fellow after a pause, as
he looked down the long deserted City streets, that teemed so with busy
life in the daytime.  "That scamp of a valet never reminded me of my
greatcoat--a scoundrel.  Thinks a deal more of his own confounded self,
sir, than he does of his master.  Now look here, sir--There; I know, of
course--it's all right; I'm a-going on, I am.  `Move on,' says you; but
make the most of it, old chap; for you won't have me to move on much
longer."

The old man spoke sadly as an approaching policeman cut short his
address; but he went on before he could be told, and made his way slowly
down into Cannon-street, where he stopped before another post.

"Now look here, sir," said Matt, as though he had not been interrupted
for an instant, "we want an establishment here in town--a club for
gentlemen in my position to-night--where we could go and have a basin of
hot tea or coffee, or gruel if you like, and a decent, dry, clean, warm
bed under shelter, without going to the workhouse.  Now, sir, when my
ship comes in, I mean to establish just such a place, and make it
self-supporting.  None of your casual wards in workhouses, but a decent
place where honest people can go and do their bit of work over night or
in the morning, to earn their bed and board.  Let the idle vagabonds and
tramps, sir, go to the casual ward; for there's hundreds of decent
people in town every night would be glad to do a bit of work and get
their meal and bed.  Seems hard, sir," said Matt pitifully, as the cold
night wind swept down the street, and he shivered miserably, "seems
hard, sir, that in this great place where the wealth is almost running
over the side, things are so, that an old chap like me should stand here
to-night, as I've stood scores of times before, wanting the work and
means for a meal and bed, and not able to get 'em.  Now, let's see, sir;
what shall we call my place?  Hotel?  No, that's too fine and grand.
Home?  Well, no; that sounds like humbugging the poor creatures.
`There's no place like home!'  I wish I was at home, I do," shivered the
old man.  "There, now, there it is again!  Another policeman.  Public
streets, indeed!  Ain't I one of the public, and haven't I a right to be
in them?  Strange thing a man can't address a few words in confidence to
a friend without one of these fellows sticking his nose in.  There, I'm
a-going.  I ain't going to commit a burglary upon the post and walk off
with the gas.  I wish there wasn't a policeman on the face of the
blessed earth!  I'm a-going;" and in obedience to the wag of the
constable's head, the old man walked on towards London-bridge; but
before he was halfway there, he made another stoppage beneath a lamp.

"Now, policemen are all very well, sir," he said, "but they're too
officious.  Now, what did that chap do but put a stop to as fine a bit
of philanthropy as was ever devised for the benefit of humanity at
large?  Only think, now, of the crowds of poor folks flocking there of a
night!  There's your proper officers to see that there's neither talking
nor noise; there's your clean kitchen, with its great soup-coppers, and
rows upon rows of mugs and basins; there's your dormitories, with their
long ranges of beds, every one separate, clean hay in ticks, and a
couple of warm rugs; place heated by hot-water pipes, and all orderly
and regular--a place for sleep and rest, and no one allowed to disturb
it; baths and washhouses attached, and every chance given for a poor
creature to get Rest, Refreshment, and a Rinse--the three graces of
everyday life, sir.  Open always, sir, until it was fall; while the fact
of a good, fair bit of work being done first or after, would keep a good
many of the canting casuals away.  I mean to say, sir," said Matt, "that
it might be made self-supporting after the first start; and such a place
for the male and female poor of London, sir, would be an honour to the
people.  Now then, once more, sir, what shall we call it?  `Hotel' won't
do; `home' won't do; `hospital' sounds too sickly.  Tell you what, sir,
we'll call it `Space for All,' in honour of its projector.  Why,
confound it, sir, I'd have it got up by a penny subscription, if my ship
happened to sink and I couldn't do it myself.  And mind you, sir, I'm
not going to have my money fooled away in a grand architectural
building, where all the space is taken up by rooms for the officers; I
want it all for the poor privates, the soldiers fighting in the war of
life.  I'm not going to have all my money spent in outside show; I want
it for furnishing and the inside--furnishing the inside of the building
and the inside of the people.  I want something plain and useful, clean
and simple, with kind, quiet, firm people to attend, and see that things
go right, and guard against imposition.  But there, sir, we should be
safe to be imposed upon some time or another, more or less; but then
look at the good we should do.  Ah! you may well twinkle, and laugh, and
blink, old fellow, for that would be something like a job done, and one
worth talking about."

Old Matt gave the lamp a parting slap, and shuffled on towards the
bridge, where he stopped in one of the recesses, and tried to get
himself into a comfortable position.

"Ugh-h-h, how cold these seats are!  Rich corporation like the City,
too, and not have the decency to put a few cushions for a poor fellow!
Just like to put stone seats round the table on Lord Mayor's Day.
Wonder how the aldermen, sheriffs, and common council would like it!
Spoil their appetites, I know!"

"There," said he after a while, as he looked over the parapet, and down
at the stone steps leading to the water, "that would be a better place
than this, and more quiet and sheltered.  There's t'other steps leading
down to Thames-street there; but then there's sure to be a dozen more,
and I ain't fond of company.  But a fellow must sleep somewhere, so
where shall it be--steps, 'Delphi arches, or the Park?  Park's too far
off, and the ventilation too powerful, seeing as there's so much water
to cool the wind--makes it chilly sometimes.  Rather like the Park,
though; something respectable about it; genteel neighbours; soldiers on
duty; air sweet; water clean.  But there's the rails to get over, and I
ain't up to rails to-night; and, besides, they tear.  But there, with
this suit, I could stand a tear or two as well as anyone; and I don't
s'pose I could tell myself which was the new slit if the spear-head of
the rail wasn't in it.  Down the steps is all very well; but the company
ain't select, and you run the risk of being robbed.  So you do down the
arches; but then there's something suitable about them--handy to work in
the morning.  That's the spot for me, so here goes.  Pity I came all
this way, though, now the penny-boats don't run."

But the weary old man seemed in no hurry to move, for with his chin
resting upon his hands, he stopped, gazing down into the hurrying black
stream far beneath--black and stealthy as it hurried through the arches,
lamps here and there twinkling and showing like blurred stars in the
swift waters; and a stealthy, gliding race was that of the river as it
bore along its stolen secrets towards the sea--secrets unknown to those
who watched from far above; but there were rich spoils and treasures,
dropped from the side of lighter and vessel, swept out of sewers;
secrets, too, of life and death; and now and then something strange and
bloated and sodden was whirled round, to rise to the surface and stare
up, as if appealing with its lack-lustre eyes to the star-sprinkled
heaven above--gazing fearfully upwards, but swept round again the next
moment by the eddy, and forced on by the hurrying stream, dashed against
prow, borne under slimy keel, forced savagely, and entangled amongst
chains, thrown upon mudbanks, and left by the tide half buried in the
black ooze; swept clear again, and borne off up the river, down the
river, scraping along bridge-pier or stone wharf, buttress or caisson,
ever hideous, bloated, horrible--these of the river secrets glided
along.

"Ah!" muttered Matt softly, "who can say that there is poverty here in
London, when everywhere the gold is looking out of the great works in
which it has been sunk.  There are ships, ships, ships, and steamer,
lighter, and barge; and how many of 'em loaded with what I should call a
large fortune!"  And now with a sigh he leaned his forehead upon his
hands, and gazed along the river at the dimly-seen wharves and
warehouses, with here and there a light flashing from the river.  Then
he thought of his own weary life, of Septimus Hardon and his sorrows,
pondering long upon the ill-success that had attended their efforts, and
seeing too plainly how ineffective they had been; and then he sighed
again loudly, and started, for a small hand was laid firmly upon his
shoulder with a tight clutch, and turning quickly round, there, with the
light of the gas shining full upon it, he saw as it were the face of an
angel, seen through the thin veil of sin and misery that sullied its
beauty--a beauty that still clung to features fair and girlish.

The strange couple gazed earnestly at one another for a few moments,
when the girl spoke huskily:

"You weren't thinking of that, were you?"

"Thinking of what, my lass?" said Matt quietly.

"Going over?" said the girl, with almost a sob, and at the same moment
catching his wrist and holding it with both hands tightly, as he tried
to withdraw it, while her nostrils seemed to distend, and her breath
came heavily as she held him firmly, fearing lest her words might prompt
him to the desperate leap.

"No, no, my lass, no," said Matt wearily, as he sank in a sitting
posture upon the stone seat.  "I have thought of such a thing--time
back; but not lately.  I have thought that it would be putting an end to
a weary way when one gets very footsore, and that no one would miss a
poor, worn-out fellow like me; but I've thought better of it, and I'll
wait till I'm called, my lass.  I was only thinking a bit."

"You looked as if you meant to," said the girl, loosing his wrist, and
kneeling upon the seat in the very attitude the old man had taken a
short time before.  "But one can't help thinking of it sometimes, and
almost feeling as if the river drew you like.  It seems as if you'd go
to sleep then, and wake no more.  Not much to leave here, is there?" she
added slowly.

Old Matt shook his head, and, leaning forward unseen by his companion,
he took a firm hold of her dress, for the girl went on dreamily as she
looked down on the black water.

"I saw one of our girls once; she went off Waterloo, and they got her
out, and she looked so quiet and happy like.  But there," she added in a
reckless, offhand way, "I sha'n't do it, I haven't the heart.  There,
you needn't hold me, old man;" and she snatched her dress from his
grasp.

A deep, hollow cough checked her for a few minutes; and Matt sat in the
cold recess gazing on the slight, graceful form, as the well-dressed
girl knelt upon the seat--frail, fair, and apparently not twenty.

"Lend me threepence, old man!" she exclaimed suddenly, as she turned to
him.

"What for?" said Matt.

"Glass of brandy," said the girl, holding her hand pressed to her side,
and then battling hard once more with her cough.

"I haven't a halfpenny left," said Matt drearily, "or I shouldn't be
sitting here, my lass.  But you're better without the brandy, and
there's no place open now."

"There!  I don't want your money, old man," said the girl; "only one
gets so used to asking, it comes natural.  Are you hard up?"

"Yes," said Matt drearily, "close as I can be."

"Here!" she exclaimed, holding out sixpence.  "You may as well have it,
as for me to take it back."

The old man stared at his companion for a moment, and then raised his
hand to take the money, but he suddenly lowered it again.

"No, my lass, no," he said; "thank you all the same, but I can do
without it."

The girl's eyes flashed as she looked angrily at the old man, and then
raising her hand, she dashed the money over the parapet, and sank down
upon the seat sobbing violently.

"There!" she exclaimed passionately, as Matt spoke soothingly to her; "I
know, and I deserve it all.  I wish I was dead--I wish I was dead!"

"I didn't mean to hurt you," said Matt kindly.  "Now go home, my lass,
and try and forget it."

"Home!" said the girl, with a forced mocking laugh.  "Yes, when it's
time.  Good-night old man.  You didn't meet Marian, did you?"

"Who?" said Matt absently.

"Marian," said the girl; "I'm looking for her.  But you don't know her;
good-night;" and she went lightly off, humming the snatch of a popular
air as she went towards the City; while, after waiting until the girlish
form had disappeared, old Matt rose himself and began to shuffle back
the same way as he had come; looking longingly at a passing hay-cart
bound for the market, and thinking of the fragrant stack whence the load
had been taken, and how pleasant it would have been to have dragged out
a heap to nestle in.  For the old man was cold, weary, and ill; and as
he slowly shuffled along, many a thought of those who rested upon
luxurious couches came to his mind.  He crossed the great echoing
cathedral yard, and passed slowly from gaslight to gaslight, too weary
now to talk.  Now and then he would encounter a policeman, who turned to
look after the slow, shambling figure.  At intervals, a cab would rattle
by him, while once, with its hollow, heavy rumble, a fire-engine dashed
by, the light flashing back from the shining helmets of the firemen;
then there was a short, rushing vision of something red covered with
figures, and drawn by two steaming, plunging horses, a faint dying away
of the hurrying wheels, and then all still once more, for it was now the
most silent hour of the whole twenty-four in great London.  Dull and
dreary looked the streets, with hardly a wayfarer in sight, and those,
perhaps, women who paced wearily along or talked noisily to a companion.
But no one heeded Matt as he still shuffled onward, more than once as
he passed through Fleet-street gazing up at the gas-lit windows of the
newspaper-offices.

Past Lower Series-place, looking in the dark night like the mouth of a
sewer, emptying itself by the bridge--Temple Bar; past Essex-street, to
stand and gaze down it for a few moments thoughtfully; past the last of
the four churches, and the street leading to the "Bridge of Sighs."
Onward still, and then into one of those hilly lanes, up which in busy
day came clattering the heavy teams of wagon--horses with their black
load--down one of those river lanes along which came sighing the
damp-laden winds, whispering of being lost upon the great stream, and of
having wandered from the green trees, where in summer the reeds rustled,
and the silver water glided past emerald banks--whispering of cooling
groves, and the gladdening, sparkling, dancing wavelets, sheltered woody
islets, and the sweet, pure country air; but now lost in wintry weather
upon the breast of the great river,--lost, after wandering by muddy pile
and slimy, horrid, loathsome drain and sullying sewer; lost, as they had
swept past wharf, bridge, pier, and barge; they came in despair, weeping
tears from their misty burden, sweeping amongst the gloomy houses, and
causing a shiver as they passed along.

For a moment some bright recollection of the past seemed to strike the
old man, and he paused thoughtfully beneath a gas-lamp; but old Matt's
memories of waving reed and rustling tree were few, and he sighed and
passed on, thinking only of his sought-for resting-place.  Onward, and
down beneath the great black yawning arch, to where he could hear
voices, while above the faint damp fever-reek of the place, came the
fumes of tobacco-smoke.  On still, with hands outstretched to avoid
collision with cart or wagon, but more than once he tripped over a
shaft, as some stabled horse rattled halter or chain through the ring of
its manger, and Matt sighed with envy as he thought of the warm straw.

To a miserable fire at length, with several miserable objects huddled
round, and amidst jest, laughter, and foul language, a voice yelled out
a verse or two of a current song, a man and woman dancing hard by, their
shadows cast, wildly distorted and grotesque, upon the reeking
brickwork, where they almost seemed to cling.  Then, too, came that
peculiar "glug-glug" sound of liquid passing from a bottle, and a voice
shouted to the old man:

"Come on, matey; heaps o' room to-night.  Give's a pipe o' baccy."

"All right," replied Matt, backing into the darkness, and shaking his
head, as he shuffled hurriedly along till he reached the Strand once
more.

"Can't stand that now," muttered Matt; "nerves too weak.  No idea there
was such a pressure of business in the hotel.  Foreign gentleman that,
dancing--wonder whether his organ's down there."

Heavily, listlessly, and with drooping head, old Matt walked slowly back
towards the City, now stopping in a doorway, or resting leaning against
a shutter; but soon to shuffle on again, as his heart seemed to whisper,
"O, that it were day once more!"

Tramp, tramp through the silent streets of the great wilderness.
Thoughtful after a strange, numbed, weary mode, the old man made his way
into Thames-street, looking hopelessly about the while for some dry
sheltered spot, where, unnoticed by the police, he might coil up as
hundreds do nightly in our streets, trying to forget the present as they
wait for the coming of the desolate future.

At last, less particular now, he was nearing the dry arch of
London-bridge, and thinking of the steps as a place to rest his aching
bones, when, from his half-sleepy state he suddenly roused up, for down
from a turning in front came a couple of policemen with a stretcher,
while, hurried and excited in her manner, her long hair lank and
curl-less with the dank night wind, followed the poor girl he had seen
upon the bridge, now talking earnestly to one of the constables.

The new-comers did not notice Matt, and after walking onwards for a
short distance, with the old man closely following, they suddenly turned
down between two large piles of warehouses, along a narrow passage up
which came the odour of the river borne on the moaning wind, where the
rugged broken pavement was wet and slimy.

There was no feeling of fatigue and misery now to bear down the old man,
as, led by some impulse, he followed the police, his heart beating
wildly as he glanced at the stretcher and recalled the hospital.  There
was something weird and strange-looking in the oil-caped figures as,
seen in the misty darkness, they passed along; and the eager voice of
the girl sounded hollow and echoing.  Down to the river-side, where the
muddy water could be heard rushing amidst the floating piers and moored
barges, with a hurried whispering secret sound,--here where barge and
lighter were moored closely together and steamers were buoyed, waiting
for the coming day.  High warehouses towered above them, with cranes
jutting out, gallows-like, at intervals as if just deprived of some
malefactor's body that had swung to the chain, and then dropped in the
river to be swept away.  Piles were driven thickly here; slimy,
mysterious-looking stone steps led down into the water, right down into
its secret muddy depths; and an old boat or two floated hard by, secured
by small chains, which rattled backwards and forwards over their
gunwales as the tide lifted, and bore them to and fro in its ebbing and
flowing and eddying currents.

But there was light here, sparsely shed over the scene by a single
flickering lamp, whose panes seemed bedewed with tears.  The pale blue
flame jumped and danced, burning bluely as it was nearly extinct, and
then flashed up again with regular throbs, from water collected in the
pipe.  And now as Matt drew nearer, he saw the light flash from the
shiny wet cape of another policeman, standing talking to a couple of
nondescript waterside men in Guernsey shirts and heavy mudlark boots,
who stood leaning against the mooring-posts and smoking hard; while all
three seemed to be keeping vigil over something lying upon the ground
covered with an old sack and some matting, upon whose uncouth form the
blinking gaslight looked down; now showing its shudder-engendering
proportions, now leaving it all but in darkness.  But as the light
flashed up, there was a tiny trickling stream sluggishly flowing from
beneath the sack in a tortuous way to the edge of the landing-place,
where it dripped slowly with a little echoing plash into the running
waters, which beat against the stones and leaped and rose, and fell with
a monotonous lap-lap as if seeking to rise, and drag back the secret
taken from their bosom.

It was strange, but far off in the country, in Somesham town, Doctor
Hardon clenched his hands and groaned in his sleep, as the perspiration
stood in big beads upon his forehead; but though in his dream he saw the
stern faces of his brother and nephew, and went through the
church-yard-scene once more, it was, perhaps, merely a fit of
indignation, or on account of certain speculations which had threatened
to prove failures, even though, after his fashion, he had made vows at
his conscience-shrine, and promised to seek out his lost child, and to
do something for Septimus Hardon should they succeed.

And 'twas strange, too, that Mrs Doctor Hardon should wake up with a
wild cry from an oppressing slumber, and then, trembling from a strange
sense of dread, cry hysterically, and he for hours thinking of her
child.  Strange, perhaps; but such things have been.

The policemen stopped, and set down their stretcher, saying something in
an undertone to their fellow; the two men smoking left their posts, and,
beneath the lamp, the girl leaned against the wall trembling visibly, as
again and again she coughed and pressed her hand against her heaving
chest.

Old Matt drew nearer and nearer, his claw-like fingers working
convulsively, as if to tear off the wet covering before him; his head
was craned forward, his dry lips parted, and then he stopped short as
one of the men stooped and lifted the sack, so that the light flashed
across a pale face "dreadfully staring through muddy impurity," for with
a wild, wailing cry, the girl started forward and threw herself on her
knees, sobbing bitterly; and the men, hardened though they were to such
scenes, fell back a step or two, with some show of respect for the
sorrow before them.

The wind moaned and sighed, and mingled with the poor girl's cries; the
chains rattled noisily, and the waters seemed to leap and dash angrily
at the steps, rising higher and higher minute by minute, fearful of
losing their prey; while Matt stole nearer and nearer, trembling in
every limb--nearer and nearer still, with his eyes fixed upon that pale,
staring face, till a policeman laid a hand upon his breast to stay him
from interrupting the mourner's sorrow; but, putting back the hand, Matt
pressed on with a chaos of thoughts hurrying through his brain, bright
amongst which seemed to shine forth the face of Lucy Grey, as, stooping
lower, he now looked down upon this countenance which he had, ere now,
seen raised wildly and appealingly to his, when he had gruffly talked of
time, and then, shivering as if stricken with some paralysing seizure,
he gasped almost to himself--"It's that poor girl!"

Volume Three, Chapter X.

BY DAY.

The public might have been present in force, but they were not; for
inquests upon bodies found in Thames' stream are common events, such as
find their way into corners of the morning papers in the shape of short
paragraphs.  And in this instance there was a very seedy-looking staff
to represent the Press--namely, a man who winked solemnly at old Matt as
he passed him on his way to a side-table beside the jury.  The necessary
witnesses were there apparently, and the inquest dragged on its slow
length as they told all they knew.  But Matthew Space must be quoted as
an exception; he did not tell all, only that he knew the poor woman by
sight, while he rightly said that he was ignorant of her name and home.
It would be time, he thought, to tell all when there was no more danger
of publicity, and so he allowed himself to be huffed by the coroner for
taking up his valuable time.

But now came forward a pale, well-dressed, weeping girl, who stated that
her name was Eleanor.

"Eleanor what?" said the coroner, frowning very severely, and oozing all
over his very high, bald forehead with the quintessence of morality; for
the poor girl shivered before him, and looked appealingly from face to
face of the jurymen.  "Eleanor what?" said the coroner again, with quite
a snap.

"Anderson," said the girl sobbing; and then for a few minutes she could
not proceed to tell her tale; how that for a year past she had always
tried to see those girls who were taken out of the river.  She hardly
knew why, only that she had known some of them, as she knew poor Marian;
and there seemed something which drew her towards the river.  She met
the policemen, and they let her go with them, for she was looking for
Marian, and somehow she was not surprised to find her there.

Had known her a long time--years, she thought--and they lodged together.
She had often said that she was tired of life, but never talked about
her friends, or anything of the past: thought she came from the country.
Had not seen her before for days, and had been uneasy, and fancied she
had gone over the bridge, as many did--could not tell why, unless
because she was tired of her life, and had the feeling of being drawn to
do it.  Her name was Marian--that was what she was called--but thought
it was not her real name; did not know why; but many girls like her gave
themselves fresh names.  She gave witness a little Bible once, with
passages marked in it, but there was no name in it.  Never spoke of
anyone else, or of herself, but was always very kind, and had nursed
witness once through a bad fever, not long back, and never left her
night or day, when no one else dared come near; and now she was gone.

There was a pause here longer than those made while the coroner had
taken down the depositions, during which he had frowned very severely;
and now appeared greatly annoyed at the unbusiness-like sobbing of the
poor girl, who sat down again upon a form behind old Matt, who tried to
whisper a few words of comfort, as the jurymen mostly seemed very intent
upon the paper before them.

Then followed the doctor to tell of his horrible task, and express his
opinion respecting the marks of blows upon the face of deceased, such,
though, as might have been caused by striking against some part of the
bridge in falling; he was of opinion that she must have struck twice, as
there was a fracture upon the back of the skull; and she had evidently
been dead some days.

"Found dead."

And then there was a little quiet bustle, and scraping of chairs upon
the oilcloth, for the inquest was over; and old Matt and the weeping
girl were standing outside by some railings.

"Strange as we should meet again after talking as we did."

"Yes, yes," said the girl sadly; "but why didn't you say you knew her
when I spoke to you?"

"Didn't know her by that name," said Matt; "and I had only seen her a
few times, hardly to speak to.  But about that Bible?"

"Well!" said the girl sadly.

"Have you got it now?"

"Yes," she said; and then she turned, for a hand was laid upon her arm,
and one of the jurymen led her on a few steps talking long and
earnestly, till after repeating something aloud two or three times he
walked away; and Matt and the girl, two of the waifs of London streets,
went slowly on, not noticing that they were watched.

"Poor, poor Marian!" sobbed the girl, stopping by a doorway.  "Told me
to read the words she had marked in the Bible, and then to go and do
that!"

"Well, well, well," said the old man, "let's hope she has gone to a
better world; and now, my lass, where are you going?"

"Back to my lodging," said the girl wearily.

"That gentleman told you to call somewhere, didn't he?" said Matt.

"Ah, yes," said the girl abstractedly, "I think so."

"Now I don't believe you remember it," said Matt; "but I happened to
hear it, and I'll write it down.  Now, look here;" and he brought out
his old, ragged memorandum-book and the lead-pencil stump; and then,
using the crown of his hat for a desk, he wrote down the address
carefully, tore out half a leaf, and gave it to the girl.

"There, my lass," he said, "take my advice, and go there; and now I want
you to let me have that Bible."

"What for?" and the girl looked wonderingly at him.

"It's a whim of mine, that's all," said Matt.  "But you'll--"

He paused, for a hand was laid upon his shoulder, and turning round he
stood face to face with the juryman who had spoken to the girl.

"What paper was that you gave to the girl?" he said roughly.

"The one you ought to have given," said Matt, resenting the question,
and the tone of voice in which it was asked.

"What do you mean?" said the stranger.

Old Matt was weak and ill, or he would have retorted angrily; but he
only said, "An address."

"What address?" said the juryman dubiously.

"Well, then, yours, if you must know," said Matt.

The juryman looked keenly at the old printer, who met his gaze without
flinching.  "It was easy to remember," said the former.

"I know that," said Matt, "but I thought she'd forget; and you seemed to
mean well by the poor lass.  I watched you, sir, at the inquest."

"God knows I do, my man," said the juryman softly; "and I ask your
pardon for playing the spy; for I must confess to having had my doubts
of you."

"It's all right, sir; and we can cry quits," said Matt.  "I had my
doubts, too; and was in two minds about writing down the address; but if
you can do anything towards saving the country the cost of another
inquest, for God's sake do.  No, thank you, sir; I don't want your
money.  I don't like taking it where I haven't earned it.  It's a weak
point of mine, and has stood in the way of my comfort more than once:
and I'm old now, sir, and can't break myself of bad habits.  Good-day,
sir."

The juryman smiled as they parted, and old Matt hurried off talking to
himself; for the girl had disappeared while he had been detained.

"I want to see that Bible," he muttered, "and he's hindered me
dreadfully.  But, yes; no; yes; that's her; there she is," and he
shuffled on after a slight figure he saw crossing the road, some
distance down the street.  "Hang the folks, how they do get in your way
when you're in a hurry," he growled.  "Now, stoopid, which way is it to
be?"  And then he hurried and panted along to overtake the retreating
figure, which had again disappeared.  Dodging amongst the vehicles he
encountered, he crossed the road, pressing on, with everyone he met
apparently resenting his hurry, till passing a turning, he looked down,
to see the figure he had followed nearly at the bottom.

"Gets over the ground well," muttered the old man, wiping his forehead;
"but I'm safe of her now.  Must have that Bible; there may be some clue
there, and I want to have this matter cleared up; but how can I tell
Miss Lucy?"

The old man reached the bottom of the street, and stood within twenty
yards of the figure he sought to overtake, when hurrying on he caught up
to her, saying--

"My lass, you'll let me have that book, won't you?"

The figure turned sharply round, as Matt touched her shoulder lightly;
but the face was strange, and, taken aback and confounded, the old man
made a rough apology, and stood panting as he clung to the railings of a
house hard by.

Volume Three, Chapter XI.

MR JARKER IS WANTED.

Mr William Jarker had had a long holiday from the public school where
her Majesty's officers try to instil lessons of good, while their
refractory pupils resent them to the best of their ability.  So long had
been Mr Jarker's holiday, that the police had grown uncomfortable at
their inability to bring something home to him, but he was wanted, at
last, on account of a collection of plate and valuables that had
suddenly disappeared after a few linnets and finches had been netted
some thirty miles down in Hertfordshire, though even here the burglary
would not have drawn Mr Jarker into trouble had it not been for a
confederate who had "peached" in consequence of what he called an unfair
division of the spoil.

So Mr Jarker was wanted just at a time when he felt very comfortable
and secure.  He had certainly felt rather uneasy for a few days past,
and read, or rather stumbled through, the various newspapers, taking
particular interest in passages relating to discoveries of bodies, and
inquests, but now this uneasiness had worn off, and no further notice
having been taken of his behaviour by the Hardon family, he felt in very
good spirits; though for all that, he had kept away from
Bennett's-rents, so that he might not encounter the Reverend Arthur
Sterne, who had been assaulted, he heard; and on the principle of giving
a dog a bad name and then hanging him, Bill thought he might be accused
of the assault.  As to the child, he learned that the curate had taken
it to his own home.

Mr Jarker's notice was drawn to the fact of his being wanted, one day
when making his way from the Dials into Holborn.  Naturally given to
casting his eyes about him, he became aware of a quiet-looking man
following him at a distance; and no sooner did Mr Jarker catch sight of
that face, than horrors of the past untold danced before his eyes for an
instant; but the next moment he thrust his hands into his pockets, drew
a long breath, and began to whistle, all the while looking out ahead for
what he next expected to see--a policeman in uniform.

It might be supposed that the whistler intended to give the person who
followed him so closely into custody, but this was not the case, for Mr
Jarker imagined that no sooner was there a policeman in sight, than the
quiet-looking man would begin to close up.

But it might be somebody else who was wanted, so Mr Jarker crossed the
road--so did the quiet man; Bill crossed again--so did the quiet man;
and, though the weather was cold, the bird-catcher perspired, as he
muttered--

"I wonder what it's for?"

However, he appeared to take matters very coolly, and peeped here and
there into the bird-fanciers' shops, and so made his way into Holborn,
now and then directing a peep at his quiet friend, who was apparently
not taking the slightest heed of his proceedings, but all the same
thoroughly realising the difficulty of finding one of his brotherhood
when wanted.

Passengers were plentiful here, and the crowd thickened as Jarker went
on, till a good opportunity seemed to present itself.

"Now for it!" thought Bill, and after a glance over his shoulder, he
dodged in and out and about for five minutes, making more than one feint
of having turned out of the main street; then, being apparently very
much taken with the contents of a draper's window, he stopped short, and
glanced to the right to find the quiet-looking man in precisely the same
place, and worse still, probably in obedience to a sign from the said
quiet man, to the left there was a policeman closing up quickly.

"Meant for me!" muttered Bill; and again, as he turned hotter, "I wonder
what it's for?" while once more glancing to the right, there was the
quiet man also closing in quickly.

But not so quickly as Jarker made a leap backwards into the road, dodged
right under a horse's legs, round an omnibus, past cabs, carts, and
wagons, and in and out and about like an eel, invulnerable to the tread
of horses' feet or the passage of wheels.  Ordinary people would have
been run over half-a-dozen times, but Bill Jarker was not, and on he
tore, with the two constables in full chase.

Jarker had not much start, but he made the most of it, with the full
determination of making his escape if possible; perhaps even for a small
robbery he might have run hard, and fought hard, to avoid capture; but
at the present time there was a look of desperation in his face that
prevented more than one willing hand from attempting his seizure; and
away he sped, in and out of the vehicles coming and going upon the
slippery road.  All at once he caught sight of a new peril; right in
front there was another policeman, and if, to avoid him, he took to the
pavement, so great was the crowd of passengers, that he must have been
hemmed-in and captured directly.  So on dashed Jarker, right at the
constable in front, coming down upon him with the impetus of a
battering-ram.  Over he went, and on dashed Bill with the other
constables in close pursuit, and shouts and cries rising on all sides.
"Stop thief! stop thief!" with the tail of followers increasing each
moment.

Jarker's breath came hot and thick, and he felt that a few more minutes
past, and he would be marching through the street handcuffed and with
his liberty stopped; he thought no more of that, but shuddered, while,
at the same moment, hope animated his breast, for he could see, far in
front, a haven of safety: right before him the street was up, and the
boards and bricks told of repairs to the sewers, while the large heap of
earth pointed out the depth down at which they lay.

On tore Jarker, racing over the ground with a long, loping run, and on
came the police, with the tag of idlers; but the goal was reached.  With
one bound Jarker cleared the barrier, ran and stumbled over the loose
earth for some distance, and then dropped to the first platform, slid
down ladder after ladder, passed man after man, too astonished and
startled to attempt to seize him, sometimes falling, sometimes climbing,
with the deal planks springing, and brickbats and clods of earth falling
after him.  One man made a blow at him with his spade, but it came too
late, for Jarker reached the bottom, leaped into the black stream, here
but little over his knees, went splashing away under the echoing dark
arch of the sewer, into the dense black passages that run for so many
miles under London, and was out of sight long before the first policeman
was half-way down the great opening.

The main sewers were not made in those days, and the quiet man stopped
for an instant to give some instructions to one of his constables, the
result being that he leaped into a hansom cab, and very soon after, as
the tide was up, a Thames-police row-galley was being pulled slowly
backwards and forwards in front of the mouths of two large openings
which lent their black, affluent streams to the great river.

On through the darkness went Jarker, always with the stream, his hands
outstretched in front, and his head turned from time to time to catch a
glimpse of the flash of some bull's-eye lantern.  On he pressed, but not
unpursued; since for some distance a couple of policemen, the one in
plain clothes and he who had been knocked down and made vicious by the
blow, came plashing along.

Once the ruffian stopped, drew out a heavy life-preserver, and with an
oath turned back, but directly after he was pressing on again, carefully
feeling his way by the slimy wall, for the water grew deeper and deeper,
and more than once his quick ear detected the light scuffling noise as
of some little animal running, and a plash as of something leaping into
the murky stream.

At last Jarker stopped, for the long-continued silence and the thick
darkness taught him that he was unpursued; but he knew well enough that
though the pursuit had perhaps ceased, the entrances to the sewers would
be carefully watched; and he felt too now that there would be no home
for him again in Bennett's-rents.

"They're gallus clever!" growled the ruffian when, after pressing on a
little further, he once more stopped short--"they're gallus clever, them
p'lice, but they don't know everythink."

And now, after listening long and carefully, he turned off short round
to the right, and waded onward for a few minutes, when he stopped again
to draw forth a box and light a match; but he found that they were
wetted, and nothing followed but faint streaks of phosphorescent light;
when with a curse he threw the useless splints away and pressed on.

Dark, plashing, echoing paths, with noisome mephitic smells and the
sound of hurrying waters--paths that might in ignorance be traversed for
days and days, until the weary wanderer sank down for the black stream
to bear him out to the great river.  Here there would be a smaller sewer
off to the right, here one to the left; while drain-pipe and culvert
emptied their filthy streams, augmenting always the larger sewer where
the ruffian waded; as the current swelled and rose and rolled swiftly
on, at times with almost sufficient force to render his footing
insecure.

At one time the water was up to his breast, but it soon shallowed when
he entered a branch and faced the stream, guiding himself ever with his
hand upon the slimy wall, as if thoroughly acquainted with his road, and
proceeding the while at no mean rate along the gloomy way; for Jarker
had been here before, and he pressed on fearless of darkness or rats,
thinking that the only danger that could assail him would be a rush of
water after a heavy rain.  At times, though, he stopped splashing and
beating the stream, and imitating the snapping, snarling bark of a dog,
for something would run scratching over him--then another, and another--
keen, hunger-bitten little animals; then there followed splash after
splash, as they leaped into the water.  Now he was clear of them again,
and stopped puzzled, feeling along the wall on both sides for something
he could not find--some guide-mark or open sewer-mouth; but now again
came the little eager animals, hunger-driven and fierce, crowding and
swimming round him, swarming up his back and breast, and biting sharply
with their little keen teeth as the wretch leaped and bounded about,
tearing half-a-dozen off to make room for a score.

"If I only had one of their gallus lights!" shrieked the ruffian,
forgetful of the risk of being heard, and of the _ruse_ he had before
successfully practised, and in the horror of his position ready even to
have given himself up as he cursed and yelled in a frightful manner--the
hideous noises echoing along the vaulted sewer, and sounding doubly
frightful.

"Curse 'em!  I shall be gnawed to death!" shrieked Jarker, as he could
not help recalling the times when he had gloated with delight over the
performances of some steel-teethed terrier in a pit amidst a dozen rats;
and now, as he fought there, splashing about in the water, and tearing
off rat after rat to crush them in his powerful hands, he could not but
feel how the tables were turned, and groaned piteously as a great dread
came upon him--a horror blacker than the black darkness around.  But
Jarker fought on savagely for his life, while the diminutive size of his
adversaries formed their protection again and again.  He had his
life-preserver out now, and struck with it at random, fierce and heavy
blows, each of which would have beaten the life out of a dozen rats, but
only once or twice had they any effect, and then he struck the brick
side of the sewer, when the lead knob was loosened and fell from the
whalebone handle into the rushing water, and with a curse Jarker dashed
the useless fragment away.

Faint and harassed, his great brute strength of no avail, his hands and
face streaming with blood, Jarker now made a fierce rush up stream; but
his progress was slow with the water so deep; when, as if fearing to
lose their prey, the rats redoubled their efforts and leaped upon him
furiously, till, half-mad with the horror of their fearful assault, one
he had never known before in his many sewer wanderings through having
been provided with a light, Jarker drew in a long breath, exhaled it
again, thoroughly inflated his lungs as he beat off his assailants, and
then plunged beneath the water, groping his way slowly up stream, and
keeping under the foul water for nearly a minute, when he raised his
head for breath, and plunged under again and again.

His plan succeeded; for, evidently at a loss, the tribe of rats had gone
down with the stream; and then he was alone and afraid to stir, lest he
should bring them back, as he stood panting and dripping with the
noisome water, and leaned against the slippery wall.

"I did say as I'd keep a dawg," growled Jarker at last; "and if I'd ha'
had one--" And then he burst out into a hideous string of oaths and
curses at what he called his ill luck, as, after listening for some
time, he resumed his way in the echoing subterranean labyrinth,
trembling lest the rats should have heard his voice.

But he did not go far before he stopped as if puzzled, and stood
thinking, and listening to the rush of the stream and the trickling of
drain after drain as it emptied itself into the main current, itself but
a tributary of a greater.  He dared not retrace his steps on account of
the rats, but went slowly on; stopped, went on again; stopped once more
to scratch his dripping head; and then he gave a leap and a cry of
terror as he felt an enemy swim up once more and try to effect a
lodgment.  Then he hurried forward through the dense black darkness,
then back a little way in a strange, excited way, tearing and splashing
about furiously as a new horror assailed him; and at last muttering low
blasphemies, muttering them in a low whisper lest they should be heard
by the rats, he made another push on for many yards, cursing the police,
the rats, and his ill luck.  Once he stumbled and fell with a heavy
splash, to be swept along over and over by the stream before he
recovered his footing to stand half-drowned and clinging to the bricks,
giving vent now to a whimpering, sobbing howl, that seemed as if it had
come from a dog; for, with his courage gone and his head in a whirl, he
stood now in the intense darkness afraid to move, as his imagination
peopled the sewers around him with horrors at the very thought of which
he shuddered; for in spite of scores of rambles in these subterranean
channels, with whose many turns he had considered himself perfectly
familiar, Bill Jarker had lost his way.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

The police turned back after pursuing Jarker for a short distance along
the sewer; but though not disposed to follow him along the dark subway,
they had not given him up, for the outlets were carefully watched both
by the places where repairs were going on and also at the mouths in the
Thames' bank; while, after proper arrangements had been made, the sewers
were searched that night with lanterns; the principal man engaged more
than once announcing in a very loud voice, which went echoing along the
arched ways, that he (Jarker) might just as well give up as be starved
out; but for all that, Mr Jarker was not found.

"Not much use hunting along here," muttered one man to another; "here's
a hundred places where he could hide till we got by."

"Remember that poor chap we found just here, Joe?" said one man,
evidently quite at home in the place--a rough fellow in a Guernsey shirt
and high boots, and wearing a hair-mask.

"Ah," said another, "well."

"What was that?" said the quiet man, who was also here.

"Chap we found all along here," said the other, "and brought him out in
a basket."

"Basket?" said the quiet man.

"Ah!" said the other; "bones lying all along here; trod on 'em as you
went--picked clean."

"Pooh, nonsense!" said the quiet man, who had not shuddered before for
at least ten years.

"Right enough," said the other sulkily; "rats!"

"Here, let's get out," said the quiet man, "we are doing no good;" and
he made the light of his bull's-eye lantern play along the surface of
the water to where he could just see a little head above the stream as
its owner swam rapidly away, leaving an ever-widening track behind.
"Let's get out; it's no use to go splashing along here; if he isn't
drowned, all we can do is to wait for him."

"He ain't drowned," said a policeman, thrusting his lantern up a drain
and peering in; "he's too much of a rat hisself, and I wouldn't mind
laying that he's worked his way up to light before now."  And the man
stopped, gazing up the black noisome channel before him as if it
possessed some attraction.

"Gone up there, safe," said the quiet man, laughing.  "Go up, Tom, and
see; I'll wait for you."

"Officers allus goes fust to lead the way, and privates follers," said
the policeman.  "Nice place, though, ain't it?"

"Whereabouts are we now?" said the quiet man.

"Don't zackly know," said the man in the hair-mask.  "Not far from
Holborn, I should say."

"Going up there, Tom?" said the quiet man, unscrewing the top of a small
dram-flask.

"Arter you, sir," said the policeman.

The quiet man took the "arter you" to apply to the dram-flask, which he
passed to his follower; and as no one seemed disposed to crawl on hands
and knees along the narrow place, the party slowly retraced their steps
to where they had descended, and it was with a feeling of relief that
they found themselves once more in the clear night air.

Volume Three, Chapter XII.

WHAT MA MERE KNEW.

"You mad fool, Jean! you shall listen, and you shall hear all," cried
_ma mere_ furiously; "and I will torment you till you see that you are
_bete_.  The little worker--the pink doll--is not for you; and you shall
not have her.  But it was good sport, Jean--rare sport, Jean.  That
sniff woman, poor fool! told me.  He carried her down the stairs--
carried her down in his arms, of course, for he loves her; and let him
marry her if he will; who cares? for she is not for you.  Do you hear,
_bete_? he carried her lovingly down in his arms."

Jean winced as he sat in his old place at the window, but pretended not
to hear, though from the working of his nostrils it was plain how
eagerly he drank in every word.

"No, Jean, she is not for you," cried the old woman.  "I hate her, and
you shall not love her, but someone else; for she has always set you
against me.  I know--I know all--all--all!" she exclaimed, muttering and
nodding her head; "he struck down the Jarker--big wretch; and then the
Jarker waited hour after hour, hour after hour, into the dark night, and
watched for him till he was talking to the painted woman, and struck him
down too; and then I saw more too, and I was not going to tell--O no--
though I think he killed her.  But no, no, Jean, I would not tell, for I
have my plans; and pah! there are plenty more painted women.  But no,
no, Jean, you shall not have the pink doll.  You must love me, Jean,
till I tell you to marry."

The young man writhed in his chair, but he spoke no word; while his
mother knitted furiously, clicking her needles and smiling maliciously
as she watched him sideways.

"No, no, Jean, you shall not have the pink doll; and you cannot see her
now--they are gone."

"But she will come," cried Jean angrily, with something of his mother's
spirit bursting forth.

"No, no!" half-shrieked his mother; "she shall not--I will not have her.
But no, she will not come, you _bete_, for the preacher is ill with the
Jarker's blow, and she nurses him and smoothes his pillow.  Fool!" she
cried in a sharp, cracked voice, "I will torment you to death if you
tear not the hateful little thing from your foolish heart.  You shall
only love me till I tell you.  But now listen: it is dark now, and I
have my plans.  The Jarker is away, and the police hunt him.  Now
listen, fool, while I tell you.  They may take him, but I hope not yet;
for you shall be rich, Jean--you shall have money and all that the great
people have, and plenty of fine dolls shall be proud to have you, Jean;
for I am proud of you; and what was she?  Bah! nothing.  I know the
Jarker's secret--I know it two years; but he does not think it, for I
have been still and waited two years, Jean--more.  He suspect me once,
but he dare not touch me, and I have given him no chance since.  And
should I tell till it was time?  No, no!"

_Ma mere_ leaned over towards her son, and casting down her knitting in
her eagerness, one of the dogs ran to pick it up, but she struck the
poor thing angrily with Jean's crutch, and it ran yelping back to its
corner.  And now she whispered long and eagerly in the young man's ear,
till his cheek flushed and eyes sparkled, for he was coupling all he
heard with the name of Lucy Grey.

"Gold and silver--much silver and rich things, Jean," hissed _ma mere_.

"But have you seen them?" cried Jean eagerly.

"Bah! no; but what then?  Why was he out night after night?  To catch
birds?  Bah! no, but to pluck birds of their fine feathers, gay
feathers, rich feathers, and he has a store, I know it."

"But he may come back," said Jean huskily.

"Do I not say the police hunt him?  They have been here to seek him,"
hissed his mother; "and when I have taken his honey I will show his
empty nest, and they will send him to the galleys.  Yes, yes.  But come,
fool.  There," she said, kissing him, "thy _mere_ loves thee, Jean.  No,
no, lean on me; you must leave the crutch, it is noisy.  No, no, he dare
not come back here to be taken."

_Ma mere_ placed a piece of candle in her pocket, along with a box of
matches.  She then led Jean to a chair by the door, left him seated, and
went softly back to the window, which she opened, and then gazed down
into the court and anxiously at the windows where there were lights.
Then once more closing the window, she returned to her son, opened the
door, and listened.  But there were voices on the stairs, so thrusting
Jean back, she leaned over the balusters to try and hear who waited
below, but without avail, so she returned to the room.

"But we will be rich, Jean--rich," she whispered, "and there shall be no
more of this pinching for bread.  You shall not have poor workers but
ladies glad to see you smile, _mon fils_" and the old woman cast her
lean arms round the cripple's neck, kissing him fondly, though he
remained thoughtful and impassive, apparently listening to the impatient
movements of some sleepless bird.

"But listen, Jean--it was very horrible; but I saw all, and I shall tell
some day when it is time.  I saw the Jarker strike the preacher down,
for I had been watching too.  I came back late, and saw the Jarker and
hid myself; because he is a savage, and I would not meet him by night
never since I knew his secret; but when I was hid, and he had struck
down the preacher, I saw him run this way to cross the road, but the
painted woman dash at him and hold him, fighting fiercely with him, till
I would have helped her--but I was old and weak, Jean.  Then he struck
her down, Jean--such a coward, cruel blow--but she clung to his legs,
and he kicked her, so that I hear his boot upon her poor head, and I
felt sick, Jean, but I dare not speak; and as he came closer I shrunk in
the doorway and watched, for he ran into the court; but the painted
woman was up, and ran again, and caught hold of him, and held on, and I
could hear her say just inside the court there, `Give me my child, give
me my child!' and he struck her down again.  But once more she held to
his legs gasping, and saying, `My child, give me my child!' and in her
fierce, angry way she seemed to crawl and wind up him like a serpent,
while--ah, Jean, I am old and coward, and I shivered and trembled to see
it all.  There was no noise, only the fierce whisper, `Give me my
child!' and the struggling, and I saw him strike at her again and again
in the face, while she held her poor head down in his breast that he
should not hit her; till at last they fell, and I heard her poor head
strike the stones, and I sink down on the passage-floor, Jean, for I
could not bear it, and I don't know how long for, but when I look out
again there was nothing in the court--nothing but the miserable light--
and I dare not go out and see, Jean, for I was frightened.  I think
perhaps he killed her, poor painted woman, and I am sorry, for she loved
her child as I love you, Jean, and would die for you; but stop, and then
the police shall know, and they will take him--but not yet.  Poor
painted woman!  I have not seen her since, and the preacher has her
child.  And it is not ungrateful like you, Jean.  Ah! do I not cry long
hours for you, and you do not mind, for you think always of the doll,
and I hate her.  She coaxed you from me with her soft white skin and her
cat's ways.  She is deceitful, and tries to make the preacher marry her;
but he shall not yet, for I will tell him something that shall frighten
him.  But there, bah! let him marry her, and take, too, her old imbecile
of a father and the weak, crying mother--let him marry them all.  But
you--you shall be rich, Jean, and keep no more birds.  You shall have
doctors, and get rid of your crutch, and people will be proud to know
you."

But Jean spoke not; only sat listening to his mother's words as he built
up some bright future and thought of Lucy Grey.

At last _ma mere_ rose again from the seat she had taken, and went to
the head of the staircase; but still there were voices to be heard, and
this time, without coming back, she sat down with her pinched cheek
leaning against the balusters, where she remained patiently listening
for quite an hour, when she softly rose and whispered to Jean as she
supported him; and then slowly and painfully the strange couple made
their way down to the passage, where, after waiting for a few minutes,
they crossed the empty court and stood in the dark entry of the opposite
house.

Late as it was--nearly twelve--the door stood open; but even if the old
woman's catlike step and the slow painful shuffle of her son had been
heard, they would have excited no attention, as stealthily she helped
Jean along, until they stood at the head of the cellar-steps.

"Ah!" hissed _ma mere_ as she kicked against something soft, "but it is
that Bijou who has followed us.--Back, then!" she hissed, striking at
the dumb brute, whose soft patter was now heard along the dark passage
as the animal scuffled away.  "Now, mind," whispered _ma mere_ as they
descended slowly, while once Jean slipped and nearly dragged the old
woman headlong to the bottom; but he saved himself by grasping the rough
railing, and after recovering his panting breath another trial was made,
and they stood at the bottom, when, feeling her way along, _ma mere_ led
him till, still in the dark, they stood in the front cellar, where the
water dripped hollowly into the tub.  But the woman well knew her way;
and, with one arm round her son, she helped him along to the arch,
warned him of the step down, and so drew him into the back-cellar and
along to the end, where she left him leaning against one of the bins
while she stole softly back to the cellar-steps to listen for awhile
before returning to strike a match and light her piece of candle, which
she screened by holding it far into the bin.

"No, Jean," she muttered, "he dare not come back, for there is a police
always on the watch for him, though I have not told.  But, hush! don't
speak," she whispered, as a heavy step was heard to pass along the
court; and all the while the light shone strangely upon her sharp
withered features and the sallow face and wild eyes of Jean.  "Hold this
now," she said softly, and once more she went nimbly back to the
cellar-door to listen, when, closing it gently, she hurried to the side
of her trembling son.  "You fool!" she muttered sneeringly, "you shake,
and there is nothing to fear.  Now hold the candle low, and shade it
with your coat;" and then, going down upon hands and knees, she crawled
into the bin before her--one that was deep and narrow; and, panting and
sighing with the exertion, she scraped away a little of the blackened
sawdust, and thrust her hands beneath what appeared to be the brick end
of the bin, lifted it a little and then thrust sideways, when the whole
back slowly slid along, disclosing an opening which the whitewashed
stone had before covered.

A little more hard thrusting and Jean could see that there was
apparently room to pass into what appeared to be another cellar, while a
cold, damp, foul-smelling vapour rushed through, and nearly extinguished
the candle.

"Come, quick, Jean," panted _ma mere_, making her way through the
opening, when Jean crawled into the bin and handed her the guttering
candle before following her through the hole, against which he kneeled
hesitating; but directly after he crept through and stood beside his
mother in a little cellar surrounded by bins similar to those in the one
they had left; then, having stuck the candle amongst the loose damp
sawdust, _ma mere_ drew the stone flag back into its place, for it ran
in a rough brick groove at the bottom, while at the top it was kept from
falling by a large iron bar roughly laid in a couple of staples.

"Now look, now look," hissed _ma mere_, taking the candle in her hands
and peering about; "wine, old wine in bottles, put here and forgotten;
and what is this?--my faith, it is a melting-pot;" and she paused
curiously by a large black-lead crucible, fitted upon a rough brick
furnace, whose chimney was a piece of iron piping, carried up apparently
into one of the house flues.  By its side in an old box was a quantity
of charcoal; and in another several pounds of saltpetre, evidently used
to augment the fierceness of the fire, while by the side lay a pair of
bellows--instruments which had before now caused angry words to issue
from Mr Jarker's lips.  "Now look, Jean; but what ails you, fool?  Look
at the boxes; there, that is where the rich things are;" and her lean
fingers clutched and clawed and opened and shut as she held a hand out
towards a rough chest.

Jean was gazing with astonished eyes around him at the gloomy place; at
the bins half full of empty bottles; at a couple of boxes that lay in
one; but, as his mother spoke, he was leaning towards one corner of the
cellar where there seemed to be an opening, which was lightly covered
with an old box-lid.

"What is that?" he whispered.

"What? fool!" exclaimed _ma mere_, going to the lid and lifting it; when
the foul wind rushed up, and once more nearly extinguished her candle.
"Pah!" she ejaculated; "a way down into the drains, and O, my faith,
Jean, but it is the rat's hole; but," she chuckled, "he dare not come,
the ferrets and dogs are after him, and he will soon feel their teeth.
So, my faith! he had two holes."

As she spoke she hastily closed the place once more, listening the while
to a musical trickling noise which came whispering up; but, led by some
strange impulse, Jean went down upon his knees by the hole, and lifted
the lid again, peering down into the black darkness, and listening to
the hollow echoing noise, while from apparently a distance came a
rushing sound as of a stream through a large sewer, and the young man
shuddered as he listened to its strange wild cadence.

"Come here, fool!" hissed _ma mere_; "come, hold the candle;" and broken
glass crackled beneath her feet as she crossed the cellar towards a box
in one of the bins.  "Come, Jean, here are the treasures, boy; but O,
look here!  It is what I thought: here is the painted woman's veil;" and
she picked up a small net fall, that had evidently from its torn
appearance been snatched hastily from a bonnet.  "He must have dragged
her down here, Jean; and then--there is that hole!"

Mother and son stayed gazing at one another with dilated eyes and parted
lips, till, dropping the lid, Jean crawled shuddering away, as an
echoing sound came up caused by the falling cover.  Mother and son
seemed fascinated for a few moments, as they pictured in their own minds
the scene that might have taken place in the damp cavernous place where
they stood; and then, forgetful of her main object, _ma mere_ crept
closer to her son.

"But it is very horrible!" she murmured; and as she spoke she wiped her
forehead with the scrap of lace in her hand, but only to throw it down
with a shudder the next moment.

"Do you think he killed her, then?" whispered Jean in a harsh dry voice.

"Hush! don't speak, don't talk of it," hissed the old woman, who seemed
quite unnerved, and trembled violently.

"But where do the drains go to?" whispered Jean.

"Into the big river," said _ma mere_; "but come quick, there are the
boxes, Jean, and let us get away from here.  I hardly breathe.  But O,
my faith, look there!"

Jean Marais gave a cry of horror as he clutched his mother's gown; and
then they remained silent for a few moments.

The candle had burned out!

Volume Three, Chapter XIII.

PEACE.

What were the thoughts of Aunt Fanny as she ushered in Lucy Grey, the
bearer of her answer to a note she had received?  Strange thoughts, no
doubt--thoughts of the time when her own hands were like her cheeks,
plump and soft, and dimpled; but she said no word, only kissed the
visitor tenderly, held her in her arms a minute to gaze in the blushing
face, and then with a sigh, half of pleasure, half sorrowful, she led
the way to the door and opened it for the humbly-dressed girl--nay, not
humbly dressed, for Heaven had clothed her with a beauty that in a
higher sphere would have been called peerless.  Aunt Fanny then closed
the door, and went back to the sitting-room to smoothe the stiff plaits
of her poplin and black apron, and shed a few tears.

Aunt Fanny stood by the window gazing into vacancy, but her look could
not penetrate to where Lucy was kneeling, like some fair penitent,
beside the easy-chair where Arthur Sterne sat propped up by pillows.
There was a desire to flee again when once she was there, but Lucy's
hands were prisoned, and even for a time the eyes were downcast; but
then those words, powerful in their eloquence--words which made the
young girl's heart beat quickly--had their effect, and soon the flushed
face was raised, and in the long unflinching gaze that met his own,
there was all that doubting man could desire.

Ah, Arthur Sterne, you may have mumbled so that poor Aunt Fanny had to
move her seat in church, but there was something now in the true
eloquence of your words that must have thrilled the heart of the fair
girl by your side; for the tears of happiness fell fast as her face was
buried in your breast.

Explanations?  Yes, all he could wish for; and how could he blame the
loving tender heart, which saw not as the world saw, but was ready to
stretch forth her hand to help the lost soul struggling in the slough of
sin?  How could he blame as he listened to the story of Agnes Hardon's
sorrow, and how she had made herself known, begging again and again so
earnestly, as she asked Lucy's protection for her child, that Septimus
or Mrs Hardon might never be told of their intimacy, lest they should
be of the world worldly, and cast the wretched woman from this last hold
upon something pure?

Explanations! ay, many; and could he have done so he would have knelt to
Lucy, as, weeping, she whispered to him of her wounded heart, and of how
gladly she would have told him all, but that she feared his condemnation
and contempt.

But there, love-scenes should be matters of the strictest privacy; and
if Arthur Sterne gazed long and lovingly in the pure candid face before
him with a look of fond protection which saw nothing then in humbleness
or poverty, and Lucy Grey returned that look with one from her tear-wet
eyes, that saw in his face everything that was great, noble, and to be
desired by the tender, untouched heart of woman--if these two joined
their lips in one long kiss of love, why it seems to be only natural,
and what might be expected under the circumstances.

"And poor Agnes?" whispered Lucy from where she nestled.

"Have you not seen her since?" said the curate.

And then followed much long happy planning for the future, in which
Agnes Hardon and her little golden-haired child had their share, and
Somesham was more than once mentioned in connection with
reconciliations.

Time will fly at such times, and after Arthur Sterne had told of his
arrangements that he had already made for the child, and once more
related his interview with Agnes, smiling at the pain of Lucy as he
lightly touched upon his mishap, one that he gloried in as he felt the
maiden's soft cheek laid to his throbbing heart--after all this, and
much more that both had forgotten as soon as spoken, the curate
discovered that the interview had lasted more than two hours, though
much of that time had been spent in a silence that neither felt disposed
to break--a silence quite in unison with the doctor's orders, since he
had left instructions that for some days yet the patient was to be kept
perfectly undisturbed.

But there is an end to all things, and Arthur Sterne did not look much
the worse for his visitor, when Aunt Fanny tapped gently at the door to
announce another in the shape of Septimus Hardon come to escort his
step-child back to their new home.

And that night, upon her way back, the something new that appeared to
have come over the spirit of Lucy Grey was more than ever manifest; the
ever-anxious look had departed, and her step was light, bounding, and
elastic as she walked on by Septimus Hardon's side; a strange contrast--
now quiet and hopeful, now elate and light-hearted, as she conversed,
while every topic was tinged with the future.

"And what did Mr Sterne want?" said Septimus as his eyes twinkled, half
from merriment, half from sadness, as he drew the graceful arm he held
farther through his own.

Lucy was serious in a moment, and as she turned beneath a street-lamp
and looked in her stepfather's face, he abused himself roundly, for he
could see tears glittering in the bright eyes that met his own.

"Don't, don't ask me, dear," whispered Lucy.  "Don't talk of it now, for
indeed, indeed, I could not leave you."

"Hush, hush," whispered Septimus soothingly, for they passed another
post, and he could this time see how fast the tears were falling, and
now he tried to change the conversation.

"But he's getting better now very fast, eh? my darling," whispered
Septimus.

"O, yes, yes," murmured Lucy.  "I think so."

"And--but there, I'm making you worse.  Let's talk of something else."

But Septimus Hardon's attempts at starting fresh subjects for
conversation were one and all failures, and Lucy was silent until they
reached Essex-street; though hers were not tears kindred to those she
had shed days--weeks--months back, and, as to her dreams that night,
they must have been sweet to cause so happy a smile to play upon her
lip; for though a tear once stole from the fringed lid, and lay like a
pearl upon her cheek, it did not seem like a tear wrung from the heart,
neither did the sigh which followed betoken sorrow; for it was a sigh
like that sweet expiration some of us have heard when a confession has
been wrung from lips we love, and those lips, when pressed, have hardly
been withdrawn, but pouted sweetly, looking more ruddy for shame.

Only yesterday that they wore that look; it can't be further back than
the day before, or, say last week; and--the sweet recollection
clings--"There, I do wish to goodness, dear, you would not always make a
point of firing off into conversation directly I sit down to read or
write.  _Now_ what is it?  `Young Fitzpater was too attentive to Maude
last night?'  Pooh! nonsense! sugar-candy!  Why, the child isn't
seventeen yet, and--"

That could not have been last week, after all.  How time does fly!

Volume Three, Chapter XIV.

IN THE RAT'S HOLE.

"Hush!" cried _ma mere_, recovering from her tremor; "but I have another
piece.  You fool, Jean! are you afraid to be in the dark?  Here is the
candle, but where are the matches?" and the old woman kept on feeling
about in her huge pocket, but found them not.  "You have the matches,
Jean!" she exclaimed at last.

"No," said the cripple; "you had them, _ma mere_."

"Ah, yes; and I left them in the other place; but I will fetch them.
Where are you?"

"I am here," whispered Jean, whom the darkness seemed to oppress, so
that he could not speak above his breath.

"But where?" hissed his mother.  "I cannot tell, not yet; where is the
stone?"

"Don't move," whispered Jean hoarsely; "there is the hole, and you will
fall down."

"Then, come you," hissed his mother; "we cannot stay here in the dark;
and I am not come to go back with empty hand."

"What can I do?" cried Jean angrily.  "I am afraid to move.  Why did you
not let me have my crutch?"  And now he began to feel slowly along the
wall in search of the stone, but his hands only came in contact with the
brick bins and empty bottles.

"Have you found the opening, Jean?" whispered his mother from the other
side of the cellar; and then a cold shudder ran through the cripple as
he stood with his hand upon the stone, for there was the sound of
someone falling over a piece of board, and _ma mere_ shrieked out, "O,
_mon Dieu_, I am lost!" while standing there in the fearful darkness,
and knowing his own helplessness, Jean almost swooned with horror.

"Here, quick, Jean, your hand!" cried his mother huskily; and on
crawling towards the sound, Jean clutched his mother's arms, and dragged
at her, for she was lying with part of her body in the hole, but in no
real danger, though unnerved and terrified, her fancy having magnified
the peril a hundredfold before she lay panting on the damp sawdust
beside her son.

"Not deep, not deep," she muttered; "but, ah, Jean, it was very
dreadful!  I felt as if the painted woman was dragging me down."

"Hush!" whispered Jean as they crawled farther away; "what is that
noise?"

"_Bete_! would you frighten me?" hissed the old woman; and then she
paused, for now distinctly heard, and as if ascending into the cellar
through the hole, came a low blowing, panting noise; at first very soft,
then louder and louder, as it came mingled with a plashing, scraping
sound; nearer and nearer, and more plainly, as if someone was forcing a
way along; while, at last, the panting noise was almost painful, for it
was as of some hunted animal fighting for its breath.

Nearer and nearer came the noise; and with blood seeming to freeze and
grow sluggish in their veins, mother and son crept farther away from the
hole, till they crouched, clinging together, against one of the bins,
when Jean's elbow came in contact with an empty bottle, which clinked
loudly.  And still nearer came the sound, more rustling, more loud
panting, echoing and hollow, as if sent through some large pipe; and,
hardly daring to breathe, as they listened to the heavy throb, throb of
their hearts, mother and son waited the result.

Now there was a muttering noise heard along with the panting; then more
rustling, and all louder and plainer; till, as mother and son crouched
there with starting eyes, they could in imagination see a dripping
figure emerge from the hole, and stand within a few feet of them.

Then there was a silence so horrible that to the trembling couple it
seemed worse than the coming of the noises.  But there was relief at
last in the sound as of one searching amongst bottles; and then the snap
as of the opening of a box, followed by the striking of matches, first
one and then another.  The sweat gathered upon the listeners' faces as
they thought of the result of the discovery, and the probable fate of
her whose veil they had seen.  But, as in the sewer, nothing but faint
lines of light ensued, and tiny spots where the damp matches were
thrown; when, as if to show that this was no supernatural visitant, a
deep husky voice growled the word "damp!" as the box was thrown
impatiently down.

Then a heavy foot crunched upon Jean's hand, which he had rested upon
the ground to thrust himself close to the wall; but though the pain was
acute, he uttered no cry, sitting almost frozen with fear, as he heard
the click of a bottle, the breaking of glass, the trickling of liquid
upon the floor, followed by the sound of someone drinking; taking a long
breath; drinking heavily again and again; and then something struck the
young man heavily, his face was splashed with wine, and a broken bottle
fell upon the floor.

Once more there was the silence, only broken by the heavy breathing of
the new-comer; and then the hearts of mother and son bounded as they
heard first the gliding of a hand upon a wall, and then a rough grating,
which they both recognised as that of the stone being very softly and
slowly slid back for a few inches, while it appeared that the new-comer
was listening; and once more in the painful silence it seemed certain
that he would hear the laboured beating of their hearts.

Once again, though, there was the grating, and they could tell that the
opening was now fully exposed; then followed the rustling as of a body
passing through, and, as they listened, the faint fall of steps passing
along the court fell upon their ears, seeming refreshing, as it linked
them once more with things of the upper world; but the next moment came
the rustling sound, then the grating of the stone, and once more all was
silent as the grave.

"Ah!" sighed _ma mere_ with almost a groan, as she once more breathed
freely; while in a husky voice Jean whispered, "Let's go."

"Stop," whispered his mother; "I dare not move yet.  He will not be
gone; only waiting for a chance to get past the police; and if he see us
he will hide his rich things;" and the thought of the contents of the
place seemed to lend force to the old woman's failing nerves; though,
for what seemed half an hour to Jean, they sat in the silent darkness,
waiting; a silence broken now and then by a peculiar sighing noise from
the sewers, which made its hearers shudder.

"Was it him?" whispered Jean at last.

"Yes; the Jarker," hissed _ma mere_; "but get up now.  Let me help you,
and we will take all we can and go.  Be still and careful; and there,
now you are up.  But, my faith, Jean, I am cramped!  Now, the boxes were
here; and--"

_Ma mere_ ceased speaking, and stood trembling, with the sense as of
something lifting the hair of her bare head, for at that moment came the
sound of the grating stone pushed quickly aside; there was the sharp
rustling as of one passing through, and the stone was thrust back, while
the old woman could hear the panting, hard breath of someone close to
her.  She would have crouched away, but she stood as if paralysed,
calling up the old interview with Jarker in the front cellar, and his
great knife and ominous words, and she felt now that her hour was come,
as a voice muttered the words "Two there!" and a heavy hand was laid
upon her bare head.  It was a horrible moment; but she could not move,
and stood with her tongue glued to her palate, waiting for what she felt
must follow; though, could she have turned, she would have clasped her
withered arms round the ruffian, and cried to her son to escape.  But
_ma mere_ was motionless, while the hideous yell that now rang in a
dull, smothered way through the vault froze her blood into stagnation.
Still the hand was not moved, but lay motionless upon her head, trembled
and shook violently for a few moments, and then the old woman was free;
for, in a horrible voice, the ruffian shrieked:

"Come back! come back!" when there was a heavy crash as of a body
falling amongst a quantity of broken bottles, and all was silent once
more.

No word spoke _ma mere_, but catching her son's hand, she drew him after
her to the opening, seized the stone, which seemed to glide away at her
touch, and then she thrust hurriedly at Jean as he crawled through, one
hand being stretched back to seize on Jarker, should he recover from his
swoon and try to touch her boy.  Then she felt that there was room, and
crept through herself, closed the stone with some difficulty, and made
her way shuddering out into the cellar.  Here _ma mere_ clutched Jean
round the waist, and stopped to listen, but all was silent and
apparently no pursuit, so hurrying him along, they stood trembling once
more in the passage, expecting to be seized from behind, _ma mere_
seeming to feel the knife of Jarker, as she clutched at her throat and
pressed on.  Upon passing out into the court, though, there was a
policeman, but beyond a glance, he took no heed of them till they had
entered their own passage and closed the door, when he quietly made his
way through the entrance they had that moment quitted.

"Cognac, Jean; drink it, fool, you want it," said _ma mere_, when they
were once more safe in their own room.  Before she would partake
herself, the old woman forced some upon her son.  "Another time, though,
Jean, another time.  I thought he would not dare to come back; but he
will go now, and it will be safe.  My faith, though, to see those boxes
and touch nothing!" she exclaimed, and her hands clawed again as she
spoke.  "No, Jean, he will come no more, for it was as I thought; he is
a murderer, and afraid.  He did kill the poor painted woman; and then he
was frightened, and thrust her poor body down into the sewer.  But he
was frightened, and fainted away, for he thought it was his poor victim
come back.  Did you not hear him shriek it?  But I will tell the police
when I have his gold and silver.  But a little, but a little, and then
all will be right."

They neither of them felt that they could sleep, and _ma mere_ drew out
her knitting, but did little, sitting thoughtfully in her chair; at
last, though, Jean slept heavily till his mother woke him in the early
dawn, and together they looked down, trying to pierce the fog which hung
in the court, when the first thing that their eyes fell upon was the
glazed top of a policeman's hat.

"But you will not go again?" whispered Jean.

"But you are _bete_!" cried the old woman angrily.  "Should I leave the
treasure I have discover, and let the police have all?  No," she cried,
hooking her skinny fingers, "I will have all myself, and we will be
rich, Jean.  Ah! what--you sigh?  But you are _bete_, and it is for the
little worker who come between us, Jean.  You loved your poor mother
till she come, and I hate her for it, and I could slay her, for I am mad
and disappointed; but I had my revenge for long.  I told the preacher
something, and he believed me; and you are all fools, you men.  But I am
not angry, Jean, for you are my own Jean, and you shall be rich yet.
What! you push me away?  I care not, for you shall be like your father--
a gentleman--before he died, and left me in this cold, cold, cold,
miserable London.  But we will have the Jarker's treasure, Jean, that I
have watched, and we will laugh then at the world."

Jean sat silently gazing down into the court, wincing at times as he
heard the bitter words of his mother, while his eyes would then flash as
he seemed ready to turn; but he spoke no word, as he thought over the
past night and restrained himself.  He knew the value of money, and his
face would brighten as he thought of it in connection with Lucy; but a
weary, sad smile came directly after, for he knew such thoughts were
folly, and he turned them to Jarker, as he seemed to feel that his duty
was to point out the wretch's hiding-place, though he flinched from the
task.  And still he sat on, hour after hour gazing down into the court,
where a strange man, like an artisan out of work, was lounging about
smoking a short black pipe, and apparently very intent upon a small
birdcage tied up in a blue-spotted handkerchief beneath his arm.  There
was something of the shoemaker and more of the tailor about him--nothing
at all of the detective-policeman, and doubtless it must have been very
unpleasant for a man of his income to smoke such bad tobacco, and pay
for so many half-quarterns of rum for Mrs Sims, who was very
communicative concerning the last time Jarker was at home, while a
policeman in uniform would have acted as a seal upon her lips.  So Mrs
Sims chattered, the strange man watched, and for a time the uniform of
the police-force was not seen in Bennett's-rents.

Volume Three, Chapter XV.

TAKEN.

A heart at peace, doubtless, had much to do with the rapid strides
towards convalescence taken by the Reverend Arthur Sterne, who, in
direct opposition to the hints of his medical man and the uplifted hands
of Aunt Fanny, resumed his work; and not many days after the visit from
Lucy he found himself late one afternoon in the place where so much of
his past life had derived its interest.  Pale and weak, he climbed
slowly up to the garret of _ma mere_; but she was absent with the dogs,
though Jean, more sallow than ever, sat cowering over his fire, and
thinking of the events of a couple of nights before.

Jean could not restrain the deep frown that came over his forehead as
his visitor entered; still there was an inborn politeness in the way he
asked him to be seated, but after replying in a constrained way to the
questions put touching his health, he painfully made his way to the
window, and appeared to be watching the proceedings in the court below.

But for a while Jean saw nothing, for his gaze was introspective, and
the secret he held seemed more than he could bear.  Ever pictured in his
brain were the scenes his mother had described, and sleeping or waking
he saw again and again the wild, agonised face of the murdered woman;
while the knowledge that he could point out the murderer's lair, while
the officers of the law watched and waited in ignorance, made him angry
that he should be bound; for he felt that he was bound, as he thought of
his mother's rage and disappointment should Jarker's retreat be
discovered before she had ventured again to secure a portion of his
spoil; and that night she was to return early, and they were to go.
Jean shuddered as he thought of the last visit, and trembled for the one
to come; and, could he have divested himself of certain cares that
gnawed his heart, and looked upon Mr Sterne merely as the friend and
pastor, undoubtedly, moved as he then was, he would have told all.

Mr Sterne had hoped to have found _ma mere_ at home, and to have
derived from her some information respecting Agnes Hardon.  Once he was
on the point of questioning Jean respecting her; but he refrained.  He
was anxious to see her now that he knew her secret, and certain in his
own mind of Septimus Hardon, he hoped yet to procure a reconciliation at
Somesham; while, at the same time, there was a dim something in his mind
that he could not quite shape, as it seemed to point towards Agnes
Hardon knowing something of her uncle's arrangements during his last
years: but at present he could define nothing, make no plans, though he
seemed to be finding the ends of the threads he sought, and felt hopeful
yet of a happy termination of much misery.  His duty seemed to be to
bring all these people into unison if possible; if not, to call in the
strong arm of the law, should he feel, after a long and patient
investigation, that there was right upon Septimus Hardon's side.

"Will not your mother soon return, Jean?" said the curate at last.

"No," said the young man moodily; "these busy nights are profitable, and
we have little money, while two nights she has spent watching."

"Watching?" said the curate.

Jean started and turned round, making as though he would speak to his
visitor; but he turned his back the next moment, when the scene that met
his eye chased everything else before it, and, wild and excited, he
cried, "Now he is here, and you can take him!  I was frightened, and
dare not; come you, sir.  It was he who beat you down in the street.
Here, look!" he hissed between his teeth, standing almost erect as he
spoke, and clenching his fists.  "If I could strike him down!"

The rage in the young man's face seemed for the moment reflected in that
of the curate, as, starting forward, he flung the window open, and
recalled the last time he had gazed from where he stood; but the next
instant horror predominated as he looked upon the sight which had so
excited the cripple.

There was a heavy mist falling, and the lamps were just alight; but out
upon the housetop, and plainly seen in relief, was the figure of Jarker
struggling out through the trap-door on to the platform where he kept
his pigeons.  He was making his way out slowly as Mr Sterne flung open
the window, for it seemed that someone was dragging at him from beneath;
and this proved to be the case, for as Jarker struggled out, kicking and
striking savagely, the head and shoulders of a policeman appeared, and
in the fierce struggle which ensued the man clung so firmly to the
ruffian's legs, that he brought him down with a crash, which shivered
and crushed the frail cages and traps to atoms; and then ensued a battle
for life which chilled with horror those who were looking on, both too
helpless to interfere.

The platform was but frail, and cracked and broke away as the two men
wrestled together, while more than one poor bird was crushed to death.
Once they rose for a few moments, and rocked to and fro, but Jarker
seemed to trip and fall, dragging the policeman with him, and then from
the crackling and breaking tiles arose a sound more like the encounter
of two wild beasts, as the men writhed and twisted, every instant nearer
and nearer to the edge, where there was only a low brick parapet some
six inches high; and death for both seemed inevitable.

Jean stood as it were riveted to the spot, his lips apart, eyes
distended, and chest heaving: while clutching his shoulder was Mr
Sterne, expecting every moment to see the bodies of the struggling men
part the air, and fall with a sickening crash into the court beneath.

But no.  Jarker freed one arm, and twined it round one of the platform
supports, giving himself a savage wrench, and stopping the slow, gliding
motion which had taken him nearer and nearer to the little parapet.
Another wrench, and a savage kick, and Jarker was almost at liberty,
when down came the frail platform, to fall bodily into the court.

Shouting at the ruffian, Mr Sterne now called the attention of the
gathering people below to what was going on, for it was time; but before
it was possible for aid to be rendered, Jarker had forced the
policeman's head back, and dragged his other hand at liberty; then came
the sound of a heavy blow as the ruffian raised and dashed his
adversary's head against the tiles.  Then followed another fierce
struggle, the officer fighting for his life, and he held on tenaciously
to his opponent; but Jarker was uppermost, and using his great brute
strength, he raised and dashed the man's head down again and again, till
his hold relaxed, and he rolled over into the gutter, where he lay to
all appearance dead; while, with savage cruelty, Jarker loosened a tile
so as to have a firm hold, and then with his free hand he seized his
enemy and tried to force him over into the court.

But he was arrested by shouts from _ma mere's_ room and the open trap,
at which now appeared in the dim light the eager countenance of the
artisan-like man who had been hanging about the court; and now, active
as a cat, with the man in full pursuit, Jarker went along upon hands and
knees, over slate and tile ridge, along gutter, and past stack after
stack of chimneys, to where there was a similar platform to his own; but
he was disappointed--the trap-door was fast.  On he went again, with
Nemesis upon his track, over roof after roof again, towards a house with
a dormer-window in the sloping slates; but the slates were covered with
a redundant moisture, and to his horror he found that he was slowly
gliding down to certain death--faster and faster--as he sat as it were
upon his iron-nailed boots.  A few seconds would have ended his career;
but with a frightful oath, such as none but a drink-maddened ruffian
would have uttered, he threw himself at full length, and rolled rapidly
over and over to a chimney-stack, to which he clung, as he lay upon his
face, with his feet so near the awaiting destruction, that his toes
rested in the slight iron gutter.

He lay there for a few moments, trembling and unnerved by the danger he
had escaped, and than painfully climbing up in the angle formed by the
wall of the next house, which stood a little higher, he reached the
ridge, and sat astride, panting and showing his teeth at the coming
officer, who was making his way more cautiously; while dragging off
first one and then the other of his heavy boots, Jarker hurled them at
his pursuer before continuing his flight.

The dangerous slope Jarker had crossed gave him an advantage over the
officer; for now unable to escape by the trap or window for which he had
aimed, the ruffian had doubled, and was working his way rapidly back to
his own garret, which now seemed his last resource.

For an instant he stood by the ruins of his pigeon-traps, gazing at the
man lying in the gutter--now showing signs of animation--and listening
at the opening; but though there were voices enough in the court, all
seemed silent in his room, and with one glance at his fast-nearing foe
upon the roof, Jarker lowered himself through his trap; while as Mr
Sterne hurried out of the room, with Jean following him slowly, the
ruffian stood once more opposite to the bed of his dead wife, to be
confronted by another watching policeman.

Not of the same stuff this man; for a moment's struggle, and Jarker was
free, leaping down the stairs, which seemed ready to fall with his
weight--nearly to the bottom, with the man in full pursuit; when in the
buzz of voices be heard a cry for a light below, which flashed upon the
hat of yet another officer.

Panting, mad, hemmed-in on all sides, foes above and foes below, knowing
that there was blood upon his hands, and--for aught he knew to the
contrary--that the gallows waited for him, the ruffian, as a last
resource, dashed open the window upon the first landing, while, as hands
actually touched him, he dropped into the backyard.

One man leaned out directly, while another hand was at the window; but
they saw Jarker in the dim light below recover himself.  Then there was
the hanging of a door, and one of the men bounded down the stairs just
in time to strike the ruffian back as he made a dash along the passage
to force his way through the crowd.  But he was not taken yet; though it
was with a smile that the policeman wiped his dripping face as he posted
himself at the top of the cellar-steps, and sent a companion out to
watch the grating in the court.

And now it seemed that they had run their game to earth; for after one
or two ineffectual attempts to escape during the past forty-eight
hours--attempts frustrated by the careful watch kept upon the premises
he occupied--Jarker had that evening made his way up through the cellar
in a half-maddened state, produced by fear and the wine he had drunk to
drive it away, for it was many hours since food had passed his lips.
But Mr Jarker's course was run, and, though ignorant of the offence for
which he was sought, there were heinous matters enough upon his
conscience to make him fight for liberty to the last gasp; while, upon
this last attempt being made, he had been sighted by the man on watch,
who saw him in the passage and drove him back, when, horrified at the
idea of going back to the cellar, Jarker had bounded upstairs, to be
chased as has been described.

There was no lack of policemen now upon the spot, and while the crowd
was kept back, place was given to Mr Sterne, who, with Jean hanging
upon his arm, slowly descended the cellar-steps, preceded by the
policemen, with staves in hand and open lanterns.

"Keep a good look-out on the stairs," said the artisan-looking man--the
quiet man of a day or two before, and one in authority.  And now, inch
by inch, the cellar was searched; then bin after bin of the inner vault;
when the men turned and looked at their leader.

"O, he's here, somewhere," said the sergeant, and taking a lantern in
hand, he peered long and carefully into every bin, while, trembling with
eagerness, Jean pressed forward to see if the discovery would be made.
He was not kept long in suspense; for, after directing his light
carefully along the sawdust, the keen-eyed man suddenly exclaimed,
"There's someone been through here.  Here's fresh candle-grease and
matches; and what's this?"

Jean pressed forward with the others, and "this" proved to be a fragment
of a stuff dress caught in an old nail between the bricks, a scrap which
Jean recognised as a piece of his mother's dress.

Jarker's hiding-place, or rather this entrance to his hiding-place, owed
much of its strength to its very openness; for, with the house and
cellar-doors as it were free to the neighbourhood, many of the other
tenants of the court even coming at times for water, no one would
suspect the existence of a secret lair, though a careful examination of
the long deep bin, now that attention was so fully directed to it, soon
robbed the spot of its mystery.

"Crowbar," said the sergeant abruptly, and a man departed in search of
the implement; while one whispered to another his opinion that, if there
was another way out, they were done, after all.

But now a new-comer forced her way upon the scene, after quite a battle
with the constable on duty at the head of the stairs; and but for the
request of Mr Sterne, she would not have obtained her desire.  And now
bitterly in French _ma mere_ reproached her son for betraying her
secret, though he as eagerly denied it, appealing to the curate, who
freely exonerated the young man from having made any communications to
the police.

"But what is the secret, _ma mere_?" he said to her in her own tongue.

"Come away, come away," she whispered, wringing her hands; but Jean
would not move, and the old woman was compelled to be a spectator of
what followed.

A few blows from the crowbar, when it was brought, shivered the thin end
stone to pieces, and Jean shuddered as he felt the cold damp air rush
through the black opening, as the sergeant exclaimed:

"That's sewers, my lads: there's another way out.  Now, who'll go
first?"

No one moved; but _ma mere_ groaned.

"Who wants promotion?" said the sergeant again.

The muttering that followed seemed to intimate that all three of the men
present wanted it, but not at the cost of thrusting his body into the
black hole before him.

"Then I hope you'll make matters straight if I'm hurt, my lads," said
the sergeant grimly.

"That we will, sir," chorussed the men, and then there was quite a
competition for the second post of honour; as, without another moment's
hesitation the sergeant crept into the bin, thrust his lantern forward
as far as he could, looked eagerly round, and then, staff in hand, he
regularly shot himself forward, and called to his men to follow.  But
there was no enemy to encounter: nothing to be seen but bins round the
cellar, a box or two, the open hole, and the furnace.

"Who'd have thought of there being this place here?" said the sergeant
to Mr Sterne, when _ma mere_ and her son both stood shuddering in the
cellar with them; the Frenchwoman creeping towards the boxes, her
fingers working the while.  "Old houses, you see, sir; gentlemen's
houses once; and this was an old cellar; wine in it, too, seemingly, and
forgotten.  Melting-pot, of course," he continued, pointing to the
crucible.  "Nice handy spot for it; and of course he has made himself
all right before now.  Gone down to one of the sewers, I suppose," he
said.  "And while we were hunting him t'other day, he had crawled up
here, and was taking his port.  Boxes, eh? what's in the boxes?"  One of
the men was already examining the treasure-chests, and the agony in the
old Frenchwoman's face was pitiful, as she saw the lids opened of first
one and then the other, to find in place of the riches she had pictured,
broken glass, worn out crucibles, and brickbats that had formed part of
the furnace.

"Rubbish!" said one of the men, when the old woman reeled, and would
have fallen if the curate had not caught her in his arms and seated her
upon one of the boxes.

"Nice place to go down, sir; take that old lady out in the fresh air,"
said the sergeant, peering at the black opening, and listening to the
quick rush of water.  "There," he said to one of his men, "you needn't
stew.  I ain't going to send you where I wouldn't go myself."

The man spoken to held up his hand to command silence, for at that
moment there came a strange rustling noise, mingled with the fierce rush
of the water, while before they could recover from their surprise,
drenched with the foul stream, his distorted face looking absolutely
fiendish and inhuman, the head of Jarker appeared for a moment at the
hole.

"Help!" he gasped, with a cry that rung through the place, but before
hand could touch him he had fallen back with a heavy splash: there was
the sound of water rushing furiously along with a hollow, echoing,
gurgling noise; and the men stood looking at one another.

"Here, for God's sake, men," cried Mr Sterne, "do something!" and,
weak, and trembling with horror, he stepped towards the hole; but the
sergeant had his arms round him in a moment.

"Keep still, sir," he said sternly; "we've done our part, I think.  It's
certain death to go down there; they're flushing the sewers, I should
say, or else there's a heavy fall of rain somewhere.  He's half-way to
the Thames by now."

The next moment Mr Sterne was telling himself that he had left his room
too soon, for a strange sick feeling came over him, and the place around
looked misty and indistinct; but his was not the only sleepless couch
that night, for the old Frenchwoman moaned bitterly at the destruction
of the _Chateau en Espagne_ which she had raised.

Volume Three, Chapter XVI.

WORN OUT.

A heavy step upon the stairs, a heavy knock upon the door, and a
heavy-eyed, heavy-countenanced man asking for Septimus Hardon.

"And he wants you, too, Miss," said the man.  "O dear, O dear! he was
the only friend I ever had, and he came back the night afore last, after
you'd been to ask for him.  Not seen him, we hadn't, for long enough;
and then to come back like this!" and the great fellow sat down unasked
upon a chair, and sobbed like a child.

"He wants to see you, sir," he said again, "and we've done all we
could," he cried pitifully; "but you see he's old, sir, and there ain't
nothing of him as'll hold together, and he knows it, sir; and he only
laughed and said, he says, `Ikey, old man,' he says, `it must be all new
stuff,' he says, `for the stitches won't hold no longer;' and he was the
only friend I ever had.  `Go and tell them,' he says, `as old Matt's
taken his last copy, and would like to see 'em afore he takes the wages
he's earned.'  You'll come and see him, won't you, sir? though it's no
sort of a place to come to; and the missus is breaking her heart about
him."

Half-an-hour after, Septimus Hardon and Lucy were in Lower Series-place,
where, in the dingy back-room, close to the waste-paper, lay poor old
Matt, with Mrs Gross upon her knees beside his bed, crying bitterly, as
the poor old man lay calm and apparently sleeping; but he started when
Lucy knelt down and took his hand, to let a tear-fall upon it.

"God bless you!" he whispered earnestly, as his dim eyes recognised the
face bending over him.  "Come like an angel to a dying man.  God bless
you, sir, I'm glad you've come; I was in mortal fear that you would be
too late.  Tell her--but no, I will.--Mother Slagg, you and Ikey go for
a bit, please."

The weeping woman put her apron to her eyes, and went out with her
husband.  It was a heavy afternoon, and the fog was settling down fast
over the City.  The light struggled feebly through the window,
half-covered as it was with boots; but the great landlord returned
directly with a thick, strong-smelling candle, stuck upon a block of
wood between three nails.

As soon as the door was once more closed--a rare position for it, and
one which it resented for some time, until Ikey had poked the corners
clean with an awl, and oiled the lock--old Matt said huskily:

"Put your hand, sir, under my pillow.  That's it, that there little
Bible.  Know it, sir?" he said, for Septimus Hardon had changed colour,
and his hands were trembling.  "That took me a long time to get, sir,"
and then he slowly and painfully told what he said he would have spared
Miss Lucy if he could, but it was not to be; how he had seen Agnes
Hardon lying dead, she whom he knew now to have been Agnes Hardon; how
he had attended the inquest, and then tried to get a Bible that had been
there mentioned, seeking for it day after day, night after night, ready
to drop always, but feeling that he should succeed in spite of all.  He
searched the streets, he said, but all in vain; and at last he began to
fear that the poor girl to whom Agnes gave the Bible had emulated her
fate, when he recalled the address of the juryman, found to his delight
she had been there, and through the stranger's influence obtained the
prize he sought.

"And now," said Matt, "I'm happy.  I can feel, sir, that I've done one
little bit of good in my life, and I can go easy.  Now, sir that book."

Septimus, wondering and surprised, turned from Matt to Lucy, sobbing and
horror-stricken at the old man's recital, for much of what he heard now
had yet to be explained to him; but the old man was intent upon the
little Bible, one that Septimus remembered to have seen at home in his
father's desk.

"Now!" exclaimed the old man, with hands trembling, and eyes appealing,
lest his hearers should lose anything of what he disclosed; "now look,
look, look!" he cried, "I fastened it down again, as it was before.  A
knife, quick!  Now look here," he said huskily, and he tried to insert
the blade of the penknife given to him beneath the fly-leaf, groaning
bitterly at his inability, when, with hands trembling nearly as much,
Septimus took Bible and knife, loosened the paper round, and laid it
open, when the first thing that met his eyes, in his father's clear
handwriting, was the date of the marriage, and eighteen months after
appeared the entry of his birth, while upon the opposite side, in a
delicate woman's hand, were the words--

  "Agnes Hardon.
  _The gift of Uncle Octavius_."

"There, there, there, sir!  That's it, isn't it, sir?" cried the old man
excitedly.  "I wouldn't rest till I'd got it, and 'twas hard work, for
the poor girl clung to it as the gift of someone she loved; but the more
she hung back, the more I was set upon having it.  I knew enough of
binding to see that the end-leaf was gummed down, and under that leaf I
knew there was what I wanted.  Here; breath!" he gasped; "open the
window."

Septimus Hardon sat gazing dreamily at the entry in his hand; it was
indisputable, though he could hardly believe in its truth, while the few
words he heard coming from the weeping girl seemed only to add to the
confused state of his mind; but it appeared to him now that the old
man's condition was the first thing to consider, and placing the book in
his pocket, he begged that he might try and have him removed to his own
lodgings.

"No," said Matt feebly, "no; I won't leave here, for somehow these
people love me after their way, and I seem to think that the end should
be much what the life has been; and as to doctor, sir, why I've got one
here," he said, gazing fondly up in Lucy's weeping face, "and if she'll
stop here, and let me hold her hand, God bless her!  I can go easy, for
it will seem to keep ill away.  No other doctor's any use, sir.  I'm
worn out, sir, worn out!"

But Septimus would not be satisfied, and leaving Lucy by the old man's
side, he fetched assistance to his old friend.

"No hope at all?" he said, as the doctor and he walked together
afterwards through the dingy shop.

"Not the slightest," said the surgeon once more, as he stood upon the
doorstep.  "He has never thoroughly recovered from the effects of the
operations he suffered, and besides, it's the old tale with the poor
fellow--sorrow, misery, starvation, on the one hand; dissipation, drink,
late hours on the other.  The poor old fellow speaks the truth; he is
worn out."

Night came, and Lucy and Septimus still waited by the old man's dying
bed.  He had slept for some little time, during which interval Lucy had
replied to her stepfather's many queries--replied as she thought of the
despair that must have prompted the awful plunge into futurity.  Then
the old man woke, and talked eagerly for awhile of the future prospects
of the family.  But soon a change came over his face, his head tossed
wearily from side to side of his dirty pillow, while often he would
raise it and stare wildly from face to face, but recognising none, sink
back again with a pitiful moan.

"Lost life, lost life!  Worn out, worn out!" he kept on muttering as he
tossed restlessly from side to side, frequently starting and looking
round as if not knowing where he was.  Then he seemed to sleep
peacefully for awhile, to open his eyes once more, and smile feebly at
his visitors, beckoning them to come nearer.

"God bless you both!" he muttered; "it's all over."

Septimus half-rose and would have fetched the doctor again, but Matt
whispered "No."

"Don't go," he said.  "He can do no good now, nor anyone else; I'm past
all that.  It's been coming for days past, and I've fought it out; kept
on till my work was done.  I've never been much good, sir; but now I'm
worn out.  P'r'aps I might have been different, if I'd had other
chances; but I was always weak, sir; weak."

He paused again; and Lucy's sobs were the only sounds that broke the
silence.

"Ah!" said Matt again, feebly; "I've justified many a line, sir; line by
line--`line upon line,' don't it say somewhere? but I can't justify
myself.  Dropping out of the old forme, sir; fast--fast now.  But there,
sir, hold up; for I'm happy enough.  You did me a good turn once, and
I've tried to pay it back; and since I've known you, and you've been
ready to be my friends, I've seemed to get proud, and wouldn't do
anything that should disgrace Miss Lucy here.  But I began too late, and
I never deserved such friends as I've found; for I've been a poor, weak,
helpless drinking old galley-slave.  But there, sir," he said with a
smile, "my case is foul; the sorts are out; and I'm putting away my
stick for good."

"May I fetch Mr Sterne?" whispered Septimus.

"No, no, no," said the old man wearily; "we were never friends; and I
can't play the hypocrite, sir.  It's too late, sir; too late!  What I've
done, I've done.  Let me die in peace, here, with your loving faces by
me; and fetch poor old Ike in, by and by, for he loves me in his way.
No, sir; it would be the act of a hypocrite, I fancy, for me to send for
a clergyman now.  No, Mr Hardon, sir; stay with me to the last; and let
me hold tightly by this little white hand, and I can go from you hopeful
and in peace.  For if the great God who sent me here, struggling on
through a life of care, has made hearts so gentle, and true, and loving,
that they can weep and sorrow over my poor old battered case, can't I
hope that He who knows all, and has seen all my helpless weakness, will
be merciful?  I know, sir, I know.  I might have done better: but it's
been a life of drive and struggle--money to-day, starve to-morrow, and
drink always, to hold up and do the work.  I'm sorry, sir, sorry; but
the sorrow came too late.  I've had a hard life, sir; the wish for
better things came too late, when I was worn, and shattered, and used
up; when the day was too far spent, sir; and now the night's coming on
faster and faster.  Hold my hands tight," he whispered, "for it's
growing dark and darker; and I'm losing my way."

And now once more there was a long silence, when the old man looked
eagerly round.

"What time is it?" he asked; and Septimus told him, then, turning
towards Lucy, the old man whispered--

"Put your hand to my lips, that I may kiss it once before I go;" but she
leaned over and tenderly kissed him, when he smiled, and some words
passed, but they were too faint to be heard.  Then he was restless for a
while; but soon started again, to stare wildly round.  "What's that?" he
asked.

"Nothing but the wind moaning round the houses," whispered Lucy.

"No," he said with a smile, "nothing but the wind--nothing but the wind
waiting to scatter the dust."

And now he lay so still and peaceful, that, in answer to Lucy's
inquiring look, Septimus bent over him again and again; but as he looked
in that sorrow-ploughed face he could see that the old man still slept,
while, with the light strong upon her face as she knelt, Lucy seemed no
mean representative of the angel watching by the old man's side.

"An angel, sir, an angel, sir!" he had mattered again; and then he
seemed to doze off, muttering the words to himself.

"Worn out!" said Septimus Hardon, as he listened time after time to the
faintly-borne chimes of Saint Clement's; and then he thought of the
present revelation, which seemed almost dearly bought in the old man's
death; of the past; the office in Carey-street, and its sorrows; the
bitter struggle for mere life; the lodging in Bennett's-rents; and the
shabby old compositor in his frayed suit, pinching himself that he might
supply their wants; the watchful care and jealousy with which he had
tended Lucy to and from the warehouse; the secret they had shared, and
the old man's chivalrous endurance in tracing out the information; spite
of all blurs or blots upon his character, ever the same tender,
true-hearted man, devoted to his friends' interests, and ready with his
offering, even though it were humble as the cup of cold water that
should not be without its reward; and now worn out--the poor old setting
battered and worthless, but the heart true and bright to the last.

The quarters chimed again.  Isaac had been to set up a fresh candle, and
then retired to his weeping partner; while, now seated upon an old
work-bench, Septimus Hardon still let his thoughts wander, pausing long
upon the poverty of the crowded streets of the great City; the
prosperity crushing down the misery; the swiftly-hurrying stream of
life, and the striving of the throng to keep afloat, as others pressed
upon them, climbed upon their shoulders, or, in the madness of despair,
clung to their legs and dragged them down to the muddy ooze at the
bottom.  He thought too once more of his own misery, and that of this
waif, after its long encounter with the storms of life, cast up torn,
weary, and breathless upon the shore.

Mournfully moaned the wind down the court and at the back of the house,
making cowls creak and spin, and rattling worn old windows; for it was
no bright starry night, the clouds gathered black overhead, and sent
down a pitiless rain to empty the streets, and be caught by the wind and
dashed against the panes.  By the feeble light in the front shop, Isaac
could be seen with his head against the wall sleeping heavily; and, worn
out with watching, his wife had returned to the next house.  Now faintly
heard in the lulls of the wind came the striking of Saint Clement's
clock and its laboured chiming, which sounded wild and strange upon the
night air.

Suddenly Lucy and her stepfather started, for the old man was sitting up
in bed with one hand raised as if to command silence, and loud, clear,
and strange, his voice seemed to thrill through the silence as the tones
of the bells came louder upon the wind.

"Hush!" cried the old man, "the bells!  I set it once, and I've never
forgotten it--`Ring out the false, ring in the true'--never forgotten
it," he muttered, as he sank heavily back and spoke in a whisper--"`Ring
out the false, ring in the true.'  Hands--hands--once again; they're
ringing out a false and coward heart, and ringing in the true."  Then he
began to mutter from time to time words connected with his trade--wild
incoherent words, but strangely fitted to his past life and present
state; while at times he spoke with such wild bitterness that his
hearers shuddered, and Isaac came trembling in, leading with him Mr
Sterne, anxious at their protracted absence.

And so an hour passed, when the dying man had been for some time silent,
but another kneeling figure had offered a prayer at the bedside; then
once more the old man began to mutter, at first in a low tone, then
slowly and aloud.

"Gold, sir, cold; bitter cold for an old man like me--dreary streets,
sir, and the lamps out--dark, dark--the dull courts and the foggy
alleys--misery--beggary--starvation.  Bright fields--light and darkness.
No hypocrite, sir--humbly, with an angel's kiss upon my old lips--a
seal--purity.  Hark!  Copy and proof--copy and proof--blurred and
blotted--foul--foul--spelling--outs and doubles--corrections--too late--
too late.  Wages on Friday night, air; wages, sir--wages of sin--wages--
death--death--poor girl!--Bleeping--found drowned--the Bible--Agnes
Hardon--wages--wages--darker and darker--but no hypocrite, sir--with an
angel's kiss--an angel's--forgive--forgive--for ever and ever--and ev--"

Silence in the room, and the watchers stealing away.

Volume Three, Chapter XVII.

"MY SOLICITORS, SIR!"

It never rains but it pours, and the storm fell heavily now upon the
head of Doctor Hardon of Somesham.  Through the instrumentality of Mr
Sterne he was served with the requisite legal notices, which seemed to
be of the nature of seeds calling up a variety of legal plants, which
coiled, and twined, and curled round the doctor, threatening to strangle
him with their powerful tendrils; for he was deeply involved in numerous
speculative matters, and the fact of his being legally summoned to give
up his brother's estate, now reduced to quite one-half--for he had
disposed of all that he could--roused the aggressiveness of the law--a
law which seemed omniscient as regarded failing men's affairs; and a few
days after, from information he had received, as the policemen say,
Septimus Hardon learned that his uncle was in Cursitor-street.

"I would go and see him," said Mr Sterne; "he may feel disposed to give
up all quietly; and I presume that you would take no steps to enforce
restitution of what he has sold during his occupation of your rights?"

"No, no; no, no!" exclaimed Septimus; "he is a ruined man."

Septimus Hardon shuddered as he turned into Cursitor-street--dirty,
cheerless, sponging-housey Cursitor-street of those days, with its legal
twang and the iron-barred windows of the sheriffs' houses.  There was no
difficulty in finding the residence of Mr Barjonas, for the brass-plate
was on the door, though from its colour it was only by supposition that
the plate was termed brass.  The windows were coated with a preservative
paste of dirt, while the same composition entered strongly into all the
domestic arrangements.  In front, the pavement was marked all over with
cabalistic signs, over which hopped and danced dirty children--young
clients, perhaps--in company with pieces of broken plate, there called
"chaney;" the road was decorated with parsnip-cuttings and
potato-peelings, after the mode adopted in Bennett's-rents; while sundry
indications pointed to the fact that coffee was much in favour, for the
grounds found a resting-place in the gutter.  A bashaw-like cock was
scratching over some scraps of parchment and sawdust-sweepings, but they
seemed dry, so he refrained from calling up the ladies of his harem--
two--both of whom were of the breed known as "five-toed Dorkings," and
in duty bound to be white, but they were of a peculiar tint, like mouldy
robes.

Septimus Hardon walked up to a thick-lipped gentleman upon the doorstep,
and, as he seemed disposed to bar the way, told him of his business.

"Show this gedt idto dudber seved," said the officer; for such he was,
though only holding commission from the sheriff.

A fluey-headed boy, with his shirt-sleeves rolled up to his shoulders to
display two very thin arms, at the end of one of which he carried a
black waiter, came forward, performing a sort of shaving operation with
the edge of the said waiter on his smooth chin, and beckoning to the
visitor, ushered him into the room known as number seven, where Septimus
stood in presence of his uncle, and gazed with wonder at the change.
For the doctor's clothes were growing looser upon him hour by hour, and
his cheeks hung flabby and in folds above his dirty white neckcloth.

But more than at this Septimus Hardon gazed at his uncle's strange lost
aspect, as he stood with his gold pencil-case in one hand and a letter
in the other--a letter which he had read over again and again, and then
paused to wipe his forehead with his hand.  But it was only a letter of
upbraiding from his wife, enclosing to him a small scrap which the
wretched woman had clipped from a newspaper--a paper weeks old, but
which Fate had ordered should be sent to her; while now she asked her
ruined lord who was the woman taken from the river, the woman who had
nursed Eleanor Anderson, and had asked their help and forgiveness at
that very time.  Upbraidings, words almost of rage, she had sent him in
that letter, telling him of his obstinacy, and reminding him of the
times she had implored his forgiveness.  And now these words had come at
an hour when he could bear no more.  He had read letter and paragraph in
a dreamy, misty way, thinking of his losses--of his wrongs to his
nephew, while now the man himself stood before him, perhaps to add his
revilings.  Worn out with anxiety and sleeplessness, faint with hunger
and weary calculations of his affairs, the doctor strove for an instant
to regain command of himself; then stared piteously at his visitor for
an instant, staggered, grasped at his neckcloth, and fell heavily upon
the floor.

Time passed; and as soon as the proper legal arrangements were
completed, Septimus Hardon was to be possessed of his father's much
reduced property--an estate shorn of its extent, but still what, to a
poor man, seemed wealth.  In obedience to his wishes, the affairs had
been arranged in the quietest manner, Septimus Hardon's not being a
nature to trample upon a fallen man--fallen indeed; for his next visit
to his uncle was at one of the debtors' prisons, from which there seemed
no likelihood of his release, so deeply was he involved.

Mrs Doctor Hardon had been to Essex-street the night before begging
that he would come, for the poor woman was in despair and dread at the
turn matters were taking; for there the doctor sat as he had sat the
night through in his shabbily-furnished room, sitting with a heavy frown
upon his forehead, wrinkled as though the spirit of evil pressed down
upon him heavily.  Three times over he had sternly bade the weeping
woman begone--the wife of many years--who, her fit of bitter anger
passed, now hung about the gates of a morning until they were opened,
and would then have laid her grey head upon his shoulder as she
whispered comfort.  But no; her lot was to pace wearily up and down; and
the doctor sat alone, hour after hour, brooding over his fall; the
proofs brought forward that his was a fraud; the curse that had seemed
to attend the money; the failure of venture after venture that he had
looked upon as certainties; the gnawing agony of his heart for the
daughter he had lost, but who was to have been forgiven at some future
time--always at some time in the future--a season put off till it was
too late, and she had gone for forgiveness elsewhere; while, above all,
there was a strange wild impending dread overtopping every cloud and
driving him to turn over and over in his pocket a small-stoppered
bottle--a bottle without a label, and held so long in his hand that the
glass was hot.

A noble mansion had the doctor built in imagination: one that should be
wondrous in its prosperity and endurance, but it had no foundation--a
bit had crumbled here, a wall there cracked, then a corner had given way
(a key to the whole), and with a crash the fabric had come down--so that
the builder's spirit was crushed as here he sat, shrunk and limp,
waiting for the news of some fresh calamity, some new fall that should
crush him yet more; for in his wild dreams he had seen his brother
threatening him, and Septimus triumphantly shaking the will in his face.
And so he sat on, hour after hour, clasping the tiny bottle in his
hand--containing what?  But a spoonful of some limpid fluid; while the
stricken man still listened as if for something that he expected to
happen that day.

There he sat, without fire, but feeling not the cold, hearing not the
imploring whispered words of his wife--words uttered at the door after
he had dismissed her, to wander up and down or sit shivering, and
refusing the offered hospitality of some feeling fellow-prisoner.

Deeper grew the wrinkles upon the doctor's brow as he sat.  He had taken
nothing for many hours, but a wine-glass stood upon the table, and more
than once a trembling hand had been stretched out to grasp it.  But he
would wait another hour, he would wait until that other crushing news
came, that other news hidden from his sight as by a black curtain, which
ever trembled as though about to be raised.  He would wait until the
clocks struck again, just to think; though each stroke of hammer upon
bell sounded funereally upon his ear.  Again another hour, and another,
and so on through the long night, through the grey, cold dawn, and again
after the bright rising of the sun, which brought no hope to him.

"Only one other hour," said the crouching man, and the words hissed
between his fevered lips.  "Only another hour!" he muttered, while his
bloodshot eyes seemed to dilate as he drew forth the bottle and held it
up to the light, shook it, and, watched the bright beads that trickled
down the sides of the glass.  His unshorn beard and sunken cheeks gave
him a strangely haggard look; such that those who had known him in
former days would have passed him without recognition.

Suddenly there was a step in the long corridor--one of many, but a step
that he seemed to know; and then followed low voices, and the sound of a
woman sobbing.

It had come at last--he had waited, and it was here--and a bitter smile
trembled, it did not play, round the lips of Doctor Hardon, as he once
more drew forth the bottle.

"This, this, this!" he kept on hissing in a harsh whisper as he smiled,
thinking that the dark curtain which trembled in front would show him
the future and not the present.  And now he tried to draw forth the
little stopper, but it was immovable.  He tore at it fiercely, and then
seized it with his teeth, but it broke short off, and he spat the piece
angrily upon the floor.

"Now, now!" he muttered, as though there was not a moment to spare,
while with trembling hand he seized the poker, and, holding the bottle
above the wine-glass, struck it sharply, shivered it to atoms, and the
liquid, mingled with sharp fragments, fell into the vessel, a large
portion splashing over the table and moistening the doctor's hand.

"Now, now!" he muttered, seizing the glass; and as he gave one glance at
the bright blue wintry sky, he raised the little vessel hesitatingly to
his lips.  Then the door was pushed open, Mrs Hardon stepped in,
shrieked, and dashed the undrained glass from her husband's hand, so
that it fell shivered upon the cold hearthstone, when, falling at his
feet and clutching his knees, the unhappy woman sobbed loudly:

"O Tom, Tom, ask him to forgive us!" but the doctor only stood glaring
at his visitor.

"Indeed, indeed, Septimus, I never knew it," sobbed Mrs Hardon.

"It is of the past--let it rest," said her nephew, who could not remove
his eyes from his uncle, now smiling feebly and pointing to the
chamber-door.

"Why would you provoke this painful scene?" he said in an injured tone.
"You must have known, sir, that the interview would be most unfortunate.
Pray go.  My solicitors, Messrs. Keening.  Every arrangement has been
made, and the funeral will take place to-morrow."

Mrs Hardon started up, and stood clasping one of her husband's hands as
she looked aghast in his face, while he continued in the same feeble
voice:

"No will, sir--illegitimate--pray leave--most painful," and with his
disengaged hand he still pointed towards the door.  "My solicitors, sir,
Messrs. Keening."

"Pray--pray go," whispered Mrs Hardon.  "He is worn out, and ill with
anxiety.  I'll--I'll write, Septimus," and she hurried her visitor to
the door.  "But don't--don't punish us for what is past," she said
imploringly.

The look of Septimus Hardon was sufficient as he turned to the unhappy
woman; and then he stepped into the passage with the intention of
fetching medical assistance, for, as the door closed, he once more heard
the doctor's voice: "My solicitors, sir, Messrs. Keening.  Pray go."

Volume Three, Chapter XVIII.

THE LAKE UNCAGED.

That was only a poor wedding that Jean Marais, with a bright spot in
each of his sallow cheeks and a wild look in his dark eyes, gazed down
upon from the gloomy old gallery of the church; only a quiet wedding
that those two eager eyes had gazed upon, when their crippled owner had
climbed slowly and laboriously up to the gallery to watch unseen, while
the ceremony was performed which gave Lucy Grey to her happy husband;
but beneath those wild eyes there were convulsed features, cracked and
quivering lips.

And the lark?  He bore his treasure with him, the bird she had loved to
hear; it nestled in his breast, and a stall-keeper hard by took charge
of the cage.  And there watched Jean unseen, while Lucy, turning her
eyes upon her husband, accompanied him into the vestry.

Then below in the nave there was the buzz of expectation as the party
came from the vestry--Lucy, blushing and fair, leaning upon the curate's
arm; and he, proud of the treasure he had won, walking happy and elate
by her side.  But it was only a poor wedding--poor in the show that was
made and in those who assembled; for Bennett's-rents was empty that
morning, and Mrs Sims' sniff was heard again and again, just inside the
chancel; while the only wonder was that some of the children gathered
together were not crushed beneath the wheels of the conveyances.

It was only a poor affair, but there was a light in many a face there
that would have outshone the glories of a fashionable wedding.  Even
Mrs Septimus forgot her troubles, and confided more than once to Aunt
Fanny that she thought her complaint had got the turn.

But there knelt Jean the cripple, alone in the gallery, till the last
looker-on had left, the last wheel rolled from the gate, and a sad
stillness had fallen upon the empty church, when, with a bitter,
heart-wrung cry, the young man crouched lower and lower, burying his
face in his hands.  Then he slowly rose, and taking his crutch,
painfully made his way towards the narrow door, his looks worn and
weary, but with a strange light in his eye.

Pausing at length in the busy street, he took from his breast the bird
he had so long tended, and started slightly, but with a bitter smile
upon his lips, for in his emotion he had crushed the poor thing, and it
panted feebly, with half-closed eye and open beak; but Jean only smiled.
And with the same sad look he replaced the bird in his bosom, and then
slowly and laboriously crept along, side by side, with the hurrying
stream of passengers.  Toiling on slowly and patiently, his crutch
sounding loudly upon the pavement, with the same bitter look fixed as it
were upon his lip, Jean Marais slowly toiled on till he was lost in the
crowd.

Only a poor wedding; but Aunt Fanny was there, laughing and crying by
turns, and vowing that she heard every word of the service, and that
Arthur never spoke out so well before.  And what a dress the old lady
wore! surely no poplin ever before displayed such plaits; and then,
forgetful of dress, plaits, muslin, everything, was it not a treat to
see her take Lucy to her warm old heart when they had returned to
Essex-street, as the fair girl knelt at her feet, the large eyes gazing
up so appealingly, and seeming to say--"Don't despise me for being so
humble!"  But, there; had she been a princess, she could have had no
warmer nook in the old dame's heart, for was not Arthur happy?  And then
those arms, that of old lay so placidly across her black-silk apron--
worn even at the return from the wedding, and brought in a reticule--
became restless to a degree, ever animated by the desire to embrace her
children.

Did she love Lucy?  Had not Arthur, the wisest of men, chosen her? and
did not that spread such a mantle of holiness around the maiden that,
even had Aunt Fanny never seen her, she would have battled for her to
the death?  Would he have chosen any but the purest and noblest of
heart? she asked herself again and again.  So she divided her love
between them, and then, upon the return from church, laughed and cried
by turns; for, said she, "I must leave poor Arty now."

Arthur Sterne was silent, but he smiled as he saw two soft round arms
circle Aunt Fanny's neck, prisoning her as their owner whispered words
whose import he could guess.

A quiet repast, and a short interval of preparation before the start for
a trip, only some miles from town, an easy drive, for a few days' visit
to where the sweet breath of the country blew; and then the elders
standing at the door watching the departing vehicle, and the waving
hands, as the wheels rattled along the echoing street; and then
upstairs, for Aunt Fanny and Mrs Septimus to talk of their children,
while Septimus Hardon roamed the streets.

"O, the bright lovely country!" cried Lucy, as the carriage rolled on
between hedgerows here and there silvered with the scented May, whose
fragrance was borne by the light breeze through the open windows.  "O,
the bright lovely country!" she cried; "am I not foolish, Arthur?" she
sobbed; "but the tears will come, for I feel that this happiness cannot
last!"

The word "Arthur" was spoken hesitatingly, as if it were strange to her
lips, and she hardly dared to use it; her eyes were fixed for a moment
upon those of her husband, and then she glided down to the bottom of the
fly and kneeled at his feet, as he fondly parted the hair upon her broad
forehead.

"You are not angry with me for being so childish?" she murmured.

"Angry!" he replied, and the tone in which he said that word was
sufficient.

"Don't think me foolish," she said; "but let us walk a little here,
where the grass borders the road; for it seems wrong to hurry past the
lovely green trees, after the close misery of London.  They are new to
me, Arthur; and look! look! there are flowers, and birds; and see how
the bright sunshine dances amongst the leaves.  But, there," she said
sadly; "you smile at my folly, and forget what all this is to me, after
years of prisoning London."

But the next minute the fly had stopped, and, relieved of its load,
resumed its way; and, happy and proud, Arthur Sterne looked down upon
his newly-wedded wife, elate to see the pure, intense love of all that
was beautiful in nature which emanated from this escaped prisoner of
life; while Lucy was divided between delight of the scene around her,
and reproach for her so-called indifference towards her husband.  And so
they walked, inhaling the sweets of the early summer afternoon, and
finding in them joys known only to those who have escaped but freshly
from the great City's miseries.  And still on and on, almost in silence,
enveloped as they were in the happiness of the present.

"Listen!" cried Lucy, as she stopped suddenly, and laid a finger upon
her husband's lip--a finger now white and delicate, once fretted and
work-worn.  "Listen!" she whispered, "and close your eyes.  Might not
that be poor Jean's lark?" and then both stood listening, as in those
days of the past, when their prisoned souls had gazed up eagerly into
the bright blue sky, and they had drunk in the pure gushing lay of the
speckled songster.

"Tears, more tears, Lucy?" whispered the curate.  "Are you not happy?"

No words came for a reply, nothing but a look; as the bright eyes
brimmed over, and a sob rose from the burdened heart.

"It seems too much--as if it could not last," whispered Lucy; "and that
song brought back so many sorrows, dear--the court, and so much of the
past.  But you will forgive me, Arthur?"

Again the same hesitating speech, as if it were an assumption upon her
part to call him by his name, and she half dreaded rebuke.

"What does the driver want?" said Mr Sterne; for the man was shouting
and making signs.

By the time they had overtaken the vehicle, the man had dismounted and
was by the bank, stooping over a reclining figure; and on approaching
nearer, the curate recognised the cripple, Jean, lying apparently
asleep, holding his lark to his lips, while his crutch was by his side.
But if the master slept, it was not so with the bird; for its soft
feathers were ruffled, its wings half-open, and the lids drawn partly
over the little dark, bead-like eyes; the crest lay smooth, the
throat-feathers rose not, the wings had fluttered for the last time; the
bright, gushing lay would thrill through prisoned hearts in
Bennett's-rents no more--the lark was dead.

And its master?  To get one more look, one farewell glance, he had
toiled wearily on, mile after mile, towards the village where he had
heard they would rest; and on he pressed, with a strength evoked by the
despair of his heart, till he had sat down to rest by the wayside and
sunk back exhausted.

In an instant Lucy was upon her knees by his side and had raised his
head, while her husband's hand was in the cripple's breast.  Then he
slowly opened his eyes and stared wildly round till they rested upon her
who supported his head, when his features softened, and a smile came
once more upon his lips as they seemed to part to form the words
"Good-bye!"

And then slowly and imperceptibly the smile faded from his lip, the
light from his eye; and as they gazed upon him, a cold sternness stole
over the poor youth's countenance, till, with agony depicted in her
every feature, Lucy looked up appealingly at her husband.

But Jean was dead--passed away; for he had toiled through the streets,
nerved by a stern determination--a wild despair--on through the suburbs,
and so out into the country; the one purpose always in his mind--to be
where she would come once more; on still, slowly, painfully, hour after
hour, till he sank exhausted, to die of a ruptured blood-vessel.

And still, of a summer's evening, may the lounger in the great streets
of the West come upon a knot of idlers; and, pausing for a few moments,
listen to divers sharply-uttered commands given in French to a pair of
wretched poodles; who fetch and carry, rise erect, and march about with
aspect doleful and disconsolate, till a few of the bystanders drop
halfpence in the basket one of the dogs carries in his mouth.  Then a
fresh pitch is made; the performance again gone through; and then on
again; on after _ma mere_ of the sharp and eager look--the harsh,
cracked voice; on again, with drooping ears and tail--unlionlike of
aspect; on again, perhaps to cast a look of envy at some free and
rollicking idle dog, or of condolence at the miserable sharp-eyed monkey
performing on the table, rapid in every moment, but more rapid in the
glance of its little dark, blow-watching eye.  And at last, when the
streets grow thin of passengers, and the dogs tired and blundering, home
to the court where they dwell--a court yet standing, though
Bennett's-rents is no more; another court, where the flags lie broken,
and the refuse-choked channel festers with the water from the hard-used
pump; where the children revel by day in the dirt and filth, and Death
oft and oft again beckons the undertaker to come with his shambling
horse and shabby Shillibeer-hearse; where the pigeons cluster upon the
housetops and coo at daybreak, and then circle in flights, while men of
the Jarker stamp urge them on.  Home, to another old house, and up the
groaning stairs, where even by night the twittering of birds can be
heard in lodgers' rooms--prisoners dwelling in a prison within a prison;
here, too, the click of a sewing-machine--patent--man's make; there, the
sigh of a sewing-machine--not patent--God's make; and up the rickety
stairs to another attic, where cages hang--empty cages, kept because
they were those of Jean; where the crutch stands in the corner beneath
the lark's home, brought back by the neighbour who keeps a stall, but
empty too: canaries, linnets, finches, passed away; while the lark lies
upon the breast of its master--the cripple Jean--and the turf grows
green above his resting-place at Highgate.

"_En avant--venez donc--mes chiens_!  Home!" though it be not
Bennett's-rents.

Volume Three, Chapter XIX.

MAD.

In one of those vast piles of building a short distance down the main
line of a great railway, a strange-looking elderly man, and one whose
dress bespeaks the clergyman, are passing from ward to ward upon a
visit.  The man with them, in his quiet livery, raises the brass-chained
key he carries to open lock after lock--one key for hundreds--and they
pass on by sights of the most sorrowful; for they are amongst those of
their fellows in whom the light of reason burns but dimly or is extinct.
At last they stand by a window looking upon an extensive yard, where
some fifty patients clothed in grey serge walk about for exercise--some
hurriedly, some talking, some excited, others calm.  And now one visitor
lays a trembling hand upon his companion's arm as, nearing the window,
comes a portly, grey, smiling man, rolling solemnly along with imposing
gait, wearing a stiff white-paper cravat, with a card snuff-box in his
hand and a straw-plait chain meandering over his grey serge vest.  Quiet
and harmless, he goes about the yard feeling the pulses of his
fellow-patients, and nods at them and smiles encouragement.

"Is there any prospect of his recovery?" says the clergyman to the
warder, who is looking unconcernedly on.

"Whose, sir?" says the attendant.  "His? the doctor's?  O no, sir, not
the least.  Stark mad!"

------------------------------------------------------------------------

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