Charles Dickens.

A message from the sea : The extra Christmas number of All the year round online

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some importance. I think, Gentlemen, we like
those we have served, quite as well as they like
us.

The town lights were, indeed, close by, and
it was not long before we turned into the yard
of the Lion d'Or and found ourselves in the
midst of warmth and brightness, and surrounded
by faces which, after the dangers I had passed
through, looked perfectly angelic.

I had no idea, till I attempted to move, how
weak and dazed I was. I was too far gone for
dinner. A bed and a fire were the only things
I coveted, and I was soon in possession of
both.

I was no sooner snugly ensconced with my
head on the pillow, watching the crackling logs
as they sparkled my little Nelly lying out-
side the counterpane than my friend seated
himself beside me and volunteered to relieve
my curiosity as to the circumstances of iny
escape from the Tete Noire. It was now my
turn to refuse to listen ; as it had been his before,
to refuse to speak.

"Not one word," I said, "till you have had
a good dinner, after which you will come up and
sit beside me, and tell me all I am longing
to know. And stay you will do one thing more
for me, I know; when you come up you will
bring a plateful of bones for Nelly ; sue will not



leave me to-night, I swear, to save herself from
starving."

" She deserves some dinner," said Dufay, as
he left the room, " for I think it is through her
instrumentality that you are alive at this mo-
ment."

The bliss in which I lay after Dufay had left
the room, is known only to those who have passed
through some great danger, or who, at least, are
newly relieved from some condition of severe and
protracted suffering. It was a state of perfect
repose and happiness.

When my friend came back, he brought : not
only a plate of fowl-bones for Nelly, but a basin
of soup for me. When I had finished lapping
it up, and while Nelly was still crunching the
bones, Dufay spoke as follows :

" I said just now that it was to your little dog
you owe the preservation of your life, and I
must now tell you how it was. You remember
that you left Doulaise this morning "

" It seems a week ago," I interrupted.

" This morning," continued Dufay. " Well !
You were hardly out of the inn-vard before I
drove into it, having made a small stage before
breakfast. I heard where you were gone, and,
as I was going that way too, I determined to
give my horse a rest of a couple of hours, while
I breakfasted and transacted some business in
the town, and then to set off after you. ' Have
you any idea/ I said, as I left the inn at Dou-
laise, ' whether monsieur meant to stop en
route, and if so, where ?' The garpon did not
know. ' Let me see,' I said, ' the Tete Noire
at Mauconseil would be a likely place, wouldn't
it ?' ' No,' said the boy; 'the house does not enjoy
a good character, and no one from here ever stops
there.' 'Well,' said I, thinking no more of
what he said, ' I shall be sure to find him. I will
inquire after him as I go along.'

" The afternoon was getting on, when I came
within sight of the inn of the Tete Noire. As
you know, I am a little near-sighted, but I saw,
as I drew near the auberge, that a conveyance
of some kind was being taken round to the yard
at the back of the house. This circumstance,
however, I should have paid no attention to,
had not my attention been suddenly caught by
the violent barking of a dog, which seemed to
be trying to gain admittance at the closed door
of the inn. At a second glance I knew the dog
to be yours. Pulling up my horse, I got down
and ascended the steps of the auberge. One
sniff at my shins was enough to convince Nelly
that a friend was at hand, and her excitement as
I approached the door was frantic.

" On my entering the house I did not at first
see you, but on looldng in the direction towards
which your dog had hastened as soon as the door
was opened, I saw a dark wooden staircase,
which led out of one corner of the apartment I
was standing in. I saw also, that you, my friend,
were being dragged up the stairs in the arms of
a very ill-looking man, assisted by (if possible)
a still more ill-looking little girl, who had charge
of your legs. At sigut of me, the man deposited
you upon the stairs, and advanced to meet me.



Charles Dickens.]



A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA.



[December 13, i860.] 19



" ' What are you doing with that gentleman ?'
I asked.

" ' He is unwell,' replied the ill-looking man,
' and I am helping him up-stairs to bed.'

" ' That gentleman is a friend of mine. What
is the meaning of his being in this state ?'

"'How should I know?' was the answer;
'I am not the guardian of the gentleman's
health.'

" ' Well, then, I am, 3 said I, approaching the
place where you were lying ; ' and I prescribe, to
begin with, that he shall leave this place at
once.'

"I must own," continued Dufay, "that yo^
were looking horribly ill, and, as I bent over, and
felt your hardly fluttering pulse, I felt for a mo-
ment doubtful whether it was safe to move you.
However, I determined to risk it.

" ' Will you help me,' I said, ' to move this
gentleman to his carriage ?'

" ' No,' replied the ruffian, ' he is not fit to
travel. Besides, what right have you over him ?'

" ' The right of being his friend.'

"' How do I know that?'

" ' Because I tell you so. See, his dog knows
me.'

" ( And suppose I decline to accept that as
evidence, and refuse to let this gentleman leave
my house in his present state of health ?'

" ( You dare not do it.'

" ' Why ?'

" ' Because,' I answered, slowly, ' I should
go to the Gendarmerie in the village, and men-
tion under what suspicious circumstances I
found my friend here, and because your house has
not the best of characters.'

" The man was silent for a moment, as if a
little baffled. He seemed, however, determined
to try once more.

" ' And suppose I close my doors, and decline
to let either of you go ; what is to prevent
me ?'

" ' In the first place,' I answered, ' 7 will effec-
tually prevent your detaining me single-handed.
If you have assistance near, I am expected
to-night at Francy, and if I do not arrive there,
I shall soon be sought out. It was known that
I left Doulaise this morning, and most people
are aware that there is an auberge on the road
which does not bear the best of reputations, and
that its name is La Tete Noire. Now, will you
help me ?'

" ' No,' replied the savage. ( I will have no-
thing to do with the affair.'

" It was not an easy task to drag you with-
out assistance from the place where you were
lying, out into the open air, down the steps, and
to put you into my conveyance which was stand-
ing outside ; but 1 managed to do it. The next
thing I had to accomplish, was the feat of
driving two carriages and two horses single-
handed. I could see only one way of managing
this. I led my own horse round to the gate of
the stable-yard, where I could keep my eye upon
him, while I went in search of your 'horse and
carriage, which I had, to get right without as-
sistance. It was done at last. I fastened your



horse's head by a halter, to the back of my car-
riage, and then leading my own beast by the
bridle, I managed to start the procession. And
so (though only at a foot pace) we turned our
backs upon the Tete Noire. Arid now you know
everything."

" I feel, Castaing, as if I should never be
able to think of this adventure, or to speak of
it again. It wears, somehow or other, such a
ghastly aspect, that I sicken at the mere memory
of it."

" Not a bit of it," said Dufay, cheerily; "you
will live to tell it as a stirring tale some winter
night, take my word for it."

Gentlemen, the prediction is verified. May
the teetotum fall next time with more judg-
ment !



" Wa'al, now!" said Captain Jorgan, rising,
with his hand upon the sleeve of his fellow-tra-
veller to keep him down ; " I congratulate you,
sir, upon that adventer ; unpleasant at the time,
but pleasant to look back upon ; as many ad-
venters in many lives are. Mr. Tredgear, you
had a feeling for your money on that occasion,
and it went hard on being Stolen Money. It
was not a sum of five hundred pound, per-
haps ?" _

" I wish it had been half as much," was the
reply.

"Thank you, sir. Might I ask the ques-
tion of you that has been already put ? About
this place of Lanrean, did you ever hear of
aiay circumstances whatever, that might seem
to have a bearing any how on that ques-
tion P"

"Never."

" Thank you again for a straightfor'ard an-
swer," said the captain, apologetically. " You
see, we have been referred to Lanrean to make
inquiries, and happening in among the inha-
bitants present, we use the opportunity. In my
country, we always do use opportunities."

" And you turn them to good account, I
believe, and prosper ?"

"It's a fact, sir," said the captain, "that we
get along. Yes, we get along, sir. But I stop
the teetotum."

It was twirled again, and fell to David Pol-
reath ; an iron-grey man ; " as old as the hills,"
the captain whispered to young Raybrock, " and
as hard as nails. And I admire/ 3 added the
captain, glancing about, "whether Unchriscii
Penrewen is here, and which is he !"

David Polreath stroked down the long iron-
grey hair that fell massively upon the shoulders
of his large-buttoned coat, and spake thus :



THE question was, Did he throw himself
over the clifl 7 of set purpose, or did he lose his
way in the dusk and fall over accidentally, or
was he pushed over by some person or persons
unknown ?

His body was found nearly fifty yards below
the fall, caught in the low branches of the trees



20 [December 13, 1860-3



A MESSAGE FKOM THE SEA.



[Conducted by



that overhang the water at the foot of the track
down the cliff. It was shockingly bruised and
disfigured, so much so as to be hardly recog-
nisable ; but for his clothing, and the name on
his linen, I doubt whether anybody could have
identified him except myself. There was, how-
ever, no suspicion of foul play; the signs of
rough usage might all have been caused by the
body having been driven about amongst the
stones that encumber the bed of the river a
long way below the fall.

When I speak of the fall, I speak of the
Ashenfall, by Ashendell village, within an hour's
drive of this house. This, Gentlemen, is for the
information of strangers.

He had been seen by many persons about
the village during the day ; I myself had seen
him so up the hill past the parsonage towards
the church : which 1 rather wondered at, con-
sidering who was buried there, and how, and
why. I will even confess that I watched him ;
and he went as I expected he would, since he
had the heart to go near the place at all round
to the back of the church where Honor Living-
ston's grave is ; and there he stayed, sitting by
himself on the low wall for an hour or more.
Sometimes, he turned to look across the valley
many a time and oft I had seen him there
before, with Honor beside him, watching, while
he sketched the beautiful landscape and some-
times he had his back to it, and his head down,
as if he were watching her grave. Not that there
is anything pleasant or comforting to read there,
as on the graves of good Christian people who
have died in their beds ; for, being a suicide,
when they buried her on the north side of the
church it was at dusk, and without any service,
and, of course, no stone was allowed to be put
up over it. Our clergyman has talked of having
the mound levelled and turfed over, and I
wish he would; it always hurts me when
I go up to Sunday service, to see that ragged
grave lying in the shadow of the wall, for I re-
member the pretty little lass ever since she
could run alone ; and though she was passionate,
her heart was as good as gold. She had been
religiously brought up, and I am quite sure in
my own mind, let the coroner's inquest have
said what it would, that she was out of herself,
and Bedlam-mad when she did it.

The verdict on him was " accidental death,"
and he had a regular funeral priest, bell, clerk,
and sexton, complete ; and there he lies, only a
stone's throw from Honor, with a ton or two of
granite over him, and an inscription, setting
forth what a great man he was in his day, and
what mighty engineering works he did at home
and abroad, and now he sleeps now in the hope
of a joyful resurrection with the just made
perfect. These present strangers can read it
for themselves ; many strangers go up to look
at it. His grave is as famous as the Ashenfall
itself, and 1 have known folks come away with
tears in their eyes after reading the flourishing
inscription: believing it all like gospel, and
saying how sad that so distinguished a man
should have been cut off in the prime of his



days. But I don't believe it. He was never
any more than plain James Lawrence to me
a young fellow who, as a lad, had paddled bare-
legged over the stones of the river as a guide
across for visitors ; who had been taken a fancy
to by one of them, and decently educated;
who had made the most of his luck, and done
a clever thing or two in engineering; who
had come back amongst us in all his glory, to
dazzle most people's eyes, and break little Honor
Livingston's heart. The one good thing I know
of him was, that he pensioned his poor old
mother; but he did not often come near her,
and never after Honor Livingston was dead
no, not even in her last illness. It was a marvel
to everybody what brought him over here, when
we saw him the day before he was found dead ;
but it was his fate, and he couldn't keep
away. That is my view of it. About his death,
and* the manner of it, all Lanrean had its
speculation, and said its say; but I held my
peace. I had my opinion, however, and I keep
it. I have never seen reason to change it;
but, on the contrary, I can show you evidence
to establish it. I do not believe he either threw
himself over the cliff, or fell over, or was pushed
over ; no, I believe he was drawn over drawn
over by something below. When you have heard
the notes he made in a little book that was found
amongst his things after he was dead, you will
know what I mean. His cousin gave that book
to me, knowing I arn curious after odd stories
of the neighbourhood ; and what I am going to
read, is written in his hand. I know his hand
well, and certify to it.

PASSAGES FROM: JAMES LAWRENCE'S JOURNAL.
London, August 11, 1829.
Honor Livingston has kept her word with
me. I saw her last night as plainly as I now
see this pen I am writing with, and the ink-
bottle I have just dipped it into. I saw her
standing betwixt the two lights, looking at me,
exactly as she looked the last time saw her
alive. I was neither asleep, nor dreaming-awake.
I had only drunk a couple of glasses of wine at
dinner, and was as much my own man as ever I
was in my life. It is all nonsense to talk about
fancy and optical delusions, in this case; I
saw her with my eyes as distinctly as I ever
saw her alive in the body. The hall clock
had just struck eight, and it was growing dusk :
exactly the time of evening, as I well remember,
when she came creeping round by the cottage
wall, and saw me through the open window,
gathering up my books and making ready to go
away from Ashendell. She was the last thought
to have come into my mind at that moment,
for I was just on the point of lighting my
cigar and going out for a stroll, before
turning in at the Daltons to chat with Anne.
All at once, there she was, Honor herself ! I
could have sworn it, had I not seen them put
her underground just a twelvemonth ago. I
could not take my eyes off her ; and there she
stood, as nearly as I can tell, a minute but it
may have been an hour and then the place



Charles Dlckeni.]



A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA.



[December 13, 18CO.] 21



she had filled was empty. I was so much be-
wildered, and out of myself as it were, that for
a while I could neither think of anything, nor
hear anything, but the mad heavy throbbing of
my own pulses. I cannot say that I was
scared exactly ; for the time I was completely
rapt away ; the first actual sensation I had
was of my own heart thumping in my breast
like a sledge-hammer.

But I can call her up now and analyse her a
wan, vague, misty outline, with Honor's own
eyes full upon me. I can almost fancy I hear
her asking again, "Is it true you're going,
James ? You're not really going, James ?"

Now, I am not the man to be frightened by a
shadow, though that shadow be Honor Living-
ston, whom they say I as good as murdered. I
always had a turn for investigating riddles,
spiritual, physiological, and otherwise; and I
shall follow this mystery up, and note whether
she comes back to me year by year, as she pro-
mised. I hare never kept a diary of personal
matters before, not being one who cares to see
spectres of himself, at remote periods of his life,
talking to him again of his adventures and mis-
adventures out of yellow old pages that had
better never have been written; but this is a
marked event worth commemorating, and a well-
authenticated ghost-story to me who never be-
lieved in ghosts before.

It was a rather spiteful threat of Honor
" I'll haunt you till you come to the Ashenfall,
where I'm going now !" I might have stopped
her, but it never entered my mind what she
meant, until it was done. I did not expect she
would make a tragedy of a little love story ; she
did not look like that sort of thing. She was
no ghost, bless her ! in the flesh, but as round,
rosy, dimpled a little creature as one would wish
to see ; and what could possess her to throw
herself over the fall, Heaven only knows.
Bah ! Yes, I know ; I need tell no lies here, I
need not do any false swearing to myself
the poor little creature loved me, and I wanted
her to love me, and I petted and plagued
her into loving me, because I was idle, and I
had the opportunity; and then I had nothing
better to tell her than that I was only in jest
I could not marry her, for I was engaged to
another woman. She would not believe it.
That sounded, to her, more like jest than the
other. And she did not believe it until she saw
me making ready to go ; and then, all in a mo-
ment, I suppose, madness seized her, and she
neither knew where she went, nor what she
did.

I fancy I can see her now, coming tripping
down the fields leading her little brother by the
hand, and I fancy I can see the saucy laugh she
gave me over her shoulder as I asked her if she
had any ripe cherries to sell. She looked the very
mischief with those pretty eyes, and I was taken
rather aback when she said, "I know you, Jemmy
Lawrence." That was the beginning of it.
Little Honor and her mother lived next door to
mine, and she had not forgotten me though I
had been full seven years away. I did not



know her, the gipsy, but I must needs go in
and see her that evening ; and so we went on
until I asked her if she remembered when we
went to dame-school together and when she pro-
mised to be my little wife ? I/she remembered !
Of course she did, every word of it, and more ; and
she was so pretty, and the lanes in the summer
were so pleasant, that sometimes my fancy did
play Anne Dalton false, and I believed I should
like Honor better ; and I said more than I
meant, and she took it all in the grand serious
manner.

I was not much to blame. I would not have
injured her for the world ; she was as good a
little soul as ever lived. Love and jealousy, as
passions, seem to find their strongholds under
thatch. If Phillis, the milkmaid, is disap-
pointed, she drowns herself in the mill-pool ; if
Lady Clara gets a cross of the heart, she indites
a lachrymose sonnet, and marries a gouty peer.
If Colin's sweetheart smiles on Lubin, Colin
loads his gun and shoots them both ; if Sir
Harry's fair flouts him, he whistles her dqwnthe
wind, and goes a-wooing elsewhere. Had little
Honor been a fine lady, she would be living
still. Oh, the pretty demure lips, and the shy
glances and rosy blushes ! When I saw Anne
Dalton to-day I could not help comparing her
frigid gentility with poor Honor. Anne loves
herself better than she will ever love any man
alive. But then I know she is the kind of wife
to help a man up in the world, and that is the
kind of wife for me.

Honor Livingston lying on her little bed, and
her blind mother feeling her cold dead face ! I
wish I had never seen it. I would have given
the world to keep away, but something com-
pelled me to g^o in and look at her ; and I did
feel then, as it I had killed her. Last night she
was a shadowy essence of this drowned Ophelia
and of her living self. She was like, yet unlike ;
but I knew it was Honor ; and I suppose, if she
has her will, wherever her restless spirit may be
condemned to bide between whiles on the tenth
of August she will always come back to me, and
haunt me until I go to her.

Hastings, August 11, 1830.

Again ! I had forgotten the day forgotten
everything about that wretched business of poor
Honor Livingston, when last night I saw her.

Anne and I were sitting together out in the
verandah, talking of all sorts of common-place
things our neighbours' affairs, money, this,
that, and the other the sea was looking beau-
tiful, and I was on the point of proposing a
row by moonlight, when Anne said, "How
lovely the evenings are, James, in this place.
Look at the sky over the down, how clear it is !"
Turning my head, I saw Honor standing on
the grass only a few paces off, her shadowy
shape quite distinct against the reds and purples
of the elouds.

Anne clutched my hand with a sudden cry,
for she was looking at my face all the time, and
asked me, passionately, what I saw. With that,
Honor was gone, and, passing my hand over my



[December 13, I860.]



A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA.



[Conducted by



eyes, I put my wife off with an excuse about a
spasm at my heart. And, indeed, it was no lie to
say so, for this visitation gave me a terrible shock.

Anne insisted on my seeing the doctor. " It
must be something dreadful, if not dangerous,
that could make you look in that way ; you had
an awful face, James, for a moment."

I begged her not to talk about it, assured her
that it "was a thing of very rare recurrence with
me, and that there was no cure for it. But this did
not pacify her, and this morning no peace could
be had until Dr. Hutchinson was sent for and she
had given the old gentleman her own account
of me. He said he would talk to me by-and-by.
And when he got me by myself, I cannot tell
how it was, but he absolutely contrived to worm
the facts out of me, and I was fool enough to
let him do it. He looked at me very oddly,
with a tort of suspicious scrutiny in his eye ; but
I understood him, and said, laughing, " No,
doctor, no, there is nothing wrong here,"
tapping my forehead as I spoke.

" I should say not, except this fancy for
seeing ghosts," replied he, dryly. But I per-
ceived, all the time he was with me, that I was
the object of a furtive and carefully dissembled
observation, which was excessively trying. I
could with difficulty keep my temper under it,
and I believe he saw the struggle.

I fancy he wanted to have some talk with Anne
by herself; but I prevented that, by never losing
sight of him until he was safely off the premises.
If he proposed a private interview while I was
out alone, I prevented that, too, by imme-
diately ordering Anne to pack up our traps, and
coming back to town that very day. I have not
been well since. I feel out of spirits, bored,
worried, sick of everything. If the feeling
does not leave me, in spite of all Anne may say,
I shall take that offer to go to South America,
and start by the next packet. I should like to
see Dr. Hutchinson's face when he calls at our
lodgings to visit his patient, and finds the bird
flown.

London, August 20, 1830.
This wretched state of things does not cease.
One day I feel in full, firm, clear possession of
my soul ; and the next, perhaps, I am hurried to
and fro with the most tormenting fancies. I
see shadows of Honor wherever I turn, and she
is no longer motionless as before, but beckons
me with her hand, until I tremble in every
limb. My heart is sick almost to death. For
three days now, I have had no rest. I cannot
sleep at nights for hideous dreams ; and Anne
. watches me stealthily, I see, and never remains
alone with me longer than she can help. I can
perceive that she is afraid of me, and that she
suspects something, without exactly knowing
what. To-day she must needs suggest my
seeing a doctor here, and when I replied that I
was going to South America, she told me I was
not fit for it, in such a contemptuous tone of


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