Charles Dickens.

The mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories online

. (page 88 of 103)
Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 88 of 103)
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mind. But I knew mine, and I liad a passion
for her."

" You had ! " exclaimed the Carrier. " You !"

" Indeed I had," returned the other. " And
she returned it. I have ever since believed she
did, and now 1 am sure she did." '

" Heaven help me ! " said the Carrier. " This
is worse than all."



" Constant to her," said Edward, " and return-
ing, full of hope, after many hardships and perils,
to redeem my part of our old contract, I heard,,
twenty miles away, that she was false to me ;
that she had forgotten me ; and had bestowed
herself upon another and a richer man. I had
no mind to reproach her ; but I wished to see
her, and to prove beyond dispute that this was
true. I hoped she might have been forced into
it against her own desire and recollection. It
would be small comfort, but it would be some, I
thought, and on I came. That I might have
the truth, the real truth ; observing freely for
myself, and judging for myself, without obstruc-
tion on the one hand, or presenting my own in-
fluence (if I had any) before her, on the other ;
I dressed myself unlike myself — you know how ;
and waited on the road — you know where. You
had no suspicion of me ; neither had — had she,"
pointing to Dot, "until I whispered in her ear
at that fireside, and she so nearly betrayed me."

" But when she knew that Edward was alive,
and had come back," sobbed Dot, now speaking
for herself, as she had burned to do, all through
this narrative ; " and when she knew his pur-
pose, she advised him by all means to keep his
secret close ; for his old friend John Peerybingle
was much too open in his nature, and too clumsy
in all artifice — being a clumsy man in general,"
said Dot, half laughing and half crying — " to
keep it for him. And when she — that's me,
John," sobbed the little woman — " told him all,
and how his sweetheart had believed him to be
dead ; and how she had at last been over-per-
suaded by her mother into a marriage which the
silly, dear old thing called advantageous ; and
when she — that's me again, John — told him they
were not yet married (though close upon it), and
that it would be nothing but a sacrifice if it went
on, for there was no love on her side ; and when
he went nearly mad with joy to hear it ; then
she — that's me again — said she would go be-
tween them, as she had often done before in
old times, John, and would sound his sweet-
heart, and be sure that what she — me again,
John — said and thought was right. And it was
right, John ! And they were brought together,
John ! And they were married, John, an hour
ago ! And here's the Bride ! And Gruff and
Tackleton may die a bachelor ! And I'm a
happy little woman, May, God bless you !"

She was an irresistible little woman, if that be
anything to the purpose ; and never so com-
pletely irresistible as in her present transports.
There never were congratulations so endearing
and delicious as those she lavished on herself
and on the Bride.



DOT TELLS ALL.



"3



Amid the tumult of emotions in his breast,
ihe honest Carrier had stood confounded. Fly-
ing, now, towards her, Dot stretched out her
hand to stop him, and retreated as before.

" No, John, no ! Hear all ! Don't love me
any more, John, till you've heard every word I
have to say. It was wrong to have a secret from
you, John. I'm very sorry. I didn't think it any
harm, till I came and sat down by you on the
little stool last night. But when I knew, by
what was written in your face, that you had seen
me walking in the gallery with Edward, and when
I knew what you thought, I felt how giddy and
how wrong it was. But oh, dear John, how
could you, could you think so ? "

Little woman, how she sobbed again ! John
Peerybingle would have caught her in his arms.
But no ; she wouldn't let him.

" Don't love me yet, please, John ! Not for
a long time yet ! When I was sad about this
intended marriage, dear, it was because I re-
membered May and Edward such young lovers ;
and knew that her heart was far away from
Tackleton. You believe that, now don't you,
John ? "

John was going to make another rush at tLis
appeal ; but she stopped him again.

" No ; keep there, please, John ! When I
laugh at you, as I sometimes do, John, and call
you clumsy and a dear old goose, and names
of that sort, it's because I love you, John, so
well, and take such pleasure in your ways, and
wouldn't see you altered in the least respect to
have you made a king to-morrow."

" Hooroar ! " said Caleb with unusual vigour.
" My opinion ! "

" And when I speak of people being middle-
aged and steady, John, and pretend that we are
a humdrum couple, going on in a jog-trot sort
of way, it's only because I'm such a silly little
thing, John, that I like, sometimes, to act as a
kind of Play with Baby, and all that : and make
believe."

She saw that he was coming ; and stopped
him again. But she was very nearly too
late.

" No, don't love me for another minute or
two, if you please, John ! What I want most to
tell you, I have kept to the last. My dear,
good, generous John, when we were talking the
other night about the Cricket, I had it on my
lips to say, that at first I did not love you quite
so dearly as I do now ; when I first came home
here, I was half afraid that I mightn't learn to
love you every bit as well as I hoped and prayed
I might — being so very young, John ! But, dear
John, every day and hour I loved you more and
Christmas Books, 8.



more. And if I could have loved you better
than I do, the noble words I heard you say this
morning would have made me. But I can't.
All the affection that I had (it was a great deal,
John) I gave you, as you well deserve, long, long
ago, and I have no more left to give. Now, my
dear husband, take me to your heart again !
That's my home, John ; and never, never think
of sending me to any other ! "

You never will derive so much delight from
seeing a glorious little woman in the arms of a
third party as you would have felt if you had
seen Dot run into the Carrier's embrace. It was
the most complete, unmitigated, soul -fraught
little piece of earnestness that ever you beheld
in all your days.

You may be sure the Carrier was in a state of
perfect rapture ; and you may be sure Dot was
likewise ; and you may be sure they all were,
inclusive of Miss Slowboy, who wept copiously
for joy, and, wishing to include her young charge
in the general interchange of congratulations,
handed round the Baby to everybody in succes-
sion, as if it were something to drink.

But, now, the sound of wheels was heard again
outside the door ; and somebody exclaimed that
Gruff and Tackleton was coming back. Speedily
that worthy gentleman appeared, looking warm
and flustered.

" Why, what the Devil's this, John Peery-
bingle ? " said Tackleton. " There's some mis-
take. I appointed Mrs. Tackleton to meet me
at the church, and I'll swear I passed her on
the road, on her way here. Oh ! here she is ! I
beg your pardon, sir ; I haven't the pleasure of
knowing you \ but, if you can do me the favour
to spare this young lady, she has rather a parti-
cular engagement this morning."

" But I can't spare her," returned Edward.
" I couldn't think of it."

" What do you mean, you vagabond ? " said
Tackleton.

" I mean that, as I can make allowance
for your being vexed," returned the other
with a smile, " I am as deaf to harsh dis-
course this morning as I was to all discourse
last night."

The look that Tackleton bestowed upon him,
and the start he gave !

" I am sorry, sir," said Edward, holding out
May's left hand, and especially the third finger,
"that the young lady can't accompany you to
church; but, as she has been there once this
morning, perhaps you'll excuse her."

Tackleton looked hard at the third finger,
and took a little piece of silver paper, apparently
containing a ring, from his waistcoat pocket.



114



THE CRICKET ON THE HEARTH



"■ Miss Slowboy," said Tacklcton, " will you
have the kindness to throw that in the fire ?
Thankee."

" It was a previous engagement, quite an old
engagement, that prevented my wife from keep-
ing her appointment with you, I assure you,"
said Edward.

" Mr. Tackleton will do me the justice to
acknowledge that I revealed it to him faithfully ;
and that I told him, many times, I never could
forget it," said May, blushing.

" Oh, certainly ! " said Tackleton. " Oh, to
be sure ! Oh, it's all right, it's quite correct !
Airs. Edward Plummer, I infer ? "

" That's the name," returned the bridegroom.

" Ah ! I shouldn't have known you, sir,"
said Tackleton, scrutinising his face narrowly,
and making a low boAV. " I give you joy,
sir ! "

" Thankee."

" Mrs. Peerybingle," said Tackleton, turning
suddenly to where she stood with her husband ;
" I'm sorry. You haven't done me a very great
kindness, but, upon my life, I am sorry. You
are better than I thought you. John Peery-
bingle, I am sorry. You understand me ; that's
enough. It's quite correct, ladies and gentle-
men all, .■"



Online LibraryCharles DickensThe mystery of Edwin Drood, Reprinted pieces, and other stories → online text (page 88 of 103)