Charles Dickens.

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I used to love to bear tbam well ;
If only for her sweet low tone.
Sometimes so sad, altbouj^ I knew
That such things nerer ooold be tma.
One dny she told me sneb a tale.
It made me grow all cold and pale,
The fearfal thing abe (old I
Of a poor woman mad aad wild.
Who coined tha life-blood of her ehild.
Who, tempted by a (lend, bad sold
The heart out of her breast for gold.
But when she saw me ft-igbttn^ saem,
She smiled, and said it was a dream.
How ktad, bow fiiir she was ; bow good
I cannot tell yon. If I ooold
You, too, would lore bar. The DMra t^ooght
Of her great love for me has brought
Tears in my eyas ; though £ar away.
It seems as it ware yesterday.
And just as when I look on high
Through tba blue silanaa of tha sky,
Fresb stars shine out, aad mora aad mt%
Where I could aae so few before.
So, the more steadily I gaaa
Upon those far-off misty days.
Fresh words, tnth tones, fkasb — mat ia i alMtt
Before my eyes and in my baarL
I can remember bow one day
(Talking in silly ebikUsh wmj),
I said bow happy I should ba
If I were like her son — as fair.
With just such bright blue ayea as ha^
And such long looks of golden hair.
A dark smile on her pale face broks^
And in strange, solemn words, she i
'* My own, my darling one— no, no !
I love you far, far better so.
I would not change the look yoa bear.
Or one wave of jour dark brown halr»



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IHB THIRD POOR TRAYELBB. 166

The mere gUaee of yoar raiiDy eyety

Deep in my deepeet seal I prise

Above that bftby fair!

Not ooe of ell the Serl's proud line

In beauly ever matohed with tbine.

And 'tU by thy dark looks then aH

Bound evon faster round my beert^

And made mere wholly mine !"

And then she paused, and weeping saldy

" You are like one who now is dead— >

Who sleeps in a far distant grare.

may Qod grant that you may be
As noble and as good as he

As gentle and as brave !"
Then in my childish way I eried,
'' The one you tell me of who died.
Was he as noUe as the Barir

1 see her red lips seomlal eurt,
I feel her hold my hand again

80 tightly that I shrank in pain—

I seem to hear her say,

** He whom I tell you e(; who died,

Ho was so noble and so gay.

So generous and so brave,

That the proud Barl by his dear side

Would look a craven slave."

She paused ; then, with a quivering sigh)

She laid her hand upon my brow :

" Live like him, darling, and so die ;

Remember that he tells you now,

True peace, real honor, and eontenty

In cheerful pious toil abide ;

For gold and splendor are but sent

To curse our vani^ and pride."

One day some childish fever pain
Burnt in my veins and fired ray brain.
Moaning, I turned fVom side to side ;
And, sobbing in my bed, I cried,
Till night in ealm and darkness crept
Around me, and at last I slept.
When suddenly I woke to see
The lady bending over me.
The drops of cold November rain
Were falling f^om her long, damp hair j
Her anxieas eyes were dim with pain;
Tet she looked wondrous fhir.
Arrayed for some great feast she came.
With stones that shone and bunit Kke ilame.
Wound round her neck, like some bright snake>



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IM THB THIRD POOR TRAVELBtt.

And set like starf wUfain her Imir,

They sparkled §9t they eeeaed t* make

A glory everywhere.

I felt her tears iip<m my fiieey

Her kittet en my eyes ;

And a stranfe thoughi I eoold not traee

I fett withip my heart *riee ;

And, half in fet^erish pain, I sai^

" if my mother were not dead !"

And Walter bade ma sleep ; bnt aha

Said, " Is it not the same to thee

That I watah by thy bed ?^

I answered her, ** I love yon, too ;

But it can never be the same ;

She was no Cooftteaa like to yon.

Nor wore sneb tparkling stoaee of iaOM.'*

the wild look of fear and dread
The cry she gave of bitter woe 1

1 often wonder what I said

To make her moan and shadder sa.
Through the long night she tended ma
With such sweet oare and oharity.
But I should weary you to t^l
All that I know and love so well ;
Tet one night more stands ont aloaa
With a sad sweetnees all its own.

The wind blew load that dreary night.
Its wailing voioe I well remember ;
The stars shone out m> large and briglrt
Upon the &ofty flr^baughs white :
That dreary night of cold December
I saw old Walter sileat stand,
Watching the soft last flakes of tneif
With looks I could not understand.
Of strange perplezHy and woe.
At last he turned and took my hand*
And said the Countess j«st had aent
To bid us come ; for she would fain
See me once more, before she want
Away — never to come again.
We came in silenee through the wood
(Our footfall was the only aoand),
To where the great white eastle stood^
With darkness shadowing it aroand.
Breathless, we trod with eantiona cava
Up the great echoing marbW atair;
Trembling by Walter's hand I heM^
Scared by the splendors I heboid ;
Now thinking, should the jBarl appear I



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1?HB THIRD POOR TRAVELBR* 167

Now looking up w<kh giddy fo«r

To the dim raolted roof; that spraad

Its gloomy arobM overheiid.

Long corridors we ioTtly passed,

(Mj heart was beating Hmd and fast)

And reached the Indj's room at last

A strange fklnt odor seemed to weigh

Upon the dim nod darkened air.

One shaded lamp, whh softened ray,

Scarce showed the gtoomy splendor th«r«.

The dull red braods were burning low:

And yet a fitful gleam of light,

Would DOW and then, with sadden glow

Start forth, then sink again in night

I gaxed around, yet half in fear

Till Walter told me to draw near.

And in the strange and flickering light.

Toward the Lady's bed I crept

All folded rovRid with snowy white,

She lay (one wonld have said she slept).

So still the look of that white fkoe,

It seemed as it were oaryed to stone.

I paused before I dared to place,

Within her cold white hand my own.

But, with a smile of sweet surprise,

She turned to me her dreamy eyes ;

And slowly, as if lifiB were pain.

She drew me in her arms to liet

She f troTe to speak, and strove in rain ;

Bach breath was like a long-drawn sigh,

The throbs that seemed to shake her l>reac^

The trembling clasp, so loose and w«ak,

At last grew calmer, and at rest ;

And then she strove once more to speak

" My God, X thank thee, that my pain

Of day by day and year by year,

Has not been svflbred all in vain,

And I may die while he is near.

I will not ibar bvt that thy grace

Has swept away my sin and woe^

And sent this little angel face

In my last hour to tell me so."

(And here her voice grew faint and low,)

" My child, where'er thy life may go.

To know that thoa art brave and trae.

Will pierce the highest heavens through.

And even there my soul shall be

More joyful for this thought of thee."

She folded her white, hands, and stayed



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168 THB THIRD POOR TRJlYBLSK.

All cold and tUeotlj she Uj :
I knelt beeida the bed, and prayed
The prajer she nsed to make me aajr*
I said it many timee, and then
She did not more, bat teemed to ba
in a deep sleep, nor stirred again.
No sound stirred in the silent room,
Or broke the dim and solemn f loon,
Sare when the brands that burnt so Low>
Wiib noisy fitful gleam of light.
Would spread around a sudden glow.
Then sink in silence and in night.
How long I stood I do not know :
At last poor Walter came, and said
(So sadly) that we now must go.
And whispered she we lored was dead.
Ho bade me kiss herfaee onee more.
Then led me sobbing to the door.
I scarcely knew what dying meant,
Tet a strange grief, before unknown.
Weighed on my spirit as we went
And left her lying al( alone.

We went to the far ^orth once mon^
To seek the well-remembered home;
Where my poor kinsman dwelt before^
Whence now he was too old io roam x
And there six happy years we passed,
Happy and peaceful till the last:
When poor old Walter died, and he
Blessed me and said I now might be
A sailor on the deep blue sea.
And so I go; and yet in spite
Of all the Joys I long to know :
Though I look onward with delight,
With something of regret I go ;
And young orukl, on land or sea.
One guiding memory I shall take
Of what she prayed thai I mighi ke^
And what I wUl be for bar takal



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CHAPTER IV.

THB VOUBTH POOR TRAYSLEB.

Now, first of all, I shonid like to know what you mean by a
itory ? . Yoa mean what other people do ? And pray what it
that f Ton know, but you can't exactly tell. I thought so I
In the course of a pretty long legal experience, I have never yet
met with a party out of my late profession who was capable of
giving a correct definition of any thing.

To judge by your looks, I suspect you are amused at my
talking of any such thing over having belonged to roe as a pro*
lession. Ha I Ha I Here I am, with my toes out of my boots,
without a shirt to my back or a rap in my pocket except the four*
pence I get out of this Cbartty (against the present adminis-
tration of which I protest — but that's not the point), and yet
not two years ago I was an attorney in li^ge practice in a
borsdng big country town. I had a house in the High street.
8ach a giant of a bouse that you had to get up six steps to
knock at the front door. I had a footman to drive tramps like
me off all or any one of my six hearth-stoned steps, if they
dared sit down on all or any one of my six hearth -stoned steps ;
a footman who would give me into custody now if I tried to
shake hands with him in the streets. I decline to answer your
questions if you ask me any. How I got into trouble and
dropped down to where I am now is my secret.

Now I absolutely decline to tell you a story. But, though I
wont tell a story, I am ready to make a statement. A state*
meat is a matter of fact, therefore the exact opposite of a
Itory, which is a matter of fiction. What I am now going to
tell you really happened to me.

I served my time — never mind in whose office — and I started
in bosiness for myself in one of our English country towns — I
decline stating which. I hadn't a quarter of the capital I ought
to have had to begin with, and my friends in the neighborhood
vere poor and useless enough, with one exception. That ex



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170 THB FOURTH POOR TRAVELER.

ception was Mr. Frank Gatliffe, son of Mr. Gatliffe, inemb^
for the county, the richest roan and the proudest for maoj a
inile round about our parts. Stop a bit I you man in the cor-
ner there ; you needn't pert up and look knowing. You wont
trace any particulars by the name of GatHffe. I'm not bound
to commit myself or any body else by mentioning names. I
have given you the first that came into my head.

Well 1 Mr. Frank was a stanch friend of mine, and ready
to recommend me whenever he got the chaiiee. I had gives
him a little thnely help-*-lbr a consideration, of coorae^— in bor*
rowing money at a fiair rate of interest ; in fact I had saved bia
from the Jews. The money was borrowed while Mr Frank was
at college. He came back from college and stopped home a
little while ; and then there got spread abcmt all our neighbor-
hood a report tha the had faJlen in love, as the saying isy with his
yoong sister's governess, and that his mind was made op to narry
her. Whatl you're at it again, my lAao in the corner I Yovwant
to know her name, don't yon I What do yon think of Smith !

Speaking as a lawyer, I consider Report, in a general way,
to be a fool and a liar. Bat in this case report tunied oat to
be something very different Mn Frank told me he was really
in love, and said upon his honor (an absord expression wlnrh
yoong chaps of his age are always using) he was detenwned to
marry Smith the governess — the sweet darling gir}» as he called
her ; but I'm not sentimeittal, and / call her Smith the gov-
erness (with an eye, of coarse, to refreshiag the memory of ny
friend in the comer). Mr. Frank's father, being as proad u
Lucifer, said '* no " as to marrying the governess, when Mc;
Frank wanted him to say "yes." He was a man of b«tiness
was old Gatliife, and he took the proper busiaess ooars®. He
sent the governess away with a first-rate character andaspask*
ing present, and then he looked about him to gei aonetyag
for Mr. Frank to do. While he was looking about^ Mr. Frank
bolted to London after the governess, who had nobody aliv«
belonging to her to go to bat $ai annt, her father's sister. The
aont refuses to let Mr. Frank in without the sqnirelB permiasioa.
Mr. Frank writes to his father, and says he will marry the gid
as soon as he is of age or shoot himself. Up to fcowa comei
t^ sqoiire, and his wi£^, and his danghtor^ and ftjbt of i



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THB FOURTH POOR TRAVELBR. m

BMntaHty, not in the slightest degree material to the present
atatenietit, takes place among them ; and the upshot of it is,
old GatHffe is forced into withdrawing the word No, and snb-
sCitQtlng the word Yes.

I doDt belleTe he wonld erer have done it, though, but for
tar one locky pecoliarity in the case. The governess's father
was a man of good family — pretty nigh as good as Gatliffe's
own. He had been in the army ; had sold out, set up as a
wine merchant— failed — died : ditto his wife, as to the dying
part of it No relation, in fact, left fbr the sqatre to make in-
qairies about but the father's sister, who had behaved, as old
Oatliffe fmid, like a thorongh-bred gentlewoman in shutting the
door against Mr. Frank in the first instance. So, to cnt the
matter short, things were at last made np pleasant enough.
The time was fixed for the wedding, and an announcement about
it — Marriage in High Life, and all that — put into the county
paper. There was a regular biography, besides, of the gov-
emes8*fl father, so as to stop people from talking ; a great
floarinh about his pedigree, and a long account of his services
ID the army ; but not a word, mind ye, of his having turned
wine merchant afterward. Oh, no — not a word about that!
1 knew it, though, fbr Mr. Frank told me. He hadn't a bit
of pride abont him. He intrudnced me to his future wife one
day when I met them out walking, and asked me if I did not
think he was a lucky fellow. I don't mind admitting that I
did, and that I told him so. Ah I but she was one of my sort.
was that governess. Stood, to the best of my recollection, five
feet four. Good lissome figure, that looked as if it had never
been boxed up in a pair of stays. Eyes that made me feel as
if I was under a pretty stiff cross-examination the moment she
looked at me. Fine red, fresh kiss-and-come-again sort of lips.

Clieeks and complexion ». No, my man in the comer, you

woaldn't identify her by her cheeks and complexion, if I drew
jon a picture of them this very moment. She has had a family
of childreu since the time I'm talking of, and her cheeks are
a trifle fatter, and her complexion is a shade or two redder now,
tban when I first met her walking out with Mr. Frank.

The marriage waar to take place on a Wednesday. I decline
mentioning the year or the month. I had started as an at-



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172 THE FOURTH POOR TRAVELER.

torncj en mj own account — s&y, six weeks, more or less, tud
was sitting alone in my office on the Monday morning before
the wedding day, trying to see my way clear before me and not
succeeding particularly well, when Mr. Frank suddenly baisU
in, as white as any ghost that eyer was painted, and says he's
got the most dreadful case for me to advise on, and not aa boar
to lose in acting on my advice.

" Is this in the way of business, Mr. Frank f" says I, stoppiag
him just as he was beginning to get sentimental. " Yes or no,
Mr. Frank T' rapping my new office paper-knife on the table to
pull him up short all the sooner.

"My dear fellow" — ^he was always familiar with me— "it*i
in the way of business, certainly : but friendship — "

I was obliged to pull him up short again and regularly exa-
jiine him as if he had been in the witness-box, or he woobi
have kept me talking to no purpose half the day.

'* Now, Mr. Frank," said I, " I can't have any sentimentality
mixed up with business matters. You please to stop talking,
and let me ask questions. Answer in the fewest words yea can
use. Nod when nodding will do instead of words."

I fixed him with my eye for about three seconds, aa be sat
groaning and wriggling in his chair. When I'd done filing
him, I gave another rap with my paper-knife on to the table to
startle him up a bit Then I went on.

" From what you have been stating op to the present time,*
says I, "I gather that you are in a scrape which is likely to in-
terfere seriously with your marriage on Wednesday 7" (He
nodded, and I cut in again before he could say a word.) "Tbe
scrape affects the young lady you are about to marry, and goei
back to the period of a certain transaction in which her lat«
father was engaged some years ago ?" (He nods, aod I cat io
once more.) " There is a party who turned op after seeing tbe
luinouncement of your narriage in the paper, who is cogniaaat
of what he oughtn't to know, and who is prepared to use bit
knowledge of the same, to the pr^ndice of the young lady aod
of your marriage, unless he receives a snm of money to qviet
him ? Tory well. Now, first of all, Mr. Frank, state what
you have been told by the young lady herself about the i



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THB FOURTH POOE TRAVELER. 173

ftction of her late father. How did jon first come to have an j
knowledge of it?^'

" She was talking to me about her father one day, so tenderly
and prettily, that she quite excited my interest about him," be*
gins Mr. Frank; ''and I asked her, among other things, what
bad occasioned his death. She said she believed it was distress
of mind in the first instance : and added that this distress was
connected with a shocking secret, which she and her mother
had kept fipom everybody, but which she couW not keep from
me, because she was determined to begin her married life by
having no secrets from her husband." Here Mr. Frank began
to get sentimental again ; and I pulled him up short once
more, with the paper-knife.

'* She told me," Mr. Frank went on, " that the great mistake
of her father's life was his selling out of the army and taking to
the wine trade. He had no talent for business : things went
wrong with him from the first. His clerk, it was strongly sus-
pected, cheated him "

"Stop a bit," says I. "What was that suspected clerk's
name ?"

" Davager," says he.

" Davager," says I, making a note of it. " Oo on, Mr.
Frank."

" His affairs got more and more entangled," says Mr. Frank ;
" he was pressed for money in all directions ; bankruptcy, and
consequent dishonor (as he considered it) stared him in the
lace. His mind was so affected by his troubles that both his
wife and daughter, toward the last, considered him to be hardly
responsible for his own acts. In this state of desperation and
lotsery, lie " Here Mr. Frank began to hesitate.

We have two ways in the law, of drawing evidence off nice
and clear from an unwilling client or witness. We give him a
fright or treat him to a joke. I treated Mr. Frank to a joke.

" Ah ?" says I. " I know what be did. He had a signature
to write ; and, by the most natural mistake in the world, he
wrote another gentleman's name instead of his own — eh ?"

" It was to a bill," says Mr. Frank, looking very crestfallen,
iMtead of taking the joke. '* His principal creditor wouldn't
wail till he t^ould raise the money, or the greater part of it Bat



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174 THE FOURTH POOR TRAVELER.

be was resoWed, if he sold off every tbing, to get the i
and repay "

" Of course I" says I. " Drop that The forgery wm ^
oovered. When V

" Before eye n the first attempt was made to negotiate thi
bill. He had done the whole thing in the nost absardiy tad
innocently wrong way. The person whose nsHne he bad ased
was a stanch friend of his, and a relation of his wile'b : a good
man as well as a rich one. He bad inftnenoe with tlie cUsf
creditor, and he nsed it nobly. He had a real aCectlon for th#
anfortnnate man's wife, and be proved it generoasly.'*

" Come to tbe point/' says I. " What did he do ? In a
business way, what did he do ?''

'* He put the false bill into the fire, drew a bill of his own to
replace it, and then — only then — told my dear girl and ber
mother all that had happened. Can yon imagine any tbiog
nobler f " asked Mr. Prank.

" Speaking in ray profeissional capacity, 1 can't inuigiiie any-
thing greener!" says I. "Where was the father? Off, I
snppQ3e ?"

" 111 in bed," said Mr. Frank, coloring. " But, he ma«t«ed
strength eiiongh to write a contrite and grateftil letter the sane
day, promising to prove himself worthy of the noble modertp
tion and forgiveness extended to bfm, by selling off every thing
he possessed to repay his money debt He did sell off every
thing, down to some old family pictures that were hefHooms ;
down to the little plate he had ; down to the very tables and
chairs that furnished his drawing-room. Every farthing of the
debt was paid ; and he was left to begin the world again, wit%
the kindest promises of help from the generous man who had
forgiven him. It was too late. His crime of one rash mo*
ment — atoned for though it had been — preyed upon his aiiwl.
He became possessed with the idea that he had lowered hha-

self forever in tbe estimation of his wife and daughter, and *"

" He died," I cut in. " Yes, yes, we know that. Let^ go
back for a minute to the contrite and gratefbl letter that he
wrote. My experience in the law, Mr. Frank, has convinced
me that if everybody burnt everybody else's letters, half ^
Murts of justice in this country might shot up shop. Doyee



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THK FOUKTH POOR TRAVELER. 171

bmppen to know whether the letter we are now speaking of con*
taiued any thing like an avowal or confession of the forgery f"
'* Of course U did," says he. " Gould the writer express hia
eontrilion properly without making some snch confession V*

" Quite easy, if he had heen a lawyer," says I. ** But never
Bind that : I'm going to make a goess — a desperate guess, mind.
Should I be altogether in error," says I, " if I thought that this
letter had been stolen ; and that the fingers of Mr. Davager, of
aaepicious commercial celebrity, might possibly be the fingers
which took it P says I.

" That is exactly what I tried to make yon understand," cried
Mr. Frank.

'' How did he eommunicate that interesting fact to you ?^
"He has not rentured into my presence. The sconndrel
eotually had the andacity — **

" Aba I" says I. "The young lady herself I Sharp prac*
titioner, Mr. Davager."

'* Early this morning, when she was walking alone in the
abrobbery," Mr. Frank goes on, " he had the assurance to ap'*
proach her, and to say that be had been watching his opportu*
liity of getting a private interview for days past. He then
abowed her— actually showed her — her unfortunate father's let-
ter ; pnt into her hands another letter directed to me ; bowed,
and walked off; leaving her half dead with astonishment and
terror 1"

" It was much better for you that you were not there," says
I. " Have you got that other letter ?"

He handed it to me. It was so extremely humorons and
ahoit, that I remember every word of it at this distance of time.
It began in this way : ^

" To Francis Oatliflfe, Esq., Jun! — Sir : — I have an extremely
curious autograph letter to sell. The price is a five hon-
dred ponnd note. The young lady to whom you are to be
married on Wednesday will inform yon of the nature of the
letter, and the genuineness of the autograph. If you refuse to
deal, I shall send a copy to the local paper, and shall wait on
your highly respected father with the original curiosity, on the
afternoon of Tuesday next. Having come down here on family



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176 THE FOURTH POOR TRAVELER.

business, I have pat ap at the famUj hotel — being to be heati
of at the Qatliffe Arms.

Tour Terj obedieot senranti

"ALfftSD Dayaoib.''

''A cleyer fellow, that," sajs I, patting the letter into D7
j^rivate drawer.

'' Clever P' cries Mr. Frank, "he ought to be horsewhipped
within an inch of his life. I wonld have done it mjseit bat abs
made me promise, before she told me a word of the matter, to
come straight to jou.''

''That was one of the wisest promises yon ever made," sajsL
"We can't afford to bully this fellow, whatever eUe we may do
with him. Don't think I am saying any thing libelloos against



Online LibraryCharles DickensCharles Dickens' complete works → online text (page 53 of 84)