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On condition of furnishing the necessary number of copies to the committee of Censorship.
St. Petersburg, June 15th, 1842.
(Continued from page 521.)
CHAPTER THE SIXTH.
Beyond all measure astonished by the strange occurrences which had passed with so much violence and rapidity, the locksmith gazed upon the shuddering figure in the chair like one half stupified , and would have gazed much longer, had not his tongue been loosened by compassion and humanity.
You are ill, - said Gabriel. Let me call some neighbour in.
« Not for the world," she rejoined, motioning to him with her trembling hand, and still holding her face averted. «It is enough that you have been by, to see this. »
Nay, more than enough-or less, ” said Gabriel.
« Be it so, » she returned. « As you like. Ask me no questions, I entreat you."
Neighbour," said the locksmith, after a pause. « Is this fair, or reasonable, or just to yourself ? Is it like you, who bave known me so long and sought my advice in all matters
- like you, who from a girl have had a strong mind and a staunch heart ? »
I have had need of them, she replied. I am growing old, both in years and care. Perhaps that, and too much trial, have made them weaker than they used to be. Do not speak to me.»,
« How can I see what I have seen, and hold my peace ! » returned the locksmith. « Who was that man, and why has his coming made this change in you ? »
She was silent , but clung to the chair, as though to save herself from falling on the ground.
«I take the license of an old acquaintance, Mary, " said the locksmith, « who has ever had a warm regard. for you, and maybe has tried to prove it when he could. Who is this illfavoured man, and what has he to do with you? Who is this ghost, that is only seen in the black nights and bad weather? How does he know and why does he haunt this house, whispering through chinks and crevices, as if there was that between him and you , which neither durst' so much as speak aloud of ? Who is he ? »
« You do well to say he haunts this house,» returned the widow, faintly. « His shadow has been upon it and me, in light and darkness, at noonday and midnight. And now, at last, he has come in the body !»
« But he wouldn't have gone in the body, " returned the locksmith with some irritation, « if you had left my arms and legs at liberty. What riddle is this?
. It is one, she answered, rising as she spoke, that must remain for ever as it is. I dare not say more than that.
« Dare not ! .-repeated the wondering locksmith.
« Do not press me, » she replied. «I am sick and faint, and every faculty of life seems dead within me. — - No! Do not touch me, either. »
Gabriel, who had stepped forward to render her assistance, fell back as she made this hasty exclamation, and regarded her in silent wonder.
Let me go my way alone,” she said in a low voice, and let the hands of no honest man touch mine to-night.” When she had tottered to the door, she turned, and added with a stronger effort.
« This is a secret, which, of necessity, I trust
to you. You are a true man. As you have ever been good and kind, to me, keep it. If any noise was heard above, make some excuse -- say anything but what you really saw, and never let a word or look between us, recal this circumstance. I trust to you. Mind , I trust to you. How much I trust, you never can conceive. »
Fixing her eyes upon him for an instant, she withdrew, and left him there alone.
Gabriel, not knowing what to think, stood staring at the door with a countenance full of surprise and dismay. The more he pondered on what had passed, the less able he was to give it any favourable interpretation. To find this widow woman, whose life for so many years had been supposed to be one of solitude and retirement, and who, in her quiet suffering character, had gained the good opinion and respect of all who knew her — to find her linked mysteriously with an ill-omened man, alarmed at his appearance, and yet favouring his escape, was a discovery that pained as much as it startled him. Her reliance on his secrecy, and his tacit acquiescence, increased his distress of mind. If he had spoken boldly, persisted in questioning her, detained her when she rose to leave the room, made any kind of protest, instead of silently compromising himself, as he felt he bad done", he would have been more at ease.
Why did I let her say it was a secret, and she trusted it to ine ! » said Gabriel, putting his wig on one side to scratch his head with greater ease, and looking ruefully at the fire. « I have no more readiness than old John himself. Why didn't I say firmly, "You have no right to such secrets, and I demand of you to tell me what this means,' instead of standing gaping at her, like an old mooncalf as I am! But there's my weakness. I can be obstinate enough with men if need be, but women may twist me round their fingers at their pleasure. »
He took his wig off outright as he made this reflection, and warming his handkerchief at the fire began to rub and polish his bald head with it, until it glistened again.
» said the locksmith, softening under this soothing process, and stopping to smile, it may be nothing. Any
u And yet,
drunken brawler trying to make his way into the house, would have alarmed a quiet soul like her. But then n-and here was the vexation. how came it to be that man ; how comes he to bave this influence over her ; how came she to favour his getting away from me; and more than all, how came she not to say it was a sudden fright, and nothing more? It's a sad thing to have, in one minute, reason to mistrust a person I have known so long, and an old sweetheart into the bargain ; but what else can I do, with all this upon my mind !-Is that Barnaby outside there?
« Ay!, he cried, looking in and nodding. Sure enough it's Barnaby-how did you guess ? »
By your shadow, - said the locksmith. « Oho!» cried Barnaby, glancing over his shoulder, « He's a merry fellow, that shadow, and keeps close to me, though I am silly. We have such pranks, such walks, such runs, such gambols on the grass. Sometimes he'll be balfas tall as a church steeple, and sometimes no bigger than a dwarf. Now he goes on before, and now behind, and anon he'll be stealing slily on, on this side, or on that, stopping whenever I stop, and thinking I can't see him, though I have my eye on him sharp enough. Oh ! he's a merry fellow. Tell me - is he silly too? I think he is. »
Why? » asked Gabriel. « Because he never tires of mocking me, but does it all day long.- Why don't you come ? »
Where? «Up stairs. He wants you. Stay-where's his shadow ? Come. You're a wise man ; tell me that. ”
. Beside him, Barnaby ; beside him, I suppose , » returned the locksmith.
No!. he replied, shaking his head. Guess again." . Gone out a walking, maybe ? »
He has changed shadows with a woman, the idiot whispered in his ear, and then fell back with a look of triumph. Her shadow's always with him, and his with her. That's sport I think, eh?