« AnteriorContinuar »
66 And me too,' said the other, replenishing the glass as soon as it was drained of its contents.
“ The man thought of his hungry children, and his son's danger. But they were nothing to the drunkard. He did drink; and his reason left him.
"A wet night, Warden,' whispered one of the men in his ear, as he at length turned to go away, after spending in liquor one-half of the money on which, perhaps, his daughter's life depended.
“• The right sort of night for our friends in hiding, Master Warden,' whispered the other.
56. Sit down here,' said the one who had spoken first, drawing him into a corner.
We have been looking arter the young ’un. We came to tell him it's all right now; but we couldn't find him, 'cause we hadn't got the precise direction. But that ain't strange ; for I don't think he know'd it himself when he came to London, did he?'
60. No, he didn't,' replied the father. “ The two men exchanged glances.
6. There's a vessel down at the docks, to sail at midnight, when it's high water,' resumed the first speaker; “and we'll put him on board. His passage is taken in another name; and, what's better than that, it's paid for. It's lucky we met you.' 66 Very,' said the second.
Capital luck,' said the first, with a wink to his companion.
“Great,' replied the second, with a slight nod of intelligence.
“. Another glass here ; quick,' said the first speaker. And, in five minutes more, the father had unconsciously yielded up his own son into the hangman's hands.
- Slowly and heavily the time dragged along, as the Jrother and sister, in their miserable hiding-place, listened in anxious suspense to the slightest sound. At length, a heavy footstep was heard upon the stair; it approached nearer ; it reached the landing; and the father staggered into the room.
“ The girl saw that he was intoxicated, and advanced with the candle in her hand to meet him: she stopped short, gave a loud scream, and fell senseless on the ground. She had caught sight of the shadow of a man, reflected on the floor. They both rushed in ; and in another instant the young man was a prisoner, and handcuffed.
• Very quietly done,' said one of the men to his companion, thanks to the old man. Lift up the girl, Tom. Come, come, it's no use crying, young woman. It's all over now, and can't be helped.'
“The young man stooped for an instant over the girl, and then turned fiercely round upon his father, who had reeled against the wall, and was gazing on the group with drunken stupidity.
66. Listen to me, father,' he said, in a tone that made the drunkard's flesh creep. “My brother's blood, and
mine, is on your head : I never had kind look or word, or care, from you; and, alive or dead, I never will forgive you. Die when you will, or how, I will be with you. I speak as a dead man now; and I warn you, father, that as surely as you must one day stand before your Maker, so surely shall your children be there, hand in hand, to cry for judgment against you.' He raised his manacled hands in a threatening attitude, fixed his eyes on his shrinking parent, and slowly left the room; and neither father nor sister ever beheld him more, on this side the grave.
66 When the dim and misty light of a winter's morning penetrated into the narrow court, and struggled through the begrimed window of the wretched room, Warden awoke from his heavy sleep, and found himself alone. He rose, and looked round him. The old flock mattress on the floor was undisturbed : every thing was just as he remembered to have seen it last; and there were no signs of any one, save himself, having occupied the room during the night. He inquired of the other lodgers, and of the neighbors; but his daughter had not been seen or heard of. He rambled through the streets, and scrutinized each wretched face among the crowds that thronged them with anxious eyes. But his search was fruitless; and he returned to his garret when night came on, desolate and weary.
“For many days, he occupied himself in the same manner; but no trace of his daughter did he meet with,
and no word of her reached his ears. At length, he gave up the pursuit as hopeless. He had long thought of the probability of her leaving him, and endeavoring to gain her bread in quiet elsewhere. She had left him, at last, to starve alone. He ground his teeth, and cursed her.
“He begged his bread from door to door. Every halfpenny he could wring from the pity or credulity of those to whom he addressed himself was spent in the old way. A year passed over his head: the roof of a jail was the only one that had sheltered him for many months. He slept under archways and in brick-fields,
anywhere where there was some warmth or shelter from the cold and rain. But, in the last stage of poverty, disease, and houseless want, he was a drunkard still.
“At last, one bitter night, he sunk down on a doorstep in Piccadilly, faint and ill. The premature decay of vice and profligacy had worn him to the bone. His cheeks were hollow and livid ; his eyes were sunken, and their sight was dim. His legs trembled beneath his weight, and a cold shiver ran through every limb.
“And now the long-forgotten scenes of a misspent life crowded thick and fast upon him. He thought of the time when he had had a home, – a happy, cheerful home
- and of those who peopled it, and flocked about him then, until the forms of his elder children seemed to rise from the grave and stand about him, —so plain, so clear, and so distinct they were, that he could touch and feel them. Looks that he had long forgotten were
fixed upon him once more; voices long since hushed in death sounded in his ears like the music of village-bells. But it was only for an instant. The rain beat heavily upon him ; and cold and hunger were gnawing at his heart again.
" He rose, and dragged his feeble limbs a few paces farther. The street was silent and empty ; the few passengers who passed by at that late hour hurried quickly on, and his tremulous voice was lost in the violence of the storm. Again that heavy chill struck through his frame; and his blood seemed to stagnate beneath it. He coiled himself up in a projecting doorway, and tried to sleep.
“But sleep had fled from his dull and glazed eyes. His mind wandered strangely, but he was awake and conscious. The well-known shont of drunken mirth sounded in his ear, the glass was at nis lips, the board was covered with choice, rich food. They were before him : he could see them all; he had but to reach out his hand, and take them; and, though the illusion was . reality itself, he knew that he was sitting alone in the deserted street, watching the rain-drops as they pattered on the stones; that death was coming upon him by inches; and that there were none to care for or help him.
“Suddenly he started up, in the extremity of terror. He had heard his own voice shouting in the night air, he knew not what, or why. Hark! A groan! Another! His senses were leaving him: half-formed and