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and felt too lifeless to cry; had dwelt, and fed, and slept amongst the scum of the people, and had grown scum, too; had done evil, because no one had shown her much how to do good; and now she had come to the endyes, the very end-the end of the world to her; the few last grains of sand were dribbling out slowly, one by one; the man on the pale horse was drawing very, very near, though no eye could see him, coming to take away this woman with him to her account. Poor, poor, darkened, desolate creature! Surely she shall be beaten with few stripes. Kate did not care a halfpenny about this sick woman; of course she had never set eyes on her before; there was no grief in her heart; but she felt inexpressibly awed and grave. Young people always do; they seem to be so many miles away, at such a safe distance from the great precipice, that they come and peer over the edge of the abyss, with curious inquisitive, eyes. Elder people either will not look at all, because it makes them dizzy and sick, or else, in better case, gaze down into its depths, with eyes that faith has made very clear and fearless. If Kate felt awed, she was the only person in the room that did. None of the men who were present, and there were two or three besides the one who had admitted her, seemed to have a scrap of that feeling; they were drinking gin and water, and talking in voices not much lowered from their usual rough pitch. They did not see anything to be awed at, and would have been surprised if they had known it was expected of them. They had seen heaps of people die before now; human lives very often went out, like the snuff of a candle in Bootle-court; they did not see anything out of the way in it; there was nothing very odd or awful in a person "going off the hooks." Everybody did it; they should do it themselves some day; they did not much care how soon. Kate looked round once or twice at them, very indignantly, when their voices rose to a pitch she thought most unseemly, in that chamber; but they were perfectly unaware of her disapprobation; they did not take the smallest notice of her; she would have been very much alarmed if they had. At last, to her great relief, having finished

their gin, they got up, and clumped and stumped out, banging the door behind them. Kate seemed to breathe freer when she was alone she sat down on the bed and touched one of the hands lying there so useless, nerveless, so utterly, eternally idle. She could do no good there; that was certain-not the least tittle. This sick woman was totally unconscious of her presence; wanted nothing at her hands; no sound could reach those dull ears; no sight could affront those glazing eyes that were closed, and yet not closed. But still Kate sat on there, and the idea of going away never entered her headsat, with her cloak falling round her, in its warm, scarlet folds, the only bit of colour in that room, where neutral tints held their dingy sway. It seemed so cruel, so heartless, to leave this poor, unknown creature to die all by herself here; it would not be cruel, really; but she could not divest herself of the notion that it was. Folks have an odd idea that it is somehow snugger, more sociable, to die in company, with a fit complement of tear-stained faces round you, than to give your last sigh as a present to solitude. So the odd, deep eyes gleamed softly from under their bright lashes, very solemn and speculative upon the dying face. The passionate southern lips parted one from the other, and trembled as a great many moving thoughts stirred the brain they were the mouthpiece of; and Kate fell into a long pondering, if she was able to do no good to this expiring woman, the woman did some good to her. She furnished a text from which Kate preached herself a very wholesome sermon. What Yorick's skull said to Hamlet, this woman said to Kate. "So she should be just like that some day, lying back like a log, only a log would not pant, and heave, and breathe so loud and stertorously: pant like that! How dreadful! It made her out of breath now to think of it. She would have those awful colours on her face, green, and yellow, and ashy; who would care to kiss her then? And this all would happen, must happen; not possibly, not perhaps, but certainly, undoubtedly. There's one single combat we must all engage in, though we know for a surety that we shall be beaten ;

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we cannot shirk it, and give Death the game; he will wrestle it out with us. She, too, should some day have the clammy sweat of that appalling duel on her brow; she passed her hand over the low, smooth, forehead as she mused on this, and pitied herself very much, and the poor, pretty face that would have to grow so unsightly. But it must come ; it must, it must. Oh, the desolation of that thought! And what if God should not send her the gift of the dense cloak of insensibility he had sent this woman? What if she should be able to watch her own dissolution, to see the steps of the divorce between the clinging body and the terrified soul? What if she should be able to gaze with horrified despairing eyes down into the gulf she was being forced into so utterly, so fearfully against her will? Life certainly was not so jocund a thing to her as to most young women. She had had one or two very hard blows, blows that had knocked her down so much that she could not hope ever to stand up again quite so upright and firm as she had done before; and though no one was giving her blows now, yet the days somehow lagged, and she did not seem to care much whether it were even or morning, noon or night. But still, however chill and drear life might be, was not it immeasurably bitter than this last dread tussle? How coming into the presence of this tremendous personage,this "spectre with the bony head," did render insignificant all other personages and things whatever! She was not having an interview with him herself either. She was only in the ante-room hearing him hold converse with another; and yet all the sorrows and the interests that had seemed giants exceeding the stature of Goliah of Gath, when she entered that door, had changed all of a sudden into pigmies. Oh God! what did it matter whether one cried or laughed, whether one had fair weather or foul? What mattered any aggregation of evils that could be possibly crowded into one's narrow space? What did anything matter? Of what consequence (she could ever say) was it that on a certain moon dowered June night, while the waves were plashing their caressing lullaby, that dark man with the rough hewn,

strong features, and the lurid, agonized eye, had kissed her, heart brokenly, and bid her go away quickly from him out of his sight? Of what consequence was it that she had lain all along on the yellow sand, and stretched out desolate white arms, and called upon Death to come and take her from a world where there could never be any joy for her any more? It was all grasping at shadows she saw now, neglecting the substance. Looked back on from the high mountain tops of eternity, all life in its length and breadth would seem but a speck, a pin's point. How was it that the tiny bagatelles of time present, from being held so close to the eye, obscured and shut out the huge bulk of things future? Why could not one always feel like this? Why could not one always stay in that state of mind? It was the only right state, the only wholesome state, the only sane state: all other states of mind were nothing but disease and madness. Why was one always like the dog in the fable, dropping the good solid piece of meat into the water, to snatch greedily at the reflection? Why would not things always look the same as they did on a Sunday evening, when one is reading Jeremy Taylor, or some other good book? Why is it so hard to distinguish between what will grow bigger and bigger every day, and will last for ever; and what will each day wax smaller and smaller, and in a few to-morrows will be gone as if it had never been? Why do things not keep their shapes, but are always mazing and puzzling one by their shiftings and windings? Why, why, why? All those questions that people ask themselves, and ask other people, so often, and so seldom get answers to them. Kate went on, sitting there, at the foot of the low bed, not shrinking from the contact with the poor chilling rags, motionless; and the only sound in the room was the heavy stertorous breathing that was going to stop so soon. There she sat, and fell a pondering on life and immortality, or the wonderfulness and inexplicability of the very fact of existence; pondering on a great many deep things, that no pondering on can make very clear to men and women's dim eyes. She might have

gone on sitting there to this day for aught I know, in her complete absorption; but after a long while she was roused by the door being unlatched and opened by a rough, uncareful hand; and the man who had first received her, the man with hair dressed à la hulks, with the countenance that made one think of the ring, the man to whom this "domus et placens uxor" appertained, came in and stamped across the bricked floor, heavy footed, not much caring whether he made a noise or not. He did not look particularly pleased at finding Kate there still, and the bulldog apparently also considered her "de trop," for he growled in a not very conciliatory manner, and appeared to have his thoughts filled with pinning in general. Kate rose up with great dignity off her low seat as brave as a lion, and faced both dog and man; she felt boiling with indignation against the latter.

"I'm going," she said, fronting him; "I see you think I have been here quite long enough; but I had not the heart to leave your poor wife all by herself here. Are not you ashamed of yourself, letting her die all alone here, and not caring a

bit about it? I wonder how you'll like to be served so yourself."

There she stopped short, and wondered much, and trembled a little at her own boldness. The man shifted uneasily from one leg to the other, knocked one dirty hobnail against the other, and looked uncommonly sheepish. He was not any great monster of iniquity, only an ignorant, big, hulking fellow, who had lived with bad men, and heard bad words, and done bad things, from his earliest youth, and there did not seem to be much natural affection, or any other good thing left in him now. He did look very sheepish now, however, and rather ashamed of himself. So Kate thought; and with her usual impetuosity, repented of having given him such a large piece of her mind. She fumbled again for the small lean purse, took out the very last shilling, and said, hurriedly-Here, I'm afraid, nothing will do her any good now, poor thing! I wish to goodness I had come here before; but I'll come again tomorrow, and-and-here, take this;" and she pokes the shilling into his dirty hand, and goes quickly out.

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CHAPTER XXI.

"HELL is paved with good intentions," said some one once, says everybody now; but I suppose that means intentions that never come to be anything but intentions, that remain fruitless to their last days. Kate certainly did not intend that hers should serve the purpose of macadamizing Hades. And what good resolutions she did make that winter's day in that little squalid court. She would spend a great deal of her time with these poor, wretched people; would go among them five days a week at least, and they would have to get more civil to her before long; there could be no doubt of that. She would do such an immense deal of good; people always did when they put their shoulder really with a will to the wheel. It was evidently the course chalked out for her, now in life, and she would follow it. After all, it was less "flat, stale, and unprofitable" than any other course. She would practise such self-denials. That copy

of "Cowper's Letters" that she had coveted for the last month, lying there in the bookseller's window, in its green cloth covering, might lie there for the next ten years, and get sun-faded, and fly-flecked, for all she would do to rescue it. How valiant she felt, too. Being in the presence of the great King and Lord of all terrors, had made any minor fear or alarm utterly despicable. She did not think anything could frighten her to-day. She would confront all the ticket-of-leave men in London, and not flinch. And then it occurred to her that, at all events, for to-day she had done her duty; she was getting very tired and cold; she might go home and enjoy luncheon with a clear conscience; and that arm-chair by the fire, which she knew would woo her open-armed; and the old small printed Shakespeare that opened so easily at a good many places. So she turned about, and set her face in the direction of home.

She thought she knew her way perfectly, and remembered every twist and turning of the way she had come; so she took small heed to her steps, but let her feet lead her pretty much where they would, feeling confident they would guide her all right. So she passed along, wrapped up in her own thoughts, in the serious thoughts her day's unwonted labours had suggested. But then, after a while, she caught her foot on a sharp stone and hurt herself, with difficulty saving herself from falling on her face; and that brought her out of her meditations very effectually. She looked round her, and began to reflect that she seemed to have come through more courts, and streets, and back places than she had done before; this place she was in now looked unfamiliar. She had never seen before, she was sure, that dingy red brick building, with J. E. Frickner, Timber Merchant, in big black letters, stuck up upon it. She was perfectly sure she had never seen that before, or she should have remarked that the E was turned the wrong way. How stupid of her to have lost her way; got into the dangerous bad parts of Queenstown, perhaps. Heaven forpid! Another look round; rather an uneasy look, despite the newborn valour. Oh, thank Goodness, that is a comfort. She must be right after all, for there, at the bottom of that lane, runs the street she first diverged from in the morning. So she goes on with a good courage down the lane and into the street; but when she gets there she is rather discomfited by the discovery that it is not the same street after all. It runs parallel to it, and has the same variety of gabled and ungabled, tall and short houses; but it is not the same. It is narrower, darker, dirtier, altogether rather a villanous looking street. Shall she go up or down? Which? A few moments' consideration, and then she sets off down. That direction must bring one to the river, and the river must bring one home in time. She is not frightened, for what harm can happen to her, for it is still broad day? but she is glad that there seem but few people about, and she has no inclination to fall back into her musings. She looks about, indeed, with very wide awake, anxious eyes. Some way on, down

the street, there is a low public-house, standing a little forwards from the other buildings, displaying an effigy which a person of lively imagination and great ingenuity might discover to be intended to represent a pair of keys hanging up across one another. A public-house, with a dingy bow window, and a barmaid with a great many flowers about her head, standing, arms akimbo, at the door. A good many men of a very low class

coal-heavers, bargees, etc., were loafing about, hands in breeches pockets, pipes in mouths, and on their heads those singular coiffures appropriated to their profession, and which are distinguished by the care with which they shade and protect the napes of their delicate necks. Kate had a mortal fear of men of the lower orders generally; it was a standing joke against her; perhaps her great and exaggerated timidity on this score, arose from the fact that a year or two ago a drunken sailor had met her in a lone country road, had stopped her, and made some not over polished joke at her expense, which combined actions had frightened her almost out of her wits. Being stared at, she did not mind a bit; she was quite used to it; every man who met her, from a king to a tinker, would be sure to look twice at her; she did not dislike that; perhaps she would have missed it, if they had not; but of tramps, beggars, common men, generally; she had an absurd and unreasonable horror and fear. She crossed the street now, that she might get further from this idle loafing knot, and marched along with rather a quaking heart, very firm and solemn, looking neither to the right nor the left, trusting then to escape notice. But some star, unfavourable to Kate, was in the ascendant to-day. As I have said, there were but few people in the street, consequently, those men had, unfortunately, not much to look at besides Kate: add to which, that a person of her cut, was a sight not very often beheld in this part of the town. She was sadly noticeable in her enveloping scarlet cloak, full short petticoat, that would sway so as she walked, and little neat-shod tripping feet. Before she gets opposite to the Cross-keys they stop talking, they stare unpleasantly at her; one bargee,

a youngish one, takes his pipe out of his mouth, and prepares to speak. Kate does not look, but somehow knows it, and her heart begins to beat very fast. And then, this delicately facetious remark comes in a great strong loud voice across the road, distinct on the frosty air, to her

ears:

“I'll gi'e you a ha'penny for your crinoline, miss." She pretends not to hear; she takes no notice, and tries to walk faster, without seeming to run. Then there comes a coarse approving guffaw from the other men, and the barmaid with the bad brazen face applauds, shrill voiced also. young bargee's head is turned by the The success of his wit, he had not calculated on such approbation; he does not see now, why he should not pursue it further. So he strides across the road, and quick as the terrified little feet go, he is almost too quick for them. Oh horror! she sees that in a second he will be before her; will be standing in front of her, barring the road. In that one terrified moment, she had time for a flash of intense longing for Dare by her side, to knock him down, floor him; but as no Dare was there, Kate did the best she could for herself. little coward! on the instant all her Ridiculous fortitude and dignity fled: she thought, for a certainty, that all the dreadful things she had ever heard or read of in books, were going to happen to her. Now the bargee was not a particularly bad sort of fellow in his way. Foul-mouthed certainly, after his kind, and perhaps a shade tipsy; but for all that, his sole object and intention in the present case was to be funny! But people's ideas of wit are so exceedingly different, it is a thing that nobody has yet been able to define; any more than anybody has yet been able to see the wind. Kate's notions of wit were so totally different from his, that she did not even believe that his end and aim was to be witty, and nothing more nor less. Down went the basket of tracts: "Little sinners Breeches" grovelled on its face in the gutter; for the Pantry" was borne on a light Crumbs breeze to the shrill-voiced barmaid's feet. Kate gave one short, small species of shriek, took to her heels, and fled for the bare life, as if ten thousand devils were behind her;

VOL. LXVII.-NO. CCCXCVII.

goaded on by the nightmare idea of the big, grimy bargee, following hard upon her tracks. street, up another, along a dark Down one alley, across a court, round a corner, bang up against a woman with a baby in her arms; down another street, between two startled policemen, and on, till she was brought up at whom she did not see, on and on last; stopped in her Mazeppan course by very nearly tumbling right over clothes, walking orderly along, looka harmless little gentleman in black ing at a book in his hand, and who consequently had not seen the immiwho, by the impetus of her rush, had nent danger that threatened him, and been sent spinning into the middle of the road.

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tleman, picking himself up, and a
Hullo," exclaims the little gen-
good deal surprised, naturally, at the
vicissitudes of this life.
Kate!" he adds, in accents of vast
Hullo,
astonishment, as he discovers the in-
dividual who has made him describe
this parabolic curve.

surprise, but quite under her breath, "James!" exclaims Kate, in equal her violent exertions, and she leans for she is completely spent now, with the rich carmine that that mad, wild against a lamp-post and pants, and run had brought into her cheeks, ebbed away quicker than it came, leaving her pale, even to the lips; a fair marble image of fear.

Kate? What's frightened you? Has
"What on earth has come to you,
anything happened?" asks James,
rapidly, in an anxious, concerned
voice; and he goes up to the lamp-
post, and takes a small hand that is
trembling and shaking like a leaf.

most a whisper, still panting hard;
"Happened!" repeats Kate, in al-
"I should think so indeed. I have
been running away, for my life,
from a dreadful man.
dear! I thought he was close be-
Oh dear, oh
hind me: he's somewhere near, now,
cast a frightened look around her.
I'm sure," and she shuddered, and

James looked up the street and
this man, this bug-a-boo; but could
down the street; gazed in search of
see nothing but an old orange wo-
man, at her stall, haggling with a
very little boy, and two or three
highly respectable personages, evi-
dently occupied entirely and wholly

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