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‘Can we send for any one you know?’ I shook my head.
‘What account can you give of yourself?’ Somehow, now that I had
once crossed the threshold of this house, and once was brought
face to face with its owners, I felt no longer outcast, vagrant, and
disowned by the wide world. I dared to put off the mendicant-to
resume my natural manner and character. I began once more to
know myself; and when Mr. St. John demanded an account-which
at present I was far too weak to render-I said after a brief
pause‘Sir, I can give you no details to-night.’ ‘But what, then,’ said
he, ‘do you expect me to do for you?’ ‘Nothing,’ I replied. My
strength sufficed for but short answers. Diana took the word‘Do
you mean,’ she asked, ‘that we have now given you what aid you
require? and that we may dismiss you to the moor and the rainy
night?’ I looked at her. She had, I thought, a remarkable
countenance, instinct both with power and goodness. I took
sudden courage. Answering her compassionate gaze with a smile, I
said-‘I will trust you. If I were a masterless and stray dog, I know
that you would not turn me from your hearth to-night: as it is, I
really have no fear. Do with me and for me as you like; but excuse
me from much discourse-my breath is short-I feel a spasm when I
speak.’ All three surveyed me, and all three were silent.
‘Hannah,’ said Mr. St. John, at last, ‘let her sit there at present, and
ask her no questions; in ten minutes more, give her the remainder
of that milk and bread.
Mary and Diana, let us go into the parlour and talk the matter
over.’ They withdrew. Very soon one of the ladies returned-I
could not tell which. A kind of pleasant stupor was stealing over
me as I sat by the genial fire. In an undertone she gave some
directions to Hannah. Ere long, with the servant’s aid, I contrived
to mount a staircase; my dripping clothes were removed; soon a
warm, dry bed received me. I thanked God-experienced amidst
unutterable exhaustion a glow of grateful joy-and slept.