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wasted like his face. A perhaps uncalled-for gush of pity came over
my heart: I was moved to say-‘I wish Diana or Mary would come
and live with you: it is too bad that you should be quite alone; and
you are recklessly rash about your own health.’ ‘Not at all,’ said he:
‘I care for myself when necessary. I am well now. What do you see
amiss in me?’ This was said with a careless, abstracted indifference,
which showed that my solicitude was, at least in his opinion,
wholly superfluous. I was silenced.
He still slowly moved his finger over his upper lip, and still his eye
dwelt dreamily on the glowing grate; thinking it urgent to say
something, I asked him presently if he felt any cold draught from
the door, which was behind him.
‘No, no!’ he responded shortly and somewhat testily.
‘Well,’ I reflected, ‘if you won’t talk, you may be still; I’ll let you
alone now, and return to my book.’ So I snuffed the candle and
resumed the perusal of Marmion. He soon stirred; my eye was
instantly drawn to his movements; he only took out a morocco
pocket-book, thence produced a letter, which he read in silence,
folded it, put it back, relapsed into meditation. It was vain to try to
read with such an inscrutable fixture before me; nor could I, in my
impatience, consent to be dumb; he might rebuff me if he liked, but
talk I would.
‘Have you heard from Diana and Mary lately?’ ‘Not since the letter
I showed you a week ago.’
‘There has not been any change made about your own
arrangements? You will not be summoned to leave England sooner
than you expected?’ ‘I fear not, indeed: such chance is too good to
befall me.’ Baffled so far, I changed my ground. I bethought myself
to talk about the school and my scholars.
‘Mary Garrett’s mother is better, and Mary came back to the school
this morning, and I shall have four new girls next week from the
Foundry Close-they would have come to-day but for the snow.’
‘Indeed!’ ‘Mr. Oliver pays for two.’ ‘Does he?’ ‘He means to give
the whole school a treat at Christmas.’ ‘I know.’ ‘Was it your
suggestion?’ ‘No.’ ‘Whose, then?’ ‘His daughter’s, I think.’ ‘It is like
her: she is so good-natured.’ ‘Yes.’ Again came the blank of a
pause: the clock struck eight strokes. It aroused him; he uncrossed
his legs, sat erect, turned to me.
‘Leave your book a moment, and come a little nearer the fire,’ he
Wondering, and of my wonder finding no end, I complied.
‘Half an hour ago,’ he pursued, ‘I spoke of my impatience to hear
the sequel of a tale: on reflection, I find the matter will be better
managed by my assuming the narrator’s part, and converting you