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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesBleak House - Chapter LVIII - A Wintry Day and Night
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Bleak House - Chapter LVIII - A Wintry Day and Night Post by :Kevin_McNally Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Dickens Date :December 2010 Read :2231

Click below to download : Bleak House - Chapter LVIII - A Wintry Day and Night (Format : PDF)

Bleak House - Chapter LVIII - A Wintry Day and Night

Still impassive, as behoves its breeding, the Dedlock town house
carries itself as usual towards the street of dismal grandeur.
There are powdered heads from time to time in the little windows of
the hall, looking out at the untaxed powder falling all day from
the sky; and in the same conservatory there is peach blossom
turning itself exotically to the great hall fire from the nipping
weather out of doors. It is given out that my Lady has gone down
into Lincolnshire, but is expected to return presently.

Rumour, busy overmuch, however, will not go down into Lincolnshire.
It persists in flitting and chattering about town. It knows that
that poor unfortunate man, Sir Leicester, has been sadly used. It
hears, my dear child, all sorts of shocking things. It makes the
world of five miles round quite merry. Not to know that there is
something wrong at the Dedlocks' is to augur yourself unknown. One
of the peachy-cheeked charmers with the skeleton throats is already
apprised of all the principal circumstances that will come out
before the Lords on Sir Leicester's application for a bill of
divorce.

At Blaze and Sparkle's the jewellers and at Sheen and Gloss's the
mercers, it is and will be for several hours the topic of the age,
the feature of the century. The patronesses of those
establishments, albeit so loftily inscrutable, being as nicely
weighed and measured there as any other article of the stock-in-
trade, are perfectly understood in this new fashion by the rawest
hand behind the counter. "Our people, Mr. Jones," said Blaze and
Sparkle to the hand in question on engaging him, "our people, sir,
are sheep--mere sheep. Where two or three marked ones go, all the
rest follow. Keep those two or three in your eye, Mr. Jones, and
you have the flock." So, likewise, Sheen and Gloss to THEIR Jones,
in reference to knowing where to have the fashionable people and
how to bring what they (Sheen and Gloss) choose into fashion. On
similar unerring principles, Mr. Sladdery the librarian, and indeed
the great farmer of gorgeous sheep, admits this very day, "Why yes,
sir, there certainly ARE reports concerning Lady Dedlock, very
current indeed among my high connexion, sir. You see, my high
connexion must talk about something, sir; and it's only to get a
subject into vogue with one or two ladies I could name to make it
go down with the whole. Just what I should have done with those
ladies, sir, in the case of any novelty you had left to me to bring
in, they have done of themselves in this case through knowing Lady
Dedlock and being perhaps a little innocently jealous of her too,
sir. You'll find, sir, that this topic will be very popular among
my high connexion. If it had been a speculation, sir, it would
have brought money. And when I say so, you may trust to my being
right, sir, for I have made it my business to study my high
connexion and to be able to wind it up like a clock, sir."

Thus rumour thrives in the capital, and will not go down into
Lincolnshire. By half-past five, post meridian, Horse Guards'
time, it has even elicited a new remark from the Honourable Mr.
Stables, which bids fair to outshine the old one, on which he has
so long rested his colloquial reputation. This sparkling sally is
to the effect that although he always knew she was the best-groomed
woman in the stud, he had no idea she was a bolter. It is
immensely received in turf-circles.

At feasts and festivals also, in firmaments she has often graced,
and among constellations she outshone but yesterday, she is still
the prevalent subject. What is it? Who is it? When was it?
Where was it? How was it? She is discussed by her dear friends
with all the genteelest slang in vogue, with the last new word, the
last new manner, the last new drawl, and the perfection of polite
indifference. A remarkable feature of the theme is that it is
found to be so inspiring that several people come out upon it who
never came out before--positively say things! William Buffy
carries one of these smartnesses from the place where he dines down
to the House, where the Whip for his party hands it about with his
snuff-box to keep men together who want to be off, with such effect
that the Speaker (who has had it privately insinuated into his own
ear under the corner of his wig) cries, "Order at the bar!" three
times without making an impression.

And not the least amazing circumstance connected with her being
vaguely the town talk is that people hovering on the confines of
Mr. Sladdery's high connexion, people who know nothing and ever did
know nothing about her, think it essential to their reputation to
pretend that she is their topic too, and to retail her at second-
hand with the last new word and the last new manner, and the last
new drawl, and the last new polite indifference, and all the rest
of it, all at second-hand but considered equal to new in inferior
systems and to fainter stars. If there be any man of letters, art,
or science among these little dealers, how noble in him to support
the feeble sisters on such majestic crutches!

So goes the wintry day outside the Dedlock mansion. How within it?

Sir Leicester, lying in his bed, can speak a little, though with
difficulty and indistinctness. He is enjoined to silence and to
rest, and they have given him some opiate to lull his pain, for his
old enemy is very hard with him. He is never asleep, though
sometimes he seems to fall into a dull waking doze. He caused his
bedstead to be moved out nearer to the window when he heard it was
such inclement weather, and his head to be so adjusted that he
could see the driving snow and sleet. He watches it as it falls,
throughout the whole wintry day.

Upon the least noise in the house, which is kept hushed, his hand
is at the pencil. The old housekeeper, sitting by him, knows what
he would write and whispers, "No, he has not come back yet, Sir
Leicester. It was late last night when he went. He has been but a
little time gone yet."

He withdraws his hand and falls to looking at the sleet and snow
again until they seem, by being long looked at, to fall so thick
and fast that he is obliged to close his eyes for a minute on the
giddy whirl of white flakes and icy blots.

He began to look at them as soon as it was light. The day is not
yet far spent when he conceives it to be necessary that her rooms
should be prepared for her. It is very cold and wet. Let there be
good fires. Let them know that she is expected. Please see to it
yourself. He writes to this purpose on his slate, and Mrs.
Rouncewell with a heavy heart obeys.

"For I dread, George," the old lady says to her son, who waits
below to keep her company when she has a little leisure, "I dread,
my dear, that my Lady will never more set foot within these walls."

"That's a bad presentiment, mother."

"Nor yet within the walls of Chesney Wold, my dear."

"That's worse. But why, mother?"

"When I saw my Lady yesterday, George, she looked to me--and I may
say at me too--as if the step on the Ghost's Walk had almost walked
her down."

"Come, come! You alarm yourself with old-story fears, mother."

"No I don't, my dear. No I don't. It's going on for sixty year
that I have been in this family, and I never had any fears for it
before. But it's breaking up, my dear; the great old Dedlock
family is breaking up."

"I hope not, mother."

"I am thankful I have lived long enough to be with Sir Leicester in
this illness and trouble, for I know I am not too old nor too
useless to be a welcomer sight to him than anybody else in my place
would be. But the step on the Ghost's Walk will walk my Lady down,
George; it has been many a day behind her, and now it will pass her
and go on."

"Well, mother dear, I say again, I hope not."

"Ah, so do I, George," the old lady returns, shaking her head and
parting her folded hands. "But if my fears come true, and he has
to know it, who will tell him!"

"Are these her rooms?"

"These are my Lady's rooms, just as she left them."

"Why, now," says the trooper, glancing round him and speaking in a
lower voice, "I begin to understand how you come to think as you do
think, mother. Rooms get an awful look about them when they are
fitted up, like these, for one person you are used to see in them,
and that person is away under any shadow, let alone being God knows
where."

He is not far out. As all partings foreshadow the great final one,
so, empty rooms, bereft of a familiar presence, mournfully whisper
what your room and what mine must one day be. My Lady's state has
a hollow look, thus gloomy and abandoned; and in the inner
apartment, where Mr. Bucket last night made his secret
perquisition, the traces of her dresses and her ornaments, even the
mirrors accustomed to reflect them when they were a portion of
herself, have a desolate and vacant air. Dark and cold as the
wintry day is, it is darker and colder in these deserted chambers
than in many a hut that will barely exclude the weather; and though
the servants heap fires in the grates and set the couches and the
chairs within the warm glass screens that let their ruddy light
shoot through to the furthest corners, there is a heavy cloud upon
the rooms which no light will dispel.

The old housekeeper and her son remain until the preparations are
complete, and then she returns upstairs. Volumnia has taken Mrs.
Rouncewell's place in the meantime, though pearl necklaces and
rouge pots, however calculated to embellish Bath, are but
indifferent comforts to the invalid under present circumstances.
Volumnia, not being supposed to know (and indeed not knowing) what
is the matter, has found it a ticklish task to offer appropriate
observations and consequently has supplied their place with
distracting smoothings of the bed-linen, elaborate locomotion on
tiptoe, vigilant peeping at her kinsman's eyes, and one
exasperating whisper to herself of, "He is asleep." In disproof of
which superfluous remark Sir Leicester has indignantly written on
the slate, "I am not."

Yielding, therefore, the chair at the bedside to the quaint old
housekeeper, Volumnia sits at a table a little removed,
sympathetically sighing. Sir Leicester watches the sleet and snow
and listens for the returning steps that he expects. In the ears
of his old servant, looking as if she had stepped out of an old
picture-frame to attend a summoned Dedlock to another world, the
silence is fraught with echoes of her own words, "who will tell
him!"

He has been under his valet's hands this morning to be made
presentable and is as well got up as the circumstances will allow.
He is propped with pillows, his grey hair is brushed in its usual
manner, his linen is arranged to a nicety, and he is wrapped in a
responsible dressing-gown. His eye-glass and his watch are ready
to his hand. It is necessary--less to his own dignity now perhaps
than for her sake--that he should be seen as little disturbed and
as much himself as may be. Women will talk, and Volumnia, though a
Dedlock, is no exceptional case. He keeps her here, there is
little doubt, to prevent her talking somewhere else. He is very
ill, but he makes his present stand against distress of mind and
body most courageously.

The fair Volumnia, being one of those sprightly girls who cannot
long continue silent without imminent peril of seizure by the
dragon Boredom, soon indicates the approach of that monster with a
series of undisguisable yawns. Finding it impossible to suppress
those yawns by any other process than conversation, she compliments
Mrs. Rouncewell on her son, declaring that he positively is one of
the finest figures she ever saw and as soldierly a looking person,
she should think, as what's his name, her favourite Life Guardsman
--the man she dotes on, the dearest of creatures--who was killed at
Waterloo.

Sir Leicester hears this tribute with so much surprise and stares
about him in such a confused way that Mrs. Rouncewell feels it
necesary to explain.

"Miss Dedlock don't speak of my eldest son, Sir Leicester, but my
youngest. I have found him. He has come home."

Sir Leicester breaks silence with a harsh cry. "George? Your son
George come home, Mrs. Rouncewell?"

The old housekeeper wipes her eyes. "Thank God. Yes, Sir
Leicester."

Does this discovery of some one lost, this return of some one so
long gone, come upon him as a strong confirmation of his hopes?
Does he think, "Shall I not, with the aid I have, recall her safely
after this, there being fewer hours in her case than there are
years in his?"

It is of no use entreating him; he is determined to speak now, and
he does. In a thick crowd of sounds, but still intelligibly enough
to be understood.

"Why did you not tell me, Mrs. Rouncewell?"

"It happened only yesterday, Sir Leicester, and I doubted your
being well enough to be talked to of such things."

Besides, the giddy Volumnia now remembers with her little scream
that nobody was to have known of his being Mrs. Rouncewell's son
and that she was not to have told. But Mrs. Rouncewell protests,
with warmth enough to swell the stomacher, that of course she would
have told Sir Leicester as soon as he got better.

"Where is your son George, Mrs. Rouncewell?" asks Sir Leicester,

Mrs. Rouncewell, not a little alarmed by his disregard of the
doctor's injunctions, replies, in London.

"Where in London?"

Mrs. Rouncewell is constrained to admit that he is in the house.

"Bring him here to my room. Bring him directly."

The old lady can do nothing but go in search of him. Sir
Leicester, with such power of movement as he has, arranges himself
a little to receive him. When he has done so, he looks out again
at the falling sleet and snow and listens again for the returning
steps. A quantity of straw has been tumbled down in the street to
deaden the noises there, and she might be driven to the door
perhaps without his hearing wheels.

He is lying thus, apparently forgetful of his newer and minor
surprise, when the housekeeper returns, accompanied by her trooper
son. Mr. George approaches softly to the bedside, makes his bow,
squares his chest, and stands, with his face flushed, very heartily
ashamed of himself.

"Good heaven, and it is really George Rouncewell!" exclaims Sir
Leicester. "Do you remember me, George?"

The trooper needs to look at him and to separate this sound from
that sound before he knows what he has said, but doing this and
being a little helped by his mother, he replies, "I must have a
very bad memory, indeed, Sir Leicester, if I failed to remember
you."

"When I look at you, George Rouncewell," Sir Leicester observes
with difficulty, "I see something of a boy at Chesney Wold--I
remember well--very well."

He looks at the trooper until tears come into his eyes, and then he
looks at the sleet and snow again.

"I ask your pardon, Sir Leicester," says the trooper, "but would
you accept of my arms to raise you up? You would lie easier, Sir
Leicester, if you would allow me to move you."

"If you please, George Rouncewell; if you will be so good."

The trooper takes him in his arms like a child, lightly raises him,
and turns him with his face more towards the window. "Thank you.
You have your mother's gentleness," returns Sir Leicester, "and
your own strength. Thank you."

He signs to him with his hand not to go away. George quietly
remains at the bedside, waiting to be spoken to.

"Why did you wish for secrecy?" It takes Sir Leicester some time
to ask this.

"Truly I am not much to boast of, Sir Leicester, and I--I should
still, Sir Leicester, if you was not so indisposed--which I hope
you will not be long--I should still hope for the favour of being
allowed to remain unknown in general. That involves explanations
not very hard to be guessed at, not very well timed here, and not
very creditable to myself. However opinions may differ on a
variety of subjects, I should think it would be universally agreed,
Sir Leicester, that I am not much to boast of."

"You have been a soldier," observes Sir Leicester, "and a faithful
one."

George makes his military how. "As far as that goes, Sir
Leicester, I have done my duty under discipline, and it was the
least I could do."

"You find me," says Sir Leicester, whose eyes are much attracted
towards him, "far from well, George Rouncewell."

"I am very sorry both to hear it and to see it, Sir Leicester."

"I am sure you are. No. In addition to my older malady, I have
had a sudden and bad attack. Something that deadens," making an
endeavour to pass one hand down one side, "and confuses," touching
his lips.

George, with a look of assent and sympathy, makes another bow. The
different times when they were both young men (the trooper much the
younger of the two) and looked at one another down at Chesney Wold
arise before them both and soften both.

Sir Leicester, evidently with a great determination to say, in his
own manner, something that is on his mind before relapsing into
silence, tries to raise himself among his pillows a little more.
George, observant of the action, takes him in his arms again and
places him as he desires to be. "Thank you, George. You are
another self to me. You have often carried my spare gun at Chesney
Wold, George. You are familiar to me in these strange
circumstances, very familiar." He has put Sir Leicester's sounder
arm over his shoulder in lifting him up, and Sir Leicester is slow
in drawing it away again as he says these words.

"I was about to add," he presently goes on, "I was about to add,
respecting this attack, that it was unfortunately simultaneous with
a slight misunderstanding between my Lady and myself. I do not
mean that there was any difference between us (for there has been
none), but that there was a misunderstanding of certain
circumstances important only to ourselves, which deprives me, for a
little while, of my Lady's society. She has found it necessary to
make a journey--I trust will shortly return. Volumnia, do I make
myself intelligible? The words are not quite under my command in
the manner of pronouncing them."

Volumnia understands him perfectly, and in truth be delivers
himself with far greater plainness than could have been supposed
possible a minute ago. The effort by which he does so is written
in the anxious and labouring expression of his face. Nothing but
the strength of his purpose enables him to make it.

"Therefore, Volumnia, I desire to say in your presence--and in the
presence of my old retainer and friend, Mrs. Rouncewell, whose
truth and fidelity no one can question, and in the presence of her
son George, who comes back like a familiar recollection of my youth
in the home of my ancestors at Chesney Wold--in case I should
relapse, in case I should not recover, in case I should lose both
my speech and the power of writing, though I hope for better
things--"

The old housekeeper weeping silently; Volumnia in the greatest
agitation, with the freshest bloom on her cheeks; the trooper with
his arms folded and his head a little bent, respectfully attentive.

"Therefore I desire to say, and to call you all to witness--
beginning, Volumnia, with yourself, most solemnly--that I am on
unaltered terms with Lady Dedlock. That I assert no cause whatever
of complaint against her. That I have ever had the strongest
affection for her, and that I retain it undiminished. Say this to
herself, and to every one. If you ever say less than this, you
will be guilty of deliberate falsehood to me."

Volumnia tremblingly protests that she will observe his injunctions
to the letter.

"My Lady is too high in position, too handsome, too accomplished,
too superior in most respects to the best of those by whom she is
surrounded, not to have her enemies and traducers, I dare say. Let
it be known to them, as I make it known to you, that being of sound
mind, memory, and understanding, I revoke no disposition I have
made in her favour. I abridge nothing I have ever bestowed upon
her. I am on unaltered terms with her, and I recall--having the
full power to do it if I were so disposed, as you see--no act I
have done for her advantage and happiness."

His formal array of words might have at any other time, as it has
often had, something ludicrous in it, but at this time it is
serious and affecting. His noble earnestness, his fidelity, his
gallant shielding of her, his generous conquest of his own wrong
and his own pride for her sake, are simply honourable, manly, and
true. Nothing less worthy can be seen through the lustre of such
qualities in the commonest mechanic, nothing less worthy can be
seen in the best-born gentleman. In such a light both aspire
alike, both rise alike, both children of the dust shine equally.

Overpowered by his exertions, he lays his head back on his pillows
and closes his eyes for not more than a minute, when he again
resumes his watching of the weather and his attention to the
muffled sounds. In the rendering of those little services, and in
the manner of their acceptance, the trooper has become installed as
necessary to him. Nothing has been said, but it is quite
understood. He falls a step or two backward to be out of sight and
mounts guard a little behind his mother's chair.

The day is now beginning to decline. The mist and the sleet into
which the snow has all resolved itself are darker, and the blaze
begins to tell more vividly upon the room walls and furniture. The
gloom augments; the bright gas springs up in the streets; and the
pertinacious oil lamps which yet hold their ground there, with
their source of life half frozen and half thawed, twinkle gaspingly
like fiery fish out of water--as they are. The world, which has
been rumbling over the straw and pulling at the bell, "to inquire,"
begins to go home, begins to dress, to dine, to discuss its dear
friend with all the last new modes, as already mentioned.

Now does Sir Leicester become worse, restless, uneasy, and in great
pain. Volumnia, lighting a candle (with a predestined aptitude for
doing something objectionable), is bidden to put it out again, for
it is not yet dark enough. Yet it is very dark too, as dark as it
will be all night. By and by she tries again. No! Put it out.
It is not dark enough yet.

His old housekeeper is the first to understand that he is striving
to uphold the fiction with himself that it is not growing late.

"Dear Sir Leicester, my honoured master," she softly whispers, "I
must, for your own good, and my duty, take the freedom of begging
and praying that you will not lie here in the lone darkness
watching and waiting and dragging through the time. Let me draw
the curtains, and light the candles, and make things more
comfortable about you. The church-clocks will strike the hours
just the same, Sir Leicester, and the night will pass away just the
same. My Lady will come back, just the same."

"I know it, Mrs. Rouncewell, but I am weak--and he has been so long
gone."

"Not so very long, Sir Leicester. Not twenty-four hours yet."

"But that is a long time. Oh, it is a long time!"

He says it with a groan that wrings her heart.

She knows that this is not a period for bringing the rough light
upon him; she thinks his tears too sacred to be seen, even by her.
Therefore she sits in the darkness for a while without a word, then
gently begins to move about, now stirring the fire, now standing at
the dark window looking out. Finally he tells her, with recovered
self-command, "As you say, Mrs. Rouncewell, it is no worse for
being confessed. It is getting late, and they are not come. Light
the room!" When it is lighted and the weather shut out, it is only
left to him to listen.

But they find that however dejected and ill he is, he brightens
when a quiet pretence is made of looking at the fires in her rooms
and being sure that everything is ready to receive her. Poor
pretence as it is, these allusions to her being expected keep up
hope within him.

Midnight comes, and with it the same blank. The carriages in the
streets are few, and other late sounds in that neighbourhood there
are none, unless a man so very nomadically drunk as to stray into
the frigid zone goes brawling and bellowing along the pavement.
Upon this wintry night it is so still that listening to the intense
silence is like looking at intense darkness. If any distant sound
be audible in this case, it departs through the gloom like a feeble
light in that, and all is heavier than before.

The corporation of servants are dismissed to bed (not unwilling to
go, for they were up all last night), and only Mrs. Rouncewell and
George keep watch in Sir Leicester's room. As the night lags
tardily on--or rather when it seems to stop altogether, at between
two and three o'clock--they find a restless craving on him to know
more about the weather, now he cannot see it. Hence George,
patrolling regularly every half-hour to the rooms so carefully
looked after, extends his march to the hall-door, looks about him,
and brings back the best report he can make of the worst of nights,
the sleet still falling and even the stone footways lying ankle-
deep in icy sludge.

Volumnia, in her room up a retired landing on the stair-case--the
second turning past the end of the carving and gilding, a cousinly
room containing a fearful abortion of a portrait of Sir Leicester
banished for its crimes, and commanding in the day a solemn yard
planted with dried-up shrubs like antediluvian specimens of black
tea--is a prey to horrors of many kinds. Not last nor least among
them, possibly, is a horror of what may befall her little income in
the event, as she expresses it, "of anything happening" to Sir
Leicester. Anything, in this sense, meaning one thing only; and
that the last thing that can happen to the consciousness of any
baronet in the known world.

An effect of these horrors is that Volumnia finds she cannot go to
bed in her own room or sit by the fire in her own room, but must
come forth with her fair head tied up in a profusion of shawl, and
her fair form enrobed in drapery, and parade the mansion like a
ghost, particularly haunting the rooms, warm and luxurious,
prepared for one who still does not return. Solitude under such
circumstances being not to be thought of, Volumnia is attended by
her maid, who, impressed from her own bed for that purpose,
extremely cold, very sleepy, and generally an injured maid as
condemned by circumstances to take office with a cousin, when she
had resolved to be maid to nothing less than ten thousand a year,
has not a sweet expression of countenance.

The periodical visits of the trooper to these rooms, however, in
the course of his patrolling is an assurance of protection and
company both to mistress and maid, which renders them very
acceptable in the small hours of the night. Whenever he is heard
advancing, they both make some little decorative preparation to
receive him; at other times they divide their watches into short
scraps of oblivion and dialogues not wholly free from acerbity, as
to whether Miss Dedlock, sitting with her feet upon the fender, was
or was not falling into the fire when rescued (to her great
displeasure) by her guardian genius the maid.

"How is Sir Leicester now, Mr. George?" inquires Volumnia,
adjusting her cowl over her head.

"Why, Sir Leicester is much the same, miss. He is very low and
ill, and he even wanders a little sometimes."

"Has he asked for me?" inquires Volumnia tenderly.

"Why, no, I can't say he has, miss. Not within my hearing, that is
to say."

"This is a truly sad time, Mr. George."

"It is indeed, miss. Hadn't you better go to bed?"

"You had a deal better go to bed, Miss Dedlock," quoth the maid
sharply.

But Volumnia answers No! No! She may be asked for, she may be
wanted at a moment's notice. She never should forgive herself "if
anything was to happen" and she was not on the spot. She declines
to enter on the question, mooted by the maid, how the spot comes to
be there, and not in her room (which is nearer to Sir Leicester's),
but staunchly declares that on the spot she will remain. Volumnia
further makes a merit of not having "closed an eye"--as if she had
twenty or thirty--though it is hard to reconcile this statement
with her having most indisputably opened two within five minutes.

But when it comes to four o'clock, and still the same blank,
Volumnia's constancy begins to fail her, or rather it begins to
strengthen, for she now considers that it is her duty to be ready
for the morrow, when much may be expected of her, that, in fact,
howsoever anxious to remain upon the spot, it may be required of
her, as an act of self-devotion, to desert the spot. So when the
trooper reappears with his, "Hadn't you better go to bed, miss?"
and when the maid protests, more sharply than before, "You had a
deal better go to bed, Miss Dedlock!" she meekly rises and says,
"Do with me what you think best!"

Mr. George undoubtedly thinks it best to escort her on his arm to
the door of her cousinly chamber, and the maid as undoubtedly
thinks it best to hustle her into bed with mighty little ceremony.
Accordingly, these steps are taken; and now the trooper, in his
rounds, has the house to himself.

There is no improvement in the weather. From the portico, from the
eaves, from the parapet, from every ledge and post and pillar,
drips the thawed snow. It has crept, as if for shelter, into the
lintels of the great door--under it, into the corners of the
windows, into every chink and crevice of retreat, and there wastes
and dies. It is falling still; upon the roof, upon the skylight,
even through the skylight, and drip, drip, drip, with the
regularity of the Ghost's Walk, on the stone floor below.

The trooper, his old recollections awakened by the solitary
grandeur of a great house--no novelty to him once at Chesney Wold--
goes up the stairs and through the chief rooms, holding up his
light at arm's length. Thinking of his varied fortunes within the
last few weeks, and of his rustic boyhood, and of the two periods
of his life so strangely brought together across the wide
intermediate space; thinking of the murdered man whose image is
fresh in his mind; thinking of the lady who has disappeared from
these very rooms and the tokens of whose recent presence are all
here; thinking of the master of the house upstairs and of the
foreboding, "Who will tell him!" he looks here and looks there, and
reflects how he MIGHT see something now, which it would tax his
boldness to walk up to, lay his hand upon, and prove to be a fancy.
But it is all blank, blank as the darkness above and below, while
he goes up the great staircase again, blank as the oppressive
silence.

"All is still in readiness, George Rouncewell?"

"Quite orderly and right, Sir Leicester."

"No word of any kind?"

The trooper shakes his head.

"No letter that can possibly have been overlooked?"

But he knows there is no such hope as that and lays his head down
without looking for an answer.

Very familiar to him, as he said himself some hours ago, George
Rouncewell lifts him into easier positions through the long
remainder of the blank wintry night, and equally familiar with his
unexpressed wish, extinguishes the light and undraws the curtains
at the first late break of day. The day comes like a phantom.
Cold, colourless, and vague, it sends a warning streak before it of
a deathlike hue, as if it cried out, "Look what I am bringing you
who watch there! Who will tell him!"

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