第25章 THREE EVENINGS IN THE HOUSE(3)
"Yes,with the one love given Once in a lifetime only,With one soul and one heaven!"
Then came a plaintive murmur,-
"Dora had once been told That he and Bertha--""Dearest,Bertha is far too cold To love;and I,my Dora,If once I fancied so,It was a brief delusion,And over,--long ago."
Between the Past and Present,On that bleak moment's height,She stood.As some lost traveller By a quick flash of light Seeing a gulf before him,With dizzy,sick despair,Reels to clutch backward,but to find A deeper chasm there.
The twilight grew still darker,The fragrant flowers more sweet,The stars shone out in heaven,The lamps gleam'd down the street;And hours pass'd in dreaming Over their new-found fate,Ere they could think of wondering Why Bertha was so late.
She came,and calmly listen'd;
In vain they strove to trace If Herbert's memory shadow'd In grief upon her face.
No blame,no wonder show'd there,No feeling could be told;Her voice was not less steady,Her manner not more cold.
They could not hear the anguish That broke in words of pain Through that calm summer midnight,-"My Herbert--mine again!"
Yes,they have once been parted,But this day shall restore The long lost one:she claims him:
"My Herbert--mine once more!"
Now Christmas Eve returning,Saw Bertha stand beside The altar,greeting Dora,Again a smiling bride;And now the gloomy evening Sees Bertha pale and worn,Leaving the house for ever,To wander out forlorn.
Forlorn--nay,not so.Anguish Shall do its work at length;Her soul,pass'd through the fire,Shall gain still purer strength.
Somewhere there waits for Bertha An earnest noble part;And,meanwhile,God is with her,-
God,and her own true heart!
I could warmly and sincerely praise the little poem,when Jarber had done reading it;but I could not say that it tended in any degree towards clearing up the mystery of the empty House.
Whether it was the absence of the irritating influence of Trottle,or whether it was simply fatigue,I cannot say,but Jarber did not strike me,that evening,as being in his usual spirits.And though he declared that he was not in the least daunted by his want of success thus far,and that he was resolutely determined to make more discoveries,he spoke in a languid absent manner,and shortly afterwards took his leave at rather an early hour.
When Trottle came back,and when I indignantly taxed him with Philandering,he not only denied the imputation,but asserted that he had been employed on my service,and,in consideration of that,boldly asked for leave of absence for two days,and for a morning to himself afterwards,to complete the business,in which he solemnly declared that I was interested.In remembrance of his long and faithful service to me,I did violence to myself,and granted his request.And he,on his side,engaged to explain himself to my satisfaction,in a week's time,on Monday evening the twentieth.
A day or two before,I sent to Jarber's lodgings to ask him to drop in to tea.His landlady sent back an apology for him that made my hair stand on end.His feet were in hot water;his head was in a flannel petticoat;a green shade was over his eyes;the rheumatism was in his legs;and a mustard-poultice was on his chest.He was also a little feverish,and rather distracted in his mind about Manchester Marriages,a Dwarf,and Three Evenings,or Evening Parties--his landlady was not sure which--in an empty House,with the Water Rate unpaid.
Under these distressing circumstances,I was necessarily left alone with Trottle.His promised explanation began,like Jarber's discoveries,with the reading of a written paper.The only difference was that Trottle introduced his manu under the name of a Report.
Charles Dickens and Others