Charles Dickens

We were

anxious for the time when he would go to his lodging, and leave us

together, but he was evidently jealous of leaving us together, and

sat late. It was midnight before I took him round to Essex-street,

and saw him safely in at his own dark door. When it closed upon

him, I experienced the first moment of relief I had known since the

night of his arrival.

Never quite free from an uneasy remembrance of the man on the

stairs, I had always looked about me in taking my guest out after

dark, and in bringing him back; and I looked about me now.

Difficult as it is in a large city to avoid the suspicion of being

watched, when the mind is conscious of danger in that regard, I

could not persuade myself that any of the people within sight cared

about my movements. The few who were passing, passed on their

several ways, and the street was empty when I turned back into the

Temple. Nobody had come out at the gate with us, nobody went in at

the gate with me. As I crossed by the fountain, I saw his lighted

back windows looking bright and quiet, and, when I stood for a few

moments in the doorway of the building where I lived, before going

up the stairs, Garden-court was as still and lifeless as the

staircase was when I ascended it.

Herbert received me with open arms, and I had never felt before, so

blessedly, what it is to have a friend. When he had spoken some

sound words of sympathy and encouragement, we sat down to consider

the question, What was to be done?

The chair that Provis had occupied still remaining where it had

stood - for he had a barrack way with him of hanging about one

spot, in one unsettled manner, and going through one round of

observances with his pipe and his negro-head and his jack-knife and

his pack of cards, and what not, as if it were all put down for him

on a slate - I say, his chair remaining where it had stood, Herbert

unconsciously took it, but next moment started out of it, pushed it

away, and took another. He had no occasion to say, after that, that

he had conceived an aversion for my patron, neither had I occasion

to confess my own. We interchanged that confidence without shaping

a syllable.

"What," said I to Herbert, when he was safe in another chair, "what

is to be done?"

"My poor dear Handel," he replied, holding his head, "I am too

stunned to think."

"So was I, Herbert, when the blow first fell. Still, something must

be done. He is intent upon various new expenses - horses, and

carriages, and lavish appearances of all kinds. He must be stopped


"You mean that you can't accept--"

"How can I?" I interposed, as Herbert paused. "Think of him! Look at


An involuntary shudder passed over both of us.

"Yet I am afraid the dreadful truth is, Herbert, that he is

attached to me, strongly attached to me. Was there ever such a


"My poor dear Handel," Herbert repeated.

"Then," said I, "after all, stopping short here, never taking

another penny from him, think what I owe him already! Then again: I

am heavily in debt - very heavily for me, who have now no

expectations - and I have been bred to no calling, and I am fit for


"Well, well, well!" Herbert remonstrated. "Don't say fit for


"What am I fit for? I know only one thing that I am fit for, and

that is, to go for a soldier. And I might have gone, my dear

Herbert, but for the prospect of taking counsel with your

friendship and affection."

Of course I broke down there: and of course Herbert, beyond seizing

a warm grip of my hand, pretended not to know it.

"Anyhow, my dear Handel," said he presently, "soldiering won't do.

If you were to renounce this patronage and these favours, I suppose

you would do so with some faint hope of one day repaying what you

have already had. Not very strong, that hope, if you went

soldiering! Besides, it's absurd.