Charles Dickens

It was at this dark time of my life that Herbert returned home one

evening, a good deal cast down, and said:

"My dear Handel, I fear I shall soon have to leave you."

His partner having prepared me for that, I was less surprised than

he thought.

"We shall lose a fine opportunity if I put off going to Cairo, and

I am very much afraid I must go, Handel, when you most need me."

"Herbert, I shall always need you, because I shall always love you;

but my need is no greater now, than at another time."

"You will be so lonely."

"I have not leisure to think of that," said I. "You know that I am

always with him to the full extent of the time allowed, and that I

should be with him all day long, if I could. And when I come away

from him, you know that my thoughts are with him."

The dreadful condition to which he was brought, was so appalling to

both of us, that we could not refer to it in plainer words.

"My dear fellow," said Herbert, "let the near prospect of our

separation - for, it is very near - be my justification for

troubling you about yourself. Have you thought of your future?"

"No, for I have been afraid to think of any future."

"But yours cannot be dismissed; indeed, my dear dear Handel, it

must not be dismissed. I wish you would enter on it now, as far as

a few friendly words go, with me."

"I will," said I.

"In this branch house of ours, Handel, we must have a--"

I saw that his delicacy was avoiding the right word, so I said, "A


"A clerk. And I hope it is not at all unlikely that he may expand

(as a clerk of your acquaintance has expanded) into a partner. Now,

Handel - in short, my dear boy, will you come to me?"

There was something charmingly cordial and engaging in the manner

in which after saying "Now, Handel," as if it were the grave

beginning of a portentous business exordium, he had suddenly given

up that tone, stretched out his honest hand, and spoken like a


"Clara and I have talked about it again and again," Herbert

pursued, "and the dear little thing begged me only this evening,

with tears in her eyes, to say to you that if you will live with us

when we come together, she will do her best to make you happy, and

to convince her husband's friend that he is her friend too. We

should get on so well, Handel!"

I thanked her heartily, and I thanked him heartily, but said I

could not yet make sure of joining him as he so kindly offered.

Firstly, my mind was too preoccupied to be able to take in the

subject clearly. Secondly - Yes! Secondly, there was a vague

something lingering in my thoughts that will come out very near the

end of this slight narrative.

"But if you thought, Herbert, that you could, without doing any

injury to your business, leave the question open for a little


"For any while," cried Herbert. "Six months, a year!"

"Not so long as that," said I. "Two or three months at most."

Herbert was highly delighted when we shook hands on this

arrangement, and said he could now take courage to tell me that he

believed he must go away at the end of the week.

"And Clara?" said I.

"The dear little thing," returned Herbert, "holds dutifully to her

father as long as he lasts; but he won't last long. Mrs. Whimple

confides to me that he is certainly going."

"Not to say an unfeeling thing," said I, "he cannot do better than


"I am afraid that must be admitted," said Herbert: "and then I

shall come back for the dear little thing, and the dear little

thing and I will walk quietly into the nearest church. Remember!

The blessed darling comes of no family, my dear Handel, and never

looked into the red book, and hasn't a notion about her grandpapa.

What a fortune for the son of my mother!"

On the Saturday in that same week, I took my leave of Herbert -

full of bright hope, but sad and sorry to leave me - as he sat on

one of the seaport mail coaches.