Charles Dickens

Her visitor, standing quite still, looked at her attentively.

'She is very pretty,' she said to herself. 'I never saw so beautiful a face. O how unlike me!'

It was a curious thing to say, but it had some hidden meaning, for it filled her eyes with tears.

'I know I must be right. I know he spoke of her that evening. I could very easily be wrong on any other subject, but not on this, not on this!'

With a quiet and tender hand she put aside a straying fold of the sleeper's hair, and then touched the hand that lay outside the covering.

'I like to look at her,' she breathed to herself. 'I like to see what has affected him so much.'

She had not withdrawn her hand, when the sleeper opened her eyes and started.

'Pray don't be alarmed. I am only one of the travellers from down- stairs. I came to ask if you were better, and if I could do anything for you.'

'I think you have already been so kind as to send your servants to my assistance?'

'No, not I; that was my sister. Are you better?'

'Much better. It is only a slight bruise, and has been well looked to, and is almost easy now. It made me giddy and faint in a moment. It had hurt me before; but at last it overpowered me all at once.' 'May I stay with you until some one comes? Would you like it?'

'I should like it, for it is lonely here; but I am afraid you will feel the cold too much.'

'I don't mind cold. I am not delicate, if I look so.' She quickly moved one of the two rough chairs to the bedside, and sat down. The other as quickly moved a part of some travelling wrapper from herself, and drew it over her, so that her arm, in keeping it about her, rested on her shoulder.

'You have so much the air of a kind nurse,' said the lady, smiling on her, 'that you seem as if you had come to me from home.'

'I am very glad of it.'

'I was dreaming of home when I woke just now. Of my old home, I mean, before I was married.'

'And before you were so far away from it.'

'I have been much farther away from it than this; but then I took the best part of it with me, and missed nothing. I felt solitary as I dropped asleep here, and, missing it a little, wandered back to it.' There was a sorrowfully affectionate and regretful sound in her voice, which made her visitor refrain from looking at her for the moment.

'It is a curious chance which at last brings us together, under this covering in which you have wrapped me,' said the visitor after a pause;'for do you know, I think I have been looking for you some time.' 'Looking for me?'

'I believe I have a little note here, which I was to give to you whenever I found you. This is it. Unless I greatly mistake, it is addressed to you? Is it not?'

The lady took it, and said yes, and read it. Her visitor watched her as she did so. It was very short. She flushed a little as she put her lips to her visitor's cheek, and pressed her hand.

'The dear young friend to whom he presents me, may be a comfort to me at some time, he says. She is truly a comfort to me the first time I see her.'

'Perhaps you don't,' said the visitor, hesitating--'perhaps you don't know my story? Perhaps he never told you my story ?'


'Oh no, why should he! I have scarcely the right to tell it myself at present, because I have been entreated not to do so. There is not much in it, but it might account to you for my asking you not to say anything about the letter here. You saw my family with me, perhaps? Some of them--I only say this to you--are a little proud, a little prejudiced.'

'You shall take it back again,' said the other; 'and then my husband is sure not to see it. He might see it and speak of it, otherwise, by some accident. Will you put it in your bosom again, to be certain?'

She did so with great care. Her small, slight hand was still upon the letter, when they heard some one in the gallery outside.

'I promised,' said the visitor, rising, 'that I would write to him after seeing you (I could hardly fail to see you sooner or later), and tell him if you were well and happy.