There was a tearful silence, but it was not long before she looked upon him with a smile, and promised him, in a very gentle, quiet voice, that she would stay, and be his friend, as long as Heaven would let her. He clapped his hands for joy, and thanked her many times; and being charged to tell no person what had passed between them, gave her an earnest promise that he never would.
Nor did he, so far as the child could learn; but was her quiet companion in all her walks and musings, and never again adverted to the theme, which he felt had given her pain, although he was unconscious of its cause. Something of distrust lingered about him still; for he would often come, even in the dark evenings, and call in a timid voice outside the door to know if she were safe within; and being answered yes, and bade to enter, would take his station on a low stool at her feet, and sit there patiently until they came to seek, and take him home. Sure as the morning came, it found him lingering near the house to ask if she were well; and, morning, noon, or night, go where she would, he would forsake his playmates and his sports to bear her company.
'And a good little friend he is, too,' said the old sexton to her once. 'When his elder brother died--elder seems a strange word, for he was only seven years old--I remember this one took it sorely to heart.'
The child thought of what the schoolmaster had told her, and felt how its truth was shadowed out even in this infant.
'It has given him something of a quiet way, I think,' said the old man, 'though for that he is merry enough at times. I'd wager now that you and he have been listening by the old well.'
'Indeed we have not,' the child replied. 'I have been afraid to go near it; for I am not often down in that part of the church, and do not know the ground.'
'Come down with me,' said the old man. 'I have known it from a boy. Come!'
They descended the narrow steps which led into the crypt, and paused among the gloomy arches, in a dim and murky spot.
'This is the place,' said the old man. 'Give me your hand while you throw back the cover, lest you should stumble and fall in. I am too old--I mean rheumatic--to stoop, myself.'
'A black and dreadful place!' exclaimed the child.
'Look in,' said the old man, pointing downward with his finger.
The child complied, and gazed down into the pit.
'It looks like a grave itself,' said the old man.
'It does,' replied the child.
'I have often had the fancy,' said the sexton, 'that it might have been dug at first to make the old place more gloomy, and the old monks more religious. It's to be closed up, and built over.'
The child still stood, looking thoughtfully into the vault.
'We shall see,' said the sexton, 'on what gay heads other earth will have closed, when the light is shut out from here. God knows! They'll close it up, next spring.'
'The birds sing again in spring,' thought the child, as she leaned at her casement window, and gazed at the declining sun. 'Spring! a beautiful and happy time!'
A day or two after the Quilp tea-party at the Wilderness, Mr Swiveller walked into Sampson Brass's office at the usual hour, and being alone in that Temple of Probity, placed his hat upon the desk, and taking from his pocket a small parcel of black crape, applied himself to folding and pinning the same upon it, after the manner of a hatband. Having completed the construction of this appendage, he surveyed his work with great complacency, and put his hat on again--very much over one eye, to increase the mournfulness of the effect. These arrangements perfected to his entire satisfaction, he thrust his hands into his pockets, and walked up and down the office with measured steps.
'It has always been the same with me,' said Mr Swiveller, 'always. 'Twas ever thus--from childhood's hour I've seen my fondest hopes decay, I never loved a tree or flower but 'twas the first to fade away; I never nursed a dear Gazelle, to glad me with its soft black eye, but when it came to know me well, and love me, it was sure to marry a market-gardener.'
Overpowered by these reflections, Mr Swiveller stopped short at the clients' chair, and flung himself into its open arms.