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Chapter 4

For six or seven months I saw no more of Mr. Slinkton. He called
once at my house, but I was not at home; and he once asked me to
dine with him in the Temple, but I was engaged. His friend's
assurance was effected in March. Late in September or early in
October I was down at Scarborough for a breath of sea-air, where I
met him on the beach. It was a hot evening; he came toward me with
his hat in his hand; and there was the walk I had felt so strongly
disinclined to take in perfect order again, exactly in front of the
bridge of my nose.

He was not alone, but had a young lady on his arm.

She was dressed in mourning, and I looked at her with great
interest. She had the appearance of being extremely delicate, and
her face was remarkably pale and melancholy; but she was very
pretty. He introduced her as his niece, Miss Niner.

'Are you strolling, Mr. Sampson? Is it possible you can be idle?'

It WAS possible, and I WAS strolling.

'Shall we stroll together?'

'With pleasure.'

The young lady walked between us, and we walked on the cool sea
sand, in the direction of Filey.

'There have been wheels here,' said Mr. Slinkton. 'And now I look
again, the wheels of a hand-carriage! Margaret, my love, your
shadow without doubt!'

'Miss Niner's shadow?' I repeated, looking down at it on the sand.

'Not that one,' Mr. Slinkton returned, laughing. 'Margaret, my
dear, tell Mr. Sampson.'

'Indeed,' said the young lady, turning to me, 'there is nothing to
tell - except that I constantly see the same invalid old gentleman
at all times, wherever I go. I have mentioned it to my uncle, and
he calls the gentleman my shadow.'

'Does he live in Scarborough?' I asked.

'He is staying here.'

'Do you live in Scarborough?'

'No, I am staying here. My uncle has placed me with a family here,
for my health.'

'And your shadow?' said I, smiling.

'My shadow,' she answered, smiling too, 'is - like myself - not
very robust, I fear; for I lose my shadow sometimes, as my shadow
loses me at other times. We both seem liable to confinement to the
house. I have not seen my shadow for days and days; but it does
oddly happen, occasionally, that wherever I go, for many days
together, this gentleman goes. We have come together in the most
unfrequented nooks on this shore.'

'Is this he?' said I, pointing before us.

The wheels had swept down to the water's edge, and described a
great loop on the sand in turning. Bringing the loop back towards
us, and spinning it out as it came, was a hand-carriage, drawn by a
man.

'Yes,' said Miss Niner, 'this really is my shadow, uncle.'

As the carriage approached us and we approached the carriage, I saw
within it an old man, whose head was sunk on his breast, and who
was enveloped in a variety of wrappers. He was drawn by a very
quiet but very keen-looking man, with iron-gray hair, who was
slightly lame. They had passed us, when the carriage stopped, and
the old gentleman within, putting out his arm, called to me by my
name. I went back, and was absent from Mr. Slinkton and his niece
for about five minutes.

When I rejoined them, Mr. Slinkton was the first to speak. Indeed,
he said to me in a raised voice before I came up with him:

'It is well you have not been longer, or my niece might have died
of curiosity to know who her shadow is, Mr. Sampson.'

'An old East India Director,' said I. 'An intimate friend of our
friend's, at whose house I first had the pleasure of meeting you.
A certain Major Banks. You have heard of him?'

'Never.'

'Very rich, Miss Niner; but very old, and very crippled. An
amiable man, sensible - much interested in you. He has just been
expatiating on the affection that he has observed to exist between
you and your uncle.'

Mr. Slinkton was holding his hat again, and he passed his hand up
the straight walk, as if he himself went up it serenely, after me.

'Mr. Sampson,' he said, tenderly pressing his niece's arm in his,
'our affection was always a strong one, for we have had but few
near ties. We have still fewer now. We have associations to bring
us together, that are not of this world, Margaret.'

'Dear uncle!' murmured the young lady, and turned her face aside to
hide her tears.

'My niece and I have such remembrances and regrets in common, Mr.
Sampson,' he feelingly pursued, 'that it would be strange indeed if
the relations between us were cold or indifferent. If I remember a
conversation we once had together, you will understand the
reference I make. Cheer up, dear Margaret. Don't droop, don't
droop. My Margaret! I cannot bear to see you droop!'

The poor young lady was very much affected, but controlled herself.
His feelings, too, were very acute. In a word, he found himself
under such great need of a restorative, that he presently went
away, to take a bath of sea-water, leaving the young lady and me
sitting by a point of rock, and probably presuming - but that you
will say was a pardonable indulgence in a luxury - that she would
praise him with all her heart.

She did, poor thing! With all her confiding heart, she praised him
to me, for his care of her dead sister, and for his untiring
devotion in her last illness. The sister had wasted away very
slowly, and wild and terrible fantasies had come over her toward
the end, but he had never been impatient with her, or at a loss;
had always been gentle, watchful, and self-possessed. The sister
had known him, as she had known him, to be the best of men, the
kindest of men, and yet a man of such admirable strength of
character, as to be a very tower for the support of their weak
natures while their poor lives endured.

'I shall leave him, Mr. Sampson, very soon,' said the young lady;
'I know my life is drawing to an end; and when I am gone, I hope he
will marry and be happy. I am sure he has lived single so long,
only for my sake, and for my poor, poor sister's.'

The little hand-carriage had made another great loop on the damp
sand, and was coming back again, gradually spinning out a slim
figure of eight, half a mile long.

'Young lady,' said I, looking around, laying my hand upon her arm,
and speaking in a low voice, 'time presses. You hear the gentle
murmur of that sea?'

She looked at me with the utmost wonder and alarm, saying, 'Yes!'

'And you know what a voice is in it when the storm comes?'

'Yes!'

'You see how quiet and peaceful it lies before us, and you know
what an awful sight of power without pity it might be, this very
night!'

'Yes!'

'But if you had never heard or seen it, or heard of it in its
cruelty, could you believe that it beats every inanimate thing in
its way to pieces, without mercy, and destroys life without
remorse?'

'You terrify me, sir, by these questions!'

'To save you, young lady, to save you! For God's sake, collect
your strength and collect your firmness! If you were here alone,
and hemmed in by the rising tide on the flow to fifty feet above
your head, you could not be in greater danger than the danger you
are now to be saved from.'

The figure on the sand was spun out, and straggled off into a
crooked little jerk that ended at the cliff very near us.

'As I am, before Heaven and the Judge of all mankind, your friend,
and your dead sister's friend, I solemnly entreat you, Miss Niner,
without one moment's loss of time, to come to this gentleman with
me!'

If the little carriage had been less near to us, I doubt if I could
have got her away; but it was so near that we were there before she
had recovered the hurry of being urged from the rock. I did not
remain there with her two minutes. Certainly within five, I had
the inexpressible satisfaction of seeing her - from the point we
had sat on, and to which I had returned - half supported and half
carried up some rude steps notched in the cliff, by the figure of
an active man. With that figure beside her, I knew she was safe
anywhere.

I sat alone on the rock, awaiting Mr. Slinkton's return. The
twilight was deepening and the shadows were heavy, when he came
round the point, with his hat hanging at his button-hole, smoothing
his wet hair with one of his hands, and picking out the old path
with the other and a pocket-comb.

'My niece not here, Mr. Sampson?' he said, looking about.

'Miss Niner seemed to feel a chill in the air after the sun was
down, and has gone home.'

He looked surprised, as though she were not accustomed to do
anything without him; even to originate so slight a proceeding.

'I persuaded Miss Niner,' I explained.

'Ah!' said he. 'She is easily persuaded - for her good. Thank
you, Mr. Sampson; she is better within doors. The bathing-place
was farther than I thought, to say the truth.'

'Miss Niner is very delicate,' I observed.

He shook his head and drew a deep sigh. 'Very, very, very. You
may recollect my saying so. The time that has since intervened has
not strengthened her. The gloomy shadow that fell upon her sister
so early in life seems, in my anxious eyes, to gather over her,
ever darker, ever darker. Dear Margaret, dear Margaret! But we
must hope.'

The hand-carriage was spinning away before us at a most indecorous
pace for an invalid vehicle, and was making most irregular curves
upon the sand. Mr. Slinkton, noticing it after he had put his
handkerchief to his eyes, said;

'If I may judge from appearances, your friend will be upset, Mr.
Sampson.'

'It looks probable, certainly,' said I.

'The servant must be drunk.'

'The servants of old gentlemen will get drunk sometimes,' said I.

'The major draws very light, Mr. Sampson.'

'The major does draw light,' said I.

By this time the carriage, much to my relief, was lost in the
darkness. We walked on for a little, side by side over the sand,
in silence. After a short while he said, in a voice still affected
by the emotion that his niece's state of health had awakened in
him,

'Do you stay here long, Mr. Sampson?'

'Why, no. I am going away to-night.'

'So soon? But business always holds you in request. Men like Mr.
Sampson are too important to others, to be spared to their own need
of relaxation and enjoyment.'

'I don't know about that,' said I. 'However, I am going back.'

'To London?'

'To London.'

'I shall be there too, soon after you.'


I knew that as well as he did. But I did not tell him so. Any
more than I told him what defensive weapon my right hand rested on
in my pocket, as I walked by his side. Any more than I told him
why I did not walk on the sea side of him with the night closing
in.

We left the beach, and our ways diverged. We exchanged goodnight,
and had parted indeed, when he said, returning,

'Mr. Sampson, MAY I ask? Poor Meltham, whom we spoke of, - dead
yet?'

'Not when I last heard of him; but too broken a man to live long,
and hopelessly lost to his old calling.'

'Dear, dear, dear!' said he, with great feeling. 'Sad, sad, sad!
The world is a grave!' And so went his way.

It was not his fault if the world were not a grave; but I did not
call that observation after him, any more than I had mentioned
those other things just now enumerated. He went his way, and I
went mine with all expedition. This happened, as I have said,
either at the end of September or beginning of October. The next
time I saw him, and the last time, was late in November.

Charles Dickens

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