+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

"Can't you guess?" said he, laughingly.

"No; I have never seen such before."

"Well," said he, musingly, "perhaps they
are puzzlingI suppose they are. But mayhap,
too, if I thought you'd guess the meaning, I'd
not have been so ready to show it to you." And
with this he replaced the boat in his pocket and
smoked away. "You ain't a genius, my worthy
friend, that's a fact," said he, sententiously.

"I opine that the same judgment might be
passed upon a great many?" said I, testily.

"No," continued he, following on his own
thoughts without heeding my remark, "you'll
not set the Thames a-fire."

"Is that the best test of a man's ability?"
asked I, sneeringly.

"You're the sort of fellow that ought to be
let us see now what you ought to beyes,
you're just the stamp of man for an apothecary."

"You are so charming in your frankness," said
I, "that you almost tempt me to imitate you."

"And why not? sure we oughtn't to talk to
each other like two devils in waiting. Out with
what you have to say."

"I was just thinking," said I—"led to it by
that speculative turn of yoursI was just
thinking in what station your abilities would
have pre-eminently distinguished you."

"Well, have you hit it?"

"I'm not quite certain," said I, trying to
screw up my courage for an impertinence, "but
I half suspect that in our great national works
our lines of railroad, for instancethere must
be a strong infusion of men with tastes and
habits resembling yours."

"You mean the navvies?" broke he in.
"You're right, I was a navvy once; I turned
the first spadeful of earth on the Coppleston
Junction, and, seeing what a good thing might
be made of it, I suggested task-work to my
comrades, and we netted from four-and-six to
five shillings a day, each. In eight months
after, I was made an inspector: so that you see
strong sinews can be good allies to a strong
head and a stout will."

I do not believe that the most angry rebuke,
the most sarcastic rejoinder, could have covered
me with a tenth part of the shame and confusion
than did these few quiet words. I'd have given
worlds, if I had them, to make a due reparation
for my rudeness, but I knew not how to accomplish
it. I looked in his face to read if I might
hit upon some trait by which his nature could be
approached; but I might as well have gazed at a
line of railroad to guess the sort of town that it led
to. The stern, rugged, bold countenance seemed
to imply little else than daring and determination,
and I could not but wonder how I had ever
dared to take a liberty with one of his stamp.

"Well," said I, at last, and wishing to lead
him back to his story, "and after being made

"You can speak German well," said he,
totally inattentive to my question; "just ask
one of these people when there will be any
conveyance from this to Ragatz."

"Ragatz of all places!" exclaimed I.

"Yes; they tell me it's good for the rheumatics,
and I have got some old shoulder pains I'd like
to shake off before winter. And then this
sprain too: I foresee I shall not be able to
walk much for some days to come."

"Ragatz is on my road; I'm about to cross
the Splugen into Italy; I'll bear you company
so far, if you have no objection."

"Well, it may not seem civil to say it, but I
have an objection," said he, rising from the
table. "When I've got weighty things on my
mind I've a bad habit of talking of them to
myself aloud. I can't help it, and so I keep
strictly alone till my plans are all fixed and
settled; after that, there's no danger of my
revealing them to any one. There now, you have
my reason, and you'll not dispute that it's a good

"You may not be too distrustful of yourself,"
said I, laughing, "but assuredly you are far too
flattering in your estimate of my acuteness."

"I'll not risk it," said he, bluntly, as he
sought for his hat.

"Wait a moment," said I. "You told me at
Constance that you were in want of money; at
the time I was not exactly in funds myself.
Yesterday, however, I received a remittance, and
if ten or twenty pounds be of any service, they
are heartily at your disposal."

He looked at me fixedly, almost sternly, for a
minute or two, and then said,

"Is this true, or is it that you have changed
your mind about me?"

"True," said I—"strictly true."

"Will this loanI mean it to be a loan
inconvenience you much?"

"No, no; I make you the offer freely."

"I take it, then. Let me have ten pounds; and
write down there an address where I am to remit
it some day or other, though I can't say when."

"There may be some difficulty about that,"
said I. "Stay! I mean to be at Rome some
time in the winter; send it to me there."

"To what banker?"

"I have no banker, I never had a banker.
There's my name, and let the post-office be the

"Whichever way you're bent on going you're
not on the road to be a rich man," said Harpar,
as he deposited my gold in his leather purse;
"but I hope you'll not lose by me. Good-by."
He gave me his hand, not very warmly or
cordially either, and was gone ere I well knew it.

    Now ready, price Six Shillings, the Second Edition
                       BY CHARLES DICKENS.

           London: 26, Wellington-street, Strand, W.C.;
           and CHAPMAN and HALL, 193, Piccadilly, W.