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

of the railway warns us that it is time to be
off. Fighting and struggling, we manage at
length to get to our seats. But come to a dead
stop at Cancello. There are no carriages to
take on the hundreds who are waiting.

At last, however, I find my way back to

As we enter the capital at half-past ten
o'clock, it seemed as if we had passed from one
festivity to another. Our Nola friends are
either driving about and shouting as
vigorously as when last we saw them, or are else
seated at tables ranged along the pavements
of the streets. Good night, my merry friends
May this festa be not your last, and may I
live to meet you all again next year!


"IF I were to tell you all, sir, they cannot drag
me from my death-bed here and hang me,
can they? . . . Besides, I am innocent. . . . But
what does that matter? More innocent men
than I have been hung for less crimes than
murder before this. I will not tell you."

"Murder ? " said I, with unfeigned
astonishment. " Murder, Charlton ? " For this
man I was attending in my capacity as house-
surgeon of the Henborough workhouse. I had
known him for years, and of all my present
patients he had seemed the simplest and least
violent; his anxious eyeswhich closed so
lightly even in sleephis averted looks when
spoken to, his nervous timidity at the sight
of any strange face, I had set down as the
outward signs of a broken spirit and a
waning brain; for he had had enough of
sorrows to shake a stronger mind than his. I
could remember him with wife and children
about him, in a respectable, if not an extensive
way of business; and why it suddenly
fell off and was given up, and what
misfortune had changed the couple who had
been before so blithe, I had often wondered.
Their son, Robert, was now in the Crimea, a
sergeant; their daughter, Clara, a milliner's
apprentice in the north; Mrs. Charlton had
died a few months after the failure of their
trade, of a lingering and somewhat strange
disease; her husband was indeed, as he had
said, upon his death-bed. I had offered to
send for Clara at my own charge, but he
would not hear of it.

"I would not have a soul at my bedside,
save you, doctor, for worlds," he said.

He was quite friendless, too. His chamber
was common to five other workhouse folk,
but it was a July day, and they were sunning
themselves in the paved court outside; the
noonday beams which poured into the long
bare room found nothing fair to rest upon;
no print upon the whitewashed wall, no
commonest wild-flower in any of the few drab-
coloured mugs that strewed the table; no
sign of comfort anywhere. The sick man lay
upon his little iron bed, and I was sitting
upon the wooden stool beside it; his hand
lay upon mine, and his face was turned
towards the door, listening.  I rose, and
locked it ; and it was then that he began, as
I have said, to speak of murder, and his
innocenceto ask if it would be dangerous
to confess all.

I said, " No; nothing can harm you, now.
What you say to me is a secret as long as
you shall live; you may speak as if I was the
clergyman" — whom he had refused for some
reason, I knew not what, to see. " If it will ease
your mind to tell me anything, say on."

"You have known me, doctor, this twenty
years, and will easily believe me when I say
that I no more expected to become dependent
on the parish and to die in this workhouse,
than I dreamt of the possibility of my
committingany very terrible crime. I was
young to the world then, and foolish; and
my wife was not older or wiser. We were
not strong-minded folknor, alas! even
straightforward: through a plausible story
of dear times comingwhich may yet have
been partly truewe sold many a pound of
butter and ounce of tea; and if it was not
always a pound nor always an ounce, it was
never over the just weight, but under.
Spirits, alsothere being no public-house
close bywhich we of course had no licence
to sell, we would let our best customers
purchase, and drink in our back parlour, which
appeared in their weekly bills under the
head of candles, or what not; so that speaking
before our own children, we had to fabricate
strange stories, and give things their wrong
names; and many other devices we had,
which, though they got us little gains, seemed
not much, on the whole, to benefit us. I have
purposely told you the worst of us, because it
will explain our future conduct the more
easily; but you must not suppose that we
were thieves, or very wicked people; we
scarcely knew what wrong we were doing to
others, and far less to ourselves; and I
don't think in other respects we were a bad
pair. I know Sarah loved me, and I her
and our two children, dearly. Our shop, as
you remember, was between Henborough and
Swaffham, which were then quite separate
towns, with straggling houses and long lines
of railing to connect them. Our house was
the farthest of the last row, not detached."
Here the sick man raised himself on his
hands, and whispered: " Are you sure there's
nobody at the keyhole ?— nobody at any
crack or cranny, nor at the skylight ? "

I assured him that there was not; and
then the wretched creature pulled out from a
sort of opossum pocket in his very skin, and
under his flannel vest, a thin piece of paper,
folded; keeping it carefully beneath the bed-
clothes, so as to prevent its being visible
from without, he opened it, and I read these
printed words:


The above will be given to any person not actually
concerned in the crime, who shall give such information