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GREAT EXPECTATIONS.

BY CHARLES DICKENS.

CHAPTER XL.

IT was fortunate for me that I had to take precautions
to ensure (so far as I could) the safety
of my dreaded visitor; for, this thought pressing
on me when I awoke, held other thoughts
in a confused concourse at a distance.

The impossibility of keeping him concealed
in the chambers was self-evident. It could not
be done, and the attempt to do it would inevitably
engender suspicion. True, I had no
Avenger in my service now, but I was looked
after by an inflammatory old female, assisted by
an animated rag-bag whom she called her niece,
and to keep a room secret from them would be
to invite curiosity and exaggeration. They
both had weak eyes, which I had long attributed
to their chronically looking in at keyholes, and
they were always at hand when not wanted;
indeed that was their only reliable quality
besides larceny. Not to get up a mystery with
these people, I resolved to announce in the
morning that my uncle had unexpectedly come
from the country.

This course I decided on while I was yet
groping about in the darkness for the means of
getting a light. Not stumbling on the means
after all, I was fain to go out to the adjacent
Lodge and get the watchman there to come
with his lantern. Now, in groping my way down
the black staircase I fell over something, and
that something was a man crouching in a corner.

As the man made no answer when I asked
him what he did there, but eluded my touch in
silence, I ran to the Lodge and urged the
watchman to come back quickly: telling him
of the incident on the way back. The wind
being as fierce as ever, we did not care to
endanger the light in the lantern by rekindling
the extinguished lamps on the staircase, but we
examined the staircase from the bottom to the
top and found no one there. It then occurred
to me as possible that the man might have
slipped into my rooms; so, lighting my caudle
at the watchman's, and leaving him standing at
the door, I examined them carefully, including
the room in which my dreaded guest lay asleep.
All was quiet, and assuredly no other man
was in those chambers.

It troubled me that there should have been
a lurker on the stairs, on that night of all nights
in the year, and I asked the watchman, on the
chance of eliciting some hopeful explanation
as I handed him a dram at tne door, whether
he had admitted at his gate any gentlemen who
had perceptibly been dining out? Yes, he said;
at different times of the night, three. One
lived in Fountain-court, and the other two lived
in the Lane, and he had seen them all go home.
Again, the only other man who dwelt in the
house of which my chambers formed a part, had
been in the country for some weeks; and he
certainly had not returned in the night, because
we had seen his door with his seal on it as we
came up-stairs.

"The night being so bad, sir," said the
watchman, as he gave me back my glass, "uncommon
few have come in at my gate. Besides
them three gentlemen that I have named,
I don't call to mind another since about eleven
o'clock, when a stranger asked for you."

"My uncle," I muttered. "Yes."

"You saw him, sir?"

"Yes. Oh yes."

"Likewise the person with him?"

"Person with him!" I repeated.

"I judged the person to be with him," returned
the watchman. "The person stopped
when he stopped to make inquiry of me, and the
person took this way when he took this way."

"What sort of person?"

The watchman had not particularly noticed;
he should say, a working person; to the best of
his belief, he had a dust-coloured kind of clothes
on, under a dark coat. The watchman made
more light of the matter than I did, and naturally;
not having my reason for attaching
weight to it.

When I had got rid of him, which I thought
it well to do without prolonging explanations,
my mind was much troubled by these two circumstances
taken together. Whereas they were
easy of innocent solution apartas, for instance,
some diner-out or diner-at-home, who had not
gone near this watchman's gate, might have
strayed to my staircase and dropped asleep there
and my nameless visitor might have brought
some one with him to show him the waystill,
joined, they had an ugly look to one as prone to
distrust and fear as the changes of a few hours
had made me.

I lighted my fire, which burnt with a raw
pale flare at that time of the morning, and

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