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smart commercial traveller, in whom she
recognised, half with joy, half with terror, the
original of the shadowy portrait. Well, there
was love at first sight on his part, and what may
fairly be called love at second sight on hers;
and when they were marriedwhich they soon
werethey looked a very promising couple.
The bridegroom resolved to pass a week or two
in the village, and as he happened at the time to
have about him plenty of money, which he
expended with liberality, he soon became generally
popular. This popularity, too, was seasoned
with respect, for he was quite enough of a
gentleman to be vastly superior to the
rough-hewn dolts who constituted the society of the

As the time for returning to London
approached, Betsy began to pack up a few of her
valuables among which, the box containing the
knife was one of the most important. It had
previously been hidden in the corner of a
cupboard, and as it was a curious-looking article,
elaborately ornamented with fantastic scrolls of
elder-pith, it at once attracted the attention of
her husband. Harrythat was his nametook
it up, carefully examined the curious pattern on
the lid and sides, and opened it. Then, as if
immediately transfixed with horror, he let it fall
with all its contents to the ground.

Poor Betsy stared with all her might, and
was about to inquire into the cause of this
perturbation, when he stopped her short, by hastily
picking up the knife, and exclaiming: " Cursed
witch, where did you get this?"

Betsy, who did not exactly like to say,
commenced a series of stammers and stutters, but
was soon relieved from the trouble of an explanation
by her husband, who, maddened with
fury, shouted out:

"Wretch, on the night when I lost this knife,
I was dragged, by invisible hands, through a
lake of burning brimstone, and suffered tortures
that the human tongue cannot describe."

Betsy was on the point of saying " La!" or
"Gracious!" or " Bless me!" 'or some other
short phrase rather indicative of surprise than
intelligence, when she was stopped by her
husband, who, with a frantic gesture, bounded
towards her, and plunged the knife into her

When the assizes came on, Harry was tried
for murder; but he displayed to the court such
an uncommon familiarity with demons and
witches, that although he flourished in the good
old hanging times, he was merely confined for
life in a lunatic asylum as an incurable madman.

The disconsolate mother of Betsy, who
afterwards heard from Fanny the particulars of the
experimental night, resolved that the wicked
books should no longer remain in her house.
However, being a thrifty dame, she did not
throw them into the fire; but taking advantage
of a journey to London, resold them very cheap
to the bookseller who had vended them very
dear to the defunct cobbler, and whose name
had been written on the title-page. At the
same time she called him an abominable old man
vindicating this expression of opinion by telling
him the story, which he afterwards retailed to

* * * *

The village where the events above narrated
took place is not very far from London, and
shortly after I had heard the bookseller's tale I
paid it a visit. As I approached it, my eye fell
upon an exceedingly dirty old woman, who a
century or two before would certainly have been
burned for a witch, and who, with a short pipe
in her mouth, was busily engaged in picking up
sticks and other articles of small value by the
roadside. Not noticing me, she was talking to
herself very hard:

"Betsy murdered, and Fanny dead from
ill-usage, and I shall never get married," said the
old crone; " no, I shall never get married, for
I saw the coffin, and the burial-day is sure to
come before the wedding."

"Why, bless me!" t cried out, in astonishment,
"you must surely be Nancy!"

"Eh?" ejaculated the crone, fixing her sharp
eyes upon me. " Eh? Yes, Nancy is my name.
Though how you know that I don't know, and I
don't care. But I hope you'll give me a trifle
to get some tobacco."

I put half-a-crown in her hand, when she
hobbled off as quick as she could, without uttering
a word of thanks.


Ten or eleven years ago, in the third volume
of Household Words, we described the
reading-rooms established among themselves by the
working men of Carlisle. They were originated
in the exciting months of the year 'forty-eight,
when the desire of working men, as of all other
classes of society, was strong to see every day's
news of the rising of popular desire in arms
against the despotisms of Europe. Mechanics'
Institutes were even then already lost to the
mechanics; tradesmen and their sons, and
apprentices, with clean hands and clean coats, had
ousted the men in fustian out of their
committees, and at last out of the very
reading-rooms. Therefore, among the working men of
Carlisle, there was begun in the most natural
way what we may now almost dignify by the
name of a new movement. A few men who
were neighbours and friends agreed to club
a penny a week, to buy newspapers for common
use. More than a few were eager for the
news, and many pence being subscribed, a
school-room was lent of evenings, in which the
papers could be placed and read. After the
peculiar excitement of the year had passed
away, this little society was melting back into
nothingness, when Dr. Elliott, a sensible
Carlisle physician, and one or two other men of
the middle class intervened, not as patrons, but
as advisers, with a word or two of well-timed
suggestions, and a trifle of substantial help in
gifts of books and so forth. It needed few
words to put the Carlisle working men on the
right track. They soon had not one reading

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