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|Hunted Down||Charles Dickens|
|Page 4 of 4||
'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.'
'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.
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