The Whole Case So Far

BRADLEY HEADSTONE held fast by that other interview he was to have with Lizzie Hexam. In stipulating for it, he had been impelled by a feeling little short of desperation, and the feeling abided by him. It was very soon after his interview with the Secretary, that he and Charley Hexam set out one leaden evening, not unnoticed by Miss Peecher, to have this desperate interview accomplished.

“That dolls’ dressmaker,” said Bradley, “is favourable neither to me nor to you, Hexam.”

“A pert crooked little chit, Mr. Headstone! I knew she would put herself in the way, if she could, and would be sure to strike in with something impertinent. It was on that account that I proposed our going to the City to-night and meeting my sister.”

“So I supposed,” said Bradley, getting his gloves on his nervous hands as he walked. “So I supposed.”

“Nobody but my sister,” pursued Charley, “would have found out such an extraordinary companion. She has done it in a ridiculous fancy of giving herself up to another. She told me so, that night when we went there.”

“Why should she give herself up to the dressmaker?” asked Bradley.

“Oh!” said the boy, colouring. “One of her romantic ideas! I tried to convince her so, but I didn’t succeed. However, what we have got to do, is, to succeed to-night, Mr. Headstone, and then all the rest follows.”

“You are still sanguine, Hexam.”

“Certainly I am, sir. Why, we have everything on our side.”

“Except your sister, perhaps,” thought Bradley. But he only gloomily thought it, and said nothing.

“Everything on our side,” repeated the boy with boyish confidence. “Respectability, an excellent connexion for me, common sense, everything!”

“To be sure, your sister has always shown herself a devoted sister,” said Bradley, willing to sustain himself on even that low ground of hope.

“Naturally, Mr. Headstone, I have a good deal of influence with her. And now that you have honoured me with your confidence and spoken to me first, I say again, we have everything on our side.”

And Bradley thought again, “Except your sister, perhaps.”

A grey dusty withered evening in London city has not a hopeful aspect. The closed warehouses and offices have an air of death about them, and the national dread of colour has an air of mourning. The towers and steeples of the many house-encompassed churches, dark and dingy as the sky that seems descending on them, are no relief to the general gloom; a sun-dial on a church-wall has the look, in its useless black shade, of having failed in its business enterprise and stopped payment for ever; melancholy waifs and strays of house-keepers and porters sweep melancholy waifs and strays of papers and pins into the kennels, and other more melancholy waifs and strays explore them, searching and stooping and poking for anything to sell. The set of humanity outward from the City is as a set of prisoners departing from gaol, and dismal Newgate seems quite as fit a stronghold for the mighty Lord Mayor as his own state-dwelling.

On such an evening, when the city grit gets into the hair and eyes and skin, and when the fallen leaves of the few unhappy city trees grind down in corners under wheels of wind, the schoolmaster and the pupil emerged upon the Leadenhall Street region, spying eastward for Lizzie. Being something too soon in their arrival, they lurked at a corner, waiting for her to appear. The best-looking among us will not look very well, lurking at a corner, and Bradley came out of that disadvantage very poorly indeed.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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