London Bridge - Why not? - Every heart has its bitters - Wicked boys - Give me my book - Such a fright - Honour bright.
SO I went to London Bridge, and again took my station on the spot by the booth where I had stood on the former occasion. The booth, however, was empty; neither the apple-woman nor her stall was to be seen. I looked over the balustrade upon the river; the tide was now, as before, rolling beneath the arch with frightful impetuosity. As I gazed upon the eddies of the whirlpool, I thought within myself how soon human life would become extinct there; a plunge, a convulsive flounder, and all would be over. When I last stood over that abyss I had felt a kind of impulse - a fascination; I had resisted it - I did not plunge into it. At present I felt a kind of impulse to plunge; but the impulse was of a different kind; it proceeded from a loathing of life, I looked wistfully at the eddies - what had I to live for? - what, indeed! I thought of Brandt and Struensee, and Yeoman Patch - should I yield to the impulse - why not? My eyes were fixed on the eddies. All of a sudden I shuddered; I thought I saw heads in the pool; human bodies wallowing confusedly; eyes turned up to heaven with hopeless horror; was that water or - ? Where was the impulse now? I raised my eyes from the pool, I looked no more upon it - I looked forward, far down the stream in the far distance. Ha! what is that? I thought I saw a kind of Fata Morgana, green meadows, waving groves, a rustic home; but in the far distance - I stared - I stared - a Fata Morgana - it was gone. . . ."
I left the balustrade and walked to the farther end of the bridge, where I stood for some time contemplating the crowd; I then passed over to the other side with an intention of returning home; just half-way over the bridge, in a booth immediately opposite to the one in which I had formerly beheld her, sat my friend, the old apple-woman, huddled up behind her stall.
Well, mother, said I, how are you? The old woman lifted her head with a startled look.
Dont you know me? said I.
Yes, I think I do. Ah, yes, said she, as her features beamed with recollection, I know you, dear; you are the young lad that gave me the tanner. Well, child, got anything to sell?
Nothing at all, said I.
Yes, said I, bad enough, and ill usage.
Ah, I suppose they caught ye; well, child, never mind, better luck next time; I am glad to see you.
Thank you, said I, sitting down on the stone bench; I thought you had left the bridge - why have you changed your side?
The old woman shook.
What is the matter with you, said I; are you ill?
No, child, no; only -
Only what? Any bad news of your son?
No, child, no; nothing about my son. Only low, child - every heart has its bitters.
Thats true, said I; well, I dont want to know your sorrows; come, wheres the book?
The apple-woman shook more violently than before, bent herself down, and drew her cloak more closely about her than before. Book, child, what book?
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