Chapter 52

Kind of stupor - Peace of God - Divine hand - Farewell, child - The fair - Massive edifice - Battered tars - Lost! lost! - Good-day, gentlemen.

LEAVING the house of the Armenian, I strolled about for some time; almost mechanically my feet conducted me to London Bridge, to the booth in which stood the stall of the old apple-woman; the sound of her voice aroused me, as I sat in a kind of stupor on the stone bench beside her; she was inquiring what was the matter with me.

At first, I believe, I answered her very incoherently, for I observed alarm beginning to depict itself upon her countenance. Rousing myself, however, I in my turn put a few questions to her upon her present condition and prospects. The old woman’s countenance cleared up instantly; she informed me that she had never been more comfortable in her life; that her trade, her honest trade - laying an emphasis on the word honest - had increased of late wonderfully; that her health was better, and, above all, that she felt no fear and horror ‘here,’ laying her hand on her breast.

On my asking her whether she still heard voices in the night, she told me that she frequently did; but that the present were mild voices, sweet voices, encouraging voices, very different from the former ones; that a voice, only the night previous, had cried out about ‘the peace of God,’ in particularly sweet accents; a sentence which she remembered to have read in her early youth in the primer, but which she had clean forgotten till the voice the night before brought it to her recollection.

After a pause, the old woman said to me, ‘I believe, dear, that it is the blessed book you brought me which has wrought this goodly change. How glad I am now that I can read; but oh what a difference between the book you brought to me and the one you took away! I believe the one you brought is written by the finger of God, and the other by - ‘

‘Don’t abuse the book,’ said I, ‘it is an excellent book for those who can understand it; it was not exactly suited to you, and perhaps it had been better that you had never read it - and yet, who knows? Peradventure, if you had not read that book, you would not have been fitted for the perusal of the one which you say is written by the finger of God’; and, pressing my hand to my head, I fell into a deep fit of musing. ‘What, after all,’ thought I, ‘if there should be more order and system in the working of the moral world than I have thought? Does there not seem in the present instance to be something like the working of a Divine hand? I could not conceive why this woman, better educated than her mother, should have been, as she certainly was, a worse character than her mother. Yet perhaps this woman may be better and happier than her mother ever was; perhaps she is so already - perhaps this world is not a wild, lying dream, as I have occasionally supposed it to be.’

But the thought of my own situation did not permit me to abandon myself much longer to these musings. I started up. ‘Where are you going, child?’ said the woman, anxiously. ‘I scarcely know,’ said I; ‘anywhere.’ ‘Then stay here, child,’ said she; ‘I have much to say to you.’ ‘No,’ said I, ‘I shall be better moving about’; and I was moving away, when it suddenly occurred to me that I might never see this woman again; and turning round I offered her my hand, and bade her good-bye. ‘Farewell, child,’ said the old woman, ‘and God bless you!’ I then moved along the bridge until I reached the Southwark side, and, still holding on my course, my mind again became quickly abstracted from all surrounding objects.

At length I found myself in a street or road, with terraces on either side, and seemingly of interminable length, leading, as it would appear, to the south-east. I was walking at a great rate - there were likewise a great number of people, also walking at a great rate; also carts and carriages driving at a great rate; and all - men, carts, and carriages - going in the selfsame direction, namely to the south-east. I stopped for a moment and deliberated whether or not I should proceed. What business had I in that direction? I could not say that I had any particular business in that direction, but what could I do were I to turn back? only walk about well-known streets; and, if I must walk, why not continue in the direction in which I was to see whither the road and its terraces led? I was ere in a terra incognita, and an unknown place had always some interest for me; moreover, I had a desire to know whither all this crowd was going, and

  By PanEris using Melati.

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