Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit

Little Dorrit/2


CHAPTER 1. Sun and Shadow

Thirty years ago, Marseilles lay burning in the sun, one day.

A blazing sun upon a fierce August day was no greater rarity in southernFrance then, than at any other time, before or since. Everything inMarseilles, and about Marseilles, had stared at the fervid sky, and beenstared at in return, until a staring habit had become universal there.Strangers were stared out of countenance by staring white houses,staring white walls, staring white streets, staring tracts of arid road,staring hills from which verdure was burnt away. The only things to beseen not fixedly staring and glaring were the vines drooping under theirload of grapes. These did occasionally wink a little, as the hot airbarely moved their faint leaves.

There was no wind to make a ripple on the foul water within the harbour,or on the beautiful sea without. The line of demarcation between the twocolours, black and blue, showed the point which the pure sea would notpass; but it lay as quiet as the abominable pool, with which it nevermixed. Boats without awnings were too hot to touch; ships blistered attheir moorings; the stones of the quays had not cooled, night orday, for months. Hindoos, Russians, Chinese, Spaniards, Portuguese,Englishmen, Frenchmen, Genoese, Neapolitans, Venetians, Greeks, Turks,descendants from all the builders of Babel, come to trade at Marseilles,sought the shade alike--taking refuge in any hiding-place from a sea toointensely blue to be looked at, and a sky of purple, set with one greatflaming jewel of fire.

The universal stare made the eyes ache. Towards the distant line ofItalian coast, indeed, it was a little relieved by light clouds of mist,slowly rising from the evaporation of the sea, but it softened nowhereelse. Far away the staring roads, deep in dust, stared from thehill-side, stared from the hollow, stared from the interminableplain. Far away the dusty vines overhanging wayside cottages, and themonotonous wayside avenues of parched trees without shade, droopedbeneath the stare of earth and sky. So did the horses with drowsy bells,in long files of carts, creeping slowly towards the interior; so didtheir recumbent drivers, when they were awake, which rarely happened;so did the exhausted labourers in the fields. Everything that lived orgrew, was oppressed by the glare; except the lizard, passing swiftlyover rough stone walls, and the cicala, chirping his dry hot chirp, likea rattle. The very dust was scorched brown, and something quivered inthe atmosphere as if the air itself were panting.

Blinds, shutters, curtains, awnings, were all closed and drawn to keepout the stare. Grant it but a chink or keyhole, and it shot in like awhite-hot arrow. The churches were the freest from it. To come out ofthe twilight of pillars and arches--dreamily dotted with winking lamps,dreamily peopled with ugly old shadows piously dozing, spitting, andbegging--was to plunge into a fiery river, and swim for life to thenearest strip of shade. So, with people lounging and lying wherevershade was, with but little hum of tongues or barking of dogs, withoccasional jangling of discordant church bells and rattling of viciousdrums, Marseilles, a fact to be strongly smelt and tasted, lay broilingin the sun one day.

In Marseilles that day there was a villainous prison. In one of itschambers, so repulsive a place that even the obtrusive stare blinked atit, and left it to such refuse of reflected light as it could find foritself, were two men. Besides the two men, a notched and disfiguredbench, immovable from the wall, with a draught-board rudely hacked uponit with a knife, a set of draughts, made of old buttons and soup bones,a set of dominoes, two mats, and two or three wine bottles. That was allthe chamber held, exclusive of rats and other unseen vermin, in additionto the seen vermin, the two men.

It received such light as it got through a grating of iron barsfashioned like a pretty large window, by means of which it could bealways inspected from the gloomy staircase on which the grating gave.There was a broad strong ledge of stone to this grating where the bottomof it was let into the masonry, three or four feet above the ground.Upon it, one of the two men lolled, half sitting and half lying, withhis knees drawn up, and his feet and shoulders planted against theopposite sides of the aperture. The bars were wide enough apart toadmit of his thrusting his arm through to the elbow; and so he held onnegligently, for his greater ease.

A prison taint was on everything there. The imprisoned air, theimprisoned light, the imprisoned damps, the imprisoned men, were alldeteriorated by confinement. As the captive men were faded and haggard,so the iron was rusty, the stone was slimy, the wood was rotten, the airwas faint, the light was dim. Like a well, like a vault, like a tomb,the prison had no knowledge of the brightness outside, and would havekept its polluted atmosphere intact in one of the spice islands of theIndian ocean.

The man who lay on the ledge of the grating was even chilled. He jerkedhis great cloak more heavily upon him by an impatient movement of oneshoulder, and growled, 'To the devil with this Brigand of a Sun thatnever shines in here!'

He was waiting to be fed, looking sideways through the bars that hemight see the further down the stairs, with much of the expression ofa wild beast in similar expectation. But his eyes, too close together,were not so nobly set in his head as those of the king of beasts are inhis, and they were sharp rather than bright--pointed weapons with littlesurface to betray them. They had no depth or change; they glittered,and they opened and shut. So far, and waiving their use to himself, aclockmaker could have made a better pair. He had a hook nose, handsomeafter its kind, but too high between the eyes by probably just as muchas his eyes were too near to one another. For the rest, he was large andtall in frame, had thin lips, where his thick moustache showed them atall, and a quantity of dry hair, of no definable colour, in its shaggystate, but shot with red. The hand with which he held the grating(seamed all over the back with ugly scratches newly healed), wasunusually small and plump; would have been unusually white but for theprison grime.

The other man was lying on the stone floor, covered with a coarse browncoat.

'Get up, pig!' growled the first. 'Don't sleep when I am hungry.'

'It's all one, master,' said the pig, in a submissive manner, and notwithout cheerfulness; 'I can wake when I will, I can sleep when I will.It's all the same.'

As he said it, he rose, shook himself, scratched himself, tied his browncoat loosely round his neck by the sleeves (he had previously used itas a coverlet), and sat down upon the pavement yawning, with his backagainst the wall opposite to the grating.

'Say what the hour is,' grumbled the first man.

'The mid-day bells will ring--in forty minutes.' When he made thelittle pause, he had looked round the prison-room, as if for certaininformation.

'You are a clock. How is it that you always know?'

'How can I say? I always know what the hour is, and where I am. I wasbrought in here at night, and out of a boat, but I know where I am. Seehere! Marseilles harbour;' on his knees on the pavement, mapping it allout with a swarthy forefinger; 'Toulon (where the galleys are), Spainover there, Algiers over _there_. Creeping away to the left here, Nice.Round by the Cornice to Genoa. Genoa Mole and Harbour. QuarantineGround. City there; terrace gardens blushing with the bella donna. Here,Porto Fino. Stand out for Leghorn. Out again for Civita Vecchia, so awayto--hey! there's no room for Naples;' he had got to the wall by thistime; 'but it's all one; it's in there!'

He remained on his knees, looking up at his fellow-prisoner with alively look for a prison. A sunburnt, quick, lithe, little man, thoughrather thickset. Earrings in his brown ears, white teeth lighting up hisgrotesque brown face, intensely black hair clustering about his brownthroat, a ragged red shirt open at his brown breast. Loose, seaman-liketrousers, decent shoes, a long red cap, a red sash round his waist, anda knife in it.

'Judge if I come back from Naples as I went! See here, my master! CivitaVecchia, Leghorn, Porto Fino, Genoa, Cornice, Off Nice (which is inthere), Marseilles, you and me. The apartment of the jailer and his keysis where I put this thumb; and here at my wrist they keep the nationalrazor in its case--the guillotine locked up.'

The other man spat suddenly on the pavement, and gurgled in his throat.

Some lock below gurgled in _its_ throat immediately afterwards, and thena door crashed. Slow steps began ascending the stairs; the prattle ofa sweet little voice mingled with the noise they made; and theprison-keeper appeared carrying his daughter, three or four years old,and a basket.

'How goes the world this forenoon, gentlemen? My little one, you see,going round with me to have a peep at her father's birds. Fie, then!Look at the birds, my pretty, look at the birds.'

He looked sharply at the birds himself, as he held the child up atthe grate, especially at the little bird, whose activity he seemed tomistrust. 'I have brought your bread, Signor John Baptist,' said he(they all spoke in French, but the little man was an Italian); 'and if Imight recommend you not to game--'

'You don't recommend the master!' said John Baptist, showing his teethas he smiled.

'Oh! but the master wins,' returned the jailer, with a passing look ofno particular liking at the other man, 'and you lose. It's quite anotherthing. You get husky bread and sour drink by it; and he gets sausage ofLyons, veal in savoury jelly, white bread, strachino cheese, and goodwine by it. Look at the birds, my pretty!'

'Poor birds!' said the child.

The fair little face, touched with divine compassion, as it peepedshrinkingly through the grate, was like an angel's in the prison. JohnBaptist rose and moved towards it, as if it had a good attraction forhim. The other bird remained as before, except for an impatient glanceat the basket.

'Stay!' said the jailer, putting his little daughter on the outer ledgeof the grate, 'she shall feed the birds. This big loaf is for SignorJohn Baptist. We must break it to get it through into the cage. So,there's a tame bird to kiss the little hand! This sausage in a vineleaf is for Monsieur Rigaud. Again--this veal in savoury jelly is forMonsieur Rigaud. Again--these three white little loaves are for MonsieurRigaud. Again, this cheese--again, this wine--again, this tobacco--allfor Monsieur Rigaud. Lucky bird!'

The child put all these things between the bars into the soft, Smooth,well-shaped hand, with evident dread--more than once drawing backher own and looking at the man with her fair brow roughened into anexpression half of fright and half of anger. Whereas she had put thelump of coarse bread into the swart, scaled, knotted hands of JohnBaptist (who had scarcely as much nail on his eight fingers and twothumbs as would have made out one for Monsieur Rigaud), with readyconfidence; and, when he kissed her hand, had herself passed itcaressingly over his face. Monsieur Rigaud, indifferent to thisdistinction, propitiated the father by laughing and nodding at thedaughter as often as she gave him anything; and, so soon as he hadall his viands about him in convenient nooks of the ledge on which herested, began to eat with an appetite.

When Monsieur Rigaud laughed, a change took place in his face, thatwas more remarkable than prepossessing. His moustache went up under hisnose, and his nose came down over his moustache, in a very sinister andcruel manner.

'There!' said the jailer, turning his basket upside down to beat thecrumbs out, 'I have expended all the money I received; here is the noteof it, and _that's_ a thing accomplished. Monsieur Rigaud, as I expectedyesterday, the President will look for the pleasure of your society atan hour after mid-day, to-day.'

'To try me, eh?' said Rigaud, pausing, knife in hand and morsel inmouth.

'You have said it. To try you.'

'There is no news for me?' asked John Baptist, who had begun,contentedly, to munch his bread.

The jailer shrugged his shoulders.

'Lady of mine! Am I to lie here all my life, my father?'

'What do I know!' cried the jailer, turning upon him with southernquickness, and gesticulating with both his hands and all his fingers,as if he were threatening to tear him to pieces. 'My friend, how is itpossible for me to tell how long you are to lie here? What do I know,John Baptist Cavalletto? Death of my life! There are prisoners heresometimes, who are not in such a devil of a hurry to be tried.'

He seemed to glance obliquely at Monsieur Rigaud in this remark; butMonsieur Rigaud had already resumed his meal, though not with quite soquick an appetite as before.

'Adieu, my birds!' said the keeper of the prison, taking his prettychild in his arms, and dictating the words with a kiss.

'Adieu, my birds!' the pretty child repeated.

Her innocent face looked back so brightly over his shoulder, as hewalked away with her, singing her the song of the child's game:

'Who passes by this road so late? Compagnon de la Majolaine! Who passes by this road so late? Always gay!'

that John Baptist felt it a point of honour to reply at the grate, andin good time and tune, though a little hoarsely:

'Of all the king's knights 'tis the flower, Compagnon de la Majolaine! Of all the king's knights 'tis the flower, Always gay!'

Which accompanied them so far down the few steep stairs, that theprison-keeper had to stop at last for his little daughter to hear thesong out, and repeat the Refrain while they were yet in sight. Then thechild's head disappeared, and the prison-keeper's head disappeared, butthe little voice prolonged the strain until the door clashed.

Monsieur Rigaud, finding the listening John Baptist in his way beforethe echoes had ceased (even the echoes were the weaker for imprisonment,and seemed to lag), reminded him with a push of his foot that he hadbetter resume his own darker place. The little man sat down againupon the pavement with the negligent ease of one who was thoroughlyaccustomed to pavements; and placing three hunks of coarse bread beforehimself, and falling to upon a fourth, began contentedly to work his waythrough them as if to clear them off were a sort of game.

Perhaps he glanced at the Lyons sausage, and perhaps he glanced at theveal in savoury jelly, but they were not there long, to make his mouthwater; Monsieur Rigaud soon dispatched them, in spite of the presidentand tribunal, and proceeded to suck his fingers as clean as he could,and to wipe them on his vine leaves. Then, as he paused in his drinkto contemplate his fellow-prisoner, his moustache went up, and his nosecame down.

'How do you find the bread?'

'A little dry, but I have my old sauce here,' returned John Baptist,holding up his knife.

'How sauce?'

'I can cut my bread so--like a melon. Or so--like an omelette. Orso--like a fried fish. Or so--like Lyons sausage,' said John Baptist,demonstrating the various cuts on the bread he held, and soberly chewingwhat he had in his mouth.

'Here!' cried Monsieur Rigaud. 'You may drink. You may finish this.'

It was no great gift, for there was mighty little wine left; but SignorCavalletto, jumping to his feet, received the bottle gratefully, turnedit upside down at his mouth, and smacked his lips.

'Put the bottle by with the rest,' said Rigaud.

The little man obeyed his orders, and stood ready to give him a lightedmatch; for he was now rolling his tobacco into cigarettes by the aid oflittle squares of paper which had been brought in with it.

'Here! You may have one.'

'A thousand thanks, my master!' John Baptist said in his own language,and with the quick conciliatory manner of his own countrymen.

Monsieur Rigaud arose, lighted a cigarette, put the rest of his stockinto a breast-pocket, and stretched himself out at full length upon thebench. Cavalletto sat down on the pavement, holding one of his ankles ineach hand, and smoking peacefully. There seemed to be some uncomfortableattraction of Monsieur Rigaud's eyes to the immediate neighbourhood ofthat part of the pavement where the thumb had been in the plan. Theywere so drawn in that direction, that the Italian more than oncefollowed them to and back from the pavement in some surprise.

'What an infernal hole this is!' said Monsieur Rigaud, breaking a longpause. 'Look at the light of day. Day? the light of yesterday week, thelight of six months ago, the light of six years ago. So slack and dead!'

It came languishing down a square funnel that blinded a window in thestaircase wall, through which the sky was never seen--nor anything else.

'Cavalletto,' said Monsieur Rigaud, suddenly withdrawing his gaze fromthis funnel to which they had both involuntarily turned their eyes, 'youknow me for a gentleman?'

'Surely, surely!'

'How long have we been here?'

'I, eleven weeks, to-morrow night at midnight. You, nine weeks and threedays, at five this afternoon.'

'Have I ever done anything here? Ever touched the broom, or spreadthe mats, or rolled them up, or found the draughts, or collected thedominoes, or put my hand to any kind of work?'


'Have you ever thought of looking to me to do any kind of work?'

John Baptist answered with that peculiar back-handed shake of theright forefinger which is the most expressive negative in the Italianlanguage.

'No! You knew from the first moment when you saw me here, that I was agentleman?'

'ALTRO!' returned John Baptist, closing his eyes and giving his head amost vehement toss. The word being, according to its Genoese emphasis,a confirmation, a contradiction, an assertion, a denial, a taunt,a compliment, a joke, and fifty other things, became in the presentinstance, with a significance beyond all power of written expression,our familiar English 'I believe you!'

'Haha! You are right! A gentleman I am! And a gentleman I'll live, anda gentleman I'll die! It's my intent to be a gentleman. It's my game.Death of my soul, I play it out wherever I go!'

He changed his posture to a sitting one, crying with a triumphant air:

'Here I am! See me! Shaken out of destiny's dice-box into the companyof a mere smuggler;--shut up with a poor little contraband trader, whosepapers are wrong, and whom the police lay hold of besides, for placinghis boat (as a means of getting beyond the frontier) at the dispositionof other little people whose papers are wrong; and he instinctivelyrecognises my position, even by this light and in this place. It's welldone! By Heaven! I win, however the game goes.'

Again his moustache went up, and his nose came down.

'What's the hour now?' he asked, with a dry hot pallor upon him, ratherdifficult of association with merriment.

'A little half-hour after mid-day.'

'Good! The President will have a gentleman before him soon. Come!Shall I tell you on what accusation? It must be now, or never, for Ishall not return here. Either I shall go free, or I shall go to be madeready for shaving. You know where they keep the razor.'

Signor Cavalletto took his cigarette from between his parted lips, andshowed more momentary discomfiture than might have been expected.

'I am a'--Monsieur Rigaud stood up to say it--'I am a cosmopolitangentleman. I own no particular country. My father was Swiss--Canton deVaud. My mother was French by blood, English by birth. I myself was bornin Belgium. I am a citizen of the world.'

His theatrical air, as he stood with one arm on his hip within the foldsof his cloak, together with his manner of disregarding his companionand addressing the opposite wall instead, seemed to intimate that hewas rehearsing for the President, whose examination he was shortly toundergo, rather than troubling himself merely to enlighten so small aperson as John Baptist Cavalletto.

'Call me five-and-thirty years of age. I have seen the world. I havelived here, and lived there, and lived like a gentleman everywhere. Ihave been treated and respected as a gentleman universally. If you tryto prejudice me by making out that I have lived by my wits--how doyour lawyers live--your politicians--your intriguers--your men of theExchange?'

He kept his small smooth hand in constant requisition, as if it were awitness to his gentility that had often done him good service before.

'Two years ago I came to Marseilles. I admit that I was poor; I had beenill. When your lawyers, your politicians, your intriguers, your men ofthe Exchange fall ill, and have not scraped money together, _they_ becomepoor. I put up at the Cross of Gold,--kept then by Monsieur HenriBarronneau--sixty-five at least, and in a failing state of health. I hadlived in the house some four months when Monsieur Henri Barronneau hadthe misfortune to die;--at any rate, not a rare misfortune, that. Ithappens without any aid of mine, pretty often.'

John Baptist having smoked his cigarette down to his fingers' ends,Monsieur Rigaud had the magnanimity to throw him another. He lighted thesecond at the ashes of the first, and smoked on, looking sideways at hiscompanion, who, preoccupied with his own case, hardly looked at him.

'Monsieur Barronneau left a widow. She was two-and-twenty. She hadgained a reputation for beauty, and (which is often another thing) wasbeautiful. I continued to live at the Cross of Gold. I married MadameBarronneau. It is not for me to say whether there was any greatdisparity in such a match. Here I stand, with the contamination of ajail upon me; but it is possible that you may think me better suited toher than her former husband was.'

He had a certain air of being a handsome man--which he was not; anda certain air of being a well-bred man--which he was not. It was mereswagger and challenge; but in this particular, as in many others,blustering assertion goes for proof, half over the world.

'Be it as it may, Madame Barronneau approved of me. _That_ is not toprejudice me, I hope?'

His eye happening to light upon John Baptist with this inquiry, thatlittle man briskly shook his head in the negative, and repeated in anargumentative tone under his breath, altro, altro, altro, altro--aninfinite number of times.

'Now came the difficulties of our position. I am proud. I say nothingin defence of pride, but I am proud. It is also my character to govern.I can't submit; I must govern. Unfortunately, the property of MadameRigaud was settled upon herself. Such was the insane act of her latehusband. More unfortunately still, she had relations. When a wife'srelations interpose against a husband who is a gentleman, who is proud,and who must govern, the consequences are inimical to peace. Therewas yet another source of difference between us. Madame Rigaud wasunfortunately a little vulgar. I sought to improve her manners andameliorate her general tone; she (supported in this likewise by herrelations) resented my endeavours. Quarrels began to arise between us;and, propagated and exaggerated by the slanders of the relations ofMadame Rigaud, to become notorious to the neighbours. It has been saidthat I treated Madame Rigaud with cruelty. I may have been seen to slapher face--nothing more. I have a light hand; and if I have been seenapparently to correct Madame Rigaud in that manner, I have done italmost playfully.'

If the playfulness of Monsieur Rigaud were at all expressed by his smileat this point, the relations of Madame Rigaud might have said thatthey would have much preferred his correcting that unfortunate womanseriously.

'I am sensitive and brave. I do not advance it as a merit to besensitive and brave, but it is my character. If the male relations ofMadame Rigaud had put themselves forward openly, I should have known howto deal with them. They knew that, and their machinations were conductedin secret; consequently, Madame Rigaud and I were brought into frequentand unfortunate collision. Even when I wanted any little sum of moneyfor my personal expenses, I could not obtain it without collision--andI, too, a man whose character it is to govern! One night, Madame Rigaudand myself were walking amicably--I may say like lovers--on a heightoverhanging the sea. An evil star occasioned Madame Rigaud to advert toher relations; I reasoned with her on that subject, and remonstrated onthe want of duty and devotion manifested in her allowing herself to beinfluenced by their jealous animosity towards her husband. Madame Rigaudretorted; I retorted; Madame Rigaud grew warm; I grew warm, and provokedher. I admit it. Frankness is a part of my character. At length, MadameRigaud, in an access of fury that I must ever deplore, threw herselfupon me with screams of passion (no doubt those that were overheardat some distance), tore my clothes, tore my hair, lacerated my hands,trampled and trod the dust, and finally leaped over, dashing herself todeath upon the rocks below. Such is the train of incidents whichmalice has perverted into my endeavouring to force from Madame Rigauda relinquishment of her rights; and, on her persistence in a refusal tomake the concession I required, struggling with her--assassinating her!'

He stepped aside to the ledge where the vine leaves yet lay strewnabout, collected two or three, and stood wiping his hands upon them,with his back to the light.

'Well,' he demanded after a silence, 'have you nothing to say to allthat?'

'It's ugly,' returned the little man, who had risen, and was brighteninghis knife upon his shoe, as he leaned an arm against the wall.

'What do you mean?'

John Baptist polished his knife in silence.

'Do you mean that I have not represented the case correctly?'

'Al-tro!' returned John Baptist. The word was an apology now, and stoodfor 'Oh, by no means!'

'What then?'

'Presidents and tribunals are so prejudiced.'

'Well,' cried the other, uneasily flinging the end of his cloak over hisshoulder with an oath, 'let them do their worst!'

'Truly I think they will,' murmured John Baptist to himself, as he benthis head to put his knife in his sash.

Nothing more was said on either side, though they both began walkingto and fro, and necessarily crossed at every turn. Monsieur Rigaudsometimes stopped, as if he were going to put his case in a new light,or make some irate remonstrance; but Signor Cavalletto continuing togo slowly to and fro at a grotesque kind of jog-trot pace with his eyesturned downward, nothing came of these inclinings.

By-and-by the noise of the key in the lock arrested them both. The soundof voices succeeded, and the tread of feet. The door clashed, the voicesand the feet came on, and the prison-keeper slowly ascended the stairs,followed by a guard of soldiers.

'Now, Monsieur Rigaud,' said he, pausing for a moment at the grate, withhis keys in his hands, 'have the goodness to come out.'

'I am to depart in state, I see?'

'Why, unless you did,' returned the jailer, 'you might depart in so manypieces that it would be difficult to get you together again. There's acrowd, Monsieur Rigaud, and it doesn't love you.'

He passed on out of sight, and unlocked and unbarred a low door in thecorner of the chamber. 'Now,' said he, as he opened it and appearedwithin, 'come out.'

There is no sort of whiteness in all the hues under the sun at all likethe whiteness of Monsieur Rigaud's face as it was then. Neither is thereany expression of the human countenance at all like that expression inevery little line of which the frightened heart is seen to beat. Bothare conventionally compared with death; but the difference is the wholedeep gulf between the struggle done, and the fight at its most desperateextremity.

He lighted another of his paper cigars at his companion's; put ittightly between his teeth; covered his head with a soft slouched hat;threw the end of his cloak over his shoulder again; and walked out intothe side gallery on which the door opened, without taking any furthernotice of Signor Cavalletto. As to that little man himself, his wholeattention had become absorbed in getting near the door and looking outat it. Precisely as a beast might approach the opened gate of his denand eye the freedom beyond, he passed those few moments in watching andpeering, until the door was closed upon him.

There was an officer in command of the soldiers; a stout, serviceable,profoundly calm man, with his drawn sword in his hand, smoking a cigar.He very briefly directed the placing of Monsieur Rigaud in the midst ofthe party, put himself with consummate indifference at their head, gavethe word 'march!' and so they all went jingling down the staircase. Thedoor clashed--the key turned--and a ray of unusual light, and a breathof unusual air, seemed to have passed through the jail, vanishing in atiny wreath of smoke from the cigar.

Still, in his captivity, like a lower animal--like some impatient ape,or roused bear of the smaller species--the prisoner, now left solitary,had jumped upon the ledge, to lose no glimpse of this departure. As heyet stood clasping the grate with both hands, an uproar broke upon hishearing; yells, shrieks, oaths, threats, execrations, all comprehendedin it, though (as in a storm) nothing but a raging swell of sounddistinctly heard.

Excited into a still greater resemblance to a caged wild animal by hisanxiety to know more, the prisoner leaped nimbly down, ran round thechamber, leaped nimbly up again, clasped the grate and tried to shakeit, leaped down and ran, leaped up and listened, and never rested untilthe noise, becoming more and more distant, had died away. How manybetter prisoners have worn their noble hearts out so; no man thinkingof it; not even the beloved of their souls realising it; great kingsand governors, who had made them captive, careering in the sunlightjauntily, and men cheering them on. Even the said great personages dyingin bed, making exemplary ends and sounding speeches; and polite history,more servile than their instruments, embalming them!

At last, John Baptist, now able to choose his own spot within thecompass of those walls for the exercise of his faculty of going to sleepwhen he would, lay down upon the bench, with his face turned over on hiscrossed arms, and slumbered. In his submission, in his lightness, in hisgood humour, in his short-lived passion, in his easy contentment withhard bread and hard stones, in his ready sleep, in his fits and starts,altogether a true son of the land that gave him birth.

The wide stare stared itself out for one while; the Sun went down ina red, green, golden glory; the stars came out in the heavens, and thefire-flies mimicked them in the lower air, as men may feebly imitatethe goodness of a better order of beings; the long dusty roads and theinterminable plains were in repose--and so deep a hush was on the sea,that it scarcely whispered of the time when it shall give up its dead.