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nity—but might have said he looked like a haunted man? Who could have observed his manner, taciturn, gloomy, shadowed by habitual reserve, retiring always and jocund never, with a distraught air of reverting to a bygone place and time, or of listening to some old echoes in his mind, but might have said it was the manner of a haunted man? Who could have heard his voice, slow-speaking, deep, and grave, with a natural fulness and melody in it which he seemed to set himself against and stop, but might have said it was the voice of a haunted man ? Who that had seen him in his inner chamber, part library and part laboratory-for he was, as all the world knew far and wide, a learned man in chemistry, and a teacher on whose lips and hands a crowd of aspiring ears and eyes hung daily-who that had seen him there, upon a winter night, alone, surrounded by his drugs, and implements, and books ; the shadow of his shaded lamp a monstrous beetle on the wall, monstrous among a crowd of spectral shapes raised there by the fickering of the fire upon the quaint objects around him; some of these phantoms (the reflection of glass vessels that held liquids) trembling at heart like things that knew his power to uncombine them, and to give back their component parts to fire and vapour;—who that had seen him there, his work done, and he pondering in his chair before the rusted grate and red flame, moving his thin mouth as if in speech, but silent as the dead, would not have said that the man seemed haunted and the chamber too. Who might not, by a very easy flight of fancy, have believed that every thing around him took this haunted tone, and that he lived on haunted ground ?”
He broods over his melancholy fate-remembering his sorrow the more in trying to forget it—and a grim ghost arrives, and, with that peculiar power vested in these mysterious agents, promises him forgetfulness on certain conditions. This is “ The Ghost's Bargain.” Yet, notwithstanding the introduction of the ghostly visitor, the story has none of that foolishness generally to be found in tales where supernatural agents are at work, and which writers of that class seem to think necessary to the preservation of a sort of deceptive illusion which they think indispensable to success. The Phantom, of course, has no physical being, but is merely a personification of Redlaw's conscience, which haunts him in remembrance of the deeds of
But in vain he seeks the waters of oblivion. They have no ingredient strong enough to drown his busy brain in sweet forgetfulness. All the combinations of his powerful art--for he was an alchymist-afford nothing equal to his wants; and he appeals to the Dark Power, with whom he has had dealings, to take back the fatal gift, with the following beautiful apostrophe :
“• Phantoms! Punishers of impious thoughts !' cried Redlaw, gazing round in anguish, look upon me! From the darkness of my mind, let the glimmering of contrition that I know is there, shine up and show my misery! In the material world, as I have long taught, nothing can be spared; no step or atom in the wondrous structure could be lost, without a blank being made in the great universe. I know not that it is the same with good and evil, happiness and sorrow, in the memories of men. Pity me! Relieve me ! Shadow of myself! Spirit of my darker hours ! come back and haunt me day and night, but take this gift away! Or, if it must still rest with me, deprive me of the dreadful power of giving it to others. Undo what I have done. Leave me benighted, but restore the day to those whom I have cursed.'”
How many mortals-weary of themselves—would say as the Haunted Man has said, though perhaps in less forcible words ! Still, it is the language of the heart,—the genuine unreserved expression of a soul sighing beneath a load which weighs it almost to the ground. It is in such passages as these that Mr. Dickens shows the greatness of a master mind.
The description of the Phantom is powerful and full of that peculiar kind of wildness so completely in keeping with the subject. It certainly has been in some measure borrowed from the Book of Job—to compare great things with small—nor can it be said to Mr. Dickens's disparagement that he should adopt so great an original :
“As the gloom and shadow thickened behind him, in the place where it had been gathering so darkly, it took, by slow degrees,-or out of it there came, by some unreal, unsubstantial process, not to be traced by any human sense,—an awful likeness of himself !
Ghastly and cold, colourless in its leaden face and hands, but with his features, and his bright eyes, and his grizzled hair, and dressed in the gloomy shadow of his dress, it came into its terrible appearance of existence, motionless, without a sound. As he leaned his arm upon the elbow of his chair, ruminating before the fire, it leaned upon the chairback, close above him, with its appaling copy of his face looking where his face looked, and bearing the expression his face bore.
“ This, then, was the Something that had passed and gone already. This was the dread companion of the haunted man!”
The injury over which Redlaw broods so unceasingly, is one inflicted by a friend of his early days who rivals him in love, and ultimately married the object of Redlaw's affections.
The Haunted Man converses occasionally with the ghost:
“If I could forget my sorrow and wrong, I would, the Ghost repeated. “If I could forget my sorrow and my wrong, I would !'
« • Evil spirit of myself, returned the haunted man, in a low, trembling tone, “my life is darkened by that incessant whisper.'
“ . It is an echo,' said the Phantom.
“If it be an echo of my thoughts--as now, indeed, I know it is, rejoined the haunted man, 'why should I, therefore, be tormented ? It is not a selfish thought. I suffer it to range beyond myself. All men and women have their sorrows,-most of them their wrongs : ingratitude, and sordid jealousy, and interest, besetting all degrees of life. Who would not forget their sorrows and their wrongs
?? “•Who would not, truly, and be the happier and better for it?' said the Phantom."
To his astonishment, the Haunted Man meets with one object that successfully thwarts the terrible influence he has derived from the ghost. This is a miserable boy,—the child as he afterwards discovers of his friend. This character is meant to display the wretchedness of ignorance accompanied by poverty and want. Redlaw inquires of the Phantom the reason why he resists the influences imparted to him by the ghost :
« This,' said the Phantom, pointing to the boy, 'is the last, completest illustration of a human creature, utterly bereft of such remembrances as you have yielded up. No softening memory of sorrow, wrong, or trouble enters here, because this wretched mortal from his birth has been abandoned to a worse condition than the beasts, and has within his knowledge no one contrast, no humanising touch, to make a grain of such a memory spring up in his hardened breast. All within this desolate creature is barren wilder
All within the man bereft of what you have resigned is the same barren wilderness. Woe to such a man! Woe, tenfold, to the nation that shall count its monsters such as this lying here by hundreds and by thousands!'
“Redlaw shrunk, appaled, from what he heard.
“ " There is not,' said the Phantom, one of these-not one-but Sows-a harvest that mankind must reap. From every seed of evil in this boy a field of ruin is grown that shall be gathered in, and garnered up, and sown again in many places in the world, until regions are overspread with wickedness enough to raise the waters of another Deluge. Open and unpunished murder in a city's strects would be less guilty in its daily toleration, than one such spectacle as this.'
“It seemed to look down upon the boy in his sleep. Redlaw, too, looked down upon him with a new emotion.
“There is not a father,' said the Phantom,' by whose side, in his daily or his nightly walk, these creatures pass; there is not a mother
all the ranks of loving mothers in this land; there is no one risen from the state of childhood, but shall be responsible in his or her degree for this enormity. There is not a country throughout the earth on which it would not bring a curse. T'here is no religion upon earth that it would not deny; there is no people upon earth it would not put to shame.'
The application of an ennobling moral is here beautifully displayed, -one which shall live long after Dickens shall have ceased to add to the literary laurels of this land. There can be no finer incentive to embark in the hazardous undertaking of the pen, than that of awakening the kinder feelings of our nature to a sense of the misery, the wretchedness and degradation of the species which is going on every day-aye, every hour-around us, and almost seeming to increase as we gain ground in knowledge that should have for its object the softening of the sorrows of mankind. This is evidently the moral of the tale, and a hallowed one it is,-one that we hope will not be thrown away as the idle invention of a fine imagination. It is indeed no phantasy, but a stern and hideous truth which it were vain to try to hide.
Apart from the sadder portions of the tale we have the weight of the story lightened by flashes of Nature, told in Mr. Dickens's raciest style; and we have nothing much better to quote than a description of little Johnny Tetterby and the babby:"
“It was a very Moloch of a baby, on whose insatiate altar the whole existence of this particular young brother was offered up a daily sacrifice. Its personality may be said to have consisted in its never being quiet, in any one place, for five consecutive minutes, and never going to sleep when required. •Tetterby's baby' was as well known in the neighbourhood as the postman or the potboy. It roved from door-step to door-step, in the arms of little Johnny Tetterby, and lagged heavily at the rear of troops of juveniles who followed the Tumblers or the Monkey, and came up, all on one side, a little too late for everything that was attractive, from Monday morning until Saturday night. Wherever childhood congregated to play, there was little Moloch making Johnny fag and toil. Wherever Johnny desired to stay, little Moloch became fractious, and would not remain. Whenever Johnny wanted to go out, Moloch was asleep, and must be watched. Whenever Johnny wanted to stay at home, Moloch was awake, and must be taken out. Yet Johnny was verily persuaded that it was a faultless baby, without its peer in the realm of England, and was quite content to catch meek glimpses of things in general from behind its skirts, or over its limp flapping bonnet, and to go staggering about with it like a very little porter with a very large parcel, which was not directed to anybody, and could never be delivered anywhere."
We shall conclude by introducing the reader to the family of Mr. William Swidger. There is a good deal of mystery about this family, which we confess we cannot understand; indeed it appears to us that in this matter the author has entangled himself somewhat unexpectedly and has not chosen to take the trouble to re-arrange his incidents. This is bad. We see no good object to be gained by unnecessary mystery in a tale which, as a Christmas tale, should at least have the merit of being easily understood. The Swidgers have been brought by some means under the baneful influence of the ghost, but it appears the antidote is supplied in the person of Milly, the wife of Mr. William Swidger. We give a delightful little extract, in which the reader will at once discern the tender touch of Nature in almost
every ““It happens all for the best, Milly dear, no doubt,' said Mr. William, tenderly, 'that we have no children of our own; and yet I sometimes wish you had one to love and cherish. Our little dead child that you built such hopes upon, and that never breathed the breath of life—it has made you quiet-like, Milly.'
““I am very happy in the recollection of it, William dear,' she answered. “I think of it every day.' “I was afraid you thought of it a good deal.' ..Don't
afraid; it is a comfort to me; it speaks to me in so many ways. The innocent thing that never lived on earth, is like an angel to me, William.'
“You are like an angel to father and me,' said William softly. I know that.'
“ When I think of all those hopes I built upon it, and the many times I sat and pictured to myself the little smiling face upon my bosom that never lay there, and the sweet eyes turned up to mine that never opened to the light,' said Milly, 'I can' feel a greater tenderness, I think, for all the disappointed hopes in which there is no harm. When I see a beautiful child in its fond mother's arms, I love it all the better, thinking that my child might have been like that, and might have made my heart as proud and happy.'