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the furies writhing in them. The fingers
of his lean hands were slightly crooked
inwards, owing to some involuntary muscular
rigidity, and I noticed that his whole frame
was pervaded by a nervous trembling, less
spasmodic than regular, and resembling that
which shakes a man afflicted with delirium

I had given him a cigar. After moistening
the end of it in his mouth, he said, bending
his eyes towards me, but still more on the
wall behind my chair than on my face: "It's
no use. You may torture me, scourge me,
flay me alive. You may rasp me with rusty
files, and seethe me in vinegar, and rub my
eyes with gunpowderbut I can't tell you
where the child is. I don't knowI never
knew! How am I to make you believe that
I don't knowthat I never knew?"

"My good friend," I remarked, "you do
not seem to be aware that, so far from wishing
you to tell me where the child you allude
to is, I am not actuated by the slightest
curiosity to know anything about any child
whatever. Permit me to observe that I cannot
see the smallest connection between a
child and your being hanged."

"No connection?" retorted my companion
with vehemence. "It is the connectionthe
cause. But for that child I should never have
been hanged."

He went on muttering and panting about
this child; and I pushed towards him a bottle
of thin claret. (Being liable to be called up
at all hours of the night, I find it lighter
drinking than any other wine.) He filled a
large tumblerwhich he emptied into
himself rather than drankand I observed that
his lips were so dry and smooth with parchedness,
that the liquid formed little globules of
moisture on them, like drops of water on an
oil-cloth. Then he began:

I had the misery to be born (he said) about
seven-and-thirty years ago. I was the
offspring of a double misery, for my mother
was a newly-made widow when I was born,
and she died in giving me birth. What my
name was before I assumed the counterfeit
that has blasted my life, I shall not tell you.
But it was no patrician high-sounding title,
for my father was a petty tradesman, and my
mother had been a domestic servant. Two
kinsmen succoured me in my orphanage.
They were both uncles; one by my father's,
one by my mother's side. The former was a
retired sailor, rich, and a bachelor. The latter
was a grocer, still in business. He was a
widower, with one daughter, and not very
well-to-do in the world. They hated each
other with the sort of cold, fixed, and watchful
aversion that a savage cat has for a dog
too large for her to worry.

These two uncles played a miserable game
of battledore and shuttlecock with me for
nearly fourteen years. I was bandied about
from one to the other, and equally maltreated
by both. Now, it was my Uncle Collerer who
discovered that I was starved by my Uncle
Morbus, and took me under his protection.
Now, my Uncle Morbus was indignant at my
Uncle Collerer for beating me, and insisted
that I should return to his roof. I was beaten
and starved by one, and starved and beaten
by the other. I endeavouredwith that
cunning which brutal treatment will teach the
dullest childto trim my sails to please both
uncles. I could only succeed by ministering
to the hatred they mutually had one for the
other. I could only propitiate Collerer by
abusing Morbus: the only road to Morbus's
short-lived favour was by defaming Collerer.
Nor do I think I did either of them much
injustice; for they were both wicked-minded
old men. I believe either of them would
have allowed me to starve in the gutter; only
each thought that, appearing to protect me,
would naturally spite the other.

When I was about fifteen years old it
occurred to me, that I should make an election
for good and all between my uncles; else,
between these two knotty crabbed stools I
might fall to the ground. Naturally enough
I chose the rich unclethe retired sailor,
Collerer; and, although I dare say he knew
I only clove to him for the sake of his money,
he seemed perfectly satisfied with my hearty
abuse of my Uncle Morbus, and my total
abnegation of his society; for, for three years I
never went near his house, and when he met
me in the street I gave him the breadth of the
pavement, and recked nothing for his shaking
his fist at me, and calling me an ungrateful
hound. My Uncle Collerer, although retired
from the sea, had not left off making money.
He lent it at usury on mortgages, and in
numberless other crawling ways. I soon
became his right hand, and assisted him in
grinding the needy, in selling up poor tradesmen,
and in buckling on the spurs of spend-
thrifts when they started for the race, the end
of which was to be the jail. My uncle was
pleased with me; and, although he was
miserably parsimonious in his house-keeping
and in his allowance to me, I had hopes and
lived on; but very much in the fashion of a
rat in a hole.

I had known Mary Morbus, the grocer's
daughter, years before. She was a sickly
delicate child, and I had often teased and
struck and robbed her of her playthings, in
my evil childhood. But she grew up a
surpassingly beautiful creature, and I loved her.
We met by stealth in the park outside her
father's door while he was asleep in church
on Sundays; and I fancied she began to love
me. There was little in my mind or person,
in my white face, elf-locks and dull speech to
captivate a girl; but her heart was full of love,
and its brightness gilded my miserable clay.
I felt my heart newly opened. I hoped for
something more than my uncle's money bags.
We interchanged all the flighty vows of
everlasting affection and constancy common to
boys and girls; and although we knew the

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