Forgetful for the moment of his condition, Eric moved across the street. Wildney was walking with his cousin, a beautiful girl, some four years older than himself, whom he was evidently patronising immensely. They were talking very merrily, and Eric overheard the word Roslyn. Like a lightning-flash the memory of the theft, the memory of his ruin came upon him; he looked down at his dress—it was a coarse blue shirt, which Roberts had given him in place of his old one, and the back of it was stained and saturated with blood from his unhealed wounds; his trousers were dirty, tarred, and ragged, and his shoes, full of holes, barely covered his feet. He remembered too that for weeks he had not been able to wash, and that very morning, as he saw himself in a looking-glass at a shop-window, he had been deeply shocked at his own appearance. His face was white as a sheet, the fair hair matted and tangled, the eyes sunken and surrounded with a dark color, and dead and lustreless. No! he could not meet Wildney as a sick and ragged sailor-boy; perhaps even he might not be recognised if he did. He drew back, and hid himself till the merry-hearted pair had passed, and it was almost with a pang of jealousy that he saw how happy Wildney could be, while he was thus; but he cast aside the unworthy thought at once. “After all, how is poor Charlie to know what has happened to me?”
HOME AT LAST
“I will arise and go to my father.”
“Ach! ein Schicksal
Und es droht nicht lange!
Auf der holden Wange
Brennt ein boeses Roth!”—TIEDGE.
Eric Williams pursued his disconsolate way to the station, and found that his money only just sufficed to get him something to eat during the day, and carry him third class by the parliamentary train to Charlesbury, the little station where he had to take the branch line to Ayrton.
He got into the carriage, and sat in the far corner, hiding himself from notice as well as he could. The weary train—(it carried poor people for the most part, so, of course it could matter but little how tedious or slow it was!)—the weary train, stopping at every station, and often waiting on the rail until it had been passed by trains that started four or five hours after it,—dragged its slow course through the fair counties of England. Many people got in and out of the carriage, which was generally full, and some of them tried occasionally to enter into conversation with him. But poor Eric was too sick and tired, and his heart was too full to talk much, and he contented himself with civil answers to the questions put to him, dropping the conversation as soon as he could.
At six in the evening the train stopped at Charlesbury, and he got down.
“Ticket,” said the station-man.
Eric gave it, turning his head away, for the man knew him well from having often seen him there. It was no use; the man looked hard at him, and then, opening his eyes wide, exclaimed,