George Gissing


On the station platform at Dudley Port, in the dusk of a February

afternoon, half-a-dozen people waited for the train to Birmingham. A

south-west wind had loaded the air with moisture, which dripped at

moments, thinly and sluggishly, from a featureless sky. The lamps, just

lighted, cast upon wet wood and metal a pale yellow shimmer; voices

sounded with peculiar clearness; so did the rumble of a porter's barrow

laden with luggage. From a foundry hard by came the muffled, rhythmic

thunder of mighty blows; this and the long note of an engine-whistle

wailing far off seemed to intensify the stillness of the air as gloomy

day passed into gloomier night.

In clear daylight the high, uncovered platform would have offered an

outlook over the surrounding country, but at this hour no horizon was

discernible. Buildings near at hand, rude masses of grimy brick, stood

out against a grey confused background; among them rose a turret which

vomited crimson flame. This fierce, infernal glare seemed to lack the

irradiating quality of earthly fires; with hard, though fluctuating

outline, it leapt towards the kindred night, and diffused a blotchy

darkness. In the opposite direction, over towards Dudley Town, appeared

spots of lurid glow. But on the scarred and barren plain which extends

to Birmingham there had settled so thick an obscurity, vapours from

above blending with earthly reek, that all tile beacons of fiery toil

were wrapped and hidden.

Of the waiting travellers, two kept apart from the rest, pacing this

way and that, but independently of each other. They were men of

dissimilar appearance; the one comfortably and expensively dressed, his

age about fifty, his visagebearing the stamp of commerce; the other,

younger by more than twenty years, habited in a way which made it;

difficult to as certain his social standing, and looking about him with

eyes suggestive of anything but prudence or content. Now and then they

exchanged a glance: he of the high hat and caped ulster betrayed an

interest in the younger man, who, in his turn, took occasion to observe

the other from a distance, with show of dubious recognition.

The trill of an electric signal, followed by a clanging bell, brought

them both to a pause, and they stood only two or three yards apart.

Presently a light flashed through the thickening dusk; there was

roaring, grinding, creaking and a final yell of brake-tortured wheels.

Making at once for the nearest third-class carriage, the man in the

seedy overcoatsprang to a place, and threw himself carelessly back; a

moment, and he was followed by the second passenger, who seated himself

on the opposite side of the compartment. Once more they looked at each

other, but without change of countenance.

Tickets were collected, for there would be no stoppage before

Birmingham: then the door slammed, and the two men were alone together.

Two or three minutes after the train had started, the elder man leaned

forward, moved slightly, and spoke.

"Excuse me, I think your name must be Hilliard."

"What then?" was the brusque reply.

"You don't remember me?"

"Scoundrels are common enough," returned the other, crossing his legs,

"but I remember you for all that."

The insult was thrown out with a peculiarlyreckless air; it astounded

the hearer, who sat for an instant with staring eyes and lips apart;

then the blood rushed to his cheeks.

"If I hadn't just about twice your muscle, my lad," he answered

angrily, "I'd make you repent that, and be more careful with your

tongue in future. Now, mind what you say! We've a quiet quarter of an

hour before us, and I might alter my mind."

The young man laughed contemptuously. He was tall, but slightly built,

and had delicate hands.

"So you've turned out a blackguard, have you?" pursued his companion,

whose name was Dengate. "I heard something about that."

"From whom?"

"You drink, I am told. I suppose that's your condition now."

"Well, no; not just now," answered Hilliard. He spoke the language of

an educated man, but with a trace of the Midland accent. Dengate's

speech had less refinement.

"What do you mean by your insulting talk, then? I spoke to you civilly."

"And I answered as I thought fit."

The respectable citizen sat with his hands on his knees, and

scrutinised the other's sallow features.

"You've been drinking, I can see. I had something to say to you, but

I'd better leave it for another time."

Hilliard flashed a look of scorn, and said sternly--

"I am as sober as you are."

"Then just give me civil answers to civil questions."

"Questions? What right have you to question me?"

"It's for your own advantage. You called me scoundrel. What did you

mean by that?"

"That's the name I give to fellows who go bankrupt to get rid of their


"Is it!" said Dengate, with a superior smile. "That only shows how

little you know of the world, my lad. You got it from your father, I

daresay; he had a rough way of talking."

"A disagreeable habit of telling the truth."

"I know all about it. Your father wasn't a man of business, and

couldn't see things from a business point of view. Now, what I just

want to say to you is this: there's all the difference in the world

between commercialfailure and rascality. If you go down to Liverpool,

and ask men of credit for their opinion about Charles Edward Dengate,

you'll have a lesson that would profit you. I can see you're one of the

young chaps who think a precious deal of themselves; I'm often coming

across them nowadays, and I generally give them a piece of my mind."

Hilliard smiled.

"If you gave them the whole, it would be no great generosity."

"Eh? Yes, I see you've had a glass or two, and it makes you witty. But

wait a bit I was devilish near thrashing you a few minutes ago; but I

sha'n't do it, say what you like. I don't like vulgar rows."

"No more do I," remarked Hilliard; "and I haven't fought since I was a

boy. But for your own satisfaction, I can tell you it's a wise resolve

not to interfere with me. The temptation to rid the world of one such

man as you might prove too strong."

There was a force of meaning in these words, quietly as they were

uttered, which impressed the listener.

"You'll come to a bad end, my lad."

"Hardly. It's unlikely that I shall ever be rich."

"Oh! you're one of that sort, are you? I've come across Socialistic

fellows. But look here. I'm talking civilly, and I say again it's for

your advantage. I had a respect for your father, and I liked your

brother--I'm sorry to hear he's dead."

"Please keep your sorrow to yourself."

"All right, all right! I understand you're a draughtsman at Kenn and


"I daresay you are capable of understanding that."

Hilliard planted his elbow in the window of the carriage and propped

his cheek on his hand.

"Yes; and a few other things," rejoined the well-dressed man. "How to

make money, for instance.--Well, haven't you any insult ready?"

The other looked out at a row of flaring chimneys, which the train was

rushing past: he kept silence.

"Go down to Liverpool," pursued Dengate, "and make inquiries about me.

You'll find I have as good a reputation as any man living."

He laboured this point. It was evident that he seriously desired to

establish his probity and importance in the young man's eyes. Nor did

anything in his look or speech conflict with such claims. He had hard,

but not disagreeable features, and gave proof of an easy temper.

"Paying one's debts," said Hilliard, "is fatal to reputation."

"You use words you don't understand. There's no such thing as a debt,

except what's recognised by the laws."

"I shouldn't wonder if you think of going into Parliament. You are just

the man to make laws."

"Well, who knows? What I want you to understand is, that if your father

were alive at this moment, I shouldn't admit that he had claim upon me

for one penny."

"It was because I understood it already that I called you a scoundrel."

"Now be careful, my lad," exclaimed Dengate, as again he winced under

the epithet. "My temper may get the better of me, and I should be sorry

for it. I got into this carriage with you (of course I had a

first-class ticket) because I wanted to form an opinion of your

character. I've been told you drink, and I see that you do, and I'm

sorry for it. You'll be losing your place before long, and you'll go

down. Now look here; you've called me foul names, and you've done your

best to rile me. Now I'm going to make you ashamed of yourself."

Hilliard fixed the speaker with his scornful eyes; the last words had

moved him to curiosity.

"I can excuse a good deal in a man with an empty pocket," pursued the

other. "I've been there myself; I know how it makes you feel--how much

do you earn, by the bye?"

"Mind you own business."

"All right. I suppose it's about two pounds a week. Would you like to

know what _my_ in come is? Well, something like two pounds an hour,

reckoning eight hours as the working day. There's a difference, isn't

there? It comes of minding my business, you see. You'll never make

anything like it; you find it easier to abuse people who work than to

work yourself. Now if you go down to Liverpool, and ask how I got to my

present position, you'll find it's the result of hard and honest work.

Understand that: honest work."

"And forgetting to pay your debts," threw in the young man.

"It's eight years since I owed any man a penny. The people I _did_ owe

money to were sensible men of business--all except your father, and he

never could see things in the right light. I went through the

bankruptcy court, and I made arrangements that satisfied my creditors.

I should have satisfied your father too, only he died."

"You paid tuppence ha'penny in the pound."

"No, it was five shillings, and my creditors--sensible men of

business--were satisfied. Now look here. I owed your father four

hundred and thirty-six pounds, but he didn't rank as an ordinary

creditor, and if I had paid him after my bankruptcy it would have been

just because I felt a respect for him--not because he had any legal

claim. I _meant_ to pay him--understand that."

Hilliard smiled. Just then a block signal caused the train to slacken

speed. Darkness had fallen, and lights glimmered from some cottages by

the line.

"You don't believe me," added Dengate.

"I don't."

The prosperous man bit his lower lip, and sat gazing at the lamp in the

carriage. The train came to a standstill; there was no sound but the

throbbing of the engine.

"Well, listen to me," Dengate resumed. "You're turning out badly, and

any money you get you're pretty sure to make a bad use of. But"--he

assumed an air of great solemnity--"all the same--now listen----"

"I'm listening."

"Just to show you the kind of a man I am, and to make you feel ashamed

of yourself, I'm going to pay you the money."

For a few seconds there was unbroken stillness. The men gazed at each

other, Dengate superbly triumphant, Hilliard incredulous but betraying


"I'm going to pay you four hundred and thirty-six pounds," Dengate

repeated. "No less and no more. It isn't a legal debt, so I shall pay

no interest. But go with me when we get to Birmingham, and you shall

have my cheque for four hundred and thirty-six pounds."

The train began to move on. Hilliard had uncrossed his legs, and sat

bending forward, his eyes on vacancy.

"Does that alter your opinion of me?" asked the other.

"I sha'n't believe it till I have cashed the cheque."

"You're one of those young fellows who think so much of themselves

they've no good opinion to spare for anyone else. And what's more, I've

still half a mind to give you a good thrashing before I give you the

cheque. There's just about time, and I shouldn't wonder if it did you

good. You want some of the conceit taken out of you, my lad."

Hilliard seemed not to hear this. Again he fixed his eyes on the

other's countenance.

"Do you say you are going to pay me four hundred pounds?" he asked


"Four hundred and thirty-six. You'll go to the devil with it, but

that's no business of mine."

"There's just one thing I must tell you. If this is a joke, keep out of

my way after you've played it out, that's all."

"It isn't a joke. And one thing I have to tell _you_. I reserve to

myself the right of thrashing you, if I feel in the humour for it."

Hilliard gave a laugh, then threw himself back into the corner, and did

not speak again until the train pulled up at New Street station.


An hour later he was at Old Square, waiting for the tram to Aston. Huge

steam-driven vehicles came and went, whirling about the open space with

monitory bell-clang. Amid a press of homeward-going workfolk, Hilliard

clambered to a place on the top and lit his pipe. He did not look the

same man who had waited gloomily at Dudley Port; his eyes gleamed with

life; answering a remark addressed to him by a neighbour on the car, he

spoke jovially.

No rain was falling, but the streets shone wet and muddy under lurid

lamp-lights. Just above the house-tops appeared the full moon, a

reddish disk, blurred athwart floating vapour. The car drove northward,

speedily passing from the region of main streets and great edifices

into a squalid district of factories and workshops and crowded by-ways.

At Aston Church the young man alighted, and walked rapidly for five

minutes, till he reached a row of small modern houses. Socially they

represented a step or two upwards in the gradation which, at

Birmingham, begins with the numbered court and culminates in the

mansions of Edgbaston.

He knocked at a door, and was answered by a girl, who nodded


"Mrs. Hilliard in? Just tell her I'm here."

There was a natural abruptness in his voice, but it had a kindly note,

and a pleasant smile accompanied it. After a brief delay he received

permission to go upstairs, where the door of a sitting-room stood open.

Within was a young woman, slight, pale, and pretty, who showed

something of embarrassment, though her face made him welcome.

"I expected you sooner."

"Business kept me back. Well, little girl?"

The table was spread for tea, and at one end of it, on a high chair,

sat a child of four years old. Hilliard kissed her, and stroked her

curly hair, and talked with playful affection. This little girl was his

niece, the child of his elder brother, who had died three years ago.

The poorly furnished room and her own attire proved that Mrs. Hilliard

had but narrow resources in her widowhood. Nor did she appear a woman

  • platform [´plætfɔ:m] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.(平)台;讲台;站台   (初中英语单词)
  • moisture [´mɔistʃə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.潮湿;温度;水份   (初中英语单词)
  • peculiar [pi´kju:liə] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.特有的;奇异的   (初中英语单词)
  • daylight [´deilait] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.日光;黎明   (初中英语单词)
  • horizon [hə´raizən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.地平线;范围;视野   (初中英语单词)
  • background [´bækgraund] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.背景;经历;幕后   (初中英语单词)
  • fierce [fiəs] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.残忍的;强烈的   (初中英语单词)
  • barren [´bærən] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.贫瘠的;不生育的   (初中英语单词)
  • waiting [´weitiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.等候;伺候   (初中英语单词)
  • commerce [´kɔmə:s] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.商业;社交;交流   (初中英语单词)
  • standing [´stændiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.持续 a.直立的   (初中英语单词)
  • carriage [´kæridʒ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.马车;客车;货运   (初中英语单词)
  • sprang [spræŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  spring 的过去式   (初中英语单词)
  • slightly [´slaitli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.轻微地;细长的   (初中英语单词)
  • insult [in´sʌlt, ´insʌlt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&vt.侮辱;损害   (初中英语单词)
  • instant [´instənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.立即的 n.紧迫;瞬间   (初中英语单词)
  • muscle [´mʌsəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.肌肉;体力;力量   (初中英语单词)
  • delicate [´delikət] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.精美的;微妙的   (初中英语单词)
  • accent [´æksənt, æk´sent] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.重音;口音 vt.重读   (初中英语单词)
  • advantage [əd´vɑ:ntidʒ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.优势;利益   (初中英语单词)
  • commercial [kə´mə:ʃəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.商业的 n.广告节目   (初中英语单词)
  • failure [´feiljə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.失败;衰竭;破产   (初中英语单词)
  • satisfaction [,sætis´fækʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.满意;满足   (初中英语单词)
  • interfere [,intə´fiə] 移动到这儿单词发声  vi.干涉;妨碍;打扰   (初中英语单词)
  • capable [´keipəbəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.有能力;能干的   (初中英语单词)
  • evident [´evidənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.明显的,明白的   (初中英语单词)
  • seriously [´siəriəsli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.严肃;严重,重大   (初中英语单词)
  • conflict [´kɔnflikt, kən´flikt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&vi.战斗;抵触   (初中英语单词)
  • parliament [´pɑ:ləmənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.议(国)会   (初中英语单词)
  • temper [´tempə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.韧度 v.锻炼;调和   (初中英语单词)
  • ashamed [ə´ʃeimd] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.惭愧;不好意思   (初中英语单词)
  • speaker [´spi:kə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.演讲人;代言人   (初中英语单词)
  • working [´wə:kiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.工人的;劳动的   (初中英语单词)
  • sensible [´sensəbəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.感觉得到的   (初中英语单词)
  • prosperous [´prɔspərəs] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.繁荣的;顺利的   (初中英语单词)
  • humour [´hju:mə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.幽默,诙谐   (初中英语单词)
  • affection [ə´fekʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.友爱;慈爱   (初中英语单词)
  • rumble [´rʌmbəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  v.(使)隆隆响 n.隆隆声   (高中英语单词)
  • luggage [´lʌgidʒ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.行李;皮箱   (高中英语单词)
  • mighty [´maiti] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.强有力的 ad.很   (高中英语单词)
  • intensify [in´tensifai] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.加强;加剧   (高中英语单词)
  • stillness [´stilnis] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.不动;无声,寂静   (高中英语单词)
  • surrounding [sə´raundiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.周围的事物   (高中英语单词)
  • crimson [´krimzən] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.&n.深(紫)红(的)   (高中英语单词)
  • earthly [´ə:θli] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.地球的;世俗的   (高中英语单词)
  • kindred [´kindrid] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.亲属关系;同源关系   (高中英语单词)
  • comfortably [´kʌmfətəbli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.舒适地   (高中英语单词)
  • bearing [´beəriŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.举止;忍耐;关系   (高中英语单词)
  • overcoat [´əuvəkəut] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.大衣   (高中英语单词)
  • carelessly [´kɛəlisli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.粗心地;疏忽地   (高中英语单词)
  • reckless [´rekləs] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.不注意的;鲁莽的   (高中英语单词)
  • repent [ri´pent] 移动到这儿单词发声  v.后悔;悔改;悔悟   (高中英语单词)
  • respectable [ri´spektəbəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.可敬的;有身价的   (高中英语单词)
  • disagreeable [,disə´gri:əbl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.令人不悦的   (高中英语单词)
  • temptation [temp´teiʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.引诱,诱惑(物)   (高中英语单词)
  • conceit [kən´si:t] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.自负;骄傲自满   (高中英语单词)
  • crowded [´kraudid] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.充(拥)满了的   (高中英语单词)
  • attire [ə´taiə] 移动到这儿单词发声  vt.装饰;穿 n.衣服   (高中英语单词)
  • birmingham [´bə:miŋhəm] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.伯明翰   (英语四级单词)
  • turret [´tʌrit] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.塔楼;炮塔;转台   (英语四级单词)
  • obscurity [əb´skjuəriti] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.暗(淡);朦胧;含糊   (英语四级单词)
  • prudence [´pru:dəns] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.谨慎;慎重;节俭   (英语四级单词)
  • compartment [kəm´pɑ:tmənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.间隔;隔室   (英语四级单词)
  • peculiarly [pi´kju:liəli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.特有地;古怪地   (英语四级单词)
  • bankrupt [´bæŋkrʌpt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.破产者 a.破产了的   (英语四级单词)
  • vulgar [´vʌlgə] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.粗俗的;大众的   (英语四级单词)
  • reputation [repju´teiʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.名誉;名声;信誉   (英语四级单词)
  • liverpool [´livəpu:l] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.利物浦   (英语四级单词)
  • bankruptcy [´bæŋkrʌptsi] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.破产   (英语四级单词)
  • unbroken [ʌn´brəukən] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.未破的;不间断的   (英语四级单词)
  • triumphant [trai´ʌmfənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.胜利的;洋洋得意的   (英语四级单词)
  • upwards [´ʌpwədz] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.=upward   (英语四级单词)
  • upstairs [,ʌp´steəz] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.在楼上 a.楼上的   (英语四级单词)
  • embarrassment [im´bærəsmənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.窘迫;困惑;为难   (英语四级单词)
  • poorly [´puəli] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.不舒服的 ad.贫穷地   (英语四级单词)
  • thinly [θiŋli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.薄地;稀疏地   (英语六级单词)
  • shimmer [´ʃimə] 移动到这儿单词发声  v.&n.闪烁;微微发光   (英语六级单词)
  • clearness [´kliənis] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.清楚;明白;明确   (英语六级单词)
  • infernal [in´fə:nəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.地狱的,恶魔似的   (英语六级单词)
  • independently [,indi´pendəntli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.独立地;自由地   (英语六级单词)
  • visage [´vizidʒ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.面容,面貌   (英语六级单词)
  • suggestive [sə´dʒestiv] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.暗示的;启发的   (英语六级单词)
  • dubious [´dju:biəs] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.怀疑的;可疑的   (英语六级单词)
  • hearer [´hiərə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.听者   (英语六级单词)
  • contemptuously [kən´temptjuəsli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.蔑视地;傲慢地   (英语六级单词)
  • scoundrel [´skaundrəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&a.无赖(的)   (英语六级单词)
  • devilish [´devəliʃ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.魔鬼般的,凶恶的   (英语六级单词)
  • unlikely [ʌn´laikli] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.不像的;未必可能的   (英语六级单词)
  • scornful [´skɔ:nful] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.轻蔑的,藐视的   (英语六级单词)
  • incredulous [in´kredjuləs] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.不(轻易)相信的   (英语六级单词)
  • gloomily [´glu:mili] 移动到这儿单词发声  adv.忧郁的   (英语六级单词)
  • socially [´səuʃəli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.社交上;社会上   (英语六级单词)
  • playful [´pleifəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.爱玩耍的;幽默的   (英语六级单词)

  • 上传人 欢乐鱼 分享于 2017-06-26 18:02:07
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