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I had scarcely unlocked the drawers of my writing-table next
morning, when he reappeared. I noticed that he came straight to
the door in the glass partition, and did not pause a single moment
'Can you spare me two minutes, my dear Mr. Sampson?'
'By all means.'
'Much obliged,' laying his hat and umbrella on the table; 'I came
early, not to interrupt you. The fact is, I am taken by surprise
in reference to this proposal my friend has made.'
'Has he made one?' said I.
'Ye-es,' he answered, deliberately looking at me; and then a bright
idea seemed to strike him - 'or he only tells me he has. Perhaps
that may be a new way of evading the matter. By Jupiter, I never
thought of that!'
Mr. Adams was opening the morning's letters in the outer office.
'What is the name, Mr. Slinkton?' I asked.
I looked out at the door and requested Mr. Adams, if there were a
proposal in that name, to bring it in. He had already laid it out
of his hand on the counter. It was easily selected from the rest,
and he gave it me. Alfred Beckwith. Proposal to effect a policy
with us for two thousand pounds. Dated yesterday.
'From the Middle Temple, I see, Mr. Slinkton.'
'Yes. He lives on the same staircase with me; his door is
opposite. I never thought he would make me his reference though.'
'It seems natural enough that he should.'
'Quite so, Mr. Sampson; but I never thought of it. Let me see.'
He took the printed paper from his pocket. 'How am I to answer all
'According to the truth, of course,' said I.
'O, of course!' he answered, looking up from the paper with a
smile; 'I meant they were so many. But you do right to be
particular. It stands to reason that you must be particular. Will
you allow me to use your pen and ink?'
'And your desk?'
He had been hovering about between his hat and his umbrella for a
place to write on. He now sat down in my chair, at my blotting-
paper and inkstand, with the long walk up his head in accurate
perspective before me, as I stood with my back to the fire.
Before answering each question he ran over it aloud, and discussed
it. How long had he known Mr. Alfred Beckwith? That he had to
calculate by years upon his fingers. What were his habits? No
difficulty about them; temperate in the last degree, and took a
little too much exercise, if anything. All the answers were
satisfactory. When he had written them all, he looked them over,
and finally signed them in a very pretty hand. He supposed he had
now done with the business. I told him he was not likely to be
troubled any farther. Should he leave the papers there? If he
pleased. Much obliged. Good-morning.
I had had one other visitor before him; not at the office, but at
my own house. That visitor had come to my bedside when it was not
yet daylight, and had been seen by no one else but by my faithful
A second reference paper (for we required always two) was sent down
into Norfolk, and was duly received back by post. This, likewise,
was satisfactorily answered in every respect. Our forms were all
complied with; we accepted the proposal, and the premium for one
year was paid.
For six or seven months I saw no more of Mr. Slinkton. He called
once at my house, but I was not at home; and he once asked me to
dine with him in the Temple, but I was engaged. His friend's
assurance was effected in March. Late in September or early in
October I was down at Scarborough for a breath of sea-air, where I
met him on the beach. It was a hot evening; he came toward me with
his hat in his hand; and there was the walk I had felt so strongly
disinclined to take in perfect order again, exactly in front of the
bridge of my nose.
He was not alone, but had a young lady on his arm.
She was dressed in mourning, and I looked at her with great
interest. She had the appearance of being extremely delicate, and
her face was remarkably pale and melancholy; but she was very
pretty. He introduced her as his niece, Miss Niner.
'Are you strolling, Mr. Sampson? Is it possible you can be idle?'
It WAS possible, and I WAS strolling.
'Shall we stroll together?'
The young lady walked between us, and we walked on the cool sea
sand, in the direction of Filey.
'There have been wheels here,' said Mr. Slinkton. 'And now I look
again, the wheels of a hand-carriage! Margaret, my love, your
shadow without doubt!'
'Miss Niner's shadow?' I repeated, looking down at it on the sand.
'Not that one,' Mr. Slinkton returned, laughing. 'Margaret, my
dear, tell Mr. Sampson.'
'Indeed,' said the young lady, turning to me, 'there is nothing to
tell - except that I constantly see the same invalid old gentleman
at all times, wherever I go. I have mentioned it to my uncle, and
he calls the gentleman my shadow.'
'Does he live in Scarborough?' I asked.
'He is staying here.'
'Do you live in Scarborough?'
'No, I am staying here. My uncle has placed me with a family here,
for my health.'
'And your shadow?' said I, smiling.
'My shadow,' she answered, smiling too, 'is - like myself - not
very robust, I fear; for I lose my shadow sometimes, as my shadow
loses me at other times. We both seem liable to confinement to the
house. I have not seen my shadow for days and days; but it does
oddly happen, occasionally, that wherever I go, for many days
together, this gentleman goes. We have come together in the most
unfrequented nooks on this shore.'
'Is this he?' said I, pointing before us.
The wheels had swept down to the water's edge, and described a
great loop on the sand in turning. Bringing the loop back towards
us, and spinning it out as it came, was a hand-carriage, drawn by a
'Yes,' said Miss Niner, 'this really is my shadow, uncle.'
As the carriage approached us and we approached the carriage, I saw
within it an old man, whose head was sunk on his breast, and who
was enveloped in a variety of wrappers. He was drawn by a very
quiet but very keen-looking man, with iron-gray hair, who was
slightly lame. They had passed us, when the carriage stopped, and
the old gentleman within, putting out his arm, called to me by my
name. I went back, and was absent from Mr. Slinkton and his niece
for about five minutes.
When I rejoined them, Mr. Slinkton was the first to speak. Indeed,
he said to me in a raised voice before I came up with him:
'It is well you have not been longer, or my niece might have died
of curiosity to know who her shadow is, Mr. Sampson.'
'An old East India Director,' said I. 'An intimate friend of our
friend's, at whose house I first had the pleasure of meeting you.
A certain Major Banks. You have heard of him?'
'Very rich, Miss Niner; but very old, and very crippled. An
amiable man, sensible - much interested in you. He has just been
expatiating on the affection that he has observed to exist between
you and your uncle.'
Mr. Slinkton was holding his hat again, and he passed his hand up
the straight walk, as if he himself went up it serenely, after me.
'Mr. Sampson,' he said, tenderly pressing his niece's arm in his,
'our affection was always a strong one, for we have had but few
near ties. We have still fewer now. We have associations to bring
us together, that are not of this world, Margaret.'
'Dear uncle!' murmured the young lady, and turned her face aside to
hide her tears.
'My niece and I have such remembrances and regrets in common, Mr.
Sampson,' he feelingly pursued, 'that it would be strange indeed if
the relations between us were cold or indifferent. If I remember a
conversation we once had together, you will understand the
reference I make. Cheer up, dear Margaret. Don't droop, don't
droop. My Margaret! I cannot bear to see you droop!'
The poor young lady was very much affected, but controlled herself.