But their two figures attracted hardly so much notice as that of a

young girl, who passed at the same instant, and happened to raise her

skirt a trifle too high above her ankles. Had it been a sunny and

cheerful day, they could hardly have gone through the streets without

making themselves obnoxious to remark. Now, probably, they were felt

to be in keeping with the dismal and bitter weather, and therefore did

not stand out in strong relief, as if the sun were shining on them, but

melted into the gray gloom and were forgotten as soon as gone.

Poor Hepzibah! Could she have understood this fact, it would have

brought her some little comfort; for, to all her other

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troubles,--strange to say!--there was added the womanish and

old-maiden-like misery arising from a sense of unseemliness in her

attire. Thus, she was fain to shrink deeper into herself, as it were,

as if in the hope of making people suppose that here was only a cloak

and hood, threadbare and woefully faded, taking an airing in the midst

of the storm, without any wearer!

As they went on, the feeling of indistinctness and unreality kept dimly

hovering round about her, and so diffusing itself into her system that

one of her hands was hardly palpable to the touch of the other. Any

certainty would have been preferable to this. She whispered to

herself, again and again, "Am I awake?--Am I awake?" and sometimes

exposed her face to the chill spatter of the wind, for the sake of its

rude assurance that she was. Whether it was Clifford's purpose, or

only chance, had led them thither, they now found themselves passing

beneath the arched entrance of a large structure of gray stone.

Within, there was a spacious breadth, and an airy height from floor to

roof, now partially filled with smoke and steam, which eddied

voluminously upward and formed a mimic cloud-region over their heads.

A train of cars was just ready for a start; the locomotive was fretting

and fuming, like a steed impatient for a headlong rush; and the bell

rang out its hasty peal, so well expressing the brief summons which

life vouchsafes to us in its hurried career. Without question or

delay,--with the irresistible decision, if not rather to be called

recklessness, which had so strangely taken possession of him, and

through him of Hepzibah,--Clifford impelled her towards the cars, and

assisted her to enter. The signal was given; the engine puffed forth

its short, quick breaths; the train began its movement; and, along with

a hundred other passengers, these two unwonted travellers sped onward

like the wind.

At last, therefore, and after so long estrangement from everything that

the world acted or enjoyed, they had been drawn into the great current

of human life, and were swept away with it, as by the suction of fate

itself.