"All men must die," said a voice quite close at hand;
"but all are not condemned to meet a lingering and premature doom, such as yours would be if you perished here of want."
"Who or what speaks?" I asked, terrified at the unexpected sound,
and incapable now of deriving from any occurrence a hope of aid.
A form was near -- what form, the pitch-dark night and my enfeebled vision prevented me from distinguishing.
With a loud long knock, the new-comer appealed to the door.
"Is it you, Mr. St. John?" cried Hannah.
"Yes -- yes; open quickly."
"Well, how wet and cold you must be, such a wild night as it is!
Come in -- your sisters are quite uneasy about you, and I believe there are bad folks about.
There has been a beggar-woman -- I declare she is not gone yet! -- laid down there. Get up! for shame! Move off, I say!"
"Hush, Hannah! I have a word to say to the woman.
You have done your duty in excluding, now let me do mine in admitting her.
I was near, and listened to both you and her.
I think this is a peculiar case -- I must at least examine into it.
Young woman, rise, and pass before me into the house."