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THE cold January morning struggled into existence, amidst rain and sleet, and seemed cradled in dense masses of clouds of tempestuous blackness.
    It appeared as if the sun had taken leave of the, earth for ever; and it would not have been surprising had the ignorant inquired whence came the gloomy light that just seemed to guide them to their toil.
    Miserable indeed was the aspect of the eastern district of the metropolis. Emaciated women, wrapt in thin and scanty shawls, crept along the streets, through the pouring rain, to purchase at the chandlers' shops the morsel that was to serve for the' morning's meal, - or, perhaps, to pledge some trifling article in their way, ere they could obtain that meal! Half-starved men, - poor wretches who never  made a hearty meal, and who were yet compelled to work like horses, - unhappy beings, who flew to the public houses in despair, and then were reproached by the illiberal and intolerant for their immorality, - black sheep of Fortune's flock, to whom verdant pastures were unknown,- friendless outcasts, who in sickness knew no other consolation than that of the hospital, and in destitution, no asylum save the workhouse, - luckless mortals, who cursed the day they knew the power of love, and execrated that on  which they pronounced the marriage vows, because therefrom had sprung children who pined for want before their face,- such men as these were seen dragging themselves along to their labours on the railroad, the canal, or at the docks.
    It was about eight o'clock on this miserable morning, when a man, dressed in a shabby suit of black, and wearing a very dirty white neckcloth, the long ends of which hung, damp and lanky, over the front of his closely-buttoned body-coat, walked slowly along Smart Street - a thoroughfare in the eastern part of Globe Town.
    This individual was in reality verging upon sixty; but as he dyed his hair and whiskers in order to maintain an uniform aspect of funereal solemnity, he looked ten years younger. His manner was grave and important; and, although the rain was descending in torrents, he would not for the world depart from that measured pace which was habitual to him. He held an old umbrella above his head, to protect a battered hat, round which a piece of crape was sewn in three or four clumsy folds ; but the torrent penetrated through the cotton tegumeut, and two streams poured from the broad brims of his hat adown his anti-laughter-looking and rigidly demure countenance.
    When he arrived at about the middle of Smart Street, he halted, examined the numbers of the houses, and at length knocked at the door of one of them.
    An elderly woman, dressed in a neat but very homely garb, responded to the summons.
    "Does Mrs. Smith live here, ma'am?" demanded the individual in black.
    "My name's Smith, sir," answered the widow.
    "Very good, ma'am. I'll have a little conversation with you, if you please, " - and the stranger stepped into the passage.
    Mrs. Smith conducted him into her little parlour, and inquired his business.
    "Mine, ma'am," was the answer, "is a professional visit - entirely a professional visit, ma am. Alas! ma'am," continued the stranger, casting his eyes upwards in a most dolorous manner, and taking a dirty white handkerchief from his pocket, - "alas ma'am, I understand you have had a sad loss here?"
    "A lodger of mine, sir, is dead," said Mrs. Smith, somewhat surprised at the display of sorrow which she now beheld, and very naturally expecting that her visitor would prove to be a relation of the deceased.

    "Ah! ma'am, we re all mortal!" exclaimed the stranger, with a mournful shake of the head, and a truly pitiful turning up of the whites of his eyes, "we're all mortal, ma'am; and howsomever high and mighty we may be in this life, the grave at last must have our carkisses!"
    "Very true, sir," said the good woman, putting the corner of her apron to her eyes; for the reflection of the stranger called to her mind the loss she had experienced in the deceased Mr. Smith.
    "Alas! it's too true, ma'am," continued the stranger, applying his handkerchief to his face, to suppress, as the widow thought, a sob: "but it is to be hoped, ma'am, that your lodger has gone to a better speer, where there's no cares to wex him - and no rent to pay!"
    "I hope so too, most sincerely, sir," said Mrs. Smith, wondering when the gentleman would announce the precise terms of relationship in which he stood to the deceased. "But, might I inquire —" 
    "Yes, ma'am, you may inquire anything you choose," said the stranger, with another solemn shake of his head - in consequence of which a great deal of wet was thrown over Mrs. Smith's furniture; "for I know you by name, Mrs. Smith - I know you well by reputation - as a respectable, kind-hearted, and pious widder; and I feel conwinced that your treatment to the poor lamented deceased —" here the stranger shook his head again, and groaned audibly - "was every thing that it ought to be in this blessed land of Christian comfort!"
    Mrs. Smith now began to suspect that she was honoured with the visit of a devout minister of some particular sect to which the deceased had probably belonged. But before she had time to mention her supposition, the stranger resumed his highly edifying discourse.
    "My dear madam," he said, turning up his eyes, " the presence of death in this house - this wery house - ought to make us mindful of the uncertain leasehold of our own lives; it ought to make us prayerful and church-loving. But madam - my dear madam," continued the stranger, apparently on the point of bursting out into a perfect agony of grief, "there are attentions to be paid to the body as well as cares to entertain for the soul; and the least we can do is to show a feeling of weneration for our deceased friends by consigning them in a decent manner to the grave."
    "On that point, sir," said Mrs. Smith, "I think [-314-] as you do; and I s'pose you're come to superintend the funeral. If so, I am sure I am very thankful, for it's a great tax on a poor lone body like me to have such a undertaking to attend to."
    ""I'll undertake the undertaking - out of respect to the poor dear deceased, ma'am," observed the stranger, in a tone of deep solemnity. "And now, ma'am," he continued, rising, "I must request you to command those feelings which is so nat'ral under such circumstances, and show me into the room where the blessed departed lays."
    Mrs. Smith, thinking within herself that the visitor must have some legitimate authority for his present proceeding, and presuming that he would condescend to impart to her the nature of that authority ere he took his leave, conducted him with very little hesitation to the room where the deceased lay stretched upon the bed.
    The corpse was covered with a clean white sheet; for every thing, though excessively homely, was still neat and decent In the widow's dwelling.
    "I see, ma'am," said the stranger, advancing solemnly up to the bed, and drawing the sheet away from the corpse, - "I see that you know how to pay proper respect to the last remnants of mortality. Ah! ma'am, it's all wanity and wexation of spirit!"
    With these words the extraordinary stranger drew a rule gravely from his pocket, and proceeded to measure the corpse, saying at the same time, "Ah! my dear madam, heaven will reward you for all your goodness towards our dear deceased friend!"
    "Was he a friend of yours, then, sir!" demanded the widow, somewhat astounded at the process of measurement which was now going on before her eyes.
    "Are we not all friends and brethren, ma'am!" said the stranger "are we not all Christian friends and Christian brethren? Yes, ma'am, we are - we must be."
    "May I ask, sir, why —" 
    "Yes, ma'am, ask any thing - I implore you to ask any thing. I am so overcome by the idea of your goodness towards the blessed defunct, and by the sense of the dooty which my profession  —" 
    "What profession, sir?" asked Mrs. Smith, point-blank.
    "Ah! my dear madam," answered the stranger, with a shake of the head more solemn than any be had yet delivered himself of, "I exercise the profession of undertaker."
    "Undertaker!" ejaculated the widow, a light breaking in upon her as she thought of the systematic measurement of the body.
    "Undertaker and furnisher of funerals, ma'am, on the most genteel and economic principles."
    "Well - I raly took you for a minister," said Mrs. Smith, somewhat disappointed.
    "Excellent woman! your goodness flatters me," ejaculated the undertaker. "But here is my card, ma'am - Edward Banks, you perceive - Globe Lane. Ah! my dear madam, I knew your dear deceased husband well ! Often and oft have we chanted the same hymn together in the parish church; and often have we drunk together out of the same pewter at the Spotted Dog."
    Mournful, indeed, was the shake of the head that accompanied this latter assurance; and the undertaker once more had recourse to his dingy pocket-handkerchief.
    The widow used the corner of her apron.
    Mr. Banks saw the advantage he had gained, and hastened to clench the object of his visit.
    "Yes, my dear madam, no man respected your dear husband more than me: in fact, I wenerated that man. Poor dear Thomas Smith —" 
    "Matthew, sir," said the widow mildly.
    "Ah I so it was, ma'am - Matthew Smith! Good fellow - charming companion - excellent man - gone, gone - never to come back no more!"
    And Mr. Banks sobbed audibly.
    "Well," observed the widow, wiping her eyes, "it's wery strange that poor dear Mat never should have mentioned your name to me, considering you was so intimate."
    "Our friendship, ma'am, was a solemn compact - too solemn to be made a matter of idle conversation. But since I have made myself known to you, my dear madam, do, pray, let me take this unpleasant business off your hands, and conduct the funeral of your lamented lodger."
    "Well, sir," said the widow, after a moment's reflection, "since you are In the undertaking line, and as you've called so polite and all, I shall be wery much obleeged —" 
    "Say no more, my dear Mrs. Smith," exclaimed Mr. Banks. "I will do the thing respectable for you - and wery moderate charges. You need not bother yourself about it in any way. We will bury the dear departed in one of the Globe Lane grounds and I will even provide the clergyman."
    "Do you know a good - pious - sincere minister that you can recommend, Mr. Banks?" asked the widow.
    "I do, ma'am - a godly, dewout, prayerful man - meek and humble," answered the undertaker.
    "I rather want a little advice in one way - quite private," continued Mrs. Smith; "and I should take it as a faviour if your friend the minister would just step round - or shall I call upon him?"
    "No, Mrs. Smith - certainly not. He shall pay his respects to you. Gentlemen always waits upon ladies," added Mr. Banks.
    Though he uttered a compliment, he did not smile; but Mrs. Smith was flattered; and, leading the way down stairs to her little parlour, she invited Mr. Banks to take "a thimble-full of something short to keep out the damp that cold morning."
    Mr. Banks accepted the civility; and the costs of the funeral were duly settled. The undertaker engaged to inter the deceased lodger for five pounds, and pay all expenses. At length he took his leave; and Mrs. Smith felt quite relieved from any anxiety respecting the obsequies of the deceased.
    From Mrs. Smith's humble abode, the respectable Mr. Banks proceeded to the dwelling of the Resurrection Man, who had just returned from a visit to the surgeon that had attended upon the deceased. The success of this visit will be related hereafter; for the present, let us hasten to inform our readers that Mr. Banks acquainted his friend Mr. Tidkins with every particular respecting his call upon the widow in Smart Street.

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