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Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Part 15 out of 21

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certain that he was a dangerous man. Whatever happened, he
repeatedly impressed upon me with anxious affection and kindness, I
was as innocent of as himself and as unable to influence.

"Nor do I understand," said he, "that any doubts tend towards you,
my dear. Much suspicion may exist without that connexion."

"With the lawyer," I returned. "But two other persons have come
into my mind since I have been anxious. Then I told him all about
Mr. Guppy, who I feared might have had his vague surmises when I
little understood his meaning, but in whose silence after our last
interview I expressed perfect confidence.

"Well," said my guardian. "Then we may dismiss him for the
present. Who is the other?"

I called to his recollection the French maid and the eager offer of
herself she had made to me.

"Ha!" he returned thoughtfully. "That is a more alarming person
than the clerk. But after all, my dear, it was but seeking for a
new service. She had seen you and Ada a little while before, and
it was natural that you should come into her head. She merely
proposed herself for your maid, you know. She did nothing more."

"Her manner was strange," said I.

"Yes, and her manner was strange when she took her shoes off and
showed that cool relish for a walk that might have ended in her
death-bed," said my guardian. "It would be useless self-distress
and torment to reckon up such chances and possibilities. There are
very few harmless circumstances that would not seem full of
perilous meaning, so considered. Be hopeful, little woman. You
can be nothing better than yourself; be that, through this
knowledge, as you were before you had it. It is the best you can
do for everybody's sake. I, sharing the secret with you--"

"And lightening it, guardian, so much," said I.

"--will be attentive to what passes in that family, so far as I can
observe it from my distance. And if the time should come when I
can stretch out a hand to render the least service to one whom it
is better not to name even here, I will not fail to do it for her
dear daughter's sake."

I thanked him with my whole heart. What could I ever do but thank
him! I was going out at the door when he asked me to stay a
moment. Quickly turning round, I saw that same expression on his
face again; and all at once, I don't know how, it flashed upon me
as a new and far-off possibility that I understood it.

"My dear Esther," said my guardian, "I have long had something in
my thoughts that I have wished to say to you."

"Indeed?"

"I have had some difficulty in approaching it, and I still have. I
should wish it to be so deliberately said, and so deliberately
considered. Would you object to my writing it?"

"Dear guardian, how could I object to your writing anything for ME
to read?"

"Then see, my love," said he with his cheery smile, "am I at this
moment quite as plain and easy--do I seem as open, as honest and
old-fashioned--as I am at any time?"

I answered in all earnestness, "Quite." With the strictest truth,
for his momentary hesitation was gone (it had not lasted a minute),
and his fine, sensible, cordial, sterling manner was restored.

"Do I look as if I suppressed anything, meant anything but what I
said, had any reservation at all, no matter what?" said he with his
bright clear eyes on mine.

I answered, most assuredly he did not.

"Can you fully trust me, and thoroughly rely on what I profess,
Esther?"

"Most thoroughly," said I with my whole heart.

"My dear girl," returned my guardian, "give me your hand."

He took it in his, holding me lightly with his arm, and looking
down into my face with the same genuine freshness and faithfulness
of manner--the old protecting manner which had made that house my
home in a moment--said, "You have wrought changes in me, little
woman, since the winter day in the stage-coach. First and last you
have done me a world of good since that time."

"Ah, guardian, what have you done for me since that time!"

"But," said he, "that is not to be remembered now."

"It never can be forgotten."

"Yes, Esther," said he with a gentle seriousness, "it is to be
forgotten now, to be forgotten for a while. You are only to
remember now that nothing can change me as you know me. Can you
feel quite assured of that, my dear?"

"I can, and I do," I said.

"That's much," he answered. "That's everything. But I must not
take that at a word. I will not write this something in my
thoughts until you have quite resolved within yourself that nothing
can change me as you know me. If you doubt that in the least
degree, I will never write it. If you are sure of that, on good
consideration, send Charley to me this night week--'for the
letter.' But if you are not quite certain, never send. Mind, I
trust to your truth, in this thing as in everything. If you are
not quite certain on that one point, never send!"

"Guardian," said I, "I am already certain, I can no more be changed
in that conviction than you can be changed towards me. I shall
send Charley for the letter."

He shook my hand and said no more. Nor was any more said in
reference to this conversation, either by him or me, through the
whole week. When the appointed night came, I said to Charley as
soon as I was alone, "Go and knock at Mr. Jarndyce's door, Charley,
and say you have come from me--'for the letter.'" Charley went up
the stairs, and down the stairs, and along the passages--the zig-
zag way about the old-fashioned house seemed very long in my
listening ears that night--and so came back, along the passages,
and down the stairs, and up the stairs, and brought the letter.
"Lay it on the table, Charley," said I. So Charley laid it on the
table and went to bed, and I sat looking at it without taking it
up, thinking of many things.

I began with my overshadowed childhood, and passed through those
timid days to the heavy time when my aunt lay dead, with her
resolute face so cold and set, and when I was more solitary with
Mrs. Rachael than if I had had no one in the world to speak to or
to look at. I passed to the altered days when I was so blest as to
find friends in all around me, and to be beloved. I came to the
time when I first saw my dear girl and was received into that
sisterly affection which was the grace and beauty of my life. I
recalled the first bright gleam of welcome which had shone out of
those very windows upon our expectant faces on that cold bright
night, and which had never paled. I lived my happy life there over
again, I went through my illness and recovery, I thought of myself
so altered and of those around me so unchanged; and all this
happiness shone like a light from one central figure, represented
before me by the letter on the table.

I opened it and read it. It was so impressive in its love for me,
and in the unselfish caution it gave me, and the consideration it
showed for me in every word, that my eyes were too often blinded to
read much at a time. But I read it through three times before I
laid it down. I had thought beforehand that I knew its purport,
and I did. It asked me, would I be the mistress of Bleak House.

It was not a love letter, though it expressed so much love, but was
written just as he would at any time have spoken to me. I saw his
face, and heard his voice, and felt the influence of his kind
protecting manner in every line. It addressed me as if our places
were reversed, as if all the good deeds had been mine and all the
feelings they had awakened his. It dwelt on my being young, and he
past the prime of life; on his having attained a ripe age, while I
was a child; on his writing to me with a silvered head, and knowing
all this so well as to set it in full before me for mature
deliberation. It told me that I would gain nothing by such a
marriage and lose nothing by rejecting it, for no new relation
could enhance the tenderness in which he held me, and whatever my
decision was, he was certain it would be right. But he had
considered this step anew since our late confidence and had decided
on taking it, if it only served to show me through one poor
instance that the whole world would readily unite to falsify the
stern prediction of my childhood. I was the last to know what
happiness I could bestow upon him, but of that he said no more, for
I was always to remember that I owed him nothing and that he was my
debtor, and for very much. He had often thought of our future, and
foreseeing that the time must come, and fearing that it might come
soon, when Ada (now very nearly of age) would leave us, and when
our present mode of life must be broken up, had become accustomed
to reflect on this proposal. Thus he made it. If I felt that I
could ever give him the best right he could have to be my
protector, and if I felt that I could happily and justly become the
dear companion of his remaining life, superior to all lighter
chances and changes than death, even then he could not have me bind
myself irrevocably while this letter was yet so new to me, but even
then I must have ample time for reconsideration. In that case, or
in the opposite case, let him be unchanged in his old relation, in
his old manner, in the old name by which I called him. And as to
his bright Dame Durden and little housekeeper, she would ever be
the same, he knew.

This was the substance of the letter, written throughout with a
justice and a dignity as if he were indeed my responsible guardian
impartially representing the proposal of a friend against whom in
his integrity he stated the full case.

But he did not hint to me that when I had been better looking he
had had this same proceeding in his thoughts and had refrained from
it. That when my old face was gone from me, and I had no
attractions, he could love me just as well as in my fairer days.
That the discovery of my birth gave him no shock. That his
generosity rose above my disfigurement and my inheritance of shame.
That the more I stood in need of such fidelity, the more firmly I
might trust in him to the last.

But I knew it, I knew it well now. It came upon me as the close of
the benignant history I had been pursuing, and I felt that I had
but one thing to do. To devote my life to his happiness was to
thank him poorly, and what had I wished for the other night but
some new means of thanking him?

Still I cried very much, not only in the fullness of my heart after
reading the letter, not only in the strangeness of the prospect--
for it was strange though I had expected the contents--but as if
something for which there was no name or distinct idea were
indefinitely lost to me. I was very happy, very thankful, very
hopeful; but I cried very much.

By and by I went to my old glass. My eyes were red and swollen,
and I said, "Oh, Esther, Esther, can that be you!" I am afraid the
face in the glass was going to cry again at this reproach, but I
held up my finger at it, and it stopped.

"That is more like the composed look you comforted me with, my
dear, when you showed me such a change!" said I, beginning to let
down my hair. "When you are mistress of Bleak House, you are to be
as cheerful as a bird. In fact, you are always to be cheerful; so
let us begin for once and for all."

I went on with my hair now, quite comfortably. I sobbed a little
still, but that was because I had been crying, not because I was
crying then.

"And so Esther, my dear, you are happy for life. Happy with your
best friends, happy in your old home, happy in the power of doing a
great deal of good, and happy in the undeserved love of the best of
men."

I thought, all at once, if my guardian had married some one else,
how should I have felt, and what should I have done! That would
have been a change indeed. It presented my life in such a new and
blank form that I rang my housekeeping keys and gave them a kiss
before I laid them down in their basket again.

Then I went on to think, as I dressed my hair before the glass, how
often had I considered within myself that the deep traces of my
illness and the circumstances of my birth were only new reasons why
I should be busy, busy, busy--useful, amiable, serviceable, in all
honest, unpretending ways. This was a good time, to be sure, to
sit down morbidly and cry! As to its seeming at all strange to me
at first (if that were any excuse for crying, which it was not)
that I was one day to be the mistress of Bleak House, why should it
seem strange? Other people had thought of such things, if I had
not. "Don't you remember, my plain dear," I asked myself, looking
at the glass, "what Mrs. Woodcourt said before those scars were
there about your marrying--"

Perhaps the name brought them to my remembrance. The dried remains
of the flowers. It would be better not to keep them now. They had
only been preserved in memory of something wholly past and gone,
but it would be better not to keep them now.

They were in a book, and it happened to be in the next room--our
sitting-room, dividing Ada's chamber from mine. I took a candle
and went softly in to fetch it from its shelf. After I had it in
my hand, I saw my beautiful darling, through the open door, lying
asleep, and I stole in to kiss her.

It was weak in me, I know, and I could have no reason for crying;
but I dropped a tear upon her dear face, and another, and another.
Weaker than that, I took the withered flowers out and put them for
a moment to her lips. I thought about her love for Richard,
though, indeed, the flowers had nothing to do with that. Then I
took them into my own room and burned them at the candle, and they
were dust in an instant.

On entering the breakfast-room next morning, I found my guardian
just as usual, quite as frank, as open, and free. There being not
the least constraint in his manner, there was none (or I think
there was none) in mine. I was with him several times in the
course of the morning, in and out, when there was no one there, and
I thought it not unlikely that he might speak to me about the
letter, but he did not say a word.

So, on the next morning, and the next, and for at least a week,
over which time Mr. Skimpole prolonged his stay. I expected, every
day, that my guardian might speak to me about the letter, but he
never did.

I thought then, growing uneasy, that I ought to write an answer. I
tried over and over again in my own room at night, but I could not
write an answer that at all began like a good answer, so I thought
each night I would wait one more day. And I waited seven more
days, and he never said a word.

At last, Mr. Skimpole having departed, we three were one afternoon
going out for a ride; and I, being dressed before Ada and going
down, came upon my guardian, with his back towards me, standing at
the drawing-room window looking out.

He turned on my coming in and said, smiling, "Aye, it's you, little
woman, is it?" and looked out again.

I had made up my mind to speak to him now. In short, I had come
down on purpose. "Guardian," I said, rather hesitating and
trembling, "when would you like to have the answer to the letter
Charley came for?"

"When it's ready, my dear," he replied.

"I think it is ready," said I.

"Is Charley to bring it?" he asked pleasantly.

"No. I have brought it myself, guardian," I returned.

I put my two arms round his neck and kissed him, and he said was
this the mistress of Bleak House, and I said yes; and it made no
difference presently, and we all went out together, and I said
nothing to my precious pet about it.

CHAPTER XLV

In Trust

One morning when I had done jingling about with my baskets of keys,
as my beauty and I were walking round and round the garden I
happened to turn my eyes towards the house and saw a long thin
shadow going in which looked like Mr. Vholes. Ada had been telling
me only that morning of her hopes that Richard might exhaust his
ardour in the Chancery suit by being so very earnest in it; and
therefore, not to damp my dear girl's spirits, I said nothing about
Mr. Vholes's shadow.

Presently came Charley, lightly winding among the bushes and
tripping along the paths, as rosy and pretty as one of Flora's
attendants instead of my maid, saying, "Oh, if you please, miss,
would you step and speak to Mr. Jarndyce!"

It was one of Charley's peculiarities that whenever she was charged
with a message she always began to deliver it as soon as she
beheld, at any distance, the person for whom it was intended.
Therefore I saw Charley asking me in her usual form of words to
"step and speak" to Mr. Jarndyce long before I heard her. And when
I did hear her, she had said it so often that she was out of
breath.

I told Ada I would make haste back and inquired of Charley as we
went in whether there was not a gentleman with Mr. Jarndyce. To
which Charley, whose grammar, I confess to my shame, never did any
credit to my educational powers, replied, "Yes, miss. Him as come
down in the country with Mr. Richard."

A more complete contrast than my guardian and Mr. Vholes I suppose
there could not be. I found them looking at one another across a
table, the one so open and the other so close, the one so broad and
upright and the other so narrow and stooping, the one giving out
what he had to say in such a rich ringing voice and the other
keeping it in in such a cold-blooded, gasping, fish-like manner
that I thought I never had seen two people so unmatched.

"You know Mr. Vholes, my dear," said my guardian. Not with the
greatest urbanity, I must say.

Mr. Vholes rose, gloved and buttoned up as usual, and seated
himself again, just as he had seated himself beside Richard in the
gig. Not having Richard to look at, he looked straight before him.

"Mr. Vholes," said my guardian, eyeing his black figure as if he
were a bird of ill omen, "has brought an ugly report of our most
unfortunate Rick." Laying a marked emphasis on "most unfortunate"
as if the words were rather descriptive of his connexion with Mr.
Vholes.

I sat down between them; Mr. Vholes remained immovable, except that
he secretly picked at one of the red pimples on his yellow face
with his black glove.

"And as Rick and you are happily good friends, I should like to
know," said my guardian, "what you think, my dear. Would you be so
good as to--as to speak up, Mr. Vholes?"

Doing anything but that, Mr. Vholes observed, "I have been saying
that I have reason to know, Miss Summerson, as Mr. C.'s
professional adviser, that Mr. C.'s circumstances are at the
present moment in an embarrassed state. Not so much in point of
amount as owing to the peculiar and pressing nature of liabilities
Mr. C. has incurred and the means he has of liquidating or meeting
the same. I have staved off many little matters for Mr. C., but
there is a limit to staving off, and we have reached it. I have
made some advances out of pocket to accommodate these
unpleasantnesses, but I necessarily look to being repaid, for I do
not pretend to be a man of capital, and I have a father to support
in the Vale of Taunton, besides striving to realize some little
independence for three dear girls at home. My apprehension is, Mr.
C.'s circumstances being such, lest it should end in his obtaining
leave to part with his commission, which at all events is desirable
to be made known to his connexions."

Mr. Vholes, who had looked at me while speaking, here emerged into
the silence he could hardly be said to have broken, so stifled was
his tone, and looked before him again.

"Imagine the poor fellow without even his present resource," said
my guardian to me. "Yet what can I do? You know him, Esther. He
would never accept of help from me now. To offer it or hint at it
would be to drive him to an extremity, if nothing else did."

Mr. Vholes hereupon addressed me again.

"What Mr. Jarndyce remarks, miss, is no doubt the case, and is the
difficulty. I do not see that anything is to be done, I do not say
that anything is to be done. Far from it. I merely come down here
under the seal of confidence and mention it in order that
everything may be openly carried on and that it may not be said
afterwards that everything was not openly carried on. My wish is
that everything should be openly carried on. I desire to leave a
good name behind me. If I consulted merely my own interests with
Mr. C., I should not be here. So insurmountable, as you must well
know, would be his objections. This is not a professional
attendance. This can he charged to nobody. I have no interest in
it except as a member of society and a father--AND a son," said Mr.
Vholes, who had nearly forgotten that point.

It appeared to us that Mr. Vholes said neither more nor less than
the truth in intimating that he sought to divide the
responsibility, such as it was, of knowing Richard's situation. I
could only suggest that I should go down to Deal, where Richard was
then stationed, and see him, and try if it were possible to avert
the worst. Without consulting Mr. Vholes on this point, I took my
guardian aside to propose it, while Mr. Vholes gauntly stalked to
the fire and warmed his funeral gloves.

The fatigue of the journey formed an immediate objection on my
guardian's part, but as I saw he had no other, and as I was only
too happy to go, I got his consent. We had then merely to dispose
of Mr. Vholes.

"Well, sir," said Mr. Jarndyce, "Miss Summerson will communicate
with Mr. Carstone, and you can only hope that his position may be
yet retrievable. You will allow me to order you lunch after your
journey, sir."

"I thank you, Mr. Jarndyce," said Mr. Vholes, putting out his long
black sleeve to check the ringing of the bell, "not any. I thank
you, no, not a morsel. My digestion is much impaired, and I am but
a poor knife and fork at any time. If I was to partake of solid
food at this period of the day, I don't know what the consequences
might be. Everything having been openly carried on, sir, I will
now with your permission take my leave."

"And I would that you could take your leave, and we could all take
our leave, Mr. Vholes," returned my guardian bitterly, "of a cause
you know of."

Mr. Vholes, whose black dye was so deep from head to foot that it
had quite steamed before the fire, diffusing a very unpleasant
perfume, made a short one-sided inclination of his head from the
neck and slowly shook it.

"We whose ambition it is to be looked upon in the light of
respectable practitioners, sir, can but put our shoulders to the
wheel. We do it, sir. At least, I do it myself; and I wish to
think well of my professional brethren, one and all. You are
sensible of an obligation not to refer to me, miss, in
communicating with Mr. C.?"

I said I would be careful not to do it.

"Just so, miss. Good morning. Mr. Jarndyce, good morning, sir."
Mr. Vholes put his dead glove, which scarcely seemed to have any
hand in it, on my fingers, and then on my guardian's fingers, and
took his long thin shadow away. I thought of it on the outside of
the coach, passing over all the sunny landscape between us and
London, chilling the seed in the ground as it glided along.

Of course it became necessary to tell Ada where I was going and why
I was going, and of course she was anxious and distressed. But she
was too true to Richard to say anything but words of pity and words
of excuse, and in a more loving spirit still--my dear devoted
girl!--she wrote him a long letter, of which I took charge.

Charley was to be my travelling companion, though I am sure I
wanted none and would willingly have left her at home. We all went
to London that afternoon, and finding two places in the mail,
secured them. At our usual bed-time, Charley and I were rolling
away seaward with the Kentish letters.

It was a night's journey in those coach times, but we had the mail
to ourselves and did not find the night very tedious. It passed
with me as I suppose it would with most people under such
circumstances. At one while my journey looked hopeful, and at
another hopeless. Now I thought I should do some good, and now I
wondered how I could ever have supposed so. Now it seemed one of
the most reasonable things in the world that I should have come,
and now one of the most unreasonable. In what state I should find
Richard, what I should say to him, and what he would say to me
occupied my mind by turns with these two states of feeling; and the
wheels seemed to play one tune (to which the burden of my
guardian's letter set itself) over and over again all night.

At last we came into the narrow streets of Deal, and very gloomy
they were upon a raw misty morning. The long flat beach, with its
little irregular houses, wooden and brick, and its litter of
capstans, and great boats, and sheds, and bare upright poles with
tackle and blocks, and loose gravelly waste places overgrown with
grass and weeds, wore as dull an appearance as any place I ever
saw. The sea was heaving under a thick white fog; and nothing else
was moving but a few early ropemakers, who, with the yarn twisted
round their bodies, looked as if, tired of their present state of
existence, they were spinning themselves into cordage.

But when we got into a warm room in an excellent hotel and sat
down, comfortably washed and dressed, to an early breakfast (for it
was too late to think of going to bed), Deal began to look more
cheerful. Our little room was like a ship's cabin, and that
delighted Charley very much. Then the fog began to rise like a
curtain, and numbers of ships that we had had no idea were near
appeared. I don't know how many sail the waiter told us were then
lying in the downs. Some of these vessels were of grand size--one
was a large Indiaman just come home; and when the sun shone through
the clouds, maktng silvery pools in the dark sea, the way in which
these ships brightened, and shadowed, and changed, amid a bustle of
boats pulling off from the shore to them and from them to the
shore, and a general life and motion in themselves and everything
around them, was most beautiful.

The large Indiaman was our great attraction because she had come
into the downs in the night. She was surrounded by boats, and we
said how glad the people on board of her must be to come ashore.
Charley was curious, too, about the voyage, and about the heat in
India, and the serpents and the tigers; and as she picked up such
information much faster than grammar, I told her what I knew on
those points. I told her, too, how people in such voyages were
sometimes wrecked and cast on rocks, where they were saved by the
intrepidity and humanity of one man. And Charley asking how that
could be, I told her how we knew at home of such a case.

I had thought of sending Richard a note saying I was there, but it
seemed so much better to go to him without preparation. As he
lived in barracks I was a little doubtful whether this was
feasible, but we went out to reconnoitre. Peeping in at the gate
of the barrack-yard, we found everything very quiet at that time in
the morning, and I asked a sergeant standing on the guardhouse-
steps where he lived. He sent a man before to show me, who went up
some bare stairs, and knocked with his knuckles at a door, and left
us.

"Now then!" cried Richard from within. So I left Charley in the
little passage, and going on to the half-open door, said, "Can I
come in, Richard? It's only Dame Durden."

He was writing at a table, with a great confusion of clothes, tin
cases, books, boots, brushes, and portmanteaus strewn all about the
floor. He was only half dressed--in plain clothes, I observed, not
in uniform--and his hair was unbrushed, and he looked as wild as
his room. All this I saw after he had heartily welcomed me and I
was seated near him, for he started upon hearing my voice and
caught me in his arms in a moment. Dear Richard! He was ever the
same to me. Down to--ah, poor poor fellow!--to the end, he never
received me but with something of his old merry boyish manner.

"Good heaven, my dear little woman," said he, "how do you come
here? Who could have thought of seeing you! Nothing the matter?
Ada is well?"

"Quite well. Lovelier than ever, Richard!"

"Ah!" he said, lenning back in his chair. "My poor cousin! I was
writing to you, Esther."

So worn and haggard as he looked, even in the fullness of his
handsome youth, leaning back in his chair and crushing the closely
written sheet of paper in his hand!

"Have you been at the trouble of writing all that, and am I not to
read it after all?" I asked.

"Oh, my dear," he returned with a hopeless gesture. "You may read
it in the whole room. It is all over here."

I mildly entreated him not to be despondent. I told him that I had
heard by chance of his being in difficulty and had come to consult
with him what could best be done.

"Like you, Esther, but useless, and so NOT like you!" said he with
a melancholy smile. "I am away on leave this day--should have been
gone in another hour--and that is to smooth it over, for my selling
out. Well! Let bygones be bygones. So this calling follows the
rest. I only want to have been in the church to have made the
round of all the professions."

"Richard," I urged, "it is not so hopeless as that?"

"Esther," he returned, "it is indeed. I am just so near disgrace
as that those who are put in authority over me (as the catechism
goes) would far rather be without me than with me. And they are
right. Apart from debts and duns and all such drawbacks, I am not
fit even for this employment. I have no care, no mind, no heart,
no soul, but for one thing. Why, if this bubble hadn't broken
now," he said, tearing the letter he had written into fragments and
moodily casting them away, by driblets, "how could I have gone
abroad? I must have been ordered abroad, but how could I have
gone? How could I, with my experience of that thing, trust even
Vholes unless I was at his back!"

I suppose he knew by my face what I was about to say, but he caught
the hand I had laid upon his arm and touched my own lips with it to
prevent me from going on.

"No, Dame Durden! Two subjects I forbid--must forbid. The first
is John Jarndyce. The second, you know what. Call it madness, and
I tell you I can't help it now, and can't be sane. But it is no
such thing; it is the one object I have to pursue. It is a pity I
ever was prevailed upon to turn out of my road for any other. It
would be wisdom to abandon it now, after all the time, anxiety, and
pains I have bestowed upon it! Oh, yes, true wisdom. It would be
very agreeable, too, to some people; but I never will."

He was in that mood in which I thought it best not to increase his
determination (if anything could increase it) by opposing him. I
took out Ada's letter and put it in his hand.

"Am I to read it now?" he asked.

As I told him yes, he laid it on the table, and resting his head
upon his hand, began. He had not read far when he rested his head
upon his two hands--to hide his face from me. In a little while he
rose as if the light were bad and went to the window. He finished
reading it there, with his back towards me, and after he had
finished and had folded it up, stood there for some minutes with
the letter in his hand. When he came back to his chair, I saw
tears in his eyes.

"Of course, Esther, you know what she says here?" He spoke in a
softened voice and kissed the letter as he asked me.

"Yes, Richard."

"Offers me," he went on, tapping his foot upon the floor, "the
little inheritance she is certain of so soon--just as little and as
much as I have wasted--and begs and prays me to take it, set myself
right with it, and remain in the service."

"I know your welfare to be the dearest wish of her heart," said I.
"And, oh, my dear Richard, Ada's is a noble heart."

"I am sure it is. I--I wish I was dead!"

He went back to the window, and laying his arm across it, leaned
his head down on his arm. It greatly affected me to see him so,
but I hoped he might become more yielding, and I remained silent.
My experience was very limited; I was not at all prepared for his
rousing himself out of this emotion to a new sense of injury.

"And this is the heart that the same John Jarndyce, who is not
otherwise to be mentioned between us, stepped in to estrange from
me," said he indignantly. "And the dear girl makes me this
generous offer from under the same John Jarndyce's roof, and with
the same John Jarndyce's gracious consent and connivance, I dare
say, as a new means of buying me off."

"Richard!" I cried out, rising hastily. "I will not hear you say
such shameful words!" I was very angry with him indeed, for the
first time in my life, but it only lasted a moment. When I saw his
worn young face looking at me as if he were sorry, I put my hand on
his shoulder and said, "If you please, my dear Richard, do not
speak in such a tone to me. Consider!"

He blamed himself exceedingly and told me in the most generous
manner that he had been very wrong and that he begged my pardon a
thousand times. At that I laughed, but trembled a little too, for
I was rather fluttered after being so fiery.

"To accept this offer, my dear Esther," said he, sitting down
beside me and resuming our conversation, "--once more, pray, pray
forgive me; I am deeply grieved--to accept my dearest cousin's
offer is, I need not say, impossible. Besides, I have letters and
papers that I could show you which would convince you it is all
over here. I have done with the red coat, believe me. But it is
some satisfaction, in the midst of my troubles and perplexities, to
know that I am pressing Ada's interests in pressing my own. Vholes
has his shoulder to the wheel, and he cannot help urging it on as
much for her as for me, thank God!"

His sanguine hopes were rising within him and lighting up his
features, but they made his face more sad to me than it had been
before.

"No, no!" cried Richard exultingly. "If every farthing of Ada's
little fortune were mine, no part of it should be spent in
retaining me in what I am not fit for, can take no interest in, and
am weary of. It should be devoted to what promises a better
return, and should be used where she has a larger stake. Don't be
uneasy for me! I shall now have only one thing on my mind, and
Vholes and I will work it. I shall not be without means. Free of
my commission, I shall be able to compound with some small usurers
who will hear of nothing but their bond now--Vholes says so. I
should have a balance in my favour anyway, but that would swell it.
Come, come! You shall carry a letter to Ada from me, Esther, and
you must both of you be more hopeful of me and not believe that I
am quite cast away just yet, my dear."

I will not repeat what I said to Richard. I know it was tiresome,
and nobody is to suppose for a moment that it was at all wise. It
only came from my heart. He heard it patiently and feelingly, but
I saw that on the two subjects he had reserved it was at present
hopeless to make any representation to him. I saw too, and had
experienced in this very interview, the sense of my guardian's
remark that it was even more mischievous to use persuasion with him
than to leave him as he was.

Therefore I was driven at last to asking Richard if he would mind
convincing me that it really was all over there, as he had said,
and that it was not his mere impression. He showed me without
hesitation a correspondence making it quite plain that his
retirement was arranged. I found, from what he told me, that Mr.
Vholes had copies of these papers and had been in consultation with
him throughout. Beyond ascertaining this, and having been the
bearer of Ada's letter, and being (as I was going to be) Richard's
companion back to London, I had done no good by coming down.
Admitting this to myself with a reluctant heart, I said I would
return to the hotel and wait until he joined me there, so he threw
a cloak over his shoulders and saw me to the gate, and Charley and
I went back along the beach.

There was a concourse of people in one spot, surrounding some naval
officers who were landing from a boat, and pressing about them with
unusual interest. I said to Charley this would be one of the great
Indiaman's boats now, and we stopped to look.

The gentlemen came slowly up from the waterside, speaking good-
humouredly to each other and to the people around and glancing
about them as if they were glad to be in England again. "Charley,
Charley," said I, "come away!" And I hurried on so swiftly that my
little maid was surprised.

It was not until we were shut up in our cabin-room and I had had
time to take breath that I began to think why I had made such
haste. In one of the sunburnt faces I had recognized Mr. Allan
Woodcourt, and I had been afraid of his recognizing me. I had been
unwilling that he should see my altered looks. I had been taken by
surprise, and my courage had quite failed me.

But I knew this would not do, and I now said to myself, "My dear,
there is no reason--there is and there can be no reason at all--why
it should be worse for you now than it ever has been. What you
were last month, you are to-day; you are no worse, you are no
better. This is not your resolution; call it up, Esther, call it
up!" I was in a great tremble--with running--and at first was
quite unable to calm myself; but I got better, and I was very glad
to know it.

The party came to the hotel. I heard them speaking on the
staircase. I was sure it was the same gentlemen because I knew
their voices again--I mean I knew Mr. Woodcourt's. It would still
have been a great relief to me to have gone away without making
myself known, but I was determined not to do so. "No, my dear, no.
No, no, no!"

I untied my bonnet and put my veil half up--I think I mean half
down, but it matters very little--and wrote on one of my cards that
I happened to be there with Mr. Richard Carstone, and I sent it in
to Mr. Woodcourt. He came immediately. I told him I was rejoiced
to be by chance among the first to welcome him home to England.
And I saw that he was very sorry for me.

"You have been in shipwreck and peril since you left us, Mr.
Woodcourt," said I, "but we can hardly call that a misfortune which
enabled you to be so useful and so brave. We read of it with the
truest interest. It first came to my knowledge through your old
patient, poor Miss Flite, when I was recovering from my severe
illness."

"Ah! Little Miss Flite!" he said. "She lives the same life yet?"

"Just the same."

I was so comfortable with myself now as not to mind the veil and to
be able to put it aside.

"Her gratitude to you, Mr. Woodcourt, is delightful. She is a most
affectionate creature, as I have reason to say."

"You--you have found her so?" he returned. "I--I am glad of that."
He was so very sorry for me that he could scarcely speak.

"I assure you," said I, "that I was deeply touched by her sympathy
and pleasure at the time I have referred to."

"I was grieved to hear that you had been very ill."

"I was very ill."

"But you have quite recovered?"

"I have quite recovered my health and my cheerfulness," said I.
"You know how good my guardian is and what a happy life we lead,
and I have everything to be thankful for and nothing in the world
to desire."

I felt as if he had greater commiseration for me than I had ever
had for myself. It inspired me with new fortitude and new calmness
to find that it was I who was under the necessity of reassuring
him. I spoke to him of his voyage out and home, and of his future
plans, and of his probable return to India. He said that was very
doubtful. He had not found himself more favoured by fortune there
than here. He had gone out a poor ship's surgeon and had come home
nothing better. While we were talking, and when I was glad to
believe that I had alleviated (if I may use such a term) the shock
he had had in seeing me, Richard came in. He had heard downstairs
who was with me, and they met with cordial pleasure.

I saw that after their first greetings were over, and when they
spoke of Richard's career, Mr. Woodcourt had a perception that all
was not going well with him. He frequently glanced at his face as
if there were something in it that gave him pain, and more than
once he looked towards me as though he sought to ascertain whether
I knew what the truth was. Yet Richard was in one of his sanguine
states and in good spirits and was thoroughly pleased to see Mr.
Woodcourt again, whom he had always liked.

Richard proposed that we all should go to London together; but Mr.
Woodcourt, having to remain by his ship a little longer, could not
join us. He dined with us, however, at an early hour, and became
so much more like what he used to be that I was still more at peace
to think I had been able to soften his regrets. Yet his mind was
not relieved of Richard. When the coach was almost ready and
Richard ran down to look after his luggage, he spoke to me about
him.

I was not sure that I had a right to lay his whole story open, but
I referred in a few words to his estrangement from Mr Jarndyce and
to his being entangled in the ill-fated Chancery suit. Mr.
Woodcourt listened with interest and expressed his regret.

"I saw you observe him rather closely," said I, "Do you think him
so changed?"

"He is changed," he returned, shaking his head.

I felt the blood rush into my face for the first time, but it was
only an instantaneous emotion. I turned my head aside, and it was
gone.

"It is not," said Mr. Woodcourt, "his being so much younger or
older, or thinner or fatter, or paler or ruddier, as there being
upon his face such a singular expression. I never saw so
remarkable a look in a young person. One cannot say that it is all
anxiety or all weariness; yet it is both, and like ungrown
despair."

"You do not think he is ill?" said I.

No. He looked robust in body.

"That he cannot be at peace in mind, we have too much reason to
know," I proceeded. "Mr. Woodcourt, you are going to London?"

"To-morrow or the next day."

"There is nothing Richard wants so much as a friend. He always
liked you. Pray see him when you get there. Pray help him
sometimes with your companionship if you can. You do not know of
what service it might be. You cannot think how Ada, and Mr.
Jarndyce, and even I--how we should all thank you, Mr. Woodcourt!"

"Miss Summerson," he said, more moved than he had been from the
first, "before heaven, I will be a true friend to him! I will
accept him as a trust, and it shall be a sacred one!"

"God bless you!" said I, with my eyes filling fast; but I thought
they might, when it was not for myself. "Ada loves him--we all
love him, but Ada loves him as we cannot. I will tell her what you
say. Thank you, and God bless you, in her name!"

Richard came back as we finished exchanging these hurried words and
gave me his arm to take me to the coach.

"Woodcourt," he said, unconscious with what application, "pray let
us meet in London!"

"Meet?" returned the other. "I have scarcely a friend there now
but you. Where shall I find you?"

"Why, I must get a lodging of some sort," said Richard, pondering.
"Say at Vholes's, Symond's Inn."

"Good! Without loss of time."

They shook hands heartily. When I was seated in the coach and
Richard was yet standing in the street, Mr. Woodcourt laid his
friendly hand on Richard's shoulder and looked at me. I understood
him and waved mine in thanks.

And in his last look as we drove away, I saw that he was very sorry
for me. I was glad to see it. I felt for my old self as the dead
may feel if they ever revisit these scenes. I was glad to be
tenderly remembered, to be gently pitied, not to be quite
forgotten.

CHAPTER XLVI

Stop Him!

Darkness rests upon Tom-All-Alone's. Dilating and dilating since
the sun went down last night, it has gradually swelled until it
fills every void in the place. For a time there were some dungeon
lights burning, as the lamp of life hums in Tom-all-Alone's,
heavily, heavily, in the nauseous air, and winking--as that lamp,
too, winks in Tom-all-Alone's--at many horrible things. But they
are blotted out. The moon has eyed Tom with a dull cold stare, as
admitting some puny emulation of herself in his desert region unfit
for life and blasted by volcanic fires; but she has passed on and
is gone. The blackest nightmare in the infernal stables grazes on
Tom-all-Alone's, and Tom is fast asleep.

Much mighty speech-making there has been, both in and out of
Parliament, concerning Tom, and much wrathful disputation how Tom
shall be got right. Whether he shall be put into the main road by
constables, or by beadles, or by bell-ringing, or by force of
figures, or by correct principles of taste, or by high church, or
by low church, or by no church; whether he shall be set to
splitting trusses of polemical straws with the crooked knife of his
mind or whether he shall be put to stone-breaking instead. In the
midst of which dust and noise there is but one thing perfectly
clear, to wit, that Tom only may and can, or shall and will, be
reclaimed according to somebody's theory but nobody's practice.
And in the hopeful meantime, Tom goes to perdition head foremost in
his old determined spirit.

But he has his revenge. Even the winds are his messengers, and
they serve him in these hours of darkness. There is not a drop of
Tom's corrupted blood but propagates infection and contagion
somewhere. It shall pollute, this very night, the choice stream
(in which chemists on analysis would find the genuine nobility) of
a Norman house, and his Grace shall not be able to say nay to the
infamous alliance. There is not an atom of Tom's slime, not a
cubic inch of any pestilential gas in which he lives, not one
obscenity or degradation about him, not an ignorance, not a
wickedness, not a brutality of his committing, but shall work its
retribution through every order of society up to the proudest of
the proud and to the highest of the high. Verily, what with
tainting, plundering, and spoiling, Tom has his revenge.

It is a moot point whether Tom-all-Alone's be uglier by day or by
night, but on the argument that the more that is seen of it the
more shocking it must be, and that no part of it left to the
imagination is at all likely to be made so bad as the reality, day
carries it. The day begins to break now; and in truth it might be
better for the national glory even that the sun should sometimes
set upon the British dominions than that it should ever rise upon
so vile a wonder as Tom.

A brown sunburnt gentleman, who appears in some inaptitude for
sleep to be wandering abroad rather than counting the hours on a
restless pillow, strolls hitherward at this quiet time. Attracted
by curiosity, he often pauses and looks about him, up and down the
miserable by-ways. Nor is he merely curious, for in his bright
dark eye there is compassionate interest; and as he looks here and
there, he seems to understand such wretchedness and to have studied
it before.

On the banks of the stagnant channel of mud which is the main
street of Tom-all-Alone's, nothing is to be seen but the crazy
houses, shut up and silent. No waking creature save himself
appears except in one direction, where he sees the solitary figure
of a woman sitting on a door-step. He walks that way.
Approaching, he observes that she has journeyed a long distance and
is footsore and travel-stained. She sits on the door-step in the
manner of one who is waiting, with her elbow on her knee and her
head upon her hand. Beside her is a canvas bag, or bundle, she has
carried. She is dozing probably, for she gives no heed to his
steps as he comes toward her.

The broken footway is so narrow that when Allan Woodcourt comes to
where the woman sits, he has to turn into the road to pass her.
Looking down at her face, his eye meets hers, and he stops.

"What is the matter?"

"Nothing, sir."

"Can't you make them hear? Do you want to be let in?"

"I'm walting till they get up at another house--a lodging-house--
not here," the woman patiently returns. "I'm waiting here because
there will be sun here presently to warm me."

"I am afraid you are tired. I am sorry to see you sitting in the
street."

"Thank you, sir. It don't matter."

A habit in him of speaking to the poor and of avoiding patronage or
condescension or childishness (which is the favourite device, many
people deeming it quite a subtlety to talk to them like little
spelling books) has put him on good terms with the woman easily.

"Let me look at your forehead," he says, bending down. "I am a
doctor. Don't be afraid. I wouldn't hurt you for the world."

He knows that by touching her with his skilful and accustomed hand
he can soothe her yet more readily. She makes a slight objection,
saying, "It's nothing"; but he has scarcely laid his fingers on the
wounded place when she lifts it up to the light.

"Aye! A bad bruise, and the skin sadly broken. This must be very
sore."

"It do ache a little, sir," returns the woman with a started tear
upon her cheek.

"Let me try to make it more comfortable. My handkerchief won't
hurt you."

"Oh, dear no, sir, I'm sure of that!"

He cleanses the injured place and dries it, and having carefully
examined it and gently pressed it with the palm of his hand, takes
a small case from his pocket, dresses it, and binds it up. While
he is thus employed, he says, after laughing at his establishing a
surgery in the street, "And so your husband is a brickmaker?"

"How do you know that, sir?" asks the woman, astonished.

"Why, I suppose so from the colour of the clay upon your bag and on
your dress. And I know brickmakers go about working at piecework
in different places. And I am sorry to say I have known them cruel
to their wives too."

The woman hastily lifts up her eyes as if she would deny that her
injury is referable to such a cause. But feeling the hand upon her
forehead, and seeing his busy and composed face, she quietly drops
them again.

"Where is he now?" asks the surgeon.

"He got into trouble last night, sir; but he'll look for me at the
lodging-house."

"He will get into worse trouble if he often misuses his large and
heavy hand as he has misused it here. But you forgive him, brutal
as he is, and I say no more of him, except that I wish he deserved
it. You have no young child?"

The woman shakes her head. "One as I calls mine, sir, but it's
Liz's."

"Your own is dead. I see! Poor little thing!"

By this time he has finished and is putting up his case. "I
suppose you have some settled home. Is it far from here?" he asks,
good-humouredly making light of what he has done as she gets up and
curtsys.

"It's a good two or three and twenty mile from here, sir. At Saint
Albans. You know Saint Albans, sir? I thought you gave a start
like, as if you did."

"Yes, I know something of it. And now I will ask you a question in
return. Have you money for your lodging?"

"Yes, sir," she says, "really and truly." And she shows it. He
tells her, in acknowledgment of her many subdued thanks, that she
is very welcome, gives her good day, and walks away. Tom-all-
Alone's is still asleep, and nothing is astir.

Yes, something is! As he retraces his way to the point from which
he descried the woman at a distance sitting on the step, he sees a
ragged figure coming very cautiously along, crouching close to the
soiled walls--which the wretchedest figure might as well avoid--and
furtively thrusting a hand before it. It is the figure of a youth
whose face is hollow and whose eyes have an emaciated glare. He is
so intent on getting along unseen that even the apparition of a
stranger in whole garments does not tempt him to look back. He
shades his face with his ragged elbow as he passes on the other
side of the way, and goes shrinking and creeping on with his
anxious hand before him and his shapeless clothes hanging in
shreds. Clothes made for what purpose, or of what material, it
would be impossible to say. They look, in colour and in substance,
like a bundle of rank leaves of swampy growth that rotted long ago.

Allan Woodcourt pauses to look after him and note all this, with a
shadowy belief that he has seen the boy before. He cannot recall
how or where, but there is some association in his mind with such a
form. He imagines that he must have seen it in some hospital or
refuge, still, cannot make out why it comes with any special force
on his remembrance.

He is gradually emerging from Tom-all-Alone's in the morning light,
thinking about it, when he hears running feet behind him, and
looking round, sees the boy scouring towards him at great speed,
followed by the woman.

"Stop him, stop him!" cries the woman, almost breath less. "Stop
him, sir!"

He darts across the road into the boy's path, but the boy is
quicker than he, makes a curve, ducks, dives under his hands, comes
up half-a-dozen yards beyond him, and scours away again. Still the
woman follows, crying, "Stop him, sir, pray stop him!" Allan, not
knowing but that he has just robbed her of her money, follows in
chase and runs so hard that he runs the boy down a dozen times, but
each time he repeats the curve, the duck, the dive, and scours away
again. To strike at him on any of these occasions would be to fell
and disable him, but the pursuer cannot resolve to do that, and so
the grimly ridiculous pursuit continues. At last the fugitive,
hard-pressed, takes to a narrow passage and a court which has no
thoroughfare. Here, against a hoarding of decaying timber, he is
brought to bay and tumbles down, lying gasping at his pursuer, who
stands and gasps at him until the woman comes up.

"Oh, you, Jo!" cries the woman. "What? I have found you at last!"

"Jo," repeats Allan, looking at him with attention, "Jo! Stay. To
be sure! I recollect this lad some time ago being brought before
the coroner."

"Yes, I see you once afore at the inkwhich," whimpers Jo. "What of
that? Can't you never let such an unfortnet as me alone? An't I
unfortnet enough for you yet? How unfortnet do you want me fur to
be? I've been a-chivied and a-chivied, fust by one on you and nixt
by another on you, till I'm worritted to skins and bones. The
inkwhich warn't MY fault. I done nothink. He wos wery good to me,
he wos; he wos the only one I knowed to speak to, as ever come
across my crossing. It ain't wery likely I should want him to be
inkwhiched. I only wish I wos, myself. I don't know why I don't
go and make a hole in the water, I'm sure I don't."

He says it with such a pitiable air, and his grimy tears appear so
real, and he lies in the corner up against the hoarding so like a
growth of fungus or any unwholesome excrescence produced there in
neglect and impurity, that Allan Woodcourt is softened towards him.
He says to the woman, "Miserable creature, what has he done?"

To which she only replies, shaking her head at the prostrate figure
more amazedly than angrily, "Oh, you Jo, you Jo. I have found you
at last!"

"What has he done?" says Allan. "Has he robbed you?"

"No, sir, no. Robbed me? He did nothing but what was kind-hearted
by me, and that's the wonder of it."

Allan looks from Jo to the woman, and from the woman to Jo, waiting
for one of them to unravel the riddle.

"But he was along with me, sir," says the woman. "Oh, you Jo! He
was along with me, sir, down at Saint Albans, ill, and a young
lady, Lord bless her for a good friend to me, took pity on him when
I durstn't, and took him home--"

Allan shrinks back from him with a sudden horror.

"Yes, sir, yes. Took him home, and made him comfortable, and like
a thankless monster he ran away in the night and never has been
seen or heard of since till I set eyes on him just now. And that
young lady that was such a pretty dear caught his illness, lost her
beautiful looks, and wouldn't hardly be known for the same young
lady now if it wasn't for her angel temper, and her pretty shape,
and her sweet voice. Do you know it? You ungrateful wretch, do
you know that this is all along of you and of her goodness to you?"
demands the woman, beginning to rage at him as she recalls it and
breaking into passionate tears.

The boy, in rough sort stunned by what he hears, falls to smearing
his dirty forehead with his dirty palm, and to staring at the
ground, and to shaking from head to foot until the crazy hoarding
against which he leans rattles.

Allan restrains the woman, merely by a quiet gesture, but
effectually.

"Richard told me--" He falters. "I mean, I have heard of this--
don't mind me for a moment, I will speak presently."

He turns away and stands for a while looking out at the covered
passage. When he comes back, he has recovered his composure,
except that he contends against an avoidance of the boy, which is
so very remarkable that it absorbs the woman's attention.

"You hear what she says. But get up, get up!"

Jo, shaking and chattering, slowly rises and stands, after the
manner of his tribe in a difficulty, sideways against the hoarding,
resting one of his high shoulders against it and covertly rubbing
his right hand over his left and his left foot over his right.

"You hear what she says, and I know it's true. Have you been here
ever since?"

"Wishermaydie if I seen Tom-all-Alone's till this blessed morning,"
replies Jo hoarsely.

"Why have you come here now?"

Jo looks all round the confined court, looks at his questioner no
higher than the knees, and finally answers, "I don't know how to do
nothink, and I can't get nothink to do. I'm wery poor and ill, and
I thought I'd come back here when there warn't nobody about, and
lay down and hide somewheres as I knows on till arter dark, and
then go and beg a trifle of Mr. Snagsby. He wos allus willin fur
to give me somethink he wos, though Mrs. Snagsby she was allus a-
chivying on me--like everybody everywheres."

"Where have you come from?"

Jo looks all round the court again, looks at his questioner's knees
again, and concludes by laying his profile against the hoarding in
a sort of resignation.

"Did you hear me ask you where you have come from?"

"Tramp then," says Jo.

"Now tell me," proceeds Allan, making a strong effort to overcome
his repugnance, going very near to him, and leaning over him with
an expression of confidence, "tell me how it came about that you
left that house when the good young lady had been so unfortunate as
to pity you and take you home."

Jo suddenly comes out of his resignation and excitedly declares,
addressing the woman, that he never known about the young lady,
that he never heern about it, that he never went fur to hurt her,
that he would sooner have hurt his own self, that he'd sooner have
had his unfortnet ed chopped off than ever gone a-nigh her, and
that she wos wery good to him, she wos. Conducting himself
throughout as if in his poor fashion he really meant it, and
winding up with some very miserable sobs.

Allan Woodcourt sees that this is not a sham. He constrains
himself to touch him. "Come, Jo. Tell me."

"No. I dustn't," says Jo, relapsing into the profile state. "I
dustn't, or I would."

"But I must know," returns the other, "all the same. Come, Jo."

After two or three such adjurations, Jo lifts up his head again,
looks round the court again, and says in a low voice, "Well, I'll
tell you something. I was took away. There!"

"Took away? In the night?"

"Ah!" Very apprehensive of being overheard, Jo looks about him and
even glances up some ten feet at the top of the hoarding and
through the cracks in it lest the object of his distrust should be
looking over or hidden on the other side.

"Who took you away?"

"I dustn't name him," says Jo. "I dustn't do it, sir.

"But I want, in the young lady's name, to know. You may trust me.
No one else shall hear."

"Ah, but I don't know," replies Jo, shaking his head fearfulty, "as
he DON'T hear."

"Why, he is not in this place."

"Oh, ain't he though?" says Jo. "He's in all manner of places, all
at wanst."

Allan looks at him in perplexity, but discovers some real meaning
and good faith at the bottom of this bewildering reply. He
patiently awaits an explicit answer; and Jo, more baffled by his
patience than by anything else, at last desperately whispers a name
in his ear.

"Aye!" says Allan. "Why, what had you been doing?"

"Nothink, sir. Never done nothink to get myself into no trouble,
'sept in not moving on and the inkwhich. But I'm a-moving on now.
I'm a-moving on to the berryin ground--that's the move as I'm up
to."

"No, no, we will try to prevent that. But what did he do with
you?"

"Put me in a horsepittle," replied Jo, whispering, "till I was
discharged, then giv me a little money--four half-bulls, wot you
may call half-crowns--and ses 'Hook it! Nobody wants you here,' he
ses. 'You hook it. You go and tramp,' he ses. 'You move on,' he
ses. 'Don't let me ever see you nowheres within forty mile of
London, or you'll repent it.' So I shall, if ever he doos see me,
and he'll see me if I'm above ground," concludes Jo, nervously
repeating all his former precautions and investigations.

Allan considers a little, then remarks, turning to the woman but
keeping an encouraging eye on Jo, "He is not so ungrateful as you
supposed. He had a reason for going away, though it was an
insufficient one."

"Thankee, sir, thankee!" exclaims Jo. "There now! See how hard
you wos upon me. But ony you tell the young lady wot the genlmn
ses, and it's all right. For YOU wos wery good to me too, and I
knows it."

"Now, Jo," says Allan, keeping his eye upon him, "come with me and
I will find you a better place than this to lie down and hide in.
If I take one side of the way and you the other to avoid
observation, you will not run away, I know very well, if you make
me a promise."

"I won't, not unless I wos to see HIM a-coming, sir."

"Very well. I take your word. Half the town is getting up by this
time, and the whole town will be broad awake in another hour. Come
along. Good day again, my good woman."

"Good day again, sir, and I thank you kindly many times again."

She has been sitting on her bag, deeply attentive, and now rises
and takes it up. Jo, repeating, "Ony you tell the young lady as I
never went fur to hurt her and wot the genlmn ses!" nods and
shambles and shivers, and smears and blinks, and half laughs and
half cries, a farewell to her, and takes his creeping way along
after Allan Woodcourt, close to the houses on the opposite side of
the street. In this order, the two come up out of Tom-all-Alone's
into the broad rays of the sunlight and the purer air.

CHAPTER XLVII

Jo's Will

As Allan Woodcourt and Jo proceed along the streets where the high
church spires and the distances are so near and clear in the
morning light that the city itself seems renewed by rest, Allan
revolves in his mind how and where he shall bestow his companion.
"It surely is a strange fact," he considers, "that in the heart of
a civilized world this creature in human form should be more
difficult to dispose of than an unowned dog." But it is none the
less a fact because of its strangeness, and the difficulty remains.

At first he looks behind him often to assure himself that Jo is
still really following. But look where he will, he still beholds
him close to the opposite houses, making his way with his wary hand
from brick to brick and from door to door, and often, as he creeps
along, glancing over at him watchfully. Soon satisfied that the
last thing in his thoughts is to give him the slip, Allan goes on,
considering with a less divided attention what he shall do.

A breakfast-stall at a street-corner suggests the first thing to be
done. He stops there, looks round, and beckons Jo. Jo crosses and
comes halting and shuffling up, slowly scooping the knuckles of his
right hand round and round in the hollowed palm of his left,
kneading dirt with a natural pestle and mortar. What is a dainty
repast to Jo is then set before him, and he begins to gulp the
coffee and to gnaw the bread and butter, looking anxiously about
him in all directions as he eats and drinks, like a scared animal.

But he is so sick and miserable that even hunger has abandoned him.
"I thought I was amost a-starvin, sir," says Jo, soon putting down
his food, "but I don't know nothink--not even that. I don't care
for eating wittles nor yet for drinking on 'em." And Jo stands
shivering and looking at the breakfast wonderingly.

Allan Woodcourt lays his hand upon his pulse and on his chest.
"Draw breath, Jo!" "It draws," says Jo, "as heavy as a cart." He
might add, "And rattles like it," but he only mutters, "I'm a-
moving on, sir."

Allan looks about for an apothecary's shop. There is none at hand,
but a tavern does as well or better. He obtains a little measure
of wine and gives the lad a portion of it very carefully. He
begins to revive almost as soon as it passes his lips. "We may
repeat that dose, Jo," observes Allan after watching him with his
attentive face. "So! Now we will take five minutes' rest, and
then go on again."

Leaving the boy sitting on the bench of the breakfast-stall, with
his back against an iron railing, Allan Woodcourt paces up and down
in the early sunshine, casting an occasional look towards him
without appearing to watch him. It requires no discernment to
perceive that he is warmed and refreshed. If a face so shaded can
brighten, his face brightens somewhat; and by little and little he
eats the slice of bread he had so hopelessly laid down. Observant
of these signs of improvement, Allan engages him in conversation
and elicits to his no small wonder the adventure of the lady in the
veil, with all its consequences. Jo slowly munches as he slowly
tells it. When he has finished his story and his bread, they go on
again.

Intending to refer his difficulty in finding a temporary place of
refuge for the boy to his old patient, zealous little Miss Flite,
Allan leads the way to the court where he and Jo first
foregathered. But all is changed at the rag and bottle shop; Miss
Flite no longer lodges there; it is shut up; and a hard-featured
female, much obscured by dust, whose age is a problem, but who is
indeed no other than the interesting Judy, is tart and spare in her
replies. These sufficing, however, to inform the visitor that Miss
Flite and her birds are domiciled with a Mrs. Blinder, in Bell
Yard, he repairs to that neighbouring place, where Miss Flite (who
rises early that she may be punctual at the divan of justice held
by her excellent friend the Chancellor) comes running downstairs
with tears of welcome and with open arms.

"My dear physician!" cries Miss Flite. "My meritorious,
distinguished, honourable officer!" She uses some odd expressions,
but is as cordial and full of heart as sanity itself can be--more
so than it often is. Allan, very patient with her, waits until she
has no more raptures to express, then points out Jo, trembling in a
doorway, and tells her how he comes there.

"Where can I lodge him hereabouts for the present? Now, you have a
fund of knowledge and good sense and can advise me.

Miss Flite, mighty proud of the compliment, sets herself to
consider; but it is long before a bright thought occurs to her.
Mrs. Blinder is entirely let, and she herself occupies poor
Gridley's room. "Gridley!" exclaims Miss Flite, clapping her hands
after a twentieth repetition of this remark. "Gridley! To be
sure! Of course! My dear physician! General George will help us
out."

It is hopeless to ask for any information about General George, and
would be, though Miss Flite had not akeady run upstairs to put on
her pinched bonnet and her poor little shawl and to arm herself
with her reticule of documents. But as she informs her physician
in her disjointed manner on coming down in full array that General
George, whom she often calls upon, knows her dear Fitz Jarndyce and
takes a great interest in all connected with her, Allan is induced
to think that they may be in the right way. So he tells Jo, for
his encouragement, that this walking about will soon be over now;
and they repair to the general's. Fortunately it is not far.

From the exterior of George's Shooting Gallery, and the long entry,
and the bare perspective beyond it, Allan Woodcourt augurs well.
He also descries promise in the figure of Mr. George himself,
striding towards them in his mornmg exercise with his pipe in his
mouth, no stock on, and his muscular arms, developed by broadsword
and dumbbell, weightily asserting themselves through his light
shirt-sleeves.

"Your servant, sir," says Mr. George with a military salute. Good-
humouredly smiling all over his broad forehead up into his crisp
hair, he then defers to Miss Flite, as, with great stateliness, and
at some length, she performs the courtly ceremony of presentation.
He winds it up with another "Your servant, sir!" and another
salute.

"Excuse me, sir. A sailor, I believe?" says Mr. George.

"I am proud to find I have the air of one," returns Allan; "but I
am only a sea-going doctor."

"Indeed, sir! I should have thought you was a regular blue-jacket
myself."

Allan hopes Mr. George will forgive his intrusion the more readily
on that account, and particularly that he will not lay aside his
pipe, which, in his politeness, he has testifled some intention of
doing. "You are very good, sir," returns the trooper. "As I know
by experience that it's not disagreeable to Miss Flite, and since
it's equally agreeable to yourself--" and finishes the sentence by
putting it between his lips again. Allan proceeds to tell him all
he knows about Jo, unto which the trooper listens with a grave
face.

"And that's the lad, sir, is it?" he inquires, looking along the
entry to where Jo stands staring up at the great letters on the
whitewashed front, which have no meaning in his eyes.

"That's he," says Allan. "And, Mr. George, I am in this difficulty
about him. I am unwilling to place him in a hospital, even if I
could procure him immediate admission, because I foresee that he
would not stay there many hours if he could be so much as got
there. The same objection applies to a workhouse, supposing I had
the patience to be evaded and shirked, and handed about from post
to pillar in trying to get him into one, which is a system that I
don't take kindly to."

"No man does, sir," returns Mr. George.

"I am convinced that he would not remain in either place, because
he is possessed by an extraordinary terror of this person who
ordered him to keep out of the way; in his ignorance, he believes
this person to be everywhere, and cognizant of everything."

"I ask your pardon, sir," says Mr. George. "But you have not
mentioned that party's name. Is it a secret, sir?"

"The boy makes it one. But his name is Bucket."

"Bucket the detective, sir?"

"The same man."

"The man is known to me, sir," returns the trooper after blowing
out a cloud of smoke and squaring his chest, "and the boy is so far
correct that he undoubtedly is a--rum customer." Mr. George smokes
with a profound meaning after this and surveys Miss Flite in
silence.

"Now, I wish Mr. Jarndyce and Miss Summerson at least to know that
this Jo, who tells so strange a story, has reappeared, and to have
it in their power to speak with him if they should desire to do so.
Therefore I want to get him, for the present moment, into any poor
lodging kept by decent people where he would be admitted. Decent
people and Jo, Mr. George," says Allan, following the direction of
the trooper's eyes along the entry, "have not been much acquainted,
as you see. Hence the difficulty. Do you happen to know any one
in this neighbourhood who would receive him for a while on my
paying for him beforehand?"

As he puts the question, he becomes aware of a dirty-faced little
man standing at the trooper's elbow and looking up, with an oddly
twisted figure and countenance, into the trooper's face. After a
few more puffs at his pipe, the trooper looks down askant at the
little man, and the little man winks up at the trooper.

"Well, sir," says Mr. George, "I can assure you that I would
willingiy be knocked on the head at any time if it would be at all
agreeable to Miss Summerson, and consequently I esteem it a
privilege to do that young lady any service, however small. We are
naturally in the vagabond way here, sir, both myself and Phil. You
see what the place is. You are welcome to a quiet corner of it for
the boy if the same would meet your views. No charge made, except
for rations. We are not in a flourishing state of circumstances
here, sir. We are liable to be tumbled out neck and crop at a
moment's notice. However, sir, such as the place is, and so long
as it lasts, here it is at your service."

With a comprehensive wave of his pipe, Mr. George places the whole
building at his visitor's disposal.

"I take it for granted, sir," he adds, "you being one of the
medical staff, that there is no present infection about this
unfortunate subject?"

Allan is quite sure of it.

"Because, sir," says Mr. George, shaking his head sorrowfully, "we
have had enough of that."

His tone is no less sorrowfully echoed by his new acquaintance.
'Still I am bound to tell you," observes Allan after repeating his
former assurance, "that the boy is deplorably low and reduced and
that he may be--I do not say that he is--too far gone to recover."

"Do you consider him in present danger, sir?" inquires the trooper.

"Yes, I fear so."

"Then, sir," returns the trooper in a decisive manner, "it appears
to me--being naturally in the vagabond way myself--that the sooner
he comes out of the street, the better. You, Phil! Bring him in!"

Mr. Squod tacks out, all on one side, to execute the word of
command; and the trooper, having smoked his pipe, lays it by. Jo
is brought in. He is not one of Mrs. Pardiggle's Tockahoopo
Indians; he is not one of Mrs. Jellyby's lambs, being wholly
unconnected with Borrioboola-Gha; he is not softened by distance
and unfamiliarity; he is not a genuine foreign-grown savage; he is
the ordinary home-made article. Dirty, ugly, disagreeable to all
the senses, in body a common creature of the common streets, only
in soul a heathen. Homely filth begrimes him, homely parasites
devour him, homely sores are in him, homely rags are on him; native
ignorance, the growth of English soil and climate, sinks his
immortal nature lower than the beasts that perish. Stand forth,
Jo, in uncompromising colours! From the sole of thy foot to the
crown of thy head, there is nothing interesting about thee.

He shuffles slowly into Mr. George's gallery and stands huddled
together in a bundle, looking all about the floor. He seems to
know that they have an inclination to shrink from him, partly for
what he is and partly for what he has caused. He, too, shrinks
from them. He is not of the same order of things, not of the same
place in creation. He is of no order and no place, neither of the
beasts nor of humanity.

"Look here, Jo!" says Allan. "This is Mr. George."

Jo searches the floor for some time longer, then looks up for a
moment, and then down again.

"He is a kind friend to you, for he is going to give you lodging
room here."

Jo makes a scoop with one hand, which is supposed to be a bow.
After a little more consideration and some backing and changing of
the foot on which he rests, he mutters that he is "wery thankful."

"You are quite safe here. All you have to do at present is to be
obedient and to get strong. And mind you tell us the truth here,
whatever you do, Jo."

"Wishermaydie if I don't, sir," says Jo, reverting to his favourite
declaration. "I never done nothink yit, but wot you knows on, to
get myself into no trouble. I never was in no other trouble at
all, sir, 'sept not knowin' nothink and starwation."

"I believe it, now attend to Mr. George. I see he is going to
speak to you."

"My intention merely was, sir," observes Mr. George, amazingly
broad and upright, "to point out to him where he can lie down and
get a thorough good dose of sleep. Now, look here." As the
trooper speaks, he conducts them to the other end of the gallery
and opens one of the little cabins. "There you are, you see! Here
is a mattress, and here you may rest, on good behaviour, as long as
Mr., I ask your pardon, sir"--he refers apologetically to the card
Allan has given him--"Mr. Woodcourt pleases. Don't you be alarmed
if you hear shots; they'll be aimed at the target, and not you.
Now, there's another thing I would recommend, sir," says the
trooper, turning to his visitor. "Phil, come here!"

Phil bears down upon them according to his usual tactics. "Here is
a man, sir, who was found, when a baby, in the gutter.
Consequently, it is to be expected that he takes a natural interest
in this poor creature. You do, don't you, Phil?"

"Certainly and surely I do, guv'ner," is Phil's reply.

"Now I was thinking, sir," says Mr. George in a martial sort of
confidence, as if he were giving his opinion in a council of war at
a drum-head, "that if this man was to take him to a bath and was to
lay out a few shillings in getting him one or two coarse articles--"

"Mr. George, my considerate friend," returns Allan, taking out his
purse, "it is the very favour I would have asked."

Phil Squod and Jo are sent out immediately on this work of
improvement. Miss Flite, quite enraptured by her success, makes
the best of her way to court, having great fears that otherwise her
friend the Chancellor may be uneasy about her or may give the
judgment she has so long expected in her absence, and observing
"which you know, my dear physician, and general, after so many
years, would be too absurdly unfortunate!" Allan takes the
opportunity of going out to procure some restorative medicines, and
obtaining them near at hand, soon returns to find the trooper
walking up and down the gallery, and to fall into step and walk
with him.

"I take it, sir," says Mr. George, "that you know Miss Summerson
pretty well?"

Yes, it appears.

"Not related to her, sir?"

No, it appears.

"Excuse the apparent curiosity," says Mr. George. "It seemed to me
probable that you might take more than a common interest in this
poor creature because Miss Summerson had taken that unfortunate
interest in him. 'Tis MY case, sir, I assure you."

"And mine, Mr. George."

The trooper looks sideways at Allan's sunburnt cheek and bright
dark eye, rapidly measures his height and build, and seems to
approve of him.

"Since you have been out, sir, I have been thinking that I
unquestionably know the rooms in Lincoln's Inn Fields, where Bucket
took the lad, according to his account. Though he is not
acquainted with the name, I can help you to it. It's Tulkinghorn.
That's what it is."

Allan looks at him inquiringly, repeating the name.

"Tulkinghorn. That's the name, sir. I know the man, and know him
to have been in communication with Bucket before, respecting a
deceased person who had given him offence. I know the man, sir.
To my sorrow."

Allan naturally asks what kind of man he is.

"What kind of man! Do you mean to look at?"

"I think I know that much of him. I mean to deal with. Generally,
what kind of man?"

"Why, then I'll tell you, sir," returns the trooper, stopping short
and folding his arms on his square chest so angrily that his face
fires and flushes all over; "he is a confoundedly bad kind of man.
He is a slow-torturing kind of man. He is no more like flesh and
blood than a rusty old carbine is. He is a kind of man--by
George!--that has caused me more restlessness, and more uneasiness,
and more dissatisfaction with myself than all other men put
together. That's the kind of man Mr. Tulkinghorn is!"

"I am sorry," says Allan, "to have touched so sore a place."

"Sore?" The trooper plants his legs wider apart, wets the palm of
his broad right hand, and lays it on the imaginary moustache.
"It's no fault of yours, sir; but you shall judge. He has got a
power over me. He is the man I spoke of just now as being able to
tumble me out of this place neck and crop. He keeps me on a
constant see-saw. He won't hold off, and he won't come on. If I
have a payment to make him, or time to ask him for, or anything to
go to him about, he don't see me, don't hear me--passes me on to
Melchisedech's in Clifford's Inn, Melchisedech's in Clifford's Inn
passes me back again to him--he keeps me prowling and dangling
about him as if I was made of the same stone as himself. Why, I
spend half my life now, pretty well, loitering and dodging about
his door. What does he care? Nothing. Just as much as the rusty
old carbine I have compared him to. He chafes and goads me till--
Bah! Nonsense! I am forgetting myself. Mr. Woodcourt," the
trooper resumes his march, "all I say is, he is an old man; but I
am glad I shall never have the chance of setting spurs to my horse
and riding at him in a fair field. For if I had that chance, in
one of the humours he drives me into--he'd go down, sir!"

Mr. George has been so excited that he finds it necessary to wipe
his forehead on his shirt-sleeve. Even while he whistles his
impetuosity away with the national anthem, some involuntary
shakings of his head and heavings of his chest still linger behind,
not to mention an occasional hasty adjustment with both hands of
his open shirt-collar, as if it were scarcely open enough to
prevent his being troubled by a choking sensation. In short, Allan
Woodcourt has not much doubt about the going down of Mr.
Tulkinghorn on the field referred to.

Jo and his conductor presently return, and Jo is assisted to his
mattress by the careful Phil, to whom, after due administration of
medicine by his own hands, Allan confides all needful means and
instructions. The morning is by this time getting on apace. He
repairs to his lodgings to dress and breakfast, and then, without
seeking rest, goes away to Mr. Jarndyce to communicate his
discovery.

With him Mr. Jarndyce returns alone, confidentially telling him
that there are reasons for keeping this matter very quiet indeed
and showing a serious interest in it. To Mr. Jarndyce, Jo repeats
in substance what he said in the morning, without any material
variation. Only that cart of his is heavier to draw, and draws
with a hollower sound.

"Let me lay here quiet and not be chivied no more," falters Jo,
"and be so kind any person as is a-passin nigh where I used fur to
sleep, as jist to say to Mr. Sangsby that Jo, wot he known once, is
a-moving on right forards with his duty, and I'll be wery thankful.
I'd be more thankful than I am aready if it wos any ways possible
for an unfortnet to be it."

He makes so many of these references to the law-stationer in the
course of a day or two that Allan, after conferring with Mr.
Jarndyce, good-naturedly resolves to call in Cook's Court, the
rather, as the cart seems to be breaking down.

To Cook's Court, therefore, he repairs. Mr. Snagsby is behind his
counter in his grey coat and sleeves, inspecting an indenture of
several skins which has just come in from the engrosser's, an
immense desert of law-hand and parchment, with here and there a
resting-place of a few large letters to break the awful monotony
and save the traveller from despair. Mr Snagsby puts up at one of
these inky wells and greets the stranger with his cough of general
preparation for business.

"You don't remember me, Mr. Snagsby?"

The stationer's heart begins to thump heavily, for his old
apprehensions have never abated. It is as much as he can do to
answer, "No, sir, I can't say I do. I should have considered--not
to put too fine a point upon it--that I never saw you before, sir."

"Twice before," says Allan Woodcourt. "Once at a poor bedside, and
once--"

"It's come at last!" thinks the afflicted stationer, as
recollection breaks upon him. "It's got to a head now and is going
to burst!" But he has sufficient presence of mind to conduct his
visitor into the little counting-house and to shut the door.

"Are you a married man, sir?"

"No, I am not."

"Would you make the attempt, though single," says Mr. Snagsby in a
melancholy whisper, "to speak as low as you can? For my little
woman is a-listening somewheres, or I'll forfeit the business and
five hundred pound!"

In deep dejection Mr. Snagsby sits down on his stool, with his back
against his desk, protesting, "I never had a secret of my own, sir.
I can't charge my memory with ever having once attempted to deceive
my little woman on my own account since she named the day. I
wouldn't have done it, sir. Not to put too fine a point upon it, I
couldn't have done it, I dursn't have done it. Whereas, and
nevertheless, I find myself wrapped round with secrecy and mystery,
till my life is a burden to me."

His visitor professes his regret to bear it and asks him does he
remember Jo. Mr. Snagsby answers with a suppressed groan, oh,
don't he!

"You couldn't name an individual human being--except myself--that
my little woman is more set and determined against than Jo," says
Mr. Snagsby.

Allan asks why.

"Why?" repeats Mr. Snagsby, in his desperation clutching at the
clump of hair at the back of his bald head. "How should 1 know
why? But you are a single person, sir, and may you long be spared
to ask a married person such a question!"

With this beneficent wish, Mr. Snagsby coughs a cough of dismal
resignation and submits himself to hear what the visitor has to
communicate.

"There again!" says Mr. Snagsby, who, between the earnestness of
his feelings and the suppressed tones of his voice is discoloured
in the face. "At it again, in a new direction! A certain person
charges me, in the solemnest way, not to talk of Jo to any one,
even my little woman. Then comes another certain person, in the
person of yourself, and charges me, in an equally solemn way, not
to mention Jo to that other certain person above all other persons.
Why, this is a private asylum! Why, not to put too fine a point
upon it, this is Bedlam, sir!" says Mr. Snagsby.

But it is better than he expected after all, being no explosion of
the mine below him or deepening of the pit into which he has
fallen. And being tender-hearted and affected by the account he
hears of Jo's condition, he readily engages to "look round" as
early in the evening as he can manage it quietly. He looks round
very quietly when the evening comes, but it may turn out that Mrs.
Snagsby is as quiet a manager as he.

Jo is very glad to see his old friend and says, when they are left
alone, that he takes it uncommon kind as Mr. Sangsby should come so
far out of his way on accounts of sich as him. Mr. Snagsby,
touched by the spectacle before him, immediately lays upon the
table half a crown, that magic balsam of his for all kinds of
wounds.

"And how do you find yourself, my poor lad?" inquires the stationer
with his cough of sympathy.

"I am in luck, Mr. Sangsby, I am," returns Jo, "and don't want for
nothink. I'm more cumfbler nor you can't think. Mr. Sangsby! I'm
wery sorry that I done it, but I didn't go fur to do it, sir."

The stationer softly lays down another half-crown and asks him what
it is that he is sorry for having done.

"Mr. Sangsby," says Jo, "I went and giv a illness to the lady as
wos and yit as warn't the t'other lady, and none of 'em never says
nothink to me for having done it, on accounts of their being ser
good and my having been s'unfortnet. The lady come herself and see
me yesday, and she ses, 'Ah, Jo!' she ses. 'We thought we'd lost
you, Jo!' she ses. And she sits down a-smilin so quiet, and don't
pass a word nor yit a look upon me for having done it, she don't,
and I turns agin the wall, I doos, Mr. Sangsby. And Mr. Jarnders,
I see him a-forced to turn away his own self. And Mr. Woodcot, he
come fur to giv me somethink fur to ease me, wot he's allus a-doin'
on day and night, and wen he come a-bending over me and a-speakin
up so bold, I see his tears a-fallin, Mr. Sangsby."

The softened stationer deposits another half-crown on the table.
Nothing less than a repetition of that infallible remedy will
relieve his feelings.

"Wot I was a-thinkin on, Mr. Sangsby," proceeds Jo, "wos, as you
wos able to write wery large, p'raps?"

"Yes, Jo, please God," returns the stationer.

"Uncommon precious large, p'raps?" says Jo with eagerness.

"Yes, my poor boy."

Jo laughs with pleasure. "Wot I wos a-thinking on then, Mr.
Sangsby, wos, that when I wos moved on as fur as ever I could go
and couldn't he moved no furder, whether you might be so good
p'raps as to write out, wery large so that any one could see it
anywheres, as that I wos wery truly hearty sorry that I done it and
that I never went fur to do it, and that though I didn't know
nothink at all, I knowd as Mr. Woodcot once cried over it and wos
allus grieved over it, and that I hoped as he'd be able to forgive
me in his mind. If the writin could be made to say it wery large,
he might."

"It shall say it, Jo. Very large."

Jo laughs again. "Thankee, Mr. Sangsby. It's wery kind of you,
sir, and it makes me more cumfbler nor I was afore."

The meek little stationer, with a broken and unfinished cough,
slips down his fourth half-crown--he has never been so close to a
case requiring so many--and is fain to depart. And Jo and he, upon
this little earth, shall meet no more. No more.

For the cart so hard to draw is near its journey's end and drags
over stony ground. All round the clock it labours up the broken
steps, shattered and worn. Not many times can the sun rise and
behold it still upon its weary road.

Phil Squod, with his smoky gunpowder visage, at once acts as nurse
and works as armourer at his little table in a corner, often
looking round and saying with a nod of his green-baize cap and an
encouraging elevation of his one eyebrow, "Hold up, my boy! Hold
up!" There, too, is Mr. Jarndyce many a time, and Allan Woodcourt
almost always, both thinking, much, how strangely fate has
entangled this rough outcast in the web of very different lives.
There, too, the trooper is a frequent visitor, filling the doorway
with his athletic figure and, from his superfluity of life and
strength, seeming to shed down temporary vigour upon Jo, who never
fails to speak more robustly in answer to his cheerful words.

Jo is in a sleep or in a stupor to-day, and Allan Woodcourt, newly
arrived, stands by him, looking down upon his wasted form. After a
while he softly seats himself upon the bedside with his face
towards him--just as he sat in the law-writer's room--and touches
his chest and heart. The cart had very nearly given up, but
labours on a little more.

The trooper stands in the doorway, still and silent. Phil has
stopped in a low clinking noise, with his little hammer in his
hand. Mr. Woodcourt looks round with that grave professional
interest and attention on his face, and glancing significantly at
the trooper, signs to Phil to carry his table out. When the little
hammer is next used, there will be a speck of rust upon it.

"Well, Jo! What is the matter? Don't be frightened."

"I thought," says Jo, who has started and is looking round, "I
thought I was in Tom-all-Alone's agin. Ain't there nobody here but
you, Mr. Woodcot?"

"Nobody."

"And I ain't took back to Tom-all-Alone's. Am I, sir?"

"No." Jo closes his eyes, muttering, "I'm wery thankful."

After watching him closely a little while, Allan puts his mouth
very near his ear and says to him in a low, distinct voice, "Jo!
Did you ever know a prayer?"

"Never knowd nothink, sir."

"Not so much as one short prayer?"

"No, sir. Nothink at all. Mr. Chadbands he wos a-prayin wunst at
Mr. Sangsby's and I heerd him, but he sounded as if he wos a-
speakin to hisself, and not to me. He prayed a lot, but I couldn't
make out nothink on it. Different times there was other genlmen
come down Tom-all-Alone's a-prayin, but they all mostly sed as the
t'other 'wuns prayed wrong, and all mostly sounded to be a-talking
to theirselves, or a-passing blame on the t'others, and not a-
talkin to us. WE never knowd nothink. I never knowd what it wos
all about."

It takes him a long time to say this, and few but an experienced
and attentive listener could hear, or, hearing, understand him.
After a short relapse into sleep or stupor, he makes, of a sudden,
a strong effort to get out of bed.

"Stay, Jo! What now?"

"It's time for me to go to that there berryin ground, sir," he
returns with a wild look.

"Lie down, and tell me. What burying ground, Jo?"

"Where they laid him as wos wery good to me, wery good to me
indeed, he wos. It's time fur me to go down to that there berryin
ground, sir, and ask to be put along with him. I wants to go there
and be berried. He used fur to say to me, 'I am as poor as you to-
day, Jo,' he ses. I wants to tell him that I am as poor as him now
and have come there to be laid along with him."

"By and by, Jo. By and by."

"Ah! P'raps they wouldn't do it if I wos to go myself. But will
you promise to have me took there, sir, and laid along with him?"

"I will, indeed."

"Thankee, sir. Thankee, sir. They'll have to get the key of the
gate afore they can take me in, for it's allus locked. And there's
a step there, as I used for to clean with my broom. It's turned
wery dark, sir. Is there any light a-comin?"

"It is coming fast, Jo."

Fast. The cart is shaken all to pieces, and the rugged road is
very near its end.

"Jo, my poor fellow!"

"I hear you, sir, in the dark, but I'm a-gropin--a-gropin--let me
catch hold of your hand."

"Jo, can you say what I say?"

"I'll say anythink as you say, sir, for I knows it's good."

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