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Chapter 35

It was the first time that a grave had opened in my road of life,
and the gap it made in the smooth ground was wonderful. The figure
of my sister in her chair by the kitchen fire, haunted me night and
day. That the place could possibly be, without her, was something
my mind seemed unable to compass; and whereas she had seldom or
never been in my thoughts of late, I had now the strangest ideas
that she was coming towards me in the street, or that she would
presently knock at the door. In my rooms too, with which she had
never been at all associated, there was at once the blankness of
death and a perpetual suggestion of the sound of her voice or the
turn of her face or figure, as if she were still alive and had been
often there.

Whatever my fortunes might have been, I could scarcely have
recalled my sister with much tenderness. But I suppose there is a
shock of regret which may exist without much tenderness. Under its
influence (and perhaps to make up for the want of the softer
feeling) I was seized with a violent indignation against the
assailant from whom she had suffered so much; and I felt that on
sufficient proof I could have revengefully pursued Orlick, or any
one else, to the last extremity.

Having written to Joe, to offer consolation, and to assure him that
I should come to the funeral, I passed the intermediate days in the
curious state of mind I have glanced at. I went down early in the
morning, and alighted at the Blue Boar in good time to walk over to
the forge.

It was fine summer weather again, and, as I walked along, the times
when I was a little helpless creature, and my sister did not spare
me, vividly returned. But they returned with a gentle tone upon
them that softened even the edge of Tickler. For now, the very
breath of the beans and clover whispered to my heart that the day
must come when it would be well for my memory that others walking
in the sunshine should be softened as they thought of me.

At last I came within sight of the house, and saw that Trabb and
Co. had put in a funereal execution and taken possession. Two
dismally absurd persons, each ostentatiously exhibiting a crutch
done up in a black bandage - as if that instrument could possibly
communicate any comfort to anybody - were posted at the front door;
and in one of them I recognized a postboy discharged from the Boar
for turning a young couple into a sawpit on their bridal morning,
in consequence of intoxication rendering it necessary for him to
ride his horse clasped round the neck with both arms. All the
children of the village, and most of the women, were admiring these
sable warders and the closed windows of the house and forge; and as
I came up, one of the two warders (the postboy) knocked at the door
- implying that I was far too much exhausted by grief, to have
strength remaining to knock for myself.

Another sable warder (a carpenter, who had once eaten two geese for
a wager) opened the door, and showed me into the best parlour.
Here, Mr. Trabb had taken unto himself the best table, and had got
all the leaves up, and was holding a kind of black Bazaar, with the
aid of a quantity of black pins. At the moment of my arrival, he
had just finished putting somebody's hat into black long-clothes,
like an African baby; so he held out his hand for mine. But I,
misled by the action, and confused by the occasion, shook hands
with him with every testimony of warm affection.

Poor dear Joe, entangled in a little black cloak tied in a large
bow under his chin, was seated apart at the upper end of the room;
where, as chief mourner, he had evidently been stationed by Trabb.
When I bent down and said to him, "Dear Joe, how are you?" he said,
"Pip, old chap, you knowed her when she were a fine figure of a--"
and clasped my hand and said no more.

Biddy, looking very neat and modest in her black dress, went
quietly here and there, and was very helpful. When I had spoken to
Biddy, as I thought it not a time for talking I went and sat down
near Joe, and there began to wonder in what part of the house it -
she - my sister - was. The air of the parlour being faint with the
smell of sweet cake, I looked about for the table of refreshments;
it was scarcely visible until one had got accustomed to the gloom,
but there was a cut-up plum-cake upon it, and there were cut-up
oranges, and sandwiches, and biscuits, and two decanters that I
knew very well as ornaments, but had never seen used in all my
life; one full of port, and one of sherry. Standing at this table,
I became conscious of the servile Pumblechook in a black cloak and
several yards of hatband, who was alternately stuffing himself, and
making obsequious movements to catch my attention. The moment he
succeeded, he came over to me (breathing sherry and crumbs), and
said in a subdued voice, "May I, dear sir?" and did. I then
descried Mr. and Mrs. Hubble; the last-named in a decent speechless
paroxysm in a corner. We were all going to "follow," and were all
in course of being tied up separately (by Trabb) into ridiculous
bundles.

"Which I meantersay, Pip," Joe whispered me, as we were being what
Mr. Trabb called "formed" in the parlour, two and two - and it was
dreadfully like a preparation for some grim kind of dance; "which I
meantersay, sir, as I would in preference have carried her to the
church myself, along with three or four friendly ones wot come to
it with willing harts and arms, but it were considered wot the
neighbours would look down on such and would be of opinions as it
were wanting in respect."

"Pocket-handkerchiefs out, all!" cried Mr. Trabb at this point, in a
depressed business-like voice. "Pocket-handkerchiefs out! We are
ready!"

So, we all put our pocket-handkerchiefs to our faces, as if our
noses were bleeding, and filed out two and two; Joe and I; Biddy
and Pumblechook; Mr. and Mrs. Hubble. The remains of my poor sister
had been brought round by the kitchen door, and, it being a point
of Undertaking ceremony that the six bearers must be stifled and
blinded under a horrible black velvet housing with a white border,
the whole looked like a blind monster with twelve human legs,
shuffling and blundering along, under the guidance of two keepers -
the postboy and his comrade.

The neighbourhood, however, highly approved of these arrangements,
and we were much admired as we went through the village; the more
youthful and vigorous part of the community making dashes now and
then to cut us off, and lying in wait to intercept us at points of
vantage. At such times the more exuberant among them called out in
an excited manner on our emergence round some corner of expectancy,
"Here they come!" "Here they are!" and we were all but cheered. In
this progress I was much annoyed by the abject Pumblechook, who,
being behind me, persisted all the way as a delicate attention in
arranging my streaming hatband, and smoothing my cloak. My thoughts
were further distracted by the excessive pride of Mr. and Mrs.
Hubble, who were surpassingly conceited and vainglorious in being
members of so distinguished a procession.

And now, the range of marshes lay clear before us, with the sails
of the ships on the river growing out of it; and we went into the
churchyard, close to the graves of my unknown parents, Philip
Pirrip, late of this parish, and Also Georgiana, Wife of the Above.
And there, my sister was laid quietly in the earth while the larks
sang high above it, and the light wind strewed it with beautiful
shadows of clouds and trees.

Of the conduct of the worldly-minded Pumblechook while this was
doing, I desire to say no more than it was all addressed to me; and
that even when those noble passages were read which remind humanity
how it brought nothing into the world and can take nothing out, and
how it fleeth like a shadow and never continueth long in one stay,
I heard him cough a reservation of the case of a young gentleman
who came unexpectedly into large property. When we got back, he had
the hardihood to tell me that he wished my sister could have known
I had done her so much honour, and to hint that she would have
considered it reasonably purchased at the price of her death. After
that, he drank all the rest of the sherry, and Mr. Hubble drank the
port, and the two talked (which I have since observed to be
customary in such cases) as if they were of quite another race from
the deceased, and were notoriously immortal. Finally, he went away
with Mr. and Mrs. Hubble - to make an evening of it, I felt sure, and
to tell the Jolly Bargemen that he was the founder of my fortunes
and my earliest benefactor.

When they were all gone, and when Trabb and his men - but not his
boy: I looked for him - had crammed their mummery into bags, and
were gone too, the house felt wholesomer. Soon afterwards, Biddy,
Joe, and I, had a cold dinner together; but we dined in the best
parlour, not in the old kitchen, and Joe was so exceedingly
particular what he did with his knife and fork and the saltcellar
and what not, that there was great restraint upon us. But after
dinner, when I made him take his pipe, and when I had loitered with
him about the forge, and when we sat down together on the great
block of stone outside it, we got on better. I noticed that after
the funeral Joe changed his clothes so far, as to make a compromise
between his Sunday dress and working dress: in which the dear
fellow looked natural, and like the Man he was.

He was very much pleased by my asking if I might sleep in my own
little room, and I was pleased too; for, I felt that I had done
rather a great thing in making the request. When the shadows of
evening were closing in, I took an opportunity of getting into the
garden with Biddy for a little talk.

"Biddy," said I, "I think you might have written to me about these
sad matters."

"Do you, Mr. Pip?" said Biddy. "I should have written if I had
thought that."

"Don't suppose that I mean to be unkind, Biddy, when I say I
consider that you ought to have thought that."

"Do you, Mr. Pip?"

She was so quiet, and had such an orderly, good, and pretty way
with her, that I did not like the thought of making her cry again.
After looking a little at her downcast eyes as she walked beside
me, I gave up that point.

"I suppose it will be difficult for you to remain here now, Biddy
dear?"

"Oh! I can't do so, Mr. Pip," said Biddy, in a tone of regret, but
still of quiet conviction. "I have been speaking to Mrs. Hubble, and
I am going to her to-morrow. I hope we shall be able to take some
care of Mr. Gargery, together, until he settles down."

"How are you going to live, Biddy? If you want any mo--"

"How am I going to live?" repeated Biddy, striking in, with a
momentary flush upon her face. "I'll tell you, Mr. Pip. I am going
to try to get the place of mistress in the new school nearly
finished here. I can be well recommended by all the neighbours, and
I hope I can be industrious and patient, and teach myself while I
teach others. You know, Mr. Pip," pursued Biddy, with a smile, as
she raised her eyes to my face, "the new schools are not like the
old, but I learnt a good deal from you after that time, and have
had time since then to improve."

"I think you would always improve, Biddy, under any circumstances."

"Ah! Except in my bad side of human nature," murmured Biddy.

It was not so much a reproach, as an irresistible thinking aloud.
Well! I thought I would give up that point too. So, I walked a
little further with Biddy, looking silently at her downcast eyes.

"I have not heard the particulars of my sister's death, Biddy."

"They are very slight, poor thing. She had been in one of her bad
states - though they had got better of late, rather than worse -
for four days, when she came out of it in the evening, just at
teatime, and said quite plainly, 'Joe.' As she had never said any
word for a long while, I ran and fetched in Mr. Gargery from the
forge. She made signs to me that she wanted him to sit down close
to her, and wanted me to put her arms round his neck. So I put them
round his neck, and she laid her head down on his shoulder quite
content and satisfied. And so she presently said 'Joe' again, and
once 'Pardon,' and once 'Pip.' And so she never lifted her head up
any more, and it was just an hour later when we laid it down on her
own bed, because we found she was gone."

Biddy cried; the darkening garden, and the lane, and the stars that
were coming out, were blurred in my own sight.

"Nothing was ever discovered, Biddy?"

"Nothing."

"Do you know what is become of Orlick?"

"I should think from the colour of his clothes that he is working
in the quarries."

"Of course you have seen him then? - Why are you looking at that
dark tree in the lane?"

"I saw him there, on the night she died."

"That was not the last time either, Biddy?"

"No; I have seen him there, since we have been walking here. - It
is of no use," said Biddy, laying her hand upon my arm, as I was
for running out, "you know I would not deceive you; he was not
there a minute, and he is gone."

It revived my utmost indignation to find that she was still pursued
by this fellow, and I felt inveterate against him. I told her so,
and told her that I would spend any money or take any pains to
drive him out of that country. By degrees she led me into more
temperate talk, and she told me how Joe loved me, and how Joe never
complained of anything - she didn't say, of me; she had no need; I
knew what she meant - but ever did his duty in his way of life,
with a strong hand, a quiet tongue, and a gentle heart.

"Indeed, it would be hard to say too much for him," said I; "and
Biddy, we must often speak of these things, for of course I shall
be often down here now. I am not going to leave poor Joe alone."

Biddy said never a single word.

"Biddy, don't you hear me?"

"Yes, Mr. Pip."

"Not to mention your calling me Mr. Pip - which appears to me to be
in bad taste, Biddy - what do you mean?"

"What do I mean?" asked Biddy, timidly.

"Biddy," said I, in a virtuously self-asserting manner, "I must
request to know what you mean by this?"

"By this?" said Biddy.

"Now, don't echo," I retorted. "You used not to echo, Biddy."

"Used not!" said Biddy. "O Mr. Pip! Used!"

Well! I rather thought I would give up that point too. After
another silent turn in the garden, I fell back on the main
position.

"Biddy," said I, "I made a remark respecting my coming down here
often, to see Joe, which you received with a marked silence. Have
the goodness, Biddy, to tell me why."

"Are you quite sure, then, that you WILL come to see him often?"
asked Biddy, stopping in the narrow garden walk, and looking at me
under the stars with a clear and honest eye.

"Oh dear me!" said I, as if I found myself compelled to give up
Biddy in despair. "This really is a very bad side of human
nature! Don't say any more, if you please, Biddy. This shocks me
very much."

For which cogent reason I kept Biddy at a distance during supper,
and, when I went up to my own old little room, took as stately a
leave of her as I could, in my murmuring soul, deem reconcilable
with the churchyard and the event of the day. As often as I was
restless in the night, and that was every quarter of an hour, I
reflected what an unkindness, what an injury, what an injustice,
Biddy had done me.

Early in the morning, I was to go. Early in the morning, I was out,
and looking in, unseen, at one of the wooden windows of the forge.
There I stood, for minutes, looking at Joe, already at work with a
glow of health and strength upon his face that made it show as if
the bright sun of the life in store for him were shining on it.

"Good-bye, dear Joe! - No, don't wipe it off - for God's sake, give
me your blackened hand! - I shall be down soon, and often."

"Never too soon, sir," said Joe, "and never too often, Pip!"

Biddy was waiting for me at the kitchen door, with a mug of new
milk and a crust of bread. "Biddy," said I, when I gave her my hand
at parting, "I am not angry, but I am hurt."

"No, don't be hurt," she pleaded quite pathetically; "let only me
be hurt, if I have been ungenerous."

Once more, the mists were rising as I walked away. If they
disclosed to me, as I suspect they did, that I should not come
back, and that Biddy was quite right, all I can say is - they were
quite right too.



Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Category:
General Fiction - English literature
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