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Chapter 16

  • It was the first time that a grave had opened in my road of life, and the ga_t made in the smooth ground was wonderful. The figure of my sister in he_hair by the kitchen fire, haunted me night and day. That the place coul_ossibly be, without her, was something my mind seemed unable to compass; an_hereas she had seldom or never been in my thoughts of late, I had now th_trangest ideas that she was coming towards me in the street, or that sh_ould presently knock at the door. In my rooms too, with which she had neve_een at all associated, there was at once the blankness of death and _erpetual suggestion of the sound of her voice or the turn of her face o_igure, as if she were still alive and had been often there.
  • Whatever my fortunes might have been, I could scarcely have recalled my siste_ith much tenderness. But I suppose there is a shock of regret which may exis_ithout much tenderness. Under its influence (and perhaps to make up for th_ant of the softer feeling) I was seized with a violent indignation agains_he assailant from whom she had suffered so much; and I felt that o_ufficient proof I could have revengefully pursued Orlick, or any one else, t_he last extremity.
  • Having written to Joe, to offer him consolation, and to assure him that _ould come to the funeral, I passed the intermediate days in the curious stat_f mind I have glanced at. I went down early in the morning, and alighted a_he 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 wa_ 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 o_ickler. For now, the very breath of the beans and clover whispered to m_eart that the day must come when it would be well for my memory that other_alking 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 pu_n a funereal execution and taken possession. Two dismally absurd persons, each ostentatiously exhibiting a crutch done up in a black bandage,—as if tha_nstrument could possibly communicate any comfort to anybody,—were posted a_he front door; and in one of them I recognized a postboy discharged from th_oar for turning a young couple into a sawpit on their bridal morning, i_onsequence of intoxication rendering it necessary for him to ride his hors_lasped round the neck with both arms. All the children of the village, an_ost of the women, were admiring these sable warders and the closed windows o_he 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 t_ave 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 parlor. Here, Mr. Trabb had take_nto himself the best table, and had got all the leaves up, and was holding _ind of black Bazaar, with the aid of a quantity of black pins. At the momen_f 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, misle_y the action, and confused by the occasion, shook hands with him with ever_estimony of warm affection.
  • Poor dear Joe, entangled in a little black cloak tied in a large bow under hi_hin, 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 wer_ 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 an_here, and was very helpful. When I had spoken to Biddy, as I thought it not _ime for talking I went and sat down near Joe, and there began to wonder i_hat part of the house it— she—my sister—was. The air of the parlor bein_aint with the smell of sweet-cake, I looked about for the table o_efreshments; it was scarcely visible until one had got accustomed to th_loom, but there was a cut-up plum cake upon it, and there were cut-u_ranges, and sandwiches, and biscuits, and two decanters that I knew very wel_s ornaments, but had never seen used in all my life; one full of port, an_ne of sherry. Standing at this table, I became conscious of the servil_umblechook in a black cloak and several yards of hatband, who was alternatel_tuffing himself, and making obsequious movements to catch my attention. Th_oment he succeeded, he came over to me (breathing sherry and crumbs), an_aid in a subdued voice, “May I, dear sir?” and did. I then descried Mr. an_rs. Hubble; the last-named in a decent speechless paroxysm in a corner. W_ere 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. Trab_alled “formed” in the parlor, two and two,—and it was dreadfully like _reparation for some grim kind of dance; “which I meantersay, sir, as I woul_n preference have carried her to the church myself, along with three or fou_riendly ones wot come to it with willing harts and arms, but it wer_onsidered wot the neighbors would look down on such and would be of opinion_s it were wanting in respect.”
  • “Pocket-handkerchiefs out, all!” cried Mr. Trabb at this point, in a depresse_usiness-like voice. “Pocket-handkerchiefs out! We are ready!”
  • So we all put our pocket-handkerchiefs to our faces, as if our noses wer_leeding, and filed out two and two; Joe and I; Biddy and Pumblechook; Mr. an_rs. Hubble. The remains of my poor sister had been brought round by th_itchen door, and, it being a point of Undertaking ceremony that the si_earers must be stifled and blinded under a horrible black velvet housing wit_ white border, the whole looked like a blind monster with twelve human legs, shuffling and blundering along, under the guidance of two keepers,— th_ostboy and his comrade.
  • The neighborhood, however, highly approved of these arrangements, and we wer_uch admired as we went through the village; the more youthful and vigorou_art of the community making dashes now and then to cut us off, and lying i_ait to intercept us at points of vantage. At such times the more exuberan_mong them called out in an excited manner on our emergence round some corne_f 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, bein_ehind me, persisted all the way as a delicate attention in arranging m_treaming hatband, and smoothing my cloak. My thoughts were further distracte_y the excessive pride of Mr. and Mrs. Hubble, who were surpassingly conceite_nd vainglorious in being members of so distinguished a procession.
  • And now the range of marshes lay clear before us, with the sails of the ship_n the river growing out of it; and we went into the churchyard, close to th_raves of my unknown parents, Philip Pirrip, late of this parish, and Als_eorgiana, Wife of the Above. And there, my sister was laid quietly in th_arth, while the larks sang high above it, and the light wind strewed it wit_eautiful shadows of clouds and trees.
  • Of the conduct of the worldly minded Pumblechook while this was doing, _esire to say no more than it was all addressed to me; and that even whe_hose noble passages were read which remind humanity how it brought nothin_nto the world and can take nothing out, and how it fleeth like a shadow an_ever continueth long in one stay, I heard him cough a reservation of the cas_f a young gentleman who came unexpectedly into large property. When we go_ack, he had the hardihood to tell me that he wished my sister could hav_nown I had done her so much honor, and to hint that she would have considere_t reasonably purchased at the price of her death. After that, he drank al_he 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 o_uite 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 m_arliest benefactor.
  • When they were all gone, and when Trabb and his men—but not his Boy; I looke_or him—had crammed their mummery into bags, and were gone too, the house fel_holesomer. Soon afterwards, Biddy, Joe, and I, had a cold dinner together; but we dined in the best parlor, not in the old kitchen, and Joe was s_xceedingly particular what he did with his knife and fork and the saltcella_nd what not, that there was great restraint upon us. But after dinner, when _ade him take his pipe, and when I had loitered with him about the forge, an_hen we sat down together on the great block of stone outside it, we got o_etter. I noticed that after the funeral Joe changed his clothes so far, as t_ake a compromise between his Sunday dress and working dress; in which th_ear 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 i_aking the request. When the shadows of evening were closing in, I took a_pportunity of getting into the garden with Biddy for a little talk.
  • “Biddy,” said I, “I think you might have written to me about these sa_atters.”
  • “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 yo_ught to have thought that.”
  • “Do you, Mr. Pip?”
  • She was so quiet, and had such an orderly, good, and pretty way with her, tha_ did not like the thought of making her cry again. After looking a little a_er 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 o_uiet conviction. “I have been speaking to Mrs. Hubble, and I am going to he_o-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 flus_pon her face. “I’ll tell you, Mr. Pip. I am going to try to get the place o_istress in the new school nearly finished here. I can be well recommended b_ll the neighbors, and I hope I can be industrious and patient, and teac_yself 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, bu_ learnt a good deal from you after that time, and have had time since then t_mprove.”
  • “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! _hought I would give up that point too. So, I walked a little further wit_iddy, 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 ba_tates—though they had got better of late, rather than worse— for four days, when she came out of it in the evening, just at tea-time, and said quit_lainly, ‘Joe.’ As she had never said any word for a long while, I ran an_etched in Mr. Gargery from the forge. She made signs to me that she wante_im to sit down close to her, and wanted me to put her arms round his neck. S_ put them round his neck, and she laid her head down on his shoulder quit_ontent 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 i_as just an hour later when we laid it down on her own bed, because we foun_he was gone.”
  • Biddy cried; the darkening garden, and the lane, and the stars that wer_oming 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 color of his clothes that he is working in th_uarries.”
  • “Of course you have seen him then?—Why are you looking at that dark tree i_he 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 _ould 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 thi_ellow, and I felt inveterate against him. I told her so, and told her that _ould spend any money or take any pains to drive him out of that country. B_egrees 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 n_eed; I knew what she meant,—but ever did his duty in his way of life, with _trong hand, a quiet tongue, and a gentle heart.
  • “Indeed, it would be hard to say too much for him,” said I; “and Biddy, w_ust often speak of these things, for of course I shall be often down her_ow. 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 ba_aste, Biddy,—what do you mean?”
  • “What do I mean?” asked Biddy, timidly.
  • “Biddy,” said I, in a virtuously self-asserting manner, “I must request t_now 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 silen_urn in the garden, I fell back on the main position.
  • “Biddy,” said I, “I made a remark respecting my coming down here often, to se_oe, which you received with a marked silence. Have the goodness, Biddy, t_ell 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 _lear and honest eye.
  • “O dear me!” said I, as if I found myself compelled to give up Biddy i_espair. “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 _ent 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 o_he day. As often as I was restless in the night, and that was every quarte_f 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 lookin_n, unseen, at one of the wooden windows of the forge. There I stood, fo_inutes, looking at Joe, already at work with a glow of health and strengt_pon his face that made it show as if the bright sun of the life in store fo_im were shining on it.
  • “Good by, dear Joe!—No, don’t wipe it off—for God’s sake, give me you_lackened 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 _rust of bread. “Biddy,” said I, when I gave her my hand at parting, “I am no_ngry, but I am hurt.”
  • “No, don’t be hurt,” she pleaded quite pathetically; “let only me be hurt, i_ have been ungenerous.”
  • Once more, the mists were rising as I walked away. If they disclosed to me, a_ suspect they did, that I should not come back, and that Biddy was quit_ight, all I can say is,—they were quite right too.