Charles Dickens

I would not have gone back to Joe now, I would not have gone back

to Biddy now, for any consideration: simply, I suppose, because my

sense of my own worthless conduct to them was greater than every

consideration. No wisdom on earth could have given me the comfort

that I should have derived from their simplicity and fidelity; but

I could never, never, undo what I had done.

In every rage of wind and rush of rain, I heard pursuers. Twice, I

could have sworn there was a knocking and whispering at the outer

door. With these fears upon me, I began either to imagine or recall

that I had had mysterious warnings of this man's approach. That,

for weeks gone by, I had passed faces in the streets which I had

thought like his. That, these likenesses had grown more numerous,

as he, coming over the sea, had drawn nearer. That, his wicked

spirit had somehow sent these messengers to mine, and that now on

this stormy night he was as good as his word, and with me.

Crowding up with these reflections came the reflection that I had

seen him with my childish eyes to be a desperately violent man;

that I had heard that other convict reiterate that he had tried to

murder him; that I had seen him down in the ditch tearing and

fighting like a wild beast. Out of such remembrances I brought into

the light of the fire, a half-formed terror that it might not be

safe to be shut up there with him in the dead of the wild solitary

night. This dilated until it filled the room, and impelled me to

take a candle and go in and look at my dreadful burden.

He had rolled a handkerchief round his head, and his face was set

and lowering in his sleep. But he was asleep, and quietly too,

though he had a pistol lying on the pillow. Assured of this, I

softly removed the key to the outside of his door, and turned it on

him before I again sat down by the fire. Gradually I slipped from

the chair and lay on the floor. When I awoke, without having parted

in my sleep with the perception of my wretchedness, the clocks of

the Eastward churches were striking five, the candles were wasted

out, the fire was dead, and the wind and rain intensified the thick

black darkness.


Chapter 40

It was fortunate for me that I had to take precautions to ensure

(so far as I could) the safety of my dreaded visitor; for, this

thought pressing on me when I awoke, held other thoughts in a

confused concourse at a distance.

The impossibility of keeping him concealed in the chambers was

self-evident. It could not be done, and the attempt to do it would

inevitably engender suspicion. True, I had no Avenger in my service

now, but I was looked after by an inflammatory old female, assisted

by an animated rag-bag whom she called her niece, and to keep a

room secret from them would be to invite curiosity and

exaggeration. They both had weak eyes, which I had long attributed

to their chronically looking in at keyholes, and they were always

at hand when not wanted; indeed that was their only reliable

quality besides larceny. Not to get up a mystery with these people,

I resolved to announce in the morning that my uncle had

unexpectedly come from the country.

This course I decided on while I was yet groping about in the

darkness for the means of getting a light. Not stumbling on the

means after all, I was fain to go out to the adjacent Lodge and get

the watchman there to come with his lantern. Now, in groping my way

down the black staircase I fell over something, and that something

was a man crouching in a corner.

As the man made no answer when I asked him what he did there, but

eluded my touch in silence, I ran to the Lodge and urged the

watchman to come quickly: telling him of the incident on the way

back. The wind being as fierce as ever, we did not care to endanger

the light in the lantern by rekindling the extinguished lamps on

the staircase, but we examined the staircase from the bottom to the

top and found no one there.