Charles Dickens

Herbert got a large bottle of stuff for my arm, and by

dint of having this stuff dropped over it all the night through, I

was just able to bear its pain on the journey. It was daylight when

we reached the Temple, and I went at once to bed, and lay in bed

all day.

My terror, as I lay there, of falling ill and being unfitted for

tomorrow, was so besetting, that I wonder it did not disable me of

itself. It would have done so, pretty surely, in conjunction with

the mental wear and tear I had suffered, but for the unnatural

strain upon me that to-morrow was. So anxiously looked forward to,

charged with such consequences, its results so impenetrably hidden

though so near.

No precaution could have been more obvious than our refraining from

communication with him that day; yet this again increased my

restlessness. I started at every footstep and every sound,

believing that he was discovered and taken, and this was the

messenger to tell me so. I persuaded myself that I knew he was

taken; that there was something more upon my mind than a fear or a

presentiment; that the fact had occurred, and I had a mysterious

knowledge of it. As the day wore on and no ill news came, as the

day closed in and darkness fell, my overshadowing dread of being

disabled by illness before to-morrow morning, altogether mastered

me. My burning arm throbbed, and my burning head throbbed, and I

fancied I was beginning to wander. I counted up to high numbers, to

make sure of myself, and repeated passages that I knew in prose and

verse. It happened sometimes that in the mere escape of a fatigued

mind, I dozed for some moments or forgot; then I would say to

myself with a start, "Now it has come, and I am turning delirious!"

They kept me very quiet all day, and kept my arm constantly

dressed, and gave me cooling drinks. Whenever I fell asleep, I

awoke with the notion I had had in the sluice-house, that a long

time had elapsed and the opportunity to save him was gone. About

midnight I got out of bed and went to Herbert, with the conviction

that I had been asleep for four-and-twenty hours, and that

Wednesday was past. It was the last self-exhausting effort of my

fretfulness, for, after that, I slept soundly.

Wednesday morning was dawning when I looked out of window. The

winking lights upon the bridges were already pale, the coming sun

was like a marsh of fire on the horizon. The river, still dark and

mysterious, was spanned by bridges that were turning coldly grey,

with here and there at top a warm touch from the burning in the

sky. As I looked along the clustered roofs, with Church towers and

spires shooting into the unusually clear air, the sun rose up, and

a veil seemed to be drawn from the river, and millions of sparkles

burst out upon its waters. From me too, a veil seemed to be drawn,

and I felt strong and well.

Herbert lay asleep in his bed, and our old fellow-student lay

asleep on the sofa. I could not dress myself without help, but I

made up the fire, which was still burning, and got some coffee

ready for them. In good time they too started up strong and well,

and we admitted the sharp morning air at the windows, and looked at

the tide that was still flowing towards us.

"When it turns at nine o'clock," said Herbert, cheerfully, "look

out for us, and stand ready, you over there at Mill Pond Bank!"

Chapter 54

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind

blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the

shade. We had out pea-coats with us, and I took a bag. Of all my

worldly possessions I took no more than the few necessaries that

filled the bag. Where I might go, what I might do, or when I might

return, were questions utterly unknown to me; nor did I vex my mind

with them, for it was wholly set on Provis's safety. I only

wondered for the passing moment, as I stopped at the door and

looked back, under what altered circumstances I should next see

those rooms, if ever.