They awakened a tender
emotion in me; for, my heart was softened by my return, and such a
change had come to pass, that I felt like one who was toiling home
barefoot from distant travel, and whose wanderings had lasted many
The schoolhouse where Biddy was mistress, I had never seen; but,
the little roundabout lane by which I entered the village for
quietness' sake, took me past it. I was disappointed to find that
the day was a holiday; no children were there, and Biddy's house
was closed. Some hopeful notion of seeing her busily engaged in her
daily duties, before she saw me, had been in my mind and was
But, the forge was a very short distance off, and I went towards it
under the sweet green limes, listening for the clink of Joe's
hammer. Long after I ought to have heard it, and long after I had
fancied I heard it and found it but a fancy, all was still. The
limes were there, and the white thorns were there, and the
chestnut-trees were there, and their leaves rustled harmoniously
when I stopped to listen; but, the clink of Joe's hammer was not in
the midsummer wind.
Almost fearing, without knowing why, to come in view of the forge,
I saw it at last, and saw that it was closed. No gleam of fire, no
glittering shower of sparks, no roar of bellows; all shut up, and
But, the house was not deserted, and the best parlour seemed to be
in use, for there were white curtains fluttering in its window, and
the window was open and gay with flowers. I went softly towards it,
meaning to peep over the flowers, when Joe and Biddy stood before
me, arm in arm.
At first Biddy gave a cry, as if she thought it was my apparition,
but in another moment she was in my embrace. I wept to see her, and
she wept to see me; I, because she looked so fresh and pleasant;
she, because I looked so worn and white.
"But dear Biddy, how smart you are!"
"Yes, dear Pip."
"And Joe, how smart you are!"
"Yes, dear old Pip, old chap."
I looked at both of them, from one to the other, and then--
"It's my wedding-day," cried Biddy, in a burst of happiness, "and I
am married to Joe!"
They had taken me into the kitchen, and I had laid my head down on
the old deal table. Biddy held one of my hands to her lips, and
Joe's restoring touch was on my shoulder. "Which he warn't strong
enough, my dear, fur to be surprised," said Joe. And Biddy said, "I
ought to have thought of it, dear Joe, but I was too happy." They
were both so overjoyed to see me, so proud to see me, so touched by
my coming to them, so delighted that I should have come by accident
to make their day complete!
My first thought was one of great thankfulness that I had never
breathed this last baffled hope to Joe. How often, while he was
with me in my illness, had it risen to my lips. How irrevocable
would have been his knowledge of it, if he had remained with me but
"Dear Biddy," said I, "you have the best husband in the whole
world, and if you could have seen him by my bed you would have -
But no, you couldn't love him better than you do."
"No, I couldn't indeed," said Biddy.
"And, dear Joe, you have the best wife in the whole world, and she
will make you as happy as even you deserve to be, you dear, good,
Joe looked at me with a quivering lip, and fairly put his sleeve
before his eyes.
"And Joe and Biddy both, as you have been to church to-day, and are
in charity and love with all mankind, receive my humble thanks for
all you have done for me and all I have so ill repaid! And when I
say that I am going away within the hour, for I am soon going
abroad, and that I shall never rest until I have worked for the
money with which you have kept me out of prison, and have sent it
to you, don't think, dear Joe and Biddy, that if I could repay it a
thousand times over, I suppose I could cancel a farthing of the
debt I owe you, or that I would do so if I could!"
They were both melted by these words, and both entreated me to say