Charles Dickens

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

another hour!

"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,

noble Joe!"

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

no more.