Charles Dickens

However, I temporized with myself, of course - for, was

I not wavering between right and wrong, when the thing is always

done? - and resolved to make a full disclosure if I should see any

such new occasion as a new chance of helping in the discovery of

the assailant.

The Constables, and the Bow Street men from London - for, this

happened in the days of the extinct red-waistcoated police - were

about the house for a week or two, and did pretty much what I have

heard and read of like authorities doing in other such cases. They

took up several obviously wrong people, and they ran their heads

very hard against wrong ideas, and persisted in trying to fit the

circumstances to the ideas, instead of trying to extract ideas from

the circumstances. Also, they stood about the door of the Jolly

Bargemen, with knowing and reserved looks that filled the whole

neighbourhood with admiration; and they had a mysterious manner of

taking their drink, that was almost as good as taking the culprit.

But not quite, for they never did it.

Long after these constitutional powers had dispersed, my sister lay

very ill in bed. Her sight was disturbed, so that she saw objects

multiplied, and grasped at visionary teacups and wine-glasses

instead of the realities; her hearing was greatly impaired; her

memory also; and her speech was unintelligible. When, at last, she

came round so far as to be helped down-stairs, it was still

necessary to keep my slate always by her, that she might indicate

in writing what she could not indicate in speech. As she was (very

bad handwriting apart) a more than indifferent speller, and as Joe

was a more than indifferent reader, extraordinary complications

arose between them, which I was always called in to solve. The

administration of mutton instead of medicine, the substitution of

Tea for Joe, and the baker for bacon, were among the mildest of my

own mistakes.

However, her temper was greatly improved, and she was patient. A

tremulous uncertainty of the action of all her limbs soon became a

part of her regular state, and afterwards, at intervals of two or

three months, she would often put her hands to her head, and would

then remain for about a week at a time in some gloomy aberration of

mind. We were at a loss to find a suitable attendant for her, until

a circumstance happened conveniently to relieve us. Mr. Wopsle's

great-aunt conquered a confirmed habit of living into which she had

fallen, and Biddy became a part of our establishment.

It may have been about a month after my sister's reappearance in

the kitchen, when Biddy came to us with a small speckled box

containing the whole of her worldly effects, and became a blessing

to the household. Above all, she was a blessing to Joe, for the

dear old fellow was sadly cut up by the constant contemplation of

the wreck of his wife, and had been accustomed, while attending on

her of an evening, to turn to me every now and then and say, with

his blue eyes moistened, "Such a fine figure of a woman as she once

were, Pip!" Biddy instantly taking the cleverest charge of her as

though she had studied her from infancy, Joe became able in some

sort to appreciate the greater quiet of his life, and to get down

to the Jolly Bargemen now and then for a change that did him good.

It was characteristic of the police people that they had all more

or less suspected poor Joe (though he never knew it), and that they

had to a man concurred in regarding him as one of the deepest

spirits they had ever encountered.

Biddy's first triumph in her new office, was to solve a difficulty

that had completely vanquished me. I had tried hard at it, but had

made nothing of it. Thus it was:

Again and again and again, my sister had traced upon the slate, a

character that looked like a curious T, and then with the utmost

eagerness had called our attention to it as something she

particularly wanted.