The daily visits I could make him were shortened now,
and he was more strictly kept. Seeing, or fancying, that
I was suspected of an intention of carrying poison to
him, I asked to be searched before I sat down at his bedside,
and told the officer who was always there, that I was
willing to do anything that would assure him of the singleness
of my designs. Nobody was hard with him, or with me. There
was duty to be done, and it was done, but not harshly.
The officer always gave me the assurance that he was worse,
and some other sick prisoners in the room, and some other
prisoners who attended on them as sick nurses (malefactors,
but not incapable of kindness, GOD be thanked!), always
joined in the same report.
As the days went on, I noticed more and
more that he would lie placidly looking at the white ceiling,
with an absence of light in his face, until some word
of mine brightened it for an instant, and then it would
subside again. Sometimes he was almost, or quite, unable
to speak; then, he would answer me with slight pressures
on my hand, and I grew to understand his meaning very
The number of the days had risen to ten, when I saw a
greater change in him than I had seen yet. His eyes were
turned towards the door, and lighted up as I entered.
'-Dear boy,' he said, as I sat down by his bed: '-I thought
you was late. But I knowed you couldn't be that.'
'-It is just the time,' said I. '-I waited for it at the
'-You always waits at the gate; don't you, dear boy?'
'-Yes. Not to lose a moment of the time.'
'-Thank'ee dear boy, thank'ee. God bless you! You've never
deserted me, dear boy.'
I pressed his hand in silence, for I could not forget
that I had once meant to desert him.
'-And what's the best of all,' he said, '-you've been
more comfort- able alonger me, since I was under a dark
cloud, than when the sun shone. That's best of all.'
He lay on his back, breathing with great difficulty. Do
what he would, and love me though he did, the light left
his face ever and again, and a film came over the placid
look at the white ceiling.
'-Are you in much pain to-day?'
'-I don't complain of none, dear boy.'
'-You never do complain.'
He had spoken his last words. He smiled, and I understood
his touch to mean that he wished to lift my hand, and
lay it on his breast. I laid it there, and he smiled again,
and put both his hands upon it.
The allotted time ran out, while we were thus; but, looking
round, I found the governor of the prison standing near
me, and he whispered, '-You needn't go yet.' I thanked
him gratefully, and asked, '-Might I speak to him, if
he can hear me?'
The governor stepped aside, and beckoned the officer away.
The change, though it was made without noise, drew back
the film from the placid look at the white ceiling, and
he looked most affec- tionately at me.
'-Dear Magwitch, I must tell you, now at last. You understand
what I say ?'
A gentle pressure on my hand.
You had a child once, whom you loved and lost.'
A stronger pressure on my hand. -She
lived and found powerful friends. She is living now. She
is a lady and very beautiful. And I love her!'
With a last faint effort, which would have been powerless
but for my yielding to it and assisting it, he raised
my hand to his lips. Then, he gently let it sink upon
his breast again, with his own hands lying on it. The
placid look at the white ceiling came back, and passed
away, and his head dropped quietly on his breast.
Mindful, then, of what we had read together, I thought
of the two men who went up into the Temple to pray, and
I knew there were no better words that I could say beside
his bed, than '-O Lord, be merciful to him, a sinner!'