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- Great Expectations - 120/210 -

"What a fellow of resource you are!" my friend would reply, with

admiration. "Really your business powers are very remarkable."

I thought so too. I established with myself on these occasions, the

reputation of a first-rate man of business - prompt, decisive,

energetic, clear, cool-headed. When I had got all my

responsibilities down upon my list, I compared each with the bill,

and ticked it off. My self-approval when I ticked an entry was

quite a luxurious sensation. When I had no more ticks to make, I

folded all my bills up uniformly, docketed each on the back, and

tied the whole into a symmetrical bundle. Then I did the same for

Herbert (who modestly said he had not my administrative genius),

and felt that I had brought his affairs into a focus for him.

My business habits had one other bright feature, which i called

"leaving a Margin." For example; supposing Herbert's debts to be

one hundred and sixty-four pounds four-and-twopence, I would say,

"Leave a margin, and put them down at two hundred." Or, supposing

my own to be four times as much, I would leave a margin, and put

them down at seven hundred. I had the highest opinion of the wisdom

of this same Margin, but I am bound to acknowledge that on looking

back, I deem it to have been an expensive device. For, we always

ran into new debt immediately, to the full extent of the margin,

and sometimes, in the sense of freedom and solvency it imparted,

got pretty far on into another margin.

But there was a calm, a rest, a virtuous hush, consequent on these

examinations of our affairs that gave me, for the time, an

admirable opinion of myself. Soothed by my exertions, my method,

and Herbert's compliments, I would sit with his symmetrical bundle

and my own on the table before me among the stationary, and feel

like a Bank of some sort, rather than a private individual.

We shut our outer door on these solemn occasions, in order that we

might not be interrupted. I had fallen into my serene state one

evening, when we heard a letter dropped through the slit in the

said door, and fall on the ground. "It's for you, Handel," said

Herbert, going out and coming back with it, "and I hope there is

nothing the matter." This was in allusion to its heavy black seal

and border.

The letter was signed TRABB & CO., and its contents were simply,

that I was an honoured sir, and that they begged to inform me that

Mrs. J. Gargery had departed this life on Monday last, at twenty

minutes past six in the evening, and that my attendance was

requested at the interment on Monday next at three o'clock in the


Chapter 35

It was the first time that a grave had opened in my road of life,

and the gap it made in the smooth ground was wonderful. The figure

of my sister in her chair by the kitchen fire, haunted me night and

day. That the place could possibly be, without her, was something

my mind seemed unable to compass; and whereas she had seldom or

never been in my thoughts of late, I had now the strangest ideas

that she was coming towards me in the street, or that she would

presently knock at the door. In my rooms too, with which she had

never been at all associated, there was at once the blankness of

death and a perpetual suggestion of the sound of her voice or the

turn of her face or figure, as if she were still alive and had been

often there.

Whatever my fortunes might have been, I could scarcely have

recalled my sister with much tenderness. But I suppose there is a

shock of regret which may exist without much tenderness. Under its

influence (and perhaps to make up for the want of the softer

feeling) I was seized with a violent indignation against the

assailant from whom she had suffered so much; and I felt that on

sufficient proof I could have revengefully pursued Orlick, or any

one else, to the last extremity.

Having written to Joe, to offer consolation, and to assure him that

I should come to the funeral, I passed the intermediate days in the

curious state of mind I have glanced at. I went down early in the

morning, and alighted at the Blue Boar in good time to walk over to

the forge.

It was fine summer weather again, and, as I walked along, the times

when I was a little helpless creature, and my sister did not spare

me, vividly returned. But they returned with a gentle tone upon

them that softened even the edge of Tickler. For now, the very

breath of the beans and clover whispered to my heart that the day

must come when it would be well for my memory that others walking

in the sunshine should be softened as they thought of me.

At last I came within sight of the house, and saw that Trabb and

Co. had put in a funereal execution and taken possession. Two

dismally absurd persons, each ostentatiously exhibiting a crutch

done up in a black bandage - as if that instrument could possibly

communicate any comfort to anybody - were posted at the front door;

and in one of them I recognized a postboy discharged from the Boar

for turning a young couple into a sawpit on their bridal morning,

in consequence of intoxication rendering it necessary for him to

ride his horse clasped round the neck with both arms. All the

children of the village, and most of the women, were admiring these

sable warders and the closed windows of the house and forge; and as

I came up, one of the two warders (the postboy) knocked at the door

- implying that I was far too much exhausted by grief, to have

Great Expectations - 120/210

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