Allan Woodcourt lays his hand upon his pulse, and on his chest. “Draw breath, Jo!” “It draws,” says Jo, “as heavy as a cart.” He might add, “and rattles like it,” but he only mutters, “I’m a moving on, sir...”
...the cart so hard to draw is near its journey’s end, and drags over stony ground. All round the clock, it labours up the broken steps, shattered and worn. Not many times can the sun rise, and behold it still upon its weary road.
Phil Squod, with his smoky gunpowder visage, at once acts as nurse and works as armourer at his little table in a corner; often looking round, and saying with a nod of his green baize cap, and an encouraging elevation of his one eyebrow, “Hold up, my boy! Hold up!” There, too, is Mr Jarndyce many a time, and Allan Woodcourt almost always; both thinking, much, how strangely Fate has entangled this rough outcast in the web of very different lives. There, too, the trooper is a frequent visitor; filling the doorway with his athletic figure, and, from his superfluity of life and strength, seeming to shed down temporary vigour upon Jo, who never fails to speak more robustly in answer to his cheerful words.
Jo is in a sleep or in a stupor to-day, and Allan Woodcourt, newly arrived, stands by him, looking down upon his wasted form. After a while, he softly seats himself upon the bedside with his face towards him — just as he sat in the law-writer’s room — and touches his chest and heart. The cart had very nearly given up, but labours on a little more.
The trooper stands in the doorway, still and silent. Phil has stopped in a low clinking noise, with his little hammer in his hand. Mr Woodcourt looks round with that grave professional interest and attention on his face, and, glancing significantly at the trooper, signs to Phil to carry his table out. When the little hammer is next used, there will be a speck of rust upon it.
“Well, Jo! What is the matter? Don’t be frightened.”
“I thought,” says Jo, who has started, and is looking round, “I thought I was in Tom-all-Alone’s agin. Ain’t there nobody here but you, Mr Woodcot?”
“And I ain’t took back to Tom-all-Alone’s. Am I, sir?”
“No.” Jo closes his eyes, muttering, “I’m wery thankful.”
After watching him closely a little while, Allan puts his mouth very near his ear, and says to him in a low, distinct voice:
“Jo! Did you ever know a prayer?”
“Never know’d nothink, sir.”
“Not so much as one short prayer?”
“No, sir. Nothink at all. Mr Chadbands he wos a prayin wunst at Mr Sangsby’s and I heerd him, but he sounded as if he wos a speakin’ to his-self, and not to me. He prayed a lot, but I couldn’t make out nothink on it. Different times, there was other genlmen come down Tom-all-Alone’s a prayin, but they all mostly sed as the t’other wuns prayed wrong, and all mostly sounded to be a talking to theirselves, or a passing blame on the t’others, and not a talkin to us. we never knowd nothink. I never knowd what it wos all about.”
It takes him a long time to say this; and few but an experienced and attentive listener could hear, or, hearing, understand him. After a short relapse into sleep or stupor, he makes, of a sudden, a strong effort to get out of bed.
“Stay, Jo! What now?”
“It’s time for me to go to that there berryin ground, sir,” he returns with a wild look.
“Lie down, and tell me. What burying ground, Jo?”
“Where they laid him as wos wery good to me, wery good to me indeed, he wos. It’s time fur me to go down to that there berryin ground, sir, and ask to be put along with him. I wants to go there and be berried. He used fur to say to me, ‘I am as poor as you today, Jo,’ he ses. I wants to tell him that I am as poor as him now, and have come there to be laid along with him.”
“Bye and bye, Jo. Bye and bye.”
“Ah! P’raps they wouldn’t do it if I wos to go myself. But will you promise to have me took there, sir, and laid along with him?”
“I will, indeed.”
“Thankee, sir. Thankee, sir. They’ll have to get the key of the gate afore they can take me in, for it’s allus locked. And there’s a step there, as I used for to clean with my broom. — It’s turned wery dark, sir. Is there any light a comin?”
“It is coming fast, Jo.”
Fast. The cart is shaken all to pieces, and the rugged road is very near its end.
“Jo, my poor fellow!”
“I hear you, sir, in the dark, but I’m a gropin — a gropin — let me catch hold of your hand.”
“Jo, can you say what I say?”
“I’ll say anythink as you say, sir, for I knows it’s good.”
“Our Father! — Yes, that’s wery good, sir.”
“WHICH ART IN HEAVEN.”
“Art in Heaven — is the light a comin, sir?”
“It is close at hand. HALLOWED BE THY NAME!”
“Hallowed be — thy—”
The light is come upon the dark benighted way. Dead!
Dead, your Majesty. Dead, my lords and gentlemen. Dead, Right Reverends and Wrong Reverends of every order. Dead, men and women, born with Heavenly compassion in your hearts. And dying thus around us, every day.