BY CHARLES DICKENS.
Now that I was left wholly to myself, I gave
notice of my intention to quit the chambers
in the Temple as soon as my tenancy could
legally determine, and in the mean while to
underlet them. At once I put bills up in the
windows; for, I was in debt, and had scarcely
any money, and began to be seriously alarmed
by the state of my affairs. I ought rather to
write that I should have been alarmed if I had
had energy and concentration enough to help
me to the clear perception of any truth beyond
the fact that I was falling very ill. The late
stress upon me had enabled me to put off illness,
but not to put it away; I knew that it was
coming on me now, and I knew very little else,
and was even careless as to that.
For a day or two, I lay on the sofa, or on the
floor—anywhere, according as I happened to
sink down—with a heavy head and aching
limbs, and no purpose, and no power. Then
there came, one night which appeared of great
duration, and which teemed with anxiety and
horror; and when, in the morning, I tried to
sit up in my bed and think of it, I found I
could not do so.
Whether I really had been down in Gardencourt
in the dead of the night, groping about
for the boat that I supposed to be there;
whether I had two or three times come to
myself on the staircase with great terror, not
knowing how I had got out of bed; whether I
had found myself lighting the lamp, possessed by
the idea that he was coming up the stairs, and
that the lights were blown out; whether I had
been inexpressibly harassed by the distracted
talking, laughing, and groaning, of some one,
and had half suspected those sounds to be of
my own making; whether there had been a
closed iron furnace in a dark corner of the room,
and a voice had called out over and over again
that Miss Havisham was consuming within it;
these were things that I tried to settle with
myself and get into some order, as I lay that
morning on my bed. But, the vapour of a lime
kiln would come between me and them, disordering
them all, and it was through the vapour
at last that I saw two men looking at me.
"What do you want?" I asked, starting; "I
don't know you."
"Well, sir," returned one of them, bending
down and touching me on the shoulder, "this
is a matter that you'll soon arrange, I dare say,
but you're arrested."
"What is the debt?"
"Hundred and twenty-three pound, fifteen,
six. Jeweller's account, I think."
"What is to be done ?"
"You had better come to my house," said
the man. "I keep a very nice house."
I made some attempt to get up and dress
myself. When I next attended to them, they
were standing a little off from the bed, looking
at me. I still lay there.
"You see my state," said I. "I would come
with you if I could; but indeed I am quite
unable. If you take me from here, I think I shall
die by the way."
Perhaps they replied, or argued the point,
or tried to encourage me to believe that I was
better than I thought. Forasmuch as they hang
in my memory by only this one slender thread,
I don't know what they did, except that they
forbore to remove me.
That I had a fever and was avoided, that I
suffered greatly, that I often lost my reason,
that the time seemed interminable, that I
confounded impossible existences with my own
identity; that I was a brick in the house-wall,
and yet entreating to be released from the giddy
place where the builders had set me; that I
was a steel beam of a vast engine, clashing and
whirling over a gulf, and yet that I implored in
my own person to have the engine stopped, and my
part in it hammered off; that I passed through
these phases of disease, I know of my own
remembrance, and did in some sort know at the
time. That I sometimes struggled with real
people, in the belief that they were murderers,
and that I would all at once comprehend that
they meant to do me good, and would then sink
exhausted in their arms, and suffer them to lay
me down, I also knew at the time. But, above
all, I knew that there was a constant tendency
in all these people—who, when I was very ill,
would present all kinds of extraordinary
transformations of the human face, and would be
much dilated in size—above all, I say, I knew
that time was an extraordinary tendency in all
these people, sooner or later to settle down into
the likeness of Joe.
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