“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.” is a quotation from Bleak House (Chapter 47).
Jo is a poor street child. He sleeps in the slum called Tom-all-alone’s and sweeps streets to make some money. He contracts an illness through his exposure to the cold and dies. The Doctor Allan Woodcourt visits Jo and seeing his condition leads him in a prayer before he succumbs to his illness.
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 knowd 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 hisself, 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 to-day, 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.”
“By and by, Jo. By and by.”
“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!”
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.
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