Charles Dickens, Bleak House: Ch. 24

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The affair being brought to this head, Mr. George, after a little consideration, proposed to go in first to his comrade (as he called him), taking Miss Flite with him.  Mr. Bucket agreeing, they went away to the further end of the gallery, leaving us sitting and standing by a table covered with guns.  Mr. Bucket took this opportunity of entering into a little light conversation, asking me if I were afraid of fire-arms, as most young ladies were; asking Richard if he were a good shot; asking Phil Squod which he considered the best of those rifles and what it might be worth first-hand, telling him in return that it was a pity he ever gave way to his temper, for he was naturally so amiable that he might have been a young woman, and making himself generally agreeable.

After a time he followed us to the further end of the gallery, and Richard and I were going quietly away when Mr. George came after us.  He said that if we had no objection to see his comrade, he would take a visit from us very kindly.  The words had hardly passed his lips when the bell was rung and my guardian appeared, "on the chance," he slightly observed, "of being able to do any little thing for a poor fellow involved in the same misfortune as himself."  We all four went back together and went into the place where Gridley was.

It was a bare room, partitioned off from the gallery with unpainted wood.  As the screening was not more than eight or ten feet high and only enclosed the sides, not the top, the rafters of the high gallery roof were overhead, and the skylight through which Mr. Bucket had looked down.  The sun was low—near setting—and its light came redly in above, without descending to the ground.  Upon a plain canvas-covered sofa lay the man from Shropshire, dressed much as we had seen him last, but so changed that at first I recognized no likeness in his colourless face to what I recollected.

He had been still writing in his hiding-place, and still dwelling on his grievances, hour after hour.  A table and some shelves were covered with manuscript papers and with worn pens and a medley of such tokens.  Touchingly and awfully drawn together, he and the little mad woman were side by side and, as it were, alone.  She sat on a chair holding his hand, and none of us went close to them.

His voice had faded, with the old expression of his face, with his strength, with his anger, with his resistance to the wrongs that had at last subdued him.  The faintest shadow of an object full of form and colour is such a picture of it as he was of the man from Shropshire whom we had spoken with before.

He inclined his head to Richard and me and spoke to my guardian.

"Mr. Jarndyce, it is very kind of you to come to see me.  I am not long to be seen, I think.  I am very glad to take your hand, sir.  You are a good man, superior to injustice, and God knows I honour you."

They shook hands earnestly, and my guardian said some words of comfort to him.

"It may seem strange to you, sir," returned Gridley; "I should not have liked to see you if this had been the first time of our meeting.  But you know I made a fight for it, you know I stood up with my single hand against them all, you know I told them the truth to the last, and told them what they were, and what they had done to me; so I don't mind your seeing me, this wreck."

"You have been courageous with them many and many a time," returned my guardian.

"Sir, I have been," with a faint smile.  "I told you what would come of it when I ceased to be so, and see here!  Look at us—look at us!"  He drew the hand Miss Flite held through her arm and brought her something nearer to him.

"This ends it.  Of all my old associations, of all my old pursuits and hopes, of all the living and the dead world, this one poor soul alone comes natural to me, and I am fit for.  There is a tie of many suffering years between us two, and it is the only tie I ever had on earth that Chancery has not broken."