The probability of his ever doing so, appeared to me, when I saw him, to be very small. He was lying with his head and shoulders out of bed, in an uncomfortable attitude, half resting on the box which had cost him so much pain and trouble. I learned, that, when he was past creeping out of bed to open it, and past assuring himself of its safety by means of the divining rod I had seen him use, he had required to have it placed on the chair at the bed-side, where he had ever since embraced it, night and day. His arm lay on it now. Time and the world were slipping from beneath him, but the box was there; and the last words he had uttered were (in an explanatory tone) 'Old clothes!'
'Barkis, my dear!' said Peggotty, almost cheerfully: bending over him, while her brother and I stood at the bed's foot. 'Here's my dear boy — my dear boy, Master Davy, who brought us together, Barkis! That you sent messages by, you know! Won't you speak to Master Davy?'
He was as mute and senseless as the box, from which his form derived the only expression it had.
'He's a going out with the tide,' said Mr. Peggotty to me, behind his hand.
My eyes were dim and so were Mr. Peggotty's; but I repeated in a whisper, 'With the tide?'
'People can't die, along the coast,' said Mr. Peggotty, 'except when the tide's pretty nigh out. They can't be born, unless it's pretty nigh in — not properly born, till flood. He's a going out with the tide. It's ebb at half-arter three, slack water half an hour. If he lives till it turns, he'll hold his own till past the flood, and go out with the next tide.'
We remained there, watching him, a long time — hours. What mysterious influence my presence had upon him in that state of his senses, I shall not pretend to say; but when he at last began to wander feebly, it is certain he was muttering about driving me to school.
'He's coming to himself,' said Peggotty.
Mr. Peggotty touched me, and whispered with much awe and reverence. 'They are both a-going out fast.'
'Barkis, my dear!' said Peggotty.
'C. P. Barkis,' he cried faintly. 'No better woman anywhere!'
'Look! Here's Master Davy!' said Peggotty. For he now opened his eyes.
I was on the point of asking him if he knew me, when he tried to stretch out his arm, and said to me, distinctly, with a pleasant smile:
'Barkis is willin'!'
And, it being low water, he went out with the tide.