He faintly said it, without any anger against any one. Merely as the truth.
'Thy little sister, Rachael, thou hast not forgot her. Thou'rt not like to forget her now, and me so nigh her. Thou know'st — poor, patient, suff'rin, dear — how thou didst work for her, seet'n all day long in her little chair at thy winder, and how she died, young and misshapen, awlung o' sickly air as had'n no need to be, an' awlung o' working people's miserable homes. A muddle! Aw a muddle!'
Louisa approached him; but he could not see her, lying with his face turned up to the night sky.
'If aw th' things that tooches us, my dear, was not so muddled, I should'n ha' had'n need to coom heer. If we was not in a muddle among ourseln, I should'n ha' been, by my own fellow weavers and workin' brothers, so mistook. If Mr. Bounderby had ever know'd me right — if he'd ever know'd me at aw — he would'n ha' took'n offence wi' me. He would'n ha' suspect'n me. But look up yonder, Rachael! Look aboove!'
Following his eyes, she saw that he was gazing at a star.
'It ha' shined upon me,' he said reverently, 'in my pain and trouble down below. It ha' shined into my mind. I ha' look'n at 't and thowt o' thee, Rachael, till the muddle in my mind have cleared awa, above a bit, I hope. If soom ha' been wantin' in unnerstan'in me better, I, too, ha' been wantin' in unnerstan'in them better. When I got thy letter, I easily believen that what the yoong ledy sen and done to me, and what her brother sen and done to me, was one, and that there were a wicked plot betwixt 'em. When I fell, I were in anger wi' her, an' hurryin on t' be as onjust t' her as oothers was t' me. But in our judgments, like as in our doins, we mun bear and forbear. In my pain an' trouble, lookin up yonder, — wi' it shinin on me — I ha' seen more clear, and ha' made it my dyin prayer that aw th' world may on'y coom toogether more, an' get a better unnerstan'in o' one another, than when I were in 't my own weak seln.'
Louisa hearing what he said, bent over him on the opposite side to Rachael, so that he could see her.
'You ha' heard?' he said, after a few moments' silence. 'I ha' not forgot you, ledy.'
'Yes, Stephen, I have heard you. And your prayer is mine.'
'You ha' a father. Will yo tak' a message to him?'
'He is here,' said Louisa, with dread. 'Shall I bring him to you?'
'If yo please.'
Louisa returned with her father. Standing hand-in-hand, they both looked down upon the solemn countenance.
'Sir, yo will clear me an' mak my name good wi' aw men. This I leave to yo.'
Mr. Gradgrind was troubled and asked how?
'Sir,' was the reply: 'yor son will tell yo how. Ask him. I mak no charges: I leave none ahint me: not a single word. I ha' seen an' spok'n wi' yor son, one night. I ask no more o' yo than that yo clear me — an' I trust to yo to do 't.'
The bearers being now ready to carry him away, and the surgeon being anxious for his removal, those who had torches or lanterns, prepared to go in front of the litter. Before it was raised, and while they were arranging how to go, he said to Rachael, looking upward at the star:
'Often as I coom to myseln, and found it shinin' on me down there in my trouble, I thowt it were the star as guided to Our Saviour's home. I awmust think it be the very star!'
They lifted him up, and he was overjoyed to find that they were about to take him in the direction whither the star seemed to him to lead.
'Rachael, beloved lass! Don't let go my hand. We may walk toogether t'night, my dear!'
'I will hold thy hand, and keep beside thee, Stephen, all the way.'
'Bless thee! Will soombody be pleased to coover my face!'
They carried him very gently along the fields, and down the lanes, and over the wide landscape; Rachael always holding the hand in hers. Very few whispers broke the mournful silence. It was soon a funeral procession. The star had shown him where to find the God of the poor; and through humility, and sorrow, and forgiveness, he had gone to his Redeemer's rest.