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"Then, Herbert, estimate it; estimate it in
round numbers, and put it down."

"What a fellow of resource you are!" my
friend would reply, with admiration.
"Really your business powers are very
remarkable."

I thought so too. I established with myself
on these occasions, the reputation of a first-rate
man of businessprompt, decisive, energetic,
clear, cool-headed. When I had got all my
responsibilities down upon my list, I compared
each with the bill, and ticked it off. My self-
approval when I ticked an entry was quite a
luxurious sensation. When I had no more ticks
to make, I folded all my bills up uniformly,
docketed each on the back, and tied the whole into
a symmetrical bundle. Then, I did the same
for Herbert (who modestly said he had not my
administrative genius), and felt that I had
brought his affairs into a focus for him.

My business habits had one other bright
feature, which I called, "leaving a Margin."  For
example; supposing Herbert's debts to be one
hundred and sixty-four pounds four-and-
twopence, I would say, "leave a margin, and put
them down at two hundred." Or supposing
my own to be four times as much, I would
leave a margin, and put them down at seven
hundred. I had the highest opinion of the
wisdom of this same Margin, but I am bound
to acknowledge that on looking back, I deem
it to have been an expensive device. For, we
always ran into new debt immediately, to the
full extent of the margin, and sometimes, in the
sense of freedom and solvency it imparted, got
pretty far on into another margin.

But there was a calm, a rest, a virtuous hush,
consequent on these examinations of our affairs
that gave me, for the time, an admirable opinion
of myself. Soothed by my exertions, my
method, and Herbert's compliments, I would sit
with his symmetrical bundle and my own on the
table before me among the stationery, and feel
like a Bank of some sort, rather than a private
individual.

We shut our outer door on these solemn
occasions, in order that we might not be
interrupted. I had fallen into my serene
state one evening, when we heard a letter
dropped through the slit in the said door, and
fall on the ground. "It's for you, Handel,"
said Herbert, going out and coming back with
it, "and I hope there is nothing the matter."
This was in allusion to its heavy black seal and
border.

The letter was signed TRABB & Co., and its
contents were simply, that I was an honoured
sir, and that they begged to inform me that
Mrs. J. Gargery had departed this life on
Monday last, at twenty minutes past six in the evening,
and that my attendance was requested at
the interment on Monday next at three o'clock
in the afternoon.

                    CHAPTER  XXXV

IT was the first time that a grave had opened
in my road of life, and the gap it made in
the smooth ground was wonderful. The figure
of my sister in her chair by the kitchen fire,
haunted me night and day. That the place
could possibly be, without her, was something
my mind seemed unable to compass; and whereas
she had seldom or never been in my thoughts of
late, I had now the strangest ideas that she was
coming towards me in the street, or that she
would presently knock at the door. In my
rooms too, with which she had never been at all
associated, there was at once the blankness of
death and a perpetual suggestion of the sound
of her voice or the turn of her face or figure,
as if she were still alive and had been often
there.

Whatever my fortunes might have been, I
could scarcely have recalled my sister with much
tenderness. But I suppose there is a shock of
regret which may exist without much tenderness.
Under its influence (and perhaps to make up
for the want of the softer feeling) I was seized
with a violent indignation against the assailant
from whom she had suffered so much; and I
felt that on sufficient proof I could have
revengefully pursued Orlick, or any one else, to
the last extremity.

Having written to Joe, to offer consolation,
and to assure him that I should come to the
funeral, I passed the intermediate days in the
curious state of mind I have glanced at. I
went down early in the morning, and alighted
at the Blue Boar in good time to walk over to
the forge.

It was fine summer weather again, and, as I
walked along, the time when I was a little
helpless creature, and my sister did not spare me,
vividly returned. But they returned with a
gentle tone upon them that softened even the
edge of Tickler. For now, the very breath of
the beans and clover whispered to my heart that
the day must come when it would be well for
my memory that others walking in the sunshine
should be softened as they thought of me.

At last I came within sight of the house,
and saw that Trabb and Co. had put in a
funereal execution and taken possession. Two
dismally absurd persons, each ostentatiously
exhibiting a crutch done up in a black bandage
as if that instrument could possibly communicate
any comfort to anybodywere posted at
the front door; and in one of them I recognised
a postboy discharged from the Boar for turning
a young couple into a sawpit on their bridal
morning, in consequence of intoxication rendering
it necessary for him to ride his horse clasped
round the neck with both arms. All the children
of the village, and most of the women,
were admiring these sable warders and the
closed windows of the house and forge; and as I
came up, one of the two warders (the postboy)
knocked at the doorimplying that I was
far too much exhausted by grief, to have strength
remaining to knock for myself.

Another sable warder (a carpenter, who had
once eaten two geese for a wager) opened the
door, and showed me into the best parlour.
Here, Mr. Trabb had taken unto himself the
best table, and had got all the leaves up, and was

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