by Charles Dickens
[Project Gutenberg Editor's Note: There is also another version of
this work etext98/grexp10.txt scanned from a different edition]
My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my
infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit
than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.
I give Pirrip as my father's family name, on the authority of his
tombstone and my sister,--Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith.
As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness
of either of them (for their days were long before the days of
photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like were
unreasonably derived from their tombstones. The shape of the letters on
my father's, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man,
with curly black hair. From the character and turn of the inscription,
"Also Georgiana Wife of the Above," I drew a childish conclusion that
my mother was freckled and sickly. To five little stone lozenges, each
about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside
their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of
mine,--who gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in
that universal struggle,--I am indebted for a belief I religiously
entertained that they had all been born on their backs with their hands
in their trousers-pockets, and had never taken them out in this state of
Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river
wound, twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression
of the identity of things seems to me to have been gained on a memorable
raw afternoon towards evening. At such a time I found out for certain
that this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard; and
that Philip Pirrip, late of this parish, and also Georgiana wife of the
above, were dead and buried; and that Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham,
Tobias, and Roger, infant children of the aforesaid, were also dead
and buried; and that the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard,
intersected with dikes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle
feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond
was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was
rushing was the sea; and that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid
of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip.
"Hold your noise!" cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from
among the graves at the side of the church porch. "Keep still, you
little devil, or I'll cut your throat!"
A fearful man, all in coarse gray, with a great iron on his leg. A man
with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his
head. A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and
lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by
briars; who limped, and shivered, and glared, and growled; and whose
teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin.
"Oh! Don't cut my throat, sir," I pleaded in terror. "Pray don't do it,
"Tell us your name!" said the man. "Quick!"
"Once more," said the man, staring at me. "Give it mouth!"
"Pip. Pip, sir."
"Show us where you live," said the man. "Pint out the place!"
I pointed to where our village lay, on the flat in-shore among the
alder-trees and pollards, a mile or more from the church.
The man, after looking at me for a moment, turned me upside down, and
emptied my pockets. There was nothing in them but a piece of bread. When
the church came to itself,--for he was so sudden and strong that he
made it go head over heels before me, and I saw the steeple under my
feet,--when the church came to itself, I say, I was seated on a high
tombstone, trembling while he ate the bread ravenously.
"You young dog," said the man, licking his lips, "what fat cheeks you
I believe they were fat, though I was at that time undersized for my
years, and not strong.
"Darn me if I couldn't eat em," said the man, with a threatening shake
of his head, "and if I han't half a mind to't!"
I earnestly expressed my hope that he wouldn't, and held tighter to
the tombstone on which he had put me; partly, to keep myself upon it;
partly, to keep myself from crying.
"Now lookee here!" said the man. "Where's your mother?"
"There, sir!" said I.
He started, made a short run, and stopped and looked over his shoulder.
"There, sir!" I timidly explained. "Also Georgiana. That's my mother."
"Oh!" said he, coming back. "And is that your father alonger your
"Yes, sir," said I; "him too; late of this parish."
"Ha!" he muttered then, considering. "Who d'ye live with,--supposin'
you're kindly let to live, which I han't made up my mind about?"
"My sister, sir,--Mrs. Joe Gargery,--wife of Joe Gargery, the
"Blacksmith, eh?" said he. And looked down at his leg.
After darkly looking at his leg and me several times, he came closer
to my tombstone, took me by both arms, and tilted me back as far as he
could hold me; so that his eyes looked most powerfully down into mine,
and mine looked most helplessly up into his.
"Now lookee here," he said, "the question being whether you're to be let
to live. You know what a file is?"
"And you know what wittles is?"
After each question he tilted me over a little more, so as to give me a
greater sense of helplessness and danger.
"You get me a file." He tilted me again. "And you get me wittles." He
tilted me again. "You bring 'em both to me." He tilted me again. "Or
I'll have your heart and liver out." He tilted me again.
I was dreadfully frightened, and so giddy that I clung to him with both
hands, and said, "If you would kindly please to let me keep upright,
sir, perhaps I shouldn't be sick, and perhaps I could attend more."
He gave me a most tremendous dip and roll, so that the church jumped
over its own weathercock. Then, he held me by the arms, in an upright
position on the top of the stone, and went on in these fearful terms:--
"You bring me, to-morrow morning early, that file and them wittles. You
bring the lot to me, at that old Battery over yonder. You do it, and you
never dare to say a word or dare to make a sign concerning your having
seen such a person as me, or any person sumever, and you shall be let to
live. You fail, or you go from my words in any partickler, no matter how
small it is, and your heart and your liver shall be tore out, roasted,
and ate. Now, I ain't alone, as you may think I am. There's a young man
hid with me, in comparison with which young man I am a Angel. That young
man hears the words I speak. That young man has a secret way pecooliar
to himself, of getting at a boy, and at his heart, and at his liver. It
is in wain for a boy to attempt to hide himself from that young man. A
boy may lock his door, may be warm in bed, may tuck himself up, may draw
the clothes over his head, may think himself comfortable and safe, but
that young man will softly creep and creep his way to him and tear him
open. I am a keeping that young man from harming of you at the present
moment, with great difficulty. I find it wery hard to hold that young
man off of your inside. Now, what do you say?"
I said that I would get him the file, and I would get him what broken
bits of food I could, and I would come to him at the Battery, early in
"Say Lord strike you dead if you don't!" said the man.
I said so, and he took me down.
"Now," he pursued, "you remember what you've undertook, and you remember
that young man, and you get home!"
"Goo-good night, sir," I faltered.
"Much of that!" said he, glancing about him over the cold wet flat. "I
wish I was a frog. Or a eel!"
At the same time, he hugged his shuddering body in both his
arms,--clasping himself, as if to hold himself together,--and limped
towards the low church wall. As I saw him go, picking his way among the
nettles, and among the brambles that bound the green mounds, he looked
in my young eyes as if he were eluding the hands of the dead people,
stretching up cautiously out of their graves, to get a twist upon his
ankle and pull him in.
When he came to the low church wall, he got over it, like a man whose
legs were numbed and stiff, and then turned round to look for me. When I
saw him turning, I set my face towards home, and made the best use of
my legs. But presently I looked over my shoulder, and saw him going on
again towards the river, still hugging himself in both arms, and picking
his way with his sore feet among the great stones dropped into the
marshes here and there, for stepping-places when the rains were heavy or
the tide was in.
The marshes were just a long black horizontal line then, as I stopped
to look after him; and the river was just another horizontal line, not
nearly so broad nor yet so black; and the sky was just a row of long
angry red lines and dense black lines intermixed. On the edge of the
river I could faintly make out the only two black things in all the
prospect that seemed to be standing upright; one of these was the beacon
by which the sailors steered,--like an unhooped cask upon a pole,--an
ugly thing when you were near it; the other, a gibbet, with some chains
hanging to it which had once held a pirate. The man was limping on
towards this latter, as if he were the pirate come to life, and come
down, and going back to hook himself up again. It gave me a terrible
turn when I thought so; and as I saw the cattle lifting their heads to
gaze after him, I wondered whether they thought so too. I looked all
round for the horrible young man, and could see no signs of him. But now
I was frightened again, and ran home without stopping.
My sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery, was more than twenty years older than I,
and had established a great reputation with herself and the neighbors
because she had brought me up "by hand." Having at that time to find out
for myself what the expression meant, and knowing her to have a hard and
heavy hand, and to be much in the habit of laying it upon her husband as
well as upon me, I supposed that Joe Gargery and I were both brought up
She was not a good-looking woman, my sister; and I had a general
impression that she must have made Joe Gargery marry her by hand. Joe
was a fair man, with curls of flaxen hair on each side of his smooth
face, and with eyes of such a very undecided blue that they seemed
to have somehow got mixed with their own whites. He was a mild,
good-natured, sweet-tempered, easy-going, foolish, dear fellow,--a sort
of Hercules in strength, and also in weakness.
My sister, Mrs. Joe, with black hair and eyes, had such a prevailing
redness of skin that I sometimes used to wonder whether it was possible
she washed herself with a nutmeg-grater instead of soap. She was tall
and bony, and almost always wore a coarse apron, fastened over her
figure behind with two loops, and having a square impregnable bib in
front, that was stuck full of pins and needles. She made it a powerful
merit in herself, and a strong reproach against Joe, that she wore this
apron so much. Though I really see no reason why she should have worn it
at all; or why, if she did wear it at all, she should not have taken it
off, every day of her life.
Joe's forge adjoined our house, which was a wooden house, as many of the
dwellings in our country were,--most of them, at that time. When I ran
home from the churchyard, the forge was shut up, and Joe was sitting
alone in the kitchen. Joe and I being fellow-sufferers, and having
confidences as such, Joe imparted a confidence to me, the moment I
raised the latch of the door and peeped in at him opposite to it,
sitting in the chimney corner.
"Mrs. Joe has been out a dozen times, looking for you, Pip. And she's
out now, making it a baker's dozen."
"Yes, Pip," said Joe; "and what's worse, she's got Tickler with her."
At this dismal intelligence, I twisted the only button on my waistcoat
round and round, and looked in great depression at the fire. Tickler
was a wax-ended piece of cane, worn smooth by collision with my tickled
"She sot down," said Joe, "and she got up, and she made a grab at
Tickler, and she Ram-paged out. That's what she did," said Joe, slowly
clearing the fire between the lower bars with the poker, and looking at
it; "she Ram-paged out, Pip."
"Has she been gone long, Joe?" I always treated him as a larger species
of child, and as no more than my equal.
"Well," said Joe, glancing up at the Dutch clock, "she's been on the
Ram-page, this last spell, about five minutes, Pip. She's a coming! Get
behind the door, old chap, and have the jack-towel betwixt you."
I took the advice. My sister, Mrs. Joe, throwing the door wide open,
and finding an obstruction behind it, immediately divined the cause, and
applied Tickler to its further investigation. She concluded by throwing
me--I often served as a connubial missile--at Joe, who, glad to get hold
of me on any terms, passed me on into the chimney and quietly fenced me
up there with his great leg.
"Where have you been, you young monkey?" said Mrs. Joe, stamping her
foot. "Tell me directly what you've been doing to wear me away with fret
and fright and worrit, or I'd have you out of that corner if you was
fifty Pips, and he was five hundred Gargerys."
"I have only been to the churchyard," said I, from my stool, crying and
"Churchyard!" repeated my sister. "If it warn't for me you'd have been
to the churchyard long ago, and stayed there. Who brought you up by
"You did," said I.
"And why did I do it, I should like to know?" exclaimed my sister.
I whimpered, "I don't know."
"I don't!" said my sister. "I'd never do it again! I know that. I may
truly say I've never had this apron of mine off since born you were.
It's bad enough to be a blacksmith's wife (and him a Gargery) without
being your mother."
My thoughts strayed from that question as I looked disconsolately at
the fire. For the fugitive out on the marshes with the ironed leg, the
mysterious young man, the file, the food, and the dreadful pledge I was
under to commit a larceny on those sheltering premises, rose before me
in the avenging coals.
"Hah!" said Mrs. Joe, restoring Tickler to his station. "Churchyard,
indeed! You may well say churchyard, you two." One of us, by the by, had
not said it at all. "You'll drive me to the churchyard betwixt you, one
of these days, and O, a pr-r-recious pair you'd be without me!"
As she applied herself to set the tea-things, Joe peeped down at me
over his leg, as if he were mentally casting me and himself up, and
calculating what kind of pair we practically should make, under the
grievous circumstances foreshadowed. After that, he sat feeling his
right-side flaxen curls and whisker, and following Mrs. Joe about with
his blue eyes, as his manner always was at squally times.
My sister had a trenchant way of cutting our bread and butter for us,
that never varied. First, with her left hand she jammed the loaf hard
and fast against her bib,--where it sometimes got a pin into it, and
sometimes a needle, which we afterwards got into our mouths. Then she
took some butter (not too much) on a knife and spread it on the loaf, in
an apothecary kind of way, as if she were making a plaster,--using both
sides of the knife with a slapping dexterity, and trimming and moulding
the butter off round the crust. Then, she gave the knife a final smart
wipe on the edge of the plaster, and then sawed a very thick round off
the loaf: which she finally, before separating from the loaf, hewed into
two halves, of which Joe got one, and I the other.
On the present occasion, though I was hungry, I dared not eat my
slice. I felt that I must have something in reserve for my dreadful
acquaintance, and his ally the still more dreadful young man. I knew
Mrs. Joe's housekeeping to be of the strictest kind, and that my
larcenous researches might find nothing available in the safe. Therefore
I resolved to put my hunk of bread and butter down the leg of my
The effort of resolution necessary to the achievement of this purpose I
found to be quite awful. It was as if I had to make up my mind to leap
from the top of a high house, or plunge into a great depth of water.
And it was made the more difficult by the unconscious Joe. In
our already-mentioned freemasonry as fellow-sufferers, and in his
good-natured companionship with me, it was our evening habit to compare
the way we bit through our slices, by silently holding them up to each
other's admiration now and then,--which stimulated us to new exertions.
To-night, Joe several times invited me, by the display of his fast
diminishing slice, to enter upon our usual friendly competition; but
he found me, each time, with my yellow mug of tea on one knee, and
my untouched bread and butter on the other. At last, I desperately
considered that the thing I contemplated must be done, and that it
had best be done in the least improbable manner consistent with the
circumstances. I took advantage of a moment when Joe had just looked at
me, and got my bread and butter down my leg.
Joe was evidently made uncomfortable by what he supposed to be my loss
of appetite, and took a thoughtful bite out of his slice, which he
didn't seem to enjoy. He turned it about in his mouth much longer than
usual, pondering over it a good deal, and after all gulped it down like
a pill. He was about to take another bite, and had just got his head on
one side for a good purchase on it, when his eye fell on me, and he saw
that my bread and butter was gone.
The wonder and consternation with which Joe stopped on the threshold
of his bite and stared at me, were too evident to escape my sister's
"What's the matter now?" said she, smartly, as she put down her cup.
"I say, you know!" muttered Joe, shaking his head at me in very serious
remonstrance. "Pip, old chap! You'll do yourself a mischief. It'll stick
somewhere. You can't have chawed it, Pip."
"What's the matter now?" repeated my sister, more sharply than before.
"If you can cough any trifle on it up, Pip, I'd recommend you to do it,"
said Joe, all aghast. "Manners is manners, but still your elth's your
By this time, my sister was quite desperate, so she pounced on Joe,
and, taking him by the two whiskers, knocked his head for a little while
against the wall behind him, while I sat in the corner, looking guiltily
"Now, perhaps you'll mention what's the matter," said my sister, out of
breath, "you staring great stuck pig."
Joe looked at her in a helpless way, then took a helpless bite, and
looked at me again.
"You know, Pip," said Joe, solemnly, with his last bite in his cheek,
and speaking in a confidential voice, as if we two were quite alone,
"you and me is always friends, and I'd be the last to tell upon you,
any time. But such a--" he moved his chair and looked about the floor
between us, and then again at me--"such a most oncommon Bolt as that!"
"Been bolting his food, has he?" cried my sister.
"You know, old chap," said Joe, looking at me, and not at Mrs. Joe,
with his bite still in his cheek, "I Bolted, myself, when I was your
age--frequent--and as a boy I've been among a many Bolters; but I never
see your Bolting equal yet, Pip, and it's a mercy you ain't Bolted
My sister made a dive at me, and fished me up by the hair, saying
nothing more than the awful words, "You come along and be dosed."
Some medical beast had revived Tar-water in those days as a fine
medicine, and Mrs. Joe always kept a supply of it in the cupboard;
having a belief in its virtues correspondent to its nastiness. At the
best of times, so much of this elixir was administered to me as a choice
restorative, that I was conscious of going about, smelling like a new
fence. On this particular evening the urgency of my case demanded a
pint of this mixture, which was poured down my throat, for my greater
comfort, while Mrs. Joe held my head under her arm, as a boot would
be held in a bootjack. Joe got off with half a pint; but was made to
swallow that (much to his disturbance, as he sat slowly munching and
meditating before the fire), "because he had had a turn." Judging from
myself, I should say he certainly had a turn afterwards, if he had had
Conscience is a dreadful thing when it accuses man or boy; but when, in
the case of a boy, that secret burden co-operates with another secret
burden down the leg of his trousers, it is (as I can testify) a great
punishment. The guilty knowledge that I was going to rob Mrs. Joe--I
never thought I was going to rob Joe, for I never thought of any of the
housekeeping property as his--united to the necessity of always keeping
one hand on my bread and butter as I sat, or when I was ordered about
the kitchen on any small errand, almost drove me out of my mind. Then,
as the marsh winds made the fire glow and flare, I thought I heard the
voice outside, of the man with the iron on his leg who had sworn me to
secrecy, declaring that he couldn't and wouldn't starve until to-morrow,
but must be fed now. At other times, I thought, What if the young man
who was with so much difficulty restrained from imbruing his hands in me
should yield to a constitutional impatience, or should mistake the time,
and should think himself accredited to my heart and liver to-night,
instead of to-morrow! If ever anybody's hair stood on end with terror,
mine must have done so then. But, perhaps, nobody's ever did?
It was Christmas Eve, and I had to stir the pudding for next day, with
a copper-stick, from seven to eight by the Dutch clock. I tried it with
the load upon my leg (and that made me think afresh of the man with the
load on HIS leg), and found the tendency of exercise to bring the bread
and butter out at my ankle, quite unmanageable. Happily I slipped away,
and deposited that part of my conscience in my garret bedroom.
"Hark!" said I, when I had done my stirring, and was taking a final warm
in the chimney corner before being sent up to bed; "was that great guns,
"Ah!" said Joe. "There's another conwict off."
"What does that mean, Joe?" said I.
Mrs. Joe, who always took explanations upon herself, said, snappishly,
"Escaped. Escaped." Administering the definition like Tar-water.
While Mrs. Joe sat with her head bending over her needlework, I put my
mouth into the forms of saying to Joe, "What's a convict?" Joe put his
mouth into the forms of returning such a highly elaborate answer, that I
could make out nothing of it but the single word "Pip."
"There was a conwict off last night," said Joe, aloud, "after
sunset-gun. And they fired warning of him. And now it appears they're
firing warning of another."
"Who's firing?" said I.
"Drat that boy," interposed my sister, frowning at me over her work,
"what a questioner he is. Ask no questions, and you'll be told no lies."
It was not very polite to herself, I thought, to imply that I should be
told lies by her even if I did ask questions. But she never was polite
unless there was company.
At this point Joe greatly augmented my curiosity by taking the utmost
pains to open his mouth very wide, and to put it into the form of a word
that looked to me like "sulks." Therefore, I naturally pointed to Mrs.
Joe, and put my mouth into the form of saying, "her?" But Joe wouldn't
hear of that, at all, and again opened his mouth very wide, and shook
the form of a most emphatic word out of it. But I could make nothing of
"Mrs. Joe," said I, as a last resort, "I should like to know--if you
wouldn't much mind--where the firing comes from?"
"Lord bless the boy!" exclaimed my sister, as if she didn't quite mean
that but rather the contrary. "From the Hulks!"
"Oh-h!" said I, looking at Joe. "Hulks!"
Joe gave a reproachful cough, as much as to say, "Well, I told you so."
"And please, what's Hulks?" said I.
"That's the way with this boy!" exclaimed my sister, pointing me out
with her needle and thread, and shaking her head at me. "Answer him one
question, and he'll ask you a dozen directly. Hulks are prison-ships,
right 'cross th' meshes." We always used that name for marshes, in our
"I wonder who's put into prison-ships, and why they're put there?" said
I, in a general way, and with quiet desperation.
It was too much for Mrs. Joe, who immediately rose. "I tell you what,
young fellow," said she, "I didn't bring you up by hand to badger
people's lives out. It would be blame to me and not praise, if I had.
People are put in the Hulks because they murder, and because they rob,
and forge, and do all sorts of bad; and they always begin by asking
questions. Now, you get along to bed!"
I was never allowed a candle to light me to bed, and, as I went up
stairs in the dark, with my head tingling,--from Mrs. Joe's thimble
having played the tambourine upon it, to accompany her last words,--I
felt fearfully sensible of the great convenience that the hulks were
handy for me. I was clearly on my way there. I had begun by asking
questions, and I was going to rob Mrs. Joe.
Since that time, which is far enough away now, I have often thought
that few people know what secrecy there is in the young under terror.
No matter how unreasonable the terror, so that it be terror. I was in
mortal terror of the young man who wanted my heart and liver; I was
in mortal terror of my interlocutor with the iron leg; I was in mortal
terror of myself, from whom an awful promise had been extracted; I had
no hope of deliverance through my all-powerful sister, who repulsed
me at every turn; I am afraid to think of what I might have done on
requirement, in the secrecy of my terror.
If I slept at all that night, it was only to imagine myself drifting
down the river on a strong spring-tide, to the Hulks; a ghostly
pirate calling out to me through a speaking-trumpet, as I passed the
gibbet-station, that I had better come ashore and be hanged there at
once, and not put it off. I was afraid to sleep, even if I had been
inclined, for I knew that at the first faint dawn of morning I must rob
the pantry. There was no doing it in the night, for there was no getting
a light by easy friction then; to have got one I must have struck it out
of flint and steel, and have made a noise like the very pirate himself
rattling his chains.
As soon as the great black velvet pall outside my little window was shot
with gray, I got up and went down stairs; every board upon the way, and
every crack in every board calling after me, "Stop thief!" and "Get up,
Mrs. Joe!" In the pantry, which was far more abundantly supplied than
usual, owing to the season, I was very much alarmed by a hare hanging
up by the heels, whom I rather thought I caught when my back was half
turned, winking. I had no time for verification, no time for selection,
no time for anything, for I had no time to spare. I stole some bread,
some rind of cheese, about half a jar of mincemeat (which I tied up in
my pocket-handkerchief with my last night's slice), some brandy from a
stone bottle (which I decanted into a glass bottle I had secretly used
for making that intoxicating fluid, Spanish-liquorice-water, up in my
room: diluting the stone bottle from a jug in the kitchen cupboard),
a meat bone with very little on it, and a beautiful round compact pork
pie. I was nearly going away without the pie, but I was tempted to mount
upon a shelf, to look what it was that was put away so carefully in a
covered earthen ware dish in a corner, and I found it was the pie, and
I took it in the hope that it was not intended for early use, and would
not be missed for some time.
There was a door in the kitchen, communicating with the forge; I
unlocked and unbolted that door, and got a file from among Joe's tools.
Then I put the fastenings as I had found them, opened the door at which
I had entered when I ran home last night, shut it, and ran for the misty
It was a rimy morning, and very damp. I had seen the damp lying on the
outside of my little window, as if some goblin had been crying there all
night, and using the window for a pocket-handkerchief. Now, I saw the
damp lying on the bare hedges and spare grass, like a coarser sort of
spiders' webs; hanging itself from twig to twig and blade to blade. On
every rail and gate, wet lay clammy, and the marsh mist was so thick,
that the wooden finger on the post directing people to our village--a
direction which they never accepted, for they never came there--was
invisible to me until I was quite close under it. Then, as I looked up
at it, while it dripped, it seemed to my oppressed conscience like a
phantom devoting me to the Hulks.
The mist was heavier yet when I got out upon the marshes, so that
instead of my running at everything, everything seemed to run at me.
This was very disagreeable to a guilty mind. The gates and dikes and
banks came bursting at me through the mist, as if they cried as plainly
as could be, "A boy with Somebody's else's pork pie! Stop him!" The
cattle came upon me with like suddenness, staring out of their eyes,
and steaming out of their nostrils, "Halloa, young thief!" One black
ox, with a white cravat on,--who even had to my awakened conscience
something of a clerical air,--fixed me so obstinately with his eyes,
and moved his blunt head round in such an accusatory manner as I moved
round, that I blubbered out to him, "I couldn't help it, sir! It wasn't
for myself I took it!" Upon which he put down his head, blew a cloud of
smoke out of his nose, and vanished with a kick-up of his hind-legs and
a flourish of his tail.
All this time, I was getting on towards the river; but however fast I
went, I couldn't warm my feet, to which the damp cold seemed riveted, as
the iron was riveted to the leg of the man I was running to meet. I knew
my way to the Battery, pretty straight, for I had been down there on a
Sunday with Joe, and Joe, sitting on an old gun, had told me that when
I was 'prentice to him, regularly bound, we would have such Larks there!
However, in the confusion of the mist, I found myself at last too far to
the right, and consequently had to try back along the river-side, on the
bank of loose stones above the mud and the stakes that staked the tide
out. Making my way along here with all despatch, I had just crossed a
ditch which I knew to be very near the Battery, and had just scrambled
up the mound beyond the ditch, when I saw the man sitting before me.
His back was towards me, and he had his arms folded, and was nodding
forward, heavy with sleep.
I thought he would be more glad if I came upon him with his breakfast,
in that unexpected manner, so I went forward softly and touched him on
the shoulder. He instantly jumped up, and it was not the same man, but
And yet this man was dressed in coarse gray, too, and had a great iron
on his leg, and was lame, and hoarse, and cold, and was everything that
the other man was; except that he had not the same face, and had a flat
broad-brimmed low-crowned felt hat on. All this I saw in a moment, for
I had only a moment to see it in: he swore an oath at me, made a hit at
me,--it was a round weak blow that missed me and almost knocked himself
down, for it made him stumble,--and then he ran into the mist, stumbling
twice as he went, and I lost him.
"It's the young man!" I thought, feeling my heart shoot as I identified
him. I dare say I should have felt a pain in my liver, too, if I had
known where it was.
I was soon at the Battery after that, and there was the right
Man,--hugging himself and limping to and fro, as if he had never all
night left off hugging and limping,--waiting for me. He was awfully
cold, to be sure. I half expected to see him drop down before my face
and die of deadly cold. His eyes looked so awfully hungry too, that when
I handed him the file and he laid it down on the grass, it occurred to
me he would have tried to eat it, if he had not seen my bundle. He did
not turn me upside down this time to get at what I had, but left me
right side upwards while I opened the bundle and emptied my pockets.
"What's in the bottle, boy?" said he.
"Brandy," said I.
He was already handing mincemeat down his throat in the most curious
manner,--more like a man who was putting it away somewhere in a violent
hurry, than a man who was eating it,--but he left off to take some of
the liquor. He shivered all the while so violently, that it was quite
as much as he could do to keep the neck of the bottle between his teeth,
without biting it off.
"I think you have got the ague," said I.
"I'm much of your opinion, boy," said he.
"It's bad about here," I told him. "You've been lying out on the meshes,
and they're dreadful aguish. Rheumatic too."
"I'll eat my breakfast afore they're the death of me," said he. "I'd do
that, if I was going to be strung up to that there gallows as there is
over there, directly afterwards. I'll beat the shivers so far, I'll bet
He was gobbling mincemeat, meatbone, bread, cheese, and pork pie, all
at once: staring distrustfully while he did so at the mist all round
us, and often stopping--even stopping his jaws--to listen. Some real or
fancied sound, some clink upon the river or breathing of beast upon the
marsh, now gave him a start, and he said, suddenly,--
"You're not a deceiving imp? You brought no one with you?"
"No, sir! No!"
"Nor giv' no one the office to follow you?"
"Well," said he, "I believe you. You'd be but a fierce young hound
indeed, if at your time of life you could help to hunt a wretched
warmint hunted as near death and dunghill as this poor wretched warmint
Something clicked in his throat as if he had works in him like a clock,
and was going to strike. And he smeared his ragged rough sleeve over his
Pitying his desolation, and watching him as he gradually settled down
upon the pie, I made bold to say, "I am glad you enjoy it."
"Did you speak?"
"I said I was glad you enjoyed it."
"Thankee, my boy. I do."
I had often watched a large dog of ours eating his food; and I now
noticed a decided similarity between the dog's way of eating, and the
man's. The man took strong sharp sudden bites, just like the dog. He
swallowed, or rather snapped up, every mouthful, too soon and too fast;
and he looked sideways here and there while he ate, as if he thought
there was danger in every direction of somebody's coming to take the pie
away. He was altogether too unsettled in his mind over it, to appreciate
it comfortably I thought, or to have anybody to dine with him, without
making a chop with his jaws at the visitor. In all of which particulars
he was very like the dog.
"I am afraid you won't leave any of it for him," said I, timidly; after
a silence during which I had hesitated as to the politeness of making
the remark. "There's no more to be got where that came from." It was the
certainty of this fact that impelled me to offer the hint.
"Leave any for him? Who's him?" said my friend, stopping in his
crunching of pie-crust.
"The young man. That you spoke of. That was hid with you."
"Oh ah!" he returned, with something like a gruff laugh. "Him? Yes, yes!
He don't want no wittles."
"I thought he looked as if he did," said I.
The man stopped eating, and regarded me with the keenest scrutiny and
the greatest surprise.
"Yonder," said I, pointing; "over there, where I found him nodding
asleep, and thought it was you."
He held me by the collar and stared at me so, that I began to think his
first idea about cutting my throat had revived.
"Dressed like you, you know, only with a hat," I explained, trembling;
"and--and"--I was very anxious to put this delicately--"and with--the
same reason for wanting to borrow a file. Didn't you hear the cannon
"Then there was firing!" he said to himself.
"I wonder you shouldn't have been sure of that," I returned, "for
we heard it up at home, and that's farther away, and we were shut in
"Why, see now!" said he. "When a man's alone on these flats, with a
light head and a light stomach, perishing of cold and want, he hears
nothin' all night, but guns firing, and voices calling. Hears? He sees
the soldiers, with their red coats lighted up by the torches carried
afore, closing in round him. Hears his number called, hears himself
challenged, hears the rattle of the muskets, hears the orders 'Make
ready! Present! Cover him steady, men!' and is laid hands on--and
there's nothin'! Why, if I see one pursuing party last night--coming up
in order, Damn 'em, with their tramp, tramp--I see a hundred. And as to
firing! Why, I see the mist shake with the cannon, arter it was broad
day,--But this man"; he had said all the rest, as if he had forgotten my
being there; "did you notice anything in him?"
"He had a badly bruised face," said I, recalling what I hardly knew I
"Not here?" exclaimed the man, striking his left cheek mercilessly, with
the flat of his hand.
"Where is he?" He crammed what little food was left, into the breast of
his gray jacket. "Show me the way he went. I'll pull him down, like a
bloodhound. Curse this iron on my sore leg! Give us hold of the file,
I indicated in what direction the mist had shrouded the other man,
and he looked up at it for an instant. But he was down on the rank wet
grass, filing at his iron like a madman, and not minding me or minding
his own leg, which had an old chafe upon it and was bloody, but which he
handled as roughly as if it had no more feeling in it than the file. I
was very much afraid of him again, now that he had worked himself into
this fierce hurry, and I was likewise very much afraid of keeping away
from home any longer. I told him I must go, but he took no notice, so
I thought the best thing I could do was to slip off. The last I saw
of him, his head was bent over his knee and he was working hard at his
fetter, muttering impatient imprecations at it and at his leg. The last
I heard of him, I stopped in the mist to listen, and the file was still
I fully expected to find a Constable in the kitchen, waiting to take me
up. But not only was there no Constable there, but no discovery had yet
been made of the robbery. Mrs. Joe was prodigiously busy in getting the
house ready for the festivities of the day, and Joe had been put upon
the kitchen doorstep to keep him out of the dust-pan,--an article into
which his destiny always led him, sooner or later, when my sister was
vigorously reaping the floors of her establishment.
"And where the deuce ha' you been?" was Mrs. Joe's Christmas salutation,
when I and my conscience showed ourselves.
I said I had been down to hear the Carols. "Ah! well!" observed Mrs.
Joe. "You might ha' done worse." Not a doubt of that I thought.
"Perhaps if I warn't a blacksmith's wife, and (what's the same thing) a
slave with her apron never off, I should have been to hear the Carols,"
said Mrs. Joe. "I'm rather partial to Carols, myself, and that's the
best of reasons for my never hearing any."
Joe, who had ventured into the kitchen after me as the dustpan had
retired before us, drew the back of his hand across his nose with a
conciliatory air, when Mrs. Joe darted a look at him, and, when her eyes
were withdrawn, secretly crossed his two forefingers, and exhibited them
to me, as our token that Mrs. Joe was in a cross temper. This was so
much her normal state, that Joe and I would often, for weeks together,
be, as to our fingers, like monumental Crusaders as to their legs.
We were to have a superb dinner, consisting of a leg of pickled pork and
greens, and a pair of roast stuffed fowls. A handsome mince-pie had
been made yesterday morning (which accounted for the mincemeat not
being missed), and the pudding was already on the boil. These extensive
arrangements occasioned us to be cut off unceremoniously in respect of
breakfast; "for I ain't," said Mrs. Joe,--"I ain't a going to have
no formal cramming and busting and washing up now, with what I've got
before me, I promise you!"
So, we had our slices served out, as if we were two thousand troops on a
forced march instead of a man and boy at home; and we took gulps of milk
and water, with apologetic countenances, from a jug on the dresser. In
the meantime, Mrs. Joe put clean white curtains up, and tacked a new
flowered flounce across the wide chimney to replace the old one, and
uncovered the little state parlor across the passage, which was never
uncovered at any other time, but passed the rest of the year in a cool
haze of silver paper, which even extended to the four little white
crockery poodles on the mantel-shelf, each with a black nose and a
basket of flowers in his mouth, and each the counterpart of the other.
Mrs. Joe was a very clean housekeeper, but had an exquisite art of
making her cleanliness more uncomfortable and unacceptable than dirt
itself. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, and some people do the same by
My sister, having so much to do, was going to church vicariously, that
is to say, Joe and I were going. In his working-clothes, Joe was a
well-knit characteristic-looking blacksmith; in his holiday clothes,
he was more like a scarecrow in good circumstances, than anything else.
Nothing that he wore then fitted him or seemed to belong to him; and
everything that he wore then grazed him. On the present festive occasion
he emerged from his room, when the blithe bells were going, the picture
of misery, in a full suit of Sunday penitentials. As to me, I think my
sister must have had some general idea that I was a young offender whom
an Accoucheur Policeman had taken up (on my birthday) and delivered over
to her, to be dealt with according to the outraged majesty of the law.
I was always treated as if I had insisted on being born in opposition
to the dictates of reason, religion, and morality, and against the
dissuading arguments of my best friends. Even when I was taken to have
a new suit of clothes, the tailor had orders to make them like a kind of
Reformatory, and on no account to let me have the free use of my limbs.
Joe and I going to church, therefore, must have been a moving spectacle
for compassionate minds. Yet, what I suffered outside was nothing to
what I underwent within. The terrors that had assailed me whenever
Mrs. Joe had gone near the pantry, or out of the room, were only to be
equalled by the remorse with which my mind dwelt on what my hands had
done. Under the weight of my wicked secret, I pondered whether the
Church would be powerful enough to shield me from the vengeance of the
terrible young man, if I divulged to that establishment. I conceived the
idea that the time when the banns were read and when the clergyman said,
"Ye are now to declare it!" would be the time for me to rise and propose
a private conference in the vestry. I am far from being sure that I
might not have astonished our small congregation by resorting to this
extreme measure, but for its being Christmas Day and no Sunday.
Mr. Wopsle, the clerk at church, was to dine with us; and Mr. Hubble
the wheelwright and Mrs. Hubble; and Uncle Pumblechook (Joe's uncle,
but Mrs. Joe appropriated him), who was a well-to-do cornchandler in
the nearest town, and drove his own chaise-cart. The dinner hour was
half-past one. When Joe and I got home, we found the table laid, and
Mrs. Joe dressed, and the dinner dressing, and the front door unlocked
(it never was at any other time) for the company to enter by, and
everything most splendid. And still, not a word of the robbery.
The time came, without bringing with it any relief to my feelings, and
the company came. Mr. Wopsle, united to a Roman nose and a large shining
bald forehead, had a deep voice which he was uncommonly proud of; indeed
it was understood among his acquaintance that if you could only give him
his head, he would read the clergyman into fits; he himself confessed
that if the Church was "thrown open," meaning to competition, he would
not despair of making his mark in it. The Church not being "thrown
open," he was, as I have said, our clerk. But he punished the Amens
tremendously; and when he gave out the psalm,--always giving the whole
verse,--he looked all round the congregation first, as much as to say,
"You have heard my friend overhead; oblige me with your opinion of this
I opened the door to the company,--making believe that it was a habit
of ours to open that door,--and I opened it first to Mr. Wopsle, next
to Mr. and Mrs. Hubble, and last of all to Uncle Pumblechook. N.B. I was
not allowed to call him uncle, under the severest penalties.
"Mrs. Joe," said Uncle Pumblechook, a large hard-breathing middle-aged
slow man, with a mouth like a fish, dull staring eyes, and sandy hair
standing upright on his head, so that he looked as if he had just been
all but choked, and had that moment come to, "I have brought you as the
compliments of the season--I have brought you, Mum, a bottle of sherry
wine--and I have brought you, Mum, a bottle of port wine."
Every Christmas Day he presented himself, as a profound novelty, with
exactly the same words, and carrying the two bottles like dumb-bells.
Every Christmas Day, Mrs. Joe replied, as she now replied, "O, Un--cle
Pum-ble--chook! This is kind!" Every Christmas Day, he retorted, as
he now retorted, "It's no more than your merits. And now are you all
bobbish, and how's Sixpennorth of halfpence?" meaning me.
We dined on these occasions in the kitchen, and adjourned, for the nuts
and oranges and apples to the parlor; which was a change very like
Joe's change from his working-clothes to his Sunday dress. My sister was
uncommonly lively on the present occasion, and indeed was generally more
gracious in the society of Mrs. Hubble than in other company. I remember
Mrs. Hubble as a little curly sharp-edged person in sky-blue, who held a
conventionally juvenile position, because she had married Mr. Hubble,--I
don't know at what remote period,--when she was much younger than he. I
remember Mr Hubble as a tough, high-shouldered, stooping old man, of a
sawdusty fragrance, with his legs extraordinarily wide apart: so that in
my short days I always saw some miles of open country between them when
I met him coming up the lane.
Among this good company I should have felt myself, even if I hadn't
robbed the pantry, in a false position. Not because I was squeezed in
at an acute angle of the tablecloth, with the table in my chest, and the
Pumblechookian elbow in my eye, nor because I was not allowed to speak
(I didn't want to speak), nor because I was regaled with the scaly tips
of the drumsticks of the fowls, and with those obscure corners of pork
of which the pig, when living, had had the least reason to be vain. No;
I should not have minded that, if they would only have left me alone.
But they wouldn't leave me alone. They seemed to think the opportunity
lost, if they failed to point the conversation at me, every now and
then, and stick the point into me. I might have been an unfortunate
little bull in a Spanish arena, I got so smartingly touched up by these
It began the moment we sat down to dinner. Mr. Wopsle said grace with
theatrical declamation,--as it now appears to me, something like a
religious cross of the Ghost in Hamlet with Richard the Third,--and
ended with the very proper aspiration that we might be truly grateful.
Upon which my sister fixed me with her eye, and said, in a low
reproachful voice, "Do you hear that? Be grateful."
"Especially," said Mr. Pumblechook, "be grateful, boy, to them which
brought you up by hand."
Mrs. Hubble shook her head, and contemplating me with a mournful
presentiment that I should come to no good, asked, "Why is it that the
young are never grateful?" This moral mystery seemed too much for
the company until Mr. Hubble tersely solved it by saying, "Naterally
wicious." Everybody then murmured "True!" and looked at me in a
particularly unpleasant and personal manner.
Joe's station and influence were something feebler (if possible) when
there was company than when there was none. But he always aided and
comforted me when he could, in some way of his own, and he always did so
at dinner-time by giving me gravy, if there were any. There being plenty
of gravy to-day, Joe spooned into my plate, at this point, about half a
A little later on in the dinner, Mr. Wopsle reviewed the sermon with
some severity, and intimated--in the usual hypothetical case of the
Church being "thrown open"--what kind of sermon he would have given
them. After favoring them with some heads of that discourse, he remarked
that he considered the subject of the day's homily, ill chosen; which
was the less excusable, he added, when there were so many subjects
"True again," said Uncle Pumblechook. "You've hit it, sir! Plenty of
subjects going about, for them that know how to put salt upon their
tails. That's what's wanted. A man needn't go far to find a subject,
if he's ready with his salt-box." Mr. Pumblechook added, after a short
interval of reflection, "Look at Pork alone. There's a subject! If you
want a subject, look at Pork!"
"True, sir. Many a moral for the young," returned Mr. Wopsle,--and I
knew he was going to lug me in, before he said it; "might be deduced
from that text."
("You listen to this," said my sister to me, in a severe parenthesis.)
Joe gave me some more gravy.
"Swine," pursued Mr. Wopsle, in his deepest voice, and pointing his fork
at my blushes, as if he were mentioning my Christian name,--"swine were
the companions of the prodigal. The gluttony of Swine is put before us,
as an example to the young." (I thought this pretty well in him who
had been praising up the pork for being so plump and juicy.) "What is
detestable in a pig is more detestable in a boy."
"Or girl," suggested Mr. Hubble.
"Of course, or girl, Mr. Hubble," assented Mr. Wopsle, rather irritably,
"but there is no girl present."
"Besides," said Mr. Pumblechook, turning sharp on me, "think what you've
got to be grateful for. If you'd been born a Squeaker--"
"He was, if ever a child was," said my sister, most emphatically.
Joe gave me some more gravy.
"Well, but I mean a four-footed Squeaker," said Mr. Pumblechook. "If you
had been born such, would you have been here now? Not you--"
"Unless in that form," said Mr. Wopsle, nodding towards the dish.
"But I don't mean in that form, sir," returned Mr. Pumblechook, who had
an objection to being interrupted; "I mean, enjoying himself with his
elders and betters, and improving himself with their conversation, and
rolling in the lap of luxury. Would he have been doing that? No, he
wouldn't. And what would have been your destination?" turning on me
again. "You would have been disposed of for so many shillings according
to the market price of the article, and Dunstable the butcher would have
come up to you as you lay in your straw, and he would have whipped you
under his left arm, and with his right he would have tucked up his frock
to get a penknife from out of his waistcoat-pocket, and he would have
shed your blood and had your life. No bringing up by hand then. Not a
bit of it!"
Joe offered me more gravy, which I was afraid to take.
"He was a world of trouble to you, ma'am," said Mrs. Hubble,
commiserating my sister.
"Trouble?" echoed my sister; "trouble?" and then entered on a fearful
catalogue of all the illnesses I had been guilty of, and all the acts
of sleeplessness I had committed, and all the high places I had tumbled
from, and all the low places I had tumbled into, and all the injuries I
had done myself, and all the times she had wished me in my grave, and I
had contumaciously refused to go there.
I think the Romans must have aggravated one another very much, with
their noses. Perhaps, they became the restless people they were, in
consequence. Anyhow, Mr. Wopsle's Roman nose so aggravated me, during
the recital of my misdemeanours, that I should have liked to pull it
until he howled. But, all I had endured up to this time was nothing in
comparison with the awful feelings that took possession of me when the
pause was broken which ensued upon my sister's recital, and in which
pause everybody had looked at me (as I felt painfully conscious) with
indignation and abhorrence.
"Yet," said Mr. Pumblechook, leading the company gently back to the
theme from which they had strayed, "Pork--regarded as biled--is rich,
too; ain't it?"
"Have a little brandy, uncle," said my sister.
O Heavens, it had come at last! He would find it was weak, he would say
it was weak, and I was lost! I held tight to the leg of the table under
the cloth, with both hands, and awaited my fate.
My sister went for the stone bottle, came back with the stone bottle,
and poured his brandy out: no one else taking any. The wretched man
trifled with his glass,--took it up, looked at it through the light,
put it down,--prolonged my misery. All this time Mrs. Joe and Joe were
briskly clearing the table for the pie and pudding.
I couldn't keep my eyes off him. Always holding tight by the leg of the
table with my hands and feet, I saw the miserable creature finger his
glass playfully, take it up, smile, throw his head back, and drink
the brandy off. Instantly afterwards, the company were seized with
unspeakable consternation, owing to his springing to his feet, turning
round several times in an appalling spasmodic whooping-cough dance,
and rushing out at the door; he then became visible through the window,
violently plunging and expectorating, making the most hideous faces, and
apparently out of his mind.
I held on tight, while Mrs. Joe and Joe ran to him. I didn't know how
I had done it, but I had no doubt I had murdered him somehow. In my
dreadful situation, it was a relief when he was brought back, and
surveying the company all round as if they had disagreed with him, sank
down into his chair with the one significant gasp, "Tar!"
I had filled up the bottle from the tar-water jug. I knew he would be
worse by and by. I moved the table, like a Medium of the present day, by
the vigor of my unseen hold upon it.
"Tar!" cried my sister, in amazement. "Why, how ever could Tar come
But, Uncle Pumblechook, who was omnipotent in that kitchen, wouldn't
hear the word, wouldn't hear of the subject, imperiously waved it all
away with his hand, and asked for hot gin and water. My sister, who had
begun to be alarmingly meditative, had to employ herself actively in
getting the gin the hot water, the sugar, and the lemon-peel, and mixing
them. For the time being at least, I was saved. I still held on to the
leg of the table, but clutched it now with the fervor of gratitude.
By degrees, I became calm enough to release my grasp and partake of
pudding. Mr. Pumblechook partook of pudding. All partook of pudding.
The course terminated, and Mr. Pumblechook had begun to beam under the
genial influence of gin and water. I began to think I should get over
the day, when my sister said to Joe, "Clean plates,--cold."
I clutched the leg of the table again immediately, and pressed it to my
bosom as if it had been the companion of my youth and friend of my soul.
I foresaw what was coming, and I felt that this time I really was gone.
"You must taste," said my sister, addressing the guests with her best
grace--"you must taste, to finish with, such a delightful and delicious
present of Uncle Pumblechook's!"
Must they! Let them not hope to taste it!
"You must know," said my sister, rising, "it's a pie; a savory pork
The company murmured their compliments. Uncle Pumblechook, sensible of
having deserved well of his fellow-creatures, said,--quite vivaciously,
all things considered,--"Well, Mrs. Joe, we'll do our best endeavors;
let us have a cut at this same pie."
My sister went out to get it. I heard her steps proceed to the pantry. I
saw Mr. Pumblechook balance his knife. I saw reawakening appetite in the
Roman nostrils of Mr. Wopsle. I heard Mr. Hubble remark that "a bit of
savory pork pie would lay atop of anything you could mention, and do
no harm," and I heard Joe say, "You shall have some, Pip." I have never
been absolutely certain whether I uttered a shrill yell of terror,
merely in spirit, or in the bodily hearing of the company. I felt that I
could bear no more, and that I must run away. I released the leg of the
table, and ran for my life.
But I ran no farther than the house door, for there I ran head-foremost
into a party of soldiers with their muskets, one of whom held out a pair
of handcuffs to me, saying, "Here you are, look sharp, come on!"
The apparition of a file of soldiers ringing down the but-ends of their
loaded muskets on our door-step, caused the dinner-party to rise
from table in confusion, and caused Mrs. Joe re-entering the kitchen
empty-handed, to stop short and stare, in her wondering lament of
"Gracious goodness gracious me, what's gone--with the--pie!"
The sergeant and I were in the kitchen when Mrs. Joe stood staring;
at which crisis I partially recovered the use of my senses. It was
the sergeant who had spoken to me, and he was now looking round at the
company, with his handcuffs invitingly extended towards them in his
right hand, and his left on my shoulder.
"Excuse me, ladies and gentleman," said the sergeant, "but as I have
mentioned at the door to this smart young shaver," (which he hadn't), "I
am on a chase in the name of the king, and I want the blacksmith."
"And pray what might you want with him?" retorted my sister, quick to
resent his being wanted at all.
"Missis," returned the gallant sergeant, "speaking for myself, I should
reply, the honor and pleasure of his fine wife's acquaintance; speaking
for the king, I answer, a little job done."
This was received as rather neat in the sergeant; insomuch that Mr.
Pumblechook cried audibly, "Good again!"
"You see, blacksmith," said the sergeant, who had by this time picked
out Joe with his eye, "we have had an accident with these, and I find
the lock of one of 'em goes wrong, and the coupling don't act pretty.
As they are wanted for immediate service, will you throw your eye over
Joe threw his eye over them, and pronounced that the job would
necessitate the lighting of his forge fire, and would take nearer
two hours than one, "Will it? Then will you set about it at once,
blacksmith?" said the off-hand sergeant, "as it's on his Majesty's
service. And if my men can bear a hand anywhere, they'll make themselves
useful." With that, he called to his men, who came trooping into the
kitchen one after another, and piled their arms in a corner. And then
they stood about, as soldiers do; now, with their hands loosely clasped
before them; now, resting a knee or a shoulder; now, easing a belt or a
pouch; now, opening the door to spit stiffly over their high stocks, out
into the yard.
All these things I saw without then knowing that I saw them, for I
was in an agony of apprehension. But beginning to perceive that the
handcuffs were not for me, and that the military had so far got the
better of the pie as to put it in the background, I collected a little
more of my scattered wits.
"Would you give me the time?" said the sergeant, addressing himself to
Mr. Pumblechook, as to a man whose appreciative powers justified the
inference that he was equal to the time.
"It's just gone half past two."
"That's not so bad," said the sergeant, reflecting; "even if I was
forced to halt here nigh two hours, that'll do. How far might you call
yourselves from the marshes, hereabouts? Not above a mile, I reckon?"
"Just a mile," said Mrs. Joe.
"That'll do. We begin to close in upon 'em about dusk. A little before
dusk, my orders are. That'll do."
"Convicts, sergeant?" asked Mr. Wopsle, in a matter-of-course way.
"Ay!" returned the sergeant, "two. They're pretty well known to be out
on the marshes still, and they won't try to get clear of 'em before
dusk. Anybody here seen anything of any such game?"
Everybody, myself excepted, said no, with confidence. Nobody thought of
"Well!" said the sergeant, "they'll find themselves trapped in a circle,
I expect, sooner than they count on. Now, blacksmith! If you're ready,
his Majesty the King is."
Joe had got his coat and waistcoat and cravat off, and his leather apron
on, and passed into the forge. One of the soldiers opened its wooden
windows, another lighted the fire, another turned to at the bellows, the
rest stood round the blaze, which was soon roaring. Then Joe began to
hammer and clink, hammer and clink, and we all looked on.
The interest of the impending pursuit not only absorbed the general
attention, but even made my sister liberal. She drew a pitcher of beer
from the cask for the soldiers, and invited the sergeant to take a glass
of brandy. But Mr. Pumblechook said, sharply, "Give him wine, Mum. I'll
engage there's no Tar in that:" so, the sergeant thanked him and said
that as he preferred his drink without tar, he would take wine, if it
was equally convenient. When it was given him, he drank his Majesty's
health and compliments of the season, and took it all at a mouthful and
smacked his lips.
"Good stuff, eh, sergeant?" said Mr. Pumblechook.
"I'll tell you something," returned the sergeant; "I suspect that
stuff's of your providing."
Mr. Pumblechook, with a fat sort of laugh, said, "Ay, ay? Why?"
"Because," returned the sergeant, clapping him on the shoulder, "you're
a man that knows what's what."
"D'ye think so?" said Mr. Pumblechook, with his former laugh. "Have
"With you. Hob and nob," returned the sergeant. "The top of mine to the
foot of yours,--the foot of yours to the top of mine,--Ring once, ring
twice,--the best tune on the Musical Glasses! Your health. May you live
a thousand years, and never be a worse judge of the right sort than you
are at the present moment of your life!"
The sergeant tossed off his glass again and seemed quite ready for
another glass. I noticed that Mr. Pumblechook in his hospitality
appeared to forget that he had made a present of the wine, but took the
bottle from Mrs. Joe and had all the credit of handing it about in a
gush of joviality. Even I got some. And he was so very free of the wine
that he even called for the other bottle, and handed that about with the
same liberality, when the first was gone.
As I watched them while they all stood clustering about the forge,
enjoying themselves so much, I thought what terrible good sauce for
a dinner my fugitive friend on the marshes was. They had not enjoyed
themselves a quarter so much, before the entertainment was brightened
with the excitement he furnished. And now, when they were all in lively
anticipation of "the two villains" being taken, and when the bellows
seemed to roar for the fugitives, the fire to flare for them, the smoke
to hurry away in pursuit of them, Joe to hammer and clink for them,
and all the murky shadows on the wall to shake at them in menace as the
blaze rose and sank, and the red-hot sparks dropped and died, the pale
afternoon outside almost seemed in my pitying young fancy to have turned
pale on their account, poor wretches.
At last, Joe's job was done, and the ringing and roaring stopped. As Joe
got on his coat, he mustered courage to propose that some of us should
go down with the soldiers and see what came of the hunt. Mr. Pumblechook
and Mr. Hubble declined, on the plea of a pipe and ladies' society; but
Mr. Wopsle said he would go, if Joe would. Joe said he was agreeable,
and would take me, if Mrs. Joe approved. We never should have got leave
to go, I am sure, but for Mrs. Joe's curiosity to know all about it and
how it ended. As it was, she merely stipulated, "If you bring the boy
back with his head blown to bits by a musket, don't look to me to put it
The sergeant took a polite leave of the ladies, and parted from Mr.
Pumblechook as from a comrade; though I doubt if he were quite as fully
sensible of that gentleman's merits under arid conditions, as when
something moist was going. His men resumed their muskets and fell in.
Mr. Wopsle, Joe, and I, received strict charge to keep in the rear, and
to speak no word after we reached the marshes. When we were all out in
the raw air and were steadily moving towards our business, I treasonably
whispered to Joe, "I hope, Joe, we shan't find them." and Joe whispered
to me, "I'd give a shilling if they had cut and run, Pip."
We were joined by no stragglers from the village, for the weather was
cold and threatening, the way dreary, the footing bad, darkness coming
on, and the people had good fires in-doors and were keeping the day. A
few faces hurried to glowing windows and looked after us, but none came
out. We passed the finger-post, and held straight on to the churchyard.
There we were stopped a few minutes by a signal from the sergeant's
hand, while two or three of his men dispersed themselves among the
graves, and also examined the porch. They came in again without finding
anything, and then we struck out on the open marshes, through the gate
at the side of the churchyard. A bitter sleet came rattling against us
here on the east wind, and Joe took me on his back.
Now that we were out upon the dismal wilderness where they little
thought I had been within eight or nine hours and had seen both men
hiding, I considered for the first time, with great dread, if we should
come upon them, would my particular convict suppose that it was I who
had brought the soldiers there? He had asked me if I was a deceiving
imp, and he had said I should be a fierce young hound if I joined the
hunt against him. Would he believe that I was both imp and hound in
treacherous earnest, and had betrayed him?
It was of no use asking myself this question now. There I was, on Joe's
back, and there was Joe beneath me, charging at the ditches like a
hunter, and stimulating Mr. Wopsle not to tumble on his Roman nose, and
to keep up with us. The soldiers were in front of us, extending into a
pretty wide line with an interval between man and man. We were taking
the course I had begun with, and from which I had diverged in the mist.
Either the mist was not out again yet, or the wind had dispelled it.
Under the low red glare of sunset, the beacon, and the gibbet, and the
mound of the Battery, and the opposite shore of the river, were plain,
though all of a watery lead color.
With my heart thumping like a blacksmith at Joe's broad shoulder, I
looked all about for any sign of the convicts. I could see none, I could
hear none. Mr. Wopsle had greatly alarmed me more than once, by his
blowing and hard breathing; but I knew the sounds by this time, and
could dissociate them from the object of pursuit. I got a dreadful
start, when I thought I heard the file still going; but it was only a
sheep-bell. The sheep stopped in their eating and looked timidly at
us; and the cattle, their heads turned from the wind and sleet, stared
angrily as if they held us responsible for both annoyances; but, except
these things, and the shudder of the dying day in every blade of grass,
there was no break in the bleak stillness of the marshes.
The soldiers were moving on in the direction of the old Battery, and we
were moving on a little way behind them, when, all of a sudden, we all
stopped. For there had reached us on the wings of the wind and rain, a
long shout. It was repeated. It was at a distance towards the east, but
it was long and loud. Nay, there seemed to be two or more shouts raised
together,--if one might judge from a confusion in the sound.
To this effect the sergeant and the nearest men were speaking under
their breath, when Joe and I came up. After another moment's listening,
Joe (who was a good judge) agreed, and Mr. Wopsle (who was a bad judge)
agreed. The sergeant, a decisive man, ordered that the sound should not
be answered, but that the course should be changed, and that his men
should make towards it "at the double." So we slanted to the right
(where the East was), and Joe pounded away so wonderfully, that I had to
hold on tight to keep my seat.
It was a run indeed now, and what Joe called, in the only two words he
spoke all the time, "a Winder." Down banks and up banks, and over gates,
and splashing into dikes, and breaking among coarse rushes: no man cared
where he went. As we came nearer to the shouting, it became more and
more apparent that it was made by more than one voice. Sometimes, it
seemed to stop altogether, and then the soldiers stopped. When it broke
out again, the soldiers made for it at a greater rate than ever, and we
after them. After a while, we had so run it down, that we could hear one
voice calling "Murder!" and another voice, "Convicts! Runaways! Guard!
This way for the runaway convicts!" Then both voices would seem to be
stifled in a struggle, and then would break out again. And when it had
come to this, the soldiers ran like deer, and Joe too.
The sergeant ran in first, when we had run the noise quite down, and two
of his men ran in close upon him. Their pieces were cocked and levelled
when we all ran in.
"Here are both men!" panted the sergeant, struggling at the bottom of a
ditch. "Surrender, you two! and confound you for two wild beasts! Come
Water was splashing, and mud was flying, and oaths were being sworn, and
blows were being struck, when some more men went down into the ditch to
help the sergeant, and dragged out, separately, my convict and the other
one. Both were bleeding and panting and execrating and struggling; but
of course I knew them both directly.
"Mind!" said my convict, wiping blood from his face with his ragged
sleeves, and shaking torn hair from his fingers: "I took him! I give him
up to you! Mind that!"
"It's not much to be particular about," said the sergeant; "it'll do you
small good, my man, being in the same plight yourself. Handcuffs there!"
"I don't expect it to do me any good. I don't want it to do me more good
than it does now," said my convict, with a greedy laugh. "I took him. He
knows it. That's enough for me."
The other convict was livid to look at, and, in addition to the old
bruised left side of his face, seemed to be bruised and torn all over.
He could not so much as get his breath to speak, until they were both
separately handcuffed, but leaned upon a soldier to keep himself from
"Take notice, guard,--he tried to murder me," were his first words.
"Tried to murder him?" said my convict, disdainfully. "Try, and not
do it? I took him, and giv' him up; that's what I done. I not only
prevented him getting off the marshes, but I dragged him here,--dragged
him this far on his way back. He's a gentleman, if you please, this
villain. Now, the Hulks has got its gentleman again, through me. Murder
him? Worth my while, too, to murder him, when I could do worse and drag
The other one still gasped, "He tried--he tried-to--murder me.
"Lookee here!" said my convict to the sergeant. "Single-handed I got
clear of the prison-ship; I made a dash and I done it. I could ha' got
clear of these death-cold flats likewise--look at my leg: you won't find
much iron on it--if I hadn't made the discovery that he was here. Let
him go free? Let him profit by the means as I found out? Let him make a
tool of me afresh and again? Once more? No, no, no. If I had died at
the bottom there," and he made an emphatic swing at the ditch with his
manacled hands, "I'd have held to him with that grip, that you should
have been safe to find him in my hold."
The other fugitive, who was evidently in extreme horror of his
companion, repeated, "He tried to murder me. I should have been a dead
man if you had not come up."
"He lies!" said my convict, with fierce energy. "He's a liar born, and
he'll die a liar. Look at his face; ain't it written there? Let him turn
those eyes of his on me. I defy him to do it."
The other, with an effort at a scornful smile, which could not, however,
collect the nervous working of his mouth into any set expression, looked
at the soldiers, and looked about at the marshes and at the sky, but
certainly did not look at the speaker.
"Do you see him?" pursued my convict. "Do you see what a villain he is?
Do you see those grovelling and wandering eyes? That's how he looked
when we were tried together. He never looked at me."
The other, always working and working his dry lips and turning his eyes
restlessly about him far and near, did at last turn them for a moment on
the speaker, with the words, "You are not much to look at," and with
a half-taunting glance at the bound hands. At that point, my convict
became so frantically exasperated, that he would have rushed upon him
but for the interposition of the soldiers. "Didn't I tell you," said the
other convict then, "that he would murder me, if he could?" And any one
could see that he shook with fear, and that there broke out upon his
lips curious white flakes, like thin snow.
"Enough of this parley," said the sergeant. "Light those torches."
As one of the soldiers, who carried a basket in lieu of a gun, went down
on his knee to open it, my convict looked round him for the first time,
and saw me. I had alighted from Joe's back on the brink of the ditch
when we came up, and had not moved since. I looked at him eagerly when
he looked at me, and slightly moved my hands and shook my head. I had
been waiting for him to see me that I might try to assure him of my
innocence. It was not at all expressed to me that he even comprehended
my intention, for he gave me a look that I did not understand, and it
all passed in a moment. But if he had looked at me for an hour or for
a day, I could not have remembered his face ever afterwards, as having
been more attentive.
The soldier with the basket soon got a light, and lighted three or four
torches, and took one himself and distributed the others. It had been
almost dark before, but now it seemed quite dark, and soon afterwards
very dark. Before we departed from that spot, four soldiers standing in
a ring, fired twice into the air. Presently we saw other torches kindled
at some distance behind us, and others on the marshes on the opposite
bank of the river. "All right," said the sergeant. "March."
We had not gone far when three cannon were fired ahead of us with a
sound that seemed to burst something inside my ear. "You are expected
on board," said the sergeant to my convict; "they know you are coming.
Don't straggle, my man. Close up here."
The two were kept apart, and each walked surrounded by a separate guard.
I had hold of Joe's hand now, and Joe carried one of the torches. Mr.
Wopsle had been for going back, but Joe was resolved to see it out, so
we went on with the party. There was a reasonably good path now, mostly
on the edge of the river, with a divergence here and there where a dike
came, with a miniature windmill on it and a muddy sluice-gate. When
I looked round, I could see the other lights coming in after us. The
torches we carried dropped great blotches of fire upon the track, and
I could see those, too, lying smoking and flaring. I could see nothing
else but black darkness. Our lights warmed the air about us with their
pitchy blaze, and the two prisoners seemed rather to like that, as they
limped along in the midst of the muskets. We could not go fast, because
of their lameness; and they were so spent, that two or three times we
had to halt while they rested.
After an hour or so of this travelling, we came to a rough wooden hut
and a landing-place. There was a guard in the hut, and they challenged,
and the sergeant answered. Then, we went into the hut, where there was
a smell of tobacco and whitewash, and a bright fire, and a lamp, and
a stand of muskets, and a drum, and a low wooden bedstead, like an
overgrown mangle without the machinery, capable of holding about a dozen
soldiers all at once. Three or four soldiers who lay upon it in their
great-coats were not much interested in us, but just lifted their heads
and took a sleepy stare, and then lay down again. The sergeant made some
kind of report, and some entry in a book, and then the convict whom I
call the other convict was drafted off with his guard, to go on board
My convict never looked at me, except that once. While we stood in the
hut, he stood before the fire looking thoughtfully at it, or putting up
his feet by turns upon the hob, and looking thoughtfully at them as if
he pitied them for their recent adventures. Suddenly, he turned to the
sergeant, and remarked,--
"I wish to say something respecting this escape. It may prevent some
persons laying under suspicion alonger me."
"You can say what you like," returned the sergeant, standing coolly
looking at him with his arms folded, "but you have no call to say it
here. You'll have opportunity enough to say about it, and hear about it,
before it's done with, you know."
"I know, but this is another pint, a separate matter. A man can't
starve; at least I can't. I took some wittles, up at the willage over
yonder,--where the church stands a'most out on the marshes."
"You mean stole," said the sergeant.
"And I'll tell you where from. From the blacksmith's."
"Halloa!" said the sergeant, staring at Joe.
"Halloa, Pip!" said Joe, staring at me.
"It was some broken wittles--that's what it was--and a dram of liquor,
and a pie."
"Have you happened to miss such an article as a pie, blacksmith?" asked
the sergeant, confidentially.
"My wife did, at the very moment when you came in. Don't you know, Pip?"
"So," said my convict, turning his eyes on Joe in a moody manner, and
without the least glance at me,--"so you're the blacksmith, are you?
Than I'm sorry to say, I've eat your pie."
"God knows you're welcome to it,--so far as it was ever mine," returned
Joe, with a saving remembrance of Mrs. Joe. "We don't know what you have
done, but we wouldn't have you starved to death for it, poor miserable
fellow-creatur.--Would us, Pip?"
The something that I had noticed before, clicked in the man's throat
again, and he turned his back. The boat had returned, and his guard were
ready, so we followed him to the landing-place made of rough stakes
and stones, and saw him put into the boat, which was rowed by a crew of
convicts like himself. No one seemed surprised to see him, or interested
in seeing him, or glad to see him, or sorry to see him, or spoke a word,
except that somebody in the boat growled as if to dogs, "Give way,
you!" which was the signal for the dip of the oars. By the light of the
torches, we saw the black Hulk lying out a little way from the mud of
the shore, like a wicked Noah's ark. Cribbed and barred and moored by
massive rusty chains, the prison-ship seemed in my young eyes to be
ironed like the prisoners. We saw the boat go alongside, and we saw
him taken up the side and disappear. Then, the ends of the torches were
flung hissing into the water, and went out, as if it were all over with
My state of mind regarding the pilfering from which I had been so
unexpectedly exonerated did not impel me to frank disclosure; but I hope
it had some dregs of good at the bottom of it.
I do not recall that I felt any tenderness of conscience in reference
to Mrs. Joe, when the fear of being found out was lifted off me. But
I loved Joe,--perhaps for no better reason in those early days than
because the dear fellow let me love him,--and, as to him, my inner self
was not so easily composed. It was much upon my mind (particularly when
I first saw him looking about for his file) that I ought to tell Joe the
whole truth. Yet I did not, and for the reason that I mistrusted that
if I did, he would think me worse than I was. The fear of losing Joe's
confidence, and of thenceforth sitting in the chimney corner at night
staring drearily at my forever lost companion and friend, tied up my
tongue. I morbidly represented to myself that if Joe knew it, I never
afterwards could see him at the fireside feeling his fair whisker,
without thinking that he was meditating on it. That, if Joe knew it, I
never afterwards could see him glance, however casually, at yesterday's
meat or pudding when it came on to-day's table, without thinking that he
was debating whether I had been in the pantry. That, if Joe knew it, and
at any subsequent period of our joint domestic life remarked that his
beer was flat or thick, the conviction that he suspected Tar in it,
would bring a rush of blood to my face. In a word, I was too cowardly
to do what I knew to be right, as I had been too cowardly to avoid doing
what I knew to be wrong. I had had no intercourse with the world at
that time, and I imitated none of its many inhabitants who act in this
manner. Quite an untaught genius, I made the discovery of the line of
action for myself.
As I was sleepy before we were far away from the prison-ship, Joe took
me on his back again and carried me home. He must have had a tiresome
journey of it, for Mr. Wopsle, being knocked up, was in such a very bad
temper that if the Church had been thrown open, he would probably have
excommunicated the whole expedition, beginning with Joe and myself. In
his lay capacity, he persisted in sitting down in the damp to such
an insane extent, that when his coat was taken off to be dried at the
kitchen fire, the circumstantial evidence on his trousers would have
hanged him, if it had been a capital offence.
By that time, I was staggering on the kitchen floor like a little
drunkard, through having been newly set upon my feet, and through having
been fast asleep, and through waking in the heat and lights and noise of
tongues. As I came to myself (with the aid of a heavy thump between the
shoulders, and the restorative exclamation "Yah! Was there ever such
a boy as this!" from my sister,) I found Joe telling them about the
convict's confession, and all the visitors suggesting different ways
by which he had got into the pantry. Mr. Pumblechook made out, after
carefully surveying the premises, that he had first got upon the roof of
the forge, and had then got upon the roof of the house, and had then let
himself down the kitchen chimney by a rope made of his bedding cut
into strips; and as Mr. Pumblechook was very positive and drove his
own chaise-cart--over Everybody--it was agreed that it must be so. Mr.
Wopsle, indeed, wildly cried out, "No!" with the feeble malice of a
tired man; but, as he had no theory, and no coat on, he was unanimously
set at naught,--not to mention his smoking hard behind, as he stood
with his back to the kitchen fire to draw the damp out: which was not
calculated to inspire confidence.
This was all I heard that night before my sister clutched me, as a
slumberous offence to the company's eyesight, and assisted me up to bed
with such a strong hand that I seemed to have fifty boots on, and to be
dangling them all against the edges of the stairs. My state of mind, as
I have described it, began before I was up in the morning, and lasted
long after the subject had died out, and had ceased to be mentioned
saving on exceptional occasions.
At the time when I stood in the churchyard reading the family
tombstones, I had just enough learning to be able to spell them out. My
construction even of their simple meaning was not very correct, for I
read "wife of the Above" as a complimentary reference to my father's
exaltation to a better world; and if any one of my deceased relations
had been referred to as "Below," I have no doubt I should have formed
the worst opinions of that member of the family. Neither were my notions
of the theological positions to which my Catechism bound me, at
all accurate; for, I have a lively remembrance that I supposed my
declaration that I was to "walk in the same all the days of my life,"
laid me under an obligation always to go through the village from our
house in one particular direction, and never to vary it by turning down
by the wheelwright's or up by the mill.
When I was old enough, I was to be apprenticed to Joe, and until I could
assume that dignity I was not to be what Mrs. Joe called "Pompeyed," or
(as I render it) pampered. Therefore, I was not only odd-boy about the
forge, but if any neighbor happened to want an extra boy to frighten
birds, or pick up stones, or do any such job, I was favored with the
employment. In order, however, that our superior position might not be
compromised thereby, a money-box was kept on the kitchen mantel-shelf,
in to which it was publicly made known that all my earnings were
dropped. I have an impression that they were to be contributed
eventually towards the liquidation of the National Debt, but I know I
had no hope of any personal participation in the treasure.
Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt kept an evening school in the village; that is
to say, she was a ridiculous old woman of limited means and unlimited
infirmity, who used to go to sleep from six to seven every evening, in
the society of youth who paid two pence per week each, for the improving
opportunity of seeing her do it. She rented a small cottage, and Mr.
Wopsle had the room up stairs, where we students used to overhear him
reading aloud in a most dignified and terrific manner, and occasionally
bumping on the ceiling. There was a fiction that Mr. Wopsle "examined"
the scholars once a quarter. What he did on those occasions was to turn
up his cuffs, stick up his hair, and give us Mark Antony's oration over
the body of Caesar. This was always followed by Collins's Ode on
the Passions, wherein I particularly venerated Mr. Wopsle as Revenge
throwing his blood-stained sword in thunder down, and taking the
War-denouncing trumpet with a withering look. It was not with me then,
as it was in later life, when I fell into the society of the Passions,
and compared them with Collins and Wopsle, rather to the disadvantage of
Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt, besides keeping this Educational Institution,
kept in the same room--a little general shop. She had no idea what stock
she had, or what the price of anything in it was; but there was a little
greasy memorandum-book kept in a drawer, which served as a Catalogue
of Prices, and by this oracle Biddy arranged all the shop transaction.
Biddy was Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt's granddaughter; I confess myself
quiet unequal to the working out of the problem, what relation she was
to Mr. Wopsle. She was an orphan like myself; like me, too, had been
brought up by hand. She was most noticeable, I thought, in respect of
her extremities; for, her hair always wanted brushing, her hands always
wanted washing, and her shoes always wanted mending and pulling up at
heel. This description must be received with a week-day limitation. On
Sundays, she went to church elaborated.
Much of my unassisted self, and more by the help of Biddy than of Mr.
Wopsle's great-aunt, I struggled through the alphabet as if it had been
a bramble-bush; getting considerably worried and scratched by every
letter. After that I fell among those thieves, the nine figures, who
seemed every evening to do something new to disguise themselves and
baffle recognition. But, at last I began, in a purblind groping way, to
read, write, and cipher, on the very smallest scale.
One night I was sitting in the chimney corner with my slate, expending
great efforts on the production of a letter to Joe. I think it must have
been a full year after our hunt upon the marshes, for it was a long
time after, and it was winter and a hard frost. With an alphabet on the
hearth at my feet for reference, I contrived in an hour or two to print
and smear this epistle:--
"MI DEER JO i OPE U R KR WITE WELL i OPE i SHAL SON B HABELL 4 2 TEEDGE
U JO AN THEN WE SHORL B SO GLODD AN WEN i M PRENGTD 2 U JO WOT LARX AN
BLEVE ME INF XN PIP."
There was no indispensable necessity for my communicating with Joe by
letter, inasmuch as he sat beside me and we were alone. But I delivered
this written communication (slate and all) with my own hand, and Joe
received it as a miracle of erudition.
"I say, Pip, old chap!" cried Joe, opening his blue eyes wide, "what a
scholar you are! An't you?"
"I should like to be," said I, glancing at the slate as he held it; with
a misgiving that the writing was rather hilly.
"Why, here's a J," said Joe, "and a O equal to anythink! Here's a J and
a O, Pip, and a J-O, Joe."
I had never heard Joe read aloud to any greater extent than this
monosyllable, and I had observed at church last Sunday, when I
accidentally held our Prayer-Book upside down, that it seemed to suit
his convenience quite as well as if it had been all right. Wishing to
embrace the present occasion of finding out whether in teaching Joe, I
should have to begin quite at the beginning, I said, "Ah! But read the
"The rest, eh, Pip?" said Joe, looking at it with a slow, searching eye,
"One, two, three. Why, here's three Js, and three Os, and three J-O,
Joes in it, Pip!"
I leaned over Joe, and, with the aid of my forefinger read him the whole
"Astonishing!" said Joe, when I had finished. "You ARE a scholar."
"How do you spell Gargery, Joe?" I asked him, with a modest patronage.
"I don't spell it at all," said Joe.
"But supposing you did?"
"It can't be supposed," said Joe. "Tho' I'm uncommon fond of reading,
"Are you, Joe?"
"On-common. Give me," said Joe, "a good book, or a good newspaper, and
sit me down afore a good fire, and I ask no better. Lord!" he continued,
after rubbing his knees a little, "when you do come to a J and a O, and
says you, 'Here, at last, is a J-O, Joe,' how interesting reading is!"
I derived from this, that Joe's education, like Steam, was yet in its
infancy. Pursuing the subject, I inquired,--
"Didn't you ever go to school, Joe, when you were as little as me?"
"Why didn't you ever go to school, Joe, when you were as little as me?"
"Well, Pip," said Joe, taking up the poker, and settling himself to
his usual occupation when he was thoughtful, of slowly raking the fire
between the lower bars; "I'll tell you. My father, Pip, he were given
to drink, and when he were overtook with drink, he hammered away at
my mother, most onmerciful. It were a'most the only hammering he did,
indeed, 'xcepting at myself. And he hammered at me with a wigor only
to be equalled by the wigor with which he didn't hammer at his
anwil.--You're a listening and understanding, Pip?"
"'Consequence, my mother and me we ran away from my father several
times; and then my mother she'd go out to work, and she'd say, "Joe,"
she'd say, "now, please God, you shall have some schooling, child," and
she'd put me to school. But my father were that good in his hart that
he couldn't abear to be without us. So, he'd come with a most tremenjous
crowd and make such a row at the doors of the houses where we was, that
they used to be obligated to have no more to do with us and to give us
up to him. And then he took us home and hammered us. Which, you see,
Pip," said Joe, pausing in his meditative raking of the fire, and
looking at me, "were a drawback on my learning."
"Certainly, poor Joe!"
"Though mind you, Pip," said Joe, with a judicial touch or two of the
poker on the top bar, "rendering unto all their doo, and maintaining
equal justice betwixt man and man, my father were that good in his hart,
don't you see?"
I didn't see; but I didn't say so.
"Well!" Joe pursued, "somebody must keep the pot a biling, Pip, or the
pot won't bile, don't you know?"
I saw that, and said so.
"'Consequence, my father didn't make objections to my going to work; so
I went to work at my present calling, which were his too, if he
would have followed it, and I worked tolerable hard, I assure you, Pip.
In time I were able to keep him, and I kep him till he went off in a
purple leptic fit. And it were my intentions to have had put upon his
tombstone that, Whatsume'er the failings on his part, Remember reader he
were that good in his heart."
Joe recited this couplet with such manifest pride and careful
perspicuity, that I asked him if he had made it himself.
"I made it," said Joe, "my own self. I made it in a moment. It was like
striking out a horseshoe complete, in a single blow. I never was so much
surprised in all my life,--couldn't credit my own ed,--to tell you the
truth, hardly believed it were my own ed. As I was saying, Pip, it were
my intentions to have had it cut over him; but poetry costs money, cut
it how you will, small or large, and it were not done. Not to mention
bearers, all the money that could be spared were wanted for my mother.
She were in poor elth, and quite broke. She weren't long of following,
poor soul, and her share of peace come round at last."
Joe's blue eyes turned a little watery; he rubbed first one of them, and
then the other, in a most uncongenial and uncomfortable manner, with the
round knob on the top of the poker.
"It were but lonesome then," said Joe, "living here alone, and I got
acquainted with your sister. Now, Pip,"--Joe looked firmly at me as
if he knew I was not going to agree with him;--"your sister is a fine
figure of a woman."
I could not help looking at the fire, in an obvious state of doubt.
"Whatever family opinions, or whatever the world's opinions, on that
subject may be, Pip, your sister is," Joe tapped the top bar with the
poker after every word following, "a-fine-figure--of--a--woman!"
I could think of nothing better to say than "I am glad you think so,
"So am I," returned Joe, catching me up. "I am glad I think so, Pip. A
little redness or a little matter of Bone, here or there, what does it
signify to Me?"
I sagaciously observed, if it didn't signify to him, to whom did it
"Certainly!" assented Joe. "That's it. You're right, old chap! When I
got acquainted with your sister, it were the talk how she was bringing
you up by hand. Very kind of her too, all the folks said, and I said,
along with all the folks. As to you," Joe pursued with a countenance
expressive of seeing something very nasty indeed, "if you could have
been aware how small and flabby and mean you was, dear me, you'd have
formed the most contemptible opinion of yourself!"
Not exactly relishing this, I said, "Never mind me, Joe."
"But I did mind you, Pip," he returned with tender simplicity. "When
I offered to your sister to keep company, and to be asked in church at
such times as she was willing and ready to come to the forge, I said to
her, 'And bring the poor little child. God bless the poor little child,'
I said to your sister, 'there's room for him at the forge!'"
I broke out crying and begging pardon, and hugged Joe round the neck:
who dropped the poker to hug me, and to say, "Ever the best of friends;
an't us, Pip? Don't cry, old chap!"
When this little interruption was over, Joe resumed:--
"Well, you see, Pip, and here we are! That's about where it lights; here
we are! Now, when you take me in hand in my learning, Pip (and I tell
you beforehand I am awful dull, most awful dull), Mrs. Joe mustn't see
too much of what we're up to. It must be done, as I may say, on the sly.
And why on the sly? I'll tell you why, Pip."
He had taken up the poker again; without which, I doubt if he could have
proceeded in his demonstration.
"Your sister is given to government."
"Given to government, Joe?" I was startled, for I had some shadowy idea
(and I am afraid I must add, hope) that Joe had divorced her in a favor
of the Lords of the Admiralty, or Treasury.
"Given to government," said Joe. "Which I meantersay the government of
you and myself."
"And she an't over partial to having scholars on the premises," Joe
continued, "and in partickler would not be over partial to my being a
scholar, for fear as I might rise. Like a sort of rebel, don't you see?"
I was going to retort with an inquiry, and had got as far as "Why--"
when Joe stopped me.
"Stay a bit. I know what you're a going to say, Pip; stay a bit! I don't
deny that your sister comes the Mo-gul over us, now and again. I don't
deny that she do throw us back-falls, and that she do drop down upon us
heavy. At such times as when your sister is on the Ram-page, Pip," Joe
sank his voice to a whisper and glanced at the door, "candor compels fur
to admit that she is a Buster."
Joe pronounced this word, as if it began with at least twelve capital
"Why don't I rise? That were your observation when I broke it off, Pip?"
"Well," said Joe, passing the poker into his left hand, that he might
feel his whisker; and I had no hope of him whenever he took to that
placid occupation; "your sister's a master-mind. A master-mind."
"What's that?" I asked, in some hope of bringing him to a stand. But
Joe was readier with his definition than I had expected, and completely
stopped me by arguing circularly, and answering with a fixed look,
"And I ain't a master-mind," Joe resumed, when he had unfixed his look,
and got back to his whisker. "And last of all, Pip,--and this I want to
say very serious to you, old chap,--I see so much in my poor mother,
of a woman drudging and slaving and breaking her honest hart and never
getting no peace in her mortal days, that I'm dead afeerd of going wrong
in the way of not doing what's right by a woman, and I'd fur rather
of the two go wrong the t'other way, and be a little ill-conwenienced
myself. I wish it was only me that got put out, Pip; I wish there warn't
no Tickler for you, old chap; I wish I could take it all on myself;
but this is the up-and-down-and-straight on it, Pip, and I hope you'll
Young as I was, I believe that I dated a new admiration of Joe from that
night. We were equals afterwards, as we had been before; but, afterwards
at quiet times when I sat looking at Joe and thinking about him, I had
a new sensation of feeling conscious that I was looking up to Joe in my
"However," said Joe, rising to replenish the fire; "here's the
Dutch-clock a working himself up to being equal to strike Eight of 'em,
and she's not come home yet! I hope Uncle Pumblechook's mare mayn't have
set a forefoot on a piece o' ice, and gone down."
Mrs. Joe made occasional trips with Uncle Pumblechook on market-days,
to assist him in buying such household stuffs and goods as required a
woman's judgment; Uncle Pumblechook being a bachelor and reposing no
confidences in his domestic servant. This was market-day, and Mrs. Joe
was out on one of these expeditions.
Joe made the fire and swept the hearth, and then we went to the door to
listen for the chaise-cart. It was a dry cold night, and the wind blew
keenly, and the frost was white and hard. A man would die to-night of
lying out on the marshes, I thought. And then I looked at the stars, and
considered how awful it would be for a man to turn his face up to them
as he froze to death, and see no help or pity in all the glittering
"Here comes the mare," said Joe, "ringing like a peal of bells!"
The sound of her iron shoes upon the hard road was quite musical, as she
came along at a much brisker trot than usual. We got a chair out, ready
for Mrs. Joe's alighting, and stirred up the fire that they might see a
bright window, and took a final survey of the kitchen that nothing might
be out of its place. When we had completed these preparations, they
drove up, wrapped to the eyes. Mrs. Joe was soon landed, and Uncle
Pumblechook was soon down too, covering the mare with a cloth, and we
were soon all in the kitchen, carrying so much cold air in with us that
it seemed to drive all the heat out of the fire.
"Now," said Mrs. Joe, unwrapping herself with haste and excitement, and
throwing her bonnet back on her shoulders where it hung by the strings,
"if this boy ain't grateful this night, he never will be!"
I looked as grateful as any boy possibly could, who was wholly
uninformed why he ought to assume that expression.
"It's only to be hoped," said my sister, "that he won't be Pompeyed. But
I have my fears."
"She ain't in that line, Mum," said Mr. Pumblechook. "She knows better."
She? I looked at Joe, making the motion with my lips and eyebrows,
"She?" Joe looked at me, making the motion with his lips and eyebrows,
"She?" My sister catching him in the act, he drew the back of his hand
across his nose with his usual conciliatory air on such occasions, and
looked at her.
"Well?" said my sister, in her snappish way. "What are you staring at?
Is the house afire?"
"--Which some individual," Joe politely hinted, "mentioned--she."
"And she is a she, I suppose?" said my sister. "Unless you call Miss
Havisham a he. And I doubt if even you'll go so far as that."
"Miss Havisham, up town?" said Joe.
"Is there any Miss Havisham down town?" returned my sister.
"She wants this boy to go and play there. And of course he's going. And
he had better play there," said my sister, shaking her head at me as an
encouragement to be extremely light and sportive, "or I'll work him."
I had heard of Miss Havisham up town,--everybody for miles round had
heard of Miss Havisham up town,--as an immensely rich and grim lady who
lived in a large and dismal house barricaded against robbers, and who
led a life of seclusion.
"Well to be sure!" said Joe, astounded. "I wonder how she come to know
"Noodle!" cried my sister. "Who said she knew him?"
"--Which some individual," Joe again politely hinted, "mentioned that
she wanted him to go and play there."
"And couldn't she ask Uncle Pumblechook if he knew of a boy to go and
play there? Isn't it just barely possible that Uncle Pumblechook may be
a tenant of hers, and that he may sometimes--we won't say quarterly
or half-yearly, for that would be requiring too much of you--but
sometimes--go there to pay his rent? And couldn't she then ask Uncle
Pumblechook if he knew of a boy to go and play there? And couldn't Uncle
Pumblechook, being always considerate and thoughtful for us--though you
may not think it, Joseph," in a tone of the deepest reproach, as if
he were the most callous of nephews, "then mention this boy, standing
Prancing here"--which I solemnly declare I was not doing--"that I have
for ever been a willing slave to?"
"Good again!" cried Uncle Pumblechook. "Well put! Prettily pointed! Good
indeed! Now Joseph, you know the case."
"No, Joseph," said my sister, still in a reproachful manner, while Joe
apologetically drew the back of his hand across and across his nose,
"you do not yet--though you may not think it--know the case. You may
consider that you do, but you do not, Joseph. For you do not know that
Uncle Pumblechook, being sensible that for anything we can tell, this
boy's fortune may be made by his going to Miss Havisham's, has offered
to take him into town to-night in his own chaise-cart, and to keep
him to-night, and to take him with his own hands to Miss Havisham's
to-morrow morning. And Lor-a-mussy me!" cried my sister, casting off her
bonnet in sudden desperation, "here I stand talking to mere Mooncalfs,
with Uncle Pumblechook waiting, and the mare catching cold at the door,
and the boy grimed with crock and dirt from the hair of his head to the
sole of his foot!"
With that, she pounced upon me, like an eagle on a lamb, and my face was
squeezed into wooden bowls in sinks, and my head was put under taps of
water-butts, and I was soaped, and kneaded, and towelled, and thumped,
and harrowed, and rasped, until I really was quite beside myself. (I
may here remark that I suppose myself to be better acquainted than
any living authority, with the ridgy effect of a wedding-ring, passing
unsympathetically over the human countenance.)
When my ablutions were completed, I was put into clean linen of the
stiffest character, like a young penitent into sackcloth, and was
trussed up in my tightest and fearfullest suit. I was then delivered
over to Mr. Pumblechook, who formally received me as if he were the
Sheriff, and who let off upon me the speech that I knew he had been
dying to make all along: "Boy, be forever grateful to all friends, but
especially unto them which brought you up by hand!"
"God bless you, Pip, old chap!"
I had never parted from him before, and what with my feelings and what
with soapsuds, I could at first see no stars from the chaise-cart.
But they twinkled out one by one, without throwing any light on the
questions why on earth I was going to play at Miss Havisham's, and what
on earth I was expected to play at.
Mr. Pumblechook's premises in the High Street of the market town,
were of a peppercorny and farinaceous character, as the premises of a
cornchandler and seedsman should be. It appeared to me that he must be a
very happy man indeed, to have so many little drawers in his shop; and
I wondered when I peeped into one or two on the lower tiers, and saw the
tied-up brown paper packets inside, whether the flower-seeds and bulbs
ever wanted of a fine day to break out of those jails, and bloom.
It was in the early morning after my arrival that I entertained this
speculation. On the previous night, I had been sent straight to bed in
an attic with a sloping roof, which was so low in the corner where the
bedstead was, that I calculated the tiles as being within a foot of my
eyebrows. In the same early morning, I discovered a singular affinity
between seeds and corduroys. Mr. Pumblechook wore corduroys, and so did
his shopman; and somehow, there was a general air and flavor about the
corduroys, so much in the nature of seeds, and a general air and flavor
about the seeds, so much in the nature of corduroys, that I hardly knew
which was which. The same opportunity served me for noticing that Mr.
Pumblechook appeared to conduct his business by looking across the
street at the saddler, who appeared to transact his business by keeping
his eye on the coachmaker, who appeared to get on in life by putting his
hands in his pockets and contemplating the baker, who in his turn folded
his arms and stared at the grocer, who stood at his door and yawned at
the chemist. The watchmaker, always poring over a little desk with
a magnifying-glass at his eye, and always inspected by a group of
smock-frocks poring over him through the glass of his shop-window,
seemed to be about the only person in the High Street whose trade
engaged his attention.
Mr. Pumblechook and I breakfasted at eight o'clock in the parlor behind
the shop, while the shopman took his mug of tea and hunch of bread
and butter on a sack of peas in the front premises. I considered Mr.
Pumblechook wretched company. Besides being possessed by my sister's
idea that a mortifying and penitential character ought to be imparted
to my diet,--besides giving me as much crumb as possible in combination
with as little butter, and putting such a quantity of warm water into
my milk that it would have been more candid to have left the milk out
altogether,--his conversation consisted of nothing but arithmetic. On
my politely bidding him Good morning, he said, pompously, "Seven times
nine, boy?" And how should I be able to answer, dodged in that way, in
a strange place, on an empty stomach! I was hungry, but before I had
swallowed a morsel, he began a running sum that lasted all through the
breakfast. "Seven?" "And four?" "And eight?" "And six?" "And two?" "And
ten?" And so on. And after each figure was disposed of, it was as much
as I could do to get a bite or a sup, before the next came; while he sat
at his ease guessing nothing, and eating bacon and hot roll, in (if I
may be allowed the expression) a gorging and gormandizing manner.
For such reasons, I was very glad when ten o'clock came and we started
for Miss Havisham's; though I was not at all at my ease regarding the
manner in which I should acquit myself under that lady's roof. Within
a quarter of an hour we came to Miss Havisham's house, which was of old
brick, and dismal, and had a great many iron bars to it. Some of the
windows had been walled up; of those that remained, all the lower were
rustily barred. There was a courtyard in front, and that was barred; so
we had to wait, after ringing the bell, until some one should come
to open it. While we waited at the gate, I peeped in (even then Mr.
Pumblechook said, "And fourteen?" but I pretended not to hear him), and
saw that at the side of the house there was a large brewery. No brewing
was going on in it, and none seemed to have gone on for a long long
A window was raised, and a clear voice demanded "What name?" To which my
conductor replied, "Pumblechook." The voice returned, "Quite right," and
the window was shut again, and a young lady came across the court-yard,
with keys in her hand.
"This," said Mr. Pumblechook, "is Pip."
"This is Pip, is it?" returned the young lady, who was very pretty and
seemed very proud; "come in, Pip."
Mr. Pumblechook was coming in also, when she stopped him with the gate.
"Oh!" she said. "Did you wish to see Miss Havisham?"
"If Miss Havisham wished to see me," returned Mr. Pumblechook,
"Ah!" said the girl; "but you see she don't."
She said it so finally, and in such an undiscussible way, that Mr.
Pumblechook, though in a condition of ruffled dignity, could not
protest. But he eyed me severely,--as if I had done anything to
him!--and departed with the words reproachfully delivered: "Boy! Let
your behavior here be a credit unto them which brought you up by hand!"
I was not free from apprehension that he would come back to propound
through the gate, "And sixteen?" But he didn't.
My young conductress locked the gate, and we went across the courtyard.
It was paved and clean, but grass was growing in every crevice. The
brewery buildings had a little lane of communication with it, and the
wooden gates of that lane stood open, and all the brewery beyond stood
open, away to the high enclosing wall; and all was empty and disused.
The cold wind seemed to blow colder there than outside the gate; and
it made a shrill noise in howling in and out at the open sides of the
brewery, like the noise of wind in the rigging of a ship at sea.
She saw me looking at it, and she said, "You could drink without hurt
all the strong beer that's brewed there now, boy."
"I should think I could, miss," said I, in a shy way.
"Better not try to brew beer there now, or it would turn out sour, boy;
don't you think so?"
"It looks like it, miss."
"Not that anybody means to try," she added, "for that's all done with,
and the place will stand as idle as it is till it falls. As to strong
beer, there's enough of it in the cellars already, to drown the Manor
"Is that the name of this house, miss?"
"One of its names, boy."
"It has more than one, then, miss?"
"One more. Its other name was Satis; which is Greek, or Latin, or
Hebrew, or all three--or all one to me--for enough."
"Enough House," said I; "that's a curious name, miss."
"Yes," she replied; "but it meant more than it said. It meant, when it
was given, that whoever had this house could want nothing else. They
must have been easily satisfied in those days, I should think. But don't
Though she called me "boy" so often, and with a carelessness that was
far from complimentary, she was of about my own age. She seemed much
older than I, of course, being a girl, and beautiful and self-possessed;
and she was as scornful of me as if she had been one-and-twenty, and a
We went into the house by a side door, the great front entrance had two
chains across it outside,--and the first thing I noticed was, that the
passages were all dark, and that she had left a candle burning there.
She took it up, and we went through more passages and up a staircase,
and still it was all dark, and only the candle lighted us.
At last we came to the door of a room, and she said, "Go in."
I answered, more in shyness than politeness, "After you, miss."
To this she returned: "Don't be ridiculous, boy; I am not going in." And
scornfully walked away, and--what was worse--took the candle with her.
This was very uncomfortable, and I was half afraid. However, the only
thing to be done being to knock at the door, I knocked, and was told
from within to enter. I entered, therefore, and found myself in a pretty
large room, well lighted with wax candles. No glimpse of daylight was to
be seen in it. It was a dressing-room, as I supposed from the furniture,
though much of it was of forms and uses then quite unknown to me. But
prominent in it was a draped table with a gilded looking-glass, and that
I made out at first sight to be a fine lady's dressing-table.
Whether I should have made out this object so soon if there had been no
fine lady sitting at it, I cannot say. In an arm-chair, with an
elbow resting on the table and her head leaning on that hand, sat the
strangest lady I have ever seen, or shall ever see.
She was dressed in rich materials,--satins, and lace, and silks,--all
of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent
from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was
white. Some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and on her hands, and
some other jewels lay sparkling on the table. Dresses, less splendid
than the dress she wore, and half-packed trunks, were scattered about.
She had not quite finished dressing, for she had but one shoe on,--the
other was on the table near her hand,--her veil was but half arranged,
her watch and chain were not put on, and some lace for her bosom lay
with those trinkets, and with her handkerchief, and gloves, and
some flowers, and a Prayer-Book all confusedly heaped about the
It was not in the first few moments that I saw all these things, though
I saw more of them in the first moments than might be supposed. But I
saw that everything within my view which ought to be white, had been
white long ago, and had lost its lustre and was faded and yellow. I saw
that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and
like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her
sunken eyes. I saw that the dress had been put upon the rounded figure
of a young woman, and that the figure upon which it now hung loose had
shrunk to skin and bone. Once, I had been taken to see some ghastly
waxwork at the Fair, representing I know not what impossible personage
lying in state. Once, I had been taken to one of our old marsh churches
to see a skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress that had been dug out of
a vault under the church pavement. Now, waxwork and skeleton seemed to
have dark eyes that moved and looked at me. I should have cried out, if
"Who is it?" said the lady at the table.
"Mr. Pumblechook's boy, ma'am. Come--to play."
"Come nearer; let me look at you. Come close."
It was when I stood before her, avoiding her eyes, that I took note of
the surrounding objects in detail, and saw that her watch had stopped
at twenty minutes to nine, and that a clock in the room had stopped at
twenty minutes to nine.
"Look at me," said Miss Havisham. "You are not afraid of a woman who has
never seen the sun since you were born?"
I regret to state that I was not afraid of telling the enormous lie
comprehended in the answer "No."
"Do you know what I touch here?" she said, laying her hands, one upon
the other, on her left side.
"Yes, ma'am." (It made me think of the young man.)
"What do I touch?"
She uttered the word with an eager look, and with strong emphasis, and
with a weird smile that had a kind of boast in it. Afterwards she kept
her hands there for a little while, and slowly took them away as if they
"I am tired," said Miss Havisham. "I want diversion, and I have done
with men and women. Play."
I think it will be conceded by my most disputatious reader, that she
could hardly have directed an unfortunate boy to do anything in the wide
world more difficult to be done under the circumstances.
"I sometimes have sick fancies," she went on, "and I have a sick fancy
that I want to see some play. There, there!" with an impatient movement
of the fingers of her right hand; "play, play, play!"
For a moment, with the fear of my sister's working me before my eyes, I
had a desperate idea of starting round the room in the assumed character
of Mr. Pumblechook's chaise-cart. But I felt myself so unequal to the
performance that I gave it up, and stood looking at Miss Havisham in
what I suppose she took for a dogged manner, inasmuch as she said, when
we had taken a good look at each other,--
"Are you sullen and obstinate?"
"No, ma'am, I am very sorry for you, and very sorry I can't play just
now. If you complain of me I shall get into trouble with my sister, so
I would do it if I could; but it's so new here, and so strange, and so
fine,--and melancholy--." I stopped, fearing I might say too much, or
had already said it, and we took another look at each other.
Before she spoke again, she turned her eyes from me, and looked at the
dress she wore, and at the dressing-table, and finally at herself in the
"So new to him," she muttered, "so old to me; so strange to him, so
familiar to me; so melancholy to both of us! Call Estella."
As she was still looking at the reflection of herself, I thought she was
still talking to herself, and kept quiet.
"Call Estella," she repeated, flashing a look at me. "You can do that.
Call Estella. At the door."
To stand in the dark in a mysterious passage of an unknown house,
bawling Estella to a scornful young lady neither visible nor responsive,
and feeling it a dreadful liberty so to roar out her name, was almost
as bad as playing to order. But she answered at last, and her light came
along the dark passage like a star.
Miss Havisham beckoned her to come close, and took up a jewel from the
table, and tried its effect upon her fair young bosom and against her
pretty brown hair. "Your own, one day, my dear, and you will use it
well. Let me see you play cards with this boy."
"With this boy? Why, he is a common laboring boy!"
I thought I overheard Miss Havisham answer,--only it seemed so
unlikely,--"Well? You can break his heart."
"What do you play, boy?" asked Estella of myself, with the greatest
"Nothing but beggar my neighbor, miss."
"Beggar him," said Miss Havisham to Estella. So we sat down to cards.
It was then I began to understand that everything in the room had
stopped, like the watch and the clock, a long time ago. I noticed that
Miss Havisham put down the jewel exactly on the spot from which she had
taken it up. As Estella dealt the cards, I glanced at the dressing-table
again, and saw that the shoe upon it, once white, now yellow, had never
been worn. I glanced down at the foot from which the shoe was absent,
and saw that the silk stocking on it, once white, now yellow, had been
trodden ragged. Without this arrest of everything, this standing still
of all the pale decayed objects, not even the withered bridal dress on
the collapsed form could have looked so like grave-clothes, or the long
veil so like a shroud.
So she sat, corpse-like, as we played at cards; the frillings and
trimmings on her bridal dress, looking like earthy paper. I knew nothing
then of the discoveries that are occasionally made of bodies buried in
ancient times, which fall to powder in the moment of being distinctly
seen; but, I have often thought since, that she must have looked as if
the admission of the natural light of day would have struck her to dust.
"He calls the knaves Jacks, this boy!" said Estella with disdain, before
our first game was out. "And what coarse hands he has! And what thick
I had never thought of being ashamed of my hands before; but I began
to consider them a very indifferent pair. Her contempt for me was so
strong, that it became infectious, and I caught it.
She won the game, and I dealt. I misdealt, as was only natural, when I
knew she was lying in wait for me to do wrong; and she denounced me for
a stupid, clumsy laboring-boy.
"You say nothing of her," remarked Miss Havisham to me, as she looked
on. "She says many hard things of you, but you say nothing of her. What
do you think of her?"
"I don't like to say," I stammered.
"Tell me in my ear," said Miss Havisham, bending down.
"I think she is very proud," I replied, in a whisper.
"I think she is very pretty."
"I think she is very insulting." (She was looking at me then with a look
of supreme aversion.)
"I think I should like to go home."
"And never see her again, though she is so pretty?"
"I am not sure that I shouldn't like to see her again, but I should like
to go home now."
"You shall go soon," said Miss Havisham, aloud. "Play the game out."
Saving for the one weird smile at first, I should have felt almost
sure that Miss Havisham's face could not smile. It had dropped into a
watchful and brooding expression,--most likely when all the things about
her had become transfixed,--and it looked as if nothing could ever lift
it up again. Her chest had dropped, so that she stooped; and her voice
had dropped, so that she spoke low, and with a dead lull upon her;
altogether, she had the appearance of having dropped body and soul,
within and without, under the weight of a crushing blow.
I played the game to an end with Estella, and she beggared me. She
threw the cards down on the table when she had won them all, as if she
despised them for having been won of me.
"When shall I have you here again?" said Miss Havisham. "Let me think."
I was beginning to remind her that to-day was Wednesday, when she
checked me with her former impatient movement of the fingers of her
"There, there! I know nothing of days of the week; I know nothing of
weeks of the year. Come again after six days. You hear?"
"Estella, take him down. Let him have something to eat, and let him roam
and look about him while he eats. Go, Pip."
I followed the candle down, as I had followed the candle up, and she
stood it in the place where we had found it. Until she opened the
side entrance, I had fancied, without thinking about it, that it must
necessarily be night-time. The rush of the daylight quite confounded me,
and made me feel as if I had been in the candlelight of the strange room
"You are to wait here, you boy," said Estella; and disappeared and
closed the door.
I took the opportunity of being alone in the courtyard to look at my
coarse hands and my common boots. My opinion of those accessories was
not favorable. They had never troubled me before, but they troubled
me now, as vulgar appendages. I determined to ask Joe why he had ever
taught me to call those picture-cards Jacks, which ought to be called
knaves. I wished Joe had been rather more genteelly brought up, and then
I should have been so too.
She came back, with some bread and meat and a little mug of beer. She
put the mug down on the stones of the yard, and gave me the bread
and meat without looking at me, as insolently as if I were a dog in
disgrace. I was so humiliated, hurt, spurned, offended, angry, sorry,--I
cannot hit upon the right name for the smart--God knows what its name
was,--that tears started to my eyes. The moment they sprang there, the
girl looked at me with a quick delight in having been the cause of them.
This gave me power to keep them back and to look at her: so, she gave a
contemptuous toss--but with a sense, I thought, of having made too sure
that I was so wounded--and left me.
But when she was gone, I looked about me for a place to hide my face
in, and got behind one of the gates in the brewery-lane, and leaned my
sleeve against the wall there, and leaned my forehead on it and cried.
As I cried, I kicked the wall, and took a hard twist at my hair; so
bitter were my feelings, and so sharp was the smart without a name, that
My sister's bringing up had made me sensitive. In the little world in
which children have their existence whosoever brings them up, there is
nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt as injustice. It may be
only small injustice that the child can be exposed to; but the child
is small, and its world is small, and its rocking-horse stands as many
hands high, according to scale, as a big-boned Irish hunter. Within
myself, I had sustained, from my babyhood, a perpetual conflict with
injustice. I had known, from the time when I could speak, that my
sister, in her capricious and violent coercion, was unjust to me. I had
cherished a profound conviction that her bringing me up by hand gave her
no right to bring me up by jerks. Through all my punishments, disgraces,
fasts, and vigils, and other penitential performances, I had nursed
this assurance; and to my communing so much with it, in a solitary and
unprotected way, I in great part refer the fact that I was morally timid
and very sensitive.
I got rid of my injured feelings for the time by kicking them into the
brewery wall, and twisting them out of my hair, and then I smoothed my
face with my sleeve, and came from behind the gate. The bread and meat
were acceptable, and the beer was warming and tingling, and I was soon
in spirits to look about me.
To be sure, it was a deserted place, down to the pigeon-house in the
brewery-yard, which had been blown crooked on its pole by some high
wind, and would have made the pigeons think themselves at sea, if there
had been any pigeons there to be rocked by it. But there were no pigeons
in the dove-cot, no horses in the stable, no pigs in the sty, no malt in
the storehouse, no smells of grains and beer in the copper or the vat.
All the uses and scents of the brewery might have evaporated with its
last reek of smoke. In a by-yard, there was a wilderness of empty casks,
which had a certain sour remembrance of better days lingering about
them; but it was too sour to be accepted as a sample of the beer that
was gone,--and in this respect I remember those recluses as being like
Behind the furthest end of the brewery, was a rank garden with an old
wall; not so high but that I could struggle up and hold on long enough
to look over it, and see that the rank garden was the garden of the
house, and that it was overgrown with tangled weeds, but that there was
a track upon the green and yellow paths, as if some one sometimes walked
there, and that Estella was walking away from me even then. But she
seemed to be everywhere. For when I yielded to the temptation presented
by the casks, and began to walk on them, I saw her walking on them at
the end of the yard of casks. She had her back towards me, and held her
pretty brown hair spread out in her two hands, and never looked round,
and passed out of my view directly. So, in the brewery itself,--by which
I mean the large paved lofty place in which they used to make the beer,
and where the brewing utensils still were. When I first went into it,
and, rather oppressed by its gloom, stood near the door looking about
me, I saw her pass among the extinguished fires, and ascend some light
iron stairs, and go out by a gallery high overhead, as if she were going
out into the sky.
It was in this place, and at this moment, that a strange thing happened
to my fancy. I thought it a strange thing then, and I thought it a
stranger thing long afterwards. I turned my eyes--a little dimmed by
looking up at the frosty light--towards a great wooden beam in a low
nook of the building near me on my right hand, and I saw a figure
hanging there by the neck. A figure all in yellow white, with but
one shoe to the feet; and it hung so, that I could see that the faded
trimmings of the dress were like earthy paper, and that the face was
Miss Havisham's, with a movement going over the whole countenance as if
she were trying to call to me. In the terror of seeing the figure,
and in the terror of being certain that it had not been there a moment
before, I at first ran from it, and then ran towards it. And my terror
was greatest of all when I found no figure there.
Nothing less than the frosty light of the cheerful sky, the sight of
people passing beyond the bars of the court-yard gate, and the reviving
influence of the rest of the bread and meat and beer, would have brought
me round. Even with those aids, I might not have come to myself as soon
as I did, but that I saw Estella approaching with the keys, to let
me out. She would have some fair reason for looking down upon me, I
thought, if she saw me frightened; and she would have no fair reason.
She gave me a triumphant glance in passing me, as if she rejoiced that
my hands were so coarse and my boots were so thick, and she opened the
gate, and stood holding it. I was passing out without looking at her,
when she touched me with a taunting hand.
"Why don't you cry?"
"Because I don't want to."
"You do," said she. "You have been crying till you are half blind, and
you are near crying again now."
She laughed contemptuously, pushed me out, and locked the gate upon me.
I went straight to Mr. Pumblechook's, and was immensely relieved to find
him not at home. So, leaving word with the shopman on what day I was
wanted at Miss Havisham's again, I set off on the four-mile walk to
our forge; pondering, as I went along, on all I had seen, and deeply
revolving that I was a common laboring-boy; that my hands were coarse;
that my boots were thick; that I had fallen into a despicable habit
of calling knaves Jacks; that I was much more ignorant than I had
considered myself last night, and generally that I was in a low-lived
When I reached home, my sister was very curious to know all about Miss
Havisham's, and asked a number of questions. And I soon found myself
getting heavily bumped from behind in the nape of the neck and the small
of the back, and having my face ignominiously shoved against the kitchen
wall, because I did not answer those questions at sufficient length.
If a dread of not being understood be hidden in the breasts of other
young people to anything like the extent to which it used to be hidden
in mine,--which I consider probable, as I have no particular reason
to suspect myself of having been a monstrosity,--it is the key to many
reservations. I felt convinced that if I described Miss Havisham's as my
eyes had seen it, I should not be understood. Not only that, but I felt
convinced that Miss Havisham too would not be understood; and although
she was perfectly incomprehensible to me, I entertained an impression
that there would be something coarse and treacherous in my dragging
her as she really was (to say nothing of Miss Estella) before the
contemplation of Mrs. Joe. Consequently, I said as little as I could,
and had my face shoved against the kitchen wall.
The worst of it was that that bullying old Pumblechook, preyed upon by
a devouring curiosity to be informed of all I had seen and heard, came
gaping over in his chaise-cart at tea-time, to have the details divulged
to him. And the mere sight of the torment, with his fishy eyes and mouth
open, his sandy hair inquisitively on end, and his waistcoat heaving
with windy arithmetic, made me vicious in my reticence.
"Well, boy," Uncle Pumblechook began, as soon as he was seated in the
chair of honor by the fire. "How did you get on up town?"
I answered, "Pretty well, sir," and my sister shook her fist at me.
"Pretty well?" Mr. Pumblechook repeated. "Pretty well is no answer. Tell
us what you mean by pretty well, boy?"
Whitewash on the forehead hardens the brain into a state of obstinacy
perhaps. Anyhow, with whitewash from the wall on my forehead, my
obstinacy was adamantine. I reflected for some time, and then answered
as if I had discovered a new idea, "I mean pretty well."
My sister with an exclamation of impatience was going to fly at me,--I
had no shadow of defence, for Joe was busy in the forge,--when Mr.
Pumblechook interposed with "No! Don't lose your temper. Leave this
lad to me, ma'am; leave this lad to me." Mr. Pumblechook then turned me
towards him, as if he were going to cut my hair, and said,--
"First (to get our thoughts in order): Forty-three pence?"
I calculated the consequences of replying "Four Hundred Pound," and
finding them against me, went as near the answer as I could--which was
somewhere about eightpence off. Mr. Pumblechook then put me through my
pence-table from "twelve pence make one shilling," up to "forty pence
make three and fourpence," and then triumphantly demanded, as if he had
done for me, "Now! How much is forty-three pence?" To which I replied,
after a long interval of reflection, "I don't know." And I was so
aggravated that I almost doubt if I did know.
Mr. Pumblechook worked his head like a screw to screw it out of me,
and said, "Is forty-three pence seven and sixpence three fardens, for
"Yes!" said I. And although my sister instantly boxed my ears, it was
highly gratifying to me to see that the answer spoilt his joke, and
brought him to a dead stop.
"Boy! What like is Miss Havisham?" Mr. Pumblechook began again when
he had recovered; folding his arms tight on his chest and applying the
"Very tall and dark," I told him.
"Is she, uncle?" asked my sister.
Mr. Pumblechook winked assent; from which I at once inferred that he had
never seen Miss Havisham, for she was nothing of the kind.
"Good!" said Mr. Pumblechook conceitedly. ("This is the way to have him!
We are beginning to hold our own, I think, Mum?")
"I am sure, uncle," returned Mrs. Joe, "I wish you had him always; you
know so well how to deal with him."
"Now, boy! What was she a doing of, when you went in today?" asked Mr.
"She was sitting," I answered, "in a black velvet coach."
Mr. Pumblechook and Mrs. Joe stared at one another--as they well
might--and both repeated, "In a black velvet coach?"
"Yes," said I. "And Miss Estella--that's her niece, I think--handed her
in cake and wine at the coach-window, on a gold plate. And we all had
cake and wine on gold plates. And I got up behind the coach to eat mine,
because she told me to."
"Was anybody else there?" asked Mr. Pumblechook.
"Four dogs," said I.
"Large or small?"
"Immense," said I. "And they fought for veal-cutlets out of a silver
Mr. Pumblechook and Mrs. Joe stared at one another again, in utter
amazement. I was perfectly frantic,--a reckless witness under the
torture,--and would have told them anything.
"Where was this coach, in the name of gracious?" asked my sister.
"In Miss Havisham's room." They stared again. "But there weren't any
horses to it." I added this saving clause, in the moment of rejecting
four richly caparisoned coursers which I had had wild thoughts of
"Can this be possible, uncle?" asked Mrs. Joe. "What can the boy mean?"
"I'll tell you, Mum," said Mr. Pumblechook. "My opinion is, it's a
sedan-chair. She's flighty, you know,--very flighty,--quite flighty
enough to pass her days in a sedan-chair."
"Did you ever see her in it, uncle?" asked Mrs. Joe.
"How could I," he returned, forced to the admission, "when I never see
her in my life? Never clapped eyes upon her!"
"Goodness, uncle! And yet you have spoken to her?"
"Why, don't you know," said Mr. Pumblechook, testily, "that when I have
been there, I have been took up to the outside of her door, and the door
has stood ajar, and she has spoke to me that way. Don't say you don't
know that, Mum. Howsever, the boy went there to play. What did you play
"We played with flags," I said. (I beg to observe that I think of myself
with amazement, when I recall the lies I told on this occasion.)
"Flags!" echoed my sister.
"Yes," said I. "Estella waved a blue flag, and I waved a red one, and
Miss Havisham waved one sprinkled all over with little gold stars, out
at the coach-window. And then we all waved our swords and hurrahed."
"Swords!" repeated my sister. "Where did you get swords from?"
"Out of a cupboard," said I. "And I saw pistols in it,--and jam,--and
pills. And there was no daylight in the room, but it was all lighted up
"That's true, Mum," said Mr. Pumblechook, with a grave nod. "That's the
state of the case, for that much I've seen myself." And then they
both stared at me, and I, with an obtrusive show of artlessness on my
countenance, stared at them, and plaited the right leg of my trousers
with my right hand.
If they had asked me any more questions, I should undoubtedly have
betrayed myself, for I was even then on the point of mentioning that
there was a balloon in the yard, and should have hazarded the statement
but for my invention being divided between that phenomenon and a bear
in the brewery. They were so much occupied, however, in discussing the
marvels I had already presented for their consideration, that I escaped.
The subject still held them when Joe came in from his work to have a cup
of tea. To whom my sister, more for the relief of her own mind than for
the gratification of his, related my pretended experiences.
Now, when I saw Joe open his blue eyes and roll them all round the
kitchen in helpless amazement, I was overtaken by penitence; but only as
regarded him,--not in the least as regarded the other two. Towards
Joe, and Joe only, I considered myself a young monster, while they sat
debating what results would come to me from Miss Havisham's acquaintance
and favor. They had no doubt that Miss Havisham would "do something"
for me; their doubts related to the form that something would take.
My sister stood out for "property." Mr. Pumblechook was in favor of a
handsome premium for binding me apprentice to some genteel trade,--say,
the corn and seed trade, for instance. Joe fell into the deepest
disgrace with both, for offering the bright suggestion that I might only
be presented with one of the dogs who had fought for the veal-cutlets.
"If a fool's head can't express better opinions than that," said my
sister, "and you have got any work to do, you had better go and do it."
So he went.
After Mr. Pumblechook had driven off, and when my sister was washing up,
I stole into the forge to Joe, and remained by him until he had done for
the night. Then I said, "Before the fire goes out, Joe, I should like to
tell you something."
"Should you, Pip?" said Joe, drawing his shoeing-stool near the forge.
"Then tell us. What is it, Pip?"
"Joe," said I, taking hold of his rolled-up shirt sleeve, and twisting
it between my finger and thumb, "you remember all that about Miss
"Remember?" said Joe. "I believe you! Wonderful!"
"It's a terrible thing, Joe; it ain't true."
"What are you telling of, Pip?" cried Joe, falling back in the greatest
amazement. "You don't mean to say it's--"
"Yes I do; it's lies, Joe."
"But not all of it? Why sure you don't mean to say, Pip, that there was
no black welwet co--ch?" For, I stood shaking my head. "But at least
there was dogs, Pip? Come, Pip," said Joe, persuasively, "if there
warn't no weal-cutlets, at least there was dogs?"
"A dog?" said Joe. "A puppy? Come?"
"No, Joe, there was nothing at all of the kind."
As I fixed my eyes hopelessly on Joe, Joe contemplated me in dismay.
"Pip, old chap! This won't do, old fellow! I say! Where do you expect to
"It's terrible, Joe; ain't it?"
"Terrible?" cried Joe. "Awful! What possessed you?"
"I don't know what possessed me, Joe," I replied, letting his shirt
sleeve go, and sitting down in the ashes at his feet, hanging my head;
"but I wish you hadn't taught me to call Knaves at cards Jacks; and I
wish my boots weren't so thick nor my hands so coarse."
And then I told Joe that I felt very miserable, and that I hadn't been
able to explain myself to Mrs. Joe and Pumblechook, who were so rude to
me, and that there had been a beautiful young lady at Miss Havisham's
who was dreadfully proud, and that she had said I was common, and that I
knew I was common, and that I wished I was not common, and that the lies
had come of it somehow, though I didn't know how.
This was a case of metaphysics, at least as difficult for Joe to deal
with as for me. But Joe took the case altogether out of the region of
metaphysics, and by that means vanquished it.
"There's one thing you may be sure of, Pip," said Joe, after some
rumination, "namely, that lies is lies. Howsever they come, they didn't
ought to come, and they come from the father of lies, and work round to
the same. Don't you tell no more of 'em, Pip. That ain't the way to get
out of being common, old chap. And as to being common, I don't make
it out at all clear. You are oncommon in some things. You're oncommon
small. Likewise you're a oncommon scholar."
"No, I am ignorant and backward, Joe."
"Why, see what a letter you wrote last night! Wrote in print even! I've
seen letters--Ah! and from gentlefolks!--that I'll swear weren't wrote
in print," said Joe.
"I have learnt next to nothing, Joe. You think much of me. It's only
"Well, Pip," said Joe, "be it so or be it son't, you must be a common
scholar afore you can be a oncommon one, I should hope! The king upon
his throne, with his crown upon his ed, can't sit and write his acts
of Parliament in print, without having begun, when he were a unpromoted
Prince, with the alphabet.--Ah!" added Joe, with a shake of the head
that was full of meaning, "and begun at A. too, and worked his way to Z.
And I know what that is to do, though I can't say I've exactly done it."
There was some hope in this piece of wisdom, and it rather encouraged
"Whether common ones as to callings and earnings," pursued Joe,
reflectively, "mightn't be the better of continuing for to keep
company with common ones, instead of going out to play with oncommon
ones,--which reminds me to hope that there were a flag, perhaps?"
"(I'm sorry there weren't a flag, Pip). Whether that might be or
mightn't be, is a thing as can't be looked into now, without putting
your sister on the Rampage; and that's a thing not to be thought of as
being done intentional. Lookee here, Pip, at what is said to you by a
true friend. Which this to you the true friend say. If you can't get to
be oncommon through going straight, you'll never get to do it through
going crooked. So don't tell no more on 'em, Pip, and live well and die
"You are not angry with me, Joe?"
"No, old chap. But bearing in mind that them were which I meantersay
of a stunning and outdacious sort,--alluding to them which bordered on
weal-cutlets and dog-fighting,--a sincere well-wisher would adwise, Pip,
their being dropped into your meditations, when you go up stairs to bed.
That's all, old chap, and don't never do it no more."
When I got up to my little room and said my prayers, I did not forget
Joe's recommendation, and yet my young mind was in that disturbed and
unthankful state, that I thought long after I laid me down, how common
Estella would consider Joe, a mere blacksmith; how thick his boots, and
how coarse his hands. I thought how Joe and my sister were then sitting
in the kitchen, and how I had come up to bed from the kitchen, and how
Miss Havisham and Estella never sat in a kitchen, but were far above the
level of such common doings. I fell asleep recalling what I "used to
do" when I was at Miss Havisham's; as though I had been there weeks or
months, instead of hours; and as though it were quite an old subject of
remembrance, instead of one that had arisen only that day.
That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But it
is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it,
and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read
this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold,
of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the
formation of the first link on one memorable day.
The felicitous idea occurred to me a morning or two later when I woke,
that the best step I could take towards making myself uncommon was to
get out of Biddy everything she knew. In pursuance of this luminous
conception I mentioned to Biddy when I went to Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt's
at night, that I had a particular reason for wishing to get on in life,
and that I should feel very much obliged to her if she would impart
all her learning to me. Biddy, who was the most obliging of girls,
immediately said she would, and indeed began to carry out her promise
within five minutes.
The Educational scheme or Course established by Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt
may be resolved into the following synopsis. The pupils ate apples
and put straws down one another's backs, until Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt
collected her energies, and made an indiscriminate totter at them with
a birch-rod. After receiving the charge with every mark of derision, the
pupils formed in line and buzzingly passed a ragged book from hand to
hand. The book had an alphabet in it, some figures and tables, and
a little spelling,--that is to say, it had had once. As soon as this
volume began to circulate, Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt fell into a state of
coma, arising either from sleep or a rheumatic paroxysm. The pupils then
entered among themselves upon a competitive examination on the subject
of Boots, with the view of ascertaining who could tread the hardest upon
whose toes. This mental exercise lasted until Biddy made a rush at
them and distributed three defaced Bibles (shaped as if they had been
unskilfully cut off the chump end of something), more illegibly printed
at the best than any curiosities of literature I have since met with,
speckled all over with ironmould, and having various specimens of the
insect world smashed between their leaves. This part of the Course was
usually lightened by several single combats between Biddy and refractory
students. When the fights were over, Biddy gave out the number of a
page, and then we all read aloud what we could,--or what we couldn't--in
a frightful chorus; Biddy leading with a high, shrill, monotonous voice,
and none of us having the least notion of, or reverence for, what we
were reading about. When this horrible din had lasted a certain time,
it mechanically awoke Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt, who staggered at a boy
fortuitously, and pulled his ears. This was understood to terminate
the Course for the evening, and we emerged into the air with shrieks of
intellectual victory. It is fair to remark that there was no prohibition
against any pupil's entertaining himself with a slate or even with the
ink (when there was any), but that it was not easy to pursue that branch
of study in the winter season, on account of the little general shop
in which the classes were holden--and which was also Mr. Wopsle's
great-aunt's sitting-room and bedchamber--being but faintly illuminated
through the agency of one low-spirited dip-candle and no snuffers.
It appeared to me that it would take time to become uncommon, under
these circumstances: nevertheless, I resolved to try it, and that
very evening Biddy entered on our special agreement, by imparting some
information from her little catalogue of Prices, under the head of moist
sugar, and lending me, to copy at home, a large old English D which she
had imitated from the heading of some newspaper, and which I supposed,
until she told me what it was, to be a design for a buckle.
Of course there was a public-house in the village, and of course Joe
liked sometimes to smoke his pipe there. I had received strict orders
from my sister to call for him at the Three Jolly Bargemen, that
evening, on my way from school, and bring him home at my peril. To the
Three Jolly Bargemen, therefore, I directed my steps.
There was a bar at the Jolly Bargemen, with some alarmingly long chalk
scores in it on the wall at the side of the door, which seemed to me to
be never paid off. They had been there ever since I could remember, and
had grown more than I had. But there was a quantity of chalk about our
country, and perhaps the people neglected no opportunity of turning it
It being Saturday night, I found the landlord looking rather grimly
at these records; but as my business was with Joe and not with him, I
merely wished him good evening, and passed into the common room at the
end of the passage, where there was a bright large kitchen fire,
and where Joe was smoking his pipe in company with Mr. Wopsle and a
stranger. Joe greeted me as usual with "Halloa, Pip, old chap!" and the
moment he said that, the stranger turned his head and looked at me.
He was a secret-looking man whom I had never seen before. His head was
all on one side, and one of his eyes was half shut up, as if he were
taking aim at something with an invisible gun. He had a pipe in his
mouth, and he took it out, and, after slowly blowing all his smoke away
and looking hard at me all the time, nodded. So, I nodded, and then he
nodded again, and made room on the settle beside him that I might sit
But as I was used to sit beside Joe whenever I entered that place of
resort, I said "No, thank you, sir," and fell into the space Joe made
for me on the opposite settle. The strange man, after glancing at Joe,
and seeing that his attention was otherwise engaged, nodded to me again
when I had taken my seat, and then rubbed his leg--in a very odd way, as
it struck me.
"You was saying," said the strange man, turning to Joe, "that you was a
"Yes. I said it, you know," said Joe.
"What'll you drink, Mr.--? You didn't mention your name, by the bye."
Joe mentioned it now, and the strange man called him by it. "What'll you
drink, Mr. Gargery? At my expense? To top up with?"
"Well," said Joe, "to tell you the truth, I ain't much in the habit of
drinking at anybody's expense but my own."
"Habit? No," returned the stranger, "but once and away, and on a
Saturday night too. Come! Put a name to it, Mr. Gargery."
"I wouldn't wish to be stiff company," said Joe. "Rum."
"Rum," repeated the stranger. "And will the other gentleman originate a
"Rum," said Mr. Wopsle.
"Three Rums!" cried the stranger, calling to the landlord. "Glasses
"This other gentleman," observed Joe, by way of introducing Mr. Wopsle,
"is a gentleman that you would like to hear give it out. Our clerk at
"Aha!" said the stranger, quickly, and cocking his eye at me. "The
lonely church, right out on the marshes, with graves round it!"
"That's it," said Joe.
The stranger, with a comfortable kind of grunt over his pipe, put
his legs up on the settle that he had to himself. He wore a flapping
broad-brimmed traveller's hat, and under it a handkerchief tied over his
head in the manner of a cap: so that he showed no hair. As he looked
at the fire, I thought I saw a cunning expression, followed by a
half-laugh, come into his face.
"I am not acquainted with this country, gentlemen, but it seems a
solitary country towards the river."
"Most marshes is solitary," said Joe.
"No doubt, no doubt. Do you find any gypsies, now, or tramps, or
vagrants of any sort, out there?"
"No," said Joe; "none but a runaway convict now and then. And we don't
find them, easy. Eh, Mr. Wopsle?"
Mr. Wopsle, with a majestic remembrance of old discomfiture, assented;
but not warmly.
"Seems you have been out after such?" asked the stranger.
"Once," returned Joe. "Not that we wanted to take them, you understand;
we went out as lookers on; me, and Mr. Wopsle, and Pip. Didn't us, Pip?"
The stranger looked at me again,--still cocking his eye, as if he were
expressly taking aim at me with his invisible gun,--and said, "He's a
likely young parcel of bones that. What is it you call him?"
"Pip," said Joe.
"No, not christened Pip."
"No," said Joe, "it's a kind of family name what he gave himself when a
infant, and is called by."
"Son of yours?"
"Well," said Joe, meditatively, not, of course, that it could be in
anywise necessary to consider about it, but because it was the way at
the Jolly Bargemen to seem to consider deeply about everything that was
discussed over pipes,--"well--no. No, he ain't."
"Nevvy?" said the strange man.
"Well," said Joe, with the same appearance of profound cogitation, "he
is not--no, not to deceive you, he is not--my nevvy."
"What the Blue Blazes is he?" asked the stranger. Which appeared to me
to be an inquiry of unnecessary strength.
Mr. Wopsle struck in upon that; as one who knew all about relationships,
having professional occasion to bear in mind what female relations a man
might not marry; and expounded the ties between me and Joe. Having
his hand in, Mr. Wopsle finished off with a most terrifically snarling
passage from Richard the Third, and seemed to think he had done quite
enough to account for it when he added, "--as the poet says."
And here I may remark that when Mr. Wopsle referred to me, he considered
it a necessary part of such reference to rumple my hair and poke it into
my eyes. I cannot conceive why everybody of his standing who visited
at our house should always have put me through the same inflammatory
process under similar circumstances. Yet I do not call to mind that I
was ever in my earlier youth the subject of remark in our social family
circle, but some large-handed person took some such ophthalmic steps to
All this while, the strange man looked at nobody but me, and looked at
me as if he were determined to have a shot at me at last, and bring me
down. But he said nothing after offering his Blue Blazes observation,
until the glasses of rum and water were brought; and then he made his
shot, and a most extraordinary shot it was.
It was not a verbal remark, but a proceeding in dumb-show, and was
pointedly addressed to me. He stirred his rum and water pointedly at me,
and he tasted his rum and water pointedly at me. And he stirred it and
he tasted it; not with a spoon that was brought to him, but with a file.
He did this so that nobody but I saw the file; and when he had done it
he wiped the file and put it in a breast-pocket. I knew it to be
Joe's file, and I knew that he knew my convict, the moment I saw the
instrument. I sat gazing at him, spell-bound. But he now reclined on his
settle, taking very little notice of me, and talking principally about
There was a delicious sense of cleaning-up and making a quiet pause
before going on in life afresh, in our village on Saturday nights, which
stimulated Joe to dare to stay out half an hour longer on Saturdays
than at other times. The half-hour and the rum and water running out
together, Joe got up to go, and took me by the hand.
"Stop half a moment, Mr. Gargery," said the strange man. "I think I've
got a bright new shilling somewhere in my pocket, and if I have, the boy
shall have it."
He looked it out from a handful of small change, folded it in some
crumpled paper, and gave it to me. "Yours!" said he. "Mind! Your own."
I thanked him, staring at him far beyond the bounds of good manners,
and holding tight to Joe. He gave Joe good-night, and he gave Mr. Wopsle
good-night (who went out with us), and he gave me only a look with his
aiming eye,--no, not a look, for he shut it up, but wonders may be done
with an eye by hiding it.
On the way home, if I had been in a humor for talking, the talk must
have been all on my side, for Mr. Wopsle parted from us at the door of
the Jolly Bargemen, and Joe went all the way home with his mouth wide
open, to rinse the rum out with as much air as possible. But I was in
a manner stupefied by this turning up of my old misdeed and old
acquaintance, and could think of nothing else.
My sister was not in a very bad temper when we presented ourselves in
the kitchen, and Joe was encouraged by that unusual circumstance to tell
her about the bright shilling. "A bad un, I'll be bound," said Mrs. Joe
triumphantly, "or he wouldn't have given it to the boy! Let's look at
I took it out of the paper, and it proved to be a good one. "But what's
this?" said Mrs. Joe, throwing down the shilling and catching up the
paper. "Two One-Pound notes?"
Nothing less than two fat sweltering one-pound notes that seemed to have
been on terms of the warmest intimacy with all the cattle-markets in
the county. Joe caught up his hat again, and ran with them to the Jolly
Bargemen to restore them to their owner. While he was gone, I sat down
on my usual stool and looked vacantly at my sister, feeling pretty sure
that the man would not be there.
Presently, Joe came back, saying that the man was gone, but that he,
Joe, had left word at the Three Jolly Bargemen concerning the notes.
Then my sister sealed them up in a piece of paper, and put them under
some dried rose-leaves in an ornamental teapot on the top of a press in
the state parlor. There they remained, a nightmare to me, many and many
a night and day.
I had sadly broken sleep when I got to bed, through thinking of the
strange man taking aim at me with his invisible gun, and of the guiltily
coarse and common thing it was, to be on secret terms of conspiracy with
convicts,--a feature in my low career that I had previously forgotten.
I was haunted by the file too. A dread possessed me that when I least
expected it, the file would reappear. I coaxed myself to sleep by
thinking of Miss Havisham's, next Wednesday; and in my sleep I saw
the file coming at me out of a door, without seeing who held it, and I
screamed myself awake.
At the appointed time I returned to Miss Havisham's, and my hesitating
ring at the gate brought out Estella. She locked it after admitting
me, as she had done before, and again preceded me into the dark passage
where her candle stood. She took no notice of me until she had the
candle in her hand, when she looked over her shoulder, superciliously
saying, "You are to come this way to-day," and took me to quite another
part of the house.
The passage was a long one, and seemed to pervade the whole square
basement of the Manor House. We traversed but one side of the square,
however, and at the end of it she stopped, and put her candle down and
opened a door. Here, the daylight reappeared, and I found myself in
a small paved courtyard, the opposite side of which was formed by a
detached dwelling-house, that looked as if it had once belonged to the
manager or head clerk of the extinct brewery. There was a clock in the
outer wall of this house. Like the clock in Miss Havisham's room, and
like Miss Havisham's watch, it had stopped at twenty minutes to nine.
We went in at the door, which stood open, and into a gloomy room with a
low ceiling, on the ground-floor at the back. There was some company in
the room, and Estella said to me as she joined it, "You are to go and
stand there boy, till you are wanted." "There", being the window, I
crossed to it, and stood "there," in a very uncomfortable state of mind,
It opened to the ground, and looked into a most miserable corner of the
neglected garden, upon a rank ruin of cabbage-stalks, and one box-tree
that had been clipped round long ago, like a pudding, and had a new
growth at the top of it, out of shape and of a different color, as if
that part of the pudding had stuck to the saucepan and got burnt. This
was my homely thought, as I contemplated the box-tree. There had been
some light snow, overnight, and it lay nowhere else to my knowledge;
but, it had not quite melted from the cold shadow of this bit of garden,
and the wind caught it up in little eddies and threw it at the window,
as if it pelted me for coming there.
I divined that my coming had stopped conversation in the room, and that
its other occupants were looking at me. I could see nothing of the room
except the shining of the fire in the window-glass, but I stiffened in
all my joints with the consciousness that I was under close inspection.
There were three ladies in the room and one gentleman. Before I had been
standing at the window five minutes, they somehow conveyed to me that
they were all toadies and humbugs, but that each of them pretended not
to know that the others were toadies and humbugs: because the admission
that he or she did know it, would have made him or her out to be a toady
They all had a listless and dreary air of waiting somebody's pleasure,
and the most talkative of the ladies had to speak quite rigidly to
repress a yawn. This lady, whose name was Camilla, very much reminded
me of my sister, with the difference that she was older, and (as I found
when I caught sight of her) of a blunter cast of features. Indeed, when
I knew her better I began to think it was a Mercy she had any features
at all, so very blank and high was the dead wall of her face.
"Poor dear soul!" said this lady, with an abruptness of manner quite my
sister's. "Nobody's enemy but his own!"
"It would be much more commendable to be somebody else's enemy," said
the gentleman; "far more natural."
"Cousin Raymond," observed another lady, "we are to love our neighbor."
"Sarah Pocket," returned Cousin Raymond, "if a man is not his own
neighbor, who is?"
Miss Pocket laughed, and Camilla laughed and said (checking a yawn),
"The idea!" But I thought they seemed to think it rather a good
idea too. The other lady, who had not spoken yet, said gravely and
emphatically, "Very true!"
"Poor soul!" Camilla presently went on (I knew they had all been looking
at me in the mean time), "he is so very strange! Would anyone believe
that when Tom's wife died, he actually could not be induced to see the
importance of the children's having the deepest of trimmings to their
mourning? 'Good Lord!' says he, 'Camilla, what can it signify so long
as the poor bereaved little things are in black?' So like Matthew! The
"Good points in him, good points in him," said Cousin Raymond; "Heaven
forbid I should deny good points in him; but he never had, and he never
will have, any sense of the proprieties."
"You know I was obliged," said Camilla,--"I was obliged to be firm. I
said, 'It WILL NOT DO, for the credit of the family.' I told him that,
without deep trimmings, the family was disgraced. I cried about it from
breakfast till dinner. I injured my digestion. And at last he flung out
in his violent way, and said, with a D, 'Then do as you like.' Thank
Goodness it will always be a consolation to me to know that I instantly
went out in a pouring rain and bought the things."
"He paid for them, did he not?" asked Estella.
"It's not the question, my dear child, who paid for them," returned
Camilla. "I bought them. And I shall often think of that with peace,
when I wake up in the night."
The ringing of a distant bell, combined with the echoing of some cry or
call along the passage by which I had come, interrupted the conversation
and caused Estella to say to me, "Now, boy!" On my turning round, they
all looked at me with the utmost contempt, and, as I went out, I heard
Sarah Pocket say, "Well I am sure! What next!" and Camilla add, with
indignation, "Was there ever such a fancy! The i-de-a!"
As we were going with our candle along the dark passage, Estella stopped
all of a sudden, and, facing round, said in her taunting manner, with
her face quite close to mine,--
"Well, miss?" I answered, almost falling over her and checking myself.
She stood looking at me, and, of course, I stood looking at her.
"Am I pretty?"
"Yes; I think you are very pretty."
"Am I insulting?"
"Not so much so as you were last time," said I.
"Not so much so?"
She fired when she asked the last question, and she slapped my face with
such force as she had, when I answered it.
"Now?" said she. "You little coarse monster, what do you think of me
"I shall not tell you."
"Because you are going to tell up stairs. Is that it?"
"No," said I, "that's not it."
"Why don't you cry again, you little wretch?"
"Because I'll never cry for you again," said I. Which was, I suppose, as
false a declaration as ever was made; for I was inwardly crying for her
then, and I know what I know of the pain she cost me afterwards.
We went on our way up stairs after this episode; and, as we were going
up, we met a gentleman groping his way down.
"Whom have we here?" asked the gentleman, stopping and looking at me.
"A boy," said Estella.
He was a burly man of an exceedingly dark complexion, with an
exceedingly large head, and a corresponding large hand. He took my chin
in his large hand and turned up my face to have a look at me by the
light of the candle. He was prematurely bald on the top of his head, and
had bushy black eyebrows that wouldn't lie down but stood up bristling.
His eyes were set very deep in his head, and were disagreeably sharp and
suspicious. He had a large watch-chain, and strong black dots where his
beard and whiskers would have been if he had let them. He was nothing
to me, and I could have had no foresight then, that he ever would be
anything to me, but it happened that I had this opportunity of observing
"Boy of the neighborhood? Hey?" said he.
"Yes, sir," said I.
"How do you come here?"
"Miss Havisham sent for me, sir," I explained.
"Well! Behave yourself. I have a pretty large experience of boys, and
you're a bad set of fellows. Now mind!" said he, biting the side of his
great forefinger as he frowned at me, "you behave yourself!"
With those words, he released me--which I was glad of, for his hand
smelt of scented soap--and went his way down stairs. I wondered whether
he could be a doctor; but no, I thought; he couldn't be a doctor, or he
would have a quieter and more persuasive manner. There was not much time
to consider the subject, for we were soon in Miss Havisham's room, where
she and everything else were just as I had left them. Estella left me
standing near the door, and I stood there until Miss Havisham cast her
eyes upon me from the dressing-table.
"So!" she said, without being startled or surprised: "the days have worn
away, have they?"
"Yes, ma'am. To-day is--"
"There, there, there!" with the impatient movement of her fingers. "I
don't want to know. Are you ready to play?"
I was obliged to answer in some confusion, "I don't think I am, ma'am."
"Not at cards again?" she demanded, with a searching look.
"Yes, ma'am; I could do that, if I was wanted."
"Since this house strikes you old and grave, boy," said Miss Havisham,
impatiently, "and you are unwilling to play, are you willing to work?"
I could answer this inquiry with a better heart than I had been able to
find for the other question, and I said I was quite willing.
"Then go into that opposite room," said she, pointing at the door behind
me with her withered hand, "and wait there till I come."
I crossed the staircase landing, and entered the room she indicated.
From that room, too, the daylight was completely excluded, and it had an
airless smell that was oppressive. A fire had been lately kindled in
the damp old-fashioned grate, and it was more disposed to go out than
to burn up, and the reluctant smoke which hung in the room seemed colder
than the clearer air,--like our own marsh mist. Certain wintry branches
of candles on the high chimney-piece faintly lighted the chamber; or it
would be more expressive to say, faintly troubled its darkness. It was
spacious, and I dare say had once been handsome, but every discernible
thing in it was covered with dust and mould, and dropping to pieces. The
most prominent object was a long table with a tablecloth spread on it,
as if a feast had been in preparation when the house and the clocks all
stopped together. An epergne or centre-piece of some kind was in the
middle of this cloth; it was so heavily overhung with cobwebs that its
form was quite undistinguishable; and, as I looked along the yellow
expanse out of which I remember its seeming to grow, like a black
fungus, I saw speckle-legged spiders with blotchy bodies running home
to it, and running out from it, as if some circumstances of the greatest
public importance had just transpired in the spider community.
I heard the mice too, rattling behind the panels, as if the same
occurrence were important to their interests. But the black beetles took
no notice of the agitation, and groped about the hearth in a ponderous
elderly way, as if they were short-sighted and hard of hearing, and not
on terms with one another.
These crawling things had fascinated my attention, and I was watching
them from a distance, when Miss Havisham laid a hand upon my shoulder.
In her other hand she had a crutch-headed stick on which she leaned, and
she looked like the Witch of the place.
"This," said she, pointing to the long table with her stick, "is where I
will be laid when I am dead. They shall come and look at me here."
With some vague misgiving that she might get upon the table then and
there and die at once, the complete realization of the ghastly waxwork
at the Fair, I shrank under her touch.
"What do you think that is?" she asked me, again pointing with her
stick; "that, where those cobwebs are?"
"I can't guess what it is, ma'am."
"It's a great cake. A bride-cake. Mine!"
She looked all round the room in a glaring manner, and then said,
leaning on me while her hand twitched my shoulder, "Come, come, come!
Walk me, walk me!"
I made out from this, that the work I had to do, was to walk Miss
Havisham round and round the room. Accordingly, I started at once, and
she leaned upon my shoulder, and we went away at a pace that might have
been an imitation (founded on my first impulse under that roof) of Mr.
She was not physically strong, and after a little time said, "Slower!"
Still, we went at an impatient fitful speed, and as we went, she
twitched the hand upon my shoulder, and worked her mouth, and led me to
believe that we were going fast because her thoughts went fast. After a
while she said, "Call Estella!" so I went out on the landing and
roared that name as I had done on the previous occasion. When her light
appeared, I returned to Miss Havisham, and we started away again round
and round the room.
If only Estella had come to be a spectator of our proceedings, I should
have felt sufficiently discontented; but as she brought with her the
three ladies and the gentleman whom I had seen below, I didn't know
what to do. In my politeness, I would have stopped; but Miss
Havisham twitched my shoulder, and we posted on,--with a shame-faced
consciousness on my part that they would think it was all my doing.
"Dear Miss Havisham," said Miss Sarah Pocket. "How well you look!"
"I do not," returned Miss Havisham. "I am yellow skin and bone."
Camilla brightened when Miss Pocket met with this rebuff; and she
murmured, as she plaintively contemplated Miss Havisham, "Poor dear
soul! Certainly not to be expected to look well, poor thing. The idea!"
"And how are you?" said Miss Havisham to Camilla. As we were close to
Camilla then, I would have stopped as a matter of course, only Miss
Havisham wouldn't stop. We swept on, and I felt that I was highly
obnoxious to Camilla.
"Thank you, Miss Havisham," she returned, "I am as well as can be
"Why, what's the matter with you?" asked Miss Havisham, with exceeding
"Nothing worth mentioning," replied Camilla. "I don't wish to make a
display of my feelings, but I have habitually thought of you more in the
night than I am quite equal to."
"Then don't think of me," retorted Miss Havisham.
"Very easily said!" remarked Camilla, amiably repressing a sob, while a
hitch came into her upper lip, and her tears overflowed. "Raymond is a
witness what ginger and sal volatile I am obliged to take in the night.
Raymond is a witness what nervous jerkings I have in my legs. Chokings
and nervous jerkings, however, are nothing new to me when I think with
anxiety of those I love. If I could be less affectionate and sensitive,
I should have a better digestion and an iron set of nerves. I am sure
I wish it could be so. But as to not thinking of you in the night--The
idea!" Here, a burst of tears.
The Raymond referred to, I understood to be the gentleman present, and
him I understood to be Mr. Camilla. He came to the rescue at this point,
and said in a consolatory and complimentary voice, "Camilla, my dear, it
is well known that your family feelings are gradually undermining you to
the extent of making one of your legs shorter than the other."
"I am not aware," observed the grave lady whose voice I had heard but
once, "that to think of any person is to make a great claim upon that
person, my dear."
Miss Sarah Pocket, whom I now saw to be a little dry, brown, corrugated
old woman, with a small face that might have been made of walnut-shells,
and a large mouth like a cat's without the whiskers, supported this
position by saying, "No, indeed, my dear. Hem!"
"Thinking is easy enough," said the grave lady.
"What is easier, you know?" assented Miss Sarah Pocket.
"Oh, yes, yes!" cried Camilla, whose fermenting feelings appeared to
rise from her legs to her bosom. "It's all very true! It's a weakness
to be so affectionate, but I can't help it. No doubt my health would be
much better if it was otherwise, still I wouldn't change my disposition
if I could. It's the cause of much suffering, but it's a consolation to
know I posses it, when I wake up in the night." Here another burst of
Miss Havisham and I had never stopped all this time, but kept going
round and round the room; now brushing against the skirts of the
visitors, now giving them the whole length of the dismal chamber.
"There's Matthew!" said Camilla. "Never mixing with any natural ties,
never coming here to see how Miss Havisham is! I have taken to the sofa
with my staylace cut, and have lain there hours insensible, with my head
over the side, and my hair all down, and my feet I don't know where--"
("Much higher than your head, my love," said Mr. Camilla.)
"I have gone off into that state, hours and hours, on account of
Matthew's strange and inexplicable conduct, and nobody has thanked me."
"Really I must say I should think not!" interposed the grave lady.
"You see, my dear," added Miss Sarah Pocket (a blandly vicious
personage), "the question to put to yourself is, who did you expect to
thank you, my love?"
"Without expecting any thanks, or anything of the sort," resumed
Camilla, "I have remained in that state, hours and hours, and Raymond
is a witness of the extent to which I have choked, and what the total
inefficacy of ginger has been, and I have been heard at the piano-forte
tuner's across the street, where the poor mistaken children have even
supposed it to be pigeons cooing at a distance,--and now to be told--"
Here Camilla put her hand to her throat, and began to be quite chemical
as to the formation of new combinations there.
When this same Matthew was mentioned, Miss Havisham stopped me and
herself, and stood looking at the speaker. This change had a great
influence in bringing Camilla's chemistry to a sudden end.
"Matthew will come and see me at last," said Miss Havisham, sternly,
"when I am laid on that table. That will be his place,--there," striking
the table with her stick, "at my head! And yours will be there! And your
husband's there! And Sarah Pocket's there! And Georgiana's there! Now
you all know where to take your stations when you come to feast upon me.
And now go!"
At the mention of each name, she had struck the table with her stick in
a new place. She now said, "Walk me, walk me!" and we went on again.
"I suppose there's nothing to be done," exclaimed Camilla, "but comply
and depart. It's something to have seen the object of one's love and
duty for even so short a time. I shall think of it with a melancholy
satisfaction when I wake up in the night. I wish Matthew could have
that comfort, but he sets it at defiance. I am determined not to make a
display of my feelings, but it's very hard to be told one wants to feast
on one's relations,--as if one was a Giant,--and to be told to go. The
Mr. Camilla interposing, as Mrs. Camilla laid her hand upon her heaving
bosom, that lady assumed an unnatural fortitude of manner which I
supposed to be expressive of an intention to drop and choke when out of
view, and kissing her hand to Miss Havisham, was escorted forth. Sarah
Pocket and Georgiana contended who should remain last; but Sarah was
too knowing to be outdone, and ambled round Georgiana with that artful
slipperiness that the latter was obliged to take precedence. Sarah
Pocket then made her separate effect of departing with, "Bless you, Miss
Havisham dear!" and with a smile of forgiving pity on her walnut-shell
countenance for the weaknesses of the rest.
While Estella was away lighting them down, Miss Havisham still walked
with her hand on my shoulder, but more and more slowly. At last she
stopped before the fire, and said, after muttering and looking at it
"This is my birthday, Pip."
I was going to wish her many happy returns, when she lifted her stick.
"I don't suffer it to be spoken of. I don't suffer those who were here
just now, or any one to speak of it. They come here on the day, but they
dare not refer to it."
Of course I made no further effort to refer to it.
"On this day of the year, long before you were born, this heap of
decay," stabbing with her crutched stick at the pile of cobwebs on the
table, but not touching it, "was brought here. It and I have worn away
together. The mice have gnawed at it, and sharper teeth than teeth of
mice have gnawed at me."
She held the head of her stick against her heart as she stood looking
at the table; she in her once white dress, all yellow and withered; the
once white cloth all yellow and withered; everything around in a state
to crumble under a touch.
"When the ruin is complete," said she, with a ghastly look, "and when
they lay me dead, in my bride's dress on the bride's table,--which shall
be done, and which will be the finished curse upon him,--so much the
better if it is done on this day!"
She stood looking at the table as if she stood looking at her own figure
lying there. I remained quiet. Estella returned, and she too remained
quiet. It seemed to me that we continued thus for a long time. In
the heavy air of the room, and the heavy darkness that brooded in its
remoter corners, I even had an alarming fancy that Estella and I might
presently begin to decay.
At length, not coming out of her distraught state by degrees, but in an
instant, Miss Havisham said, "Let me see you two play cards; why have
you not begun?" With that, we returned to her room, and sat down as
before; I was beggared, as before; and again, as before, Miss Havisham
watched us all the time, directed my attention to Estella's beauty, and
made me notice it the more by trying her jewels on Estella's breast and
Estella, for her part, likewise treated me as before, except that she
did not condescend to speak. When we had played some half-dozen games,
a day was appointed for my return, and I was taken down into the yard
to be fed in the former dog-like manner. There, too, I was again left to
wander about as I liked.
It is not much to the purpose whether a gate in that garden wall which
I had scrambled up to peep over on the last occasion was, on that last
occasion, open or shut. Enough that I saw no gate then, and that I
saw one now. As it stood open, and as I knew that Estella had let
the visitors out,--for she had returned with the keys in her hand,--I
strolled into the garden, and strolled all over it. It was quite a
wilderness, and there were old melon-frames and cucumber-frames in it,
which seemed in their decline to have produced a spontaneous growth of
weak attempts at pieces of old hats and boots, with now and then a weedy
offshoot into the likeness of a battered saucepan.
When I had exhausted the garden and a greenhouse with nothing in it but
a fallen-down grape-vine and some bottles, I found myself in the dismal
corner upon which I had looked out of the window. Never questioning for
a moment that the house was now empty, I looked in at another window,
and found myself, to my great surprise, exchanging a broad stare with a
pale young gentleman with red eyelids and light hair.
This pale young gentleman quickly disappeared, and reappeared beside me.
He had been at his books when I had found myself staring at him, and I
now saw that he was inky.
"Halloa!" said he, "young fellow!"
Halloa being a general observation which I had usually observed to
be best answered by itself, I said, "Halloa!" politely omitting young
"Who let you in?" said he.
"Who gave you leave to prowl about?"
"Come and fight," said the pale young gentleman.
What could I do but follow him? I have often asked myself the question
since; but what else could I do? His manner was so final, and I was
so astonished, that I followed where he led, as if I had been under a
"Stop a minute, though," he said, wheeling round before we had gone many
paces. "I ought to give you a reason for fighting, too. There it is!"
In a most irritating manner he instantly slapped his hands against one
another, daintily flung one of his legs up behind him, pulled my hair,
slapped his hands again, dipped his head, and butted it into my stomach.
The bull-like proceeding last mentioned, besides that it was
unquestionably to be regarded in the light of a liberty, was
particularly disagreeable just after bread and meat. I therefore hit out
at him and was going to hit out again, when he said, "Aha! Would you?"
and began dancing backwards and forwards in a manner quite unparalleled
within my limited experience.
"Laws of the game!" said he. Here, he skipped from his left leg on to
his right. "Regular rules!" Here, he skipped from his right leg on to
his left. "Come to the ground, and go through the preliminaries!" Here,
he dodged backwards and forwards, and did all sorts of things while I
looked helplessly at him.
I was secretly afraid of him when I saw him so dexterous; but I felt
morally and physically convinced that his light head of hair could have
had no business in the pit of my stomach, and that I had a right to
consider it irrelevant when so obtruded on my attention. Therefore, I
followed him without a word, to a retired nook of the garden, formed by
the junction of two walls and screened by some rubbish. On his asking me
if I was satisfied with the ground, and on my replying Yes, he begged my
leave to absent himself for a moment, and quickly returned with a bottle
of water and a sponge dipped in vinegar. "Available for both," he said,
placing these against the wall. And then fell to pulling off, not
only his jacket and waistcoat, but his shirt too, in a manner at once
light-hearted, business-like, and bloodthirsty.
Although he did not look very healthy,--having pimples on his face, and
a breaking out at his mouth,--these dreadful preparations quite appalled
me. I judged him to be about my own age, but he was much taller, and he
had a way of spinning himself about that was full of appearance. For
the rest, he was a young gentleman in a gray suit (when not denuded
for battle), with his elbows, knees, wrists, and heels considerably in
advance of the rest of him as to development.
My heart failed me when I saw him squaring at me with every
demonstration of mechanical nicety, and eyeing my anatomy as if he were
minutely choosing his bone. I never have been so surprised in my life,
as I was when I let out the first blow, and saw him lying on his
back, looking up at me with a bloody nose and his face exceedingly
But, he was on his feet directly, and after sponging himself with
a great show of dexterity began squaring again. The second greatest
surprise I have ever had in my life was seeing him on his back again,
looking up at me out of a black eye.
His spirit inspired me with great respect. He seemed to have no
strength, and he never once hit me hard, and he was always knocked down;
but he would be up again in a moment, sponging himself or drinking out
of the water-bottle, with the greatest satisfaction in seconding himself
according to form, and then came at me with an air and a show that made
me believe he really was going to do for me at last. He got heavily
bruised, for I am sorry to record that the more I hit him, the harder I
hit him; but he came up again and again and again, until at last he got
a bad fall with the back of his head against the wall. Even after that
crisis in our affairs, he got up and turned round and round confusedly a
few times, not knowing where I was; but finally went on his knees to his
sponge and threw it up: at the same time panting out, "That means you
He seemed so brave and innocent, that although I had not proposed the
contest, I felt but a gloomy satisfaction in my victory. Indeed, I go
so far as to hope that I regarded myself while dressing as a species of
savage young wolf or other wild beast. However, I got dressed, darkly
wiping my sanguinary face at intervals, and I said, "Can I help you?"
and he said "No thankee," and I said "Good afternoon," and he said "Same
When I got into the courtyard, I found Estella waiting with the keys.
But she neither asked me where I had been, nor why I had kept her
waiting; and there was a bright flush upon her face, as though something
had happened to delight her. Instead of going straight to the gate, too,
she stepped back into the passage, and beckoned me.
"Come here! You may kiss me, if you like."
I kissed her cheek as she turned it to me. I think I would have gone
through a great deal to kiss her cheek. But I felt that the kiss was
given to the coarse common boy as a piece of money might have been, and
that it was worth nothing.
What with the birthday visitors, and what with the cards, and what with
the fight, my stay had lasted so long, that when I neared home the light
on the spit of sand off the point on the marshes was gleaming against
a black night-sky, and Joe's furnace was flinging a path of fire across
My mind grew very uneasy on the subject of the pale young gentleman. The
more I thought of the fight, and recalled the pale young gentleman on
his back in various stages of puffy and incrimsoned countenance, the
more certain it appeared that something would be done to me. I felt that
the pale young gentleman's blood was on my head, and that the Law would
avenge it. Without having any definite idea of the penalties I had
incurred, it was clear to me that village boys could not go stalking
about the country, ravaging the houses of gentlefolks and pitching into
the studious youth of England, without laying themselves open to severe
punishment. For some days, I even kept close at home, and looked out at
the kitchen door with the greatest caution and trepidation before going
on an errand, lest the officers of the County Jail should pounce upon
me. The pale young gentleman's nose had stained my trousers, and I tried
to wash out that evidence of my guilt in the dead of night. I had cut
my knuckles against the pale young gentleman's teeth, and I twisted my
imagination into a thousand tangles, as I devised incredible ways of
accounting for that damnatory circumstance when I should be haled before
When the day came round for my return to the scene of the deed of
violence, my terrors reached their height. Whether myrmidons of Justice,
specially sent down from London, would be lying in ambush behind the
gate;--whether Miss Havisham, preferring to take personal vengeance for
an outrage done to her house, might rise in those grave-clothes of hers,
draw a pistol, and shoot me dead:--whether suborned boys--a numerous
band of mercenaries--might be engaged to fall upon me in the brewery,
and cuff me until I was no more;--it was high testimony to my confidence
in the spirit of the pale young gentleman, that I never imagined him
accessory to these retaliations; they always came into my mind as the
acts of injudicious relatives of his, goaded on by the state of his
visage and an indignant sympathy with the family features.
However, go to Miss Havisham's I must, and go I did. And behold! nothing
came of the late struggle. It was not alluded to in any way, and no pale
young gentleman was to be discovered on the premises. I found the same
gate open, and I explored the garden, and even looked in at the windows
of the detached house; but my view was suddenly stopped by the closed
shutters within, and all was lifeless. Only in the corner where
the combat had taken place could I detect any evidence of the young
gentleman's existence. There were traces of his gore in that spot, and I
covered them with garden-mould from the eye of man.
On the broad landing between Miss Havisham's own room and that other
room in which the long table was laid out, I saw a garden-chair,--a
light chair on wheels, that you pushed from behind. It had been placed
there since my last visit, and I entered, that same day, on a regular
occupation of pushing Miss Havisham in this chair (when she was tired of
walking with her hand upon my shoulder) round her own room, and across
the landing, and round the other room. Over and over and over again,
we would make these journeys, and sometimes they would last as long as
three hours at a stretch. I insensibly fall into a general mention of
these journeys as numerous, because it was at once settled that I should
return every alternate day at noon for these purposes, and because I am
now going to sum up a period of at least eight or ten months.
As we began to be more used to one another, Miss Havisham talked more
to me, and asked me such questions as what had I learnt and what was
I going to be? I told her I was going to be apprenticed to Joe, I
believed; and I enlarged upon my knowing nothing and wanting to know
everything, in the hope that she might offer some help towards that
desirable end. But she did not; on the contrary, she seemed to prefer my
being ignorant. Neither did she ever give me any money,--or anything
but my daily dinner,--nor ever stipulate that I should be paid for my
Estella was always about, and always let me in and out, but never told
me I might kiss her again. Sometimes, she would coldly tolerate me;
sometimes, she would condescend to me; sometimes, she would be quite
familiar with me; sometimes, she would tell me energetically that she
hated me. Miss Havisham would often ask me in a whisper, or when we were
alone, "Does she grow prettier and prettier, Pip?" And when I said yes
(for indeed she did), would seem to enjoy it greedily. Also, when we
played at cards Miss Havisham would look on, with a miserly relish of
Estella's moods, whatever they were. And sometimes, when her moods were
so many and so contradictory of one another that I was puzzled what
to say or do, Miss Havisham would embrace her with lavish fondness,
murmuring something in her ear that sounded like "Break their hearts my
pride and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy!"
There was a song Joe used to hum fragments of at the forge, of which the
burden was Old Clem. This was not a very ceremonious way of rendering
homage to a patron saint, but I believe Old Clem stood in that relation
towards smiths. It was a song that imitated the measure of beating upon
iron, and was a mere lyrical excuse for the introduction of Old Clem's
respected name. Thus, you were to hammer boys round--Old Clem! With a
thump and a sound--Old Clem! Beat it out, beat it out--Old Clem! With a
clink for the stout--Old Clem! Blow the fire, blow the fire--Old
Clem! Roaring dryer, soaring higher--Old Clem! One day soon after the
appearance of the chair, Miss Havisham suddenly saying to me, with the
impatient movement of her fingers, "There, there, there! Sing!" I was
surprised into crooning this ditty as I pushed her over the floor. It
happened so to catch her fancy that she took it up in a low brooding
voice as if she were singing in her sleep. After that, it became
customary with us to have it as we moved about, and Estella would often
join in; though the whole strain was so subdued, even when there were
three of us, that it made less noise in the grim old house than the
lightest breath of wind.
What could I become with these surroundings? How could my character fail
to be influenced by them? Is it to be wondered at if my thoughts were
dazed, as my eyes were, when I came out into the natural light from the
misty yellow rooms?
Perhaps I might have told Joe about the pale young gentleman, if I had
not previously been betrayed into those enormous inventions to which
I had confessed. Under the circumstances, I felt that Joe could hardly
fail to discern in the pale young gentleman, an appropriate passenger
to be put into the black velvet coach; therefore, I said nothing of him.
Besides, that shrinking from having Miss Havisham and Estella discussed,
which had come upon me in the beginning, grew much more potent as time
went on. I reposed complete confidence in no one but Biddy; but I told
poor Biddy everything. Why it came natural to me to do so, and why Biddy
had a deep concern in everything I told her, I did not know then, though
I think I know now.
Meanwhile, councils went on in the kitchen at home, fraught with
almost insupportable aggravation to my exasperated spirit. That ass,
Pumblechook, used often to come over of a night for the purpose of
discussing my prospects with my sister; and I really do believe (to
this hour with less penitence than I ought to feel), that if these hands
could have taken a linchpin out of his chaise-cart, they would have done
it. The miserable man was a man of that confined stolidity of mind, that
he could not discuss my prospects without having me before him,--as it
were, to operate upon,--and he would drag me up from my stool (usually
by the collar) where I was quiet in a corner, and, putting me before the
fire as if I were going to be cooked, would begin by saying, "Now, Mum,
here is this boy! Here is this boy which you brought up by hand. Hold up
your head, boy, and be forever grateful unto them which so did do. Now,
Mum, with respections to this boy!" And then he would rumple my hair
the wrong way,--which from my earliest remembrance, as already hinted,
I have in my soul denied the right of any fellow-creature to do,--and
would hold me before him by the sleeve,--a spectacle of imbecility only
to be equalled by himself.
Then, he and my sister would pair off in such nonsensical speculations
about Miss Havisham, and about what she would do with me and for me,
that I used to want--quite painfully--to burst into spiteful tears, fly
at Pumblechook, and pummel him all over. In these dialogues, my sister
spoke to me as if she were morally wrenching one of my teeth out at
every reference; while Pumblechook himself, self-constituted my patron,
would sit supervising me with a depreciatory eye, like the architect of
my fortunes who thought himself engaged on a very unremunerative job.
In these discussions, Joe bore no part. But he was often talked at,
while they were in progress, by reason of Mrs. Joe's perceiving that
he was not favorable to my being taken from the forge. I was fully old
enough now to be apprenticed to Joe; and when Joe sat with the poker on
his knees thoughtfully raking out the ashes between the lower bars, my
sister would so distinctly construe that innocent action into opposition
on his part, that she would dive at him, take the poker out of his
hands, shake him, and put it away. There was a most irritating end to
every one of these debates. All in a moment, with nothing to lead up to
it, my sister would stop herself in a yawn, and catching sight of me as
it were incidentally, would swoop upon me with, "Come! there's enough of
you! You get along to bed; you've given trouble enough for one night, I
hope!" As if I had besought them as a favor to bother my life out.
We went on in this way for a long time, and it seemed likely that we
should continue to go on in this way for a long time, when one day Miss
Havisham stopped short as she and I were walking, she leaning on my
shoulder; and said with some displeasure,--
"You are growing tall, Pip!"
I thought it best to hint, through the medium of a meditative look, that
this might be occasioned by circumstances over which I had no control.
She said no more at the time; but she presently stopped and looked at me
again; and presently again; and after that, looked frowning and moody.
On the next day of my attendance, when our usual exercise was over, and
I had landed her at her dressing-table, she stayed me with a movement of
her impatient fingers:--
"Tell me the name again of that blacksmith of yours."
"Joe Gargery, ma'am."
"Meaning the master you were to be apprenticed to?"
"Yes, Miss Havisham."
"You had better be apprenticed at once. Would Gargery come here with
you, and bring your indentures, do you think?"
I signified that I had no doubt he would take it as an honor to be
"Then let him come."
"At any particular time, Miss Havisham?"
"There, there! I know nothing about times. Let him come soon, and come
along with you."
When I got home at night, and delivered this message for Joe, my sister
"went on the Rampage," in a more alarming degree than at any previous
period. She asked me and Joe whether we supposed she was door-mats under
our feet, and how we dared to use her so, and what company we graciously
thought she was fit for? When she had exhausted a torrent of such
inquiries, she threw a candlestick at Joe, burst into a loud sobbing,
got out the dustpan,--which was always a very bad sign,--put on her
coarse apron, and began cleaning up to a terrible extent. Not satisfied
with a dry cleaning, she took to a pail and scrubbing-brush, and cleaned
us out of house and home, so that we stood shivering in the back-yard.
It was ten o'clock at night before we ventured to creep in again, and
then she asked Joe why he hadn't married a Negress Slave at once?
Joe offered no answer, poor fellow, but stood feeling his whisker and
looking dejectedly at me, as if he thought it really might have been a
It was a trial to my feelings, on the next day but one, to see
Joe arraying himself in his Sunday clothes to accompany me to Miss
Havisham's. However, as he thought his court-suit necessary to the
occasion, it was not for me to tell him that he looked far better in his
working-dress; the rather, because I knew he made himself so dreadfully
uncomfortable, entirely on my account, and that it was for me he pulled
up his shirt-collar so very high behind, that it made the hair on the
crown of his head stand up like a tuft of feathers.
At breakfast-time my sister declared her intention of going to town with
us, and being left at Uncle Pumblechook's and called for "when we had
done with our fine ladies"--a way of putting the case, from which Joe
appeared inclined to augur the worst. The forge was shut up for the day,
and Joe inscribed in chalk upon the door (as it was his custom to do on
the very rare occasions when he was not at work) the monosyllable
HOUT, accompanied by a sketch of an arrow supposed to be flying in the
direction he had taken.
We walked to town, my sister leading the way in a very large beaver
bonnet, and carrying a basket like the Great Seal of England in plaited
Straw, a pair of pattens, a spare shawl, and an umbrella, though it
was a fine bright day. I am not quite clear whether these articles were
carried penitentially or ostentatiously; but I rather think they were
displayed as articles of property,--much as Cleopatra or any other
sovereign lady on the Rampage might exhibit her wealth in a pageant or
When we came to Pumblechook's, my sister bounced in and left us. As it
was almost noon, Joe and I held straight on to Miss Havisham's house.
Estella opened the gate as usual, and, the moment she appeared, Joe took
his hat off and stood weighing it by the brim in both his hands; as if
he had some urgent reason in his mind for being particular to half a
quarter of an ounce.
Estella took no notice of either of us, but led us the way that I knew
so well. I followed next to her, and Joe came last. When I looked back
at Joe in the long passage, he was still weighing his hat with the
greatest care, and was coming after us in long strides on the tips of
Estella told me we were both to go in, so I took Joe by the coat-cuff
and conducted him into Miss Havisham's presence. She was seated at her
dressing-table, and looked round at us immediately.
"Oh!" said she to Joe. "You are the husband of the sister of this boy?"
I could hardly have imagined dear old Joe looking so unlike himself or
so like some extraordinary bird; standing as he did speechless, with his
tuft of feathers ruffled, and his mouth open as if he wanted a worm.
"You are the husband," repeated Miss Havisham, "of the sister of this
It was very aggravating; but, throughout the interview, Joe persisted in
addressing Me instead of Miss Havisham.
"Which I meantersay, Pip," Joe now observed in a manner that was at
once expressive of forcible argumentation, strict confidence, and great
politeness, "as I hup and married your sister, and I were at the time
what you might call (if you was anyways inclined) a single man."
"Well!" said Miss Havisham. "And you have reared the boy, with the
intention of taking him for your apprentice; is that so, Mr. Gargery?"
"You know, Pip," replied Joe, "as you and me were ever friends, and it
were looked for'ard to betwixt us, as being calc'lated to lead to
larks. Not but what, Pip, if you had ever made objections to the
business,--such as its being open to black and sut, or such-like,--not
but what they would have been attended to, don't you see?"
"Has the boy," said Miss Havisham, "ever made any objection? Does he
like the trade?"
"Which it is well beknown to yourself, Pip," returned Joe, strengthening
his former mixture of argumentation, confidence, and politeness, "that
it were the wish of your own hart." (I saw the idea suddenly break upon
him that he would adapt his epitaph to the occasion, before he went on
to say) "And there weren't no objection on your part, and Pip it were
the great wish of your hart!"
It was quite in vain for me to endeavor to make him sensible that he
ought to speak to Miss Havisham. The more I made faces and gestures
to him to do it, the more confidential, argumentative, and polite, he
persisted in being to Me.
"Have you brought his indentures with you?" asked Miss Havisham.
"Well, Pip, you know," replied Joe, as if that were a little
unreasonable, "you yourself see me put 'em in my 'at, and therefore you
know as they are here." With which he took them out, and gave them, not
to Miss Havisham, but to me. I am afraid I was ashamed of the dear good
fellow,--I know I was ashamed of him,--when I saw that Estella stood
at the back of Miss Havisham's chair, and that her eyes laughed
mischievously. I took the indentures out of his hand and gave them to
"You expected," said Miss Havisham, as she looked them over, "no premium
with the boy?"
"Joe!" I remonstrated, for he made no reply at all. "Why don't you
"Pip," returned Joe, cutting me short as if he were hurt, "which I
meantersay that were not a question requiring a answer betwixt yourself
and me, and which you know the answer to be full well No. You know it to
be No, Pip, and wherefore should I say it?"
Miss Havisham glanced at him as if she understood what he really was
better than I had thought possible, seeing what he was there; and took
up a little bag from the table beside her.
"Pip has earned a premium here," she said, "and here it is. There are
five-and-twenty guineas in this bag. Give it to your master, Pip."
As if he were absolutely out of his mind with the wonder awakened in
him by her strange figure and the strange room, Joe, even at this pass,
persisted in addressing me.
"This is wery liberal on your part, Pip," said Joe, "and it is as such
received and grateful welcome, though never looked for, far nor near,
nor nowheres. And now, old chap," said Joe, conveying to me a sensation,
first of burning and then of freezing, for I felt as if that familiar
expression were applied to Miss Havisham,--"and now, old chap, may we
do our duty! May you and me do our duty, both on us, by one and another,
and by them which your liberal present--have-conweyed--to be--for the
satisfaction of mind-of--them as never--" here Joe showed that he felt
he had fallen into frightful difficulties, until he triumphantly rescued
himself with the words, "and from myself far be it!" These words had
such a round and convincing sound for him that he said them twice.
"Good by, Pip!" said Miss Havisham. "Let them out, Estella."
"Am I to come again, Miss Havisham?" I asked.
"No. Gargery is your master now. Gargery! One word!"
Thus calling him back as I went out of the door, I heard her say to Joe
in a distinct emphatic voice, "The boy has been a good boy here, and
that is his reward. Of course, as an honest man, you will expect no
other and no more."
How Joe got out of the room, I have never been able to determine; but
I know that when he did get out he was steadily proceeding up stairs
instead of coming down, and was deaf to all remonstrances until I went
after him and laid hold of him. In another minute we were outside the
gate, and it was locked, and Estella was gone. When we stood in the
daylight alone again, Joe backed up against a wall, and said to me,
"Astonishing!" And there he remained so long saying, "Astonishing" at
intervals, so often, that I began to think his senses were never coming
back. At length he prolonged his remark into "Pip, I do assure you this
is as-TON-ishing!" and so, by degrees, became conversational and able to
I have reason to think that Joe's intellects were brightened by the
encounter they had passed through, and that on our way to Pumblechook's
he invented a subtle and deep design. My reason is to be found in
what took place in Mr. Pumblechook's parlor: where, on our presenting
ourselves, my sister sat in conference with that detested seedsman.
"Well?" cried my sister, addressing us both at once. "And what's
happened to you? I wonder you condescend to come back to such poor
society as this, I am sure I do!"
"Miss Havisham," said Joe, with a fixed look at me, like an effort of
remembrance, "made it wery partick'ler that we should give her--were it
compliments or respects, Pip?"
"Compliments," I said.
"Which that were my own belief," answered Joe; "her compliments to Mrs.
"Much good they'll do me!" observed my sister; but rather gratified too.
"And wishing," pursued Joe, with another fixed look at me, like another
effort of remembrance, "that the state of Miss Havisham's elth were
sitch as would have--allowed, were it, Pip?"
"Of her having the pleasure," I added.
"Of ladies' company," said Joe. And drew a long breath.
"Well!" cried my sister, with a mollified glance at Mr. Pumblechook.
"She might have had the politeness to send that message at first, but
it's better late than never. And what did she give young Rantipole
"She giv' him," said Joe, "nothing."
Mrs. Joe was going to break out, but Joe went on.
"What she giv'," said Joe, "she giv' to his friends. 'And by his
friends,' were her explanation, 'I mean into the hands of his sister
Mrs. J. Gargery.' Them were her words; 'Mrs. J. Gargery.' She mayn't
have know'd," added Joe, with an appearance of reflection, "whether it
were Joe, or Jorge."
My sister looked at Pumblechook: who smoothed the elbows of his wooden
arm-chair, and nodded at her and at the fire, as if he had known all
about it beforehand.
"And how much have you got?" asked my sister, laughing. Positively
"What would present company say to ten pound?" demanded Joe.
"They'd say," returned my sister, curtly, "pretty well. Not too much,
but pretty well."
"It's more than that, then," said Joe.
That fearful Impostor, Pumblechook, immediately nodded, and said, as he
rubbed the arms of his chair, "It's more than that, Mum."
"Why, you don't mean to say--" began my sister.
"Yes I do, Mum," said Pumblechook; "but wait a bit. Go on, Joseph. Good
in you! Go on!"
"What would present company say," proceeded Joe, "to twenty pound?"
"Handsome would be the word," returned my sister.
"Well, then," said Joe, "It's more than twenty pound."
That abject hypocrite, Pumblechook, nodded again, and said, with a
patronizing laugh, "It's more than that, Mum. Good again! Follow her up,
"Then to make an end of it," said Joe, delightedly handing the bag to my
sister; "it's five-and-twenty pound."
"It's five-and-twenty pound, Mum," echoed that basest of swindlers,
Pumblechook, rising to shake hands with her; "and it's no more than your
merits (as I said when my opinion was asked), and I wish you joy of the
If the villain had stopped here, his case would have been sufficiently
awful, but he blackened his guilt by proceeding to take me into custody,
with a right of patronage that left all his former criminality far
"Now you see, Joseph and wife," said Pumblechook, as he took me by the
arm above the elbow, "I am one of them that always go right through with
what they've begun. This boy must be bound, out of hand. That's my way.
Bound out of hand."
"Goodness knows, Uncle Pumblechook," said my sister (grasping the
money), "we're deeply beholden to you."
"Never mind me, Mum," returned that diabolical cornchandler. "A
pleasure's a pleasure all the world over. But this boy, you know; we
must have him bound. I said I'd see to it--to tell you the truth."
The Justices were sitting in the Town Hall near at hand, and we at
once went over to have me bound apprentice to Joe in the Magisterial
presence. I say we went over, but I was pushed over by Pumblechook,
exactly as if I had that moment picked a pocket or fired a rick; indeed,
it was the general impression in Court that I had been taken red-handed;
for, as Pumblechook shoved me before him through the crowd, I heard some
people say, "What's he done?" and others, "He's a young 'un, too, but
looks bad, don't he?" One person of mild and benevolent aspect even gave
me a tract ornamented with a woodcut of a malevolent young man fitted
up with a perfect sausage-shop of fetters, and entitled TO BE READ IN MY
The Hall was a queer place, I thought, with higher pews in it than a
church,--and with people hanging over the pews looking on,--and with
mighty Justices (one with a powdered head) leaning back in chairs, with
folded arms, or taking snuff, or going to sleep, or writing, or reading
the newspapers,--and with some shining black portraits on the walls,
which my unartistic eye regarded as a composition of hardbake and
sticking-plaster. Here, in a corner my indentures were duly signed and
attested, and I was "bound"; Mr. Pumblechook holding me all the while
as if we had looked in on our way to the scaffold, to have those little
preliminaries disposed of.
When we had come out again, and had got rid of the boys who had been put
into great spirits by the expectation of seeing me publicly tortured,
and who were much disappointed to find that my friends were merely
rallying round me, we went back to Pumblechook's. And there my sister
became so excited by the twenty-five guineas, that nothing would serve
her but we must have a dinner out of that windfall at the Blue Boar, and
that Pumblechook must go over in his chaise-cart, and bring the Hubbles
and Mr. Wopsle.
It was agreed to be done; and a most melancholy day I passed. For,
it inscrutably appeared to stand to reason, in the minds of the whole
company, that I was an excrescence on the entertainment. And to make it
worse, they all asked me from time to time,--in short, whenever they
had nothing else to do,--why I didn't enjoy myself? And what could I
possibly do then, but say I was enjoying myself,--when I wasn't!
However, they were grown up and had their own way, and they made the
most of it. That swindling Pumblechook, exalted into the beneficent
contriver of the whole occasion, actually took the top of the table;
and, when he addressed them on the subject of my being bound, and had
fiendishly congratulated them on my being liable to imprisonment if I
played at cards, drank strong liquors, kept late hours or bad company,
or indulged in other vagaries which the form of my indentures appeared
to contemplate as next to inevitable, he placed me standing on a chair
beside him to illustrate his remarks.
My only other remembrances of the great festival are, That they wouldn't
let me go to sleep, but whenever they saw me dropping off, woke me up
and told me to enjoy myself. That, rather late in the evening Mr. Wopsle
gave us Collins's ode, and threw his bloodstained sword in thunder
down, with such effect, that a waiter came in and said, "The Commercials
underneath sent up their compliments, and it wasn't the Tumblers' Arms."
That, they were all in excellent spirits on the road home, and sang, O
Lady Fair! Mr. Wopsle taking the bass, and asserting with a tremendously
strong voice (in reply to the inquisitive bore who leads that piece
of music in a most impertinent manner, by wanting to know all about
everybody's private affairs) that he was the man with his white locks
flowing, and that he was upon the whole the weakest pilgrim going.
Finally, I remember that when I got into my little bedroom, I was truly
wretched, and had a strong conviction on me that I should never like
Joe's trade. I had liked it once, but once was not now.
It is a most miserable thing to feel ashamed of home. There may be black
ingratitude in the thing, and the punishment may be retributive and well
deserved; but that it is a miserable thing, I can testify.
Home had never been a very pleasant place to me, because of my sister's
temper. But, Joe had sanctified it, and I had believed in it. I had
believed in the best parlor as a most elegant saloon; I had believed
in the front door, as a mysterious portal of the Temple of State whose
solemn opening was attended with a sacrifice of roast fowls; I had
believed in the kitchen as a chaste though not magnificent apartment;
I had believed in the forge as the glowing road to manhood and
independence. Within a single year all this was changed. Now it was all
coarse and common, and I would not have had Miss Havisham and Estella
see it on any account.
How much of my ungracious condition of mind may have been my own fault,
how much Miss Havisham's, how much my sister's, is now of no moment to
me or to any one. The change was made in me; the thing was done. Well or
ill done, excusably or inexcusably, it was done.
Once, it had seemed to me that when I should at last roll up my
shirt-sleeves and go into the forge, Joe's 'prentice, I should be
distinguished and happy. Now the reality was in my hold, I only felt
that I was dusty with the dust of small-coal, and that I had a weight
upon my daily remembrance to which the anvil was a feather. There have
been occasions in my later life (I suppose as in most lives) when I have
felt for a time as if a thick curtain had fallen on all its interest
and romance, to shut me out from anything save dull endurance any more.
Never has that curtain dropped so heavy and blank, as when my way in
life lay stretched out straight before me through the newly entered road
of apprenticeship to Joe.
I remember that at a later period of my "time," I used to stand about
the churchyard on Sunday evenings when night was falling, comparing my
own perspective with the windy marsh view, and making out some likeness
between them by thinking how flat and low both were, and how on both
there came an unknown way and a dark mist and then the sea. I was quite
as dejected on the first working-day of my apprenticeship as in that
after-time; but I am glad to know that I never breathed a murmur to Joe
while my indentures lasted. It is about the only thing I am glad to know
of myself in that connection.
For, though it includes what I proceed to add, all the merit of what I
proceed to add was Joe's. It was not because I was faithful, but because
Joe was faithful, that I never ran away and went for a soldier or
a sailor. It was not because I had a strong sense of the virtue of
industry, but because Joe had a strong sense of the virtue of industry,
that I worked with tolerable zeal against the grain. It is not possible
to know how far the influence of any amiable honest-hearted duty-doing
man flies out into the world; but it is very possible to know how it has
touched one's self in going by, and I know right well that any good that
intermixed itself with my apprenticeship came of plain contented Joe,
and not of restlessly aspiring discontented me.
What I wanted, who can say? How can I say, when I never knew? What
I dreaded was, that in some unlucky hour I, being at my grimiest and
commonest, should lift up my eyes and see Estella looking in at one
of the wooden windows of the forge. I was haunted by the fear that she
would, sooner or later, find me out, with a black face and hands, doing
the coarsest part of my work, and would exult over me and despise me.
Often after dark, when I was pulling the bellows for Joe, and we were
singing Old Clem, and when the thought how we used to sing it at Miss
Havisham's would seem to show me Estella's face in the fire, with her
pretty hair fluttering in the wind and her eyes scorning me,--often at
such a time I would look towards those panels of black night in the wall
which the wooden windows then were, and would fancy that I saw her just
drawing her face away, and would believe that she had come at last.
After that, when we went in to supper, the place and the meal would have
a more homely look than ever, and I would feel more ashamed of home than
ever, in my own ungracious breast.
As I was getting too big for Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt's room, my
education under that preposterous female terminated. Not, however, until
Biddy had imparted to me everything she knew, from the little catalogue
of prices, to a comic song she had once bought for a half-penny.
Although the only coherent part of the latter piece of literature were
the opening lines.
When I went to Lunnon town sirs, Too rul loo rul Too rul loo rul Wasn't
I done very brown sirs? Too rul loo rul Too rul loo rul--still, in
my desire to be wiser, I got this composition by heart with the utmost
gravity; nor do I recollect that I questioned its merit, except that I
thought (as I still do) the amount of Too rul somewhat in excess of the
poetry. In my hunger for information, I made proposals to Mr. Wopsle to
bestow some intellectual crumbs upon me, with which he kindly complied.
As it turned out, however, that he only wanted me for a dramatic
lay-figure, to be contradicted and embraced and wept over and bullied
and clutched and stabbed and knocked about in a variety of ways, I soon
declined that course of instruction; though not until Mr. Wopsle in his
poetic fury had severely mauled me.
Whatever I acquired, I tried to impart to Joe. This statement sounds so
well, that I cannot in my conscience let it pass unexplained. I wanted
to make Joe less ignorant and common, that he might be worthier of my
society and less open to Estella's reproach.
The old Battery out on the marshes was our place of study, and a broken
slate and a short piece of slate-pencil were our educational implements:
to which Joe always added a pipe of tobacco. I never knew Joe to
remember anything from one Sunday to another, or to acquire, under my
tuition, any piece of information whatever. Yet he would smoke his pipe
at the Battery with a far more sagacious air than anywhere else,--even
with a learned air,--as if he considered himself to be advancing
immensely. Dear fellow, I hope he did.
It was pleasant and quiet, out there with the sails on the river passing
beyond the earthwork, and sometimes, when the tide was low, looking
as if they belonged to sunken ships that were still sailing on at the
bottom of the water. Whenever I watched the vessels standing out to sea
with their white sails spread, I somehow thought of Miss Havisham and
Estella; and whenever the light struck aslant, afar off, upon a cloud
or sail or green hillside or water-line, it was just the same.--Miss
Havisham and Estella and the strange house and the strange life appeared
to have something to do with everything that was picturesque.
One Sunday when Joe, greatly enjoying his pipe, had so plumed himself on
being "most awful dull," that I had given him up for the day, I lay on
the earthwork for some time with my chin on my hand, descrying traces of
Miss Havisham and Estella all over the prospect, in the sky and in the
water, until at last I resolved to mention a thought concerning them
that had been much in my head.
"Joe," said I; "don't you think I ought to make Miss Havisham a visit?"
"Well, Pip," returned Joe, slowly considering. "What for?"
"What for, Joe? What is any visit made for?"
"There is some wisits p'r'aps," said Joe, "as for ever remains open to
the question, Pip. But in regard to wisiting Miss Havisham. She might
think you wanted something,--expected something of her."
"Don't you think I might say that I did not, Joe?"
"You might, old chap," said Joe. "And she might credit it. Similarly she
Joe felt, as I did, that he had made a point there, and he pulled hard
at his pipe to keep himself from weakening it by repetition.
"You see, Pip," Joe pursued, as soon as he was past that danger, "Miss
Havisham done the handsome thing by you. When Miss Havisham done the
handsome thing by you, she called me back to say to me as that were
"Yes, Joe. I heard her."
"ALL," Joe repeated, very emphatically.
"Yes, Joe. I tell you, I heard her."
"Which I meantersay, Pip, it might be that her meaning were,--Make a
end on it!--As you was!--Me to the North, and you to the South!--Keep in
I had thought of that too, and it was very far from comforting to me
to find that he had thought of it; for it seemed to render it more
"Yes, old chap."
"Here am I, getting on in the first year of my time, and, since the day
of my being bound, I have never thanked Miss Havisham, or asked after
her, or shown that I remember her."
"That's true, Pip; and unless you was to turn her out a set of shoes
all four round,--and which I meantersay as even a set of shoes all
four round might not be acceptable as a present, in a total wacancy of
"I don't mean that sort of remembrance, Joe; I don't mean a present."
But Joe had got the idea of a present in his head and must harp upon it.
"Or even," said he, "if you was helped to knocking her up a new chain
for the front door,--or say a gross or two of shark-headed screws for
general use,--or some light fancy article, such as a toasting-fork
when she took her muffins,--or a gridiron when she took a sprat or such
"I don't mean any present at all, Joe," I interposed.
"Well," said Joe, still harping on it as though I had particularly
pressed it, "if I was yourself, Pip, I wouldn't. No, I would not. For
what's a door-chain when she's got one always up? And shark-headers is
open to misrepresentations. And if it was a toasting-fork, you'd go into
brass and do yourself no credit. And the oncommonest workman can't show
himself oncommon in a gridiron,--for a gridiron IS a gridiron," said
Joe, steadfastly impressing it upon me, as if he were endeavouring to
rouse me from a fixed delusion, "and you may haim at what you like, but
a gridiron it will come out, either by your leave or again your leave,
and you can't help yourself--"
"My dear Joe," I cried, in desperation, taking hold of his coat, "don't
go on in that way. I never thought of making Miss Havisham any present."
"No, Pip," Joe assented, as if he had been contending for that, all
along; "and what I say to you is, you are right, Pip."
"Yes, Joe; but what I wanted to say, was, that as we are rather slack
just now, if you would give me a half-holiday to-morrow, I think I would
go up-town and make a call on Miss Est--Havisham."
"Which her name," said Joe, gravely, "ain't Estavisham, Pip, unless she
have been rechris'ened."
"I know, Joe, I know. It was a slip of mine. What do you think of it,
In brief, Joe thought that if I thought well of it, he thought well of
it. But, he was particular in stipulating that if I were not received
with cordiality, or if I were not encouraged to repeat my visit as a
visit which had no ulterior object but was simply one of gratitude for a
favor received, then this experimental trip should have no successor. By
these conditions I promised to abide.
Now, Joe kept a journeyman at weekly wages whose name was Orlick.
He pretended that his Christian name was Dolge,--a clear
Impossibility,--but he was a fellow of that obstinate disposition that I
believe him to have been the prey of no delusion in this particular, but
wilfully to have imposed that name upon the village as an affront to its
understanding. He was a broadshouldered loose-limbed swarthy fellow of
great strength, never in a hurry, and always slouching. He never even
seemed to come to his work on purpose, but would slouch in as if by mere
accident; and when he went to the Jolly Bargemen to eat his dinner, or
went away at night, he would slouch out, like Cain or the Wandering Jew,
as if he had no idea where he was going and no intention of ever
coming back. He lodged at a sluice-keeper's out on the marshes, and on
working-days would come slouching from his hermitage, with his hands in
his pockets and his dinner loosely tied in a bundle round his neck
and dangling on his back. On Sundays he mostly lay all day on the
sluice-gates, or stood against ricks and barns. He always slouched,
locomotively, with his eyes on the ground; and, when accosted or
otherwise required to raise them, he looked up in a half-resentful,
half-puzzled way, as though the only thought he ever had was, that it
was rather an odd and injurious fact that he should never be thinking.
This morose journeyman had no liking for me. When I was very small and
timid, he g