Part 1 out of 11
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
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
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 dykes
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 grey, 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.
"O! Don't cut my throat, sir," I pleaded in terror. "Pray don't do
"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
"You young dog," said the man, licking his lips, "what fat cheeks
you ha' got."
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
"There, sir!" I timidly explained. "Also Georgiana. That's my
"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
"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
He gave me a most tremendous dip and roll, so that the church
jumped over its own weather-cock. Then, he held me by the arms, in
an upright position on the top of the stone, and went on in these
"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 the morning.
"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
My sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery, was more than twenty years older than
I, and had established a great reputation with herself and the
neighbours 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 by hand.
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
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
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 frame.
"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
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 rubbing myself.
"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 hand?"
"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-bye, had not said it at all. "You'll drive me to the
churchyard betwixt you, one of these days, and oh, 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 plaister - 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 plaister, 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 trousers.
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 observation.
"What's the matter now?" said she, smartly, as she put down her
"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
"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 elth."
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 on.
"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 dead."
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 boot-jack. 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 none before.
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, Joe?"
"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
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
"There was a conwict off last night," said Joe, aloud, "after
sun-set-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 the word.
"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
"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 country.
"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
upstairs 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
ironed 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
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 grey, 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
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 marshes.
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
dykes and banks came bursting at me through the mist, as if they
cried as plainly as could be, "A boy with Somebody-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, "Holloa,
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
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 another man!
And yet this man was dressed in coarse grey, 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 that 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 you."
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,
"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
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 eyes.
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
"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 last night?"
"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 further away, and we were shut
"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
"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 grey 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, boy."
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 going.
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 door-step 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 dust-pan 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 an't," said Mrs.
Joe, "I an'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 parlour 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
mantelshelf, 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
Policemen 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
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 corn-chandler
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 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 style!"
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
"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, "Oh, 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 parlour; 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 table-cloth, 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 pint.
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 favouring 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 "going about."
"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
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
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
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
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 vigour 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 fervour 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 -
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 savoury
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 endeavours; 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 re-awakening
appetite in the Roman nostrils of Mr. Wopsle. I heard Mr. Hubble
remark that "a bit of savoury 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
But, I ran no further 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 butt-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 -
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
"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 honour 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 them?"
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 beat 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
"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 me.
"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 after-noon outside, almost seemed
in my pitying young fancy to have turned pale on their account,
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 together again."
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
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 dykes, 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 asunder!"
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.
"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 falling.
"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 him back!"
The other one still gasped, "He tried - he tried - to - murder me.
Bear - bear witness."
"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
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 dyke 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,
"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 for ever 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
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
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
nought - 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 neighbour happened to want an
extra boy to frighten birds, or pick up stones, or do any such job,
I was favoured 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 twopence 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 both gentlemen.
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
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 fully 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 rest, Jo."
"The rest, eh, Pip?" said Joe, looking at it with a slowly
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
"Astonishing!" said Joe, when I had finished. "You ARE a scholar."
"How do you spell Gargery, Joe?" I asked him, with a modest
"I don't spell it at all," said Joe.
"But supposing you did?"
"It can't be supposed," said Joe. "Tho' I'm oncommon fond of
"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 last, 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
"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 wigour only to be equalled by the wigour with which he
didn't hammer at his anwil. - You're a-listening and understanding,
"'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 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 kept 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 hart."
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 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
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 favour 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 or rebel, don't