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Chapter 10

  • The felicitous idea occurred to me a morning or two later when I woke, tha_he best step I could take towards making myself uncommon was to get out o_iddy everything she knew. In pursuance of this luminous conception _entioned to Biddy when I went to Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt’s at night, that _ad a particular reason for wishing to get on in life, and that I should fee_ery much obliged to her if she would impart all her learning to me. Biddy, who was the most obliging of girls, immediately said she would, and indee_egan to carry out her promise within five minutes.
  • The Educational scheme or Course established by Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt may b_esolved into the following synopsis. The pupils ate apples and put straw_own one another’s backs, until Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt collected he_nergies, and made an indiscriminate totter at them with a birch-rod. Afte_eceiving the charge with every mark of derision, the pupils formed in lin_nd buzzingly passed a ragged book from hand to hand. The book had an alphabe_n it, some figures and tables, and a little spelling,— that is to say, it ha_ad once. As soon as this volume began to circulate, Mr. Wopsle’s great-aun_ell into a state of coma, arising either from sleep or a rheumatic paroxysm.
  • The pupils then entered among themselves upon a competitive examination on th_ubject of Boots, with the view of ascertaining who could tread the hardes_pon whose toes. This mental exercise lasted until Biddy made a rush at the_nd distributed three defaced Bibles (shaped as if they had been unskilfull_ut off the chump end of something), more illegibly printed at the best tha_ny curiosities of literature I have since met with, speckled all over wit_ronmould, and having various specimens of the insect world smashed betwee_heir leaves. This part of the Course was usually lightened by several singl_ombats between Biddy and refractory students. When the fights were over, Biddy gave out the number of a page, and then we all read aloud what w_ould,—or what we couldn’t—in a frightful chorus; Biddy leading with a high, shrill, monotonous voice, and none of us having the least notion of, o_everence for, what we were reading about. When this horrible din had lasted _ertain time, it mechanically awoke Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt, who staggered a_ boy fortuitously, and pulled his ears. This was understood to terminate th_ourse for the evening, and we emerged into the air with shrieks o_ntellectual victory. It is fair to remark that there was no prohibitio_gainst any pupil’s entertaining himself with a slate or even with the ink (when there was any), but that it was not easy to pursue that branch of stud_n the winter season, on account of the little general shop in which th_lasses were holden—and which was also Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt’s sitting-roo_nd bedchamber—being but faintly illuminated through the agency of one low- spirited dip-candle and no snuffers.
  • It appeared to me that it would take time to become uncommon, under thes_ircumstances: nevertheless, I resolved to try it, and that very evening Bidd_ntered on our special agreement, by imparting some information from he_ittle catalogue of Prices, under the head of moist sugar, and lending me, t_opy at home, a large old English D which she had imitated from the heading o_ome newspaper, and which I supposed, until she told me what it was, to be _esign for a buckle.
  • Of course there was a public-house in the village, and of course Joe like_ometimes to smoke his pipe there. I had received strict orders from my siste_o call for him at the Three Jolly Bargemen, that evening, on my way fro_chool, and bring him home at my peril. To the Three Jolly Bargemen, therefore, I directed my steps.
  • There was a bar at the Jolly Bargemen, with some alarmingly long chalk score_n it on the wall at the side of the door, which seemed to me to be never pai_ff. They had been there ever since I could remember, and had grown more tha_ had. But there was a quantity of chalk about our country, and perhaps th_eople neglected no opportunity of turning it to account.
  • It being Saturday night, I found the landlord looking rather grimly at thes_ecords; but as my business was with Joe and not with him, I merely wished hi_ood evening, and passed into the common room at the end of the passage, wher_here was a bright large kitchen fire, and where Joe was smoking his pipe i_ompany with Mr. Wopsle and a stranger. Joe greeted me as usual with “Halloa, Pip, old chap!” and the moment he said that, the stranger turned his head an_ooked at me.
  • He was a secret-looking man whom I had never seen before. His head was all o_ne side, and one of his eyes was half shut up, as if he were taking aim a_omething with an invisible gun. He had a pipe in his mouth, and he took i_ut, and, after slowly blowing all his smoke away and looking hard at me al_he time, nodded. So, I nodded, and then he nodded again, and made room on th_ettle beside him that I might sit down there.
  • But as I was used to sit beside Joe whenever I entered that place of resort, _aid “No, thank you, sir,” and fell into the space Joe made for me on th_pposite settle. The strange man, after glancing at Joe, and seeing that hi_ttention was otherwise engaged, nodded to me again when I had taken my seat, and then rubbed his leg—in a very odd way, as it struck me.
  • “You was saying,” said the strange man, turning to Joe, “that you was _lacksmith.”
  • “Yes. I said it, you know,” said Joe.
  • “What’ll you drink, Mr.—? You didn’t mention your name, by the bye.”
  • Joe mentioned it now, and the strange man called him by it. “What’ll yo_rink, Mr. Gargery? At my expense? To top up with?”
  • “Well,” said Joe, “to tell you the truth, I ain’t much in the habit o_rinking at anybody’s expense but my own.”
  • “Habit? No,” returned the stranger, “but once and away, and on a Saturda_ight too. Come! Put a name to it, Mr. Gargery.”
  • “I wouldn’t wish to be stiff company,” said Joe. “Rum.”
  • “Rum,” repeated the stranger. “And will the other gentleman originate _entiment.”
  • “Rum,” said Mr. Wopsle.
  • “Three Rums!” cried the stranger, calling to the landlord. “Glasses round!”
  • “This other gentleman,” observed Joe, by way of introducing Mr. Wopsle, “is _entleman that you would like to hear give it out. Our clerk at church.”
  • “Aha!” said the stranger, quickly, and cocking his eye at me. “The lonel_hurch, right out on the marshes, with graves round it!”
  • “That’s it,” said Joe.
  • The stranger, with a comfortable kind of grunt over his pipe, put his legs u_n the settle that he had to himself. He wore a flapping broad-brimme_raveller’s hat, and under it a handkerchief tied over his head in the manne_f a cap: so that he showed no hair. As he looked at the fire, I thought I sa_ cunning expression, followed by a half-laugh, come into his face.
  • “I am not acquainted with this country, gentlemen, but it seems a solitar_ountry towards the river.”
  • “Most marshes is solitary,” said Joe.
  • “No doubt, no doubt. Do you find any gypsies, now, or tramps, or vagrants o_ny sort, out there?”
  • “No,” said Joe; “none but a runaway convict now and then. And we don’t fin_hem, easy. Eh, Mr. Wopsle?”
  • Mr. Wopsle, with a majestic remembrance of old discomfiture, assented; but no_armly.
  • “Seems you have been out after such?” asked the stranger.
  • “Once,” returned Joe. “Not that we wanted to take them, you understand; w_ent out as lookers on; me, and Mr. Wopsle, and Pip. Didn’t us, Pip?”
  • “Yes, Joe.”
  • The stranger looked at me again,—still cocking his eye, as if he wer_xpressly taking aim at me with his invisible gun,—and said, “He’s a likel_oung parcel of bones that. What is it you call him?”
  • “Pip,” said Joe.
  • “Christened Pip?”
  • “No, not christened Pip.”
  • “Surname Pip?”
  • “No,” said Joe, “it’s a kind of family name what he gave himself when _nfant, and is called by.”
  • “Son of yours?”
  • “Well,” said Joe, meditatively, not, of course, that it could be in anywis_ecessary to consider about it, but because it was the way at the Joll_argemen to seem to consider deeply about everything that was discussed ove_ipes,—“well—no. No, he ain’t.”
  • “Nevvy?” said the strange man.
  • “Well,” said Joe, with the same appearance of profound cogitation, “he i_ot—no, not to deceive you, he is not—my nevvy.”
  • “What the Blue Blazes is he?” asked the stranger. Which appeared to me to b_n inquiry of unnecessary strength.
  • Mr. Wopsle struck in upon that; as one who knew all about relationships, having professional occasion to bear in mind what female relations a man migh_ot marry; and expounded the ties between me and Joe. Having his hand in, Mr.
  • Wopsle finished off with a most terrifically snarling passage from Richard th_hird, and seemed to think he had done quite enough to account for it when h_dded, “—as the poet says.”
  • And here I may remark that when Mr. Wopsle referred to me, he considered it _ecessary part of such reference to rumple my hair and poke it into my eyes. _annot conceive why everybody of his standing who visited at our house shoul_lways have put me through the same inflammatory process under simila_ircumstances. Yet I do not call to mind that I was ever in my earlier yout_he subject of remark in our social family circle, but some large-hande_erson took some such ophthalmic steps to patronize me.
  • All this while, the strange man looked at nobody but me, and looked at me a_f he were determined to have a shot at me at last, and bring me down. But h_aid nothing after offering his Blue Blazes observation, until the glasses o_um and water were brought; and then he made his shot, and a mos_xtraordinary shot it was.
  • It was not a verbal remark, but a proceeding in dumb-show, and was pointedl_ddressed to me. He stirred his rum and water pointedly at me, and he taste_is rum and water pointedly at me. And he stirred it and he tasted it; no_ith a spoon that was brought to him, but with a file.
  • He did this so that nobody but I saw the file; and when he had done it h_iped the file and put it in a breast-pocket. I knew it to be Joe’s file, an_ knew that he knew my convict, the moment I saw the instrument. I sat gazin_t him, spell-bound. But he now reclined on his settle, taking very littl_otice of me, and talking principally about turnips.
  • There was a delicious sense of cleaning-up and making a quiet pause befor_oing on in life afresh, in our village on Saturday nights, which stimulate_oe to dare to stay out half an hour longer on Saturdays than at other times.
  • The half-hour and the rum and water running out together, Joe got up to go, and took me by the hand.
  • “Stop half a moment, Mr. Gargery,” said the strange man. “I think I’ve got _right new shilling somewhere in my pocket, and if I have, the boy shall hav_t.”
  • He looked it out from a handful of small change, folded it in some crumple_aper, and gave it to me. “Yours!” said he. “Mind! Your own.”
  • I thanked him, staring at him far beyond the bounds of good manners, an_olding tight to Joe. He gave Joe good-night, and he gave Mr. Wopsle good- night (who went out with us), and he gave me only a look with his aimin_ye,—no, not a look, for he shut it up, but wonders may be done with an eye b_iding it.
  • On the way home, if I had been in a humor for talking, the talk must have bee_ll on my side, for Mr. Wopsle parted from us at the door of the Joll_argemen, and Joe went all the way home with his mouth wide open, to rinse th_um out with as much air as possible. But I was in a manner stupefied by thi_urning up of my old misdeed and old acquaintance, and could think of nothin_lse.
  • My sister was not in a very bad temper when we presented ourselves in th_itchen, and Joe was encouraged by that unusual circumstance to tell her abou_he bright shilling. “A bad un, I’ll be bound,” said Mrs. Joe triumphantly, “or he wouldn’t have given it to the boy! Let’s look at it.”
  • I took it out of the paper, and it proved to be a good one. “But what’s this?” said Mrs. Joe, throwing down the shilling and catching up the paper. “Two One- Pound notes?”
  • Nothing less than two fat sweltering one-pound notes that seemed to have bee_n terms of the warmest intimacy with all the cattle- markets in the county.
  • Joe caught up his hat again, and ran with them to the Jolly Bargemen t_estore them to their owner. While he was gone, I sat down on my usual stoo_nd looked vacantly at my sister, feeling pretty sure that the man would no_e there.
  • Presently, Joe came back, saying that the man was gone, but that he, Joe, ha_eft word at the Three Jolly Bargemen concerning the notes. Then my siste_ealed them up in a piece of paper, and put them under some dried rose-leave_n an ornamental teapot on the top of a press in the state parlor. There the_emained, a nightmare to me, many and many a night and day.
  • I had sadly broken sleep when I got to bed, through thinking of the strang_an taking aim at me with his invisible gun, and of the guiltily coarse an_ommon thing it was, to be on secret terms of conspiracy with convicts,—_eature in my low career that I had previously forgotten. I was haunted by th_ile too. A dread possessed me that when I least expected it, the file woul_eappear. I coaxed myself to sleep by thinking of Miss Havisham’s, nex_ednesday; and in my sleep I saw the file coming at me out of a door, withou_eeing who held it, and I screamed myself awake.