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Chapter 7

  • At the time when I stood in the churchyard reading the family tombstones, _ad just enough learning to be able to spell them out. My construction even o_heir simple meaning was not very correct, for I read “wife of the Above” as _omplimentary reference to my father’s exaltation to a better world; and i_ny one of my deceased relations had been referred to as “Below,” I have n_oubt I should have formed the worst opinions of that member of the family.
  • Neither were my notions of the theological positions to which my Catechis_ound me, at all accurate; for, I have a lively remembrance that I supposed m_eclaration that I was to “walk in the same all the days of my life,” laid m_nder an obligation always to go through the village from our house in on_articular direction, and never to vary it by turning down by th_heelwright’s or up by the mill.
  • When I was old enough, I was to be apprenticed to Joe, and until I coul_ssume that dignity I was not to be what Mrs. Joe called “Pompeyed,” or (as _ender it) pampered. Therefore, I was not only odd-boy about the forge, but i_ny neighbor happened to want an extra boy to frighten birds, or pick u_tones, or do any such job, I was favored with the employment. In order, however, that our superior position might not be compromised thereby, a money- box was kept on the kitchen mantel-shelf, in to which it was publicly mad_nown that all my earnings were dropped. I have an impression that they wer_o be contributed eventually towards the liquidation of the National Debt, bu_ 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, wh_sed to go to sleep from six to seven every evening, in the society of yout_ho paid two pence per week each, for the improving opportunity of seeing he_o 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 an_errific manner, and occasionally bumping on the ceiling. There was a fictio_hat Mr. Wopsle “examined” the scholars once a quarter. What he did on thos_ccasions was to turn up his cuffs, stick up his hair, and give us Mar_ntony’s oration over the body of Caesar. This was always followed b_ollins’s Ode on the Passions, wherein I particularly venerated Mr. Wopsle a_evenge 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 wa_n later life, when I fell into the society of the Passions, and compared the_ith Collins and Wopsle, rather to the disadvantage of both gentlemen.
  • Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt, besides keeping this Educational Institution, kept i_he same room—a little general shop. She had no idea what stock she had, o_hat the price of anything in it was; but there was a little greas_emorandum-book kept in a drawer, which served as a Catalogue of Prices, an_y this oracle Biddy arranged all the shop transaction. Biddy was Mr. Wopsle’_reat-aunt’s granddaughter; I confess myself quiet unequal to the working ou_f the problem, what relation she was to Mr. Wopsle. She was an orphan lik_yself; like me, too, had been brought up by hand. She was most noticeable, _hought, in respect of her extremities; for, her hair always wanted brushing, her hands always wanted washing, and her shoes always wanted mending an_ulling up at heel. This description must be received with a week-da_imitation. On Sundays, she went to church elaborated.
  • Much of my unassisted self, and more by the help of Biddy than of Mr. Wopsle’_reat-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 fel_mong those thieves, the nine figures, who seemed every evening to d_omething new to disguise themselves and baffle recognition. But, at last _egan, in a purblind groping way, to read, write, and cipher, on the ver_mallest scale.
  • One night I was sitting in the chimney corner with my slate, expending grea_fforts on the production of a letter to Joe. I think it must have been a ful_ear after our hunt upon the marshes, for it was a long time after, and it wa_inter and a hard frost. With an alphabet on the hearth at my feet fo_eference, 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 J_N THEN WE SHORL B SO GLODD AN WEN i M PRENGTD 2 U JO WOT LARX AN BLEVE ME IN_N 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 writte_ommunication (slate and all) with my own hand, and Joe received it as _iracle of erudition.
  • “I say, Pip, old chap!” cried Joe, opening his blue eyes wide, “what a schola_ou are! An’t you?”
  • “I should like to be,” said I, glancing at the slate as he held it; with _isgiving 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 i_t had been all right. Wishing to embrace the present occasion of finding ou_hether in teaching Joe, I should have to begin quite at the beginning, _aid, “Ah! But read the rest, Jo.”
  • “The rest, eh, Pip?” said Joe, looking at it with a slow, searching eye, “One, two, three. Why, here’s three Js, and three Os, and three J-O, Joes in it, Pip!”
  • I leaned over Joe, and, with the aid of my forefinger read him the whol_etter.
  • “Astonishing!” said Joe, when I had finished. “You are a scholar.”
  • “How do you spell Gargery, Joe?” I asked him, with a modest patronage.
  • “I don’t spell it at all,” said Joe.
  • “But supposing you did?”
  • “It can’t be supposed,” said Joe. “Tho’ I’m uncommon fond of reading, too.”
  • “Are you, Joe?”
  • “On-common. Give me,” said Joe, “a good book, or a good newspaper, and sit m_own afore a good fire, and I ask no better. Lord!” he continued, afte_ubbing his knees a little, “when you do come to a J and a O, and says you, “Here, at last, is a J-O, Joe,” how interesting reading is!”
  • I derived from this, that Joe’s education, like Steam, was yet in its infancy, Pursuing the subject, I inquired,—
  • “Didn’t you ever go to school, Joe, when you were as little as me?”
  • “No, Pip.”
  • “Why didn’t you ever go to school, Joe, when you were as little as me?”
  • “Well, Pip,” said Joe, taking up the poker, and settling himself to his usua_ccupation when he was thoughtful, of slowly raking the fire between the lowe_ars; “I’ll tell you. My father, Pip, he were given to drink, and when he wer_vertook with drink, he hammered away at my mother, most onmerciful. It wer_’most the only hammering he did, indeed, ‘xcepting at myself. And he hammere_t me with a wigor only to be equalled by the wigor with which he didn’_ammer at his anwil.—You’re a listening and understanding, Pip?”
  • “Yes, Joe.”
  • “‘Consequence, my mother and me we ran away from my father several times; an_hen 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 withou_s. So, he’d come with a most tremenjous crowd and make such a row at th_oors of the houses where we was, that they used to be obligated to have n_ore to do with us and to give us up to him. And then he took us home an_ammered us. Which, you see, Pip,” said Joe, pausing in his meditative rakin_f 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 o_he top bar, “rendering unto all their doo, and maintaining equal justic_etwixt 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 po_on’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 wen_o work to work at my present calling, which were his too, if he would hav_ollowed it, and I worked tolerable hard, I assure you, Pip. In time I wer_ble to keep him, and I kep him till he went off in a purple leptic fit. An_t were my intentions to have had put upon his tombstone that, Whatsume’er th_ailings on his part, Remember reader he were that good in his heart.”
  • Joe recited this couplet with such manifest pride and careful perspicuity, that I asked him if he had made it himself.
  • “I made it,” said Joe, “my own self. I made it in a moment. It was lik_triking out a horseshoe complete, in a single blow. I never was so muc_urprised 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 intention_o 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 mone_hat could be spared were wanted for my mother. She were in poor elth, an_uite broke. She weren’t long of following, poor soul, and her share of peac_ome round at last.”
  • Joe’s blue eyes turned a little watery; he rubbed first one of them, and the_he other, in a most uncongenial and uncomfortable manner, with the round kno_n the top of the poker.
  • “It were but lonesome then,” said Joe, “living here alone, and I go_cquainted with your sister. Now, Pip,”—Joe looked firmly at me as if he kne_ 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 subjec_ay be, Pip, your sister is,” Joe tapped the top bar with the poker afte_very word following, “a-fine-figure—of —a—woman!”
  • I could think of nothing better to say than “I am glad you think so, Joe.”
  • “So am I,” returned Joe, catching me up. “I am glad I think so, Pip. A littl_edness or a little matter of Bone, here or there, what does it signify t_e?”
  • I sagaciously observed, if it didn’t signify to him, to whom did it signify?
  • “Certainly!” assented Joe. “That’s it. You’re right, old chap! When I go_cquainted with your sister, it were the talk how she was bringing you up b_and. Very kind of her too, all the folks said, and I said, along with all th_olks. As to you,” Joe pursued with a countenance expressive of seein_omething very nasty indeed, “if you could have been aware how small an_labby and mean you was, dear me, you’d have formed the most contemptibl_pinion of yourself!”
  • Not exactly relishing this, I said, “Never mind me, Joe.”
  • “But I did mind you, Pip,” he returned with tender simplicity. “When I offere_o your sister to keep company, and to be asked in church at such times as sh_as willing and ready to come to the forge, I said to her, ‘And bring the poo_ittle 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: wh_ropped 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 w_re! Now, when you take me in hand in my learning, Pip (and I tell yo_eforehand I am awful dull, most awful dull), Mrs. Joe mustn’t see too much o_hat we’re up to. It must be done, as I may say, on the sly. And why on th_ly? I’ll tell you why, Pip.”
  • He had taken up the poker again; without which, I doubt if he could hav_roceeded in his demonstration.
  • “Your sister is given to government.”
  • “Given to government, Joe?” I was startled, for I had some shadowy idea (and _m afraid I must add, hope) that Joe had divorced her in a favor of the Lord_f the Admiralty, or Treasury.
  • “Given to government,” said Joe. “Which I meantersay the government of you an_yself.”
  • “Oh!”
  • “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 fea_s I might rise. Like a sort or rebel, don’t you see?”
  • I was going to retort with an inquiry, and had got as far as “Why—” when Jo_topped me.
  • “Stay a bit. I know what you’re a going to say, Pip; stay a bit! I don’t den_hat your sister comes the Mo-gul over us, now and again. I don’t deny tha_he do throw us back-falls, and that she do drop down upon us heavy. At suc_imes as when your sister is on the Ram-page, Pip,” Joe sank his voice to _hisper and glanced at the door, “candor compels fur to admit that she is _uster.”
  • Joe pronounced this word, as if it began with at least twelve capital Bs.
  • “Why don’t I rise? That were your observation when I broke it off, Pip?”
  • “Yes, Joe.”
  • “Well,” said Joe, passing the poker into his left hand, that he might feel hi_hisker; and I had no hope of him whenever he took to that placid occupation; “your sister’s a master-mind. A master-mind.”
  • “What’s that?” I asked, in some hope of bringing him to a stand. But Joe wa_eadier with his definition than I had expected, and completely stopped me b_rguing circularly, and answering with a fixed look, “Her.”
  • “And I ain’t a master-mind,” Joe resumed, when he had unfixed his look, an_ot back to his whisker. “And last of all, Pip,—and this I want to say ver_erious to you, old chap,—I see so much in my poor mother, of a woman drudgin_nd slaving and breaking her honest hart and never getting no peace in he_ortal days, that I’m dead afeerd of going wrong in the way of not doin_hat’s right by a woman, and I’d fur rather of the two go wrong the t’othe_ay, and be a little ill-conwenienced myself. I wish it was only me that go_ut out, Pip; I wish there warn’t no Tickler for you, old chap; I wish I coul_ake it all on myself; but this is the up-and-down-and-straight on it, Pip, and I hope you’ll overlook shortcomings.”
  • Young as I was, I believe that I dated a new admiration of Joe from tha_ight. We were equals afterwards, as we had been before; but, afterwards a_uiet times when I sat looking at Joe and thinking about him, I had a ne_ensation of feeling conscious that I was looking up to Joe in my heart.
  • “However,” said Joe, rising to replenish the fire; “here’s the Dutch-clock _orking himself up to being equal to strike Eight of ’em, and she’s not com_ome yet! I hope Uncle Pumblechook’s mare mayn’t have set a forefoot on _iece o’ ice, and gone down.”
  • Mrs. Joe made occasional trips with Uncle Pumblechook on market-days, t_ssist him in buying such household stuffs and goods as required a woman’_udgment; Uncle Pumblechook being a bachelor and reposing no confidences i_is domestic servant. This was market-day, and Mrs. Joe was out on one o_hese expeditions.
  • Joe made the fire and swept the hearth, and then we went to the door to liste_or the chaise-cart. It was a dry cold night, and the wind blew keenly, an_he frost was white and hard. A man would die to-night of lying out on th_arshes, I thought. And then I looked at the stars, and considered how awfu_f would be for a man to turn his face up to them as he froze to death, an_ee no help or pity in all the glittering multitude.
  • “Here comes the mare,” said Joe, “ringing like a peal of bells!”
  • The sound of her iron shoes upon the hard road was quite musical, as she cam_long at a much brisker trot than usual. We got a chair out, ready for Mrs.
  • Joe’s alighting, and stirred up the fire that they might see a bright window, and took a final survey of the kitchen that nothing might be out of its place.
  • When we had completed these preparations, they drove up, wrapped to the eyes.
  • Mrs. Joe was soon landed, and Uncle Pumblechook was soon down too, coverin_he mare with a cloth, and we were soon all in the kitchen, carrying so muc_old air in with us that it seemed to drive all the heat out of the fire.
  • “Now,” said Mrs. Joe, unwrapping herself with haste and excitement, an_hrowing her bonnet back on her shoulders where it hung by the strings, “i_his boy ain’t grateful this night, he never will be!”
  • I looked as grateful as any boy possibly could, who was wholly uninformed wh_e ought to assume that expression.
  • “It’s only to be hoped,” said my sister, “that he won’t be Pompeyed. But _ave my fears.”
  • “She ain’t in that line, Mum,” said Mr. Pumblechook. “She knows better.”
  • She? I looked at Joe, making the motion with my lips and eyebrows, “She?” Jo_ooked at me, making the motion with his lips and eyebrows, “She?” My siste_atching him in the act, he drew the back of his hand across his nose with hi_sual conciliatory air on such occasions, and looked at her.
  • “Well?” said my sister, in her snappish way. “What are you staring at? Is th_ouse afire?”
  • “—Which some individual,” Joe politely hinted, “mentioned—she.”
  • “And she is a she, I suppose?” said my sister. “Unless you call Miss Havisha_ he. And I doubt if even you’ll go so far as that.”
  • “Miss Havisham, up town?” said Joe.
  • “Is there any Miss Havisham down town?” returned my sister.
  • “She wants this boy to go and play there. And of course he’s going. And he ha_etter play there,” said my sister, shaking her head at me as an encouragemen_o be extremely light and sportive, “or I’ll work him.”
  • I had heard of Miss Havisham up town,—everybody for miles round had heard o_iss Havisham up town,—as an immensely rich and grim lady who lived in a larg_nd dismal house barricaded against robbers, and who led a life of seclusion.
  • “Well to be sure!” said Joe, astounded. “I wonder how she come to know Pip!”
  • “Noodle!” cried my sister. “Who said she knew him?”
  • “—Which some individual,” Joe again politely hinted, “mentioned that sh_anted him to go and play there.”
  • “And couldn’t she ask Uncle Pumblechook if he knew of a boy to go and pla_here? Isn’t it just barely possible that Uncle Pumblechook may be a tenant o_ers, and that he may sometimes—we won’t say quarterly or half-yearly, fo_hat would be requiring too much of you—but sometimes—go there to pay hi_ent? And couldn’t she then ask Uncle Pumblechook if he knew of a boy to g_nd play there? And couldn’t Uncle Pumblechook, being always considerate an_houghtful for us—though you may not think it, Joseph,” in a tone of th_eepest reproach, as if he were the most callous of nephews, “then mentio_his boy, standing Prancing here” —which I solemnly declare I was no_oing—“that I have for ever been a willing slave to?”
  • “Good again!” cried Uncle Pumblechook. “Well put! Prettily pointed! Goo_ndeed! Now Joseph, you know the case.”
  • “No, Joseph,” said my sister, still in a reproachful manner, while Jo_pologetically drew the back of his hand across and across his nose, “you d_ot yet—though you may not think it—know the case. You may consider that yo_o, but you do not, Joseph. For you do not know that Uncle Pumblechook, bein_ensible that for anything we can tell, this boy’s fortune may be made by hi_oing to Miss Havisham’s, has offered to take him into town to-night in hi_wn chaise-cart, and to keep him to-night, and to take him with his own hand_o Miss Havisham’s to-morrow morning. And Lor-a-mussy me!” cried my sister, casting off her bonnet in sudden desperation, “here I stand talking to mer_ooncalfs, with Uncle Pumblechook waiting, and the mare catching cold at th_oor, and the boy grimed with crock and dirt from the hair of his head to th_ole of his foot!”
  • With that, she pounced upon me, like an eagle on a lamb, and my face wa_queezed into wooden bowls in sinks, and my head was put under taps of water- butts, and I was soaped, and kneaded, and towelled, and thumped, and harrowed, and rasped, until I really was quite beside myself. (I may here remark that _uppose myself to be better acquainted than any living authority, with th_idgy effect of a wedding-ring, passing unsympathetically over the huma_ountenance.)
  • When my ablutions were completed, I was put into clean linen of the stiffes_haracter, like a young penitent into sackcloth, and was trussed up in m_ightest and fearfullest suit. I was then delivered over to Mr. Pumblechook, who formally received me as if he were the Sheriff, and who let off upon m_he speech that I knew he had been dying to make all along: “Boy, be foreve_rateful to all friends, but especially unto them which brought you up b_and!”
  • “Good-bye, Joe!”
  • “God bless you, Pip, old chap!”
  • I had never parted from him before, and what with my feelings and what wit_oapsuds, I could at first see no stars from the chaise-cart. But the_winkled out one by one, without throwing any light on the questions why o_arth I was going to play at Miss Havisham’s, and what on earth I was expecte_o play at.