When I reached home, my sister was very curious to know all about Mis_avisham’s, and asked a number of questions. And I soon found myself gettin_eavily bumped from behind in the nape of the neck and the small of the back, and having my face ignominiously shoved against the kitchen wall, because _id not answer those questions at sufficient length.
If a dread of not being understood be hidden in the breasts of other youn_eople to anything like the extent to which it used to be hidden i_ine,—which I consider probable, as I have no particular reason to suspec_yself of having been a monstrosity,— it is the key to many reservations. _elt convinced that if I described Miss Havisham’s as my eyes had seen it, _hould not be understood. Not only that, but I felt convinced that Mis_avisham too would not be understood; and although she was perfectl_ncomprehensible to me, I entertained an impression that there would b_omething coarse and treacherous in my dragging her as she really was (to sa_othing of Miss Estella) before the contemplation of Mrs. Joe. Consequently, _aid as little as I could, and had my face shoved against the kitchen wall.
The worst of it was that that bullying old Pumblechook, preyed upon by _evouring curiosity to be informed of all I had seen and heard, came gapin_ver in his chaise-cart at tea-time, to have the details divulged to him. An_he mere sight of the torment, with his fishy eyes and mouth open, his sand_air inquisitively on end, and his waistcoat heaving with windy arithmetic, made me vicious in my reticence.
“Well, boy,” Uncle Pumblechook began, as soon as he was seated in the chair o_onor by the fire. “How did you get on up town?”
I answered, “Pretty well, sir,” and my sister shook her fist at me.
“Pretty well?” Mr. Pumblechook repeated. “Pretty well is no answer. Tell u_hat you mean by pretty well, boy?”
Whitewash on the forehead hardens the brain into a state of obstinacy perhaps.
Anyhow, with whitewash from the wall on my forehead, my obstinacy wa_damantine. I reflected for some time, and then answered as if I ha_iscovered a new idea, “I mean pretty well.”
My sister with an exclamation of impatience was going to fly at me, —I had n_hadow of defence, for Joe was busy in the forge,—when Mr. Pumblechoo_nterposed with “No! Don’t lose your temper. Leave this lad to me, ma’am; leave this lad to me.” Mr. Pumblechook then turned me towards him, as if h_ere going to cut my hair, and said,—
“First(to get our thoughts in order): Forty-three pence?”
I calculated the consequences of replying “Four Hundred Pound,” and findin_hem against me, went as near the answer as I could—which was somewhere abou_ightpence off. Mr. Pumblechook then put me through my pence-table from “twelve pence make one shilling,” up to “forty pence make three an_ourpence,” and then triumphantly demanded, as if he had done for me, “Now!
How much is forty-three pence?” To which I replied, after a long interval o_eflection, “I don’t know.” And I was so aggravated that I almost doubt if _id know.
Mr. Pumblechook worked his head like a screw to screw it out of me, and said, “Is forty-three pence seven and sixpence three fardens, for instance?”
“Yes!” said I. And although my sister instantly boxed my ears, it was highl_ratifying to me to see that the answer spoilt his joke, and brought him to _ead stop.
“Boy! What like is Miss Havisham?” Mr. Pumblechook began again when he ha_ecovered; folding his arms tight on his chest and applying the screw.
“Very tall and dark,” I told him.
“Is she, uncle?” asked my sister.
Mr. Pumblechook winked assent; from which I at once inferred that he had neve_een Miss Havisham, for she was nothing of the kind.
“Good!” said Mr. Pumblechook conceitedly. (“This is the way to have him! W_re beginning to hold our own, I think, Mum?”)
“I am sure, uncle,” returned Mrs. Joe, “I wish you had him always; you know s_ell how to deal with him.”
“Now, boy! What was she a doing of, when you went in today?” asked Mr.
“She was sitting,” I answered, “in a black velvet coach.”
Mr. Pumblechook and Mrs. Joe stared at one another—as they well Might—and bot_epeated, “In a black velvet coach?”
“Yes,” said I. “And Miss Estella—that’s her niece, I think— handed her in cak_nd wine at the coach-window, on a gold plate. And we all had cake and wine o_old plates. And I got up behind the coach to eat mine, because she told m_o.”
“Was anybody else there?” asked Mr. Pumblechook.
“Four dogs,” said I.
“Large or small?”
“Immense,” said I. “And they fought for veal-cutlets out of a silver basket.”
Mr. Pumblechook and Mrs. Joe stared at one another again, in utter amazement.
I was perfectly frantic,—a reckless witness under the torture,—and would hav_old them anything.
“Where was this coach, in the name of gracious?” asked my sister.
“In Miss Havisham’s room.” They stared again. “But there weren’t any horses t_t.” I added this saving clause, in the moment of rejecting four richl_aparisoned coursers which I had had wild thoughts of harnessing.
“Can this be possible, uncle?” asked Mrs. Joe. “What can the boy mean?”
“I’ll tell you, Mum,” said Mr. Pumblechook. “My opinion is, it’s a sedan- chair. She’s flighty, you know,—very flighty,—quite flighty enough to pass he_ays in a sedan-chair.”
“Did you ever see her in it, uncle?” asked Mrs. Joe.
“How could I,” he returned, forced to the admission, “when I never see her i_y life? Never clapped eyes upon her!”
“Goodness, uncle! And yet you have spoken to her?”
“Why, don’t you know,” said Mr. Pumblechook, testily, “that when I have bee_here, I have been took up to the outside of her door, and the door has stoo_jar, and she has spoke to me that way. Don’t say you don’t know that, Mum.
Howsever, the boy went there to play. What did you play at, boy?”
“We played with flags,” I said. (I beg to observe that I think of myself wit_mazement, when I recall the lies I told on this occasion.)
“Flags!” echoed my sister.
“Yes,” said I. “Estella waved a blue flag, and I waved a red one, and Mis_avisham waved one sprinkled all over with little gold stars, out at th_oach-window. And then we all waved our swords and hurrahed.”
“Swords!” repeated my sister. “Where did you get swords from?”
“Out of a cupboard,” said I. “And I saw pistols in it,—and jam,— and pills.
And there was no daylight in the room, but it was all lighted up wit_andles.”
“That’s true, Mum,” said Mr. Pumblechook, with a grave nod. “That’s the stat_f the case, for that much I’ve seen myself.” And then they both stared at me, and I, with an obtrusive show of artlessness on my countenance, stared a_hem, and plaited the right leg of my trousers with my right hand.
If they had asked me any more questions, I should undoubtedly have betraye_yself, for I was even then on the point of mentioning that there was _alloon in the yard, and should have hazarded the statement but for m_nvention being divided between that phenomenon and a bear in the brewery.
They were so much occupied, however, in discussing the marvels I had alread_resented for their consideration, that I escaped. The subject still held the_hen Joe came in from his work to have a cup of tea. To whom my sister, mor_or the relief of her own mind than for the gratification of his, related m_retended experiences.
Now, when I saw Joe open his blue eyes and roll them all round the kitchen i_elpless amazement, I was overtaken by penitence; but only as regarde_im,—not in the least as regarded the other two. Towards Joe, and Joe only, _onsidered myself a young monster, while they sat debating what results woul_ome to me from Miss Havisham’s acquaintance and favor. They had no doubt tha_iss Havisham would “do something” for me; their doubts related to the for_hat something would take. My sister stood out for “property.” Mr. Pumblechoo_as in favor of a handsome premium for binding me apprentice to some gentee_rade,—say, the corn and seed trade, for instance. Joe fell into the deepes_isgrace with both, for offering the bright suggestion that I might only b_resented with one of the dogs who had fought for the veal-cutlets. “If _ool’s head can’t express better opinions than that,” said my sister, “and yo_ave got any work to do, you had better go and do it.” So he went.
After Mr. Pumblechook had driven off, and when my sister was washing up, _tole into the forge to Joe, and remained by him until he had done for th_ight. Then I said, “Before the fire goes out, Joe, I should like to tell yo_omething.”
“Should you, Pip?” said Joe, drawing his shoeing-stool near the forge. “The_ell us. What is it, Pip?”
“Joe,” said I, taking hold of his rolled-up shirt sleeve, and twisting i_etween my finger and thumb, “you remember all that about Miss Havisham’s?”
“Remember?” said Joe. “I believe you! Wonderful!”
“It’s a terrible thing, Joe; it ain’t true.”
“What are you telling of, Pip?” cried Joe, falling back in the greates_mazement. “You don’t mean to say it’s—”
“Yes I do; it’s lies, Joe.”
“But not all of it? Why sure you don’t mean to say, Pip, that there was n_lack welwet co—ch?” For, I stood shaking my head. “But at least there wa_ogs, Pip? Come, Pip,” said Joe, persuasively, “if there warn’t no weal- cutlets, at least there was dogs?”
“A dog?” said Joe. “A puppy? Come?”
“No, Joe, there was nothing at all of the kind.”
As I fixed my eyes hopelessly on Joe, Joe contemplated me in dismay. “Pip, ol_hap! This won’t do, old fellow! I say! Where do you expect to go to?”
“It’s terrible, Joe; ain’t it?”
“Terrible?” cried Joe. “Awful! What possessed you?”
“I don’t know what possessed me, Joe,” I replied, letting his shirt sleeve go, and sitting down in the ashes at his feet, hanging my head; “but I wish yo_adn’t taught me to call Knaves at cards Jacks; and I wish my boots weren’t s_hick nor my hands so coarse.”
And then I told Joe that I felt very miserable, and that I hadn’t been able t_xplain myself to Mrs. Joe and Pumblechook, who were so rude to me, and tha_here had been a beautiful young lady at Miss Havisham’s who was dreadfull_roud, and that she had said I was common, and that I knew I was common, an_hat I wished I was not common, and that the lies had come of it somehow, though I didn’t know how.
This was a case of metaphysics, at least as difficult for Joe to deal with a_or me. But Joe took the case altogether out of the region of metaphysics, an_y that means vanquished it.
“There’s one thing you may be sure of, Pip,” said Joe, after some rumination, “namely, that lies is lies. Howsever they come, they didn’t ought to come, an_hey come from the father of lies, and work round to the same. Don’t you tel_o more of ’em, Pip. That ain’t the way to get out of being common, old chap.
And as to being common, I don’t make it out at all clear. You are oncommon i_ome things. You’re oncommon small. Likewise you’re a oncommon scholar.”
“No, I am ignorant and backward, Joe.”
“Why, see what a letter you wrote last night! Wrote in print even! I’ve see_etters—Ah! and from gentlefolks!—that I’ll swear weren’t wrote in print,” said Joe.
“I have learnt next to nothing, Joe. You think much of me. It’s only that.”
“Well, Pip,” said Joe, “be it so or be it son’t, you must be a common schola_fore you can be a oncommon one, I should hope! The king upon his throne, wit_is crown upon his ed, can’t sit and write his acts of Parliament in print, without having begun, when he were a unpromoted Prince, with th_lphabet.—Ah!” added Joe, with a shake of the head that was full of meaning, “and begun at A. too, and worked his way to Z. And I know what that is to do, though I can’t say I’ve exactly done it.”
There was some hope in this piece of wisdom, and it rather encouraged me.
“Whether common ones as to callings and earnings,” pursued Joe, reflectively, “mightn’t be the better of continuing for to keep company with common ones, instead of going out to play with oncommon ones,—which reminds me to hope tha_here were a flag, perhaps?”
“(I’m sorry there weren’t a flag, Pip). Whether that might be or mightn’t be, is a thing as can’t be looked into now, without putting your sister on th_ampage; and that’s a thing not to be thought of as being done intentional.
Lookee here, Pip, at what is said to you by a true friend. Which this to yo_he true friend say. If you can’t get to be oncommon through going straight, you’ll never get to do it through going crooked. So don’t tell no more on ’em, Pip, and live well and die happy.”
“You are not angry with me, Joe?”
“No, old chap. But bearing in mind that them were which I meantersay of _tunning and outdacious sort,—alluding to them which bordered on weal-cutlet_nd dog-fighting,—a sincere well-wisher would adwise, Pip, their being droppe_nto your meditations, when you go up stairs to bed. That’s all, old chap, an_on’t never do it no more.”
When I got up to my little room and said my prayers, I did not forget Joe’_ecommendation, and yet my young mind was in that disturbed and unthankfu_tate, that I thought long after I laid me down, how common Estella woul_onsider Joe, a mere blacksmith; how thick his boots, and how coarse hi_ands. I thought how Joe and my sister were then sitting in the kitchen, an_ow I had come up to bed from the kitchen, and how Miss Havisham and Estell_ever sat in a kitchen, but were far above the level of such common doings. _ell asleep recalling what I “used to do” when I was at Miss Havisham’s; a_hough I had been there weeks or months, instead of hours; and as though i_ere quite an old subject of remembrance, instead of one that had arisen onl_hat day.
That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But it is th_ame with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think ho_ifferent its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for _oment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that woul_ever have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorabl_ay.