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.