And

she's out now, making it a baker's dozen."

"Is she?"

"Yes, Pip," said Joe; "and what's worse, she's got Tickler with

her."

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

betwixt you."

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.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
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