As I watched them while they all stood clustering about the forge,

enjoying themselves so much, I thought what terrible good sauce for

a dinner my fugitive friend on the marshes was. They had not

enjoyed themselves a quarter so much, before the entertainment was

brightened with the excitement he furnished. And now, when they

were all in lively anticipation of "the two villains" being taken,

and when the bellows seemed to roar for the fugitives, the fire to

flare for them, the smoke to hurry away in pursuit of them, Joe to

hammer and clink for them, and all the murky shadows on the wall to

shake at them in menace as the blaze rose and sank and the red-hot

sparks dropped and died, the pale after-noon outside, almost seemed

in my pitying young fancy to have turned pale on their account,

poor wretches.

At last, Joe's job was done, and the ringing and roaring stopped.

As Joe got on his coat, he mustered courage to propose that some of

us should go down with the soldiers and see what came of the hunt.

Mr. Pumblechook and Mr. Hubble declined, on the plea of a pipe and

ladies' society; but Mr. Wopsle said he would go, if Joe would. Joe

said he was agreeable, and would take me, if Mrs. Joe approved. We

never should have got leave to go, I am sure, but for Mrs. Joe's

curiosity to know all about it and how it ended. As it was, she

merely stipulated, "If you bring the boy back with his head blown

to bits by a musket, don't look to me to put it together again."

The sergeant took a polite leave of the ladies, and parted from Mr.

Pumblechook as from a comrade; though I doubt if he were quite as

fully sensible of that gentleman's merits under arid conditions, as

when something moist was going. His men resumed their muskets and

fell in. Mr. Wopsle, Joe, and I, received strict charge to keep in

the rear, and to speak no word after we reached the marshes. When

we were all out in the raw air and were steadily moving towards our

business, I treasonably whispered to Joe, "I hope, Joe, we shan't

find them." and Joe whispered to me, "I'd give a shilling if they

had cut and run, Pip."

We were joined by no stragglers from the village, for the weather

was cold and threatening, the way dreary, the footing bad, darkness

coming on, and the people had good fires in-doors and were keeping

the day. A few faces hurried to glowing windows and looked after

us, but none came out. We passed the finger-post, and held straight

on to the churchyard. There, we were stopped a few minutes by a

signal from the sergeant's hand, while two or three of his men

dispersed themselves among the graves, and also examined the porch.

They came in again without finding anything, and then we struck out

on the open marshes, through the gate at the side of the

churchyard. A bitter sleet came rattling against us here on the

east wind, and Joe took me on his back.

Now that we were out upon the dismal wilderness where they little

thought I had been within eight or nine hours and had seen both men

hiding, I considered for the first time, with great dread, if we

should come upon them, would my particular convict suppose that it

was I who had brought the soldiers there? He had asked me if I was

a deceiving imp, and he had said I should be a fierce young hound

if I joined the hunt against him. Would he believe that I was both

imp and hound in treacherous earnest, and had betrayed him?

It was of no use asking myself this question now. There I was, on

Joe's back, and there was Joe beneath me, charging at the ditches

like a hunter, and stimulating Mr. Wopsle not to tumble on his Roman

nose, and to keep up with us. The soldiers were in front of us,

extending into a pretty wide line with an interval between man and

man. We were taking the course I had begun with, and from which I

had diverged in the mist. Either the mist was not out again yet, or

the wind had dispelled it.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
Classic Authors

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