Presently we

saw other torches kindled at some distance behind us, and others on

the marshes on the opposite bank of the river. "All right," said

the sergeant. "March."

We had not gone far when three cannon were fired ahead of us with a

sound that seemed to burst something inside my ear. "You are

expected on board," said the sergeant to my convict; "they know you

are coming. Don't straggle, my man. Close up here."

The two were kept apart, and each walked surrounded by a separate

guard. I had hold of Joe's hand now, and Joe carried one of the

torches. Mr. Wopsle had been for going back, but Joe was resolved to

see it out, so we went on with the party. There was a reasonably

good path now, mostly on the edge of the river, with a divergence

here and there where a dyke came, with a miniature windmill on it

and a muddy sluice-gate. When I looked round, I could see the other

lights coming in after us. The torches we carried, dropped great

blotches of fire upon the track, and I could see those, too, lying

smoking and flaring. I could see nothing else but black darkness.

Our lights warmed the air about us with their pitchy blaze, and the

two prisoners seemed rather to like that, as they limped along in

the midst of the muskets. We could not go fast, because of their

lameness; and they were so spent, that two or three times we had to

halt while they rested.

After an hour or so of this travelling, we came to a rough wooden

hut and a landing-place. There was a guard in the hut, and they

challenged, and the sergeant answered. Then, we went into the hut

where there was a smell of tobacco and whitewash, and a bright

fire, and a lamp, and a stand of muskets, and a drum, and a low

wooden bedstead, like an overgrown mangle without the machinery,

capable of holding about a dozen soldiers all at once. Three or

four soldiers who lay upon it in their great-coats, were not much

interested in us, but just lifted their heads and took a sleepy

stare, and then lay down again. The sergeant made some kind of

report, and some entry in a book, and then the convict whom I call

the other convict was drafted off with his guard, to go on board


My convict never looked at me, except that once. While we stood in

the hut, he stood before the fire looking thoughtfully at it, or

putting up his feet by turns upon the hob, and looking thoughtfully

at them as if he pitied them for their recent adventures. Suddenly,

he turned to the sergeant, and remarked:

"I wish to say something respecting this escape. It may prevent

some persons laying under suspicion alonger me."

"You can say what you like," returned the sergeant, standing coolly

looking at him with his arms folded, "but you have no call to say

it here. You'll have opportunity enough to say about it, and hear

about it, before it's done with, you know."

"I know, but this is another pint, a separate matter. A man can't

starve; at least I can't. I took some wittles, up at the willage

over yonder - where the church stands a'most out on the marshes."

"You mean stole," said the sergeant.

"And I'll tell you where from. From the blacksmith's."

"Halloa!" said the sergeant, staring at Joe.

"Halloa, Pip!" said Joe, staring at me.

"It was some broken wittles - that's what it was - and a dram of

liquor, and a pie."

"Have you happened to miss such an article as a pie, blacksmith?"

asked the sergeant, confidentially.

"My wife did, at the very moment when you came in. Don't you know,


"So," said my convict, turning his eyes on Joe in a moody manner,

and without the least glance at me; "so you're the blacksmith, are

you? Than I'm sorry to say, I've eat your pie."

"God knows you're welcome to it - so far as it was ever mine,"

returned Joe, with a saving remembrance of Mrs. Joe. "We don't know

what you have done, but we wouldn't have you starved to death for

it, poor miserable fellow-creatur.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
Classic Authors

All Pages of This Book