Pumblechook made out, after carefully surveying the premises, that

he had first got upon the roof of the forge, and had then got upon

the roof of the house, and had then let himself down the kitchen

chimney by a rope made of his bedding cut into strips; and as Mr.

Pumblechook was very positive and drove his own chaise-cart - over

everybody - it was agreed that it must be so. Mr. Wopsle, indeed,

wildly cried out "No!" with the feeble malice of a tired man; but,

as he had no theory, and no coat on, he was unanimously set at

nought - not to mention his smoking hard behind, as he stood with

his back to the kitchen fire to draw the damp out: which was not

calculated to inspire confidence.

This was all I heard that night before my sister clutched me, as a

slumberous offence to the company's eyesight, and assisted me up to

bed with such a strong hand that I seemed to have fifty boots on,

and to be dangling them all against the edges of the stairs. My

state of mind, as I have described it, began before I was up in the

morning, and lasted long after the subject had died out, and had

ceased to be mentioned saving on exceptional occasions.

Chapter 7

At the time when I stood in the churchyard, reading the family

tombstones, I had just enough learning to be able to spell them

out. My construction even of their simple meaning was not very

correct, for I read "wife of the Above" as a complimentary

reference to my father's exaltation to a better world; and if any

one of my deceased relations had been referred to as "Below," I

have no doubt I should have formed the worst opinions of that

member of the family. Neither, were my notions of the theological

positions to which my Catechism bound me, at all accurate; for, I

have a lively remembrance that I supposed my declaration that I was

to "walk in the same all the days of my life," laid me under an

obligation always to go through the village from our house in one

particular direction, and never to vary it by turning down by the

wheelwright's or up by the mill.

When I was old enough, I was to be apprenticed to Joe, and until I

could assume that dignity I was not to be what Mrs. Joe called

"Pompeyed," or (as I render it) pampered. Therefore, I was not only

odd-boy about the forge, but if any neighbour happened to want an

extra boy to frighten birds, or pick up stones, or do any such job,

I was favoured with the employment. In order, however, that our

superior position might not be compromised thereby, a money-box was

kept on the kitchen mantel-shelf, in to which it was publicly made

known that all my earnings were dropped. I have an impression that

they were to be contributed eventually towards the liquidation of

the National Debt, but I know I had no hope of any personal

participation in the treasure.

Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt kept an evening school in the village; that

is to say, she was a ridiculous old woman of limited means and

unlimited infirmity, who used to go to sleep from six to seven

every evening, in the society of youth who paid twopence per week

each, for the improving opportunity of seeing her do it. She rented

a small cottage, and Mr. Wopsle had the room up-stairs, where we

students used to overhear him reading aloud in a most dignified and

terrific manner, and occasionally bumping on the ceiling. There was

a fiction that Mr. Wopsle "examined" the scholars, once a quarter.

What he did on those occasions was to turn up his cuffs, stick up

his hair, and give us Mark Antony's oration over the body of

Caesar. This was always followed by Collins's Ode on the Passions,

wherein I particularly venerated Mr. Wopsle as Revenge, throwing his

blood-stained sword in thunder down, and taking the War-denouncing

trumpet with a withering look. It was not with me then, as it was

in later life, when I fell into the society of the Passions, and

compared them with Collins and Wopsle, rather to the disadvantage

of both gentlemen.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
Classic Authors

All Pages of This Book