Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt, besides keeping this Educational

Institution, kept - in the same room - a little general shop. She

had no idea what stock she had, or what the price of anything in it

was; but there was a little greasy memorandum-book kept in a

drawer, which served as a Catalogue of Prices, and by this oracle

Biddy arranged all the shop transaction. Biddy was Mr. Wopsle's

great-aunt's granddaughter; I confess myself quiet unequal to the

working out of the problem, what relation she was to Mr. Wopsle. She

was an orphan like myself; like me, too, had been brought up by

hand. She was most noticeable, I thought, in respect of her

extremities; for, her hair always wanted brushing, her hands always

wanted washing, and her shoes always wanted mending and pulling up

at heel. This description must be received with a week-day

limitation. On Sundays, she went to church elaborated.

Much of my unassisted self, and more by the help of Biddy than of

Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt, I struggled through the alphabet as if it

had been a bramble-bush; getting considerably worried and scratched

by every letter. After that, I fell among those thieves, the nine

figures, who seemed every evening to do something new to disguise

themselves and baffle recognition. But, at last I began, in a

purblind groping way, to read, write, and cipher, on the very

smallest scale.

One night, I was sitting in the chimney-corner with my slate,

expending great efforts on the production of a letter to Joe. I

think it must have been a fully year after our hunt upon the

marshes, for it was a long time after, and it was winter and a hard

frost. With an alphabet on the hearth at my feet for reference, I

contrived in an hour or two to print and smear this epistle:

"MI DEER JO i OPE U R KR WITE WELL i OPE i SHAL SON B HABELL 4 2

TEEDGE U JO AN THEN WE SHORL B SO GLODD AN WEN i M PRENGTD 2 U JO

WOT LARX AN BLEVE ME INF XN PIP."

There was no indispensable necessity for my communicating with Joe

by letter, inasmuch as he sat beside me and we were alone. But, I

delivered this written communication (slate and all) with my own

hand, and Joe received it as a miracle of erudition.

"I say, Pip, old chap!" cried Joe, opening his blue eyes wide,

"what a scholar you are! An't you?"

"I should like to be," said I, glancing at the slate as he held it:

with a misgiving that the writing was rather hilly.

"Why, here's a J," said Joe, "and a O equal to anythink! Here's a J

and a O, Pip, and a J-O, Joe."

I had never heard Joe read aloud to any greater extent than this

monosyllable, and I had observed at church last Sunday when I

accidentally held our Prayer-Book upside down, that it seemed to

suit his convenience quite as well as if it had been all right.

Wishing to embrace the present occasion of finding out whether in

teaching Joe, I should have to begin quite at the beginning, I

said, "Ah! But read the rest, Jo."

"The rest, eh, Pip?" said Joe, looking at it with a slowly

searching eye, "One, two, three. Why, here's three Js, and three

Os, and three J-O, Joes in it, Pip!"

I leaned over Joe, and, with the aid of my forefinger, read him the

whole letter.

"Astonishing!" said Joe, when I had finished. "You ARE a scholar."

"How do you spell Gargery, Joe?" I asked him, with a modest

patronage.

"I don't spell it at all," said Joe.

"But supposing you did?"

"It can't be supposed," said Joe. "Tho' I'm oncommon fond of

reading, too."

"Are you, Joe?"

"On-common. Give me," said Joe, "a good book, or a good newspaper,

and sit me down afore a good fire, and I ask no better. Lord!" he

continued, after rubbing his knees a little, "when you do come to a

J and a O, and says you, "Here, at last, is a J-O, Joe," how

interesting reading is!"

I derived from this last, that Joe's education, like Steam, was yet

in its infancy, Pursuing the subject, I inquired:

"Didn't you ever go to school, Joe, when you were as little as me?"

"No, Pip."

"Why didn't you ever go to school, Joe, when you were as little as

me?"

"Well, Pip," said Joe, taking up the poker, and settling himself to

his usual occupation when he was thoughtful, of slowly raking the

fire between the lower bars: "I'll tell you.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
Classic Authors

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