My father, Pip, he
were given to drink, and when he were overtook with drink, he
hammered away at my mother, most onmerciful. It were a'most the
only hammering he did, indeed, 'xcepting at myself. And he hammered
at me with a wigour only to be equalled by the wigour with which he
didn't hammer at his anwil. - You're a-listening and understanding,
"'Consequence, my mother and me we ran away from my father,
several times; and then my mother she'd go out to work, and she'd
say, "Joe," she'd say, "now, please God, you shall have some
schooling, child," and she'd put me to school. But my father were
that good in his hart that he couldn't abear to be without us. So,
he'd come with a most tremenjous crowd and make such a row at the
doors of the houses where we was, that they used to be obligated to
have no more to do with us and to give us up to him. And then he
took us home and hammered us. Which, you see, Pip," said Joe,
pausing in his meditative raking of the fire, and looking at me,
"were a drawback on my learning."
"Certainly, poor Joe!"
"Though mind you, Pip," said Joe, with a judicial touch or two of
the poker on the top bar, "rendering unto all their doo, and
maintaining equal justice betwixt man and man, my father were that
good in his hart, don't you see?"
I didn't see; but I didn't say so.
"Well!" Joe pursued, "somebody must keep the pot a biling, Pip, or
the pot won't bile, don't you know?"
I saw that, and said so.
"'Consequence, my father didn't make objections to my going to
work; so I went to work to work at my present calling, which were
his too, if he would have followed it, and I worked tolerable hard,
I assure you, Pip. In time I were able to keep him, and I kept him
till he went off in a purple leptic fit. And it were my intentions
to have had put upon his tombstone that Whatsume'er the failings on
his part, Remember reader he were that good in his hart."
Joe recited this couplet with such manifest pride and careful
perspicuity, that I asked him if he had made it himself.
"I made it," said Joe, "my own self. I made it in a moment. It was
like striking out a horseshoe complete, in a single blow. I never
was so much surprised in all my life - couldn't credit my own ed -
to tell you the truth, hardly believed it were my own ed. As I was
saying, Pip, it were my intentions to have had it cut over him; but
poetry costs money, cut it how you will, small or large, and it
were not done. Not to mention bearers, all the money that could be
spared were wanted for my mother. She were in poor elth, and quite
broke. She weren't long of following, poor soul, and her share of
peace come round at last."
Joe's blue eyes turned a little watery; he rubbed, first one of
them, and then the other, in a most uncongenial and uncomfortable
manner, with the round knob on the top of the poker.
"It were but lonesome then," said Joe, "living here alone, and I
got acquainted with your sister. Now, Pip;" Joe looked firmly at
me, as if he knew I was not going to agree with him; "your sister
is a fine figure of a woman."
I could not help looking at the fire, in an obvious state of doubt.
"Whatever family opinions, or whatever the world's opinions, on
that subject may be, Pip, your sister is," Joe tapped the top bar
with the poker after every word following, "a - fine - figure - of
- a - woman!"
I could think of nothing better to say than "I am glad you think
"So am I," returned Joe, catching me up. "I am glad I think so,
Pip. A little redness or a little matter of Bone, here or there,
what does it signify to Me?"
I sagaciously observed, if it didn't signify to him, to whom did it
"Certainly!" assented Joe. "That's it. You're right, old chap! When
I got acquainted with your sister, it were the talk how she was
bringing you up by hand.