Very kind of her too, all the folks said,

and I said, along with all the folks. As to you," Joe pursued with

a countenance expressive of seeing something very nasty indeed: "if

you could have been aware how small and flabby and mean you was,

dear me, you'd have formed the most contemptible opinion of

yourself!"

Not exactly relishing this, I said, "Never mind me, Joe."

"But I did mind you, Pip," he returned with tender simplicity.

"When I offered to your sister to keep company, and to be asked in

church at such times as she was willing and ready to come to the

forge, I said to her, 'And bring the poor little child. God bless

the poor little child,' I said to your sister, 'there's room for

him at the forge!'"

I broke out crying and begging pardon, and hugged Joe round the

neck: who dropped the poker to hug me, and to say, "Ever the best

of friends; an't us, Pip? Don't cry, old chap!"

When this little interruption was over, Joe resumed:

"Well, you see, Pip, and here we are! That's about where it lights;

here we are! Now, when you take me in hand in my learning, Pip (and

I tell you beforehand I am awful dull, most awful dull), Mrs. Joe

mustn't see too much of what we're up to. It must be done, as I may

say, on the sly. And why on the sly? I'll tell you why, Pip."

He had taken up the poker again; without which, I doubt if he could

have proceeded in his demonstration.

"Your sister is given to government."

"Given to government, Joe?" I was startled, for I had some shadowy

idea (and I am afraid I must add, hope) that Joe had divorced her

in a favour of the Lords of the Admiralty, or Treasury.

"Given to government," said Joe. "Which I meantersay the government

of you and myself."

"Oh!"

"And she an't over partial to having scholars on the premises," Joe

continued, "and in partickler would not be over partial to my being

a scholar, for fear as I might rise. Like a sort or rebel, don't

you see?"

I was going to retort with an inquiry, and had got as far as

"Why--" when Joe stopped me.

"Stay a bit. I know what you're a-going to say, Pip; stay a bit! I

don't deny that your sister comes the Mo-gul over us, now and

again. I don't deny that she do throw us back-falls, and that she

do drop down upon us heavy. At such times as when your sister is on

the Ram-page, Pip," Joe sank his voice to a whisper and glanced at

the door, "candour compels fur to admit that she is a Buster."

Joe pronounced this word, as if it began with at least twelve

capital Bs.

"Why don't I rise? That were your observation when I broke it off,

Pip?"

"Yes, Joe."

"Well," said Joe, passing the poker into his left hand, that he

might feel his whisker; and I had no hope of him whenever he took

to that placid occupation; "your sister's a master-mind. A

master-mind."

"What's that?" I asked, in some hope of bringing him to a stand.

But, Joe was readier with his definition than I had expected, and

completely stopped me by arguing circularly, and answering with a

fixed look, "Her."

"And I an't a master-mind," Joe resumed, when he had unfixed his

look, and got back to his whisker. "And last of all, Pip - and this

I want to say very serious to you, old chap - I see so much in my

poor mother, of a woman drudging and slaving and breaking her

honest hart and never getting no peace in her mortal days, that I'm

dead afeerd of going wrong in the way of not doing what's right by

a woman, and I'd fur rather of the two go wrong the t'other way,

and be a little ill-conwenienced myself. I wish it was only me that

got put out, Pip; I wish there warn't no Tickler for you, old chap;

I wish I could take it all on myself; but this is the

up-and-down-and-straight on it, Pip, and I hope you'll overlook

shortcomings."

Young as I was, I believe that I dated a new admiration of Joe from

that night. We were equals afterwards, as we had been before; but,

afterwards at quiet times when I sat looking at Joe and thinking

about him, I had a new sensation of feeling conscious that I was

looking up to Joe in my heart.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
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