"However," said Joe, rising to replenish the fire; "here's the
Dutch-clock a working himself up to being equal to strike Eight of
'em, and she's not come home yet! I hope Uncle Pumblechook's mare
mayn't have set a fore-foot on a piece o' ice, and gone down."
Mrs. Joe made occasional trips with Uncle Pumblechook on
market-days, to assist him in buying such household stuffs and
goods as required a woman's judgment; Uncle Pumblechook being a
bachelor and reposing no confidences in his domestic servant. This
was market-day, and Mrs. Joe was out on one of these expeditions.
Joe made the fire and swept the hearth, and then we went to the
door to listen for the chaise-cart. It was a dry cold night, and
the wind blew keenly, and the frost was white and hard. A man would
die to-night of lying out on the marshes, I thought. And then I
looked at the stars, and considered how awful if would be for a man
to turn his face up to them as he froze to death, and see no help
or pity in all the glittering multitude.
"Here comes the mare," said Joe, "ringing like a peal of bells!"
The sound of her iron shoes upon the hard road was quite musical,
as she came along at a much brisker trot than usual. We got a chair
out, ready for Mrs. Joe's alighting, and stirred up the fire that
they might see a bright window, and took a final survey of the
kitchen that nothing might be out of its place. When we had
completed these preparations, they drove up, wrapped to the eyes.
Mrs. Joe was soon landed, and Uncle Pumblechook was soon down too,
covering the mare with a cloth, and we were soon all in the
kitchen, carrying so much cold air in with us that it seemed to
drive all the heat out of the fire.
"Now," said Mrs. Joe, unwrapping herself with haste and excitement,
and throwing her bonnet back on her shoulders where it hung by the
strings: "if this boy an't grateful this night, he never will be!"
I looked as grateful as any boy possibly could, who was wholly
uninformed why he ought to assume that expression.
"It's only to be hoped," said my sister, "that he won't be
Pomp-eyed. But I have my fears."
"She an't in that line, Mum," said Mr. Pumblechook. "She knows
She? I looked at Joe, making the motion with my lips and eyebrows,
"She?" Joe looked at me, making the motion with his lips and
eyebrows, "She?" My sister catching him in the act, he drew the
back of his hand across his nose with his usual conciliatory air on
such occasions, and looked at her.
"Well?" said my sister, in her snappish way. "What are you staring
at? Is the house a-fire?"
" - Which some individual," Joe politely hinted, "mentioned - she."
"And she is a she, I suppose?" said my sister. "Unless you call
Miss Havisham a he. And I doubt if even you'll go so far as that."
"Miss Havisham, up town?" said Joe.
"Is there any Miss Havisham down town?" returned my sister.
"She wants this boy to go and play there. And of course he's going.
And he had better play there," said my sister, shaking her head at
me as an encouragement to be extremely light and sportive, "or I'll
I had heard of Miss Havisham up town - everybody for miles round,
had heard of Miss Havisham up town - as an immensely rich and grim
lady who lived in a large and dismal house barricaded against
robbers, and who led a life of seclusion.
"Well to be sure!" said Joe, astounded. "I wonder how she come to
"Noodle!" cried my sister. "Who said she knew him?"
" - Which some individual," Joe again politely hinted, "mentioned
that she wanted him to go and play there."
"And couldn't she ask Uncle Pumblechook if he knew of a boy to go
and play there? Isn't it just barely possible that Uncle
Pumblechook may be a tenant of hers, and that he may sometimes - we
won't say quarterly or half-yearly, for that would be requiring too
much of you - but sometimes - go there to pay his rent? And
couldn't she then ask Uncle Pumblechook if he knew of a boy to go
and play there? And couldn't Uncle Pumblechook, being always
considerate and thoughtful for us - though you may not think it,
Joseph," in a tone of the deepest reproach, as if he were the most
callous of nephews, "then mention this boy, standing Prancing here"
- which I solemnly declare I was not doing - "that I have for ever
been a willing slave to?"
"Good again!" cried Uncle Pumblechook.