"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

better."

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

work him."

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

know Pip!"

"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.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
Classic Authors

All Pages of This Book