Mr. Pumblechook and I breakfasted at eight o'clock in the parlour

behind the shop, while the shopman took his mug of tea and hunch of

bread-and-butter on a sack of peas in the front premises. I

considered Mr. Pumblechook wretched company. Besides being possessed

by my sister's idea that a mortifying and penitential character

ought to be imparted to my diet - besides giving me as much crumb

as possible in combination with as little butter, and putting such

a quantity of warm water into my milk that it would have been more

candid to have left the milk out altogether - his conversation

consisted of nothing but arithmetic. On my politely bidding him

Good morning, he said, pompously, "Seven times nine, boy?" And how

should I be able to answer, dodged in that way, in a strange place,

on an empty stomach! I was hungry, but before I had swallowed a

morsel, he began a running sum that lasted all through the

breakfast. "Seven?" "And four?" "And eight?" "And six?" "And two?"

"And ten?" And so on. And after each figure was disposed of, it was

as much as I could do to get a bite or a sup, before the next came;

while he sat at his ease guessing nothing, and eating bacon and hot

roll, in (if I may be allowed the expression) a gorging and

gormandising manner.

For such reasons I was very glad when ten o'clock came and we

started for Miss Havisham's; though I was not at all at my ease

regarding the manner in which I should acquit myself under that

lady's roof. Within a quarter of an hour we came to Miss Havisham's

house, which was of old brick, and dismal, and had a great many

iron bars to it. Some of the windows had been walled up; of those

that remained, all the lower were rustily barred. There was a

court-yard in front, and that was barred; so, we had to wait, after

ringing the bell, until some one should come to open it. While we

waited at the gate, I peeped in (even then Mr. Pumblechook said,

"And fourteen?" but I pretended not to hear him), and saw that at

the side of the house there was a large brewery. No brewing was going

on in it, and none seemed to have gone on for a long long time.

A window was raised, and a clear voice demanded "What name?" To

which my conductor replied, "Pumblechook." The voice returned,

"Quite right," and the window was shut again, and a young lady came

across the court-yard, with keys in her hand.

"This," said Mr. Pumblechook, "is Pip."

"This is Pip, is it?" returned the young lady, who was very pretty

and seemed very proud; "come in, Pip."

Mr. Pumblechook was coming in also, when she stopped him with the

gate.

"Oh!" she said. "Did you wish to see Miss Havisham?"

"If Miss Havisham wished to see me," returned Mr. Pumblechook,

discomfited.

"Ah!" said the girl; "but you see she don't."

She said it so finally, and in such an undiscussible way, that Mr.

Pumblechook, though in a condition of ruffled dignity, could not

protest. But he eyed me severely - as if I had done anything to

him! - and departed with the words reproachfully delivered: "Boy!

Let your behaviour here be a credit unto them which brought you up

by hand!" I was not free from apprehension that he would come back

to propound through the gate, "And sixteen?" But he didn't.

My young conductress locked the gate, and we went across the

court-yard. It was paved and clean, but grass was growing in every

crevice. The brewery buildings had a little lane of communication

with it, and the wooden gates of that lane stood open, and all the

brewery beyond, stood open, away to the high enclosing wall; and

all was empty and disused. The cold wind seemed to blow colder

there, than outside the gate; and it made a shrill noise in howling

in and out at the open sides of the brewery, like the noise of wind

in the rigging of a ship at sea.

She saw me looking at it, and she said, "You could drink without

hurt all the strong beer that's brewed there now, boy."

"I should think I could, miss," said I, in a shy way.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
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