If a dread of not being understood be hidden in the breasts of
other young people to anything like the extent to which it used to
be hidden in mine - which I consider probable, as I have no
particular reason to suspect myself of having been a monstrosity -
it is the key to many reservations. I felt convinced that if I
described Miss Havisham's as my eyes had seen it, I should not be
understood. Not only that, but I felt convinced that Miss Havisham
too would not be understood; and although she was perfectly
incomprehensible to me, I entertained an impression that there
would be something coarse and treacherous in my dragging her as she
really was (to say nothing of Miss Estella) before the
contemplation of Mrs. Joe. Consequently, I said as little as I
could, and had my face shoved against the kitchen wall.
The worst of it was that that bullying old Pumblechook, preyed upon
by a devouring curiosity to be informed of all I had seen and
heard, came gaping over in his chaise-cart at tea-time, to have the
details divulged to him. And the mere sight of the torment, with
his fishy eyes and mouth open, his sandy hair inquisitively on end,
and his waistcoat heaving with windy arithmetic, made me vicious in
"Well, boy," Uncle Pumblechook began, as soon as he was seated in
the chair of honour by the fire. "How did you get on up town?"
I answered, "Pretty well, sir," and my sister shook her fist at me.
"Pretty well?" Mr. Pumblechook repeated. "Pretty well is no answer.
Tell us what you mean by pretty well, boy?"
Whitewash on the forehead hardens the brain into a state of
obstinacy perhaps. Anyhow, with whitewash from the wall on my
forehead, my obstinacy was adamantine. I reflected for some time,
and then answered as if I had discovered a new idea, "I mean pretty
My sister with an exclamation of impatience was going to fly at me
- I had no shadow of defence, for Joe was busy in the forge when Mr.
Pumblechook interposed with "No! Don't lose your temper. Leave this
lad to me, ma'am; leave this lad to me." Mr. Pumblechook then turned
me towards him, as if he were going to cut my hair, and said:
"First (to get our thoughts in order): Forty-three pence?"
I calculated the consequences of replying "Four Hundred Pound," and
finding them against me, went as near the answer as I could - which
was somewhere about eightpence off. Mr. Pumblechook then put me
through my pence-table from "twelve pence make one shilling," up to
"forty pence make three and fourpence," and then triumphantly
demanded, as if he had done for me, "Now! How much is forty-three
pence?" To which I replied, after a long interval of reflection, "I
don't know." And I was so aggravated that I almost doubt if I did
Mr. Pumblechook worked his head like a screw to screw it out of me,
and said, "Is forty-three pence seven and sixpence three fardens,
"Yes!" said I. And although my sister instantly boxed my ears, it
was highly gratifying to me to see that the answer spoilt his joke,
and brought him to a dead stop.
"Boy! What like is Miss Havisham?" Mr. Pumblechook began again when
he had recovered; folding his arms tight on his chest and applying
"Very tall and dark," I told him.
"Is she, uncle?" asked my sister.
Mr. Pumblechook winked assent; from which I at once inferred that he
had never seen Miss Havisham, for she was nothing of the kind.
"Good!" said Mr. Pumblechook conceitedly. ("This is the way to have
him! We are beginning to hold our own, I think, Mum?")
"I am sure, uncle," returned Mrs. Joe, "I wish you had him always:
you know so well how to deal with him."
"Now, boy! What was she a-doing of, when you went in today?" asked
"She was sitting," I answered, "in a black velvet coach."
Mr. Pumblechook and Mrs. Joe stared at one another - as they well
might - and both repeated, "In a black velvet coach?"
"Yes," said I.