"What'll you drink, Mr. Gargery? At my expense? To top up with?"

"Well," said Joe, "to tell you the truth, I ain't much in the habit

of drinking at anybody's expense but my own."

"Habit? No," returned the stranger, "but once and away, and on a

Saturday night too. Come! Put a name to it, Mr. Gargery."

"I wouldn't wish to be stiff company," said Joe. "Rum."

"Rum," repeated the stranger. "And will the other gentleman

originate a sentiment."

"Rum," said Mr. Wopsle.

"Three Rums!" cried the stranger, calling to the landlord. "Glasses

round!"

"This other gentleman," observed Joe, by way of introducing Mr.

Wopsle, "is a gentleman that you would like to hear give it out.

Our clerk at church."

"Aha!" said the stranger, quickly, and cocking his eye at me. "The

lonely church, right out on the marshes, with graves round it!"

"That's it," said Joe.

The stranger, with a comfortable kind of grunt over his pipe, put

his legs up on the settle that he had to himself. He wore a

flapping broad-brimmed traveller's hat, and under it a handkerchief

tied over his head in the manner of a cap: so that he showed no

hair. As he looked at the fire, I thought I saw a cunning

expression, followed by a half-laugh, come into his face.

"I am not acquainted with this country, gentlemen, but it seems a

solitary country towards the river."

"Most marshes is solitary," said Joe.

"No doubt, no doubt. Do you find any gipsies, now, or tramps, or

vagrants of any sort, out there?"

"No," said Joe; "none but a runaway convict now and then. And we

don't find them, easy. Eh, Mr. Wopsle?"

Mr. Wopsle, with a majestic remembrance of old discomfiture,

assented; but not warmly.

"Seems you have been out after such?" asked the stranger.

"Once," returned Joe. "Not that we wanted to take them, you

understand; we went out as lookers on; me, and Mr. Wopsle, and Pip.

Didn't us, Pip?"

"Yes, Joe."

The stranger looked at me again - still cocking his eye, as if he

were expressly taking aim at me with his invisible gun - and said,

"He's a likely young parcel of bones that. What is it you call

him?"

"Pip," said Joe.

"Christened Pip?"

"No, not christened Pip."

"Surname Pip?"

"No," said Joe, "it's a kind of family name what he gave himself

when a infant, and is called by."

"Son of yours?"

"Well," said Joe, meditatively - not, of course, that it could be

in anywise necessary to consider about it, but because it was the

way at the Jolly Bargemen to seem to consider deeply about

everything that was discussed over pipes; "well - no. No, he

ain't."

"Nevvy?" said the strange man.

"Well," said Joe, with the same appearance of profound cogitation,

"he is not - no, not to deceive you, he is not - my nevvy."

"What the Blue Blazes is he?" asked the stranger. Which appeared to

me to be an inquiry of unnecessary strength.

Mr. Wopsle struck in upon that; as one who knew all about

relationships, having professional occasion to bear in mind what

female relations a man might not marry; and expounded the ties

between me and Joe. Having his hand in, Mr. Wopsle finished off with

a most terrifically snarling passage from Richard the Third, and

seemed to think he had done quite enough to account for it when he

added, - "as the poet says."

And here I may remark that when Mr. Wopsle referred to me, he

considered it a necessary part of such reference to rumple my hair

and poke it into my eyes. I cannot conceive why everybody of his

standing who visited at our house should always have put me through

the same inflammatory process under similar circumstances. Yet I do

not call to mind that I was ever in my earlier youth the subject of

remark in our social family circle, but some large-handed person

took some such ophthalmic steps to patronize me.

All this while, the strange man looked at nobody but me, and looked

at me as if he were determined to have a shot at me at last, and

bring me down.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
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