This boy must be bound, out of

hand. That's my way. Bound out of hand."

"Goodness knows, Uncle Pumblechook," said my sister (grasping the

money), "we're deeply beholden to you."

"Never mind me, Mum, returned that diabolical corn-chandler. "A

pleasure's a pleasure, all the world over. But this boy, you know;

we must have him bound. I said I'd see to it - to tell you the

truth."

The Justices were sitting in the Town Hall near at hand, and we at

once went over to have me bound apprentice to Joe in the

Magisterial presence. I say, we went over, but I was pushed over by

Pumblechook, exactly as if I had that moment picked a pocket or

fired a rick; indeed, it was the general impression in Court that I

had been taken red-handed, for, as Pumblechook shoved me before him

through the crowd, I heard some people say, "What's he done?" and

others, "He's a young 'un, too, but looks bad, don't he? One person

of mild and benevolent aspect even gave me a tract ornamented with

a woodcut of a malevolent young man fitted up with a perfect

sausage-shop of fetters, and entitled, TO BE READ IN MY CELL.

The Hall was a queer place, I thought, with higher pews in it than

a church - and with people hanging over the pews looking on - and

with mighty Justices (one with a powdered head) leaning back in

chairs, with folded arms, or taking snuff, or going to sleep, or

writing, or reading the newspapers - and with some shining black

portraits on the walls, which my unartistic eye regarded as a

composition of hardbake and sticking-plaister. Here, in a corner,

my indentures were duly signed and attested, and I was "bound;" Mr.

Pumblechook holding me all the while as if we had looked in on our

way to the scaffold, to have those little preliminaries disposed

of.

When we had come out again, and had got rid of the boys who had

been put into great spirits by the expectation of seeing me

publicly tortured, and who were much disappointed to find that my

friends were merely rallying round me, we went back to

Pumblechook's. And there my sister became so excited by the

twenty-five guineas, that nothing would serve her but we must have

a dinner out of that windfall, at the Blue Boar, and that

Pumblechook must go over in his chaise-cart, and bring the Hubbles

and Mr. Wopsle.

It was agreed to be done; and a most melancholy day I passed. For,

it inscrutably appeared to stand to reason, in the minds of the

whole company, that I was an excrescence on the entertainment. And

to make it worse, they all asked me from time to time - in short,

whenever they had nothing else to do - why I didn't enjoy myself.

And what could I possibly do then, but say I was enjoying myself -

when I wasn't?

However, they were grown up and had their own way, and they made

the most of it. That swindling Pumblechook, exalted into the

beneficent contriver of the whole occasion, actually took the top

of the table; and, when he addressed them on the subject of my

being bound, and had fiendishly congratulated them on my being

liable to imprisonment if I played at cards, drank strong liquors,

kept late hours or bad company, or indulged in other vagaries which

the form of my indentures appeared to contemplate as next to

inevitable, he placed me standing on a chair beside him, to

illustrate his remarks.

My only other remembrances of the great festival are, That they

wouldn't let me go to sleep, but whenever they saw me dropping off,

woke me up and told me to enjoy myself. That, rather late in the

evening Mr. Wopsle gave us Collins's ode, and threw his bloodstain'd

sword in thunder down, with such effect, that a waiter came in and

said, "The Commercials underneath sent up their compliments, and it

wasn't the Tumblers' Arms." That, they were all in excellent

spirits on the road home, and sang O Lady Fair! Mr. Wopsle taking

the bass, and asserting with a tremendously strong voice (in reply

to the inquisitive bore who leads that piece of music in a most

impertinent manner, by wanting to know all about everybody's

private affairs) that he was the man with his white locks flowing,

and that he was upon the whole the weakest pilgrim going.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
Classic Authors

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