He lodged at a sluice-keeper's out on the marshes, and on

working days would come slouching from his hermitage, with his

hands in his pockets and his dinner loosely tied in a bundle round

his neck and dangling on his back. On Sundays he mostly lay all day

on the sluice-gates, or stood against ricks and barns. He always

slouched, locomotively, with his eyes on the ground; and, when

accosted or otherwise required to raise them, he looked up in a

half resentful, half puzzled way, as though the only thought he

ever had, was, that it was rather an odd and injurious fact that he

should never be thinking.

This morose journeyman had no liking for me. When I was very small

and timid, he gave me to understand that the Devil lived in a black

corner of the forge, and that he knew the fiend very well: also

that it was necessary to make up the fire, once in seven years,

with a live boy, and that I might consider myself fuel. When I

became Joe's 'prentice, Orlick was perhaps confirmed in some

suspicion that I should displace him; howbeit, he liked me still

less. Not that he ever said anything, or did anything, openly

importing hostility; I only noticed that he always beat his sparks

in my direction, and that whenever I sang Old Clem, he came in out

of time.

Dolge Orlick was at work and present, next day, when I reminded Joe

of my half-holiday. He said nothing at the moment, for he and Joe

had just got a piece of hot iron between them, and I was at the

bellows; but by-and-by he said, leaning on his hammer:

"Now, master! Sure you're not a-going to favour only one of us. If

Young Pip has a half-holiday, do as much for Old Orlick." I suppose

he was about five-and-twenty, but he usually spoke of himself as an

ancient person.

"Why, what'll you do with a half-holiday, if you get it?" said Joe.

"What'll I do with it! What'll he do with it? I'll do as much with

it as him," said Orlick.

"As to Pip, he's going up-town," said Joe.

"Well then, as to Old Orlick, he's a-going up-town," retorted that

worthy. "Two can go up-town. Tan't only one wot can go up-town.

"Don't lose your temper," said Joe.

"Shall if I like," growled Orlick. "Some and their up-towning! Now,

master! Come. No favouring in this shop. Be a man!"

The master refusing to entertain the subject until the journeyman

was in a better temper, Orlick plunged at the furnace, drew out a

red-hot bar, made at me with it as if he were going to run it

through my body, whisked it round my head, laid it on the anvil,

hammered it out - as if it were I, I thought, and the sparks were

my spirting blood - and finally said, when he had hammered himself

hot and the iron cold, and he again leaned on his hammer:

"Now, master!"

"Are you all right now?" demanded Joe.

"Ah! I am all right," said gruff Old Orlick.

"Then, as in general you stick to your work as well as most men,"

said Joe, "let it be a half-holiday for all."

My sister had been standing silent in the yard, within hearing -

she was a most unscrupulous spy and listener - and she instantly

looked in at one of the windows.

"Like you, you fool!" said she to Joe, "giving holidays to great

idle hulkers like that. You are a rich man, upon my life, to waste

wages in that way. I wish I was his master!"

"You'd be everybody's master, if you durst," retorted Orlick, with

an ill-favoured grin.

("Let her alone," said Joe.)

"I'd be a match for all noodles and all rogues," returned my

sister, beginning to work herself into a mighty rage. "And I

couldn't be a match for the noodles, without being a match for your

master, who's the dunder-headed king of the noodles. And I couldn't

be a match for the rogues, without being a match for you, who are

the blackest-looking and the worst rogue between this and France.

Now!"

"You're a foul shrew, Mother Gargery, growled the journeyman.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
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