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- Great Expectations - 110/210 -


apart, with folded arms, and I could have wished that his curls and

forehead had been more probable.

Several curious little circumstances transpired as the action

proceeded. The late king of the country not only appeared to have

been troubled with a cough at the time of his decease, but to have

taken it with him to the tomb, and to have brought it back. The

royal phantom also carried a ghostly manuscript round its

truncheon, to which it had the appearance of occasionally

referring, and that, too, with an air of anxiety and a tendency to

lose the place of reference which were suggestive of a state of

mortality. It was this, I conceive, which led to the Shade's being

advised by the gallery to "turn over!" - a recommendation which it

took extremely ill. It was likewise to be noted of this majestic

spirit that whereas it always appeared with an air of having been

out a long time and walked an immense distance, it perceptibly came

from a closely contiguous wall. This occasioned its terrors to be

received derisively. The Queen of Denmark, a very buxom lady,

though no doubt historically brazen, was considered by the public

to have too much brass about her; her chin being attached to her

diadem by a broad band of that metal (as if she had a gorgeous

toothache), her waist being encircled by another, and each of her

arms by another, so that she was openly mentioned as "the

kettledrum." The noble boy in the ancestral boots, was

inconsistent; representing himself, as it were in one breath, as an

able seaman, a strolling actor, a grave-digger, a clergyman, and a

person of the utmost importance at a Court fencing-match, on the

authority of whose practised eye and nice discrimination the finest

strokes were judged. This gradually led to a want of toleration for

him, and even - on his being detected in holy orders, and declining

to perform the funeral service - to the general indignation taking

the form of nuts. Lastly, Ophelia was a prey to such slow musical

madness, that when, in course of time, she had taken off her white

muslin scarf, folded it up, and buried it, a sulky man who had been

long cooling his impatient nose against an iron bar in the front

row of the gallery, growled, "Now the baby's put to bed let's have

supper!" Which, to say the least of it, was out of keeping.

Upon my unfortunate townsman all these incidents accumulated with

playful effect. Whenever that undecided Prince had to ask a

question or state a doubt, the public helped him out with it. As

for example; on the question whether 'twas nobler in the mind to

suffer, some roared yes, and some no, and some inclining to both

opinions said "toss up for it;" and quite a Debating Society arose.

When he asked what should such fellows as he do crawling between

earth and heaven, he was encouraged with loud cries of "Hear,

hear!" When he appeared with his stocking disordered (its disorder

expressed, according to usage, by one very neat fold in the top,

which I suppose to be always got up with a flat iron), a

conversation took place in the gallery respecting the paleness of

his leg, and whether it was occasioned by the turn the ghost had

given him. On his taking the recorders - very like a little black

flute that had just been played in the orchestra and handed out at

the door - he was called upon unanimously for Rule Britannia. When

he recommended the player not to saw the air thus, the sulky man

said, "And don't you do it, neither; you're a deal worse than him!"

And I grieve to add that peals of laughter greeted Mr. Wopsle on

every one of these occasions.

But his greatest trials were in the churchyard: which had the

appearance of a primeval forest, with a kind of small

ecclesiastical wash-house on one side, and a turnpike gate on the

other. Mr. Wopsle in a comprehensive black cloak, being descried

entering at the turnpike, the gravedigger was admonished in a

friendly way, "Look out! Here's the undertaker a-coming, to see how

you're a-getting on with your work!" I believe it is well known in

a constitutional country that Mr. Wopsle could not possibly have

returned the skull, after moralizing over it, without dusting his

fingers on a white napkin taken from his breast; but even that

innocent and indispensable action did not pass without the comment

"Wai-ter!" The arrival of the body for interment (in an empty black

box with the lid tumbling open), was the signal for a general joy

which was much enhanced by the discovery, among the bearers, of an

individual obnoxious to identification. The joy attended Mr. Wopsle

through his struggle with Laertes on the brink of the orchestra and

the grave, and slackened no more until he had tumbled the king off

the kitchen-table, and had died by inches from the ankles upward.

We had made some pale efforts in the beginning to applaud Mr.

Wopsle; but they were too hopeless to be persisted in. Therefore we

had sat, feeling keenly for him, but laughing, nevertheless, from

ear to ear. I laughed in spite of myself all the time, the whole

thing was so droll; and yet I had a latent impression that there

was something decidedly fine in Mr. Wopsle's elocution - not for old

associations' sake, I am afraid, but because it was very slow, very

dreary, very up-hill and down-hill, and very unlike any way in

which any man in any natural circumstances of life or death ever

expressed himself about anything. When the tragedy was over, and he

had been called for and hooted, I said to Herbert, "Let us go at

once, or perhaps we shall meet him."

We made all the haste we could down-stairs, but we were not quick

enough either. Standing at the door was a Jewish man with an

unnatural heavy smear of eyebrow, who caught my eyes as we

advanced, and said, when we came up with him:

"Mr. Pip and friend?"

Identity of Mr. Pip and friend confessed.


Great Expectations - 110/210

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