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- Great Expectations - 150/210 -


they says to prison wisitors, picking out me. "May be said to live

in jails, this boy. "Then they looked at me, and I looked at them,

and they measured my head, some on 'em - they had better a-measured

my stomach - and others on 'em giv me tracts what I couldn't read,

and made me speeches what I couldn't understand. They always went

on agen me about the Devil. But what the Devil was I to do? I must

put something into my stomach, mustn't I? - Howsomever, I'm a

getting low, and I know what's due. Dear boy and Pip's comrade,

don't you be afeerd of me being low.

"Tramping, begging, thieving, working sometimes when I could -

though that warn't as often as you may think, till you put the

question whether you would ha' been over-ready to give me work

yourselves - a bit of a poacher, a bit of a labourer, a bit of a

waggoner, a bit of a haymaker, a bit of a hawker, a bit of most

things that don't pay and lead to trouble, I got to be a man. A

deserting soldier in a Traveller's Rest, what lay hid up to the

chin under a lot of taturs, learnt me to read; and a travelling

Giant what signed his name at a penny a time learnt me to write. I

warn't locked up as often now as formerly, but I wore out my good

share of keymetal still.

"At Epsom races, a matter of over twenty years ago, I got

acquainted wi' a man whose skull I'd crack wi' this poker, like the

claw of a lobster, if I'd got it on this hob. His right name was

Compeyson; and that's the man, dear boy, what you see me a-pounding

in the ditch, according to what you truly told your comrade arter I

was gone last night.

"He set up fur a gentleman, this Compeyson, and he'd been to a

public boarding-school and had learning. He was a smooth one to

talk, and was a dab at the ways of gentlefolks. He was

good-looking too. It was the night afore the great race, when I

found him on the heath, in a booth that I know'd on. Him and some

more was a sitting among the tables when I went in, and the

landlord (which had a knowledge of me, and was a sporting one)

called him out, and said, 'I think this is a man that might suit

you' - meaning I was.

"Compeyson, he looks at me very noticing, and I look at him. He has

a watch and a chain and a ring and a breast-pin and a handsome suit

of clothes.

"'To judge from appearances, you're out of luck,' says Compeyson to

me.

"'Yes, master, and I've never been in it much.' (I had come out of

Kingston Jail last on a vagrancy committal. Not but what it might

have been for something else; but it warn't.)

"'Luck changes,' says Compeyson; 'perhaps yours is going to change.'

"I says, 'I hope it may be so. There's room.'

"'What can you do?' says Compeyson.

"'Eat and drink,' I says; 'if you'll find the materials.'

"Compeyson laughed, looked at me again very noticing, giv me five

shillings, and appointed me for next night. Same place.

"I went to Compeyson next night, same place, and Compeyson took me

on to be his man and pardner. And what was Compeyson's business in

which we was to go pardners? Compeyson's business was the

swindling, handwriting forging, stolen bank-note passing, and

such-like. All sorts of traps as Compeyson could set with his head,

and keep his own legs out of and get the profits from and let

another man in for, was Compeyson's business. He'd no more heart

than a iron file, he was as cold as death, and he had the head of

the Devil afore mentioned.

"There was another in with Compeyson, as was called Arthur - not as

being so chrisen'd, but as a surname. He was in a Decline, and was

a shadow to look at. Him and Compeyson had been in a bad thing with

a rich lady some years afore, and they'd made a pot of money by it;

but Compeyson betted and gamed, and he'd have run through the

king's taxes. So, Arthur was a-dying, and a-dying poor and with the

horrors on him, and Compeyson's wife (which Compeyson kicked

mostly) was a-having pity on him when she could, and Compeyson was

a-having pity on nothing and nobody.

"I might a-took warning by Arthur, but I didn't; and I won't

pretend I was partick'ler - for where 'ud be the good on it, dear

boy and comrade? So I begun wi' Compeyson, and a poor tool I was in

his hands. Arthur lived at the top of Compeyson's house (over nigh

Brentford it was), and Compeyson kept a careful account agen him

for board and lodging, in case he should ever get better to work it

out. But Arthur soon settled the account. The second or third time

as ever I see him, he come a-tearing down into Compeyson's parlour

late at night, in only a flannel gown, with his hair all in a

sweat, and he says to Compeyson's wife, 'Sally, she really is

upstairs alonger me, now, and I can't get rid of her. She's all in

white,' he says, 'wi' white flowers in her hair, and she's awful

mad, and she's got a shroud hanging over her arm, and she says

she'll put it on me at five in the morning.'

"Says Compeyson: 'Why, you fool, don't you know she's got a living

body? And how should she be up there, without coming through the

door, or in at the window, and up the stairs?'


Great Expectations - 150/210

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