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- Great Expectations - 20/210 -


"'Consequence, my father didn't make objections to my going to

work; so I went to work to work at my present calling, which were

his too, if he would have followed it, and I worked tolerable hard,

I assure you, Pip. In time I were able to keep him, and I kept him

till he went off in a purple leptic fit. And it were my intentions

to have had put upon his tombstone that Whatsume'er the failings on

his part, Remember reader he were that good in his hart."

Joe recited this couplet with such manifest pride and careful

perspicuity, that I asked him if he had made it himself.

"I made it," said Joe, "my own self. I made it in a moment. It was

like striking out a horseshoe complete, in a single blow. I never

was so much surprised in all my life - couldn't credit my own ed -

to tell you the truth, hardly believed it were my own ed. As I was

saying, Pip, it were my intentions to have had it cut over him; but

poetry costs money, cut it how you will, small or large, and it

were not done. Not to mention bearers, all the money that could be

spared were wanted for my mother. She were in poor elth, and quite

broke. She weren't long of following, poor soul, and her share of

peace come round at last."

Joe's blue eyes turned a little watery; he rubbed, first one of

them, and then the other, in a most uncongenial and uncomfortable

manner, with the round knob on the top of the poker.

"It were but lonesome then," said Joe, "living here alone, and I

got acquainted with your sister. Now, Pip;" Joe looked firmly at

me, as if he knew I was not going to agree with him; "your sister

is a fine figure of a woman."

I could not help looking at the fire, in an obvious state of doubt.

"Whatever family opinions, or whatever the world's opinions, on

that subject may be, Pip, your sister is," Joe tapped the top bar

with the poker after every word following, "a - fine - figure - of

- a - woman!"

I could think of nothing better to say than "I am glad you think

so, Joe."

"So am I," returned Joe, catching me up. "I am glad I think so,

Pip. A little redness or a little matter of Bone, here or there,

what does it signify to Me?"

I sagaciously observed, if it didn't signify to him, to whom did it

signify?

"Certainly!" assented Joe. "That's it. You're right, old chap! When

I got acquainted with your sister, it were the talk how she was

bringing you up by hand. Very kind of her too, all the folks said,

and I said, along with all the folks. As to you," Joe pursued with

a countenance expressive of seeing something very nasty indeed: "if

you could have been aware how small and flabby and mean you was,

dear me, you'd have formed the most contemptible opinion of

yourself!"

Not exactly relishing this, I said, "Never mind me, Joe."

"But I did mind you, Pip," he returned with tender simplicity.

"When I offered to your sister to keep company, and to be asked in

church at such times as she was willing and ready to come to the

forge, I said to her, 'And bring the poor little child. God bless

the poor little child,' I said to your sister, 'there's room for

him at the forge!'"

I broke out crying and begging pardon, and hugged Joe round the

neck: who dropped the poker to hug me, and to say, "Ever the best

of friends; an't us, Pip? Don't cry, old chap!"

When this little interruption was over, Joe resumed:

"Well, you see, Pip, and here we are! That's about where it lights;

here we are! Now, when you take me in hand in my learning, Pip (and

I tell you beforehand I am awful dull, most awful dull), Mrs. Joe

mustn't see too much of what we're up to. It must be done, as I may

say, on the sly. And why on the sly? I'll tell you why, Pip."

He had taken up the poker again; without which, I doubt if he could

have proceeded in his demonstration.

"Your sister is given to government."

"Given to government, Joe?" I was startled, for I had some shadowy

idea (and I am afraid I must add, hope) that Joe had divorced her

in a favour of the Lords of the Admiralty, or Treasury.

"Given to government," said Joe. "Which I meantersay the government

of you and myself."

"Oh!"

"And she an't over partial to having scholars on the premises," Joe

continued, "and in partickler would not be over partial to my being

a scholar, for fear as I might rise. Like a sort or rebel, don't

you see?"

I was going to retort with an inquiry, and had got as far as

"Why--" when Joe stopped me.


Great Expectations - 20/210

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