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deceased relations had been referred to as
"Below," I have no doubt I should have formed the
worst opinions of that member of the family.
Neither, were my notions of the theological
positions to which my Catechism bound me, at
all accurate; for, I have a lively remembrance that
I supposed my declaration that I was to "walk
in the same all the days of my life," laid me
under an obligation always to go through the
village from our house in one particular
direction, and never to vary it by turning down
by the wheelwright's or up by the mill.

When I was old enough, I was to be apprenticed
to Joe, and until I could assume that
dignity I was not to be what Mrs. Joe called
"Pompeyed," or (as I render it) pampered.
Therefore, I was not only odd-boy about the
forge, but if any neighbour happened to want
an extra boy to frighten birds, or pick up stones,
or do any such job, I was favoured with the
employment. In order, however, that our superior
position might not be compromised thereby, a
money-box was kept on the kitchen mantelshelf,
into which it was publicly made known that all
my earnings were dropped. I have an impression
that they were to be contributed eventually
towards the liquidation of the National Debt, but
I know I had no hope of any personal participation
in the treasure.

Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt kept an evening-
school in the village; that is to say, she was a
ridiculous old woman of limited means and
unlimited infirmity, who used to go to sleep from six
to seven every evening, in the society of youth
who paid twopence per week each, for the
improving opportunity of seeing her do it. She
rented a small cottage, and Mr. Wopsle had
the room up-stairs, where we students used to
overhear him reading aloud in a most dignified
and terrific manner, and occasionally bumping
on the ceiling. There was a fiction that Mr.
Wopsle "examined" the scholars, once a quarter.
What he did on those occasions, was to turn up
his cuffs, stick up his hair, and give us Mark
Antony's oration over the body of Cæsar. This
was always followed by Collins's Ode on the
Passions, wherein I particularly venerated Mr.
Wopsle as Revenge, throwing his blood-stain'd
sword in thunder down, and taking the War
denouncing trumpet with a withering look. It was
not with me then, as it was in later life: when
I fell into the society of the Passions, and
compared them with Collins and Wopsle, rather to
the disadvantage of both gentlemen.

Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt, besides keeping this
Educational Institution, keptin the same room
a little general shop. She had no idea what
stock she had, or what the price of anything in
it was; but there was a little greasy
memorandum-book kept in a drawer, which served as
a Catalogue of Prices, and by this oracle, Biddy
arranged all the shop transactions. Biddy was
Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt's granddaughter; I
confess myself quite unequal to the working-out
of the problem, what relation she was to Mr.
Wopsle. She was an orphan like myself; like
me, too, had been brought up by hand. She
was most noticeable, I thought, in respect of her
extremities; for, her hair always wanted brushing,
her hands always wanted washing, and her
shoes always wanted mending and pulling up
at heel. This description must be received
with a week-day limitation. On Sundays, she
went to church elaborated.

Much of my unassisted self, and more by the
help of Biddy than of Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt,
I struggled through the alphabet as if it had been
a bramble-bush; getting considerably worried
and scratched by every letter. After that, I
fell among those thieves, the nine figures, who
seemed every evening to do something new
to disguise themselves and baffle recognition.
But, at last I began, in a purblind groping way,
to read, write, and cipher, on the very smallest

One night, I was sitting in the chimney corner
with my slate, expending great efforts on the
production of a letter to Joe. I think it must
have been a full year after our hunt upon the
marshes, for it was a long time after, and it was
winter and a hard frost. With an alphabet on
the hearth at my feet for reference, I contrived
in an hour or two to print and smear this


There was no indispensable necessity for my
communicating with Joe by letter, inasmuch as
he sat beside me and we were alone. But, I
delivered this written communication (slate and
all) with my own hand, and Joe received it as a
miracle of erudition.

"I say, Pip, old chap!" cried Joe, opening
his blue eyes wide, " what a scholar you are!
An't you?"

"I should like to be," said I, glancing at the
slate as he held it: with a misgiving that the
writing was rather hilly.

"Why, here's a J," said Joe, " and a O equal
to anythink! Here's a J and a O, Pip, and a
J-O, Joe."

I had never heard Joe read aloud to any
greater extent than this monosyllable, and I had
observed at church last Sunday when I
accidentally held our Prayer-Book upside down, that
it seemed to suit his convenience quite as well
as if it had been all right. Wishing to embrace
the present occasion of finding out whether in
teaching Joe I should have to begin quite at
the beginning, I said, " Ah! But read the rest,

"The rest, eh, Pip?" said Joe, looking at it
with a slowly searching eye, " One, two, three.
Why, here's three Js, and three Os, and three
J-O, Joes in it, Pip!"

I leaned over Joe, and, with the aid of my
forefinger, read him the whole letter.

"Astonishing!" said Joe, when I had finished.
"You ARE a scholar."

"How do you spell Gargery, Joe?" I asked
him, with a modest patronage.