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GREAT EXPECTATIONS.
BY CHARLES DICKENS.

CHAPTER XVI.

WITH my head full of George Barnwell, I was
at first disposed to believe that / must have had
some hand in the attack upon my sister, or at
all events that as her near relation, popularly
known to be under obligations to her, I was a
more legitimate object of suspicion than any one
else. But when, in the clearer light of next
morning, I began to reconsider the matter and
to hear it discussed around me on all sides, I
took another view of the case, which was more
reasonable.

Joe had been at the Three Jolly Bargemen,
smoking his pipe, from a quarter after eight
o'clock to a quarter before ten. While he was
there, my sister had been seen standing at the
kitchen door, and had exchanged Good Night
with a farm-labourer going home. The man
could not be more particular as to the time at
which he saw her (he got into dense confusion
when he tried to be), than that it must
have been before nine. When Joe went home
at five minutes before ten, he found her struck
down on the floor, and promptly called in assistance.
The fire had not then burnt unusually low,
nor was the snuff of the candle very long;
the candle, however, had been blown out.

Nothing had been taken away from any part
of the house. Neither, beyond the blowing out
of the candlewhich stood on a table between
the door and my sister, and was behind her when
she stood facing the fire and was struckwas
there any disarrangement of the kitchen,
excepting such as she herself had made in falling
and bleeding. But, there was one remarkable
piece of evidence on the spot. She had been
struck with something blunt and heavy on the
head and spine; after the blows were dealt,
something heavy had been thrown down at her
with considerable violence as she lay on her face.
And on the ground beside her, when Joe picked
her up, was a convict's leg-iron which had been
filed asunder.

Now, Joe, examining this iron with a smith's
eye, declared it to have been filed asunder some
time ago. The hue and cry going off to the
Hulks, and people coming thence to examine the
iron, Joe's opinion was corroborated. They did
not undertake to say when it had left the prison-
ships to which it undoubtedly had once
belonged; but they claimed to know for certain
that that particular manacle had not been worn
by either of two convicts who had escaped last
night. Further, one of those two was already
retaken, and had not freed himself of his iron.

Knowing what I knew, I set up an inference
of my own here. I believed the iron to be my
convict's ironthe iron I had seen and heard
him filing at, on the marshesbut my mind did
not accuse him of having put it to its latest use.
For, I believed one of two other persons to
have become possessed of it, and to have turned
it to this cruel account. Either Orlick, or the
strange man who had shown me the file.

Now, as to Orlick; he had gone to town
exactly as he told us when we picked him up at
the turnpike, he had been seen about town all
the evening, he had been in divers companies in
several public-houses, and he had come back
with myself and Mr. Wopsle. There was
nothing against him, save the quarrel; and my
sister had quarrelled with him, and with everybody
else about her, ten thousand times. As to the
strange man; if he had come back for his two
bank notes there could have been no dispute
about them, because my sister was fully prepared
to restore them. Besides, there had been no
altercation; the assailant had come in so silently
and suddenly that she had been felled before she
could look round.

It was horrible to think that I had provided
the weapon, however undesignedly, but I could
hardly think otherwise. I suffered unspeakable
trouble while I considered and reconsidered
whether I should at last dissolve that spell of my
childhood, and tell Joe all the story. For months
afterwards, I every day settled the question
finally in the negative, and reopened and
reargued it next morning. The contention came,
after all, to this;—the secret was such an old one
now, had so grown into me and become a part of
myself, that I could not tear it away. In addition
to the dread that, having led up to so much
mischief, it would be now more likely than ever to
alienate Joe from me if he believed it, I had the
further restraining dread that he would not
believe it, but would assort it with the fabulous
dogs and veal cutlets as a monstrous invention,
However, I temporised with myself, of course
for, was I not wavering between right and wrong,
when the thing is always done!—and resolved to
make a full disclosure if I should see any such

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