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Charles Dickens > Great Expectations > Chapter 6

Great Expectations

Chapter 6

My state of mind regarding the pilfering from which I had been so

unexpectedly exonerated, did not impel me to frank disclosure; but

I hope it had some dregs of good at the bottom of it.

I do not recall that I felt any tenderness of conscience in

reference to Mrs. Joe, when the fear of being found out was lifted

off me. But I loved Joe - perhaps for no better reason in those

early days than because the dear fellow let me love him - and, as

to him, my inner self was not so easily composed. It was much upon

my mind (particularly when I first saw him looking about for his

file) that I ought to tell Joe the whole truth. Yet I did not, and

for the reason that I mistrusted that if I did, he would think me

worse than I was. The fear of losing Joe's confidence, and of

thenceforth sitting in the chimney-corner at night staring drearily

at my for ever lost companion and friend, tied up my tongue. I

morbidly represented to myself that if Joe knew it, I never

afterwards could see him at the fireside feeling his fair whisker,

without thinking that he was meditating on it. That, if Joe knew

it, I never afterwards could see him glance, however casually, at

yesterday's meat or pudding when it came on to-day's table, without

thinking that he was debating whether I had been in the pantry.

That, if Joe knew it, and at any subsequent period of our joint

domestic life remarked that his beer was flat or thick, the

conviction that he suspected Tar in it, would bring a rush of blood

to my face. In a word, I was too cowardly to do what I knew to be

right, as I had been too cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be

wrong. I had had no intercourse with the world at that time, and I

imitated none of its many inhabitants who act in this manner. Quite

an untaught genius, I made the discovery of the line of action for


As I was sleepy before we were far away from the prison-ship, Joe

took me on his back again and carried me home. He must have had a

tiresome journey of it, for Mr. Wopsle, being knocked up, was in

such a very bad temper that if the Church had been thrown open, he

would probably have excommunicated the whole expedition, beginning

with Joe and myself. In his lay capacity, he persisted in sitting

down in the damp to such an insane extent, that when his coat was

taken off to be dried at the kitchen fire, the circumstantial

evidence on his trousers would have hanged him if it had been a

capital offence.

By that time, I was staggering on the kitchen floor like a little

drunkard, through having been newly set upon my feet, and through

having been fast asleep, and through waking in the heat and lights

and noise of tongues. As I came to myself (with the aid of a heavy

thump between the shoulders, and the restorative exclamation "Yah!

Was there ever such a boy as this!" from my sister), I found Joe

telling them about the convict's confession, and all the visitors

suggesting different ways by which he had got into the pantry. Mr.

Pumblechook made out, after carefully surveying the premises, that

he had first got upon the roof of the forge, and had then got upon

the roof of the house, and had then let himself down the kitchen

chimney by a rope made of his bedding cut into strips; and as Mr.

Pumblechook was very positive and drove his own chaise-cart - over

everybody - it was agreed that it must be so. Mr. Wopsle, indeed,

wildly cried out "No!" with the feeble malice of a tired man; but,

as he had no theory, and no coat on, he was unanimously set at

nought - not to mention his smoking hard behind, as he stood with

his back to the kitchen fire to draw the damp out: which was not

calculated to inspire confidence.

This was all I heard that night before my sister clutched me, as a

slumberous offence to the company's eyesight, and assisted me up to

bed with such a strong hand that I seemed to have fifty boots on,

and to be dangling them all against the edges of the stairs. My

state of mind, as I have described it, began before I was up in the

morning, and lasted long after the subject had died out, and had

ceased to be mentioned saving on exceptional occasions.

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