Charles Dickens, Great Expectations: Ch. 28

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But this was not the worst of it. It came out that the whole of the back of the coachh had been taken by a family removing from London, and that there were no places for the two prisoners but on the seat in front behind the coachman. Hereupon, a choleric gentleman, who had taken the fourth place on that seat, flew into a most violent passion, and said that it was a breach of contract to mix him up with such villainous company, and that it was poisonous, and pernicious, and infamous, and shameful, and I don't know what else. At this time the coach was ready and the coachman impatient, and we were all preparing to get up, and the prisoners had come over with their keeper,—bringing with them that curious flavor of bread-poultice, baize, rope-yarn, and hearthstone,w which attends the convict presence.

"Don't take it so much amiss, sir," pleaded the keeper to the angry passenger; "I'll sit next you myself. I'll put 'em on the outside of the row. They won't interfere with you, sir. You needn't know they're there."

"And don't blame me," growled the convict I had recognized. "I don't want to go. I am quite ready to stay behind. As fur as I am concerned any one's welcome to my place."

"Or mine," said the other, gruffly. "I wouldn't have incommoded none of you, if I'd had my way." Then they both laughed, and began cracking nuts, and spitting the shells about.—As I really think I should have liked to do myself, if I had been in their place and so despised.

At length, it was voted that there was no help for the angry gentleman, and that he must either go in his chance company or remain behind. So he got into his place, still making complaints, and the keeper got into the place next him, and the convicts hauled themselves up as well as they could, and the convict I had recognized sat behind me with his breath on the hair of my head.

"Good by, Handel!" Herbert called out as we started. I thought what a blessed fortune it was, that he had found another name for me than Pip.

It is impossible to express with what acuteness I felt the convict's breathing, not only on the back of my head, but all along my spine. The sensation was like being touched in the marrow with some pungent and searching acid, it set my very teeth on edge. He seemed to have more breathing business to do than another man, and to make more noise in doing it; and I was conscious of growing high-shouldered on one side, in my shrinking endeavors to fend him off.

The weather was miserably raw, and the two cursed the cold. It made us all lethargic before we had gone far, and when we had left the Half-way Househ behind, we habitually dozed and shivered and were silent. I dozed off, myself, in considering the question whether I ought to restore a couple of pounds sterling to this creature before losing sight of him, and how it could best be done. In the act of dipping forward as if I were going to bathe among the horses, I woke in a fright and took the question up again.

But I must have lost it longer than I had thought, since, although I could recognize nothing in the darkness and the fitful lights and shadows of our lamps, I traced marsh country in the cold damp wind that blew at us. Cowering forward for warmth and to make me a screen against the wind, the convicts were closer to me than before. The very first words I heard them interchange as I became conscious, were the words of my own thought, "Two One Pound notes."

"How did he get 'em?" said the convict I had never seen.

"How should I know?" returned the other. "He had 'em stowed away somehows. Giv him by friends, I expect."

"I wish," said the other, with a bitter curse upon the cold, "that I had 'em here."

"Two one pound notes, or friends?"

"Two one pound notes. I'd sell all the friends I ever had for one, and think it a blessed good bargain. Well? So he says—?"

"So he says," resumed the convict I had recognized,—"it was all said and done in half a minute, behind a pile of timber in the Dock-yard,—'You're a going to be discharged?' Yes, I was. Would I find out that boy that had fed him and kep his secret, and give him them two one pound notes? Yes, I would. And I did."

X [h] the whole of the back of the coach

Transportation

Pip means the outside of the coach. There is a bench for four at the rear, another for four on top of the coach behind the driver, besides whom sits a passenger (Pip; for some the premier seat), and then there are four passengers inside the coach. With a family of four, this coach is conveying thirteen passengers and the driver. Coaches traveled on average between about four and seven mph, depending chiefly on road conditions.

X [w] bread-poultice, baize, rope-yarn, and hearths…

Bread-poultice is bread soaked in hot water to which medicaments may be added and, wrapped in some cloth, is applied externally to the body. Presumably the odor comes from their diet of largely bread.

Baize is "A coarse woollen stuff, having a long nap, now used chiefly for linings, coverings, curtains, etc., in warmer countries for articles of clothing" (OED). …

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X [h] the Half-way House

Transportation

A real place on that road. The inn at the midpoint on a route where travelers could disembark, eat, and use such facilities as there were.