Charles Dickens, Great Expectations: Ch. 13

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"Now you see, Joseph and wife," said Pumblechook, as he took me by the arm above the elbow, "I am one of them that always go right through with what they've begun. This boy must be bound, out of hand. That's my way. Bound out of hand."

"Goodness knows, Uncle Pumblechook," said my sister (grasping the money), "we're deeply beholden to you."

"Never mind me, Mum," returned that diabolical cornchandler. "A pleasure's a pleasure all the world over. But this boy, you know; we must have him bound. I said I'd see to it—to tell you the truth."

The Justices were sitting in the Town Hall near at hand, and we at once went over to have me bound apprentice to Joe in the Magisterial presence. I say we went over, but I was pushed over by Pumblechook, exactly as if I had that moment picked a pocket or fired a rick;h indeed, it was the general impression in Court that I had been taken red-handed; for, as Pumblechook shoved me before him through the crowd, I heard some people say, "What's he done?" and others, "He's a young 'un, too, but looks bad, don't he?" One person of mild and benevolent aspect even gave me a tract ornamented with a woodcut of a malevolent young man fitted up with a perfect sausage-shop of fetters, and entitled TO BE READ IN MY CELL.

The Hall was a queer place, I thought, with higher pews in it than a church,—and with people hanging over the pews looking on,—and with mighty Justices (one with a powdered head) leaning back in chairs, with folded arms, or taking snuff, or going to sleep, or writing, or reading the newspapers,—and with some shining black portraits on the walls, which my unartistic eye regarded as a composition of hardbakew and sticking-plaster. Here, in a corner my indentures were duly signed and attested, and I was "bound"; Mr. Pumblechook holding me all the while as if we had looked in on our way to the scaffold, to have those little preliminaries disposed of.

When we had come out again, and had got rid of the boysd who had been put into great spirits by the expectation of seeing me publicly tortured, and who were much disappointed to find that my friends were merely rallying round me, we went back to Pumblechook's. And there my sister became so excited by the twenty-five guineas, that nothing would serve her but we must have a dinner out of that windfall at the Blue Boar, and that Pumblechook must go over in his chaise-cart, and bring the Hubbles and Mr. Wopsle.

It was agreed to be done; and a most melancholy day I passed. For, it inscrutablyw appeared to stand to reason, in the minds of the whole company, that I was an excrescencew on the entertainment. And to make it worse, they all asked me from time to time,—in short, whenever they had nothing else to do,—why I didn't enjoy myself? And what could I possibly do then, but say I was enjoying myself,—when I wasn't!

However, they were grown up and had their own way, and they made the most of it. That swindling Pumblechook, exalted into the beneficent contriver of the whole occasion, actually took the top of the table; and, when he addressed them on the subject of my being bound, and had fiendishly congratulated them on my being liable to imprisonment if I played at cards, drank strong liquors, kept late hours or bad company, or indulged in other vagaries which the form of my indentures appeared to contemplate as next to inevitable, he placed me standing on a chair beside him to illustrate his remarks.

My only other remembrances of the great festival are, That they wouldn't let me go to sleep, but whenever they saw me dropping off, woke me up and told me to enjoy myself. That, rather late in the evening Mr. Wopsle gave us Collins's ode,d and threw his bloodstained sword in thunder down, with such effect, that a waiter came in and said, "The Commercialsw underneath sent up their compliments, and it wasn't the Tumblers' Arms."w That, they were all in excellent spirits on the road home, and sang, O Lady Fair!h Mr. Wopsle taking the bass, and asserting with a tremendously strong voice (in reply to the inquisitive bore who leads that piece of music in a most impertinent manner, by wanting to know all about everybody's private affairs) that he was the man with his white locks flowing, and that he was upon the whole the weakest pilgrim going.

Finally, I remember that when I got into my little bedroom, I was truly wretched, and had a strong conviction on me that I should never like Joe's trade. I had liked it once, but once was not now.

X [h] fired a rick;

Daily Life

A rick is a hayrick or haystack. In the period following the Battle of Waterloo (1815) the British Isles experienced a major depression accompanied by mass unemployment. Agricultural workers suffered especially, and some expressed their anger at the English farmers and squires whose new methods of farming were contributing to the unemployment and displacement of agricultural labore…

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X [w] hardbake

Things

"A sweetmeat made of boiled sugar or treacle with blanched almonds; ‘almond toffee’ (OED).

X [d] the boys

A pack of his would-be tormentors. 

X [w] inscrutably

Mysteriously; inexplicably.

X [w] excrescence

An abnormal and repugnant outgrowth.

X [d] Collins's ode,

As in an earlier note, the Ode on the Passions.

X [w] Commercials

People

Traveling salesmen.

X [w] Tumblers' Arms."

Tumblers, or acrobats. Wopsle has been projecting himself into his declamation of the poem, including throwing down something that was supposedly a blood-stained sword. 

X [h] O Lady Fair!

Arts

Thomas Moore's famous poem of 1804 (Search Moore). It runs:

Oh, Lady fair! where art thou roaming? 
The sun has sunk, the night is coming. 
Stranger, I go o'er moor and mountain, 
To tell my beads at Agnes' fountain.

 

And who is the man with his white locks flowing?

Oh Lady Fair! where is he going?

 

A wand'ring Pilgrim, weak I falter,

To tell my beads at Agnes's altar.

Chill falls the rain, night rains are blowing.

Dreary and dark's the way we're going.