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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
myself.

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.



Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Category:
General Fiction - English literature
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