At the Stairs where we had taken him abroad, and ever since, I had
looked warily for any token of our being suspected. I had seen
none. We certainly had not been, and at that time as certainly we
were not, either attended or followed by any boat. If we had been
waited on by any boat, I should have run in to shore, and have
obliged her to go on, or to make her purpose evident. But, we held
our own, without any appearance of molestation.
He had his boat-cloak on him, and looked, as I have said, a natural
part of the scene. It was remarkable (but perhaps the wretched life
he had led, accounted for it), that he was the least anxious of any
of us. He was not indifferent, for he told me that he hoped to live
to see his gentleman one of the best of gentlemen in a foreign
country; he was not disposed to be passive or resigned, as I
understood it; but he had no notion of meeting danger half way.
When it came upon him, he confronted it, but it must come before he
"If you knowed, dear boy," he said to me, "what it is to sit here
alonger my dear boy and have my smoke, arter having been day by day
betwixt four walls, you'd envy me. But you don't know what it is."
"I think I know the delights of freedom," I answered.
"Ah," said he, shaking his head gravely. "But you don't know it
equal to me. You must have been under lock and key, dear boy, to
know it equal to me - but I ain't a-going to be low."
It occurred to me as inconsistent, that for any mastering idea, he
should have endangered his freedom and even his life. But I
reflected that perhaps freedom without danger was too much apart
from all the habit of his existence to be to him what it would be
to another man. I was not far out, since he said, after smoking a
"You see, dear boy, when I was over yonder, t'other side the world,
I was always a-looking to this side; and it come flat to be there,
for all I was a-growing rich. Everybody knowed Magwitch, and
Magwitch could come, and Magwitch could go, and nobody's head would
be troubled about him. They ain't so easy concerning me here, dear
boy - wouldn't be, leastwise, if they knowed where I was."
"If all goes well," said I, "you will be perfectly free and safe
again, within a few hours."
"Well," he returned, drawing a long breath, "I hope so."
"And think so?"
He dipped his hand in the water over the boat's gunwale, and said,
smiling with that softened air upon him which was not new to me:
"Ay, I s'pose I think so, dear boy. We'd be puzzled to be more
quiet and easy-going than we are at present. But - it's a-flowing
so soft and pleasant through the water, p'raps, as makes me think
it - I was a-thinking through my smoke just then, that we can no
more see to the bottom of the next few hours, than we can see to
the bottom of this river what I catches hold of. Nor yet we can't
no more hold their tide than I can hold this. And it's run through
my fingers and gone, you see!" holding up his dripping hand.
"But for your face, I should think you were a little despondent,"
"Not a bit on it, dear boy! It comes of flowing on so quiet, and of
that there rippling at the boat's head making a sort of a Sunday
tune. Maybe I'm a-growing a trifle old besides."
He put his pipe back in his mouth with an undisturbed expression of
face, and sat as composed and contented as if we were already out
of England. Yet he was as submissive to a word of advice as if he
had been in constant terror, for, when we ran ashore to get some
bottles of beer into the boat, and he was stepping out, I hinted
that I thought he would be safest where he was, and he said. "Do
you, dear boy?" and quietly sat down again.
The air felt cold upon the river, but it was a bright day, and the
sunshine was very cheering. The tide ran strong, I took care to
lose none of it, and our steady stroke carried us on thoroughly