Charles Dickens

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

troubled himself.

"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,"

said I.

"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