I had in vain tried everything producible that
began with a T, from tar to toast and tub. At length it had come
into my head that the sign looked like a hammer, and on my lustily
calling that word in my sister's ear, she had begun to hammer on
the table and had expressed a qualified assent. Thereupon, I had
brought in all our hammers, one after another, but without avail.
Then I bethought me of a crutch, the shape being much the same, and
I borrowed one in the village, and displayed it to my sister with
considerable confidence. But she shook her head to that extent when
she was shown it, that we were terrified lest in her weak and
shattered state she should dislocate her neck.
When my sister found that Biddy was very quick to understand her,
this mysterious sign reappeared on the slate. Biddy looked
thoughtfully at it, heard my explanation, looked thoughtfully at my
sister, looked thoughtfully at Joe (who was always represented on
the slate by his initial letter), and ran into the forge, followed
by Joe and me.
"Why, of course!" cried Biddy, with an exultant face. "Don't you
see? It's him!"
Orlick, without a doubt! She had lost his name, and could only
signify him by his hammer. We told him why we wanted him to come
into the kitchen, and he slowly laid down his hammer, wiped his
brow with his arm, took another wipe at it with his apron, and came
slouching out, with a curious loose vagabond bend in the knees that
strongly distinguished him.
I confess that I expected to see my sister denounce him, and that I
was disappointed by the different result. She manifested the
greatest anxiety to be on good terms with him, was evidently much
pleased by his being at length produced, and motioned that she
would have him given something to drink. She watched his
countenance as if she were particularly wishful to be assured that
he took kindly to his reception, she showed every possible desire
to conciliate him, and there was an air of humble propitiation in
all she did, such as I have seen pervade the bearing of a child
towards a hard master. After that day, a day rarely passed without
her drawing the hammer on her slate, and without Orlick's slouching
in and standing doggedly before her, as if he knew no more than I
did what to make of it.
I now fell into a regular routine of apprenticeship life, which was
varied, beyond the limits of the village and the marshes, by no
more remarkable circumstance than the arrival of my birthday and my
paying another visit to Miss Havisham. I found Miss Sarah Pocket
still on duty at the gate, I found Miss Havisham just as I had left
her, and she spoke of Estella in the very same way, if not in the
very same words. The interview lasted but a few minutes, and she
gave me a guinea when I was going, and told me to come again on my
next birthday. I may mention at once that this became an annual
custom. I tried to decline taking the guinea on the first occasion,
but with no better effect than causing her to ask me very angrily,
if I expected more? Then, and after that, I took it.
So unchanging was the dull old house, the yellow light in the
darkened room, the faded spectre in the chair by the dressing-table
glass, that I felt as if the stopping of the clocks had stopped
Time in that mysterious place, and, while I and everything else
outside it grew older, it stood still. Daylight never entered the
house as to my thoughts and remembrances of it, any more than as to
the actual fact. It bewildered me, and under its influence I
continued at heart to hate my trade and to be ashamed of home.
Imperceptibly I became conscious of a change in Biddy, however. Her
shoes came up at the heel, her hair grew bright and neat, her hands
were always clean. She was not beautiful - she was common, and
could not be like Estella - but she was pleasant and wholesome and