Charles Dickens

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.

Chapter 17

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