Charles Dickens

She had not been with us more than a year (I

remember her being newly out of mourning at the time it struck me),

when I observed to myself one evening that she had curiously

thoughtful and attentive eyes; eyes that were very pretty and very


It came of my lifting up my own eyes from a task I was poring at -

writing some passages from a book, to improve myself in two ways at

once by a sort of stratagem - and seeing Biddy observant of what I

was about. I laid down my pen, and Biddy stopped in her needlework

without laying it down.

"Biddy," said I, "how do you manage it? Either I am very stupid, or

you are very clever."

"What is it that I manage? I don't know," returned Biddy, smiling.

She managed our whole domestic life, and wonderfully too; but I did

not mean that, though that made what I did mean, more surprising.

"How do you manage, Biddy," said I, "to learn everything that I

learn, and always to keep up with me?" I was beginning to be rather

vain of my knowledge, for I spent my birthday guineas on it, and

set aside the greater part of my pocket-money for similar

investment; though I have no doubt, now, that the little I knew was

extremely dear at the price.

"I might as well ask you," said Biddy, "how you manage?"

"No; because when I come in from the forge of a night, any one can

see me turning to at it. But you never turn to at it, Biddy."

"I suppose I must catch it - like a cough," said Biddy, quietly;

and went on with her sewing.

Pursuing my idea as I leaned back in my wooden chair and looked at

Biddy sewing away with her head on one side, I began to think her

rather an extraordinary girl. For, I called to mind now, that she

was equally accomplished in the terms of our trade, and the names

of our different sorts of work, and our various tools. In short,

whatever I knew, Biddy knew. Theoretically, she was already as good

a blacksmith as I, or better.

"You are one of those, Biddy," said I, "who make the most of every

chance. You never had a chance before you came here, and see how

improved you are!"

Biddy looked at me for an instant, and went on with her sewing. "I

was your first teacher though; wasn't I?" said she, as she sewed.

"Biddy!" I exclaimed, in amazement. "Why, you are crying!"

"No I am not," said Biddy, looking up and laughing. "What put that

in your head?"

What could have put it in my head, but the glistening of a tear as

it dropped on her work? I sat silent, recalling what a drudge she

had been until Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt successfully overcame that

bad habit of living, so highly desirable to be got rid of by some

people. I recalled the hopeless circumstances by which she had been

surrounded in the miserable little shop and the miserable little

noisy evening school, with that miserable old bundle of

incompetence always to be dragged and shouldered. I reflected that

even in those untoward times there must have been latent in Biddy

what was now developing, for, in my first uneasiness and discontent

I had turned to her for help, as a matter of course. Biddy sat

quietly sewing, shedding no more tears, and while I looked at her

and thought about it all, it occurred to me that perhaps I had not

been sufficiently grateful to Biddy. I might have been too

reserved, and should have patronized her more (though I did not use

that precise word in my meditations), with my confidence.

"Yes, Biddy," I observed, when I had done turning it over, "you

were my first teacher, and that at a time when we little thought of

ever being together like this, in this kitchen."

"Ah, poor thing!" replied Biddy. It was like her

self-forgetfulness, to transfer the remark to my sister, and to get

up and be busy about her, making her more comfortable; "that's

sadly true!"

"Well!" said I, "we must talk together a little more, as we used to

do. And I must consult you a little more, as I used to do.