Great Expectations

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    1 Pip meets a stranger
    My first name was Philip,but when I was a small child I could only manage to say Pip.So Pip was what every-body called me.I lived in a small village in Essex with my sister,who was over twenty years older than me,and married to Joe Gargery,the village blacksmith.My parents had died when I was a baby,so I could not remember them at all,but quite often I used to visit the churchyard,abut a mile from the village,to look at their names on their gravestones.
    My first memory is of sitting on a gravestone in that church-yard one cold,grey,December afternoon,looking out at the dark,flat,wild marshes divided by the black line of the River Thames,and listening to the rushing sound of the sea in the distance.
    ‘Don't say a word!’cried a terrible voice,as a man jumped up from among the graves and caught hold of me.‘If you shout I'll cut your throat!’He was a big man,dressed all in grey,with an iron chain on his leg.His clothes were wet and torn.He looked exhausted,and hungry,and very fierce.I had never been so frightened in my whole life.
    ‘Oh!Don't cut my throat,sir!’I begged in terror.
    ‘Tell me your name,boy!Quick!’he said,still holding me.‘And show me where you live!’
    ‘My name's Pip,sir.And I live in the village over there.’
    He picked me up and turned me upside-down.Nothing fell out of my pocket except a piece of old bread.He ate it in two bites,like a dog,and put me back on the gravestone.
    ‘So where are your father and mother?’he asked.
    ‘There,sir,’I answered,pointing to their graves.
    ‘What!’he cried,and was about to run,when he saw where I was pointing.‘Oh!’he said.‘ I see.They're dead.Well,who do you live with,if I let you live,which I haven't decided yet?’
    ‘With my sister,sir,wife of Joe Gargery,the blacksmith.’
    Blacksmith,you say?And he looked down at his leg.Then he held me by both arms and stared fiercely down into my eyes.
    ‘Now look here.You bring me a file.You know what that is?And you bring me some food.If you don't,or if you tell anyone about me,I'll cut your heart out.’
    ‘I promise I'll do it,sir,’I answered.I was badly fright ened and my whole body was trembling .
    ‘You see,’he continued,smiling unpleasantly,‘I travel with a young man,a friend of mine,who roasts boys’hearts and eats them.He'll find you,wherever you are,and he'll have your heart.So bring the file and the food to that wooden shelter over there,early tomorrow morning,if you want to keep your heart,that is Remember,you promised!’
    I watched him turn and walk with difficulty across the marshes,the chain hanging clumsily around his leg.Then I ran home as fast as I could.
    My sister,Mrs Joe Gargery,was very proud of the fact that she had brought me up‘by hand’.Nobody explained to me what this meant,and because she had a hard and heavy hand,which she used freely on her husband as well as me,I supposed that Joe and I were both brought up by hand.She was not a beautiful woman,being tall and thin,with black hair and eyes and a very red face.She clearly felt that Joe and I caused her a lot of trouble,and she frequently complained about it.Joe,on the other hand,was a gentle,kind man with fair hair and weak blue eyes,who quietly accepted her scolding.
    Because Joe and I were in the same position of being scolded by Mrs Joe,we were good friends,and Joe protected me from her anger whenever he could.So when I ran breathless into the kitchen,he gave me a friendly warning.‘She's out look-ing for you,Pip!And she's got the stick with her!’This stick had been used so often for beating me that it was now quite smooth.
    Just then Mrs Joe rushed in.
    ‘Where have you been,you young monkey?’she shouted.I jumped behind Joe to avoid being hit with the stick.
    ‘Only to the churchyard,’I whispered,starting to cry.
    ‘Churchyard!If I hadn't brought you up,you'd be in the churchyard with our parents.You'll send me to the church-yard one day!Now let me get your supper ready,both of you!’
    For the rest of the evening,I thought of nothing but the stranger on the marshes.Sometimes,as the wind blew round the house,I imagined I heard his voice outside,and I thought with horror of the young man who ate boys’ hearts.
    Just before I went to bed,we heard the sound of a big gun on the marshes.‘Was that a gun,Joe?’I asked.
    ‘Ah!’said Joe.‘Another convict's escaped.One got away last night.They always fire the gun when one escapes.’
    ‘Who fires the gun?’I asked.Joe shook his head to warn me.
    ‘Too many questions,’frowned my sister.‘If you must know it's the men in the prison-ships who fire the gun.’
    ‘I wonder who is put into prison-ships,and why?’I asked,in a general way,quietly desperate to know the answer.
    This was too much for Mrs Joe.‘Listen,my boy,I didn't bring you up by hand to annoy people to death!There are ships on the river which are used as prisons.People who steal and murder are put in the prison-ships,and they stay there for years sometimes.And they always begin their life of crime by asking too many questions!Now,go to bed!’
    I could not sleep at all that night.I was in terror of the young man who wanted my heart,I was in terror of the man with the iron chain,I was in terror of my sister,who would soon discover I had stolen her food.As soon as there was a lit-tle light in the sky outside my window, I got up and went qui-etly down to the kitchen.I stole some bread,cheese and a big meat pie,hoping that,as there was a lot of food ready for Christmas,nobody would notice what was missing.I did not dare take the whole brandy bottle,so I poured some into a smaller bottle to take away with me.Then I filled up the brandy bottle with what I thought was water from a big brown bottle.I took a file from Joe's box of tools,and ran out on to the dark marshes.
    The mist was so thick that I could not see anything.Al-though I knew my way to the shelter very well,I almost got lost this time.I was near it when I saw a man sitting on the ground,half asleep.I went up and touched his shoulder.He jumped up,and it was the wrong man!He was dressed in grey,too,and had an iron chain on his leg.He ran away into the mist.
    ‘It's the young man!’I thought,feeling a pain in my heart.
    When I arrived at the shelter,I found the right man.He looked so cold and hungry that I felt sorry for him.Trembling violently he swallowed the brandy and ate the food like a hunt-ed animal,looking around him all the time for danger.
    ‘You're sure you didn't tell anyone?Or bring anyone?’
    ‘No,sir.I'm glad you're enjoying the food,sir.’
    ‘Thank you,my boy.You've been good to a poor man.’
    ‘But I'm afraid there won't be any left for him.’
    ‘Him? Who's that?’My friend stopped in the middle of eating.
    ‘The young man who travels with you.’
    ‘Oh,him!’he replied,smiling.‘He doesn't want any food.’
    ‘I thought he looked rather hungry,’I answered.
    He stared at me in great surprise.‘Looked?When?’
    ‘Just now,over there.I found him half asleep and I thought it was you.He was dressed like you,and—’I was anxious to express this politely‘-he had the same reason for wanting to borrow a file.’
    ‘Then I did hear them fire the gun last night!You know,boy,when you're on the marsh alone at night,you imagine all kinds of things,voices calling,guns firing,soldiers marching!But show me where this man went.I'll find him and I'll fin-ish with him!I'll smash his face!Give me the file first.’
    I was afraid of him now that he was angry again.
    ‘I'm sorry,I must go home now,’I said.He did not seem to hear,so I left him bending over his leg and filing away at his iron chain like a madman.Halfway home I stopped in the mist to listen,and I could still hear the sound of the file.

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