“Assuredly,” replied Herbert.
“As to anything I say, you know,” he insisted. “The oath applies to all.”
“I understand it to do so.”
“And look’ee here! Wotever I done, is worked out and paid for,” he insisted again.
“So be it.”
He took out his black pipe and was going to fill it with negrohead, when, looking at the tangle of tobacco in his hand, he seemed to think it might perplex the thread of his narrative. He put it back again, stuck his pipe in a button-hole of his coat, spread a hand on each knee, and, after turning an angry eye on the fire for a few silent moments, looked round at us and said what follows.
“Dear boy and Pip’s comrade. I am not a-going fur to tell you my life, like a song or a story-book. But to give it you short and handy, I’ll put it at once into a mouthful of English. In jail and out of jail, in jail and out of jail, in jail and out of jail. There, you got it. That’s my life pretty much, down to such times as I got shipped off, arter Pip stood my friend.
“I’ve been done everything to, pretty well — except hanged. I’ve been locked up, as much as a silver tea-kettle. I’ve been carted here and carted there, and put out of this town and put out of that town, and stuck in the stocks, and whipped and worried and drove. I’ve no more notion where I was born, than you have — if so much. I first become aware of myself, down in Essex, a thieving turnips for my living. Summun had run away from me — a man — a tinker — and he’d took the fire with him, and left me wery cold.
“I know’d my name to be Magwitch, chrisen’d Abel. How did I know it? Much as I know’d the birds’ names in the hedges to be chaffinch, sparrer, thrush. I might have thought it was all lies together, only as the birds’ names come out true, I supposed mine did.
“So fur as I could find, there warn’t a soul that see young Abel Magwitch, with us little on him as in him, but wot caught fright at him, and either drove him off, or took him up. I was took up, took up, took up, to that extent that I reg’larly grow’d up took up.
“This is the way it was, that when I was a ragged little creetur as much to be pitied as ever I see (not that I looked in the glass, for there warn’t many insides of furnished houses known to me), I got the name of being hardened. “This is a terrible hardened one,” they says to prison wisitors, picking out me. “May be said to live in jails, this boy. “Then they looked at me, and I looked at them, and they measured my head, some on ’em — they had better a-measured my stomach — and others on ’em giv me tracts what I couldn’t read, and made me speeches what I couldn’t understand. They always went on agen me about the Devil. But what the Devil was I to do? I must put something into my stomach, mustn’t I? — Howsomever, I’m a getting low, and I know what’s due. Dear boy and Pip’s comrade, don’t you be afeerd of me being low.