the keyhole. Finally he gave a faint single rap, and Pepper - such was the compromising name of the avenging boy - announced `Mr Gargery!' I thought he never would have done wiping his feet, and that I must have gone out to lift him off the mat, but at last he came in.
`Joe, how are you, Joe?'
`Pip, how AIR you, Pip?'
With his good honest face all glowing and shining, and his hat put down on the floor between us, he caught both my hands and worked them straight up and down, as if I had been the lastpatented Pump.
`I am glad to see you, Joe. Give me your hat.'
But Joe, taking it up carefully with both hands, like a bird's-nest with eggs in it, wouldn't hear of parting with that piece of property, and persisted in standing talking over it in a most uncomfortable way.
`Which you have that growed,' said Joe, `and that swelled, and that gentle-folked;' Joe considered a little before he discovered this word; `as to be sure you are a honour to your king and country.'
`And you, Joe, look wonderfully well.'
`Thank God,' said Joe, `I'm ekerval to most. And your sister, she's no worse than she were. And Biddy, she's ever right and ready. And all friends is no backerder, if not no forarder. 'Ceptin'Wopsle; he's had a drop.'
All this time (still with both hands taking great care of the bird's-nest), Joe was rolling his eyes round and round the room, and round and round the flowered pattern of my dressing-gown.
`Had a drop, Joe?'
`Why yes,' said Joe, lowering his voice, `he's left the Church, and went into the playacting. Which the playacting have likeways brought him to London along with me. And his wish were,' said Joe, getting the bird's-nest under his left arm for the moment and groping in it for an egg with his right; `if no offence, as I would 'and you that.'
I took what Joe gave me, and found it to be the crumpled playbill of a small metropolitan theatre, announcing the first appearance, in that very week, of `the celebrated Provincial Amateur of Roscian renown, whose unique performance in the highest tragic walk of our National Bard has lately occasioned so great a sensation in local dramatic circles.'
`Were you at his performance, Joe?' I inquired.
`I were,' said Joe, with emphasis and solemnity.
`Was there a great sensation?'
`Why,' said Joe, `yes, there certainly were a peck of orangepeel. Partickler, when he see the ghost. Though I put it to yourself, sir, whether it were calc'lated to keep a man up to his work with a good hart, to be continiwally cutting in betwixt him and the Ghost with Mqq>Amen!" A man may have had a misfortun' and been in the Church,' said Joe, lowering his voice to an argumentative and feeling tone, `but that is no reason why you should put him out at such a time. Which I meantersay, if the ghost of a man's own father cannot be allowed to claim his attention, what can, Sir? Still more, when his mourning `at is unfortunately made so small as that the weight of the black feathers brings it off, try to keep it on how you may.'
A ghost-seeing effect in Joe's own countenance informed me that Herbert had entered the room. So, I presented Joe to Herbert, who held out his hand; but Joe backed from it, and held on by the bird's-nest.
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