Wednesday, October 17, 2007


GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Charles Dickens - I

Charles Dickens
Chapter 1
My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip,
my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more
explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called
I give Pirrip as my father's family name, on the authority of his
tombstone and my sister - Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the
blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw
any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the
days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were
like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones. The shape of
the letters on my father's, gave me an odd idea that he was a
square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair. From the character
and turn of the inscription, "Also Georgiana Wife of the Above," I
drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sickly.
To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long,
which were arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were
sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine - who gave up
trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal
struggle - I am indebted for a belief I religiously entertained
that they had all been born on their backs with their hands in
their trousers-pockets, and had never taken them out in this state
of existence.
Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river
wound, twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad
impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been
gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. At such a time
I found out for certain, that this bleak place overgrown with
nettles was the churchyard; and that Philip Pirrip, late of this
parish, and also Georgiana wife of the above, were dead and buried;
and that Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias, and Roger, infant
children of the aforesaid, were also dead and buried; and that the
dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes
and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the
marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond, was the river; and
that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was
the sea; and that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it
all and beginning to cry, was Pip.
"Hold your noise!" cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from
among the graves at the side of the church porch. "Keep still, you
little devil, or I'll cut your throat!"
A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg. A
man with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied
round his head. A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered
in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by
nettles, and torn by briars; who limped, and shivered, and glared
and growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me
by the chin.
"O! Don't cut my throat, sir," I pleaded in terror. "Pray don't do
it, sir."
"Tell us your name!" said the man. "Quick!"
"Pip, sir."
"Once more," said the man, staring at me. "Give it mouth!"
"Pip. Pip, sir."
"Show us where you live," said the man. "Pint out the place!"
I pointed to where our village lay, on the flat in-shore among the
alder-trees and pollards, a mile or more from the church.
The man, after looking at me for a moment, turned me upside down,
and emptied my pockets. There was nothing in them but a piece of
bread. When the church came to itself - for he was so sudden and
strong that he made it go head over heels before me, and I saw the
steeple under my feet - when the church came to itself, I say, I
was seated on a high tombstone, trembling, while he ate the bread
"You young dog," said the man, licking his lips, "what fat cheeks
you ha' got."
I believe they were fat, though I was at that time undersized for
my years, and not strong.
"Darn me if I couldn't eat em," said the man, with a threatening
shake of his head, "and if I han't half a mind to't!"
I earnestly expressed my hope that he wouldn't, and held tighter to
the tombstone on which he had put me; partly, to keep myself upon
it; partly, to keep myself from crying.
"Now lookee here!" said the man. "Where's your mother?"
"There, sir!" said I.
He started, made a short run, and stopped and looked over his
"There, sir!" I timidly explained. "Also Georgiana. That's my
"Oh!" said he, coming back. "And is that your father alonger your
"Yes, sir," said I; "him too; late of this parish."
"Ha!" he muttered then, considering. "Who d'ye live with -
supposin' you're kindly let to live, which I han't made up my mind
"My sister, sir - Mrs. Joe Gargery - wife of Joe Gargery, the
blacksmith, sir."
"Blacksmith, eh?" said he. And looked down at his leg.
After darkly looking at his leg and me several times, he came
closer to my tombstone, took me by both arms, and tilted me back as
far as he could hold me; so that his eyes looked most powerfully
down into mine, and mine looked most helplessly up into his.
"Now lookee here," he said, "the question being whether you're to
be let to live. You know what a file is?"
"Yes, sir."
"And you know what wittles is?"
"Yes, sir."
After each question he tilted me over a little more, so as to give
me a greater sense of helplessness and danger.
"You get me a file." He tilted me again. "And you get me wittles."
He tilted me again. "You bring 'em both to me." He tilted me again.
"Or I'll have your heart and liver out." He tilted me again.
I was dreadfully frightened, and so giddy that I clung to him with
both hands, and said, "If you would kindly please to let me keep
upright, sir, perhaps I shouldn't be sick, and perhaps I could
attend more."
He gave me a most tremendous dip and roll, so that the church
jumped over its own weather-cock. Then, he held me by the arms, in
an upright position on the top of the stone, and went on in these
fearful terms:
"You bring me, to-morrow morning early, that file and them wittles.
You bring the lot to me, at that old Battery over yonder. You do
it, and you never dare to say a word or dare to make a sign
concerning your having seen such a person as me, or any person
sumever, and you shall be let to live. You fail, or you go from my
words in any partickler, no matter how small it is, and your heart
and your liver shall be tore out, roasted and ate. Now, I ain't
alone, as you may think I am. There's a young man hid with me, in
comparison with which young man I am a Angel. That young man hears
the words I speak. That young man has a secret way pecooliar to
himself, of getting at a boy, and at his heart, and at his liver.
It is in wain for a boy to attempt to hide himself from that young
man. A boy may lock his door, may be warm in bed, may tuck himself
up, may draw the clothes over his head, may think himself
comfortable and safe, but that young man will softly creep and
creep his way to him and tear him open. I am a-keeping that young
man from harming of you at the present moment, with great
difficulty. I find it wery hard to hold that young man off of your
inside. Now, what do you say?"
I said that I would get him the file, and I would get him what
broken bits of food I could, and I would come to him at the
Battery, early in the morning.
"Say Lord strike you dead if you don't!" said the man.
I said so, and he took me down.
"Now," he pursued, "you remember what you've undertook, and you
remember that young man, and you get home!"
"Goo-good night, sir," I faltered.
"Much of that!" said he, glancing about him over the cold wet flat.
"I wish I was a frog. Or a eel!"
At the same time, he hugged his shuddering body in both his arms -
clasping himself, as if to hold himself together - and limped
towards the low church wall. As I saw him go, picking his way among
the nettles, and among the brambles that bound the green mounds, he
looked in my young eyes as if he were eluding the hands of the dead
people, stretching up cautiously out of their graves, to get a
twist upon his ankle and pull him in.
When he came to the low church wall, he got over it, like a man
whose legs were numbed and stiff, and then turned round to look for
me. When I saw him turning, I set my face towards home, and made
the best use of my legs. But presently I looked over my shoulder,
and saw him going on again towards the river, still hugging himself
in both arms, and picking his way with his sore feet among the
great stones dropped into the marshes here and there, for
stepping-places when the rains were heavy, or the tide was in.
The marshes were just a long black horizontal line then, as I
stopped to look after him; and the river was just another
horizontal line, not nearly so broad nor yet so black; and the sky
was just a row of long angry red lines and dense black lines
intermixed. On the edge of the river I could faintly make out the
only two black things in all the prospect that seemed to be
standing upright; one of these was the beacon by which the sailors
steered - like an unhooped cask upon a pole - an ugly thing when
you were near it; the other a gibbet, with some chains hanging to
it which had once held a pirate. The man was limping on towards
this latter, as if he were the pirate come to life, and come down,
and going back to hook himself up again. It gave me a terrible turn
when I thought so; and as I saw the cattle lifting their heads to
gaze after him, I wondered whether they thought so too. I looked
all round for the horrible young man, and could see no signs of
him. But, now I was frightened again, and ran home without
Chapter 2
My sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery, was more than twenty years older than
I, and had established a great reputation with herself and the
neighbours because she had brought me up "by hand." Having at that
time to find out for myself what the expression meant, and knowing
her to have a hard and heavy hand, and to be much in the habit of
laying it upon her husband as well as upon me, I supposed that Joe
Gargery and I were both brought up by hand.
She was not a good-looking woman, my sister; and I had a general
impression that she must have made Joe Gargery marry her by hand.
Joe was a fair man, with curls of flaxen hair on each side of his
smooth face, and with eyes of such a very undecided blue that they
seemed to have somehow got mixed with their own whites. He was a
mild, good-natured, sweet-tempered, easy-going, foolish, dear
fellow - a sort of Hercules in strength, and also in weakness.
My sister, Mrs. Joe, with black hair and eyes, had such a prevailing
redness of skin that I sometimes used to wonder whether it was
possible she washed herself with a nutmeg-grater instead of soap.
She was tall and bony, and almost always wore a coarse apron,
fastened over her figure behind with two loops, and having a square
impregnable bib in front, that was stuck full of pins and needles.
She made it a powerful merit in herself, and a strong reproach
against Joe, that she wore this apron so much. Though I really see
no reason why she should have worn it at all: or why, if she did
wear it at all, she should not have taken it off, every day of her
Joe's forge adjoined our house, which was a wooden house, as many
of the dwellings in our country were - most of them, at that time.
When I ran home from the churchyard, the forge was shut up, and Joe
was sitting alone in the kitchen. Joe and I being fellow-sufferers,
and having confidences as such, Joe imparted a confidence to me,
the moment I raised the latch of the door and peeped in at him
opposite to it, sitting in the chimney corner.
"Mrs. Joe has been out a dozen times, looking for you, Pip. And
she's out now, making it a baker's dozen."
"Is she?"
"Yes, Pip," said Joe; "and what's worse, she's got Tickler with
At this dismal intelligence, I twisted the only button on my
waistcoat round and round, and looked in great depression at the
fire. Tickler was a wax-ended piece of cane, worn smooth by
collision with my tickled frame.
"She sot down," said Joe, "and she got up, and she made a grab at
Tickler, and she Ram-paged out. That's what she did," said Joe,
slowly clearing the fire between the lower bars with the poker, and
looking at it: "she Ram-paged out, Pip."
"Has she been gone long, Joe?" I always treated him as a larger
species of child, and as no more than my equal.
"Well," said Joe, glancing up at the Dutch clock, "she's been on
the Ram-page, this last spell, about five minutes, Pip. She's acoming!
Get behind the door, old chap, and have the jack-towel
betwixt you."
I took the advice. My sister, Mrs. Joe, throwing the door wide open,
and finding an obstruction behind it, immediately divined the
cause, and applied Tickler to its further investigation. She
concluded by throwing me - I often served as a connubial missile -
at Joe, who, glad to get hold of me on any terms, passed me on into
the chimney and quietly fenced me up there with his great leg.
"Where have you been, you young monkey?" said Mrs. Joe, stamping her
foot. "Tell me directly what you've been doing to wear me away with
fret and fright and worrit, or I'd have you out of that corner if
you was fifty Pips, and he was five hundred Gargerys."
"I have only been to the churchyard," said I, from my stool, crying
and rubbing myself.
"Churchyard!" repeated my sister. "If it warn't for me you'd have
been to the churchyard long ago, and stayed there. Who brought you
up by hand?"
"You did," said I.
"And why did I do it, I should like to know?" exclaimed my sister.
I whimpered, "I don't know."
"I don't!" said my sister. "I'd never do it again! I know that. I
may truly say I've never had this apron of mine off, since born you
were. It's bad enough to be a blacksmith's wife (and him a Gargery)
without being your mother."
My thoughts strayed from that question as I looked disconsolately
at the fire. For, the fugitive out on the marshes with the ironed
leg, the mysterious young man, the file, the food, and the dreadful
pledge I was under to commit a larceny on those sheltering
premises, rose before me in the avenging coals.
"Hah!" said Mrs. Joe, restoring Tickler to his station. "Churchyard,
indeed! You may well say churchyard, you two." One of us,
by-the-bye, had not said it at all. "You'll drive me to the
churchyard betwixt you, one of these days, and oh, a pr-r-recious
pair you'd be without me!"
As she applied herself to set the tea-things, Joe peeped down at me
over his leg, as if he were mentally casting me and himself up, and
calculating what kind of pair we practically should make, under the
grievous circumstances foreshadowed. After that, he sat feeling his
right-side flaxen curls and whisker, and following Mrs. Joe about
with his blue eyes, as his manner always was at squally times.
My sister had a trenchant way of cutting our bread-and-butter for
us, that never varied. First, with her left hand she jammed the
loaf hard and fast against her bib - where it sometimes got a pin
into it, and sometimes a needle, which we afterwards got into our
mouths. Then she took some butter (not too much) on a knife and
spread it on the loaf, in an apothecary kind of way, as if she were
making a plaister - using both sides of the knife with a slapping
dexterity, and trimming and moulding the butter off round the
crust. Then, she gave the knife a final smart wipe on the edge of
the plaister, and then sawed a very thick round off the loaf: which
she finally, before separating from the loaf, hewed into two
halves, of which Joe got one, and I the other.
On the present occasion, though I was hungry, I dared not eat my
slice. I felt that I must have something in reserve for my dreadful
acquaintance, and his ally the still more dreadful young man. I
knew Mrs. Joe's housekeeping to be of the strictest kind, and that
my larcenous researches might find nothing available in the safe.
Therefore I resolved to put my hunk of bread-and-butter down the
leg of my trousers.
The effort of resolution necessary to the achievement of this
purpose, I found to be quite awful. It was as if I had to make up
my mind to leap from the top of a high house, or plunge into a
great depth of water. And it was made the more difficult by the
unconscious Joe. In our already-mentioned freemasonry as
fellow-sufferers, and in his good-natured companionship with me, it
was our evening habit to compare the way we bit through our slices,
by silently holding them up to each other's admiration now and then
- which stimulated us to new exertions. To-night, Joe several times
invited me, by the display of his fast-diminishing slice, to enter
upon our usual friendly competition; but he found me, each time,
with my yellow mug of tea on one knee, and my untouched
bread-and-butter on the other. At last, I desperately considered
that the thing I contemplated must be done, and that it had best be
done in the least improbable manner consistent with the
circumstances. I took advantage of a moment when Joe had just
looked at me, and got my bread-and-butter down my leg.
Joe was evidently made uncomfortable by what he supposed to be my
loss of appetite, and took a thoughtful bite out of his slice,
which he didn't seem to enjoy. He turned it about in his mouth much
longer than usual, pondering over it a good deal, and after all
gulped it down like a pill. He was about to take another bite, and
had just got his head on one side for a good purchase on it, when
his eye fell on me, and he saw that my bread-and-butter was gone.
The wonder and consternation with which Joe stopped on the
threshold of his bite and stared at me, were too evident to escape
my sister's observation.
"What's the matter now?" said she, smartly, as she put down her
"I say, you know!" muttered Joe, shaking his head at me in very
serious remonstrance. "Pip, old chap! You'll do yourself a
mischief. It'll stick somewhere. You can't have chawed it, Pip."
"What's the matter now?" repeated my sister, more sharply than
"If you can cough any trifle on it up, Pip, I'd recommend you to do
it," said Joe, all aghast. "Manners is manners, but still your
elth's your elth."
By this time, my sister was quite desperate, so she pounced on Joe,
and, taking him by the two whiskers, knocked his head for a little
while against the wall behind him: while I sat in the corner,
looking guiltily on.
"Now, perhaps you'll mention what's the matter," said my sister,
out of breath, "you staring great stuck pig."
Joe looked at her in a helpless way; then took a helpless bite, and
looked at me again.
"You know, Pip," said Joe, solemnly, with his last bite in his
cheek and speaking in a confidential voice, as if we two were quite
alone, "you and me is always friends, and I'd be the last to tell
upon you, any time. But such a--" he moved his chair and looked
about the floor between us, and then again at me - "such a most
oncommon Bolt as that!"
"Been bolting his food, has he?" cried my sister.
"You know, old chap," said Joe, looking at me, and not at Mrs. Joe,
with his bite still in his cheek, "I Bolted, myself, when I was
your age - frequent - and as a boy I've been among a many Bolters;
but I never see your Bolting equal yet, Pip, and it's a mercy you
ain't Bolted dead."
My sister made a dive at me, and fished me up by the hair: saying
nothing more than the awful words, "You come along and be dosed."
Some medical beast had revived Tar-water in those days as a fine
medicine, and Mrs. Joe always kept a supply of it in the cupboard;
having a belief in its virtues correspondent to its nastiness. At
the best of times, so much of this elixir was administered to me as
a choice restorative, that I was conscious of going about, smelling
like a new fence. On this particular evening the urgency of my case
demanded a pint of this mixture, which was poured down my throat,
for my greater comfort, while Mrs. Joe held my head under her arm,
as a boot would be held in a boot-jack. Joe got off with half a
pint; but was made to swallow that (much to his disturbance, as he
sat slowly munching and meditating before the fire), "because he had
had a turn." Judging from myself, I should say he certainly had a
turn afterwards, if he had had none before.
Conscience is a dreadful thing when it accuses man or boy; but
when, in the case of a boy, that secret burden co-operates with
another secret burden down the leg of his trousers, it is (as I can
testify) a great punishment. The guilty knowledge that I was going
to rob Mrs. Joe - I never thought I was going to rob Joe, for I
never thought of any of the housekeeping property as his - united
to the necessity of always keeping one hand on my bread-and-butter
as I sat, or when I was ordered about the kitchen on any small
errand, almost drove me out of my mind. Then, as the marsh winds
made the fire glow and flare, I thought I heard the voice outside,
of the man with the iron on his leg who had sworn me to secrecy,
declaring that he couldn't and wouldn't starve until to-morrow, but
must be fed now. At other times, I thought, What if the young man
who was with so much difficulty restrained from imbruing his hands
in me, should yield to a constitutional impatience, or should
mistake the time, and should think himself accredited to my heart
and liver to-night, instead of to-morrow! If ever anybody's hair
stood on end with terror, mine must have done so then. But,
perhaps, nobody's ever did?
It was Christmas Eve, and I had to stir the pudding for next day,
with a copper-stick, from seven to eight by the Dutch clock. I
tried it with the load upon my leg (and that made me think afresh
of the man with the load on his leg), and found the tendency of
exercise to bring the bread-and-butter out at my ankle, quite
unmanageable. Happily, I slipped away, and deposited that part of
my conscience in my garret bedroom.
"Hark!" said I, when I had done my stirring, and was taking a final
warm in the chimney corner before being sent up to bed; "was that
great guns, Joe?"
"Ah!" said Joe. "There's another conwict off."
"What does that mean, Joe?" said I.
Mrs. Joe, who always took explanations upon herself, said,
snappishly, "Escaped. Escaped." Administering the definition like
While Mrs. Joe sat with her head bending over her needlework, I put
my mouth into the forms of saying to Joe, "What's a convict?" Joe
put his mouth into the forms of returning such a highly elaborate
answer, that I could make out nothing of it but the single word
"There was a conwict off last night," said Joe, aloud, "after
sun-set-gun. And they fired warning of him. And now, it appears
they're firing warning of another."
"Who's firing?" said I.
"Drat that boy," interposed my sister, frowning at me over her
work, "what a questioner he is. Ask no questions, and you'll be
told no lies."
It was not very polite to herself, I thought, to imply that I should
be told lies by her, even if I did ask questions. But she never was
polite, unless there was company.
At this point, Joe greatly augmented my curiosity by taking the
utmost pains to open his mouth very wide, and to put it into the
form of a word that looked to me like "sulks." Therefore, I
naturally pointed to Mrs. Joe, and put my mouth into the form of
saying "her?" But Joe wouldn't hear of that, at all, and again
opened his mouth very wide, and shook the form of a most emphatic
word out of it. But I could make nothing of the word.
"Mrs. Joe," said I, as a last resort, "I should like to know - if
you wouldn't much mind - where the firing comes from?"
"Lord bless the boy!" exclaimed my sister, as if she didn't quite
mean that, but rather the contrary. "From the Hulks!"
"Oh-h!" said I, looking at Joe. "Hulks!"
Joe gave a reproachful cough, as much as to say, "Well, I told you
"And please what's Hulks?" said I.
"That's the way with this boy!" exclaimed my sister, pointing me
out with her needle and thread, and shaking her head at me. "Answer
him one question, and he'll ask you a dozen directly. Hulks are
prison-ships, right 'cross th' meshes." We always used that name
for marshes, in our country.
"I wonder who's put into prison-ships, and why they're put there?"
said I, in a general way, and with quiet desperation.
It was too much for Mrs. Joe, who immediately rose. "I tell you
what, young fellow," said she, "I didn't bring you up by hand to
badger people's lives out. It would be blame to me, and not praise,
if I had. People are put in the Hulks because they murder, and
because they rob, and forge, and do all sorts of bad; and they
always begin by asking questions. Now, you get along to bed!"
I was never allowed a candle to light me to bed, and, as I went
upstairs in the dark, with my head tingling - from Mrs. Joe's
thimble having played the tambourine upon it, to accompany her last
words - I felt fearfully sensible of the great convenience that the
Hulks were handy for me. I was clearly on my way there. I had begun
by asking questions, and I was going to rob Mrs. Joe.
Since that time, which is far enough away now, I have often thought
that few people know what secrecy there is in the young, under
terror. No matter how unreasonable the terror, so that it be
terror. I was in mortal terror of the young man who wanted my heart
and liver; I was in mortal terror of my interlocutor with the
ironed leg; I was in mortal terror of myself, from whom an awful
promise had been extracted; I had no hope of deliverance through my
all-powerful sister, who repulsed me at every turn; I am afraid to
think of what I might have done, on requirement, in the secrecy of
my terror.
If I slept at all that night, it was only to imagine myself
drifting down the river on a strong spring-tide, to the Hulks; a
ghostly pirate calling out to me through a speaking-trumpet, as I
passed the gibbet-station, that I had better come ashore and be
hanged there at once, and not put it off. I was afraid to sleep,
even if I had been inclined, for I knew that at the first faint
dawn of morning I must rob the pantry. There was no doing it in the
night, for there was no getting a light by easy friction then; to
have got one, I must have struck it out of flint and steel, and
have made a noise like the very pirate himself rattling his chains.
As soon as the great black velvet pall outside my little window was
shot with grey, I got up and went down stairs; every board upon the
way, and every crack in every board, calling after me, "Stop
thief!" and "Get up, Mrs. Joe!" In the pantry, which was far more
abundantly supplied than usual, owing to the season, I was very
much alarmed, by a hare hanging up by the heels, whom I rather
thought I caught, when my back was half turned, winking. I had no
time for verification, no time for selection, no time for anything,
for I had no time to spare. I stole some bread, some rind of
cheese, about half a jar of mincemeat (which I tied up in my
pocket-handkerchief with my last night's slice), some brandy from a
stone bottle (which I decanted into a glass bottle I had secretly
used for making that intoxicating fluid, Spanish-liquorice-water,
up in my room: diluting the stone bottle from a jug in the kitchen
cupboard), a meat bone with very little on it, and a beautiful
round compact pork pie. I was nearly going away without the pie,
but I was tempted to mount upon a shelf, to look what it was that
was put away so carefully in a covered earthen ware dish in a
corner, and I found it was the pie, and I took it, in the hope that
it was not intended for early use, and would not be missed for some
There was a door in the kitchen, communicating with the forge; I
unlocked and unbolted that door, and got a file from among Joe's
tools. Then, I put the fastenings as I had found them, opened the
door at which I had entered when I ran home last night, shut it,
and ran for the misty marshes.
Chapter 3
It was a rimy morning, and very damp. I had seen the damp lying on
the outside of my little window, as if some goblin had been crying
there all night, and using the window for a pocket-handkerchief.
Now, I saw the damp lying on the bare hedges and spare grass, like
a coarser sort of spiders' webs; hanging itself from twig to twig
and blade to blade. On every rail and gate, wet lay clammy; and the
marsh-mist was so thick, that the wooden finger on the post
directing people to our village - a direction which they never
accepted, for they never came there - was invisible to me until I
was quite close under it. Then, as I looked up at it, while it
dripped, it seemed to my oppressed conscience like a phantom
devoting me to the Hulks.
The mist was heavier yet when I got out upon the marshes, so that
instead of my running at everything, everything seemed to run at
me. This was very disagreeable to a guilty mind. The gates and
dykes and banks came bursting at me through the mist, as if they
cried as plainly as could be, "A boy with Somebody-else's pork pie!
Stop him!" The cattle came upon me with like suddenness, staring
out of their eyes, and steaming out of their nostrils, "Holloa,
young thief!" One black ox, with a white cravat on - who even had
to my awakened conscience something of a clerical air - fixed me so
obstinately with his eyes, and moved his blunt head round in such
an accusatory manner as I moved round, that I blubbered out to him,
"I couldn't help it, sir! It wasn't for myself I took it!" Upon
which he put down his head, blew a cloud of smoke out of his nose,
and vanished with a kick-up of his hind-legs and a flourish of his
All this time, I was getting on towards the river; but however fast
I went, I couldn't warm my feet, to which the damp cold seemed
riveted, as the iron was riveted to the leg of the man I was
running to meet. I knew my way to the Battery, pretty straight, for
I had been down there on a Sunday with Joe, and Joe, sitting on an
old gun, had told me that when I was 'prentice to him regularly
bound, we would have such Larks there! However, in the confusion of
the mist, I found myself at last too far to the right, and
consequently had to try back along the river-side, on the bank of
loose stones above the mud and the stakes that staked the tide out.
Making my way along here with all despatch, I had just crossed a
ditch which I knew to be very near the Battery, and had just
scrambled up the mound beyond the ditch, when I saw the man sitting
before me. His back was towards me, and he had his arms folded, and
was nodding forward, heavy with sleep.
I thought he would be more glad if I came upon him with his
breakfast, in that unexpected manner, so I went forward softly and
touched him on the shoulder. He instantly jumped up, and it was not
the same man, but another man!
And yet this man was dressed in coarse grey, too, and had a great
iron on his leg, and was lame, and hoarse, and cold, and was
everything that the other man was; except that he had not the same
face, and had a flat broad-brimmed low-crowned felt that on. All
this, I saw in a moment, for I had only a moment to see it in: he
swore an oath at me, made a hit at me - it was a round weak blow
that missed me and almost knocked himself down, for it made him
stumble - and then he ran into the mist, stumbling twice as he went,
and I lost him.
"It's the young man!" I thought, feeling my heart shoot as I
identified him. I dare say I should have felt a pain in my liver,
too, if I had known where it was.
I was soon at the Battery, after that, and there was the right
man-hugging himself and limping to and fro, as if he had never all
night left off hugging and limping - waiting for me. He was awfully
cold, to be sure. I half expected to see him drop down before my
face and die of deadly cold. His eyes looked so awfully hungry,
too, that when I handed him the file and he laid it down on the
grass, it occurred to me he would have tried to eat it, if he had
not seen my bundle. He did not turn me upside down, this time, to
get at what I had, but left me right side upwards while I opened
the bundle and emptied my pockets.
"What's in the bottle, boy?" said he.
"Brandy," said I.
He was already handing mincemeat down his throat in the most
curious manner - more like a man who was putting it away somewhere
in a violent hurry, than a man who was eating it - but he left off
to take some of the liquor. He shivered all the while, so
violently, that it was quite as much as he could do to keep the
neck of the bottle between his teeth, without biting it off.
"I think you have got the ague," said I.
"I'm much of your opinion, boy," said he.
"It's bad about here," I told him. "You've been lying out on the
meshes, and they're dreadful aguish. Rheumatic too."
"I'll eat my breakfast afore they're the death of me," said he.
"I'd do that, if I was going to be strung up to that there gallows
as there is over there, directly afterwards. I'll beat the shivers
so far, I'll bet you."
He was gobbling mincemeat, meatbone, bread, cheese, and pork pie,
all at once: staring distrustfully while he did so at the mist all
round us, and often stopping - even stopping his jaws - to listen.
Some real or fancied sound, some clink upon the river or breathing
of beast upon the marsh, now gave him a start, and he said,
"You're not a deceiving imp? You brought no one with you?"
"No, sir! No!"
"Nor giv' no one the office to follow you?"
"Well," said he, "I believe you. You'd be but a fierce young hound
indeed, if at your time of life you could help to hunt a wretched
warmint, hunted as near death and dunghill as this poor wretched
warmint is!"
Something clicked in his throat, as if he had works in him like a
clock, and was going to strike. And he smeared his ragged rough
sleeve over his eyes.
Pitying his desolation, and watching him as he gradually settled
down upon the pie, I made bold to say, "I am glad you enjoy it."
"Did you speak?"
"I said I was glad you enjoyed it."
"Thankee, my boy. I do."
I had often watched a large dog of ours eating his food; and I now
noticed a decided similarity between the dog's way of eating, and
the man's. The man took strong sharp sudden bites, just like the
dog. He swallowed, or rather snapped up, every mouthful, too soon
and too fast; and he looked sideways here and there while he ate,
as if he thought there was danger in every direction, of somebody's
coming to take the pie away. He was altogether too unsettled in his
mind over it, to appreciate it comfortably, I thought, or to have
anybody to dine with him, without making a chop with his jaws at
the visitor. In all of which particulars he was very like the dog.
"I am afraid you won't leave any of it for him," said I, timidly;
after a silence during which I had hesitated as to the politeness
of making the remark. "There's no more to be got where that came
from." It was the certainty of this fact that impelled me to offer
the hint.
"Leave any for him? Who's him?" said my friend, stopping in his
crunching of pie-crust.
"The young man. That you spoke of. That was hid with you."
"Oh ah!" he returned, with something like a gruff laugh. "Him? Yes,
yes! He don't want no wittles."
"I thought he looked as if he did," said I.
The man stopped eating, and regarded me with the keenest scrutiny
and the greatest surprise.
"Looked? When?"
"Just now."
"Yonder," said I, pointing; "over there, where I found him nodding
asleep, and thought it was you."
He held me by the collar and stared at me so, that I began to think
his first idea about cutting my throat had revived.
"Dressed like you, you know, only with a hat," I explained,
trembling; "and - and" - I was very anxious to put this delicately
- "and with - the same reason for wanting to borrow a file. Didn't
you hear the cannon last night?"
"Then, there was firing!" he said to himself.
"I wonder you shouldn't have been sure of that," I returned, "for
we heard it up at home, and that's further away, and we were shut
in besides."
"Why, see now!" said he. "When a man's alone on these flats, with a
light head and a light stomach, perishing of cold and want, he
hears nothin' all night, but guns firing, and voices calling.
Hears? He sees the soldiers, with their red coats lighted up by the
torches carried afore, closing in round him. Hears his number
called, hears himself challenged, hears the rattle of the muskets,
hears the orders 'Make ready! Present! Cover him steady, men!' and
is laid hands on - and there's nothin'! Why, if I see one pursuing
party last night - coming up in order, Damn 'em, with their tramp,
tramp - I see a hundred. And as to firing! Why, I see the mist
shake with the cannon, arter it was broad day - But this man;" he
had said all the rest, as if he had forgotten my being there; "did
you notice anything in him?"
"He had a badly bruised face," said I, recalling what I hardly knew
I knew.
"Not here?" exclaimed the man, striking his left cheek mercilessly,
with the flat of his hand.
"Yes, there!"
"Where is he?" He crammed what little food was left, into the
breast of his grey jacket. "Show me the way he went. I'll pull him
down, like a bloodhound. Curse this iron on my sore leg! Give us
hold of the file, boy."
I indicated in what direction the mist had shrouded the other man,
and he looked up at it for an instant. But he was down on the rank
wet grass, filing at his iron like a madman, and not minding me or
minding his own leg, which had an old chafe upon it and was bloody,
but which he handled as roughly as if it had no more feeling in it
than the file. I was very much afraid of him again, now that he had
worked himself into this fierce hurry, and I was likewise very much
afraid of keeping away from home any longer. I told him I must go,
but he took no notice, so I thought the best thing I could do was
to slip off. The last I saw of him, his head was bent over his knee
and he was working hard at his fetter, muttering impatient
imprecations at it and at his leg. The last I heard of him, I
stopped in the mist to listen, and the file was still going.
Chapter 4
I fully expected to find a Constable in the kitchen, waiting to
take me up. But not only was there no Constable there, but no
discovery had yet been made of the robbery. Mrs. Joe was
prodigiously busy in getting the house ready for the festivities of
the day, and Joe had been put upon the kitchen door-step to keep
him out of the dust-pan - an article into which his destiny always
led him sooner or later, when my sister was vigorously reaping the
floors of her establishment.
"And where the deuce ha' you been?" was Mrs. Joe's Christmas
salutation, when I and my conscience showed ourselves.
I said I had been down to hear the Carols. "Ah! well!" observed Mrs.
Joe. "You might ha' done worse." Not a doubt of that, I thought.
"Perhaps if I warn't a blacksmith's wife, and (what's the same
thing) a slave with her apron never off, I should have been to hear
the Carols," said Mrs. Joe. "I'm rather partial to Carols, myself,
and that's the best of reasons for my never hearing any."
Joe, who had ventured into the kitchen after me as the dust-pan had
retired before us, drew the back of his hand across his nose with a
conciliatory air when Mrs. Joe darted a look at him, and, when her
eyes were withdrawn, secretly crossed his two forefingers, and
exhibited them to me, as our token that Mrs. Joe was in a cross
temper. This was so much her normal state, that Joe and I would
often, for weeks together, be, as to our fingers, like monumental
Crusaders as to their legs.
We were to have a superb dinner, consisting of a leg of pickled
pork and greens, and a pair of roast stuffed fowls. A handsome
mince-pie had been made yesterday morning (which accounted for the
mincemeat not being missed), and the pudding was already on the
boil. These extensive arrangements occasioned us to be cut off
unceremoniously in respect of breakfast; "for I an't," said Mrs.
Joe, "I an't a-going to have no formal cramming and busting and
washing up now, with what I've got before me, I promise you!"
So, we had our slices served out, as if we were two thousand troops
on a forced march instead of a man and boy at home; and we took
gulps of milk and water, with apologetic countenances, from a jug
on the dresser. In the meantime, Mrs. Joe put clean white curtains
up, and tacked a new flowered-flounce across the wide chimney to
replace the old one, and uncovered the little state parlour across
the passage, which was never uncovered at any other time, but
passed the rest of the year in a cool haze of silver paper, which
even extended to the four little white crockery poodles on the
mantelshelf, each with a black nose and a basket of flowers in his
mouth, and each the counterpart of the other. Mrs. Joe was a very
clean housekeeper, but had an exquisite art of making her
cleanliness more uncomfortable and unacceptable than dirt itself.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness, and some people do the same by
their religion.
My sister having so much to do, was going to church vicariously;
that is to say, Joe and I were going. In his working clothes, Joe
was a well-knit characteristic-looking blacksmith; in his holiday
clothes, he was more like a scarecrow in good circumstances, than
anything else. Nothing that he wore then, fitted him or seemed to
belong to him; and everything that he wore then, grazed him. On the
present festive occasion he emerged from his room, when the blithe
bells were going, the picture of misery, in a full suit of Sunday
penitentials. As to me, I think my sister must have had some
general idea that I was a young offender whom an Accoucheur
Policemen had taken up (on my birthday) and delivered over to her,
to be dealt with according to the outraged majesty of the law. I
was always treated as if I had insisted on being born, in
opposition to the dictates of reason, religion, and morality, and
against the dissuading arguments of my best friends. Even when I
was taken to have a new suit of clothes, the tailor had orders to
make them like a kind of Reformatory, and on no account to let me
have the free use of my limbs.
Joe and I going to church, therefore, must have been a moving
spectacle for compassionate minds. Yet, what I suffered outside,
was nothing to what I underwent within. The terrors that had
assailed me whenever Mrs. Joe had gone near the pantry, or out of
the room, were only to be equalled by the remorse with which my
mind dwelt on what my hands had done. Under the weight of my wicked
secret, I pondered whether the Church would be powerful enough to
shield me from the vengeance of the terrible young man, if I
divulged to that establishment. I conceived the idea that the time
when the banns were read and when the clergyman said, "Ye are now
to declare it!" would be the time for me to rise and propose a
private conference in the vestry. I am far from being sure that I
might not have astonished our small congregation by resorting to
this extreme measure, but for its being Christmas Day and no
Mr. Wopsle, the clerk at church, was to dine with us; and Mr. Hubble
the wheelwright and Mrs. Hubble; and Uncle Pumblechook (Joe's uncle,
but Mrs. Joe appropriated him), who was a well-to-do corn-chandler
in the nearest town, and drove his own chaise-cart. The dinner hour
was half-past one. When Joe and I got home, we found the table
laid, and Mrs. Joe dressed, and the dinner dressing, and the front
door unlocked (it never was at any other time) for the company to
enter by, and everything most splendid. And still, not a word of
the robbery.
The time came, without bringing with it any relief to my feelings,
and the company came. Mr. Wopsle, united to a Roman nose and a
large shining bald forehead, had a deep voice which he was
uncommonly proud of; indeed it was understood among his
acquaintance that if you could only give him his head, he would
read the clergyman into fits; he himself confessed that if the
Church was "thrown open," meaning to competition, he would not
despair of making his mark in it. The Church not being "thrown
open," he was, as I have said, our clerk. But he punished the
Amens tremendously; and when he gave out the psalm - always giving
the whole verse - he looked all round the congregation first, as
much as to say, "You have heard my friend overhead; oblige me with
your opinion of this style!"
I opened the door to the company - making believe that it was a
habit of ours to open that door - and I opened it first to Mr.
Wopsle, next to Mr. and Mrs. Hubble, and last of all to Uncle
Pumblechook. N.B., I was not allowed to call him uncle, under the
severest penalties.
"Mrs. Joe," said Uncle Pumblechook: a large hard-breathing
middle-aged slow man, with a mouth like a fish, dull staring eyes,
and sandy hair standing upright on his head, so that he looked as
if he had just been all but choked, and had that moment come to;
"I have brought you, as the compliments of the season - I have
brought you, Mum, a bottle of sherry wine - and I have brought you,
Mum, a bottle of port wine."
Every Christmas Day he presented himself, as a profound novelty,
with exactly the same words, and carrying the two bottles like
dumb-bells. Every Christmas Day, Mrs. Joe replied, as she now
replied, "Oh, Un - cle Pum - ble - chook! This IS kind!" Every
Christmas Day, he retorted, as he now retorted, "It's no more than
your merits. And now are you all bobbish, and how's Sixpennorth of
halfpence?" meaning me.
We dined on these occasions in the kitchen, and adjourned, for the
nuts and oranges and apples, to the parlour; which was a change
very like Joe's change from his working clothes to his Sunday
dress. My sister was uncommonly lively on the present occasion, and
indeed was generally more gracious in the society of Mrs. Hubble
than in other company. I remember Mrs. Hubble as a little curly
sharp-edged person in sky-blue, who held a conventionally juvenile
position, because she had married Mr. Hubble - I don't know at what
remote period - when she was much younger than he. I remember Mr
Hubble as a tough high-shouldered stooping old man, of a sawdusty
fragrance, with his legs extraordinarily wide apart: so that in my
short days I always saw some miles of open country between them
when I met him coming up the lane.
Among this good company I should have felt myself, even if I hadn't
robbed the pantry, in a false position. Not because I was squeezed
in at an acute angle of the table-cloth, with the table in my
chest, and the Pumblechookian elbow in my eye, nor because I was
not allowed to speak (I didn't want to speak), nor because I was
regaled with the scaly tips of the drumsticks of the fowls, and
with those obscure corners of pork of which the pig, when living,
had had the least reason to be vain. No; I should not have minded
that, if they would only have left me alone. But they wouldn't
leave me alone. They seemed to think the opportunity lost, if they
failed to point the conversation at me, every now and then, and
stick the point into me. I might have been an unfortunate little
bull in a Spanish arena, I got so smartingly touched up by these
moral goads.
It began the moment we sat down to dinner. Mr. Wopsle said grace
with theatrical declamation - as it now appears to me, something
like a religious cross of the Ghost in Hamlet with Richard the
Third - and ended with the very proper aspiration that we might be
truly grateful. Upon which my sister fixed me with her eye, and
said, in a low reproachful voice, "Do you hear that? Be grateful."
"Especially," said Mr. Pumblechook, "be grateful, boy, to them which
brought you up by hand."
Mrs. Hubble shook her head, and contemplating me with a mournful
presentiment that I should come to no good, asked, "Why is it that
the young are never grateful?" This moral mystery seemed too much
for the company until Mr. Hubble tersely solved it by saying,
"Naterally wicious." Everybody then murmured "True!" and looked at
me in a particularly unpleasant and personal manner.
Joe's station and influence were something feebler (if possible)
when there was company, than when there was none. But he always
aided and comforted me when he could, in some way of his own, and
he always did so at dinner-time by giving me gravy, if there were
any. There being plenty of gravy to-day, Joe spooned into my plate,
at this point, about half a pint.
A little later on in the dinner, Mr. Wopsle reviewed the sermon with
some severity, and intimated - in the usual hypothetical case of
the Church being "thrown open" - what kind of sermon he would have
given them. After favouring them with some heads of that discourse,
he remarked that he considered the subject of the day's homily,
ill-chosen; which was the less excusable, he added, when there were
so many subjects "going about."
"True again," said Uncle Pumblechook. "You've hit it, sir! Plenty of
subjects going about, for them that know how to put salt upon their
tails. That's what's wanted. A man needn't go far to find a
subject, if he's ready with his salt-box." Mr. Pumblechook added,
after a short interval of reflection, "Look at Pork alone. There's
a subject! If you want a subject, look at Pork!"
"True, sir. Many a moral for the young," returned Mr. Wopsle; and I
knew he was going to lug me in, before he said it; "might be
deduced from that text."
("You listen to this," said my sister to me, in a severe
Joe gave me some more gravy.
"Swine," pursued Mr. Wopsle, in his deepest voice, and pointing his
fork at my blushes, as if he were mentioning my Christian name;
"Swine were the companions of the prodigal. The gluttony of Swine
is put before us, as an example to the young." (I thought this
pretty well in him who had been praising up the pork for being so
plump and juicy.) "What is detestable in a pig, is more detestable
in a boy."
"Or girl," suggested Mr. Hubble.
"Of course, or girl, Mr. Hubble," assented Mr. Wopsle, rather
irritably, "but there is no girl present."
"Besides," said Mr. Pumblechook, turning sharp on me, "think what
you've got to be grateful for. If you'd been born a Squeaker--"
"He was, if ever a child was," said my sister, most emphatically.
Joe gave me some more gravy.
"Well, but I mean a four-footed Squeaker," said Mr. Pumblechook. "If
you had been born such, would you have been here now? Not you--"
"Unless in that form," said Mr. Wopsle, nodding towards the dish.
"But I don't mean in that form, sir," returned Mr. Pumblechook, who
had an objection to being interrupted; "I mean, enjoying himself
with his elders and betters, and improving himself with their
conversation, and rolling in the lap of luxury. Would he have been
doing that? No, he wouldn't. And what would have been your
destination?" turning on me again. "You would have been disposed of
for so many shillings according to the market price of the article,
and Dunstable the butcher would have come up to you as you lay in
your straw, and he would have whipped you under his left arm, and
with his right he would have tucked up his frock to get a penknife
from out of his waistcoat-pocket, and he would have shed your
blood and had your life. No bringing up by hand then. Not a bit of
Joe offered me more gravy, which I was afraid to take.
"He was a world of trouble to you, ma'am," said Mrs. Hubble,
commiserating my sister.
"Trouble?" echoed my sister; "trouble?" and then entered on a
fearful catalogue of all the illnesses I had been guilty of, and
all the acts of sleeplessness I had committed, and all the high
places I had tumbled from, and all the low places I had tumbled
into, and all the injuries I had done myself, and all the times she
had wished me in my grave, and I had contumaciously refused to go
I think the Romans must have aggravated one another very much, with
their noses. Perhaps, they became the restless people they were, in
consequence. Anyhow, Mr. Wopsle's Roman nose so aggravated me,
during the recital of my misdemeanours, that I should have liked to
pull it until he howled. But, all I had endured up to this time,
was nothing in comparison with the awful feelings that took
possession of me when the pause was broken which ensued upon my
sister's recital, and in which pause everybody had looked at me (as
I felt painfully conscious) with indignation and abhorrence.
"Yet," said Mr. Pumblechook, leading the company gently back to the
theme from which they had strayed, "Pork - regarded as biled - is
rich, too; ain't it?"
"Have a little brandy, uncle," said my sister.
O Heavens, it had come at last! He would find it was weak, he would
say it was weak, and I was lost! I held tight to the leg of the
table under the cloth, with both hands, and awaited my fate.
My sister went for the stone bottle, came back with the stone
bottle, and poured his brandy out: no one else taking any. The
wretched man trifled with his glass - took it up, looked at it
through the light, put it down - prolonged my misery. All this
time, Mrs. Joe and Joe were briskly clearing the table for the pie
and pudding.
I couldn't keep my eyes off him. Always holding tight by the leg of
the table with my hands and feet, I saw the miserable creature
finger his glass playfully, take it up, smile, throw his head back,
and drink the brandy off. Instantly afterwards, the company were
seized with unspeakable consternation, owing to his springing to
his feet, turning round several times in an appalling spasmodic
whooping-cough dance, and rushing out at the door; he then became
visible through the window, violently plunging and expectorating,
making the most hideous faces, and apparently out of his mind.
I held on tight, while Mrs. Joe and Joe ran to him. I didn't know
how I had done it, but I had no doubt I had murdered him somehow.
In my dreadful situation, it was a relief when he was brought back,
and, surveying the company all round as if they had disagreed with
him, sank down into his chair with the one significant gasp, "Tar!"
I had filled up the bottle from the tar-water jug. I knew he would
be worse by-and-by. I moved the table, like a Medium of the present
day, by the vigour of my unseen hold upon it.
"Tar!" cried my sister, in amazement. "Why, how ever could Tar come
But, Uncle Pumblechook, who was omnipotent in that kitchen,
wouldn't hear the word, wouldn't hear of the subject, imperiously
waved it all away with his hand, and asked for hot gin-and-water.
My sister, who had begun to be alarmingly meditative, had to employ
herself actively in getting the gin, the hot water, the sugar, and
the lemon-peel, and mixing them. For the time being at least, I was
saved. I still held on to the leg of the table, but clutched it now
with the fervour of gratitude.
By degrees, I became calm enough to release my grasp and partake of
pudding. Mr. Pumblechook partook of pudding. All partook of pudding.
The course terminated, and Mr. Pumblechook had begun to beam under
the genial influence of gin-and-water. I began to think I should
get over the day, when my sister said to Joe, "Clean plates -
I clutched the leg of the table again immediately, and pressed it
to my bosom as if it had been the companion of my youth and friend
of my soul. I foresaw what was coming, and I felt that this time I
really was gone.
"You must taste," said my sister, addressing the guests with her
best grace, "You must taste, to finish with, such a delightful and
delicious present of Uncle Pumblechook's!"
Must they! Let them not hope to taste it!
"You must know," said my sister, rising, "it's a pie; a savoury
pork pie."
The company murmured their compliments. Uncle Pumblechook, sensible
of having deserved well of his fellow-creatures, said - quite
vivaciously, all things considered - "Well, Mrs. Joe, we'll do our
best endeavours; let us have a cut at this same pie."
My sister went out to get it. I heard her steps proceed to the
pantry. I saw Mr. Pumblechook balance his knife. I saw re-awakening
appetite in the Roman nostrils of Mr. Wopsle. I heard Mr. Hubble
remark that "a bit of savoury pork pie would lay atop of anything
you could mention, and do no harm," and I heard Joe say, "You shall
have some, Pip." I have never been absolutely certain whether I
uttered a shrill yell of terror, merely in spirit, or in the bodily
hearing of the company. I felt that I could bear no more, and that
I must run away. I released the leg of the table, and ran for my
But, I ran no further than the house door, for there I ran head
foremost into a party of soldiers with their muskets: one of whom
held out a pair of handcuffs to me, saying, "Here you are, look
sharp, come on!"
Chapter 5
The apparition of a file of soldiers ringing down the butt-ends of
their loaded muskets on our door-step, caused the dinner-party to
rise from table in confusion, and caused Mrs. Joe re-entering the
kitchen empty-handed, to stop short and stare, in her wondering
lament of "Gracious goodness gracious me, what's gone - with the -
The sergeant and I were in the kitchen when Mrs. Joe stood staring;
at which crisis I partially recovered the use of my senses. It was
the sergeant who had spoken to me, and he was now looking round at
the company, with his handcuffs invitingly extended towards them in
his right hand, and his left on my shoulder.
"Excuse me, ladies and gentleman," said the sergeant, "but as I
have mentioned at the door to this smart young shaver" (which he
hadn't), "I am on a chase in the name of the king, and I want the
"And pray what might you want with him?" retorted my sister, quick
to resent his being wanted at all.
"Missis," returned the gallant sergeant, "speaking for myself, I
should reply, the honour and pleasure of his fine wife's
acquaintance; speaking for the king, I answer, a little job done."
This was received as rather neat in the sergeant; insomuch that Mr
Pumblechook cried audibly, "Good again!"
"You see, blacksmith," said the sergeant, who had by this time
picked out Joe with his eye, "we have had an accident with these,
and I find the lock of one of 'em goes wrong, and the coupling
don't act pretty. As they are wanted for immediate service, will
you throw your eye over them?"
Joe threw his eye over them, and pronounced that the job would
necessitate the lighting of his forge fire, and would take nearer
two hours than one, "Will it? Then will you set about it at once,
blacksmith?" said the off-hand sergeant, "as it's on his Majesty's
service. And if my men can beat a hand anywhere, they'll make
themselves useful." With that, he called to his men, who came
trooping into the kitchen one after another, and piled their arms
in a corner. And then they stood about, as soldiers do; now, with
their hands loosely clasped before them; now, resting a knee or a
shoulder; now, easing a belt or a pouch; now, opening the door to
spit stiffly over their high stocks, out into the yard.
All these things I saw without then knowing that I saw them, for I
was in an agony of apprehension. But, beginning to perceive that
the handcuffs were not for me, and that the military had so far got
the better of the pie as to put it in the background, I collected a
little more of my scattered wits.
"Would you give me the Time?" said the sergeant, addressing himself
to Mr. Pumblechook, as to a man whose appreciative powers justified
the inference that he was equal to the time.
"It's just gone half-past two."
"That's not so bad," said the sergeant, reflecting; "even if I was
forced to halt here nigh two hours, that'll do. How far might you
call yourselves from the marshes, hereabouts? Not above a mile, I
"Just a mile," said Mrs. Joe.
"That'll do. We begin to close in upon 'em about dusk. A little
before dusk, my orders are. That'll do."
"Convicts, sergeant?" asked Mr. Wopsle, in a matter-of-course way.
"Ay!" returned the sergeant, "two. They're pretty well known to be
out on the marshes still, and they won't try to get clear of 'em
before dusk. Anybody here seen anything of any such game?"
Everybody, myself excepted, said no, with confidence. Nobody
thought of me.
"Well!" said the sergeant, "they'll find themselves trapped in a
circle, I expect, sooner than they count on. Now, blacksmith! If
you're ready, his Majesty the King is."
Joe had got his coat and waistcoat and cravat off, and his leather
apron on, and passed into the forge. One of the soldiers opened its
wooden windows, another lighted the fire, another turned to at
the bellows, the rest stood round the blaze, which was soon
roaring. Then Joe began to hammer and clink, hammer and clink, and
we all looked on.
The interest of the impending pursuit not only absorbed the general
attention, but even made my sister liberal. She drew a pitcher of
beer from the cask, for the soldiers, and invited the sergeant to
take a glass of brandy. But Mr. Pumblechook said, sharply, "Give him
wine, Mum. I'll engage there's no Tar in that:" so, the sergeant
thanked him and said that as he preferred his drink without tar, he
would take wine, if it was equally convenient. When it was given
him, he drank his Majesty's health and Compliments of the Season,
and took it all at a mouthful and smacked his lips.
"Good stuff, eh, sergeant?" said Mr. Pumblechook.
"I'll tell you something," returned the sergeant; "I suspect that
stuff's of your providing."
Mr. Pumblechook, with a fat sort of laugh, said, "Ay, ay? Why?"
"Because," returned the sergeant, clapping him on the shoulder,
"you're a man that knows what's what."
"D'ye think so?" said Mr. Pumblechook, with his former laugh. "Have
another glass!"
"With you. Hob and nob," returned the sergeant. "The top of mine to
the foot of yours - the foot of yours to the top of mine - Ring
once, ring twice - the best tune on the Musical Glasses! Your
health. May you live a thousand years, and never be a worse judge
of the right sort than you are at the present moment of your life!"
The sergeant tossed off his glass again and seemed quite ready for
another glass. I noticed that Mr. Pumblechook in his hospitality
appeared to forget that he had made a present of the wine, but took
the bottle from Mrs. Joe and had all the credit of handing it about
in a gush of joviality. Even I got some. And he was so very free of
the wine that he even called for the other bottle, and handed that
about with the same liberality, when the first was gone.
As I watched them while they all stood clustering about the forge,
enjoying themselves so much, I thought what terrible good sauce for
a dinner my fugitive friend on the marshes was. They had not
enjoyed themselves a quarter so much, before the entertainment was
brightened with the excitement he furnished. And now, when they
were all in lively anticipation of "the two villains" being taken,
and when the bellows seemed to roar for the fugitives, the fire to
flare for them, the smoke to hurry away in pursuit of them, Joe to
hammer and clink for them, and all the murky shadows on the wall to
shake at them in menace as the blaze rose and sank and the red-hot
sparks dropped and died, the pale after-noon outside, almost seemed
in my pitying young fancy to have turned pale on their account,
poor wretches.
At last, Joe's job was done, and the ringing and roaring stopped.
As Joe got on his coat, he mustered courage to propose that some of
us should go down with the soldiers and see what came of the hunt.
Mr. Pumblechook and Mr. Hubble declined, on the plea of a pipe and
ladies' society; but Mr. Wopsle said he would go, if Joe would. Joe
said he was agreeable, and would take me, if Mrs. Joe approved. We
never should have got leave to go, I am sure, but for Mrs. Joe's
curiosity to know all about it and how it ended. As it was, she
merely stipulated, "If you bring the boy back with his head blown
to bits by a musket, don't look to me to put it together again."
The sergeant took a polite leave of the ladies, and parted from Mr.
Pumblechook as from a comrade; though I doubt if he were quite as
fully sensible of that gentleman's merits under arid conditions, as
when something moist was going. His men resumed their muskets and
fell in. Mr. Wopsle, Joe, and I, received strict charge to keep in
the rear, and to speak no word after we reached the marshes. When
we were all out in the raw air and were steadily moving towards our
business, I treasonably whispered to Joe, "I hope, Joe, we shan't
find them." and Joe whispered to me, "I'd give a shilling if they
had cut and run, Pip."
We were joined by no stragglers from the village, for the weather
was cold and threatening, the way dreary, the footing bad, darkness
coming on, and the people had good fires in-doors and were keeping
the day. A few faces hurried to glowing windows and looked after
us, but none came out. We passed the finger-post, and held straight
on to the churchyard. There, we were stopped a few minutes by a
signal from the sergeant's hand, while two or three of his men
dispersed themselves among the graves, and also examined the porch.
They came in again without finding anything, and then we struck out
on the open marshes, through the gate at the side of the
churchyard. A bitter sleet came rattling against us here on the
east wind, and Joe took me on his back.
Now that we were out upon the dismal wilderness where they little
thought I had been within eight or nine hours and had seen both men
hiding, I considered for the first time, with great dread, if we
should come upon them, would my particular convict suppose that it
was I who had brought the soldiers there? He had asked me if I was
a deceiving imp, and he had said I should be a fierce young hound
if I joined the hunt against him. Would he believe that I was both
imp and hound in treacherous earnest, and had betrayed him?
It was of no use asking myself this question now. There I was, on
Joe's back, and there was Joe beneath me, charging at the ditches
like a hunter, and stimulating Mr. Wopsle not to tumble on his Roman
nose, and to keep up with us. The soldiers were in front of us,
extending into a pretty wide line with an interval between man and
man. We were taking the course I had begun with, and from which I
had diverged in the mist. Either the mist was not out again yet, or
the wind had dispelled it. Under the low red glare of sunset, the
beacon, and the gibbet, and the mound of the Battery, and the
opposite shore of the river, were plain, though all of a watery
lead colour.
With my heart thumping like a blacksmith at Joe's broad shoulder, I
looked all about for any sign of the convicts. I could see none, I
could hear none. Mr. Wopsle had greatly alarmed me more than once,
by his blowing and hard breathing; but I knew the sounds by this
time, and could dissociate them from the object of pursuit. I got a
dreadful start, when I thought I heard the file still going; but it
was only a sheep bell. The sheep stopped in their eating and looked
timidly at us; and the cattle, their heads turned from the wind and
sleet, stared angrily as if they held us responsible for both
annoyances; but, except these things, and the shudder of the dying
day in every blade of grass, there was no break in the bleak
stillness of the marshes.
The soldiers were moving on in the direction of the old Battery,
and we were moving on a little way behind them, when, all of a
sudden, we all stopped. For, there had reached us on the wings of
the wind and rain, a long shout. It was repeated. It was at a
distance towards the east, but it was long and loud. Nay, there
seemed to be two or more shouts raised together - if one might
judge from a confusion in the sound.
To this effect the sergeant and the nearest men were speaking under
their breath, when Joe and I came up. After another moment's
listening, Joe (who was a good judge) agreed, and Mr. Wopsle (who
was a bad judge) agreed. The sergeant, a decisive man, ordered that
the sound should not be answered, but that the course should be
changed, and that his men should make towards it "at the double."
So we slanted to the right (where the East was), and Joe pounded
away so wonderfully, that I had to hold on tight to keep my seat.
It was a run indeed now, and what Joe called, in the only two words
he spoke all the time, "a Winder." Down banks and up banks, and
over gates, and splashing into dykes, and breaking among coarse
rushes: no man cared where he went. As we came nearer to the
shouting, it became more and more apparent that it was made by more
than one voice. Sometimes, it seemed to stop altogether, and then
the soldiers stopped. When it broke out again, the soldiers made
for it at a greater rate than ever, and we after them. After a
while, we had so run it down, that we could hear one voice calling
"Murder!" and another voice, "Convicts! Runaways! Guard! This way
for the runaway convicts!" Then both voices would seem to be
stifled in a struggle, and then would break out again. And when it
had come to this, the soldiers ran like deer, and Joe too.
The sergeant ran in first, when we had run the noise quite down,
and two of his men ran in close upon him. Their pieces were cocked
and levelled when we all ran in.
"Here are both men!" panted the sergeant, struggling at the bottom
of a ditch. "Surrender, you two! and confound you for two wild
beasts! Come asunder!"
Water was splashing, and mud was flying, and oaths were being
sworn, and blows were being struck, when some more men went down
into the ditch to help the sergeant, and dragged out, separately,
my convict and the other one. Both were bleeding and panting and
execrating and struggling; but of course I knew them both directly.
"Mind!" said my convict, wiping blood from his face with his ragged
sleeves, and shaking torn hair from his fingers: "I took him! I give
him up to you! Mind that!"
"It's not much to be particular about," said the sergeant; "it'll do
you small good, my man, being in the same plight yourself.
Handcuffs there!"
"I don't expect it to do me any good. I don't want it to do me more
good than it does now," said my convict, with a greedy laugh. "I
took him. He knows it. That's enough for me."
The other convict was livid to look at, and, in addition to the old
bruised left side of his face, seemed to be bruised and torn all
over. He could not so much as get his breath to speak, until they
were both separately handcuffed, but leaned upon a soldier to keep
himself from falling.
"Take notice, guard - he tried to murder me," were his first words.
"Tried to murder him?" said my convict, disdainfully. "Try, and not
do it? I took him, and giv' him up; that's what I done. I not only
prevented him getting off the marshes, but I dragged him here -
dragged him this far on his way back. He's a gentleman, if you
please, this villain. Now, the Hulks has got its gentleman again,
through me. Murder him? Worth my while, too, to murder him, when I
could do worse and drag him back!"
The other one still gasped, "He tried - he tried - to - murder me.
Bear - bear witness."
"Lookee here!" said my convict to the sergeant. "Single-handed I
got clear of the prison-ship; I made a dash and I done it. I could
ha' got clear of these death-cold flats likewise - look at my leg:
you won't find much iron on it - if I hadn't made the discovery that
he was here. Let him go free? Let him profit by the means as I found
out? Let him make a tool of me afresh and again? Once more? No, no,
no. If I had died at the bottom there;" and he made an emphatic
swing at the ditch with his manacled hands; "I'd have held to him
with that grip, that you should have been safe to find him in my
The other fugitive, who was evidently in extreme horror of his
companion, repeated, "He tried to murder me. I should have been a
dead man if you had not come up."
"He lies!" said my convict, with fierce energy. "He's a liar born,
and he'll die a liar. Look at his face; ain't it written there? Let
him turn those eyes of his on me. I defy him to do it."
The other, with an effort at a scornful smile - which could not,
however, collect the nervous working of his mouth into any set
expression - looked at the soldiers, and looked about at the
marshes and at the sky, but certainly did not look at the speaker.
"Do you see him?" pursued my convict. "Do you see what a villain he
is? Do you see those grovelling and wandering eyes? That's how he
looked when we were tried together. He never looked at me."
The other, always working and working his dry lips and turning his
eyes restlessly about him far and near, did at last turn them for a
moment on the speaker, with the words, "You are not much to look
at," and with a half-taunting glance at the bound hands. At that
point, my convict became so frantically exasperated, that he would
have rushed upon him but for the interposition of the soldiers.
"Didn't I tell you," said the other convict then, "that he would
murder me, if he could?" And any one could see that he shook with
fear, and that there broke out upon his lips, curious white flakes,
like thin snow.
"Enough of this parley," said the sergeant. "Light those torches."
As one of the soldiers, who carried a basket in lieu of a gun, went
down on his knee to open it, my convict looked round him for the
first time, and saw me. I had alighted from Joe's back on the brink
of the ditch when we came up, and had not moved since. I looked at
him eagerly when he looked at me, and slightly moved my hands and
shook my head. I had been waiting for him to see me, that I might
try to assure him of my innocence. It was not at all expressed to
me that he even comprehended my intention, for he gave me a look
that I did not understand, and it all passed in a moment. But if he
had looked at me for an hour or for a day, I could not have
remembered his face ever afterwards, as having been more attentive.
The soldier with the basket soon got a light, and lighted three or
four torches, and took one himself and distributed the others. It
had been almost dark before, but now it seemed quite dark, and soon
afterwards very dark. Before we departed from that spot, four
soldiers standing in a ring, fired twice into the air. Presently we
saw other torches kindled at some distance behind us, and others on
the marshes on the opposite bank of the river. "All right," said
the sergeant. "March."
We had not gone far when three cannon were fired ahead of us with a
sound that seemed to burst something inside my ear. "You are
expected on board," said the sergeant to my convict; "they know you
are coming. Don't straggle, my man. Close up here."
The two were kept apart, and each walked surrounded by a separate
guard. I had hold of Joe's hand now, and Joe carried one of the
torches. Mr. Wopsle had been for going back, but Joe was resolved to
see it out, so we went on with the party. There was a reasonably
good path now, mostly on the edge of the river, with a divergence
here and there where a dyke came, with a miniature windmill on it
and a muddy sluice-gate. When I looked round, I could see the other
lights coming in after us. The torches we carried, dropped great
blotches of fire upon the track, and I could see those, too, lying
smoking and flaring. I could see nothing else but black darkness.
Our lights warmed the air about us with their pitchy blaze, and the
two prisoners seemed rather to like that, as they limped along in
the midst of the muskets. We could not go fast, because of their
lameness; and they were so spent, that two or three times we had to
halt while they rested.
After an hour or so of this travelling, we came to a rough wooden
hut and a landing-place. There was a guard in the hut, and they
challenged, and the sergeant answered. Then, we went into the hut
where there was a smell of tobacco and whitewash, and a bright
fire, and a lamp, and a stand of muskets, and a drum, and a low
wooden bedstead, like an overgrown mangle without the machinery,
capable of holding about a dozen soldiers all at once. Three or
four soldiers who lay upon it in their great-coats, were not much
interested in us, but just lifted their heads and took a sleepy
stare, and then lay down again. The sergeant made some kind of
report, and some entry in a book, and then the convict whom I call
the other convict was drafted off with his guard, to go on board
My convict never looked at me, except that once. While we stood in
the hut, he stood before the fire looking thoughtfully at it, or
putting up his feet by turns upon the hob, and looking thoughtfully
at them as if he pitied them for their recent adventures. Suddenly,
he turned to the sergeant, and remarked:
"I wish to say something respecting this escape. It may prevent
some persons laying under suspicion alonger me."
"You can say what you like," returned the sergeant, standing coolly
looking at him with his arms folded, "but you have no call to say
it here. You'll have opportunity enough to say about it, and hear
about it, before it's done with, you know."
"I know, but this is another pint, a separate matter. A man can't
starve; at least I can't. I took some wittles, up at the willage
over yonder - where the church stands a'most out on the marshes."
"You mean stole," said the sergeant.
"And I'll tell you where from. From the blacksmith's."
"Halloa!" said the sergeant, staring at Joe.
"Halloa, Pip!" said Joe, staring at me.
"It was some broken wittles - that's what it was - and a dram of
liquor, and a pie."
"Have you happened to miss such an article as a pie, blacksmith?"
asked the sergeant, confidentially.
"My wife did, at the very moment when you came in. Don't you know,
"So," said my convict, turning his eyes on Joe in a moody manner,
and without the least glance at me; "so you're the blacksmith, are
you? Than I'm sorry to say, I've eat your pie."
"God knows you're welcome to it - so far as it was ever mine,"
returned Joe, with a saving remembrance of Mrs. Joe. "We don't know
what you have done, but we wouldn't have you starved to death for
it, poor miserable fellow-creatur. - Would us, Pip?"
The something that I had noticed before, clicked in the man's
throat again, and he turned his back. The boat had returned, and
his guard were ready, so we followed him to the landing-place made
of rough stakes and stones, and saw him put into the boat, which
was rowed by a crew of convicts like himself. No one seemed
surprised to see him, or interested in seeing him, or glad to see
him, or sorry to see him, or spoke a word, except that somebody in
the boat growled as if to dogs, "Give way, you!" which was the
signal for the dip of the oars. By the light of the torches, we saw
the black Hulk lying out a little way from the mud of the shore, like
a wicked Noah's ark. Cribbed and barred and moored by massive rusty
chains, the prison-ship seemed in my young eyes to be ironed like
the prisoners. We saw the boat go alongside, and we saw him taken
up the side and disappear. Then, the ends of the torches were flung
hissing into the water, and went out, as if it were all over with
Chapter 6
My state of mind regarding the pilfering from which I had been so
unexpectedly exonerated, did not impel me to frank disclosure; but
I hope it had some dregs of good at the bottom of it.
I do not recall that I felt any tenderness of conscience in
reference to Mrs. Joe, when the fear of being found out was lifted
off me. But I loved Joe - perhaps for no better reason in those
early days than because the dear fellow let me love him - and, as
to him, my inner self was not so easily composed. It was much upon
my mind (particularly when I first saw him looking about for his
file) that I ought to tell Joe the whole truth. Yet I did not, and
for the reason that I mistrusted that if I did, he would think me
worse than I was. The fear of losing Joe's confidence, and of
thenceforth sitting in the chimney-corner at night staring drearily
at my for ever lost companion and friend, tied up my tongue. I
morbidly represented to myself that if Joe knew it, I never
afterwards could see him at the fireside feeling his fair whisker,
without thinking that he was meditating on it. That, if Joe knew
it, I never afterwards could see him glance, however casually, at
yesterday's meat or pudding when it came on to-day's table, without
thinking that he was debating whether I had been in the pantry.
That, if Joe knew it, and at any subsequent period of our joint
domestic life remarked that his beer was flat or thick, the
conviction that he suspected Tar in it, would bring a rush of blood
to my face. In a word, I was too cowardly to do what I knew to be
right, as I had been too cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be
wrong. I had had no intercourse with the world at that time, and I
imitated none of its many inhabitants who act in this manner. Quite
an untaught genius, I made the discovery of the line of action for
As I was sleepy before we were far away from the prison-ship, Joe
took me on his back again and carried me home. He must have had a
tiresome journey of it, for Mr. Wopsle, being knocked up, was in
such a very bad temper that if the Church had been thrown open, he
would probably have excommunicated the whole expedition, beginning
with Joe and myself. In his lay capacity, he persisted in sitting
down in the damp to such an insane extent, that when his coat was
taken off to be dried at the kitchen fire, the circumstantial
evidence on his trousers would have hanged him if it had been a
capital offence.
By that time, I was staggering on the kitchen floor like a little
drunkard, through having been newly set upon my feet, and through
having been fast asleep, and through waking in the heat and lights
and noise of tongues. As I came to myself (with the aid of a heavy
thump between the shoulders, and the restorative exclamation "Yah!
Was there ever such a boy as this!" from my sister), I found Joe
telling them about the convict's confession, and all the visitors
suggesting different ways by which he had got into the pantry. Mr.
Pumblechook made out, after carefully surveying the premises, that
he had first got upon the roof of the forge, and had then got upon
the roof of the house, and had then let himself down the kitchen
chimney by a rope made of his bedding cut into strips; and as Mr.
Pumblechook was very positive and drove his own chaise-cart - over
everybody - it was agreed that it must be so. Mr. Wopsle, indeed,
wildly cried out "No!" with the feeble malice of a tired man; but,
as he had no theory, and no coat on, he was unanimously set at
nought - not to mention his smoking hard behind, as he stood with
his back to the kitchen fire to draw the damp out: which was not
calculated to inspire confidence.
This was all I heard that night before my sister clutched me, as a
slumberous offence to the company's eyesight, and assisted me up to
bed with such a strong hand that I seemed to have fifty boots on,
and to be dangling them all against the edges of the stairs. My
state of mind, as I have described it, began before I was up in the
morning, and lasted long after the subject had died out, and had
ceased to be mentioned saving on exceptional occasions.
Chapter 7
At the time when I stood in the churchyard, reading the family
tombstones, I had just enough learning to be able to spell them
out. My construction even of their simple meaning was not very
correct, for I read "wife of the Above" as a complimentary
reference to my father's exaltation to a better world; and if any
one of my deceased relations had been referred to as "Below," I
have no doubt I should have formed the worst opinions of that
member of the family. Neither, were my notions of the theological
positions to which my Catechism bound me, at all accurate; for, I
have a lively remembrance that I supposed my declaration that I was
to "walk in the same all the days of my life," laid me under an
obligation always to go through the village from our house in one
particular direction, and never to vary it by turning down by the
wheelwright's or up by the mill.
When I was old enough, I was to be apprenticed to Joe, and until I
could assume that dignity I was not to be what Mrs. Joe called
"Pompeyed," or (as I render it) pampered. Therefore, I was not only
odd-boy about the forge, but if any neighbour happened to want an
extra boy to frighten birds, or pick up stones, or do any such job,
I was favoured with the employment. In order, however, that our
superior position might not be compromised thereby, a money-box was
kept on the kitchen mantel-shelf, in to which it was publicly made
known that all my earnings were dropped. I have an impression that
they were to be contributed eventually towards the liquidation of
the National Debt, but I know I had no hope of any personal
participation in the treasure.
Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt kept an evening school in the village; that
is to say, she was a ridiculous old woman of limited means and
unlimited infirmity, who used to go to sleep from six to seven
every evening, in the society of youth who paid twopence per week
each, for the improving opportunity of seeing her do it. She rented
a small cottage, and Mr. Wopsle had the room up-stairs, where we
students used to overhear him reading aloud in a most dignified and
terrific manner, and occasionally bumping on the ceiling. There was
a fiction that Mr. Wopsle "examined" the scholars, once a quarter.
What he did on those occasions was to turn up his cuffs, stick up
his hair, and give us Mark Antony's oration over the body of
Caesar. This was always followed by Collins's Ode on the Passions,
wherein I particularly venerated Mr. Wopsle as Revenge, throwing his
blood-stained sword in thunder down, and taking the War-denouncing
trumpet with a withering look. It was not with me then, as it was
in later life, when I fell into the society of the Passions, and
compared them with Collins and Wopsle, rather to the disadvantage
of both gentlemen.
Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt, besides keeping this Educational
Institution, kept - in the same room - a little general shop. She
had no idea what stock she had, or what the price of anything in it
was; but there was a little greasy memorandum-book kept in a
drawer, which served as a Catalogue of Prices, and by this oracle
Biddy arranged all the shop transaction. Biddy was Mr. Wopsle's
great-aunt's granddaughter; I confess myself quiet unequal to the
working out of the problem, what relation she was to Mr. Wopsle. She
was an orphan like myself; like me, too, had been brought up by
hand. She was most noticeable, I thought, in respect of her
extremities; for, her hair always wanted brushing, her hands always
wanted washing, and her shoes always wanted mending and pulling up
at heel. This description must be received with a week-day
limitation. On Sundays, she went to church elaborated.
Much of my unassisted self, and more by the help of Biddy than of
Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt, I struggled through the alphabet as if it
had been a bramble-bush; getting considerably worried and scratched
by every letter. After that, I fell among those thieves, the nine
figures, who seemed every evening to do something new to disguise
themselves and baffle recognition. But, at last I began, in a
purblind groping way, to read, write, and cipher, on the very
smallest scale.
One night, I was sitting in the chimney-corner with my slate,
expending great efforts on the production of a letter to Joe. I
think it must have been a fully year after our hunt upon the
marshes, for it was a long time after, and it was winter and a hard
frost. With an alphabet on the hearth at my feet for reference, I
contrived in an hour or two to print and smear this epistle:
There was no indispensable necessity for my communicating with Joe
by letter, inasmuch as he sat beside me and we were alone. But, I
delivered this written communication (slate and all) with my own
hand, and Joe received it as a miracle of erudition.
"I say, Pip, old chap!" cried Joe, opening his blue eyes wide,
"what a scholar you are! An't you?"
"I should like to be," said I, glancing at the slate as he held it:
with a misgiving that the writing was rather hilly.
"Why, here's a J," said Joe, "and a O equal to anythink! Here's a J
and a O, Pip, and a J-O, Joe."
I had never heard Joe read aloud to any greater extent than this
monosyllable, and I had observed at church last Sunday when I
accidentally held our Prayer-Book upside down, that it seemed to
suit his convenience quite as well as if it had been all right.
Wishing to embrace the present occasion of finding out whether in
teaching Joe, I should have to begin quite at the beginning, I
said, "Ah! But read the rest, Jo."
"The rest, eh, Pip?" said Joe, looking at it with a slowly
searching eye, "One, two, three. Why, here's three Js, and three
Os, and three J-O, Joes in it, Pip!"
I leaned over Joe, and, with the aid of my forefinger, read him the
whole letter.
"Astonishing!" said Joe, when I had finished. "You ARE a scholar."
"How do you spell Gargery, Joe?" I asked him, with a modest
"I don't spell it at all," said Joe.
"But supposing you did?"
"It can't be supposed," said Joe. "Tho' I'm oncommon fond of
reading, too."
"Are you, Joe?"
"On-common. Give me," said Joe, "a good book, or a good newspaper,
and sit me down afore a good fire, and I ask no better. Lord!" he
continued, after rubbing his knees a little, "when you do come to a
J and a O, and says you, "Here, at last, is a J-O, Joe," how
interesting reading is!"
I derived from this last, that Joe's education, like Steam, was yet
in its infancy, Pursuing the subject, I inquired:
"Didn't you ever go to school, Joe, when you were as little as me?"
"No, Pip."
"Why didn't you ever go to school, Joe, when you were as little as
"Well, Pip," said Joe, taking up the poker, and settling himself to
his usual occupation when he was thoughtful, of slowly raking the
fire between the lower bars: "I'll tell you. My father, Pip, he
were given to drink, and when he were overtook with drink, he
hammered away at my mother, most onmerciful. It were a'most the
only hammering he did, indeed, 'xcepting at myself. And he hammered
at me with a wigour only to be equalled by the wigour with which he
didn't hammer at his anwil. - You're a-listening and understanding,
"Yes, Joe."
"'Consequence, my mother and me we ran away from my father,
several times; and then my mother she'd go out to work, and she'd
say, "Joe," she'd say, "now, please God, you shall have some
schooling, child," and she'd put me to school. But my father were
that good in his hart that he couldn't abear to be without us. So,
he'd come with a most tremenjous crowd and make such a row at the
doors of the houses where we was, that they used to be obligated to
have no more to do with us and to give us up to him. And then he
took us home and hammered us. Which, you see, Pip," said Joe,
pausing in his meditative raking of the fire, and looking at me,
"were a drawback on my learning."
"Certainly, poor Joe!"
"Though mind you, Pip," said Joe, with a judicial touch or two of
the poker on the top bar, "rendering unto all their doo, and
maintaining equal justice betwixt man and man, my father were that
good in his hart, don't you see?"
I didn't see; but I didn't say so.
"Well!" Joe pursued, "somebody must keep the pot a biling, Pip, or
the pot won't bile, don't you know?"
I saw that, and said so.
"'Consequence, my father didn't make objections to my going to
work; so I went to work to work at my present calling, which were
his too, if he would have followed it, and I worked tolerable hard,
I assure you, Pip. In time I were able to keep him, and I kept him
till he went off in a purple leptic fit. And it were my intentions
to have had put upon his tombstone that Whatsume'er the failings on
his part, Remember reader he were that good in his hart."
Joe recited this couplet with such manifest pride and careful
perspicuity, that I asked him if he had made it himself.
"I made it," said Joe, "my own self. I made it in a moment. It was
like striking out a horseshoe complete, in a single blow. I never
was so much surprised in all my life - couldn't credit my own ed -
to tell you the truth, hardly believed it were my own ed. As I was
saying, Pip, it were my intentions to have had it cut over him; but
poetry costs money, cut it how you will, small or large, and it
were not done. Not to mention bearers, all the money that could be
spared were wanted for my mother. She were in poor elth, and quite
broke. She weren't long of following, poor soul, and her share of
peace come round at last."
Joe's blue eyes turned a little watery; he rubbed, first one of
them, and then the other, in a most uncongenial and uncomfortable
manner, with the round knob on the top of the poker.
"It were but lonesome then," said Joe, "living here alone, and I
got acquainted with your sister. Now, Pip;" Joe looked firmly at
me, as if he knew I was not going to agree with him; "your sister
is a fine figure of a woman."
I could not help looking at the fire, in an obvious state of doubt.
"Whatever family opinions, or whatever the world's opinions, on
that subject may be, Pip, your sister is," Joe tapped the top bar
with the poker after every word following, "a - fine - figure - of
- a - woman!"
I could think of nothing better to say than "I am glad you think
so, Joe."
"So am I," returned Joe, catching me up. "I am glad I think so,
Pip. A little redness or a little matter of Bone, here or there,
what does it signify to Me?"
I sagaciously observed, if it didn't signify to him, to whom did it
"Certainly!" assented Joe. "That's it. You're right, old chap! When
I got acquainted with your sister, it were the talk how she was
bringing you up by hand. Very kind of her too, all the folks said,
and I said, along with all the folks. As to you," Joe pursued with
a countenance expressive of seeing something very nasty indeed: "if
you could have been aware how small and flabby and mean you was,
dear me, you'd have formed the most contemptible opinion of
Not exactly relishing this, I said, "Never mind me, Joe."
"But I did mind you, Pip," he returned with tender simplicity.
"When I offered to your sister to keep company, and to be asked in
church at such times as she was willing and ready to come to the
forge, I said to her, 'And bring the poor little child. God bless
the poor little child,' I said to your sister, 'there's room for
him at the forge!'"
I broke out crying and begging pardon, and hugged Joe round the
neck: who dropped the poker to hug me, and to say, "Ever the best
of friends; an't us, Pip? Don't cry, old chap!"
When this little interruption was over, Joe resumed:
"Well, you see, Pip, and here we are! That's about where it lights;
here we are! Now, when you take me in hand in my learning, Pip (and
I tell you beforehand I am awful dull, most awful dull), Mrs. Joe
mustn't see too much of what we're up to. It must be done, as I may
say, on the sly. And why on the sly? I'll tell you why, Pip."
He had taken up the poker again; without which, I doubt if he could
have proceeded in his demonstration.
"Your sister is given to government."
"Given to government, Joe?" I was startled, for I had some shadowy
idea (and I am afraid I must add, hope) that Joe had divorced her
in a favour of the Lords of the Admiralty, or Treasury.
"Given to government," said Joe. "Which I meantersay the government
of you and myself."
"And she an't over partial to having scholars on the premises," Joe
continued, "and in partickler would not be over partial to my being
a scholar, for fear as I might rise. Like a sort or rebel, don't
you see?"
I was going to retort with an inquiry, and had got as far as
"Why--" when Joe stopped me.
"Stay a bit. I know what you're a-going to say, Pip; stay a bit! I
don't deny that your sister comes the Mo-gul over us, now and
again. I don't deny that she do throw us back-falls, and that she
do drop down upon us heavy. At such times as when your sister is on
the Ram-page, Pip," Joe sank his voice to a whisper and glanced at
the door, "candour compels fur to admit that she is a Buster."
Joe pronounced this word, as if it began with at least twelve
capital Bs.
"Why don't I rise? That were your observation when I broke it off,
"Yes, Joe."
"Well," said Joe, passing the poker into his left hand, that he
might feel his whisker; and I had no hope of him whenever he took
to that placid occupation; "your sister's a master-mind. A
"What's that?" I asked, in some hope of bringing him to a stand.
But, Joe was readier with his definition than I had expected, and
completely stopped me by arguing circularly, and answering with a
fixed look, "Her."
"And I an't a master-mind," Joe resumed, when he had unfixed his
look, and got back to his whisker. "And last of all, Pip - and this
I want to say very serious to you, old chap - I see so much in my
poor mother, of a woman drudging and slaving and breaking her
honest hart and never getting no peace in her mortal days, that I'm
dead afeerd of going wrong in the way of not doing what's right by
a woman, and I'd fur rather of the two go wrong the t'other way,
and be a little ill-conwenienced myself. I wish it was only me that
got put out, Pip; I wish there warn't no Tickler for you, old chap;
I wish I could take it all on myself; but this is the
up-and-down-and-straight on it, Pip, and I hope you'll overlook
Young as I was, I believe that I dated a new admiration of Joe from
that night. We were equals afterwards, as we had been before; but,
afterwards at quiet times when I sat looking at Joe and thinking
about him, I had a new sensation of feeling conscious that I was
looking up to Joe in my heart.
"However," said Joe, rising to replenish the fire; "here's the
Dutch-clock a working himself up to being equal to strike Eight of
'em, and she's not come home yet! I hope Uncle Pumblechook's mare
mayn't have set a fore-foot on a piece o' ice, and gone down."
Mrs. Joe made occasional trips with Uncle Pumblechook on
market-days, to assist him in buying such household stuffs and
goods as required a woman's judgment; Uncle Pumblechook being a
bachelor and reposing no confidences in his domestic servant. This
was market-day, and Mrs. Joe was out on one of these expeditions.
Joe made the fire and swept the hearth, and then we went to the
door to listen for the chaise-cart. It was a dry cold night, and
the wind blew keenly, and the frost was white and hard. A man would
die to-night of lying out on the marshes, I thought. And then I
looked at the stars, and considered how awful if would be for a man
to turn his face up to them as he froze to death, and see no help
or pity in all the glittering multitude.
"Here comes the mare," said Joe, "ringing like a peal of bells!"
The sound of her iron shoes upon the hard road was quite musical,
as she came along at a much brisker trot than usual. We got a chair
out, ready for Mrs. Joe's alighting, and stirred up the fire that
they might see a bright window, and took a final survey of the
kitchen that nothing might be out of its place. When we had
completed these preparations, they drove up, wrapped to the eyes.
Mrs. Joe was soon landed, and Uncle Pumblechook was soon down too,
covering the mare with a cloth, and we were soon all in the
kitchen, carrying so much cold air in with us that it seemed to
drive all the heat out of the fire.
"Now," said Mrs. Joe, unwrapping herself with haste and excitement,
and throwing her bonnet back on her shoulders where it hung by the
strings: "if this boy an't grateful this night, he never will be!"
I looked as grateful as any boy possibly could, who was wholly
uninformed why he ought to assume that expression.
"It's only to be hoped," said my sister, "that he won't be
Pomp-eyed. But I have my fears."
"She an't in that line, Mum," said Mr. Pumblechook. "She knows
She? I looked at Joe, making the motion with my lips and eyebrows,
"She?" Joe looked at me, making the motion with his lips and
eyebrows, "She?" My sister catching him in the act, he drew the
back of his hand across his nose with his usual conciliatory air on
such occasions, and looked at her.
"Well?" said my sister, in her snappish way. "What are you staring
at? Is the house a-fire?"
" - Which some individual," Joe politely hinted, "mentioned - she."
"And she is a she, I suppose?" said my sister. "Unless you call
Miss Havisham a he. And I doubt if even you'll go so far as that."
"Miss Havisham, up town?" said Joe.
"Is there any Miss Havisham down town?" returned my sister.
"She wants this boy to go and play there. And of course he's going.
And he had better play there," said my sister, shaking her head at
me as an encouragement to be extremely light and sportive, "or I'll
work him."
I had heard of Miss Havisham up town - everybody for miles round,
had heard of Miss Havisham up town - as an immensely rich and grim
lady who lived in a large and dismal house barricaded against
robbers, and who led a life of seclusion.
"Well to be sure!" said Joe, astounded. "I wonder how she come to
know Pip!"
"Noodle!" cried my sister. "Who said she knew him?"
" - Which some individual," Joe again politely hinted, "mentioned
that she wanted him to go and play there."
"And couldn't she ask Uncle Pumblechook if he knew of a boy to go
and play there? Isn't it just barely possible that Uncle
Pumblechook may be a tenant of hers, and that he may sometimes - we
won't say quarterly or half-yearly, for that would be requiring too
much of you - but sometimes - go there to pay his rent? And
couldn't she then ask Uncle Pumblechook if he knew of a boy to go
and play there? And couldn't Uncle Pumblechook, being always
considerate and thoughtful for us - though you may not think it,
Joseph," in a tone of the deepest reproach, as if he were the most
callous of nephews, "then mention this boy, standing Prancing here"
- which I solemnly declare I was not doing - "that I have for ever
been a willing slave to?"
"Good again!" cried Uncle Pumblechook. "Well put! Prettily pointed!
Good indeed! Now Joseph, you know the case."
"No, Joseph," said my sister, still in a reproachful manner, while
Joe apologetically drew the back of his hand across and across his
nose, "you do not yet - though you may not think it - know the
case. You may consider that you do, but you do not, Joseph. For you
do not know that Uncle Pumblechook, being sensible that for
anything we can tell, this boy's fortune may be made by his going
to Miss Havisham's, has offered to take him into town to-night in
his own chaise-cart, and to keep him to-night, and to take him with
his own hands to Miss Havisham's to-morrow morning. And Lor-a-mussy
me!" cried my sister, casting off her bonnet in sudden desperation,
"here I stand talking to mere Mooncalfs, with Uncle Pumblechook
waiting, and the mare catching cold at the door, and the boy grimed
with crock and dirt from the hair of his head to the sole of his
With that, she pounced upon me, like an eagle on a lamb, and my
face was squeezed into wooden bowls in sinks, and my head was put
under taps of water-butts, and I was soaped, and kneaded, and
towelled, and thumped, and harrowed, and rasped, until I really was
quite beside myself. (I may here remark that I suppose myself to be
better acquainted than any living authority, with the ridgy effect
of a wedding-ring, passing unsympathetically over the human
When my ablutions were completed, I was put into clean linen of the
stiffest character, like a young penitent into sackcloth, and was
trussed up in my tightest and fearfullest suit. I was then
delivered over to Mr. Pumblechook, who formally received me as if he
were the Sheriff, and who let off upon me the speech that I knew he
had been dying to make all along: "Boy, be for ever grateful to all
friends, but especially unto them which brought you up by hand!"
"Good-bye, Joe!"
"God bless you, Pip, old chap!"
I had never parted from him before, and what with my feelings and
what with soap-suds, I could at first see no stars from the
chaise-cart. But they twinkled out one by one, without throwing any
light on the questions why on earth I was going to play at Miss
Havisham's, and what on earth I was expected to play at.
Chapter 8
Mr. Pumblechook's premises in the High-street of the market town,
were of a peppercorny and farinaceous character, as the premises of
a corn-chandler and seedsman should be. It appeared to me that he
must be a very happy man indeed, to have so many little drawers in
his shop; and I wondered when I peeped into one or two on the lower
tiers, and saw the tied-up brown paper packets inside, whether the
flower-seeds and bulbs ever wanted of a fine day to break out of
those jails, and bloom.
It was in the early morning after my arrival that I entertained
this speculation. On the previous night, I had been sent straight
to bed in an attic with a sloping roof, which was so low in the
corner where the bedstead was, that I calculated the tiles as being
within a foot of my eyebrows. In the same early morning, I
discovered a singular affinity between seeds and corduroys. Mr.
Pumblechook wore corduroys, and so did his shopman; and somehow,
there was a general air and flavour about the corduroys, so much in
the nature of seeds, and a general air and flavour about the seeds,
so much in the nature of corduroys, that I hardly knew which was
which. The same opportunity served me for noticing that Mr.
Pumblechook appeared to conduct his business by looking across the
street at the saddler, who appeared to transact his business by
keeping his eye on the coach-maker, who appeared to get on in life
by putting his hands in his pockets and contemplating the baker,
who in his turn folded his arms and stared at the grocer, who stood
at his door and yawned at the chemist. The watch-maker, always
poring over a little desk with a magnifying glass at his eye, and
always inspected by a group of smock-frocks poring over him through
the glass of his shop-window, seemed to be about the only person in
the High-street whose trade engaged his attention.
Mr. Pumblechook and I breakfasted at eight o'clock in the parlour
behind the shop, while the shopman took his mug of tea and hunch of
bread-and-butter on a sack of peas in the front premises. I
considered Mr. Pumblechook wretched company. Besides being possessed
by my sister's idea that a mortifying and penitential character
ought to be imparted to my diet - besides giving me as much crumb
as possible in combination with as little butter, and putting such
a quantity of warm water into my milk that it would have been more
candid to have left the milk out altogether - his conversation
consisted of nothing but arithmetic. On my politely bidding him
Good morning, he said, pompously, "Seven times nine, boy?" And how
should I be able to answer, dodged in that way, in a strange place,
on an empty stomach! I was hungry, but before I had swallowed a
morsel, he began a running sum that lasted all through the
breakfast. "Seven?" "And four?" "And eight?" "And six?" "And two?"
"And ten?" And so on. And after each figure was disposed of, it was
as much as I could do to get a bite or a sup, before the next came;
while he sat at his ease guessing nothing, and eating bacon and hot
roll, in (if I may be allowed the expression) a gorging and
gormandising manner.
For such reasons I was very glad when ten o'clock came and we
started for Miss Havisham's; though I was not at all at my ease
regarding the manner in which I should acquit myself under that
lady's roof. Within a quarter of an hour we came to Miss Havisham's
house, which was of old brick, and dismal, and had a great many
iron bars to it. Some of the windows had been walled up; of those
that remained, all the lower were rustily barred. There was a
court-yard in front, and that was barred; so, we had to wait, after
ringing the bell, until some one should come to open it. While we
waited at the gate, I peeped in (even then Mr. Pumblechook said,
"And fourteen?" but I pretended not to hear him), and saw that at
the side of the house there was a large brewery. No brewing was going
on in it, and none seemed to have gone on for a long long time.
A window was raised, and a clear voice demanded "What name?" To
which my conductor replied, "Pumblechook." The voice returned,
"Quite right," and the window was shut again, and a young lady came
across the court-yard, with keys in her hand.
"This," said Mr. Pumblechook, "is Pip."
"This is Pip, is it?" returned the young lady, who was very pretty
and seemed very proud; "come in, Pip."
Mr. Pumblechook was coming in also, when she stopped him with the
"Oh!" she said. "Did you wish to see Miss Havisham?"
"If Miss Havisham wished to see me," returned Mr. Pumblechook,
"Ah!" said the girl; "but you see she don't."
She said it so finally, and in such an undiscussible way, that Mr.
Pumblechook, though in a condition of ruffled dignity, could not
protest. But he eyed me severely - as if I had done anything to
him! - and departed with the words reproachfully delivered: "Boy!
Let your behaviour here be a credit unto them which brought you up
by hand!" I was not free from apprehension that he would come back
to propound through the gate, "And sixteen?" But he didn't.
My young conductress locked the gate, and we went across the
court-yard. It was paved and clean, but grass was growing in every
crevice. The brewery buildings had a little lane of communication
with it, and the wooden gates of that lane stood open, and all the
brewery beyond, stood open, away to the high enclosing wall; and
all was empty and disused. The cold wind seemed to blow colder
there, than outside the gate; and it made a shrill noise in howling
in and out at the open sides of the brewery, like the noise of wind
in the rigging of a ship at sea.
She saw me looking at it, and she said, "You could drink without
hurt all the strong beer that's brewed there now, boy."
"I should think I could, miss," said I, in a shy way.
"Better not try to brew beer there now, or it would turn out sour,
boy; don't you think so?"
"It looks like it, miss."
"Not that anybody means to try," she added, "for that's all done
with, and the place will stand as idle as it is, till it falls. As
to strong beer, there's enough of it in the cellars already, to
drown the Manor House."
"Is that the name of this house, miss?"
"One of its names, boy."
"It has more than one, then, miss?"
"One more. Its other name was Satis; which is Greek, or Latin, or
Hebrew, or all three - or all one to me - for enough."
"Enough House," said I; "that's a curious name, miss."
"Yes," she replied; "but it meant more than it said. It meant, when
it was given, that whoever had this house, could want nothing else.
They must have been easily satisfied in those days, I should think.
But don't loiter, boy."
Though she called me "boy" so often, and with a carelessness that
was far from complimentary, she was of about my own age. She seemed
much older than I, of course, being a girl, and beautiful and
self-possessed; and she was as scornful of me as if she had been
one-and-twenty, and a queen.
We went into the house by a side door - the great front entrance
had two chains across it outside - and the first thing I noticed
was, that the passages were all dark, and that she had left a
candle burning there. She took it up, and we went through more
passages and up a staircase, and still it was all dark, and only
the candle lighted us.
At last we came to the door of a room, and she said, "Go in."
I answered, more in shyness than politeness, "After you, miss."
To this, she returned: "Don't be ridiculous, boy; I am not going
in." And scornfully walked away, and - what was worse - took the
candle with her.
This was very uncomfortable, and I was half afraid. However, the
only thing to be done being to knock at the door, I knocked, and
was told from within to enter. I entered, therefore, and found
myself in a pretty large room, well lighted with wax candles. No
glimpse of daylight was to be seen in it. It was a dressing-room,
as I supposed from the furniture, though much of it was of forms
and uses then quite unknown to me. But prominent in it was a draped
table with a gilded looking-glass, and that I made out at first
sight to be a fine lady's dressing-table.
Whether I should have made out this object so soon, if there had
been no fine lady sitting at it, I cannot say. In an arm-chair,
with an elbow resting on the table and her head leaning on that
hand, sat the strangest lady I have ever seen, or shall ever see.
She was dressed in rich materials - satins, and lace, and silks -
all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil
dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair,
but her hair was white. Some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and
on her hands, and some other jewels lay sparkling on the table.
Dresses, less splendid than the dress she wore, and half-packed
trunks, were scattered about. She had not quite finished dressing,
for she had but one shoe on - the other was on the table near her
hand - her veil was but half arranged, her watch and chain were not
put on, and some lace for her bosom lay with those trinkets, and
with her handkerchief, and gloves, and some flowers, and a
prayer-book, all confusedly heaped about the looking-glass.
It was not in the first few moments that I saw all these things,
though I saw more of them in the first moments than might be
supposed. But, I saw that everything within my view which ought to
be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its lustre, and was
faded and yellow. I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had
withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no
brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes. I saw that
the dress had been put upon the rounded figure of a young woman,
and that the figure upon which it now hung loose, had shrunk to
skin and bone. Once, I had been taken to see some ghastly waxwork
at the Fair, representing I know not what impossible personage
lying in state. Once, I had been taken to one of our old marsh
churches to see a skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress, that had
been dug out of a vault under the church pavement. Now, waxwork and
skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved and looked at me. I
should have cried out, if I could.
"Who is it?" said the lady at the table.
"Pip, ma'am."
"Mr. Pumblechook's boy, ma'am. Come - to play."
"Come nearer; let me look at you. Come close."
It was when I stood before her, avoiding her eyes, that I took note
of the surrounding objects in detail, and saw that her watch had
stopped at twenty minutes to nine, and that a clock in the room had
stopped at twenty minutes to nine.
"Look at me," said Miss Havisham. "You are not afraid of a woman
who has never seen the sun since you were born?"
I regret to state that I was not afraid of telling the enormous lie
comprehended in the answer "No."
"Do you know what I touch here?" she said, laying her hands, one
upon the other, on her left side.
"Yes, ma'am." (It made me think of the young man.)
"What do I touch?"
"Your heart."
She uttered the word with an eager look, and with strong emphasis,
and with a weird smile that had a kind of boast in it. Afterwards,
she kept her hands there for a little while, and slowly took them
away as if they were heavy.
"I am tired," said Miss Havisham. "I want diversion, and I have
done with men and women. Play."
I think it will be conceded by my most disputatious reader, that
she could hardly have directed an unfortunate boy to do anything in
the wide world more difficult to be done under the circumstances.
"I sometimes have sick fancies," she went on, "and I have a sick
fancy that I want to see some play. There there!" with an impatient
movement of the fingers of her right hand; "play, play, play!"
For a moment, with the fear of my sister's working me before my
eyes, I had a desperate idea of starting round the room in the
assumed character of Mr. Pumblechook's chaise-cart. But, I felt
myself so unequal to the performance that I gave it up, and stood
looking at Miss Havisham in what I suppose she took for a dogged
manner, inasmuch as she said, when we had taken a good look at each
"Are you sullen and obstinate?"
"No, ma'am, I am very sorry for you, and very sorry I can't play
just now. If you complain of me I shall get into trouble with my
sister, so I would do it if I could; but it's so new here, and so
strange, and so fine - and melancholy--." I stopped, fearing I might
say too much, or had already said it, and we took another look at
each other.
Before she spoke again, she turned her eyes from me, and looked at
the dress she wore, and at the dressing-table, and finally at
herself in the looking-glass.
"So new to him," she muttered, "so old to me; so strange to him, so
familiar to me; so melancholy to both of us! Call Estella."
As she was still looking at the reflection of herself, I thought
she was still talking to herself, and kept quiet.
"Call Estella," she repeated, flashing a look at me. "You can do
that. Call Estella. At the door."
To stand in the dark in a mysterious passage of an unknown house,
bawling Estella to a scornful young lady neither visible nor
responsive, and feeling it a dreadful liberty so to roar out her
name, was almost as bad as playing to order. But, she answered at
last, and her light came along the dark passage like a star.
Miss Havisham beckoned her to come close, and took up a jewel from
the table, and tried its effect upon her fair young bosom and
against her pretty brown hair. "Your own, one day, my dear, and you
will use it well. Let me see you play cards with this boy."
"With this boy? Why, he is a common labouring-boy!"
I thought I overheard Miss Havisham answer - only it seemed so
unlikely - "Well? You can break his heart."
"What do you play, boy?" asked Estella of myself, with the greatest
"Nothing but beggar my neighbour, miss."
"Beggar him," said Miss Havisham to Estella. So we sat down to
It was then I began to understand that everything in the room had
stopped, like the watch and the clock, a long time ago. I noticed
that Miss Havisham put down the jewel exactly on the spot from
which she had taken it up. As Estella dealt the cards, I glanced at
the dressing-table again, and saw that the shoe upon it, once
white, now yellow, had never been worn. I glanced down at the foot
from which the shoe was absent, and saw that the silk stocking on
it, once white, now yellow, had been trodden ragged. Without this
arrest of everything, this standing still of all the pale decayed
objects, not even the withered bridal dress on the collapsed from
could have looked so like grave-clothes, or the long veil so like a
So she sat, corpse-like, as we played at cards; the frillings and
trimmings on her bridal dress, looking like earthy paper. I knew
nothing then, of the discoveries that are occasionally made of
bodies buried in ancient times, which fall to powder in the moment
of being distinctly seen; but, I have often thought since, that she
must have looked as if the admission of the natural light of day
would have struck her to dust.
"He calls the knaves, Jacks, this boy!" said Estella with disdain,
before our first game was out. "And what coarse hands he has! And
what thick boots!"
I had never thought of being ashamed of my hands before; but I
began to consider them a very indifferent pair. Her contempt for me
was so strong, that it became infectious, and I caught it.
She won the game, and I dealt. I misdealt, as was only natural,
when I knew she was lying in wait for me to do wrong; and she
denounced me for a stupid, clumsy labouring-boy.
"You say nothing of her," remarked Miss Havisham to me, as she
looked on. "She says many hard things of you, but you say nothing
of her. What do you think of her?"
"I don't like to say," I stammered.
"Tell me in my ear," said Miss Havisham, bending down.
"I think she is very proud," I replied, in a whisper.
"Anything else?"
"I think she is very pretty."
"Anything else?"
"I think she is very insulting." (She was looking at me then with a
look of supreme aversion.)
"Anything else?"
"I think I should like to go home."
"And never see her again, though she is so pretty?"
"I am not sure that I shouldn't like to see her again, but I should
like to go home now."
"You shall go soon," said Miss Havisham, aloud. "Play the game
Saving for the one weird smile at first, I should have felt almost
sure that Miss Havisham's face could not smile. It had dropped into
a watchful and brooding expression - most likely when all the
things about her had become transfixed - and it looked as if
nothing could ever lift it up again. Her chest had dropped, so that
she stooped; and her voice had dropped, so that she spoke low, and
with a dead lull upon her; altogether, she had the appearance of
having dropped, body and soul, within and without, under the weight
of a crushing blow.
I played the game to an end with Estella, and she beggared me. She
threw the cards down on the table when she had won them all, as if
she despised them for having been won of me.
"When shall I have you here again?" said miss Havisham. "Let me
I was beginning to remind her that to-day was Wednesday, when she
checked me with her former impatient movement of the fingers of her
right hand.
"There, there! I know nothing of days of the week; I know nothing
of weeks of the year. Come again after six days. You hear?"
"Yes, ma'am."
"Estella, take him down. Let him have something to eat, and let him
roam and look about him while he eats. Go, Pip."
I followed the candle down, as I had followed the candle up, and
she stood it in the place where we had found it. Until she opened
the side entrance, I had fancied, without thinking about it, that
it must necessarily be night-time. The rush of the daylight quite
confounded me, and made me feel as if I had been in the candlelight
of the strange room many hours.
"You are to wait here, you boy," said Estella; and disappeared and
closed the door.
I took the opportunity of being alone in the court-yard, to look at
my coarse hands and my common boots. My opinion of those
accessories was not favourable. They had never troubled me before,
but they troubled me now, as vulgar appendages. I determined to ask
Joe why he had ever taught me to call those picture-cards, Jacks,
which ought to be called knaves. I wished Joe had been rather more
genteelly brought up, and then I should have been so too.
She came back, with some bread and meat and a little mug of beer.
She put the mug down on the stones of the yard, and gave me the
bread and meat without looking at me, as insolently as if I were a
dog in disgrace. I was so humiliated, hurt, spurned, offended,
angry, sorry - I cannot hit upon the right name for the smart - God
knows what its name was - that tears started to my eyes. The moment
they sprang there, the girl looked at me with a quick delight in
having been the cause of them. This gave me power to keep them back
and to look at her: so, she gave a contemptuous toss - but with a
sense, I thought, of having made too sure that I was so wounded -
and left me.
But, when she was gone, I looked about me for a place to hide my
face in, and got behind one of the gates in the brewery-lane, and
leaned my sleeve against the wall there, and leaned my forehead on
it and cried. As I cried, I kicked the wall, and took a hard twist
at my hair; so bitter were my feelings, and so sharp was the smart
without a name, that needed counteraction.
My sister's bringing up had made me sensitive. In the little world
in which children have their existence whosoever brings them up,
there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as
injustice. It may be only small injustice that the child can be
exposed to; but the child is small, and its world is small, and its
rocking-horse stands as many hands high, according to scale, as a
big-boned Irish hunter. Within myself, I had sustained, from my
babyhood, a perpetual conflict with injustice. I had known, from
the time when I could speak, that my sister, in her capricious and
violent coercion, was unjust to me. I had cherished a profound
conviction that her bringing me up by hand, gave her no right to
bring me up by jerks. Through all my punishments, disgraces, fasts
and vigils, and other penitential performances, I had nursed this
assurance; and to my communing so much with it, in a solitary and
unprotected way, I in great part refer the fact that I was morally
timid and very sensitive.
I got rid of my injured feelings for the time, by kicking them into
the brewery wall, and twisting them out of my hair, and then I
smoothed my face with my sleeve, and came from behind the gate. The
bread and meat were acceptable, and the beer was warming and
tingling, and I was soon in spirits to look about me.
To be sure, it was a deserted place, down to the pigeon-house in
the brewery-yard, which had been blown crooked on its pole by some
high wind, and would have made the pigeons think themselves at sea,
if there had been any pigeons there to be rocked by it. But, there
were no pigeons in the dove-cot, no horses in the stable, no pigs
in the sty, no malt in the store-house, no smells of grains and
beer in the copper or the vat. All the uses and scents of the
brewery might have evaporated with its last reek of smoke. In a
by-yard, there was a wilderness of empty casks, which had a certain
sour remembrance of better days lingering about them; but it was
too sour to be accepted as a sample of the beer that was gone - and
in this respect I remember those recluses as being like most
Behind the furthest end of the brewery, was a rank garden with an
old wall: not so high but that I could struggle up and hold on long
enough to look over it, and see that the rank garden was the garden
of the house, and that it was overgrown with tangled weeds, but
that there was a track upon the green and yellow paths, as if some
one sometimes walked there, and that Estella was walking away from
me even then. But she seemed to be everywhere. For, when I yielded
to the temptation presented by the casks, and began to walk on
them. I saw her walking on them at the end of the yard of casks.
She had her back towards me, and held her pretty brown hair spread
out in her two hands, and never looked round, and passed out of my
view directly. So, in the brewery itself - by which I mean the
large paved lofty place in which they used to make the beer, and
where the brewing utensils still were. When I first went into it,
and, rather oppressed by its gloom, stood near the door looking
about me, I saw her pass among the extinguished fires, and ascend
some light iron stairs, and go out by a gallery high overhead, as
if she were going out into the sky.
It was in this place, and at this moment, that a strange thing
happened to my fancy. I thought it a strange thing then, and I
thought it a stranger thing long afterwards. I turned my eyes - a
little dimmed by looking up at the frosty light - towards a great
wooden beam in a low nook of the building near me on my right hand,
and I saw a figure hanging there by the neck. A figure all in
yellow white, with but one shoe to the feet; and it hung so, that I
could see that the faded trimmings of the dress were like earthy
paper, and that the face was Miss Havisham's, with a movement going
over the whole countenance as if she were trying to call to me. In
the terror of seeing the figure, and in the terror of being certain
that it had not been there a moment before, I at first ran from it,
and then ran towards it. And my terror was greatest of all, when I
found no figure there.
Nothing less than the frosty light of the cheerful sky, the sight
of people passing beyond the bars of the court-yard gate, and the
reviving influence of the rest of the bread and meat and beer,
would have brought me round. Even with those aids, I might not have
come to myself as soon as I did, but that I saw Estella approaching
with the keys, to let me out. She would have some fair reason for
looking down upon me, I thought, if she saw me frightened; and she
would have no fair reason.
She gave me a triumphant glance in passing me, as if she rejoiced
that my hands were so coarse and my boots were so thick, and she
opened the gate, and stood holding it. I was passing out without
looking at her, when she touched me with a taunting hand.
"Why don't you cry?"
"Because I don't want to."
"You do," said she. "You have been crying till you are half blind,
and you are near crying again now."
She laughed contemptuously, pushed me out, and locked the gate upon
me. I went straight to Mr. Pumblechook's, and was immensely relieved
to find him not at home. So, leaving word with the shopman on what
day I was wanted at Miss Havisham's again, I set off on the
four-mile walk to our forge; pondering, as I went along, on all I
had seen, and deeply revolving that I was a common labouring-boy;
that my hands were coarse; that my boots were thick; that I had
fallen into a despicable habit of calling knaves Jacks; that I was
much more ignorant than I had considered myself last night, and
generally that I was in a low-lived bad way.
Chapter 9
When I reached home, my sister was very curious to know all about
Miss Havisham's, and asked a number of questions. And I soon found
myself getting heavily bumped from behind in the nape of the neck
and the small of the back, and having my face ignominiously shoved
against the kitchen wall, because I did not answer those questions
at sufficient length.
If a dread of not being understood be hidden in the breasts of
other young people to anything like the extent to which it used to
be hidden in mine - which I consider probable, as I have no
particular reason to suspect myself of having been a monstrosity -
it is the key to many reservations. I felt convinced that if I
described Miss Havisham's as my eyes had seen it, I should not be
understood. Not only that, but I felt convinced that Miss Havisham
too would not be understood; and although she was perfectly
incomprehensible to me, I entertained an impression that there
would be something coarse and treacherous in my dragging her as she
really was (to say nothing of Miss Estella) before the
contemplation of Mrs. Joe. Consequently, I said as little as I
could, and had my face shoved against the kitchen wall.
The worst of it was that that bullying old Pumblechook, preyed upon
by a devouring curiosity to be informed of all I had seen and
heard, came gaping over in his chaise-cart at tea-time, to have the
details divulged to him. And the mere sight of the torment, with
his fishy eyes and mouth open, his sandy hair inquisitively on end,
and his waistcoat heaving with windy arithmetic, made me vicious in
my reticence.
"Well, boy," Uncle Pumblechook began, as soon as he was seated in
the chair of honour by the fire. "How did you get on up town?"
I answered, "Pretty well, sir," and my sister shook her fist at me.
"Pretty well?" Mr. Pumblechook repeated. "Pretty well is no answer.
Tell us what you mean by pretty well, boy?"
Whitewash on the forehead hardens the brain into a state of
obstinacy perhaps. Anyhow, with whitewash from the wall on my
forehead, my obstinacy was adamantine. I reflected for some time,
and then answered as if I had discovered a new idea, "I mean pretty
My sister with an exclamation of impatience was going to fly at me
- I had no shadow of defence, for Joe was busy in the forge when Mr.
Pumblechook interposed with "No! Don't lose your temper. Leave this
lad to me, ma'am; leave this lad to me." Mr. Pumblechook then turned
me towards him, as if he were going to cut my hair, and said:
"First (to get our thoughts in order): Forty-three pence?"
I calculated the consequences of replying "Four Hundred Pound," and
finding them against me, went as near the answer as I could - which
was somewhere about eightpence off. Mr. Pumblechook then put me
through my pence-table from "twelve pence make one shilling," up to
"forty pence make three and fourpence," and then triumphantly
demanded, as if he had done for me, "Now! How much is forty-three
pence?" To which I replied, after a long interval of reflection, "I
don't know." And I was so aggravated that I almost doubt if I did
Mr. Pumblechook worked his head like a screw to screw it out of me,
and said, "Is forty-three pence seven and sixpence three fardens,
for instance?"
"Yes!" said I. And although my sister instantly boxed my ears, it
was highly gratifying to me to see that the answer spoilt his joke,
and brought him to a dead stop.
"Boy! What like is Miss Havisham?" Mr. Pumblechook began again when
he had recovered; folding his arms tight on his chest and applying
the screw.
"Very tall and dark," I told him.
"Is she, uncle?" asked my sister.
Mr. Pumblechook winked assent; from which I at once inferred that he
had never seen Miss Havisham, for she was nothing of the kind.
"Good!" said Mr. Pumblechook conceitedly. ("This is the way to have
him! We are beginning to hold our own, I think, Mum?")
"I am sure, uncle," returned Mrs. Joe, "I wish you had him always:
you know so well how to deal with him."
"Now, boy! What was she a-doing of, when you went in today?" asked
Mr. Pumblechook.
"She was sitting," I answered, "in a black velvet coach."
Mr. Pumblechook and Mrs. Joe stared at one another - as they well
might - and both repeated, "In a black velvet coach?"
"Yes," said I. "And Miss Estella - that's her niece, I think -
handed her in cake and wine at the coach-window, on a gold plate.
And we all had cake and wine on gold plates. And I got up behind
the coach to eat mine, because she told me to."
"Was anybody else there?" asked Mr. Pumblechook.
"Four dogs," said I.
"Large or small?"
"Immense," said I. "And they fought for veal cutlets out of a
silver basket."
Mr. Pumblechook and Mrs. Joe stared at one another again, in utter
amazement. I was perfectly frantic - a reckless witness under the
torture - and would have told them anything.
"Where was this coach, in the name of gracious?" asked my sister.
"In Miss Havisham's room." They stared again. "But there weren't
any horses to it." I added this saving clause, in the moment of
rejecting four richly caparisoned coursers which I had had wild
thoughts of harnessing.
"Can this be possible, uncle?" asked Mrs. Joe. "What can the boy
"I'll tell you, Mum," said Mr. Pumblechook. "My opinion is, it's a
sedan-chair. She's flighty, you know - very flighty - quite flighty
enough to pass her days in a sedan-chair."
"Did you ever see her in it, uncle?" asked Mrs. Joe.
"How could I," he returned, forced to the admission, "when I never
see her in my life? Never clapped eyes upon her!"
"Goodness, uncle! And yet you have spoken to her?"
"Why, don't you know," said Mr. Pumblechook, testily, "that when I
have been there, I have been took up to the outside of her door,
and the door has stood ajar, and she has spoke to me that way.
Don't say you don't know that, Mum. Howsever, the boy went there to
play. What did you play at, boy?"
"We played with flags," I said. (I beg to observe that I think of
myself with amazement, when I recall the lies I told on this
"Flags!" echoed my sister.
"Yes," said I. "Estella waved a blue flag, and I waved a red one,
and Miss Havisham waved one sprinkled all over with little gold
stars, out at the coach-window. And then we all waved our swords
and hurrahed."
"Swords!" repeated my sister. "Where did you get swords from?"
"Out of a cupboard," said I. "And I saw pistols in it - and jam -
and pills. And there was no daylight in the room, but it was all
lighted up with candles."
"That's true, Mum," said Mr. Pumblechook, with a grave nod. "That's
the state of the case, for that much I've seen myself." And then
they both stared at me, and I, with an obtrusive show of
artlessness on my countenance, stared at them, and plaited the
right leg of my trousers with my right hand.
If they had asked me any more questions I should undoubtedly have
betrayed myself, for I was even then on the point of mentioning
that there was a balloon in the yard, and should have hazarded the
statement but for my invention being divided between that
phenomenon and a bear in the brewery. They were so much occupied,
however, in discussing the marvels I had already presented for
their consideration, that I escaped. The subject still held them
when Joe came in from his work to have a cup of tea. To whom my
sister, more for the relief of her own mind than for the
gratification of his, related my pretended experiences.
Now, when I saw Joe open his blue eyes and roll them all round the
kitchen in helpless amazement, I was overtaken by penitence; but
only as regarded him - not in the least as regarded the other two.
Towards Joe, and Joe only, I considered myself a young monster,
while they sat debating what results would come to me from Miss
Havisham's acquaintance and favour. They had no doubt that Miss
Havisham would "do something" for me; their doubts related to the
form that something would take. My sister stood out for "property."
Mr. Pumblechook was in favour of a handsome premium for binding me
apprentice to some genteel trade - say, the corn and seed trade,
for instance. Joe fell into the deepest disgrace with both, for
offering the bright suggestion that I might only be presented with
one of the dogs who had fought for the veal-cutlets. "If a fool's
head can't express better opinions than that," said my sister, "and
you have got any work to do, you had better go and do it." So he
After Mr. Pumblechook had driven off, and when my sister was washing
up, I stole into the forge to Joe, and remained by him until he had
done for the night. Then I said, "Before the fire goes out, Joe, I
should like to tell you something."
"Should you, Pip?" said Joe, drawing his shoeing-stool near the
forge. "Then tell us. What is it, Pip?"
"Joe," said I, taking hold of his rolled-up shirt sleeve, and
twisting it between my finger and thumb, "you remember all that
about Miss Havisham's?"
"Remember?" said Joe. "I believe you! Wonderful!"
"It's a terrible thing, Joe; it ain't true."
"What are you telling of, Pip?" cried Joe, falling back in the
greatest amazement. "You don't mean to say it's--"
"Yes I do; it's lies, Joe."
"But not all of it? Why sure you don't mean to say, Pip, that there
was no black welwet coach?" For, I stood shaking my head. "But at
least there was dogs, Pip? Come, Pip," said Joe, persuasively, "if
there warn't no weal-cutlets, at least there was dogs?"
"No, Joe."
"A dog?" said Joe. "A puppy? Come?"
"No, Joe, there was nothing at all of the kind."
As I fixed my eyes hopelessly on Joe, Joe contemplated me in
dismay. "Pip, old chap! This won't do, old fellow! I say! Where do
you expect to go to?"
"It's terrible, Joe; an't it?"
"Terrible?" cried Joe. "Awful! What possessed you?"
"I don't know what possessed me, Joe," I replied, letting his shirt
sleeve go, and sitting down in the ashes at his feet, hanging my
head; "but I wish you hadn't taught me to call Knaves at cards,
Jacks; and I wish my boots weren't so thick nor my hands so
And then I told Joe that I felt very miserable, and that I hadn't
been able to explain myself to Mrs. Joe and Pumblechook who were so
rude to me, and that there had been a beautiful young lady at Miss
Havisham's who was dreadfully proud, and that she had said I was
common, and that I knew I was common, and that I wished I was not
common, and that the lies had come of it somehow, though I didn't
know how.
This was a case of metaphysics, at least as difficult for Joe to
deal with, as for me. But Joe took the case altogether out of the
region of metaphysics, and by that means vanquished it.
"There's one thing you may be sure of, Pip," said Joe, after some
rumination, "namely, that lies is lies. Howsever they come, they
didn't ought to come, and they come from the father of lies, and
work round to the same. Don't you tell no more of 'em, Pip. That
ain't the way to get out of being common, old chap. And as to being
common, I don't make it out at all clear. You are oncommon in some
things. You're oncommon small. Likewise you're a oncommon scholar."
"No, I am ignorant and backward, Joe."
"Why, see what a letter you wrote last night! Wrote in print even!
I've seen letters - Ah! and from gentlefolks! - that I'll swear
weren't wrote in print," said Joe.
"I have learnt next to nothing, Joe. You think much of me. It's
only that."
"Well, Pip," said Joe, "be it so or be it son't, you must be a
common scholar afore you can be a oncommon one, I should hope! The
king upon his throne, with his crown upon his 'ed, can't sit and
write his acts of Parliament in print, without having begun, when
he were a unpromoted Prince, with the alphabet - Ah!" added Joe,
with a shake of the head that was full of meaning, "and begun at A
too, and worked his way to Z. And I know what that is to do, though
I can't say I've exactly done it."
There was some hope in this piece of wisdom, and it rather
encouraged me.
"Whether common ones as to callings and earnings," pursued Joe,
reflectively, "mightn't be the better of continuing for a keep
company with common ones, instead of going out to play with
oncommon ones - which reminds me to hope that there were a flag,
"No, Joe."
"(I'm sorry there weren't a flag, Pip). Whether that might be, or
mightn't be, is a thing as can't be looked into now, without
putting your sister on the Rampage; and that's a thing not to be
thought of, as being done intentional. Lookee here, Pip, at what is
said to you by a true friend. Which this to you the true friend
say. If you can't get to be oncommon through going straight, you'll
never get to do it through going crooked. So don't tell no more on
'em, Pip, and live well and die happy."
"You are not angry with me, Joe?"
"No, old chap. But bearing in mind that them were which I
meantersay of a stunning and outdacious sort - alluding to them
which bordered on weal-cutlets and dog-fighting - a sincere
wellwisher would adwise, Pip, their being dropped into your
meditations, when you go up-stairs to bed. That's all, old chap,
and don't never do it no more."
When I got up to my little room and said my prayers, I did not
forget Joe's recommendation, and yet my young mind was in that
disturbed and unthankful state, that I thought long after I laid me
down, how common Estella would consider Joe, a mere blacksmith: how
thick his boots, and how coarse his hands. I thought how Joe and my
sister were then sitting in the kitchen, and how I had come up to
bed from the kitchen, and how Miss Havisham and Estella never sat
in a kitchen, but were far above the level of such common doings. I
fell asleep recalling what I "used to do" when I was at Miss
Havisham's; as though I had been there weeks or months, instead of
hours; and as though it were quite an old subject of remembrance,
instead of one that had arisen only that day.
That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me.
But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck
out of it, and think how different its course would have been.
Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain
of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound
you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.
Chapter 10
The felicitous idea occurred to me a morning or two later when I
woke, that the best step I could take towards making myself
uncommon was to get out of Biddy everything she knew. In pursuance
of this luminous conception I mentioned to Biddy when I went to Mr.
Wopsle's great-aunt's at night, that I had a particular reason for
wishing to get on in life, and that I should feel very much obliged
to her if she would impart all her learning to me. Biddy, who was
the most obliging of girls, immediately said she would, and indeed
began to carry out her promise within five minutes.
The Educational scheme or Course established by Mr. Wopsle's
great-aunt may be resolved into the following synopsis. The pupils
ate apples and put straws down one another's backs, until Mr
Wopsle's great-aunt collected her energies, and made an
indiscriminate totter at them with a birch-rod. After receiving the
charge with every mark of derision, the pupils formed in line and
buzzingly passed a ragged book from hand to hand. The book had an
alphabet in it, some figures and tables, and a little spelling -
that is to say, it had had once. As soon as this volume began to
circulate, Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt fell into a state of coma;
arising either from sleep or a rheumatic paroxysm. The pupils then
entered among themselves upon a competitive examination on the
subject of Boots, with the view of ascertaining who could tread the
hardest upon whose toes. This mental exercise lasted until Biddy
made a rush at them and distributed three defaced Bibles (shaped as
if they had been unskilfully cut off the chump-end of something),
more illegibly printed at the best than any curiosities of
literature I have since met with, speckled all over with ironmould,
and having various specimens of the insect world smashed between
their leaves. This part of the Course was usually lightened by
several single combats between Biddy and refractory students. When
the fights were over, Biddy gave out the number of a page, and then
we all read aloud what we could - or what we couldn't - in a
frightful chorus; Biddy leading with a high shrill monotonous
voice, and none of us having the least notion of, or reverence for,
what we were reading about. When this horrible din had lasted a
certain time, it mechanically awoke Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt, who
staggered at a boy fortuitously, and pulled his ears. This was
understood to terminate the Course for the evening, and we emerged
into the air with shrieks of intellectual victory. It is fair to
remark that there was no prohibition against any pupil's
entertaining himself with a slate or even with the ink (when there
was any), but that it was not easy to pursue that branch of study
in the winter season, on account of the little general shop in
which the classes were holden - and which was also Mr. Wopsle's
great-aunt's sitting-room and bed-chamber - being but faintly
illuminated through the agency of one low-spirited dip-candle and
no snuffers.
It appeared to me that it would take time, to become uncommon under
these circumstances: nevertheless, I resolved to try it, and that
very evening Biddy entered on our special agreement, by imparting
some information from her little catalogue of Prices, under the
head of moist sugar, and lending me, to copy at home, a large old
English D which she had imitated from the heading of some
newspaper, and which I supposed, until she told me what it was, to
be a design for a buckle.
Of course there was a public-house in the village, and of course
Joe liked sometimes to smoke his pipe there. I had received strict
orders from my sister to call for him at the Three Jolly Bargemen,
that evening, on my way from school, and bring him home at my
peril. To the Three Jolly Bargemen, therefore, I directed my steps.
There was a bar at the Jolly Bargemen, with some alarmingly long
chalk scores in it on the wall at the side of the door, which
seemed to me to be never paid off. They had been there ever since I
could remember, and had grown more than I had. But there was a
quantity of chalk about our country, and perhaps the people
neglected no opportunity of turning it to account.
It being Saturday night, I found the landlord looking rather grimly
at these records, but as my business was with Joe and not with him,
I merely wished him good evening, and passed into the common room
at the end of the passage, where there was a bright large kitchen
fire, and where Joe was smoking his pipe in company with Mr. Wopsle
and a stranger. Joe greeted me as usual with "Halloa, Pip, old
chap!" and the moment he said that, the stranger turned his head
and looked at me.
He was a secret-looking man whom I had never seen before. His head
was all on one side, and one of his eyes was half shut up, as if he
were taking aim at something with an invisible gun. He had a pipe
in his mouth, and he took it out, and, after slowly blowing all his
smoke away and looking hard at me all the time, nodded. So, I
nodded, and then he nodded again, and made room on the settle
beside him that I might sit down there.
But, as I was used to sit beside Joe whenever I entered that place
of resort, I said "No, thank you, sir," and fell into the space Joe
made for me on the opposite settle. The strange man, after glancing
at Joe, and seeing that his attention was otherwise engaged, nodded
to me again when I had taken my seat, and then rubbed his leg - in
a very odd way, as it struck me.
"You was saying," said the strange man, turning to Joe, "that you
was a blacksmith."
"Yes. I said it, you know," said Joe.
"What'll you drink, Mr. - ? You didn't mention your name,
Joe mentioned it now, and the strange man called him by it.
"What'll you drink, Mr. Gargery? At my expense? To top up with?"
"Well," said Joe, "to tell you the truth, I ain't much in the habit
of drinking at anybody's expense but my own."
"Habit? No," returned the stranger, "but once and away, and on a
Saturday night too. Come! Put a name to it, Mr. Gargery."
"I wouldn't wish to be stiff company," said Joe. "Rum."
"Rum," repeated the stranger. "And will the other gentleman
originate a sentiment."
"Rum," said Mr. Wopsle.
"Three Rums!" cried the stranger, calling to the landlord. "Glasses
"This other gentleman," observed Joe, by way of introducing Mr.
Wopsle, "is a gentleman that you would like to hear give it out.
Our clerk at church."
"Aha!" said the stranger, quickly, and cocking his eye at me. "The
lonely church, right out on the marshes, with graves round it!"
"That's it," said Joe.
The stranger, with a comfortable kind of grunt over his pipe, put
his legs up on the settle that he had to himself. He wore a
flapping broad-brimmed traveller's hat, and under it a handkerchief
tied over his head in the manner of a cap: so that he showed no
hair. As he looked at the fire, I thought I saw a cunning
expression, followed by a half-laugh, come into his face.
"I am not acquainted with this country, gentlemen, but it seems a
solitary country towards the river."
"Most marshes is solitary," said Joe.
"No doubt, no doubt. Do you find any gipsies, now, or tramps, or
vagrants of any sort, out there?"
"No," said Joe; "none but a runaway convict now and then. And we
don't find them, easy. Eh, Mr. Wopsle?"
Mr. Wopsle, with a majestic remembrance of old discomfiture,
assented; but not warmly.
"Seems you have been out after such?" asked the stranger.
"Once," returned Joe. "Not that we wanted to take them, you
understand; we went out as lookers on; me, and Mr. Wopsle, and Pip.
Didn't us, Pip?"
"Yes, Joe."
The stranger looked at me again - still cocking his eye, as if he
were expressly taking aim at me with his invisible gun - and said,
"He's a likely young parcel of bones that. What is it you call
"Pip," said Joe.
"Christened Pip?"
"No, not christened Pip."
"Surname Pip?"
"No," said Joe, "it's a kind of family name what he gave himself
when a infant, and is called by."
"Son of yours?"
"Well," said Joe, meditatively - not, of course, that it could be
in anywise necessary to consider about it, but because it was the
way at the Jolly Bargemen to seem to consider deeply about
everything that was discussed over pipes; "well - no. No, he
"Nevvy?" said the strange man.
"Well," said Joe, with the same appearance of profound cogitation,
"he is not - no, not to deceive you, he is not - my nevvy."
"What the Blue Blazes is he?" asked the stranger. Which appeared to
me to be an inquiry of unnecessary strength.
Mr. Wopsle struck in upon that; as one who knew all about
relationships, having professional occasion to bear in mind what
female relations a man might not marry; and expounded the ties
between me and Joe. Having his hand in, Mr. Wopsle finished off with
a most terrifically snarling passage from Richard the Third, and
seemed to think he had done quite enough to account for it when he
added, - "as the poet says."
And here I may remark that when Mr. Wopsle referred to me, he
considered it a necessary part of such reference to rumple my hair
and poke it into my eyes. I cannot conceive why everybody of his
standing who visited at our house should always have put me through
the same inflammatory process under similar circumstances. Yet I do
not call to mind that I was ever in my earlier youth the subject of
remark in our social family circle, but some large-handed person
took some such ophthalmic steps to patronize me.
All this while, the strange man looked at nobody but me, and looked
at me as if he were determined to have a shot at me at last, and
bring me down. But he said nothing after offering his Blue Blazes
observation, until the glasses of rum-and-water were brought; and
then he made his shot, and a most extraordinary shot it was.
It was not a verbal remark, but a proceeding in dump show, and was
pointedly addressed to me. He stirred his rum-and-water pointedly
at me, and he tasted his rum-and-water pointedly at me. And he
stirred it and he tasted it: not with a spoon that was brought to
him, but with a file.
He did this so that nobody but I saw the file; and when he had done
it he wiped the file and put it in a breast-pocket. I knew it to be
Joe's file, and I knew that he knew my convict, the moment I saw
the instrument. I sat gazing at him, spell-bound. But he now
reclined on his settle, taking very little notice of me, and
talking principally about turnips.
There was a delicious sense of cleaning-up and making a quiet pause
before going on in life afresh, in our village on Saturday nights,
which stimulated Joe to dare to stay out half an hour longer on
Saturdays than at other times. The half hour and the rum-and-water
running out together, Joe got up to go, and took me by the hand.
"Stop half a moment, Mr. Gargery," said the strange man. "I think
I've got a bright new shilling somewhere in my pocket, and if I
have, the boy shall have it."
He looked it out from a handful of small change, folded it in some
crumpled paper, and gave it to me. "Yours!" said he. "Mind! Your
I thanked him, staring at him far beyond the bounds of good
manners, and holding tight to Joe. He gave Joe good-night, and he
gave Mr. Wopsle good-night (who went out with us), and he gave me
only a look with his aiming eye - no, not a look, for he shut it
up, but wonders may be done with an eye by hiding it.
On the way home, if I had been in a humour for talking, the talk
must have been all on my side, for Mr. Wopsle parted from us at the
door of the Jolly Bargemen, and Joe went all the way home with his
mouth wide open, to rinse the rum out with as much air as possible.
But I was in a manner stupefied by this turning up of my old
misdeed and old acquaintance, and could think of nothing else.
My sister was not in a very bad temper when we presented ourselves
in the kitchen, and Joe was encouraged by that unusual circumstance
to tell her about the bright shilling. "A bad un, I'll be bound,"
said Mrs. Joe triumphantly, "or he wouldn't have given it to the
boy! Let's look at it."
I took it out of the paper, and it proved to be a good one. "But
what's this?" said Mrs. Joe, throwing down the shilling and catching
up the paper. "Two One-Pound notes?"
Nothing less than two fat sweltering one-pound notes that seemed to
have been on terms of the warmest intimacy with all the cattle
markets in the county. Joe caught up his hat again, and ran with
them to the Jolly Bargemen to restore them to their owner. While he
was gone, I sat down on my usual stool and looked vacantly at my
sister, feeling pretty sure that the man would not be there.
Presently, Joe came back, saying that the man was gone, but that
he, Joe, had left word at the Three Jolly Bargemen concerning the
notes. Then my sister sealed them up in a piece of paper, and put
them under some dried rose-leaves in an ornamental tea-pot on the
top of a press in the state parlour. There they remained, a
nightmare to me, many and many a night and day.
I had sadly broken sleep when I got to bed, through thinking of the
strange man taking aim at me with his invisible gun, and of the
guiltily coarse and common thing it was, to be on secret terms of
conspiracy with convicts - a feature in my low career that I had
previously forgotten. I was haunted by the file too. A dread
possessed me that when I least expected it, the file would
reappear. I coaxed myself to sleep by thinking of Miss Havisham's,
next Wednesday; and in my sleep I saw the file coming at me out of
a door, without seeing who held it, and I screamed myself awake.
Chapter 11
At the appointed time I returned to Miss Havisham's, and my
hesitating ring at the gate brought out Estella. She locked it
after admitting me, as she had done before, and again preceded me
into the dark passage where her candle stood. She took no notice of
me until she had the candle in her hand, when she looked over her
shoulder, superciliously saying, "You are to come this way today,"
and took me to quite another part of the house.
The passage was a long one, and seemed to pervade the whole square
basement of the Manor House. We traversed but one side of the
square, however, and at the end of it she stopped, and put her
candle down and opened a door. Here, the daylight reappeared, and I
found myself in a small paved court-yard, the opposite side of
which was formed by a detached dwelling-house, that looked as if it
had once belonged to the manager or head clerk of the extinct
brewery. There was a clock in the outer wall of this house. Like
the clock in Miss Havisham's room, and like Miss Havisham's watch,
it had stopped at twenty minutes to nine.
We went in at the door, which stood open, and into a gloomy room
with a low ceiling, on the ground floor at the back. There was some
company in the room, and Estella said to me as she joined it, "You
are to go and stand there, boy, till you are wanted." "There",
being the window, I crossed to it, and stood "there," in a very
uncomfortable state of mind, looking out.
It opened to the ground, and looked into a most miserable corner of
the neglected garden, upon a rank ruin of cabbage-stalks, and one
box tree that had been clipped round long ago, like a pudding, and
had a new growth at the top of it, out of shape and of a different
colour, as if that part of the pudding had stuck to the saucepan
and got burnt. This was my homely thought, as I contemplated the
box-tree. There had been some light snow, overnight, and it lay
nowhere else to my knowledge; but, it had not quite melted from the
cold shadow of this bit of garden, and the wind caught it up in
little eddies and threw it at the window, as if it pelted me for
coming there.
I divined that my coming had stopped conversation in the room, and
that its other occupants were looking at me. I could see nothing of
the room except the shining of the fire in the window glass, but I
stiffened in all my joints with the consciousness that I was under
close inspection.
There were three ladies in the room and one gentleman. Before I had
been standing at the window five minutes, they somehow conveyed to
me that they were all toadies and humbugs, but that each of them
pretended not to know that the others were toadies and humbugs:
because the admission that he or she did know it, would have made
him or her out to be a toady and humbug.
They all had a listless and dreary air of waiting somebody's
pleasure, and the most talkative of the ladies had to speak quite
rigidly to repress a yawn. This lady, whose name was Camilla, very
much reminded me of my sister, with the difference that she was
older, and (as I found when I caught sight of her) of a blunter
cast of features. Indeed, when I knew her better I began to think
it was a Mercy she had any features at all, so very blank and high
was the dead wall of her face.
"Poor dear soul!" said this lady, with an abruptness of manner
quite my sister's. "Nobody's enemy but his own!"
"It would be much more commendable to be somebody else's enemy,"
said the gentleman; "far more natural."
"Cousin Raymond," observed another lady, "we are to love our
"Sarah Pocket," returned Cousin Raymond, "if a man is not his own
neighbour, who is?"
Miss Pocket laughed, and Camilla laughed and said (checking a
yawn), "The idea!" But I thought they seemed to think it rather a
good idea too. The other lady, who had not spoken yet, said gravely
and emphatically, "Very true!"
"Poor soul!" Camilla presently went on (I knew they had all been
looking at me in the mean time), "he is so very strange! Would
anyone believe that when Tom's wife died, he actually could not be
induced to see the importance of the children's having the deepest
of trimmings to their mourning? 'Good Lord!' says he, 'Camilla,
what can it signify so long as the poor bereaved little things are
in black?' So like Matthew! The idea!"
"Good points in him, good points in him," said Cousin Raymond;
"Heaven forbid I should deny good points in him; but he never had,
and he never will have, any sense of the proprieties."
"You know I was obliged," said Camilla, "I was obliged to be firm.
I said, 'It WILL NOT DO, for the credit of the family.' I told him
that, without deep trimmings, the family was disgraced. I cried
about it from breakfast till dinner. I injured my digestion. And at
last he flung out in his violent way, and said, with a D, 'Then do
as you like.' Thank Goodness it will always be a consolation to me
to know that I instantly went out in a pouring rain and bought the
"He paid for them, did he not?" asked Estella.
"It's not the question, my dear child, who paid for them," returned
Camilla. "I bought them. And I shall often think of that with
peace, when I wake up in the night."
The ringing of a distant bell, combined with the echoing of some
cry or call along the passage by which I had come, interrupted the
conversation and caused Estella to say to me, "Now, boy!" On my
turning round, they all looked at me with the utmost contempt, and,
as I went out, I heard Sarah Pocket say, "Well I am sure! What
next!" and Camilla add, with indignation, "Was there ever such a
fancy! The i-de-a!"
As we were going with our candle along the dark passage, Estella
stopped all of a sudden, and, facing round, said in her taunting
manner with her face quite close to mine:
"Well, miss?" I answered, almost falling over her and checking
She stood looking at me, and, of course, I stood looking at her.
"Am I pretty?"
"Yes; I think you are very pretty."
"Am I insulting?"
"Not so much so as you were last time," said I.
"Not so much so?"
She fired when she asked the last question, and she slapped my face
with such force as she had, when I answered it.
"Now?" said she. "You little coarse monster, what do you think of
me now?"
"I shall not tell you."
"Because you are going to tell, up-stairs. Is that it?"
"No," said I, "that's not it."
"Why don't you cry again, you little wretch?"
"Because I'll never cry for you again," said I. Which was, I
suppose, as false a declaration as ever was made; for I was
inwardly crying for her then, and I know what I know of the pain
she cost me afterwards.
We went on our way up-stairs after this episode; and, as we were
going up, we met a gentleman groping his way down.
"Whom have we here?" asked the gentleman, stopping and looking at
"A boy," said Estella.
He was a burly man of an exceedingly dark complexion, with an
exceedingly large head and a corresponding large hand. He took my
chin in his large hand and turned up my face to have a look at me
by the light of the candle. He was prematurely bald on the top of
his head, and had bushy black eyebrows that wouldn't lie down but
stood up bristling. His eyes were set very deep in his head, and
were disagreeably sharp and suspicious. He had a large watchchain,
and strong black dots where his beard and whiskers would have been
if he had let them. He was nothing to me, and I could have had no
foresight then, that he ever would be anything to me, but it
happened that I had this opportunity of observing him well.
"Boy of the neighbourhood? Hey?" said he.
"Yes, sir," said I.
"How do you come here?"
"Miss Havisham sent for me, sir," I explained.
"Well! Behave yourself. I have a pretty large experience of boys,
and you're a bad set of fellows. Now mind!" said he, biting the
side of his great forefinger as he frowned at me, "you behave
With those words, he released me - which I was glad of, for his
hand smelt of scented soap - and went his way down-stairs. I
wondered whether he could be a doctor; but no, I thought; he
couldn't be a doctor, or he would have a quieter and more
persuasive manner. There was not much time to consider the subject,
for we were soon in Miss Havisham's room, where she and everything
else were just as I had left them. Estella left me standing near
the door, and I stood there until Miss Havisham cast her eyes upon
me from the dressing-table.
"So!" she said, without being startled or surprised; "the days have
worn away, have they?"
"Yes, ma'am. To-day is--"
"There, there, there!" with the impatient movement of her fingers.
"I don't want to know. Are you ready to play?"
I was obliged to answer in some confusion, "I don't think I am,
"Not at cards again?" she demanded, with a searching look.
"Yes, ma'am; I could do that, if I was wanted."
"Since this house strikes you old and grave, boy," said Miss
Havisham, impatiently, "and you are unwilling to play, are you
willing to work?"
I could answer this inquiry with a better heart than I had been
able to find for the other question, and I said I was quite
"Then go into that opposite room," said she, pointing at the door
behind me with her withered hand, "and wait there till I come."
I crossed the staircase landing, and entered the room she
indicated. From that room, too, the daylight was completely
excluded, and it had an airless smell that was oppressive. A fire
had been lately kindled in the damp old-fashioned grate, and it was
more disposed to go out than to burn up, and the reluctant smoke
which hung in the room seemed colder than the clearer air - like
our own marsh mist. Certain wintry branches of candles on the high
chimneypiece faintly lighted the chamber: or, it would be more
expressive to say, faintly troubled its darkness. It was spacious,
and I dare say had once been handsome, but every discernible thing
in it was covered with dust and mould, and dropping to pieces. The
most prominent object was a long table with a tablecloth spread on
it, as if a feast had been in preparation when the house and the
clocks all stopped together. An epergne or centrepiece of some kind
was in the middle of this cloth; it was so heavily overhung with
cobwebs that its form was quite undistinguishable; and, as I looked
along the yellow expanse out of which I remember its seeming to
grow, like a black fungus, I saw speckled-legged spiders with
blotchy bodies running home to it, and running out from it, as if
some circumstances of the greatest public importance had just
transpired in the spider community.
I heard the mice too, rattling behind the panels, as if the same
occurrence were important to their interests. But, the blackbeetles
took no notice of the agitation, and groped about the hearth in a
ponderous elderly way, as if they were short-sighted and hard of
hearing, and not on terms with one another.
These crawling things had fascinated my attention and I was
watching them from a distance, when Miss Havisham laid a hand upon
my shoulder. In her other hand she had a crutch-headed stick on
which she leaned, and she looked like the Witch of the place.
"This," said she, pointing to the long table with her stick, "is
where I will be laid when I am dead. They shall come and look at me
With some vague misgiving that she might get upon the table then
and there and die at once, the complete realization of the ghastly
waxwork at the Fair, I shrank under her touch.
"What do you think that is?" she asked me, again pointing with her
stick; "that, where those cobwebs are?"
"I can't guess what it is, ma'am."
"It's a great cake. A bride-cake. Mine!"
She looked all round the room in a glaring manner, and then said,
leaning on me while her hand twitched my shoulder, "Come, come,
come! Walk me, walk me!"
I made out from this, that the work I had to do, was to walk Miss
Havisham round and round the room. Accordingly, I started at once,
and she leaned upon my shoulder, and we went away at a pace that
might have been an imitation (founded on my first impulse under
that roof) of Mr. Pumblechook's chaise-cart.
She was not physically strong, and after a little time said,
"Slower!" Still, we went at an impatient fitful speed, and as we
went, she twitched the hand upon my shoulder, and worked her mouth,
and led me to believe that we were going fast because her thoughts
went fast. After a while she said, "Call Estella!" so I went out on
the landing and roared that name as I had done on the previous
occasion. When her light appeared, I returned to Miss Havisham, and
we started away again round and round the room.
If only Estella had come to be a spectator of our proceedings, I
should have felt sufficiently discontented; but, as she brought
with her the three ladies and the gentleman whom I had seen below,
I didn't know what to do. In my politeness, I would have stopped;
but, Miss Havisham twitched my shoulder, and we posted on - with a
shame-faced consciousness on my part that they would think it was
all my doing.
"Dear Miss Havisham," said Miss Sarah Pocket. "How well you look!"
"I do not," returned Miss Havisham. "I am yellow skin and bone."
Camilla brightened when Miss Pocket met with this rebuff; and she
murmured, as she plaintively contemplated Miss Havisham, "Poor dear
soul! Certainly not to be expected to look well, poor thing. The
"And how are you?" said Miss Havisham to Camilla. As we were close
to Camilla then, I would have stopped as a matter of course, only
Miss Havisham wouldn't stop. We swept on, and I felt that I was
highly obnoxious to Camilla.
"Thank you, Miss Havisham," she returned, "I am as well as can be
"Why, what's the matter with you?" asked Miss Havisham, with
exceeding sharpness.
"Nothing worth mentioning," replied Camilla. "I don't wish to make
a display of my feelings, but I have habitually thought of you more
in the night than I am quite equal to."
"Then don't think of me," retorted Miss Havisham.
"Very easily said!" remarked Camilla, amiably repressing a sob,
while a hitch came into her upper lip, and her tears overflowed.
"Raymond is a witness what ginger and sal volatile I am obliged to
take in the night. Raymond is a witness what nervous jerkings I
have in my legs. Chokings and nervous jerkings, however, are
nothing new to me when I think with anxiety of those I love. If I
could be less affectionate and sensitive, I should have a better
digestion and an iron set of nerves. I am sure I wish it could be
so. But as to not thinking of you in the night - The idea!" Here, a
burst of tears.
The Raymond referred to, I understood to be the gentleman present,
and him I understood to be Mr. Camilla. He came to the rescue at
this point, and said in a consolatory and complimentary voice,
"Camilla, my dear, it is well known that your family feelings are
gradually undermining you to the extent of making one of your legs
shorter than the other."
"I am not aware," observed the grave lady whose voice I had heard
but once, "that to think of any person is to make a great claim
upon that person, my dear."
Miss Sarah Pocket, whom I now saw to be a little dry brown
corrugated old woman, with a small face that might have been made
of walnut shells, and a large mouth like a cat's without the
whiskers, supported this position by saying, "No, indeed, my dear.
"Thinking is easy enough," said the grave lady.
"What is easier, you know?" assented Miss Sarah Pocket.
"Oh, yes, yes!" cried Camilla, whose fermenting feelings appeared
to rise from her legs to her bosom. "It's all very true! It's a
weakness to be so affectionate, but I can't help it. No doubt my
health would be much better if it was otherwise, still I wouldn't
change my disposition if I could. It's the cause of much suffering,
but it's a consolation to know I posses it, when I wake up in the
night." Here another burst of feeling.
Miss Havisham and I had never stopped all this time, but kept going
round and round the room: now, brushing against the skirts of the
visitors: now, giving them the whole length of the dismal chamber.
"There's Matthew!" said Camilla. "Never mixing with any natural
ties, never coming here to see how Miss Havisham is! I have taken
to the sofa with my staylace cut, and have lain there hours,
insensible, with my head over the side, and my hair all down, and
my feet I don't know where--"
("Much higher than your head, my love," said Mr. Camilla.)
"I have gone off into that state, hours and hours, on account of
Matthew's strange and inexplicable conduct, and nobody has thanked
"Really I must say I should think not!" interposed the grave lady.
"You see, my dear," added Miss Sarah Pocket (a blandly vicious
personage), "the question to put to yourself is, who did you expect
to thank you, my love?"
"Without expecting any thanks, or anything of the sort," resumed
Camilla, "I have remained in that state, hours and hours, and
Raymond is a witness of the extent to which I have choked, and what
the total inefficacy of ginger has been, and I have been heard at
the pianoforte-tuner's across the street, where the poor mistaken
children have even supposed it to be pigeons cooing at a
distance-and now to be told--." Here Camilla put her hand to her
throat, and began to be quite chemical as to the formation of new
combinations there.
When this same Matthew was mentioned, Miss Havisham stopped me and
herself, and stood looking at the speaker. This change had a great
influence in bringing Camilla's chemistry to a sudden end.
"Matthew will come and see me at last," said Miss Havisham,
sternly, when I am laid on that table. That will be his place -
there," striking the table with her stick, "at my head! And yours
will be there! And your husband's there! And Sarah Pocket's there!
And Georgiana's there! Now you all know where to take your stations
when you come to feast upon me. And now go!"
At the mention of each name, she had struck the table with her
stick in a new place. She now said, "Walk me, walk me!" and we went
on again.
"I suppose there's nothing to be done," exclaimed Camilla, "but
comply and depart. It's something to have seen the object of one's
love and duty, for even so short a time. I shall think of it with a
melancholy satisfaction when I wake up in the night. I wish Matthew
could have that comfort, but he sets it at defiance. I am
determined not to make a display of my feelings, but it's very hard
to be told one wants to feast on one's relations - as if one was a
Giant - and to be told to go. The bare idea!"
Mr. Camilla interposing, as Mrs. Camilla laid her hand upon her
heaving bosom, that lady assumed an unnatural fortitude of manner
which I supposed to be expressive of an intention to drop and choke
when out of view, and kissing her hand to Miss Havisham, was
escorted forth. Sarah Pocket and Georgiana contended who should
remain last; but, Sarah was too knowing to be outdone, and ambled
round Georgiana with that artful slipperiness, that the latter was
obliged to take precedence. Sarah Pocket then made her separate
effect of departing with "Bless you, Miss Havisham dear!" and with
a smile of forgiving pity on her walnut-shell countenance for the
weaknesses of the rest.
While Estella was away lighting them down, Miss Havisham still
walked with her hand on my shoulder, but more and more slowly. At
last she stopped before the fire, and said, after muttering and
looking at it some seconds:
"This is my birthday, Pip."
I was going to wish her many happy returns, when she lifted her
"I don't suffer it to be spoken of. I don't suffer those who were
here just now, or any one, to speak of it. They come here on the
day, but they dare not refer to it."
Of course I made no further effort to refer to it.
"On this day of the year, long before you were born, this heap of
decay," stabbing with her crutched stick at the pile of cobwebs on
the table but not touching it, "was brought here. It and I have
worn away together. The mice have gnawed at it, and sharper teeth
than teeth of mice have gnawed at me."
She held the head of her stick against her heart as she stood
looking at the table; she in her once white dress, all yellow and
withered; the once white cloth all yellow and withered; everything
around, in a state to crumble under a touch.
"When the ruin is complete," said she, with a ghastly look, "and
when they lay me dead, in my bride's dress on the bride's table -
which shall be done, and which will be the finished curse upon him
- so much the better if it is done on this day!"
She stood looking at the table as if she stood looking at her own
figure lying there. I remained quiet. Estella returned, and she too
remained quiet. It seemed to me that we continued thus for a long
time. In the heavy air of the room, and the heavy darkness that
brooded in its remoter corners, I even had an alarming fancy that
Estella and I might presently begin to decay.
At length, not coming out of her distraught state by degrees, but
in an instant, Miss Havisham said, "Let me see you two play cards;
why have you not begun?" With that, we returned to her room, and
sat down as before; I was beggared, as before; and again, as
before, Miss Havisham watched us all the time, directed my
attention to Estella's beauty, and made me notice it the more by
trying her jewels on Estella's breast and hair.
Estella, for her part, likewise treated me as before; except that
she did not condescend to speak. When we had played some halfdozen
games, a day was appointed for my return, and I was taken down into
the yard to be fed in the former dog-like manner. There, too, I was
again left to wander about as I liked.
It is not much to the purpose whether a gate in that garden wall
which I had scrambled up to peep over on the last occasion was, on
that last occasion, open or shut. Enough that I saw no gate them,
and that I saw one now. As it stood open, and as I knew that
Estella had let the visitors out - for, she had returned with the
keys in her hand - I strolled into the garden and strolled all over
it. It was quite a wilderness, and there were old melon-frames and
cucumber-frames in it, which seemed in their decline to have
produced a spontaneous growth of weak attempts at pieces of old
hats and boots, with now and then a weedy offshoot into the
likeness of a battered saucepan.
When I had exhausted the garden, and a greenhouse with nothing in
it but a fallen-down grape-vine and some bottles, I found myself in
the dismal corner upon which I had looked out of the window. Never
questioning for a moment that the house was now empty, I looked in
at another window, and found myself, to my great surprise,
exchanging a broad stare with a pale young gentleman with red
eyelids and light hair.
This pale young gentleman quickly disappeared, and re-appeared
beside me. He had been at his books when I had found myself staring
at him, and I now saw that he was inky.
"Halloa!" said he, "young fellow!"
Halloa being a general observation which I had usually observed to
be best answered by itself, I said, "Halloa!" politely omitting
young fellow.
"Who let you in?" said he.
"Miss Estella."
"Who gave you leave to prowl about?"
"Miss Estella."
"Come and fight," said the pale young gentleman.
What could I do but follow him? I have often asked myself the
question since: but, what else could I do? His manner was so final
and I was so astonished, that I followed where he led, as if I had
been under a spell.
"Stop a minute, though," he said, wheeling round before we had gone
many paces. "I ought to give you a reason for fighting, too. There
it is!" In a most irritating manner he instantly slapped his hands
against one another, daintily flung one of his legs up behind him,
pulled my hair, slapped his hands again, dipped his head, and
butted it into my stomach.
The bull-like proceeding last mentioned, besides that it was
unquestionably to be regarded in the light of a liberty, was
particularly disagreeable just after bread and meat. I therefore
hit out at him and was going to hit out again, when he said,
"Aha! Would you?" and began dancing backwards and forwards in a
manner quite unparalleled within my limited experience.
"Laws of the game!" said he. Here, he skipped from his left leg on
to his right. "Regular rules!" Here, he skipped from his right leg
on to his left. "Come to the ground, and go through the
preliminaries!" Here, he dodged backwards and forwards, and did all
sorts of things while I looked helplessly at him.
I was secretly afraid of him when I saw him so dexterous; but, I
felt morally and physically convinced that his light head of hair
could have had no business in the pit of my stomach, and that I had
a right to consider it irrelevant when so obtruded on my attention.
Therefore, I followed him without a word, to a retired nook of the
garden, formed by the junction of two walls and screened by some
rubbish. On his asking me if I was satisfied with the ground, and
on my replying Yes, he begged my leave to absent himself for a
moment, and quickly returned with a bottle of water and a sponge
dipped in vinegar. "Available for both," he said, placing these
against the wall. And then fell to pulling off, not only his jacket
and waistcoat, but his shirt too, in a manner at once
light-hearted, businesslike, and bloodthirsty.
Although he did not look very healthy - having pimples on his face,
and a breaking out at his mouth - these dreadful preparations quite
appalled me. I judged him to be about my own age, but he was much
taller, and he had a way of spinning himself about that was full of
appearance. For the rest, he was a young gentleman in a grey suit
(when not denuded for battle), with his elbows, knees, wrists, and
heels, considerably in advance of the rest of him as to
My heart failed me when I saw him squaring at me with every
demonstration of mechanical nicety, and eyeing my anatomy as if he
were minutely choosing his bone. I never have been so surprised in
my life, as I was when I let out the first blow, and saw him lying
on his back, looking up at me with a bloody nose and his face
exceedingly fore-shortened.
But, he was on his feet directly, and after sponging himself with a
great show of dexterity began squaring again. The second greatest
surprise I have ever had in my life was seeing him on his back
again, looking up at me out of a black eye.
His spirit inspired me with great respect. He seemed to have no
strength, and he never once hit me hard, and he was always knocked
down; but, he would be up again in a moment, sponging himself or
drinking out of the water-bottle, with the greatest satisfaction in
seconding himself according to form, and then came at me with an
air and a show that made me believe he really was going to do for
me at last. He got heavily bruised, for I am sorry to record that
the more I hit him, the harder I hit him; but, he came up again and
again and again, until at last he got a bad fall with the back of
his head against the wall. Even after that crisis in our affairs,
he got up and turned round and round confusedly a few times, not
knowing where I was; but finally went on his knees to his sponge
and threw it up: at the same time panting out, "That means you have
He seemed so brave and innocent, that although I had not proposed
the contest I felt but a gloomy satisfaction in my victory. Indeed,
I go so far as to hope that I regarded myself while dressing, as a
species of savage young wolf, or other wild beast. However, I got
dressed, darkly wiping my sanguinary face at intervals, and I said,
"Can I help you?" and he said "No thankee," and I said "Good
afternoon," and he said "Same to you."
When I got into the court-yard, I found Estella waiting with the
keys. But, she neither asked me where I had been, nor why I had
kept her waiting; and there was a bright flush upon her face, as
though something had happened to delight her. Instead of going
straight to the gate, too, she stepped back into the passage, and
beckoned me.
"Come here! You may kiss me, if you like."
I kissed her cheek as she turned it to me. I think I would have
gone through a great deal to kiss her cheek. But, I felt that the
kiss was given to the coarse common boy as a piece of money might
have been, and that it was worth nothing.
What with the birthday visitors, and what with the cards, and what
with the fight, my stay had lasted so long, that when I neared home
the light on the spit of sand off the point on the marshes was
gleaming against a black night-sky, and Joe's furnace was flinging
a path of fire across the road.
Chapter 12
My mind grew very uneasy on the subject of the pale young
gentleman. The more I thought of the fight, and recalled the pale
young gentleman on his back in various stages of puffy and
incrimsoned countenance, the more certain it appeared that
something would be done to me. I felt that the pale young
gentleman's blood was on my head, and that the Law would avenge it.
Without having any definite idea of the penalties I had incurred,
it was clear to me that village boys could not go stalking about
the country, ravaging the houses of gentlefolks and pitching into
the studious youth of England, without laying themselves open to
severe punishment. For some days, I even kept close at home, and
looked out at the kitchen door with the greatest caution and
trepidation before going on an errand, lest the officers of the
County Jail should pounce upon me. The pale young gentleman's nose
had stained my trousers, and I tried to wash out that evidence of
my guilt in the dead of night. I had cut my knuckles against the
pale young gentleman's teeth, and I twisted my imagination into a
thousand tangles, as I devised incredible ways of accounting for
that damnatory circumstance when I should be haled before the
When the day came round for my return to the scene of the deed of
violence, my terrors reached their height. Whether myrmidons of
Justice, specially sent down from London, would be lying in ambush
behind the gate? Whether Miss Havisham, preferring to take personal
vengeance for an outrage done to her house, might rise in those
grave-clothes of hers, draw a pistol, and shoot me dead? Whether
suborned boys - a numerous band of mercenaries - might be engaged
to fall upon me in the brewery, and cuff me until I was no more? It
was high testimony to my confidence in the spirit of the pale young
gentleman, that I never imagined him accessory to these
retaliations; they always came into my mind as the acts of
injudicious relatives of his, goaded on by the state of his visage
and an indignant sympathy with the family features.
However, go to Miss Havisham's I must, and go I did. And behold!
nothing came of the late struggle. It was not alluded to in any
way, and no pale young gentleman was to be discovered on the
premises. I found the same gate open, and I explored the garden,
and even looked in at the windows of the detached house; but, my
view was suddenly stopped by the closed shutters within, and all
was lifeless. Only in the corner where the combat had taken place,
could I detect any evidence of the young gentleman's existence.
There were traces of his gore in that spot, and I covered them with
garden-mould from the eye of man.
On the broad landing between Miss Havisham's own room and that
other room in which the long table was laid out, I saw a
garden-chair - a light chair on wheels, that you pushed from
behind. It had been placed there since my last visit, and I
entered, that same day, on a regular occupation of pushing Miss
Havisham in this chair (when she was tired of walking with her hand
upon my shoulder) round her own room, and across the landing, and
round the other room. Over and over and over again, we would make
these journeys, and sometimes they would last as long as three
hours at a stretch. I insensibly fall into a general mention of
these journeys as numerous, because it was at once settled that I
should return every alternate day at noon for these purposes, and
because I am now going to sum up a period of at least eight or ten
As we began to be more used to one another, Miss Havisham talked
more to me, and asked me such questions as what had I learnt and
what was I going to be? I told her I was going to be apprenticed to
Joe, I believed; and I enlarged upon my knowing nothing and wanting
to know everything, in the hope that she might offer some help
towards that desirable end. But, she did not; on the contrary, she
seemed to prefer my being ignorant. Neither did she ever give me
any money - or anything but my daily dinner - nor ever stipulate
that I should be paid for my services.
Estella was always about, and always let me in and out, but never
told me I might kiss her again. Sometimes, she would coldly
tolerate me; sometimes, she would condescend to me; sometimes, she
would be quite familiar with me; sometimes, she would tell me
energetically that she hated me. Miss Havisham would often ask me
in a whisper, or when we were alone, "Does she grow prettier and
prettier, Pip?" And when I said yes (for indeed she did), would
seem to enjoy it greedily. Also, when we played at cards Miss
Havisham would look on, with a miserly relish of Estella's moods,
whatever they were. And sometimes, when her moods were so many and
so contradictory of one another that I was puzzled what to say or
do, Miss Havisham would embrace her with lavish fondness, murmuring
something in her ear that sounded like "Break their hearts my pride
and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy!"
There was a song Joe used to hum fragments of at the forge, of
which the burden was Old Clem. This was not a very ceremonious way
of rendering homage to a patron saint; but, I believe Old Clem
stood in that relation towards smiths. It was a song that imitated
the measure of beating upon iron, and was a mere lyrical excuse for
the introduction of Old Clem's respected name. Thus, you were to
hammer boys round - Old Clem! With a thump and a sound - Old Clem!
Beat it out, beat it out - Old Clem! With a clink for the stout -
Old Clem! Blow the fire, blow the fire - Old Clem! Roaring dryer,
soaring higher - Old Clem! One day soon after the appearance of the
chair, Miss Havisham suddenly saying to me, with the impatient
movement of her fingers, "There, there, there! Sing!" I was
surprised into crooning this ditty as I pushed her over the floor.
It happened so to catch her fancy, that she took it up in a low
brooding voice as if she were singing in her sleep. After that, it
became customary with us to have it as we moved about, and Estella
would often join in; though the whole strain was so subdued, even
when there were three of us, that it made less noise in the grim
old house than the lightest breath of wind.
What could I become with these surroundings? How could my character
fail to be influenced by them? Is it to be wondered at if my
thoughts were dazed, as my eyes were, when I came out into the
natural light from the misty yellow rooms?
Perhaps, I might have told Joe about the pale young gentleman, if I
had not previously been betrayed into those enormous inventions to
which I had confessed. Under the circumstances, I felt that Joe
could hardly fail to discern in the pale young gentleman, an
appropriate passenger to be put into the black velvet coach;
therefore, I said nothing of him. Besides: that shrinking from
having Miss Havisham and Estella discussed, which had come upon me
in the beginning, grew much more potent as time went on. I reposed
complete confidence in no one but Biddy; but, I told poor Biddy
everything. Why it came natural to me to do so, and why Biddy had a
deep concern in everything I told her, I did not know then, though
I think I know now.
Meanwhile, councils went on in the kitchen at home, fraught with
almost insupportable aggravation to my exasperated spirit. That
ass, Pumblechook, used often to come over of a night for the purpose
of discussing my prospects with my sister; and I really do believe
(to this hour with less penitence than I ought to feel), that if
these hands could have taken a linchpin out of his chaise-cart,
they would have done it. The miserable man was a man of that
confined stolidity of mind, that he could not discuss my prospects
without having me before him - as it were, to operate upon - and he
would drag me up from my stool (usually by the collar) where I was
quiet in a corner, and, putting me before the fire as if I were
going to be cooked, would begin by saying, "Now, Mum, here is this
boy! Here is this boy which you brought up by hand. Hold up your
head, boy, and be for ever grateful unto them which so did do. Now,
Mum, with respections to this boy!" And then he would rumple my
hair the wrong way - which from my earliest remembrance, as already
hinted, I have in my soul denied the right of any fellow-creature
to do - and would hold me before him by the sleeve: a spectacle of
imbecility only to be equalled by himself.
Then, he and my sister would pair off in such nonsensical
speculations about Miss Havisham, and about what she would do with
me and for me, that I used to want - quite painfully - to burst
into spiteful tears, fly at Pumblechook, and pummel him all over.
In these dialogues, my sister spoke to me as if she were morally
wrenching one of my teeth out at every reference; while Pumblechook
himself, self-constituted my patron, would sit supervising me with
a depreciatory eye, like the architect of my fortunes who thought
himself engaged on a very unremunerative job.
In these discussions, Joe bore no part. But he was often talked at,
while they were in progress, by reason of Mrs. Joe's perceiving that
he was not favourable to my being taken from the forge. I was fully
old enough now, to be apprenticed to Joe; and when Joe sat with the
poker on his knees thoughtfully raking out the ashes between the
lower bars, my sister would so distinctly construe that innocent
action into opposition on his part, that she would dive at him,
take the poker out of his hands, shake him, and put it away. There
was a most irritating end to every one of these debates. All in a
moment, with nothing to lead up to it, my sister would stop herself
in a yawn, and catching sight of me as it were incidentally, would
swoop upon me with, "Come! there's enough of you! You get along to
bed; you've given trouble enough for one night, I hope!" As if I
had besought them as a favour to bother my life out.
We went on in this way for a long time, and it seemed likely that
we should continue to go on in this way for a long time, when, one
day, Miss Havisham stopped short as she and I were walking, she
leaning on my shoulder; and said with some displeasure:
"You are growing tall, Pip!"
I thought it best to hint, through the medium of a meditative look,
that this might be occasioned by circumstances over which I had no
She said no more at the time; but, she presently stopped and looked
at me again; and presently again; and after that, looked frowning
and moody. On the next day of my attendance when our usual exercise
was over, and I had landed her at her dressingtable, she stayed me
with a movement of her impatient fingers:
"Tell me the name again of that blacksmith of yours."
"Joe Gargery, ma'am."
"Meaning the master you were to be apprenticed to?"
"Yes, Miss Havisham."
"You had better be apprenticed at once. Would Gargery come here
with you, and bring your indentures, do you think?"
I signified that I had no doubt he would take it as an honour to be
"Then let him come."
"At any particular time, Miss Havisham?"
"There, there! I know nothing about times. Let him come soon, and
come along with you."
When I got home at night, and delivered this message for Joe, my
sister "went on the Rampage," in a more alarming degree than at any
previous period. She asked me and Joe whether we supposed she was
door-mats under our feet, and how we dared to use her so, and what
company we graciously thought she was fit for? When she had
exhausted a torrent of such inquiries, she threw a candlestick at
Joe, burst into a loud sobbing, got out the dustpan - which was
always a very bad sign - put on her coarse apron, and began
cleaning up to a terrible extent. Not satisfied with a dry
cleaning, she took to a pail and scrubbing-brush, and cleaned us
out of house and home, so that we stood shivering in the back-yard.
It was ten o'clock at night before we ventured to creep in again,
and then she asked Joe why he hadn't married a Negress Slave at
once? Joe offered no answer, poor fellow, but stood feeling his
whisker and looking dejectedly at me, as if he thought it really
might have been a better speculation.
Chapter 13
It was a trial to my feelings, on the next day but one, to see Joe
arraying himself in his Sunday clothes to accompany me to Miss
Havisham's. However, as he thought his court-suit necessary to the
occasion, it was not for me tell him that he looked far better in
his working dress; the rather, because I knew he made himself so
dreadfully uncomfortable, entirely on my account, and that it was
for me he pulled up his shirt-collar so very high behind, that it
made the hair on the crown of his head stand up like a tuft of
At breakfast time my sister declared her intention of going to town
with us, and being left at Uncle Pumblechook's and called for "when
we had done with our fine ladies" - a way of putting the case, from
which Joe appeared inclined to augur the worst. The forge was shut
up for the day, and Joe inscribed in chalk upon the door (as it was
his custom to do on the very rare occasions when he was not at
work) the monosyllable HOUT, accompanied by a sketch of an arrow
supposed to be flying in the direction he had taken.
We walked to town, my sister leading the way in a very large beaver
bonnet, and carrying a basket like the Great Seal of England in
plaited straw, a pair of pattens, a spare shawl, and an umbrella,
though it was a fine bright day. I am not quite clear whether these
articles were carried penitentially or ostentatiously; but, I
rather think they were displayed as articles of property - much as
Cleopatra or any other sovereign lady on the Rampage might exhibit
her wealth in a pageant or procession.
When we came to Pumblechook's, my sister bounced in and left us. As
it was almost noon, Joe and I held straight on to Miss Havisham's
house. Estella opened the gate as usual, and, the moment she
appeared, Joe took his hat off and stood weighing it by the brim in
both his hands: as if he had some urgent reason in his mind for
being particular to half a quarter of an ounce.
Estella took no notice of either of us, but led us the way that I
knew so well. I followed next to her, and Joe came last. When I
looked back at Joe in the long passage, he was still weighing his
hat with the greatest care, and was coming after us in long strides
on the tips of his toes.
Estella told me we were both to go in, so I took Joe by the
coat-cuff and conducted him into Miss Havisham's presence. She was
seated at her dressing-table, and looked round at us immediately.
"Oh!" said she to Joe. "You are the husband of the sister of this
I could hardly have imagined dear old Joe looking so unlike himself
or so like some extraordinary bird; standing, as he did,
speechless, with his tuft of feathers ruffled, and his mouth open,
as if he wanted a worm.
"You are the husband," repeated Miss Havisham, "of the sister of
this boy?"
It was very aggravating; but, throughout the interview Joe
persisted in addressing Me instead of Miss Havisham.
"Which I meantersay, Pip," Joe now observed in a manner that was at
once expressive of forcible argumentation, strict confidence, and
great politeness, "as I hup and married your sister, and I were at
the time what you might call (if you was anyways inclined) a single
"Well!" said Miss Havisham. "And you have reared the boy, with the
intention of taking him for your apprentice; is that so, Mr.
"You know, Pip," replied Joe, "as you and me were ever friends, and
it were looked for'ard to betwixt us, as being calc'lated to lead
to larks. Not but what, Pip, if you had ever made objections to the
business - such as its being open to black and sut, or such-like -
not but what they would have been attended to, don't you see?"
"Has the boy," said Miss Havisham, "ever made any objection? Does
he like the trade?"
"Which it is well beknown to yourself, Pip," returned Joe,
strengthening his former mixture of argumentation, confidence, and
politeness, "that it were the wish of your own hart." (I saw the
idea suddenly break upon him that he would adapt his epitaph to the
occasion, before he went on to say) "And there weren't no objection
on your part, and Pip it were the great wish of your heart!"
It was quite in vain for me to endeavour to make him sensible that
he ought to speak to Miss Havisham. The more I made faces and
gestures to him to do it, the more confidential, argumentative, and
polite, he persisted in being to Me.
"Have you brought his indentures with you?" asked Miss Havisham.
"Well, Pip, you know," replied Joe, as if that were a little
unreasonable, "you yourself see me put 'em in my 'at, and therefore
you know as they are here." With which he took them out, and gave
them, not to Miss Havisham, but to me. I am afraid I was ashamed of
the dear good fellow - I know I was ashamed of him - when I saw
that Estella stood at the back of Miss Havisham's chair, and that
her eyes laughed mischievously. I took the indentures out of his
hand and gave them to Miss Havisham.
"You expected," said Miss Havisham, as she looked them over, "no
premium with the boy?"
"Joe!" I remonstrated; for he made no reply at all. "Why don't you
"Pip," returned Joe, cutting me short as if he were hurt, "which I
meantersay that were not a question requiring a answer betwixt
yourself and me, and which you know the answer to be full well No.
You know it to be No, Pip, and wherefore should I say it?"
Miss Havisham glanced at him as if she understood what he really
was, better than I had thought possible, seeing what he was there;
and took up a little bag from the table beside her.
"Pip has earned a premium here," she said, "and here it is. There
are five-and-twenty guineas in this bag. Give it to your master,
As if he were absolutely out of his mind with the wonder awakened
in him by her strange figure and the strange room, Joe, even at
this pass, persisted in addressing me.
"This is wery liberal on your part, Pip," said Joe, "and it is as
such received and grateful welcome, though never looked for, far
nor near nor nowheres. And now, old chap," said Joe, conveying to
me a sensation, first of burning and then of freezing, for I felt
as if that familiar expression were applied to Miss Havisham; "and
now, old chap, may we do our duty! May you and me do our duty, both
on us by one and another, and by them which your liberal present -
have - conweyed - to be - for the satisfaction of mind - of - them
as never--" here Joe showed that he felt he had fallen into
frightful difficulties, until he triumphantly rescued himself with
the words, "and from myself far be it!" These words had such a
round and convincing sound for him that he said them twice.
"Good-bye, Pip!" said Miss Havisham. "Let them out, Estella."
"Am I to come again, Miss Havisham?" I asked.
"No. Gargery is your master now. Gargery! One word!"
Thus calling him back as I went out of the door, I heard her say to
Joe, in a distinct emphatic voice, "The boy has been a good boy
here, and that is his reward. Of course, as an honest man, you will
expect no other and no more."
How Joe got out of the room, I have never been able to determine;
but, I know that when he did get out he was steadily proceeding
up-stairs instead of coming down, and was deaf to all remonstrances
until I went after him and laid hold of him. In another minute we
were outside the gate, and it was locked, and Estella was gone.
When we stood in the daylight alone again, Joe backed up against a
wall, and said to me, "Astonishing!" And there he remained so long,
saying "Astonishing" at intervals, so often, that I began to think
his senses were never coming back. At length he prolonged his
remark into "Pip, I do assure you this is as-TONishing!" and so, by
degrees, became conversational and able to walk away.
I have reason to think that Joe's intellects were brightened by the
encounter they had passed through, and that on our way to
Pumblechook's he invented a subtle and deep design. My reason is to
be found in what took place in Mr. Pumblechook's parlour: where, on
our presenting ourselves, my sister sat in conference with that
detested seedsman.
"Well?" cried my sister, addressing us both at once. "And what's
happened to you? I wonder you condescend to come back to such poor
society as this, I am sure I do!"
"Miss Havisham," said Joe, with a fixed look at me, like an effort
of remembrance, "made it wery partick'ler that we should give her -
were it compliments or respects, Pip?"
"Compliments," I said.
"Which that were my own belief," answered Joe - "her compliments to
Mrs. J. Gargery--"
"Much good they'll do me!" observed my sister; but rather gratified
"And wishing," pursued Joe, with another fixed look at me, like
another effort of remembrance, "that the state of Miss Havisham's
elth were sitch as would have - allowed, were it, Pip?"
"Of her having the pleasure," I added.
"Of ladies' company," said Joe. And drew a long breath.
"Well!" cried my sister, with a mollified glance at Mr. Pumblechook.
"She might have had the politeness to send that message at first,
but it's better late than never. And what did she give young
Rantipole here?"
"She giv' him," said Joe, "nothing."
Mrs. Joe was going to break out, but Joe went on.
"What she giv'," said Joe, "she giv' to his friends. 'And by his
friends,' were her explanation, 'I mean into the hands of his
sister Mrs. J. Gargery.' Them were her words; 'Mrs. J. Gargery.' She
mayn't have know'd," added Joe, with an appearance of reflection,
"whether it were Joe, or Jorge."
My sister looked at Pumblechook: who smoothed the elbows of his
wooden armchair, and nodded at her and at the fire, as if he had
known all about it beforehand.
"And how much have you got?" asked my sister, laughing. Positively,
"What would present company say to ten pound?" demanded Joe.
"They'd say," returned my sister, curtly, "pretty well. Not too
much, but pretty well."
"It's more than that, then," said Joe.
That fearful Impostor, Pumblechook, immediately nodded, and said,
as he rubbed the arms of his chair: "It's more than that, Mum."
"Why, you don't mean to say--" began my sister.
"Yes I do, Mum," said Pumblechook; "but wait a bit. Go on, Joseph.
Good in you! Go on!"
"What would present company say," proceeded Joe, "to twenty pound?"
"Handsome would be the word," returned my sister.
"Well, then," said Joe, "It's more than twenty pound."
That abject hypocrite, Pumblechook, nodded again, and said, with a
patronizing laugh, "It's more than that, Mum. Good again! Follow her
up, Joseph!"
"Then to make an end of it," said Joe, delightedly handing the bag
to my sister; "it's five-and-twenty pound."
"It's five-and-twenty pound, Mum," echoed that basest of swindlers,
Pumblechook, rising to shake hands with her; "and it's no more than
your merits (as I said when my opinion was asked), and I wish you
joy of the money!"
If the villain had stopped here, his case would have been
sufficiently awful, but he blackened his guilt by proceeding to
take me into custody, with a right of patronage that left all his
former criminality far behind.
"Now you see, Joseph and wife," said Pumblechook, as he took me by
the arm above the elbow, "I am one of them that always go right
through with what they've begun. This boy must be bound, out of
hand. That's my way. Bound out of hand."
"Goodness knows, Uncle Pumblechook," said my sister (grasping the
money), "we're deeply beholden to you."
"Never mind me, Mum, returned that diabolical corn-chandler. "A
pleasure's a pleasure, all the world over. But this boy, you know;
we must have him bound. I said I'd see to it - to tell you the
The Justices were sitting in the Town Hall near at hand, and we at
once went over to have me bound apprentice to Joe in the
Magisterial presence. I say, we went over, but I was pushed over by
Pumblechook, exactly as if I had that moment picked a pocket or
fired a rick; indeed, it was the general impression in Court that I
had been taken red-handed, for, as Pumblechook shoved me before him
through the crowd, I heard some people say, "What's he done?" and
others, "He's a young 'un, too, but looks bad, don't he? One person
of mild and benevolent aspect even gave me a tract ornamented with
a woodcut of a malevolent young man fitted up with a perfect
sausage-shop of fetters, and entitled, TO BE READ IN MY CELL.
The Hall was a queer place, I thought, with higher pews in it than
a church - and with people hanging over the pews looking on - and
with mighty Justices (one with a powdered head) leaning back in
chairs, with folded arms, or taking snuff, or going to sleep, or
writing, or reading the newspapers - and with some shining black
portraits on the walls, which my unartistic eye regarded as a
composition of hardbake and sticking-plaister. Here, in a corner,
my indentures were duly signed and attested, and I was "bound;" Mr.
Pumblechook holding me all the while as if we had looked in on our
way to the scaffold, to have those little preliminaries disposed
When we had come out again, and had got rid of the boys who had
been put into great spirits by the expectation of seeing me
publicly tortured, and who were much disappointed to find that my
friends were merely rallying round me, we went back to
Pumblechook's. And there my sister became so excited by the
twenty-five guineas, that nothing would serve her but we must have
a dinner out of that windfall, at the Blue Boar, and that
Pumblechook must go over in his chaise-cart, and bring the Hubbles
and Mr. Wopsle.
It was agreed to be done; and a most melancholy day I passed. For,
it inscrutably appeared to stand to reason, in the minds of the
whole company, that I was an excrescence on the entertainment. And
to make it worse, they all asked me from time to time - in short,
whenever they had nothing else to do - why I didn't enjoy myself.
And what could I possibly do then, but say I was enjoying myself -
when I wasn't?
However, they were grown up and had their own way, and they made
the most of it. That swindling Pumblechook, exalted into the
beneficent contriver of the whole occasion, actually took the top
of the table; and, when he addressed them on the subject of my
being bound, and had fiendishly congratulated them on my being
liable to imprisonment if I played at cards, drank strong liquors,
kept late hours or bad company, or indulged in other vagaries which
the form of my indentures appeared to contemplate as next to
inevitable, he placed me standing on a chair beside him, to
illustrate his remarks.
My only other remembrances of the great festival are, That they
wouldn't let me go to sleep, but whenever they saw me dropping off,
woke me up and told me to enjoy myself. That, rather late in the
evening Mr. Wopsle gave us Collins's ode, and threw his bloodstain'd
sword in thunder down, with such effect, that a waiter came in and
said, "The Commercials underneath sent up their compliments, and it
wasn't the Tumblers' Arms." That, they were all in excellent
spirits on the road home, and sang O Lady Fair! Mr. Wopsle taking
the bass, and asserting with a tremendously strong voice (in reply
to the inquisitive bore who leads that piece of music in a most
impertinent manner, by wanting to know all about everybody's
private affairs) that he was the man with his white locks flowing,
and that he was upon the whole the weakest pilgrim going.
Finally, I remember that when I got into my little bedroom I was
truly wretched, and had a strong conviction on me that I should
never like Joe's trade. I had liked it once, but once was not now.
Chapter 14
It is a most miserable thing to feel ashamed of home. There may be
black ingratitude in the thing, and the punishment may be
retributive and well deserved; but, that it is a miserable thing, I
can testify.
Home had never been a very pleasant place to me, because of my
sister's temper. But, Joe had sanctified it, and I had believed in
it. I had believed in the best parlour as a most elegant saloon; I
had believed in the front door, as a mysterious portal of the
Temple of State whose solemn opening was attended with a sacrifice
of roast fowls; I had believed in the kitchen as a chaste though
not magnificent apartment; I had believed in the forge as the
glowing road to manhood and independence. Within a single year, all
this was changed. Now, it was all coarse and common, and I would
not have had Miss Havisham and Estella see it on any account.
How much of my ungracious condition of mind may have been my own
fault, how much Miss Havisham's, how much my sister's, is now of no
moment to me or to any one. The change was made in me; the thing
was done. Well or ill done, excusably or inexcusably, it was done.
Once, it had seemed to me that when I should at last roll up my
shirt-sleeves and go into the forge, Joe's 'prentice, I should be
distinguished and happy. Now the reality was in my hold, I only
felt that I was dusty with the dust of small coal, and that I had a
weight upon my daily remembrance to which the anvil was a feather.
There have been occasions in my later life (I suppose as in most
lives) when I have felt for a time as if a thick curtain had fallen
on all its interest and romance, to shut me out from anything save
dull endurance any more. Never has that curtain dropped so heavy
and blank, as when my way in life lay stretched out straight before
me through the newly-entered road of apprenticeship to Joe.
I remember that at a later period of my "time," I used to stand
about the churchyard on Sunday evenings when night was falling,
comparing my own perspective with the windy marsh view, and making
out some likeness between them by thinking how flat and low both
were, and how on both there came an unknown way and a dark mist and
then the sea. I was quite as dejected on the first working-day of
my apprenticeship as in that after-time; but I am glad to know that
I never breathed a murmur to Joe while my indentures lasted. It is
about the only thing I am glad to know of myself in that
For, though it includes what I proceed to add, all the merit of
what I proceed to add was Joe's. It was not because I was faithful,
but because Joe was faithful, that I never ran away and went for a
soldier or a sailor. It was not because I had a strong sense of the
virtue of industry, but because Joe had a strong sense of the
virtue of industry, that I worked with tolerable zeal against the
grain. It is not possible to know how far the influence of any
amiable honest-hearted duty-doing man flies out into the world; but
it is very possible to know how it has touched one's self in going
by, and I know right well, that any good that intermixed itself
with my apprenticeship came of plain contented Joe, and not of
restlessly aspiring discontented me.
What I wanted, who can say? How can I say, when I never knew? What
I dreaded was, that in some unlucky hour I, being at my grimiest
and commonest, should lift up my eyes and see Estella looking in at
one of the wooden windows of the forge. I was haunted by the fear
that she would, sooner or later, find me out, with a black face and
hands, doing the coarsest part of my work, and would exult over me
and despise me. Often after dark, when I was pulling the bellows
for Joe, and we were singing Old Clem, and when the thought how we
used to sing it at Miss Havisham's would seem to show me Estella's
face in the fire, with her pretty hair fluttering in the wind and
her eyes scorning me, - often at such a time I would look towards
those panels of black night in the wall which the wooden windows
then were, and would fancy that I saw her just drawing her face
away, and would believe that she had come at last.
After that, when we went in to supper, the place and the meal would
have a more homely look than ever, and I would feel more ashamed of
home than ever, in my own ungracious breast.
Chapter 15
As I was getting too big for Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt's room, my
education under that preposterous female terminated. Not, however,
until Biddy had imparted to me everything she knew, from the little
catalogue of prices, to a comic song she had once bought for a
halfpenny. Although the only coherent part of the latter piece of
literature were the opening lines,
When I went to Lunnon town sirs, Too rul loo rul Too rul loo rul
Wasn't I done very brown sirs? Too rul loo rul Too rul loo rul
- still, in my desire to be wiser, I got this composition by heart
with the utmost gravity; nor do I recollect that I questioned its
merit, except that I thought (as I still do) the amount of Too rul
somewhat in excess of the poetry. In my hunger for information, I
made proposals to Mr. Wopsle to bestow some intellectual crumbs upon
me; with which he kindly complied. As it turned out, however, that
he only wanted me for a dramatic lay-figure, to be contradicted and
embraced and wept over and bullied and clutched and stabbed and
knocked about in a variety of ways, I soon declined that course of
instruction; though not until Mr. Wopsle in his poetic fury had
severely mauled me.
Whatever I acquired, I tried to impart to Joe. This statement
sounds so well, that I cannot in my conscience let it pass
unexplained. I wanted to make Joe less ignorant and common, that he
might be worthier of my society and less open to Estella's
The old Battery out on the marshes was our place of study, and a
broken slate and a short piece of slate pencil were our educational
implements: to which Joe always added a pipe of tobacco. I never
knew Joe to remember anything from one Sunday to another, or to
acquire, under my tuition, any piece of information whatever. Yet
he would smoke his pipe at the Battery with a far more sagacious
air than anywhere else - even with a learned air - as if he
considered himself to be advancing immensely. Dear fellow, I hope
he did.
It was pleasant and quiet, out there with the sails on the river
passing beyond the earthwork, and sometimes, when the tide was low,
looking as if they belonged to sunken ships that were still sailing
on at the bottom of the water. Whenever I watched the vessels
standing out to sea with their white sails spread, I somehow
thought of Miss Havisham and Estella; and whenever the light struck
aslant, afar off, upon a cloud or sail or green hill-side or
water-line, it was just the same. - Miss Havisham and Estella and
the strange house and the strange life appeared to have something
to do with everything that was picturesque.
One Sunday when Joe, greatly enjoying his pipe, had so plumed
himself on being "most awful dull," that I had given him up for the
day, I lay on the earthwork for some time with my chin on my hand,
descrying traces of Miss Havisham and Estella all over the
prospect, in the sky and in the water, until at last I resolved to
mention a thought concerning them that had been much in my head.
"Joe," said I; "don't you think I ought to make Miss Havisham a
"Well, Pip," returned Joe, slowly considering. "What for?"
"What for, Joe? What is any visit made for?"
"There is some wisits, p'r'aps," said Joe, "as for ever remains
open to the question, Pip. But in regard to wisiting Miss Havisham.
She might think you wanted something - expected something of her."
"Don't you think I might say that I did not, Joe?"
"You might, old chap," said Joe. "And she might credit it.
Similarly she mightn't."
Joe felt, as I did, that he had made a point there, and he pulled
hard at his pipe to keep himself from weakening it by repetition.
"You see, Pip," Joe pursued, as soon as he was past that danger,
"Miss Havisham done the handsome thing by you. When Miss Havisham
done the handsome thing by you, she called me back to say to me as
that were all."
"Yes, Joe. I heard her."
"ALL," Joe repeated, very emphatically.
"Yes, Joe. I tell you, I heard her."
"Which I meantersay, Pip, it might be that her meaning were - Make
a end on it! - As you was! - Me to the North, and you to the South!
- Keep in sunders!"
I had thought of that too, and it was very far from comforting to
me to find that he had thought of it; for it seemed to render it
more probable.
"But, Joe."
"Yes, old chap."
"Here am I, getting on in the first year of my time, and, since the
day of my being bound, I have never thanked Miss Havisham, or asked
after her, or shown that I remember her."
"That's true, Pip; and unless you was to turn her out a set of
shoes all four round - and which I meantersay as even a set of
shoes all four round might not be acceptable as a present, in a
total wacancy of hoofs--"
"I don't mean that sort of remembrance, Joe; I don't mean a
But Joe had got the idea of a present in his head and must harp
upon it. "Or even," said he, "if you was helped to knocking her up
a new chain for the front door - or say a gross or two of
shark-headed screws for general use - or some light fancy article,
such as a toasting-fork when she took her muffins - or a gridiron
when she took a sprat or such like--"
"I don't mean any present at all, Joe," I interposed.
"Well," said Joe, still harping on it as though I had particularly
pressed it, "if I was yourself, Pip, I wouldn't. No, I would not.
For what's a door-chain when she's got one always up? And
shark-headers is open to misrepresentations. And if it was a
toasting-fork, you'd go into brass and do yourself no credit. And
the oncommonest workman can't show himself oncommon in a gridiron -
for a gridiron IS a gridiron," said Joe, steadfastly impressing it
upon me, as if he were endeavouring to rouse me from a fixed
delusion, "and you may haim at what you like, but a gridiron it
will come out, either by your leave or again your leave, and you
can't help yourself--"
"My dear Joe," I cried, in desperation, taking hold of his coat,
"don't go on in that way. I never thought of making Miss Havisham
any present."
"No, Pip," Joe assented, as if he had been contending for that, all
along; "and what I say to you is, you are right, Pip."
"Yes, Joe; but what I wanted to say, was, that as we are rather
slack just now, if you would give me a half-holiday to-morrow, I
think I would go up-town and make a call on Miss Est - Havisham."
"Which her name," said Joe, gravely, "ain't Estavisham, Pip, unless
she have been rechris'ened."
"I know, Joe, I know. It was a slip of mine. What do you think of
it, Joe?"
In brief, Joe thought that if I thought well of it, he thought well
of it. But, he was particular in stipulating that if I were not
received with cordiality, or if I were not encouraged to repeat my
visit as a visit which had no ulterior object but was simply one of
gratitude for a favour received, then this experimental trip should
have no successor. By these conditions I promised to abide.
Now, Joe kept a journeyman at weekly wages whose name was Orlick.
He pretended that his Christian name was Dolge - a clear
impossibility - but he was a fellow of that obstinate disposition
that I believe him to have been the prey of no delusion in this
particular, but wilfully to have imposed that name upon the village
as an affront to its understanding. He was a broadshouldered
loose-limbed swarthy fellow of great strength, never in a hurry,
and always slouching. He never even seemed to come to his work on
purpose, but would slouch in as if by mere accident; and when he
went to the Jolly Bargemen to eat his dinner, or went away at
night, he would slouch out, like Cain or the Wandering Jew, as if
he had no idea where he was going and no intention of ever coming
back. He lodged at a sluice-keeper's out on the marshes, and on
working days would come slouching from his hermitage, with his
hands in his pockets and his dinner loosely tied in a bundle round
his neck and dangling on his back. On Sundays he mostly lay all day
on the sluice-gates, or stood against ricks and barns. He always
slouched, locomotively, with his eyes on the ground; and, when
accosted or otherwise required to raise them, he looked up in a
half resentful, half puzzled way, as though the only thought he
ever had, was, that it was rather an odd and injurious fact that he
should never be thinking.
This morose journeyman had no liking for me. When I was very small
and timid, he gave me to understand that the Devil lived in a black
corner of the forge, and that he knew the fiend very well: also
that it was necessary to make up the fire, once in seven years,
with a live boy, and that I might consider myself fuel. When I
became Joe's 'prentice, Orlick was perhaps confirmed in some
suspicion that I should displace him; howbeit, he liked me still
less. Not that he ever said anything, or did anything, openly
importing hostility; I only noticed that he always beat his sparks
in my direction, and that whenever I sang Old Clem, he came in out
of time.
Dolge Orlick was at work and present, next day, when I reminded Joe
of my half-holiday. He said nothing at the moment, for he and Joe
had just got a piece of hot iron between them, and I was at the
bellows; but by-and-by he said, leaning on his hammer:
"Now, master! Sure you're not a-going to favour only one of us. If
Young Pip has a half-holiday, do as much for Old Orlick." I suppose
he was about five-and-twenty, but he usually spoke of himself as an
ancient person.
"Why, what'll you do with a half-holiday, if you get it?" said Joe.
"What'll I do with it! What'll he do with it? I'll do as much with
it as him," said Orlick.
"As to Pip, he's going up-town," said Joe.
"Well then, as to Old Orlick, he's a-going up-town," retorted that
worthy. "Two can go up-town. Tan't only one wot can go up-town.
"Don't lose your temper," said Joe.
"Shall if I like," growled Orlick. "Some and their up-towning! Now,
master! Come. No favouring in this shop. Be a man!"
The master refusing to entertain the subject until the journeyman
was in a better temper, Orlick plunged at the furnace, drew out a
red-hot bar, made at me with it as if he were going to run it
through my body, whisked it round my head, laid it on the anvil,
hammered it out - as if it were I, I thought, and the sparks were
my spirting blood - and finally said, when he had hammered himself
hot and the iron cold, and he again leaned on his hammer:
"Now, master!"
"Are you all right now?" demanded Joe.
"Ah! I am all right," said gruff Old Orlick.
"Then, as in general you stick to your work as well as most men,"
said Joe, "let it be a half-holiday for all."
My sister had been standing silent in the yard, within hearing -
she was a most unscrupulous spy and listener - and she instantly
looked in at one of the windows.
"Like you, you fool!" said she to Joe, "giving holidays to great
idle hulkers like that. You are a rich man, upon my life, to waste
wages in that way. I wish I was his master!"
"You'd be everybody's master, if you durst," retorted Orlick, with
an ill-favoured grin.
("Let her alone," said Joe.)
"I'd be a match for all noodles and all rogues," returned my
sister, beginning to work herself into a mighty rage. "And I
couldn't be a match for the noodles, without being a match for your
master, who's the dunder-headed king of the noodles. And I couldn't
be a match for the rogues, without being a match for you, who are
the blackest-looking and the worst rogue between this and France.
"You're a foul shrew, Mother Gargery, growled the journeyman. "If
that makes a judge of rogues, you ought to be a good'un."
("Let her alone, will you?" said Joe.)
"What did you say?" cried my sister, beginning to scream. "What did
you say? What did that fellow Orlick say to me, Pip? What did he
call me, with my husband standing by? O! O! O!" Each of these
exclamations was a shriek; and I must remark of my sister, what is
equally true of all the violent women I have ever seen, that
passion was no excuse for her, because it is undeniable that
instead of lapsing into passion, she consciously and deliberately
took extraordinary pains to force herself into it, and became
blindly furious by regular stages; "what was the name he gave me
before the base man who swore to defend me? O! Hold me! O!"
"Ah-h-h!" growled the journeyman, between his teeth, "I'd hold you,
if you was my wife. I'd hold you under the pump, and choke it out
of you."
("I tell you, let her alone," said Joe.)
"Oh! To hear him!" cried my sister, with a clap of her hands and a
scream together - which was her next stage. "To hear the names he's
giving me! That Orlick! In my own house! Me, a married woman! With
my husband standing by! O! O!" Here my sister, after a fit of
clappings and screamings, beat her hands upon her bosom and upon
her knees, and threw her cap off, and pulled her hair down - which
were the last stages on her road to frenzy. Being by this time a
perfect Fury and a complete success, she made a dash at the door,
which I had fortunately locked.
What could the wretched Joe do now, after his disregarded
parenthetical interruptions, but stand up to his journeyman, and
ask him what he meant by interfering betwixt himself and Mrs. Joe;
and further whether he was man enough to come on? Old Orlick felt
that the situation admitted of nothing less than coming on, and was
on his defence straightway; so, without so much as pulling off
their singed and burnt aprons, they went at one another, like two
giants. But, if any man in that neighbourhood could stand up long
against Joe, I never saw the man. Orlick, as if he had been of no
more account than the pale young gentleman, was very soon among the
coal-dust, and in no hurry to come out of it. Then, Joe unlocked
the door and picked up my sister, who had dropped insensible at the
window (but who had seen the fight first, I think), and who was
carried into the house and laid down, and who was recommended to
revive, and would do nothing but struggle and clench her hands in
Joe's hair. Then, came that singular calm and silence which succeed
all uproars; and then, with the vague sensation which I have always
connected with such a lull - namely, that it was Sunday, and
somebody was dead - I went up-stairs to dress myself.
When I came down again, I found Joe and Orlick sweeping up, without
any other traces of discomposure than a slit in one of Orlick's
nostrils, which was neither expressive nor ornamental. A pot of
beer had appeared from the Jolly Bargemen, and they were sharing it
by turns in a peaceable manner. The lull had a sedative and
philosophical influence on Joe, who followed me out into the road
to say, as a parting observation that might do me good, "On the
Rampage, Pip, and off the Rampage, Pip - such is Life!"
With what absurd emotions (for, we think the feelings that are very
serious in a man quite comical in a boy) I found myself again going
to Miss Havisham's, matters little here. Nor, how I passed and
repassed the gate many times before I could make up my mind to
ring. Nor, how I debated whether I should go away without ringing;
nor, how I should undoubtedly have gone, if my time had been my
own, to come back.
Miss Sarah Pocket came to the gate. No Estella.
"How, then? You here again?" said Miss Pocket. "What do you want?"
When I said that I only came to see how Miss Havisham was, Sarah
evidently deliberated whether or no she should send me about my
business. But, unwilling to hazard the responsibility, she let me
in, and presently brought the sharp message that I was to "come
Everything was unchanged, and Miss Havisham was alone.
"Well?" said she, fixing her eyes upon me. "I hope you want
nothing? You'll get nothing."
"No, indeed, Miss Havisham. I only wanted you to know that I am
doing very well in my apprenticeship, and am always much obliged to
"There, there!" with the old restless fingers. "Come now and then;
come on your birthday. - Ay!" she cried suddenly, turning herself
and her chair towards me, "You are looking round for Estella? Hey?"
I had been looking round - in fact, for Estella - and I stammered
that I hoped she was well.
"Abroad," said Miss Havisham; "educating for a lady; far out of
reach; prettier than ever; admired by all who see her. Do you feel
that you have lost her?"
There was such a malignant enjoyment in her utterance of the last
words, and she broke into such a disagreeable laugh, that I was at
a loss what to say. She spared me the trouble of considering, by
dismissing me. When the gate was closed upon me by Sarah of the
walnut-shell countenance, I felt more than ever dissatisfied with
my home and with my trade and with everything; and that was all I
took by that motion.
As I was loitering along the High-street, looking in disconsolately
at the shop windows, and thinking what I would buy if I were a
gentleman, who should come out of the bookshop but Mr. Wopsle. Mr
Wopsle had in his hand the affecting tragedy of George Barnwell, in
which he had that moment invested sixpence, with the view of
heaping every word of it on the head of Pumblechook, with whom he
was going to drink tea. No sooner did he see me, than he appeared
to consider that a special Providence had put a 'prentice in his
way to be read at; and he laid hold of me, and insisted on my
accompanying him to the Pumblechookian parlour. As I knew it would
be miserable at home, and as the nights were dark and the way was
dreary, and almost any companionship on the road was better than
none, I made no great resistance; consequently, we turned into
Pumblechook's just as the street and the shops were lighting up.
As I never assisted at any other representation of George Barnwell,
I don't know how long it may usually take; but I know very well
that it took until half-past nine o' clock that night, and that
when Mr. Wopsle got into Newgate, I thought he never would go to the
scaffold, he became so much slower than at any former period of his
disgraceful career. I thought it a little too much that he should
complain of being cut short in his flower after all, as if he had
not been running to seed, leaf after leaf, ever since his course
began. This, however, was a mere question of length and
wearisomeness. What stung me, was the identification of the whole
affair with my unoffending self. When Barnwell began to go wrong, I
declare that I felt positively apologetic, Pumblechook's indignant
stare so taxed me with it. Wopsle, too, took pains to present me in
the worst light. At once ferocious and maudlin, I was made to
murder my uncle with no extenuating circumstances whatever;
Millwood put me down in argument, on every occasion; it became
sheer monomania in my master's daughter to care a button for me;
and all I can say for my gasping and procrastinating conduct on the
fatal morning, is, that it was worthy of the general feebleness of
my character. Even after I was happily hanged and Wopsle had closed
the book, Pumblechook sat staring at me, and shaking his head, and
saying, "Take warning, boy, take warning!" as if it were a
well-known fact that I contemplated murdering a near relation,
provided I could only induce one to have the weakness to become my
It was a very dark night when it was all over, and when I set out
with Mr. Wopsle on the walk home. Beyond town, we found a heavy
mist out, and it fell wet and thick. The turnpike lamp was a blur,
quite out of the lamp's usual place apparently, and its rays looked
solid substance on the fog. We were noticing this, and saying how
that the mist rose with a change of wind from a certain quarter of
our marshes, when we came upon a man, slouching under the lee of
the turnpike house.
"Halloa!" we said, stopping. "Orlick, there?"
"Ah!" he answered, slouching out. "I was standing by, a minute, on
the chance of company."
"You are late," I remarked.
Orlick not unnaturally answered, "Well? And you're late."
"We have been," said Mr. Wopsle, exalted with his late performance,
"we have been indulging, Mr. Orlick, in an intellectual evening."
Old Orlick growled, as if he had nothing to say about that, and we
all went on together. I asked him presently whether he had been
spending his half-holiday up and down town?
"Yes," said he, "all of it. I come in behind yourself. I didn't see
you, but I must have been pretty close behind you. By-the-bye, the
guns is going again."
"At the Hulks?" said I.
"Ay! There's some of the birds flown from the cages. The guns have
been going since dark, about. You'll hear one presently."
In effect, we had not walked many yards further, when the
wellremembered boom came towards us, deadened by the mist, and
heavily rolled away along the low grounds by the river, as if it
were pursuing and threatening the fugitives.
"A good night for cutting off in," said Orlick. "We'd be puzzled
how to bring down a jail-bird on the wing, to-night."
The subject was a suggestive one to me, and I thought about it in
silence. Mr. Wopsle, as the ill-requited uncle of the evening's
tragedy, fell to meditating aloud in his garden at Camberwell.
Orlick, with his hands in his pockets, slouched heavily at my side.
It was very dark, very wet, very muddy, and so we splashed along.
Now and then, the sound of the signal cannon broke upon us again,
and again rolled sulkily along the course of the river. I kept
myself to myself and my thoughts. Mr. Wopsle died amiably at
Camberwell, and exceedingly game on Bosworth Field, and in the
greatest agonies at Glastonbury. Orlick sometimes growled, "Beat it
out, beat it out - Old Clem! With a clink for the stout - Old
Clem!" I thought he had been drinking, but he was not drunk.
Thus, we came to the village. The way by which we approached it,
took us past the Three Jolly Bargemen, which we were surprised to
find - it being eleven o'clock - in a state of commotion, with the
door wide open, and unwonted lights that had been hastily caught up
and put down, scattered about. Mr. Wopsle dropped in to ask what was
the matter (surmising that a convict had been taken), but came
running out in a great hurry.
"There's something wrong," said he, without stopping, "up at your
place, Pip. Run all!"
"What is it?" I asked, keeping up with him. So did Orlick, at my
"I can't quite understand. The house seems to have been violently
entered when Joe Gargery was out. Supposed by convicts. Somebody
has been attacked and hurt."
We were running too fast to admit of more being said, and we made
no stop until we got into our kitchen. It was full of people; the
whole village was there, or in the yard; and there was a surgeon,
and there was Joe, and there was a group of women, all on the floor
in the midst of the kitchen. The unemployed bystanders drew back
when they saw me, and so I became aware of my sister - lying
without sense or movement on the bare boards where she had been
knocked down by a tremendous blow on the back of the head, dealt by
some unknown hand when her face was turned towards the fire -
destined never to be on the Rampage again, while she was the wife
of Joe.
Chapter 16
With my head full of George Barnwell, I was at first disposed to
believe that I must have had some hand in the attack upon my
sister, or at all events that as her near relation, popularly known
to be under obligations to her, I was a more legitimate object of
suspicion than any one else. But when, in the clearer light of next
morning, I began to reconsider the matter and to hear it discussed
around me on all sides, I took another view of the case, which was
more reasonable.
Joe had been at the Three Jolly Bargemen, smoking his pipe, from a
quarter after eight o'clock to a quarter before ten. While he was
there, my sister had been seen standing at the kitchen door, and
had exchanged Good Night with a farm-labourer going home. The man
could not be more particular as to the time at which he saw her (he
got into dense confusion when he tried to be), than that it must
have been before nine. When Joe went home at five minutes before
ten, he found her struck down on the floor, and promptly called in
assistance. The fire had not then burnt unusually low, nor was the
snuff of the candle very long; the candle, however, had been blown
Nothing had been taken away from any part of the house. Neither,
beyond the blowing out of the candle - which stood on a table
between the door and my sister, and was behind her when she stood
facing the fire and was struck - was there any disarrangement of
the kitchen, excepting such as she herself had made, in falling and
bleeding. But, there was one remarkable piece of evidence on the
spot. She had been struck with something blunt and heavy, on the
head and spine; after the blows were dealt, something heavy had
been thrown down at her with considerable violence, as she lay on
her face. And on the ground beside her, when Joe picked her up, was
a convict's leg-iron which had been filed asunder.
Now, Joe, examining this iron with a smith's eye, declared it to
have been filed asunder some time ago. The hue and cry going off to
the Hulks, and people coming thence to examine the iron, Joe's
opinion was corroborated. They did not undertake to say when it had
left the prison-ships to which it undoubtedly had once belonged;
but they claimed to know for certain that that particular manacle
had not been worn by either of the two convicts who had escaped last
night. Further, one of those two was already re-taken, and had not
freed himself of his iron.
Knowing what I knew, I set up an inference of my own here. I
believed the iron to be my convict's iron - the iron I had seen and
heard him filing at, on the marshes - but my mind did not accuse
him of having put it to its latest use. For, I believed one of two
other persons to have become possessed of it, and to have turned it
to this cruel account. Either Orlick, or the strange man who had
shown me the file.
Now, as to Orlick; he had gone to town exactly as he told us when
we picked him up at the turnpike, he had been seen about town all
the evening, he had been in divers companies in several
public-houses, and he had come back with myself and Mr. Wopsle.
There was nothing against him, save the quarrel; and my sister had
quarrelled with him, and with everybody else about her, ten
thousand times. As to the strange man; if he had come back for his
two bank-notes there could have been no dispute about them, because
my sister was fully prepared to restore them. Besides, there had
been no altercation; the assailant had come in so silently and
suddenly, that she had been felled before she could look round.
It was horrible to think that I had provided the weapon, however
undesignedly, but I could hardly think otherwise. I suffered
unspeakable trouble while I considered and reconsidered whether I
should at last dissolve that spell of my childhood, and tell Joe
all the story. For months afterwards, I every day settled the
question finally in the negative, and reopened and reargued it next
morning. The contention came, after all, to this; - the secret was
such an old one now, had so grown into me and become a part of
myself, that I could not tear it away. In addition to the dread
that, having led up to so much mischief, it would be now more
likely than ever to alienate Joe from me if he believed it, I had a
further restraining dread that he would not believe it, but would
assort it with the fabulous dogs and veal-cutlets as a monstrous
invention. However, I temporized with myself, of course - for, was
I not wavering between right and wrong, when the thing is always
done? - and resolved to make a full disclosure if I should see any
such new occasion as a new chance of helping in the discovery of
the assailant.
The Constables, and the Bow Street men from London - for, this
happened in the days of the extinct red-waistcoated police - were
about the house for a week or two, and did pretty much what I have
heard and read of like authorities doing in other such cases. They
took up several obviously wrong people, and they ran their heads
very hard against wrong ideas, and persisted in trying to fit the
circumstances to the ideas, instead of trying to extract ideas from
the circumstances. Also, they stood about the door of the Jolly
Bargemen, with knowing and reserved looks that filled the whole
neighbourhood with admiration; and they had a mysterious manner of
taking their drink, that was almost as good as taking the culprit.
But not quite, for they never did it.
Long after these constitutional powers had dispersed, my sister lay
very ill in bed. Her sight was disturbed, so that she saw objects
multiplied, and grasped at visionary teacups and wine-glasses
instead of the realities; her hearing was greatly impaired; her
memory also; and her speech was unintelligible. When, at last, she
came round so far as to be helped down-stairs, it was still
necessary to keep my slate always by her, that she might indicate
in writing what she could not indicate in speech. As she was (very
bad handwriting apart) a more than indifferent speller, and as Joe
was a more than indifferent reader, extraordinary complications
arose between them, which I was always called in to solve. The
administration of mutton instead of medicine, the substitution of
Tea for Joe, and the baker for bacon, were among the mildest of my
own mistakes.
However, her temper was greatly improved, and she was patient. A
tremulous uncertainty of the action of all her limbs soon became a
part of her regular state, and afterwards, at intervals of two or
three months, she would often put her hands to her head, and would
then remain for about a week at a time in some gloomy aberration of
mind. We were at a loss to find a suitable attendant for her, until
a circumstance happened conveniently to relieve us. Mr. Wopsle's
great-aunt conquered a confirmed habit of living into which she had
fallen, and Biddy became a part of our establishment.
It may have been about a month after my sister's reappearance in
the kitchen, when Biddy came to us with a small speckled box
containing the whole of her worldly effects, and became a blessing
to the household. Above all, she was a blessing to Joe, for the
dear old fellow was sadly cut up by the constant contemplation of
the wreck of his wife, and had been accustomed, while attending on
her of an evening, to turn to me every now and then and say, with
his blue eyes moistened, "Such a fine figure of a woman as she once
were, Pip!" Biddy instantly taking the cleverest charge of her as
though she had studied her from infancy, Joe became able in some
sort to appreciate the greater quiet of his life, and to get down
to the Jolly Bargemen now and then for a change that did him good.
It was characteristic of the police people that they had all more
or less suspected poor Joe (though he never knew it), and that they
had to a man concurred in regarding him as one of the deepest
spirits they had ever encountered.
Biddy's first triumph in her new office, was to solve a difficulty
that had completely vanquished me. I had tried hard at it, but had
made nothing of it. Thus it was:
Again and again and again, my sister had traced upon the slate, a
character that looked like a curious T, and then with the utmost
eagerness had called our attention to it as something she
particularly wanted. 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
sweet-tempered. 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. Let us
have a quiet walk on the marshes next Sunday, Biddy, and a long
My sister was never left alone now; but Joe more than readily
undertook the care of her on that Sunday afternoon, and Biddy and I
went out together. It was summer-time, and lovely weather. When we
had passed the village and the church and the churchyard, and were
out on the marshes and began to see the sails of the ships as they
sailed on, I began to combine Miss Havisham and Estella with the
prospect, in my usual way. When we came to the river-side and sat
down on the bank, with the water rippling at our feet, making it
all more quiet than it would have been without that sound, I
resolved that it was a good time and place for the admission of
Biddy into my inner confidence.
"Biddy," said I, after binding her to secrecy, "I want to be a
"Oh, I wouldn't, if I was you!" she returned. "I don't think it
would answer."
"Biddy," said I, with some severity, "I have particular reasons for
wanting to be a gentleman."
"You know best, Pip; but don't you think you are happier as you
"Biddy," I exclaimed, impatiently, "I am not at all happy as I am.
I am disgusted with my calling and with my life. I have never taken
to either, since I was bound. Don't be absurd."
"Was I absurd?" said Biddy, quietly raising her eyebrows; "I am
sorry for that; I didn't mean to be. I only want you to do well,
and to be comfortable."
"Well then, understand once for all that I never shall or can be
comfortable - or anything but miserable - there, Biddy! - unless I
can lead a very different sort of life from the life I lead now."
"That's a pity!" said Biddy, shaking her head with a sorrowful air.
Now, I too had so often thought it a pity, that, in the singular
kind of quarrel with myself which I was always carrying on, I was
half inclined to shed tears of vexation and distress when Biddy
gave utterance to her sentiment and my own. I told her she was
right, and I knew it was much to be regretted, but still it was not
to be helped.
"If I could have settled down," I said to Biddy, plucking up the
short grass within reach, much as I had once upon a time pulled my
feelings out of my hair and kicked them into the brewery wall: "if
I could have settled down and been but half as fond of the forge as
I was when I was little, I know it would have been much better for
me. You and I and Joe would have wanted nothing then, and Joe and I
would perhaps have gone partners when I was out of my time, and I
might even have grown up to keep company with you, and we might
have sat on this very bank on a fine Sunday, quite different
people. I should have been good enough for you; shouldn't I,
Biddy sighed as she looked at the ships sailing on, and returned
for answer, "Yes; I am not over-particular." It scarcely sounded
flattering, but I knew she meant well.
"Instead of that," said I, plucking up more grass and chewing a
blade or two, "see how I am going on. Dissatisfied, and
uncomfortable, and - what would it signify to me, being coarse and
common, if nobody had told me so!"
Biddy turned her face suddenly towards mine, and looked far more
attentively at me than she had looked at the sailing ships.
"It was neither a very true nor a very polite thing to say," she
remarked, directing her eyes to the ships again. "Who said it?"
I was disconcerted, for I had broken away without quite seeing
where I was going to. It was not to be shuffled off now, however,
and I answered, "The beautiful young lady at Miss Havisham's, and
she's more beautiful than anybody ever was, and I admire her
dreadfully, and I want to be a gentleman on her account." Having
made this lunatic confession, I began to throw my torn-up grass
into the river, as if I had some thoughts of following it.
"Do you want to be a gentleman, to spite her or to gain her over?"
Biddy quietly asked me, after a pause.
"I don't know," I moodily answered.
"Because, if it is to spite her," Biddy pursued, "I should think -
but you know best - that might be better and more independently
done by caring nothing for her words. And if it is to gain her
over, I should think - but you know best - she was not worth
gaining over."
Exactly what I myself had thought, many times. Exactly what was
perfectly manifest to me at the moment. But how could I, a poor
dazed village lad, avoid that wonderful inconsistency into which
the best and wisest of men fall every day?
"It may be all quite true," said I to Biddy, "but I admire her
In short, I turned over on my face when I came to that, and got a
good grasp on the hair on each side of my head, and wrenched it
well. All the while knowing the madness of my heart to be so very
mad and misplaced, that I was quite conscious it would have served
my face right, if I had lifted it up by my hair, and knocked it
against the pebbles as a punishment for belonging to such an idiot.
Biddy was the wisest of girls, and she tried to reason no more with
me. She put her hand, which was a comfortable hand though roughened
by work, upon my hands, one after another, and gently took them out
of my hair. Then she softly patted my shoulder in a soothing way,
while with my face upon my sleeve I cried a little - exactly as I
had done in the brewery yard - and felt vaguely convinced that I
was very much ill-used by somebody, or by everybody; I can't say
"I am glad of one thing," said Biddy, "and that is, that you have
felt you could give me your confidence, Pip. And I am glad of
another thing, and that is, that of course you know you may depend
upon my keeping it and always so far deserving it. If your first
teacher (dear! such a poor one, and so much in need of being taught
herself!) had been your teacher at the present time, she thinks she
knows what lesson she would set. But It would be a hard one to
learn, and you have got beyond her, and it's of no use now." So,
with a quiet sigh for me, Biddy rose from the bank, and said, with
a fresh and pleasant change of voice, "Shall we walk a little
further, or go home?"
"Biddy," I cried, getting up, putting my arm round her neck, and
giving her a kiss, "I shall always tell you everything."
"Till you're a gentleman," said Biddy.
"You know I never shall be, so that's always. Not that I have any
occasion to tell you anything, for you know everything I know - as
I told you at home the other night."
"Ah!" said Biddy, quite in a whisper, as she looked away at the
ships. And then repeated, with her former pleasant change; "shall
we walk a little further, or go home?"
I said to Biddy we would walk a little further, and we did so, and
the summer afternoon toned down into the summer evening, and it was
very beautiful. I began to consider whether I was not more
naturally and wholesomely situated, after all, in these
circumstances, than playing beggar my neighbour by candlelight in
the room with the stopped clocks, and being despised by Estella. I
thought it would be very good for me if I could get her out of my
head, with all the rest of those remembrances and fancies, and
could go to work determined to relish what I had to do, and stick
to it, and make the best of it. I asked myself the question whether
I did not surely know that if Estella were beside me at that moment
instead of Biddy, she would make me miserable? I was obliged to
admit that I did know it for a certainty, and I said to myself,
"Pip, what a fool you are!"
We talked a good deal as we walked, and all that Biddy said seemed
right. Biddy was never insulting, or capricious, or Biddy to-day
and somebody else to-morrow; she would have derived only pain, and
no pleasure, from giving me pain; she would far rather have wounded
her own breast than mine. How could it be, then, that I did not
like her much the better of the two?
"Biddy," said I, when we were walking homeward, "I wish you could
put me right."
"I wish I could!" said Biddy.
"If I could only get myself to fall in love with you - you don't
mind my speaking so openly to such an old acquaintance?"
"Oh dear, not at all!" said Biddy. "Don't mind me."
"If I could only get myself to do it, that would be the thing for
"But you never will, you see," said Biddy.
It did not appear quite so unlikely to me that evening, as it would
have done if we had discussed it a few hours before. I therefore
observed I was not quite sure of that. But Biddy said she was, and
she said it decisively. In my heart I believed her to be right; and
yet I took it rather ill, too, that she should be so positive on
the point.
When we came near the churchyard, we had to cross an embankment,
and get over a stile near a sluice gate. There started up, from the
gate, or from the rushes, or from the ooze (which was quite in his
stagnant way), Old Orlick.
"Halloa!" he growled, "where are you two going?"
"Where should we be going, but home?"
"Well then," said he, "I'm jiggered if I don't see you home!"
This penalty of being jiggered was a favourite supposititious case
of his. He attached no definite meaning to the word that I am aware
of, but used it, like his own pretended Christian name, to affront
mankind, and convey an idea of something savagely damaging. When I
was younger, I had had a general belief that if he had jiggered me
personally, he would have done it with a sharp and twisted hook.
Biddy was much against his going with us, and said to me in a
whisper, "Don't let him come; I don't like him." As I did not like
him either, I took the liberty of saying that we thanked him, but
we didn't want seeing home. He received that piece of information
with a yell of laughter, and dropped back, but came slouching after
us at a little distance.
Curious to know whether Biddy suspected him of having had a hand in
that murderous attack of which my sister had never been able to
give any account, I asked her why she did not like him.
"Oh!" she replied, glancing over her shoulder as he slouched after
us, "because I - I am afraid he likes me."
"Did he ever tell you he liked you?" I asked, indignantly.
"No," said Biddy, glancing over her shoulder again, "he never told
me so; but he dances at me, whenever he can catch my eye."
However novel and peculiar this testimony of attachment, I did not
doubt the accuracy of the interpretation. I was very hot indeed
upon Old Orlick's daring to admire her; as hot as if it were an
outrage on myself.
"But it makes no difference to you, you know," said Biddy, calmly.
"No, Biddy, it makes no difference to me; only I don't like it; I
don't approve of it."
"Nor I neither," said Biddy. "Though that makes no difference to
"Exactly," said I; "but I must tell you I should have no opinion of
you, Biddy, if he danced at you with your own consent."
I kept an eye on Orlick after that night, and, whenever
circumstances were favourable to his dancing at Biddy, got before
him, to obscure that demonstration. He had struck root in Joe's
establishment, by reason of my sister's sudden fancy for him, or I
should have tried to get him dismissed. He quite understood and
reciprocated my good intentions, as I had reason to know
And now, because my mind was not confused enough before, I
complicated its confusion fifty thousand-fold, by having states and
seasons when I was clear that Biddy was immeasurably better than
Estella, and that the plain honest working life to which I was
born, had nothing in it to be ashamed of, but offered me sufficient
means of self-respect and happiness. At those times, I would decide
conclusively that my disaffection to dear old Joe and the forge,
was gone, and that I was growing up in a fair way to be partners
with Joe and to keep company with Biddy - when all in a moment some
confounding remembrance of the Havisham days would fall upon me,
like a destructive missile, and scatter my wits again. Scattered
wits take a long time picking up; and often, before I had got them
well together, they would be dispersed in all directions by one
stray thought, that perhaps after all Miss Havisham was going to
make my fortune when my time was out.
If my time had run out, it would have left me still at the height
of my perplexities, I dare say. It never did run out, however, but
was brought to a premature end, as I proceed to relate.
Chapter 18
It was in the fourth year of my apprenticeship to Joe, and it was a
Saturday night. There was a group assembled round the fire at the
Three Jolly Bargemen, attentive to Mr. Wopsle as he read the
newspaper aloud. Of that group I was one.
A highly popular murder had been committed, and Mr. Wopsle was
imbrued in blood to the eyebrows. He gloated over every abhorrent
adjective in the description, and identified himself with every
witness at the Inquest. He faintly moaned, "I am done for," as the
victim, and he barbarously bellowed, "I'll serve you out," as the
murderer. He gave the medical testimony, in pointed imitation of
our local practitioner; and he piped and shook, as the aged
turnpike-keeper who had heard blows, to an extent so very paralytic
as to suggest a doubt regarding the mental competency of that
witness. The coroner, in Mr. Wopsle's hands, became Timon of Athens;
the beadle, Coriolanus. He enjoyed himself thoroughly, and we all
enjoyed ourselves, and were delightfully comfortable. In this cozy
state of mind we came to the verdict Wilful Murder.
Then, and not sooner, I became aware of a strange gentleman leaning
over the back of the settle opposite me, looking on. There was an
expression of contempt on his face, and he bit the side of a great
forefinger as he watched the group of faces.
"Well!" said the stranger to Mr. Wopsle, when the reading was done,
"you have settled it all to your own satisfaction, I have no
Everybody started and looked up, as if it were the murderer. He
looked at everybody coldly and sarcastically.
"Guilty, of course?" said he. "Out with it. Come!"
"Sir," returned Mr. Wopsle, "without having the honour of your
acquaintance, I do say Guilty." Upon this, we all took courage to
unite in a confirmatory murmur.
"I know you do," said the stranger; "I knew you would. I told you
so. But now I'll ask you a question. Do you know, or do you not
know, that the law of England supposes every man to be innocent,
until he is proved - proved - to be guilty?"
"Sir," Mr. Wopsle began to reply, "as an Englishman myself, I--"
"Come!" said the stranger, biting his forefinger at him. "Don't
evade the question. Either you know it, or you don't know it. Which
is it to be?"
He stood with his head on one side and himself on one side, in a
bullying interrogative manner, and he threw his forefinger at Mr.
Wopsle - as it were to mark him out - before biting it again.
"Now!" said he. "Do you know it, or don't you know it?"
"Certainly I know it," replied Mr. Wopsle.
"Certainly you know it. Then why didn't you say so at first? Now,
I'll ask you another question;" taking possession of Mr. Wopsle, as
if he had a right to him. "Do you know that none of these witnesses
have yet been cross-examined?"
Mr. Wopsle was beginning, "I can only say--" when the stranger
stopped him.
"What? You won't answer the question, yes or no? Now, I'll try you
again." Throwing his finger at him again. "Attend to me. Are you
aware, or are you not aware, that none of these witnesses have yet
been cross-examined? Come, I only want one word from you. Yes, or
Mr. Wopsle hesitated, and we all began to conceive rather a poor
opinion of him.
"Come!" said the stranger, "I'll help you. You don't deserve help,
but I'll help you. Look at that paper you hold in your hand. What
is it?"
"What is it?" repeated Mr. Wopsle, eyeing it, much at a loss.
"Is it," pursued the stranger in his most sarcastic and suspicious
manner, "the printed paper you have just been reading from?"
"Undoubtedly. Now, turn to that paper, and tell me whether it
distinctly states that the prisoner expressly said that his legal
advisers instructed him altogether to reserve his defence?"
"I read that just now," Mr. Wopsle pleaded.
"Never mind what you read just now, sir; I don't ask you what you
read just now. You may read the Lord's Prayer backwards, if you
like - and, perhaps, have done it before to-day. Turn to the paper.
No, no, no my friend; not to the top of the column; you know better
than that; to the bottom, to the bottom." (We all began to think Mr.
Wopsle full of subterfuge.) "Well? Have you found it?"
"Here it is," said Mr. Wopsle.
"Now, follow that passage with your eye, and tell me whether it
distinctly states that the prisoner expressly said that he was
instructed by his legal advisers wholly to reserve his defence?
Come! Do you make that of it?"
Mr. Wopsle answered, "Those are not the exact words."
"Not the exact words!" repeated the gentleman, bitterly. "Is that
the exact substance?"
"Yes," said Mr. Wopsle.
"Yes," repeated the stranger, looking round at the rest of the
company with his right hand extended towards the witness, Wopsle.
"And now I ask you what you say to the conscience of that man who,
with that passage before his eyes, can lay his head upon his pillow
after having pronounced a fellow-creature guilty, unheard?"
We all began to suspect that Mr. Wopsle was not the man we had
thought him, and that he was beginning to be found out.
"And that same man, remember," pursued the gentleman, throwing his
finger at Mr. Wopsle heavily; "that same man might be summoned as a
juryman upon this very trial, and, having thus deeply committed
himself, might return to the bosom of his family and lay his head
upon his pillow, after deliberately swearing that he would well and
truly try the issue joined between Our Sovereign Lord the King and
the prisoner at the bar, and would a true verdict give according to
the evidence, so help him God!"
We were all deeply persuaded that the unfortunate Wopsle had gone
too far, and had better stop in his reckless career while there was
yet time.
The strange gentleman, with an air of authority not to be disputed,
and with a manner expressive of knowing something secret about
every one of us that would effectually do for each individual if he
chose to disclose it, left the back of the settle, and came into
the space between the two settles, in front of the fire, where he
remained standing: his left hand in his pocket, and he biting the
forefinger of his right.
"From information I have received," said he, looking round at us as
we all quailed before him, "I have reason to believe there is a
blacksmith among you, by name Joseph - or Joe - Gargery. Which is
the man?"
"Here is the man," said Joe.
The strange gentleman beckoned him out of his place, and Joe went.
"You have an apprentice," pursued the stranger, "commonly known as
Pip? Is he here?"
"I am here!" I cried.
The stranger did not recognize me, but I recognized him as the
gentleman I had met on the stairs, on the occasion of my second
visit to Miss Havisham. I had known him the moment I saw him
looking over the settle, and now that I stood confronting him with
his hand upon my shoulder, I checked off again in detail, his large
head, his dark complexion, his deep-set eyes, his bushy black
eyebrows, his large watch-chain, his strong black dots of beard and
whisker, and even the smell of scented soap on his great hand.
"I wish to have a private conference with you two," said he, when
he had surveyed me at his leisure. "It will take a little time.
Perhaps we had better go to your place of residence. I prefer not
to anticipate my communication here; you will impart as much or as
little of it as you please to your friends afterwards; I have
nothing to do with that."
Amidst a wondering silence, we three walked out of the Jolly
Bargemen, and in a wondering silence walked home. While going
along, the strange gentleman occasionally looked at me, and
occasionally bit the side of his finger. As we neared home, Joe
vaguely acknowledging the occasion as an impressive and ceremonious
one, went on ahead to open the front door. Our conference was held
in the state parlour, which was feebly lighted by one candle.
It began with the strange gentleman's sitting down at the table,
drawing the candle to him, and looking over some entries in his
pocket-book. He then put up the pocket-book and set the candle a
little aside: after peering round it into the darkness at Joe and
me, to ascertain which was which.
"My name," he said, "is Jaggers, and I am a lawyer in London. I am
pretty well known. I have unusual business to transact with you,
and I commence by explaining that it is not of my originating. If
my advice had been asked, I should not have been here. It was not
asked, and you see me here. What I have to do as the confidential
agent of another, I do. No less, no more."
Finding that he could not see us very well from where he sat, he
got up, and threw one leg over the back of a chair and leaned upon
it; thus having one foot on the seat of the chair, and one foot on
the ground.
"Now, Joseph Gargery, I am the bearer of an offer to relieve you of
this young fellow your apprentice. You would not object to cancel
his indentures, at his request and for his good? You would want
nothing for so doing?"
"Lord forbid that I should want anything for not standing in Pip's
way," said Joe, staring.
"Lord forbidding is pious, but not to the purpose," returned Mr
Jaggers. "The question is, Would you want anything? Do you want
"The answer is," returned Joe, sternly, "No."
I thought Mr. Jaggers glanced at Joe, as if he considered him a fool
for his disinterestedness. But I was too much bewildered between
breathless curiosity and surprise, to be sure of it.
"Very well," said Mr. Jaggers. "Recollect the admission you have
made, and don't try to go from it presently."
"Who's a-going to try?" retorted Joe.
"I don't say anybody is. Do you keep a dog?"
"Yes, I do keep a dog."
"Bear in mind then, that Brag is a good dog, but Holdfast is a
better. Bear that in mind, will you?" repeated Mr. Jaggers, shutting
his eyes and nodding his head at Joe, as if he were forgiving him
something. "Now, I return to this young fellow. And the
communication I have got to make is, that he has great
Joe and I gasped, and looked at one another.
"I am instructed to communicate to him," said Mr. Jaggers, throwing
his finger at me sideways, "that he will come into a handsome
property. Further, that it is the desire of the present possessor
of that property, that he be immediately removed from his present
sphere of life and from this place, and be brought up as a
gentleman - in a word, as a young fellow of great expectations."
My dream was out; my wild fancy was surpassed by sober reality;
Miss Havisham was going to make my fortune on a grand scale.
"Now, Mr. Pip," pursued the lawyer, "I address the rest of what I
have to say, to you. You are to understand, first, that it is the
request of the person from whom I take my instructions, that you
always bear the name of Pip. You will have no objection, I dare
say, to your great expectations being encumbered with that easy
condition. But if you have any objection, this is the time to
mention it."
My heart was beating so fast, and there was such a singing in my
ears, that I could scarcely stammer I had no objection.
"I should think not! Now you are to understand, secondly, Mr. Pip,
that the name of the person who is your liberal benefactor remains
a profound secret, until the person chooses to reveal it. I am
empowered to mention that it is the intention of the person to
reveal it at first hand by word of mouth to yourself. When or where
that intention may be carried out, I cannot say; no one can say. It
may be years hence. Now, you are distinctly to understand that you
are most positively prohibited from making any inquiry on this
head, or any allusion or reference, however distant, to any
individual whomsoever as the individual, in all the communications
you may have with me. If you have a suspicion in your own breast,
keep that suspicion in your own breast. It is not the least to the
purpose what the reasons of this prohibition are; they may be the
strongest and gravest reasons, or they may be mere whim. This is
not for you to inquire into. The condition is laid down. Your
acceptance of it, and your observance of it as binding, is the only
remaining condition that I am charged with, by the person from whom
I take my instructions, and for whom I am not otherwise
responsible. That person is the person from whom you derive your
expectations, and the secret is solely held by that person and by
me. Again, not a very difficult condition with which to encumber
such a rise in fortune; but if you have any objection to it, this
is the time to mention it. Speak out."
Once more, I stammered with difficulty that I had no objection.
"I should think not! Now, Mr. Pip, I have done with stipulations."
Though he called me Mr. Pip, and began rather to make up to me, he
still could not get rid of a certain air of bullying suspicion; and
even now he occasionally shut his eyes and threw his finger at me
while he spoke, as much as to express that he knew all kinds of
things to my disparagement, if he only chose to mention them. "We
come next, to mere details of arrangement. You must know that,
although I have used the term "expectations" more than once, you
are not endowed with expectations only. There is already lodged in
my hands, a sum of money amply sufficient for your suitable
education and maintenance. You will please consider me your
guardian. Oh!" for I was going to thank him, "I tell you at once, I
am paid for my services, or I shouldn't render them. It is
considered that you must be better educated, in accordance with
your altered position, and that you will be alive to the importance
and necessity of at once entering on that advantage."
I said I had always longed for it.
"Never mind what you have always longed for, Mr. Pip," he retorted;
"keep to the record. If you long for it now, that's enough. Am I
answered that you are ready to be placed at once, under some proper
tutor? Is that it?"
I stammered yes, that was it.
"Good. Now, your inclinations are to be consulted. I don't think
that wise, mind, but it's my trust. Have you ever heard of any
tutor whom you would prefer to another?"
I had never heard of any tutor but Biddy and Mr. Wopsle's greataunt;
so, I replied in the negative.
"There is a certain tutor, of whom I have some knowledge, who I
think might suit the purpose," said Mr. Jaggers. "I don't recommend
him, observe; because I never recommend anybody. The gentleman I
speak of, is one Mr. Matthew Pocket."
Ah! I caught at the name directly. Miss Havisham's relation. The
Matthew whom Mr. and Mrs. Camilla had spoken of. The Matthew whose
place was to be at Miss Havisham's head, when she lay dead, in her
bride's dress on the bride's table.
"You know the name?" said Mr. Jaggers, looking shrewdly at me, and
then shutting up his eyes while he waited for my answer.
My answer was, that I had heard of the name.
"Oh!" said he. "You have heard of the name. But the question is,
what do you say of it?"
I said, or tried to say, that I was much obliged to him for his
"No, my young friend!" he interrupted, shaking his great head very
slowly. "Recollect yourself!"
Not recollecting myself, I began again that I was much obliged to
him for his recommendation--
"No, my young friend," he interrupted, shaking his head and
frowning and smiling both at once; "no, no, no; it's very well
done, but it won't do; you are too young to fix me with it.
Recommendation is not the word, Mr. Pip. Try another."
Correcting myself, I said that I was much obliged to him for his
mention of Mr. Matthew Pocket--
"That's more like it!" cried Mr. Jaggers.
- And (I added), I would gladly try that gentleman.
"Good. You had better try him in his own house. The way shall be
prepared for you, and you can see his son first, who is in London.
When will you come to London?"
I said (glancing at Joe, who stood looking on, motionless), that I
supposed I could come directly.
"First," said Mr. Jaggers, "you should have some new clothes to come
in, and they should not be working clothes. Say this day week.
You'll want some money. Shall I leave you twenty guineas?"
He produced a long purse, with the greatest coolness, and counted
them out on the table and pushed them over to me. This was the
first time he had taken his leg from the chair. He sat astride of
the chair when he had pushed the money over, and sat swinging his
purse and eyeing Joe.
"Well, Joseph Gargery? You look dumbfoundered?"
"I am!" said Joe, in a very decided manner.
"It was understood that you wanted nothing for yourself, remember?"
"It were understood," said Joe. "And it are understood. And it ever
will be similar according."
"But what," said Mr. Jaggers, swinging his purse, "what if it was in
my instructions to make you a present, as compensation?"
"As compensation what for?" Joe demanded.
"For the loss of his services."
Joe laid his hand upon my shoulder with the touch of a woman. I
have often thought him since, like the steam-hammer, that can crush
a man or pat an egg-shell, in his combination of strength with
gentleness. "Pip is that hearty welcome," said Joe, "to go free
with his services, to honour and fortun', as no words can tell him.
But if you think as Money can make compensation to me for the loss
of the little child - what come to the forge - and ever the best of
O dear good Joe, whom I was so ready to leave and so unthankful to,
I see you again, with your muscular blacksmith's arm before your
eyes, and your broad chest heaving, and your voice dying away. O
dear good faithful tender Joe, I feel the loving tremble of your
hand upon my arm, as solemnly this day as if it had been the rustle
of an angel's wing!
But I encouraged Joe at the time. I was lost in the mazes of my
future fortunes, and could not retrace the by-paths we had trodden
together. I begged Joe to be comforted, for (as he said) we had
ever been the best of friends, and (as I said) we ever would be so.
Joe scooped his eyes with his disengaged wrist, as if he were bent
on gouging himself, but said not another word.
Mr. Jaggers had looked on at this, as one who recognized in Joe the
village idiot, and in me his keeper. When it was over, he said,
weighing in his hand the purse he had ceased to swing:
"Now, Joseph Gargery, I warn you this is your last chance. No half
measures with me. If you mean to take a present that I have it in
charge to make you, speak out, and you shall have it. If on the
contrary you mean to say--" Here, to his great amazement, he was
stopped by Joe's suddenly working round him with every
demonstration of a fell pugilistic purpose.
"Which I meantersay," cried Joe, "that if you come into my place
bull-baiting and badgering me, come out! Which I meantersay as sech
if you're a man, come on! Which I meantersay that what I say, I
meantersay and stand or fall by!"
I drew Joe away, and he immediately became placable; merely stating
to me, in an obliging manner and as a polite expostulatory notice
to any one whom it might happen to concern, that he were not a
going to be bull-baited and badgered in his own place. Mr. Jaggers
had risen when Joe demonstrated, and had backed near the door.
Without evincing any inclination to come in again, he there
delivered his valedictory remarks. They were these:
"Well, Mr. Pip, I think the sooner you leave here - as you are to be
a gentleman - the better. Let it stand for this day week, and you
shall receive my printed address in the meantime. You can take a
hackney-coach at the stage-coach office in London, and come
straight to me. Understand, that I express no opinion, one way or
other, on the trust I undertake. I am paid for undertaking it, and
I do so. Now, understand that, finally. Understand that!"
He was throwing his finger at both of us, and I think would have
gone on, but for his seeming to think Joe dangerous, and going off.
Something came into my head which induced me to run after him, as
he was going down to the Jolly Bargemen where he had left a hired
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Jaggers."
"Halloa!" said he, facing round, "what's the matter?"
"I wish to be quite right, Mr. Jaggers, and to keep to your
directions; so I thought I had better ask. Would there be any
objection to my taking leave of any one I know, about here, before
I go away?"
"No," said he, looking as if he hardly understood me.
"I don't mean in the village only, but up-town?"
"No," said he. "No objection."
I thanked him and ran home again, and there I found that Joe had
already locked the front door and vacated the state parlour, and
was seated by the kitchen fire with a hand on each knee, gazing
intently at the burning coals. I too sat down before the fire and
gazed at the coals, and nothing was said for a long time.
My sister was in her cushioned chair in her corner, and Biddy sat
at her needlework before the fire, and Joe sat next Biddy, and I
sat next Joe in the corner opposite my sister. The more I looked
into the glowing coals, the more incapable I became of looking at
Joe; the longer the silence lasted, the more unable I felt to
At length I got out, "Joe, have you told Biddy?"
"No, Pip," returned Joe, still looking at the fire, and holding his
knees tight, as if he had private information that they intended to
make off somewhere, "which I left it to yourself, Pip."
"I would rather you told, Joe."
"Pip's a gentleman of fortun' then," said Joe, "and God bless him
in it!"
Biddy dropped her work, and looked at me. Joe held his knees and
looked at me. I looked at both of them. After a pause, they both
heartily congratulated me; but there was a certain touch of sadness
in their congratulations, that I rather resented.
I took it upon myself to impress Biddy (and through Biddy, Joe)
with the grave obligation I considered my friends under, to know
nothing and say nothing about the maker of my fortune. It would all
come out in good time, I observed, and in the meanwhile nothing was
to be said, save that I had come into great expectations from a
mysterious patron. Biddy nodded her head thoughtfully at the fire
as she took up her work again, and said she would be very
particular; and Joe, still detaining his knees, said, "Ay, ay, I'll
be ekervally partickler, Pip;" and then they congratulated me
again, and went on to express so much wonder at the notion of my
being a gentleman, that I didn't half like it.
Infinite pains were then taken by Biddy to convey to my sister some
idea of what had happened. To the best of my belief, those efforts
entirely failed. She laughed and nodded her head a great many
times, and even repeated after Biddy, the words "Pip" and
"Property." But I doubt if they had more meaning in them than an
election cry, and I cannot suggest a darker picture of her state of
I never could have believed it without experience, but as Joe and
Biddy became more at their cheerful ease again, I became quite
gloomy. Dissatisfied with my fortune, of course I could not be; but
it is possible that I may have been, without quite knowing it,
dissatisfied with myself.
Anyhow, I sat with my elbow on my knee and my face upon my hand,
looking into the fire, as those two talked about my going away, and
about what they should do without me, and all that. And whenever I
caught one of them looking at me, though never so pleasantly (and
they often looked at me - particularly Biddy), I felt offended: as
if they were expressing some mistrust of me. Though Heaven knows
they never did by word or sign.
At those times I would get up and look out at the door; for, our
kitchen door opened at once upon the night, and stood open on
summer evenings to air the room. The very stars to which I then
raised my eyes, I am afraid I took to be but poor and humble stars
for glittering on the rustic objects among which I had passed my
"Saturday night," said I, when we sat at our supper of
bread-and-cheese and beer. "Five more days, and then the day before
the day! They'll soon go."
"Yes, Pip," observed Joe, whose voice sounded hollow in his beer
mug. "They'll soon go."
"Soon, soon go," said Biddy.
"I have been thinking, Joe, that when I go down town on Monday, and
order my new clothes, I shall tell the tailor that I'll come and
put them on there, or that I'll have them sent to Mr. Pumblechook's.
It would be very disagreeable to be stared at by all the people
"Mr. and Mrs. Hubble might like to see you in your new genteel figure
too, Pip," said Joe, industriously cutting his bread, with his
cheese on it, in the palm of his left hand, and glancing at my
untasted supper as if he thought of the time when we used to
compare slices. "So might Wopsle. And the Jolly Bargemen might take
it as a compliment."
"That's just what I don't want, Joe. They would make such a
business of it - such a coarse and common business - that I
couldn't bear myself."
"Ah, that indeed, Pip!" said Joe. "If you couldn't abear
Biddy asked me here, as she sat holding my sister's plate, "Have
you thought about when you'll show yourself to Mr. Gargery, and your
sister, and me? You will show yourself to us; won't you?"
"Biddy," I returned with some resentment, "you are so exceedingly
quick that it's difficult to keep up with you."
("She always were quick," observed Joe.)
"If you had waited another moment, Biddy, you would have heard me
say that I shall bring my clothes here in a bundle one evening -
most likely on the evening before I go away."
Biddy said no more. Handsomely forgiving her, I soon exchanged an
affectionate good-night with her and Joe, and went up to bed. When
I got into my little room, I sat down and took a long look at it,
as a mean little room that I should soon be parted from and raised
above, for ever, It was furnished with fresh young remembrances
too, and even at the same moment I fell into much the same confused
division of mind between it and the better rooms to which I was
going, as I had been in so often between the forge and Miss
Havisham's, and Biddy and Estella.
The sun had been shining brightly all day on the roof of my attic,
and the room was warm. As I put the window open and stood looking
out, I saw Joe come slowly forth at the dark door below, and take a
turn or two in the air; and then I saw Biddy come, and bring him a
pipe and light it for him. He never smoked so late, and it seemed
to hint to me that he wanted comforting, for some reason or other.
He presently stood at the door immediately beneath me, smoking his
pipe, and Biddy stood there too, quietly talking to him, and I knew
that they talked of me, for I heard my name mentioned in an
endearing tone by both of them more than once. I would not have
listened for more, if I could have heard more: so, I drew away from
the window, and sat down in my one chair by the bedside, feeling it
very sorrowful and strange that this first night of my bright
fortunes should be the loneliest I had ever known.
Looking towards the open window, I saw light wreaths from Joe's
pipe floating there, and I fancied it was like a blessing from Joe
- not obtruded on me or paraded before me, but pervading the air we
shared together. I put my light out, and crept into bed; and it was
an uneasy bed now, and I never slept the old sound sleep in it any
Chapter 19
Morning made a considerable difference in my general prospect of
Life, and brightened it so much that it scarcely seemed the same.
What lay heaviest on my mind, was, the consideration that six days
intervened between me and the day of departure; for, I could not
divest myself of a misgiving that something might happen to London
in the meanwhile, and that, when I got there, it would be either
greatly deteriorated or clean gone.
Joe and Biddy were very sympathetic and pleasant when I spoke of
our approaching separation; but they only referred to it when I
did. After breakfast, Joe brought out my indentures from the press
in the best parlour, and we put them in the fire, and I felt that I
was free. With all the novelty of my emancipation on me, I went to
church with Joe, and thought, perhaps the clergyman wouldn't have
read that about the rich man and the kingdom of Heaven, if he had
known all.
After our early dinner I strolled out alone, purposing to finish
off the marshes at once, and get them done with. As I passed the
church, I felt (as I had felt during service in the morning) a
sublime compassion for the poor creatures who were destined to go
there, Sunday after Sunday, all their lives through, and to lie
obscurely at last among the low green mounds. I promised myself
that I would do something for them one of these days, and formed a
plan in outline for bestowing a dinner of roast-beef and
plumpudding, a pint of ale, and a gallon of condescension, upon
everybody in the village.
If I had often thought before, with something allied to shame, of
my companionship with the fugitive whom I had once seen limping
among those graves, what were my thoughts on this Sunday, when the
place recalled the wretch, ragged and shivering, with his felon
iron and badge! My comfort was, that it happened a long time ago,
and that he had doubtless been transported a long way off, and that
he was dead to me, and might be veritably dead into the bargain.
No more low wet grounds, no more dykes and sluices, no more of
these grazing cattle - though they seemed, in their dull manner, to
wear a more respectful air now, and to face round, in order that
they might stare as long as possible at the possessor of such great
expectations - farewell, monotonous acquaintances of my childhood,
henceforth I was for London and greatness: not for smith's work in
general and for you! I made my exultant way to the old Battery,
and, lying down there to consider the question whether Miss
Havisham intended me for Estella, fell asleep.
When I awoke, I was much surprised to find Joe sitting beside me,
smoking his pipe. He greeted me with a cheerful smile on my opening
my eyes, and said:
"As being the last time, Pip, I thought I'd foller."
"And Joe, I am very glad you did so."
"Thankee, Pip."
"You may be sure, dear Joe," I went on, after we had shaken hands,
"that I shall never forget you."
"No, no, Pip!" said Joe, in a comfortable tone, "I'm sure of that.
Ay, ay, old chap! Bless you, it were only necessary to get it well
round in a man's mind, to be certain on it. But it took a bit of
time to get it well round, the change come so oncommon plump;
didn't it?"
Somehow, I was not best pleased with Joe's being so mightily secure
of me. I should have liked him to have betrayed emotion, or to have
said, "It does you credit, Pip," or something of that sort.
Therefore, I made no remark on Joe's first head: merely saying as
to his second, that the tidings had indeed come suddenly, but that
I had always wanted to be a gentleman, and had often and often
speculated on what I would do, if I were one.
"Have you though?" said Joe. "Astonishing!"
"It's a pity now, Joe," said I, "that you did not get on a little
more, when we had our lessons here; isn't it?"
"Well, I don't know," returned Joe. "I'm so awful dull. I'm only
master of my own trade. It were always a pity as I was so awful
dull; but it's no more of a pity now, than it was - this day
twelvemonth - don't you see?"
What I had meant was, that when I came into my property and was
able to do something for Joe, it would have been much more
agreeable if he had been better qualified for a rise in station. He
was so perfectly innocent of my meaning, however, that I thought I
would mention it to Biddy in preference.
So, when we had walked home and had had tea, I took Biddy into our
little garden by the side of the lane, and, after throwing out in a
general way for the elevation of her spirits, that I should never
forget her, said I had a favour to ask of her.
"And it is, Biddy," said I, "that you will not omit any opportunity
of helping Joe on, a little."
"How helping him on?" asked Biddy, with a steady sort of glance.
"Well! Joe is a dear good fellow - in fact, I think he is the
dearest fellow that ever lived - but he is rather backward in some
things. For instance, Biddy, in his learning and his manners."
Although I was looking at Biddy as I spoke, and although she opened
her eyes very wide when I had spoken, she did not look at me.
"Oh, his manners! won't his manners do, then?" asked Biddy,
plucking a black-currant leaf.
"My dear Biddy, they do very well here--"
"Oh! they do very well here?" interrupted Biddy, looking closely at
the leaf in her hand.
"Hear me out - but if I were to remove Joe into a higher sphere, as
I shall hope to remove him when I fully come into my property, they
would hardly do him justice."
"And don't you think he knows that?" asked Biddy.
It was such a very provoking question (for it had never in the most
distant manner occurred to me), that I said, snappishly, "Biddy,
what do you mean?"
Biddy having rubbed the leaf to pieces between her hands - and the
smell of a black-currant bush has ever since recalled to me that
evening in the little garden by the side of the lane - said, "Have
you never considered that he may be proud?"
"Proud?" I repeated, with disdainful emphasis.
"Oh! there are many kinds of pride," said Biddy, looking full at me
and shaking her head; "pride is not all of one kind--"
"Well? What are you stopping for?" said I.
"Not all of one kind," resumed Biddy. "He may be too proud to let
any one take him out of a place that he is competent to fill, and
fills well and with respect. To tell you the truth, I think he is:
though it sounds bold in me to say so, for you must know him far
better than I do."
"Now, Biddy," said I, "I am very sorry to see this in you. I did
not expect to see this in you. You are envious, Biddy, and
grudging. You are dissatisfied on account of my rise in fortune,
and you can't help showing it."
"If you have the heart to think so," returned Biddy, "say so. Say
so over and over again, if you have the heart to think so."
"If you have the heart to be so, you mean, Biddy," said I, in a
virtuous and superior tone; "don't put it off upon me. I am very
sorry to see it, and it's a - it's a bad side of human nature. I
did intend to ask you to use any little opportunities you might
have after I was gone, of improving dear Joe. But after this, I ask
you nothing. I am extremely sorry to see this in you, Biddy," I
repeated. "It's a - it's a bad side of human nature."
"Whether you scold me or approve of me," returned poor Biddy, "you
may equally depend upon my trying to do all that lies in my power,
here, at all times. And whatever opinion you take away of me, shall
make no difference in my remembrance of you. Yet a gentleman should
not be unjust neither," said Biddy, turning away her head.
I again warmly repeated that it was a bad side of human nature (in
which sentiment, waiving its application, I have since seen reason
to think I was right), and I walked down the little path away from
Biddy, and Biddy went into the house, and I went out at the garden
gate and took a dejected stroll until supper-time; again feeling it
very sorrowful and strange that this, the second night of my bright
fortunes, should be as lonely and unsatisfactory as the first.
But, morning once more brightened my view, and I extended my
clemency to Biddy, and we dropped the subject. Putting on the best
clothes I had, I went into town as early as I could hope to find
the shops open, and presented myself before Mr. Trabb, the tailor:
who was having his breakfast in the parlour behind his shop, and
who did not think it worth his while to come out to me, but called
me in to him.
"Well!" said Mr. Trabb, in a hail-fellow-well-met kind of way. "How
are you, and what can I do for you?"
Mr. Trabb had sliced his hot roll into three feather beds, and was
slipping butter in between the blankets, and covering it up. He was
a prosperous old bachelor, and his open window looked into a
prosperous little garden and orchard, and there was a prosperous
iron safe let into the wall at the side of his fireplace, and I did
not doubt that heaps of his prosperity were put away in it in bags.
"Mr. Trabb," said I, "it's an unpleasant thing to have to mention,
because it looks like boasting; but I have come into a handsome
A change passed over Mr. Trabb. He forgot the butter in bed, got up
from the bedside, and wiped his fingers on the table-cloth,
exclaiming, "Lord bless my soul!"
"I am going up to my guardian in London," said I, casually drawing
some guineas out of my pocket and looking at them; "and I want a
fashionable suit of clothes to go in. I wish to pay for them," I
added - otherwise I thought he might only pretend to make them -
"with ready money."
"My dear sir," said Mr. Trabb, as he respectfully bent his body,
opened his arms, and took the liberty of touching me on the outside
of each elbow, "don't hurt me by mentioning that. May I venture to
congratulate you? Would you do me the favour of stepping into the
Mr. Trabb's boy was the most audacious boy in all that countryside.
When I had entered he was sweeping the shop, and he had sweetened
his labours by sweeping over me. He was still sweeping when I came
out into the shop with Mr. Trabb, and he knocked the broom against
all possible corners and obstacles, to express (as I understood it)
equality with any blacksmith, alive or dead.
"Hold that noise," said Mr. Trabb, with the greatest sternness, "or
I'll knock your head off! Do me the favour to be seated, sir. Now,
this," said Mr. Trabb, taking down a roll of cloth, and tiding it
out in a flowing manner over the counter, preparatory to getting
his hand under it to show the gloss, "is a very sweet article. I
can recommend it for your purpose, sir, because it really is extra
super. But you shall see some others. Give me Number Four, you!"
(To the boy, and with a dreadfully severe stare: foreseeing the
danger of that miscreant's brushing me with it, or making some
other sign of familiarity.)
Mr. Trabb never removed his stern eye from the boy until he had
deposited number four on the counter and was at a safe distance
again. Then, he commanded him to bring number five, and number
eight. "And let me have none of your tricks here," said Mr. Trabb,
"or you shall repent it, you young scoundrel, the longest day you
have to live."
Mr. Trabb then bent over number four, and in a sort of deferential
confidence recommended it to me as a light article for summer wear,
an article much in vogue among the nobility and gentry, an article
that it would ever be an honour to him to reflect upon a
distinguished fellow-townsman's (if he might claim me for a
fellow-townsman) having worn. "Are you bringing numbers five and
eight, you vagabond," said Mr. Trabb to the boy after that, "or
shall I kick you out of the shop and bring them myself?"
I selected the materials for a suit, with the assistance of Mr.
Trabb's judgment, and re-entered the parlour to be measured. For,
although Mr. Trabb had my measure already, and had previously been
quite contented with it, he said apologetically that it "wouldn't
do under existing circumstances, sir - wouldn't do at all." So, Mr.
Trabb measured and calculated me, in the parlour, as if I were an
estate and he the finest species of surveyor, and gave himself such
a world of trouble that I felt that no suit of clothes could
possibly remunerate him for his pains. When he had at last done and
had appointed to send the articles to Mr. Pumblechook's on the
Thursday evening, he said, with his hand upon the parlour lock, "I
know, sir, that London gentlemen cannot be expected to patronize
local work, as a rule; but if you would give me a turn now and then
in the quality of a townsman, I should greatly esteem it. Good
morning, sir, much obliged. - Door!"
The last word was flung at the boy, who had not the least notion
what it meant. But I saw him collapse as his master rubbed me out
with his hands, and my first decided experience of the stupendous
power of money, was, that it had morally laid upon his back,
Trabb's boy.
After this memorable event, I went to the hatter's, and the
bootmaker's, and the hosier's, and felt rather like Mother
Hubbard's dog whose outfit required the services of so many trades.
I also went to the coach-office and took my place for seven o'clock
on Saturday morning. It was not necessary to explain everywhere
that I had come into a handsome property; but whenever I said
anything to that effect, it followed that the officiating tradesman
ceased to have his attention diverted through the window by the
High-street, and concentrated his mind upon me. When I had ordered
everything I wanted, I directed my steps towards Pumblechook's,
and, as I approached that gentleman's place of business, I saw him
standing at his door.
He was waiting for me with great impatience. He had been out early
in the chaise-cart, and had called at the forge and heard the
news. He had prepared a collation for me in the Barnwell parlour,
and he too ordered his shopman to "come out of the gangway" as my
sacred person passed.
"My dear friend," said Mr. Pumblechook, taking me by both hands,
when he and I and the collation were alone, "I give you joy of your
good fortune. Well deserved, well deserved!"
This was coming to the point, and I thought it a sensible way of
expressing himself.
"To think," said Mr. Pumblechook, after snorting admiration at me
for some moments, "that I should have been the humble instrument of
leading up to this, is a proud reward."
I begged Mr. Pumblechook to remember that nothing was to be ever
said or hinted, on that point.
"My dear young friend," said Mr. Pumblechook, "if you will allow me
to call you so--"
I murmured "Certainly," and Mr. Pumblechook took me by both hands
again, and communicated a movement to his waistcoat, which had an
emotional appearance, though it was rather low down, "My dear young
friend, rely upon my doing my little all in your absence, by
keeping the fact before the mind of Joseph. - Joseph!" said Mr.
Pumblechook, in the way of a compassionate adjuration. "Joseph!!
Joseph!!!" Thereupon he shook his head and tapped it, expressing
his sense of deficiency in Joseph.
"But my dear young friend," said Mr. Pumblechook, "you must be
hungry, you must be exhausted. Be seated. Here is a chicken had
round from the Boar, here is a tongue had round from the Boar,
here's one or two little things had round from the Boar, that I
hope you may not despise. But do I," said Mr. Pumblechook, getting
up again the moment after he had sat down, "see afore me, him as I
ever sported with in his times of happy infancy? And may I - may
I - ?"
This May I, meant might he shake hands? I consented, and he was
fervent, and then sat down again.
"Here is wine," said Mr. Pumblechook. "Let us drink, Thanks to
Fortune, and may she ever pick out her favourites with equal
judgment! And yet I cannot," said Mr. Pumblechook, getting up again,
"see afore me One - and likewise drink to One - without again
expressing - May I - may I - ?"
I said he might, and he shook hands with me again, and emptied his
glass and turned it upside down. I did the same; and if I had
turned myself upside down before drinking, the wine could not have
gone more direct to my head.
Mr. Pumblechook helped me to the liver wing, and to the best slice
of tongue (none of those out-of-the-way No Thoroughfares of Pork
now), and took, comparatively speaking, no care of himself at all.
"Ah! poultry, poultry! You little thought," said Mr. Pumblechook,
apostrophizing the fowl in the dish, "when you was a young
fledgling, what was in store for you. You little thought you was to
be refreshment beneath this humble roof for one as - Call it a
weakness, if you will," said Mr. Pumblechook, getting up again, "but
may I? may I - ?"
It began to be unnecessary to repeat the form of saying he might,
so he did it at once. How he ever did it so often without wounding
himself with my knife, I don't know.
"And your sister," he resumed, after a little steady eating, "which
had the honour of bringing you up by hand! It's a sad picter, to
reflect that she's no longer equal to fully understanding the
honour. May--"
I saw he was about to come at me again, and I stopped him.
"We'll drink her health," said I.
"Ah!" cried Mr. Pumblechook, leaning back in his chair, quite
flaccid with admiration, "that's the way you know 'em, sir!" (I
don't know who Sir was, but he certainly was not I, and there was
no third person present); "that's the way you know the nobleminded,
sir! Ever forgiving and ever affable. It might," said the servile
Pumblechook, putting down his untasted glass in a hurry and getting
up again, "to a common person, have the appearance of repeating -
but may I - ?"
When he had done it, he resumed his seat and drank to my sister.
"Let us never be blind," said Mr. Pumblechook, "to her faults of
temper, but it is to be hoped she meant well."
At about this time, I began to observe that he was getting flushed
in the face; as to myself, I felt all face, steeped in wine and
I mentioned to Mr. Pumblechook that I wished to have my new clothes
sent to his house, and he was ecstatic on my so distinguishing him.
I mentioned my reason for desiring to avoid observation in the
village, and he lauded it to the skies. There was nobody but
himself, he intimated, worthy of my confidence, and - in short,
might he? Then he asked me tenderly if I remembered our boyish
games at sums, and how we had gone together to have me bound
apprentice, and, in effect, how he had ever been my favourite fancy
and my chosen friend? If I had taken ten times as many glasses of
wine as I had, I should have known that he never had stood in that
relation towards me, and should in my heart of hearts have
repudiated the idea. Yet for all that, I remember feeling convinced
that I had been much mistaken in him, and that he was a sensible
practical good-hearted prime fellow.
By degrees he fell to reposing such great confidence in me, as to
ask my advice in reference to his own affairs. He mentioned that
there was an opportunity for a great amalgamation and monopoly of
the corn and seed trade on those premises, if enlarged, such as had
never occurred before in that, or any other neighbourhood. What
alone was wanting to the realization of a vast fortune, he
considered to be More Capital. Those were the two little words,
more capital. Now it appeared to him (Pumblechook) that if that
capital were got into the business, through a sleeping partner, sir
- which sleeping partner would have nothing to do but walk in, by
self or deputy, whenever he pleased, and examine the books - and
walk in twice a year and take his profits away in his pocket, to
the tune of fifty per cent. - it appeared to him that that might be
an opening for a young gentleman of spirit combined with property,
which would be worthy of his attention. But what did I think? He
had great confidence in my opinion, and what did I think? I gave it
as my opinion. "Wait a bit!" The united vastness and distinctness
of this view so struck him, that he no longer asked if he might
shake hands with me, but said he really must - and did.
We drank all the wine, and Mr. Pumblechook pledged himself over and
over again to keep Joseph up to the mark (I don't know what mark),
and to render me efficient and constant service (I don't know what
service). He also made known to me for the first time in my life,
and certainly after having kept his secret wonderfully well, that
he had always said of me, "That boy is no common boy, and mark me,
his fortun' will be no common fortun'." He said with a tearful
smile that it was a singular thing to think of now, and I said so
too. Finally, I went out into the air, with a dim perception that
there was something unwonted in the conduct of the sunshine, and
found that I had slumberously got to the turn-pike without having
taken any account of the road.
There, I was roused by Mr. Pumblechook's hailing me. He was a long
way down the sunny street, and was making expressive gestures for
me to stop. I stopped, and he came up breathless.
"No, my dear friend," said he, when he had recovered wind for
speech. "Not if I can help it. This occasion shall not entirely
pass without that affability on your part. - May I, as an old
friend and well-wisher? May I?"
We shook hands for the hundredth time at least, and he ordered a
young carter out of my way with the greatest indignation. Then, he
blessed me and stood waving his hand to me until I had passed the
crook in the road; and then I turned into a field and had a long
nap under a hedge before I pursued my way home.
I had scant luggage to take with me to London, for little of the
little I possessed was adapted to my new station. But, I began
packing that same afternoon, and wildly packed up things that I
knew I should want next morning, in a fiction that there was not a
moment to be lost.
So, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, passed; and on Friday morning
I went to Mr. Pumblechook's, to put on my new clothes and pay my
visit to Miss Havisham. Mr. Pumblechook's own room was given up to
me to dress in, and was decorated with clean towels expressly for
the event. My clothes were rather a disappointment, of course.
Probably every new and eagerly expected garment ever put on since
clothes came in, fell a trifle short of the wearer's expectation.
But after I had had my new suit on, some half an hour, and had gone
through an immensity of posturing with Mr. Pumblechook's very
limited dressing-glass, in the futile endeavour to see my legs, it
seemed to fit me better. It being market morning at a neighbouring
town some ten miles off, Mr. Pumblechook was not at home. I had not
told him exactly when I meant to leave, and was not likely to shake
hands with him again before departing. This was all as it should
be, and I went out in my new array: fearfully ashamed of having to
pass the shopman, and suspicious after all that I was at a personal
disadvantage, something like Joe's in his Sunday suit.
I went circuitously to Miss Havisham's by all the back ways, and
rang at the bell constrainedly, on account of the stiff long
fingers of my gloves. Sarah Pocket came to the gate, and positively
reeled back when she saw me so changed; her walnut-shell
countenance likewise, turned from brown to green and yellow.
"You?" said she. "You, good gracious! What do you want?"
"I am going to London, Miss Pocket," said I, "and want to say
good-bye to Miss Havisham."
I was not expected, for she left me locked in the yard, while she
went to ask if I were to be admitted. After a very short delay, she
returned and took me up, staring at me all the way.
Miss Havisham was taking exercise in the room with the long spread
table, leaning on her crutch stick. The room was lighted as of
yore, and at the sound of our entrance, she stopped and turned. She
was then just abreast of the rotted bride-cake.
"Don't go, Sarah," she said. "Well, Pip?"
"I start for London, Miss Havisham, to-morrow," I was exceedingly
careful what I said, "and I thought you would kindly not mind my
taking leave of you."
"This is a gay figure, Pip," said she, making her crutch stick play
round me, as if she, the fairy godmother who had changed me, were
bestowing the finishing gift.
"I have come into such good fortune since I saw you last, Miss
Havisham," I murmured. "And I am so grateful for it, Miss
"Ay, ay!" said she, looking at the discomfited and envious Sarah,
with delight. "I have seen Mr. Jaggers. I have heard about it, Pip.
So you go to-morrow?"
"Yes, Miss Havisham."
"And you are adopted by a rich person?"
"Yes, Miss Havisham."
"Not named?"
"No, Miss Havisham."
"And Mr. Jaggers is made your guardian?"
"Yes, Miss Havisham."
She quite gloated on these questions and answers, so keen was her
enjoyment of Sarah Pocket's jealous dismay. "Well!" she went on;
"you have a promising career before you. Be good - deserve it - and
abide by Mr. Jaggers's instructions." She looked at me, and looked
at Sarah, and Sarah's countenance wrung out of her watchful face a
cruel smile. "Good-bye, Pip! - you will always keep the name of
Pip, you know."
"Yes, Miss Havisham."
"Good-bye, Pip!"
She stretched out her hand, and I went down on my knee and put it
to my lips. I had not considered how I should take leave of her; it
came naturally to me at the moment, to do this. She looked at Sarah
Pocket with triumph in her weird eyes, and so I left my fairy
godmother, with both her hands on her crutch stick, standing in the
midst of the dimly lighted room beside the rotten bridecake that
was hidden in cobwebs.
Sarah Pocket conducted me down, as if I were a ghost who must be
seen out. She could not get over my appearance, and was in the last
degree confounded. I said "Good-bye, Miss Pocket;" but she merely
stared, and did not seem collected enough to know that I had
spoken. Clear of the house, I made the best of my way back to
Pumblechook's, took off my new clothes, made them into a bundle,
and went back home in my older dress, carrying it - to speak the
truth - much more at my ease too, though I had the bundle to carry.
And now, those six days which were to have run out so slowly, had
run out fast and were gone, and to-morrow looked me in the face
more steadily than I could look at it. As the six evenings had
dwindled away, to five, to four, to three, to two, I had become
more and more appreciative of the society of Joe and Biddy. On this
last evening, I dressed my self out in my new clothes, for their
delight, and sat in my splendour until bedtime. We had a hot supper
on the occasion, graced by the inevitable roast fowl, and we had
some flip to finish with. We were all very low, and none the higher
for pretending to be in spirits.
I was to leave our village at five in the morning, carrying my
little hand-portmanteau, and I had told Joe that I wished to walk
away all alone. I am afraid - sore afraid - that this purpose
originated in my sense of the contrast there would be between me
and Joe, if we went to the coach together. I had pretended with
myself that there was nothing of this taint in the arrangement; but
when I went up to my little room on this last night, I felt
compelled to admit that it might be so, and had an impulse upon me
to go down again and entreat Joe to walk with me in the morning. I
did not.
All night there were coaches in my broken sleep, going to wrong
places instead of to London, and having in the traces, now dogs,
now cats, now pigs, now men - never horses. Fantastic failures of
journeys occupied me until the day dawned and the birds were
singing. Then, I got up and partly dressed, and sat at the window
to take a last look out, and in taking it fell asleep.
Biddy was astir so early to get my breakfast, that, although I did
not sleep at the window an hour, I smelt the smoke of the kitchen
fire when I started up with a terrible idea that it must be late in
the afternoon. But long after that, and long after I had heard the
clinking of the teacups and was quite ready, I wanted the
resolution to go down stairs. After all, I remained up there,
repeatedly unlocking and unstrapping my small portmanteau and
locking and strapping it up again, until Biddy called to me that I
was late.
It was a hurried breakfast with no taste in it. I got up from the
meal, saying with a sort of briskness, as if it had only just
occurred to me, "Well! I suppose I must be off!" and then I kissed
my sister who was laughing and nodding and shaking in her usual
chair, and kissed Biddy, and threw my arms around Joe's neck. Then
I took up my little portmanteau and walked out. The last I saw of
them was, when I presently heard a scuffle behind me, and looking
back, saw Joe throwing an old shoe after me and Biddy throwing
another old shoe. I stopped then, to wave my hat, and dear old Joe
waved his strong right arm above his head, crying huskily
"Hooroar!" and Biddy put her apron to her face.
I walked away at a good pace, thinking it was easier to go than I
had supposed it would be, and reflecting that it would never have
done to have had an old shoe thrown after the coach, in sight of
all the High-street. I whistled and made nothing of going. But the
village was very peaceful and quiet, and the light mists were
solemnly rising, as if to show me the world, and I had been so
innocent and little there, and all beyond was so unknown and great,
that in a moment with a strong heave and sob I broke into tears. It
was by the finger-post at the end of the village, and I laid my
hand upon it, and said, "Good-bye O my dear, dear friend!"
Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are
rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I
was better after I had cried, than before - more sorry, more aware
of my own ingratitude, more gentle. If I had cried before, I should
have had Joe with me then.
So subdued I was by those tears, and by their breaking out again in
the course of the quiet walk, that when I was on the coach, and it
was clear of the town, I deliberated with an aching heart whether I
would not get down when we changed horses and walk back, and have
another evening at home, and a better parting. We changed, and I
had not made up my mind, and still reflected for my comfort that it
would be quite practicable to get down and walk back, when we
changed again. And while I was occupied with these deliberations, I
would fancy an exact resemblance to Joe in some man coming along
the road towards us, and my heart would beat high. - As if he could
possibly be there!
We changed again, and yet again, and it was now too late and too
far to go back, and I went on. And the mists had all solemnly risen
now, and the world lay spread before me.
Chapter 20
The journey from our town to the metropolis, was a journey of about
five hours. It was a little past mid-day when the fourhorse
stage-coach by which I was a passenger, got into the ravel of
traffic frayed out about the Cross Keys, Wood-street, Cheapside,
We Britons had at that time particularly settled that it was
treasonable to doubt our having and our being the best of
everything: otherwise, while I was scared by the immensity of
London, I think I might have had some faint doubts whether it was
not rather ugly, crooked, narrow, and dirty.
Mr. Jaggers had duly sent me his address; it was, Little Britain,
and he had written after it on his card, "just out of Smithfield,
and close by the coach-office." Nevertheless, a hackney-coachman,
who seemed to have as many capes to his greasy great-coat as he was
years old, packed me up in his coach and hemmed me in with a
folding and jingling barrier of steps, as if he were going to take
me fifty miles. His getting on his box, which I remember to have
been decorated with an old weather-stained pea-green hammercloth
moth-eaten into rags, was quite a work of time. It was a wonderful
equipage, with six great coronets outside, and ragged things behind
for I don't know how many footmen to hold on by, and a harrow below
them, to prevent amateur footmen from yielding to the temptation.
I had scarcely had time to enjoy the coach and to think how like a
straw-yard it was, and yet how like a rag-shop, and to wonder why
the horses' nose-bags were kept inside, when I observed the
coachman beginning to get down, as if we were going to stop
presently. And stop we presently did, in a gloomy street, at
certain offices with an open door, whereon was painted MR. JAGGERS.
"How much?" I asked the coachman.
The coachman answered, "A shilling - unless you wish to make it
I naturally said I had no wish to make it more.
"Then it must be a shilling," observed the coachman. "I don't want
to get into trouble. I know him!" He darkly closed an eye at Mr
Jaggers's name, and shook his head.
When he had got his shilling, and had in course of time completed
the ascent to his box, and had got away (which appeared to relieve
his mind), I went into the front office with my little portmanteau
in my hand and asked, Was Mr. Jaggers at home?
"He is not," returned the clerk. "He is in Court at present. Am I
addressing Mr. Pip?"
I signified that he was addressing Mr. Pip.
"Mr. Jaggers left word would you wait in his room. He couldn't say
how long he might be, having a case on. But it stands to reason,
his time being valuable, that he won't be longer than he can help."
With those words, the clerk opened a door, and ushered me into an
inner chamber at the back. Here, we found a gentleman with one eye,
in a velveteen suit and knee-breeches, who wiped his nose with his
sleeve on being interrupted in the perusal of the newspaper.
"Go and wait outside, Mike," said the clerk.
I began to say that I hoped I was not interrupting - when the clerk
shoved this gentleman out with as little ceremony as I ever saw
used, and tossing his fur cap out after him, left me alone.
Mr. Jaggers's room was lighted by a skylight only, and was a most
dismal place; the skylight, eccentrically pitched like a broken
head, and the distorted adjoining houses looking as if they had
twisted themselves to peep down at me through it. There were not so
many papers about, as I should have expected to see; and there were
some odd objects about, that I should not have expected to see -
such as an old rusty pistol, a sword in a scabbard, several
strange-looking boxes and packages, and two dreadful casts on a
shelf, of faces peculiarly swollen, and twitchy about the nose. Mr.
Jaggers's own high-backed chair was of deadly black horse-hair,
with rows of brass nails round it, like a coffin; and I fancied I
could see how he leaned back in it, and bit his forefinger at the
clients. The room was but small, and the clients seemed to have had
a habit of backing up against the wall: the wall, especially
opposite to Mr. Jaggers's chair, being greasy with shoulders. I
recalled, too, that the one-eyed gentleman had shuffled forth
against the wall when I was the innocent cause of his being turned
I sat down in the cliental chair placed over against Mr. Jaggers's
chair, and became fascinated by the dismal atmosphere of the place.
I called to mind that the clerk had the same air of knowing
something to everybody else's disadvantage, as his master had. I
wondered how many other clerks there were up-stairs, and whether
they all claimed to have the same detrimental mastery of their
fellow-creatures. I wondered what was the history of all the odd
litter about the room, and how it came there. I wondered whether
the two swollen faces were of Mr. Jaggers's family, and, if he were
so unfortunate as to have had a pair of such ill-looking relations,
why he stuck them on that dusty perch for the blacks and flies to
settle on, instead of giving them a place at home. Of course I had
no experience of a London summer day, and my spirits may have been
oppressed by the hot exhausted air, and by the dust and grit that
lay thick on everything. But I sat wondering and waiting in Mr.
Jaggers's close room, until I really could not bear the two casts
on the shelf above Mr. Jaggers's chair, and got up and went out.
When I told the clerk that I would take a turn in the air while I
waited, he advised me to go round the corner and I should come into
Smithfield. So, I came into Smithfield; and the shameful place,
being all asmear with filth and fat and blood and foam, seemed to
stick to me. So, I rubbed it off with all possible speed by turning
into a street where I saw the great black dome of Saint Paul's
bulging at me from behind a grim stone building which a bystander
said was Newgate Prison. Following the wall of the jail, I found
the roadway covered with straw to deaden the noise of passing
vehicles; and from this, and from the quantity of people standing
about, smelling strongly of spirits and beer, I inferred that the
trials were on.
While I looked about me here, an exceedingly dirty and partially
drunk minister of justice asked me if I would like to step in and
hear a trial or so: informing me that he could give me a front
place for half-a-crown, whence I should command a full view of the
Lord Chief Justice in his wig and robes - mentioning that awful
personage like waxwork, and presently offering him at the reduced
price of eighteenpence. As I declined the proposal on the plea of
an appointment, he was so good as to take me into a yard and show
me where the gallows was kept, and also where people were publicly
whipped, and then he showed me the Debtors' Door, out of which
culprits came to be hanged: heightening the interest of that
dreadful portal by giving me to understand that "four on 'em" would
come out at that door the day after to-morrow at eight in the
morning, to be killed in a row. This was horrible, and gave me a
sickening idea of London: the more so as the Lord Chief Justice's
proprietor wore (from his hat down to his boots and up again to his
pocket-handkerchief inclusive) mildewed clothes, which had
evidently not belonged to him originally, and which, I took it into
my head, he had bought cheap of the executioner. Under these
circumstances I thought myself well rid of him for a shilling.
I dropped into the office to ask if Mr. Jaggers had come in yet, and
I found he had not, and I strolled out again. This time, I made the
tour of Little Britain, and turned into Bartholomew Close; and now
I became aware that other people were waiting about for Mr. Jaggers,
as well as I. There were two men of secret appearance lounging in
Bartholomew Close, and thoughtfully fitting their feet into the
cracks of the pavement as they talked together, one of whom said to
the other when they first passed me, that "Jaggers would do it if
it was to be done." There was a knot of three men and two women
standing at a corner, and one of the women was crying on her dirty
shawl, and the other comforted her by saying, as she pulled her own
shawl over her shoulders, "Jaggers is for him, 'Melia, and what
more could you have?" There was a red-eyed little Jew who came into
the Close while I was loitering there, in company with a second
little Jew whom he sent upon an errand; and while the messenger was
gone, I remarked this Jew, who was of a highly excitable
temperament, performing a jig of anxiety under a lamp-post and
accompanying himself, in a kind of frenzy, with the words, "Oh
Jaggerth, Jaggerth, Jaggerth! all otherth ith Cag-Maggerth, give me
Jaggerth!" These testimonies to the popularity of my guardian made
a deep impression on me, and I admired and wondered more than ever.
At length, as I was looking out at the iron gate of Bartholomew
Close into Little Britain, I saw Mr. Jaggers coming across the road
towards me. All the others who were waiting, saw him at the same
time, and there was quite a rush at him. Mr. Jaggers, putting a hand
on my shoulder and walking me on at his side without saying
anything to me, addressed himself to his followers.
First, he took the two secret men.
"Now, I have nothing to say to you," said Mr. Jaggers, throwing his
finger at them. "I want to know no more than I know. As to the
result, it's a toss-up. I told you from the first it was a toss-up.
Have you paid Wemmick?"
"We made the money up this morning, sir," said one of the men,
submissively, while the other perused Mr. Jaggers's face.
"I don't ask you when you made it up, or where, or whether you made
it up at all. Has Wemmick got it?"
"Yes, sir," said both the men together.
"Very well; then you may go. Now, I won't have it!" said Mr
Jaggers, waving his hand at them to put them behind him. "If you
say a word to me, I'll throw up the case."
"We thought, Mr. Jaggers--" one of the men began, pulling off his
"That's what I told you not to do," said Mr. Jaggers. "You thought!
I think for you; that's enough for you. If I want you, I know where
to find you; I don't want you to find me. Now I won't have it. I
won't hear a word."
The two men looked at one another as Mr. Jaggers waved them behind
again, and humbly fell back and were heard no more.
"And now you!" said Mr. Jaggers, suddenly stopping, and turning on
the two women with the shawls, from whom the three men had meekly
separated. - "Oh! Amelia, is it?"
"Yes, Mr. Jaggers."
"And do you remember," retorted Mr. Jaggers, "that but for me you
wouldn't be here and couldn't be here?"
"Oh yes, sir!" exclaimed both women together. "Lord bless you, sir,
well we knows that!"
"Then why," said Mr. Jaggers, "do you come here?"
"My Bill, sir!" the crying woman pleaded.
"Now, I tell you what!" said Mr. Jaggers. "Once for all. If you
don't know that your Bill's in good hands, I know it. And if you
come here, bothering about your Bill, I'll make an example of both
your Bill and you, and let him slip through my fingers. Have you
paid Wemmick?"
"Oh yes, sir! Every farden."
"Very well. Then you have done all you have got to do. Say another
word - one single word - and Wemmick shall give you your money
This terrible threat caused the two women to fall off immediately.
No one remained now but the excitable Jew, who had already raised
the skirts of Mr. Jaggers's coat to his lips several times.
"I don't know this man!" said Mr. Jaggers, in the same devastating
strain: "What does this fellow want?"
"Ma thear Mithter Jaggerth. Hown brother to Habraham Latharuth?"
"Who's he?" said Mr. Jaggers. "Let go of my coat."
The suitor, kissing the hem of the garment again before
relinquishing it, replied, "Habraham Latharuth, on thuthpithion of
"You're too late," said Mr. Jaggers. "I am over the way."
"Holy father, Mithter Jaggerth!" cried my excitable acquaintance,
turning white, "don't thay you're again Habraham Latharuth!"
"I am," said Mr. Jaggers, "and there's an end of it. Get out of the
"Mithter Jaggerth! Half a moment! My hown cuthen'th gone to Mithter
Wemmick at thith prethent minute, to hoffer him hany termth.
Mithter Jaggerth! Half a quarter of a moment! If you'd have the
condethenthun to be bought off from the t'other thide - at hany
thuperior prithe! - money no object! - Mithter Jaggerth - Mithter -
My guardian threw his supplicant off with supreme indifference, and
left him dancing on the pavement as if it were red-hot. Without
further interruption, we reached the front office, where we found
the clerk and the man in velveteen with the fur cap.
"Here's Mike," said the clerk, getting down from his stool, and
approaching Mr. Jaggers confidentially.
"Oh!" said Mr. Jaggers, turning to the man, who was pulling a lock
of hair in the middle of his forehead, like the Bull in Cock Robin
pulling at the bell-rope; "your man comes on this afternoon. Well?"
"Well, Mas'r Jaggers," returned Mike, in the voice of a sufferer
from a constitutional cold; "arter a deal o' trouble, I've found
one, sir, as might do."
"What is he prepared to swear?"
"Well, Mas'r Jaggers," said Mike, wiping his nose on his fur cap
this time; "in a general way, anythink."
Mr. Jaggers suddenly became most irate. "Now, I warned you before,"
said he, throwing his forefinger at the terrified client, "that if
you ever presumed to talk in that way here, I'd make an example of
you. You infernal scoundrel, how dare you tell ME that?"
The client looked scared, but bewildered too, as if he were
unconscious what he had done.
"Spooney!" said the clerk, in a low voice, giving him a stir with
his elbow. "Soft Head! Need you say it face to face?"
"Now, I ask you, you blundering booby," said my guardian, very
sternly, "once more and for the last time, what the man you have
brought here is prepared to swear?"
Mike looked hard at my guardian, as if he were trying to learn a
lesson from his face, and slowly replied, "Ayther to character, or
to having been in his company and never left him all the night in
"Now, be careful. In what station of life is this man?"
Mike looked at his cap, and looked at the floor, and looked at the
ceiling, and looked at the clerk, and even looked at me, before
beginning to reply in a nervous manner, "We've dressed him up
like--" when my guardian blustered out:
"What? You WILL, will you?"
("Spooney!" added the clerk again, with another stir.)
After some helpless casting about, Mike brightened and began again:
"He is dressed like a 'spectable pieman. A sort of a pastry-cook."
"Is he here?" asked my guardian.
"I left him," said Mike, "a settin on some doorsteps round the
"Take him past that window, and let me see him."
The window indicated, was the office window. We all three went to
it, behind the wire blind, and presently saw the client go by in an
accidental manner, with a murderous-looking tall individual, in a
short suit of white linen and a paper cap. This guileless
confectioner was not by any means sober, and had a black eye in the
green stage of recovery, which was painted over.
"Tell him to take his witness away directly," said my guardian to
the clerk, in extreme disgust, "and ask him what he means by
bringing such a fellow as that."
My guardian then took me into his own room, and while he lunched,
standing, from a sandwich-box and a pocket flask of sherry (he
seemed to bully his very sandwich as he ate it), informed me what
arrangements he had made for me. I was to go to "Barnard's Inn," to
young Mr. Pocket's rooms, where a bed had been sent in for my
accommodation; I was to remain with young Mr. Pocket until Monday;
on Monday I was to go with him to his father's house on a visit,
that I might try how I liked it. Also, I was told what my allowance
was to be - it was a very liberal one - and had handed to me from
one of my guardian's drawers, the cards of certain tradesmen with
whom I was to deal for all kinds of clothes, and such other things
as I could in reason want. "You will find your credit good, Mr.
Pip," said my guardian, whose flask of sherry smelt like a whole
cask-full, as he hastily refreshed himself, "but I shall by this
means be able to check your bills, and to pull you up if I find you
outrunning the constable. Of course you'll go wrong somehow, but
that's no fault of mine."
After I had pondered a little over this encouraging sentiment, I
asked Mr. Jaggers if I could send for a coach? He said it was not
worth while, I was so near my destination; Wemmick should walk
round with me, if I pleased.
I then found that Wemmick was the clerk in the next room. Another
clerk was rung down from up-stairs to take his place while he was
out, and I accompanied him into the street, after shaking hands
with my guardian. We found a new set of people lingering outside,
but Wemmick made a way among them by saying coolly yet decisively,
"I tell you it's no use; he won't have a word to say to one of
you;" and we soon got clear of them, and went on side by side.
Chapter 21
Casting my eyes on Mr. Wemmick as we went along, to see what he was
like in the light of day, I found him to be a dry man, rather short
in stature, with a square wooden face, whose expression seemed to
have been imperfectly chipped out with a dull-edged chisel. There
were some marks in it that might have been dimples, if the material
had been softer and the instrument finer, but which, as it was,
were only dints. The chisel had made three or four of these
attempts at embellishment over his nose, but had given them up
without an effort to smooth them off. I judged him to be a bachelor
from the frayed condition of his linen, and he appeared to have
sustained a good many bereavements; for, he wore at least four
mourning rings, besides a brooch representing a lady and a weeping
willow at a tomb with an urn on it. I noticed, too, that several
rings and seals hung at his watch chain, as if he were quite laden
with remembrances of departed friends. He had glittering eyes -
small, keen, and black - and thin wide mottled lips. He had had
them, to the best of my belief, from forty to fifty years.
"So you were never in London before?" said Mr. Wemmick to me.
"No," said I.
"I was new here once," said Mr. Wemmick. "Rum to think of now!"
"You are well acquainted with it now?"
"Why, yes," said Mr. Wemmick. "I know the moves of it."
"Is it a very wicked place?" I asked, more for the sake of saying
something than for information.
"You may get cheated, robbed, and murdered, in London. But there
are plenty of people anywhere, who'll do that for you."
"If there is bad blood between you and them," said I, to soften it
off a little.
"Oh! I don't know about bad blood," returned Mr. Wemmick; "there's
not much bad blood about. They'll do it, if there's anything to be
got by it."
"That makes it worse."
"You think so?" returned Mr. Wemmick. "Much about the same, I should
He wore his hat on the back of his head, and looked straight before
him: walking in a self-contained way as if there were nothing in
the streets to claim his attention. His mouth was such a postoffice
of a mouth that he had a mechanical appearance of smiling. We had
got to the top of Holborn Hill before I knew that it was merely a
mechanical appearance, and that he was not smiling at all.
"Do you know where Mr. Matthew Pocket lives?" I asked Mr. Wemmick.
"Yes," said he, nodding in the direction. "At Hammersmith, west of
"Is that far?"
"Well! Say five miles."
"Do you know him?"
"Why, you're a regular cross-examiner!" said Mr. Wemmick, looking at
me with an approving air. "Yes, I know him. I know him!"
There was an air of toleration or depreciation about his utterance
of these words, that rather depressed me; and I was still looking
sideways at his block of a face in search of any encouraging note
to the text, when he said here we were at Barnard's Inn. My
depression was not alleviated by the announcement, for, I had
supposed that establishment to be an hotel kept by Mr. Barnard, to
which the Blue Boar in our town was a mere public-house. Whereas I
now found Barnard to be a disembodied spirit, or a fiction, and his
inn the dingiest collection of shabby buildings ever squeezed
together in a rank corner as a club for Tom-cats.
We entered this haven through a wicket-gate, and were disgorged by
an introductory passage into a melancholy little square that looked
to me like a flat burying-ground. I thought it had the most dismal
trees in it, and the most dismal sparrows, and the most dismal
cats, and the most dismal houses (in number half a dozen or so),
that I had ever seen. I thought the windows of the sets of chambers
into which those houses were divided, were in every stage of
dilapidated blind and curtain, crippled flower-pot, cracked glass,
dusty decay, and miserable makeshift; while To Let To Let To Let,
glared at me from empty rooms, as if no new wretches ever came
there, and the vengeance of the soul of Barnard were being slowly
appeased by the gradual suicide of the present occupants and their
unholy interment under the gravel. A frouzy mourning of soot and
smoke attired this forlorn creation of Barnard, and it had strewn
ashes on its head, and was undergoing penance and humiliation as a
mere dust-hole. Thus far my sense of sight; while dry rot and wet
rot and all the silent rots that rot in neglected roof and cellar -
rot of rat and mouse and bug and coaching-stables near at hand
besides - addressed themselves faintly to my sense of smell, and
moaned, "Try Barnard's Mixture."
So imperfect was this realization of the first of my great
expectations, that I looked in dismay at Mr. Wemmick. "Ah!" said he,
mistaking me; "the retirement reminds you of the country. So it
does me."
He led me into a corner and conducted me up a flight of stairs -
which appeared to me to be slowly collapsing into sawdust, so that
one of those days the upper lodgers would look out at their doors
and find themselves without the means of coming down - to a set of
chambers on the top floor. MR. POCKET, JUN., was painted on the
door, and there was a label on the letter-box, "Return shortly."
"He hardly thought you'd come so soon," Mr. Wemmick explained. "You
don't want me any more?"
"No, thank you," said I.
"As I keep the cash," Mr. Wemmick observed, "we shall most likely
meet pretty often. Good day."
"Good day."
I put out my hand, and Mr. Wemmick at first looked at it as if he
thought I wanted something. Then he looked at me, and said,
correcting himself,
"To be sure! Yes. You're in the habit of shaking hands?"
I was rather confused, thinking it must be out of the London
fashion, but said yes.
"I have got so out of it!" said Mr. Wemmick - "except at last. Very
glad, I'm sure, to make your acquaintance. Good day!"
When we had shaken hands and he was gone, I opened the staircase
window and had nearly beheaded myself, for, the lines had rotted
away, and it came down like the guillotine. Happily it was so quick
that I had not put my head out. After this escape, I was content to
take a foggy view of the Inn through the window's encrusting dirt,
and to stand dolefully looking out, saying to myself that London
was decidedly overrated.
Mr. Pocket, Junior's, idea of Shortly was not mine, for I had nearly
maddened myself with looking out for half an hour, and had written
my name with my finger several times in the dirt of every pane in
the window, before I heard footsteps on the stairs. Gradually there
arose before me the hat, head, neckcloth, waistcoat, trousers,
boots, of a member of society of about my own standing. He had a
paper-bag under each arm and a pottle of strawberries in one hand,
and was out of breath.
"Mr. Pip?" said he.
"Mr. Pocket?" said I.
"Dear me!" he exclaimed. "I am extremely sorry; but I knew there
was a coach from your part of the country at midday, and I thought
you would come by that one. The fact is, I have been out on your
account - not that that is any excuse - for I thought, coming from
the country, you might like a little fruit after dinner, and I went
to Covent Garden Market to get it good."
For a reason that I had, I felt as if my eyes would start out of my
head. I acknowledged his attention incoherently, and began to think
this was a dream.
"Dear me!" said Mr. Pocket, Junior. "This door sticks so!"
As he was fast making jam of his fruit by wrestling with the door
while the paper-bags were under his arms, I begged him to allow me
to hold them. He relinquished them with an agreeable smile, and
combated with the door as if it were a wild beast. It yielded so
suddenly at last, that he staggered back upon me, and I staggered
back upon the opposite door, and we both laughed. But still I felt
as if my eyes must start out of my head, and as if this must be a
"Pray come in," said Mr. Pocket, Junior. "Allow me to lead the way.
I am rather bare here, but I hope you'll be able to make out
tolerably well till Monday. My father thought you would get on more
agreeably through to-morrow with me than with him, and might like
to take a walk about London. I am sure I shall be very happy to
show London to you. As to our table, you won't find that bad, I
hope, for it will be supplied from our coffee-house here, and (it
is only right I should add) at your expense, such being Mr.
Jaggers's directions. As to our lodging, it's not by any means
splendid, because I have my own bread to earn, and my father hasn't
anything to give me, and I shouldn't be willing to take it, if he
had. This is our sitting-room - just such chairs and tables and
carpet and so forth, you see, as they could spare from home. You
mustn't give me credit for the tablecloth and spoons and castors,
because they come for you from the coffee-house. This is my little
bedroom; rather musty, but Barnard's is musty. This is your
bed-room; the furniture's hired for the occasion, but I trust it
will answer the purpose; if you should want anything, I'll go and
fetch it. The chambers are retired, and we shall be alone together,
but we shan't fight, I dare say. But, dear me, I beg your pardon,
you're holding the fruit all this time. Pray let me take these bags
from you. I am quite ashamed."
As I stood opposite to Mr. Pocket, Junior, delivering him the bags,
One, Two, I saw the starting appearance come into his own eyes that
I knew to be in mine, and he said, falling back:
"Lord bless me, you're the prowling boy!"
"And you," said I, "are the pale young gentleman!"
Chapter 22
The pale young gentleman and I stood contemplating one another in
Barnard's Inn, until we both burst out laughing. "The idea of its
being you!" said he. "The idea of its being you!" said I. And then
we contemplated one another afresh, and laughed again. "Well!" said
the pale young gentleman, reaching out his hand goodhumouredly,
"it's all over now, I hope, and it will be magnanimous in you if
you'll forgive me for having knocked you about so."
I derived from this speech that Mr. Herbert Pocket (for Herbert was
the pale young gentleman's name) still rather confounded his
intention with his execution. But I made a modest reply, and we
shook hands warmly.
"You hadn't come into your good fortune at that time?" said Herbert
"No," said I.
"No," he acquiesced: "I heard it had happened very lately. I was
rather on the look-out for good-fortune then."
"Yes. Miss Havisham had sent for me, to see if she could take a
fancy to me. But she couldn't - at all events, she didn't."
I thought it polite to remark that I was surprised to hear that.
"Bad taste," said Herbert, laughing, "but a fact. Yes, she had sent
for me on a trial visit, and if I had come out of it successfully,
I suppose I should have been provided for; perhaps I should have
been what-you-may-called it to Estella."
"What's that?" I asked, with sudden gravity.
He was arranging his fruit in plates while we talked, which divided
his attention, and was the cause of his having made this lapse of a
word. "Affianced," he explained, still busy with the fruit.
"Betrothed. Engaged. What's-his-named. Any word of that sort."
"How did you bear your disappointment?" I asked.
"Pooh!" said he, "I didn't care much for it. She's a Tartar."
"Miss Havisham?"
"I don't say no to that, but I meant Estella. That girl's hard and
haughty and capricious to the last degree, and has been brought up
by Miss Havisham to wreak revenge on all the male sex."
"What relation is she to Miss Havisham?"
"None," said he. "Only adopted."
"Why should she wreak revenge on all the male sex? What revenge?"
"Lord, Mr. Pip!" said he. "Don't you know?"
"No," said I.
"Dear me! It's quite a story, and shall be saved till dinner-time.
And now let me take the liberty of asking you a question. How did
you come there, that day?"
I told him, and he was attentive until I had finished, and then
burst out laughing again, and asked me if I was sore afterwards? I
didn't ask him if he was, for my conviction on that point was
perfectly established.
"Mr. Jaggers is your guardian, I understand?" he went on.
"You know he is Miss Havisham's man of business and solicitor, and
has her confidence when nobody else has?"
This was bringing me (I felt) towards dangerous ground. I answered
with a constraint I made no attempt to disguise, that I had seen Mr.
Jaggers in Miss Havisham's house on the very day of our combat, but
never at any other time, and that I believed he had no recollection
of having ever seen me there.
"He was so obliging as to suggest my father for your tutor, and he
called on my father to propose it. Of course he knew about my
father from his connexion with Miss Havisham. My father is Miss
Havisham's cousin; not that that implies familiar intercourse
between them, for he is a bad courtier and will not propitiate
Herbert Pocket had a frank and easy way with him that was very
taking. I had never seen any one then, and I have never seen any
one since, who more strongly expressed to me, in every look and
tone, a natural incapacity to do anything secret and mean. There
was something wonderfully hopeful about his general air, and
something that at the same time whispered to me he would never be
very successful or rich. I don't know how this was. I became imbued
with the notion on that first occasion before we sat down to
dinner, but I cannot define by what means.
He was still a pale young gentleman, and had a certain conquered
languor about him in the midst of his spirits and briskness, that
did not seem indicative of natural strength. He had not a handsome
face, but it was better than handsome: being extremely amiable and
cheerful. His figure was a little ungainly, as in the days when my
knuckles had taken such liberties with it, but it looked as if it
would always be light and young. Whether Mr. Trabb's local work
would have sat more gracefully on him than on me, may be a
question; but I am conscious that he carried off his rather old
clothes, much better than I carried off my new suit.
As he was so communicative, I felt that reserve on my part would be
a bad return unsuited to our years. I therefore told him my small
story, and laid stress on my being forbidden to inquire who my
benefactor was. I further mentioned that as I had been brought up a
blacksmith in a country place, and knew very little of the ways of
politeness, I would take it as a great kindness in him if he would
give me a hint whenever he saw me at a loss or going wrong.
"With pleasure," said he, "though I venture to prophesy that you'll
want very few hints. I dare say we shall be often together, and I
should like to banish any needless restraint between us. Will you
do me the favour to begin at once to call me by my Christian name,
I thanked him, and said I would. I informed him in exchange that my
Christian name was Philip.
"I don't take to Philip," said he, smiling, "for it sounds like a
moral boy out of the spelling-book, who was so lazy that he fell
into a pond, or so fat that he couldn't see out of his eyes, or so
avaricious that he locked up his cake till the mice ate it, or so
determined to go a bird's-nesting that he got himself eaten by
bears who lived handy in the neighbourhood. I tell you what I
should like. We are so harmonious, and you have been a blacksmith -
would you mind it?"
"I shouldn't mind anything that you propose," I answered, "but I
don't understand you."
"Would you mind Handel for a familiar name? There's a charming
piece of music by Handel, called the Harmonious Blacksmith."
"I should like it very much."
"Then, my dear Handel," said he, turning round as the door opened,
"here is the dinner, and I must beg of you to take the top of the
table, because the dinner is of your providing."
This I would not hear of, so he took the top, and I faced him. It
was a nice little dinner - seemed to me then, a very Lord Mayor's
Feast - and it acquired additional relish from being eaten under
those independent circumstances, with no old people by, and with
London all around us. This again was heightened by a certain gipsy
character that set the banquet off; for, while the table was, as Mr.
Pumblechook might have said, the lap of luxury - being entirely
furnished forth from the coffee-house - the circumjacent region of
sitting-room was of a comparatively pastureless and shifty
character: imposing on the waiter the wandering habits of putting
the covers on the floor (where he fell over them), the melted
butter in the armchair, the bread on the bookshelves, the cheese in
the coalscuttle, and the boiled fowl into my bed in the next room -
where I found much of its parsley and butter in a state of
congelation when I retired for the night. All this made the feast
delightful, and when the waiter was not there to watch me, my
pleasure was without alloy.
We had made some progress in the dinner, when I reminded Herbert of
his promise to tell me about Miss Havisham.
"True," he replied. "I'll redeem it at once. Let me introduce the
topic, Handel, by mentioning that in London it is not the custom to
put the knife in the mouth - for fear of accidents - and that while
the fork is reserved for that use, it is not put further in than
necessary. It is scarcely worth mentioning, only it's as well to do
as other people do. Also, the spoon is not generally used
over-hand, but under. This has two advantages. You get at your
mouth better (which after all is the object), and you save a good
deal of the attitude of opening oysters, on the part of the right
He offered these friendly suggestions in such a lively way, that we
both laughed and I scarcely blushed.
"Now," he pursued, "concerning Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham, you
must know, was a spoilt child. Her mother died when she was a baby,
and her father denied her nothing. Her father was a country
gentleman down in your part of the world, and was a brewer. I don't
know why it should be a crack thing to be a brewer; but it is
indisputable that while you cannot possibly be genteel and bake,
you may be as genteel as never was and brew. You see it every day."
"Yet a gentleman may not keep a public-house; may he?" said I.
"Not on any account," returned Herbert; "but a public-house may
keep a gentleman. Well! Mr. Havisham was very rich and very proud.
So was his daughter."
"Miss Havisham was an only child?" I hazarded.
"Stop a moment, I am coming to that. No, she was not an only child;
she had a half-brother. Her father privately married again - his
cook, I rather think."
"I thought he was proud," said I.
"My good Handel, so he was. He married his second wife privately,
because he was proud, and in course of time she died. When she was
dead, I apprehend he first told his daughter what he had done, and
then the son became a part of the family, residing in the house you
are acquainted with. As the son grew a young man, he turned out
riotous, extravagant, undutiful - altogether bad. At last his
father disinherited him; but he softened when he was dying, and
left him well off, though not nearly so well off as Miss Havisham.
- Take another glass of wine, and excuse my mentioning that society
as a body does not expect one to be so strictly conscientious in
emptying one's glass, as to turn it bottom upwards with the rim on
one's nose."
I had been doing this, in an excess of attention to his recital. I
thanked him, and apologized. He said, "Not at all," and resumed.
"Miss Havisham was now an heiress, and you may suppose was looked
after as a great match. Her half-brother had now ample means again,
but what with debts and what with new madness wasted them most
fearfully again. There were stronger differences between him and
her, than there had been between him and his father, and it is
suspected that he cherished a deep and mortal grudge against her,
as having influenced the father's anger. Now, I come to the cruel
part of the story - merely breaking off, my dear Handel, to remark
that a dinner-napkin will not go into a tumbler."
Why I was trying to pack mine into my tumbler, I am wholly unable
to say. I only know that I found myself, with a perseverance worthy
of a much better cause, making the most strenuous exertions to
compress it within those limits. Again I thanked him and
apologized, and again he said in the cheerfullest manner, "Not at
all, I am sure!" and resumed.
"There appeared upon the scene - say at the races, or the public
balls, or anywhere else you like - a certain man, who made love to
Miss Havisham. I never saw him, for this happened five-and-twenty
years ago (before you and I were, Handel), but I have heard my
father mention that he was a showy-man, and the kind of man for the
purpose. But that he was not to be, without ignorance or prejudice,
mistaken for a gentleman, my father most strongly asseverates;
because it is a principle of his that no man who was not a true
gentleman at heart, ever was, since the world began, a true
gentleman in manner. He says, no varnish can hide the grain of the
wood; and that the more varnish you put on, the more the grain will
express itself. Well! This man pursued Miss Havisham closely, and
professed to be devoted to her. I believe she had not shown much
susceptibility up to that time; but all the susceptibility she
possessed, certainly came out then, and she passionately loved him.
There is no doubt that she perfectly idolized him. He practised on
her affection in that systematic way, that he got great sums of
money from her, and he induced her to buy her brother out of a
share in the brewery (which had been weakly left him by his father)
at an immense price, on the plea that when he was her husband he
must hold and manage it all. Your guardian was not at that time in
Miss Havisham's councils, and she was too haughty and too much in
love, to be advised by any one. Her relations were poor and
scheming, with the exception of my father; he was poor enough, but
not time-serving or jealous. The only independent one among them,
he warned her that she was doing too much for this man, and was
placing herself too unreservedly in his power. She took the first
opportunity of angrily ordering my father out of the house, in his
presence, and my father has never seen her since."
I thought of her having said, "Matthew will come and see me at last
when I am laid dead upon that table;" and I asked Herbert whether
his father was so inveterate against her?
"It's not that," said he, "but she charged him, in the presence of
her intended husband, with being disappointed in the hope of
fawning upon her for his own advancement, and, if he were to go to
her now, it would look true - even to him - and even to her. To
return to the man and make an end of him. The marriage day was
fixed, the wedding dresses were bought, the wedding tour was
planned out, the wedding guests were invited. The day came, but not
the bridegroom. He wrote her a letter--"
"Which she received," I struck in, "when she was dressing for her
marriage? At twenty minutes to nine?"
"At the hour and minute," said Herbert, nodding, "at which she
afterwards stopped all the clocks. What was in it, further than
that it most heartlessly broke the marriage off, I can't tell you,
because I don't know. When she recovered from a bad illness that
she had, she laid the whole place waste, as you have seen it, and
she has never since looked upon the light of day."
"Is that all the story?" I asked, after considering it.
"All I know of it; and indeed I only know so much, through piecing
it out for myself; for my father always avoids it, and, even when
Miss Havisham invited me to go there, told me no more of it than it
was absolutely requisite I should understand. But I have forgotten
one thing. It has been supposed that the man to whom she gave her
misplaced confidence, acted throughout in concert with her
half-brother; that it was a conspiracy between them; and that they
shared the profits."
"I wonder he didn't marry her and get all the property," said I.
"He may have been married already, and her cruel mortification may
have been a part of her half-brother's scheme," said Herbert.
"Mind! I don't know that."
"What became of the two men?" I asked, after again considering the
"They fell into deeper shame and degradation - if there can be
deeper - and ruin."
"Are they alive now?"
"I don't know."
"You said just now, that Estella was not related to Miss Havisham,
but adopted. When adopted?"
Herbert shrugged his shoulders. "There has always been an Estella,
since I have heard of a Miss Havisham. I know no more. And now,
Handel," said he, finally throwing off the story as it were, "there
is a perfectly open understanding between us. All that I know about
Miss Havisham, you know."
"And all that I know," I retorted, "you know."
"I fully believe it. So there can be no competition or perplexity
between you and me. And as to the condition on which you hold your
advancement in life - namely, that you are not to inquire or
discuss to whom you owe it - you may be very sure that it will
never be encroached upon, or even approached, by me, or by any one
belonging to me."
In truth, he said this with so much delicacy, that I felt the
subject done with, even though I should be under his father's roof
for years and years to come. Yet he said it with so much meaning,
too, that I felt he as perfectly understood Miss Havisham to be my
benefactress, as I understood the fact myself.
It had not occurred to me before, that he had led up to the theme
for the purpose of clearing it out of our way; but we were so much
the lighter and easier for having broached it, that I now perceived
this to be the case. We were very gay and sociable, and I asked
him, in the course of conversation, what he was? He replied, "A
capitalist - an Insurer of Ships." I suppose he saw me glancing
about the room in search of some tokens of Shipping, or capital,
for he added, "In the City."
I had grand ideas of the wealth and importance of Insurers of Ships
in the City, and I began to think with awe, of having laid a young
Insurer on his back, blackened his enterprising eye, and cut his
responsible head open. But, again, there came upon me, for my
relief, that odd impression that Herbert Pocket would never be very
successful or rich.
"I shall not rest satisfied with merely employing my capital in
insuring ships. I shall buy up some good Life Assurance shares, and
cut into the Direction. I shall also do a little in the mining way.
None of these things will interfere with my chartering a few
thousand tons on my own account. I think I shall trade," said he,
leaning back in his chair, "to the East Indies, for silks, shawls,
spices, dyes, drugs, and precious woods. It's an interesting
"And the profits are large?" said I.
"Tremendous!" said he.
I wavered again, and began to think here were greater expectations
than my own.
"I think I shall trade, also," said he, putting his thumbs in his
waistcoat pockets, "to the West Indies, for sugar, tobacco, and
rum. Also to Ceylon, specially for elephants' tusks."
"You will want a good many ships," said I.
"A perfect fleet," said he.
Quite overpowered by the magnificence of these transactions, I
asked him where the ships he insured mostly traded to at present?
"I haven't begun insuring yet," he replied. "I am looking about
Somehow, that pursuit seemed more in keeping with Barnard's Inn. I
said (in a tone of conviction), "Ah-h!"
"Yes. I am in a counting-house, and looking about me."
"Is a counting-house profitable?" I asked.
"To - do you mean to the young fellow who's in it?" he asked, in
"Yes; to you."
"Why, n-no: not to me." He said this with the air of one carefully
reckoning up and striking a balance. "Not directly profitable. That
is, it doesn't pay me anything, and I have to - keep myself."
This certainly had not a profitable appearance, and I shook my head
as if I would imply that it would be difficult to lay by much
accumulative capital from such a source of income.
"But the thing is," said Herbert Pocket, "that you look about you.
That's the grand thing. You are in a counting-house, you know, and
you look about you."
It struck me as a singular implication that you couldn't be out of
a counting-house, you know, and look about you; but I silently
deferred to his experience.
"Then the time comes," said Herbert, "when you see your opening.
And you go in, and you swoop upon it and you make your capital, and
then there you are! When you have once made your capital, you have
nothing to do but employ it."
This was very like his way of conducting that encounter in the
garden; very like. His manner of bearing his poverty, too, exactly
corresponded to his manner of bearing that defeat. It seemed to me
that he took all blows and buffets now, with just the same air as
he had taken mine then. It was evident that he had nothing around
him but the simplest necessaries, for everything that I remarked
upon turned out to have been sent in on my account from the
coffee-house or somewhere else.
Yet, having already made his fortune in his own mind, he was so
unassuming with it that I felt quite grateful to him for not being
puffed up. It was a pleasant addition to his naturally pleasant
ways, and we got on famously. In the evening we went out for a walk
in the streets, and went half-price to the Theatre; and next day we
went to church at Westminster Abbey, and in the afternoon we walked
in the Parks; and I wondered who shod all the horses there, and
wished Joe did.
On a moderate computation, it was many months, that Sunday, since I
had left Joe and Biddy. The space interposed between myself and
them, partook of that expansion, and our marshes were any distance
off. That I could have been at our old church in my old
church-going clothes, on the very last Sunday that ever was, seemed
a combination of impossibilities, geographical and social, solar
and lunar. Yet in the London streets, so crowded with people and so
brilliantly lighted in the dusk of evening, there were depressing
hints of reproaches for that I had put the poor old kitchen at home
so far away; and in the dead of night, the footsteps of some
incapable impostor of a porter mooning about Barnard's Inn, under
pretence of watching it, fell hollow on my heart.
On the Monday morning at a quarter before nine, Herbert went to the
counting-house to report himself - to look about him, too, I
suppose - and I bore him company. He was to come away in an hour or
two to attend me to Hammersmith, and I was to wait about for him.
It appeared to me that the eggs from which young Insurers were
hatched, were incubated in dust and heat, like the eggs of
ostriches, judging from the places to which those incipient giants
repaired on a Monday morning. Nor did the counting-house where
Herbert assisted, show in my eyes as at all a good Observatory;
being a back second floor up a yard, of a grimy presence in all
particulars, and with a look into another back second floor, rather
than a look out.
I waited about until it was noon, and I went upon 'Change, and I
saw fluey men sitting there under the bills about shipping, whom I
took to be great merchants, though I couldn't understand why they
should all be out of spirits. When Herbert came, we went and had
lunch at a celebrated house which I then quite venerated, but now
believe to have been the most abject superstition in Europe, and
where I could not help noticing, even then, that there was much
more gravy on the tablecloths and knives and waiters' clothes, than
in the steaks. This collation disposed of at a moderate price
(considering the grease: which was not charged for), we went back
to Barnard's Inn and got my little portmanteau, and then took coach
for Hammersmith. We arrived there at two or three o'clock in the
afternoon, and had very little way to walk to Mr. Pocket's house.
Lifting the latch of a gate, we passed direct into a little garden
overlooking the river, where Mr. Pocket's children were playing
about. And unless I deceive myself on a point where my interests or
prepossessions are certainly not concerned, I saw that Mr. and Mrs.
Pocket's children were not growing up or being brought up, but were
tumbling up.
Mrs. Pocket was sitting on a garden chair under a tree, reading,
with her legs upon another garden chair; and Mrs. Pocket's two
nursemaids were looking about them while the children played.
"Mamma," said Herbert, "this is young Mr. Pip." Upon which Mrs.
Pocket received me with an appearance of amiable dignity.
"Master Alick and Miss Jane," cried one of the nurses to two of the
children, "if you go a-bouncing up against them bushes you'll fall
over into the river and be drownded, and what'll your pa say then?"
At the same time this nurse picked up Mrs. Pocket's handkerchief,
and said, "If that don't make six times you've dropped it, Mum!"
Upon which Mrs. Pocket laughed and said, "Thank you, Flopson," and
settling herself in one chair only, resumed her book. Her
countenance immediately assumed a knitted and intent expression as
if she had been reading for a week, but before she could have read
half a dozen lines, she fixed her eyes upon me, and said, "I hope
your mamma is quite well?" This unexpected inquiry put me into such
a difficulty that I began saying in the absurdest way that if there
had been any such person I had no doubt she would have been quite
well and would have been very much obliged and would have sent her
compliments, when the nurse came to my rescue.
"Well!" she cried, picking up the pocket handkerchief, "if that
don't make seven times! What ARE you a-doing of this afternoon,
Mum!" Mrs. Pocket received her property, at first with a look of
unutterable surprise as if she had never seen it before, and then
with a laugh of recognition, and said, "Thank you, Flopson," and
forgot me, and went on reading.
I found, now I had leisure to count them, that there were no fewer
than six little Pockets present, in various stages of tumbling up.
I had scarcely arrived at the total when a seventh was heard, as in
the region of air, wailing dolefully.
"If there ain't Baby!" said Flopson, appearing to think it most
surprising. "Make haste up, Millers."
Millers, who was the other nurse, retired into the house, and by
degrees the child's wailing was hushed and stopped, as if it were a
young ventriloquist with something in its mouth. Mrs. Pocket read
all the time, and I was curious to know what the book could be.
We were waiting, I supposed, for Mr. Pocket to come out to us; at
any rate we waited there, and so I had an opportunity of observing
the remarkable family phenomenon that whenever any of the children
strayed near Mrs. Pocket in their play, they always tripped
themselves up and tumbled over her - always very much to her
momentary astonishment, and their own more enduring lamentation. I
was at a loss to account for this surprising circumstance, and
could not help giving my mind to speculations about it, until
by-and-by Millers came down with the baby, which baby was handed to
Flopson, which Flopson was handing it to Mrs. Pocket, when she too
went fairly head foremost over Mrs. Pocket, baby and all, and was
caught by Herbert and myself.
"Gracious me, Flopson!" said Mrs. Pocket, looking off her book for a
moment, "everybody's tumbling!"
"Gracious you, indeed, Mum!" returned Flopson, very red in the
face; "what have you got there?"
"I got here, Flopson?" asked Mrs. Pocket.
"Why, if it ain't your footstool!" cried Flopson. "And if you keep
it under your skirts like that, who's to help tumbling? Here! Take
the baby, Mum, and give me your book."
Mrs. Pocket acted on the advice, and inexpertly danced the infant a
little in her lap, while the other children played about it. This
had lasted but a very short time, when Mrs. Pocket issued summary
orders that they were all to be taken into the house for a nap.
Thus I made the second discovery on that first occasion, that the
nurture of the little Pockets consisted of alternately tumbling up
and lying down.
Under these circumstances, when Flopson and Millers had got the
children into the house, like a little flock of sheep, and Mr.
Pocket came out of it to make my acquaintance, I was not much
surprised to find that Mr. Pocket was a gentleman with a rather
perplexed expression of face, and with his very grey hair
disordered on his head, as if he didn't quite see his way to
putting anything straight.
Chapter 23
Mr. Pocket said he was glad to see me, and he hoped I was not sorry
to see him. "For, I really am not," he added, with his son's smile,
"an alarming personage." He was a young-looking man, in spite of
his perplexities and his very grey hair, and his manner seemed
quite natural. I use the word natural, in the sense of its being
unaffected; there was something comic in his distraught way, as
though it would have been downright ludicrous but for his own
perception that it was very near being so. When he had talked with
me a little, he said to Mrs. Pocket, with a rather anxious
contraction of his eyebrows, which were black and handsome,
"Belinda, I hope you have welcomed Mr. Pip?" And she looked up from
her book, and said, "Yes." She then smiled upon me in an absent
state of mind, and asked me if I liked the taste of orange-flower
water? As the question had no bearing, near or remote, on any
foregone or subsequent transaction, I consider it to have been
thrown out, like her previous approaches, in general conversational
I found out within a few hours, and may mention at once, that Mrs.
Pocket was the only daughter of a certain quite accidental deceased
Knight, who had invented for himself a conviction that his deceased
father would have been made a Baronet but for somebody's determined
opposition arising out of entirely personal motives - I forget
whose, if I ever knew - the Sovereign's, the Prime Minister's, the
Lord Chancellor's, the Archbishop of Canterbury's, anybody's - and
had tacked himself on to the nobles of the earth in right of this
quite supposititious fact. I believe he had been knighted himself
for storming the English grammar at the point of the pen, in a
desperate address engrossed on vellum, on the occasion of the
laying of the first stone of some building or other, and for
handing some Royal Personage either the trowel or the mortar. Be
that as it may, he had directed Mrs. Pocket to be brought up from
her cradle as one who in the nature of things must marry a title,
and who was to be guarded from the acquisition of plebeian domestic
So successful a watch and ward had been established over the young
lady by this judicious parent, that she had grown up highly
ornamental, but perfectly helpless and useless. With her character
thus happily formed, in the first bloom of her youth she had
encountered Mr. Pocket: who was also in the first bloom of youth,
and not quite decided whether to mount to the Woolsack, or to roof
himself in with a mitre. As his doing the one or the other was a
mere question of time, he and Mrs. Pocket had taken Time by the
forelock (when, to judge from its length, it would seem to have
wanted cutting), and had married without the knowledge of the
judicious parent. The judicious parent, having nothing to bestow or
withhold but his blessing, had handsomely settled that dower upon
them after a short struggle, and had informed Mr. Pocket that his
wife was "a treasure for a Prince." Mr. Pocket had invested the
Prince's treasure in the ways of the world ever since, and it was
supposed to have brought him in but indifferent interest. Still,
Mrs. Pocket was in general the object of a queer sort of respectful
pity, because she had not married a title; while Mr. Pocket was the
object of a queer sort of forgiving reproach, because he had never
got one.
Mr. Pocket took me into the house and showed me my room: which was a
pleasant one, and so furnished as that I could use it with comfort
for my own private sitting-room. He then knocked at the doors of
two other similar rooms, and introduced me to their occupants, by
name Drummle and Startop. Drummle, an old-looking young man of a
heavy order of architecture, was whistling. Startop, younger in
years and appearance, was reading and holding his head, as if he
thought himself in danger of exploding it with too strong a charge
of knowledge.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Pocket had such a noticeable air of being in
somebody else's hands, that I wondered who really was in possession
of the house and let them live there, until I found this unknown
power to be the servants. It was a smooth way of going on, perhaps,
in respect of saving trouble; but it had the appearance of being
expensive, for the servants felt it a duty they owed to themselves
to be nice in their eating and drinking, and to keep a deal of
company down stairs. They allowed a very liberal table to Mr. and
Mrs. Pocket, yet it always appeared to me that by far the best part
of the house to have boarded in, would have been the kitchen -
always supposing the boarder capable of self-defence, for, before I
had been there a week, a neighbouring lady with whom the family
were personally unacquainted, wrote in to say that she had seen
Millers slapping the baby. This greatly distressed Mrs. Pocket, who
burst into tears on receiving the note, and said that it was an
extraordinary thing that the neighbours couldn't mind their own
By degrees I learnt, and chiefly from Herbert, that Mr. Pocket had
been educated at Harrow and at Cambridge, where he had
distinguished himself; but that when he had had the happiness of
marrying Mrs. Pocket very early in life, he had impaired his
prospects and taken up the calling of a Grinder. After grinding a
number of dull blades - of whom it was remarkable that their
fathers, when influential, were always going to help him to
preferment, but always forgot to do it when the blades had left the
Grindstone - he had wearied of that poor work and had come to
London. Here, after gradually failing in loftier hopes, he had
"read" with divers who had lacked opportunities or neglected them,
and had refurbished divers others for special occasions, and had
turned his acquirements to the account of literary compilation and
correction, and on such means, added to some very moderate private
resources, still maintained the house I saw.
Mr. and Mrs. Pocket had a toady neighbour; a widow lady of that
highly sympathetic nature that she agreed with everybody, blessed
everybody, and shed smiles and tears on everybody, according to
circumstances. This lady's name was Mrs. Coiler, and I had the
honour of taking her down to dinner on the day of my installation.
She gave me to understand on the stairs, that it was a blow to dear
Mrs. Pocket that dear Mr. Pocket should be under the necessity of
receiving gentlemen to read with him. That did not extend to me,
she told me in a gush of love and confidence (at that time, I had
known her something less than five minutes); if they were all like
Me, it would be quite another thing.
"But dear Mrs. Pocket," said Mrs. Coiler, "after her early
disappointment (not that dear Mr. Pocket was to blame in that),
requires so much luxury and elegance--"
"Yes, ma'am," I said, to stop her, for I was afraid she was going
to cry.
"And she is of so aristocratic a disposition--"
"Yes, ma'am," I said again, with the same object as before.
" - that it is hard," said Mrs. Coiler, "to have dear Mr. Pocket's
time and attention diverted from dear Mrs. Pocket."
I could not help thinking that it might be harder if the butcher's
time and attention were diverted from dear Mrs. Pocket; but I said
nothing, and indeed had enough to do in keeping a bashful watch
upon my company-manners.
It came to my knowledge, through what passed between Mrs. Pocket and
Drummle while I was attentive to my knife and fork, spoon, glasses,
and other instruments of self-destruction, that Drummle, whose
Christian name was Bentley, was actually the next heir but one to a
baronetcy. It further appeared that the book I had seen Mrs. Pocket
reading in the garden, was all about titles, and that she knew the
exact date at which her grandpapa would have come into the book, if
he ever had come at all. Drummle didn't say much, but in his
limited way (he struck me as a sulky kind of fellow) he spoke as
one of the elect, and recognized Mrs. Pocket as a woman and a
sister. No one but themselves and Mrs. Coiler the toady neighbour
showed any interest in this part of the conversation, and it
appeared to me that it was painful to Herbert; but it promised to
last a long time, when the page came in with the announcement of a
domestic affliction. It was, in effect, that the cook had mislaid
the beef. To my unutterable amazement, I now, for the first time,
saw Mr. Pocket relieve his mind by going through a performance that
struck me as very extraordinary, but which made no impression on
anybody else, and with which I soon became as familiar as the rest.
He laid down the carving-knife and fork - being engaged in carving,
at the moment - put his two hands into his disturbed hair, and
appeared to make an extraordinary effort to lift himself up by it.
When he had done this, and had not lifted himself up at all, he
quietly went on with what he was about.
Mrs. Coiler then changed the subject, and began to flatter me. I
liked it for a few moments, but she flattered me so very grossly
that the pleasure was soon over. She had a serpentine way of coming
close at me when she pretended to be vitally interested in the
friends and localities I had left, which was altogether snaky and
fork-tongued; and when she made an occasional bounce upon Startop
(who said very little to her), or upon Drummle (who said less), I
rather envied them for being on the opposite side of the table.
After dinner the children were introduced, and Mrs. Coiler made
admiring comments on their eyes, noses, and legs - a sagacious way
of improving their minds. There were four little girls, and two
little boys, besides the baby who might have been either, and the
baby's next successor who was as yet neither. They were brought in
by Flopson and Millers, much as though those two noncommissioned
officers had been recruiting somewhere for children and had
enlisted these: while Mrs. Pocket looked at the young Nobles that
ought to have been, as if she rather thought she had had the
pleasure of inspecting them before, but didn't quite know what to
make of them.
"Here! Give me your fork, Mum, and take the baby," said Flopson.
"Don't take it that way, or you'll get its head under the table."
Thus advised, Mrs. Pocket took it the other way, and got its head
upon the table; which was announced to all present by a prodigious
"Dear, dear! Give it me back, Mum," said Flopson; "and Miss Jane,
come and dance to baby, do!"
One of the little girls, a mere mite who seemed to have prematurely
taken upon herself some charge of the others, stepped out of her
place by me, and danced to and from the baby until it left off
crying, and laughed. Then, all the children laughed, and Mr. Pocket
(who in the meantime had twice endeavoured to lift himself up by
the hair) laughed, and we all laughed and were glad.
Flopson, by dint of doubling the baby at the joints like a Dutch
doll, then got it safely into Mrs. Pocket's lap, and gave it the
nutcrackers to play with: at the same time recommending Mrs. Pocket
to take notice that the handles of that instrument were not likely
to agree with its eyes, and sharply charging Miss Jane to look
after the same. Then, the two nurses left the room, and had a
lively scuffle on the staircase with a dissipated page who had
waited at dinner, and who had clearly lost half his buttons at the
I was made very uneasy in my mind by Mrs. Pocket's falling into a
discussion with Drummle respecting two baronetcies, while she ate a
sliced orange steeped in sugar and wine, and forgetting all about
the baby on her lap: who did most appalling things with the
nutcrackers. At length, little Jane perceiving its young brains to
be imperilled, softly left her place, and with many small artifices
coaxed the dangerous weapon away. Mrs. Pocket finishing her orange
at about the same time, and not approving of this, said to Jane:
"You naughty child, how dare you? Go and sit down this instant!"
"Mamma dear," lisped the little girl, "baby ood have put hith eyeth
"How dare you tell me so?" retorted Mrs. Pocket. "Go and sit down in
your chair this moment!"
Mrs. Pocket's dignity was so crushing, that I felt quite abashed: as
if I myself had done something to rouse it.
"Belinda," remonstrated Mr. Pocket, from the other end of the table,
"how can you be so unreasonable? Jane only interfered for the
protection of baby."
"I will not allow anybody to interfere," said Mrs. Pocket. "I am
surprised, Matthew, that you should expose me to the affront of
"Good God!" cried Mr. Pocket, in an outbreak of desolate
desperation. "Are infants to be nutcrackered into their tombs, and
is nobody to save them?"
"I will not be interfered with by Jane," said Mrs. Pocket, with a
majestic glance at that innocent little offender. "I hope I know my
poor grandpapa's position. Jane, indeed!"
Mr. Pocket got his hands in his hair again, and this time really did
lift himself some inches out of his chair. "Hear this!" he
helplessly exclaimed to the elements. "Babies are to be
nutcrackered dead, for people's poor grandpapa's positions!" Then
he let himself down again, and became silent.
We all looked awkwardly at the table-cloth while this was going on.
A pause succeeded, during which the honest and irrepressible baby
made a series of leaps and crows at little Jane, who appeared to me
to be the only member of the family (irrespective of servants) with
whom it had any decided acquaintance.
"Mr. Drummle," said Mrs. Pocket, "will you ring for Flopson? Jane,
you undutiful little thing, go and lie down. Now, baby darling,
come with ma!"
The baby was the soul of honour, and protested with all its might.
It doubled itself up the wrong way over Mrs. Pocket's arm, exhibited
a pair of knitted shoes and dimpled ankles to the company in lieu
of its soft face, and was carried out in the highest state of
mutiny. And it gained its point after all, for I saw it through the
window within a few minutes, being nursed by little Jane.
It happened that the other five children were left behind at the
dinner-table, through Flopson's having some private engagement, and
their not being anybody else's business. I thus became aware of the
mutual relations between them and Mr. Pocket, which were exemplified
in the following manner. Mr. Pocket, with the normal perplexity of
his face heightened and his hair rumpled, looked at them for some
minutes, as if he couldn't make out how they came to be boarding
and lodging in that establishment, and why they hadn't been
billeted by Nature on somebody else. Then, in a distant, Missionary
way he asked them certain questions - as why little Joe had that
hole in his frill: who said, Pa, Flopson was going to mend it when
she had time - and how little Fanny came by that whitlow: who said,
Pa, Millers was going to poultice it when she didn't forget. Then,
he melted into parental tenderness, and gave them a shilling apiece
and told them to go and play; and then as they went out, with one
very strong effort to lift himself up by the hair he dismissed the
hopeless subject.
In the evening there was rowing on the river. As Drummle and
Startop had each a boat, I resolved to set up mine, and to cut them
both out. I was pretty good at most exercises in which countryboys
are adepts, but, as I was conscious of wanting elegance of style
for the Thames - not to say for other waters - I at once engaged to
place myself under the tuition of the winner of a prizewherry who
plied at our stairs, and to whom I was introduced by my new allies.
This practical authority confused me very much, by saying I had the
arm of a blacksmith. If he could have known how nearly the
compliment lost him his pupil, I doubt if he would have paid it.
There was a supper-tray after we got home at night, and I think we
should all have enjoyed ourselves, but for a rather disagreeable
domestic occurrence. Mr. Pocket was in good spirits, when a
housemaid came in, and said, "If you please, sir, I should wish to
speak to you."
"Speak to your master?" said Mrs. Pocket, whose dignity was roused
again. "How can you think of such a thing? Go and speak to Flopson.
Or speak to me - at some other time."
"Begging your pardon, ma'am," returned the housemaid, "I should
wish to speak at once, and to speak to master."
Hereupon, Mr. Pocket went out of the room, and we made the best of
ourselves until he came back.
"This is a pretty thing, Belinda!" said Mr. Pocket, returning with a
countenance expressive of grief and despair. "Here's the cook lying
insensibly drunk on the kitchen floor, with a large bundle of fresh
butter made up in the cupboard ready to sell for grease!"
Mrs. Pocket instantly showed much amiable emotion, and said, "This
is that odious Sophia's doing!"
"What do you mean, Belinda?" demanded Mr. Pocket.
"Sophia has told you," said Mrs. Pocket. "Did I not see her with my
own eyes and hear her with my own ears, come into the room just now
and ask to speak to you?"
"But has she not taken me down stairs, Belinda," returned Mr.
Pocket, "and shown me the woman, and the bundle too?"
"And do you defend her, Matthew," said Mrs. Pocket, "for making
Mr. Pocket uttered a dismal groan.
"Am I, grandpapa's granddaughter, to be nothing in the house?" said
Mrs. Pocket. "Besides, the cook has always been a very nice
respectful woman, and said in the most natural manner when she came
to look after the situation, that she felt I was born to be a
There was a sofa where Mr. Pocket stood, and he dropped upon it in
the attitude of the Dying Gladiator. Still in that attitude he
said, with a hollow voice, "Good night, Mr. Pip," when I deemed it
advisable to go to bed and leave him.
Chapter 24
After two or three days, when I had established myself in my room
and had gone backwards and forwards to London several times, and
had ordered all I wanted of my tradesmen, Mr. Pocket and I had a
long talk together. He knew more of my intended career than I knew
myself, for he referred to his having been told by Mr. Jaggers that
I was not designed for any profession, and that I should be well
enough educated for my destiny if I could "hold my own" with the
average of young men in prosperous circumstances. I acquiesced, of
course, knowing nothing to the contrary.
He advised my attending certain places in London, for the
acquisition of such mere rudiments as I wanted, and my investing
him with the functions of explainer and director of all my studies.
He hoped that with intelligent assistance I should meet with little
to discourage me, and should soon be able to dispense with any aid
but his. Through his way of saying this, and much more to similar
purpose, he placed himself on confidential terms with me in an
admirable manner; and I may state at once that he was always so
zealous and honourable in fulfilling his compact with me, that he
made me zealous and honourable in fulfilling mine with him. If he
had shown indifference as a master, I have no doubt I should have
returned the compliment as a pupil; he gave me no such excuse, and
each of us did the other justice. Nor, did I ever regard him as
having anything ludicrous about him - or anything but what was
serious, honest, and good - in his tutor communication with me.
When these points were settled, and so far carried out as that I
had begun to work in earnest, it occurred to me that if I could
retain my bedroom in Barnard's Inn, my life would be agreeably
varied, while my manners would be none the worse for Herbert's
society. Mr. Pocket did not object to this arrangement, but urged
that before any step could possibly be taken in it, it must be
submitted to my guardian. I felt that this delicacy arose out of
the consideration that the plan would save Herbert some expense, so
I went off to Little Britain and imparted my wish to Mr. Jaggers.
"If I could buy the furniture now hired for me," said I, "and one
or two other little things, I should be quite at home there."
"Go it!" said Mr. Jaggers, with a short laugh. "I told you you'd get
on. Well! How much do you want?"
I said I didn't know how much.
"Come!" retorted Mr. Jaggers. "How much? Fifty pounds?"
"Oh, not nearly so much."
"Five pounds?" said Mr. Jaggers.
This was such a great fall, that I said in discomfiture, "Oh! more
than that."
"More than that, eh!" retorted Mr. Jaggers, lying in wait for me,
with his hands in his pockets, his head on one side, and his eyes
on the wall behind me; "how much more?"
"It is so difficult to fix a sum," said I, hesitating.
"Come!" said Mr. Jaggers. "Let's get at it. Twice five; will that
do? Three times five; will that do? Four times five; will that do?"
I said I thought that would do handsomely.
"Four times five will do handsomely, will it?" said Mr. Jaggers,
knitting his brows. "Now, what do you make of four times five?"
"What do I make of it?"
"Ah!" said Mr. Jaggers; "how much?"
"I suppose you make it twenty pounds," said I, smiling.
"Never mind what I make it, my friend," observed Mr. Jaggers, with a
knowing and contradictory toss of his head. "I want to know what
you make it."
"Twenty pounds, of course."
"Wemmick!" said Mr. Jaggers, opening his office door. "Take Mr. Pip's
written order, and pay him twenty pounds."
This strongly marked way of doing business made a strongly marked
impression on me, and that not of an agreeable kind. Mr. Jaggers
never laughed; but he wore great bright creaking boots, and, in
poising himself on these boots, with his large head bent down and
his eyebrows joined together, awaiting an answer, he sometimes
caused the boots to creak, as if they laughed in a dry and
suspicious way. As he happened to go out now, and as Wemmick was
brisk and talkative, I said to Wemmick that I hardly knew what to
make of Mr. Jaggers's manner.
"Tell him that, and he'll take it as a compliment," answered
Wemmick; "he don't mean that you should know what to make of it. -
Oh!" for I looked surprised, "it's not personal; it's professional:
only professional."
Wemmick was at his desk, lunching - and crunching - on a dry hard
biscuit; pieces of which he threw from time to time into his slit
of a mouth, as if he were posting them.
"Always seems to me," said Wemmick, "as if he had set a mantrap and
was watching it. Suddenly - click - you're caught!"
Without remarking that man-traps were not among the amenities of
life, I said I supposed he was very skilful?
"Deep," said Wemmick, "as Australia." Pointing with his pen at the
office floor, to express that Australia was understood, for the
purposes of the figure, to be symmetrically on the opposite spot of
the globe. "If there was anything deeper," added Wemmick, bringing
his pen to paper, "he'd be it."
Then, I said I supposed he had a fine business, and Wemmick said,
"Ca-pi-tal!" Then I asked if there were many clerks? to which he
"We don't run much into clerks, because there's only one Jaggers,
and people won't have him at second-hand. There are only four of
us. Would you like to see 'em? You are one of us, as I may say."
I accepted the offer. When Mr. Wemmick had put all the biscuit into
the post, and had paid me my money from a cash-box in a safe, the
key of which safe he kept somewhere down his back and produced from
his coat-collar like an iron pigtail, we went up-stairs. The house
was dark and shabby, and the greasy shoulders that had left their
mark in Mr. Jaggers's room, seemed to have been shuffling up and
down the staircase for years. In the front first floor, a clerk who
looked something between a publican and a rat-catcher - a large
pale puffed swollen man - was attentively engaged with three or
four people of shabby appearance, whom he treated as
unceremoniously as everybody seemed to be treated who contributed
to Mr. Jaggers's coffers. "Getting evidence together," said Mr.
Wemmick, as we came out, "for the Bailey."
In the room over that, a little flabby terrier of a clerk with
dangling hair (his cropping seemed to have been forgotten when he
was a puppy) was similarly engaged with a man with weak eyes, whom
Mr. Wemmick presented to me as a smelter who kept his pot always
boiling, and who would melt me anything I pleased - and who was in
an excessive white-perspiration, as if he had been trying his art on
himself. In a back room, a high-shouldered man with a face-ache tied
up in dirty flannel, who was dressed in old black clothes that bore
the appearance of having been waxed, was stooping over his work of
making fair copies of the notes of the other two gentlemen, for Mr.
Jaggers's own use.
This was all the establishment. When we went down-stairs again,
Wemmick led me into my guardian's room, and said, "This you've seen
"Pray," said I, as the two odious casts with the twitchy leer upon
them caught my sight again, "whose likenesses are those?"
"These?" said Wemmick, getting upon a chair, and blowing the dust
off the horrible heads before bringing them down. "These are two
celebrated ones. Famous clients of ours that got us a world of
credit. This chap (why you must have come down in the night and
been peeping into the inkstand, to get this blot upon your eyebrow,
you old rascal!) murdered his master, and, considering that he
wasn't brought up to evidence, didn't plan it badly."
"Is it like him?" I asked, recoiling from the brute, as Wemmick
spat upon his eyebrow and gave it a rub with his sleeve.
"Like him? It's himself, you know. The cast was made in Newgate,
directly after he was taken down. You had a particular fancy for
me, hadn't you, Old Artful?" said Wemmick. He then explained this
affectionate apostrophe, by touching his brooch representing the
lady and the weeping willow at the tomb with the urn upon it, and
saying, "Had it made for me, express!"
"Is the lady anybody?" said I.
"No," returned Wemmick. "Only his game. (You liked your bit of
game, didn't you?) No; deuce a bit of a lady in the case, Mr. Pip,
except one - and she wasn't of this slender ladylike sort, and you
wouldn't have caught her looking after this urn - unless there was
something to drink in it." Wemmick's attention being thus directed
to his brooch, he put down the cast, and polished the brooch with
his pocket-handkerchief.
"Did that other creature come to the same end?" I asked. "He has
the same look."
"You're right," said Wemmick; "it's the genuine look. Much as if
one nostril was caught up with a horsehair and a little fish-hook.
Yes, he came to the same end; quite the natural end here, I assure
you. He forged wills, this blade did, if he didn't also put the
supposed testators to sleep too. You were a gentlemanly Cove,
though" (Mr. Wemmick was again apostrophizing), "and you said you
could write Greek. Yah, Bounceable! What a liar you were! I never
met such a liar as you!" Before putting his late friend on his
shelf again, Wemmick touched the largest of his mourning rings and
said, "Sent out to buy it for me, only the day before."
While he was putting up the other cast and coming down from the
chair, the thought crossed my mind that all his personal jewellery
was derived from like sources. As he had shown no diffidence on the
subject, I ventured on the liberty of asking him the question, when
he stood before me, dusting his hands.
"Oh yes," he returned, "these are all gifts of that kind. One
brings another, you see; that's the way of it. I always take 'em.
They're curiosities. And they're property. They may not be worth
much, but, after all, they're property and portable. It don't
signify to you with your brilliant look-out, but as to myself, my
guidingstar always is, "Get hold of portable property"."
When I had rendered homage to this light, he went on to say, in a
friendly manner:
"If at any odd time when you have nothing better to do, you
wouldn't mind coming over to see me at Walworth, I could offer you
a bed, and I should consider it an honour. I have not much to show
you; but such two or three curiosities as I have got, you might
like to look over; and I am fond of a bit of garden and a
I said I should be delighted to accept his hospitality.
"Thankee," said he; "then we'll consider that it's to come off,
when convenient to you. Have you dined with Mr. Jaggers yet?"
"Not yet."
"Well," said Wemmick, "he'll give you wine, and good wine. I'll
give you punch, and not bad punch. and now I'll tell you something.
When you go to dine with Mr. Jaggers, look at his housekeeper."
"Shall I see something very uncommon?"
"Well," said Wemmick, "you'll see a wild beast tamed. Not so very
uncommon, you'll tell me. I reply, that depends on the original
wildness of the beast, and the amount of taming. It won't lower
your opinion of Mr. Jaggers's powers. Keep your eye on it."
I told him I would do so, with all the interest and curiosity that
his preparation awakened. As I was taking my departure, he asked me
if I would like to devote five minutes to seeing Mr. Jaggers "at
For several reasons, and not least because I didn't clearly know
what Mr. Jaggers would be found to be "at," I replied in the
affirmative. We dived into the City, and came up in a crowded
policecourt, where a blood-relation (in the murderous sense) of the
deceased with the fanciful taste in brooches, was standing at the
bar, uncomfortably chewing something; while my guardian had a woman
under examination or cross-examination - I don't know which - and
was striking her, and the bench, and everybody present, with awe.
If anybody, of whatsoever degree, said a word that he didn't
approve of, he instantly required to have it "taken down." If
anybody wouldn't make an admission, he said, "I'll have it out of
you!" and if anybody made an admission, he said, "Now I have got
you!" the magistrates shivered under a single bite of his finger.
Thieves and thieftakers hung in dread rapture on his words, and
shrank when a hair of his eyebrows turned in their direction. Which
side he was on, I couldn't make out, for he seemed to me to be
grinding the whole place in a mill; I only know that when I stole
out on tiptoe, he was not on the side of the bench; for, he was
making the legs of the old gentleman who presided, quite convulsive
under the table, by his denunciations of his conduct as the
representative of British law and justice in that chair that day.
Chapter 25
Bentley Drummle, who was so sulky a fellow that he even took up a
book as if its writer had done him an injury, did not take up an
acquaintance in a more agreeable spirit. Heavy in figure, movement,
and comprehension - in the sluggish complexion of his face, and in
the large awkward tongue that seemed to loll about in his mouth as
he himself lolled about in a room - he was idle, proud, niggardly,
reserved, and suspicious. He came of rich people down in
Somersetshire, who had nursed this combination of qualities until
they made the discovery that it was just of age and a blockhead.
Thus, Bentley Drummle had come to Mr. Pocket when he was a head
taller than that gentleman, and half a dozen heads thicker than
most gentlemen.
Startop had been spoilt by a weak mother and kept at home when he
ought to have been at school, but he was devotedly attached to her,
and admired her beyond measure. He had a woman's delicacy of
feature, and was - "as you may see, though you never saw her," said
Herbert to me - exactly like his mother. It was but natural that I
should take to him much more kindly than to Drummle, and that, even
in the earliest evenings of our boating, he and I should pull
homeward abreast of one another, conversing from boat to boat,
while Bentley Drummle came up in our wake alone, under the
overhanging banks and among the rushes. He would always creep
in-shore like some uncomfortable amphibious creature, even when the
tide would have sent him fast upon his way; and I always think of
him as coming after us in the dark or by the back-water, when our
own two boats were breaking the sunset or the moonlight in
Herbert was my intimate companion and friend. I presented him with
a half-share in my boat, which was the occasion of his often coming
down to Hammersmith; and my possession of a halfshare in his
chambers often took me up to London. We used to walk between the
two places at all hours. I have an affection for the road yet
(though it is not so pleasant a road as it was then), formed in the
impressibility of untried youth and hope.
When I had been in Mr. Pocket's family a month or two, Mr. and Mrs.
Camilla turned up. Camilla was Mr. Pocket's sister. Georgiana, whom
I had seen at Miss Havisham's on the same occasion, also turned up.
she was a cousin - an indigestive single woman, who called her
rigidity religion, and her liver love. These people hated me with
the hatred of cupidity and disappointment. As a matter of course,
they fawned upon me in my prosperity with the basest meanness.
Towards Mr. Pocket, as a grown-up infant with no notion of his own
interests, they showed the complacent forbearance I had heard them
express. Mrs. Pocket they held in contempt; but they allowed the
poor soul to have been heavily disappointed in life, because that
shed a feeble reflected light upon themselves.
These were the surroundings among which I settled down, and applied
myself to my education. I soon contracted expensive habits, and
began to spend an amount of money that within a few short months I
should have thought almost fabulous; but through good and evil I
stuck to my books. There was no other merit in this, than my having
sense enough to feel my deficiencies. Between Mr. Pocket and Herbert
I got on fast; and, with one or the other always at my elbow to
give me the start I wanted, and clear obstructions out of my road,
I must have been as great a dolt as Drummle if I had done less.
I had not seen Mr. Wemmick for some weeks, when I thought I would
write him a note and propose to go home with him on a certain
evening. He replied that it would give him much pleasure, and that
he would expect me at the office at six o'clock. Thither I went,
and there I found him, putting the key of his safe down his back as
the clock struck.
"Did you think of walking down to Walworth?" said he.
"Certainly," said I, "if you approve."
"Very much," was Wemmick's reply, "for I have had my legs under the
desk all day, and shall be glad to stretch them. Now, I'll tell you
what I have got for supper, Mr. Pip. I have got a stewed steak -
which is of home preparation - and a cold roast fowl - which is
from the cook's-shop. I think it's tender, because the master of
the shop was a Juryman in some cases of ours the other day, and we
let him down easy. I reminded him of it when I bought the fowl, and
I said, "Pick us out a good one, old Briton, because if we had
chosen to keep you in the box another day or two, we could easily
have done it." He said to that, "Let me make you a present of the
best fowl in the shop." I let him, of course. As far as it goes,
it's property and portable. You don't object to an aged parent, I
I really thought he was still speaking of the fowl, until he added,
"Because I have got an aged parent at my place." I then said what
politeness required.
"So, you haven't dined with Mr. Jaggers yet?" he pursued, as we
walked along.
"Not yet."
"He told me so this afternoon when he heard you were coming. I
expect you'll have an invitation to-morrow. He's going to ask your
pals, too. Three of 'em; ain't there?"
Although I was not in the habit of counting Drummle as one of my
intimate associates, I answered, "Yes."
"Well, he's going to ask the whole gang;" I hardly felt
complimented by the word; "and whatever he gives you, he'll give
you good. Don't look forward to variety, but you'll have
excellence. And there'sa nother rum thing in his house," proceeded
Wemmick, after a moment's pause, as if the remark followed on the
housekeeper understood; "he never lets a door or window be fastened
at night."
"Is he never robbed?"
"That's it!" returned Wemmick. "He says, and gives it out publicly,
"I want to see the man who'll rob me." Lord bless you, I have heard
him, a hundred times if I have heard him once, say to regular
cracksmen in our front office, "You know where I live; now, no bolt
is ever drawn there; why don't you do a stroke of business with me?
Come; can't I tempt you?" Not a man of them, sir, would be bold
enough to try it on, for love or money."
"They dread him so much?" said I.
"Dread him," said Wemmick. "I believe you they dread him. Not but
what he's artful, even in his defiance of them. No silver, sir.
Britannia metal, every spoon."
"So they wouldn't have much," I observed, "even if they--"
"Ah! But he would have much," said Wemmick, cutting me short, "and
they know it. He'd have their lives, and the lives of scores of
'em. He'd have all he could get. And it's impossible to say what he
couldn't get, if he gave his mind to it."
I was falling into meditation on my guardian's greatness, when
Wemmick remarked:
"As to the absence of plate, that's only his natural depth, you
know. A river's its natural depth, and he's his natural depth. Look
at his watch-chain. That's real enough."
"It's very massive," said I.
"Massive?" repeated Wemmick. "I think so. And his watch is a gold
repeater, and worth a hundred pound if it's worth a penny. Mr. Pip,
there are about seven hundred thieves in this town who know all
about that watch; there's not a man, a woman, or a child, among
them, who wouldn't identify the smallest link in that chain, and
drop it as if it was red-hot, if inveigled into touching it."
At first with such discourse, and afterwards with conversation of a
more general nature, did Mr. Wemmick and I beguile the time and the
road, until he gave me to understand that we had arrived in the
district of Walworth.
It appeared to be a collection of back lanes, ditches, and little
gardens, and to present the aspect of a rather dull retirement.
Wemmick's house was a little wooden cottage in the midst of plots
of garden, and the top of it was cut out and painted like a battery
mounted with guns.
"My own doing," said Wemmick. "Looks pretty; don't it?"
I highly commended it, I think it was the smallest house I ever
saw; with the queerest gothic windows (by far the greater part of
them sham), and a gothic door, almost too small to get in at.
"That's a real flagstaff, you see," said Wemmick, "and on Sundays I
run up a real flag. Then look here. After I have crossed this
bridge, I hoist it up - so - and cut off the communication."
The bridge was a plank, and it crossed a chasm about four feet wide
and two deep. But it was very pleasant to see the pride with which
he hoisted it up and made it fast; smiling as he did so, with a
relish and not merely mechanically.
"At nine o'clock every night, Greenwich time," said Wemmick, "the
gun fires. There he is, you see! And when you hear him go, I think
you'll say he's a Stinger."
The piece of ordnance referred to, was mounted in a separate
fortress, constructed of lattice-work. It was protected from the
weather by an ingenious little tarpaulin contrivance in the nature
of an umbrella.
"Then, at the back," said Wemmick, "out of sight, so as not to
impede the idea of fortifications - for it's a principle with me,
if you have an idea, carry it out and keep it up - I don't know
whether that's your opinion--"
I said, decidedly.
" - At the back, there's a pig, and there are fowls and rabbits;
then, I knock together my own little frame, you see, and grow
cucumbers; and you'll judge at supper what sort of a salad I can
raise. So, sir," said Wemmick, smiling again, but seriously too, as
he shook his head, "if you can suppose the little place besieged,
it would hold out a devil of a time in point of provisions."
Then, he conducted me to a bower about a dozen yards off, but which
was approached by such ingenious twists of path that it took quite
a long time to get at; and in this retreat our glasses were already
set forth. Our punch was cooling in an ornamental lake, on whose
margin the bower was raised. This piece of water (with an island in
the middle which might have been the salad for supper) was of a
circular form, and he had constructed a fountain in it, which, when
you set a little mill going and took a cork out of a pipe, played
to that powerful extent that it made the back of your hand quite
"I am my own engineer, and my own carpenter, and my own plumber,
and my own gardener, and my own Jack of all Trades," said Wemmick,
in acknowledging my compliments. "Well; it's a good thing, you
know. It brushes the Newgate cobwebs away, and pleases the Aged.
You wouldn't mind being at once introduced to the Aged, would you?
It wouldn't put you out?"
I expressed the readiness I felt, and we went into the castle.
There, we found, sitting by a fire, a very old man in a flannel
coat: clean, cheerful, comfortable, and well cared for, but
intensely deaf.
"Well aged parent," said Wemmick, shaking hands with him in a
cordial and jocose way, "how am you?"
"All right, John; all right!" replied the old man.
"Here's Mr. Pip, aged parent," said Wemmick, "and I wish you could
hear his name. Nod away at him, Mr. Pip; that's what he likes. Nod
away at him, if you please, like winking!"
"This is a fine place of my son's, sir," cried the old man, while I
nodded as hard as I possibly could. "This is a pretty
pleasure-ground, sir. This spot and these beautiful works upon it
ought to be kept together by the Nation, after my son's time, for
the people's enjoyment."
"You're as proud of it as Punch; ain't you, Aged?" said Wemmick,
contemplating the old man, with his hard face really softened;
"there's a nod for you;" giving him a tremendous one; "there's
another for you;" giving him a still more tremendous one; "you like
that, don't you? If you're not tired, Mr. Pip - though I know it's
tiring to strangers - will you tip him one more? You can't think
how it pleases him."
I tipped him several more, and he was in great spirits. We left him
bestirring himself to feed the fowls, and we sat down to our punch
in the arbour; where Wemmick told me as he smoked a pipe that it
had taken him a good many years to bring the property up to its
present pitch of perfection.
"Is it your own, Mr. Wemmick?"
"O yes," said Wemmick, "I have got hold of it, a bit at a time.
It's a freehold, by George!"
"Is it, indeed? I hope Mr. Jaggers admires it?"
"Never seen it," said Wemmick. "Never heard of it. Never seen the
Aged. Never heard of him. No; the office is one thing, and private
life is another. When I go into the office, I leave the Castle
behind me, and when I come into the Castle, I leave the office
behind me. If it's not in any way disagreeable to you, you'll
oblige me by doing the same. I don't wish it professionally spoken
Of course I felt my good faith involved in the observance of his
request. The punch being very nice, we sat there drinking it and
talking, until it was almost nine o'clock. "Getting near gun-fire,"
said Wemmick then, as he laid down his pipe; "it's the Aged's
Proceeding into the Castle again, we found the Aged heating the
poker, with expectant eyes, as a preliminary to the performance of
this great nightly ceremony. Wemmick stood with his watch in his
hand, until the moment was come for him to take the red-hot poker
from the Aged, and repair to the battery. He took it, and went out,
and presently the Stinger went off with a Bang that shook the crazy
little box of a cottage as if it must fall to pieces, and made
every glass and teacup in it ring. Upon this, the Aged - who I
believe would have been blown out of his arm-chair but for holding
on by the elbows - cried out exultingly, "He's fired! I heerd him!"
and I nodded at the old gentleman until it is no figure of speech
to declare that I absolutely could not see him.
The interval between that time and supper, Wemmick devoted to
showing me his collection of curiosities. They were mostly of a
felonious character; comprising the pen with which a celebrated
forgery had been committed, a distinguished razor or two, some
locks of hair, and several manuscript confessions written under
condemnation - upon which Mr. Wemmick set particular value as being,
to use his own words, "every one of 'em Lies, sir." These were
agreeably dispersed among small specimens of china and glass,
various neat trifles made by the proprietor of the museum, and some
tobacco-stoppers carved by the Aged. They were all displayed in
that chamber of the Castle into which I had been first inducted,
and which served, not only as the general sitting-room but as the
kitchen too, if I might judge from a saucepan on the hob, and a
brazen bijou over the fireplace designed for the suspension of a
There was a neat little girl in attendance, who looked after the
Aged in the day. When she had laid the supper-cloth, the bridge was
lowered to give her means of egress, and she withdrew for the
night. The supper was excellent; and though the Castle was rather
subject to dry-rot insomuch that it tasted like a bad nut, and
though the pig might have been farther off, I was heartily pleased
with my whole entertainment. Nor was there any drawback on my
little turret bedroom, beyond there being such a very thin ceiling
between me and the flagstaff, that when I lay down on my back in
bed, it seemed as if I had to balance that pole on my forehead all
Wemmick was up early in the morning, and I am afraid I heard him
cleaning my boots. After that, he fell to gardening, and I saw him
from my gothic window pretending to employ the Aged, and nodding at
him in a most devoted manner. Our breakfast was as good as the
supper, and at half-past eight precisely we started for Little
Britain. By degrees, Wemmick got dryer and harder as we went along,
and his mouth tightened into a post-office again. At last, when we
got to his place of business and he pulled out his key from his
coat-collar, he looked as unconscious of his Walworth property as
if the Castle and the drawbridge and the arbour and the lake and
the fountain and the Aged, had all been blown into space together
by the last discharge of the Stinger.
Chapter 26
It fell out as Wemmick had told me it would, that I had an early
opportunity of comparing my guardian's establishment with that of
his cashier and clerk. My guardian was in his room, washing his
hands with his scented soap, when I went into the office from
Walworth; and he called me to him, and gave me the invitation for
myself and friends which Wemmick had prepared me to receive. "No
ceremony," he stipulated, "and no dinner dress, and say tomorrow."
I asked him where we should come to (for I had no idea where he
lived), and I believe it was in his general objection to make
anything like an admission, that he replied, "Come here, and I'll
take you home with me." I embrace this opportunity of remarking
that he washed his clients off, as if he were a surgeon or a
dentist. He had a closet in his room, fitted up for the purpose,
which smelt of the scented soap like a perfumer's shop. It had an
unusually large jack-towel on a roller inside the door, and he
would wash his hands, and wipe them and dry them all over this
towel, whenever he came in from a police-court or dismissed a
client from his room. When I and my friends repaired to him at six
o'clock next day, he seemed to have been engaged on a case of a
darker complexion than usual, for, we found him with his head
butted into this closet, not only washing his hands, but laving his
face and gargling his throat. And even when he had done all that,
and had gone all round the jack-towel, he took out his penknife and
scraped the case out of his nails before he put his coat on.
There were some people slinking about as usual when we passed out
into the street, who were evidently anxious to speak with him; but
there was something so conclusive in the halo of scented soap which
encircled his presence, that they gave it up for that day. As we
walked along westward, he was recognized ever and again by some
face in the crowd of the streets, and whenever that happened he
talked louder to me; but he never otherwise recognized anybody, or
took notice that anybody recognized him.
He conducted us to Gerrard-street, Soho, to a house on the south
side of that street. Rather a stately house of its kind, but
dolefully in want of painting, and with dirty windows. He took out
his key and opened the door, and we all went into a stone hall,
bare, gloomy, and little used. So, up a dark brown staircase into a
series of three dark brown rooms on the first floor. There were
carved garlands on the panelled walls, and as he stood among them
giving us welcome, I know what kind of loops I thought they looked
Dinner was laid in the best of these rooms; the second was his
dressing-room; the third, his bedroom. He told us that he held the
whole house, but rarely used more of it than we saw. The table was
comfortably laid - no silver in the service, of course - and at the
side of his chair was a capacious dumb-waiter, with a variety of
bottles and decanters on it, and four dishes of fruit for dessert.
I noticed throughout, that he kept everything under his own hand,
and distributed everything himself.
There was a bookcase in the room; I saw, from the backs of the
books, that they were about evidence, criminal law, criminal
biography, trials, acts of parliament, and such things. The
furniture was all very solid and good, like his watch-chain. It had
an official look, however, and there was nothing merely ornamental
to be seen. In a corner, was a little table of papers with a shaded
lamp: so that he seemed to bring the office home with him in that
respect too, and to wheel it out of an evening and fall to work.
As he had scarcely seen my three companions until now - for, he and
I had walked together - he stood on the hearth-rug, after ringing
the bell, and took a searching look at them. To my surprise, he
seemed at once to be principally if not solely interested in
"Pip," said he, putting his large hand on my shoulder and moving me
to the window, "I don't know one from the other. Who's the Spider?"
"The spider?" said I.
"The blotchy, sprawly, sulky fellow."
"That's Bentley Drummle," I replied; "the one with the delicate
face is Startop."
Not making the least account of "the one with the delicate face,"
he returned, "Bentley Drummle is his name, is it? I like the look
of that fellow."
He immediately began to talk to Drummle: not at all deterred by his
replying in his heavy reticent way, but apparently led on by it to
screw discourse out of him. I was looking at the two, when there
came between me and them, the housekeeper, with the first dish for
the table.
She was a woman of about forty, I supposed - but I may have thought
her younger than she was. Rather tall, of a lithe nimble figure,
extremely pale, with large faded eyes, and a quantity of streaming
hair. I cannot say whether any diseased affection of the heart
caused her lips to be parted as if she were panting, and her face
to bear a curious expression of suddenness and flutter; but I know
that I had been to see Macbeth at the theatre, a night or two
before, and that her face looked to me as if it were all disturbed
by fiery air, like the faces I had seen rise out of the Witches'
She set the dish on, touched my guardian quietly on the arm with a
finger to notify that dinner was ready, and vanished. We took our
seats at the round table, and my guardian kept Drummle on one side
of him, while Startop sat on the other. It was a noble dish of fish
that the housekeeper had put on table, and we had a joint of
equally choice mutton afterwards, and then an equally choice bird.
Sauces, wines, all the accessories we wanted, and all of the best,
were given out by our host from his dumb-waiter; and when they had
made the circuit of the table, he always put them back again.
Similarly, he dealt us clean plates and knives and forks, for each
course, and dropped those just disused into two baskets on the
ground by his chair. No other attendant than the housekeeper
appeared. She set on every dish; and I always saw in her face, a
face rising out of the caldron. Years afterwards, I made a dreadful
likeness of that woman, by causing a face that had no other natural
resemblance to it than it derived from flowing hair, to pass behind
a bowl of flaming spirits in a dark room.
Induced to take particular notice of the housekeeper, both by her
own striking appearance and by Wemmick's preparation, I observed
that whenever she was in the room, she kept her eyes attentively on
my guardian, and that she would remove her hands from any dish she
put before him, hesitatingly, as if she dreaded his calling her
back, and wanted him to speak when she was nigh, if he had anything
to say. I fancied that I could detect in his manner a consciousness
of this, and a purpose of always holding her in suspense.
Dinner went off gaily, and, although my guardian seemed to follow
rather than originate subjects, I knew that he wrenched the weakest
part of our dispositions out of us. For myself, I found that I was
expressing my tendency to lavish expenditure, and to patronize
Herbert, and to boast of my great prospects, before I quite knew
that I had opened my lips. It was so with all of us, but with no
one more than Drummle: the development of whose inclination to gird
in a grudging and suspicious way at the rest, was screwed out of
him before the fish was taken off.
It was not then, but when we had got to the cheese, that our
conversation turned upon our rowing feats, and that Drummle was
rallied for coming up behind of a night in that slow amphibious way
of his. Drummle upon this, informed our host that he much preferred
our room to our company, and that as to skill he was more than our
master, and that as to strength he could scatter us like chaff. By
some invisible agency, my guardian wound him up to a pitch little
short of ferocity about this trifle; and he fell to baring and
spanning his arm to show how muscular it was, and we all fell to
baring and spanning our arms in a ridiculous manner.
Now, the housekeeper was at that time clearing the table; my
guardian, taking no heed of her, but with the side of his face
turned from her, was leaning back in his chair biting the side of
his forefinger and showing an interest in Drummle, that, to me, was
quite inexplicable. Suddenly, he clapped his large hand on the
housekeeper's, like a trap, as she stretched it across the table.
So suddenly and smartly did he do this, that we all stopped in our
foolish contention.
"If you talk of strength," said Mr. Jaggers, "I'll show you a wrist.
Molly, let them see your wrist."
Her entrapped hand was on the table, but she had already put her
other hand behind her waist. "Master," she said, in a low voice,
with her eyes attentively and entreatingly fixed upon him. "Don't."
"I'll show you a wrist," repeated Mr. Jaggers, with an immovable
determination to show it. "Molly, let them see your wrist."
"Master," she again murmured. "Please!"
"Molly," said Mr. Jaggers, not looking at her, but obstinately
looking at the opposite side of the room, "let them see both your
wrists. Show them. Come!"
He took his hand from hers, and turned that wrist up on the table.
She brought her other hand from behind her, and held the two out
side by side. The last wrist was much disfigured - deeply scarred
and scarred across and across. When she held her hands out, she
took her eyes from Mr. Jaggers, and turned them watchfully on every
one of the rest of us in succession.
"There's power here," said Mr. Jaggers, coolly tracing out the
sinews with his forefinger. "Very few men have the power of wrist
that this woman has. It's remarkable what mere force of grip there
is in these hands. I have had occasion to notice many hands; but I
never saw stronger in that respect, man's or woman's, than these."
While he said these words in a leisurely critical style, she
continued to look at every one of us in regular succession as we
sat. The moment he ceased, she looked at him again. "That'll do,
Molly," said Mr. Jaggers, giving her a slight nod; "you have been
admired, and can go." She withdrew her hands and went out of the
room, and Mr. Jaggers, putting the decanters on from his dumbwaiter,
filled his glass and passed round the wine.
"At half-past nine, gentlemen," said he, "we must break up. Pray
make the best use of your time. I am glad to see you all. Mr.
Drummle, I drink to you."
If his object in singling out Drummle were to bring him out still
more, it perfectly succeeded. In a sulky triumph, Drummle showed
his morose depreciation of the rest of us, in a more and more
offensive degree until he became downright intolerable. Through all
his stages, Mr. Jaggers followed him with the same strange interest.
He actually seemed to serve as a zest to Mr. Jaggers's wine.
In our boyish want of discretion I dare say we took too much to
drink, and I know we talked too much. we became particularly hot
upon some boorish sneer of Drummle's, to the effect that we were
too free with our money. It led to my remarking, with more zeal
than discretion, that it came with a bad grace from him, to whom
Startop had lent money in my presence but a week or so before.
"Well," retorted Drummle; "he'll be paid."
"I don't mean to imply that he won't," said I, "but it might make
you hold your tongue about us and our money, I should think."
"You should think!" retorted Drummle. "Oh Lord!"
"I dare say," I went on, meaning to be very severe, "that you
wouldn't lend money to any of us, if we wanted it."
"You are right," said Drummle. "I wouldn't lend one of you a
sixpence. I wouldn't lend anybody a sixpence."
"Rather mean to borrow under those circumstances, I should say."
"You should say," repeated Drummle. "Oh Lord!"
This was so very aggravating - the more especially as I found
myself making no way against his surly obtuseness - that I said,
disregarding Herbert's efforts to check me:
"Come, Mr. Drummle, since we are on the subject, I'll tell you what
passed between Herbert here and me, when you borrowed that money."
"I don't want to know what passed between Herbert there and you,"
growled Drummle. And I think he added in a lower growl, that we
might both go to the devil and shake ourselves.
"I'll tell you, however," said I, "whether you want to know or not.
We said that as you put it in your pocket very glad to get it, you
seemed to be immensely amused at his being so weak as to lend it."
Drummle laughed outright, and sat laughing in our faces, with his
hands in his pockets and his round shoulders raised: plainly
signifying that it was quite true, and that he despised us, as
asses all.
Hereupon Startop took him in hand, though with a much better grace
than I had shown, and exhorted him to be a little more agreeable.
Startop, being a lively bright young fellow, and Drummle being the
exact opposite, the latter was always disposed to resent him as a
direct personal affront. He now retorted in a coarse lumpish way,
and Startop tried to turn the discussion aside with some small
pleasantry that made us all laugh. Resenting this little success
more than anything, Drummle, without any threat or warning, pulled
his hands out of his pockets, dropped his round shoulders, swore,
took up a large glass, and would have flung it at his adversary's
head, but for our entertainer's dexterously seizing it at the
instant when it was raised for that purpose.
"Gentlemen," said Mr. Jaggers, deliberately putting down the glass,
and hauling out his gold repeater by its massive chain, "I am
exceedingly sorry to announce that it's half-past nine."
On this hint we all rose to depart. Before we got to the street
door, Startop was cheerily calling Drummle "old boy," as if nothing
had happened. But the old boy was so far from responding, that he
would not even walk to Hammersmith on the same side of the way; so,
Herbert and I, who remained in town, saw them going down the street
on opposite sides; Startop leading, and Drummle lagging behind in
the shadow of the houses, much as he was wont to follow in his
As the door was not yet shut, I thought I would leave Herbert there
for a moment, and run up-stairs again to say a word to my guardian.
I found him in his dressing-room surrounded by his stock of boots,
already hard at it, washing his hands of us.
I told him I had come up again to say how sorry I was that anything
disagreeable should have occurred, and that I hoped he would not
blame me much.
"Pooh!" said he, sluicing his face, and speaking through the
water-drops; "it's nothing, Pip. I like that Spider though."
He had turned towards me now, and was shaking his head, and
blowing, and towelling himself.
"I am glad you like him, sir," said I - "but I don't."
"No, no," my guardian assented; "don't have too much to do with
him. Keep as clear of him as you can. But I like the fellow, Pip;
he is one of the true sort. Why, if I was a fortune-teller--"
Looking out of the towel, he caught my eye.
"But I am not a fortune-teller," he said, letting his head drop
into a festoon of towel, and towelling away at his two ears. "You
know what I am, don't you? Good-night, Pip."
"Good-night, sir."
In about a month after that, the Spider's time with Mr. Pocket was
up for good, and, to the great relief of all the house but Mrs.
Pocket, he went home to the family hole.
Chapter 27
"I write this by request of Mr. Gargery, for to let you know that he
is going to London in company with Mr. Wopsle and would be glad if
agreeable to be allowed to see you. He would call at Barnard's
Hotel Tuesday morning 9 o'clock, when if not agreeable please
leave word. Your poor sister is much the same as when you left. We
talk of you in the kitchen every night, and wonder what you are
saying and doing. If now considered in the light of a liberty,
excuse it for the love of poor old days. No more, dear Mr. Pip, from
"Your ever obliged, and affectionate servant,
"P.S. He wishes me most particular to write what larks. He says you
will understand. I hope and do not doubt it will be agreeable to
see him even though a gentleman, for you had ever a good heart, and
he is a worthy worthy man. I have read him all excepting only the
last little sentence, and he wishes me most particular to write
again what larks."
I received this letter by the post on Monday morning, and therefore
its appointment was for next day. Let me confess exactly, with what
feelings I looked forward to Joe's coming.
Not with pleasure, though I was bound to him by so many ties; no;
with considerable disturbance, some mortification, and a keen sense
of incongruity. If I could have kept him away by paying money, I
certainly would have paid money. My greatest reassurance was, that
he was coming to Barnard's Inn, not to Hammersmith, and
consequently would not fall in Bentley Drummle's way. I had little
objection to his being seen by Herbert or his father, for both of
whom I had a respect; but I had the sharpest sensitiveness as to
his being seen by Drummle, whom I held in contempt. So, throughout
life, our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for
the sake of the people whom we most despise.
I had begun to be always decorating the chambers in some quite
unnecessary and inappropriate way or other, and very expensive
those wrestles with Barnard proved to be. By this time, the rooms
were vastly different from what I had found them, and I enjoyed the
honour of occupying a few prominent pages in the books of a
neighbouring upholsterer. I had got on so fast of late, that I had
even started a boy in boots - top boots - in bondage and slavery to
whom I might have been said to pass my days. For, after I had made
the monster (out of the refuse of my washerwoman's family) and had
clothed him with a blue coat, canary waistcoat, white cravat,
creamy breeches, and the boots already mentioned, I had to find him
a little to do and a great deal to eat; and with both of those
horrible requirements he haunted my existence.
This avenging phantom was ordered to be on duty at eight on Tuesday
morning in the hall (it was two feet square, as charged for
floorcloth), and Herbert suggested certain things for breakfast
that he thought Joe would like. While I felt sincerely obliged to
him for being so interested and considerate, I had an odd
half-provoked sense of suspicion upon me, that if Joe had been
coming to see him, he wouldn't have been quite so brisk about it.
However, I came into town on the Monday night to be ready for Joe,
and I got up early in the morning, and caused the sittingroom and
breakfast-table to assume their most splendid appearance.
Unfortunately the morning was drizzly, and an angel could not have
concealed the fact that Barnard was shedding sooty tears outside the
window, like some weak giant of a Sweep.
As the time approached I should have liked to run away, but the
Avenger pursuant to orders was in the hall, and presently I heard
Joe on the staircase. I knew it was Joe, by his clumsy manner of
coming up-stairs - his state boots being always too big for him -
and by the time it took him to read the names on the other floors
in the course of his ascent. When at last he stopped outside our
door, I could hear his finger tracing over the painted letters of
my name, and I afterwards distinctly heard him breathing in at 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 orange-peel.
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 "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
"Your servant, Sir," said Joe, "which I hope as you and Pip" - here
his eye fell on the Avenger, who was putting some toast on table,
and so plainly denoted an intention to make that young gentleman
one of the family, that I frowned it down and confused him more -
"I meantersay, you two gentlemen - which I hope as you get your
elths in this close spot? For the present may be a werry good inn,
according to London opinions," said Joe, confidentially, "and I
believe its character do stand i; but I wouldn't keep a pig in it
myself - not in the case that I wished him to fatten wholesome and
to eat with a meller flavour on him."
Having borne this flattering testimony to the merits of our
dwelling-place, and having incidentally shown this tendency to call
me "sir," Joe, being invited to sit down to table, looked all round
the room for a suitable spot on which to deposit his hat - as if it
were only on some very few rare substances in nature that it could
find a resting place - and ultimately stood it on an extreme corner
of the chimney-piece, from which it ever afterwards fell off at
"Do you take tea, or coffee, Mr. Gargery?" asked Herbert, who always
presided of a morning.
"Thankee, Sir," said Joe, stiff from head to foot, "I'll take
whichever is most agreeable to yourself."
"What do you say to coffee?"
"Thankee, Sir," returned Joe, evidently dispirited by the proposal,
"since you are so kind as make chice of coffee, I will not run
contrairy to your own opinions. But don't you never find it a
little 'eating?"
"Say tea then," said Herbert, pouring it out.
Here Joe's hat tumbled off the mantel-piece, and he started out of
his chair and picked it up, and fitted it to the same exact spot.
As if it were an absolute point of good breeding that it should
tumble off again soon.
"When did you come to town, Mr. Gargery?"
"Were it yesterday afternoon?" said Joe, after coughing behind his
hand, as if he had had time to catch the whooping-cough since he
came. "No it were not. Yes it were. Yes. It were yesterday
afternoon" (with an appearance of mingled wisdom, relief, and
strict impartiality).
"Have you seen anything of London, yet?"
"Why, yes, Sir," said Joe, "me and Wopsle went off straight to look
at the Blacking Ware'us. But we didn't find that it come up to its
likeness in the red bills at the shop doors; which I meantersay,"
added Joe, in an explanatory manner, "as it is there drawd too
I really believe Joe would have prolonged this word (mightily
expressive to my mind of some architecture that I know) into a
perfect Chorus, but for his attention being providentially
attracted by his hat, which was toppling. Indeed, it demanded from
him a constant attention, and a quickness of eye and hand, very
like that exacted by wicket-keeping. He made extraordinary play
with it, and showed the greatest skill; now, rushing at it and
catching it neatly as it dropped; now, merely stopping it midway,
beating it up, and humouring it in various parts of the room and
against a good deal of the pattern of the paper on the wall, before
he felt it safe to close with it; finally, splashing it into the
slop-basin, where I took the liberty of laying hands upon it.
As to his shirt-collar, and his coat-collar, they were perplexing
to reflect upon - insoluble mysteries both. Why should a man scrape
himself to that extent, before he could consider himself full
dressed? Why should he suppose it necessary to be purified by
suffering for his holiday clothes? Then he fell into such
unaccountable fits of meditation, with his fork midway between his
plate and his mouth; had his eyes attracted in such strange
directions; was afflicted with such remarkable coughs; sat so far
from the table, and dropped so much more than he ate, and pretended
that he hadn't dropped it; that I was heartily glad when Herbert
left us for the city.
I had neither the good sense nor the good feeling to know that this
was all my fault, and that if I had been easier with Joe, Joe would
have been easier with me. I felt impatient of him and out of temper
with him; in which condition he heaped coals of fire on my head.
"Us two being now alone, Sir," - began Joe.
"Joe," I interrupted, pettishly, "how can you call me, Sir?"
Joe looked at me for a single instant with something faintly like
reproach. Utterly preposterous as his cravat was, and as his
collars were, I was conscious of a sort of dignity in the look.
"Us two being now alone," resumed Joe, "and me having the
intentions and abilities to stay not many minutes more, I will now
conclude - leastways begin - to mention what have led to my having
had the present honour. For was it not," said Joe, with his old air
of lucid exposition, "that my only wish were to be useful to you, I
should not have had the honour of breaking wittles in the company
and abode of gentlemen."
I was so unwilling to see the look again, that I made no
remonstrance against this tone.
"Well, Sir," pursued Joe, "this is how it were. I were at the
Bargemen t'other night, Pip;" whenever he subsided into affection,
he called me Pip, and whenever he relapsed into politeness he
called me Sir; "when there come up in his shay-cart, Pumblechook.
Which that same identical," said Joe, going down a new track, "do
comb my 'air the wrong way sometimes, awful, by giving out up and
down town as it were him which ever had your infant companionation
and were looked upon as a playfellow by yourself."
"Nonsense. It was you, Joe."
"Which I fully believed it were, Pip," said Joe, slightly tossing
his head, "though it signify little now, Sir. Well, Pip; this same
identical, which his manners is given to blusterous, come to me at
the Bargemen (wot a pipe and a pint of beer do give refreshment to
the working-man, Sir, and do not over stimilate), and his word
were, 'Joseph, Miss Havisham she wish to speak to you.'"
"Miss Havisham, Joe?"
"'She wish,' were Pumblechook's word, 'to speak to you.'" Joe sat
and rolled his eyes at the ceiling.
"Yes, Joe? Go on, please."
"Next day, Sir," said Joe, looking at me as if I were a long way
off, "having cleaned myself, I go and I see Miss A."
"Miss A., Joe? Miss Havisham?"
"Which I say, Sir," replied Joe, with an air of legal formality, as
if he were making his will, "Miss A., or otherways Havisham. Her
expression air then as follering: 'Mr. Gargery. You air in
correspondence with Mr. Pip?' Having had a letter from you, I were
able to say 'I am.' (When I married your sister, Sir, I said 'I
will;' and when I answered your friend, Pip, I said 'I am.') 'Would
you tell him, then,' said she, 'that which Estella has come home
and would be glad to see him.'"
I felt my face fire up as I looked at Joe. I hope one remote cause
of its firing, may have been my consciousness that if I had known
his errand, I should have given him more encouragement.
"Biddy," pursued Joe, "when I got home and asked her fur to write
the message to you, a little hung back. Biddy says, "I know he will
be very glad to have it by word of mouth, it is holidaytime, you
want to see him, go!" I have now concluded, Sir," said Joe, rising
from his chair, "and, Pip, I wish you ever well and ever prospering
to a greater and a greater heighth."
"But you are not going now, Joe?"
"Yes I am," said Joe.
"But you are coming back to dinner, Joe?"
"No I am not," said Joe.
Our eyes met, and all the "Sir" melted out of that manly heart as
he gave me his hand.
"Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded
together, as I may say, and one man's a blacksmith, and one's a
whitesmith, and one's a goldsmith, and one's a coppersmith.
Diwisions among such must come, and must be met as they come. If
there's been any fault at all to-day, it's mine. You and me is not
two figures to be together in London; nor yet anywheres else but
what is private, and beknown, and understood among friends. It
ain't that I am proud, but that I want to be right, as you shall
never see me no more in these clothes. I'm wrong in these clothes.
I'm wrong out of the forge, the kitchen, or off th' meshes. You
won't find half so much fault in me if you think of me in my forge
dress, with my hammer in my hand, or even my pipe. You won't find
half so much fault in me if, supposing as you should ever wish to
see me, you come and put your head in at the forge window and see
Joe the blacksmith, there, at the old anvil, in the old burnt
apron, sticking to the old work. I'm awful dull, but I hope I've
beat out something nigh the rights of this at last. And so GOD
bless you, dear old Pip, old chap, GOD bless you!"
I had not been mistaken in my fancy that there was a simple dignity
in him. The fashion of his dress could no more come in its way when
he spoke these words, than it could come in its way in Heaven. He
touched me gently on the forehead, and went out. As soon as I could
recover myself sufficiently, I hurried out after him and looked for
him in the neighbouring streets; but he was gone.
Chapter 28
It was clear that I must repair to our town next day, and in the
first flow of my repentance it was equally clear that I must stay
at Joe's. But, when I had secured my box-place by to-morrow's coach
and had been down to Mr. Pocket's and back, I was not by any means
convinced on the last point, and began to invent reasons and make
excuses for putting up at the Blue Boar. I should be an
inconvenience at Joe's; I was not expected, and my bed would not be
ready; I should be too far from Miss Havisham's, and she was
exacting and mightn't like it. All other swindlers upon earth are
nothing to the self-swindlers, and with such pretences did I cheat
myself. Surely a curious thing. That I should innocently take a bad
half-crown of somebody else's manufacture, is reasonable enough;
but that I should knowingly reckon the spurious coin of my own
make, as good money! An obliging stranger, under pretence of
compactly folding up my bank-notes for security's sake, abstracts
the notes and gives me nutshells; but what is his sleight of hand
to mine, when I fold up my own nutshells and pass them on myself as
Having settled that I must go to the Blue Boar, my mind was much
disturbed by indecision whether or not to take the Avenger. It was
tempting to think of that expensive Mercenary publicly airing his
boots in the archway of the Blue Boar's posting-yard; it was almost
solemn to imagine him casually produced in the tailor's shop and
confounding the disrespectful senses of Trabb's boy. On the other
hand, Trabb's boy might worm himself into his intimacy and tell him
things; or, reckless and desperate wretch as I knew he could be,
might hoot him in the High-street, My patroness, too, might hear of
him, and not approve. On the whole, I resolved to leave the Avenger
It was the afternoon coach by which I had taken my place, and, as
winter had now come round, I should not arrive at my destination
until two or three hours after dark. Our time of starting from the
Cross Keys was two o'clock. I arrived on the ground with a quarter
of an hour to spare, attended by the Avenger - if I may connect
that expression with one who never attended on me if he could
possibly help it.
At that time it was customary to carry Convicts down to the
dockyards by stage-coach. As I had often heard of them in the
capacity of outside passengers, and had more than once seen them on
the high road dangling their ironed legs over the coach roof, I had
no cause to be surprised when Herbert, meeting me in the yard, came
up and told me there were two convicts going down with me. But I
had a reason that was an old reason now, for constitutionally
faltering whenever I heard the word convict.
"You don't mind them, Handel?" said Herbert.
"Oh no!"
"I thought you seemed as if you didn't like them?"
"I can't pretend that I do like them, and I suppose you don't
particularly. But I don't mind them."
"See! There they are," said Herbert, "coming out of the Tap. What a
degraded and vile sight it is!"
They had been treating their guard, I suppose, for they had a
gaoler with them, and all three came out wiping their mouths on
their hands. The two convicts were handcuffed together, and had
irons on their legs - irons of a pattern that I knew well. They
wore the dress that I likewise knew well. Their keeper had a brace
of pistols, and carried a thick-knobbed bludgeon under his arm; but
he was on terms of good understanding with them, and stood, with
them beside him, looking on at the putting-to of the horses, rather
with an air as if the convicts were an interesting Exhibition not
formally open at the moment, and he the Curator. One was a taller
and stouter man than the other, and appeared as a matter of course,
according to the mysterious ways of the world both convict and
free, to have had allotted to him the smaller suit of clothes. His
arms and legs were like great pincushions of those shapes, and his
attire disguised him absurdly; but I knew his half-closed eye at
one glance. There stood the man whom I had seen on the settle at
the Three Jolly Bargemen on a Saturday night, and who had brought
me down with his invisible gun!
It was easy to make sure that as yet he knew me no more than if he
had never seen me in his life. He looked across at me, and his eye
appraised my watch-chain, and then he incidentally spat and said
something to the other convict, and they laughed and slued
themselves round with a clink of their coupling manacle, and looked
at something else. The great numbers on their backs, as if they
were street doors; their coarse mangy ungainly outer surface, as if
they were lower animals; their ironed legs, apologetically
garlanded with pocket-handkerchiefs; and the way in which all
present looked at them and kept from them; made them (as Herbert
had said) a most disagreeable and degraded spectacle.
But this was not the worst of it. It came out that the whole of the
back of the coach had been taken by a family removing from London,
and that there were no places for the two prisoners but on the seat
in front, behind the coachman. Hereupon, a choleric gentleman, who
had taken the fourth place on that seat, flew into a most violent
passion, and said that it was a breach of contract to mix him up
with such villainous company, and that it was poisonous and
pernicious and infamous and shameful, and I don't know what else.
At this time the coach was ready and the coachman impatient, and we
were all preparing to get up, and the prisoners had come over with
their keeper - bringing with them that curious flavour of
bread-poultice, baize, rope-yarn, and hearthstone, which attends
the convict presence.
"Don't take it so much amiss. sir," pleaded the keeper to the angry
passenger; "I'll sit next you myself. I'll put 'em on the outside
of the row. They won't interfere with you, sir. You needn't know
they're there."
"And don't blame me," growled the convict I had recognized. "I
don't want to go. I am quite ready to stay behind. As fur as I am
concerned any one's welcome to my place."
"Or mine," said the other, gruffly. "I wouldn't have incommoded
none of you, if I'd had my way." Then, they both laughed, and began
cracking nuts, and spitting the shells about. - As I really think I
should have liked to do myself, if I had been in their place and so
At length, it was voted that there was no help for the angry
gentleman, and that he must either go in his chance company or
remain behind. So, he got into his place, still making complaints,
and the keeper got into the place next him, and the convicts hauled
themselves up as well as they could, and the convict I had
recognized sat behind me with his breath on the hair of my head.
"Good-bye, Handel!" Herbert called out as we started. I thought
what a blessed fortune it was, that he had found another name for
me than Pip.
It is impossible to express with what acuteness I felt the
convict's breathing, not only on the back of my head, but all along
my spine. The sensation was like being touched in the marrow with
some pungent and searching acid, it set my very teeth on edge. He
seemed to have more breathing business to do than another man, and
to make more noise in doing it; and I was conscious of growing
high-shoulderd on one side, in my shrinking endeavours to fend him
The weather was miserably raw, and the two cursed the cold. It made
us all lethargic before we had gone far, and when we had left the
Half-way House behind, we habitually dozed and shivered and were
silent. I dozed off, myself, in considering the question whether I
ought to restore a couple of pounds sterling to this creature
before losing sight of him, and how it could best be done. In the
act of dipping forward as if I were going to bathe among the
horses, I woke in a fright and took the question up again.
But I must have lost it longer than I had thought, since, although
I could recognize nothing in the darkness and the fitful lights and
shadows of our lamps, I traced marsh country in the cold damp wind
that blew at us. Cowering forward for warmth and to make me a
screen against the wind, the convicts were closer to me than
before. They very first words I heard them interchange as I became
conscious were the words of my own thought, "Two One Pound notes."
"How did he get 'em?" said the convict I had never seen.
"How should I know?" returned the other. "He had 'em stowed away
somehows. Giv him by friends, I expect."
"I wish," said the other, with a bitter curse upon the cold, "that
I had 'em here."
"Two one pound notes, or friends?"
"Two one pound notes. I'd sell all the friends I ever had, for one,
and think it a blessed good bargain. Well? So he says - ?"
"So he says," resumed the convict I had recognized - "it was all
said and done in half a minute, behind a pile of timber in the
Dockyard - 'You're a-going to be discharged?' Yes, I was. Would I
find out that boy that had fed him and kep his secret, and give him
them two one pound notes? Yes, I would. And I did."
"More fool you," growled the other. "I'd have spent 'em on a Man,
in wittles and drink. He must have been a green one. Mean to say he
knowed nothing of you?"
"Not a ha'porth. Different gangs and different ships. He was tried
again for prison breaking, and got made a Lifer."
"And was that - Honour! - the only time you worked out, in this
part of the country?"
"The only time."
"What might have been your opinion of the place?"
"A most beastly place. Mudbank, mist, swamp, and work; work, swamp,
mist, and mudbank."
They both execrated the place in very strong language, and
gradually growled themselves out, and had nothing left to say.
After overhearing this dialogue, I should assuredly have got down
and been left in the solitude and darkness of the highway, but for
feeling certain that the man had no suspicion of my identity.
Indeed, I was not only so changed in the course of nature, but so
differently dressed and so differently circumstanced, that it was
not at all likely he could have known me without accidental help.
Still, the coincidence of our being together on the coach, was
sufficiently strange to fill me with a dread that some other
coincidence might at any moment connect me, in his hearing, with my
name. For this reason, I resolved to alight as soon as we touched
the town, and put myself out of his hearing. This device I executed
successfully. My little portmanteau was in the boot under my feet;
I had but to turn a hinge to get it out: I threw it down before me,
got down after it, and was left at the first lamp on the first
stones of the town pavement. As to the convicts, they went their
way with the coach, and I knew at what point they would be spirited
off to the river. In my fancy, I saw the boat with its convict crew
waiting for them at the slime-washed stairs, - again heard the
gruff "Give way, you!" like and order to dogs - again saw the
wicked Noah's Ark lying out on the black water.
I could not have said what I was afraid of, for my fear was
altogether undefined and vague, but there was great fear upon me.
As I walked on to the hotel, I felt that a dread, much exceeding
the mere apprehension of a painful or disagreeable recognition,
made me tremble. I am confident that it took no distinctness of
shape, and that it was the revival for a few minutes of the terror
of childhood.
The coffee-room at the Blue Boar was empty, and I had not only
ordered my dinner there, but had sat down to it, before the waiter
knew me. As soon as he had apologized for the remissness of his
memory, he asked me if he should send Boots for Mr. Pumblechook?
"No," said I, "certainly not."
The waiter (it was he who had brought up the Great Remonstrance
from the Commercials, on the day when I was bound) appeared
surprised, and took the earliest opportunity of putting a dirty old
copy of a local newspaper so directly in my way, that I took it up
and read this paragraph:
Our readers will learn, not altogether without interest, in
reference to the recent romantic rise in fortune of a young
artificer in iron of this neighbourhood (what a theme, by the way,
for the magic pen of our as yet not universally acknowledged
townsman TOOBY, the poet of our columns!) that the youth's earliest
patron, companion, and friend, was a highly-respected individual
not entirely unconnected with the corn and seed trade, and whose
eminently convenient and commodious business premises are situate
within a hundred miles of the High-street. It is not wholly
irrespective of our personal feelings that we record HIM as the
Mentor of our young Telemachus, for it is good to know that our
town produced the founder of the latter's fortunes. Does the
thoughtcontracted brow of the local Sage or the lustrous eye of
local Beauty inquire whose fortunes? We believe that Quintin Matsys
was the BLACKSMITH of Antwerp. VERB. SAP.
I entertain a conviction, based upon large experience, that if in
the days of my prosperity I had gone to the North Pole, I should
have met somebody there, wandering Esquimaux or civilized man, who
would have told me that Pumblechook was my earliest patron and the
founder of my fortunes.
Chapter 29
Betimes in the morning I was up and out. It was too early yet to go
to Miss Havisham's, so I loitered into the country on Miss
Havisham's side of town - which was not Joe's side; I could go
there to-morrow - thinking about my patroness, and painting
brilliant pictures of her plans for me.
She had adopted Estella, she had as good as adopted me, and it
could not fail to be her intention to bring us together. She
reserved it for me to restore the desolate house, admit the
sunshine into the dark rooms, set the clocks a-going and the cold
hearths a-blazing, tear down the cobwebs, destroy the vermin - in
short, do all the shining deeds of the young Knight of romance, and
marry the Princess. I had stopped to look at the house as I passed;
and its seared red brick walls, blocked windows, and strong green
ivy clasping even the stacks of chimneys with its twigs and
tendons, as if with sinewy old arms, had made up a rich attractive
mystery, of which I was the hero. Estella was the inspiration of
it, and the heart of it, of course. But, though she had taken such
strong possession of me, though my fancy and my hope were so set
upon her, though her influence on my boyish life and character had
been all-powerful, I did not, even that romantic morning, invest
her with any attributes save those she possessed. I mention this in
this place, of a fixed purpose, because it is the clue by which I
am to be followed into my poor labyrinth. According to my
experience, the conventional notion of a lover cannot be always
true. The unqualified truth is, that when I loved Estella with the
love of a man, I loved her simply because I found her irresistible.
Once for all; I knew to my sorrow, often and often, if not always,
that I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace,
against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that
could be. Once for all; I loved her none the less because I knew
it, and it had no more influence in restraining me, than if I had
devoutly believed her to be human perfection.
I so shaped out my walk as to arrive at the gate at my old time.
When I had rung at the bell with an unsteady hand, I turned my back
upon the gate, while I tried to get my breath and keep the beating
of my heart moderately quiet. I heard the side door open, and steps
come across the court-yard; but I pretended not to hear, even when
the gate swung on its rusty hinges.
Being at last touched on the shoulder, I started and turned. I
started much more naturally then, to find myself confronted by a
man in a sober grey dress. The last man I should have expected to
see in that place of porter at Miss Havisham's door.
"Ah, young master, there's more changes than yours. But come in,
come in. It's opposed to my orders to hold the gate open."
I entered and he swung it, and locked it, and took the key out.
"Yes!" said he, facing round, after doggedly preceding me a few
steps towards the house. "Here I am!"
"How did you come here?"
"I come her," he retorted, "on my legs. I had my box brought
alongside me in a barrow."
"Are you here for good?"
"I ain't her for harm, young master, I suppose?"
I was not so sure of that. I had leisure to entertain the retort in
my mind, while he slowly lifted his heavy glance from the pavement,
up my legs and arms, to my face.
"Then you have left the forge?" I said.
"Do this look like a forge?" replied Orlick, sending his glance all
round him with an air of injury. "Now, do it look like it?"
I asked him how long he had left Gargery's forge?
"One day is so like another here," he replied, "that I don't know
without casting it up. However, I come her some time since you
"I could have told you that, Orlick."
"Ah!" said he, drily. "But then you've got to be a scholar."
By this time we had come to the house, where I found his room to be
one just within the side door, with a little window in it looking
on the court-yard. In its small proportions, it was not unlike the
kind of place usually assigned to a gate-porter in Paris. Certain
keys were hanging on the wall, to which he now added the gate-key;
and his patchwork-covered bed was in a little inner division or
recess. The whole had a slovenly confined and sleepy look, like a
cage for a human dormouse: while he, looming dark and heavy in the
shadow of a corner by the window, looked like the human dormouse
for whom it was fitted up - as indeed he was.
"I never saw this room before," I remarked; "but there used to be
no Porter here."
"No," said he; "not till it got about that there was no protection
on the premises, and it come to be considered dangerous, with
convicts and Tag and Rag and Bobtail going up and down. And then I
was recommended to the place as a man who could give another man as
good as he brought, and I took it. It's easier than bellowsing and
hammering. - That's loaded, that is."
My eye had been caught by a gun with a brass bound stock over the
chimney-piece, and his eye had followed mine.
"Well," said I, not desirous of more conversation, "shall I go up
to Miss Havisham?"
"Burn me, if I know!" he retorted, first stretching himself and
then shaking himself; "my orders ends here, young master. I give
this here bell a rap with this here hammer, and you go on along the
passage till you meet somebody."
"I am expected, I believe?"
"Burn me twice over, if I can say!" said he.
Upon that, I turned down the long passage which I had first trodden
in my thick boots, and he made his bell sound. At the end of the
passage, while the bell was still reverberating, I found Sarah
Pocket: who appeared to have now become constitutionally green and
yellow by reason of me.
"Oh!" said she. "You, is it, Mr. Pip?"
"It is, Miss Pocket. I am glad to tell you that Mr. Pocket and
family are all well."
"Are they any wiser?" said Sarah, with a dismal shake of the head;
"they had better be wiser, than well. Ah, Matthew, Matthew! You know
your way, sir?"
Tolerably, for I had gone up the staircase in the dark, many a
time. I ascended it now, in lighter boots than of yore, and tapped
in my old way at the door of Miss Havisham's room. "Pip's rap," I
heard her say, immediately; "come in, Pip."
She was in her chair near the old table, in the old dress, with her
two hands crossed on her stick, her chin resting on them, and her
eyes on the fire. Sitting near her, with the white shoe that had
never been worn, in her hand, and her head bent as she looked at
it, was an elegant lady whom I had never seen.
"Come in, Pip," Miss Havisham continued to mutter, without looking
round or up; "come in, Pip, how do you do, Pip? so you kiss my hand
as if I were a queen, eh? - Well?"
She looked up at me suddenly, only moving her eyes, and repeated in
a grimly playful manner,
"I heard, Miss Havisham," said I, rather at a loss, "that you were
so kind as to wish me to come and see you, and I came directly."
The lady whom I had never seen before, lifted up her eyes and
looked archly at me, and then I saw that the eyes were Estella's
eyes. But she was so much changed, was so much more beautiful, so
much more womanly, in all things winning admiration had made such
wonderful advance, that I seemed to have made none. I fancied, as I
looked at her, that I slipped hopelessly back into the coarse and
common boy again. O the sense of distance and disparity that came
upon me, and the inaccessibility that came about her!
She gave me her hand. I stammered something about the pleasure I
felt in seeing her again, and about my having looked forward to it
for a long, long time.
"Do you find her much changed, Pip?" asked Miss Havisham, with her
greedy look, and striking her stick upon a chair that stood between
them, as a sign to me to sit down there.
"When I came in, Miss Havisham, I thought there was nothing of
Estella in the face or figure; but now it all settles down so
curiously into the old--"
"What? You are not going to say into the old Estella?" Miss
Havisham interrupted. "She was proud and insulting, and you wanted
to go away from her. Don't you remember?"
I said confusedly that that was long ago, and that I knew no better
then, and the like. Estella smiled with perfect composure, and said
she had no doubt of my having been quite right, and of her having
been very disagreeable.
"Is he changed?" Miss Havisham asked her.
"Very much," said Estella, looking at me.
"Less coarse and common?" said Miss Havisham, playing with
Estella's hair.
Estella laughed, and looked at the shoe in her hand, and laughed
again, and looked at me, and put the shoe down. She treated me as a
boy still, but she lured me on.
We sat in the dreamy room among the old strange influences which
had so wrought upon me, and I learnt that she had but just come
home from France, and that she was going to London. Proud and
wilful as of old, she had brought those qualities into such
subjection to her beauty that it was impossible and out of nature -
or I thought so - to separate them from her beauty. Truly it was
impossible to dissociate her presence from all those wretched
hankerings after money and gentility that had disturbed my boyhood
- from all those ill-regulated aspirations that had first made me
ashamed of home and Joe - from all those visions that had raised
her face in the glowing fire, struck it out of the iron on the
anvil, extracted it from the darkness of night to look in at the
wooden window of the forge and flit away. In a word, it was
impossible for me to separate her, in the past or in the present,
from the innermost life of my life.
It was settled that I should stay there all the rest of the day,
and return to the hotel at night, and to London to-morrow. When we
had conversed for a while, Miss Havisham sent us two out to walk in
the neglected garden: on our coming in by-and-by, she said, I
should wheel her about a little as in times of yore.
So, Estella and I went out into the garden by the gate through
which I had strayed to my encounter with the pale young gentleman,
now Herbert; I, trembling in spirit and worshipping the very hem of
her dress; she, quite composed and most decidedly not worshipping
the hem of mine. As we drew near to the place of encounter, she
stopped and said:
"I must have been a singular little creature to hide and see that
fight that day: but I did, and I enjoyed it very much."
"You rewarded me very much."
"Did I?" she replied, in an incidental and forgetful way. "I
remember I entertained a great objection to your adversary, because
I took it ill that he should be brought here to pester me with his
"He and I are great friends now."
"Are you? I think I recollect though, that you read with his
I made the admission with reluctance, for it seemed to have a
boyish look, and she already treated me more than enough like a
"Since your change of fortune and prospects, you have changed your
companions," said Estella.
"Naturally," said I.
"And necessarily," she added, in a haughty tone; "what was fit
company for you once, would be quite unfit company for you now."
In my conscience, I doubt very much whether I had any lingering
intention left, of going to see Joe; but if I had, this observation
put it to flight.
"You had no idea of your impending good fortune, in those times?"
said Estella, with a slight wave of her hand, signifying in the
fighting times.
"Not the least."
The air of completeness and superiority with which she walked at my
side, and the air of youthfulness and submission with which I
walked at hers, made a contrast that I strongly felt. It would have
rankled in me more than it did, if I had not regarded myself as
eliciting it by being so set apart for her and assigned to her.
The garden was too overgrown and rank for walking in with ease, and
after we had made the round of it twice or thrice, we came out
again into the brewery yard. I showed her to a nicety where I had
seen her walking on the casks, that first old day, and she said,
with a cold and careless look in that direction, "Did I?" I
reminded her where she had come out of the house and given me my
meat and drink, and she said, "I don't remember." "Not remember
that you made me cry?" said I. "No," said she, and shook her head
and looked about her. I verily believe that her not remembering and
not minding in the least, made me cry again, inwardly - and that is
the sharpest crying of all.
"You must know," said Estella, condescending to me as a brilliant
and beautiful woman might, "that I have no heart - if that has
anything to do with my memory."
I got through some jargon to the effect that I took the liberty of
doubting that. That I knew better. That there could be no such
beauty without it.
"Oh! I have a heart to be stabbed in or shot in, I have no doubt,"
said Estella, "and, of course, if it ceased to beat I should cease
to be. But you know what I mean. I have no softness there, no -
sympathy - sentiment - nonsense."
What was it that was borne in upon my mind when she stood still and
looked attentively at me? Anything that I had seen in Miss
Havisham? No. In some of her looks and gestures there was that
tinge of resemblance to Miss Havisham which may often be noticed to
have been acquired by children, from grown person with whom they
have been much associated and secluded, and which, when childhood
is passed, will produce a remarkable occasional likeness of
expression between faces that are otherwise quite different. And
yet I could not trace this to Miss Havisham. I looked again, and
though she was still looking at me, the suggestion was gone.
What was it?
"I am serious," said Estella, not so much with a frown (for her
brow was smooth) as with a darkening of her face; "if we are to be
thrown much together, you had better believe it at once. No!"
imperiously stopping me as I opened my lips. "I have not bestowed
my tenderness anywhere. I have never had any such thing."
In another moment we were in the brewery so long disused, and she
pointed to the high gallery where I had seen her going out on that
same first day, and told me she remembered to have been up there,
and to have seen me standing scared below. As my eyes followed her
white hand, again the same dim suggestion that I could not possibly
grasp, crossed me. My involuntary start occasioned her to lay her
hand upon my arm. Instantly the ghost passed once more, and was
What was it?
"What is the matter?" asked Estella. "Are you scared again?"
"I should be, if I believed what you said just now," I replied, to
turn it off.
"Then you don't? Very well. It is said, at any rate. Miss Havisham
will soon be expecting you at your old post, though I think that
might be laid aside now, with other old belongings. Let us make one
more round of the garden, and then go in. Come! You shall not shed
tears for my cruelty to-day; you shall be my Page, and give me your
Her handsome dress had trailed upon the ground. She held it in one
hand now, and with the other lightly touched my shoulder as we
walked. We walked round the ruined garden twice or thrice more, and
it was all in bloom for me. If the green and yellow growth of weed
in the chinks of the old wall had been the most precious flowers
that ever blew, it could not have been more cherished in my
There was no discrepancy of years between us, to remove her far
from me; we were of nearly the same age, though of course the age
told for more in her case than in mine; but the air of
inaccessibility which her beauty and her manner gave her, tormented
me in the midst of my delight, and at the height of the assurance I
felt that our patroness had chosen us for one another. Wretched
At last we went back into the house, and there I heard, with
surprise, that my guardian had come down to see Miss Havisham on
business, and would come back to dinner. The old wintry branches of
chandeliers in the room where the mouldering table was spread, had
been lighted while we were out, and Miss Havisham was in her chair
and waiting for me.
It was like pushing the chair itself back into the past, when we
began the old slow circuit round about the ashes of the bridal
feast. But, in the funereal room, with that figure of the grave
fallen back in the chair fixing its eyes upon her, Estella looked
more bright and beautiful than before, and I was under stronger
The time so melted away, that our early dinner-hour drew close at
hand, and Estella left us to prepare herself. We had stopped near
the centre of the long table, and Miss Havisham, with one of her
withered arms stretched out of the chair, rested that clenched hand
upon the yellow cloth. As Estella looked back over her shoulder
before going out at the door, Miss Havisham kissed that hand to
her, with a ravenous intensity that was of its kind quite dreadful.
Then, Estella being gone and we two left alone, she turned to me,
and said in a whisper:
"Is she beautiful, graceful, well-grown? Do you admire her?"
"Everybody must who sees her, Miss Havisham."
She drew an arm round my neck, and drew my head close down to hers
as she sat in the chair. "Love her, love her, love her! How does
she use you?"
Before I could answer (if I could have answered so difficult a
question at all), she repeated, "Love her, love her, love her! If
she favours you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she
tears your heart to pieces - and as it gets older and stronger, it
will tear deeper - love her, love her, love her!"
Never had I seen such passionate eagerness as was joined to her
utterance of these words. I could feel the muscles of the thin arm
round my neck, swell with the vehemence that possessed her.
"Hear me, Pip! I adopted her to be loved. I bred her and educated
her, to be loved. I developed her into what she is, that she might
be loved. Love her!"
She said the word often enough, and there could be no doubt that
she meant to say it; but if the often repeated word had been hate
instead of love - despair - revenge - dire death - it could not
have sounded from her lips more like a curse.
"I'll tell you," said she, in the same hurried passionate whisper,
"what real love is. It is blind devotion, unquestioning
self-humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against
yourself and against the whole world, giving up your whole heart
and soul to the smiter - as I did!"
When she came to that, and to a wild cry that followed that, I
caught her round the waist. For she rose up in the chair, in her
shroud of a dress, and struck at the air as if she would as soon
have struck herself against the wall and fallen dead.
All this passed in a few seconds. As I drew her down into her
chair, I was conscious of a scent that I knew, and turning, saw my
guardian in the room.
He always carried (I have not yet mentioned it, I think) a
pocket-handkerchief of rich silk and of imposing proportions, which
was of great value to him in his profession. I have seen him so
terrify a client or a witness by ceremoniously unfolding this
pocket-handkerchief as if he were immediately going to blow his
nose, and then pausing, as if he knew he should not have time to do
it before such client or witness committed himself, that the
self-committal has followed directly, quite as a matter of course.
When I saw him in the room, he had this expressive
pockethandkerchief in both hands, and was looking at us. On meeting
my eye, he said plainly, by a momentary and silent pause in that
attitude, "Indeed? Singular!" and then put the handkerchief to its
right use with wonderful effect.
Miss Havisham had seen him as soon as I, and was (like everybody
else) afraid of him. She made a strong attempt to compose herself,
and stammered that he was as punctual as ever.
"As punctual as ever," he repeated, coming up to us. "(How do you
do, Pip? Shall I give you a ride, Miss Havisham? Once round?)
And so you are here, Pip?"
I told him when I had arrived, and how Miss Havisham had wished me
to come and see Estella. To which he replied, "Ah! Very fine young
lady!" Then he pushed Miss Havisham in her chair before him, with
one of his large hands, and put the other in his trousers-pocket as
if the pocket were full of secrets.
"Well, Pip! How often have you seen Miss Estella before?" said he,
when he came to a stop.
"How often?"
"Ah! How many times? Ten thousand times?"
"Oh! Certainly not so many."
"Jaggers," interposed Miss Havisham, much to my relief; "leave my
Pip alone, and go with him to your dinner."
He complied, and we groped our way down the dark stairs together.
While we were still on our way to those detached apartments across
the paved yard at the back, he asked me how often I had seen Miss
Havisham eat and drink; offering me a breadth of choice, as usual,
between a hundred times and once.
I considered, and said, "Never."
"And never will, Pip," he retorted, with a frowning smile. "She has
never allowed herself to be seen doing either, since she lived this
present life of hers. She wanders about in the night, and then lays
hands on such food as she takes."
"Pray, sir," said I, "may I ask you a question?"
"You may," said he, "and I may decline to answer it. Put your
"Estella's name. Is it Havisham or - ?" I had nothing to add.
"Or what?" said he.
"Is it Havisham?"
"It is Havisham."
This brought us to the dinner-table, where she and Sarah Pocket
awaited us. Mr. Jaggers presided, Estella sat opposite to him, I
faced my green and yellow friend. We dined very well, and were
waited on by a maid-servant whom I had never seen in all my comings
and goings, but who, for anything I know, had been in that
mysterious house the whole time. After dinner, a bottle of choice
old port was placed before my guardian (he was evidently well
acquainted with the vintage), and the two ladies left us.
Anything to equal the determined reticence of Mr. Jaggers under that
roof, I never saw elsewhere, even in him. He kept his very looks to
himself, and scarcely directed his eyes to Estella's face once
during dinner. When she spoke to him, he listened, and in due
course answered, but never looked at her, that I could see. On the
other hand, she often looked at him, with interest and curiosity,
if not distrust, but his face never, showed the least
consciousness. Throughout dinner he took a dry delight in making
Sarah Pocket greener and yellower, by often referring in
conversation with me to my expectations; but here, again, he showed
no consciousness, and even made it appear that he extorted - and
even did extort, though I don't know how - those references out of
my innocent self.
And when he and I were left alone together, he sat with an air upon
him of general lying by in consequence of information he possessed,
that really was too much for me. He cross-examined his very wine
when he had nothing else in hand. He held it between himself and
the candle, tasted the port, rolled it in his mouth, swallowed it,
looked at his glass again, smelt the port, tried it, drank it,
filled again, and cross-examined the glass again, until I was as
nervous as if I had known the wine to be telling him something to
my disadvantage. Three or four times I feebly thought I would start
conversation; but whenever he saw me going to ask him anything, he
looked at me with his glass in his hand, and rolling his wine about
in his mouth, as if requesting me to take notice that it was of no
use, for he couldn't answer.
I think Miss Pocket was conscious that the sight of me involved her
in the danger of being goaded to madness, and perhaps tearing off
her cap - which was a very hideous one, in the nature of a muslin
mop - and strewing the ground with her hair - which assuredly had
never grown on her head. She did not appear when we afterwards went
up to Miss Havisham's room, and we four played at whist. In the
interval, Miss Havisham, in a fantastic way, had put some of the
most beautiful jewels from her dressing-table into Estella's hair,
and about her bosom and arms; and I saw even my guardian look at
her from under his thick eyebrows, and raise them a little, when
her loveliness was before him, with those rich flushes of glitter
and colour in it.
Of the manner and extent to which he took our trumps into custody,
and came out with mean little cards at the ends of hands, before
which the glory of our Kings and Queens was utterly abased, I say
nothing; nor, of the feeling that I had, respecting his looking
upon us personally in the light of three very obvious and poor
riddles that he had found out long ago. What I suffered from, was
the incompatibility between his cold presence and my feelings
towards Estella. It was not that I knew I could never bear to speak
to him about her, that I knew I could never bear to hear him creak
his boots at her, that I knew I could never bear to see him wash
his hands of her; it was, that my admiration should be within a
foot or two of him - it was, that my feelings should be in the same
place with him - that, was the agonizing circumstance.
We played until nine o'clock, and then it was arranged that when
Estella came to London I should be forewarned of her coming and
should meet her at the coach; and then I took leave of her, and
touched her and left her.
My guardian lay at the Boar in the next room to mine. Far into the
night, Miss Havisham's words, "Love her, love her, love her!"
sounded in my ears. I adapted them for my own repetition, and said
to my pillow, "I love her, I love her, I love her!" hundreds of
times. Then, a burst of gratitude came upon me, that she should be
destined for me, once the blacksmith's boy. Then, I thought if she
were, as I feared, by no means rapturously grateful for that
destiny yet, when would she begin to be interested in me? When
should I awaken the heart within her, that was mute and sleeping
Ah me! I thought those were high and great emotions. But I never
thought there was anything low and small in my keeping away from
Joe, because I knew she would be contemptuous of him. It was but a
day gone, and Joe had brought the tears into my eyes; they had soon
dried, God forgive me! soon dried.
Chapter 30
After well considering the matter while I was dressing at the Blue
Boar in the morning, I resolved to tell my guardian that I doubted
Orlick's being the right sort of man to fill a post of trust at
Miss Havisham's. "Why, of course he is not the right sort of man,
Pip," said my guardian, comfortably satisfied beforehand on the
general head, "because the man who fills the post of trust never is
the right sort of man." It seemed quite to put him into spirits, to
find that this particular post was not exceptionally held by the
right sort of man, and he listened in a satisfied manner while I
told him what knowledge I had of Orlick. "Very good, Pip," he
observed, when I had concluded, "I'll go round presently, and pay
our friend off." Rather alarmed by this summary action, I was for a
little delay, and even hinted that our friend himself might be
difficult to deal with. "Oh no he won't," said my guardian, making
his pocket-handkerchief-point, with perfect confidence; "I should
like to see him argue the question with me."
As we were going back together to London by the mid-day coach, and
as I breakfasted under such terrors of Pumblechook that I could
scarcely hold my cup, this gave me an opportunity of saying that I
wanted a walk, and that I would go on along the London-road while
Mr. Jaggers was occupied, if he would let the coachman know that I
would get into my place when overtaken. I was thus enabled to fly
from the Blue Boar immediately after breakfast. By then making a
loop of about a couple of miles into the open country at the back
of Pumblechook's premises, I got round into the High-street again,
a little beyond that pitfall, and felt myself in comparative
It was interesting to be in the quiet old town once more, and it
was not disagreeable to be here and there suddenly recognized and
stared after. One or two of the tradespeople even darted out of
their shops and went a little way down the street before me, that
they might turn, as if they had forgotten something, and pass me
face to face - on which occasions I don't know whether they or I
made the worse pretence; they of not doing it, or I of not seeing
it. Still my position was a distinguished one, and I was not at all
dissatisfied with it, until Fate threw me in the way of that
unlimited miscreant, Trabb's boy.
Casting my eyes along the street at a certain point of my progress,
I beheld Trabb's boy approaching, lashing himself with an empty
blue bag. Deeming that a serene and unconscious contemplation of
him would best beseem me, and would be most likely to quell his
evil mind, I advanced with that expression of countenance, and was
rather congratulating myself on my success, when suddenly the knees
of Trabb's boy smote together, his hair uprose, his cap fell off,
he trembled violently in every limb, staggered out into the road,
and crying to the populace, "Hold me! I'm so frightened!" feigned to
be in a paroxysm of terror and contrition, occasioned by the
dignity of my appearance. As I passed him, his teeth loudly
chattered in his head, and with every mark of extreme humiliation,
he prostrated himself in the dust.
This was a hard thing to bear, but this was nothing. I had not
advanced another two hundred yards, when, to my inexpressible
terror, amazement, and indignation, I again beheld Trabb's boy
approaching. He was coming round a narrow corner. His blue bag was
slung over his shoulder, honest industry beamed in his eyes, a
determination to proceed to Trabb's with cheerful briskness was
indicated in his gait. With a shock he became aware of me, and was
severely visited as before; but this time his motion was rotatory,
and he staggered round and round me with knees more afflicted, and
with uplifted hands as if beseeching for mercy. His sufferings were
hailed with the greatest joy by a knot of spectators, and I felt
utterly confounded.
I had not got as much further down the street as the post-office,
when I again beheld Trabb's boy shooting round by a back way. This
time, he was entirely changed. He wore the blue bag in the manner
of my great-coat, and was strutting along the pavement towards me
on the opposite side of the street, attended by a company of
delighted young friends to whom he from time to time exclaimed,
with a wave of his hand, "Don't know yah!" Words cannot state the
amount of aggravation and injury wreaked upon me by Trabb's boy,
when, passing abreast of me, he pulled up his shirt-collar, twined
his side-hair, stuck an arm akimbo, and smirked extravagantly by,
wriggling his elbows and body, and drawling to his attendants,
"Don't know yah, don't know yah, pon my soul don't know yah!" The
disgrace attendant on his immediately afterwards taking to crowing
and pursuing me across the bridge with crows, as from an
exceedingly dejected fowl who had known me when I was a blacksmith,
culminated the disgrace with which I left the town, and was, so to
speak, ejected by it into the open country.
But unless I had taken the life of Trabb's boy on that occasion, I
really do not even now see what I could have done save endure. To
have struggled with him in the street, or to have exacted any lower
recompense from him than his heart's best blood, would have been
futile and degrading. Moreover, he was a boy whom no man could
hurt; an invulnerable and dodging serpent who, when chased into a
corner, flew out again between his captor's legs, scornfully
yelping. I wrote, however, to Mr. Trabb by next day's post, to say
that Mr. Pip must decline to deal further with one who could so far
forget what he owed to the best interests of society, as to employ
a boy who excited Loathing in every respectable mind.
The coach, with Mr. Jaggers inside, came up in due time, and I took
my box-seat again, and arrived in London safe - but not sound, for
my heart was gone. As soon as I arrived, I sent a penitential
codfish and barrel of oysters to Joe (as reparation for not having
gone myself), and then went on to Barnard's Inn.
I found Herbert dining on cold meat, and delighted to welcome me
back. Having despatched The Avenger to the coffee-house for an
addition to the dinner, I felt that I must open my breast that very
evening to my friend and chum. As confidence was out of the
question with The Avenger in the hall, which could merely be
regarded in the light of an ante-chamber to the keyhole, I sent him
to the Play. A better proof of the severity of my bondage to that
taskmaster could scarcely be afforded, than the degrading shifts to
which I was constantly driven to find him employment. So mean is
extremity, that I sometimes sent him to Hyde Park Corner to see
what o'clock it was.
Dinner done and we sitting with our feet upon the fender, I said to
Herbert, "My dear Herbert, I have something very particular to tell
"My dear Handel," he returned, "I shall esteem and respect your
"It concerns myself, Herbert," said I, "and one other person."
Herbert crossed his feet, looked at the fire with his head on one
side, and having looked at it in vain for some time, looked at me
because I didn't go on.
"Herbert," said I, laying my hand upon his knee, "I love - I adore
- Estella."
Instead of being transfixed, Herbert replied in an easy
matter-ofcourse way, "Exactly. Well?"
"Well, Herbert? Is that all you say? Well?"
"What next, I mean?" said Herbert. "Of course I know that."
"How do you know it?" said I.
"How do I know it, Handel? Why, from you."
"I never told you."
"Told me! You have never told me when you have got your hair cut,
but I have had senses to perceive it. You have always adored her,
ever since I have known you. You brought your adoration and your
portmanteau here, together. Told me! Why, you have always told me
all day long. When you told me your own story, you told me plainly
that you began adoring her the first time you saw her, when you
were very young indeed."
"Very well, then," said I, to whom this was a new and not unwelcome
light, "I have never left off adoring her. And she has come back, a
most beautiful and most elegant creature. And I saw her yesterday.
And if I adored her before, I now doubly adore her."
"Lucky for you then, Handel," said Herbert, "that you are picked
out for her and allotted to her. Without encroaching on forbidden
ground, we may venture to say that there can be no doubt between
ourselves of that fact. Have you any idea yet, of Estella's views
on the adoration question?"
I shook my head gloomily. "Oh! She is thousands of miles away, from
me," said I.
"Patience, my dear Handel: time enough, time enough. But you have
something more to say?"
"I am ashamed to say it," I returned, "and yet it's no worse to say
it than to think it. You call me a lucky fellow. Of course, I am. I
was a blacksmith's boy but yesterday; I am - what shall I say I am
- to-day?"
"Say, a good fellow, if you want a phrase," returned Herbert,
smiling, and clapping his hand on the back of mine, "a good fellow,
with impetuosity and hesitation, boldness and diffidence, action
and dreaming, curiously mixed in him."
I stopped for a moment to consider whether there really was this
mixture in my character. On the whole, I by no means recognized the
analysis, but thought it not worth disputing.
"When I ask what I am to call myself to-day, Herbert," I went on,
"I suggest what I have in my thoughts. You say I am lucky. I know I
have done nothing to raise myself in life, and that Fortune alone
has raised me; that is being very lucky. And yet, when I think of
("And when don't you, you know?" Herbert threw in, with his eyes on
the fire; which I thought kind and sympathetic of him.)
" - Then, my dear Herbert, I cannot tell you how dependent and
uncertain I feel, and how exposed to hundreds of chances. Avoiding
forbidden ground, as you did just now, I may still say that on the
constancy of one person (naming no person) all my expectations
depend. And at the best, how indefinite and unsatisfactory, only to
know so vaguely what they are!" In saying this, I relieved my mind
of what had always been there, more or less, though no doubt most
since yesterday.
"Now, Handel," Herbert replied, in his gay hopeful way, "it seems
to me that in the despondency of the tender passion, we are looking
into our gift-horse's mouth with a magnifying-glass. Likewise, it
seems to me that, concentrating our attention on the examination,
we altogether overlook one of the best points of the animal. Didn't
you tell me that your guardian, Mr. Jaggers, told you in the
beginning, that you were not endowed with expectations only? And
even if he had not told you so - though that is a very large If, I
grant - could you believe that of all men in London, Mr. Jaggers is
the man to hold his present relations towards you unless he were
sure of his ground?"
I said I could not deny that this was a strong point. I said it
(people often do so, in such cases) like a rather reluctant
concession to truth and justice; - as if I wanted to deny it!
"I should think it was a strong point," said Herbert, "and I should
think you would be puzzled to imagine a stronger; as to the rest,
you must bide your guardian's time, and he must bide his client's
time. You'll be one-and-twenty before you know where you are, and
then perhaps you'll get some further enlightenment. At all events,
you'll be nearer getting it, for it must come at last."
"What a hopeful disposition you have!" said I, gratefully admiring
his cheery ways.
"I ought to have," said Herbert, "for I have not much else. I must
acknowledge, by-the-bye, that the good sense of what I have just
said is not my own, but my father's. The only remark I ever heard
him make on your story, was the final one: "The thing is settled
and done, or Mr. Jaggers would not be in it." And now before I say
anything more about my father, or my father's son, and repay
confidence with confidence, I want to make myself seriously
disagreeable to you for a moment - positively repulsive."
"You won't succeed," said I.
"Oh yes I shall!" said he. "One, two, three, and now I am in for
it. Handel, my good fellow;" though he spoke in this light tone, he
was very much in earnest: "I have been thinking since we have been
talking with our feet on this fender, that Estella surely cannot be
a condition of your inheritance, if she was never referred to by
your guardian. Am I right in so understanding what you have told
me, as that he never referred to her, directly or indirectly, in
any way? Never even hinted, for instance, that your patron might
have views as to your marriage ultimately?"
"Now, Handel, I am quite free from the flavour of sour grapes, upon
my soul and honour! Not being bound to her, can you not detach
yourself from her? - I told you I should be disagreeable."
I turned my head aside, for, with a rush and a sweep, like the old
marsh winds coming up from the sea, a feeling like that which had
subdued me on the morning when I left the forge, when the mists
were solemnly rising, and when I laid my hand upon the village
finger-post, smote upon my heart again. There was silence between
us for a little while.
"Yes; but my dear Handel," Herbert went on, as if we had been
talking instead of silent, "its having been so strongly rooted in
the breast of a boy whom nature and circumstances made so romantic,
renders it very serious. Think of her bringing-up, and think of
Miss Havisham. Think of what she is herself (now I am repulsive and
you abominate me). This may lead to miserable things."
"I know it, Herbert," said I, with my head still turned away, "but
I can't help it."
"You can't detach yourself?"
"No. Impossible!"
"You can't try, Handel?"
"No. Impossible!"
"Well!" said Herbert, getting up with a lively shake as if he had
been asleep, and stirring the fire; "now I'll endeavour to make
myself agreeable again!"
So he went round the room and shook the curtains out, put the
chairs in their places, tidied the books and so forth that were
lying about, looked into the hall, peeped into the letter-box, shut
the door, and came back to his chair by the fire: where he sat
down, nursing his left leg in both arms.
"I was going to say a word or two, Handel, concerning my father and
my father's son. I am afraid it is scarcely necessary for my
father's son to remark that my father's establishment is not
particularly brilliant in its housekeeping."
"There is always plenty, Herbert," said I: to say something
"Oh yes! and so the dustman says, I believe, with the strongest

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