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Great Expectations

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Chapter XXVIII.


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 notes!

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 behind.

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 dock-yards 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.

“O 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 recognised. “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 despised.

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 recognised 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-shouldered on one side, in my shrinking endeavours to fend him off.

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 recognise 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. The 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 recognised,—“it was all said and done in half a minute, behind a pile of timber in the Dock-yard,—‘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 apologised 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 thought-contracted 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 XXIX.


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 courtyard; 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.

“Orlick!”

“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 here,” he retorted, “on my legs. I had my box brought alongside me in a barrow.”

“Are you here for good?”

“I ain’t here 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 here some time since you left.”

“I could have told you that, Orlick.”

“Ah!” said he, dryly. “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 courtyard. 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,—

“Well?”

“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.”

“Well?”

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 company.”

“He and I are great friends now.”

“Are you? I think I recollect though, that you read with his father?”

“Yes.”

I made the admission with reluctance, for it seemed to have a boyish look, and she already treated me more than enough like a boy.

“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 gone.

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 shoulder.”

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 remembrance.

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 boy!

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 enchantment.

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 pocket-handkerchief 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.”

“Twice?”

“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 question.”

“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.

[Illustration]

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 now?

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 XXX.


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 midday 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 security.

It was interesting to be in the quiet old town once more, and it was not disagreeable to be here and there suddenly recognised 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.

[Illustration]

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 antechamber 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 you.”

“My dear Handel,” he returned, “I shall esteem and respect your confidence.”

“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-of-course 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 recognised 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 Estella—”

(“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 by, 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.

“O 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?”

“Never.”

“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 encouraging.

“O yes! and so the dustman says, I believe, with the strongest approval, and so does the marine-store shop in the back street. Gravely, Handel, for the subject is grave enough, you know how it is as well as I do. I suppose there was a time once when my father had not given matters up; but if ever there was, the time is gone. May I ask you if you have ever had an opportunity of remarking, down in your part of the country, that the children of not exactly suitable marriages are always most particularly anxious to be married?”

This was such a singular question, that I asked him in return, “Is it so?”

“I don’t know,” said Herbert, “that’s what I want to know. Because it is decidedly the case with us. My poor sister Charlotte, who was next me and died before she was fourteen, was a striking example. Little Jane is the same. In her desire to be matrimonially established, you might suppose her to have passed her short existence in the perpetual contemplation of domestic bliss. Little Alick in a frock has already made arrangements for his union with a suitable young person at Kew. And indeed, I think we are all engaged, except the baby.”

“Then you are?” said I.

“I am,” said Herbert; “but it’s a secret.”

I assured him of my keeping the secret, and begged to be favoured with further particulars. He had spoken so sensibly and feelingly of my weakness that I wanted to know something about his strength.

“May I ask the name?” I said.

“Name of Clara,” said Herbert.

“Live in London?”

“Yes, perhaps I ought to mention,” said Herbert, who had become curiously crestfallen and meek, since we entered on the interesting theme, “that she is rather below my mother’s nonsensical family notions. Her father had to do with the victualling of passenger-ships. I think he was a species of purser.”

“What is he now?” said I.

“He’s an invalid now,” replied Herbert.

“Living on—?”

“On the first floor,” said Herbert. Which was not at all what I meant, for I had intended my question to apply to his means. “I have never seen him, for he has always kept his room overhead, since I have known Clara. But I have heard him constantly. He makes tremendous rows,—roars, and pegs at the floor with some frightful instrument.” In looking at me and then laughing heartily, Herbert for the time recovered his usual lively manner.

“Don’t you expect to see him?” said I.

“O yes, I constantly expect to see him,” returned Herbert, “because I never hear him, without expecting him to come tumbling through the ceiling. But I don’t know how long the rafters may hold.”

When he had once more laughed heartily, he became meek again, and told me that the moment he began to realise Capital, it was his intention to marry this young lady. He added as a self-evident proposition, engendering low spirits, “But you can’t marry, you know, while you’re looking about you.”

As we contemplated the fire, and as I thought what a difficult vision to realise this same Capital sometimes was, I put my hands in my pockets. A folded piece of paper in one of them attracting my attention, I opened it and found it to be the play-bill I had received from Joe, relative to the celebrated provincial amateur of Roscian renown. “And bless my heart,” I involuntarily added aloud, “it’s to-night!”

This changed the subject in an instant, and made us hurriedly resolve to go to the play. So, when I had pledged myself to comfort and abet Herbert in the affair of his heart by all practicable and impracticable means, and when Herbert had told me that his affianced already knew me by reputation and that I should be presented to her, and when we had warmly shaken hands upon our mutual confidence, we blew out our candles, made up our fire, locked our door, and issued forth in quest of Mr. Wopsle and Denmark.