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Great Expectations

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Chapter XXXI.


On our arrival in Denmark, we found the king and queen of that country elevated in two arm-chairs on a kitchen-table, holding a Court. The whole of the Danish nobility were in attendance; consisting of a noble boy in the wash-leather boots of a gigantic ancestor, a venerable Peer with a dirty face who seemed to have risen from the people late in life, and the Danish chivalry with a comb in its hair and a pair of white silk legs, and presenting on the whole a feminine appearance. My gifted townsman stood gloomily apart, with folded arms, and I could have wished that his curls and forehead had been more probable.

Several curious little circumstances transpired as the action proceeded. The late king of the country not only appeared to have been troubled with a cough at the time of his decease, but to have taken it with him to the tomb, and to have brought it back. The royal phantom also carried a ghostly manuscript round its truncheon, to which it had the appearance of occasionally referring, and that too, with an air of anxiety and a tendency to lose the place of reference which were suggestive of a state of mortality. It was this, I conceive, which led to the Shade’s being advised by the gallery to “turn over!”—a recommendation which it took extremely ill. It was likewise to be noted of this majestic spirit, that whereas it always appeared with an air of having been out a long time and walked an immense distance, it perceptibly came from a closely contiguous wall. This occasioned its terrors to be received derisively. The Queen of Denmark, a very buxom lady, though no doubt historically brazen, was considered by the public to have too much brass about her; her chin being attached to her diadem by a broad band of that metal (as if she had a gorgeous toothache), her waist being encircled by another, and each of her arms by another, so that she was openly mentioned as “the kettle-drum.” The noble boy in the ancestral boots was inconsistent, representing himself, as it were in one breath, as an able seaman, a strolling actor, a grave-digger, a clergyman, and a person of the utmost importance at a Court fencing-match, on the authority of whose practised eye and nice discrimination the finest strokes were judged. This gradually led to a want of toleration for him, and even—on his being detected in holy orders, and declining to perform the funeral service—to the general indignation taking the form of nuts. Lastly, Ophelia was a prey to such slow musical madness, that when, in course of time, she had taken off her white muslin scarf, folded it up, and buried it, a sulky man who had been long cooling his impatient nose against an iron bar in the front row of the gallery, growled, “Now the baby’s put to bed let’s have supper!” Which, to say the least of it, was out of keeping.

Upon my unfortunate townsman all these incidents accumulated with playful effect. Whenever that undecided Prince had to ask a question or state a doubt, the public helped him out with it. As for example; on the question whether ’twas nobler in the mind to suffer, some roared yes, and some no, and some inclining to both opinions said “Toss up for it;” and quite a Debating Society arose. When he asked what should such fellows as he do crawling between earth and heaven, he was encouraged with loud cries of “Hear, hear!” When he appeared with his stocking disordered (its disorder expressed, according to usage, by one very neat fold in the top, which I suppose to be always got up with a flat iron), a conversation took place in the gallery respecting the paleness of his leg, and whether it was occasioned by the turn the ghost had given him. On his taking the recorders,—very like a little black flute that had just been played in the orchestra and handed out at the door,—he was called upon unanimously for Rule Britannia. When he recommended the player not to saw the air thus, the sulky man said, “And don’t you do it, neither; you’re a deal worse than him!” And I grieve to add that peals of laughter greeted Mr. Wopsle on every one of these occasions.

But his greatest trials were in the churchyard, which had the appearance of a primeval forest, with a kind of small ecclesiastical wash-house on one side, and a turnpike gate on the other. Mr. Wopsle in a comprehensive black cloak, being descried entering at the turnpike, the gravedigger was admonished in a friendly way, “Look out! Here’s the undertaker a coming, to see how you’re a getting on with your work!” I believe it is well known in a constitutional country that Mr. Wopsle could not possibly have returned the skull, after moralizing over it, without dusting his fingers on a white napkin taken from his breast; but even that innocent and indispensable action did not pass without the comment, “Wai-ter!” The arrival of the body for interment (in an empty black box with the lid tumbling open), was the signal for a general joy, which was much enhanced by the discovery, among the bearers, of an individual obnoxious to identification. The joy attended Mr. Wopsle through his struggle with Laertes on the brink of the orchestra and the grave, and slackened no more until he had tumbled the king off the kitchen-table, and had died by inches from the ankles upward.

We had made some pale efforts in the beginning to applaud Mr. Wopsle; but they were too hopeless to be persisted in. Therefore we had sat, feeling keenly for him, but laughing, nevertheless, from ear to ear. I laughed in spite of myself all the time, the whole thing was so droll; and yet I had a latent impression that there was something decidedly fine in Mr. Wopsle’s elocution,—not for old associations’ sake, I am afraid, but because it was very slow, very dreary, very uphill and downhill, and very unlike any way in which any man in any natural circumstances of life or death ever expressed himself about anything. When the tragedy was over, and he had been called for and hooted, I said to Herbert, “Let us go at once, or perhaps we shall meet him.”

We made all the haste we could downstairs, but we were not quick enough either. Standing at the door was a Jewish man with an unnatural heavy smear of eyebrow, who caught my eyes as we advanced, and said, when we came up with him,—

“Mr. Pip and friend?”

Identity of Mr. Pip and friend confessed.

“Mr. Waldengarver,” said the man, “would be glad to have the honour.”

“Waldengarver?” I repeated—when Herbert murmured in my ear, “Probably Wopsle.”

“Oh!” said I. “Yes. Shall we follow you?”

“A few steps, please.” When we were in a side alley, he turned and asked, “How did you think he looked?—I dressed him.”

I don’t know what he had looked like, except a funeral; with the addition of a large Danish sun or star hanging round his neck by a blue ribbon, that had given him the appearance of being insured in some extraordinary Fire Office. But I said he had looked very nice.

“When he come to the grave,” said our conductor, “he showed his cloak beautiful. But, judging from the wing, it looked to me that when he see the ghost in the queen’s apartment, he might have made more of his stockings.”

I modestly assented, and we all fell through a little dirty swing door, into a sort of hot packing-case immediately behind it. Here Mr. Wopsle was divesting himself of his Danish garments, and here there was just room for us to look at him over one another’s shoulders, by keeping the packing-case door, or lid, wide open.

“Gentlemen,” said Mr. Wopsle, “I am proud to see you. I hope, Mr. Pip, you will excuse my sending round. I had the happiness to know you in former times, and the Drama has ever had a claim which has ever been acknowledged, on the noble and the affluent.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Waldengarver, in a frightful perspiration, was trying to get himself out of his princely sables.

“Skin the stockings off Mr. Waldengarver,” said the owner of that property, “or you’ll bust ’em. Bust ’em, and you’ll bust five-and-thirty shillings. Shakspeare never was complimented with a finer pair. Keep quiet in your chair now, and leave ’em to me.”

With that, he went upon his knees, and began to flay his victim; who, on the first stocking coming off, would certainly have fallen over backward with his chair, but for there being no room to fall anyhow.

I had been afraid until then to say a word about the play. But then, Mr. Waldengarver looked up at us complacently, and said,—

“Gentlemen, how did it seem to you, to go, in front?”

Herbert said from behind (at the same time poking me), “Capitally.” So I said “Capitally.”

“How did you like my reading of the character, gentlemen?” said Mr. Waldengarver, almost, if not quite, with patronage.

Herbert said from behind (again poking me), “Massive and concrete.” So I said boldly, as if I had originated it, and must beg to insist upon it, “Massive and concrete.”

“I am glad to have your approbation, gentlemen,” said Mr. Waldengarver, with an air of dignity, in spite of his being ground against the wall at the time, and holding on by the seat of the chair.

“But I’ll tell you one thing, Mr. Waldengarver,” said the man who was on his knees, “in which you’re out in your reading. Now mind! I don’t care who says contrairy; I tell you so. You’re out in your reading of Hamlet when you get your legs in profile. The last Hamlet as I dressed, made the same mistakes in his reading at rehearsal, till I got him to put a large red wafer on each of his shins, and then at that rehearsal (which was the last) I went in front, sir, to the back of the pit, and whenever his reading brought him into profile, I called out “I don’t see no wafers!” And at night his reading was lovely.”

Mr. Waldengarver smiled at me, as much as to say “a faithful Dependent—I overlook his folly;” and then said aloud, “My view is a little classic and thoughtful for them here; but they will improve, they will improve.”

Herbert and I said together, O, no doubt they would improve.

“Did you observe, gentlemen,” said Mr. Waldengarver, “that there was a man in the gallery who endeavoured to cast derision on the service,—I mean, the representation?”

We basely replied that we rather thought we had noticed such a man. I added, “He was drunk, no doubt.”

“O dear no, sir,” said Mr. Wopsle, “not drunk. His employer would see to that, sir. His employer would not allow him to be drunk.”

“You know his employer?” said I.

Mr. Wopsle shut his eyes, and opened them again; performing both ceremonies very slowly. “You must have observed, gentlemen,” said he, “an ignorant and a blatant ass, with a rasping throat and a countenance expressive of low malignity, who went through—I will not say sustained—the rĂ´le (if I may use a French expression) of Claudius, King of Denmark. That is his employer, gentlemen. Such is the profession!”

Without distinctly knowing whether I should have been more sorry for Mr. Wopsle if he had been in despair, I was so sorry for him as it was, that I took the opportunity of his turning round to have his braces put on,—which jostled us out at the doorway,—to ask Herbert what he thought of having him home to supper? Herbert said he thought it would be kind to do so; therefore I invited him, and he went to Barnard’s with us, wrapped up to the eyes, and we did our best for him, and he sat until two o’clock in the morning, reviewing his success and developing his plans. I forget in detail what they were, but I have a general recollection that he was to begin with reviving the Drama, and to end with crushing it; inasmuch as his decease would leave it utterly bereft and without a chance or hope.

Miserably I went to bed after all, and miserably thought of Estella, and miserably dreamed that my expectations were all cancelled, and that I had to give my hand in marriage to Herbert’s Clara, or play Hamlet to Miss Havisham’s Ghost, before twenty thousand people, without knowing twenty words of it.


Chapter XXXII.


One day when I was busy with my books and Mr. Pocket, I received a note by the post, the mere outside of which threw me into a great flutter; for, though I had never seen the handwriting in which it was addressed, I divined whose hand it was. It had no set beginning, as Dear Mr. Pip, or Dear Pip, or Dear Sir, or Dear Anything, but ran thus:—

“I am to come to London the day after to-morrow by the midday coach. I believe it was settled you should meet me? At all events Miss Havisham has that impression, and I write in obedience to it. She sends you her regard.

“Yours, ESTELLA.”

If there had been time, I should probably have ordered several suits of clothes for this occasion; but as there was not, I was fain to be content with those I had. My appetite vanished instantly, and I knew no peace or rest until the day arrived. Not that its arrival brought me either; for, then I was worse than ever, and began haunting the coach-office in Wood Street, Cheapside, before the coach had left the Blue Boar in our town. For all that I knew this perfectly well, I still felt as if it were not safe to let the coach-office be out of my sight longer than five minutes at a time; and in this condition of unreason I had performed the first half-hour of a watch of four or five hours, when Wemmick ran against me.

“Halloa, Mr. Pip,” said he; “how do you do? I should hardly have thought this was your beat.”

I explained that I was waiting to meet somebody who was coming up by coach, and I inquired after the Castle and the Aged.

“Both flourishing thankye,” said Wemmick, “and particularly the Aged. He’s in wonderful feather. He’ll be eighty-two next birthday. I have a notion of firing eighty-two times, if the neighbourhood shouldn’t complain, and that cannon of mine should prove equal to the pressure. However, this is not London talk. Where do you think I am going to?”

“To the office?” said I, for he was tending in that direction.

“Next thing to it,” returned Wemmick, “I am going to Newgate. We are in a banker’s-parcel case just at present, and I have been down the road taking a squint at the scene of action, and thereupon must have a word or two with our client.”

“Did your client commit the robbery?” I asked.

“Bless your soul and body, no,” answered Wemmick, very drily. “But he is accused of it. So might you or I be. Either of us might be accused of it, you know.”

“Only neither of us is,” I remarked.

“Yah!” said Wemmick, touching me on the breast with his forefinger; “you’re a deep one, Mr. Pip! Would you like to have a look at Newgate? Have you time to spare?”

I had so much time to spare, that the proposal came as a relief, notwithstanding its irreconcilability with my latent desire to keep my eye on the coach-office. Muttering that I would make the inquiry whether I had time to walk with him, I went into the office, and ascertained from the clerk with the nicest precision and much to the trying of his temper, the earliest moment at which the coach could be expected,—which I knew beforehand, quite as well as he. I then rejoined Mr. Wemmick, and affecting to consult my watch, and to be surprised by the information I had received, accepted his offer.

We were at Newgate in a few minutes, and we passed through the lodge where some fetters were hanging up on the bare walls among the prison rules, into the interior of the jail. At that time jails were much neglected, and the period of exaggerated reaction consequent on all public wrongdoing—and which is always its heaviest and longest punishment—was still far off. So, felons were not lodged and fed better than soldiers (to say nothing of paupers), and seldom set fire to their prisons with the excusable object of improving the flavour of their soup. It was visiting time when Wemmick took me in, and a potman was going his rounds with beer; and the prisoners, behind bars in yards, were buying beer, and talking to friends; and a frowzy, ugly, disorderly, depressing scene it was.

It struck me that Wemmick walked among the prisoners much as a gardener might walk among his plants. This was first put into my head by his seeing a shoot that had come up in the night, and saying, “What, Captain Tom? Are you there? Ah, indeed!” and also, “Is that Black Bill behind the cistern? Why I didn’t look for you these two months; how do you find yourself?” Equally in his stopping at the bars and attending to anxious whisperers,—always singly,—Wemmick with his post-office in an immovable state, looked at them while in conference, as if he were taking particular notice of the advance they had made, since last observed, towards coming out in full blow at their trial.

He was highly popular, and I found that he took the familiar department of Mr. Jaggers’s business; though something of the state of Mr. Jaggers hung about him too, forbidding approach beyond certain limits. His personal recognition of each successive client was comprised in a nod, and in his settling his hat a little easier on his head with both hands, and then tightening the post-office, and putting his hands in his pockets. In one or two instances there was a difficulty respecting the raising of fees, and then Mr. Wemmick, backing as far as possible from the insufficient money produced, said, “it’s no use, my boy. I’m only a subordinate. I can’t take it. Don’t go on in that way with a subordinate. If you are unable to make up your quantum, my boy, you had better address yourself to a principal; there are plenty of principals in the profession, you know, and what is not worth the while of one, may be worth the while of another; that’s my recommendation to you, speaking as a subordinate. Don’t try on useless measures. Why should you? Now, who’s next?”

Thus, we walked through Wemmick’s greenhouse, until he turned to me and said, “Notice the man I shall shake hands with.” I should have done so, without the preparation, as he had shaken hands with no one yet.

Almost as soon as he had spoken, a portly upright man (whom I can see now, as I write) in a well-worn olive-coloured frock-coat, with a peculiar pallor overspreading the red in his complexion, and eyes that went wandering about when he tried to fix them, came up to a corner of the bars, and put his hand to his hat—which had a greasy and fatty surface like cold broth—with a half-serious and half-jocose military salute.

“Colonel, to you!” said Wemmick; “how are you, Colonel?”

“All right, Mr. Wemmick.”

“Everything was done that could be done, but the evidence was too strong for us, Colonel.”

“Yes, it was too strong, sir,—but I don’t care.”

“No, no,” said Wemmick, coolly, “you don’t care.” Then, turning to me, “Served His Majesty this man. Was a soldier in the line and bought his discharge.”

I said, “Indeed?” and the man’s eyes looked at me, and then looked over my head, and then looked all round me, and then he drew his hand across his lips and laughed.

“I think I shall be out of this on Monday, sir,” he said to Wemmick.

“Perhaps,” returned my friend, “but there’s no knowing.”

“I am glad to have the chance of bidding you good-bye, Mr. Wemmick,” said the man, stretching out his hand between two bars.

“Thankye,” said Wemmick, shaking hands with him. “Same to you, Colonel.”

“If what I had upon me when taken had been real, Mr. Wemmick,” said the man, unwilling to let his hand go, “I should have asked the favour of your wearing another ring—in acknowledgment of your attentions.”

“I’ll accept the will for the deed,” said Wemmick. “By the by; you were quite a pigeon-fancier.” The man looked up at the sky. “I am told you had a remarkable breed of tumblers. Could you commission any friend of yours to bring me a pair, if you’ve no further use for ’em?”

“It shall be done, sir.”

“All right,” said Wemmick, “they shall be taken care of. Good-afternoon, Colonel. Good-bye!” They shook hands again, and as we walked away Wemmick said to me, “A Coiner, a very good workman. The Recorder’s report is made to-day, and he is sure to be executed on Monday. Still you see, as far as it goes, a pair of pigeons are portable property all the same.” With that, he looked back, and nodded at this dead plant, and then cast his eyes about him in walking out of the yard, as if he were considering what other pot would go best in its place.

As we came out of the prison through the lodge, I found that the great importance of my guardian was appreciated by the turnkeys, no less than by those whom they held in charge. “Well, Mr. Wemmick,” said the turnkey, who kept us between the two studded and spiked lodge gates, and who carefully locked one before he unlocked the other, “what’s Mr. Jaggers going to do with that water-side murder? Is he going to make it manslaughter, or what’s he going to make of it?”

“Why don’t you ask him?” returned Wemmick.

“O yes, I dare say!” said the turnkey.

“Now, that’s the way with them here, Mr. Pip,” remarked Wemmick, turning to me with his post-office elongated. “They don’t mind what they ask of me, the subordinate; but you’ll never catch ’em asking any questions of my principal.”

“Is this young gentleman one of the ’prentices or articled ones of your office?” asked the turnkey, with a grin at Mr. Wemmick’s humour.

“There he goes again, you see!” cried Wemmick, “I told you so! Asks another question of the subordinate before his first is dry! Well, supposing Mr. Pip is one of them?”

“Why then,” said the turnkey, grinning again, “he knows what Mr. Jaggers is.”

“Yah!” cried Wemmick, suddenly hitting out at the turnkey in a facetious way, “you’re dumb as one of your own keys when you have to do with my principal, you know you are. Let us out, you old fox, or I’ll get him to bring an action against you for false imprisonment.”

The turnkey laughed, and gave us good day, and stood laughing at us over the spikes of the wicket when we descended the steps into the street.

“Mind you, Mr. Pip,” said Wemmick, gravely in my ear, as he took my arm to be more confidential; “I don’t know that Mr. Jaggers does a better thing than the way in which he keeps himself so high. He’s always so high. His constant height is of a piece with his immense abilities. That Colonel durst no more take leave of him, than that turnkey durst ask him his intentions respecting a case. Then, between his height and them, he slips in his subordinate,—don’t you see?—and so he has ’em, soul and body.”

I was very much impressed, and not for the first time, by my guardian’s subtlety. To confess the truth, I very heartily wished, and not for the first time, that I had had some other guardian of minor abilities.

Mr. Wemmick and I parted at the office in Little Britain, where suppliants for Mr. Jaggers’s notice were lingering about as usual, and I returned to my watch in the street of the coach-office, with some three hours on hand. I consumed the whole time in thinking how strange it was that I should be encompassed by all this taint of prison and crime; that, in my childhood out on our lonely marshes on a winter evening, I should have first encountered it; that, it should have reappeared on two occasions, starting out like a stain that was faded but not gone; that, it should in this new way pervade my fortune and advancement. While my mind was thus engaged, I thought of the beautiful young Estella, proud and refined, coming towards me, and I thought with absolute abhorrence of the contrast between the jail and her. I wished that Wemmick had not met me, or that I had not yielded to him and gone with him, so that, of all days in the year on this day, I might not have had Newgate in my breath and on my clothes. I beat the prison dust off my feet as I sauntered to and fro, and I shook it out of my dress, and I exhaled its air from my lungs. So contaminated did I feel, remembering who was coming, that the coach came quickly after all, and I was not yet free from the soiling consciousness of Mr. Wemmick’s conservatory, when I saw her face at the coach window and her hand waving to me.

What was the nameless shadow which again in that one instant had passed?


Chapter XXXIII.


In her furred travelling-dress, Estella seemed more delicately beautiful than she had ever seemed yet, even in my eyes. Her manner was more winning than she had cared to let it be to me before, and I thought I saw Miss Havisham’s influence in the change.

We stood in the Inn Yard while she pointed out her luggage to me, and when it was all collected I remembered—having forgotten everything but herself in the meanwhile—that I knew nothing of her destination.

“I am going to Richmond,” she told me. “Our lesson is, that there are two Richmonds, one in Surrey and one in Yorkshire, and that mine is the Surrey Richmond. The distance is ten miles. I am to have a carriage, and you are to take me. This is my purse, and you are to pay my charges out of it. O, you must take the purse! We have no choice, you and I, but to obey our instructions. We are not free to follow our own devices, you and I.”

As she looked at me in giving me the purse, I hoped there was an inner meaning in her words. She said them slightingly, but not with displeasure.

“A carriage will have to be sent for, Estella. Will you rest here a little?”

“Yes, I am to rest here a little, and I am to drink some tea, and you are to take care of me the while.”

She drew her arm through mine, as if it must be done, and I requested a waiter who had been staring at the coach like a man who had never seen such a thing in his life, to show us a private sitting-room. Upon that, he pulled out a napkin, as if it were a magic clue without which he couldn’t find the way upstairs, and led us to the black hole of the establishment, fitted up with a diminishing mirror (quite a superfluous article, considering the hole’s proportions), an anchovy sauce-cruet, and somebody’s pattens. On my objecting to this retreat, he took us into another room with a dinner-table for thirty, and in the grate a scorched leaf of a copy-book under a bushel of coal-dust. Having looked at this extinct conflagration and shaken his head, he took my order; which, proving to be merely, “Some tea for the lady,” sent him out of the room in a very low state of mind.

I was, and I am, sensible that the air of this chamber, in its strong combination of stable with soup-stock, might have led one to infer that the coaching department was not doing well, and that the enterprising proprietor was boiling down the horses for the refreshment department. Yet the room was all in all to me, Estella being in it. I thought that with her I could have been happy there for life. (I was not at all happy there at the time, observe, and I knew it well.)

“Where are you going to, at Richmond?” I asked Estella.

“I am going to live,” said she, “at a great expense, with a lady there, who has the power—or says she has—of taking me about, and introducing me, and showing people to me and showing me to people.”

“I suppose you will be glad of variety and admiration?”

“Yes, I suppose so.”

She answered so carelessly, that I said, “You speak of yourself as if you were some one else.”

“Where did you learn how I speak of others? Come, come,” said Estella, smiling delightfully, “you must not expect me to go to school to you; I must talk in my own way. How do you thrive with Mr. Pocket?”

“I live quite pleasantly there; at least—” It appeared to me that I was losing a chance.

“At least?” repeated Estella.

“As pleasantly as I could anywhere, away from you.”

“You silly boy,” said Estella, quite composedly, “how can you talk such nonsense? Your friend Mr. Matthew, I believe, is superior to the rest of his family?”

“Very superior indeed. He is nobody’s enemy—”

“Don’t add but his own,” interposed Estella, “for I hate that class of man. But he really is disinterested, and above small jealousy and spite, I have heard?”

“I am sure I have every reason to say so.”

“You have not every reason to say so of the rest of his people,” said Estella, nodding at me with an expression of face that was at once grave and rallying, “for they beset Miss Havisham with reports and insinuations to your disadvantage. They watch you, misrepresent you, write letters about you (anonymous sometimes), and you are the torment and the occupation of their lives. You can scarcely realise to yourself the hatred those people feel for you.”

“They do me no harm, I hope?”

Instead of answering, Estella burst out laughing. This was very singular to me, and I looked at her in considerable perplexity. When she left off—and she had not laughed languidly, but with real enjoyment—I said, in my diffident way with her,—

“I hope I may suppose that you would not be amused if they did me any harm.”

“No, no you may be sure of that,” said Estella. “You may be certain that I laugh because they fail. O, those people with Miss Havisham, and the tortures they undergo!” She laughed again, and even now when she had told me why, her laughter was very singular to me, for I could not doubt its being genuine, and yet it seemed too much for the occasion. I thought there must really be something more here than I knew; she saw the thought in my mind, and answered it.

“It is not easy for even you.” said Estella, “to know what satisfaction it gives me to see those people thwarted, or what an enjoyable sense of the ridiculous I have when they are made ridiculous. For you were not brought up in that strange house from a mere baby. I was. You had not your little wits sharpened by their intriguing against you, suppressed and defenceless, under the mask of sympathy and pity and what not that is soft and soothing. I had. You did not gradually open your round childish eyes wider and wider to the discovery of that impostor of a woman who calculates her stores of peace of mind for when she wakes up in the night. I did.”

It was no laughing matter with Estella now, nor was she summoning these remembrances from any shallow place. I would not have been the cause of that look of hers for all my expectations in a heap.

“Two things I can tell you,” said Estella. “First, notwithstanding the proverb that constant dropping will wear away a stone, you may set your mind at rest that these people never will—never would in a hundred years—impair your ground with Miss Havisham, in any particular, great or small. Second, I am beholden to you as the cause of their being so busy and so mean in vain, and there is my hand upon it.”

As she gave it to me playfully,—for her darker mood had been but momentary—I held it and put it to my lips. “You ridiculous boy,” said Estella, “will you never take warning? Or do you kiss my hand in the same spirit in which I once let you kiss my cheek?”

“What spirit was that?” said I.

“I must think a moment. A spirit of contempt for the fawners and plotters.”

“If I say yes, may I kiss the cheek again?”

“You should have asked before you touched the hand. But, yes, if you like.”

I leaned down, and her calm face was like a statue’s. “Now,” said Estella, gliding away the instant I touched her cheek, “you are to take care that I have some tea, and you are to take me to Richmond.”

Her reverting to this tone as if our association were forced upon us, and we were mere puppets, gave me pain; but everything in our intercourse did give me pain. Whatever her tone with me happened to be, I could put no trust in it, and build no hope on it; and yet I went on against trust and against hope. Why repeat it a thousand times? So it always was.

I rang for the tea, and the waiter, reappearing with his magic clue, brought in by degrees some fifty adjuncts to that refreshment, but of tea not a glimpse. A teaboard, cups and saucers, plates, knives and forks (including carvers), spoons (various), salt-cellars, a meek little muffin confined with the utmost precaution under a strong iron cover, Moses in the bulrushes typified by a soft bit of butter in a quantity of parsley, a pale loaf with a powdered head, two proof impressions of the bars of the kitchen fireplace on triangular bits of bread, and ultimately a fat family urn; which the waiter staggered in with, expressing in his countenance burden and suffering. After a prolonged absence at this stage of the entertainment, he at length came back with a casket of precious appearance containing twigs. These I steeped in hot water, and so from the whole of these appliances extracted one cup of I don’t know what for Estella.

The bill paid, and the waiter remembered, and the ostler not forgotten, and the chambermaid taken into consideration,—in a word, the whole house bribed into a state of contempt and animosity, and Estella’s purse much lightened,—we got into our post-coach and drove away. Turning into Cheapside and rattling up Newgate Street, we were soon under the walls of which I was so ashamed.

“What place is that?” Estella asked me.

I made a foolish pretence of not at first recognising it, and then told her. As she looked at it, and drew in her head again, murmuring, “Wretches!” I would not have confessed to my visit for any consideration.

“Mr. Jaggers,” said I, by way of putting it neatly on somebody else, “has the reputation of being more in the secrets of that dismal place than any man in London.”

“He is more in the secrets of every place, I think,” said Estella, in a low voice.

“You have been accustomed to see him often, I suppose?”

“I have been accustomed to see him at uncertain intervals, ever since I can remember. But I know him no better now, than I did before I could speak plainly. What is your own experience of him? Do you advance with him?”

“Once habituated to his distrustful manner,” said I, “I have done very well.”

“Are you intimate?”

“I have dined with him at his private house.”

“I fancy,” said Estella, shrinking “that must be a curious place.”

“It is a curious place.”

I should have been chary of discussing my guardian too freely even with her; but I should have gone on with the subject so far as to describe the dinner in Gerrard Street, if we had not then come into a sudden glare of gas. It seemed, while it lasted, to be all alight and alive with that inexplicable feeling I had had before; and when we were out of it, I was as much dazed for a few moments as if I had been in lightning.

So we fell into other talk, and it was principally about the way by which we were travelling, and about what parts of London lay on this side of it, and what on that. The great city was almost new to her, she told me, for she had never left Miss Havisham’s neighbourhood until she had gone to France, and she had merely passed through London then in going and returning. I asked her if my guardian had any charge of her while she remained here? To that she emphatically said “God forbid!” and no more.

It was impossible for me to avoid seeing that she cared to attract me; that she made herself winning, and would have won me even if the task had needed pains. Yet this made me none the happier, for even if she had not taken that tone of our being disposed of by others, I should have felt that she held my heart in her hand because she wilfully chose to do it, and not because it would have wrung any tenderness in her to crush it and throw it away.

When we passed through Hammersmith, I showed her where Mr. Matthew Pocket lived, and said it was no great way from Richmond, and that I hoped I should see her sometimes.

“O yes, you are to see me; you are to come when you think proper; you are to be mentioned to the family; indeed you are already mentioned.”

I inquired was it a large household she was going to be a member of?

“No; there are only two; mother and daughter. The mother is a lady of some station, though not averse to increasing her income.”

“I wonder Miss Havisham could part with you again so soon.”

“It is a part of Miss Havisham’s plans for me, Pip,” said Estella, with a sigh, as if she were tired; “I am to write to her constantly and see her regularly and report how I go on,—I and the jewels,—for they are nearly all mine now.”

It was the first time she had ever called me by my name. Of course she did so purposely, and knew that I should treasure it up.

We came to Richmond all too soon, and our destination there was a house by the green,—a staid old house, where hoops and powder and patches, embroidered coats, rolled stockings, ruffles and swords, had had their court days many a time. Some ancient trees before the house were still cut into fashions as formal and unnatural as the hoops and wigs and stiff skirts; but their own allotted places in the great procession of the dead were not far off, and they would soon drop into them and go the silent way of the rest.

A bell with an old voice—which I dare say in its time had often said to the house, Here is the green farthingale, Here is the diamond-hilted sword, Here are the shoes with red heels and the blue solitaire—sounded gravely in the moonlight, and two cherry-coloured maids came fluttering out to receive Estella. The doorway soon absorbed her boxes, and she gave me her hand and a smile, and said good-night, and was absorbed likewise. And still I stood looking at the house, thinking how happy I should be if I lived there with her, and knowing that I never was happy with her, but always miserable.

I got into the carriage to be taken back to Hammersmith, and I got in with a bad heart-ache, and I got out with a worse heart-ache. At our own door, I found little Jane Pocket coming home from a little party escorted by her little lover; and I envied her little lover, in spite of his being subject to Flopson.

Mr. Pocket was out lecturing; for, he was a most delightful lecturer on domestic economy, and his treatises on the management of children and servants were considered the very best text-books on those themes. But Mrs. Pocket was at home, and was in a little difficulty, on account of the baby’s having been accommodated with a needle-case to keep him quiet during the unaccountable absence (with a relative in the Foot Guards) of Millers. And more needles were missing than it could be regarded as quite wholesome for a patient of such tender years either to apply externally or to take as a tonic.

Mr. Pocket being justly celebrated for giving most excellent practical advice, and for having a clear and sound perception of things and a highly judicious mind, I had some notion in my heart-ache of begging him to accept my confidence. But happening to look up at Mrs. Pocket as she sat reading her book of dignities after prescribing Bed as a sovereign remedy for baby, I thought—Well—No, I wouldn’t.