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Great Expectations

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Chapter XIII.


It was a trial to my feelings, on the next day but one, to see Joe arraying himself in his Sunday clothes to accompany me to Miss Havisham’s. However, as he thought his court-suit necessary to the occasion, it was not for me to tell him that he looked far better in his working-dress; the rather, because I knew he made himself so dreadfully uncomfortable, entirely on my account, and that it was for me he pulled up his shirt-collar so very high behind, that it made the hair on the crown of his head stand up like a tuft of feathers.

At breakfast-time my sister declared her intention of going to town with us, and being left at Uncle Pumblechook’s and called for “when we had done with our fine ladies”—a way of putting the case, from which Joe appeared inclined to augur the worst. The forge was shut up for the day, and Joe inscribed in chalk upon the door (as it was his custom to do on the very rare occasions when he was not at work) the monosyllable HOUT, accompanied by a sketch of an arrow supposed to be flying in the direction he had taken.

We walked to town, my sister leading the way in a very large beaver bonnet, and carrying a basket like the Great Seal of England in plaited Straw, a pair of pattens, a spare shawl, and an umbrella, though it was a fine bright day. I am not quite clear whether these articles were carried penitentially or ostentatiously; but I rather think they were displayed as articles of property,—much as Cleopatra or any other sovereign lady on the Rampage might exhibit her wealth in a pageant or procession.

When we came to Pumblechook’s, my sister bounced in and left us. As it was almost noon, Joe and I held straight on to Miss Havisham’s house. Estella opened the gate as usual, and, the moment she appeared, Joe took his hat off and stood weighing it by the brim in both his hands; as if he had some urgent reason in his mind for being particular to half a quarter of an ounce.

Estella took no notice of either of us, but led us the way that I knew so well. I followed next to her, and Joe came last. When I looked back at Joe in the long passage, he was still weighing his hat with the greatest care, and was coming after us in long strides on the tips of his toes.

Estella told me we were both to go in, so I took Joe by the coat-cuff and conducted him into Miss Havisham’s presence. She was seated at her dressing-table, and looked round at us immediately.

“Oh!” said she to Joe. “You are the husband of the sister of this boy?”

I could hardly have imagined dear old Joe looking so unlike himself or so like some extraordinary bird; standing as he did speechless, with his tuft of feathers ruffled, and his mouth open as if he wanted a worm.

“You are the husband,” repeated Miss Havisham, “of the sister of this boy?”

It was very aggravating; but, throughout the interview, Joe persisted in addressing Me instead of Miss Havisham.

“Which I meantersay, Pip,” Joe now observed in a manner that was at once expressive of forcible argumentation, strict confidence, and great politeness, “as I hup and married your sister, and I were at the time what you might call (if you was anyways inclined) a single man.”

“Well!” said Miss Havisham. “And you have reared the boy, with the intention of taking him for your apprentice; is that so, Mr. Gargery?”

“You know, Pip,” replied Joe, “as you and me were ever friends, and it were looked for’ard to betwixt us, as being calc’lated to lead to larks. Not but what, Pip, if you had ever made objections to the business,—such as its being open to black and sut, or such-like,—not but what they would have been attended to, don’t you see?”

“Has the boy,” said Miss Havisham, “ever made any objection? Does he like the trade?”

“Which it is well beknown to yourself, Pip,” returned Joe, strengthening his former mixture of argumentation, confidence, and politeness, “that it were the wish of your own hart.” (I saw the idea suddenly break upon him that he would adapt his epitaph to the occasion, before he went on to say) “And there weren’t no objection on your part, and Pip it were the great wish of your hart!”

It was quite in vain for me to endeavour to make him sensible that he ought to speak to Miss Havisham. The more I made faces and gestures to him to do it, the more confidential, argumentative, and polite, he persisted in being to Me.

“Have you brought his indentures with you?” asked Miss Havisham.

“Well, Pip, you know,” replied Joe, as if that were a little unreasonable, “you yourself see me put ’em in my ’at, and therefore you know as they are here.” With which he took them out, and gave them, not to Miss Havisham, but to me. I am afraid I was ashamed of the dear good fellow,—I know I was ashamed of him,—when I saw that Estella stood at the back of Miss Havisham’s chair, and that her eyes laughed mischievously. I took the indentures out of his hand and gave them to Miss Havisham.

“You expected,” said Miss Havisham, as she looked them over, “no premium with the boy?”

“Joe!” I remonstrated, for he made no reply at all. “Why don’t you answer—”

“Pip,” returned Joe, cutting me short as if he were hurt, “which I meantersay that were not a question requiring a answer betwixt yourself and me, and which you know the answer to be full well No. You know it to be No, Pip, and wherefore should I say it?”

Miss Havisham glanced at him as if she understood what he really was better than I had thought possible, seeing what he was there; and took up a little bag from the table beside her.

“Pip has earned a premium here,” she said, “and here it is. There are five-and-twenty guineas in this bag. Give it to your master, Pip.”

As if he were absolutely out of his mind with the wonder awakened in him by her strange figure and the strange room, Joe, even at this pass, persisted in addressing me.

“This is wery liberal on your part, Pip,” said Joe, “and it is as such received and grateful welcome, though never looked for, far nor near, nor nowheres. And now, old chap,” said Joe, conveying to me a sensation, first of burning and then of freezing, for I felt as if that familiar expression were applied to Miss Havisham,—“and now, old chap, may we do our duty! May you and me do our duty, both on us, by one and another, and by them which your liberal present—have-conweyed—to be—for the satisfaction of mind-of—them as never—” here Joe showed that he felt he had fallen into frightful difficulties, until he triumphantly rescued himself with the words, “and from myself far be it!” These words had such a round and convincing sound for him that he said them twice.

“Good-bye, Pip!” said Miss Havisham. “Let them out, Estella.”

“Am I to come again, Miss Havisham?” I asked.

“No. Gargery is your master now. Gargery! One word!”

Thus calling him back as I went out of the door, I heard her say to Joe in a distinct emphatic voice, “The boy has been a good boy here, and that is his reward. Of course, as an honest man, you will expect no other and no more.”

How Joe got out of the room, I have never been able to determine; but I know that when he did get out he was steadily proceeding upstairs instead of coming down, and was deaf to all remonstrances until I went after him and laid hold of him. In another minute we were outside the gate, and it was locked, and Estella was gone. When we stood in the daylight alone again, Joe backed up against a wall, and said to me, “Astonishing!” And there he remained so long saying, “Astonishing” at intervals, so often, that I began to think his senses were never coming back. At length he prolonged his remark into “Pip, I do assure you this is as-TON-ishing!” and so, by degrees, became conversational and able to walk away.

I have reason to think that Joe’s intellects were brightened by the encounter they had passed through, and that on our way to Pumblechook’s he invented a subtle and deep design. My reason is to be found in what took place in Mr. Pumblechook’s parlour: where, on our presenting ourselves, my sister sat in conference with that detested seedsman.

“Well?” cried my sister, addressing us both at once. “And what’s happened to you? I wonder you condescend to come back to such poor society as this, I am sure I do!”

“Miss Havisham,” said Joe, with a fixed look at me, like an effort of remembrance, “made it wery partick’ler that we should give her—were it compliments or respects, Pip?”

“Compliments,” I said.

“Which that were my own belief,” answered Joe; “her compliments to Mrs. J. Gargery—”

“Much good they’ll do me!” observed my sister; but rather gratified too.

“And wishing,” pursued Joe, with another fixed look at me, like another effort of remembrance, “that the state of Miss Havisham’s elth were sitch as would have—allowed, were it, Pip?”

“Of her having the pleasure,” I added.

“Of ladies’ company,” said Joe. And drew a long breath.

“Well!” cried my sister, with a mollified glance at Mr. Pumblechook. “She might have had the politeness to send that message at first, but it’s better late than never. And what did she give young Rantipole here?”

“She giv’ him,” said Joe, “nothing.”

Mrs. Joe was going to break out, but Joe went on.

“What she giv’,” said Joe, “she giv’ to his friends. ‘And by his friends,’ were her explanation, ‘I mean into the hands of his sister Mrs. J. Gargery.’ Them were her words; ‘Mrs. J. Gargery.’ She mayn’t have know’d,” added Joe, with an appearance of reflection, “whether it were Joe, or Jorge.”

My sister looked at Pumblechook: who smoothed the elbows of his wooden arm-chair, and nodded at her and at the fire, as if he had known all about it beforehand.

“And how much have you got?” asked my sister, laughing. Positively laughing!

“What would present company say to ten pound?” demanded Joe.

“They’d say,” returned my sister, curtly, “pretty well. Not too much, but pretty well.”

“It’s more than that, then,” said Joe.

That fearful Impostor, Pumblechook, immediately nodded, and said, as he rubbed the arms of his chair, “It’s more than that, Mum.”

“Why, you don’t mean to say—” began my sister.

“Yes I do, Mum,” said Pumblechook; “but wait a bit. Go on, Joseph. Good in you! Go on!”

“What would present company say,” proceeded Joe, “to twenty pound?”

“Handsome would be the word,” returned my sister.

“Well, then,” said Joe, “It’s more than twenty pound.”

That abject hypocrite, Pumblechook, nodded again, and said, with a patronizing laugh, “It’s more than that, Mum. Good again! Follow her up, Joseph!”

“Then to make an end of it,” said Joe, delightedly handing the bag to my sister; “it’s five-and-twenty pound.”

“It’s five-and-twenty pound, Mum,” echoed that basest of swindlers, Pumblechook, rising to shake hands with her; “and it’s no more than your merits (as I said when my opinion was asked), and I wish you joy of the money!”

If the villain had stopped here, his case would have been sufficiently awful, but he blackened his guilt by proceeding to take me into custody, with a right of patronage that left all his former criminality far behind.

“Now you see, Joseph and wife,” said Pumblechook, as he took me by the arm above the elbow, “I am one of them that always go right through with what they’ve begun. This boy must be bound, out of hand. That’s my way. Bound out of hand.”

“Goodness knows, Uncle Pumblechook,” said my sister (grasping the money), “we’re deeply beholden to you.”

“Never mind me, Mum,” returned that diabolical cornchandler. “A pleasure’s a pleasure all the world over. But this boy, you know; we must have him bound. I said I’d see to it—to tell you the truth.”

The Justices were sitting in the Town Hall near at hand, and we at once went over to have me bound apprentice to Joe in the Magisterial presence. I say we went over, but I was pushed over by Pumblechook, exactly as if I had that moment picked a pocket or fired a rick; indeed, it was the general impression in Court that I had been taken red-handed; for, as Pumblechook shoved me before him through the crowd, I heard some people say, “What’s he done?” and others, “He’s a young ’un, too, but looks bad, don’t he?” One person of mild and benevolent aspect even gave me a tract ornamented with a woodcut of a malevolent young man fitted up with a perfect sausage-shop of fetters, and entitled TO BE READ IN MY CELL.

The Hall was a queer place, I thought, with higher pews in it than a church,—and with people hanging over the pews looking on,—and with mighty Justices (one with a powdered head) leaning back in chairs, with folded arms, or taking snuff, or going to sleep, or writing, or reading the newspapers,—and with some shining black portraits on the walls, which my unartistic eye regarded as a composition of hardbake and sticking-plaster. Here, in a corner my indentures were duly signed and attested, and I was “bound”; Mr. Pumblechook holding me all the while as if we had looked in on our way to the scaffold, to have those little preliminaries disposed of.

When we had come out again, and had got rid of the boys who had been put into great spirits by the expectation of seeing me publicly tortured, and who were much disappointed to find that my friends were merely rallying round me, we went back to Pumblechook’s. And there my sister became so excited by the twenty-five guineas, that nothing would serve her but we must have a dinner out of that windfall at the Blue Boar, and that Pumblechook must go over in his chaise-cart, and bring the Hubbles and Mr. Wopsle.

It was agreed to be done; and a most melancholy day I passed. For, it inscrutably appeared to stand to reason, in the minds of the whole company, that I was an excrescence on the entertainment. And to make it worse, they all asked me from time to time,—in short, whenever they had nothing else to do,—why I didn’t enjoy myself? And what could I possibly do then, but say I was enjoying myself,—when I wasn’t!

However, they were grown up and had their own way, and they made the most of it. That swindling Pumblechook, exalted into the beneficent contriver of the whole occasion, actually took the top of the table; and, when he addressed them on the subject of my being bound, and had fiendishly congratulated them on my being liable to imprisonment if I played at cards, drank strong liquors, kept late hours or bad company, or indulged in other vagaries which the form of my indentures appeared to contemplate as next to inevitable, he placed me standing on a chair beside him to illustrate his remarks.

My only other remembrances of the great festival are, That they wouldn’t let me go to sleep, but whenever they saw me dropping off, woke me up and told me to enjoy myself. That, rather late in the evening Mr. Wopsle gave us Collins’s ode, and threw his bloodstained sword in thunder down, with such effect, that a waiter came in and said, “The Commercials underneath sent up their compliments, and it wasn’t the Tumblers’ Arms.” That, they were all in excellent spirits on the road home, and sang, O Lady Fair! Mr. Wopsle taking the bass, and asserting with a tremendously strong voice (in reply to the inquisitive bore who leads that piece of music in a most impertinent manner, by wanting to know all about everybody’s private affairs) that he was the man with his white locks flowing, and that he was upon the whole the weakest pilgrim going.

Finally, I remember that when I got into my little bedroom, I was truly wretched, and had a strong conviction on me that I should never like Joe’s trade. I had liked it once, but once was not now.


Chapter XIV.


It is a most miserable thing to feel ashamed of home. There may be black ingratitude in the thing, and the punishment may be retributive and well deserved; but that it is a miserable thing, I can testify.

Home had never been a very pleasant place to me, because of my sister’s temper. But, Joe had sanctified it, and I had believed in it. I had believed in the best parlour as a most elegant saloon; I had believed in the front door, as a mysterious portal of the Temple of State whose solemn opening was attended with a sacrifice of roast fowls; I had believed in the kitchen as a chaste though not magnificent apartment; I had believed in the forge as the glowing road to manhood and independence. Within a single year all this was changed. Now it was all coarse and common, and I would not have had Miss Havisham and Estella see it on any account.

How much of my ungracious condition of mind may have been my own fault, how much Miss Havisham’s, how much my sister’s, is now of no moment to me or to any one. The change was made in me; the thing was done. Well or ill done, excusably or inexcusably, it was done.

Once, it had seemed to me that when I should at last roll up my shirt-sleeves and go into the forge, Joe’s ’prentice, I should be distinguished and happy. Now the reality was in my hold, I only felt that I was dusty with the dust of small-coal, and that I had a weight upon my daily remembrance to which the anvil was a feather. There have been occasions in my later life (I suppose as in most lives) when I have felt for a time as if a thick curtain had fallen on all its interest and romance, to shut me out from anything save dull endurance any more. Never has that curtain dropped so heavy and blank, as when my way in life lay stretched out straight before me through the newly entered road of apprenticeship to Joe.

I remember that at a later period of my “time,” I used to stand about the churchyard on Sunday evenings when night was falling, comparing my own perspective with the windy marsh view, and making out some likeness between them by thinking how flat and low both were, and how on both there came an unknown way and a dark mist and then the sea. I was quite as dejected on the first working-day of my apprenticeship as in that after-time; but I am glad to know that I never breathed a murmur to Joe while my indentures lasted. It is about the only thing I am glad to know of myself in that connection.

For, though it includes what I proceed to add, all the merit of what I proceed to add was Joe’s. It was not because I was faithful, but because Joe was faithful, that I never ran away and went for a soldier or a sailor. It was not because I had a strong sense of the virtue of industry, but because Joe had a strong sense of the virtue of industry, that I worked with tolerable zeal against the grain. It is not possible to know how far the influence of any amiable honest-hearted duty-doing man flies out into the world; but it is very possible to know how it has touched one’s self in going by, and I know right well that any good that intermixed itself with my apprenticeship came of plain contented Joe, and not of restlessly aspiring discontented me.

What I wanted, who can say? How can I say, when I never knew? What I dreaded was, that in some unlucky hour I, being at my grimiest and commonest, should lift up my eyes and see Estella looking in at one of the wooden windows of the forge. I was haunted by the fear that she would, sooner or later, find me out, with a black face and hands, doing the coarsest part of my work, and would exult over me and despise me. Often after dark, when I was pulling the bellows for Joe, and we were singing Old Clem, and when the thought how we used to sing it at Miss Havisham’s would seem to show me Estella’s face in the fire, with her pretty hair fluttering in the wind and her eyes scorning me,—often at such a time I would look towards those panels of black night in the wall which the wooden windows then were, and would fancy that I saw her just drawing her face away, and would believe that she had come at last.

After that, when we went in to supper, the place and the meal would have a more homely look than ever, and I would feel more ashamed of home than ever, in my own ungracious breast.


Chapter XV.


As I was getting too big for Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt’s room, my education under that preposterous female terminated. Not, however, until Biddy had imparted to me everything she knew, from the little catalogue of prices, to a comic song she had once bought for a half-penny. Although the only coherent part of the latter piece of literature were the opening lines,

When I went to Lunnon town sirs,
Too rul loo rul
Too rul loo rul
Wasn’t I done very brown sirs?
Too rul loo rul
Too rul loo rul

—still, in my desire to be wiser, I got this composition by heart with the utmost gravity; nor do I recollect that I questioned its merit, except that I thought (as I still do) the amount of Too rul somewhat in excess of the poetry. In my hunger for information, I made proposals to Mr. Wopsle to bestow some intellectual crumbs upon me, with which he kindly complied. As it turned out, however, that he only wanted me for a dramatic lay-figure, to be contradicted and embraced and wept over and bullied and clutched and stabbed and knocked about in a variety of ways, I soon declined that course of instruction; though not until Mr. Wopsle in his poetic fury had severely mauled me.

Whatever I acquired, I tried to impart to Joe. This statement sounds so well, that I cannot in my conscience let it pass unexplained. I wanted to make Joe less ignorant and common, that he might be worthier of my society and less open to Estella’s reproach.

The old Battery out on the marshes was our place of study, and a broken slate and a short piece of slate-pencil were our educational implements: to which Joe always added a pipe of tobacco. I never knew Joe to remember anything from one Sunday to another, or to acquire, under my tuition, any piece of information whatever. Yet he would smoke his pipe at the Battery with a far more sagacious air than anywhere else,—even with a learned air,—as if he considered himself to be advancing immensely. Dear fellow, I hope he did.

It was pleasant and quiet, out there with the sails on the river passing beyond the earthwork, and sometimes, when the tide was low, looking as if they belonged to sunken ships that were still sailing on at the bottom of the water. Whenever I watched the vessels standing out to sea with their white sails spread, I somehow thought of Miss Havisham and Estella; and whenever the light struck aslant, afar off, upon a cloud or sail or green hillside or water-line, it was just the same.—Miss Havisham and Estella and the strange house and the strange life appeared to have something to do with everything that was picturesque.

One Sunday when Joe, greatly enjoying his pipe, had so plumed himself on being “most awful dull,” that I had given him up for the day, I lay on the earthwork for some time with my chin on my hand, descrying traces of Miss Havisham and Estella all over the prospect, in the sky and in the water, until at last I resolved to mention a thought concerning them that had been much in my head.

“Joe,” said I; “don’t you think I ought to make Miss Havisham a visit?”

“Well, Pip,” returned Joe, slowly considering. “What for?”

“What for, Joe? What is any visit made for?”

“There is some wisits p’r’aps,” said Joe, “as for ever remains open to the question, Pip. But in regard to wisiting Miss Havisham. She might think you wanted something,—expected something of her.”

“Don’t you think I might say that I did not, Joe?”

“You might, old chap,” said Joe. “And she might credit it. Similarly she mightn’t.”

Joe felt, as I did, that he had made a point there, and he pulled hard at his pipe to keep himself from weakening it by repetition.

“You see, Pip,” Joe pursued, as soon as he was past that danger, “Miss Havisham done the handsome thing by you. When Miss Havisham done the handsome thing by you, she called me back to say to me as that were all.”

“Yes, Joe. I heard her.”

“ALL,” Joe repeated, very emphatically.

“Yes, Joe. I tell you, I heard her.”

“Which I meantersay, Pip, it might be that her meaning were,—Make a end on it!—As you was!—Me to the North, and you to the South!—Keep in sunders!”

I had thought of that too, and it was very far from comforting to me to find that he had thought of it; for it seemed to render it more probable.

“But, Joe.”

“Yes, old chap.”

“Here am I, getting on in the first year of my time, and, since the day of my being bound, I have never thanked Miss Havisham, or asked after her, or shown that I remember her.”

“That’s true, Pip; and unless you was to turn her out a set of shoes all four round,—and which I meantersay as even a set of shoes all four round might not be acceptable as a present, in a total wacancy of hoofs—”

“I don’t mean that sort of remembrance, Joe; I don’t mean a present.”

But Joe had got the idea of a present in his head and must harp upon it. “Or even,” said he, “if you was helped to knocking her up a new chain for the front door,—or say a gross or two of shark-headed screws for general use,—or some light fancy article, such as a toasting-fork when she took her muffins,—or a gridiron when she took a sprat or such like—”

“I don’t mean any present at all, Joe,” I interposed.

“Well,” said Joe, still harping on it as though I had particularly pressed it, “if I was yourself, Pip, I wouldn’t. No, I would not. For what’s a door-chain when she’s got one always up? And shark-headers is open to misrepresentations. And if it was a toasting-fork, you’d go into brass and do yourself no credit. And the oncommonest workman can’t show himself oncommon in a gridiron,—for a gridiron IS a gridiron,” said Joe, steadfastly impressing it upon me, as if he were endeavouring to rouse me from a fixed delusion, “and you may haim at what you like, but a gridiron it will come out, either by your leave or again your leave, and you can’t help yourself—”

“My dear Joe,” I cried, in desperation, taking hold of his coat, “don’t go on in that way. I never thought of making Miss Havisham any present.”

“No, Pip,” Joe assented, as if he had been contending for that, all along; “and what I say to you is, you are right, Pip.”

“Yes, Joe; but what I wanted to say, was, that as we are rather slack just now, if you would give me a half-holiday to-morrow, I think I would go uptown and make a call on Miss Est—Havisham.”

“Which her name,” said Joe, gravely, “ain’t Estavisham, Pip, unless she have been rechris’ened.”

“I know, Joe, I know. It was a slip of mine. What do you think of it, Joe?”

In brief, Joe thought that if I thought well of it, he thought well of it. But, he was particular in stipulating that if I were not received with cordiality, or if I were not encouraged to repeat my visit as a visit which had no ulterior object but was simply one of gratitude for a favour received, then this experimental trip should have no successor. By these conditions I promised to abide.

Now, Joe kept a journeyman at weekly wages whose name was Orlick. He pretended that his Christian name was Dolge,—a clear Impossibility,—but he was a fellow of that obstinate disposition that I believe him to have been the prey of no delusion in this particular, but wilfully to have imposed that name upon the village as an affront to its understanding. He was a broadshouldered loose-limbed swarthy fellow of great strength, never in a hurry, and always slouching. He never even seemed to come to his work on purpose, but would slouch in as if by mere accident; and when he went to the Jolly Bargemen to eat his dinner, or went away at night, he would slouch out, like Cain or the Wandering Jew, as if he had no idea where he was going and no intention of ever coming back. He lodged at a sluice-keeper’s out on the marshes, and on working-days would come slouching from his hermitage, with his hands in his pockets and his dinner loosely tied in a bundle round his neck and dangling on his back. On Sundays he mostly lay all day on the sluice-gates, or stood against ricks and barns. He always slouched, locomotively, with his eyes on the ground; and, when accosted or otherwise required to raise them, he looked up in a half-resentful, half-puzzled way, as though the only thought he ever had was, that it was rather an odd and injurious fact that he should never be thinking.

This morose journeyman had no liking for me. When I was very small and timid, he gave me to understand that the Devil lived in a black corner of the forge, and that he knew the fiend very well: also that it was necessary to make up the fire, once in seven years, with a live boy, and that I might consider myself fuel. When I became Joe’s ’prentice, Orlick was perhaps confirmed in some suspicion that I should displace him; howbeit, he liked me still less. Not that he ever said anything, or did anything, openly importing hostility; I only noticed that he always beat his sparks in my direction, and that whenever I sang Old Clem, he came in out of time.

Dolge Orlick was at work and present, next day, when I reminded Joe of my half-holiday. He said nothing at the moment, for he and Joe had just got a piece of hot iron between them, and I was at the bellows; but by and by he said, leaning on his hammer,—

“Now, master! Sure you’re not a-going to favour only one of us. If Young Pip has a half-holiday, do as much for Old Orlick.” I suppose he was about five-and-twenty, but he usually spoke of himself as an ancient person.

“Why, what’ll you do with a half-holiday, if you get it?” said Joe.

“What’ll I do with it! What’ll he do with it? I’ll do as much with it as him,” said Orlick.

“As to Pip, he’s going up town,” said Joe.

“Well then, as to Old Orlick, he’s a-going up town,” retorted that worthy. “Two can go up town. Tain’t only one wot can go up town.

“Don’t lose your temper,” said Joe.

“Shall if I like,” growled Orlick. “Some and their uptowning! Now, master! Come. No favouring in this shop. Be a man!”

The master refusing to entertain the subject until the journeyman was in a better temper, Orlick plunged at the furnace, drew out a red-hot bar, made at me with it as if he were going to run it through my body, whisked it round my head, laid it on the anvil, hammered it out,—as if it were I, I thought, and the sparks were my spirting blood,—and finally said, when he had hammered himself hot and the iron cold, and he again leaned on his hammer,—

“Now, master!”

“Are you all right now?” demanded Joe.

“Ah! I am all right,” said gruff Old Orlick.

“Then, as in general you stick to your work as well as most men,” said Joe, “let it be a half-holiday for all.”

My sister had been standing silent in the yard, within hearing,—she was a most unscrupulous spy and listener,—and she instantly looked in at one of the windows.

“Like you, you fool!” said she to Joe, “giving holidays to great idle hulkers like that. You are a rich man, upon my life, to waste wages in that way. I wish I was his master!”

“You’d be everybody’s master, if you durst,” retorted Orlick, with an ill-favoured grin.

(“Let her alone,” said Joe.)

“I’d be a match for all noodles and all rogues,” returned my sister, beginning to work herself into a mighty rage. “And I couldn’t be a match for the noodles, without being a match for your master, who’s the dunder-headed king of the noodles. And I couldn’t be a match for the rogues, without being a match for you, who are the blackest-looking and the worst rogue between this and France. Now!”

“You’re a foul shrew, Mother Gargery,” growled the journeyman. “If that makes a judge of rogues, you ought to be a good’un.”

(“Let her alone, will you?” said Joe.)

“What did you say?” cried my sister, beginning to scream. “What did you say? What did that fellow Orlick say to me, Pip? What did he call me, with my husband standing by? Oh! oh! oh!” Each of these exclamations was a shriek; and I must remark of my sister, what is equally true of all the violent women I have ever seen, that passion was no excuse for her, because it is undeniable that instead of lapsing into passion, she consciously and deliberately took extraordinary pains to force herself into it, and became blindly furious by regular stages; “what was the name he gave me before the base man who swore to defend me? Oh! Hold me! Oh!”

“Ah-h-h!” growled the journeyman, between his teeth, “I’d hold you, if you was my wife. I’d hold you under the pump, and choke it out of you.”

(“I tell you, let her alone,” said Joe.)

“Oh! To hear him!” cried my sister, with a clap of her hands and a scream together,—which was her next stage. “To hear the names he’s giving me! That Orlick! In my own house! Me, a married woman! With my husband standing by! Oh! Oh!” Here my sister, after a fit of clappings and screamings, beat her hands upon her bosom and upon her knees, and threw her cap off, and pulled her hair down,—which were the last stages on her road to frenzy. Being by this time a perfect Fury and a complete success, she made a dash at the door which I had fortunately locked.

What could the wretched Joe do now, after his disregarded parenthetical interruptions, but stand up to his journeyman, and ask him what he meant by interfering betwixt himself and Mrs. Joe; and further whether he was man enough to come on? Old Orlick felt that the situation admitted of nothing less than coming on, and was on his defence straightway; so, without so much as pulling off their singed and burnt aprons, they went at one another, like two giants. But, if any man in that neighbourhood could stand uplong against Joe, I never saw the man. Orlick, as if he had been of no more account than the pale young gentleman, was very soon among the coal-dust, and in no hurry to come out of it. Then Joe unlocked the door and picked up my sister, who had dropped insensible at the window (but who had seen the fight first, I think), and who was carried into the house and laid down, and who was recommended to revive, and would do nothing but struggle and clench her hands in Joe’s hair. Then came that singular calm and silence which succeed all uproars; and then, with the vague sensation which I have always connected with such a lull,—namely, that it was Sunday, and somebody was dead,—I went upstairs to dress myself.

[Illustration]

When I came down again, I found Joe and Orlick sweeping up, without any other traces of discomposure than a slit in one of Orlick’s nostrils, which was neither expressive nor ornamental. A pot of beer had appeared from the Jolly Bargemen, and they were sharing it by turns in a peaceable manner. The lull had a sedative and philosophical influence on Joe, who followed me out into the road to say, as a parting observation that might do me good, “On the Rampage, Pip, and off the Rampage, Pip:—such is Life!”

With what absurd emotions (for we think the feelings that are very serious in a man quite comical in a boy) I found myself again going to Miss Havisham’s, matters little here. Nor, how I passed and repassed the gate many times before I could make up my mind to ring. Nor, how I debated whether I should go away without ringing; nor, how I should undoubtedly have gone, if my time had been my own, to come back.

Miss Sarah Pocket came to the gate. No Estella.

“How, then? You here again?” said Miss Pocket. “What do you want?”

When I said that I only came to see how Miss Havisham was, Sarah evidently deliberated whether or no she should send me about my business. But unwilling to hazard the responsibility, she let me in, and presently brought the sharp message that I was to “come up.”

Everything was unchanged, and Miss Havisham was alone.

“Well?” said she, fixing her eyes upon me. “I hope you want nothing? You’ll get nothing.”

“No indeed, Miss Havisham. I only wanted you to know that I am doing very well in my apprenticeship, and am always much obliged to you.”

“There, there!” with the old restless fingers. “Come now and then; come on your birthday.—Ay!” she cried suddenly, turning herself and her chair towards me, “You are looking round for Estella? Hey?”

I had been looking round,—in fact, for Estella,—and I stammered that I hoped she was well.

“Abroad,” said Miss Havisham; “educating for a lady; far out of reach; prettier than ever; admired by all who see her. Do you feel that you have lost her?”

There was such a malignant enjoyment in her utterance of the last words, and she broke into such a disagreeable laugh, that I was at a loss what to say. She spared me the trouble of considering, by dismissing me. When the gate was closed upon me by Sarah of the walnut-shell countenance, I felt more than ever dissatisfied with my home and with my trade and with everything; and that was all I took by that motion.

As I was loitering along the High Street, looking in disconsolately at the shop windows, and thinking what I would buy if I were a gentleman, who should come out of the bookshop but Mr. Wopsle. Mr. Wopsle had in his hand the affecting tragedy of George Barnwell, in which he had that moment invested sixpence, with the view of heaping every word of it on the head of Pumblechook, with whom he was going to drink tea. No sooner did he see me, than he appeared to consider that a special Providence had put a ’prentice in his way to be read at; and he laid hold of me, and insisted on my accompanying him to the Pumblechookian parlour. As I knew it would be miserable at home, and as the nights were dark and the way was dreary, and almost any companionship on the road was better than none, I made no great resistance; consequently, we turned into Pumblechook’s just as the street and the shops were lighting up.

As I never assisted at any other representation of George Barnwell, I don’t know how long it may usually take; but I know very well that it took until half-past nine o’ clock that night, and that when Mr. Wopsle got into Newgate, I thought he never would go to the scaffold, he became so much slower than at any former period of his disgraceful career. I thought it a little too much that he should complain of being cut short in his flower after all, as if he had not been running to seed, leaf after leaf, ever since his course began. This, however, was a mere question of length and wearisomeness. What stung me, was the identification of the whole affair with my unoffending self. When Barnwell began to go wrong, I declare that I felt positively apologetic, Pumblechook’s indignant stare so taxed me with it. Wopsle, too, took pains to present me in the worst light. At once ferocious and maudlin, I was made to murder my uncle with no extenuating circumstances whatever; Millwood put me down in argument, on every occasion; it became sheer monomania in my master’s daughter to care a button for me; and all I can say for my gasping and procrastinating conduct on the fatal morning, is, that it was worthy of the general feebleness of my character. Even after I was happily hanged and Wopsle had closed the book, Pumblechook sat staring at me, and shaking his head, and saying, “Take warning, boy, take warning!” as if it were a well-known fact that I contemplated murdering a near relation, provided I could only induce one to have the weakness to become my benefactor.

It was a very dark night when it was all over, and when I set out with Mr. Wopsle on the walk home. Beyond town, we found a heavy mist out, and it fell wet and thick. The turnpike lamp was a blur, quite out of the lamp’s usual place apparently, and its rays looked solid substance on the fog. We were noticing this, and saying how that the mist rose with a change of wind from a certain quarter of our marshes, when we came upon a man, slouching under the lee of the turnpike house.

“Halloa!” we said, stopping. “Orlick there?”

“Ah!” he answered, slouching out. “I was standing by a minute, on the chance of company.”

“You are late,” I remarked.

Orlick not unnaturally answered, “Well? And you’re late.”

“We have been,” said Mr. Wopsle, exalted with his late performance,—“we have been indulging, Mr. Orlick, in an intellectual evening.”

Old Orlick growled, as if he had nothing to say about that, and we all went on together. I asked him presently whether he had been spending his half-holiday up and down town?

“Yes,” said he, “all of it. I come in behind yourself. I didn’t see you, but I must have been pretty close behind you. By the by, the guns is going again.”

“At the Hulks?” said I.

“Ay! There’s some of the birds flown from the cages. The guns have been going since dark, about. You’ll hear one presently.”

In effect, we had not walked many yards further, when the well-remembered boom came towards us, deadened by the mist, and heavily rolled away along the low grounds by the river, as if it were pursuing and threatening the fugitives.

“A good night for cutting off in,” said Orlick. “We’d be puzzled how to bring down a jail-bird on the wing, to-night.”

The subject was a suggestive one to me, and I thought about it in silence. Mr. Wopsle, as the ill-requited uncle of the evening’s tragedy, fell to meditating aloud in his garden at Camberwell. Orlick, with his hands in his pockets, slouched heavily at my side. It was very dark, very wet, very muddy, and so we splashed along. Now and then, the sound of the signal cannon broke upon us again, and again rolled sulkily along the course of the river. I kept myself to myself and my thoughts. Mr. Wopsle died amiably at Camberwell, and exceedingly game on Bosworth Field, and in the greatest agonies at Glastonbury. Orlick sometimes growled, “Beat it out, beat it out,—Old Clem! With a clink for the stout,—Old Clem!” I thought he had been drinking, but he was not drunk.

Thus, we came to the village. The way by which we approached it took us past the Three Jolly Bargemen, which we were surprised to find—it being eleven o’clock—in a state of commotion, with the door wide open, and unwonted lights that had been hastily caught up and put down scattered about. Mr. Wopsle dropped in to ask what was the matter (surmising that a convict had been taken), but came running out in a great hurry.

“There’s something wrong,” said he, without stopping, “up at your place, Pip. Run all!”

“What is it?” I asked, keeping up with him. So did Orlick, at my side.

“I can’t quite understand. The house seems to have been violently entered when Joe Gargery was out. Supposed by convicts. Somebody has been attacked and hurt.”

We were running too fast to admit of more being said, and we made no stop until we got into our kitchen. It was full of people; the whole village was there, or in the yard; and there was a surgeon, and there was Joe, and there were a group of women, all on the floor in the midst of the kitchen. The unemployed bystanders drew back when they saw me, and so I became aware of my sister,—lying without sense or movement on the bare boards where she had been knocked down by a tremendous blow on the back of the head, dealt by some unknown hand when her face was turned towards the fire,—destined never to be on the Rampage again, while she was the wife of Joe.