Part 5 out of 11
compliments, when the nurse came to my rescue.
"Well!" she cried, picking up the pocket-handkerchief, "if that
don't make seven times! What ARE you a doing of this afternoon,
Mum!" Mrs. Pocket received her property, at first with a look of
unutterable surprise as if she had never seen it before, and then
with a laugh of recognition, and said, "Thank you, Flopson," and
forgot me, and went on reading.
I found, now I had leisure to count them, that there were no fewer
than six little Pockets present, in various stages of tumbling up.
I had scarcely arrived at the total when a seventh was heard, as in
the region of air, wailing dolefully.
"If there ain't Baby!" said Flopson, appearing to think it most
surprising. "Make haste up, Millers."
Millers, who was the other nurse, retired into the house, and by
degrees the child's wailing was hushed and stopped, as if it were a
young ventriloquist with something in its mouth. Mrs. Pocket read
all the time, and I was curious to know what the book could be.
We were waiting, I supposed, for Mr. Pocket to come out to us; at
any rate we waited there, and so I had an opportunity of observing
the remarkable family phenomenon that whenever any of the children
strayed near Mrs. Pocket in their play, they always tripped
themselves up and tumbled over her,--always very much to her
momentary astonishment, and their own more enduring lamentation. I
was at a loss to account for this surprising circumstance, and
could not help giving my mind to speculations about it, until
by and by Millers came down with the baby, which baby was handed to
Flopson, which Flopson was handing it to Mrs. Pocket, when she too
went fairly head foremost over Mrs. Pocket, baby and all, and was
caught by Herbert and myself.
"Gracious me, Flopson!" said Mrs. Pocket, looking off her book for a
moment, "everybody's tumbling!"
"Gracious you, indeed, Mum!" returned Flopson, very red in the
face; "what have you got there?"
"I got here, Flopson?" asked Mrs. Pocket.
"Why, if it ain't your footstool!" cried Flopson. "And if you keep
it under your skirts like that, who's to help tumbling? Here! Take
the baby, Mum, and give me your book."
Mrs. Pocket acted on the advice, and inexpertly danced the infant a
little in her lap, while the other children played about it. This
had lasted but a very short time, when Mrs. Pocket issued summary
orders that they were all to be taken into the house for a nap.
Thus I made the second discovery on that first occasion, that the
nurture of the little Pockets consisted of alternately tumbling up
and lying down.
Under these circumstances, when Flopson and Millers had got the
children into the house, like a little flock of sheep, and Mr.
Pocket came out of it to make my acquaintance, I was not much
surprised to find that Mr. Pocket was a gentleman with a rather
perplexed expression of face, and with his very gray hair
disordered on his head, as if he didn't quite see his way to
putting anything straight.
Mr. Pocket said he was glad to see me, and he hoped I was not sorry
to see him. "For, I really am not," he added, with his son's smile,
"an alarming personage." He was a young-looking man, in spite of
his perplexities and his very gray hair, and his manner seemed
quite natural. I use the word natural, in the sense of its being
unaffected; there was something comic in his distraught way, as
though it would have been downright ludicrous but for his own
perception that it was very near being so. When he had talked with
me a little, he said to Mrs. Pocket, with a rather anxious
contraction of his eyebrows, which were black and handsome,
"Belinda, I hope you have welcomed Mr. Pip?" And she looked up from
her book, and said, "Yes." She then smiled upon me in an absent
state of mind, and asked me if I liked the taste of orange-flower
water? As the question had no bearing, near or remote, on any
foregone or subsequent transaction, I consider it to have been
thrown out, like her previous approaches, in general conversational
I found out within a few hours, and may mention at once, that Mrs.
Pocket was the only daughter of a certain quite accidental deceased
Knight, who had invented for himself a conviction that his deceased
father would have been made a Baronet but for somebody's determined
opposition arising out of entirely personal motives,--I forget
whose, if I ever knew,--the Sovereign's, the Prime Minister's, the
Lord Chancellor's, the Archbishop of Canterbury's, anybody's,--and
had tacked himself on to the nobles of the earth in right of this
quite supposititious fact. I believe he had been knighted himself
for storming the English grammar at the point of the pen, in a
desperate address engrossed on vellum, on the occasion of the
laying of the first stone of some building or other, and for
handing some Royal Personage either the trowel or the mortar. Be
that as it may, he had directed Mrs. Pocket to be brought up from
her cradle as one who in the nature of things must marry a title,
and who was to be guarded from the acquisition of plebeian domestic
So successful a watch and ward had been established over the young
lady by this judicious parent, that she had grown up highly
ornamental, but perfectly helpless and useless. With her character
thus happily formed, in the first bloom of her youth she had
encountered Mr. Pocket: who was also in the first bloom of youth,
and not quite decided whether to mount to the Woolsack, or to roof
himself in with a mitre. As his doing the one or the other was a
mere question of time, he and Mrs. Pocket had taken Time by the
forelock (when, to judge from its length, it would seem to have
wanted cutting), and had married without the knowledge of the
judicious parent. The judicious parent, having nothing to bestow or
withhold but his blessing, had handsomely settled that dower upon
them after a short struggle, and had informed Mr. Pocket that his
wife was "a treasure for a Prince." Mr. Pocket had invested the
Prince's treasure in the ways of the world ever since, and it was
supposed to have brought him in but indifferent interest. Still,
Mrs. Pocket was in general the object of a queer sort of respectful
pity, because she had not married a title; while Mr. Pocket was the
object of a queer sort of forgiving reproach, because he had never
Mr. Pocket took me into the house and showed me my room: which was a
pleasant one, and so furnished as that I could use it with comfort
for my own private sitting-room. He then knocked at the doors of
two other similar rooms, and introduced me to their occupants, by
name Drummle and Startop. Drummle, an old-looking young man of a
heavy order of architecture, was whistling. Startop, younger in
years and appearance, was reading and holding his head, as if he
thought himself in danger of exploding it with too strong a charge
Both Mr. and Mrs. Pocket had such a noticeable air of being in
somebody else's hands, that I wondered who really was in possession
of the house and let them live there, until I found this unknown
power to be the servants. It was a smooth way of going on, perhaps,
in respect of saving trouble; but it had the appearance of being
expensive, for the servants felt it a duty they owed to themselves
to be nice in their eating and drinking, and to keep a deal of
company down stairs. They allowed a very liberal table to Mr. and
Mrs. Pocket, yet it always appeared to me that by far the best part
of the house to have boarded in would have been the kitchen,--
always supposing the boarder capable of self-defence, for, before I
had been there a week, a neighboring lady with whom the family
were personally unacquainted, wrote in to say that she had seen
Millers slapping the baby. This greatly distressed Mrs. Pocket, who
burst into tears on receiving the note, and said that it was an
extraordinary thing that the neighbors couldn't mind their own
By degrees I learnt, and chiefly from Herbert, that Mr. Pocket had
been educated at Harrow and at Cambridge, where he had
distinguished himself; but that when he had had the happiness of
marrying Mrs. Pocket very early in life, he had impaired his
prospects and taken up the calling of a Grinder. After grinding a
number of dull blades,--of whom it was remarkable that their
fathers, when influential, were always going to help him to
preferment, but always forgot to do it when the blades had left the
Grindstone,--he had wearied of that poor work and had come to
London. Here, after gradually failing in loftier hopes, he had
"read" with divers who had lacked opportunities or neglected them,
and had refurbished divers others for special occasions, and had
turned his acquirements to the account of literary compilation and
correction, and on such means, added to some very moderate private
resources, still maintained the house I saw.
Mr. and Mrs. Pocket had a toady neighbor; a widow lady of that
highly sympathetic nature that she agreed with everybody, blessed
everybody, and shed smiles and tears on everybody, according to
circumstances. This lady's name was Mrs. Coiler, and I had the
honor of taking her down to dinner on the day of my installation.
She gave me to understand on the stairs, that it was a blow to dear
Mrs. Pocket that dear Mr. Pocket should be under the necessity of
receiving gentlemen to read with him. That did not extend to me,
she told me in a gush of love and confidence (at that time, I had
known her something less than five minutes); if they were all like
Me, it would be quite another thing.
"But dear Mrs. Pocket," said Mrs. Coiler, "after her early
disappointment (not that dear Mr. Pocket was to blame in that),
requires so much luxury and elegance--"
"Yes, ma'am," I said, to stop her, for I was afraid she was going
"And she is of so aristocratic a disposition--"
"Yes, ma'am," I said again, with the same object as before.
"--That it is hard," said Mrs. Coiler, "to have dear Mr. Pocket's
time and attention diverted from dear Mrs. Pocket."
I could not help thinking that it might be harder if the butcher's
time and attention were diverted from dear Mrs. Pocket; but I said
nothing, and indeed had enough to do in keeping a bashful watch
upon my company manners.
It came to my knowledge, through what passed between Mrs. Pocket and
Drummle while I was attentive to my knife and fork, spoon, glasses,
and other instruments of self-destruction, that Drummle, whose
Christian name was Bentley, was actually the next heir but one to a
baronetcy. It further appeared that the book I had seen Mrs. Pocket
reading in the garden was all about titles, and that she knew the
exact date at which her grandpapa would have come into the book, if
he ever had come at all. Drummle didn't say much, but in his
limited way (he struck me as a sulky kind of fellow) he spoke as
one of the elect, and recognized Mrs. Pocket as a woman and a
sister. No one but themselves and Mrs. Coiler the toady neighbor
showed any interest in this part of the conversation, and it
appeared to me that it was painful to Herbert; but it promised to
last a long time, when the page came in with the announcement of a
domestic affliction. It was, in effect, that the cook had mislaid
the beef. To my unutterable amazement, I now, for the first time,
saw Mr. Pocket relieve his mind by going through a performance that
struck me as very extraordinary, but which made no impression on
anybody else, and with which I soon became as familiar as the rest.
He laid down the carving-knife and fork,--being engaged in carving,
at the moment,--put his two hands into his disturbed hair, and
appeared to make an extraordinary effort to lift himself up by it.
When he had done this, and had not lifted himself up at all, he
quietly went on with what he was about.
Mrs. Coiler then changed the subject and began to flatter me. I
liked it for a few moments, but she flattered me so very grossly
that the pleasure was soon over. She had a serpentine way of coming
close at me when she pretended to be vitally interested in the
friends and localities I had left, which was altogether snaky and
fork-tongued; and when she made an occasional bounce upon Startop
(who said very little to her), or upon Drummle (who said less), I
rather envied them for being on the opposite side of the table.
After dinner the children were introduced, and Mrs. Coiler made
admiring comments on their eyes, noses, and legs,--a sagacious way
of improving their minds. There were four little girls, and two
little boys, besides the baby who might have been either, and the
baby's next successor who was as yet neither. They were brought in
by Flopson and Millers, much as though those two non-commissioned
officers had been recruiting somewhere for children and had
enlisted these, while Mrs. Pocket looked at the young Nobles that
ought to have been as if she rather thought she had had the
pleasure of inspecting them before, but didn't quite know what to
make of them.
"Here! Give me your fork, Mum, and take the baby," said Flopson.
"Don't take it that way, or you'll get its head under the table."
Thus advised, Mrs. Pocket took it the other way, and got its head
upon the table; which was announced to all present by a prodigious
"Dear, dear! Give it me back, Mum," said Flopson; "and Miss Jane,
come and dance to baby, do!"
One of the little girls, a mere mite who seemed to have prematurely
taken upon herself some charge of the others, stepped out of her
place by me, and danced to and from the baby until it left off
crying, and laughed. Then, all the children laughed, and Mr. Pocket
(who in the meantime had twice endeavored to lift himself up by
the hair) laughed, and we all laughed and were glad.
Flopson, by dint of doubling the baby at the joints like a Dutch
doll, then got it safely into Mrs. Pocket's lap, and gave it the
nut-crackers to play with; at the same time recommending Mrs. Pocket
to take notice that the handles of that instrument were not likely
to agree with its eyes, and sharply charging Miss Jane to look
after the same. Then, the two nurses left the room, and had a
lively scuffle on the staircase with a dissipated page who had
waited at dinner, and who had clearly lost half his buttons at the
I was made very uneasy in my mind by Mrs. Pocket's falling into a
discussion with Drummle respecting two baronetcies, while she ate a
sliced orange steeped in sugar and wine, and, forgetting all about
the baby on her lap, who did most appalling things with the
nut-crackers. At length little Jane, perceiving its young brains to
be imperilled, softly left her place, and with many small artifices
coaxed the dangerous weapon away. Mrs. Pocket finishing her orange
at about the same time, and not approving of this, said to Jane,--
"You naughty child, how dare you? Go and sit down this instant!"
"Mamma dear," lisped the little girl, "baby ood have put hith eyeth
"How dare you tell me so?" retorted Mrs. Pocket. "Go and sit down in
your chair this moment!"
Mrs. Pocket's dignity was so crushing, that I felt quite abashed, as
if I myself had done something to rouse it.
"Belinda," remonstrated Mr. Pocket, from the other end of the table,
"how can you be so unreasonable? Jane only interfered for the
protection of baby."
"I will not allow anybody to interfere," said Mrs. Pocket. "I am
surprised, Matthew, that you should expose me to the affront of
"Good God!" cried Mr. Pocket, in an outbreak of desolate
desperation. "Are infants to be nut-crackered into their tombs, and
is nobody to save them?"
"I will not be interfered with by Jane," said Mrs. Pocket, with a
majestic glance at that innocent little offender. "I hope I know my
poor grandpapa's position. Jane, indeed!"
Mr. Pocket got his hands in his hair again, and this time really did
lift himself some inches out of his chair. "Hear this!" he
helplessly exclaimed to the elements. "Babies are to be
nut-crackered dead, for people's poor grandpapa's positions!" Then
he let himself down again, and became silent.
We all looked awkwardly at the tablecloth while this was going on.
A pause succeeded, during which the honest and irrepressible baby
made a series of leaps and crows at little Jane, who appeared to me
to be the only member of the family (irrespective of servants) with
whom it had any decided acquaintance.
"Mr. Drummle," said Mrs. Pocket, "will you ring for Flopson? Jane,
you undutiful little thing, go and lie down. Now, baby darling,
come with ma!"
The baby was the soul of honor, and protested with all its might.
It doubled itself up the wrong way over Mrs. Pocket's arm, exhibited
a pair of knitted shoes and dimpled ankles to the company in lieu
of its soft face, and was carried out in the highest state of
mutiny. And it gained its point after all, for I saw it through the
window within a few minutes, being nursed by little Jane.
It happened that the other five children were left behind at the
dinner-table, through Flopson's having some private engagement, and
their not being anybody else's business. I thus became aware of the
mutual relations between them and Mr. Pocket, which were exemplified
in the following manner. Mr. Pocket, with the normal perplexity of
his face heightened and his hair rumpled, looked at them for some
minutes, as if he couldn't make out how they came to be boarding
and lodging in that establishment, and why they hadn't been
billeted by Nature on somebody else. Then, in a distant Missionary
way he asked them certain questions,--as why little Joe had that
hole in his frill, who said, Pa, Flopson was going to mend it when
she had time,--and how little Fanny came by that whitlow, who said,
Pa, Millers was going to poultice it when she didn't forget. Then,
he melted into parental tenderness, and gave them a shilling apiece
and told them to go and play; and then as they went out, with one
very strong effort to lift himself up by the hair he dismissed the
In the evening there was rowing on the river. As Drummle and
Startop had each a boat, I resolved to set up mine, and to cut them
both out. I was pretty good at most exercises in which country boys
are adepts, but as I was conscious of wanting elegance of style
for the Thames,--not to say for other waters,--I at once engaged to
place myself under the tuition of the winner of a prize-wherry who
plied at our stairs, and to whom I was introduced by my new allies.
This practical authority confused me very much by saying I had the
arm of a blacksmith. If he could have known how nearly the
compliment lost him his pupil, I doubt if he would have paid it.
There was a supper-tray after we got home at night, and I think we
should all have enjoyed ourselves, but for a rather disagreeable
domestic occurrence. Mr. Pocket was in good spirits, when a
housemaid came in, and said, "If you please, sir, I should wish to
speak to you."
"Speak to your master?" said Mrs. Pocket, whose dignity was roused
again. "How can you think of such a thing? Go and speak to Flopson.
Or speak to me--at some other time."
"Begging your pardon, ma'am," returned the housemaid, "I should
wish to speak at once, and to speak to master."
Hereupon, Mr. Pocket went out of the room, and we made the best of
ourselves until he came back.
"This is a pretty thing, Belinda!" said Mr. Pocket, returning with a
countenance expressive of grief and despair. "Here's the cook lying
insensibly drunk on the kitchen floor, with a large bundle of fresh
butter made up in the cupboard ready to sell for grease!"
Mrs. Pocket instantly showed much amiable emotion, and said, "This
is that odious Sophia's doing!"
"What do you mean, Belinda?" demanded Mr. Pocket.
"Sophia has told you," said Mrs. Pocket. "Did I not see her with my
own eyes and hear her with my own ears, come into the room just now
and ask to speak to you?"
"But has she not taken me down stairs, Belinda," returned Mr.
Pocket, "and shown me the woman, and the bundle too?"
"And do you defend her, Matthew," said Mrs. Pocket, "for making
Mr. Pocket uttered a dismal groan.
"Am I, grandpapa's granddaughter, to be nothing in the house?" said
Mrs. Pocket. "Besides, the cook has always been a very nice
respectful woman, and said in the most natural manner when she came
to look after the situation, that she felt I was born to be a
There was a sofa where Mr. Pocket stood, and he dropped upon it in
the attitude of the Dying Gladiator. Still in that attitude he
said, with a hollow voice, "Good night, Mr. Pip," when I deemed it
advisable to go to bed and leave him.
After two or three days, when I had established myself in my room
and had gone backwards and forwards to London several times, and
had ordered all I wanted of my tradesmen, Mr. Pocket and I had a
long talk together. He knew more of my intended career than I knew
myself, for he referred to his having been told by Mr. Jaggers that
I was not designed for any profession, and that I should be well
enough educated for my destiny if I could "hold my own" with the
average of young men in prosperous circumstances. I acquiesced, of
course, knowing nothing to the contrary.
He advised my attending certain places in London, for the
acquisition of such mere rudiments as I wanted, and my investing
him with the functions of explainer and director of all my studies.
He hoped that with intelligent assistance I should meet with little
to discourage me, and should soon be able to dispense with any aid
but his. Through his way of saying this, and much more to similar
purpose, he placed himself on confidential terms with me in an
admirable manner; and I may state at once that he was always so
zealous and honorable in fulfilling his compact with me, that he
made me zealous and honorable in fulfilling mine with him. If he
had shown indifference as a master, I have no doubt I should have
returned the compliment as a pupil; he gave me no such excuse, and
each of us did the other justice. Nor did I ever regard him as
having anything ludicrous about him--or anything but what was
serious, honest, and good--in his tutor communication with me.
When these points were settled, and so far carried out as that I
had begun to work in earnest, it occurred to me that if I could
retain my bedroom in Barnard's Inn, my life would be agreeably
varied, while my manners would be none the worse for Herbert's
society. Mr. Pocket did not object to this arrangement, but urged
that before any step could possibly be taken in it, it must be
submitted to my guardian. I felt that this delicacy arose out of
the consideration that the plan would save Herbert some expense, so
I went off to Little Britain and imparted my wish to Mr. Jaggers.
"If I could buy the furniture now hired for me," said I, "and one
or two other little things, I should be quite at home there."
"Go it!" said Mr. Jaggers, with a short laugh. "I told you you'd get
on. Well! How much do you want?"
I said I didn't know how much.
"Come!" retorted Mr. Jaggers. "How much? Fifty pounds?"
"O, not nearly so much."
"Five pounds?" said Mr. Jaggers.
This was such a great fall, that I said in discomfiture, "O, more
"More than that, eh!" retorted Mr. Jaggers, lying in wait for me,
with his hands in his pockets, his head on one side, and his eyes
on the wall behind me; "how much more?"
"It is so difficult to fix a sum," said I, hesitating.
"Come!" said Mr. Jaggers. "Let's get at it. Twice five; will that
do? Three times five; will that do? Four times five; will that do?"
I said I thought that would do handsomely.
"Four times five will do handsomely, will it?" said Mr. Jaggers,
knitting his brows. "Now, what do you make of four times five?"
"What do I make of it?"
"Ah!" said Mr. Jaggers; "how much?"
"I suppose you make it twenty pounds," said I, smiling.
"Never mind what I make it, my friend," observed Mr. Jaggers, with a
knowing and contradictory toss of his head. "I want to know what
you make it."
"Twenty pounds, of course."
"Wemmick!" said Mr. Jaggers, opening his office door. "Take Mr. Pip's
written order, and pay him twenty pounds."
This strongly marked way of doing business made a strongly marked
impression on me, and that not of an agreeable kind. Mr. Jaggers
never laughed; but he wore great bright creaking boots, and, in
poising himself on these boots, with his large head bent down and
his eyebrows joined together, awaiting an answer, he sometimes
caused the boots to creak, as if they laughed in a dry and
suspicious way. As he happened to go out now, and as Wemmick was
brisk and talkative, I said to Wemmick that I hardly knew what to
make of Mr. Jaggers's manner.
"Tell him that, and he'll take it as a compliment," answered
Wemmick; "he don't mean that you should know what to make of it.--
Oh!" for I looked surprised, "it's not personal; it's professional:
Wemmick was at his desk, lunching--and crunching--on a dry hard
biscuit; pieces of which he threw from time to time into his slit
of a mouth, as if he were posting them.
"Always seems to me," said Wemmick, "as if he had set a man-trap and
was watching it. Suddenly-click--you're caught!"
Without remarking that man-traps were not among the amenities of
life, I said I supposed he was very skilful?
"Deep," said Wemmick, "as Australia." Pointing with his pen at the
office floor, to express that Australia was understood, for the
purposes of the figure, to be symmetrically on the opposite spot of
the globe. "If there was anything deeper," added Wemmick, bringing
his pen to paper, "he'd be it."
Then, I said I supposed he had a fine business, and Wemmick said,
"Ca-pi-tal!" Then I asked if there were many clerks? to which he
"We don't run much into clerks, because there's only one Jaggers,
and people won't have him at second hand. There are only four of
us. Would you like to see 'em? You are one of us, as I may say."
I accepted the offer. When Mr. Wemmick had put all the biscuit into
the post, and had paid me my money from a cash-box in a safe, the
key of which safe he kept somewhere down his back and produced from
his coat-collar like an iron-pigtail, we went up stairs. The house
was dark and shabby, and the greasy shoulders that had left their
mark in Mr. Jaggers's room seemed to have been shuffling up and
down the staircase for years. In the front first floor, a clerk who
looked something between a publican and a rat-catcher--a large
pale, puffed, swollen man--was attentively engaged with three or
four people of shabby appearance, whom he treated as
unceremoniously as everybody seemed to be treated who contributed
to Mr. Jaggers's coffers. "Getting evidence together," said Mr.
Wemmick, as we came out, "for the Bailey." In the room over that, a
little flabby terrier of a clerk with dangling hair (his cropping
seemed to have been forgotten when he was a puppy) was similarly
engaged with a man with weak eyes, whom Mr. Wemmick presented to me
as a smelter who kept his pot always boiling, and who would melt me
anything I pleased,--and who was in an excessive white-perspiration,
as if he had been trying his art on himself. In a back room, a
high-shouldered man with a face-ache tied up in dirty flannel, who
was dressed in old black clothes that bore the appearance of having
been waxed, was stooping over his work of making fair copies of the
notes of the other two gentlemen, for Mr. Jaggers's own use.
This was all the establishment. When we went down stairs again,
Wemmick led me into my guardian's room, and said, "This you've seen
"Pray," said I, as the two odious casts with the twitchy leer upon
them caught my sight again, "whose likenesses are those?"
"These?" said Wemmick, getting upon a chair, and blowing the dust
off the horrible heads before bringing them down. "These are two
celebrated ones. Famous clients of ours that got us a world of
credit. This chap (why you must have come down in the night and
been peeping into the inkstand, to get this blot upon your eyebrow,
you old rascal!) murdered his master, and, considering that he
wasn't brought up to evidence, didn't plan it badly."
"Is it like him?" I asked, recoiling from the brute, as Wemmick
spat upon his eyebrow and gave it a rub with his sleeve.
"Like him? It's himself, you know. The cast was made in Newgate,
directly after he was taken down. You had a particular fancy for
me, hadn't you, Old Artful?" said Wemmick. He then explained this
affectionate apostrophe, by touching his brooch representing the
lady and the weeping willow at the tomb with the urn upon it, and
saying, "Had it made for me, express!"
"Is the lady anybody?" said I.
"No," returned Wemmick. "Only his game. (You liked your bit of
game, didn't you?) No; deuce a bit of a lady in the case, Mr. Pip,
except one,--and she wasn't of this slender lady-like sort, and you
wouldn't have caught her looking after this urn, unless there was
something to drink in it." Wemmick's attention being thus directed
to his brooch, he put down the cast, and polished the brooch with
"Did that other creature come to the same end?" I asked. "He has
the same look."
"You're right," said Wemmick; "it's the genuine look. Much as if
one nostril was caught up with a horse-hair and a little fish-hook.
Yes, he came to the same end; quite the natural end here, I assure
you. He forged wills, this blade did, if he didn't also put the
supposed testators to sleep too. You were a gentlemanly Cove,
though" (Mr. Wemmick was again apostrophizing), "and you said you
could write Greek. Yah, Bounceable! What a liar you were! I never
met such a liar as you!" Before putting his late friend on his
shelf again, Wemmick touched the largest of his mourning rings and
said, "Sent out to buy it for me, only the day before."
While he was putting up the other cast and coming down from the
chair, the thought crossed my mind that all his personal jewelry
was derived from like sources. As he had shown no diffidence on the
subject, I ventured on the liberty of asking him the question, when
he stood before me, dusting his hands.
"O yes," he returned, "these are all gifts of that kind. One
brings another, you see; that's the way of it. I always take 'em.
They're curiosities. And they're property. They may not be worth
much, but, after all, they're property and portable. It don't
signify to you with your brilliant lookout, but as to myself, my
guiding-star always is, "Get hold of portable property"."
When I had rendered homage to this light, he went on to say, in a
"If at any odd time when you have nothing better to do, you
wouldn't mind coming over to see me at Walworth, I could offer you
a bed, and I should consider it an honor. I have not much to show
you; but such two or three curiosities as I have got you might
like to look over; and I am fond of a bit of garden and a
I said I should be delighted to accept his hospitality.
"Thankee," said he; "then we'll consider that it's to come off,
when convenient to you. Have you dined with Mr. Jaggers yet?"
"Well," said Wemmick, "he'll give you wine, and good wine. I'll
give you punch, and not bad punch. And now I'll tell you something.
When you go to dine with Mr. Jaggers, look at his housekeeper."
"Shall I see something very uncommon?"
"Well," said Wemmick, "you'll see a wild beast tamed. Not so very
uncommon, you'll tell me. I reply, that depends on the original
wildness of the beast, and the amount of taming. It won't lower
your opinion of Mr. Jaggers's powers. Keep your eye on it."
I told him I would do so, with all the interest and curiosity that
his preparation awakened. As I was taking my departure, he asked me
if I would like to devote five minutes to seeing Mr. Jaggers "at
For several reasons, and not least because I didn't clearly know
what Mr. Jaggers would be found to be "at," I replied in the
affirmative. We dived into the City, and came up in a crowded
police-court, where a blood-relation (in the murderous sense) of the
deceased, with the fanciful taste in brooches, was standing at the
bar, uncomfortably chewing something; while my guardian had a woman
under examination or cross-examination,--I don't know which,--and
was striking her, and the bench, and everybody present, with awe.
If anybody, of whatsoever degree, said a word that he didn't
approve of, he instantly required to have it "taken down." If
anybody wouldn't make an admission, he said, "I'll have it out of
you!" and if anybody made an admission, he said, "Now I have got
you!" The magistrates shivered under a single bite of his finger.
Thieves and thief-takers hung in dread rapture on his words, and
shrank when a hair of his eyebrows turned in their direction. Which
side he was on I couldn't make out, for he seemed to me to be
grinding the whole place in a mill; I only know that when I stole
out on tiptoe, he was not on the side of the bench; for, he was
making the legs of the old gentleman who presided, quite convulsive
under the table, by his denunciations of his conduct as the
representative of British law and justice in that chair that day.
Bentley Drummle, who was so sulky a fellow that he even took up a
book as if its writer had done him an injury, did not take up an
acquaintance in a more agreeable spirit. Heavy in figure, movement,
and comprehension,--in the sluggish complexion of his face, and in
the large, awkward tongue that seemed to loll about in his mouth as
he himself lolled about in a room,--he was idle, proud, niggardly,
reserved, and suspicious. He came of rich people down in
Somersetshire, who had nursed this combination of qualities until
they made the discovery that it was just of age and a blockhead.
Thus, Bentley Drummle had come to Mr. Pocket when he was a head
taller than that gentleman, and half a dozen heads thicker than
Startop had been spoilt by a weak mother and kept at home when he
ought to have been at school, but he was devotedly attached to her,
and admired her beyond measure. He had a woman's delicacy of
feature, and was--"as you may see, though you never saw her," said
Herbert to me--"exactly like his mother. It was but natural that I
should take to him much more kindly than to Drummle, and that, even
in the earliest evenings of our boating, he and I should pull
homeward abreast of one another, conversing from boat to boat,
while Bentley Drummle came up in our wake alone, under the
overhanging banks and among the rushes. He would always creep
in-shore like some uncomfortable amphibious creature, even when the
tide would have sent him fast upon his way; and I always think of
him as coming after us in the dark or by the back-water, when our
own two boats were breaking the sunset or the moonlight in
Herbert was my intimate companion and friend. I presented him with
a half-share in my boat, which was the occasion of his often coming
down to Hammersmith; and my possession of a half-share in his
chambers often took me up to London. We used to walk between the
two places at all hours. I have an affection for the road yet
(though it is not so pleasant a road as it was then), formed in the
impressibility of untried youth and hope.
When I had been in Mr. Pocket's family a month or two, Mr. and Mrs.
Camilla turned up. Camilla was Mr. Pocket's sister. Georgiana, whom
I had seen at Miss Havisham's on the same occasion, also turned up.
she was a cousin,--an indigestive single woman, who called her
rigidity religion, and her liver love. These people hated me with
the hatred of cupidity and disappointment. As a matter of course,
they fawned upon me in my prosperity with the basest meanness.
Towards Mr. Pocket, as a grown-up infant with no notion of his own
interests, they showed the complacent forbearance I had heard them
express. Mrs. Pocket they held in contempt; but they allowed the
poor soul to have been heavily disappointed in life, because that
shed a feeble reflected light upon themselves.
These were the surroundings among which I settled down, and applied
myself to my education. I soon contracted expensive habits, and
began to spend an amount of money that within a few short months I
should have thought almost fabulous; but through good and evil I
stuck to my books. There was no other merit in this, than my having
sense enough to feel my deficiencies. Between Mr. Pocket and Herbert
I got on fast; and, with one or the other always at my elbow to
give me the start I wanted, and clear obstructions out of my road,
I must have been as great a dolt as Drummle if I had done less.
I had not seen Mr. Wemmick for some weeks, when I thought I would
write him a note and propose to go home with him on a certain
evening. He replied that it would give him much pleasure, and that
he would expect me at the office at six o'clock. Thither I went,
and there I found him, putting the key of his safe down his back as
the clock struck.
"Did you think of walking down to Walworth?" said he.
"Certainly," said I, "if you approve."
"Very much," was Wemmick's reply, "for I have had my legs under the
desk all day, and shall be glad to stretch them. Now, I'll tell you
what I have got for supper, Mr. Pip. I have got a stewed steak,--
which is of home preparation,--and a cold roast fowl,--which is
from the cook's-shop. I think it's tender, because the master of
the shop was a Juryman in some cases of ours the other day, and we
let him down easy. I reminded him of it when I bought the fowl, and
I said, "Pick us out a good one, old Briton, because if we had
chosen to keep you in the box another day or two, we could easily
have done it." He said to that, "Let me make you a present of the
best fowl in the shop." I let him, of course. As far as it goes,
it's property and portable. You don't object to an aged parent, I
I really thought he was still speaking of the fowl, until he added,
"Because I have got an aged parent at my place." I then said what
"So, you haven't dined with Mr. Jaggers yet?" he pursued, as we
"He told me so this afternoon when he heard you were coming. I
expect you'll have an invitation to-morrow. He's going to ask your
pals, too. Three of 'em; ain't there?"
Although I was not in the habit of counting Drummle as one of my
intimate associates, I answered, "Yes."
"Well, he's going to ask the whole gang,"-- I hardly felt
complimented by the word,--"and whatever he gives you, he'll give
you good. Don't look forward to variety, but you'll have
excellence. And there'sa nother rum thing in his house," proceeded
Wemmick, after a moment's pause, as if the remark followed on the
housekeeper understood; "he never lets a door or window be fastened
"Is he never robbed?"
"That's it!" returned Wemmick. "He says, and gives it out publicly,
"I want to see the man who'll rob me." Lord bless you, I have heard
him, a hundred times, if I have heard him once, say to regular
cracksmen in our front office, "You know where I live; now, no bolt
is ever drawn there; why don't you do a stroke of business with me?
Come; can't I tempt you?" Not a man of them, sir, would be bold
enough to try it on, for love or money."
"They dread him so much?" said I.
"Dread him," said Wemmick. "I believe you they dread him. Not but
what he's artful, even in his defiance of them. No silver, sir.
Britannia metal, every spoon."
"So they wouldn't have much," I observed, "even if they--"
"Ah! But he would have much," said Wemmick, cutting me short, "and
they know it. He'd have their lives, and the lives of scores of
'em. He'd have all he could get. And it's impossible to say what he
couldn't get, if he gave his mind to it."
I was falling into meditation on my guardian's greatness, when
"As to the absence of plate, that's only his natural depth, you
know. A river's its natural depth, and he's his natural depth. Look
at his watch-chain. That's real enough."
"It's very massive," said I.
"Massive?" repeated Wemmick. "I think so. And his watch is a gold
repeater, and worth a hundred pound if it's worth a penny. Mr. Pip,
there are about seven hundred thieves in this town who know all
about that watch; there's not a man, a woman, or a child, among
them, who wouldn't identify the smallest link in that chain, and
drop it as if it was red hot, if inveigled into touching it."
At first with such discourse, and afterwards with conversation of a
more general nature, did Mr. Wemmick and I beguile the time and the
road, until he gave me to understand that we had arrived in the
district of Walworth.
It appeared to be a collection of back lanes, ditches, and little
gardens, and to present the aspect of a rather dull retirement.
Wemmick's house was a little wooden cottage in the midst of plots
of garden, and the top of it was cut out and painted like a battery
mounted with guns.
"My own doing," said Wemmick. "Looks pretty; don't it?"
I highly commended it, I think it was the smallest house I ever
saw; with the queerest gothic windows (by far the greater part of
them sham), and a gothic door almost too small to get in at.
"That's a real flagstaff, you see," said Wemmick, "and on Sundays I
run up a real flag. Then look here. After I have crossed this
bridge, I hoist it up-so--and cut off the communication."
The bridge was a plank, and it crossed a chasm about four feet wide
and two deep. But it was very pleasant to see the pride with which
he hoisted it up and made it fast; smiling as he did so, with a
relish and not merely mechanically.
"At nine o'clock every night, Greenwich time," said Wemmick, "the
gun fires. There he is, you see! And when you hear him go, I think
you'll say he's a Stinger."
The piece of ordnance referred to, was mounted in a separate
fortress, constructed of lattice-work. It was protected from the
weather by an ingenious little tarpaulin contrivance in the nature
of an umbrella.
"Then, at the back," said Wemmick, "out of sight, so as not to
impede the idea of fortifications,--for it's a principle with me,
if you have an idea, carry it out and keep it up,--I don't know
whether that's your opinion--"
I said, decidedly.
"--At the back, there's a pig, and there are fowls and rabbits;
then, I knock together my own little frame, you see, and grow
cucumbers; and you'll judge at supper what sort of a salad I can
raise. So, sir," said Wemmick, smiling again, but seriously too, as
he shook his head, "if you can suppose the little place besieged,
it would hold out a devil of a time in point of provisions."
Then, he conducted me to a bower about a dozen yards off, but which
was approached by such ingenious twists of path that it took quite
a long time to get at; and in this retreat our glasses were already
set forth. Our punch was cooling in an ornamental lake, on whose
margin the bower was raised. This piece of water (with an island in
the middle which might have been the salad for supper) was of a
circular form, and he had constructed a fountain in it, which, when
you set a little mill going and took a cork out of a pipe, played
to that powerful extent that it made the back of your hand quite
"I am my own engineer, and my own carpenter, and my own plumber,
and my own gardener, and my own Jack of all Trades," said Wemmick,
in acknowledging my compliments. "Well; it's a good thing, you
know. It brushes the Newgate cobwebs away, and pleases the Aged.
You wouldn't mind being at once introduced to the Aged, would you?
It wouldn't put you out?"
I expressed the readiness I felt, and we went into the castle.
There we found, sitting by a fire, a very old man in a flannel
coat: clean, cheerful, comfortable, and well cared for, but
"Well aged parent," said Wemmick, shaking hands with him in a
cordial and jocose way, "how am you?"
"All right, John; all right!" replied the old man.
"Here's Mr. Pip, aged parent," said Wemmick, "and I wish you could
hear his name. Nod away at him, Mr. Pip; that's what he likes. Nod
away at him, if you please, like winking!"
"This is a fine place of my son's, sir," cried the old man, while I
nodded as hard as I possibly could. "This is a pretty
pleasure-ground, sir. This spot and these beautiful works upon it
ought to be kept together by the Nation, after my son's time, for
the people's enjoyment."
"You're as proud of it as Punch; ain't you, Aged?" said Wemmick,
contemplating the old man, with his hard face really softened;
"there's a nod for you;" giving him a tremendous one; "there's
another for you;" giving him a still more tremendous one; "you like
that, don't you? If you're not tired, Mr. Pip--though I know it's
tiring to strangers--will you tip him one more? You can't think
how it pleases him."
I tipped him several more, and he was in great spirits. We left him
bestirring himself to feed the fowls, and we sat down to our punch
in the arbor; where Wemmick told me, as he smoked a pipe, that it
had taken him a good many years to bring the property up to its
present pitch of perfection.
"Is it your own, Mr. Wemmick?"
"O yes," said Wemmick, "I have got hold of it, a bit at a time.
It's a freehold, by George!"
"Is it indeed? I hope Mr. Jaggers admires it?"
"Never seen it," said Wemmick. "Never heard of it. Never seen the
Aged. Never heard of him. No; the office is one thing, and private
life is another. When I go into the office, I leave the Castle
behind me, and when I come into the Castle, I leave the office
behind me. If it's not in any way disagreeable to you, you'll
oblige me by doing the same. I don't wish it professionally spoken
Of course I felt my good faith involved in the observance of his
request. The punch being very nice, we sat there drinking it and
talking, until it was almost nine o'clock. "Getting near gun-fire,"
said Wemmick then, as he laid down his pipe; "it's the Aged's
Proceeding into the Castle again, we found the Aged heating the
poker, with expectant eyes, as a preliminary to the performance of
this great nightly ceremony. Wemmick stood with his watch in his
hand until the moment was come for him to take the red-hot poker
from the Aged, and repair to the battery. He took it, and went out,
and presently the Stinger went off with a Bang that shook the crazy
little box of a cottage as if it must fall to pieces, and made
every glass and teacup in it ring. Upon this, the Aged--who I
believe would have been blown out of his arm-chair but for holding
on by the elbows--cried out exultingly, "He's fired! I heerd him!"
and I nodded at the old gentleman until it is no figure of speech
to declare that I absolutely could not see him.
The interval between that time and supper Wemmick devoted to
showing me his collection of curiosities. They were mostly of a
felonious character; comprising the pen with which a celebrated
forgery had been committed, a distinguished razor or two, some
locks of hair, and several manuscript confessions written under
condemnation,--upon which Mr. Wemmick set particular value as being,
to use his own words, "every one of 'em Lies, sir." These were
agreeably dispersed among small specimens of china and glass,
various neat trifles made by the proprietor of the museum, and some
tobacco-stoppers carved by the Aged. They were all displayed in
that chamber of the Castle into which I had been first inducted,
and which served, not only as the general sitting-room but as the
kitchen too, if I might judge from a saucepan on the hob, and a
brazen bijou over the fireplace designed for the suspension of a
There was a neat little girl in attendance, who looked after the
Aged in the day. When she had laid the supper-cloth, the bridge was
lowered to give her means of egress, and she withdrew for the
night. The supper was excellent; and though the Castle was rather
subject to dry-rot insomuch that it tasted like a bad nut, and
though the pig might have been farther off, I was heartily pleased
with my whole entertainment. Nor was there any drawback on my
little turret bedroom, beyond there being such a very thin ceiling
between me and the flagstaff, that when I lay down on my back in
bed, it seemed as if I had to balance that pole on my forehead all
Wemmick was up early in the morning, and I am afraid I heard him
cleaning my boots. After that, he fell to gardening, and I saw him
from my gothic window pretending to employ the Aged, and nodding at
him in a most devoted manner. Our breakfast was as good as the
supper, and at half-past eight precisely we started for Little
Britain. By degrees, Wemmick got dryer and harder as we went along,
and his mouth tightened into a post-office again. At last, when we
got to his place of business and he pulled out his key from his
coat-collar, he looked as unconscious of his Walworth property as
if the Castle and the drawbridge and the arbor and the lake and
the fountain and the Aged, had all been blown into space together
by the last discharge of the Stinger.
It fell out as Wemmick had told me it would, that I had an early
opportunity of comparing my guardian's establishment with that of
his cashier and clerk. My guardian was in his room, washing his
hands with his scented soap, when I went into the office from
Walworth; and he called me to him, and gave me the invitation for
myself and friends which Wemmick had prepared me to receive. "No
ceremony," he stipulated, "and no dinner dress, and say to-morrow."
I asked him where we should come to (for I had no idea where he
lived), and I believe it was in his general objection to make
anything like an admission, that he replied, "Come here, and I'll
take you home with me." I embrace this opportunity of remarking
that he washed his clients off, as if he were a surgeon or a
dentist. He had a closet in his room, fitted up for the purpose,
which smelt of the scented soap like a perfumer's shop. It had an
unusually large jack-towel on a roller inside the door, and he
would wash his hands, and wipe them and dry them all over this
towel, whenever he came in from a police court or dismissed a
client from his room. When I and my friends repaired to him at six
o'clock next day, he seemed to have been engaged on a case of a
darker complexion than usual, for we found him with his head
butted into this closet, not only washing his hands, but laving his
face and gargling his throat. And even when he had done all that,
and had gone all round the jack-towel, he took out his penknife and
scraped the case out of his nails before he put his coat on.
There were some people slinking about as usual when we passed out
into the street, who were evidently anxious to speak with him; but
there was something so conclusive in the halo of scented soap which
encircled his presence, that they gave it up for that day. As we
walked along westward, he was recognized ever and again by some
face in the crowd of the streets, and whenever that happened he
talked louder to me; but he never otherwise recognized anybody, or
took notice that anybody recognized him.
He conducted us to Gerrard Street, Soho, to a house on the south
side of that street. Rather a stately house of its kind, but
dolefully in want of painting, and with dirty windows. He took out
his key and opened the door, and we all went into a stone hall,
bare, gloomy, and little used. So, up a dark brown staircase into a
series of three dark brown rooms on the first floor. There were
carved garlands on the panelled walls, and as he stood among them
giving us welcome, I know what kind of loops I thought they looked
Dinner was laid in the best of these rooms; the second was his
dressing-room; the third, his bedroom. He told us that he held the
whole house, but rarely used more of it than we saw. The table was
comfortably laid--no silver in the service, of course--and at the
side of his chair was a capacious dumb-waiter, with a variety of
bottles and decanters on it, and four dishes of fruit for dessert.
I noticed throughout, that he kept everything under his own hand,
and distributed everything himself.
There was a bookcase in the room; I saw from the backs of the
books, that they were about evidence, criminal law, criminal
biography, trials, acts of Parliament, and such things. The
furniture was all very solid and good, like his watch-chain. It had
an official look, however, and there was nothing merely ornamental
to be seen. In a corner was a little table of papers with a shaded
lamp: so that he seemed to bring the office home with him in that
respect too, and to wheel it out of an evening and fall to work.
As he had scarcely seen my three companions until now,--for he and
I had walked together,--he stood on the hearth-rug, after ringing
the bell, and took a searching look at them. To my surprise, he
seemed at once to be principally if not solely interested in
"Pip," said he, putting his large hand on my shoulder and moving me
to the window, "I don't know one from the other. Who's the Spider?"
"The spider?" said I.
"The blotchy, sprawly, sulky fellow."
"That's Bentley Drummle," I replied; "the one with the delicate
face is Startop."
Not making the least account of "the one with the delicate face,"
he returned, "Bentley Drummle is his name, is it? I like the look
of that fellow."
He immediately began to talk to Drummle: not at all deterred by his
replying in his heavy reticent way, but apparently led on by it to
screw discourse out of him. I was looking at the two, when there
came between me and them the housekeeper, with the first dish for
She was a woman of about forty, I supposed,--but I may have thought
her younger than she was. Rather tall, of a lithe nimble figure,
extremely pale, with large faded eyes, and a quantity of streaming
hair. I cannot say whether any diseased affection of the heart
caused her lips to be parted as if she were panting, and her face
to bear a curious expression of suddenness and flutter; but I know
that I had been to see Macbeth at the theatre, a night or two
before, and that her face looked to me as if it were all disturbed
by fiery air, like the faces I had seen rise out of the Witches'
She set the dish on, touched my guardian quietly on the arm with a
finger to notify that dinner was ready, and vanished. We took our
seats at the round table, and my guardian kept Drummle on one side
of him, while Startop sat on the other. It was a noble dish of fish
that the housekeeper had put on table, and we had a joint of
equally choice mutton afterwards, and then an equally choice bird.
Sauces, wines, all the accessories we wanted, and all of the best,
were given out by our host from his dumb-waiter; and when they had
made the circuit of the table, he always put them back again.
Similarly, he dealt us clean plates and knives and forks, for each
course, and dropped those just disused into two baskets on the
ground by his chair. No other attendant than the housekeeper
appeared. She set on every dish; and I always saw in her face, a
face rising out of the caldron. Years afterwards, I made a dreadful
likeness of that woman, by causing a face that had no other natural
resemblance to it than it derived from flowing hair to pass behind
a bowl of flaming spirits in a dark room.
Induced to take particular notice of the housekeeper, both by her
own striking appearance and by Wemmick's preparation, I observed
that whenever she was in the room she kept her eyes attentively on
my guardian, and that she would remove her hands from any dish she
put before him, hesitatingly, as if she dreaded his calling her
back, and wanted him to speak when she was nigh, if he had anything
to say. I fancied that I could detect in his manner a consciousness
of this, and a purpose of always holding her in suspense.
Dinner went off gayly, and although my guardian seemed to follow
rather than originate subjects, I knew that he wrenched the weakest
part of our dispositions out of us. For myself, I found that I was
expressing my tendency to lavish expenditure, and to patronize
Herbert, and to boast of my great prospects, before I quite knew
that I had opened my lips. It was so with all of us, but with no
one more than Drummle: the development of whose inclination to gird
in a grudging and suspicious way at the rest, was screwed out of
him before the fish was taken off.
It was not then, but when we had got to the cheese, that our
conversation turned upon our rowing feats, and that Drummle was
rallied for coming up behind of a night in that slow amphibious way
of his. Drummle upon this, informed our host that he much preferred
our room to our company, and that as to skill he was more than our
master, and that as to strength he could scatter us like chaff. By
some invisible agency, my guardian wound him up to a pitch little
short of ferocity about this trifle; and he fell to baring and
spanning his arm to show how muscular it was, and we all fell to
baring and spanning our arms in a ridiculous manner.
Now the housekeeper was at that time clearing the table; my
guardian, taking no heed of her, but with the side of his face
turned from her, was leaning back in his chair biting the side of
his forefinger and showing an interest in Drummle, that, to me, was
quite inexplicable. Suddenly, he clapped his large hand on the
housekeeper's, like a trap, as she stretched it across the table.
So suddenly and smartly did he do this, that we all stopped in our
"If you talk of strength," said Mr. Jaggers, "I'll show you a wrist.
Molly, let them see your wrist."
Her entrapped hand was on the table, but she had already put her
other hand behind her waist. "Master," she said, in a low voice,
with her eyes attentively and entreatingly fixed upon him. "Don't."
"I'll show you a wrist," repeated Mr. Jaggers, with an immovable
determination to show it. "Molly, let them see your wrist."
"Master," she again murmured. "Please!"
"Molly," said Mr. Jaggers, not looking at her, but obstinately
looking at the opposite side of the room, "let them see both your
wrists. Show them. Come!"
He took his hand from hers, and turned that wrist up on the table.
She brought her other hand from behind her, and held the two out
side by side. The last wrist was much disfigured,--deeply scarred
and scarred across and across. When she held her hands out she
took her eyes from Mr. Jaggers, and turned them watchfully on every
one of the rest of us in succession.
"There's power here," said Mr. Jaggers, coolly tracing out the
sinews with his forefinger. "Very few men have the power of wrist
that this woman has. It's remarkable what mere force of grip there
is in these hands. I have had occasion to notice many hands; but I
never saw stronger in that respect, man's or woman's, than these."
While he said these words in a leisurely, critical style, she
continued to look at every one of us in regular succession as we
sat. The moment he ceased, she looked at him again. "That'll do,
Molly," said Mr. Jaggers, giving her a slight nod; "you have been
admired, and can go." She withdrew her hands and went out of the
room, and Mr. Jaggers, putting the decanters on from his dumb-waiter,
filled his glass and passed round the wine.
"At half-past nine, gentlemen," said he, "we must break up. Pray
make the best use of your time. I am glad to see you all. Mr.
Drummle, I drink to you."
If his object in singling out Drummle were to bring him out still
more, it perfectly succeeded. In a sulky triumph, Drummle showed
his morose depreciation of the rest of us, in a more and more
offensive degree, until he became downright intolerable. Through all
his stages, Mr. Jaggers followed him with the same strange interest.
He actually seemed to serve as a zest to Mr. Jaggers's wine.
In our boyish want of discretion I dare say we took too much to
drink, and I know we talked too much. We became particularly hot
upon some boorish sneer of Drummle's, to the effect that we were
too free with our money. It led to my remarking, with more zeal
than discretion, that it came with a bad grace from him, to whom
Startop had lent money in my presence but a week or so before.
"Well," retorted Drummle; "he'll be paid."
"I don't mean to imply that he won't," said I, "but it might make
you hold your tongue about us and our money, I should think."
"You should think!" retorted Drummle. "Oh Lord!"
"I dare say," I went on, meaning to be very severe, "that you
wouldn't lend money to any of us if we wanted it."
"You are right," said Drummle. "I wouldn't lend one of you a
sixpence. I wouldn't lend anybody a sixpence."
"Rather mean to borrow under those circumstances, I should say."
"You should say," repeated Drummle. "Oh Lord!"
This was so very aggravating--the more especially as I found
myself making no way against his surly obtuseness--that I said,
disregarding Herbert's efforts to check me,--
"Come, Mr. Drummle, since we are on the subject, I'll tell you what
passed between Herbert here and me, when you borrowed that money."
"I don't want to know what passed between Herbert there and you,"
growled Drummle. And I think he added in a lower growl, that we
might both go to the devil and shake ourselves.
"I'll tell you, however," said I, "whether you want to know or not.
We said that as you put it in your pocket very glad to get it, you
seemed to be immensely amused at his being so weak as to lend it."
Drummle laughed outright, and sat laughing in our faces, with his
hands in his pockets and his round shoulders raised; plainly
signifying that it was quite true, and that he despised us as
Hereupon Startop took him in hand, though with a much better grace
than I had shown, and exhorted him to be a little more agreeable.
Startop, being a lively, bright young fellow, and Drummle being the
exact opposite, the latter was always disposed to resent him as a
direct personal affront. He now retorted in a coarse, lumpish way,
and Startop tried to turn the discussion aside with some small
pleasantry that made us all laugh. Resenting this little success
more than anything, Drummle, without any threat or warning, pulled
his hands out of his pockets, dropped his round shoulders, swore,
took up a large glass, and would have flung it at his adversary's
head, but for our entertainer's dexterously seizing it at the
instant when it was raised for that purpose.
"Gentlemen," said Mr. Jaggers, deliberately putting down the glass,
and hauling out his gold repeater by its massive chain, "I am
exceedingly sorry to announce that it's half past nine."
On this hint we all rose to depart. Before we got to the street
door, Startop was cheerily calling Drummle "old boy," as if nothing
had happened. But the old boy was so far from responding, that he
would not even walk to Hammersmith on the same side of the way; so
Herbert and I, who remained in town, saw them going down the street
on opposite sides; Startop leading, and Drummle lagging behind in
the shadow of the houses, much as he was wont to follow in his
As the door was not yet shut, I thought I would leave Herbert there
for a moment, and run up stairs again to say a word to my guardian.
I found him in his dressing-room surrounded by his stock of boots,
already hard at it, washing his hands of us.
I told him I had come up again to say how sorry I was that anything
disagreeable should have occurred, and that I hoped he would not
blame me much.
"Pooh!" said he, sluicing his face, and speaking through the
water-drops; "it's nothing, Pip. I like that Spider though."
He had turned towards me now, and was shaking his head, and
blowing, and towelling himself.
"I am glad you like him, sir," said I--"but I don't."
"No, no," my guardian assented; "don't have too much to do with
him. Keep as clear of him as you can. But I like the fellow, Pip;
he is one of the true sort. Why, if I was a fortune-teller--"
Looking out of the towel, he caught my eye.
"But I am not a fortune-teller," he said, letting his head drop
into a festoon of towel, and towelling away at his two ears. "You
know what I am, don't you? Good night, Pip."
"Good night, sir."
In about a month after that, the Spider's time with Mr. Pocket was
up for good, and, to the great relief of all the house but Mrs.
Pocket, he went home to the family hole.
"MY DEAR MR PIP:--
"I write this by request of Mr. Gargery, for to let you know that he
is going to London in company with Mr. Wopsle and would be glad if
agreeable to be allowed to see you. He would call at Barnard's
Hotel Tuesday morning at nine o'clock, when if not agreeable please
leave word. Your poor sister is much the same as when you left. We
talk of you in the kitchen every night, and wonder what you are
saying and doing. If now considered in the light of a liberty,
excuse it for the love of poor old days. No more, dear Mr. Pip, from
your ever obliged, and affectionate servant,
"P.S. He wishes me most particular to write what larks. He says you
will understand. I hope and do not doubt it will be agreeable to
see him, even though a gentleman, for you had ever a good heart, and
he is a worthy, worthy man. I have read him all, excepting only the
last little sentence, and he wishes me most particular to write
again what larks."
I received this letter by the post on Monday morning, and therefore
its appointment was for next day. Let me confess exactly with what
feelings I looked forward to Joe's coming.
Not with pleasure, though I was bound to him by so many ties; no;
with considerable disturbance, some mortification, and a keen sense
of incongruity. If I could have kept him away by paying money, I
certainly would have paid money. My greatest reassurance was that
he was coming to Barnard's Inn, not to Hammersmith, and
consequently would not fall in Bentley Drummle's way. I had little
objection to his being seen by Herbert or his father, for both of
whom I had a respect; but I had the sharpest sensitiveness as to
his being seen by Drummle, whom I held in contempt. So, throughout
life, our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for
the sake of the people whom we most despise.
I had begun to be always decorating the chambers in some quite
unnecessary and inappropriate way or other, and very expensive
those wrestles with Barnard proved to be. By this time, the rooms
were vastly different from what I had found them, and I enjoyed the
honor of occupying a few prominent pages in the books of a
neighboring upholsterer. I had got on so fast of late, that I had
even started a boy in boots,--top boots,--in bondage and slavery to
whom I might have been said to pass my days. For, after I had made
the monster (out of the refuse of my washerwoman's family), and had
clothed him with a blue coat, canary waistcoat, white cravat,
creamy breeches, and the boots already mentioned, I had to find him
a little to do and a great deal to eat; and with both of those
horrible requirements he haunted my existence.
This avenging phantom was ordered to be on duty at eight on Tuesday
morning in the hall, (it was two feet square, as charged for
floorcloth,) and Herbert suggested certain things for breakfast
that he thought Joe would like. While I felt sincerely obliged to
him for being so interested and considerate, I had an odd
half-provoked sense of suspicion upon me, that if Joe had been
coming to see him, he wouldn't have been quite so brisk about it.
However, I came into town on the Monday night to be ready for Joe,
and I got up early in the morning, and caused the sitting-room and
breakfast-table to assume their most splendid appearance.
Unfortunately the morning was drizzly, and an angel could not have
concealed the fact that Barnard was shedding sooty tears outside the
window, like some weak giant of a Sweep.
As the time approached I should have liked to run away, but the
Avenger pursuant to orders was in the hall, and presently I heard
Joe on the staircase. I knew it was Joe, by his clumsy manner of
coming up stairs,--his state boots being always too big for him,--
and by the time it took him to read the names on the other floors
in the course of his ascent. When at last he stopped outside our
door, I could hear his finger tracing over the painted letters of
my name, and I afterwards distinctly heard him breathing in at the
keyhole. Finally he gave a faint single rap, and Pepper--such was
the compromising name of the avenging boy--announced "Mr. Gargery!"
I thought he never would have done wiping his feet, and that I must
have gone out to lift him off the mat, but at last he came in.
"Joe, how are you, Joe?"
"Pip, how AIR you, Pip?"
With his good honest face all glowing and shining, and his hat put
down on the floor between us, he caught both my hands and worked
them straight up and down, as if I had been the last-patented Pump.
"I am glad to see you, Joe. Give me your hat."
But Joe, taking it up carefully with both hands, like a bird's-nest
with eggs in it, wouldn't hear of parting with that piece of
property, and persisted in standing talking over it in a most
"Which you have that growed," said Joe, "and that swelled, and that
gentle-folked;" Joe considered a little before he discovered this
word; "as to be sure you are a honor to your king and country."
"And you, Joe, look wonderfully well."
"Thank God," said Joe, "I'm ekerval to most. And your sister, she's
no worse than she were. And Biddy, she's ever right and ready. And
all friends is no backerder, if not no forarder. 'Ceptin Wopsle;
he's had a drop."
All this time (still with both hands taking great care of the
bird's-nest), Joe was rolling his eyes round and round the room,
and round and round the flowered pattern of my dressing-gown.
"Had a drop, Joe?"
"Why yes," said Joe, lowering his voice, "he's left the Church and
went into the playacting. Which the playacting have likeways
brought him to London along with me. And his wish were," said Joe,
getting the bird's-nest under his left arm for the moment, and
groping in it for an egg with his right; "if no offence, as I would
'and you that."
I took what Joe gave me, and found it to be the crumpled play-bill
of a small metropolitan theatre, announcing the first appearance,
in that very week, of "the celebrated Provincial Amateur of Roscian
renown, whose unique performance in the highest tragic walk of our
National Bard has lately occasioned so great a sensation in local
"Were you at his performance, Joe?" I inquired.
"I were," said Joe, with emphasis and solemnity.
"Was there a great sensation?"
"Why," said Joe, "yes, there certainly were a peck of orange-peel.
Partickler when he see the ghost. Though I put it to yourself,
sir, whether it were calc'lated to keep a man up to his work with a
good hart, to be continiwally cutting in betwixt him and the Ghost
with "Amen!" A man may have had a misfortun' and been in the
Church," said Joe, lowering his voice to an argumentative and
feeling tone, "but that is no reason why you should put him out at
such a time. Which I meantersay, if the ghost of a man's own father
cannot be allowed to claim his attention, what can, Sir? Still
more, when his mourning 'at is unfortunately made so small as that
the weight of the black feathers brings it off, try to keep it on
how you may."
A ghost-seeing effect in Joe's own countenance informed me that
Herbert had entered the room. So, I presented Joe to Herbert, who
held out his hand; but Joe backed from it, and held on by the
"Your servant, Sir," said Joe, "which I hope as you and Pip"--here
his eye fell on the Avenger, who was putting some toast on table,
and so plainly denoted an intention to make that young gentleman
one of the family, that I frowned it down and confused him more--
"I meantersay, you two gentlemen,--which I hope as you get your
elths in this close spot? For the present may be a werry good inn,
according to London opinions," said Joe, confidentially, "and I
believe its character do stand i; but I wouldn't keep a pig in it
myself,--not in the case that I wished him to fatten wholesome and
to eat with a meller flavor on him."
Having borne this flattering testimony to the merits of our
dwelling-place, and having incidentally shown this tendency to call
me "sir," Joe, being invited to sit down to table, looked all round
the room for a suitable spot on which to deposit his hat,--as if it
were only on some very few rare substances in nature that it could
find a resting place,--and ultimately stood it on an extreme corner
of the chimney-piece, from which it ever afterwards fell off at
"Do you take tea, or coffee, Mr. Gargery?" asked Herbert, who always
presided of a morning.
"Thankee, Sir," said Joe, stiff from head to foot, "I'll take
whichever is most agreeable to yourself."
"What do you say to coffee?"
"Thankee, Sir," returned Joe, evidently dispirited by the proposal,
"since you are so kind as make chice of coffee, I will not run
contrairy to your own opinions. But don't you never find it a
"Say tea then," said Herbert, pouring it out.
Here Joe's hat tumbled off the mantel-piece, and he started out of
his chair and picked it up, and fitted it to the same exact spot.
As if it were an absolute point of good breeding that it should
tumble off again soon.
"When did you come to town, Mr. Gargery?"
"Were it yesterday afternoon?" said Joe, after coughing behind his
hand, as if he had had time to catch the whooping-cough since he
came. "No it were not. Yes it were. Yes. It were yesterday
afternoon" (with an appearance of mingled wisdom, relief, and
"Have you seen anything of London yet?"
"Why, yes, Sir," said Joe, "me and Wopsle went off straight to look
at the Blacking Ware'us. But we didn't find that it come up to its
likeness in the red bills at the shop doors; which I meantersay,"
added Joe, in an explanatory manner, "as it is there drawd too
I really believe Joe would have prolonged this word (mightily
expressive to my mind of some architecture that I know) into a
perfect Chorus, but for his attention being providentially
attracted by his hat, which was toppling. Indeed, it demanded from
him a constant attention, and a quickness of eye and hand, very
like that exacted by wicket-keeping. He made extraordinary play
with it, and showed the greatest skill; now, rushing at it and
catching it neatly as it dropped; now, merely stopping it midway,
beating it up, and humoring it in various parts of the room and
against a good deal of the pattern of the paper on the wall, before
he felt it safe to close with it; finally splashing it into the
slop-basin, where I took the liberty of laying hands upon it.
As to his shirt-collar, and his coat-collar, they were perplexing
to reflect upon,--insoluble mysteries both. Why should a man scrape
himself to that extent, before he could consider himself full
dressed? Why should he suppose it necessary to be purified by
suffering for his holiday clothes? Then he fell into such
unaccountable fits of meditation, with his fork midway between his
plate and his mouth; had his eyes attracted in such strange
directions; was afflicted with such remarkable coughs; sat so far
from the table, and dropped so much more than he ate, and pretended
that he hadn't dropped it; that I was heartily glad when Herbert
left us for the City.
I had neither the good sense nor the good feeling to know that this
was all my fault, and that if I had been easier with Joe, Joe would
have been easier with me. I felt impatient of him and out of temper
with him; in which condition he heaped coals of fire on my head.
"Us two being now alone, sir,"--began Joe.
"Joe," I interrupted, pettishly, "how can you call me, sir?"
Joe looked at me for a single instant with something faintly like
reproach. Utterly preposterous as his cravat was, and as his
collars were, I was conscious of a sort of dignity in the look.
"Us two being now alone," resumed Joe, "and me having the
intentions and abilities to stay not many minutes more, I will now
conclude--leastways begin--to mention what have led to my having
had the present honor. For was it not," said Joe, with his old air
of lucid exposition, "that my only wish were to be useful to you, I
should not have had the honor of breaking wittles in the company
and abode of gentlemen."
I was so unwilling to see the look again, that I made no
remonstrance against this tone.
"Well, sir," pursued Joe, "this is how it were. I were at the
Bargemen t'other night, Pip;"--whenever he subsided into affection,
he called me Pip, and whenever he relapsed into politeness he
called me sir; "when there come up in his shay-cart, Pumblechook.
Which that same identical," said Joe, going down a new track, "do
comb my 'air the wrong way sometimes, awful, by giving out up and
down town as it were him which ever had your infant companionation
and were looked upon as a playfellow by yourself."
"Nonsense. It was you, Joe."
"Which I fully believed it were, Pip," said Joe, slightly tossing
his head, "though it signify little now, sir. Well, Pip; this same
identical, which his manners is given to blusterous, come to me at
the Bargemen (wot a pipe and a pint of beer do give refreshment to
the workingman, sir, and do not over stimilate), and his word
were, 'Joseph, Miss Havisham she wish to speak to you.'"
"Miss Havisham, Joe?"
"'She wish,' were Pumblechook's word, 'to speak to you.'" Joe sat
and rolled his eyes at the ceiling.
"Yes, Joe? Go on, please."
"Next day, sir," said Joe, looking at me as if I were a long way
off, "having cleaned myself, I go and I see Miss A."
"Miss A., Joe? Miss Havisham?"
"Which I say, sir," replied Joe, with an air of legal formality, as
if he were making his will, "Miss A., or otherways Havisham. Her
expression air then as follering: 'Mr. Gargery. You air in
correspondence with Mr. Pip?' Having had a letter from you, I were
able to say 'I am.' (When I married your sister, sir, I said 'I
will;' and when I answered your friend, Pip, I said 'I am.') 'Would
you tell him, then,' said she, 'that which Estella has come home
and would be glad to see him.'"
I felt my face fire up as I looked at Joe. I hope one remote cause
of its firing may have been my consciousness that if I had known
his errand, I should have given him more encouragement.
"Biddy," pursued Joe, "when I got home and asked her fur to write
the message to you, a little hung back. Biddy says, "I know he will
be very glad to have it by word of mouth, it is holiday time, you
want to see him, go!" I have now concluded, sir," said Joe, rising
from his chair, "and, Pip, I wish you ever well and ever prospering
to a greater and a greater height."
"But you are not going now, Joe?"
"Yes I am," said Joe.
"But you are coming back to dinner, Joe?"
"No I am not," said Joe.
Our eyes met, and all the "ir" melted out of that manly heart as
he gave me his hand.
"Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded
together, as I may say, and one man's a blacksmith, and one's a
whitesmith, and one's a goldsmith, and one's a coppersmith.
Diwisions among such must come, and must be met as they come. If
there's been any fault at all to-day, it's mine. You and me is not
two figures to be together in London; nor yet anywheres else but
what is private, and beknown, and understood among friends. It
ain't that I am proud, but that I want to be right, as you shall
never see me no more in these clothes. I'm wrong in these clothes.
I'm wrong out of the forge, the kitchen, or off th' meshes. You
won't find half so much fault in me if you think of me in my forge
dress, with my hammer in my hand, or even my pipe. You won't find
half so much fault in me if, supposing as you should ever wish to
see me, you come and put your head in at the forge window and see
Joe the blacksmith, there, at the old anvil, in the old burnt
apron, sticking to the old work. I'm awful dull, but I hope I've
beat out something nigh the rights of this at last. And so GOD
bless you, dear old Pip, old chap, GOD bless you!"
I had not been mistaken in my fancy that there was a simple dignity
in him. The fashion of his dress could no more come in its way when
he spoke these words than it could come in its way in Heaven. He
touched me gently on the forehead, and went out. As soon as I could
recover myself sufficiently, I hurried out after him and looked for
him in the neighboring streets; but he was gone.
It was clear that I must repair to our town next day, and in the
first flow of my repentance, it was equally clear that I must stay
at Joe's. But, when I had secured my box-place by to-morrow's coach,
and had been down to Mr. Pocket's and back, I was not by any means
convinced on the last point, and began to invent reasons and make
excuses for putting up at the Blue Boar. I should be an
inconvenience at Joe's; I was not expected, and my bed would not be
ready; I should be too far from Miss Havisham's, and she was
exacting and mightn't like it. All other swindlers upon earth are
nothing to the self-swindlers, and with such pretences did I cheat
myself. Surely a curious thing. That I should innocently take a bad
half-crown of somebody else's manufacture is reasonable enough;
but that I should knowingly reckon the spurious coin of my own
make as good money! An obliging stranger, under pretence of
compactly folding up my bank-notes for security's sake, abstracts
the notes and gives me nutshells; but what is his sleight of hand
to mine, when I fold up my own nutshells and pass them on myself as
Having settled that I must go to the Blue Boar, my mind was much
disturbed by indecision whether or not to take the Avenger. It was
tempting to think of that expensive Mercenary publicly airing his
boots in the archway of the Blue Boar's posting-yard; it was almost
solemn to imagine him casually produced in the tailor's shop, and
confounding the disrespectful senses of Trabb's boy. On the other
hand, Trabb's boy might worm himself into his intimacy and tell him
things; or, reckless and desperate wretch as I knew he could be,
might hoot him in the High Street, My patroness, too, might hear of
him, and not approve. On the whole, I resolved to leave the Avenger
It was the afternoon coach by which I had taken my place, and, as
winter had now come round, I should not arrive at my destination
until two or three hours after dark. Our time of starting from the
Cross Keys was two o'clock. I arrived on the ground with a quarter
of an hour to spare, attended by the Avenger,--if I may connect
that expression with one who never attended on me if he could
possibly help it.
At that time it was customary to carry Convicts down to the
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.
"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 flavor 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
"And don't blame me," growled the convict I had recognized. "I
don't want to go. I am quite ready to stay behind. As fur as I am
concerned any one's welcome to my place."
"Or mine," said the other, gruffly. "I wouldn't have incommoded
none of you, if I'd had my way." Then they both laughed, and began
cracking nuts, and spitting the shells about.--As I really think I
should have liked to do myself, if I had been in their place and so
At length, it was voted that there was no help for the angry
gentleman, and that he must either go in his chance company or
remain behind. So he got into his place, still making complaints,
and the keeper got into the place next him, and the convicts hauled
themselves up as well as they could, and the convict I had
recognized sat behind me with his breath on the hair of my head.
"Good by, 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 endeavors to fend him
The weather was miserably raw, and the two cursed the cold. It made
us all lethargic before we had gone far, and when we had left the
Half-way House behind, we habitually dozed and shivered and were
silent. I dozed off, myself, in considering the question whether I
ought to restore a couple of pounds sterling to this creature
before losing sight of him, and how it could best be done. In the
act of dipping forward as if I were going to bathe among the
horses, I woke in a fright and took the question up again.
But I must have lost it longer than I had thought, since, although
I could recognize nothing in the darkness and the fitful lights and
shadows of our lamps, I traced marsh country in the cold damp wind
that blew at us. Cowering forward for warmth and to make me a
screen against the wind, the convicts were closer to me than
before. 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 recognized,--"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--Honor!--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
The coffee-room at the Blue Boar was empty, and I had not only
ordered my dinner there, but had sat down to it, before the waiter
knew me. As soon as he had apologized for the remissness of his
memory, he asked me if he should send Boots for Mr. Pumblechook?
"No," said I, "certainly not."
The waiter (it was he who had brought up the Great Remonstrance
from the Commercials, on the day when I was bound) appeared
surprised, and took the earliest opportunity of putting a dirty old
copy of a local newspaper so directly in my way, that I took it up
and read this paragraph:--
Our readers will learn, not altogether without interest, in
reference to the recent romantic rise in fortune of a young
artificer in iron of this neighborhood (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.
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 clew 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 gray dress. The last man I should have expected to
see in that place of porter at Miss Havisham's door.
"Ah, young master, there's more changes than yours. But come in,
come in. It's opposed to my orders to hold the gate open."
I entered and he swung it, and locked it, and took the key out.
"Yes!" said he, facing round, after doggedly preceding me a few
steps towards the house. "Here I am!"
"How did you come here?"
"I come her," he retorted, "on my legs. I had my box brought
alongside me in a barrow."
"Are you here for good?"
"I ain't 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
"I could have told you that, Orlick."