Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Part 3 out of 11
Justice, specially sent down from London, would be lying in ambush
behind the gate? Whether Miss Havisham, preferring to take personal
vengeance for an outrage done to her house, might rise in those
grave-clothes of hers, draw a pistol, and shoot me dead? Whether
suborned boys - a numerous band of mercenaries - might be engaged
to fall upon me in the brewery, and cuff me until I was no more? It
was high testimony to my confidence in the spirit of the pale young
gentleman, that I never imagined him accessory to these
retaliations; they always came into my mind as the acts of
injudicious relatives of his, goaded on by the state of his visage
and an indignant sympathy with the family features.
However, go to Miss Havisham's I must, and go I did. And behold!
nothing came of the late struggle. It was not alluded to in any
way, and no pale young gentleman was to be discovered on the
premises. I found the same gate open, and I explored the garden,
and even looked in at the windows of the detached house; but, my
view was suddenly stopped by the closed shutters within, and all
was lifeless. Only in the corner where the combat had taken place,
could I detect any evidence of the young gentleman's existence.
There were traces of his gore in that spot, and I covered them with
garden-mould from the eye of man.
On the broad landing between Miss Havisham's own room and that
other room in which the long table was laid out, I saw a
garden-chair - a light chair on wheels, that you pushed from
behind. It had been placed there since my last visit, and I
entered, that same day, on a regular occupation of pushing Miss
Havisham in this chair (when she was tired of walking with her hand
upon my shoulder) round her own room, and across the landing, and
round the other room. Over and over and over again, we would make
these journeys, and sometimes they would last as long as three
hours at a stretch. I insensibly fall into a general mention of
these journeys as numerous, because it was at once settled that I
should return every alternate day at noon for these purposes, and
because I am now going to sum up a period of at least eight or ten
As we began to be more used to one another, Miss Havisham talked
more to me, and asked me such questions as what had I learnt and
what was I going to be? I told her I was going to be apprenticed to
Joe, I believed; and I enlarged upon my knowing nothing and wanting
to know everything, in the hope that she might offer some help
towards that desirable end. But, she did not; on the contrary, she
seemed to prefer my being ignorant. Neither did she ever give me
any money - or anything but my daily dinner - nor ever stipulate
that I should be paid for my services.
Estella was always about, and always let me in and out, but never
told me I might kiss her again. Sometimes, she would coldly
tolerate me; sometimes, she would condescend to me; sometimes, she
would be quite familiar with me; sometimes, she would tell me
energetically that she hated me. Miss Havisham would often ask me
in a whisper, or when we were alone, "Does she grow prettier and
prettier, Pip?" And when I said yes (for indeed she did), would
seem to enjoy it greedily. Also, when we played at cards Miss
Havisham would look on, with a miserly relish of Estella's moods,
whatever they were. And sometimes, when her moods were so many and
so contradictory of one another that I was puzzled what to say or
do, Miss Havisham would embrace her with lavish fondness, murmuring
something in her ear that sounded like "Break their hearts my pride
and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy!"
There was a song Joe used to hum fragments of at the forge, of
which the burden was Old Clem. This was not a very ceremonious way
of rendering homage to a patron saint; but, I believe Old Clem
stood in that relation towards smiths. It was a song that imitated
the measure of beating upon iron, and was a mere lyrical excuse for
the introduction of Old Clem's respected name. Thus, you were to
hammer boys round - Old Clem! With a thump and a sound - Old Clem!
Beat it out, beat it out - Old Clem! With a clink for the stout -
Old Clem! Blow the fire, blow the fire - Old Clem! Roaring dryer,
soaring higher - Old Clem! One day soon after the appearance of the
chair, Miss Havisham suddenly saying to me, with the impatient
movement of her fingers, "There, there, there! Sing!" I was
surprised into crooning this ditty as I pushed her over the floor.
It happened so to catch her fancy, that she took it up in a low
brooding voice as if she were singing in her sleep. After that, it
became customary with us to have it as we moved about, and Estella
would often join in; though the whole strain was so subdued, even
when there were three of us, that it made less noise in the grim
old house than the lightest breath of wind.
What could I become with these surroundings? How could my character
fail to be influenced by them? Is it to be wondered at if my
thoughts were dazed, as my eyes were, when I came out into the
natural light from the misty yellow rooms?
Perhaps, I might have told Joe about the pale young gentleman, if I
had not previously been betrayed into those enormous inventions to
which I had confessed. Under the circumstances, I felt that Joe
could hardly fail to discern in the pale young gentleman, an
appropriate passenger to be put into the black velvet coach;
therefore, I said nothing of him. Besides: that shrinking from
having Miss Havisham and Estella discussed, which had come upon me
in the beginning, grew much more potent as time went on. I reposed
complete confidence in no one but Biddy; but, I told poor Biddy
everything. Why it came natural to me to do so, and why Biddy had a
deep concern in everything I told her, I did not know then, though
I think I know now.
Meanwhile, councils went on in the kitchen at home, fraught with
almost insupportable aggravation to my exasperated spirit. That
ass, Pumblechook, used often to come over of a night for the purpose
of discussing my prospects with my sister; and I really do believe
(to this hour with less penitence than I ought to feel), that if
these hands could have taken a linchpin out of his chaise-cart,
they would have done it. The miserable man was a man of that
confined stolidity of mind, that he could not discuss my prospects
without having me before him - as it were, to operate upon - and he
would drag me up from my stool (usually by the collar) where I was
quiet in a corner, and, putting me before the fire as if I were
going to be cooked, would begin by saying, "Now, Mum, here is this
boy! Here is this boy which you brought up by hand. Hold up your
head, boy, and be for ever grateful unto them which so did do. Now,
Mum, with respections to this boy!" And then he would rumple my
hair the wrong way - which from my earliest remembrance, as already
hinted, I have in my soul denied the right of any fellow-creature
to do - and would hold me before him by the sleeve: a spectacle of
imbecility only to be equalled by himself.
Then, he and my sister would pair off in such nonsensical
speculations about Miss Havisham, and about what she would do with
me and for me, that I used to want - quite painfully - to burst
into spiteful tears, fly at Pumblechook, and pummel him all over.
In these dialogues, my sister spoke to me as if she were morally
wrenching one of my teeth out at every reference; while Pumblechook
himself, self-constituted my patron, would sit supervising me with
a depreciatory eye, like the architect of my fortunes who thought
himself engaged on a very unremunerative job.
In these discussions, Joe bore no part. But he was often talked at,
while they were in progress, by reason of Mrs. Joe's perceiving that
he was not favourable to my being taken from the forge. I was fully
old enough now, to be apprenticed to Joe; and when Joe sat with the
poker on his knees thoughtfully raking out the ashes between the
lower bars, my sister would so distinctly construe that innocent
action into opposition on his part, that she would dive at him,
take the poker out of his hands, shake him, and put it away. There
was a most irritating end to every one of these debates. All in a
moment, with nothing to lead up to it, my sister would stop herself
in a yawn, and catching sight of me as it were incidentally, would
swoop upon me with, "Come! there's enough of you! You get along to
bed; you've given trouble enough for one night, I hope!" As if I
had besought them as a favour to bother my life out.
We went on in this way for a long time, and it seemed likely that
we should continue to go on in this way for a long time, when, one
day, Miss Havisham stopped short as she and I were walking, she
leaning on my shoulder; and said with some displeasure:
"You are growing tall, Pip!"
I thought it best to hint, through the medium of a meditative look,
that this might be occasioned by circumstances over which I had no
She said no more at the time; but, she presently stopped and looked
at me again; and presently again; and after that, looked frowning
and moody. On the next day of my attendance when our usual exercise
was over, and I had landed her at her dressingtable, she stayed me
with a movement of her impatient fingers:
"Tell me the name again of that blacksmith of yours."
"Joe Gargery, ma'am."
"Meaning the master you were to be apprenticed to?"
"Yes, Miss Havisham."
"You had better be apprenticed at once. Would Gargery come here
with you, and bring your indentures, do you think?"
I signified that I had no doubt he would take it as an honour to be
"Then let him come."
"At any particular time, Miss Havisham?"
"There, there! I know nothing about times. Let him come soon, and
come along with you."
When I got home at night, and delivered this message for Joe, my
sister "went on the Rampage," in a more alarming degree than at any
previous period. She asked me and Joe whether we supposed she was
door-mats under our feet, and how we dared to use her so, and what
company we graciously thought she was fit for? When she had
exhausted a torrent of such inquiries, she threw a candlestick at
Joe, burst into a loud sobbing, got out the dustpan - which was
always a very bad sign - put on her coarse apron, and began
cleaning up to a terrible extent. Not satisfied with a dry
cleaning, she took to a pail and scrubbing-brush, and cleaned us
out of house and home, so that we stood shivering in the back-yard.
It was ten o'clock at night before we ventured to creep in again,
and then she asked Joe why he hadn't married a Negress Slave at
once? Joe offered no answer, poor fellow, but stood feeling his
whisker and looking dejectedly at me, as if he thought it really
might have been a better speculation.
It was a trial to my feelings, on the next day but one, to see Joe
arraying himself in his Sunday clothes to accompany me to Miss
Havisham's. However, as he thought his court-suit necessary to the
occasion, it was not for me tell him that he looked far better in
his working dress; the rather, because I knew he made himself so
dreadfully uncomfortable, entirely on my account, and that it was
for me he pulled up his shirt-collar so very high behind, that it
made the hair on the crown of his head stand up like a tuft of
At breakfast time my sister declared her intention of going to town
with us, and being left at Uncle Pumblechook's and called for "when
we had done with our fine ladies" - a way of putting the case, from
which Joe appeared inclined to augur the worst. The forge was shut
up for the day, and Joe inscribed in chalk upon the door (as it was
his custom to do on the very rare occasions when he was not at
work) the monosyllable HOUT, accompanied by a sketch of an arrow
supposed to be flying in the direction he had taken.
We walked to town, my sister leading the way in a very large beaver
bonnet, and carrying a basket like the Great Seal of England in
plaited straw, a pair of pattens, a spare shawl, and an umbrella,
though it was a fine bright day. I am not quite clear whether these
articles were carried penitentially or ostentatiously; but, I
rather think they were displayed as articles of property - much as
Cleopatra or any other sovereign lady on the Rampage might exhibit
her wealth in a pageant or procession.
When we came to Pumblechook's, my sister bounced in and left us. As
it was almost noon, Joe and I held straight on to Miss Havisham's
house. Estella opened the gate as usual, and, the moment she
appeared, Joe took his hat off and stood weighing it by the brim in
both his hands: as if he had some urgent reason in his mind for
being particular to half a quarter of an ounce.
Estella took no notice of either of us, but led us the way that I
knew so well. I followed next to her, and Joe came last. When I
looked back at Joe in the long passage, he was still weighing his
hat with the greatest care, and was coming after us in long strides
on the tips of his toes.
Estella told me we were both to go in, so I took Joe by the
coat-cuff and conducted him into Miss Havisham's presence. She was
seated at her dressing-table, and looked round at us immediately.
"Oh!" said she to Joe. "You are the husband of the sister of this
I could hardly have imagined dear old Joe looking so unlike himself
or so like some extraordinary bird; standing, as he did,
speechless, with his tuft of feathers ruffled, and his mouth open,
as if he wanted a worm.
"You are the husband," repeated Miss Havisham, "of the sister of
It was very aggravating; but, throughout the interview Joe
persisted in addressing Me instead of Miss Havisham.
"Which I meantersay, Pip," Joe now observed in a manner that was at
once expressive of forcible argumentation, strict confidence, and
great politeness, "as I hup and married your sister, and I were at
the time what you might call (if you was anyways inclined) a single
"Well!" said Miss Havisham. "And you have reared the boy, with the
intention of taking him for your apprentice; is that so, Mr.
"You know, Pip," replied Joe, "as you and me were ever friends, and
it were looked for'ard to betwixt us, as being calc'lated to lead
to larks. Not but what, Pip, if you had ever made objections to the
business - such as its being open to black and sut, or such-like -
not but what they would have been attended to, don't you see?"
"Has the boy," said Miss Havisham, "ever made any objection? Does
he like the trade?"
"Which it is well beknown to yourself, Pip," returned Joe,
strengthening his former mixture of argumentation, confidence, and
politeness, "that it were the wish of your own hart." (I saw the
idea suddenly break upon him that he would adapt his epitaph to the
occasion, before he went on to say) "And there weren't no objection
on your part, and Pip it were the great wish of your heart!"
It was quite in vain for me to endeavour to make him sensible that
he ought to speak to Miss Havisham. The more I made faces and
gestures to him to do it, the more confidential, argumentative, and
polite, he persisted in being to Me.
"Have you brought his indentures with you?" asked Miss Havisham.
"Well, Pip, you know," replied Joe, as if that were a little
unreasonable, "you yourself see me put 'em in my 'at, and therefore
you know as they are here." With which he took them out, and gave
them, not to Miss Havisham, but to me. I am afraid I was ashamed of
the dear good fellow - I know I was ashamed of him - when I saw
that Estella stood at the back of Miss Havisham's chair, and that
her eyes laughed mischievously. I took the indentures out of his
hand and gave them to Miss Havisham.
"You expected," said Miss Havisham, as she looked them over, "no
premium with the boy?"
"Joe!" I remonstrated; for he made no reply at all. "Why don't you
"Pip," returned Joe, cutting me short as if he were hurt, "which I
meantersay that were not a question requiring a answer betwixt
yourself and me, and which you know the answer to be full well No.
You know it to be No, Pip, and wherefore should I say it?"
Miss Havisham glanced at him as if she understood what he really
was, better than I had thought possible, seeing what he was there;
and took up a little bag from the table beside her.
"Pip has earned a premium here," she said, "and here it is. There
are five-and-twenty guineas in this bag. Give it to your master,
As if he were absolutely out of his mind with the wonder awakened
in him by her strange figure and the strange room, Joe, even at
this pass, persisted in addressing me.
"This is wery liberal on your part, Pip," said Joe, "and it is as
such received and grateful welcome, though never looked for, far
nor near nor nowheres. And now, old chap," said Joe, conveying to
me a sensation, first of burning and then of freezing, for I felt
as if that familiar expression were applied to Miss Havisham; "and
now, old chap, may we do our duty! May you and me do our duty, both
on us by one and another, and by them which your liberal present -
have - conweyed - to be - for the satisfaction of mind - of - them
as never--" here Joe showed that he felt he had fallen into
frightful difficulties, until he triumphantly rescued himself with
the words, "and from myself far be it!" These words had such a
round and convincing sound for him that he said them twice.
"Good-bye, Pip!" said Miss Havisham. "Let them out, Estella."
"Am I to come again, Miss Havisham?" I asked.
"No. Gargery is your master now. Gargery! One word!"
Thus calling him back as I went out of the door, I heard her say to
Joe, in a distinct emphatic voice, "The boy has been a good boy
here, and that is his reward. Of course, as an honest man, you will
expect no other and no more."
How Joe got out of the room, I have never been able to determine;
but, I know that when he did get out he was steadily proceeding
up-stairs instead of coming down, and was deaf to all remonstrances
until I went after him and laid hold of him. In another minute we
were outside the gate, and it was locked, and Estella was gone.
When we stood in the daylight alone again, Joe backed up against a
wall, and said to me, "Astonishing!" And there he remained so long,
saying "Astonishing" at intervals, so often, that I began to think
his senses were never coming back. At length he prolonged his
remark into "Pip, I do assure you this is as-TONishing!" and so, by
degrees, became conversational and able to walk away.
I have reason to think that Joe's intellects were brightened by the
encounter they had passed through, and that on our way to
Pumblechook's he invented a subtle and deep design. My reason is to
be found in what took place in Mr. Pumblechook's parlour: where, on
our presenting ourselves, my sister sat in conference with that
"Well?" cried my sister, addressing us both at once. "And what's
happened to you? I wonder you condescend to come back to such poor
society as this, I am sure I do!"
"Miss Havisham," said Joe, with a fixed look at me, like an effort
of remembrance, "made it wery partick'ler that we should give her -
were it compliments or respects, Pip?"
"Compliments," I said.
"Which that were my own belief," answered Joe - "her compliments to
Mrs. J. Gargery--"
"Much good they'll do me!" observed my sister; but rather gratified
"And wishing," pursued Joe, with another fixed look at me, like
another effort of remembrance, "that the state of Miss Havisham's
elth were sitch as would have - allowed, were it, Pip?"
"Of her having the pleasure," I added.
"Of ladies' company," said Joe. And drew a long breath.
"Well!" cried my sister, with a mollified glance at Mr. Pumblechook.
"She might have had the politeness to send that message at first,
but it's better late than never. And what did she give young
"She giv' him," said Joe, "nothing."
Mrs. Joe was going to break out, but Joe went on.
"What she giv'," said Joe, "she giv' to his friends. 'And by his
friends,' were her explanation, 'I mean into the hands of his
sister Mrs. J. Gargery.' Them were her words; 'Mrs. J. Gargery.' She
mayn't have know'd," added Joe, with an appearance of reflection,
"whether it were Joe, or Jorge."
My sister looked at Pumblechook: who smoothed the elbows of his
wooden armchair, and nodded at her and at the fire, as if he had
known all about it beforehand.
"And how much have you got?" asked my sister, laughing. Positively,
"What would present company say to ten pound?" demanded Joe.
"They'd say," returned my sister, curtly, "pretty well. Not too
much, but pretty well."
"It's more than that, then," said Joe.
That fearful Impostor, Pumblechook, immediately nodded, and said,
as he rubbed the arms of his chair: "It's more than that, Mum."
"Why, you don't mean to say--" began my sister.
"Yes I do, Mum," said Pumblechook; "but wait a bit. Go on, Joseph.
Good in you! Go on!"
"What would present company say," proceeded Joe, "to twenty pound?"
"Handsome would be the word," returned my sister.
"Well, then," said Joe, "It's more than twenty pound."
That abject hypocrite, Pumblechook, nodded again, and said, with a
patronizing laugh, "It's more than that, Mum. Good again! Follow her
"Then to make an end of it," said Joe, delightedly handing the bag
to my sister; "it's five-and-twenty pound."
"It's five-and-twenty pound, Mum," echoed that basest of swindlers,
Pumblechook, rising to shake hands with her; "and it's no more than
your merits (as I said when my opinion was asked), and I wish you
joy of the money!"
If the villain had stopped here, his case would have been
sufficiently awful, but he blackened his guilt by proceeding to
take me into custody, with a right of patronage that left all his
former criminality far behind.
"Now you see, Joseph and wife," said Pumblechook, as he took me by
the arm above the elbow, "I am one of them that always go right
through with what they've begun. This boy must be bound, out of
hand. That's my way. Bound out of hand."
"Goodness knows, Uncle Pumblechook," said my sister (grasping the
money), "we're deeply beholden to you."
"Never mind me, Mum, returned that diabolical corn-chandler. "A
pleasure's a pleasure, all the world over. But this boy, you know;
we must have him bound. I said I'd see to it - to tell you the
The Justices were sitting in the Town Hall near at hand, and we at
once went over to have me bound apprentice to Joe in the
Magisterial presence. I say, we went over, but I was pushed over by
Pumblechook, exactly as if I had that moment picked a pocket or
fired a rick; indeed, it was the general impression in Court that I
had been taken red-handed, for, as Pumblechook shoved me before him
through the crowd, I heard some people say, "What's he done?" and
others, "He's a young 'un, too, but looks bad, don't he? One person
of mild and benevolent aspect even gave me a tract ornamented with
a woodcut of a malevolent young man fitted up with a perfect
sausage-shop of fetters, and entitled, TO BE READ IN MY CELL.
The Hall was a queer place, I thought, with higher pews in it than
a church - and with people hanging over the pews looking on - and
with mighty Justices (one with a powdered head) leaning back in
chairs, with folded arms, or taking snuff, or going to sleep, or
writing, or reading the newspapers - and with some shining black
portraits on the walls, which my unartistic eye regarded as a
composition of hardbake and sticking-plaister. Here, in a corner,
my indentures were duly signed and attested, and I was "bound;" Mr.
Pumblechook holding me all the while as if we had looked in on our
way to the scaffold, to have those little preliminaries disposed
When we had come out again, and had got rid of the boys who had
been put into great spirits by the expectation of seeing me
publicly tortured, and who were much disappointed to find that my
friends were merely rallying round me, we went back to
Pumblechook's. And there my sister became so excited by the
twenty-five guineas, that nothing would serve her but we must have
a dinner out of that windfall, at the Blue Boar, and that
Pumblechook must go over in his chaise-cart, and bring the Hubbles
and Mr. Wopsle.
It was agreed to be done; and a most melancholy day I passed. For,
it inscrutably appeared to stand to reason, in the minds of the
whole company, that I was an excrescence on the entertainment. And
to make it worse, they all asked me from time to time - in short,
whenever they had nothing else to do - why I didn't enjoy myself.
And what could I possibly do then, but say I was enjoying myself -
when I wasn't?
However, they were grown up and had their own way, and they made
the most of it. That swindling Pumblechook, exalted into the
beneficent contriver of the whole occasion, actually took the top
of the table; and, when he addressed them on the subject of my
being bound, and had fiendishly congratulated them on my being
liable to imprisonment if I played at cards, drank strong liquors,
kept late hours or bad company, or indulged in other vagaries which
the form of my indentures appeared to contemplate as next to
inevitable, he placed me standing on a chair beside him, to
illustrate his remarks.
My only other remembrances of the great festival are, That they
wouldn't let me go to sleep, but whenever they saw me dropping off,
woke me up and told me to enjoy myself. That, rather late in the
evening Mr. Wopsle gave us Collins's ode, and threw his bloodstain'd
sword in thunder down, with such effect, that a waiter came in and
said, "The Commercials underneath sent up their compliments, and it
wasn't the Tumblers' Arms." That, they were all in excellent
spirits on the road home, and sang O Lady Fair! Mr. Wopsle taking
the bass, and asserting with a tremendously strong voice (in reply
to the inquisitive bore who leads that piece of music in a most
impertinent manner, by wanting to know all about everybody's
private affairs) that he was the man with his white locks flowing,
and that he was upon the whole the weakest pilgrim going.
Finally, I remember that when I got into my little bedroom I was
truly wretched, and had a strong conviction on me that I should
never like Joe's trade. I had liked it once, but once was not now.
It is a most miserable thing to feel ashamed of home. There may be
black ingratitude in the thing, and the punishment may be
retributive and well deserved; but, that it is a miserable thing, I
Home had never been a very pleasant place to me, because of my
sister's temper. But, Joe had sanctified it, and I had believed in
it. I had believed in the best parlour as a most elegant saloon; I
had believed in the front door, as a mysterious portal of the
Temple of State whose solemn opening was attended with a sacrifice
of roast fowls; I had believed in the kitchen as a chaste though
not magnificent apartment; I had believed in the forge as the
glowing road to manhood and independence. Within a single year, all
this was changed. Now, it was all coarse and common, and I would
not have had Miss Havisham and Estella see it on any account.
How much of my ungracious condition of mind may have been my own
fault, how much Miss Havisham's, how much my sister's, is now of no
moment to me or to any one. The change was made in me; the thing
was done. Well or ill done, excusably or inexcusably, it was done.
Once, it had seemed to me that when I should at last roll up my
shirt-sleeves and go into the forge, Joe's 'prentice, I should be
distinguished and happy. Now the reality was in my hold, I only
felt that I was dusty with the dust of small coal, and that I had a
weight upon my daily remembrance to which the anvil was a feather.
There have been occasions in my later life (I suppose as in most
lives) when I have felt for a time as if a thick curtain had fallen
on all its interest and romance, to shut me out from anything save
dull endurance any more. Never has that curtain dropped so heavy
and blank, as when my way in life lay stretched out straight before
me through the newly-entered road of apprenticeship to Joe.
I remember that at a later period of my "time," I used to stand
about the churchyard on Sunday evenings when night was falling,
comparing my own perspective with the windy marsh view, and making
out some likeness between them by thinking how flat and low both
were, and how on both there came an unknown way and a dark mist and
then the sea. I was quite as dejected on the first working-day of
my apprenticeship as in that after-time; but I am glad to know that
I never breathed a murmur to Joe while my indentures lasted. It is
about the only thing I am glad to know of myself in that
For, though it includes what I proceed to add, all the merit of
what I proceed to add was Joe's. It was not because I was faithful,
but because Joe was faithful, that I never ran away and went for a
soldier or a sailor. It was not because I had a strong sense of the
virtue of industry, but because Joe had a strong sense of the
virtue of industry, that I worked with tolerable zeal against the
grain. It is not possible to know how far the influence of any
amiable honest-hearted duty-doing man flies out into the world; but
it is very possible to know how it has touched one's self in going
by, and I know right well, that any good that intermixed itself
with my apprenticeship came of plain contented Joe, and not of
restlessly aspiring discontented me.
What I wanted, who can say? How can I say, when I never knew? What
I dreaded was, that in some unlucky hour I, being at my grimiest
and commonest, should lift up my eyes and see Estella looking in at
one of the wooden windows of the forge. I was haunted by the fear
that she would, sooner or later, find me out, with a black face and
hands, doing the coarsest part of my work, and would exult over me
and despise me. Often after dark, when I was pulling the bellows
for Joe, and we were singing Old Clem, and when the thought how we
used to sing it at Miss Havisham's would seem to show me Estella's
face in the fire, with her pretty hair fluttering in the wind and
her eyes scorning me, - often at such a time I would look towards
those panels of black night in the wall which the wooden windows
then were, and would fancy that I saw her just drawing her face
away, and would believe that she had come at last.
After that, when we went in to supper, the place and the meal would
have a more homely look than ever, and I would feel more ashamed of
home than ever, in my own ungracious breast.
As I was getting too big for Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt's room, my
education under that preposterous female terminated. Not, however,
until Biddy had imparted to me everything she knew, from the little
catalogue of prices, to a comic song she had once bought for a
halfpenny. Although the only coherent part of the latter piece of
literature were the opening lines,
When I went to Lunnon town sirs, Too rul loo rul Too rul loo rul
Wasn't I done very brown sirs? Too rul loo rul Too rul loo rul
- still, in my desire to be wiser, I got this composition by heart
with the utmost gravity; nor do I recollect that I questioned its
merit, except that I thought (as I still do) the amount of Too rul
somewhat in excess of the poetry. In my hunger for information, I
made proposals to Mr. Wopsle to bestow some intellectual crumbs upon
me; with which he kindly complied. As it turned out, however, that
he only wanted me for a dramatic lay-figure, to be contradicted and
embraced and wept over and bullied and clutched and stabbed and
knocked about in a variety of ways, I soon declined that course of
instruction; though not until Mr. Wopsle in his poetic fury had
severely mauled me.
Whatever I acquired, I tried to impart to Joe. This statement
sounds so well, that I cannot in my conscience let it pass
unexplained. I wanted to make Joe less ignorant and common, that he
might be worthier of my society and less open to Estella's
The old Battery out on the marshes was our place of study, and a
broken slate and a short piece of slate pencil were our educational
implements: to which Joe always added a pipe of tobacco. I never
knew Joe to remember anything from one Sunday to another, or to
acquire, under my tuition, any piece of information whatever. Yet
he would smoke his pipe at the Battery with a far more sagacious
air than anywhere else - even with a learned air - as if he
considered himself to be advancing immensely. Dear fellow, I hope
It was pleasant and quiet, out there with the sails on the river
passing beyond the earthwork, and sometimes, when the tide was low,
looking as if they belonged to sunken ships that were still sailing
on at the bottom of the water. Whenever I watched the vessels
standing out to sea with their white sails spread, I somehow
thought of Miss Havisham and Estella; and whenever the light struck
aslant, afar off, upon a cloud or sail or green hill-side or
water-line, it was just the same. - Miss Havisham and Estella and
the strange house and the strange life appeared to have something
to do with everything that was picturesque.
One Sunday when Joe, greatly enjoying his pipe, had so plumed
himself on being "most awful dull," that I had given him up for the
day, I lay on the earthwork for some time with my chin on my hand,
descrying traces of Miss Havisham and Estella all over the
prospect, in the sky and in the water, until at last I resolved to
mention a thought concerning them that had been much in my head.
"Joe," said I; "don't you think I ought to make Miss Havisham a
"Well, Pip," returned Joe, slowly considering. "What for?"
"What for, Joe? What is any visit made for?"
"There is some wisits, p'r'aps," said Joe, "as for ever remains
open to the question, Pip. But in regard to wisiting Miss Havisham.
She might think you wanted something - expected something of her."
"Don't you think I might say that I did not, Joe?"
"You might, old chap," said Joe. "And she might credit it.
Similarly she mightn't."
Joe felt, as I did, that he had made a point there, and he pulled
hard at his pipe to keep himself from weakening it by repetition.
"You see, Pip," Joe pursued, as soon as he was past that danger,
"Miss Havisham done the handsome thing by you. When Miss Havisham
done the handsome thing by you, she called me back to say to me as
that were all."
"Yes, Joe. I heard her."
"ALL," Joe repeated, very emphatically.
"Yes, Joe. I tell you, I heard her."
"Which I meantersay, Pip, it might be that her meaning were - Make
a end on it! - As you was! - Me to the North, and you to the South!
- Keep in sunders!"
I had thought of that too, and it was very far from comforting to
me to find that he had thought of it; for it seemed to render it
"Yes, old chap."
"Here am I, getting on in the first year of my time, and, since the
day of my being bound, I have never thanked Miss Havisham, or asked
after her, or shown that I remember her."
"That's true, Pip; and unless you was to turn her out a set of
shoes all four round - and which I meantersay as even a set of
shoes all four round might not be acceptable as a present, in a
total wacancy of hoofs--"
"I don't mean that sort of remembrance, Joe; I don't mean a
But Joe had got the idea of a present in his head and must harp
upon it. "Or even," said he, "if you was helped to knocking her up
a new chain for the front door - or say a gross or two of
shark-headed screws for general use - or some light fancy article,
such as a toasting-fork when she took her muffins - or a gridiron
when she took a sprat or such like--"
"I don't mean any present at all, Joe," I interposed.
"Well," said Joe, still harping on it as though I had particularly
pressed it, "if I was yourself, Pip, I wouldn't. No, I would not.
For what's a door-chain when she's got one always up? And
shark-headers is open to misrepresentations. And if it was a
toasting-fork, you'd go into brass and do yourself no credit. And
the oncommonest workman can't show himself oncommon in a gridiron -
for a gridiron IS a gridiron," said Joe, steadfastly impressing it
upon me, as if he were endeavouring to rouse me from a fixed
delusion, "and you may haim at what you like, but a gridiron it
will come out, either by your leave or again your leave, and you
can't help yourself--"
"My dear Joe," I cried, in desperation, taking hold of his coat,
"don't go on in that way. I never thought of making Miss Havisham
"No, Pip," Joe assented, as if he had been contending for that, all
along; "and what I say to you is, you are right, Pip."
"Yes, Joe; but what I wanted to say, was, that as we are rather
slack just now, if you would give me a half-holiday to-morrow, I
think I would go up-town and make a call on Miss Est - Havisham."
"Which her name," said Joe, gravely, "ain't Estavisham, Pip, unless
she have been rechris'ened."
"I know, Joe, I know. It was a slip of mine. What do you think of
In brief, Joe thought that if I thought well of it, he thought well
of it. But, he was particular in stipulating that if I were not
received with cordiality, or if I were not encouraged to repeat my
visit as a visit which had no ulterior object but was simply one of
gratitude for a favour received, then this experimental trip should
have no successor. By these conditions I promised to abide.
Now, Joe kept a journeyman at weekly wages whose name was Orlick.
He pretended that his Christian name was Dolge - a clear
impossibility - but he was a fellow of that obstinate disposition
that I believe him to have been the prey of no delusion in this
particular, but wilfully to have imposed that name upon the village
as an affront to its understanding. He was a broadshouldered
loose-limbed swarthy fellow of great strength, never in a hurry,
and always slouching. He never even seemed to come to his work on
purpose, but would slouch in as if by mere accident; and when he
went to the Jolly Bargemen to eat his dinner, or went away at
night, he would slouch out, like Cain or the Wandering Jew, as if
he had no idea where he was going and no intention of ever coming
back. He lodged at a sluice-keeper's out on the marshes, and on
working days would come slouching from his hermitage, with his
hands in his pockets and his dinner loosely tied in a bundle round
his neck and dangling on his back. On Sundays he mostly lay all day
on the sluice-gates, or stood against ricks and barns. He always
slouched, locomotively, with his eyes on the ground; and, when
accosted or otherwise required to raise them, he looked up in a
half resentful, half puzzled way, as though the only thought he
ever had, was, that it was rather an odd and injurious fact that he
should never be thinking.
This morose journeyman had no liking for me. When I was very small
and timid, he gave me to understand that the Devil lived in a black
corner of the forge, and that he knew the fiend very well: also
that it was necessary to make up the fire, once in seven years,
with a live boy, and that I might consider myself fuel. When I
became Joe's 'prentice, Orlick was perhaps confirmed in some
suspicion that I should displace him; howbeit, he liked me still
less. Not that he ever said anything, or did anything, openly
importing hostility; I only noticed that he always beat his sparks
in my direction, and that whenever I sang Old Clem, he came in out
Dolge Orlick was at work and present, next day, when I reminded Joe
of my half-holiday. He said nothing at the moment, for he and Joe
had just got a piece of hot iron between them, and I was at the
bellows; but by-and-by he said, leaning on his hammer:
"Now, master! Sure you're not a-going to favour only one of us. If
Young Pip has a half-holiday, do as much for Old Orlick." I suppose
he was about five-and-twenty, but he usually spoke of himself as an
"Why, what'll you do with a half-holiday, if you get it?" said Joe.
"What'll I do with it! What'll he do with it? I'll do as much with
it as him," said Orlick.
"As to Pip, he's going up-town," said Joe.
"Well then, as to Old Orlick, he's a-going up-town," retorted that
worthy. "Two can go up-town. Tan't only one wot can go up-town.
"Don't lose your temper," said Joe.
"Shall if I like," growled Orlick. "Some and their up-towning! Now,
master! Come. No favouring in this shop. Be a man!"
The master refusing to entertain the subject until the journeyman
was in a better temper, Orlick plunged at the furnace, drew out a
red-hot bar, made at me with it as if he were going to run it
through my body, whisked it round my head, laid it on the anvil,
hammered it out - as if it were I, I thought, and the sparks were
my spirting blood - and finally said, when he had hammered himself
hot and the iron cold, and he again leaned on his hammer:
"Are you all right now?" demanded Joe.
"Ah! I am all right," said gruff Old Orlick.
"Then, as in general you stick to your work as well as most men,"
said Joe, "let it be a half-holiday for all."
My sister had been standing silent in the yard, within hearing -
she was a most unscrupulous spy and listener - and she instantly
looked in at one of the windows.
"Like you, you fool!" said she to Joe, "giving holidays to great
idle hulkers like that. You are a rich man, upon my life, to waste
wages in that way. I wish I was his master!"
"You'd be everybody's master, if you durst," retorted Orlick, with
an ill-favoured grin.
("Let her alone," said Joe.)
"I'd be a match for all noodles and all rogues," returned my
sister, beginning to work herself into a mighty rage. "And I
couldn't be a match for the noodles, without being a match for your
master, who's the dunder-headed king of the noodles. And I couldn't
be a match for the rogues, without being a match for you, who are
the blackest-looking and the worst rogue between this and France.
"You're a foul shrew, Mother Gargery, growled the journeyman. "If
that makes a judge of rogues, you ought to be a good'un."
("Let her alone, will you?" said Joe.)
"What did you say?" cried my sister, beginning to scream. "What did
you say? What did that fellow Orlick say to me, Pip? What did he
call me, with my husband standing by? O! O! O!" Each of these
exclamations was a shriek; and I must remark of my sister, what is
equally true of all the violent women I have ever seen, that
passion was no excuse for her, because it is undeniable that
instead of lapsing into passion, she consciously and deliberately
took extraordinary pains to force herself into it, and became
blindly furious by regular stages; "what was the name he gave me
before the base man who swore to defend me? O! Hold me! O!"
"Ah-h-h!" growled the journeyman, between his teeth, "I'd hold you,
if you was my wife. I'd hold you under the pump, and choke it out
("I tell you, let her alone," said Joe.)
"Oh! To hear him!" cried my sister, with a clap of her hands and a
scream together - which was her next stage. "To hear the names he's
giving me! That Orlick! In my own house! Me, a married woman! With
my husband standing by! O! O!" Here my sister, after a fit of
clappings and screamings, beat her hands upon her bosom and upon
her knees, and threw her cap off, and pulled her hair down - which
were the last stages on her road to frenzy. Being by this time a
perfect Fury and a complete success, she made a dash at the door,
which I had fortunately locked.
What could the wretched Joe do now, after his disregarded
parenthetical interruptions, but stand up to his journeyman, and
ask him what he meant by interfering betwixt himself and Mrs. Joe;
and further whether he was man enough to come on? Old Orlick felt
that the situation admitted of nothing less than coming on, and was
on his defence straightway; so, without so much as pulling off
their singed and burnt aprons, they went at one another, like two
giants. But, if any man in that neighbourhood could stand up long
against Joe, I never saw the man. Orlick, as if he had been of no
more account than the pale young gentleman, was very soon among the
coal-dust, and in no hurry to come out of it. Then, Joe unlocked
the door and picked up my sister, who had dropped insensible at the
window (but who had seen the fight first, I think), and who was
carried into the house and laid down, and who was recommended to
revive, and would do nothing but struggle and clench her hands in
Joe's hair. Then, came that singular calm and silence which succeed
all uproars; and then, with the vague sensation which I have always
connected with such a lull - namely, that it was Sunday, and
somebody was dead - I went up-stairs to dress myself.
When I came down again, I found Joe and Orlick sweeping up, without
any other traces of discomposure than a slit in one of Orlick's
nostrils, which was neither expressive nor ornamental. A pot of
beer had appeared from the Jolly Bargemen, and they were sharing it
by turns in a peaceable manner. The lull had a sedative and
philosophical influence on Joe, who followed me out into the road
to say, as a parting observation that might do me good, "On the
Rampage, Pip, and off the Rampage, Pip - such is Life!"
With what absurd emotions (for, we think the feelings that are very
serious in a man quite comical in a boy) I found myself again going
to Miss Havisham's, matters little here. Nor, how I passed and
repassed the gate many times before I could make up my mind to
ring. Nor, how I debated whether I should go away without ringing;
nor, how I should undoubtedly have gone, if my time had been my
own, to come back.
Miss Sarah Pocket came to the gate. No Estella.
"How, then? You here again?" said Miss Pocket. "What do you want?"
When I said that I only came to see how Miss Havisham was, Sarah
evidently deliberated whether or no she should send me about my
business. But, unwilling to hazard the responsibility, she let me
in, and presently brought the sharp message that I was to "come
Everything was unchanged, and Miss Havisham was alone.
"Well?" said she, fixing her eyes upon me. "I hope you want
nothing? You'll get nothing."
"No, indeed, Miss Havisham. I only wanted you to know that I am
doing very well in my apprenticeship, and am always much obliged to
"There, there!" with the old restless fingers. "Come now and then;
come on your birthday. - Ay!" she cried suddenly, turning herself
and her chair towards me, "You are looking round for Estella? Hey?"
I had been looking round - in fact, for Estella - and I stammered
that I hoped she was well.
"Abroad," said Miss Havisham; "educating for a lady; far out of
reach; prettier than ever; admired by all who see her. Do you feel
that you have lost her?"
There was such a malignant enjoyment in her utterance of the last
words, and she broke into such a disagreeable laugh, that I was at
a loss what to say. She spared me the trouble of considering, by
dismissing me. When the gate was closed upon me by Sarah of the
walnut-shell countenance, I felt more than ever dissatisfied with
my home and with my trade and with everything; and that was all I
took by that motion.
As I was loitering along the High-street, looking in disconsolately
at the shop windows, and thinking what I would buy if I were a
gentleman, who should come out of the bookshop but Mr. Wopsle. Mr
Wopsle had in his hand the affecting tragedy of George Barnwell, in
which he had that moment invested sixpence, with the view of
heaping every word of it on the head of Pumblechook, with whom he
was going to drink tea. No sooner did he see me, than he appeared
to consider that a special Providence had put a 'prentice in his
way to be read at; and he laid hold of me, and insisted on my
accompanying him to the Pumblechookian parlour. As I knew it would
be miserable at home, and as the nights were dark and the way was
dreary, and almost any companionship on the road was better than
none, I made no great resistance; consequently, we turned into
Pumblechook's just as the street and the shops were lighting up.
As I never assisted at any other representation of George Barnwell,
I don't know how long it may usually take; but I know very well
that it took until half-past nine o' clock that night, and that
when Mr. Wopsle got into Newgate, I thought he never would go to the
scaffold, he became so much slower than at any former period of his
disgraceful career. I thought it a little too much that he should
complain of being cut short in his flower after all, as if he had
not been running to seed, leaf after leaf, ever since his course
began. This, however, was a mere question of length and
wearisomeness. What stung me, was the identification of the whole
affair with my unoffending self. When Barnwell began to go wrong, I
declare that I felt positively apologetic, Pumblechook's indignant
stare so taxed me with it. Wopsle, too, took pains to present me in
the worst light. At once ferocious and maudlin, I was made to
murder my uncle with no extenuating circumstances whatever;
Millwood put me down in argument, on every occasion; it became
sheer monomania in my master's daughter to care a button for me;
and all I can say for my gasping and procrastinating conduct on the
fatal morning, is, that it was worthy of the general feebleness of
my character. Even after I was happily hanged and Wopsle had closed
the book, Pumblechook sat staring at me, and shaking his head, and
saying, "Take warning, boy, take warning!" as if it were a
well-known fact that I contemplated murdering a near relation,
provided I could only induce one to have the weakness to become my
It was a very dark night when it was all over, and when I set out
with Mr. Wopsle on the walk home. Beyond town, we found a heavy
mist out, and it fell wet and thick. The turnpike lamp was a blur,
quite out of the lamp's usual place apparently, and its rays looked
solid substance on the fog. We were noticing this, and saying how
that the mist rose with a change of wind from a certain quarter of
our marshes, when we came upon a man, slouching under the lee of
the turnpike house.
"Halloa!" we said, stopping. "Orlick, there?"
"Ah!" he answered, slouching out. "I was standing by, a minute, on
the chance of company."
"You are late," I remarked.
Orlick not unnaturally answered, "Well? And you're late."
"We have been," said Mr. Wopsle, exalted with his late performance,
"we have been indulging, Mr. Orlick, in an intellectual evening."
Old Orlick growled, as if he had nothing to say about that, and we
all went on together. I asked him presently whether he had been
spending his half-holiday up and down town?
"Yes," said he, "all of it. I come in behind yourself. I didn't see
you, but I must have been pretty close behind you. By-the-bye, the
guns is going again."
"At the Hulks?" said I.
"Ay! There's some of the birds flown from the cages. The guns have
been going since dark, about. You'll hear one presently."
In effect, we had not walked many yards further, when the
wellremembered boom came towards us, deadened by the mist, and
heavily rolled away along the low grounds by the river, as if it
were pursuing and threatening the fugitives.
"A good night for cutting off in," said Orlick. "We'd be puzzled
how to bring down a jail-bird on the wing, to-night."
The subject was a suggestive one to me, and I thought about it in
silence. Mr. Wopsle, as the ill-requited uncle of the evening's
tragedy, fell to meditating aloud in his garden at Camberwell.
Orlick, with his hands in his pockets, slouched heavily at my side.
It was very dark, very wet, very muddy, and so we splashed along.
Now and then, the sound of the signal cannon broke upon us again,
and again rolled sulkily along the course of the river. I kept
myself to myself and my thoughts. Mr. Wopsle died amiably at
Camberwell, and exceedingly game on Bosworth Field, and in the
greatest agonies at Glastonbury. Orlick sometimes growled, "Beat it
out, beat it out - Old Clem! With a clink for the stout - Old
Clem!" I thought he had been drinking, but he was not drunk.
Thus, we came to the village. The way by which we approached it,
took us past the Three Jolly Bargemen, which we were surprised to
find - it being eleven o'clock - in a state of commotion, with the
door wide open, and unwonted lights that had been hastily caught up
and put down, scattered about. Mr. Wopsle dropped in to ask what was
the matter (surmising that a convict had been taken), but came
running out in a great hurry.
"There's something wrong," said he, without stopping, "up at your
place, Pip. Run all!"
"What is it?" I asked, keeping up with him. So did Orlick, at my
"I can't quite understand. The house seems to have been violently
entered when Joe Gargery was out. Supposed by convicts. Somebody
has been attacked and hurt."
We were running too fast to admit of more being said, and we made
no stop until we got into our kitchen. It was full of people; the
whole village was there, or in the yard; and there was a surgeon,
and there was Joe, and there was a group of women, all on the floor
in the midst of the kitchen. The unemployed bystanders drew back
when they saw me, and so I became aware of my sister - lying
without sense or movement on the bare boards where she had been
knocked down by a tremendous blow on the back of the head, dealt by
some unknown hand when her face was turned towards the fire -
destined never to be on the Rampage again, while she was the wife
With my head full of George Barnwell, I was at first disposed to
believe that I must have had some hand in the attack upon my
sister, or at all events that as her near relation, popularly known
to be under obligations to her, I was a more legitimate object of
suspicion than any one else. But when, in the clearer light of next
morning, I began to reconsider the matter and to hear it discussed
around me on all sides, I took another view of the case, which was
Joe had been at the Three Jolly Bargemen, smoking his pipe, from a
quarter after eight o'clock to a quarter before ten. While he was
there, my sister had been seen standing at the kitchen door, and
had exchanged Good Night with a farm-labourer going home. The man
could not be more particular as to the time at which he saw her (he
got into dense confusion when he tried to be), than that it must
have been before nine. When Joe went home at five minutes before
ten, he found her struck down on the floor, and promptly called in
assistance. The fire had not then burnt unusually low, nor was the
snuff of the candle very long; the candle, however, had been blown
Nothing had been taken away from any part of the house. Neither,
beyond the blowing out of the candle - which stood on a table
between the door and my sister, and was behind her when she stood
facing the fire and was struck - was there any disarrangement of
the kitchen, excepting such as she herself had made, in falling and
bleeding. But, there was one remarkable piece of evidence on the
spot. She had been struck with something blunt and heavy, on the
head and spine; after the blows were dealt, something heavy had
been thrown down at her with considerable violence, as she lay on
her face. And on the ground beside her, when Joe picked her up, was
a convict's leg-iron which had been filed asunder.
Now, Joe, examining this iron with a smith's eye, declared it to
have been filed asunder some time ago. The hue and cry going off to
the Hulks, and people coming thence to examine the iron, Joe's
opinion was corroborated. They did not undertake to say when it had
left the prison-ships to which it undoubtedly had once belonged;
but they claimed to know for certain that that particular manacle
had not been worn by either of the two convicts who had escaped last
night. Further, one of those two was already re-taken, and had not
freed himself of his iron.
Knowing what I knew, I set up an inference of my own here. I
believed the iron to be my convict's iron - the iron I had seen and
heard him filing at, on the marshes - but my mind did not accuse
him of having put it to its latest use. For, I believed one of two
other persons to have become possessed of it, and to have turned it
to this cruel account. Either Orlick, or the strange man who had
shown me the file.
Now, as to Orlick; he had gone to town exactly as he told us when
we picked him up at the turnpike, he had been seen about town all
the evening, he had been in divers companies in several
public-houses, and he had come back with myself and Mr. Wopsle.
There was nothing against him, save the quarrel; and my sister had
quarrelled with him, and with everybody else about her, ten
thousand times. As to the strange man; if he had come back for his
two bank-notes there could have been no dispute about them, because
my sister was fully prepared to restore them. Besides, there had
been no altercation; the assailant had come in so silently and
suddenly, that she had been felled before she could look round.
It was horrible to think that I had provided the weapon, however
undesignedly, but I could hardly think otherwise. I suffered
unspeakable trouble while I considered and reconsidered whether I
should at last dissolve that spell of my childhood, and tell Joe
all the story. For months afterwards, I every day settled the
question finally in the negative, and reopened and reargued it next
morning. The contention came, after all, to this; - the secret was
such an old one now, had so grown into me and become a part of
myself, that I could not tear it away. In addition to the dread
that, having led up to so much mischief, it would be now more
likely than ever to alienate Joe from me if he believed it, I had a
further restraining dread that he would not believe it, but would
assort it with the fabulous dogs and veal-cutlets as a monstrous
invention. However, I temporized with myself, of course - for, was
I not wavering between right and wrong, when the thing is always
done? - and resolved to make a full disclosure if I should see any
such new occasion as a new chance of helping in the discovery of
The Constables, and the Bow Street men from London - for, this
happened in the days of the extinct red-waistcoated police - were
about the house for a week or two, and did pretty much what I have
heard and read of like authorities doing in other such cases. They
took up several obviously wrong people, and they ran their heads
very hard against wrong ideas, and persisted in trying to fit the
circumstances to the ideas, instead of trying to extract ideas from
the circumstances. Also, they stood about the door of the Jolly
Bargemen, with knowing and reserved looks that filled the whole
neighbourhood with admiration; and they had a mysterious manner of
taking their drink, that was almost as good as taking the culprit.
But not quite, for they never did it.
Long after these constitutional powers had dispersed, my sister lay
very ill in bed. Her sight was disturbed, so that she saw objects
multiplied, and grasped at visionary teacups and wine-glasses
instead of the realities; her hearing was greatly impaired; her
memory also; and her speech was unintelligible. When, at last, she
came round so far as to be helped down-stairs, it was still
necessary to keep my slate always by her, that she might indicate
in writing what she could not indicate in speech. As she was (very
bad handwriting apart) a more than indifferent speller, and as Joe
was a more than indifferent reader, extraordinary complications
arose between them, which I was always called in to solve. The
administration of mutton instead of medicine, the substitution of
Tea for Joe, and the baker for bacon, were among the mildest of my
However, her temper was greatly improved, and she was patient. A
tremulous uncertainty of the action of all her limbs soon became a
part of her regular state, and afterwards, at intervals of two or
three months, she would often put her hands to her head, and would
then remain for about a week at a time in some gloomy aberration of
mind. We were at a loss to find a suitable attendant for her, until
a circumstance happened conveniently to relieve us. Mr. Wopsle's
great-aunt conquered a confirmed habit of living into which she had
fallen, and Biddy became a part of our establishment.
It may have been about a month after my sister's reappearance in
the kitchen, when Biddy came to us with a small speckled box
containing the whole of her worldly effects, and became a blessing
to the household. Above all, she was a blessing to Joe, for the
dear old fellow was sadly cut up by the constant contemplation of
the wreck of his wife, and had been accustomed, while attending on
her of an evening, to turn to me every now and then and say, with
his blue eyes moistened, "Such a fine figure of a woman as she once
were, Pip!" Biddy instantly taking the cleverest charge of her as
though she had studied her from infancy, Joe became able in some
sort to appreciate the greater quiet of his life, and to get down
to the Jolly Bargemen now and then for a change that did him good.
It was characteristic of the police people that they had all more
or less suspected poor Joe (though he never knew it), and that they
had to a man concurred in regarding him as one of the deepest
spirits they had ever encountered.
Biddy's first triumph in her new office, was to solve a difficulty
that had completely vanquished me. I had tried hard at it, but had
made nothing of it. Thus it was:
Again and again and again, my sister had traced upon the slate, a
character that looked like a curious T, and then with the utmost
eagerness had called our attention to it as something she
particularly wanted. I had in vain tried everything producible that
began with a T, from tar to toast and tub. At length it had come
into my head that the sign looked like a hammer, and on my lustily
calling that word in my sister's ear, she had begun to hammer on
the table and had expressed a qualified assent. Thereupon, I had
brought in all our hammers, one after another, but without avail.
Then I bethought me of a crutch, the shape being much the same, and
I borrowed one in the village, and displayed it to my sister with
considerable confidence. But she shook her head to that extent when
she was shown it, that we were terrified lest in her weak and
shattered state she should dislocate her neck.
When my sister found that Biddy was very quick to understand her,
this mysterious sign reappeared on the slate. Biddy looked
thoughtfully at it, heard my explanation, looked thoughtfully at my
sister, looked thoughtfully at Joe (who was always represented on
the slate by his initial letter), and ran into the forge, followed
by Joe and me.
"Why, of course!" cried Biddy, with an exultant face. "Don't you
see? It's him!"
Orlick, without a doubt! She had lost his name, and could only
signify him by his hammer. We told him why we wanted him to come
into the kitchen, and he slowly laid down his hammer, wiped his
brow with his arm, took another wipe at it with his apron, and came
slouching out, with a curious loose vagabond bend in the knees that
strongly distinguished him.
I confess that I expected to see my sister denounce him, and that I
was disappointed by the different result. She manifested the
greatest anxiety to be on good terms with him, was evidently much
pleased by his being at length produced, and motioned that she
would have him given something to drink. She watched his
countenance as if she were particularly wishful to be assured that
he took kindly to his reception, she showed every possible desire
to conciliate him, and there was an air of humble propitiation in
all she did, such as I have seen pervade the bearing of a child
towards a hard master. After that day, a day rarely passed without
her drawing the hammer on her slate, and without Orlick's slouching
in and standing doggedly before her, as if he knew no more than I
did what to make of it.
I now fell into a regular routine of apprenticeship life, which was
varied, beyond the limits of the village and the marshes, by no
more remarkable circumstance than the arrival of my birthday and my
paying another visit to Miss Havisham. I found Miss Sarah Pocket
still on duty at the gate, I found Miss Havisham just as I had left
her, and she spoke of Estella in the very same way, if not in the
very same words. The interview lasted but a few minutes, and she
gave me a guinea when I was going, and told me to come again on my
next birthday. I may mention at once that this became an annual
custom. I tried to decline taking the guinea on the first occasion,
but with no better effect than causing her to ask me very angrily,
if I expected more? Then, and after that, I took it.
So unchanging was the dull old house, the yellow light in the
darkened room, the faded spectre in the chair by the dressing-table
glass, that I felt as if the stopping of the clocks had stopped
Time in that mysterious place, and, while I and everything else
outside it grew older, it stood still. Daylight never entered the
house as to my thoughts and remembrances of it, any more than as to
the actual fact. It bewildered me, and under its influence I
continued at heart to hate my trade and to be ashamed of home.
Imperceptibly I became conscious of a change in Biddy, however. Her
shoes came up at the heel, her hair grew bright and neat, her hands
were always clean. She was not beautiful - she was common, and
could not be like Estella - but she was pleasant and wholesome and
sweet-tempered. She had not been with us more than a year (I
remember her being newly out of mourning at the time it struck me),
when I observed to myself one evening that she had curiously
thoughtful and attentive eyes; eyes that were very pretty and very
It came of my lifting up my own eyes from a task I was poring at -
writing some passages from a book, to improve myself in two ways at
once by a sort of stratagem - and seeing Biddy observant of what I
was about. I laid down my pen, and Biddy stopped in her needlework
without laying it down.
"Biddy," said I, "how do you manage it? Either I am very stupid, or
you are very clever."
"What is it that I manage? I don't know," returned Biddy, smiling.
She managed our whole domestic life, and wonderfully too; but I did
not mean that, though that made what I did mean, more surprising.
"How do you manage, Biddy," said I, "to learn everything that I
learn, and always to keep up with me?" I was beginning to be rather
vain of my knowledge, for I spent my birthday guineas on it, and
set aside the greater part of my pocket-money for similar
investment; though I have no doubt, now, that the little I knew was
extremely dear at the price.
"I might as well ask you," said Biddy, "how you manage?"
"No; because when I come in from the forge of a night, any one can
see me turning to at it. But you never turn to at it, Biddy."
"I suppose I must catch it - like a cough," said Biddy, quietly;
and went on with her sewing.
Pursuing my idea as I leaned back in my wooden chair and looked at
Biddy sewing away with her head on one side, I began to think her
rather an extraordinary girl. For, I called to mind now, that she
was equally accomplished in the terms of our trade, and the names
of our different sorts of work, and our various tools. In short,
whatever I knew, Biddy knew. Theoretically, she was already as good
a blacksmith as I, or better.
"You are one of those, Biddy," said I, "who make the most of every
chance. You never had a chance before you came here, and see how
improved you are!"
Biddy looked at me for an instant, and went on with her sewing. "I
was your first teacher though; wasn't I?" said she, as she sewed.
"Biddy!" I exclaimed, in amazement. "Why, you are crying!"
"No I am not," said Biddy, looking up and laughing. "What put that
in your head?"
What could have put it in my head, but the glistening of a tear as
it dropped on her work? I sat silent, recalling what a drudge she
had been until Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt successfully overcame that
bad habit of living, so highly desirable to be got rid of by some
people. I recalled the hopeless circumstances by which she had been
surrounded in the miserable little shop and the miserable little
noisy evening school, with that miserable old bundle of
incompetence always to be dragged and shouldered. I reflected that
even in those untoward times there must have been latent in Biddy
what was now developing, for, in my first uneasiness and discontent
I had turned to her for help, as a matter of course. Biddy sat
quietly sewing, shedding no more tears, and while I looked at her
and thought about it all, it occurred to me that perhaps I had not
been sufficiently grateful to Biddy. I might have been too
reserved, and should have patronized her more (though I did not use
that precise word in my meditations), with my confidence.
"Yes, Biddy," I observed, when I had done turning it over, "you
were my first teacher, and that at a time when we little thought of
ever being together like this, in this kitchen."
"Ah, poor thing!" replied Biddy. It was like her
self-forgetfulness, to transfer the remark to my sister, and to get
up and be busy about her, making her more comfortable; "that's
"Well!" said I, "we must talk together a little more, as we used to
do. And I must consult you a little more, as I used to do. Let us
have a quiet walk on the marshes next Sunday, Biddy, and a long
My sister was never left alone now; but Joe more than readily
undertook the care of her on that Sunday afternoon, and Biddy and I
went out together. It was summer-time, and lovely weather. When we
had passed the village and the church and the churchyard, and were
out on the marshes and began to see the sails of the ships as they
sailed on, I began to combine Miss Havisham and Estella with the
prospect, in my usual way. When we came to the river-side and sat
down on the bank, with the water rippling at our feet, making it
all more quiet than it would have been without that sound, I
resolved that it was a good time and place for the admission of
Biddy into my inner confidence.
"Biddy," said I, after binding her to secrecy, "I want to be a
"Oh, I wouldn't, if I was you!" she returned. "I don't think it
"Biddy," said I, with some severity, "I have particular reasons for
wanting to be a gentleman."
"You know best, Pip; but don't you think you are happier as you
"Biddy," I exclaimed, impatiently, "I am not at all happy as I am.
I am disgusted with my calling and with my life. I have never taken
to either, since I was bound. Don't be absurd."
"Was I absurd?" said Biddy, quietly raising her eyebrows; "I am
sorry for that; I didn't mean to be. I only want you to do well,
and to be comfortable."
"Well then, understand once for all that I never shall or can be
comfortable - or anything but miserable - there, Biddy! - unless I
can lead a very different sort of life from the life I lead now."
"That's a pity!" said Biddy, shaking her head with a sorrowful air.
Now, I too had so often thought it a pity, that, in the singular
kind of quarrel with myself which I was always carrying on, I was
half inclined to shed tears of vexation and distress when Biddy
gave utterance to her sentiment and my own. I told her she was
right, and I knew it was much to be regretted, but still it was not
to be helped.
"If I could have settled down," I said to Biddy, plucking up the
short grass within reach, much as I had once upon a time pulled my
feelings out of my hair and kicked them into the brewery wall: "if
I could have settled down and been but half as fond of the forge as
I was when I was little, I know it would have been much better for
me. You and I and Joe would have wanted nothing then, and Joe and I
would perhaps have gone partners when I was out of my time, and I
might even have grown up to keep company with you, and we might
have sat on this very bank on a fine Sunday, quite different
people. I should have been good enough for you; shouldn't I,
Biddy sighed as she looked at the ships sailing on, and returned
for answer, "Yes; I am not over-particular." It scarcely sounded
flattering, but I knew she meant well.
"Instead of that," said I, plucking up more grass and chewing a
blade or two, "see how I am going on. Dissatisfied, and
uncomfortable, and - what would it signify to me, being coarse and
common, if nobody had told me so!"
Biddy turned her face suddenly towards mine, and looked far more
attentively at me than she had looked at the sailing ships.
"It was neither a very true nor a very polite thing to say," she
remarked, directing her eyes to the ships again. "Who said it?"
I was disconcerted, for I had broken away without quite seeing
where I was going to. It was not to be shuffled off now, however,
and I answered, "The beautiful young lady at Miss Havisham's, and
she's more beautiful than anybody ever was, and I admire her
dreadfully, and I want to be a gentleman on her account." Having
made this lunatic confession, I began to throw my torn-up grass
into the river, as if I had some thoughts of following it.
"Do you want to be a gentleman, to spite her or to gain her over?"
Biddy quietly asked me, after a pause.
"I don't know," I moodily answered.
"Because, if it is to spite her," Biddy pursued, "I should think -
but you know best - that might be better and more independently
done by caring nothing for her words. And if it is to gain her
over, I should think - but you know best - she was not worth
Exactly what I myself had thought, many times. Exactly what was
perfectly manifest to me at the moment. But how could I, a poor
dazed village lad, avoid that wonderful inconsistency into which
the best and wisest of men fall every day?
"It may be all quite true," said I to Biddy, "but I admire her
In short, I turned over on my face when I came to that, and got a
good grasp on the hair on each side of my head, and wrenched it
well. All the while knowing the madness of my heart to be so very
mad and misplaced, that I was quite conscious it would have served
my face right, if I had lifted it up by my hair, and knocked it
against the pebbles as a punishment for belonging to such an idiot.
Biddy was the wisest of girls, and she tried to reason no more with
me. She put her hand, which was a comfortable hand though roughened
by work, upon my hands, one after another, and gently took them out
of my hair. Then she softly patted my shoulder in a soothing way,
while with my face upon my sleeve I cried a little - exactly as I
had done in the brewery yard - and felt vaguely convinced that I
was very much ill-used by somebody, or by everybody; I can't say
"I am glad of one thing," said Biddy, "and that is, that you have
felt you could give me your confidence, Pip. And I am glad of
another thing, and that is, that of course you know you may depend
upon my keeping it and always so far deserving it. If your first
teacher (dear! such a poor one, and so much in need of being taught
herself!) had been your teacher at the present time, she thinks she
knows what lesson she would set. But It would be a hard one to
learn, and you have got beyond her, and it's of no use now." So,
with a quiet sigh for me, Biddy rose from the bank, and said, with
a fresh and pleasant change of voice, "Shall we walk a little
further, or go home?"
"Biddy," I cried, getting up, putting my arm round her neck, and
giving her a kiss, "I shall always tell you everything."
"Till you're a gentleman," said Biddy.
"You know I never shall be, so that's always. Not that I have any
occasion to tell you anything, for you know everything I know - as
I told you at home the other night."
"Ah!" said Biddy, quite in a whisper, as she looked away at the
ships. And then repeated, with her former pleasant change; "shall
we walk a little further, or go home?"
I said to Biddy we would walk a little further, and we did so, and
the summer afternoon toned down into the summer evening, and it was
very beautiful. I began to consider whether I was not more
naturally and wholesomely situated, after all, in these
circumstances, than playing beggar my neighbour by candlelight in
the room with the stopped clocks, and being despised by Estella. I
thought it would be very good for me if I could get her out of my
head, with all the rest of those remembrances and fancies, and
could go to work determined to relish what I had to do, and stick
to it, and make the best of it. I asked myself the question whether
I did not surely know that if Estella were beside me at that moment
instead of Biddy, she would make me miserable? I was obliged to
admit that I did know it for a certainty, and I said to myself,
"Pip, what a fool you are!"
We talked a good deal as we walked, and all that Biddy said seemed
right. Biddy was never insulting, or capricious, or Biddy to-day
and somebody else to-morrow; she would have derived only pain, and
no pleasure, from giving me pain; she would far rather have wounded
her own breast than mine. How could it be, then, that I did not
like her much the better of the two?
"Biddy," said I, when we were walking homeward, "I wish you could
put me right."
"I wish I could!" said Biddy.
"If I could only get myself to fall in love with you - you don't
mind my speaking so openly to such an old acquaintance?"
"Oh dear, not at all!" said Biddy. "Don't mind me."
"If I could only get myself to do it, that would be the thing for
"But you never will, you see," said Biddy.
It did not appear quite so unlikely to me that evening, as it would
have done if we had discussed it a few hours before. I therefore
observed I was not quite sure of that. But Biddy said she was, and
she said it decisively. In my heart I believed her to be right; and
yet I took it rather ill, too, that she should be so positive on
When we came near the churchyard, we had to cross an embankment,
and get over a stile near a sluice gate. There started up, from the
gate, or from the rushes, or from the ooze (which was quite in his
stagnant way), Old Orlick.
"Halloa!" he growled, "where are you two going?"
"Where should we be going, but home?"
"Well then," said he, "I'm jiggered if I don't see you home!"
This penalty of being jiggered was a favourite supposititious case
of his. He attached no definite meaning to the word that I am aware
of, but used it, like his own pretended Christian name, to affront
mankind, and convey an idea of something savagely damaging. When I
was younger, I had had a general belief that if he had jiggered me
personally, he would have done it with a sharp and twisted hook.
Biddy was much against his going with us, and said to me in a
whisper, "Don't let him come; I don't like him." As I did not like
him either, I took the liberty of saying that we thanked him, but
we didn't want seeing home. He received that piece of information
with a yell of laughter, and dropped back, but came slouching after
us at a little distance.
Curious to know whether Biddy suspected him of having had a hand in
that murderous attack of which my sister had never been able to
give any account, I asked her why she did not like him.
"Oh!" she replied, glancing over her shoulder as he slouched after
us, "because I - I am afraid he likes me."
"Did he ever tell you he liked you?" I asked, indignantly.
"No," said Biddy, glancing over her shoulder again, "he never told
me so; but he dances at me, whenever he can catch my eye."
However novel and peculiar this testimony of attachment, I did not
doubt the accuracy of the interpretation. I was very hot indeed
upon Old Orlick's daring to admire her; as hot as if it were an
outrage on myself.
"But it makes no difference to you, you know," said Biddy, calmly.
"No, Biddy, it makes no difference to me; only I don't like it; I
don't approve of it."
"Nor I neither," said Biddy. "Though that makes no difference to
"Exactly," said I; "but I must tell you I should have no opinion of
you, Biddy, if he danced at you with your own consent."
I kept an eye on Orlick after that night, and, whenever
circumstances were favourable to his dancing at Biddy, got before
him, to obscure that demonstration. He had struck root in Joe's
establishment, by reason of my sister's sudden fancy for him, or I
should have tried to get him dismissed. He quite understood and
reciprocated my good intentions, as I had reason to know
And now, because my mind was not confused enough before, I
complicated its confusion fifty thousand-fold, by having states and
seasons when I was clear that Biddy was immeasurably better than
Estella, and that the plain honest working life to which I was
born, had nothing in it to be ashamed of, but offered me sufficient
means of self-respect and happiness. At those times, I would decide
conclusively that my disaffection to dear old Joe and the forge,
was gone, and that I was growing up in a fair way to be partners
with Joe and to keep company with Biddy - when all in a moment some
confounding remembrance of the Havisham days would fall upon me,
like a destructive missile, and scatter my wits again. Scattered
wits take a long time picking up; and often, before I had got them
well together, they would be dispersed in all directions by one
stray thought, that perhaps after all Miss Havisham was going to
make my fortune when my time was out.
If my time had run out, it would have left me still at the height
of my perplexities, I dare say. It never did run out, however, but
was brought to a premature end, as I proceed to relate.
It was in the fourth year of my apprenticeship to Joe, and it was a
Saturday night. There was a group assembled round the fire at the
Three Jolly Bargemen, attentive to Mr. Wopsle as he read the
newspaper aloud. Of that group I was one.
A highly popular murder had been committed, and Mr. Wopsle was
imbrued in blood to the eyebrows. He gloated over every abhorrent
adjective in the description, and identified himself with every
witness at the Inquest. He faintly moaned, "I am done for," as the
victim, and he barbarously bellowed, "I'll serve you out," as the
murderer. He gave the medical testimony, in pointed imitation of
our local practitioner; and he piped and shook, as the aged
turnpike-keeper who had heard blows, to an extent so very paralytic
as to suggest a doubt regarding the mental competency of that
witness. The coroner, in Mr. Wopsle's hands, became Timon of Athens;
the beadle, Coriolanus. He enjoyed himself thoroughly, and we all
enjoyed ourselves, and were delightfully comfortable. In this cozy
state of mind we came to the verdict Wilful Murder.
Then, and not sooner, I became aware of a strange gentleman leaning
over the back of the settle opposite me, looking on. There was an
expression of contempt on his face, and he bit the side of a great
forefinger as he watched the group of faces.
"Well!" said the stranger to Mr. Wopsle, when the reading was done,
"you have settled it all to your own satisfaction, I have no
Everybody started and looked up, as if it were the murderer. He
looked at everybody coldly and sarcastically.
"Guilty, of course?" said he. "Out with it. Come!"
"Sir," returned Mr. Wopsle, "without having the honour of your
acquaintance, I do say Guilty." Upon this, we all took courage to
unite in a confirmatory murmur.
"I know you do," said the stranger; "I knew you would. I told you
so. But now I'll ask you a question. Do you know, or do you not
know, that the law of England supposes every man to be innocent,
until he is proved - proved - to be guilty?"
"Sir," Mr. Wopsle began to reply, "as an Englishman myself, I--"
"Come!" said the stranger, biting his forefinger at him. "Don't
evade the question. Either you know it, or you don't know it. Which
is it to be?"
He stood with his head on one side and himself on one side, in a
bullying interrogative manner, and he threw his forefinger at Mr.
Wopsle - as it were to mark him out - before biting it again.
"Now!" said he. "Do you know it, or don't you know it?"
"Certainly I know it," replied Mr. Wopsle.
"Certainly you know it. Then why didn't you say so at first? Now,
I'll ask you another question;" taking possession of Mr. Wopsle, as
if he had a right to him. "Do you know that none of these witnesses
have yet been cross-examined?"
Mr. Wopsle was beginning, "I can only say--" when the stranger
"What? You won't answer the question, yes or no? Now, I'll try you
again." Throwing his finger at him again. "Attend to me. Are you
aware, or are you not aware, that none of these witnesses have yet
been cross-examined? Come, I only want one word from you. Yes, or
Mr. Wopsle hesitated, and we all began to conceive rather a poor
opinion of him.
"Come!" said the stranger, "I'll help you. You don't deserve help,
but I'll help you. Look at that paper you hold in your hand. What
"What is it?" repeated Mr. Wopsle, eyeing it, much at a loss.
"Is it," pursued the stranger in his most sarcastic and suspicious
manner, "the printed paper you have just been reading from?"
"Undoubtedly. Now, turn to that paper, and tell me whether it
distinctly states that the prisoner expressly said that his legal
advisers instructed him altogether to reserve his defence?"
"I read that just now," Mr. Wopsle pleaded.
"Never mind what you read just now, sir; I don't ask you what you
read just now. You may read the Lord's Prayer backwards, if you
like - and, perhaps, have done it before to-day. Turn to the paper.
No, no, no my friend; not to the top of the column; you know better
than that; to the bottom, to the bottom." (We all began to think Mr.
Wopsle full of subterfuge.) "Well? Have you found it?"
"Here it is," said Mr. Wopsle.
"Now, follow that passage with your eye, and tell me whether it
distinctly states that the prisoner expressly said that he was
instructed by his legal advisers wholly to reserve his defence?
Come! Do you make that of it?"
Mr. Wopsle answered, "Those are not the exact words."
"Not the exact words!" repeated the gentleman, bitterly. "Is that
the exact substance?"
"Yes," said Mr. Wopsle.
"Yes," repeated the stranger, looking round at the rest of the
company with his right hand extended towards the witness, Wopsle.
"And now I ask you what you say to the conscience of that man who,
with that passage before his eyes, can lay his head upon his pillow
after having pronounced a fellow-creature guilty, unheard?"
We all began to suspect that Mr. Wopsle was not the man we had
thought him, and that he was beginning to be found out.
"And that same man, remember," pursued the gentleman, throwing his
finger at Mr. Wopsle heavily; "that same man might be summoned as a
juryman upon this very trial, and, having thus deeply committed
himself, might return to the bosom of his family and lay his head
upon his pillow, after deliberately swearing that he would well and
truly try the issue joined between Our Sovereign Lord the King and
the prisoner at the bar, and would a true verdict give according to
the evidence, so help him God!"
We were all deeply persuaded that the unfortunate Wopsle had gone
too far, and had better stop in his reckless career while there was
The strange gentleman, with an air of authority not to be disputed,
and with a manner expressive of knowing something secret about
every one of us that would effectually do for each individual if he
chose to disclose it, left the back of the settle, and came into
the space between the two settles, in front of the fire, where he
remained standing: his left hand in his pocket, and he biting the
forefinger of his right.
"From information I have received," said he, looking round at us as
we all quailed before him, "I have reason to believe there is a
blacksmith among you, by name Joseph - or Joe - Gargery. Which is
"Here is the man," said Joe.
The strange gentleman beckoned him out of his place, and Joe went.
"You have an apprentice," pursued the stranger, "commonly known as
Pip? Is he here?"
"I am here!" I cried.
The stranger did not recognize me, but I recognized him as the
gentleman I had met on the stairs, on the occasion of my second
visit to Miss Havisham. I had known him the moment I saw him
looking over the settle, and now that I stood confronting him with
his hand upon my shoulder, I checked off again in detail, his large
head, his dark complexion, his deep-set eyes, his bushy black
eyebrows, his large watch-chain, his strong black dots of beard and
whisker, and even the smell of scented soap on his great hand.
"I wish to have a private conference with you two," said he, when
he had surveyed me at his leisure. "It will take a little time.
Perhaps we had better go to your place of residence. I prefer not
to anticipate my communication here; you will impart as much or as
little of it as you please to your friends afterwards; I have
nothing to do with that."
Amidst a wondering silence, we three walked out of the Jolly
Bargemen, and in a wondering silence walked home. While going
along, the strange gentleman occasionally looked at me, and
occasionally bit the side of his finger. As we neared home, Joe
vaguely acknowledging the occasion as an impressive and ceremonious
one, went on ahead to open the front door. Our conference was held
in the state parlour, which was feebly lighted by one candle.
It began with the strange gentleman's sitting down at the table,
drawing the candle to him, and looking over some entries in his
pocket-book. He then put up the pocket-book and set the candle a
little aside: after peering round it into the darkness at Joe and
me, to ascertain which was which.
"My name," he said, "is Jaggers, and I am a lawyer in London. I am
pretty well known. I have unusual business to transact with you,
and I commence by explaining that it is not of my originating. If
my advice had been asked, I should not have been here. It was not
asked, and you see me here. What I have to do as the confidential
agent of another, I do. No less, no more."
Finding that he could not see us very well from where he sat, he
got up, and threw one leg over the back of a chair and leaned upon
it; thus having one foot on the seat of the chair, and one foot on
"Now, Joseph Gargery, I am the bearer of an offer to relieve you of
this young fellow your apprentice. You would not object to cancel
his indentures, at his request and for his good? You would want
nothing for so doing?"
"Lord forbid that I should want anything for not standing in Pip's
way," said Joe, staring.
"Lord forbidding is pious, but not to the purpose," returned Mr
Jaggers. "The question is, Would you want anything? Do you want
"The answer is," returned Joe, sternly, "No."
I thought Mr. Jaggers glanced at Joe, as if he considered him a fool
for his disinterestedness. But I was too much bewildered between
breathless curiosity and surprise, to be sure of it.
"Very well," said Mr. Jaggers. "Recollect the admission you have
made, and don't try to go from it presently."
"Who's a-going to try?" retorted Joe.
"I don't say anybody is. Do you keep a dog?"
"Yes, I do keep a dog."
"Bear in mind then, that Brag is a good dog, but Holdfast is a
better. Bear that in mind, will you?" repeated Mr. Jaggers, shutting
his eyes and nodding his head at Joe, as if he were forgiving him
something. "Now, I return to this young fellow. And the
communication I have got to make is, that he has great
Joe and I gasped, and looked at one another.
"I am instructed to communicate to him," said Mr. Jaggers, throwing
his finger at me sideways, "that he will come into a handsome
property. Further, that it is the desire of the present possessor
of that property, that he be immediately removed from his present
sphere of life and from this place, and be brought up as a
gentleman - in a word, as a young fellow of great expectations."
My dream was out; my wild fancy was surpassed by sober reality;
Miss Havisham was going to make my fortune on a grand scale.
"Now, Mr. Pip," pursued the lawyer, "I address the rest of what I
have to say, to you. You are to understand, first, that it is the
request of the person from whom I take my instructions, that you
always bear the name of Pip. You will have no objection, I dare
say, to your great expectations being encumbered with that easy
condition. But if you have any objection, this is the time to
My heart was beating so fast, and there was such a singing in my
ears, that I could scarcely stammer I had no objection.
"I should think not! Now you are to understand, secondly, Mr. Pip,
that the name of the person who is your liberal benefactor remains
a profound secret, until the person chooses to reveal it. I am
empowered to mention that it is the intention of the person to
reveal it at first hand by word of mouth to yourself. When or where
that intention may be carried out, I cannot say; no one can say. It
may be years hence. Now, you are distinctly to understand that you
are most positively prohibited from making any inquiry on this
head, or any allusion or reference, however distant, to any
individual whomsoever as the individual, in all the communications
you may have with me. If you have a suspicion in your own breast,
keep that suspicion in your own breast. It is not the least to the
purpose what the reasons of this prohibition are; they may be the
strongest and gravest reasons, or they may be mere whim. This is
not for you to inquire into. The condition is laid down. Your
acceptance of it, and your observance of it as binding, is the only
remaining condition that I am charged with, by the person from whom
I take my instructions, and for whom I am not otherwise
responsible. That person is the person from whom you derive your
expectations, and the secret is solely held by that person and by
me. Again, not a very difficult condition with which to encumber
such a rise in fortune; but if you have any objection to it, this
is the time to mention it. Speak out."
Once more, I stammered with difficulty that I had no objection.
"I should think not! Now, Mr. Pip, I have done with stipulations."
Though he called me Mr. Pip, and began rather to make up to me, he
still could not get rid of a certain air of bullying suspicion; and
even now he occasionally shut his eyes and threw his finger at me
while he spoke, as much as to express that he knew all kinds of
things to my disparagement, if he only chose to mention them. "We
come next, to mere details of arrangement. You must know that,
although I have used the term "expectations" more than once, you
are not endowed with expectations only. There is already lodged in
my hands, a sum of money amply sufficient for your suitable
education and maintenance. You will please consider me your
guardian. Oh!" for I was going to thank him, "I tell you at once, I
am paid for my services, or I shouldn't render them. It is
considered that you must be better educated, in accordance with
your altered position, and that you will be alive to the importance
and necessity of at once entering on that advantage."
I said I had always longed for it.
"Never mind what you have always longed for, Mr. Pip," he retorted;
"keep to the record. If you long for it now, that's enough. Am I
answered that you are ready to be placed at once, under some proper
tutor? Is that it?"
I stammered yes, that was it.
"Good. Now, your inclinations are to be consulted. I don't think
that wise, mind, but it's my trust. Have you ever heard of any
tutor whom you would prefer to another?"
I had never heard of any tutor but Biddy and Mr. Wopsle's greataunt;
so, I replied in the negative.
"There is a certain tutor, of whom I have some knowledge, who I
think might suit the purpose," said Mr. Jaggers. "I don't recommend
him, observe; because I never recommend anybody. The gentleman I
speak of, is one Mr. Matthew Pocket."
Ah! I caught at the name directly. Miss Havisham's relation. The
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