Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Part 9 out of 11
lies a-bed in a bow-window where he can see the ships sail up and
down the river. You are acquainted with the young lady, most
"Not personally," said I.
The truth was, that she had objected to me as an expensive
companion who did Herbert no good, and that, when Herbert had first
proposed to present me to her, she had received the proposal with
such very moderate warmth, that Herbert had felt himself obliged to
confide the state of the case to me, with a view to the lapse of a
little time before I made her acquaintance. When I had begun to
advance Herbert's prospects by Stealth, I had been able to bear
this with cheerful philosophy; he and his affianced, for their
part, had naturally not been very anxious to introduce a third
person into their interviews; and thus, although I was assured that
I had risen in Clara's esteem, and although the young lady and I
had long regularly interchanged messages and remembrances by
Herbert, I had never seen her. However, I did not trouble Wemmick
with these particulars.
"The house with the bow-window," said Wemmick, "being by the
river-side, down the Pool there between Limehouse and Greenwich,
and being kept, it seems, by a very respectable widow who has a
furnished upper floor to let, Mr. Herbert put it to me, what did I
think of that as a temporary tenement for Tom, Jack, or Richard?
Now, I thought very well of it, for three reasons I'll give you.
That is to say. Firstly. It's altogether out of all your beats, and
is well away from the usual heap of streets great and small.
Secondly. Without going near it yourself, you could always hear of
the safety of Tom, Jack, or Richard, through Mr. Herbert. Thirdly.
After a while and when it might be prudent, if you should want to
slip Tom, Jack, or Richard, on board a foreign packet-boat, there
he is - ready."
Much comforted by these considerations, I thanked Wemmick again and
again, and begged him to proceed.
"Well, sir! Mr. Herbert threw himself into the business with a will,
and by nine o'clock last night he housed Tom, Jack, or Richard -
whichever it may be - you and I don't want to know - quite
successfully. At the old lodgings it was understood that he was
summoned to Dover, and in fact he was taken down the Dover road and
cornered out of it. Now, another great advantage of all this, is,
that it was done without you, and when, if any one was concerning
himself about your movements, you must be known to be ever so many
miles off and quite otherwise engaged. This diverts suspicion and
confuses it; and for the same reason I recommended that even if you
came back last night, you should not go home. It brings in more
confusion, and you want confusion."
Wemmick, having finished his breakfast, here looked at his watch,
and began to get his coat on.
"And now, Mr. Pip," said he, with his hands still in the sleeves, "I
have probably done the most I can do; but if I can ever do more -
from a Walworth point of view, and in a strictly private and
personal capacity - I shall be glad to do it. Here's the address.
There can be no harm in your going here to-night and seeing for
yourself that all is well with Tom, Jack, or Richard, before you go
home - which is another reason for your not going home last night.
But after you have gone home, don't go back here. You are very
welcome, I am sure, Mr. Pip;" his hands were now out of his sleeves,
and I was shaking them; "and let me finally impress one important
point upon you." He laid his hands upon my shoulders, and added in
a solemn whisper: "Avail yourself of this evening to lay hold of
his portable property. You don't know what may happen to him. Don't
let anything happen to the portable property."
Quite despairing of making my mind clear to Wemmick on this point,
I forbore to try.
"Time's up," said Wemmick, "and I must be off. If you had nothing
more pressing to do than to keep here till dark, that's what I
should advise. You look very much worried, and it would do you good
to have a perfectly quiet day with the Aged - he'll be up presently
- and a little bit of - you remember the pig?"
"Of course," said I.
"Well; and a little bit of him. That sausage you toasted was his,
and he was in all respects a first-rater. Do try him, if it is only
for old acquaintance sake. Good-bye, Aged Parent!" in a cheery
"All right, John; all right, my boy!" piped the old man from
I soon fell asleep before Wemmick's fire, and the Aged and I
enjoyed one another's society by falling asleep before it more or
less all day. We had loin of pork for dinner, and greens grown on
the estate, and I nodded at the Aged with a good intention whenever
I failed to do it drowsily. When it was quite dark, I left the Aged
preparing the fire for toast; and I inferred from the number of
teacups, as well as from his glances at the two little doors in the
wall, that Miss Skiffins was expected.
Eight o'clock had struck before I got into the air that was
scented, not disagreeably, by the chips and shavings of the
long-shore boatbuilders, and mast oar and block makers. All that
water-side region of the upper and lower Pool below Bridge, was
unknown ground to me, and when I struck down by the river, I found
that the spot I wanted was not where I had supposed it to be, and
was anything but easy to find. It was called Mill Pond Bank,
Chinks's Basin; and I had no other guide to Chinks's Basin than the
Old Green Copper Rope-Walk.
It matters not what stranded ships repairing in dry docks I lost
myself among, what old hulls of ships in course of being knocked to
pieces, what ooze and slime and other dregs of tide, what yards of
ship-builders and ship-breakers, what rusty anchors blindly biting
into the ground though for years off duty, what mountainous country
of accumulated casks and timber, how many rope-walks that were not
the Old Green Copper. After several times falling short of my
destination and as often over-shooting it, I came unexpectedly
round a corner, upon Mill Pond Bank. It was a fresh kind of place,
all circumstances considered, where the wind from the river had
room to turn itself round; and there were two or three trees in it,
and there was the stump of a ruined windmill, and there was the Old
Green Copper Rope-Walk - whose long and narrow vista I could trace
in the moonlight, along a series of wooden frames set in the
ground, that looked like superannuated haymaking-rakes which had
grown old and lost most of their teeth.
Selecting from the few queer houses upon Mill Pond Bank, a house
with a wooden front and three stories of bow-window (not
bay-window, which is another thing), I looked at the plate upon the
door, and read there, Mrs. Whimple. That being the name I wanted, I
knocked, and an elderly woman of a pleasant and thriving appearance
responded. She was immediately deposed, however, by Herbert, who
silently led me into the parlour and shut the door. It was an odd
sensation to see his very familiar face established quite at home
in that very unfamiliar room and region; and I found myself looking
at him, much as I looked at the corner-cupboard with the glass and
china, the shells upon the chimney-piece, and the coloured
engravings on the wall, representing the death of Captain Cook, a
ship-launch, and his Majesty King George the Third in a
state-coachman's wig, leather-breeches, and top-boots, on the
terrace at Windsor.
"All is well, Handel," said Herbert, "and he is quite satisfied,
though eager to see you. My dear girl is with her father; and if
you'll wait till she comes down, I'll make you known to her, and
then we'll go up-stairs. - That's her father."
I had become aware of an alarming growling overhead, and had
probably expressed the fact in my countenance.
"I am afraid he is a sad old rascal," said Herbert, smiling, "but I
have never seen him. Don't you smell rum? He is always at it."
"At rum?" said I.
"Yes," returned Herbert, "and you may suppose how mild it makes his
gout. He persists, too, in keeping all the provisions upstairs in
his room, and serving them out. He keeps them on shelves over his
head, and will weigh them all. His room must be like a chandler's
While he thus spoke, the growling noise became a prolonged roar,
and then died away.
"What else can be the consequence," said Herbert, in explanation,
"if he will cut the cheese? A man with the gout in his right hand -
and everywhere else - can't expect to get through a Double
Gloucester without hurting himself."
He seemed to have hurt himself very much, for he gave another
"To have Provis for an upper lodger is quite a godsend to Mrs.
Whimple," said Herbert, "for of course people in general won't
stand that noise. A curious place, Handel; isn't it?"
It was a curious place, indeed; but remarkably well kept and clean.
"Mrs. Whimple," said Herbert, when I told him so, "is the best of
housewives, and I really do not know what my Clara would do without
her motherly help. For, Clara has no mother of her own, Handel, and
no relation in the world but old Gruffandgrim."
"Surely that's not his name, Herbert?"
"No, no," said Herbert, "that's my name for him. His name is Mr.
Barley. But what a blessing it is for the son of my father and
mother, to love a girl who has no relations, and who can never
bother herself, or anybody else, about her family!"
Herbert had told me on former occasions, and now reminded me, that
he first knew Miss Clara Barley when she was completing her
education at an establishment at Hammersmith, and that on her being
recalled home to nurse her father, he and she had confided their
affection to the motherly Mrs. Whimple, by whom it had been fostered
and regulated with equal kindness and discretion, ever since. It
was understood that nothing of a tender nature could possibly be
confided to old Barley, by reason of his being totally unequal to
the consideration of any subject more psychological than Gout, Rum,
and Purser's stores.
As we were thus conversing in a low tone while Old Barley's
sustained growl vibrated in the beam that crossed the ceiling, the
room door opened, and a very pretty slight dark-eyed girl of twenty
or so, came in with a basket in her hand: whom Herbert tenderly
relieved of the basket, and presented blushing, as "Clara." She
really was a most charming girl, and might have passed for a
captive fairy, whom that truculent Ogre, Old Barley, had pressed
into his service.
"Look here," said Herbert, showing me the basket, with a
compassionate and tender smile after we had talked a little;
"here's poor Clara's supper, served out every night. Here's her
allowance of bread, and here's her slice of cheese, and here's her
rum - which I drink. This is Mr. Barley's breakfast for to-morrow,
served out to be cooked. Two mutton chops, three potatoes, some
split peas, a little flour, two ounces of butter, a pinch of salt,
and all this black pepper. It's stewed up together, and taken hot,
and it's a nice thing for the gout, I should think!"
There was something so natural and winning in Clara's resigned way
of looking at these stores in detail, as Herbert pointed them out,
- and something so confiding, loving, and innocent, in her modest
manner of yielding herself to Herbert's embracing arm - and
something so gentle in her, so much needing protection on Mill Pond
Bank, by Chinks's Basin, and the Old Green Copper Rope-Walk, with
Old Barley growling in the beam - that I would not have undone the
engagement between her and Herbert, for all the money in the
pocket-book I had never opened.
I was looking at her with pleasure and admiration, when suddenly
the growl swelled into a roar again, and a frightful bumping noise
was heard above, as if a giant with a wooden leg were trying to
bore it through the ceiling to come to us. Upon this Clara said to
Herbert, "Papa wants me, darling!" and ran away.
"There is an unconscionable old shark for you!" said Herbert. "What
do you suppose he wants now, Handel?"
"I don't know," said I. "Something to drink?"
"That's it!" cried Herbert, as if I had made a guess of
extraordinary merit. "He keeps his grog ready-mixed in a little tub
on the table. Wait a moment, and you'll hear Clara lift him up to
take some. - There he goes!" Another roar, with a prolonged shake
at the end. "Now," said Herbert, as it was succeeded by silence,
"he's drinking. Now," said Herbert, as the growl resounded in the
beam once more, "he's down again on his back!"
Clara returned soon afterwards, and Herbert accompanied me
up-stairs to see our charge. As we passed Mr. Barley's door, he was
heard hoarsely muttering within, in a strain that rose and fell
like wind, the following Refrain; in which I substitute good wishes
for something quite the reverse.
"Ahoy! Bless your eyes, here's old Bill Barley. Here's old Bill
Barley, bless your eyes. Here's old Bill Barley on the flat of his
back, by the Lord. Lying on the flat of his back, like a drifting
old dead flounder, here's your old Bill Barley, bless your eyes.
Ahoy! Bless you."
In this strain of consolation, Herbert informed me the invisible
Barley would commune with himself by the day and night together;
often while it was light, having, at the same time, one eye at a
telescope which was fitted on his bed for the convenience of
sweeping the river.
In his two cabin rooms at the top of the house, which were fresh
and airy, and in which Mr. Barley was less audible than below, I
found Provis comfortably settled. He expressed no alarm, and seemed
to feel none that was worth mentioning; but it struck me that he
was softened - indefinably, for I could not have said how, and could
never afterwards recall how when I tried; but certainly.
The opportunity that the day's rest had given me for reflection,
had resulted in my fully determining to say nothing to him
respecting Compeyson. For anything I knew, his animosity towards
the man might otherwise lead to his seeking him out and rushing on
his own destruction. Therefore, when Herbert and I sat down with
him by his fire, I asked him first of all whether he relied on
Wemmick's judgment and sources of information?
"Ay, ay, dear boy!" he answered, with a grave nod, "Jaggers knows."
"Then, I have talked with Wemmick," said I, "and have come to tell
you what caution he gave me and what advice."
This I did accurately, with the reservation just mentioned; and I
told him how Wemmick had heard, in Newgate prison (whether from
officers or prisoners I could not say), that he was under some
suspicion, and that my chambers had been watched; how Wemmick had
recommended his keeping close for a time, and my keeping away from
him; and what Wemmick had said about getting him abroad. I added,
that of course, when the time came, I should go with him, or should
follow close upon him, as might be safest in Wemmick's judgment.
What was to follow that, I did not touch upon; neither indeed was I
at all clear or comfortable about it in my own mind, now that I saw
him in that softer condition, and in declared peril for my sake. As
to altering my way of living, by enlarging my expenses, I put it to
him whether in our present unsettled and difficult circumstances,
it would not be simply ridiculous, if it were no worse?
He could not deny this, and indeed was very reasonable throughout.
His coming back was a venture, he said, and he had always known it
to be a venture. He would do nothing to make it a desperate
venture, and he had very little fear of his safety with such good
Herbert, who had been looking at the fire and pondering, here said
that something had come into his thoughts arising out of Wemmick's
suggestion, which it might be worth while to pursue. "We are both
good watermen, Handel, and could take him down the river ourselves
when the right time comes. No boat would then be hired for the
purpose, and no boatmen; that would save at least a chance of
suspicion, and any chance is worth saving. Never mind the season;
don't you think it might be a good thing if you began at once to
keep a boat at the Temple stairs, and were in the habit of rowing
up and down the river? You fall into that habit, and then who
notices or minds? Do it twenty or fifty times, and there is nothing
special in your doing it the twenty-first or fifty-first."
I liked this scheme, and Provis was quite elated by it. We agreed
that it should be carried into execution, and that Provis should
never recognize us if we came below Bridge and rowed past Mill Pond
Bank. But, we further agreed that he should pull down the blind in
that part of his window which gave upon the east, whenever he saw
us and all was right.
Our conference being now ended, and everything arranged, I rose to
go; remarking to Herbert that he and I had better not go home
together, and that I would take half an hour's start of him. "I
don't like to leave you here," I said to Provis, "though I cannot
doubt your being safer here than near me. Good-bye!"
"Dear boy," he answered, clasping my hands, "I don't know when we
may meet again, and I don't like Good-bye. Say Good Night!"
"Good night! Herbert will go regularly between us, and when the
time comes you may be certain I shall be ready. Good night, Good
We thought it best that he should stay in his own rooms, and we
left him on the landing outside his door, holding a light over the
stair-rail to light us down stairs. Looking back at him, I thought
of the first night of his return when our positions were reversed,
and when I little supposed my heart could ever be as heavy and
anxious at parting from him as it was now.
Old Barley was growling and swearing when we repassed his door,
with no appearance of having ceased or of meaning to cease. When we
got to the foot of the stairs, I asked Herbert whether he had
preserved the name of Provis. He replied, certainly not, and that
the lodger was Mr. Campbell. He also explained that the utmost known
of Mr. Campbell there, was, that he (Herbert) had Mr. Campbell
consigned to him, and felt a strong personal interest in his being
well cared for, and living a secluded life. So, when we went into
the parlour where Mrs. Whimple and Clara were seated at work, I said
nothing of my own interest in Mr. Campbell, but kept it to myself.
When I had taken leave of the pretty gentle dark-eyed girl, and of
the motherly woman who had not outlived her honest sympathy with a
little affair of true love, I felt as if the Old Green Copper
Rope-Walk had grown quite a different place. Old Barley might be as
old as the hills, and might swear like a whole field of troopers,
but there were redeeming youth and trust and hope enough in
Chinks's Basin to fill it to overflowing. And then I thought of
Estella, and of our parting, and went home very sadly.
All things were as quiet in the Temple as ever I had seen them. The
windows of the rooms on that side, lately occupied by Provis, were
dark and still, and there was no lounger in Garden Court. I walked
past the fountain twice or thrice before I descended the steps that
were between me and my rooms, but I was quite alone. Herbert coming
to my bedside when he came in - for I went straight to bed,
dispirited and fatigued - made the same report. Opening one of the
windows after that, he looked out into the moonlight, and told me
that the pavement was a solemnly empty as the pavement of any
Cathedral at that same hour.
Next day, I set myself to get the boat. It was soon done, and the
boat was brought round to the Temple stairs, and lay where I could
reach her within a minute or two. Then, I began to go out as for
training and practice: sometimes alone, sometimes with Herbert. I
was often out in cold, rain, and sleet, but nobody took much note
of me after I had been out a few times. At first, I kept above
Blackfriars Bridge; but as the hours of the tide changed, I took
towards London Bridge. It was Old London Bridge in those days, and
at certain states of the tide there was a race and fall of water
there which gave it a bad reputation. But I knew well enough how to
"shoot' the bridge after seeing it done, and so began to row about
among the shipping in the Pool, and down to Erith. The first time I
passed Mill Pond Bank, Herbert and I were pulling a pair of oars;
and, both in going and returning, we saw the blind towards the east
come down. Herbert was rarely there less frequently than three
times in a week, and he never brought me a single word of
intelligence that was at all alarming. Still, I knew that there was
cause for alarm, and I could not get rid of the notion of being
watched. Once received, it is a haunting idea; how many undesigning
persons I suspected of watching me, it would be hard to calculate.
In short, I was always full of fears for the rash man who was in
hiding. Herbert had sometimes said to me that he found it pleasant
to stand at one of our windows after dark, when the tide was
running down, and to think that it was flowing, with everything it
bore, towards Clara. But I thought with dread that it was flowing
towards Magwitch, and that any black mark on its surface might be
his pursuers, going swiftly, silently, and surely, to take him.
Some weeks passed without bringing any change. We waited for
Wemmick, and he made no sign. If I had never known him out of
Little Britain, and had never enjoyed the privilege of being on a
familiar footing at the Castle, I might have doubted him; not so
for a moment, knowing him as I did.
My worldly affairs began to wear a gloomy appearance, and I was
pressed for money by more than one creditor. Even I myself began to
know the want of money (I mean of ready money in my own pocket),
and to relieve it by converting some easily spared articles of
jewellery into cash. But I had quite determined that it would be a
heartless fraud to take more money from my patron in the existing
state of my uncertain thoughts and plans. Therefore, I had sent him
the unopened pocket-book by Herbert, to hold in his own keeping,
and I felt a kind of satisfaction - whether it was a false kind or
a true, I hardly know - in not having profited by his generosity
since his revelation of himself.
As the time wore on, an impression settled heavily upon me that
Estella was married. Fearful of having it confirmed, though it was
all but a conviction, I avoided the newspapers, and begged Herbert
(to whom I had confided the circumstances of our last interview)
never to speak of her to me. Why I hoarded up this last wretched
little rag of the robe of hope that was rent and given to the
winds, how do I know! Why did you who read this, commit that not
dissimilar inconsistency of your own, last year, last month, last
It was an unhappy life that I lived, and its one dominant anxiety,
towering over all its other anxieties like a high mountain above a
range of mountains, never disappeared from my view. Still, no new
cause for fear arose. Let me start from my bed as I would, with the
terror fresh upon me that he was discovered; let me sit listening
as I would, with dread, for Herbert's returning step at night, lest
it should be fleeter than ordinary, and winged with evil news; for
all that, and much more to like purpose, the round of things went
on. Condemned to inaction and a state of constant restlessness and
suspense, I rowed about in my boat, and waited, waited, waited, as
I best could.
There were states of the tide when, having been down the river, I
could not get back through the eddy-chafed arches and starlings of
old London Bridge; then, I left my boat at a wharf near the Custom
House, to be brought up afterwards to the Temple stairs. I was not
averse to doing this, as it served to make me and my boat a
commoner incident among the water-side people there. From this
slight occasion, sprang two meetings that I have now to tell of.
One afternoon, late in the month of February, I came ashore at the
wharf at dusk. I had pulled down as far as Greenwich with the ebb
tide, and had turned with the tide. It had been a fine bright day,
but had become foggy as the sun dropped, and I had had to feel my
way back among the shipping, pretty carefully. Both in going and
returning, I had seen the signal in his window, All well.
As it was a raw evening and I was cold, I thought I would comfort
myself with dinner at once; and as I had hours of dejection and
solitude before me if I went home to the Temple, I thought I would
afterwards go to the play. The theatre where Mr. Wopsle had achieved
his questionable triumph, was in that waterside neighbourhood (it
is nowhere now), and to that theatre I resolved to go. I was aware
that Mr. Wopsle had not succeeded in reviving the Drama, but, on the
contrary, had rather partaken of its decline. He had been ominously
heard of, through the playbills, as a faithful Black, in connexion
with a little girl of noble birth, and a monkey. And Herbert had
seen him as a predatory Tartar of comic propensities, with a face
like a red brick, and an outrageous hat all over bells.
I dined at what Herbert and I used to call a Geographical
chop-house - where there were maps of the world in porter-pot rims
on every half-yard of the table-cloths, and charts of gravy on
every one of the knives - to this day there is scarcely a single
chop-house within the Lord Mayor's dominions which is not
Geographical - and wore out the time in dozing over crumbs, staring
at gas, and baking in a hot blast of dinners. By-and-by, I roused
myself and went to the play.
There, I found a virtuous boatswain in his Majesty's service - a
most excellent man, though I could have wished his trousers not
quite so tight in some places and not quite so loose in others -
who knocked all the little men's hats over their eyes, though he
was very generous and brave, and who wouldn't hear of anybody's
paying taxes, though he was very patriotic. He had a bag of money
in his pocket, like a pudding in the cloth, and on that property
married a young person in bed-furniture, with great rejoicings; the
whole population of Portsmouth (nine in number at the last Census)
turning out on the beach, to rub their own hands and shake
everybody else's, and sing "Fill, fill!" A certain
dark-complexioned Swab, however, who wouldn't fill, or do anything
else that was proposed to him, and whose heart was openly stated
(by the boatswain) to be as black as his figure-head, proposed to
two other Swabs to get all mankind into difficulties; which was so
effectually done (the Swab family having considerable political
influence) that it took half the evening to set things right, and
then it was only brought about through an honest little grocer with
a white hat, black gaiters, and red nose, getting into a clock,
with a gridiron, and listening, and coming out, and knocking
everybody down from behind with the gridiron whom he couldn't
confute with what he had overheard. This led to Mr. Wopsle's (who
had never been heard of before) coming in with a star and garter
on, as a plenipotentiary of great power direct from the Admiralty,
to say that the Swabs were all to go to prison on the spot, and
that he had brought the boatswain down the Union Jack, as a slight
acknowledgment of his public services. The boatswain, unmanned for
the first time, respectfully dried his eyes on the Jack, and then
cheering up and addressing Mr. Wopsle as Your Honour, solicited
permission to take him by the fin. Mr. Wopsle conceding his fin with
a gracious dignity, was immediately shoved into a dusty corner
while everybody danced a hornpipe; and from that corner, surveying
the public with a discontented eye, became aware of me.
The second piece was the last new grand comic Christmas pantomime,
in the first scene of which, it pained me to suspect that I
detected Mr. Wopsle with red worsted legs under a highly magnified
phosphoric countenance and a shock of red curtain-fringe for his
hair, engaged in the manufacture of thunderbolts in a mine, and
displaying great cowardice when his gigantic master came home (very
hoarse) to dinner. But he presently presented himself under
worthier circumstances; for, the Genius of Youthful Love being in
want of assistance - on account of the parental brutality of an
ignorant farmer who opposed the choice of his daughter's heart, by
purposely falling upon the object, in a flour sack, out of the
firstfloor window - summoned a sententious Enchanter; and he,
coming up from the antipodes rather unsteadily, after an apparently
violent journey, proved to be Mr. Wopsle in a high-crowned hat, with
a necromantic work in one volume under his arm. The business of
this enchanter on earth, being principally to be talked at, sung
at, butted at, danced at, and flashed at with fires of various
colours, he had a good deal of time on his hands. And I observed
with great surprise, that he devoted it to staring in my direction
as if he were lost in amazement.
There was something so remarkable in the increasing glare of Mr.
Wopsle's eye, and he seemed to be turning so many things over in
his mind and to grow so confused, that I could not make it out. I
sat thinking of it, long after he had ascended to the clouds in a
large watch-case, and still I could not make it out. I was still
thinking of it when I came out of the theatre an hour afterwards,
and found him waiting for me near the door.
"How do you do?" said I, shaking hands with him as we turned down
the street together. "I saw that you saw me."
"Saw you, Mr. Pip!" he returned. "Yes, of course I saw you. But who
else was there?"
"It is the strangest thing," said Mr. Wopsle, drifting into his lost
look again; "and yet I could swear to him."
Becoming alarmed, I entreated Mr. Wopsle to explain his meaning.
"Whether I should have noticed him at first but for your being
there," said Mr. Wopsle, going on in the same lost way, "I can't be
positive; yet I think I should."
Involuntarily I looked round me, as I was accustomed to look round
me when I went home; for, these mysterious words gave me a chill.
"Oh! He can't be in sight," said Mr. Wopsle. "He went out, before I
went off, I saw him go."
Having the reason that I had, for being suspicious, I even
suspected this poor actor. I mistrusted a design to entrap me into
some admission. Therefore, I glanced at him as we walked on
together, but said nothing.
"I had a ridiculous fancy that he must be with you, Mr. Pip, till I
saw that you were quite unconscious of him, sitting behind you
there, like a ghost."
My former chill crept over me again, but I was resolved not to
speak yet, for it was quite consistent with his words that he might
be set on to induce me to connect these references with Provis. Of
course, I was perfectly sure and safe that Provis had not been
"I dare say you wonder at me, Mr. Pip; indeed I see you do. But it
is so very strange! You'll hardly believe what I am going to tell
you. I could hardly believe it myself, if you told me."
"Indeed?" said I.
"No, indeed. Mr. Pip, you remember in old times a certain Christmas
Day, when you were quite a child, and I dined at Gargery's, and
some soldiers came to the door to get a pair of handcuffs mended?"
"I remember it very well."
"And you remember that there was a chase after two convicts, and
that we joined in it, and that Gargery took you on his back, and
that I took the lead and you kept up with me as well as you could?"
"I remember it all very well." Better than he thought - except the
"And you remember that we came up with the two in a ditch, and that
there was a scuffle between them, and that one of them had been
severely handled and much mauled about the face, by the other?"
"I see it all before me."
"And that the soldiers lighted torches, and put the two in the
centre, and that we went on to see the last of them, over the black
marshes, with the torchlight shining on their faces - I am
particular about that; with the torchlight shining on their faces,
when there was an outer ring of dark night all about us?"
"Yes," said I. "I remember all that."
"Then, Mr. Pip, one of those two prisoners sat behind you tonight. I
saw him over your shoulder."
"Steady!" I thought. I asked him then, "Which of the two do you
suppose you saw?"
"The one who had been mauled," he answered readily, "and I'll swear
I saw him! The more I think of him, the more certain I am of him."
"This is very curious!" said I, with the best assumption I could
put on, of its being nothing more to me. "Very curious indeed!"
I cannot exaggerate the enhanced disquiet into which this
conversation threw me, or the special and peculiar terror I felt at
Compeyson's having been behind me "like a ghost." For, if he had
ever been out of my thoughts for a few moments together since the
hiding had begun, it was in those very moments when he was closest
to me; and to think that I should be so unconscious and off my
guard after all my care, was as if I had shut an avenue of a
hundred doors to keep him out, and then had found him at my elbow.
I could not doubt either that he was there, because I was there,
and that however slight an appearance of danger there might be
about us, danger was always near and active.
I put such questions to Mr. Wopsle as, When did the man come in? He
could not tell me that; he saw me, and over my shoulder he saw the
man. It was not until he had seen him for some time that he began
to identify him; but he had from the first vaguely associated him
with me, and known him as somehow belonging to me in the old
village time. How was he dressed? Prosperously, but not noticeably
otherwise; he thought, in black. Was his face at all disfigured?
No, he believed not. I believed not, too, for, although in my
brooding state I had taken no especial notice of the people behind
me, I thought it likely that a face at all disfigured would have
attracted my attention.
When Mr. Wopsle had imparted to me all that he could recall or I
extract, and when I had treated him to a little appropriate
refreshment after the fatigues of the evening, we parted. It was
between twelve and one o'clock when I reached the Temple, and the
gates were shut. No one was near me when I went in and went home.
Herbert had come in, and we held a very serious council by the
fire. But there was nothing to be done, saving to communicate to
Wemmick what I had that night found out, and to remind him that we
waited for his hint. As I thought that I might compromise him if I
went too often to the Castle, I made this communication by letter.
I wrote it before I went to bed, and went out and posted it; and
again no one was near me. Herbert and I agreed that we could do
nothing else but be very cautious. And we were very cautious indeed
- more cautious than before, if that were possible - and I for my
part never went near Chinks's Basin, except when I rowed by, and
then I only looked at Mill Pond Bank as I looked at anything else.
The second of the two meetings referred to in the last chapter,
occurred about a week after the first. I had again left my boat at
the wharf below Bridge; the time was an hour earlier in the
afternoon; and, undecided where to dine, I had strolled up into
Cheapside, and was strolling along it, surely the most unsettled
person in all the busy concourse, when a large hand was laid upon
my shoulder, by some one overtaking me. It was Mr. Jaggers's hand,
and he passed it through my arm.
"As we are going in the same direction, Pip, we may walk together.
Where are you bound for?"
"For the Temple, I think," said I.
"Don't you know?" said Mr. Jaggers.
"Well," I returned, glad for once to get the better of him in
cross-examination, "I do not know, for I have not made up my mind."
"You are going to dine?" said Mr. Jaggers. "You don't mind admitting
that, I suppose?"
"No," I returned, "I don't mind admitting that."
"And are not engaged?"
"I don't mind admitting also, that I am not engaged."
"Then," said Mr. Jaggers, "come and dine with me."
I was going to excuse myself, when he added, "Wemmick's coming."
So, I changed my excuse into an acceptance - the few words I had
uttered, serving for the beginning of either - and we went along
Cheapside and slanted off to Little Britain, while the lights were
springing up brilliantly in the shop windows, and the street
lamp-lighters, scarcely finding ground enough to plant their
ladders on in the midst of the afternoon's bustle, were skipping up
and down and running in and out, opening more red eyes in the
gathering fog than my rushlight tower at the Hummums had opened
white eyes in the ghostly wall.
At the office in Little Britain there was the usual letter-writing,
hand-washing, candle-snuffing, and safe-locking, that closed the
business of the day. As I stood idle by Mr. Jaggers's fire, its
rising and falling flame made the two casts on the shelf look as if
they were playing a diabolical game at bo-peep with me; while the
pair of coarse fat office candles that dimly lighted Mr. Jaggers as
he wrote in a corner, were decorated with dirty winding-sheets, as
if in remembrance of a host of hanged clients.
We went to Gerrard-street, all three together, in a hackney coach:
and as soon as we got there, dinner was served. Although I should
not have thought of making, in that place, the most distant
reference by so much as a look to Wemmick's Walworth sentiments,
yet I should have had no objection to catching his eye now and then
in a friendly way. But it was not to be done. He turned his eyes on
Mr. Jaggers whenever he raised them from the table, and was as dry
and distant to me as if there were twin Wemmicks and this was the
"Did you send that note of Miss Havisham's to Mr. Pip, Wemmick?" Mr.
Jaggers asked, soon after we began dinner.
"No, sir," returned Wemmick; "it was going by post, when you
brought Mr. Pip into the office. Here it is." He handed it to his
principal, instead of to me.
"It's a note of two lines, Pip," said Mr. Jaggers, handing it on,
"sent up to me by Miss Havisham, on account of her not being sure
of your address. She tells me that she wants to see you on a little
matter of business you mentioned to her. You'll go down?"
"Yes," said I, casting my eyes over the note, which was exactly in
"When do you think of going down?"
"I have an impending engagement," said I, glancing at Wemmick, who
was putting fish into the post-office, "that renders me rather
uncertain of my time. At once, I think."
"If Mr. Pip has the intention of going at once," said Wemmick to Mr.
Jaggers, "he needn't write an answer, you know."
Receiving this as an intimation that it was best not to delay, I
settled that I would go to-morrow, and said so. Wemmick drank a
glass of wine and looked with a grimly satisfied air at Mr. Jaggers,
but not at me.
"So, Pip! Our friend the Spider," said Mr. Jaggers, "has played his
cards. He has won the pool."
It was as much as I could do to assent.
"Hah! He is a promising fellow - in his way - but he may not have
it all his own way. The stronger will win in the end, but the
stronger has to be found out first. If he should turn to, and beat
"Surely," I interrupted, with a burning face and heart, "you do not
seriously think that he is scoundrel enough for that, Mr. Jaggers?"
"I didn't say so, Pip. I am putting a case. If he should turn to
and beat her, he may possibly get the strength on his side; if it
should be a question of intellect, he certainly will not. It would
be chance work to give an opinion how a fellow of that sort will
turn out in such circumstances, because it's a toss-up between two
"May I ask what they are?"
"A fellow like our friend the Spider," answered Mr. Jaggers, "either
beats, or cringes. He may cringe and growl, or cringe and not
growl; but he either beats or cringes. Ask Wemmick his opinion."
"Either beats or cringes," said Wemmick, not at all addressing
himself to me.
"So, here's to Mrs. Bentley Drummle," said Mr. Jaggers, taking a
decanter of choicer wine from his dumb-waiter, and filling for each
of us and for himself, "and may the question of supremacy be
settled to the lady's satisfaction! To the satisfaction of the lady
and the gentleman, it never will be. Now, Molly, Molly, Molly,
Molly, how slow you are to-day!"
She was at his elbow when he addressed her, putting a dish upon the
table. As she withdrew her hands from it, she fell back a step or
two, nervously muttering some excuse. And a certain action of her
fingers as she spoke arrested my attention.
"What's the matter?" said Mr. Jaggers.
"Nothing. Only the subject we were speaking of," said I, "was
rather painful to me."
The action of her fingers was like the action of knitting. She
stood looking at her master, not understanding whether she was free
to go, or whether he had more to say to her and would call her back
if she did go. Her look was very intent. Surely, I had seen exactly
such eyes and such hands, on a memorable occasion very lately!
He dismissed her, and she glided out of the room. But she remained
before me, as plainly as if she were still there. I looked at those
hands, I looked at those eyes, I looked at that flowing hair; and I
compared them with other hands, other eyes, other hair, that I knew
of, and with what those might be after twenty years of a brutal
husband and a stormy life. I looked again at those hands and eyes
of the housekeeper, and thought of the inexplicable feeling that
had come over me when I last walked - not alone - in the ruined
garden, and through the deserted brewery. I thought how the same
feeling had come back when I saw a face looking at me, and a hand
waving to me, from a stage-coach window; and how it had come back
again and had flashed about me like Lightning, when I had passed in
a carriage - not alone - through a sudden glare of light in a dark
street. I thought how one link of association had helped that
identification in the theatre, and how such a link, wanting before,
had been riveted for me now, when I had passed by a chance swift
from Estella's name to the fingers with their knitting action, and
the attentive eyes. And I felt absolutely certain that this woman
was Estella's mother.
Mr. Jaggers had seen me with Estella, and was not likely to have
missed the sentiments I had been at no pains to conceal. He nodded
when I said the subject was painful to me, clapped me on the back,
put round the wine again, and went on with his dinner.
Only twice more, did the housekeeper reappear, and then her stay in
the room was very short, and Mr. Jaggers was sharp with her. But her
hands were Estella's hands, and her eyes were Estella's eyes, and
if she had reappeared a hundred times I could have been neither
more sure nor less sure that my conviction was the truth.
It was a dull evening, for Wemmick drew his wine when it came
round, quite as a matter of business - just as he might have drawn
his salary when that came round - and with his eyes on his chief,
sat in a state of perpetual readiness for cross-examination. As to
the quantity of wine, his post-office was as indifferent and ready
as any other post-office for its quantity of letters. From my point
of view, he was the wrong twin all the time, and only externally
like the Wemmick of Walworth.
We took our leave early, and left together. Even when we were
groping among Mr. Jaggers's stock of boots for our hats, I felt that
the right twin was on his way back; and we had not gone half a
dozen yards down Gerrard-street in the Walworth direction before I
found that I was walking arm-in-arm with the right twin, and that
the wrong twin had evaporated into the evening air.
"Well!" said Wemmick, "that's over! He's a wonderful man, without
his living likeness; but I feel that I have to screw myself up when
I dine with him - and I dine more comfortably unscrewed."
I felt that this was a good statement of the case, and told him so.
"Wouldn't say it to anybody but yourself," he answered. "I know
that what is said between you and me, goes no further."
I asked him if he had ever seen Miss Havisham's adopted daughter,
Mrs. Bentley Drummle? He said no. To avoid being too abrupt, I then
spoke of the Aged, and of Miss Skiffins. He looked rather sly when
I mentioned Miss Skiffins, and stopped in the street to blow his
nose, with a roll of the head and a flourish not quite free from
"Wemmick," said I, "do you remember telling me before I first went
to Mr. Jaggers's private house, to notice that housekeeper?"
"Did I?" he replied. "Ah, I dare say I did. Deuce take me," he
added, suddenly, "I know I did. I find I am not quite unscrewed
"A wild beast tamed, you called her."
"And what do you call her?"
"The same. How did Mr. Jaggers tame her, Wemmick?"
"That's his secret. She has been with him many a long year."
"I wish you would tell me her story. I feel a particular interest
in being acquainted with it. You know that what is said between you
and me goes no further."
"Well!" Wemmick replied, "I don't know her story - that is, I don't
know all of it. But what I do know, I'll tell you. We are in our
private and personal capacities, of course."
"A score or so of years ago, that woman was tried at the Old Bailey
for murder, and was acquitted. She was a very handsome young woman,
and I believe had some gipsy blood in her. Anyhow, it was hot enough
when it was up, as you may suppose."
"But she was acquitted."
"Mr. Jaggers was for her," pursued Wemmick, with a look full of
meaning, "and worked the case in a way quite astonishing. It was a
desperate case, and it was comparatively early days with him then,
and he worked it to general admiration; in fact, it may almost be
said to have made him. He worked it himself at the police-office,
day after day for many days, contending against even a committal;
and at the trial where he couldn't work it himself, sat under
Counsel, and - every one knew - put in all the salt and pepper. The
murdered person was a woman; a woman, a good ten years older, very
much larger, and very much stronger. It was a case of jealousy.
They both led tramping lives, and this woman in Gerrard-street here
had been married very young, over the broomstick (as we say), to a
tramping man, and was a perfect fury in point of jealousy. The
murdered woman - more a match for the man, certainly, in point of
years - was found dead in a barn near Hounslow Heath. There had
been a violent struggle, perhaps a fight. She was bruised and
scratched and torn, and had been held by the throat at last and
choked. Now, there was no reasonable evidence to implicate any
person but this woman, and, on the improbabilities of her having
been able to do it, Mr. Jaggers principally rested his case. You may
be sure," said Wemmick, touching me on the sleeve, "that he never
dwelt upon the strength of her hands then, though he sometimes does
I had told Wemmick of his showing us her wrists, that day of the
"Well, sir!" Wemmick went on; "it happened - happened, don't you
see? - that this woman was so very artfully dressed from the time
of her apprehension, that she looked much slighter than she really
was; in particular, her sleeves are always remembered to have been
so skilfully contrived that her arms had quite a delicate look. She
had only a bruise or two about her - nothing for a tramp - but the
backs of her hands were lacerated, and the question was, was it
with finger-nails? Now, Mr. Jaggers showed that she had struggled
through a great lot of brambles which were not as high as her face;
but which she could not have got through and kept her hands out of;
and bits of those brambles were actually found in her skin and put
in evidence, as well as the fact that the brambles in question were
found on examination to have been broken through, and to have
little shreds of her dress and little spots of blood upon them here
and there. But the boldest point he made, was this. It was
attempted to be set up in proof of her jealousy, that she was under
strong suspicion of having, at about the time of the murder,
frantically destroyed her child by this man - some three years old
- to revenge herself upon him. Mr. Jaggers worked that, in this way.
"We say these are not marks of finger-nails, but marks of brambles,
and we show you the brambles. You say they are marks of
finger-nails, and you set up the hypothesis that she destroyed her
child. You must accept all consequences of that hypothesis. For
anything we know, she may have destroyed her child, and the child
in clinging to her may have scratched her hands. What then? You are
not trying her for the murder of her child; why don't you? As to
this case, if you will have scratches, we say that, for anything we
know, you may have accounted for them, assuming for the sake of
argument that you have not invented them!" To sum up, sir," said
Wemmick, "Mr. Jaggers was altogether too many for the Jury, and they
"Has she been in his service ever since?"
"Yes; but not only that," said Wemmick. "She went into his service
immediately after her acquittal, tamed as she is now. She has since
been taught one thing and another in the way of her duties, but she
was tamed from the beginning."
"Do you remember the sex of the child?"
"Said to have been a girl."
"You have nothing more to say to me to-night?"
"Nothing. I got your letter and destroyed it. Nothing."
We exchanged a cordial Good Night, and I went home, with new matter
for my thoughts, though with no relief from the old.
Putting Miss Havisham's note in my pocket, that it might serve as
my credentials for so soon reappearing at Satis House, in case her
waywardness should lead her to express any surprise at seeing me, I
went down again by the coach next day. But I alighted at the
Halfway House, and breakfasted there, and walked the rest of the
distance; for, I sought to get into the town quietly by the
unfrequented ways, and to leave it in the same manner.
The best light of the day was gone when I passed along the quiet
echoing courts behind the High-street. The nooks of ruin where the
old monks had once had their refectories and gardens, and where the
strong walls were now pressed into the service of humble sheds and
stables, were almost as silent as the old monks in their graves.
The cathedral chimes had at once a sadder and a more remote sound
to me, as I hurried on avoiding observation, than they had ever had
before; so, the swell of the old organ was borne to my ears like
funeral music; and the rooks, as they hovered about the grey tower
and swung in the bare high trees of the priory-garden, seemed to
call to me that the place was changed, and that Estella was gone
out of it for ever.
An elderly woman whom I had seen before as one of the servants who
lived in the supplementary house across the back court-yard, opened
the gate. The lighted candle stood in the dark passage within, as
of old, and I took it up and ascended the staircase alone. Miss
Havisham was not in her own room, but was in the larger room across
the landing. Looking in at the door, after knocking in vain, I saw
her sitting on the hearth in a ragged chair, close before, and lost
in the contemplation of, the ashy fire.
Doing as I had often done, I went in, and stood, touching the old
chimney-piece, where she could see me when she raised her eyes.
There was an air or utter loneliness upon her, that would have
moved me to pity though she had wilfully done me a deeper injury
than I could charge her with. As I stood compassionating her, and
thinking how in the progress of time I too had come to be a part of
the wrecked fortunes of that house, her eyes rested on me. She
stared, and said in a low voice, "Is it real?"
"It is I, Pip. Mr. Jaggers gave me your note yesterday, and I have
lost no time."
"Thank you. Thank you."
As I brought another of the ragged chairs to the hearth and sat
down, I remarked a new expression on her face, as if she were
afraid of me.
"I want," she said, "to pursue that subject you mentioned to me
when you were last here, and to show you that I am not all stone.
But perhaps you can never believe, now, that there is anything
human in my heart?"
When I said some reassuring words, she stretched out her tremulous
right hand, as though she was going to touch me; but she recalled
it again before I understood the action, or knew how to receive it.
"You said, speaking for your friend, that you could tell me how to
do something useful and good. Something that you would like done,
is it not?"
"Something that I would like done very much."
"What is it?"
I began explaining to her that secret history of the partnership. I
had not got far into it, when I judged from her looks that she was
thinking in a discursive way of me, rather than of what I said. It
seemed to be so, for, when I stopped speaking, many moments passed
before she showed that she was conscious of the fact.
"Do you break off," she asked then, with her former air of being
afraid of me, "because you hate me too much to bear to speak to
"No, no," I answered, "how can you think so, Miss Havisham! I
stopped because I thought you were not following what I said."
"Perhaps I was not," she answered, putting a hand to her head.
"Begin again, and let me look at something else. Stay! Now tell
She set her hand upon her stick, in the resolute way that sometimes
was habitual to her, and looked at the fire with a strong
expression of forcing herself to attend. I went on with my
explanation, and told her how I had hoped to complete the
transaction out of my means, but how in this I was disappointed.
That part of the subject (I reminded her) involved matters which
could form no part of my explanation, for they were the weighty
secrets of another.
"So!" said she, assenting with her head, but not looking at me.
"And how much money is wanting to complete the purchase?"
I was rather afraid of stating it, for it sounded a large sum.
"Nine hundred pounds."
"If I give you the money for this purpose, will you keep my secret
as you have kept your own?"
"Quite as faithfully."
"And your mind will be more at rest?"
"Much more at rest."
"Are you very unhappy now?"
She asked this question, still without looking at me, but in an
unwonted tone of sympathy. I could not reply at the moment, for my
voice failed me. She put her left arm across the head of her stick,
and softly laid her forehead on it.
"I am far from happy, Miss Havisham; but I have other causes of
disquiet than any you know of. They are the secrets I have
After a little while, she raised her head and looked at the fire
"It is noble in you to tell me that you have other causes of
unhappiness, Is it true?"
"Can I only serve you, Pip, by serving your friend? Regarding that
as done, is there nothing I can do for you yourself?"
"Nothing. I thank you for the question. I thank you even more for
the tone of the question. But, there is nothing."
She presently rose from her seat, and looked about the blighted
room for the means of writing. There were non there, and she took
from her pocket a yellow set of ivory tablets, mounted in tarnished
gold, and wrote upon them with a pencil in a case of tarnished gold
that hung from her neck.
"You are still on friendly terms with Mr. Jaggers?"
"Quite. I dined with him yesterday."
"This is an authority to him to pay you that money, to lay out at
your irresponsible discretion for your friend. I keep no money
here; but if you would rather Mr. Jaggers knew nothing of the
matter, I will send it to you."
"Thank you, Miss Havisham; I have not the least objection to
receiving it from him."
She read me what she had written, and it was direct and clear, and
evidently intended to absolve me from any suspicion of profiting by
the receipt of the money. I took the tablets from her hand, and it
trembled again, and it trembled more as she took off the chain to
which the pencil was attached, and put it in mine. All this she
did, without looking at me.
"My name is on the first leaf. If you can ever write under my name,
"I forgive her," though ever so long after my broken heart is dust
- pray do it!"
"O Miss Havisham," said I, "I can do it now. There have been sore
mistakes; and my life has been a blind and thankless one; and I
want forgiveness and direction far too much, to be bitter with
She turned her face to me for the first time since she had averted
it, and, to my amazement, I may even add to my terror, dropped on
her knees at my feet; with her folded hands raised to me in the
manner in which, when her poor heart was young and fresh and whole,
they must often have been raised to heaven from her mother's side.
To see her with her white hair and her worn face kneeling at my
feet, gave me a shock through all my frame. I entreated her to
rise, and got my arms about her to help her up; but she only
pressed that hand of mine which was nearest to her grasp, and hung
her head over it and wept. I had never seen her shed a tear before,
and, in the hope that the relief might do her good, I bent over her
without speaking. She was not kneeling now, but was down upon the
"O!" she cried, despairingly. "What have I done! What have I done!"
"If you mean, Miss Havisham, what have you done to injure me, let
me answer. Very little. I should have loved her under any
circumstances. - Is she married?"
It was a needless question, for a new desolation in the desolate
house had told me so.
"What have I done! What have I done!" She wrung her hands, and
crushed her white hair, and returned to this cry over and over
again. "What have I done!"
I knew not how to answer, or how to comfort her. That she had done
a grievous thing in taking an impressionable child to mould into
the form that her wild resentment, spurned affection, and wounded
pride, found vengeance in, I knew full well. But that, in shutting
out the light of day, she had shut out infinitely more; that, in
seclusion, she had secluded herself from a thousand natural and
healing influences; that, her mind, brooding solitary, had grown
diseased, as all minds do and must and will that reverse the
appointed order of their Maker; I knew equally well. And could I
look upon her without compassion, seeing her punishment in the ruin
she was, in her profound unfitness for this earth on which she was
placed, in the vanity of sorrow which had become a master mania,
like the vanity of penitence, the vanity of remorse, the vanity of
unworthiness, and other monstrous vanities that have been curses in
"Until you spoke to her the other day, and until I saw in you a
looking-glass that showed me what I once felt myself, I did not
know what I had done. What have I done! What have I done!" And so
again, twenty, fifty times over, What had she done!
"Miss Havisham," I said, when her cry had died away, "you may
dismiss me from your mind and conscience. But Estella is a
different case, and if you can ever undo any scrap of what you have
done amiss in keeping a part of her right nature away from her, it
will be better to do that, than to bemoan the past through a
"Yes, yes, I know it. But, Pip - my Dear!" There was an earnest
womanly compassion for me in her new affection. "My Dear! Believe
this: when she first came to me, I meant to save her from misery
like my own. At first I meant no more."
"Well, well!" said I. "I hope so."
"But as she grew, and promised to be very beautiful, I gradually
did worse, and with my praises, and with my jewels, and with my
teachings, and with this figure of myself always before her a
warning to back and point my lessons, I stole her heart away and
put ice in its place."
"Better," I could not help saying, "to have left her a natural
heart, even to be bruised or broken."
With that, Miss Havisham looked distractedly at me for a while, and
then burst out again, What had she done!
"If you knew all my story," she pleaded, "you would have some
compassion for me and a better understanding of me."
"Miss Havisham," I answered, as delicately as I could, "I believe I
may say that I do know your story, and have known it ever since I
first left this neighbourhood. It has inspired me with great
commiseration, and I hope I understand it and its influences. Does
what has passed between us give me any excuse for asking you a
question relative to Estella? Not as she is, but as she was when
she first came here?"
She was seated on the ground, with her arms on the ragged chair,
and her head leaning on them. She looked full at me when I said
this, and replied, "Go on."
"Whose child was Estella?"
She shook her head.
"You don't know?"
She shook her head again.
"But Mr. Jaggers brought her here, or sent her here?"
"Brought her here."
"Will you tell me how that came about?"
She answered in a low whisper and with caution: "I had been shut up
in these rooms a long time (I don't know how long; you know what
time the clocks keep here), when I told him that I wanted a little
girl to rear and love, and save from my fate. I had first seen him
when I sent for him to lay this place waste for me; having read of
him in the newspapers, before I and the world parted. He told me
that he would look about him for such an orphan child. One night he
brought her here asleep, and I called her Estella."
"Might I ask her age then?"
"Two or three. She herself knows nothing, but that she was left an
orphan and I adopted her."
So convinced I was of that woman's being her mother, that I wanted
no evidence to establish the fact in my own mind. But, to any mind,
I thought, the connection here was clear and straight.
What more could I hope to do by prolonging the interview? I had
succeeded on behalf of Herbert, Miss Havisham had told me all she
knew of Estella, I had said and done what I could to ease her mind.
No matter with what other words we parted; we parted.
Twilight was closing in when I went down stairs into the natural
air. I called to the woman who had opened the gate when I entered,
that I would not trouble her just yet, but would walk round the
place before leaving. For, I had a presentiment that I should never
be there again, and I felt that the dying light was suited to my
last view of it.
By the wilderness of casks that I had walked on long ago, and on
which the rain of years had fallen since, rotting them in many
places, and leaving miniature swamps and pools of water upon those
that stood on end, I made my way to the ruined garden. I went all
round it; round by the corner where Herbert and I had fought our
battle; round by the paths where Estella and I had walked. So cold,
so lonely, so dreary all!
Taking the brewery on my way back, I raised the rusty latch of a
little door at the garden end of it, and walked through. I was
going out at the opposite door - not easy to open now, for the damp
wood had started and swelled, and the hinges were yielding, and the
threshold was encumbered with a growth of fungus - when I turned my
head to look back. A childish association revived with wonderful
force in the moment of the slight action, and I fancied that I saw
Miss Havisham hanging to the beam. So strong was the impression,
that I stood under the beam shuddering from head to foot before I
knew it was a fancy - though to be sure I was there in an instant.
The mournfulness of the place and time, and the great terror of
this illusion, though it was but momentary, caused me to feel an
indescribable awe as I came out between the open wooden gates where
I had once wrung my hair after Estella had wrung my heart. Passing
on into the front court-yard, I hesitated whether to call the woman
to let me out at the locked gate of which she had the key, or first
to go up-stairs and assure myself that Miss Havisham was as safe
and well as I had left her. I took the latter course and went up.
I looked into the room where I had left her, and I saw her seated
in the ragged chair upon the hearth close to the fire, with her
back towards me. In the moment when I was withdrawing my head to go
quietly away, I saw a great flaming light spring up. In the same
moment, I saw her running at me, shrieking, with a whirl of fire
blazing all about her, and soaring at least as many feet above her
head as she was high.
I had a double-caped great-coat on, and over my arm another thick
coat. That I got them off, closed with her, threw her down, and got
them over her; that I dragged the great cloth from the table for
the same purpose, and with it dragged down the heap of rottenness
in the midst, and all the ugly things that sheltered there; that we
were on the ground struggling like desperate enemies, and that the
closer I covered her, the more wildly she shrieked and tried to
free herself; that this occurred I knew through the result, but not
through anything I felt, or thought, or knew I did. I knew nothing
until I knew that we were on the floor by the great table, and that
patches of tinder yet alight were floating in the smoky air, which,
a moment ago, had been her faded bridal dress.
Then, I looked round and saw the disturbed beetles and spiders
running away over the floor, and the servants coming in with
breathless cries at the door. I still held her forcibly down with
all my strength, like a prisoner who might escape; and I doubt if I
even knew who she was, or why we had struggled, or that she had
been in flames, or that the flames were out, until I saw the
patches of tinder that had been her garments, no longer alight but
falling in a black shower around us.
She was insensible, and I was afraid to have her moved, or even
touched. Assistance was sent for and I held her until it came, as
if I unreasonably fancied (I think I did) that if I let her go, the
fire would break out again and consume her. When I got up, on the
surgeon's coming to her with other aid, I was astonished to see
that both my hands were burnt; for, I had no knowledge of it
through the sense of feeling.
On examination it was pronounced that she had received serious
hurts, but that they of themselves were far from hopeless; the
danger lay mainly in the nervous shock. By the surgeon's
directions, her bed was carried into that room and laid upon the
great table: which happened to be well suited to the dressing of
her injuries. When I saw her again, an hour afterwards, she lay
indeed where I had seen her strike her stick, and had heard her say
that she would lie one day.
Though every vestige of her dress was burnt, as they told me, she
still had something of her old ghastly bridal appearance; for, they
had covered her to the throat with white cotton-wool, and as she
lay with a white sheet loosely overlying that, the phantom air of
something that had been and was changed, was still upon her.
I found, on questioning the servants, that Estella was in Paris,
and I got a promise from the surgeon that he would write to her by
the next post. Miss Havisham's family I took upon myself; intending
to communicate with Mr. Matthew Pocket only, and leave him to do as
he liked about informing the rest. This I did next day, through
Herbert, as soon as I returned to town.
There was a stage, that evening, when she spoke collectedly of what
had happened, though with a certain terrible vivacity. Towards
midnight she began to wander in her speech, and after that it
gradually set in that she said innumerable times in a low solemn
voice, "What have I done!" And then, "When she first came, I meant
to save her from misery like mine." And then, "Take the pencil and
write under my name, 'I forgive her!'" She never changed the order
of these three sentences, but she sometimes left out a word in one
or other of them; never putting in another word, but always leaving
a blank and going on to the next word.
As I could do no service there, and as I had, nearer home, that
pressing reason for anxiety and fear which even her wanderings
could not drive out of my mind, I decided in the course of the
night that I would return by the early morning coach: walking on a
mile or so, and being taken up clear of the town. At about six
o'clock of the morning, therefore, I leaned over her and touched
her lips with mine, just as they said, not stopping for being
touched, "Take the pencil and write under my name, 'I forgive
My hands had been dressed twice or thrice in the night, and again
in the morning. My left arm was a good deal burned to the elbow,
and, less severely, as high as the shoulder; it was very painful,
but the flames had set in that direction, and I felt thankful it
was no worse. My right hand was not so badly burnt but that I could
move the fingers. It was bandaged, of course, but much less
inconveniently than my left hand and arm; those I carried in a
sling; and I could only wear my coat like a cloak, loose over my
shoulders and fastened at the neck. My hair had been caught by the
fire, but not my head or face.
When Herbert had been down to Hammersmith and seen his father, he
came back to me at our chambers, and devoted the day to attending on
me. He was the kindest of nurses, and at stated times took off the
bandages, and steeped them in the cooling liquid that was kept
ready, and put them on again, with a patient tenderness that I was
deeply grateful for.
At first, as I lay quiet on the sofa, I found it painfully
difficult, I might say impossible, to get rid of the impression of
the glare of the flames, their hurry and noise, and the fierce
burning smell. If I dozed for a minute, I was awakened by Miss
Havisham's cries, and by her running at me with all that height of
fire above her head. This pain of the mind was much harder to
strive against than any bodily pain I suffered; and Herbert, seeing
that, did his utmost to hold my attention engaged.
Neither of us spoke of the boat, but we both thought of it. That
was made apparent by our avoidance of the subject, and by our
agreeing - without agreement - to make my recovery of the use of my
hands, a question of so many hours, not of so many weeks.
My first question when I saw Herbert had been of course, whether
all was well down the river? As he replied in the affirmative, with
perfect confidence and cheerfulness, we did not resume the subject
until the day was wearing away. But then, as Herbert changed the
bandages, more by the light of the fire than by the outer light, he
went back to it spontaneously.
"I sat with Provis last night, Handel, two good hours."
"Where was Clara?"
"Dear little thing!" said Herbert. "She was up and down with
Gruffandgrim all the evening. He was perpetually pegging at the
floor, the moment she left his sight. I doubt if he can hold out
long though. What with rum and pepper - and pepper and rum - I
should think his pegging must be nearly over."
"And then you will be married, Herbert?"
"How can I take care of the dear child otherwise? - Lay your arm
out upon the back of the sofa, my dear boy, and I'll sit down here,
and get the bandage off so gradually that you shall not know when
it comes. I was speaking of Provis. Do you know, Handel, he
"I said to you I thought he was softened when I last saw him."
"So you did. And so he is. He was very communicative last night,
and told me more of his life. You remember his breaking off here
about some woman that he had had great trouble with. - Did I hurt
I had started, but not under his touch. His words had given me a
"I had forgotten that, Herbert, but I remember it now you speak of
"Well! He went into that part of his life, and a dark wild part it
is. Shall I tell you? Or would it worry you just now?"
"Tell me by all means. Every word."
Herbert bent forward to look at me more nearly, as if my reply had
been rather more hurried or more eager than he could quite account
for. "Your head is cool?" he said, touching it.
"Quite," said I. "Tell me what Provis said, my dear Herbert."
"It seems," said Herbert, " - there's a bandage off most
charmingly, and now comes the cool one - makes you shrink at first,
my poor dear fellow, don't it? but it will be comfortable presently
- it seems that the woman was a young woman, and a jealous woman,
and a revengeful woman; revengeful, Handel, to the last degree."
"To what last degree?"
"Murder. - Does it strike too cold on that sensitive place?"
"I don't feel it. How did she murder? Whom did she murder?" "Why,
the deed may not have merited quite so terrible a name," said
Herbert, "but, she was tried for it, and Mr. Jaggers defended her,
and the reputation of that defence first made his name known to
Provis. It was another and a stronger woman who was the victim, and
there had been a struggle - in a barn. Who began it, or how fair it
was, or how unfair, may be doubtful; but how it ended, is certainly
not doubtful, for the victim was found throttled."
"Was the woman brought in guilty?"
"No; she was acquitted. - My poor Handel, I hurt you!"
"It is impossible to be gentler, Herbert. Yes? What else?"
"This acquitted young woman and Provis had a little child: a little
child of whom Provis was exceedingly fond. On the evening of the
very night when the object of her jealousy was strangled as I tell
you, the young woman presented herself before Provis for one
moment, and swore that she would destroy the child (which was in
her possession), and he should never see it again; then, she
vanished. - There's the worst arm comfortably in the sling once
more, and now there remains but the right hand, which is a far
easier job. I can do it better by this light than by a stronger,
for my hand is steadiest when I don't see the poor blistered
patches too distinctly. - You don't think your breathing is
affected, my dear boy? You seem to breathe quickly."
"Perhaps I do, Herbert. Did the woman keep her oath?"
"There comes the darkest part of Provis's life. She did."
"That is, he says she did."
"Why, of course, my dear boy," returned Herbert, in a tone of
surprise, and again bending forward to get a nearer look at me. "He
says it all. I have no other information."
"No, to be sure."
"Now, whether," pursued Herbert, "he had used the child's mother
ill, or whether he had used the child's mother well, Provis doesn't
say; but, she had shared some four or five years of the wretched
life he described to us at this fireside, and he seems to have felt
pity for her, and forbearance towards her. Therefore, fearing he
should be called upon to depose about this destroyed child, and so
be the cause of her death, he hid himself (much as he grieved for
the child), kept himself dark, as he says, out of the way and out
of the trial, and was only vaguely talked of as a certain man
called Abel, out of whom the jealousy arose. After the acquittal
she disappeared, and thus he lost the child and the child's
"I want to ask--"
"A moment, my dear boy, and I have done. That evil genius,
Compeyson, the worst of scoundrels among many scoundrels, knowing
of his keeping out of the way at that time, and of his reasons for
doing so, of course afterwards held the knowledge over his head as
a means of keeping him poorer, and working him harder. It was clear
last night that this barbed the point of Provis's animosity."
"I want to know," said I, "and particularly, Herbert, whether he
told you when this happened?"
"Particularly? Let me remember, then, what he said as to that. His
expression was, 'a round score o' year ago, and a'most directly
after I took up wi' Compeyson.' How old were you when you came upon
him in the little churchyard?"
"I think in my seventh year."
"Ay. It had happened some three or four years then, he said, and
you brought into his mind the little girl so tragically lost, who
would have been about your age."
"Herbert," said I, after a short silence, in a hurried way, "can
you see me best by the light of the window, or the light of the
"By the firelight," answered Herbert, coming close again.
"Look at me."
"I do look at you, my dear boy."
"I do touch you, my dear boy."
"You are not afraid that I am in any fever, or that my head is much
disordered by the accident of last night?"
"N-no, my dear boy," said Herbert, after taking time to examine me.
"You are rather excited, but you are quite yourself."
"I know I am quite myself. And the man we have in hiding down the
river, is Estella's Father."
What purpose I had in view when I was hot on tracing out and
proving Estella's parentage, I cannot say. It will presently be
seen that the question was not before me in a distinct shape, until
it was put before me by a wiser head than my own.
But, when Herbert and I had held our momentous conversation, I was
seized with a feverish conviction that I ought to hunt the matter
down - that I ought not to let it rest, but that I ought to see Mr.
Jaggers, and come at the bare truth. I really do not know whether I
felt that I did this for Estella's sake, or whether I was glad to
transfer to the man in whose preservation I was so much concerned,
some rays of the romantic interest that had so long surrounded her.
Perhaps the latter possibility may be the nearer to the truth.
Any way, I could scarcely be withheld from going out to
Gerrard-street that night. Herbert's representations that if I did,
I should probably be laid up and stricken useless, when our
fugitive's safety would depend upon me, alone restrained my
impatience. On the understanding, again and again reiterated, that
come what would, I was to go to Mr. Jaggers to-morrow, I at length
submitted to keep quiet, and to have my hurts looked after, and to
stay at home. Early next morning we went out together, and at the
corner of Giltspur-street by Smithfield, I left Herbert to go his
way into the City, and took my way to Little Britain.
There were periodical occasions when Mr. Jaggers and Wemmick went
over the office accounts, and checked off the vouchers, and put all
things straight. On these occasions Wemmick took his books and
papers into Mr. Jaggers's room, and one of the up-stairs clerks came
down into the outer office. Finding such clerk on Wemmick's post
that morning, I knew what was going on; but, I was not sorry to
have Mr. Jaggers and Wemmick together, as Wemmick would then hear
for himself that I said nothing to compromise him.
My appearance with my arm bandaged and my coat loose over my
shoulders, favoured my object. Although I had sent Mr. Jaggers a
brief account of the accident as soon as I had arrived in town, yet
I had to give him all the details now; and the speciality of the
occasion caused our talk to be less dry and hard, and less strictly
regulated by the rules of evidence, than it had been before. While
I described the disaster, Mr. Jaggers stood, according to his wont,
before the fire. Wemmick leaned back in his chair, staring at me,
with his hands in the pockets of his trousers, and his pen put
horizontally into the post. The two brutal casts, always
inseparable in my mind from the official proceedings, seemed to be
congestively considering whether they didn't smell fire at the
My narrative finished, and their questions exhausted, I then
produced Miss Havisham's authority to receive the nine hundred
pounds for Herbert. Mr. Jaggers's eyes retired a little deeper into
his head when I handed him the tablets, but he presently handed
them over to Wemmick, with instructions to draw the cheque for his
signature. While that was in course of being done, I looked on at
Wemmick as he wrote, and Mr. Jaggers, poising and swaying himself on
his well-polished boots, looked on at me. "I am sorry, Pip," said
he, as I put the cheque in my pocket, when he had signed it, "that
we do nothing for you."
"Miss Havisham was good enough to ask me," I returned, "whether she
could do nothing for me, and I told her No."
"Everybody should know his own business," said Mr. Jaggers. And I
saw Wemmick's lips form the words "portable property."
"I should not have told her No, if I had been you," said Mr
Jaggers; "but every man ought to know his own business best."
"Every man's business," said Wemmick, rather reproachfully towards
me, "is portable property."
As I thought the time was now come for pursuing the theme I had at
heart, I said, turning on Mr. Jaggers:
"I did ask something of Miss Havisham, however, sir. I asked her to
give me some information relative to her adopted daughter, and she
gave me all she possessed."
"Did she?" said Mr. Jaggers, bending forward to look at his boots
and then straightening himself. "Hah! I don't think I should have
done so, if I had been Miss Havisham. But she ought to know her own
"I know more of the history of Miss Havisham's adopted child, than
Miss Havisham herself does, sir. I know her mother."
Mr. Jaggers looked at me inquiringly, and repeated "Mother?"
"I have seen her mother within these three days."
"Yes?" said Mr. Jaggers.
"And so have you, sir. And you have seen her still more recently."
"Yes?" said Mr. Jaggers.
"Perhaps I know more of Estella's history than even you do," said
I. "I know her father too."
A certain stop that Mr. Jaggers came to in his manner - he was too
self-possessed to change his manner, but he could not help its
being brought to an indefinably attentive stop - assured me that he
did not know who her father was. This I had strongly suspected from
Provis's account (as Herbert had repeated it) of his having kept
himself dark; which I pieced on to the fact that he himself was not
Mr. Jaggers's client until some four years later, and when he could
have no reason for claiming his identity. But, I could not be sure
of this unconsciousness on Mr. Jaggers's part before, though I was
quite sure of it now.
"So! You know the young lady's father, Pip?" said Mr. Jaggers.
"Yes," I replied, "and his name is Provis - from New South Wales."
Even Mr. Jaggers started when I said those words. It was the
slightest start that could escape a man, the most carefully
repressed and the soonest checked, but he did start, though he made
it a part of the action of taking out his pocket-handkerchief. How
Wemmick received the announcement I am unable to say, for I was
afraid to look at him just then, lest Mr. Jaggers's sharpness should
detect that there had been some communication unknown to him
"And on what evidence, Pip," asked Mr. Jaggers, very coolly, as he
paused with his handkerchief half way to his nose, "does Provis
make this claim?"
"He does not make it," said I, "and has never made it, and has no
knowledge or belief that his daughter is in existence."
For once, the powerful pocket-handkerchief failed. My reply was so
unexpected that Mr. Jaggers put the handkerchief back into his
pocket without completing the usual performance, folded his arms,
and looked with stern attention at me, though with an immovable
Then I told him all I knew, and how I knew it; with the one
reservation that I left him to infer that I knew from Miss Havisham
what I in fact knew from Wemmick. I was very careful indeed as to
that. Nor, did I look towards Wemmick until I had finished all I
had to tell, and had been for some time silently meeting Mr.
Jaggers's look. When I did at last turn my eyes in Wemmick's
direction, I found that he had unposted his pen, and was intent
upon the table before him.
"Hah!" said Mr. Jaggers at last, as he moved towards the papers on
the table, " - What item was it you were at, Wemmick, when Mr. Pip
But I could not submit to be thrown off in that way, and I made a
passionate, almost an indignant, appeal to him to be more frank and
manly with me. I reminded him of the false hopes into which I had
lapsed, the length of time they had lasted, and the discovery I had
made: and I hinted at the danger that weighed upon my spirits. I
represented myself as being surely worthy of some little confidence
from him, in return for the confidence I had just now imparted. I
said that I did not blame him, or suspect him, or mistrust him, but
I wanted assurance of the truth from him. And if he asked me why I
wanted it and why I thought I had any right to it, I would tell
him, little as he cared for such poor dreams, that I had loved
Estella dearly and long, and that, although I had lost her and must
live a bereaved life, whatever concerned her was still nearer and
dearer to me than anything else in the world. And seeing that Mr.
Jaggers stood quite still and silent, and apparently quite
obdurate, under this appeal, I turned to Wemmick, and said,
"Wemmick, I know you to be a man with a gentle heart. I have seen
your pleasant home, and your old father, and all the innocent
cheerful playful ways with which you refresh your business life.
And I entreat you to say a word for me to Mr. Jaggers, and to
represent to him that, all circumstances considered, he ought to be
more open with me!"
I have never seen two men look more oddly at one another than Mr.
Jaggers and Wemmick did after this apostrophe. At first, a
misgiving crossed me that Wemmick would be instantly dismissed from
his employment; but, it melted as I saw Mr. Jaggers relax into
something like a smile, and Wemmick become bolder.
"What's all this?" said Mr. Jaggers. "You with an old father, and
you with pleasant and playful ways?"
"Well!" returned Wemmick. "If I don't bring 'em here, what does it
"Pip," said Mr. Jaggers, laying his hand upon my arm, and smiling
openly, "this man must be the most cunning impostor in all London."
"Not a bit of it," returned Wemmick, growing bolder and bolder. "I
think you're another."
Again they exchanged their former odd looks, each apparently still
distrustful that the other was taking him in.
"You with a pleasant home?" said Mr. Jaggers.
"Since it don't interfere with business," returned Wemmick, "let it
be so. Now, I look at you, sir, I shouldn't wonder if you might be
planning and contriving to have a pleasant home of your own, one of
these days, when you're tired of all this work."
Mr. Jaggers nodded his head retrospectively two or three times, and
actually drew a sigh. "Pip," said he, "we won't talk about 'poor
dreams;' you know more about such things than I, having much
fresher experience of that kind. But now, about this other matter.
I'll put a case to you. Mind! I admit nothing."
He waited for me to declare that I quite understood that he
expressly said that he admitted nothing.
"Now, Pip," said Mr. Jaggers, "put this case. Put the case that a
woman, under such circumstances as you have mentioned, held her
child concealed, and was obliged to communicate the fact to her
legal adviser, on his representing to her that he must know, with
an eye to the latitude of his defence, how the fact stood about
that child. Put the case that at the same time he held a trust to
find a child for an eccentric rich lady to adopt and bring up."
"I follow you, sir."
"Put the case that he lived in an atmosphere of evil, and that all
he saw of children, was, their being generated in great numbers for
certain destruction. Put the case that he often saw children
solemnly tried at a criminal bar, where they were held up to be
seen; put the case that he habitually knew of their being
imprisoned, whipped, transported, neglected, cast out, qualified in
all ways for the hangman, and growing up to be hanged. Put the case
that pretty nigh all the children he saw in his daily business
life, he had reason to look upon as so much spawn, to develop into
the fish that were to come to his net - to be prosecuted, defended,
forsworn, made orphans, bedevilled somehow."
"I follow you, sir."
"Put the case, Pip, that here was one pretty little child out of
the heap, who could be saved; whom the father believed dead, and
dared make no stir about; as to whom, over the mother, the legal
adviser had this power: "I know what you did, and how you did it.
You came so and so, this was your manner of attack and this the
manner of resistance, you went so and so, you did such and such
things to divert suspicion. I have tracked you through it all, and
I tell it you all. Part with the child, unless it should be
necessary to produce it to clear you, and then it shall be
produced. Give the child into my hands, and I will do my best to
bring you off. If you are saved, your child is saved too; if you
are lost, your child is still saved." Put the case that this was
done, and that the woman was cleared."
"I understand you perfectly."
"But that I make no admissions?"
"That you make no admissions." And Wemmick repeated, "No
"Put the case, Pip, that passion and the terror of death had a
little shaken the woman's intellect, and that when she was set at
liberty, she was scared out of the ways of the world and went to
him to be sheltered. Put the case that he took her in, and that he
kept down the old wild violent nature whenever he saw an inkling of
its breaking out, by asserting his power over her in the old way.
Do you comprehend the imaginary case?"
"Put the case that the child grew up, and was married for money.
That the mother was still living. That the father was still living.
That the mother and father unknown to one another, were dwelling
within so many miles, furlongs, yards if you like, of one another.
That the secret was still a secret, except that you had got wind of
it. Put that last case to yourself very carefully."
"I ask Wemmick to put it to himself very carefully."
And Wemmick said, "I do."
"For whose sake would you reveal the secret? For the father's? I
think he would not be much the better for the mother. For the
mother's? I think if she had done such a deed she would be safer
where she was. For the daughter's? I think it would hardly serve
her, to establish her parentage for the information of her husband,
and to drag her back to disgrace, after an escape of twenty years,
pretty secure to last for life. But, add the case that you had
loved her, Pip, and had made her the subject of those 'poor dreams'
which have, at one time or another, been in the heads of more men
than you think likely, then I tell you that you had better - and
would much sooner when you had thought well of it - chop off that
bandaged left hand of yours with your bandaged right hand, and then
pass the chopper on to Wemmick there, to cut that off, too."
I looked at Wemmick, whose face was very grave. He gravely touched
his lips with his forefinger. I did the same. Mr. Jaggers did the
same. "Now, Wemmick," said the latter then, resuming his usual
manner, "what item was it you were at, when Mr. Pip came in?"
Standing by for a little, while they were at work, I observed that
the odd looks they had cast at one another were repeated several
times: with this difference now, that each of them seemed
suspicious, not to say conscious, of having shown himself in a weak
and unprofessional light to the other. For this reason, I suppose,
they were now inflexible with one another; Mr. Jaggers being highly
dictatorial, and Wemmick obstinately justifying himself whenever
there was the smallest point in abeyance for a moment. I had never
seen them on such ill terms; for generally they got on very well
But, they were both happily relieved by the opportune appearance of
Mike, the client with the fur cap and the habit of wiping his nose
on his sleeve, whom I had seen on the very first day of my
appearance within those walls. This individual, who, either in his
own person or in that of some member of his family, seemed to be
always in trouble (which in that place meant Newgate), called to
announce that his eldest daughter was taken up on suspicion of
shop-lifting. As he imparted this melancholy circumstance to
Wemmick, Mr. Jaggers standing magisterially before the fire and
taking no share in the proceedings, Mike's eye happened to twinkle
with a tear.
"What are you about?" demanded Wemmick, with the utmost
indignation. "What do you come snivelling here for?"
"I didn't go to do it, Mr. Wemmick."
"You did," said Wemmick. "How dare you? You're not in a fit state
to come here, if you can't come here without spluttering like a bad
pen. What do you mean by it?"
"A man can't help his feelings, Mr. Wemmick," pleaded Mike.
"His what?" demanded Wemmick, quite savagely. "Say that again!"
"Now, look here my man," said Mr. Jaggers, advancing a step, and
pointing to the door. "Get out of this office. I'll have no
feelings here. Get out."
"It serves you right," said Wemmick, "Get out."
So the unfortunate Mike very humbly withdrew, and Mr. Jaggers and
Wemmick appeared to have re-established their good understanding,
and went to work again with an air of refreshment upon them as if
they had just had lunch.
From Little Britain, I went, with my cheque in my pocket, to Miss
Skiffins's brother, the accountant; and Miss Skiffins's brother,
the accountant, going straight to Clarriker's and bringing
Clarriker to me, I had the great satisfaction of concluding that
arrangement. It was the only good thing I had done, and the only
completed thing I had done, since I was first apprised of my great
Clarriker informing me on that occasion that the affairs of the
House were steadily progressing, that he would now be able to
establish a small branch-house in the East which was much wanted
for the extension of the business, and that Herbert in his new
partnership capacity would go out and take charge of it, I found
that I must have prepared for a separation from my friend, even
though my own affairs had been more settled. And now indeed I felt
as if my last anchor were loosening its hold, and I should soon be
driving with the winds and waves.
But, there was recompense in the joy with which Herbert would come
home of a night and tell me of these changes, little imagining that
he told me no news, and would sketch airy pictures of himself
conducting Clara Barley to the land of the Arabian Nights, and of
me going out to join them (with a caravan of camels, I believe),
and of our all going up the Nile and seeing wonders. Without being
sanguine as to my own part in these bright plans, I felt that
Herbert's way was clearing fast, and that old Bill Barley had but
to stick to his pepper and rum, and his daughter would soon be
happily provided for.
We had now got into the month of March. My left arm, though it
presented no bad symptoms, took in the natural course so long to
heal that I was still unable to get a coat on. My right arm was
tolerably restored; - disfigured, but fairly serviceable.
On a Monday morning, when Herbert and I were at breakfast, I
received the following letter from Wemmick by the post.
"Walworth. Burn this as soon as read. Early in the week, or say
Wednesday, you might do what you know of, if you felt disposed to
try it. Now burn."
When I had shown this to Herbert and had put it in the fire - but
not before we had both got it by heart - we considered what to do.
For, of course my being disabled could now be no longer kept out of
"I have thought it over, again and again," said Herbert, "and I
think I know a better course than taking a Thames waterman. Take
Startop. A good fellow, a skilled hand, fond of us, and
enthusiastic and honourable."
I had thought of him, more than once.
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