Charles Dickens >> Great Expectations (page 21)

"I should think not! Now you are to understand, secondly, Mr. Pip,that the name of the person who is your liberal benefactor remainsa profound secret, until the person chooses to reveal it. I amempowered to mention that it is the intention of the person toreveal it at first hand by word of mouth to yourself. When or wherethat intention may be carried out, I cannot say; no one can say. Itmay be years hence. Now, you are distinctly to understand that youare most positively prohibited from making any inquiry on thishead, or any allusion or reference, however distant, to anyindividual whomsoever as the individual, in all the communicationsyou may have with me. If you have a suspicion in your own breast,keep that suspicion in your own breast. It is not the least to thepurpose what the reasons of this prohibition are; they may be thestrongest and gravest reasons, or they may be mere whim. This isnot for you to inquire into. The condition is laid down. Youracceptance of it, and your observance of it as binding, is the onlyremaining condition that I am charged with, by the person from whomI take my instructions, and for whom I am not otherwiseresponsible. That person is the person from whom you derive yourexpectations, and the secret is solely held by that person and byme. Again, not a very difficult condition with which to encumbersuch a rise in fortune; but if you have any objection to it, thisis the time to mention it. Speak out."

Once more, I stammered with difficulty that I had no objection.

"I should think not! Now, Mr. Pip, I have done with stipulations."Though he called me Mr. Pip, and began rather to make up to me, hestill could not get rid of a certain air of bullying suspicion; andeven now he occasionally shut his eyes and threw his finger at mewhile he spoke, as much as to express that he knew all kinds ofthings to my disparagement, if he only chose to mention them. "Wecome next, to mere details of arrangement. You must know that,although I have used the term "expectations" more than once, youare not endowed with expectations only. There is already lodged inmy hands, a sum of money amply sufficient for your suitableeducation and maintenance. You will please consider me yourguardian. Oh!" for I was going to thank him, "I tell you at once, Iam paid for my services, or I shouldn't render them. It isconsidered that you must be better educated, in accordance withyour altered position, and that you will be alive to the importanceand necessity of at once entering on that advantage."

I said I had always longed for it.

"Never mind what you have always longed for, Mr. Pip," he retorted;"keep to the record. If you long for it now, that's enough. Am Ianswered that you are ready to be placed at once, under some propertutor? Is that it?"

I stammered yes, that was it.

"Good. Now, your inclinations are to be consulted. I don't thinkthat wise, mind, but it's my trust. Have you ever heard of anytutor whom you would prefer to another?"

I had never heard of any tutor but Biddy and Mr. Wopsle's greataunt;so, I replied in the negative.

"There is a certain tutor, of whom I have some knowledge, who Ithink might suit the purpose," said Mr. Jaggers. "I don't recommendhim, observe; because I never recommend anybody. The gentleman Ispeak of, is one Mr. Matthew Pocket."

Ah! I caught at the name directly. Miss Havisham's relation. TheMatthew whom Mr. and Mrs. Camilla had spoken of. The Matthew whoseplace was to be at Miss Havisham's head, when she lay dead, in herbride's dress on the bride's table.

"You know the name?" said Mr. Jaggers, looking shrewdly at me, andthen shutting up his eyes while he waited for my answer.

My answer was, that I had heard of the name.

"Oh!" said he. "You have heard of the name. But the question is,what do you say of it?"

I said, or tried to say, that I was much obliged to him for hisrecommendation--

"No, my young friend!" he interrupted, shaking his great head veryslowly. "Recollect yourself!"

Not recollecting myself, I began again that I was much obliged tohim for his recommendation--

"No, my young friend," he interrupted, shaking his head andfrowning and smiling both at once; "no, no, no; it's very welldone, but it won't do; you are too young to fix me with it.Recommendation is not the word, Mr. Pip. Try another."

Correcting myself, I said that I was much obliged to him for hismention of Mr. Matthew Pocket--

"That's more like it!" cried Mr. Jaggers.

- And (I added), I would gladly try that gentleman.

"Good. You had better try him in his own house. The way shall beprepared for you, and you can see his son first, who is in London.When will you come to London?"

I said (glancing at Joe, who stood looking on, motionless), that Isupposed I could come directly.

"First," said Mr. Jaggers, "you should have some new clothes to comein, and they should not be working clothes. Say this day week.You'll want some money. Shall I leave you twenty guineas?"

He produced a long purse, with the greatest coolness, and countedthem out on the table and pushed them over to me. This was thefirst time he had taken his leg from the chair. He sat astride ofthe chair when he had pushed the money over, and sat swinging hispurse and eyeing Joe.

"Well, Joseph Gargery? You look dumbfoundered?"

"I am!" said Joe, in a very decided manner.

"It was understood that you wanted nothing for yourself, remember?"

"It were understood," said Joe. "And it are understood. And it everwill be similar according."

"But what," said Mr. Jaggers, swinging his purse, "what if it was inmy instructions to make you a present, as compensation?"

"As compensation what for?" Joe demanded.

"For the loss of his services."

Joe laid his hand upon my shoulder with the touch of a woman. Ihave often thought him since, like the steam-hammer, that can crusha man or pat an egg-shell, in his combination of strength withgentleness. "Pip is that hearty welcome," said Joe, "to go freewith his services, to honour and fortun', as no words can tell him.But if you think as Money can make compensation to me for the lossof the little child - what come to the forge - and ever the best offriends!--"

O dear good Joe, whom I was so ready to leave and so unthankful to,I see you again, with your muscular blacksmith's arm before youreyes, and your broad chest heaving, and your voice dying away. Odear good faithful tender Joe, I feel the loving tremble of yourhand upon my arm, as solemnly this day as if it had been the rustleof an angel's wing!

But I encouraged Joe at the time. I was lost in the mazes of myfuture fortunes, and could not retrace the by-paths we had troddentogether. I begged Joe to be comforted, for (as he said) we hadever been the best of friends, and (as I said) we ever would be so.Joe scooped his eyes with his disengaged wrist, as if he were benton gouging himself, but said not another word.

Mr. Jaggers had looked on at this, as one who recognized in Joe thevillage idiot, and in me his keeper. When it was over, he said,weighing in his hand the purse he had ceased to swing:

"Now, Joseph Gargery, I warn you this is your last chance. No halfmeasures with me. If you mean to take a present that I have it incharge to make you, speak out, and you shall have it. If on thecontrary you mean to say--" Here, to his great amazement, he wasstopped by Joe's suddenly working round him with everydemonstration of a fell pugilistic purpose.

"Which I meantersay," cried Joe, "that if you come into my placebull-baiting and badgering me, come out! Which I meantersay as sechif you're a man, come on! Which I meantersay that what I say, Imeantersay and stand or fall by!"

I drew Joe away, and he immediately became placable; merely statingto me, in an obliging manner and as a polite expostulatory noticeto any one whom it might happen to concern, that he were not agoing to be bull-baited and badgered in his own place. Mr. Jaggershad risen when Joe demonstrated, and had backed near the door.Without evincing any inclination to come in again, he theredelivered his valedictory remarks. They were these:

"Well, Mr. Pip, I think the sooner you leave here - as you are to bea gentleman - the better. Let it stand for this day week, and youshall receive my printed address in the meantime. You can take ahackney-coach at the stage-coach office in London, and comestraight to me. Understand, that I express no opinion, one way orother, on the trust I undertake. I am paid for undertaking it, andI do so. Now, understand that, finally. Understand that!"

He was throwing his finger at both of us, and I think would havegone on, but for his seeming to think Joe dangerous, and going off.

Something came into my head which induced me to run after him, ashe was going down to the Jolly Bargemen where he had left a hiredcarriage.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Jaggers."

"Halloa!" said he, facing round, "what's the matter?"

"I wish to be quite right, Mr. Jaggers, and to keep to yourdirections; so I thought I had better ask. Would there be anyobjection to my taking leave of any one I know, about here, beforeI go away?"

"No," said he, looking as if he hardly understood me.

"I don't mean in the village only, but up-town?"

"No," said he. "No objection."

I thanked him and ran home again, and there I found that Joe hadalready locked the front door and vacated the state parlour, andwas seated by the kitchen fire with a hand on each knee, gazingintently at the burning coals. I too sat down before the fire andgazed at the coals, and nothing was said for a long time.

My sister was in her cushioned chair in her corner, and Biddy satat her needlework before the fire, and Joe sat next Biddy, and Isat next Joe in the corner opposite my sister. The more I lookedinto the glowing coals, the more incapable I became of looking atJoe; the longer the silence lasted, the more unable I felt tospeak.

At length I got out, "Joe, have you told Biddy?"

"No, Pip," returned Joe, still looking at the fire, and holding hisknees tight, as if he had private information that they intended tomake off somewhere, "which I left it to yourself, Pip."

"I would rather you told, Joe."

"Pip's a gentleman of fortun' then," said Joe, "and God bless himin it!"

Biddy dropped her work, and looked at me. Joe held his knees andlooked at me. I looked at both of them. After a pause, they bothheartily congratulated me; but there was a certain touch of sadnessin their congratulations, that I rather resented.

I took it upon myself to impress Biddy (and through Biddy, Joe)with the grave obligation I considered my friends under, to knownothing and say nothing about the maker of my fortune. It would allcome out in good time, I observed, and in the meanwhile nothing wasto be said, save that I had come into great expectations from amysterious patron. Biddy nodded her head thoughtfully at the fireas she took up her work again, and said she would be veryparticular; and Joe, still detaining his knees, said, "Ay, ay, I'llbe ekervally partickler, Pip;" and then they congratulated meagain, and went on to express so much wonder at the notion of mybeing a gentleman, that I didn't half like it.

Infinite pains were then taken by Biddy to convey to my sister someidea of what had happened. To the best of my belief, those effortsentirely failed. She laughed and nodded her head a great manytimes, and even repeated after Biddy, the words "Pip" and"Property." But I doubt if they had more meaning in them than anelection cry, and I cannot suggest a darker picture of her state ofmind.

I never could have believed it without experience, but as Joe andBiddy became more at their cheerful ease again, I became quitegloomy. Dissatisfied with my fortune, of course I could not be; butit is possible that I may have been, without quite knowing it,dissatisfied with myself.

Anyhow, I sat with my elbow on my knee and my face upon my hand,looking into the fire, as those two talked about my going away, andabout what they should do without me, and all that. And whenever Icaught one of them looking at me, though never so pleasantly (andthey often looked at me - particularly Biddy), I felt offended: asif they were expressing some mistrust of me. Though Heaven knowsthey never did by word or sign.

At those times I would get up and look out at the door; for, ourkitchen door opened at once upon the night, and stood open onsummer evenings to air the room. The very stars to which I thenraised my eyes, I am afraid I took to be but poor and humble starsfor glittering on the rustic objects among which I had passed mylife.

"Saturday night," said I, when we sat at our supper ofbread-and-cheese and beer. "Five more days, and then the day beforethe day! They'll soon go."

"Yes, Pip," observed Joe, whose voice sounded hollow in his beermug. "They'll soon go."

"Soon, soon go," said Biddy.

"I have been thinking, Joe, that when I go down town on Monday, andorder my new clothes, I shall tell the tailor that I'll come andput them on there, or that I'll have them sent to Mr. Pumblechook's.It would be very disagreeable to be stared at by all the peoplehere."

"Mr. and Mrs. Hubble might like to see you in your new genteel figuretoo, Pip," said Joe, industriously cutting his bread, with hischeese on it, in the palm of his left hand, and glancing at myuntasted supper as if he thought of the time when we used tocompare slices. "So might Wopsle. And the Jolly Bargemen might takeit as a compliment."

"That's just what I don't want, Joe. They would make such abusiness of it - such a coarse and common business - that Icouldn't bear myself."

Title: Great Expectations
Author: Charles Dickens
Viewed 81647 times


Page generation 0.001 seconds