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Charles Dickens >> Great Expectations (page 26)


I put out my hand, and Mr. Wemmick at first looked at it as if hethought I wanted something. Then he looked at me, and said,correcting himself,

"To be sure! Yes. You're in the habit of shaking hands?"

I was rather confused, thinking it must be out of the Londonfashion, but said yes.

"I have got so out of it!" said Mr. Wemmick - "except at last. Veryglad, I'm sure, to make your acquaintance. Good day!"

When we had shaken hands and he was gone, I opened the staircasewindow and had nearly beheaded myself, for, the lines had rottedaway, and it came down like the guillotine. Happily it was so quickthat I had not put my head out. After this escape, I was content totake a foggy view of the Inn through the window's encrusting dirt,and to stand dolefully looking out, saying to myself that Londonwas decidedly overrated.

Mr. Pocket, Junior's, idea of Shortly was not mine, for I had nearlymaddened myself with looking out for half an hour, and had writtenmy name with my finger several times in the dirt of every pane inthe window, before I heard footsteps on the stairs. Gradually therearose before me the hat, head, neckcloth, waistcoat, trousers,boots, of a member of society of about my own standing. He had apaper-bag under each arm and a pottle of strawberries in one hand,and was out of breath.

"Mr. Pip?" said he.

"Mr. Pocket?" said I.

"Dear me!" he exclaimed. "I am extremely sorry; but I knew therewas a coach from your part of the country at midday, and I thoughtyou would come by that one. The fact is, I have been out on youraccount - not that that is any excuse - for I thought, coming fromthe country, you might like a little fruit after dinner, and I wentto Covent Garden Market to get it good."

For a reason that I had, I felt as if my eyes would start out of myhead. I acknowledged his attention incoherently, and began to thinkthis was a dream.

"Dear me!" said Mr. Pocket, Junior. "This door sticks so!"

As he was fast making jam of his fruit by wrestling with the doorwhile the paper-bags were under his arms, I begged him to allow meto hold them. He relinquished them with an agreeable smile, andcombated with the door as if it were a wild beast. It yielded sosuddenly at last, that he staggered back upon me, and I staggeredback upon the opposite door, and we both laughed. But still I feltas if my eyes must start out of my head, and as if this must be adream.

"Pray come in," said Mr. Pocket, Junior. "Allow me to lead the way.I am rather bare here, but I hope you'll be able to make outtolerably well till Monday. My father thought you would get on moreagreeably through to-morrow with me than with him, and might liketo take a walk about London. I am sure I shall be very happy toshow London to you. As to our table, you won't find that bad, Ihope, for it will be supplied from our coffee-house here, and (itis only right I should add) at your expense, such being Mr.Jaggers's directions. As to our lodging, it's not by any meanssplendid, because I have my own bread to earn, and my father hasn'tanything to give me, and I shouldn't be willing to take it, if hehad. This is our sitting-room - just such chairs and tables andcarpet and so forth, you see, as they could spare from home. Youmustn't give me credit for the tablecloth and spoons and castors,because they come for you from the coffee-house. This is my littlebedroom; rather musty, but Barnard's is musty. This is yourbed-room; the furniture's hired for the occasion, but I trust itwill answer the purpose; if you should want anything, I'll go andfetch it. The chambers are retired, and we shall be alone together,but we shan't fight, I dare say. But, dear me, I beg your pardon,you're holding the fruit all this time. Pray let me take these bagsfrom you. I am quite ashamed."

As I stood opposite to Mr. Pocket, Junior, delivering him the bags,One, Two, I saw the starting appearance come into his own eyes thatI knew to be in mine, and he said, falling back:

"Lord bless me, you're the prowling boy!"

"And you," said I, "are the pale young gentleman!"

Chapter 22

The pale young gentleman and I stood contemplating one another inBarnard's Inn, until we both burst out laughing. "The idea of itsbeing you!" said he. "The idea of its being you!" said I. And thenwe contemplated one another afresh, and laughed again. "Well!" saidthe pale young gentleman, reaching out his hand goodhumouredly,"it's all over now, I hope, and it will be magnanimous in you ifyou'll forgive me for having knocked you about so."

I derived from this speech that Mr. Herbert Pocket (for Herbert wasthe pale young gentleman's name) still rather confounded hisintention with his execution. But I made a modest reply, and weshook hands warmly.

"You hadn't come into your good fortune at that time?" said HerbertPocket.

"No," said I.

"No," he acquiesced: "I heard it had happened very lately. I wasrather on the look-out for good-fortune then."

"Indeed?"

"Yes. Miss Havisham had sent for me, to see if she could take afancy to me. But she couldn't - at all events, she didn't."

I thought it polite to remark that I was surprised to hear that.

"Bad taste," said Herbert, laughing, "but a fact. Yes, she had sentfor me on a trial visit, and if I had come out of it successfully,I suppose I should have been provided for; perhaps I should havebeen what-you-may-called it to Estella."

"What's that?" I asked, with sudden gravity.

He was arranging his fruit in plates while we talked, which dividedhis attention, and was the cause of his having made this lapse of aword. "Affianced," he explained, still busy with the fruit."Betrothed. Engaged. What's-his-named. Any word of that sort."

"How did you bear your disappointment?" I asked.

"Pooh!" said he, "I didn't care much for it. She's a Tartar."

"Miss Havisham?"

"I don't say no to that, but I meant Estella. That girl's hard andhaughty and capricious to the last degree, and has been brought upby Miss Havisham to wreak revenge on all the male sex."

"What relation is she to Miss Havisham?"

"None," said he. "Only adopted."

"Why should she wreak revenge on all the male sex? What revenge?"

"Lord, Mr. Pip!" said he. "Don't you know?"

"No," said I.

"Dear me! It's quite a story, and shall be saved till dinner-time.And now let me take the liberty of asking you a question. How didyou come there, that day?"

I told him, and he was attentive until I had finished, and thenburst out laughing again, and asked me if I was sore afterwards? Ididn't ask him if he was, for my conviction on that point wasperfectly established.

"Mr. Jaggers is your guardian, I understand?" he went on.

"Yes."

"You know he is Miss Havisham's man of business and solicitor, andhas her confidence when nobody else has?"

This was bringing me (I felt) towards dangerous ground. I answeredwith a constraint I made no attempt to disguise, that I had seen Mr.Jaggers in Miss Havisham's house on the very day of our combat, butnever at any other time, and that I believed he had no recollectionof having ever seen me there.

"He was so obliging as to suggest my father for your tutor, and hecalled on my father to propose it. Of course he knew about myfather from his connexion with Miss Havisham. My father is MissHavisham's cousin; not that that implies familiar intercoursebetween them, for he is a bad courtier and will not propitiateher."

Herbert Pocket had a frank and easy way with him that was verytaking. I had never seen any one then, and I have never seen anyone since, who more strongly expressed to me, in every look andtone, a natural incapacity to do anything secret and mean. Therewas something wonderfully hopeful about his general air, andsomething that at the same time whispered to me he would never bevery successful or rich. I don't know how this was. I became imbuedwith the notion on that first occasion before we sat down todinner, but I cannot define by what means.

He was still a pale young gentleman, and had a certain conqueredlanguor about him in the midst of his spirits and briskness, thatdid not seem indicative of natural strength. He had not a handsomeface, but it was better than handsome: being extremely amiable andcheerful. His figure was a little ungainly, as in the days when myknuckles had taken such liberties with it, but it looked as if itwould always be light and young. Whether Mr. Trabb's local workwould have sat more gracefully on him than on me, may be aquestion; but I am conscious that he carried off his rather oldclothes, much better than I carried off my new suit.

As he was so communicative, I felt that reserve on my part would bea bad return unsuited to our years. I therefore told him my smallstory, and laid stress on my being forbidden to inquire who mybenefactor was. I further mentioned that as I had been brought up ablacksmith in a country place, and knew very little of the ways ofpoliteness, I would take it as a great kindness in him if he wouldgive me a hint whenever he saw me at a loss or going wrong.

"With pleasure," said he, "though I venture to prophesy that you'llwant very few hints. I dare say we shall be often together, and Ishould like to banish any needless restraint between us. Will youdo me the favour to begin at once to call me by my Christian name,Herbert?"

I thanked him, and said I would. I informed him in exchange that myChristian name was Philip.

"I don't take to Philip," said he, smiling, "for it sounds like amoral boy out of the spelling-book, who was so lazy that he fellinto a pond, or so fat that he couldn't see out of his eyes, or soavaricious that he locked up his cake till the mice ate it, or sodetermined to go a bird's-nesting that he got himself eaten bybears who lived handy in the neighbourhood. I tell you what Ishould like. We are so harmonious, and you have been a blacksmith -would you mind it?"

"I shouldn't mind anything that you propose," I answered, "but Idon't understand you."

"Would you mind Handel for a familiar name? There's a charmingpiece of music by Handel, called the Harmonious Blacksmith."

"I should like it very much."

"Then, my dear Handel," said he, turning round as the door opened,"here is the dinner, and I must beg of you to take the top of thetable, because the dinner is of your providing."

This I would not hear of, so he took the top, and I faced him. Itwas a nice little dinner - seemed to me then, a very Lord Mayor'sFeast - and it acquired additional relish from being eaten underthose independent circumstances, with no old people by, and withLondon all around us. This again was heightened by a certain gipsycharacter that set the banquet off; for, while the table was, as Mr.Pumblechook might have said, the lap of luxury - being entirelyfurnished forth from the coffee-house - the circumjacent region ofsitting-room was of a comparatively pastureless and shiftycharacter: imposing on the waiter the wandering habits of puttingthe covers on the floor (where he fell over them), the meltedbutter in the armchair, the bread on the bookshelves, the cheese inthe coalscuttle, and the boiled fowl into my bed in the next room -where I found much of its parsley and butter in a state ofcongelation when I retired for the night. All this made the feastdelightful, and when the waiter was not there to watch me, mypleasure was without alloy.

We had made some progress in the dinner, when I reminded Herbert ofhis promise to tell me about Miss Havisham.

"True," he replied. "I'll redeem it at once. Let me introduce thetopic, Handel, by mentioning that in London it is not the custom toput the knife in the mouth - for fear of accidents - and that whilethe fork is reserved for that use, it is not put further in thannecessary. It is scarcely worth mentioning, only it's as well to doas other people do. Also, the spoon is not generally usedover-hand, but under. This has two advantages. You get at yourmouth better (which after all is the object), and you save a gooddeal of the attitude of opening oysters, on the part of the rightelbow."

He offered these friendly suggestions in such a lively way, that weboth laughed and I scarcely blushed.

"Now," he pursued, "concerning Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham, youmust know, was a spoilt child. Her mother died when she was a baby,and her father denied her nothing. Her father was a countrygentleman down in your part of the world, and was a brewer. I don'tknow why it should be a crack thing to be a brewer; but it isindisputable that while you cannot possibly be genteel and bake,you may be as genteel as never was and brew. You see it every day."

"Yet a gentleman may not keep a public-house; may he?" said I.

"Not on any account," returned Herbert; "but a public-house maykeep a gentleman. Well! Mr. Havisham was very rich and very proud.So was his daughter."

"Miss Havisham was an only child?" I hazarded.

"Stop a moment, I am coming to that. No, she was not an only child;she had a half-brother. Her father privately married again - hiscook, I rather think."

"I thought he was proud," said I.

"My good Handel, so he was. He married his second wife privately,because he was proud, and in course of time she died. When she wasdead, I apprehend he first told his daughter what he had done, andthen the son became a part of the family, residing in the house youare acquainted with. As the son grew a young man, he turned outriotous, extravagant, undutiful - altogether bad. At last hisfather disinherited him; but he softened when he was dying, andleft him well off, though not nearly so well off as Miss Havisham.- Take another glass of wine, and excuse my mentioning that societyas a body does not expect one to be so strictly conscientious inemptying one's glass, as to turn it bottom upwards with the rim onone's nose."

Title: Great Expectations
Author: Charles Dickens
Viewed 88621 times

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