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Charles Dickens >> Great Expectations (page 32)


It was not then, but when we had got to the cheese, that ourconversation turned upon our rowing feats, and that Drummle wasrallied for coming up behind of a night in that slow amphibious wayof his. Drummle upon this, informed our host that he much preferredour room to our company, and that as to skill he was more than ourmaster, and that as to strength he could scatter us like chaff. Bysome invisible agency, my guardian wound him up to a pitch littleshort of ferocity about this trifle; and he fell to baring andspanning his arm to show how muscular it was, and we all fell tobaring and spanning our arms in a ridiculous manner.

Now, the housekeeper was at that time clearing the table; myguardian, taking no heed of her, but with the side of his faceturned from her, was leaning back in his chair biting the side ofhis forefinger and showing an interest in Drummle, that, to me, wasquite inexplicable. Suddenly, he clapped his large hand on thehousekeeper's, like a trap, as she stretched it across the table.So suddenly and smartly did he do this, that we all stopped in ourfoolish contention.

"If you talk of strength," said Mr. Jaggers, "I'll show you a wrist.Molly, let them see your wrist."

Her entrapped hand was on the table, but she had already put herother hand behind her waist. "Master," she said, in a low voice,with her eyes attentively and entreatingly fixed upon him. "Don't."

"I'll show you a wrist," repeated Mr. Jaggers, with an immovabledetermination to show it. "Molly, let them see your wrist."

"Master," she again murmured. "Please!"

"Molly," said Mr. Jaggers, not looking at her, but obstinatelylooking at the opposite side of the room, "let them see both yourwrists. Show them. Come!"

He took his hand from hers, and turned that wrist up on the table.She brought her other hand from behind her, and held the two outside by side. The last wrist was much disfigured - deeply scarredand scarred across and across. When she held her hands out, shetook her eyes from Mr. Jaggers, and turned them watchfully on everyone of the rest of us in succession.

"There's power here," said Mr. Jaggers, coolly tracing out thesinews with his forefinger. "Very few men have the power of wristthat this woman has. It's remarkable what mere force of grip thereis in these hands. I have had occasion to notice many hands; but Inever saw stronger in that respect, man's or woman's, than these."

While he said these words in a leisurely critical style, shecontinued to look at every one of us in regular succession as wesat. The moment he ceased, she looked at him again. "That'll do,Molly," said Mr. Jaggers, giving her a slight nod; "you have beenadmired, and can go." She withdrew her hands and went out of theroom, and Mr. Jaggers, putting the decanters on from his dumbwaiter,filled his glass and passed round the wine.

"At half-past nine, gentlemen," said he, "we must break up. Praymake the best use of your time. I am glad to see you all. Mr.Drummle, I drink to you."

If his object in singling out Drummle were to bring him out stillmore, it perfectly succeeded. In a sulky triumph, Drummle showedhis morose depreciation of the rest of us, in a more and moreoffensive degree until he became downright intolerable. Through allhis stages, Mr. Jaggers followed him with the same strange interest.He actually seemed to serve as a zest to Mr. Jaggers's wine.

In our boyish want of discretion I dare say we took too much todrink, and I know we talked too much. we became particularly hotupon some boorish sneer of Drummle's, to the effect that we weretoo free with our money. It led to my remarking, with more zealthan discretion, that it came with a bad grace from him, to whomStartop had lent money in my presence but a week or so before.

"Well," retorted Drummle; "he'll be paid."

"I don't mean to imply that he won't," said I, "but it might makeyou hold your tongue about us and our money, I should think."

"You should think!" retorted Drummle. "Oh Lord!"

"I dare say," I went on, meaning to be very severe, "that youwouldn't lend money to any of us, if we wanted it."

"You are right," said Drummle. "I wouldn't lend one of you asixpence. I wouldn't lend anybody a sixpence."

"Rather mean to borrow under those circumstances, I should say."

"You should say," repeated Drummle. "Oh Lord!"

This was so very aggravating - the more especially as I foundmyself making no way against his surly obtuseness - that I said,disregarding Herbert's efforts to check me:

"Come, Mr. Drummle, since we are on the subject, I'll tell you whatpassed between Herbert here and me, when you borrowed that money."

"I don't want to know what passed between Herbert there and you,"growled Drummle. And I think he added in a lower growl, that wemight both go to the devil and shake ourselves.

"I'll tell you, however," said I, "whether you want to know or not.We said that as you put it in your pocket very glad to get it, youseemed to be immensely amused at his being so weak as to lend it."

Drummle laughed outright, and sat laughing in our faces, with hishands in his pockets and his round shoulders raised: plainlysignifying that it was quite true, and that he despised us, asasses all.

Hereupon Startop took him in hand, though with a much better gracethan I had shown, and exhorted him to be a little more agreeable.Startop, being a lively bright young fellow, and Drummle being theexact opposite, the latter was always disposed to resent him as adirect personal affront. He now retorted in a coarse lumpish way,and Startop tried to turn the discussion aside with some smallpleasantry that made us all laugh. Resenting this little successmore than anything, Drummle, without any threat or warning, pulledhis hands out of his pockets, dropped his round shoulders, swore,took up a large glass, and would have flung it at his adversary'shead, but for our entertainer's dexterously seizing it at theinstant when it was raised for that purpose.

"Gentlemen," said Mr. Jaggers, deliberately putting down the glass,and hauling out his gold repeater by its massive chain, "I amexceedingly sorry to announce that it's half-past nine."

On this hint we all rose to depart. Before we got to the streetdoor, Startop was cheerily calling Drummle "old boy," as if nothinghad happened. But the old boy was so far from responding, that hewould not even walk to Hammersmith on the same side of the way; so,Herbert and I, who remained in town, saw them going down the streeton opposite sides; Startop leading, and Drummle lagging behind inthe shadow of the houses, much as he was wont to follow in hisboat.

As the door was not yet shut, I thought I would leave Herbert therefor a moment, and run up-stairs again to say a word to my guardian.I found him in his dressing-room surrounded by his stock of boots,already hard at it, washing his hands of us.

I told him I had come up again to say how sorry I was that anythingdisagreeable should have occurred, and that I hoped he would notblame me much.

"Pooh!" said he, sluicing his face, and speaking through thewater-drops; "it's nothing, Pip. I like that Spider though."

He had turned towards me now, and was shaking his head, andblowing, and towelling himself.

"I am glad you like him, sir," said I - "but I don't."

"No, no," my guardian assented; "don't have too much to do withhim. Keep as clear of him as you can. But I like the fellow, Pip;he is one of the true sort. Why, if I was a fortune-teller--"

Looking out of the towel, he caught my eye.

"But I am not a fortune-teller," he said, letting his head dropinto a festoon of towel, and towelling away at his two ears. "Youknow what I am, don't you? Good-night, Pip."

"Good-night, sir."

In about a month after that, the Spider's time with Mr. Pocket wasup for good, and, to the great relief of all the house but Mrs.Pocket, he went home to the family hole.

Chapter 27

"MY DEAR MR PIP,

"I write this by request of Mr. Gargery, for to let you know that heis going to London in company with Mr. Wopsle and would be glad ifagreeable to be allowed to see you. He would call at Barnard'sHotel Tuesday morning 9 o'clock, when if not agreeable pleaseleave word. Your poor sister is much the same as when you left. Wetalk of you in the kitchen every night, and wonder what you aresaying and doing. If now considered in the light of a liberty,excuse it for the love of poor old days. No more, dear Mr. Pip, from

"Your ever obliged, and affectionate servant,

"BIDDY."

"P.S. He wishes me most particular to write what larks. He says youwill understand. I hope and do not doubt it will be agreeable tosee him even though a gentleman, for you had ever a good heart, andhe is a worthy worthy man. I have read him all excepting only thelast little sentence, and he wishes me most particular to writeagain what larks."

I received this letter by the post on Monday morning, and thereforeits appointment was for next day. Let me confess exactly, with whatfeelings I looked forward to Joe's coming.

Not with pleasure, though I was bound to him by so many ties; no;with considerable disturbance, some mortification, and a keen senseof incongruity. If I could have kept him away by paying money, Icertainly would have paid money. My greatest reassurance was, thathe was coming to Barnard's Inn, not to Hammersmith, andconsequently would not fall in Bentley Drummle's way. I had littleobjection to his being seen by Herbert or his father, for both ofwhom I had a respect; but I had the sharpest sensitiveness as tohis being seen by Drummle, whom I held in contempt. So, throughoutlife, our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed forthe sake of the people whom we most despise.

I had begun to be always decorating the chambers in some quiteunnecessary and inappropriate way or other, and very expensivethose wrestles with Barnard proved to be. By this time, the roomswere vastly different from what I had found them, and I enjoyed thehonour of occupying a few prominent pages in the books of aneighbouring upholsterer. I had got on so fast of late, that I hadeven started a boy in boots - top boots - in bondage and slavery towhom I might have been said to pass my days. For, after I had madethe monster (out of the refuse of my washerwoman's family) and hadclothed him with a blue coat, canary waistcoat, white cravat,creamy breeches, and the boots already mentioned, I had to find hima little to do and a great deal to eat; and with both of thosehorrible requirements he haunted my existence.

This avenging phantom was ordered to be on duty at eight on Tuesdaymorning in the hall (it was two feet square, as charged forfloorcloth), and Herbert suggested certain things for breakfastthat he thought Joe would like. While I felt sincerely obliged tohim for being so interested and considerate, I had an oddhalf-provoked sense of suspicion upon me, that if Joe had beencoming to see him, he wouldn't have been quite so brisk about it.

However, I came into town on the Monday night to be ready for Joe,and I got up early in the morning, and caused the sittingroom andbreakfast-table to assume their most splendid appearance.Unfortunately the morning was drizzly, and an angel could not haveconcealed the fact that Barnard was shedding sooty tears outside thewindow, like some weak giant of a Sweep.

As the time approached I should have liked to run away, but theAvenger pursuant to orders was in the hall, and presently I heardJoe on the staircase. I knew it was Joe, by his clumsy manner ofcoming up-stairs - his state boots being always too big for him -and by the time it took him to read the names on the other floorsin the course of his ascent. When at last he stopped outside ourdoor, I could hear his finger tracing over the painted letters ofmy name, and I afterwards distinctly heard him breathing in at thekeyhole. Finally he gave a faint single rap, and Pepper - such wasthe compromising name of the avenging boy - announced "Mr. Gargery!"I thought he never would have done wiping his feet, and that I musthave gone out to lift him off the mat, but at last he came in.

"Joe, how are you, Joe?"

"Pip, how AIR you, Pip?"

With his good honest face all glowing and shining, and his hat putdown on the floor between us, he caught both my hands and workedthem straight up and down, as if I had been the lastpatented Pump.

"I am glad to see you, Joe. Give me your hat."

But Joe, taking it up carefully with both hands, like a bird's-nestwith eggs in it, wouldn't hear of parting with that piece ofproperty, and persisted in standing talking over it in a mostuncomfortable way.

"Which you have that growed," said Joe, "and that swelled, and thatgentle-folked;" Joe considered a little before he discovered thisword; "as to be sure you are a honour to your king and country."

"And you, Joe, look wonderfully well."

"Thank God," said Joe, "I'm ekerval to most. And your sister, she'sno worse than she were. And Biddy, she's ever right and ready. Andall friends is no backerder, if not no forarder. 'Ceptin Wopsle;he's had a drop."

All this time (still with both hands taking great care of thebird's-nest), Joe was rolling his eyes round and round the room,and round and round the flowered pattern of my dressing-gown.

"Had a drop, Joe?"

"Why yes," said Joe, lowering his voice, "he's left the Church, andwent into the playacting. Which the playacting have likewaysbrought him to London along with me. And his wish were," said Joe,getting the bird's-nest under his left arm for the moment andgroping in it for an egg with his right; "if no offence, as I would'and you that."

Title: Great Expectations
Author: Charles Dickens
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