It was easy to make sure that as yet he knew me no more than if hehad never seen
me in his life. He looked across at me, and his eyeappraised my watch-chain, and
then he incidentally spat and saidsomething to the other convict, and they laughed
and sluedthemselves round with a clink of their coupling manacle, and lookedat something
else. The great numbers on their backs, as if theywere street doors; their coarse
mangy ungainly outer surface, as ifthey were lower animals; their ironed legs, apologeticallygarlanded
with pocket-handkerchiefs; and the way in which allpresent looked at them and kept
from them; made them (as Herberthad said) a most disagreeable and degraded spectacle.
But this was not the worst of it. It came out that the whole of theback of the
coach had been taken by a family removing from London,and that there were no places
for the two prisoners but on the seatin front, behind the coachman. Hereupon, a
choleric gentleman, whohad taken the fourth place on that seat, flew into a most
violentpassion, and said that it was a breach of contract to mix him upwith such
villainous company, and that it was poisonous andpernicious and infamous and shameful,
and I don't know what else.At this time the coach was ready and the coachman impatient,
and wewere all preparing to get up, and the prisoners had come over withtheir keeper
- bringing with them that curious flavour ofbread-poultice, baize, rope-yarn, and
hearthstone, which attendsthe convict presence.
"Don't take it so much amiss. sir," pleaded the keeper to the angrypassenger;
"I'll sit next you myself. I'll put 'em on the outsideof the row. They won't interfere
with you, sir. You needn't knowthey're there."
"And don't blame me," growled the convict I had recognized. "Idon't want to go.
I am quite ready to stay behind. As fur as I amconcerned any one's welcome to my
"Or mine," said the other, gruffly. "I wouldn't have incommodednone of you, if
I'd had my way." Then, they both laughed, and begancracking nuts, and spitting the
shells about. - As I really think Ishould have liked to do myself, if I had been
in their place and sodespised.
At length, it was voted that there was no help for the angrygentleman, and that
he must either go in his chance company orremain behind. So, he got into his place,
still making complaints,and the keeper got into the place next him, and the convicts
hauledthemselves up as well as they could, and the convict I hadrecognized sat behind
me with his breath on the hair of my head.
"Good-bye, Handel!" Herbert called out as we started. I thoughtwhat a blessed
fortune it was, that he had found another name forme than Pip.
It is impossible to express with what acuteness I felt theconvict's breathing,
not only on the back of my head, but all alongmy spine. The sensation was like being
touched in the marrow withsome pungent and searching acid, it set my very teeth
on edge. Heseemed to have more breathing business to do than another man, andto
make more noise in doing it; and I was conscious of growinghigh-shoulderd on one
side, in my shrinking endeavours to fend himoff.
The weather was miserably raw, and the two cursed the cold. It madeus all lethargic
before we had gone far, and when we had left theHalf-way House behind, we habitually
dozed and shivered and weresilent. I dozed off, myself, in considering the question
whether Iought to restore a couple of pounds sterling to this creaturebefore losing
sight of him, and how it could best be done. In theact of dipping forward as if
I were going to bathe among thehorses, I woke in a fright and took the question
But I must have lost it longer than I had thought, since, althoughI could recognize
nothing in the darkness and the fitful lights andshadows of our lamps, I traced
marsh country in the cold damp windthat blew at us. Cowering forward for warmth
and to make me ascreen against the wind, the convicts were closer to me thanbefore.
They very first words I heard them interchange as I becameconscious were the words
of my own thought, "Two One Pound notes."
"How did he get 'em?" said the convict I had never seen.
"How should I know?" returned the other. "He had 'em stowed awaysomehows. Giv
him by friends, I expect."
"I wish," said the other, with a bitter curse upon the cold, "thatI had 'em here."
"Two one pound notes, or friends?"
"Two one pound notes. I'd sell all the friends I ever had, for one,and think
it a blessed good bargain. Well? So he says - ?"
"So he says," resumed the convict I had recognized - "it was allsaid and done
in half a minute, behind a pile of timber in theDockyard - 'You're a-going to be
discharged?' Yes, I was. Would Ifind out that boy that had fed him and kep his secret,
and give himthem two one pound notes? Yes, I would. And I did."
"More fool you," growled the other. "I'd have spent 'em on a Man,in wittles and
drink. He must have been a green one. Mean to say heknowed nothing of you?"
"Not a ha'porth. Different gangs and different ships. He was triedagain for prison
breaking, and got made a Lifer."
"And was that - Honour! - the only time you worked out, in thispart of the country?"
"The only time."
"What might have been your opinion of the place?"
"A most beastly place. Mudbank, mist, swamp, and work; work, swamp,mist, and
They both execrated the place in very strong language, andgradually growled themselves
out, and had nothing left to say.
After overhearing this dialogue, I should assuredly have got downand been left
in the solitude and darkness of the highway, but forfeeling certain that the man
had no suspicion of my identity.Indeed, I was not only so changed in the course
of nature, but sodifferently dressed and so differently circumstanced, that it wasnot
at all likely he could have known me without accidental help.Still, the coincidence
of our being together on the coach, wassufficiently strange to fill me with a dread
that some othercoincidence might at any moment connect me, in his hearing, with
myname. For this reason, I resolved to alight as soon as we touchedthe town, and
put myself out of his hearing. This device I executedsuccessfully. My little portmanteau
was in the boot under my feet;I had but to turn a hinge to get it out: I threw it
down before me,got down after it, and was left at the first lamp on the firststones
of the town pavement. As to the convicts, they went theirway with the coach, and
I knew at what point they would be spiritedoff to the river. In my fancy, I saw
the boat with its convict crewwaiting for them at the slime-washed stairs, - again
heard thegruff "Give way, you!" like and order to dogs - again saw thewicked Noah's
Ark lying out on the black water.
I could not have said what I was afraid of, for my fear wasaltogether undefined
and vague, but there was great fear upon me.As I walked on to the hotel, I felt
that a dread, much exceedingthe mere apprehension of a painful or disagreeable recognition,made
me tremble. I am confident that it took no distinctness ofshape, and that it was
the revival for a few minutes of the terrorof childhood.
The coffee-room at the Blue Boar was empty, and I had not onlyordered my dinner
there, but had sat down to it, before the waiterknew me. As soon as he had apologized
for the remissness of hismemory, he asked me if he should send Boots for Mr. Pumblechook?
"No," said I, "certainly not."
The waiter (it was he who had brought up the Great Remonstrancefrom the Commercials,
on the day when I was bound) appearedsurprised, and took the earliest opportunity
of putting a dirty oldcopy of a local newspaper so directly in my way, that I took
it upand read this paragraph:
Our readers will learn, not altogether without interest, inreference to the recent
romantic rise in fortune of a youngartificer in iron of this neighbourhood (what
a theme, by the way,for the magic pen of our as yet not universally acknowledgedtownsman
TOOBY, the poet of our columns!) that the youth's earliestpatron, companion, and
friend, was a highly-respected individualnot entirely unconnected with the corn
and seed trade, and whoseeminently convenient and commodious business premises are
situatewithin a hundred miles of the High-street. It is not whollyirrespective of
our personal feelings that we record HIM as theMentor of our young Telemachus, for
it is good to know that ourtown produced the founder of the latter's fortunes. Does
thethoughtcontracted brow of the local Sage or the lustrous eye oflocal Beauty inquire
whose fortunes? We believe that Quintin Matsyswas the BLACKSMITH of Antwerp. VERB.
I entertain a conviction, based upon large experience, that if inthe days of
my prosperity I had gone to the North Pole, I shouldhave met somebody there, wandering
Esquimaux or civilized man, whowould have told me that Pumblechook was my earliest
patron and thefounder of my fortunes.
Betimes in the morning I was up and out. It was too early yet to goto Miss Havisham's,
so I loitered into the country on MissHavisham's side of town - which was not Joe's
side; I could gothere to-morrow - thinking about my patroness, and paintingbrilliant
pictures of her plans for me.
She had adopted Estella, she had as good as adopted me, and itcould not fail
to be her intention to bring us together. Shereserved it for me to restore the desolate
house, admit thesunshine into the dark rooms, set the clocks a-going and the coldhearths
a-blazing, tear down the cobwebs, destroy the vermin - inshort, do all the shining
deeds of the young Knight of romance, andmarry the Princess. I had stopped to look
at the house as I passed;and its seared red brick walls, blocked windows, and strong
greenivy clasping even the stacks of chimneys with its twigs andtendons, as if with
sinewy old arms, had made up a rich attractivemystery, of which I was the hero.
Estella was the inspiration ofit, and the heart of it, of course. But, though she
had taken suchstrong possession of me, though my fancy and my hope were so setupon
her, though her influence on my boyish life and character hadbeen all-powerful,
I did not, even that romantic morning, investher with any attributes save those
she possessed. I mention this inthis place, of a fixed purpose, because it is the
clue by which Iam to be followed into my poor labyrinth. According to myexperience,
the conventional notion of a lover cannot be alwaystrue. The unqualified truth is,
that when I loved Estella with thelove of a man, I loved her simply because I found
her irresistible.Once for all; I knew to my sorrow, often and often, if not always,that
I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace,against hope, against
happiness, against all discouragement thatcould be. Once for all; I loved her none
the less because I knewit, and it had no more influence in restraining me, than
if I haddevoutly believed her to be human perfection.
I so shaped out my walk as to arrive at the gate at my old time.When I had rung
at the bell with an unsteady hand, I turned my backupon the gate, while I tried
to get my breath and keep the beatingof my heart moderately quiet. I heard the side
door open, and stepscome across the court-yard; but I pretended not to hear, even
whenthe gate swung on its rusty hinges.
Being at last touched on the shoulder, I started and turned. Istarted much more
naturally then, to find myself confronted by aman in a sober grey dress. The last
man I should have expected tosee in that place of porter at Miss Havisham's door.
"Ah, young master, there's more changes than yours. But come in,come in. It's
opposed to my orders to hold the gate open."
I entered and he swung it, and locked it, and took the key out."Yes!" said he,
facing round, after doggedly preceding me a fewsteps towards the house. "Here I
"How did you come here?"
"I come her," he retorted, "on my legs. I had my box broughtalongside me in a
"Are you here for good?"
"I ain't her for harm, young master, I suppose?"
I was not so sure of that. I had leisure to entertain the retort inmy mind, while
he slowly lifted his heavy glance from the pavement,up my legs and arms, to my face.
"Then you have left the forge?" I said.
"Do this look like a forge?" replied Orlick, sending his glance allround him
with an air of injury. "Now, do it look like it?"
I asked him how long he had left Gargery's forge?
"One day is so like another here," he replied, "that I don't knowwithout casting
it up. However, I come her some time since youleft."
"I could have told you that, Orlick."
"Ah!" said he, drily. "But then you've got to be a scholar."
By this time we had come to the house, where I found his room to beone just within
the side door, with a little window in it lookingon the court-yard. In its small
proportions, it was not unlike thekind of place usually assigned to a gate-porter
in Paris. Certainkeys were hanging on the wall, to which he now added the gate-key;and
his patchwork-covered bed was in a little inner division orrecess. The whole had
a slovenly confined and sleepy look, like acage for a human dormouse: while he,
looming dark and heavy in theshadow of a corner by the window, looked like the human
dormousefor whom it was fitted up - as indeed he was.
"I never saw this room before," I remarked; "but there used to beno Porter here."
"No," said he; "not till it got about that there was no protectionon the premises,
and it come to be considered dangerous, withconvicts and Tag and Rag and Bobtail
going up and down. And then Iwas recommended to the place as a man who could give
another man asgood as he brought, and I took it. It's easier than bellowsing andhammering.
- That's loaded, that is."
My eye had been caught by a gun with a brass bound stock over thechimney-piece,
and his eye had followed mine.