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Charles Dickens >> Great Expectations (page 36)


He always carried (I have not yet mentioned it, I think) apocket-handkerchief of rich silk and of imposing proportions, whichwas of great value to him in his profession. I have seen him soterrify a client or a witness by ceremoniously unfolding thispocket-handkerchief as if he were immediately going to blow hisnose, and then pausing, as if he knew he should not have time to doit before such client or witness committed himself, that theself-committal has followed directly, quite as a matter of course.When I saw him in the room, he had this expressivepockethandkerchief in both hands, and was looking at us. On meetingmy eye, he said plainly, by a momentary and silent pause in thatattitude, "Indeed? Singular!" and then put the handkerchief to itsright use with wonderful effect.

Miss Havisham had seen him as soon as I, and was (like everybodyelse) afraid of him. She made a strong attempt to compose herself,and stammered that he was as punctual as ever.

"As punctual as ever," he repeated, coming up to us. "(How do youdo, Pip? Shall I give you a ride, Miss Havisham? Once round?)And so you are here, Pip?"

I told him when I had arrived, and how Miss Havisham had wished meto come and see Estella. To which he replied, "Ah! Very fine younglady!" Then he pushed Miss Havisham in her chair before him, withone of his large hands, and put the other in his trousers-pocket asif the pocket were full of secrets.

"Well, Pip! How often have you seen Miss Estella before?" said he,when he came to a stop.

"How often?"

"Ah! How many times? Ten thousand times?"

"Oh! Certainly not so many."

"Twice?"

"Jaggers," interposed Miss Havisham, much to my relief; "leave myPip alone, and go with him to your dinner."

He complied, and we groped our way down the dark stairs together.While we were still on our way to those detached apartments acrossthe paved yard at the back, he asked me how often I had seen MissHavisham eat and drink; offering me a breadth of choice, as usual,between a hundred times and once.

I considered, and said, "Never."

"And never will, Pip," he retorted, with a frowning smile. "She hasnever allowed herself to be seen doing either, since she lived thispresent life of hers. She wanders about in the night, and then layshands on such food as she takes."

"Pray, sir," said I, "may I ask you a question?"

"You may," said he, "and I may decline to answer it. Put yourquestion."

"Estella's name. Is it Havisham or - ?" I had nothing to add.

"Or what?" said he.

"Is it Havisham?"

"It is Havisham."

This brought us to the dinner-table, where she and Sarah Pocketawaited us. Mr. Jaggers presided, Estella sat opposite to him, Ifaced my green and yellow friend. We dined very well, and werewaited on by a maid-servant whom I had never seen in all my comingsand goings, but who, for anything I know, had been in thatmysterious house the whole time. After dinner, a bottle of choiceold port was placed before my guardian (he was evidently wellacquainted with the vintage), and the two ladies left us.

Anything to equal the determined reticence of Mr. Jaggers under thatroof, I never saw elsewhere, even in him. He kept his very looks tohimself, and scarcely directed his eyes to Estella's face onceduring dinner. When she spoke to him, he listened, and in duecourse answered, but never looked at her, that I could see. On theother hand, she often looked at him, with interest and curiosity,if not distrust, but his face never, showed the leastconsciousness. Throughout dinner he took a dry delight in makingSarah Pocket greener and yellower, by often referring inconversation with me to my expectations; but here, again, he showedno consciousness, and even made it appear that he extorted - andeven did extort, though I don't know how - those references out ofmy innocent self.

And when he and I were left alone together, he sat with an air uponhim of general lying by in consequence of information he possessed,that really was too much for me. He cross-examined his very winewhen he had nothing else in hand. He held it between himself andthe candle, tasted the port, rolled it in his mouth, swallowed it,looked at his glass again, smelt the port, tried it, drank it,filled again, and cross-examined the glass again, until I was asnervous as if I had known the wine to be telling him something tomy disadvantage. Three or four times I feebly thought I would startconversation; but whenever he saw me going to ask him anything, helooked at me with his glass in his hand, and rolling his wine aboutin his mouth, as if requesting me to take notice that it was of nouse, for he couldn't answer.

I think Miss Pocket was conscious that the sight of me involved herin the danger of being goaded to madness, and perhaps tearing offher cap - which was a very hideous one, in the nature of a muslinmop - and strewing the ground with her hair - which assuredly hadnever grown on her head. She did not appear when we afterwards wentup to Miss Havisham's room, and we four played at whist. In theinterval, Miss Havisham, in a fantastic way, had put some of themost beautiful jewels from her dressing-table into Estella's hair,and about her bosom and arms; and I saw even my guardian look ather from under his thick eyebrows, and raise them a little, whenher loveliness was before him, with those rich flushes of glitterand colour in it.

Of the manner and extent to which he took our trumps into custody,and came out with mean little cards at the ends of hands, beforewhich the glory of our Kings and Queens was utterly abased, I saynothing; nor, of the feeling that I had, respecting his lookingupon us personally in the light of three very obvious and poorriddles that he had found out long ago. What I suffered from, wasthe incompatibility between his cold presence and my feelingstowards Estella. It was not that I knew I could never bear to speakto him about her, that I knew I could never bear to hear him creakhis boots at her, that I knew I could never bear to see him washhis hands of her; it was, that my admiration should be within afoot or two of him - it was, that my feelings should be in the sameplace with him - that, was the agonizing circumstance.

We played until nine o'clock, and then it was arranged that whenEstella came to London I should be forewarned of her coming andshould meet her at the coach; and then I took leave of her, andtouched her and left her.

My guardian lay at the Boar in the next room to mine. Far into thenight, Miss Havisham's words, "Love her, love her, love her!"sounded in my ears. I adapted them for my own repetition, and saidto my pillow, "I love her, I love her, I love her!" hundreds oftimes. Then, a burst of gratitude came upon me, that she should bedestined for me, once the blacksmith's boy. Then, I thought if shewere, as I feared, by no means rapturously grateful for thatdestiny yet, when would she begin to be interested in me? Whenshould I awaken the heart within her, that was mute and sleepingnow?

Ah me! I thought those were high and great emotions. But I neverthought there was anything low and small in my keeping away fromJoe, because I knew she would be contemptuous of him. It was but aday gone, and Joe had brought the tears into my eyes; they had soondried, God forgive me! soon dried.

Chapter 30

After well considering the matter while I was dressing at the BlueBoar in the morning, I resolved to tell my guardian that I doubtedOrlick's being the right sort of man to fill a post of trust atMiss Havisham's. "Why, of course he is not the right sort of man,Pip," said my guardian, comfortably satisfied beforehand on thegeneral head, "because the man who fills the post of trust never isthe right sort of man." It seemed quite to put him into spirits, tofind that this particular post was not exceptionally held by theright sort of man, and he listened in a satisfied manner while Itold him what knowledge I had of Orlick. "Very good, Pip," heobserved, when I had concluded, "I'll go round presently, and payour friend off." Rather alarmed by this summary action, I was for alittle delay, and even hinted that our friend himself might bedifficult to deal with. "Oh no he won't," said my guardian, makinghis pocket-handkerchief-point, with perfect confidence; "I shouldlike to see him argue the question with me."

As we were going back together to London by the mid-day coach, andas I breakfasted under such terrors of Pumblechook that I couldscarcely hold my cup, this gave me an opportunity of saying that Iwanted a walk, and that I would go on along the London-road whileMr. Jaggers was occupied, if he would let the coachman know that Iwould get into my place when overtaken. I was thus enabled to flyfrom the Blue Boar immediately after breakfast. By then making aloop of about a couple of miles into the open country at the backof Pumblechook's premises, I got round into the High-street again,a little beyond that pitfall, and felt myself in comparativesecurity.

It was interesting to be in the quiet old town once more, and itwas not disagreeable to be here and there suddenly recognized andstared after. One or two of the tradespeople even darted out oftheir shops and went a little way down the street before me, thatthey might turn, as if they had forgotten something, and pass meface to face - on which occasions I don't know whether they or Imade the worse pretence; they of not doing it, or I of not seeingit. Still my position was a distinguished one, and I was not at alldissatisfied with it, until Fate threw me in the way of thatunlimited miscreant, Trabb's boy.

Casting my eyes along the street at a certain point of my progress,I beheld Trabb's boy approaching, lashing himself with an emptyblue bag. Deeming that a serene and unconscious contemplation ofhim would best beseem me, and would be most likely to quell hisevil mind, I advanced with that expression of countenance, and wasrather congratulating myself on my success, when suddenly the kneesof Trabb's boy smote together, his hair uprose, his cap fell off,he trembled violently in every limb, staggered out into the road,and crying to the populace, "Hold me! I'm so frightened!" feigned tobe in a paroxysm of terror and contrition, occasioned by thedignity of my appearance. As I passed him, his teeth loudlychattered in his head, and with every mark of extreme humiliation,he prostrated himself in the dust.

This was a hard thing to bear, but this was nothing. I had notadvanced another two hundred yards, when, to my inexpressibleterror, amazement, and indignation, I again beheld Trabb's boyapproaching. He was coming round a narrow corner. His blue bag wasslung over his shoulder, honest industry beamed in his eyes, adetermination to proceed to Trabb's with cheerful briskness wasindicated in his gait. With a shock he became aware of me, and wasseverely visited as before; but this time his motion was rotatory,and he staggered round and round me with knees more afflicted, andwith uplifted hands as if beseeching for mercy. His sufferings werehailed with the greatest joy by a knot of spectators, and I feltutterly confounded.

I had not got as much further down the street as the post-office,when I again beheld Trabb's boy shooting round by a back way. Thistime, he was entirely changed. He wore the blue bag in the mannerof my great-coat, and was strutting along the pavement towards meon the opposite side of the street, attended by a company ofdelighted young friends to whom he from time to time exclaimed,with a wave of his hand, "Don't know yah!" Words cannot state theamount of aggravation and injury wreaked upon me by Trabb's boy,when, passing abreast of me, he pulled up his shirt-collar, twinedhis side-hair, stuck an arm akimbo, and smirked extravagantly by,wriggling his elbows and body, and drawling to his attendants,"Don't know yah, don't know yah, pon my soul don't know yah!" Thedisgrace attendant on his immediately afterwards taking to crowingand pursuing me across the bridge with crows, as from anexceedingly dejected fowl who had known me when I was a blacksmith,culminated the disgrace with which I left the town, and was, so tospeak, ejected by it into the open country.

But unless I had taken the life of Trabb's boy on that occasion, Ireally do not even now see what I could have done save endure. Tohave struggled with him in the street, or to have exacted any lowerrecompense from him than his heart's best blood, would have beenfutile and degrading. Moreover, he was a boy whom no man couldhurt; an invulnerable and dodging serpent who, when chased into acorner, flew out again between his captor's legs, scornfullyyelping. I wrote, however, to Mr. Trabb by next day's post, to saythat Mr. Pip must decline to deal further with one who could so farforget what he owed to the best interests of society, as to employa boy who excited Loathing in every respectable mind.

The coach, with Mr. Jaggers inside, came up in due time, and I tookmy box-seat again, and arrived in London safe - but not sound, formy heart was gone. As soon as I arrived, I sent a penitentialcodfish and barrel of oysters to Joe (as reparation for not havinggone myself), and then went on to Barnard's Inn.

I found Herbert dining on cold meat, and delighted to welcome meback. Having despatched The Avenger to the coffee-house for anaddition to the dinner, I felt that I must open my breast that veryevening to my friend and chum. As confidence was out of thequestion with The Avenger in the hall, which could merely beregarded in the light of an ante-chamber to the keyhole, I sent himto the Play. A better proof of the severity of my bondage to thattaskmaster could scarcely be afforded, than the degrading shifts towhich I was constantly driven to find him employment. So mean isextremity, that I sometimes sent him to Hyde Park Corner to seewhat o'clock it was.

Dinner done and we sitting with our feet upon the fender, I said toHerbert, "My dear Herbert, I have something very particular to tellyou."

Title: Great Expectations
Author: Charles Dickens
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