Charles Dickens >> Great Expectations (page 15)

"Tell me the name again of that blacksmith of yours."

"Joe Gargery, ma'am."

"Meaning the master you were to be apprenticed to?"

"Yes, Miss Havisham."

"You had better be apprenticed at once. Would Gargery come herewith you, and bring your indentures, do you think?"

I signified that I had no doubt he would take it as an honour to beasked.

"Then let him come."

"At any particular time, Miss Havisham?"

"There, there! I know nothing about times. Let him come soon, andcome along with you."

When I got home at night, and delivered this message for Joe, mysister "went on the Rampage," in a more alarming degree than at anyprevious period. She asked me and Joe whether we supposed she wasdoor-mats under our feet, and how we dared to use her so, and whatcompany we graciously thought she was fit for? When she hadexhausted a torrent of such inquiries, she threw a candlestick atJoe, burst into a loud sobbing, got out the dustpan - which wasalways a very bad sign - put on her coarse apron, and begancleaning up to a terrible extent. Not satisfied with a drycleaning, she took to a pail and scrubbing-brush, and cleaned usout of house and home, so that we stood shivering in the back-yard.It was ten o'clock at night before we ventured to creep in again,and then she asked Joe why he hadn't married a Negress Slave atonce? Joe offered no answer, poor fellow, but stood feeling hiswhisker and looking dejectedly at me, as if he thought it reallymight have been a better speculation.

Chapter 13

It was a trial to my feelings, on the next day but one, to see Joearraying himself in his Sunday clothes to accompany me to MissHavisham's. However, as he thought his court-suit necessary to theoccasion, it was not for me tell him that he looked far better inhis working dress; the rather, because I knew he made himself sodreadfully uncomfortable, entirely on my account, and that it wasfor me he pulled up his shirt-collar so very high behind, that itmade the hair on the crown of his head stand up like a tuft offeathers.

At breakfast time my sister declared her intention of going to townwith us, and being left at Uncle Pumblechook's and called for "whenwe had done with our fine ladies" - a way of putting the case, fromwhich Joe appeared inclined to augur the worst. The forge was shutup for the day, and Joe inscribed in chalk upon the door (as it washis custom to do on the very rare occasions when he was not atwork) the monosyllable HOUT, accompanied by a sketch of an arrowsupposed to be flying in the direction he had taken.

We walked to town, my sister leading the way in a very large beaverbonnet, and carrying a basket like the Great Seal of England inplaited straw, a pair of pattens, a spare shawl, and an umbrella,though it was a fine bright day. I am not quite clear whether thesearticles were carried penitentially or ostentatiously; but, Irather think they were displayed as articles of property - much asCleopatra or any other sovereign lady on the Rampage might exhibither wealth in a pageant or procession.

When we came to Pumblechook's, my sister bounced in and left us. Asit was almost noon, Joe and I held straight on to Miss Havisham'shouse. Estella opened the gate as usual, and, the moment sheappeared, Joe took his hat off and stood weighing it by the brim inboth his hands: as if he had some urgent reason in his mind forbeing particular to half a quarter of an ounce.

Estella took no notice of either of us, but led us the way that Iknew so well. I followed next to her, and Joe came last. When Ilooked back at Joe in the long passage, he was still weighing hishat with the greatest care, and was coming after us in long strideson the tips of his toes.

Estella told me we were both to go in, so I took Joe by thecoat-cuff and conducted him into Miss Havisham's presence. She wasseated at her dressing-table, and looked round at us immediately.

"Oh!" said she to Joe. "You are the husband of the sister of thisboy?"

I could hardly have imagined dear old Joe looking so unlike himselfor so like some extraordinary bird; standing, as he did,speechless, with his tuft of feathers ruffled, and his mouth open,as if he wanted a worm.

"You are the husband," repeated Miss Havisham, "of the sister ofthis boy?"

It was very aggravating; but, throughout the interview Joepersisted in addressing Me instead of Miss Havisham.

"Which I meantersay, Pip," Joe now observed in a manner that was atonce expressive of forcible argumentation, strict confidence, andgreat politeness, "as I hup and married your sister, and I were atthe time what you might call (if you was anyways inclined) a singleman."

"Well!" said Miss Havisham. "And you have reared the boy, with theintention of taking him for your apprentice; is that so, Mr.Gargery?"

"You know, Pip," replied Joe, "as you and me were ever friends, andit were looked for'ard to betwixt us, as being calc'lated to leadto larks. Not but what, Pip, if you had ever made objections to thebusiness - such as its being open to black and sut, or such-like -not but what they would have been attended to, don't you see?"

"Has the boy," said Miss Havisham, "ever made any objection? Doeshe like the trade?"

"Which it is well beknown to yourself, Pip," returned Joe,strengthening his former mixture of argumentation, confidence, andpoliteness, "that it were the wish of your own hart." (I saw theidea suddenly break upon him that he would adapt his epitaph to theoccasion, before he went on to say) "And there weren't no objectionon your part, and Pip it were the great wish of your heart!"

It was quite in vain for me to endeavour to make him sensible thathe ought to speak to Miss Havisham. The more I made faces andgestures to him to do it, the more confidential, argumentative, andpolite, he persisted in being to Me.

"Have you brought his indentures with you?" asked Miss Havisham.

"Well, Pip, you know," replied Joe, as if that were a littleunreasonable, "you yourself see me put 'em in my 'at, and thereforeyou know as they are here." With which he took them out, and gavethem, not to Miss Havisham, but to me. I am afraid I was ashamed ofthe dear good fellow - I know I was ashamed of him - when I sawthat Estella stood at the back of Miss Havisham's chair, and thather eyes laughed mischievously. I took the indentures out of hishand and gave them to Miss Havisham.

"You expected," said Miss Havisham, as she looked them over, "nopremium with the boy?"

"Joe!" I remonstrated; for he made no reply at all. "Why don't youanswer--"

"Pip," returned Joe, cutting me short as if he were hurt, "which Imeantersay that were not a question requiring a answer betwixtyourself and me, and which you know the answer to be full well No.You know it to be No, Pip, and wherefore should I say it?"

Miss Havisham glanced at him as if she understood what he reallywas, better than I had thought possible, seeing what he was there;and took up a little bag from the table beside her.

"Pip has earned a premium here," she said, "and here it is. Thereare five-and-twenty guineas in this bag. Give it to your master,Pip."

As if he were absolutely out of his mind with the wonder awakenedin him by her strange figure and the strange room, Joe, even atthis pass, persisted in addressing me.

"This is wery liberal on your part, Pip," said Joe, "and it is assuch received and grateful welcome, though never looked for, farnor near nor nowheres. And now, old chap," said Joe, conveying tome a sensation, first of burning and then of freezing, for I feltas if that familiar expression were applied to Miss Havisham; "andnow, old chap, may we do our duty! May you and me do our duty, bothon us by one and another, and by them which your liberal present -have - conweyed - to be - for the satisfaction of mind - of - themas never--" here Joe showed that he felt he had fallen intofrightful difficulties, until he triumphantly rescued himself withthe words, "and from myself far be it!" These words had such around and convincing sound for him that he said them twice.

"Good-bye, Pip!" said Miss Havisham. "Let them out, Estella."

"Am I to come again, Miss Havisham?" I asked.

"No. Gargery is your master now. Gargery! One word!"

Thus calling him back as I went out of the door, I heard her say toJoe, in a distinct emphatic voice, "The boy has been a good boyhere, and that is his reward. Of course, as an honest man, you willexpect no other and no more."

How Joe got out of the room, I have never been able to determine;but, I know that when he did get out he was steadily proceedingup-stairs instead of coming down, and was deaf to all remonstrancesuntil I went after him and laid hold of him. In another minute wewere outside the gate, and it was locked, and Estella was gone.

When we stood in the daylight alone again, Joe backed up against awall, and said to me, "Astonishing!" And there he remained so long,saying "Astonishing" at intervals, so often, that I began to thinkhis senses were never coming back. At length he prolonged hisremark into "Pip, I do assure you this is as-TONishing!" and so, bydegrees, became conversational and able to walk away.

I have reason to think that Joe's intellects were brightened by theencounter they had passed through, and that on our way toPumblechook's he invented a subtle and deep design. My reason is tobe found in what took place in Mr. Pumblechook's parlour: where, onour presenting ourselves, my sister sat in conference with thatdetested seedsman.

"Well?" cried my sister, addressing us both at once. "And what'shappened to you? I wonder you condescend to come back to such poorsociety as this, I am sure I do!"

"Miss Havisham," said Joe, with a fixed look at me, like an effortof remembrance, "made it wery partick'ler that we should give her -were it compliments or respects, Pip?"

"Compliments," I said.

"Which that were my own belief," answered Joe - "her compliments toMrs. J. Gargery--"

"Much good they'll do me!" observed my sister; but rather gratifiedtoo.

"And wishing," pursued Joe, with another fixed look at me, likeanother effort of remembrance, "that the state of Miss Havisham'selth were sitch as would have - allowed, were it, Pip?"

"Of her having the pleasure," I added.

"Of ladies' company," said Joe. And drew a long breath.

"Well!" cried my sister, with a mollified glance at Mr. Pumblechook."She might have had the politeness to send that message at first,but it's better late than never. And what did she give youngRantipole here?"

"She giv' him," said Joe, "nothing."

Mrs. Joe was going to break out, but Joe went on.

"What she giv'," said Joe, "she giv' to his friends. 'And by hisfriends,' were her explanation, 'I mean into the hands of hissister Mrs. J. Gargery.' Them were her words; 'Mrs. J. Gargery.' Shemayn't have know'd," added Joe, with an appearance of reflection,"whether it were Joe, or Jorge."

My sister looked at Pumblechook: who smoothed the elbows of hiswooden armchair, and nodded at her and at the fire, as if he hadknown all about it beforehand.

"And how much have you got?" asked my sister, laughing. Positively,laughing!

"What would present company say to ten pound?" demanded Joe.

"They'd say," returned my sister, curtly, "pretty well. Not toomuch, but pretty well."

"It's more than that, then," said Joe.

That fearful Impostor, Pumblechook, immediately nodded, and said,as he rubbed the arms of his chair: "It's more than that, Mum."

"Why, you don't mean to say--" began my sister.

"Yes I do, Mum," said Pumblechook; "but wait a bit. Go on, Joseph.Good in you! Go on!"

"What would present company say," proceeded Joe, "to twenty pound?"

"Handsome would be the word," returned my sister.

"Well, then," said Joe, "It's more than twenty pound."

That abject hypocrite, Pumblechook, nodded again, and said, with apatronizing laugh, "It's more than that, Mum. Good again! Follow herup, Joseph!"

"Then to make an end of it," said Joe, delightedly handing the bagto my sister; "it's five-and-twenty pound."

"It's five-and-twenty pound, Mum," echoed that basest of swindlers,Pumblechook, rising to shake hands with her; "and it's no more thanyour merits (as I said when my opinion was asked), and I wish youjoy of the money!"

If the villain had stopped here, his case would have beensufficiently awful, but he blackened his guilt by proceeding totake me into custody, with a right of patronage that left all hisformer criminality far behind.

"Now you see, Joseph and wife," said Pumblechook, as he took me bythe arm above the elbow, "I am one of them that always go rightthrough with what they've begun. This boy must be bound, out ofhand. That's my way. Bound out of hand."

"Goodness knows, Uncle Pumblechook," said my sister (grasping themoney), "we're deeply beholden to you."

"Never mind me, Mum, returned that diabolical corn-chandler. "Apleasure's a pleasure, all the world over. But this boy, you know;we must have him bound. I said I'd see to it - to tell you thetruth."

The Justices were sitting in the Town Hall near at hand, and we atonce went over to have me bound apprentice to Joe in theMagisterial presence. I say, we went over, but I was pushed over byPumblechook, exactly as if I had that moment picked a pocket orfired a rick; indeed, it was the general impression in Court that Ihad been taken red-handed, for, as Pumblechook shoved me before himthrough the crowd, I heard some people say, "What's he done?" andothers, "He's a young 'un, too, but looks bad, don't he? One personof mild and benevolent aspect even gave me a tract ornamented witha woodcut of a malevolent young man fitted up with a perfectsausage-shop of fetters, and entitled, TO BE READ IN MY CELL.

Title: Great Expectations
Author: Charles Dickens
Viewed 203848 times


Page generation 0.001 seconds