Charles Dickens >> Great Expectations (page 22)

"Ah, that indeed, Pip!" said Joe. "If you couldn't abearyourself--"

Biddy asked me here, as she sat holding my sister's plate, "Haveyou thought about when you'll show yourself to Mr. Gargery, and yoursister, and me? You will show yourself to us; won't you?"

"Biddy," I returned with some resentment, "you are so exceedinglyquick that it's difficult to keep up with you."

("She always were quick," observed Joe.)

"If you had waited another moment, Biddy, you would have heard mesay that I shall bring my clothes here in a bundle one evening -most likely on the evening before I go away."

Biddy said no more. Handsomely forgiving her, I soon exchanged anaffectionate good-night with her and Joe, and went up to bed. WhenI got into my little room, I sat down and took a long look at it,as a mean little room that I should soon be parted from and raisedabove, for ever, It was furnished with fresh young remembrancestoo, and even at the same moment I fell into much the same confuseddivision of mind between it and the better rooms to which I wasgoing, as I had been in so often between the forge and MissHavisham's, and Biddy and Estella.

The sun had been shining brightly all day on the roof of my attic,and the room was warm. As I put the window open and stood lookingout, I saw Joe come slowly forth at the dark door below, and take aturn or two in the air; and then I saw Biddy come, and bring him apipe and light it for him. He never smoked so late, and it seemedto hint to me that he wanted comforting, for some reason or other.

He presently stood at the door immediately beneath me, smoking hispipe, and Biddy stood there too, quietly talking to him, and I knewthat they talked of me, for I heard my name mentioned in anendearing tone by both of them more than once. I would not havelistened for more, if I could have heard more: so, I drew away fromthe window, and sat down in my one chair by the bedside, feeling itvery sorrowful and strange that this first night of my brightfortunes should be the loneliest I had ever known.

Looking towards the open window, I saw light wreaths from Joe'spipe floating there, and I fancied it was like a blessing from Joe- not obtruded on me or paraded before me, but pervading the air weshared together. I put my light out, and crept into bed; and it wasan uneasy bed now, and I never slept the old sound sleep in it anymore.

Chapter 19

Morning made a considerable difference in my general prospect ofLife, and brightened it so much that it scarcely seemed the same.What lay heaviest on my mind, was, the consideration that six daysintervened between me and the day of departure; for, I could notdivest myself of a misgiving that something might happen to Londonin the meanwhile, and that, when I got there, it would be eithergreatly deteriorated or clean gone.

Joe and Biddy were very sympathetic and pleasant when I spoke ofour approaching separation; but they only referred to it when Idid. After breakfast, Joe brought out my indentures from the pressin the best parlour, and we put them in the fire, and I felt that Iwas free. With all the novelty of my emancipation on me, I went tochurch with Joe, and thought, perhaps the clergyman wouldn't haveread that about the rich man and the kingdom of Heaven, if he hadknown all.

After our early dinner I strolled out alone, purposing to finishoff the marshes at once, and get them done with. As I passed thechurch, I felt (as I had felt during service in the morning) asublime compassion for the poor creatures who were destined to gothere, Sunday after Sunday, all their lives through, and to lieobscurely at last among the low green mounds. I promised myselfthat I would do something for them one of these days, and formed aplan in outline for bestowing a dinner of roast-beef andplumpudding, a pint of ale, and a gallon of condescension, uponeverybody in the village.

If I had often thought before, with something allied to shame, ofmy companionship with the fugitive whom I had once seen limpingamong those graves, what were my thoughts on this Sunday, when theplace recalled the wretch, ragged and shivering, with his feloniron and badge! My comfort was, that it happened a long time ago,and that he had doubtless been transported a long way off, and thathe was dead to me, and might be veritably dead into the bargain.

No more low wet grounds, no more dykes and sluices, no more ofthese grazing cattle - though they seemed, in their dull manner, towear a more respectful air now, and to face round, in order thatthey might stare as long as possible at the possessor of such greatexpectations - farewell, monotonous acquaintances of my childhood,henceforth I was for London and greatness: not for smith's work ingeneral and for you! I made my exultant way to the old Battery,and, lying down there to consider the question whether MissHavisham intended me for Estella, fell asleep.

When I awoke, I was much surprised to find Joe sitting beside me,smoking his pipe. He greeted me with a cheerful smile on my openingmy eyes, and said:

"As being the last time, Pip, I thought I'd foller."

"And Joe, I am very glad you did so."

"Thankee, Pip."

"You may be sure, dear Joe," I went on, after we had shaken hands,"that I shall never forget you."

"No, no, Pip!" said Joe, in a comfortable tone, "I'm sure of that.Ay, ay, old chap! Bless you, it were only necessary to get it wellround in a man's mind, to be certain on it. But it took a bit oftime to get it well round, the change come so oncommon plump;didn't it?"

Somehow, I was not best pleased with Joe's being so mightily secureof me. I should have liked him to have betrayed emotion, or to havesaid, "It does you credit, Pip," or something of that sort.Therefore, I made no remark on Joe's first head: merely saying asto his second, that the tidings had indeed come suddenly, but thatI had always wanted to be a gentleman, and had often and oftenspeculated on what I would do, if I were one.

"Have you though?" said Joe. "Astonishing!"

"It's a pity now, Joe," said I, "that you did not get on a littlemore, when we had our lessons here; isn't it?"

"Well, I don't know," returned Joe. "I'm so awful dull. I'm onlymaster of my own trade. It were always a pity as I was so awfuldull; but it's no more of a pity now, than it was - this daytwelvemonth - don't you see?"

What I had meant was, that when I came into my property and wasable to do something for Joe, it would have been much moreagreeable if he had been better qualified for a rise in station. Hewas so perfectly innocent of my meaning, however, that I thought Iwould mention it to Biddy in preference.

So, when we had walked home and had had tea, I took Biddy into ourlittle garden by the side of the lane, and, after throwing out in ageneral way for the elevation of her spirits, that I should neverforget her, said I had a favour to ask of her.

"And it is, Biddy," said I, "that you will not omit any opportunityof helping Joe on, a little."

"How helping him on?" asked Biddy, with a steady sort of glance.

"Well! Joe is a dear good fellow - in fact, I think he is thedearest fellow that ever lived - but he is rather backward in somethings. For instance, Biddy, in his learning and his manners."

Although I was looking at Biddy as I spoke, and although she openedher eyes very wide when I had spoken, she did not look at me.

"Oh, his manners! won't his manners do, then?" asked Biddy,plucking a black-currant leaf.

"My dear Biddy, they do very well here--"

"Oh! they do very well here?" interrupted Biddy, looking closely atthe leaf in her hand.

"Hear me out - but if I were to remove Joe into a higher sphere, asI shall hope to remove him when I fully come into my property, theywould hardly do him justice."

"And don't you think he knows that?" asked Biddy.

It was such a very provoking question (for it had never in the mostdistant manner occurred to me), that I said, snappishly, "Biddy,what do you mean?"

Biddy having rubbed the leaf to pieces between her hands - and thesmell of a black-currant bush has ever since recalled to me thatevening in the little garden by the side of the lane - said, "Haveyou never considered that he may be proud?"

"Proud?" I repeated, with disdainful emphasis.

"Oh! there are many kinds of pride," said Biddy, looking full at meand shaking her head; "pride is not all of one kind--"

"Well? What are you stopping for?" said I.

"Not all of one kind," resumed Biddy. "He may be too proud to letany one take him out of a place that he is competent to fill, andfills well and with respect. To tell you the truth, I think he is:though it sounds bold in me to say so, for you must know him farbetter than I do."

"Now, Biddy," said I, "I am very sorry to see this in you. I didnot expect to see this in you. You are envious, Biddy, andgrudging. You are dissatisfied on account of my rise in fortune,and you can't help showing it."

"If you have the heart to think so," returned Biddy, "say so. Sayso over and over again, if you have the heart to think so."

"If you have the heart to be so, you mean, Biddy," said I, in avirtuous and superior tone; "don't put it off upon me. I am verysorry to see it, and it's a - it's a bad side of human nature. Idid intend to ask you to use any little opportunities you mighthave after I was gone, of improving dear Joe. But after this, I askyou nothing. I am extremely sorry to see this in you, Biddy," Irepeated. "It's a - it's a bad side of human nature."

"Whether you scold me or approve of me," returned poor Biddy, "youmay equally depend upon my trying to do all that lies in my power,here, at all times. And whatever opinion you take away of me, shallmake no difference in my remembrance of you. Yet a gentleman shouldnot be unjust neither," said Biddy, turning away her head.

I again warmly repeated that it was a bad side of human nature (inwhich sentiment, waiving its application, I have since seen reasonto think I was right), and I walked down the little path away fromBiddy, and Biddy went into the house, and I went out at the gardengate and took a dejected stroll until supper-time; again feeling itvery sorrowful and strange that this, the second night of my brightfortunes, should be as lonely and unsatisfactory as the first.

But, morning once more brightened my view, and I extended myclemency to Biddy, and we dropped the subject. Putting on the bestclothes I had, I went into town as early as I could hope to findthe shops open, and presented myself before Mr. Trabb, the tailor:who was having his breakfast in the parlour behind his shop, andwho did not think it worth his while to come out to me, but calledme in to him.

"Well!" said Mr. Trabb, in a hail-fellow-well-met kind of way. "Howare you, and what can I do for you?"

Mr. Trabb had sliced his hot roll into three feather beds, and wasslipping butter in between the blankets, and covering it up. He wasa prosperous old bachelor, and his open window looked into aprosperous little garden and orchard, and there was a prosperousiron safe let into the wall at the side of his fireplace, and I didnot doubt that heaps of his prosperity were put away in it in bags.

"Mr. Trabb," said I, "it's an unpleasant thing to have to mention,because it looks like boasting; but I have come into a handsomeproperty."

A change passed over Mr. Trabb. He forgot the butter in bed, got upfrom the bedside, and wiped his fingers on the table-cloth,exclaiming, "Lord bless my soul!"

"I am going up to my guardian in London," said I, casually drawingsome guineas out of my pocket and looking at them; "and I want afashionable suit of clothes to go in. I wish to pay for them," Iadded - otherwise I thought he might only pretend to make them -"with ready money."

"My dear sir," said Mr. Trabb, as he respectfully bent his body,opened his arms, and took the liberty of touching me on the outsideof each elbow, "don't hurt me by mentioning that. May I venture tocongratulate you? Would you do me the favour of stepping into theshop?"

Mr. Trabb's boy was the most audacious boy in all that countryside.When I had entered he was sweeping the shop, and he had sweetenedhis labours by sweeping over me. He was still sweeping when I cameout into the shop with Mr. Trabb, and he knocked the broom againstall possible corners and obstacles, to express (as I understood it)equality with any blacksmith, alive or dead.

"Hold that noise," said Mr. Trabb, with the greatest sternness, "orI'll knock your head off! Do me the favour to be seated, sir. Now,this," said Mr. Trabb, taking down a roll of cloth, and tiding itout in a flowing manner over the counter, preparatory to gettinghis hand under it to show the gloss, "is a very sweet article. Ican recommend it for your purpose, sir, because it really is extrasuper. But you shall see some others. Give me Number Four, you!"(To the boy, and with a dreadfully severe stare: foreseeing thedanger of that miscreant's brushing me with it, or making someother sign of familiarity.)

Mr. Trabb never removed his stern eye from the boy until he haddeposited number four on the counter and was at a safe distanceagain. Then, he commanded him to bring number five, and numbereight. "And let me have none of your tricks here," said Mr. Trabb,"or you shall repent it, you young scoundrel, the longest day youhave to live."

Mr. Trabb then bent over number four, and in a sort of deferentialconfidence recommended it to me as a light article for summer wear,an article much in vogue among the nobility and gentry, an articlethat it would ever be an honour to him to reflect upon adistinguished fellow-townsman's (if he might claim me for afellow-townsman) having worn. "Are you bringing numbers five andeight, you vagabond," said Mr. Trabb to the boy after that, "orshall I kick you out of the shop and bring them myself?"

Title: Great Expectations
Author: Charles Dickens
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