Charles Dickens >> Great Expectations (page 40)

I rang for the tea, and the waiter, reappearing with his magicclue, brought in by degrees some fifty adjuncts to that refreshmentbut of tea not a glimpse. A teaboard, cups and saucers, plates,knives and forks (including carvers), spoons (various),saltcellars, a meek little muffin confined with the utmostprecaution under a strong iron cover, Moses in the bullrushestypified by a soft bit of butter in a quantity of parsley, a paleloaf with a powdered head, two proof impressions of the bars of thekitchen fire-place on triangular bits of bread, and ultimately afat family urn: which the waiter staggered in with, expressing inhis countenance burden and suffering. After a prolonged absence atthis stage of the entertainment, he at length came back with acasket of precious appearance containing twigs. These I steeped inhot water, and so from the whole of these appliances extracted onecup of I don't know what, for Estella.

The bill paid, and the waiter remembered, and the ostler notforgotten, and the chambermaid taken into consideration - in aword, the whole house bribed into a state of contempt andanimosity, and Estella's purse much lightened - we got into ourpost-coach and drove away. Turning into Cheapside and rattling upNewgate-street, we were soon under the walls of which I was soashamed.

"What place is that?" Estella asked me.

I made a foolish pretence of not at first recognizing it, and thentold her. As she looked at it, and drew in her head again,murmuring "Wretches!" I would not have confessed to my visit forany consideration.

"Mr. Jaggers," said I, by way of putting it neatly on somebody else,"has the reputation of being more in the secrets of that dismalplace than any man in London."

"He is more in the secrets of every place, I think," said Estella,in a low voice.

"You have been accustomed to see him often, I suppose?"

"I have been accustomed to see him at uncertain intervals, eversince I can remember. But I know him no better now, than I didbefore I could speak plainly. What is your own experience of him?Do you advance with him?"

"Once habituated to his distrustful manner," said I, "I have donevery well."

"Are you intimate?"

"I have dined with him at his private house."

"I fancy," said Estella, shrinking "that must be a curious place."

"It is a curious place."

I should have been chary of discussing my guardian too freely evenwith her; but I should have gone on with the subject so far as todescribe the dinner in Gerrard-street, if we had not then come intoa sudden glare of gas. It seemed, while it lasted, to be all alightand alive with that inexplicable feeling I had had before; and whenwe were out of it, I was as much dazed for a few moments as if Ihad been in Lightning.

So, we fell into other talk, and it was principally about the wayby which we were travelling, and about what parts of London lay onthis side of it, and what on that. The great city was almost new toher, she told me, for she had never left Miss Havisham'sneighbourhood until she had gone to France, and she had merelypassed through London then in going and returning. I asked her ifmy guardian had any charge of her while she remained here? To thatshe emphatically said "God forbid!" and no more.

It was impossible for me to avoid seeing that she cared to attractme; that she made herself winning; and would have won me even ifthe task had needed pains. Yet this made me none the happier, for,even if she had not taken that tone of our being disposed of byothers, I should have felt that she held my heart in her handbecause she wilfully chose to do it, and not because it would havewrung any tenderness in her, to crush it and throw it away.

When we passed through Hammersmith, I showed her where Mr. MatthewPocket lived, and said it was no great way from Richmond, and thatI hoped I should see her sometimes.

"Oh yes, you are to see me; you are to come when you think proper;you are to be mentioned to the family; indeed you are alreadymentioned."

I inquired was it a large household she was going to be a memberof?

"No; there are only two; mother and daughter. The mother is a ladyof some station, though not averse to increasing her income."

"I wonder Miss Havisham could part with you again so soon."

"It is a part of Miss Havisham's plans for me, Pip," said Estella,with a sigh, as if she were tired; "I am to write to her constantlyand see her regularly and report how I go on - I and the jewels -for they are nearly all mine now."

It was the first time she had ever called me by my name. Of courseshe did so, purposely, and knew that I should treasure it up.

We came to Richmond all too soon, and our destination there, was ahouse by the Green; a staid old house, where hoops and powder andpatches, embroidered coats rolled stockings ruffles and swords, hadhad their court days many a time. Some ancient trees before thehouse were still cut into fashions as formal and unnatural as thehoops and wigs and stiff skirts; but their own allotted places inthe great procession of the dead were not far off, and they wouldsoon drop into them and go the silent way of the rest.

A bell with an old voice - which I dare say in its time had oftensaid to the house, Here is the green farthingale, Here is thediamondhilted sword, Here are the shoes with red heels and the bluesolitaire, - sounded gravely in the moonlight, and twocherrycoloured maids came fluttering out to receive Estella. Thedoorway soon absorbed her boxes, and she gave me her hand and asmile, and said good night, and was absorbed likewise. And still Istood looking at the house, thinking how happy I should be if Ilived there with her, and knowing that I never was happy with her,but always miserable.

I got into the carriage to be taken back to Hammersmith, and I gotin with a bad heart-ache, and I got out with a worse heart-ache. Atour own door, I found little Jane Pocket coming home from a littleparty escorted by her little lover; and I envied her little lover,in spite of his being subject to Flopson.

Mr. Pocket was out lecturing; for, he was a most delightful lectureron domestic economy, and his treatises on the management ofchildren and servants were considered the very best text-books onthose themes. But, Mrs. Pocket was at home, and was in a littledifficulty, on account of the baby's having been accommodated witha needle-case to keep him quiet during the unaccountable absence(with a relative in the Foot Guards) of Millers. And more needleswere missing, than it could be regarded as quite wholesome for apatient of such tender years either to apply externally or to takeas a tonic.

Mr. Pocket being justly celebrated for giving most excellentpractical advice, and for having a clear and sound perception ofthings and a highly judicious mind, I had some notion in myheartache of begging him to accept my confidence. But, happening tolook up at Mrs. Pocket as she sat reading her book of dignitiesafter prescribing Bed as a sovereign remedy for baby, I thought -Well - No, I wouldn't.

Chapter 34

As I had grown accustomed to my expectations, I had insensiblybegun to notice their effect upon myself and those around me. Theirinfluence on my own character, I disguised from my recognition asmuch as possible, but I knew very well that it was not all good. Ilived in a state of chronic uneasiness respecting my behaviour toJoe. My conscience was not by any means comfortable about Biddy.When I woke up in the night - like Camilla - I used to think, witha weariness on my spirits, that I should have been happier andbetter if I had never seen Miss Havisham's face, and had risen tomanhood content to be partners with Joe in the honest old forge.Many a time of an evening, when I sat alone looking at the fire, Ithought, after all, there was no fire like the forge fire and thekitchen fire at home.

Yet Estella was so inseparable from all my restlessness anddisquiet of mind, that I really fell into confusion as to thelimits of my own part in its production. That is to say, supposingI had had no expectations, and yet had had Estella to think of, Icould not make out to my satisfaction that I should have done muchbetter. Now, concerning the influence of my position on others, Iwas in no such difficulty, and so I perceived - though dimly enoughperhaps - that it was not beneficial to anybody, and, above all,that it was not beneficial to Herbert. My lavish habits led hiseasy nature into expenses that he could not afford, corrupted thesimplicity of his life, and disturbed his peace with anxieties andregrets. I was not at all remorseful for having unwittingly setthose other branches of the Pocket family to the poor arts theypractised: because such littlenesses were their natural bent, andwould have been evoked by anybody else, if I had left themslumbering. But Herbert's was a very different case, and it oftencaused me a twinge to think that I had done him evil service incrowding his sparely-furnished chambers with incongruous upholsterywork, and placing the canary-breasted Avenger at his disposal.

So now, as an infallible way of making little ease great ease, Ibegan to contract a quantity of debt. I could hardly begin butHerbert must begin too, so he soon followed. At Startop'ssuggestion, we put ourselves down for election into a club calledThe Finches of the Grove: the object of which institution I havenever divined, if it were not that the members should dineexpensively once a fortnight, to quarrel among themselves as muchas possible after dinner, and to cause six waiters to get drunk onthe stairs. I Know that these gratifying social ends were soinvariably accomplished, that Herbert and I understood nothing elseto be referred to in the first standing toast of the society: whichran "Gentlemen, may the present promotion of good feeling everreign predominant among the Finches of the Grove."

The Finches spent their money foolishly (the Hotel we dined at wasin Covent-garden), and the first Finch I saw, when I had the honourof joining the Grove, was Bentley Drummle: at that time flounderingabout town in a cab of his own, and doing a great deal of damage tothe posts at the street corners. Occasionally, he shot himself outof his equipage head-foremost over the apron; and I saw him on oneoccasion deliver himself at the door of the Grove in thisunintentional way - like coals. But here I anticipate a little forI was not a Finch, and could not be, according to the sacred lawsof the society, until I came of age.

In my confidence in my own resources, I would willingly have takenHerbert's expenses on myself; but Herbert was proud, and I couldmake no such proposal to him. So, he got into difficulties in everydirection, and continued to look about him. When we gradually fellinto keeping late hours and late company, I noticed that he lookedabout him with a desponding eye at breakfast-time; that he began tolook about him more hopefully about mid-day; that he drooped whenhe came into dinner; that he seemed to descry Capital in thedistance rather clearly, after dinner; that he all but realizedCapital towards midnight; and that at about two o'clock in themorning, he became so deeply despondent again as to talk of buyinga rifle and going to America, with a general purpose of compellingbuffaloes to make his fortune.

I was usually at Hammersmith about half the week, and when I was atHammersmith I haunted Richmond: whereof separately by-and-by.Herbert would often come to Hammersmith when I was there, and Ithink at those seasons his father would occasionally have somepassing perception that the opening he was looking for, had notappeared yet. But in the general tumbling up of the family, histumbling out in life somewhere, was a thing to transact itselfsomehow. In the meantime Mr. Pocket grew greyer, and tried oftenerto lift himself out of his perplexities by the hair. While Mrs.Pocket tripped up the family with her footstool, read her book ofdignities, lost her pocket-handkerchief, told us about hergrandpapa, and taught the young idea how to shoot, by shooting itinto bed whenever it attracted her notice.

As I am now generalizing a period of my life with the object ofclearing my way before me, I can scarcely do so better than by atonce completing the description of our usual manners and customs atBarnard's Inn.

We spent as much money as we could, and got as little for it aspeople could make up their minds to give us. We were always more orless miserable, and most of our acquaintance were in the samecondition. There was a gay fiction among us that we were constantlyenjoying ourselves, and a skeleton truth that we never did. To thebest of my belief, our case was in the last aspect a rather commonone.

Every morning, with an air ever new, Herbert went into the City tolook about him. I often paid him a visit in the dark back-room inwhich he consorted with an ink-jar, a hat-peg, a coal-box, astring-box, an almanack, a desk and stool, and a ruler; and I donot remember that I ever saw him do anything else but look abouthim. If we all did what we undertake to do, as faithfully asHerbert did, we might live in a Republic of the Virtues. He hadnothing else to do, poor fellow, except at a certain hour of everyafternoon to "go to Lloyd's" - in observance of a ceremony ofseeing his principal, I think. He never did anything else inconnexion with Lloyd's that I could find out, except come backagain. When he felt his case unusually serious, and that hepositively must find an opening, he would go on 'Change at a busytime, and walk in and out, in a kind of gloomy country dancefigure, among the assembled magnates. "For," says Herbert to me,coming home to dinner on one of those special occasions, "I findthe truth to be, Handel, that an opening won't come to one, but onemust go to it - so I have been."

If we had been less attached to one another, I think we must havehated one another regularly every morning. I detested the chambersbeyond expression at that period of repentance, and could notendure the sight of the Avenger's livery: which had a moreexpensive and a less remunerative appearance then, than at anyother time in the four-and-twenty hours. As we got more and moreinto debt breakfast became a hollower and hollower form, and, beingon one occasion at breakfast-time threatened (by letter) with legalproceedings, "not unwholly unconnected," as my local paper mightput it, "with jewellery," I went so far as to seize the Avenger byhis blue collar and shake him off his feet - so that he wasactually in the air, like a booted Cupid - for presuming to supposethat we wanted a roll.

Title: Great Expectations
Author: Charles Dickens
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