Charles Dickens >> Great Expectations (page 42)

He was very much pleased by my asking if I might sleep in my ownlittle room, and I was pleased too; for, I felt that I had donerather a great thing in making the request. When the shadows ofevening were closing in, I took an opportunity of getting into thegarden with Biddy for a little talk.

"Biddy," said I, "I think you might have written to me about thesesad matters."

"Do you, Mr. Pip?" said Biddy. "I should have written if I hadthought that."

"Don't suppose that I mean to be unkind, Biddy, when I say Iconsider that you ought to have thought that."

"Do you, Mr. Pip?"

She was so quiet, and had such an orderly, good, and pretty waywith her, that I did not like the thought of making her cry again.After looking a little at her downcast eyes as she walked besideme, I gave up that point.

"I suppose it will be difficult for you to remain here now, Biddydear?"

"Oh! I can't do so, Mr. Pip," said Biddy, in a tone of regret, butstill of quiet conviction. "I have been speaking to Mrs. Hubble, andI am going to her to-morrow. I hope we shall be able to take somecare of Mr. Gargery, together, until he settles down."

"How are you going to live, Biddy? If you want any mo--"

"How am I going to live?" repeated Biddy, striking in, with amomentary flush upon her face. "I'll tell you, Mr. Pip. I am goingto try to get the place of mistress in the new school nearlyfinished here. I can be well recommended by all the neighbours, andI hope I can be industrious and patient, and teach myself while Iteach others. You know, Mr. Pip," pursued Biddy, with a smile, asshe raised her eyes to my face, "the new schools are not like theold, but I learnt a good deal from you after that time, and havehad time since then to improve."

"I think you would always improve, Biddy, under any circumstances."

"Ah! Except in my bad side of human nature," murmured Biddy.

It was not so much a reproach, as an irresistible thinking aloud.Well! I thought I would give up that point too. So, I walked alittle further with Biddy, looking silently at her downcast eyes.

"I have not heard the particulars of my sister's death, Biddy."

"They are very slight, poor thing. She had been in one of her badstates - though they had got better of late, rather than worse -for four days, when she came out of it in the evening, just atteatime, and said quite plainly, 'Joe.' As she had never said anyword for a long while, I ran and fetched in Mr. Gargery from theforge. She made signs to me that she wanted him to sit down closeto her, and wanted me to put her arms round his neck. So I put themround his neck, and she laid her head down on his shoulder quitecontent and satisfied. And so she presently said 'Joe' again, andonce 'Pardon,' and once 'Pip.' And so she never lifted her head upany more, and it was just an hour later when we laid it down on herown bed, because we found she was gone."

Biddy cried; the darkening garden, and the lane, and the stars thatwere coming out, were blurred in my own sight.

"Nothing was ever discovered, Biddy?"


"Do you know what is become of Orlick?"

"I should think from the colour of his clothes that he is workingin the quarries."

"Of course you have seen him then? - Why are you looking at thatdark tree in the lane?"

"I saw him there, on the night she died."

"That was not the last time either, Biddy?"

"No; I have seen him there, since we have been walking here. - Itis of no use," said Biddy, laying her hand upon my arm, as I wasfor running out, "you know I would not deceive you; he was notthere a minute, and he is gone."

It revived my utmost indignation to find that she was still pursuedby this fellow, and I felt inveterate against him. I told her so,and told her that I would spend any money or take any pains todrive him out of that country. By degrees she led me into moretemperate talk, and she told me how Joe loved me, and how Joe nevercomplained of anything - she didn't say, of me; she had no need; Iknew what she meant - but ever did his duty in his way of life,with a strong hand, a quiet tongue, and a gentle heart.

"Indeed, it would be hard to say too much for him," said I; "andBiddy, we must often speak of these things, for of course I shallbe often down here now. I am not going to leave poor Joe alone."

Biddy said never a single word.

"Biddy, don't you hear me?"

"Yes, Mr. Pip."

"Not to mention your calling me Mr. Pip - which appears to me to bein bad taste, Biddy - what do you mean?"

"What do I mean?" asked Biddy, timidly.

"Biddy," said I, in a virtuously self-asserting manner, "I mustrequest to know what you mean by this?"

"By this?" said Biddy.

"Now, don't echo," I retorted. "You used not to echo, Biddy."

"Used not!" said Biddy. "O Mr. Pip! Used!"

Well! I rather thought I would give up that point too. Afteranother silent turn in the garden, I fell back on the mainposition.

"Biddy," said I, "I made a remark respecting my coming down hereoften, to see Joe, which you received with a marked silence. Havethe goodness, Biddy, to tell me why."

"Are you quite sure, then, that you WILL come to see him often?"asked Biddy, stopping in the narrow garden walk, and looking at meunder the stars with a clear and honest eye.

"Oh dear me!" said I, as if I found myself compelled to give upBiddy in despair. "This really is a very bad side of humannature! Don't say any more, if you please, Biddy. This shocks mevery much."

For which cogent reason I kept Biddy at a distance during supper,and, when I went up to my own old little room, took as stately aleave of her as I could, in my murmuring soul, deem reconcilablewith the churchyard and the event of the day. As often as I wasrestless in the night, and that was every quarter of an hour, Ireflected what an unkindness, what an injury, what an injustice,Biddy had done me.

Early in the morning, I was to go. Early in the morning, I was out,and looking in, unseen, at one of the wooden windows of the forge.There I stood, for minutes, looking at Joe, already at work with aglow of health and strength upon his face that made it show as ifthe bright sun of the life in store for him were shining on it.

"Good-bye, dear Joe! - No, don't wipe it off - for God's sake, giveme your blackened hand! - I shall be down soon, and often."

"Never too soon, sir," said Joe, "and never too often, Pip!"

Biddy was waiting for me at the kitchen door, with a mug of newmilk and a crust of bread. "Biddy," said I, when I gave her my handat parting, "I am not angry, but I am hurt."

"No, don't be hurt," she pleaded quite pathetically; "let only mebe hurt, if I have been ungenerous."

Once more, the mists were rising as I walked away. If theydisclosed to me, as I suspect they did, that I should not comeback, and that Biddy was quite right, all I can say is - they werequite right too.

Chapter 36

Herbert and I went on from bad to worse, in the way of increasingour debts, looking into our affairs, leaving Margins, and the likeexemplary transactions; and Time went on, whether or no, as he hasa way of doing; and I came of age - in fulfilment of Herbert'sprediction, that I should do so before I knew where I was.

Herbert himself had come of age, eight months before me. As he hadnothing else than his majority to come into, the event did not makea profound sensation in Barnard's Inn. But we had looked forward tomy one-and-twentieth birthday, with a crowd of speculations andanticipations, for we had both considered that my guardian couldhardly help saying something definite on that occasion.

I had taken care to have it well understood in Little Britain, whenmy birthday was. On the day before it, I received an official notefrom Wemmick, informing me that Mr. Jaggers would be glad if I wouldcall upon him at five in the afternoon of the auspicious day. Thisconvinced us that something great was to happen, and threw me intoan unusual flutter when I repaired to my guardian's office, a modelof punctuality.

In the outer office Wemmick offered me his congratulations, andincidentally rubbed the side of his nose with a folded piece oftissuepaper that I liked the look of. But he said nothingrespecting it, and motioned me with a nod into my guardian's room.It was November, and my guardian was standing before his fireleaning his back against the chimney-piece, with his hands underhis coattails.

"Well, Pip," said he, "I must call you Mr. Pip to-day.Congratulations, Mr. Pip."

We shook hands - he was always a remarkably short shaker - and Ithanked him.

"Take a chair, Mr. Pip," said my guardian.

As I sat down, and he preserved his attitude and bent his brows athis boots, I felt at a disadvantage, which reminded me of that oldtime when I had been put upon a tombstone. The two ghastly casts onthe shelf were not far from him, and their expression was as ifthey were making a stupid apoplectic attempt to attend to theconversation.

"Now my young friend," my guardian began, as if I were a witness inthe box, "I am going to have a word or two with you."

"If you please, sir."

"What do you suppose," said Mr. Jaggers, bending forward to look atthe ground, and then throwing his head back to look at the ceiling,"what do you suppose you are living at the rate of?"

"At the rate of, sir?"

"At," repeated Mr. Jaggers, still looking at the ceiling, "the -rate - of?" And then looked all round the room, and paused with hispocket-handkerchief in his hand, half way to his nose.

I had looked into my affairs so often, that I had thoroughlydestroyed any slight notion I might ever have had of theirbearings. Reluctantly, I confessed myself quite unable to answerthe question. This reply seemed agreeable to Mr. Jaggers, who said,"I thought so!" and blew his nose with an air of satisfaction.

"Now, I have asked you a question, my friend," said Mr. Jaggers."Have you anything to ask me?"

"Of course it would be a great relief to me to ask you severalquestions, sir; but I remember your prohibition."

"Ask one," said Mr. Jaggers.

"Is my benefactor to be made known to me to-day?"

"No. Ask another."

"Is that confidence to be imparted to me soon?"

"Waive that, a moment," said Mr. Jaggers, "and ask another."

I looked about me, but there appeared to be now no possible escapefrom the inquiry, "Have - I - anything to receive, sir?" On that,Mr. Jaggers said, triumphantly, "I thought we should come to it!"and called to Wemmick to give him that piece of paper. Wemmickappeared, handed it in, and disappeared.

"Now, Mr. Pip," said Mr. Jaggers, "attend, if you please. You havebeen drawing pretty freely here; your name occurs pretty often inWemmick's cash-book; but you are in debt, of course?"

"I am afraid I must say yes, sir."

"You know you must say yes; don't you?" said Mr. Jaggers.

"Yes, sir."

"I don't ask you what you owe, because you don't know; and if youdid know, you wouldn't tell me; you would say less. Yes, yes, myfriend," cried Mr. Jaggers, waving his forefinger to stop me, as Imade a show of protesting: "it's likely enough that you think youwouldn't, but you would. You'll excuse me, but I know better thanyou. Now, take this piece of paper in your hand. You have got it?Very good. Now, unfold it and tell me what it is."

"This is a bank-note," said I, "for five hundred pounds."

"That is a bank-note," repeated Mr. Jaggers, "for five hundredpounds. And a very handsome sum of money too, I think. You considerit so?"

"How could I do otherwise!"

"Ah! But answer the question," said Mr. Jaggers.


"You consider it, undoubtedly, a handsome sum of money. Now, thathandsome sum of money, Pip, is your own. It is a present to you onthis day, in earnest of your expectations. And at the rate of thathandsome sum of money per annum, and at no higher rate, you are tolive until the donor of the whole appears. That is to say, you willnow take your money affairs entirely into your own hands, and youwill draw from Wemmick one hundred and twenty-five pounds perquarter, until you are in communication with the fountain-head, andno longer with the mere agent. As I have told you before, I am themere agent. I execute my instructions, and I am paid for doing so.I think them injudicious, but I am not paid for giving any opinionon their merits."

I was beginning to express my gratitude to my benefactor for thegreat liberality with which I was treated, when Mr. Jaggers stoppedme. "I am not paid, Pip," said he, coolly, "to carry your words toany one;" and then gathered up his coat-tails, as he had gatheredup the subject, and stood frowning at his boots as if he suspectedthem of designs against him.

After a pause, I hinted:

"There was a question just now, Mr. Jaggers, which you desired me towaive for a moment. I hope I am doing nothing wrong in asking itagain?"

"What is it?" said he.

I might have known that he would never help me out; but it took meaback to have to shape the question afresh, as if it were quitenew. "Is it likely," I said, after hesitating, "that my patron, thefountain-head you have spoken of, Mr. Jaggers, will soon--" there Idelicately stopped.

"Will soon what?" asked Mr. Jaggers. "That's no question as itstands, you know."

Title: Great Expectations
Author: Charles Dickens
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