Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 Next page
knuckles against the pale young gentleman's teeth, and I twisted my imagination
into a thousand tangles, as I devised incredible ways of accounting for that
damnatory circumstance when I should be haled before the Judges.
When the day came round for my return to the scene of the deed of violence,
my terrors reached their height. Whether myrmidons of Justice, specially sent
down from London, would be lying in ambush behind the gate? Whether Miss
Havisham, preferring to take personal vengeance for an outrage done to her
house, might rise in those grave-clothes of hers, draw a pistol, and shoot me
dead? Whether suborned boys - a numerous band of mercenaries - might be engaged
to fall upon me in the brewery, and cuff me until I was no more? It was high
testimony to my confidence in the spirit of the pale young gentleman, that I
never imagined him accessory to these retaliations; they always came into my
mind as the acts of injudicious relatives of his, goaded on by the state of his
visage and an indignant sympathy with the family features.
However, go to Miss Havisham's I must, and go I did. And behold! nothing
came of the late struggle. It was not alluded to in any way, and no pale young
gentleman was to be discovered on the premises. I found the same gate open, and
I explored the garden, and even looked in at the windows of the detached house;
but, my view was suddenly stopped by the closed shutters within, and all was
lifeless. Only in the corner where the combat had taken place, could I detect
any evidence of the young gentleman's existence. There were traces of his gore
in that spot, and I covered them with garden-mould from the eye of man.
On the broad landing between Miss Havisham's own room and that other room
in which the long table was laid out, I saw a garden-chair - a light chair on
wheels, that you pushed from behind. It had been placed there since my last
visit, and I entered, that same day, on a regular occupation of pushing Miss
Havisham in this chair (when she was tired of walking with her hand upon my
shoulder) round her own room, and across the landing, and round the other room.
Over and over and over again, we would make these journeys, and sometimes they
would last as long as three hours at a stretch. I insensibly fall into a
general mention of these journeys as numerous, because it was at once settled
that I should return every alternate day at noon for these purposes, and because
I am now going to sum up a period of at least eight or ten months.
As we began to be more used to one another, Miss Havisham talked more to
me, and asked me such questions as what had I learnt and what was I going to be?
I told her I was going to be apprenticed to Joe, I believed; and I enlarged
upon my knowing nothing and wanting to know everything, in the hope that she
might offer some help towards that desirable end. But, she did not; on the
contrary, she seemed to prefer my being ignorant. Neither did she ever give me
any money - or anything but my daily dinner - nor ever stipulate that I should
be paid for my services.
Estella was always about, and always let me in and out, but never told me I
might kiss her again. Sometimes, she would coldly tolerate me; sometimes, she
would condescend to me; sometimes, she would be quite familiar with me;
sometimes, she would tell me energetically that she hated me. Miss Havisham
would often ask me in a whisper, or when we were alone, "Does she grow prettier
and prettier, Pip?" And when I said yes (for indeed she did), would seem to
enjoy it greedily. Also, when we played at cards Miss Havisham would look on,
with a miserly relish of Estella's moods, whatever they were. And sometimes,
when her moods were so many and so contradictory of one another that I was
puzzled what to say or do, Miss Havisham would embrace her with lavish fondness,
murmuring something in her ear that sounded like "Break their hearts my pride
and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy!"
There was a song Joe used to hum fragments of at the forge, of which the
burden was Old Clem. This was not a very ceremonious way of rendering homage to
a patron saint; but, I believe Old Clem stood in that relation towards smiths.
It was a song that imitated the measure of beating upon iron, and was a mere
lyrical excuse for the introduction of Old Clem's respected name. Thus, you
were to hammer boys round - Old Clem! With a thump and a sound - Old Clem! Beat
it out, beat it out - Old Clem! With a clink for the stout - Old Clem! Blow
the fire, blow the fire - Old Clem! Roaring dryer, soaring higher - Old Clem!
One day soon after the appearance of the chair, Miss Havisham suddenly saying to
me, with the impatient movement of her fingers, "There, there, there! Sing!" I
was surprised into crooning this ditty as I pushed her over the floor. It
happened so to catch her fancy, that she took it up in a low brooding voice as
if she were singing in her sleep. After that, it became customary with us to
have it as we moved about, and Estella would often join in; though the whole
strain was so subdued, even when there were three of us, that it made less noise
in the grim old house than the lightest breath of wind.
What could I become with these surroundings? How could my character fail
to be influenced by them? Is it to be wondered at if my thoughts were dazed, as
my eyes were, when I came out into the natural light from the misty yellow
Perhaps, I might have told Joe about the pale young gentleman, if I had not
previously been betrayed into those enormous inventions to which I had
confessed. Under the circumstances, I felt that Joe could hardly fail to
discern in the pale young gentleman, an appropriate passenger to be put into the
black velvet coach; therefore, I said nothing of him. Besides: that shrinking
from having Miss Havisham and Estella discussed, which had come upon me in the
beginning, grew much more potent as time went on. I reposed complete confidence
in no one but Biddy; but, I told poor Biddy everything. Why it came natural to
me to do so, and why Biddy had a deep concern in everything I told her, I did
not know then, though I think I know now.
Meanwhile, councils went on in the kitchen at home, fraught with almost
insupportable aggravation to my exasperated spirit. That ass, Pumblechook, used
often to come over of a night for the purpose of discussing my prospects with my
sister; and I really do believe (to this hour with less penitence than I ought
to feel), that if these hands could have taken a linchpin out of his
chaise-cart, they would have done it. The miserable man was a man of that
confined stolidity of mind, that he could not discuss my prospects without
having me before him - as it were, to operate upon - and he would drag me up
from my stool (usually by the collar) where I was quiet in a corner, and,
putting me before the fire as if I were going to be cooked, would begin by
saying, "Now, Mum, here is this boy! Here is this boy which you brought up by
hand. Hold up your head, boy, and be for ever grateful unto them which so did
do. Now, Mum, with respections to this boy!" And then he would rumple my hair
the wrong way - which from my earliest remembrance, as already hinted, I have in
my soul denied the right of any fellow-creature to do - and would hold me before
him by the sleeve: a spectacle of imbecility only to be equalled by himself.
Then, he and my sister would pair off in such nonsensical speculations
about Miss Havisham, and about what she would do with me and for me, that I used
to want - quite painfully - to burst into spiteful tears, fly at Pumblechook,
and pummel him all over. In these dialogues, my sister spoke to me as if she
were morally wrenching one of my teeth out at every reference; while Pumblechook
himself, self-constituted my patron, would sit supervising me with a
depreciatory eye, like the architect of my fortunes who thought himself engaged
on a very unremunerative job.
In these discussions, Joe bore no part. But he was often talked at, while
they were in progress, by reason of Mrs. Joe's perceiving that he was not
favourable to my being taken from the forge. I was fully old enough now, to be
apprenticed to Joe; and when Joe sat with the poker on his knees thoughtfully
raking out the ashes between the lower bars, my sister would so distinctly
construe that innocent action into opposition on his part, that she would dive
at him, take the poker out of his hands, shake him, and put it away. There was
a most irritating end to every one of these debates. All in a moment, with
nothing to lead up to it, my sister would stop herself in a yawn, and catching
sight of me as it were incidentally, would swoop upon me with, "Come! there's
enough of you! You get along to bed; you've given trouble enough for one night,
I hope!" As if I had besought them as a favour to bother my life out.
We went on in this way for a long time, and it seemed likely that we should
continue to go on in this way for a long time, when, one day, Miss Havisham
stopped short as she and I were walking, she leaning on my shoulder; and said
with some displeasure:
"You are growing tall, Pip!"
I thought it best to hint, through the medium of a meditative look, that
this might be occasioned by circumstances over which I had no control.
She said no more at the time; but, she presently stopped and looked at me
again; and presently again; and after that, looked frowning and moody. On the
next day of my attendance when our usual exercise was over, and I had landed her
at her dressingtable, she stayed me with a movement of her impatient fingers:
"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 here with you,
and bring your indentures, do you think?"
I signified that I had no doubt he would take it as an honour to be asked.
"Then let him come."
"At any particular time, Miss Havisham?"
"There, there! I know nothing about times. Let him come soon, and come
along with you."
When I got home at night, and delivered this message for Joe, my sister
"went on the Rampage," in a more alarming degree than at any previous period.
She asked me and Joe whether we supposed she was door-mats under our feet, and
how we dared to use her so, and what company we graciously thought she was fit
for? When she had exhausted a torrent of such inquiries, she threw a
candlestick at Joe, burst into a loud sobbing, got out the dustpan - which was
always a very bad sign - put on her coarse apron, and began cleaning up to a
terrible extent. Not satisfied with a dry cleaning, she took to a pail and
scrubbing-brush, and cleaned us out 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 at
once? Joe offered no answer, poor fellow, but stood feeling his whisker and
looking dejectedly at me, as if he thought it really might have been a better
It was a trial to my feelings, on the next day but one, to see Joe arraying
himself in his Sunday clothes to accompany me to Miss Havisham's. However, as
he thought his court-suit necessary to the occasion, it was not for me tell him
that he looked far better in his working dress; the rather, because I knew he
made himself so dreadfully uncomfortable, entirely on my account, and that it
was for me he pulled up his shirt-collar so very high behind, that it made the
hair on the crown of his head stand up like a tuft of feathers.
At breakfast time my sister declared her intention of going to town with
us, and being left at Uncle Pumblechook's and called for "when we had done with
our fine ladies" - a way of putting the case, from which Joe appeared inclined
to augur the worst. The forge was shut up for the day, and Joe inscribed in
chalk upon the door (as it was his custom to do on the very rare occasions when
he was not at work) the monosyllable HOUT, accompanied by a sketch of an arrow
supposed to be flying in the direction he had taken.
We walked to town, my sister leading the way in a very large beaver bonnet,
and carrying a basket like the Great Seal of England in plaited straw, a pair of
pattens, a spare shawl, and an umbrella, though it was a fine bright day. I am
not quite clear whether these articles were carried penitentially or
ostentatiously; but, I rather think they were displayed as articles of property
- much as Cleopatra or any other sovereign lady on the Rampage might exhibit her
wealth in a pageant or procession.
When we came to Pumblechook's, my sister bounced in and left us. As it was
almost noon, Joe and I held straight on to Miss Havisham's house. Estella
opened the gate as usual, and, the moment she appeared, Joe took his hat off and
stood weighing it by the brim in both his hands: as if he had some urgent
reason in his mind for being particular to half a quarter of an ounce.
Estella took no notice of either of us, but led us the way that I knew so
well. I followed next to her, and Joe came last. When I looked back at Joe in
the long passage, he was still weighing his hat with the greatest care, and was
coming after us in long strides on the tips of his toes.
Estella told me we were both to go in, so I took Joe by the coat-cuff and
conducted him into Miss Havisham's presence. She was seated at her
dressing-table, and looked round at us immediately.
"Oh!" said she to Joe. "You are the husband of the sister of this boy?"
I could hardly have imagined dear old Joe looking so unlike himself or 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 of this boy?"
It was very aggravating; but, throughout the interview Joe persisted in
addressing Me instead of Miss Havisham.
"Which I meantersay, Pip," Joe now observed in a manner that was at once
expressive of forcible argumentation, strict confidence, and great politeness,
"as I hup and married your sister, and I were at the time what you might call
(if you was anyways inclined) a single man."