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denied her nothing. Her father was a country gentleman down in your part of the
world, and was a brewer. I don't know why it should be a crack thing to be a
brewer; but it is indisputable that while you cannot possibly be genteel and
bake, you may be as genteel as never was and brew. You see it every day."
"Yet a gentleman may not keep a public-house; may he?" said I.
"Not on any account," returned Herbert; "but a public-house may keep a
gentleman. Well! Mr. Havisham was very rich and very proud. So was his
"Miss Havisham was an only child?" I hazarded.
"Stop a moment, I am coming to that. No, she was not an only child; she
had a half-brother. Her father privately married again - his cook, I rather
"I thought he was proud," said I.
"My good Handel, so he was. He married his second wife privately, because
he was proud, and in course of time she died. When she was dead, I apprehend he
first told his daughter what he had done, and then the son became a part of the
family, residing in the house you are acquainted with. As the son grew a young
man, he turned out riotous, extravagant, undutiful - altogether bad. At last
his father disinherited him; but he softened when he was dying, and left him
well off, though not nearly so well off as Miss Havisham. - Take another glass
of wine, and excuse my mentioning that society as a body does not expect one to
be so strictly conscientious in emptying one's glass, as to turn it bottom
upwards with the rim on one's nose."
I had been doing this, in an excess of attention to his recital. I thanked
him, and apologized. He said, "Not at all," and resumed.
"Miss Havisham was now an heiress, and you may suppose was looked after as
a great match. Her half-brother had now ample means again, but what with debts
and what with new madness wasted them most fearfully again. There were stronger
differences between him and her, than there had been between him and his father,
and it is suspected that he cherished a deep and mortal grudge against her, as
having influenced the father's anger. Now, I come to the cruel part of the
story - merely breaking off, my dear Handel, to remark that a dinner-napkin will
not go into a tumbler."
Why I was trying to pack mine into my tumbler, I am wholly unable to say.
I only know that I found myself, with a perseverance worthy of a much better
cause, making the most strenuous exertions to compress it within those limits.
Again I thanked him and apologized, and again he said in the cheerfullest
manner, "Not at all, I am sure!" and resumed.
"There appeared upon the scene - say at the races, or the public balls, or
anywhere else you like - a certain man, who made love to Miss Havisham. I never
saw him, for this happened five-and-twenty years ago (before you and I were,
Handel), but I have heard my father mention that he was a showy-man, and the
kind of man for the purpose. But that he was not to be, without ignorance or
prejudice, mistaken for a gentleman, my father most strongly asseverates;
because it is a principle of his that no man who was not a true gentleman at
heart, ever was, since the world began, a true gentleman in manner. He says, no
varnish can hide the grain of the wood; and that the more varnish you put on,
the more the grain will express itself. Well! This man pursued Miss Havisham
closely, and professed to be devoted to her. I believe she had not shown much
susceptibility up to that time; but all the susceptibility she possessed,
certainly came out then, and she passionately loved him. There is no doubt that
she perfectly idolized him. He practised on her affection in that systematic
way, that he got great sums of money from her, and he induced her to buy her
brother out of a share in the brewery (which had been weakly left him by his
father) at an immense price, on the plea that when he was her husband he must
hold and manage it all. Your guardian was not at that time in Miss Havisham's
councils, and she was too haughty and too much in love, to be advised by any
one. Her relations were poor and scheming, with the exception of my father; he
was poor enough, but not time-serving or jealous. The only independent one
among them, he warned her that she was doing too much for this man, and was
placing herself too unreservedly in his power. She took the first opportunity
of angrily ordering my father out of the house, in his presence, and my father
has never seen her since."
I thought of her having said, "Matthew will come and see me at last when I
am laid dead upon that table;" and I asked Herbert whether his father was so
inveterate against her?
"It's not that," said he, "but she charged him, in the presence of her
intended husband, with being disappointed in the hope of fawning upon her for
his own advancement, and, if he were to go to her now, it would look true - even
to him - and even to her. To return to the man and make an end of him. The
marriage day was fixed, the wedding dresses were bought, the wedding tour was
planned out, the wedding guests were invited. The day came, but not the
bridegroom. He wrote her a letter--"
"Which she received," I struck in, "when she was dressing for her marriage?
At twenty minutes to nine?"
"At the hour and minute," said Herbert, nodding, "at which she afterwards
stopped all the clocks. What was in it, further than that it most heartlessly
broke the marriage off, I can't tell you, because I don't know. When she
recovered from a bad illness that she had, she laid the whole place waste, as
you have seen it, and she has never since looked upon the light of day."
"Is that all the story?" I asked, after considering it.
"All I know of it; and indeed I only know so much, through piecing it out
for myself; for my father always avoids it, and, even when Miss Havisham invited
me to go there, told me no more of it than it was absolutely requisite I should
understand. But I have forgotten one thing. It has been supposed that the man
to whom she gave her misplaced confidence, acted throughout in concert with her
half-brother; that it was a conspiracy between them; and that they shared the
"I wonder he didn't marry her and get all the property," said I.
"He may have been married already, and her cruel mortification may have
been a part of her half-brother's scheme," said Herbert.
"Mind! I don't know that."
"What became of the two men?" I asked, after again considering the subject.
"They fell into deeper shame and degradation - if there can be deeper - and
"Are they alive now?"
"I don't know."
"You said just now, that Estella was not related to Miss Havisham, but
adopted. When adopted?"
Herbert shrugged his shoulders. "There has always been an Estella, since I
have heard of a Miss Havisham. I know no more. And now, Handel," said he,
finally throwing off the story as it were, "there is a perfectly open
understanding between us. All that I know about Miss Havisham, you know."
"And all that I know," I retorted, "you know."
"I fully believe it. So there can be no competition or perplexity between
you and me. And as to the condition on which you hold your advancement in life
- namely, that you are not to inquire or discuss to whom you owe it - you may be
very sure that it will never be encroached upon, or even approached, by me, or
by any one belonging to me."
In truth, he said this with so much delicacy, that I felt the subject done
with, even though I should be under his father's roof for years and years to
come. Yet he said it with so much meaning, too, that I felt he as perfectly
understood Miss Havisham to be my benefactress, as I understood the fact myself.
It had not occurred to me before, that he had led up to the theme for the
purpose of clearing it out of our way; but we were so much the lighter and
easier for having broached it, that I now perceived this to be the case. We
were very gay and sociable, and I asked him, in the course of conversation, what
he was? He replied, "A capitalist - an Insurer of Ships." I suppose he saw me
glancing about the room in search of some tokens of Shipping, or capital, for he
added, "In the City."
I had grand ideas of the wealth and importance of Insurers of Ships in the
City, and I began to think with awe, of having laid a young Insurer on his back,
blackened his enterprising eye, and cut his responsible head open. But, again,
there came upon me, for my relief, that odd impression that Herbert Pocket would
never be very successful or rich.
"I shall not rest satisfied with merely employing my capital in insuring
ships. I shall buy up some good Life Assurance shares, and cut into the
Direction. I shall also do a little in the mining way. None of these things
will interfere with my chartering a few thousand tons on my own account. I
think I shall trade," said he, leaning back in his chair, "to the East Indies,
for silks, shawls, spices, dyes, drugs, and precious woods. It's an interesting
"And the profits are large?" said I.
"Tremendous!" said he.
I wavered again, and began to think here were greater expectations than my
"I think I shall trade, also," said he, putting his thumbs in his waistcoat
pockets, "to the West Indies, for sugar, tobacco, and rum. Also to Ceylon,
specially for elephants' tusks."
"You will want a good many ships," said I.
"A perfect fleet," said he.
Quite overpowered by the magnificence of these transactions, I asked him
where the ships he insured mostly traded to at present?
"I haven't begun insuring yet," he replied. "I am looking about me."
Somehow, that pursuit seemed more in keeping with Barnard's Inn. I said
(in a tone of conviction), "Ah-h!"
"Yes. I am in a counting-house, and looking about me."
"Is a counting-house profitable?" I asked.
"To - do you mean to the young fellow who's in it?" he asked, in reply.
"Yes; to you."
"Why, n-no: not to me." He said this with the air of one carefully
reckoning up and striking a balance. "Not directly profitable. That is, it
doesn't pay me anything, and I have to - keep myself."
This certainly had not a profitable appearance, and I shook my head as if I
would imply that it would be difficult to lay by much accumulative capital from
such a source of income.
"But the thing is," said Herbert Pocket, "that you look about you. That's
the grand thing. You are in a counting-house, you know, and you look about
It struck me as a singular implication that you couldn't be out of a
counting-house, you know, and look about you; but I silently deferred to his
"Then the time comes," said Herbert, "when you see your opening. And you go
in, and you swoop upon it and you make your capital, and then there you are!
When you have once made your capital, you have nothing to do but employ it."
This was very like his way of conducting that encounter in the garden; very
like. His manner of bearing his poverty, too, exactly corresponded to his
manner of bearing that defeat. It seemed to me that he took all blows and
buffets now, with just the same air as he had taken mine then. It was evident
that he had nothing around him but the simplest necessaries, for everything that
I remarked upon turned out to have been sent in on my account from the
coffee-house or somewhere else.
Yet, having already made his fortune in his own mind, he was so unassuming
with it that I felt quite grateful to him for not being puffed up. It was a
pleasant addition to his naturally pleasant ways, and we got on famously. In
the evening we went out for a walk in the streets, and went half-price to the
Theatre; and next day we went to church at Westminster Abbey, and in the
afternoon we walked in the Parks; and I wondered who shod all the horses there,
and wished Joe did.
On a moderate computation, it was many months, that Sunday, since I had
left Joe and Biddy. The space interposed between myself and them, partook of
that expansion, and our marshes were any distance off. That I could have been
at our old church in my old church-going clothes, on the very last Sunday that
ever was, seemed a combination of impossibilities, geographical and social,
solar and lunar. Yet in the London streets, so crowded with people and so
brilliantly lighted in the dusk of evening, there were depressing hints of
reproaches for that I had put the poor old kitchen at home so far away; and in
the dead of night, the footsteps of some incapable impostor of a porter mooning
about Barnard's Inn, under pretence of watching it, fell hollow on my heart.
On the Monday morning at a quarter before nine, Herbert went to the
counting-house to report himself - to look about him, too, I suppose - and I
bore him company. He was to come away in an hour or two to attend me to
Hammersmith, and I was to wait about for him. It appeared to me that the eggs
from which young Insurers were hatched, were incubated in dust and heat, like
the eggs of ostriches, judging from the places to which those incipient giants
repaired on a Monday morning. Nor did the counting-house where Herbert
assisted, show in my eyes as at all a good Observatory; being a back second
floor up a yard, of a grimy presence in all particulars, and with a look into
another back second floor, rather than a look out.
I waited about until it was noon, and I went upon 'Change, and I saw fluey