Deeming Sunday the best day for taking Mr. Wemmick’s Walworth sentiments, _evoted the next ensuing Sunday afternoon to a pilgrimage to the Castle. O_rriving before the battlements, I found the Union Jack flying and th_rawbridge up; but undeterred by this show of defiance and resistance, I ran_t the gate, and was admitted in a most pacific manner by the Aged.
“My son, sir,” said the old man, after securing the drawbridge, “rather had i_n his mind that you might happen to drop in, and he left word that he woul_oon be home from his afternoon’s walk. He is very regular in his walks, is m_on. Very regular in everything, is my son.”
I nodded at the old gentleman as Wemmick himself might have nodded, and w_ent in and sat down by the fireside.
“You made acquaintance with my son, sir,” said the old man, in his chirpin_ay, while he warmed his hands at the blaze, “at his office, I expect?” _odded. “Hah! I have heerd that my son is a wonderful hand at his business, sir?” I nodded hard. “Yes; so they tell me. His business is the Law?” I nodde_arder. “Which makes it more surprising in my son,” said the old man, “for h_as not brought up to the Law, but to the Wine-Coopering.”
Curious to know how the old gentleman stood informed concerning the reputatio_f Mr. Jaggers, I roared that name at him. He threw me into the greates_onfusion by laughing heartily and replying in a very sprightly manner, “No, to be sure; you’re right.” And to this hour I have not the faintest notio_hat he meant, or what joke he thought I had made.
As I could not sit there nodding at him perpetually, without making some othe_ttempt to interest him, I shouted at inquiry whether his own calling in lif_ad been “the Wine-Coopering.” By dint of straining that term out of mysel_everal times and tapping the old gentleman on the chest to associate it wit_im, I at last succeeded in making my meaning understood.
“No,” said the old gentleman; “the warehousing, the warehousing. First, ove_onder;” he appeared to mean up the chimney, but I believe he intended t_efer me to Liverpool; “and then in the City of London here. However, havin_n infirmity—for I am hard of hearing, sir—”
I expressed in pantomime the greatest astonishment.
“—Yes, hard of hearing; having that infirmity coming upon me, my son he wen_nto the Law, and he took charge of me, and he by little and little made ou_his elegant and beautiful property. But returning to what you said, yo_now,” pursued the old man, again laughing heartily, “what I say is, No to b_ure; you’re right.”
I was modestly wondering whether my utmost ingenuity would have enabled me t_ay anything that would have amused him half as much as this imaginar_leasantry, when I was startled by a sudden click in the wall on one side o_he chimney, and the ghostly tumbling open of a little wooden flap with “John” upon it. The old man, following my eyes, cried with great triumph, “My son’_ome home!” and we both went out to the drawbridge.
It was worth any money to see Wemmick waving a salute to me from the othe_ide of the moat, when we might have shaken hands across it with the greates_ase. The Aged was so delighted to work the drawbridge, that I made no offe_o assist him, but stood quiet until Wemmick had come across, and ha_resented me to Miss Skiffins; a lady by whom he was accompanied.
Miss Skiffins was of a wooden appearance, and was, like her escort, in th_ost-office branch of the service. She might have been some two or three year_ounger than Wemmick, and I judged her to stand possessed of portabl_roperty. The cut of her dress from the waist upward, both before and behind, made her figure very like a boy’s kite; and I might have pronounced her gown _ittle too decidedly orange, and her gloves a little too intensely green. Bu_he seemed to be a good sort of fellow, and showed a high regard for the Aged.
I was not long in discovering that she was a frequent visitor at the Castle; for, on our going in, and my complimenting Wemmick on his ingeniou_ontrivance for announcing himself to the Aged, he begged me to give m_ttention for a moment to the other side of the chimney, and disappeared.
Presently another click came, and another little door tumbled open with “Mis_kiffins” on it; then Miss Skiffins shut up and John tumbled open; then Mis_kiffins and John both tumbled open together, and finally shut up together. O_emmick’s return from working these mechanical appliances, I expressed th_reat admiration with which I regarded them, and he said, “Well, you know, they’re both pleasant and useful to the Aged. And by George, sir, it’s a thin_orth mentioning, that of all the people who come to this gate, the secret o_hose pulls is only known to the Aged, Miss Skiffins, and me!”
“And Mr. Wemmick made them,” added Miss Skiffins, “with his own hands out o_is own head.”
While Miss Skiffins was taking off her bonnet (she retained her green glove_uring the evening as an outward and visible sign that there was company), Wemmick invited me to take a walk with him round the property, and see how th_sland looked in wintertime. Thinking that he did this to give me a_pportunity of taking his Walworth sentiments, I seized the opportunity a_oon as we were out of the Castle.
Having thought of the matter with care, I approached my subject as if I ha_ever hinted at it before. I informed Wemmick that I was anxious in behalf o_erbert Pocket, and I told him how we had first met, and how we had fought. _lanced at Herbert’s home, and at his character, and at his having no mean_ut such as he was dependent on his father for; those, uncertain an_npunctual. I alluded to the advantages I had derived in my first rawness an_gnorance from his society, and I confessed that I feared I had but ill repai_hem, and that he might have done better without me and my expectations.
Keeping Miss Havisham in the background at a great distance, I still hinted a_he possibility of my having competed with him in his prospects, and at th_ertainty of his possessing a generous soul, and being far above any mea_istrusts, retaliations, or designs. For all these reasons (I told Wemmick), and because he was my young companion and friend, and I had a great affectio_or him, I wished my own good fortune to reflect some rays upon him, an_herefore I sought advice from Wemmick’s experience and knowledge of men an_ffairs, how I could best try with my resources to help Herbert to som_resent income,—say of a hundred a year, to keep him in good hope an_eart,—and gradually to buy him on to some small partnership. I begge_emmick, in conclusion, to understand that my help must always be rendere_ithout Herbert’s knowledge or suspicion, and that there was no one else i_he world with whom I could advise. I wound up by laying my hand upon hi_houlder, and saying, “I can’t help confiding in you, though I know it must b_roublesome to you; but that is your fault, in having ever brought me here.”
Wemmick was silent for a little while, and then said with a kind of start, “Well you know, Mr. Pip, I must tell you one thing. This is devilish good o_ou.”
“Say you’ll help me to be good then,” said I.
“Ecod,” replied Wemmick, shaking his head, “that’s not my trade.”
“Nor is this your trading-place,” said I.
“You are right,” he returned. “You hit the nail on the head. Mr. Pip, I’ll pu_n my considering-cap, and I think all you want to do may be done by degrees.
Skiffins (that’s her brother) is an accountant and agent. I’ll look him up an_o to work for you.”
“I thank you ten thousand times.”
“On the contrary,” said he, “I thank you, for though we are strictly in ou_rivate and personal capacity, still it may be mentioned that there ar_ewgate cobwebs about, and it brushes them away.”
After a little further conversation to the same effect, we returned into th_astle where we found Miss Skiffins preparing tea. The responsible duty o_aking the toast was delegated to the Aged, and that excellent old gentlema_as so intent upon it that he seemed to me in some danger of melting his eyes.
It was no nominal meal that we were going to make, but a vigorous reality. Th_ged prepared such a hay-stack of buttered toast, that I could scarcely se_im over it as it simmered on an iron stand hooked on to the top-bar; whil_iss Skiffins brewed such a jorum of tea, that the pig in the back premise_ecame strongly excited, and repeatedly expressed his desire to participate i_he entertainment.
The flag had been struck, and the gun had been fired, at the right moment o_ime, and I felt as snugly cut off from the rest of Walworth as if the moa_ere thirty feet wide by as many deep. Nothing disturbed the tranquillity o_he Castle, but the occasional tumbling open of John and Miss Skiffins: whic_ittle doors were a prey to some spasmodic infirmity that made m_ympathetically uncomfortable until I got used to it. I inferred from th_ethodical nature of Miss Skiffins’s arrangements that she made tea ther_very Sunday night; and I rather suspected that a classic brooch she wore, representing the profile of an undesirable female with a very straight nos_nd a very new moon, was a piece of portable property that had been given he_y Wemmick.
We ate the whole of the toast, and drank tea in proportion, and it wa_elightful to see how warm and greasy we all got after it. The Age_specially, might have passed for some clean old chief of a savage tribe, jus_iled. After a short pause of repose, Miss Skiffins—in the absence of th_ittle servant who, it seemed, retired to the bosom of her family on Sunda_fternoons—washed up the tea-things, in a trifling lady-like amateur manne_hat compromised none of us. Then, she put on her gloves again, and we dre_ound the fire, and Wemmick said, “Now, Aged Parent, tip us the paper.”
Wemmick explained to me while the Aged got his spectacles out, that this wa_ccording to custom, and that it gave the old gentleman infinite satisfactio_o read the news aloud. “I won’t offer an apology,” said Wemmick, “for h_sn’t capable of many pleasures— are you, Aged P.?”
“All right, John, all right,” returned the old man, seeing himself spoken to.
“Only tip him a nod every now and then when he looks off his paper,” sai_emmick, “and he’ll be as happy as a king. We are all attention, Aged One.”
“All right, John, all right!” returned the cheerful old man, so busy and s_leased, that it really was quite charming.
The Aged’s reading reminded me of the classes at Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt’s, with the pleasanter peculiarity that it seemed to come through a keyhole. A_e wanted the candles close to him, and as he was always on the verge o_utting either his head or the newspaper into them, he required as muc_atching as a powder-mill. But Wemmick was equally untiring and gentle in hi_igilance, and the Aged read on, quite unconscious of his many rescues.
Whenever he looked at us, we all expressed the greatest interest an_mazement, and nodded until he resumed again.
As Wemmick and Miss Skiffins sat side by side, and as I sat in a shadow_orner, I observed a slow and gradual elongation of Mr. Wemmick’s mouth, powerfully suggestive of his slowly and gradually stealing his arm round Mis_kiffins’s waist. In course of time I saw his hand appear on the other side o_iss Skiffins; but at that moment Miss Skiffins neatly stopped him with th_reen glove, unwound his arm again as if it were an article of dress, and wit_he greatest deliberation laid it on the table before her. Miss Skiffins’_omposure while she did this was one of the most remarkable sights I have eve_een, and if I could have thought the act consistent with abstraction of mind, I should have deemed that Miss Skiffins performed it mechanically.
By and by, I noticed Wemmick’s arm beginning to disappear again, and graduall_ading out of view. Shortly afterwards, his mouth began to widen again. Afte_n interval of suspense on my part that was quite enthralling and almos_ainful, I saw his hand appear on the other side of Miss Skiffins. Instantly, Miss Skiffins stopped it with the neatness of a placid boxer, took off tha_irdle or cestus as before, and laid it on the table. Taking the table t_epresent the path of virtue, I am justified in stating that during the whol_ime of the Aged’s reading, Wemmick’s arm was straying from the path of virtu_nd being recalled to it by Miss Skiffins.
At last, the Aged read himself into a light slumber. This was the time fo_emmick to produce a little kettle, a tray of glasses, and a black bottle wit_ porcelain-topped cork, representing some clerical dignitary of a rubicun_nd social aspect. With the aid of these appliances we all had something war_o drink, including the Aged, who was soon awake again. Miss Skiffins mixed, and I observed that she and Wemmick drank out of one glass. Of course I kne_etter than to offer to see Miss Skiffins home, and under the circumstances _hought I had best go first; which I did, taking a cordial leave of the Aged, and having passed a pleasant evening.
Before a week was out, I received a note from Wemmick, dated Walworth, statin_hat he hoped he had made some advance in that matter appertaining to ou_rivate and personal capacities, and that he would be glad if I could come an_ee him again upon it. So, I went out to Walworth again, and yet again, an_et again, and I saw him by appointment in the City several times, but neve_eld any communication with him on the subject in or near Little Britain. Th_pshot was, that we found a worthy young merchant or shipping-broker, not lon_stablished in business, who wanted intelligent help, and who wanted capital, and who in due course of time and receipt would want a partner. Between hi_nd me, secret articles were signed of which Herbert was the subject, and _aid him half of my five hundred pounds down, and engaged for sundry othe_ayments: some, to fall due at certain dates out of my income: some, contingent on my coming into my property. Miss Skiffins’s brother conducte_he negotiation. Wemmick pervaded it throughout, but never appeared in it.
The whole business was so cleverly managed, that Herbert had not the leas_uspicion of my hand being in it. I never shall forget the radiant face wit_hich he came home one afternoon, and told me, as a mighty piece of news, o_is having fallen in with one Clarriker (the young merchant’s name), and o_larriker’s having shown an extraordinary inclination towards him, and of hi_elief that the opening had come at last. Day by day as his hopes gre_tronger and his face brighter, he must have thought me a more and mor_ffectionate friend, for I had the greatest difficulty in restraining my tear_f triumph when I saw him so happy. At length, the thing being done, and h_aving that day entered Clarriker’s House, and he having talked to me for _hole evening in a flush of pleasure and success, I did really cry in goo_arnest when I went to bed, to think that my expectations had done some goo_o somebody.
A great event in my life, the turning point of my life, now opens on my view.
But, before I proceed to narrate it, and before I pass on to all the change_t involved, I must give one chapter to Estella. It is not much to give to th_heme that so long filled my heart.