The pale young gentleman and I stood contemplating one another in Barnard’_nn, until we both burst out laughing. “The idea of its being you!” said he.
“The idea of its being you!” said I. And then we contemplated one anothe_fresh, and laughed again. “Well!” said the pale young gentleman, reaching ou_is hand good-humoredly, “it’s all over now, I hope, and it will b_agnanimous in you if you’ll forgive me for having knocked you about so.”
I derived from this speech that Mr. Herbert Pocket (for Herbert was the pal_oung gentleman’s name) still rather confounded his intention with hi_xecution. But I made a modest reply, and we shook hands warmly.
“You hadn’t come into your good fortune at that time?” said Herbert Pocket.
“No,” said I.
“No,” he acquiesced: “I heard it had happened very lately. I was rather on th_ookout for good fortune then.”
“Yes. Miss Havisham had sent for me, to see if she could take a fancy to me.
But she couldn’t,—at all events, she didn’t.”
I thought it polite to remark that I was surprised to hear that.
“Bad taste,” said Herbert, laughing, “but a fact. Yes, she had sent for me o_ trial visit, and if I had come out of it successfully, I suppose I shoul_ave been provided for; perhaps I should have been what-you-may-called it t_stella.”
“What’s that?” I asked, with sudden gravity.
He was arranging his fruit in plates while we talked, which divided hi_ttention, and was the cause of his having made this lapse of a word.
“Affianced,” he explained, still busy with the fruit. “Betrothed. Engaged.
What’s-his-named. Any word of that sort.”
“How did you bear your disappointment?” I asked.
“Pooh!” said he, “I didn’t care much for it. She’s a Tartar.”
“I don’t say no to that, but I meant Estella. That girl’s hard and haughty an_apricious to the last degree, and has been brought up by Miss Havisham t_reak revenge on all the male sex.”
“What relation is she to Miss Havisham?”
“None,” said he. “Only adopted.”
“Why should she wreak revenge on all the male sex? What revenge?”
“Lord, Mr. Pip!” said he. “Don’t you know?”
“No,” said I.
“Dear me! It’s quite a story, and shall be saved till dinner-time. And now le_e take the liberty of asking you a question. How did you come there, tha_ay?”
I told him, and he was attentive until I had finished, and then burst ou_aughing again, and asked me if I was sore afterwards? I didn’t ask him if h_as, for my conviction on that point was perfectly established.
“Mr. Jaggers is your guardian, I understand?” he went on.
“You know he is Miss Havisham’s man of business and solicitor, and has he_onfidence when nobody else has?”
This was bringing me (I felt) towards dangerous ground. I answered with _onstraint I made no attempt to disguise, that I had seen Mr. Jaggers in Mis_avisham’s house on the very day of our combat, but never at any other time, and that I believed he had no recollection of having ever seen me there.
“He was so obliging as to suggest my father for your tutor, and he called o_y father to propose it. Of course he knew about my father from his connectio_ith Miss Havisham. My father is Miss Havisham’s cousin; not that that implie_amiliar intercourse between them, for he is a bad courtier and will no_ropitiate her.”
Herbert Pocket had a frank and easy way with him that was very taking. I ha_ever seen any one then, and I have never seen any one since, who mor_trongly expressed to me, in every look and tone, a natural incapacity to d_nything secret and mean. There was something wonderfully hopeful about hi_eneral air, and something that at the same time whispered to me he woul_ever be very successful or rich. I don’t know how this was. I became imbue_ith the notion on that first occasion before we sat down to dinner, but _annot define by what means.
He was still a pale young gentleman, and had a certain conquered languor abou_im in the midst of his spirits and briskness, that did not seem indicative o_atural strength. He had not a handsome face, but it was better than handsome: being extremely amiable and cheerful. His figure was a little ungainly, as i_he days when my knuckles had taken such liberties with it, but it looked a_f it would always be light and young. Whether Mr. Trabb’s local work woul_ave sat more gracefully on him than on me, may be a question; but I a_onscious that he carried off his rather old clothes much better than _arried off my new suit.
As he was so communicative, I felt that reserve on my part would be a ba_eturn unsuited to our years. I therefore told him my small story, and lai_tress on my being forbidden to inquire who my benefactor was. I furthe_entioned that as I had been brought up a blacksmith in a country place, an_new very little of the ways of politeness, I would take it as a grea_indness in him if he would give me a hint whenever he saw me at a loss o_oing wrong.
“With pleasure,” said he, “though I venture to prophesy that you’ll want ver_ew hints. I dare say we shall be often together, and I should like to banis_ny needless restraint between us. Will you do me the favour to begin at onc_o call me by my Christian name, Herbert?”
I thanked him and said I would. I informed him in exchange that my Christia_ame was Philip.
“I don’t take to Philip,” said he, smiling, “for it sounds like a moral bo_ut of the spelling-book, who was so lazy that he fell into a pond, or so fa_hat he couldn’t see out of his eyes, or so avaricious that he locked up hi_ake till the mice ate it, or so determined to go a bird’s-nesting that he go_imself eaten by bears who lived handy in the neighborhood. I tell you what _hould like. We are so harmonious, and you have been a blacksmith,—– would yo_ind it?”
“I shouldn’t mind anything that you propose,” I answered, “but I don’_nderstand you.”
“Would you mind Handel for a familiar name? There’s a charming piece of musi_y Handel, called the Harmonious Blacksmith.”
“I should like it very much.”
“Then, my dear Handel,” said he, turning round as the door opened, “here i_he dinner, and I must beg of you to take the top of the table, because th_inner is of your providing.”
This I would not hear of, so he took the top, and I faced him. It was a nic_ittle dinner,—seemed to me then a very Lord Mayor’s Feast,—and it acquire_dditional relish from being eaten under those independent circumstances, wit_o old people by, and with London all around us. This again was heightened b_ certain gypsy character that set the banquet off; for while the table was, as Mr. Pumblechook might have said, the lap of luxury,—being entirel_urnished forth from the coffee-house,—the circumjacent region of sitting-roo_as of a comparatively pastureless and shifty character; imposing on th_aiter the wandering habits of putting the covers on the floor (where he fel_ver them), the melted butter in the arm-chair, the bread on the bookshelves, the cheese in the coal-scuttle, and the boiled fowl into my bed in the nex_oom,— where I found much of its parsley and butter in a state of congelatio_hen I retired for the night. All this made the feast delightful, and when th_aiter was not there to watch me, my pleasure was without alloy.
We had made some progress in the dinner, when I reminded Herbert of hi_romise to tell me about Miss Havisham.
“True,” he replied. “I’ll redeem it at once. Let me introduce the topic, Handel, by mentioning that in London it is not the custom to put the knife i_he mouth,—for fear of accidents,—and that while the fork is reserved for tha_se, it is not put further in than necessary. It is scarcely worth mentioning, only it’s as well to do as other people do. Also, the spoon is not generall_sed over-hand, but under. This has two advantages. You get at your mout_etter (which after all is the object), and you save a good deal of th_ttitude of opening oysters, on the part of the right elbow.”
He offered these friendly suggestions in such a lively way, that we bot_aughed and I scarcely blushed.
“Now,” he pursued, “concerning Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham, you must know, was a spoilt child. Her mother died when she was a baby, and her father denie_er nothing. Her father was a country gentleman down in your part of th_orld, and was a brewer. I don’t know why it should be a crack thing to be _rewer; but it is indisputable that while you cannot possibly be genteel an_ake, 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 _entleman. Well! Mr. Havisham was very rich and very proud. So was hi_aughter.”
“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 _alf-brother. Her father privately married again—his cook, I rather think.”
“I thought he was proud,” said I.
“My good Handel, so he was. He married his second wife privately, because h_as proud, and in course of time she died. When she was dead, I apprehend h_irst told his daughter what he had done, and then the son became a part o_he family, residing in the house you are acquainted with. As the son grew _oung man, he turned out riotous, extravagant, undutiful,—altogether bad. A_ast his father disinherited him; but he softened when he was dying, and lef_im well off, though not nearly so well off as Miss Havisham. —Take anothe_lass of wine, and excuse my mentioning that society as a body does not expec_ne to be so strictly conscientious in emptying one’s glass, as to turn i_ottom upwards with the rim on one’s nose.”
I had been doing this, in an excess of attention to his recital. I thanke_im, and apologized. He said, “Not at all,” and resumed.
“Miss Havisham was now an heiress, and you may suppose was looked after as _reat match. Her half-brother had now ample means again, but what with debt_nd what with new madness wasted them most fearfully again. There wer_tronger differences between him and her than there had been between him an_is father, and it is suspected that he cherished a deep and mortal grudg_gainst her as having influenced the father’s anger. Now, I come to the crue_art of the story,—merely breaking off, my dear Handel, to remark that _inner-napkin will not go into a tumbler.”
Why I was trying to pack mine into my tumbler, I am wholly unable to say. _nly know that I found myself, with a perseverance worthy of a much bette_ause, making the most strenuous exertions to compress it within those limits.
Again I thanked him and apologized, and again he said in the cheerfulles_anner, “Not at all, I am sure!” and resumed.
“There appeared upon the scene—say at the races, or the public balls, o_nywhere else you like—a certain man, who made love to Miss Havisham. I neve_aw 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 th_ind of man for the purpose. But that he was not to be, without ignorance o_rejudice, 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 a_eart ever was, since the world began, a true gentleman in manner. He says, n_arnish 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 Havisha_losely, and professed to be devoted to her. I believe she had not shown muc_usceptibility up to that time; but all the susceptibility she possesse_ertainly came out then, and she passionately loved him. There is no doub_hat she perfectly idolized him. He practised on her affection in tha_ystematic way, that he got great sums of money from her, and he induced he_o buy her brother out of a share in the brewery (which had been weakly lef_im by his father) at an immense price, on the plea that when he was he_usband he must hold and manage it all. Your guardian was not at that time i_iss Havisham’s counsels, and she was too haughty and too much in love to b_dvised by any one. Her relations were poor and scheming, with the exceptio_f my father; he was poor enough, but not time-serving or jealous. The onl_ndependent one among them, he warned her that she was doing too much for thi_an, and was placing herself too unreservedly in his power. She took the firs_pportunity 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 a_aid dead upon that table;” and I asked Herbert whether his father was s_nveterate against her?
“It’s not that,” said he, “but she charged him, in the presence of he_ntended husband, with being disappointed in the hope of fawning upon her fo_is own advancement, and, if he were to go to her now, it would look true—eve_o him—and even to her. To return to the man and make an end of him. Th_arriage day was fixed, the wedding dresses were bought, the wedding tour wa_lanned out, the wedding guests were invited. The day came, but not th_ridegroom. He wrote her a letter—”
“Which she received,” I struck in, “when she was dressing for her marriage? A_wenty minutes to nine?”
“At the hour and minute,” said Herbert, nodding, “at which she afterward_topped all the clocks. What was in it, further than that it most heartlessl_roke the marriage off, I can’t tell you, because I don’t know. When sh_ecovered from a bad illness that she had, she laid the whole place waste, a_ou 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 fo_yself; for my father always avoids it, and, even when Miss Havisham invite_e to go there, told me no more of it than it was absolutely requisite _hould understand. But I have forgotten one thing. It has been supposed tha_he man to whom she gave her misplaced confidence acted throughout in concer_ith her half-brother; that it was a conspiracy between them; and that the_hared the profits.”
“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 _art 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 ruin.”
“Are they alive now?”
“I don’t know.”
“You said just now that Estella was not related to Miss Havisham, but adopted.
Herbert shrugged his shoulders. “There has always been an Estella, since _ave 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 ope_nderstanding 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 yo_nd me. And as to the condition on which you hold your advancement i_ife,—namely, that you are not to inquire or discuss to whom you owe it,—yo_ay be very sure that it will never be encroached upon, or even approached, b_e, or by any one belonging to me.”
In truth, he said this with so much delicacy, that I felt the subject don_ith, even though I should be under his father’s roof for years and years t_ome. Yet he said it with so much meaning, too, that I felt he as perfectl_nderstood Miss Havisham to be my benefactress, as I understood the fac_yself.
It had not occurred to me before, that he had led up to the theme for th_urpose of clearing it out of our way; but we were so much the lighter an_asier for having broached it, that I now perceived this to be the case. W_ere 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 sa_e 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 th_ity, and I began to think with awe of having laid a young Insurer on hi_ack, blackened his enterprising eye, and cut his responsible head open. Bu_gain there came upon me, for my relief, that odd impression that Herber_ocket would never be very successful or rich.
“I shall not rest satisfied with merely employing my capital in insurin_hips. I shall buy up some good Life Assurance shares, and cut into th_irection. I shall also do a little in the mining way. None of these thing_ill interfere with my chartering a few thousand tons on my own account. _hink 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 a_nteresting trade.”
“And the profits are large?” said I.
“Tremendous!” said he.
I wavered again, and began to think here were greater expectations than m_wn.
“I think I shall trade, also,” said he, putting his thumbs in his waist- coa_ockets, “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 wher_he 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 _one 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 reckonin_p and striking a balance. “Not directly profitable. That is, it doesn’t pa_e anything, and I have to—keep myself.”
This certainly had not a profitable appearance, and I shook my head as if _ould imply that it would be difficult to lay by much accumulative capita_rom such a source of income.
“But the thing is,” said Herbert Pocket, “that you look about you. That’s th_rand thing. You are in a counting-house, you know, and you look about you.”
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 hi_xperience.
“Then the time comes,” said Herbert, “when you see your opening. And you g_n, 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; ver_ike. His manner of bearing his poverty, too, exactly corresponded to hi_anner of bearing that defeat. It seemed to me that he took all blows an_uffets now with just the same air as he had taken mine then. It was eviden_hat he had nothing around him but the simplest necessaries, for everythin_hat I remarked upon turned out to have been sent in on my account from th_offee-house or somewhere else.
Yet, having already made his fortune in his own mind, he was so unassumin_ith it that I felt quite grateful to him for not being puffed up. It was _leasant addition to his naturally pleasant ways, and we got on famously. I_he evening we went out for a walk in the streets, and went half-price to th_heatre; and next day we went to church at Westminster Abbey, and in th_fternoon we walked in the Parks; and I wondered who shod all the horse_here, and wished Joe did.
On a moderate computation, it was many months, that Sunday, since I had lef_oe and Biddy. The space interposed between myself and them partook of tha_xpansion, and our marshes were any distance off. That I could have been a_ur old church in my old church-going clothes, on the very last Sunday tha_ver was, seemed a combination of impossibilities, geographical and social, solar and lunar. Yet in the London streets so crowded with people and s_rilliantly lighted in the dusk of evening, there were depressing hints o_eproaches for that I had put the poor old kitchen at home so far away; and i_he dead of night, the footsteps of some incapable impostor of a porte_ooning about Barnard’s Inn, under pretence of watching it, fell hollow on m_eart.
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 hi_ompany. 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 whic_oung Insurers were hatched were incubated in dust and heat, like the eggs o_striches, judging from the places to which those incipient giants repaired o_ Monday morning. Nor did the counting-house where Herbert assisted, show i_y eyes as at all a good Observatory; being a back second floor up a yard, o_ grimy presence in all particulars, and with a look into another back secon_loor, rather than a look out.
I waited about until it was noon, and I went upon ‘Change, and I saw fluey me_itting there under the bills about shipping, whom I took to be grea_erchants, though I couldn’t understand why they should all be out of spirits.
When Herbert came, we went and had lunch at a celebrated house which I the_uite venerated, but now believe to have been the most abject superstition i_urope, and where I could not help noticing, even then, that there was muc_ore gravy on the tablecloths and knives and waiters’ clothes, than in th_teaks. This collation disposed of at a moderate price (considering th_rease, which was not charged for), we went back to Barnard’s Inn and got m_ittle portmanteau, and then took coach for Hammersmith. We arrived there a_wo or three o’clock in the afternoon, and had very little way to walk to Mr.
Pocket’s house. Lifting the latch of a gate, we passed direct into a littl_arden overlooking the river, where Mr. Pocket’s children were playing about.
And unless I deceive myself on a point where my interests or prepossession_re certainly not concerned, I saw that Mr. and Mrs. Pocket’s children wer_ot growing up or being brought up, but were tumbling up.
Mrs. Pocket was sitting on a garden chair under a tree, reading, with her leg_pon another garden chair; and Mrs. Pocket’s two nurse-maids were lookin_bout them while the children played. “Mamma,” said Herbert, “this is youn_r. Pip.” Upon which Mrs. Pocket received me with an appearance of amiabl_ignity.
“Master Alick and Miss Jane,” cried one of the nurses to two of the children, “if you go a bouncing up against them bushes you’ll fall over into the rive_nd be drownded, and what’ll your pa say then?”
At the same time this nurse picked up Mrs. Pocket’s handkerchief, and said, “If that don’t make six times you’ve dropped it, Mum!” Upon which Mrs. Pocke_aughed and said, “Thank you, Flopson,” and settling herself in one chai_nly, resumed her book. Her countenance immediately assumed a knitted an_ntent expression as if she had been reading for a week, but before she coul_ave read half a dozen lines, she fixed her eyes upon me, and said, “I hop_our mamma is quite well?” This unexpected inquiry put me into such _ifficulty that I began saying in the absurdest way that if there had been an_uch person I had no doubt she would have been quite well and would have bee_ery much obliged and would have sent her compliments, when the nurse came t_y rescue.
“Well!” she cried, picking up the pocket-handkerchief, “if that don’t mak_even times! What are you a doing of this afternoon, Mum!” Mrs. Pocke_eceived her property, at first with a look of unutterable surprise as if sh_ad never seen it before, and then with a laugh of recognition, and said, “Thank you, Flopson,” and forgot me, and went on reading.
I found, now I had leisure to count them, that there were no fewer than si_ittle Pockets present, in various stages of tumbling up. I had scarcel_rrived at the total when a seventh was heard, as in the region of air, wailing dolefully.
“If there ain’t Baby!” said Flopson, appearing to think it most surprising.
“Make haste up, Millers.”
Millers, who was the other nurse, retired into the house, and by degrees th_hild’s wailing was hushed and stopped, as if it were a young ventriloquis_ith something in its mouth. Mrs. Pocket read all the time, and I was curiou_o know what the book could be.
We were waiting, I supposed, for Mr. Pocket to come out to us; at any rate w_aited there, and so I had an opportunity of observing the remarkable famil_henomenon that whenever any of the children strayed near Mrs. Pocket in thei_lay, they always tripped themselves up and tumbled over her,—always very muc_o her momentary astonishment, and their own more enduring lamentation. I wa_t a loss to account for this surprising circumstance, and could not hel_iving my mind to speculations about it, until by and by Millers came dow_ith the baby, which baby was handed to Flopson, which Flopson was handing i_o Mrs. Pocket, when she too went fairly head foremost over Mrs. Pocket, bab_nd all, and was caught by Herbert and myself.
“Gracious me, Flopson!” said Mrs. Pocket, looking off her book for a moment, “everybody’s tumbling!”
“Gracious you, indeed, Mum!” returned Flopson, very red in the face; “wha_ave you got there?”
“I got here, Flopson?” asked Mrs. Pocket.
“Why, if it ain’t your footstool!” cried Flopson. “And if you keep it unde_our skirts like that, who’s to help tumbling? Here! Take the baby, Mum, an_ive me your book.”
Mrs. Pocket acted on the advice, and inexpertly danced the infant a little i_er lap, while the other children played about it. This had lasted but a ver_hort time, when Mrs. Pocket issued summary orders that they were all to b_aken into the house for a nap. Thus I made the second discovery on that firs_ccasion, that the nurture of the little Pockets consisted of alternatel_umbling up and lying down.
Under these circumstances, when Flopson and Millers had got the children int_he house, like a little flock of sheep, and Mr. Pocket came out of it to mak_y acquaintance, I was not much surprised to find that Mr. Pocket was _entleman with a rather perplexed expression of face, and with his very gra_air disordered on his head, as if he didn’t quite see his way to puttin_nything straight.