Some weeks passed without bringing any change. We waited for Wemmick, and h_ade no sign. If I had never known him out of Little Britain, and had neve_njoyed the privilege of being on a familiar footing at the Castle, I migh_ave doubted him; not so for a moment, knowing him as I did.
My worldly affairs began to wear a gloomy appearance, and I was pressed fo_oney by more than one creditor. Even I myself began to know the want of money
(I mean of ready money in my own pocket), and to relieve it by converting som_asily spared articles of jewelery into cash. But I had quite determined tha_t would be a heartless fraud to take more money from my patron in th_xisting state of my uncertain thoughts and plans. Therefore, I had sent hi_he unopened pocket-book by Herbert, to hold in his own keeping, and I felt _ind of satisfaction—whether it was a false kind or a true, I hardly know—i_ot having profited by his generosity since his revelation of himself.
As the time wore on, an impression settled heavily upon me that Estella wa_arried. Fearful of having it confirmed, though it was all but a conviction, _voided the newspapers, and begged Herbert (to whom I had confided th_ircumstances of our last interview) never to speak of her to me. Why _oarded up this last wretched little rag of the robe of hope that was rent an_iven to the winds, how do I know? Why did you who read this, commit that no_issimilar inconsistency of your own last year, last month, last week?
It was an unhappy life that I lived; and its one dominant anxiety, towerin_ver all its other anxieties, like a high mountain above a range of mountains,
never disappeared from my view. Still, no new cause for fear arose. Let m_tart from my bed as I would, with the terror fresh upon me that he wa_iscovered; let me sit listening, as I would with dread, for Herbert’_eturning step at night, lest it should be fleeter than ordinary, and winge_ith evil news,—for all that, and much more to like purpose, the round o_hings went on. Condemned to inaction and a state of constant restlessness an_uspense, I rowed about in my boat, and waited, waited, waited, as I bes_ould.
There were states of the tide when, having been down the river, I could no_et back through the eddy-chafed arches and starlings of old London Bridge;
then, I left my boat at a wharf near the Custom House, to be brought u_fterwards to the Temple stairs. I was not averse to doing this, as it serve_o make me and my boat a commoner incident among the water-side people there.
From this slight occasion sprang two meetings that I have now to tell of.
One afternoon, late in the month of February, I came ashore at the wharf a_usk. I had pulled down as far as Greenwich with the ebb tide, and had turne_ith the tide. It had been a fine bright day, but had become foggy as the su_ropped, and I had had to feel my way back among the shipping, prett_arefully. Both in going and returning, I had seen the signal in his window,
As it was a raw evening, and I was cold, I thought I would comfort myself wit_inner at once; and as I had hours of dejection and solitude before me if _ent home to the Temple, I thought I would afterwards go to the play. Th_heatre where Mr. Wopsle had achieved his questionable triumph was in tha_ater-side neighborhood (it is nowhere now), and to that theatre I resolved t_o. I was aware that Mr. Wopsle had not succeeded in reviving the Drama, but,
on the contrary, had rather partaken of its decline. He had been ominousl_eard of, through the play-bills, as a faithful Black, in connection with _ittle girl of noble birth, and a monkey. And Herbert had seen him as _redatory Tartar of comic propensities, with a face like a red brick, and a_utrageous hat all over bells.
I dined at what Herbert and I used to call a geographical chop-house, wher_here were maps of the world in porter-pot rims on every half-yard of th_ablecloths, and charts of gravy on every one of the knives,—to this day ther_s scarcely a single chop-house within the Lord Mayor’s dominions which is no_eographical,—and wore out the time in dozing over crumbs, staring at gas, an_aking in a hot blast of dinners. By and by, I roused myself, and went to th_lay.
There, I found a virtuous boatswain in His Majesty’s service,—a most excellen_an, though I could have wished his trousers not quite so tight in som_laces, and not quite so loose in others,— who knocked all the little men’_ats over their eyes, though he was very generous and brave, and who wouldn’_ear of anybody’s paying taxes, though he was very patriotic. He had a bag o_oney in his pocket, like a pudding in the cloth, and on that property marrie_ young person in bed-furniture, with great rejoicings; the whole populatio_f Portsmouth (nine in number at the last census) turning out on the beach t_ub their own hands and shake everybody else’s, and sing “Fill, fill!” _ertain dark-complexioned Swab, however, who wouldn’t fill, or do anythin_lse that was proposed to him, and whose heart was openly stated (by th_oatswain) to be as black as his figure-head, proposed to two other Swabs t_et all mankind into difficulties; which was so effectually done (the Swa_amily having considerable political influence) that it took half the evenin_o set things right, and then it was only brought about through an hones_ittle grocer with a white hat, black gaiters, and red nose, getting into _lock, with a gridiron, and listening, and coming out, and knocking everybod_own from behind with the gridiron whom he couldn’t confute with what he ha_verheard. This led to Mr. Wopsle’s (who had never been heard of before)
coming in with a star and garter on, as a plenipotentiary of great powe_irect from the Admiralty, to say that the Swabs were all to go to prison o_he spot, and that he had brought the boatswain down the Union Jack, as _light acknowledgment of his public services. The boatswain, unmanned for th_irst time, respectfully dried his eyes on the Jack, and then cheering up, an_ddressing Mr. Wopsle as Your Honor, solicited permission to take him by th_in. Mr. Wopsle, conceding his fin with a gracious dignity, was immediatel_hoved into a dusty corner, while everybody danced a hornpipe; and from tha_orner, surveying the public with a discontented eye, became aware of me.
The second piece was the last new grand comic Christmas pantomime, in th_irst scene of which, it pained me to suspect that I detected Mr. Wopsle wit_ed worsted legs under a highly magnified phosphoric countenance and a shoc_f red curtain-fringe for his hair, engaged in the manufacture of thunderbolt_n a mine, and displaying great cowardice when his gigantic master came home
(very hoarse) to dinner. But he presently presented himself under worthie_ircumstances; for, the Genius of Youthful Love being in want o_ssistance,—on account of the parental brutality of an ignorant farmer wh_pposed the choice of his daughter’s heart, by purposely falling upon th_bject, in a flour-sack, out of the first-floor window,—summoned a sententiou_nchanter; and he, coming up from the antipodes rather unsteadily, after a_pparently violent journey, proved to be Mr. Wopsle in a high-crowned hat,
with a necromantic work in one volume under his arm. The business of thi_nchanter on earth being principally to be talked at, sung at, butted at,
danced at, and flashed at with fires of various colors, he had a good deal o_ime on his hands. And I observed, with great surprise, that he devoted it t_taring in my direction as if he were lost in amazement.
There was something so remarkable in the increasing glare of Mr. Wopsle’s eye,
and he seemed to be turning so many things over in his mind and to grow s_onfused, that I could not make it out. I sat thinking of it long after he ha_scended to the clouds in a large watch-case, and still I could not make i_ut. I was still thinking of it when I came out of the theatre an hou_fterwards, and found him waiting for me near the door.
“How do you do?” said I, shaking hands with him as we turned down the stree_ogether. “I saw that you saw me.”
“Saw you, Mr. Pip!” he returned. “Yes, of course I saw you. But who else wa_here?”
“It is the strangest thing,” said Mr. Wopsle, drifting into his lost loo_gain; “and yet I could swear to him.”
Becoming alarmed, I entreated Mr. Wopsle to explain his meaning.
“Whether I should have noticed him at first but for your being there,” sai_r. Wopsle, going on in the same lost way, “I can’t be positive; yet I think _hould.”
Involuntarily I looked round me, as I was accustomed to look round me when _ent home; for these mysterious words gave me a chill.
“Oh! He can’t be in sight,” said Mr. Wopsle. “He went out before I went off. _aw him go.”
Having the reason that I had for being suspicious, I even suspected this poo_ctor. I mistrusted a design to entrap me into some admission. Therefore _lanced at him as we walked on together, but said nothing.
“I had a ridiculous fancy that he must be with you, Mr. Pip, till I saw tha_ou were quite unconscious of him, sitting behind you there like a ghost.”
My former chill crept over me again, but I was resolved not to speak yet, fo_t was quite consistent with his words that he might be set on to induce me t_onnect these references with Provis. Of course, I was perfectly sure and saf_hat Provis had not been there.
“I dare say you wonder at me, Mr. Pip; indeed, I see you do. But it is so ver_trange! You’ll hardly believe what I am going to tell you. I could hardl_elieve it myself, if you told me.”
“Indeed?” said I.
“No, indeed. Mr. Pip, you remember in old times a certain Christmas Day, whe_ou were quite a child, and I dined at Gargery’s, and some soldiers came t_he door to get a pair of handcuffs mended?”
“I remember it very well.”
“And you remember that there was a chase after two convicts, and that w_oined in it, and that Gargery took you on his back, and that I took the lead,
and you kept up with me as well as you could?”
“I remember it all very well.” Better than he thought,—except the last clause.
“And you remember that we came up with the two in a ditch, and that there wa_ scuffle between them, and that one of them had been severely handled an_uch mauled about the face by the other?”
“I see it all before me.”
“And that the soldiers lighted torches, and put the two in the centre, an_hat we went on to see the last of them, over the black marshes, with th_orchlight shining on their faces,—I am particular about that,—with th_orchlight shining on their faces, when there was an outer ring of dark nigh_ll about us?”
“Yes,” said I. “I remember all that.”
“Then, Mr. Pip, one of those two prisoners sat behind you tonight. I saw hi_ver your shoulder.”
“Steady!” I thought. I asked him then, “Which of the two do you suppose yo_aw?”
“The one who had been mauled,” he answered readily, “and I’ll swear I saw him!
The more I think of him, the more certain I am of him.”
“This is very curious!” said I, with the best assumption I could put on of it_eing nothing more to me. “Very curious indeed!”
I cannot exaggerate the enhanced disquiet into which this conversation thre_e, or the special and peculiar terror I felt at Compeyson’s having bee_ehind me “like a ghost.” For if he had ever been out of my thoughts for a fe_oments together since the hiding had begun, it was in those very moments whe_e was closest to me; and to think that I should be so unconscious and off m_uard after all my care was as if I had shut an avenue of a hundred doors t_eep him out, and then had found him at my elbow. I could not doubt, either,
that he was there, because I was there, and that, however slight an appearanc_f danger there might be about us, danger was always near and active.
I put such questions to Mr. Wopsle as, When did the man come in? He could no_ell me that; he saw me, and over my shoulder he saw the man. It was not unti_e had seen him for some time that he began to identify him; but he had fro_he first vaguely associated him with me, and known him as somehow belongin_o me in the old village time. How was he dressed? Prosperously, but no_oticeably otherwise; he thought, in black. Was his face at all disfigured?
No, he believed not. I believed not too, for, although in my brooding state _ad taken no especial notice of the people behind me, I thought it likely tha_ face at all disfigured would have attracted my attention.
When Mr. Wopsle had imparted to me all that he could recall or I extract, an_hen I had treated him to a little appropriate refreshment, after the fatigue_f the evening, we parted. It was between twelve and one o’clock when _eached the Temple, and the gates were shut. No one was near me when I went i_nd went home.
Herbert had come in, and we held a very serious council by the fire. But ther_as nothing to be done, saving to communicate to Wemmick what I had that nigh_ound out, and to remind him that we waited for his hint. As I thought that _ight compromise him if I went too often to the Castle, I made thi_ommunication by letter. I wrote it before I went to bed, and went out an_osted it; and again no one was near me. Herbert and I agreed that we could d_othing else but be very cautious. And we were very cautious indeed, —mor_autious than before, if that were possible,—and I for my part never went nea_hinks’s Basin, except when I rowed by, and then I only looked at Mill Pon_ank as I looked at anything else.