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Chapter 8

  • 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,
  • All well.
  • 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?”
  • “Who else?”
  • “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.