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Chapter 30

After well considering the matter while I was dressing at the Blue
Boar in the morning, I resolved to tell my guardian that I doubted
Orlick's being the right sort of man to fill a post of trust at
Miss Havisham's. "Why, of course he is not the right sort of man,
Pip," said my guardian, comfortably satisfied beforehand on the
general head, "because the man who fills the post of trust never is
the right sort of man." It seemed quite to put him into spirits, to
find that this particular post was not exceptionally held by the
right sort of man, and he listened in a satisfied manner while I
told him what knowledge I had of Orlick. "Very good, Pip," he
observed, when I had concluded, "I'll go round presently, and pay
our friend off." Rather alarmed by this summary action, I was for a
little delay, and even hinted that our friend himself might be
difficult to deal with. "Oh no he won't," said my guardian, making
his pocket-handkerchief-point, with perfect confidence; "I should
like to see him argue the question with me."

As we were going back together to London by the mid-day coach, and
as I breakfasted under such terrors of Pumblechook that I could
scarcely hold my cup, this gave me an opportunity of saying that I
wanted a walk, and that I would go on along the London-road while
Mr. Jaggers was occupied, if he would let the coachman know that I
would get into my place when overtaken. I was thus enabled to fly
from the Blue Boar immediately after breakfast. By then making a
loop of about a couple of miles into the open country at the back
of Pumblechook's premises, I got round into the High-street again,
a little beyond that pitfall, and felt myself in comparative
security.

It was interesting to be in the quiet old town once more, and it
was not disagreeable to be here and there suddenly recognized and
stared after. One or two of the tradespeople even darted out of
their shops and went a little way down the street before me, that
they might turn, as if they had forgotten something, and pass me
face to face - on which occasions I don't know whether they or I
made the worse pretence; they of not doing it, or I of not seeing
it. Still my position was a distinguished one, and I was not at all
dissatisfied with it, until Fate threw me in the way of that
unlimited miscreant, Trabb's boy.

Casting my eyes along the street at a certain point of my progress,
I beheld Trabb's boy approaching, lashing himself with an empty
blue bag. Deeming that a serene and unconscious contemplation of
him would best beseem me, and would be most likely to quell his
evil mind, I advanced with that expression of countenance, and was
rather congratulating myself on my success, when suddenly the knees
of Trabb's boy smote together, his hair uprose, his cap fell off,
he trembled violently in every limb, staggered out into the road,
and crying to the populace, "Hold me! I'm so frightened!" feigned to
be in a paroxysm of terror and contrition, occasioned by the
dignity of my appearance. As I passed him, his teeth loudly
chattered in his head, and with every mark of extreme humiliation,
he prostrated himself in the dust.

This was a hard thing to bear, but this was nothing. I had not
advanced another two hundred yards, when, to my inexpressible
terror, amazement, and indignation, I again beheld Trabb's boy
approaching. He was coming round a narrow corner. His blue bag was
slung over his shoulder, honest industry beamed in his eyes, a
determination to proceed to Trabb's with cheerful briskness was
indicated in his gait. With a shock he became aware of me, and was
severely visited as before; but this time his motion was rotatory,
and he staggered round and round me with knees more afflicted, and
with uplifted hands as if beseeching for mercy. His sufferings were
hailed with the greatest joy by a knot of spectators, and I felt
utterly confounded.

I had not got as much further down the street as the post-office,
when I again beheld Trabb's boy shooting round by a back way. This
time, he was entirely changed. He wore the blue bag in the manner
of my great-coat, and was strutting along the pavement towards me
on the opposite side of the street, attended by a company of
delighted young friends to whom he from time to time exclaimed,
with a wave of his hand, "Don't know yah!" Words cannot state the
amount of aggravation and injury wreaked upon me by Trabb's boy,
when, passing abreast of me, he pulled up his shirt-collar, twined
his side-hair, stuck an arm akimbo, and smirked extravagantly by,
wriggling his elbows and body, and drawling to his attendants,
"Don't know yah, don't know yah, pon my soul don't know yah!" The
disgrace attendant on his immediately afterwards taking to crowing
and pursuing me across the bridge with crows, as from an
exceedingly dejected fowl who had known me when I was a blacksmith,
culminated the disgrace with which I left the town, and was, so to
speak, ejected by it into the open country.

But unless I had taken the life of Trabb's boy on that occasion, I
really do not even now see what I could have done save endure. To
have struggled with him in the street, or to have exacted any lower
recompense from him than his heart's best blood, would have been
futile and degrading. Moreover, he was a boy whom no man could
hurt; an invulnerable and dodging serpent who, when chased into a
corner, flew out again between his captor's legs, scornfully
yelping. I wrote, however, to Mr. Trabb by next day's post, to say
that Mr. Pip must decline to deal further with one who could so far
forget what he owed to the best interests of society, as to employ
a boy who excited Loathing in every respectable mind.

The coach, with Mr. Jaggers inside, came up in due time, and I took
my box-seat again, and arrived in London safe - but not sound, for
my heart was gone. As soon as I arrived, I sent a penitential
codfish and barrel of oysters to Joe (as reparation for not having
gone myself), and then went on to Barnard's Inn.

I found Herbert dining on cold meat, and delighted to welcome me
back. Having despatched The Avenger to the coffee-house for an
addition to the dinner, I felt that I must open my breast that very
evening to my friend and chum. As confidence was out of the
question with The Avenger in the hall, which could merely be
regarded in the light of an ante-chamber to the keyhole, I sent him
to the Play. A better proof of the severity of my bondage to that
taskmaster could scarcely be afforded, than the degrading shifts to
which I was constantly driven to find him employment. So mean is
extremity, that I sometimes sent him to Hyde Park Corner to see
what o'clock it was.

Dinner done and we sitting with our feet upon the fender, I said to
Herbert, "My dear Herbert, I have something very particular to tell
you."

"My dear Handel," he returned, "I shall esteem and respect your
confidence."

"It concerns myself, Herbert," said I, "and one other person."

Herbert crossed his feet, looked at the fire with his head on one
side, and having looked at it in vain for some time, looked at me
because I didn't go on.

"Herbert," said I, laying my hand upon his knee, "I love - I adore
- Estella."

Instead of being transfixed, Herbert replied in an easy
matter-ofcourse way, "Exactly. Well?"

"Well, Herbert? Is that all you say? Well?"

"What next, I mean?" said Herbert. "Of course I know that."

"How do you know it?" said I.

"How do I know it, Handel? Why, from you."

"I never told you."

"Told me! You have never told me when you have got your hair cut,
but I have had senses to perceive it. You have always adored her,
ever since I have known you. You brought your adoration and your
portmanteau here, together. Told me! Why, you have always told me
all day long. When you told me your own story, you told me plainly
that you began adoring her the first time you saw her, when you
were very young indeed."

"Very well, then," said I, to whom this was a new and not unwelcome
light, "I have never left off adoring her. And she has come back, a
most beautiful and most elegant creature. And I saw her yesterday.
And if I adored her before, I now doubly adore her."

"Lucky for you then, Handel," said Herbert, "that you are picked
out for her and allotted to her. Without encroaching on forbidden
ground, we may venture to say that there can be no doubt between
ourselves of that fact. Have you any idea yet, of Estella's views
on the adoration question?"

I shook my head gloomily. "Oh! She is thousands of miles away, from
me," said I.

"Patience, my dear Handel: time enough, time enough. But you have
something more to say?"

"I am ashamed to say it," I returned, "and yet it's no worse to say
it than to think it. You call me a lucky fellow. Of course, I am. I
was a blacksmith's boy but yesterday; I am - what shall I say I am
- to-day?"

"Say, a good fellow, if you want a phrase," returned Herbert,
smiling, and clapping his hand on the back of mine, "a good fellow,
with impetuosity and hesitation, boldness and diffidence, action
and dreaming, curiously mixed in him."

I stopped for a moment to consider whether there really was this
mixture in my character. On the whole, I by no means recognized the
analysis, but thought it not worth disputing.

"When I ask what I am to call myself to-day, Herbert," I went on,
"I suggest what I have in my thoughts. You say I am lucky. I know I
have done nothing to raise myself in life, and that Fortune alone
has raised me; that is being very lucky. And yet, when I think of
Estella--"

("And when don't you, you know?" Herbert threw in, with his eyes on
the fire; which I thought kind and sympathetic of him.)

" - Then, my dear Herbert, I cannot tell you how dependent and
uncertain I feel, and how exposed to hundreds of chances. Avoiding
forbidden ground, as you did just now, I may still say that on the
constancy of one person (naming no person) all my expectations
depend. And at the best, how indefinite and unsatisfactory, only to
know so vaguely what they are!" In saying this, I relieved my mind
of what had always been there, more or less, though no doubt most
since yesterday.

"Now, Handel," Herbert replied, in his gay hopeful way, "it seems
to me that in the despondency of the tender passion, we are looking
into our gift-horse's mouth with a magnifying-glass. Likewise, it
seems to me that, concentrating our attention on the examination,
we altogether overlook one of the best points of the animal. Didn't
you tell me that your guardian, Mr. Jaggers, told you in the
beginning, that you were not endowed with expectations only? And
even if he had not told you so - though that is a very large If, I
grant - could you believe that of all men in London, Mr. Jaggers is
the man to hold his present relations towards you unless he were
sure of his ground?"

I said I could not deny that this was a strong point. I said it
(people often do so, in such cases) like a rather reluctant
concession to truth and justice; - as if I wanted to deny it!

"I should think it was a strong point," said Herbert, "and I should
think you would be puzzled to imagine a stronger; as to the rest,
you must bide your guardian's time, and he must bide his client's
time. You'll be one-and-twenty before you know where you are, and
then perhaps you'll get some further enlightenment. At all events,
you'll be nearer getting it, for it must come at last."

"What a hopeful disposition you have!" said I, gratefully admiring
his cheery ways.

"I ought to have," said Herbert, "for I have not much else. I must
acknowledge, by-the-bye, that the good sense of what I have just
said is not my own, but my father's. The only remark I ever heard
him make on your story, was the final one: "The thing is settled
and done, or Mr. Jaggers would not be in it." And now before I say
anything more about my father, or my father's son, and repay
confidence with confidence, I want to make myself seriously
disagreeable to you for a moment - positively repulsive."

"You won't succeed," said I.

"Oh yes I shall!" said he. "One, two, three, and now I am in for
it. Handel, my good fellow;" though he spoke in this light tone, he
was very much in earnest: "I have been thinking since we have been
talking with our feet on this fender, that Estella surely cannot be
a condition of your inheritance, if she was never referred to by
your guardian. Am I right in so understanding what you have told
me, as that he never referred to her, directly or indirectly, in
any way? Never even hinted, for instance, that your patron might
have views as to your marriage ultimately?"

"Never."

"Now, Handel, I am quite free from the flavour of sour grapes, upon
my soul and honour! Not being bound to her, can you not detach
yourself from her? - I told you I should be disagreeable."

I turned my head aside, for, with a rush and a sweep, like the old
marsh winds coming up from the sea, a feeling like that which had
subdued me on the morning when I left the forge, when the mists
were solemnly rising, and when I laid my hand upon the village
finger-post, smote upon my heart again. There was silence between
us for a little while.

"Yes; but my dear Handel," Herbert went on, as if we had been
talking instead of silent, "its having been so strongly rooted in
the breast of a boy whom nature and circumstances made so romantic,
renders it very serious. Think of her bringing-up, and think of
Miss Havisham. Think of what she is herself (now I am repulsive and
you abominate me). This may lead to miserable things."

"I know it, Herbert," said I, with my head still turned away, "but
I can't help it."

"You can't detach yourself?"

"No. Impossible!"

"You can't try, Handel?"

"No. Impossible!"

"Well!" said Herbert, getting up with a lively shake as if he had
been asleep, and stirring the fire; "now I'll endeavour to make
myself agreeable again!"

So he went round the room and shook the curtains out, put the
chairs in their places, tidied the books and so forth that were
lying about, looked into the hall, peeped into the letter-box, shut
the door, and came back to his chair by the fire: where he sat
down, nursing his left leg in both arms.

"I was going to say a word or two, Handel, concerning my father and
my father's son. I am afraid it is scarcely necessary for my
father's son to remark that my father's establishment is not
particularly brilliant in its housekeeping."

"There is always plenty, Herbert," said I: to say something
encouraging.

"Oh yes! and so the dustman says, I believe, with the strongest
approval, and so does the marine-store shop in the back street.
Gravely, Handel, for the subject is grave enough, you know how it
is, as well as I do. I suppose there was a time once when my father
had not given matters up; but if ever there was, the time is gone.
May I ask you if you have ever had an opportunity of remarking,
down in your part of the country, that the children of not exactly
suitable marriages, are always most particularly anxious to be
married?"

This was such a singular question, that I asked him in return, "Is
it so?"

"I don't know," said Herbert, "that's what I want to know. Because
it is decidedly the case with us. My poor sister Charlotte who was
next me and died before she was fourteen, was a striking example.
Little Jane is the same. In her desire to be matrimonially
established, you might suppose her to have passed her short
existence in the perpetual contemplation of domestic bliss. Little
Alick in a frock has already made arrangements for his union with a
suitable young person at Kew. And indeed, I think we are all
engaged, except the baby."

"Then you are?" said I.

"I am," said Herbert; "but it's a secret."

I assured him of my keeping the secret, and begged to be favoured
with further particulars. He had spoken so sensibly and feelingly
of my weakness that I wanted to know something about his strength.

"May I ask the name?" I said.

"Name of Clara," said Herbert.

"Live in London?"

"Yes. perhaps I ought to mention," said Herbert, who had become
curiously crestfallen and meek, since we entered on the interesting
theme, "that she is rather below my mother's nonsensical family
notions. Her father had to do with the victualling of
passenger-ships. I think he was a species of purser."

"What is he now?" said I.

"He's an invalid now," replied Herbert.

"Living on - ?"

"On the first floor," said Herbert. Which was not at all what I
meant, for I had intended my question to apply to his means. "I
have never seen him, for he has always kept his room overhead,
since I have known Clara. But I have heard him constantly. He makes
tremendous rows - roars, and pegs at the floor with some frightful
instrument." In looking at me and then laughing heartily, Herbert
for the time recovered his usual lively manner.

"Don't you expect to see him?" said I.

"Oh yes, I constantly expect to see him," returned Herbert,
"because I never hear him, without expecting him to come tumbling
through the ceiling. But I don't know how long the rafters may
hold."

When he had once more laughed heartily, he became meek again, and
told me that the moment he began to realize Capital, it was his
intention to marry this young lady. He added as a self-evident
proposition, engendering low spirits, "But you can't marry, you
know, while you're looking about you."

As we contemplated the fire, and as I thought what a difficult
vision to realize this same Capital sometimes was, I put my hands
in my pockets. A folded piece of paper in one of them attracting my
attention, I opened it and found it to be the playbill I had
received from Joe, relative to the celebrated provincial amateur of
Roscian renown. "And bless my heart," I involuntarily added aloud,
"it's to-night!"

This changed the subject in an instant, and made us hurriedly
resolve to go to the play. So, when I had pledged myself to comfort
and abet Herbert in the affair of his heart by all practicable and
impracticable means, and when Herbert had told me that his
affianced already knew me by reputation and that I should be
presented to her, and when we had warmly shaken hands upon our
mutual confidence, we blew out our candles, made up our fire,
locked our door, and issued forth in quest of Mr. Wopsle and
Denmark.



Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Category:
General Fiction - English literature
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