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Chapter 34

As I had grown accustomed to my expectations, I had insensibly
begun to notice their effect upon myself and those around me. Their
influence on my own character, I disguised from my recognition as
much as possible, but I knew very well that it was not all good. I
lived in a state of chronic uneasiness respecting my behaviour to
Joe. My conscience was not by any means comfortable about Biddy.
When I woke up in the night - like Camilla - I used to think, with
a weariness on my spirits, that I should have been happier and
better if I had never seen Miss Havisham's face, and had risen to
manhood content to be partners with Joe in the honest old forge.
Many a time of an evening, when I sat alone looking at the fire, I
thought, after all, there was no fire like the forge fire and the
kitchen fire at home.

Yet Estella was so inseparable from all my restlessness and
disquiet of mind, that I really fell into confusion as to the
limits of my own part in its production. That is to say, supposing
I had had no expectations, and yet had had Estella to think of, I
could not make out to my satisfaction that I should have done much
better. Now, concerning the influence of my position on others, I
was in no such difficulty, and so I perceived - though dimly enough
perhaps - that it was not beneficial to anybody, and, above all,
that it was not beneficial to Herbert. My lavish habits led his
easy nature into expenses that he could not afford, corrupted the
simplicity of his life, and disturbed his peace with anxieties and
regrets. I was not at all remorseful for having unwittingly set
those other branches of the Pocket family to the poor arts they
practised: because such littlenesses were their natural bent, and
would have been evoked by anybody else, if I had left them
slumbering. But Herbert's was a very different case, and it often
caused me a twinge to think that I had done him evil service in
crowding his sparely-furnished chambers with incongruous upholstery
work, and placing the canary-breasted Avenger at his disposal.

So now, as an infallible way of making little ease great ease, I
began to contract a quantity of debt. I could hardly begin but
Herbert must begin too, so he soon followed. At Startop's
suggestion, we put ourselves down for election into a club called
The Finches of the Grove: the object of which institution I have
never divined, if it were not that the members should dine
expensively once a fortnight, to quarrel among themselves as much
as possible after dinner, and to cause six waiters to get drunk on
the stairs. I Know that these gratifying social ends were so
invariably accomplished, that Herbert and I understood nothing else
to be referred to in the first standing toast of the society: which
ran "Gentlemen, may the present promotion of good feeling ever
reign predominant among the Finches of the Grove."

The Finches spent their money foolishly (the Hotel we dined at was
in Covent-garden), and the first Finch I saw, when I had the honour
of joining the Grove, was Bentley Drummle: at that time floundering
about town in a cab of his own, and doing a great deal of damage to
the posts at the street corners. Occasionally, he shot himself out
of his equipage head-foremost over the apron; and I saw him on one
occasion deliver himself at the door of the Grove in this
unintentional way - like coals. But here I anticipate a little for
I was not a Finch, and could not be, according to the sacred laws
of the society, until I came of age.

In my confidence in my own resources, I would willingly have taken
Herbert's expenses on myself; but Herbert was proud, and I could
make no such proposal to him. So, he got into difficulties in every
direction, and continued to look about him. When we gradually fell
into keeping late hours and late company, I noticed that he looked
about him with a desponding eye at breakfast-time; that he began to
look about him more hopefully about mid-day; that he drooped when
he came into dinner; that he seemed to descry Capital in the
distance rather clearly, after dinner; that he all but realized
Capital towards midnight; and that at about two o'clock in the
morning, he became so deeply despondent again as to talk of buying
a rifle and going to America, with a general purpose of compelling
buffaloes to make his fortune.

I was usually at Hammersmith about half the week, and when I was at
Hammersmith I haunted Richmond: whereof separately by-and-by.
Herbert would often come to Hammersmith when I was there, and I
think at those seasons his father would occasionally have some
passing perception that the opening he was looking for, had not
appeared yet. But in the general tumbling up of the family, his
tumbling out in life somewhere, was a thing to transact itself
somehow. In the meantime Mr. Pocket grew greyer, and tried oftener
to lift himself out of his perplexities by the hair. While Mrs.
Pocket tripped up the family with her footstool, read her book of
dignities, lost her pocket-handkerchief, told us about her
grandpapa, and taught the young idea how to shoot, by shooting it
into bed whenever it attracted her notice.

As I am now generalizing a period of my life with the object of
clearing my way before me, I can scarcely do so better than by at
once completing the description of our usual manners and customs at
Barnard's Inn.

We spent as much money as we could, and got as little for it as
people could make up their minds to give us. We were always more or
less miserable, and most of our acquaintance were in the same
condition. There was a gay fiction among us that we were constantly
enjoying ourselves, and a skeleton truth that we never did. To the
best of my belief, our case was in the last aspect a rather common
one.

Every morning, with an air ever new, Herbert went into the City to
look about him. I often paid him a visit in the dark back-room in
which he consorted with an ink-jar, a hat-peg, a coal-box, a
string-box, an almanack, a desk and stool, and a ruler; and I do
not remember that I ever saw him do anything else but look about
him. If we all did what we undertake to do, as faithfully as
Herbert did, we might live in a Republic of the Virtues. He had
nothing else to do, poor fellow, except at a certain hour of every
afternoon to "go to Lloyd's" - in observance of a ceremony of
seeing his principal, I think. He never did anything else in
connexion with Lloyd's that I could find out, except come back
again. When he felt his case unusually serious, and that he
positively must find an opening, he would go on 'Change at a busy
time, and walk in and out, in a kind of gloomy country dance
figure, among the assembled magnates. "For," says Herbert to me,
coming home to dinner on one of those special occasions, "I find
the truth to be, Handel, that an opening won't come to one, but one
must go to it - so I have been."

If we had been less attached to one another, I think we must have
hated one another regularly every morning. I detested the chambers
beyond expression at that period of repentance, and could not
endure the sight of the Avenger's livery: which had a more
expensive and a less remunerative appearance then, than at any
other time in the four-and-twenty hours. As we got more and more
into debt breakfast became a hollower and hollower form, and, being
on one occasion at breakfast-time threatened (by letter) with legal
proceedings, "not unwholly unconnected," as my local paper might
put it, "with jewellery," I went so far as to seize the Avenger by
his blue collar and shake him off his feet - so that he was
actually in the air, like a booted Cupid - for presuming to suppose
that we wanted a roll.

At certain times - meaning at uncertain times, for they depended on
our humour - I would say to Herbert, as if it were a remarkable
discovery:

"My dear Herbert, we are getting on badly."

"My dear Handel," Herbert would say to me, in all sincerity, if you
will believe me, those very words were on my lips, by a strange
coincidence."

"Then, Herbert," I would respond, "let us look into out affairs."

We always derived profound satisfaction from making an appointment
for this purpose. I always thought this was business, this was the
way to confront the thing, this was the way to take the foe by the
throat. And I know Herbert thought so too.

We ordered something rather special for dinner, with a bottle of
something similarly out of the common way, in order that our minds
might be fortified for the occasion, and we might come well up to
the mark. Dinner over, we produced a bundle of pens, a copious
supply of ink, and a goodly show of writing and blotting paper.
For, there was something very comfortable in having plenty of
stationery.

I would then take a sheet of paper, and write across the top of it,
in a neat hand, the heading, "Memorandum of Pip's debts;" with
Barnard's Inn and the date very carefully added. Herbert would also
take a sheet of paper, and write across it with similar
formalities, "Memorandum of Herbert's debts."

Each of us would then refer to a confused heap of papers at his
side, which had been thrown into drawers, worn into holes in
Pockets, half-burnt in lighting candles, stuck for weeks into the
looking-glass, and otherwise damaged. The sound of our pens going,
refreshed us exceedingly, insomuch that I sometimes found it
difficult to distinguish between this edifying business proceeding
and actually paying the money. In point of meritorious character,
the two things seemed about equal.

When we had written a little while, I would ask Herbert how he got
on? Herbert probably would have been scratching his head in a most
rueful manner at the sight of his accumulating figures.

"They are mounting up, Handel," Herbert would say; "upon my life,
they are mounting up."

"Be firm, Herbert," I would retort, plying my own pen with great
assiduity. "Look the thing in the face. Look into your affairs.
Stare them out of countenance."

"So I would, Handel, only they are staring me out of countenance."

However, my determined manner would have its effect, and Herbert
would fall to work again. After a time he would give up once more,
on the plea that he had not got Cobbs's bill, or Lobbs's, or
Nobbs's, as the case might be.

"Then, Herbert, estimate; estimate it in round numbers, and put it
down."

"What a fellow of resource you are!" my friend would reply, with
admiration. "Really your business powers are very remarkable."

I thought so too. I established with myself on these occasions, the
reputation of a first-rate man of business - prompt, decisive,
energetic, clear, cool-headed. When I had got all my
responsibilities down upon my list, I compared each with the bill,
and ticked it off. My self-approval when I ticked an entry was
quite a luxurious sensation. When I had no more ticks to make, I
folded all my bills up uniformly, docketed each on the back, and
tied the whole into a symmetrical bundle. Then I did the same for
Herbert (who modestly said he had not my administrative genius),
and felt that I had brought his affairs into a focus for him.

My business habits had one other bright feature, which i called
"leaving a Margin." For example; supposing Herbert's debts to be
one hundred and sixty-four pounds four-and-twopence, I would say,
"Leave a margin, and put them down at two hundred." Or, supposing
my own to be four times as much, I would leave a margin, and put
them down at seven hundred. I had the highest opinion of the wisdom
of this same Margin, but I am bound to acknowledge that on looking
back, I deem it to have been an expensive device. For, we always
ran into new debt immediately, to the full extent of the margin,
and sometimes, in the sense of freedom and solvency it imparted,
got pretty far on into another margin.

But there was a calm, a rest, a virtuous hush, consequent on these
examinations of our affairs that gave me, for the time, an
admirable opinion of myself. Soothed by my exertions, my method,
and Herbert's compliments, I would sit with his symmetrical bundle
and my own on the table before me among the stationary, and feel
like a Bank of some sort, rather than a private individual.

We shut our outer door on these solemn occasions, in order that we
might not be interrupted. I had fallen into my serene state one
evening, when we heard a letter dropped through the slit in the
said door, and fall on the ground. "It's for you, Handel," said
Herbert, going out and coming back with it, "and I hope there is
nothing the matter." This was in allusion to its heavy black seal
and border.

The letter was signed TRABB & CO., and its contents were simply,
that I was an honoured sir, and that they begged to inform me that
Mrs. J. Gargery had departed this life on Monday last, at twenty
minutes past six in the evening, and that my attendance was
requested at the interment on Monday next at three o'clock in the
afternoon.



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