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Chapter 57

Now that I was left wholly to myself, I gave notice of my intention
to quit the chambers in the Temple as soon as my tenancy could
legally determine, and in the meanwhile to underlet them. At once I
put bills up in the windows; for, I was in debt, and had scarcely
any money, and began to be seriously alarmed by the state of my
affairs. I ought rather to write that I should have been alarmed if
I had had energy and concentration enough to help me to the clear
perception of any truth beyond the fact that I was falling very
ill. The late stress upon me had enabled me to put off illness, but
not to put it away; I knew that it was coming on me now, and I knew
very little else, and was even careless as to that.

For a day or two, I lay on the sofa, or on the floor - anywhere,
according as I happened to sink down - with a heavy head and aching
limbs, and no purpose, and no power. Then there came one night
which appeared of great duration, and which teemed with anxiety and
horror; and when in the morning I tried to sit up in my bed and
think of it, I found I could not do so.

Whether I really had been down in Garden Court in the dead of the
night, groping about for the boat that I supposed to be there;
whether I had two or three times come to myself on the staircase
with great terror, not knowing how I had got out of bed; whether I
had found myself lighting the lamp, possessed by the idea that he
was coming up the stairs, and that the lights were blown out;
whether I had been inexpressibly harassed by the distracted
talking, laughing, and groaning, of some one, and had half
suspected those sounds to be of my own making; whether there had
been a closed iron furnace in a dark corner of the room, and a
voice had called out over and over again that Miss Havisham was
consuming within it; these were things that I tried to settle with
myself and get into some order, as I lay that morning on my bed.
But, the vapour of a limekiln would come between me and them,
disordering them all, and it was through the vapour at last that I
saw two men looking at me.

"What do you want?" I asked, starting; "I don't know you."

"Well, sir," returned one of them, bending down and touching me on
the shoulder, "this is a matter that you'll soon arrange, I dare
say, but you're arrested."

"What is the debt?"

"Hundred and twenty-three pound, fifteen, six. Jeweller's account,
I think."

"What is to be done?"

"You had better come to my house," said the man. "I keep a very
nice house."

I made some attempt to get up and dress myself. When I next
attended to them, they were standing a little off from the bed,
looking at me. I still lay there.

"You see my state," said I. "I would come with you if I could; but
indeed I am quite unable. If you take me from here, I think I shall
die by the way."

Perhaps they replied, or argued the point, or tried to encourage me
to believe that I was better than I thought. Forasmuch as they hang
in my memory by only this one slender thread, I don't know what
they did, except that they forbore to remove me.

That I had a fever and was avoided, that I suffered greatly, that I
often lost my reason, that the time seemed interminable, that I
confounded impossible existences with my own identity; that I was a
brick in the house wall, and yet entreating to be released from the
giddy place where the builders had set me; that I was a steel beam
of a vast engine, clashing and whirling over a gulf, and yet that I
implored in my own person to have the engine stopped, and my part
in it hammered off; that I passed through these phases of disease,
I know of my own remembrance, and did in some sort know at the
time. That I sometimes struggled with real people, in the belief
that they were murderers, and that I would all at once comprehend
that they meant to do me good, and would then sink exhausted in
their arms, and suffer them to lay me down, I also knew at the
time. But, above all, I knew that there was a constant tendency in
all these people - who, when I was very ill, would present all
kinds of extraordinary transformations of the human face, and would
be much dilated in size - above all, I say, I knew that there was
an extraordinary tendency in all these people, sooner or later to
settle down into the likeness of Joe.

After I had turned the worst point of my illness, I began to notice
that while all its other features changed, this one consistent
feature did not change. Whoever came about me, still settled down
into Joe. I opened my eyes in the night, and I saw in the great
chair at the bedside, Joe. I opened my eyes in the day, and,
sitting on the window-seat, smoking his pipe in the shaded open
window, still I saw Joe. I asked for cooling drink, and the dear
hand that gave it me was Joe's. I sank back on my pillow after
drinking, and the face that looked so hopefully and tenderly upon
me was the face of Joe.

At last, one day, I took courage, and said, "Is it Joe?"

And the dear old home-voice answered, "Which it air, old chap."

"O Joe, you break my heart! Look angry at me, Joe. Strike me, Joe.
Tell me of my ingratitude. Don't be so good to me!"

For, Joe had actually laid his head down on the pillow at my side
and put his arm round my neck, in his joy that I knew him.

"Which dear old Pip, old chap," said Joe, "you and me was ever
friends. And when you're well enough to go out for a ride - what
larks!"

After which, Joe withdrew to the window, and stood with his back
towards me, wiping his eyes. And as my extreme weakness prevented
me from getting up and going to him, I lay there, penitently
whispering, "O God bless him! O God bless this gentle Christian
man!"

Joe's eyes were red when I next found him beside me; but, I was
holding his hand, and we both felt happy.

"How long, dear Joe?"

"Which you meantersay, Pip, how long have your illness lasted, dear
old chap?"

"Yes, Joe."

"It's the end of May, Pip. To-morrow is the first of June."

"And have you been here all that time, dear Joe?"

"Pretty nigh, old chap. For, as I says to Biddy when the news of
your being ill were brought by letter, which it were brought by the
post and being formerly single he is now married though underpaid
for a deal of walking and shoe-leather, but wealth were not a
object on his part, and marriage were the great wish of his hart--"

"It is so delightful to hear you, Joe! But I interrupt you in what
you said to Biddy."

"Which it were," said Joe, "that how you might be amongst
strangers, and that how you and me having been ever friends, a
wisit at such a moment might not prove unacceptabobble. And Biddy,
her word were, 'Go to him, without loss of time.' That," said Joe,
summing up with his judicial air, "were the word of Biddy. 'Go to
him,' Biddy say, 'without loss of time.' In short, I shouldn't
greatly deceive you," Joe added, after a little grave reflection,
"if I represented to you that the word of that young woman were,
'without a minute's loss of time.'"

There Joe cut himself short, and informed me that I was to be
talked to in great moderation, and that I was to take a little
nourishment at stated frequent times, whether I felt inclined for
it or not, and that I was to submit myself to all his orders. So, I
kissed his hand, and lay quiet, while he proceeded to indite a note
to Biddy, with my love in it.

Evidently, Biddy had taught Joe to write. As I lay in bed looking
at him, it made me, in my weak state, cry again with pleasure to
see the pride with which he set about his letter. My bedstead,
divested of its curtains, had been removed, with me upon it, into
the sittingroom, as the airiest and largest, and the carpet had
been taken away, and the room kept always fresh and wholesome night
and day. At my own writing-table, pushed into a corner and cumbered
with little bottles, Joe now sat down to his great work, first
choosing a pen from the pen-tray as if it were a chest of large
tools, and tucking up his sleeves as if he were going to wield a
crowbar or sledgehammer. It was necessary for Joe to hold on
heavily to the table with his left elbow, and to get his right leg
well out behind him, before he could begin, and when he did begin,
he made every down-stroke so slowly that it might have been six
feet long, while at every up-stroke I could hear his pen
spluttering extensively. He had a curious idea that the inkstand
was on the side of him where it was not, and constantly dipped his
pen into space, and seemed quite satisfied with the result.
Occasionally, he was tripped up by some orthographical
stumbling-block, but on the whole he got on very well indeed, and
when he had signed his name, and had removed a finishing blot from
the paper to the crown of his head with his two forefingers, he got
up and hovered about the table, trying the effect of his
performance from various points of view as it lay there, with
unbounded satisfaction.

Not to make Joe uneasy by talking too much, even if I had been able
to talk much, I deferred asking him about Miss Havisham until next
day. He shook his head when I then asked him if she had recovered.

"Is she dead, Joe?"

"Why you see, old chap," said Joe, in a tone of remonstrance, and
by way of getting at it by degrees, "I wouldn't go so far as to say
that, for that's a deal to say; but she ain't--"

"Living, Joe?"

"That's nigher where it is," said Joe; "she ain't living."

"Did she linger long, Joe?"

"Arter you was took ill, pretty much about what you might call (if
you was put to it) a week," said Joe; still determined, on my
account, to come at everything by degrees.

"Dear Joe, have you heard what becomes of her property?"

"Well, old chap," said Joe, "it do appear that she had settled the
most of it, which I meantersay tied it up, on Miss Estella. But she
had wrote out a little coddleshell in her own hand a day or two
afore the accident, leaving a cool four thousand to Mr. Matthew
Pocket. And why, do you suppose, above all things, Pip, she left
that cool four thousand unto him? 'Because of Pip's account of him
the said Matthew.' I am told by Biddy, that air the writing," said
Joe, repeating the legal turn as if it did him infinite good,
'account of him the said Matthew.' And a cool four thousand, Pip!"

I never discovered from whom Joe derived the conventional
temperature of the four thousand pounds, but it appeared to make
the sum of money more to him, and he had a manifest relish in
insisting on its being cool.

This account gave me great joy, as it perfected the only good thing
I had done. I asked Joe whether he had heard if any of the other
relations had any legacies?

"Miss Sarah," said Joe, "she have twenty-five pound perannium fur
to buy pills, on account of being bilious. Miss Georgiana, she have
twenty pound down. Mrs. - what's the name of them wild beasts with
humps, old chap?"

"Camels?" said I, wondering why he could possibly want to know.

Joe nodded. "Mrs. Camels," by which I presently understood he meant
Camilla, "she have five pound fur to buy rushlights to put her in
spirits when she wake up in the night."

The accuracy of these recitals was sufficiently obvious to me, to
give me great confidence in Joe's information. "And now," said Joe,
"you ain't that strong yet, old chap, that you can take in more nor
one additional shovel-full to-day. Old Orlick he's been a
bustin'open a dwelling-ouse."

"Whose?" said I.

"Not, I grant, you, but what his manners is given to blusterous,"
said Joe, apologetically; "still, a Englishman's ouse is his
Castle, and castles must not be busted 'cept when done in war time.
And wotsume'er the failings on his part, he were a corn and
seedsman in his hart."

"Is it Pumblechook's house that has been broken into, then?"

"That's it, Pip," said Joe; "and they took his till, and they took
his cash-box, and they drinked his wine, and they partook of his
wittles, and they slapped his face, and they pulled his nose, and
they tied him up to his bedpust, and they giv' him a dozen, and
they stuffed his mouth full of flowering annuals to prewent his
crying out. But he knowed Orlick, and Orlick's in the county
jail."

By these approaches we arrived at unrestricted conversation. I was
slow to gain strength, but I did slowly and surely become less
weak, and Joe stayed with me, and I fancied I was little Pip again.

For, the tenderness of Joe was so beautifully proportioned to my
need, that I was like a child in his hands. He would sit and talk
to me in the old confidence, and with the old simplicity, and in
the old unassertive protecting way, so that I would half believe
that all my life since the days of the old kitchen was one of the
mental troubles of the fever that was gone. He did everything for
me except the household work, for which he had engaged a very
decent woman, after paying off the laundress on his first arrival.
"Which I do assure you, Pip," he would often say, in explanation of
that liberty; "I found her a tapping the spare bed, like a cask of
beer, and drawing off the feathers in a bucket, for sale. Which she
would have tapped yourn next, and draw'd it off with you a laying
on it, and was then a carrying away the coals gradiwally in the
souptureen and wegetable-dishes, and the wine and spirits in your
Wellington boots."

We looked forward to the day when I should go out for a ride, as we
had once looked forward to the day of my apprenticeship. And when
the day came, and an open carriage was got into the Lane, Joe
wrapped me up, took me in his arms, carried me down to it, and put
me in, as if I were still the small helpless creature to whom he
had so abundantly given of the wealth of his great nature.

And Joe got in beside me, and we drove away together into the
country, where the rich summer growth was already on the trees and
on the grass, and sweet summer scents filled all the air. The day
happened to be Sunday, and when I looked on the loveliness around
me, and thought how it had grown and changed, and how the little
wild flowers had been forming, and the voices of the birds had been
strengthening, by day and by night, under the sun and under the
stars, while poor I lay burning and tossing on my bed, the mere
remembrance of having burned and tossed there, came like a check
upon my peace. But, when I heard the Sunday bells, and looked
around a little more upon the outspread beauty, I felt that I was
not nearly thankful enough - that I was too weak yet, to be even
that - and I laid my head on Joe's shoulder, as I had laid it long
ago when he had taken me to the Fair or where not, and it was too
much for my young senses.

More composure came to me after a while, and we talked as we used
to talk, lying on the grass at the old Battery. There was no change
whatever in Joe. Exactly what he had been in my eyes then, he was
in my eyes still; just as simply faithful, and as simply right.

When we got back again and he lifted me out, and carried me - so
easily - across the court and up the stairs, I thought of that
eventful Christmas Day when he had carried me over the marshes. We
had not yet made any allusion to my change of fortune, nor did I
know how much of my late history he was acquainted with. I was so
doubtful of myself now, and put so much trust in him, that I could
not satisfy myself whether I ought to refer to it when he did not.

"Have you heard, Joe," I asked him that evening, upon further
consideration, as he smoked his pipe at the window, "who my patron
was?"

"I heerd," returned Joe, "as it were not Miss Havisham, old chap."

"Did you hear who it was, Joe?"

"Well! I heerd as it were a person what sent the person what
giv'you the bank-notes at the Jolly Bargemen, Pip."

"So it was."

"Astonishing!" said Joe, in the placidest way.

"Did you hear that he was dead, Joe?" I presently asked, with
increasing diffidence.

"Which? Him as sent the bank-notes, Pip?"

"Yes."

"I think," said Joe, after meditating a long time, and looking
rather evasively at the window-seat, "as I did hear tell that how
he were something or another in a general way in that direction."

"Did you hear anything of his circumstances, Joe?"

"Not partickler, Pip."

"If you would like to hear, Joe--" I was beginning, when Joe got up
and came to my sofa.

"Lookee here, old chap," said Joe, bending over me. "Ever the best
of friends; ain't us, Pip?"

I was ashamed to answer him.

"Wery good, then," said Joe, as if I had answered; "that's all
right, that's agreed upon. Then why go into subjects, old chap,
which as betwixt two sech must be for ever onnecessary? There's
subjects enough as betwixt two sech, without onnecessary ones.
Lord! To think of your poor sister and her Rampages! And don't you
remember Tickler?"

"I do indeed, Joe."

"Lookee here, old chap," said Joe. "I done what I could to keep you
and Tickler in sunders, but my power were not always fully equal to
my inclinations. For when your poor sister had a mind to drop into
you, it were not so much," said Joe, in his favourite argumentative
way, "that she dropped into me too, if I put myself in opposition
to her but that she dropped into you always heavier for it. I
noticed that. It ain't a grab at a man's whisker, not yet a shake
or two of a man (to which your sister was quite welcome), that 'ud
put a man off from getting a little child out of punishment. But
when that little child is dropped into, heavier, for that grab of
whisker or shaking, then that man naterally up and says to himself,
'Where is the good as you are a-doing? I grant you I see the 'arm,'
says the man, 'but I don't see the good. I call upon you, sir,
therefore, to pint out the good.'"

"The man says?" I observed, as Joe waited for me to speak.

"The man says," Joe assented. "Is he right, that man?"

"Dear Joe, he is always right."

"Well, old chap," said Joe, "then abide by your words. If he's
always right (which in general he's more likely wrong), he's right
when he says this: - Supposing ever you kep any little matter to
yourself, when you was a little child, you kep it mostly because
you know'd as J. Gargery's power to part you and Tickler in
sunders, were not fully equal to his inclinations. Therefore, think
no more of it as betwixt two sech, and do not let us pass remarks
upon onnecessary subjects. Biddy giv' herself a deal o' trouble
with me afore I left (for I am almost awful dull), as I should view
it in this light, and, viewing it in this light, as I should so put
it. Both of which," said Joe, quite charmed with his logical
arrangement, "being done, now this to you a true friend, say.
Namely. You mustn't go a-over-doing on it, but you must have your
supper and your wine-and-water, and you must be put betwixt the
sheets."

The delicacy with which Joe dismissed this theme, and the sweet
tact and kindness with which Biddy - who with her woman's wit had
found me out so soon - had prepared him for it, made a deep
impression on my mind. But whether Joe knew how poor I was, and how
my great expectations had all dissolved, like our own marsh mists
before the sun, I could not understand.

Another thing in Joe that I could not understand when it first
began to develop itself, but which I soon arrived at a sorrowful
comprehension of, was this: As I became stronger and better, Joe
became a little less easy with me. In my weakness and entire
dependence on him, the dear fellow had fallen into the old tone,
and called me by the old names, the dear "old Pip, old chap," that
now were music in my ears. I too had fallen into the old ways, only
happy and thankful that he let me. But, imperceptibly, though I
held by them fast, Joe's hold upon them began to slacken; and
whereas I wondered at this, at first, I soon began to understand
that the cause of it was in me, and that the fault of it was all
mine.

Ah! Had I given Joe no reason to doubt my constancy, and to think
that in prosperity I should grow cold to him and cast him off? Had
I given Joe's innocent heart no cause to feel instinctively that as
I got stronger, his hold upon me would be weaker, and that he had
better loosen it in time and let me go, before I plucked myself
away?

It was on the third or fourth occasion of my going out walking in
the Temple Gardens leaning on Joe's arm, that I saw this change in
him very plainly. We had been sitting in the bright warm sunlight,
looking at the river, and I chanced to say as we got up:

"See, Joe! I can walk quite strongly. Now, you shall see me walk
back by myself."

"Which do not over-do it, Pip," said Joe; "but I shall be happy fur
to see you able, sir."

The last word grated on me; but how could I remonstrate! I walked
no further than the gate of the gardens, and then pretended to be
weaker than I was, and asked Joe for his arm. Joe gave it me, but
was thoughtful.

I, for my part, was thoughtful too; for, how best to check this
growing change in Joe, was a great perplexity to my remorseful
thoughts. That I was ashamed to tell him exactly how I was placed,
and what I had come down to, I do not seek to conceal; but, I hope
my reluctance was not quite an unworthy one. He would want to help
me out of his little savings, I knew, and I knew that he ought not
to help me, and that I must not suffer him to do it.

It was a thoughtful evening with both of us. But, before we went to
bed, I had resolved that I would wait over to-morrow, to-morrow
being Sunday, and would begin my new course with the new week. On
Monday morning I would speak to Joe about this change, I would lay
aside this last vestige of reserve, I would tell him what I had in
my thoughts (that Secondly, not yet arrived at), and why I had not
decided to go out to Herbert, and then the change would be
conquered for ever. As I cleared, Joe cleared, and it seemed as
though he had sympathetically arrived at a resolution too.

We had a quiet day on the Sunday, and we rode out into the country,
and then walked in the fields.

"I feel thankful that I have been ill, Joe," I said.

"Dear old Pip, old chap, you're a'most come round, sir."

"It has been a memorable time for me, Joe."

"Likeways for myself, sir," Joe returned.

"We have had a time together, Joe, that I can never forget. There
were days once, I know, that I did for a while forget; but I never
shall forget these."

"Pip," said Joe, appearing a little hurried and troubled, "there
has been larks, And, dear sir, what have been betwixt us - have
been."

At night, when I had gone to bed, Joe came into my room, as he had
done all through my recovery. He asked me if I felt sure that I was
as well as in the morning?

"Yes, dear Joe, quite."

"And are always a-getting stronger, old chap?"

"Yes, dear Joe, steadily."

Joe patted the coverlet on my shoulder with his great good hand,
and said, in what I thought a husky voice, "Good night!"

When I got up in the morning, refreshed and stronger yet, I was
full of my resolution to tell Joe all, without delay. I would tell
him before breakfast. I would dress at once and go to his room and
surprise him; for, it was the first day I had been up early. I went
to his room, and he was not there. Not only was he not there, but
his box was gone.

I hurried then to the breakfast-table, and on it found a letter.
These were its brief contents.

"Not wishful to intrude I have departured fur you are well again
dear Pip and will do better without JO.

"P.S. Ever the best of friends."

Enclosed in the letter, was a receipt for the debt and costs on
which I had been arrested. Down to that moment I had vainly
supposed that my creditor had withdrawn or suspended proceedings
until I should be quite recovered. I had never dreamed of Joe's
having paid the money; but, Joe had paid it, and the receipt was in
his name.

What remained for me now, but to follow him to the dear old forge,
and there to have out my disclosure to him, and my penitent
remonstrance with him, and there to relieve my mind and heart of
that reserved Secondly, which had begun as a vague something
lingering in my thoughts, and had formed into a settled purpose?

The purpose was, that I would go to Biddy, that I would show her
how humbled and repentant I came back, that I would tell her how I
had lost all I once hoped for, that I would remind her of our old
confidences in my first unhappy time. Then, I would say to her,
"Biddy, I think you once liked me very well, when my errant heart,
even while it strayed away from you, was quieter and better with
you than it ever has been since. If you can like me only half as
well once more, if you can take me with all my faults and
disappointments on my head, if you can receive me like a forgiven
child (and indeed I am as sorry, Biddy, and have as much need of a
hushing voice and a soothing hand), I hope I am a little worthier
of you that I was - not much, but a little. And, Biddy, it shall
rest with you to say whether I shall work at the forge with Joe, or
whether I shall try for any different occupation down in this
country, or whether we shall go away to a distant place where an
opportunity awaits me, which I set aside when it was offered, until
I knew your answer. And now, dear Biddy, if you can tell me that
you will go through the world with me, you will surely make it a
better world for me, and me a better man for it, and I will try
hard to make it a better world for you."

Such was my purpose. After three days more of recovery, I went down
to the old place, to put it in execution; and how I sped in it, is
all I have left to tell.



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