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Charles Dickens > Great Expectations > Chapter 27

Great Expectations

Chapter 27


"I write this by request of Mr. Gargery, for to let you know that he

is going to London in company with Mr. Wopsle and would be glad if

agreeable to be allowed to see you. He would call at Barnard's

Hotel Tuesday morning 9 o'clock, when if not agreeable please

leave word. Your poor sister is much the same as when you left. We

talk of you in the kitchen every night, and wonder what you are

saying and doing. If now considered in the light of a liberty,

excuse it for the love of poor old days. No more, dear Mr. Pip, from

"Your ever obliged, and affectionate servant,


"P.S. He wishes me most particular to write what larks. He says you

will understand. I hope and do not doubt it will be agreeable to

see him even though a gentleman, for you had ever a good heart, and

he is a worthy worthy man. I have read him all excepting only the

last little sentence, and he wishes me most particular to write

again what larks."

I received this letter by the post on Monday morning, and therefore

its appointment was for next day. Let me confess exactly, with what

feelings I looked forward to Joe's coming.

Not with pleasure, though I was bound to him by so many ties; no;

with considerable disturbance, some mortification, and a keen sense

of incongruity. If I could have kept him away by paying money, I

certainly would have paid money. My greatest reassurance was, that

he was coming to Barnard's Inn, not to Hammersmith, and

consequently would not fall in Bentley Drummle's way. I had little

objection to his being seen by Herbert or his father, for both of

whom I had a respect; but I had the sharpest sensitiveness as to

his being seen by Drummle, whom I held in contempt. So, throughout

life, our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for

the sake of the people whom we most despise.

I had begun to be always decorating the chambers in some quite

unnecessary and inappropriate way or other, and very expensive

those wrestles with Barnard proved to be. By this time, the rooms

were vastly different from what I had found them, and I enjoyed the

honour of occupying a few prominent pages in the books of a

neighbouring upholsterer. I had got on so fast of late, that I had

even started a boy in boots - top boots - in bondage and slavery to

whom I might have been said to pass my days. For, after I had made

the monster (out of the refuse of my washerwoman's family) and had

clothed him with a blue coat, canary waistcoat, white cravat,

creamy breeches, and the boots already mentioned, I had to find him

a little to do and a great deal to eat; and with both of those

horrible requirements he haunted my existence.

This avenging phantom was ordered to be on duty at eight on Tuesday

morning in the hall (it was two feet square, as charged for

floorcloth), and Herbert suggested certain things for breakfast

that he thought Joe would like. While I felt sincerely obliged to

him for being so interested and considerate, I had an odd

half-provoked sense of suspicion upon me, that if Joe had been

coming to see him, he wouldn't have been quite so brisk about it.

However, I came into town on the Monday night to be ready for Joe,

and I got up early in the morning, and caused the sittingroom and

breakfast-table to assume their most splendid appearance.

Unfortunately the morning was drizzly, and an angel could not have

concealed the fact that Barnard was shedding sooty tears outside the

window, like some weak giant of a Sweep.

As the time approached I should have liked to run away, but the

Avenger pursuant to orders was in the hall, and presently I heard

Joe on the staircase. I knew it was Joe, by his clumsy manner of

coming up-stairs - his state boots being always too big for him -

and by the time it took him to read the names on the other floors

in the course of his ascent. When at last he stopped outside our

door, I could hear his finger tracing over the painted letters of

my name, and I afterwards distinctly heard him breathing in at the

keyhole. Finally he gave a faint single rap, and Pepper - such was

the compromising name of the avenging boy - announced "Mr. Gargery!"

I thought he never would have done wiping his feet, and that I must

have gone out to lift him off the mat, but at last he came in.

"Joe, how are you, Joe?"

"Pip, how AIR you, Pip?"

With his good honest face all glowing and shining, and his hat put

down on the floor between us, he caught both my hands and worked

them straight up and down, as if I had been the lastpatented Pump.

"I am glad to see you, Joe. Give me your hat."

But Joe, taking it up carefully with both hands, like a bird's-nest

with eggs in it, wouldn't hear of parting with that piece of

property, and persisted in standing talking over it in a most

uncomfortable way.

"Which you have that growed," said Joe, "and that swelled, and that

gentle-folked;" Joe considered a little before he discovered this

word; "as to be sure you are a honour to your king and country."

"And you, Joe, look wonderfully well."

"Thank God," said Joe, "I'm ekerval to most. And your sister, she's

no worse than she were. And Biddy, she's ever right and ready. And

all friends is no backerder, if not no forarder. 'Ceptin Wopsle;

he's had a drop."

All this time (still with both hands taking great care of the

bird's-nest), Joe was rolling his eyes round and round the room,

and round and round the flowered pattern of my dressing-gown.

"Had a drop, Joe?"

"Why yes," said Joe, lowering his voice, "he's left the Church, and

went into the playacting. Which the playacting have likeways

brought him to London along with me. And his wish were," said Joe,

getting the bird's-nest under his left arm for the moment and

groping in it for an egg with his right; "if no offence, as I would

'and you that."

I took what Joe gave me, and found it to be the crumpled playbill

of a small metropolitan theatre, announcing the first appearance,

in that very week, of "the celebrated Provincial Amateur of Roscian

renown, whose unique performance in the highest tragic walk of our

National Bard has lately occasioned so great a sensation in local

dramatic circles."

"Were you at his performance, Joe?" I inquired.

"I were," said Joe, with emphasis and solemnity.

"Was there a great sensation?"

"Why," said Joe, "yes, there certainly were a peck of orange-peel.

Partickler, when he see the ghost. Though I put it to yourself,

sir, whether it were calc'lated to keep a man up to his work with a

good hart, to be continiwally cutting in betwixt him and the Ghost

with "Amen!" A man may have had a misfortun' and been in the

Church," said Joe, lowering his voice to an argumentative and

feeling tone, "but that is no reason why you should put him out at

such a time. Which I meantersay, if the ghost of a man's own father

cannot be allowed to claim his attention, what can, Sir? Still

more, when his mourning "at is unfortunately made so small as that

the weight of the black feathers brings it off, try to keep it on

how you may."

A ghost-seeing effect in Joe's own countenance informed me that

Herbert had entered the room. So, I presented Joe to Herbert, who

held out his hand; but Joe backed from it, and held on by the


"Your servant, Sir," said Joe, "which I hope as you and Pip" - here

his eye fell on the Avenger, who was putting some toast on table,

and so plainly denoted an intention to make that young gentleman

one of the family, that I frowned it down and confused him more -

"I meantersay, you two gentlemen - which I hope as you get your

elths in this close spot? For the present may be a werry good inn,

according to London opinions," said Joe, confidentially, "and I

believe its character do stand i; but I wouldn't keep a pig in it

myself - not in the case that I wished him to fatten wholesome and

to eat with a meller flavour on him."

Having borne this flattering testimony to the merits of our

dwelling-place, and having incidentally shown this tendency to call

me "sir," Joe, being invited to sit down to table, looked all round

the room for a suitable spot on which to deposit his hat - as if it

were only on some very few rare substances in nature that it could

find a resting place - and ultimately stood it on an extreme corner

of the chimney-piece, from which it ever afterwards fell off at


"Do you take tea, or coffee, Mr. Gargery?" asked Herbert, who always

presided of a morning.

"Thankee, Sir," said Joe, stiff from head to foot, "I'll take

whichever is most agreeable to yourself."

"What do you say to coffee?"

"Thankee, Sir," returned Joe, evidently dispirited by the proposal,

"since you are so kind as make chice of coffee, I will not run

contrairy to your own opinions. But don't you never find it a

little 'eating?"

"Say tea then," said Herbert, pouring it out.

Here Joe's hat tumbled off the mantel-piece, and he started out of

his chair and picked it up, and fitted it to the same exact spot.

As if it were an absolute point of good breeding that it should

tumble off again soon.

"When did you come to town, Mr. Gargery?"

"Were it yesterday afternoon?" said Joe, after coughing behind his

hand, as if he had had time to catch the whooping-cough since he

came. "No it were not. Yes it were. Yes. It were yesterday

afternoon" (with an appearance of mingled wisdom, relief, and

strict impartiality).

"Have you seen anything of London, yet?"

"Why, yes, Sir," said Joe, "me and Wopsle went off straight to look

at the Blacking Ware'us. But we didn't find that it come up to its

likeness in the red bills at the shop doors; which I meantersay,"

added Joe, in an explanatory manner, "as it is there drawd too


I really believe Joe would have prolonged this word (mightily

expressive to my mind of some architecture that I know) into a

perfect Chorus, but for his attention being providentially

attracted by his hat, which was toppling. Indeed, it demanded from

him a constant attention, and a quickness of eye and hand, very

like that exacted by wicket-keeping. He made extraordinary play

with it, and showed the greatest skill; now, rushing at it and

catching it neatly as it dropped; now, merely stopping it midway,

beating it up, and humouring it in various parts of the room and

against a good deal of the pattern of the paper on the wall, before

he felt it safe to close with it; finally, splashing it into the

slop-basin, where I took the liberty of laying hands upon it.

As to his shirt-collar, and his coat-collar, they were perplexing

to reflect upon - insoluble mysteries both. Why should a man scrape

himself to that extent, before he could consider himself full

dressed? Why should he suppose it necessary to be purified by

suffering for his holiday clothes? Then he fell into such

unaccountable fits of meditation, with his fork midway between his

plate and his mouth; had his eyes attracted in such strange

directions; was afflicted with such remarkable coughs; sat so far

from the table, and dropped so much more than he ate, and pretended

that he hadn't dropped it; that I was heartily glad when Herbert

left us for the city.

I had neither the good sense nor the good feeling to know that this

was all my fault, and that if I had been easier with Joe, Joe would

have been easier with me. I felt impatient of him and out of temper

with him; in which condition he heaped coals of fire on my head.

"Us two being now alone, Sir," - began Joe.

"Joe," I interrupted, pettishly, "how can you call me, Sir?"

Joe looked at me for a single instant with something faintly like

reproach. Utterly preposterous as his cravat was, and as his

collars were, I was conscious of a sort of dignity in the look.

"Us two being now alone," resumed Joe, "and me having the

intentions and abilities to stay not many minutes more, I will now

conclude - leastways begin - to mention what have led to my having

had the present honour. For was it not," said Joe, with his old air

of lucid exposition, "that my only wish were to be useful to you, I

should not have had the honour of breaking wittles in the company

and abode of gentlemen."

I was so unwilling to see the look again, that I made no

remonstrance against this tone.

"Well, Sir," pursued Joe, "this is how it were. I were at the

Bargemen t'other night, Pip;" whenever he subsided into affection,

he called me Pip, and whenever he relapsed into politeness he

called me Sir; "when there come up in his shay-cart, Pumblechook.

Which that same identical," said Joe, going down a new track, "do

comb my 'air the wrong way sometimes, awful, by giving out up and

down town as it were him which ever had your infant companionation

and were looked upon as a playfellow by yourself."

"Nonsense. It was you, Joe."

"Which I fully believed it were, Pip," said Joe, slightly tossing

his head, "though it signify little now, Sir. Well, Pip; this same

identical, which his manners is given to blusterous, come to me at

the Bargemen (wot a pipe and a pint of beer do give refreshment to

the working-man, Sir, and do not over stimilate), and his word

were, 'Joseph, Miss Havisham she wish to speak to you.'"

"Miss Havisham, Joe?"

"'She wish,' were Pumblechook's word, 'to speak to you.'" Joe sat

and rolled his eyes at the ceiling.

"Yes, Joe? Go on, please."

"Next day, Sir," said Joe, looking at me as if I were a long way

off, "having cleaned myself, I go and I see Miss A."

"Miss A., Joe? Miss Havisham?"

"Which I say, Sir," replied Joe, with an air of legal formality, as

if he were making his will, "Miss A., or otherways Havisham. Her

expression air then as follering: 'Mr. Gargery. You air in

correspondence with Mr. Pip?' Having had a letter from you, I were

able to say 'I am.' (When I married your sister, Sir, I said 'I

will;' and when I answered your friend, Pip, I said 'I am.') 'Would

you tell him, then,' said she, 'that which Estella has come home

and would be glad to see him.'"

I felt my face fire up as I looked at Joe. I hope one remote cause

of its firing, may have been my consciousness that if I had known

his errand, I should have given him more encouragement.

"Biddy," pursued Joe, "when I got home and asked her fur to write

the message to you, a little hung back. Biddy says, "I know he will

be very glad to have it by word of mouth, it is holidaytime, you

want to see him, go!" I have now concluded, Sir," said Joe, rising

from his chair, "and, Pip, I wish you ever well and ever prospering

to a greater and a greater heighth."

"But you are not going now, Joe?"

"Yes I am," said Joe.

"But you are coming back to dinner, Joe?"

"No I am not," said Joe.

Our eyes met, and all the "Sir" melted out of that manly heart as

he gave me his hand.

"Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded

together, as I may say, and one man's a blacksmith, and one's a

whitesmith, and one's a goldsmith, and one's a coppersmith.

Diwisions among such must come, and must be met as they come. If

there's been any fault at all to-day, it's mine. You and me is not

two figures to be together in London; nor yet anywheres else but

what is private, and beknown, and understood among friends. It

ain't that I am proud, but that I want to be right, as you shall

never see me no more in these clothes. I'm wrong in these clothes.

I'm wrong out of the forge, the kitchen, or off th' meshes. You

won't find half so much fault in me if you think of me in my forge

dress, with my hammer in my hand, or even my pipe. You won't find

half so much fault in me if, supposing as you should ever wish to

see me, you come and put your head in at the forge window and see

Joe the blacksmith, there, at the old anvil, in the old burnt

apron, sticking to the old work. I'm awful dull, but I hope I've

beat out something nigh the rights of this at last. And so GOD

bless you, dear old Pip, old chap, GOD bless you!"

I had not been mistaken in my fancy that there was a simple dignity

in him. The fashion of his dress could no more come in its way when

he spoke these words, than it could come in its way in Heaven. He

touched me gently on the forehead, and went out. As soon as I could

recover myself sufficiently, I hurried out after him and looked for

him in the neighbouring streets; but he was gone.

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