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Charles Dickens > Great Expectations > Chapter 34

Great Expectations

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


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


"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


"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


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


"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


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