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Charles Dickens > Great Expectations > Chapter 57

Great Expectations

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


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


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


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


"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?"


"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


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


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


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


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.

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