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Charles Dickens > Great Expectations > Chapter 58

Great Expectations

Chapter 58

The tidings of my high fortunes having had a heavy fall, had got

down to my native place and its neighbourhood, before I got there.

I found the Blue Boar in possession of the intelligence, and I

found that it made a great change in the Boar's demeanour. Whereas

the Boar had cultivated my good opinion with warm assiduity when I

was coming into property, the Boar was exceedingly cool on the

subject now that I was going out of property.

It was evening when I arrived, much fatigued by the journey I had

so often made so easily. The Boar could not put me into my usual

bedroom, which was engaged (probably by some one who had

expectations), and could only assign me a very indifferent chamber

among the pigeons and post-chaises up the yard. But, I had as sound

a sleep in that lodging as in the most superior accommodation the

Boar could have given me, and the quality of my dreams was about

the same as in the best bedroom.

Early in the morning while my breakfast was getting ready, I

strolled round by Satis House. There were printed bills on the

gate, and on bits of carpet hanging out of the windows, announcing

a sale by auction of the Household Furniture and Effects, next

week. The House itself was to be sold as old building materials and

pulled down. LOT 1 was marked in whitewashed knock-knee letters on

the brew house; LOT 2 on that part of the main building which had

been so long shut up. Other lots were marked off on other parts of

the structure, and the ivy had been torn down to make room for the

inscriptions, and much of it trailed low in the dust and was

withered already. Stepping in for a moment at the open gate and

looking around me with the uncomfortable air of a stranger who had

no business there, I saw the auctioneer's clerk walking on the

casks and telling them off for the information of a catalogue

compiler, pen in hand, who made a temporary desk of the wheeled

chair I had so often pushed along to the tune of Old Clem.

When I got back to my breakfast in the Boar's coffee-room, I found

Mr. Pumblechook conversing with the landlord. Mr. Pumblechook (not

improved in appearance by his late nocturnal adventure) was waiting

for me, and addressed me in the following terms.

"Young man, I am sorry to see you brought low. But what else could

be expected! What else could be expected!"

As he extended his hand with a magnificently forgiving air, and as

I was broken by illness and unfit to quarrel, I took it.

"William," said Mr. Pumblechook to the waiter, "put a muffin on

table. And has it come to this! Has it come to this!"

I frowningly sat down to my breakfast. Mr. Pumblechook stood over me

and poured out my tea - before I could touch the teapot - with the

air of a benefactor who was resolved to be true to the last.

"William," said Mr. Pumblechook, mournfully, "put the salt on. In

happier times," addressing me, "I think you took sugar. And did you

take milk? You did. Sugar and milk. William, bring a watercress."

"Thank you," said I, shortly, "but I don't eat watercresses."

"You don't eat 'em," returned Mr. Pumblechook, sighing and nodding

his head several times, as if he might have expected that, and as

if abstinence from watercresses were consistent with my downfall.

"True. The simple fruits of the earth. No. You needn't bring any,


I went on with my breakfast, and Mr. Pumblechook continued to stand

over me, staring fishily and breathing noisily, as he always did.

"Little more than skin and bone!" mused Mr. Pumblechook, aloud. "And

yet when he went from here (I may say with my blessing), and I

spread afore him my humble store, like the Bee, he was as plump as

a Peach!"

This reminded me of the wonderful difference between the servile

manner in which he had offered his hand in my new prosperity,

saying, "May I?" and the ostentatious clemency with which he had

just now exhibited the same fat five fingers.

"Hah!" he went on, handing me the bread-and-butter. "And air you

a-going to Joseph?"

"In heaven's name," said I, firing in spite of myself, "what does

it matter to you where I am going? Leave that teapot alone."

It was the worst course I could have taken, because it gave

Pumblechook the opportunity he wanted.

"Yes, young man," said he, releasing the handle of the article in

question, retiring a step or two from my table, and speaking for

the behoof of the landlord and waiter at the door, "I will leave

that teapot alone. You are right, young man. For once, you are

right. I forgit myself when I take such an interest in your

breakfast, as to wish your frame, exhausted by the debilitating

effects of prodigygality, to be stimilated by the 'olesome

nourishment of your forefathers. And yet," said Pumblechook,

turning to the landlord and waiter, and pointing me out at arm's

length, "this is him as I ever sported with in his days of happy

infancy! Tell me not it cannot be; I tell you this is him!"

A low murmur from the two replied. The waiter appeared to be

particularly affected.

"This is him," said Pumblechook, "as I have rode in my shaycart.

This is him as I have seen brought up by hand. This is him untoe

the sister of which I was uncle by marriage, as her name was

Georgiana M'ria from her own mother, let him deny it if he can!"

The waiter seemed convinced that I could not deny it, and that it

gave the case a black look.

"Young man," said Pumblechook, screwing his head at me in the old

fashion, "you air a-going to Joseph. What does it matter to me, you

ask me, where you air a-going? I say to you, Sir, you air a-going

to Joseph."

The waiter coughed, as if he modestly invited me to get over that.

"Now," said Pumblechook, and all this with a most exasperating air

of saying in the cause of virtue what was perfectly convincing and

conclusive, "I will tell you what to say to Joseph. Here is Squires

of the Boar present, known and respected in this town, and here is

William, which his father's name was Potkins if I do not deceive


"You do not, sir," said William.

"In their presence," pursued Pumblechook, "I will tell you, young

man, what to say to Joseph. Says you, "Joseph, I have this day seen

my earliest benefactor and the founder of my fortun's. I will name

no names, Joseph, but so they are pleased to call him up-town, and

I have seen that man."

"I swear I don't see him here," said I.

"Say that likewise," retorted Pumblechook. "Say you said that, and

even Joseph will probably betray surprise."

"There you quite mistake him," said I. "I know better."

"Says you," Pumblechook went on, "'Joseph, I have seen that man, and

that man bears you no malice and bears me no malice. He knows your

character, Joseph, and is well acquainted with your pig-headedness

and ignorance; and he knows my character, Joseph, and he knows my

want of gratitoode. Yes, Joseph,' says you," here Pumblechook shook

his head and hand at me, "'he knows my total deficiency of common

human gratitoode. He knows it, Joseph, as none can. You do not know

it, Joseph, having no call to know it, but that man do.'"

Windy donkey as he was, it really amazed me that he could have the

face to talk thus to mine.

"Says you, 'Joseph, he gave me a little message, which I will now

repeat. It was, that in my being brought low, he saw the finger of

Providence. He knowed that finger when he saw it, Joseph, and he

saw it plain. It pinted out this writing, Joseph. Reward of

ingratitoode to his earliest benefactor, and founder of fortun's.

But that man said he did not repent of what he had done, Joseph.

Not at all. It was right to do it, it was kind to do it, it was

benevolent to do it, and he would do it again.'"

"It's pity," said I, scornfully, as I finished my interrupted

breakfast, "that the man did not say what he had done and would do


"Squires of the Boar!" Pumblechook was now addressing the landlord,

"and William! I have no objections to your mentioning, either

up-town or down-town, if such should be your wishes, that it was

right to do it, kind to do it, benevolent to do it, and that I

would do it again."

With those words the Impostor shook them both by the hand, with an

air, and left the house; leaving me much more astonished than

delighted by the virtues of that same indefinite "it." "I was not

long after him in leaving the house too, and when I went down the

High-street I saw him holding forth (no doubt to the same effect)

at his shop door to a select group, who honoured me with very

unfavourable glances as I passed on the opposite side of the way.

But, it was only the pleasanter to turn to Biddy and to Joe, whose

great forbearance shone more brightly than before, if that could

be, contrasted with this brazen pretender. I went towards them

slowly, for my limbs were weak, but with a sense of increasing

relief as I drew nearer to them, and a sense of leaving arrogance

and untruthfulness further and further behind.

The June weather was delicious. The sky was blue, the larks were

soaring high over the green corn, I thought all that country-side

more beautiful and peaceful by far than I had ever known it to be

yet. Many pleasant pictures of the life that I would lead there,

and of the change for the better that would come over my character

when I had a guiding spirit at my side whose simple faith and clear

home-wisdom I had proved, beguiled my way. They awakened a tender

emotion in me; for, my heart was softened by my return, and such a

change had come to pass, that I felt like one who was toiling home

barefoot from distant travel, and whose wanderings had lasted many


The schoolhouse where Biddy was mistress, I had never seen; but,

the little roundabout lane by which I entered the village for

quietness' sake, took me past it. I was disappointed to find that

the day was a holiday; no children were there, and Biddy's house

was closed. Some hopeful notion of seeing her busily engaged in her

daily duties, before she saw me, had been in my mind and was


But, the forge was a very short distance off, and I went towards it

under the sweet green limes, listening for the clink of Joe's

hammer. Long after I ought to have heard it, and long after I had

fancied I heard it and found it but a fancy, all was still. The

limes were there, and the white thorns were there, and the

chestnut-trees were there, and their leaves rustled harmoniously

when I stopped to listen; but, the clink of Joe's hammer was not in

the midsummer wind.

Almost fearing, without knowing why, to come in view of the forge,

I saw it at last, and saw that it was closed. No gleam of fire, no

glittering shower of sparks, no roar of bellows; all shut up, and


But, the house was not deserted, and the best parlour seemed to be

in use, for there were white curtains fluttering in its window, and

the window was open and gay with flowers. I went softly towards it,

meaning to peep over the flowers, when Joe and Biddy stood before

me, arm in arm.

At first Biddy gave a cry, as if she thought it was my apparition,

but in another moment she was in my embrace. I wept to see her, and

she wept to see me; I, because she looked so fresh and pleasant;

she, because I looked so worn and white.

"But dear Biddy, how smart you are!"

"Yes, dear Pip."

"And Joe, how smart you are!"

"Yes, dear old Pip, old chap."

I looked at both of them, from one to the other, and then--

"It's my wedding-day," cried Biddy, in a burst of happiness, "and I

am married to Joe!"

They had taken me into the kitchen, and I had laid my head down on

the old deal table. Biddy held one of my hands to her lips, and

Joe's restoring touch was on my shoulder. "Which he warn't strong

enough, my dear, fur to be surprised," said Joe. And Biddy said, "I

ought to have thought of it, dear Joe, but I was too happy." They

were both so overjoyed to see me, so proud to see me, so touched by

my coming to them, so delighted that I should have come by accident

to make their day complete!

My first thought was one of great thankfulness that I had never

breathed this last baffled hope to Joe. How often, while he was

with me in my illness, had it risen to my lips. How irrevocable

would have been his knowledge of it, if he had remained with me but

another hour!

"Dear Biddy," said I, "you have the best husband in the whole

world, and if you could have seen him by my bed you would have -

But no, you couldn't love him better than you do."

"No, I couldn't indeed," said Biddy.

"And, dear Joe, you have the best wife in the whole world, and she

will make you as happy as even you deserve to be, you dear, good,

noble Joe!"

Joe looked at me with a quivering lip, and fairly put his sleeve

before his eyes.

"And Joe and Biddy both, as you have been to church to-day, and are

in charity and love with all mankind, receive my humble thanks for

all you have done for me and all I have so ill repaid! And when I

say that I am going away within the hour, for I am soon going

abroad, and that I shall never rest until I have worked for the

money with which you have kept me out of prison, and have sent it

to you, don't think, dear Joe and Biddy, that if I could repay it a

thousand times over, I suppose I could cancel a farthing of the

debt I owe you, or that I would do so if I could!"

They were both melted by these words, and both entreated me to say

no more.

"But I must say more. Dear Joe, I hope you will have children to

love, and that some little fellow will sit in this chimney corner

of a winter night, who may remind you of another little fellow gone

out of it for ever. Don't tell him, Joe, that I was thankless;

don't tell him, Biddy, that I was ungenerous and unjust; only tell

him that I honoured you both, because you were both so good and

true, and that, as your child, I said it would be natural to him to

grow up a much better man than I did."

"I ain't a-going," said Joe, from behind his sleeve, "to tell him

nothink o' that natur, Pip. Nor Biddy ain't. Nor yet no one ain't."

"And now, though I know you have already done it in your own kind

hearts, pray tell me, both, that you forgive me! Pray let me hear

you say the words, that I may carry the sound of them away with me,

and then I shall be able to believe that you can trust me, and

think better of me, in the time to come!"

"O dear old Pip, old chap," said Joe. "God knows as I forgive you,

if I have anythink to forgive!"

"Amen! And God knows I do!" echoed Biddy.

Now let me go up and look at my old little room, and rest there a few

minutes by myself, and then when I have eaten and drunk with you,

go with me as far as the finger-post, dear Joe and Biddy, before we

say good-bye!"

I sold all I had, and put aside as much as I could, for a

composition with my creditors - who gave me ample time to pay them

in full - and I went out and joined Herbert. Within a month, I had

quitted England, and within two months I was clerk to Clarriker and

Co., and within four months I assumed my first undivided

responsibility. For, the beam across the parlour ceiling at Mill

Pond Bank, had then ceased to tremble under old Bill Barley's

growls and was at peace, and Herbert had gone away to marry Clara,

and I was left in sole charge of the Eastern Branch until he

brought her back.

Many a year went round, before I was a partner in the House; but,

I lived happily with Herbert and his wife, and lived frugally, and

paid my debts, and maintained a constant correspondence with Biddy

and Joe. It was not until I became third in the Firm, that

Clarriker betrayed me to Herbert; but, he then declared that the

secret of Herbert's partnership had been long enough upon his

conscience, and he must tell it. So, he told it, and Herbert was as

much moved as amazed, and the dear fellow and I were not the worse

friends for the long concealment. I must not leave it to be

supposed that we were ever a great house, or that we made mints of

money. We were not in a grand way of business, but we had a good

name, and worked for our profits, and did very well. We owed so

much to Herbert's ever cheerful industry and readiness, that I

often wondered how I had conceived that old idea of his inaptitude,

until I was one day enlightened by the reflection, that perhaps the

inaptitude had never been in him at all, but had been in me.

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