But, unwilling to hazard the responsibility, she let me

in, and presently brought the sharp message that I was to "come

up."

Everything was unchanged, and Miss Havisham was alone.

"Well?" said she, fixing her eyes upon me. "I hope you want

nothing? You'll get nothing."

"No, indeed, Miss Havisham. I only wanted you to know that I am

doing very well in my apprenticeship, and am always much obliged to

you."

"There, there!" with the old restless fingers. "Come now and then;

come on your birthday. - Ay!" she cried suddenly, turning herself

and her chair towards me, "You are looking round for Estella? Hey?"

I had been looking round - in fact, for Estella - and I stammered

that I hoped she was well.

"Abroad," said Miss Havisham; "educating for a lady; far out of

reach; prettier than ever; admired by all who see her. Do you feel

that you have lost her?"

There was such a malignant enjoyment in her utterance of the last

words, and she broke into such a disagreeable laugh, that I was at

a loss what to say. She spared me the trouble of considering, by

dismissing me. When the gate was closed upon me by Sarah of the

walnut-shell countenance, I felt more than ever dissatisfied with

my home and with my trade and with everything; and that was all I

took by that motion.

As I was loitering along the High-street, looking in disconsolately

at the shop windows, and thinking what I would buy if I were a

gentleman, who should come out of the bookshop but Mr. Wopsle. Mr

Wopsle had in his hand the affecting tragedy of George Barnwell, in

which he had that moment invested sixpence, with the view of

heaping every word of it on the head of Pumblechook, with whom he

was going to drink tea. No sooner did he see me, than he appeared

to consider that a special Providence had put a 'prentice in his

way to be read at; and he laid hold of me, and insisted on my

accompanying him to the Pumblechookian parlour. As I knew it would

be miserable at home, and as the nights were dark and the way was

dreary, and almost any companionship on the road was better than

none, I made no great resistance; consequently, we turned into

Pumblechook's just as the street and the shops were lighting up.

As I never assisted at any other representation of George Barnwell,

I don't know how long it may usually take; but I know very well

that it took until half-past nine o' clock that night, and that

when Mr. Wopsle got into Newgate, I thought he never would go to the

scaffold, he became so much slower than at any former period of his

disgraceful career. I thought it a little too much that he should

complain of being cut short in his flower after all, as if he had

not been running to seed, leaf after leaf, ever since his course

began. This, however, was a mere question of length and

wearisomeness. What stung me, was the identification of the whole

affair with my unoffending self. When Barnwell began to go wrong, I

declare that I felt positively apologetic, Pumblechook's indignant

stare so taxed me with it. Wopsle, too, took pains to present me in

the worst light. At once ferocious and maudlin, I was made to

murder my uncle with no extenuating circumstances whatever;

Millwood put me down in argument, on every occasion; it became

sheer monomania in my master's daughter to care a button for me;

and all I can say for my gasping and procrastinating conduct on the

fatal morning, is, that it was worthy of the general feebleness of

my character. Even after I was happily hanged and Wopsle had closed

the book, Pumblechook sat staring at me, and shaking his head, and

saying, "Take warning, boy, take warning!" as if it were a

well-known fact that I contemplated murdering a near relation,

provided I could only induce one to have the weakness to become my

benefactor.

It was a very dark night when it was all over, and when I set out

with Mr. Wopsle on the walk home.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
Classic Authors

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