Charles Dickens, Great Expectations: Ch. 22

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"I don't know."

"You said just now that Estella was not related to Miss Havisham, but adopted. When adopted?"

Herbert shrugged his shoulders. "There has always been an Estella, since I have heard of a Miss Havisham. I know no more. And now, Handel," said he, finally throwing off the story as it were, "there is a perfectly open understanding between us. All that I know about Miss Havisham, you know."

"And all that I know," I retorted, "you know."

"I fully believe it. So there can be no competition or perplexity between you and me. And as to the condition on which you hold your advancement in life,—namely, that you are not to inquire or discuss to whom you owe it,—you may be very sure that it will never be encroached upon, or even approached, by me, or by any one belonging to me."

In truth, he said this with so much delicacy, that I felt the subject done with, even though I should be under his father's roof for years and years to come. Yet he said it with so much meaning, too, that I felt he as perfectly understood Miss Havisham to be my benefactress, as I understood the fact myself.

It had not occurred to me before, that he had led up to the theme for the purpose of clearing it out of our way; but we were so much the lighter and easier for having broached it, that I now perceived this to be the case. We were very gay and sociable, and I asked him, in the course of conversation, what he was? He replied, "A capitalist,w—an Insurer of Ships." I suppose he saw me glancing about the room in search of some tokens of Shipping, or capital, for he added, "In the City."h

I had grand ideas of the wealth and importance of Insurers of Ships in the City, and I began to think with awe of having laid a young Insurer on his back, blackened his enterprising eye, and cut his responsible head open. But again there came upon me, for my relief, that odd impression that Herbert Pocket would never be very successful or rich.

"I shall not rest satisfied with merely employing my capital in insuring ships. I shall buy up some good Life Assurance shares, and cut into the Direction.h I shall also do a little in the mining way. None of these things will interfere with my chartering a few thousand tons on my own account.h I think I shall trade," said he, leaning back in his chair, "to the East Indies, for silks, shawls, spices, dyes, drugs, and precious woods. It's an interesting trade."

"And the profits are large?" said I.

"Tremendous!" said he.

I wavered again, and began to think here were greater expectationsd than my own.

"I think I shall trade, also," said he, putting his thumbs in his waist-coat pockets, "to the West Indies, for sugar, tobacco, and rum. Also to Ceylon, specially for elephants' tusks."

"You will want a good many ships," said I.

"A perfect fleet," said he.

Quite overpowered by the magnificence of these transactions, I asked him where the ships he insured mostly traded to at present?

"I haven't begun insuring yet," he replied. "I am looking about me."

Somehow, that pursuit seemed more in keeping with Barnard's Inn. I said (in a tone of conviction), "Ah-h!"

"Yes. I am in a counting-house,h and looking about me."

"Is a counting-house profitable?" I asked.

"To—do you mean to the young fellow who's in it?" he asked, in reply.

"Yes; to you."

X [w] capitalist,

Herbert is not expressing an economic preference but describing his intended work as investing his capital in enterprises that may be somewhat risky yet potentially lucrative.

X [h] "In the City."

Places

At the time the novel takes place the City, a distinct entity within London, is not only the banking and commercial heart of Great Britain but of the world. The City is as small and venerable as it is powerful, the area being only somewhat more than a square mile that is Medieval London's perimeter. Though at the center of greater London, the City is an autonomous entity governed by the Lord Mayor and the Corporation of London.  

X [h] and cut into the Direction.

Money

Through the accumulation of shares he would be able to buy into the company's management.

X [h] chartering a few thousand tons on my own acco…

Money

He would lease space within cargo ships (hence the tonnage, which represents the size of the ships) and establish an import trade.

X [d] greater expectations

Writing & Reading

Herbert's "expectations" were those of countless other clerks grubbing in London and hoping to become prosperous and have enough money to marry.

X [h] counting-house,

Places

An office, which involves accounting, correspondence, record-keeping, etc. Herbert is a lowly clerk. He is looking about for a more promising job along the lines of his fantasy as a capitalist in the marine line.