Charles Dickens, Great Expectations: Ch. 41

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"There, again!" said I, stopping before Herbert, with my open hands held out, as if they contained the desperation of the case. "I know nothing of his life. It has almost made me mad to sit here of a night and see him before me, so bound up with my fortunes and misfortunes, and yet so unknown to me, except as the miserable wretch who terrified me two days in my childhood!"

Herbert got up, and linked his arm in mine, and we slowly walked to and fro together, studying the carpet.

"Handel," said Herbert, stopping, "you feel convinced that you can take no further benefits from him; do you?"

"Fully. Surely you would, too, if you were in my place?"

"And you feel convinced that you must break with him?"

"Herbert, can you ask me?"

"And you have, and are bound to have, that tenderness for the life he has risked on your account,d that you must save him, if possible, from throwing it away. Then you must get him out of England before you stir a finger to extricate yourself. That done, extricate yourself, in Heaven's name, and we'll see it out together, dear old boy."

It was a comfort to shake hands upon it, and walk up and down again, with only that done.

"Now, Herbert," said I, "with reference to gaining some knowledge of his history. There is but one way that I know of. I must ask him point blank."

"Yes. Ask him," said Herbert, "when we sit at breakfast in the morning." For he had said, on taking leave of Herbert, that he would come to breakfast with us.

With this project formed, we went to bed. I had the wildest dreams concerning him, and woke unrefreshed; I woke, too, to recover the fear which I had lost in the night, of his being found out as a returned transport. Waking, I never lost that fear.

He came round at the appointed time, took out his jackknife, and sat down to his meal. He was full of plans "for his gentleman's coming out strong, and like a gentleman," and urged me to begin speedily upon the pocket-book which he had left in my possession. He considered the chambers and his own lodging as temporary residences, and advised me to look out at once for a "fashionable crib"w near Hyde Park, in which he could have "a shake-down."w When he had made an end of his breakfast, and was wiping his knife on his leg, I said to him, without a word of preface,—

"After you were gone last night, I told my friend of the struggle that the soldiers found you engaged in on the marshes, when we came up. You remember?"

"Remember!" said he. "I think so!"

"We want to know something about that man—and about you. It is strange to know no more about either, and particularly you, than I was able to tell last night. Is not this as good a time as another for our knowing more?"

"Well!" he said, after consideration. "You're on your oath, you know, Pip's comrade?"

"Assuredly," replied Herbert.

"As to anything I say, you know," he insisted. "The oath applies to all."

"I understand it to do so."

"And look'ee here! Wotever I done is worked out and paid for," he insisted again.

"So be it."

He took out his black pipe and was going to fill it with negro-head, when, looking at the tangle of tobacco in his hand, he seemed to think it might perplex the thread of his narrative.d He put it back again, stuck his pipe in a button-hole of his coat, spread a hand on each knee, and after turning an angry eye on the fire for a few silent moments, looked round at us and said what follows.

X [d] and are bound to have, that tenderness for th…

Writing & Reading

Herbert, not Pip, phrases the dilemma in terms of compassion. Pip, scarred by Estella and as the instrument of Magwitch's scheme, comes to tenderness somewhat later, though Herbert is a timely example.

X [w] "fashionable crib"

Magwitch's diction naturally reflects his childhood and subsequent experience and repeatedly confirms Pip's anxiety and disgust. A crib is "Thieves' slang. A dwelling-house [the meaning here], shop, public-house, etc." (OED).

X [w] "a shake-down."

"A bed made upon straw loosely disposed upon the floor or ground; hence, any makeshift bed, esp. one made up on the floor" (OED).

X [d] he seemed to think it might perplex the threa…

Writing & Reading

About to embark on a narrative of his life, Magwitch takes out his pipe, but the tobacco's mass of skeins reminds him of the effect tobacco itself can have upon the mind, something like inebriation. In Hard Times Tom Gradgrind smokes a cigar that produces a "giddy drowsiness" (Book II, Chapter 3).