Charles Dickens, Great Expectations: Ch. 55

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"Halloa!" said he. "Here's a couple of pair of gloves! Let's put 'em on!"

As the gloves were white kid gloves, and as the post-office was widened to its utmost extent, I now began to have my strong suspicions. They were strengthened into certainty when I beheld the Aged enter at a side door, escorting a lady.

"Halloa!" said Wemmick. "Here's Miss Skiffins! Let's have a wedding."

That discreet damsel was attired as usual, except that she was now engaged in substituting for her green kid gloves a pair of white.d The Aged was likewise occupied in preparing a similar sacrifice for the altar of Hymen.h The old gentleman, however, experienced so much difficulty in getting his gloves on, that Wemmick found it necessary to put him with his back against a pillar, and then to get behind the pillar himself and pull away at them, while I for my part held the old gentleman round the waist, that he might present and equal and safe resistance. By dint of this ingenious scheme, his gloves were got on to perfection.

The clerk and clergyman then appearing, we were ranged in order at those fatal rails. True to his notion of seeming to do it all without preparation, I heard Wemmick say to himself, as he took something out of his waistcoat-pocket before the service began, "Halloa! Here's a ring!"

I acted in the capacity of backer, or best-man, to the bridegroom; while a little limp pew-openerh in a soft bonnet like a baby's, made a feinth of being the bosom friend of Miss Skiffins. The responsibility of giving the lady away devolved upon the Aged, which led to the clergyman's being unintentionally scandalized, and it happened thus. When he said, "Who giveth this woman to be married to this man?" the old gentlemen, not in the least knowing what point of the ceremony we had arrived at, stood most amiably beaming at the ten commandments. Upon which, the clergyman said again, "WHO giveth this woman to be married to this man?" The old gentleman being still in a state of most estimable unconsciousness, the bridegroom cried out in his accustomed voice, "Now Aged P. you know; who giveth?" To which the Aged replied with great briskness, before saying that he gave, "All right, John, all right, my boy!" And the clergyman came to so gloomy a pause upon it, that I had doubts for the moment whether we should get completely married that day.

It was completely done, however, and when we were going out of church Wemmick took the cover off the font, and put his white gloves in it, and put the cover on again. Mrs. Wemmick, more heedful of the future, put her white gloves in her pocket and assumed her green. "Now, Mr. Pip," said Wemmick, triumphantly shouldering the fishing-rod as we came out, "let me ask you whether anybody would suppose this to be a wedding-party!"

Breakfast had been ordered at a pleasant little tavern, a mile or so away upon the rising ground beyond the green; and there was a bagatelle boardw in the room, in case we should desire to unbend our minds after the solemnity. It was pleasant to observe that Mrs. Wemmick no longer unwound Wemmick's arm when it adapted itself to her figure, but sat in a high-backed chair against the wall, like a violoncello in its case, and submitted to be embraced as that melodious instrument might have done.

We had an excellent breakfast, and when any one declined anything on table, Wemmick said, "Provided by contract, you know;h don't be afraid of it!" I drank to the new couple, drank to the Aged, drank to the Castle, saluted the bride at parting, and made myself as agreeable as I could.

Wemmick came down to the door with me, and I again shook hands with him, and wished him joy.

"Thankee!" said Wemmick, rubbing his hands. "She's such a manager of fowls, you have no idea. You shall have some eggs, and judge for yourself. I say, Mr. Pip!" calling me back, and speaking low. "This is altogether a Walworth sentiment, please."

"I understand. Not to be mentioned in Little Britain," said I.

Wemmick nodded. "After what you let out the other day, Mr. Jaggers may as well not know of it. He might think my brain was softening, or something of the kind."d

X [d] in substituting for her green kid gloves a pa…

Writing & Reading

This is more than playful. The wedding is of a piece with Wemmick's bisected life. He has orchestrated the ceremonies and engaged his bride's agreement so as to keep the wedding proper quarantined from the contaminations of London life. Hence, the fishing rod and hence the white gloves he has kept in his pocket, and hence Miss Skiffins' reverting once the ceremony is over to her green gloves. 

X [h] Hymen.

People

In Greek mythology the god of marriage, the son aptly of Aphrodite and Dionysus.

X [h] pew-opener

People

A position reserved for poorer souls, chiefly women, in a parish. They opened the little door to the old-style pew, for which they were tipped. 

X [h] made a feint

She may not even have seen Miss Skiffins before this, but Wemmick has scrupulously arranged the ceremony.

X [w] bagatelle board

Amusements

Like darts, common in pubs. An inclined board with holes in it of different values. The player shot a ball from the base, aiming to score the maximum. 

X [h] "Provided by contract, you know;

Daily Life

Wemmick, aware of his guests' reluctance to run up charges for food and drink, thoughtfully tells them that he has prepaid for the entire breakfast, so no one need hesitate eating and drinking liberally.

X [d] softening, or something of the kind."

Perhaps a conscious redundancy, softening being equal to becoming kind.