Charles Dickens, Great Expectations: Ch. 15

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Miss Sarah Pocket came to the gate. No Estella.

"How, then? You here again?" said Miss Pocket. "What do you want?"

When I said that I only came to see how Miss Havisham was, Sarah evidently deliberated whether or no she should send me about my business. 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,h 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 parlor. 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,h 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;h 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!"d 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.

X [h] the affecting tragedy of George Barnwell,

Writing & Reading

A play based on a true story. The play evokes Wopsle's theatricality and sharpens Pip's sense of guilt. George Lillo's The London Merchant, or The History of George Barnwell, was first performed in 1730, then, hugely popular, throughout that century and into the next.…

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X [h] got into Newgate,

Places

"Got into" Newgate, the prison, in the sense of reached the play's end.

Among prisons, Newgate haunted Dickens.  Some of England's most vicious criminals were tried next door in the Old Bailey and conveyed to Newgate and the condemned cells, where they would soon be hanged publicly. This afforded entertainment for all classes. Prisons are ubiquitous in Dickens' novels. His first account of Newgate appears in …

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X [h] Millwood put me down in argument, on every oc…

Writing & Reading

Millwood, the "lady of pleasure," persuades him to abandon his compunctions. Maria, his master's daughter, loves him even after he is jailed and then convicted.

Monomania is a 19th-c. medical term describing a mind in the grip of obsession. 

X [d] "Take warning, boy, take warning!"

Religion

Pumblechook and others deploy a version of the doctirne of original sin to terrorize the young into submissive, correct behavior. The assumption, to quote an earlier warning, is that boy is synonymous with badness: "Well! Behave yourself. I have a pretty large experience of boys, and you're a bad set of fellows. Now mind!"