"Pip," said he, putting his large hand on my shoulder and moving me
to the window, "I don't know one from the other. Who's the Spider?"
"The spider?" said I.
"The blotchy, sprawly, sulky fellow."
"That's Bentley Drummle," I replied; "the one with the delicate
face is Startop."
Not making the least account of "the one with the delicate face,"
he returned, "Bentley Drummle is his name, is it? I like the look
of that fellow."
He immediately began to talk to Drummle: not at all deterred by his
replying in his heavy reticent way, but apparently led on by it to
screw discourse out of him. I was looking at the two, when there
came between me and them, the housekeeper, with the first dish for
She was a woman of about forty, I supposed - but I may have thought
her younger than she was. Rather tall, of a lithe nimble figure,
extremely pale, with large faded eyes, and a quantity of streaming
hair. I cannot say whether any diseased affection of the heart
caused her lips to be parted as if she were panting, and her face
to bear a curious expression of suddenness and flutter; but I know
that I had been to see Macbeth at the theatre, a night or two
before, and that her face looked to me as if it were all disturbed
by fiery air, like the faces I had seen rise out of the Witches'
She set the dish on, touched my guardian quietly on the arm with a
finger to notify that dinner was ready, and vanished. We took our
seats at the round table, and my guardian kept Drummle on one side
of him, while Startop sat on the other. It was a noble dish of fish
that the housekeeper had put on table, and we had a joint of
equally choice mutton afterwards, and then an equally choice bird.
Sauces, wines, all the accessories we wanted, and all of the best,
were given out by our host from his dumb-waiter; and when they had
made the circuit of the table, he always put them back again.
Similarly, he dealt us clean plates and knives and forks, for each
course, and dropped those just disused into two baskets on the
ground by his chair. No other attendant than the housekeeper
appeared. She set on every dish; and I always saw in her face, a
face rising out of the caldron. Years afterwards, I made a dreadful
likeness of that woman, by causing a face that had no other natural
resemblance to it than it derived from flowing hair, to pass behind
a bowl of flaming spirits in a dark room.
Induced to take particular notice of the housekeeper, both by her
own striking appearance and by Wemmick's preparation, I observed
that whenever she was in the room, she kept her eyes attentively on
my guardian, and that she would remove her hands from any dish she
put before him, hesitatingly, as if she dreaded his calling her
back, and wanted him to speak when she was nigh, if he had anything
to say. I fancied that I could detect in his manner a consciousness
of this, and a purpose of always holding her in suspense.
Dinner went off gaily, and, although my guardian seemed to follow
rather than originate subjects, I knew that he wrenched the weakest
part of our dispositions out of us. For myself, I found that I was
expressing my tendency to lavish expenditure, and to patronize
Herbert, and to boast of my great prospects, before I quite knew
that I had opened my lips. It was so with all of us, but with no
one more than Drummle: the development of whose inclination to gird
in a grudging and suspicious way at the rest, was screwed out of
him before the fish was taken off.
It was not then, but when we had got to the cheese, that our
conversation turned upon our rowing feats, and that Drummle was
rallied for coming up behind of a night in that slow amphibious way
of his. Drummle upon this, informed our host that he much preferred
our room to our company, and that as to skill he was more than our
master, and that as to strength he could scatter us like chaff.