Charles Dickens

"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

the table.

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.