Charles Dickens

Keeping Miss Havisham in the background at a great

distance, I still hinted at the possibility of my having competed

with him in his prospects, and at the certainty of his possessing a

generous soul, and being far above any mean distrusts,

retaliations, or designs. For all these reasons (I told Wemmick),

and because he was my young companion and friend, and I had a great

affection for him, I wished my own good fortune to reflect some

rays upon him, and therefore I sought advice from Wemmick's

experience and knowledge of men and affairs, how I could best try

with my resources to help Herbert to some present income - say of a

hundred a year, to keep him in good hope and heart - and gradually

to buy him on to some small partnership. I begged Wemmick, in

conclusion, to understand that my help must always be rendered

without Herbert's knowledge or suspicion, and that there was no one

else in the world with whom I could advise. I wound up by laying my

hand upon his shoulder, and saying, "I can't help confiding in you,

though I know it must be troublesome to you; but that is your

fault, in having ever brought me here."

Wemmick was silent for a little while, and then said with a kind of

start, "Well you know, Mr. Pip, I must tell you one thing. This is

devilish good of you."

"Say you'll help me to be good then," said I.

"Ecod," replied Wemmick, shaking his head, "that's not my trade."

"Nor is this your trading-place," said I.

"You are right," he returned. "You hit the nail on the head. Mr.

Pip, I'll put on my considering-cap, and I think all you want to

do, may be done by degrees. Skiffins (that's her brother) is an

accountant and agent. I'll look him up and go to work for you."

"I thank you ten thousand times."

"On the contrary," said he, "I thank you, for though we are

strictly in our private and personal capacity, still it may be

mentioned that there are Newgate cobwebs about, and it brushes them


After a little further conversation to the same effect, we returned

into the Castle where we found Miss Skiffins preparing tea. The

responsible duty of making the toast was delegated to the Aged, and

that excellent old gentleman was so intent upon it that he seemed

to me in some danger of melting his eyes. It was no nominal meal

that we were going to make, but a vigorous reality. The Aged

prepared such a haystack of buttered toast, that I could scarcely

see him over it as it simmered on an iron stand hooked on to the

top-bar; while Miss Skiffins brewed such a jorum of tea, that the

pig in the back premises became strongly excited, and repeatedly

expressed his desire to participate in the entertainment.

The flag had been struck, and the gun had been fired, at the right

moment of time, and I felt as snugly cut off from the rest of

Walworth as if the moat were thirty feet wide by as many deep.

Nothing disturbed the tranquillity of the Castle, but the

occasional tumbling open of John and Miss Skiffins: which little

doors were a prey to some spasmodic infirmity that made me

sympathetically uncomfortable until I got used to it. I inferred

from the methodical nature of Miss Skiffins's arrangements that she

made tea there every Sunday night; and I rather suspected that a

classic brooch she wore, representing the profile of an undesirable

female with a very straight nose and a very new moon, was a piece

of portable property that had been given her by Wemmick.

We ate the whole of the toast, and drank tea in proportion, and it

was delightful to see how warm and greasy we all got after it. The

Aged especially, might have passed for some clean old chief of a

savage tribe, just oiled. After a short pause for repose, Miss

Skiffins - in the absence of the little servant who, it seemed,

retired to the bosom of her family on Sunday afternoons - washed up

the tea-things, in a trifling lady-like amateur manner that

compromised none of us.