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.