have a quiet walk on the marshes next Sunday, Biddy, and a long
My sister was never left alone now; but Joe more than readily
undertook the care of her on that Sunday afternoon, and Biddy and I
went out together. It was summer-time, and lovely weather. When we
had passed the village and the church and the churchyard, and were
out on the marshes and began to see the sails of the ships as they
sailed on, I began to combine Miss Havisham and Estella with the
prospect, in my usual way. When we came to the river-side and sat
down on the bank, with the water rippling at our feet, making it
all more quiet than it would have been without that sound, I
resolved that it was a good time and place for the admission of
Biddy into my inner confidence.
"Biddy," said I, after binding her to secrecy, "I want to be a
"Oh, I wouldn't, if I was you!" she returned. "I don't think it
"Biddy," said I, with some severity, "I have particular reasons for
wanting to be a gentleman."
"You know best, Pip; but don't you think you are happier as you
"Biddy," I exclaimed, impatiently, "I am not at all happy as I am.
I am disgusted with my calling and with my life. I have never taken
to either, since I was bound. Don't be absurd."
"Was I absurd?" said Biddy, quietly raising her eyebrows; "I am
sorry for that; I didn't mean to be. I only want you to do well,
and to be comfortable."
"Well then, understand once for all that I never shall or can be
comfortable - or anything but miserable - there, Biddy! - unless I
can lead a very different sort of life from the life I lead now."
"That's a pity!" said Biddy, shaking her head with a sorrowful air.
Now, I too had so often thought it a pity, that, in the singular
kind of quarrel with myself which I was always carrying on, I was
half inclined to shed tears of vexation and distress when Biddy
gave utterance to her sentiment and my own. I told her she was
right, and I knew it was much to be regretted, but still it was not
to be helped.
"If I could have settled down," I said to Biddy, plucking up the
short grass within reach, much as I had once upon a time pulled my
feelings out of my hair and kicked them into the brewery wall: "if
I could have settled down and been but half as fond of the forge as
I was when I was little, I know it would have been much better for
me. You and I and Joe would have wanted nothing then, and Joe and I
would perhaps have gone partners when I was out of my time, and I
might even have grown up to keep company with you, and we might
have sat on this very bank on a fine Sunday, quite different
people. I should have been good enough for you; shouldn't I,
Biddy sighed as she looked at the ships sailing on, and returned
for answer, "Yes; I am not over-particular." It scarcely sounded
flattering, but I knew she meant well.
"Instead of that," said I, plucking up more grass and chewing a
blade or two, "see how I am going on. Dissatisfied, and
uncomfortable, and - what would it signify to me, being coarse and
common, if nobody had told me so!"
Biddy turned her face suddenly towards mine, and looked far more
attentively at me than she had looked at the sailing ships.
"It was neither a very true nor a very polite thing to say," she
remarked, directing her eyes to the ships again. "Who said it?"
I was disconcerted, for I had broken away without quite seeing
where I was going to. It was not to be shuffled off now, however,
and I answered, "The beautiful young lady at Miss Havisham's, and
she's more beautiful than anybody ever was, and I admire her
dreadfully, and I want to be a gentleman on her account." Having
made this lunatic confession, I began to throw my torn-up grass
into the river, as if I had some thoughts of following it.
"Do you want to be a gentleman, to spite her or to gain her over?"
Biddy quietly asked me, after a pause.