I tell you what I
should like. We are so harmonious, and you have been a blacksmith -
would you mind it?"
"I shouldn't mind anything that you propose," I answered, "but I
don't understand you."
"Would you mind Handel for a familiar name? There's a charming
piece of music by Handel, called the Harmonious Blacksmith."
"I should like it very much."
"Then, my dear Handel," said he, turning round as the door opened,
"here is the dinner, and I must beg of you to take the top of the
table, because the dinner is of your providing."
This I would not hear of, so he took the top, and I faced him. It
was a nice little dinner - seemed to me then, a very Lord Mayor's
Feast - and it acquired additional relish from being eaten under
those independent circumstances, with no old people by, and with
London all around us. This again was heightened by a certain gipsy
character that set the banquet off; for, while the table was, as Mr.
Pumblechook might have said, the lap of luxury - being entirely
furnished forth from the coffee-house - the circumjacent region of
sitting-room was of a comparatively pastureless and shifty
character: imposing on the waiter the wandering habits of putting
the covers on the floor (where he fell over them), the melted
butter in the armchair, the bread on the bookshelves, the cheese in
the coalscuttle, and the boiled fowl into my bed in the next room -
where I found much of its parsley and butter in a state of
congelation when I retired for the night. All this made the feast
delightful, and when the waiter was not there to watch me, my
pleasure was without alloy.
We had made some progress in the dinner, when I reminded Herbert of
his promise to tell me about Miss Havisham.
"True," he replied. "I'll redeem it at once. Let me introduce the
topic, Handel, by mentioning that in London it is not the custom to
put the knife in the mouth - for fear of accidents - and that while
the fork is reserved for that use, it is not put further in than
necessary. It is scarcely worth mentioning, only it's as well to do
as other people do. Also, the spoon is not generally used
over-hand, but under. This has two advantages. You get at your
mouth better (which after all is the object), and you save a good
deal of the attitude of opening oysters, on the part of the right
He offered these friendly suggestions in such a lively way, that we
both laughed and I scarcely blushed.
"Now," he pursued, "concerning Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham, you
must know, was a spoilt child. Her mother died when she was a baby,
and her father denied her nothing. Her father was a country
gentleman down in your part of the world, and was a brewer. I don't
know why it should be a crack thing to be a brewer; but it is
indisputable that while you cannot possibly be genteel and bake,
you may be as genteel as never was and brew. You see it every day."
"Yet a gentleman may not keep a public-house; may he?" said I.
"Not on any account," returned Herbert; "but a public-house may
keep a gentleman. Well! Mr. Havisham was very rich and very proud.
So was his daughter."
"Miss Havisham was an only child?" I hazarded.
"Stop a moment, I am coming to that. No, she was not an only child;
she had a half-brother. Her father privately married again - his
cook, I rather think."
"I thought he was proud," said I.
"My good Handel, so he was. He married his second wife privately,
because he was proud, and in course of time she died. When she was
dead, I apprehend he first told his daughter what he had done, and
then the son became a part of the family, residing in the house you
are acquainted with. As the son grew a young man, he turned out
riotous, extravagant, undutiful - altogether bad. At last his
father disinherited him; but he softened when he was dying, and
left him well off, though not nearly so well off as Miss Havisham.