- Take another glass of wine, and excuse my mentioning that society
as a body does not expect one to be so strictly conscientious in
emptying one's glass, as to turn it bottom upwards with the rim on
I had been doing this, in an excess of attention to his recital. I
thanked him, and apologized. He said, "Not at all," and resumed.
"Miss Havisham was now an heiress, and you may suppose was looked
after as a great match. Her half-brother had now ample means again,
but what with debts and what with new madness wasted them most
fearfully again. There were stronger differences between him and
her, than there had been between him and his father, and it is
suspected that he cherished a deep and mortal grudge against her,
as having influenced the father's anger. Now, I come to the cruel
part of the story - merely breaking off, my dear Handel, to remark
that a dinner-napkin will not go into a tumbler."
Why I was trying to pack mine into my tumbler, I am wholly unable
to say. I only know that I found myself, with a perseverance worthy
of a much better cause, making the most strenuous exertions to
compress it within those limits. Again I thanked him and
apologized, and again he said in the cheerfullest manner, "Not at
all, I am sure!" and resumed.
"There appeared upon the scene - say at the races, or the public
balls, or anywhere else you like - a certain man, who made love to
Miss Havisham. I never saw him, for this happened five-and-twenty
years ago (before you and I were, Handel), but I have heard my
father mention that he was a showy-man, and the kind of man for the
purpose. But that he was not to be, without ignorance or prejudice,
mistaken for a gentleman, my father most strongly asseverates;
because it is a principle of his that no man who was not a true
gentleman at heart, ever was, since the world began, a true
gentleman in manner. He says, no varnish can hide the grain of the
wood; and that the more varnish you put on, the more the grain will
express itself. Well! This man pursued Miss Havisham closely, and
professed to be devoted to her. I believe she had not shown much
susceptibility up to that time; but all the susceptibility she
possessed, certainly came out then, and she passionately loved him.
There is no doubt that she perfectly idolized him. He practised on
her affection in that systematic way, that he got great sums of
money from her, and he induced her to buy her brother out of a
share in the brewery (which had been weakly left him by his father)
at an immense price, on the plea that when he was her husband he
must hold and manage it all. Your guardian was not at that time in
Miss Havisham's councils, and she was too haughty and too much in
love, to be advised by any one. Her relations were poor and
scheming, with the exception of my father; he was poor enough, but
not time-serving or jealous. The only independent one among them,
he warned her that she was doing too much for this man, and was
placing herself too unreservedly in his power. She took the first
opportunity of angrily ordering my father out of the house, in his
presence, and my father has never seen her since."
I thought of her having said, "Matthew will come and see me at last
when I am laid dead upon that table;" and I asked Herbert whether
his father was so inveterate against her?
"It's not that," said he, "but she charged him, in the presence of
her intended husband, with being disappointed in the hope of
fawning upon her for his own advancement, and, if he were to go to
her now, it would look true - even to him - and even to her. To
return to the man and make an end of him. The marriage day was
fixed, the wedding dresses were bought, the wedding tour was
planned out, the wedding guests were invited. The day came, but not
the bridegroom. He wrote her a letter--"
"Which she received," I struck in, "when she was dressing for her
marriage? At twenty minutes to nine?"
"At the hour and minute," said Herbert, nodding, "at which she
afterwards stopped all the clocks.