Charles Dickens

- 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

one's nose."

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.