`When do you think of going down?'
`I have an impending engagement,' said I, glancing at Wemmick, who was putting fish into the post-office, `that renders me rather uncertain of my time. At once, I think.'
`If Mr Pip has the intention of going at once,' said Wemmick to Mr Jaggers, `he needn't write an answer, you know.'
Receiving this as an intimation that it was best not to delay, I settled that I would go to-morrow, and said so. Wemmick drank a glass of wine and looked with a grimly satisfied air at Mr Jaggers, but not at me.
`So, Pip! Our friend the Spider,' said Mr Jaggers, `has played his cards. He has won the pool.'
It was as much as I could do to assent.
`Hah! He is a promising fellow - in his way - but he may not have it all his own way. The stronger will win in the end, but the stronger has to be found out first. If he should turn to, and beat her--'
`Surely,' I interrupted, with a burning face and heart, `you do not seriously think that he is scoundrel enough for that, Mr Jaggers?'
`I didn't say so, Pip. I am putting a case. If he should turn to and beat her, he may possibly get the strength on his side; if it should be a question of intellect, he certainly will not. It would be chance work to give an opinion how a fellow of that sort will turn out in such circumstances, because it's a toss-up between two results.'
`May I ask what they are?'
`A fellow like our friend the Spider,' answered Mr Jaggers, `either beats, or cringes. He may cringe and growl, or cringe and not growl; but he either beats or cringes. Ask Wemmick his opinion.'
`Either beats or cringes,' said Wemmick, not at all addressing himself to me.
`So, here's to Mrs Bentley Drummle,' said Mr Jaggers, taking a decanter of choicer wine from his dumb- waiter, and filing for each of us and for himself, `and may the question of supremacy be settled to the lady's satisfaction! To the satisfaction of the lady and the gentleman, it never will be. Now, Molly, Molly, Molly, Molly, how slow you are to-day!'
She was at his elbow when he addressed her, putting a dish upon the table. As she withdrew her hands from it, she fell back a step or two, nervously muttering some excuse. And a certain action of her fingers as she spoke arrested my attention.
`What's the matter?' said Mr Jaggers.
`Nothing. Only the subject we were speaking of,' said I, `was rather painful to me.'
The action of her fingers was like the action of knitting. She stood looking at her master, not understanding whether she was free to go, or whether he had more to say to her and would call her back if she did go. Her look was very intent. Surely, I had seen exactly such eyes and such hands, on a memorable occasion very lately!
He dismissed her, and she glided out of the room. But she remained before me, as plainly as if she were still there. I looked at those hands, I looked at those eyes, I looked at that flowing hair; and I compared them with other hands, other eyes, other hair, that I knew of, and with what those might be after twenty years of a brutal husband and a stormy life. I looked again at those hands and eyes of the housekeeper, and thought of the inexplicable feeling that had come over me when I last walked - not alone - in the
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|