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Chapter 37

DEEMING Sunday the best day for taking Mr Wemmick's Walworth sentiments, I devoted the next ensuing Sunday afternoon to a pilgrimage to the Castle. On arriving before the battlements, I found the Union Jack flying and the drawbridge up; but undeterred by this show of defiance and resistance, I rang at the gate, and was admitted in a most pacific manner by the Aged.
`My son, sir,' said the old man, after securing the drawbridge, `rather had it in his mind that you might happen to drop in, and he left word that he would soon be home from his afternoon's walk. He is very regular in his walks, is my son. Very regular in everything, is my son.'

I nodded at the old gentleman as Wemmick himself might have nodded, and we went in and sat down by the fireside.

`You made acquaintance with my son, sir,' said the old man, in his chirping way, while he warmed his hands at the blaze, `at his office, I expect?' I nodded. `Hah! I have heerd that my son is a wonderful hand at his business, sir?' I nodded hard. `Yes; so they tell me. His business is the Law?' I nodded harder. `Which makes it more surprising in my son,' said the old man, `for he was not brought up to the Law, but to the Wine-Coopering.'

Curious to know how the old gentleman stood informed concerning the reputation of Mr Jaggers, I roared that name at him. He threw me into the greatest confusion by laughing heartily and replying in a very sprightly manner, `No, to be sure; you're right.' And to this hour I have not the faintest notion what he meant, or what joke he thought I had made.

As I could not sit there nodding at him perpetually, without making some other attempt to interest him, I shouted at inquiry whether his own calling in life had been `the Wine-Coopering.' By dint of straining that term out of myself several times and tapping the old gentleman on the chest to associate it with him, I at last succeeded in making my meaning understood.

`No,' said the old gentleman; `the warehousing, the warehousing. First, over yonder;' he appeared to mean up the chimney, but I believe he intended to refer me to Liverpool; `and then in the City of London here. However, having an infirmity - for I am hard of hearing, sir--'

I expressed in pantomime the greatest astonishment.

` - Yes, hard of hearing; having that infirmity coming upon me, my son he went into the Law, and he took charge of me, and he by little and little made out this elegant and beautiful property. But returning to what you said, you know,' pursued the old man, again laughing heartily, `what I say is, No to be sure; you're right.'

I was modestly wondering whether my utmost ingenuity would have enabled me to say anything that would have amused him half as much as this imaginary pleasantry, when I was startled by a sudden click in the wall on one side of the chimney, and the ghostly tumbling open of a little wooden flap with `JOHN' upon it. The old man, following my eyes, cried with great triumph, `My son's come home!' and we both went out to the drawbridge.

It was worth any money to see Wemmick waving a salute to me from the other side of the moat, when we might have shaken hands across it with the greatest ease. The Aged was so delighted to work the drawbridge, that I made no offer to assist him, but stood quiet until Wemmick had come across, and had presented me to Miss Skiffins: a lady by whom he was accompanied.

Miss Skiffins was of a wooden appearance, and was, like her escort, in the post-office branch of the service. She might have been some two or three years younger than Wemmick, and I judged her to stand possessed of portable property. The cut of her dress from the waist upward, both before and behind, made her figure very like a boy's kite; and I might have pronounced her gown a little too decidedly orange, and her gloves a little too intensely green. But she seemed to be a good sort of fellow, and showed a high regard for the Aged. I was not long in discovering that she was a frequent visitor at the Castle; for, on our going in, and my complimenting Wemmick on his ingenious contrivance for announcing himself to the Aged, he begged me to give my attention for a moment to the other side of the chimney, and disappeared. Presently another click came, and another little door tumbled open with `Miss Skiffins' on it; then Miss Skiffins shut up and John tumbled open; then Miss Skiffins and John both tumbled open together, and finally shut up together. On Wemmick's return from working these mechanical appliances, I expressed the great admiration with which I regarded them, and he said, `Well, you know, they're both pleasant and useful to the Aged. And by George, sir, it's a thing worth mentioning, that of all the people who come to this gate, the secret of those pulls is only known to the Aged, Miss Skiffins, and me!'

`And Mr Wemmick made them,' added Miss Skiffins, `with his own hands out of his own head.'

While Miss Skiffins was taking off her bonnet (she retained her green gloves during the evening as an outward and visible sign that there was company), Wemmick invited me to take a walk with him round the property, and see how the island looked in wintertime. Thinking that he did this to give me an opportunity of taking his Walworth sentiments, I seized the opportunity as soon as we were out of the Castle.

Having thought of the matter with care, I approached my subject as if I had never hinted at it before. I informed Wemmick that I was anxious in behalf of Herbert Pocket, and I told him how we had first met, and how we had fought. I glanced at Herbert's home, and at his character, and at his having no means but such as he was dependent on his father for: those, uncertain and unpunctual.

I alluded to the advantages I had derived in my first rawness and ignorance from his society, and I confessed that I feared I had but ill repaid them, and that he might have done better without me and my expectations. Keeping Miss Havisham in the background at a great distance, I still hinted at the possibility of my having competed with him in his prospects, and at the certainty of his possessing a generous soul, and being far above any mean distrusts, retaliations, or designs. For all these reasons (I told Wemmick), and because he was my young companion and friend, and I had a great affection for him, I wished my own good fortune to reflect some rays upon him, and therefore I sought advice from Wemmick's experience and knowledge of men and affairs, how I could best try with my resources to help Herbert to some present income - say of a hundred a year, to keep him in good hope and heart - and gradually to buy him on to some small partnership. I begged Wemmick, in conclusion, to understand that my help must always be rendered without Herbert's knowledge or suspicion, and that there was no one else in the world with whom I could advise. I wound up by laying my hand upon his shoulder, and saying, `I can't help confiding in you, though I know it must be troublesome to you; but that is your fault, in having ever brought me here.'

Wemmick was silent for a little while, and then said with a kind of start, `Well you know, Mr Pip, I must tell you one thing. This is devilish good of you.'

`Say you'll help me to be good then,' said I.

`Ecod,' replied Wemmick, shaking his head, `that's not my trade.'

`Nor is this your trading-place,' said I.

`You are right,' he returned. `You hit the nail on the head. Mr Pip, I'll put on my considering-cap, and I think all you want to do, may be done by degrees. Skiffins (that's her brother) is an accountant and agent. I'll look him up and go to work for you.'

`I thank you ten thousand times.'

`On the contrary,' said he, `I thank you, for though we are strictly in our private and personal capacity, still it may be mentioned that there are Newgate cobwebs about, and it brushes them away.'

After a little further conversation to the same effect, we returned into the Castle where we found Miss Skiffins preparing tea. The responsible duty of making the toast was delegated to the Aged, and that excellent old gentleman was so intent upon it that he seemed to me in some danger of melting his eyes. It was no nominal meal that we were going to make, but a vigorous reality. The Aged prepared such a haystack of buttered toast, that I could scarcely see him over it as it simmered on an iron stand hooked on to the top-bar; while Miss Skiffins brewed such a jorum of tea, that the pig in the back premises became strongly excited, and repeatedly expressed his desire to participate in the entertainment.

The flag had been struck, and the gun had been fired, at the right moment of time, and I felt as snugly cut off from the rest of Walworth as if the moat were thirty feet wide by as many deep. Nothing disturbed the tranquillity of the Castle, but the occasional tumbling open of John and Miss Skiffins: which little doors were a prey to some spasmodic infirmity that made me sympathetically uncomfortable until I got used to it. I inferred from the methodical nature of Miss Skiffins's arrangements that she made tea there every Sunday night; and I rather suspected that a classic brooch she wore, representing the profile of an undesirable female with a very straight nose and a very new moon, was a piece of portable property that had been given her by Wemmick.

We ate the whole of the toast, and drank tea in proportion, and it was delightful to see how warm and greasy we all got after it. The Aged especially, might have passed for some clean old chief of a savage tribe, just oiled. After a short pause of repose, Miss Skiffins - in the absence of the little servant who, it seemed, retired to the bosom of her family on Sunday afternoons - washed up the tea-things, in a trifling lady-like amateur manner that compromised none of us. Then, she put on her gloves again, and we drew round the fire, and Wemmick said, `Now Aged Parent, tip us the paper.'

Wemmick explained to me while the Aged got his spectacles out, that this was according to custom, and that it gave the old gentleman infinite satisfaction to read the news aloud. `I won't offer an apology,' said Wemmick, `for he isn't capable of many pleasures - are you, Aged P.?'

`All right, John, all right,' returned the old man, seeing himself spoken to.

`Only tip him a nod every now and then when he looks off his paper,' said Wemmick, `and he'll be as happy as a king. We are all attention, Aged One.'

`All right, John, all right!' returned the cheerful old man: so busy and so pleased, that it really was quite charming.

The Aged's reading reminded me of the classes at Mr Wopsle's great-aunt's, with the pleasanter peculiarity that it seemed to come through a keyhole. As he wanted the candles close to him, and as he was always on the verge of putting either his head or the newspaper into them, he required as much watching as a powder-mill. But Wemmick was equally untiring and gentle in his vigilance, and the Aged read on, quite unconscious of his many rescues. Whenever he looked at us, we all expressed the greatest interest and amazement, and nodded until he resumed again.

As Wemmick and Miss Skiffins sat side by side, and as I sat in a shadowy corner, I observed a slow and gradual elongation of Mr Wemmick's mouth, powerfully suggestive of his slowly and gradually stealing his arm round Miss Skiffins's waist. In course of time I saw his hand appear on the other side of Miss Skiffins; but at that moment Miss Skiffins neatly stopped him with the green glove, unwound his arm again as if it were an article of dress, and with the greatest deliberation laid it on the table before her. Miss Skiffins's composure while she did this was one of the most remarkable sights I have ever seen, and if I could have thought the act consistent with abstraction of mind, I should have deemed that Miss Skiffins performed it mechanically.

By-and-by, I noticed Wemmick's arm beginning to disappear again, and gradually fading out of view. Shortly afterwards, his mouth began to widen again. After an interval of suspense on my part that was quite enthralling and almost painful, I saw his hand appear on the other side of Miss Skiffins. Instantly, Miss Skiffins stopped it with the neatness of a placid boxer, took off that girdle or cestus as before, and laid it on the table. Taking the table to represent the path of virtue, I am justified in stating that during the whole time of the Aged's reading, Wemmick's arm was straying from the path of virtue and being recalled to it by Miss Skiffins.

At last, the Aged read himself into a light slumber. This was the time for Wemmick to produce a little kettle, a tray of glasses, and a black bottle with a porcelain-topped cork, representing some clerical dignitary of a rubicund and social aspect. With the aid of these appliances we all had something warm to drink: including the Aged, who was soon awake again. Miss Skiffins mixed, and I observed that she and Wemmick drank out of one glass. Of course I knew better than to offer to see Miss Skiffins home, and under the circumstances I thought I had best go first: which I did, taking a cordial leave of the Aged, and having passed a pleasant evening.

Before a week was out, I received a note from Wemmick, dated Walworth, stating that he hoped he had made some advance in that matter appertaining to our private and personal capacities, and that he would be glad if I could come and see him again upon it. So, I went out to Walworth again, and yet again, and yet again, and I saw him by appointment in the City several times, but never held any communication with him on the subject in or near Little Britain. The upshot was, that we found a worthy young merchant or shipping-broker, not long established in business, who wanted intelligent help, and who wanted capital, and who in due course of time and receipt would want a partner. Between him and me, secret articles were signed of which Herbert was the subject, and I paid him half of my five hundred pounds down, and engaged for sundry other payments: some, to fall due at certain dates out of my income: some, contingent on my coming into my property. Miss Skiffins's brother conducted the negotiation. Wemmick pervaded it throughout, but never appeared in it.

The whole business was so cleverly managed, that Herbert had not the least suspicion of my hand being in it. I never shall forget the radiant face with which he came home one afternoon, and told me, as a mighty piece of news, of his having fallen in with one Clarriker (the young merchant's name), and of Clarriker's having shown an extraordinary inclination towards him, and of his belief that the opening had come at last. Day by day as his hopes grew stronger and his face brighter, he must have thought me a more and more affectionate friend, for I had the greatest difficulty in restraining my tears of triumph when I saw him so happy. At length, the thing being done, and he having that day entered Clarriker's House, and he having talked to me for a whole evening in a flush of pleasure and success, I did really cry in good earnest when I went to bed, to think that my expectations had done some good to somebody.

A great event in my life, the turning point of my life, now opens on my view. But, before I proceed to narrate it, and before I pass on to all the changes it involved, I must give one chapter to Estella. It is not much to give to the t heme that so long filled my heart.

 

我想星期天是个最好的日子,我可以在这一天去听取温米克在伍尔华斯的见解,于是下一个星期天的下午,我便去朝拜那座城堡。我走到城堡的雉堞之前,只见英国国旗正在城头飘扬,吊桥被高高悬起,但是这种目空一切、气势逼人的情景并没有阻止我前进。我按响门铃,老人家走来开门,以最心平气和的高兴劲儿让我进去。

这位老人把吊桥又高悬起来后,对我说道:“先生,我儿子早就猜到你会来的,他要我告诉你,他马上就回来,这会儿去散步了。他可不愧是我儿子,散步是很有规律的。他可不愧是我儿子,干每一件事都是很有规律的。”

我就学温米克点头的样子对老先生连连点头。我们走到屋里,坐在火炉旁边。

这位老人家一面在炽烈的炉火上烤着手,一面像小鸟似的瞅瞅地对我说:“先生,你是在事务所里和我儿子混熟了的吧?”我点着头。“哈!先生,我听说我儿子在做事时是个了不起的人,是吗?”我连连点头。“是这样,大家都对我说。他干的是法律这一行,对吗?”我更加快地点头。老人家又说道:“就是这个法律把我儿子弄得更加出色了,其实他本来不是学法律的,而是学箍酒桶的。”

我有一种好奇心,很希望这位老人家表示一下对贾格斯先生的看法,于是便对着他大吼着贾格斯的名字。他听了我的吼叫便哈哈大笑,并且精神抖擞地答道:“可以肯定不是,你说得对。”他的这一回答使我坠人五里云雾之中,弄得懵懵懂懂。一直到今天,每想起此事,我还是不明白他说的究竟是什么意思,或者他认为我和他开的是什么笑话。

我坐在那里总不能对他永远不停地点头,也该想些其他的办法使他高兴高兴,便大喊着问他本来是不是个箍酒桶的。我大声地把“箍酒桶的”这个词说了好多遍,而且每说一遍就在他胸口拍一下,意思是指他而不是指别人。结果,他终于弄懂了我的意思。

“不是的,”老人家说道,“在栈房里,在栈房里做事。起初在那儿,”他那样子是指烟囱那个方向,根据具体情况我猜他是指利物浦这个地方,“后来就到了伦敦这里。不过后来我有了毛病,我听不见了,先生——”

我像演哑剧一样用手势向他表示我对此十分惊讶。

“——就是这样,我听不见了,我有了这个毛病,我儿子就去干法律了。他抚养我,并且一点儿一点儿积起这份又风雅又漂亮的产业,不过,再回到你刚才所说的,你知道,”老人又快活地大笑起来,然后说,“我说的是,可以肯定不是,你说得对。”

我想我在无意之中使他高兴非凡,而如果我用尽心机寻找些事使他高兴,也许一半目的都达不到,因此我感到很惊奇。正想到这里,突然听到在烟囱一边的墙上有咔嚓的声音,使我惊了一下,然后便看到有一块小木片像鬼魂一样出现了,上面有“约翰”的字样。老人家顺着我的眼光看去,立刻高兴地叫道:“我的儿子回家来了!”于是,我们两个人走出来到吊桥那里。

温米克隔着壕沟向我摇手致敬,这个场面真是花钱也买不到的,因为其实我们完全可以隔着壕沟握手,还更方便些呢。老人家非常喜欢摆弄吊桥,我无法插手帮忙,干脆安安静静地站在一旁,直到温米克走过来。和他同来的有一位女士,他向我介绍说是司琪芬小姐。

从外表看,司琪芬小姐简直是个木头人,和她的护送人一样好像是为邮局当差的。看上去,她要比温米克年轻那么三两岁,我心中猜测,她手头一定有一笔动产。她穿的衣服,从腰部向上剪裁得很有意思,无论是胸前或背后,都像孩子玩的纸鸢。她身上穿的那件桔黄色袍子实在是黄得过分,而她手上戴的那副绿色手套却又绿得太刺目。从外表上看,她倒是一位好心肠的女人,对老人家的态度表现出尊重。不用多久我就看出,她是这座城堡里的常客。我们一走进来,我就恭维温米克,说他向老人家通报自己回来的那个巧妙设计真是太好了。温米克却要我注意烟囱的另一边墙上,然后便走了出去。一会儿功夫又听到咔嚓声响,另一扇小门突然开了,出现一块小木片,上面写着“司琪芬小姐”,由此可见她是常客。接着又变开了花样,司琪芬小姐这扇门关上,约翰那扇门开了;然后司琪芬小姐和约翰的两扇门都一起打开,最后又一起关上。等温米克弄完他的机关回到屋里,我便向他表示非常敬佩他的装置。他听后说道:“你要知道,这种装置对于老人家来说既有趣又实用。先生,有一点值得提一下,来到这个城堡大门前的人,谁都不知道这机关的秘密所在,只有老人家、司琪芬小姐和我三个人知道。”

“这可是温米克先生自己动手做的,”司琪芬小姐补充说道,“也是他用自己的头脑想出来的。”

司琪芬小姐整个晚上都戴着她的那副绿手套,这是一种见得着的外部标记,说明这里有外客。在她脱下头上那顶无边帽时,温米克请我去散步,围着他的产业转转,并且让我看一下冬日小岛的情调。我暗忖,他这样做是为了让我有一个机会倾听他的伍尔华斯见解。于是,我们一走出城堡,我便抓住机会不放。

对于我要谈的问题我经过精心设计,所以在谈及这个问题时好像过去从来没有提过一样。我告诉温米克我对赫伯特·鄱凯特的前途担忧,我了解他的家庭情况,了解他的品性为人,他自己一无所有,只依靠他父亲的补助,何况这种补助是不可靠的,也是不定期的。我说,我初来伦敦,生性粗野,见识又少,而他对我指点颇多,使我获益不小。我坦然承认,我欠他的情感账无法偿还,如果没有我,如果不是因为我的前程,他的处境一定比现在要好。我注意把郝维仙小姐放得远远地不谈,不过仍然暗示了我和赫伯特在前途方面的竞争可能。我说他确实在心灵方面慷慨豁达,对人从不采取卑鄙不信任的态度,没有复仇心理,更不会利用阴谋诡计的方法害人。我告诉温米克,由于各种理由,再加上我和他是儿时的伙伴与朋友,我对他有着深厚的友谊,我希望我个人的幸福对他也有些利益,也在他身上反映出来。因为温米克阅历丰富,知识渊博,所以我特地来向温米克请教,我该怎么样对我个人财源作最佳处理,并帮助赫伯特有些收入,比如说每年一百镑,使他多少有点希望的鼓舞,再逐步地为他买一些小额股份。总之,我请求温米克了解,我对赫伯特的帮忙绝对不能让赫伯特知道,也不能使他生疑;除了温米克外,我找不到第二个人能为我出主意。我说了这么些话后,把我的手放在他的肩膀上,又说道:“我不得不对你倾吐心中秘密,虽然我也知道这会造成你的麻烦。可是这又有什么办法,是你要我到这里来的,说到底责任在你一方啊。”

温米克先生沉默了一会儿,然后大为吃惊地说道:“唔,皮普先生,你要懂得,我必须告诉你一件事:你的心好,而且好得过分。”

“就是说你会成全我的好心(口罗)。”我说道。

“唷,”温米克摇着头答道,“这可不是我干的交易。”

“这也不是你的交易场合。”我说道。

“你说的这就对了,”他说道,“这句话才是中肯的。皮普先生,我得戴上思考的帽子来,深思熟虑一下,我想你要做的那些事都得一步步地办。司琪芬先生,即司琪芬小姐的哥哥,是会计师,又是代理商。我要么先去拜访一下他,然后再给你办。”

“那就谢谢你了,感谢你一千次一万次。”

他答道:“不必谢我,我倒要谢你呢。因为虽说我们之间的交往是私下的,是个人的,不过得提一下,我从新门监狱带来的蜘蛛网,这事倒可以将它们清除掉了。”

我们又谈了一会儿同样的内容,然后回到城堡。这时,司琪芬小姐正在烧水沏茶,而老人家的伟大任务是烤吐司。这位老人家是位绝顶好的人,看他专心一致地在干着他的事儿,两眼盯住吐司,只怕连眼睛都会被热气融化的。我们这一顿晚餐绝不是徒有其名的,而是准备得实实在在的非常丰富。老人家准备了一大堆奶油吐司,都放在顶层炉格架上,慢慢地烤着,以致我只能看到吐司堆,而看不到对面的老人家。司琪芬小姐沏了一大杯茶,香气扑鼻,连住在后宅的猪也被香气熏得激动起来,咕咕地一再表示它也希望能享受这一美餐。

国旗已经降下,炮也已经放过,此时,我感到非常的舒适,好像城壕有三十英尺宽三十英尺深,把我和伍尔华斯外面的空间完全隔绝了一样。整座城堡一片静寂,如果说有任何东西在破坏这安静的环境,那就是约翰和司琪芬小姐两扇小机关门时开时合,就好像是患了抽筋的毛病,刺激着我的神经,使我感到不太舒服,不过没有多久我也就习惯了。我看司琪芬做事那么井井有条,纹丝不乱,由此得出结论,她一定每个星期天晚上都来这儿沏茶。我看到她别了一根古典式样的胸针,上面有一个女人像,直鼻梁,不太漂亮,旁边还有一弯新月,不禁怀疑,这怕是温米克送给她的一份动产吧。

我们把全部吐司都吃完了,又喝了大量的茶,人人都感到暖和和、油腻腻的十分开心。特别是老人家,简直像野蛮部落的一位于干净净。刚涂过油的老酋长。休息了一会儿,司琪芬小姐便动手洗茶具,那副样子就像一个贵妇人,把洗碗杯当成了游戏,所以一点也不失体面。今天那位小女仆不在,看来是星期天下午回家去享受天伦之乐了。洗毕,司琪芬小姐又戴上手套,我们大家围火而坐,温米克说道:“现在让老爸爸给我们读报吧。”

老人家取出眼镜时,温米克对我说,他读报完全是习惯,因为大声朗读报纸新闻会给老先生带来无限的乐趣。温米克对我说:“我也用不着向你告罪了,因为老人家取乐的方法并不多,老爸爸,你说是不是?”

“对极了,约翰,对极了。”老人家看到儿子问他,便这样答道。

“只要老人家目光一离开报纸,你就对着他点头,”温米克说道,“他就会像国王一样快活。老爸爸,我们都注意听你读报呢。”

“对极了,约翰,对极了!”老人家高兴地答道;他又忙又高兴,其情景真的很迷人。

这老人家读报的情形使我想起在沃甫赛先生姑婆办的夜校里读书的情况,不过老人家的声音好像是从钥匙洞里传出来的一样,使人感到特别有趣。他读报时总是把蜡烛靠近自己,因此总是会把头发或报纸撞进火里,他也就需要别人像守卫火药库一样守卫在旁边。温米克保持着高度警惕,毫不疲倦而又非常温和地注意着。老人家继续读着报,根本没有意识到他多次的被救。他一看着我们,我们全都表现出十分感兴趣、十分惊讶的神情,并且对他连连点头,直到他重新开始读报为止。

温米克和司琪芬小姐并排坐在一起,而我坐在一个阴暗的角落。我看到温米克先生的嘴慢慢地渐渐拉长,好像暗示着温米克的手臂正慢慢地渐渐向着司琪芬的腰部,偷偷地抱过去。接下去,我看到他的手已经伸到了司琪芬小姐另一边的腰上。就这时,司琪芬小姐干净利索地用她那只戴手套的手把他的手臂拉开来,制止了他的轻薄行为,动作就像解开一根腰带一样,然后从容不迫地把他的手放到她面前的桌面上。司琪芬做这一切的时候镇静自若,是我平生所见到的最引人人胜的奇观;如果说她的动作是那么漫不经心而又出神人化,那我认为司琪芬小姐完成这一动作已经完全机械化了。

不一会儿,我注意到温米克那条搁在桌上的手臂又渐渐不安分起来,最后终于不见了。不一会儿后,他的嘴巴又开始拉长。这时我的心中十分不安,紧张得真有点受不了,而且近似痛苦,终于我看到他的手又出现在司琪芬小姐另一侧的腰上。同时,司琪芬小姐又一次制止了他的轻薄行为,这一次于净利索得像一个拳击手在解开腰带或脱掉拳击手套一样,把他的手放在了桌面上。如果把这桌子当作通向美德之路,那我就有理由认为,在老人家认真读报的过程中,温米克的手臂不断地迷失了道路,而司琪芬小姐则是从歧途中把他领回美德之路的人。

终于,老人家读着读着自己进入了睡梦。这时,温米克拿来一把小壶,一盘子玻璃茶杯,和一只有一个瓷塞的黑瓶子,上面绘着一位高级牧师的像,脸红红的,有一副和善的面容。我们用这些茶具喝起热茶来,老人家从小睡中醒来后也参加进来。茶是由司琪芬小姐特制的,我看到她和温米克共用一只杯子喝茶。当然,我从中悟出,还是不必等着送司琪芬小姐回家的好,在这种情况下我最好还是独自先走为佳。于是我说到办到,亲切地向老人家告辞。一个快乐的夜晚便如此度过了。

不到一个星期,我接到一封温米克从伍尔华斯寄来的信,信中说我们私下以个人名义相帮办的那件事已经有些眉目,如果我找个时间再到他家去看看他,他一定会十分乐意。于是我便又到伍尔华斯去了一次,以后又一次次地去,还在城内约见过好几次,但是在小不列颠街或小不列颠街附近的地方我们从来没有谈过这个问题。问题的进展是这样的,我们找到了一个品德高尚、值得尊敬的青年商人,或者具体地说,是一个航运经纪人,从事经商还不久,需要个聪明的帮手,也需要资金,一俟有了收益,便可以转为合伙人。于是我用赫伯特的名义和他签订了一项秘密协议,先从我的那五百镑中取出二百五十镑给他,并且双方约定以后再付几笔其他的款项,一部分从到期的收入中扣除,另一部分可能要等到获得遗产后再付。司琪芬的哥哥直接主持了这一项谈判。温米克全方位参与了其事,但他一次面也没有露过。

整个事情都处理得十分聪明,赫伯特完全给蒙在鼓里,一点也不怀疑是我在这里插上了一手。我永远不会忘记那一天下午,他红光满面地回到家里,告诉我一件特别重要的新闻,说他遇到了一位叫做克拉利柯的人,就是那位年青的商人。他说克拉利柯对他非常友好,他相信他时来运转,机会终于来了。他感到他的希望越来越大,他的脸上也越来越有光彩,和我的情谊也越来越深。每当看到他如此快乐,我真情不自禁地流出无限喜悦的眼泪。

最后,这件事完全办妥,他也进了克拉利柯的交易所,花了一整晚时间,眉飞色舞地告诉我他的高兴和成功。当晚上床就寝时,想到自己将继承的遗产居然也为别人办了好事,我真真实实、痛痛快快地哭了一场。

我一生中的重大事件,我一生中的转折点,现在已经展现在眼前。但是,在我开始叙述它之前,在我讲述它所牵涉到的一切变化之前,我必须专门用一章来谈谈埃斯苔娜。对于这样一个充满在我心灵中的主题,用一章来叙述是不算多的。



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