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Chapter 57

NOW that I was left wholly to myself, I gave notice of my intention to quit the chambers in the Temple as soon as my tenancy could legally determine, and in the meanwhile to underlet them. At once I put bills up in the windows; for, I was in debt, and had scarcely any money, and began to be seriously alarmed by the state of my affairs. I ought rather to write that I should have been alarmed if I had energy and concentration enough to help me to the clear perception of any truth beyond the fact that I was falling very ill. The late stress upon me had enabled me to put off illness, but not to put it away; I knew that it was coming on me now, and I knew very little else, and was even careless as to that.
For a day or two, I lay on the sofa, or on the floor - anywhere, according as I happened to sink down - with a heavy head and aching limbs, and no purpose, and no power. Then there came one night which appeared of great duration, and which teemed with anxiety and horror; and when in the morning I tried to sit up in my bed and think of it, I found I could not do so.

Whether I really had been down in Garden-court in the dead of the night, groping about for the boat that I supposed to be there; whether I had two or three times come to myself on the staircase with great terror, not knowing how I had got out of bed; whether I had found myself lighting the lamp, possessed by the idea that he was coming up the stairs, and that the lights were blown out; whether I had been inexpressibly harassed by the distracted talking, laughing, and groaning, of some one, and had half suspected those sounds to be of my own making; whether there had been a closed iron furnace in a dark corner of the room, and a voice had called out over and over again that Miss Havisham was consuming within it; these were things that I tried to settle with myself and get into some order, as I lay that morning on my bed. But, the vapour of a limekiln would come between me and them, disordering them all, and it was through the vapour at last that I saw two men looking at me.

`What do you want?' I asked, starting; `I don't know you.'

`Well, sir,' returned one of them, bending down and touching me on the shoulder, `this is a matter that you'll soon arrange, I dare say, but you're arrested.'

`What is the debt?'

`Hundred and twenty-three pound, fifteen, six. Jeweller's account, I think.'

`What is to be done?'

`You had better come to my house,' said the man. `I keep a very nice house.'

I made some attempt to get up and dress myself. When I next attended to them, they were standing a little off from the bed, looking at me. I still lay there.

`You see my state,' said I. `I would come with you if I could; but indeed I am quite unable. If you take me from here, I think I shall die by the way.'

Perhaps they replied, or argued the point, or tried to encourage me to believe that I was better than I thought. Forasmuch as they hang in my memory by only this one slender thread, I don't know what they did, except that they forbore to remove me.

That I had a fever and was avoided, that I suffered greatly, that I often lost my reason, that the time seemed interminable, that I confounded impossible existences with my own identity; that I was a brick in the house wall, and yet entreating to be released from the giddy place where the builders had set me; that I was a steel beam of a vast engine, clashing and whirling over a gulf, and yet that I implored in my own person to have the engine stopped, and my part in it hammered off; that I passed through these phases of disease, I know of my own remembrance, and did in some sort know at the time. That I sometimes struggled with real people, in the belief that they were murderers, and that I would all at once comprehend that they meant to do me good, and would then sink exhausted in their arms, and suffer them to lay me down, I also knew at the time. But, above all, I knew that there was constant tendency in all these people - who, when I was very ill, would present all kinds of extraordinary transformations of the human face, and would be much dilated in size - above all, I say, I knew that there was an extraordinary tendency in all these people, sooner or later to settle down into the likeness of Joe.

After I had turned the worst point of my illness, I began to notice that while all its other features changed, this one consistent feature did not change. Whoever came about me, still settled down into Joe. I opened my eyes in the night, and I saw in the great chair at the bedside, Joe. I opened my eyes in the day, and, sitting on the window-seat, smoking his pipe in the shaded open window, still I saw Joe. I asked for cooling drink, and the dear hand that gave it me was Joe's. I sank back on my pillow after drinking, and the face that looked so hopefully and tenderly upon me was the face of Joe.

At last, one day, I took courage, and said, `Is it Joe?'

And the dear old home-voice answered, `Which it air, old chap.'

`O Joe, you break my heart! Look angry at me, Joe. Strike me, Joe. Tell me of my ingratitude. Don't be so good to me!'

For, Joe had actually laid his head down on the pillow at my side and put his arm round my neck, in his joy that I knew him.

`Which dear old Pip, old chap,' said Joe, `you and me was ever friends. And when you're well enough to go out for a ride - what larks!'

After which, Joe withdrew to the window, and stood with his back towards me, wiping his eyes. And as my extreme weakness prevented me from getting up and going to him, I lay there, penitently whispering, `O God bless him! O God bless this gentle Christian man!'

Joe's eyes were red when I next found him beside me; but, I was holding his hand, and we both felt happy.

`How long, dear Joe?'

`Which you meantersay, Pip, how long have your illness lasted, dear old chap?'

`Yes, Joe.'

`It's the end of May, Pip. To-morrow is the first of June.'

`And have you been here all the time, dear Joe?'

`Pretty nigh, old chap. For, as I says to Biddy when the news of your being ill were brought by letter, which it were brought by the post and being formerly single he is now married though underpaid for a deal of walking and shoe-leather, but wealth were not a object on his part, and marriage were the great wish of his hart--'

`It is so delightful to hear you, Joe! But I interrupt you in what you said to Biddy.'

`Which it were,' said Joe, `that how you might be amongst strangers, and that how you and me having been ever friends, a wisit at such a moment might not prove unacceptabobble. And Biddy, her word were, "Go to him, without loss of time." That,' said Joe, summing up with his judicial air, `were the word of Biddy. "Go to him," Biddy say, "without loss of time." In short, I shouldn't greatly deceive you,' Joe added, after a little grave reflection, `if I represented to you that the word of that young woman were, "without a minute's loss of time."'

There Joe cut himself short, and informed me that I was to be talked to in great moderation, and that I was to take a little nourishment at stated frequent times, whether I felt inclined for it or not, and that I was to submit myself to all his orders. So, I kissed his hand, and lay quiet, while he proceeded to indite a note to Biddy, with my love in it.

Evidently, Biddy had taught Joe to write. As I lay in bed looking at him, it made me, in my weak state, cry again with pleasure to see the pride with which he set about his letter. My bedstead, divested of its curtains, had been removed, with me upon it, into the sittingroom, as the airiest and largest, and the carpet had been taken away, and the room kept always fresh and wholesome night and day. At my own writing-table, pushed into a corner and cumbered with little bottles, Joe now sat down to his great work, first choosing a pen from the pen-tray as if it were a chest of large tools, and tucking up his sleeves as if he were going to wield a crowbar or sledgehammer. It was necessary for Joe to hold on heavily to the table with his left elbow, and to get his right leg well out behind him, before he could begin, and when he did begin, he made every down-stroke so slowly that it might have been six feet long, while at every up-stroke I could hear his pen spluttering extensively. He had a curious idea that the inkstand was on the side of him where it was not, and constantly dipped his pen into space, and seemed quite satisfied with the result. Occasionally, he was tripped up by some orthographical stumbling-block, but on the whole he got on very well indeed, and when he had signed his name, and had removed a finishing blot from the paper to the crown of his head with his two forefingers, he got up and hovered about the table, trying the effect of his performance from various points of view as it lay there, with unbounded satisfaction.

Not to make Joe uneasy by talking too much, even if I had been able to talk much, I deferred asking him about Miss Havisham until next day. He shook his head when I then asked him if she had recovered.

`Is she dead, Joe?'

`Why you see, old chap,' said Joe, in a tone of remonstrance, and by way of getting at it by degrees, `I wouldn't go so far as to say that, for that's a deal to say; but she ain't--'

`Living, Joe?'

`That's nigher where it is,' said Joe; `she ain't living.'

`Did she linger long, Joe?'

`Arter you was took ill, pretty much about what you might call (if you was put to it) a week,' said Joe; still determined, on my account, to come at everything by degrees.

`Dear Joe, have you heard what becomes of her property?'

`Well, old chap,' said Joe, `it do appear that she had settled the most of it, which I meantersay tied it up, on Miss Estella. But she had wrote out a little coddleshell in her own hand a day or two afore the accident, leaving a cool four thousand to Mr Matthew Pocket. And why, do you suppose, above all things, Pip, she left that cool four thousand unto him? "Because of Pip's account of him the said Matthew." I am told by Biddy, that air the writing,' said Joe, repeating the legal turn as if it did him infinite good, `"account of him the said Matthew." And a cool four thousand, Pip!'

I never discovered from whom Joe derived the conventional temperature of the four thousand pounds, but it appeared to make the sum of money more to him, and he had a manifest relish in insisting on its being cool.

This account gave me great joy, as it perfected the only good thing I had done. I asked Joe whether he had heard if any of the other relations had any legacies?

`Miss Sarah,' said Joe, `she have twenty-five pound perannium fur to buy pills, on account of being bilious. Miss Georgiana, she have twenty pound down. Mrs - what's the name of them wild beasts with humps, old chap?'

`Camels?' said I, wondering why he could possibly want to know.

Joe nodded. `Mrs Camels,' by which I presently understood he meant Camilla, `she have five pound fur to buy rushlights to put her in spirits when she wake up in the night.'

The accuracy of these recitals was sufficiently obvious to me, to give me great confidence in Joe's information. `And now,' said Joe, `you ain't that strong yet, old chap, that you can take in more nor one additional shovel-full to-day. Old Orlick he's been a bustin'open a dwelling-ouse.'

`Whose?' said I.

`Not, I grant, you, but what his manners is given to blusterous,' said Joe, apologetically; `still, a Englishman's ouse is his Castle, and castles must not be busted 'cept when done in war time. And wotsume'er the failings on his part, he were a corn and seedsman in his hart.'

`Is it Pumblechook's house that has been broken into, then?'

`That's it, Pip,' said Joe; `and they took his till, and they took his cash-box, and they drinked his wine, and they partook of his wittles, and they slapped his face, and they pulled his nose, and they tied him up to his bedpust, and they giv' him a dozen, and they stuffed his mouth full of flowering annuals to prewent his crying out. But he knowed Orlick, and Orlick's in the country jail.'

By these approaches we arrived at unrestricted conversation. I was slow to gain strength, but I did slowly and surely become less weak, and Joe stayed with me, and I fancied I was little Pip again.

For, the tenderness of Joe was so beautifully proportioned to my need, that I was like a child in his hands. He would sit and talk to me in the old confidence, and with the old simplicity, and in the old unassertive protecting way, so that I would half believe that all my life since the days of the old kitchen was one of the mental troubles of the fever that was gone. He did everything for me except the household work, for which he had engaged a very decent woman, after paying off the laundress on his first arrival. `Which I do assure you, Pip,' he would often say, in explanation of that liberty; `I found her a tapping the spare bed, like a cask of beer, and drawing off the feathers in a bucket, for sale. Which she would have tapped yourn next, and draw'd it off with you a laying on it, and was then a carrying away the coals gradiwally in the souptureen and wegetable-dishes, and the wine and spirits in your Wellington boots.'

We looked forward to the day when I should go out for a ride, as we had once looked forward to the day of my apprenticeship. And when the day came, and an open carriage was got into the Lane, Joe wrapped me up, took me in his arms, carried me down to it, and put me in, as if I were still the small helpless creature to whom he had so abundantly given of the wealth of his great nature.

And Joe got in bedside me, and we drove away together into the country, where the rich summer growth was already on the trees and on the grass, and sweet summer scents filled all the air. The day happened to be Sunday, and when I looked on the loveliness around me, and thought how it had grown and changed, and how the little wild flowers had been forming, and the voices of the birds had been strengthening, by day and by night, under the sun and under the stars, while poor I lay burning and tossing on my bed, the mere remembrance of having burned and tossed there, came like a check upon my peace. But, when I heard the Sunday bells, and looked around a little more upon the outspread beauty, I felt that I was not nearly thankful enough - that I was too weak yet, to be even that - and I laid my head on Joe's shoulder, as I had laid it long ago when he had taken me to the Fair or where not, and it was too much for my young senses.

More composure came to me after a while, and we talked as we used to talk, lying on the grass at the old Battery. There was no change whatever in Joe. Exactly what he had been in my eyes then, he was in my eyes still; just as simply faithful, and as simply right.

When we got back again and he lifted me out, and carried me - so easily - across the court and up the stairs, I thought of that eventful Christmas Day when he had carried me over the marshes. We had not yet made any allusion to my change of fortune, nor did I know how much of my late history he was acquainted with. I was so doubtful of myself now, and put so much trust in him, that I could not satisfy myself whether I ought to refer to it when he did not.

`Have you heard, Joe,' I asked him that evening, upon further consideration, as he smoked his pipe at the window, `who my patron was?'

`I heerd,' returned Joe, `as it were not Miss Havisham, old chap.'

`Did you hear who it was, Joe?'

`Well! I heerd as it were a person what sent the person what giv'you the bank-notes at the Jolly Bargemen, Pip.'

`So it was.'

`Astonishing!' said Joe, in the placidest way.

`Did you hear that he was dead, Joe?' I presently asked, with increasing diffidence.

`Which? Him as sent the bank-notes, Pip?'

`Yes.'

`I think,' said Joe, after meditating a long time, and looking rather evasively at the window-seat, `as I did hear tell that how he were something or another in a general way in that direction.'

`Did you hear anything of his circumstances, Joe?'

`Not partickler, Pip.'

`If you would like to hear, Joe--' I was beginning, when Joe got up and came to my sofa.

`Lookee here, old chap,' said Joe, bending over me. `Ever the best of friends; ain't us, Pip?'

I was ashamed to answer him.

`Wery good, then,' said Joe, as if I had answered; `that's all right, that's agreed upon. Then why go into subjects, old chap, which as betwixt two sech must be for ever onnecessary? There's subjects enough as betwixt two sech, without onnecessary ones. Lord! To think of your poor sister and her Rampages! And don't you remember Tickler?'

`I do indeed, Joe.'

`Lookee here, old chap,' said Joe. `I done what I could to keep you and Tickler in sunders, but my power were not always fully equal to my inclinations. For when your poor sister had a mind to drop into you, it were not so much,' said Joe, in his favourite argumentative way, `that she dropped into me too, if I put myself in opposition to her but that she dropped into you always heavier for it. I noticed that. It ain't a grab at a man's whisker, not yet a shake or two of a man (to which your sister was quite welcome), that 'ud put a man off from getting a little child out of punishment. But when that little child is dropped into, heavier, for that grab of whisker or shaking, then that man naterally up and says to himself, "Where is the good as you are a doing? I grant you I see the 'arm," says the man, "but I don't see the good. I call upon you, sir, theerfore, to pint out the good."'

`The man says?' I observed, as Joe waited for me to speak.

`The man says,' Joe assented. `Is he right, that man?'

`Dear Joe, he is always right.'

`Well, old chap,' said Joe, `then abide by your words. If he's always right (which in general he's more likely wrong), he's right when he says this: - Supposing ever you kep any little matter to yourself, when you was a little child, you kep it mostly because you know'd as J. Gargery's power to part you and Tickler in sunders, were not fully equal to his inclinations. Theerfore, think no more of it as betwixt two sech, and do not let us pass remarks upon onnecessary subjects. Biddy giv' herself a deal o' trouble with me afore I left (for I am almost awful dull), as I should view it in this light, and, viewing it in this light, as I should so put it. Both of which,' said Joe, quite charmed with his logical arrangement, `being done, now this to you a true friend, say. Namely. You mustn't go a over-doing on it, but you must have your supper and your wine-and-water, and you must be put betwixt the sheets.'

The delicacy with which Joe dismissed this theme, and the sweet tact and kindness with which Biddy - who with her woman's wit had found me out so soon - had prepared him for it, made a deep impression on my mind. But whether Joe knew how poor I was, and how my great expectations had all dissolved, like our own marsh mists before the sun, I could not understand.

Another thing in Joe that I could not understand when it first began to develop itself, but which I soon arrived at a sorrowful comprehension of, was this: As I became stronger and better, Joe became a little less easy with me. In my weakness and entire dependence on him, the dear fellow had fallen into the old tone, and called me by the old names, the dear `old Pip, old chap,' that now were music in my ears. I too had fallen into the old ways, only happy and thankful that he let me. But, imperceptibly, though I held by them fast, Joe's hold upon them began to slacken; and whereas I wondered at this, at first, I soon began to understand that the cause of it was in me, and that the fault of it was all mine.

Ah! Had I given Joe no reason to doubt my constancy, and to think that in prosperity I should grow cold to him and cast him off? Had I given Joe's innocent heart no cause to feel instinctively that as I got stronger, his hold upon me would be weaker, and that he had better loosen it in time and let me go, before I plucked myself away?

It was on the third or fourth occasion of my going out walking in the Temple Gardens leaning on Joe's arm, that I saw this change in him very plainly. We had been sitting in the bright warm sunlight, looking at the river, and I chanced to say as we got up:

`See, Joe! I can walk quite strongly. Now, you shall see me walk back by myself.'

`Which do not over-do it, Pip,' said Joe; `but I shall be happy fur to see you able, sir.'

The last word grated on me; but how could I remonstrate! I walked no further than the gate of the gardens, and then pretended to be weaker than I was, and asked Joe for his arm. Joe gave it me, but was thoughtful.

I, for my part, was thoughtful too; for, how best to check this growing change in Joe, was a great perplexity to my remorseful thoughts. That I was ashamed to tell him exactly how I was placed, and what I had come down to, I do not seek to conceal; but, I hope my reluctance was not quite an unworthy one. He would want to help me out of his little savings, I knew, and I knew that he ought not to help me, and that I must not suffer him to do it.

It was a thoughtful evening with both of us. But, before we went to bed, I had resolved that I would wait over to-morrow, to-morrow being Sunday, and would begin my new course with the new week. On Monday morning I would speak to Joe about this change, I would lay aside this last vestige of reverse, I would tell him what I had in my thoughts (that Secondly, not yet arrived at), and why I had not decided to go out to Herbert, and then the change would be conquered for ever. As I cleared, Joe cleared, and it seemed as though he had sympathetically arrived at a resolution too.

We had a quite day on the Sunday, and we rode out into the country, and then walked in the fields.

`I feel thankful that I have been ill, Joe,' I said.

`Dear old Pip, old chap, you're a'most come round, sir.'

`It has been a memorable time for me, Joe.'

`Likeways for myself, sir,' Joe returned.

`We have had a time together, Joe, that I can never forget. There were days once, I know, that I did for a while forget; but I never shall forget these.'

`Pip,' said Joe, appearing a little hurried and troubled, `there has been larks, And, dear sir, what have been betwixt us - have been.'

At night, when I had gone to bed, Joe came into my room, as he had done all through my recovery. He asked me if I felt sure that I was as well as in the morning?

`Yes, dear Joe, quite.'

`And are always a getting stronger, old chap?'

`Yes, dear Joe, steadily.'

Joe patted the coverlet on my shoulder with his great good hand, and said, in what I thought a husky voice, `Good night!'

When I got up in the morning, refreshed and stronger yet, I was full of my resolution to tell Joe all, without delay. I would tell him before breakfast. I would dress at once and go to his room and surprise him; for, it was the first day I had been up early. I went to his room, and he was not there. Not only was he not there, but his box was gone.

I hurried then to the breakfast-table, and on it found a letter. These were its brief contents.

`Not wishful to intrude I have departured fur you are well again dear Pip and will do better without `JO.
`P.S. Ever the best of friends.'

Enclosed in the letter, was a receipt for the debt and costs on which I had been arrested. Down to that moment I had vainly supposed that my creditor had withdrawn or suspended proceedings until I should be quite recovered. I had never dreamed of Joe's having paid the money; but, Joe had paid it, and the receipt was in his name.
What remained for me now, but to follow him to the dear old forge, and there to have out my disclosure to him, and my penitent remonstrance with him, and there to relieve my mind and heart of that reserved Secondly, which had begun as a vague something lingering in my thoughts, and had formed into a settled purpose?

The purpose was, that I would go to Biddy, that I would show her how humbled and repentant I came back, that I would tell her how I had lost all I once hoped for, that I would remind her of our old confidences in my first unhappy time. Then, I would say to her, `Biddy, I think you once liked me very well, when my errant heart, even while it strayed away from you, was quieter and better with you than it ever has been since. If you can like me only half as well once more, if you can take me with all my faults and disappointments on my head, if you can receive me like a forgiven child (and indeed I am as sorry, Biddy, and have as much need of a hushing voice and a soothing hand), I hope I am a little worthier of you that I was - not much, but a little. And, Biddy, it shall rest with you to say whether I shall work at the forge with Joe, or whether I shall try for any different occupation down in this country, or whether we shall go away to a distant place where an opportunity awaits me, which I set aside when it was offered, until I knew your answer. And now, dear Biddy, if you can tell me that you will go through the world with me, you will surely make it a better world for me, and me a better man for it, and I will try hard to make it a better world for you.'

Such was my purpose. After three days more of recovery, I went down to the old place, to put it in execution; and how I sped in it, is all I have left to tell.

 

现在整个就剩下我一个人了,我告诉了房东我自己的打算,等到租约期满,我就退掉寺区的房屋,在未满之前,我打算分租一些出去。我立刻便在窗子上贴上了招租的广告。此时我已负债很多,手头几乎没有钱了。处于如此的情况下我这才慌得手足无措。也许我该这样写,如果正视一下现实,好好地理一理头绪,集中力量想一下,我早该慌得手足无措了,而我却全然不顾,只知道大病正在来临。最近的忙碌使我暂时没有生病,但病魔并未离开。我知道大病正在向我袭来,别的我就知道甚少了,而且我对它也毫不注意。

在最初的一两天之间,我躺在沙发上,或者躺在地上,只要偶然我在哪里躺下也就睡在哪儿。我感到头昏脑涨,四肢疼痛,思想毫无目的,身体毫无气力。接下去又是黑夜,漫长而充满了焦虑和恐惧。等到次日早晨,我企图坐在床上并想想过去的情况,然而我如何也没有办法做到。

上午我躺在床上,想把夜里的思绪好好整理一下,弄出一些头绪。在那寂静的深夜我是不是真的去到花园里,摸到那个我以为系着船的地方;我究竟有没有在楼梯上两三次昏倒而又苏醒,心中万分惊慌,不知道自己究竟是如何从床上下来的;我究竟有没有疑神见鬼地感到他正爬上楼梯,而楼上的灯光亦已经熄灭,我正要去点燃呢;究竟有没有一个人那么神魂颠倒地说着,笑着,呻吟着,弄得我说不出来的苦恼,甚至使我怀疑这些全是自己发出的声音呢;在这间屋子的一个黑暗角落究竟有没有一座关闭着的熔铁炉,以及一个声音一次又一次地呼喊着里面正在火化郝维仙小姐,等等。在我胡乱的思想中忽然一股石灰窑的白色烟雾袅袅而起,把一切想理顺的事情全部打乱,最后在烟雾中我仿佛见到有两个人正盯着我望。

“你们要干什么?”我惊慌地问道,“我不认识你们。”

“唔,先生,”他们当中的一个人弯下腰来拍拍我的肩膀,答道,“有一件事你得赶快处理一下,我敢说,否则你会被逮捕的。”

“有多少债务?”

“一共是一百二十三镑十五先令六便士。我看,这是你欠珠宝商的账款。”

“你们想怎么样呢?”

“你最好到我家里去一趟,”此人说道,“我家里的房屋是很不错的。”

我想从床上起来并穿好衣服,然后我又看看他们,发现他们已站得离床远远的,正在注视着我,而我仍然躺在床上。

“你们看看我现在的状况,”我说道,“我只要起得来我就会同你们去,可是我实在没有法儿。你们一定要把我带走,我怕会死在路上的。”

也许他们答应了几句,也许他们争辩了一下,也许他们还在鼓励我,说我身体不像我所说的那么差。那次所发生的事在我脑中留下的只有这点线索。我不知道当时他们究竟干了什么,只知道他们没有把我带走。

我记得我是在发烧,来人也许因此而离开了。我痛苦地忍受着疾病的折磨,时常因昏迷而失去理智,好像什么事情都无穷无尽;我神志昏迷,根本分不清现实和我本身。我好像是房屋墙壁中的一块砖,是造房子的人把我砌进去的,我请求赶快把我从这眼花缭乱头昏目眩的地方拉开;我又好像成了一台巨大的机器里的一根钢轴,架在一座深渊上面碰撞着,旋转着,我多么希望这台机器停下来,把我这钢轴从上面卸下来。这些都是我当时病中情况,是我今天能回忆起来的,在当时也知道一些的情况。比如当时我以为来的人是杀手,有时我和他们格斗起来,一会儿我又以为他们来都是为了我好,因而全身无力地倒在他们怀抱之中,让他们扶着我躺下来。特别有一件事我记忆犹新,我记得当时那些人总是会发生一种情况,因为我在痛苦难挨的病中,他们的形象都变得古里古怪,甚至会无限地扩大与膨胀;然而,无论这些形象怎么古里古怪,迟早总会化成一个形象,那就是乔的形象。

我最严重的病情过去了,在病情转好的时候我注意到一切奇怪的形象都已消失,而剩下的一个形象却再也不变。无论是谁来到我身边,结果都会变成乔。在深夜我睁开双眼,看到在床边的那张大椅子里坐着的是乔;在白天我又从沉睡中睁开双眼,看到在窗台上坐着并且在窗篷下抽着烟斗的人是乔;我要喝些清凉饮料,那只把清凉饮料递给我的亲切的手是乔的手;饮完后我重新把头放在枕头上,这时有一张怀有希望、充满情义望着我的脸,那是乔的脸。

有一天,我终于鼓起勇气,问道:“真的是乔在这里吗?”

传来一句家乡的口音,那么亲切,那么熟悉,“是啊,我的老弟。”

“噢,乔啊,你把我的心砸碎吧!你对我发火吧!乔,你来打我吧!你说我忘恩负义吧,千万别待我这么好!”

乔看到我认出了他,非常高兴地把头挨着我放在枕头上,用一只手臂搂着我的脖子。

“亲爱的皮普,我的老弟,”乔说道,“你和我是永远的朋友,等你身体康复了,我们一起乘车出外走走,那可多好啊!”

乔说完后便退到窗口,背对着我站在那里用手擦着他的眼睛。因为我身体极度虚弱,不能起来到他身边去安慰他,我只有躺在床上,带着忏悔般的口吻喃喃低语:“愿上帝保佑他!愿上帝保佑这位温和的基督教徒吧!”

然后他又回到我的身边,他的双眼红通通的,于是我握住他的手,我们都感到沉浸在幸福之中。

“多长时间啦,亲爱的乔?”

“皮普,你的意思是问你病了有多少时间了,是吗,亲爱的老弟?”

“是啊,乔。”

“今天是五月底,皮普,明天就是六月份的第一天。”

“你一直都待在这儿吗,亲爱的乔?”

“差不多吧,老弟。我接到信知道你有病,我就对毕蒂说了。信是由一位邮差送来的,这个人原先是个单身汉,可现在他结婚了,虽然送信要走很多路,要穿破许多皮鞋,但不能发财,不过发财不是他心头之愿,他心里最大的愿望是结婚——”

“我听你这么说很高兴,乔!不过我得打断你的话头,你刚才说对毕蒂说什么来着?”

乔说道:“是这样的,我说你住在外地,专门和生人打交道。你和我又一直是老朋友,在你生病的时候来看看你,你不会不欢迎的。毕蒂听了后说:‘你到他那里去,抓紧时间去。’”乔又用一种权衡利弊的审慎神态总结般地说道:“毕蒂的话是‘你到他那里去,抓紧时间去。’总之,我不会对你讲假话的。”他作了一番严肃认真的思考之后又补充说道:“这位年轻姑娘说的意思可以这样解释,‘不要耽搁,马上就去。’”

乔说到这里便结束了,他告诉我讲话要适可而止,不能过多,又说我该补充一些营养,无论我想不想补充营养,都得按照规定时间多吃些,而且我得服从他的规定。听了他的话,我便亲吻着他的手,然后安静地睡在床上,他便去给毕蒂写信,并附上一句说我向她问好。

十分明显,毕蒂已经教会乔写信了。我躺在床上,观看他的一举一动,由于我生性的弱点,一看到他居然能写信,一种因骄傲而喜悦的心情竟然使我又一次流下眼泪来。我发现我所睡的床铺上的账子已经拆去,床和我本人也被搬进了会客室。这里大而明亮,空气流通,地毯也已被搬走,整个房间保持着清新。日夜通风,健康宜人。我的写字台被推到了一个角落,上面乱七八糟地堆着小药瓶。乔坐在这张桌边开始了伟大的工作。他一开始先在文具盒中挑了一支钢笔,就好像在大工具柜子中挑选工具一样,然后把袖口卷好向上拉拉,好像准备挥舞他的大撬棍和大铁锤一样。在他写字之前,他先把左胳膊肘用力地抵住桌面,再把他的右腿一直向后伸到椅子后面。他写字时,每一向下的笔划都很慢,真像拖了六英尺长一样,而每一向上的笔划,在写时都可以听到墨水向四面八方溅出的声音。还有一件奇怪的事,他总以为墨水瓶放在这边,其实他是放在另外一边,所以他去蘸墨水总蘸个空,可是他看上去却是自以为是的样子。有时会遇上个把拼写不出的字阻碍他写信,但总的说来信写得还算顺利。在他最后签好名字后,便用两只食指擦最后一团留在信纸上的墨迹,然后又把指头在帽子上擦了擦。站起来后,他在桌子四周绕着圈子走,心情无限满意地从各个侧面来欣赏自己的表演效果。

当时我不想谈得过多,即使我能够多谈也不想多谈,因为我怕这样使乔担忧。所以一直到第二天,我才问他关于郝维仙小姐的情况。我问他,她是不是已经康复?而他听了摇摇头。

“乔,她死了吗?”

“怎么,我的老弟,你知道,”乔用一种劝告的口吻,和一种渐进的方法说道,“我是不会这样说的,因为这样说的口气太重了;不过她已不——”

“已经不在世了,对不对,乔?”

“这样说还差不多,”乔说道,“她已不在世了。”

“乔,她抱了很久吗?”

“要是让你说,你会说是在你病后大约一个星期吧。”乔说道。看来他是为了我才用这种逐步渐进的方法委婉答复的。

“亲爱的乔,你听说关于她的财产是怎样处理的了吗?”

“哦,我的老弟,”乔说道,“好像是大部分遗产都给了埃斯苔娜,我是说这早就处理好了的。不过,在她去世之前一两天她又追加了一条,留给马休·鄱凯特先生四千英镑整。皮普,你可知道她是怎么样留给他四千英镑整的?是‘根据皮普对马休的意见’。这是毕蒂告诉我的,毕蒂说她就是这样写的。”乔说着又重复了这追加的句子:“‘根据皮普对马休的意见’,留给他四千英镑整。”好像这句话对他有无限的好处。

乔对这个“整”字特别感到兴趣,津津乐道。我实在不知道乔是从谁那里得到“整”这个词的习惯性理解的,也许他以为在四千英镑上加个“整”字,钱的总数就会多一些。

然而他这样却使我非常高兴,因为这是我做的唯一一件好事,如今总算大功告成。我又问乔,他听没听说过其他亲戚对郝维仙小姐遗产继承的情况。

乔说道:“莎娜小姐每年可得二十五镑,因为她肝火旺,脾气暴躁,这钱是让她买药丸吃的。乔其亚娜小姐获得二十镑,还有一位什么夫人,我想起来了,我的老兄弟,有种动物背上有峰的叫什么?”

我不知道为什么他要想晓得这种动物的名称,我说道:“是‘卡美尔’吗?”

乔点头答道:“是卡美尔夫人。”听了他这一说,我才恍然大悟,原来他是指卡美拉。“她得到五镑,这是给她买灯草芯蜡烛用的,因为夜里睡不着时点亮灯,精神情绪可以稳定一些。”

乔一五一十告诉我的事情我非常相信,因为我觉得他所说的都确实可靠。乔然后又对我说道:“你目前身体还不太好,我的老兄弟,我今天只能再告诉你一件事,也仅此一件。老奥立克居然闯进了别人的屋子。”

“谁的?”我问道。

“我同意你过去的看法,不过,他的那副样子就是粗鲁成性的,”乔有些道歉似的说道,“要知道,一个英国人的家庭就是一个城堡,既是城堡就不能乱闯进去,至于战争年代是例外。他不管怎么有缺点,好歹是个粮食种子商人吧。”

“那么你说的就是彭波契克喽,是他的家被抢劫了吗?”

“皮普,一点不错,”乔说道,“他们抢了他的钱柜,抢了他的现金箱子,喝了他的酒,分享了他的食品,还在他的脸上抽耳光,拉他的鼻子,又把他捆在自己的床架上,并且打了他一顿,又用各种粮食种子塞满他一嘴,使他想喊也喊不出。不过他认识奥立克,自然奥立克被关进了县里的牢房。”

我们谈着谈着便随便起来,无拘无束了。我的精神恢复得很慢,但是却在一点一点地恢复着,好转着,稍微强壮了一些。乔待在我的身边,我想我又变成了小皮普。

乔对我可谓是无微不至地关怀照顾,凡是我需要照顾的地方他全想到了,就像照顾一个孩子那样地照顾我。他坐在那里和我谈话,依旧如同昔日那般亲切,如同昔日那般纯真,如同昔日那般体贴入微,一切从维护我出发,以至于我几乎相信自从我告别昔日故居的厨房以来,我的生活只不过是一场发烧造成的心灵混乱,甚至幻梦,如今已从迷梦中醒来,发烧也已退去。他在这里除了家务之外什么事都为我做。他一来到我这里便打发走了原来的洗衣妇,又为我雇了一个非常正派的妇女做家务。他时常对我说,他之所以未经我同意就擅自决定这件事自有其理由,“皮普,事情是完全正确的,我看到原来的那个洗衣妇总是在拍那张不睡人的床,把拍出来的鸭绒都装进一只桶,拿去卖掉。我看她下一次就会来拍你睡的这张床了,把你被子里的鸭绒都拍光,然后就会用你的汤盘儿菜碟儿把你的煤屑一点点运走,就会用你的长统靴子把你的酒什么的也都带走。”

我们盼望着那一天的到来,那时我们就可以一同乘车外出了,就好像当年我们盼望当他学徒的日子一样。果然这一天到了,一辆敞篷马车赶到了巷子里,乔把我裹好,用双臂抱起我,把我送到楼下,放进车里,好像我还是一个无可奈何的小东西,一切都要依靠他纯朴真实天性的百般关怀。

在车上,乔坐在我的身边,马车一直驶向乡间。一片夏季的色彩,绿树葱葱,青草茂盛,夏季特有的香气充溢于空间。这一天又正巧是星期天,我举目四望,周围一片可爱的景象。我暗自思忖,世界变化多快,看那娇嫩的野花漫地遍野,好不茂盛;那善歌的鸟儿起劲地唱着,好不动听;世间万物白天在阳光的照耀下,夜晚在星星的洗礼下,在茂盛成长。而这个阶段中我却躺在床上,可怜地发着高烧,整天噩梦,无法安眠。只要一想起卧床发烧、整天噩梦的日子,立刻我心灵的平静就被打破。但是,每当我听到教堂响起做礼拜的钟声。每当我看到四周铺开的一片自然美景时,我立刻也就感到,我心头虽然愉快但仍旧力不从心,我的身体仍旧在孱弱之中,以至于我不得不把自己的头依偎在乔的肩膀上,好像孩提时代他带着我去赶集或去其他什么地方时的情景一样,幼稚的感官过分激动时反而疲倦了。

一会儿之后我扰乱的心又平静下来,我们像昔日谈天一样在谈论着,像昔日躺在古炮台旁的草地上一样躺在草地上。乔依然是当年的乔,一点也没有变。过去在我眼里的乔和现在在我眼里的乔一样。他依旧如同昔日那般纯朴忠实,依旧如同昔日那般纯洁正直。

从乡下回到寺区,他又把我抱起,然后轻而易举地把我背起,走过庭院,爬上楼梯,这不禁使我回想起昔日的那一个圣诞节之夜他背着我去沼泽地的一幕情景。我们谈论中还没有提到过我这个阶段的命运变化,我也不知道他对我最近的生活经历知道到何种程度。我现在一切都信赖他,他现在没有涉及到这件事,我真不知道是否要把这件事告诉他。

当天晚上他正在窗口抽着他的烟斗,我在充分的考虑之后问他:“你是不是听说过我的恩主是谁?”

“我听说过,”乔答道,“老弟,我知道不是郝维仙小姐。”

“乔,你听别人讲了是谁吗?”

“唔!皮普,我听说是那个派人来在三个快乐的船夫酒店里送钞票给你的人。”

“就是那个人。”

“真叫人想不到。’下显得很平静地对我说道。

“乔,你听说他死了吗?”我立刻又问道,心里很没有底。

“你说什么人,皮普?是那个派人把钞票送来给你的人?”

“是啊。”

“我想,”乔思索了好长一会儿,把眼光避开我,望着窗洞下的椅子,“我确听到有人说过,虽然说的方式各有不同,不过意思都和这差不多。”

“乔,你听到过有人谈到他的一些情况吗?”

“我倒没有特别听到别人说起,皮普。”

乔站了起来并向我坐的沙发走来,我便开始对他说:“要是你喜欢听的话,乔——”

而乔俯身看着我,说道:“老弟,你听我说。皮普,我们永远是最好的朋友,你说我们是吗?”

我羞愧得无言以答。

“那么,这就行了,”乔仿佛我已作了回答似的说道,“这就很好了,我们的意见就一致了。噢,我的老弟,既然这样,我们何必去谈论我们两个人都没有必要谈论的话题呢?我们有很多话题可以讨论,何必非谈这没有必要的话题呢?在天之主啊!你可想到那可怜的姐姐吗?想到她那喜怒无常的脾气吗?你可记得那根呵痒的棍子吗?”

“我完全记得呢,乔。”

“我的老弟,你听我说,”乔说道,“你记得在那根呵痒棍飞舞过来时,我总是尽量挡住它,不过我的能力有限,不是每次都能如愿以偿的。一旦你那可怜的姐姐居心要打你一顿时,”乔又开始用他那惯用的大发议论的神气说道,“我要是挡上去不让她打,事情就更糟了,她就要更加重重地打你。我看出了这件事,我知道,这一来她就先揪我的胡子,然后把我的身子摇上几摇(你姐姐过去的这行为我是多次领教),如果这样一来,那个小孩子免得被打倒也算了。可是那个小孩子到头来还是被打一顿,而且打得更重,我的胡子也被掀了,我的身子也被摇了,于是久而久之我从中悟出道理,心想,‘这样做有什么好处?我看到的只是伤害,而看不到任何好处。’所以,先生,我要你来说好处究竟在哪里?”

乔正等着我回答,我便说道:“你是这么想的吗?”

“我是这样想的,”乔同意地答道,“你说我想得对吗?”

“亲爱的乔,你想的永远都对。”

“唔,老弟,”乔说道,“你这样说就得坚持这样想。其实说我的话永远对,我倒认为我说的话很可能更多是错的,如果有对的,那我说的这句话是对的,即在你小时候,你隐瞒了一些小事,你之所以隐瞒,主要是因为你知道葛奇里在阻挡你姐姐的呵痒棍时是力不从心的。所以,我们两个人就不必去想这件事了,也不去谈论这些没有必要谈论的主题。在我这次来你这儿之前,毕蒂花了很多精力帮我出主意(因为我很笨拙),要我如此地看问题,如此地说,等等。’乔对他自己的这一套有理有节的议论感到很得意,他又说:“现在这两点都已做到。你是我真正的朋友,我就得对你讲真话。也就是说,你不必想入非非,现在你就应该吃晚饭,应该喝兑水酒,应该裹着被单睡觉。”

乔离开了这个话题是做了精心安排的;毕蒂以女性特有的智慧早就对我了如指掌,她运用柔密的机智和善良的心肠对乔作了心灵的开启,给我留下了深刻的印象。至于乔是否知道我如何穷,我的大笔遗产和远大前程已经消融,就像沼泽地上的太阳使雾气消融一样,我不得而知。

还有一件发生在乔身上的事,在刚刚开始时,我对它无法理解,但不久便有所悟,这简直是一件令人悲伤的事。原来当我的身体开始由弱而强,由重病而复原的时候,乔对我好像出现了些不调和。因为还在我病得不能起床时,我需要完全依赖他,我的老伙伴以昔日的声调,以昔日的称呼来称呼我,叫我,如亲爱的皮普,亲爱的老弟等。这对我来说就如心中的音乐。我也用昔日的老调子对待他,他允许我这样称呼,我内心只有幸福与感激。可是,在不知不觉之间,我对他虽一如往故,乔对我却有了一些微妙的疏远。起先,我对此茫然不解,不久,我便察其原因,一切都出自我,一切的错误都是我造成的。

啊!这都是由于我对他的态度而使乔得到一个结论,怀疑我的忠诚,等到患难一过,我就会逐渐对他冷淡,而最后把他抛弃。本来乔有一颗无辜的心,而我使他生出了戒心,因此他从本能上意识到,当我身体由弱而强时,他对我的信任便开始转弱,他想,与其等到我从他身边挣脱而出,不如在适当时候放手让我自去为佳。

记得在第三次或第四次去往寺区花园进行散步,我依偎着乔的胳膊缓缓而行时,我端详出他身上的这种变化已相当明显。我们在光亮而又温暖的阳光下小坐休息,眺望着河上风光。当我们站起来时,我偶然对他说道:

“乔,你看!我身体强得能自己走了。看,我自己就可以走回去。”

“你可不要劳累过度,皮普,”乔说道,“不过,先生,我能看到你走回去,我心中可高兴呢。”

这里他用了“先生”一词,叫起来就很刺耳,但是,我怎么能提出抗议呢!所以只走到花园的门口时,我便假装着对他说现在我不行了,比过去还不如,请他用手臂扶住我。乔扶着我走,我看这时他已心事重重。

至于我本人,也同样心事重重,究竟用什么办法才能阻止乔的这种心理变化,我忏悔的心里是非常惶恐不安的。可是要我以详情实告,又难以启齿,我本不该向他隐瞒,应全盘告诉他我目前的处境已是无路可走了。不过我向他瞒了这些不能说一无理由,我内心明白,只要我以实情相告,他就会提供给我他那点可怜的积蓄。我心中明白,我不能让他来帮我忙,要他帮我忙,我也于心不安。

这一个夜晚对我们两个人来说都是心事重重的。我在睡觉之前却想到我已下了决心,过了明天再说,因为明天是星期天,我想从新的一周的开始,开始一种新的生活。我准备在星期一上午和乔开诚布公,谈谈他的变化,把我保留在思想中的最后痕迹摆脱,我要告诉他尚存在我心头的秘密(这是心中保留的第二件事,至今尚未泄密)。我要告诉他为什么我不下决心到赫伯特那里去。我想,这样我和他开诚布公,他身上的变化自然会被克服。我澄清了事实真相,乔也会澄清了事实真相,我作出了决定,他也会心情和谐地作出决定。

星期天我们过得十分恬静自在,乘车去到乡间,然后漫步在田间。

“乔,我生了这么一场大病,得感谢上天才是。”我说道。

“亲爱的皮普,我的老朋友,老兄弟,你已全部好了,先生。”

“乔,对我说来,这一个阶段是多么值得纪念啊。”

“先生,对我说来也是一样。”乔答道。

“乔,我们有这么一段日子共同生活,我将终身不忘。我知道,我们过去的日子我确实忘记了一会儿;不过这些日子我们的共同相处,我永远不会忘记的。”

“皮普,”乔似乎带些儿烦恼而慌忙地说道,“我们过得可高兴啦,亲爱的先生,我们以往的事已经过去了。”

晚间我已经睡到了床上时,乔来到我的房间,在我这段恢复的日子里,他每天晚上都来。他问我现在感觉如何,是否感到现在身体和上午时一样好。”

“一样好,亲爱的乔,我感到非常好。”

“老弟,你是不是感到越来越有力气了?”

“是这样,亲爱的乔,力气慢慢大起来了。”

乔用他那只又大又善良的手隔着被子拍拍我的肩头,对我说“晚安”,我听出他声音有些沙哑。

次日一早我便起身,感到精神爽朗,力气大增。我下定了决心把一切心头之事全盘告诉乔,再不拖延,准备在早饭之前便和他谈。于是我立刻穿好衣服,奔向他的房间,并且想使他大吃一惊,因为今天是我第一次起得如此之早。我一到他的房间,便看到他已不在;不仅他不在那里,而且人走物空,连他的箱子也不在了。

我又连忙向餐桌跑去,只见桌上放了一封信。信的内容简短,如下:

“你病体已康复,我不想再打扰你,故不辞而别。亲爱的皮普,没有了乔你会更好。乔”“我们永远是好朋友。又及。”

信封里还附着一张收据,这是替我还债的收据,正是这笔债使我差点被拘捕。事到如今我才知道事情真相,我本来还以为我的债主已经暂不索取,或者延迟日期,等我病好了再说。可是我做梦也想不到是乔给我付了钱,确确实实是乔给我还了债,收据上还有乔签的名字呢。

现在留在我心头的唯一的事,就是跟着乔去到那亲切的昔日的铁匠铺,向他一吐衷肠,把心中的秘密毫不保留地相告,并致以歉意,以表我内心的懊悔之意,直言不讳地告诉他我心头保留的第二件事。开始时这不过是一个模糊的影子,踌躇在我的心头迟迟不去,而最后终于形成了一项心愿。

我的这一个心愿就是我要回到毕蒂的身边,我要向她表明,如今我悔恨万分地丧魂落魄而归,我要向她倾吐我,已经失去一切我曾经想追求的,我要让她回忆起我们在最初不愉快的时刻相互交流的真情。然后我便对她说:“毕蒂,你曾经是那么喜欢我,而我的心却是浮游不定,结果误人歧途离开了你。只要和你在一起,我的心就比任何时候都要安宁与美好。只要你用从前的一半情感来喜欢我,只要你原谅我的一切缺点和过错,只要你像接受一个孩子那般地接受我,宽恕我(我的心情确实难受,毕蒂,我需要你的语言来平息我激动的心,我需要你的手来抚慰我心头的创伤),我就会比以往要好,虽然不是很好,至少有一点儿好。毕蒂,我今后的行程由你来决定,究竟是回到铁匠铺和乔朝夕相处,还是在国内无论什么地方找一个职业,或是我们两人去到一个遥远的地方,因为那里有一个机会正等待着我,非得到你的答复后我才能作出决定。而现在,亲爱的毕蒂,只要你告诉我你愿意和我在一起,我就会拥有一个新的世界,我就会成为一个新人,我就会努力奋斗,为你创造一个美好的世界。”

这就是我的心愿。我病体复原后的第三天,我便出发口到旧地,去寻找心头的愿望。我如此匆忙,就是为了把留下来的这件事情交代清楚。



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