Charles Dickens >> Great Expectations (page 25)

"Now, I have nothing to say to you," said Mr. Jaggers, throwing hisfinger at them. "I want to know no more than I know. As to theresult, it's a toss-up. I told you from the first it was a toss-up.Have you paid Wemmick?"

"We made the money up this morning, sir," said one of the men,submissively, while the other perused Mr. Jaggers's face.

"I don't ask you when you made it up, or where, or whether you madeit up at all. Has Wemmick got it?"

"Yes, sir," said both the men together.

"Very well; then you may go. Now, I won't have it!" said MrJaggers, waving his hand at them to put them behind him. "If yousay a word to me, I'll throw up the case."

"We thought, Mr. Jaggers--" one of the men began, pulling off hishat.

"That's what I told you not to do," said Mr. Jaggers. "You thought!I think for you; that's enough for you. If I want you, I know whereto find you; I don't want you to find me. Now I won't have it. Iwon't hear a word."

The two men looked at one another as Mr. Jaggers waved them behindagain, and humbly fell back and were heard no more.

"And now you!" said Mr. Jaggers, suddenly stopping, and turning onthe two women with the shawls, from whom the three men had meeklyseparated. - "Oh! Amelia, is it?"

"Yes, Mr. Jaggers."

"And do you remember," retorted Mr. Jaggers, "that but for me youwouldn't be here and couldn't be here?"

"Oh yes, sir!" exclaimed both women together. "Lord bless you, sir,well we knows that!"

"Then why," said Mr. Jaggers, "do you come here?"

"My Bill, sir!" the crying woman pleaded.

"Now, I tell you what!" said Mr. Jaggers. "Once for all. If youdon't know that your Bill's in good hands, I know it. And if youcome here, bothering about your Bill, I'll make an example of bothyour Bill and you, and let him slip through my fingers. Have youpaid Wemmick?"

"Oh yes, sir! Every farden."

"Very well. Then you have done all you have got to do. Say anotherword - one single word - and Wemmick shall give you your moneyback."

This terrible threat caused the two women to fall off immediately.No one remained now but the excitable Jew, who had already raisedthe skirts of Mr. Jaggers's coat to his lips several times.

"I don't know this man!" said Mr. Jaggers, in the same devastatingstrain: "What does this fellow want?"

"Ma thear Mithter Jaggerth. Hown brother to Habraham Latharuth?"

"Who's he?" said Mr. Jaggers. "Let go of my coat."

The suitor, kissing the hem of the garment again beforerelinquishing it, replied, "Habraham Latharuth, on thuthpithion ofplate."

"You're too late," said Mr. Jaggers. "I am over the way."

"Holy father, Mithter Jaggerth!" cried my excitable acquaintance,turning white, "don't thay you're again Habraham Latharuth!"

"I am," said Mr. Jaggers, "and there's an end of it. Get out of theway."

"Mithter Jaggerth! Half a moment! My hown cuthen'th gone to MithterWemmick at thith prethent minute, to hoffer him hany termth.Mithter Jaggerth! Half a quarter of a moment! If you'd have thecondethenthun to be bought off from the t'other thide - at hanythuperior prithe! - money no object! - Mithter Jaggerth - Mithter -!"

My guardian threw his supplicant off with supreme indifference, andleft him dancing on the pavement as if it were red-hot. Withoutfurther interruption, we reached the front office, where we foundthe clerk and the man in velveteen with the fur cap.

"Here's Mike," said the clerk, getting down from his stool, andapproaching Mr. Jaggers confidentially.

"Oh!" said Mr. Jaggers, turning to the man, who was pulling a lockof hair in the middle of his forehead, like the Bull in Cock Robinpulling at the bell-rope; "your man comes on this afternoon. Well?"

"Well, Mas'r Jaggers," returned Mike, in the voice of a suffererfrom a constitutional cold; "arter a deal o' trouble, I've foundone, sir, as might do."

"What is he prepared to swear?"

"Well, Mas'r Jaggers," said Mike, wiping his nose on his fur capthis time; "in a general way, anythink."

Mr. Jaggers suddenly became most irate. "Now, I warned you before,"said he, throwing his forefinger at the terrified client, "that ifyou ever presumed to talk in that way here, I'd make an example ofyou. You infernal scoundrel, how dare you tell ME that?"

The client looked scared, but bewildered too, as if he wereunconscious what he had done.

"Spooney!" said the clerk, in a low voice, giving him a stir withhis elbow. "Soft Head! Need you say it face to face?"

"Now, I ask you, you blundering booby," said my guardian, verysternly, "once more and for the last time, what the man you havebrought here is prepared to swear?"

Mike looked hard at my guardian, as if he were trying to learn alesson from his face, and slowly replied, "Ayther to character, orto having been in his company and never left him all the night inquestion."

"Now, be careful. In what station of life is this man?"

Mike looked at his cap, and looked at the floor, and looked at theceiling, and looked at the clerk, and even looked at me, beforebeginning to reply in a nervous manner, "We've dressed him uplike--" when my guardian blustered out:

"What? You WILL, will you?"

("Spooney!" added the clerk again, with another stir.)

After some helpless casting about, Mike brightened and began again:

"He is dressed like a 'spectable pieman. A sort of a pastry-cook."

"Is he here?" asked my guardian.

"I left him," said Mike, "a settin on some doorsteps round thecorner."

"Take him past that window, and let me see him."

The window indicated, was the office window. We all three went toit, behind the wire blind, and presently saw the client go by in anaccidental manner, with a murderous-looking tall individual, in ashort suit of white linen and a paper cap. This guilelessconfectioner was not by any means sober, and had a black eye in thegreen stage of recovery, which was painted over.

"Tell him to take his witness away directly," said my guardian tothe clerk, in extreme disgust, "and ask him what he means bybringing such a fellow as that."

My guardian then took me into his own room, and while he lunched,standing, from a sandwich-box and a pocket flask of sherry (heseemed to bully his very sandwich as he ate it), informed me whatarrangements he had made for me. I was to go to "Barnard's Inn," toyoung Mr. Pocket's rooms, where a bed had been sent in for myaccommodation; I was to remain with young Mr. Pocket until Monday;on Monday I was to go with him to his father's house on a visit,that I might try how I liked it. Also, I was told what my allowancewas to be - it was a very liberal one - and had handed to me fromone of my guardian's drawers, the cards of certain tradesmen withwhom I was to deal for all kinds of clothes, and such other thingsas I could in reason want. "You will find your credit good, Mr.Pip," said my guardian, whose flask of sherry smelt like a wholecask-full, as he hastily refreshed himself, "but I shall by thismeans be able to check your bills, and to pull you up if I find yououtrunning the constable. Of course you'll go wrong somehow, butthat's no fault of mine."

After I had pondered a little over this encouraging sentiment, Iasked Mr. Jaggers if I could send for a coach? He said it was notworth while, I was so near my destination; Wemmick should walkround with me, if I pleased.

I then found that Wemmick was the clerk in the next room. Anotherclerk was rung down from up-stairs to take his place while he wasout, and I accompanied him into the street, after shaking handswith my guardian. We found a new set of people lingering outside,but Wemmick made a way among them by saying coolly yet decisively,"I tell you it's no use; he won't have a word to say to one ofyou;" and we soon got clear of them, and went on side by side.

Chapter 21

Casting my eyes on Mr. Wemmick as we went along, to see what he waslike in the light of day, I found him to be a dry man, rather shortin stature, with a square wooden face, whose expression seemed tohave been imperfectly chipped out with a dull-edged chisel. Therewere some marks in it that might have been dimples, if the materialhad been softer and the instrument finer, but which, as it was,were only dints. The chisel had made three or four of theseattempts at embellishment over his nose, but had given them upwithout an effort to smooth them off. I judged him to be a bachelorfrom the frayed condition of his linen, and he appeared to havesustained a good many bereavements; for, he wore at least fourmourning rings, besides a brooch representing a lady and a weepingwillow at a tomb with an urn on it. I noticed, too, that severalrings and seals hung at his watch chain, as if he were quite ladenwith remembrances of departed friends. He had glittering eyes -small, keen, and black - and thin wide mottled lips. He had hadthem, to the best of my belief, from forty to fifty years.

"So you were never in London before?" said Mr. Wemmick to me.

"No," said I.

"I was new here once," said Mr. Wemmick. "Rum to think of now!"

"You are well acquainted with it now?"

"Why, yes," said Mr. Wemmick. "I know the moves of it."

"Is it a very wicked place?" I asked, more for the sake of sayingsomething than for information.

"You may get cheated, robbed, and murdered, in London. But thereare plenty of people anywhere, who'll do that for you."

"If there is bad blood between you and them," said I, to soften itoff a little.

"Oh! I don't know about bad blood," returned Mr. Wemmick; "there'snot much bad blood about. They'll do it, if there's anything to begot by it."

"That makes it worse."

"You think so?" returned Mr. Wemmick. "Much about the same, I shouldsay."

He wore his hat on the back of his head, and looked straight beforehim: walking in a self-contained way as if there were nothing inthe streets to claim his attention. His mouth was such a postofficeof a mouth that he had a mechanical appearance of smiling. We hadgot to the top of Holborn Hill before I knew that it was merely amechanical appearance, and that he was not smiling at all.

"Do you know where Mr. Matthew Pocket lives?" I asked Mr. Wemmick.

"Yes," said he, nodding in the direction. "At Hammersmith, west ofLondon."

"Is that far?"

"Well! Say five miles."

"Do you know him?"

"Why, you're a regular cross-examiner!" said Mr. Wemmick, looking atme with an approving air. "Yes, I know him. I know him!"

There was an air of toleration or depreciation about his utteranceof these words, that rather depressed me; and I was still lookingsideways at his block of a face in search of any encouraging noteto the text, when he said here we were at Barnard's Inn. Mydepression was not alleviated by the announcement, for, I hadsupposed that establishment to be an hotel kept by Mr. Barnard, towhich the Blue Boar in our town was a mere public-house. Whereas Inow found Barnard to be a disembodied spirit, or a fiction, and hisinn the dingiest collection of shabby buildings ever squeezedtogether in a rank corner as a club for Tom-cats.

We entered this haven through a wicket-gate, and were disgorged byan introductory passage into a melancholy little square that lookedto me like a flat burying-ground. I thought it had the most dismaltrees in it, and the most dismal sparrows, and the most dismalcats, and the most dismal houses (in number half a dozen or so),that I had ever seen. I thought the windows of the sets of chambersinto which those houses were divided, were in every stage ofdilapidated blind and curtain, crippled flower-pot, cracked glass,dusty decay, and miserable makeshift; while To Let To Let To Let,glared at me from empty rooms, as if no new wretches ever camethere, and the vengeance of the soul of Barnard were being slowlyappeased by the gradual suicide of the present occupants and theirunholy interment under the gravel. A frouzy mourning of soot andsmoke attired this forlorn creation of Barnard, and it had strewnashes on its head, and was undergoing penance and humiliation as amere dust-hole. Thus far my sense of sight; while dry rot and wetrot and all the silent rots that rot in neglected roof and cellar -rot of rat and mouse and bug and coaching-stables near at handbesides - addressed themselves faintly to my sense of smell, andmoaned, "Try Barnard's Mixture."

So imperfect was this realization of the first of my greatexpectations, that I looked in dismay at Mr. Wemmick. "Ah!" said he,mistaking me; "the retirement reminds you of the country. So itdoes me."

He led me into a corner and conducted me up a flight of stairs -which appeared to me to be slowly collapsing into sawdust, so thatone of those days the upper lodgers would look out at their doorsand find themselves without the means of coming down - to a set ofchambers on the top floor. MR. POCKET, JUN., was painted on thedoor, and there was a label on the letter-box, "Return shortly."

"He hardly thought you'd come so soon," Mr. Wemmick explained. "Youdon't want me any more?"

"No, thank you," said I.

"As I keep the cash," Mr. Wemmick observed, "we shall most likelymeet pretty often. Good day."

"Good day."

Title: Great Expectations
Author: Charles Dickens
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