Charles Dickens >> Great Expectations (page 24)

Sarah Pocket conducted me down, as if I were a ghost who must beseen out. She could not get over my appearance, and was in the lastdegree confounded. I said "Good-bye, Miss Pocket;" but she merelystared, and did not seem collected enough to know that I hadspoken. Clear of the house, I made the best of my way back toPumblechook's, took off my new clothes, made them into a bundle,and went back home in my older dress, carrying it - to speak thetruth - much more at my ease too, though I had the bundle to carry.

And now, those six days which were to have run out so slowly, hadrun out fast and were gone, and to-morrow looked me in the facemore steadily than I could look at it. As the six evenings haddwindled away, to five, to four, to three, to two, I had becomemore and more appreciative of the society of Joe and Biddy. On thislast evening, I dressed my self out in my new clothes, for theirdelight, and sat in my splendour until bedtime. We had a hot supperon the occasion, graced by the inevitable roast fowl, and we hadsome flip to finish with. We were all very low, and none the higherfor pretending to be in spirits.

I was to leave our village at five in the morning, carrying mylittle hand-portmanteau, and I had told Joe that I wished to walkaway all alone. I am afraid - sore afraid - that this purposeoriginated in my sense of the contrast there would be between meand Joe, if we went to the coach together. I had pretended withmyself that there was nothing of this taint in the arrangement; butwhen I went up to my little room on this last night, I feltcompelled to admit that it might be so, and had an impulse upon meto go down again and entreat Joe to walk with me in the morning. Idid not.

All night there were coaches in my broken sleep, going to wrongplaces instead of to London, and having in the traces, now dogs,now cats, now pigs, now men - never horses. Fantastic failures ofjourneys occupied me until the day dawned and the birds weresinging. Then, I got up and partly dressed, and sat at the windowto take a last look out, and in taking it fell asleep.

Biddy was astir so early to get my breakfast, that, although I didnot sleep at the window an hour, I smelt the smoke of the kitchenfire when I started up with a terrible idea that it must be late inthe afternoon. But long after that, and long after I had heard theclinking of the teacups and was quite ready, I wanted theresolution to go down stairs. After all, I remained up there,repeatedly unlocking and unstrapping my small portmanteau andlocking and strapping it up again, until Biddy called to me that Iwas late.

It was a hurried breakfast with no taste in it. I got up from themeal, saying with a sort of briskness, as if it had only justoccurred to me, "Well! I suppose I must be off!" and then I kissedmy sister who was laughing and nodding and shaking in her usualchair, and kissed Biddy, and threw my arms around Joe's neck. ThenI took up my little portmanteau and walked out. The last I saw ofthem was, when I presently heard a scuffle behind me, and lookingback, saw Joe throwing an old shoe after me and Biddy throwinganother old shoe. I stopped then, to wave my hat, and dear old Joewaved his strong right arm above his head, crying huskily"Hooroar!" and Biddy put her apron to her face.

I walked away at a good pace, thinking it was easier to go than Ihad supposed it would be, and reflecting that it would never havedone to have had an old shoe thrown after the coach, in sight ofall the High-street. I whistled and made nothing of going. But thevillage was very peaceful and quiet, and the light mists weresolemnly rising, as if to show me the world, and I had been soinnocent and little there, and all beyond was so unknown and great,that in a moment with a strong heave and sob I broke into tears. Itwas by the finger-post at the end of the village, and I laid myhand upon it, and said, "Good-bye O my dear, dear friend!"

Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they arerain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. Iwas better after I had cried, than before - more sorry, more awareof my own ingratitude, more gentle. If I had cried before, I shouldhave had Joe with me then.

So subdued I was by those tears, and by their breaking out again inthe course of the quiet walk, that when I was on the coach, and itwas clear of the town, I deliberated with an aching heart whether Iwould not get down when we changed horses and walk back, and haveanother evening at home, and a better parting. We changed, and Ihad not made up my mind, and still reflected for my comfort that itwould be quite practicable to get down and walk back, when wechanged again. And while I was occupied with these deliberations, Iwould fancy an exact resemblance to Joe in some man coming alongthe road towards us, and my heart would beat high. - As if he couldpossibly be there!

We changed again, and yet again, and it was now too late and toofar to go back, and I went on. And the mists had all solemnly risennow, and the world lay spread before me.


Chapter 20

The journey from our town to the metropolis, was a journey of aboutfive hours. It was a little past mid-day when the fourhorsestage-coach by which I was a passenger, got into the ravel oftraffic frayed out about the Cross Keys, Wood-street, Cheapside,London.

We Britons had at that time particularly settled that it wastreasonable to doubt our having and our being the best ofeverything: otherwise, while I was scared by the immensity ofLondon, I think I might have had some faint doubts whether it wasnot rather ugly, crooked, narrow, and dirty.

Mr. Jaggers had duly sent me his address; it was, Little Britain,and he had written after it on his card, "just out of Smithfield,and close by the coach-office." Nevertheless, a hackney-coachman,who seemed to have as many capes to his greasy great-coat as he wasyears old, packed me up in his coach and hemmed me in with afolding and jingling barrier of steps, as if he were going to takeme fifty miles. His getting on his box, which I remember to havebeen decorated with an old weather-stained pea-green hammerclothmoth-eaten into rags, was quite a work of time. It was a wonderfulequipage, with six great coronets outside, and ragged things behindfor I don't know how many footmen to hold on by, and a harrow belowthem, to prevent amateur footmen from yielding to the temptation.

I had scarcely had time to enjoy the coach and to think how like astraw-yard it was, and yet how like a rag-shop, and to wonder whythe horses' nose-bags were kept inside, when I observed thecoachman beginning to get down, as if we were going to stoppresently. And stop we presently did, in a gloomy street, atcertain offices with an open door, whereon was painted MR. JAGGERS.

"How much?" I asked the coachman.

The coachman answered, "A shilling - unless you wish to make itmore."

I naturally said I had no wish to make it more.

"Then it must be a shilling," observed the coachman. "I don't wantto get into trouble. I know him!" He darkly closed an eye at MrJaggers's name, and shook his head.

When he had got his shilling, and had in course of time completedthe ascent to his box, and had got away (which appeared to relievehis mind), I went into the front office with my little portmanteauin my hand and asked, Was Mr. Jaggers at home?

"He is not," returned the clerk. "He is in Court at present. Am Iaddressing Mr. Pip?"

I signified that he was addressing Mr. Pip.

"Mr. Jaggers left word would you wait in his room. He couldn't sayhow long he might be, having a case on. But it stands to reason,his time being valuable, that he won't be longer than he can help."

With those words, the clerk opened a door, and ushered me into aninner chamber at the back. Here, we found a gentleman with one eye,in a velveteen suit and knee-breeches, who wiped his nose with hissleeve on being interrupted in the perusal of the newspaper.

"Go and wait outside, Mike," said the clerk.

I began to say that I hoped I was not interrupting - when the clerkshoved this gentleman out with as little ceremony as I ever sawused, and tossing his fur cap out after him, left me alone.

Mr. Jaggers's room was lighted by a skylight only, and was a mostdismal place; the skylight, eccentrically pitched like a brokenhead, and the distorted adjoining houses looking as if they hadtwisted themselves to peep down at me through it. There were not somany papers about, as I should have expected to see; and there weresome odd objects about, that I should not have expected to see -such as an old rusty pistol, a sword in a scabbard, severalstrange-looking boxes and packages, and two dreadful casts on ashelf, of faces peculiarly swollen, and twitchy about the nose. Mr.Jaggers's own high-backed chair was of deadly black horse-hair,with rows of brass nails round it, like a coffin; and I fancied Icould see how he leaned back in it, and bit his forefinger at theclients. The room was but small, and the clients seemed to have hada habit of backing up against the wall: the wall, especiallyopposite to Mr. Jaggers's chair, being greasy with shoulders. Irecalled, too, that the one-eyed gentleman had shuffled forthagainst the wall when I was the innocent cause of his being turnedout.

I sat down in the cliental chair placed over against Mr. Jaggers'schair, and became fascinated by the dismal atmosphere of the place.I called to mind that the clerk had the same air of knowingsomething to everybody else's disadvantage, as his master had. Iwondered how many other clerks there were up-stairs, and whetherthey all claimed to have the same detrimental mastery of theirfellow-creatures. I wondered what was the history of all the oddlitter about the room, and how it came there. I wondered whetherthe two swollen faces were of Mr. Jaggers's family, and, if he wereso unfortunate as to have had a pair of such ill-looking relations,why he stuck them on that dusty perch for the blacks and flies tosettle on, instead of giving them a place at home. Of course I hadno experience of a London summer day, and my spirits may have beenoppressed by the hot exhausted air, and by the dust and grit thatlay thick on everything. But I sat wondering and waiting in Mr.Jaggers's close room, until I really could not bear the two castson the shelf above Mr. Jaggers's chair, and got up and went out.

When I told the clerk that I would take a turn in the air while Iwaited, he advised me to go round the corner and I should come intoSmithfield. So, I came into Smithfield; and the shameful place,being all asmear with filth and fat and blood and foam, seemed tostick to me. So, I rubbed it off with all possible speed by turninginto a street where I saw the great black dome of Saint Paul'sbulging at me from behind a grim stone building which a bystandersaid was Newgate Prison. Following the wall of the jail, I foundthe roadway covered with straw to deaden the noise of passingvehicles; and from this, and from the quantity of people standingabout, smelling strongly of spirits and beer, I inferred that thetrials were on.

While I looked about me here, an exceedingly dirty and partiallydrunk minister of justice asked me if I would like to step in andhear a trial or so: informing me that he could give me a frontplace for half-a-crown, whence I should command a full view of theLord Chief Justice in his wig and robes - mentioning that awfulpersonage like waxwork, and presently offering him at the reducedprice of eighteenpence. As I declined the proposal on the plea ofan appointment, he was so good as to take me into a yard and showme where the gallows was kept, and also where people were publiclywhipped, and then he showed me the Debtors' Door, out of whichculprits came to be hanged: heightening the interest of thatdreadful portal by giving me to understand that "four on 'em" wouldcome out at that door the day after to-morrow at eight in themorning, to be killed in a row. This was horrible, and gave me asickening idea of London: the more so as the Lord Chief Justice'sproprietor wore (from his hat down to his boots and up again to hispocket-handkerchief inclusive) mildewed clothes, which hadevidently not belonged to him originally, and which, I took it intomy head, he had bought cheap of the executioner. Under thesecircumstances I thought myself well rid of him for a shilling.

I dropped into the office to ask if Mr. Jaggers had come in yet, andI found he had not, and I strolled out again. This time, I made thetour of Little Britain, and turned into Bartholomew Close; and nowI became aware that other people were waiting about for Mr. Jaggers,as well as I. There were two men of secret appearance lounging inBartholomew Close, and thoughtfully fitting their feet into thecracks of the pavement as they talked together, one of whom said tothe other when they first passed me, that "Jaggers would do it ifit was to be done." There was a knot of three men and two womenstanding at a corner, and one of the women was crying on her dirtyshawl, and the other comforted her by saying, as she pulled her ownshawl over her shoulders, "Jaggers is for him, 'Melia, and whatmore could you have?" There was a red-eyed little Jew who came intothe Close while I was loitering there, in company with a secondlittle Jew whom he sent upon an errand; and while the messenger wasgone, I remarked this Jew, who was of a highly excitabletemperament, performing a jig of anxiety under a lamp-post andaccompanying himself, in a kind of frenzy, with the words, "OhJaggerth, Jaggerth, Jaggerth! all otherth ith Cag-Maggerth, give meJaggerth!" These testimonies to the popularity of my guardian madea deep impression on me, and I admired and wondered more than ever.

At length, as I was looking out at the iron gate of BartholomewClose into Little Britain, I saw Mr. Jaggers coming across the roadtowards me. All the others who were waiting, saw him at the sametime, and there was quite a rush at him. Mr. Jaggers, putting a handon my shoulder and walking me on at his side without sayinganything to me, addressed himself to his followers.

First, he took the two secret men.

Title: Great Expectations
Author: Charles Dickens
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