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Great Expectations By Charles Dickens - 24


‘Come!’ retorted Mr. Jaggers. ‘How much? Fifty pounds?’
‘Oh, not nearly so much.’
‘Five pounds?’ said Mr. Jaggers.
This was such a great fall, that I said in discomfiture, ‘Oh!
more than that.’
‘More than that, eh!’ retorted Mr. Jaggers, lying in wait
for me, with his hands in his pockets, his head on one side,
and his eyes on the wall behind me; ‘how much more?’
‘It is so difficult to fix a sum,’ said I, hesitating.
‘Come!’ said Mr. Jaggers. ‘Let’s get at it. Twice five; will
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that do? Three times five; will that do? Four times five; will
that do?’
I said I thought that would do handsomely.
‘Four times five will do handsomely, will it?’ said Mr. Jag-
gers, knitting his brows. ‘Now, what do you make of four
times five?’
‘What do I make of it?’
‘Ah!’ said Mr. Jaggers; ‘how much?’
‘I suppose you make it twenty pounds,’ said I, smiling.
‘Never mind what I make it, my friend,’ observed Mr.
Jaggers, with a knowing and contradictory toss of his head.
‘I want to know what you make it.’
‘Twenty pounds, of course.’
‘Wemmick!’ said Mr. Jaggers, opening his office door.
‘Take Mr. Pip’s written order, and pay him twenty pounds.’
This strongly marked way of doing business made a
strongly marked impression on me, and that not of an
agreeable kind. Mr. Jaggers never laughed; but he wore
great bright creaking boots, and, in poising himself on
these boots, with his large head bent down and his eyebrows
joined together, awaiting an answer, he sometimes caused
the boots to creak, as if they laughed in a dry and suspicious
way. As he happened to go out now, and as Wemmick was
brisk and talkative, I said to Wemmick that I hardly knew
what to make of Mr. Jaggers’s manner.
‘Tell him that, and he’ll take it as a compliment,’ an-
swered Wemmick; ‘he don’t mean that you should know
what to make of it. - Oh!’ for I looked surprised, ‘it’s not
personal; it’s professional: only professional.’
Great Expectations
Wemmick was at his desk, lunching - and crunching - on
a dry hard biscuit; pieces of which he threw from time to
time into his slit of a mouth, as if he were posting them.
‘Always seems to me,’ said Wemmick, ‘as if he had set
a mantrap and was watching it. Suddenly - click - you’re
caught!’
Without remarking that mantraps were not among the
amenities of life, I said I supposed he was very skilful?
‘Deep,’ said Wemmick, ‘as Australia.’ Pointing with his
pen at the office floor, to express that Australia was under-
stood, for the purposes of the figure, to be symmetrically on
the opposite spot of the globe. ‘If there was anything deeper,’
added Wemmick, bringing his pen to paper, ‘he’d be it.’
Then, I said I supposed he had a fine business, and Wem-
mick said, ‘Ca-pi-tal!’ Then I asked if there were many
clerks? to which he replied:
‘We don’t run much into clerks, because there’s only one
Jaggers, and people won’t have him at second-hand. There
are only four of us. Would you like to see ‘em? You are one
of us, as I may say.’
I accepted the offer. When Mr. Wemmick had put all the
biscuit into the post, and had paid me my money from a
cash-box in a safe, the key of which safe he kept somewhere
down his back and produced from his coat-collar like an
iron pigtail, we went up-stairs. The house was dark and
shabby, and the greasy shoulders that had left their mark
in Mr. Jaggers’s room, seemed to have been shuffling up
and down the staircase for years. In the front first floor, a
clerk who looked something between a publican and a rat-
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catcher - a large pale puffed swollen man - was attentively
engaged with three or four people of shabby appearance,
whom he treated as unceremoniously as everybody seemed
to be treated who contributed to Mr. Jaggers’s coffers. ‘Get-
ting evidence together,’ said Mr. Wemmick, as we came out,
‘for the Bailey.’
In the room over that, a little flabby terrier of a clerk with
dangling hair (his cropping seemed to have been forgotten
when he was a puppy) was similarly engaged with a man
with weak eyes, whom Mr. Wemmick presented to me as
a smelter who kept his pot always boiling, and who would
melt me anything I pleased - and who was in an exces-
sive white-perspiration, as if he had been trying his art on
himself. In a back room, a high-shouldered man with a face-
ache tied up in dirty flannel, who was dressed in old black
clothes that bore the appearance of having been waxed, was
stooping over his work of making fair copies of the notes of
the other two gentlemen, for Mr. Jaggers’s own use.
This was all the establishment. When we went down-
stairs again, Wemmick led me into my guardian’s room,
and said, ‘This you’ve seen already.’
‘Pray,’ said I, as the two odious casts with the twitchy leer
upon them caught my sight again, ‘whose likenesses are
those?’
‘These?’ said Wemmick, getting upon a chair, and blow-
ing the dust off the horrible heads before bringing them
down. ‘These are two celebrated ones. Famous clients of
ours that got us a world of credit. This chap (why you must
have come down in the night and been peeping into the
0
Great Expectations
inkstand, to get this blot upon your eyebrow, you old ras-
cal!) murdered his master, and, considering that he wasn’t
brought up to evidence, didn’t plan it badly.’
‘Is it like him?’ I asked, recoiling from the brute, as
Wemmick spat upon his eyebrow and gave it a rub with his
sleeve.
‘Like him? It’s himself, you know. The cast was made
in Newgate, directly after he was taken down. You had a
particular fancy for me, hadn’t you, Old Artful?’ said Wem-
mick. He then explained this affectionate apostrophe, by
touching his brooch representing the lady and the weeping
willow at the tomb with the urn upon it, and saying, ‘Had it
made for me, express!’
‘Is the lady anybody?’ said I.
‘No,’ returned Wemmick. ‘Only his game. (You liked
your bit of game, didn’t you?) No; deuce a bit of a lady in
the case, Mr. Pip, except one - and she wasn’t of this slen-
der ladylike sort, and you wouldn’t have caught her looking
after this urn - unless there was something to drink in it.’
Wemmick’s attention being thus directed to his brooch, he
put down the cast, and polished the brooch with his pocket-
handkerchief.
‘Did that other creature come to the same end?’ I asked.
‘He has the same look.’
‘You’re right,’ said Wemmick; ‘it’s the genuine look.
Much as if one nostril was caught up with a horsehair and
a little fish-hook. Yes, he came to the same end; quite the
natural end here, I assure you. He forged wills, this blade
did, if he didn’t also put the supposed testators to sleep too.
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1
You were a gentlemanly Cove, though’ (Mr. Wemmick was
again apostrophizing), ‘and you said you could write Greek.
Yah, Bounceable! What a liar you were! I never met such a
liar as you!’ Before putting his late friend on his shelf again,
Wemmick touched the largest of his mourning rings and
said, ‘Sent out to buy it for me, only the day before.’
While he was putting up the other cast and coming
down from the chair, the thought crossed my mind that all
his personal jewellery was derived from like sources. As he
had shown no diffidence on the subject, I ventured on the
liberty of asking him the question, when he stood before
me, dusting his hands.
‘Oh yes,’ he returned, ‘these are all gifts of that kind. One
brings another, you see; that’s the way of it. I always take
‘em. They’re curiosities. And they’re property. They may not
be worth much, but, after all, they’re property and portable.
It don’t signify to you with your brilliant look-out, but as
to myself, my guidingstar always is, ‘Get hold of portable
property”.’
When I had rendered homage to this light, he went on to
say, in a friendly manner:
‘If at any odd time when you have nothing better to do,
you wouldn’t mind coming over to see me at Walworth, I
could offer you a bed, and I should consider it an honour. I
have not much to show you; but such two or three curiosi-
ties as I have got, you might like to look over; and I am fond
of a bit of garden and a summer-house.’
I said I should be delighted to accept his hospitality.
‘Thankee,’ said he; ‘then we’ll consider that it’s to come
Great Expectations
off, when convenient to you. Have you dined with Mr. Jag-
gers yet?’
‘Not yet.’
‘Well,’ said Wemmick, ‘he’ll give you wine, and good
wine. I’ll give you punch, and not bad punch. and now I’ll
tell you something. When you go to dine with Mr. Jaggers,
look at his housekeeper.’
‘Shall I see something very uncommon?’
‘Well,’ said Wemmick, ‘you’ll see a wild beast tamed. Not
so very uncommon, you’ll tell me. I reply, that depends on
the original wildness of the beast, and the amount of tam-
ing. It won’t lower your opinion of Mr. Jaggers’s powers.
Keep your eye on it.’
I told him I would do so, with all the interest and cu-
riosity that his preparation awakened. As I was taking my
departure, he asked me if I would like to devote five min-
utes to seeing Mr. Jaggers ‘at it?’
For several reasons, and not least because I didn’t clearly
know what Mr. Jaggers would be found to be ‘at,’ I replied
in the affirmative. We dived into the City, and came up in
a crowded policecourt, where a blood-relation (in the mur-
derous sense) of the deceased with the fanciful taste in
brooches, was standing at the bar, uncomfortably chewing
something; while my guardian had a woman under exami-
nation or cross-examination - I don’t know which - and was
striking her, and the bench, and everybody present, with
awe. If anybody, of whatsoever degree, said a word that he
didn’t approve of, he instantly required to have it ‘taken
down.’ If anybody wouldn’t make an admission, he said,
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‘I’ll have it out of you!’ and if anybody made an admission,
he said, ‘Now I have got you!’ the magistrates shivered un-
der a single bite of his finger. Thieves and thieftakers hung
in dread rapture on his words, and shrank when a hair of
his eyebrows turned in their direction. Which side he was
on, I couldn’t make out, for he seemed to me to be grinding
the whole place in a mill; I only know that when I stole out
on tiptoe, he was not on the side of the bench; for, he was
making the legs of the old gentleman who presided, quite
convulsive under the table, by his denunciations of his con-
duct as the representative of British law and justice in that
chair that day.
Great Expectations
Chapter 25
Bentley Drummle, who was so sulky a fellow that he even
took up a book as if its writer had done him an injury,
did not take up an acquaintance in a more agreeable spir-
it. Heavy in figure, movement, and comprehension - in the
sluggish complexion of his face, and in the large awkward
tongue that seemed to loll about in his mouth as he him-
self lolled about in a room - he was idle, proud, niggardly,
reserved, and suspicious. He came of rich people down in
Somersetshire, who had nursed this combination of qual-
ities until they made the discovery that it was just of age
and a blockhead. Thus, Bentley Drummle had come to Mr.
Pocket when he was a head taller than that gentleman, and
half a dozen heads thicker than most gentlemen.
Startop had been spoilt by a weak mother and kept at
home when he ought to have been at school, but he was de-
votedly attached to her, and admired her beyond measure.
He had a woman’s delicacy of feature, and was - ‘as you may
see, though you never saw her,’ said Herbert to me - exactly
like his mother. It was but natural that I should take to him
much more kindly than to Drummle, and that, even in the
earliest evenings of our boating, he and I should pull home-
ward abreast of one another, conversing from boat to boat,
while Bentley Drummle came up in our wake alone, under
the overhanging banks and among the rushes. He would al-
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ways creep in-shore like some uncomfortable amphibious
creature, even when the tide would have sent him fast upon
his way; and I always think of him as coming after us in the
dark or by the back-water, when our own two boats were
breaking the sunset or the moonlight in mid-stream.
Herbert was my intimate companion and friend. I pre-
sented him with a half-share in my boat, which was the
occasion of his often coming down to Hammersmith; and
my possession of a halfshare in his chambers often took me
up to London. We used to walk between the two places at all
hours. I have an affection for the road yet (though it is not
so pleasant a road as it was then), formed in the impressibil-
ity of untried youth and hope.
When I had been in Mr. Pocket’s family a month or two,
Mr. and Mrs. Camilla turned up. Camilla was Mr. Pocket’s
sister. Georgiana, whom I had seen at Miss Havisham’s on
the same occasion, also turned up. she was a cousin - an
indigestive single woman, who called her rigidity religion,
and her liver love. These people hated me with the hatred
of cupidity and disappointment. As a matter of course, they
fawned upon me in my prosperity with the basest mean-
ness. Towards Mr. Pocket, as a grown-up infant with no
notion of his own interests, they showed the complacent
forbearance I had heard them express. Mrs. Pocket they
held in contempt; but they allowed the poor soul to have
been heavily disappointed in life, because that shed a feeble
reflected light upon themselves.
These were the surroundings among which I settled
down, and applied myself to my education. I soon con-
Great Expectations
tracted expensive habits, and began to spend an amount
of money that within a few short months I should have
thought almost fabulous; but through good and evil I stuck
to my books. There was no other merit in this, than my
having sense enough to feel my deficiencies. Between Mr.
Pocket and Herbert I got on fast; and, with one or the other
always at my elbow to give me the start I wanted, and clear
obstructions out of my road, I must have been as great a dolt
as Drummle if I had done less.
I had not seen Mr. Wemmick for some weeks, when I
thought I would write him a note and propose to go home
with him on a certain evening. He replied that it would
give him much pleasure, and that he would expect me at
the office at six o’clock. Thither I went, and there I found
him, putting the key of his safe down his back as the clock
struck.
‘Did you think of walking down to Walworth?’ said he.
‘Certainly,’ said I, ‘if you approve.’
‘Very much,’ was Wemmick’s reply, ‘for I have had my
legs under the desk all day, and shall be glad to stretch them.
Now, I’ll tell you what I have got for supper, Mr. Pip. I have
got a stewed steak - which is of home preparation - and a
cold roast fowl - which is from the cook’s-shop. I think it’s
tender, because the master of the shop was a Juryman in
some cases of ours the other day, and we let him down easy.
I reminded him of it when I bought the fowl, and I said,
‘Pick us out a good one, old Briton, because if we had chosen
to keep you in the box another day or two, we could easily
have done it.’ He said to that, ‘Let me make you a present
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of the best fowl in the shop.’ I let him, of course. As far as it
goes, it’s property and portable. You don’t object to an aged
parent, I hope?’
I really thought he was still speaking of the fowl, until
he added, ‘Because I have got an aged parent at my place.’ I
then said what politeness required.
‘So, you haven’t dined with Mr. Jaggers yet?’ he pursued,
as we walked along.
‘Not yet.’
‘He told me so this afternoon when he heard you were
coming. I expect you’ll have an invitation to-morrow. He’s
going to ask your pals, too. Three of ‘em; ain’t there?’
Although I was not in the habit of counting Drummle as
one of my intimate associates, I answered, ‘Yes.’
‘Well, he’s going to ask the whole gang;’ I hardly felt com-
plimented by the word; ‘and whatever he gives you, he’ll
give you good. Don’t look forward to variety, but you’ll have
excellence. And there’sa nother rum thing in his house,’
proceeded Wemmick, after a moment’s pause, as if the re-
mark followed on the housekeeper understood; ‘he never
lets a door or window be fastened at night.’
‘Is he never robbed?’
‘That’s it!’ returned Wemmick. ‘He says, and gives it out
publicly, ‘I want to see the man who’ll rob me.’ Lord bless
you, I have heard him, a hundred times if I have heard him
once, say to regular cracksmen in our front office, ‘You
know where I live; now, no bolt is ever drawn there; why
don’t you do a stroke of business with me? Come; can’t I
tempt you?’ Not a man of them, sir, would be bold enough
Great Expectations
to try it on, for love or money.’
‘They dread him so much?’ said I.
‘Dread him,’ said Wemmick. ‘I believe you they dread
him. Not but what he’s artful, even in his defiance of them.
No silver, sir. Britannia metal, every spoon.’
‘So they wouldn’t have much,’ I observed, ‘even if they—‘
‘Ah! But he would have much,’ said Wemmick, cutting
me short, ‘and they know it. He’d have their lives, and the
lives of scores of ‘em. He’d have all he could get. And it’s
impossible to say what he couldn’t get, if he gave his mind
to it.’
I was falling into meditation on my guardian’s greatness,
when Wemmick remarked:
‘As to the absence of plate, that’s only his natural depth,
you know. A river’s its natural depth, and he’s his natural
depth. Look at his watch-chain. That’s real enough.’
‘It’s very massive,’ said I.
‘Massive?’ repeated Wemmick. ‘I think so. And his watch
is a gold repeater, and worth a hundred pound if it’s worth
a penny. Mr. Pip, there are about seven hundred thieves in
this town who know all about that watch; there’s not a man,
a woman, or a child, among them, who wouldn’t identify
the smallest link in that chain, and drop it as if it was red-
hot, if inveigled into touching it.’
At first with such discourse, and afterwards with con-
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