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Chapter 20

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

We Britons had at that time particularly settled that it was
treasonable to doubt our having and our being the best of
everything: otherwise, while I was scared by the immensity of
London, I think I might have had some faint doubts whether it was
not 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 was
years old, packed me up in his coach and hemmed me in with a
folding and jingling barrier of steps, as if he were going to take
me fifty miles. His getting on his box, which I remember to have
been decorated with an old weather-stained pea-green hammercloth
moth-eaten into rags, was quite a work of time. It was a wonderful
equipage, with six great coronets outside, and ragged things behind
for I don't know how many footmen to hold on by, and a harrow below
them, to prevent amateur footmen from yielding to the temptation.

I had scarcely had time to enjoy the coach and to think how like a
straw-yard it was, and yet how like a rag-shop, and to wonder why
the horses' nose-bags were kept inside, when I observed the
coachman beginning to get down, as if we were going to stop
presently. And stop we presently did, in a gloomy street, at
certain 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 it
more."

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

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

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

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

I signified that he was addressing Mr. Pip.

"Mr. Jaggers left word would you wait in his room. He couldn't say
how 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 an
inner chamber at the back. Here, we found a gentleman with one eye,
in a velveteen suit and knee-breeches, who wiped his nose with his
sleeve 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 clerk
shoved this gentleman out with as little ceremony as I ever saw
used, and tossing his fur cap out after him, left me alone.

Mr. Jaggers's room was lighted by a skylight only, and was a most
dismal place; the skylight, eccentrically pitched like a broken
head, and the distorted adjoining houses looking as if they had
twisted themselves to peep down at me through it. There were not so
many papers about, as I should have expected to see; and there were
some odd objects about, that I should not have expected to see -
such as an old rusty pistol, a sword in a scabbard, several
strange-looking boxes and packages, and two dreadful casts on a
shelf, 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 I
could see how he leaned back in it, and bit his forefinger at the
clients. The room was but small, and the clients seemed to have had
a habit of backing up against the wall: the wall, especially
opposite to Mr. Jaggers's chair, being greasy with shoulders. I
recalled, too, that the one-eyed gentleman had shuffled forth
against the wall when I was the innocent cause of his being turned
out.

I sat down in the cliental chair placed over against Mr. Jaggers's
chair, and became fascinated by the dismal atmosphere of the place.
I called to mind that the clerk had the same air of knowing
something to everybody else's disadvantage, as his master had. I
wondered how many other clerks there were up-stairs, and whether
they all claimed to have the same detrimental mastery of their
fellow-creatures. I wondered what was the history of all the odd
litter about the room, and how it came there. I wondered whether
the two swollen faces were of Mr. Jaggers's family, and, if he were
so 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 to
settle on, instead of giving them a place at home. Of course I had
no experience of a London summer day, and my spirits may have been
oppressed by the hot exhausted air, and by the dust and grit that
lay thick on everything. But I sat wondering and waiting in Mr.
Jaggers's close room, until I really could not bear the two casts
on 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 I
waited, he advised me to go round the corner and I should come into
Smithfield. So, I came into Smithfield; and the shameful place,
being all asmear with filth and fat and blood and foam, seemed to
stick to me. So, I rubbed it off with all possible speed by turning
into a street where I saw the great black dome of Saint Paul's
bulging at me from behind a grim stone building which a bystander
said was Newgate Prison. Following the wall of the jail, I found
the roadway covered with straw to deaden the noise of passing
vehicles; and from this, and from the quantity of people standing
about, smelling strongly of spirits and beer, I inferred that the
trials were on.

While I looked about me here, an exceedingly dirty and partially
drunk minister of justice asked me if I would like to step in and
hear a trial or so: informing me that he could give me a front
place for half-a-crown, whence I should command a full view of the
Lord Chief Justice in his wig and robes - mentioning that awful
personage like waxwork, and presently offering him at the reduced
price of eighteenpence. As I declined the proposal on the plea of
an appointment, he was so good as to take me into a yard and show
me where the gallows was kept, and also where people were publicly
whipped, and then he showed me the Debtors' Door, out of which
culprits came to be hanged: heightening the interest of that
dreadful portal by giving me to understand that "four on 'em" would
come out at that door the day after to-morrow at eight in the
morning, to be killed in a row. This was horrible, and gave me a
sickening idea of London: the more so as the Lord Chief Justice's
proprietor wore (from his hat down to his boots and up again to his
pocket-handkerchief inclusive) mildewed clothes, which had
evidently not belonged to him originally, and which, I took it into
my head, he had bought cheap of the executioner. Under these
circumstances I thought myself well rid of him for a shilling.

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

At length, as I was looking out at the iron gate of Bartholomew
Close into Little Britain, I saw Mr. Jaggers coming across the road
towards me. All the others who were waiting, saw him at the same
time, and there was quite a rush at him. Mr. Jaggers, putting a hand
on my shoulder and walking me on at his side without saying
anything to me, addressed himself to his followers.

First, he took the two secret men.

"Now, I have nothing to say to you," said Mr. Jaggers, throwing his
finger at them. "I want to know no more than I know. As to the
result, 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 made
it 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 Mr
Jaggers, waving his hand at them to put them behind him. "If you
say a word to me, I'll throw up the case."

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

"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 where
to find you; I don't want you to find me. Now I won't have it. I
won't hear a word."

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

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

"Yes, Mr. Jaggers."

"And do you remember," retorted Mr. Jaggers, "that but for me you
wouldn'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 you
don't know that your Bill's in good hands, I know it. And if you
come here, bothering about your Bill, I'll make an example of both
your Bill and you, and let him slip through my fingers. Have you
paid Wemmick?"

"Oh yes, sir! Every farden."

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

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

"I don't know this man!" said Mr. Jaggers, in the same devastating
strain: "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 before
relinquishing it, replied, "Habraham Latharuth, on thuthpithion of
plate."

"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 the
way."

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

My guardian threw his supplicant off with supreme indifference, and
left him dancing on the pavement as if it were red-hot. Without
further interruption, we reached the front office, where we found
the clerk and the man in velveteen with the fur cap.

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

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

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

"What is he prepared to swear?"

"Well, Mas'r Jaggers," said Mike, wiping his nose on his fur cap
this 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 if
you ever presumed to talk in that way here, I'd make an example of
you. You infernal scoundrel, how dare you tell ME that?"

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

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

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

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

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

Mike looked at his cap, and looked at the floor, and looked at the
ceiling, and looked at the clerk, and even looked at me, before
beginning to reply in a nervous manner, "We've dressed him up
like--" 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 the
corner."

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

The window indicated, was the office window. We all three went to
it, behind the wire blind, and presently saw the client go by in an
accidental manner, with a murderous-looking tall individual, in a
short suit of white linen and a paper cap. This guileless
confectioner was not by any means sober, and had a black eye in the
green stage of recovery, which was painted over.

"Tell him to take his witness away directly," said my guardian to
the clerk, in extreme disgust, "and ask him what he means by
bringing 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 (he
seemed to bully his very sandwich as he ate it), informed me what
arrangements he had made for me. I was to go to "Barnard's Inn," to
young Mr. Pocket's rooms, where a bed had been sent in for my
accommodation; 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 allowance
was to be - it was a very liberal one - and had handed to me from
one of my guardian's drawers, the cards of certain tradesmen with
whom I was to deal for all kinds of clothes, and such other things
as I could in reason want. "You will find your credit good, Mr.
Pip," said my guardian, whose flask of sherry smelt like a whole
cask-full, as he hastily refreshed himself, "but I shall by this
means be able to check your bills, and to pull you up if I find you
outrunning the constable. Of course you'll go wrong somehow, but
that's no fault of mine."

After I had pondered a little over this encouraging sentiment, I
asked Mr. Jaggers if I could send for a coach? He said it was not
worth while, I was so near my destination; Wemmick should walk
round with me, if I pleased.

I then found that Wemmick was the clerk in the next room. Another
clerk was rung down from up-stairs to take his place while he was
out, and I accompanied him into the street, after shaking hands
with 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 of
you;" and we soon got clear of them, and went on side by side.



Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Category:
General Fiction - English literature
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