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Chapter 24

After two or three days, when I had established myself in my room
and had gone backwards and forwards to London several times, and
had ordered all I wanted of my tradesmen, Mr. Pocket and I had a
long talk together. He knew more of my intended career than I knew
myself, for he referred to his having been told by Mr. Jaggers that
I was not designed for any profession, and that I should be well
enough educated for my destiny if I could "hold my own" with the
average of young men in prosperous circumstances. I acquiesced, of
course, knowing nothing to the contrary.

He advised my attending certain places in London, for the
acquisition of such mere rudiments as I wanted, and my investing
him with the functions of explainer and director of all my studies.
He hoped that with intelligent assistance I should meet with little
to discourage me, and should soon be able to dispense with any aid
but his. Through his way of saying this, and much more to similar
purpose, he placed himself on confidential terms with me in an
admirable manner; and I may state at once that he was always so
zealous and honourable in fulfilling his compact with me, that he
made me zealous and honourable in fulfilling mine with him. If he
had shown indifference as a master, I have no doubt I should have
returned the compliment as a pupil; he gave me no such excuse, and
each of us did the other justice. Nor, did I ever regard him as
having anything ludicrous about him - or anything but what was
serious, honest, and good - in his tutor communication with me.

When these points were settled, and so far carried out as that I
had begun to work in earnest, it occurred to me that if I could
retain my bedroom in Barnard's Inn, my life would be agreeably
varied, while my manners would be none the worse for Herbert's
society. Mr. Pocket did not object to this arrangement, but urged
that before any step could possibly be taken in it, it must be
submitted to my guardian. I felt that this delicacy arose out of
the consideration that the plan would save Herbert some expense, so
I went off to Little Britain and imparted my wish to Mr. Jaggers.

"If I could buy the furniture now hired for me," said I, "and one
or two other little things, I should be quite at home there."

"Go it!" said Mr. Jaggers, with a short laugh. "I told you you'd get
on. Well! How much do you want?"

I said I didn't know how much.

"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 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. Jaggers,
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," answered
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."

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 man-traps 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 understood, 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 Wemmick 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-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. "Getting 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 excessive 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 blowing 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 inkstand, to get this blot upon your eyebrow,
you old rascal!) 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 Wemmick. 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 slender 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. 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 curiosities 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 off,
when convenient to you. Have you dined with Mr. Jaggers 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 taming. 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 curiosity that
his preparation awakened. As I was taking my departure, he asked me
if I would like to devote five minutes 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 murderous 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 examination 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, "I'll have it out of
you!" and if anybody made an admission, he said, "Now I have got
you!" the magistrates shivered under 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 conduct as the
representative of British law and justice in that chair that day.



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