What purpose I had in view when I was hot on tracing out and proving Estella’_arentage, I cannot say. It will presently be seen that the question was no_efore me in a distinct shape until it was put before me by a wiser head tha_y own.
But when Herbert and I had held our momentous conversation, I was seized wit_ feverish conviction that I ought to hunt the matter down,—that I ought no_o let it rest, but that I ought to see Mr. Jaggers, and come at the bar_ruth. I really do not know whether I felt that I did this for Estella’s sake, or whether I was glad to transfer to the man in whose preservation I was s_uch concerned some rays of the romantic interest that had so long surrounde_e. Perhaps the latter possibility may be the nearer to the truth.
Any way, I could scarcely be withheld from going out to Gerrard Street tha_ight. Herbert’s representations that, if I did, I should probably be laid u_nd stricken useless, when our fugitive’s safety would depend upon me, alon_estrained my impatience. On the understanding, again and again reiterated, that, come what would, I was to go to Mr. Jaggers to-morrow, I at lengt_ubmitted to keep quiet, and to have my hurts looked after, and to stay a_ome. Early next morning we went out together, and at the corner of Giltspu_treet by Smithfield, I left Herbert to go his way into the City, and took m_ay to Little Britain.
There were periodical occasions when Mr. Jaggers and Wemmick went over th_ffice accounts, and checked off the vouchers, and put all things straight. O_hese occasions, Wemmick took his books and papers into Mr. Jaggers’s room, and one of the up-stairs clerks came down into the outer office. Finding suc_lerk on Wemmick’s post that morning, I knew what was going on; but I was no_orry to have Mr. Jaggers and Wemmick together, as Wemmick would then hear fo_imself that I said nothing to compromise him.
My appearance, with my arm bandaged and my coat loose over my shoulders, favored my object. Although I had sent Mr. Jaggers a brief account of th_ccident as soon as I had arrived in town, yet I had to give him all th_etails now; and the speciality of the occasion caused our talk to be less dr_nd hard, and less strictly regulated by the rules of evidence, than it ha_een before. While I described the disaster, Mr. Jaggers stood, according t_is wont, before the fire. Wemmick leaned back in his chair, staring at me, with his hands in the pockets of his trousers, and his pen put horizontall_nto the post. The two brutal casts, always inseparable in my mind from th_fficial proceedings, seemed to be congestively considering whether the_idn’t smell fire at the present moment.
My narrative finished, and their questions exhausted, I then produced Mis_avisham’s authority to receive the nine hundred pounds for Herbert. Mr.
Jaggers’s eyes retired a little deeper into his head when I handed him th_ablets, but he presently handed them over to Wemmick, with instructions t_raw the check for his signature. While that was in course of being done, _ooked on at Wemmick as he wrote, and Mr. Jaggers, poising and swaying himsel_n his well-polished boots, looked on at me. “I am sorry, Pip,” said he, as _ut the check in my pocket, when he had signed it, “that we do nothing fo_ou.”
“Miss Havisham was good enough to ask me,” I returned, “whether she could d_othing for me, and I told her No.”
“Everybody should know his own business,” said Mr. Jaggers. And I sa_emmick’s lips form the words “portable property.”
“I should not have told her No, if I had been you,” said Mr Jaggers; “bu_very man ought to know his own business best.”
“Every man’s business,” said Wemmick, rather reproachfully towards me, “i_ortable property.”
As I thought the time was now come for pursuing the theme I had at heart, _aid, turning on Mr. Jaggers:—
“I did ask something of Miss Havisham, however, sir. I asked her to give m_ome information relative to her adopted daughter, and she gave me all sh_ossessed.”
“Did she?” said Mr. Jaggers, bending forward to look at his boots and the_traightening himself. “Hah! I don’t think I should have done so, if I ha_een Miss Havisham. But she ought to know her own business best.”
“I know more of the history of Miss Havisham’s adopted child than Mis_avisham herself does, sir. I know her mother.”
Mr. Jaggers looked at me inquiringly, and repeated “Mother?”
“I have seen her mother within these three days.”
“Yes?” said Mr. Jaggers.
“And so have you, sir. And you have seen her still more recently.”
“Yes?” said Mr. Jaggers.
“Perhaps I know more of Estella’s history than even you do,” said I. “I kno_er father too.”
A certain stop that Mr. Jaggers came to in his manner—he was too self- possessed to change his manner, but he could not help its being brought to a_ndefinably attentive stop—assured me that he did not know who her father was.
This I had strongly suspected from Provis’s account (as Herbert had repeate_t) of his having kept himself dark; which I pieced on to the fact that h_imself was not Mr. Jaggers’s client until some four years later, and when h_ould have no reason for claiming his identity. But, I could not be sure o_his unconsciousness on Mr. Jaggers’s part before, though I was quite sure o_t now.
“So! You know the young lady’s father, Pip?” said Mr. Jaggers.
“Yes,” I replied, “and his name is Provis—from New South Wales.”
Even Mr. Jaggers started when I said those words. It was the slightest star_hat could escape a man, the most carefully repressed and the sooner checked, but he did start, though he made it a part of the action of taking out hi_ocket-handkerchief. How Wemmick received the announcement I am unable to say; for I was afraid to look at him just then, lest Mr. Jaggers’s sharpness shoul_etect that there had been some communication unknown to him between us.
“And on what evidence, Pip,” asked Mr. Jaggers, very coolly, as he paused wit_is handkerchief half way to his nose, “does Provis make this claim?”
“He does not make it,” said I, “and has never made it, and has no knowledge o_elief that his daughter is in existence.”
For once, the powerful pocket-handkerchief failed. My reply was so Unexpected, that Mr. Jaggers put the handkerchief back into his pocket without completin_he usual performance, folded his arms, and looked with stern attention at me, though with an immovable face.
Then I told him all I knew, and how I knew it; with the one reservation that _eft him to infer that I knew from Miss Havisham what I in fact knew fro_emmick. I was very careful indeed as to that. Nor did I look towards Wemmic_ntil I had finished all I had to tell, and had been for some time silentl_eeting Mr. Jaggers’s look. When I did at last turn my eyes in Wemmick’_irection, I found that he had unposted his pen, and was intent upon the tabl_efore him.
“Hah!” said Mr. Jaggers at last, as he moved towards the papers on the table.
“What item was it you were at, Wemmick, when Mr. Pip came in?”
But I could not submit to be thrown off in that way, and I made a passionate, almost an indignant appeal, to him to be more frank and manly with me. _eminded him of the false hopes into which I had lapsed, the length of tim_hey had lasted, and the discovery I had made: and I hinted at the danger tha_eighed upon my spirits. I represented myself as being surely worthy of som_ittle confidence from him, in return for the confidence I had just no_mparted. I said that I did not blame him, or suspect him, or mistrust him, but I wanted assurance of the truth from him. And if he asked me why I wante_t, and why I thought I had any right to it, I would tell him, little as h_ared for such poor dreams, that I had loved Estella dearly and long, and tha_lthough I had lost her, and must live a bereaved life, whatever concerned he_as still nearer and dearer to me than anything else in the world. And seein_hat Mr. Jaggers stood quite still and silent, and apparently quite obdurate, under this appeal, I turned to Wemmick, and said, “Wemmick, I know you to be _an with a gentle heart. I have seen your pleasant home, and your old father, and all the innocent, cheerful playful ways with which you refresh you_usiness life. And I entreat you to say a word for me to Mr. Jaggers, and t_epresent to him that, all circumstances considered, he ought to be more ope_ith me!”
I have never seen two men look more oddly at one another than Mr. Jaggers an_emmick did after this apostrophe. At first, a misgiving crossed me tha_emmick would be instantly dismissed from his employment; but it melted as _aw Mr. Jaggers relax into something like a smile, and Wemmick become bolder.
“What’s all this?” said Mr. Jaggers. “You with an old father, and you wit_leasant and playful ways?”
“Well!” returned Wemmick. “If I don’t bring ’em here, what does it matter?”
“Pip,” said Mr. Jaggers, laying his hand upon my arm, and smiling openly, “this man must be the most cunning impostor in all London.”
“Not a bit of it,” returned Wemmick, growing bolder and bolder. “I thin_ou’re another.”
Again they exchanged their former odd looks, each apparently still distrustfu_hat the other was taking him in.
“You with a pleasant home?” said Mr. Jaggers.
“Since it don’t interfere with business,” returned Wemmick, “let it be so.
Now, I look at you, sir, I shouldn’t wonder if you might be planning an_ontriving to have a pleasant home of your own one of these days, when you’r_ired of all this work.”
Mr. Jaggers nodded his head retrospectively two or three times, and actuall_rew a sigh. “Pip,” said he, “we won’t talk about ‘poor dreams;’ you know mor_bout such things than I, having much fresher experience of that kind. But no_bout this other matter. I’ll put a case to you. Mind! I admit nothing.”
He waited for me to declare that I quite understood that he expressly sai_hat he admitted nothing.
“Now, Pip,” said Mr. Jaggers, “put this case. Put the case that a woman, unde_uch circumstances as you have mentioned, held her child concealed, and wa_bliged to communicate the fact to her legal adviser, on his representing t_er that he must know, with an eye to the latitude of his defence, how th_act stood about that child. Put the case that, at the same time he held _rust to find a child for an eccentric rich lady to adopt and bring up.”
“I follow you, sir.”
“Put the case that he lived in an atmosphere of evil, and that all he saw o_hildren was their being generated in great numbers for certain destruction.
Put the case that he often saw children solemnly tried at a criminal bar, where they were held up to be seen; put the case that he habitually knew o_heir being imprisoned, whipped, transported, neglected, cast out, qualifie_n all ways for the hangman, and growing up to be hanged. Put the case tha_retty nigh all the children he saw in his daily business life he had reaso_o look upon as so much spawn, to develop into the fish that were to come t_is net,—to be prosecuted, defended, forsworn, made orphans, bedeville_omehow.”
“I follow you, sir.”
“Put the case, Pip, that here was one pretty little child out of the heap wh_ould be saved; whom the father believed dead, and dared make no stir about; as to whom, over the mother, the legal adviser had this power: “I know wha_ou did, and how you did it. You came so and so, you did such and such thing_o divert suspicion. I have tracked you through it all, andI tell it you all.
Part with the child, unless it should benecessary to produce it to clear you, and then it shall be produced. Give the child into my hands, and I will do m_est to bring you off. If you are saved, your child is saved too; if you ar_ost, your child is still saved.” Put the case that this was done, and tha_he woman was cleared.”
“I understand you perfectly.”
“But that I make no admissions?”
“That you make no admissions.” And Wemmick repeated, “No admissions.”
“Put the case, Pip, that passion and the terror of death had a little shake_he woman’s intellects, and that when she was set at liberty, she was scare_ut of the ways of the world, and went to him to be sheltered. Put the cas_hat he took her in, and that he kept down the old, wild, violent natur_henever he saw an inkling of its breaking out, by asserting his power ove_er in the old way. Do you comprehend the imaginary case?”
“Put the case that the child grew up, and was married for money. That th_other was still living. That the father was still living. That the mother an_ather, unknown to one another, were dwelling within so many miles, furlongs, yards if you like, of one another. That the secret was still a secret, excep_hat you had got wind of it. Put that last case to yourself very carefully.”
“I ask Wemmick to put it to himself very carefully.”
And Wemmick said, “I do.”
“For whose sake would you reveal the secret? For the father’s? I think h_ould not be much the better for the mother. For the mother’s? I think if sh_ad done such a deed she would be safer where she was. For the daughter’s? _hink it would hardly serve her to establish her parentage for the informatio_f her husband, and to drag her back to disgrace, after an escape of twent_ears, pretty secure to last for life. But add the case that you had love_er, Pip, and had made her the subject of those ‘poor dreams’ which have, a_ne time or another, been in the heads of more men than you think likely, the_ tell you that you had better—and would much sooner when you had thought wel_f it—chop off that bandaged left hand of yours with your bandaged right hand, and then pass the chopper on to Wemmick there, to cut that off too.”
I looked at Wemmick, whose face was very grave. He gravely touched his lip_ith his forefinger. I did the same. Mr. Jaggers did the same. “Now, Wemmick,” said the latter then, resuming his usual manner, “what item was it you were a_hen Mr. Pip came in?”
Standing by for a little, while they were at work, I observed that the od_ooks they had cast at one another were repeated several times: with thi_ifference now, that each of them seemed suspicious, not to say conscious, o_aving shown himself in a weak and unprofessional light to the other. For thi_eason, I suppose, they were now inflexible with one another; Mr. Jagger_eing highly dictatorial, and Wemmick obstinately justifying himself wheneve_here was the smallest point in abeyance for a moment. I had never seen the_n such ill terms; for generally they got on very well indeed together.
But they were both happily relieved by the opportune appearance of Mike, th_lient with the fur cap and the habit of wiping his nose on his sleeve, whom _ad seen on the very first day of my appearance within those walls. Thi_ndividual, who, either in his own person or in that of some member of hi_amily, seemed to be always in trouble (which in that place meant Newgate), called to announce that his eldest daughter was taken up on suspicion o_hoplifting. As he imparted this melancholy circumstance to Wemmick, Mr.
Jaggers standing magisterially before the fire and taking no share in th_roceedings, Mike’s eye happened to twinkle with a tear.
“What are you about?” demanded Wemmick, with the utmost indignation. “What d_ou come snivelling here for?”
“I didn’t go to do it, Mr. Wemmick.”
“You did,” said Wemmick. “How dare you? You’re not in a fit state to com_ere, if you can’t come here without spluttering like a bad pen. What do yo_ean by it?”
“A man can’t help his feelings, Mr. Wemmick,” pleaded Mike.
“His what?” demanded Wemmick, quite savagely. “Say that again!”
“Now look here my man,” said Mr. Jaggers, advancing a step, and pointing t_he door. “Get out of this office. I’ll have no feelings here. Get out.”
“It serves you right,” said Wemmick, “Get out.”
So, the unfortunate Mike very humbly withdrew, and Mr. Jaggers and Wemmic_ppeared to have re-established their good understanding, and went to wor_gain with an air of refreshment upon them as if they had just had lunch.