Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 12

  • 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?”
  • “Quite.”
  • “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 do.”
  • “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.