Herbert and I went on from bad to worse, in the way of increasing our debts, looking into our affairs, leaving Margins, and the like exemplar_ransactions; and Time went on, whether or no, as he has a way of doing; and _ame of age,—in fulfilment of Herbert’s prediction, that I should do so befor_ knew where I was.
Herbert himself had come of age eight months before me. As he had nothing els_han his majority to come into, the event did not make a profound sensation i_arnard’s Inn. But we had looked forward to my one-and-twentieth birthday, with a crowd of speculations and anticipations, for we had both considere_hat my guardian could hardly help saying something definite on that occasion.
I had taken care to have it well understood in Little Britain when my birthda_as. On the day before it, I received an official note from Wemmick, informin_e that Mr. Jaggers would be glad if I would call upon him at five in th_fternoon of the auspicious day. This convinced us that something great was t_appen, and threw me into an unusual flutter when I repaired to my guardian’_ffice, a model of punctuality.
In the outer office Wemmick offered me his congratulations, and incidentall_ubbed the side of his nose with a folded piece of tissue-paper that I like_he look of. But he said nothing respecting it, and motioned me with a no_nto my guardian’s room. It was November, and my guardian was standing befor_is fire leaning his back against the chimney-piece, with his hands under hi_oattails.
“Well, Pip,” said he, “I must call you Mr. Pip to-day. Congratulations, Mr.
We shook hands,—he was always a remarkably short shaker,—and I thanked him.
“Take a chair, Mr. Pip,” said my guardian.
As I sat down, and he preserved his attitude and bent his brows at his boots, I felt at a disadvantage, which reminded me of that old time when I had bee_ut upon a tombstone. The two ghastly casts on the shelf were not far fro_im, and their expression was as if they were making a stupid apoplecti_ttempt to attend to the conversation.
“Now my young friend,” my guardian began, as if I were a witness in the box, “I am going to have a word or two with you.”
“If you please, sir.”
“What do you suppose,” said Mr. Jaggers, bending forward to look at th_round, and then throwing his head back to look at the ceiling,— “what do yo_uppose you are living at the rate of?”
“At the rate of, sir?”
“At,” repeated Mr. Jaggers, still looking at the ceiling, “the— rate—of?” An_hen looked all round the room, and paused with his pocket-handkerchief in hi_and, half-way to his nose.
I had looked into my affairs so often, that I had thoroughly destroyed an_light notion I might ever have had of their bearings. Reluctantly, _onfessed myself quite unable to answer the question. This reply seeme_greeable to Mr. Jaggers, who said, “I thought so!” and blew his nose with a_ir of satisfaction.
“Now, I have asked you a question, my friend,” said Mr. Jaggers. “Have yo_nything to ask me?”
“Of course it would be a great relief to me to ask you several questions, sir; but I remember your prohibition.”
“Ask one,” said Mr. Jaggers.
“Is my benefactor to be made known to me to-day?”
“No. Ask another.”
“Is that confidence to be imparted to me soon?”
“Waive that, a moment,” said Mr. Jaggers, “and ask another.”
I looked about me, but there appeared to be now no possible escape from th_nquiry, “Have-I—anything to receive, sir?” On that, Mr. Jaggers said, triumphantly, “I thought we should come to it!” and called to Wemmick to giv_im that piece of paper. Wemmick appeared, handed it in, and disappeared.
“Now, Mr. Pip,” said Mr. Jaggers, “attend, if you please. You have bee_rawing pretty freely here; your name occurs pretty often in Wemmick’s cash- book; but you are in debt, of course?”
“I am afraid I must say yes, sir.”
“You know you must say yes; don’t you?” said Mr. Jaggers.
“I don’t ask you what you owe, because you don’t know; and if you did know, you wouldn’t tell me; you would say less. Yes, yes, my friend,” cried Mr.
Jaggers, waving his forefinger to stop me as I made a show of protesting: “it’s likely enough that you think you wouldn’t, but you would. You’ll excus_e, but I know better than you. Now, take this piece of paper in your hand.
You have got it? Very good. Now, unfold it and tell me what it is.”
“This is a bank-note,” said I, “for five hundred pounds.”
“That is a bank-note,” repeated Mr. Jaggers, “for five hundred pounds. And _ery handsome sum of money too, I think. You consider it so?”
“How could I do otherwise!”
“Ah! But answer the question,” said Mr. Jaggers.
“You consider it, undoubtedly, a handsome sum of money. Now, that handsome su_f money, Pip, is your own. It is a present to you on this day, in earnest o_our expectations. And at the rate of that handsome sum of money per annum, and at no higher rate, you are to live until the donor of the whole appears.
That is to say, you will now take your money affairs entirely into your ow_ands, and you will draw from Wemmick one hundred and twenty-five pounds pe_uarter, until you are in communication with the fountain-head, and no longe_ith the mere agent. As I have told you before, I am the mere agent. I execut_y instructions, and I am paid for doing so. I think them injudicious, but _m not paid for giving any opinion on their merits.”
I was beginning to express my gratitude to my benefactor for the grea_iberality with which I was treated, when Mr. Jaggers stopped me. “I am no_aid, Pip,” said he, coolly, “to carry your words to any one;” and the_athered up his coat-tails, as he had gathered up the subject, and stoo_rowning at his boots as if he suspected them of designs against him.
After a pause, I hinted,—
“There was a question just now, Mr. Jaggers, which you desired me to waive fo_ moment. I hope I am doing nothing wrong in asking it again?”
“What is it?” said he.
I might have known that he would never help me out; but it took me aback t_ave to shape the question afresh, as if it were quite new. “Is it likely,” _aid, after hesitating, “that my patron, the fountain-head you have spoken of, Mr. Jaggers, will soon—” there I delicately stopped.
“Will soon what?” asked Mr. Jaggers. “That’s no question as it stands, yo_now.”
“Will soon come to London,” said I, after casting about for a precise form o_ords, “or summon me anywhere else?”
“Now, here,” replied Mr. Jaggers, fixing me for the first time with his dar_eep-set eyes, “we must revert to the evening when we first encountered on_nother in your village. What did I tell you then, Pip?”
“You told me, Mr. Jaggers, that it might be years hence when that perso_ppeared.”
“Just so,” said Mr. Jaggers, “that’s my answer.”
As we looked full at one another, I felt my breath come quicker in my stron_esire to get something out of him. And as I felt that it came quicker, and a_ felt that he saw that it came quicker, I felt that I had less chance tha_ver of getting anything out of him.
“Do you suppose it will still be years hence, Mr. Jaggers?”
Mr. Jaggers shook his head,—not in negativing the question, but in altogethe_egativing the notion that he could anyhow be got to answer it,—and the tw_orrible casts of the twitched faces looked, when my eyes strayed up to them, as if they had come to a crisis in their suspended attention, and were goin_o sneeze.
“Come!” said Mr. Jaggers, warming the backs of his legs with the backs of hi_armed hands, “I’ll be plain with you, my friend Pip. That’s a question I mus_ot be asked. You’ll understand that better, when I tell you it’s a questio_hat might compromise me. Come! I’ll go a little further with you; I’ll sa_omething more.”
He bent down so low to frown at his boots, that he was able to rub the calve_f his legs in the pause he made.
“When that person discloses,” said Mr. Jaggers, straightening himself, “yo_nd that person will settle your own affairs. When that person discloses, m_art in this business will cease and determine. When that person discloses, i_ill not be necessary for me to know anything about it. And that’s all I hav_ot to say.”
We looked at one another until I withdrew my eyes, and looked thoughtfully a_he floor. From this last speech I derived the notion that Miss Havisham, fo_ome reason or no reason, had not taken him into her confidence as to he_esigning me for Estella; that he resented this, and felt a jealousy about it; or that he really did object to that scheme, and would have nothing to do wit_t. When I raised my eyes again, I found that he had been shrewdly looking a_e all the time, and was doing so still.
“If that is all you have to say, sir,” I remarked, “there can be nothing lef_or me to say.”
He nodded assent, and pulled out his thief-dreaded watch, and asked me where _as going to dine? I replied at my own chambers, with Herbert. As a necessar_equence, I asked him if he would favor us with his company, and he promptl_ccepted the invitation. But he insisted on walking home with me, in orde_hat I might make no extra preparation for him, and first he had a letter o_wo to write, and (of course) had his hands to wash. So I said I would go int_he outer office and talk to Wemmick.
The fact was, that when the five hundred pounds had come into my pocket, _hought had come into my head which had been often there before; and i_ppeared to me that Wemmick was a good person to advise with concerning suc_hought.
He had already locked up his safe, and made preparations for going home. H_ad left his desk, brought out his two greasy office candlesticks and stoo_hem in line with the snuffers on a slab near the door, ready to b_xtinguished; he had raked his fire low, put his hat and great-coat ready, an_as beating himself all over the chest with his safe-key, as an athleti_xercise after business.
“Mr. Wemmick,” said I, “I want to ask your opinion. I am very desirous t_erve a friend.”
Wemmick tightened his post-office and shook his head, as if his opinion wer_ead against any fatal weakness of that sort.
“This friend,” I pursued, “is trying to get on in commercial life, but has n_oney, and finds it difficult and disheartening to make a beginning. Now _ant somehow to help him to a beginning.”
“With money down?” said Wemmick, in a tone drier than any sawdust.
“With some money down,” I replied, for an uneasy remembrance shot across me o_hat symmetrical bundle of papers at home—“with some money down, and perhap_ome anticipation of my expectations.”
“Mr. Pip,” said Wemmick, “I should like just to run over with you on m_ingers, if you please, the names of the various bridges up as high as Chelse_each. Let’s see; there’s London, one; Southwark, two; Blackfriars, three; Waterloo, four; Westminster, five; Vauxhall, six.” He had checked off eac_ridge in its turn, with the handle of his safe-key on the palm of his hand.
“There’s as many as six, you see, to choose from.”
“I don’t understand you,” said I.
“Choose your bridge, Mr. Pip,” returned Wemmick, “and take a walk upon you_ridge, and pitch your money into the Thames over the centre arch of you_ridge, and you know the end of it. Serve a friend with it, and you may kno_he end of it too,—but it’s a less pleasant and profitable end.”
I could have posted a newspaper in his mouth, he made it so wide after sayin_his.
“This is very discouraging,” said I.
“Meant to be so,” said Wemmick.
“Then is it your opinion,” I inquired, with some little indignation, “that _an should never—”
“—Invest portable property in a friend?” said Wemmick. “Certainly he shoul_ot. Unless he wants to get rid of the friend,—and then it becomes a questio_ow much portable property it may be worth to get rid of him.”
“And that,” said I, “is your deliberate opinion, Mr. Wemmick?”
“That,” he returned, “is my deliberate opinion in this office.”
“Ah!” said I, pressing him, for I thought I saw him near a loophole here; “bu_ould that be your opinion at Walworth?”
“Mr. Pip,” he replied, with gravity, “Walworth is one place, and this offic_s another. Much as the Aged is one person, and Mr. Jaggers is another. The_ust not be confounded together. My Walworth sentiments must be taken a_alworth; none but my official sentiments can be taken in this office.”
“Very well,” said I, much relieved, “then I shall look you up at Walworth, yo_ay depend upon it.”
“Mr. Pip,” he returned, “you will be welcome there, in a private and persona_apacity.”
We had held this conversation in a low voice, well knowing my guardian’s ear_o be the sharpest of the sharp. As he now appeared in his doorway, towellin_is hands, Wemmick got on his great-coat and stood by to snuff out th_andles. We all three went into the street together, and from the door-ste_emmick turned his way, and Mr. Jaggers and I turned ours.
I could not help wishing more than once that evening, that Mr. Jaggers had ha_n Aged in Gerrard Street, or a Stinger, or a Something, or a Somebody, t_nbend his brows a little. It was an uncomfortable consideration on a twenty- first birthday, that coming of age at all seemed hardly worth while in such _uarded and suspicious world as he made of it. He was a thousand times bette_nformed and cleverer than Wemmick, and yet I would a thousand times rathe_ave had Wemmick to dinner. And Mr. Jaggers made not me alone intensel_elancholy, because, after he was gone, Herbert said of himself, with his eye_ixed on the fire, that he thought he must have committed a felony an_orgotten the details of it, he felt so dejected and guilty.