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Chapter 17

  • 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.
  • Pip.”
  • 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.
  • “Yes, sir.”
  • “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.
  • “Undoubtedly.”
  • “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.