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Chapter 6

  • Turning from the Temple gate as soon as I had read the warning, I made th_est of my way to Fleet Street, and there got a late hackney chariot and drov_o the Hummums in Covent Garden. In those times a bed was always to be go_here at any hour of the night, and the chamberlain, letting me in at hi_eady wicket, lighted the candle next in order on his shelf, and showed m_traight into the bedroom next in order on his list. It was a sort of vault o_he ground floor at the back, with a despotic monster of a four-post bedstea_n it, straddling over the whole place, putting one of his arbitrary legs int_he fireplace and another into the doorway, and squeezing the wretched littl_ashing-stand in quite a Divinely Righteous manner.
  • As I had asked for a night-light, the chamberlain had brought me in, before h_eft me, the good old constitutional rushlight of those virtuous days.—a_bject like the ghost of a walking-cane, which instantly broke its back if i_ere touched, which nothing could ever be lighted at, and which was placed i_olitary confinement at the bottom of a high tin tower, perforated with roun_oles that made a staringly wide-awake pattern on the walls. When I had go_nto bed, and lay there footsore, weary, and wretched, I found that I could n_ore close my own eyes than I could close the eyes of this foolish Argus. An_hus, in the gloom and death of the night, we stared at one another.
  • What a doleful night! How anxious, how dismal, how long! There was a_nhospitable smell in the room, of cold soot and hot dust; and, as I looked u_nto the corners of the tester over my head, I thought what a number of blue- bottle flies from the butchers’, and earwigs from the market, and grubs fro_he country, must be holding on up there, lying by for next summer. This le_e to speculate whether any of them ever tumbled down, and then I fancied tha_ felt light falls on my face,—a disagreeable turn of thought, suggestin_ther and more objectionable approaches up my back. When I had lain awake _ittle while, those extraordinary voices with which silence teems began t_ake themselves audible. The closet whispered, the fireplace sighed, th_ittle washing-stand ticked, and one guitar-string played occasionally in th_hest of drawers. At about the same time, the eyes on the wall acquired a ne_xpression, and in every one of those staring rounds I saw written, DON’T G_OME.
  • Whatever night-fancies and night-noises crowded on me, they never warded of_his DON’T GO HOME. It plaited itself into whatever I thought of, as a bodil_ain would have done. Not long before, I had read in the newspapers, how _entleman unknown had come to the Hummums in the night, and had gone to bed, and had destroyed himself, and had been found in the morning weltering i_lood. It came into my head that he must have occupied this very vault o_ine, and I got out of bed to assure myself that there were no red mark_bout; then opened the door to look out into the passages, and cheer mysel_ith the companionship of a distant light, near which I knew the chamberlai_o be dozing. But all this time, why I was not to go home, and what ha_appened at home, and when I should go home, and whether Provis was safe a_ome, were questions occupying my mind so busily, that one might have suppose_here could be no more room in it for any other theme. Even when I thought o_stella, and how we had parted that day forever, and when I recalled all th_ircumstances of our parting, and all her looks and tones, and the action o_er fingers while she knitted,— even then I was pursuing, here and there an_verywhere, the caution, Don’t go home. When at last I dozed, in shee_xhaustion of mind and body, it became a vast shadowy verb which I had t_onjugate. Imperative mood, present tense: Do not thou go home, let him not g_ome, let us not go home, do not ye or you go home, let not them go home. The_otentially: I may not and I cannot go home; and I might not, could not, woul_ot, and should not go home; until I felt that I was going distracted, an_olled over on the pillow, and looked at the staring rounds upon the wal_gain.
  • I had left directions that I was to be called at seven; for it was plain tha_ must see Wemmick before seeing any one else, and equally plain that this wa_ case in which his Walworth sentiments only could be taken. It was a relie_o get out of the room where the night had been so miserable, and I needed n_econd knocking at the door to startle me from my uneasy bed.
  • The Castle battlements arose upon my view at eight o’clock. The little servan_appening to be entering the fortress with two hot rolls, I passed through th_ostern and crossed the drawbridge in her company, and so came withou_nnouncement into the presence of Wemmick as he was making tea for himself an_he Aged. An open door afforded a perspective view of the Aged in bed.
  • “Halloa, Mr. Pip!” said Wemmick. “You did come home, then?”
  • “Yes,” I returned; “but I didn’t go home.”
  • “That’s all right,” said he, rubbing his hands. “I left a note for you at eac_f the Temple gates, on the chance. Which gate did you come to?”
  • I told him.
  • “I’ll go round to the others in the course of the day and destroy the notes,” said Wemmick; “it’s a good rule never to leave documentary evidence if you ca_elp it, because you don’t know when it may be put in. I’m going to take _iberty with you. Would you mind toasting this sausage for the Aged P.?”
  • I said I should be delighted to do it.
  • “Then you can go about your work, Mary Anne,” said Wemmick to the littl_ervant; “which leaves us to ourselves, don’t you see, Mr. Pip?” he added, winking, as she disappeared.
  • I thanked him for his friendship and caution, and our discourse proceeded in _ow tone, while I toasted the Aged’s sausage and he buttered the crumb of th_ged’s roll.
  • “Now, Mr. Pip, you know,” said Wemmick, “you and I understand one another. W_re in our private and personal capacities, and we have been engaged in _onfidential transaction before to-day. Official sentiments are one thing. W_re extra official.”
  • I cordially assented. I was so very nervous, that I had already lighted th_ged’s sausage like a torch, and been obliged to blow it out.
  • “I accidentally heard, yesterday morning,” said Wemmick, “being in a certai_lace where I once took you,—even between you and me, it’s as well not t_ention names when avoidable—”
  • “Much better not,” said I. “I understand you.”
  • “I heard there by chance, yesterday morning,” said Wemmick, “that a certai_erson not altogether of uncolonial pursuits, and not unpossessed of portabl_roperty,—I don’t know who it may really be,—we won’t name this person—”
  • “Not necessary,” said I.
  • “—Had made some little stir in a certain part of the world where a good man_eople go, not always in gratification of their own inclinations, and no_uite irrespective of the government expense—”
  • In watching his face, I made quite a firework of the Aged’s sausage, an_reatly discomposed both my own attention and Wemmick’s; for which _pologized.
  • “—By disappearing from such place, and being no more heard of thereabouts.
  • From which,” said Wemmick, “conjectures had been raised and theories formed. _lso heard that you at your chambers in Garden Court, Temple, had bee_atched, and might be watched again.”
  • “By whom?” said I.
  • “I wouldn’t go into that,” said Wemmick, evasively, “it might clash wit_fficial responsibilities. I heard it, as I have in my time heard othe_urious things in the same place. I don’t tell it you on information received.
  • I heard it.”
  • He took the toasting-fork and sausage from me as he spoke, and set forth th_ged’s breakfast neatly on a little tray. Previous to placing it before him, he went into the Aged’s room with a clean white cloth, and tied the same unde_he old gentleman’s chin, and propped him up, and put his nightcap on on_ide, and gave him quite a rakish air. Then he placed his breakfast before hi_ith great care, and said, “All right, ain’t you, Aged P.?” To which th_heerful Aged replied, “All right, John, my boy, all right!” As there seeme_o be a tacit understanding that the Aged was not in a presentable state, an_as therefore to be considered invisible, I made a pretence of being i_omplete ignorance of these proceedings.
  • “This watching of me at my chambers (which I have once had reason t_uspect),” I said to Wemmick when he came back, “is inseparable from th_erson to whom you have adverted; is it?”
  • Wemmick looked very serious. “I couldn’t undertake to say that, of my ow_nowledge. I mean, I couldn’t undertake to say it was at first. But it eithe_s, or it will be, or it’s in great danger of being.”
  • As I saw that he was restrained by fealty to Little Britain from saying a_uch as he could, and as I knew with thankfulness to him how far out of hi_ay he went to say what he did, I could not press him. But I told him, after _ittle meditation over the fire, that I would like to ask him a question, subject to his answering or not answering, as he deemed right, and sure tha_is course would be right. He paused in his breakfast, and crossing his arms, and pinching his shirt-sleeves (his notion of in-door comfort was to si_ithout any coat), he nodded to me once, to put my question.
  • “You have heard of a man of bad character, whose true name is Compeyson?”
  • He answered with one other nod.
  • “Is he living?”
  • One other nod.
  • “Is he in London?”
  • He gave me one other nod, compressed the post-office exceedingly, gave me on_ast nod, and went on with his breakfast.
  • “Now,” said Wemmick, “questioning being over,” which he emphasized an_epeated for my guidance, “I come to what I did, after hearing what I heard. _ent to Garden Court to find you; not finding you, I went to Clarriker’s t_ind Mr. Herbert.”
  • “And him you found?” said I, with great anxiety.
  • “And him I found. Without mentioning any names or going into any details, _ave him to understand that if he was aware of anybody— Tom, Jack, o_ichard—being about the chambers, or about the immediate neighborhood, he ha_etter get Tom, Jack, or Richard out of the way while you were out of th_ay.”
  • “He would be greatly puzzled what to do?”
  • “He was puzzled what to do; not the less, because I gave him my opinion tha_t was not safe to try to get Tom, Jack, or Richard too far out of the way a_resent. Mr. Pip, I’ll tell you something. Under existing circumstances, ther_s no place like a great city when you are once in it. Don’t break cover to_oon. Lie close. Wait till things slacken, before you try the open, even fo_oreign air.”
  • I thanked him for his valuable advice, and asked him what Herbert had done?
  • “Mr. Herbert,” said Wemmick, “after being all of a heap for half an hour, struck out a plan. He mentioned to me as a secret, that he is courting a youn_ady who has, as no doubt you are aware, a bedridden Pa. Which Pa, having bee_n the Purser line of life, lies a-bed in a bow-window where he can see th_hips sail up and down the river. You are acquainted with the young lady, mos_robably?”
  • “Not personally,” said I.
  • The truth was, that she had objected to me as an expensive companion who di_erbert no good, and that, when Herbert had first proposed to present me t_er, she had received the proposal with such very moderate warmth, tha_erbert had felt himself obliged to confide the state of the case to me, wit_ view to the lapse of a little time before I made her acquaintance. When _ad begun to advance Herbert’s prospects by stealth, I had been able to bea_his with cheerful philosophy: he and his affianced, for their part, ha_aturally not been very anxious to introduce a third person into thei_nterviews; and thus, although I was assured that I had risen in Clara’_steem, and although the young lady and I had long regularly interchange_essages and remembrances by Herbert, I had never seen her. However, I did no_rouble Wemmick with these particulars.
  • “The house with the bow-window,” said Wemmick, “being by the river-side, dow_he Pool there between Limehouse and Greenwich, and being kept, it seems, by _ery respectable widow who has a furnished upper floor to let, Mr. Herbert pu_t to me, what did I think of that as a temporary tenement for Tom, Jack, o_ichard? Now, I thought very well of it, for three reasons I’ll give you. Tha_s to say: Firstly. It’s altogether out of all your beats, and is well awa_rom the usual heap of streets great and small. Secondly. Without going nea_t yourself, you could always hear of the safety of Tom, Jack, or Richard, through Mr. Herbert. Thirdly. After a while and when it might be prudent, i_ou should want to slip Tom, Jack, or Richard on board a foreign packet-boat, there he is—ready.”
  • Much comforted by these considerations, I thanked Wemmick again and again, an_egged him to proceed.
  • “Well, sir! Mr. Herbert threw himself into the business with a will, and b_ine o’clock last night he housed Tom, Jack, or Richard,— whichever it ma_e,—you and I don’t want to know,—quite successfully. At the old lodgings i_as understood that he was summoned to Dover, and, in fact, he was taken dow_he Dover road and cornered out of it. Now, another great advantage of al_his is, that it was done without you, and when, if any one was concernin_imself about your movements, you must be known to be ever so many miles of_nd quite otherwise engaged. This diverts suspicion and confuses it; and fo_he same reason I recommended that, even if you came back last night, yo_hould not go home. It brings in more confusion, and you want confusion.”
  • Wemmick, having finished his breakfast, here looked at his watch, and began t_et his coat on.
  • “And now, Mr. Pip,” said he, with his hands still in the sleeves, “I hav_robably done the most I can do; but if I can ever do more,— from a Walwort_oint of view, and in a strictly private and personal capacity,—I shall b_lad to do it. Here’s the address. There can be no harm in your going here to- night, and seeing for yourself that all is well with Tom, Jack, or Richard, before you go home,—which is another reason for your not going home las_ight. But, after you have gone home, don’t go back here. You are ver_elcome, I am sure, Mr. Pip”; his hands were now out of his sleeves, and I wa_haking them; “and let me finally impress one important point upon you.” H_aid his hands upon my shoulders, and added in a solemn whisper: “Avai_ourself of this evening to lay hold of his portable property. You don’t kno_hat may happen to him. Don’t let anything happen to the portable property.”
  • Quite despairing of making my mind clear to Wemmick on this point, I forbor_o try.
  • “Time’s up,” said Wemmick, “and I must be off. If you had nothing mor_ressing to do than to keep here till dark, that’s what I should advise. Yo_ook very much worried, and it would do you good to have a perfectly quiet da_ith the Aged,—he’ll be up presently, —and a little bit of—you remember th_ig?”
  • “Of course,” said I.
  • “Well; and a little bit of him. That sausage you toasted was his, and he wa_n all respects a first-rater. Do try him, if it is only for old acquaintanc_ake. Good by, Aged Parent!” in a cheery shout.
  • “All right, John; all right, my boy!” piped the old man from within.
  • I soon fell asleep before Wemmick’s fire, and the Aged and I enjoyed on_nother’s society by falling asleep before it more or less all day. We ha_oin of pork for dinner, and greens grown on the estate; and I nodded at th_ged with a good intention whenever I failed to do it drowsily. When it wa_uite dark, I left the Aged preparing the fire for toast; and I inferred fro_he number of teacups, as well as from his glances at the two little doors i_he wall, that Miss Skiffins was expected.