JOHN HUFFAM DICKENS
Extract from Great
Expectations (186061). Chs. XXXXI
] Of course I had no experience of a London
summer day, and my spirits may have been oppressed by the hot,
exhausted air, and by the dust and grit that lay thick on everything.
But I sat wondering and waiting in Mr. Jaggerss close room
until I really could not bear the two casts on the shelf above
Mr. Jaggerss chair, and got up and went out.
When I told the clerk that I would take a turn
in the air while I waited, he advised me to go round the corner
and I should come into Smithfield. So I came into Smithfield,
and the shameful place, being all asmear with filth and fat and
blood and foam, seemed to stick to me. So I rubbed it off with
all possible speed by turning into a street where I saw the great
black dome of St. Pauls bulging at me from behind a grim
stone building which a bystander said was Newgate Prison. Following
the wall of the jail, I found the roadway covered with straw to
deaden the noise of passing vehicles, and from this, and from
the quantity of people standing about smelling strongly of spirits
and beer, I inferred that the trials were on.
While I looked about me here, an exceedingly
dirty and partially drunk minister of justice asked me if I would
like to step in and hear a trial or so, informing me that he could
give me a front place for half a crown, whence I should command
a full view of the Lord Chief justice in his wig and robesmentioning
that awful personage like a waxwork, and presently offering him
at the reduced price of eighteenpence. As I declined the proposal
on the plea of an appointment, he was so good as to take me into
a yard and show me where the gallows was kept, and also where
people were publicly whipped. And then he showed me the Debtors
Door, out of which culprits came to be hanged, heightening the
interest of that dreadful portal by giving me to understand that
four on em would come out at that door the day
after tomorrow at eight in the morning, to be killed in a row.
This was horrible, and gave me a sickening idea of London, the
more so as the Lord Chief Justices proprietor wore (from
his hat down to his boots and up again to his pocket handkerchief
inclusive) mildewed clothes which had evidently not belonged to
him originally, and which I took it into my head he had bought
cheap of the executioner. Under these circumstances I thought
myself well rid of him for a shilling.
I dropped into the office to ask if Mr. Jaggers
had come in yet, and I found he had not, and I strolled out again.
This time I made the tour of Little Britain, and turned into Bartholomew
Close, and now I became aware that other people were waiting about
for Mr. Jaggers as well as I. There were two men of secret appearance
lounging in Bartholomew Close, and thoughtfully fitting their
feet into the cracks of the pavement as they talked together,
one of whom said to the other when they first passed me, that
Jaggers would do it if it was to be done. There was
knot of three men and two women standing at a corner, and one
of the women was crying on her dirty shawl, and the other comforted
her by saying as she pulled her own shawl over her shoulders,
Jaggers is for him, Melia, and what more could you
have? There was a red-eyed little Jew who came into the
Close while I was loitering there, in company with a second little
Jew whom he sent upon an errand; and while the messenger was gone,
I remarked this Jew, who was of a highly excitable temperament,
performing a jig of anxiety under a lamppost, and accompanying
himself, in a kind of frenzy, with the words, Oh Jaggerth,
Jaggerth, Jaggerth! All otherth ith Cag-Maggerth, give me Jaggerth!
These testimonies to the popularity of my guardian made a deep
impression on me, and I admired and wondered more than ever.
At length, as I was looking out at the iron gate
of Bartholomew Close into Little Britain, I saw Mr. Jaggers coming
across the road toward me. All the others who were waiting saw
him at the same time, and there was quite a rush at him. Mr. Jaggers,
putting a hand on my shoulder and walking me on at his side without
saying anything to me, addressed himself to his followers.
First, he took the two secret men.
Now I have nothing to say to you,
said Mr. Jaggers, throwing his finger at them. I want to
know no more than I know. As to the result, its a toss-up.
I told you from the first it was a toss-up. Have you paid Wemmick?
We made the money up this morning, sir,
said one of the men submissively while the other perused Mr. Jaggerss
I dont ask you when you made it up,
or where, or whether you made it up at all. Has Wemmick got it?
Yes, sir, said both the men together.
Very well, then you may go. Now I wont
have it! said Mr. Jaggers, waving his hand at them to put
them behind him. If you say a word to me, Ill throw
up the case.
We thought, Mr. Jaggers one
of the men began, pulling off his hat.
Thats what I told you not to do,
said Mr. Jaggers. You thought! I think for you, thats
enough for you. If I want you, I know where to find you, I dont
want you to find me. Now I wont have it. I wont hear
The two men looked at one another as Mr. Jaggers
waved them behind
again, and humbly fell back and were heard no
And now you! said Mr. Jaggers, suddenly
stopping and turning on the two women with the shawls, from whom
the three men had meekly separatedOh! Amelia, is it?
Yes, Mr. Jaggers.
And do you remember, retorted Mr.
Jaggers, that but for me you wouldnt be here and couldnt
Oh yes, sir! exclaimed both women
together. Lord bless you, sir, well we knows that!
Then why, said Mr. Jaggers, do
you come here?
My Bill, sir! the crying woman pleaded.
Now I tell you what! said Mr. Jaggers,
Once for all. If you dont know that your Bills
in good hands, I know it. And if you come here bothering about
your Bill, Ill make an example of both your Bill and you,
and let him slip through my fingers. Have you paid Wemmick?
Oh yes, sir! Every farden.
Very well. Then you have done all you have
got to do. Say another word one single wordand Wemmick shall
give you your money back.
This terrible threat caused the two women to
fall off immediately. No one remained now but the excitable Jew,
who had already raised the skirts of Mr. Jaggerss coat to
his lips several times.
I dont know this man! said
Mr. Jaggers, in the same devastating strain. What does this
Ma thear Mithter Jaggerth. Hown brother
to Habraham Latharuth!
Whos he? said Mr. Jaggers.
Let go of my coat.
The suitor, kissing the hem of the garment again
before relinquishing it, replied, Habraham Latharuth, on
thuthpithion of plate.
Youre too late, said Mr. Jaggers.
I am over the way.
Holy father, Mithter Jaggerth, cried
my excitable acquaintance, turning white, dont thay
youre again Habraham Latharuth!
I am, said Mr. Jaggers, and
theres an end of it. Get out of the way.
Mithter Jaggerth! Half a moment! My hown
cuthenth gone to Mithter Wemmick at thith prethenth minute,
to hoffer him hany termth. Mithter Jaggerth! Half a quarter of
a moment! If youd have thuperior prithe!money no object!Mithter
My guardian threw his supplicant off with supreme
indifference, and left him dancing on the pavement as if it were
red-hot. Without further interruption, we reached the front office,
where we found the clerk and the man in velveteen with the fur
Heres Mike, said the clerk,
getting down from his stool and approaching Mr. Jaggers confidentially.
Oh! said Mr. Jaggers, turning to
the man, who was pulling a lock of hair in the middle of his forehead,
like the Bull in Cock Robin pulling at the bell rope. Your
man comes on this afternoon. Well?
Well, Masr Jaggers, returned
Mike, in the voice of a sufferer from a constitutional cold, arter
a deal o trouble, Ive found one, sir, as might do.
What is he prepared to swear?
Well, Masr Jaggers, said Mike,
wiping his nose on his fur cap this time, in a general way,
Mr. Jaggers suddenly became most irate. Now
I warned you before, said he, throwing his forefinger at
the terrified client, that if ever you presumed to talk
in that way here, Id make an example of you. You infernal
scoundrel, how dare you tell me that?
The client looked scared, but bewildered too,
as if he were unconscious what he had done. Spoony!
said the clerk, in a low voice, giving him a stir with his elbow.
Softhead! Need you say it face to face?
Now I ask you, you blundering booby,
said my guardian very sternly, once more and for the last
time, what the man you have brought here is prepared to swear.
Mike looked hard at my guardian, as if he were
trying to learn a lesson from his face, and slowly replied, Ayther
to character, or to having been in his company and never left
him all the night in question.
Now be careful. In what station of life
is this man?
Mike looked at his cap, and looked at the floor,
and looked at the ceiling, and looked at the clerk, and even looked
at me before beginning to reply in a nervous manner, Weve
dressed him up like when my guardian blustered out:
What? You will, will you?
(Spoony! added the clerk again, with
After some helpless casting about, Mike brightened
and began again:
He is dressed like a spectable pieman.
A sort of a pastry cook.
Is he here? asked my guardian.
I left him, said Mike, a-setting
on some doorsteps round the corner.
Take him past that window, and let me see
The window indicated was the office window. We
all three went to it, behind the wire blind, and presently saw
the client go by in an accidental manner, with a murderous-looking
tall individual in a short suit of white linen and a paper cap.
This guileless confectioner was not by any means sober, and had
a black eye in the green stage of recovery, which was painted
over. Tell him to take his witness away directly,
said my guardian to the clerk, in extreme disgust, and ask
him what he means by bringing such a fellow as that.
So you were never in London before?
said Mr. Wemmick to me.
No, said I.
I was new here once, said
Mr. Wemmick. Rum to think of now!
You are well acquainted with it now?
Why, yes, said Mr. Wemmick. I
know the moves of it.
Is it a very wicked place? I asked,
more for the sake of saying something than for information.
You may get cheated, robbed, and murdered
in London. But there are plenty of people anywhere wholl
do that for you.
If there is bad blood between you and them,
said I, to soften it off a little.
Oh, I dont know about bad blood,
returned Mr. Wemmick. Theres not much bad blood about.
Theyll do it if theres anything to be got by it.
That makes it worse.
You think so? returned Mr. Wemmick.
Much about the same, I should say.