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"Are you known in London?"
"I hope not!" said he, giving his neck a jerk with his forefinger that made
me turn hot and sick.
"Were you known in London, once?"
"Not over and above, dear boy. I was in the provinces mostly."
"Were you - tried - in London?"
"Which time?" said he, with a sharp look.
"The last time."
He nodded. "First knowed Mr. Jaggers that way. Jaggers was for me."
It was on my lips to ask him what he was tried for, but he took up a knife,
gave it a flourish, and with the words, "And what I done is worked out and paid
for!" fell to at his breakfast.
He ate in a ravenous way that was very disagreeable, and all his actions
were uncouth, noisy, and greedy. Some of his teeth had failed him since I saw
him eat on the marshes, and as he turned his food in his mouth, and turned his
head sideways to bring his strongest fangs to bear upon it, he looked terribly
like a hungry old dog. If I had begun with any appetite, he would have taken it
away, and I should have sat much as I did - repelled from him by an
insurmountable aversion, and gloomily looking at the cloth.
"I'm a heavy grubber, dear boy," he said, as a polite kind of apology when
he made an end of his meal, "but I always was. If it had been in my
constitution to be a lighter grubber, I might ha' got into lighter trouble.
Similarly, I must have my smoke. When I was first hired out as shepherd t'other
side the world, it's my belief I should ha' turned into a molloncolly-mad sheep
myself, if I hadn't a had my smoke."
As he said so, he got up from the table, and putting his hand into the
breast of the pea-coat he wore, brought out a short black pipe, and a handful of
loose tobacco of the kind that is called Negro-head. Having filled his pipe, he
put the surplus tobacco back again, as if his pocket were a drawer. Then, he
took a live coal from the fire with the tongs, and lighted his pipe at it, and
then turned round on the hearth-rug with his back to the fire, and went through
his favourite action of holding out both his hands for mine.
"And this," said he, dandling my hands up and down in his, as he puffed at
his pipe; "and this is the gentleman what I made! The real genuine One! It
does me good fur to look at you, Pip. All I stip'late, is, to stand by and look
at you, dear boy!"
I released my hands as soon as I could, and found that I was beginning
slowly to settle down to the contemplation of my condition. What I was chained
to, and how heavily, became intelligible to me, as I heard his hoarse voice, and
sat looking up at his furrowed bald head with its iron grey hair at the sides.
"I mustn't see my gentleman a footing it in the mire of the streets; there
mustn't be no mud on his boots. My gentleman must have horses, Pip! Horses to
ride, and horses to drive, and horses for his servant to ride and drive as well.
Shall colonists have their horses (and blood 'uns, if you please, good Lord!)
and not my London gentleman? No, no. We'll show 'em another pair of shoes than
that, Pip; won't us?"
He took out of his pocket a great thick pocket-book, bursting with papers,
and tossed it on the table.
"There's something worth spending in that there book, dear boy. It's yourn.
All I've got ain't mine; it's yourn. Don't you be afeerd on it. There's more
where that come from. I've come to the old country fur to see my gentleman
spend his money like a gentleman. That'll be my pleasure. My pleasure 'ull be
fur to see him do it. And blast you all!" he wound up, looking round the room
and snapping his fingers once with a loud snap, "blast you every one, from the
judge in his wig, to the colonist a stirring up the dust, I'll show a better
gentleman than the whole kit on you put together!"
"Stop!" said I, almost in a frenzy of fear and dislike, "I want to speak to
you. I want to know what is to be done. I want to know how you are to be kept
out of danger, how long you are going to stay, what projects you have."
"Look'ee here, Pip," said he, laying his hand on my arm in a suddenly
altered and subdued manner; "first of all, look'ee here. I forgot myself half a
minute ago. What I said was low; that's what it was; low. Look'ee here, Pip.
Look over it. I ain't a-going to be low."
"First," I resumed, half-groaning, "what precautions can be taken against
your being recognized and seized?"
"No, dear boy," he said, in the same tone as before, "that don't go first.
Lowness goes first. I ain't took so many years to make a gentleman, not without
knowing what's due to him. Look'ee here, Pip. I was low; that's what I was;
low. Look over it, dear boy."
Some sense of the grimly-ludicrous moved me to a fretful laugh, as I
replied, "I have looked over it. In Heaven's name, don't harp upon it!"
"Yes, but look'ee here," he persisted. "Dear boy, I ain't come so fur, not
fur to be low. Now, go on, dear boy. You was a-saying--"
"How are you to be guarded from the danger you have incurred?"
"Well, dear boy, the danger ain't so great. Without I was informed agen,
the danger ain't so much to signify. There's Jaggers, and there's Wemmick, and
there's you. Who else is there to inform?"
"Is there no chance person who might identify you in the street?" said I.
"Well," he returned, "there ain't many. Nor yet I don't intend to
advertise myself in the newspapers by the name of A. M. come back from Botany
Bay; and years have rolled away, and who's to gain by it? Still, look'ee here,
Pip. If the danger had been fifty times as great, I should ha' come to see you,
mind you, just the same."
"And how long do you remain?"
"How long?" said he, taking his black pipe from his mouth, and dropping his
jaw as he stared at me. "I'm not a-going back. I've come for good."
"Where are you to live?" said I. "What is to be done with you? Where will
you be safe?"
"Dear boy," he returned, "there's disguising wigs can be bought for money,
and there's hair powder, and spectacles, and black clothes - shorts and what
not. Others has done it safe afore, and what others has done afore, others can
do agen. As to the where and how of living, dear boy, give me your own opinions
"You take it smoothly now," said I, "but you were very serious last night,
when you swore it was Death."
"And so I swear it is Death," said he, putting his pipe back in his mouth,
"and Death by the rope, in the open street not fur from this, and it's serious
that you should fully understand it to be so. What then, when that's once done?
Here I am. To go back now, 'ud be as bad as to stand ground - worse. Besides,
Pip, I'm here, because I've meant it by you, years and years. As to what I
dare, I'm a old bird now, as has dared all manner of traps since first he was
fledged, and I'm not afeerd to perch upon a scarecrow. If there's Death hid
inside of it, there is, and let him come out, and I'll face him, and then I'll
believe in him and not afore. And now let me have a look at my gentleman agen."
Once more, he took me by both hands and surveyed me with an air of admiring
proprietorship: smoking with great complacency all the while.
It appeared to me that I could do no better than secure him some quiet
lodging hard by, of which he might take possession when Herbert returned: whom
I expected in two or three days. That the secret must be confided to Herbert as
a matter of unavoidable necessity, even if I could have put the immense relief I
should derive from sharing it with him out of the question, was plain to me.
But it was by no means so plain to Mr. Provis (I resolved to call him by that
name), who reserved his consent to Herbert's participation until he should have
seen him and formed a favourable judgment of his physiognomy. "And even then,
dear boy," said he, pulling a greasy little clasped black Testament out of his
pocket, "we'll have him on his oath."
To state that my terrible patron carried this little black book about the
world solely to swear people on in cases of emergency, would be to state what I
never quite established - but this I can say, that I never knew him put it to
any other use. The book itself had the appearance of having been stolen from
some court of justice, and perhaps his knowledge of its antecedents, combined
with his own experience in that wise, gave him a reliance on its powers as a
sort of legal spell or charm. On this first occasion of his producing it, I
recalled how he had made me swear fidelity in the churchyard long ago, and how
he had described himself last night as always swearing to his resolutions in his
As he was at present dressed in a seafaring slop suit, in which he looked
as if he had some parrots and cigars to dispose of, I next discussed with him
what dress he should wear. He cherished an extraordinary belief in the virtues
of "shorts" as a disguise, and had in his own mind sketched a dress for himself
that would have made him something between a dean and a dentist. It was with
considerable difficulty that I won him over to the assumption of a dress more
like a prosperous farmer's; and we arranged that he should cut his hair close,
and wear a little powder. Lastly, as he had not yet been seen by the laundress
or her niece, he was to keep himself out of their view until his change of dress
It would seem a simple matter to decide on these precautions; but in my
dazed, not to say distracted, state, it took so long, that I did not get out to
further them, until two or three in the afternoon. He was to remain shut up in
the chambers while I was gone, and was on no account to open the door.
There being to my knowledge a respectable lodging-house in Essex-street,
the back of which looked into the Temple, and was almost within hail of my
windows, I first of all repaired to that house, and was so fortunate as to
secure the second floor for my uncle, Mr. Provis. I then went from shop to
shop, making such purchases as were necessary to the change in his appearance.
This business transacted, I turned my face, on my own account, to Little
Britain. Mr. Jaggers was at his desk, but, seeing me enter, got up immediately
and stood before his fire.
"Now, Pip," said he, "be careful."
"I will, sir," I returned. For, coming along I had thought well of what I
was going to say.
"Don't commit yourself," said Mr. Jaggers, "and don't commit any one. You
understand - any one. Don't tell me anything: I don't want to know anything; I
am not curious."
Of course I saw that he knew the man was come.
"I merely want, Mr. Jaggers," said I, "to assure myself that what I have
been told, is true. I have no hope of its being untrue, but at least I may
Mr. Jaggers nodded. "But did you say 'told' or 'informed'?" he asked me,
with his head on one side, and not looking at me, but looking in a listening way
at the floor. "Told would seem to imply verbal communication. You can't have
verbal communication with a man in New South Wales, you know."
"I will say, informed, Mr. Jaggers."
"I have been informed by a person named Abel Magwitch, that he is the
benefactor so long unknown to me."
"That is the man," said Mr. Jaggers," - in New South Wales."
"And only he?" said I.
"And only he," said Mr. Jaggers.
"I am not so unreasonable, sir, as to think you at all responsible for my
mistakes and wrong conclusions; but I always supposed it was Miss Havisham."
"As you say, Pip," returned Mr. Jaggers, turning his eyes upon me coolly,
and taking a bite at his forefinger, "I am not at all responsible for that."
"And yet it looked so like it, sir," I pleaded with a downcast heart.
"Not a particle of evidence, Pip," said Mr. Jaggers, shaking his head and
gathering up his skirts. "Take nothing on its looks; take everything on
evidence. There's no better rule."
"I have no more to say," said I, with a sigh, after standing silent for a
little while. "I have verified my information, and there's an end."
"And Magwitch - in New South Wales - having at last disclosed himself,"
said Mr. Jaggers, "you will comprehend, Pip, how rigidly throughout my
communication with you, I have always adhered to the strict line of fact. There
has never been the least departure from the strict line of fact. You are quite
aware of that?"
"I communicated to Magwitch - in New South Wales - when he first wrote to
me - from New South Wales - the caution that he must not expect me ever to
deviate from the strict line of fact. I also communicated to him another
caution. He appeared to me to have obscurely hinted in his letter at some
distant idea he had of seeing you in England here. I cautioned him that I must
hear no more of that; that he was not at all likely to obtain a pardon; that he
was expatriated for the term of his natural life; and that his presenting
himself in this country would be an act of felony, rendering him liable to the
extreme penalty of the law. I gave Magwitch that caution," said Mr. Jaggers,
looking hard at me; "I wrote it to New South Wales. He guided himself by it, no
"No doubt," said I.
"I have been informed by Wemmick," pursued Mr. Jaggers, still looking hard
at me, "that he has received a letter, under date Portsmouth, from a colonist of
the name of Purvis, or--"