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- Great Expectations - 170/210 -


"Well!" Wemmick replied, "I don't know her story - that is, I don't

know all of it. But what I do know, I'll tell you. We are in our

private and personal capacities, of course."

"Of course."

"A score or so of years ago, that woman was tried at the Old Bailey

for murder, and was acquitted. She was a very handsome young woman,

and I believe had some gipsy blood in her. Anyhow, it was hot enough

when it was up, as you may suppose."

"But she was acquitted."

"Mr. Jaggers was for her," pursued Wemmick, with a look full of

meaning, "and worked the case in a way quite astonishing. It was a

desperate case, and it was comparatively early days with him then,

and he worked it to general admiration; in fact, it may almost be

said to have made him. He worked it himself at the police-office,

day after day for many days, contending against even a committal;

and at the trial where he couldn't work it himself, sat under

Counsel, and - every one knew - put in all the salt and pepper. The

murdered person was a woman; a woman, a good ten years older, very

much larger, and very much stronger. It was a case of jealousy.

They both led tramping lives, and this woman in Gerrard-street here

had been married very young, over the broomstick (as we say), to a

tramping man, and was a perfect fury in point of jealousy. The

murdered woman - more a match for the man, certainly, in point of

years - was found dead in a barn near Hounslow Heath. There had

been a violent struggle, perhaps a fight. She was bruised and

scratched and torn, and had been held by the throat at last and

choked. Now, there was no reasonable evidence to implicate any

person but this woman, and, on the improbabilities of her having

been able to do it, Mr. Jaggers principally rested his case. You may

be sure," said Wemmick, touching me on the sleeve, "that he never

dwelt upon the strength of her hands then, though he sometimes does

now."

I had told Wemmick of his showing us her wrists, that day of the

dinner party.

"Well, sir!" Wemmick went on; "it happened - happened, don't you

see? - that this woman was so very artfully dressed from the time

of her apprehension, that she looked much slighter than she really

was; in particular, her sleeves are always remembered to have been

so skilfully contrived that her arms had quite a delicate look. She

had only a bruise or two about her - nothing for a tramp - but the

backs of her hands were lacerated, and the question was, was it

with finger-nails? Now, Mr. Jaggers showed that she had struggled

through a great lot of brambles which were not as high as her face;

but which she could not have got through and kept her hands out of;

and bits of those brambles were actually found in her skin and put

in evidence, as well as the fact that the brambles in question were

found on examination to have been broken through, and to have

little shreds of her dress and little spots of blood upon them here

and there. But the boldest point he made, was this. It was

attempted to be set up in proof of her jealousy, that she was under

strong suspicion of having, at about the time of the murder,

frantically destroyed her child by this man - some three years old

- to revenge herself upon him. Mr. Jaggers worked that, in this way.

"We say these are not marks of finger-nails, but marks of brambles,

and we show you the brambles. You say they are marks of

finger-nails, and you set up the hypothesis that she destroyed her

child. You must accept all consequences of that hypothesis. For

anything we know, she may have destroyed her child, and the child

in clinging to her may have scratched her hands. What then? You are

not trying her for the murder of her child; why don't you? As to

this case, if you will have scratches, we say that, for anything we

know, you may have accounted for them, assuming for the sake of

argument that you have not invented them!" To sum up, sir," said

Wemmick, "Mr. Jaggers was altogether too many for the Jury, and they

gave in."

"Has she been in his service ever since?"

"Yes; but not only that," said Wemmick. "She went into his service

immediately after her acquittal, tamed as she is now. She has since

been taught one thing and another in the way of her duties, but she

was tamed from the beginning."

"Do you remember the sex of the child?"

"Said to have been a girl."

"You have nothing more to say to me to-night?"

"Nothing. I got your letter and destroyed it. Nothing."

We exchanged a cordial Good Night, and I went home, with new matter

for my thoughts, though with no relief from the old.

Chapter 49

Putting Miss Havisham's note in my pocket, that it might serve as

my credentials for so soon reappearing at Satis House, in case her

waywardness should lead her to express any surprise at seeing me, I

went down again by the coach next day. But I alighted at the

Halfway House, and breakfasted there, and walked the rest of the

distance; for, I sought to get into the town quietly by the

unfrequented ways, and to leave it in the same manner.


Great Expectations - 170/210

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