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- Great Expectations - 90/210 -


"All right, John; all right!" replied the old man.

"Here's Mr. Pip, aged parent," said Wemmick, "and I wish you could

hear his name. Nod away at him, Mr. Pip; that's what he likes. Nod

away at him, if you please, like winking!"

"This is a fine place of my son's, sir," cried the old man, while I

nodded as hard as I possibly could. "This is a pretty

pleasure-ground, sir. This spot and these beautiful works upon it

ought to be kept together by the Nation, after my son's time, for

the people's enjoyment."

"You're as proud of it as Punch; ain't you, Aged?" said Wemmick,

contemplating the old man, with his hard face really softened;

"there's a nod for you;" giving him a tremendous one; "there's

another for you;" giving him a still more tremendous one; "you like

that, don't you? If you're not tired, Mr. Pip - though I know it's

tiring to strangers - will you tip him one more? You can't think

how it pleases him."

I tipped him several more, and he was in great spirits. We left him

bestirring himself to feed the fowls, and we sat down to our punch

in the arbour; where Wemmick told me as he smoked a pipe that it

had taken him a good many years to bring the property up to its

present pitch of perfection.

"Is it your own, Mr. Wemmick?"

"O yes," said Wemmick, "I have got hold of it, a bit at a time.

It's a freehold, by George!"

"Is it, indeed? I hope Mr. Jaggers admires it?"

"Never seen it," said Wemmick. "Never heard of it. Never seen the

Aged. Never heard of him. No; the office is one thing, and private

life is another. When I go into the office, I leave the Castle

behind me, and when I come into the Castle, I leave the office

behind me. If it's not in any way disagreeable to you, you'll

oblige me by doing the same. I don't wish it professionally spoken

about."

Of course I felt my good faith involved in the observance of his

request. The punch being very nice, we sat there drinking it and

talking, until it was almost nine o'clock. "Getting near gun-fire,"

said Wemmick then, as he laid down his pipe; "it's the Aged's

treat."

Proceeding into the Castle again, we found the Aged heating the

poker, with expectant eyes, as a preliminary to the performance of

this great nightly ceremony. Wemmick stood with his watch in his

hand, until the moment was come for him to take the red-hot poker

from the Aged, and repair to the battery. He took it, and went out,

and presently the Stinger went off with a Bang that shook the crazy

little box of a cottage as if it must fall to pieces, and made

every glass and teacup in it ring. Upon this, the Aged - who I

believe would have been blown out of his arm-chair but for holding

on by the elbows - cried out exultingly, "He's fired! I heerd him!"

and I nodded at the old gentleman until it is no figure of speech

to declare that I absolutely could not see him.

The interval between that time and supper, Wemmick devoted to

showing me his collection of curiosities. They were mostly of a

felonious character; comprising the pen with which a celebrated

forgery had been committed, a distinguished razor or two, some

locks of hair, and several manuscript confessions written under

condemnation - upon which Mr. Wemmick set particular value as being,

to use his own words, "every one of 'em Lies, sir." These were

agreeably dispersed among small specimens of china and glass,

various neat trifles made by the proprietor of the museum, and some

tobacco-stoppers carved by the Aged. They were all displayed in

that chamber of the Castle into which I had been first inducted,

and which served, not only as the general sitting-room but as the

kitchen too, if I might judge from a saucepan on the hob, and a

brazen bijou over the fireplace designed for the suspension of a

roasting-jack.

There was a neat little girl in attendance, who looked after the

Aged in the day. When she had laid the supper-cloth, the bridge was

lowered to give her means of egress, and she withdrew for the

night. The supper was excellent; and though the Castle was rather

subject to dry-rot insomuch that it tasted like a bad nut, and

though the pig might have been farther off, I was heartily pleased

with my whole entertainment. Nor was there any drawback on my

little turret bedroom, beyond there being such a very thin ceiling

between me and the flagstaff, that when I lay down on my back in

bed, it seemed as if I had to balance that pole on my forehead all

night.

Wemmick was up early in the morning, and I am afraid I heard him

cleaning my boots. After that, he fell to gardening, and I saw him

from my gothic window pretending to employ the Aged, and nodding at

him in a most devoted manner. Our breakfast was as good as the

supper, and at half-past eight precisely we started for Little

Britain. By degrees, Wemmick got dryer and harder as we went along,

and his mouth tightened into a post-office again. At last, when we

got to his place of business and he pulled out his key from his

coat-collar, he looked as unconscious of his Walworth property as

if the Castle and the drawbridge and the arbour and the lake and

the fountain and the Aged, had all been blown into space together


Great Expectations - 90/210

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