I expressed the readiness I felt, and we went into the castle. There, we found, sitting by a fire, a very old man in a flannel coat: clean, cheerful, comfortable, and well cared for, but intensely deaf.
“Well aged parent,” said Wemmick, shaking hands with him in a cordial and jocose way, “how am you?”
“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.