“To the office?” said I, for he was tending in that direction.
“Next thing to it,” returned Wemmick, “I am going to Newgate. We are in a banker’s-parcel case just at present, and I have been down the road taking as squint at the scene of action, and thereupon must have a word or two with our client.”
“Did your client commit the robbery?” I asked.
“Bless your soul and body, no,” answered Wemmick, very drily. “But he is accused of it. So might you or I be. Either of us might be accused of it, you know.”
“Only neither of us is,” I remarked.
“Yah!” said Wemmick, touching me on the breast with his forefinger; “you’re a deep one, Mr. Pip! Would you like to have a look at Newgate? Have you time to spare?”
I had so much time to spare, that the proposal came as a relief, notwithstanding its irreconcilability with my latent desire to keep my eye on the coach-office. Muttering that I would make the inquiry whether I had time to walk with him, I went into the office, and ascertained from the clerk with the nicest precision and much to the trying of his temper, the earliest moment at which the coach could be expected — which I knew beforehand, quite as well as he. I then rejoined Mr. Wemmick, and affecting to consult my watch and to be surprised by the information I had received, accepted his offer.
We were at Newgate in a few minutes, and we passed through the lodge where some fetters were hanging up on the bare walls among the prison rules, into the interior of the jail. At that time, jails were much neglected, and the period of exaggerated reaction consequent on all public wrong-doing — and which is always its heaviest and longest punishment — was still far off. So, felons were not lodged and fed better than soldiers (to say nothing of paupers), and seldom set fire to their prisons with the excusable object of improving the flavour of their soup. It was visiting time when Wemmick took me in; and a potman was going his rounds with beer; and the prisoners, behind bars in yards, were buying beer, and talking to friends; and a frouzy, ugly, disorderly, depressing scene it was.
It struck me that Wemmick walked among the prisoners, much as a gardener might walk among his plants. This was first put into my head by his seeing a shoot that had come up in the night, and saying, “What, Captain Tom? Are you there? Ah, indeed!” and also, “Is that Black Bill behind the cistern? Why I didn’t look for you these two months; how do you find yourself?” Equally in his stopping at the bars and attending to anxious whisperers — always singly — Wemmick with his post-office in an immovable state, looked at them while in conference, as if he were taking particular notice of the advance they had made, since last observed, towards coming out in full blow at their trial.