“It shall be done, sir?”
“All right,” said Wemmick, “they shall be taken care of. Good afternoon, Colonel. Good-bye!” They shook hands again, and as we walked away Wemmick said to me, “A Coiner, a very good workman. The Recorder’s report is made to-day, and he is sure to be executed on Monday. Still you see, as far as it goes, a pair of pigeons are portable property, all the same.” With that, he looked back, and nodded at this dead plant, and then cast his eyes about him in walking out of the yard, as if he were considering what other pot would go best in its place.
As we came out of the prison through the lodge, I found that the great importance of my guardian was appreciated by the turnkeys, no less than by those whom they held in charge. “Well, Mr. Wemmick,” said the turnkey, who kept us between the two studded and spiked lodge gates, and who carefully locked one before he unlocked the other, “what’s Mr. Jaggers going to do with that waterside murder? Is he going to make it manslaughter, or what’s he going to make of it?”
“Why don’t you ask him?” returned Wemmick.
“Oh yes, I dare say!” said the turnkey.
“Now, that’s the way with them here. Mr. Pip,” remarked Wemmick, turning to me with his post-office elongated. “They don’t mind what they ask of me, the subordinate; but you’ll never catch ’em asking any questions of my principal.”
“Is this young gentleman one of the ’prentices or articled ones of your office?” asked the turnkey, with a grin at Mr. Wemmick’s humour.
“There he goes again, you see!” cried Wemmick, “I told you so! Asks another question of the subordinate before his first is dry! Well, supposing Mr. Pip is one of them?”
“Why then,” said the turnkey, grinning again, “he knows what Mr. Jaggers is.”
“Yah!” cried Wemmick, suddenly hitting out at the turnkey in a facetious way, “you’re dumb as one of your own keys when you have to do with my principal, you know you are. Let us out, you old fox, or I’ll get him to bring an action against you for false imprisonment.”
The turnkey laughed, and gave us good day, and stood laughing at us over the spikes of the wicket when we descended the steps into the street.
“Mind you, Mr. Pip,” said Wemmick, gravely in my ear, as he took my arm to be more confidential; “I don’t know that Mr. Jaggers does a better thing than the way in which he keeps himself so high. He’s always so high. His constant height is of a piece with his immense abilities. That Colonel durst no more take leave of him, than that turnkey durst ask him his intentions respecting a case. Then, between his height and them, he slips in his subordinate — don’t you see? — and so he has ’em, soul and body.”
I was very much impressed, and not for the first time, by my guardian’s subtlety. To confess the truth, I very heartily wished, and not for the first time, that I had had some other guardian of minor abilities.