Charles Dickens

Chapter 26

It fell out as Wemmick had told me it would, that I had an early

opportunity of comparing my guardian's establishment with that of

his cashier and clerk. My guardian was in his room, washing his

hands with his scented soap, when I went into the office from

Walworth; and he called me to him, and gave me the invitation for

myself and friends which Wemmick had prepared me to receive. "No

ceremony," he stipulated, "and no dinner dress, and say tomorrow."

I asked him where we should come to (for I had no idea where he

lived), and I believe it was in his general objection to make

anything like an admission, that he replied, "Come here, and I'll

take you home with me." I embrace this opportunity of remarking

that he washed his clients off, as if he were a surgeon or a

dentist. He had a closet in his room, fitted up for the purpose,

which smelt of the scented soap like a perfumer's shop. It had an

unusually large jack-towel on a roller inside the door, and he

would wash his hands, and wipe them and dry them all over this

towel, whenever he came in from a police-court or dismissed a

client from his room. When I and my friends repaired to him at six

o'clock next day, he seemed to have been engaged on a case of a

darker complexion than usual, for, we found him with his head

butted into this closet, not only washing his hands, but laving his

face and gargling his throat. And even when he had done all that,

and had gone all round the jack-towel, he took out his penknife and

scraped the case out of his nails before he put his coat on.

There were some people slinking about as usual when we passed out

into the street, who were evidently anxious to speak with him; but

there was something so conclusive in the halo of scented soap which

encircled his presence, that they gave it up for that day. As we

walked along westward, he was recognized ever and again by some

face in the crowd of the streets, and whenever that happened he

talked louder to me; but he never otherwise recognized anybody, or

took notice that anybody recognized him.

He conducted us to Gerrard-street, Soho, to a house on the south

side of that street. Rather a stately house of its kind, but

dolefully in want of painting, and with dirty windows. He took out

his key and opened the door, and we all went into a stone hall,

bare, gloomy, and little used. So, up a dark brown staircase into a

series of three dark brown rooms on the first floor. There were

carved garlands on the panelled walls, and as he stood among them

giving us welcome, I know what kind of loops I thought they looked


Dinner was laid in the best of these rooms; the second was his

dressing-room; the third, his bedroom. He told us that he held the

whole house, but rarely used more of it than we saw. The table was

comfortably laid - no silver in the service, of course - and at the

side of his chair was a capacious dumb-waiter, with a variety of

bottles and decanters on it, and four dishes of fruit for dessert.

I noticed throughout, that he kept everything under his own hand,

and distributed everything himself.

There was a bookcase in the room; I saw, from the backs of the

books, that they were about evidence, criminal law, criminal

biography, trials, acts of parliament, and such things. The

furniture was all very solid and good, like his watch-chain. It had

an official look, however, and there was nothing merely ornamental

to be seen. In a corner, was a little table of papers with a shaded

lamp: so that he seemed to bring the office home with him in that

respect too, and to wheel it out of an evening and fall to work.

As he had scarcely seen my three companions until now - for, he and

I had walked together - he stood on the hearth-rug, after ringing

the bell, and took a searching look at them. To my surprise, he

seemed at once to be principally if not solely interested in