Charles Dickens


wondered how many other clerks there were up-stairs, and whether

they all claimed to have the same detrimental mastery of their

fellow-creatures. I wondered what was the history of all the odd

litter about the room, and how it came there. I wondered whether

the two swollen faces were of Mr. Jaggers's family, and, if he were

so unfortunate as to have had a pair of such ill-looking relations,

why he stuck them on that dusty perch for the blacks and flies to

settle on, instead of giving them a place at home. Of course I had

no experience of a London summer day, and my spirits may have been

oppressed by the hot exhausted air, and by the dust and grit that

lay thick on everything. But I sat wondering and waiting in Mr.

Jaggers's close room, until I really could not bear the two casts

on the shelf above Mr. Jaggers's chair, and got up and went out.

When I told the clerk that I would take a turn in the air while I

waited, he advised me to go round the corner and I should come into

Smithfield. So, I came into Smithfield; and the shameful place,

being all asmear with filth and fat and blood and foam, seemed to

stick to me. So, I rubbed it off with all possible speed by turning

into a street where I saw the great black dome of Saint Paul's

bulging at me from behind a grim stone building which a bystander

said was Newgate Prison. Following the wall of the jail, I found

the roadway covered with straw to deaden the noise of passing

vehicles; and from this, and from the quantity of people standing

about, smelling strongly of spirits and beer, I inferred that the

trials were on.

While I looked about me here, an exceedingly dirty and partially

drunk minister of justice asked me if I would like to step in and

hear a trial or so: informing me that he could give me a front

place for half-a-crown, whence I should command a full view of the

Lord Chief Justice in his wig and robes - mentioning that awful

personage like waxwork, and presently offering him at the reduced

price of eighteenpence. As I declined the proposal on the plea of

an appointment, he was so good as to take me into a yard and show

me where the gallows was kept, and also where people were publicly

whipped, and then he showed me the Debtors' Door, out of which

culprits came to be hanged: heightening the interest of that

dreadful portal by giving me to understand that "four on 'em" would

come out at that door the day after to-morrow at eight in the

morning, to be killed in a row. This was horrible, and gave me a

sickening idea of London: the more so as the Lord Chief Justice's

proprietor wore (from his hat down to his boots and up again to his

pocket-handkerchief inclusive) mildewed clothes, which had

evidently not belonged to him originally, and which, I took it into

my head, he had bought cheap of the executioner. Under these

circumstances I thought myself well rid of him for a shilling.

I dropped into the office to ask if Mr. Jaggers had come in yet, and

I found he had not, and I strolled out again. This time, I made the

tour of Little Britain, and turned into Bartholomew Close; and now

I became aware that other people were waiting about for Mr. Jaggers,

as well as I. There were two men of secret appearance lounging in

Bartholomew Close, and thoughtfully fitting their feet into the

cracks of the pavement as they talked together, one of whom said to

the other when they first passed me, that "Jaggers would do it if

it was to be done." There was a knot of three men and two women

standing at a corner, and one of the women was crying on her dirty

shawl, and the other comforted her by saying, as she pulled her own

shawl over her shoulders, "Jaggers is for him, 'Melia, and what

more could you have?" There was a red-eyed little Jew who came into

the Close while I was loitering there, in company with a second

little Jew whom he sent upon an errand; and while the messenger was

gone, I remarked this Jew, who was of a highly excitable

temperament, performing a jig of anxiety under a lamp-post and

accompanying himself, in a kind of frenzy, with the words, "Oh

Jaggerth, Jaggerth, Jaggerth! all otherth ith Cag-Maggerth, give me

Jaggerth!" These testimonies to the popularity of my guardian made

a deep impression on me, and I admired and wondered more than ever.