Chapter 36

HERBERT and I went on from bad to worse, in the way of increasing our debts, looking into our affairs, leaving Margins, and the like exemplary transactions; and Time went on, whether or no, as he has a way of doing; and I came of age - in fulfilment of Herbert's prediction, that I should do so before I knew where I was.

Herbert himself had come of age, eight months before me. As he had nothing else than his majority to come into, the event did not make a profound sensation in Barnard's Inn. But we had looked forward to my one-and-twentieth birthday, with a crowd of speculations and anticipations, for we had both considered that my guardian could hardly help saying something definite on that occasion.

I had taken care to have it well understood in Little Britain, when my birthday was. On the day before it, I received an official note from Wemmick, informing me that Mr Jaggers would be glad if I would call upon him at five in the afternoon of the auspicious day. This convinced us that something great was to happen, and threw me into an unusual flutter when I repaired to my guardian's office, a model of punctuality.

In the outer office Wemmick offered me his congratulations, and incidentally rubbed the side of his nose with a folded piece of tissuepaper that I liked the look of. But he said nothing respecting it, and motioned me with a nod into my guardian's room. It was November, and my guardian was standing before his fire leaning his back against the chimney-piece, with his hands under his coattails.

`Well, Pip,' said he, `I must call you Mr Pip to-day. Congratulations, Mr Pip.'

We shook hands - he was always a remarkably short shaker - and I thanked him.

`Take a chair, Mr Pip,' said my guardian.

As I sat down, and he preserved his attitude and bent his brows at his boots, I felt at a disadvantage, which reminded me of that old time when I had been put upon a tombstone. The two ghastly casts on the shelf were not far from him, and their expression was as if they were making a stupid apoplectic attempt to attend to the conversation.

`Now my young friend,' my guardian began, as if I were a witness in the box, `I am going to have a word or two with you.'

`If you please, sir.'

`What do you suppose,' said Mr Jaggers, bending forward to look at the ground, and then throwing his head back to look at the ceiling, `what do you suppose you are living at the rate of?'

`At the rate of, sir?'

`At,' repeated Mr Jaggers, still looking at the ceiling, `the - rate - of?' And then looked all round the room, and paused with his pocket-handkerchief in his hand, half way to his nose.

I had looked into my affairs so often, that I had thoroughly destroyed any slight notion I might ever have had of their bearings. Reluctantly, I confessed myself quite unable to answer the question. This reply seemed agreeable to Mr Jaggers, who said, `I thought so!' and blew his nose with an air of satisfaction.

`Now, I have asked you a question, my friend,' said Mr Jaggers. `Have you anything to ask me?'

`Of course it would be a great relief to me to ask you several questions, sir; but I remember your prohibition.'

`Ask one,' said Mr Jaggers.

`Is my benefactor to be made known to me to-day?'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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