BY CHARLES DICKENS.
HE was taken to the Police Court next day,
and would have been immediately committed for
trial, but that it was necessary to send down for
an old officer of the prison-ship from which he
had once escaped, to speak to his identity.
No-body doubted it; but, Compeyson, who had meant
to depose to it, was tumbling on the tides, dead,
and it happened that there was not at that time
any prison officer in London who could give the
required evidence. I had gone direct to Mr.
Jaggers at his private house, on my arrival
over-night, to retain his assistance, and Mr. Jaggers
on the prisoner's behalf would admit nothing.
It was the sole resource, for he told me that the
case must be over in five minutes when the
witness was there, and that no power on earth
could prevent its going against us.
I imparted to Mr. Jaggers my design of keeping
him in ignorance of the fate of his wealth. Mr.
Jaggers was querulous and angry with me for
having "let it slip through my fingers," and said
we must memorialise by-and-by, and try at all
events for some of it. But, he did not conceal from
me that although there might be many cases in
which the forfeiture would not be exacted, there
were no circumstances in this case to make it
one of them. I understood that, very well. I
not related to the outlaw, or connected with
him by any recognisable tie; he had put his
hand to no writing or settlement in my favour
before his apprehension, and to do so now would
be idle. I had no claim, and I finally
resolved, and ever afterwards abided by the
resolution, that my heart should never be sickened
with the hopeless task of attempting to
There appeared to be reason for supposing
that the drowned informer had hoped for a
reward out of this forfeiture, and had obtained
some accurate knowledge of Magwitch's affairs.
When his body was found, many miles from the
scene of his death, and so horribly disfigured
that he was only recognisable by the
contents of his pockets, notes were still legible,
folded in a case he carried. Among these,
were the name of a banking-house in New
South Wales where a sum of money was, and
the designation of certain lands of considerable
value. Both these heads of information were in
a list that Magwitch, while in prison, gave to
Mr. Jaggers, of the possessions he supposed I
should inherit. His ignorance, poor fellow, at
hist served him; he never mistrusted but that
my inheritance was quite safe, with Mr.
After three days' delay, during which the
crown prosecution stood over for the production
of the witness from the prison-ship, the witness
came, and completed the easy case. He was
committed to take his trial at the next Sessions,
which would come on in a month.
It was at this dark time of my life that
Herbert returned home one evening, a good deal
cast down, and said:
"My dear Handel, I fear I shall soon have to
His partner having prepared me for that, I
was less surprised than he thought.
"We shall lose a fine opportunity if I put off
going to Cairo, and I am very much afraid I
must go, Handel, when you most need me."
"Herbert, I shall always need you, because I
shall always love you; but my need is no greater
now, than at another time."
"You will be so lonely."
"I have not leisure to think of that," said I.
"You know that I am always with him to the
full extent of the time allowed, and that I should
be with him all day long, if I could. And when
I come away from him, you know that my
thoughts are with him."
The dreadful condition to which he was
brought, was so appalling to both of us, that
we could not refer to it in plainer words.
"My dear fellow," said Herbert, "let the
near prospect of our separation—for, it is very
near—be my justification for troubling you
about yourself. Have you thought of your
"No, for I have been afraid to think of any
"But, yours cannot be dismissed; indeed, my
dear dear Handel, it must not be dismissed. I
wish you would enter on it now, as far as a few
friendly words go, with me."
"I will," said I.
"In this branch house of ours, Handel, we
must have a—"
I saw that his delicacy was avoiding the
right word, so I said, "A clerk."
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