MR. WEMMICK’S “CASTLE”
1. MR. WEMMICK’S “CASTLE”
Wemmick’s house was a little wooden cottage in the middle of a large garden. The top of the house had been built and painted like a battery loaded with guns. I said I really liked it.
I think Wemmick’s house was the tiniest I had ever seen. It had very few windows, and the door was almost too small to get in.
‘Look’, said Wemmick, ‘after I have crossed this bridge, I raise it so that nobody can enter the Castle.’
The ’bridge’ was a plank, and it crossed a gap about four feet wide and two deep. But I enjoyed seeing the smile on Wemmick’s face and the pride with which he hoisted his bridge. The gun on the roof of the house, he told me, was fired every night at nine o’clock. I later heard it. Admittedly, it made an impressive sound.
‘At the back,’ he said, ‘there are fowls and rabbits. I have also got my own little vegetable garden, and I grow cucumbers. Wait until supper and you’ll see for yourself what kind of salad I can make. If the Castle is ever attacked, I will be able to hold out for quite a while,’ he said with a smile, but at the same time seriously.
He led me to a little leafy shelter which was only a few metres away, but the path that led to it was so winding that it took us quite a while to get there. It was here that our glasses were set out. Our drink of punch was cooling in an ornamental pond, on whose bank the shelter was built. The pond has a small ‘island’ in the middle, where Wemmick had built a fountain.
‘I am my own engineer, my own carpenter, my own plumber and my own gardener. I am my own Jack of all Trades,’ said Wemmick, acknowledging my compliments. ‘Well, it’s a good thing, you know. It pleases the Aged Parent. You would not mind being introduced to him, would you? It wouldn’t bother you?
I felt that I could only agree. Inside, we found a very old man in a flannel coat sitting by a fire. He was clean, cheerful and well cared for, but almost completely deaf. We paid our respects and made some small conversation. Then, Wemmick showed me his collection of curiousities. They were mostly to do with being on the wrong side of the law: a pen with which a famous forgery had been committed, a couple of distinguished razors, some locks of hair, several manuscript confessions written from the prison. These were nicely spread out among small items of porcelain and glass and various things made by Wemmick himself. They were all in that room of the Castle that served not only as the sitting room, but judging from the saucepan on the hob, as the kitchen, too.
We returned to the garden to drink our punch. Wemmick told me that it had taken him many years to bring his property to this state of perfection.
‘Is it your own, Mr. Wemmick?’
‘Oh yes, I have got a hold of it a bit at a time. I have absolute ownership now.’
‘Do you indeed? I hope Mr. Jaggers admires it?’
‘Never seen it,’ said Wemmick, ‘never heard of it. No; the office is one thing, and private life is another. When I go to the office, I leave the Castle behind me, and when I come into the Castle, I live the office behind me. If you don’t mind, I’d like you to do the same. I don’t want to talk about my home in a professional manner.’
(Upstream Upper-Intermediate B2+)