At the appointed time I returned to Miss Havisham’s, and my hesitating ring a_he gate brought out Estella. She locked it after admitting me, as she ha_one before, and again preceded me into the dark passage where her candl_tood. She took no notice of me until she had the candle in her hand, when sh_ooked over her shoulder, superciliously saying, “You are to come this way to- day,” and took me to quite another part of the house.
The passage was a long one, and seemed to pervade the whole square basement o_he Manor House. We traversed but one side of the square, however, and at th_nd of it she stopped, and put her candle down and opened a door. Here, th_aylight reappeared, and I found myself in a small paved courtyard, th_pposite side of which was formed by a detached dwelling-house, that looked a_f it had once belonged to the manager or head clerk of the extinct brewery.
There was a clock in the outer wall of this house. Like the clock in Mis_avisham’s room, and like Miss Havisham’s watch, it had stopped at twent_inutes to nine.
We went in at the door, which stood open, and into a gloomy room with a lo_eiling, on the ground-floor at the back. There was some company in the room, and Estella said to me as she joined it, “You are to go and stand there boy, till you are wanted.” “There”, being the window, I crossed to it, and stood “there,” in a very uncomfortable state of mind, looking out.
It opened to the ground, and looked into a most miserable corner of th_eglected garden, upon a rank ruin of cabbage-stalks, and one box-tree tha_ad been clipped round long ago, like a pudding, and had a new growth at th_op of it, out of shape and of a different color, as if that part of th_udding had stuck to the saucepan and got burnt. This was my homely thought, as I contemplated the box-tree. There had been some light snow, overnight, an_t lay nowhere else to my knowledge; but, it had not quite melted from th_old shadow of this bit of garden, and the wind caught it up in little eddie_nd threw it at the window, as if it pelted me for coming there.
I divined that my coming had stopped conversation in the room, and that it_ther occupants were looking at me. I could see nothing of the room except th_hining of the fire in the window-glass, but I stiffened in all my joints wit_he consciousness that I was under close inspection.
There were three ladies in the room and one gentleman. Before I had bee_tanding at the window five minutes, they somehow conveyed to me that the_ere all toadies and humbugs, but that each of them pretended not to know tha_he others were toadies and humbugs: because the admission that he or she di_now it, would have made him or her out to be a toady and humbug.
They all had a listless and dreary air of waiting somebody’s pleasure, and th_ost talkative of the ladies had to speak quite rigidly to repress a yawn.
This lady, whose name was Camilla, very much reminded me of my sister, wit_he difference that she was older, and (as I found when I caught sight of her) of a blunter cast of features. Indeed, when I knew her better I began to thin_t was a Mercy she had any features at all, so very blank and high was th_ead wall of her face.
“Poor dear soul!” said this lady, with an abruptness of manner quite m_ister’s. “Nobody’s enemy but his own!”
“It would be much more commendable to be somebody else’s enemy,” said th_entleman; “far more natural.”
“Cousin Raymond,” observed another lady, “we are to love our neighbor.”
“Sarah Pocket,” returned Cousin Raymond, “if a man is not his own neighbor, who is?”
Miss Pocket laughed, and Camilla laughed and said (checking a yawn), “Th_dea!” But I thought they seemed to think it rather a good idea too. The othe_ady, who had not spoken yet, said gravely and emphatically, “Very true!”
“Poor soul!” Camilla presently went on (I knew they had all been looking at m_n the mean time), “he is so very strange! Would anyone believe that whe_om’s wife died, he actually could not be induced to see the importance of th_hildren’s having the deepest of trimmings to their mourning? ‘Good Lord!’ says he, ‘Camilla, what can it signify so long as the poor bereaved littl_hings are in black?’ So like Matthew! The idea!”
“Good points in him, good points in him,” said Cousin Raymond; “Heaven forbi_ should deny good points in him; but he never had, and he never will have, any sense of the proprieties.”
“You know I was obliged,” said Camilla,—“I was obliged to be firm. I said, ‘I_ill not do, for the credit of the family.’ I told him that, without dee_rimmings, the family was disgraced. I cried about it from breakfast til_inner. I injured my digestion. And at last he flung out in his violent way, and said, with a D, ‘Then do as you like.’ Thank Goodness it will always be _onsolation to me to know that I instantly went out in a pouring rain an_ought the things.”
“He paid for them, did he not?” asked Estella.
“It’s not the question, my dear child, who paid for them,” returned Camilla.
“I bought them. And I shall often think of that with peace, when I wake up i_he night.”
The ringing of a distant bell, combined with the echoing of some cry or cal_long the passage by which I had come, interrupted the conversation and cause_stella to say to me, “Now, boy!” On my turning round, they all looked at m_ith the utmost contempt, and, as I went out, I heard Sarah Pocket say, “Wel_ am sure! What next!” and Camilla add, with indignation, “Was there ever suc_ fancy! The i-de-a!”
As we were going with our candle along the dark passage, Estella stopped al_f a sudden, and, facing round, said in her taunting manner, with her fac_uite close to mine,—
“Well, miss?” I answered, almost falling over her and checking myself.
She stood looking at me, and, of course, I stood looking at her.
“Am I pretty?”
“Yes; I think you are very pretty.”
“Am I insulting?”
“Not so much so as you were last time,” said I.
“Not so much so?”
She fired when she asked the last question, and she slapped my face with suc_orce as she had, when I answered it.
“Now?” said she. “You little coarse monster, what do you think of me now?”
“I shall not tell you.”
“Because you are going to tell up stairs. Is that it?”
“No,” said I, “that’s not it.”
“Why don’t you cry again, you little wretch?”
“Because I’ll never cry for you again,” said I. Which was, I suppose, as fals_ declaration as ever was made; for I was inwardly crying for her then, and _now what I know of the pain she cost me afterwards.
We went on our way up stairs after this episode; and, as we were going up, w_et a gentleman groping his way down.
“Whom have we here?” asked the gentleman, stopping and looking at me.
“A boy,” said Estella.
He was a burly man of an exceedingly dark complexion, with an exceedingl_arge head, and a corresponding large hand. He took my chin in his large han_nd turned up my face to have a look at me by the light of the candle. He wa_rematurely bald on the top of his head, and had bushy black eyebrows tha_ouldn’t lie down but stood up bristling. His eyes were set very deep in hi_ead, and were disagreeably sharp and suspicious. He had a large watch-chain, and strong black dots where his beard and whiskers would have been if he ha_et them. He was nothing to me, and I could have had no foresight then, tha_e ever would be anything to me, but it happened that I had this opportunit_f observing him well.
“Boy of the neighborhood? Hey?” said he.
“Yes, sir,” said I.
“How do you come here?”
“Miss Havisham sent for me, sir,” I explained.
“Well! Behave yourself. I have a pretty large experience of boys, and you’re _ad set of fellows. Now mind!” said he, biting the side of his grea_orefinger as he frowned at me, “you behave yourself!”
With those words, he released me—which I was glad of, for his hand smelt o_cented soap—and went his way down stairs. I wondered whether he could be _octor; but no, I thought; he couldn’t be a doctor, or he would have a quiete_nd more persuasive manner. There was not much time to consider the subject, for we were soon in Miss Havisham’s room, where she and everything else wer_ust as I had left them. Estella left me standing near the door, and I stoo_here until Miss Havisham cast her eyes upon me from the dressing-table.
“So!” she said, without being startled or surprised: “the days have worn away, have they?”
“Yes, ma’am. To-day is—”
“There, there, there!” with the impatient movement of her fingers. “I don’_ant to know. Are you ready to play?”
I was obliged to answer in some confusion, “I don’t think I am, ma’am.”
“Not at cards again?” she demanded, with a searching look.
“Yes, ma’am; I could do that, if I was wanted.”
“Since this house strikes you old and grave, boy,” said Miss Havisham, impatiently, “and you are unwilling to play, are you willing to work?”
I could answer this inquiry with a better heart than I had been able to fin_or the other question, and I said I was quite willing.
“Then go into that opposite room,” said she, pointing at the door behind m_ith her withered hand, “and wait there till I come.”
I crossed the staircase landing, and entered the room she indicated. From tha_oom, too, the daylight was completely excluded, and it had an airless smel_hat was oppressive. A fire had been lately kindled in the damp old-fashione_rate, and it was more disposed to go out than to burn up, and the reluctan_moke which hung in the room seemed colder than the clearer air,—like our ow_arsh mist. Certain wintry branches of candles on the high chimney-piec_aintly lighted the chamber; or it would be more expressive to say, faintl_roubled its darkness. It was spacious, and I dare say had once been handsome, but every discernible thing in it was covered with dust and mould, an_ropping to pieces. The most prominent object was a long table with _ablecloth spread on it, as if a feast had been in preparation when the hous_nd the clocks all stopped together. An epergne or centre-piece of some kin_as in the middle of this cloth; it was so heavily overhung with cobwebs tha_ts form was quite undistinguishable; and, as I looked along the yello_xpanse out of which I remember its seeming to grow, like a black fungus, _aw speckle-legged spiders with blotchy bodies running home to it, and runnin_ut from it, as if some circumstances of the greatest public importance ha_ust transpired in the spider community.
I heard the mice too, rattling behind the panels, as if the same occurrenc_ere important to their interests. But the black beetles took no notice of th_gitation, and groped about the hearth in a ponderous elderly way, as if the_ere short-sighted and hard of hearing, and not on terms with one another.
These crawling things had fascinated my attention, and I was watching the_rom a distance, when Miss Havisham laid a hand upon my shoulder. In her othe_and she had a crutch-headed stick on which she leaned, and she looked lik_he Witch of the place.
“This,” said she, pointing to the long table with her stick, “is where I wil_e laid when I am dead. They shall come and look at me here.”
With some vague misgiving that she might get upon the table then and there an_ie at once, the complete realization of the ghastly waxwork at the Fair, _hrank under her touch.
“What do you think that is?” she asked me, again pointing with her stick; “that, where those cobwebs are?”
“I can’t guess what it is, ma’am.”
“It’s a great cake. A bride-cake. Mine!”
She looked all round the room in a glaring manner, and then said, leaning o_e while her hand twitched my shoulder, “Come, come, come! Walk me, walk me!”
I made out from this, that the work I had to do, was to walk Miss Havisha_ound and round the room. Accordingly, I started at once, and she leaned upo_y shoulder, and we went away at a pace that might have been an imitation (founded on my first impulse under that roof) of Mr. Pumblechook’s chaise- cart.
She was not physically strong, and after a little time said, “Slower!” Still, we went at an impatient fitful speed, and as we went, she twitched the han_pon my shoulder, and worked her mouth, and led me to believe that we wer_oing fast because her thoughts went fast. After a while she said, “Cal_stella!” so I went out on the landing and roared that name as I had done o_he previous occasion. When her light appeared, I returned to Miss Havisham, and we started away again round and round the room.
If only Estella had come to be a spectator of our proceedings, I should hav_elt sufficiently discontented; but as she brought with her the three ladie_nd the gentleman whom I had seen below, I didn’t know what to do. In m_oliteness, I would have stopped; but Miss Havisham twitched my shoulder, an_e posted on,—with a shame-faced consciousness on my part that they woul_hink it was all my doing.
“Dear Miss Havisham,” said Miss Sarah Pocket. “How well you look!”
“I do not,” returned Miss Havisham. “I am yellow skin and bone.”
Camilla brightened when Miss Pocket met with this rebuff; and she murmured, a_he plaintively contemplated Miss Havisham, “Poor dear soul! Certainly not t_e expected to look well, poor thing. The idea!”
“And how are you?” said Miss Havisham to Camilla. As we were close to Camill_hen, I would have stopped as a matter of course, only Miss Havisham wouldn’_top. We swept on, and I felt that I was highly obnoxious to Camilla.
“Thank you, Miss Havisham,” she returned, “I am as well as can be expected.”
“Why, what’s the matter with you?” asked Miss Havisham, with exceedin_harpness.
“Nothing worth mentioning,” replied Camilla. “I don’t wish to make a displa_f my feelings, but I have habitually thought of you more in the night than _m quite equal to.”
“Then don’t think of me,” retorted Miss Havisham.
“Very easily said!” remarked Camilla, amiably repressing a sob, while a hitc_ame into her upper lip, and her tears overflowed. “Raymond is a witness wha_inger and sal volatile I am obliged to take in the night. Raymond is _itness what nervous jerkings I have in my legs. Chokings and nervou_erkings, however, are nothing new to me when I think with anxiety of those _ove. If I could be less affectionate and sensitive, I should have a bette_igestion and an iron set of nerves. I am sure I wish it could be so. But a_o not thinking of you in the night—The idea!” Here, a burst of tears.
The Raymond referred to, I understood to be the gentleman present, and him _nderstood to be Mr. Camilla. He came to the rescue at this point, and said i_ consolatory and complimentary voice, “Camilla, my dear, it is well know_hat your family feelings are gradually undermining you to the extent o_aking one of your legs shorter than the other.”
“I am not aware,” observed the grave lady whose voice I had heard but once, “that to think of any person is to make a great claim upon that person, m_ear.”
Miss Sarah Pocket, whom I now saw to be a little dry, brown, corrugated ol_oman, with a small face that might have been made of walnut-shells, and _arge mouth like a cat’s without the whiskers, supported this position b_aying, “No, indeed, my dear. Hem!”
“Thinking is easy enough,” said the grave lady.
“What is easier, you know?” assented Miss Sarah Pocket.
“Oh, yes, yes!” cried Camilla, whose fermenting feelings appeared to rise fro_er legs to her bosom. “It’s all very true! It’s a weakness to be s_ffectionate, but I can’t help it. No doubt my health would be much better i_t was otherwise, still I wouldn’t change my disposition if I could. It’s th_ause of much suffering, but it’s a consolation to know I posses it, when _ake up in the night.” Here another burst of feeling.
Miss Havisham and I had never stopped all this time, but kept going round an_ound the room; now brushing against the skirts of the visitors, now givin_hem the whole length of the dismal chamber.
“There’s Matthew!” said Camilla. “Never mixing with any natural ties, neve_oming here to see how Miss Havisham is! I have taken to the sofa with m_taylace cut, and have lain there hours insensible, with my head over th_ide, and my hair all down, and my feet I don’t know where—”
(“Much higher than your head, my love,” said Mr. Camilla.)
“I have gone off into that state, hours and hours, on account of Matthew’_trange and inexplicable conduct, and nobody has thanked me.”
“Really I must say I should think not!” interposed the grave lady.
“You see, my dear,” added Miss Sarah Pocket (a blandly vicious personage), “the question to put to yourself is, who did you expect to thank you, m_ove?”
“Without expecting any thanks, or anything of the sort,” resumed Camilla, “_ave remained in that state, hours and hours, and Raymond is a witness of th_xtent to which I have choked, and what the total inefficacy of ginger ha_een, and I have been heard at the piano-forte tuner’s across the street, where the poor mistaken children have even supposed it to be pigeons cooing a_ distance,—and now to be told—” Here Camilla put her hand to her throat, an_egan to be quite chemical as to the formation of new combinations there.
When this same Matthew was mentioned, Miss Havisham stopped me and herself, and stood looking at the speaker. This change had a great influence i_ringing Camilla’s chemistry to a sudden end.
“Matthew will come and see me at last,” said Miss Havisham, sternly, when I a_aid on that table. That will be his place,— there,” striking the table wit_er stick, “at my head! And yours will be there! And your husband’s there! An_arah Pocket’s there! And Georgiana’s there! Now you all know where to tak_our stations when you come to feast upon me. And now go!”
At the mention of each name, she had struck the table with her stick in a ne_lace. She now said, “Walk me, walk me!” and we went on again.
“I suppose there’s nothing to be done,” exclaimed Camilla, “but comply an_epart. It’s something to have seen the object of one’s love and duty for eve_o short a time. I shall think of it with a melancholy satisfaction when _ake up in the night. I wish Matthew could have that comfort, but he sets i_t defiance. I am determined not to make a display of my feelings, but it’_ery hard to be told one wants to feast on one’s relations,—as if one was _iant,—and to be told to go. The bare idea!”
Mr. Camilla interposing, as Mrs. Camilla laid her hand upon her heaving bosom, that lady assumed an unnatural fortitude of manner which I supposed to b_xpressive of an intention to drop and choke when out of view, and kissing he_and to Miss Havisham, was escorted forth. Sarah Pocket and Georgian_ontended who should remain last; but Sarah was too knowing to be outdone, an_mbled round Georgiana with that artful slipperiness that the latter wa_bliged to take precedence. Sarah Pocket then made her separate effect o_eparting with, “Bless you, Miss Havisham dear!” and with a smile of forgivin_ity on her walnut-shell countenance for the weaknesses of the rest.
While Estella was away lighting them down, Miss Havisham still walked with he_and on my shoulder, but more and more slowly. At last she stopped before th_ire, and said, after muttering and looking at it some seconds,—
“This is my birthday, Pip.”
I was going to wish her many happy returns, when she lifted her stick.
“I don’t suffer it to be spoken of. I don’t suffer those who were here jus_ow, or any one to speak of it. They come here on the day, but they dare no_efer to it.”
Of course I made no further effort to refer to it.
“On this day of the year, long before you were born, this heap of decay,” stabbing with her crutched stick at the pile of cobwebs on the table, but no_ouching it, “was brought here. It and I have worn away together. The mic_ave gnawed at it, and sharper teeth than teeth of mice have gnawed at me.”
She held the head of her stick against her heart as she stood looking at th_able; she in her once white dress, all yellow and withered; the once whit_loth all yellow and withered; everything around in a state to crumble under _ouch.
“When the ruin is complete,” said she, with a ghastly look, “and when they la_e dead, in my bride’s dress on the bride’s table,— which shall be done, an_hich will be the finished curse upon him, —so much the better if it is don_n this day!”
She stood looking at the table as if she stood looking at her own figure lyin_here. I remained quiet. Estella returned, and she too remained quiet. I_eemed to me that we continued thus for a long time. In the heavy air of th_oom, and the heavy darkness that brooded in its remoter corners, I even ha_n alarming fancy that Estella and I might presently begin to decay.
At length, not coming out of her distraught state by degrees, but in a_nstant, Miss Havisham said, “Let me see you two play cards; why have you no_egun?” With that, we returned to her room, and sat down as before; I wa_eggared, as before; and again, as before, Miss Havisham watched us all th_ime, directed my attention to Estella’s beauty, and made me notice it th_ore by trying her jewels on Estella’s breast and hair.
Estella, for her part, likewise treated me as before, except that she did no_ondescend to speak. When we had played some half-dozen games, a day wa_ppointed for my return, and I was taken down into the yard to be fed in th_ormer dog-like manner. There, too, I was again left to wander about as _iked.
It is not much to the purpose whether a gate in that garden wall which I ha_crambled up to peep over on the last occasion was, on that last occasion, open or shut. Enough that I saw no gate then, and that I saw one now. As i_tood open, and as I knew that Estella had let the visitors out,—for she ha_eturned with the keys in her hand,—I strolled into the garden, and strolle_ll over it. It was quite a wilderness, and there were old melon-frames an_ucumber-frames in it, which seemed in their decline to have produced _pontaneous growth of weak attempts at pieces of old hats and boots, with no_nd then a weedy offshoot into the likeness of a battered saucepan.
When I had exhausted the garden and a greenhouse with nothing in it but _allen-down grape-vine and some bottles, I found myself in the dismal corne_pon which I had looked out of the window. Never questioning for a moment tha_he house was now empty, I looked in at another window, and found myself, t_y great surprise, exchanging a broad stare with a pale young gentleman wit_ed eyelids and light hair.
This pale young gentleman quickly disappeared, and reappeared beside me. H_ad been at his books when I had found myself staring at him, and I now sa_hat he was inky.
“Halloa!” said he, “young fellow!”
Halloa being a general observation which I had usually observed to be bes_nswered by itself, I said, “Halloa!” politely omitting young fellow.
“Who let you in?” said he.
“Who gave you leave to prowl about?”
“Come and fight,” said the pale young gentleman.
What could I do but follow him? I have often asked myself the question since; but what else could I do? His manner was so final, and I was so astonished, that I followed where he led, as if I had been under a spell.
“Stop a minute, though,” he said, wheeling round before we had gone man_aces. “I ought to give you a reason for fighting, too. There it is!” In _ost irritating manner he instantly slapped his hands against one another, daintily flung one of his legs up behind him, pulled my hair, slapped hi_ands again, dipped his head, and butted it into my stomach.
The bull-like proceeding last mentioned, besides that it was unquestionably t_e regarded in the light of a liberty, was particularly disagreeable jus_fter bread and meat. I therefore hit out at him and was going to hit ou_gain, when he said, “Aha! Would you?” and began dancing backwards an_orwards in a manner quite unparalleled within my limited experience.
“Laws of the game!” said he. Here, he skipped from his left leg on to hi_ight. “Regular rules!” Here, he skipped from his right leg on to his left.
“Come to the ground, and go through the preliminaries!” Here, he dodge_ackwards and forwards, and did all sorts of things while I looked helplessl_t him.
I was secretly afraid of him when I saw him so dexterous; but I felt morall_nd physically convinced that his light head of hair could have had n_usiness in the pit of my stomach, and that I had a right to consider i_rrelevant when so obtruded on my attention. Therefore, I followed him withou_ word, to a retired nook of the garden, formed by the junction of two wall_nd screened by some rubbish. On his asking me if I was satisfied with th_round, and on my replying Yes, he begged my leave to absent himself for _oment, and quickly returned with a bottle of water and a sponge dipped i_inegar. “Available for both,” he said, placing these against the wall. An_hen fell to pulling off, not only his jacket and waistcoat, but his shir_oo, in a manner at once light-hearted, business-like, and bloodthirsty.
Although he did not look very healthy,—having pimples on his face, and _reaking out at his mouth,—these dreadful preparations quite appalled me. _udged him to be about my own age, but he was much taller, and he had a way o_pinning himself about that was full of appearance. For the rest, he was _oung gentleman in a gray suit (when not denuded for battle), with his elbows, knees, wrists, and heels considerably in advance of the rest of him as t_evelopment.
My heart failed me when I saw him squaring at me with every demonstration o_echanical nicety, and eyeing my anatomy as if he were minutely choosing hi_one. I never have been so surprised in my life, as I was when I let out th_irst blow, and saw him lying on his back, looking up at me with a bloody nos_nd his face exceedingly fore-shortened.
But, he was on his feet directly, and after sponging himself with a great sho_f dexterity began squaring again. The second greatest surprise I have eve_ad in my life was seeing him on his back again, looking up at me out of _lack eye.
His spirit inspired me with great respect. He seemed to have no strength, an_e never once hit me hard, and he was always knocked down; but he would be u_gain in a moment, sponging himself or drinking out of the water-bottle, wit_he greatest satisfaction in seconding himself according to form, and the_ame at me with an air and a show that made me believe he really was going t_o for me at last. He got heavily bruised, for I am sorry to record that th_ore I hit him, the harder I hit him; but he came up again and again an_gain, until at last he got a bad fall with the back of his head against th_all. Even after that crisis in our affairs, he got up and turned round an_ound confusedly a few times, not knowing where I was; but finally went on hi_nees to his sponge and threw it up: at the same time panting out, “That mean_ou have won.”
He seemed so brave and innocent, that although I had not proposed the contest, I felt but a gloomy satisfaction in my victory. Indeed, I go so far as to hop_hat I regarded myself while dressing as a species of savage young wolf o_ther wild beast. However, I got dressed, darkly wiping my sanguinary face a_ntervals, and I said, “Can I help you?” and he said “No thankee,” and I said “Good afternoon,” and he said “Same to you.”
When I got into the courtyard, I found Estella waiting with the keys. But sh_either asked me where I had been, nor why I had kept her waiting; and ther_as a bright flush upon her face, as though something had happened to deligh_er. Instead of going straight to the gate, too, she stepped back into th_assage, and beckoned me.
“Come here! You may kiss me, if you like.”
I kissed her cheek as she turned it to me. I think I would have gone through _reat deal to kiss her cheek. But I felt that the kiss was given to the coars_ommon boy as a piece of money might have been, and that it was worth nothing.
What with the birthday visitors, and what with the cards, and what with th_ight, my stay had lasted so long, that when I neared home the light on th_pit of sand off the point on the marshes was gleaming against a black night- sky, and Joe’s furnace was flinging a path of fire across the road.