If that staid old house near the Green at Richmond should ever come to b_aunted when I am dead, it will be haunted, surely, by my ghost. O the many, many nights and days through which the unquiet spirit within me haunted tha_ouse when Estella lived there! Let my body be where it would, my spirit wa_lways wandering, wandering, wandering, about that house.
The lady with whom Estella was placed, Mrs. Brandley by name, was a widow, with one daughter several years older than Estella. The mother looked young, and the daughter looked old; the mother’s complexion was pink, and th_aughter’s was yellow; the mother set up for frivolity, and the daughter fo_heology. They were in what is called a good position, and visited, and wer_isited by, numbers of people. Little, if any, community of feeling subsiste_etween them and Estella, but the understanding was established that they wer_ecessary to her, and that she was necessary to them. Mrs. Brandley had been _riend of Miss Havisham’s before the time of her seclusion.
In Mrs. Brandley’s house and out of Mrs. Brandley’s house, I suffered ever_ind and degree of torture that Estella could cause me. The nature of m_elations with her, which placed me on terms of familiarity without placing m_n terms of favor, conduced to my distraction. She made use of me to teas_ther admirers, and she turned the very familiarity between herself and me t_he account of putting a constant slight on my devotion to her. If I had bee_er secretary, steward, half-brother, poor relation,—if I had been a younge_rother of her appointed husband,—I could not have seemed to myself furthe_rom my hopes when I was nearest to her. The privilege of calling her by he_ame and hearing her call me by mine became, under the circumstances a_ggravation of my trials; and while I think it likely that it almost maddene_er other lovers, I know too certainly that it almost maddened me.
She had admirers without end. No doubt my jealousy made an admirer of ever_ne who went near her; but there were more than enough of them without that.
I saw her often at Richmond, I heard of her often in town, and I used often t_ake her and the Brandleys on the water; there were picnics, fête days, plays, operas, concerts, parties, all sorts of pleasures, through which I pursue_er,—and they were all miseries to me. I never had one hour’s happiness in he_ociety, and yet my mind all round the four-and-twenty hours was harping o_he happiness of having her with me unto death.
Throughout this part of our intercourse,—and it lasted, as will presently b_een, for what I then thought a long time,—she habitually reverted to tha_one which expressed that our association was forced upon us. There were othe_imes when she would come to a sudden check in this tone and in all her man_ones, and would seem to pity me.
“Pip, Pip,” she said one evening, coming to such a check, when we sat apart a_ darkening window of the house in Richmond; “will you never take warning?”
“Warning not to be attracted by you, do you mean, Estella?”
“Do I mean! If you don’t know what I mean, you are blind.”
I should have replied that Love was commonly reputed blind, but for the reaso_hat I always was restrained—and this was not the least of my miseries—by _eeling that it was ungenerous to press myself upon her, when she knew tha_he could not choose but obey Miss Havisham. My dread always was, that thi_nowledge on her part laid me under a heavy disadvantage with her pride, an_ade me the subject of a rebellious struggle in her bosom.
“At any rate,” said I, “I have no warning given me just now, for you wrote t_e to come to you, this time.”
“That’s true,” said Estella, with a cold careless smile that always chille_e.
After looking at the twilight without, for a little while, she went on t_ay:—
“The time has come round when Miss Havisham wishes to have me for a day a_atis. You are to take me there, and bring me back, if you will. She woul_ather I did not travel alone, and objects to receiving my maid, for she has _ensitive horror of being talked of by such people. Can you take me?”
“Can I take you, Estella!”
“You can then? The day after to-morrow, if you please. You are to pay al_harges out of my purse, You hear the condition of your going?”
“And must obey,” said I.
This was all the preparation I received for that visit, or for others like it; Miss Havisham never wrote to me, nor had I ever so much as seen he_andwriting. We went down on the next day but one, and we found her in th_oom where I had first beheld her, and it is needless to add that there was n_hange in Satis House.
She was even more dreadfully fond of Estella than she had been when I last sa_hem together; I repeat the word advisedly, for there was something positivel_readful in the energy of her looks and embraces. She hung upon Estella’_eauty, hung upon her words, hung upon her gestures, and sat mumbling her ow_rembling fingers while she looked at her, as though she were devouring th_eautiful creature she had reared.
From Estella she looked at me, with a searching glance that seemed to pry int_y heart and probe its wounds. “How does she use you, Pip; how does she us_ou?” she asked me again, with her witch-like eagerness, even in Estella’_earing. But, when we sat by her flickering fire at night, she was most weird; for then, keeping Estella’s hand drawn through her arm and clutched in her ow_and, she extorted from her, by dint of referring back to what Estella ha_old her in her regular letters, the names and conditions of the men whom sh_ad fascinated; and as Miss Havisham dwelt upon this roll, with the intensit_f a mind mortally hurt and diseased, she sat with her other hand on he_rutch stick, and her chin on that, and her wan bright eyes glaring at me, _ery spectre.
I saw in this, wretched though it made me, and bitter the sense of dependenc_nd even of degradation that it awakened,—I saw in this that Estella was se_o wreak Miss Havisham’s revenge on men, and that she was not to be given t_e until she had gratified it for a term. I saw in this, a reason for he_eing beforehand assigned to me. Sending her out to attract and torment and d_ischief, Miss Havisham sent her with the malicious assurance that she wa_eyond the reach of all admirers, and that all who staked upon that cast wer_ecured to lose. I saw in this that I, too, was tormented by a perversion o_ngenuity, even while the prize was reserved for me. I saw in this the reaso_or my being staved off so long and the reason for my late guardian’_eclining to commit himself to the formal knowledge of such a scheme. In _ord, I saw in this Miss Havisham as I had her then and there before my eyes, and always had had her before my eyes; and I saw in this, the distinct shado_f the darkened and unhealthy house in which her life was hidden from the sun.
The candles that lighted that room of hers were placed in sconces on the wall.
They were high from the ground, and they burnt with the steady dulness o_rtificial light in air that is seldom renewed. As I looked round at them, an_t the pale gloom they made, and at the stopped clock, and at the withere_rticles of bridal dress upon the table and the ground, and at her own awfu_igure with its ghostly reflection thrown large by the fire upon the ceilin_nd the wall, I saw in everything the construction that my mind had come to, repeated and thrown back to me. My thoughts passed into the great room acros_he landing where the table was spread, and I saw it written, as it were, i_he falls of the cobwebs from the centre-piece, in the crawlings of th_piders on the cloth, in the tracks of the mice as they betook their littl_uickened hearts behind the panels, and in the gropings and pausings of th_eetles on the floor.
It happened on the occasion of this visit that some sharp words arose betwee_stella and Miss Havisham. It was the first time I had ever seen them opposed.
We were seated by the fire, as just now described, and Miss Havisham still ha_stella’s arm drawn through her own, and still clutched Estella’s hand i_ers, when Estella gradually began to detach herself. She had shown a prou_mpatience more than once before, and had rather endured that fierce affectio_han accepted or returned it.
“What!” said Miss Havisham, flashing her eyes upon her, “are you tired of me?”
“Only a little tired of myself,” replied Estella, disengaging her arm, an_oving to the great chimney-piece, where she stood looking down at the fire.
“Speak the truth, you ingrate!” cried Miss Havisham, passionately striking he_tick upon the floor; “you are tired of me.”
Estella looked at her with perfect composure, and again looked down at th_ire. Her graceful figure and her beautiful face expressed a self-possesse_ndifference to the wild heat of the other, that was almost cruel.
“You stock and stone!” exclaimed Miss Havisham. “You cold, cold heart!”
“What?” said Estella, preserving her attitude of indifference as she leane_gainst the great chimney-piece and only moving her eyes; “do you reproach m_or being cold? You?”
“Are you not?” was the fierce retort.
“You should know,” said Estella. “I am what you have made me. Take all th_raise, take all the blame; take all the success, take all the failure; i_hort, take me.”
“O, look at her, look at her!” cried Miss Havisham, bitterly; “Look at her s_ard and thankless, on the hearth where she was reared! Where I took her int_his wretched breast when it was first bleeding from its stabs, and where _ave lavished years of tenderness upon her!”
“At least I was no party to the compact,” said Estella, “for if I could wal_nd speak, when it was made, it was as much as I could do. But what would yo_ave? You have been very good to me, and I owe everything to you. What woul_ou have?”
“Love,” replied the other.
“You have it.”
“I have not,” said Miss Havisham.
“Mother by adoption,” retorted Estella, never departing from the easy grace o_er attitude, never raising her voice as the other did, never yielding eithe_o anger or tenderness,—“mother by adoption, I have said that I owe everythin_o you. All I possess is freely yours. All that you have given me, is at you_ommand to have again. Beyond that, I have nothing. And if you ask me to giv_ou, what you never gave me, my gratitude and duty cannot do impossibilities.”
“Did I never give her love!” cried Miss Havisham, turning wildly to me. “Did _ever give her a burning love, inseparable from jealousy at all times, an_rom sharp pain, while she speaks thus to me! Let her call me mad, let he_all me mad!”
“Why should I call you mad,” returned Estella, “I, of all people? Does any on_ive, who knows what set purposes you have, half as well as I do? Does any on_ive, who knows what a steady memory you have, half as well as I do? I wh_ave sat on this same hearth on the little stool that is even now beside yo_here, learning your lessons and looking up into your face, when your face wa_trange and frightened me!”
“Soon forgotten!” moaned Miss Havisham. “Times soon forgotten!”
“No, not forgotten,” retorted Estella,—“not forgotten, but treasured up in m_emory. When have you found me false to your teaching? When have you found m_nmindful of your lessons? When have you found me giving admission here,” sh_ouched her bosom with her hand, “to anything that you excluded? Be just t_e.”
“So proud, so proud!” moaned Miss Havisham, pushing away her gray hair wit_oth her hands.
“Who taught me to be proud?” returned Estella. “Who praised me when I learn_y lesson?”
“So hard, so hard!” moaned Miss Havisham, with her former action.
“Who taught me to be hard?” returned Estella. “Who praised me when I learnt m_esson?”
“But to be proud and hard to me!” Miss Havisham quite shrieked, as sh_tretched out her arms. “Estella, Estella, Estella, to be proud and hard t_e!”
Estella looked at her for a moment with a kind of calm wonder, but was no_therwise disturbed; when the moment was past, she looked down at the fir_gain.
“I cannot think,” said Estella, raising her eyes after a silence “why yo_hould be so unreasonable when I come to see you after a
separation. I have never forgotten your wrongs and their causes. I have neve_een unfaithful to you or your schooling. I have never shown any weakness tha_ can charge myself with.”
“Would it be weakness to return my love?” exclaimed Miss Havisham. “But yes, yes, she would call it so!”
“I begin to think,” said Estella, in a musing way, after another moment o_alm wonder, “that I almost understand how this comes about. If you ha_rought up your adopted daughter wholly in the dark confinement of thes_ooms, and had never let her know that there was such a thing as the dayligh_y which she had never once seen your face,—if you had done that, and then, for a purpose had wanted her to understand the daylight and know all about it, you would have been disappointed and angry?”
Miss Havisham, with her head in her hands, sat making a low moaning, an_waying herself on her chair, but gave no answer.
“Or,” said Estella,—“which is a nearer case,—if you had taught her, from th_awn of her intelligence, with your utmost energy and might, that there wa_uch a thing as daylight, but that it was made to be her enemy and destroyer, and she must always turn against it, for it had blighted you and would els_light her;—if you had done this, and then, for a purpose, had wanted her t_ake naturally to the daylight and she could not do it, you would have bee_isappointed and angry?”
Miss Havisham sat listening (or it seemed so, for I could not see her face), but still made no answer.
“So,” said Estella, “I must be taken as I have been made. The success is no_ine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me.”
Miss Havisham had settled down, I hardly knew how, upon the floor, among th_aded bridal relics with which it was strewn. I took advantage of the moment—_ad sought one from the first—to leave the room, after beseeching Estella’_ttention to her, with a movement of my hand. When I left, Estella was ye_tanding by the great chimney-piece, just as she had stood throughout. Mis_avisham’s gray hair was all adrift upon the ground, among the other brida_recks, and was a miserable sight to see.
It was with a depressed heart that I walked in the starlight for an hour an_ore, about the courtyard, and about the brewery, and about the ruined garden.
When I at last took courage to return to the room, I found Estella sitting a_iss Havisham’s knee, taking up some stitches in one of those old articles o_ress that were dropping to pieces, and of which I have often been reminde_ince by the faded tatters of old banners that I have seen hanging up i_athedrals. Afterwards, Estella and I played at cards, as of yore,— only w_ere skilful now, and played French games,—and so the evening wore away, and _ent to bed.
I lay in that separate building across the courtyard. It was the first time _ad ever lain down to rest in Satis House, and sleep refused to come near me.
A thousand Miss Havishams haunted me. She was on this side of my pillow, o_hat, at the head of the bed, at the foot, behind the half-opened door of th_ressing-room, in the dressing-room, in the room overhead, in the roo_eneath,— everywhere. At last, when the night was slow to creep on towards tw_’clock, I felt that I absolutely could no longer bear the place as a place t_ie down in, and that I must get up. I therefore got up and put on my clothes, and went out across the yard into the long stone passage, designing to gai_he outer courtyard and walk there for the relief of my mind. But I was n_ooner in the passage than I extinguished my candle; for I saw Miss Havisha_oing along it in a ghostly manner, making a low cry. I followed her at _istance, and saw her go up the staircase. She carried a bare candle in he_and, which she had probably taken from one of the sconces in her own room, and was a most unearthly object by its light. Standing at the bottom of th_taircase, I felt the mildewed air of the feast-chamber, without seeing he_pen the door, and I heard her walking there, and so across into her own room, and so across again into that, never ceasing the low cry. After a time, _ried in the dark both to get out, and to go back, but I could do neithe_ntil some streaks of day strayed in and showed me where to lay my hands.
During the whole interval, whenever I went to the bottom of the staircase, _eard her footstep, saw her light pass above, and heard her ceaseless low cry.
Before we left next day, there was no revival of the difference between he_nd Estella, nor was it ever revived on any similar occasion; and there wer_our similar occasions, to the best of my remembrance. Nor, did Mis_avisham’s manner towards Estella in anywise change, except that I believed i_o have something like fear infused among its former characteristics.
It is impossible to turn this leaf of my life, without putting Bentle_rummle’s name upon it; or I would, very gladly.
On a certain occasion when the Finches were assembled in force, and when goo_eeling was being promoted in the usual manner by nobody’s agreeing wit_nybody else, the presiding Finch called the Grove to order, forasmuch as Mr.
Drummle had not yet toasted a lady; which, according to the solem_onstitution of the society, it was the brute’s turn to do that day. I though_ saw him leer in an ugly way at me while the decanters were going round, bu_s there was no love lost between us, that might easily be. What was m_ndignant surprise when he called upon the company to pledge him to “Estella!”
“Estella who?” said I.
“Never you mind,” retorted Drummle.
“Estella of where?” said I. “You are bound to say of where.” Which he was, a_ Finch.
“Of Richmond, gentlemen,” said Drummle, putting me out of the question, “and _eerless beauty.”
Much he knew about peerless beauties, a mean, miserable idiot! I whispere_erbert.
“I know that lady,” said Herbert, across the table, when the toast had bee_onored.
“Do you?” said Drummle.
“And so do I,” I added, with a scarlet face.
“Do you?” said Drummle. “O, Lord!”
This was the only retort—except glass or crockery—that the heavy creature wa_apable of making; but, I became as highly incensed by it as if it had bee_arbed with wit, and I immediately rose in my place and said that I could no_ut regard it as being like the honorable Finch’s impudence to come down t_hat Grove,— we always talked about coming down to that Grove, as a nea_arliamentary turn of expression,—down to that Grove, proposing a lady of who_e knew nothing. Mr. Drummle, upon this, starting up, demanded what I meant b_hat? Whereupon I made him the extreme reply that I believed he knew where _as to be found.
Whether it was possible in a Christian country to get on without blood, afte_his, was a question on which the Finches were divided. The debate upon i_rew so lively, indeed, that at least six more honorable members told si_ore, during the discussion, that they believed they knew where they were t_e found. However, it was decided at last (the Grove being a Court of Honor) that if Mr. Drummle would bring never so slight a certificate from the lady, importing that he had the honor of her acquaintance, Mr. Pip must express hi_egret, as a gentleman and a Finch, for “having been betrayed into a warmt_hich.” Next day was appointed for the production (lest our honor should tak_old from delay), and next day Drummle appeared with a polite little avowal i_stella’s hand, that she had had the honor of dancing with him several times.
This left me no course but to regret that I had been “betrayed into a warmt_hich,” and on the whole to repudiate, as untenable, the idea that I was to b_ound anywhere. Drummle and I then sat snorting at one another for an hour, while the Grove engaged in indiscriminate contradiction, and finally th_romotion of good feeling was declared to have gone ahead at an amazing rate.
I tell this lightly, but it was no light thing to me. For, I cannot adequatel_xpress what pain it gave me to think that Estella should show any favor to _ontemptible, clumsy, sulky booby, so very far below the average. To th_resent moment, I believe it to have been referable to some pure fire o_enerosity and disinterestedness in my love for her, that I could not endur_he thought of her stooping to that hound. No doubt I should have bee_iserable whomsoever she had favored; but a worthier object would have cause_e a different kind and degree of distress.
It was easy for me to find out, and I did soon find out, that Drummle ha_egun to follow her closely, and that she allowed him to do it. A littl_hile, and he was always in pursuit of her, and he and I crossed one anothe_very day. He held on, in a dull persistent way, and Estella held him on; no_ith encouragement, now with discouragement, now almost flattering him, no_penly despising him, now knowing him very well, now scarcely remembering wh_e was.
The Spider, as Mr. Jaggers had called him, was used to lying in wait, however, and had the patience of his tribe. Added to that, he had a blockhea_onfidence in his money and in his family greatness, which sometimes did hi_ood service,—almost taking the place of concentration and determined purpose.
So, the Spider, doggedly watching Estella, outwatched many brighter insects, and would often uncoil himself and drop at the right nick of time.
At a certain Assembly Ball at Richmond (there used to be Assembly Balls a_ost places then), where Estella had outshone all other beauties, thi_lundering Drummle so hung about her, and with so much toleration on her part, that I resolved to speak to her concerning him. I took the next opportunity; which was when she was waiting for Mrs. Blandley to take her home, and wa_itting apart among some flowers, ready to go. I was with her, for I almos_lways accompanied them to and from such places.
“Are you tired, Estella?”
“You should be.”
“Say rather, I should not be; for I have my letter to Satis House to write, before I go to sleep.”
“Recounting to-night’s triumph?” said I. “Surely a very poor one, Estella.”
“What do you mean? I didn’t know there had been any.”
“Estella,” said I, “do look at that fellow in the corner yonder, who i_ooking over here at us.”
“Why should I look at him?” returned Estella, with her eyes on me instead.
“What is there in that fellow in the corner yonder,—to use your words,—that _eed look at?”
“Indeed, that is the very question I want to ask you,” said I. “For he ha_een hovering about you all night.”
“Moths, and all sorts of ugly creatures,” replied Estella, with a glanc_owards him, “hover about a lighted candle. Can the candle help it?”
“No,” I returned; “but cannot the Estella help it?”
“Well!” said she, laughing, after a moment, “perhaps. Yes. Anything you like.”
“But, Estella, do hear me speak. It makes me wretched that you shoul_ncourage a man so generally despised as Drummle. You know he is despised.”
“Well?” said she.
“You know he is as ungainly within as without. A deficient, ill-tempered, lowering, stupid fellow.”
“Well?” said she.
“You know he has nothing to recommend him but money and a ridiculous roll o_ddle-headed predecessors; now, don’t you?”
“Well?” said she again; and each time she said it, she opened her lovely eye_he wider.
To overcome the difficulty of getting past that monosyllable, I took it fro_er, and said, repeating it with emphasis, “Well! Then, that is why it make_e wretched.”
Now, if I could have believed that she favored Drummle with any idea of makin_e-me—wretched, I should have been in better heart about it; but in tha_abitual way of hers, she put me so entirely out of the question, that I coul_elieve nothing of the kind.
“Pip,” said Estella, casting her glance over the room, “don’t be foolish abou_ts effect on you. It may have its effect on others, and may be meant to have.
It’s not worth discussing.”
“Yes it is,” said I, “because I cannot bear that people should say, ‘sh_hrows away her graces and attractions on a mere boor, the lowest in th_rowd.’”
“I can bear it,” said Estella.
“Oh! don’t be so proud, Estella, and so inflexible.”
“Calls me proud and inflexible in this breath!” said Estella, opening he_ands. “And in his last breath reproached me for stooping to a boor!”
“There is no doubt you do,” said I, something hurriedly, “for I have seen yo_ive him looks and smiles this very night, such as you never give to—me.”
“Do you want me then,” said Estella, turning suddenly with a fixed an_erious, if not angry, look, “to deceive and entrap you?”
“Do you deceive and entrap him, Estella?”
“Yes, and many others,—all of them but you. Here is Mrs. Brandley. I’ll say n_ore.”
And now that I have given the one chapter to the theme that so filled m_eart, and so often made it ache and ache again, I pass on unhindered, to th_vent that had impended over me longer yet; the event that had begun to b_repared for, before I knew that the world held Estella, and in the days whe_er baby intelligence was receiving its first distortions from Miss Havisham’_asting hands.
In the Eastern story, the heavy slab that was to fall on the bed of state i_he flush of conquest was slowly wrought out of the quarry, the tunnel for th_ope to hold it in its place was slowly carried through the leagues of rock, the slab was slowly raised and fitted in the roof, the rope was rove to it an_lowly taken through the miles of hollow to the great iron ring. All bein_ade ready with much labor, and the hour come, the sultan was aroused in th_ead of the night, and the sharpened axe that was to sever the rope from th_reat iron ring was put into his hand, and he struck with it, and the rop_arted and rushed away, and the ceiling fell. So, in my case; all the work, near and afar, that tended to the end, had been accomplished; and in a_nstant the blow was struck, and the roof of my stronghold dropped upon me.