Mr. Pumblechook’s premises in the High Street of the market town, were of _eppercorny and farinaceous character, as the premises of a cornchandler an_eedsman should be. It appeared to me that he must be a very happy man indeed, to have so many little drawers in his shop; and I wondered when I peeped int_ne or two on the lower tiers, and saw the tied-up brown paper packets inside, whether the flower-seeds and bulbs ever wanted of a fine day to break out o_hose jails, and bloom.
It was in the early morning after my arrival that I entertained thi_peculation. On the previous night, I had been sent straight to bed in a_ttic with a sloping roof, which was so low in the corner where the bedstea_as, that I calculated the tiles as being within a foot of my eyebrows. In th_ame early morning, I discovered a singular affinity between seeds an_orduroys. Mr. Pumblechook wore corduroys, and so did his shopman; an_omehow, there was a general air and flavor about the corduroys, so much i_he nature of seeds, and a general air and flavor about the seeds, so much i_he nature of corduroys, that I hardly knew which was which. The sam_pportunity served me for noticing that Mr. Pumblechook appeared to conduc_is business by looking across the street at the saddler, who appeared t_ransact his business by keeping his eye on the coachmaker, who appeared t_et on in life by putting his hands in his pockets and contemplating th_aker, who in his turn folded his arms and stared at the grocer, who stood a_is door and yawned at the chemist. The watchmaker, always poring over _ittle desk with a magnifying-glass at his eye, and always inspected by _roup of smock-frocks poring over him through the glass of his shop-window, seemed to be about the only person in the High Street whose trade engaged hi_ttention.
Mr. Pumblechook and I breakfasted at eight o’clock in the parlor behind th_hop, while the shopman took his mug of tea and hunch of bread and butter on _ack of peas in the front premises. I considered Mr. Pumblechook wretche_ompany. Besides being possessed by my sister’s idea that a mortifying an_enitential character ought to be imparted to my diet,—besides giving me a_uch crumb as possible in combination with as little butter, and putting suc_ quantity of warm water into my milk that it would have been more candid t_ave left the milk out altogether,—his conversation consisted of nothing bu_rithmetic. On my politely bidding him Good morning, he said, pompously, “Seven times nine, boy?” And how should I be able to answer, dodged in tha_ay, in a strange place, on an empty stomach! I was hungry, but before I ha_wallowed a morsel, he began a running sum that lasted all through th_reakfast. “Seven?” “And four?” “And eight?” “And six?” “And two?” “And ten?” And so on. And after each figure was disposed of, it was as much as I could d_o get a bite or a sup, before the next came; while he sat at his eas_uessing nothing, and eating bacon and hot roll, in (if I may be allowed th_xpression) a gorging and gormandizing manner.
For such reasons, I was very glad when ten o’clock came and we started fo_iss Havisham’s; though I was not at all at my ease regarding the manner i_hich I should acquit myself under that lady’s roof. Within a quarter of a_our we came to Miss Havisham’s house, which was of old brick, and dismal, an_ad a great many iron bars to it. Some of the windows had been walled up; o_hose that remained, all the lower were rustily barred. There was a courtyar_n front, and that was barred; so we had to wait, after ringing the bell, until some one should come to open it. While we waited at the gate, I peepe_n (even then Mr. Pumblechook said, “And fourteen?” but I pretended not t_ear him), and saw that at the side of the house there was a large brewery. N_rewing was going on in it, and none seemed to have gone on for a long lon_ime.
A window was raised, and a clear voice demanded “What name?” To which m_onductor replied, “Pumblechook.” The voice returned, “Quite right,” and th_indow was shut again, and a young lady came across the court-yard, with key_n her hand.
“This,” said Mr. Pumblechook, “is Pip.”
“This is Pip, is it?” returned the young lady, who was very pretty and seeme_ery proud; “come in, Pip.”
Mr. Pumblechook was coming in also, when she stopped him with the gate.
“Oh!” she said. “Did you wish to see Miss Havisham?”
“If Miss Havisham wished to see me,” returned Mr. Pumblechook, discomfited.
“Ah!” said the girl; “but you see she don’t.”
She said it so finally, and in such an undiscussible way, that Mr.
Pumblechook, though in a condition of ruffled dignity, could not protest. Bu_e eyed me severely,—as if I had done anything to him!—and departed with th_ords reproachfully delivered: “Boy! Let your behavior here be a credit unt_hem which brought you up by hand!” I was not free from apprehension that h_ould come back to propound through the gate, “And sixteen?” But he didn’t.
My young conductress locked the gate, and we went across the courtyard. It wa_aved and clean, but grass was growing in every crevice. The brewery building_ad a little lane of communication with it, and the wooden gates of that lan_tood open, and all the brewery beyond stood open, away to the high enclosin_all; and all was empty and disused. The cold wind seemed to blow colder ther_han outside the gate; and it made a shrill noise in howling in and out at th_pen sides of the brewery, like the noise of wind in the rigging of a ship a_ea.
She saw me looking at it, and she said, “You could drink without hurt all th_trong beer that’s brewed there now, boy.”
“I should think I could, miss,” said I, in a shy way.
“Better not try to brew beer there now, or it would turn out sour, boy; don’_ou think so?”
“It looks like it, miss.”
“Not that anybody means to try,” she added, “for that’s all done with, and th_lace will stand as idle as it is till it falls. As to strong beer, there’_nough of it in the cellars already, to drown the Manor House.”
“Is that the name of this house, miss?”
“One of its names, boy.”
“It has more than one, then, miss?”
“One more. Its other name was Satis; which is Greek, or Latin, or Hebrew, o_ll three—or all one to me—for enough.”
“Enough House,” said I; “that’s a curious name, miss.”
“Yes,” she replied; “but it meant more than it said. It meant, when it wa_iven, that whoever had this house could want nothing else. They must hav_een easily satisfied in those days, I should think. But don’t loiter, boy.”
Though she called me “boy” so often, and with a carelessness that was far fro_omplimentary, she was of about my own age. She seemed much older than I, o_ourse, being a girl, and beautiful and self-possessed; and she was a_cornful of me as if she had been one-and-twenty, and a queen.
We went into the house by a side door, the great front entrance had two chain_cross it outside,—and the first thing I noticed was, that the passages wer_ll dark, and that she had left a candle burning there. She took it up, and w_ent through more passages and up a staircase, and still it was all dark, an_nly the candle lighted us.
At last we came to the door of a room, and she said, “Go in.”
I answered, more in shyness than politeness, “After you, miss.”
To this she returned: “Don’t be ridiculous, boy; I am not going in.” An_cornfully walked away, and—what was worse—took the candle with her.
This was very uncomfortable, and I was half afraid. However, the only thing t_e done being to knock at the door, I knocked, and was told from within t_nter. I entered, therefore, and found myself in a pretty large room, wel_ighted with wax candles. No glimpse of daylight was to be seen in it. It wa_ dressing-room, as I supposed from the furniture, though much of it was o_orms and uses then quite unknown to me. But prominent in it was a drape_able with a gilded looking-glass, and that I made out at first sight to be _ine lady’s dressing-table.
Whether I should have made out this object so soon if there had been no fin_ady sitting at it, I cannot say. In an arm-chair, with an elbow resting o_he table and her head leaning on that hand, sat the strangest lady I hav_ver seen, or shall ever see.
She was dressed in rich materials,—satins, and lace, and silks,— all of white.
Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white. Some brigh_ewels sparkled on her neck and on her hands, and some other jewels la_parkling on the table. Dresses, less splendid than the dress she wore, an_alf-packed trunks, were scattered about. She had not quite finished dressing, for she had but one shoe on,—the other was on the table near her hand,—he_eil was but half arranged, her watch and chain were not put on, and some lac_or her bosom lay with those trinkets, and with her handkerchief, and gloves, and some flowers, and a Prayer-Book all confusedly heaped about the looking- glass.
It was not in the first few moments that I saw all these things, though I sa_ore of them in the first moments than might be supposed. But I saw tha_verything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its lustre and was faded and yellow. I saw that the bride withi_he bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had n_rightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes. I saw that the dres_ad been put upon the rounded figure of a young woman, and that the figur_pon which it now hung loose had shrunk to skin and bone. Once, I had bee_aken to see some ghastly waxwork at the Fair, representing I know not wha_mpossible personage lying in state. Once, I had been taken to one of our ol_arsh churches to see a skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress that had bee_ug out of a vault under the church pavement. Now, waxwork and skeleton seeme_o have dark eyes that moved and looked at me. I should have cried out, if _ould.
“Who is it?” said the lady at the table.
“Mr. Pumblechook’s boy, ma’am. Come—to play.”
“Come nearer; let me look at you. Come close.”
It was when I stood before her, avoiding her eyes, that I took note of th_urrounding objects in detail, and saw that her watch had stopped at twent_inutes to nine, and that a clock in the room had stopped at twenty minutes t_ine.
“Look at me,” said Miss Havisham. “You are not afraid of a woman who has neve_een the sun since you were born?”
I regret to state that I was not afraid of telling the enormous li_omprehended in the answer “No.”
“Do you know what I touch here?” she said, laying her hands, one upon th_ther, on her left side.
“Yes, ma’am.” (It made me think of the young man.)
“What do I touch?”
She uttered the word with an eager look, and with strong emphasis, and with _eird smile that had a kind of boast in it. Afterwards she kept her hand_here for a little while, and slowly took them away as if they were heavy.
“I am tired,” said Miss Havisham. “I want diversion, and I have done with me_nd women. Play.”
I think it will be conceded by my most disputatious reader, that she coul_ardly have directed an unfortunate boy to do anything in the wide world mor_ifficult to be done under the circumstances.
“I sometimes have sick fancies,” she went on, “and I have a sick fancy that _ant to see some play. There, there!” with an impatient movement of th_ingers of her right hand; “play, play, play!”
For a moment, with the fear of my sister’s working me before my eyes, I had _esperate idea of starting round the room in the assumed character of Mr.
Pumblechook’s chaise-cart. But I felt myself so unequal to the performanc_hat I gave it up, and stood looking at Miss Havisham in what I suppose sh_ook for a dogged manner, inasmuch as she said, when we had taken a good loo_t each other,—
“Are you sullen and obstinate?”
“No, ma’am, I am very sorry for you, and very sorry I can’t play just now. I_ou complain of me I shall get into trouble with my sister, so I would do i_f I could; but it’s so new here, and so strange, and so fine,—an_elancholy—.” I stopped, fearing I might say too much, or had already said it, and we took another look at each other.
Before she spoke again, she turned her eyes from me, and looked at the dres_he wore, and at the dressing-table, and finally at herself in the looking- glass.
“So new to him,” she muttered, “so old to me; so strange to him, so familia_o me; so melancholy to both of us! Call Estella.”
As she was still looking at the reflection of herself, I thought she was stil_alking to herself, and kept quiet.
“Call Estella,” she repeated, flashing a look at me. “You can do that. Cal_stella. At the door.”
To stand in the dark in a mysterious passage of an unknown house, bawlin_stella to a scornful young lady neither visible nor responsive, and feelin_t a dreadful liberty so to roar out her name, was almost as bad as playing t_rder. But she answered at last, and her light came along the dark passag_ike a star.
Miss Havisham beckoned her to come close, and took up a jewel from the table, and tried its effect upon her fair young bosom and against her pretty brow_air. “Your own, one day, my dear, and you will use it well. Let me see yo_lay cards with this boy.”
“With this boy? Why, he is a common laboring boy!”
I thought I overheard Miss Havisham answer,—only it seemed so Unlikely,—“Well?
You can break his heart.”
“What do you play, boy?” asked Estella of myself, with the greatest disdain.
“Nothing but beggar my neighbor, miss.”
“Beggar him,” said Miss Havisham to Estella. So we sat down to cards.
It was then I began to understand that everything in the room had stopped, like the watch and the clock, a long time ago. I noticed that Miss Havisha_ut down the jewel exactly on the spot from which she had taken it up. A_stella dealt the cards, I glanced at the dressing-table again, and saw tha_he shoe upon it, once white, now yellow, had never been worn. I glanced dow_t the foot from which the shoe was absent, and saw that the silk stocking o_t, once white, now yellow, had been trodden ragged. Without this arrest o_verything, this standing still of all the pale decayed objects, not even th_ithered bridal dress on the collapsed form could have looked so like grave- clothes, or the long veil so like a shroud.
So she sat, corpse-like, as we played at cards; the frillings and trimmings o_er bridal dress, looking like earthy paper. I knew nothing then of th_iscoveries that are occasionally made of bodies buried in ancient times, which fall to powder in the moment of being distinctly seen; but, I have ofte_hought since, that she must have looked as if the admission of the natura_ight of day would have struck her to dust.
“He calls the knaves Jacks, this boy!” said Estella with disdain, before ou_irst game was out. “And what coarse hands he has! And what thick boots!”
I had never thought of being ashamed of my hands before; but I began t_onsider them a very indifferent pair. Her contempt for me was so strong, tha_t became infectious, and I caught it.
She won the game, and I dealt. I misdealt, as was only natural, when I kne_he was lying in wait for me to do wrong; and she denounced me for a stupid, clumsy laboring-boy.
“You say nothing of her,” remarked Miss Havisham to me, as she looked on. “Sh_ays many hard things of you, but you say nothing of her. What do you think o_er?”
“I don’t like to say,” I stammered.
“Tell me in my ear,” said Miss Havisham, bending down.
“I think she is very proud,” I replied, in a whisper.
“I think she is very pretty.”
“I think she is very insulting.” (She was looking at me then with a look o_upreme aversion.)
“I think I should like to go home.”
“And never see her again, though she is so pretty?”
“I am not sure that I shouldn’t like to see her again, but I should like to g_ome now.”
“You shall go soon,” said Miss Havisham, aloud. “Play the game out.”
Saving for the one weird smile at first, I should have felt almost sure tha_iss Havisham’s face could not smile. It had dropped into a watchful an_rooding expression,—most likely when all the things about her had becom_ransfixed,—and it looked as if nothing could ever lift it up again. Her ches_ad dropped, so that she stooped; and her voice had dropped, so that she spok_ow, and with a dead lull upon her; altogether, she had the appearance o_aving dropped body and soul, within and without, under the weight of _rushing blow.
I played the game to an end with Estella, and she beggared me. She threw th_ards down on the table when she had won them all, as if she despised them fo_aving been won of me.
“When shall I have you here again?” said Miss Havisham. “Let me think.”
I was beginning to remind her that to-day was Wednesday, when she checked m_ith her former impatient movement of the fingers of her right hand.
“There, there! I know nothing of days of the week; I know nothing of weeks o_he year. Come again after six days. You hear?”
“Estella, take him down. Let him have something to eat, and let him roam an_ook about him while he eats. Go, Pip.”
I followed the candle down, as I had followed the candle up, and she stood i_n the place where we had found it. Until she opened the side entrance, I ha_ancied, without thinking about it, that it must necessarily be night-time.
The rush of the daylight quite confounded me, and made me feel as if I ha_een in the candlelight of the strange room many hours.
“You are to wait here, you boy,” said Estella; and disappeared and closed th_oor.
I took the opportunity of being alone in the courtyard to look at my coars_ands and my common boots. My opinion of those accessories was not favorable.
They had never troubled me before, but they troubled me now, as vulga_ppendages. I determined to ask Joe why he had ever taught me to call thos_icture-cards Jacks, which ought to be called knaves. I wished Joe had bee_ather more genteelly brought up, and then I should have been so too.
She came back, with some bread and meat and a little mug of beer. She put th_ug down on the stones of the yard, and gave me the bread and meat withou_ooking at me, as insolently as if I were a dog in disgrace. I was s_umiliated, hurt, spurned, offended, angry, sorry,—I cannot hit upon the righ_ame for the smart—God knows what its name was,—that tears started to my eyes.
The moment they sprang there, the girl looked at me with a quick delight i_aving been the cause of them. This gave me power to keep them back and t_ook at her: so, she gave a contemptuous toss—but with a sense, I thought, o_aving made too sure that I was so wounded— and left me.
But when she was gone, I looked about me for a place to hide my face in, an_ot behind one of the gates in the brewery-lane, and leaned my sleeve agains_he wall there, and leaned my forehead on it and cried. As I cried, I kicke_he wall, and took a hard twist at my hair; so bitter were my feelings, and s_harp was the smart without a name, that needed counteraction.
My sister’s bringing up had made me sensitive. In the little world in whic_hildren have their existence whosoever brings them up, there is nothing s_inely perceived and so finely felt as injustice. It may be only smal_njustice that the child can be exposed to; but the child is small, and it_orld is small, and its rocking-horse stands as many hands high, according t_cale, as a big-boned Irish hunter. Within myself, I had sustained, from m_abyhood, a perpetual conflict with injustice. I had known, from the time whe_ could speak, that my sister, in her capricious and violent coercion, wa_njust to me. I had cherished a profound conviction that her bringing me up b_and gave her no right to bring me up by jerks. Through all my punishments, disgraces, fasts, and vigils, and other penitential performances, I had nurse_his assurance; and to my communing so much with it, in a solitary an_nprotected way, I in great part refer the fact that I was morally timid an_ery sensitive.
I got rid of my injured feelings for the time by kicking them into the brewer_all, and twisting them out of my hair, and then I smoothed my face with m_leeve, and came from behind the gate. The bread and meat were acceptable, an_he beer was warming and tingling, and I was soon in spirits to look about me.
To be sure, it was a deserted place, down to the pigeon-house in the brewery- yard, which had been blown crooked on its pole by some high wind, and woul_ave made the pigeons think themselves at sea, if there had been any pigeon_here to be rocked by it. But there were no pigeons in the dove-cot, no horse_n the stable, no pigs in the sty, no malt in the storehouse, no smells o_rains and beer in the copper or the vat. All the uses and scents of th_rewery might have evaporated with its last reek of smoke. In a by-yard, ther_as a wilderness of empty casks, which had a certain sour remembrance o_etter days lingering about them; but it was too sour to be accepted as _ample of the beer that was gone,—and in this respect I remember thos_ecluses as being like most others.
Behind the furthest end of the brewery, was a rank garden with an old wall; not so high but that I could struggle up and hold on long enough to look ove_t, and see that the rank garden was the garden of the house, and that it wa_vergrown with tangled weeds, but that there was a track upon the green an_ellow paths, as if some one sometimes walked there, and that Estella wa_alking away from me even then. But she seemed to be everywhere. For when _ielded to the temptation presented by the casks, and began to walk on them, _aw her walking on them at the end of the yard of casks. She had her bac_owards me, and held her pretty brown hair spread out in her two hands, an_ever looked round, and passed out of my view directly. So, in the brewer_tself,—by which I mean the large paved lofty place in which they used to mak_he beer, and where the brewing utensils still were. When I first went int_t, and, rather oppressed by its gloom, stood near the door looking about me, I saw her pass among the extinguished fires, and ascend some light iro_tairs, and go out by a gallery high overhead, as if she were going out int_he sky.
It was in this place, and at this moment, that a strange thing happened to m_ancy. I thought it a strange thing then, and I thought it a stranger thin_ong afterwards. I turned my eyes—a little dimmed by looking up at the frost_ight—towards a great wooden beam in a low nook of the building near me on m_ight hand, and I saw a figure hanging there by the neck. A figure all i_ellow white, with but one shoe to the feet; and it hung so, that I could se_hat the faded trimmings of the dress were like earthy paper, and that th_ace was Miss Havisham’s, with a movement going over the whole countenance a_f she were trying to call to me. In the terror of seeing the figure, and i_he terror of being certain that it had not been there a moment before, I a_irst ran from it, and then ran towards it. And my terror was greatest of al_hen I found no figure there.
Nothing less than the frosty light of the cheerful sky, the sight of peopl_assing beyond the bars of the court-yard gate, and the reviving influence o_he rest of the bread and meat and beer, would have brought me round. Eve_ith those aids, I might not have come to myself as soon as I did, but that _aw Estella approaching with the keys, to let me out. She would have some fai_eason for looking down upon me, I thought, if she saw me frightened; and sh_ould have no fair reason.
She gave me a triumphant glance in passing me, as if she rejoiced that m_ands were so coarse and my boots were so thick, and she opened the gate, an_tood holding it. I was passing out without looking at her, when she touche_e with a taunting hand.
“Why don’t you cry?”
“Because I don’t want to.”
“You do,” said she. “You have been crying till you are half blind, and you ar_ear crying again now.”
She laughed contemptuously, pushed me out, and locked the gate upon me. I wen_traight to Mr. Pumblechook’s, and was immensely relieved to find him not a_ome. So, leaving word with the shopman on what day I was wanted at Mis_avisham’s again, I set off on the four-mile walk to our forge; pondering, a_ went along, on all I had seen, and deeply revolving that I was a commo_aboring-boy; that my hands were coarse; that my boots were thick; that I ha_allen into a despicable habit of calling knaves Jacks; that I was much mor_gnorant than I had considered myself last night, and generally that I was i_ low-lived bad way.