I heard the mice too, rattling behind the panels, as if the sameoccurrence were
important to their interests. But, the blackbeetlestook no notice of the agitation,
and groped about the hearth in aponderous elderly way, as if they were short-sighted
and hard ofhearing, and not on terms with one another.
These crawling things had fascinated my attention and I waswatching them from
a distance, when Miss Havisham laid a hand uponmy shoulder. In her other hand she
had a crutch-headed stick onwhich she leaned, and she looked like the Witch of the
"This," said she, pointing to the long table with her stick, "iswhere I will
be laid when I am dead. They shall come and look at mehere."
With some vague misgiving that she might get upon the table thenand there and
die at once, the complete realization of the ghastlywaxwork at the Fair, I shrank
under her touch.
"What do you think that is?" she asked me, again pointing with herstick; "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 on me
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 MissHavisham round
and round the room. Accordingly, I started at once,and she leaned upon my shoulder,
and we went away at a pace thatmight have been an imitation (founded on my first
impulse underthat 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 wewent, she twitched the hand upon
my shoulder, and worked her mouth,and led me to believe that we were going fast
because her thoughtswent fast. After a while she said, "Call Estella!" so I went
out onthe landing and roared that name as I had done on the previousoccasion. When
her light appeared, I returned to Miss Havisham, andwe started away again round
and round the room.
If only Estella had come to be a spectator of our proceedings, Ishould have felt
sufficiently discontented; but, as she broughtwith her the three ladies and the
gentleman whom I had seen below,I didn't know what to do. In my politeness, I would
have stopped;but, Miss Havisham twitched my shoulder, and we posted on - with ashame-faced
consciousness on my part that they would think it wasall 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 shemurmured, as
she plaintively contemplated Miss Havisham, "Poor dearsoul! Certainly not to be
expected to look well, poor thing. Theidea!"
"And how are you?" said Miss Havisham to Camilla. As we were closeto Camilla
then, I would have stopped as a matter of course, onlyMiss Havisham wouldn't stop.
We swept on, and I felt that I washighly obnoxious to Camilla.
"Thank you, Miss Havisham," she returned, "I am as well as can beexpected."
"Why, what's the matter with you?" asked Miss Havisham, withexceeding sharpness.
"Nothing worth mentioning," replied Camilla. "I don't wish to makea display of
my feelings, but I have habitually thought of you morein the night than I am quite
"Then don't think of me," retorted Miss Havisham.
"Very easily said!" remarked Camilla, amiably repressing a sob,while a hitch
came into her upper lip, and her tears overflowed."Raymond is a witness what ginger
and sal volatile I am obliged totake in the night. Raymond is a witness what nervous
jerkings Ihave in my legs. Chokings and nervous jerkings, however, arenothing new
to me when I think with anxiety of those I love. If Icould be less affectionate
and sensitive, I should have a betterdigestion and an iron set of nerves. I am sure
I wish it could beso. But as to not thinking of you in the night - The idea!" Here,
aburst of tears.
The Raymond referred to, I understood to be the gentleman present,and him I understood
to be Mr. Camilla. He came to the rescue atthis point, and said in a consolatory
and complimentary voice,"Camilla, my dear, it is well known that your family feelings
aregradually undermining you to the extent of making one of your legsshorter than
"I am not aware," observed the grave lady whose voice I had heardbut once, "that
to think of any person is to make a great claimupon that person, my dear."
Miss Sarah Pocket, whom I now saw to be a little dry browncorrugated old woman,
with a small face that might have been madeof walnut shells, and a large mouth like
a cat's without thewhiskers, supported this position by saying, "No, indeed, my
"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 appearedto rise from
her legs to her bosom. "It's all very true! It's aweakness to be so affectionate,
but I can't help it. No doubt myhealth would be much better if it was otherwise,
still I wouldn'tchange my disposition if I could. It's the cause of much suffering,but
it's a consolation to know I posses it, when I wake up in thenight." Here another
burst of feeling.
Miss Havisham and I had never stopped all this time, but kept goinground and
round the room: now, brushing against the skirts of thevisitors: now, giving them
the whole length of the dismal chamber.
"There's Matthew!" said Camilla. "Never mixing with any naturalties, never coming
here to see how Miss Havisham is! I have takento the sofa with my staylace cut,
and have lain there hours,insensible, with my head over the side, and my hair all
down, andmy 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 ofMatthew's strange
and inexplicable conduct, and nobody has thankedme."
"Really I must say I should think not!" interposed the grave lady.
"You see, my dear," added Miss Sarah Pocket (a blandly viciouspersonage), "the
question to put to yourself is, who did you expectto thank you, my love?"
"Without expecting any thanks, or anything of the sort," resumedCamilla, "I have
remained in that state, hours and hours, andRaymond is a witness of the extent to
which I have choked, and whatthe total inefficacy of ginger has been, and I have
been heard atthe pianoforte-tuner's across the street, where the poor mistakenchildren
have even supposed it to be pigeons cooing at adistance-and now to be told--." Here
Camilla put her hand to herthroat, and began to be quite chemical as to the formation
of newcombinations there.
When this same Matthew was mentioned, Miss Havisham stopped me andherself, and
stood looking at the speaker. This change had a greatinfluence in bringing Camilla's
chemistry to a sudden end.
"Matthew will come and see me at last," said Miss Havisham,sternly, when I am
laid on that table. That will be his place -there," striking the table with her
stick, "at my head! And yourswill be there! And your husband's there! And Sarah
Pocket's there!And Georgiana's there! Now you all know where to take your stationswhen
you come to feast upon me. And now go!"
At the mention of each name, she had struck the table with herstick in a new
place. She now said, "Walk me, walk me!" and we wenton again.
"I suppose there's nothing to be done," exclaimed Camilla, "butcomply and depart.
It's something to have seen the object of one'slove and duty, for even so short
a time. I shall think of it with amelancholy satisfaction when I wake up in the
night. I wish Matthewcould have that comfort, but he sets it at defiance. I amdetermined
not to make a display of my feelings, but it's very hardto be told one wants to
feast on one's relations - as if one was aGiant - and to be told to go. The bare
Mr. Camilla interposing, as Mrs. Camilla laid her hand upon herheaving bosom,
that lady assumed an unnatural fortitude of mannerwhich I supposed to be expressive
of an intention to drop and chokewhen out of view, and kissing her hand to Miss
Havisham, wasescorted forth. Sarah Pocket and Georgiana contended who shouldremain
last; but, Sarah was too knowing to be outdone, and ambledround Georgiana with that
artful slipperiness, that the latter wasobliged to take precedence. Sarah Pocket
then made her separateeffect of departing with "Bless you, Miss Havisham dear!"
and witha smile of forgiving pity on her walnut-shell countenance for theweaknesses
of the rest.
While Estella was away lighting them down, Miss Havisham stillwalked with her
hand on my shoulder, but more and more slowly. Atlast she stopped before the fire,
and said, after muttering andlooking at it some seconds:
"This is my birthday, Pip."
I was going to wish her many happy returns, when she lifted herstick.
"I don't suffer it to be spoken of. I don't suffer those who werehere just now,
or any one, to speak of it. They come here on theday, but they dare not refer to
Of course I made no further effort to refer to it.
"On this day of the year, long before you were born, this heap ofdecay," stabbing
with her crutched stick at the pile of cobwebs onthe table but not touching it,
"was brought here. It and I haveworn away together. The mice have gnawed at it,
and sharper teeththan teeth of mice have gnawed at me."
She held the head of her stick against her heart as she stoodlooking at the table;
she in her once white dress, all yellow andwithered; the once white cloth all yellow
and withered; everythingaround, in a state to crumble under a touch.
"When the ruin is complete," said she, with a ghastly look, "andwhen they lay
me dead, in my bride's dress on the bride's table -which shall be done, and which
will be the finished curse upon him- so much the better if it is done on this day!"
She stood looking at the table as if she stood looking at her ownfigure lying
there. I remained quiet. Estella returned, and she tooremained quiet. It seemed
to me that we continued thus for a longtime. In the heavy air of the room, and the
heavy darkness thatbrooded in its remoter corners, I even had an alarming fancy
thatEstella and I might presently begin to decay.
At length, not coming out of her distraught state by degrees, butin an instant,
Miss Havisham said, "Let me see you two play cards;why have you not begun?" With
that, we returned to her room, andsat down as before; I was beggared, as before;
and again, asbefore, Miss Havisham watched us all the time, directed myattention
to Estella's beauty, and made me notice it the more bytrying her jewels on Estella's
breast and hair.
Estella, for her part, likewise treated me as before; except thatshe did not
condescend to speak. When we had played some halfdozengames, a day was appointed
for my return, and I was taken down intothe yard to be fed in the former dog-like
manner. There, too, I wasagain left to wander about as I liked.
It is not much to the purpose whether a gate in that garden wallwhich I had scrambled
up to peep over on the last occasion was, onthat last occasion, open or shut. Enough
that I saw no gate them,and that I saw one now. As it stood open, and as I knew
thatEstella had let the visitors out - for, she had returned with thekeys in her
hand - I strolled into the garden and strolled all overit. It was quite a wilderness,
and there were old melon-frames andcucumber-frames in it, which seemed in their
decline to haveproduced a spontaneous growth of weak attempts at pieces of oldhats
and boots, with now and then a weedy offshoot into thelikeness of a battered saucepan.
When I had exhausted the garden, and a greenhouse with nothing init but a fallen-down
grape-vine and some bottles, I found myself inthe dismal corner upon which I had
looked out of the window. Neverquestioning for a moment that the house was now empty,
I looked inat another window, and found myself, to my great surprise,exchanging
a broad stare with a pale young gentleman with redeyelids and light hair.
This pale young gentleman quickly disappeared, and re-appearedbeside me. He had
been at his books when I had found myself staringat him, and I now saw that he was
"Halloa!" said he, "young fellow!"
Halloa being a general observation which I had usually observed tobe best answered
by itself, I said, "Halloa!" politely omittingyoung 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 thequestion since:
but, what else could I do? His manner was so finaland I was so astonished, that
I followed where he led, as if I hadbeen under a spell.
"Stop a minute, though," he said, wheeling round before we had gonemany paces.
"I ought to give you a reason for fighting, too. Thereit is!" In a most irritating
manner he instantly slapped his handsagainst one another, daintily flung one of
his legs up behind him,pulled my hair, slapped his hands again, dipped his head,
andbutted it into my stomach.
The bull-like proceeding last mentioned, besides that it wasunquestionably to
be regarded in the light of a liberty, wasparticularly disagreeable just after bread
and meat. I thereforehit out at him and was going to hit out again, when he said,"Aha!
Would you?" and began dancing backwards and forwards in amanner quite unparalleled
within my limited experience.
"Laws of the game!" said he. Here, he skipped from his left leg onto his right.
"Regular rules!" Here, he skipped from his right legon to his left. "Come to the
ground, and go through thepreliminaries!" Here, he dodged backwards and forwards,
and did allsorts of things while I looked helplessly at him.