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Charles Dickens >> Great Expectations (page 35)


"Well," said I, not desirous of more conversation, "shall I go upto Miss Havisham?"

"Burn me, if I know!" he retorted, first stretching himself andthen shaking himself; "my orders ends here, young master. I givethis here bell a rap with this here hammer, and you go on along thepassage till you meet somebody."

"I am expected, I believe?"

"Burn me twice over, if I can say!" said he.

Upon that, I turned down the long passage which I had first troddenin my thick boots, and he made his bell sound. At the end of thepassage, while the bell was still reverberating, I found SarahPocket: who appeared to have now become constitutionally green andyellow by reason of me.

"Oh!" said she. "You, is it, Mr. Pip?"

"It is, Miss Pocket. I am glad to tell you that Mr. Pocket andfamily are all well."

"Are they any wiser?" said Sarah, with a dismal shake of the head;"they had better be wiser, than well. Ah, Matthew, Matthew! You knowyour way, sir?"

Tolerably, for I had gone up the staircase in the dark, many atime. I ascended it now, in lighter boots than of yore, and tappedin my old way at the door of Miss Havisham's room. "Pip's rap," Iheard her say, immediately; "come in, Pip."

She was in her chair near the old table, in the old dress, with hertwo hands crossed on her stick, her chin resting on them, and hereyes on the fire. Sitting near her, with the white shoe that hadnever been worn, in her hand, and her head bent as she looked atit, was an elegant lady whom I had never seen.

"Come in, Pip," Miss Havisham continued to mutter, without lookinground or up; "come in, Pip, how do you do, Pip? so you kiss my handas if I were a queen, eh? - Well?"

She looked up at me suddenly, only moving her eyes, and repeated ina grimly playful manner,

"Well?"

"I heard, Miss Havisham," said I, rather at a loss, "that you wereso kind as to wish me to come and see you, and I came directly."

"Well?"

The lady whom I had never seen before, lifted up her eyes andlooked archly at me, and then I saw that the eyes were Estella'seyes. But she was so much changed, was so much more beautiful, somuch more womanly, in all things winning admiration had made suchwonderful advance, that I seemed to have made none. I fancied, as Ilooked at her, that I slipped hopelessly back into the coarse andcommon boy again. O the sense of distance and disparity that cameupon me, and the inaccessibility that came about her!

She gave me her hand. I stammered something about the pleasure Ifelt in seeing her again, and about my having looked forward to itfor a long, long time.

"Do you find her much changed, Pip?" asked Miss Havisham, with hergreedy look, and striking her stick upon a chair that stood betweenthem, as a sign to me to sit down there.

"When I came in, Miss Havisham, I thought there was nothing ofEstella in the face or figure; but now it all settles down socuriously into the old--"

"What? You are not going to say into the old Estella?" MissHavisham interrupted. "She was proud and insulting, and you wantedto go away from her. Don't you remember?"

I said confusedly that that was long ago, and that I knew no betterthen, and the like. Estella smiled with perfect composure, and saidshe had no doubt of my having been quite right, and of her havingbeen very disagreeable.

"Is he changed?" Miss Havisham asked her.

"Very much," said Estella, looking at me.

"Less coarse and common?" said Miss Havisham, playing withEstella's hair.

Estella laughed, and looked at the shoe in her hand, and laughedagain, and looked at me, and put the shoe down. She treated me as aboy still, but she lured me on.

We sat in the dreamy room among the old strange influences whichhad so wrought upon me, and I learnt that she had but just comehome from France, and that she was going to London. Proud andwilful as of old, she had brought those qualities into suchsubjection to her beauty that it was impossible and out of nature -or I thought so - to separate them from her beauty. Truly it wasimpossible to dissociate her presence from all those wretchedhankerings after money and gentility that had disturbed my boyhood- from all those ill-regulated aspirations that had first made meashamed of home and Joe - from all those visions that had raisedher face in the glowing fire, struck it out of the iron on theanvil, extracted it from the darkness of night to look in at thewooden window of the forge and flit away. In a word, it wasimpossible for me to separate her, in the past or in the present,from the innermost life of my life.

It was settled that I should stay there all the rest of the day,and return to the hotel at night, and to London to-morrow. When wehad conversed for a while, Miss Havisham sent us two out to walk inthe neglected garden: on our coming in by-and-by, she said, Ishould wheel her about a little as in times of yore.

So, Estella and I went out into the garden by the gate throughwhich I had strayed to my encounter with the pale young gentleman,now Herbert; I, trembling in spirit and worshipping the very hem ofher dress; she, quite composed and most decidedly not worshippingthe hem of mine. As we drew near to the place of encounter, shestopped and said:

"I must have been a singular little creature to hide and see thatfight that day: but I did, and I enjoyed it very much."

"You rewarded me very much."

"Did I?" she replied, in an incidental and forgetful way. "Iremember I entertained a great objection to your adversary, becauseI took it ill that he should be brought here to pester me with hiscompany."

"He and I are great friends now."

"Are you? I think I recollect though, that you read with hisfather?"

"Yes."

I made the admission with reluctance, for it seemed to have aboyish look, and she already treated me more than enough like aboy.

"Since your change of fortune and prospects, you have changed yourcompanions," said Estella.

"Naturally," said I.

"And necessarily," she added, in a haughty tone; "what was fitcompany for you once, would be quite unfit company for you now."

In my conscience, I doubt very much whether I had any lingeringintention left, of going to see Joe; but if I had, this observationput it to flight.

"You had no idea of your impending good fortune, in those times?"said Estella, with a slight wave of her hand, signifying in thefighting times.

"Not the least."

The air of completeness and superiority with which she walked at myside, and the air of youthfulness and submission with which Iwalked at hers, made a contrast that I strongly felt. It would haverankled in me more than it did, if I had not regarded myself aseliciting it by being so set apart for her and assigned to her.

The garden was too overgrown and rank for walking in with ease, andafter we had made the round of it twice or thrice, we came outagain into the brewery yard. I showed her to a nicety where I hadseen her walking on the casks, that first old day, and she said,with a cold and careless look in that direction, "Did I?" Ireminded her where she had come out of the house and given me mymeat and drink, and she said, "I don't remember." "Not rememberthat you made me cry?" said I. "No," said she, and shook her headand looked about her. I verily believe that her not remembering andnot minding in the least, made me cry again, inwardly - and that isthe sharpest crying of all.

"You must know," said Estella, condescending to me as a brilliantand beautiful woman might, "that I have no heart - if that hasanything to do with my memory."

I got through some jargon to the effect that I took the liberty ofdoubting that. That I knew better. That there could be no suchbeauty without it.

"Oh! I have a heart to be stabbed in or shot in, I have no doubt,"said Estella, "and, of course, if it ceased to beat I should ceaseto be. But you know what I mean. I have no softness there, no -sympathy - sentiment - nonsense."

What was it that was borne in upon my mind when she stood still andlooked attentively at me? Anything that I had seen in MissHavisham? No. In some of her looks and gestures there was thattinge of resemblance to Miss Havisham which may often be noticed tohave been acquired by children, from grown person with whom theyhave been much associated and secluded, and which, when childhoodis passed, will produce a remarkable occasional likeness ofexpression between faces that are otherwise quite different. Andyet I could not trace this to Miss Havisham. I looked again, andthough she was still looking at me, the suggestion was gone.

What was it?

"I am serious," said Estella, not so much with a frown (for herbrow was smooth) as with a darkening of her face; "if we are to bethrown much together, you had better believe it at once. No!"imperiously stopping me as I opened my lips. "I have not bestowedmy tenderness anywhere. I have never had any such thing."

In another moment we were in the brewery so long disused, and shepointed to the high gallery where I had seen her going out on thatsame first day, and told me she remembered to have been up there,and to have seen me standing scared below. As my eyes followed herwhite hand, again the same dim suggestion that I could not possiblygrasp, crossed me. My involuntary start occasioned her to lay herhand upon my arm. Instantly the ghost passed once more, and wasgone.

What was it?

"What is the matter?" asked Estella. "Are you scared again?"

"I should be, if I believed what you said just now," I replied, toturn it off.

"Then you don't? Very well. It is said, at any rate. Miss Havishamwill soon be expecting you at your old post, though I think thatmight be laid aside now, with other old belongings. Let us make onemore round of the garden, and then go in. Come! You shall not shedtears for my cruelty to-day; you shall be my Page, and give me yourshoulder."

Her handsome dress had trailed upon the ground. She held it in onehand now, and with the other lightly touched my shoulder as wewalked. We walked round the ruined garden twice or thrice more, andit was all in bloom for me. If the green and yellow growth of weedin the chinks of the old wall had been the most precious flowersthat ever blew, it could not have been more cherished in myremembrance.

There was no discrepancy of years between us, to remove her farfrom me; we were of nearly the same age, though of course the agetold for more in her case than in mine; but the air ofinaccessibility which her beauty and her manner gave her, tormentedme in the midst of my delight, and at the height of the assurance Ifelt that our patroness had chosen us for one another. Wretchedboy!

At last we went back into the house, and there I heard, withsurprise, that my guardian had come down to see Miss Havisham onbusiness, and would come back to dinner. The old wintry branches ofchandeliers in the room where the mouldering table was spread, hadbeen lighted while we were out, and Miss Havisham was in her chairand waiting for me.

It was like pushing the chair itself back into the past, when webegan the old slow circuit round about the ashes of the bridalfeast. But, in the funereal room, with that figure of the gravefallen back in the chair fixing its eyes upon her, Estella lookedmore bright and beautiful than before, and I was under strongerenchantment.

The time so melted away, that our early dinner-hour drew close athand, and Estella left us to prepare herself. We had stopped nearthe centre of the long table, and Miss Havisham, with one of herwithered arms stretched out of the chair, rested that clenched handupon the yellow cloth. As Estella looked back over her shoulderbefore going out at the door, Miss Havisham kissed that hand toher, with a ravenous intensity that was of its kind quite dreadful.

Then, Estella being gone and we two left alone, she turned to me,and said in a whisper:

"Is she beautiful, graceful, well-grown? Do you admire her?"

"Everybody must who sees her, Miss Havisham."

She drew an arm round my neck, and drew my head close down to hersas she sat in the chair. "Love her, love her, love her! How doesshe use you?"

Before I could answer (if I could have answered so difficult aquestion at all), she repeated, "Love her, love her, love her! Ifshe favours you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If shetears your heart to pieces - and as it gets older and stronger, itwill tear deeper - love her, love her, love her!"

Never had I seen such passionate eagerness as was joined to herutterance of these words. I could feel the muscles of the thin armround my neck, swell with the vehemence that possessed her.

"Hear me, Pip! I adopted her to be loved. I bred her and educatedher, to be loved. I developed her into what she is, that she mightbe loved. Love her!"

She said the word often enough, and there could be no doubt thatshe meant to say it; but if the often repeated word had been hateinstead of love - despair - revenge - dire death - it could nothave sounded from her lips more like a curse.

"I'll tell you," said she, in the same hurried passionate whisper,"what real love is. It is blind devotion, unquestioningself-humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief againstyourself and against the whole world, giving up your whole heartand soul to the smiter - as I did!"

When she came to that, and to a wild cry that followed that, Icaught her round the waist. For she rose up in the chair, in hershroud of a dress, and struck at the air as if she would as soonhave struck herself against the wall and fallen dead.

All this passed in a few seconds. As I drew her down into herchair, I was conscious of a scent that I knew, and turning, saw myguardian in the room.

Title: Great Expectations
Author: Charles Dickens
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