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wall of her face.
"Poor dear soul!" said this lady, with an abruptness of manner quite my
sister's. "Nobody's enemy but his own!"
"It would be much more commendable to be somebody else's enemy," said the
gentleman; "far more natural."
"Cousin Raymond," observed another lady, "we are to love our neighbour."
"Sarah Pocket," returned Cousin Raymond, "if a man is not his own
neighbour, who is?"
Miss Pocket laughed, and Camilla laughed and said (checking a yawn), "The
idea!" But I thought they seemed to think it rather a good idea too. The other
lady, 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
me in the mean time), "he is so very strange! Would anyone believe that when
Tom's wife died, he actually could not be induced to see the importance of the
children's having the deepest of trimmings to their mourning? 'Good Lord!' says
he, 'Camilla, what can it signify so long as the poor bereaved little things are
in black?' So like Matthew! The idea!"
"Good points in him, good points in him," said Cousin Raymond; "Heaven
forbid I 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,
'It WILL NOT DO, for the credit of the family.' I told him that, without deep
trimmings, the family was disgraced. I cried about it from breakfast till
dinner. 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 a
consolation to me to know that I instantly went out in a pouring rain and bought
"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 in the night."
The ringing of a distant bell, combined with the echoing of some cry or
call along the passage by which I had come, interrupted the conversation and
caused Estella to say to me, "Now, boy!" On my turning round, they all looked
at me with the utmost contempt, and, as I went out, I heard Sarah Pocket say,
"Well I am sure! What next!" and Camilla add, with indignation, "Was there ever
such a fancy! The i-de-a!"
As we were going with our candle along the dark passage, Estella stopped
all of a sudden, and, facing round, said in her taunting manner with her face
quite 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
such force 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
false a declaration as ever was made; for I was inwardly crying for her then,
and I know 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,
we met 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 exceedingly
large head and a corresponding large hand. He took my chin in his large hand
and turned up my face to have a look at me by the light of the candle. He was
prematurely bald on the top of his head, and had bushy black eyebrows that
wouldn't lie down but stood up bristling. His eyes were set very deep in his
head, and were disagreeably sharp and suspicious. He had a large watchchain,
and strong black dots where his beard and whiskers would have been if he had let
them. He was nothing to me, and I could have had no foresight then, that he
ever would be anything to me, but it happened that I had this opportunity of
observing him well.
"Boy of the neighbourhood? 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 a bad set of fellows. Now mind!" said he, biting the side of his great
forefinger as he frowned at me, "you behave yourself!"
With those words, he released me - which I was glad of, for his hand smelt
of scented soap - and went his way down-stairs. I wondered whether he could be
a doctor; but no, I thought; he couldn't be a doctor, or he would have a quieter
and 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 were
just as I had left them. Estella left me standing near the door, and I stood
there 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't
want 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
find for the other question, and I said I was quite willing.
"Then go into that opposite room," said she, pointing at the door behind me
with her withered hand, "and wait there till I come."
I crossed the staircase landing, and entered the room she indicated. From
that room, too, the daylight was completely excluded, and it had an airless
smell that was oppressive. A fire had been lately kindled in the damp
old-fashioned grate, and it was more disposed to go out than to burn up, and the
reluctant smoke which hung in the room seemed colder than the clearer air - like
our own marsh mist. Certain wintry branches of candles on the high chimneypiece
faintly lighted the chamber: or, it would be more expressive to say, faintly
troubled 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, and dropping
to pieces. The most prominent object was a long table with a tablecloth spread
on it, as if a feast had been in preparation when the house and the clocks all
stopped together. An epergne or centrepiece of some kind was in the middle of
this cloth; it was so heavily overhung with cobwebs that its form was quite
undistinguishable; and, as I looked along the yellow expanse out of which I
remember its seeming to grow, like a black fungus, I saw speckled-legged spiders
with blotchy bodies running home to it, and running out from it, as if some
circumstances of the greatest public importance had just transpired in the
I heard the mice too, rattling behind the panels, as if the same occurrence
were important to their interests. But, the blackbeetles took no notice of the
agitation, and groped about the hearth in a ponderous elderly way, as if they
were short-sighted and hard of hearing, and not on terms with one another.
These crawling things had fascinated my attention and I was watching them
from a distance, when Miss Havisham laid a hand upon my shoulder. In her other
hand she had a crutch-headed stick on which she leaned, and she looked like the
Witch of the place.
"This," said she, pointing to the long table with her stick, "is where I
will be 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
and die at once, the complete realization of the ghastly waxwork at the Fair, I
shrank 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
on me while her hand twitched my shoulder, "Come, come, come! Walk me, walk
I made out from this, that the work I had to do, was to walk Miss Havisham
round and round the room. Accordingly, I started at once, and she leaned upon
my 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
hand upon my shoulder, and worked her mouth, and led me to believe that we were
going fast because her thoughts went fast. After a while she said, "Call
Estella!" so I went out on the landing and roared that name as I had done on the
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
have felt sufficiently discontented; but, as she brought with 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 a shame-faced consciousness on my part that they would think
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,
as she plaintively contemplated Miss Havisham, "Poor dear soul! Certainly not
to be expected to look well, poor thing. The idea!"
"And how are you?" said Miss Havisham to Camilla. As we were close to
Camilla then, I would have stopped as a matter of course, only Miss Havisham
wouldn't stop. 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
"Why, what's the matter with you?" asked Miss Havisham, with exceeding
"Nothing worth mentioning," replied Camilla. "I don't wish to make a
display of my feelings, but I have habitually thought of you more in the night
than I am quite equal to."
"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 to take in the night. Raymond is a
witness what nervous jerkings I have in my legs. Chokings and nervous jerkings,
however, are nothing new to me when I think with anxiety of those I love. If I
could be less affectionate and sensitive, I should have a better digestion and
an iron set of nerves. I am sure I wish it could be so. But as to 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
I understood to be Mr. Camilla. He came to the rescue at this point, and said
in a consolatory and complimentary voice, "Camilla, my dear, it is well known
that your family feelings are gradually undermining you to the extent of making
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, my
Miss Sarah Pocket, whom I now saw to be a little dry brown corrugated old
woman, with a small face that might have been made of walnut shells, and a large
mouth like a cat's without the whiskers, supported this position by saying, "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
from her legs to her bosom. "It's all very true! It's a weakness to be so
affectionate, but I can't help it. No doubt my health would be much better if
it was otherwise, still I wouldn't change 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 the night." Here another burst of feeling.