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stick, and her chin on that, and her wan bright eyes glaring at me, a very
I saw in this, wretched though it made me, and bitter the sense of
dependence and even of degradation that it awakened - I saw in this, that
Estella was set to wreak Miss Havisham's revenge on men, and that she was not to
be given to me until she had gratified it for a term. I saw in this, a reason
for her being beforehand assigned to me. Sending her out to attract and torment
and do mischief, Miss Havisham sent her with the malicious assurance that she
was beyond the reach of all admirers, and that all who staked upon that cast
were secured to lose. I saw in this, that I, too, was tormented by a perversion
of ingenuity, even while the prize was reserved for me. I saw in this, the
reason for my being staved off so long, and the reason for my late guardian's
declining to commit himself to the formal knowledge of such a scheme. In a
word, 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 shadow of
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 of
artificial light in air that is seldom renewed. As I looked round at them, and
at the pale gloom they made, and at the stopped clock, and at the withered
articles of bridal dress upon the table and the ground, and at her own awful
figure with its ghostly reflection thrown large by the fire upon the ceiling and
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 across
the landing where the table was spread, and I saw it written, as it were, in the
falls of the cobwebs from the centre-piece, in the crawlings of the spiders on
the cloth, in the tracks of the mice as they betook their little quickened
hearts behind the panels, and in the gropings and pausings of the beetles on the
It happened on the occasion of this visit that some sharp words arose
between Estella and Miss Havisham. It was the first time I had ever seen them
We were seated by the fire, as just now described, and Miss Havisham still
had Estella's arm drawn through her own, and still clutched Estella's hand in
hers, when Estella gradually began to detach herself. She had shown a proud
impatience more than once before, and had rather endured that fierce affection
than accepted or returned it.
"What!" said Miss Havisham, flashing her eyes upon her, "are you tired of
"Only a little tired of myself," replied Estella, disengaging her arm, and
moving to the great chimney-piece, where she stood looking down at the fire.
"Speak the truth, you ingrate!" cried Miss Havisham, passionately striking
her stick upon the floor; "you are tired of me."
Estella looked at her with perfect composure, and again looked down at the
fire. Her graceful figure and her beautiful face expressed a self-possessed
indifference 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 leaned
against the great chimney-piece and only moving her eyes; "do you reproach me
for being cold? You?"
"Are you not?" was the fierce retort.
"You should know," said Estella. "I am what you have made me. Take all
the praise, take all the blame; take all the success, take all the failure; in
short, take me."
"O, look at her, look at her!" cried Miss Havisham, bitterly; "Look at her,
so hard and thankless, on the hearth where she was reared! Where I took her into
this wretched breast when it was first bleeding from its stabs, and where I have
lavished years of tenderness upon her!"
"At least I was no party to the compact," said Estella, "for if I could
walk and speak, when it was made, it was as much as I could do. But what would
you have? You have been very good to me, and I owe everything to you. What
would you 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
of her attitude, never raising her voice as the other did, never yielding either
to anger or tenderness, "Mother by adoption, I have said that I owe everything
to you. All I possess is freely yours. All that you have given me, is at your
command to have again. Beyond that, I have nothing. And if you ask me to give
you 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 I never give her a burning love, inseparable from jealousy at all times,
and from sharp pain, while she speaks thus to me! Let her call me mad, let her
call me mad!"
"Why should I call you mad," returned Estella, "I, of all people? Does any
one live, who knows what set purposes you have, half as well as I do? Does any
one live, who knows what a steady memory you have, half as well as I do? I who
have sat on this same hearth on the little stool that is even now beside you
there, learning your lessons and looking up into your face, when your face was
strange and frightened me!"
"Soon forgotten!" moaned Miss Havisham. "Times soon forgotten!"
"No, not forgotten," retorted Estella. "Not forgotten, but treasured up in
my memory. When have you found me false to your teaching? When have you found
me unmindful of your lessons? When have you found me giving admission here,"
she touched her bosom with her hand, "to anything that you excluded? Be just to
"So proud, so proud!" moaned Miss Havisham, pushing away her grey hair with
both her hands.
"Who taught me to be proud?" returned Estella. "Who praised me when I
learnt my 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 my lesson?"
"But to be proud and hard to me!" Miss Havisham quite shrieked, as she
stretched out her arms. "Estella, Estella, Estella, to be proud and hard to
Estella looked at her for a moment with a kind of calm wonder, but was not
otherwise disturbed; when the moment was past, she looked down at the fire
"I cannot think," said Estella, raising her eyes after a silence "why you
should be so unreasonable when I come to see you after a separation. I have
never forgotten your wrongs and their causes. I have never been unfaithful to
you or your schooling. I have never shown any weakness that I can charge myself
"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 of
calm wonder, "that I almost understand how this comes about. If you had brought
up your adopted daughter wholly in the dark confinement of these rooms, and had
never let her know that there was such a thing as the daylight by 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, and
swaying herself on her chair, but gave no answer.
"Or," said Estella, " - which is a nearer case - if you had taught her,
from the dawn of her intelligence, with your utmost energy and might, that there
was such 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 else blight her; - if you had done this, and then, for a purpose, had
wanted her to take naturally to the daylight and she could not do it, you would
have been disappointed 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
not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me."
Miss Havisham had settled down, I hardly knew how, upon the floor, among
the faded bridal relics with which it was strewn. I took advantage of the
moment - I had sought one from the first - to leave the room, after beseeching
Estella's attention to her, with a movement of my hand. When I left, Estella
was yet standing by the great chimney-piece, just as she had stood throughout.
Miss Havisham's grey hair was all adrift upon the ground, among the other bridal
wrecks, and was a miserable sight to see.
It was with a depressed heart that I walked in the starlight for an hour
and more, about the court-yard, and about the brewery, and about the ruined
garden. When I at last took courage to return to the room, I found Estella
sitting at Miss Havisham's knee, taking up some stitches in one of those old
articles of dress that were dropping to pieces, and of which I have often been
reminded since by the faded tatters of old banners that I have seen hanging up
in cathedrals. Afterwards, Estella and I played at cards, as of yore - only we
were skilful now, and played French games - and so the evening wore away, and I
went to bed.
I lay in that separate building across the court-yard. It was the first
time I had 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,
on that, at the head of the bed, at the foot, behind the half-opened door of the
dressing-room, in the dressing-room, in the room overhead, in the room beneath -
everywhere. At last, when the night was slow to creep on towards two o'clock, I
felt that I absolutely could no longer bear the place as a place to lie 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 gain the outer
court-yard and walk there for the relief of my mind. But, I was no sooner in
the passage than I extinguished my candle; for, I saw Miss Havisham going along
it in a ghostly manner, making a low cry. I followed her at a distance, and saw
her go up the staircase. She carried a bare candle in her hand, 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 the staircase, I felt the
mildewed air of the feast-chamber, without seeing her open 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, I tried in the dark both to get
out, and to go back, but I could do neither until 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, I heard 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 her
and Estella, nor was it ever revived on any similar occasion; and there were
four similar occasions, to the best of my remembrance. Nor, did Miss Havisham's
manner towards Estella in anywise change, except that I believed it to have
something like fear infused among its former characteristics.
It is impossible to turn this leaf of my life, without putting Bentley
Drummle's name upon it; or I would, very gladly.
On a certain occasion when the Finches were assembled in force, and when
good feeling was being promoted in the usual manner by nobody's agreeing with
anybody else, the presiding Finch called the Grove to order, forasmuch as Mr.
Drummle had not yet toasted a lady; which, according to the solemn constitution
of the society, it was the brute's turn to do that day. I thought I saw him
leer in an ugly way at me while the decanters were going round, but as there was
no love lost between us, that might easily be. What was my indignant 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, as a Finch.
"Of Richmond, gentlemen," said Drummle, putting me out of the question,
"and a peerless beauty."
Much he knew about peerless beauties, a mean miserable idiot! I whispered
"I know that lady," said Herbert, across the table, when the toast had been
"Do you?" said Drummle.
"And so do I," I added, with a scarlet face.
"Do you?" said Drummle. "Oh, Lord!"
This was the only retort - except glass or crockery - that the heavy
creature was capable of making; but, I became as highly incensed by it as if it
had been barbed with wit, and I immediately rose in my place and said that I
could not but regard it as being like the honourable Finch's impudence to come
down to that Grove - we always talked about coming down to that Grove, as a neat
Parliamentary turn of expression - down to that Grove, proposing a lady of whom
he knew nothing. Mr. Drummle upon this, starting up, demanded what I meant by