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Chapter 8

Mr. Pumblechook's premises in the High-street of the market town,
were of a peppercorny and farinaceous character, as the premises of
a corn-chandler and seedsman 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 into one 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 of
those jails, and bloom.

It was in the early morning after my arrival that I entertained
this speculation. On the previous night, I had been sent straight
to bed in an attic with a sloping roof, which was so low in the
corner where the bedstead was, that I calculated the tiles as being
within a foot of my eyebrows. In the same early morning, I
discovered a singular affinity between seeds and corduroys. Mr.
Pumblechook wore corduroys, and so did his shopman; and somehow,
there was a general air and flavour about the corduroys, so much in
the nature of seeds, and a general air and flavour about the seeds,
so much in the nature of corduroys, that I hardly knew which was
which. The same opportunity served me for noticing that Mr.
Pumblechook appeared to conduct his business by looking across the
street at the saddler, who appeared to transact his business by
keeping his eye on the coach-maker, who appeared to get on in life
by putting his hands in his pockets and contemplating the baker,
who in his turn folded his arms and stared at the grocer, who stood
at his door and yawned at the chemist. The watch-maker, always
poring over a little desk with a magnifying glass at his eye, and
always inspected by a group 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 his attention.

Mr. Pumblechook and I breakfasted at eight o'clock in the parlour
behind the shop, while the shopman took his mug of tea and hunch of
bread-and-butter on a sack of peas in the front premises. I
considered Mr. Pumblechook wretched company. Besides being possessed
by my sister's idea that a mortifying and penitential character
ought to be imparted to my diet - besides giving me as much crumb
as possible in combination with as little butter, and putting such
a quantity of warm water into my milk that it would have been more
candid to have left the milk out altogether - his conversation
consisted of nothing but arithmetic. On my politely bidding him
Good morning, he said, pompously, "Seven times nine, boy?" And how
should I be able to answer, dodged in that way, in a strange place,
on an empty stomach! I was hungry, but before I had swallowed a
morsel, he began a running sum that lasted all through the
breakfast. "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 do to get a bite or a sup, before the next came;
while he sat at his ease guessing nothing, and eating bacon and hot
roll, in (if I may be allowed the expression) a gorging and
gormandising manner.

For such reasons I was very glad when ten o'clock came and we
started for Miss Havisham's; though I was not at all at my ease
regarding the manner in which I should acquit myself under that
lady's roof. Within a quarter of an hour we came to Miss Havisham's
house, which was of old brick, and dismal, and had a great many
iron bars to it. Some of the windows had been walled up; of those
that remained, all the lower were rustily barred. There was a
court-yard in 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 peeped in (even then Mr. Pumblechook said,
"And fourteen?" but I pretended not to hear him), and saw that at
the side of the house there was a large brewery. No brewing was going
on in it, and none seemed to have gone on for a long long time.

A window was raised, and a clear voice demanded "What name?" To
which my conductor replied, "Pumblechook." The voice returned,
"Quite right," and the window was shut again, and a young lady came
across the court-yard, with keys in her hand.

"This," said Mr. Pumblechook, "is Pip."

"This is Pip, is it?" returned the young lady, who was very pretty
and seemed very 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. But he eyed me severely - as if I had done anything to
him! - and departed with the words reproachfully delivered: "Boy!
Let your behaviour here be a credit unto them which brought you up
by hand!" I was not free from apprehension that he would come back
to propound through the gate, "And sixteen?" But he didn't.

My young conductress locked the gate, and we went across the
court-yard. It was paved and clean, but grass was growing in every
crevice. The brewery buildings had a little lane of communication
with it, and the wooden gates of that lane stood open, and all the
brewery beyond, stood open, away to the high enclosing wall; and
all was empty and disused. The cold wind seemed to blow colder
there, than outside the gate; and it made a shrill noise in howling
in and out at the open sides of the brewery, like the noise of wind
in the rigging of a ship at sea.

She saw me looking at it, and she said, "You could drink without
hurt all the strong 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't you think so?"

"It looks like it, miss."

"Not that anybody means to try," she added, "for that's all done
with, and the place will stand as idle as it is, till it falls. As
to strong beer, there's enough 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, or all 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 was given, that whoever had this house, could want nothing else.
They must have been 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 from complimentary, she was of about my own age. She seemed
much older than I, of course, being a girl, and beautiful and
self-possessed; and she was as scornful 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 chains across it outside - and the first thing I noticed
was, that the passages were all dark, and that she had left a
candle burning there. She took it up, and we went through more
passages and up a staircase, and still it was all dark, and only
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." And scornfully walked away, and - what was worse - took the
candle with her.

This was very uncomfortable, and I was half afraid. However, the
only thing to be done being to knock at the door, I knocked, and
was told from within to enter. I entered, therefore, and found
myself in a pretty large room, well lighted with wax candles. No
glimpse of daylight was to be seen in it. It was a dressing-room,
as I supposed from the furniture, though much of it was of forms
and uses then quite unknown to me. But prominent in it was a draped
table with a gilded looking-glass, and that I made out at first
sight to be a fine lady's dressing-table.

Whether I should have made out this object so soon, if there had
been no fine lady sitting at it, I cannot say. In an arm-chair,
with an elbow resting on the table and her head leaning on that
hand, sat the strangest lady I have ever 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 bright jewels sparkled on her neck and
on her hands, and some other jewels lay sparkling on the table.
Dresses, less splendid than the dress she wore, and half-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 - her veil was but half arranged, her watch and chain were not
put on, and some lace for 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 saw more of them in the first moments than might be
supposed. But, I saw that everything 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 within the bridal dress had
withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no
brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes. I saw that
the dress had been put upon the rounded figure of a young woman,
and that the figure upon which it now hung loose, had shrunk to
skin and bone. Once, I had been taken to see some ghastly waxwork
at the Fair, representing I know not what impossible personage
lying in state. Once, I had been taken to one of our old marsh
churches to see a skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress, that had
been dug out of a vault under the church pavement. Now, waxwork and
skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved and looked at me. I
should have cried out, if I could.

"Who is it?" said the lady at the table.

"Pip, ma'am."

"Pip?"

"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 the surrounding objects in detail, and saw that her watch had
stopped at twenty minutes to nine, and that a clock in the room had
stopped at twenty minutes to nine.

"Look at me," said Miss Havisham. "You are not afraid of a woman
who has never seen the sun since you were born?"

I regret to state that I was not afraid of telling the enormous lie
comprehended in the answer "No."

"Do you know what I touch here?" she said, laying her hands, one
upon the other, on her left side.

"Yes, ma'am." (It made me think of the young man.)

"What do I touch?"

"Your heart."

"Broken!"

She uttered the word with an eager look, and with strong emphasis,
and with a weird smile that had a kind of boast in it. Afterwards,
she kept her hands there 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 men and women. Play."

I think it will be conceded by my most disputatious reader, that
she could hardly have directed an unfortunate boy to do anything in
the wide world more difficult to be done under the circumstances.

"I sometimes have sick fancies," she went on, "and I have a sick
fancy that I want to see some play. There there!" with an impatient
movement of the fingers of her right hand; "play, play, play!"

For a moment, with the fear of my sister's working me before my
eyes, I had a desperate idea of starting round the room in the
assumed character of Mr. Pumblechook's chaise-cart. But, I felt
myself so unequal to the performance that I gave it up, and stood
looking at Miss Havisham in what I suppose she took for a dogged
manner, inasmuch as she said, when we had taken a good look at 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. If you complain of me I shall get into trouble with my
sister, so I would do it if I could; but it's so new here, and so
strange, and so fine - and melancholy--." 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 dress she 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
familiar to me; so melancholy to both of us! Call Estella."

As she was still looking at the reflection of herself, I thought
she was still talking to herself, and kept quiet.

"Call Estella," she repeated, flashing a look at me. "You can do
that. Call Estella. At the door."

To stand in the dark in a mysterious passage of an unknown house,
bawling Estella to a scornful young lady neither visible nor
responsive, and feeling it a dreadful liberty so to roar out her
name, was almost as bad as playing to order. But, she answered at
last, and her light came along the dark passage like 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 brown hair. "Your own, one day, my dear, and you
will use it well. Let me see you play cards with this boy."

"With this boy? Why, he is a common labouring-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 neighbour, 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 Havisham put down the jewel exactly on the spot from
which she had taken it up. As Estella dealt the cards, I glanced at
the dressing-table again, and saw that the shoe upon it, once
white, now yellow, had never been worn. I glanced down at the foot
from which the shoe was absent, and saw that the silk stocking on
it, once white, now yellow, had been trodden ragged. Without this
arrest of everything, this standing still of all the pale decayed
objects, not even the withered bridal dress on the collapsed from
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 on her bridal dress, looking like earthy paper. I knew
nothing then, of the discoveries that are occasionally made of
bodies buried in ancient times, which fall to powder in the moment
of being distinctly seen; but, I have often thought since, that she
must have looked as if the admission of the natural light of day
would have struck her to dust.

"He calls the knaves, Jacks, this boy!" said Estella with disdain,
before our first 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 to consider them a very indifferent pair. Her contempt for me
was so strong, that it became infectious, and I caught it.

She won the game, and I dealt. I misdealt, as was only natural,
when I knew she was lying in wait for me to do wrong; and she
denounced me for a stupid, clumsy labouring-boy.

"You say nothing of her," remarked Miss Havisham to me, as she
looked on. "She says many hard things of you, but you say nothing
of her. What do you think of her?"

"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.

"Anything else?"

"I think she is very pretty."

"Anything else?"

"I think she is very insulting." (She was looking at me then with a
look of supreme aversion.)

"Anything else?"

"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 go home 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 that Miss Havisham's face could not smile. It had dropped into
a watchful and brooding expression - most likely when all the
things about her had become transfixed - and it looked as if
nothing could ever lift it up again. Her chest had dropped, so that
she stooped; and her voice had dropped, so that she spoke low, and
with a dead lull upon her; altogether, she had the appearance of
having dropped, body and soul, within and without, under the weight
of a crushing blow.

I played the game to an end with Estella, and she beggared me. She
threw the cards down on the table when she had won them all, as if
she despised them for having 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 me with 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 of the year. Come again after six days. You hear?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Estella, take him down. Let him have something to eat, and let him
roam and look about him while he eats. Go, Pip."

I followed the candle down, as I had followed the candle up, and
she stood it in the place where we had found it. Until she opened
the side entrance, I had fancied, 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 had been in the candlelight
of the strange room many hours.

"You are to wait here, you boy," said Estella; and disappeared and
closed the door.

I took the opportunity of being alone in the court-yard, to look at
my coarse hands and my common boots. My opinion of those
accessories was not favourable. They had never troubled me before,
but they troubled me now, as vulgar appendages. I determined to ask
Joe why he had ever taught me to call those picture-cards, Jacks,
which ought to be called knaves. I wished Joe had been rather 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 the mug down on the stones of the yard, and gave me the
bread and meat without looking at me, as insolently as if I were a
dog in disgrace. I was so humiliated, hurt, spurned, offended,
angry, sorry - I cannot hit upon the right name 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 in
having been the cause of them. This gave me power to keep them back
and to look at her: so, she gave a contemptuous toss - but with a
sense, I thought, of having 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, and got behind one of the gates in the brewery-lane, and
leaned my sleeve against the wall there, and leaned my forehead on
it and cried. As I cried, I kicked the wall, and took a hard twist
at my hair; so bitter were my feelings, and so sharp was the smart
without a name, that needed counteraction.

My sister's bringing up had made me sensitive. In the little world
in which children have their existence whosoever brings them up,
there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as
injustice. It may be only small injustice that the child can be
exposed to; but the child is small, and its world is small, and its
rocking-horse stands as many hands high, according to scale, as a
big-boned Irish hunter. Within myself, I had sustained, from my
babyhood, a perpetual conflict with injustice. I had known, from
the time when I could speak, that my sister, in her capricious and
violent coercion, was unjust to me. I had cherished a profound
conviction that her bringing me up by hand, gave her no right to
bring me up by jerks. Through all my punishments, disgraces, fasts
and vigils, and other penitential performances, I had nursed this
assurance; and to my communing so much with it, in a solitary and
unprotected way, I in great part refer the fact that I was morally
timid and very sensitive.

I got rid of my injured feelings for the time, by kicking them into
the brewery wall, and twisting them out of my hair, and then I
smoothed my face with my sleeve, and came from behind the gate. The
bread and meat were acceptable, and the 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 would have made the pigeons think themselves at sea,
if there had been any pigeons there to be rocked by it. But, there
were no pigeons in the dove-cot, no horses in the stable, no pigs
in the sty, no malt in the store-house, no smells of grains and
beer in the copper or the vat. All the uses and scents of the
brewery might have evaporated with its last reek of smoke. In a
by-yard, there was a wilderness of empty casks, which had a certain
sour remembrance of better days lingering about them; but it was
too sour to be accepted as a sample of the beer that was gone - and
in this respect I remember those recluses 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 over it, and see that the rank garden was the garden
of the house, and that it was overgrown with tangled weeds, but
that there was a track upon the green and yellow paths, as if some
one sometimes walked there, and that Estella was walking away from
me even then. But she seemed to be everywhere. For, when I yielded
to the temptation presented by the casks, and began to walk on
them. I saw her walking on them at the end of the yard of casks.
She had her back towards me, and held her pretty brown hair spread
out in her two hands, and never looked round, and passed out of my
view directly. So, in the brewery itself - by which I mean the
large paved lofty place in which they used to make the beer, and
where the brewing utensils still were. When I first went into it,
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 iron stairs, and go out by a gallery high overhead, as
if she were going out into the sky.

It was in this place, and at this moment, that a strange thing
happened to my fancy. I thought it a strange thing then, and I
thought it a stranger thing long afterwards. I turned my eyes - a
little dimmed by looking up at the frosty light - towards a great
wooden beam in a low nook of the building near me on my right hand,
and I saw a figure hanging there by the neck. A figure all in
yellow white, with but one shoe to the feet; and it hung so, that I
could see that the faded trimmings of the dress were like earthy
paper, and that the face was Miss Havisham's, with a movement going
over the whole countenance as if she were trying to call to me. In
the terror of seeing the figure, and in the terror of being certain
that it had not been there a moment before, I at first ran from it,
and then ran towards it. And my terror was greatest of all, when I
found no figure there.

Nothing less than the frosty light of the cheerful sky, the sight
of people passing beyond the bars of the court-yard gate, and the
reviving influence of the rest of the bread and meat and beer,
would have brought me round. Even with those aids, I might not have
come to myself as soon as I did, but that I saw Estella approaching
with the keys, to let me out. She would have some fair reason for
looking down upon me, I thought, if she saw me frightened; and she
would have no fair reason.

She gave me a triumphant glance in passing me, as if she rejoiced
that my hands were so coarse and my boots were so thick, and she
opened the gate, and stood holding it. I was passing out without
looking at her, when she touched me 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 are near crying again now."

She laughed contemptuously, pushed me out, and locked the gate upon
me. I went straight to Mr. Pumblechook's, and was immensely relieved
to find him not at home. So, leaving word with the shopman on what
day I was wanted at Miss Havisham's again, I set off on the
four-mile walk to our forge; pondering, as I went along, on all I
had seen, and deeply revolving that I was a common labouring-boy;
that my hands were coarse; that my boots were thick; that I had
fallen into a despicable habit of calling knaves Jacks; that I was
much more ignorant than I had considered myself last night, and
generally that I was in a low-lived bad way.



Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Category:
General Fiction - English literature
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