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Charles Dickens > Great Expectations > Chapter 29

Great Expectations

Chapter 29

Betimes in the morning I was up and out. It was too early yet to go

to Miss Havisham's, so I loitered into the country on Miss

Havisham's side of town - which was not Joe's side; I could go

there to-morrow - thinking about my patroness, and painting

brilliant pictures of her plans for me.

She had adopted Estella, she had as good as adopted me, and it

could not fail to be her intention to bring us together. She

reserved it for me to restore the desolate house, admit the

sunshine into the dark rooms, set the clocks a-going and the cold

hearths a-blazing, tear down the cobwebs, destroy the vermin - in

short, do all the shining deeds of the young Knight of romance, and

marry the Princess. I had stopped to look at the house as I passed;

and its seared red brick walls, blocked windows, and strong green

ivy clasping even the stacks of chimneys with its twigs and

tendons, as if with sinewy old arms, had made up a rich attractive

mystery, of which I was the hero. Estella was the inspiration of

it, and the heart of it, of course. But, though she had taken such

strong possession of me, though my fancy and my hope were so set

upon her, though her influence on my boyish life and character had

been all-powerful, I did not, even that romantic morning, invest

her with any attributes save those she possessed. I mention this in

this place, of a fixed purpose, because it is the clue by which I

am to be followed into my poor labyrinth. According to my

experience, the conventional notion of a lover cannot be always

true. The unqualified truth is, that when I loved Estella with the

love of a man, I loved her simply because I found her irresistible.

Once for all; I knew to my sorrow, often and often, if not always,

that I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace,

against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that

could be. Once for all; I loved her none the less because I knew

it, and it had no more influence in restraining me, than if I had

devoutly believed her to be human perfection.

I so shaped out my walk as to arrive at the gate at my old time.

When I had rung at the bell with an unsteady hand, I turned my back

upon the gate, while I tried to get my breath and keep the beating

of my heart moderately quiet. I heard the side door open, and steps

come across the court-yard; but I pretended not to hear, even when

the gate swung on its rusty hinges.

Being at last touched on the shoulder, I started and turned. I

started much more naturally then, to find myself confronted by a

man in a sober grey dress. The last man I should have expected to

see in that place of porter at Miss Havisham's door.


"Ah, young master, there's more changes than yours. But come in,

come in. It's opposed to my orders to hold the gate open."

I entered and he swung it, and locked it, and took the key out.

"Yes!" said he, facing round, after doggedly preceding me a few

steps towards the house. "Here I am!"

"How did you come here?"

"I come her," he retorted, "on my legs. I had my box brought

alongside me in a barrow."

"Are you here for good?"

"I ain't her for harm, young master, I suppose?"

I was not so sure of that. I had leisure to entertain the retort in

my mind, while he slowly lifted his heavy glance from the pavement,

up my legs and arms, to my face.

"Then you have left the forge?" I said.

"Do this look like a forge?" replied Orlick, sending his glance all

round him with an air of injury. "Now, do it look like it?"

I asked him how long he had left Gargery's forge?

"One day is so like another here," he replied, "that I don't know

without casting it up. However, I come her some time since you


"I could have told you that, Orlick."

"Ah!" said he, drily. "But then you've got to be a scholar."

By this time we had come to the house, where I found his room to be

one just within the side door, with a little window in it looking

on the court-yard. In its small proportions, it was not unlike the

kind of place usually assigned to a gate-porter in Paris. Certain

keys were hanging on the wall, to which he now added the gate-key;

and his patchwork-covered bed was in a little inner division or

recess. The whole had a slovenly confined and sleepy look, like a

cage for a human dormouse: while he, looming dark and heavy in the

shadow of a corner by the window, looked like the human dormouse

for whom it was fitted up - as indeed he was.

"I never saw this room before," I remarked; "but there used to be

no Porter here."

"No," said he; "not till it got about that there was no protection

on the premises, and it come to be considered dangerous, with

convicts and Tag and Rag and Bobtail going up and down. And then I

was recommended to the place as a man who could give another man as

good as he brought, and I took it. It's easier than bellowsing and

hammering. - That's loaded, that is."

My eye had been caught by a gun with a brass bound stock over the

chimney-piece, and his eye had followed mine.

"Well," said I, not desirous of more conversation, "shall I go up

to Miss Havisham?"

"Burn me, if I know!" he retorted, first stretching himself and

then shaking himself; "my orders ends here, young master. I give

this here bell a rap with this here hammer, and you go on along the

passage 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 trodden

in my thick boots, and he made his bell sound. At the end of the

passage, while the bell was still reverberating, I found Sarah

Pocket: who appeared to have now become constitutionally green and

yellow 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 and

family 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 know

your way, sir?"

Tolerably, for I had gone up the staircase in the dark, many a

time. I ascended it now, in lighter boots than of yore, and tapped

in my old way at the door of Miss Havisham's room. "Pip's rap," I

heard her say, immediately; "come in, Pip."

She was in her chair near the old table, in the old dress, with her

two hands crossed on her stick, her chin resting on them, and her

eyes on the fire. Sitting near her, with the white shoe that had

never been worn, in her hand, and her head bent as she looked at

it, was an elegant lady whom I had never seen.

"Come in, Pip," Miss Havisham continued to mutter, without looking

round or up; "come in, Pip, how do you do, Pip? so you kiss my hand

as if I were a queen, eh? - Well?"

She looked up at me suddenly, only moving her eyes, and repeated in

a grimly playful manner,


"I heard, Miss Havisham," said I, rather at a loss, "that you were

so kind as to wish me to come and see you, and I came directly."


The lady whom I had never seen before, lifted up her eyes and

looked archly at me, and then I saw that the eyes were Estella's

eyes. But she was so much changed, was so much more beautiful, so

much more womanly, in all things winning admiration had made such

wonderful advance, that I seemed to have made none. I fancied, as I

looked at her, that I slipped hopelessly back into the coarse and

common boy again. O the sense of distance and disparity that came

upon me, and the inaccessibility that came about her!

She gave me her hand. I stammered something about the pleasure I

felt in seeing her again, and about my having looked forward to it

for a long, long time.

"Do you find her much changed, Pip?" asked Miss Havisham, with her

greedy look, and striking her stick upon a chair that stood between

them, as a sign to me to sit down there.

"When I came in, Miss Havisham, I thought there was nothing of

Estella in the face or figure; but now it all settles down so

curiously into the old--"

"What? You are not going to say into the old Estella?" Miss

Havisham interrupted. "She was proud and insulting, and you wanted

to go away from her. Don't you remember?"

I said confusedly that that was long ago, and that I knew no better

then, and the like. Estella smiled with perfect composure, and said

she had no doubt of my having been quite right, and of her having

been very disagreeable.

"Is he changed?" Miss Havisham asked her.

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

"Less coarse and common?" said Miss Havisham, playing with

Estella's hair.

Estella laughed, and looked at the shoe in her hand, and laughed

again, and looked at me, and put the shoe down. She treated me as a

boy still, but she lured me on.

We sat in the dreamy room among the old strange influences which

had so wrought upon me, and I learnt that she had but just come

home from France, and that she was going to London. Proud and

wilful as of old, she had brought those qualities into such

subjection to her beauty that it was impossible and out of nature -

or I thought so - to separate them from her beauty. Truly it was

impossible to dissociate her presence from all those wretched

hankerings after money and gentility that had disturbed my boyhood

- from all those ill-regulated aspirations that had first made me

ashamed of home and Joe - from all those visions that had raised

her face in the glowing fire, struck it out of the iron on the

anvil, extracted it from the darkness of night to look in at the

wooden window of the forge and flit away. In a word, it was

impossible 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 we

had conversed for a while, Miss Havisham sent us two out to walk in

the neglected garden: on our coming in by-and-by, she said, I

should wheel her about a little as in times of yore.

So, Estella and I went out into the garden by the gate through

which I had strayed to my encounter with the pale young gentleman,

now Herbert; I, trembling in spirit and worshipping the very hem of

her dress; she, quite composed and most decidedly not worshipping

the hem of mine. As we drew near to the place of encounter, she

stopped and said:

"I must have been a singular little creature to hide and see that

fight 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. "I

remember I entertained a great objection to your adversary, because

I took it ill that he should be brought here to pester me with his


"He and I are great friends now."

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



I made the admission with reluctance, for it seemed to have a

boyish look, and she already treated me more than enough like a


"Since your change of fortune and prospects, you have changed your

companions," said Estella.

"Naturally," said I.

"And necessarily," she added, in a haughty tone; "what was fit

company for you once, would be quite unfit company for you now."

In my conscience, I doubt very much whether I had any lingering

intention left, of going to see Joe; but if I had, this observation

put 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 the

fighting times.

"Not the least."

The air of completeness and superiority with which she walked at my

side, and the air of youthfulness and submission with which I

walked at hers, made a contrast that I strongly felt. It would have

rankled in me more than it did, if I had not regarded myself as

eliciting it by being so set apart for her and assigned to her.

The garden was too overgrown and rank for walking in with ease, and

after we had made the round of it twice or thrice, we came out

again into the brewery yard. I showed her to a nicety where I had

seen her walking on the casks, that first old day, and she said,

with a cold and careless look in that direction, "Did I?" I

reminded her where she had come out of the house and given me my

meat and drink, and she said, "I don't remember." "Not remember

that you made me cry?" said I. "No," said she, and shook her head

and looked about her. I verily believe that her not remembering and

not minding in the least, made me cry again, inwardly - and that is

the sharpest crying of all.

"You must know," said Estella, condescending to me as a brilliant

and beautiful woman might, "that I have no heart - if that has

anything to do with my memory."

I got through some jargon to the effect that I took the liberty of

doubting that. That I knew better. That there could be no such

beauty 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 cease

to 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 and

looked attentively at me? Anything that I had seen in Miss

Havisham? No. In some of her looks and gestures there was that

tinge of resemblance to Miss Havisham which may often be noticed to

have been acquired by children, from grown person with whom they

have been much associated and secluded, and which, when childhood

is passed, will produce a remarkable occasional likeness of

expression between faces that are otherwise quite different. And

yet I could not trace this to Miss Havisham. I looked again, and

though 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 her

brow was smooth) as with a darkening of her face; "if we are to be

thrown much together, you had better believe it at once. No!"

imperiously stopping me as I opened my lips. "I have not bestowed

my tenderness anywhere. I have never had any such thing."

In another moment we were in the brewery so long disused, and she

pointed to the high gallery where I had seen her going out on that

same first day, and told me she remembered to have been up there,

and to have seen me standing scared below. As my eyes followed her

white hand, again the same dim suggestion that I could not possibly

grasp, crossed me. My involuntary start occasioned her to lay her

hand upon my arm. Instantly the ghost passed once more, and was


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, to

turn it off.

"Then you don't? Very well. It is said, at any rate. Miss Havisham

will soon be expecting you at your old post, though I think that

might be laid aside now, with other old belongings. Let us make one

more round of the garden, and then go in. Come! You shall not shed

tears for my cruelty to-day; you shall be my Page, and give me your


Her handsome dress had trailed upon the ground. She held it in one

hand now, and with the other lightly touched my shoulder as we

walked. We walked round the ruined garden twice or thrice more, and

it was all in bloom for me. If the green and yellow growth of weed

in the chinks of the old wall had been the most precious flowers

that ever blew, it could not have been more cherished in my


There was no discrepancy of years between us, to remove her far

from me; we were of nearly the same age, though of course the age

told for more in her case than in mine; but the air of

inaccessibility which her beauty and her manner gave her, tormented

me in the midst of my delight, and at the height of the assurance I

felt that our patroness had chosen us for one another. Wretched


At last we went back into the house, and there I heard, with

surprise, that my guardian had come down to see Miss Havisham on

business, and would come back to dinner. The old wintry branches of

chandeliers in the room where the mouldering table was spread, had

been lighted while we were out, and Miss Havisham was in her chair

and waiting for me.

It was like pushing the chair itself back into the past, when we

began the old slow circuit round about the ashes of the bridal

feast. But, in the funereal room, with that figure of the grave

fallen back in the chair fixing its eyes upon her, Estella looked

more bright and beautiful than before, and I was under stronger


The time so melted away, that our early dinner-hour drew close at

hand, and Estella left us to prepare herself. We had stopped near

the centre of the long table, and Miss Havisham, with one of her

withered arms stretched out of the chair, rested that clenched hand

upon the yellow cloth. As Estella looked back over her shoulder

before going out at the door, Miss Havisham kissed that hand to

her, 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 hers

as she sat in the chair. "Love her, love her, love her! How does

she use you?"

Before I could answer (if I could have answered so difficult a

question at all), she repeated, "Love her, love her, love her! If

she favours you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she

tears your heart to pieces - and as it gets older and stronger, it

will tear deeper - love her, love her, love her!"

Never had I seen such passionate eagerness as was joined to her

utterance of these words. I could feel the muscles of the thin arm

round my neck, swell with the vehemence that possessed her.

"Hear me, Pip! I adopted her to be loved. I bred her and educated

her, to be loved. I developed her into what she is, that she might

be loved. Love her!"

She said the word often enough, and there could be no doubt that

she meant to say it; but if the often repeated word had been hate

instead of love - despair - revenge - dire death - it could not

have 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, unquestioning

self-humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against

yourself and against the whole world, giving up your whole heart

and soul to the smiter - as I did!"

When she came to that, and to a wild cry that followed that, I

caught her round the waist. For she rose up in the chair, in her

shroud of a dress, and struck at the air as if she would as soon

have struck herself against the wall and fallen dead.

All this passed in a few seconds. As I drew her down into her

chair, I was conscious of a scent that I knew, and turning, saw my

guardian in the room.

He always carried (I have not yet mentioned it, I think) a

pocket-handkerchief of rich silk and of imposing proportions, which

was of great value to him in his profession. I have seen him so

terrify a client or a witness by ceremoniously unfolding this

pocket-handkerchief as if he were immediately going to blow his

nose, and then pausing, as if he knew he should not have time to do

it before such client or witness committed himself, that the

self-committal has followed directly, quite as a matter of course.

When I saw him in the room, he had this expressive

pockethandkerchief in both hands, and was looking at us. On meeting

my eye, he said plainly, by a momentary and silent pause in that

attitude, "Indeed? Singular!" and then put the handkerchief to its

right use with wonderful effect.

Miss Havisham had seen him as soon as I, and was (like everybody

else) afraid of him. She made a strong attempt to compose herself,

and stammered that he was as punctual as ever.

"As punctual as ever," he repeated, coming up to us. "(How do you

do, Pip? Shall I give you a ride, Miss Havisham? Once round?)

And so you are here, Pip?"

I told him when I had arrived, and how Miss Havisham had wished me

to come and see Estella. To which he replied, "Ah! Very fine young

lady!" Then he pushed Miss Havisham in her chair before him, with

one of his large hands, and put the other in his trousers-pocket as

if the pocket were full of secrets.

"Well, Pip! How often have you seen Miss Estella before?" said he,

when he came to a stop.

"How often?"

"Ah! How many times? Ten thousand times?"

"Oh! Certainly not so many."


"Jaggers," interposed Miss Havisham, much to my relief; "leave my

Pip alone, and go with him to your dinner."

He complied, and we groped our way down the dark stairs together.

While we were still on our way to those detached apartments across

the paved yard at the back, he asked me how often I had seen Miss

Havisham eat and drink; offering me a breadth of choice, as usual,

between a hundred times and once.

I considered, and said, "Never."

"And never will, Pip," he retorted, with a frowning smile. "She has

never allowed herself to be seen doing either, since she lived this

present life of hers. She wanders about in the night, and then lays

hands on such food as she takes."

"Pray, sir," said I, "may I ask you a question?"

"You may," said he, "and I may decline to answer it. Put your


"Estella's name. Is it Havisham or - ?" I had nothing to add.

"Or what?" said he.

"Is it Havisham?"

"It is Havisham."

This brought us to the dinner-table, where she and Sarah Pocket

awaited us. Mr. Jaggers presided, Estella sat opposite to him, I

faced my green and yellow friend. We dined very well, and were

waited on by a maid-servant whom I had never seen in all my comings

and goings, but who, for anything I know, had been in that

mysterious house the whole time. After dinner, a bottle of choice

old port was placed before my guardian (he was evidently well

acquainted with the vintage), and the two ladies left us.

Anything to equal the determined reticence of Mr. Jaggers under that

roof, I never saw elsewhere, even in him. He kept his very looks to

himself, and scarcely directed his eyes to Estella's face once

during dinner. When she spoke to him, he listened, and in due

course answered, but never looked at her, that I could see. On the

other hand, she often looked at him, with interest and curiosity,

if not distrust, but his face never, showed the least

consciousness. Throughout dinner he took a dry delight in making

Sarah Pocket greener and yellower, by often referring in

conversation with me to my expectations; but here, again, he showed

no consciousness, and even made it appear that he extorted - and

even did extort, though I don't know how - those references out of

my innocent self.

And when he and I were left alone together, he sat with an air upon

him of general lying by in consequence of information he possessed,

that really was too much for me. He cross-examined his very wine

when he had nothing else in hand. He held it between himself and

the candle, tasted the port, rolled it in his mouth, swallowed it,

looked at his glass again, smelt the port, tried it, drank it,

filled again, and cross-examined the glass again, until I was as

nervous as if I had known the wine to be telling him something to

my disadvantage. Three or four times I feebly thought I would start

conversation; but whenever he saw me going to ask him anything, he

looked at me with his glass in his hand, and rolling his wine about

in his mouth, as if requesting me to take notice that it was of no

use, for he couldn't answer.

I think Miss Pocket was conscious that the sight of me involved her

in the danger of being goaded to madness, and perhaps tearing off

her cap - which was a very hideous one, in the nature of a muslin

mop - and strewing the ground with her hair - which assuredly had

never grown on her head. She did not appear when we afterwards went

up to Miss Havisham's room, and we four played at whist. In the

interval, Miss Havisham, in a fantastic way, had put some of the

most beautiful jewels from her dressing-table into Estella's hair,

and about her bosom and arms; and I saw even my guardian look at

her from under his thick eyebrows, and raise them a little, when

her loveliness was before him, with those rich flushes of glitter

and colour in it.

Of the manner and extent to which he took our trumps into custody,

and came out with mean little cards at the ends of hands, before

which the glory of our Kings and Queens was utterly abased, I say

nothing; nor, of the feeling that I had, respecting his looking

upon us personally in the light of three very obvious and poor

riddles that he had found out long ago. What I suffered from, was

the incompatibility between his cold presence and my feelings

towards Estella. It was not that I knew I could never bear to speak

to him about her, that I knew I could never bear to hear him creak

his boots at her, that I knew I could never bear to see him wash

his hands of her; it was, that my admiration should be within a

foot or two of him - it was, that my feelings should be in the same

place with him - that, was the agonizing circumstance.

We played until nine o'clock, and then it was arranged that when

Estella came to London I should be forewarned of her coming and

should meet her at the coach; and then I took leave of her, and

touched her and left her.

My guardian lay at the Boar in the next room to mine. Far into the

night, Miss Havisham's words, "Love her, love her, love her!"

sounded in my ears. I adapted them for my own repetition, and said

to my pillow, "I love her, I love her, I love her!" hundreds of

times. Then, a burst of gratitude came upon me, that she should be

destined for me, once the blacksmith's boy. Then, I thought if she

were, as I feared, by no means rapturously grateful for that

destiny yet, when would she begin to be interested in me? When

should I awaken the heart within her, that was mute and sleeping


Ah me! I thought those were high and great emotions. But I never

thought there was anything low and small in my keeping away from

Joe, because I knew she would be contemptuous of him. It was but a

day gone, and Joe had brought the tears into my eyes; they had soon

dried, God forgive me! soon dried.

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