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Charles Dickens > Great Expectations > Chapter 44

Great Expectations

Chapter 44

In the room where the dressing-table stood, and where the wax

candles burnt on the wall, I found Miss Havisham and Estella; Miss

Havisham seated on a settee near the fire, and Estella on a cushion

at her feet. Estella was knitting, and Miss Havisham was looking

on. They both raised their eyes as I went in, and both saw an

alteration in me. I derived that, from the look they interchanged.

"And what wind," said Miss Havisham, "blows you here, Pip?"

Though she looked steadily at me, I saw that she was rather

confused. Estella, pausing a moment in her knitting with her eyes

upon me, and then going on, I fancied that I read in the action of

her fingers, as plainly as if she had told me in the dumb alphabet,

that she perceived I had discovered my real benefactor.

"Miss Havisham," said I, "I went to Richmond yesterday, to speak to

Estella; and finding that some wind had blown her here, I


Miss Havisham motioning to me for the third or fourth time to sit

down, I took the chair by the dressing-table, which I had often

seen her occupy. With all that ruin at my feet and about me, it

seemed a natural place for me, that day.

"What I had to say to Estella, Miss Havisham, I will say before

you, presently - in a few moments. It will not surprise you, it

will not displease you. I am as unhappy as you can ever have meant

me to be."

Miss Havisham continued to look steadily at me. I could see in the

action of Estella's fingers as they worked, that she attended to

what I said: but she did not look up.

"I have found out who my patron is. It is not a fortunate

discovery, and is not likely ever to enrich me in reputation,

station, fortune, anything. There are reasons why I must say no

more of that. It is not my secret, but another's."

As I was silent for a while, looking at Estella and considering how

to go on, Miss Havisham repeated, "It is not your secret, but

another's. Well?"

"When you first caused me to be brought here, Miss Havisham; when I

belonged to the village over yonder, that I wish I had never left;

I suppose I did really come here, as any other chance boy might

have come - as a kind of servant, to gratify a want or a whim, and

to be paid for it?"

"Ay, Pip," replied Miss Havisham, steadily nodding her head; "you


"And that Mr. Jaggers--"

"Mr. Jaggers," said Miss Havisham, taking me up in a firm tone, "had

nothing to do with it, and knew nothing of it. His being my lawyer,

and his being the lawyer of your patron, is a coincidence. He holds

the same relation towards numbers of people, and it might easily

arise. Be that as it may, it did arise, and was not brought about

by any one."

Any one might have seen in her haggard face that there was no

suppression or evasion so far.

"But when I fell into the mistake I have so long remained in, at

least you led me on?" said I.

"Yes," she returned, again nodding, steadily, "I let you go on."

"Was that kind?"

"Who am I," cried Miss Havisham, striking her stick upon the floor

and flashing into wrath so suddenly that Estella glanced up at her

in surprise, "who am I, for God's sake, that I should be kind?"

It was a weak complaint to have made, and I had not meant to make

it. I told her so, as she sat brooding after this outburst.

"Well, well, well!" she said. "What else?"

"I was liberally paid for my old attendance here," I said, to

soothe her, "in being apprenticed, and I have asked these questions

only for my own information. What follows has another (and I hope

more disinterested) purpose. In humouring my mistake, Miss

Havisham, you punished - practised on - perhaps you will supply

whatever term expresses your intention, without offence - your

self-seeking relations?"

"I did. Why, they would have it so! So would you. What has been my

history, that I should be at the pains of entreating either them,

or you, not to have it so! You made your own snares. I never made


Waiting until she was quiet again - for this, too, flashed out of

her in a wild and sudden way - I went on.

"I have been thrown among one family of your relations, Miss

Havisham, and have been constantly among them since I went to

London. I know them to have been as honestly under my delusion as I

myself. And I should be false and base if I did not tell you,

whether it is acceptable to you or no, and whether you are inclined

to give credence to it or no, that you deeply wrong both Mr. Matthew

Pocket and his son Herbert, if you suppose them to be otherwise

than generous, upright, open, and incapable of anything designing

or mean."

"They are your friends," said Miss Havisham.

"They made themselves my friends," said I, "when they supposed me

to have superseded them; and when Sarah Pocket, Miss Georgiana, and

Mistress Camilla, were not my friends, I think."

This contrasting of them with the rest seemed, I was glad to see,

to do them good with her. She looked at me keenly for a little

while, and then said quietly:

"What do you want for them?"

"Only," said I, "that you would not confound them with the others.

They may be of the same blood, but, believe me, they are not of the

same nature."

Still looking at me keenly, Miss Havisham repeated:

"What do you want for them?"

"I am not so cunning, you see," I said, in answer, conscious that I

reddened a little, "as that I could hide from you, even if I

desired, that I do want something. Miss Havisham, if you would

spare the money to do my friend Herbert a lasting service in life,

but which from the nature of the case must be done without his

knowledge, I could show you how."

"Why must it be done without his knowledge?" she asked, settling

her hands upon her stick, that she might regard me the more


"Because," said I, "I began the service myself, more than two years

ago, without his knowledge, and I don't want to be betrayed. Why I

fail in my ability to finish it, I cannot explain. It is a part of

the secret which is another person's and not mine."

She gradually withdrew her eyes from me, and turned them on the

fire. After watching it for what appeared in the silence and by the

light of the slowly wasting candles to be a long time, she was

roused by the collapse of some of the red coals, and looked towards

me again - at first, vacantly - then, with a gradually

concentrating attention. All this time, Estella knitted on. When

Miss Havisham had fixed her attention on me, she said, speaking as

if there had been no lapse in our dialogue:

"What else?"

"Estella," said I, turning to her now, and trying to command my

trembling voice, "you know I love you. You know that I have loved

you long and dearly."

She raised her eyes to my face, on being thus addressed, and her

fingers plied their work, and she looked at me with an unmoved

countenance. I saw that Miss Havisham glanced from me to her, and

from her to me.

"I should have said this sooner, but for my long mistake. It

induced me to hope that Miss Havisham meant us for one another.

While I thought you could not help yourself, as it were, I

refrained from saying it. But I must say it now."

Preserving her unmoved countenance, and with her fingers still

going, Estella shook her head.

"I know," said I, in answer to that action; "I know. I have no hope

that I shall ever call you mine, Estella. I am ignorant what may

become of me very soon, how poor I may be, or where I may go.

Still, I love you. I have loved you ever since I first saw you in

this house."

Looking at me perfectly unmoved and with her fingers busy, she

shook her head again.

"It would have been cruel in Miss Havisham, horribly cruel, to

practise on the susceptibility of a poor boy, and to torture me

through all these years with a vain hope and an idle pursuit, if

she had reflected on the gravity of what she did. But I think she

did not. I think that in the endurance of her own trial, she forgot

mine, Estella."

I saw Miss Havisham put her hand to her heart and hold it there, as

she sat looking by turns at Estella and at me.

"It seems," said Estella, very calmly, "that there are sentiments,

fancies - I don't know how to call them - which I am not able to

comprehend. When you say you love me, I know what you mean, as a

form of words; but nothing more. You address nothing in my breast,

you touch nothing there. I don't care for what you say at all. I

have tried to warn you of this; now, have I not?"

I said in a miserable manner, "Yes."

"Yes. But you would not be warned, for you thought I did not mean

it. Now, did you not think so?"

"I thought and hoped you could not mean it. You, so young, untried,

and beautiful, Estella! Surely it is not in Nature."

"It is in my nature," she returned. And then she added, with a

stress upon the words, "It is in the nature formed within me. I

make a great difference between you and all other people when I say

so much. I can do no more."

"Is it not true," said I, "that Bentley Drummle is in town here,

and pursuing you?"

"It is quite true," she replied, referring to him with the

indifference of utter contempt.

"That you encourage him, and ride out with him, and that he dines

with you this very day?"

She seemed a little surprised that I should know it, but again

replied, "Quite true."

"You cannot love him, Estella!"

Her fingers stopped for the first time, as she retorted rather

angrily, "What have I told you? Do you still think, in spite of it,

that I do not mean what I say?"

"You would never marry him, Estella?"

She looked towards Miss Havisham, and considered for a moment with

her work in her hands. Then she said, "Why not tell you the truth?

I am going to be married to him."

I dropped my face into my hands, but was able to control myself

better than I could have expected, considering what agony it gave

me to hear her say those words. When I raised my face again, there

was such a ghastly look upon Miss Havisham's, that it impressed me,

even in my passionate hurry and grief.

"Estella, dearest dearest Estella, do not let Miss Havisham lead

you into this fatal step. Put me aside for ever - you have done so,

I well know - but bestow yourself on some worthier person than

Drummle. Miss Havisham gives you to him, as the greatest slight and

injury that could be done to the many far better men who admire

you, and to the few who truly love you. Among those few, there may

be one who loves you even as dearly, though he has not loved you as

long, as I. Take him, and I can bear it better, for your sake!"

My earnestness awoke a wonder in her that seemed as if it would

have been touched with compassion, if she could have rendered me at

all intelligible to her own mind.

"I am going," she said again, in a gentler voice, "to be married to

him. The preparations for my marriage are making, and I shall be

married soon. Why do you injuriously introduce the name of my

mother by adoption? It is my own act."

"Your own act, Estella, to fling yourself away upon a brute?"

"On whom should I fling myself away?" she retorted, with a smile.

"Should I fling myself away upon the man who would the soonest feel

(if people do feel such things) that I took nothing to him? There!

It is done. I shall do well enough, and so will my husband. As to

leading me into what you call this fatal step, Miss Havisham would

have had me wait, and not marry yet; but I am tired of the life I

have led, which has very few charms for me, and I am willing enough

to change it. Say no more. We shall never understand each other."

"Such a mean brute, such a stupid brute!" I urged in despair.

"Don't be afraid of my being a blessing to him," said Estella; "I

shall not be that. Come! Here is my hand. Do we part on this, you

visionary boy - or man?"

"O Estella!" I answered, as my bitter tears fell fast on her hand,

do what I would to restrain them; "even if I remained in England

and could hold my head up with the rest, how could I see you

Drummle's wife?"

"Nonsense," she returned, "nonsense. This will pass in no time."

"Never, Estella!"

"You will get me out of your thoughts in a week."

"Out of my thoughts! You are part of my existence, part of myself.

You have been in every line I have ever read, since I first came

here, the rough common boy whose poor heart you wounded even then.

You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since - on the

river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in

the light, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea,

in the streets. You have been the embodiment of every graceful

fancy that my mind has ever become acquainted with. The stones of

which the strongest London buildings are made, are not more real,

or more impossible to be displaced by your hands, than your

presence and influence have been to me, there and everywhere, and

will be. Estella, to the last hour of my life, you cannot choose

but remain part of my character, part of the little good in me,

part of the evil. But, in this separation I associate you only with

the good, and I will faithfully hold you to that always, for you

must have done me far more good than harm, let me feel now what

sharp distress I may. O God bless you, God forgive you!"

In what ecstasy of unhappiness I got these broken words out of

myself, I don't know. The rhapsody welled up within me, like blood

from an inward wound, and gushed out. I held her hand to my lips

some lingering moments, and so I left her. But ever afterwards, I

remembered - and soon afterwards with stronger reason - that while

Estella looked at me merely with incredulous wonder, the spectral

figure of Miss Havisham, her hand still covering her heart, seemed

all resolved into a ghastly stare of pity and remorse.

All done, all gone! So much was done and gone, that when I went out

at the gate, the light of the day seemed of a darker colour than

when I went in. For a while, I hid myself among some lanes and

by-paths, and then struck off to walk all the way to London. For, I

had by that time come to myself so far, as to consider that I could

not go back to the inn and see Drummle there; that I could not bear

to sit upon the coach and be spoken to; that I could do nothing

half so good for myself as tire myself out.

It was past midnight when I crossed London Bridge. Pursuing the

narrow intricacies of the streets which at that time tended

westward near the Middlesex shore of the river, my readiest access

to the Temple was close by the river-side, through Whitefriars. I

was not expected till to-morrow, but I had my keys, and, if Herbert

were gone to bed, could get to bed myself without disturbing him.

As it seldom happened that I came in at that Whitefriars gate after

the Temple was closed, and as I was very muddy and weary, I did not

take it ill that the night-porter examined me with much attention

as he held the gate a little way open for me to pass in. To help

his memory I mentioned my name.

"I was not quite sure, sir, but I thought so. Here's a note, sir.

The messenger that brought it, said would you be so good as read it

by my lantern?"

Much surprised by the request, I took the note. It was directed to

Philip Pip, Esquire, and on the top of the superscription were the

words, "PLEASE READ THIS, HERE." I opened it, the watchman holding

up his light, and read inside, in Wemmick's writing:


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