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Charles Dickens > Great Expectations > Chapter 8

Great Expectations

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


"Oh!" she said. "Did you wish to see Miss Havisham?"

"If Miss Havisham wished to see me," returned Mr. Pumblechook,


"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."


"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."


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


"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


"Nothing but beggar my neighbour, miss."

"Beggar him," said Miss Havisham to Estella. So we sat down to


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


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


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


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


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.

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