"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.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
Classic Authors

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