Chapter 11

At the appointed time I returned to Miss Havisham's, and my

hesitating ring at the gate brought out Estella. She locked it

after admitting me, as she had done before, and again preceded me

into the dark passage where her candle stood. She took no notice of

me until she had the candle in her hand, when she looked over her

shoulder, superciliously saying, "You are to come this way today,"

and took me to quite another part of the house.

The passage was a long one, and seemed to pervade the whole square

basement of the Manor House. We traversed but one side of the

square, however, and at the end of it she stopped, and put her

candle down and opened a door. Here, the daylight reappeared, and I

found myself in a small paved court-yard, the opposite side of

which was formed by a detached dwelling-house, that looked as if it

had once belonged to the manager or head clerk of the extinct

brewery. There was a clock in the outer wall of this house. Like

the clock in Miss Havisham's room, and like Miss Havisham's watch,

it had stopped at twenty minutes to nine.

We went in at the door, which stood open, and into a gloomy room

with a low ceiling, on the ground floor at the back. There was some

company in the room, and Estella said to me as she joined it, "You

are to go and stand there, boy, till you are wanted." "There",

being the window, I crossed to it, and stood "there," in a very

uncomfortable state of mind, looking out.

It opened to the ground, and looked into a most miserable corner of

the neglected garden, upon a rank ruin of cabbage-stalks, and one

box tree that had been clipped round long ago, like a pudding, and

had a new growth at the top of it, out of shape and of a different

colour, as if that part of the pudding had stuck to the saucepan

and got burnt. This was my homely thought, as I contemplated the

box-tree. There had been some light snow, overnight, and it lay

nowhere else to my knowledge; but, it had not quite melted from the

cold shadow of this bit of garden, and the wind caught it up in

little eddies and threw it at the window, as if it pelted me for

coming there.

I divined that my coming had stopped conversation in the room, and

that its other occupants were looking at me. I could see nothing of

the room except the shining of the fire in the window glass, but I

stiffened in all my joints with the consciousness that I was under

close inspection.

There were three ladies in the room and one gentleman. Before I had

been standing at the window five minutes, they somehow conveyed to

me that they were all toadies and humbugs, but that each of them

pretended not to know that the others were toadies and humbugs:

because the admission that he or she did know it, would have made

him or her out to be a toady and humbug.

They all had a listless and dreary air of waiting somebody's

pleasure, and the most talkative of the ladies had to speak quite

rigidly to repress a yawn. This lady, whose name was Camilla, very

much reminded me of my sister, with the difference that she was

older, and (as I found when I caught sight of her) of a blunter

cast of features. Indeed, when I knew her better I began to think

it was a Mercy she had any features at all, so very blank and high

was the dead wall of her face.

"Poor dear soul!" said this lady, with an abruptness of manner

quite my sister's. "Nobody's enemy but his own!"

"It would be much more commendable to be somebody else's enemy,"

said the gentleman; "far more natural."

"Cousin Raymond," observed another lady, "we are to love our

neighbour."

"Sarah Pocket," returned Cousin Raymond, "if a man is not his own

neighbour, who is?"

Miss Pocket laughed, and Camilla laughed and said (checking a

yawn), "The idea!" But I thought they seemed to think it rather a

good idea too. The other lady, who had not spoken yet, said gravely

and emphatically, "Very true!"

"Poor soul!" Camilla presently went on (I knew they had all been

looking at me in the mean time), "he is so very strange! Would

anyone believe that when Tom's wife died, he actually could not be

induced to see the importance of the children's having the deepest

of trimmings to their mourning? 'Good Lord!' says he, 'Camilla,

what can it signify so long as the poor bereaved little things are

in black?' So like Matthew! The idea!"

"Good points in him, good points in him," said Cousin Raymond;

"Heaven forbid I should deny good points in him; but he never had,

and he never will have, any sense of the proprieties."

"You know I was obliged," said Camilla, "I was obliged to be firm.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
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