Charles Dickens

This was very

singular to me, and I looked at her in considerable perplexity.

When she left off - and she had not laughed languidly, but with

real enjoyment - I said, in my diffident way with her:

"I hope I may suppose that you would not be amused if they did me

any harm."

"No, no you may be sure of that," said Estella. "You may be certain

that I laugh because they fail. Oh, those people with Miss

Havisham, and the tortures they undergo!" She laughed again, and

even now when she had told me why, her laughter was very singular

to me, for I could not doubt its being genuine, and yet it seemed

too much for the occasion. I thought there must really be something

more here than I knew; she saw the thought in my mind, and answered


"It is not easy for even you." said Estella, "to know what

satisfaction it gives me to see those people thwarted, or what an

enjoyable sense of the ridiculous I have when they are made

ridiculous. For you were not brought up in that strange house from

a mere baby. - I was. You had not your little wits sharpened by

their intriguing against you, suppressed and defenceless, under the

mask of sympathy and pity and what not that is soft and soothing. -

I had. You did not gradually open your round childish eyes wider

and wider to the discovery of that impostor of a woman who

calculates her stores of peace of mind for when she wakes up in the

night. - I did."

It was no laughing matter with Estella now, nor was she summoning

these remembrances from any shallow place. I would not have been

the cause of that look of hers, for all my expectations in a heap.

"Two things I can tell you," said Estella. "First, notwithstanding

the proverb that constant dropping will wear away a stone, you may

set your mind at rest that these people never will - never would,

in hundred years - impair your ground with Miss Havisham, in any

particular, great or small. Second, I am beholden to you as the

cause of their being so busy and so mean in vain, and there is my

hand upon it."

As she gave it me playfully - for her darker mood had been but

momentary - I held it and put it to my lips. "You ridiculous boy,"

said Estella, "will you never take warning? Or do you kiss my hand

in the same spirit in which I once let you kiss my cheek?"

"What spirit was that?" said I.

"I must think a moment A spirit of contempt for the fawners and


"If I say yes, may I kiss the cheek again?"

"You should have asked before you touched the hand. But, yes, if

you like."

I leaned down, and her calm face was like a statue's. "Now," said

Estella, gliding away the instant I touched her cheek, "you are to

take care that I have some tea, and you are to take me to


Her reverting to this tone as if our association were forced upon

us and we were mere puppets, gave me pain; but everything in our

intercourse did give me pain. Whatever her tone with me happened to

be, I could put no trust in it, and build no hope on it; and yet I

went on against trust and against hope. Why repeat it a thousand

times? So it always was.

I rang for the tea, and the waiter, reappearing with his magic

clue, brought in by degrees some fifty adjuncts to that refreshment

but of tea not a glimpse. A teaboard, cups and saucers, plates,

knives and forks (including carvers), spoons (various),

saltcellars, a meek little muffin confined with the utmost

precaution under a strong iron cover, Moses in the bullrushes

typified by a soft bit of butter in a quantity of parsley, a pale

loaf with a powdered head, two proof impressions of the bars of the

kitchen fire-place on triangular bits of bread, and ultimately a

fat family urn: which the waiter staggered in with, expressing in

his countenance burden and suffering. After a prolonged absence at

this stage of the entertainment, he at length came back with a

casket of precious appearance containing twigs.