Charles Dickens

Sending her out to attract and torment and do

mischief, Miss Havisham sent her with the malicious assurance that

she was beyond the reach of all admirers, and that all who staked

upon that cast were secured to lose. I saw in this, that I, too,

was tormented by a perversion of ingenuity, even while the prize

was reserved for me. I saw in this, the reason for my being staved

off so long, and the reason for my late guardian's declining to

commit himself to the formal knowledge of such a scheme. In a word,

I saw in this, Miss Havisham as I had her then and there before my

eyes, and always had had her before my eyes; and I saw in this, the

distinct shadow of the darkened and unhealthy house in which her

life was hidden from the sun.

The candles that lighted that room of hers were placed in sconces

on the wall. They were high from the ground, and they burnt with

the steady dulness of artificial light in air that is seldom

renewed. As I looked round at them, and at the pale gloom they

made, and at the stopped clock, and at the withered articles of

bridal dress upon the table and the ground, and at her own awful

figure with its ghostly reflection thrown large by the fire upon

the ceiling and the wall, I saw in everything the construction that

my mind had come to, repeated and thrown back to me. My thoughts

passed into the great room across the landing where the table was

spread, and I saw it written, as it were, in the falls of the

cobwebs from the centre-piece, in the crawlings of the spiders on

the cloth, in the tracks of the mice as they betook their little

quickened hearts behind the panels, and in the gropings and

pausings of the beetles on the floor.

It happened on the occasion of this visit that some sharp words

arose between Estella and Miss Havisham. It was the first time I

had ever seen them opposed.

We were seated by the fire, as just now described, and Miss

Havisham still had Estella's arm drawn through her own, and still

clutched Estella's hand in hers, when Estella gradually began to

detach herself. She had shown a proud impatience more than once

before, and had rather endured that fierce affection than accepted

or returned it.

"What!" said Miss Havisham, flashing her eyes upon her, "are you

tired of me?"

"Only a little tired of myself," replied Estella, disengaging her

arm, and moving to the great chimney-piece, where she stood looking

down at the fire.

"Speak the truth, you ingrate!" cried Miss Havisham, passionately

striking her stick upon the floor; "you are tired of me."

Estella looked at her with perfect composure, and again looked down

at the fire. Her graceful figure and her beautiful face expressed a

self-possessed indifference to the wild heat of the other, that was

almost cruel.

"You stock and stone!" exclaimed Miss Havisham. "You cold, cold


"What?" said Estella, preserving her attitude of indifference as

she leaned against the great chimney-piece and only moving her

eyes; "do you reproach me for being cold? You?"

"Are you not?" was the fierce retort.

"You should know," said Estella. "I am what you have made me. Take

all the praise, take all the blame; take all the success, take all

the failure; in short, take me."

"O, look at her, look at her!" cried Miss Havisham, bitterly; "Look

at her, so hard and thankless, on the hearth where she was reared!

Where I took her into this wretched breast when it was first

bleeding from its stabs, and where I have lavished years of

tenderness upon her!"

"At least I was no party to the compact," said Estella, "for if I

could walk and speak, when it was made, it was as much as I could

do. But what would you have? You have been very good to me, and I

owe everything to you. What would you have?"

"Love," replied the other.

"You have it."

"I have not," said Miss Havisham.

"Mother by adoption," retorted Estella, never departing from the

easy grace of her attitude, never raising her voice as the other

did, never yielding either to anger or tenderness, "Mother by

adoption, I have said that I owe everything to you.