Great Expectations Chapter XLIV
by Charles Dickens

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Chapter XLIV

IN THE ROOM where the dressing-table stood, and where the wax candles burnt on the wall, I found Miss Havisham and Estella; Miss Havisham seated on a settee near the fire, and Estella on a cushion at her feet. Estella was knitting, and Miss Havisham was looking on. They both raised their eyes as I went in, and both saw an alteration in me. I derived that from the look they interchanged.

“And what wind,” said Miss Havisham, “blows you here, Pip?”

Though she looked steadily at me, I saw that she was rather confused. Estella, pausing a moment in her knitting with her eyes upon me, and then going on, I fancied that I read in the action of her fingers, as plainly as if she had told me in the dumb alphabet, that she perceived I had discovered my real benefactor.

“Miss Havisham,” said I, “I went to Richmond yesterday, to speak to Estella; and finding that some wind had blown her here, I followed.”

Miss Havisham motioning to me for the third or fourth time to sit down, I took the chair by the dressing-table, which I had often seen her occupy. With all that ruin at my feet and about me, it seemed a natural place for me, that day.

“What I had to say to Estella, Miss Havisham, I will say before you, presently—in a few moments. It will not surprise you, it will not displease you. I am as unhappy as you can ever have meant me to be.”

Miss Havisham continued to look steadily at me. I could see in the action of Estella's fingers as they worked, that she attended to what I said: but she did not look up.

“I have found out who my patron is. It is not a fortunate discovery, and is not likely ever to enrich me in reputation, station, fortune, anything. There are reasons why I must say no more of that. It is not my secret, but another's.”

As I was silent for a while, looking at Estella and considering how to go on, Miss Havisham repeated, “It is not your secret, but another's. Well?”

“When you first caused me to be brought here, Miss Havisham; when I belonged to the village over yonder, that I wish I had never left; I suppose I did really come here, as any other chance boy might have come—as a kind of servant, to gratify a want or a whim, and to be paid for it?”

“Ay, Pip,” replied Miss Havisham, steadily nodding her head; “you did.”

“And that Mr. Jaggers—”

“Mr. Jaggers,” said Miss Havisham, taking me up in a firm tone, “had nothing to do with it, and knew nothing of it. His being my lawyer, and his being the lawyer of your patron, is a coincidence. He holds the same relation towards numbers of people, and it might easily arise. Be that as it may, it did arise, and was not brought about by any one.”

Any one might have seen in her haggard face that there was no suppression or evasion so far.

“But when I fell into the mistake I have so long remained in, at least you led me on?” said I.

“Yes,” she returned, again nodding steadily, “I let you go on.”

“Was that kind?”

“Who am I,” cried Miss Havisham, striking her stick upon the floor and flashing into wrath so suddenly that Estella glanced up at her in surprise, “who am I, for God's sake, that I should be kind?”

It was a weak complaint to have made, and I had not meant to make it. I told her so, as she sat brooding over this outburst.

“Well, well, well!” she said. “What else?”

“I was liberally paid for my old attendance here,” I said, to soothe her, “in being apprenticed, and I have asked these questions only for my own information. What follows has another (and I hope more disinterested) purpose. In humouring my mistake, Miss Havisham, you punished—practised on—perhaps you will supply whatever term expresses your intention, without offence—your self-seeking relations?”

“I did. Why, they would have it so! So would you. What has been my history, that I should be at the pains of entreating either them or you not to have it so! You made your own snares. I never made them.”

Waiting until she was quiet again—for this, too,...

(The entire section is 2,899 words.)