Saving Women

Miss Havisham—Satis House, England, 1860.

Satis House. Enough House.The name is ironic, given the place’s sad falling off. The garden reeks of ruined cabbage. Melon and cucumber frames lie strewn among dusty hats, boots, and broken bottles, while a grapevine tangles with weeds, one of which looks like a battered saucepan. Making an effort to rise above the wreckage, a single box tree has turned the color of burnt pudding. Grass grows in every crack of the broken courtyard, and the whole area surrounding Miss Havisham’s house is rank, a sour reminder of better days.

For more than a century, Miss Havisham has lived in Satis House, in the very room she inhabited the day her intended sent the fateful word, canceling their wedding even as she was dressing for it. Twenty to nine it was, and she stopped all of the clocks in the house to mark the time of betrayal. Miss Havisham still wears her bridal clothes which have yellowed and are near disintegration. She wastes away inside them, shrunken to skin and bones. Bridal flowers circle her hair, her white hair, crowned with withered blooms.

The room I am ushered into is airless and candle-lit. Rats rattle behind the panels. Miss Havisham sits at a long table set for a feast, except that fungus and mold have eaten whatever food the spiders and rats have left. She points to a black mound of fungus. “It’s a great cake,” she tells me. “A bride-cake. Mine. Teeth sharper than rats’ have...

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About the Author

Joan Sauro, CSJ, is the author of several books, including the forthcoming We Were Called Sister, whose title essay was awarded the prize for Best Essay 2014 by the Catholic Press Association.