eBooks Cube
 
Chapter 59

For eleven years, I had not seen Joe nor Biddy with my bodily
eyes-though they had both been often before my fancy in the
East-when, upon an evening in December, an hour or two after dark,
I laid my hand softly on the latch of the old kitchen door. I
touched it so softly that I was not heard, and looked in unseen.
There, smoking his pipe in the old place by the kitchen firelight,
as hale and as strong as ever though a little grey, sat Joe; and
there, fenced into the corner with Joe's leg, and sitting on my own
little stool looking at the fire, was - I again!

"We giv' him the name of Pip for your sake, dear old chap," said
Joe, delighted when I took another stool by the child's side (but I
did not rumple his hair), "and we hoped he might grow a little bit
like you, and we think he do."

I thought so too, and I took him out for a walk next morning, and
we talked immensely, understanding one another to perfection. And I
took him down to the churchyard, and set him on a certain tombstone
there, and he showed me from that elevation which stone was sacred
to the memory of Philip Pirrip, late of this Parish, and Also
Georgiana, Wife of the Above.

"Biddy," said I, when I talked with her after dinner, as her little
girl lay sleeping in her lap, "you must give Pip to me, one of
these days; or lend him, at all events."

"No, no," said Biddy, gently. "You must marry."

"So Herbert and Clara say, but I don't think I shall, Biddy. I have
so settled down in their home, that it's not at all likely. I am
already quite an old bachelor."

Biddy looked down at her child, and put its little hand to her
lips, and then put the good matronly hand with which she had
touched it, into mine. There was something in the action and in the
light pressure of Biddy's wedding-ring, that had a very pretty
eloquence in it.

"Dear Pip," said Biddy, "you are sure you don't fret for her?"

"O no - I think not, Biddy."

"Tell me as an old, old friend. Have you quite forgotten her?

"My dear Biddy, I have forgotten nothing in my life that ever had a
foremost place there, and little that ever had any place there. But
that poor dream, as I once used to call it, has all gone by, Biddy,
all gone by!"

Nevertheless, I knew while I said those words, that I secretly
intended to revisit the site of the old house that evening, alone,
for her sake. Yes even so. For Estella's sake.

I had heard of her as leading a most unhappy life, and as being
separated from her husband, who had used her with great cruelty,
and who had become quite renowned as a compound of pride, avarice,
brutality, and meanness. And I had heard of the death of her
husband, from an accident consequent on his ill-treatment of a
horse. This release had befallen her some two years before; for
anything I knew, she was married again.

The early dinner-hour at Joe's, left me abundance of time, without
hurrying my talk with Biddy, to walk over to the old spot before
dark. But, what with loitering on the way, to look at old objects
and to think of old times, the day had quite declined when I came
to the place.

There was no house now, no brewery, no building whatever left, but
the wall of the old garden. The cleared space had been enclosed
with a rough fence, and, looking over it, I saw that some of the
old ivy had struck root anew, and was growing green on low quiet
mounds of ruin. A gate in the fence standing ajar, I pushed it
open, and went in.

A cold silvery mist had veiled the afternoon, and the moon was not
yet up to scatter it. But, the stars were shining beyond the mist,
and the moon was coming, and the evening was not dark. I could
trace out where every part of the old house had been, and where the
brewery had been, and where the gate, and where the casks. I had
done so, and was looking along the desolate gardenwalk, when I
beheld a solitary figure in it.

The figure showed itself aware of me, as I advanced. It had been
moving towards me, but it stood still. As I drew nearer, I saw it
to be the figure of a woman. As I drew nearer yet, it was about to
turn away, when it stopped, and let me come up with it. Then, it
faltered as if much surprised, and uttered my name, and I cried
out:

"Estella!"

"I am greatly changed. I wonder you know me."

The freshness of her beauty was indeed gone, but its indescribable
majesty and its indescribable charm remained. Those attractions in
it, I had seen before; what I had never seen before, was the
saddened softened light of the once proud eyes; what I had never
felt before, was the friendly touch of the once insensible hand.

We sat down on a bench that was near, and I said, "After so many
years, it is strange that we should thus meet again, Estella, here
where our first meeting was! Do you often come back?"

"I have never been here since."

"Nor I."

The moon began to rise, and I thought of the placid look at the
white ceiling, which had passed away. The moon began to rise, and I
thought of the pressure on my hand when I had spoken the last words
he had heard on earth.

Estella was the next to break the silence that ensued between us.

"I have very often hoped and intended to come back, but have been
prevented by many circumstances. Poor, poor old place!"

The silvery mist was touched with the first rays of the moonlight,
and the same rays touched the tears that dropped from her eyes. Not
knowing that I saw them, and setting herself to get the better of
them, she said quietly:

"Were you wondering, as you walked along, how it came to be left in
this condition?"

"Yes, Estella."

"The ground belongs to me. It is the only possession I have not
relinquished. Everything else has gone from me, little by little,
but I have kept this. It was the subject of the only determined
resistance I made in all the wretched years."

"Is it to be built on?"

"At last it is. I came here to take leave of it before its change.
And you," she said, in a voice of touching interest to a wanderer,
"you live abroad still?"

"Still."

"And do well, I am sure?"

"I work pretty hard for a sufficient living, and therefore - Yes, I
do well."

"I have often thought of you," said Estella.

"Have you?"

"Of late, very often. There was a long hard time when I kept far
from me, the remembrance, of what I had thrown away when I was
quite ignorant of its worth. But, since my duty has not been
incompatible with the admission of that remembrance, I have given
it a place in my heart."

"You have always held your place in my heart," I answered.

And we were silent again, until she spoke.

"I little thought," said Estella, "that I should take leave of you
in taking leave of this spot. I am very glad to do so."

"Glad to part again, Estella? To me, parting is a painful thing. To
me, the remembrance of our last parting has been ever mournful and
painful."

"But you said to me," returned Estella, very earnestly, 'God bless
you, God forgive you!' And if you could say that to me then, you
will not hesitate to say that to me now - now, when suffering has
been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to
understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken,
but - I hope - into a better shape. Be as considerate and good to
me as you were, and tell me we are friends."

"We are friends," said I, rising and bending over her, as she rose
from the bench.

"And will continue friends apart," said Estella.

I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and,
as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the
forge, so, the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad
expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of
another parting from her.



THE END





Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Category:
General Fiction - English literature
Nabou.com: the big site