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Charles Dickens

Great Expectations

Трек 11_01

Chapter Eleven

The Stranger on the Stairs

One day when I was busy with my books, I received a note by the post, the mere outside of which set my fingers trembling and my heart racing. It was from Estella, and had this to say:

“I am coming to London the day after tomorrow by the midday coach. I believe it was settled that you should meet me—Miss Havisham sends you her regard.—Yours, Estella.”

That was all, but you may imagine what a fever it threw me into. If there had been time, I should probably have ordered several suits of clothes for the occasion. My appetite vanished instantly, and I knew no peace or rest till the day arrived; and yet, when I saw her face at the coach window, I suddenly felt that a shadow hung over us, and that neither good nor happiness would follow her coming to London.

In her furred travelling-dress, she seemed more beautiful than she had ever seemed yet, even in my eyes. Her manner was more winning than she had cared to let it be to me before, and I thought I saw Miss Havisham’s influence in the change.

“I’m going to Richmond,” she told me. “The distance is ten miles. I am to have a carriage, and you are to take me. This is my purse, and you are to pay my expenses out of it. Oh, yes, you must take the purse! We have no choice, you and I, but to do as we are told by Miss Havisham. We are not free to do as we please, you and I.”

There was an odd look in her eyes as she handed me the purse, and I hoped there was a hidden meaning in her words.

“Where are you going to, at Richmond?” I asked.

“I am going to live with a lady there, who will take me about, and introduce me to the right people.”

“I wonder Miss Havisham could part with you again so soon,” I told her.

“It is all a part of Miss Havisham’s plan for me,” said Estella. “I am to write to her often, and report how I go on—I and the jewels—for they are nearly all mine now.”

Трек 11_02

We came to Richmond all too soon. The doorway soon absorbed her boxes, and she gave me her hand and a smile, and said good night, and was absorbed too. And still I stood looking at the house, thinking how happy I should be if I lived there with her—and knowing that I was never happy with her, but always miserable.

If that house at Richmond should ever be haunted when I am dead, it will be haunted, surely, by my ghost. Let my body be where it would, my spirit was always wandering, wandering, wandering about that house.

I saw Estella often at Richmond, I heard of her often in town, and I used often to take her out on the river. There were all sorts of occasions and pleasures through which I pursued her—and they were all miseries to me.

She had admirers without end. No doubt my jealousy made an admirer out of every man who went near her, but there were more than enough of them without that. Then Bentley Drummle returned to London, and began to appear often upon the scene. In a little while he and I were meeting each other nearly every day.

I knew that Drummle had begun to follow Estella closely, and that she allowed him to do it. And I, thinking of his riches and family greatness, grew sick at heart when I saw how she smiled at him—in a way that she never smiled at me....

Then, in this time of misery and heartache, there occurred an event that changed the whole pattern of my life. In an instant the blow was struck; and the roof of my Castle of Expectations dropped in upon me and all my dreams were broken and destroyed....

* * * * * *

I was twenty-three years of age. Not another word had I heard concerning my expectations, and my twenty-third birthday was a week gone by.

Business had taken Herbert on a journey to Marseilles. He had, some time before, become the partner of a young merchant in the city, and was doing rather well for himself. I found that I sadly missed the cheerful face and ready smile of my friend.

It was wretched weather, and had been for days; stormy and wet, stormy and wet; mud, mud, mud, deep in all the streets. A furious wind blew among the houses, and violent bursts of rain accompanied the rages of the wind. The day which had just closed, as I sat down to read, had been the worst of all.

The wind, rushing up the river, shook the house like breakings of the sea; occasionally the smoke came rolling down the chimney as though it could not bear to go out into such a night; and when I set the door open and looked down the staircase, the staircase lamps were blown out.

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