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Трек 18_03

Next day I asked him if Miss Havisham had recovered. He shook his head.

“She died about a week after you was taken ill,” he told me.

“Have you heard what becomes of her property?”

“Yes. It all goes to Miss Estella.”

He hurried on after that, talking of other things, as if to help me forget the pain of hearing him mention the name of Estella.

The days passed, and Joe stayed with me, and I gained in strength. We both looked forward to the day when I should be able to go out and walk in the garden again. And when the day came, I leaned on Joe’s arm and said: “I feel thankful that I’ve been ill, Joe. We’ve had a time together that I shall never forget. There were days when I did forget you; but I shall never forget these as long as I live.”

That night, when I had gone to bed, Joe came into my room. He asked me if I felt sure that I was as well as in the morning.

“Yes, Joe,” I answered. “I can feel myself getting stronger all the time.”

He put a hand on my shoulder and smiled and nodded, and said, in what I thought was an odd voice: “Good night, Pip, dear old boy.”

I lay awake a long time that night, filled with thoughts of the purpose that had been taking shape in my mind since before I fell ill.

When I got up in the morning, refreshed and stronger yet, I dressed at once and went to his room—and found that he was not there.

I hurried to the breakfast-table, and on it found a letter. These were its brief contents:

“I have departed for you are well again dear Pip and will do better without

Jo.

P.S. Ever the best of friends.”

With the letter was a receipt for the debt on which I had been arrested. I had never dreamed that Joe had paid the money, but paid it he had and the receipt was in his name.

What remained for me now but to follow him to the dear old forge, and there tell him of my plan for the future? The purpose was that I should go to Biddy; that I would show her how humble I came back, and tell her that I had lost all that I had once hoped for; that I would ask her to marry me; that I should work at the forge with Joe; and that the three of us would live together in happiness for the rest of our days.

Трек 18_04

Such was my purpose. After another week of recovery, I went down to our town, and from there walked slowly towards the village. The June weather was perfect. The sky was blue, the birds sang and flew high over the green corn, and I thought all the countryside more beautiful and peaceful by far than I had ever known it to be yet. My mind was full of pleasant pictures of the life I would lead there in the days to come. . .

At last the forge was only a short way off, and I listened eagerly for the sound of Joe’s hammer. Long after I ought to have heard it, all was still. Almost fearing, I drew near and saw that the forge was closed, all shut up and still.

Yet the house was not empty, and the best parlour seemed to be in use, for the window was open and bright with flowers. I walked on, and the door opened and Joe and Biddy stood before me, arm in arm.

At first Biddy gave a cry, as if she thought it was my ghost, but in another moment she was in my arms, crying because I looked so white and worn.

“My dear Biddy,” I said, “how smart you look!”

“Yes, Pip.”

“And Joe, how smart you are!”

“Yes, dear old Pip.”

I looked from one to the other, and then—

“It’s my wedding day!” cried Biddy in a burst of happiness. “And I am married to Joe!”

* * * * * *

I sold all that I had, and put aside as much as I could, and I went out and joined Herbert. Within two months I was a clerk in the branch-house of his business. Four months later, when Herbert had gone away to marry his Clara, I was left in charge of the branch-house until he brought her back.

Some years went by before I was made a partner in the business, but I lived happily with Herbert and his wife, and paid Joe the money I owed him, and wrote him a letter every week of the year. We were never a great business, but we had a good name, and worked hard for our profits and did very well, so that I was able to save money; and at last I came home for a holiday.

And what happened then is all I have left to tell....

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