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Трек 19_01

Chapter Nineteen

December Evening

For eleven years I had not seen Joe or Biddy—though they had often been in my fancy in the East—when, upon an evening in December, an hour or two after dark, I opened the old kitchen door. I touched it so softly that I was not heard, and I looked in unseen. There, smoking his pipe by the fire, as big and strong as ever, though a little grey about the head, sat Joe; and there, sitting on my own little chair, was—I again!

“We called him Pip for your sake,” said Joe, when I took another chair by the child’s side, “and we hoped that he might grow a little bit like you, and we think he do.”

I thought so too. I took him out for a walk next morning, and we talked all the time in good understanding. I took him to the churchyard, and sat him on a certain gravestone there, and remembered many, many things.

“Biddy,” said I, when I talked with her after dinner, “you must give Pip to me one of these days; or lend him, at all events.”

“No,” said Biddy gently. “You must marry.” She put her hand on mine. “Tell me, Pip, have you quite forgotten her?”

“My dear Biddy, I’ve forgotten nothing in my life, but that old dream has gone for ever.” I knew while I said those words that I secretly intended to visit 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 I had heard of the death of Drummle, from an accident consequent on his ill-treatment of a horse. This had happened two years before and, for anything I knew, she was married again.

I set out after dinner that evening, and the day was dying when I came to the place. There was no house now, no building whatever left, but the wall of the garden was still there.

A thin mist was rising and the moon was not yet up. But the stars were shining beyond the mist, and the moon was coming, and the evening was not dark. I could see where every part of the old house had been, and as I walked towards it I saw a solitary figure standing there.

Трек 19_02

As I drew nearer, I saw it to be the figure of a woman. As I drew nearer still, it started as if much surprised, and called my name.

“Estella!” I cried out.

She held out both her hands and I took them in mine.

“I am changed,” she said. “I wonder that you knew me.”

The freshness of her beauty was indeed gone. She was no longer a girl, but she had become a lovely woman. There were attractions in her face that I had never seen before; the softened light of the once proud eyes, for instance; and what I had never felt before was the friendly touch of the once cold hands.

We sat down on a bench that was near, and I said: “After so many years, it’s strange that we should meet here. Do you often come back?”

“I have never been here since Miss Havisham died.”

“Nor I.”

The moon began to rise and for some reason I thought of poor Magwitch dying in the galley, and the way he had pressed my hand when our last few words were spoken.

“Were you wondering,” asked Estella, “how the poor old place came to be in this condition?”

“Yes, Estella.”

“The ground belongs to me. It is the only possession I have not given up. Everything else has gone from me, little by little, but I have kept this.”

“Is it to be built on?”

“Yes. I came here to say good-bye before it changed. And you,” she said, “do you still live abroad?”

“Still.”

“And do pretty well, I am sure.”

“I work hard for a sufficient living. Yes, I do well enough.”

“I have often thought of you,” said Estella.

“Have you?”

“Of late, very often.”

There was something in her voice that made me look into her eyes.

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

And we were silent again for a long time.

“Tell me,” she said suddenly, “are we still friends?”

I rose to my feet.

“We are friends,” I said, and took her hand in mine as we went out of the ruined place.

As the morning mists had risen long ago when first I left the forge, so the evening mists were rising now, and in all that broad space of peaceful light I saw no shadow of another parting from her.

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