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Трек 11_03

At eleven o’clock, as I shut my book, I heard a footstep on the stairs.

What made me connect it with the footstep of my dead sister I do not know, but the hair rose on the back of my neck, and a cold shiver ran all the way down my back. I heard the footsteps coming on, and I rose and took up my reading-lamp and went out to the top of the stairs. Whoever was below had stopped on seeing my lamp, for all was suddenly quiet.

“Who’s there?” I called. “What floor do you want?”

“The top,” answered a coarse, broken voice. “Mr. Pip.”

“That is my name. Is something the matter?”

“Nothing the matter,” returned the voice, and the man came on.

I stood with my lamp held out over the stair-rail, and he came slowly within its circle of light. He was roughly dressed, like a voyager by sea. His face was strange to me. He had long iron-grey hair, and his age was about sixty. He was a strong-looking man, browned and hardened by sun and wind. As he came up the last stair or two, I saw with astonishment that he was holding out both his hands to me.

“What do you want?” I asked him. “Do you wish to come in?”

“Yes,” he replied, “I wish to come in.”

I took him in, set the lamp on the table, and asked him to explain himself.

He looked about him with a strange air— almost an air of pleasure, as if he had some part in the things he admired—and pulled off a rough outer coat, and his hat. He had a large coloured handkerchief wrapped round his neck. I saw that his head was bald, and that the long grey hair grew only on its sides.

“There’s no one here, is there?” he said, looking over his shoulder.

“Why do you, a stranger, coming into my rooms at this time of night, ask that question?” said I, regarding him with suspicion.

He looked me straight in the eyes, then took the handkerchief from his neck and twisted it round his head; then, holding his body in both his arms, he took a shivering turn across the room, looking back at me for recognition.

In that moment I knew him, as if the wind and the rain had driven away all the time between, and had swept us back to the churchyard where we first stood face to face. The man was my convict, whom I had fed and helped in the marsh country all those years before!

Трек 12_01

Chapter Twelve

The Truth

As I stood there, staring, he moved back towards me, holding out his arms. In my astonishment, I let him take my hands. He raised them to his lips, kissed them, and still held them tight.

“You were a noble boy!” he said. “Noble Pip! And I’ve never forgot it!”

I thought, for one awful moment, that he was going to put his arms around me. Hastily I raised a hand to hold him back.

“If you are grateful to me for what I did—if you’ve come here to thank me—it was not necessary, you know. Surely you must understand—I—”

He was looking at me in such an odd way that the words died on my tongue. There was a little silence, and he sank down into a chair beside the fire.

“What must I understand?” he asked.

“Well,” I said, with some difficulty, “our ways are different.” I paused. “You are wet and weary,” I said then. “Will you drink something before you go?”

“I thank you,” he answered. “I think I will drink something before I go.”

There was a tray ready on a side-table. I made him some hot rum-and-water. When I handed him the glass, I saw with astonishment that his eyes were full of tears.

“I hope,” I said, hurriedly, “that you are well and happy. How are you living?”

“I’ve been a sheep-farmer, on the other side of the world,” he told me in his coarse, broken voice.

“I hope that you’ve done well.”

“I’ve done wonderfully well,” he replied, with a look of satisfaction. “I’m famous for it on the other side of the world.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

“I’m glad to hear you say so, my dear boy,” he answered, watching my face. “And may I ask how you have done since you and I were out on these shivering marshes?”

I told him that I had been chosen to succeed to some property.

“Might I ask what property—and whose?” said he.

“I don’t know,” I replied, and felt stupid as I said it.

“Could I make a guess,” said my convict, “at the sum of money you are paid each year? Would it be five hundred pounds, perhaps?”

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