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My first thought was one of great thankfulness that I had never breathed
this last baffled hope to Joe. How often, while he was with me in my illness,
had it risen to my lips. How irrevocable would have been his knowledge of it,
if he had remained with me but another hour!
"Dear Biddy," said I, "you have the best husband in the whole world, and if
you could have seen him by my bed you would have - But no, you couldn't love him
better than you do."
"No, I couldn't indeed," said Biddy.
"And, dear Joe, you have the best wife in the whole world, and she will
make you as happy as even you deserve to be, you dear, good, noble Joe!"
Joe looked at me with a quivering lip, and fairly put his sleeve before his
"And Joe and Biddy both, as you have been to church to-day, and are in
charity and love with all mankind, receive my humble thanks for all you have
done for me and all I have so ill repaid! And when I say that I am going away
within the hour, for I am soon going abroad, and that I shall never rest until I
have worked for the money with which you have kept me out of prison, and have
sent it to you, don't think, dear Joe and Biddy, that if I could repay it a
thousand times over, I suppose I could cancel a farthing of the debt I owe you,
or that I would do so if I could!"
They were both melted by these words, and both entreated me to say no more.
"But I must say more. Dear Joe, I hope you will have children to love, and
that some little fellow will sit in this chimney corner of a winter night, who
may remind you of another little fellow gone out of it for ever. Don't tell
him, Joe, that I was thankless; don't tell him, Biddy, that I was ungenerous and
unjust; only tell him that I honoured you both, because you were both so good
and true, and that, as your child, I said it would be natural to him to grow up
a much better man than I did."
"I ain't a-going," said Joe, from behind his sleeve, "to tell him nothink
o' that natur, Pip. Nor Biddy ain't. Nor yet no one ain't."
"And now, though I know you have already done it in your own kind hearts,
pray tell me, both, that you forgive me! Pray let me hear you say the words,
that I may carry the sound of them away with me, and then I shall be able to
believe that you can trust me, and think better of me, in the time to come!"
"O dear old Pip, old chap," said Joe. "God knows as I forgive you, if I
have anythink to forgive!"
"Amen! And God knows I do!" echoed Biddy.
Now let me go up and look at my old little room, and rest there a few
minutes by myself, and then when I have eaten and drunk with you, go with me as
far as the finger-post, dear Joe and Biddy, before we say good-bye!"
I sold all I had, and put aside as much as I could, for a composition with
my creditors - who gave me ample time to pay them in full - and I went out and
joined Herbert. Within a month, I had quitted England, and within two months I
was clerk to Clarriker and Co., and within four months I assumed my first
undivided responsibility. For, the beam across the parlour ceiling at Mill Pond
Bank, had then ceased to tremble under old Bill Barley's growls and was at
peace, and Herbert had gone away to marry Clara, and I was left in sole charge
of the Eastern Branch until he brought her back.
Many a year went round, before I was a partner in the House; but, I lived
happily with Herbert and his wife, and lived frugally, and paid my debts, and
maintained a constant correspondence with Biddy and Joe. It was not until I
became third in the Firm, that Clarriker betrayed me to Herbert; but, he then
declared that the secret of Herbert's partnership had been long enough upon his
conscience, and he must tell it. So, he told it, and Herbert was as much moved
as amazed, and the dear fellow and I were not the worse friends for the long
concealment. I must not leave it to be supposed that we were ever a great
house, or that we made mints of money. We were not in a grand way of business,
but we had a good name, and worked for our profits, and did very well. We owed
so much to Herbert's ever cheerful industry and readiness, that I often wondered
how I had conceived that old idea of his inaptitude, until I was one day
enlightened by the reflection, that perhaps the inaptitude had never been in him
at all, but had been in me.
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
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
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:
"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."
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
"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
"And do well, I am sure?"
"I work pretty hard for a sufficient living, and therefore - Yes, I do
"I have often thought of you," said Estella.
"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
"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.
End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of Great Expectations, by Dickens