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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Part 11 out of 11

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"It is so delightful to hear you, Joe! But I interrupt you in what
you said to Biddy."

"Which it were," said Joe, "that how you might be amongst
strangers, and that how you and me having been ever friends, a
wisit at such a moment might not prove unacceptabobble. And Biddy,
her word were, 'Go to him, without loss of time.' That," said Joe,
summing up with his judicial air, "were the word of Biddy. 'Go to
him,' Biddy say, 'without loss of time.' In short, I shouldn't
greatly deceive you," Joe added, after a little grave reflection,
"if I represented to you that the word of that young woman were,
'without a minute's loss of time.'"

There Joe cut himself short, and informed me that I was to be
talked to in great moderation, and that I was to take a little
nourishment at stated frequent times, whether I felt inclined for
it or not, and that I was to submit myself to all his orders. So, I
kissed his hand, and lay quiet, while he proceeded to indite a note
to Biddy, with my love in it.

Evidently, Biddy had taught Joe to write. As I lay in bed looking
at him, it made me, in my weak state, cry again with pleasure to
see the pride with which he set about his letter. My bedstead,
divested of its curtains, had been removed, with me upon it, into
the sittingroom, as the airiest and largest, and the carpet had
been taken away, and the room kept always fresh and wholesome night
and day. At my own writing-table, pushed into a corner and cumbered
with little bottles, Joe now sat down to his great work, first
choosing a pen from the pen-tray as if it were a chest of large
tools, and tucking up his sleeves as if he were going to wield a
crowbar or sledgehammer. It was necessary for Joe to hold on
heavily to the table with his left elbow, and to get his right leg
well out behind him, before he could begin, and when he did begin,
he made every down-stroke so slowly that it might have been six
feet long, while at every up-stroke I could hear his pen
spluttering extensively. He had a curious idea that the inkstand
was on the side of him where it was not, and constantly dipped his
pen into space, and seemed quite satisfied with the result.
Occasionally, he was tripped up by some orthographical
stumbling-block, but on the whole he got on very well indeed, and
when he had signed his name, and had removed a finishing blot from
the paper to the crown of his head with his two forefingers, he got
up and hovered about the table, trying the effect of his
performance from various points of view as it lay there, with
unbounded satisfaction.

Not to make Joe uneasy by talking too much, even if I had been able
to talk much, I deferred asking him about Miss Havisham until next
day. He shook his head when I then asked him if she had recovered.

"Is she dead, Joe?"

"Why you see, old chap," said Joe, in a tone of remonstrance, and
by way of getting at it by degrees, "I wouldn't go so far as to say
that, for that's a deal to say; but she ain't--"

"Living, Joe?"

"That's nigher where it is," said Joe; "she ain't living."

"Did she linger long, Joe?"

"Arter you was took ill, pretty much about what you might call (if
you was put to it) a week," said Joe; still determined, on my
account, to come at everything by degrees.

"Dear Joe, have you heard what becomes of her property?"

"Well, old chap," said Joe, "it do appear that she had settled the
most of it, which I meantersay tied it up, on Miss Estella. But she
had wrote out a little coddleshell in her own hand a day or two
afore the accident, leaving a cool four thousand to Mr. Matthew
Pocket. And why, do you suppose, above all things, Pip, she left
that cool four thousand unto him? 'Because of Pip's account of him
the said Matthew.' I am told by Biddy, that air the writing," said
Joe, repeating the legal turn as if it did him infinite good,
'account of him the said Matthew.' And a cool four thousand, Pip!"

I never discovered from whom Joe derived the conventional
temperature of the four thousand pounds, but it appeared to make
the sum of money more to him, and he had a manifest relish in
insisting on its being cool.

This account gave me great joy, as it perfected the only good thing
I had done. I asked Joe whether he had heard if any of the other
relations had any legacies?

"Miss Sarah," said Joe, "she have twenty-five pound perannium fur
to buy pills, on account of being bilious. Miss Georgiana, she have
twenty pound down. Mrs. - what's the name of them wild beasts with
humps, old chap?"

"Camels?" said I, wondering why he could possibly want to know.

Joe nodded. "Mrs. Camels," by which I presently understood he meant
Camilla, "she have five pound fur to buy rushlights to put her in
spirits when she wake up in the night."

The accuracy of these recitals was sufficiently obvious to me, to
give me great confidence in Joe's information. "And now," said Joe,
"you ain't that strong yet, old chap, that you can take in more nor
one additional shovel-full to-day. Old Orlick he's been a
bustin'open a dwelling-ouse."

"Whose?" said I.

"Not, I grant, you, but what his manners is given to blusterous,"
said Joe, apologetically; "still, a Englishman's ouse is his
Castle, and castles must not be busted 'cept when done in war time.
And wotsume'er the failings on his part, he were a corn and
seedsman in his hart."

"Is it Pumblechook's house that has been broken into, then?"

"That's it, Pip," said Joe; "and they took his till, and they took
his cash-box, and they drinked his wine, and they partook of his
wittles, and they slapped his face, and they pulled his nose, and
they tied him up to his bedpust, and they giv' him a dozen, and
they stuffed his mouth full of flowering annuals to prewent his
crying out. But he knowed Orlick, and Orlick's in the county
jail."

By these approaches we arrived at unrestricted conversation. I was
slow to gain strength, but I did slowly and surely become less
weak, and Joe stayed with me, and I fancied I was little Pip again.

For, the tenderness of Joe was so beautifully proportioned to my
need, that I was like a child in his hands. He would sit and talk
to me in the old confidence, and with the old simplicity, and in
the old unassertive protecting way, so that I would half believe
that all my life since the days of the old kitchen was one of the
mental troubles of the fever that was gone. He did everything for
me except the household work, for which he had engaged a very
decent woman, after paying off the laundress on his first arrival.
"Which I do assure you, Pip," he would often say, in explanation of
that liberty; "I found her a tapping the spare bed, like a cask of
beer, and drawing off the feathers in a bucket, for sale. Which she
would have tapped yourn next, and draw'd it off with you a laying
on it, and was then a carrying away the coals gradiwally in the
souptureen and wegetable-dishes, and the wine and spirits in your
Wellington boots."

We looked forward to the day when I should go out for a ride, as we
had once looked forward to the day of my apprenticeship. And when
the day came, and an open carriage was got into the Lane, Joe
wrapped me up, took me in his arms, carried me down to it, and put
me in, as if I were still the small helpless creature to whom he
had so abundantly given of the wealth of his great nature.

And Joe got in beside me, and we drove away together into the
country, where the rich summer growth was already on the trees and
on the grass, and sweet summer scents filled all the air. The day
happened to be Sunday, and when I looked on the loveliness around
me, and thought how it had grown and changed, and how the little
wild flowers had been forming, and the voices of the birds had been
strengthening, by day and by night, under the sun and under the
stars, while poor I lay burning and tossing on my bed, the mere
remembrance of having burned and tossed there, came like a check
upon my peace. But, when I heard the Sunday bells, and looked
around a little more upon the outspread beauty, I felt that I was
not nearly thankful enough - that I was too weak yet, to be even
that - and I laid my head on Joe's shoulder, as I had laid it long
ago when he had taken me to the Fair or where not, and it was too
much for my young senses.

More composure came to me after a while, and we talked as we used
to talk, lying on the grass at the old Battery. There was no change
whatever in Joe. Exactly what he had been in my eyes then, he was
in my eyes still; just as simply faithful, and as simply right.

When we got back again and he lifted me out, and carried me - so
easily - across the court and up the stairs, I thought of that
eventful Christmas Day when he had carried me over the marshes. We
had not yet made any allusion to my change of fortune, nor did I
know how much of my late history he was acquainted with. I was so
doubtful of myself now, and put so much trust in him, that I could
not satisfy myself whether I ought to refer to it when he did not.

"Have you heard, Joe," I asked him that evening, upon further
consideration, as he smoked his pipe at the window, "who my patron
was?"

"I heerd," returned Joe, "as it were not Miss Havisham, old chap."

"Did you hear who it was, Joe?"

"Well! I heerd as it were a person what sent the person what
giv'you the bank-notes at the Jolly Bargemen, Pip."

"So it was."

"Astonishing!" said Joe, in the placidest way.

"Did you hear that he was dead, Joe?" I presently asked, with
increasing diffidence.

"Which? Him as sent the bank-notes, Pip?"

"Yes."

"I think," said Joe, after meditating a long time, and looking
rather evasively at the window-seat, "as I did hear tell that how
he were something or another in a general way in that direction."

"Did you hear anything of his circumstances, Joe?"

"Not partickler, Pip."

"If you would like to hear, Joe--" I was beginning, when Joe got up
and came to my sofa.

"Lookee here, old chap," said Joe, bending over me. "Ever the best
of friends; ain't us, Pip?"

I was ashamed to answer him.

"Wery good, then," said Joe, as if I had answered; "that's all
right, that's agreed upon. Then why go into subjects, old chap,
which as betwixt two sech must be for ever onnecessary? There's
subjects enough as betwixt two sech, without onnecessary ones.
Lord! To think of your poor sister and her Rampages! And don't you
remember Tickler?"

"I do indeed, Joe."

"Lookee here, old chap," said Joe. "I done what I could to keep you
and Tickler in sunders, but my power were not always fully equal to
my inclinations. For when your poor sister had a mind to drop into
you, it were not so much," said Joe, in his favourite argumentative
way, "that she dropped into me too, if I put myself in opposition
to her but that she dropped into you always heavier for it. I
noticed that. It ain't a grab at a man's whisker, not yet a shake
or two of a man (to which your sister was quite welcome), that 'ud
put a man off from getting a little child out of punishment. But
when that little child is dropped into, heavier, for that grab of
whisker or shaking, then that man naterally up and says to himself,
'Where is the good as you are a-doing? I grant you I see the 'arm,'
says the man, 'but I don't see the good. I call upon you, sir,
therefore, to pint out the good.'"

"The man says?" I observed, as Joe waited for me to speak.

"The man says," Joe assented. "Is he right, that man?"

"Dear Joe, he is always right."

"Well, old chap," said Joe, "then abide by your words. If he's
always right (which in general he's more likely wrong), he's right
when he says this: - Supposing ever you kep any little matter to
yourself, when you was a little child, you kep it mostly because
you know'd as J. Gargery's power to part you and Tickler in
sunders, were not fully equal to his inclinations. Therefore, think
no more of it as betwixt two sech, and do not let us pass remarks
upon onnecessary subjects. Biddy giv' herself a deal o' trouble
with me afore I left (for I am almost awful dull), as I should view
it in this light, and, viewing it in this light, as I should so put
it. Both of which," said Joe, quite charmed with his logical
arrangement, "being done, now this to you a true friend, say.
Namely. You mustn't go a-over-doing on it, but you must have your
supper and your wine-and-water, and you must be put betwixt the
sheets."

The delicacy with which Joe dismissed this theme, and the sweet
tact and kindness with which Biddy - who with her woman's wit had
found me out so soon - had prepared him for it, made a deep
impression on my mind. But whether Joe knew how poor I was, and how
my great expectations had all dissolved, like our own marsh mists
before the sun, I could not understand.

Another thing in Joe that I could not understand when it first
began to develop itself, but which I soon arrived at a sorrowful
comprehension of, was this: As I became stronger and better, Joe
became a little less easy with me. In my weakness and entire
dependence on him, the dear fellow had fallen into the old tone,
and called me by the old names, the dear "old Pip, old chap," that
now were music in my ears. I too had fallen into the old ways, only
happy and thankful that he let me. But, imperceptibly, though I
held by them fast, Joe's hold upon them began to slacken; and
whereas I wondered at this, at first, I soon began to understand
that the cause of it was in me, and that the fault of it was all
mine.

Ah! Had I given Joe no reason to doubt my constancy, and to think
that in prosperity I should grow cold to him and cast him off? Had
I given Joe's innocent heart no cause to feel instinctively that as
I got stronger, his hold upon me would be weaker, and that he had
better loosen it in time and let me go, before I plucked myself
away?

It was on the third or fourth occasion of my going out walking in
the Temple Gardens leaning on Joe's arm, that I saw this change in
him very plainly. We had been sitting in the bright warm sunlight,
looking at the river, and I chanced to say as we got up:

"See, Joe! I can walk quite strongly. Now, you shall see me walk
back by myself."

"Which do not over-do it, Pip," said Joe; "but I shall be happy fur
to see you able, sir."

The last word grated on me; but how could I remonstrate! I walked
no further than the gate of the gardens, and then pretended to be
weaker than I was, and asked Joe for his arm. Joe gave it me, but
was thoughtful.

I, for my part, was thoughtful too; for, how best to check this
growing change in Joe, was a great perplexity to my remorseful
thoughts. That I was ashamed to tell him exactly how I was placed,
and what I had come down to, I do not seek to conceal; but, I hope
my reluctance was not quite an unworthy one. He would want to help
me out of his little savings, I knew, and I knew that he ought not
to help me, and that I must not suffer him to do it.

It was a thoughtful evening with both of us. But, before we went to
bed, I had resolved that I would wait over to-morrow, to-morrow
being Sunday, and would begin my new course with the new week. On
Monday morning I would speak to Joe about this change, I would lay
aside this last vestige of reserve, I would tell him what I had in
my thoughts (that Secondly, not yet arrived at), and why I had not
decided to go out to Herbert, and then the change would be
conquered for ever. As I cleared, Joe cleared, and it seemed as
though he had sympathetically arrived at a resolution too.

We had a quiet day on the Sunday, and we rode out into the country,
and then walked in the fields.

"I feel thankful that I have been ill, Joe," I said.

"Dear old Pip, old chap, you're a'most come round, sir."

"It has been a memorable time for me, Joe."

"Likeways for myself, sir," Joe returned.

"We have had a time together, Joe, that I can never forget. There
were days once, I know, that I did for a while forget; but I never
shall forget these."

"Pip," said Joe, appearing a little hurried and troubled, "there
has been larks, And, dear sir, what have been betwixt us - have
been."

At night, when I had gone to bed, Joe came into my room, as he had
done all through my recovery. He asked me if I felt sure that I was
as well as in the morning?

"Yes, dear Joe, quite."

"And are always a-getting stronger, old chap?"

"Yes, dear Joe, steadily."

Joe patted the coverlet on my shoulder with his great good hand,
and said, in what I thought a husky voice, "Good night!"

When I got up in the morning, refreshed and stronger yet, I was
full of my resolution to tell Joe all, without delay. I would tell
him before breakfast. I would dress at once and go to his room and
surprise him; for, it was the first day I had been up early. I went
to his room, and he was not there. Not only was he not there, but
his box was gone.

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

"Not wishful to intrude I have departured fur you are well again
dear Pip and will do better without JO.

"P.S. Ever the best of friends."

Enclosed in the letter, was a receipt for the debt and costs on
which I had been arrested. Down to that moment I had vainly
supposed that my creditor had withdrawn or suspended proceedings
until I should be quite recovered. I had never dreamed of Joe's
having paid the money; but, Joe had paid it, and the receipt was in
his name.

What remained for me now, but to follow him to the dear old forge,
and there to have out my disclosure to him, and my penitent
remonstrance with him, and there to relieve my mind and heart of
that reserved Secondly, which had begun as a vague something
lingering in my thoughts, and had formed into a settled purpose?

The purpose was, that I would go to Biddy, that I would show her
how humbled and repentant I came back, that I would tell her how I
had lost all I once hoped for, that I would remind her of our old
confidences in my first unhappy time. Then, I would say to her,
"Biddy, I think you once liked me very well, when my errant heart,
even while it strayed away from you, was quieter and better with
you than it ever has been since. If you can like me only half as
well once more, if you can take me with all my faults and
disappointments on my head, if you can receive me like a forgiven
child (and indeed I am as sorry, Biddy, and have as much need of a
hushing voice and a soothing hand), I hope I am a little worthier
of you that I was - not much, but a little. And, Biddy, it shall
rest with you to say whether I shall work at the forge with Joe, or
whether I shall try for any different occupation down in this
country, or whether we shall go away to a distant place where an
opportunity awaits me, which I set aside when it was offered, until
I knew your answer. And now, dear Biddy, if you can tell me that
you will go through the world with me, you will surely make it a
better world for me, and me a better man for it, and I will try
hard to make it a better world for you."

Such was my purpose. After three days more of recovery, I went down
to the old place, to put it in execution; and how I sped in it, is
all I have left to tell.

Chapter 58

The tidings of my high fortunes having had a heavy fall, had got
down to my native place and its neighbourhood, before I got there.
I found the Blue Boar in possession of the intelligence, and I
found that it made a great change in the Boar's demeanour. Whereas
the Boar had cultivated my good opinion with warm assiduity when I
was coming into property, the Boar was exceedingly cool on the
subject now that I was going out of property.

It was evening when I arrived, much fatigued by the journey I had
so often made so easily. The Boar could not put me into my usual
bedroom, which was engaged (probably by some one who had
expectations), and could only assign me a very indifferent chamber
among the pigeons and post-chaises up the yard. But, I had as sound
a sleep in that lodging as in the most superior accommodation the
Boar could have given me, and the quality of my dreams was about
the same as in the best bedroom.

Early in the morning while my breakfast was getting ready, I
strolled round by Satis House. There were printed bills on the
gate, and on bits of carpet hanging out of the windows, announcing
a sale by auction of the Household Furniture and Effects, next
week. The House itself was to be sold as old building materials and
pulled down. LOT 1 was marked in whitewashed knock-knee letters on
the brew house; LOT 2 on that part of the main building which had
been so long shut up. Other lots were marked off on other parts of
the structure, and the ivy had been torn down to make room for the
inscriptions, and much of it trailed low in the dust and was
withered already. Stepping in for a moment at the open gate and
looking around me with the uncomfortable air of a stranger who had
no business there, I saw the auctioneer's clerk walking on the
casks and telling them off for the information of a catalogue
compiler, pen in hand, who made a temporary desk of the wheeled
chair I had so often pushed along to the tune of Old Clem.

When I got back to my breakfast in the Boar's coffee-room, I found
Mr. Pumblechook conversing with the landlord. Mr. Pumblechook (not
improved in appearance by his late nocturnal adventure) was waiting
for me, and addressed me in the following terms.

"Young man, I am sorry to see you brought low. But what else could
be expected! What else could be expected!"

As he extended his hand with a magnificently forgiving air, and as
I was broken by illness and unfit to quarrel, I took it.

"William," said Mr. Pumblechook to the waiter, "put a muffin on
table. And has it come to this! Has it come to this!"

I frowningly sat down to my breakfast. Mr. Pumblechook stood over me
and poured out my tea - before I could touch the teapot - with the
air of a benefactor who was resolved to be true to the last.

"William," said Mr. Pumblechook, mournfully, "put the salt on. In
happier times," addressing me, "I think you took sugar. And did you
take milk? You did. Sugar and milk. William, bring a watercress."

"Thank you," said I, shortly, "but I don't eat watercresses."

"You don't eat 'em," returned Mr. Pumblechook, sighing and nodding
his head several times, as if he might have expected that, and as
if abstinence from watercresses were consistent with my downfall.
"True. The simple fruits of the earth. No. You needn't bring any,
William."

I went on with my breakfast, and Mr. Pumblechook continued to stand
over me, staring fishily and breathing noisily, as he always did.

"Little more than skin and bone!" mused Mr. Pumblechook, aloud. "And
yet when he went from here (I may say with my blessing), and I
spread afore him my humble store, like the Bee, he was as plump as
a Peach!"

This reminded me of the wonderful difference between the servile
manner in which he had offered his hand in my new prosperity,
saying, "May I?" and the ostentatious clemency with which he had
just now exhibited the same fat five fingers.

"Hah!" he went on, handing me the bread-and-butter. "And air you
a-going to Joseph?"

"In heaven's name," said I, firing in spite of myself, "what does
it matter to you where I am going? Leave that teapot alone."

It was the worst course I could have taken, because it gave
Pumblechook the opportunity he wanted.

"Yes, young man," said he, releasing the handle of the article in
question, retiring a step or two from my table, and speaking for
the behoof of the landlord and waiter at the door, "I will leave
that teapot alone. You are right, young man. For once, you are
right. I forgit myself when I take such an interest in your
breakfast, as to wish your frame, exhausted by the debilitating
effects of prodigygality, to be stimilated by the 'olesome
nourishment of your forefathers. And yet," said Pumblechook,
turning to the landlord and waiter, and pointing me out at arm's
length, "this is him as I ever sported with in his days of happy
infancy! Tell me not it cannot be; I tell you this is him!"

A low murmur from the two replied. The waiter appeared to be
particularly affected.

"This is him," said Pumblechook, "as I have rode in my shaycart.
This is him as I have seen brought up by hand. This is him untoe
the sister of which I was uncle by marriage, as her name was
Georgiana M'ria from her own mother, let him deny it if he can!"

The waiter seemed convinced that I could not deny it, and that it
gave the case a black look.

"Young man," said Pumblechook, screwing his head at me in the old
fashion, "you air a-going to Joseph. What does it matter to me, you
ask me, where you air a-going? I say to you, Sir, you air a-going
to Joseph."

The waiter coughed, as if he modestly invited me to get over that.

"Now," said Pumblechook, and all this with a most exasperating air
of saying in the cause of virtue what was perfectly convincing and
conclusive, "I will tell you what to say to Joseph. Here is Squires
of the Boar present, known and respected in this town, and here is
William, which his father's name was Potkins if I do not deceive
myself."

"You do not, sir," said William.

"In their presence," pursued Pumblechook, "I will tell you, young
man, what to say to Joseph. Says you, "Joseph, I have this day seen
my earliest benefactor and the founder of my fortun's. I will name
no names, Joseph, but so they are pleased to call him up-town, and
I have seen that man."

"I swear I don't see him here," said I.

"Say that likewise," retorted Pumblechook. "Say you said that, and
even Joseph will probably betray surprise."

"There you quite mistake him," said I. "I know better."

"Says you," Pumblechook went on, "'Joseph, I have seen that man, and
that man bears you no malice and bears me no malice. He knows your
character, Joseph, and is well acquainted with your pig-headedness
and ignorance; and he knows my character, Joseph, and he knows my
want of gratitoode. Yes, Joseph,' says you," here Pumblechook shook
his head and hand at me, "'he knows my total deficiency of common
human gratitoode. He knows it, Joseph, as none can. You do not know
it, Joseph, having no call to know it, but that man do.'"

Windy donkey as he was, it really amazed me that he could have the
face to talk thus to mine.

"Says you, 'Joseph, he gave me a little message, which I will now
repeat. It was, that in my being brought low, he saw the finger of
Providence. He knowed that finger when he saw it, Joseph, and he
saw it plain. It pinted out this writing, Joseph. Reward of
ingratitoode to his earliest benefactor, and founder of fortun's.
But that man said he did not repent of what he had done, Joseph.
Not at all. It was right to do it, it was kind to do it, it was
benevolent to do it, and he would do it again.'"

"It's pity," said I, scornfully, as I finished my interrupted
breakfast, "that the man did not say what he had done and would do
again."

"Squires of the Boar!" Pumblechook was now addressing the landlord,
"and William! I have no objections to your mentioning, either
up-town or down-town, if such should be your wishes, that it was
right to do it, kind to do it, benevolent to do it, and that I
would do it again."

With those words the Impostor shook them both by the hand, with an
air, and left the house; leaving me much more astonished than
delighted by the virtues of that same indefinite "it." "I was not
long after him in leaving the house too, and when I went down the
High-street I saw him holding forth (no doubt to the same effect)
at his shop door to a select group, who honoured me with very
unfavourable glances as I passed on the opposite side of the way.

But, it was only the pleasanter to turn to Biddy and to Joe, whose
great forbearance shone more brightly than before, if that could
be, contrasted with this brazen pretender. I went towards them
slowly, for my limbs were weak, but with a sense of increasing
relief as I drew nearer to them, and a sense of leaving arrogance
and untruthfulness further and further behind.

The June weather was delicious. The sky was blue, the larks were
soaring high over the green corn, I thought all that country-side
more beautiful and peaceful by far than I had ever known it to be
yet. Many pleasant pictures of the life that I would lead there,
and of the change for the better that would come over my character
when I had a guiding spirit at my side whose simple faith and clear
home-wisdom I had proved, beguiled my way. They awakened a tender
emotion in me; for, my heart was softened by my return, and such a
change had come to pass, that I felt like one who was toiling home
barefoot from distant travel, and whose wanderings had lasted many
years.

The schoolhouse where Biddy was mistress, I had never seen; but,
the little roundabout lane by which I entered the village for
quietness' sake, took me past it. I was disappointed to find that
the day was a holiday; no children were there, and Biddy's house
was closed. Some hopeful notion of seeing her busily engaged in her
daily duties, before she saw me, had been in my mind and was
defeated.

But, the forge was a very short distance off, and I went towards it
under the sweet green limes, listening for the clink of Joe's
hammer. Long after I ought to have heard it, and long after I had
fancied I heard it and found it but a fancy, all was still. The
limes were there, and the white thorns were there, and the
chestnut-trees were there, and their leaves rustled harmoniously
when I stopped to listen; but, the clink of Joe's hammer was not in
the midsummer wind.

Almost fearing, without knowing why, to come in view of the forge,
I saw it at last, and saw that it was closed. No gleam of fire, no
glittering shower of sparks, no roar of bellows; all shut up, and
still.

But, the house was not deserted, and the best parlour seemed to be
in use, for there were white curtains fluttering in its window, and
the window was open and gay with flowers. I went softly towards it,
meaning to peep over the flowers, when Joe and Biddy stood before
me, arm in arm.

At first Biddy gave a cry, as if she thought it was my apparition,
but in another moment she was in my embrace. I wept to see her, and
she wept to see me; I, because she looked so fresh and pleasant;
she, because I looked so worn and white.

"But dear Biddy, how smart you are!"

"Yes, dear Pip."

"And Joe, how smart you are!"

"Yes, dear old Pip, old chap."

I looked at both of them, 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!"

They had taken me into the kitchen, and I had laid my head down on
the old deal table. Biddy held one of my hands to her lips, and
Joe's restoring touch was on my shoulder. "Which he warn't strong
enough, my dear, fur to be surprised," said Joe. And Biddy said, "I
ought to have thought of it, dear Joe, but I was too happy." They
were both so overjoyed to see me, so proud to see me, so touched by
my coming to them, so delighted that I should have come by accident
to make their day complete!

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 eyes.

"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.

Chapter 59

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 do."

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 old bachelor."

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:

"Estella!"

"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."

"Nor I."

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 condition?"

"Yes, Estella."

"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 still?"

"Still."

"And do well, I am sure?"

"I work pretty hard for a sufficient living, and therefore - Yes, I
do well."

"I have often thought of you," said Estella.

"Have you?"

"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 bench.

"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.

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