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Charles Dickens > Great Expectations > Chapter 59

Great Expectations

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



"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?"


"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


"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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