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12  Pip discovers the truth

 

While Estella lived in Londonstaying with friends of Miss Havisham'sI often visited herShe had an endless stream of admirersand I was jealous of all of themI never had an hour's happiness with herbut I still thought about herday and nightand my dearest wish was to marry herSeveral times Miss Havisham ordered me to bring Estella to visit herand of course I always obeyedEstella was as proud and cold as everwith her admirerswith Miss Havisham and with me

One man who admired her and followed her everywhere was the unpleasant Bentley DrummleOne day I asked her about him

Estellawhy do you encourage someone like DrummleYou know very well he's stupidand nobody likes him.’

Don't be foolishPip,’she answered.‘Perhaps I encourage him because that has a certain effect on the others.’

But he isn't worth it!’I cried angrily

What difference does it make?’she answered tiredly.‘If I smile at himit's because it means nothing to meYou should be glad that I don't give you false looks or smilesAt least I am always honest with you.’

But while my heart was aching for EstellaI had no idea that I would soon be hit by a disaster which would completely destroy my hopos and dreamsThe chain of events which had begun before I ever met her was slowly reaching its end

Herbert and I had moved to rooms in a house by the riverin the Temple areaOne evening he was abroad on business and I was alone at homereadingIt was terrible weatherstormy and wetwith deep mud in the streetsThe wind rushing up the river shook the whole buildingand the rain beat violently against the windowsAs I closed my book at eleven oclockI heard a heavy footstep on the stairsWhen I went to the door with my lampI saw a man coming slowly upstairsHe was wearing rough clothesand he was about sixtywith a brown face and long grey hairBut what really surprized me was that he was holding out both hands to me

Can I help you?’I asked politely but coldly

AhYes,’he saiddropping his hands,‘yesI'll explain.’He came into the sittingroomwhere he looked round admiringly at my furniture and booksHe held out his hands to me againbut I refused to take themThen he sat down heavily in a chairand rubbed his eyes with one rather dirty hand

You see,’he said,‘it's disappointingLooked forward to this day for so longI haveBut it's not your faultI'll explainIs there anybody near who can hear us?’

Why do youa strangervisiting me late at nightask that question?’I askedAnd then suddenly I knew who he wasIn spite of the years that had passedI was sure he was my convict And when he held out his hands againthis time I took themHe raised my hands to his lips and kissed them

You helped me all those years agoPipNever forgotten it!’He seemed to want to put his arms around mebut I stopped him

If you are grateful to me for what I did in my childhoodI hope you have improved your way of life nowIt wasn't necessary to come here to thank meBut you must understand that.…’I stopped speaking as I noticed how strangely he was staring at me

What must I understand?’he askedhis eyes fixed on me

That I don't wish to be your friendYou and I met once in the pastbut now our lives are separateWill you have a drink before you leave?’As I handed him a glass of rumI noticed that his eyes were full of tears.‘I'm sorry if that sounds hard,’l added.‘I didn't mean it to beGood luck in the future!’We drank together.‘How have you been living recently?’

I was sent to Australiayou knowbecause I escaped from the prison-shipAfter several years I finished my punishment and so I was allowed to work for myselfI did every kind of job thereIt was a hard lifebut I made a lot of money.’

I'm glad to hear it,’I said.‘That reminds meI must give you back the two pounds you sent meI don't need it now.’And I handed him two new pound notes from my purseStill watching mehe held them near the lamp until they caught fire

May I ask,’he said,‘how you have done so wellsince you and I met on those lonely marshes?’His eves were still fixed on mineand I began to tremble

II've been chosen to inherit a fortune,’I whispered

Perhaps I can guess how much,’said the convict.‘Could it bewellfive hundred pounds a year?’I stood upholding on to the back of my chairmy heart beating like a hammer

The agent who arranged it all,’he continued.‘was he perhaps a lawyername of Jaggers?’

Suddenly I realized the awful truthI could not speak nor breatheand fell on to the sofaHe brought his fierce old face close to mineand bent over me

YesPipdear boy I've made a gentleman of youYou seeI promised myself that all the money I earned out there in Australia should go to youI'm your second fatherPipI'm not a gentleman myselfand I didn't go to schoolbut I've got youPipAnd look what a gentleman you areAnd what books you've got You'll read them to mePipAnd I'll be proud of you even if I can't understand themDidn't you ever think it could be me who was sending the money?’

Oh nonono,’I replied.‘NeverneverWasn't anyone else involved at all?’

Nojust meand Jaggersof courseWho else could there beDear boyI kept myself goingyou seethrough all the hard workjust by thinking of youAnd I promised myself I'd come back to England one dayand see my boy.’He laid his band on my shoulder.‘Now you must find a bed for me,’he added,‘and remembernot a word to anybodyI was sent away for lifeand they'll hang me if they discover I've come back.’

My feelings were horribly confusedThe man who had paid for my education and luxuries for years was risking his life to see meI could not like himin fact my whole body trembled with disgust when he touched mebut I had to protect him

He went to sleep in Herbert's roomAfter locking all the doors carefullyI sat weakly down by the fire and tried to make sense of my lifeHow foolish my dreams had been Miss Havisham had never intended to make me richor let me marry EstellaBut there was something worse than thatIt was for this convictwho could be caught and hanged at any momentthat I had deserted JoeI could nevernevernever forgive myself for that

 


 

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