فصل 11

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فصل 11

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CHAPTER ELEVEN

Secrets from the Past

My expectations were at end. Miss Havisham was not my benefactor. Estella could not be mine. But I had to see her again.

I found out that Estella was staying with Miss Havisham, and I decided to go to Satis House for the last time.

Once more I walked through the dark, dusty corridors of Satis House. I found Miss Havisham and Estella sitting together in the dressing-room. Estella was knitting. Both women looked at me in surprise.

‘Why are you here, Pip?’ Miss Havisham asked.

‘I have something that I must say to you, Miss Havisham,’ I replied. ‘I have found out who my benefactor is, and I am very unhappy. I thought it was you. You knew that I thought this. But you did not tell me my mistake. Was that kind, Miss Havisham?’

‘Kind? Do you expect me to be kind, Pip?’ Miss Havisham answered, hitting her stick on the floor angrily.

‘I expect nothing from you, Miss Havisham,’ I said quietly. ‘I have come because I need your help, but not for myself.’

‘Who do you want me to help?’ Miss Havisham asked. ‘What do you want, Pip?’

‘Two years ago, I was able to help my good friend, Herbert Pocket. I paid money for him to become a partner in a business,’ I explained. ‘He does not know who did this. Now I need more money, to complete my plans for him. I cannot take money from my benefactor. Can you help me?’

At first Miss Havisham said nothing. Then she spoke.

‘Have you anything else to say, Pip?’ she asked.

I looked at Estella. She went on knitting and did not raise her head.

‘Estella,’ I said, ‘you know I love you. I have always thought that Miss Havisham wanted us to marry. I know now that this is not true. But I must tell you that I love you and always will.’

‘Love is a word I do not understand,’ Estella answered. ‘I tried to warn you, Pip, but you didn’t listen. I am going to be married, but not to you.’

‘Then who…?’ I began.

‘Bentley Drummle,’ Estella said quietly.

‘Estella! That can’t be true!’ I cried. ‘He is stupid and cruel. You will never be happy with him.’

‘Do you think he will be happy with me?’ Estella said, with a cold smile. ‘I know nothing of happiness or love. You will soon forget me, Pip.’

‘You are part of my life, part of every breath I take,’ I whispered. ‘I shall never forget you, Estella, never. God bless you and forgive you.’

I kissed her hand. I do not remember leaving the room.

I was in despair. Without waiting for the coach, I set off to walk the long road to London.

It was after midnight when I reached home. I climbed the stairs to our rooms, desperate and exhausted. Fixed to the door was a piece of paper.

Don’t stay here tonight. Go to Old Mill Bank at eight tomorrow night. Bum this note.

The message was in Wemmick’s writing.

I stayed at an inn and waited for the hours to pass. At eight o’clock that night, I was outside the house at Old Mill Bank. I knocked at the door and Herbert opened it.

He took me inside and spoke quietly.

‘He is safe now,’ Herbert said, ‘but there is danger. Wemmick found out and warned us. Come upstairs and see Magwitch.’

Abel Magwitch was sitting quietly by the window of his room. He was looking at the river below him. His face looked old and gentle now.

‘I’m pleased to see you, dear boy,’ he said. ‘Compeyson is in London, looking for me. Compeyson found out that I had come to see you. But Herbert thinks I am safe here and Jaggers knows everything.’

‘This is a good place to be, for another reason,’ Herbert told me. ‘When you and Magwitch are ready to leave, we can row him down the river ourselves. You can get on board a ship at the mouth of the river. Compeyson will not expect you to escape like this. You will soon be far away.’

‘When do we go?’ I asked quickly.

‘Soon, Pip,’ Herbert said. ‘First, we’ll buy a boat and row up and down the river every day. People will get used to seeing us. They will think we enjoy rowing on the river. Meanwhile, I will come here as usual. When I visit Clara, I can see Magwitch. You must not come here, Pip. Compeyson wants you to lead him to Magwitch.’

We followed Herbert’s plan. Herbert and I rowed on the river nearly every day.

No stranger went near Old Mill Bank, but I was unhappy. I spent many hours walking the streets alone.

One evening, I met Mr Jaggers. ‘Come and dine with me, Pip,’ the lawyer said. ‘I have something for you.’

When we were sitting in Mr Jaggers’ house, he gave me a note from Miss Havisham. She wanted to see me on business. I decided to go to Satis House the next day.

‘Well, Pip,’ Mr Jaggers said, as we sat down to eat, ‘I hear that Estella is married. She is Mrs Bentley Drummle now. There will be only one master in that marriage - Mrs Bentley Drummle!’

As Mr Jaggers was speaking, Molly, his housekeeper, placed our food on the table. As she stood behind her master, Molly moved her hands nervously. She moved her hands as though she was knitting.

I looked at the woman’s dark eyes, her long, dark hair and her moving fingers. Where had I seen hair and movements like that before?

I remembered the last time I had seen Estella and a strange idea came into my mind. I grew pale and my heart began to beat very fast.

I did not speak, but Mr Jaggers saw me looking at Molly. When Molly left the room he slowly nodded his head. I had not asked the question, but he had answered it.

It was true! Molly was Estella’s mother! And only Mr Jaggers and I knew the truth.

The next day, I went to Satis House. Miss Havisham was in the big room with the long table. She was sitting in a chair by the fire.

She agreed to help Herbert. When we had finished our business, she looked at me sadly.

‘Are you very unhappy, Pip?’ she asked.

‘Yes, Miss Havisham. I am. There are many things making me unhappy. You know about one of them.’

Suddenly, Miss Havisham fell down on her knees.

‘Oh, what have I done? What have I done?’ she cried. ‘Estella is married. Do you know that?’

‘Yes.’

‘Then forgive me, Pip. Forgive me for making you unhappy.’

‘I forgive you, Miss Havisham,’ I answered. ‘I am to blame for my unhappiness too. But Estella is also unhappy. You should ask her for forgiveness. You have made her what she is.’

‘Yes, yes, I know it!’ Miss Havisham cried. ‘I adopted her when she was a little child. I was unhappy and wanted revenge. I took away love from her heart and put ice in its place. If you knew my story, you would understand!’

‘Miss Havisham, I do know your story,’ I answered. ‘I know why you adopted Estella and taught her to be cruel. I do not hate you, Miss Havisham. I am sorry for you.’

I helped Miss Havisham back into her chair by the fire. Then I left the room quietly.

I went downstairs and walked up and down in the garden. A feeling of great sadness filled my heart as I stood in that unhappy place.

I knew I would never return to Satis House. I ran upstairs quickly to see Miss Havisham for the last time. She was sitting quietly by the fire and did not move.

As I turned to go, a great flame sprang up suddenly from the fire. The flame leapt onto Miss Havisham’s old, torn clothes. As I stood there, she ran towards me crying out in terror. Her torn clothes were burning fiercely.

I pulled off my heavy coat and threw it over the screaming woman, pushing her down. Then I dragged the cloth from the table to cover her. The remains of the ruined wedding-feast crashed down. There were clouds of dust, and mice and spiders ran across the floor. Miss Havisham screamed and screamed with pain.

Hearing Miss Havisham’s cries, the servants rushed in. We laid Miss Havisham on the table and covered her gently. She was badly burned and could not be moved. Over and over again, she repeated the same words.

‘What have I done? What have I done? Forgive me, oh, forgive me!’

A servant went to fetch a doctor. But he could not help her.

Miss Havisham lay there for several hours. I stayed with her, until, calm at last, she died.

My hands and arms had been badly burnt. Herbert came to Satis House and he took me back to London. There he looked after me. He was kind and gentle.

At first, my mind was confused, but, with Herbert’s help, I slowly grew stronger.

My first thoughts were for Magwitch.

‘He is safe,’ Herbert told me. ‘But as soon as you are well, we must help him to escape.

‘I like him better now,’ Herbert went on. ‘We have talked together many times. Did you know he once had a wife, Pip? Magwitch’s wife was a wild young woman and very jealous. She thought another woman wanted to steal her husband. So she fought the woman and the woman died. Magwitch’s wife was put on trial for murder.’

‘Murder?’ I repeated in horror.

‘Yes, murder. She was put on trial, but Mr Jaggers was her lawyer. He spoke for her in court and she was acquitted.

‘Magwitch and this woman had a child, a little girl,’ Herbert went on. ‘Magwitch loved the child very much. But after the trial, the woman and the child disappeared. Magwitch never saw them again.’

‘Herbert,’ I said slowly, ‘how long ago did these things happen?’

‘About twenty years ago,’ Herbert answered. ‘Three or four years before Magwitch saw you in the churchyard. You reminded him of the child he had lost.’

I sat up slowly.

‘Herbert,’ I said, ‘I have something to tell you. I am sure it is the truth. The man we are hiding, Abel Magwitch, the returned convict, is Estella’s father.’

As soon as I was strong enough, I went to see Mr Jaggers. ‘We know who Estella’s mother is, Mr Jaggers,’ I told him.

‘Estella’s mother, Pip?’ Mr Jaggers said carefully.

‘Yes. I have seen her in your house, Mr Jaggers.’

The lawyer said nothing.

‘I now know something more - the name of Estella’s father,’ I went on.

Mr Jaggers looked at me sharply.

‘His name is Abel Magwitch,’ I said, ‘and Abel Magwitch is the man who is my benefactor.’

‘Why does Magwitch think this?’ Mr Jaggers asked in surprise.

‘He doesn’t think this,’ I answered. ‘He does not know that his daughter is alive.’

I told Mr Jaggers everything I knew and the things I had guessed.

‘Mr Jaggers,’ I said at last, ‘terrible things have happened to all these people. They must be told the truth.’

Mr Jaggers thought for a time before he spoke.

‘Perhaps you are right in what you have guessed, Pip. But who would be helped by knowing the truth now? Would the mother be helped? Or the father? Or the child?

‘Think carefully, Pip. No one would be helped by knowing the truth, no one.’

Mr Jaggers was right. I thought of Estella. She had married a rich man from a proud family. But she was the daughter of a convict. The truth would destroy her. She must never know it.

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