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
"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
"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
"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.