Based mostly on the 2011 BBC adaptation of 'Great Expectations', just because I like that version x
Pip dies and leaves behind a letter for his wife Estella, in which he tells her the story of her early life...
I did have a version in which Pip told Estella in person but I decided to do this instead – it seemed easier and more in character somehow. I didn't think Pip would have the courage to tell her in life, or perhaps the heart to. Oh, and the quote at the end isn't mine, it's by GEORGE R.R. MARTIN. And I don't own GREAT EXPECTATIONS. Charles Dickens does.
It is found in his possessions, locked in a desk drawer. The key for which he kept about him at all times. There is nothing in the drawer, save the letter. Written upon it, in his unsteady hand, is her name. It takes her some time to have the courage to open it. But when that courage at last comes upon her, she rips at the envelope with a feverish longing. A longing to see something from him, anything written by his hand, left over from another time. She can at that moment have had no idea, as she unfolds it across her dressing table, what secrets his script will unfold.
My Dearest Estella,
I ask, first and most humbly, for your forgiveness. I know that by the end of this you may feel I have no right to it. You may feel ill-used and deceived and for that I can offer nothing but the balm that I did what I did for love of you. Partly of cowardice, I admit. Yet it was love and not knowing how you might react, which first locked away such secrets in my heart. Everyone greatly involved is now dead, including I, and so it feels only right I communicate to you that information which should always have been yours.
I knew who your parents were. And their story is one which connects so closely to other people we knew that it seems an author must have had a hand in its shaping. In twisting the strings of our lives, to turn about one another in such a fashion.
Your mother's name was Molly. I confess I do not know much of her, except that she loved you. You were born and beloved by both of your parents, of that I have no doubt. Circumstances arose over which they had no control. Your father went to work in the north, leaving your mother at home with you. A man, living in the same part of the country, much desired your mother and, when your father left, made advances towards her. She resisted him and scarred him, and he, being powerful, had her charged with attempted murder. She was sent to Newgate, awaiting trial, and you were left in the care of her lawyer, who eventually had her cleared of the charge.
With your father missing, the lawyer suggested that she work for him as a maid and that you be put into the care of Miss Havisham. I think you have guessed by now that the lawyer was Jaggers, and that his own maid was indeed your mother. I know not whether you ever had any occasion afterwards to meet her. Your mother agreed, thinking it best for you, and you were sent to Satis House. The rest of your own life you know, but you do not know what became of your father.
He returned home to discover that your mother had been imprisoned. Immediately he headed for London, where he met Jaggers. Jaggers told him that you had died. Why he did it, I cannot say. That is his own weight to bear.
Your father had loved you dearly and Jaggers' lie broke his heart. He sank deep into a mire from which he could not be pulled and eventually committed a crime for which he was tried – alongside the same man who had accused your mother. Each were sentenced, your father more heavily than the gentleman. The man knew your father would attempt to harm him, so, he jumped the ship. Your father followed. It was at this point that I entered the story and I beg you, once again, to forgive me.
I was but a boy then. It was not long before I first received the call to play at Satis. I was returning home from visiting the graveyard when a hand grabbed me crossing a ditch. It was your father. He made a fearful sight, covered in mud and chained. He asked me to fetch food and a file and being a frightened child, I did. What he saw in me that day, or afterwards, when Joe was made to fix his irons, I cannot say. He lied to save me trouble, said it was he that had stolen the file and the food. I was so dumb with shock I didn't speak a word. Whatever it was that he saw, it made an impression I still do not understand.
For years, I thought Miss Havisham was my benefactor. Of course, you and I both know this to be untrue. She was not. Your father was. He escaped and made a living through rearing sheep. He returned to London to give me my property, at great risk, and told me the story of his life before. This, along with an overheard conversation between your mother and Jaggers (she was much affected by your wedding to Drummle, and attended, against Jaggers' wishes) lead me to understand who your parents truly were.
Though we made an attempt at an escape on a ship bound for some distant continent, it did not come to be that way. We were met on the water by that self-same gentleman from the ship. That gentleman's name was Compeyson.
Do you see how our lives entwine? Miss Havisham's jilter was the self-same man as he who your father hated. I say, with no little amount of satisfaction, your father killed Compeyson that day, despite what it cost him. He was caught and transferred to Newgate to await his hanging.
It was in that dank and dreary cell that your father died, with me by his side. I told him you had lived and that you were loved by me and I hope that that knowledge gave his final moments the peace they deserved.
I know you will be shocked now. I can see your face as clearly as if it were here before me. I know that my deception may have hit you even as hard as the knowledge I impart and I hope you can forgive me. Most of all I hope you can find it in yourself to love your father for what and who he was. He was a man with the greatest depths of feeling, whom society handed blow after blow. Do not judge him as others did, I beg you. Judge him as he should have been judged – with kindness, sympathy and respect.
His grave is in the cemetery in London, the one near my old lodging place. A simple wooden cross inscribed with his initials – AM. Abel Magwitch. Go there, if you can. If not, at least think of him. At least, in whatever way you can, let him know what you feel and let it be good. He deserves that, wherever he might be. If I should meet him when I leave this world, we both shall watch over you. Know that even now, in our absence, you are loved.
Shaking with some indescribable emotion, Estella rises from her seat, folds the letter carefully and tucks it away in her drawer. At that moment she cannot think, cannot do anything or say anything. To suddenly have her life rewritten does shock her, as anyone might have known it would. The feeling is unpleasant, but at the same time fulfilling. To know one's self at last, in entirety, is as steadying a thing as there could be. And she needs that, now of all times. She looks at herself in the mirror, at that face she once thought so regal and high and says in her mind that she is the daughter of two convicts, a maid and a sheep-farmer. Somehow, though the old her could never have imagined it, a smile creeps across her features. The years with Pip have altered her, in most ways that matter. It is as sudden a realisation as any she has endured today. She smiles and is proud.
"Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you."
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