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- Great Expectations - 40/210 -


on my replying Yes, he begged my leave to absent himself for a

moment, and quickly returned with a bottle of water and a sponge

dipped in vinegar. "Available for both," he said, placing these

against the wall. And then fell to pulling off, not only his jacket

and waistcoat, but his shirt too, in a manner at once

light-hearted, businesslike, and bloodthirsty.

Although he did not look very healthy - having pimples on his face,

and a breaking out at his mouth - these dreadful preparations quite

appalled me. I judged him to be about my own age, but he was much

taller, and he had a way of spinning himself about that was full of

appearance. For the rest, he was a young gentleman in a grey suit

(when not denuded for battle), with his elbows, knees, wrists, and

heels, considerably in advance of the rest of him as to

development.

My heart failed me when I saw him squaring at me with every

demonstration of mechanical nicety, and eyeing my anatomy as if he

were minutely choosing his bone. I never have been so surprised in

my life, as I was when I let out the first blow, and saw him lying

on his back, looking up at me with a bloody nose and his face

exceedingly fore-shortened.

But, he was on his feet directly, and after sponging himself with a

great show of dexterity began squaring again. The second greatest

surprise I have ever had in my life was seeing him on his back

again, looking up at me out of a black eye.

His spirit inspired me with great respect. He seemed to have no

strength, and he never once hit me hard, and he was always knocked

down; but, he would be up again in a moment, sponging himself or

drinking out of the water-bottle, with the greatest satisfaction in

seconding himself according to form, and then came at me with an

air and a show that made me believe he really was going to do for

me at last. He got heavily bruised, for I am sorry to record that

the more I hit him, the harder I hit him; but, he came up again and

again and again, until at last he got a bad fall with the back of

his head against the wall. Even after that crisis in our affairs,

he got up and turned round and round confusedly a few times, not

knowing where I was; but finally went on his knees to his sponge

and threw it up: at the same time panting out, "That means you have

won."

He seemed so brave and innocent, that although I had not proposed

the contest I felt but a gloomy satisfaction in my victory. Indeed,

I go so far as to hope that I regarded myself while dressing, as a

species of savage young wolf, or other wild beast. However, I got

dressed, darkly wiping my sanguinary face at intervals, and I said,

"Can I help you?" and he said "No thankee," and I said "Good

afternoon," and he said "Same to you."

When I got into the court-yard, I found Estella waiting with the

keys. But, she neither asked me where I had been, nor why I had

kept her waiting; and there was a bright flush upon her face, as

though something had happened to delight her. Instead of going

straight to the gate, too, she stepped back into the passage, and

beckoned me.

"Come here! You may kiss me, if you like."

I kissed her cheek as she turned it to me. I think I would have

gone through a great deal to kiss her cheek. But, I felt that the

kiss was given to the coarse common boy as a piece of money might

have been, and that it was worth nothing.

What with the birthday visitors, and what with the cards, and what

with the fight, my stay had lasted so long, that when I neared home

the light on the spit of sand off the point on the marshes was

gleaming against a black night-sky, and Joe's furnace was flinging

a path of fire across the road.

Chapter 12

My mind grew very uneasy on the subject of the pale young

gentleman. The more I thought of the fight, and recalled the pale

young gentleman on his back in various stages of puffy and

incrimsoned countenance, the more certain it appeared that

something would be done to me. I felt that the pale young

gentleman's blood was on my head, and that the Law would avenge it.

Without having any definite idea of the penalties I had incurred,

it was clear to me that village boys could not go stalking about

the country, ravaging the houses of gentlefolks and pitching into

the studious youth of England, without laying themselves open to

severe punishment. For some days, I even kept close at home, and

looked out at the kitchen door with the greatest caution and

trepidation before going on an errand, lest the officers of the

County Jail should pounce upon me. The pale young gentleman's nose

had stained my trousers, and I tried to wash out that evidence of

my guilt in the dead of night. I had cut my knuckles against the

pale young gentleman's teeth, and I twisted my imagination into a

thousand tangles, as I devised incredible ways of accounting for

that damnatory circumstance when I should be haled before the

Judges.

When the day came round for my return to the scene of the deed of

violence, my terrors reached their height. Whether myrmidons of

Justice, specially sent down from London, would be lying in ambush

behind the gate? Whether Miss Havisham, preferring to take personal

vengeance for an outrage done to her house, might rise in those


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