"When the ruin is complete," said she, with a ghastly look, "and

when they lay me dead, in my bride's dress on the bride's table -

which shall be done, and which will be the finished curse upon him

- so much the better if it is done on this day!"

She stood looking at the table as if she stood looking at her own

figure lying there. I remained quiet. Estella returned, and she too

remained quiet. It seemed to me that we continued thus for a long

time. In the heavy air of the room, and the heavy darkness that

brooded in its remoter corners, I even had an alarming fancy that

Estella and I might presently begin to decay.

At length, not coming out of her distraught state by degrees, but

in an instant, Miss Havisham said, "Let me see you two play cards;

why have you not begun?" With that, we returned to her room, and

sat down as before; I was beggared, as before; and again, as

before, Miss Havisham watched us all the time, directed my

attention to Estella's beauty, and made me notice it the more by

trying her jewels on Estella's breast and hair.

Estella, for her part, likewise treated me as before; except that

she did not condescend to speak. When we had played some halfdozen

games, a day was appointed for my return, and I was taken down into

the yard to be fed in the former dog-like manner. There, too, I was

again left to wander about as I liked.

It is not much to the purpose whether a gate in that garden wall

which I had scrambled up to peep over on the last occasion was, on

that last occasion, open or shut. Enough that I saw no gate then,

and that I saw one now. As it stood open, and as I knew that

Estella had let the visitors out - for, she had returned with the

keys in her hand - I strolled into the garden and strolled all over

it. It was quite a wilderness, and there were old melon-frames and

cucumber-frames in it, which seemed in their decline to have

produced a spontaneous growth of weak attempts at pieces of old

hats and boots, with now and then a weedy offshoot into the

likeness of a battered saucepan.

When I had exhausted the garden, and a greenhouse with nothing in

it but a fallen-down grape-vine and some bottles, I found myself in

the dismal corner upon which I had looked out of the window. Never

questioning for a moment that the house was now empty, I looked in

at another window, and found myself, to my great surprise,

exchanging a broad stare with a pale young gentleman with red

eyelids and light hair.

This pale young gentleman quickly disappeared, and re-appeared

beside me. He had been at his books when I had found myself staring

at him, and I now saw that he was inky.

"Halloa!" said he, "young fellow!"

Halloa being a general observation which I had usually observed to

be best answered by itself, I said, "Halloa!" politely omitting

young fellow.

"Who let you in?" said he.

"Miss Estella."

"Who gave you leave to prowl about?"

"Miss Estella."

"Come and fight," said the pale young gentleman.

What could I do but follow him? I have often asked myself the

question since: but, what else could I do? His manner was so final

and I was so astonished, that I followed where he led, as if I had

been under a spell.

"Stop a minute, though," he said, wheeling round before we had gone

many paces. "I ought to give you a reason for fighting, too. There

it is!" In a most irritating manner he instantly slapped his hands

against one another, daintily flung one of his legs up behind him,

pulled my hair, slapped his hands again, dipped his head, and

butted it into my stomach.

The bull-like proceeding last mentioned, besides that it was

unquestionably to be regarded in the light of a liberty, was

particularly disagreeable just after bread and meat. I therefore

hit out at him and was going to hit out again, when he said,

"Aha! Would you?" and began dancing backwards and forwards in a

manner quite unparalleled within my limited experience.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
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