"Laws of the game!" said he. Here, he skipped from his left leg on

to his right. "Regular rules!" Here, he skipped from his right leg

on to his left. "Come to the ground, and go through the

preliminaries!" Here, he dodged backwards and forwards, and did all

sorts of things while I looked helplessly at him.

I was secretly afraid of him when I saw him so dexterous; but, I

felt morally and physically convinced that his light head of hair

could have had no business in the pit of my stomach, and that I had

a right to consider it irrelevant when so obtruded on my attention.

Therefore, I followed him without a word, to a retired nook of the

garden, formed by the junction of two walls and screened by some

rubbish. On his asking me if I was satisfied with the ground, and

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.

Charles Dickens
Classic Literature Library
Classic Authors

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