فصل 04

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فصل 04

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CHAPTER FOUR

The Pale Young Gentleman

When I got home, my sister made me sit on a stool and began asking me questions.

‘Tell me what Miss Havisham looks like,’ my sister demanded. ‘What did she say to you? What did you do?’

‘Miss Havisham’s very tall and dark,’ I answered quickly. ‘She was sitting in a black velvet coach. There was a girl with her. She gave us cake on gold plates!’

‘Gold plates!’ Mrs Joe repeated slowly. Then she added, ‘I hope you pleased her. She wanted you to play. Did you?’

‘Oh, yes. We played with . . . with flags,’ I said. ‘And then we shouted and waved our swords!’

‘Swords?’

‘Yes. The girl - Estella - got them from a cupboard. And there was no daylight in the room, only candles!’

Joe’s eyes opened very wide.

Why was I telling all these lies? I do not know. Perhaps the truth was too strange. My visit to Miss Havisham had confused and frightened me.

And Estella’s words had hurt me. She had called me a common working boy. What would she think of Joe? How heavy his boots were!

The following week, I walked to Miss Havisham’s alone. As before, Estella unlocked the gate and took me into the house.

‘Am I pretty?’ she said suddenly, holding up the candle.

‘Yes, very pretty,’ I answered.

‘Am I rude?’

‘Not so rude as last time.’

‘Not so rude?’ Estella repeated angrily. And she slapped my face hard.

‘What do you think now?’ she asked.

‘I won’t tell you,’ I said.

‘Then why don’t you cry, you horrid, common boy?’

‘I’m not crying. I’ll never cry for you again!’ I answered. But I was crying as I spoke. And, God knows, I cried for Estella many, many times afterwards.

As we were going upstairs, we passed a tall man with sharp eyes and thick black eyebrows. His large hands were very clean and white.

‘Who’s this?’ the man asked, staring at me.

‘Only a boy,’ Estella answered.

The man held my chin in his hand and stared into my eyes.

‘Why are you here?’ he asked.

‘Miss Havisham asked me to come,’ I whispered.

‘Did she? Then behave yourself!’ the man said, as he went on down the stairs.

Miss Havisham was sitting in her dressing-room. She was wearing the same torn dress as before. Everything in the room was the same.

‘So you’re back again,’ Miss Havisham said. ‘Are you ready to play today?’

I was too frightened to answer.

‘Well, if you can’t play, can you work?’ Miss Havisham asked.

‘Yes, ma’am.’

‘Then go into the room on the other side of the corridor. Wait there till I come.’

The room I entered was very big. In the middle of the room was a long table. By the light of the fire and the many candles, I saw that the torn table-cloth was covered with dust.

There was something tall and white on the table too. It was covered with dust and fat black spiders were running all over it.

Miss Havisham came into the room and stood behind me. She placed her hand on my shoulder and pointed at the table with a walking stick.

‘Look, Pip,’ she said. ‘Can you see my wedding-cake? Eaten by mice and spiders. Ruined!’

Miss Havisham held my shoulder hard with her thin hand.

‘Help me walk, Pip,’ she said.

We walked slowly round and round the long table, the strange old lady leaning on my shoulder.

‘Today is my birthday, Pip,’ Miss Havisham said. ‘Many years ago, it should have been my wedding-day. The dress I am wearing now was new then and I was young. Everything is old and ruined now. Time has ruined me too and broken my heart.’

What could I say? We stood there, very quiet, in the candlelight.

‘Call Estella,’ Miss Havisham said at last. ‘Play with her again. I want to see her beat you at cards again!’

So Estella and I played cards. She won every game. Miss Havisham smiled and held bright jewels against Estella’s hair. How beautiful the proud girl looked!

Miss Havisham was soon tired and I was sent downstairs. When I had eaten, I walked sadly through the courtyard and into an overgrown garden. No one had looked after the garden for years. Weeds grew everywhere.

Turning a corner, I came face to face with a fair-haired boy of my own age.

‘Hello,’ said this pale young gentleman. ‘Who let you in?’

‘Miss Estella,’ I answered.

‘Oh, did she? Then let’s fight!’

I stared at the boy in surprise. Then, suddenly, he pulled my hair and hit me hard in the stomach with his head.

I was so surprised, that I hit him hard.

‘So you do want to fight, do you?’ the pale young gentleman cried. ‘Come on, then!’ Then he raised his fists like a boxer and began waving them in front of my face.

I hit him again and he fell backwards onto the ground. When he got up, his nose was bleeding. A minute later, I had hit him in the eye.

‘You’ve won,’ he said weakly. ‘Shake hands.’

So we shook hands and the young gentleman walked quietly away.

Estella was waiting for me at the gate. Her eyes were bright and shining. I knew she had been watching the fight.

‘You can kiss me if you like,’ she said.

I was confused but happy. I kissed her gently on the cheek. A few minutes later, I began my long walk home.

From that day onwards, I visited Miss Havisham three times a week. I did not see the pale young gentleman again, but Estella was always there.

On every visit, I pushed Miss Havisham round and round those two rooms in a wheelchair. She did not walk with me again. Instead I pushed her in her chair. As I walked behind her, Miss Havisham questioned me. I told her I was going to be apprenticed to Joe, when I was old enough. I told her that I knew nothing, but wanted to know everything. I told her I wanted to be educated. I told her how I wanted to be a gentleman. Perhaps I hoped that Miss Havisham would pay for my education. But she never suggested it.

Sometimes Estella was kind to me, but, more often, she was rude and cruel. I could not understand this proud, beautiful girl who made me so unhappy.

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