Five of Swords

from Great Expectations  by Charles Dickens
(italics mine)

***

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.

‘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.

fight.jpeg
taken from www.study.com

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 waterbottle, 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.’

***

Traditional Five of Swords meanings  at www.biddytarot.com.

 

Works Cited

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1942. Print.

Waite, Arthur E.. “Radiant Rider-Waite Tarot Deck.” Smith, Pamela C., Designer,
(Reissued in collaboration with Miss Sybil Waite and Rider & Company, London),
U.S. Games Systems, Inc., 2003, Stamford, CN.

 

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