Bleak House by Charles Dickens
London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln 's Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes -- gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another 's umbrellas in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke -LRB- if this day ever broke -RRB-, adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.
Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great -LRB- and dirty -RRB- city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little` prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging in the misty clouds.
Gas looming through the fog in divers places in the streets, much as the sun may, from the spongey fields, be seen to loom by husbandman and ploughboy. Most of the shops lighted two hours before their time -- as the gas seems to know, for it has a haggard and unwilling look.
The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln 's Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.
Never can there come fog too thick, never can there come mud and mire too deep, to assort with the groping and floundering condition which this High Court of Chancery, most pestilent of hoary sinners, holds this day in the sight of heaven and earth.
On such an afternoon, if ever, the Lord High Chancellor ought to be sitting here -- as here he is -- with a foggy glory round his head, softly fenced in with crimson cloth and curtains, addressed by a large advocate with great whiskers, a little voice, and an interminable brief, and outwardly directing his contemplation to the lantern in the roof, where he can see nothing but fog. On such an afternoon some score of members of the High Court of Chancery bar ought to be -- as here they are -- mistily engaged in one of the ten thousand stages of an endless cause, tripping one another up on slippery precedents, groping knee-deep in technicalities, running their goat-hair and horsehair warded heads against walls of words and making a pretence of equity with serious faces, as players might. On such an afternoon the various solicitors in the cause, some two or three of whom have inherited it from their fathers, who made a fortune by it, ought to be -- as are they not? -- ranged in a line, in a long matted well -LRB- but you might look in vain for truth at the bottom of it -RRB- between the registrar 's red table and the silk gowns, with bills, cross-bills, answers, rejoinders, injunctions, affidavits, issues, references to masters, masters' reports, mountains of costly nonsense, piled before them. Well may the court be dim, with wasting candles here and there; well may the fog hang heavy in it, as if it would never get out; well may the stained-glass windows lose their colour and admit no light of day into the place; well may the uninitiated from the streets, who peep in through the glass panes in the door, be deterred from entrance by its owlish aspect and by the drawl, languidly echoing to the roof from the padded dais where the Lord High Chancellor looks into the lantern that has no light in it and where the attendant wigs are all stuck in a fog-bank! This is the Court of Chancery, which has its decaying houses and its blighted lands in every shire, which has its worn-out lunatic in every madhouse and its dead in every churchyard, which has its ruined suitor with his slipshod heels and threadbare dress borrowing and begging through the round of every man 's acquaintance, which gives to monied might the means abundantly of wearying out the right, which so exhausts finances, patience, courage, hope, so overthrows the brain and breaks the heart, that there is not an honourable man among its practitioners who would not give -- who does not often give -- the warning, “ Suffer any wrong that can be done you rather than come here! ”
Who happen to be in the Lord Chancellor 's court this murky afternoon besides the Lord Chancellor, the counsel in the cause, two or three counsel who are never in any cause, and the well of solicitors before mentioned? There is the registrar below the judge, in wig and gown; and there are two or three maces, or petty-bags, or privy purses, or whatever they may be, in legal court suits. These are all yawning, for no crumb of amusement ever falls from Jarndyce and Jarndyce -LRB- the cause in hand -RRB-, which was squeezed dry years upon years ago. The short-hand writers, the reporters of the court, and the reporters of the newspapers invariably decamp with the rest of the regulars when Jarndyce and Jarndyce comes on. Their places are a blank. Standing on a seat at the side of the hall, the better to peer into the curtained sanctuary, is a little mad old woman in a squeezed bonnet who is always in court, from its sitting to its rising, and always expecting some incomprehensible judgment to be given in her favour. Some say she really is, or was, a party to a suit, but no one knows for certain because no one cares. She carries some small litter in a reticule which she calls her documents, principally consisting of paper matches and dry lavender.A sallow prisoner has come up, in custody, for the half-dozenth time to make a personal application “ to purge himself of his contempt, ” which, being a solitary surviving executor who has fallen into a state of conglomeration about accounts of which it is not pretended that he had ever any knowledge, he is not at all likely ever to do. In the meantime his prospects in life are ended. Another ruined suitor, who periodically appears from Shropshire and breaks out into efforts to address the Chancellor at the close of the day 's business and who can by no means be made to understand that the Chancellor is legally ignorant of his existence after making it desolate for a quarter of a century, plants himself in a good place and keeps an eye on the judge, ready to call out “ My Lord! ” in a voice of sonorous complaint on the instant of his rising.A few lawyers' clerks and others who know this suitor by sight linger on the chance of his furnishing some fun and enlivening the dismal weather a little.
Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it understand it least, but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes without coming to a total disagreement as to all the premises. Innumerable children have been born into the cause; innumerable young people have married into it; innumerable old people have died out of it. Scores of persons have deliriously found themselves made parties in Jarndyce and Jarndyce without knowing how or why; whole families have inherited legendary hatreds with the suit. The little plaintiff or defendant who was promised a new rocking-horse when Jarndyce and Jarndyce should be settled has grown up, possessed himself of a real horse, and trotted away into the other world. Fair wards of court have faded into mothers and grandmothers; a long procession of Chancellors has come in and gone out; the legion of bills in the suit have been transformed into mere bills of mortality; there are not three Jarndyces left upon the earth perhaps since old Tom Jarndyce in despair blew his brains out at a coffee-house in Chancery Lane; but Jarndyce and Jarndyce still drags its dreary length before the court, perennially hopeless.
Jarndyce and Jarndyce has passed into a joke. That is the only good that has ever come of it. It has been death to many, but it is a joke in the profession. Every master in Chancery has had a reference out of it. Every Chancellor was “ in it, ” for somebody or other, when he was counsel at the bar. Good things have been said about it by blue-nosed, bulbous-shoed old benchers in select port-wine committee after dinner in hall. Articled clerks have been in the habit of fleshing their legal wit upon it. The last Lord Chancellor handled it neatly, when, correcting Mr. Blowers, the eminent silk gown who said that such a thing might happen when the sky rained potatoes, he observed, “ or when we get through Jarndyce and Jarndyce, Mr. Blowers ” -- a pleasantry that particularly tickled the maces, bags, and purses.
How many people out of the suit Jarndyce and Jarndyce has stretched forth its unwholesome hand to spoil and corrupt would be a very wide question. From the master upon whose impaling files reams of dusty warrants in Jarndyce and Jarndyce have grimly writhed into many shapes, down to the copying-clerk in the Six Clerks' Office who has copied his tens of thousands of Chancery folio-pages under that eternal heading, no man 's nature has been made better by it. In trickery, evasion, procrastination, spoliation, botheration, under false pretences of all sorts, there are influences that can never come to good. The very solicitors' boys who have kept the wretched suitors at bay, by protesting time out of mind that Mr. Chizzle, Mizzle, or otherwise was particularly engaged and had appointments until dinner, may have got an extra moral twist and shuffle into themselves out of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. The receiver in the cause has acquired a goodly sum of money by it but has acquired too a distrust of his own mother and a contempt for his own kind. Chizzle, Mizzle, and otherwise have lapsed into a habit of vaguely promising themselves that they will look into that outstanding little matter and see what can be done for Drizzle -- who was not well used -- when Jarndyce and Jarndyce shall be got out of the office. Shirking and sharking in all their many varieties have been sown broadcast by the ill-fated cause; and even those who have contemplated its history from the outermost circle of such evil have been insensibly tempted into a loose way of letting bad things alone to take their own bad course, and a loose belief that if the world go wrong it was in some off-hand manner never meant to go right.
Thus, in the midst of the mud and at the heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.
“ Mr. Tangle, ” says the Lord High Chancellor, latterly something restless under the eloquence of that learned gentleman.
“ Mlud, ” says Mr. Tangle. Mr. Tangle knows more of Jarndyce and Jarndyce than anybody. He is famous for it -- supposed never to have read anything else since he left school.
“ Have you nearly concluded your argument? ”
“ Mlud, no -- variety of points -- feel it my duty tsubmit -- ludship, ” is the reply that slides out of Mr. Tangle.
“ Several members of the bar are still to be heard, I believe? ” says the Chancellor with a slight smile.
Eighteen of Mr. Tangle 's learned friends, each armed with a little summary of eighteen hundred sheets, bob up like eighteen hammers in a pianoforte, make eighteen bows, and drop into their eighteen places of obscurity.
“ We will proceed with the hearing on Wednesday fortnight, ” says the Chancellor. For the question at issue is only a question of costs, a mere bud on the forest tree of the parent suit, and really will come to a settlement one of these days.
The Chancellor rises; the bar rises; the prisoner is brought forward in a hurry; the man from Shropshire cries, “ My lord! ” Maces, bags, and purses indignantly proclaim silence and frown at the man from Shropshire.
“ In reference, ” proceeds the Chancellor, still on Jarndyce and Jarndyce, “ to the young girl -- ”
“ Begludship 's pardon -- boy, ” says Mr. Tangle prematurely. “ In reference, ” proceeds the Chancellor with extra distinctness, “ to the young girl and boy, the two young people ” -- Mr. Tangle crushed -- “ whom I directed to be in attendance to-day and who are now in my private room, I will see them and satisfy myself as to the expediency of making the order for their residing with their uncle. ”
Mr. Tangle on his legs again. “ Begludship 's pardon -- dead. ”
“ With their ” -- Chancellor looking through his double eye-glass at the papers on his desk -- “ grandfather. ”
“ Begludship 's pardon -- victim of rash action -- brains. ”
Suddenly a very little counsel with a terrific bass voice arises, fully inflated, in the back settlements of the fog, and says, “ Will your lordship allow me? I appear for him. He is a cousin, several times removed. I am not at the moment prepared to inform the court in what exact remove he is a cousin, but he IS a cousin. ”
Leaving this address -LRB- delivered like a sepulchral message -RRB- ringing in the rafters of the roof, the very little counsel drops, and the fog knows him no more. Everybody looks for him. Nobody can see him.
“ I will speak with both the young people, ” says the Chancellor anew, “ and satisfy myself on the subject of their residing with their cousin. I will mention the matter to-morrow morning when I take my seat. ”
The Chancellor is about to bow to the bar when the prisoner is presented. Nothing can possibly come of the prisoner 's conglomeration but his being sent back to prison, which is soon done. The man from Shropshire ventures another remonstrative “ My lord! ” but the Chancellor, being aware of him, has dexterously vanished. Everybody else quickly vanishes too.A battery of blue bags is loaded with heavy charges of papers and carried off by clerks; the little mad old woman marches off with her documents; the empty court is locked up. If all the injustice it has committed and all the misery it has caused could only be locked up with it, and the whole burnt away in a great funeral pyre -- why so much the better for other parties than the parties in Jarndyce and Jarndyce!
It is but a glimpse of the world of fashion that we want on this same miry afternoon. It is not so unlike the Court of Chancery but that we may pass from the one scene to the other, as the crow flies. Both the world of fashion and the Court of Chancery are things of precedent and usage: oversleeping Rip Van Winkles who have played at strange games through a deal of thundery weather; sleeping beauties whom the knight will wake one day, when all the stopped spits in the kitchen shall begin to turn prodigiously!
It is not a large world. Relatively even to this world of ours, which has its limits too -LRB- as your Highness shall find when you have made the tour of it and are come to the brink of the void beyond -RRB-, it is a very little speck. There is much good in it; there are many good and true people in it; it has its appointed place. But the evil of it is that it is a world wrapped up in too much jeweller 's cotton and fine wool, and can not hear the rushing of the larger worlds, and can not see them as they circle round the sun. It is a deadened world, and its growth is sometimes unhealthy for want of air.
My Lady Dedlock has returned to her house in town for a few days previous to her departure for Paris, where her ladyship intends to stay some weeks, after which her movements are uncertain. The fashionable intelligence says so for the comfort of the Parisians, and it knows all fashionable things. To know things otherwise were to be unfashionable. My Lady Dedlock has been down at what she calls, in familiar conversation, her “ place ” in Lincolnshire. The waters are out in Lincolnshire. An arch of the bridge in the park has been sapped and sopped away. The adjacent low-lying ground for half a mile in breadth is a stagnant river with melancholy trees for islands in it and a surface punctured all over, all day long, with falling rain. My Lady Dedlock 's place has been extremely dreary. The weather for many a day and night has been so wet that the trees seem wet through, and the soft loppings and prunings of the woodman 's axe can make no crash or crackle as they fall. The deer, looking soaked, leave quagmires where they pass. The shot of a rifle loses its sharpness in the moist air, and its smoke moves in a tardy little cloud towards the green rise, coppice-topped, that makes a background for the falling rain. The view from my Lady Dedlock 's own windows is alternately a lead-coloured view and a view in Indian ink. The vases on the stone terrace in the foreground catch the rain all day; and the heavy drops fall -- drip, drip, drip -- upon the broad flagged pavement, called from old time the Ghost 's Walk, all night. On Sundays the little church in the park is mouldy; the oaken pulpit breaks out into a cold sweat; and there is a general smell and taste as of the ancient Dedlocks in their graves. My Lady Dedlock -LRB- who is childless -RRB-, looking out in the early twilight from her boudoir at a keeper 's lodge and seeing the light of a fire upon the latticed panes, and smoke rising from the chimney, and a child, chased by a woman, running out into the rain to meet the shining figure of a wrapped-up man coming through the gate, has been put quite out of temper. My Lady Dedlock says she has been “ bored to death. ”
Therefore my Lady Dedlock has come away from the place in Lincolnshire and has left it to the rain, and the crows, and the rabbits, and the deer, and the partridges and pheasants. The pictures of the Dedlocks past and gone have seemed to vanish into the damp walls in mere lowness of spirits, as the housekeeper has passed along the old rooms shutting up the shutters. And when they will next come forth again, the fashionable intelligence -- which, like the fiend, is omniscient of the past and present, but not the future -- can not yet undertake to say.
Sir Leicester Dedlock is only a baronet, but there is no mightier baronet than he. His family is as old as the hills, and infinitely more respectable. He has a general opinion that the world might get on without hills but would be done up without Dedlocks. He would on the whole admit nature to be a good idea -LRB- a little low, perhaps, when not enclosed with a park-fence -RRB-, but an idea dependent for its execution on your great county families. He is a gentleman of strict conscience, disdainful of all littleness and meanness and ready on the shortest notice to die any death you may please to mention rather than give occasion for the least impeachment of his integrity. He is an honourable, obstinate, truthful, high-spirited, intensely prejudiced, perfectly unreasonable man.
Sir Leicester is twenty years, full measure, older than my Lady. He will never see sixty-five again, nor perhaps sixty-six, nor yet sixty-seven. He has a twist of the gout now and then and walks a little stiffly. He is of a worthy presence, with his light-grey hair and whiskers, his fine shirt-frill, his pure-white waistcoat, and his blue coat with bright buttons always buttoned. He is ceremonious, stately, most polite on every occasion to my Lady, and holds her personal attractions in the highest estimation. His gallantry to my Lady, which has never changed since he courted her, is the one little touch of romantic fancy in him.
Indeed, he married her for love.A whisper still goes about that she had not even family; howbeit, Sir Leicester had so much family that perhaps he had enough and could dispense with any more. But she had beauty, pride, ambition, insolent resolve, and sense enough to portion out a legion of fine ladies. Wealth and station, added to these, soon floated her upward, and for years now my Lady Dedlock has been at the centre of the fashionable intelligence and at the top of the fashionable tree.
How Alexander wept when he had no more worlds to conquer, everybody knows -- or has some reason to know by this time, the matter having been rather frequently mentioned. My Lady Dedlock, having conquered HER world, fell not into the melting, but rather into the freezing, mood. An exhausted composure, a worn-out placidity, an equanimity of fatigue not to be ruffled by interest or satisfaction, are the trophies of her victory. She is perfectly well-bred. If she could be translated to heaven to-morrow, she might be expected to ascend without any rapture.
She has beauty still, and if it be not in its heyday, it is not yet in its autumn. She has a fine face -- originally of a character that would be rather called very pretty than handsome, but improved into classicality by the acquired expression of her fashionable state. Her figure is elegant and has the effect of being tall. Not that she is so, but that “ the most is made, ” as the Honourable Bob Stables has frequently asserted upon oath, “ of all her points. ” The same authority observes that she is perfectly got up and remarks in commendation of her hair especially that she is the best-groomed woman in the whole stud.
With all her perfections on her head, my Lady Dedlock has come up from her place in Lincolnshire -LRB- hotly pursued by the fashionable intelligence -RRB- to pass a few days at her house in town previous to her departure for Paris, where her ladyship intends to stay some weeks, after which her movements are uncertain. And at her house in town, upon this muddy, murky afternoon, presents himself an old-fashioned old gentleman, attorney-at-law and eke solicitor of the High Court of Chancery, who has the honour of acting as legal adviser of the Dedlocks and has as many cast-iron boxes in his office with that name outside as if the present baronet were the coin of the conjuror 's trick and were constantly being juggled through the whole set. Across the hall, and up the stairs, and along the passages, and through the rooms, which are very brilliant in the season and very dismal out of it -- fairy-land to visit, but a desert to live in -- the old gentleman is conducted by a Mercury in powder to my Lady 's presence.
The old gentleman is rusty to look at, but is reputed to have made good thrift out of aristocratic marriage settlements and aristocratic wills, and to be very rich. He is surrounded by a mysterious halo of family confidences, of which he is known to be the silent depository. There are noble mausoleums rooted for centuries in retired glades of parks among the growing timber and the fern, which perhaps hold fewer noble secrets than walk abroad among men, shut up in the breast of Mr. Tulkinghorn. He is of what is called the old school -- a phrase generally meaning any school that seems never to have been young -- and wears knee-breeches tied with ribbons, and gaiters or stockings. One peculiarity of his black clothes and of his black stockings, be they silk or worsted, is that they never shine. Mute, close, irresponsive to any glancing light, his dress is like himself. He never converses when not professionally consulted. He is found sometimes, speechless but quite at home, at corners of dinner-tables in great country houses and near doors of drawing-rooms, concerning which the fashionable intelligence is eloquent, where everybody knows him and where half the Peerage stops to say “ How do you do, Mr. Tulkinghorn? ” He receives these salutations with gravity and buries them along with the rest of his knowledge.
Sir Leicester Dedlock is with my Lady and is happy to see Mr. Tulkinghorn. There is an air of prescription about him which is always agreeable to Sir Leicester; he receives it as a kind of tribute. He likes Mr. Tulkinghorn 's dress; there is a kind of tribute in that too. It is eminently respectable, and likewise, in a general way, retainer-like. It expresses, as it were, the steward of the legal mysteries, the butler of the legal cellar, of the Dedlocks.
Has Mr. Tulkinghorn any idea of this himself? It may be so, or it may not, but there is this remarkable circumstance to be noted in everything associated with my Lady Dedlock as one of a class -- as one of the leaders and representatives of her little world. She supposes herself to be an inscrutable Being, quite out of the reach and ken of ordinary mortals -- seeing herself in her glass, where indeed she looks so. Yet every dim little star revolving about her, from her maid to the manager of the Italian Opera, knows her weaknesses, prejudices, follies, haughtinesses, and caprices and lives upon as accurate a calculation and as nice a measure of her moral nature as her dressmaker takes of her physical proportions. Is a new dress, a new custom, a new singer, a new dancer, a new form of jewellery, a new dwarf or giant, a new chapel, a new anything, to be set up? There are deferential people in a dozen callings whom my Lady Dedlock suspects of nothing but prostration before her, who can tell you how to manage her as if she were a baby, who do nothing but nurse her all their lives, who, humbly affecting to follow with profound subservience, lead her and her whole troop after them; who, in hooking one, hook all and bear them off as Lemuel Gulliver bore away the stately fleet of the majestic Lilliput. “ If you want to address our people, sir, ” say Blaze and Sparkle, the jewellers -- meaning by our people Lady Dedlock and the rest -- “ you must remember that you are not dealing with the general public; you must hit our people in their weakest place, and their weakest place is such a place. ” “ To make this article go down, gentlemen, ” say Sheen and Gloss, the mercers, to their friends the manufacturers, “ you must come to us, because we know where to have the fashionable people, and we can make it fashionable. ” “ If you want to get this print upon the tables of my high connexion, sir, ” says Mr. Sladdery, the librarian, “ or if you want to get this dwarf or giant into the houses of my high connexion, sir, or if you want to secure to this entertainment the patronage of my high connexion, sir, you must leave it, if you please, to me, for I have been accustomed to study the leaders of my high connexion, sir, and I may tell you without vanity that I can turn them round my finger ” -- in which Mr. Sladdery, who is an honest man, does not exaggerate at all.
Therefore, while Mr. Tulkinghorn may not know what is passing in the Dedlock mind at present, it is very possible that he may.
“ My Lady 's cause has been again before the Chancellor, has it, Mr. Tulkinghorn? ” says Sir Leicester, giving him his hand.
“ Yes. It has been on again to-day, ” Mr. Tulkinghorn replies, making one of his quiet bows to my Lady, who is on a sofa near the fire, shading her face with a hand-screen.
“ It would be useless to ask, ” says my Lady with the dreariness of the place in Lincolnshire still upon her, “ whether anything has been done. ”
“ Nothing that YOU would call anything has been done to-day, ” replies Mr. Tulkinghorn.
“ Nor ever will be, ” says my Lady.
Sir Leicester has no objection to an interminable Chancery suit. It is a slow, expensive, British, constitutional kind of thing. To be sure, he has not a vital interest in the suit in question, her part in which was the only property my Lady brought him; and he has a shadowy impression that for his name -- the name of Dedlock -- to be in a cause, and not in the title of that cause, is a most ridiculous accident. But he regards the Court of Chancery, even if it should involve an occasional delay of justice and a trifling amount of confusion, as a something devised in conjunction with a variety of other somethings by the perfection of human wisdom for the eternal settlement -LRB- humanly speaking -RRB- of everything. And he is upon the whole of a fixed opinion that to give the sanction of his countenance to any complaints respecting it would be to encourage some person in the lower classes to rise up somewhere -- like Wat Tyler.
“ As a few fresh affidavits have been put upon the file, ” says Mr. Tulkinghorn, “ and as they are short, and as I proceed upon the troublesome principle of begging leave to possess my clients with any new proceedings in a cause ” -- cautious man Mr. Tulkinghorn, taking no more responsibility than necessary -- “ and further, as I see you are going to Paris, I have brought them in my pocket. ”
-LRB- Sir Leicester was going to Paris too, by the by, but the delight of the fashionable intelligence was in his Lady. -RRB-
Mr. Tulkinghorn takes out his papers, asks permission to place them on a golden talisman of a table at my Lady 's elbow, puts on his spectacles, and begins to read by the light of a shaded lamp.
”` In Chancery. Between John Jarndyce --' ”
My Lady interrupts, requesting him to miss as many of the formal horrors as he can.
Mr. Tulkinghorn glances over his spectacles and begins again lower down. My Lady carelessly and scornfully abstracts her attention. Sir Leicester in a great chair looks at the file and appears to have a stately liking for the legal repetitions and prolixities as ranging among the national bulwarks. It happens that the fire is hot where my Lady sits and that the hand-screen is more beautiful than useful, being priceless but small. My Lady, changing her position, sees the papers on the table -- looks at them nearer -- looks at them nearer still -- asks impulsively, “ Who copied that? ”
Mr. Tulkinghorn stops short, surprised by my Lady 's animation and her unusual tone.
“ Is it what you people call law-hand? ” she asks, looking full at him in her careless way again and toying with her screen.
“ Not quite. Probably ” -- Mr. Tulkinghorn examines it as he speaks -- “ the legal character which it has was acquired after the original hand was formed. Why do you ask? ”
“ Anything to vary this detestable monotony. Oh, go on, do! ”
Mr. Tulkinghorn reads again. The heat is greater; my Lady screens her face. Sir Leicester dozes, starts up suddenly, and cries, “ Eh? What do you say? ”
“ I say I am afraid, ” says Mr. Tulkinghorn, who had risen hastily, “ that Lady Dedlock is ill. ”
“ Faint, ” my Lady murmurs with white lips, “ only that; but it is like the faintness of death. Don't speak to me. Ring, and take me to my room! ”
Mr. Tulkinghorn retires into another chamber; bells ring, feet shuffle and patter, silence ensues. Mercury at last begs Mr. Tulkinghorn to return.
“ Better now, ” quoth Sir Leicester, motioning the lawyer to sit down and read to him alone. “ I have been quite alarmed. I never knew my Lady swoon before. But the weather is extremely trying, and she really has been bored to death down at our place in Lincolnshire. ”
I have a great deal of difficulty in beginning to write my portion of these pages, for I know I am not clever. I always knew that. I can remember, when I was a very little girl indeed, I used to say to my doll when we were alone together, “ Now, Dolly, I am not clever, you know very well, and you must be patient with me, like a dear! ” And so she used to sit propped up in a great arm-chair, with her beautiful complexion and rosy lips, staring at me -- or not so much at me, I think, as at nothing -- while I busily stitched away and told her every one of my secrets.
My dear old doll! I was such a shy little thing that I seldom dared to open my lips, and never dared to open my heart, to anybody else. It almost makes me cry to think what a relief it used to be to me when I came home from school of a day to run upstairs to my room and say, “ Oh, you dear faithful Dolly, I knew you would be expecting me! ” and then to sit down on the floor, leaning on the elbow of her great chair, and tell her all I had noticed since we parted. I had always rather a noticing way -- not a quick way, oh, no! -- a silent way of noticing what passed before me and thinking I should like to understand it better. I have not by any means a quick understanding. When I love a person very tenderly indeed, it seems to brighten. But even that may be my vanity.
I was brought up, from my earliest remembrance -- like some of the princesses in the fairy stories, only I was not charming -- by my godmother. At least, I only knew her as such. She was a good, good woman! She went to church three times every Sunday, and to morning prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays, and to lectures whenever there were lectures; and never missed. She was handsome; and if she had ever smiled, would have been -LRB- I used to think -RRB- like an angel -- but she never smiled. She was always grave and strict. She was so very good herself, I thought, that the badness of other people made her frown all her life. I felt so different from her, even making every allowance for the differences between a child and a woman; I felt so poor, so trifling, and so far off that I never could be unrestrained with her -- no, could never even love her as I wished. It made me very sorry to consider how good she was and how unworthy of her I was, and I used ardently to hope that I might have a better heart; and I talked it over very often with the dear old doll, but I never loved my godmother as I ought to have loved her and as I felt I must have loved her if I had been a better girl.
This made me, I dare say, more timid and retiring than I naturally was and cast me upon Dolly as the only friend with whom I felt at ease. But something happened when I was still quite a little thing that helped it very much.
I had never heard my mama spoken of. I had never heard of my papa either, but I felt more interested about my mama. I had never worn a black frock, that I could recollect. I had never been shown my mama 's grave. I had never been told where it was. Yet I had never been taught to pray for any relation but my godmother. I had more than once approached this subject of my thoughts with Mrs. Rachael, our only servant, who took my light away when I was in bed -LRB- another very good woman, but austere to me -RRB-, and she had only said, “ Esther, good night! ” and gone away and left me.
Although there were seven girls at the neighbouring school where I was a day boarder, and although they called me little Esther Summerson, I knew none of them at home. All of them were older than I, to be sure -LRB- I was the youngest there by a good deal -RRB-, but there seemed to be some other separation between us besides that, and besides their being far more clever than I was and knowing much more than I did. One of them in the first week of my going to the school -LRB- I remember it very well -RRB- invited me home to a little party, to my great joy. But my godmother wrote a stiff letter declining for me, and I never went. I never went out at all.
It was my birthday. There were holidays at school on other birthdays -- none on mine. There were rejoicings at home on other birthdays, as I knew from what I heard the girls relate to one another -- there were none on mine. My birthday was the most melancholy day at home in the whole year.
I have mentioned that unless my vanity should deceive me -LRB- as I know it may, for I may be very vain without suspecting it, though indeed I don't -RRB-, my comprehension is quickened when my affection is. My disposition is very affectionate, and perhaps I might still feel such a wound if such a wound could be received more than once with the quickness of that birthday.
Dinner was over, and my godmother and I were sitting at the table before the fire. The clock ticked, the fire clicked; not another sound had been heard in the room or in the house for I don't know how long. I happened to look timidly up from my stitching, across the table at my godmother, and I saw in her face, looking gloomily at me, “ It would have been far better, little Esther, that you had had no birthday, that you had never been born! ”
I broke out crying and sobbing, and I said, “ Oh, dear godmother, tell me, pray do tell me, did Mama die on my birthday? ”
“ No, ” she returned. “ Ask me no more, child! ”
“ Oh, do pray tell me something of her. Do now, at last, dear godmother, if you please! What did I do to her? How did I lose her? Why am I so different from other children, and why is it my fault, dear godmother? No, no, no, don't go away. Oh, speak to me! ”
I was in a kind of fright beyond my grief, and I caught hold of her dress and was kneeling to her. She had been saying all the while, “ Let me go! ” But now she stood still.
Her darkened face had such power over me that it stopped me in the midst of my vehemence. I put up my trembling little hand to clasp hers or to beg her pardon with what earnestness I might, but withdrew it as she looked at me, and laid it on my fluttering heart. She raised me, sat in her chair, and standing me before her, said slowly in a cold, low voice -- I see her knitted brow and pointed finger -- “ Your mother, Esther, is your disgrace, and you were hers. The time will come -- and soon enough -- when you will understand this better and will feel it too, as no one save a woman can. I have forgiven her ” -- but her face did not relent -- “ the wrong she did to me, and I say no more of it, though it was greater than you will ever know -- than any one will ever know but I, the sufferer. For yourself, unfortunate girl, orphaned and degraded from the first of these evil anniversaries, pray daily that the sins of others be not visited upon your head, according to what is written. Forget your mother and leave all other people to forget her who will do her unhappy child that greatest kindness. Now, go! ”
She checked me, however, as I was about to depart from her -- so frozen as I was! -- and added this, “ Submission, self-denial, diligent work, are the preparations for a life begun with such a shadow on it. You are different from other children, Esther, because you were not born, like them, in common sinfulness and wrath. You are set apart. ”
I went up to my room, and crept to bed, and laid my doll 's cheek against mine wet with tears, and holding that solitary friend upon my bosom, cried myself to sleep. Imperfect as my understanding of my sorrow was, I knew that I had brought no joy at any time to anybody 's heart and that I was to no one upon earth what Dolly was to me.
Dear, dear, to think how much time we passed alone together afterwards, and how often I repeated to the doll the story of my birthday and confided to her that I would try as hard as ever I could to repair the fault I had been born with -LRB- of which I confessedly felt guilty and yet innocent -RRB- and would strive as I grew up to be industrious, contented, and kind-hearted and to do some good to some one, and win some love to myself if I could. I hope it is not self-indulgent to shed these tears as I think of it. I am very thankful, I am very cheerful, but I can not quite help their coming to my eyes.
There! I have wiped them away now and can go on again properly.
I felt the distance between my godmother and myself so much more after the birthday, and felt so sensible of filling a place in her house which ought to have been empty, that I found her more difficult of approach, though I was fervently grateful to her in my heart, than ever. I felt in the same way towards my school companions; I felt in the same way towards Mrs. Rachael, who was a widow; and oh, towards her daughter, of whom she was proud, who came to see her once a fortnight! I was very retired and quiet, and tried to be very diligent.
One sunny afternoon when I had come home from school with my books and portfolio, watching my long shadow at my side, and as I was gliding upstairs to my room as usual, my godmother looked out of the parlour-door and called me back. Sitting with her, I found -- which was very unusual indeed -- a stranger.A portly, important-looking gentleman, dressed all in black, with a white cravat, large gold watch seals, a pair of gold eye-glasses, and a large seal-ring upon his little finger.
“ This, ” said my godmother in an undertone, “ is the child. ” Then she said in her naturally stern way of speaking, “ This is Esther, sir. ”
The gentleman put up his eye-glasses to look at me and said, “ Come here, my dear! ” He shook hands with me and asked me to take off my bonnet, looking at me all the while. When I had complied, he said, “ Ah! ” and afterwards “ Yes! ” And then, taking off his eye-glasses and folding them in a red case, and leaning back in his arm-chair, turning the case about in his two hands, he gave my godmother a nod. Upon that, my godmother said, “ You may go upstairs, Esther! ” And I made him my curtsy and left him.
It must have been two years afterwards, and I was almost fourteen, when one dreadful night my godmother and I sat at the fireside. I was reading aloud, and she was listening. I had come down at nine o'clock as I always did to read the Bible to her, and was reading from St. John how our Saviour stooped down, writing with his finger in the dust, when they brought the sinful woman to him.
“ So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself and said unto them,` He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her!' ”
I was stopped by my godmother 's rising, putting her hand to her head, and crying out in an awful voice from quite another part of the book, ”` Watch ye, therefore, lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch!' ”
In an instant, while she stood before me repeating these words, she fell down on the floor. I had no need to cry out; her voice had sounded through the house and been heard in the street.
She was laid upon her bed. For more than a week she lay there, little altered outwardly, with her old handsome resolute frown that I so well knew carved upon her face. Many and many a time, in the day and in the night, with my head upon the pillow by her that my whispers might be plainer to her, I kissed her, thanked her, prayed for her, asked her for her blessing and forgiveness, entreated her to give me the least sign that she knew or heard me. No, no, no. Her face was immovable. To the very last, and even afterwards, her frown remained unsoftened.
On the day after my poor good godmother was buried, the gentleman in black with the white neckcloth reappeared. I was sent for by Mrs. Rachael, and found him in the same place, as if he had never gone away.
“ My name is Kenge, ” he said; “ you may remember it, my child; Kenge and Carboy, Lincoln 's Inn. ”
I replied that I remembered to have seen him once before.
“ Pray be seated -- here near me. Don't distress yourself; it 's of no use. Mrs. Rachael, I needn't inform you who were acquainted with the late Miss Barbary 's affairs, that her means die with her and that this young lady, now her aunt is dead -- ”
“ My aunt, sir! ”
“ It is really of no use carrying on a deception when no object is to be gained by it, ” said Mr. Kenge smoothly, “ Aunt in fact, though not in law. Don't distress yourself! Don't weep! Don't tremble! Mrs. Rachael, our young friend has no doubt heard of -- the -- a -- Jarndyce and Jarndyce. ”
“ Never, ” said Mrs. Rachael.
“ Is it possible, ” pursued Mr. Kenge, putting up his eye-glasses, “ that our young friend -- I BEG you won't distress yourself! -- never heard of Jarndyce and Jarndyce! ”
I shook my head, wondering even what it was.
“ Not of Jarndyce and Jarndyce? ” said Mr. Kenge, looking over his glasses at me and softly turning the case about and about as if he were petting something. “ Not of one of the greatest Chancery suits known? Not of Jarndyce and Jarndyce -- the -- a -- in itself a monument of Chancery practice. In which -LRB- I would say -RRB- every difficulty, every contingency, every masterly fiction, every form of procedure known in that court, is represented over and over again? It is a cause that could not exist out of this free and great country. I should say that the aggregate of costs in Jarndyce and Jarndyce, Mrs. Rachael ” -- I was afraid he addressed himself to her because I appeared inattentive ” -- amounts at the present hour to from SIX-ty to SEVEN-ty THOUSAND POUNDS! ” said Mr. Kenge, leaning back in his chair.
I felt very ignorant, but what could I do? I was so entirely unacquainted with the subject that I understood nothing about it even then.
“ And she really never heard of the cause! ” said Mr. Kenge. “ Surprising! ”
“ Miss Barbary, sir, ” returned Mrs. Rachael, “ who is now among the Seraphim -- ”
“ I hope so, I am sure, ” said Mr. Kenge politely.
” -- Wished Esther only to know what would be serviceable to her. And she knows, from any teaching she has had here, nothing more. ”
“ Well! ” said Mr. Kenge. “ Upon the whole, very proper. Now to the point, ” addressing me. “ Miss Barbary, your sole relation -LRB- in fact that is, for I am bound to observe that in law you had none -RRB- being deceased and it naturally not being to be expected that Mrs. Rachael -- ”
“ Oh, dear no! ” said Mrs. Rachael quickly.
“ Quite so, ” assented Mr. Kenge; ” -- that Mrs. Rachael should charge herself with your maintenance and support -LRB- I beg you won't distress yourself -RRB-, you are in a position to receive the renewal of an offer which I was instructed to make to Miss Barbary some two years ago and which, though rejected then, was understood to be renewable under the lamentable circumstances that have since occurred. Now, if I avow that I represent, in Jarndyce and Jarndyce and otherwise, a highly humane, but at the same time singular, man, shall I compromise myself by any stretch of my professional caution? ” said Mr. Kenge, leaning back in his chair again and looking calmly at us both.
He appeared to enjoy beyond everything the sound of his own voice. I couldn't wonder at that, for it was mellow and full and gave great importance to every word he uttered. He listened to himself with obvious satisfaction and sometimes gently beat time to his own music with his head or rounded a sentence with his hand. I was very much impressed by him -- even then, before I knew that he formed himself on the model of a great lord who was his client and that he was generally called Conversation Kenge.
“ Mr. Jarndyce, ” he pursued, “ being aware of the -- I would say, desolate -- position of our young friend, offers to place her at a first-rate establishment where her education shall be completed, where her comfort shall be secured, where her reasonable wants shall be anticipated, where she shall be eminently qualified to discharge her duty in that station of life unto which it has pleased -- shall I say Providence? -- to call her. ”
My heart was filled so full, both by what he said and by his affecting manner of saying it, that I was not able to speak, though I tried.
“ Mr. Jarndyce, ” he went on, “ makes no condition beyond expressing his expectation that our young friend will not at any time remove herself from the establishment in question without his knowledge and concurrence. That she will faithfully apply herself to the acquisition of those accomplishments, upon the exercise of which she will be ultimately dependent. That she will tread in the paths of virtue and honour, and -- the -- a -- so forth. ”
I was still less able to speak than before.
“ Now, what does our young friend say? ” proceeded Mr. Kenge. “ Take time, take time! I pause for her reply. But take time! ”
What the destitute subject of such an offer tried to say, I need not repeat. What she did say, I could more easily tell, if it were worth the telling. What she felt, and will feel to her dying hour, I could never relate.
This interview took place at Windsor, where I had passed -LRB- as far as I knew -RRB- my whole life. On that day week, amply provided with all necessaries, I left it, inside the stagecoach, for Reading.
Mrs. Rachael was too good to feel any emotion at parting, but I was not so good, and wept bitterly. I thought that I ought to have known her better after so many years and ought to have made myself enough of a favourite with her to make her sorry then. When she gave me one cold parting kiss upon my forehead, like a thaw-drop from the stone porch -- it was a very frosty day -- I felt so miserable and self-reproachful that I clung to her and told her it was my fault, I knew, that she could say good-bye so easily!
“ No, Esther! ” she returned. “ It is your misfortune! ”
The coach was at the little lawn-gate -- we had not come out until we heard the wheels -- and thus I left her, with a sorrowful heart. She went in before my boxes were lifted to the coach-roof and shut the door. As long as I could see the house, I looked back at it from the window through my tears. My godmother had left Mrs. Rachael all the little property she possessed; and there was to be a sale; and an old hearth-rug with roses on it, which always seemed to me the first thing in the world I had ever seen, was hanging outside in the frost and snow.A day or two before, I had wrapped the dear old doll in her own shawl and quietly laid her -- I am half ashamed to tell it -- in the garden-earth under the tree that shaded my old window. I had no companion left but my bird, and him I carried with me in his cage.
When the house was out of sight, I sat, with my bird-cage in the straw at my feet, forward on the low seat to look out of the high window, watching the frosty trees, that were like beautiful pieces of spar, and the fields all smooth and white with last night 's snow, and the sun, so red but yielding so little heat, and the ice, dark like metal where the skaters and sliders had brushed the snow away. There was a gentleman in the coach who sat on the opposite seat and looked very large in a quantity of wrappings, but he sat gazing out of the other window and took no notice of me.
I thought of my dead godmother, of the night when I read to her, of her frowning so fixedly and sternly in her bed, of the strange place I was going to, of the people I should find there, and what they would be like, and what they would say to me, when a voice in the coach gave me a terrible start.
It said, “ What the de-vil are you crying for? ”
I was so frightened that I lost my voice and could only answer in a whisper, “ Me, sir? ” For of course I knew it must have been the gentleman in the quantity of wrappings, though he was still looking out of his window.
“ Yes, you, ” he said, turning round.
“ I didn't know I was crying, sir, ” I faltered.
“ But you are! ” said the gentleman. “ Look here! ” He came quite opposite to me from the other corner of the coach, brushed one of his large furry cuffs across my eyes -LRB- but without hurting me -RRB-, and showed me that it was wet.
“ There! Now you know you are, ” he said. “ Don't you? ”
“ Yes, sir, ” I said.
“ And what are you crying for? ” said the gentleman, “ Don't you want to go there? ”
“ Where, sir? ”
“ Where? Why, wherever you are going, ” said the gentleman.
“ I am very glad to go there, sir, ” I answered.
“ Well, then! Look glad! ” said the gentleman.
I thought he was very strange, or at least that what I could see of him was very strange, for he was wrapped up to the chin, and his face was almost hidden in a fur cap with broad fur straps at the side of his head fastened under his chin; but I was composed again, and not afraid of him. So I told him that I thought I must have been crying because of my godmother 's death and because of Mrs. Rachael 's not being sorry to part with me.
“ Confound Mrs. Rachael! ” said the gentleman. “ Let her fly away in a high wind on a broomstick! ”
I began to be really afraid of him now and looked at him with the greatest astonishment. But I thought that he had pleasant eyes, although he kept on muttering to himself in an angry manner and calling Mrs. Rachael names.
After a little while he opened his outer wrapper, which appeared to me large enough to wrap up the whole coach, and put his arm down into a deep pocket in the side.
“ Now, look here! ” he said. “ In this paper, ” which was nicely folded, “ is a piece of the best plum-cake that can be got for money -- sugar on the outside an inch thick, like fat on mutton chops. Here 's a little pie -LRB- a gem this is, both for size and quality -RRB-, made in France. And what do you suppose it 's made of? Livers of fat geese. There 's a pie! Now let 's see you eat 'em. ”
“ Thank you, sir, ” I replied; “ thank you very much indeed, but I hope you won't be offended -- they are too rich for me. ”
“ Floored again! ” said the gentleman, which I didn't at all understand, and threw them both out of window.
He did not speak to me any more until he got out of the coach a little way short of Reading, when he advised me to be a good girl and to be studious, and shook hands with me. I must say I was relieved by his departure. We left him at a milestone. I often walked past it afterwards, and never for a long time without thinking of him and half expecting to meet him. But I never did; and so, as time went on, he passed out of my mind.
When the coach stopped, a very neat lady looked up at the window and said, “ Miss Donny. ”
“ No, ma'am, Esther Summerson. ”
“ That is quite right, ” said the lady, “ Miss Donny. ”
I now understood that she introduced herself by that name, and begged Miss Donny 's pardon for my mistake, and pointed out my boxes at her request. Under the direction of a very neat maid, they were put outside a very small green carriage; and then Miss Donny, the maid, and I got inside and were driven away.
“ Everything is ready for you, Esther, ” said Miss Donny, “ and the scheme of your pursuits has been arranged in exact accordance with the wishes of your guardian, Mr. Jarndyce. ”
“ Of -- did you say, ma'am? ”
“ Of your guardian, Mr. Jarndyce, ” said Miss Donny.
I was so bewildered that Miss Donny thought the cold had been too severe for me and lent me her smelling-bottle.
“ Do you know my -- guardian, Mr. Jarndyce, ma'am? ” I asked after a good deal of hesitation.
“ Not personally, Esther, ” said Miss Donny; “ merely through his solicitors, Messrs. Kenge and Carboy, of London.A very superior gentleman, Mr. Kenge. Truly eloquent indeed. Some of his periods quite majestic! ”
I felt this to be very true but was too confused to attend to it. Our speedy arrival at our destination, before I had time to recover myself, increased my confusion, and I never shall forget the uncertain and the unreal air of everything at Greenleaf -LRB- Miss Donny 's house -RRB- that afternoon!
But I soon became used to it. I was so adapted to the routine of Greenleaf before long that I seemed to have been there a great while and almost to have dreamed rather than really lived my old life at my godmother 's. Nothing could be more precise, exact, and orderly than Greenleaf. There was a time for everything all round the dial of the clock, and everything was done at its appointed moment.
We were twelve boarders, and there were two Miss Donnys, twins. It was understood that I would have to depend, by and by, on my qualifications as a governess, and I was not only instructed in everything that was taught at Greenleaf, but was very soon engaged in helping to instruct others. Although I was treated in every other respect like the rest of the school, this single difference was made in my case from the first. As I began to know more, I taught more, and so in course of time I had plenty to do, which I was very fond of doing because it made the dear girls fond of me. At last, whenever a new pupil came who was a little downcast and unhappy, she was so sure -- indeed I don't know why -- to make a friend of me that all new-comers were confided to my care. They said I was so gentle, but I am sure THEY were! I often thought of the resolution I had made on my birthday to try to be industrious, contented, and true-hearted and to do some good to some one and win some love if I could; and indeed, indeed, I felt almost ashamed to have done so little and have won so much.
I passed at Greenleaf six happy, quiet years. I never saw in any face there, thank heaven, on my birthday, that it would have been better if I had never been born. When the day came round, it brought me so many tokens of affectionate remembrance that my room was beautiful with them from New Year 's Day to Christmas.
In those six years I had never been away except on visits at holiday time in the neighbourhood. After the first six months or so I had taken Miss Donny 's advice in reference to the propriety of writing to Mr. Kenge to say that I was happy and grateful, and with her approval I had written such a letter. I had received a formal answer acknowledging its receipt and saying, “ We note the contents thereof, which shall be duly communicated to our client. ” After that I sometimes heard Miss Donny and her sister mention how regular my accounts were paid, and about twice a year I ventured to write a similar letter. I always received by return of post exactly the same answer in the same round hand, with the signature of Kenge and Carboy in another writing, which I supposed to be Mr. Kenge 's.
It seems so curious to me to be obliged to write all this about myself! As if this narrative were the narrative of MY life! But my little body will soon fall into the background now.
Six quiet years -LRB- I find I am saying it for the second time -RRB- I had passed at Greenleaf, seeing in those around me, as it might be in a looking-glass, every stage of my own growth and change there, when, one November morning, I received this letter. I omit the date.
Old Square, Lincoln 's Inn
Jarndyce and Jarndyce
Our clt Mr. Jarndyce being abt to rece into his house, under an Order of the Ct of Chy, a Ward of the Ct in this cause, for whom he wishes to secure an elgble compn, directs us to inform you that he will be glad of your serces in the afsd capacity.
We have arrngd for your being forded, carriage free, pr eight o'clock coach from Reading, on Monday morning next, to White Horse Cellar, Piccadilly, London, where one of our clks will be in waiting to convey you to our offe as above.
We are, Madam, Your obedt Servts,
Kenge and Carboy
Miss Esther Summerson
Oh, never, never, never shall I forget the emotion this letter caused in the house! It was so tender in them to care so much for me, it was so gracious in that father who had not forgotten me to have made my orphan way so smooth and easy and to have inclined so many youthful natures towards me, that I could hardly bear it. Not that I would have had them less sorry -- I am afraid not; but the pleasure of it, and the pain of it, and the pride and joy of it, and the humble regret of it were so blended that my heart seemed almost breaking while it was full of rapture.
The letter gave me only five days' notice of my removal. When every minute added to the proofs of love and kindness that were given me in those five days, and when at last the morning came and when they took me through all the rooms that I might see them for the last time, and when some cried, “ Esther, dear, say good-bye to me here at my bedside, where you first spoke so kindly to me! ” and when others asked me only to write their names, “ With Esther 's love, ” and when they all surrounded me with their parting presents and clung to me weeping and cried, “ What shall we do when dear, dear Esther 's gone! ” and when I tried to tell them how forbearing and how good they had all been to me and how I blessed and thanked them every one, what a heart I had!
And when the two Miss Donnys grieved as much to part with me as the least among them, and when the maids said, “ Bless you, miss, wherever you go! ” and when the ugly lame old gardener, who I thought had hardly noticed me in all those years, came panting after the coach to give me a little nosegay of geraniums and told me I had been the light of his eyes -- indeed the old man said so! -- what a heart I had then!
And could I help it if with all this, and the coming to the little school, and the unexpected sight of the poor children outside waving their hats and bonnets to me, and of a grey-haired gentleman and lady whose daughter I had helped to teach and at whose house I had visited -LRB- who were said to be the proudest people in all that country -RRB-, caring for nothing but calling out, “ Good-bye, Esther. May you be very happy! ” -- could I help it if I was quite bowed down in the coach by myself and said “ Oh, I am so thankful, I am so thankful! ” many times over!
But of course I soon considered that I must not take tears where I was going after all that had been done for me. Therefore, of course, I made myself sob less and persuaded myself to be quiet by saying very often, “ Esther, now you really must! This WILL NOT do! ” I cheered myself up pretty well at last, though I am afraid I was longer about it than I ought to have been; and when I had cooled my eyes with lavender water, it was time to watch for London.
I was quite persuaded that we were there when we were ten miles off, and when we really were there, that we should never get there. However, when we began to jolt upon a stone pavement, and particularly when every other conveyance seemed to be running into us, and we seemed to be running into every other conveyance, I began to believe that we really were approaching the end of our journey. Very soon afterwards we stopped.
A young gentleman who had inked himself by accident addressed me from the pavement and said, “ I am from Kenge and Carboy 's, miss, of Lincoln 's Inn. ”
“ If you please, sir, ” said I.
He was very obliging, and as he handed me into a fly after superintending the removal of my boxes, I asked him whether there was a great fire anywhere? For the streets were so full of dense brown smoke that scarcely anything was to be seen.
“ Oh, dear no, miss, ” he said. “ This is a London particular. ”
I had never heard of such a thing.
“A fog, miss, ” said the young gentleman.
“ Oh, indeed! ” said I.
We drove slowly through the dirtiest and darkest streets that ever were seen in the world -LRB- I thought -RRB- and in such a distracting state of confusion that I wondered how the people kept their senses, until we passed into sudden quietude under an old gateway and drove on through a silent square until we came to an odd nook in a corner, where there was an entrance up a steep, broad flight of stairs, like an entrance to a church. And there really was a churchyard outside under some cloisters, for I saw the gravestones from the staircase window.
This was Kenge and Carboy 's. The young gentleman showed me through an outer office into Mr. Kenge 's room -- there was no one in it -- and politely put an arm-chair for me by the fire. He then called my attention to a little looking-glass hanging from a nail on one side of the chimney-piece.
“ In case you should wish to look at yourself, miss, after the journey, as you 're going before the Chancellor. Not that it 's requisite, I am sure, ” said the young gentleman civilly.
“ Going before the Chancellor? ” I said, startled for a moment.
“ Only a matter of form, miss, ” returned the young gentleman. “ Mr. Kenge is in court now. He left his compliments, and would you partake of some refreshment ” -- there were biscuits and a decanter of wine on a small table -- “ and look over the paper, ” which the young gentleman gave me as he spoke. He then stirred the fire and left me.
Everything was so strange -- the stranger from its being night in the day-time, the candles burning with a white flame, and looking raw and cold -- that I read the words in the newspaper without knowing what they meant and found myself reading the same words repeatedly. As it was of no use going on in that way, I put the paper down, took a peep at my bonnet in the glass to see if it was neat, and looked at the room, which was not half lighted, and at the shabby, dusty tables, and at the piles of writings, and at a bookcase full of the most inexpressive-looking books that ever had anything to say for themselves. Then I went on, thinking, thinking, thinking; and the fire went on, burning, burning, burning; and the candles went on flickering and guttering, and there were no snuffers -- until the young gentleman by and by brought a very dirty pair -- for two hours.
At last Mr. Kenge came. HE was not altered, but he was surprised to see how altered I was and appeared quite pleased. “ As you are going to be the companion of the young lady who is now in the Chancellor 's private room, Miss Summerson, ” he said, “ we thought it well that you should be in attendance also. You will not be discomposed by the Lord Chancellor, I dare say? ”
“ No, sir, ” I said, “ I don't think I shall, ” really not seeing on consideration why I should be.
So Mr. Kenge gave me his arm and we went round the corner, under a colonnade, and in at a side door. And so we came, along a passage, into a comfortable sort of room where a young lady and a young gentleman were standing near a great, loud-roaring fire.A screen was interposed between them and it, and they were leaning on the screen, talking.
They both looked up when I came in, and I saw in the young lady, with the fire shining upon her, such a beautiful girl! With such rich golden hair, such soft blue eyes, and such a bright, innocent, trusting face!
“ Miss Ada, ” said Mr. Kenge, “ this is Miss Summerson. ”
She came to meet me with a smile of welcome and her hand extended, but seemed to change her mind in a moment and kissed me. In short, she had such a natural, captivating, winning manner that in a few minutes we were sitting in the window-seat, with the light of the fire upon us, talking together as free and happy as could be.
What a load off my mind! It was so delightful to know that she could confide in me and like me! It was so good of her, and so encouraging to me!
The young gentleman was her distant cousin, she told me, and his name Richard Carstone. He was a handsome youth with an ingenuous face and a most engaging laugh; and after she had called him up to where we sat, he stood by us, in the light of the fire, talking gaily, like a light-hearted boy. He was very young, not more than nineteen then, if quite so much, but nearly two years older than she was. They were both orphans and -LRB- what was very unexpected and curious to me -RRB- had never met before that day. Our all three coming together for the first time in such an unusual place was a thing to talk about, and we talked about it; and the fire, which had left off roaring, winked its red eyes at us -- as Richard said -- like a drowsy old Chancery lion.
We conversed in a low tone because a full-dressed gentleman in a bag wig frequently came in and out, and when he did so, we could hear a drawling sound in the distance, which he said was one of the counsel in our case addressing the Lord Chancellor. He told Mr. Kenge that the Chancellor would be up in five minutes; and presently we heard a bustle and a tread of feet, and Mr. Kenge said that the Court had risen and his lordship was in the next room.
The gentleman in the bag wig opened the door almost directly and requested Mr. Kenge to come in. Upon that, we all went into the next room, Mr. Kenge first, with my darling -- it is so natural to me now that I can't help writing it; and there, plainly dressed in black and sitting in an arm-chair at a table near the fire, was his lordship, whose robe, trimmed with beautiful gold lace, was thrown upon another chair. He gave us a searching look as we entered, but his manner was both courtly and kind.
The gentleman in the bag wig laid bundles of papers on his lordship 's table, and his lordship silently selected one and turned over the leaves.
“ Miss Clare, ” said the Lord Chancellor. “ Miss Ada Clare? ”
Mr. Kenge presented her, and his lordship begged her to sit down near him. That he admired her and was interested by her even I could see in a moment. It touched me that the home of such a beautiful young creature should be represented by that dry, official place. The Lord High Chancellor, at his best, appeared so poor a substitute for the love and pride of parents.
“ The Jarndyce in question, ” said the Lord Chancellor, still turning over leaves, “ is Jarndyce of Bleak House. ”
“ Jarndyce of Bleak House, my lord, ” said Mr. Kenge.
“A dreary name, ” said the Lord Chancellor.
“ But not a dreary place at present, my lord, ” said Mr. Kenge.
“ And Bleak House, ” said his lordship, “ is in -- ”
“ Hertfordshire, my lord. ”
“ Mr. Jarndyce of Bleak House is not married? ” said his lordship.
“ He is not, my lord, ” said Mr. Kenge.
“ Young Mr. Richard Carstone is present? ” said the Lord Chancellor, glancing towards him.
Richard bowed and stepped forward.
“ Hum! ” said the Lord Chancellor, turning over more leaves.
“ Mr. Jarndyce of Bleak House, my lord, ” Mr. Kenge observed in a low voice, “ if I may venture to remind your lordship, provides a suitable companion for -- ”
“ For Mr. Richard Carstone? ” I thought -LRB- but I am not quite sure -RRB- I heard his lordship say in an equally low voice and with a smile.
“ For Miss Ada Clare. This is the young lady. Miss Summerson. ”
His lordship gave me an indulgent look and acknowledged my curtsy very graciously.
“ Miss Summerson is not related to any party in the cause, I think? ”
“ No, my lord. ”
Mr. Kenge leant over before it was quite said and whispered. His lordship, with his eyes upon his papers, listened, nodded twice or thrice, turned over more leaves, and did not look towards me again until we were going away.
Mr. Kenge now retired, and Richard with him, to where I was, near the door, leaving my pet -LRB- it is so natural to me that again I can't help it! -RRB- sitting near the Lord Chancellor, with whom his lordship spoke a little part, asking her, as she told me afterwards, whether she had well reflected on the proposed arrangement, and if she thought she would be happy under the roof of Mr. Jarndyce of Bleak House, and why she thought so? Presently he rose courteously and released her, and then he spoke for a minute or two with Richard Carstone, not seated, but standing, and altogether with more ease and less ceremony, as if he still knew, though he WAS Lord Chancellor, how to go straight to the candour of a boy.
“ Very well! ” said his lordship aloud. “ I shall make the order. Mr. Jarndyce of Bleak House has chosen, so far as I may judge, ” and this was when he looked at me, “ a very good companion for the young lady, and the arrangement altogether seems the best of which the circumstances admit. ”
He dismissed us pleasantly, and we all went out, very much obliged to him for being so affable and polite, by which he had certainly lost no dignity but seemed to us to have gained some.
When we got under the colonnade, Mr. Kenge remembered that he must go back for a moment to ask a question and left us in the fog, with the Lord Chancellor 's carriage and servants waiting for him to come out.
“ Well! ” said Richard Carstone. “ THAT 'S over! And where do we go next, Miss Summerson? ”
“ Don't you know? ” I said.
“ Not in the least, ” said he.
“ And don't YOU know, my love? ” I asked Ada.
“ No! ” said she. “ Don't you? ”
“ Not at all! ” said I.
We looked at one another, half laughing at our being like the children in the wood, when a curious little old woman in a squeezed bonnet and carrying a reticule came curtsying and smiling up to us with an air of great ceremony.
“ Oh! ” said she. “ The wards in Jarndyce! Ve-ry happy, I am sure, to have the honour! It is a good omen for youth, and hope, and beauty when they find themselves in this place, and don't know what 's to come of it. ”
“ Mad! ” whispered Richard, not thinking she could hear him.
“ Right! Mad, young gentleman, ” she returned so quickly that he was quite abashed. “ I was a ward myself. I was not mad at that time, ” curtsying low and smiling between every little sentence. “ I had youth and hope. I believe, beauty. It matters very little now. Neither of the three served or saved me. I have the honour to attend court regularly. With my documents. I expect a judgment. Shortly. On the Day of Judgment. I have discovered that the sixth seal mentioned in the Revelations is the Great Seal. It has been open a long time! Pray accept my blessing. ”
As Ada was a little frightened, I said, to humour the poor old lady, that we were much obliged to her.
“ Ye-es! ” she said mincingly. “ I imagine so. And here is Conversation Kenge. With HIS documents! How does your honourable worship do? ”
“ Quite well, quite well! Now don't be troublesome, that 's a good soul! ” said Mr. Kenge, leading the way back.
“ By no means, ” said the poor old lady, keeping up with Ada and me. “ Anything but troublesome. I shall confer estates on both -- which is not being troublesome, I trust? I expect a judgment. Shortly. On the Day of Judgment. This is a good omen for you. Accept my blessing! ”
She stopped at the bottom of the steep, broad flight of stairs; but we looked back as we went up, and she was still there, saying, still with a curtsy and a smile between every little sentence, “ Youth. And hope. And beauty. And Chancery. And Conversation Kenge! Ha! Pray accept my blessing! ”
We were to pass the night, Mr. Kenge told us when we arrived in his room, at Mrs. Jellyby 's; and then he turned to me and said he took it for granted I knew who Mrs. Jellyby was.
“ I really don't, sir, ” I returned. “ Perhaps Mr. Carstone -- or Miss Clare -- ”
But no, they knew nothing whatever about Mrs. Jellyby. “ In-deed! Mrs. Jellyby, ” said Mr. Kenge, standing with his back to the fire and casting his eyes over the dusty hearth-rug as if it were Mrs. Jellyby 's biography, “ is a lady of very remarkable strength of character who devotes herself entirely to the public. She has devoted herself to an extensive variety of public subjects at various times and is at present -LRB- until something else attracts her -RRB- devoted to the subject of Africa, with a view to the general cultivation of the coffee berry -- AND the natives -- and the happy settlement, on the banks of the African rivers, of our superabundant home population. Mr. Jarndyce, who is desirous to aid any work that is considered likely to be a good work and who is much sought after by philanthropists, has, I believe, a very high opinion of Mrs. Jellyby. ”
Mr. Kenge, adjusting his cravat, then looked at us.
“ And Mr. Jellyby, sir? ” suggested Richard.
“ Ah! Mr. Jellyby, ” said Mr. Kenge, “ is -- a -- I don't know that I can describe him to you better than by saying that he is the husband of Mrs. Jellyby. ”
“A nonentity, sir? ” said Richard with a droll look.
“ I don't say that, ” returned Mr. Kenge gravely. “ I can't say that, indeed, for I know nothing whatever OF Mr. Jellyby. I never, to my knowledge, had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Jellyby. He may be a very superior man, but he is, so to speak, merged -- merged -- in the more shining qualities of his wife. ” Mr. Kenge proceeded to tell us that as the road to Bleak House would have been very long, dark, and tedious on such an evening, and as we had been travelling already, Mr. Jarndyce had himself proposed this arrangement.A carriage would be at Mrs. Jellyby 's to convey us out of town early in the forenoon of to-morrow.
He then rang a little bell, and the young gentleman came in. Addressing him by the name of Guppy, Mr. Kenge inquired whether Miss Summerson 's boxes and the rest of the baggage had been “ sent round. ” Mr. Guppy said yes, they had been sent round, and a coach was waiting to take us round too as soon as we pleased.
“ Then it only remains, ” said Mr. Kenge, shaking hands with us, “ for me to express my lively satisfaction in -LRB- good day, Miss Clare! -RRB- the arrangement this day concluded and my -LRB- GOOD-bye to you, Miss Summerson! -RRB- lively hope that it will conduce to the happiness, the -LRB- glad to have had the honour of making your acquaintance, Mr. Carstone! -RRB- welfare, the advantage in all points of view, of all concerned! Guppy, see the party safely there. ”
“ Where IS` there,' Mr. Guppy? ” said Richard as we went downstairs.
“ No distance, ” said Mr. Guppy; “ round in Thavies Inn, you know. ”
“ I can't say I know where it is, for I come from Winchester and am strange in London. ”
“ Only round the corner, ” said Mr. Guppy. “ We just twist up Chancery Lane, and cut along Holborn, and there we are in four minutes' time, as near as a toucher. This is about a London particular NOW, ain't it, miss? ” He seemed quite delighted with it on my account.
“ The fog is very dense indeed! ” said I.
“ Not that it affects you, though, I 'm sure, ” said Mr. Guppy, putting up the steps. “ On the contrary, it seems to do you good, miss, judging from your appearance. ”
I knew he meant well in paying me this compliment, so I laughed at myself for blushing at it when he had shut the door and got upon the box; and we all three laughed and chatted about our inexperience and the strangeness of London until we turned up under an archway to our destination -- a narrow street of high houses like an oblong cistern to hold the fog. There was a confused little crowd of people, principally children, gathered about the house at which we stopped, which had a tarnished brass plate on the door with the inscription JELLYBY.
“ Don't be frightened! ” said Mr. Guppy, looking in at the coach-window. “ One of the young Jellybys been and got his head through the area railings! ”
“ Oh, poor child, ” said I; “ let me out, if you please! ”
“ Pray be careful of yourself, miss. The young Jellybys are always up to something, ” said Mr. Guppy.
I made my way to the poor child, who was one of the dirtiest little unfortunates I ever saw, and found him very hot and frightened and crying loudly, fixed by the neck between two iron railings, while a milkman and a beadle, with the kindest intentions possible, were endeavouring to drag him back by the legs, under a general impression that his skull was compressible by those means. As I found -LRB- after pacifying him -RRB- that he was a little boy with a naturally large head, I thought that perhaps where his head could go, his body could follow, and mentioned that the best mode of extrication might be to push him forward. This was so favourably received by the milkman and beadle that he would immediately have been pushed into the area if I had not held his pinafore while Richard and Mr. Guppy ran down through the kitchen to catch him when he should be released. At last he was happily got down without any accident, and then he began to beat Mr. Guppy with a hoop-stick in quite a frantic manner.
Nobody had appeared belonging to the house except a person in pattens, who had been poking at the child from below with a broom; I don't know with what object, and I don't think she did. I therefore supposed that Mrs. Jellyby was not at home, and was quite surprised when the person appeared in the passage without the pattens, and going up to the back room on the first floor before Ada and me, announced us as, “ Them two young ladies, Missis Jellyby! ” We passed several more children on the way up, whom it was difficult to avoid treading on in the dark; and as we came into Mrs. Jellyby 's presence, one of the poor little things fell downstairs -- down a whole flight -LRB- as it sounded to me -RRB-, with a great noise.
Mrs. Jellyby, whose face reflected none of the uneasiness which we could not help showing in our own faces as the dear child 's head recorded its passage with a bump on every stair -- Richard afterwards said he counted seven, besides one for the landing -- received us with perfect equanimity. She was a pretty, very diminutive, plump woman of from forty to fifty, with handsome eyes, though they had a curious habit of seeming to look a long way off. As if -- I am quoting Richard again -- they could see nothing nearer than Africa!
“ I am very glad indeed, ” said Mrs. Jellyby in an agreeable voice, “ to have the pleasure of receiving you. I have a great respect for Mr. Jarndyce, and no one in whom he is interested can be an object of indifference to me. ”
We expressed our acknowledgments and sat down behind the door, where there was a lame invalid of a sofa. Mrs. Jellyby had very good hair but was too much occupied with her African duties to brush it. The shawl in which she had been loosely muffled dropped onto her chair when she advanced to us; and as she turned to resume her seat, we could not help noticing that her dress didn't nearly meet up the back and that the open space was railed across with a lattice-work of stay-lace -- like a summer-house.
The room, which was strewn with papers and nearly filled by a great writing-table covered with similar litter, was, I must say, not only very untidy but very dirty. We were obliged to take notice of that with our sense of sight, even while, with our sense of hearing, we followed the poor child who had tumbled downstairs: I think into the back kitchen, where somebody seemed to stifle him.
But what principally struck us was a jaded and unhealthy-looking though by no means plain girl at the writing-table, who sat biting the feather of her pen and staring at us. I suppose nobody ever was in such a state of ink. And from her tumbled hair to her pretty feet, which were disfigured with frayed and broken satin slippers trodden down at heel, she really seemed to have no article of dress upon her, from a pin upwards, that was in its proper condition or its right place.
“ You find me, my dears, ” said Mrs. Jellyby, snuffing the two great office candles in tin candlesticks, which made the room taste strongly of hot tallow -LRB- the fire had gone out, and there was nothing in the grate but ashes, a bundle of wood, and a poker -RRB-, “ you find me, my dears, as usual, very busy; but that you will excuse. The African project at present employs my whole time. It involves me in correspondence with public bodies and with private individuals anxious for the welfare of their species all over the country. I am happy to say it is advancing. We hope by this time next year to have from a hundred and fifty to two hundred healthy families cultivating coffee and educating the natives of Borrioboola-Gha, on the left bank of the Niger. ”
As Ada said nothing, but looked at me, I said it must be very gratifying.
“ It IS gratifying, ” said Mrs. Jellyby. “ It involves the devotion of all my energies, such as they are; but that is nothing, so that it succeeds; and I am more confident of success every day. Do you know, Miss Summerson, I almost wonder that YOU never turned your thoughts to Africa. ”
This application of the subject was really so unexpected to me that I was quite at a loss how to receive it. I hinted that the climate --
“ The finest climate in the world! ” said Mrs. Jellyby.
“ Indeed, ma'am? ”
“ Certainly. With precaution, ” said Mrs. Jellyby. “ You may go into Holborn, without precaution, and be run over. You may go into Holborn, with precaution, and never be run over. Just so with Africa. ”
I said, “ No doubt. ” I meant as to Holborn.
“ If you would like, ” said Mrs. Jellyby, putting a number of papers towards us, “ to look over some remarks on that head, and on the general subject, which have been extensively circulated, while I finish a letter I am now dictating to my eldest daughter, who is my amanuensis -- ”
The girl at the table left off biting her pen and made a return to our recognition, which was half bashful and half sulky.
” -- I shall then have finished for the present, ” proceeded Mrs. Jellyby with a sweet smile, “ though my work is never done. Where are you, Caddy? ”
”` Presents her compliments to Mr. Swallow, and begs --' ” said Caddy.
”` And begs,' ” said Mrs. Jellyby, dictating, ”` to inform him, in reference to his letter of inquiry on the African project --' No, Peepy! Not on my account! ”
Peepy -LRB- so self-named -RRB- was the unfortunate child who had fallen downstairs, who now interrupted the correspondence by presenting himself, with a strip of plaster on his forehead, to exhibit his wounded knees, in which Ada and I did not know which to pity most -- the bruises or the dirt. Mrs. Jellyby merely added, with the serene composure with which she said everything, “ Go along, you naughty Peepy! ” and fixed her fine eyes on Africa again.
However, as she at once proceeded with her dictation, and as I interrupted nothing by doing it, I ventured quietly to stop poor Peepy as he was going out and to take him up to nurse. He looked very much astonished at it and at Ada 's kissing him, but soon fell fast asleep in my arms, sobbing at longer and longer intervals, until he was quiet. I was so occupied with Peepy that I lost the letter in detail, though I derived such a general impression from it of the momentous importance of Africa, and the utter insignificance of all other places and things, that I felt quite ashamed to have thought so little about it.
“ Six o'clock! ” said Mrs. Jellyby. “ And our dinner hour is nominally -LRB- for we dine at all hours -RRB- five! Caddy, show Miss Clare and Miss Summerson their rooms. You will like to make some change, perhaps? You will excuse me, I know, being so much occupied. Oh, that very bad child! Pray put him down, Miss Summerson! ”
I begged permission to retain him, truly saying that he was not at all troublesome, and carried him upstairs and laid him on my bed. Ada and I had two upper rooms with a door of communication between. They were excessively bare and disorderly, and the curtain to my window was fastened up with a fork.
“ You would like some hot water, wouldn't you? ” said Miss Jellyby, looking round for a jug with a handle to it, but looking in vain.
“ If it is not being troublesome, ” said we.
“ Oh, it 's not the trouble, ” returned Miss Jellyby; “ the question is, if there IS any. ”
The evening was so very cold and the rooms had such a marshy smell that I must confess it was a little miserable, and Ada was half crying. We soon laughed, however, and were busily unpacking when Miss Jellyby came back to say that she was sorry there was no hot water, but they couldn't find the kettle, and the boiler was out of order.
We begged her not to mention it and made all the haste we could to get down to the fire again. But all the little children had come up to the landing outside to look at the phenomenon of Peepy lying on my bed, and our attention was distracted by the constant apparition of noses and fingers in situations of danger between the hinges of the doors. It was impossible to shut the door of either room, for my lock, with no knob to it, looked as if it wanted to be wound up; and though the handle of Ada 's went round and round with the greatest smoothness, it was attended with no effect whatever on the door. Therefore I proposed to the children that they should come in and be very good at my table, and I would tell them the story of Little Red Riding Hood while I dressed; which they did, and were as quiet as mice, including Peepy, who awoke opportunely before the appearance of the wolf.
When we went downstairs we found a mug with “A Present from Tunbridge Wells ” on it lighted up in the staircase window with a floating wick, and a young woman, with a swelled face bound up in a flannel bandage blowing the fire of the drawing-room -LRB- now connected by an open door with Mrs. Jellyby 's room -RRB- and choking dreadfully. It smoked to that degree, in short, that we all sat coughing and crying with the windows open for half an hour, during which Mrs. Jellyby, with the same sweetness of temper, directed letters about Africa. Her being so employed was, I must say, a great relief to me, for Richard told us that he had washed his hands in a pie-dish and that they had found the kettle on his dressing-table, and he made Ada laugh so that they made me laugh in the most ridiculous manner.
Soon after seven o'clock we went down to dinner, carefully, by Mrs. Jellyby 's advice, for the stair-carpets, besides being very deficient in stair-wires, were so torn as to be absolute traps. We had a fine cod-fish, a piece of roast beef, a dish of cutlets, and a pudding; an excellent dinner, if it had had any cooking to speak of, but it was almost raw. The young woman with the flannel bandage waited, and dropped everything on the table wherever it happened to go, and never moved it again until she put it on the stairs. The person I had seen in pattens, who I suppose to have been the cook, frequently came and skirmished with her at the door, and there appeared to be ill will between them.
All through dinner -- which was long, in consequence of such accidents as the dish of potatoes being mislaid in the coal skuttle and the handle of the corkscrew coming off and striking the young woman in the chin -- Mrs. Jellyby preserved the evenness of her disposition. She told us a great deal that was interesting about Borrioboola-Gha and the natives, and received so many letters that Richard, who sat by her, saw four envelopes in the gravy at once. Some of the letters were proceedings of ladies' committees or resolutions of ladies' meetings, which she read to us; others were applications from people excited in various ways about the cultivation of coffee, and natives; others required answers, and these she sent her eldest daughter from the table three or four times to write. She was full of business and undoubtedly was, as she had told us, devoted to the cause.
I was a little curious to know who a mild bald gentleman in spectacles was, who dropped into a vacant chair -LRB- there was no top or bottom in particular -RRB- after the fish was taken away and seemed passively to submit himself to Borrioboola-Gha but not to be actively interested in that settlement. As he never spoke a word, he might have been a native but for his complexion. It was not until we left the table and he remained alone with Richard that the possibility of his being Mr. Jellyby ever entered my head. But he WAS Mr. Jellyby; and a loquacious young man called Mr. Quale, with large shining knobs for temples and his hair all brushed to the back of his head, who came in the evening, and told Ada he was a philanthropist, also informed her that he called the matrimonial alliance of Mrs. Jellyby with Mr. Jellyby the union of mind and matter.
This young man, besides having a great deal to say for himself about Africa and a project of his for teaching the coffee colonists to teach the natives to turn piano-forte legs and establish an export trade, delighted in drawing Mrs. Jellyby out by saying, “ I believe now, Mrs. Jellyby, you have received as many as from one hundred and fifty to two hundred letters respecting Africa in a single day, have you not? ” or, “ If my memory does not deceive me, Mrs. Jellyby, you once mentioned that you had sent off five thousand circulars from one post-office at one time? ” -- always repeating Mrs. Jellyby 's answer to us like an interpreter. During the whole evening, Mr. Jellyby sat in a corner with his head against the wall as if he were subject to low spirits. It seemed that he had several times opened his mouth when alone with Richard after dinner, as if he had something on his mind, but had always shut it again, to Richard 's extreme confusion, without saying anything.
Mrs. Jellyby, sitting in quite a nest of waste paper, drank coffee all the evening and dictated at intervals to her eldest daughter. She also held a discussion with Mr. Quale, of which the subject seemed to be -- if I understood it -- the brotherhood of humanity, and gave utterance to some beautiful sentiments. I was not so attentive an auditor as I might have wished to be, however, for Peepy and the other children came flocking about Ada and me in a corner of the drawing-room to ask for another story; so we sat down among them and told them in whispers “ Puss in Boots ” and I don't know what else until Mrs. Jellyby, accidentally remembering them, sent them to bed. As Peepy cried for me to take him to bed, I carried him upstairs, where the young woman with the flannel bandage charged into the midst of the little family like a dragon and overturned them into cribs.
After that I occupied myself in making our room a little tidy and in coaxing a very cross fire that had been lighted to burn, which at last it did, quite brightly. On my return downstairs, I felt that Mrs. Jellyby looked down upon me rather for being so frivolous, and I was sorry for it, though at the same time I knew that I had no higher pretensions.
It was nearly midnight before we found an opportunity of going to bed, and even then we left Mrs. Jellyby among her papers drinking coffee and Miss Jellyby biting the feather of her pen.
“ What a strange house! ” said Ada when we got upstairs. “ How curious of my cousin Jarndyce to send us here! ”
“ My love, ” said I, “ it quite confuses me. I want to understand it, and I can't understand it at all. ”
“ What? ” asked Ada with her pretty smile.
“ All this, my dear, ” said I. “ It MUST be very good of Mrs. Jellyby to take such pains about a scheme for the benefit of natives -- and yet -- Peepy and the housekeeping! ”
Ada laughed and put her arm about my neck as I stood looking at the fire, and told me I was a quiet, dear, good creature and had won her heart. “ You are so thoughtful, Esther, ” she said, “ and yet so cheerful! And you do so much, so unpretendingly! You would make a home out of even this house. ”
My simple darling! She was quite unconscious that she only praised herself and that it was in the goodness of her own heart that she made so much of me!
“ May I ask you a question? ” said I when we had sat before the fire a little while.
“ Five hundred, ” said Ada.
“ Your cousin, Mr. Jarndyce. I owe so much to him. Would you mind describing him to me? ”
Shaking her golden hair, Ada turned her eyes upon me with such laughing wonder that I was full of wonder too, partly at her beauty, partly at her surprise.
“ Esther! ” she cried.
“ My dear! ”
“ You want a description of my cousin Jarndyce? ”
“ My dear, I never saw him. ”
“ And I never saw him! ” returned Ada.
Well, to be sure!
No, she had never seen him. Young as she was when her mama died, she remembered how the tears would come into her eyes when she spoke of him and of the noble generosity of his character, which she had said was to be trusted above all earthly things; and Ada trusted it. Her cousin Jarndyce had written to her a few months ago -- “ a plain, honest letter, ” Ada said -- proposing the arrangement we were now to enter on and telling her that “ in time it might heal some of the wounds made by the miserable Chancery suit. ” She had replied, gratefully accepting his proposal. Richard had received a similar letter and had made a similar response. He HAD seen Mr. Jarndyce once, but only once, five years ago, at Winchester school. He had told Ada, when they were leaning on the screen before the fire where I found them, that he recollected him as “ a bluff, rosy fellow. ” This was the utmost description Ada could give me.
It set me thinking so that when Ada was asleep, I still remained before the fire, wondering and wondering about Bleak House, and wondering and wondering that yesterday morning should seem so long ago. I don't know where my thoughts had wandered when they were recalled by a tap at the door.
I opened it softly and found Miss Jellyby shivering there with a broken candle in a broken candlestick in one hand and an egg-cup in the other.
“ Good night! ” she said very sulkily.
“ Good night! ” said I.
“ May I come in? ” she shortly and unexpectedly asked me in the same sulky way.
“ Certainly, ” said I. “ Don't wake Miss Clare. ”
She would not sit down, but stood by the fire dipping her inky middle finger in the egg-cup, which contained vinegar, and smearing it over the ink stains on her face, frowning the whole time and looking very gloomy.
“ I wish Africa was dead! ” she said on a sudden.
I was going to remonstrate.
“ I do! ” she said “ Don't talk to me, Miss Summerson. I hate it and detest it. It 's a beast! ”
I told her she was tired, and I was sorry. I put my hand upon her head, and touched her forehead, and said it was hot now but would be cool to-morrow. She still stood pouting and frowning at me, but presently put down her egg-cup and turned softly towards the bed where Ada lay.
“ She is very pretty! ” she said with the same knitted brow and in the same uncivil manner.
I assented with a smile.
“ An orphan. Ain't she? ”
“ Yes. ”
“ But knows a quantity, I suppose? Can dance, and play music, and sing? She can talk French, I suppose, and do geography, and globes, and needlework, and everything? ”
“ No doubt, ” said I.
“ I can't, ” she returned. “ I can't do anything hardly, except write. I 'm always writing for Ma. I wonder you two were not ashamed of yourselves to come in this afternoon and see me able to do nothing else. It was like your ill nature. Yet you think yourselves very fine, I dare say! ”
I could see that the poor girl was near crying, and I resumed my chair without speaking and looked at her -LRB- I hope -RRB- as mildly as I felt towards her.
“ It 's disgraceful, ” she said. “ You know it is. The whole house is disgraceful. The children are disgraceful. I 'M disgraceful. Pa 's miserable, and no wonder! Priscilla drinks -- she 's always drinking. It 's a great shame and a great story of you if you say you didn't smell her to-day. It was as bad as a public-house, waiting at dinner; you know it was! ”
“ My dear, I don't know it, ” said I.
“ You do, ” she said very shortly. “ You shan't say you don't. You do! ”
“ Oh, my dear! ” said I. “ If you won't let me speak -- ”
“ You 're speaking now. You know you are. Don't tell stories, Miss Summerson. ”
“ My dear, ” said I, “ as long as you won't hear me out -- ”
“ I don't want to hear you out. ”
“ Oh, yes, I think you do, ” said I, “ because that would be so very unreasonable. I did not know what you tell me because the servant did not come near me at dinner; but I don't doubt what you tell me, and I am sorry to hear it. ”
“ You needn't make a merit of that, ” said she.
“ No, my dear, ” said I. “ That would be very foolish. ”
She was still standing by the bed, and now stooped down -LRB- but still with the same discontented face -RRB- and kissed Ada. That done, she came softly back and stood by the side of my chair. Her bosom was heaving in a distressful manner that I greatly pitied, but I thought it better not to speak.
“ I wish I was dead! ” she broke out. “ I wish we were all dead. It would be a great deal better for us. ”
In a moment afterwards, she knelt on the ground at my side, hid her face in my dress, passionately begged my pardon, and wept. I comforted her and would have raised her, but she cried no, no; she wanted to stay there!
“ You used to teach girls, ” she said, “ If you could only have taught me, I could have learnt from you! I am so very miserable, and I like you so much! ”
I could not persuade her to sit by me or to do anything but move a ragged stool to where she was kneeling, and take that, and still hold my dress in the same manner. By degrees the poor tired girl fell asleep, and then I contrived to raise her head so that it should rest on my lap, and to cover us both with shawls. The fire went out, and all night long she slumbered thus before the ashy grate. At first I was painfully awake and vainly tried to lose myself, with my eyes closed, among the scenes of the day. At length, by slow degrees, they became indistinct and mingled. I began to lose the identity of the sleeper resting on me. Now it was Ada, now one of my old Reading friends from whom I could not believe I had so recently parted. Now it was the little mad woman worn out with curtsying and smiling, now some one in authority at Bleak House. Lastly, it was no one, and I was no one.
The purblind day was feebly struggling with the fog when I opened my eyes to encounter those of a dirty-faced little spectre fixed upon me. Peepy had scaled his crib, and crept down in his bed-gown and cap, and was so cold that his teeth were chattering as if he had cut them all.
Although the morning was raw, and although the fog still seemed heavy -- I say seemed, for the windows were so encrusted with dirt that they would have made midsummer sunshine dim -- I was sufficiently forewarned of the discomfort within doors at that early hour and sufficiently curious about London to think it a good idea on the part of Miss Jellyby when she proposed that we should go out for a walk.
“ Ma won't be down for ever so long, ” she said, “ and then it 's a chance if breakfast 's ready for an hour afterwards, they dawdle so. As to Pa, he gets what he can and goes to the office. He never has what you would call a regular breakfast. Priscilla leaves him out the loaf and some milk, when there is any, overnight. Sometimes there isn't any milk, and sometimes the cat drinks it. But I 'm afraid you must be tired, Miss Summerson, and perhaps you would rather go to bed. ”
“ I am not at all tired, my dear, ” said I, “ and would much prefer to go out. ”
“ If you 're sure you would, ” returned Miss Jellyby, “ I 'll get my things on. ”
Ada said she would go too, and was soon astir. I made a proposal to Peepy, in default of being able to do anything better for him, that he should let me wash him and afterwards lay him down on my bed again. To this he submitted with the best grace possible, staring at me during the whole operation as if he never had been, and never could again be, so astonished in his life -- looking very miserable also, certainly, but making no complaint, and going snugly to sleep as soon as it was over. At first I was in two minds about taking such a liberty, but I soon reflected that nobody in the house was likely to notice it.
What with the bustle of dispatching Peepy and the bustle of getting myself ready and helping Ada, I was soon quite in a glow. We found Miss Jellyby trying to warm herself at the fire in the writing-room, which Priscilla was then lighting with a smutty parlour candlestick, throwing the candle in to make it burn better. Everything was just as we had left it last night and was evidently intended to remain so. Below-stairs the dinner-cloth had not been taken away, but had been left ready for breakfast. Crumbs, dust, and waste-paper were all over the house. Some pewter pots and a milk-can hung on the area railings; the door stood open; and we met the cook round the corner coming out of a public-house, wiping her mouth. She mentioned, as she passed us, that she had been to see what o'clock it was.
But before we met the cook, we met Richard, who was dancing up and down Thavies Inn to warm his feet. He was agreeably surprised to see us stirring so soon and said he would gladly share our walk. So he took care of Ada, and Miss Jellyby and I went first. I may mention that Miss Jellyby had relapsed into her sulky manner and that I really should not have thought she liked me much unless she had told me so.
“ Where would you wish to go? ” she asked.
“ Anywhere, my dear, ” I replied.
“ Anywhere 's nowhere, ” said Miss Jellyby, stopping perversely.
“ Let us go somewhere at any rate, ” said I.
She then walked me on very fast.
“ I don't care! ” she said. “ Now, you are my witness, Miss Summerson, I say I don't care -- but if he was to come to our house with his great, shining, lumpy forehead night after night till he was as old as Methuselah, I wouldn't have anything to say to him. Such ASSES as he and Ma make of themselves! ”
“ My dear! ” I remonstrated, in allusion to the epithet and the vigorous emphasis Miss Jellyby set upon it. “ Your duty as a child -- ”
“ Oh! Don't talk of duty as a child, Miss Summerson; where 's Ma 's duty as a parent? All made over to the public and Africa, I suppose! Then let the public and Africa show duty as a child; it 's much more their affair than mine. You are shocked, I dare say! Very well, so am I shocked too; so we are both shocked, and there 's an end of it! ”
She walked me on faster yet.
“ But for all that, I say again, he may come, and come, and come, and I won't have anything to say to him. I can't bear him. If there 's any stuff in the world that I hate and detest, it 's the stuff he and Ma talk. I wonder the very paving-stones opposite our house can have the patience to stay there and be a witness of such inconsistencies and contradictions as all that sounding nonsense, and Ma 's management! ”
I could not but understand her to refer to Mr. Quale, the young gentleman who had appeared after dinner yesterday. I was saved the disagreeable necessity of pursuing the subject by Richard and Ada coming up at a round pace, laughing and asking us if we meant to run a race. Thus interrupted, Miss Jellyby became silent and walked moodily on at my side while I admired the long successions and varieties of streets, the quantity of people already going to and fro, the number of vehicles passing and repassing, the busy preparations in the setting forth of shop windows and the sweeping out of shops, and the extraordinary creatures in rags secretly groping among the swept-out rubbish for pins and other refuse.
“ So, cousin, ” said the cheerful voice of Richard to Ada behind me. “ We are never to get out of Chancery! We have come by another way to our place of meeting yesterday, and -- by the Great Seal, here 's the old lady again! ”
Truly, there she was, immediately in front of us, curtsying, and smiling, and saying with her yesterday 's air of patronage, “ The wards in Jarndyce! Ve-ry happy, I am sure! ”
“ You are out early, ma'am, ” said I as she curtsied to me.
“ Ye-es! I usually walk here early. Before the court sits. It 's retired. I collect my thoughts here for the business of the day, ” said the old lady mincingly. “ The business of the day requires a great deal of thought. Chancery justice is so ve-ry difficult to follow. ”
“ Who 's this, Miss Summerson? ” whispered Miss Jellyby, drawing my arm tighter through her own.
The little old lady 's hearing was remarkably quick. She answered for herself directly.
“A suitor, my child. At your service. I have the honour to attend court regularly. With my documents. Have I the pleasure of addressing another of the youthful parties in Jarndyce? ” said the old lady, recovering herself, with her head on one side, from a very low curtsy.
Richard, anxious to atone for his thoughtlessness of yesterday, good-naturedly explained that Miss Jellyby was not connected with the suit.
“ Ha! ” said the old lady. “ She does not expect a judgment? She will still grow old. But not so old. Oh, dear, no! This is the garden of Lincoln 's Inn. I call it my garden. It is quite a bower in the summer-time. Where the birds sing melodiously. I pass the greater part of the long vacation here. In contemplation. You find the long vacation exceedingly long, don't you? ”
We said yes, as she seemed to expect us to say so.
“ When the leaves are falling from the trees and there are no more flowers in bloom to make up into nosegays for the Lord Chancellor 's court, ” said the old lady, “ the vacation is fulfilled and the sixth seal, mentioned in the Revelations, again prevails. Pray come and see my lodging. It will be a good omen for me. Youth, and hope, and beauty are very seldom there. It is a long, long time since I had a visit from either. ”
She had taken my hand, and leading me and Miss Jellyby away, beckoned Richard and Ada to come too. I did not know how to excuse myself and looked to Richard for aid. As he was half amused and half curious and all in doubt how to get rid of the old lady without offence, she continued to lead us away, and he and Ada continued to follow, our strange conductress informing us all the time, with much smiling condescension, that she lived close by.
It was quite true, as it soon appeared. She lived so close by that we had not time to have done humouring her for a few moments before she was at home. Slipping us out at a little side gate, the old lady stopped most unexpectedly in a narrow back street, part of some courts and lanes immediately outside the wall of the inn, and said, “ This is my lodging. Pray walk up! ”
She had stopped at a shop over which was written KROOK, RAG AND BOTTLE WAREHOUSE. Also, in long thin letters, KROOK, DEALER IN MARINE STORES. In one part of the window was a picture of a red paper mill at which a cart was unloading a quantity of sacks of old rags. In another was the inscription BONES BOUGHT. In another, KITCHEN-STUFF BOUGHT. In another, OLD IRON BOUGHT. In another, WASTE-PAPER BOUGHT. In another, LADIES' AND GENTLEMEN 'S WARDROBES BOUGHT. Everything seemed to be bought and nothing to be sold there. In all parts of the window were quantities of dirty bottles -- blacking bottles, medicine bottles, ginger-beer and soda-water bottles, pickle bottles, wine bottles, ink bottles; I am reminded by mentioning the latter that the shop had in several little particulars the air of being in a legal neighbourhood and of being, as it were, a dirty hanger-on and disowned relation of the law. There were a great many ink bottles. There was a little tottering bench of shabby old volumes outside the door, labelled “ Law Books, all at 9d. ” Some of the inscriptions I have enumerated were written in law-hand, like the papers I had seen in Kenge and Carboy 's office and the letters I had so long received from the firm. Among them was one, in the same writing, having nothing to do with the business of the shop, but announcing that a respectable man aged forty-five wanted engrossing or copying to execute with neatness and dispatch: Address to Nemo, care of Mr. Krook, within. There were several second-hand bags, blue and red, hanging up.A little way within the shop-door lay heaps of old crackled parchment scrolls and discoloured and dog 's- eared law-papers. I could have fancied that all the rusty keys, of which there must have been hundreds huddled together as old iron, had once belonged to doors of rooms or strong chests in lawyers' offices. The litter of rags tumbled partly into and partly out of a one-legged wooden scale, hanging without any counterpoise from a beam, might have been counsellors' bands and gowns torn up. One had only to fancy, as Richard whispered to Ada and me while we all stood looking in, that yonder bones in a corner, piled together and picked very clean, were the bones of clients, to make the picture complete.
As it was still foggy and dark, and as the shop was blinded besides by the wall of Lincoln 's Inn, intercepting the light within a couple of yards, we should not have seen so much but for a lighted lantern that an old man in spectacles and a hairy cap was carrying about in the shop. Turning towards the door, he now caught sight of us. He was short, cadaverous, and withered, with his head sunk sideways between his shoulders and the breath issuing in visible smoke from his mouth as if he were on fire within. His throat, chin, and eyebrows were so frosted with white hairs and so gnarled with veins and puckered skin that he looked from his breast upward like some old root in a fall of snow.
“ Hi, hi! ” said the old man, coming to the door. “ Have you anything to sell? ”
We naturally drew back and glanced at our conductress, who had been trying to open the house-door with a key she had taken from her pocket, and to whom Richard now said that as we had had the pleasure of seeing where she lived, we would leave her, being pressed for time. But she was not to be so easily left. She became so fantastically and pressingly earnest in her entreaties that we would walk up and see her apartment for an instant, and was so bent, in her harmless way, on leading me in, as part of the good omen she desired, that I -LRB- whatever the others might do -RRB- saw nothing for it but to comply. I suppose we were all more or less curious; at any rate, when the old man added his persuasions to hers and said, “ Aye, aye! Please her! It won't take a minute! Come in, come in! Come in through the shop ift` other door 's out of order! ” we all went in, stimulated by Richard 's laughing encouragement and relying on his protection.
“ My landlord, Krook, ” said the little old lady, condescending to him from her lofty station as she presented him to us. “ He is called among the neighbours the Lord Chancellor. His shop is called the Court of Chancery. He is a very eccentric person. He is very odd. Oh, I assure you he is very odd! ”
She shook her head a great many times and tapped her forehead with her finger to express to us that we must have the goodness to excuse him, “ For he is a little -- you know --M! ” said the old lady with great stateliness. The old man overheard, and laughed.
“ It 's true enough, ” he said, going before us with the lantern, “ that they call me the Lord Chancellor and call my shop Chancery. And why do you think they call me the Lord Chancellor and my shop Chancery? ”
“ I don't know, I am sure! ” said Richard rather carelessly.
“ You see, ” said the old man, stopping and turning round, “ they -- Hi! Here 's lovely hair! I have got three sacks of ladies' hair below, but none so beautiful and fine as this. What colour, and what texture! ”
“ That 'll do, my good friend! ” said Richard, strongly disapproving of his having drawn one of Ada 's tresses through his yellow hand. “ You can admire as the rest of us do without taking that liberty. ”
The old man darted at him a sudden look which even called my attention from Ada, who, startled and blushing, was so remarkably beautiful that she seemed to fix the wandering attention of the little old lady herself. But as Ada interposed and laughingly said she could only feel proud of such genuine admiration, Mr. Krook shrunk into his former self as suddenly as he had leaped out of it.
“ You see, I have so many things here, ” he resumed, holding up the lantern, “ of so many kinds, and all as the neighbours think -LRB- but THEY know nothing -RRB-, wasting away and going to rack and ruin, that that 's why they have given me and my place a christening. And I have so many old parchmentses and papers in my stock. And I have a liking for rust and must and cobwebs. And all 's fish that comes to my net. And I can't abear to part with anything I once lay hold of -LRB- or so my neighbours think, but what do THEY know? -RRB- or to alter anything, or to have any sweeping, nor scouring, nor cleaning, nor repairing going on about me. That 's the way I 've got the ill name of Chancery. I don't mind. I go to see my noble and learned brother pretty well every day, when he sits in the Inn. He don't notice me, but I notice him. There 's no great odds betwixt us. We both grub on in a muddle. Hi, Lady Jane! ”
A large grey cat leaped from some neighbouring shelf on his shoulder and startled us all.
“ Hi! Show 'em how you scratch. Hi! Tear, my lady! ” said her master.
The cat leaped down and ripped at a bundle of rags with her tigerish claws, with a sound that it set my teeth on edge to hear.
“ She 'd do as much for any one I was to set her on, ” said the old man. “ I deal in cat-skins among other general matters, and hers was offered to me. It 's a very fine skin, as you may see, but I didn't have it stripped off! THAT warn't like Chancery practice though, says you! ”
He had by this time led us across the shop, and now opened a door in the back part of it, leading to the house-entry. As he stood with his hand upon the lock, the little old lady graciously observed to him before passing out, “ That will do, Krook. You mean well, but are tiresome. My young friends are pressed for time. I have none to spare myself, having to attend court very soon. My young friends are the wards in Jarndyce. ”
“ Jarndyce! ” said the old man with a start.
“ Jarndyce and Jarndyce. The great suit, Krook, ” returned his lodger.
“ Hi! ” exclaimed the old man in a tone of thoughtful amazement and with a wider stare than before. “ Think of it! ”
He seemed so rapt all in a moment and looked so curiously at us that Richard said, “ Why, you appear to trouble yourself a good deal about the causes before your noble and learned brother, the other Chancellor! ”
“ Yes, ” said the old man abstractedly. “ Sure! YOUR name now will be -- ”
“ Richard Carstone. ”
“ Carstone, ” he repeated, slowly checking off that name upon his forefinger; and each of the others he went on to mention upon a separate finger. “ Yes. There was the name of Barbary, and the name of Clare, and the name of Dedlock, too, I think. ”
“ He knows as much of the cause as the real salaried Chancellor! ” said Richard, quite astonished, to Ada and me.
“ Aye! ” said the old man, coming slowly out of his abstraction. “ Yes! Tom Jarndyce -- you 'll excuse me, being related; but he was never known about court by any other name, and was as well known there as -- she is now, ” nodding slightly at his lodger. “ Tom Jarndyce was often in here. He got into a restless habit of strolling about when the cause was on, or expected, talking to the little shopkeepers and telling 'em to keep out of Chancery, whatever they did.` For,' says he,` it 's being ground to bits in a slow mill; it 's being roasted at a slow fire; it 's being stung to death by single bees; it 's being drowned by drops; it 's going mad by grains.' He was as near making away with himself, just where the young lady stands, as near could be. ”
We listened with horror.
“ He come in at the door, ” said the old man, slowly pointing an imaginary track along the shop, “ on the day he did it -- the whole neighbourhood had said for months before that he would do it, of a certainty sooner or later -- he come in at the door that day, and walked along there, and sat himself on a bench that stood there, and asked me -LRB- you 'll judge I was a mortal sight younger then -RRB- to fetch him a pint of wine.` For,' says he,` Krook, I am much depressed; my cause is on again, and I think I 'm nearer judgment than I ever was.' I hadn't a mind to leave him alone; and I persuaded him to go to the tavern over the way there,t` other side my lane -LRB- I mean Chancery Lane -RRB-; and I followed and looked in at the window, and saw him, comfortable as I thought, in the arm-chair by the fire, and company with him. I hadn't hardly got back here when I heard a shot go echoing and rattling right away into the inn. I ran out -- neighbours ran out -- twenty of us cried at once,` Tom Jarndyce!' ”
The old man stopped, looked hard at us, looked down into the lantern, blew the light out, and shut the lantern up.
“ We were right, I needn't tell the present hearers. Hi! To be sure, how the neighbourhood poured into court that afternoon while the cause was on! How my noble and learned brother, and all the rest of 'em, grubbed and muddled away as usual and tried to look as if they hadn't heard a word of the last fact in the case or as if they had -- Oh, dear me! -- nothing at all to do with it if they had heard of it by any chance! ”
Ada 's colour had entirely left her, and Richard was scarcely less pale. Nor could I wonder, judging even from my emotions, and I was no party in the suit, that to hearts so untried and fresh it was a shock to come into the inheritance of a protracted misery, attended in the minds of many people with such dreadful recollections. I had another uneasiness, in the application of the painful story to the poor half-witted creature who had brought us there; but, to my surprise, she seemed perfectly unconscious of that and only led the way upstairs again, informing us with the toleration of a superior creature for the infirmities of a common mortal that her landlord was “ a littleM, you know! ”
She lived at the top of the house, in a pretty large room, from which she had a glimpse of Lincoln 's Inn Hall. This seemed to have been her principal inducement, originally, for taking up her residence there. She could look at it, she said, in the night, especially in the moonshine. Her room was clean, but very, very bare. I noticed the scantiest necessaries in the way of furniture; a few old prints from books, of Chancellors and barristers, wafered against the wall; and some half-dozen reticles and work-bags, “ containing documents, ” as she informed us. There were neither coals nor ashes in the grate, and I saw no articles of clothing anywhere, nor any kind of food. Upon a shelf in an open cupboard were a plate or two, a cup or two, and so forth, but all dry and empty. There was a more affecting meaning in her pinched appearance, I thought as I looked round, than I had understood before.
“ Extremely honoured, I am sure, ” said our poor hostess with the greatest suavity, “ by this visit from the wards in Jarndyce. And very much indebted for the omen. It is a retired situation. Considering. I am limited as to situation. In consequence of the necessity of attending on the Chancellor. I have lived here many years. I pass my days in court, my evenings and my nights here. I find the nights long, for I sleep but little and think much. That is, of course, unavoidable, being in Chancery. I am sorry I can not offer chocolate. I expect a judgment shortly and shall then place my establishment on a superior footing. At present, I don't mind confessing to the wards in Jarndyce -LRB- in strict confidence -RRB- that I sometimes find it difficult to keep up a genteel appearance. I have felt the cold here. I have felt something sharper than cold. It matters very little. Pray excuse the introduction of such mean topics. ”
She partly drew aside the curtain of the long, low garret window and called our attention to a number of bird-cages hanging there, some containing several birds. There were larks, linnets, and goldfinches -- I should think at least twenty.
“ I began to keep the little creatures, ” she said, “ with an object that the wards will readily comprehend. With the intention of restoring them to liberty. When my judgment should be given. Ye-es! They die in prison, though. Their lives, poor silly things, are so short in comparison with Chancery proceedings that, one by one, the whole collection has died over and over again. I doubt, do you know, whether one of these, though they are all young, will live to be free! Ve-ry mortifying, is it not? ”
Although she sometimes asked a question, she never seemed to expect a reply, but rambled on as if she were in the habit of doing so when no one but herself was present.
“ Indeed, ” she pursued, “ I positively doubt sometimes, I do assure you, whether while matters are still unsettled, and the sixth or Great Seal still prevails, I may not one day be found lying stark and senseless here, as I have found so many birds! ”
Richard, answering what he saw in Ada 's compassionate eyes, took the opportunity of laying some money, softly and unobserved, on the chimney-piece. We all drew nearer to the cages, feigning to examine the birds.
“ I can't allow them to sing much, ” said the little old lady, “ for -LRB- you 'll think this curious -RRB- I find my mind confused by the idea that they are singing while I am following the arguments in court. And my mind requires to be so very clear, you know! Another time, I 'll tell you their names. Not at present. On a day of such good omen, they shall sing as much as they like. In honour of youth, ” a smile and curtsy, “ hope, ” a smile and curtsy, “ and beauty, ” a smile and curtsy. “ There! We 'll let in the full light. ”
The birds began to stir and chirp.
“ I can not admit the air freely, ” said the little old lady -- the room was close, and would have been the better for it -- “ because the cat you saw downstairs, called Lady Jane, is greedy for their lives. She crouches on the parapet outside for hours and hours. I have discovered, ” whispering mysteriously, “ that her natural cruelty is sharpened by a jealous fear of their regaining their liberty. In consequence of the judgment I expect being shortly given. She is sly and full of malice. I half believe, sometimes, that she is no cat, but the wolf of the old saying. It is so very difficult to keep her from the door. ”
Some neighbouring bells, reminding the poor soul that it was half-past nine, did more for us in the way of bringing our visit to an end than we could easily have done for ourselves. She hurriedly took up her little bag of documents, which she had laid upon the table on coming in, and asked if we were also going into court. On our answering no, and that we would on no account detain her, she opened the door to attend us downstairs.
“ With such an omen, it is even more necessary than usual that I should be there before the Chancellor comes in, ” said she, “ for he might mention my case the first thing. I have a presentiment that he WILL mention it the first thing this morning. ”
She stopped to tell us in a whisper as we were going down that the whole house was filled with strange lumber which her landlord had bought piecemeal and had no wish to sell, in consequence of being a littleM. This was on the first floor. But she had made a previous stoppage on the second floor and had silently pointed at a dark door there.
“ The only other lodger, ” she now whispered in explanation, “ a law-writer. The children in the lanes here say he has sold himself to the devil. I don't know what he can have done with the money. Hush! ”
She appeared to mistrust that the lodger might hear her even there, and repeating “ Hush! ” went before us on tiptoe as though even the sound of her footsteps might reveal to him what she had said.
Passing through the shop on our way out, as we had passed through it on our way in, we found the old man storing a quantity of packets of waste-paper in a kind of well in the floor. He seemed to be working hard, with the perspiration standing on his forehead, and had a piece of chalk by him, with which, as he put each separate package or bundle down, he made a crooked mark on the panelling of the wall.
Richard and Ada, and Miss Jellyby, and the little old lady had gone by him, and I was going when he touched me on the arm to stay me, and chalked the letterJ upon the wall -- in a very curious manner, beginning with the end of the letter and shaping it backward. It was a capital letter, not a printed one, but just such a letter as any clerk in Messrs. Kenge and Carboy 's office would have made.
“ Can you read it? ” he asked me with a keen glance.
“ Surely, ” said I. “ It 's very plain. ”
“ What is it? ”
“ J. ”
With another glance at me, and a glance at the door, he rubbed it out and turned an “ a ” in its place -LRB- not a capital letter this time -RRB-, and said, “ What 's that? ”
I told him. He then rubbed that out and turned the letter “r, ” and asked me the same question. He went on quickly until he had formed in the same curious manner, beginning at the ends and bottoms of the letters, the word Jarndyce, without once leaving two letters on the wall together.
“ What does that spell? ” he asked me.
When I told him, he laughed. In the same odd way, yet with the same rapidity, he then produced singly, and rubbed out singly, the letters forming the words Bleak House. These, in some astonishment, I also read; and he laughed again.
“ Hi! ” said the old man, laying aside the chalk. “ I have a turn for copying from memory, you see, miss, though I can neither read nor write. ”
He looked so disagreeable and his cat looked so wickedly at me, as if I were a blood-relation of the birds upstairs, that I was quite relieved by Richard 's appearing at the door and saying, “ Miss Summerson, I hope you are not bargaining for the sale of your hair. Don't be tempted. Three sacks below are quite enough for Mr. Krook! ”
I lost no time in wishing Mr. Krook good morning and joining my friends outside, where we parted with the little old lady, who gave us her blessing with great ceremony and renewed her assurance of yesterday in reference to her intention of settling estates on Ada and me. Before we finally turned out of those lanes, we looked back and saw Mr. Krook standing at his shop-door, in his spectacles, looking after us, with his cat upon his shoulder, and her tail sticking up on one side of his hairy cap like a tall feather.
“ Quite an adventure for a morning in London! ” said Richard with a sigh. “ Ah, cousin, cousin, it 's a weary word this Chancery! ”
“ It is to me, and has been ever since I can remember, ” returned Ada. “ I am grieved that I should be the enemy -- as I suppose I am -- of a great number of relations and others, and that they should be my enemies -- as I suppose they are -- and that we should all be ruining one another without knowing how or why and be in constant doubt and discord all our lives. It seems very strange, as there must be right somewhere, that an honest judge in real earnest has not been able to find out through all these years where it is. ”
“ Ah, cousin! ” said Richard. “ Strange, indeed! All this wasteful, wanton chess-playing IS very strange. To see that composed court yesterday jogging on so serenely and to think of the wretchedness of the pieces on the board gave me the headache and the heartache both together. My head ached with wondering how it happened, if men were neither fools nor rascals; and my heart ached to think they could possibly be either. But at all events, Ada -- I may call you Ada? ”
“ Of course you may, cousin Richard. ”
“ At all events, Chancery will work none of its bad influences on US. We have happily been brought together, thanks to our good kinsman, and it can't divide us now! ”
“ Never, I hope, cousin Richard! ” said Ada gently.
Miss Jellyby gave my arm a squeeze and me a very significant look. I smiled in return, and we made the rest of the way back very pleasantly.
In half an hour after our arrival, Mrs. Jellyby appeared; and in the course of an hour the various things necessary for breakfast straggled one by one into the dining-room. I do not doubt that Mrs. Jellyby had gone to bed and got up in the usual manner, but she presented no appearance of having changed her dress. She was greatly occupied during breakfast, for the morning 's post brought a heavy correspondence relative to Borrioboola-Gha, which would occasion her -LRB- she said -RRB- to pass a busy day. The children tumbled about, and notched memoranda of their accidents in their legs, which were perfect little calendars of distress; and Peepy was lost for an hour and a half, and brought home from Newgate market by a policeman. The equable manner in which Mrs. Jellyby sustained both his absence and his restoration to the family circle surprised us all.
She was by that time perseveringly dictating to Caddy, and Caddy was fast relapsing into the inky condition in which we had found her. At one o'clock an open carriage arrived for us, and a cart for our luggage. Mrs. Jellyby charged us with many remembrances to her good friend Mr. Jarndyce; Caddy left her desk to see us depart, kissed me in the passage, and stood biting her pen and sobbing on the steps; Peepy, I am happy to say, was asleep and spared the pain of separation -LRB- I was not without misgivings that he had gone to Newgate market in search of me -RRB-; and all the other children got up behind the barouche and fell off, and we saw them, with great concern, scattered over the surface of Thavies Inn as we rolled out of its precincts.
The day had brightened very much, and still brightened as we went westward. We went our way through the sunshine and the fresh air, wondering more and more at the extent of the streets, the brilliancy of the shops, the great traffic, and the crowds of people whom the pleasanter weather seemed to have brought out like many-coloured flowers. By and by we began to leave the wonderful city and to proceed through suburbs which, of themselves, would have made a pretty large town in my eyes; and at last we got into a real country road again, with windmills, rick-yards, milestones, farmers' waggons, scents of old hay, swinging signs, and horse troughs: trees, fields, and hedge-rows. It was delightful to see the green landscape before us and the immense metropolis behind; and when a waggon with a train of beautiful horses, furnished with red trappings and clear-sounding bells, came by us with its music, I believe we could all three have sung to the bells, so cheerful were the influences around.
“ The whole road has been reminding me of my namesake Whittington, ” said Richard, “ and that waggon is the finishing touch. Halloa! What 's the matter? ”
We had stopped, and the waggon had stopped too. Its music changed as the horses came to a stand, and subsided to a gentle tinkling, except when a horse tossed his head or shook himself and sprinkled off a little shower of bell-ringing.
“ Our postilion is looking after the waggoner, ” said Richard, “ and the waggoner is coming back after us. Good day, friend! ” The waggoner was at our coach-door. “ Why, here 's an extraordinary thing! ” added Richard, looking closely at the man. “ He has got your name, Ada, in his hat! ”
He had all our names in his hat. Tucked within the band were three small notes -- one addressed to Ada, one to Richard, one to me. These the waggoner delivered to each of us respectively, reading the name aloud first. In answer to Richard 's inquiry from whom they came, he briefly answered, “ Master, sir, if you please ”; and putting on his hat again -LRB- which was like a soft bowl -RRB-, cracked his whip, re-awakened his music, and went melodiously away.
“ Is that Mr. Jarndyce 's waggon? ” said Richard, calling to our post-boy.
“ Yes, sir, ” he replied. “ Going to London. ”
We opened the notes. Each was a counterpart of the other and contained these words in a solid, plain hand.
I look forward, my dear, to our meeting easily and without constraint on either side. I therefore have to propose that we meet as old friends and take the past for granted. It will be a relief to you possibly, and to me certainly, and so my love to you.
I had perhaps less reason to be surprised than either of my companions, having never yet enjoyed an opportunity of thanking one who had been my benefactor and sole earthly dependence through so many years. I had not considered how I could thank him, my gratitude lying too deep in my heart for that; but I now began to consider how I could meet him without thanking him, and felt it would be very difficult indeed.
The notes revived in Richard and Ada a general impression that they both had, without quite knowing how they came by it, that their cousin Jarndyce could never bear acknowledgments for any kindness he performed and that sooner than receive any he would resort to the most singular expedients and evasions or would even run away. Ada dimly remembered to have heard her mother tell, when she was a very little child, that he had once done her an act of uncommon generosity and that on her going to his house to thank him, he happened to see her through a window coming to the door, and immediately escaped by the back gate, and was not heard of for three months. This discourse led to a great deal more on the same theme, and indeed it lasted us all day, and we talked of scarcely anything else. If we did by any chance diverge into another subject, we soon returned to this, and wondered what the house would be like, and when we should get there, and whether we should see Mr. Jarndyce as soon as we arrived or after a delay, and what he would say to us, and what we should say to him. All of which we wondered about, over and over again.
The roads were very heavy for the horses, but the pathway was generally good, so we alighted and walked up all the hills, and liked it so well that we prolonged our walk on the level ground when we got to the top. At Barnet there were other horses waiting for us, but as they had only just been fed, we had to wait for them too, and got a long fresh walk over a common and an old battle-field before the carriage came up. These delays so protracted the journey that the short day was spent and the long night had closed in before we came to St. Albans, near to which town Bleak House was, we knew.
By that time we were so anxious and nervous that even Richard confessed, as we rattled over the stones of the old street, to feeling an irrational desire to drive back again. As to Ada and me, whom he had wrapped up with great care, the night being sharp and frosty, we trembled from head to foot. When we turned out of the town, round a corner, and Richard told us that the post-boy, who had for a long time sympathized with our heightened expectation, was looking back and nodding, we both stood up in the carriage -LRB- Richard holding Ada lest she should be jolted down -RRB- and gazed round upon the open country and the starlight night for our destination. There was a light sparkling on the top of a hill before us, and the driver, pointing to it with his whip and crying, “ That 's Bleak House! ” put his horses into a canter and took us forward at such a rate, uphill though it was, that the wheels sent the road drift flying about our heads like spray from a water-mill. Presently we lost the light, presently saw it, presently lost it, presently saw it, and turned into an avenue of trees and cantered up towards where it was beaming brightly. It was in a window of what seemed to be an old-fashioned house with three peaks in the roof in front and a circular sweep leading to the porch.A bell was rung as we drew up, and amidst the sound of its deep voice in the still air, and the distant barking of some dogs, and a gush of light from the opened door, and the smoking and steaming of the heated horses, and the quickened beating of our own hearts, we alighted in no inconsiderable confusion.
“ Ada, my love, Esther, my dear, you are welcome. I rejoice to see you! Rick, if I had a hand to spare at present, I would give it you! ”
The gentleman who said these words in a clear, bright, hospitable voice had one of his arms round Ada 's waist and the other round mine, and kissed us both in a fatherly way, and bore us across the hall into a ruddy little room, all in a glow with a blazing fire. Here he kissed us again, and opening his arms, made us sit down side by side on a sofa ready drawn out near the hearth. I felt that if we had been at all demonstrative, he would have run away in a moment.
“ Now, Rick! ” said he. “ I have a hand at liberty.A word in earnest is as good as a speech. I am heartily glad to see you. You are at home. Warm yourself! ”
Richard shook him by both hands with an intuitive mixture of respect and frankness, and only saying -LRB- though with an earnestness that rather alarmed me, I was so afraid of Mr. Jarndyce 's suddenly disappearing -RRB-, “ You are very kind, sir! We are very much obliged to you! ” laid aside his hat and coat and came up to the fire.
“ And how did you like the ride? And how did you like Mrs. Jellyby, my dear? ” said Mr. Jarndyce to Ada.
While Ada was speaking to him in reply, I glanced -LRB- I need not say with how much interest -RRB- at his face. It was a handsome, lively, quick face, full of change and motion; and his hair was a silvered iron-grey. I took him to be nearer sixty than fifty, but he was upright, hearty, and robust. From the moment of his first speaking to us his voice had connected itself with an association in my mind that I could not define; but now, all at once, a something sudden in his manner and a pleasant expression in his eyes recalled the gentleman in the stagecoach six years ago on the memorable day of my journey to Reading. I was certain it was he. I never was so frightened in my life as when I made the discovery, for he caught my glance, and appearing to read my thoughts, gave such a look at the door that I thought we had lost him.
However, I am happy to say he remained where he was, and asked me what I thought of Mrs. Jellyby.
“ She exerts herself very much for Africa, sir, ” I said.
“ Nobly! ” returned Mr. Jarndyce. “ But you answer like Ada. ” Whom I had not heard. “ You all think something else, I see. ”
“ We rather thought, ” said I, glancing at Richard and Ada, who entreated me with their eyes to speak, “ that perhaps she was a little unmindful of her home. ”
“ Floored! ” cried Mr. Jarndyce.
I was rather alarmed again.
“ Well! I want to know your real thoughts, my dear. I may have sent you there on purpose. ”
“ We thought that, perhaps, ” said I, hesitating, “ it is right to begin with the obligations of home, sir; and that, perhaps, while those are overlooked and neglected, no other duties can possibly be substituted for them. ”
“ The little Jellybys, ” said Richard, coming to my relief, “ are really -- I can't help expressing myself strongly, sir -- in a devil of a state. ”
“ She means well, ” said Mr. Jarndyce hastily. “ The wind 's in the east. ”
“ It was in the north, sir, as we came down, ” observed Richard.
“ My dear Rick, ” said Mr. Jarndyce, poking the fire, “ I 'll take an oath it 's either in the east or going to be. I am always conscious of an uncomfortable sensation now and then when the wind is blowing in the east. ”
“ Rheumatism, sir? ” said Richard.
“ I dare say it is, Rick. I believe it is. And so the little Jell -- I had my doubts about 'em -- are in a -- oh, Lord, yes, it 's easterly! ” said Mr. Jarndyce.
He had taken two or three undecided turns up and down while uttering these broken sentences, retaining the poker in one hand and rubbing his hair with the other, with a good-natured vexation at once so whimsical and so lovable that I am sure we were more delighted with him than we could possibly have expressed in any words. He gave an arm to Ada and an arm to me, and bidding Richard bring a candle, was leading the way out when he suddenly turned us all back again.
“ Those little Jellybys. Couldn't you -- didn't you -- now, if it had rained sugar-plums, or three-cornered raspberry tarts, or anything of that sort! ” said Mr. Jarndyce.
“ Oh, cousin -- ” Ada hastily began.
“ Good, my pretty pet. I like cousin. Cousin John, perhaps, is better. ”
“ Then, cousin John -- ” Ada laughingly began again.
“ Ha, ha! Very good indeed! ” said Mr. Jarndyce with great enjoyment. “ Sounds uncommonly natural. Yes, my dear? ”
“ It did better than that. It rained Esther. ”
“ Aye? ” said Mr. Jarndyce. “ What did Esther do? ”
“ Why, cousin John, ” said Ada, clasping her hands upon his arm and shaking her head at me across him -- for I wanted her to be quiet -- “ Esther was their friend directly. Esther nursed them, coaxed them to sleep, washed and dressed them, told them stories, kept them quiet, bought them keepsakes ” -- My dear girl! I had only gone out with Peepy after he was found and given him a little, tiny horse! -- “ and, cousin John, she softened poor Caroline, the eldest one, so much and was so thoughtful for me and so amiable! No, no, I won't be contradicted, Esther dear! You know, you know, it 's true! ”
The warm-hearted darling leaned across her cousin John and kissed me, and then looking up in his face, boldly said, “ At all events, cousin John, I WILL thank you for the companion you have given me. ” I felt as if she challenged him to run away. But he didn't.
“ Where did you say the wind was, Rick? ” asked Mr. Jarndyce.
“ In the north as we came down, sir. ”
“ You are right. There 's no east in it.A mistake of mine. Come, girls, come and see your home! ”
It was one of those delightfully irregular houses where you go up and down steps out of one room into another, and where you come upon more rooms when you think you have seen all there are, and where there is a bountiful provision of little halls and passages, and where you find still older cottage-rooms in unexpected places with lattice windows and green growth pressing through them. Mine, which we entered first, was of this kind, with an up-and-down roof that had more corners in it than I ever counted afterwards and a chimney -LRB- there was a wood fire on the hearth -RRB- paved all around with pure white tiles, in every one of which a bright miniature of the fire was blazing. Out of this room, you went down two steps into a charming little sitting-room looking down upon a flower-garden, which room was henceforth to belong to Ada and me. Out of this you went up three steps into Ada 's bedroom, which had a fine broad window commanding a beautiful view -LRB- we saw a great expanse of darkness lying underneath the stars -RRB-, to which there was a hollow window-seat, in which, with a spring-lock, three dear Adas might have been lost at once. Out of this room you passed into a little gallery, with which the other best rooms -LRB- only two -RRB- communicated, and so, by a little staircase of shallow steps with a number of corner stairs in it, considering its length, down into the hall. But if instead of going out at Ada 's door you came back into my room, and went out at the door by which you had entered it, and turned up a few crooked steps that branched off in an unexpected manner from the stairs, you lost yourself in passages, with mangles in them, and three-cornered tables, and a native Hindu chair, which was also a sofa, a box, and a bedstead, and looked in every form something between a bamboo skeleton and a great bird-cage, and had been brought from India nobody knew by whom or when. From these you came on Richard 's room, which was part library, part sitting-room, part bedroom, and seemed indeed a comfortable compound of many rooms. Out of that you went straight, with a little interval of passage, to the plain room where Mr. Jarndyce slept, all the year round, with his window open, his bedstead without any furniture standing in the middle of the floor for more air, and his cold bath gaping for him in a smaller room adjoining. Out of that you came into another passage, where there were back-stairs and where you could hear the horses being rubbed down outside the stable and being told to “ Hold up ” and “ Get over, ” as they slipped about very much on the uneven stones. Or you might, if you came out at another door -LRB- every room had at least two doors -RRB-, go straight down to the hall again by half-a-dozen steps and a low archway, wondering how you got back there or had ever got out of it.
The furniture, old-fashioned rather than old, like the house, was as pleasantly irregular. Ada 's sleeping-room was all flowers -- in chintz and paper, in velvet, in needlework, in the brocade of two stiff courtly chairs which stood, each attended by a little page of a stool for greater state, on either side of the fire-place. Our sitting-room was green and had framed and glazed upon the walls numbers of surprising and surprised birds, staring out of pictures at a real trout in a case, as brown and shining as if it had been served with gravy; at the death of Captain Cook; and at the whole process of preparing tea in China, as depicted by Chinese artists. In my room there were oval engravings of the months -- ladies haymaking in short waists and large hats tied under the chin, for June; smooth-legged noblemen pointing with cocked-hats to village steeples, for October. Half-length portraits in crayons abounded all through the house, but were so dispersed that I found the brother of a youthful officer of mine in the china-closet and the grey old age of my pretty young bride, with a flower in her bodice, in the breakfast-room. As substitutes, I had four angels, of Queen Anne 's reign, taking a complacent gentleman to heaven, in festoons, with some difficulty; and a composition in needlework representing fruit, a kettle, and an alphabet. All the movables, from the wardrobes to the chairs and tables, hangings, glasses, even to the pincushions and scent-bottles on the dressing-tables, displayed the same quaint variety. They agreed in nothing but their perfect neatness, their display of the whitest linen, and their storing-up, wheresoever the existence of a drawer, small or large, rendered it possible, of quantities of rose-leaves and sweet lavender. Such, with its illuminated windows, softened here and there by shadows of curtains, shining out upon the starlight night; with its light, and warmth, and comfort; with its hospitable jingle, at a distance, of preparations for dinner; with the face of its generous master brightening everything we saw; and just wind enough without to sound a low accompaniment to everything we heard, were our first impressions of Bleak House.
“ I am glad you like it, ” said Mr. Jarndyce when he had brought us round again to Ada 's sitting-room. “ It makes no pretensions, but it is a comfortable little place, I hope, and will be more so with such bright young looks in it. You have barely half an hour before dinner. There 's no one here but the finest creature upon earth -- a child. ”
“ More children, Esther! ” said Ada.
“ I don't mean literally a child, ” pursued Mr. Jarndyce; “ not a child in years. He is grown up -- he is at least as old as I am -- but in simplicity, and freshness, and enthusiasm, and a fine guileless inaptitude for all worldly affairs, he is a perfect child. ”
We felt that he must be very interesting.
“ He knows Mrs. Jellyby, ” said Mr. Jarndyce. “ He is a musical man, an amateur, but might have been a professional. He is an artist too, an amateur, but might have been a professional. He is a man of attainments and of captivating manners. He has been unfortunate in his affairs, and unfortunate in his pursuits, and unfortunate in his family; but he don't care -- he 's a child! ”
“ Did you imply that he has children of his own, sir? ” inquired Richard.
“ Yes, Rick! Half-a-dozen. More! Nearer a dozen, I should think. But he has never looked after them. How could he? He wanted somebody to look after HIM. He is a child, you know! ” said Mr. Jarndyce.
“ And have the children looked after themselves at all, sir? ” inquired Richard.
“ Why, just as you may suppose, ” said Mr. Jarndyce, his countenance suddenly falling. “ It is said that the children of the very poor are not brought up, but dragged up. Harold Skimpole 's children have tumbled up somehow or other. The wind 's getting round again, I am afraid. I feel it rather! ”
Richard observed that the situation was exposed on a sharp night.
“ It IS exposed, ” said Mr. Jarndyce. “ No doubt that 's the cause. Bleak House has an exposed sound. But you are coming my way. Come along! ”
Our luggage having arrived and being all at hand, I was dressed in a few minutes and engaged in putting my worldly goods away when a maid -LRB- not the one in attendance upon Ada, but another, whom I had not seen -RRB- brought a basket into my room with two bunches of keys in it, all labelled.
“ For you, miss, if you please, ” said she.
“ For me? ” said I.
“ The housekeeping keys, miss. ”
I showed my surprise, for she added with some little surprise on her own part, “ I was told to bring them as soon as you was alone, miss. Miss Summerson, if I don't deceive myself? ”
“ Yes, ” said I. “ That is my name. ”
“ The large bunch is the housekeeping, and the little bunch is the cellars, miss. Any time you was pleased to appoint to-morrow morning, I was to show you the presses and things they belong to. ”
I said I would be ready at half-past six, and after she was gone, stood looking at the basket, quite lost in the magnitude of my trust. Ada found me thus and had such a delightful confidence in me when I showed her the keys and told her about them that it would have been insensibility and ingratitude not to feel encouraged. I knew, to be sure, that it was the dear girl 's kindness, but I liked to be so pleasantly cheated.
When we went downstairs, we were presented to Mr. Skimpole, who was standing before the fire telling Richard how fond he used to be, in his school-time, of football. He was a little bright creature with a rather large head, but a delicate face and a sweet voice, and there was a perfect charm in him. All he said was so free from effort and spontaneous and was said with such a captivating gaiety that it was fascinating to hear him talk. Being of a more slender figure than Mr. Jarndyce and having a richer complexion, with browner hair, he looked younger. Indeed, he had more the appearance in all respects of a damaged young man than a well-preserved elderly one. There was an easy negligence in his manner and even in his dress -LRB- his hair carelessly disposed, and his neckkerchief loose and flowing, as I have seen artists paint their own portraits -RRB- which I could not separate from the idea of a romantic youth who had undergone some unique process of depreciation. It struck me as being not at all like the manner or appearance of a man who had advanced in life by the usual road of years, cares, and experiences.
I gathered from the conversation that Mr. Skimpole had been educated for the medical profession and had once lived, in his professional capacity, in the household of a German prince. He told us, however, that as he had always been a mere child in point of weights and measures and had never known anything about them -LRB- except that they disgusted him -RRB-, he had never been able to prescribe with the requisite accuracy of detail. In fact, he said, he had no head for detail. And he told us, with great humour, that when he was wanted to bleed the prince or physic any of his people, he was generally found lying on his back in bed, reading the newspapers or making fancy-sketches in pencil, and couldn't come. The prince, at last, objecting to this, “ in which, ” said Mr. Skimpole, in the frankest manner, “ he was perfectly right, ” the engagement terminated, and Mr. Skimpole having -LRB- as he added with delightful gaiety -RRB- “ nothing to live upon but love, fell in love, and married, and surrounded himself with rosy cheeks. ” His good friend Jarndyce and some other of his good friends then helped him, in quicker or slower succession, to several openings in life, but to no purpose, for he must confess to two of the oldest infirmities in the world: one was that he had no idea of time, the other that he had no idea of money. In consequence of which he never kept an appointment, never could transact any business, and never knew the value of anything! Well! So he had got on in life, and here he was! He was very fond of reading the papers, very fond of making fancy-sketches with a pencil, very fond of nature, very fond of art. All he asked of society was to let him live. THAT wasn't much. His wants were few. Give him the papers, conversation, music, mutton, coffee, landscape, fruit in the season, a few sheets of Bristol-board, and a little claret, and he asked no more. He was a mere child in the world, but he didn't cry for the moon. He said to the world, “ Go your several ways in peace! Wear red coats, blue coats, lawn sleeves; put pens behind your ears, wear aprons; go after glory, holiness, commerce, trade, any object you prefer; only -- let Harold Skimpole live! ”
All this and a great deal more he told us, not only with the utmost brilliancy and enjoyment, but with a certain vivacious candour -- speaking of himself as if he were not at all his own affair, as if Skimpole were a third person, as if he knew that Skimpole had his singularities but still had his claims too, which were the general business of the community and must not be slighted. He was quite enchanting. If I felt at all confused at that early time in endeavouring to reconcile anything he said with anything I had thought about the duties and accountabilities of life -LRB- which I am far from sure of -RRB-, I was confused by not exactly understanding why he was free of them. That he WAS free of them, I scarcely doubted; he was so very clear about it himself.
“ I covet nothing, ” said Mr. Skimpole in the same light way. “ Possession is nothing to me. Here is my friend Jarndyce 's excellent house. I feel obliged to him for possessing it. I can sketch it and alter it. I can set it to music. When I am here, I have sufficient possession of it and have neither trouble, cost, nor responsibility. My steward 's name, in short, is Jarndyce, and he can't cheat me. We have been mentioning Mrs. Jellyby. There is a bright-eyed woman, of a strong will and immense power of business detail, who throws herself into objects with surprising ardour! I don't regret that I have not a strong will and an immense power of business detail to throw myself into objects with surprising ardour. I can admire her without envy. I can sympathize with the objects. I can dream of them. I can lie down on the grass -- in fine weather -- and float along an African river, embracing all the natives I meet, as sensible of the deep silence and sketching the dense overhanging tropical growth as accurately as if I were there. I don't know that it 's of any direct use my doing so, but it 's all I can do, and I do it thoroughly. Then, for heaven 's sake, having Harold Skimpole, a confiding child, petitioning you, the world, an agglomeration of practical people of business habits, to let him live and admire the human family, do it somehow or other, like good souls, and suffer him to ride his rocking-horse! ”
It was plain enough that Mr. Jarndyce had not been neglectful of the adjuration. Mr. Skimpole 's general position there would have rendered it so without the addition of what he presently said.
“ It 's only you, the generous creatures, whom I envy, ” said Mr. Skimpole, addressing us, his new friends, in an impersonal manner. “ I envy you your power of doing what you do. It is what I should revel in myself. I don't feel any vulgar gratitude to you. I almost feel as if YOU ought to be grateful to ME for giving you the opportunity of enjoying the luxury of generosity. I know you like it. For anything I can tell, I may have come into the world expressly for the purpose of increasing your stock of happiness. I may have been born to be a benefactor to you by sometimes giving you an opportunity of assisting me in my little perplexities. Why should I regret my incapacity for details and worldly affairs when it leads to such pleasant consequences? I don't regret it therefore. ”
Of all his playful speeches -LRB- playful, yet always fully meaning what they expressed -RRB- none seemed to be more to the taste of Mr. Jarndyce than this. I had often new temptations, afterwards, to wonder whether it was really singular, or only singular to me, that he, who was probably the most grateful of mankind upon the least occasion, should so desire to escape the gratitude of others.
We were all enchanted. I felt it a merited tribute to the engaging qualities of Ada and Richard that Mr. Skimpole, seeing them for the first time, should be so unreserved and should lay himself out to be so exquisitely agreeable. They -LRB- and especially Richard -RRB- were naturally pleased, for similar reasons, and considered it no common privilege to be so freely confided in by such an attractive man. The more we listened, the more gaily Mr. Skimpole talked. And what with his fine hilarious manner and his engaging candour and his genial way of lightly tossing his own weaknesses about, as if he had said, “ I am a child, you know! You are designing people compared with me ” -LRB- he really made me consider myself in that light -RRB- “ but I am gay and innocent; forget your worldly arts and play with me! ” the effect was absolutely dazzling.
He was so full of feeling too and had such a delicate sentiment for what was beautiful or tender that he could have won a heart by that alone. In the evening, when I was preparing to make tea and Ada was touching the piano in the adjoining room and softly humming a tune to her cousin Richard, which they had happened to mention, he came and sat down on the sofa near me and so spoke of Ada that I almost loved him.
“ She is like the morning, ” he said. “ With that golden hair, those blue eyes, and that fresh bloom on her cheek, she is like the summer morning. The birds here will mistake her for it. We will not call such a lovely young creature as that, who is a joy to all mankind, an orphan. She is the child of the universe. ”
Mr. Jarndyce, I found, was standing near us with his hands behind him and an attentive smile upon his face.
“ The universe, ” he observed, “ makes rather an indifferent parent, I am afraid. ”
“ Oh! I don't know! ” cried Mr. Skimpole buoyantly.
“ I think I do know, ” said Mr. Jarndyce.
“ Well! ” cried Mr. Skimpole. “ You know the world -LRB- which in your sense is the universe -RRB-, and I know nothing of it, so you shall have your way. But if I had mine, ” glancing at the cousins, “ there should be no brambles of sordid realities in such a path as that. It should be strewn with roses; it should lie through bowers, where there was no spring, autumn, nor winter, but perpetual summer. Age or change should never wither it. The base word money should never be breathed near it! ”
Mr. Jarndyce patted him on the head with a smile, as if he had been really a child, and passing a step or two on, and stopping a moment, glanced at the young cousins. His look was thoughtful, but had a benignant expression in it which I often -LRB- how often! -RRB- saw again, which has long been engraven on my heart. The room in which they were, communicating with that in which he stood, was only lighted by the fire. Ada sat at the piano; Richard stood beside her, bending down. Upon the wall, their shadows blended together, surrounded by strange forms, not without a ghostly motion caught from the unsteady fire, though reflecting from motionless objects. Ada touched the notes so softly and sang so low that the wind, sighing away to the distant hills, was as audible as the music. The mystery of the future and the little clue afforded to it by the voice of the present seemed expressed in the whole picture.
But it is not to recall this fancy, well as I remember it, that I recall the scene. First, I was not quite unconscious of the contrast in respect of meaning and intention between the silent look directed that way and the flow of words that had preceded it. Secondly, though Mr. Jarndyce 's glance as he withdrew it rested for but a moment on me, I felt as if in that moment he confided to me -- and knew that he confided to me and that I received the confidence -- his hope that Ada and Richard might one day enter on a dearer relationship.
Mr. Skimpole could play on the piano and the violoncello, and he was a composer -- had composed half an opera once, but got tired of it -- and played what he composed with taste. After tea we had quite a little concert, in which Richard -- who was enthralled by Ada 's singing and told me that she seemed to know all the songs that ever were written -- and Mr. Jarndyce, and I were the audience. After a little while I missed first Mr. Skimpole and afterwards Richard, and while I was thinking how could Richard stay away so long and lose so much, the maid who had given me the keys looked in at the door, saying, “ If you please, miss, could you spare a minute? ”
When I was shut out with her in the hall, she said, holding up her hands, “ Oh, if you please, miss, Mr. Carstone says would you come upstairs to Mr. Skimpole 's room. He has been took, miss! ”
“ Took? ” said I.
“ Took, miss. Sudden, ” said the maid.
I was apprehensive that his illness might be of a dangerous kind, but of course I begged her to be quiet and not disturb any one and collected myself, as I followed her quickly upstairs, sufficiently to consider what were the best remedies to be applied if it should prove to be a fit. She threw open a door and I went into a chamber, where, to my unspeakable surprise, instead of finding Mr. Skimpole stretched upon the bed or prostrate on the floor, I found him standing before the fire smiling at Richard, while Richard, with a face of great embarrassment, looked at a person on the sofa, in a white great-coat, with smooth hair upon his head and not much of it, which he was wiping smoother and making less of with a pocket-handkerchief.
“ Miss Summerson, ” said Richard hurriedly, “ I am glad you are come. You will be able to advise us. Our friend Mr. Skimpole -- don't be alarmed! -- is arrested for debt. ”
“ And really, my dear Miss Summerson, ” said Mr. Skimpole with his agreeable candour, “ I never was in a situation in which that excellent sense and quiet habit of method and usefulness, which anybody must observe in you who has the happiness of being a quarter of an hour in your society, was more needed. ”
The person on the sofa, who appeared to have a cold in his head, gave such a very loud snort that he startled me.
“ Are you arrested for much, sir? ” I inquired of Mr. Skimpole.
“ My dear Miss Summerson, ” said he, shaking his head pleasantly, “ I don't know. Some pounds, odd shillings, and halfpence, I think, were mentioned. ”
“ It 's twenty-four pound, sixteen, and sevenpence ha` penny, ” observed the stranger. “ That 's wot it is. ”
“ And it sounds -- somehow it sounds, ” said Mr. Skimpole, “ like a small sum? ”
The strange man said nothing but made another snort. It was such a powerful one that it seemed quite to lift him out of his seat.
“ Mr. Skimpole, ” said Richard to me, “ has a delicacy in applying to my cousin Jarndyce because he has lately -- I think, sir, I understood you that you had lately -- ”
“ Oh, yes! ” returned Mr. Skimpole, smiling. “ Though I forgot how much it was and when it was. Jarndyce would readily do it again, but I have the epicure-like feeling that I would prefer a novelty in help, that I would rather, ” and he looked at Richard and me, “ develop generosity in a new soil and in a new form of flower. ”
“ What do you think will be best, Miss Summerson? ” said Richard, aside.
I ventured to inquire, generally, before replying, what would happen if the money were not produced.
“ Jail, ” said the strange man, coolly putting his handkerchief into his hat, which was on the floor at his feet. “ Or Coavinses. ”
“ May I ask, sir, what is -- ”
“ Coavinses? ” said the strange man. “A` ouse. ”
Richard and I looked at one another again. It was a most singular thing that the arrest was our embarrassment and not Mr. Skimpole 's. He observed us with a genial interest, but there seemed, if I may venture on such a contradiction, nothing selfish in it. He had entirely washed his hands of the difficulty, and it had become ours.
“ I thought, ” he suggested, as if good-naturedly to help us out, “ that being parties in a Chancery suit concerning -LRB- as people say -RRB- a large amount of property, Mr. Richard or his beautiful cousin, or both, could sign something, or make over something, or give some sort of undertaking, or pledge, or bond? I don't know what the business name of it may be, but I suppose there is some instrument within their power that would settle this? ”
“ Not a bit on it, ” said the strange man.
“ Really? ” returned Mr. Skimpole. “ That seems odd, now, to one who is no judge of these things! ”
“ Odd or even, ” said the stranger gruffly, “ I tell you, not a bit on it! ”
“ Keep your temper, my good fellow, keep your temper! ” Mr. Skimpole gently reasoned with him as he made a little drawing of his head on the fly-leaf of a book. “ Don't be ruffled by your occupation. We can separate you from your office; we can separate the individual from the pursuit. We are not so prejudiced as to suppose that in private life you are otherwise than a very estimable man, with a great deal of poetry in your nature, of which you may not be conscious. ”
The stranger only answered with another violent snort, whether in acceptance of the poetry-tribute or in disdainful rejection of it, he did not express to me.
“ Now, my dear Miss Summerson, and my dear Mr. Richard, ” said Mr. Skimpole gaily, innocently, and confidingly as he looked at his drawing with his head on one side, “ here you see me utterly incapable of helping myself, and entirely in your hands! I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free. Mankind will surely not deny to Harold Skimpole what it concedes to the butterflies! ”
“ My dear Miss Summerson, ” said Richard in a whisper, “ I have ten pounds that I received from Mr. Kenge. I must try what that will do. ”
I possessed fifteen pounds, odd shillings, which I had saved from my quarterly allowance during several years. I had always thought that some accident might happen which would throw me suddenly, without any relation or any property, on the world and had always tried to keep some little money by me that I might not be quite penniless. I told Richard of my having this little store and having no present need of it, and I asked him delicately to inform Mr. Skimpole, while I should be gone to fetch it, that we would have the pleasure of paying his debt.
When I came back, Mr. Skimpole kissed my hand and seemed quite touched. Not on his own account -LRB- I was again aware of that perplexing and extraordinary contradiction -RRB-, but on ours, as if personal considerations were impossible with him and the contemplation of our happiness alone affected him. Richard, begging me, for the greater grace of the transaction, as he said, to settle with Coavinses -LRB- as Mr. Skimpole now jocularly called him -RRB-, I counted out the money and received the necessary acknowledgment. This, too, delighted Mr. Skimpole.
His compliments were so delicately administered that I blushed less than I might have done and settled with the stranger in the white coat without making any mistakes. He put the money in his pocket and shortly said, “ Well, then, I 'll wish you a good evening, miss.
“ My friend, ” said Mr. Skimpole, standing with his back to the fire after giving up the sketch when it was half finished, “ I should like to ask you something, without offence. ”
I think the reply was, “ Cut away, then! ”
“ Did you know this morning, now, that you were coming out on this errand? ” said Mr. Skimpole.
“ Know 'd it yes` day aft` noon at tea-time, ” said Coavinses.
“ It didn't affect your appetite? Didn't make you at all uneasy? ”
“ Not a bit, ” said Coavinses. “ I know 'd if you wos missed to-day, you wouldn't be missed to-morrow.A day makes no such odds. ”
“ But when you came down here, ” proceeded Mr. Skimpole, “ it was a fine day. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing, the lights and shadows were passing across the fields, the birds were singing. ”
“ Nobody said they warn't, in MY hearing, ” returned Coavinses.
“ No, ” observed Mr. Skimpole. “ But what did you think upon the road? ”
“ Wot do you mean? ” growled Coavinses with an appearance of strong resentment. “ Think! I 've got enough to do, and little enough to get for it without thinking. Thinking! ” -LRB- with profound contempt -RRB-.
“ Then you didn't think, at all events, ” proceeded Mr. Skimpole, “ to this effect:` Harold Skimpole loves to see the sun shine, loves to hear the wind blow, loves to watch the changing lights and shadows, loves to hear the birds, those choristers in Nature 's great cathedral. And does it seem to me that I am about to deprive Harold Skimpole of his share in such possessions, which are his only birthright!' You thought nothing to that effect? ”
“ I -- certainly -- did -- NOT, ” said Coavinses, whose doggedness in utterly renouncing the idea was of that intense kind that he could only give adequate expression to it by putting a long interval between each word, and accompanying the last with a jerk that might have dislocated his neck.
“ Very odd and very curious, the mental process is, in you men of business! ” said Mr. Skimpole thoughtfully. “ Thank you, my friend. Good night. ”
As our absence had been long enough already to seem strange downstairs, I returned at once and found Ada sitting at work by the fireside talking to her cousin John. Mr. Skimpole presently appeared, and Richard shortly after him. I was sufficiently engaged during the remainder of the evening in taking my first lesson in backgammon from Mr. Jarndyce, who was very fond of the game and from whom I wished of course to learn it as quickly as I could in order that I might be of the very small use of being able to play when he had no better adversary. But I thought, occasionally, when Mr. Skimpole played some fragments of his own compositions or when, both at the piano and the violoncello, and at our table, he preserved with an absence of all effort his delightful spirits and his easy flow of conversation, that Richard and I seemed to retain the transferred impression of having been arrested since dinner and that it was very curious altogether.
It was late before we separated, for when Ada was going at eleven o'clock, Mr. Skimpole went to the piano and rattled hilariously that the best of all ways to lengthen our days was to steal a few hours from night, my dear! It was past twelve before he took his candle and his radiant face out of the room, and I think he might have kept us there, if he had seen fit, until daybreak. Ada and Richard were lingering for a few moments by the fire, wondering whether Mrs. Jellyby had yet finished her dictation for the day, when Mr. Jarndyce, who had been out of the room, returned.
“ Oh, dear me, what 's this, what 's this! ” he said, rubbing his head and walking about with his good-humoured vexation. “ What 's this they tell me? Rick, my boy, Esther, my dear, what have you been doing? Why did you do it? How could you do it? How much apiece was it? The wind 's round again. I feel it all over me! ”
We neither of us quite knew what to answer.
“ Come, Rick, come! I must settle this before I sleep. How much are you out of pocket? You two made the money up, you know! Why did you? How could you? Oh, Lord, yes, it 's due east -- must be! ”
“ Really, sir, ” said Richard, “ I don't think it would be honourable in me to tell you. Mr. Skimpole relied upon us -- ”
“ Lord bless you, my dear boy! He relies upon everybody! ” said Mr. Jarndyce, giving his head a great rub and stopping short.
“ Indeed, sir? ”
“ Everybody! And he 'll be in the same scrape again next week! ” said Mr. Jarndyce, walking again at a great pace, with a candle in his hand that had gone out. “ He 's always in the same scrape. He was born in the same scrape. I verily believe that the announcement in the newspapers when his mother was confined was` On Tuesday last, at her residence in Botheration Buildings, Mrs. Skimpole of a son in difficulties.' ”
Richard laughed heartily but added, “ Still, sir, I don't want to shake his confidence or to break his confidence, and if I submit to your better knowledge again, that I ought to keep his secret, I hope you will consider before you press me any more. Of course, if you do press me, sir, I shall know I am wrong and will tell you. ”
“ Well! ” cried Mr. Jarndyce, stopping again, and making several absent endeavours to put his candlestick in his pocket. “ I -- here! Take it away, my dear. I don't know what I am about with it; it 's all the wind -- invariably has that effect -- I won't press you, Rick; you may be right. But really -- to get hold of you and Esther -- and to squeeze you like a couple of tender young Saint Michael 's oranges! It 'll blow a gale in the course of the night! ”
He was now alternately putting his hands into his pockets as if he were going to keep them there a long time, and taking them out again and vehemently rubbing them all over his head.
I ventured to take this opportunity of hinting that Mr. Skimpole, being in all such matters quite a child --
“ Eh, my dear? ” said Mr. Jarndyce, catching at the word.
“ Being quite a child, sir, ” said I, “ and so different from other people -- ”
“ You are right! ” said Mr. Jarndyce, brightening. “ Your woman 's wit hits the mark. He is a child -- an absolute child. I told you he was a child, you know, when I first mentioned him. ”
Certainly! Certainly! we said.
“ And he IS a child. Now, isn't he? ” asked Mr. Jarndyce, brightening more and more.
He was indeed, we said.
“ When you come to think of it, it 's the height of childishness in you -- I mean me -- ” said Mr. Jarndyce, “ to regard him for a moment as a man. You can't make HIM responsible. The idea of Harold Skimpole with designs or plans, or knowledge of consequences! Ha, ha, ha! ”
It was so delicious to see the clouds about his bright face clearing, and to see him so heartily pleased, and to know, as it was impossible not to know, that the source of his pleasure was the goodness which was tortured by condemning, or mistrusting, or secretly accusing any one, that I saw the tears in Ada 's eyes, while she echoed his laugh, and felt them in my own.
“ Why, what a cod 's head and shoulders I am, ” said Mr. Jarndyce, “ to require reminding of it! The whole business shows the child from beginning to end. Nobody but a child would have thought of singling YOU two out for parties in the affair! Nobody but a child would have thought of YOUR having the money! If it had been a thousand pounds, it would have been just the same! ” said Mr. Jarndyce with his whole face in a glow.
We all confirmed it from our night 's experience.
“ To be sure, to be sure! ” said Mr. Jarndyce. “ However, Rick, Esther, and you too, Ada, for I don't know that even your little purse is safe from his inexperience -- I must have a promise all round that nothing of this sort shall ever be done any more. No advances! Not even sixpences. ”
We all promised faithfully, Richard with a merry glance at me touching his pocket as if to remind me that there was no danger of OUR transgressing.
“ As to Skimpole, ” said Mr. Jarndyce, “ a habitable doll 's house with good board and a few tin people to get into debt with and borrow money of would set the boy up in life. He is in a child 's sleep by this time, I suppose; it 's time I should take my craftier head to my more worldly pillow. Good night, my dears. God bless you! ”
He peeped in again, with a smiling face, before we had lighted our candles, and said, “ Oh! I have been looking at the weather-cock. I find it was a false alarm about the wind. It 's in the south! ” And went away singing to himself.
Ada and I agreed, as we talked together for a little while upstairs, that this caprice about the wind was a fiction and that he used the pretence to account for any disappointment he could not conceal, rather than he would blame the real cause of it or disparage or depreciate any one. We thought this very characteristic of his eccentric gentleness and of the difference between him and those petulant people who make the weather and the winds -LRB- particularly that unlucky wind which he had chosen for such a different purpose -RRB- the stalking-horses of their splenetic and gloomy humours.
Indeed, so much affection for him had been added in this one evening to my gratitude that I hoped I already began to understand him through that mingled feeling. Any seeming inconsistencies in Mr. Skimpole or in Mrs. Jellyby I could not expect to be able to reconcile, having so little experience or practical knowledge. Neither did I try, for my thoughts were busy when I was alone, with Ada and Richard and with the confidence I had seemed to receive concerning them. My fancy, made a little wild by the wind perhaps, would not consent to be all unselfish, either, though I would have persuaded it to be so if I could. It wandered back to my godmother 's house and came along the intervening track, raising up shadowy speculations which had sometimes trembled there in the dark as to what knowledge Mr. Jarndyce had of my earliest history -- even as to the possibility of his being my father, though that idle dream was quite gone now.
It was all gone now, I remembered, getting up from the fire. It was not for me to muse over bygones, but to act with a cheerful spirit and a grateful heart. So I said to myself, “ Esther, Esther, Esther! Duty, my dear! ” and gave my little basket of housekeeping keys such a shake that they sounded like little bells and rang me hopefully to bed.
While Esther sleeps, and while Esther wakes, it is still wet weather down at the place in Lincolnshire. The rain is ever falling -- drip, drip, drip -- by day and night upon the broad flagged terrace-pavement, the Ghost 's Walk. The weather is so very bad down in Lincolnshire that the liveliest imagination can scarcely apprehend its ever being fine again. Not that there is any superabundant life of imagination on the spot, for Sir Leicester is not here -LRB- and, truly, even if he were, would not do much for it in that particular -RRB-, but is in Paris with my Lady; and solitude, with dusky wings, sits brooding upon Chesney Wold.
There may be some motions of fancy among the lower animals at Chesney Wold. The horses in the stables -- the long stables in a barren, red-brick court-yard, where there is a great bell in a turret, and a clock with a large face, which the pigeons who live near it and who love to perch upon its shoulders seem to be always consulting -- THEY may contemplate some mental pictures of fine weather on occasions, and may be better artists at them than the grooms. The old roan, so famous for cross-country work, turning his large eyeball to the grated window near his rack, may remember the fresh leaves that glisten there at other times and the scents that stream in, and may have a fine run with the hounds, while the human helper, clearing out the next stall, never stirs beyond his pitchfork and birch-broom. The grey, whose place is opposite the door and who with an impatient rattle of his halter pricks his ears and turns his head so wistfully when it is opened, and to whom the opener says, “ Woa grey, then, steady! Noabody wants you to-day! ” may know it quite as well as the man. The whole seemingly monotonous and uncompanionable half-dozen, stabled together, may pass the long wet hours when the door is shut in livelier communication than is held in the servants' hall or at the Dedlock Arms, or may even beguile the time by improving -LRB- perhaps corrupting -RRB- the pony in the loose-box in the corner.
So the mastiff, dozing in his kennel in the court-yard with his large head on his paws, may think of the hot sunshine when the shadows of the stable-buildings tire his patience out by changing and leave him at one time of the day no broader refuge than the shadow of his own house, where he sits on end, panting and growling short, and very much wanting something to worry besides himself and his chain. So now, half-waking and all-winking, he may recall the house full of company, the coach-houses full of vehicles, the stables full of horses, and the out-buildings full of attendants upon horses, until he is undecided about the present and comes forth to see how it is. Then, with that impatient shake of himself, he may growl in the spirit, “ Rain, rain, rain! Nothing but rain -- and no family here! ” as he goes in again and lies down with a gloomy yawn.
So with the dogs in the kennel-buildings across the park, who have their restless fits and whose doleful voices when the wind has been very obstinate have even made it known in the house itself -- upstairs, downstairs, and in my Lady 's chamber. They may hunt the whole country-side, while the raindrops are pattering round their inactivity. So the rabbits with their self-betraying tails, frisking in and out of holes at roots of trees, may be lively with ideas of the breezy days when their ears are blown about or of those seasons of interest when there are sweet young plants to gnaw. The turkey in the poultry-yard, always troubled with a class-grievance -LRB- probably Christmas -RRB-, may be reminiscent of that summer morning wrongfully taken from him when he got into the lane among the felled trees, where there was a barn and barley. The discontented goose, who stoops to pass under the old gateway, twenty feet high, may gabble out, if we only knew it, a waddling preference for weather when the gateway casts its shadow on the ground.
Be this as it may, there is not much fancy otherwise stirring at Chesney Wold. If there be a little at any odd moment, it goes, like a little noise in that old echoing place, a long way and usually leads off to ghosts and mystery.
It has rained so hard and rained so long down in Lincolnshire that Mrs. Rouncewell, the old housekeeper at Chesney Wold, has several times taken off her spectacles and cleaned them to make certain that the drops were not upon the glasses. Mrs. Rouncewell might have been sufficiently assured by hearing the rain, but that she is rather deaf, which nothing will induce her to believe. She is a fine old lady, handsome, stately, wonderfully neat, and has such a back and such a stomacher that if her stays should turn out when she dies to have been a broad old-fashioned family fire-grate, nobody who knows her would have cause to be surprised. Weather affects Mrs. Rouncewell little. The house is there in all weathers, and the house, as she expresses it, “ is what she looks at. ” She sits in her room -LRB- in a side passage on the ground floor, with an arched window commanding a smooth quadrangle, adorned at regular intervals with smooth round trees and smooth round blocks of stone, as if the trees were going to play at bowls with the stones -RRB-, and the whole house reposes on her mind. She can open it on occasion and be busy and fluttered, but it is shut up now and lies on the breadth of Mrs. Rouncewell 's iron-bound bosom in a majestic sleep.
It is the next difficult thing to an impossibility to imagine Chesney Wold without Mrs. Rouncewell, but she has only been here fifty years. Ask her how long, this rainy day, and she shall answer “ fifty year, three months, and a fortnight, by the blessing of heaven, if I live till Tuesday. ” Mr. Rouncewell died some time before the decease of the pretty fashion of pig-tails, and modestly hid his own -LRB- if he took it with him -RRB- in a corner of the churchyard in the park near the mouldy porch. He was born in the market-town, and so was his young widow. Her progress in the family began in the time of the last Sir Leicester and originated in the still-room.
The present representative of the Dedlocks is an excellent master. He supposes all his dependents to be utterly bereft of individual characters, intentions, or opinions, and is persuaded that he was born to supersede the necessity of their having any. If he were to make a discovery to the contrary, he would be simply stunned -- would never recover himself, most likely, except to gasp and die. But he is an excellent master still, holding it a part of his state to be so. He has a great liking for Mrs. Rouncewell; he says she is a most respectable, creditable woman. He always shakes hands with her when he comes down to Chesney Wold and when he goes away; and if he were very ill, or if he were knocked down by accident, or run over, or placed in any situation expressive of a Dedlock at a disadvantage, he would say if he could speak, “ Leave me, and send Mrs. Rouncewell here! ” feeling his dignity, at such a pass, safer with her than with anybody else.
Mrs. Rouncewell has known trouble. She has had two sons, of whom the younger ran wild, and went for a soldier, and never came back. Even to this hour, Mrs. Rouncewell 's calm hands lose their composure when she speaks of him, and unfolding themselves from her stomacher, hover about her in an agitated manner as she says what a likely lad, what a fine lad, what a gay, good-humoured, clever lad he was! Her second son would have been provided for at Chesney Wold and would have been made steward in due season, but he took, when he was a schoolboy, to constructing steam-engines out of saucepans and setting birds to draw their own water with the least possible amount of labour, so assisting them with artful contrivance of hydraulic pressure that a thirsty canary had only, in a literal sense, to put his shoulder to the wheel and the job was done. This propensity gave Mrs. Rouncewell great uneasiness. She felt it with a mother 's anguish to be a move in the Wat Tyler direction, well knowing that Sir Leicester had that general impression of an aptitude for any art to which smoke and a tall chimney might be considered essential. But the doomed young rebel -LRB- otherwise a mild youth, and very persevering -RRB-, showing no sign of grace as he got older but, on the contrary, constructing a model of a power-loom, she was fain, with many tears, to mention his backslidings to the baronet. “ Mrs. Rouncewell, ” said Sir Leicester, “ I can never consent to argue, as you know, with any one on any subject. You had better get rid of your boy; you had better get him into some Works. The iron country farther north is, I suppose, the congenial direction for a boy with these tendencies. ” Farther north he went, and farther north he grew up; and if Sir Leicester Dedlock ever saw him when he came to Chesney Wold to visit his mother, or ever thought of him afterwards, it is certain that he only regarded him as one of a body of some odd thousand conspirators, swarthy and grim, who were in the habit of turning out by torchlight two or three nights in the week for unlawful purposes.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Rouncewell 's son has, in the course of nature and art, grown up, and established himself, and married, and called unto him Mrs. Rouncewell 's grandson, who, being out of his apprenticeship, and home from a journey in far countries, whither he was sent to enlarge his knowledge and complete his preparations for the venture of this life, stands leaning against the chimney-piece this very day in Mrs. Rouncewell 's room at Chesney Wold.
“ And, again and again, I am glad to see you, Watt! And, once again, I am glad to see you, Watt! ” says Mrs. Rouncewell. “ You are a fine young fellow. You are like your poor uncle George. Ah! ” Mrs. Rouncewell 's hands unquiet, as usual, on this reference.
“ They say I am like my father, grandmother. ”
“ Like him, also, my dear -- but most like your poor uncle George! And your dear father. ” Mrs. Rouncewell folds her hands again. “ He is well? ”
“ Thriving, grandmother, in every way. ”
“ I am thankful! ” Mrs. Rouncewell is fond of her son but has a plaintive feeling towards him, much as if he were a very honourable soldier who had gone over to the enemy.
“ He is quite happy? ” says she.
“ Quite. ”
“ I am thankful! So he has brought you up to follow in his ways and has sent you into foreign countries and the like? Well, he knows best. There may be a world beyond Chesney Wold that I don't understand. Though I am not young, either. And I have seen a quantity of good company too! ”
“ Grandmother, ” says the young man, changing the subject, “ what a very pretty girl that was I found with you just now. You called her Rosa? ”
“ Yes, child. She is daughter of a widow in the village. Maids are so hard to teach, now-a-days, that I have put her about me young. She 's an apt scholar and will do well. She shows the house already, very pretty. She lives with me at my table here. ”
“ I hope I have not driven her away? ”
“ She supposes we have family affairs to speak about, I dare say. She is very modest. It is a fine quality in a young woman. And scarcer, ” says Mrs. Rouncewell, expanding her stomacher to its utmost limits, “ than it formerly was! ”
The young man inclines his head in acknowledgment of the precepts of experience. Mrs. Rouncewell listens.
“ Wheels! ” says she. They have long been audible to the younger ears of her companion. “ What wheels on such a day as this, for gracious sake? ”
After a short interval, a tap at the door. “ Come in! ”A dark-eyed, dark-haired, shy, village beauty comes in -- so fresh in her rosy and yet delicate bloom that the drops of rain which have beaten on her hair look like the dew upon a flower fresh gathered.
“ What company is this, Rosa? ” says Mrs. Rouncewell.
“ It 's two young men in a gig, ma'am, who want to see the house -- yes, and if you please, I told them so! ” in quick reply to a gesture of dissent from the housekeeper. “ I went to the hall-door and told them it was the wrong day and the wrong hour, but the young man who was driving took off his hat in the wet and begged me to bring this card to you. ”
“ Read it, my dear Watt, ” says the housekeeper.
Rosa is so shy as she gives it to him that they drop it between them and almost knock their foreheads together as they pick it up. Rosa is shyer than before.
“ Mr. Guppy ” is all the information the card yields.
“ Guppy! ” repeats Mrs. Rouncewell, “ MR. Guppy! Nonsense, I never heard of him! ”
“ If you please, he told ME that! ” says Rosa. “ But he said that he and the other young gentleman came from London only last night by the mail, on business at the magistrates' meeting, ten miles off, this morning, and that as their business was soon over, and they had heard a great deal said of Chesney Wold, and really didn't know what to do with themselves, they had come through the wet to see it. They are lawyers. He says he is not in Mr. Tulkinghorn 's office, but he is sure he may make use of Mr. Tulkinghorn 's name if necessary. ” Finding, now she leaves off, that she has been making quite a long speech, Rosa is shyer than ever.
Now, Mr. Tulkinghorn is, in a manner, part and parcel of the place, and besides, is supposed to have made Mrs. Rouncewell 's will. The old lady relaxes, consents to the admission of the visitors as a favour, and dismisses Rosa. The grandson, however, being smitten by a sudden wish to see the house himself, proposes to join the party. The grandmother, who is pleased that he should have that interest, accompanies him -- though to do him justice, he is exceedingly unwilling to trouble her.
“ Much obliged to you, ma'am! ” says Mr. Guppy, divesting himself of his wet dreadnought in the hall. “ Us London lawyers don't often get an out, and when we do, we like to make the most of it, you know. ”
The old housekeeper, with a gracious severity of deportment, waves her hand towards the great staircase. Mr. Guppy and his friend follow Rosa; Mrs. Rouncewell and her grandson follow them; a young gardener goes before to open the shutters.
As is usually the case with people who go over houses, Mr. Guppy and his friend are dead beat before they have well begun. They straggle about in wrong places, look at wrong things, don't care for the right things, gape when more rooms are opened, exhibit profound depression of spirits, and are clearly knocked up. In each successive chamber that they enter, Mrs. Rouncewell, who is as upright as the house itself, rests apart in a window-seat or other such nook and listens with stately approval to Rosa 's exposition. Her grandson is so attentive to it that Rosa is shyer than ever -- and prettier. Thus they pass on from room to room, raising the pictured Dedlocks for a few brief minutes as the young gardener admits the light, and reconsigning them to their graves as he shuts it out again. It appears to the afflicted Mr. Guppy and his inconsolable friend that there is no end to the Dedlocks, whose family greatness seems to consist in their never having done anything to distinguish themselves for seven hundred years.
Even the long drawing-room of Chesney Wold can not revive Mr. Guppy 's spirits. He is so low that he droops on the threshold and has hardly strength of mind to enter. But a portrait over the chimney-piece, painted by the fashionable artist of the day, acts upon him like a charm. He recovers in a moment. He stares at it with uncommon interest; he seems to be fixed and fascinated by it.
“ Dear me! ” says Mr. Guppy. “ Who 's that? ”
“ The picture over the fire-place, ” says Rosa, “ is the portrait of the present Lady Dedlock. It is considered a perfect likeness, and the best work of the master. ”
“ Blest, ” says Mr. Guppy, staring in a kind of dismay at his friend, “ if I can ever have seen her. Yet I know her! Has the picture been engraved, miss? ”
“ The picture has never been engraved. Sir Leicester has always refused permission. ”
“ Well! ” says Mr. Guppy in a low voice. “ I 'll be shot if it ain't very curious how well I know that picture! So that 's Lady Dedlock, is it! ”
“ The picture on the right is the present Sir Leicester Dedlock. The picture on the left is his father, the late Sir Leicester. ”
Mr. Guppy has no eyes for either of these magnates. “ It 's unaccountable to me, ” he says, still staring at the portrait, “ how well I know that picture! I 'm dashed, ” adds Mr. Guppy, looking round, “ if I don't think I must have had a dream of that picture, you know! ”
As no one present takes any especial interest in Mr. Guppy 's dreams, the probability is not pursued. But he still remains so absorbed by the portrait that he stands immovable before it until the young gardener has closed the shutters, when he comes out of the room in a dazed state that is an odd though a sufficient substitute for interest and follows into the succeeding rooms with a confused stare, as if he were looking everywhere for Lady Dedlock again.
He sees no more of her. He sees her rooms, which are the last shown, as being very elegant, and he looks out of the windows from which she looked out, not long ago, upon the weather that bored her to death. All things have an end, even houses that people take infinite pains to see and are tired of before they begin to see them. He has come to the end of the sight, and the fresh village beauty to the end of her description; which is always this: “ The terrace below is much admired. It is called, from an old story in the family, the Ghost 's Walk. ”
“ No? ” says Mr. Guppy, greedily curious. “ What 's the story, miss? Is it anything about a picture? ”
“ Pray tell us the story, ” says Watt in a half whisper.
“ I don't know it, sir. ” Rosa is shyer than ever.
“ It is not related to visitors; it is almost forgotten, ” says the housekeeper, advancing. “ It has never been more than a family anecdote. ”
“ You 'll excuse my asking again if it has anything to do with a picture, ma'am, ” observes Mr. Guppy, “ because I do assure you that the more I think of that picture the better I know it, without knowing how I know it! ”
The story has nothing to do with a picture; the housekeeper can guarantee that. Mr. Guppy is obliged to her for the information and is, moreover, generally obliged. He retires with his friend, guided down another staircase by the young gardener, and presently is heard to drive away. It is now dusk. Mrs. Rouncewell can trust to the discretion of her two young hearers and may tell THEM how the terrace came to have that ghostly name.
She seats herself in a large chair by the fast-darkening window and tells them: “ In the wicked days, my dears, of King Charles the First -- I mean, of course, in the wicked days of the rebels who leagued themselves against that excellent king -- Sir Morbury Dedlock was the owner of Chesney Wold. Whether there was any account of a ghost in the family before those days, I can't say. I should think it very likely indeed. ”
Mrs. Rouncewell holds this opinion because she considers that a family of such antiquity and importance has a right to a ghost. She regards a ghost as one of the privileges of the upper classes, a genteel distinction to which the common people have no claim.
“ Sir Morbury Dedlock, ” says Mrs. Rouncewell, “ was, I have no occasion to say, on the side of the blessed martyr. But it IS supposed that his Lady, who had none of the family blood in her veins, favoured the bad cause. It is said that she had relations among King Charles 's enemies, that she was in correspondence with them, and that she gave them information. When any of the country gentlemen who followed his Majesty 's cause met here, it is said that my Lady was always nearer to the door of their council-room than they supposed. Do you hear a sound like a footstep passing along the terrace, Watt? ”
Rosa draws nearer to the housekeeper.
“ I hear the rain-drip on the stones, ” replies the young man, “ and I hear a curious echo -- I suppose an echo -- which is very like a halting step. ”
The housekeeper gravely nods and continues: “ Partly on account of this division between them, and partly on other accounts, Sir Morbury and his Lady led a troubled life. She was a lady of a haughty temper. They were not well suited to each other in age or character, and they had no children to moderate between them. After her favourite brother, a young gentleman, was killed in the civil wars -LRB- by Sir Morbury 's near kinsman -RRB-, her feeling was so violent that she hated the race into which she had married. When the Dedlocks were about to ride out from Chesney Wold in the king 's cause, she is supposed to have more than once stolen down into the stables in the dead of night and lamed their horses; and the story is that once at such an hour, her husband saw her gliding down the stairs and followed her into the stall where his own favourite horse stood. There he seized her by the wrist, and in a struggle or in a fall or through the horse being frightened and lashing out, she was lamed in the hip and from that hour began to pine away. ”
The housekeeper has dropped her voice to a little more than a whisper.
“ She had been a lady of a handsome figure and a noble carriage. She never complained of the change; she never spoke to any one of being crippled or of being in pain, but day by day she tried to walk upon the terrace, and with the help of the stone balustrade, went up and down, up and down, up and down, in sun and shadow, with greater difficulty every day. At last, one afternoon her husband -LRB- to whom she had never, on any persuasion, opened her lips since that night -RRB-, standing at the great south window, saw her drop upon the pavement. He hastened down to raise her, but she repulsed him as he bent over her, and looking at him fixedly and coldly, said,' I will die here where I have walked. And I will walk here, though I am in my grave. I will walk here until the pride of this house is humbled. And when calamity or when disgrace is coming to it, let the Dedlocks listen for my step!' ”
Watt looks at Rosa. Rosa in the deepening gloom looks down upon the ground, half frightened and half shy.
“ There and then she died. And from those days, ” says Mrs. Rouncewell, “ the name has come down -- the Ghost 's Walk. If the tread is an echo, it is an echo that is only heard after dark, and is often unheard for a long while together. But it comes back from time to time; and so sure as there is sickness or death in the family, it will be heard then. ”
“ And disgrace, grandmother -- ” says Watt.
“ Disgrace never comes to Chesney Wold, ” returns the housekeeper.
Her grandson apologizes with “ True. True. ”
“ That is the story. Whatever the sound is, it is a worrying sound, ” says Mrs. Rouncewell, getting up from her chair; “ and what is to be noticed in it is that it MUST BE HEARD. My Lady, who is afraid of nothing, admits that when it is there, it must be heard. You can not shut it out. Watt, there is a tall French clock behind you -LRB- placed there,' a purpose -RRB- that has a loud beat when it is in motion and can play music. You understand how those things are managed? ”
“ Pretty well, grandmother, I think. ”
“ Set it a-going. ”
Watt sets it a-going -- music and all.
“ Now, come hither, ” says the housekeeper. “ Hither, child, towards my Lady 's pillow. I am not sure that it is dark enough yet, but listen! Can you hear the sound upon the terrace, through the music, and the beat, and everything? ”
“ I certainly can! ”
“ So my Lady says. ”
It was interesting when I dressed before daylight to peep out of window, where my candles were reflected in the black panes like two beacons, and finding all beyond still enshrouded in the indistinctness of last night, to watch how it turned out when the day came on. As the prospect gradually revealed itself and disclosed the scene over which the wind had wandered in the dark, like my memory over my life, I had a pleasure in discovering the unknown objects that had been around me in my sleep. At first they were faintly discernible in the mist, and above them the later stars still glimmered. That pale interval over, the picture began to enlarge and fill up so fast that at every new peep I could have found enough to look at for an hour. Imperceptibly my candles became the only incongruous part of the morning, the dark places in my room all melted away, and the day shone bright upon a cheerful landscape, prominent in which the old Abbey Church, with its massive tower, threw a softer train of shadow on the view than seemed compatible with its rugged character. But so from rough outsides -LRB- I hope I have learnt -RRB-, serene and gentle influences often proceed.
Every part of the house was in such order, and every one was so attentive to me, that I had no trouble with my two bunches of keys, though what with trying to remember the contents of each little store-room drawer and cupboard; and what with making notes on a slate about jams, and pickles, and preserves, and bottles, and glass, and china, and a great many other things; and what with being generally a methodical, old-maidish sort of foolish little person, I was so busy that I could not believe it was breakfast-time when I heard the bell ring. Away I ran, however, and made tea, as I had already been installed into the responsibility of the tea-pot; and then, as they were all rather late and nobody was down yet, I thought I would take a peep at the garden and get some knowledge of that too. I found it quite a delightful place -- in front, the pretty avenue and drive by which we had approached -LRB- and where, by the by, we had cut up the gravel so terribly with our wheels that I asked the gardener to roll it -RRB-; at the back, the flower-garden, with my darling at her window up there, throwing it open to smile out at me, as if she would have kissed me from that distance. Beyond the flower-garden was a kitchen-garden, and then a paddock, and then a snug little rick-yard, and then a dear little farm-yard. As to the house itself, with its three peaks in the roof; its various-shaped windows, some so large, some so small, and all so pretty; its trellis-work, against the south-front for roses and honey-suckle, and its homely, comfortable, welcoming look -- it was, as Ada said when she came out to meet me with her arm through that of its master, worthy of her cousin John, a bold thing to say, though he only pinched her dear cheek for it.
Mr. Skimpole was as agreeable at breakfast as he had been overnight. There was honey on the table, and it led him into a discourse about bees. He had no objection to honey, he said -LRB- and I should think he had not, for he seemed to like it -RRB-, but he protested against the overweening assumptions of bees. He didn't at all see why the busy bee should be proposed as a model to him; he supposed the bee liked to make honey, or he wouldn't do it -- nobody asked him. It was not necessary for the bee to make such a merit of his tastes. If every confectioner went buzzing about the world banging against everything that came in his way and egotistically calling upon everybody to take notice that he was going to his work and must not be interrupted, the world would be quite an unsupportable place. Then, after all, it was a ridiculous position to be smoked out of your fortune with brimstone as soon as you had made it. You would have a very mean opinion of a Manchester man if he spun cotton for no other purpose. He must say he thought a drone the embodiment of a pleasanter and wiser idea. The drone said unaffectedly, “ You will excuse me; I really can not attend to the shop! I find myself in a world in which there is so much to see and so short a time to see it in that I must take the liberty of looking about me and begging to be provided for by somebody who doesn't want to look about him. ” This appeared to Mr. Skimpole to be the drone philosophy, and he thought it a very good philosophy, always supposing the drone to be willing to be on good terms with the bee, which, so far as he knew, the easy fellow always was, if the consequential creature would only let him, and not be so conceited about his honey!
He pursued this fancy with the lightest foot over a variety of ground and made us all merry, though again he seemed to have as serious a meaning in what he said as he was capable of having. I left them still listening to him when I withdrew to attend to my new duties. They had occupied me for some time, and I was passing through the passages on my return with my basket of keys on my arm when Mr. Jarndyce called me into a small room next his bed-chamber, which I found to be in part a little library of books and papers and in part quite a little museum of his boots and shoes and hat-boxes.
“ Sit down, my dear, ” said Mr. Jarndyce. “ This, you must know, is the growlery. When I am out of humour, I come and growl here. ”
“ You must be here very seldom, sir, ” said I.
“ Oh, you don't know me! ” he returned. “ When I am deceived or disappointed in -- the wind, and it 's easterly, I take refuge here. The growlery is the best-used room in the house. You are not aware of half my humours yet. My dear, how you are trembling! ”
I could not help it; I tried very hard, but being alone with that benevolent presence, and meeting his kind eyes, and feeling so happy and so honoured there, and my heart so full -- I kissed his hand. I don't know what I said, or even that I spoke. He was disconcerted and walked to the window; I almost believed with an intention of jumping out, until he turned and I was reassured by seeing in his eyes what he had gone there to hide. He gently patted me on the head, and I sat down.
“ There! There! ” he said. “ That 's over. Pooh! Don't be foolish. ”
“ It shall not happen again, sir, ” I returned, “ but at first it is difficult -- ”
“ Nonsense! ” he said. “ It 's easy, easy. Why not? I hear of a good little orphan girl without a protector, and I take it into my head to be that protector. She grows up, and more than justifies my good opinion, and I remain her guardian and her friend. What is there in all this? So, so! Now, we have cleared off old scores, and I have before me thy pleasant, trusting, trusty face again. ”
I said to myself, “ Esther, my dear, you surprise me! This really is not what I expected of you! ” And it had such a good effect that I folded my hands upon my basket and quite recovered myself. Mr. Jarndyce, expressing his approval in his face, began to talk to me as confidentially as if I had been in the habit of conversing with him every morning for I don't know how long. I almost felt as if I had.
“ Of course, Esther, ” he said, “ you don't understand this Chancery business? ”
And of course I shook my head.
“ I don't know who does, ” he returned. “ The lawyers have twisted it into such a state of bedevilment that the original merits of the case have long disappeared from the face of the earth. It 's about a will and the trusts under a will -- or it was once. It 's about nothing but costs now. We are always appearing, and disappearing, and swearing, and interrogating, and filing, and cross-filing, and arguing, and sealing, and motioning, and referring, and reporting, and revolving about the Lord Chancellor and all his satellites, and equitably waltzing ourselves off to dusty death, about costs. That 's the great question. All the rest, by some extraordinary means, has melted away. ”
“ But it was, sir, ” said I, to bring him back, for he began to rub his head, “ about a will? ”
“ Why, yes, it was about a will when it was about anything, ” he returned. “A certain Jarndyce, in an evil hour, made a great fortune, and made a great will. In the question how the trusts under that will are to be administered, the fortune left by the will is squandered away; the legatees under the will are reduced to such a miserable condition that they would be sufficiently punished if they had committed an enormous crime in having money left them, and the will itself is made a dead letter. All through the deplorable cause, everything that everybody in it, except one man, knows already is referred to that only one man who don't know, it to find out -- all through the deplorable cause, everybody must have copies, over and over again, of everything that has accumulated about it in the way of cartloads of papers -LRB- or must pay for them without having them, which is the usual course, for nobody wants them -RRB- and must go down the middle and up again through such an infernal country-dance of costs and fees and nonsense and corruption as was never dreamed of in the wildest visions of a witch 's Sabbath. Equity sends questions to law, law sends questions back to equity; law finds it can't do this, equity finds it can't do that; neither can so much as say it can't do anything, without this solicitor instructing and this counsel appearing forA, and that solicitor instructing and that counsel appearing forB; and so on through the whole alphabet, like the history of the apple pie. And thus, through years and years, and lives and lives, everything goes on, constantly beginning over and over again, and nothing ever ends. And we can't get out of the suit on any terms, for we are made parties to it, and MUST BE parties to it, whether we like it or not. But it won't do to think of it! When my great uncle, poor Tom Jarndyce, began to think of it, it was the beginning of the end! ”
“ The Mr. Jarndyce, sir, whose story I have heard? ”
He nodded gravely. “ I was his heir, and this was his house, Esther. When I came here, it was bleak indeed. He had left the signs of his misery upon it. ”
“ How changed it must be now! ” I said.
“ It had been called, before his time, the Peaks. He gave it its present name and lived here shut up, day and night poring over the wicked heaps of papers in the suit and hoping against hope to disentangle it from its mystification and bring it to a close. In the meantime, the place became dilapidated, the wind whistled through the cracked walls, the rain fell through the broken roof, the weeds choked the passage to the rotting door. When I brought what remained of him home here, the brains seemed to me to have been blown out of the house too, it was so shattered and ruined. ”
He walked a little to and fro after saying this to himself with a shudder, and then looked at me, and brightened, and came and sat down again with his hands in his pockets.
“ I told you this was the growlery, my dear. Where was I? ”
I reminded him, at the hopeful change he had made in Bleak House.
“ Bleak House; true. There is, in that city of London there, some property of ours which is much at this day what Bleak House was then; I say property of ours, meaning of the suit 's, but I ought to call it the property of costs, for costs is the only power on earth that will ever get anything out of it now or will ever know it for anything but an eyesore and a heartsore. It is a street of perishing blind houses, with their eyes stoned out, without a pane of glass, without so much as a window-frame, with the bare blank shutters tumbling from their hinges and falling asunder, the iron rails peeling away in flakes of rust, the chimneys sinking in, the stone steps to every door -LRB- and every door might be death 's door -RRB- turning stagnant green, the very crutches on which the ruins are propped decaying. Although Bleak House was not in Chancery, its master was, and it was stamped with the same seal. These are the Great Seal 's impressions, my dear, all over England -- the children know them! ”
“ How changed it is! ” I said again.
“ Why, so it is, ” he answered much more cheerfully; “ and it is wisdom in you to keep me to the bright side of the picture. ” -LRB- The idea of my wisdom! -RRB- “ These are things I never talk about or even think about, excepting in the growlery here. If you consider it right to mention them to Rick and Ada, ” looking seriously at me, “ you can. I leave it to your discretion, Esther. ”
“ I hope, sir -- ” said I.
“ I think you had better call me guardian, my dear. ”
I felt that I was choking again -- I taxed myself with it, “ Esther, now, you know you are! ” -- when he feigned to say this slightly, as if it were a whim instead of a thoughtful tenderness. But I gave the housekeeping keys the least shake in the world as a reminder to myself, and folding my hands in a still more determined manner on the basket, looked at him quietly.
“ I hope, guardian, ” said I, “ that you may not trust too much to my discretion. I hope you may not mistake me. I am afraid it will be a disappointment to you to know that I am not clever, but it really is the truth, and you would soon find it out if I had not the honesty to confess it. ”
He did not seem at all disappointed; quite the contrary. He told me, with a smile all over his face, that he knew me very well indeed and that I was quite clever enough for him.
“ I hope I may turn out so, ” said I, “ but I am much afraid of it, guardian. ”
“ You are clever enough to be the good little woman of our lives here, my dear, ” he returned playfully; “ the little old woman of the child 's -LRB- I don't mean Skimpole 's -RRB- rhyme:
”` Little old woman, and whither so high?'` To sweep the cobwebs out of the sky.'
“ You will sweep them so neatly out of OUR sky in the course of your housekeeping, Esther, that one of these days we shall have to abandon the growlery and nail up the door. ”
This was the beginning of my being called Old Woman, and Little Old Woman, and Cobweb, and Mrs. Shipton, and Mother Hubbard, and Dame Durden, and so many names of that sort that my own name soon became quite lost among them.
“ However, ” said Mr. Jarndyce, “ to return to our gossip. Here 's Rick, a fine young fellow full of promise. What 's to be done with him? ”
Oh, my goodness, the idea of asking my advice on such a point!
“ Here he is, Esther, ” said Mr. Jarndyce, comfortably putting his hands into his pockets and stretching out his legs. “ He must have a profession; he must make some choice for himself. There will be a world more wiglomeration about it, I suppose, but it must be done. ”
“ More what, guardian? ” said I.
“ More wiglomeration, ” said he. “ It 's the only name I know for the thing. He is a ward in Chancery, my dear. Kenge and Carboy will have something to say about it; Master Somebody -- a sort of ridiculous sexton, digging graves for the merits of causes in a back room at the end of Quality Court, Chancery Lane -- will have something to say about it; counsel will have something to say about it; the Chancellor will have something to say about it; the satellites will have something to say about it; they will all have to be handsomely feed, all round, about it; the whole thing will be vastly ceremonious, wordy, unsatisfactory, and expensive, and I call it, in general, wiglomeration. How mankind ever came to be afflicted with wiglomeration, or for whose sins these young people ever fell into a pit of it, I don't know; so it is. ”
He began to rub his head again and to hint that he felt the wind. But it was a delightful instance of his kindness towards me that whether he rubbed his head, or walked about, or did both, his face was sure to recover its benignant expression as it looked at mine; and he was sure to turn comfortable again and put his hands in his pockets and stretch out his legs.
“ Perhaps it would be best, first of all, ” said I, “ to ask Mr. Richard what he inclines to himself. ”
“ Exactly so, ” he returned. “ That 's what I mean! You know, just accustom yourself to talk it over, with your tact and in your quiet way, with him and Ada, and see what you all make of it. We are sure to come at the heart of the matter by your means, little woman. ”
I really was frightened at the thought of the importance I was attaining and the number of things that were being confided to me. I had not meant this at all; I had meant that he should speak to Richard. But of course I said nothing in reply except that I would do my best, though I feared -LRB- I really felt it necessary to repeat this -RRB- that he thought me much more sagacious than I was. At which my guardian only laughed the pleasantest laugh I ever heard.
“ Come! ” he said, rising and pushing back his chair. “ I think we may have done with the growlery for one day! Only a concluding word. Esther, my dear, do you wish to ask me anything? ”
He looked so attentively at me that I looked attentively at him and felt sure I understood him.
“ About myself, sir? ” said I.
“ Yes. ”
“ Guardian, ” said I, venturing to put my hand, which was suddenly colder than I could have wished, in his, “ nothing! I am quite sure that if there were anything I ought to know or had any need to know, I should not have to ask you to tell it to me. If my whole reliance and confidence were not placed in you, I must have a hard heart indeed. I have nothing to ask you, nothing in the world. ”
He drew my hand through his arm and we went away to look for Ada. From that hour I felt quite easy with him, quite unreserved, quite content to know no more, quite happy.
We lived, at first, rather a busy life at Bleak House, for we had to become acquainted with many residents in and out of the neighbourhood who knew Mr. Jarndyce. It seemed to Ada and me that everybody knew him who wanted to do anything with anybody else 's money. It amazed us when we began to sort his letters and to answer some of them for him in the growlery of a morning to find how the great object of the lives of nearly all his correspondents appeared to be to form themselves into committees for getting in and laying out money. The ladies were as desperate as the gentlemen; indeed, I think they were even more so. They threw themselves into committees in the most impassioned manner and collected subscriptions with a vehemence quite extraordinary. It appeared to us that some of them must pass their whole lives in dealing out subscription-cards to the whole post-office directory -- shilling cards, half-crown cards, half-sovereign cards, penny cards. They wanted everything. They wanted wearing apparel, they wanted linen rags, they wanted money, they wanted coals, they wanted soup, they wanted interest, they wanted autographs, they wanted flannel, they wanted whatever Mr. Jarndyce had -- or had not. Their objects were as various as their demands. They were going to raise new buildings, they were going to pay off debts on old buildings, they were going to establish in a picturesque building -LRB- engraving of proposed west elevation attached -RRB- the Sisterhood of Mediaeval Marys, they were going to give a testimonial to Mrs. Jellyby, they were going to have their secretary 's portrait painted and presented to his mother-in-law, whose deep devotion to him was well known, they were going to get up everything, I really believe, from five hundred thousand tracts to an annuity and from a marble monument to a silver tea-pot. They took a multitude of titles. They were the Women of England, the Daughters of Britain, the Sisters of all the cardinal virtues separately, the Females of America, the Ladies of a hundred denominations. They appeared to be always excited about canvassing and electing. They seemed to our poor wits, and according to their own accounts, to be constantly polling people by tens of thousands, yet never bringing their candidates in for anything. It made our heads ache to think, on the whole, what feverish lives they must lead.
Among the ladies who were most distinguished for this rapacious benevolence -LRB- if I may use the expression -RRB- was a Mrs. Pardiggle, who seemed, as I judged from the number of her letters to Mr. Jarndyce, to be almost as powerful a correspondent as Mrs. Jellyby herself. We observed that the wind always changed when Mrs. Pardiggle became the subject of conversation and that it invariably interrupted Mr. Jarndyce and prevented his going any farther, when he had remarked that there were two classes of charitable people; one, the people who did a little and made a great deal of noise; the other, the people who did a great deal and made no noise at all. We were therefore curious to see Mrs. Pardiggle, suspecting her to be a type of the former class, and were glad when she called one day with her five young sons.
She was a formidable style of lady with spectacles, a prominent nose, and a loud voice, who had the effect of wanting a great deal of room. And she really did, for she knocked down little chairs with her skirts that were quite a great way off. As only Ada and I were at home, we received her timidly, for she seemed to come in like cold weather and to make the little Pardiggles blue as they followed.
“ These, young ladies, ” said Mrs. Pardiggle with great volubility after the first salutations, “ are my five boys. You may have seen their names in a printed subscription list -LRB- perhaps more than one -RRB- in the possession of our esteemed friend Mr. Jarndyce. Egbert, my eldest -LRB- twelve -RRB-, is the boy who sent out his pocket-money, to the amount of five and threepence, to the Tockahoopo Indians. Oswald, my second -LRB- ten and a half -RRB-, is the child who contributed two and nine-pence to the Great National Smithers Testimonial. Francis, my third -LRB- nine -RRB-, one and sixpence halfpenny; Felix, my fourth -LRB- seven -RRB-, eightpence to the Superannuated Widows; Alfred, my youngest -LRB- five -RRB-, has voluntarily enrolled himself in the Infant Bonds of Joy, and is pledged never, through life, to use tobacco in any form. ”
We had never seen such dissatisfied children. It was not merely that they were weazened and shrivelled -- though they were certainly that too -- but they looked absolutely ferocious with discontent. At the mention of the Tockahoopo Indians, I could really have supposed Egbert to be one of the most baleful members of that tribe, he gave me such a savage frown. The face of each child, as the amount of his contribution was mentioned, darkened in a peculiarly vindictive manner, but his was by far the worst. I must except, however, the little recruit into the Infant Bonds of Joy, who was stolidly and evenly miserable.
“ You have been visiting, I understand, ” said Mrs. Pardiggle, “ at Mrs. Jellyby 's? ”
We said yes, we had passed one night there.
“ Mrs. Jellyby, ” pursued the lady, always speaking in the same demonstrative, loud, hard tone, so that her voice impressed my fancy as if it had a sort of spectacles on too -- and I may take the opportunity of remarking that her spectacles were made the less engaging by her eyes being what Ada called “ choking eyes, ” meaning very prominent -- “ Mrs. Jellyby is a benefactor to society and deserves a helping hand. My boys have contributed to the African project -- Egbert, one and six, being the entire allowance of nine weeks; Oswald, one and a penny halfpenny, being the same; the rest, according to their little means. Nevertheless, I do not go with Mrs. Jellyby in all things. I do not go with Mrs. Jellyby in her treatment of her young family. It has been noticed. It has been observed that her young family are excluded from participation in the objects to which she is devoted. She may be right, she may be wrong; but, right or wrong, this is not my course with MY young family. I take them everywhere. ”
I was afterwards convinced -LRB- and so was Ada -RRB- that from the ill-conditioned eldest child, these words extorted a sharp yell. He turned it off into a yawn, but it began as a yell.
“ They attend matins with me -LRB- very prettily done -RRB- at half-past six o'clock in the morning all the year round, including of course the depth of winter, ” said Mrs. Pardiggle rapidly, “ and they are with me during the revolving duties of the day. I am a School lady, I am a Visiting lady, I am a Reading lady, I am a Distributing lady; I am on the local Linen Box Committee and many general committees; and my canvassing alone is very extensive -- perhaps no one 's more so. But they are my companions everywhere; and by these means they acquire that knowledge of the poor, and that capacity of doing charitable business in general -- in short, that taste for the sort of thing -- which will render them in after life a service to their neighbours and a satisfaction to themselves. My young family are not frivolous; they expend the entire amount of their allowance in subscriptions, under my direction; and they have attended as many public meetings and listened to as many lectures, orations, and discussions as generally fall to the lot of few grown people. Alfred -LRB- five -RRB-, who, as I mentioned, has of his own election joined the Infant Bonds of Joy, was one of the very few children who manifested consciousness on that occasion after a fervid address of two hours from the chairman of the evening. ”
Alfred glowered at us as if he never could, or would, forgive the injury of that night.
“ You may have observed, Miss Summerson, ” said Mrs. Pardiggle, “ in some of the lists to which I have referred, in the possession of our esteemed friend Mr. Jarndyce, that the names of my young family are concluded with the name of O. A. Pardiggle, F.R.S., one pound. That is their father. We usually observe the same routine. I put down my mite first; then my young family enrol their contributions, according to their ages and their little means; and then Mr. Pardiggle brings up the rear. Mr. Pardiggle is happy to throw in his limited donation, under my direction; and thus things are made not only pleasant to ourselves, but, we trust, improving to others. ”
Suppose Mr. Pardiggle were to dine with Mr. Jellyby, and suppose Mr. Jellyby were to relieve his mind after dinner to Mr. Pardiggle, would Mr. Pardiggle, in return, make any confidential communication to Mr. Jellyby? I was quite confused to find myself thinking this, but it came into my head.
“ You are very pleasantly situated here! ” said Mrs. Pardiggle.
We were glad to change the subject, and going to the window, pointed out the beauties of the prospect, on which the spectacles appeared to me to rest with curious indifference.
“ You know Mr. Gusher? ” said our visitor.
We were obliged to say that we had not the pleasure of Mr. Gusher 's acquaintance.
“ The loss is yours, I assure you, ” said Mrs. Pardiggle with her commanding deportment. “ He is a very fervid, impassioned speaker -- full of fire! Stationed in a waggon on this lawn, now, which, from the shape of the land, is naturally adapted to a public meeting, he would improve almost any occasion you could mention for hours and hours! By this time, young ladies, ” said Mrs. Pardiggle, moving back to her chair and overturning, as if by invisible agency, a little round table at a considerable distance with my work-basket on it, “ by this time you have found me out, I dare say? ”
This was really such a confusing question that Ada looked at me in perfect dismay. As to the guilty nature of my own consciousness after what I had been thinking, it must have been expressed in the colour of my cheeks.
“ Found out, I mean, ” said Mrs. Pardiggle, “ the prominent point in my character. I am aware that it is so prominent as to be discoverable immediately. I lay myself open to detection, I know. Well! I freely admit, I am a woman of business. I love hard work; I enjoy hard work. The excitement does me good. I am so accustomed and inured to hard work that I don't know what fatigue is. ”
We murmured that it was very astonishing and very gratifying, or something to that effect. I don't think we knew what it was either, but this is what our politeness expressed.
“ I do not understand what it is to be tired; you can not tire me if you try! ” said Mrs. Pardiggle. “ The quantity of exertion -LRB- which is no exertion to me -RRB-, the amount of business -LRB- which I regard as nothing -RRB-, that I go through sometimes astonishes myself. I have seen my young family, and Mr. Pardiggle, quite worn out with witnessing it, when I may truly say I have been as fresh as a lark! ”
If that dark-visaged eldest boy could look more malicious than he had already looked, this was the time when he did it. I observed that he doubled his right fist and delivered a secret blow into the crown of his cap, which was under his left arm.
“ This gives me a great advantage when I am making my rounds, ” said Mrs. Pardiggle. “ If I find a person unwilling to hear what I have to say, I tell that person directly,' I am incapable of fatigue, my good friend, I am never tired, and I mean to go on until I have done.' It answers admirably! Miss Summerson, I hope I shall have your assistance in my visiting rounds immediately, and Miss Clare 's very soon. ”
At first I tried to excuse myself for the present on the general ground of having occupations to attend to which I must not neglect. But as this was an ineffectual protest, I then said, more particularly, that I was not sure of my qualifications. That I was inexperienced in the art of adapting my mind to minds very differently situated, and addressing them from suitable points of view. That I had not that delicate knowledge of the heart which must be essential to such a work. That I had much to learn, myself, before I could teach others, and that I could not confide in my good intentions alone. For these reasons I thought it best to be as useful as I could, and to render what kind services I could to those immediately about me, and to try to let that circle of duty gradually and naturally expand itself. All this I said with anything but confidence, because Mrs. Pardiggle was much older than I, and had great experience, and was so very military in her manners.
“ You are wrong, Miss Summerson, ” said she, “ but perhaps you are not equal to hard work or the excitement of it, and that makes a vast difference. If you would like to see how I go through my work, I am now about -- with my young family -- to visit a brickmaker in the neighbourhood -LRB- a very bad character -RRB- and shall be glad to take you with me. Miss Clare also, if she will do me the favour. ”
Ada and I interchanged looks, and as we were going out in any case, accepted the offer. When we hastily returned from putting on our bonnets, we found the young family languishing in a corner and Mrs. Pardiggle sweeping about the room, knocking down nearly all the light objects it contained. Mrs. Pardiggle took possession of Ada, and I followed with the family.
Ada told me afterwards that Mrs. Pardiggle talked in the same loud tone -LRB- that, indeed, I overheard -RRB- all the way to the brickmaker 's about an exciting contest which she had for two or three years waged against another lady relative to the bringing in of their rival candidates for a pension somewhere. There had been a quantity of printing, and promising, and proxying, and polling, and it appeared to have imparted great liveliness to all concerned, except the pensioners -- who were not elected yet.
I am very fond of being confided in by children and am happy in being usually favoured in that respect, but on this occasion it gave me great uneasiness. As soon as we were out of doors, Egbert, with the manner of a little footpad, demanded a shilling of me on the ground that his pocket-money was “ boned ” from him. On my pointing out the great impropriety of the word, especially in connexion with his parent -LRB- for he added sulkily “ By her! ” -RRB-, he pinched me and said, “ Oh, then! Now! Who are you! YOU wouldn't like it, I think? What does she make a sham for, and pretend to give me money, and take it away again? Why do you call it my allowance, and never let me spend it? ” These exasperating questions so inflamed his mind and the minds of Oswald and Francis that they all pinched me at once, and in a dreadfully expert way -- screwing up such little pieces of my arms that I could hardly forbear crying out. Felix, at the same time, stamped upon my toes. And the Bond of Joy, who on account of always having the whole of his little income anticipated stood in fact pledged to abstain from cakes as well as tobacco, so swelled with grief and rage when we passed a pastry-cook 's shop that he terrified me by becoming purple. I never underwent so much, both in body and mind, in the course of a walk with young people as from these unnaturally constrained children when they paid me the compliment of being natural.
I was glad when we came to the brickmaker 's house, though it was one of a cluster of wretched hovels in a brick-field, with pigsties close to the broken windows and miserable little gardens before the doors growing nothing but stagnant pools. Here and there an old tub was put to catch the droppings of rain-water from a roof, or they were banked up with mud into a little pond like a large dirt-pie. At the doors and windows some men and women lounged or prowled about, and took little notice of us except to laugh to one another or to say something as we passed about gentlefolks minding their own business and not troubling their heads and muddying their shoes with coming to look after other people 's.
Mrs. Pardiggle, leading the way with a great show of moral determination and talking with much volubility about the untidy habits of the people -LRB- though I doubted if the best of us could have been tidy in such a place -RRB-, conducted us into a cottage at the farthest corner, the ground-floor room of which we nearly filled. Besides ourselves, there were in this damp, offensive room a woman with a black eye, nursing a poor little gasping baby by the fire; a man, all stained with clay and mud and looking very dissipated, lying at full length on the ground, smoking a pipe; a powerful young man fastening a collar on a dog; and a bold girl doing some kind of washing in very dirty water. They all looked up at us as we came in, and the woman seemed to turn her face towards the fire as if to hide her bruised eye; nobody gave us any welcome.
“ Well, my friends, ” said Mrs. Pardiggle, but her voice had not a friendly sound, I thought; it was much too business-like and systematic. “ How do you do, all of you? I am here again. I told you, you couldn't tire me, you know. I am fond of hard work, and am true to my word. ”
“ There an't, ” growled the man on the floor, whose head rested on his hand as he stared at us, “ any more on you to come in, is there? ”
“ No, my friend, ” said Mrs. Pardiggle, seating herself on one stool and knocking down another. “ We are all here. ”
“ Because I thought there warn't enough of you, perhaps? ” said the man, with his pipe between his lips as he looked round upon us.
The young man and the girl both laughed. Two friends of the young man, whom we had attracted to the doorway and who stood there with their hands in their pockets, echoed the laugh noisily.
“ You can't tire me, good people, ” said Mrs. Pardiggle to these latter. “ I enjoy hard work, and the harder you make mine, the better I like it. ”
“ Then make it easy for her! ” growled the man upon the floor. “ I wants it done, and over. I wants a end of these liberties took with my place. I wants an end of being drawed like a badger. Now you 're a-going to poll-pry and question according to custom -- I know what you 're a-going to be up to. Well! You haven't got no occasion to be up to it. I 'll save you the trouble. Is my daughter a-washin? Yes, she IS a-washin. Look at the water. Smell it! That 's wot we drinks. How do you like it, and what do you think of gin instead!An't my place dirty? Yes, it is dirty -- it 's nat` rally dirty, and it 's nat` rally onwholesome; and we 've had five dirty and onwholesome children, as is all dead infants, and so much the better for them, and for us besides. Have I read the little book wot you left? No, I an't read the little book wot you left. There an't nobody here as knows how to read it; and if there wos, it wouldn't be suitable to me. It 's a book fit for a babby, and I 'm not a babby. If you was to leave me a doll, I shouldn't nuss it. How have I been conducting of myself? Why, I 've been drunk for three days; and I` da been drunk four if I` da had the money. Don't I never mean for to go to church? No, I don't never mean for to go to church. I shouldn't be expected there, if I did; the beadle 's too gen-teel for me. And how did my wife get that black eye? Why, I give it her; and if she says I didn't, she 's a lie! ”
He had pulled his pipe out of his mouth to say all this, and he now turned over on his other side and smoked again. Mrs. Pardiggle, who had been regarding him through her spectacles with a forcible composure, calculated, I could not help thinking, to increase his antagonism, pulled out a good book as if it were a constable 's staff and took the whole family into custody. I mean into religious custody, of course; but she really did it as if she were an inexorable moral policeman carrying them all off to a station-house.
Ada and I were very uncomfortable. We both felt intrusive and out of place, and we both thought that Mrs. Pardiggle would have got on infinitely better if she had not had such a mechanical way of taking possession of people. The children sulked and stared; the family took no notice of us whatever, except when the young man made the dog bark, which he usually did when Mrs. Pardiggle was most emphatic. We both felt painfully sensible that between us and these people there was an iron barrier which could not be removed by our new friend. By whom or how it could be removed, we did not know, but we knew that. Even what she read and said seemed to us to be ill-chosen for such auditors, if it had been imparted ever so modestly and with ever so much tact. As to the little book to which the man on the floor had referred, we acquired a knowledge of it afterwards, and Mr. Jarndyce said he doubted if Robinson Crusoe could have read it, though he had had no other on his desolate island.
We were much relieved, under these circumstances, when Mrs. Pardiggle left off.
The man on the floor, then turning his head round again, said morosely, “ Well! You 've done, have you? ”
“ For to-day, I have, my friend. But I am never fatigued. I shall come to you again in your regular order, ” returned Mrs. Pardiggle with demonstrative cheerfulness.
“ So long as you goes now, ” said he, folding his arms and shutting his eyes with an oath, “ you may do wot you like! ”
Mrs. Pardiggle accordingly rose and made a little vortex in the confined room from which the pipe itself very narrowly escaped. Taking one of her young family in each hand, and telling the others to follow closely, and expressing her hope that the brickmaker and all his house would be improved when she saw them next, she then proceeded to another cottage. I hope it is not unkind in me to say that she certainly did make, in this as in everything else, a show that was not conciliatory of doing charity by wholesale and of dealing in it to a large extent.
She supposed that we were following her, but as soon as the space was left clear, we approached the woman sitting by the fire to ask if the baby were ill.
She only looked at it as it lay on her lap. We had observed before that when she looked at it she covered her discoloured eye with her hand, as though she wished to separate any association with noise and violence and ill treatment from the poor little child.
Ada, whose gentle heart was moved by its appearance, bent down to touch its little face. As she did so, I saw what happened and drew her back. The child died.
“ Oh, Esther! ” cried Ada, sinking on her knees beside it. “ Look here! Oh, Esther, my love, the little thing! The suffering, quiet, pretty little thing! I am so sorry for it. I am so sorry for the mother. I never saw a sight so pitiful as this before! Oh, baby, baby! ”
Such compassion, such gentleness, as that with which she bent down weeping and put her hand upon the mother 's might have softened any mother 's heart that ever beat. The woman at first gazed at her in astonishment and then burst into tears.
Presently I took the light burden from her lap, did what I could to make the baby 's rest the prettier and gentler, laid it on a shelf, and covered it with my own handkerchief. We tried to comfort the mother, and we whispered to her what Our Saviour said of children. She answered nothing, but sat weeping -- weeping very much.
When I turned, I found that the young man had taken out the dog and was standing at the door looking in upon us with dry eyes, but quiet. The girl was quiet too and sat in a corner looking on the ground. The man had risen. He still smoked his pipe with an air of defiance, but he was silent.
An ugly woman, very poorly clothed, hurried in while I was glancing at them, and coming straight up to the mother, said, “ Jenny! Jenny! ” The mother rose on being so addressed and fell upon the woman 's neck.
She also had upon her face and arms the marks of ill usage. She had no kind of grace about her, but the grace of sympathy; but when she condoled with the woman, and her own tears fell, she wanted no beauty. I say condoled, but her only words were “ Jenny! Jenny! ” All the rest was in the tone in which she said them.
I thought it very touching to see these two women, coarse and shabby and beaten, so united; to see what they could be to one another; to see how they felt for one another, how the heart of each to each was softened by the hard trials of their lives. I think the best side of such people is almost hidden from us. What the poor are to the poor is little known, excepting to themselves and God.
We felt it better to withdraw and leave them uninterrupted. We stole out quietly and without notice from any one except the man. He was leaning against the wall near the door, and finding that there was scarcely room for us to pass, went out before us. He seemed to want to hide that he did this on our account, but we perceived that he did, and thanked him. He made no answer.
Ada was so full of grief all the way home, and Richard, whom we found at home, was so distressed to see her in tears -LRB- though he said to me, when she was not present, how beautiful it was too! -RRB-, that we arranged to return at night with some little comforts and repeat our visit at the brick-maker 's house. We said as little as we could to Mr. Jarndyce, but the wind changed directly.
Richard accompanied us at night to the scene of our morning expedition. On our way there, we had to pass a noisy drinking-house, where a number of men were flocking about the door. Among them, and prominent in some dispute, was the father of the little child. At a short distance, we passed the young man and the dog, in congenial company. The sister was standing laughing and talking with some other young women at the corner of the row of cottages, but she seemed ashamed and turned away as we went by.
We left our escort within sight of the brickmaker 's dwelling and proceeded by ourselves. When we came to the door, we found the woman who had brought such consolation with her standing there looking anxiously out.
“ It 's you, young ladies, is it? ” she said in a whisper. “ I 'm a-watching for my master. My heart 's in my mouth. If he was to catch me away from home, he 'd pretty near murder me. ”
“ Do you mean your husband? ” said I.
“ Yes, miss, my master. Jenny 's asleep, quite worn out. She 's scarcely had the child off her lap, poor thing, these seven days and nights, except when I 've been able to take it for a minute or two. ”
As she gave way for us, she went softly in and put what we had brought near the miserable bed on which the mother slept. No effort had been made to clean the room -- it seemed in its nature almost hopeless of being clean; but the small waxen form from which so much solemnity diffused itself had been composed afresh, and washed, and neatly dressed in some fragments of white linen; and on my handkerchief, which still covered the poor baby, a little bunch of sweet herbs had been laid by the same rough, scarred hands, so lightly, so tenderly!
“ May heaven reward you! ” we said to her. “ You are a good woman. ”
“ Me, young ladies? ” she returned with surprise. “ Hush! Jenny, Jenny! ”
The mother had moaned in her sleep and moved. The sound of the familiar voice seemed to calm her again. She was quiet once more.
How little I thought, when I raised my handkerchief to look upon the tiny sleeper underneath and seemed to see a halo shine around the child through Ada 's drooping hair as her pity bent her head -- how little I thought in whose unquiet bosom that handkerchief would come to lie after covering the motionless and peaceful breast! I only thought that perhaps the Angel of the child might not be all unconscious of the woman who replaced it with so compassionate a hand; not all unconscious of her presently, when we had taken leave, and left her at the door, by turns looking, and listening in terror for herself, and saying in her old soothing manner, “ Jenny, Jenny! ”
I don't know how it is I seem to be always writing about myself. I mean all the time to write about other people, and I try to think about myself as little as possible, and I am sure, when I find myself coming into the story again, I am really vexed and say, “ Dear, dear, you tiresome little creature, I wish you wouldn't! ” but it is all of no use. I hope any one who may read what I write will understand that if these pages contain a great deal about me, I can only suppose it must be because I have really something to do with them and can't be kept out.
My darling and I read together, and worked, and practised, and found so much employment for our time that the winter days flew by us like bright-winged birds. Generally in the afternoons, and always in the evenings, Richard gave us his company. Although he was one of the most restless creatures in the world, he certainly was very fond of our society.
He was very, very, very fond of Ada. I mean it, and I had better say it at once. I had never seen any young people falling in love before, but I found them out quite soon. I could not say so, of course, or show that I knew anything about it. On the contrary, I was so demure and used to seem so unconscious that sometimes I considered within myself while I was sitting at work whether I was not growing quite deceitful.
But there was no help for it. All I had to do was to be quiet, and I was as quiet as a mouse. They were as quiet as mice too, so far as any words were concerned, but the innocent manner in which they relied more and more upon me as they took more and more to one another was so charming that I had great difficulty in not showing how it interested me.
“ Our dear little old woman is such a capital old woman, ” Richard would say, coming up to meet me in the garden early, with his pleasant laugh and perhaps the least tinge of a blush, “ that I can't get on without her. Before I begin my harum-scarum day -- grinding away at those books and instruments and then galloping up hill and down dale, all the country round, like a highwayman -- it does me so much good to come and have a steady walk with our comfortable friend, that here I am again! ”
“ You know, Dame Durden, dear, ” Ada would say at night, with her head upon my shoulder and the firelight shining in her thoughtful eyes, “ I don't want to talk when we come upstairs here. Only to sit a little while thinking, with your dear face for company, and to hear the wind and remember the poor sailors at sea -- ”
Ah! Perhaps Richard was going to be a sailor. We had talked it over very often now, and there was some talk of gratifying the inclination of his childhood for the sea. Mr. Jarndyce had written to a relation of the family, a great Sir Leicester Dedlock, for his interest in Richard 's favour, generally; and Sir Leicester had replied in a gracious manner that he would be happy to advance the prospects of the young gentleman if it should ever prove to be within his power, which was not at all probable, and that my Lady sent her compliments to the young gentleman -LRB- to whom she perfectly remembered that she was allied by remote consanguinity -RRB- and trusted that he would ever do his duty in any honourable profession to which he might devote himself.
“ So I apprehend it 's pretty clear, ” said Richard to me, “ that I shall have to work my own way. Never mind! Plenty of people have had to do that before now, and have done it. I only wish I had the command of a clipping privateer to begin with and could carry off the Chancellor and keep him on short allowance until he gave judgment in our cause. He 'd find himself growing thin, if he didn't look sharp! ”
With a buoyancy and hopefulness and a gaiety that hardly ever flagged, Richard had a carelessness in his character that quite perplexed me, principally because he mistook it, in such a very odd way, for prudence. It entered into all his calculations about money in a singular manner which I don't think I can better explain than by reverting for a moment to our loan to Mr. Skimpole.
Mr. Jarndyce had ascertained the amount, either from Mr. Skimpole himself or from Coavinses, and had placed the money in my hands with instructions to me to retain my own part of it and hand the rest to Richard. The number of little acts of thoughtless expenditure which Richard justified by the recovery of his ten pounds, and the number of times he talked to me as if he had saved or realized that amount, would form a sum in simple addition.
“ My prudent Mother Hubbard, why not? ” he said to me when he wanted, without the least consideration, to bestow five pounds on the brickmaker. “ I made ten pounds, clear, out of Coavinses' business. ”
“ How was that? ” said I.
“ Why, I got rid of ten pounds which I was quite content to get rid of and never expected to see any more. You don't deny that? ”
“ No, ” said I.
“ Very well! Then I came into possession of ten pounds -- ”
“ The same ten pounds, ” I hinted.
“ That has nothing to do with it! ” returned Richard. “ I have got ten pounds more than I expected to have, and consequently I can afford to spend it without being particular. ”
In exactly the same way, when he was persuaded out of the sacrifice of these five pounds by being convinced that it would do no good, he carried that sum to his credit and drew upon it.
“ Let me see! ” he would say. “ I saved five pounds out of the brickmaker 's affair, so if I have a good rattle to London and back in a post-chaise and put that down at four pounds, I shall have saved one. And it 's a very good thing to save one, let me tell you: a penny saved is a penny got! ”
I believe Richard 's was as frank and generous a nature as there possibly can be. He was ardent and brave, and in the midst of all his wild restlessness, was so gentle that I knew him like a brother in a few weeks. His gentleness was natural to him and would have shown itself abundantly even without Ada 's influence; but with it, he became one of the most winning of companions, always so ready to be interested and always so happy, sanguine, and light-hearted. I am sure that I, sitting with them, and walking with them, and talking with them, and noticing from day to day how they went on, falling deeper and deeper in love, and saying nothing about it, and each shyly thinking that this love was the greatest of secrets, perhaps not yet suspected even by the other -- I am sure that I was scarcely less enchanted than they were and scarcely less pleased with the pretty dream.
We were going on in this way, when one morning at breakfast Mr. Jarndyce received a letter, and looking at the superscription, said, “ From Boythorn? Aye, aye! ” and opened and read it with evident pleasure, announcing to us in a parenthesis when he was about half-way through, that Boythorn was “ coming down ” on a visit. Now who was Boythorn, we all thought. And I dare say we all thought too -- I am sure I did, for one -- would Boythorn at all interfere with what was going forward?
“ I went to school with this fellow, Lawrence Boythorn, ” said Mr. Jarndyce, tapping the letter as he laid it on the table, “ more than five and forty years ago. He was then the most impetuous boy in the world, and he is now the most impetuous man. He was then the loudest boy in the world, and he is now the loudest man. He was then the heartiest and sturdiest boy in the world, and he is now the heartiest and sturdiest man. He is a tremendous fellow. ”
“ In stature, sir? ” asked Richard.
“ Pretty well, Rick, in that respect, ” said Mr. Jarndyce; “ being some ten years older than I and a couple of inches taller, with his head thrown back like an old soldier, his stalwart chest squared, his hands like a clean blacksmith 's, and his lungs! There 's no simile for his lungs. Talking, laughing, or snoring, they make the beams of the house shake. ”
As Mr. Jarndyce sat enjoying the image of his friend Boythorn, we observed the favourable omen that there was not the least indication of any change in the wind.
“ But it 's the inside of the man, the warm heart of the man, the passion of the man, the fresh blood of the man, Rick -- and Ada, and little Cobweb too, for you are all interested in a visitor -- that I speak of, ” he pursued. “ His language is as sounding as his voice. He is always in extremes, perpetually in the superlative degree. In his condemnation he is all ferocity. You might suppose him to be an ogre from what he says, and I believe he has the reputation of one with some people. There! I tell you no more of him beforehand. You must not be surprised to see him take me under his protection, for he has never forgotten that I was a low boy at school and that our friendship began in his knocking two of my head tyrant 's teeth out -LRB- he says six -RRB- before breakfast. Boythorn and his man, ” to me, “ will be here this afternoon, my dear. ”
I took care that the necessary preparations were made for Mr. Boythorn 's reception, and we looked forward to his arrival with some curiosity. The afternoon wore away, however, and he did not appear. The dinner-hour arrived, and still he did not appear. The dinner was put back an hour, and we were sitting round the fire with no light but the blaze when the hall-door suddenly burst open and the hall resounded with these words, uttered with the greatest vehemence and in a stentorian tone: “ We have been misdirected, Jarndyce, by a most abandoned ruffian, who told us to take the turning to the right instead of to the left. He is the most intolerable scoundrel on the face of the earth. His father must have been a most consummate villain, ever to have such a son. I would have had that fellow shot without the least remorse! ”
“ Did he do it on purpose? ” Mr. Jarndyce inquired.
“ I have not the slightest doubt that the scoundrel has passed his whole existence in misdirecting travellers! ” returned the other. “ By my soul, I thought him the worst-looking dog I had ever beheld when he was telling me to take the turning to the right. And yet I stood before that fellow face to face and didn't knock his brains out! ”
“ Teeth, you mean? ” said Mr. Jarndyce.
“ Ha, ha, ha! ” laughed Mr. Lawrence Boythorn, really making the whole house vibrate. “ What, you have not forgotten it yet! Ha, ha, ha! And that was another most consummate vagabond! By my soul, the countenance of that fellow when he was a boy was the blackest image of perfidy, cowardice, and cruelty ever set up as a scarecrow in a field of scoundrels. If I were to meet that most unparalleled despot in the streets to-morrow, I would fell him like a rotten tree! ”
“ I have no doubt of it, ” said Mr. Jarndyce. “ Now, will you come upstairs? ”
“ By my soul, Jarndyce, ” returned his guest, who seemed to refer to his watch, “ if you had been married, I would have turned back at the garden-gate and gone away to the remotest summits of the Himalaya Mountains sooner than I would have presented myself at this unseasonable hour. ”
“ Not quite so far, I hope? ” said Mr. Jarndyce.
“ By my life and honour, yes! ” cried the visitor. “ I wouldn't be guilty of the audacious insolence of keeping a lady of the house waiting all this time for any earthly consideration. I would infinitely rather destroy myself -- infinitely rather! ”
Talking thus, they went upstairs, and presently we heard him in his bedroom thundering “ Ha, ha, ha! ” and again “ Ha, ha, ha! ” until the flattest echo in the neighbourhood seemed to catch the contagion and to laugh as enjoyingly as he did or as we did when we heard him laugh.
We all conceived a prepossession in his favour, for there was a sterling quality in this laugh, and in his vigorous, healthy voice, and in the roundness and fullness with which he uttered every word he spoke, and in the very fury of his superlatives, which seemed to go off like blank cannons and hurt nothing. But we were hardly prepared to have it so confirmed by his appearance when Mr. Jarndyce presented him. He was not only a very handsome old gentleman -- upright and stalwart as he had been described to us -- with a massive grey head, a fine composure of face when silent, a figure that might have become corpulent but for his being so continually in earnest that he gave it no rest, and a chin that might have subsided into a double chin but for the vehement emphasis in which it was constantly required to assist; but he was such a true gentleman in his manner, so chivalrously polite, his face was lighted by a smile of so much sweetness and tenderness, and it seemed so plain that he had nothing to hide, but showed himself exactly as he was -- incapable, as Richard said, of anything on a limited scale, and firing away with those blank great guns because he carried no small arms whatever -- that really I could not help looking at him with equal pleasure as he sat at dinner, whether he smilingly conversed with Ada and me, or was led by Mr. Jarndyce into some great volley of superlatives, or threw up his head like a bloodhound and gave out that tremendous “ Ha, ha, ha! ”
“ You have brought your bird with you, I suppose? ” said Mr. Jarndyce.
“ By heaven, he is the most astonishing bird in Europe! ” replied the other. “ He IS the most wonderful creature! I wouldn't take ten thousand guineas for that bird. I have left an annuity for his sole support in case he should outlive me. He is, in sense and attachment, a phenomenon. And his father before him was one of the most astonishing birds that ever lived! ”
The subject of this laudation was a very little canary, who was so tame that he was brought down by Mr. Boythorn 's man, on his forefinger, and after taking a gentle flight round the room, alighted on his master 's head. To hear Mr. Boythorn presently expressing the most implacable and passionate sentiments, with this fragile mite of a creature quietly perched on his forehead, was to have a good illustration of his character, I thought.
“ By my soul, Jarndyce, ” he said, very gently holding up a bit of bread to the canary to peck at, “ if I were in your place I would seize every master in Chancery by the throat to-morrow morning and shake him until his money rolled out of his pockets and his bones rattled in his skin. I would have a settlement out of somebody, by fair means or by foul. If you would empower me to do it, I would do it for you with the greatest satisfaction! ” -LRB- All this time the very small canary was eating out of his hand. -RRB-
“ I thank you, Lawrence, but the suit is hardly at such a point at present, ” returned Mr. Jarndyce, laughing, “ that it would be greatly advanced even by the legal process of shaking the bench and the whole bar. ”
“ There never was such an infernal cauldron as that Chancery on the face of the earth! ” said Mr. Boythorn. “ Nothing but a mine below it on a busy day in term time, with all its records, rules, and precedents collected in it and every functionary belonging to it also, high and low, upward and downward, from its son the Accountant-General to its father the Devil, and the whole blown to atoms with ten thousand hundredweight of gunpowder, would reform it in the least! ”
It was impossible not to laugh at the energetic gravity with which he recommended this strong measure of reform. When we laughed, he threw up his head and shook his broad chest, and again the whole country seemed to echo to his “ Ha, ha, ha! ” It had not the least effect in disturbing the bird, whose sense of security was complete and who hopped about the table with its quick head now on this side and now on that, turning its bright sudden eye on its master as if he were no more than another bird.
“ But how do you and your neighbour get on about the disputed right of way? ” said Mr. Jarndyce. “ You are not free from the toils of the law yourself! ”
“ The fellow has brought actions against ME for trespass, and I have brought actions against HIM for trespass, ” returned Mr. Boythorn. “ By heaven, he is the proudest fellow breathing. It is morally impossible that his name can be Sir Leicester. It must be Sir Lucifer. ”
“ Complimentary to our distant relation! ” said my guardian laughingly to Ada and Richard.
“ I would beg Miss Clare 's pardon and Mr. Carstone 's pardon, ” resumed our visitor, “ if I were not reassured by seeing in the fair face of the lady and the smile of the gentleman that it is quite unnecessary and that they keep their distant relation at a comfortable distance. ”
“ Or he keeps us, ” suggested Richard.
“ By my soul, ” exclaimed Mr. Boythorn, suddenly firing another volley, “ that fellow is, and his father was, and his grandfather was, the most stiff-necked, arrogant imbecile, pig-headed numskull, ever, by some inexplicable mistake of Nature, born in any station of life but a walking-stick 's! The whole of that family are the most solemnly conceited and consummate blockheads! But it 's no matter; he should not shut up my path if he were fifty baronets melted into one and living in a hundred Chesney Wolds, one within another, like the ivory balls in a Chinese carving. The fellow, by his agent, or secretary, or somebody, writes to me` Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, presents his compliments to Mr. Lawrence Boythorn, and has to call his attention to the fact that the green pathway by the old parsonage-house, now the property of Mr. Lawrence Boythorn, is Sir Leicester 's right of way, being in fact a portion of the park of Chesney Wold, and that Sir Leicester finds it convenient to close up the same.' I write to the fellow,` Mr. Lawrence Boythorn presents his compliments to Sir Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, and has to call HIS attention to the fact that he totally denies the whole of Sir Leicester Dedlock 's positions on every possible subject and has to add, in reference to closing up the pathway, that he will be glad to see the man who may undertake to do it.' The fellow sends a most abandoned villain with one eye to construct a gateway. I play upon that execrable scoundrel with a fire-engine until the breath is nearly driven out of his body. The fellow erects a gate in the night. I chop it down and burn it in the morning. He sends his myrmidons to come over the fence and pass and repass. I catch them in humane man traps, fire split peas at their legs, play upon them with the engine -- resolve to free mankind from the insupportable burden of the existence of those lurking ruffians. He brings actions for trespass; I bring actions for trespass. He brings actions for assault and battery; I defend them and continue to assault and batter. Ha, ha, ha! ”
To hear him say all this with unimaginable energy, one might have thought him the angriest of mankind. To see him at the very same time, looking at the bird now perched upon his thumb and softly smoothing its feathers with his forefinger, one might have thought him the gentlest. To hear him laugh and see the broad good nature of his face then, one might have supposed that he had not a care in the world, or a dispute, or a dislike, but that his whole existence was a summer joke.
“ No, no, ” he said, “ no closing up of my paths by any Dedlock! Though I willingly confess, ” here he softened in a moment, “ that Lady Dedlock is the most accomplished lady in the world, to whom I would do any homage that a plain gentleman, and no baronet with a head seven hundred years thick, may.A man who joined his regiment at twenty and within a week challenged the most imperious and presumptuous coxcomb of a commanding officer that ever drew the breath of life through a tight waist -- and got broke for it -- is not the man to be walked over by all the Sir Lucifers, dead or alive, locked or unlocked. Ha, ha, ha! ”
“ Nor the man to allow his junior to be walked over either? ” said my guardian.
“ Most assuredly not! ” said Mr. Boythorn, clapping him on the shoulder with an air of protection that had something serious in it, though he laughed. “ He will stand by the low boy, always. Jarndyce, you may rely upon him! But speaking of this trespass -- with apologies to Miss Clare and Miss Summerson for the length at which I have pursued so dry a subject -- is there nothing for me from your men Kenge and Carboy? ”
“ I think not, Esther? ” said Mr. Jarndyce.
“ Nothing, guardian. ”
“ Much obliged! ” said Mr. Boythorn. “ Had no need to ask, after even my slight experience of Miss Summerson 's forethought for every one about her. ” -LRB- They all encouraged me; they were determined to do it. -RRB- “ I inquired because, coming from Lincolnshire, I of course have not yet been in town, and I thought some letters might have been sent down here. I dare say they will report progress to-morrow morning. ”
I saw him so often in the course of the evening, which passed very pleasantly, contemplate Richard and Ada with an interest and a satisfaction that made his fine face remarkably agreeable as he sat at a little distance from the piano listening to the music -- and he had small occasion to tell us that he was passionately fond of music, for his face showed it -- that I asked my guardian as we sat at the backgammon board whether Mr. Boythorn had ever been married.
“ No, ” said he. “ No. ”
“ But he meant to be! ” said I.
“ How did you find out that? ” he returned with a smile. “ Why, guardian, ” I explained, not without reddening a little at hazarding what was in my thoughts, “ there is something so tender in his manner, after all, and he is so very courtly and gentle to us, and -- ”
Mr. Jarndyce directed his eyes to where he was sitting as I have just described him.
I said no more.
“ You are right, little woman, ” he answered. “ He was all but married once. Long ago. And once. ”
“ Did the lady die? ”
“ No -- but she died to him. That time has had its influence on all his later life. Would you suppose him to have a head and a heart full of romance yet? ”
“ I think, guardian, I might have supposed so. But it is easy to say that when you have told me so. ”
“ He has never since been what he might have been, ” said Mr. Jarndyce, “ and now you see him in his age with no one near him but his servant and his little yellow friend. It 's your throw, my dear! ”
I felt, from my guardian 's manner, that beyond this point I could not pursue the subject without changing the wind. I therefore forbore to ask any further questions. I was interested, but not curious. I thought a little while about this old love story in the night, when I was awakened by Mr. Boythorn 's lusty snoring; and I tried to do that very difficult thing, imagine old people young again and invested with the graces of youth. But I fell asleep before I had succeeded, and dreamed of the days when I lived in my godmother 's house. I am not sufficiently acquainted with such subjects to know whether it is at all remarkable that I almost always dreamed of that period of my life.
With the morning there came a letter from Messrs. Kenge and Carboy to Mr. Boythorn informing him that one of their clerks would wait upon him at noon. As it was the day of the week on which I paid the bills, and added up my books, and made all the household affairs as compact as possible, I remained at home while Mr. Jarndyce, Ada, and Richard took advantage of a very fine day to make a little excursion, Mr. Boythorn was to wait for Kenge and Carboy 's clerk and then was to go on foot to meet them on their return.
Well! I was full of business, examining tradesmen 's books, adding up columns, paying money, filing receipts, and I dare say making a great bustle about it when Mr. Guppy was announced and shown in. I had had some idea that the clerk who was to be sent down might be the young gentleman who had met me at the coach-office, and I was glad to see him, because he was associated with my present happiness.
I scarcely knew him again, he was so uncommonly smart. He had an entirely new suit of glossy clothes on, a shining hat, lilac-kid gloves, a neckerchief of a variety of colours, a large hot-house flower in his button-hole, and a thick gold ring on his little finger. Besides which, he quite scented the dining-room with bear 's- grease and other perfumery. He looked at me with an attention that quite confused me when I begged him to take a seat until the servant should return; and as he sat there crossing and uncrossing his legs in a corner, and I asked him if he had had a pleasant ride, and hoped that Mr. Kenge was well, I never looked at him, but I found him looking at me in the same scrutinizing and curious way.
When the request was brought to him that he would go upstairs to Mr. Boythorn 's room, I mentioned that he would find lunch prepared for him when he came down, of which Mr. Jarndyce hoped he would partake. He said with some embarrassment, holding the handle of the door, “ Shall I have the honour of finding you here, miss? ” I replied yes, I should be there; and he went out with a bow and another look.
I thought him only awkward and shy, for he was evidently much embarrassed; and I fancied that the best thing I could do would be to wait until I saw that he had everything he wanted and then to leave him to himself. The lunch was soon brought, but it remained for some time on the table. The interview with Mr. Boythorn was a long one, and a stormy one too, I should think, for although his room was at some distance I heard his loud voice rising every now and then like a high wind, and evidently blowing perfect broadsides of denunciation.
At last Mr. Guppy came back, looking something the worse for the conference. “ My eye, miss, ” he said in a low voice, “ he 's a Tartar! ”
“ Pray take some refreshment, sir, ” said I.
Mr. Guppy sat down at the table and began nervously sharpening the carving-knife on the carving-fork, still looking at me -LRB- as I felt quite sure without looking at him -RRB- in the same unusual manner. The sharpening lasted so long that at last I felt a kind of obligation on me to raise my eyes in order that I might break the spell under which he seemed to labour, of not being able to leave off.
He immediately looked at the dish and began to carve.
“ What will you take yourself, miss? You 'll take a morsel of something? ”
“ No, thank you, ” said I.
“ Shan't I give you a piece of anything at all, miss? ” said Mr. Guppy, hurriedly drinking off a glass of wine.
“ Nothing, thank you, ” said I. “ I have only waited to see that you have everything you want. Is there anything I can order for you? ”
“ No, I am much obliged to you, miss, I 'm sure. I 've everything that I can require to make me comfortable -- at least I -- not comfortable -- I 'm never that. ” He drank off two more glasses of wine, one after another.
I thought I had better go.
“ I beg your pardon, miss! ” said Mr. Guppy, rising when he saw me rise. “ But would you allow me the favour of a minute 's private conversation? ”
Not knowing what to say, I sat down again.
“ What follows is without prejudice, miss? ” said Mr. Guppy, anxiously bringing a chair towards my table.
“ I don't understand what you mean, ” said I, wondering.
“ It 's one of our law terms, miss. You won't make any use of it to my detriment at Kenge and Carboy 's or elsewhere. If our conversation shouldn't lead to anything, I am to be as I was and am not to be prejudiced in my situation or worldly prospects. In short, it 's in total confidence. ”
“ I am at a loss, sir, ” said I, “ to imagine what you can have to communicate in total confidence to me, whom you have never seen but once; but I should be very sorry to do you any injury. ”
“ Thank you, miss. I 'm sure of it -- that 's quite sufficient. ” All this time Mr. Guppy was either planing his forehead with his handkerchief or tightly rubbing the palm of his left hand with the palm of his right. “ If you would excuse my taking another glass of wine, miss, I think it might assist me in getting on without a continual choke that can not fail to be mutually unpleasant. ”
He did so, and came back again. I took the opportunity of moving well behind my table.
“ You wouldn't allow me to offer you one, would you miss? ” said Mr. Guppy, apparently refreshed.
“ Not any, ” said I.
“ Not half a glass? ” said Mr. Guppy. “ Quarter? No! Then, to proceed. My present salary, Miss Summerson, at Kenge and Carboy 's, is two pound a week. When I first had the happiness of looking upon you, it was one fifteen, and had stood at that figure for a lengthened period.A rise of five has since taken place, and a further rise of five is guaranteed at the expiration of a term not exceeding twelve months from the present date. My mother has a little property, which takes the form of a small life annuity, upon which she lives in an independent though unassuming manner in the Old Street Road. She is eminently calculated for a mother-in-law. She never interferes, is all for peace, and her disposition easy. She has her failings -- as who has not? -- but I never knew her do it when company was present, at which time you may freely trust her with wines, spirits, or malt liquors. My own abode is lodgings at Penton Place, Pentonville. It is lowly, but airy, open at the back, and considered one of the` ealthiest outlets. Miss Summerson! In the mildest language, I adore you. Would you be so kind as to allow me -LRB- as I may say -RRB- to file a declaration -- to make an offer! ”
Mr. Guppy went down on his knees. I was well behind my table and not much frightened. I said, “ Get up from that ridiculous position immediately, sir, or you will oblige me to break my implied promise and ring the bell! ”
“ Hear me out, miss! ” said Mr. Guppy, folding his hands.
“ I can not consent to hear another word, sir, ” I returned, “ Unless you get up from the carpet directly and go and sit down at the table as you ought to do if you have any sense at all. ”
He looked piteously, but slowly rose and did so.
“ Yet what a mockery it is, miss, ” he said with his hand upon his heart and shaking his head at me in a melancholy manner over the tray, “ to be stationed behind food at such a moment. The soul recoils from food at such a moment, miss. ”
“ I beg you to conclude, ” said I; “ you have asked me to hear you out, and I beg you to conclude. ”
“ I will, miss, ” said Mr. Guppy. “ As I love and honour, so likewise I obey. Would that I could make thee the subject of that vow before the shrine! ”
“ That is quite impossible, ” said I, “ and entirely out of the question. ”
“ I am aware, ” said Mr. Guppy, leaning forward over the tray and regarding me, as I again strangely felt, though my eyes were not directed to him, with his late intent look, “ I am aware that in a worldly point of view, according to all appearances, my offer is a poor one. But, Miss Summerson! Angel! No, don't ring -- I have been brought up in a sharp school and am accustomed to a variety of general practice. Though a young man, I have ferreted out evidence, got up cases, and seen lots of life. Blest with your hand, what means might I not find of advancing your interests and pushing your fortunes! What might I not get to know, nearly concerning you? I know nothing now, certainly; but what MIGHT I not if I had your confidence, and you set me on? ”
I told him that he addressed my interest or what he supposed to be my interest quite as unsuccessfully as he addressed my inclination, and he would now understand that I requested him, if he pleased, to go away immediately.
“ Cruel miss, ” said Mr. Guppy, “ hear but another word! I think you must have seen that I was struck with those charms on the day when I waited at the Whytorseller. I think you must have remarked that I could not forbear a tribute to those charms when I put up the steps of the` ackney-coach. It was a feeble tribute to thee, but it was well meant. Thy image has ever since been fixed in my breast. I have walked up and down of an evening opposite Jellyby 's house only to look upon the bricks that once contained thee. This out of to-day, quite an unnecessary out so far as the attendance, which was its pretended object, went, was planned by me alone for thee alone. If I speak of interest, it is only to recommend myself and my respectful wretchedness. Love was before it, and is before it. ”
“ I should be pained, Mr. Guppy, ” said I, rising and putting my hand upon the bell-rope, “ to do you or any one who was sincere the injustice of slighting any honest feeling, however disagreeably expressed. If you have really meant to give me a proof of your good opinion, though ill-timed and misplaced, I feel that I ought to thank you. I have very little reason to be proud, and I am not proud. I hope, ” I think I added, without very well knowing what I said, “ that you will now go away as if you had never been so exceedingly foolish and attend to Messrs. Kenge and Carboy 's business. ”
“ Half a minute, miss! ” cried Mr. Guppy, checking me as I was about to ring. “ This has been without prejudice? ”
“ I will never mention it, ” said I, “ unless you should give me future occasion to do so. ”
“A quarter of a minute, miss! In case you should think better at any time, however distant -- THAT 'S no consequence, for my feelings can never alter -- of anything I have said, particularly what might I not do, Mr. William Guppy, eighty-seven, Penton Place, or if removed, or dead -LRB- of blighted hopes or anything of that sort -RRB-, care of Mrs. Guppy, three hundred and two, Old Street Road, will be sufficient. ”
I rang the bell, the servant came, and Mr. Guppy, laying his written card upon the table and making a dejected bow, departed. Raising my eyes as he went out, I once more saw him looking at me after he had passed the door.
I sat there for another hour or more, finishing my books and payments and getting through plenty of business. Then I arranged my desk, and put everything away, and was so composed and cheerful that I thought I had quite dismissed this unexpected incident. But, when I went upstairs to my own room, I surprised myself by beginning to laugh about it and then surprised myself still more by beginning to cry about it. In short, I was in a flutter for a little while and felt as if an old chord had been more coarsely touched than it ever had been since the days of the dear old doll, long buried in the garden.
On the eastern borders of Chancery Lane, that is to say, more particularly in Cook 's Court, Cursitor Street, Mr. Snagsby, law-stationer, pursues his lawful calling. In the shade of Cook 's Court, at most times a shady place, Mr. Snagsby has dealt in all sorts of blank forms of legal process; in skins and rolls of parchment; in paper -- foolscap, brief, draft, brown, white, whitey-brown, and blotting; in stamps; in office-quills, pens, ink, India-rubber, pounce, pins, pencils, sealing-wax, and wafers; in red tape and green ferret; in pocket-books, almanacs, diaries, and law lists; in string boxes, rulers, inkstands -- glass and leaden -- pen-knives, scissors, bodkins, and other small office-cutlery; in short, in articles too numerous to mention, ever since he was out of his time and went into partnership with Peffer. On that occasion, Cook 's Court was in a manner revolutionized by the new inscription in fresh paint, PEFFER AND SNAGSBY, displacing the time-honoured and not easily to be deciphered legend PEFFER only. For smoke, which is the London ivy, had so wreathed itself round Peffer 's name and clung to his dwelling-place that the affectionate parasite quite overpowered the parent tree.
Peffer is never seen in Cook 's Court now. He is not expected there, for he has been recumbent this quarter of a century in the churchyard of St. Andrews, Holborn, with the waggons and hackney-coaches roaring past him all the day and half the night like one great dragon. If he ever steal forth when the dragon is at rest to air himself again in Cook 's Court until admonished to return by the crowing of the sanguine cock in the cellar at the little dairy in Cursitor Street, whose ideas of daylight it would be curious to ascertain, since he knows from his personal observation next to nothing about it -- if Peffer ever do revisit the pale glimpses of Cook 's Court, which no law-stationer in the trade can positively deny, he comes invisibly, and no one is the worse or wiser.
In his lifetime, and likewise in the period of Snagsby 's “ time ” of seven long years, there dwelt with Peffer in the same law-stationering premises a niece -- a short, shrewd niece, something too violently compressed about the waist, and with a sharp nose like a sharp autumn evening, inclining to be frosty towards the end. The Cook 's Courtiers had a rumour flying among them that the mother of this niece did, in her daughter 's childhood, moved by too jealous a solicitude that her figure should approach perfection, lace her up every morning with her maternal foot against the bed-post for a stronger hold and purchase; and further, that she exhibited internally pints of vinegar and lemon-juice, which acids, they held, had mounted to the nose and temper of the patient. With whichsoever of the many tongues of Rumour this frothy report originated, it either never reached or never influenced the ears of young Snagsby, who, having wooed and won its fair subject on his arrival at man 's estate, entered into two partnerships at once. So now, in Cook 's Court, Cursitor Street, Mr. Snagsby and the niece are one; and the niece still cherishes her figure, which, however tastes may differ, is unquestionably so far precious that there is mighty little of it.
Mr. and Mrs. Snagsby are not only one bone and one flesh, but, to the neighbours' thinking, one voice too. That voice, appearing to proceed from Mrs. Snagsby alone, is heard in Cook 's Court very often. Mr. Snagsby, otherwise than as he finds expression through these dulcet tones, is rarely heard. He is a mild, bald, timid man with a shining head and a scrubby clump of black hair sticking out at the back. He tends to meekness and obesity. As he stands at his door in Cook 's Court in his grey shop-coat and black calico sleeves, looking up at the clouds, or stands behind a desk in his dark shop with a heavy flat ruler, snipping and slicing at sheepskin in company with his two` prentices, he is emphatically a retiring and unassuming man. From beneath his feet, at such times, as from a shrill ghost unquiet in its grave, there frequently arise complainings and lamentations in the voice already mentioned; and haply, on some occasions when these reach a sharper pitch than usual, Mr. Snagsby mentions to the` prentices, “ I think my little woman is a-giving it to Guster! ”
This proper name, so used by Mr. Snagsby, has before now sharpened the wit of the Cook 's Courtiers to remark that it ought to be the name of Mrs. Snagsby, seeing that she might with great force and expression be termed a Guster, in compliment to her stormy character. It is, however, the possession, and the only possession except fifty shillings per annum and a very small box indifferently filled with clothing, of a lean young woman from a workhouse -LRB- by some supposed to have been christened Augusta -RRB- who, although she was farmed or contracted for during her growing time by an amiable benefactor of his species resident at Tooting, and can not fail to have been developed under the most favourable circumstances, “ has fits, ” which the parish can't account for.
Guster, really aged three or four and twenty, but looking a round ten years older, goes cheap with this unaccountable drawback of fits, and is so apprehensive of being returned on the hands of her patron saint that except when she is found with her head in the pail, or the sink, or the copper, or the dinner, or anything else that happens to be near her at the time of her seizure, she is always at work. She is a satisfaction to the parents and guardians of the` prentices, who feel that there is little danger of her inspiring tender emotions in the breast of youth; she is a satisfaction to Mrs. Snagsby, who can always find fault with her; she is a satisfaction to Mr. Snagsby, who thinks it a charity to keep her. The law-stationer 's establishment is, in Guster 's eyes, a temple of plenty and splendour. She believes the little drawing-room upstairs, always kept, as one may say, with its hair in papers and its pinafore on, to be the most elegant apartment in Christendom. The view it commands of Cook 's Court at one end -LRB- not to mention a squint into Cursitor Street -RRB- and of Coavinses' the sheriff 's officer 's backyard at the other she regards as a prospect of unequalled beauty. The portraits it displays in oil -- and plenty of it too -- of Mr. Snagsby looking at Mrs. Snagsby and of Mrs. Snagsby looking at Mr. Snagsby are in her eyes as achievements of Raphael or Titian. Guster has some recompenses for her many privations.
Mr. Snagsby refers everything not in the practical mysteries of the business to Mrs. Snagsby. She manages the money, reproaches the tax-gatherers, appoints the times and places of devotion on Sundays, licenses Mr. Snagsby 's entertainments, and acknowledges no responsibility as to what she thinks fit to provide for dinner, insomuch that she is the high standard of comparison among the neighbouring wives a long way down Chancery Lane on both sides, and even out in Holborn, who in any domestic passages of arms habitually call upon their husbands to look at the difference between their -LRB- the wives' -RRB- position and Mrs. Snagsby 's, and their -LRB- the husbands' -RRB- behaviour and Mr. Snagsby 's. Rumour, always flying bat-like about Cook 's Court and skimming in and out at everybody 's windows, does say that Mrs. Snagsby is jealous and inquisitive and that Mr. Snagsby is sometimes worried out of house and home, and that if he had the spirit of a mouse he wouldn't stand it. It is even observed that the wives who quote him to their self-willed husbands as a shining example in reality look down upon him and that nobody does so with greater superciliousness than one particular lady whose lord is more than suspected of laying his umbrella on her as an instrument of correction. But these vague whisperings may arise from Mr. Snagsby 's being in his way rather a meditative and poetical man, loving to walk in Staple Inn in the summer-time and to observe how countrified the sparrows and the leaves are, also to lounge about the Rolls Yard of a Sunday afternoon and to remark -LRB- if in good spirits -RRB- that there were old times once and that you 'd find a stone coffin or two now under that chapel, he 'll be bound, if you was to dig for it. He solaces his imagination, too, by thinking of the many Chancellors and Vices, and Masters of the Rolls who are deceased; and he gets such a flavour of the country out of telling the two` prentices how he HAS heard say that a brook “ as clear as crystial ” once ran right down the middle of Holborn, when Turnstile really was a turnstile, leading slap away into the meadows -- gets such a flavour of the country out of this that he never wants to go there.
The day is closing in and the gas is lighted, but is not yet fully effective, for it is not quite dark. Mr. Snagsby standing at his shop-door looking up at the clouds sees a crow who is out late skim westward over the slice of sky belonging to Cook 's Court. The crow flies straight across Chancery Lane and Lincoln 's Inn Garden into Lincoln 's Inn Fields.
Here, in a large house, formerly a house of state, lives Mr. Tulkinghorn. It is let off in sets of chambers now, and in those shrunken fragments of its greatness, lawyers lie like maggots in nuts. But its roomy staircases, passages, and antechambers still remain; and even its painted ceilings, where Allegory, in Roman helmet and celestial linen, sprawls among balustrades and pillars, flowers, clouds, and big-legged boys, and makes the head ache -- as would seem to be Allegory 's object always, more or less. Here, among his many boxes labelled with transcendent names, lives Mr. Tulkinghorn, when not speechlessly at home in country-houses where the great ones of the earth are bored to death. Here he is to-day, quiet at his table. An oyster of the old school whom nobody can open.
Like as he is to look at, so is his apartment in the dusk of the present afternoon. Rusty, out of date, withdrawing from attention, able to afford it. Heavy, broad-backed, old-fashioned, mahogany-and-horsehair chairs, not easily lifted; obsolete tables with spindle-legs and dusty baize covers; presentation prints of the holders of great titles in the last generation or the last but one, environ him.A thick and dingy Turkey-carpet muffles the floor where he sits, attended by two candles in old-fashioned silver candlesticks that give a very insufficient light to his large room. The titles on the backs of his books have retired into the binding; everything that can have a lock has got one; no key is visible. Very few loose papers are about. He has some manuscript near him, but is not referring to it. With the round top of an inkstand and two broken bits of sealing-wax he is silently and slowly working out whatever train of indecision is in his mind. Now the inkstand top is in the middle, now the red bit of sealing-wax, now the black bit. That 's not it. Mr. Tulkinghorn must gather them all up and begin again.
Here, beneath the painted ceiling, with foreshortened Allegory staring down at his intrusion as if it meant to swoop upon him, and he cutting it dead, Mr. Tulkinghorn has at once his house and office. He keeps no staff, only one middle-aged man, usually a little out at elbows, who sits in a high pew in the hall and is rarely overburdened with business. Mr. Tulkinghorn is not in a common way. He wants no clerks. He is a great reservoir of confidences, not to be so tapped. His clients want HIM; he is all in all. Drafts that he requires to be drawn are drawn by special-pleaders in the temple on mysterious instructions; fair copies that he requires to be made are made at the stationers', expense being no consideration. The middle-aged man in the pew knows scarcely more of the affairs of the peerage than any crossing-sweeper in Holborn.
The red bit, the black bit, the inkstand top, the other inkstand top, the little sand-box. So! You to the middle, you to the right, you to the left. This train of indecision must surely be worked out now or never. Now! Mr. Tulkinghorn gets up, adjusts his spectacles, puts on his hat, puts the manuscript in his pocket, goes out, tells the middle-aged man out at elbows, “ I shall be back presently. ” Very rarely tells him anything more explicit.
Mr. Tulkinghorn goes, as the crow came -- not quite so straight, but nearly -- to Cook 's Court, Cursitor Street. To Snagsby 's, Law-Stationer 's, Deeds engrossed and copied, Law-Writing executed in all its branches,& c.,& c.,& c.
It is somewhere about five or six o'clock in the afternoon, and a balmy fragrance of warm tea hovers in Cook 's Court. It hovers about Snagsby 's door. The hours are early there: dinner at half-past one and supper at half-past nine. Mr. Snagsby was about to descend into the subterranean regions to take tea when he looked out of his door just now and saw the crow who was out late.
“ Master at home? ”
Guster is minding the shop, for the` prentices take tea in the kitchen with Mr. and Mrs. Snagsby; consequently, the robe-maker 's two daughters, combing their curls at the two glasses in the two second-floor windows of the opposite house, are not driving the two` prentices to distraction as they fondly suppose, but are merely awakening the unprofitable admiration of Guster, whose hair won't grow, and never would, and it is confidently thought, never will.
“ Master at home? ” says Mr. Tulkinghorn.
Master is at home, and Guster will fetch him. Guster disappears, glad to get out of the shop, which she regards with mingled dread and veneration as a storehouse of awful implements of the great torture of the law -- a place not to be entered after the gas is turned off.
Mr. Snagsby appears, greasy, warm, herbaceous, and chewing. Bolts a bit of bread and butter. Says, “ Bless my soul, sir! Mr. Tulkinghorn! ”
“ I want half a word with you, Snagsby. ”
“ Certainly, sir! Dear me, sir, why didn't you send your young man round for me? Pray walk into the back shop, sir. ” Snagsby has brightened in a moment.
The confined room, strong of parchment-grease, is warehouse, counting-house, and copying-office. Mr. Tulkinghorn sits, facing round, on a stool at the desk.
“ Jarndyce and Jarndyce, Snagsby. ”
“ Yes, sir. ” Mr. Snagsby turns up the gas and coughs behind his hand, modestly anticipating profit. Mr. Snagsby, as a timid man, is accustomed to cough with a variety of expressions, and so to save words.
“ You copied some affidavits in that cause for me lately. ”
“ Yes, sir, we did. ”
“ There was one of them, ” says Mr. Tulkinghorn, carelessly feeling -- tight, unopenable oyster of the old school! -- in the wrong coat-pocket, “ the handwriting of which is peculiar, and I rather like. As I happened to be passing, and thought I had it about me, I looked in to ask you -- but I haven't got it. No matter, any other time will do. Ah! here it is! I looked in to ask you who copied this. ”
“ Who copied this, sir? ” says Mr. Snagsby, taking it, laying it flat on the desk, and separating all the sheets at once with a twirl and a twist of the left hand peculiar to lawstationers. “ We gave this out, sir. We were giving out rather a large quantity of work just at that time. I can tell you in a moment who copied it, sir, by referring to my book. ”
Mr. Snagsby takes his book down from the safe, makes another bolt of the bit of bread and butter which seemed to have stopped short, eyes the affidavit aside, and brings his right forefinger travelling down a page of the book, “ Jewby -- Packer -- Jarndyce. ”
“ Jarndyce! Here we are, sir, ” says Mr. Snagsby. “ To be sure! I might have remembered it. This was given out, sir, to a writer who lodges just over on the opposite side of the lane. ”
Mr. Tulkinghorn has seen the entry, found it before the law-stationer, read it while the forefinger was coming down the hill.
“ WHAT do you call him? Nemo? ” says Mr. Tulkinghorn. “ Nemo, sir. Here it is. Forty-two folio. Given out on the Wednesday night at eight o'clock, brought in on the Thursday morning at half after nine. ”
“ Nemo! ” repeats Mr. Tulkinghorn. “ Nemo is Latin for no one. ”
“ It must be English for some one, sir, I think, ” Mr. Snagsby submits with his deferential cough. “ It is a person 's name. Here it is, you see, sir! Forty-two folio. Given out Wednesday night, eight o'clock; brought in Thursday morning, half after nine. ”
The tail of Mr. Snagsby 's eye becomes conscious of the head of Mrs. Snagsby looking in at the shop-door to know what he means by deserting his tea. Mr. Snagsby addresses an explanatory cough to Mrs. Snagsby, as who should say, “ My dear, a customer! ”
“ Half after nine, sir, ” repeats Mr. Snagsby. “ Our law-writers, who live by job-work, are a queer lot; and this may not be his name, but it 's the name he goes by. I remember now, sir, that he gives it in a written advertisement he sticks up down at the Rule Office, and the King 's Bench Office, and the Judges' Chambers, and so forth. You know the kind of document, sir -- wanting employ? ”
Mr. Tulkinghorn glances through the little window at the back of Coavinses', the sheriff 's officer 's, where lights shine in Coavinses' windows. Coavinses' coffee-room is at the back, and the shadows of several gentlemen under a cloud loom cloudily upon the blinds. Mr. Snagsby takes the opportunity of slightly turning his head to glance over his shoulder at his little woman and to make apologetic motions with his mouth to this effect: “ Tul-king-horn -- rich -- in-flu-en-tial! ”
“ Have you given this man work before? ” asks Mr. Tulkinghorn.
“ Oh, dear, yes, sir! Work of yours. ”
“ Thinking of more important matters, I forget where you said he lived? ”
“ Across the lane, sir. In fact, he lodges at a -- ” Mr. Snagsby makes another bolt, as if the bit of bread and buffer were insurmountable ” -- at a rag and bottle shop. ”
“ Can you show me the place as I go back? ”
“ With the greatest pleasure, sir! ”
Mr. Snagsby pulls off his sleeves and his grey coat, pulls on his black coat, takes his hat from its peg. “ Oh! Here is my little woman! ” he says aloud. “ My dear, will you be so kind as to tell one of the lads to look after the shop while I step across the lane with Mr. Tulkinghorn? Mrs. Snagsby, sir -- I shan't be two minutes, my love! ”
Mrs. Snagsby bends to the lawyer, retires behind the counter, peeps at them through the window-blind, goes softly into the back office, refers to the entries in the book still lying open. Is evidently curious.
“ You will find that the place is rough, sir, ” says Mr. Snagsby, walking deferentially in the road and leaving the narrow pavement to the lawyer; “ and the party is very rough. But they 're a wild lot in general, sir. The advantage of this particular man is that he never wants sleep. He 'll go at it right on end if you want him to, as long as ever you like. ”
It is quite dark now, and the gas-lamps have acquired their full effect. Jostling against clerks going to post the day 's letters, and against counsel and attorneys going home to dinner, and against plaintiffs and defendants and suitors of all sorts, and against the general crowd, in whose way the forensic wisdom of ages has interposed a million of obstacles to the transaction of the commonest business of life; diving through law and equity, and through that kindred mystery, the street mud, which is made of nobody knows what and collects about us nobody knows whence or how -- we only knowing in general that when there is too much of it we find it necessary to shovel it away -- the lawyer and the law-stationer come to a rag and bottle shop and general emporium of much disregarded merchandise, lying and being in the shadow of the wall of Lincoln 's Inn, and kept, as is announced in paint, to all whom it may concern, by one Krook.
“ This is where he lives, sir, ” says the law-stationer.
“ This is where he lives, is it? ” says the lawyer unconcernedly. “ Thank you. ”
“ Are you not going in, sir? ”
“ No, thank you, no; I am going on to the Fields at present. Good evening. Thank you! ” Mr. Snagsby lifts his hat and returns to his little woman and his tea.
But Mr. Tulkinghorn does not go on to the Fields at present. He goes a short way, turns back, comes again to the shop of Mr. Krook, and enters it straight. It is dim enough, with a blot-headed candle or so in the windows, and an old man and a cat sitting in the back part by a fire. The old man rises and comes forward, with another blot-headed candle in his hand.
“ Pray is your lodger within? ”
“ Male or female, sir? ” says Mr. Krook.
“ Male. The person who does copying. ”
Mr. Krook has eyed his man narrowly. Knows him by sight. Has an indistinct impression of his aristocratic repute.
“ Did you wish to see him, sir? ”
“ Yes. ”
“ It 's what I seldom do myself, ” says Mr. Krook with a grin. “ Shall I call him down? But it 's a weak chance if he 'd come, sir! ”
“ I 'll go up to him, then, ” says Mr. Tulkinghorn.
“ Second floor, sir. Take the candle. Up there! ” Mr. Krook, with his cat beside him, stands at the bottom of the staircase, looking after Mr. Tulkinghorn. “ Hi-hi! ” he says when Mr. Tulkinghorn has nearly disappeared. The lawyer looks down over the hand-rail. The cat expands her wicked mouth and snarls at him.
“ Order, Lady Jane! Behave yourself to visitors, my lady! You know what they say of my lodger? ” whispers Krook, going up a step or two.
“ What do they say of him? ”
“ They say he has sold himself to the enemy, but you and I know better -- he don't buy. I 'll tell you what, though; my lodger is so black-humoured and gloomy that I believe he 'd as soon make that bargain as any other. Don't put him out, sir. That 's my advice! ”
Mr. Tulkinghorn with a nod goes on his way. He comes to the dark door on the second floor. He knocks, receives no answer, opens it, and accidentally extinguishes his candle in doing so.
The air of the room is almost bad enough to have extinguished it if he had not. It is a small room, nearly black with soot, and grease, and dirt. In the rusty skeleton of a grate, pinched at the middle as if poverty had gripped it, a red coke fire burns low. In the corner by the chimney stand a deal table and a broken desk, a wilderness marked with a rain of ink. In another corner a ragged old portmanteau on one of the two chairs serves for cabinet or wardrobe; no larger one is needed, for it collapses like the cheeks of a starved man. The floor is bare, except that one old mat, trodden to shreds of rope-yarn, lies perishing upon the hearth. No curtain veils the darkness of the night, but the discoloured shutters are drawn together, and through the two gaunt holes pierced in them, famine might be staring in -- the banshee of the man upon the bed.
For, on a low bed opposite the fire, a confusion of dirty patchwork, lean-ribbed ticking, and coarse sacking, the lawyer, hesitating just within the doorway, sees a man. He lies there, dressed in shirt and trousers, with bare feet. He has a yellow look in the spectral darkness of a candle that has guttered down until the whole length of its wick -LRB- still burning -RRB- has doubled over and left a tower of winding-sheet above it. His hair is ragged, mingling with his whiskers and his beard -- the latter, ragged too, and grown, like the scum and mist around him, in neglect. Foul and filthy as the room is, foul and filthy as the air is, it is not easy to perceive what fumes those are which most oppress the senses in it; but through the general sickliness and faintness, and the odour of stale tobacco, there comes into the lawyer 's mouth the bitter, vapid taste of opium.
“ Hallo, my friend! ” he cries, and strikes his iron candlestick against the door.
He thinks he has awakened his friend. He lies a little turned away, but his eyes are surely open.
“ Hallo, my friend! ” he cries again. “ Hallo! Hallo! ”
As he rattles on the door, the candle which has drooped so long goes out and leaves him in the dark, with the gaunt eyes in the shutters staring down upon the bed.
A touch on the lawyer 's wrinkled hand as he stands in the dark room, irresolute, makes him start and say, “ What 's that? ”
“ It 's me, ” returns the old man of the house, whose breath is in his ear. “ Can't you wake him? ”
“ No. ”
“ What have you done with your candle? ”
“ It 's gone out. Here it is. ”
Krook takes it, goes to the fire, stoops over the red embers, and tries to get a light. The dying ashes have no light to spare, and his endeavours are vain. Muttering, after an ineffectual call to his lodger, that he will go downstairs and bring a lighted candle from the shop, the old man departs. Mr. Tulkinghorn, for some new reason that he has, does not await his return in the room, but on the stairs outside.
The welcome light soon shines upon the wall, as Krook comes slowly up with his green-eyed cat following at his heels. “ Does the man generally sleep like this? ” inquired the lawyer in a low voice. “ Hi! I don't know, ” says Krook, shaking his head and lifting his eyebrows. “ I know next to nothing of his habits except that he keeps himself very close. ”
Thus whispering, they both go in together. As the light goes in, the great eyes in the shutters, darkening, seem to close. Not so the eyes upon the bed.
“ God save us! ” exclaims Mr. Tulkinghorn. “ He is dead! ” Krook drops the heavy hand he has taken up so suddenly that the arm swings over the bedside.
They look at one another for a moment.
“ Send for some doctor! Call for Miss Flite up the stairs, sir. Here 's poison by the bed! Call out for Flite, will you? ” says Krook, with his lean hands spread out above the body like a vampire 's wings.
Mr. Tulkinghorn hurries to the landing and calls, “ Miss Flite! Flite! Make haste, here, whoever you are! Flite! ” Krook follows him with his eyes, and while he is calling, finds opportunity to steal to the old portmanteau and steal back again.
“ Run, Flite, run! The nearest doctor! Run! ” So Mr. Krook addresses a crazy little woman who is his female lodger, who appears and vanishes in a breath, who soon returns accompanied by a testy medical man brought from his dinner, with a broad, snuffy upper lip and a broad Scotch tongue.
“ Ey! Bless the heartso' ye, ” says the medical man, looking up at them after a moment 's examination. “ He 's just as dead as Phairy! ”
Mr. Tulkinghorn -LRB- standing by the old portmanteau -RRB- inquires if he has been dead any time.
“ Any time, sir? ” says the medical gentleman. “ It 's probable he wull have been dead aboot three hours. ”
“ About that time, I should say, ” observes a dark young man on the other side of the bed.
“ Air you in the maydickle prayfession yourself, sir? ” inquires the first.
The dark young man says yes.
“ Then I 'll just tak' my depairture, ” replies the other, “ for I 'm nae gude here! ” With which remark he finishes his brief attendance and returns to finish his dinner.
The dark young surgeon passes the candle across and across the face and carefully examines the law-writer, who has established his pretensions to his name by becoming indeed No one.
“ I knew this person by sight very well, ” says he. “ He has purchased opium of me for the last year and a half. Was anybody present related to him? ” glancing round upon the three bystanders.
“ I was his landlord, ” grimly answers Krook, taking the candle from the surgeon 's outstretched hand. “ He told me once I was the nearest relation he had. ”
“ He has died, ” says the surgeon, “ of an over-dose of opium, there is no doubt. The room is strongly flavoured with it. There is enough here now, ” taking an old tea-pot from Mr. Krook, “ to kill a dozen people. ”
“ Do you think he did it on purpose? ” asks Krook.
“ Took the over-dose? ”
“ Yes! ” Krook almost smacks his lips with the unction of a horrible interest.
“ I can't say. I should think it unlikely, as he has been in the habit of taking so much. But nobody can tell. He was very poor, I suppose? ”
“ I suppose he was. His room -- don't look rich, ” says Krook, who might have changed eyes with his cat, as he casts his sharp glance around. “ But I have never been in it since he had it, and he was too close to name his circumstances to me. ”
“ Did he owe you any rent? ”
“ Six weeks. ”
“ He will never pay it! ” says the young man, resuming his examination. “ It is beyond a doubt that he is indeed as dead as Pharaoh; and to judge from his appearance and condition, I should think it a happy release. Yet he must have been a good figure when a youth, and I dare say, good-looking. ” He says this, not unfeelingly, while sitting on the bedstead 's edge with his face towards that other face and his hand upon the region of the heart. “ I recollect once thinking there was something in his manner, uncouth as it was, that denoted a fall in life. Was that so? ” he continues, looking round.
Krook replies, “ You might as well ask me to describe the ladies whose heads of hair I have got in sacks downstairs. Than that he was my lodger for a year and a half and lived -- or didn't live -- by law-writing, I know no more of him. ”
During this dialogue Mr. Tulkinghorn has stood aloof by the old portmanteau, with his hands behind him, equally removed, to all appearance, from all three kinds of interest exhibited near the bed -- from the young surgeon 's professional interest in death, noticeable as being quite apart from his remarks on the deceased as an individual; from the old man 's unction; and the little crazy woman 's awe. His imperturbable face has been as inexpressive as his rusty clothes. One could not even say he has been thinking all this while. He has shown neither patience nor impatience, nor attention nor abstraction. He has shown nothing but his shell. As easily might the tone of a delicate musical instrument be inferred from its case, as the tone of Mr. Tulkinghorn from his case.
He now interposes, addressing the young surgeon in his unmoved, professional way.
“ I looked in here, ” he observes, “ just before you, with the intention of giving this deceased man, whom I never saw alive, some employment at his trade of copying. I had heard of him from my stationer -- Snagsby of Cook 's Court. Since no one here knows anything about him, it might be as well to send for Snagsby. Ah! ” to the little crazy woman, who has often seen him in court, and whom he has often seen, and who proposes, in frightened dumb-show, to go for the law-stationer. “ Suppose you do! ”
While she is gone, the surgeon abandons his hopeless investigation and covers its subject with the patchwork counterpane. Mr. Krook and he interchange a word or two. Mr. Tulkinghorn says nothing, but stands, ever, near the old portmanteau.
Mr. Snagsby arrives hastily in his grey coat and his black sleeves. “ Dear me, dear me, ” he says; “ and it has come to this, has it! Bless my soul! ”
“ Can you give the person of the house any information about this unfortunate creature, Snagsby? ” inquires Mr. Tulkinghorn. “ He was in arrears with his rent, it seems. And he must be buried, you know. ”
“ Well, sir, ” says Mr. Snagsby, coughing his apologetic cough behind his hand, “ I really don't know what advice I could offer, except sending for the beadle. ”
“ I don't speak of advice, ” returns Mr. Tulkinghorn. “ I could advise -- ”
“ No one better, sir, I am sure, ” says Mr. Snagsby, with his deferential cough.
“ I speak of affording some clue to his connexions, or to where he came from, or to anything concerning him. ”
“ I assure you, sir, ” says Mr. Snagsby after prefacing his reply with his cough of general propitiation, “ that I no more know where he came from than I know -- ”
“ Where he has gone to, perhaps, ” suggests the surgeon to help him out.
A pause. Mr. Tulkinghorn looking at the law-stationer. Mr. Krook, with his mouth open, looking for somebody to speak next.
“ As to his connexions, sir, ” says Mr. Snagsby, “ if a person was to say to me,` Snagsby, here 's twenty thousand pound down, ready for you in the Bank of England if you 'll only name one of 'em,' I couldn't do it, sir! About a year and a half ago -- to the best of my belief, at the time when he first came to lodge at the present rag and bottle shop -- ”
“ That was the time! ” says Krook with a nod.
“ About a year and a half ago, ” says Mr. Snagsby, strengthened, “ he came into our place one morning after breakfast, and finding my little woman -LRB- which I name Mrs. Snagsby when I use that appellation -RRB- in our shop, produced a specimen of his handwriting and gave her to understand that he was in want of copying work to do and was, not to put too fine a point upon it, ” a favourite apology for plain speaking with Mr. Snagsby, which he always offers with a sort of argumentative frankness, “ hard up! My little woman is not in general partial to strangers, particular -- not to put too fine a point upon it -- when they want anything. But she was rather took by something about this person, whether by his being unshaved, or by his hair being in want of attention, or by what other ladies' reasons, I leave you to judge; and she accepted of the specimen, and likewise of the address. My little woman hasn't a good ear for names, ” proceeds Mr. Snagsby after consulting his cough of consideration behind his hand, “ and she considered Nemo equally the same as Nimrod. In consequence of which, she got into a habit of saying to me at meals,` Mr. Snagsby, you haven't found Nimrod any work yet!' or` Mr. Snagsby, why didn't you give that eight and thirty Chancery folio in Jarndyce to Nimrod?' or such like. And that is the way he gradually fell into job-work at our place; and that is the most I know of him except that he was a quick hand, and a hand not sparing of night-work, and that if you gave him out, say, five and forty folio on the Wednesday night, you would have it brought in on the Thursday morning. All of which -- ” Mr. Snagsby concludes by politely motioning with his hat towards the bed, as much as to add, “ I have no doubt my honourable friend would confirm if he were in a condition to do it. ”
“ Hadn't you better see, ” says Mr. Tulkinghorn to Krook, “ whether he had any papers that may enlighten you? There will be an inquest, and you will be asked the question. You can read? ”
“ No, I can't, ” returns the old man with a sudden grin.
“ Snagsby, ” says Mr. Tulkinghorn, “ look over the room for him. He will get into some trouble or difficulty otherwise. Being here, I 'll wait if you make haste, and then I can testify on his behalf, if it should ever be necessary, that all was fair and right. If you will hold the candle for Mr. Snagsby, my friend, he 'll soon see whether there is anything to help you. ”
“ In the first place, here 's an old portmanteau, sir, ” says Snagsby.
Ah, to be sure, so there is! Mr. Tulkinghorn does not appear to have seen it before, though he is standing so close to it, and though there is very little else, heaven knows.
The marine-store merchant holds the light, and the law-stationer conducts the search. The surgeon leans against the corner of the chimney-piece; Miss Flite peeps and trembles just within the door. The apt old scholar of the old school, with his dull black breeches tied with ribbons at the knees, his large black waistcoat, his long-sleeved black coat, and his wisp of limp white neckerchief tied in the bow the peerage knows so well, stands in exactly the same place and attitude.
There are some worthless articles of clothing in the old portmanteau; there is a bundle of pawnbrokers' duplicates, those turnpike tickets on the road of poverty; there is a crumpled paper, smelling of opium, on which are scrawled rough memoranda -- as, took, such a day, so many grains; took, such another day, so many more -- begun some time ago, as if with the intention of being regularly continued, but soon left off. There are a few dirty scraps of newspapers, all referring to coroners' inquests; there is nothing else. They search the cupboard and the drawer of the ink-splashed table. There is not a morsel of an old letter or of any other writing in either. The young surgeon examines the dress on the law-writer.A knife and some odd halfpence are all he finds. Mr. Snagsby 's suggestion is the practical suggestion after all, and the beadle must be called in.
So the little crazy lodger goes for the beadle, and the rest come out of the room. “ Don't leave the cat there! ” says the surgeon; “ that won't do! ” Mr. Krook therefore drives her out before him, and she goes furtively downstairs, winding her lithe tail and licking her lips.
“ Good night! ” says Mr. Tulkinghorn, and goes home to Allegory and meditation.
By this time the news has got into the court. Groups of its inhabitants assemble to discuss the thing, and the outposts of the army of observation -LRB- principally boys -RRB- are pushed forward to Mr. Krook 's window, which they closely invest.A policeman has already walked up to the room, and walked down again to the door, where he stands like a tower, only condescending to see the boys at his base occasionally; but whenever he does see them, they quail and fall back. Mrs. Perkins, who has not been for some weeks on speaking terms with Mrs. Piper in consequence for an unpleasantness originating in young Perkins' having “ fetched ” young Piper “ a crack, ” renews her friendly intercourse on this auspicious occasion. The potboy at the corner, who is a privileged amateur, as possessing official knowledge of life and having to deal with drunken men occasionally, exchanges confidential communications with the policeman and has the appearance of an impregnable youth, unassailable by truncheons and unconfinable in station-houses. People talk across the court out of window, and bare-headed scouts come hurrying in from Chancery Lane to know what 's the matter. The general feeling seems to be that it 's a blessing Mr. Krook warn't made away with first, mingled with a little natural disappointment that he was not. In the midst of this sensation, the beadle arrives.
The beadle, though generally understood in the neighbourhood to be a ridiculous institution, is not without a certain popularity for the moment, if it were only as a man who is going to see the body. The policeman considers him an imbecile civilian, a remnant of the barbarous watchmen times, but gives him admission as something that must be borne with until government shall abolish him. The sensation is heightened as the tidings spread from mouth to mouth that the beadle is on the ground and has gone in.
By and by the beadle comes out, once more intensifying the sensation, which has rather languished in the interval. He is understood to be in want of witnesses for the inquest to-morrow who can tell the coroner and jury anything whatever respecting the deceased. Is immediately referred to innumerable people who can tell nothing whatever. Is made more imbecile by being constantly informed that Mrs. Green 's son “ was a law-writer his-self and knowed him better than anybody, ” which son of Mrs. Green 's appears, on inquiry, to be at the present time aboard a vessel bound for China, three months out, but considered accessible by telegraph on application to the Lords of the Admiralty. Beadle goes into various shops and parlours, examining the inhabitants, always shutting the door first, and by exclusion, delay, and general idiotcy exasperating the public. Policeman seen to smile to potboy. Public loses interest and undergoes reaction. Taunts the beadle in shrill youthful voices with having boiled a boy, choruses fragments of a popular song to that effect and importing that the boy was made into soup for the workhouse. Policeman at last finds it necessary to support the law and seize a vocalist, who is released upon the flight of the rest on condition of his getting out of this then, come, and cutting it -- a condition he immediately observes. So the sensation dies off for the time; and the unmoved policeman -LRB- to whom a little opium, more or less, is nothing -RRB-, with his shining hat, stiff stock, inflexible great-coat, stout belt and bracelet, and all things fitting, pursues his lounging way with a heavy tread, beating the palms of his white gloves one against the other and stopping now and then at a street-corner to look casually about for anything between a lost child and a murder.
Under cover of the night, the feeble-minded beadle comes flitting about Chancery Lane with his summonses, in which every juror 's name is wrongly spelt, and nothing rightly spelt but the beadle 's own name, which nobody can read or wants to know. The summonses served and his witnesses forewarned, the beadle goes to Mr. Krook 's to keep a small appointment he has made with certain paupers, who, presently arriving, are conducted upstairs, where they leave the great eyes in the shutter something new to stare at, in that last shape which earthly lodgings take for No one -- and for Every one.
And all that night the coffin stands ready by the old portmanteau; and the lonely figure on the bed, whose path in life has lain through five and forty years, lies there with no more track behind him that any one can trace than a deserted infant.
Next day the court is all alive -- is like a fair, as Mrs. Perkins, more than reconciled to Mrs. Piper, says in amicable conversation with that excellent woman. The coroner is to sit in the first-floor room at the Sol 's Arms, where the Harmonic Meetings take place twice a week and where the chair is filled by a gentleman of professional celebrity, faced by Little Swills, the comic vocalist, who hopes -LRB- according to the bill in the window -RRB- that his friends will rally round him and support first-rate talent. The Sol 's Arms does a brisk stroke of business all the morning. Even children so require sustaining under the general excitement that a pieman who has established himself for the occasion at the corner of the court says his brandy-balls go off like smoke. What time the beadle, hovering between the door of Mr. Krook 's establishment and the door of the Sol 's Arms, shows the curiosity in his keeping to a few discreet spirits and accepts the compliment of a glass of ale or so in return.
At the appointed hour arrives the coroner, for whom the jurymen are waiting and who is received with a salute of skittles from the good dry skittle-ground attached to the Sol 's Arms. The coroner frequents more public-houses than any man alive. The smell of sawdust, beer, tobacco-smoke, and spirits is inseparable in his vocation from death in its most awful shapes. He is conducted by the beadle and the landlord to the Harmonic Meeting Room, where he puts his hat on the piano and takes a Windsor-chair at the head of a long table formed of several short tables put together and ornamented with glutinous rings in endless involutions, made by pots and glasses. As many of the jury as can crowd together at the table sit there. The rest get among the spittoons and pipes or lean against the piano. Over the coroner 's head is a small iron garland, the pendant handle of a bell, which rather gives the majesty of the court the appearance of going to be hanged presently.
Call over and swear the jury! While the ceremony is in progress, sensation is created by the entrance of a chubby little man in a large shirt-collar, with a moist eye and an inflamed nose, who modestly takes a position near the door as one of the general public, but seems familiar with the room too.A whisper circulates that this is Little Swills. It is considered not unlikely that he will get up an imitation of the coroner and make it the principal feature of the Harmonic Meeting in the evening.
“ Well, gentlemen -- ” the coroner begins.
“ Silence there, will you! ” says the beadle. Not to the coroner, though it might appear so.
“ Well, gentlemen, ” resumes the coroner. “ You are impanelled here to inquire into the death of a certain man. Evidence will be given before you as to the circumstances attending that death, and you will give your verdict according to the -- skittles; they must be stopped, you know, beadle! -- evidence, and not according to anything else. The first thing to be done is to view the body. ”
“ Make way there! ” cries the beadle.
So they go out in a loose procession, something after the manner of a straggling funeral, and make their inspection in Mr. Krook 's back second floor, from which a few of the jurymen retire pale and precipitately. The beadle is very careful that two gentlemen not very neat about the cuffs and buttons -LRB- for whose accommodation he has provided a special little table near the coroner in the Harmonic Meeting Room -RRB- should see all that is to be seen. For they are the public chroniclers of such inquiries by the line; and he is not superior to the universal human infirmity, but hopes to read in print what “ Mooney, the active and intelligent beadle of the district, ” said and did and even aspires to see the name of Mooney as familiarly and patronizingly mentioned as the name of the hangman is, according to the latest examples.
Little Swills is waiting for the coroner and jury on their return. Mr. Tulkinghorn, also. Mr. Tulkinghorn is received with distinction and seated near the coroner between that high judicial officer, a bagatelle-board, and the coal-box. The inquiry proceeds. The jury learn how the subject of their inquiry died, and learn no more about him. “A very eminent solicitor is in attendance, gentlemen, ” says the coroner, “ who, I am informed, was accidentally present when discovery of the death was made, but he could only repeat the evidence you have already heard from the surgeon, the landlord, the lodger, and the law-stationer, and it is not necessary to trouble him. Is anybody in attendance who knows anything more? ”
Mrs. Piper pushed forward by Mrs. Perkins. Mrs. Piper sworn.
Anastasia Piper, gentlemen. Married woman. Now, Mrs. Piper, what have you got to say about this?
Why, Mrs. Piper has a good deal to say, chiefly in parentheses and without punctuation, but not much to tell. Mrs. Piper lives in the court -LRB- which her husband is a cabinet-maker -RRB-, and it has long been well beknown among the neighbours -LRB- counting from the day next but one before the half-baptizing of Alexander James Piper aged eighteen months and four days old on accounts of not being expected to live such was the sufferings gentlemen of that child in his gums -RRB- as the plaintive -- so Mrs. Piper insists on calling the deceased -- was reported to have sold himself. Thinks it was the plaintive 's air in which that report originatinin. See the plaintive often and considered as his air was feariocious and not to be allowed to go about some children being timid -LRB- and if doubted hoping Mrs. Perkins may be brought forard for she is here and will do credit to her husband and herself and family -RRB-. Has seen the plaintive wexed and worrited by the children -LRB- for children they will ever be and you can not expect them specially if of playful dispositions to be Methoozellers which you was not yourself -RRB-. On accounts of this and his dark looks has often dreamed as she see him take a pick-axe from his pocket and split Johnny 's head -LRB- which the child knows not fear and has repeatually called after him close at his eels -RRB-. Never however see the plaintive take a pick-axe or any other wepping far from it. Has seen him hurry away when run and called after as if not partial to children and never see him speak to neither child nor grown person at any time -LRB- excepting the boy that sweeps the crossing down the lane over the way round the corner which if he was here would tell you that he has been seen a-speaking to him frequent -RRB-.
Says the coroner, is that boy here? Says the beadle, no, sir, he is not here. Says the coroner, go and fetch him then. In the absence of the active and intelligent, the coroner converses with Mr. Tulkinghorn.
Oh! Here 's the boy, gentlemen!
Here he is, very muddy, very hoarse, very ragged. Now, boy! But stop a minute. Caution. This boy must be put through a few preliminary paces.
Name, Jo. Nothing else that he knows on. Don't know that everybody has two names. Never heerd of sich a think. Don't know that Jo is short for a longer name. Thinks it long enough for HIM. HE don't find no fault with it. Spell it? No. HE can't spell it. No father, no mother, no friends. Never been to school. What 's home? Knows a broom 's a broom, and knows it 's wicked to tell a lie. Don't recollect who told him about the broom or about the lie, but knows both. Can't exactly say what 'll be done to him arter he 's dead if he tells a lie to the gentlemen here, but believes it 'll be something wery bad to punish him, and serve him right -- and so he 'll tell the truth.
“ This won't do, gentlemen! ” says the coroner with a melancholy shake of the head.
“ Don't you think you can receive his evidence, sir? ” asks an attentive juryman.
“ Out of the question, ” says the coroner. “ You have heard the boy.` Can't exactly say' won't do, you know. We can't take THAT in a court of justice, gentlemen. It 's terrible depravity. Put the boy aside. ”
Boy put aside, to the great edification of the audience, especially of Little Swills, the comic vocalist.
Now. Is there any other witness? No other witness.
Very well, gentlemen! Here 's a man unknown, proved to have been in the habit of taking opium in large quantities for a year and a half, found dead of too much opium. If you think you have any evidence to lead you to the conclusion that he committed suicide, you will come to that conclusion. If you think it is a case of accidental death, you will find a verdict accordingly.
Verdict accordingly. Accidental death. No doubt. Gentlemen, you are discharged. Good afternoon.
While the coroner buttons his great-coat, Mr. Tulkinghorn and he give private audience to the rejected witness in a corner.
That graceless creature only knows that the dead man -LRB- whom he recognized just now by his yellow face and black hair -RRB- was sometimes hooted and pursued about the streets. That one cold winter night when he, the boy, was shivering in a doorway near his crossing, the man turned to look at him, and came back, and having questioned him and found that he had not a friend in the world, said, “ Neither have I. Not one! ” and gave him the price of a supper and a night 's lodging. That the man had often spoken to him since and asked him whether he slept sound at night, and how he bore cold and hunger, and whether he ever wished to die, and similar strange questions. That when the man had no money, he would say in passing, “ I am as poor as you to-day, Jo, ” but that when he had any, he had always -LRB- as the boy most heartily believes -RRB- been glad to give him some.
“ He was wery good to me, ” says the boy, wiping his eyes with his wretched sleeve. “ Wen I see him a-layin' so stritched out just now, I wished he could have heerd me tell him so. He wos wery good to me, he wos! ”
As he shuffles downstairs, Mr. Snagsby, lying in wait for him, puts a half-crown in his hand. “ If you ever see me coming past your crossing with my little woman -- I mean a lady -- ” says Mr. Snagsby with his finger on his nose, “ don't allude to it! ”
For some little time the jurymen hang about the Sol 's Arms colloquially. In the sequel, half-a-dozen are caught up in a cloud of pipe-smoke that pervades the parlour of the Sol 's Arms; two stroll to Hampstead; and four engage to go half-price to the play at night, and top up with oysters. Little Swills is treated on several hands. Being asked what he thinks of the proceedings, characterizes them -LRB- his strength lying in a slangular direction -RRB- as “ a rummy start. ” The landlord of the Sol 's Arms, finding Little Swills so popular, commends him highly to the jurymen and public, observing that for a song in character he don't know his equal and that that man 's character-wardrobe would fill a cart.
Thus, gradually the Sol 's Arms melts into the shadowy night and then flares out of it strong in gas. The Harmonic Meeting hour arriving, the gentleman of professional celebrity takes the chair, is faced -LRB- red-faced -RRB- by Little Swills; their friends rally round them and support first-rate talent. In the zenith of the evening, Little Swills says, “ Gentlemen, if you 'll permit me, I 'll attempt a short description of a scene of real life that came off here to-day. ” Is much applauded and encouraged; goes out of the room as Swills; comes in as the coroner -LRB- not the least in the world like him -RRB-; describes the inquest, with recreative intervals of piano-forte accompaniment, to the refrain: With his -LRB- the coroner 's -RRB- tippy tol li doll, tippy tol lo doll, tippy tol li doll, Dee!
The jingling piano at last is silent, and the Harmonic friends rally round their pillows. Then there is rest around the lonely figure, now laid in its last earthly habitation; and it is watched by the gaunt eyes in the shutters through some quiet hours of night. If this forlorn man could have been prophetically seen lying here by the mother at whose breast he nestled, a little child, with eyes upraised to her loving face, and soft hand scarcely knowing how to close upon the neck to which it crept, what an impossibility the vision would have seemed! Oh, if in brighter days the now-extinguished fire within him ever burned for one woman who held him in her heart, where is she, while these ashes are above the ground!
It is anything but a night of rest at Mr. Snagsby 's, in Cook 's Court, where Guster murders sleep by going, as Mr. Snagsby himself allows -- not to put too fine a point upon it -- out of one fit into twenty. The occasion of this seizure is that Guster has a tender heart and a susceptible something that possibly might have been imagination, but for Tooting and her patron saint. Be it what it may, now, it was so direfully impressed at tea-time by Mr. Snagsby 's account of the inquiry at which he had assisted that at supper-time she projected herself into the kitchen, preceded by a flying Dutch cheese, and fell into a fit of unusual duration, which she only came out of to go into another, and another, and so on through a chain of fits, with short intervals between, of which she has pathetically availed herself by consuming them in entreaties to Mrs. Snagsby not to give her warning “ when she quite comes to, ” and also in appeals to the whole establishment to lay her down on the stones and go to bed. Hence, Mr. Snagsby, at last hearing the cock at the little dairy in Cursitor Street go into that disinterested ecstasy of his on the subject of daylight, says, drawing a long breath, though the most patient of men, “ I thought you was dead, I am sure! ”
What question this enthusiastic fowl supposes he settles when he strains himself to such an extent, or why he should thus crow -LRB- so men crow on various triumphant public occasions, however -RRB- about what can not be of any moment to him, is his affair. It is enough that daylight comes, morning comes, noon comes.
Then the active and intelligent, who has got into the morning papers as such, comes with his pauper company to Mr. Krook 's and bears off the body of our dear brother here departed to a hemmed-in churchyard, pestiferous and obscene, whence malignant diseases are communicated to the bodies of our dear brothers and sisters who have not departed, while our dear brothers and sisters who hang about official back-stairs -- would to heaven they HAD departed! -- are very complacent and agreeable. Into a beastly scrap of ground which a Turk would reject as a savage abomination and a Caffre would shudder at, they bring our dear brother here departed to receive Christian burial.
With houses looking on, on every side, save where a reeking little tunnel of a court gives access to the iron gate -- with every villainy of life in action close on death, and every poisonous element of death in action close on life -- here they lower our dear brother down a foot or two, here sow him in corruption, to be raised in corruption: an avenging ghost at many a sick-bedside, a shameful testimony to future ages how civilization and barbarism walked this boastful island together.
Come night, come darkness, for you can not come too soon or stay too long by such a place as this! Come, straggling lights into the windows of the ugly houses; and you who do iniquity therein, do it at least with this dread scene shut out! Come, flame of gas, burning so sullenly above the iron gate, on which the poisoned air deposits its witch-ointment slimy to the touch! It is well that you should call to every passerby, “ Look here! ”
With the night comes a slouching figure through the tunnel-court to the outside of the iron gate. It holds the gate with its hands and looks in between the bars, stands looking in for a little while.
It then, with an old broom it carries, softly sweeps the step and makes the archway clean. It does so very busily and trimly, looks in again a little while, and so departs.
Jo, is it thou? Well, well! Though a rejected witness, who “ can't exactly say ” what will be done to him in greater hands than men 's, thou art not quite in outer darkness. There is something like a distant ray of light in thy muttered reason for this: “ He wos wery good to me, he wos! ”
It has left off raining down in Lincolnshire at last, and Chesney Wold has taken heart. Mrs. Rouncewell is full of hospitable cares, for Sir Leicester and my Lady are coming home from Paris. The fashionable intelligence has found it out and communicates the glad tidings to benighted England. It has also found out that they will entertain a brilliant and distinguished circle of the ELITE of the BEAU MONDE -LRB- the fashionable intelligence is weak in English, but a giant refreshed in French -RRB- at the ancient and hospitable family seat in Lincolnshire.
For the greater honour of the brilliant and distinguished circle, and of Chesney Wold into the bargain, the broken arch of the bridge in the park is mended; and the water, now retired within its proper limits and again spanned gracefully, makes a figure in the prospect from the house. The clear, cold sunshine glances into the brittle woods and approvingly beholds the sharp wind scattering the leaves and drying the moss. It glides over the park after the moving shadows of the clouds, and chases them, and never catches them, all day. It looks in at the windows and touches the ancestral portraits with bars and patches of brightness never contemplated by the painters. Athwart the picture of my Lady, over the great chimney-piece, it throws a broad bend-sinister of light that strikes down crookedly into the hearth and seems to rend it.
Through the same cold sunshine and the same sharp wind, my Lady and Sir Leicester, in their travelling chariot -LRB- my Lady 's woman and Sir Leicester 's man affectionate in the rumble -RRB-, start for home. With a considerable amount of jingling and whip-cracking, and many plunging demonstrations on the part of two bare-backed horses and two centaurs with glazed hats, jack-boots, and flowing manes and tails, they rattle out of the yard of the Hotel Bristol in the Place Vendome and canter between the sun-and-shadow-chequered colonnade of the Rue de Rivoli and the garden of the ill-fated palace of a headless king and queen, off by the Place of Concord, and the Elysian Fields, and the Gate of the Star, out of Paris.
Sooth to say, they can not go away too fast, for even here my Lady Dedlock has been bored to death. Concert, assembly, opera, theatre, drive, nothing is new to my Lady under the worn-out heavens. Only last Sunday, when poor wretches were gay -- within the walls playing with children among the clipped trees and the statues in the Palace Garden; walking, a score abreast, in the Elysian Fields, made more Elysian by performing dogs and wooden horses; between whiles filtering -LRB- a few -RRB- through the gloomy Cathedral of Our Lady to say a word or two at the base of a pillar within flare of a rusty little gridiron-full of gusty little tapers; without the walls encompassing Paris with dancing, love-making, wine-drinking, tobacco-smoking, tomb-visiting, billiard card and domino playing, quack-doctoring, and much murderous refuse, animate and inanimate -- only last Sunday, my Lady, in the desolation of Boredom and the clutch of Giant Despair, almost hated her own maid for being in spirits.
She can not, therefore, go too fast from Paris. Weariness of soul lies before her, as it lies behind -- her Ariel has put a girdle of it round the whole earth, and it can not be unclasped -- but the imperfect remedy is always to fly from the last place where it has been experienced. Fling Paris back into the distance, then, exchanging it for endless avenues and cross-avenues of wintry trees! And, when next beheld, let it be some leagues away, with the Gate of the Star a white speck glittering in the sun, and the city a mere mound in a plain -- two dark square towers rising out of it, and light and shadow descending on it aslant, like the angels in Jacob 's dream!
Sir Leicester is generally in a complacent state, and rarely bored. When he has nothing else to do, he can always contemplate his own greatness. It is a considerable advantage to a man to have so inexhaustible a subject. After reading his letters, he leans back in his corner of the carriage and generally reviews his importance to society.
“ You have an unusual amount of correspondence this morning? ” says my Lady after a long time. She is fatigued with reading. Has almost read a page in twenty miles.
“ Nothing in it, though. Nothing whatever. ”
“ I saw one of Mr. Tulkinghorn 's long effusions, I think? ”
“ You see everything, ” says Sir Leicester with admiration.
“ Ha! ” sighs my Lady. “ He is the most tiresome of men! ”
“ He sends -- I really beg your pardon -- he sends, ” says Sir Leicester, selecting the letter and unfolding it, “ a message to you. Our stopping to change horses as I came to his postscript drove it out of my memory. I beg you 'll excuse me. He says -- ” Sir Leicester is so long in taking out his eye-glass and adjusting it that my Lady looks a little irritated. “ He says` In the matter of the right of way --' I beg your pardon, that 's not the place. He says -- yes! Here I have it! He says,' I beg my respectful compliments to my Lady, who, I hope, has benefited by the change. Will you do me the favour to mention -LRB- as it may interest her -RRB- that I have something to tell her on her return in reference to the person who copied the affidavit in the Chancery suit, which so powerfully stimulated her curiosity. I have seen him.' ”
My Lady, leaning forward, looks out of her window.
“ That 's the message, ” observes Sir Leicester.
“ I should like to walk a little, ” says my Lady, still looking out of her window.
“ Walk? ” repeats Sir Leicester in a tone of surprise.
“ I should like to walk a little, ” says my Lady with unmistakable distinctness. “ Please to stop the carriage. ”
The carriage is stopped, the affectionate man alights from the rumble, opens the door, and lets down the steps, obedient to an impatient motion of my Lady 's hand. My Lady alights so quickly and walks away so quickly that Sir Leicester, for all his scrupulous politeness, is unable to assist her, and is left behind.A space of a minute or two has elapsed before he comes up with her. She smiles, looks very handsome, takes his arm, lounges with him for a quarter of a mile, is very much bored, and resumes her seat in the carriage.
The rattle and clatter continue through the greater part of three days, with more or less of bell-jingling and whip-cracking, and more or less plunging of centaurs and bare-backed horses. Their courtly politeness to each other at the hotels where they tarry is the theme of general admiration. Though my Lord IS a little aged for my Lady, says Madame, the hostess of the Golden Ape, and though he might be her amiable father, one can see at a glance that they love each other. One observes my Lord with his white hair, standing, hat in hand, to help my Lady to and from the carriage. One observes my Lady, how recognisant of my Lord 's politeness, with an inclination of her gracious head and the concession of her so-genteel fingers! It is ravishing!
The sea has no appreciation of great men, but knocks them about like the small fry. It is habitually hard upon Sir Leicester, whose countenance it greenly mottles in the manner of sage-cheese and in whose aristocratic system it effects a dismal revolution. It is the Radical of Nature to him. Nevertheless, his dignity gets over it after stopping to refit, and he goes on with my Lady for Chesney Wold, lying only one night in London on the way to Lincolnshire.
Through the same cold sunlight, colder as the day declines, and through the same sharp wind, sharper as the separate shadows of bare trees gloom together in the woods, and as the Ghost 's Walk, touched at the western corner by a pile of fire in the sky, resigns itself to coming night, they drive into the park. The rooks, swinging in their lofty houses in the elm-tree avenue, seem to discuss the question of the occupancy of the carriage as it passes underneath, some agreeing that Sir Leicester and my Lady are come down, some arguing with malcontents who won't admit it, now all consenting to consider the question disposed of, now all breaking out again in violent debate, incited by one obstinate and drowsy bird who will persist in putting in a last contradictory croak. Leaving them to swing and caw, the travelling chariot rolls on to the house, where fires gleam warmly through some of the windows, though not through so many as to give an inhabited expression to the darkening mass of front. But the brilliant and distinguished circle will soon do that.
Mrs. Rouncewell is in attendance and receives Sir Leicester 's customary shake of the hand with a profound curtsy.
“ How do you do, Mrs. Rouncewell? I am glad to see you. ”
“ I hope I have the honour of welcoming you in good health, Sir Leicester? ”
“ In excellent health, Mrs. Rouncewell. ”
“ My Lady is looking charmingly well, ” says Mrs. Rouncewell with another curtsy.
My Lady signifies, without profuse expenditure of words, that she is as wearily well as she can hope to be.
But Rosa is in the distance, behind the housekeeper; and my Lady, who has not subdued the quickness of her observation, whatever else she may have conquered, asks, “ Who is that girl? ”
“A young scholar of mine, my Lady. Rosa. ”
“ Come here, Rosa! ” Lady Dedlock beckons her, with even an appearance of interest. “ Why, do you know how pretty you are, child? ” she says, touching her shoulder with her two forefingers.
Rosa, very much abashed, says, “ No, if you please, my Lady! ” and glances up, and glances down, and don't know where to look, but looks all the prettier.
“ How old are you? ”
“ Nineteen, my Lady. ”
“ Nineteen, ” repeats my Lady thoughtfully. “ Take care they don't spoil you by flattery. ”
“ Yes, my Lady. ”
My Lady taps her dimpled cheek with the same delicate gloved fingers and goes on to the foot of the oak staircase, where Sir Leicester pauses for her as her knightly escort.A staring old Dedlock in a panel, as large as life and as dull, looks as if he didn't know what to make of it, which was probably his general state of mind in the days of Queen Elizabeth.
That evening, in the housekeeper 's room, Rosa can do nothing but murmur Lady Dedlock 's praises. She is so affable, so graceful, so beautiful, so elegant; has such a sweet voice and such a thrilling touch that Rosa can feel it yet! Mrs. Rouncewell confirms all this, not without personal pride, reserving only the one point of affability. Mrs. Rouncewell is not quite sure as to that. Heaven forbid that she should say a syllable in dispraise of any member of that excellent family, above all, of my Lady, whom the whole world admires; but if my Lady would only be “ a little more free, ” not quite so cold and distant, Mrs. Rouncewell thinks she would be more affable.
”` Tis almost a pity, ” Mrs. Rouncewell adds -- only “ almost ” because it borders on impiety to suppose that anything could be better than it is, in such an express dispensation as the Dedlock affairs -- “ that my Lady has no family. If she had had a daughter now, a grown young lady, to interest her, I think she would have had the only kind of excellence she wants. ”
“ Might not that have made her still more proud, grandmother? ” says Watt, who has been home and come back again, he is such a good grandson.
“ More and most, my dear, ” returns the housekeeper with dignity, “ are words it 's not my place to use -- nor so much as to hear -- applied to any drawback on my Lady. ”
“ I beg your pardon, grandmother. But she is proud, is she not? ”
“ If she is, she has reason to be. The Dedlock family have always reason to be. ”
“ Well, ” says Watt, “ it 's to be hoped they line out of their prayer-books a certain passage for the common people about pride and vainglory. Forgive me, grandmother! Only a joke! ”
“ Sir Leicester and Lady Dedlock, my dear, are not fit subjects for joking. ”
“ Sir Leicester is no joke by any means, ” says Watt, “ and I humbly ask his pardon. I suppose, grandmother, that even with the family and their guests down here, there is no objection to my prolonging my stay at the Dedlock Arms for a day or two, as any other traveller might? ”
“ Surely, none in the world, child. ”
“ I am glad of that, ” says Watt, “ because I have an inexpressible desire to extend my knowledge of this beautiful neighbourhood. ”
He happens to glance at Rosa, who looks down and is very shy indeed. But according to the old superstition, it should be Rosa 's ears that burn, and not her fresh bright cheeks, for my Lady 's maid is holding forth about her at this moment with surpassing energy.
My Lady 's maid is a Frenchwoman of two and thirty, from somewhere in the southern country about Avignon and Marseilles, a large-eyed brown woman with black hair who would be handsome but for a certain feline mouth and general uncomfortable tightness of face, rendering the jaws too eager and the skull too prominent. There is something indefinably keen and wan about her anatomy, and she has a watchful way of looking out of the corners of her eyes without turning her head which could be pleasantly dispensed with, especially when she is in an ill humour and near knives. Through all the good taste of her dress and little adornments, these objections so express themselves that she seems to go about like a very neat she-wolf imperfectly tamed. Besides being accomplished in all the knowledge appertaining to her post, she is almost an Englishwoman in her acquaintance with the language; consequently, she is in no want of words to shower upon Rosa for having attracted my Lady 's attention, and she pours them out with such grim ridicule as she sits at dinner that her companion, the affectionate man, is rather relieved when she arrives at the spoon stage of that performance.
Ha, ha, ha! She, Hortense, been in my Lady 's service since five years and always kept at the distance, and this doll, this puppet, caressed -- absolutely caressed -- by my Lady on the moment of her arriving at the house! Ha, ha, ha! “ And do you know how pretty you are, child? ” “ No, my Lady. ” You are right there! “ And how old are you, child! And take care they do not spoil you by flattery, child! ” Oh, how droll! It is the BEST thing altogether.
In short, it is such an admirable thing that Mademoiselle Hortense can't forget it; but at meals for days afterwards, even among her countrywomen and others attached in like capacity to the troop of visitors, relapses into silent enjoyment of the joke -- an enjoyment expressed, in her own convivial manner, by an additional tightness of face, thin elongation of compressed lips, and sidewise look, which intense appreciation of humour is frequently reflected in my Lady 's mirrors when my Lady is not among them.
All the mirrors in the house are brought into action now, many of them after a long blank. They reflect handsome faces, simpering faces, youthful faces, faces of threescore and ten that will not submit to be old; the entire collection of faces that have come to pass a January week or two at Chesney Wold, and which the fashionable intelligence, a mighty hunter before the Lord, hunts with a keen scent, from their breaking cover at the Court of St. James 's to their being run down to death. The place in Lincolnshire is all alive. By day guns and voices are heard ringing in the woods, horsemen and carriages enliven the park roads, servants and hangers-on pervade the village and the Dedlock Arms. Seen by night from distant openings in the trees, the row of windows in the long drawing-room, where my Lady 's picture hangs over the great chimney-piece, is like a row of jewels set in a black frame. On Sunday the chill little church is almost warmed by so much gallant company, and the general flavour of the Dedlock dust is quenched in delicate perfumes.
The brilliant and distinguished circle comprehends within it no contracted amount of education, sense, courage, honour, beauty, and virtue. Yet there is something a little wrong about it in despite of its immense advantages. What can it be?
Dandyism? There is no King George the Fourth now -LRB- more the pity -RRB- to set the dandy fashion; there are no clear-starched jack-towel neckcloths, no short-waisted coats, no false calves, no stays. There are no caricatures, now, of effeminate exquisites so arrayed, swooning in opera boxes with excess of delight and being revived by other dainty creatures poking long-necked scent-bottles at their noses. There is no beau whom it takes four men at once to shake into his buckskins, or who goes to see all the executions, or who is troubled with the self-reproach of having once consumed a pea. But is there dandyism in the brilliant and distinguished circle notwithstanding, dandyism of a more mischievous sort, that has got below the surface and is doing less harmless things than jack-towelling itself and stopping its own digestion, to which no rational person need particularly object?
Why, yes. It can not be disguised. There ARE at Chesney Wold this January week some ladies and gentlemen of the newest fashion, who have set up a dandyism -- in religion, for instance. Who in mere lackadaisical want of an emotion have agreed upon a little dandy talk about the vulgar wanting faith in things in general, meaning in the things that have been tried and found wanting, as though a low fellow should unaccountably lose faith in a bad shilling after finding it out! Who would make the vulgar very picturesque and faithful by putting back the hands upon the clock of time and cancelling a few hundred years of history.
There are also ladies and gentlemen of another fashion, not so new, but very elegant, who have agreed to put a smooth glaze on the world and to keep down all its realities. For whom everything must be languid and pretty. Who have found out the perpetual stoppage. Who are to rejoice at nothing and be sorry for nothing. Who are not to be disturbed by ideas. On whom even the fine arts, attending in powder and walking backward like the Lord Chamberlain, must array themselves in the milliners' and tailors' patterns of past generations and be particularly careful not to be in earnest or to receive any impress from the moving age.
Then there is my Lord Boodle, of considerable reputation with his party, who has known what office is and who tells Sir Leicester Dedlock with much gravity, after dinner, that he really does not see to what the present age is tending.A debate is not what a debate used to be; the House is not what the House used to be; even a Cabinet is not what it formerly was. He perceives with astonishment that supposing the present government to be overthrown, the limited choice of the Crown, in the formation of a new ministry, would lie between Lord Coodle and Sir Thomas Doodle -- supposing it to be impossible for the Duke of Foodle to act with Goodle, which may be assumed to be the case in consequence of the breach arising out of that affair with Hoodle. Then, giving the Home Department and the leadership of the House of Commons to Joodle, the Exchequer to Koodle, the Colonies to Loodle, and the Foreign Office to Moodle, what are you to do with Noodle? You can't offer him the Presidency of the Council; that is reserved for Poodle. You can't put him in the Woods and Forests; that is hardly good enough for Quoodle. What follows? That the country is shipwrecked, lost, and gone to pieces -LRB- as is made manifest to the patriotism of Sir Leicester Dedlock -RRB- because you can't provide for Noodle!
On the other hand, the Right Honourable William Buffy, M.P., contends across the table with some one else that the shipwreck of the country -- about which there is no doubt; it is only the manner of it that is in question -- is attributable to Cuffy. If you had done with Cuffy what you ought to have done when he first came into Parliament, and had prevented him from going over to Duffy, you would have got him into alliance with Fuffy, you would have had with you the weight attaching as a smart debater to Guffy, you would have brought to bear upon the elections the wealth of Huffy, you would have got in for three counties Juffy, Kuffy, and Luffy, and you would have strengthened your administration by the official knowledge and the business habits of Muffy. All this, instead of being as you now are, dependent on the mere caprice of Puffy!
As to this point, and as to some minor topics, there are differences of opinion; but it is perfectly clear to the brilliant and distinguished circle, all round, that nobody is in question but Boodle and his retinue, and Buffy and HIS retinue. These are the great actors for whom the stage is reserved.A People there are, no doubt -- a certain large number of supernumeraries, who are to be occasionally addressed, and relied upon for shouts and choruses, as on the theatrical stage; but Boodle and Buffy, their followers and families, their heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns, are the born first-actors, managers, and leaders, and no others can appear upon the scene for ever and ever.
In this, too, there is perhaps more dandyism at Chesney Wold than the brilliant and distinguished circle will find good for itself in the long run. For it is, even with the stillest and politest circles, as with the circle the necromancer draws around him -- very strange appearances may be seen in active motion outside. With this difference, that being realities and not phantoms, there is the greater danger of their breaking in.
Chesney Wold is quite full anyhow, so full that a burning sense of injury arises in the breasts of ill-lodged ladies'- maids, and is not to be extinguished. Only one room is empty. It is a turret chamber of the third order of merit, plainly but comfortably furnished and having an old-fashioned business air. It is Mr. Tulkinghorn 's room, and is never bestowed on anybody else, for he may come at any time. He is not come yet. It is his quiet habit to walk across the park from the village in fine weather, to drop into this room as if he had never been out of it since he was last seen there, to request a servant to inform Sir Leicester that he is arrived in case he should be wanted, and to appear ten minutes before dinner in the shadow of the library-door. He sleeps in his turret with a complaining flag-staff over his head, and has some leads outside on which, any fine morning when he is down here, his black figure may be seen walking before breakfast like a larger species of rook.
Every day before dinner, my Lady looks for him in the dusk of the library, but he is not there. Every day at dinner, my Lady glances down the table for the vacant place that would be waiting to receive him if he had just arrived, but there is no vacant place. Every night my Lady casually asks her maid, “ Is Mr. Tulkinghorn come? ”
Every night the answer is, “ No, my Lady, not yet. ”
One night, while having her hair undressed, my Lady loses herself in deep thought after this reply until she sees her own brooding face in the opposite glass, and a pair of black eyes curiously observing her.
“ Be so good as to attend, ” says my Lady then, addressing the reflection of Hortense, “ to your business. You can contemplate your beauty at another time. ”
“ Pardon! It was your Ladyship 's beauty. ”
“ That, ” says my Lady, “ you needn't contemplate at all. ”
At length, one afternoon a little before sunset, when the bright groups of figures which have for the last hour or two enlivened the Ghost 's Walk are all dispersed and only Sir Leicester and my Lady remain upon the terrace, Mr. Tulkinghorn appears. He comes towards them at his usual methodical pace, which is never quickened, never slackened. He wears his usual expressionless mask -- if it be a mask -- and carries family secrets in every limb of his body and every crease of his dress. Whether his whole soul is devoted to the great or whether he yields them nothing beyond the services he sells is his personal secret. He keeps it, as he keeps the secrets of his clients; he is his own client in that matter, and will never betray himself.
“ How do you do, Mr. Tulkinghorn? ” says Sir Leicester, giving him his hand.
Mr. Tulkinghorn is quite well. Sir Leicester is quite well. My Lady is quite well. All highly satisfactory. The lawyer, with his hands behind him, walks at Sir Leicester 's side along the terrace. My Lady walks upon the other side.
“ We expected you before, ” says Sir Leicester.A gracious observation. As much as to say, “ Mr. Tulkinghorn, we remember your existence when you are not here to remind us of it by your presence. We bestow a fragment of our minds upon you, sir, you see! ”
Mr. Tulkinghorn, comprehending it, inclines his head and says he is much obliged.
“ I should have come down sooner, ” he explains, “ but that I have been much engaged with those matters in the several suits between yourself and Boythorn. ”
“A man of a very ill-regulated mind, ” observes Sir Leicester with severity. “ An extremely dangerous person in any community.A man of a very low character of mind. ”
“ He is obstinate, ” says Mr. Tulkinghorn.
“ It is natural to such a man to be so, ” says Sir Leicester, looking most profoundly obstinate himself. “ I am not at all surprised to hear it. ”
“ The only question is, ” pursues the lawyer, “ whether you will give up anything. ”
“ No, sir, ” replies Sir Leicester. “ Nothing. I give up? ”
“ I don't mean anything of importance. That, of course, I know you would not abandon. I mean any minor point. ”
“ Mr. Tulkinghorn, ” returns Sir Leicester, “ there can be no minor point between myself and Mr. Boythorn. If I go farther, and observe that I can not readily conceive how ANY right of mine can be a minor point, I speak not so much in reference to myself as an individual as in reference to the family position I have it in charge to maintain. ”
Mr. Tulkinghorn inclines his head again. “ I have now my instructions, ” he says. “ Mr. Boythorn will give us a good deal of trouble -- ”
“ It is the character of such a mind, Mr. Tulkinghorn, ” Sir Leicester interrupts him, “ TO give trouble. An exceedingly ill-conditioned, levelling person.A person who, fifty years ago, would probably have been tried at the Old Bailey for some demagogue proceeding, and severely punished -- if not, ” adds Sir Leicester after a moment 's pause, “ if not hanged, drawn, and quartered. ”
Sir Leicester appears to discharge his stately breast of a burden in passing this capital sentence, as if it were the next satisfactory thing to having the sentence executed.
“ But night is coming on, ” says he, “ and my Lady will take cold. My dear, let us go in. ”
As they turn towards the hall-door, Lady Dedlock addresses Mr. Tulkinghorn for the first time.
“ You sent me a message respecting the person whose writing I happened to inquire about. It was like you to remember the circumstance; I had quite forgotten it. Your message reminded me of it again. I can't imagine what association I had with a hand like that, but I surely had some. ”
“ You had some? ” Mr. Tulkinghorn repeats.
“ Oh, yes! ” returns my Lady carelessly. “ I think I must have had some. And did you really take the trouble to find out the writer of that actual thing -- what is it! -- affidavit? ”
“ Yes. ”
“ How very odd! ”
They pass into a sombre breakfast-room on the ground floor, lighted in the day by two deep windows. It is now twilight. The fire glows brightly on the panelled wall and palely on the window-glass, where, through the cold reflection of the blaze, the colder landscape shudders in the wind and a grey mist creeps along, the only traveller besides the waste of clouds.
My Lady lounges in a great chair in the chimney-corner, and Sir Leicester takes another great chair opposite. The lawyer stands before the fire with his hand out at arm 's length, shading his face. He looks across his arm at my Lady.
“ Yes, ” he says, “ I inquired about the man, and found him. And, what is very strange, I found him -- ”
“ Not to be any out-of-the-way person, I am afraid! ” Lady Dedlock languidly anticipates.
“ I found him dead. ”
“ Oh, dear me! ” remonstrated Sir Leicester. Not so much shocked by the fact as by the fact of the fact being mentioned.
“ I was directed to his lodging -- a miserable, poverty-stricken place -- and I found him dead. ”
“ You will excuse me, Mr. Tulkinghorn, ” observes Sir Leicester. “ I think the less said -- ”
“ Pray, Sir Leicester, let me hear the story out ” -LRB- it is my Lady speaking -RRB-. “ It is quite a story for twilight. How very shocking! Dead? ”
Mr. Tulkinghorn re-asserts it by another inclination of his head. “ Whether by his own hand -- ”
“ Upon my honour! ” cries Sir Leicester. “ Really! ”
“ Do let me hear the story! ” says my Lady.
“ Whatever you desire, my dear. But, I must say -- ”
“ No, you mustn't say! Go on, Mr. Tulkinghorn. ”
Sir Leicester 's gallantry concedes the point, though he still feels that to bring this sort of squalor among the upper classes is really -- really --
“ I was about to say, ” resumes the lawyer with undisturbed calmness, “ that whether he had died by his own hand or not, it was beyond my power to tell you. I should amend that phrase, however, by saying that he had unquestionably died of his own act, though whether by his own deliberate intention or by mischance can never certainly be known. The coroner 's jury found that he took the poison accidentally. ”
“ And what kind of man, ” my Lady asks, “ was this deplorable creature? ”
“ Very difficult to say, ” returns the lawyer, shaking his head. “ He had lived so wretchedly and was so neglected, with his gipsy colour and his wild black hair and beard, that I should have considered him the commonest of the common. The surgeon had a notion that he had once been something better, both in appearance and condition. ”
“ What did they call the wretched being? ”
“ They called him what he had called himself, but no one knew his name. ”
“ Not even any one who had attended on him? ”
“ No one had attended on him. He was found dead. In fact, I found him. ”
“ Without any clue to anything more? ”
“ Without any; there was, ” says the lawyer meditatively, “ an old portmanteau, but -- No, there were no papers. ”
During the utterance of every word of this short dialogue, Lady Dedlock and Mr. Tulkinghorn, without any other alteration in their customary deportment, have looked very steadily at one another -- as was natural, perhaps, in the discussion of so unusual a subject. Sir Leicester has looked at the fire, with the general expression of the Dedlock on the staircase. The story being told, he renews his stately protest, saying that as it is quite clear that no association in my Lady 's mind can possibly be traceable to this poor wretch -LRB- unless he was a begging-letter writer -RRB-, he trusts to hear no more about a subject so far removed from my Lady 's station.
“ Certainly, a collection of horrors, ” says my Lady, gathering up her mantles and furs, “ but they interest one for the moment! Have the kindness, Mr. Tulkinghorn, to open the door for me. ”
Mr. Tulkinghorn does so with deference and holds it open while she passes out. She passes close to him, with her usual fatigued manner and insolent grace. They meet again at dinner -- again, next day -- again, for many days in succession. Lady Dedlock is always the same exhausted deity, surrounded by worshippers, and terribly liable to be bored to death, even while presiding at her own shrine. Mr. Tulkinghorn is always the same speechless repository of noble confidences, so oddly out of place and yet so perfectly at home. They appear to take as little note of one another as any two people enclosed within the same walls could. But whether each evermore watches and suspects the other, evermore mistrustful of some great reservation; whether each is evermore prepared at all points for the other, and never to be taken unawares; what each would give to know how much the other knows -- all this is hidden, for the time, in their own hearts.
We held many consultations about what Richard was to be, first without Mr. Jarndyce, as he had requested, and afterwards with him, but it was a long time before we seemed to make progress. Richard said he was ready for anything. When Mr. Jarndyce doubted whether he might not already be too old to enter the Navy, Richard said he had thought of that, and perhaps he was. When Mr. Jarndyce asked him what he thought of the Army, Richard said he had thought of that, too, and it wasn't a bad idea. When Mr. Jarndyce advised him to try and decide within himself whether his old preference for the sea was an ordinary boyish inclination or a strong impulse, Richard answered, Well he really HAD tried very often, and he couldn't make out.
“ How much of this indecision of character, ” Mr. Jarndyce said to me, “ is chargeable on that incomprehensible heap of uncertainty and procrastination on which he has been thrown from his birth, I don't pretend to say; but that Chancery, among its other sins, is responsible for some of it, I can plainly see. It has engendered or confirmed in him a habit of putting off -- and trusting to this, that, and the other chance, without knowing what chance -- and dismissing everything as unsettled, uncertain, and confused. The character of much older and steadier people may be even changed by the circumstances surrounding them. It would be too much to expect that a boy 's, in its formation, should be the subject of such influences and escape them. ”
I felt this to be true; though if I may venture to mention what I thought besides, I thought it much to be regretted that Richard 's education had not counteracted those influences or directed his character. He had been eight years at a public school and had learnt, I understood, to make Latin verses of several sorts in the most admirable manner. But I never heard that it had been anybody 's business to find out what his natural bent was, or where his failings lay, or to adapt any kind of knowledge to HIM. HE had been adapted to the verses and had learnt the art of making them to such perfection that if he had remained at school until he was of age, I suppose he could only have gone on making them over and over again unless he had enlarged his education by forgetting how to do it. Still, although I had no doubt that they were very beautiful, and very improving, and very sufficient for a great many purposes of life, and always remembered all through life, I did doubt whether Richard would not have profited by some one studying him a little, instead of his studying them quite so much.
To be sure, I knew nothing of the subject and do not even now know whether the young gentlemen of classic Rome or Greece made verses to the same extent -- or whether the young gentlemen of any country ever did.
“ I haven't the least idea, ” said Richard, musing, “ what I had better be. Except that I am quite sure I don't want to go into the Church, it 's a toss-up. ”
“ You have no inclination in Mr. Kenge 's way? ” suggested Mr. Jarndyce.
“ I don't know that, sir! ” replied Richard. “ I am fond of boating. Articled clerks go a good deal on the water. It 's a capital profession! ”
“ Surgeon -- ” suggested Mr. Jarndyce.
“ That 's the thing, sir! ” cried Richard.
I doubt if he had ever once thought of it before.
“ That 's the thing, sir, ” repeated Richard with the greatest enthusiasm. “ We have got it at last. M.R.C.S.! ”
He was not to be laughed out of it, though he laughed at it heartily. He said he had chosen his profession, and the more he thought of it, the more he felt that his destiny was clear; the art of healing was the art of all others for him. Mistrusting that he only came to this conclusion because, having never had much chance of finding out for himself what he was fitted for and having never been guided to the discovery, he was taken by the newest idea and was glad to get rid of the trouble of consideration, I wondered whether the Latin verses often ended in this or whether Richard 's was a solitary case.
Mr. Jarndyce took great pains to talk with him seriously and to put it to his good sense not to deceive himself in so important a matter. Richard was a little grave after these interviews, but invariably told Ada and me that it was all right, and then began to talk about something else.
“ By heaven! ” cried Mr. Boythorn, who interested himself strongly in the subject -- though I need not say that, for he could do nothing weakly; “ I rejoice to find a young gentleman of spirit and gallantry devoting himself to that noble profession! The more spirit there is in it, the better for mankind and the worse for those mercenary task-masters and low tricksters who delight in putting that illustrious art at a disadvantage in the world. By all that is base and despicable, ” cried Mr. Boythorn, “ the treatment of surgeons aboard ship is such that I would submit the legs -- both legs -- of every member of the Admiralty Board to a compound fracture and render it a transportable offence in any qualified practitioner to set them if the system were not wholly changed in eight and forty hours! ”
“ Wouldn't you give them a week? ” asked Mr. Jarndyce.
“ No! ” cried Mr. Boythorn firmly. “ Not on any consideration! Eight and forty hours! As to corporations, parishes, vestry-boards, and similar gatherings of jolter-headed clods who assemble to exchange such speeches that, by heaven, they ought to be worked in quicksilver mines for the short remainder of their miserable existence, if it were only to prevent their detestable English from contaminating a language spoken in the presence of the sun -- as to those fellows, who meanly take advantage of the ardour of gentlemen in the pursuit of knowledge to recompense the inestimable services of the best years of their lives, their long study, and their expensive education with pittances too small for the acceptance of clerks, I would have the necks of every one of them wrung and their skulls arranged in Surgeons' Hall for the contemplation of the whole profession in order that its younger members might understand from actual measurement, in early life, HOW thick skulls may become! ”
He wound up this vehement declaration by looking round upon us with a most agreeable smile and suddenly thundering, “ Ha, ha, ha! ” over and over again, until anybody else might have been expected to be quite subdued by the exertion.
As Richard still continued to say that he was fixed in his choice after repeated periods for consideration had been recommended by Mr. Jarndyce and had expired, and he still continued to assure Ada and me in the same final manner that it was “ all right, ” it became advisable to take Mr. Kenge into council. Mr. Kenge, therefore, came down to dinner one day, and leaned back in his chair, and turned his eye-glasses over and over, and spoke in a sonorous voice, and did exactly what I remembered to have seen him do when I was a little girl.
“ Ah! ” said Mr. Kenge. “ Yes. Well!A very good profession, Mr. Jarndyce, a very good profession. ”
“ The course of study and preparation requires to be diligently pursued, ” observed my guardian with a glance at Richard.
“ Oh, no doubt, ” said Mr. Kenge. “ Diligently. ”
“ But that being the case, more or less, with all pursuits that are worth much, ” said Mr. Jarndyce, “ it is not a special consideration which another choice would be likely to escape. ”
“ Truly, ” said Mr. Kenge. “ And Mr. Richard Carstone, who has so meritoriously acquitted himself in the -- shall I say the classic shades? -- in which his youth had been passed, will, no doubt, apply the habits, if not the principles and practice, of versification in that tongue in which a poet was said -LRB- unless I mistake -RRB- to be born, not made, to the more eminently practical field of action on which he enters. ”
“ You may rely upon it, ” said Richard in his off-hand manner, “ that I shall go at it and do my best. ”
“ Very well, Mr. Jarndyce! ” said Mr. Kenge, gently nodding his head. “ Really, when we are assured by Mr. Richard that he means to go at it and to do his best, ” nodding feelingly and smoothly over those expressions, “ I would submit to you that we have only to inquire into the best mode of carrying out the object of his ambition. Now, with reference to placing Mr. Richard with some sufficiently eminent practitioner. Is there any one in view at present? ”
“ No one, Rick, I think? ” said my guardian.
“ No one, sir, ” said Richard.
“ Quite so! ” observed Mr. Kenge. “ As to situation, now. Is there any particular feeling on that head? ”
“N -- no, ” said Richard.
“ Quite so! ” observed Mr. Kenge again.
“ I should like a little variety, ” said Richard; “ I mean a good range of experience. ”
“ Very requisite, no doubt, ” returned Mr. Kenge. “ I think this may be easily arranged, Mr. Jarndyce? We have only, in the first place, to discover a sufficiently eligible practitioner; and as soon as we make our want -- and shall I add, our ability to pay a premium? -- known, our only difficulty will be in the selection of one from a large number. We have only, in the second place, to observe those little formalities which are rendered necessary by our time of life and our being under the guardianship of the court. We shall soon be -- shall I say, in Mr. Richard 's own light-hearted manner,` going at it' -- to our heart 's content. It is a coincidence, ” said Mr. Kenge with a tinge of melancholy in his smile, “ one of those coincidences which may or may not require an explanation beyond our present limited faculties, that I have a cousin in the medical profession. He might be deemed eligible by you and might be disposed to respond to this proposal. I can answer for him as little as for you, but he MIGHT! ”
As this was an opening in the prospect, it was arranged that Mr. Kenge should see his cousin. And as Mr. Jarndyce had before proposed to take us to London for a few weeks, it was settled next day that we should make our visit at once and combine Richard 's business with it.
Mr. Boythorn leaving us within a week, we took up our abode at a cheerful lodging near Oxford Street over an upholsterer 's shop. London was a great wonder to us, and we were out for hours and hours at a time, seeing the sights, which appeared to be less capable of exhaustion than we were. We made the round of the principal theatres, too, with great delight, and saw all the plays that were worth seeing. I mention this because it was at the theatre that I began to be made uncomfortable again by Mr. Guppy.
I was sitting in front of the box one night with Ada, and Richard was in the place he liked best, behind Ada 's chair, when, happening to look down into the pit, I saw Mr. Guppy, with his hair flattened down upon his head and woe depicted in his face, looking up at me. I felt all through the performance that he never looked at the actors but constantly looked at me, and always with a carefully prepared expression of the deepest misery and the profoundest dejection.
It quite spoiled my pleasure for that night because it was so very embarrassing and so very ridiculous. But from that time forth, we never went to the play without my seeing Mr. Guppy in the pit, always with his hair straight and flat, his shirt-collar turned down, and a general feebleness about him. If he were not there when we went in, and I began to hope he would not come and yielded myself for a little while to the interest of the scene, I was certain to encounter his languishing eyes when I least expected it and, from that time, to be quite sure that they were fixed upon me all the evening.
I really can not express how uneasy this made me. If he would only have brushed up his hair or turned up his collar, it would have been bad enough; but to know that that absurd figure was always gazing at me, and always in that demonstrative state of despondency, put such a constraint upon me that I did not like to laugh at the play, or to cry at it, or to move, or to speak. I seemed able to do nothing naturally. As to escaping Mr. Guppy by going to the back of the box, I could not bear to do that because I knew Richard and Ada relied on having me next them and that they could never have talked together so happily if anybody else had been in my place. So there I sat, not knowing where to look -- for wherever I looked, I knew Mr. Guppy 's eyes were following me -- and thinking of the dreadful expense to which this young man was putting himself on my account.
Sometimes I thought of telling Mr. Jarndyce. Then I feared that the young man would lose his situation and that I might ruin him. Sometimes I thought of confiding in Richard, but was deterred by the possibility of his fighting Mr. Guppy and giving him black eyes. Sometimes I thought, should I frown at him or shake my head. Then I felt I could not do it. Sometimes I considered whether I should write to his mother, but that ended in my being convinced that to open a correspondence would be to make the matter worse. I always came to the conclusion, finally, that I could do nothing. Mr. Guppy 's perseverance, all this time, not only produced him regularly at any theatre to which we went, but caused him to appear in the crowd as we were coming out, and even to get up behind our fly -- where I am sure I saw him, two or three times, struggling among the most dreadful spikes. After we got home, he haunted a post opposite our house. The upholsterer 's where we lodged being at the corner of two streets, and my bedroom window being opposite the post, I was afraid to go near the window when I went upstairs, lest I should see him -LRB- as I did one moonlight night -RRB- leaning against the post and evidently catching cold. If Mr. Guppy had not been, fortunately for me, engaged in the daytime, I really should have had no rest from him.
While we were making this round of gaieties, in which Mr. Guppy so extraordinarily participated, the business which had helped to bring us to town was not neglected. Mr. Kenge 's cousin was a Mr. Bayham Badger, who had a good practice at Chelsea and attended a large public institution besides. He was quite willing to receive Richard into his house and to superintend his studies, and as it seemed that those could be pursued advantageously under Mr. Badger 's roof, and Mr. Badger liked Richard, and as Richard said he liked Mr. Badger “ well enough, ” an agreement was made, the Lord Chancellor 's consent was obtained, and it was all settled.
On the day when matters were concluded between Richard and Mr. Badger, we were all under engagement to dine at Mr. Badger 's house. We were to be “ merely a family party, ” Mrs. Badger 's note said; and we found no lady there but Mrs. Badger herself. She was surrounded in the drawing-room by various objects, indicative of her painting a little, playing the piano a little, playing the guitar a little, playing the harp a little, singing a little, working a little, reading a little, writing poetry a little, and botanizing a little. She was a lady of about fifty, I should think, youthfully dressed, and of a very fine complexion. If I add to the little list of her accomplishments that she rouged a little, I do not mean that there was any harm in it.
Mr. Bayham Badger himself was a pink, fresh-faced, crisp-looking gentleman with a weak voice, white teeth, light hair, and surprised eyes, some years younger, I should say, than Mrs. Bayham Badger. He admired her exceedingly, but principally, and to begin with, on the curious ground -LRB- as it seemed to us -RRB- of her having had three husbands. We had barely taken our seats when he said to Mr. Jarndyce quite triumphantly, “ You would hardly suppose that I am Mrs. Bayham Badger 's third! ”
“ Indeed? ” said Mr. Jarndyce.
“ Her third! ” said Mr. Badger. “ Mrs. Bayham Badger has not the appearance, Miss Summerson, of a lady who has had two former husbands? ”
I said “ Not at all! ”
“ And most remarkable men! ” said Mr. Badger in a tone of confidence. “ Captain Swosser of the Royal Navy, who was Mrs. Badger 's first husband, was a very distinguished officer indeed. The name of Professor Dingo, my immediate predecessor, is one of European reputation. ”
Mrs. Badger overheard him and smiled.
“ Yes, my dear! ” Mr. Badger replied to the smile, “ I was observing to Mr. Jarndyce and Miss Summerson that you had had two former husbands -- both very distinguished men. And they found it, as people generally do, difficult to believe. ”
“ I was barely twenty, ” said Mrs. Badger, “ when I married Captain Swosser of the Royal Navy. I was in the Mediterranean with him; I am quite a sailor. On the twelfth anniversary of my wedding-day, I became the wife of Professor Dingo. ”
“ Of European reputation, ” added Mr. Badger in an undertone.
“ And when Mr. Badger and myself were married, ” pursued Mrs. Badger, “ we were married on the same day of the year. I had become attached to the day. ”
“ So that Mrs. Badger has been married to three husbands -- two of them highly distinguished men, ” said Mr. Badger, summing up the facts, “ and each time upon the twenty-first of March at eleven in the forenoon! ”
We all expressed our admiration.
“ But for Mr. Badger 's modesty, ” said Mr. Jarndyce, “ I would take leave to correct him and say three distinguished men. ”
“ Thank you, Mr. Jarndyce! What I always tell him! ” observed Mrs. Badger.
“ And, my dear, ” said Mr. Badger, “ what do I always tell you? That without any affectation of disparaging such professional distinction as I may have attained -LRB- which our friend Mr. Carstone will have many opportunities of estimating -RRB-, I am not so weak -- no, really, ” said Mr. Badger to us generally, “ so unreasonable -- as to put my reputation on the same footing with such first-rate men as Captain Swosser and Professor Dingo. Perhaps you may be interested, Mr. Jarndyce, ” continued Mr. Bayham Badger, leading the way into the next drawing-room, “ in this portrait of Captain Swosser. It was taken on his return home from the African station, where he had suffered from the fever of the country. Mrs. Badger considers it too yellow. But it 's a very fine head.A very fine head! ”
We all echoed, “A very fine head! ”
“ I feel when I look at it, ” said Mr. Badger, ”` That 's a man I should like to have seen!' It strikingly bespeaks the first-class man that Captain Swosser pre-eminently was. On the other side, Professor Dingo. I knew him well -- attended him in his last illness -- a speaking likeness! Over the piano, Mrs. Bayham Badger when Mrs. Swosser. Over the sofa, Mrs. Bayham Badger when Mrs. Dingo. Of Mrs. Bayham Badger IN ESSE, I possess the original and have no copy. ”
Dinner was now announced, and we went downstairs. It was a very genteel entertainment, very handsomely served. But the captain and the professor still ran in Mr. Badger 's head, and as Ada and I had the honour of being under his particular care, we had the full benefit of them.
“ Water, Miss Summerson? Allow me! Not in that tumbler, pray. Bring me the professor 's goblet, James! ”
Ada very much admired some artificial flowers under a glass.
“ Astonishing how they keep! ” said Mr. Badger. “ They were presented to Mrs. Bayham Badger when she was in the Mediterranean. ”
He invited Mr. Jarndyce to take a glass of claret.
“ Not that claret! ” he said. “ Excuse me! This is an occasion, and ON an occasion I produce some very special claret I happen to have. -LRB- James, Captain Swosser 's wine! -RRB- Mr. Jarndyce, this is a wine that was imported by the captain, we will not say how many years ago. You will find it very curious. My dear, I shall be happy to take some of this wine with you. -LRB- Captain Swosser 's claret to your mistress, James! -RRB- My love, your health! ”
After dinner, when we ladies retired, we took Mrs. Badger 's first and second husband with us. Mrs. Badger gave us in the drawing-room a biographical sketch of the life and services of Captain Swosser before his marriage and a more minute account of him dating from the time when he fell in love with her at a ball on board the Crippler, given to the officers of that ship when she lay in Plymouth Harbour.
“ The dear old Crippler! ” said Mrs. Badger, shaking her head. “ She was a noble vessel. Trim, ship-shape, all a taunto, as Captain Swosser used to say. You must excuse me if I occasionally introduce a nautical expression; I was quite a sailor once. Captain Swosser loved that craft for my sake. When she was no longer in commission, he frequently said that if he were rich enough to buy her old hulk, he would have an inscription let into the timbers of the quarter-deck where we stood as partners in the dance to mark the spot where he fell -- raked fore and aft -LRB- Captain Swosser used to say -RRB- by the fire from my tops. It was his naval way of mentioning my eyes. ”
Mrs. Badger shook her head, sighed, and looked in the glass.
“ It was a great change from Captain Swosser to Professor Dingo, ” she resumed with a plaintive smile. “ I felt it a good deal at first. Such an entire revolution in my mode of life! But custom, combined with science -- particularly science -- inured me to it. Being the professor 's sole companion in his botanical excursions, I almost forgot that I had ever been afloat, and became quite learned. It is singular that the professor was the antipodes of Captain Swosser and that Mr. Badger is not in the least like either! ”
We then passed into a narrative of the deaths of Captain Swosser and Professor Dingo, both of whom seem to have had very bad complaints. In the course of it, Mrs. Badger signified to us that she had never madly loved but once and that the object of that wild affection, never to be recalled in its fresh enthusiasm, was Captain Swosser. The professor was yet dying by inches in the most dismal manner, and Mrs. Badger was giving us imitations of his way of saying, with great difficulty, “ Where is Laura? Let Laura give me my toast and water! ” when the entrance of the gentlemen consigned him to the tomb.
Now, I observed that evening, as I had observed for some days past, that Ada and Richard were more than ever attached to each other 's society, which was but natural, seeing that they were going to be separated so soon. I was therefore not very much surprised when we got home, and Ada and I retired upstairs, to find Ada more silent than usual, though I was not quite prepared for her coming into my arms and beginning to speak to me, with her face hidden.
“ My darling Esther! ” murmured Ada. “ I have a great secret to tell you! ”
A mighty secret, my pretty one, no doubt!
“ What is it, Ada? ”
“ Oh, Esther, you would never guess! ”
“ Shall I try to guess? ” said I.
“ Oh, no! Don't! Pray don't! ” cried Ada, very much startled by the idea of my doing so.
“ Now, I wonder who it can be about? ” said I, pretending to consider.
“ It 's about -- ” said Ada in a whisper. “ It 's about -- my cousin Richard! ”
“ Well, my own! ” said I, kissing her bright hair, which was all I could see. “ And what about him? ”
“ Oh, Esther, you would never guess! ”
It was so pretty to have her clinging to me in that way, hiding her face, and to know that she was not crying in sorrow but in a little glow of joy, and pride, and hope, that I would not help her just yet.
“ He says -- I know it 's very foolish, we are both so young -- but he says, ” with a burst of tears, “ that he loves me dearly, Esther. ”
“ Does he indeed? ” said I. “ I never heard of such a thing! Why, my pet of pets, I could have told you that weeks and weeks ago! ”
To see Ada lift up her flushed face in joyful surprise, and hold me round the neck, and laugh, and cry, and blush, was so pleasant!
“ Why, my darling, ” said I, “ what a goose you must take me for! Your cousin Richard has been loving you as plainly as he could for I don't know how long! ”
“ And yet you never said a word about it! ” cried Ada, kissing me.
“ No, my love, ” said I. “ I waited to be told. ”
“ But now I have told you, you don't think it wrong of me, do you? ” returned Ada. She might have coaxed me to say no if I had been the hardest-hearted duenna in the world. Not being that yet, I said no very freely.
“ And now, ” said I, “ I know the worst of it. ”
“ Oh, that 's not quite the worst of it, Esther dear! ” cried Ada, holding me tighter and laying down her face again upon my breast.
“ No? ” said I. “ Not even that? ”
“ No, not even that! ” said Ada, shaking her head.
“ Why, you never mean to say -- ” I was beginning in joke.
But Ada, looking up and smiling through her tears, cried, “ Yes, I do! You know, you know I do! ” And then sobbed out, “ With all my heart I do! With all my whole heart, Esther! ”
I told her, laughing, why I had known that, too, just as well as I had known the other! And we sat before the fire, and I had all the talking to myself for a little while -LRB- though there was not much of it -RRB-; and Ada was soon quiet and happy.
“ Do you think my cousin John knows, dear Dame Durden? ” she asked.
“ Unless my cousin John is blind, my pet, ” said I, “ I should think my cousin John knows pretty well as much as we know. ”
“ We want to speak to him before Richard goes, ” said Ada timidly, “ and we wanted you to advise us, and to tell him so. Perhaps you wouldn't mind Richard 's coming in, Dame Durden? ”
“ Oh! Richard is outside, is he, my dear? ” said I.
“ I am not quite certain, ” returned Ada with a bashful simplicity that would have won my heart if she had not won it long before, “ but I think he 's waiting at the door. ”
There he was, of course. They brought a chair on either side of me, and put me between them, and really seemed to have fallen in love with me instead of one another, they were so confiding, and so trustful, and so fond of me. They went on in their own wild way for a little while -- I never stopped them; I enjoyed it too much myself -- and then we gradually fell to considering how young they were, and how there must be a lapse of several years before this early love could come to anything, and how it could come to happiness only if it were real and lasting and inspired them with a steady resolution to do their duty to each other, with constancy, fortitude, and perseverance, each always for the other 's sake. Well! Richard said that he would work his fingers to the bone for Ada, and Ada said that she would work her fingers to the bone for Richard, and they called me all sorts of endearing and sensible names, and we sat there, advising and talking, half the night. Finally, before we parted, I gave them my promise to speak to their cousin John to-morrow.
So, when to-morrow came, I went to my guardian after breakfast, in the room that was our town-substitute for the growlery, and told him that I had it in trust to tell him something.
“ Well, little woman, ” said he, shutting up his book, “ if you have accepted the trust, there can be no harm in it. ”
“ I hope not, guardian, ” said I. “ I can guarantee that there is no secrecy in it. For it only happened yesterday. ”
“ Aye? And what is it, Esther? ”
“ Guardian, ” said I, “ you remember the happy night when first we came down to Bleak House? When Ada was singing in the dark room? ”
I wished to call to his remembrance the look he had given me then. Unless I am much mistaken, I saw that I did so.
“ Because -- ” said I with a little hesitation.
“ Yes, my dear! ” said he. “ Don't hurry. ”
“ Because, ” said I, “ Ada and Richard have fallen in love. And have told each other so. ”
“ Already! ” cried my guardian, quite astonished.
“ Yes! ” said I. “ And to tell you the truth, guardian, I rather expected it. ”
“ The deuce you did! ” said he.
He sat considering for a minute or two, with his smile, at once so handsome and so kind, upon his changing face, and then requested me to let them know that he wished to see them. When they came, he encircled Ada with one arm in his fatherly way and addressed himself to Richard with a cheerful gravity.
“ Rick, ” said Mr. Jarndyce, “ I am glad to have won your confidence. I hope to preserve it. When I contemplated these relations between us four which have so brightened my life and so invested it with new interests and pleasures, I certainly did contemplate, afar off, the possibility of you and your pretty cousin here -LRB- don't be shy, Ada, don't be shy, my dear! -RRB- being in a mind to go through life together. I saw, and do see, many reasons to make it desirable. But that was afar off, Rick, afar off! ”
“ We look afar off, sir, ” returned Richard.
“ Well! ” said Mr. Jarndyce. “ That 's rational. Now, hear me, my dears! I might tell you that you don't know your own minds yet, that a thousand things may happen to divert you from one another, that it is well this chain of flowers you have taken up is very easily broken, or it might become a chain of lead. But I will not do that. Such wisdom will come soon enough, I dare say, if it is to come at all. I will assume that a few years hence you will be in your hearts to one another what you are to-day. All I say before speaking to you according to that assumption is, if you DO change -- if you DO come to find that you are more commonplace cousins to each other as man and woman than you were as boy and girl -LRB- your manhood will excuse me, Rick! -RRB- -- don't be ashamed still to confide in me, for there will be nothing monstrous or uncommon in it. I am only your friend and distant kinsman. I have no power over you whatever. But I wish and hope to retain your confidence if I do nothing to forfeit it. ”
“ I am very sure, sir, ” returned Richard, “ that I speak for Ada too when I say that you have the strongest power over us both -- rooted in respect, gratitude, and affection -- strengthening every day. ”
“ Dear cousin John, ” said Ada, on his shoulder, “ my father 's place can never be empty again. All the love and duty I could ever have rendered to him is transferred to you. ”
“ Come! ” said Mr. Jarndyce. “ Now for our assumption. Now we lift our eyes up and look hopefully at the distance! Rick, the world is before you; and it is most probable that as you enter it, so it will receive you. Trust in nothing but in Providence and your own efforts. Never separate the two, like the heathen waggoner. Constancy in love is a good thing, but it means nothing, and is nothing, without constancy in every kind of effort. If you had the abilities of all the great men, past and present, you could do nothing well without sincerely meaning it and setting about it. If you entertain the supposition that any real success, in great things or in small, ever was or could be, ever will or can be, wrested from Fortune by fits and starts, leave that wrong idea here or leave your cousin Ada here. ”
“ I will leave IT here, sir, ” replied Richard smiling, “ if I brought it here just now -LRB- but I hope I did not -RRB-, and will work my way on to my cousin Ada in the hopeful distance. ”
“ Right! ” said Mr. Jarndyce. “ If you are not to make her happy, why should you pursue her? ”
“ I wouldn't make her unhappy -- no, not even for her love, ” retorted Richard proudly.
“ Well said! ” cried Mr. Jarndyce. “ That 's well said! She remains here, in her home with me. Love her, Rick, in your active life, no less than in her home when you revisit it, and all will go well. Otherwise, all will go ill. That 's the end of my preaching. I think you and Ada had better take a walk. ”
Ada tenderly embraced him, and Richard heartily shook hands with him, and then the cousins went out of the room, looking back again directly, though, to say that they would wait for me.
The door stood open, and we both followed them with our eyes as they passed down the adjoining room, on which the sun was shining, and out at its farther end. Richard with his head bent, and her hand drawn through his arm, was talking to her very earnestly; and she looked up in his face, listening, and seemed to see nothing else. So young, so beautiful, so full of hope and promise, they went on lightly through the sunlight as their own happy thoughts might then be traversing the years to come and making them all years of brightness. So they passed away into the shadow and were gone. It was only a burst of light that had been so radiant. The room darkened as they went out, and the sun was clouded over.
“ Am I right, Esther? ” said my guardian when they were gone.
He was so good and wise to ask ME whether he was right!
“ Rick may gain, out of this, the quality he wants. Wants, at the core of so much that is good! ” said Mr. Jarndyce, shaking his head. “ I have said nothing to Ada, Esther. She has her friend and counsellor always near. ” And he laid his hand lovingly upon my head.
I could not help showing that I was a little moved, though I did all I could to conceal it.
“ Tut tut! ” said he. “ But we must take care, too, that our little woman 's life is not all consumed in care for others. ”
“ Care? My dear guardian, I believe I am the happiest creature in the world! ”
“ I believe so, too, ” said he. “ But some one may find out what Esther never will -- that the little woman is to be held in remembrance above all other people! ”
I have omitted to mention in its place that there was some one else at the family dinner party. It was not a lady. It was a gentleman. It was a gentleman of a dark complexion -- a young surgeon. He was rather reserved, but I thought him very sensible and agreeable. At least, Ada asked me if I did not, and I said yes.
Richard left us on the very next evening to begin his new career, and committed Ada to my charge with great love for her and great trust in me. It touched me then to reflect, and it touches me now, more nearly, to remember -LRB- having what I have to tell -RRB- how they both thought of me, even at that engrossing time. I was a part of all their plans, for the present and the future. I was to write Richard once a week, making my faithful report of Ada, who was to write to him every alternate day. I was to be informed, under his own hand, of all his labours and successes; I was to observe how resolute and persevering he would be; I was to be Ada 's bridesmaid when they were married; I was to live with them afterwards; I was to keep all the keys of their house; I was to be made happy for ever and a day.
“ And if the suit SHOULD make us rich, Esther -- which it may, you know! ” said Richard to crown all.
A shade crossed Ada 's face.
“ My dearest Ada, ” asked Richard, “ why not? ”
“ It had better declare us poor at once, ” said Ada.
“ Oh! I don't know about that, ” returned Richard, “ but at all events, it won't declare anything at once. It hasn't declared anything in heaven knows how many years. ”
“ Too true, ” said Ada.
“ Yes, but, ” urged Richard, answering what her look suggested rather than her words, “ the longer it goes on, dear cousin, the nearer it must be to a settlement one way or other. Now, is not that reasonable? ”
“ You know best, Richard. But I am afraid if we trust to it, it will make us unhappy. ”
“ But, my Ada, we are not going to trust to it! ” cried Richard gaily. “ We know it better than to trust to it. We only say that if it SHOULD make us rich, we have no constitutional objection to being rich. The court is, by solemn settlement of law, our grim old guardian, and we are to suppose that what it gives us -LRB- when it gives us anything -RRB- is our right. It is not necessary to quarrel with our right. ”
“ No, ” said Ada, “ but it may be better to forget all about it. ”
“ Well, well, ” cried Richard, “ then we will forget all about it! We consign the whole thing to oblivion. Dame Durden puts on her approving face, and it 's done! ”
“ Dame Durden 's approving face, ” said I, looking out of the box in which I was packing his books, “ was not very visible when you called it by that name; but it does approve, and she thinks you can't do better. ”
So, Richard said there was an end of it, and immediately began, on no other foundation, to build as many castles in the air as would man the Great Wall of China. He went away in high spirits. Ada and I, prepared to miss him very much, commenced our quieter career.
On our arrival in London, we had called with Mr. Jarndyce at Mrs. Jellyby 's but had not been so fortunate as to find her at home. It appeared that she had gone somewhere to a tea-drinking and had taken Miss Jellyby with her. Besides the tea-drinking, there was to be some considerable speech-making and letter-writing on the general merits of the cultivation of coffee, conjointly with natives, at the Settlement of Borrioboola-Gha. All this involved, no doubt, sufficient active exercise of pen and ink to make her daughter 's part in the proceedings anything but a holiday.
It being now beyond the time appointed for Mrs. Jellyby 's return, we called again. She was in town, but not at home, having gone to Mile End directly after breakfast on some Borrioboolan business, arising out of a society called the East London Branch Aid Ramification. As I had not seen Peepy on the occasion of our last call -LRB- when he was not to be found anywhere, and when the cook rather thought he must have strolled away with the dustman 's cart -RRB-, I now inquired for him again. The oyster shells he had been building a house with were still in the passage, but he was nowhere discoverable, and the cook supposed that he had “ gone after the sheep. ” When we repeated, with some surprise, “ The sheep? ” she said, Oh, yes, on market days he sometimes followed them quite out of town and came back in such a state as never was!
I was sitting at the window with my guardian on the following morning, and Ada was busy writing -- of course to Richard -- when Miss Jellyby was announced, and entered, leading the identical Peepy, whom she had made some endeavours to render presentable by wiping the dirt into corners of his face and hands and making his hair very wet and then violently frizzling it with her fingers. Everything the dear child wore was either too large for him or too small. Among his other contradictory decorations he had the hat of a bishop and the little gloves of a baby. His boots were, on a small scale, the boots of a ploughman, while his legs, so crossed and recrossed with scratches that they looked like maps, were bare below a very short pair of plaid drawers finished off with two frills of perfectly different patterns. The deficient buttons on his plaid frock had evidently been supplied from one of Mr. Jellyby 's coats, they were so extremely brazen and so much too large. Most extraordinary specimens of needlework appeared on several parts of his dress, where it had been hastily mended, and I recognized the same hand on Miss Jellyby 's. She was, however, unaccountably improved in her appearance and looked very pretty. She was conscious of poor little Peepy being but a failure after all her trouble, and she showed it as she came in by the way in which she glanced first at him and then at us.
“ Oh, dear me! ” said my guardian. “ Due east! ”
Ada and I gave her a cordial welcome and presented her to Mr. Jarndyce, to whom she said as she sat down, “ Ma 's compliments, and she hopes you 'll excuse her, because she 's correcting proofs of the plan. She 's going to put out five thousand new circulars, and she knows you 'll be interested to hear that. I have brought one of them with me. Ma 's compliments. ” With which she presented it sulkily enough.
“ Thank you, ” said my guardian. “ I am much obliged to Mrs. Jellyby. Oh, dear me! This is a very trying wind! ”
We were busy with Peepy, taking off his clerical hat, asking him if he remembered us, and so on. Peepy retired behind his elbow at first, but relented at the sight of sponge-cake and allowed me to take him on my lap, where he sat munching quietly. Mr. Jarndyce then withdrawing into the temporary growlery, Miss Jellyby opened a conversation with her usual abruptness.
“ We are going on just as bad as ever in Thavies Inn, ” said she. “ I have no peace of my life. Talk of Africa! I couldn't be worse off if I was a what 's- his-name -- man and a brother! ”
I tried to say something soothing.
“ Oh, it 's of no use, Miss Summerson, ” exclaimed Miss Jellyby, “ though I thank you for the kind intention all the same. I know how I am used, and I am not to be talked over. YOU wouldn't be talked over if you were used so. Peepy, go and play at Wild Beasts under the piano! ”
“ I shan't! ” said Peepy.
“ Very well, you ungrateful, naughty, hard-hearted boy! ” returned Miss Jellyby with tears in her eyes. “ I 'll never take pains to dress you any more. ”
“ Yes, I will go, Caddy! ” cried Peepy, who was really a good child and who was so moved by his sister 's vexation that he went at once.
“ It seems a little thing to cry about, ” said poor Miss Jellyby apologetically, “ but I am quite worn out. I was directing the new circulars till two this morning. I detest the whole thing so that that alone makes my head ache till I can't see out of my eyes. And look at that poor unfortunate child! Was there ever such a fright as he is! ”
Peepy, happily unconscious of the defects in his appearance, sat on the carpet behind one of the legs of the piano, looking calmly out of his den at us while he ate his cake.
“ I have sent him to the other end of the room, ” observed Miss Jellyby, drawing her chair nearer ours, “ because I don't want him to hear the conversation. Those little things are so sharp! I was going to say, we really are going on worse than ever. Pa will be a bankrupt before long, and then I hope Ma will be satisfied. There 'll he nobody but Ma to thank for it. ”
We said we hoped Mr. Jellyby 's affairs were not in so bad a state as that.
“ It 's of no use hoping, though it 's very kind of you, ” returned Miss Jellyby, shaking her head. “ Pa told me only yesterday morning -LRB- and dreadfully unhappy he is -RRB- that he couldn't weather the storm. I should be surprised if he could. When all our tradesmen send into our house any stuff they like, and the servants do what they like with it, and I have no time to improve things if I knew how, and Ma don't care about anything, I should like to make out how Pa is to weather the storm. I declare if I was Pa, I 'd run away. ”
“ My dear! ” said I, smiling. “ Your papa, no doubt, considers his family. ”
“ Oh, yes, his family is all very fine, Miss Summerson, ” replied Miss Jellyby; “ but what comfort is his family to him? His family is nothing but bills, dirt, waste, noise, tumbles downstairs, confusion, and wretchedness. His scrambling home, from week 's end to week 's end, is like one great washing-day -- only nothing 's washed! ”
Miss Jellyby tapped her foot upon the floor and wiped her eyes.
“ I am sure I pity Pa to that degree, ” she said, “ and am so angry with Ma that I can't find words to express myself! However, I am not going to bear it, I am determined. I won't be a slave all my life, and I won't submit to be proposed to by Mr. Quale.A pretty thing, indeed, to marry a philanthropist. As if I hadn't had enough of THAT! ” said poor Miss Jellyby.
I must confess that I could not help feeling rather angry with Mrs. Jellyby myself, seeing and hearing this neglected girl and knowing how much of bitterly satirical truth there was in what she said.
“ If it wasn't that we had been intimate when you stopped at our house, ” pursued Miss Jellyby, “ I should have been ashamed to come here to-day, for I know what a figure I must seem to you two. But as it is, I made up my mind to call, especially as I am not likely to see you again the next time you come to town. ”
She said this with such great significance that Ada and I glanced at one another, foreseeing something more.
“ No! ” said Miss Jellyby, shaking her head. “ Not at all likely! I know I may trust you two. I am sure you won't betray me. I am engaged. ”
“ Without their knowledge at home? ” said I.
“ Why, good gracious me, Miss Summerson, ” she returned, justifying herself in a fretful but not angry manner, “ how can it be otherwise? You know what Ma is -- and I needn't make poor Pa more miserable by telling HIM. ”
“ But would it not be adding to his unhappiness to marry without his knowledge or consent, my dear? ” said I.
“ No, ” said Miss Jellyby, softening. “ I hope not. I should try to make him happy and comfortable when he came to see me, and Peepy and the others should take it in turns to come and stay with me, and they should have some care taken of them then. ”
There was a good deal of affection in poor Caddy. She softened more and more while saying this and cried so much over the unwonted little home-picture she had raised in her mind that Peepy, in his cave under the piano, was touched, and turned himself over on his back with loud lamentations. It was not until I had brought him to kiss his sister, and had restored him to his place on my lap, and had shown him that Caddy was laughing -LRB- she laughed expressly for the purpose -RRB-, that we could recall his peace of mind; even then it was for some time conditional on his taking us in turns by the chin and smoothing our faces all over with his hand. At last, as his spirits were not equal to the piano, we put him on a chair to look out of window; and Miss Jellyby, holding him by one leg, resumed her confidence.
“ It began in your coming to our house, ” she said.
We naturally asked how.
“ I felt I was so awkward, ” she replied, “ that I made up my mind to be improved in that respect at all events and to learn to dance. I told Ma I was ashamed of myself, and I must be taught to dance. Ma looked at me in that provoking way of hers as if I wasn't in sight, but I was quite determined to be taught to dance, and so I went to Mr. Turveydrop 's Academy in Newman Street. ”
“ And was it there, my dear -- ” I began.
“ Yes, it was there, ” said Caddy, “ and I am engaged to Mr. Turveydrop. There are two Mr. Turveydrops, father and son. My Mr. Turveydrop is the son, of course. I only wish I had been better brought up and was likely to make him a better wife, for I am very fond of him. ”
“ I am sorry to hear this, ” said I, “ I must confess. ”
“ I don't know why you should be sorry, ” she retorted a little anxiously, “ but I am engaged to Mr. Turveydrop, whether or no, and he is very fond of me. It 's a secret as yet, even on his side, because old Mr. Turveydrop has a share in the connexion and it might break his heart or give him some other shock if he was told of it abruptly. Old Mr. Turveydrop is a very gentlemanly man indeed -- very gentlemanly. ”
“ Does his wife know of it? ” asked Ada.
“ Old Mr. Turveydrop 's wife, Miss Clare? ” returned Miss Jellyby, opening her eyes. “ There 's no such person. He is a widower. ”
We were here interrupted by Peepy, whose leg had undergone so much on account of his sister 's unconsciously jerking it like a bell-rope whenever she was emphatic that the afflicted child now bemoaned his sufferings with a very low-spirited noise. As he appealed to me for compassion, and as I was only a listener, I undertook to hold him. Miss Jellyby proceeded, after begging Peepy 's pardon with a kiss and assuring him that she hadn't meant to do it.
“ That 's the state of the case, ” said Caddy. “ If I ever blame myself, I still think it 's Ma 's fault. We are to be married whenever we can, and then I shall go to Pa at the office and write to Ma. It won't much agitate Ma; I am only pen and ink to HER. One great comfort is, ” said Caddy with a sob, “ that I shall never hear of Africa after I am married. Young Mr. Turveydrop hates it for my sake, and if old Mr. Turveydrop knows there is such a place, it 's as much as he does. ”
“ It was he who was very gentlemanly, I think! ” said I.
“ Very gentlemanly indeed, ” said Caddy. “ He is celebrated almost everywhere for his deportment. ”
“ Does he teach? ” asked Ada.
“ No, he don't teach anything in particular, ” replied Caddy. “ But his deportment is beautiful. ”
Caddy went on to say with considerable hesitation and reluctance that there was one thing more she wished us to know, and felt we ought to know, and which she hoped would not offend us. It was that she had improved her acquaintance with Miss Flite, the little crazy old lady, and that she frequently went there early in the morning and met her lover for a few minutes before breakfast -- only for a few minutes. “ I go there at other times, ” said Caddy, “ but Prince does not come then. Young Mr. Turveydrop 's name is Prince; I wish it wasn't, because it sounds like a dog, but of course he didn't christen himself. Old Mr. Turveydrop had him christened Prince in remembrance of the Prince Regent. Old Mr. Turveydrop adored the Prince Regent on account of his deportment. I hope you won't think the worse of me for having made these little appointments at Miss Flite 's, where I first went with you, because I like the poor thing for her own sake and I believe she likes me. If you could see young Mr. Turveydrop, I am sure you would think well of him -- at least, I am sure you couldn't possibly think any ill of him. I am going there now for my lesson. I couldn't ask you to go with me, Miss Summerson; but if you would, ” said Caddy, who had said all this earnestly and tremblingly, “ I should be very glad -- very glad. ”
It happened that we had arranged with my guardian to go to Miss Flite 's that day. We had told him of our former visit, and our account had interested him; but something had always happened to prevent our going there again. As I trusted that I might have sufficient influence with Miss Jellyby to prevent her taking any very rash step if I fully accepted the confidence she was so willing to place in me, poor girl, I proposed that she and I and Peepy should go to the academy and afterwards meet my guardian and Ada at Miss Flite 's, whose name I now learnt for the first time. This was on condition that Miss Jellyby and Peepy should come back with us to dinner. The last article of the agreement being joyfully acceded to by both, we smartened Peepy up a little with the assistance of a few pins, some soap and water, and a hair-brush, and went out, bending our steps towards Newman Street, which was very near.
I found the academy established in a sufficiently dingy house at the corner of an archway, with busts in all the staircase windows. In the same house there were also established, as I gathered from the plates on the door, a drawing-master, a coal-merchant -LRB- there was, certainly, no room for his coals -RRB-, and a lithographic artist. On the plate which, in size and situation, took precedence of all the rest, I read, MR. TURVEYDROP. The door was open, and the hall was blocked up by a grand piano, a harp, and several other musical instruments in cases, all in progress of removal, and all looking rakish in the daylight. Miss Jellyby informed me that the academy had been lent, last night, for a concert.
We went upstairs -- it had been quite a fine house once, when it was anybody 's business to keep it clean and fresh, and nobody 's business to smoke in it all day -- and into Mr. Turveydrop 's great room, which was built out into a mews at the back and was lighted by a skylight. It was a bare, resounding room smelling of stables, with cane forms along the walls, and the walls ornamented at regular intervals with painted lyres and little cut-glass branches for candles, which seemed to be shedding their old-fashioned drops as other branches might shed autumn leaves. Several young lady pupils, ranging from thirteen or fourteen years of age to two or three and twenty, were assembled; and I was looking among them for their instructor when Caddy, pinching my arm, repeated the ceremony of introduction. “ Miss Summerson, Mr. Prince Turveydrop! ”
I curtsied to a little blue-eyed fair man of youthful appearance with flaxen hair parted in the middle and curling at the ends all round his head. He had a little fiddle, which we used to call at school a kit, under his left arm, and its little bow in the same hand. His little dancing-shoes were particularly diminutive, and he had a little innocent, feminine manner which not only appealed to me in an amiable way, but made this singular effect upon me, that I received the impression that he was like his mother and that his mother had not been much considered or well used.
“ I am very happy to see Miss Jellyby 's friend, ” he said, bowing low to me. “ I began to fear, ” with timid tenderness, “ as it was past the usual time, that Miss Jellyby was not coming. ”
“ I beg you will have the goodness to attribute that to me, who have detained her, and to receive my excuses, sir, ” said I.
“ Oh, dear! ” said he.
“ And pray, ” I entreated, “ do not allow me to be the cause of any more delay. ”
With that apology I withdrew to a seat between Peepy -LRB- who, being well used to it, had already climbed into a corner place -RRB- and an old lady of a censorious countenance whose two nieces were in the class and who was very indignant with Peepy 's boots. Prince Turveydrop then tinkled the strings of his kit with his fingers, and the young ladies stood up to dance. Just then there appeared from a side-door old Mr. Turveydrop, in the full lustre of his deportment.
He was a fat old gentleman with a false complexion, false teeth, false whiskers, and a wig. He had a fur collar, and he had a padded breast to his coat, which only wanted a star or a broad blue ribbon to be complete. He was pinched in, and swelled out, and got up, and strapped down, as much as he could possibly bear. He had such a neckcloth on -LRB- puffing his very eyes out of their natural shape -RRB-, and his chin and even his ears so sunk into it, that it seemed as though he must inevitably double up if it were cast loose. He had under his arm a hat of great size and weight, shelving downward from the crown to the brim, and in his hand a pair of white gloves with which he flapped it as he stood poised on one leg in a high-shouldered, round-elbowed state of elegance not to be surpassed. He had a cane, he had an eye-glass, he had a snuff-box, he had rings, he had wristbands, he had everything but any touch of nature; he was not like youth, he was not like age, he was not like anything in the world but a model of deportment.
“ Father!A visitor. Miss Jellyby 's friend, Miss Summerson. ”
“ Distinguished, ” said Mr. Turveydrop, “ by Miss Summerson 's presence. ” As he bowed to me in that tight state, I almost believe I saw creases come into the whites of his eyes.
“ My father, ” said the son, aside, to me with quite an affecting belief in him, “ is a celebrated character. My father is greatly admired. ”
“ Go on, Prince! Go on! ” said Mr. Turveydrop, standing with his back to the fire and waving his gloves condescendingly. “ Go on, my son! ”
At this command, or by this gracious permission, the lesson went on. Prince Turveydrop sometimes played the kit, dancing; sometimes played the piano, standing; sometimes hummed the tune with what little breath he could spare, while he set a pupil right; always conscientiously moved with the least proficient through every step and every part of the figure; and never rested for an instant. His distinguished father did nothing whatever but stand before the fire, a model of deportment.
“ And he never does anything else, ” said the old lady of the censorious countenance. “ Yet would you believe that it 's HIS name on the door-plate? ”
“ His son 's name is the same, you know, ” said I.
“ He wouldn't let his son have any name if he could take it from him, ” returned the old lady. “ Look at the son 's dress! ” It certainly was plain -- threadbare -- almost shabby. “ Yet the father must be garnished and tricked out, ” said the old lady, “ because of his deportment. I 'd deport him! Transport him would be better! ”
I felt curious to know more concerning this person. I asked, “ Does he give lessons in deportment now? ”
“ Now! ” returned the old lady shortly. “ Never did. ”
After a moment 's consideration, I suggested that perhaps fencing had been his accomplishment.
“ I don't believe he can fence at all, ma'am, ” said the old lady.
I looked surprised and inquisitive. The old lady, becoming more and more incensed against the master of deportment as she dwelt upon the subject, gave me some particulars of his career, with strong assurances that they were mildly stated.
He had married a meek little dancing-mistress, with a tolerable connexion -LRB- having never in his life before done anything but deport himself -RRB-, and had worked her to death, or had, at the best, suffered her to work herself to death, to maintain him in those expenses which were indispensable to his position. At once to exhibit his deportment to the best models and to keep the best models constantly before himself, he had found it necessary to frequent all public places of fashionable and lounging resort, to be seen at Brighton and elsewhere at fashionable times, and to lead an idle life in the very best clothes. To enable him to do this, the affectionate little dancing-mistress had toiled and laboured and would have toiled and laboured to that hour if her strength had lasted so long. For the mainspring of the story was that in spite of the man 's absorbing selfishness, his wife -LRB- overpowered by his deportment -RRB- had, to the last, believed in him and had, on her death-bed, in the most moving terms, confided him to their son as one who had an inextinguishable claim upon him and whom he could never regard with too much pride and deference. The son, inheriting his mother 's belief, and having the deportment always before him, had lived and grown in the same faith, and now, at thirty years of age, worked for his father twelve hours a day and looked up to him with veneration on the old imaginary pinnacle.
“ The airs the fellow gives himself! ” said my informant, shaking her head at old Mr. Turveydrop with speechless indignation as he drew on his tight gloves, of course unconscious of the homage she was rendering. “ He fully believes he is one of the aristocracy! And he is so condescending to the son he so egregiously deludes that you might suppose him the most virtuous of parents. Oh! ” said the old lady, apostrophizing him with infinite vehemence. “ I could bite you! ”
I could not help being amused, though I heard the old lady out with feelings of real concern. It was difficult to doubt her with the father and son before me. What I might have thought of them without the old lady 's account, or what I might have thought of the old lady 's account without them, I can not say. There was a fitness of things in the whole that carried conviction with it.
My eyes were yet wandering, from young Mr. Turveydrop working so hard, to old Mr. Turveydrop deporting himself so beautifully, when the latter came ambling up to me and entered into conversation.
He asked me, first of all, whether I conferred a charm and a distinction on London by residing in it? I did not think it necessary to reply that I was perfectly aware I should not do that, in any case, but merely told him where I did reside.
“A lady so graceful and accomplished, ” he said, kissing his right glove and afterwards extending it towards the pupils, “ will look leniently on the deficiencies here. We do our best to polish -- polish -- polish! ”
He sat down beside me, taking some pains to sit on the form, I thought, in imitation of the print of his illustrious model on the sofa. And really he did look very like it.
“ To polish -- polish -- polish! ” he repeated, taking a pinch of snuff and gently fluttering his fingers. “ But we are not, if I may say so to one formed to be graceful both by Nature and Art -- ” with the high-shouldered bow, which it seemed impossible for him to make without lifting up his eyebrows and shutting his eyes ” -- we are not what we used to be in point of deportment. ”
“ Are we not, sir? ” said I.
“ We have degenerated, ” he returned, shaking his head, which he could do to a very limited extent in his cravat. “A levelling age is not favourable to deportment. It develops vulgarity. Perhaps I speak with some little partiality. It may not be for me to say that I have been called, for some years now, Gentleman Turveydrop, or that his Royal Highness the Prince Regent did me the honour to inquire, on my removing my hat as he drove out of the Pavilion at Brighton -LRB- that fine building -RRB-,` Who is he? Who the devil is he? Why don't I know him? Why hasn't he thirty thousand a year?' But these are little matters of anecdote -- the general property, ma'am -- still repeated occasionally among the upper classes. ”
“ Indeed? ” said I.
He replied with the high-shouldered bow. “ Where what is left among us of deportment, ” he added, “ still lingers. England -- alas, my country! -- has degenerated very much, and is degenerating every day. She has not many gentlemen left. We are few. I see nothing to succeed us but a race of weavers. ”
“ One might hope that the race of gentlemen would be perpetuated here, ” said I.
“ You are very good. ” He smiled with a high-shouldered bow again. “ You flatter me. But, no -- no! I have never been able to imbue my poor boy with that part of his art. Heaven forbid that I should disparage my dear child, but he has -- no deportment. ”
“ He appears to be an excellent master, ” I observed.
“ Understand me, my dear madam, he IS an excellent master. All that can be acquired, he has acquired. All that can be imparted, he can impart. But there ARE things -- ” He took another pinch of snuff and made the bow again, as if to add, “ This kind of thing, for instance. ”
I glanced towards the centre of the room, where Miss Jellyby 's lover, now engaged with single pupils, was undergoing greater drudgery than ever.
“ My amiable child, ” murmured Mr. Turveydrop, adjusting his cravat.
“ Your son is indefatigable, ” said I.
“ It is my reward, ” said Mr. Turveydrop, “ to hear you say so. In some respects, he treads in the footsteps of his sainted mother. She was a devoted creature. But wooman, lovely wooman, ” said Mr. Turveydrop with very disagreeable gallantry, “ what a sex you are! ”
I rose and joined Miss Jellyby, who was by this time putting on her bonnet. The time allotted to a lesson having fully elapsed, there was a general putting on of bonnets. When Miss Jellyby and the unfortunate Prince found an opportunity to become betrothed I don't know, but they certainly found none on this occasion to exchange a dozen words.
“ My dear, ” said Mr. Turveydrop benignly to his son, “ do you know the hour? ”
“ No, father. ” The son had no watch. The father had a handsome gold one, which he pulled out with an air that was an example to mankind.
“ My son, ” said he, “ it 's two o'clock. Recollect your school at Kensington at three. ”
“ That 's time enough for me, father, ” said Prince. “ I can take a morsel of dinner standing and be off. ”
“ My dear boy, ” returned his father, “ you must be very quick. You will find the cold mutton on the table. ”
“ Thank you, father. Are YOU off now, father? ”
“ Yes, my dear. I suppose, ” said Mr. Turveydrop, shutting his eyes and lifting up his shoulders with modest consciousness, “ that I must show myself, as usual, about town. ”
“ You had better dine out comfortably somewhere, ” said his son.
“ My dear child, I intend to. I shall take my little meal, I think, at the French house, in the Opera Colonnade. ”
“ That 's right. Good-bye, father! ” said Prince, shaking hands.
“ Good-bye, my son. Bless you! ”
Mr. Turveydrop said this in quite a pious manner, and it seemed to do his son good, who, in parting from him, was so pleased with him, so dutiful to him, and so proud of him that I almost felt as if it were an unkindness to the younger man not to be able to believe implicitly in the elder. The few moments that were occupied by Prince in taking leave of us -LRB- and particularly of one of us, as I saw, being in the secret -RRB-, enhanced my favourable impression of his almost childish character. I felt a liking for him and a compassion for him as he put his little kit in his pocket -- and with it his desire to stay a little while with Caddy -- and went away good-humouredly to his cold mutton and his school at Kensington, that made me scarcely less irate with his father than the censorious old lady.
The father opened the room door for us and bowed us out in a manner, I must acknowledge, worthy of his shining original. In the same style he presently passed us on the other side of the street, on his way to the aristocratic part of the town, where he was going to show himself among the few other gentlemen left. For some moments, I was so lost in reconsidering what I had heard and seen in Newman Street that I was quite unable to talk to Caddy or even to fix my attention on what she said to me, especially when I began to inquire in my mind whether there were, or ever had been, any other gentlemen, not in the dancing profession, who lived and founded a reputation entirely on their deportment. This became so bewildering and suggested the possibility of so many Mr. Turveydrops that I said, “ Esther, you must make up your mind to abandon this subject altogether and attend to Caddy. ” I accordingly did so, and we chatted all the rest of the way to Lincoln 's Inn.
Caddy told me that her lover 's education had been so neglected that it was not always easy to read his notes. She said if he were not so anxious about his spelling and took less pains to make it clear, he would do better; but he put so many unnecessary letters into short words that they sometimes quite lost their English appearance. “ He does it with the best intention, ” observed Caddy, “ but it hasn't the effect he means, poor fellow! ” Caddy then went on to reason, how could he be expected to be a scholar when he had passed his whole life in the dancing-school and had done nothing but teach and fag, fag and teach, morning, noon, and night! And what did it matter? She could write letters enough for both, as she knew to her cost, and it was far better for him to be amiable than learned. “ Besides, it 's not as if I was an accomplished girl who had any right to give herself airs, ” said Caddy. “ I know little enough, I am sure, thanks to Ma!
“ There 's another thing I want to tell you, now we are alone, ” continued Caddy, “ which I should not have liked to mention unless you had seen Prince, Miss Summerson. You know what a house ours is. It 's of no use my trying to learn anything that it would be useful for Prince 's wife to know in OUR house. We live in such a state of muddle that it 's impossible, and I have only been more disheartened whenever I have tried. So I get a little practice with -- who do you think? Poor Miss Flite! Early in the morning I help her to tidy her room and clean her birds, and I make her cup of coffee for her -LRB- of course she taught me -RRB-, and I have learnt to make it so well that Prince says it 's the very best coffee he ever tasted, and would quite delight old Mr. Turveydrop, who is very particular indeed about his coffee. I can make little puddings too; and I know how to buy neck of mutton, and tea, and sugar, and butter, and a good many housekeeping things. I am not clever at my needle, yet, ” said Caddy, glancing at the repairs on Peepy 's frock, “ but perhaps I shall improve, and since I have been engaged to Prince and have been doing all this, I have felt better-tempered, I hope, and more forgiving to Ma. It rather put me out at first this morning to see you and Miss Clare looking so neat and pretty and to feel ashamed of Peepy and myself too, but on the whole I hope I am better-tempered than I was and more forgiving to Ma. ”
The poor girl, trying so hard, said it from her heart, and touched mine. “ Caddy, my love, ” I replied, “ I begin to have a great affection for you, and I hope we shall become friends. ”
“ Oh, do you? ” cried Caddy. “ How happy that would make me! ”
“ My dear Caddy, ” said I, “ let us be friends from this time, and let us often have a chat about these matters and try to find the right way through them. ” Caddy was overjoyed. I said everything I could in my old-fashioned way to comfort and encourage her, and I would not have objected to old Mr. Turveydrop that day for any smaller consideration than a settlement on his daughter-in-law.
By this time we were come to Mr. Krook 's, whose private door stood open. There was a bill, pasted on the door-post, announcing a room to let on the second floor. It reminded Caddy to tell me as we proceeded upstairs that there had been a sudden death there and an inquest and that our little friend had been ill of the fright. The door and window of the vacant room being open, we looked in. It was the room with the dark door to which Miss Flite had secretly directed my attention when I was last in the house.A sad and desolate place it was, a gloomy, sorrowful place that gave me a strange sensation of mournfulness and even dread. “ You look pale, ” said Caddy when we came out, “ and cold! ” I felt as if the room had chilled me.
We had walked slowly while we were talking, and my guardian and Ada were here before us. We found them in Miss Flite 's garret. They were looking at the birds, while a medical gentleman who was so good as to attend Miss Flite with much solicitude and compassion spoke with her cheerfully by the fire.
“ I have finished my professional visit, ” he said, coming forward. “ Miss Flite is much better and may appear in court -LRB- as her mind is set upon it -RRB- to-morrow. She has been greatly missed there, I understand. ”
Miss Flite received the compliment with complacency and dropped a general curtsy to us.
“ Honoured, indeed, ” said she, “ by another visit from the wards in Jarndyce! Ve-ry happy to receive Jarndyce of Bleak House beneath my humble roof! ” with a special curtsy. “ Fitz-Jarndyce, my dear ” -- she had bestowed that name on Caddy, it appeared, and always called her by it -- “ a double welcome! ”
“ Has she been very ill? ” asked Mr. Jarndyce of the gentleman whom we had found in attendance on her. She answered for herself directly, though he had put the question in a whisper.
“ Oh, decidedly unwell! Oh, very unwell indeed, ” she said confidentially. “ Not pain, you know -- trouble. Not bodily so much as nervous, nervous! The truth is, ” in a subdued voice and trembling, “ we have had death here. There was poison in the house. I am very susceptible to such horrid things. It frightened me. Only Mr. Woodcourt knows how much. My physician, Mr. Woodcourt! ” with great stateliness. “ The wards in Jarndyce -- Jarndyce of Bleak House -- Fitz-Jarndyce! ”
“ Miss Flite, ” said Mr. Woodcourt in a grave kind of voice, as if he were appealing to her while speaking to us, and laying his hand gently on her arm, “ Miss Flite describes her illness with her usual accuracy. She was alarmed by an occurrence in the house which might have alarmed a stronger person, and was made ill by the distress and agitation. She brought me here in the first hurry of the discovery, though too late for me to be of any use to the unfortunate man. I have compensated myself for that disappointment by coming here since and being of some small use to her. ”
“ The kindest physician in the college, ” whispered Miss Flite to me. “ I expect a judgment. On the day of judgment. And shall then confer estates. ”
“ She will be as well in a day or two, ” said Mr. Woodcourt, looking at her with an observant smile, “ as she ever will be. In other words, quite well of course. Have you heard of her good fortune? ”
“ Most extraordinary! ” said Miss Flite, smiling brightly. “ You never heard of such a thing, my dear! Every Saturday, Conversation Kenge or Guppy -LRB- clerk to Conversation K. -RRB- places in my hand a paper of shillings. Shillings. I assure you! Always the same number in the paper. Always one for every day in the week. Now you know, really! So well-timed, is it not? Ye-es! From whence do these papers come, you say? That is the great question. Naturally. Shall I tell you what I think? I think, ” said Miss Flite, drawing herself back with a very shrewd look and shaking her right forefinger in a most significant manner, “ that the Lord Chancellor, aware of the lengt