Part 6 out of 21
line, through a course of time during and beyond which the memory
of man goeth not to the contrary, have had the gout. It can be
proved, sir. Other men's fathers may have died of the rheumatism
or may have taken base contagion from the tainted blood of the sick
vulgar, but the Dedlock family have communicated something
exclusive even to the levelling process of dying by dying of their
own family gout. It has come down through the illustrious line
like the plate, or the pictures, or the place in Lincolnshire. It
is among their dignities. Sir Leicester is perhaps not wholly
without an impression, though he has never resolved it into words,
that the angel of death in the discharge of his necessary duties
may observe to the shades of the aristocracy, "My lords and
gentlemen, I have the honour to present to you another Dedlock
certified to have arrived per the family gout."
Hence Sir Leicester yields up his family legs to the family
disorder as if he held his name and fortune on that feudal tenure.
He feels that for a Dedlock to be laid upon his back and
spasmodically twitched and stabbed in his extremities is a liberty
taken somewhere, but he thinks, "We have all yielded to this; it
belongs to us; it has for some hundreds of years been understood
that we are not to make the vaults in the park interesting on more
ignoble terms; and I submit myself to the compromise.
And a goodly show he makes, lying in a flush of crimson and gold in
the midst of the great drawing-room before his favourite picture of
my Lady, with broad strips of sunlight shining in, down the long
perspective, through the long line of windows, and alternating with
soft reliefs of shadow. Outside, the stately oaks, rooted for ages
in the green ground which has never known ploughshare, but was
still a chase when kings rode to battle with sword and shield and
rode a-hunting with bow and arrow, bear witness to his greatness.
Inside, his forefathers, looking on him from the walls, say, "Each
of us was a passing reality here and left this coloured shadow of
himself and melted into remembrance as dreamy as the distant voices
of the rooks now lulling you to rest," and hear their testimony to
his greatness too. And he is very great this day. And woe to
Boythorn or other daring wight who shall presumptuously contest an
inch with him!
My Lady is at present represented, near Sir Leicester, by her
portrait. She has flitted away to town, with no intention of
remaining there, and will soon flit hither again, to the confusion
of the fashionable intelligence. The house in town is not prepared
for her reception. It is muffled and dreary. Only one Mercury in
powder gapes disconsolate at the hall-window; and he mentioned last
night to another Mercury of his acquaintance, also accustomed to
good society, that if that sort of thing was to last--which it
couldn't, for a man of his spirits couldn't bear it, and a man of
his figure couldn't be expected to bear it--there would be no
resource for him, upon his honour, but to cut his throat!
What connexion can there be between the place in Lincolnshire, the
house in town, the Mercury in powder, and the whereabout of Jo the
outlaw with the broom, who had that distant ray of light upon him
when he swept the churchyard-step? What connexion can there have
been between many people in the innumerable histories of this world
who from opposite sides of great gulfs have, nevertheless, been
very curiously brought together!
Jo sweeps his crossing all day long, unconscious of the link, if
any link there be. He sums up his mental condition when asked a
question by replying that he "don't know nothink." He knows that
it's hard to keep the mud off the crossing in dirty weather, and
harder still to live by doing it. Nobody taught him even that
much; he found it out.
Jo lives--that is to say, Jo has not yet died--in a ruinous place
known to the like of him by the name of Tom-all-Alone's. It is a
black, dilapidated street, avoided by all decent people, where the
crazy houses were seized upon, when their decay was far advanced,
by some bold vagrants who after establishing their own possession
took to letting them out in lodgings. Now, these tumbling
tenements contain, by night, a swarm of misery. As on the ruined
human wretch vermin parasites appear, so these ruined shelters have
bred a crowd of foul existence that crawls in and out of gaps in
walls and boards; and coils itself to sleep, in maggot numbers,
where the rain drips in; and comes and goes, fetching and carrying
fever and sowing more evil in its every footprint than Lord Coodle,
and Sir Thomas Doodle, and the Duke of Foodle, and all the fine
gentlemen in office, down to Zoodle, shall set right in five
hundred years--though born expressly to do it.
Twice lately there has been a crash and a cloud of dust, like the
springing of a mine, in Tom-all-Alone's; and each time a house has
fallen. These accidents have made a paragraph in the newspapers
and have filled a bed or two in the nearest hospital. The gaps
remain, and there are not unpopular lodgings among the rubbish. As
several more houses are nearly ready to go, the next crash in Tom-
all-Alone's may be expected to be a good one.
This desirable property is in Chancery, of course. It would be an
insult to the discernment of any man with half an eye to tell him
so. Whether "Tom" is the popular representative of the original
plaintiff or defendant in Jarndyce and Jarndyce, or whether Tom
lived here when the suit had laid the street waste, all alone,
until other settlers came to join him, or whether the traditional
title is a comprehensive name for a retreat cut off from honest
company and put out of the pale of hope, perhaps nobody knows.
Certainly Jo don't know.
"For I don't," says Jo, "I don't know nothink."
It must be a strange state to be like Jo! To shuffle through the
streets, unfamiliar with the shapes, and in utter darkness as to
the meaning, of those mysterious symbols, so abundant over the
shops, and at the corners of streets, and on the doors, and in the
windows! To see people read, and to see people write, and to see
the postmen deliver letters, and not to have the least idea of all
that language--to be, to every scrap of it, stone blind and dumb!
It must be very puzzling to see the good company going to the
churches on Sundays, with their books in their hands, and to think
(for perhaps Jo DOES think at odd times) what does it all mean, and
if it means anything to anybody, how comes it that it means nothing
to me? To be hustled, and jostled, and moved on; and really to
feel that it would appear to be perfectly true that I have no
business here, or there, or anywhere; and yet to be perplexed by
the consideration that I AM here somehow, too, and everybody
overlooked me until I became the creature that I am! It must be a
strange state, not merely to be told that I am scarcely human (as
in the case of my offering myself for a witness), but to feel it of
my own knowledge all my life! To see the horses, dogs, and cattle
go by me and to know that in ignorance I belong to them and not to
the superior beings in my shape, whose delicacy I offend! Jo's
ideas of a criminal trial, or a judge, or a bishop, or a govemment,
or that inestimable jewel to him (if he only knew it) the
Constitution, should be strange! His whole material and immaterial
life is wonderfully strange; his death, the strangest thing of all.
Jo comes out of Tom-all-Alone's, meeting the tardy morning which is
always late in getting down there, and munches his dirty bit of
bread as he comes along. His way lying through many streets, and
the houses not yet being open, he sits down to breakfast on the
door-step of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in
Foreign Parts and gives it a brush when he has finished as an
acknowledgment of the accommodation. He admires the size of the
edifice and wonders what it's all about. He has no idea, poor
wretch, of the spiritual destitution of a coral reef in the Pacific
or what it costs to look up the precious souls among the coco-nuts
He goes to his crossing and begins to lay it out for the day. The
town awakes; the great tee-totum is set up for its daily spin and
whirl; all that unaccountable reading and writing, which has been
suspended for a few hours, recommences. Jo and the other lower
animals get on in the unintelligible mess as they can. It is
market-day. The blinded oxen, over-goaded, over-driven, never
guided, run into wrong places and are beaten out, and plunge red-
eyed and foaming at stone walls, and often sorely hurt the
innocent, and often sorely hurt themselves. Very like Jo and his
order; very, very like!
A band of music comes and plays. Jo listens to it. So does a dog
--a drover's dog, waiting for his master outside a butcher's shop,
and evidently thinking about those sheep he has had upon his mind
for some hours and is happily rid of. He seems perplexed
respecting three or four, can't remember where he left them, looks
up and down the street as half expecting to see them astray,
suddenly pricks up his ears and remembers all about it. A
thoroughly vagabond dog, accustomed to low company and public-
houses; a terrific dog to sheep, ready at a whistle to scamper over
their backs and tear out mouthfuls of their wool; but an educated,
improved, developed dog who has been taught his duties and knows
how to discharge them. He and Jo listen to the music, probably
with much the same amount of animal satisfaction; likewise as to
awakened association, aspiration, or regret, melancholy or joyful
reference to things beyond the senses, they are probably upon a
par. But, otherwise, how far above the human listener is the
Turn that dog's descendants wild, like Jo, and in a very few years
they will so degenerate that they will lose even their bark--but
not their bite.
The day changes as it wears itself away and becomes dark and
drizzly. Jo fights it out at his crossing among the mud and
wheels, the horses, whips, and umbrellas, and gets but a scanty sum
to pay for the unsavoury shelter of Tom-all-Alone's. Twilight
comes on; gas begins to start up in the shops; the lamplighter,
with his ladder, runs along the margin of the pavement. A wretched
evening is beginning to close in.
In his chambers Mr. Tulkinghorn sits meditating an application to
the nearest magistrate to-morrow morning for a warrant. Gridley, a
disappointed suitor, has been here to-day and has been alarming.
We are not to be put in bodily fear, and that ill-conditioned
fellow shall be held to bail again. From the ceiling,
foreshortened Allegory, in the person of one impossible Roman
upside down, points with the arm of Samson (out of joint, and an
odd one) obtrusively toward the window. Why should Mr.
Tulkinghorn, for such no reason, look out of window? Is the hand
not always pointing there? So he does not look out of window.
And if he did, what would it be to see a woman going by? There are
women enough in the world, Mr. Tulkinghorn thinks--too many; they
are at the bottom of all that goes wrong in it, though, for the
matter of that, they create business for lawyers. What would it be
to see a woman going by, even though she were going secretly? They
are all secret. Mr. Tulkinghorn knows that very well.
But they are not all like the woman who now leaves him and his
house behind, between whose plain dress and her refined manner
there is something exceedingly inconsistent. She should be an
upper servant by her attire, yet in her air and step, though both
are hurried and assumed--as far as she can assume in the muddy
streets, which she treads with an unaccustomed foot--she is a lady.
Her face is veiled, and still she sufficiently betrays herself to
make more than one of those who pass her look round sharply.
She never turns her head. Lady or servant, she has a purpose in
her and can follow it. She never turns her head until she comes to
the crossing where Jo plies with his broom. He crosses with her
and begs. Still, she does not turn her head until she has landed
on the other side. Then she slightly beckons to him and says,
Jo follows her a pace or two into a quiet court.
"Are you the boy I've read of in the papers?" she asked behind her
"I don't know," says Jo, staring moodily at the veil, "nothink
about no papers. I don't know nothink about nothink at all."
"Were you examined at an inquest?"
"I don't know nothink about no--where I was took by the beadle, do
you mean?" says Jo. "Was the boy's name at the inkwhich Jo?"
"That's me!" says Jo.
"Come farther up."
"You mean about the man?" says Jo, following. "Him as wos dead?"
"Hush! Speak in a whisper! Yes. Did he look, when he was living,
so very ill and poor?"
"Oh, jist!" says Jo.
"Did he look like--not like YOU?" says the woman with abhorrence.
"Oh, not so bad as me," says Jo. "I'm a reg'lar one I am! You
didn't know him, did you?"
"How dare you ask me if I knew him?"
"No offence, my lady," says Jo with much humility, for even he has
got at the suspicion of her being a lady.
"I am not a lady. I am a servant."
"You are a jolly servant!" says Jo without the least idea of saying
anything offensive, merely as a tribute of admiration.
"Listen and be silent. Don't talk to me, and stand farther from
me! Can you show me all those places that were spoken of in the
account I read? The place he wrote for, the place he died at, the
place where you were taken to, and the place where he was buried?
Do you know the place where he was buried?"
Jo answers with a nod, having also nodded as each other place was
"Go before me and show me all those dreadful places. Stop opposite
to each, and don't speak to me unless I speak to you. Don't look
back. Do what I want, and I will pay you well."
Jo attends closely while the words are being spoken; tells them off
on his broom-handle, finding them rather hard; pauses to consider
their meaning; considers it satisfactory; and nods his ragged head.
"I'm fly," says Jo. "But fen larks, you know. Stow hooking it!"
"What does the horrible creature mean?" exclaims the servant,
recoiling from him.
"Stow cutting away, you know!" says Jo.
"I don't understand you. Go on before! I will give you more money
than you ever had in your life."
Jo screws up his mouth into a whistle, gives his ragged head a rub,
takes his broom under his arm, and leads the way, passing deftly
with his bare feet over the hard stones and through the mud and
Cook's Court. Jo stops. A pause.
"Who lives here?"
"Him wot give him his writing and give me half a bull," says Jo in
a whisper without looking over his shoulder.
"Go on to the next."
Krook's house. Jo stops again. A longer pause.
"Who lives here?"
"HE lived here," Jo answers as before.
After a silence he is asked, "In which room?"
"In the back room up there. You can see the winder from this
corner. Up there! That's where I see him stritched out. This is
the public-ouse where I was took to."
"Go on to the next!"
It is a longer walk to the next, but Jo, relieved of his first
suspicions, sticks to the forms imposed upon him and does not look
round. By many devious ways, reeking with offence of many kinds,
they come to the little tunnel of a court, and to the gas-lamp
(lighted now), and to the iron gate.
"He was put there," says Jo, holding to the bars and looking in.
"Where? Oh, what a scene of horror!"
"There!" says Jo, pointing. "Over yinder. Arnong them piles of
bones, and close to that there kitchin winder! They put him wery
nigh the top. They was obliged to stamp upon it to git it in. I
could unkiver it for you with my broom if the gate was open.
That's why they locks it, I s'pose," giving it a shake. "It's
always locked. Look at the rat!" cries Jo, excited. "Hi! Look!
There he goes! Ho! Into the ground!"
The servant shrinks into a corner, into a corner of that hideous
archway, with its deadly stains contaminating her dress; and
putting out her two hands and passionately telling him to keep away
from her, for he is loathsome to her, so remains for some moments.
Jo stands staring and is still staring when she recovers herself.
"Is this place of abomination consecrated ground?"
"I don't know nothink of consequential ground," says Jo, still
"Is it blessed?"
"Which?" says Jo, in the last degree amazed.
"Is it blessed?"
"I'm blest if I know," says Jo, staring more than ever; "but I
shouldn't think it warn't. Blest?" repeats Jo, something troubled
in his mind. "It an't done it much good if it is. Blest? I
should think it was t'othered myself. But I don't know nothink!"
The servant takes as little heed of what he says as she seems to
take of what she has said herself. She draws off her glove to get
some money from her purse. Jo silently notices how white and small
her hand is and what a jolly servant she must be to wear such
She drops a piece of money in his hand without touching it, and
shuddering as their hands approach. "Now," she adds, "show me the
Jo thrusts the handle of his broom between the bars of the gate,
and with his utmost power of elaboration, points it out. At
length, looking aside to see if he has made himself intelligible,
he finds that he is alone.
His first proceeding is to hold the piece of money to the gas-light
and to be overpowered at finding that it is yellow--gold. His next
is to give it a one-sided bite at the edge as a test of its
quality. His next, to put it in his mouth for safety and to sweep
the step and passage with great care. His job done, he sets off
for Tom-all-Alone's, stopping in the light of innumerable gas-lamps
to produce the piece of gold and give it another one-sided bite as
a reassurance of its being genuine.
The Mercury in powder is in no want of society to-night, for my
Lady goes to a grand dinner and three or four balls. Sir Leicester
is fidgety down at Chesney Wold, with no better company than the
goat; he complains to Mrs. Rouncewell that the rain makes such a
monotonous pattering on the terrace that he can't read the paper
even by the fireside in his own snug dressing-room.
"Sir Leicester would have done better to try the other side of the
house, my dear," says Mrs. Rouncewell to Rosa. "His dressing-room
is on my Lady's side. And in all these years I never heard the
step upon the Ghost's Walk more distinct than it is to-night!"
Richard very often came to see us while we remained in London
(though he soon failed in his letter-writing), and with his quick
abilities, his good spirits, his good temper, his gaiety and
freshness, was always delightful. But though I liked him more and
more the better I knew him, I still felt more and more how much it
was to be regretted that he had been educated in no habits of
application and concentration. The system which had addressed him
in exactly the same manner as it had addressed hundreds of other
boys, all varying in character and capacity, had enabled him to
dash through his tasks, always with fair credit and often with
distinction, but in a fitful, dazzling way that had confirmed his
reliance on those very qualities in himself which it had been most
desirable to direct and train. They were good qualities, without
which no high place can be meritoriously won, but like fire and
water, though excellent servants, they were very bad masters. If
they had been under Richard's direction, they would have been his
friends; but Richard being under their direction, they became his
I write down these opinions not because I believe that this or any
other thing was so because I thought so, but only because I did
think so and I want to be quite candid about all I thought and did.
These were my thoughts about Richard. I thought I often observed
besides how right my guardian was in what he had said, and that the
uncertainties and delays of the Chancery suit had imparted to his
nature something of the careless spirit of a gamester who felt that
he was part of a great gaming system.
Mr. and Mrs. Bayham Badger coming one afternoon when my guardian
was not at home, in the course of conversation I naturally inquired
"Why, Mr. Carstone," said Mrs. Badger, "is very well and is, I
assure you, a great acquisition to our society. Captain Swosser
used to say of me that I was always better than land a-head and a
breeze a-starn to the midshipmen's mess when the purser's junk had
become as tough as the fore-topsel weather earings. It was his
naval way of mentioning generally that I was an acquisition to any
society. I may render the same tribute, I am sure, to Mr.
Carstone. But I--you won't think me premature if I mention it?"
I said no, as Mrs. Badger's insinuating tone seemed to require such
"Nor Miss Clare?" said Mrs. Bayham Badger sweetly.
Ada said no, too, and looked uneasy.
"Why, you see, my dears," said Mrs. Badger, "--you'll excuse me
calling you my dears?"
We entreated Mrs. Badger not to mention it.
"Because you really are, if I may take the liberty of saying so,"
pursued Mrs. Badger, "so perfectly charming. You see, my dears,
that although I am still young--or Mr. Bayham Badger pays me the
compliment of saying so--"
"No," Mr. Badger called out like some one contradicting at a public
meeting. "Not at all!"
"Very well," smiled Mrs. Badger, "we will say still young."
"Undoubtedly," said Mr. Badger.
"My dears, though still young, I have had many opportunities of
observing young men. There were many such on board the dear old
Crippler, I assure you. After that, when I was with Captain
Swosser in the Mediterranean, I embraced every opportunity of
knowing and befriending the midshipmen under Captain Swosser's
command. YOU never heard them called the young gentlemen, my
dears, and probably wonld not understand allusions to their pipe-
claying their weekly accounts, but it is otherwise with me, for
blue water has been a second home to me, and I have been quite a
sailor. Again, with Professor Dingo."
"A man of European reputation," murmured Mr. Badger.
"When I lost my dear first and became the wife of my dear second,"
said Mrs. Badger, speaking of her former husbands as if they were
parts of a charade, "I still enjoyed opportunities of observing
youth. The class attendant on Professor Dingo's lectures was a
large one, and it became my pride, as the wife of an eminent
scientific man seeking herself in science the utmost consolation it
could impart, to throw our house open to the students as a kind of
Scientific Exchange. Every Tuesday evening there was lemonade and
a mixed biscuit for all who chose to partake of those refreshments.
And there was science to an unlimited extent."
"Remarkable assemblies those, Miss Summerson," said Mr. Badger
reverentially. "There must have been great intellectual friction
going on there under the auspices of such a man!"
"And now," pursued Mrs. Badger, "now that I am the wife of my dear
third, Mr. Badger, I still pursue those habits of observation which
were formed during the lifetime of Captain Swosser and adapted to
new and unexpected purposes during the lifetime of Professor Dingo.
I therefore have not come to the consideration of Mr. Carstone as a
neophyte. And yet I am very much of the opinion, my dears, that he
has not chosen his profession advisedly."
Ada looked so very anxious now that I asked Mrs. Badger on what she
founded her supposition.
"My dear Miss Summerson," she replied, "on Mr. Carstone's character
and conduct. He is of such a very easy disposition that probably
he would never think it worthwhile to mention how he really feels,
but he feels languid about the profession. He has not that
positive interest in it which makes it his vocation. If he has any
decided impression in reference to it, I should say it was that it
is a tiresome pursuit. Now, this is not promising. Young men like
Mr. Allan Woodcourt who take it from a strong interest in all that
it can do will find some reward in it through a great deal of work
for a very little money and through years of considerable endurance
and disappointment. But I am quite convinced that this would never
be the case with Mr. Carstone."
"Does Mr. Badger think so too?" asked Ada timidly.
"Why," said Mr. Badger, "to tell the truth, Miss Clare, this view
of the matter had not occurred to me until Mrs. Badger mentioned
it. But when Mrs. Badger put it in that light, I naturally gave
great consideration to it, knowing that Mrs. Badger's mind, in
addition to its natural advantages, has had the rare advantage of
being formed by two such very distinguished (I will even say
illustrious) public men as Captain Swosser of the Royal Navy and
Professor Dingo. The conclusion at which I have arrived is--in
short, is Mrs. Badger's conclusion."
"It was a maxim of Captain Swosser's," said Mrs. Badger, "speaking
in his figurative naval manner, that when you make pitch hot, you
cannot make it too hot; and that if you only have to swab a plank,
you should swab it as if Davy Jones were after you. It appears to
me that this maxim is applicable to the medical as well as to the
"To all professions," observed Mr. Badger. "It was admirably said
by Captain Swosser. Beautifully said."
"People objected to Professor Dingo when we were staying in the
north of Devon after our marriage," said Mrs. Badger, "that he
disfigured some of the houses and other buildings by chipping off
fragments of those edifices with his little geological hammer. But
the professor replied that he knew of no building save the Temple
of Science. The principle is the same, I think?"
"Precisely the same," said Mr. Badger. "Finely expressed! The
professor made the same remark, Miss Summerson, in his last
illness, when (his mind wandering) he insisted on keeping his
little hammer under the pillow and chipping at the countenances of
the attendants. The ruling passion!"
Although we could have dispensed with the length at which Mr. and
Mrs. Badger pursued the conversation, we both felt that it was
disinterested in them to express the opinion they had communicated
to us and that there was a great probability of its being sound.
We agreed to say nothing to Mr. Jarndyce until we had spoken to
Richard; and as he was coming next evening, we resolved to have a
very serious talk with him.
So after he had been a little while with Ada, I went in and found
my darling (as I knew she would be) prepared to consider him
thoroughly right in whatever he said.
"And how do you get on, Richard?" said I. I always sat down on the
other side of him. He made quite a sister of me.
"Oh! Well enough!" said Richard.
"He can't say better than that, Esther, can he?" cried my pet
I tried to look at my pet in the wisest manner, but of course I
"Well enough?" I repeated.
"Yes," said Richard, "well enough. It's rather jog-trotty and
humdrum. But it'll do as well as anything else!"
"Oh! My dear Richard!" I remonstrated.
"What's the matter?" said Richard.
"Do as well as anything else!"
"I don't think there's any harm in that, Dame Durden," said Ada,
looking so confidingly at me across him; "because if it will do as
well as anything else, it will do very well, I hope."
"Oh, yes, I hope so," returned Richard, carelessly tossing his hair
from his forehead. "After all, it may be only a kind of probation
till our suit is--I forgot though. I am not to mention the suit.
Forbidden ground! Oh, yes, it's all right enough. Let us talk
about something else."
Ada would have done so willingly, and with a full persuasion that
we had brought the question to a most satisfactory state. But I
thought it would be useless to stop there, so I began again.
"No, but Richard," said I, "and my dear Ada! Consider how
important it is to you both, and what a point of honour it is
towards your cousin, that you, Richard, should be quite in earnest
without any reservation. I think we had better talk about this,
really, Ada. It will be too late very soon."
"Oh, yes! We must talk about it!" said Ada. "But I think Richard
What was the use of my trying to look wise when she was so pretty,
and so engaging, and so fond of him!
"Mr. and Mrs. Badger were here yesterday, Richard," said I, "and
they seemed disposed to think that you had no great liking for the
"Did they though?" said Richard. "Oh! Well, that rather alters the
case, because I had no idea that they thought so, and I should not
have liked to disappoint or inconvenience them. The fact is, I
don't care much about it. But, oh, it don't matter! It'll do as
well as anything else!"
"You hear him, Ada!" said I.
"The fact is," Richard proceeded, half thoughtfully and half
jocosely, "it is not quite in my way. I don't take to it. And I
get too much of Mrs. Bayham Badger's first and second."
"I am sure THAT'S very natural!" cried Ada, quite delighted. "The
very thing we both said yesterday, Esther!"
"Then," pursued Richard, "it's monotonous, and to-day is too like
yesterday, and to-morrow is too like to-day."
"But I am afraid," said I, "this is an objection to all kinds of
application--to life itself, except under some very uncommon
"Do you think so?" returned Richard, still considering. "Perhaps!
Ha! Why, then, you know," he added, suddenly becoming gay again,
"we travel outside a circle to what I said just now. It'll do as
well as anything else. Oh, it's all right enough! Let us talk
about something else."
But even Ada, with her loving face--and if it had seemed innocent
and trusting when I first saw it in that memorable November fog,
how much more did it seem now when I knew her innocent and trusting
heart--even Ada shook her head at this and looked serious. So I
thought it a good opportunity to hint to Richard that if he were
sometimes a little careless of himself, I was very sure he never
meant to be careless of Ada, and that it was a part of his
affectionate consideration for her not to slight the importance of
a step that might influence both their lives. This made him almost
"My dear Mother Hubbard," he said, "that's the very thing! I have
thought of that several times and have been quite angry with myself
for meaning to be so much in earnest and--somehow--not exactly
being so. I don't know how it is; I seem to want something or
other to stand by. Even you have no idea how fond I am of Ada (my
darling cousin, I love you, so much!), but I don't settle down to
constancy in other things. It's such uphill work, and it takes
such a time!" said Richard with an air of vexation.
"That may be," I suggested, "because you don't like what you have
"Poor fellow!" said Ada. "I am sure I don't wonder at it!"
No. It was not of the least use my trying to look wise. I tried
again, but how could I do it, or how could it have any effect if I
could, while Ada rested her clasped hands upon his shoulder and
while he looked at her tender blue eyes, and while they looked at
"You see, my precious girl," said Richard, passing her golden curls
through and through his hand, "I was a little hasty perhaps; or I
misunderstood my own inclinations perhaps. They don't seem to lie
in that direction. I couldn't tell till I tried. Now the question
is whether it's worth-while to undo all that has been done. It
seems like making a great disturbance about nothing particular."
"My dear Richard," said I, "how CAN you say about nothing
"I don't mean absolutely that," he returned. "I mean that it MAY
be nothing particular because I may never want it."
Both Ada and I urged, in reply, not only that it was decidedly
worth-while to undo what had been done, but that it must be undone.
I then asked Richard whether he had thought of any more congenial
"There, my dear Mrs. Shipton," said Richard, "you touch me home.
Yes, I have. I have been thinking that the law is the boy for me."
"The law!" repeated Ada as if she were afraid of the name.
"If I went into Kenge's office," said Richard, "and if I were
placed under articles to Kenge, I should have my eye on the--hum!--
the forbidden ground--and should be able to study it, and master
it, and to satisfy myself that it was not neglected and was being
properly conducted. I should be able to look after Ada's interests
and my own interests (the same thing!); and I should peg away at
Blackstone and all those fellows with the most tremendous ardour."
I was not by any means so sure of that, and I saw how his hankering
after the vague things yet to come of those long-deferred hopes
cast a shade on Ada's face. But I thought it best to encourage him
in any project of continuous exertion, and only advised him to be
quite sure that his mind was made up now.
"My dear Minerva," said Richard, "I am as steady as you are. I
made a mistake; we are all liable to mistakes; I won't do so any
more, and I'll become such a lawyer as is not often seen. That is,
you know," said Richard, relapsing into doubt, "if it really is
worth-while, after all, to make such a disturbance about nothing
This led to our saying again, with a great deal of gravity, all
that we had said already and to our coming to much the same
conclusion afterwards. But we so strongly advised Richard to be
frank and open with Mr. Jarndyce, without a moment's delay, and his
disposition was naturally so opposed to concealment that he sought
him out at once (taking us with him) and made a full avowal.
"Rick," said my guardian, after hearing him attentively, "we can
retreat with honour, and we will. But we must he careful--for our
cousin s sake, Rick, for our cousin's sake--that we make no more
such mistakes. Therefore, in the matter of the law, we will have a
good trial before we decide. We will look before we leap, and take
plenty of time about it."
Richard's energy was of such an impatient and fitful kind that he
would have liked nothing better than to have gone to Mr. Kenge's
office in that hour and to have entered into articles with him on
the spot. Submitting, however, with a good grace to the caution
that we had shown to be so necessary, he contented himself with
sitting down among us in his lightest spirits and talking as if his
one unvarying purpose in life from childhood had been that one
which now held possession of him. My guardian was very kind and
cordial with him, but rather grave, enough so to cause Ada, when he
had departed and we were going upstairs to bed, to say, "Cousin
John, I hope you don't think the worse of Richard?"
"No, my love," said he.
"Because it was very natural that Richard should be mistaken in
such a difficult case. It is not uncommon."
"No, no, my love," said he. "Don't look unhappy."
"Oh, I am not unhappy, cousin John!" said Ada, smiling cheerfully,
with her hand upon his shoulder, where she had put it in bidding
him good night. "But I should be a little so if you thought at all
the worse of Richard."
"My dear," said Mr. Jarndyce, "I should think the worse of him only
if you were ever in the least unhappy through his means. I should
be more disposed to quarrel with myself even then, than with poor
Rick, for I brought you together. But, tut, all this is nothing!
He has time before him, and the race to run. I think the worse of
him? Not I, my loving cousin! And not you, I swear!"
"No, indeed, cousin John," said Ada, "I am sure I could not--I am
sure I would not--think any ill of Richard if the whole world did.
I could, and I would, think better of him then than at any other
So quietly and honestly she said it, with her hands upon his
shoulders--both hands now--and looking up into his face, like the
picture of truth!
"I think," said my guardian, thoughtfully regarding her, "I think
it must be somewhere written that the virtues of the mothers shall
occasionally be visited on the children, as well as the sins of the
father. Good night, my rosebud. Good night, little woman.
Pleasant slumbers! Happy dreams!"
This was the first time I ever saw him follow Ada with his eyes
with something of a shadow on their benevolent expression. I well
remembered the look with which he had contemplated her and Richard
when she was singing in the firelight; it was but a very little
while since he had watched them passing down the room in which the
sun was shining, and away into the shade; but his glance was
changed, and even the silent look of confidence in me which now
followed it once more was not quite so hopeful and untroubled as it
had originally been.
Ada praised Richard more to me that night than ever she had praised
him yet. She went to sleep with a little bracelet he had given her
clasped upon her arm. I fancied she was dreaming of him when I
kissed her cheek after she had slept an hour and saw how tranquil
and happy she looked.
For I was so little inclined to sleep myself that night that I sat
up working. It would not be worth mentioning for its own sake, but
I was wakeful and rather low-spirited. I don't know why. At least
I don't think I know why. At least, perhaps I do, but I don't
think it matters.
At any rate, I made up my mind to be so dreadfully industrious that
I would leave myself not a moment's leisure to be low-spirited.
For I naturally said, "Esther! You to be low-spirited. YOU!" And
it really was time to say so, for I--yes, I really did see myself
in the glass, almost crying. "As if you had anything to make you
unhappy, instead of everything to make you happy, you ungrateful
heart!" said I.
If I could have made myself go to sleep, I would have done it
directly, but not being able to do that, I took out of my basket
some ornamental work for our house (I mean Bleak House) that I was
busy with at that time and sat down to it with great determination.
It was necessary to count all the stitches in that work, and I
resolved to go on with it until I couldn't keep my eyes open, and
then to go to bed.
I soon found myself very busy. But I had left some silk downstairs
in a work-table drawer in the temporary growlery, and coming to a
stop for want of it, I took my candle and went softly down to get
it. To my great surprise, on going in I found my guardian still
there, and sitting looking at the ashes. He was lost in thought,
his book lay unheeded by his side, his silvered iron-grey hair was
scattered confusedly upon his forehead as though his hand had been
wandering among it while his thoughts were elsewhere, and his face
looked worn. Almost frightened by coming upon him so unexpectedly,
I stood still for a moment and should have retired without speaking
had he not, in again passing his hand abstractedly through his
hair, seen me and started.
I told him what I had come for.
"At work so late, my dear?"
"I am working late to-night," said I, "because I couldn't sleep and
wished to tire myself. But, dear guardian, you are late too, and
look weary. You have no trouble, I hope, to keep you waking?"
"None, little woman, that YOU would readily understand," said he.
He spoke in a regretful tone so new to me that I inwardly repeated,
as if that would help me to his meaning, "That I could readily
"Remain a moment, Esther," said he, "You were in my thoughts."
"I hope I was not the trouble, guardian?"
He slightly waved his hand and fell into his usual manner. The
change was so remarkable, and he appeared to make it by dint of so
much self-command, that I found myself again inwardly repeating,
"None that I could understand!"
"Little woman," said my guardian, "I was thinking--that is, I have
been thinking since I have been sitting here--that you ought to
know of your own history all I know. It is very little. Next to
"Dear guardian," I replied, "when you spoke to me before on that
"But since then," he gravely interposed, anticipating what I meant
to say, "I have reflected that your having anything to ask me, and
my having anything to tell you, are different considerations,
Esther. It is perhaps my duty to impart to you the little I know."
"If you think so, guardian, it is right."
"I think so," he returned very gently, and kindly, and very
distinctly. "My dear, I think so now. If any real disadvantage
can attach to your position in the mind of any man or woman worth a
thought, it is right that you at least of all the world should not
magnify it to yourself by having vague impressions of its nature."
I sat down and said after a little effort to be as calm as I ought
to be, "One of my earliest remembrances, guardian, is of these
words: '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 had
covered my face with my hands in repeating the words, but I took
them away now with a better kind of shame, I hope, and told him
that to him I owed the blessing that I had from my childhood to
that hour never, never, never felt it. He put up his hand as if to
stop me. I well knew that he was never to be thanked, and said no
"Nine years, my dear," he said after thinking for a little while,
"have passed since I received a letter from a lady living in
seclusion, written with a stern passion and power that rendered it
unlike all other letters I have ever read. It was written to me
(as it told me in so many words), perhaps because it was the
writer's idiosyncrasy to put that trust in me, perhaps because it
was mine to justify it. It told me of a child, an orphan girl then
twelve years old, in some such cruel words as those which live in
your remembrance. It told me that the writer had bred her in
secrecy from her birth, had blotted out all trace of her existence,
and that if the writer were to die before the child became a woman,
she would be left entirely friendless, nameless, and unknown. It
asked me to consider if I would, in that case, finish what the
writer had begun."
I listened in silence and looked attentively at him.
"Your early recollection, my dear, will supply the gloomy medium
through which all this was seen and expressed by the writer, and
the distorted religion which clouded her mind with impressions of
the need there was for the child to expiate an offence of which she
was quite innocent. I felt concerned for the little creature, in
her darkened life, and replied to the letter."
I took his hand and kissed it.
"It laid the injunction on me that I should never propose to see
the writer, who had long been estranged from all intercourse with
the world, but who would see a confidential agent if I would
appoint one. I accredited Mr. Kenge. The lady said, of her own
accord and not of his seeking, that her name was an assumed one.
That she was, if there were any ties of blood in such a case, the
child's aunt. That more than this she would never (and he was well
persuaded of the steadfastness of her resolution) for any human
consideration disclose. My dear, I have told you all."
I held his hand for a little while in mine.
"I saw my ward oftener than she saw me," he added, cheerily making
light of it, "and I always knew she was beloved, useful, and happy.
She repays me twenty-thousandfold, and twenty more to that, every
hour in every day!"
"And oftener still," said I, '"she blesses the guardian who is a
father to her!"
At the word father, I saw his former trouble come into his face.
He subdued it as before, and it was gone in an instant; but it had
been there and it had come so swiftly upon my words that I felt as
if they had given him a shock. I again inwardly repeated,
wondering, "That I could readily understand. None that I could
readily understand!" No, it was true. I did not understand it.
Not for many and many a day.
"Take a fatherly good night, my dear," said he, kissing me on the
forehead, "and so to rest. These are late hours for working and
thinking. You do that for all of us, all day long, little
I neither worked nor thought any more that night. I opened my
grateful heart to heaven in thankfulness for its providence to me
and its care of me, and fell asleep.
We had a visitor next day. Mr. Allan Woodcourt came. He came to
take leave of us; he had settled to do so beforehand. He was going
to China and to India as a surgeon on board ship. He was to be
away a long, long time.
I believe--at least I know--that he was not rich. All his widowed
mother could spare had been spent in qualifying him for his
profession. It was not lucrative to a young practitioner, with
very little influence in London; and although he was, night and
day, at the service of numbers of poor people and did wonders of
gentleness and skill for them, he gained very little by it in
money. He was seven years older than I. Not that I need mention
it, for it hardly seems to belong to anything.
I think--I mean, he told us--that he had been in practice three or
four years and that if he could have hoped to contend through three
or four more, he would not have made the voyage on which he was
bound. But he had no fortune or private means, and so he was going
away. He had been to see us several times altogether. We thought
it a pity he should go away. Because he was distinguished in his
art among those who knew it best, and some of the greatest men
belonging to it had a high opinion of him.
When he came to bid us good-bye, he brought his mother with him for
the first time. She was a pretty old lady, with bright black eyes,
but she seemed proud. She came from Wales and had had, a long time
ago, an eminent person for an ancestor, of the name of Morgan ap-
Kerrig--of some place that sounded like Gimlet--who was the most
illustrious person that ever was known and all of whose relations
were a sort of royal family. He appeared to have passed his life
in always getting up into mountains and fighting somebody; and a
bard whose name sounded like Crumlinwallinwer had sung his praises
in a piece which was called, as nearly as I could catch it,
Mrs. Woodcourt, after expatiating to us on the fame of her great
kinsman, said that no doubt wherever her son Allan went he would
remember his pedigree and would on no account form an alliance
below it. She told him that there were many handsome English
ladies in India who went out on speculation, and that there were
some to be picked up with property, but that neither charms nor
wealth would suffice for the descendant from such a line without
birth, which must ever be the first consideration. She talked so
much about birth that for a moment I half fancied, and with pain--
But what an idle fancy to suppose that she could think or care what
Mr. Woodcourt seemed a little distressed by her prolixity, but he
was too considerate to let her see it and contrived delicately to
bring the conversation round to making his acknowledgments to my
guardian for his hospitality and for the very happy hours--he
called them the very happy hours--he had passed with us. The
recollection of them, he said, would go with him wherever he went
and would be always treasured. And so we gave him our hands, one
after another--at least, they did--and I did; and so he put his
lips to Ada's hand--and to mine; and so he went away upon his long,
I was very busy indeed all day and wrote directions home to the
servants, and wrote notes for my guardian, and dusted his books and
papers, and jingled my housekeeping keys a good deal, one way and
another. I was still busy between the lights, singing and working
by the window, when who should come in but Caddy, whom I had no
expectation of seeing!
"Why, Caddy, my dear," said I, "what beautiful flowers!"
She had such an exquisite little nosegay in her hand.
"Indeed, I think so, Esther," replied Caddy. "They are the
loveliest I ever saw."
"Prince, my dear?" said I in a whisper.
"No," answered Caddy, shaking her head and holding them to me to
smell. "Not Prince."
"Well, to be sure, Caddy!" said I. "You must have two lovers!"
"What? Do they look like that sort of thing?" said Caddy.
"Do they look like that sort of thing?" I repeated, pinching her
Caddy only laughed in return, and telling me that she had come for
half an hour, at the expiration of which time Prince would be
waiting for her at the corner, sat chatting with me and Ada in the
window, every now and then handing me the flowers again or trying
how they looked against my hair. At last, when she was going, she
took me into my room and put them in my dress.
"For me?" said I, surprised.
"For you," said Caddy with a kiss. "They were left behind by
"At poor Miss Flite's," said Caddy. "Somebody who has been very
good to her was hurrying away an hour ago to join a ship and left
these flowers behind. No, no! Don't take them out. Let the
pretty little things lie here," said Caddy, adjusting them with a
careful hand, "because I was present myself, and I shouldn't wonder
if somebody left them on purpose!"
"Do they look like that sort of thing?" said Ada, coming laughingly
behind me and clasping me merrily round the waist. "Oh, yes,
indeed they do, Dame Durden! They look very, very like that sort
of thing. Oh, very like it indeed, my dear!"
It was not so easy as it had appeared at first to arrange for
Richard's making a trial of Mr. Kenge's office. Richard himself
was the chief impediment. As soon as he had it in his power to
leave Mr. Badger at any moment, he began to doubt whether he wanted
to leave him at all. He didn't know, he said, really. It wasn't a
bad profession; he couldn't assert that he disliked it; perhaps he
liked it as well as he liked any other--suppose he gave it one more
chance! Upon that, he shut himself up for a few weeks with some
books and some bones and seemed to acquire a considerable fund of
information with great rapidity. His fervour, after lasting about
a month, began to cool, and when it was quite cooled, began to grow
warm again. His vacillations between law and medicine lasted so
long that midsummer arrived before he finally separated from Mr.
Badger and entered on an experimental course of Messrs. Kenge and
Carboy. For all his waywardness, he took great credit to himself
as being determined to be in earnest "this time." And he was so
good-natured throughout, and in such high spirits, and so fond of
Ada, that it was very difficult indeed to be otherwise than pleased
"As to Mr. Jarndyce," who, I may mention, found the wind much
given, during this period, to stick in the east; "As to Mr.
Jarndyce," Richard would say to me, "he is the finest fellow in the
world, Esther! I must be particularly careful, if it were only for
his satisfaction, to take myself well to task and have a regular
wind-up of this business now."
The idea of his taking himself well to task, with that laughing
face and heedless manner and with a fancy that everything could
catch and nothing could hold, was ludicrously anomalous. However,
he told us between-whiles that he was doing it to such an extent
that he wondered his hair didn't turn grey. His regular wind-up of
the business was (as I have said) that he went to Mr. Kenge's about
midsummer to try how he liked it.
All this time he was, in money affairs, what I have described him
in a former illustration--generous, profuse, wildly careless, but
fully persuaded that he was rather calculating and prudent. I
happened to say to Ada, in his presence, half jestingly, half
seriously, about the time of his going to Mr. Kenge's, that he
needed to have Fortunatus' purse, he made so light of money, which
he answered in this way, "My jewel of a dear cousin, you hear this
old woman! Why does she say that? Because I gave eight pounds odd
(or whatever it was) for a certain neat waistcoat and buttons a few
days ago. Now, if I had stayed at Badger's I should have been
obliged to spend twelve pounds at a blow for some heart-breaking
lecture-fees. So I make four pounds--in a lump--by the
It was a question much discussed between him and my guardian what
arrangements should be made for his living in London while he
experimented on the law, for we had long since gone back to Bleak
House, and it was too far off to admit of his coming there oftener
than once a week. My guardian told me that if Richard were to
settle down at Mr. Kenge's he would take some apartments or
chambers where we too could occasionally stay for a few days at a
time; "but, little woman," he added, rubbing his head very
significantly, "he hasn't settled down there yet!" The discussions
ended in our hiring for him, by the month, a neat little furnished
lodging in a quiet old house near Queen Square. He immediately
began to spend all the money he had in buying the oddest little
ornaments and luxuries for this lodging; and so often as Ada and I
dissuaded him from making any purchase that he had in contemplation
which was particularly unnecessary and expensive, he took credit
for what it would have cost and made out that to spend anything
less on something else was to save the difference.
While these affairs were in abeyance, our visit to Mr. Boythorn's
was postponed. At length, Richard having taken possession of his
lodging, there was nothing to prevent our departure. He could have
gone with us at that time of the year very well, but he was in the
full novelty of his new position and was making most energetic
attempts to unravel the mysteries of the fatal suit. Consequently
we went without him, and my darling was delighted to praise him for
being so busy.
We made a pleasant journey down into Lincolnshire by the coach and
had an entertaining companion in Mr. Skimpole. His furniture had
been all cleared off, it appeared, by the person who took
possession of it on his blue-eyed daughter's birthday, but he
seemed quite relieved to think that it was gone. Chairs and table,
he said, were wearisome objects; they were monotonous ideas, they
had no variety of expression, they looked you out of countenance,
and you looked them out of countenance. How pleasant, then, to be
bound to no particular chairs and tables, but to sport like a
butterfly among all the furniture on hire, and to flit from
rosewood to mahogany, and from mahogany to walnut, and from this
shape to that, as the humour took one!
"The oddity of the thing is," said Mr. Skimpole with a quickened
sense of the ludicrous, "that my chairs and tables were not paid
for, and yet my landlord walks off with them as composedly as
possible. Now, that seems droll! There is something grotesque in
it. The chair and table merchant never engaged to pay my landlord
my rent. Why should my landlord quarrel with HIM? If I have a
pimple on my nose which is disagreeable to my landlord's peculiar
ideas of beauty, my landlord has no business to scratch my chair
and table merchant's nose, which has no pimple on it. His
reasoning seems defective!"
"Well," said my guardian good-humouredly, "it's pretty clear that
whoever became security for those chairs and tables will have to
pay for them."
"Exactly!" returned Mr. Skimpole. "That's the crowning point of
unreason in the business! I said to my landlord, 'My good man, you
are not aware that my excellent friend Jarndyce will have to pay
for those things that you are sweeping off in that indelicate
manner. Have you no consideration for HIS property?' He hadn't the
"And refused all proposals," said my guardian.
"Refused all proposals," returned Mr. Skimpole. "I made him
business proposals. I had him into my room. I said, 'You are a
man of business, I believe?' He replied, 'I am,' 'Very well,'
said I, 'now let us be business-like. Here is an inkstand, here
are pens and paper, here are wafers. What do you want? I have
occupied your house for a considerable period, I believe to our
mutual satisfaction until this unpleasant misunderstanding arose;
let us be at once friendly and business-like. What do you want?'
In reply to this, he made use of the figurative expression--which
has something Eastern about it--that he had never seen the colour
of my money. 'My amiable friend,' said I, 'I never have any money.
I never know anything about money.' 'Well, sir,' said he, 'what do
you offer if I give you time?' 'My good fellow,' said I, 'I have
no idea of time; but you say you are a man of business, and
whatever you can suggest to be done in a business-like way with
pen, and ink, and paper--and wafers--I am ready to do. Don't pay
yourself at another man's expense (which is foolish), but be
business-like!' However, he wouldn't be, and there was an end of
If these were some of the inconveniences of Mr. Skimpole's
childhood, it assuredly possessed its advantages too. On the
journey he had a very good appetite for such refreshment as came in
our way (including a basket of choice hothouse peaches), but never
thought of paying for anything. So when the coachman came round
for his fee, he pleasantly asked him what he considered a very good
fee indeed, now--a liberal one--and on his replying half a crown
for a single passenger, said it was little enough too, all things
considered, and left Mr. Jarndyce to give it him.
It was delightful weather. The green corn waved so beautifully,
the larks sang so joyfully, the hedges were so full of wild
flowers, the trees were so thickly out in leaf, the bean-fields,
with a light wind blowing over them, filled the air with such a
delicious fragrance! Late in the afternoon we came to the market-
town where we were to alight from the coach--a dull little town
with a church-spire, and a marketplace, and a market-cross, and one
intensely sunny street, and a pond with an old horse cooling his
legs in it, and a very few men sleepily lying and standing about in
narrow little bits of shade. After the rustling of the leaves and
the waving of the corn all along the road, it looked as still, as
hot, as motionless a little town as England could produce.
At the inn we found Mr. Boythorn on horseback, waiting with an open
carriage to take us to his house, which was a few miles off. He
was over-joyed to see us and dismounted with great alacrity.
"By heaven!" said he after giving us a courteous greeting. This a
most infamous coach. It is the most flagrant example of an
abominable public vehicle that ever encumbered the face of the
earth. It is twenty-five minutes after its time this afternoon.
The coachman ought to be put to death!"
"IS he after his time?" said Mr. Skimpole, to whom he happened to
address himself. "You know my infirmity."
"Twenty-five minutes! Twenty-six minutes!" replied Mr. Boythorn,
referring to his watch. "With two ladies in the coach, this
scoundrel has deliberately delayed his arrival six and twenty
minutes. Deliberately! It is impossible that it can be
accidental! But his father--and his uncle--were the most
profligate coachmen that ever sat upon a box."
While he said this in tones of the greatest indignation, he handed
us into the little phaeton with the utmost gentleness and was all
smiles and pleasure.
"I am sorry, ladies," he said, standing bare-headed at the
carriage-door when all was ready, "that I am obliged to conduct you
nearly two miles out of the way. But our direct road lies through
Sir Leicester Dedlock's park, and in that fellow's property I have
sworn never to set foot of mine, or horse's foot of mine, pending
the present relations between us, while I breathe the breath of
life!" And here, catching my guardian's eye, he broke into one of
his tremendous laughs, which seemed to shake even the motionless
"Are the Dedlocks down here, Lawrence?" said my guardian as we
drove along and Mr. Boythorn trotted on the green turf by the
"Sir Arrogant Numskull is here," replied Mr. Boythorn. "Ha ha ha!
Sir Arrogant is here, and I am glad to say, has been laid by the
heels here. My Lady," in naming whom he always made a courtly
gesture as if particularly to exclude her from any part in the
quarrel, "is expected, I believe, daily. I am not in the least
surprised that she postpones her appearance as long as possible.
Whatever can have induced that transcendent woman to marry that
effigy and figure-head of a baronet is one of the most impenetrable
mysteries that ever baffled human inquiry. Ha ha ha ha!"
"I suppose, said my guardian, laughing, "WE may set foot in the
park while we are here? The prohibition does not extend to us,
"I can lay no prohibition on my guests," he said, bending his head
to Ada and me with the smiling politeness which sat so gracefully
upon him, "except in the matter of their departure. I am only
sorry that I cannot have the happiness of being their escort about
Chesney Wold, which is a very fine place! But by the light of this
summer day, Jarndyce, if you call upon the owner while you stay
with me, you are likely to have but a cool reception. He carries
himself like an eight-day clock at all times, like one of a race of
eight-day clocks in gorgeous cases that never go and never went--Ha
ha ha!--but he will have some extra stiffness, I can promise you,
for the friends of his friend and neighbour Boythorn!"
"I shall not put him to the proof," said my guardian. "He is as
indifferent to the honour of knowing me, I dare say, as I am to the
honour of knowing him. The air of the grounds and perhaps such a
view of the house as any other sightseer might get are quite enough
"Well!" said Mr. Boythorn. "I am glad of it on the whole. It's in
better keeping. I am looked upon about here as a second Ajax
defying the lightning. Ha ha ha ha! When I go into our little
church on a Sunday, a considerable part of the inconsiderable
congregation expect to see me drop, scorched and withered, on the
pavement under the Dedlock displeasure. Ha ha ha ha! I have no
doubt he is surprised that I don't. For he is, by heaven, the most
self-satisfied, and the shallowest, and the most coxcombical and
utterly brainless ass!"
Our coming to the ridge of a hill we had been ascending enabled our
friend to point out Chesney Wold itself to us and diverted his
attention from its master.
It was a picturesque old house in a fine park richly wooded. Among
the trees and not far from the residence he pointed out the spire
of the little church of which he had spoken. Oh, the solemn woods
over which the light and shadow travelled swiftly, as if heavenly
wings were sweeping on benignant errands through the summer air;
the smooth green slopes, the glittering water, the garden where the
flowers were so symmetrically arranged in clusters of the richest
colours, how beautiful they looked! The house, with gable and
chimney, and tower, and turret, and dark doorway, and broad
terrace-walk, twining among the balustrades of which, and lying
heaped upon the vases, there was one great flush of roses, seemed
scarcely real in its light solidity and in the serene and peaceful
hush that rested on all around it. To Ada and to me, that above
all appeared the pervading influence. On everything, house,
garden, terrace, green slopes, water, old oaks, fern, moss, woods
again, and far away across the openings in the prospect to the
distance lying wide before us with a purple bloom upon it, there
seemed to be such undisturbed repose.
When we came into the little village and passed a small inn with
the sign of the Dedlock Arms swinging over the road in front, Mr.
Boythorn interchanged greetings with a young gentleman sitting on a
bench outside the inn-door who had some fishing-tackle lying beside
"That's the housekeeper's grandson, Mr. Rouncewell by name," said,
he, "and he is in love with a pretty girl up at the house. Lady
Dedlock has taken a fancy to the pretty girl and is going to keep
her about her own fair person--an honour which my young friend
himself does not at all appreciate. However, he can't marry just
yet, even if his Rosebud were willing; so he is fain to make the
best of it. In the meanwhile, he comes here pretty often for a day
or two at a time to--fish. Ha ha ha ha!"
"Are he and the pretty girl engaged, Mr. Boythorn?" asked Ada.
"Why, my dear Miss Clare," he returned, "I think they may perhaps
understand each other; but you will see them soon, I dare say, and
I must learn from you on such a point--not you from me."
Ada blushed, and Mr. Boythorn, trotting forward on his comely grey
horse, dismounted at his own door and stood ready with extended arm
and uncovered head to welcome us when we arrived.
He lived in a pretty house, formerly the parsonage house, with a
lawn in front, a bright flower-garden at the side, and a well-
stocked orchard and kitchen-garden in the rear, enclosed with a
venerable wall that had of itself a ripened ruddy look. But,
indeed, everything about the place wore an aspect of maturity and
abundance. The old lime-tree walk was like green cloisters, the
very shadows of the cherry-trees and apple-trees were heavy with
fruit, the gooseberry-bushes were so laden that their branches
arched and rested on the earth, the strawberries and raspberries
grew in like profusion, and the peaches basked by the hundred on
the wall. Tumbled about among the spread nets and the glass frames
sparkling and winking in the sun there were such heaps of drooping
pods, and marrows, and cucumbers, that every foot of ground
appeared a vegetable treasury, while the smell of sweet herbs and
all kinds of wholesome growth (to say nothing of the neighbouring
meadows where the hay was carrying) made the whole air a great
nosegay. Such stillness and composure reigned within the orderly
precincts of the old red wall that even the feathers hung in
garlands to scare the birds hardly stirred; and the wall had such a
ripening influence that where, here and there high up, a disused
nail and scrap of list still clung to it, it was easy to fancy that
they had mellowed with the changing seasons and that they had
rusted and decayed according to the common fate.
The house, though a little disorderly in comparison with the
garden, was a real old house with settles in the chimney of the
brick-floored kitchen and great beams across the ceilings. On one
side of it was the terrible piece of ground in dispute, where Mr.
Boythorn maintained a sentry in a smock-frock day and night, whose
duty was supposed to be, in cases of aggression, immediately to
ring a large bell hung up there for the purpose, to unchain a great
bull-dog established in a kennel as his ally, and generally to deal
destruction on the enemy. Not content with these precautions, Mr.
Boythorn had himself composed and posted there, on painted boards
to which his name was attached in large letters, the following
solemn warnings: "Beware of the bull-dog. He is most ferocious.
Lawrence Boythorn." "The blunderbus is loaded with slugs.
Lawrence Boythorn." "Man-traps and spring-guns are set here at all
times of the day and night. Lawrence Boythorn." "Take notice.
That any person or persons audaciously presuming to trespass on
this property will be punished with the utmost severity of private
chastisement and prosecuted with the utmost rigour of the law.
Lawrence Boythorn." These he showed us from the drawing-room
window, while his bird was hopping about his head, and he laughed,
"Ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha!" to that extent as he pointed them out
that I really thought he would have hurt himself.
"But this is taking a good deal of trouble," said Mr. Skimpole in
his light way, "when you are not in earnest after all."
"Not in earnest!" returned Mr. Boythorn with unspeakable warmth.
"Not in earnest! If I could have hoped to train him, I would have
bought a lion instead of that dog and would have turned him loose
upon the first intolerable robber who should dare to make an
encroachment on my rights. Let Sir Leicester Dedlock consent to
come out and decide this question by single combat, and I will meet
him with any weapon known to mankind in any age or country. I am
that much in earnest. Not more!"
We arrived at his house on a Saturday. On the Sunday morning we
all set forth to walk to the little church in the park. Entering
the park, almost immediately by the disputed ground, we pursued a
pleasant footpath winding among the verdant turf and the beautiful
trees until it brought us to the church-porch.
The congregation was extremely small and quite a rustic one with
the exception of a large muster of servants from the house, some of
whom were already in their seats, while others were yet dropping
in. There were some stately footmen, and there was a perfect
picture of an old coachman, who looked as if he were the official
representative of all the pomps and vanities that had ever been put
into his coach. There was a very pretty show of young women, and
above them, the handsome old face and fine responsible portly
figure of the housekeeper towered pre-eminent. The pretty girl of
whom Mr. Boythorn had told us was close by her. She was so very
pretty that I might have known her by her beauty even if I had not
seen how blushingly conscious she was of the eyes of the young
fisherman, whom I discovered not far off. One face, and not an
agreeable one, though it was handsome, seemed maliciously watchful
of this pretty girl, and indeed of every one and everything there.
It was a Frenchwoman's.
As the bell was yet ringing and the great people were not yet come,
I had leisure to glance over the church, which smelt as earthy as a
grave, and to think what a shady, ancient, solemn little church it
was. The windows, heavily shaded by trees, admitted a subdued
light that made the faces around me pale, and darkened the old
brasses in the pavement and the time and damp-worn monuments, and
rendered the sunshine in the little porch, where a monotonous
ringer was working at the bell, inestimably bright. But a stir in
that direction, a gathering of reverential awe in the rustic faces,
and a blandly ferocious assumption on the part of Mr. Boythorn of
being resolutely unconscious of somebody's existence forewarned me
that the great people were come and that the service was going to
"'Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, for in thy
Shall I ever forget the rapid beating at my heart, occasioned by
the look I met as I stood up! Shall I ever forget the manner in
which those handsome proud eyes seemed to spring out of their
languor and to hold mine! It was only a moment before I cast mine
down--released again, if I may say so--on my book; but I knew the
beautiful face quite well in that short space of time.
And, very strangely, there was something quickened within me,
associated with the lonely days at my godmother's; yes, away even
to the days when I had stood on tiptoe to dress myself at my little
glass after dressing my doll. And this, although I had never seen
this lady's face before in all my life--I was quite sure of it--
It was easy to know that the ceremonious, gouty, grey-haired
gentleman, the only other occupant of the great pew, was Sir
Leicester Dedlock, and that the lady was Lady Dedlock. But why her
face should be, in a confused way, like a broken glass to me, in
which I saw scraps of old remembrances, and why I should be so
fluttered and troubled (for I was still) by having casually met her
eyes, I could not think.
I felt it to be an unmeaning weakness in me and tried to overcome
it by attending to the words I heard. Then, very strangely, I
seemed to hear them, not in the reader's voice, but in the well-
remembered voice of my godmother. This made me think, did Lady
Dedlock's face accidentally resemble my godmother's? It might be
that it did, a little; but the expression was so different, and the
stern decision which had worn into my godmother's face, like
weather into rocks, was so completely wanting in the face before me
that it could not be that resemblance which had struck me. Neither
did I know the loftiness and haughtiness of Lady Dedlock's face, at
all, in any one. And yet I--I, little Esther Summerson, the child
who lived a life apart and on whose birthday there was no
rejoicing--seemed to arise before my own eyes, evoked out of the
past by some power in this fashionable lady, whom I not only
entertained no fancy that I had ever seen, but whom I perfectly
well knew I had never seen until that hour.
It made me tremble so to be thrown into this unaccountable
agitation that I was conscious of being distressed even by the
observation of the French maid, though I knew she had been looking
watchfully here, and there, and everywhere, from the moment of her
coming into the church. By degrees, though very slowly, I at last
overcame my strange emotion. After a long time, I looked towards
Lady Dedlock again. It was while they were preparing to sing,
before the sermon. She took no heed of me, and the beating at my
heart was gone. Neither did it revive for more than a few moments
when she once or twice afterwards glanced at Ada or at me through
The service being concluded, Sir Leicester gave his arm with much
taste and gallantry to Lady Dedlock--though he was obliged to walk
by the help of a thick stick--and escorted her out of church to the
pony carriage in which they had come. The servants then dispersed,
and so did the congregation, whom Sir Leicester had contemplated
all along (Mr. Skimpole said to Mr. Boythorn's infinite delight) as
if he were a considerable landed proprietor in heaven.
"He believes he is!" said Mr. Boythorn. "He firmly believes it.
So did his father, and his grandfather, and his great-grandfather!"
"Do you know," pursued Mr. Skimpole very unexpectedly to Mr.
Boythorn, "it's agreeable to me to see a man of that sort."
"IS it!" said Mr. Boytborn.
"Say that he wants to patronize me," pursued Mr. Skimpole. "Very
well! I don't object."
"I do," said Mr. Boythorn with great vigour.
"Do you really?" returned Mr. Skimpole in his easy light vein.
"But that's taking trouble, surely. And why should you take
trouble? Here am I, content to receive things childishly as they
fall out, and I never take trouble! I come down here, for
instance, and I find a mighty potentate exacting homage. Very
well! I say 'Mighty potentate, here IS my homage! It's easier to
give it than to withhold it. Here it is. If you have anything of
an agreeable nature to show me, I shall be happy to see it; if you
have anything of an agreeable nature to give me, I shall be happy
to accept it.' Mighty potentate replies in effect, 'This is a
sensible fellow. I find him accord with my digestion and my
bilious system. He doesn't impose upon me the necessity of rolling
myself up like a hedgehog with my points outward. I expand, I
open, I turn my silver lining outward like Milton's cloud, and it's
more agreeable to both of us.' That's my view of such things,
speaking as a child!"
"But suppose you went down somewhere else to-morrow," said Mr.
Boythorn, "where there was the opposite of that fellow--or of this
fellow. How then?"
"How then?" said Mr. Skimpole with an appearance of the utmost
simplicity and candour. "Just the same then! I should say, 'My
esteemed Boythorn'--to make you the personification of our
imaginary friend--'my esteemed Boythorn, you object to the mighty
potentate? Very good. So do I. I take it that my business in the
social system is to be agreeable; I take it that everybody's
business in the social system is to be agreeable. It's a system of
harmony, in short. Therefore if you object, I object. Now,
excellent Boythorn, let us go to dinner!'"
"But excellent Boythorn might say," returned our host, swelling and
growing very red, "I'll be--"
"I understand," said Mr. Skimpole. "Very likely he would."
"--if I WILL go to dinner!" cried Mr. Boythorn in a violent burst
and stopping to strike his stick upon the ground. "And he would
probably add, 'Is there such a thing as principle, Mr. Harold
"To which Harold Skimpole would reply, you know," he returned in
his gayest manner and with his most ingenuous smile, "'Upon my life
I have not the least idea! I don't know what it is you call by
that name, or where it is, or who possesses it. If you possess it
and find it comfortable, I am quite delighted and congratulate you
heartily. But I know nothing about it, I assure you; for I am a
mere child, and I lay no claim to it, and I don't want it!' So,
you see, excellent Boythorn and I would go to dinner after all!"
This was one of many little dialogues between them which I always
expected to end, and which I dare say would have ended under other
circumstances, in some violent explosion on the part of our host.
But he had so high a sense of his hospitable and responsible
position as our entertainer, and my guardian laughed so sincerely
at and with Mr. Skimpole, as a child who blew bubbles and broke
them all day long, that matters never went beyond this point. Mr.
Skimpole, who always seemed quite unconscious of having been on
delicate ground, then betook himself to beginning some sketch in
the park which be never finished, or to playing fragments of airs
on the piano, or to singing scraps of songs, or to lying down on
his back under a tree and looking at the sky--which he couldn't
help thinking, he said, was what he was meant for; it suited him so
"Enterprise and effort," he would say to us (on his back), are
delightful to me. I believe I am truly cosmopolitan. I have the
deepest sympathy with them. I lie in a shady place like this and
think of adventurous spirits going to the North Pole or penetrating
to the heart of the Torrid Zone with admiration. Mercenary
creatures ask, 'What is the use of a man's going to the North Pole?
What good does it do?' I can't say; but, for anything I CAN say,
he may go for the purpose--though he don't know it--of employing my
thoughts as I lie here. Take an extreme case. Take the case of
the slaves on American plantations. I dare say they are worked
hard, I dare say they don't altogether like it. I dare say theirs
is an unpleasant experience on the whole; but they people the
landscape for me, they give it a poetry for me, and perhaps that is
one of the pleasanter objects of their existence. I am very
sensible of it, if it be, and I shouldn't wonder if it were!"
I always wondered on these occasions whether he ever thought of
Mrs. Skimpole and the children, and in what point of view they
presented themselves to his cosmopolitan mind. So far as I could
understand, they rarely presented themselves at all.
The week had gone round to the Saturday following that beating of
my heart in the church; and every day had been so bright and blue
that to ramble in the woods, and to see the light striking down
among the transparent leaves and sparkling in the beautiful
interlacings of the shadows of the trees, while the birds poured
out their songs and the air was drowsy with the hum of insects, had
been most delightful. We had one favourite spot, deep in moss and
last year's leaves, where there were some felled trees from which
the bark was all stripped off. Seated among these, we looked
through a green vista supported by thousands of natural columns,
the whitened stems of trees, upon a distant prospect made so
radiant by its contrast with the shade in which we sat and made so
precious by the arched perspective through which we saw it that it
was like a glimpse of the better land. Upon the Saturday we sat
here, Mr. Jarndyce, Ada, and I, until we heard thunder muttering in
the distance and felt the large raindrops rattle through the
The weather had been all the week extremely sultry, but the storm
broke so suddenly--upon us, at least, in that sheltered spot--that
before we reached the outskirts of the wood the thunder and
lightning were frequent and the rain came plunging through the
leaves as if every drop were a great leaden bead. As it was not a
time for standing among trees, we ran out of the wood, and up and
down the moss-grown steps which crossed the plantation-fence like
two broad-staved ladders placed back to back, and made for a
keeper's lodge which was close at hand. We had often noticed the
dark beauty of this lodge standing in a deep twilight of trees, and
how the ivy clustered over it, and how there was a steep hollow
near, where we had once seen the keeper's dog dive down into the
fern as if it were water.
The lodge was so dark within, now the sky was overcast, that we
only clearly saw the man who came to the door when we took shelter
there and put two chairs for Ada and me. The lattice-windows were
all thrown open, and we sat just within the doorway watching the
storm. It was grand to see how the wind awoke, and bent the trees,
and drove the rain before it like a cloud of smoke; and to hear the
solemn thunder and to see the lightning; and while thinking with
awe of the tremendous powers by which our little lives are
encompassed, to consider how beneficent they are and how upon the
smallest flower and leaf there was already a freshness poured from
all this seeming rage which seemed to make creation new again.
"Is it not dangerous to sit in so exposed a place?"
"Oh, no, Esther dear!" said Ada quietly.
Ada said it to me, but I had not spoken.
The beating of my heart came back again. I had never heard the
voice, as I had never seen the face, but it affected me in the same
strange way. Again, in a moment, there arose before my mind
innumerable pictures of myself.
Lady Dedlock had taken shelter in the lodge before our arrival
there and had come out of the gloom within. She stood behind my
chair with her hand upon it. I saw her with her hand close to my
shoulder when I turned my head.
"I have frightened you?" she said.
No. It was not fright. Why should I be frightened!
"I believe," said Lady Dedlock to my guardian, "I have the pleasure
of speaking to Mr. Jarndyce."
"Your remembrance does me more honour than I had supposed it would,
Lady Dedlock," he returned.
"I recognized you in church on Sunday. I am sorry that any local
disputes of Sir Leicester's--they are not of his seeking, however,
I believe--should render it a matter of some absurd difficulty to
show you any attention here."
"I am aware of the circumstances," returned my guardian with a
smile, "and am sufficiently obliged."
She had given him her hand in an indifferent way that seemed
habitual to her and spoke in a correspondingly indifferent manner,
though in a very pleasant voice. She was as graceful as she was
beautiful, perfectly self-possessed, and had the air, I thought, of
being able to attract and interest any one if she had thought it
worth her while. The keeper had brought her a chair on which she
sat in the middle of the porch between us.
"Is the young gentleman disposed of whom you wrote to Sir Leicester
about and whose wishes Sir Leicester was sorry not to have it in
his power to advance in any way?" she said over her shoulder to my
"I hope so," said he.
She seemed to respect him and even to wish to conciliate him.
There was something very winning in her haughty manner, and it
became more familiar--I was going to say more easy, but that could
hardly be--as she spoke to him over her shoulder.
"I presume this is your other ward, Miss Clare?"
He presented Ada, in form.
"You will lose the disinterested part of your Don Quixote
character," said Lady Dedlock to Mr. Jarndyce over her shoulder
again, "if you only redress the wrongs of beauty like this. But
present me," and she turned full upon me, "to this young lady too!"
"Miss Summerson really is my ward," said Mr. Jarndyce. "I am
responsible to no Lord Chancellor in her case."
"Has Miss Summerson lost both her parents?" said my Lady.
"She is very fortunate in her guardian."
Lady Dedlock looked at me, and I looked at her and said I was
indeed. All at once she turned from me with a hasty air, almost
expressive of displeasure or dislike, and spoke to him over her
"Ages have passed since we were in the habit of meeting, Mr.
"A long time. At least I thought it was a long time, until I saw
you last Sunday," he returned.
"What! Even you are a courtier, or think it necessary to become
one to me!" she said with some disdain. "I have achieved that
reputation, I suppose."
"You have achieved so much, Lady Dedlock," said my guardian, "that
you pay some little penalty, I dare say. But none to me."
"So much!" she repeated, slightly laughing. "Yes!"
With her air of superiority, and power, and fascination, and I know
not what, she seemed to regard Ada and me as little more than
children. So, as she slightly laughed and afterwards sat looking
at the rain, she was as self-possessed and as free to occupy
herself with her own thoughts as if she had been alone.
"I think you knew my sister when we were abroad together better
than you know me?" she said, looking at him again.
"Yes, we happened to meet oftener," he returned.
"We went our several ways," said Lady Dedlock, "and had little in
common even before we agreed to differ. It is to be regretted, I
suppose, but it could not be helped."
Lady Dedlock again sat looking at the rain. The storm soon began
to pass upon its way. The shower greatly abated, the lightning
ceased, the thunder rolled among the distant hills, and the sun
began to glisten on the wet leaves and the falling rain. As we sat
there, silently, we saw a little pony phaeton coming towards us at
a merry pace.
"The messenger is coming back, my Lady," said the keeper, "with the
As it drove up, we saw that there were two people inside. There
alighted from it, with some cloaks and wrappers, first the
Frenchwoman whom I had seen in church, and secondly the pretty
girl, the Frenchwoman with a defiant confidence, the pretty girl
confused and hesitating.
"What now?" said Lady Dedlock. "Two!"
"I am your maid, my Lady, at the present," said the Frenchwoman.
"The message was for the attendant."
"I was afraid you might mean me, my Lady," said the pretty girl.
"I did mean you, child," replied her mistress calmly. "Put that
shawl on me."
She slightly stooped her shoulders to receive it, and the pretty
girl lightly dropped it in its place. The Frenchwoman stood
unnoticed, looking on with her lips very tightly set.
"I am sorry," said Lady Dedlock to Mr. Jarndyce, "that we are not
likely to renew our former acquaintance. You will allow me to send
the carriage back for your two wards. It shall be here directly."
But as he would on no account accept this offer, she took a
graceful leave of Ada--none of me--and put her hand upon his
proffered arm, and got into the carriage, which was a little, low,
park carriage with a hood.
"Come in, child," she said to the pretty girl; "I shall want you.
The carriage rolled away, and the Frenchwoman, with the wrappers
she had brought hanging over her arm, remained standing where she
I suppose there is nothing pride can so little bear with as pride
itself, and that she was punished for her imperious manner. Her
retaliation was the most singular I could have imagined. She
remained perfectly still until the carriage had turned into the
drive, and then, without the least discomposure of countenance,
slipped off her shoes, left them on the ground, and walked
deliberately in the same direction through the wettest of the wet
"Is that young woman mad?" said my guardian.
"Oh, no, sir!" said the keeper, who, with his wife, was looking
after her. "Hortense is not one of that sort. She has as good a
head-piece as the best. But she's mortal high and passionate--
powerful high and passionate; and what with having notice to leave,
and having others put above her, she don't take kindly to it."
"But why should she walk shoeless through all that water?" said my
"Why, indeed, sir, unless it is to cool her down!" said the man.
"Or unless she fancies it's blood," said the woman. "She'd as soon
walk through that as anything else, I think, when her own's up!"
We passed not far from the house a few minutes afterwards.
Peaceful as it had looked when we first saw it, it looked even more
so now, with a diamond spray glittering all about it, a light wind
blowing, the birds no longer hushed but singing strongly,
everything refreshed by the late rain, and the little carriage
shining at the doorway like a fairy carriage made of silver.
Still, very steadfastly and quietly walking towards it, a peaceful
figure too in the landscape, went Mademoiselle Hortense, shoeless,
through the wet grass.
It is the long vacation in the regions of Chancery Lane. The good
ships Law and Equity, those teak-built, copper-bottomed, iron-
fastened, brazen-faced, and not by any means fast-sailing clippers
are laid up in ordinary. The Flying Dutchman, with a crew of
ghostly clients imploring all whom they may encounter to peruse
their papers, has drifted, for the time being, heaven knows where.
The courts are all shut up; the public offices lie in a hot sleep.
Westminster Hall itself is a shady solitude where nightingales
might sing, and a tenderer class of suitors than is usually found
The Temple, Chancery Lane, Serjeants' Inn, and Lincoln's Inn even
unto the Fields are like tidal harbours at low water, where
stranded proceedings, offices at anchor, idle clerks lounging on
lop-sided stools that will not recover their perpendicular until
the current of Term sets in, lie high and dry upon the ooze of the
long vacation. Outer doors of chambers are shut up by the score,
messages and parcels are to be left at the Porter's Lodge by the
bushel. A crop of grass would grow in the chinks of the stone
pavement outside Lincoln's Inn Hall, but that the ticket-porters,
who have nothing to do beyond sitting in the shade there, with
their white aprons over their heads to keep the flies off, grub it
up and eat it thoughtfully.
There is only one judge in town. Even he only comes twice a week
to sit in chambers. If the country folks of those assize towns on
his circuit could see him now! No full-bottomed wig, no red
petticoats, no fur, no javelin-men, no white wands. Merely a
close-shaved gentleman in white trousers and a white hat, with sea-
bronze on the judicial countenance, and a strip of bark peeled by
the solar rays from the judicial nose, who calls in at the shell-
fish shop as he comes along and drinks iced ginger-beer!
The bar of England is scattered over the face of the earth. How
England can get on through four long summer months without its bar
--which is its acknowledged refuge in adversity and its only
legitimate triumph in prosperity--is beside the question; assuredly
that shield and buckler of Britannia are not in present wear. The
learned gentleman who is always so tremendously indignant at the
unprecedented outrage committed on the feelings of his client by
the opposite party that he never seems likely to recover it is
doing infinitely better than might be expected in Switzerland. The
learned gentleman who does the withering business and who blights
all opponents with his gloomy sarcasm is as merry as a grig at a
French watering-place. The learned gentleman who weeps by the pint
on the smallest provocation has not shed a tear these six weeks.
The very learned gentleman who has cooled the natural heat of his
gingery complexion in pools and fountains of law until he has
become great in knotty arguments for term-time, when he poses the
drowsy bench with legal "chaff," inexplicable to the uninitiated
and to most of the initiated too, is roaming, with a characteristic
delight in aridity and dust, about Constantinople. Other dispersed
fragments of the same great palladium are to be found on the canals
of Venice, at the second cataract of the Nile, in the baths of
Germany, and sprinkled on the sea-sand all over the English coast.
Scarcely one is to be encountered in the deserted region of
Chancery Lane. If such a lonely member of the bar do flit across
the waste and come upon a prowling suitor who is unable to leave
off haunting the scenes of his anxiety, they frighten one another
and retreat into opposite shades.
It is the hottest long vacation known for many years. All the
young clerks are madly in love, and according to their various
degrees, pine for bliss with the beloved object, at Margate,
Ramsgate, or Gravesend. All the middle-aged clerks think their
families too large. All the unowned dogs who stray into the Inns
of Court and pant about staircases and other dry places seeking
water give short howls of aggravation. All the blind men's dogs in
the streets draw their masters against pumps or trip them over
buckets. A shop with a sun-blind, and a watered pavement, and a
bowl of gold and silver fish in the window, is a sanctuary. Temple
Bar gets so hot that it is, to the adjacent Strand and Fleet
Street, what a heater is in an urn, and keeps them simmering all
There are offices about the Inns of Court in which a man might be
cool, if any coolness were worth purchasing at such a price in
dullness; but the little thoroughfares immediately outside those
retirements seem to blaze. In Mr. Krook's court, it is so hot that
the people turn their houses inside out and sit in chairs upon the
pavement--Mr. Krook included, who there pursues his studies, with
his cat (who never is too hot) by his side. The Sol's Arms has
discontinued the Harmonic Meetings for the season, and Little
Swills is engaged at the Pastoral Gardens down the river, where he
comes out in quite an innocent manner and sings comic ditties of a
juvenile complexion calculated (as the bill says) not to wound the
feelings of the most fastidious mind.
Over all the legal neighbourhood there hangs, like some great veil
of rust or gigantic cobweb, the idleness and pensiveness of the
long vacation. Mr. Snagsby, law-stationer of Cook's Court,
Cursitor Street, is sensible of the influence not only in his mind
as a sympathetic and contemplative man, but also in his business as
a law-stationer aforesaid. He has more leisure for musing in
Staple Inn and in the Rolls Yard during the long vacation than at
other seasons, and he says to the two 'prentices, what a thing it
is in such hot weather to think that you live in an island with the
sea a-rolling and a-bowling right round you.
Guster is busy in the little drawing-room on this present afternoon
in the long vacation, when Mr. and Mrs. Snagsby have it in
contemplation to receive company. The expected guests are rather
select than numerous, being Mr. and Mrs. Chadband and no more.
From Mr. Chadband's being much given to describe himself, both
verbally and in writing, as a vessel, he is occasionally mistaken
by strangers for a gentleman connected with navigation, but he is,
as he expresses it, "in the ministry." Mr. Chadband is attached to
no particular denomination and is considered by his persecutors to
have nothing so very remarkable to say on the greatest of subjects
as to render his volunteering, on his own account, at all incumbent
on his conscience; but he has his followers, and Mrs. Snagsby is of
the number. Mrs. Snagsby has but recently taken a passage upward
by the vessel, Chadband; and her attention was attracted to that
Bark A 1 when she was something flushed by the hot weather.
"My little woman," says Mr. Snagsby to the sparrows in Staple Inn,
"likes to have her religion rather sharp, you see!"
So Guster, much impressed by regarding herself for the time as the
handmaid of Chadband, whom she knows to be endowed with the gift of
holding forth for four hours at a stretch, prepares the little
drawing-room for tea. All the furniture is shaken and dusted, the
portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Snagsby are touched up with a wet cloth,
the best tea-service is set forth, and there is excellent provision
made of dainty new bread, crusty twists, cool fresh butter, thin
slices of ham, tongue, and German sausage, and delicate little rows
of anchovies nestling in parsley, not to mention new-laid eggs, to
be brought up warm in a napkin, and hot buttered toast. For
Chadband is rather a consuming vessel--the persecutors say a
gorging vessel--and can wield such weapons of the flesh as a knife
and fork remarkably well.
Mr. Snagsby in his best coat, looking at all the preparations when
they are completed and coughing his cough of deference behind his
hand, says to Mrs. Snagsby, "At what time did you expect Mr. and
Mrs. Chadband, my love?"
"At six," says Mrs. Snagsby.
Mr. Snagsby observes in a mild and casual way that "it's gone
"Perhaps you'd like to begin without them," is Mrs. Snagsby's
Mr. Snagsby does look as if he would like it very much, but he
says, with his cough of mildness, "No, my dear, no. I merely named
"What's time," says Mrs. Snagsby, "to eternity?"
"Very true, my dear," says Mr. Snagsby. "Only when a person lays
in victuals for tea, a person does it with a view--perhaps--more to
time. And when a time is named for having tea, it's better to come
up to it."
"To come up to it!" Mrs. Snagsby repeats with severity. "Up to it!
As if Mr. Chadband was a fighter!"