Part 10 out of 21
over the house, the cushioned doors and windows, and the screens
and curtains fail to supply the fires' deficiencies and to satisfy
Sir Leicester's need. Hence the fashionable intelligence proclaims
one morning to the listening earth that Lady Dedlock is expected
shortly to return to town for a few weeks.
It is a melancholy truth that even great men have their poor
relations. Indeed great men have often more than their fair share
of poor relations, inasmuch as very red blood of the superior
quality, like inferior blood unlawfully shed, WILL cry aloud and
WILL be heard. Sir Leicester's cousins, in the remotest degree,
are so many murders in the respect that they "will out." Among
whom there are cousins who are so poor that one might almost dare
to think it would have been the happier for them never to have been
plated links upon the Dedlock chain of gold, but to have been made
of common iron at first and done base service.
Service, however (with a few limited reservations, genteel but not
profitable), they may not do, being of the Dedlock dignity. So
they visit their richer cousins, and get into debt when they can,
and live but shabbily when they can't, and find--the women no
husbands, and the men no wives--and ride in borrowed carriages, and
sit at feasts that are never of their own making, and so go through
high life. The rich family sum has been divided by so many
figures, and they are the something over that nobody knows what to
Everybody on Sir Leicester Dedlock's side of the question and of
his way of thinking would appear to be his cousin more or less.
From my Lord Boodle, through the Duke of Foodle, down to Noodle,
Sir Leicester, like a glorious spider, stretches his threads of
relationship. But while he is stately in the cousinship of the
Everybodys, he is a kind and generous man, according to his
dignified way, in the cousinship of the Nobodys; and at the present
time, in despite of the damp, he stays out the visit of several
such cousins at Chesney Wold with the constancy of a martyr.
Of these, foremost in the front rank stands Volumnia Dedlock, a
young lady (of sixty) who is doubly highly related, having the
honour to be a poor relation, by the mother's side, to another
great family. Miss Volumnia, displaying in early life a pretty
talent for cutting ornaments out of coloured paper, and also for
singing to the guitar in the Spanish tongue, and propounding French
conundrums in country houses, passed the twenty years of her
existence between twenty and forty in a sufficiently agreeable
manner. Lapsing then out of date and being considered to bore
mankind by her vocal performances in the Spanish language, she
retired to Bath, where she lives slenderly on an annual present
from Sir Leicester and whence she makes occasional resurrections in
the country houses of her cousins. She has an extensive
acquaintance at Bath among appalling old gentlemen with thin legs
and nankeen trousers, and is of high standing in that dreary city.
But she is a little dreaded elsewhere in consequence of an
indiscreet profusion in the article of rouge and persistency in an
obsolete pearl necklace like a rosary of little bird's-eggs.
In any country in a wholesome state, Volumnia would be a clear case
for the pension list. Efforts have been made to get her on it, and
when William Buffy came in, it was fully expected that her name
would be put down for a couple of hundred a year. But William
Buffy somehow discovered, contrary to all expectation, that these
were not the times when it could be done, and this was the first
clear indication Sir Leicester Dedlock had conveyed to him that the
country was going to pieces.
There is likewise the Honourable Bob Stables, who can make warm
mashes with the skill of a veterinary surgeon and is a better shot
than most gamekeepers. He has been for some time particularly
desirous to serve his country in a post of good emoluments,
unaccompanied by any trouble or responsibility. In a well-
regulated body politic this natural desire on the part of a
spirited young gentleman so highly connected would be speedily
recognized, but somehow William Buffy found when he came in that
these were not times in which he could manage that little matter
either, and this was the second indication Sir Leicester Dedlock
had conveyed to him that the country was going to pieces.
The rest of the cousins are ladies and gentlemen of various ages
and capacities, the major part amiable and sensible and likely to
have done well enough in life if they could have overcome their
cousinship; as it is, they are almost all a little worsted by it,
and lounge in purposeless and listless paths, and seem to be quite
as much at a loss how to dispose of themselves as anybody else can
be how to dispose of them.
In this society, and where not, my Lady Dedlock reigns supreme.
Beautiful, elegant, accomplished, and powerful in her little world
(for the world of fashion does not stretch ALL the way from pole to
pole), her influence in Sir Leicester's house, however haughty and
indifferent her manner, is greatly to improve it and refine it.
The cousins, even those older cousins who were paralysed when Sir
Leicester married her, do her feudal homage; and the Honourable Bob
Stables daily repeats to some chosen person between breakfast and
lunch his favourite original remark, that she is the best-groomed
woman in the whole stud.
Such the guests in the long drawing-room at Chesney Wold this
dismal night when the step on the Ghost's Walk (inaudible here,
however) might be the step of a deceased cousin shut out in the
cold. It is near bed-time. Bedroom fires blaze brightly all over
the house, raising ghosts of grim furniture on wall and ceiling.
Bedroom candlesticks bristle on the distant table by the door, and
cousins yawn on ottomans. Cousins at the piano, cousins at the
soda-water tray, cousins rising from the card-table, cousins
gathered round the fire. Standing on one side of his own peculiar
fire (for there are two), Sir Leicester. On the opposite side of
the broad hearth, my Lady at her table. Volumnia, as one of the
more privileged cousins, in a luxurious chair between them. Sir
Leicester glancing, with magnificent displeasure, at the rouge and
the pearl necklace.
"I occasionally meet on my staircase here," drawls Volumnia, whose
thoughts perhaps are already hopping up it to bed, after a long
evening of very desultory talk, "one of the prettiest girls, I
think, that I ever saw in my life."
"A PROTEGEE of my Lady's," observes Sir Leicester.
"I thought so. I felt sure that some uncommon eye must have picked
that girl out. She really is a marvel. A dolly sort of beauty
perhaps," says Miss Volumnia, reserving her own sort, "but in its
way, perfect; such bloom I never saw!"
Sir Leicester, with his magnificent glance of displeasure at the
rouge, appears to say so too.
"Indeed," remarks my Lady languidly, "if there is any uncommon eye
in the case, it is Mrs. Rouncewell's, and not mine. Rosa is her
"Your maid, I suppose?"
"No. My anything; pet--secretary--messenger--I don't know what."
"You like to have her about you, as you would like to have a
flower, or a bird, or a picture, or a poodle--no, not a poodle,
though--or anything else that was equally pretty?" says Volumnia,
sympathizing. "Yes, how charming now! And how well that
delightful old soul Mrs. Rouncewell is looking. She must be an
immense age, and yet she is as active and handsome! She is the
dearest friend I have, positively!"
Sir Leicester feels it to be right and fitting that the housekeeper
of Chesney Wold should be a remarkable person. Apart from that, he
has a real regard for Mrs. Rouncewell and likes to hear her
praised. So he says, "You are right, Volumnia," which Volumnia is
extremely glad to hear.
"She has no daughter of her own, has she?"
"Mrs. Rouncewell? No, Volumnia. She has a son. Indeed, she had
My Lady, whose chronic malady of boredom has been sadly aggravated
by Volumnia this evening, glances wearily towards the candlesticks
and heaves a noiseless sigh.
"And it is a remarkable example of the confusion into which the
present age has fallen; of the obliteration of landmarks, the
opening of floodgates, and the uprooting of distinctions," says Sir
Leicester with stately gloom, "that I have been informed by Mr.
Tulkinghorn that Mrs. Rouncewell's son has been invited to go into
Miss Volumnia utters a little sharp scream.
"Yes, indeed," repeats Sir Leicester. "Into Parliament."
"I never heard of such a thing! Good gracious, what is the man?"
"He is called, I believe--an--ironmaster." Sir Leicester says it
slowly and with gravity and doubt, as not being sure but that he is
called a lead-mistress or that the right word may be some other
word expressive of some other relationship to some other metal.
Volumnia utters another little scream.
"He has declined the proposal, if my information from Mr.
Tulkinghorn be correct, as I have no doubt it is. Mr. Tulkinghorn
being always correct and exact; still that does not," says Sir
Leicester, "that does not lessen the anomaly, which is fraught with
strange considerations--startling considerations, as it appears to
Miss Volumnia rising with a look candlestick-wards, Sir Leicester
politely performs the grand tour of the drawing-room, brings one,
and lights it at my Lady's shaded lamp.
"I must beg you, my Lady," he says while doing so, "to remain a few
moments, for this individual of whom I speak arrived this evening
shortly before dinner and requested in a very becoming note"--Sir
Leicester, with his habitual regard to truth, dwells upon it--"I am
bound to say, in a very becoming and well-expressed note, the
favour of a short interview with yourself and MYself on the subject
of this young girl. As it appeared that he wished to depart to-
night, I replied that we would see him before retiring."
Miss Volumnia with a third little scream takes flight, wishing her
hosts--O Lud!--well rid of the--what is it?--ironmaster!
The other cousins soon disperse, to the last cousin there. Sir
Leicester rings the bell, "Make my compliments to Mr. Rouncewell,
in the housekeeper's apartments, and say I can receive him now."
My Lady, who has heard all this with slight attention outwardly,
looks towards Mr. Rouncewell as he comes in. He is a little over
fifty perhaps, of a good figure, like his mother, and has a clear
voice, a broad forehead from which his dark hair has retired, and a
shrewd though open face. He is a responsible-looking gentleman
dressed in black, portly enough, but strong and active. Has a
perfectly natural and easy air and is not in the least embarrassed
by the great presence into which he comes.
"Sir Leicester and Lady Dedlock, as I have already apologized for
intruding on you, I cannot do better than be very brief. I thank
you, Sir Leicester."
The head of the Dedlocks has motioned towards a sofa between
himself and my Lady. Mr. Rouncewell quietly takes his seat there.
"In these busy times, when so many great undertakings are in
progress, people like myself have so many workmen in so many places
that we are always on the flight."
Sir Leicester is content enough that the ironmaster should feel
that there is no hurry there; there, in that ancient house, rooted
in that quiet park, where the ivy and the moss have had time to
mature, and the gnarled and warted elms and the umbrageous oaks
stand deep in the fern and leaves of a hundred years; and where the
sun-dial on the terrace has dumbly recorded for centuries that time
which was as much the property of every Dedlock--while he lasted--
as the house and lands. Sir Leicester sits down in an easy-chair,
opposing his repose and that of Chesney Wold to the restless
flights of ironmasters.
"Lady Dedlock has been so kind," proceeds Mr. Rouncewell with a
respectful glance and a bow that way, "as to place near her a young
beauty of the name of Rosa. Now, my son has fallen in love with
Rosa and has asked my consent to his proposing marriage to her and
to their becoming engaged if she will take him--which I suppose she
will. I have never seen Rosa until to-day, but I have some
confidence in my son's good sense--even in love. I find her what
he represents her, to the best of my judgment; and my mother speaks
of her with great commendation."
"She in all respects deserves it," says my Lady.
"I am happy, Lady Dedlock, that you say so, and I need not comment
on the value to me of your kind opinion of her."
"That," observes Sir Leicester with unspeakable grandeur, for he
thinks the ironmaster a little too glib, "must be quite
"Quite unnecessary, Sir Leicester. Now, my son is a very young
man, and Rosa is a very young woman. As I made my way, so my son
must make his; and his being married at present is out of the
question. But supposing I gave my consent to his engaging himself
to this pretty girl, if this pretty girl will engage herself to
him, I think it a piece of candour to say at once--I am sure, Sir
Leicester and Lady Dedlock, you will understand and excuse me--I
should make it a condition that she did not remain at Chesney Wold.
Therefore, before communicating further with my son, I take the
liberty of saying that if her removal would be in any way
inconvenient or objectionable, I will hold the matter over with him
for any reasonable time and leave it precisely where it is."
Not remain at Chesney Wold! Make it a condition! All Sir
Leicester's old misgivings relative to Wat Tyler and the people in
the iron districts who do nothing but turn out by torchlight come
in a shower upon his head, the fine grey hair of which, as well as
of his whiskers, actually stirs with indignation.
"Am I to understand, sir," says Sir Leicester, "and is my Lady to
understand"--he brings her in thus specially, first as a point of
gallantry, and next as a point of prudence, having great reliance
on her sense--"am I to understand, Mr. Rouncewell, and is my Lady
to understand, sir, that you consider this young woman too good for
Chesney Wold or likely to be injured by remaining here?"
"Certainly not, Sir Leicester,"
"I am glad to hear it." Sir Leicester very lofty indeed.
"Pray, Mr. Rouncewell," says my Lady, warning Sir Leicester off
with the slightest gesture of her pretty hand, as if he were a fly,
"explain to me what you mean."
"Willingly, Lady Dedlock. There is nothing I could desire more."
Addressing her composed face, whose intelligence, however, is too
quick and active to be concealed by any studied impassiveness,
however habitual, to the strong Saxon face of the visitor, a
picture of resolution and perseverance, my Lady listens with
attention, occasionally slightly bending her head.
"I am the son of your housekeeper, Lady Dedlock, and passed my
childhood about this house. My mother has lived here half a
century and will die here I have no doubt. She is one of those
examples--perhaps as good a one as there is--of love, and
attachment, and fidelity in such a nation, which England may well
be proud of, but of which no order can appropriate the whole pride
or the whole merit, because such an instance bespeaks high worth on
two sides--on the great side assuredly, on the small one no less
Sir Leicester snorts a little to hear the law laid down in this
way, but in his honour and his love of truth, he freely, though
silently, admits the justice of the ironmaster's proposition.
"Pardon me for saying what is so obvious, but I wouldn't have it
hastily supposed," with the least turn of his eyes towards Sir
Leicester, "that I am ashamed of my mother's position here, or
wanting in all just respect for Chesney Wold and the family. I
certainly may have desired--I certainly have desired, Lady Dedlock
--that my mother should retire after so many years and end her days
with me. But as I have found that to sever this strong bond would
be to break her heart, I have long abandoned that idea."
Sir Leicester very magnificent again at the notion of Mrs.
Rouncewell being spirited off from her natural home to end her days
with an ironmaster.
"I have been," proceeds the visitor in a modest, clear way, "an
apprentice and a workman. I have lived on workman's wages, years
and years, and beyond a certain point have had to educate myself.
My wife was a foreman's daughter, and plainly brought up. We have
three daughters besides this son of whom I have spoken, and being
fortunately able to give them greater advantages than we have had
ourselves, we have educated them well, very well. It has been one
of our great cares and pleasures to make them worthy of any
A little boastfulness in his fatherly tone here, as if he added in
his heart, "even of the Chesney Wold station." Not a little more
magnificence, therefore, on the part of Sir Leicester.
"All this is so frequent, Lady Dedlock, where I live, and among the
class to which I belong, that what would be generally called
unequal marriages are not of such rare occurrence with us as
elsewhere. A son will sometimes make it known to his father that
he has fallen in love, say, with a young woman in the factory. The
father, who once worked in a factory himself, will be a little
disappointed at first very possibly. It may be that he had other
views for his son. However, the chances are that having
ascertained the young woman to be of unblemished character, he will
say to his son, 'I must be quite sure you are in earnest here.
This is a serious matter for both of you. Therefore I shall have
this girl educated for two years,' or it may be, 'I shall place
this girl at the same school with your sisters for such a time,
during which you will give me your word and honour to see her only
so often. If at the expiration of that time, when she has so far
profited by her advantages as that you may be upon a fair equality,
you are both in the same mind, I will do my part to make you
happy.' I know of several cases such as I describe, my Lady, and I
think they indicate to me my own course now."
Sir Leicester's magnificence explodes. Calmly, but terribly.
"Mr. Rouncewell," says Sir Leicester with his right hand in the
breast of his blue coat, the attitude of state in which he is
painted in the gallery, "do you draw a parallel between Chesney
Wold and a--" Here he resists a disposition to choke, "a factory?"
"I need not reply, Sir Leicester, that the two places are very
different; but for the purposes of this case, I think a parallel
may be justly drawn between them."
Sir Leicester directs his majestic glance down one side of the long
drawing-room and up the other before he can believe that he is
"Are you aware, sir, that this young woman whom my Lady--my Lady--
has placed near her person was brought up at the village school
outside the gates?"
"Sir Leicester, I am quite aware of it. A very good school it is,
and handsomely supported by this family."
"Then, Mr. Rouncewell," returns Sir Leicester, "the application of
what you have said is, to me, incomprehensible."
"Will it be more comprehensible, Sir Leicester, if I say," the
ironmaster is reddening a little, "that I do not regard the village
school as teaching everything desirable to be known by my son's
From the village school of Chesney Wold, intact as it is this
minute, to the whole framework of society; from the whole framework
of society, to the aforesaid framework receiving tremendous cracks
in consequence of people (iron-masters, lead-mistresses, and what
not) not minding their catechism, and getting out of the station
unto which they are called--necessarily and for ever, according to
Sir Leicester's rapid logic, the first station in which they happen
to find themselves; and from that, to their educating other people
out of THEIR stations, and so obliterating the landmarks, and
opening the floodgates, and all the rest of it; this is the swift
progress of the Dedlock mind.
"My Lady, I beg your pardon. Permit me, for one moment!" She has
given a faint indication of intending to speak. "Mr. Rouncewell,
our views of duty, and our views of station, and our views of
education, and our views of--in short, ALL our views--are so
diametrically opposed, that to prolong this discussion must be
repellent to your feelings and repellent to my own. This young
woman is honoured with my Lady's notice and favour. If she wishes
to withdraw herself from that notice and favour or if she chooses
to place herself under the influence of any one who may in his
peculiar opinions--you will allow me to say, in his peculiar
opinions, though I readily admit that he is not accountable for
them to me--who may, in his peculiar opinions, withdraw her from
that notice and favour, she is at any time at liberty to do so. We
are obliged to you for the plainness with which you have spoken.
It will have no effect of itself, one way or other, on the young
woman's position here. Beyond this, we can make no terms; and here
we beg--if you will be so good--to leave the subject."
The visitor pauses a moment to give my Lady an opportunity, but she
says nothing. He then rises and replies, "Sir Leicester and Lady
Dedlock, allow me to thank you for your attention and only to
observe that I shall very seriously recommend my son to conquer his
present inclinations. Good night!"
"Mr. Rouncewell," says Sir Leicester with all the nature of a
gentleman shining in him, "it is late, and the roads are dark. I
hope your time is not so precious but that you will allow my Lady
and myself to offer you the hospitality of Chesney Wold, for to-
night at least."
"I hope so," adds my Lady.
"I am much obliged to you, but I have to travel all night in order
to reach a distant part of the country punctually at an appointed
time in the morning."
Therewith the ironmaster takes his departure, Sir Leicester ringing
the bell and my Lady rising as he leaves the room.
When my Lady goes to her boudoir, she sits down thoughtfully by the
fire, and inattentive to the Ghost's Walk, looks at Rosa, writing
in an inner room. Presently my Lady calls her.
"Come to me, child. Tell me the truth. Are you in love?"
"Oh! My Lady!"
My Lady, looking at the downcast and blushing face, says smiling,
"Who is it? Is it Mrs. Rouncewell's grandson?"
"Yes, if you please, my Lady. But I don't know that I am in love
"Yet, you silly little thing! Do you know that he loves YOU, yet?"
"I think he likes me a little, my Lady." And Rosa bursts into
Is this Lady Dedlock standing beside the village beauty, smoothing
her dark hair with that motherly touch, and watching her with eyes
so full of musing interest? Aye, indeed it is!
"Listen to me, child. You are young and true, and I believe you
are attached to me."
"Indeed I am, my Lady. Indeed there is nothing in the world I
wouldn't do to show how much."
"And I don't think you would wish to leave me just yet, Rosa, even
for a lover?"
"No, my Lady! Oh, no!" Rosa looks up for the first time, quite
frightened at the thought.
"Confide in me, my child. Don't fear me. I wish you to be happy,
and will make you so--if I can make anybody happy on this earth."
Rosa, with fresh tears, kneels at her feet and kisses her hand. My
Lady takes the hand with which she has caught it, and standing with
her eyes fixed on the fire, puts it about and about between her own
two hands, and gradually lets it fall. Seeing her so absorbed,
Rosa softly withdraws; but still my Lady's eyes are on the fire.
In search of what? Of any hand that is no more, of any hand that
never was, of any touch that might have magically changed her life?
Or does she listen to the Ghost's Walk and think what step does it
most resemble? A man's? A woman's? The pattering of a little
child's feet, ever coming on--on--on? Some melancholy influence is
upon her, or why should so proud a lady close the doors and sit
alone upon the hearth so desolate?
Volumnia is away next day, and all the cousins are scattered before
dinner. Not a cousin of the batch but is amazed to hear from Sir
Leicester at breakfast-time of the obliteration of landmarks, and
opening of floodgates, and cracking of the framework of society,
manifested through Mrs. Rouncewell's son. Not a cousin of the
batch but is really indignant, and connects it with the feebleness
of William Buffy when in office, and really does feel deprived of a
stake in the country--or the pension list--or something--by fraud
and wrong. As to Volumnia, she is handed down the great staircase
by Sir Leicester, as eloquent upon the theme as if there were a
general rising in the north of England to obtain her rouge-pot and
pearl necklace. And thus, with a clatter of maids and valets--for
it is one appurtenance of their cousinship that however difficult
they may find it to keep themselves, they MUST keep maids and
valets--the cousins disperse to the four winds of heaven; and the
one wintry wind that blows to-day shakes a shower from the trees
near the deserted house, as if all the cousins had been changed
The Young Man
Chesney Wold is shut up, carpets are rolled into great scrolls in
corners of comfortless rooms, bright damask does penance in brown
holland, carving and gilding puts on mortification, and the Dedlock
ancestors retire from the light of day again. Around and around
the house the leaves fall thick, but never fast, for they come
circling down with a dead lightness that is sombre and slow. Let
the gardener sweep and sweep the turf as he will, and press the
leaves into full barrows, and wheel them off, still they lie ankle-
deep. Howls the shrill wind round Chesney Wold; the sharp rain
beats, the windows rattle, and the chimneys growl. Mists hide in
the avenues, veil the points of view, and move in funeral-wise
across the rising grounds. On all the house there is a cold, blank
smell like the smell of a little church, though something dryer,
suggesting that the dead and buried Dedlocks walk there in the long
nights and leave the flavour of their graves behind them.
But the house in town, which is rarely in the same mind as Chesney
Wold at the same time, seldom rejoicing when it rejoices or
mourning when it mourns, expecting when a Dedlock dies--the house
in town shines out awakened. As warm and bright as so much state
may be, as delicately redolent of pleasant scents that bear no
trace of winter as hothouse flowers can make it, soft and hushed so
that the ticking of the clocks and the crisp burning of the fires
alone disturb the stillness in the rooms, it seems to wrap those
chilled bones of Sir Leicester's in rainbow-coloured wool. And Sir
Leicester is glad to repose in dignified contentment before the
great fire in the library, condescendingly perusing the backs of
his books or honouring the fine arts with a glance of approbation.
For he has his pictures, ancient and modern. Some of the Fancy
Ball School in which art occasionally condescends to become a
master, which would be best catalogued like the miscellaneous
articles in a sale. As "Three high-backed chairs, a table and
cover, long-necked bottle (containing wine), one flask, one Spanish
female's costume, three-quarter face portrait of Miss Jogg the
model, and a suit of armour containing Don Quixote." Or "One stone
terrace (cracked), one gondola in distance, one Venetian senator's
dress complete, richly embroidered white satin costume with profile
portrait of Miss Jogg the model, one Scimitar superbly mounted in
gold with jewelled handle, elaborate Moorish dress (very rare), and
Mr. Tulkinghorn comes and goes pretty often, there being estate
business to do, leases to be renewed, and so on. He sees my Lady
pretty often, too; and he and she are as composed, and as
indifferent, and take as little heed of one another, as ever. Yet
it may be that my Lady fears this Mr. Tulkinghorn and that he knows
it. It may be that he pursues her doggedly and steadily, with no
touch of compunction, remorse, or pity. It may be that her beauty
and all the state and brilliancy surrounding her only gives him the
greater zest for what he is set upon and makes him the more
inflexible in it. Whether he be cold and cruel, whether immovable
in what he has made his duty, whether absorbed in love of power,
whether determined to have nothing hidden from him in ground where
he has burrowed among secrets all his life, whether he in his heart
despises the splendour of which he is a distant beam, whether he is
always treasuring up slights and offences in the affability of his
gorgeous clients--whether he be any of this, or all of this, it may
be that my Lady had better have five thousand pairs of fashionable
eyes upon her, in distrustful vigilance, than the two eyes of this
rusty lawyer with his wisp of neckcloth and his dull black breeches
tied with ribbons at the knees.
Sir Leicester sits in my Lady's room--that room in which Mr.
Tulkinghorn read the affidavit in Jarndyce and Jarndyce--
particularly complacent. My Lady, as on that day, sits before the
fire with her screen in her hand. Sir Leicester is particularly
complacent because he has found in his newspaper some congenial
remarks bearing directly on the floodgates and the framework of
society. They apply so happily to the late case that Sir Leicester
has come from the library to my Lady's room expressly to read them
aloud. "The man who wrote this article," he observes by way of
preface, nodding at the fire as if he were nodding down at the man
from a mount, "has a well-balanced mind."
The man's mind is not so well balanced but that he bores my Lady,
who, after a languid effort to listen, or rather a languid
resignation of herself to a show of listening, becomes distraught
and falls into a contemplation of the fire as if it were her fire
at Chesney Wold, and she had never left it. Sir Leicester, quite
unconscious, reads on through his double eye-glass, occasionally
stopping to remove his glass and express approval, as "Very true
indeed," "Very properly put," "I have frequently made the same
remark myself," invariably losing his place after each observation,
and going up and down the column to find it again.
Sir Leicester is reading with infinite gravity and state when the
door opens, and the Mercury in powder makes this strange
announcement, "The young man, my Lady, of the name of Guppy."
Sir Leicester pauses, stares, repeats in a killing voice, "The
young man of the name of Guppy?"
Looking round, he beholds the young man of the name of Guppy, much
discomfited and not presenting a very impressive letter of
introduction in his manner and appearance.
"Pray," says Sir Leicester to Mercury, "what do you mean by
announcing with this abruptness a young man of the name of Guppy?"
"I beg your pardon, Sir Leicester, but my Lady said she would see
the young man whenever he called. I was not aware that you were
here, Sir Leicester."
With this apology, Mercury directs a scornful and indignant look at
the young man of the name of Guppy which plainly says, "What do you
come calling here for and getting ME into a row?"
"It's quite right. I gave him those directions," says my Lady.
"Let the young man wait."
"By no means, my Lady. Since he has your orders to come, I will
not interrupt you." Sir Leicester in his gallantry retires, rather
declining to accept a bow from the young man as he goes out and
majestically supposing him to be some shoemaker of intrusive
Lady Dedlock looks imperiously at her visitor when the servant has
left the room, casting her eyes over him from head to foot. She
suffers him to stand by the door and asks him what he wants.
"That your ladyship would have the kindness to oblige me with a
little conversation," returns Mr. Guppy, embarrassed.
"You are, of course, the person who has written me so many
"Several, your ladyship. Several before your ladyship condescended
to favour me with an answer."
"And could you not take the same means of rendering a Conversation
unnecessary? Can you not still?"
Mr. Guppy screws his mouth into a silent "No!" and shakes his head.
"You have been strangely importunate. If it should appear, after
all, that what you have to say does not concern me--and I don't
know how it can, and don't expect that it will--you will allow me
to cut you short with but little ceremony. Say what you have to
say, if you please."
My Lady, with a careless toss of her screen, turns herself towards
the fire again, sitting almost with her back to the young man of
the name of Guppy.
"With your ladyship's permission, then," says the young man, "I
will now enter on my business. Hem! I am, as I told your ladyship
in my first letter, in the law. Being in the law, I have learnt
the habit of not committing myself in writing, and therefore I did
not mention to your ladyship the name of the firm with which I am
connected and in which my standing--and I may add income--is
tolerably good. I may now state to your ladyship, in confidence,
that the name of that firm is Kenge and Carboy, of Lincoln's Inn,
which may not be altogether unknown to your ladyship in connexion
with the case in Chancery of Jarndyce and Jarndyce."
My Lady's figure begins to be expressive of some attention. She
has ceased to toss the screen and holds it as if she were
"Now, I may say to your ladyship at once," says Mr. Guppy, a little
emboldened, "it is no matter arising out of Jarndyce and Jarndyce
that made me so desirous to speak to your ladyship, which conduct I
have no doubt did appear, and does appear, obtrusive--in fact,
After waiting for a moment to receive some assurance to the
contrary, and not receiving any, Mr. Guppy proceeds, "If it had
been Jarndyce and Jarndyce, I should have gone at once to your
ladyship's solicitor, Mr. Tulkinghorn, of the Fields. I have the
pleasure of being acquainted with Mr. Tulkinghorn--at least we move
when we meet one another--and if it had been any business of that
sort, I should have gone to him."
My Lady turns a little round and says, "You had better sit down."
"Thank your ladyship." Mr. Guppy does so. "Now, your ladyship"--
Mr. Guppy refers to a little slip of paper on which he has made
small notes of his line of argument and which seems to involve him
in the densest obscurity whenever he looks at it--"I--Oh, yes!--I
place myself entirely in your ladyship's hands. If your ladyship
was to make any complaint to Kenge and Carboy or to Mr. Tulkinghorn
of the present visit, I should be placed in a very disagreeable
situation. That, I openly admit. Consequently, I rely upon your
My Lady, with a disdainful gesture of the hand that holds the
screen, assures him of his being worth no complaint from her.
"Thank your ladyship," says Mr. Guppy; "quite satisfactory. Now--
I--dash it!--The fact is that I put down a head or two here of the
order of the points I thought of touching upon, and they're written
short, and I can't quite make out what they mean. If your ladyship
will excuse me taking it to the window half a moment, I--"
Mr. Guppy, going to the window, tumbles into a pair of love-birds,
to whom he says in his confusion, "I beg your pardon, I am sure."
This does not tend to the greater legibility of his notes. He
murmurs, growing warm and red and holding the slip of paper now
close to his eyes, now a long way off, "C.S. What's C.S. for? Oh!
C.S.! Oh, I know! Yes, to be sure!" And comes back enlightened.
"I am not aware," says Mr. Guppy, standing midway between my Lady
and his chair, "whether your ladyship ever happened to hear of, or
to see, a young lady of the name of Miss Esther Summerson."
My Lady's eyes look at him full. "I saw a young lady of that name
not long ago. This past autumn."
"Now, did it strike your ladyship that she was like anybody?" asks
Mr. Guppy, crossing his arms, holding his head on one side, and
scratching the corner of his mouth with his memoranda.
My Lady removes her eyes from him no more.
"Not like your ladyship's family?"
"I think your ladyship," says Mr. Guppy, "can hardly remember Miss
"I remember the young lady very well. What has this to do with
"Your ladyship, I do assure you that having Miss Summerson's image
imprinted on my 'eart--which I mention in confidence--I found, when
I had the honour of going over your ladyship's mansion of Chesney
Wold while on a short out in the county of Lincolnshire with a
friend, such a resemblance between Miss Esther Summerson and your
ladyship's own portrait that it completely knocked me over, so much
so that I didn't at the moment even know what it WAS that knocked
me over. And now I have the honour of beholding your ladyship near
(I have often, since that, taken the liberty of looking at your
ladyship in your carriage in the park, when I dare say you was not
aware of me, but I never saw your ladyship so near), it's really
more surprising than I thought it."
Young man of the name of Guppy! There have been times, when ladies
lived in strongholds and had unscrupulous attendants within call,
when that poor life of yours would NOT have been worth a minute's
purchase, with those beautiful eyes looking at you as they look at
My Lady, slowly using her little hand-screen as a fan, asks him
again what he supposes that his taste for likenesses has to do with
"Your ladyship," replies Mr. Guppy, again referring to his paper,
"I am coming to that. Dash these notes! Oh! 'Mrs. Chadband.'
Yes." Mr. Guppy draws his chair a little forward and seats himself
again. My Lady reclines in her chair composedly, though with a
trifle less of graceful ease than usual perhaps, and never falters
in her steady gaze. "A--stop a minute, though!" Mr. Guppy refers
again. "E.S. twice? Oh, yes! Yes, I see my way now, right on."
Rolling up the slip of paper as an instrument to point his speech
with, Mr. Guppy proceeds.
"Your ladyship, there is a mystery about Miss Esther Summerson's
birth and bringing up. I am informed of that fact because--which I
mention in confidence--I know it in the way of my profession at
Kenge and Carboy's. Now, as I have already mentioned to your
ladyship, Miss Summerson's image is imprinted on my 'eart. If I
could clear this mystery for her, or prove her to be well related,
or find that having the honour to be a remote branch of your
ladyship's family she had a right to be made a party in Jarndyce
and Jarndyce, why, I might make a sort of a claim upon Miss
Summerson to look with an eye of more dedicated favour on my
proposals than she has exactly done as yet. In fact, as yet she
hasn't favoured them at all."
A kind of angry smile just dawns upon my Lady's face.
"Now, it's a very singular circumstance, your ladyship," says Mr.
Guppy, "though one of those circumstances that do fall in the way
of us professional men--which I may call myself, for though not
admitted, yet I have had a present of my articles made to me by
Kenge and Carboy, on my mother's advancing from the principal of
her little income the money for the stamp, which comes heavy--that
I have encountered the person who lived as servant with the lady
who brought Miss Summerson up before Mr. Jarndyce took charge of
her. That lady was a Miss Barbary, your ladyship."
Is the dead colour on my Lady's face reflected from the screen
which has a green silk ground and which she holds in her raised
hand as if she had forgotten it, or is it a dreadful paleness that
has fallen on her?
"Did your ladyship," says Mr. Guppy, "ever happen to hear of Miss
"I don't know. I think so. Yes."
"Was Miss Barbary at all connected with your ladyship's family?"
My Lady's lips move, but they utter nothing. She shakes her head.
"NOT connected?" says Mr. Guppy. "Oh! Not to your ladyship's
knowledge, perhaps? Ah! But might be? Yes." After each of these
interrogatories, she has inclined her head. "Very good! Now, this
Miss Barbary was extremely close--seems to have been extraordinarily
close for a female, females being generally (in common life at
least) rather given to conversation--and my witness never had an
idea whether she possessed a single relative. On one occasion, and
only one, she seems to have been confidential to my witness on a
single point, and she then told her that the little girl's real
name was not Esther Summerson, but Esther Hawdon."
Mr. Guppy stares. Lady Dedlock sits before him looking him
through, with the same dark shade upon her face, in the same
attitude even to the holding of the screen, with her lips a little
apart, her brow a little contracted, but for the moment dead. He
sees her consciousness return, sees a tremor pass across her frame
like a ripple over water, sees her lips shake, sees her compose
them by a great effort, sees her force herself back to the
knowledge of his presence and of what he has said. All this, so
quickly, that her exclamation and her dead condition seem to have
passed away like the features of those long-preserved dead bodies
sometimes opened up in tombs, which, struck by the air like
lightning, vanish in a breath.
"Your ladyship is acquainted with the name of Hawdon?"
"I have heard it before."
"Name of any collateral or remote branch of your ladyship's
"Now, your ladyship," says Mr. Guppy, "I come to the last point of
the case, so far as I have got it up. It's going on, and I shall
gather it up closer and closer as it goes on. Your ladyship must
know--if your ladyship don't happen, by any chance, to know
already--that there was found dead at the house of a person named
Krook, near Chancery Lane, some time ago, a law-writer in great
distress. Upon which law-writer there was an inquest, and which
law-writer was an anonymous character, his name being unknown.
But, your ladyship, I have discovered very lately that that law-
writer's name was Hawdon."
"And what is THAT to me?"
"Aye, your ladyship, that's the question! Now, your ladyship, a
queer thing happened after that man's death. A lady started up, a
disguised lady, your ladyship, who went to look at the scene of
action and went to look at his grave. She hired a crossing-
sweeping boy to show it her. If your ladyship would wish to have
the boy produced in corroboration of this statement, I can lay my
hand upon him at any time."
The wretched boy is nothing to my Lady, and she does NOT wish to
have him produced.
"Oh, I assure your ladyship it's a very queer start indeed," says
Mr. Guppy. "If you was to hear him tell about the rings that
sparkled on her fingers when she took her glove off, you'd think it
There are diamonds glittering on the hand that holds the screen.
My Lady trifles with the screen and makes them glitter more, again
with that expression which in other times might have been so
dangerous to the young man of the name of Guppy.
"It was supposed, your ladyship, that he left no rag or scrap
behind him by which he could be possibly identified. But he did.
He left a bundle of old letters."
The screen still goes, as before. All this time her eyes never
once release him.
"They were taken and secreted. And to-morrow night, your ladyship,
they will come into my possession."
"Still I ask you, what is this to me?"
"Your ladyship, I conclude with that." Mr. Guppy rises. "If you
think there's enough in this chain of circumstances put together--
in the undoubted strong likeness of this young lady to your
ladyship, which is a positive fact for a jury; in her having been
brought up by Miss Barbary; in Miss Barbary stating Miss
Summerson's real name to be Hawdon; in your ladyship's knowing both
these names VERY WELL; and in Hawdon's dying as he did--to give
your ladyship a family interest in going further into the case, I
will bring these papers here. I don't know what they are, except
that they are old letters: I have never had them in my possession
yet. I will bring those papers here as soon as I get them and go
over them for the first time with your ladyship. I have told your
ladyship my object. I have told your ladyship that I should be
placed in a very disagreeable situation if any complaint was made,
and all is in strict confidence."
Is this the full purpose of the young man of the name of Guppy, or
has he any other? Do his words disclose the length, breadth,
depth, of his object and suspicion in coming here; or if not, what
do they hide? He is a match for my Lady there. She may look at
him, but he can look at the table and keep that witness-box face of
his from telling anything.
"You may bring the letters," says my Lady, "if you choose."
"Your ladyship is not very encouraging, upon my word and honour,"
says Mr. Guppy, a little injured.
"You may bring the letters," she repeats in the same tone, "if you
"It shall he done. I wish your ladyship good day."
On a table near her is a rich bauble of a casket, barred and
clasped like an old strong-chest. She, looking at him still, takes
it to her and unlocks it.
"Oh! I assure your ladyship I am not actuated by any motives of
that sort," says Mr. Guppy, "and I couldn't accept anything of the
kind. I wish your ladyship good day, and am much obliged to you
all the same."
So the young man makes his bow and goes downstairs, where the
supercilious Mercury does not consider himself called upon to leave
his Olympus by the hall-fire to let the young man out.
As Sir Leicester basks in his library and dozes over his newspaper,
is there no influence in the house to startle him, not to say to
make the very trees at Chesney Wold fling up their knotted arms,
the very portraits frown, the very armour stir?
No. Words, sobs, and cries are but air, and air is so shut in and
shut out throughout the house in town that sounds need be uttered
trumpet-tongued indeed by my Lady in her chamber to carry any faint
vibration to Sir Leicester's ears; and yet this cry is in the
house, going upward from a wild figure on its knees.
"O my child, my child! Not dead in the first hours of her life, as
my cruel sister told me, but sternly nurtured by her, after she had
renounced me and my name! O my child, O my child!"
Richard had been gone away some time when a visitor came to pass a
few days with us. It was an elderly lady. It was Mrs. Woodcourt,
who, having come from Wales to stay with Mrs. Bayham Badger and
having written to my guardian, "by her son Allan's desire," to
report that she had heard from him and that he was well "and sent
his kind remembrances to all of us," had been invited by my
guardian to make a visit to Bleak House. She stayed with us nearly
three weeks. She took very kindly to me and was extremely
confidential, so much so that sometimes she almost made me
uncomfortable. I had no right, I knew very well, to be
uncomfortable because she confided in me, and I felt it was
unreasonable; still, with all I could do, I could not quite help it.
She was such a sharp little lady and used to sit with her hands
folded in each other looking so very watchful while she talked to
me that perhaps I found that rather irksome. Or perhaps it was her
being so upright and trim, though I don't think it was that,
because I thought that quaintly pleasant. Nor can it have been the
general expression of her face, which was very sparkling and pretty
for an old lady. I don't know what it was. Or at least if I do
now, I thought I did not then. Or at least--but it don't matter.
Of a night when I was going upstairs to bed, she would invite me into
her room, where she sat before the fire in a great chair; and, dear
me, she would tell me about Morgan ap-Kerrig until I was quite low-
spirited! Sometimes she recited a few verses from Crumlinwallinwer
and the Mewlinnwillinwodd (if those are the right names, which I dare
say they are not), and would become quite fiery with the sentiments
they expressed. Though I never knew what they were (being in Welsh),
further than that they were highly eulogistic of the lineage of
"So, Miss Summerson," she would say to me with stately triumph,
"this, you see, is the fortune inherited by my son. Wherever my
son goes, he can claim kindred with Ap-Kerrig. He may not have
money, but he always has what is much better--family, my dear."
I had my doubts of their caring so very much for Morgan ap-Kerrig
in India and China, but of course I never expressed them. I used
to say it was a great thing to be so highly connected.
"It IS, my dear, a great thing," Mrs. Woodcourt would reply. "It
has its disadvantages; my son's choice of a wife, for instance, is
limited by it, but the matrimonial choice of the royal family is
limited in much the same manner."
Then she would pat me on the arm and smooth my dress, as much as to
assure me that she had a good opinion of me, the distance between
"Poor Mr. Woodcourt, my dear," she would say, and always with some
emotion, for with her lofty pedigree she had a very affectionate
heart, "was descended from a great Highland family, the MacCoorts
of MacCoort. He served his king and country as an officer in the
Royal Highlanders, and he died on the field. My son is one of the
last representatives of two old families. With the blessing of
heaven he will set them up again and unite them with another old
It was in vain for me to try to change the subject, as I used to
try, only for the sake of novelty or perhaps because--but I need
not be so particular. Mrs. Woodcourt never would let me change it.
"My dear," she said one night, "you have so much sense and you look
at the world in a quiet manner so superior to your time of life
that it is a comfort to me to talk to you about these family
matters of mine. You don't know much of my son, my dear; but you
know enough of him, I dare say, to recollect him?"
"Yes, ma'am. I recollect him."
"Yes, my dear. Now, my dear, I think you are a judge of character,
and I should like to have your opinion of him."
"Oh, Mrs. Woodcourt," said I, "that is so difficult!"
"Why is it so difficult, my dear?" she returned. "I don't see it
"To give an opinion--"
"On so slight an acquaintance, my dear. THAT'S true."
I didn't mean that, because Mr. Woodcourt had been at our house a
good deal altogether and had become quite intimate with my
guardian. I said so, and added that he seemed to be very clever in
his profession--we thought--and that his kindness and gentleness to
Miss Flite were above all praise.
"You do him justice!" said Mrs. Woodcourt, pressing my hand. "You
define him exactly. Allan is a dear fellow, and in his profession
faultless. I say it, though I am his mother. Still, I must
confess he is not without faults, love."
"None of us are," said I.
"Ah! But his really are faults that he might correct, and ought to
correct," returned the sharp old lady, sharply shaking her head.
"I am so much attached to you that I may confide in you, my dear,
as a third party wholly disinterested, that he is fickleness
I said I should have thought it hardly possible that he could have
been otherwise than constant to his profession and zealous in the
pursuit of it, judging from the reputation he had earned.
"You are right again, my dear," the old lady retorted, "but I don't
refer to his profession, look you."
"Oh!" said I.
"No," said she. "I refer, my dear, to his social conduct. He is
always paying trivial attentions to young ladies, and always has
been, ever since he was eighteen. Now, my dear, he has never
really cared for any one of them and has never meant in doing this
to do any harm or to express anything but politeness and good
nature. Still, it's not right, you know; is it?"
"No," said I, as she seemed to wait for me.
"And it might lead to mistaken notions, you see, my dear."
I supposed it might.
"Therefore, I have told him many times that he really should be
more careful, both in justice to himself and in justice to others.
And he has always said, 'Mother, I will be; but you know me better
than anybody else does, and you know I mean no harm--in short, mean
nothing.' All of which is very true, my dear, but is no
justification. However, as he is now gone so far away and for an
indefinite time, and as he will have good opportunities and
introductions, we may consider this past and gone. And you, my
dear," said the old lady, who was now all nods and smiles,
"regarding your dear self, my love?"
"Me, Mrs. Woodcourt?"
"Not to be always selfish, talking of my son, who has gone to seek
his fortune and to find a wife--when do you mean to seek YOUR
fortune and to find a husband, Miss Summerson? Hey, look you! Now
I don't think I did blush--at all events, it was not important if I
did--and I said my present fortune perfectly contented me and I had
no wish to change it.
"Shall I tell you what I always think of you and the fortune yet to
come for you, my love?" said Mrs. Woodcourt.
"If you believe you are a good prophet," said I.
"Why, then, it is that you will marry some one very rich and very
worthy, much older--five and twenty years, perhaps--than yourself.
And you will be an excellent wife, and much beloved, and very
"That is a good fortune," said I. "But why is it to be mine?"
"My dear," she returned, "there's suitability in it--you are so
busy, and so neat, and so peculiarly situated altogether that
there's suitability in it, and it will come to pass. And nobody,
my love, will congratulate you more sincerely on such a marriage
than I shall."
It was curious that this should make me uncomfortable, but I think
it did. I know it did. It made me for some part of that night
uncomfortable. I was so ashamed of my folly that I did not like to
confess it even to Ada, and that made me more uncomfortable still.
I would have given anything not to have been so much in the bright
old lady's confidence if I could have possibly declined it. It
gave me the most inconsistent opinions of her. At one time I
thought she was a story-teller, and at another time that she was
the pink of truth. Now I suspected that she was very cunning, next
moment I believed her honest Welsh heart to be perfectly innocent
and simple. And after all, what did it matter to me, and why did
it matter to me? Why could not I, going up to bed with my basket
of keys, stop to sit down by her fire and accommodate myself for a
little while to her, at least as well as to anybody else, and not
trouble myself about the harmless things she said to me? Impelled
towards her, as I certainly was, for I was very anxious that she
should like me and was very glad indeed that she did, why should I
harp afterwards, with actual distress and pain, on every word she
said and weigh it over and over again in twenty scales? Why was it
so worrying to me to have her in our house, and confidential to me
every night, when I yet felt that it was better and safer somehow
that she should be there than anywhere else? These were
perplexities and contradictions that I could not account for. At
least, if I could--but I shall come to all that by and by, and it
is mere idleness to go on about it now.
So when Mrs. Woodcourt went away, I was sorry to lose her but was
relieved too. And then Caddy Jellyby came down, and Caddy brought
such a packet of domestic news that it gave us abundant occupation.
First Caddy declared (and would at first declare nothing else) that
I was the best adviser that ever was known. This, my pet said, was
no news at all; and this, I said, of course, was nonsense. Then
Caddy told us that she was going to be married in a month and that
if Ada and I would be her bridesmaids, she was the happiest girl in
the world. To be sure, this was news indeed; and I thought we
never should have done talking about it, we had so much to say to
Caddy, and Caddy had so much to say to us.
It seemed that Caddy's unfortunate papa had got over his
bankruptcy--"gone through the Gazette," was the expression Caddy
used, as if it were a tunnel--with the general clemency and
commiseration of his creditors, and had got rid of his affairs in
some blessed manner without succeeding in understanding them, and
had given up everything he possessed (which was not worth much, I
should think, to judge from the state of the furniture), and had
satisfied every one concerned that he could do no more, poor man.
So, he had been honourably dismissed to "the office" to begin the
world again. What he did at the office, I never knew; Caddy said
he was a "custom-house and general agent," and the only thing I
ever understood about that business was that when he wanted money
more than usual he went to the docks to look for it, and hardly
ever found it.
As soon as her papa had tranquillized his mind by becoming this
shorn lamb, and they had removed to a furnished lodging in Hatton
Garden (where I found the children, when I afterwards went there,
cutting the horse hair out of the seats of the chairs and choking
themselves with it), Caddy had brought about a meeting between him
and old Mr. Turveydrop; and poor Mr. Jellyby, being very humble and
meek, had deferred to Mr. Turveydrop's deportment so submissively
that they had become excellent friends. By degrees, old Mr.
Turveydrop, thus familiarized with the idea of his son's marriage,
had worked up his parental feelings to the height of contemplating
that event as being near at hand and had given his gracious consent
to the young couple commencing housekeeping at the academy in
Newman Street when they would.
"And your papa, Caddy. What did he say?"
"Oh! Poor Pa," said Caddy, "only cried and said he hoped we might
get on better than he and Ma had got on. He didn't say so before
Prince, he only said so to me. And he said, 'My poor girl, you
have not been very well taught how to make a home for your husband,
but unless you mean with all your heart to strive to do it, you had
better murder him than marry him--if you really love him.'"
"And how did you reassure him, Caddy?"
"Why, it was very distressing, you know, to see poor Pa so low and
hear him say such terrible things, and I couldn't help crying
myself. But I told him that I DID mean it with all my heart and
that I hoped our house would be a place for him to come and find
some comfort in of an evening and that I hoped and thought I could
be a better daughter to him there than at home. Then I mentioned
Peepy's coming to stay with me, and then Pa began to cry again and
said the children were Indians."
"Yes," said Caddy, "wild Indians. And Pa said"--here she began to
sob, poor girl, not at all like the happiest girl in the world--
"that he was sensible the best thing that could happen to them was
their being all tomahawked together."
Ada suggested that it was comfortable to know that Mr. Jellyby did
not mean these destructive sentiments.
"No, of course I know Pa wouldn't like his family to be weltering
in their blood," said Caddy, "but he means that they are very
unfortunate in being Ma's children and that he is very unfortunate
in being Ma's husband; and I am sure that's true, though it seems
unnatural to say so."
I asked Caddy if Mrs. Jellyby knew that her wedding-day was fixed.
"Oh! You know what Ma is, Esther," she returned. "It's impossible
to say whether she knows it or not. She has been told it often
enough; and when she IS told it, she only gives me a placid look,
as if I was I don't know what--a steeple in the distance," said
Caddy with a sudden idea; "and then she shakes her head and says
'Oh, Caddy, Caddy, what a tease you are!' and goes on with the
"And about your wardrobe, Caddy?" said I. For she was under no
restraint with us.
"Well, my dear Esther," she returned, drying her eyes, "I must do
the best I can and trust to my dear Prince never to have an unkind
remembrance of my coming so shabbily to him. If the question
concerned an outfit for Borrioboola, Ma would know all about it and
would be quite excited. Being what it is, she neither knows nor
Caddy was not at all deficient in natural affection for her mother,
but mentioned this with tears as an undeniable fact, which I am
afraid it was. We were sorry for the poor dear girl and found so
much to admire in the good disposition which had survived under
such discouragement that we both at once (I mean Ada and I)
proposed a little scheme that made her perfectly joyful. This was
her staying with us for three weeks, my staying with her for one,
and our all three contriving and cutting out, and repairing, and
sewing, and saving, and doing the very best we could think of to
make the most of her stock. My guardian being as pleased with the
idea as Caddy was, we took her home next day to arrange the matter
and brought her out again in triumph with her boxes and all the
purchases that could be squeezed out of a ten-pound note, which Mr.
Jellyby had found in the docks I suppose, but which he at all
events gave her. What my guardian would not have given her if we
had encouraged him, it would be difficult to say, but we thought it
right to compound for no more than her wedding-dress and bonnet.
He agreed to this compromise, and if Caddy had ever been happy in
her life, she was happy when we sat down to work.
She was clumsy enough with her needle, poor girl, and pricked her
fingers as much as she had been used to ink them. She could not
help reddening a little now and then, partly with the smart and
partly with vexation at being able to do no better, but she soon
got over that and began to improve rapidly. So day after day she,
and my darling, and my little maid Charley, and a milliner out of
the town, and I, sat hard at work, as pleasantly as possible.
Over and above this, Caddy was very anxious "to learn
housekeeping," as she said. Now, mercy upon us! The idea of her
learning housekeeping of a person of my vast experience was such a
joke that I laughed, and coloured up, and fell into a comical
confusion when she proposed it. However, I said, "Caddy, I am sure
you are very welcome to learn anything that you can learn of ME, my
dear," and I showed her all my books and methods and all my fidgety
ways. You would have supposed that I was showing her some
wonderful inventions, by her study of them; and if you had seen
her, whenever I jingled my housekeeping keys, get up and attend me,
certainly you might have thought that there never was a greater
imposter than I with a blinder follower than Caddy Jellyby.
So what with working and housekeeping, and lessons to Charley, and
backgammon in the evening with my guardian, and duets with Ada, the
three weeks slipped fast away. Then I went home with Caddy to see
what could be done there, and Ada and Charley remained behind to
take care of my guardian.
When I say I went home with Caddy, I mean to the furnished lodging
in Hatton Garden. We went to Newman Street two or three times,
where preparations were in progress too--a good many, I observed,
for enhancing the comforts of old Mr. Turveydrop, and a few for
putting the newly married couple away cheaply at the top of the
house--but our great point was to make the furnished lodging decent
for the wedding-breakfast and to imbue Mrs. Jellyby beforehand with
some faint sense of the occasion.
The latter was the more difficult thing of the two because Mrs.
Jellyby and an unwholesome boy occupied the front sitting-room (the
back one was a mere closet), and it was littered down with waste-
paper and Borrioboolan documents, as an untidy stable might be
littered with straw. Mrs. Jellyby sat there all day drinking
strong coffee, dictating, and holding Borrioboolan interviews by
appointment. The unwholesome boy, who seemed to me to be going
into a decline, took his meals out of the house. When Mr. Jellyby
came home, he usually groaned and went down into the kitchen.
There he got something to eat if the servant would give him
anything, and then, feeling that he was in the way, went out and
walked about Hatton Garden in the wet. The poor children scrambled
up and tumbled down the house as they had always been accustomed to
The production of these devoted little sacrifices in any
presentable condition being quite out of the question at a week's
notice, I proposed to Caddy that we should make them as happy as we
could on her marriage morning in the attic where they all slept,
and should confine our greatest efforts to her mama and her mama's
room, and a clean breakfast. In truth Mrs. Jellyby required a good
deal of attention, the lattice-work up her back having widened
considerably since I first knew her and her hair looking like the
mane of a dustman's horse.
Thinking that the display of Caddy's wardrobe would be the best
means of approaching the subject, I invited Mrs. Jellyby to come
and look at it spread out on Caddy's bed in the evening after the
unwholesome boy was gone.
"My dear Miss Summerson," said she, rising from her desk with her
usual sweetness of temper, "these are really ridiculous
preparations, though your assisting them is a proof of your
kindness. There is something so inexpressibly absurd to me in the
idea of Caddy being married! Oh, Caddy, you silly, silly, silly
She came upstairs with us notwithstanding and looked at the clothes
in her customary far-off manner. They suggested one distinct idea
to her, for she said with her placid smile, and shaking her head,
"My good Miss Summerson, at half the cost, this weak child might
have been equipped for Africa!"
On our going downstairs again, Mrs. Jellyby asked me whether this
troublesome business was really to take place next Wednesday. And
on my replying yes, she said, "Will my room be required, my dear
Miss Summerson? For it's quite impossible that I can put my papers
I took the liberty of saying that the room would certainly be
wanted and that I thought we must put the papers away somewhere.
"Well, my dear Miss Summerson," said Mrs. Jellyby, "you know best,
I dare say. But by obliging me to employ a boy, Caddy has
embarrassed me to that extent, overwhelmed as I am with public
business, that I don't know which way to turn. We have a
Ramification meeting, too, on Wednesday afternoon, and the
inconvenience is very serious."
"It is not likely to occur again," said I, smiling. "Caddy will be
married but once, probably."
"That's true," Mrs. Jellyby replied; "that's true, my dear. I
suppose we must make the best of it!"
The next question was how Mrs. Jellyby should be dressed on the
occasion. I thought it very curious to see her looking on serenely
from her writing-table while Caddy and I discussed it, occasionally
shaking her head at us with a half-reproachful smile like a
superior spirit who could just bear with our trifling.
The state in which her dresses were, and the extraordinary
confusion in which she kept them, added not a little to our
difficulty; but at length we devised something not very unlike what
a common-place mother might wear on such an occasion. The
abstracted manner in which Mrs. Jellyby would deliver herself up to
having this attire tried on by the dressmaker, and the sweetness
with which she would then observe to me how sorry she was that I
had not turned my thoughts to Africa, were consistent with the rest
of her behaviour.
The lodging was rather confined as to space, but I fancied that if
Mrs. Jellyby's household had been the only lodgers in Saint Paul's
or Saint Peter's, the sole advantage they would have found in the
size of the building would have been its affording a great deal of
room to be dirty in. I believe that nothing belonging to the
family which it had been possible to break was unbroken at the time
of those preparations for Caddy's marriage, that nothing which it
had been possible to spoil in any way was unspoilt, and that no
domestic object which was capable of collecting dirt, from a dear
child's knee to the door-plate, was without as much dirt as could
well accumulate upon it.
Poor Mr. Jellyby, who very seldom spoke and almost always sat when
he was at home with his head against the wall, became interested
when he saw that Caddy and I were attempting to establish some
order among all this waste and ruin and took off his coat to help.
But such wonderful things came tumbling out of the closets when
they were opened--bits of mouldy pie, sour bottles, Mrs. Jellyby's
caps, letters, tea, forks, odd boots and shoes of children,
firewood, wafers, saucepan-lids, damp sugar in odds and ends of
paper bags, footstools, blacklead brushes, bread, Mrs. Jellyby's
bonnets, books with butter sticking to the binding, guttered candle
ends put out by being turned upside down in broken candlesticks,
nutshells, heads and tails of shrimps, dinner-mats, gloves, coffee-
grounds, umbrellas--that he looked frightened, and left off again.
But he came regularly every evening and sat without his coat, with
his head against the wall, as though he would have helped us if he
had known how.
"Poor Pa!" said Caddy to me on the night before the great day, when
we really had got things a little to rights. "It seems unkind to
leave him, Esther. But what could I do if I stayed! Since I first
knew you, I have tidied and tidied over and over again, but it's
useless. Ma and Africa, together, upset the whole house directly.
We never have a servant who don't drink. Ma's ruinous to
Mr. Jellyby could not hear what she said, but he seemed very low
indeed and shed tears, I thought.
"My heart aches for him; that it does!" sobbed Caddy. "I can't
help thinking to-night, Esther, how dearly I hope to be happy with
Prince, and how dearly Pa hoped, I dare say, to be happy with Ma.
What a disappointed life!"
"My dear Caddy!" said Mr. Jellyby, looking slowly round from the
wail. It was the first time, I think, I ever heard him say three
"Yes, Pa!" cried Caddy, going to him and embracing him
"My dear Caddy," said Mr. Jellyby. "Never have--"
"Not Prince, Pa?" faltered Caddy. "Not have Prince?"
"Yes, my dear," said Mr. Jellyby. "Have him, certainly. But,
I mentioned in my account of our first visit in Thavies Inn that
Richard described Mr. Jellyby as frequently opening his mouth after
dinner without saying anything. It was a habit of his. He opened
his mouth now a great many times and shook his head in a melancholy
"What do you wish me not to have? Don't have what, dear Pa?" asked
Caddy, coaxing him, with her arms round his neck.
"Never have a mission, my dear child."
Mr. Jellyby groaned and laid his head against the wall again, and
this was the only time I ever heard him make any approach to
expressing his sentiments on the Borrioboolan question. I suppose
he had been more talkative and lively once, but he seemed to have
been completely exhausted long before I knew him.
I thought Mrs. Jellyby never would have left off serenely looking
over her papers and drinking coffee that night. It was twelve
o'clock before we could obtain possession of the room, and the
clearance it required then was so discouraging that Caddy, who was
almost tired out, sat down in the middle of the dust and cried.
But she soon cheered up, and we did wonders with it before we went
In the morning it looked, by the aid of a few flowers and a
quantity of soap and water and a little arrangement, quite gay.
The plain breakfast made a cheerful show, and Caddy was perfectly
charming. But when my darling came, I thought--and I think now--
that I never had seen such a dear face as my beautiful pet's.
We made a little feast for the children upstairs, and we put Peepy
at the head of the table, and we showed them Caddy in her bridal
dress, and they clapped their hands and hurrahed, and Caddy cried
to think that she was going away from them and hugged them over and
over again until we brought Prince up to fetch her away--when, I am
sorry to say, Peepy bit him. Then there was old Mr. Turveydrop
downstairs, in a state of deportment not to be expressed, benignly
blessing Caddy and giving my guardian to understand that his son's
happiness was his own parental work and that he sacrificed personal
considerations to ensure it. "My dear sir," said Mr. Turveydrop,
"these young people will live with me; my house is large enough for
their accommodation, and they shall not want the shelter of my
roof. I could have wished--you will understand the allusion, Mr.
Jarndyce, for you remember my illustrious patron the Prince Regent
--I could have wished that my son had married into a family where
there was more deportment, but the will of heaven be done!"
Mr. and Mrs. Pardiggle were of the party--Mr. Pardiggle, an
obstinate-looking man with a large waistcoat and stubbly hair, who
was always talking in a loud bass voice about his mite, or Mrs.
Pardiggle's mite, or their five boys' mites. Mr. Quale, with his
hair brushed back as usual and his knobs of temples shining very
much, was also there, not in the character of a disappointed lover,
but as the accepted of a young--at least, an unmarried--lady, a
Miss Wisk, who was also there. Miss Wisk's mission, my guardian
said, was to show the world that woman's mission was man's mission
and that the only genuine mission of both man and woman was to be
always moving declaratory resolutions about things in general at
public meetings. The guests were few, but were, as one might
expect at Mrs. Jellyby's, all devoted to public objects only.
Besides those I have mentioned, there was an extremely dirty lady
with her bonnet all awry and the ticketed price of her dress still
sticking on it, whose neglected home, Caddy told me, was like a
filthy wilderness, but whose church was like a fancy fair. A very
contentious gentleman, who said it was his mission to be
everybody's brother but who appeared to be on terms of coolness
with the whole of his large family, completed the party.
A party, having less in common with such an occasion, could hardly
have been got together by any ingenuity. Such a mean mission as
the domestic mission was the very last thing to be endured among
them; indeed, Miss Wisk informed us, with great indignation, before
we sat down to breakfast, that the idea of woman's mission lying
chiefly in the narrow sphere of home was an outrageous slander on
the part of her tyrant, man. One other singularity was that nobody
with a mission--except Mr. Quale, whose mission, as I think I have
formerly said, was to be in ecstasies with everybody's mission--
cared at all for anybody's mission. Mrs. Pardiggle being as clear
that the only one infallible course was her course of pouncing upon
the poor and applying benevolence to them like a strait-waistcoat;
as Miss Wisk was that the only practical thing for the world was
the emancipation of woman from the thraldom of her tyrant, man.
Mrs. Jellyby, all the while, sat smiling at the limited vision that
could see anything but Borrioboola-Gha.
But I am anticipating now the purport of our conversation on the
ride home instead of first marrying Caddy. We all went to church,
and Mr. Jellyby gave her away. Of the air with which old Mr.
Turveydrop, with his hat under his left arm (the inside presented
at the clergyman like a cannon) and his eyes creasing themselves up
into his wig, stood stiff and high-shouldered behind us bridesmaids
during the ceremony, and afterwards saluted us, I could never say
enough to do it justice. Miss Wisk, whom I cannot report as
prepossessing in appearance, and whose manner was grim, listened to
the proceedings, as part of woman's wrongs, with a disdainful face.
Mrs. Jellyby, with her calm smile and her bright eyes, looked the
least concerned of all the company.
We duly came back to breakfast, and Mrs. Jellyby sat at the head of
the table and Mr. Jellyby at the foot. Caddy had previously stolen
upstairs to hug the children again and tell them that her name was
Turveydrop. But this piece of information, instead of being an
agreeable surprise to Peepy, threw him on his back in such
transports of kicking grief that I could do nothing on being sent
for but accede to the proposal that he should be admitted to the
breakfast table. So he came down and sat in my lap; and Mrs.
Jellyby, after saying, in reference to the state of his pinafore,
"Oh, you naughty Peepy, what a shocking little pig you are!" was
not at all discomposed. He was very good except that he brought
down Noah with him (out of an ark I had given him before we went to
church) and WOULD dip him head first into the wine-glasses and then
put him in his mouth.
My guardian, with his sweet temper and his quick perception and his
amiable face, made something agreeable even out of the ungenial
company. None of them seemed able to talk about anything but his,
or her, own one subject, and none of them seemed able to talk about
even that as part of a world in which there was anything else; but
my guardian turned it all to the merry encouragement of Caddy and
the honour of the occasion, and brought us through the breakfast
nobly. What we should have done without him, I am afraid to think,
for all the company despising the bride and bridegroom and old Mr.
Turveydrop--and old Mr. Thurveydrop, in virtue of his deportment,
considering himself vastly superior to all the company--it was a
very unpromising case.
At last the time came when poor Caddy was to go and when all her
property was packed on the hired coach and pair that was to take
her and her husband to Gravesend. It affected us to see Caddy
clinging, then, to her deplorable home and hanging on her mother's
neck with the greatest tenderness.
"I am very sorry I couldn't go on writing from dictation, Ma,"
sobbed Caddy. "I hope you forgive me now."
"Oh, Caddy, Caddy!" said Mrs. Jellyby. "I have told you over and
over again that I have engaged a boy, and there's an end of it."
"You are sure you are not the least angry with me, Ma? Say you are
sure before I go away, Ma?"
"You foolish Caddy," returned Mrs. Jellyby, "do I look angry, or
have I inclination to be angry, or time to be angry? How CAN you?"
"Take a little care of Pa while I am gone, Mama!"
Mrs. Jellyby positively laughed at the fancy. "You romantic
child," said she, lightly patting Caddy's back. "Go along. I am
excellent friends with you. Now, good-bye, Caddy, and be very
Then Caddy hung upon her father and nursed his cheek against hers
as if he were some poor dull child in pain. All this took place in
the hall. Her father released her, took out his pocket
handkerchief, and sat down on the stairs with his head against the
wall. I hope he found some consolation in walls. I almost think
And then Prince took her arm in his and turned with great emotion
and respect to his father, whose deportment at that moment was
"Thank you over and over again, father!" said Prince, kissing his
hand. "I am very grateful for all your kindness and consideration
regarding our marriage, and so, I can assure you, is Caddy."
"Very," sobbed Caddy. "Ve-ry!"
"My dear son," said Mr. Turveydrop, "and dear daughter, I have done
my duty. If the spirit of a sainted wooman hovers above us and
looks down on the occasion, that, and your constant affection, will
be my recompense. You will not fail in YOUR duty, my son and
daughter, I believe?"
"Dear father, never!" cried Prince.
"Never, never, dear Mr. Turveydrop!" said Caddy.
"This," returned Mr. Turveydrop, "is as it should be. My children,
my home is yours, my heart is yours, my all is yours. I will never
leave you; nothing but death shall part us. My dear son, you
contemplate an absence of a week, I think?"
"A week, dear father. We shall return home this day week."
"My dear child," said Mr. Turveydrop, "let me, even under the
present exceptional circumstances, recommend strict punctuality.
It is highly important to keep the connexion together; and schools,
if at all neglected, are apt to take offence."
"This day week, father, we shall be sure to be home to dinner."
"Good!" said Mr. Turveydrop. "You will find fires, my dear
Caroline, in your own room, and dinner prepared in my apartment.
Yes, yes, Prince!" anticipating some self-denying objection on his
son's part with a great air. "You and our Caroline will be strange
in the upper part of the premises and will, therefore, dine that
day in my apartment. Now, bless ye!"
They drove away, and whether I wondered most at Mrs. Jellyby or at
Mr. Turveydrop, I did not know. Ada and my guardian were in the
same condition when we came to talk it over. But before we drove
away too, I received a most unexpected and eloquent compliment from
Mr. Jellyby. He came up to me in the hall, took both my hands,
pressed them earnestly, and opened his mouth twice. I was so sure
of his meaning that I said, quite flurried, "You are very welcome,
sir. Pray don't mention it!"
"I hope this marriage is for the best, guardian," said I when we
three were on our road home.
"I hope it is, little woman. Patience. We shall see."
"Is the wind in the east to-day?" I ventured to ask him.
He laughed heartily and answered, "No."
"But it must have been this morning, I think," said I.
He answered "No" again, and this time my dear girl confidently
answered "No" too and shook the lovely head which, with its
blooming flowers against the golden hair, was like the very spring.
"Much YOU know of east winds, my ugly darling," said I, kissing her
in my admiration--I couldn't help it.
Well! It was only their love for me, I know very well, and it is a
long time ago. I must write it even if I rub it out again, because
it gives me so much pleasure. They said there could be no east
wind where Somebody was; they said that wherever Dame Durden went,
there was sunshine and summer air.
Nurse and Patient
I had not been at home again many days when one evening I went
upstairs into my own room to take a peep over Charley's shoulder
and see how she was getting on with her copy-book. Writing was a
trying business to Charley, who seemed to have no natural power
over a pen, but in whose hand every pen appeared to become
perversely animated, and to go wrong and crooked, and to stop, and
splash, and sidle into corners like a saddle-donkey. It was very
odd to see what old letters Charley's young hand had made, they so
wrinkled, and shrivelled, and tottering, it so plump and round.
Yet Charley was uncommonly expert at other things and had as nimble
little fingers as I ever watched.
"Well, Charley," said I, looking over a copy of the letter O in
which it was represented as square, triangular, pear-shaped, and
collapsed in all kinds of ways, "we are improving. If we only get
to make it round, we shall be perfect, Charley."
Then I made one, and Charley made one, and the pen wouldn't join
Charley's neatly, but twisted it up into a knot.
"Never mind, Charley. We shall do it in time."
Charley laid down her pen, the copy being finished, opened and shut
her cramped little hand, looked gravely at the page, half in pride
and half in doubt, and got up, and dropped me a curtsy.
"Thank you, miss. If you please, miss, did you know a poor person
of the name of Jenny?"
"A brickmaker's wife, Charley? Yes."
"She came and spoke to me when I was out a little while ago, and
said you knew her, miss. She asked me if I wasn't the young lady's
little maid--meaning you for the young lady, miss--and I said yes,
"I thought she had left this neighbourhood altogether, Charley."
"So she had, miss, but she's come back again to where she used to
live--she and Liz. Did you know another poor person of the name of
"I think I do, Charley, though not by name."
"That's what she said!" returned Charley. "They have both come
back, miss, and have been tramping high and low."
"Tramping high and low, have they, Charley?"
"Yes, miss." If Charley could only have made the letters in her
copy as round as the eyes with which she looked into my face, they
would have been excellent. "And this poor person came about the
house three or four days, hoping to get a glimpse of you, miss--all
she wanted, she said--but you were away. That was when she saw me.
She saw me a-going about, miss," said Charley with a short laugh of
the greatest delight and pride, "and she thought I looked like your
"Did she though, really, Charley?"
"Yes, miss!" said Charley. "Really and truly." And Charley, with
another short laugh of the purest glee, made her eyes very round
again and looked as serious as became my maid. I was never tired
of seeing Charley in the full enjoyment of that great dignity,
standing before me with her youthful face and figure, and her
steady manner, and her childish exultation breaking through it now
and then in the pleasantest way.
"And where did you see her, Charley?" said I.
My little maid's countenance fell as she replied, "By the doctor's
shop, miss." For Charley wore her black frock yet.
I asked if the brickmaker's wife were ill, but Charley said no. It
was some one else. Some one in her cottage who had tramped down to
Saint Albans and was tramping he didn't know where. A poor boy,
Charley said. No father, no mother, no any one. "Like as Tom
might have been, miss, if Emma and me had died after father," said
Charley, her round eyes filling with tears.
"And she was getting medicine for him, Charley?"
"She said, miss," returned Charley, "how that he had once done as
much for her."
My little maid's face was so eager and her quiet hands were folded
so closely in one another as she stood looking at me that I had no
great difficulty in reading her thoughts. "Well, Charley," said I,
"it appears to me that you and I can do no better than go round to
Jenny's and see what's the matter."
The alacrity with which Charley brought my bonnet and veil, and
having dressed me, quaintly pinned herself into her warm shawl and
made herself look like a little old woman, sufficiently expressed
her readiness. So Charley and I, without saying anything to any
one, went out.
It was a cold, wild night, and the trees shuddered in the wind.
The rain had been thick and heavy all day, and with little
intermission for many days. None was falling just then, however.
The sky had partly cleared, but was very gloomy--even above us,
where a few stars were shining. In the north and north-west, where
the sun had set three hours before, there was a pale dead light
both beautiful and awful; and into it long sullen lines of cloud
waved up like a sea stricken immovable as it was heaving. Towards
London a lurid glare overhung the whole dark waste, and the
contrast between these two lights, and the fancy which the redder
light engendered of an unearthly fire, gleaming on all the unseen
buildings of the city and on all the faces of its many thousands of
wondering inhabitants, was as solemn as might be.
I had no thought that night--none, I am quite sure--of what was
soon to happen to me. But I have always remembered since that when
we had stopped at the garden-gate to look up at the sky, and when
we went upon our way, I had for a moment an undefinable impression
of myself as being something different from what I then was. I
know it was then and there that I had it. I have ever since
connected the feeling with that spot and time and with everything
associated with that spot and time, to the distant voices in the
town, the barking of a dog, and the sound of wheels coming down the
It was Saturday night, and most of the people belonging to the
place where we were going were drinking elsewhere. We found it
quieter than I had previously seen it, though quite as miserable.
The kilns were burning, and a stifling vapour set towards us with a
We came to the cottage, where there was a feeble candle in the
patched window. We tapped at the door and went in. The mother of
the little child who had died was sitting in a chair on one side of
the poor fire by the bed; and opposite to her, a wretched boy,
supported by the chimney-piece, was cowering on the floor. He held
under his arm, like a little bundle, a fragment of a fur cap; and
as he tried to warm himself, he shook until the crazy door and
window shook. The place was closer than before and had an
unhealthy and a very peculiar smell.
I had not lifted my veil when I first spoke to the woman, which was
at the moment of our going in. The boy staggered up instantly and
stared at me with a remarkable expression of surprise and terror.
His action was so quick and my being the cause of it was so evident
that I stood still instead of advancing nearer.
"I won't go no more to the berryin ground," muttered the boy; "I
ain't a-going there, so I tell you!"
I lifted my veil and spoke to the woman. She said to me in a low
voice, "Don't mind him, ma'am. He'll soon come back to his head,"
and said to him, "Jo, Jo, what's the matter?"
"I know wot she's come for!" cried the boy.
"The lady there. She's come to get me to go along with her to the
berryin ground. I won't go to the berryin ground. I don't like
the name on it. She might go a-berryin ME." His shivering came on
again, and as he leaned against the wall, he shook the hovel.
"He has been talking off and on about such like all day, ma'am,"
said Jenny softly. "Why, how you stare! This is MY lady, Jo."
"Is it?" returned the boy doubtfully, and surveying me with his arm
held out above his burning eyes. "She looks to me the t'other one.
It ain't the bonnet, nor yet it ain't the gownd, but she looks to
me the t'other one."
My little Charley, with her premature experience of illness and
trouble, had pulled off her bonnet and shawl and now went quietly
up to him with a chair and sat him down in it like an old sick
nurse. Except that no such attendant could have shown him
Charley's youthful face, which seemed to engage his confidence.
"I say!" said the boy. "YOU tell me. Ain't the lady the t'other
Charley shook her head as she methodically drew his rags about him
and made him as warm as she could.
"Oh!" the boy muttered. "Then I s'pose she ain't."
"I came to see if I could do you any good," said I. "What is the
matter with you?"
"I'm a-being froze," returned the boy hoarsely, with his haggard
gaze wandering about me, "and then burnt up, and then froze, and
then burnt up, ever so many times in a hour. And my head's all
sleepy, and all a-going mad-like--and I'm so dry--and my bones
isn't half so much bones as pain.
"When did he come here?" I asked the woman.
"This morning, ma'am, I found him at the corner of the town. I had
known him up in London yonder. Hadn't I, Jo?"
"Tom-all-Alone's," the boy replied.
Whenever he fixed his attention or his eyes, it was only for a very
little while. He soon began to droop his head again, and roll it
heavily, and speak as if he were half awake.
"When did he come from London?" I asked.
"I come from London yes'day," said the boy himself, now flushed and
hot. "I'm a-going somewheres."
"Where is he going?" I asked.
"Somewheres," repeated the boy in a louder tone. "I have been
moved on, and moved on, more nor ever I was afore, since the
t'other one give me the sov'ring. Mrs. Snagsby, she's always a-
watching, and a-driving of me--what have I done to her?--and
they're all a-watching and a-driving of me. Every one of 'em's
doing of it, from the time when I don't get up, to the time when I
don't go to bed. And I'm a-going somewheres. That's where I'm a-
going. She told me, down in Tom-all-Alone's, as she came from
Stolbuns, and so I took the Stolbuns Road. It's as good as
He always concluded by addressing Charley.
"What is to be done with him?" said I, taking the woman aside. "He
could not travel in this state even if he had a purpose and knew
where he was going!"
"I know no more, ma'am, than the dead," she replied, glancing
compassionately at him. "Perhaps the dead know better, if they
could only tell us. I've kept him here all day for pity's sake,
and I've given him broth and physic, and Liz has gone to try if any
one will take him in (here's my pretty in the bed--her child, but I
call it mine); but I can't keep him long, for if my husband was to
come home and find him here, he'd be rough in putting him out and
might do him a hurt. Hark! Here comes Liz back!"
The other woman came hurriedly in as she spoke, and the boy got up
with a half-obscured sense that he was expected to be going. When
the little child awoke, and when and how Charley got at it, took it
out of bed, and began to walk about hushing it, I don't know.
There she was, doing all this in a quiet motherly manner as if she
were living in Mrs. Blinder's attic with Tom and Emma again.
The friend had been here and there, and had been played about from
hand to hand, and had come back as she went. At first it was too
early for the boy to be received into the proper refuge, and at
last it was too late. One official sent her to another, and the
other sent her back again to the first, and so backward and
forward, until it appeared to me as if both must have been
appointed for their skill in evading their duties instead of
performing them. And now, after all, she said, breathing quickly,
for she had been running and was frightened too, "Jenny, your
master's on the road home, and mine's not far behind, and the Lord
help the boy, for we can do no more for him!" They put a few
halfpence together and hurried them into his hand, and so, in an
oblivious, half-thankful, half-insensible way, he shuffled out of
"Give me the child, my dear," said its mother to Charley, "and
thank you kindly too! Jenny, woman dear, good night! Young lady,
if my master don't fall out with me, I'll look down by the kiln
by and by, where the boy will be most like, and again in the
morning!" She hurried off, and presently we passed her hushing
and singing to her child at her own door and looking anxiously
along the road for her drunken husband.
I was afraid of staying then to speak to either woman, lest I
should bring her into trouble. But I said to Charley that we must
not leave the boy to die. Charley, who knew what to do much better
than I did, and whose quickness equalled her presence of mind,
glided on before me, and presently we came up with Jo, just short
of the brick-kiln.
I think he must have begun his journey with some small bundle under
his arm and must have had it stolen or lost it. For he still
carried his wretched fragment of fur cap like a bundle, though he
went bare-headed through the rain, which now fell fast. He stopped
when we called to him and again showed a dread of me when I came
up, standing with his lustrous eyes fixed upon me, and even
arrested in his shivering fit.
I asked him to come with us, and we would take care that he had
some shelter for the night.
"I don't want no shelter," he said; "I can lay amongst the warm
"But don't you know that people die there?" replied Charley.
"They dies everywheres," said the boy. "They dies in their
lodgings--she knows where; I showed her--and they dies down in Tom-
all-Alone's in heaps. They dies more than they lives, according to
what I see." Then he hoarsely whispered Charley, "If she ain't the
t'other one, she ain't the forrenner. Is there THREE of 'em then?"
Charley looked at me a little frightened. I felt half frightened
at myself when the boy glared on me so.
But he turned and followed when I beckoned to him, and finding that
he acknowledged that influence in me, I led the way straight home.
It was not far, only at the summit of the hill. We passed but one
man. I doubted if we should have got home without assistance, the
boy's steps were so uncertain and tremulous. He made no complaint,
however, and was strangely unconcerned about himself, if I may say
so strange a thing.
Leaving him in the hall for a moment, shrunk into the corner of the
window-seat and staring with an indifference that scarcely could be
called wonder at the comfort and brightness about him, I went into
the drawing-room to speak to my guardian. There I found Mr.
Skimpole, who had come down by the coach, as he frequently did
without notice, and never bringing any clothes with him, but always
borrowing everything he wanted.