Part 13 out of 21
"Then I may say at once that I am glad of it, because it is on that
subject that I am anxious to be understood. By you, mind--you, my
dear! I am not accountable to Mr. Jarndyce or Mr. Anybody."
I was pained to find him taking this tone, and he observed it.
"Well, well, my dear," said Richard, "we won't go into that now. I
want to appear quietly in your country-house here, with you under
my arm, and give my charming cousin a surprise. I suppose your
loyalty to John Jarndyce will allow that?"
"My dear Richard," I returned, "you know you would be heartily
welcome at his house--your home, if you will but consider it so;
and you are as heartily welcome here!"
"Spoken like the best of little women!" cried Richard gaily.
I asked him how he liked his profession.
"Oh, I like it well enough!" said Richard. "It's all right. It
does as well as anything else, for a time. I don't know that I
shall care about it when I come to be settled, but I can sell out
then and--however, never mind all that botheration at present."
So young and handsome, and in all respects so perfectly the
opposite of Miss Flite! And yet, in the clouded, eager, seeking
look that passed over him, so dreadfully like her!
"I am in town on leave just now," said Richard.
"Yes. I have run over to look after my--my Chancery interests
before the long vacation," said Richard, forcing a careless laugh.
"We are beginning to spin along with that old suit at last, I
No wonder that I shook my head!
"As you say, it's not a pleasant subject." Richard spoke with the
same shade crossing his face as before. "Let it go to the four
winds for to-night. Puff! Gone! Who do you suppose is with me?"
"Was it Mr. Skimpole's voice I heard?"
"That's the man! He does me more good than anybody. What a
fascinating child it is!"
I asked Richard if any one knew of their coming down together. He
answered, no, nobody. He had been to call upon the dear old
infant--so he called Mr. Skimpole--and the dear old infant had told
him where we were, and he had told the dear old infant he was bent
on coming to see us, and the dear old infant had directly wanted to
come too; and so he had brought him. "And he is worth--not to say
his sordid expenses--but thrice his weight in gold," said Richard.
"He is such a cheery fellow. No worldliness about him. Fresh and
I certainly did not see the proof of Mr. Skimpole's worldliness in
his having his expenses paid by Richard, but I made no remark about
that. Indeed, he came in and turned our conversation. He was
charmed to see me, said he had been shedding delicious tears of joy
and sympathy at intervals for six weeks on my account, had never
been so happy as in hearing of my progress, began to understand the
mixture of good and evil in the world now, felt that he appreciated
health the more when somebody else was ill, didn't know but what it
might be in the scheme of things that A should squint to make B
happier in looking straight or that C should carry a wooden leg to
make D better satisfied with his flesh and blood in a silk
"My dear Miss Summerson, here is our friend Richard," said Mr.
Skimpole, "full of the brightest visions of the future, which he
evokes out of the darkness of Chancery. Now that's delightful,
that's inspiriting, that's full of poetry! In old times the woods
and solitudes were made joyous to the shepherd by the imaginary
piping and dancing of Pan and the nymphs. This present shepherd,
our pastoral Richard, brightens the dull Inns of Court by making
Fortune and her train sport through them to the melodious notes of
a judgment from the bench. That's very pleasant, you know! Some
ill-conditioned growling fellow may say to me, 'What's the use of
these legal and equitable abuses? How do you defend them?' I
reply, 'My growling friend, I DON'T defend them, but they are very
agreeable to me. There is a shepherd--youth, a friend of mine, who
transmutes them into something highly fascinating to my simplicity.
I don't say it is for this that they exist--for I am a child among
you worldly grumblers, and not called upon to account to you or
myself for anything--but it may be so.'"
I began seriously to think that Richard could scarcely have found a
worse friend than this. It made me uneasy that at such a time when
he most required some right principle and purpose he should have
this captivating looseness and putting-off of everything, this airy
dispensing with all principle and purpose, at his elbow. I thought
I could understand how such a nature as my guardian's, experienced
in the world and forced to contemplate the miserable evasions and
contentions of the family misfortune, found an immense relief in
Mr. Skimpole's avowal of his weaknesses and display of guileless
candour; but I could not satisfy myself that it was as artless as
it seemed or that it did not serve Mr. Skimpole's idle turn quite
as well as any other part, and with less trouble.
They both walked back with me, and Mr. Skimpole leaving us at the
gate, I walked softly in with Richard and said, "Ada, my love, I
have brought a gentleman to visit you." It was not difficult to
read the blushing, startled face. She loved him dearly, and he
knew it, and I knew it. It was a very transparent business, that
meeting as cousins only.
I almost mistrusted myself as growing quite wicked in my
suspicions, but I was not so sure that Richard loved her dearly.
He admired her very much--any one must have done that--and I dare
say would have renewed their youthful engagement with great pride
and ardour but that he knew how she would respect her promise to my
guardian. Still I had a tormenting idea that the influence upon
him extended even here, that he was postponing his best truth and
earnestness in this as in all things until Jarndyce and Jarndyce
should be off his mind. Ah me! What Richard would have been
without that blight, I never shall know now!
He told Ada, in his most ingenuous way, that he had not come to
make any secret inroad on the terms she had accepted (rather too
implicitly and confidingly, he thought) from Mr. Jarndyce, that he
had come openly to see her and to see me and to justify himself for
the present terms on which he stood with Mr. Jarndyce. As the dear
old infant would be with us directly, he begged that I would make
an appointment for the morning, when he might set himself right
through the means of an unreserved conversation with me. I
proposed to walk with him in the park at seven o'clock, and this
was arranged. Mr. Skimpole soon afterwards appeared and made us
merry for an hour. He particularly requested to see little
Coavinses (meaning Charley) and told her, with a patriarchal air,
that he had given her late father all the business in his power and
that if one of her little brothers would make haste to get set up
in the same profession, he hoped he should still be able to put a
good deal of employment in his way.
"For I am constantly being taken in these nets," said Mr. Skimpole,
looking beamingly at us over a glass of wine-and-water, "and am
constantly being bailed out--like a boat. Or paid off--like a
ship's company. Somebody always does it for me. I can't do it,
you know, for I never have any money. But somebody does it. I get
out by somebody's means; I am not like the starling; I get out. If
you were to ask me who somebody is, upon my word I couldn't tell
you. Let us drink to somebody. God bless him!"
Richard was a little late in the morning, but I had not to wait for
him long, and we turned into the park. The air was bright and dewy
and the sky without a cloud. The birds sang delightfully; the
sparkles in the fern, the grass, and trees, were exquisite to see;
the richness of the woods seemed to have increased twenty-fold
since yesterday, as if, in the still night when they had looked so
massively hushed in sleep, Nature, through all the minute details
of every wonderful leaf, had been more wakeful than usual for the
glory of that day.
"This is a lovely place," said Richard, looking round. "None of
the jar and discord of law-suits here!"
But there was other trouble.
"I tell you what, my dear girl," said Richard, "when I get affairs
in general settled, I shall come down here, I think, and rest."
"Would it not be better to rest now?" I asked.
"Oh, as to resting NOW," said Richard, "or as to doing anything
very definite NOW, that's not easy. In short, it can't be done; I
can't do it at least."
"Why not?" said I.
"You know why not, Esther. If you were living in an unfinished
house, liable to have the roof put on or taken off--to be from top
to bottom pulled down or built up--to-morrow, next day, next week,
next month, next year--you would find it hard to rest or settle.
So do I. Now? There's no now for us suitors."
I could almost have believed in the attraction on which my poor
little wandering friend had expatiated when I saw again the
darkened look of last night. Terrible to think it had in it also a
shade of that unfortunate man who had died.
"My dear Richard," said I, "this is a bad beginning of our
"I knew you would tell me so, Dame Durden."
"And not I alone, dear Richard. It was not I who cautioned you
once never to found a hope or expectation on the family curse."
"There you come back to John Jarndyce!" said Richard impatiently.
"Well! We must approach him sooner or later, for he is the staple
of what I have to say, and it's as well at once. My dear Esther,
how can you be so blind? Don't you see that he is an interested
party and that it may be very well for him to wish me to know
nothing of the suit, and care nothing about it, but that it may not
be quite so well for me?"
"Oh, Richard," I remonstrated, "is it possible that you can ever
have seen him and heard him, that you can ever have lived under his
roof and known him, and can yet breathe, even to me in this
solitary place where there is no one to hear us, such unworthy
He reddened deeply, as if his natural generosity felt a pang of
reproach. He was silent for a little while before he replied in a
subdued voice, "Esther, I am sure you know that I am not a mean
fellow and that I have some sense of suspicion and distrust being
poor qualities in one of my years."
"I know it very well," said I. "I am not more sure of anything."
"That's a dear girl," retorted Richard, "and like you, because it
gives me comfort. I had need to get some scrap of comfort out of
all this business, for it's a bad one at the best, as I have no
occasion to tell you."
"I know perfectly," said I. "I know as well, Richard--what shall I
say? as well as you do--that such misconstructions are foreign to
your nature. And I know, as well as you know, what so changes it."
"Come, sister, come," said Richard a little more gaily, "you will
be fair with me at all events. If I have the misfortune to be
under that influence, so has he. If it has a little twisted me, it
may have a little twisted him too. I don't say that he is not an
honourable man, out of all this complication and uncertainty; I am
sure he is. But it taints everybody. You know it taints
everybody. You have heard him say so fifty times. Then why should
"Because," said I, "his is an uncommon character, and he has
resolutely kept himself outside the circle, Richard."
"Oh, because and because!" replied Richard in his vivacious way.
"I am not sure, my dear girl, but that it may be wise and specious
to preserve that outward indifference. It may cause other parties
interested to become lax about their interests; and people may die
off, and points may drag themselves out of memory, and many things
may smoothly happen that are convenient enough."
I was so touched with pity for Richard that I could not reproach
him any more, even by a look. I remembered my guardian's
gentleness towards his errors and with what perfect freedom from
resentment he had spoken of them.
"Esther," Richard resumed, "you are not to suppose that I have come
here to make underhanded charges against John Jarndyce. I have
only come to justify myself. What I say is, it was all very well
and we got on very well while I was a boy, utterly regardless of
this same suit; but as soon as I began to take an interest in it
and to look into it, then it was quite another thing. Then John
Jarndyce discovers that Ada and I must break off and that if I
don't amend that very objectionable course, I am not fit for her.
Now, Esther, I don't mean to amend that very objectionable course:
I will not hold John Jarndyce's favour on those unfair terms of
compromise, which he has no right to dictate. Whether it pleases
him or displeases him, I must maintain my rights and Ada's. I have
been thinking about it a good deal, and this is the conclusion I
have come to."
Poor dear Richard! He had indeed been thinking about it a good
deal. His face, his voice, his manner, all showed that too
"So I tell him honourably (you are to know I have written to him
about all this) that we are at issue and that we had better be at
issue openly than covertly. I thank him for his goodwill and his
protection, and he goes his road, and I go mine. The fact is, our
roads are not the same. Under one of the wills in dispute, I
should take much more than he. I don't mean to say that it is the
one to be established, but there it is, and it has its chance."
"I have not to learn from you, my dear Richard," said I, "of your
letter. I had heard of it already without an offended or angry
"Indeed?" replied Richard, softening. "I am glad I said he was an
honourable man, out of all this wretched affair. But I always say
that and have never doubted it. Now, my dear Esther, I know these
views of mine appear extremely harsh to you, and will to Ada when
you tell her what has passed between us. But if you had gone into
the case as I have, if you had only applied yourself to the papers
as I did when I was at Kenge's, if you only knew what an
accumulation of charges and counter-charges, and suspicions and
cross-suspicions, they involve, you would think me moderate in
"Perhaps so," said I. "But do you think that, among those many
papers, there is much truth and justice, Richard?"
"There is truth and justice somewhere in the case, Esther--"
"Or was once, long ago," said I.
"Is--is--must be somewhere," pursued Richard impetuously, "and must
be brought out. To allow Ada to be made a bribe and hush-money of
is not the way to bring it out. You say the suit is changing me;
John Jarndyce says it changes, has changed, and will change
everybody who has any share in it. Then the greater right I have
on my side when I resolve to do all I can to bring it to an end."
"All you can, Richard! Do you think that in these many years no
others have done all they could? Has the difficulty grown easier
because of so many failures?"
"It can't last for ever," returned Richard with a fierceness
kindling in him which again presented to me that last sad reminder.
"I am young and earnest, and energy and determination have done
wonders many a time. Others have only half thrown themselves into
it. I devote myself to it. I make it the object of my life."
"Oh, Richard, my dear, so much the worse, so much the worse!"
"No, no, no, don't you be afraid for me," he returned
affectionately. "You're a dear, good, wise, quiet, blessed girl;
but you have your prepossessions. So I come round to John
Jarndyce. I tell you, my good Esther, when he and I were on those
terms which he found so convenient, we were not on natural terms."
"Are division and animosity your natural terms, Richard?"
"No, I don't say that. I mean that all this business puts us on
unnatural terms, with which natural relations are incompatible.
See another reason for urging it on! I may find out when it's over
that I have been mistaken in John Jarndyce. My head may be clearer
when I am free of it, and I may then agree with what you say to-
day. Very well. Then I shall acknowledge it and make him
Everything postponed to that imaginary time! Everything held in
confusion and indecision until then!
"Now, my best of confidantes," said Richard, "I want my cousin Ada
to understand that I am not captious, fickle, and wilful about John
Jarndyce, but that I have this purpose and reason at my back. I
wish to represent myself to her through you, because she has a
great esteem and respect for her cousin John; and I know you will
soften the course I take, even though you disapprove of it; and--
and in short," said Richard, who had been hesitating through these
words, "I--I don't like to represent myself in this litigious,
contentious, doubting character to a confiding girl like Ada,"
I told him that he was more like himself in those latter words than
in anything he had said yet.
"Why," acknowledged Richard, "that may be true enough, my love. I
rather feel it to be so. But I shall be able to give myself fair-
play by and by. I shall come all right again, then, don't you be
I asked him if this were all he wished me to tell Ada.
"Not quite," said Richard. "I am bound not to withhold from her
that John Jarndyce answered my letter in his usual manner,
addressing me as 'My dear Rick,' trying to argue me out of my
opinions, and telling me that they should make no difference in
him. (All very well of course, but not altering the case.) I also
want Ada to know that if I see her seldom just now, I am looking
after her interests as well as my own--we two being in the same
boat exactly--and that I hope she will not suppose from any flying
rumours she may hear that I am at all light-headed or imprudent; on
the contrary, I am always looking forward to the termination of the
suit, and always planning in that direction. Being of age now and
having taken the step I have taken, I consider myself free from any
accountability to John Jarndyce; but Ada being still a ward of the
court, I don't yet ask her to renew our engagement. When she is
free to act for herself, I shall be myself once more and we shall
both be in very different worldly circumstances, I believe. If you
tell her all this with the advantage of your considerate way, you
will do me a very great and a very kind service, my dear Esther;
and I shall knock Jarndyce and Jarndyce on the head with greater
vigour. Of course I ask for no secrecy at Bleak House."
"Richard," said I, "you place great confidence in me, but I fear
you will not take advice from me?"
"It's impossible that I can on this subject, my dear girl. On any
As if there were any other in his life! As if his whole career and
character were not being dyed one colour!
"But I may ask you a question, Richard?"
"I think so," said he, laughing. "I don't know who may not, if you
"You say, yourself, you are not leading a very settled life."
"How can I, my dear Esther, with nothing settled!"
"Are you in debt again?"
"Why, of course I am," said Richard, astonished at my simplicity.
"Is it of course?"
"My dear child, certainly. I can't throw myself into an object so
completely without expense. You forget, or perhaps you don't know,
that under either of the wills Ada and I take something. It's only
a question between the larger sum and the smaller. I shall be
within the mark any way. Bless your heart, my excellent girl,"
said Richard, quite amused with me, "I shall be all right! I shall
pull through, my dear!"
I felt so deeply sensible of the danger in which he stood that I
tried, in Ada's name, in my guardian's, in my own, by every fervent
means that I could think of, to warn him of it and to show him some
of his mistakes. He received everything I said with patience and
gentleness, but it all rebounded from him without taking the least
effect. I could not wonder at this after the reception his
preoccupied mind had given to my guardian's letter, but I
determined to try Ada's influence yet.
So when our walk brought us round to the village again, and I went
home to breakfast, I prepared Ada for the account I was going to
give her and told her exactly what reason we had to dread that
Richard was losing himself and scattering his whole life to the
winds. It made her very unhappy, of course, though she had a far,
far greater reliance on his correcting his errors than I could
have--which was so natural and loving in my dear!--and she
presently wrote him this little letter:
My dearest cousin,
Esther has told me all you said to her this morning. I write this
to repeat most earnestly for myself all that she said to you and to
let you know how sure I am that you will sooner or later find our
cousin John a pattern of truth, sincerity, and goodness, when you
will deeply, deeply grieve to have done him (without intending it)
so much wrong.
I do not quite know how to write what I wish to say next, but I
trust you will understand it as I mean it. I have some fears, my
dearest cousin, that it may be partly for my sake you are now
laying up so much unhappiness for yourself--and if for yourself,
for me. In case this should be so, or in case you should entertain
much thought of me in what you are doing, I most earnestly entreat
and beg you to desist. You can do nothing for my sake that will
make me half so happy as for ever turning your back upon the shadow
in which we both were born. Do not be angry with me for saying
this. Pray, pray, dear Richard, for my sake, and for your own, and
in a natural repugnance for that source of trouble which had its
share in making us both orphans when we were very young, pray,
pray, let it go for ever. We have reason to know by this time that
there is no good in it and no hope, that there is nothing to be got
from it but sorrow.
My dearest cousin, it is needless for me to say that you are quite
free and that it is very likely you may find some one whom you will
love much better than your first fancy. I am quite sure, if you
will let me say so, that the object of your choice would greatly
prefer to follow your fortunes far and wide, however moderate or
poor, and see you happy, doing your duty and pursuing your chosen
way, than to have the hope of being, or even to be, very rich with
you (if such a thing were possible) at the cost of dragging years
of procrastination and anxiety and of your indifference to other
aims. You may wonder at my saying this so confidently with so
little knowledge or experience, but I know it for a certainty from
my own heart.
Ever, my dearest cousin, your most affectionate
This note brought Richard to us very soon, but it made little
change in him if any. We would fairly try, he said, who was right
and who was wrong--he would show us--we should see! He was
animated and glowing, as if Ada's tenderness had gratified him; but
I could only hope, with a sigh, that the letter might have some
stronger effect upon his mind on re-perusal than it assuredly had
As they were to remain with us that day and had taken their places
to return by the coach next morning, I sought an opportunity of
speaking to Mr. Skimpole. Our out-of-door life easily threw one in
my way, and I delicately said that there was a responsibility in
"Responsibility, my dear Miss Summerson?" he repeated, catching at
the word with the pleasantest smile. "I am the last man in the
world for such a thing. I never was responsible in my life--I
"I am afraid everybody is obliged to be," said I timidly enough, he
being so much older and more clever than I.
"No, really?" said Mr. Skimpole, receiving this new light with a
most agreeable jocularity of surprise. "But every man's not
obliged to be solvent? I am not. I never was. See, my dear Miss
Summerson," he took a handful of loose silver and halfpence from
his pocket, "there's so much money. I have not an idea how much.
I have not the power of counting. Call it four and ninepence--call
it four pound nine. They tell me I owe more than that. I dare say
I do. I dare say I owe as much as good-natured people will let me
owe. If they don't stop, why should I? There you have Harold
Skimpole in little. If that's responsibility, I am responsible."
The perfect ease of manner with which he put the money up again and
looked at me with a smile on his refined face, as if he had been
mentioning a curious little fact about somebody else, almost made
me feel as if he really had nothing to do with it.
"Now, when you mention responsibility," he resumed, "I am disposed
to say that I never had the happiness of knowing any one whom I
should consider so refreshingly responsible as yourself. You
appear to me to be the very touchstone of responsibility. When I
see you, my dear Miss Summerson, intent upon the perfect working of
the whole little orderly system of which you are the centre, I feel
inclined to say to myself--in fact I do say to myself very often--
It was difficult, after this, to explain what I meant; but I
persisted so far as to say that we all hoped he would check and not
confirm Richard in the sanguine views he entertained just then.
"Most willingly," he retorted, "if I could. But, my dear Miss
Summerson, I have no art, no disguise. If he takes me by the hand
and leads me through Westminster Hall in an airy procession after
fortune, I must go. If he says, 'Skimpole, join the dance!' I
must join it. Common sense wouldn't, I know, but I have NO common
It was very unfortunate for Richard, I said.
"Do you think so!" returned Mr. Skimpole. "Don't say that, don't
say that. Let us suppose him keeping company with Common Sense--an
excellent man--a good deal wrinkled--dreadfully practical--change
for a ten-pound note in every pocket--ruled account-book in his
hand--say, upon the whole, resembling a tax-gatherer. Our dear
Richard, sanguine, ardent, overleaping obstacles, bursting with
poetry like a young bud, says to this highly respectable companion,
'I see a golden prospect before me; it's very bright, it's very
beautiful, it's very joyous; here I go, bounding over the landscape
to come at it!' The respectable companion instantly knocks him
down with the ruled account-book; tells him in a literal, prosaic
way that he sees no such thing; shows him it's nothing but fees,
fraud, horsehair wigs, and black gowns. Now you know that's a
painful change--sensible in the last degree, I have no doubt, but
disagreeable. I can't do it. I haven't got the ruled account-
book, I have none of the tax-gathering elements in my composition,
I am not at all respectable, and I don't want to be. Odd perhaps,
but so it is!"
It was idle to say more, so I proposed that we should join Ada and
Richard, who were a little in advance, and I gave up Mr. Skimpole
in despair. He had been over the Hall in the course of the morning
and whimsically described the family pictures as we walked. There
were such portentous shepherdesses among the Ladies Dedlock dead
and gone, he told us, that peaceful crooks became weapons of
assault in their hands. They tended their flocks severely in
buckram and powder and put their sticking-plaster patches on to
terrify commoners as the chiefs of some other tribes put on their
war-paint. There was a Sir Somebody Dedlock, with a battle, a
sprung-mine, volumes of smoke, flashes of lightning, a town on
fire, and a stormed fort, all in full action between his horse's
two hind legs, showing, he supposed, how little a Dedlock made of
such trifles. The whole race he represented as having evidently
been, in life, what he called "stuffed people"--a large collection,
glassy eyed, set up in the most approved manner on their various
twigs and perches, very correct, perfectly free from animation, and
always in glass cases.
I was not so easy now during any reference to the name but that I
felt it a relief when Richard, with an exclamation of surprise,
hurried away to meet a stranger whom he first descried coming
slowly towards us.
"Dear me!" said Mr. Skimpole. "Vholes!"
We asked if that were a friend of Richard's.
"Friend and legal adviser," said Mr. Skimpole. "Now, my dear Miss
Summerson, if you want common sense, responsibility, and
respectability, all united--if you want an exemplary man--Vholes is
We had not known, we said, that Richard was assisted by any
gentleman of that name.
"When he emerged from legal infancy," returned Mr. Skimpole, "he
parted from our conversational friend Kenge and took up, I believe,
with Vholes. Indeed, I know he did, because I introduced him to
"Had you known him long?" asked Ada.
"Vholes? My dear Miss Clare, I had had that kind of acquaintance
with him which I have had with several gentlemen of his profession.
He had done something or other in a very agreeable, civil manner--
taken proceedings, I think, is the expression--which ended in the
proceeding of his taking ME. Somebody was so good as to step in
and pay the money--something and fourpence was the amount; I forget
the pounds and shillings, but I know it ended with fourpence,
because it struck me at the time as being so odd that I could owe
anybody fourpence--and after that I brought them together. Vholes
asked me for the introduction, and I gave it. Now I come to think
of it," he looked inquiringly at us with his frankest smile as he
made the discovery, "Vholes bribed me, perhaps? He gave me
something and called it commission. Was it a five-pound note? Do
you know, I think it MUST have been a five-pound note!"
His further consideration of the point was prevented by Richard's
coming back to us in an excited state and hastily representing Mr.
Vholes--a sallow man with pinched lips that looked as if they were
cold, a red eruption here and there upon his face, tall and thin,
about fifty years of age, high-shouldered, and stooping. Dressed
in black, black-gloved, and buttoned to the chin, there was nothing
so remarkable in him as a lifeless manner and a slow, fixed way he
had of looking at Richard.
"I hope I don't disturb you, ladies," said Mr. Vholes, and now I
observed that he was further remarkable for an inward manner of
speaking. "I arranged with Mr. Carstone that he should always know
when his cause was in the Chancellor's paper, and being informed by
one of my clerks last night after post time that it stood, rather
unexpectedly, in the paper for to-morrow, I put myself into the
coach early this morning and came down to confer with him."
"Yes," said Richard, flushed, and looking triumphantly at Ada and
me, "we don't do these things in the old slow way now. We spin
along now! Mr. Vholes, we must hire something to get over to the
post town in, and catch the mail to-night, and go up by it!"
"Anything you please, sir," returned Mr. Vholes. "I am quite at
"Let me see," said Richard, looking at his watch. "If I run down
to the Dedlock, and get my portmanteau fastened up, and order a
gig, or a chaise, or whatever's to be got, we shall have an hour
then before starting. I'll come back to tea. Cousin Ada, will you
and Esther take care of Mr. Vholes when I am gone?"
He was away directly, in his heat and hurry, and was soon lost in
the dusk of evening. We who were left walked on towards the house.
"Is Mr. Carstone's presence necessary to-morrow, Sir?" said I.
"Can it do any good?"
"No, miss," Mr. Vholes replied. "I am not aware that it can."
Both Ada and I expressed our regret that he should go, then, only
to be disappointed.
"Mr. Carstone has laid down the principle of watching his own
interests," said Mr. Vholes, "and when a client lays down his own
principle, and it is not immoral, it devolves upon me to carry it
out. I wish in business to be exact and open. I am a widower with
three daughters--Emma, Jane, and Caroline--and my desire is so to
discharge the duties of life as to leave them a good name. This
appears to be a pleasant spot, miss."
The remark being made to me in consequence of my being next him as
we walked, I assented and enumerated its chief attractions.
"Indeed?" said Mr. Vholes. "I have the privilege of supporting an
aged father in the Vale of Taunton--his native place--and I admire
that country very much. I had no idea there was anything so
To keep up the conversation, I asked Mr. Vholes if he would like to
live altogether in the country.
"There, miss," said he, "you touch me on a tender string. My
health is not good (my digestion being much impaired), and if I had
only myself to consider, I should take refuge in rural habits,
especially as the cares of business have prevented me from ever
coming much into contact with general society, and particularly
with ladies' society, which I have most wished to mix in. But with
my three daughters, Emma, Jane, and Caroline--and my aged father--I
cannot afford to be selfish. It is true I have no longer to
maintain a dear grandmother who died in her hundred and second
year, but enough remains to render it indispensable that the mill
should be always going."
It required some attention to hear him on account of his inward
speaking and his lifeless manner.
"You will excuse my having mentioned my daughters," he said. "They
are my weak point. I wish to leave the poor girls some little
independence, as well as a good name."
We now arrived at Mr. Boythorn's house, where the tea-table, all
prepared, was awaiting us. Richard came in restless and hurried
shortly afterwards, and leaning over Mr. Vholes's chair, whispered
something in his ear. Mr. Vholes replied aloud--or as nearly aloud
I suppose as he had ever replied to anything--"You will drive me,
will you, sir? It is all the same to me, sir. Anything you
please. I am quite at your service."
We understood from what followed that Mr. Skimpole was to be left
until the morning to occupy the two places which had been already
paid for. As Ada and I were both in low spirits concerning Richard
and very sorry so to part with him, we made it as plain as we
politely could that we should leave Mr. Skimpole to the Dedlock
Arms and retire when the night-travellers were gone.
Richard's high spirits carrying everything before them, we all went
out together to the top of the hill above the village, where he had
ordered a gig to wait and where we found a man with a lantern
standing at the head of the gaunt pale horse that had been
harnessed to it.
I never shall forget those two seated side by side in the lantern's
light, Richard all flush and fire and laughter, with the reins in
his hand; Mr. Vholes quite still, black-gloved, and buttoned up,
looking at him as if he were looking at his prey and charming it.
I have before me the whole picture of the warm dark night, the
summer lightning, the dusty track of road closed in by hedgerows
and high trees, the gaunt pale horse with his ears pricked up, and
the driving away at speed to Jarndyce and Jarndyce.
My dear girl told me that night how Richard's being thereafter
prosperous or ruined, befriended or deserted, could only make this
difference to her, that the more he needed love from one unchanging
heart, the more love that unchanging heart would have to give him;
how he thought of her through his present errors, and she would
think of him at all times--never of herself if she could devote
herself to him, never of her own delights if she could minister to
And she kept her word?
I look along the road before me, where the distance already
shortens and the journey's end is growing visible; and true and
good above the dead sea of the Chancery suit and all the ashy fruit
it cast ashore, I think I see my darling.
When our time came for returning to Bleak House again, we were
punctual to the day and were received with an overpowering welcome.
I was perfectly restored to health and strength, and finding my
housekeeping keys laid ready for me in my room, rang myself in as
if I had been a new year, with a merry little peal. "Once more,
duty, duty, Esther," said I; "and if you are not overjoyed to do
it, more than cheerfully and contentedly, through anything and
everything, you ought to be. That's all I have to say to you, my
The first few mornings were mornings of so much bustle and
business, devoted to such settlements of accounts, such repeated
journeys to and fro between the growlery and all other parts of the
house, so many rearrangements of drawers and presses, and such a
general new beginning altogether, that I had not a moment's
leisure. But when these arrangements were completed and everything
was in order, I paid a visit of a few hours to London, which
something in the letter I had destroyed at Chesney Wold had induced
me to decide upon in my own mind.
I made Caddy Jellyby--her maiden name was so natural to me that I
always called her by it--the pretext for this visit and wrote her a
note previously asking the favour of her company on a little
business expedition. Leaving home very early in the morning, I got
to London by stage-coach in such good time that I got to Newman
Street with the day before me.
Caddy, who had not seen me since her wedding-day, was so glad and
so affectionate that I was half inclined to fear I should make her
husband jealous. But he was, in his way, just as bad--I mean as
good; and in short it was the old story, and nobody would leave me
any possibility of doing anything meritorious.
The elder Mr. Turveydrop was in bed, I found, and Caddy was milling
his chocolate, which a melancholy little boy who was an apprentice
--it seemed such a curious thing to be apprenticed to the trade of
dancing--was waiting to carry upstairs. Her father-in-law was
extremely kind and considerate, Caddy told me, and they lived most
happily together. (When she spoke of their living together, she
meant that the old gentleman had all the good things and all the
good lodging, while she and her husband had what they could get,
and were poked into two corner rooms over the Mews.)
"And how is your mama, Caddy?" said I.
"Why, I hear of her, Esther," replied Caddy, "through Pa, but I see
very little of her. We are good friends, I am glad to say, but Ma
thinks there is something absurd in my having married a dancing-
master, and she is rather afraid of its extending to her."
It struck me that if Mrs. Jellyby had discharged her own natural
duties and obligations before she swept the horizon with a
telescope in search of others, she would have taken the best
precautions against becoming absurd, but I need scarcely observe
that I kept this to myself.
"And your papa, Caddy?"
"He comes here every evening," returned Caddy, "and is so fond of
sitting in the corner there that it's a treat to see him."
Looking at the corner, I plainly perceived the mark of Mr.
Jellyby's head against the wall. It was consolatory to know that
he had found such a resting-place for it.
"And you, Caddy," said I, "you are always busy, I'll be bound?"
"Well, my dear," returned Caddy, "I am indeed, for to tell you a
grand secret, I am qualifying myself to give lessons. Prince's
health is not strong, and I want to be able to assist him. What
with schools, and classes here, and private pupils, AND the
apprentices, he really has too much to do, poor fellow!"
The notion of the apprentices was still so odd to me that I asked
Caddy if there were many of them.
"Four," said Caddy. "One in-door, and three out. They are very
good children; only when they get together they WILL play--
children-like--instead of attending to their work. So the little
boy you saw just now waltzes by himself in the empty kitchen, and
we distribute the others over the house as well as we can."
"That is only for their steps, of course?" said I.
"Only for their steps," said Caddy. "In that way they practise, so
many hours at a time, whatever steps they happen to be upon. They
dance in the academy, and at this time of year we do figures at
five every morning."
"Why, what a laborious life!" I exclaimed.
"I assure you, my dear," returned Caddy, smiling, "when the out-
door apprentices ring us up in the morning (the bell rings into our
room, not to disturb old Mr. Turveydrop), and when I put up the
window and see them standing on the door-step with their little
pumps under their arms, I am actually reminded of the Sweeps."
All this presented the art to me in a singular light, to be sure.
Caddy enjoyed the effect of her communication and cheerfully
recounted the particulars of her own studies.
"You see, my dear, to save expense I ought to know something of the
piano, and I ought to know something of the kit too, and
consequently I have to practise those two instruments as well as
the details of our profession. If Ma had been like anybody else, I
might have had some little musical knowledge to begin upon.
However, I hadn't any; and that part of the work is, at first, a
little discouraging, I must allow. But I have a very good ear, and
I am used to drudgery--I have to thank Ma for that, at all events--
and where there's a will there's a way, you know, Esther, the world
over." Saying these words, Caddy laughingly sat down at a little
jingling square piano and really rattled off a quadrille with great
spirit. Then she good-humouredly and blushingly got up again, and
while she still laughed herself, said, "Don't laugh at me, please;
that's a dear girl!"
I would sooner have cried, but I did neither. I encouraged her and
praised her with all my heart. For I conscientiously believed,
dancing-master's wife though she was, and dancing-mistress though
in her limited ambition she aspired to be, she had struck out a
natural, wholesome, loving course of industry and perseverance that
was quite as good as a mission.
"My dear," said Caddy, delighted, "you can't think how you cheer
me. I shall owe you, you don't know how much. What changes,
Esther, even in my small world! You recollect that first night,
when I was so unpolite and inky? Who would have thought, then, of
my ever teaching people to dance, of all other possibilities and
Her husband, who had left us while we had this chat, now coming
back, preparatory to exercising the apprentices in the ball-room,
Caddy informed me she was quite at my disposal. But it was not my
time yet, I was glad to tell her, for I should have been vexed to
take her away then. Therefore we three adjourned to the
apprentices together, and I made one in the dance.
The apprentices were the queerest little people. Besides the
melancholy boy, who, I hoped, had not been made so by waltzing
alone in the empty kitchen, there were two other boys and one dirty
little limp girl in a gauzy dress. Such a precocious little girl,
with such a dowdy bonnet on (that, too, of a gauzy texture), who
brought her sandalled shoes in an old threadbare velvet reticule.
Such mean little boys, when they were not dancing, with string, and
marbles, and cramp-bones in their pockets, and the most untidy legs
and feet--and heels particularly.
I asked Caddy what had made their parents choose this profession
for them. Caddy said she didn't know; perhaps they were designed
for teachers, perhaps for the stage. They were all people in
humble circumstances, and the melancholy boy's mother kept a
We danced for an hour with great gravity, the melancholy child
doing wonders with his lower extremities, in which there appeared
to be some sense of enjoyment though it never rose above his waist.
Caddy, while she was observant of her husband and was evidently
founded upon him, had acquired a grace and self-possession of her
own, which, united to her pretty face and figure, was uncommonly
agreeable. She already relieved him of much of the instruction of
these young people, and he seldom interfered except to walk his
part in the figure if he had anything to do in it. He always
played the tune. The affectation of the gauzy child, and her
condescension to the boys, was a sight. And thus we danced an hour
by the clock.
When the practice was concluded, Caddy's husband made himself ready
to go out of town to a school, and Caddy ran away to get ready to
go out with me. I sat in the ball-room in the interval,
contemplating the apprentices. The two out-door boys went upon the
staircase to put on their half-boots and pull the in-door boy's
hair, as I judged from the nature of his objections. Returning
with their jackets buttoned and their pumps stuck in them, they
then produced packets of cold bread and meat and bivouacked under a
painted lyre on the wall. The little gauzy child, having whisked
her sandals into the reticule and put on a trodden-down pair of
shoes, shook her head into the dowdy bonnet at one shake, and
answering my inquiry whether she liked dancing by replying, "Not
with boys," tied it across her chin, and went home contemptuous.
"Old Mr. Turveydrop is so sorry," said Caddy, "that he has not
finished dressing yet and cannot have the pleasure of seeing you
before you go. You are such a favourite of his, Esther."
I expressed myself much obliged to him, but did not think it
necessary to add that I readily dispensed with this attention.
"It takes him a long time to dress," said Caddy, "because he is
very much looked up to in such things, you know, and has a
reputation to support. You can't think how kind he is to Pa. He
talks to Pa of an evening about the Prince Regent, and I never saw
Pa so interested."
There was something in the picture of Mr. Turveydrop bestowing his
deportment on Mr. Jellyby that quite took my fancy. I asked Caddy
if he brought her papa out much.
"No," said Caddy, "I don't know that he does that, but he talks to
Pa, and Pa greatly admires him, and listens, and likes it. Of
course I am aware that Pa has hardly any claims to deportment, but
they get on together delightfully. You can't think what good
companions they make. I never saw Pa take snuff before in my life,
but he takes one pinch out of Mr. Turveydrop's box regularly and
keeps putting it to his nose and taking it away again all the
That old Mr. Turveydrop should ever, in the chances and changes of
life, have come to the rescue of Mr. Jellyby from Borrioboola-Gha
appeared to me to be one of the pleasantest of oddities.
"As to Peepy," said Caddy with a little hesitation, "whom I was
most afraid of--next to having any family of my own, Esther--as an
inconvenience to Mr. Turveydrop, the kindness of the old gentleman
to that child is beyond everything. He asks to see him, my dear!
He lets him take the newspaper up to him in bed; he gives him the
crusts of his toast to eat; he sends him on little errands about
the house; he tells him to come to me for sixpences. In short,"
said Caddy cheerily, "and not to prose, I am a very fortunate girl
and ought to be very grateful. Where are we going, Esther?"
"To the Old Street Road," said I, "where I have a few words to say
to the solicitor's clerk who was sent to meet me at the coach-
office on the very day when I came to London and first saw you, my
dear. Now I think of it, the gentleman who brought us to your
"Then, indeed, I seem to be naturally the person to go with you,"
To the Old Street Road we went and there inquired at Mrs. Guppy's
residence for Mrs. Guppy. Mrs. Guppy, occupying the parlours and
having indeed been visibly in danger of cracking herself like a nut
in the front-parlour door by peeping out before she was asked for,
immediately presented herself and requested us to walk in. She was
an old lady in a large cap, with rather a red nose and rather an
unsteady eye, but smiling all over. Her close little sitting-room
was prepared for a visit, and there was a portrait of her son in it
which, I had almost written here, was more like than life: it
insisted upon him with such obstinacy, and was so determined not to
let him off.
Not only was the portrait there, but we found the original there
too. He was dressed in a great many colours and was discovered at
a table reading law-papers with his forefinger to his forehead.
"Miss Summerson," said Mr. Guppy, rising, "this is indeed an oasis.
Mother, will you be so good as to put a chair for the other lady
and get out of the gangway."
Mrs. Guppy, whose incessant smiling gave her quite a waggish
appearance, did as her son requested and then sat down in a corner,
holding her pocket handkerchief to her chest, like a fomentation,
with both hands.
I presented Caddy, and Mr. Guppy said that any friend of mine was
more than welcome. I then proceeded to the object of my visit.
"I took the liberty of sending you a note, sir," said I.
Mr. Guppy acknowledged the receipt by taking it out of his breast-
pocket, putting it to his lips, and returning it to his pocket with
a bow. Mr. Guppy's mother was so diverted that she rolled her head
as she smiled and made a silent appeal to Caddy with her elbow.
"Could I speak to you alone for a moment?" said I.
Anything like the jocoseness of Mr. Guppy's mother just now, I
think I never saw. She made no sound of laughter, but she rolled
her head, and shook it, and put her handkerchief to her mouth, and
appealed to Caddy with her elbow, and her hand, and her shoulder,
and was so unspeakably entertained altogether that it was with some
difficulty she could marshal Caddy through the little folding-door
into her bedroom adjoining.
"Miss Summerson," said Mr. Guppy, "you will excuse the waywardness
of a parent ever mindful of a son's appiness. My mother, though
highly exasperating to the feelings, is actuated by maternal
I could hardly have believed that anybody could in a moment have
turned so red or changed so much as Mr. Guppy did when I now put up
"I asked the favour of seeing you for a few moments here," said I,
"in preference to calling at Mr. Kenge's because, remembering what
you said on an occasion when you spoke to me in confidence, I
feared I might otherwise cause you some embarrassment, Mr. Guppy."
I caused him embarrassment enough as it was, I am sure. I never
saw such faltering, such confusion, such amazement and apprehension.
"Miss Summerson," stammered Mr. Guppy, "I--I--beg your pardon, but
in our profession--we--we--find it necessary to be explicit. You
have referred to an occasion, miss, when I--when I did myself the
honour of making a declaration which--"
Something seemed to rise in his throat that he could not possibly
swallow. He put his hand there, coughed, made faces, tried again
to swallow it, coughed again, made faces again, looked all round
the room, and fluttered his papers.
"A kind of giddy sensation has come upon me, miss," he explained,
"which rather knocks me over. I--er--a little subject to this sort
of thing--er--by George!"
I gave him a little time to recover. He consumed it in putting his
hand to his forehead and taking it away again, and in backing his
chair into the corner behind him.
"My intention was to remark, miss," said Mr. Guppy, "dear me--
something bronchial, I think--hem!--to remark that you was so good
on that occasion as to repel and repudiate that declaration. You--
you wouldn't perhaps object to admit that? Though no witnesses are
present, it might be a satisfaction to--to your mind--if you was to
put in that admission."
"There can be no doubt," said I, "that I declined your proposal
without any reservation or qualification whatever, Mr. Guppy."
"Thank you, miss," he returned, measuring the table with his
troubled hands. "So far that's satisfactory, and it does you
credit. Er--this is certainly bronchial!--must be in the tubes--
er--you wouldn't perhaps be offended if I was to mention--not that
it's necessary, for your own good sense or any person's sense must
show 'em that--if I was to mention that such declaration on my part
was final, and there terminated?"
"I quite understand that," said I.
"Perhaps--er--it may not be worth the form, but it might be a
satisfaction to your mind--perhaps you wouldn't object to admit
that, miss?" said Mr. Guppy.
"I admit it most fully and freely," said I.
"Thank you," returned Mr. Guppy. "Very honourable, I am sure. I
regret that my arrangements in life, combined with circumstances
over which I have no control, will put it out of my power ever to
fall back upon that offer or to renew it in any shape or form
whatever, but it will ever be a retrospect entwined--er--with
friendship's bowers." Mr. Guppy's bronchitis came to his relief
and stopped his measurement of the table.
"I may now perhaps mention what I wished to say to you?" I began.
"I shall be honoured, I am sure," said Mr. Guppy. "I am so
persuaded that your own good sense and right feeling, miss, will--
will keep you as square as possible--that I can have nothing but
pleasure, I am sure, in hearing any observations you may wish to
"You were so good as to imply, on that occasion--"
"Excuse me, miss," said Mr. Guppy, "but we had better not travel
out of the record into implication. I cannot admit that I implied
"You said on that occasion," I recommenced, "that you might
possibly have the means of advancing my interests and promoting my
fortunes by making discoveries of which I should be the subject. I
presume that you founded that belief upon your general knowledge of
my being an orphan girl, indebted for everything to the benevolence
of Mr. Jarndyce. Now, the beginning and the end of what I have
come to beg of you is, Mr. Guppy, that you will have the kindness
to relinquish all idea of so serving me. I have thought of this
sometimes, and I have thought of it most lately--since I have been
ill. At length I have decided, in case you should at any time
recall that purpose and act upon it in any way, to come to you and
assure you that you are altogether mistaken. You could make no
discovery in reference to me that would do me the least service or
give me the least pleasure. I am acquainted with my personal
history, and I have it in my power to assure you that you never can
advance my welfare by such means. You may, perhaps, have abandoned
this project a long time. If so, excuse my giving you unnecessary
trouble. If not, I entreat you, on the assurance I have given you,
henceforth to lay it aside. I beg you to do this, for my peace."
"I am bound to confess," said Mr. Guppy, "that you express
yourself, miss, with that good sense and right feeling for which I
gave you credit. Nothing can be more satisfactory than such right
feeling, and if I mistook any intentions on your part just now, I
am prepared to tender a full apology. I should wish to be
understood, miss, as hereby offering that apology--limiting it, as
your own good sense and right feeling will point out the necessity
of, to the present proceedings."
I must say for Mr. Guppy that the snuffling manner he had had upon
him improved very much. He seemed truly glad to be able to do
something I asked, and he looked ashamed.
"If you will allow me to finish what I have to say at once so that
I may have no occasion to resume," I went on, seeing him about to
speak, "you will do me a kindness, sir. I come to you as privately
as possible because you announced this impression of yours to me in
a confidence which I have really wished to respect--and which I
always have respected, as you remember. I have mentioned my
illness. There really is no reason why I should hesitate to say
that I know very well that any little delicacy I might have had in
making a request to you is quite removed. Therefore I make the
entreaty I have now preferred, and I hope you will have sufficient
consideration for me to accede to it."
I must do Mr. Guppy the further justice of saying that he had
looked more and more ashamed and that he looked most ashamed and
very earnest when he now replied with a burning face, "Upon my word
and honour, upon my life, upon my soul, Miss Summerson, as I am a
living man, I'll act according to your wish! I'll never go another
step in opposition to it. I'll take my oath to it if it will be
any satisfaction to you. In what I promise at this present time
touching the matters now in question," continued Mr. Guppy rapidly,
as if he were repeating a familiar form of words, "I speak the
truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so--"
"I am quite satisfied," said I, rising at this point, "and I thank
you very much. Caddy, my dear, I am ready!"
Mr. Guppy's mother returned with Caddy (now making me the recipient
of her silent laughter and her nudges), and we took our leave. Mr.
Guppy saw us to the door with the air of one who was either
imperfectly awake or walking in his sleep; and we left him there,
But in a minute he came after us down the street without any hat,
and with his long hair all blown about, and stopped us, saying
fervently, "Miss Summerson, upon my honour and soul, you may depend
"I do," said I, "quite confidently."
"I beg your pardon, miss," said Mr. Guppy, going with one leg and
staying with the other, "but this lady being present--your own
witness--it might be a satisfaction to your mind (which I should
wish to set at rest) if you was to repeat those admissions."
"Well, Caddy," said I, turning to her, "perhaps you will not be
surprised when I tell you, my dear, that there never has been any
"No proposal or promise of marriage whatsoever," suggested Mr.
"No proposal or promise of marriage whatsoever," said I, "between
"William Guppy, of Penton Place, Pentonville, in the county of
Middlesex," he murmured.
"Between this gentleman, Mr. William Guppy, of Penton Place,
Pentonville, in the county of Middlesex, and myself."
"Thank you, miss," said Mr. Guppy. "Very full--er--excuse me--
lady's name, Christian and surname both?"
I gave them.
"Married woman, I believe?" said Mr. Guppy. "Married woman. Thank
you. Formerly Caroline Jellyby, spinster, then of Thavies Inn,
within the city of London, but extra-parochial; now of Newman
Street, Oxford Street. Much obliged."
He ran home and came running back again.
"Touching that matter, you know, I really and truly am very sorry
that my arrangements in life, combined with circumstances over
which I have no control, should prevent a renewal of what was
wholly terminated some time back," said Mr. Guppy to me forlornly
and despondently, "but it couldn't be. Now COULD it, you know! I
only put it to you."
I replied it certainly could not. The subject did not admit of a
doubt. He thanked me and ran to his mother's again--and back
"It's very honourable of you, miss, I am sure," said Mr. Guppy.
"If an altar could be erected in the bowers of friendship--but,
upon my soul, you may rely upon me in every respect save and except
the tender passion only!"
The struggle in Mr. Guppy's breast and the numerous oscillations it
occasioned him between his mother's door and us were sufficiently
conspicuous in the windy street (particularly as his hair wanted
cutting) to make us hurry away. I did so with a lightened heart;
but when we last looked back, Mr. Guppy was still oscillating in
the same troubled state of mind.
Attorney and Client
The name of Mr. Vholes, preceded by the legend Ground-Floor, is
inscribed upon a door-post in Symond's Inn, Chancery Lane--a
little, pale, wall-eyed, woebegone inn like a large dust-binn of
two compartments and a sifter. It looks as if Symond were a
sparing man in his way and constructed his inn of old building
materials which took kindly to the dry rot and to dirt and all
things decaying and dismal, and perpetuated Symond's memory with
congenial shabbiness. Quartered in this dingy hatchment
commemorative of Symond are the legal bearings of Mr. Vholes.
Mr. Vholes's office, in disposition retiring and in situation
retired, is squeezed up in a corner and blinks at a dead wall.
Three feet of knotty-floored dark passage bring the client to Mr.
Vholes's jet-black door, in an angle profoundly dark on the
brightest midsummer morning and encumbered by a black bulk-head of
cellarage staircase against which belated civilians generally
strike their brows. Mr. Vholes's chambers are on so small a scale
that one clerk can open the door without getting off his stool,
while the other who elbows him at the same desk has equal
facilities for poking the fire. A smell as of unwholesome sheep
blending with the smell of must and dust is referable to the
nightly (and often daily) consumption of mutton fat in candles and
to the fretting of parchment forms and skins in greasy drawers.
The atmosphere is otherwise stale and close. The place was last
painted or whitewashed beyond the memory of man, and the two
chimneys smoke, and there is a loose outer surface of soot
everywhere, and the dull cracked windows in their heavy frames have
but one piece of character in them, which is a determination to be
always dirty and always shut unless coerced. This accounts for the
phenomenon of the weaker of the two usually having a bundle of
firewood thrust between its jaws in hot weather.
Mr. Vholes is a very respectable man. He has not a large business,
but he is a very respectable man. He is allowed by the greater
attorneys who have made good fortunes or are making them to be a
most respectable man. He never misses a chance in his practice,
which is a mark of respectability. He never takes any pleasure,
which is another mark of respectability. He is reserved and
serious, which is another mark of respectability. His digestion is
impaired, which is highly respectable. And he is making hay of the
grass which is flesh, for his three daughters. And his father is
dependent on him in the Vale of Taunton.
The one great principle of the English law is to make business for
itself. There is no other principle distinctly, certainly, and
consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings. Viewed by
this light it becomes a coherent scheme and not the monstrous maze
the laity are apt to think it. Let them but once clearly perceive
that its grand principle is to make business for itself at their
expense, and surely they will cease to grumble.
But not perceiving this quite plainly--only seeing it by halves in a
confused way--the laity sometimes suffer in peace and pocket, with a
bad grace, and DO grumble very much. Then this respectability of
Mr. Vholes is brought into powerful play against them. "Repeal this
statute, my good sir?" says Mr. Kenge to a smarting client. "Repeal
it, my dear sir? Never, with my consent. Alter this law, sir, and
what will be the effect of your rash proceeding on a class of
practitioners very worthily represented, allow me to say to you, by
the opposite attorney in the case, Mr. Vholes? Sir, that class of
practitioners would be swept from the face of the earth. Now you
cannot afford--I will say, the social system cannot afford--to lose
an order of men like Mr. Vholes. Diligent, persevering, steady,
acute in business. My dear sir, I understand your present feelings
against the existing state of things, which I grant to be a little
hard in your case; but I can never raise my voice for the demolition
of a class of men like Mr. Vholes." The respectability of Mr.
Vholes has even been cited with crushing effect before Parliamentary
committees, as in the following blue minutes of a distinguished
attorney's evidence. "Question (number five hundred and seventeen
thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine): If I understand you, these
forms of practice indisputably occasion delay? Answer: Yes, some
delay. Question: And great expense? Answer: Most assuredly they
cannot be gone through for nothing. Question: And unspeakable
vexation? Answer: I am not prepared to say that. They have never
given ME any vexation; quite the contrary. Question: But you think
that their abolition would damage a class of practitioners? Answer:
I have no doubt of it. Question: Can you instance any type of that
class? Answer: Yes. I would unhesitatingly mention Mr. Vholes.
He would be ruined. Question: Mr. Vholes is considered, in the
profession, a respectable man? Answer:"--which proved fatal to the
inquiry for ten years--"Mr. Vholes is considered, in the profession,
a MOST respectable man."
So in familiar conversation, private authorities no less
disinterested will remark that they don't know what this age is
coming to, that we are plunging down precipices, that now here is
something else gone, that these changes are death to people like
Vholes--a man of undoubted respectability, with a father in the
Vale of Taunton, and three daughters at home. Take a few steps
more in this direction, say they, and what is to become of Vholes's
father? Is he to perish? And of Vholes's daughters? Are they to
be shirt-makers, or governesses? As though, Mr. Vholes and his
relations being minor cannibal chiefs and it being proposed to
abolish cannibalism, indignant champions were to put the case thus:
Make man-eating unlawful, and you starve the Vholeses!
In a word, Mr. Vholes, with his three daughters and his father in
the Vale of Taunton, is continually doing duty, like a piece of
timber, to shore up some decayed foundation that has become a
pitfall and a nuisance. And with a great many people in a great
many instances, the question is never one of a change from wrong to
right (which is quite an extraneous consideration), but is always
one of injury or advantage to that eminently respectable legion,
The Chancellor is, within these ten minutes, "up" for the long
vacation. Mr. Vholes, and his young client, and several blue bags
hastily stuffed out of all regularity of form, as the larger sort
of serpents are in their first gorged state, have returned to the
official den. Mr. Vholes, quiet and unmoved, as a man of so much
respectability ought to be, takes off his close black gloves as if
he were skinning his hands, lifts off his tight hat as if he were
scalping himself, and sits down at his desk. The client throws his
hat and gloves upon the ground--tosses them anywhere, without
looking after them or caring where they go; flings himself into a
chair, half sighing and half groaning; rests his aching head upon
his hand and looks the portrait of young despair.
"Again nothing done!" says Richard. "Nothing, nothing done!"
"Don't say nothing done, sir," returns the placid Vholes. "That is
scarcely fair, sir, scarcely fair!"
"Why, what IS done?" says Richard, turning gloomily upon him.
"That may not be the whole question," returns Vholes, "The question
may branch off into what is doing, what is doing?"
"And what is doing?" asks the moody client.
Vholes, sitting with his arms on the desk, quietly bringing the
tips of his five right fingers to meet the tips of his five left
fingers, and quietly separating them again, and fixedly and slowly
looking at his client, replies, "A good deal is doing, sir. We
have put our shoulders to the wheel, Mr. Carstone, and the wheel is
"Yes, with Ixion on it. How am I to get through the next four or
five accursed months?" exclaims the young man, rising from his
chair and walking about the room.
"Mr. C.," returns Vholes, following him close with his eyes
wherever he goes, "your spirits are hasty, and I am sorry for it on
your account. Excuse me if I recommend you not to chafe so much,
not to be so impetuous, not to wear yourself out so. You should
have more patience. You should sustain yourself better."
"I ought to imitate you, in fact, Mr. Vholes?" says Richard,
sitting down again with an impatient laugh and beating the devil's
tattoo with his boot on the patternless carpet.
"Sir," returns Vholes, always looking at the client as if he were
making a lingering meal of him with his eyes as well as with his
professional appetite. "Sir," returns Vholes with his inward
manner of speech and his bloodless quietude, "I should not have had
the presumption to propose myself as a model for your imitation or
any man's. Let me but leave the good name to my three daughters,
and that is enough for me; I am not a self-seeker. But since you
mention me so pointedly, I will acknowledge that I should like to
impart to you a little of my--come, sir, you are disposed to call
it insensibility, and I am sure I have no objection--say
insensibility--a little of my insensibility."
"Mr. Vholes," explains the client, somewhat abashed, "I had no
intention to accuse you of insensibility."
"I think you had, sir, without knowing it," returns the equable
Vholes. "Very naturally. It is my duty to attend to your
interests with a cool head, and I can quite understand that to your
excited feelings I may appear, at such times as the present,
insensible. My daughters may know me better; my aged father may
know me better. But they have known me much longer than you have,
and the confiding eye of affection is not the distrustful eye of
business. Not that I complain, sir, of the eye of business being
distrustful; quite the contrary. In attending to your interests, I
wish to have all possible checks upon me; it is right that I should
have them; I court inquiry. But your interests demand that I
should be cool and methodical, Mr. Carstone; and I cannot be
otherwise--no, sir, not even to please you."
Mr. Vholes, after glancing at the official cat who is patiently
watching a mouse's hole, fixes his charmed gaze again on his young
client and proceeds in his buttoned-up, half-audible voice as if
there were an unclean spirit in him that will neither come out nor
speak out, "What are you to do, sir, you inquire, during the
vacation. I should hope you gentlemen of the army may find many
means of amusing yourselves if you give your minds to it. If you
had asked me what I was to do during the vacation, I could have
answered you more readily. I am to attend to your interests. I am
to be found here, day by day, attending to your interests. That is
my duty, Mr. C., and term-time or vacation makes no difference to
me. If you wish to consult me as to your interests, you will find
me here at all times alike. Other professional men go out of town.
I don't. Not that I blame them for going; I merely say I don't go.
This desk is your rock, sir!"
Mr. Vholes gives it a rap, and it sounds as hollow as a coffin.
Not to Richard, though. There is encouragement in the sound to
him. Perhaps Mr. Vholes knows there is.
"I am perfectly aware, Mr. Vholes," says Richard, more familiarly
and good-humouredly, "that you are the most reliable fellow in the
world and that to have to do with you is to have to do with a man
of business who is not to be hoodwinked. But put yourself in my
case, dragging on this dislocated life, sinking deeper and deeper
into difficulty every day, continually hoping and continually
disappointed, conscious of change upon change for the worse in
myself, and of no change for the better in anything else, and you
will find it a dark-looking case sometimes, as I do."
"You know," says Mr. Vholes, "that I never give hopes, sir. I told
you from the first, Mr. C., that I never give hopes. Particularly
in a case like this, where the greater part of the costs comes out
of the estate, I should not be considerate of my good name if I
gave hopes. It might seem as if costs were my object. Still, when
you say there is no change for the better, I must, as a bare matter
of fact, deny that."
"Aye?" returns Richard, brightening. "But how do you make it out?"
"Mr. Carstone, you are represented by--"
"You said just now--a rock."
"Yes, sir," says Mr. Vholes, gently shaking his head and rapping
the hollow desk, with a sound as if ashes were falling on ashes,
and dust on dust, "a rock. That's something. You are separately
represented, and no longer hidden and lost in the interests of
others. THAT'S something. The suit does not sleep; we wake it up,
we air it, we walk it about. THAT'S something. It's not all
Jarndyce, in fact as well as in name. THAT'S something. Nobody
has it all his own way now, sir. And THAT'S something, surely."
Richard, his face flushing suddenly, strikes the desk with his
"Mr. Vholes! If any man had told me when I first went to John
Jarndyce's house that he was anything but the disinterested friend
he seemed--that he was what he has gradually turned out to be--I
could have found no words strong enough to repel the slander; I
could not have defended him too ardently. So little did I know of
the world! Whereas now I do declare to you that he becomes to me
the embodiment of the suit; that in place of its being an
abstraction, it is John Jarndyce; that the more I suffer, the more
indignant I am with him; that every new delay and every new
disappointment is only a new injury from John Jarndyce's hand."
"No, no," says Vholes. "Don't say so. We ought to have patience,
all of us. Besides, I never disparage, sir. I never disparage."
"Mr. Vholes," returns the angry client. "You know as well as I
that he would have strangled the suit if he could."
"He was not active in it," Mr. Vholes admits with an appearance of
reluctance. "He certainly was not active in it. But however, but
however, he might have had amiable intentions. Who can read the
heart, Mr. C.!"
"You can," returns Richard.
"I, Mr. C.?"
"Well enough to know what his intentions were. Are or are not our
interests conflicting? Tell--me--that!" says Richard, accompanying
his last three words with three raps on his rock of trust.
"Mr. C.," returns Vholes, immovable in attitude and never winking
his hungry eyes, "I should be wanting in my duty as your
professional adviser, I should be departing from my fidelity to
your interests, if I represented those interests as identical with
the interests of Mr. Jarndyce. They are no such thing, sir. I
never impute motives; I both have and am a father, and I never
impute motives. But I must not shrink from a professional duty,
even if it sows dissensions in families. I understand you to be
now consulting me professionally as to your interests? You are so?
I reply, then, they are not identical with those of Mr. Jarndyce."
"Of course they are not!" cries Richard. "You found that out long
"Mr. C.," returns Vholes, "I wish to say no more of any third party
than is necessary. I wish to leave my good name unsullied,
together with any little property of which I may become possessed
through industry and perseverance, to my daughters Emma, Jane, and
Caroline. I also desire to live in amity with my professional
brethren. When Mr. Skimpole did me the honour, sir--I will not say
the very high honour, for I never stoop to flattery--of bringing us
together in this room, I mentioned to you that I could offer no
opinion or advice as to your interests while those interests were
entrusted to another member of the profession. And I spoke in such
terms as I was bound to speak of Kenge and Carboy's office, which
stands high. You, sir, thought fit to withdraw your interests from
that keeping nevertheless and to offer them to me. You brought
them with clean hands, sir, and I accepted them with clean hands.
Those interests are now paramount in this office. My digestive
functions, as you may have heard me mention, are not in a good
state, and rest might improve them; but I shall not rest, sir,
while I am your representative. Whenever you want me, you will
find me here. Summon me anywhere, and I will come. During the
long vacation, sir, I shall devote my leisure to studying your
interests more and more closely and to making arrangements for
moving heaven and earth (including, of course, the Chancellor)
after Michaelmas term; and when I ultimately congratulate you,
sir," says Mr. Vholes with the severity of a determined man, "when
I ultimately congratulate you, sir, with all my heart, on your
accession to fortune--which, but that I never give hopes, I might
say something further about--you will owe me nothing beyond
whatever little balance may be then outstanding of the costs as
between solicitor and client not included in the taxed costs
allowed out of the estate. I pretend to no claim upon you, Mr. C.,
but for the zealous and active discharge--not the languid and
routine discharge, sir: that much credit I stipulate for--of my
professional duty. My duty prosperously ended, all between us is
Vholes finally adds, by way of rider to this declaration of his
principles, that as Mr. Carstone is about to rejoin his regiment,
perhaps Mr. C. will favour him with an order on his agent for
twenty pounds on account.
"For there have been many little consultations and attendances of
late, sir," observes Vholes, turning over the leaves of his diary,
"and these things mount up, and I don't profess to be a man of
capital. When we first entered on our present relations I stated
to you openly--it is a principle of mine that there never can be
too much openness between solicitor and client--that I was not a
man of capital and that if capital was your object you had better
leave your papers in Kenge's office. No, Mr. C., you will find
none of the advantages or disadvantages of capital here, sir.
This," Vholes gives the desk one hollow blow again, "is your rock;
it pretends to be nothing more."
The client, with his dejection insensibly relieved and his vague
hopes rekindled, takes pen and ink and writes the draft, not
without perplexed consideration and calculation of the date it may
bear, implying scant effects in the agent's hands. All the while,
Vholes, buttoned up in body and mind, looks at him attentively.
All the while, Vholes's official cat watches the mouse's hole.
Lastly, the client, shaking hands, beseeches Mr. Vholes, for
heaven's sake and earth's sake, to do his utmost to "pull him
through" the Court of Chancery. Mr. Vholes, who never gives hopes,
lays his palm upon the client's shoulder and answers with a smile,
"Always here, sir. Personally, or by letter, you will always find
me here, sir, with my shoulder to the wheel." Thus they part, and
Vholes, left alone, employs himself in carrying sundry little
matters out of his diary into his draft bill book for the ultimate
behoof of his three daughters. So might an industrious fox or bear
make up his account of chickens or stray travellers with an eye to
his cubs, not to disparage by that word the three raw-visaged,
lank, and buttoned-up maidens who dwell with the parent Vholes in
an earthy cottage situated in a damp garden at Kennington.
Richard, emerging from the heavy shade of Symond's Inn into the
sunshine of Chancery Lane--for there happens to be sunshine there
to-day--walks thoughtfully on, and turns into Lincoln's Inn, and
passes under the shadow of the Lincoln's Inn trees. On many such
loungers have the speckled shadows of those trees often fallen; on
the like bent head, the bitten nail, the lowering eye, the
lingering step, the purposeless and dreamy air, the good consuming
and consumed, the life turned sour. This lounger is not shabby
yet, but that may come. Chancery, which knows no wisdom but in
precedent, is very rich in such precedents; and why should one be
different from ten thousand?
Yet the time is so short since his depreciation began that as he
saunters away, reluctant to leave the spot for some long months
together, though he hates it, Richard himself may feel his own case
as if it were a startling one. While his heart is heavy with
corroding care, suspense, distrust, and doubt, it may have room for
some sorrowful wonder when he recalls how different his first visit
there, how different he, how different all the colours of his mind.
But injustice breeds injustice; the fighting with shadows and being
defeated by them necessitates the setting up of substances to
combat; from the impalpable suit which no man alive can understand,
the time for that being long gone by, it has become a gloomy relief
to turn to the palpable figure of the friend who would have saved
him from this ruin and make HIM his enemy. Richard has told Vholes
the truth. Is he in a hardened or a softened mood, he still lays
his injuries equally at that door; he was thwarted, in that
quarter, of a set purpose, and that purpose could only originate in
the one subject that is resolving his existence into itself;
besides, it is a justification to him in his own eyes to have an
embodied antagonist and oppressor.
Is Richard a monster in all this, or would Chancery be found rich
in such precedents too if they could be got for citation from the
Two pairs of eyes not unused to such people look after him, as,
biting his nails and brooding, he crosses the square and is
swallowed up by the shadow of the southern gateway. Mr. Guppy and
Mr. Weevle are the possessors of those eyes, and they have been
leaning in conversation against the low stone parapet under the
trees. He passes close by them, seeing nothing but the ground.
"William," says Mr. Weevle, adjusting his whiskers, "there's
combustion going on there! It's not a case of spontaneous, but
it's smouldering combustion it is."
"Ah!" says Mr. Guppy. "He wouldn't keep out of Jarndyce, and I
suppose he's over head and ears in debt. I never knew much of him.
He was as high as the monument when he was on trial at our place.
A good riddance to me, whether as clerk or client! Well, Tony,
that as I was mentioning is what they're up to."
Mr. Guppy, refolding his arms, resettles himself against the
parapet, as resuming a conversation of interest.
"They are still up to it, sir," says Mr. Guppy, "still taking
stock, still examining papers, still going over the heaps and heaps
of rubbish. At this rate they'll be at it these seven years."
"And Small is helping?"
"Small left us at a week's notice. Told Kenge his grandfather's
business was too much for the old gentleman and he could better
himself by undertaking it. There had been a coolness between
myself and Small on account of his being so close. But he said you
and I began it, and as he had me there--for we did--I put our
acquaintance on the old footing. That's how I come to know what
they're up to."
"You haven't looked in at all?"
"Tony," says Mr. Guppy, a little disconcerted, "to be unreserved
with you, I don't greatly relish the house, except in your company,
and therefore I have not; and therefore I proposed this little
appointment for our fetching away your things. There goes the hour
by the clock! Tony"--Mr. Guppy becomes mysteriously and tenderly
eloquent--"it is necessary that I should impress upon your mind
once more that circumstances over which I have no control have made
a melancholy alteration in my most cherished plans and in that
unrequited image which I formerly mentioned to you as a friend.
That image is shattered, and that idol is laid low. My only wish
now in connexion with the objects which I had an idea of carrying
out in the court with your aid as a friend is to let 'em alone and
bury 'em in oblivion. Do you think it possible, do you think it at
all likely (I put it to you, Tony, as a friend), from your
knowledge of that capricious and deep old character who fell a prey
to the--spontaneous element, do you, Tony, think it at all likely
that on second thoughts he put those letters away anywhere, after
you saw him alive, and that they were not destroyed that night?"
Mr. Weevle reflects for some time. Shakes his head. Decidedly
"Tony," says Mr. Guppy as they walk towards the court, "once again
understand me, as a friend. Without entering into further
explanations, I may repeat that the idol is down. I have no
purpose to serve now but burial in oblivion. To that I have
pledged myself. I owe it to myself, and I owe it to the shattered
image, as also to the circumstances over which I have no control.
If you was to express to me by a gesture, by a wink, that you saw
lying anywhere in your late lodgings any papers that so much as
looked like the papers in question, I would pitch them into the
fire, sir, on my own responsibility."
Mr. Weevle nods. Mr. Guppy, much elevated in his own opinion by
having delivered these observations, with an air in part forensic
and in part romantic--this gentleman having a passion for
conducting anything in the form of an examination, or delivering
anything in the form of a summing up or a speech--accompanies his
friend with dignity to the court.
Never since it has been a court has it had such a Fortunatus' purse
of gossip as in the proceedings at the rag and bottle shop.
Regularly, every morning at eight, is the elder Mr. Smallweed
brought down to the corner and carried in, accompanied by Mrs.
Smallweed, Judy, and Bart; and regularly, all day, do they all
remain there until nine at night, solaced by gipsy dinners, not
abundant in quantity, from the cook's shop, rummaging and
searching, digging, delving, and diving among the treasures of the
late lamented. What those treasures are they keep so secret that
the court is maddened. In its delirium it imagines guineas pouring
out of tea-pots, crown-pieces overflowing punch-bowls, old chairs
and mattresses stuffed with Bank of England notes. It possesses
itself of the sixpenny history (with highly coloured folding
frontispiece) of Mr. Daniel Dancer and his sister, and also of Mr.
Elwes, of Suffolk, and transfers all the facts from those authentic
narratives to Mr. Krook. Twice when the dustman is called in to
carry off a cartload of old paper, ashes, and broken bottles, the
whole court assembles and pries into the baskets as they come
forth. Many times the two gentlemen who write with the ravenous
little pens on the tissue-paper are seen prowling in the
neighbourhood--shy of each other, their late partnership being
dissolved. The Sol skilfully carries a vein of the prevailing
interest through the Harmonic nights. Little Swills, in what are
professionally known as "patter" allusions to the subject, is
received with loud applause; and the same vocalist "gags" in the
regular business like a man inspired. Even Miss M. Melvilleson, in
the revived Caledonian melody of "We're a-Nodding," points the
sentiment that "the dogs love broo" (whatever the nature of that
refreshment may be) with such archness and such a turn of the head
towards next door that she is immediately understood to mean Mr.
Smallweed loves to find money, and is nightly honoured with a
double encore. For all this, the court discovers nothing; and as
Mrs. Piper and Mrs. Perkins now communicate to the late lodger whose
appearance is the signal for a general rally, it is in one
continual ferment to discover everything, and more.
Mr. Weevle and Mr. Guppy, with every eye in the court's head upon
them, knock at the closed door of the late lamented's house, in a
high state of popularity. But being contrary to the court's
expectation admitted, they immediately become unpopular and are
considered to mean no good.
The shutters are more or less closed all over the house, and the
ground-floor is sufficiently dark to require candles. Introduced
into the back shop by Mr. Smallweed the younger, they, fresh from
the sunlight, can at first see nothing save darkness and shadows;
but they gradually discern the elder Mr. Smallweed seated in his
chair upon the brink of a well or grave of waste-paper, the
virtuous Judy groping therein like a female sexton, and Mrs.
Smallweed on the level ground in the vicinity snowed up in a heap
of paper fragments, print, and manuscript which would appear to be
the accumulated compliments that have been sent flying at her in
the course of the day. The whole party, Small included, are
blackened with dust and dirt and present a fiendish appearance not
relieved by the general aspect of the room. There is more litter
and lumber in it than of old, and it is dirtier if possible;
likewise, it is ghostly with traces of its dead inhabitant and even
with his chalked writing on the wall.
On the entrance of visitors, Mr. Smallweed and Judy simultaneously
fold their arms and stop in their researches.
"Aha!" croaks the old gentleman. "How de do, gentlemen, how de do!
Come to fetch your property, Mr. Weevle? That's well, that's well.
Ha! Ha! We should have been forced to sell you up, sir, to pay
your warehouse room if you had left it here much longer. You feel
quite at home here again, I dare say? Glad to see you, glad to see
Mr. Weevle, thanking him, casts an eye about. Mr. Guppy's eye
follows Mr. Weevle's eye. Mr. Weevle's eye comes back without any
new intelligence in it. Mr. Guppy's eye comes back and meets Mr.
Smallweed's eye. That engaging old gentleman is still murmuring,
like some wound-up instrument running down, "How de do, sir--how
de--how--" And then having run down, he lapses into grinning
silence, as Mr. Guppy starts at seeing Mr. Tulkinghorn standing in
the darkness opposite with his hands behind him.
"Gentleman so kind as to act as my solicitor," says Grandfather
Smallweed. "I am not the sort of client for a gentleman of such
note, but he is so good!"
Mr. Guppy, slightly nudging his friend to take another look, makes
a shuffling bow to Mr. Tulkinghorn, who returns it with an easy
nod. Mr. Tulkinghorn is looking on as if he had nothing else to do
and were rather amused by the novelty.
"A good deal of property here, sir, I should say," Mr. Guppy
observes to Mr. Smallweed.
"Principally rags and rubbish, my dear friend! Rags and rubbish!
Me and Bart and my granddaughter Judy are endeavouring to make out
an inventory of what's worth anything to sell. But we haven't come
to much as yet; we--haven't--come--to--hah!"
Mr. Smallweed has run down again, while Mr. Weevle's eye, attended
by Mr. Guppy's eye, has again gone round the room and come back.
"Well, sir," says Mr. Weevle. "We won't intrude any longer if
you'll allow us to go upstairs."
"Anywhere, my dear sir, anywhere! You're at home. Make yourself
As they go upstairs, Mr. Guppy lifts his eyebrows inquiringly and
looks at Tony. Tony shakes his head. They find the old room very
dull and dismal, with the ashes of the fire that was burning on
that memorable night yet in the discoloured grate. They have a
great disinclination to touch any object, and carefully blow the
dust from it first. Nor are they desirous to prolong their visit,
packing the few movables with all possible speed and never speaking
above a whisper.
"Look here," says Tony, recoiling. "Here's that horrible cat
Mr. Guppy retreats behind a chair. "Small told me of her. She
went leaping and bounding and tearing about that night like a
dragon, and got out on the house-top, and roamed about up there for
a fortnight, and then came tumbling down the chimney very thin.
Did you ever see such a brute? Looks as if she knew all about it,
don't she? Almost looks as if she was Krook. Shoohoo! Get out,
Lady Jane, in the doorway, with her tiger snarl from ear to ear and
her club of a tail, shows no intention of obeying; but Mr.
Tulkinghorn stumbling over her, she spits at his rusty legs, and
swearing wrathfully, takes her arched back upstairs. Possibly to
roam the house-tops again and return by the chimney.
"Mr. Guppy," says Mr. Tulkinghorn, "could I have a word with you?"
Mr. Guppy is engaged in collecting the Galaxy Gallery of British
Beauty from the wall and depositing those works of art in their old
ignoble band-box. "Sir," he returns, reddening, "I wish to act
with courtesy towards every member of the profession, and
especially, I am sure, towards a member of it so well known as
yourself--I will truly add, sir, so distinguished as yourself.
Still, Mr. Tulkinghorn, sir, I must stipulate that if you have any
word with me, that word is spoken in the presence of my friend."
"Oh, indeed?" says Mr. Tulkinghorn.
"Yes, sir. My reasons are not of a personal nature at all, but
they are amply sufficient for myself."
"No doubt, no doubt." Mr. Tulkinghorn is as imperturbable as the
hearthstone to which he has quietly walked. "The matter is not of
that consequence that I need put you to the trouble of making any
conditions, Mr. Guppy." He pauses here to smile, and his smile is
as dull and rusty as his pantaloons. "You are to be congratulated,
Mr. Guppy; you are a fortunate young man, sir."
"Pretty well so, Mr. Tulkinghorn; I don't complain."
"Complain? High friends, free admission to great houses, and
access to elegant ladies! Why, Mr. Guppy, there are people in
London who would give their ears to be you."
Mr. Guppy, looking as if he would give his own reddening and still
reddening ears to be one of those people at present instead of
himself, replies, "Sir, if I attend to my profession and do what is
right by Kenge and Carboy, my friends and acquaintances are of no
consequence to them nor to any member of the profession, not
excepting Mr. Tulkinghorn of the Fields. I am not under any
obligation to explain myself further; and with all respect for you,
sir, and without offence--I repeat, without offence--"
"--I don't intend to do it."
"Quite so," says Mr. Tulkinghorn with a calm nod. "Very good; I
see by these portraits that you take a strong interest in the
fashionable great, sir?"
He addresses this to the astounded Tony, who admits the soft
"A virtue in which few Englishmen are deficient," observes Mr.
Tulkinghorn. He has been standing on the hearthstone with his back
to the smoked chimney-piece, and now turns round with his glasses
to his eyes. "Who is this? 'Lady Dedlock.' Ha! A very good
likeness in its way, but it wants force of character. Good day to
you, gentlemen; good day!"
When he has walked out, Mr. Guppy, in a great perspiration, nerves
himself to the hasty completion of the taking down of the Galaxy
Gallery, concluding with Lady Dedlock.
"Tony," he says hurriedly to his astonished companion, "let us be
quick in putting the things together and in getting out of this
place. It were in vain longer to conceal from you, Tony, that
between myself and one of the members of a swan-like aristocracy
whom I now hold in my hand, there has been undivulged communication
and association. The time might have been when I might have
revealed it to you. It never will be more. It is due alike to the
oath I have taken, alike to the shattered idol, and alike to
circumstances over which I have no control, that the whole should
be buried in oblivion. I charge you as a friend, by the interest
you have ever testified in the fashionable intelligence, and by any
little advances with which I may have been able to accommodate you,
so to bury it without a word of inquiry!"
This charge Mr. Guppy delivers in a state little short of forensic
lunacy, while his friend shows a dazed mind in his whole head of
hair and even in his cultivated whiskers.
National and Domestic
England has been in a dreadful state for some weeks. Lord Coodle
would go out, Sir Thomas Doodle wouldn't come in, and there being
nobody in Great Britain (to speak of) except Coodle and Doodle,
there has been no government. It is a mercy that the hostile
meeting between those two great men, which at one time seemed
inevitable, did not come off, because if both pistols had taken
effect, and Coodle and Doodle had killed each other, it is to be
presumed that England must have waited to be governed until young
Coodle and young Doodle, now in frocks and long stockings, were
grown up. This stupendous national calamity, however, was averted
by Lord Coodle's making the timely discovery that if in the heat of
debate he had said that he scorned and despised the whole ignoble
career of Sir Thomas Doodle, he had merely meant to say that party
differences should never induce him to withhold from it the tribute
of his warmest admiration; while it as opportunely turned out, on
the other hand, that Sir Thomas Doodle had in his own bosom
expressly booked Lord Coodle to go down to posterity as the mirror
of virtue and honour. Still England has been some weeks in the
dismal strait of having no pilot (as was well observed by Sir
Leicester Dedlock) to weather the storm; and the marvellous part of
the matter is that England has not appeared to care very much about
it, but has gone on eating and drinking and marrying and giving in
marriage as the old world did in the days before the flood. But
Coodle knew the danger, and Doodle knew the danger, and all their
followers and hangers-on had the clearest possible perception of
the danger. At last Sir Thomas Doodle has not only condescended to
come in, but has done it handsomely, bringing in with him all his
nephews, all his male cousins, and all his brothers-in-law. So
there is hope for the old ship yet.
Doodle has found that he must throw himself upon the country,
chiefly in the form of sovereigns and beer. In this metamorphosed
state he is available in a good many places simultaneously and can
throw himself upon a considerable portion of the country at one
time. Britannia being much occupied in pocketing Doodle in the
form of sovereigns, and swallowing Doodle in the form of beer, and
in swearing herself black in the face that she does neither--
plainly to the advancement of her glory and morality--the London
season comes to a sudden end, through all the Doodleites and
Coodleites dispersing to assist Britannia in those religious
Hence Mrs. Rouncewell, housekeeper at Chesney Wold, foresees,
though no instructions have yet come down, that the family may
shortly be expected, together with a pretty large accession
of cousins and others who can in any way assist the great
Constitutional work. And hence the stately old dame, taking Time
by the forelock, leads him up and down the staircases, and along
the galleries and passages, and through the rooms, to witness
before he grows any older that everything is ready, that floors are
rubbed bright, carpets spread, curtains shaken out, beds puffed and
patted, still-room and kitchen cleared for action--all things
prepared as beseems the Dedlock dignity.
This present summer evening, as the sun goes down, the preparations
are complete. Dreary and solemn the old house looks, with so many
appliances of habitation and with no inhabitants except the
pictured forms upon the walls. So did these come and go, a Dedlock
in possession might have ruminated passing along; so did they see
this gallery hushed and quiet, as I see it now; so think, as I
think, of the gap that they would make in this domain when they
were gone; so find it, as I find it, difficult to believe that it
could be without them; so pass from my world, as I pass from
theirs, now closing the reverberating door; so leave no blank to
miss them, and so die.
Through some of the fiery windows beautiful from without, and set,
at this sunset hour, not in dull-grey stone but in a glorious house
of gold, the light excluded at other windows pours in rich, lavish,
overflowing like the summer plenty in the land. Then do the frozen
Dedlocks thaw. Strange movements come upon their features as the
shadows of leaves play there. A dense justice in a corner is
beguiled into a wink. A staring baronet, with a truncheon, gets a
dimple in his chin. Down into the bosom of a stony shepherdess
there steals a fleck of light and warmth that would have done it
good a hundred years ago. One ancestress of Volumnia, in high-
heeled shoes, very like her--casting the shadow of that virgin
event before her full two centuries--shoots out into a halo and
becomes a saint. A maid of honour of the court of Charles the
Second, with large round eyes (and other charms to correspond),
seems to bathe in glowing water, and it ripples as it glows.
But the fire of the sun is dying. Even now the floor is dusky, and
shadow slowly mounts the walls, bringing the Dedlocks down like age
and death. And now, upon my Lady's picture over the great chimney-
piece, a weird shade falls from some old tree, that turns it pale,
and flutters it, and looks as if a great arm held a veil or hood,
watching an opportunity to draw it over her. Higher and darker