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Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Part 8 out of 21

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Allegory looks pretty cool in Lincoln's Inn Fields, though the
evening is hot, for both Mr. Tulkinghorn's windows are wide open,
and the room is lofty, gusty, and gloomy. These may not be
desirable characteristics when November comes with fog and sleet or
January with ice and snow, but they have their merits in the sultry
long vacation weather. They enable Allegory, though it has cheeks
like peaches, and knees like bunches of blossoms, and rosy
swellings for calves to its legs and muscles to its arms, to look
tolerably cool to-night.

Plenty of dust comes in at Mr. Tulkinghorn's windows, and plenty
more has generated among his furniture and papers. It lies thick
everywhere. When a breeze from the country that has lost its way
takes fright and makes a blind hurry to rush out again, it flings
as much dust in the eyes of Allegory as the law--or Mr. Tulkinghorn,
one of its trustiest representatives--may scatter, on occasion, in
the eyes of the laity.

In his lowering magazine of dust, the universal article into which
his papers and himself, and all his clients, and all things of
earth, animate and inanimate, are resolving, Mr. Tulkinghorn sits
at one of the open windows enjoying a bottle of old port. Though a
hard-grained man, close, dry, and silent, he can enjoy old wine
with the best. He has a priceless bin of port in some artful
cellar under the Fields, which is one of his many secrets. When he
dines alone in chambers, as he has dined to-day, and has his bit of
fish and his steak or chicken brought in from the coffee-house, he
descends with a candle to the echoing regions below the deserted
mansion, and heralded by a remote reverberation of thundering
doors, comes gravely back encircled by an earthy atmosphere and
carrying a bottle from which he pours a radiant nectar, two score
and ten years old, that blushes in the glass to find itself so
famous and fills the whole room with the fragrance of southern

Mr. Tulkinghorn, sitting in the twilight by the open window, enjoys
his wine. As if it whispered to him of its fifty years of silence
and seclusion, it shuts him up the closer. More impenetrable than
ever, he sits, and drinks, and mellows as it were in secrecy,
pondering at that twilight hour on all the mysteries he knows,
associated with darkening woods in the country, and vast blank
shut-up houses in town, and perhaps sparing a thought or two for
himself, and his family history, and his money, and his will--all a
mystery to every one--and that one bachelor friend of his, a man of
the same mould and a lawyer too, who lived the same kind of life
until he was seventy-five years old, and then suddenly conceiving
(as it is supposed) an impression that it was too monotonous, gave
his gold watch to his hair-dresser one summer evening and walked
leisurely home to the Temple and hanged himself.

But Mr. Tulkinghorn is not alone to-night to ponder at his usual
length. Seated at the same table, though with his chair modestly
and uncomfortably drawn a little way from it, sits a bald, mild,
shining man who coughs respectfully behind his hand when the lawyer
bids him fill his glass.

"Now, Snagsby," says Mr. Tulkinghorn, "to go over this odd story

"If you please, sir."

"You told me when you were so good as to step round here last

"For which I must ask you to excuse me if it was a liberty, sir;
but I remember that you had taken a sort of an interest in that
person, and I thought it possible that you might--just--wish--to--"

Mr. Tulkinghorn is not the man to help him to any conclusion or to
admit anything as to any possibility concerning himself. So Mr.
Snagsby trails off into saying, with an awkward cough, "I must ask
you to excuse the liberty, sir, I am sure."

"Not at all," says Mr. Tulkinghorn. "You told me, Snagsby, that
you put on your hat and came round without mentioning your
intention to your wife. That was prudent I think, because it's not
a matter of such importance that it requires to be mentioned."

"Well, sir," returns Mr. Snagsby, "you see, my little woman is--not
to put too fine a point upon it--inquisitive. She's inquisitive.
Poor little thing, she's liable to spasms, and it's good for her to
have her mind employed. In consequence of which she employs it--I
should say upon every individual thing she can lay hold of, whether
it concerns her or not--especially not. My little woman has a very
active mind, sir."

Mr. Snagsby drinks and murmurs with an admiring cough behind his
hand, "Dear me, very fine wine indeed!"

"Therefore you kept your visit to yourself last night?" says Mr.
Tulkinghorn. "And to-night too?"

"Yes, sir, and to-night, too. My little woman is at present in--
not to put too fine a point on it--in a pious state, or in what she
considers such, and attends the Evening Exertions (which is the
name they go by) of a reverend party of the name of Chadband. He
has a great deal of eloquence at his command, undoubtedly, but I am
not quite favourable to his style myself. That's neither here nor
there. My little woman being engaged in that way made it easier
for me to step round in a quiet manner."

Mr. Tulkinghorn assents. "Fill your glass, Snagsby."

"Thank you, sir, I am sure," returns the stationer with his cough
of deference. "This is wonderfully fine wine, sir!"

"It is a rare wine now," says Mr. Tulkinghorn. "It is fifty years

"Is it indeed, sir? But I am not surprised to hear it, I am sure.
It might be--any age almost." After rendering this general tribute
to the port, Mr. Snagsby in his modesty coughs an apology behind
his hand for drinking anything so precious.

"Will you run over, once again, what the boy said?" asks Mr.
Tulkinghorn, putting his hands into the pockets of his rusty
smallclothes and leaning quietly back in his chair.

"With pleasure, sir."

Then, with fidelity, though with some prolixity, the law-stationer
repeats Jo's statement made to the assembled guests at his house.
On coming to the end of his narrative, he gives a great start and
breaks off with, "Dear me, sir, I wasn't aware there was any other
gentleman present!"

Mr. Snagsby is dismayed to see, standing with an attentive face
between himself and the lawyer at a little distance from the table,
a person with a hat and stick in his hand who was not there when he
himself came in and has not since entered by the door or by either
of the windows. There is a press in the room, but its hinges have
not creaked, nor has a step been audible upon the floor. Yet this
third person stands there with his attentive face, and his hat and
stick in his hands, and his hands behind him, a composed and quiet
listener. He is a stoutly built, steady-looking, sharp-eyed man in
black, of about the middle-age. Except that he looks at Mr.
Snagsby as if he were going to take his portrait, there is nothing
remarkable about him at first sight but his ghostly manner of

"Don't mind this gentleman," says Mr. Tulkinghorn in his quiet way.
"This is only Mr. Bucket."

"Oh, indeed, sir?" returns the stationer, expressing by a cough
that he is quite in the dark as to who Mr. Bucket may be.

"I wanted him to hear this story," says the lawyer, "because I have
half a mind (for a reason) to know more of it, and he is very
intelligent in such things. What do you say to this, Bucket?"

"It's very plain, sir. Since our people have moved this boy on,
and he's not to be found on his old lay, if Mr. Snagsby don't
object to go down with me to Tom-all-Alone's and point him out, we
can have him here in less than a couple of hours' time. I can do
it without Mr. Snagsby, of course, but this is the shortest way."

"Mr. Bucket is a detective officer, Snagsby," says the lawyer in

"Is he indeed, sir?" says Mr. Snagsby with a strong tendency in his
clump of hair to stand on end.

"And if you have no real objection to accompany Mr. Bucket to the
place in question," pursues the lawyer, "I shall feel obliged to
you if you will do so."

In a moment's hesitation on the part of Mr. Snagsby, Bucket dips
down to the bottom of his mind.

"Don't you be afraid of hurting the boy," he says. "You won't do
that. It's all right as far as the boy's concerned. We shall only
bring him here to ask him a question or so I want to put to him,
and he'll be paid for his trouble and sent away again. It'll be a
good job for him. I promise you, as a man, that you shall see the
boy sent away all right. Don't you be afraid of hurting him; you
an't going to do that."

"Very well, Mr. Tulkinghorn!" cries Mr. Snagsby cheerfully. And
reassured, "Since that's the case--"

"Yes! And lookee here, Mr. Snagsby," resumes Bucket, taking him
aside by the arm, tapping him familiarly on the breast, and
speaking in a confidential tone. "You're a man of the world, you
know, and a man of business, and a man of sense. That's what YOU

"I am sure I am much obliged to you for your good opinion," returns
the stationer with his cough of modesty, "but--"

"That's what YOU are, you know," says Bucket. "Now, it an't
necessary to say to a man like you, engaged in your business, which
is a business of trust and requires a person to be wide awake and
have his senses about him and his head screwed on tight (I had an
uncle in your business once)--it an't necessary to say to a man
like you that it's the best and wisest way to keep little matters
like this quiet. Don't you see? Quiet!"

"Certainly, certainly," returns the other.

"I don't mind telling YOU," says Bucket with an engaging appearance
of frankness, "that as far as I can understand it, there seems to
be a doubt whether this dead person wasn't entitled to a little
property, and whether this female hasn't been up to some games
respecting that property, don't you see?"

"Oh!" says Mr. Snagsby, but not appearing to see quite distinctly.

"Now, what YOU want," pursues Bucket, again tapping Mr. Snagsby on
the breast in a comfortable and soothing manner, "is that every
person should have their rights according to justice. That's what
YOU want."

"To be sure," returns Mr. Snagsby with a nod.

"On account of which, and at the same time to oblige a--do you call
it, in your business, customer or client? I forget how my uncle
used to call it."

"Why, I generally say customer myself," replies Mr. Snagsby.

"You're right!" returns Mr. Bucket, shaking hands with him quite
affectionately. "--On account of which, and at the same time to
oblige a real good customer, you mean to go down with me, in
confidence, to Tom-all-Alone's and to keep the whole thing quiet
ever afterwards and never mention it to any one. That's about your
intentions, if I understand you?"

"You are right, sir. You are right," says Mr. Snagsby.

"Then here's your hat," returns his new friend, quite as intimate
with it as if he had made it; "and if you're ready, I am."

They leave Mr. Tulkinghorn, without a ruffle on the surface of his
unfathomable depths, drinking his old wine, and go down into the

"You don't happen to know a very good sort of person of the name of
Gridley, do you?" says Bucket in friendly converse as they descend
the stairs.

"No," says Mr. Snagsby, considering, "I don't know anybody of that
name. Why?"

"Nothing particular," says Bucket; "only having allowed his temper
to get a little the better of him and having been threatening some
respectable people, he is keeping out of the way of a warrant I
have got against him--which it's a pity that a man of sense should

As they walk along, Mr. Snagsby observes, as a novelty, that
however quick their pace may be, his companion still seems in some
undefinable manner to lurk and lounge; also, that whenever he is
going to turn to the right or left, he pretends to have a fixed
purpose in his mind of going straight ahead, and wheels off,
sharply, at the very last moment. Now and then, when they pass a
police-constable on his beat, Mr. Snagsby notices that both the
constable and his guide fall into a deep abstraction as they come
towards each other, and appear entirely to overlook each other, and
to gaze into space. In a few instances, Mr. Bucket, coming behind
some under-sized young man with a shining hat on, and his sleek
hair twisted into one flat curl on each side of his head, almost
without glancing at him touches him with his stick, upon which the
young man, looking round, instantly evaporates. For the most part
Mr. Bucket notices things in general, with a face as unchanging as
the great mourning ring on his little finger or the brooch,
composed of not much diamond and a good deal of setting, which he
wears in his shirt.

When they come at last to Tom-all-Alone's, Mr. Bucket stops for a
moment at the corner and takes a lighted bull's-eye from the
constable on duty there, who then accompanies him with his own
particular bull's-eye at his waist. Between his two conductors,
Mr. Snagsby passes along the middle of a villainous street,
undrained, unventilated, deep in black mud and corrupt water--
though the roads are dry elsewhere--and reeking with such smells
and sights that he, who has lived in London all his life, can
scarce believe his senses. Branching from this street and its
heaps of ruins are other streets and courts so infamous that Mr.
Snagsby sickens in body and mind and feels as if he were going
every moment deeper down into the infernal gulf.

"Draw off a bit here, Mr. Snagsby," says Bucket as a kind of shabby
palanquin is borne towards them, surrounded by a noisy crowd.
"Here's the fever coming up the street!"

As the unseen wretch goes by, the crowd, leaving that object of
attraction, hovers round the three visitors like a dream of
horrible faces and fades away up alleys and into ruins and behind
walls, and with occasional cries and shrill whistles of warning,
thenceforth flits about them until they leave the place.

"Are those the fever-houses, Darby?" Mr. Bucket coolly asks as he
turns his bull's-eye on a line of stinking ruins.

Darby replies that "all them are," and further that in all, for
months and months, the people "have been down by dozens" and have
been carried out dead and dying "like sheep with the rot." Bucket
observing to Mr. Snagsby as they go on again that he looks a little
poorly, Mr. Snagsby answers that he feels as if he couldn't breathe
the dreadful air.

There is inquiry made at various houses for a boy named Jo. As few
people are known in Tom-all-Alone's by any Christian sign, there is
much reference to Mr. Snagsby whether he means Carrots, or the
Colonel, or Gallows, or Young Chisel, or Terrier Tip, or Lanky, or
the Brick. Mr. Snagsby describes over and over again. There are
conflicting opinions respecting the original of his picture. Some
think it must be Carrots, some say the Brick. The Colonel is
produced, but is not at all near the thing. Whenever Mr. Snagsby
and his conductors are stationary, the crowd flows round, and from
its squalid depths obsequious advice heaves up to Mr. Bucket.
Whenever they move, and the angry bull's-eyes glare, it fades away
and flits about them up the alleys, and in the ruins, and behind
the walls, as before.

At last there is a lair found out where Toughy, or the Tough
Subject, lays him down at night; and it is thought that the Tough
Subject may be Jo. Comparison of notes between Mr. Snagsby and the
proprietress of the house--a drunken face tied up in a black
bundle, and flaring out of a heap of rags on the floor of a dog-
hutch which is her private apartment--leads to the establishment of
this conclusion. Toughy has gone to the doctor's to get a bottle
of stuff for a sick woman but will be here anon.

"And who have we got here to-night?" says Mr. Bucket, opening
another door and glaring in with his bull's-eye. "Two drunken men,
eh? And two women? The men are sound enough," turning back each
sleeper's arm from his face to look at him. "Are these your good
men, my dears?"

"Yes, sir," returns one of the women. "They are our husbands."

"Brickmakers, eh?"

"Yes, sir."

"What are you doing here? You don't belong to London."

"No, sir. We belong to Hertfordshire."

"Whereabouts in Hertfordshire?"

"Saint Albans."

"Come up on the tramp?"

"We walked up yesterday. There's no work down with us at present,
but we have done no good by coming here, and shall do none, I

"That's not the way to do much good," says Mr. Bucket, turning his
head in the direction of the unconscious figures on the ground.

"It an't indeed," replies the woman with a sigh. "Jenny and me
knows it full well."

The room, though two or three feet higher than the door, is so low
that the head of the tallest of the visitors would touch the
blackened ceiling if he stood upright. It is offensive to every
sense; even the gross candle burns pale and sickly in the polluted
air. There are a couple of benches and a higher bench by way of
table. The men lie asleep where they stumbled down, but the women
sit by the candle. Lying in the arms of the woman who has spoken
is a very young child.

"Why, what age do you call that little creature?" says Bucket. "It
looks as if it was born yesterday." He is not at all rough about
it; and as he turns his light gently on the infant, Mr. Snagsby is
strangely reminded of another infant, encircled with light, that he
has seen in pictures.

"He is not three weeks old yet, sir," says the woman.

"Is he your child?"


The other woman, who was bending over it when they came in, stoops
down again and kisses it as it lies asleep.

"You seem as fond of it as if you were the mother yourself," says
Mr. Bucket.

"I was the mother of one like it, master, and it died."

"Ah, Jenny, Jenny!" says the other woman to her. "Better so. Much
better to think of dead than alive, Jenny! Much better!"

"Why, you an't such an unnatural woman, I hope," returns Bucket
sternly, "as to wish your own child dead?"

"God knows you are right, master," she returns. "I am not. I'd
stand between it and death with my own life if I could, as true as
any pretty lady."

"Then don't talk in that wrong manner," says Mr. Bucket, mollified
again. "Why do you do it?"

"It's brought into my head, master," returns the woman, her eyes
filling with tears, "when I look down at the child lying so. If it
was never to wake no more, you'd think me mad, I should take on so.
I know that very well. I was with Jenny when she lost hers--warn't
I, Jenny?--and I know how she grieved. But look around you at this
place. Look at them," glancing at the sleepers on the ground.
"Look at the boy you're waiting for, who's gone out to do me a good
turn. Think of the children that your business lays with often and
often, and that YOU see grow up!"

"Well, well," says Mr. Bucket, "you train him respectable, and
he'll be a comfort to you, and look after you in your old age, you

"I mean to try hard," she answers, wiping her eyes. "But I have
been a-thinking, being over-tired to-night and not well with the
ague, of all the many things that'll come in his way. My master
will be against it, and he'll be beat, and see me beat, and made to
fear his home, and perhaps to stray wild. If I work for him ever
so much, and ever so hard, there's no one to help me; and if he
should be turned bad 'spite of all I could do, and the time should
come when I should sit by him in his sleep, made hard and changed,
an't it likely I should think of him as he lies in my lap now and
wish he had died as Jenny's child died!"

"There, there!" says Jenny. "Liz, you're tired and ill. Let me
take him."

In doing so, she displaces the mother's dress, but quickly
readjusts it over the wounded and bruised bosom where the baby has
been lying.

"It's my dead child," says Jenny, walking up and down as she
nurses, "that makes me love this child so dear, and it's my dead
child that makes her love it so dear too, as even to think of its
being taken away from her now. While she thinks that, I think what
fortune would I give to have my darling back. But we mean the same
thing, if we knew how to say it, us two mothers does in our poor

As Mr. Snagsby blows his nose and coughs his cough of sympathy, a
step is heard without. Mr. Bucket throws his light into the
doorway and says to Mr. Snagsby, "Now, what do you say to Toughy?
Will HE do?"

"That's Jo," says Mr. Snagsby.

Jo stands amazed in the disk of light, like a ragged figure in a
magic-lantern, trembling to think that he has offended against the
law in not having moved on far enough. Mr. Snagsby, however,
giving him the consolatory assurance, "It's only a job you will be
paid for, Jo," he recovers; and on being taken outside by Mr.
Bucket for a little private confabulation, tells his tale
satisfactorily, though out of breath.

"I have squared it with the lad," says Mr. Bucket, returning, "and
it's all right. Now, Mr. Snagsby, we're ready for you."

First, Jo has to complete his errand of good nature by handing over
the physic he has been to get, which he delivers with the laconic
verbal direction that "it's to be all took d'rectly." Secondly,
Mr. Snagsby has to lay upon the table half a crown, his usual
panacea for an immense variety of afflictions. Thirdly, Mr. Bucket
has to take Jo by the arm a little above the elbow and walk him on
before him, without which observance neither the Tough Subject nor
any other Subject could be professionally conducted to Lincoln's
Inn Fields. These arrangements completed, they give the women good
night and come out once more into black and foul Tom-all-Alone's.

By the noisome ways through which they descended into that pit,
they gradually emerge from it, the crowd flitting, and whistling,
and skulking about them until they come to the verge, where
restoration of the bull's-eyes is made to Darby. Here the crowd,
like a concourse of imprisoned demons, turns back, yelling, and is
seen no more. Through the clearer and fresher streets, never so
clear and fresh to Mr. Snagsby's mind as now, they walk and ride
until they come to Mr. Tulkinghorn's gate.

As they ascend the dim stairs (Mr. Tulkinghorn's chambers being on
the first floor), Mr. Bucket mentions that he has the key of the
outer door in his pocket and that there is no need to ring. For a
man so expert in most things of that kind, Bucket takes time to
open the door and makes some noise too. It may be that he sounds a
note of preparation.

Howbeit, they come at last into the hall, where a lamp is burning,
and so into Mr. Tulkinghorn's usual room--the room where he drank
his old wine to-night. He is not there, but his two old-fashioned
candlesticks are, and the room is tolerably light.

Mr. Bucket, still having his professional hold of Jo and appearing
to Mr. Snagsby to possess an unlimited number of eyes, makes a
little way into this room, when Jo starts and stops.

"What's the matter?" says Bucket in a whisper.

"There she is!" cries Jo.


"The lady!"

A female figure, closely veiled, stands in the middle of the room,
where the light falls upon it. It is quite still and silent. The
front of the figure is towards them, but it takes no notice of
their entrance and remains like a statue.

"Now, tell me," says Bucket aloud, "how you know that to be the

"I know the wale," replies Jo, staring, "and the bonnet, and the

"Be quite sure of what you say, Tough," returns Bucket, narrowly
observant of him. "Look again."

"I am a-looking as hard as ever I can look," says Jo with starting
eyes, "and that there's the wale, the bonnet, and the gownd."

"What about those rings you told me of?" asks Bucket.

"A-sparkling all over here," says Jo, rubbing the fingers of his
left hand on the knuckles of his right without taking his eyes from
the figure.

The figure removes the right-hand glove and shows the hand.

"Now, what do you say to that?" asks Bucket.

Jo shakes his head. "Not rings a bit like them. Not a hand like

"What are you talking of?" says Bucket, evidently pleased though,
and well pleased too.

"Hand was a deal whiter, a deal delicater, and a deal smaller,"
returns Jo.

"Why, you'll tell me I'm my own mother next," says Mr. Bucket. "Do
you recollect the lady's voice?"

"I think I does," says Jo.

The figure speaks. "Was it at all like this? I will speak as long
as you like if you are not sure. Was it this voice, or at all like
this voice?"

Jo looks aghast at Mr. Bucket. "Not a bit!"

"Then, what," retorts that worthy, pointing to the figure, "did you
say it was the lady for?"

"Cos," says Jo with a perplexed stare but without being at all
shaken in his certainty, "cos that there's the wale, the bonnet,
and the gownd. It is her and it an't her. It an't her hand, nor
yet her rings, nor yet her woice. But that there's the wale, the
bonnet, and the gownd, and they're wore the same way wot she wore
'em, and it's her height wot she wos, and she giv me a sov'ring and
hooked it."

"Well!" says Mr. Bucket slightly, "we haven't got much good out of
YOU. But, however, here's five shillings for you. Take care how
you spend it, and don't get yourself into trouble." Bucket
stealthily tells the coins from one hand into the other like
counters--which is a way he has, his principal use of them being in
these games of skill--and then puts them, in a little pile, into
the boy's hand and takes him out to the door, leaving Mr. Snagsby,
not by any means comfortable under these mysterious circumstances,
alone with the veiled figure. But on Mr. Tulkinghorn's coming into
the room, the veil is raised and a sufficiently good-looking
Frenchwoman is revealed, though her expression is something of the

"Thank you, Mademoiselle Hortense," says Mr. Tulkinghorn with his
usual equanimity. "I will give you no further trouble about this
little wager."

"You will do me the kindness to remember, sir, that I am not at
present placed?" says mademoiselle.

"Certainly, certainly!"

"And to confer upon me the favour of your distinguished

"By all means, Mademoiselle Hortense."

"A word from Mr. Tulkinghorn is so powerful."

"It shall not be wanting, mademoiselle."

"Receive the assurance of my devoted gratitude, dear sir."

"Good night."

Mademoiselle goes out with an air of native gentility; and Mr.
Bucket, to whom it is, on an emergency, as natural to be groom of
the ceremonies as it is to be anything else, shows her downstairs,
not without gallantry.

"Well, Bucket?" quoth Mr. Tulkinghorn on his return.

"It's all squared, you see, as I squared it myself, sir. There
an't a doubt that it was the other one with this one's dress on.
The boy was exact respecting colours and everything. Mr. Snagsby,
I promised you as a man that he should be sent away all right.
Don't say it wasn't done!"

"You have kept your word, sir," returns the stationer; "and if I
can be of no further use, Mr. Tulkinghorn, I think, as my little
woman will be getting anxious--"

"Thank you, Snagsby, no further use," says Mr. Tulkinghorn. "I am
quite indebted to you for the trouble you have taken already."

"Not at all, sir. I wish you good night."

"You see, Mr. Snagsby," says Mr. Bucket, accompanying him to the
door and shaking hands with him over and over again, "what I like
in you is that you're a man it's of no use pumping; that's what YOU
are. When you know you have done a right thing, you put it away,
and it's done with and gone, and there's an end of it. That's what
YOU do."

"That is certainly what I endeavour to do, sir," returns Mr.

"No, you don't do yourself justice. It an't what you endeavour to
do," says Mr. Bucket, shaking hands with him and blessing him in
the tenderest manner, "it's what you DO. That's what I estimate in
a man in your way of business."

Mr. Snagsby makes a suitable response and goes homeward so confused
by the events of the evening that he is doubtful of his being awake
and out--doubtful of the reality of the streets through which he
goes--doubtful of the reality of the moon that shines above him.
He is presently reassured on these subjects by the unchallengeable
reality of Mrs. Snagsby, sitting up with her head in a perfect
beehive of curl-papers and night-cap, who has dispatched Guster to
the police-station with official intelligence of her husband's
being made away with, and who within the last two hours has passed
through every stage of swooning with the greatest decorum. But as
the little woman feelingly says, many thanks she gets for it!


Esther's Narrative

We came home from Mr. Boythorn's after six pleasant weeks. We were
often in the park and in the woods and seldom passed the lodge
where we had taken shelter without looking in to speak to the
keeper's wife; but we saw no more of Lady Dedlock, except at church
on Sundays. There was company at Chesney Wold; and although
several beautiful faces surrounded her, her face retained the same
influence on me as at first. I do not quite know even now whether
it was painful or pleasurable, whether it drew me towards her or
made me shrink from her. I think I admired her with a kind of
fear, and I know that in her presence my thoughts always wandered
back, as they had done at first, to that old time of my life.

I had a fancy, on more than one of these Sundays, that what this
lady so curiously was to me, I was to her--I mean that I disturbed
her thoughts as she influenced mine, though in some different way.
But when I stole a glance at her and saw her so composed and
distant and unapproachable, I felt this to be a foolish weakness.
Indeed, I felt the whole state of my mind in reference to her to be
weak and unreasonable, and I remonstrated with myself about it as
much as I could.

One incident that occurred before we quitted Mr. Boythorn's house,
I had better mention in this place.

I was walking in the garden with Ada and when I was told that some
one wished to see me. Going into the breakfast-room where this
person was waiting, I found it to be the French maid who had cast
off her shoes and walked through the wet grass on the day when it
thundered and lightened.

"Mademoiselle," she began, looking fixedly at me with her too-eager
eyes, though otherwise presenting an agreeable appearance and
speaking neither with boldness nor servility, "I have taken a great
liberty in coming here, but you know how to excuse it, being so
amiable, mademoiselle."

"No excuse is necessary," I returned, "if you wish to speak to me."

"That is my desire, mademoiselle. A thousand thanks for the
permission. I have your leave to speak. Is it not?" she said in a
quick, natural way.

"Certainly," said I.

"Mademoiselle, you are so amiable! Listen then, if you please. I
have left my Lady. We could not agree. My Lady is so high, so
very high. Pardon! Mademoiselle, you are right!" Her quickness
anticipated what I might have said presently but as yet had only
thought. "It is not for me to come here to complain of my Lady.
But I say she is so high, so very high. I will not say a word
more. All the world knows that."

"Go on, if you please," said I.

"Assuredly; mademoiselle, I am thankful for your politeness.
Mademoiselle, I have an inexpressible desire to find service with a
young lady who is good, accomplished, beautiful. You are good,
accomplished, and beautiful as an angel. Ah, could I have the
honour of being your domestic!"

"I am sorry--" I began.

"Do not dismiss me so soon, mademoiselle!" she said with an
involuntary contraction of her fine black eyebrows. "Let me hope a
moment! Mademoiselle, I know this service would be more retired
than that which I have quitted. Well! I wish that. I know this
service would be less distinguished than that which I have quitted.
Well! I wish that, I know that I should win less, as to wages here.
Good. I am content."

"I assure you," said I, quite embarrassed by the mere idea of
having such an attendant, "that I keep no maid--"

"Ah, mademoiselle, but why not? Why not, when you can have one so
devoted to you! Who would be enchanted to serve you; who would be
so true, so zealous, and so faithful every day! Mademoiselle, I
wish with all my heart to serve you. Do not speak of money at
present. Take me as I am. For nothing!"

She was so singularly earnest that I drew back, almost afraid of
her. Without appearing to notice it, in her ardour she still
pressed herself upon me, speaking in a rapid subdued voice, though
always with a certain grace and propriety.

"Mademoiselle, I come from the South country where we are quick and
where we like and dislike very strong. My Lady was too high for
me; I was too high for her. It is done--past--finished! Receive
me as your domestic, and I will serve you well. I will do more for
you than you figure to yourself now. Chut! Mademoiselle, I will--
no matter, I will do my utmost possible in all things. If you
accept my service, you will not repent it. Mademoiselle, you will
not repent it, and I will serve you well. You don't know how

There was a lowering energy in her face as she stood looking at me
while I explained the impossibility of my engaging her (without
thinking it necessary to say how very little I desired to do so),
which seemed to bring visibly before me some woman from the streets
of Paris in the reign of terror.

She heard me out without interruption and then said with her pretty
accent and in her mildest voice, "Hey, mademoiselle, I have
received my answer! I am sorry of it. But I must go elsewhere and
seek what I have not found here. Will you graciously let me kiss
your hand?"

She looked at me more intently as she took it, and seemed to take
note, with her momentary touch, of every vein in it. "I fear I
surprised you, mademoiselle, on the day of the storm?" she said
with a parting curtsy.

I confessed that she had surprised us all.

"I took an oath, mademoiselle," she said, smiling, "and I wanted to
stamp it on my mind so that I might keep it faithfully. And I
will! Adieu, mademoiselle!"

So ended our conference, which I was very glad to bring to a close.
I supposed she went away from the village, for I saw her no more;
and nothing else occurred to disturb our tranquil summer pleasures
until six weeks were out and we returned home as I began just now
by saying.

At that time, and for a good many weeks after that time, Richard
was constant in his visits. Besides coming every Saturday or
Sunday and remaining with us until Monday morning, he sometimes
rode out on horseback unexpectedly and passed the evening with us
and rode back again early next day. He was as vivacious as ever
and told us he was very industrious, but I was not easy in my mind
about him. It appeared to me that his industry was all
misdirected. I could not find that it led to anything but the
formation of delusive hopes in connexion with the suit already the
pernicious cause of so much sorrow and ruin. He had got at the
core of that mystery now, he told us, and nothing could be plainer
than that the will under which he and Ada were to take I don't know
how many thousands of pounds must be finally established if there
were any sense or justice in the Court of Chancery--but oh, what a
great IF that sounded in my ears--and that this happy conclusion
could not be much longer delayed. He proved this to himself by all
the weary arguments on that side he had read, and every one of them
sunk him deeper in the infatuation. He had even begun to haunt the
court. He told us how he saw Miss Flite there daily, how they
talked together, and how he did her little kindnesses, and how,
while he laughed at her, he pitied her from his heart. But he
never thought--never, my poor, dear, sanguine Richard, capable of
so much happiness then, and with such better things before him--
what a fatal link was riveting between his fresh youth and her
faded age, between his free hopes and her caged birds, and her
hungry garret, and her wandering mind.

Ada loved him too well to mistrust him much in anything he said or
did, and my guardian, though he frequently complained of the east
wind and read more than usual in the growlery, preserved a strict
silence on the subject. So I thought one day when I went to London
to meet Caddy Jellyby, at her solicitation, I would ask Richard to
be in waiting for me at the coach-office, that we might have a
little talk together. I found him there when I arrived, and we
walked away arm in arm.

"Well, Richard," said I as soon as I could begin to be grave with
him, "are you beginning to feel more settled now?"

"Oh, yes, my dear!" returned Richard. "I'm all right enough."

"But settled?" said I.

"How do you mean, settled?" returned Richard with his gay laugh.

"Settled in the law," said I.

"Oh, aye," replied Richard, "I'm all right enough."

"You said that before, my dear Richard."

"And you don't think it's an answer, eh? Well! Perhaps it's not.
Settled? You mean, do I feel as if I were settling down?"


"Why, no, I can't say I am settling down," said Richard, strongly
emphasizing "down," as if that expressed the difficulty, "because
one can't settle down while this business remains in such an
unsettled state. When I say this business, of course I mean the--
forbidden subject."

"Do you think it will ever be in a settled state?" said I.

"Not the least doubt of it," answered Richard.

We walked a little way without speaking, and presently Richard
addressed me in his frankest and most feeling manner, thus: "My
dear Esther, I understand you, and I wish to heaven I were a more
constant sort of fellow. I don't mean constant to Ada, for I love
her dearly--better and better every day--but constant to myself.
(Somehow, I mean something that I can't very well express, but
you'll make it out.) If I were a more constant sort of fellow, I
should have held on either to Badger or to Kenge and Carboy like
grim death, and should have begun to be steady and systematic by
this time, and shouldn't be in debt, and--"

"ARE you in debt, Richard?"

"Yes," said Richard, "I am a little so, my dear. Also, I have
taken rather too much to billiards and that sort of thing. Now the
murder's out; you despise me, Esther, don't you?"

"You know I don't," said I.

"You are kinder to me than I often am to myself," he returned. "My
dear Esther, I am a very unfortunate dog not to be more settled,
but how CAN I be more settled? If you lived in an unfinished
house, you couldn't settle down in it; if you were condemned to
leave everything you undertook unfinished, you would find it hard
to apply yourself to anything; and yet that's my unhappy case. I
was born into this unfinished contention with all its chances and
changes, and it began to unsettle me before I quite knew the
difference between a suit at law and a suit of clothes; and it has
gone on unsettling me ever since; and here I am now, conscious
sometimes that I am but a worthless fellow to love my confiding
cousin Ada."

We were in a solitary place, and he put his hands before his eyes
and sobbed as he said the words.

"Oh, Richard!" said I. "Do not be so moved. You have a noble
nature, and Ada's love may make you worthier every day."

"I know, my dear," he replied, pressing my arm, "I know all that.
You mustn't mind my being a little soft now, for I have had all
this upon my mind for a long time, and have often meant to speak to
you, and have sometimes wanted opportunity and sometimes courage.
I know what the thought of Ada ought to do for me, but it doesn't
do it. I am too unsettled even for that. I love her most
devotedly, and yet I do her wrong, in doing myself wrong, every day
and hour. But it can't last for ever. We shall come on for a
final hearing and get judgment in our favour, and then you and Ada
shall see what I can really be!"

It had given me a pang to hear him sob and see the tears start out
between his fingers, but that was infinitely less affecting to me
than the hopeful animation with which he said these words.

"I have looked well into the papers, Esther. I have been deep in
them for months," he continued, recovering his cheerfulness in a
moment, "and you may rely upon it that we shall come out
triumphant. As to years of delay, there has been no want of them,
heaven knows! And there is the greater probability of our bringing
the matter to a speedy close; in fact, it's on the paper now. It
will be all right at last, and then you shall see!"

Recalling how he had just now placed Messrs. Kenge and Carboy in
the same category with Mr. Badger, I asked him when he intended to
be articled in Lincoln's Inn.

"There again! I think not at all, Esther," he returned with an
effort. "I fancy I have had enough of it. Having worked at
Jarndyce and Jarndyce like a galley slave, I have slaked my thirst
for the law and satisfied myself that I shouldn't like it.
Besides, I find it unsettles me more and more to be so constantly
upon the scene of action. So what," continued Richard, confident
again by this time, "do I naturally turn my thoughts to?"

"I can't imagine," said I.

"Don't look so serious," returned Richard, "because it's the best
thing I can do, my dear Esther, I am certain. It's not as if I
wanted a profession for life. These proceedings will come to a
termination, and then I am provided for. No. I look upon it as a
pursuit which is in its nature more or less unsettled, and
therefore suited to my temporary condition--I may say, precisely
suited. What is it that I naturally turn my thoughts to?"

I looked at him and shook my head.

"What," said Richard, in a tone of perfect conviction, "but the

"The army?" said I.

"The army, of course. What I have to do is to get a commission;
and--there I am, you know!" said Richard.

And then he showed me, proved by elaborate calculations in his
pocket-book, that supposing he had contracted, say, two hundred
pounds of debt in six months out of the army; and that he
contracted no debt at all within a corresponding period in the
army--as to which he had quite made up his mind; this step must
involve a saving of four hundred pounds in a year, or two thousand
pounds in five years, which was a considerable sum. And then he
spoke so ingenuously and sincerely of the sacrifice he made in
withdrawing himself for a time from Ada, and of the earnestness
with which he aspired--as in thought he always did, I know full
well--to repay her love, and to ensure her happiness, and to
conquer what was amiss in himself, and to acquire the very soul of
decision, that he made my heart ache keenly, sorely. For, I
thought, how would this end, how could this end, when so soon and
so surely all his manly qualities were touched by the fatal blight
that ruined everything it rested on!

I spoke to Richard with all the earnestness I felt, and all the
hope I could not quite feel then, and implored him for Ada's sake
not to put any trust in Chancery. To all I said, Richard readily
assented, riding over the court and everything else in his easy way
and drawing the brightest pictures of the character he was to
settle into--alas, when the grievous suit should loose its hold
upon him! We had a long talk, but it always came back to that, in

At last we came to Soho Square, where Caddy Jellyby had appointed
to wait for me, as a quiet place in the neighbourhood of Newman
Street. Caddy was in the garden in the centre and hurried out as
soon as I appeared. After a few cheerful words, Richard left us

"Prince has a pupil over the way, Esther," said Caddy, "and got the
key for us. So if you will walk round and round here with me, we
can lock ourselves in and I can tell you comfortably what I wanted
to see your dear good face about."

"Very well, my dear," said I. "Nothing could be better." So
Caddy, after affectionately squeezing the dear good face as she
called it, locked the gate, and took my arm, and we began to walk
round the garden very cosily.

"You see, Esther," said Caddy, who thoroughly enjoyed a little
confidence, "after you spoke to me about its being wrong to marry
without Ma's knowledge, or even to keep Ma long in the dark
respecting our engagement--though I don't believe Ma cares much for
me, I must say--I thought it right to mention your opinions to
Prince. In the first place because I want to profit by everything
you tell me, and in the second place because I have no secrets from

"I hope he approved, Caddy?"

"Oh, my dear! I assure you he would approve of anything you could
say. You have no idea what an opinion he has of you!"


"Esther, it's enough to make anybody but me jealous," said Caddy,
laughing and shaking her head; "but it only makes me joyful, for
you are the first friend I ever had, and the best friend I ever can
have, and nobody can respect and love you too much to please me."

"Upon my word, Caddy," said I, "you are in the general conspiracy
to keep me in a good humour. Well, my dear?"

"Well! I am going to tell you," replied Caddy, crossing her hands
confidentially upon my arm. "So we talked a good deal about it,
and so I said to Prince, 'Prince, as Miss Summerson--'"

"I hope you didn't say 'Miss Summerson'?"

"No. I didn't!" cried Caddy, greatly pleased and with the
brightest of faces. "I said, 'Esther.' I said to Prince, 'As
Esther is decidedly of that opinion, Prince, and has expressed it
to me, and always hints it when she writes those kind notes, which
you are so fond of hearing me read to you, I am prepared to
disclose the truth to Ma whenever you think proper. And I think,
Prince,' said I, 'that Esther thinks that I should be in a better,
and truer, and more honourable position altogether if you did the
same to your papa.'"

"Yes, my dear," said I. "Esther certainly does think so."

"So I was right, you see!" exclaimed Caddy. "Well! This troubled
Prince a good deal, not because he had the least doubt about it,
but because he is so considerate of the feelings of old Mr.
Turveydrop; and he had his apprehensions that old Mr. Turveydrop
might break his heart, or faint away, or be very much overcome in
some affecting manner or other if he made such an announcement. He
feared old Mr. Turveydrop might consider it undutiful and might
receive too great a shock. For old Mr. Turveydrop's deportment is
very beautiful, you know, Esther," said Caddy, "and his feelings
are extremely sensitive."

"Are they, my dear?"

"Oh, extremely sensitive. Prince says so. Now, this has caused my
darling child--I didn't mean to use the expression to you, Esther,"
Caddy apologized, her face suffused with blushes, "but I generally
call Prince my darling child."

I laughed; and Caddy laughed and blushed, and went on.

"This has caused him, Esther--"

"Caused whom, my dear?"

"Oh, you tiresome thing!" said Caddy, laughing, with her pretty
face on fire. "My darling child, if you insist upon it! This has
caused him weeks of uneasiness and has made him delay, from day to
day, in a very anxious manner. At last he said to me, 'Caddy, if
Miss Summerson, who is a great favourite with my father, could be
prevailed upon to be present when I broke the subject, I think I
could do it.' So I promised I would ask you. And I made up my
mind, besides," said Caddy, looking at me hopefully but timidly,
"that if you consented, I would ask you afterwards to come with me
to Ma. This is what I meant when I said in my note that I had a
great favour and a great assistance to beg of you. And if you
thought you could grant it, Esther, we should both be very

"Let me see, Caddy," said I, pretending to consider. "Really, I
think I could do a greater thing than that if the need were
pressing. I am at your service and the darling child's, my dear,
whenever you like."

Caddy was quite transported by this reply of mine, being, I
believe, as susceptible to the least kindness or encouragement as
any tender heart that ever beat in this world; and after another
turn or two round the garden, during which she put on an entirely
new pair of gloves and made herself as resplendent as possible that
she might do no avoidable discredit to the Master of Deportment, we
went to Newman Street direct.

Prince was teaching, of course. We found him engaged with a not
very hopeful pupil--a stubborn little girl with a sulky forehead, a
deep voice, and an inanimate, dissatisfied mama--whose case was
certainly not rendered more hopeful by the confusion into which we
threw her preceptor. The lesson at last came to an end, after
proceeding as discordantly as possible; and when the little girl
had changed her shoes and had had her white muslin extinguished in
shawls, she was taken away. After a few words of preparation, we
then went in search of Mr. Turveydrop, whom we found, grouped with
his hat and gloves, as a model of deportment, on the sofa in his
private apartment--the only comfortable room in the house. He
appeared to have dressed at his leisure in the intervals of a light
collation, and his dressing-case, brushes, and so forth, all of
quite an elegant kind, lay about.

"Father, Miss Summerson; Miss Jellyby."

"Charmed! Enchanted!" said Mr. Turveydrop, rising with his high-
shouldered bow. "Permit me!" Handing chairs. "Be seated!"
Kissing the tips of his left fingers. "Overjoyed!" Shutting his
eyes and rolling. "My little retreat is made a paradise."
Recomposing himself on the sofa like the second gentleman in

"Again you find us, Miss Summerson," said he, "using our little
arts to polish, polish! Again the sex stimulates us and rewards us
by the condescension of its lovely presence. It is much in these
times (and we have made an awfully degenerating business of it
since the days of his Royal Highness the Prince Regent--my patron,
if I may presume to say so) to experience that deportment is not
wholly trodden under foot by mechanics. That it can yet bask in
the smile of beauty, my dear madam."

I said nothing, which I thought a suitable reply; and he took a
pinch of snuff.

"My dear son," said Mr. Turveydrop, "you have four schools this
afternoon. I would recommend a hasty sandwich."

"Thank you, father," returned Prince, "I will be sure to be
punctual. My dear father, may I beg you to prepare your mind for
what I am going to say?"

"Good heaven!" exclaimed the model, pale and aghast as Prince and
Caddy, hand in hand, bent down before him. "What is this? Is this
lunacy! Or what is this?"

"Father," returned Prince with great submission, "I love this young
lady, and we are engaged."

"Engaged!" cried Mr. Turveydrop, reclining on the sofa and shutting
out the sight with his hand. "An arrow launched at my brain by my
own child!"

"We have been engaged for some time, father," faltered Prince, "and
Miss Summerson, hearing of it, advised that we should declare the
fact to you and was so very kind as to attend on the present
occasion. Miss Jellyby is a young lady who deeply respects you,

Mr. Turveydrop uttered a groan.

"No, pray don't! Pray don't, father," urged his son. "Miss
Jellyby is a young lady who deeply respects you, and our first
desire is to consider your comfort."

Mr. Turveydrop sobbed.

"No, pray don't, father!" cried his son.

"Boy," said Mr. Turveydrop, "it is well that your sainted mother is
spared this pang. Strike deep, and spare not. Strike home, sir,
strike home!"

"Pray don't say so, father," implored Prince, in tears. "It goes
to my heart. I do assure you, father, that our first wish and
intention is to consider your comfort. Caroline and I do not
forget our duty--what is my duty is Caroline's, as we have often
said together--and with your approval and consent, father, we will
devote ourselves to making your life agreeable."

"Strike home," murmured Mr. Turveydrop. "Strike home!" But he
seemed to listen, I thought, too.

"My dear father," returned Prince, "we well know what little
comforts you are accustomed to and have a right to, and it will
always be our study and our pride to provide those before anything.
If you will bless us with your approval and consent, father, we
shall not think of being married until it is quite agreeable to
you; and when we ARE married, we shall always make you--of course--
our first consideration. You must ever be the head and master
here, father; and we feel how truly unnatural it would be in us if
we failed to know it or if we failed to exert ourselves in every
possible way to please you."

Mr. Turveydrop underwent a severe internal struggle and came
upright on the sofa again with his cheeks puffing over his stiff
cravat, a perfect model of parental deportment.

"My son!" said Mr. Turveydrop. "My children! I cannot resist your
prayer. Be happy!"

His benignity as he raised his future daughter-in-law and stretched
out his hand to his son (who kissed it with affectionate respect
and gratitude) was the most confusing sight I ever saw.

"My children," said Mr. Turveydrop, paternally encircling Caddy
with his left arm as she sat beside him, and putting his right hand
gracefully on his hip. "My son and daughter, your happiness shall
be my care. I will watch over you. You shall always live with
me"--meaning, of course, I will always live with you--"this house
is henceforth as much yours as mine; consider it your home. May
you long live to share it with me!"

The power of his deportment was such that they really were as much
overcome with thankfulness as if, instead of quartering himself
upon them for the rest of his life, he were making some munificent
sacrifice in their favour.

"For myself, my children," said Mr. Turveydrop, "I am falling into
the sear and yellow leaf, and it is impossible to say how long the
last feeble traces of gentlemanly deportment may linger in this
weaving and spinning age. But, so long, I will do my duty to
society and will show myself, as usual, about town. My wants are
few and simple. My little apartment here, my few essentials for
the toilet, my frugal morning meal, and my little dinner will
suffice. I charge your dutiful affection with the supply of these
requirements, and I charge myself with all the rest."

They were overpowered afresh by his uncommon generosity.

"My son," said Mr. Turveydrop, "for those little points in which
you are deficient--points of deportment, which are born with a man,
which may be improved by cultivation, but can never be originated--
you may still rely on me. I have been faithful to my post since
the days of his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, and I will not
desert it now. No, my son. If you have ever contemplated your
father's poor position with a feeling of pride, you may rest
assured that he will do nothing to tarnish it. For yourself,
Prince, whose character is different (we cannot be all alike, nor
is it advisable that we should), work, be industrious, earn money,
and extend the connexion as much as possible."

"That you may depend I will do, dear father, with all my heart,"
replied Prince.

"I have no doubt of it," said Mr. Turveydrop. "Your qualities are
not shining, my dear child, but they are steady and useful. And to
both of you, my children, I would merely observe, in the spirit of
a sainted wooman on whose path I had the happiness of casting, I
believe, SOME ray of light, take care of the establishment, take
care of my simple wants, and bless you both!"

Old Mr. Turveydrop then became so very gallant, in honour of the
occasion, that I told Caddy we must really go to Thavies Inn at
once if we were to go at all that day. So we took our departure
after a very loving farewell between Caddy and her betrothed, and
during our walk she was so happy and so full of old Mr.
Turveydrop's praises that I would not have said a word in his
disparagement for any consideration.

The house in Thavies Inn had bills in the windows annoucing that it
was to let, and it looked dirtier and gloomier and ghastlier than
ever. The name of poor Mr. Jellyby had appeared in the list of
bankrupts but a day or two before, and he was shut up in the
dining-room with two gentlemen and a heap of blue bags, account-
books, and papers, making the most desperate endeavours to
understand his affairs. They appeared to me to be quite beyond his
comprehension, for when Caddy took me into the dining-room by
mistake and we came upon Mr. Jellyby in his spectacles, forlornly
fenced into a corner by the great dining-table and the two
gentlemen, he seemed to have given up the whole thing and to be
speechless and insensible.

Going upstairs to Mrs. Jellyby's room (the children were all
screaming in the kitchen, and there was no servant to be seen), we
found that lady in the midst of a voluminous correspondence,
opening, reading, and sorting letters, with a great accumulation of
torn covers on the floor. She was so preoccupied that at first she
did not know me, though she sat looking at me with that curious,
bright-eyed, far-off look of hers.

"Ah! Miss Summerson!" she said at last. "I was thinking of
something so different! I hope you are well. I am happy to see
you. Mr. Jarndyce and Miss Clare quite well?"

I hoped in return that Mr. Jellyby was quite well.

"Why, not quite, my dear," said Mrs. Jellyby in the calmest manner.
"He has been unfortunate in his affairs and is a little out of
spirits. Happily for me, I am so much engaged that I have no time
to think about it. We have, at the present moment, one hundred and
seventy families, Miss Summerson, averaging five persons in each,
either gone or going to the left bank of the Niger."

I thought of the one family so near us who were neither gone nor
going to the left bank of the Niger, and wondered how she could be
so placid.

"You have brought Caddy back, I see," observed Mrs. Jellyby with a
glance at her daughter. "It has become quite a novelty to see her
here. She has almost deserted her old employment and in fact
obliges me to employ a boy."

"I am sure, Ma--" began Caddy.

"Now you know, Caddy," her mother mildly interposed, "that I DO
employ a boy, who is now at his dinner. What is the use of your

"I was not going to contradict, Ma," returned Caddy. "I was only
going to say that surely you wouldn't have me be a mere drudge all
my life."

"I believe, my dear," said Mrs. Jellyby, still opening her letters,
casting her bright eyes smilingly over them, and sorting them as
she spoke, "that you have a business example before you in your
mother. Besides. A mere drudge? If you had any sympathy with the
destinies of the human race, it would raise you high above any such
idea. But you have none. I have often told you, Caddy, you have
no such sympathy."

"Not if it's Africa, Ma, I have not."

"Of course you have not. Now, if I were not happily so much
engaged, Miss Summerson," said Mrs. Jellyby, sweetly casting her
eyes for a moment on me and considering where to put the particular
letter she had just opened, "this would distress and disappoint me.
But I have so much to think of, in connexion with Borrioboola-Gha
and it is so necessary I should concentrate myself that there is my
remedy, you see."

As Caddy gave me a glance of entreaty, and as Mrs. Jellyby was
looking far away into Africa straight through my bonnet and head, I
thought it a good opportunity to come to the subject of my visit
and to attract Mrs. Jellyby's attention.

"Perhaps," I began, "you will wonder what has brought me here to
interrupt you."

"I am always delighted to see Miss Summerson," said Mrs. Jellyby,
pursuing her employment with a placid smile. "Though I wish," and
she shook her head, "she was more interested in the Borrioboolan

"I have come with Caddy," said I, "because Caddy justly thinks she
ought not to have a secret from her mother and fancies I shall
encourage and aid her (though I am sure I don't know how) in
imparting one."

"Caddy," said Mrs. Jellyby, pausing for a moment in her occupation
and then serenely pursuing it after shaking her head, "you are
going to tell me some nonsense."

Caddy untied the strings of her bonnet, took her bonnet off, and
letting it dangle on the floor by the strings, and crying heartily,
said, "Ma, I am engaged."

"Oh, you ridiculous child!" observed Mrs. Jellyby with an
abstracted air as she looked over the dispatch last opened; "what a
goose you are!"

"I am engaged, Ma," sobbed Caddy, "to young Mr. Turveydrop, at the
academy; and old Mr. Turveydrop (who is a very gentlemanly man
indeed) has given his consent, and I beg and pray you'll give us
yours, Ma, because I never could be happy without it. I never,
never could!" sobbed Caddy, quite forgetful of her general
complainings and of everything but her natural affection.

"You see again, Miss Summerson," observed Mrs. Jellyby serenely,
"what a happiness it is to be so much occupied as I am and to
have this necessity for self-concentration that I have. Here is
Caddy engaged to a dancing-master's son--mixed up with people who
have no more sympathy with the destinies of the human race than
she has herself! This, too, when Mr. Quale, one of the first
philanthropists of our time, has mentioned to me that he was
really disposed to be interested in her!"

"Ma, I always hated and detested Mr. Quale!" sobbed Caddy.

"Caddy, Caddy!" returned Mrs. Jellyby, opening another letter with
the greatest complacency. "I have no doubt you did. How could you
do otherwise, being totally destitute of the sympathies with which
he overflows! Now, if my public duties were not a favourite child
to me, if I were not occupied with large measures on a vast scale,
these petty details might grieve me very much, Miss Summerson. But
can I permit the film of a silly proceeding on the part of Caddy
(from whom I expect nothing else) to interpose between me and the
great African continent? No. No," repeated Mrs. Jellyby in a calm
clear voice, and with an agreeable smile, as she opened more
letters and sorted them. "No, indeed."

I was so unprepared for the perfect coolness of this reception,
though I might have expected it, that I did not know what to say.
Caddy seemed equally at a loss. Mrs. Jellyby continued to open and
sort letters and to repeat occasionally in quite a charming tone of
voice and with a smile of perfect composure, "No, indeed."

"I hope, Ma," sobbed poor Caddy at last, "you are not angry?"

"Oh, Caddy, you really are an absurd girl," returned Mrs. Jellyby,
"to ask such questions after what I have said of the preoccupation
of my mind."

"And I hope, Ma, you give us your consent and wish us well?" said

"You are a nonsensical child to have done anything of this kind,"
said Mrs. Jellyby; "and a degenerate child, when you might have
devoted yourself to the great public measure. But the step is
taken, and I have engaged a boy, and there is no more to be said.
Now, pray, Caddy," said Mrs. Jellyby, for Caddy was kissing her,
"don't delay me in my work, but let me clear off this heavy batch
of papers before the afternoon post comes in!"

I thought I could not do better than take my leave; I was detained
for a moment by Caddy's saying, "You won't object to my bringing
him to see you, Ma?"

"Oh, dear me, Caddy," cried Mrs. Jellyby, who had relapsed into
that distant contemplation, "have you begun again? Bring whom?"

"Him, Ma."

"Caddy, Caddy!" said Mrs. Jellyby, quite weary of such little
matters. "Then you must bring him some evening which is not a
Parent Society night, or a Branch night, or a Ramification night.
You must accommodate the visit to the demands upon my time. My
dear Miss Summerson, it was very kind of you to come here to help
out this silly chit. Good-bye! When I tell you that I have fifty-
eight new letters from manufacturing families anxious to understand
the details of the native and coffee-cultivation question this
morning, I need not apologize for having very little leisure."

I was not surprised by Caddy's being in low spirits when we went
downstairs, or by her sobbing afresh on my neck, or by her saying
she would far rather have been scolded than treated with such
indifference, or by her confiding to me that she was so poor in
clothes that how she was ever to be married creditably she didn't
know. I gradually cheered her up by dwelling on the many things
she would do for her unfortunate father and for Peepy when she had
a home of her own; and finally we went downstairs into the damp
dark kitchen, where Peepy and his little brothers and sisters were
grovelling on the stone floor and where we had such a game of play
with them that to prevent myself from being quite torn to pieces I
was obliged to fall back on my fairy-tales. From time to time I
heard loud voices in the parlour overhead, and occasionally a
violent tumbling about of the furniture. The last effect I am
afraid was caused by poor Mr. Jellyby's breaking away from the
dining-table and making rushes at the window with the intention of
throwing himself into the area whenever he made any new attempt to
understand his affairs.

As I rode quietly home at night after the day's bustle, I thought a
good deal of Caddy's engagement and felt confirmed in my hopes (in
spite of the elder Mr. Turveydrop) that she would be the happier
and better for it. And if there seemed to be but a slender chance
of her and her husband ever finding out what the model of
deportment really was, why that was all for the best too, and who
would wish them to be wiser? I did not wish them to be any wiser
and indeed was half ashamed of not entirely believing in him
myself. And I looked up at the stars, and thought about travellers
in distant countries and the stars THEY saw, and hoped I might
always be so blest and happy as to be useful to some one in my
small way.

They were so glad to see me when I got home, as they always were,
that I could have sat down and cried for joy if that had not been a
method of making myself disagreeable. Everybody in the house, from
the lowest to the highest, showed me such a bright face of welcome,
and spoke so cheerily, and was so happy to do anything for me, that
I suppose there never was such a fortunate little creature in the

We got into such a chatty state that night, through Ada and my
guardian drawing me out to tell them all about Caddy, that I went
on prose, prose, prosing for a length of time. At last I got up to
my own room, quite red to think how I had been holding forth, and
then I heard a soft tap at my door. So I said, "Come in!" and
there came in a pretty little girl, neatly dressed in mourning, who
dropped a curtsy.

"If you please, miss," said the little girl in a soft voice, "I am

"Why, so you are," said I, stooping down in astonishment and giving
her a kiss. "How glad am I to see you, Charley!"

"If you please, miss," pursued Charley in the same soft voice, "I'm
your maid."


"If you please, miss, I'm a present to you, with Mr. Jarndyce's

I sat down with my hand on Charley's neck and looked at Charley.

"And oh, miss," says Charley, clapping her hands, with the tears
starting down her dimpled cheeks, "Tom's at school, if you please,
and learning so good! And little Emma, she's with Mrs. Blinder,
miss, a-being took such care of! And Tom, he would have been at
school--and Emma, she would have been left with Mrs. Blinder--and
me, I should have been here--all a deal sooner, miss; only Mr.
Jarndyce thought that Tom and Emma and me had better get a little
used to parting first, we was so small. Don't cry, if you please,

"I can't help it, Charley."

"No, miss, nor I can't help it," says Charley. "And if you please,
miss, Mr. Jarndyce's love, and he thinks you'll like to teach me
now and then. And if you please, Tom and Emma and me is to see
each other once a month. And I'm so happy and so thankful, miss,"
cried Charley with a heaving heart, "and I'll try to be such a good

"Oh, Charley dear, never forget who did all this!"

"No, miss, I never will. Nor Tom won't. Nor yet Emma. It was all
you, miss."

"I have known nothing of it. It was Mr. Jarndyce, Charley."

"Yes, miss, but it was all done for the love of you and that you
might be my mistress. If you please, miss, I am a little present
with his love, and it was all done for the love of you. Me and Tom
was to be sure to remember it."

Charley dried her eyes and entered on her functions, going in her
matronly little way about and about the room and folding up
everything she could lay her hands upon. Presently Charley came
creeping back to my side and said, "Oh, don't cry, if you please,

And I said again, "I can't help it, Charley."

And Charley said again, "No, miss, nor I can't help it." And so,
after all, I did cry for joy indeed, and so did she.


An Appeal Case

As soon as Richard and I had held the conversation of which I have
given an account, Richard communicated the state of his mind to Mr.
Jarndyce. I doubt if my guardian were altogether taken by surprise
when he received the representation, though it caused him much
uneasiness and disappointment. He and Richard were often closeted
together, late at night and early in the morning, and passed whole
days in London, and had innumerable appointments with Mr. Kenge,
and laboured through a quantity of disagreeable business. While
they were thus employed, my guardian, though he underwent
considerable inconvenience from the state of the wind and rubbed
his head so constantly that not a single hair upon it ever rested
in its right place, was as genial with Ada and me as at any other
time, but maintained a steady reserve on these matters. And as our
utmost endeavours could only elicit from Richard himself sweeping
assurances that everything was going on capitally and that it
really was all right at last, our anxiety was not much relieved by

We learnt, however, as the time went on, that a new application was
made to the Lord Chancellor on Richard's behalf as an infant and a
ward, and I don't know what, and that there was a quantity of
talking, and that the Lord Chancellor described him in open court
as a vexatious and capricious infant, and that the matter was
adjourned and readjourned, and referred, and reported on, and
petitioned about until Richard began to doubt (as he told us)
whether, if he entered the army at all, it would not be as a
veteran of seventy or eighty years of age. At last an appointment
was made for him to see the Lord Chancellor again in his private
room, and there the Lord Chancellor very seriously reproved him for
trifling with time and not knowing his mind--"a pretty good joke, I
think," said Richard, "from that quarter!"--and at last it was
settled that his application should be granted. His name was
entered at the Horse Guards as an applicant for an ensign's
commission; the purchase-money was deposited at an agent's; and
Richard, in his usual characteristic way, plunged into a violent
course of military study and got up at five o'clock every morning
to practise the broadsword exercise.

Thus, vacation succeeded term, and term succeeded vacation. We
sometimes heard of Jarndyce and Jarndyce as being in the paper or
out of the paper, or as being to be mentioned, or as being to be
spoken to; and it came on, and it went off. Richard, who was now
in a professor's house in London, was able to be with us less
frequently than before; my guardian still maintained the same
reserve; and so time passed until the commission was obtained and
Richard received directions with it to join a regiment in Ireland.

He arrived post-haste with the intelligence one evening, and had a
long conference with my guardian. Upwards of an hour elapsed
before my guardian put his head into the room where Ada and I were
sitting and said, "Come in, my dears!" We went in and found
Richard, whom we had last seen in high spirits, leaning on the
chimney-piece looking mortified and angry.

"Rick and I, Ada," said Mr. Jarndyce, "are not quite of one mind.
Come, come, Rick, put a brighter face upon it!"

"You are very hard with me, sir," said Richard. "The harder
because you have been so considerate to me in all other respects
and have done me kindnesses that I can never acknowledge. I never
could have been set right without you, sir."

"Well, well!" said Mr. Jarndyce. "I want to set you more right
yet. I want to set you more right with yourself."

"I hope you will excuse my saying, sir," returned Richard in a
fiery way, but yet respectfully, "that I think I am the best judge
about myself."

"I hope you will excuse my saying, my dear Rick," observed Mr.
Jarndyce with the sweetest cheerfulness and good humour, "that
it's quite natural in you to think so, but I don't think so. I
must do my duty, Rick, or you could never care for me in cool
blood; and I hope you will always care for me, cool and hot."

Ada had turned so pale that he made her sit down in his reading-
chair and sat beside her.

"It's nothing, my dear," he said, "it's nothing. Rick and I have
only had a friendly difference, which we must state to you, for you
are the theme. Now you are afraid of what's coming."

"I am not indeed, cousin John," replied Ada with a smile, "if it is
to come from you."

"Thank you, my dear. Do you give me a minute's calm attention,
without looking at Rick. And, little woman, do you likewise. My
dear girl," putting his hand on hers as it lay on the side of the
easy-chair, "you recollect the talk we had, we four when the little
woman told me of a little love affair?"

"It is not likely that either Richard or I can ever forget your
kindness that day, cousin John."

"I can never forget it," said Richard.

"And I can never forget it," said Ada.

"So much the easier what I have to say, and so much the easier for
us to agree," returned my guardian, his face irradiated by the
gentleness and honour of his heart. "Ada, my bird, you should know
that Rick has now chosen his profession for the last time. All
that he has of certainty will be expended when he is fully
equipped. He has exhausted his resources and is bound henceforward
to the tree he has planted."

"Quite true that I have exhausted my present resources, and I am
quite content to know it. But what I have of certainty, sir," said
Richard, "is not all I have."

"Rick, Rick!" cried my guardian with a sudden terror in his manner,
and in an altered voice, and putting up his hands as if he would
have stopped his ears. "For the love of God, don't found a hope or
expectation on the family curse! Whatever you do on this side the
grave, never give one lingering glance towards the horrible phantom
that has haunted us so many years. Better to borrow, better to
beg, better to die!"

We were all startled by the fervour of this warning. Richard bit
his lip and held his breath, and glanced at me as if he felt, and
knew that I felt too, how much he needed it.

"Ada, my dear," said Mr. Jarndyce, recovering his cheerfulness,
"these are strong words of advice, but I live in Bleak House and
have seen a sight here. Enough of that. All Richard had to start
him in the race of life is ventured. I recommend to him and you,
for his sake and your own, that he should depart from us with the
understanding that there is no sort of contract between you. I
must go further. I will be plain with you both. You were to
confide freely in me, and I will confide freely in you. I ask you
wholly to relinquish, for the present, any tie but your

"Better to say at once, sir," returned Richard, "that you renounce
all confidence in me and that you advise Ada to do the same."

"Better to say nothing of the sort, Rick, because I don't mean it."

"You think I have begun ill, sir," retorted Richard. "I HAVE, I

"How I hoped you would begin, and how go on, I told you when we
spoke of these things last," said Mr. Jarndyce in a cordial and
encouraging manner. "You have not made that beginning yet, but
there is a time for all things, and yours is not gone by; rather,
it is just now fully come. Make a clear beginning altogether. You
two (very young, my dears) are cousins. As yet, you are nothing
more. What more may come must come of being worked out, Rick, and
no sooner."

"You are very hard with me, sir," said Richard. "Harder than I
could have supposed you would be."

"My dear boy," said Mr. Jarndyce, "I am harder with myself when I
do anything that gives you pain. You have your remedy in your own
hands. Ada, it is better for him that he should be free and that
there should be no youthful engagement between you. Rick, it is
better for her, much better; you owe it to her. Come! Each of you
will do what is best for the other, if not what is best for

"Why is it best, sir?" returned Richard hastily. "It was not when
we opened our hearts to you. You did not say so then."

"I have had experience since. I don't blame you, Rick, but I have
had experience since."

"You mean of me, sir."

"Well! Yes, of both of you," said Mr. Jarndyce kindly. "The time
is not come for your standing pledged to one another. It is not
right, and I must not recognize it. Come, come, my young cousins,
begin afresh! Bygones shall be bygones, and a new page turned for
you to write your lives in."

Richard gave an anxious glance at Ada but said nothing.

"I have avoided saying one word to either of you or to Esther,"
said Mr. Jarndyce, "until now, in order that we might be open as
the day, and all on equal terms. I now affectionately advise, I
now most earnestly entreat, you two to part as you came here.
Leave all else to time, truth, and steadfastness. If you do
otherwise, you will do wrong, and you will have made me do wrong in
ever bringing you together."

A long silence succeeded.

"Cousin Richard," said Ada then, raising her blue eyes tenderly to
his face, "after what our cousin John has said, I think no choice
is left us. Your mind may he quite at ease about me, for you will
leave me here under his care and will be sure that I can have
nothing to wish for--quite sure if I guide myself by his advice.
I--I don't doubt, cousin Richard," said Ada, a little confused,
"that you are very fond of me, and I--I don't think you will fall
in love with anybody else. But I should like you to consider well
about it too, as I should like you to be in all things very happy.
You may trust in me, cousin Richard. I am not at all changeable;
but I am not unreasonable, and should never blame you. Even
cousins may be sorry to part; and in truth I am very, very sorry,
Richard, though I know it's for your welfare. I shall always think
of you affectionately, and often talk of you with Esther, and--and
perhaps you will sometimes think a little of me, cousin Richard.
So now," said Ada, going up to him and giving him her trembling
hand, "we are only cousins again, Richard--for the time perhaps--
and I pray for a blessing on my dear cousin, wherever he goes!"

It was strange to me that Richard should not be able to forgive my
guardian for entertaining the very same opinion of him which he
himself had expressed of himself in much stronger terms to me. But
it was certainly the case. I observed with great regret that from
this hour he never was as free and open with Mr. Jarndyce as he had
been before. He had every reason given him to be so, but he was
not; and solely on his side, an estrangement began to arise between

In the business of preparation and equipment he soon lost himself,
and even his grief at parting from Ada, who remained in
Hertfordshire while he, Mr. Jarndyce, and I went up to London for a
week. He remembered her by fits and starts, even with bursts of
tears, and at such times would confide to me the heaviest self-
reproaches. But in a few minutes he would recklessly conjure up
some undefinable means by which they were both to be made rich and
happy for ever, and would become as gay as possible.

It was a busy time, and I trotted about with him all day long,
buying a variety of things of which he stood in need. Of the
things he would have bought if he had been left to his own ways I
say nothing. He was perfectly confidential with me, and often
talked so sensibly and feelingly about his faults and his vigorous
resolutions, and dwelt so much upon the encouragement he derived
from these conversations that I could never have been tired if I
had tried.

There used, in that week, to come backward and forward to our
lodging to fence with Richard a person who had formerly been a
cavalry soldier; he was a fine bluff-looking man, of a frank free
bearing, with whom Richard had practised for some months. I heard
so much about him, not only from Richard, but from my guardian too,
that I was purposely in the room with my work one morning after
breakfast when he came.

"Good morning, Mr. George," said my guardian, who happened to be
alone with me. "Mr. Carstone will be here directly. Meanwhile,
Miss Summerson is very happy to see you, I know. Sit down."

He sat down, a little disconcerted by my presence, I thought, and
without looking at me, drew his heavy sunburnt hand across and
across his upper lip.

"You are as punctual as the sun," said Mr. Jarndyce.

"Military time, sir," he replied. "Force of habit. A mere habit
in me, sir. I am not at all business-like."

"Yet you have a large establishment, too, I am told?" said Mr.

"Not much of a one, sir. I keep a shooting gallery, but not much
of a one."

"And what kind of a shot and what kind of a swordsman do you make
of Mr. Carstone?" said my guardian.

"Pretty good, sir," he replied, folding his arms upon his broad
chest and looking very large. "If Mr. Carstone was to give his
full mind to it, he would come out very good."

"But he don't, I suppose?" said my guardian.

"He did at first, sir, but not afterwards. Not his full mind.
Perhaps he has something else upon it--some young lady, perhaps."
His bright dark eyes glanced at me for the first time.

"He has not me upon his mind, I assure you, Mr. George," said I,
laughing, "though you seem to suspect me."

He reddened a little through his brown and made me a trooper's bow.
"No offence, I hope, miss. I am one of the roughs."

"Not at all," said I. "I take it as a compliment."

If he had not looked at me before, he looked at me now in three or
four quick successive glances. "I beg your pardon, sir," he said
to my guardian with a manly kind of diffidence, "but you did me the
honour to mention the young lady's name--"

"Miss Summerson."

"Miss Summerson," he repeated, and looked at me again.

"Do you know the name?" I asked.

"No, miss. To my knowledge I never heard it. I thought I had seen
you somewhere."

"I think not," I returned, raising my head from my work to look at
him; and there was something so genuine in his speech and manner
that I was glad of the opportunity. "I remember faces very well."

"So do I, miss!" he returned, meeting my look with the fullness of
his dark eyes and broad forehead. "Humph! What set me off, now,
upon that!"

His once more reddening through his brown and being disconcerted by
his efforts to remember the association brought my guardian to his

"Have you many pupils, Mr. George?"

"They vary in their number, sir. Mostly they're but a small lot to
live by."

"And what classes of chance people come to practise at your

"All sorts, sir. Natives and foreigners. From gentlemen to
'prentices. I have had Frenchwomen come, before now, and show
themselves dabs at pistol-shooting. Mad people out of number, of
course, but THEY go everywhere where the doors stand open."

"People don't come with grudges and schemes of finishing their
practice with live targets, I hope?" said my guardian, smiling.

"Not much of that, sir, though that HAS happened. Mostly they come
for skill--or idleness. Six of one, and half-a-dozen of the other.
I beg your pardon," said Mr. George, sitting stiffly upright and
squaring an elbow on each knee, "but I believe you're a Chancery
suitor, if I have heard correct?"

"I am sorry to say I am."

"I have had one of YOUR compatriots in my time, sir."

"A Chancery suitor?" returned my guardian. "How was that?"

"Why, the man was so badgered and worried and tortured by being
knocked about from post to pillar, and from pillar to post," said
Mr. George, "that he got out of sorts. I don't believe he had any
idea of taking aim at anybody, but he was in that condition of
resentment and violence that he would come and pay for fifty shots
and fire away till he was red hot. One day I said to him when
there was nobody by and he had been talking to me angrily about his
wrongs, 'If this practice is a safety-valve, comrade, well and
good; but I don't altogether like your being so bent upon it in
your present state of mind; I'd rather you took to something else.'
I was on my guard for a blow, he was that passionate; but he
received it in very good part and left off directly. We shook
hands and struck up a sort of friendship."

"What was that man?" asked my guardian in a new tone of interest.

"Why, he began by being a small Shropshire farmer before they made
a baited bull of him," said Mr. George.

"Was his name Gridley?"

"It was, sir."

Mr. George directed another succession of quick bright glances at
me as my guardian and I exchanged a word or two of surprise at the
coincidence, and I therefore explained to him how we knew the name.
He made me another of his soldierly bows in acknowledgment of what
he called my condescension.

"I don't know," he said as he looked at me, "what it is that sets
me off again--but--bosh! What's my head running against!" He
passed one of his heavy hands over his crisp dark hair as if to
sweep the broken thoughts out of his mind and sat a little forward,
with one arm akimbo and the other resting on his leg, looking in a
brown study at the ground.

"I am sorry to learn that the same state of mind has got this
Gridley into new troubles and that he is in hiding," said my

"So I am told, sir," returned Mr. George, still musing and looking
on the ground. "So I am told."

"You don't know where?"

"No, sir," returned the trooper, lifting up his eyes and coming out
of his reverie. "I can't say anything about him. He will be worn
out soon, I expect. You may file a strong man's heart away for a
good many years, but it will tell all of a sudden at last."

Richard's entrance stopped the conversation. Mr. George rose, made
me another of his soldierly bows, wished my guardian a good day,
and strode heavily out of the room.

This was the morning of the day appointed for Richard's departure.
We had no more purchases to make now; I had completed all his
packing early in the afternoon; and our time was disengaged until
night, when he was to go to Liverpool for Holyhead. Jarndyce and
Jarndyce being again expected to come on that day, Richard proposed
to me that we should go down to the court and hear what passed. As
it was his last day, and he was eager to go, and I had never been
there, I gave my consent and we walked down to Westminster, where
the court was then sitting. We beguiled the way with arrangements
concerning the letters that Richard was to write to me and the
letters that I was to write to him and with a great many hopeful
projects. My guardian knew where we were going and therefore was
not with us.

When we came to the court, there was the Lord Chancellor--the same
whom I had seen in his private room in Lincoln's Inn--sitting in
great state and gravity on the bench, with the mace and seals on a
red table below him and an immense flat nosegay, like a little
garden, which scented the whole court. Below the table, again, was
a long row of solicitors, with bundles of papers on the matting at
their feet; and then there were the gentlemen of the bar in wigs
and gowns--some awake and some asleep, and one talking, and nobody
paying much attention to what he said. The Lord Chancellor leaned
back in his very easy chair with his elbow on the cushioned arm and
his forehead resting on his hand; some of those who were present
dozed; some read the newspapers; some walked about or whispered in
groups: all seemed perfectly at their ease, by no means in a hurry,
very unconcerned, and extremely comfortable.

To see everything going on so smoothly and to think of the
roughness of the suitors' lives and deaths; to see all that full
dress and ceremony and to think of the waste, and want, and
beggared misery it represented; to consider that while the sickness
of hope deferred was raging in so many hearts this polite show went
calmly on from day to day, and year to year, in such good order and
composure; to behold the Lord Chancellor and the whole array of
practitioners under him looking at one another and at the
spectators as if nobody had ever heard that all over England the
name in which they were assembled was a bitter jest, was held in
universal horror, contempt, and indignation, was known for
something so flagrant and bad that little short of a miracle could
bring any good out of it to any one--this was so curious and self-
contradictory to me, who had no experience of it, that it was at
first incredible, and I could not comprehend it. I sat where
Richard put me, and tried to listen, and looked about me; but there
seemed to be no reality in the whole scene except poor little Miss
Flite, the madwoman, standing on a bench and nodding at it.

Miss Flite soon espied us and came to where we sat. She gave me a
gracious welcome to her domain and indicated, with much
gratification and pride, its principal attractions. Mr. Kenge also
came to speak to us and did the honours of the place in much the
same way, with the bland modesty of a proprietor. It was not a
very good day for a visit, he said; he would have preferred the
first day of term; but it was imposing, it was imposing.

When we had been there half an hour or so, the case in progress--if
I may use a phrase so ridiculous in such a connexion--seemed to die
out of its own vapidity, without coming, or being by anybody
expected to come, to any result. The Lord Chancellor then threw
down a bundle of papers from his desk to the gentlemen below him,
and somebody said, "Jarndyce and Jarndyce." Upon this there was a
buzz, and a laugh, and a general withdrawal of the bystanders, and
a bringing in of great heaps, and piles, and bags and bags full of

I think it came on "for further directions"--about some bill of
costs, to the best of my understanding, which was confused enough.
But I counted twenty-three gentlemen in wigs who said they were "in
it," and none of them appeared to understand it much better than I.
They chatted about it with the Lord Chancellor, and contradicted
and explained among themselves, and some of them said it was this
way, and some of them said it was that way, and some of them
jocosely proposed to read huge volumes of affidavits, and there was
more buzzing and laughing, and everybody concerned was in a state
of idle entertainment, and nothing could be made of it by anybody.
After an hour or so of this, and a good many speeches being begun
and cut short, it was "referred back for the present," as Mr. Kenge
said, and the papers were bundled up again before the clerks had
finished bringing them in.

I glanced at Richard on the termination of these hopeless
proceedings and was shocked to see the worn look of his handsome
young face. "It can't last for ever, Dame Durden. Better luck
next time!" was all he said.

I had seen Mr. Guppy bringing in papers and arranging them for Mr.
Kenge; and he had seen me and made me a forlorn bow, which rendered
me desirous to get out of the court. Richard had given me his arm
and was taking me away when Mr. Guppy came up.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Carstone," said he in a whisper, "and Miss
Summerson's also, but there's a lady here, a friend of mine, who
knows her and wishes to have the pleasure of shaking hands." As he
spoke, I saw before me, as if she had started into bodily shape
from my remembrance, Mrs. Rachael of my godmother's house.

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