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Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Part 20 out of 21

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be much more impatient than he used to be, and was quick even with
Ada. I thought at first that his old light-hearted manner was all
gone, but it shone out of him sometimes as I had occasionally known
little momentary glimpses of my own old face to look out upon me
from the glass. His laugh had not quite left him either, but it
was like the echo of a joyful sound, and that is always sorrowful.

Yet he was as glad as ever, in his old affectionate way, to have me
there, and we talked of the old times pleasantly. These did not
appear to be interesting to Mr. Vholes, though he occasionally made
a gasp which I believe was his smile. He rose shortly after dinner
and said that with the permission of the ladies he would retire to
his office.

"Always devoted to business, Vholes!" cried Richard.

"Yes, Mr. C.," he returned, "the interests of clients are never to
be neglected, sir. They are paramount in the thoughts of a
professional man like myself, who wishes to preserve a good name
among his fellow-practitioners and society at large. My denying
myself the pleasure of the present agreeable conversation may not
be wholly irrespective of your own interests, Mr. C."

Richard expressed himself quite sure of that and lighted Mr. Vholes
out. On his return he told us, more than once, that Vholes was a
good fellow, a safe fellow, a man who did what he pretended to do,
a very good fellow indeed! He was so defiant about it that it
struck me he had begun to doubt Mr. Vholes.

Then he threw himself on the sofa, tired out; and Ada and I put
things to rights, for they had no other servant than the woman who
attended to the chambers. My dear girl had a cottage piano there
and quietly sat down to sing some of Richard's favourites, the lamp
being first removed into the next room, as he complained of its
hurting his eyes.

I sat between them, at my dear girl's side, and felt very
melancholy listening to her sweet voice. I think Richard did too;
I think he darkened the room for that reason. She had been singing
some time, rising between whiles to bend over him and speak to him,
when Mr. Woodcourt came in. Then he sat down by Richard and half
playfully, half earnestly, quite naturally and easily, found out
how he felt and where he had been all day. Presently he proposed
to accompany him in a short walk on one of the bridges, as it was a
moonlight airy night; and Richard readily consenting, they went out
together.

They left my dear girl still sitting at the piano and me still
sitting beside her. When they were gone out, I drew my arm round
her waist. She put her left hand in mine (I was sitting on that
side), but kept her right upon the keys, going over and over them
without striking any note.

"Esther, my dearest," she said, breaking silence, "Richard is never
so well and I am never so easy about him as when he is with Allan
Woodcourt. We have to thank you for that."

I pointed out to my darling how this could scarcely be, because Mr.
Woodcourt had come to her cousin John's house and had known us all
there, and because he had always liked Richard, and Richard had
always liked him, and--and so forth.

"All true," said Ada, "but that he is such a devoted friend to us
we owe to you."

I thought it best to let my dear girl have her way and to say no
more about it. So I said as much. I said it lightly, because I
felt her trembling.

"Esther, my dearest, I want to be a good wife, a very, very good
wife indeed. You shall teach me."

I teach! I said no more, for I noticed the hand that was
fluttering over the keys, and I knew that it was not I who ought to
speak, that it was she who had something to say to me.

"When I married Richard I was not insensible to what was before
him. I had been perfectly happy for a long time with you, and I
had never known any trouble or anxiety, so loved and cared for, but
I understood the danger he was in, dear Esther."

"I know, I know, my darling."

"When we were married I had some little hope that I might be able
to convince him of his mistake, that he might come to regard it in
a new way as my husband and not pursue it all the more desperately
for my sake--as he does. But if I had not had that hope, I would
have married him just the same, Esther. Just the same!"

In the momentary firmness of the hand that was never still--a
firmness inspired by the utterance of these last words, and dying
away with them--I saw the confirmation of her earnest tones.

"You are not to think, my dearest Esther, that I fail to see what
you see and fear what you fear. No one can understand him better
than I do. The greatest wisdom that ever lived in the world could
scarcely know Richard better than my love does."

She spoke so modestly and softly and her trembling hand expressed
such agitation as it moved to and fro upon the silent notes! My
dear, dear girl!

"I see him at his worst every day. I watch him in his sleep. I
know every change of his face. But when I married Richard I was
quite determined, Esther, if heaven would help me, never to show
him that I grieved for what he did and so to make him more unhappy.
I want him, when he comes home, to find no trouble in my face. I
want him, when he looks at me, to see what he loved in me. I
married him to do this, and this supports me."

I felt her trembling more. I waited for what was yet to come, and
I now thought I began to know what it was.

"And something else supports me, Esther."

She stopped a minute. Stopped speaking only; her hand was still in
motion.

"I look forward a little while, and I don't know what great aid may
come to me. When Richard turns his eyes upon me then, there may be
something lying on my breast more eloquent than I have been, with
greater power than mine to show him his true course and win him
back."

Her hand stopped now. She clasped me in her arms, and I clasped
her in mine.

"If that little creature should fail too, Esther, I still look
forward. I look forward a long while, through years and years, and
think that then, when I am growing old, or when I am dead perhaps,
a beautiful woman, his daughter, happily married, may be proud of
him and a blessing to him. Or that a generous brave man, as
handsome as he used to be, as hopeful, and far more happy, may walk
in the sunshine with him, honouring his grey head and saying to
himself, 'I thank God this is my father! Ruined by a fatal
inheritance, and restored through me!'"

Oh, my sweet girl, what a heart was that which beat so fast against
me!

"These hopes uphold me, my dear Esther, and I know they will.
Though sometimes even they depart from me before a dread that
arises when I look at Richard."

I tried to cheer my darling, and asked her what it was. Sobbing
and weeping, she replied, "That he may not live to see his child."

CHAPTER LXI

A Discovery

The days when I frequented that miserable corner which my dear girl
brightened can never fade in my remembrance. I never see it, and I
never wish to see it now; I have been there only once since, but in
my memory there is a mournful glory shining on the place which will
shine for ever.

Not a day passed without my going there, of course. At first I
found Mr. Skimpole there, on two or three occasions, idly playing
the piano and talking in his usual vivacious strain. Now, besides
my very much mistrusting the probability of his being there without
making Richard poorer, I felt as if there were something in his
careless gaiety too inconsistent with what I knew of the depths of
Ada's life. I clearly perceived, too, that Ada shared my feelings.
I therefore resolved, after much thinking of it, to make a private
visit to Mr. Skimpole and try delicately to explain myself. My
dear girl was the great consideration that made me bold.

I set off one morning, accompanied by Charley, for Somers Town. As
I approached the house, I was strongly inclined to turn back, for I
felt what a desperate attempt it was to make an impression on Mr.
Skimpole and how extremely likely it was that he would signally
defeat me. However, I thought that being there, I would go through
with it. I knocked with a trembling hand at Mr. Skimpole's door--
literally with a hand, for the knocker was gone--and after a long
parley gained admission from an Irishwoman, who was in the area
when I knocked, breaking up the lid of a water-butt with a poker to
light the fire with.

Mr. Skimpole, lying on the sofa in his room, playing the flute a
little, was enchanted to see me. Now, who should receive me, he
asked. Who would I prefer for mistress of the ceremonies? Would I
have his Comedy daughter, his Beauty daughter, or his Sentiment
daughter? Or would I have all the daughters at once in a perfect
nosegay?

I replied, half defeated already, that I wished to speak to himself
only if he would give me leave.

"My dear Miss Summerson, most joyfully! Of course," he said,
bringing his chair nearer mine and breaking into his fascinating
smile, "of course it's not business. Then it's pleasure!"

I said it certainly was not business that I came upon, but it was
not quite a pleasant matter.

"Then, my dear Miss Summerson," said he with the frankest gaiety,
"don't allude to it. Why should you allude to anything that is NOT
a pleasant matter? I never do. And you are a much pleasanter
creature, in every point of view, than I. You are perfectly
pleasant; I am imperfectly pleasant; then, if I never allude to an
unpleasant matter, how much less should you! So that's disposed
of, and we will talk of something else."

Although I was embarrassed, I took courage to intimate that I still
wished to pursue the subject.

"I should think it a mistake," said Mr. Skimpole with his airy
laugh, "if I thought Miss Summerson capable of making one. But I
don't!"

"Mr. Skimpole," said I, raising my eyes to his, "I have so often
heard you say that you are unacquainted with the common affairs of
life--"

"Meaning our three banking-house friends, L, S, and who's the
junior partner? D?" said Mr. Skimpole, brightly. "Not an idea of
them!"

"--That perhaps," I went on, "you will excuse my boldness on that
account. I think you ought most seriously to know that Richard is
poorer than he was."

"Dear me!" said Mr. Skimpole. "So am I, they tell me."

"And in very embarrassed circumstances."

"Parallel case, exactly!" said Mr. Skimpole with a delighted
countenance.

"This at present naturally causes Ada much secret anxiety, and as I
think she is less anxious when no claims are made upon her by
visitors, and as Richard has one uneasiness always heavy on his
mind, it has occurred to me to take the liberty of saying that--if
you would--not--"

I was coming to the point with great difficulty when he took me by
both hands and with a radiant face and in the liveliest way
anticipated it.

"Not go there? Certainly not, my dear Miss Summerson, most
assuredly not. Why SHOULD I go there? When I go anywhere, I go
for pleasure. I don't go anywhere for pain, because I was made for
pleasure. Pain comes to ME when it wants me. Now, I have had very
little pleasure at our dear Richard's lately, and your practical
sagacity demonstrates why. Our young friends, losing the youthful
poetry which was once so captivating in them, begin to think, 'This
is a man who wants pounds.' So I am; I always want pounds; not for
myself, but because tradespeople always want them of me. Next, our
young friends begin to think, becoming mercenary, 'This is the man
who HAD pounds, who borrowed them,' which I did. I always borrow
pounds. So our young friends, reduced to prose (which is much to
be regretted), degenerate in their power of imparting pleasure to
me. Why should I go to see them, therefore? Absurd!"

Through the beaming smile with which he regarded me as he reasoned
thus, there now broke forth a look of disinterested benevolence
quite astonishing.

"Besides," he said, pursuing his argument in his tone of light-
hearted conviction, "if I don't go anywhere for pain--which would
be a perversion of the intention of my being, and a monstrous thing
to do--why should I go anywhere to be the cause of pain? If I went
to see our young friends in their present ill-regulated state of
mind, I should give them pain. The associations with me would be
disagreeable. They might say, 'This is the man who had pounds and
who can't pay pounds,' which I can't, of course; nothing could be
more out of the question! Then kindness requires that I shouldn't
go near them--and I won't."

He finished by genially kissing my hand and thanking me. Nothing
but Miss Summerson's fine tact, he said, would have found this out
for him.

I was much disconcerted, but I reflected that if the main point
were gained, it mattered little how strangely he perverted
everything leading to it. I had determined to mention something
else, however, and I thought I was not to be put off in that.

"Mr. Skimpole," said I, "I must take the liberty of saying before I
conclude my visit that I was much surprised to learn, on the best
authority, some little time ago, that you knew with whom that poor
boy left Bleak House and that you accepted a present on that
occasion. I have not mentioned it to my guardian, for I fear it
would hurt him unnecessarily; but I may say to you that I was much
surprised."

"No? Really surprised, my dear Miss Summerson?" he returned
inquiringly, raising his pleasant eyebrows.

"Greatly surprised."

He thought about it for a little while with a highly agreeable and
whimsical expression of face, then quite gave it up and said in his
most engaging manner, "You know what a child I am. Why surprised?"

I was reluctant to enter minutely into that question, but as he
begged I would, for he was really curious to know, I gave him to
understand in the gentlest words I could use that his conduct
seemed to involve a disregard of several moral obligations. He was
much amused and interested when he heard this and said, "No,
really?" with ingenuous simplicity.

"You know I don't intend to be responsible. I never could do it.
Responsibility is a thing that has always been above me--or below
me," said Mr. Skimpole. "I don't even know which; but as I
understand the way in which my dear Miss Summerson (always
remarkable for her practical good sense and clearness) puts this
case, I should imagine it was chiefly a question of money, do you
know?"

I incautiously gave a qualified assent to this.

"Ah! Then you see," said Mr. Skimpole, shaking his head, "I am
hopeless of understanding it."

I suggested, as I rose to go, that it was not right to betray my
guardian's confidence for a bribe.

"My dear Miss Summerson," he returned with a candid hilarity that
was all his own, "I can't be bribed."

"Not by Mr. Bucket?" said I.

"No," said he. "Not by anybody. I don't attach any value to
money. I don't care about it, I don't know about it, I don't want
it, I don't keep it--it goes away from me directly. How can I be
bribed?"

I showed that I was of a different opinion, though I had not the
capacity for arguing the question.

"On the contrary," said Mr. Skimpole, "I am exactly the man to be
placed in a superior position in such a case as that. I am above
the rest of mankind in such a case as that. I can act with
philosophy in such a case as that. I am not warped by prejudices,
as an Italian baby is by bandages. I am as free as the air. I
feel myself as far above suspicion as Caesar's wife."

Anything to equal the lightness of his manner and the playful
impartiality with which he seemed to convince himself, as he tossed
the matter about like a ball of feathers, was surely never seen in
anybody else!

"Observe the case, my dear Miss Summerson. Here is a boy received
into the house and put to bed in a state that I strongly object to.
The boy being in bed, a man arrives--like the house that Jack
built. Here is the man who demands the boy who is received into
the house and put to bed in a state that I strongly object to.
Here is a bank-note produced by the man who demands the boy who is
received into the house and put to bed in a state that I strongly
object to. Here is the Skimpole who accepts the bank-note produced
by the man who demands the boy who is received into the house and
put to bed in a state that I strongly object to. Those are the
facts. Very well. Should the Skimpole have refused the note? WHY
should the Skimpole have refused the note? Skimpole protests to
Bucket, 'What's this for? I don't understand it, it is of no use
to me, take it away.' Bucket still entreats Skimpole to accept it.
Are there reasons why Skimpole, not being warped by prejudices,
should accept it? Yes. Skimpole perceives them. What are they?
Skimpole reasons with himself, this is a tamed lynx, an active
police-officer, an intelligent man, a person of a peculiarly
directed energy and great subtlety both of conception and
execution, who discovers our friends and enemies for us when they
run away, recovers our property for us when we are robbed, avenges
us comfortably when we are murdered. This active police-officer
and intelligent man has acquired, in the exercise of his art, a
strong faith in money; he finds it very useful to him, and he makes
it very useful to society. Shall I shake that faith in Bucket
because I want it myself; shall I deliberately blunt one of
Bucket's weapons; shall I positively paralyse Bucket in his next
detective operation? And again. If it is blameable in Skimpole to
take the note, it is blameable in Bucket to offer the note--much
more blameable in Bucket, because he is the knowing man. Now,
Skimpole wishes to think well of Bucket; Skimpole deems it
essential, in its little place, to the general cohesion of things,
that he SHOULD think well of Bucket. The state expressly asks him
to trust to Bucket. And he does. And that's all he does!"

I had nothing to offer in reply to this exposition and therefore
took my leave. Mr. Skimpole, however, who was in excellent
spirits, would not hear of my returning home attended only by
"Little Coavinses," and accompanied me himself. He entertained me
on the way with a variety of delightful conversation and assured
me, at parting, that he should never forget the fine tact with
which I had found that out for him about our young friends.

As it so happened that I never saw Mr. Skimpole again, I may at
once finish what I know of his history. A coolness arose between
him and my guardian, based principally on the foregoing grounds and
on his having heartlessly disregarded my guardian's entreaties (as
we afterwards learned from Ada) in reference to Richard. His being
heavily in my guardian's debt had nothing to do with their
separation. He died some five years afterwards and left a diary
behind him, with letters and other materials towards his life,
which was published and which showed him to have been the victim of
a combination on the part of mankind against an amiable child. It
was considered very pleasant reading, but I never read more of it
myself than the sentence on which I chanced to light on opening the
book. It was this: "Jarndyce, in common with most other men I have
known, is the incarnation of selfishness."

And now I come to a part of my story touching myself very nearly
indeed, and for which I was quite unprepared when the circumstance
occurred. Whatever little lingerings may have now and then revived
in my mind associated with my poor old face had only revived as
belonging to a part of my life that was gone--gone like my infancy
or my childhood. I have suppressed none of my many weaknesses on
that subject, but have written them as faithfully as my memory has
recalled them. And I hope to do, and mean to do, the same down to
the last words of these pages, which I see now not so very far
before me.

The months were gliding away, and my dear girl, sustained by the
hopes she had confided in me, was the same beautiful star in the
miserable corner. Richard, more worn and haggard, haunted the
court day after day, listlessly sat there the whole day long when
he knew there was no remote chance of the suit being mentioned, and
became one of the stock sights of the place. I wonder whether any
of the gentlemen remembered him as he was when he first went there.

So completely was he absorbed in his fixed idea that he used to
avow in his cheerful moments that he should never have breathed the
fresh air now "but for Woodcourt." It was only Mr. Woodcourt who
could occasionally divert his attention for a few hours at a time
and rouse him, even when he sunk into a lethargy of mind and body
that alarmed us greatly, and the returns of which became more
frequent as the months went on. My dear girl was right in saying
that he only pursued his errors the more desperately for her sake.
I have no doubt that his desire to retrieve what he had lost was
rendered the more intense by his grief for his young wife, and
became like the madness of a gamester.

I was there, as I have mentioned, at all hours. When I was there
at night, I generally went home with Charley in a coach; sometimes
my guardian would meet me in the neighbourhood, and we would walk
home together. One evening he had arranged to meet me at eight
o'clock. I could not leave, as I usually did, quite punctually at
the time, for I was working for my dear girl and had a few stitches
more to do to finish what I was about; but it was within a few
minutes of the hour when I bundled up my little work-basket, gave
my darling my last kiss for the night, and hurried downstairs. Mr.
Woodcourt went with me, as it was dusk.

When we came to the usual place of meeting--it was close by, and
Mr. Woodcourt had often accompanied me before--my guardian was not
there. We waited half an hour, walking up and down, but there were
no signs of him. We agreed that he was either prevented from
coming or that he had come and gone away, and Mr. Woodcourt
proposed to walk home with me.

It was the first walk we had ever taken together, except that very
short one to the usual place of meeting. We spoke of Richard and
Ada the whole way. I did not thank him in words for what he had
done--my appreciation of it had risen above all words then--but I
hoped he might not be without some understanding of what I felt so
strongly.

Arriving at home and going upstairs, we found that my guardian was
out and that Mrs. Woodcourt was out too. We were in the very same
room into which I had brought my blushing girl when her youthful
lover, now her so altered husband, was the choice of her young
heart, the very same room from which my guardian and I had watched
them going away through the sunlight in the fresh bloom of their
hope and promise.

We were standing by the opened window looking down into the street
when Mr. Woodcourt spoke to me. I learned in a moment that he
loved me. I learned in a moment that my scarred face was all
unchanged to him. I learned in a moment that what I had thought
was pity and compassion was devoted, generous, faithful love. Oh,
too late to know it now, too late, too late. That was the first
ungrateful thought I had. Too late.

"When I returned," he told me, "when I came back, no richer than
when I went away, and found you newly risen from a sick bed, yet so
inspired by sweet consideration for others and so free from a
selfish thought--"

"Oh, Mr. Woodcourt, forbear, forbear!" I entreated him. "I do not
deserve your high praise. I had many selfish thoughts at that
time, many!"

"Heaven knows, beloved of my life," said he, "that my praise is not
a lover's praise, but the truth. You do not know what all around
you see in Esther Summerson, how many hearts she touches and
awakens, what sacred admiration and what love she wins."

"Oh, Mr. Woodcourt," cried I, "it is a great thing to win love, it
is a great thing to win love! I am proud of it, and honoured by
it; and the hearing of it causes me to shed these tears of mingled
joy and sorrow--joy that I have won it, sorrow that I have not
deserved it better; but I am not free to think of yours."

I said it with a stronger heart, for when he praised me thus and
when I heard his voice thrill with his belief that what he said was
true, I aspired to be more worthy of it. It was not too late for
that. Although I closed this unforeseen page in my life to-night,
I could be worthier of it all through my life. And it was a
comfort to me, and an impulse to me, and I felt a dignity rise up
within me that was derived from him when I thought so.

He broke the silence.

"I should poorly show the trust that I have in the dear one who
will evermore be as dear to me as now"--and the deep earnestness
with which he said it at once strengthened me and made me weep--
"if, after her assurance that she is not free to think of my love,
I urged it. Dear Esther, let me only tell you that the fond idea
of you which I took abroad was exalted to the heavens when I came
home. I have always hoped, in the first hour when I seemed to
stand in any ray of good fortune, to tell you this. I have always
feared that I should tell it you in vain. My hopes and fears are
both fulfilled to-night. I distress you. I have said enough."

Something seemed to pass into my place that was like the angel he
thought me, and I felt so sorrowful for the loss he had sustained!
I wished to help him in his trouble, as I had wished to do when he
showed that first commiseration for me.

"Dear Mr. Woodcourt," said I, "before we part to-night, something
is left for me to say. I never could say it as I wish--I never
shall--but--"

I had to think again of being more deserving of his love and his
affliction before I could go on.

"--I am deeply sensible of your generosity, and I shall treasure
its remembrance to my dying hour. I know full well how changed I
am, I know you are not unacquainted with my history, and I know
what a noble love that is which is so faithful. What you have said
to me could have affected me so much from no other lips, for there
are none that could give it such a value to me. It shall not be
lost. It shall make me better."

He covered his eyes with his hand and turned away his head. How
could I ever be worthy of those tears?

"If, in the unchanged intercourse we shall have together--in
tending Richard and Ada, and I hope in many happier scenes of life
--you ever find anything in me which you can honestly think is
better than it used to be, believe that it will have sprung up from
to-night and that I shall owe it to you. And never believe, dear
dear Mr. Woodcourt, never believe that I forget this night or that
while my heart beats it can be insensible to the pride and joy of
having been beloved by you."

He took my hand and kissed it. He was like himself again, and I
felt still more encouraged.

"I am induced by what you said just now," said I, "to hope that you
have succeeded in your endeavour."

"I have," he answered. "With such help from Mr. Jarndyce as you
who know him so well can imagine him to have rendered me, I have
succeeded."

"Heaven bless him for it," said I, giving him my hand; "and heaven
bless you in all you do!"

"I shall do it better for the wish," he answered; "it will make me
enter on these new duties as on another sacred trust from you."

"Ah! Richard!" I exclaimed involuntarily, "What will he do when
you are gone!"

"I am not required to go yet; I would not desert him, dear Miss
Summerson, even if I were."

One other thing I felt it needful to touch upon before he left me.
I knew that I should not be worthier of the love I could not take
if I reserved it.

"Mr. Woodcourt," said I, "you will be glad to know from my lips
before I say good night that in the future, which is clear and
bright before me, I am most happy, most fortunate, have nothing to
regret or desire."

It was indeed a glad hearing to him, he replied.

"From my childhood I have been," said I, "the object of the
untiring goodness of the best of human beings, to whom I am so
bound by every tie of attachment, gratitude, and love, that nothing
I could do in the compass of a life could express the feelings of a
single day."

"I share those feelings," he returned. "You speak of Mr.
Jarndyce."

"You know his virtues well," said I, "but few can know the
greatness of his character as I know it. All its highest and best
qualities have been revealed to me in nothing more brightly than in
the shaping out of that future in which I am so happy. And if your
highest homage and respect had not been his already--which I know
they are--they would have been his, I think, on this assurance and
in the feeling it would have awakened in you towards him for my
sake."

He fervently replied that indeed indeed they would have been. I
gave him my hand again.

"Good night," I said, "Good-bye."

"The first until we meet to-morrow, the second as a farewell to
this theme between us for ever."

"Yes."

"Good night; good-bye."

He left me, and I stood at the dark window watching the street.
His love, in all its constancy and generosity, had come so suddenly
upon me that he had not left me a minute when my fortitude gave way
again and the street was blotted out by my rushing tears.

But they were not tears of regret and sorrow. No. He had called
me the beloved of his life and had said I would be evermore as dear
to him as I was then, and I felt as if my heart would not hold the
triumph of having heard those words. My first wild thought had
died away. It was not too late to hear them, for it was not too
late to be animated by them to be good, true, grateful, and
contented. How easy my path, how much easier than his!

CHAPTER LXII

Another Discovery

I had not the courage to see any one that night. I had not even
the courage to see myself, for I was afraid that my tears might a
little reproach me. I went up to my room in the dark, and prayed
in the dark, and lay down in the dark to sleep. I had no need of
any light to read my guardian's letter by, for I knew it by heart.
I took it from the place where I kept it, and repeated its contents
by its own clear light of integrity and love, and went to sleep
with it on my pillow.

I was up very early in the morning and called Charley to come for a
walk. We bought flowers for the breakfast-table, and came back and
arranged them, and were as busy as possible. We were so early that
I had a good time still for Charley's lesson before breakfast;
Charley (who was not in the least improved in the old defective
article of grammar) came through it with great applause; and we
were altogether very notable. When my guardian appeared he
said, "Why, little woman, you look fresher than your flowers!"
And Mrs. Woodcourt repeated and translated a passage from the
Mewlinnwillinwodd expressive of my being like a mountain with
the sun upon it.

This was all so pleasant that I hope it made me still more like the
mountain than I had been before. After breakfast I waited my
opportunity and peeped about a little until I saw my guardian in
his own room--the room of last night--by himself. Then I made an
excuse to go in with my housekeeping keys, shutting the door after
me.

"Well, Dame Durden?" said my guardian; the post had brought him
several letters, and he was writing. "You want money?"

"No, indeed, I have plenty in hand."

"There never was such a Dame Durden," said my guardian, "for making
money last."

He had laid down his pen and leaned back in his chair looking at
me. I have often spoken of his bright face, but I thought I had
never seen it look so bright and good. There was a high happiness
upon it which made me think, "He has been doing some great kindness
this morning."

"There never was," said my guardian, musing as he smiled upon me,
"such a Dame Durden for making money last."

He had never yet altered his old manner. I loved it and him so
much that when I now went up to him and took my usual chair, which
was always put at his side--for sometimes I read to him, and
sometimes I talked to him, and sometimes I silently worked by him--
I hardly liked to disturb it by laying my hand on his breast. But
I found I did not disturb it at all.

"Dear guardian," said I, "I want to speak to you. Have I been
remiss in anything?"

"Remiss in anything, my dear!"

"Have I not been what I have meant to be since--I brought the
answer to your letter, guardian?"

"You have been everything I could desire, my love."

"I am very glad indeed to hear that," I returned. "You know, you
said to me, was this the mistress of Bleak House. And I said,
yes."

"Yes," said my guardian, nodding his head. He had put his arm
about me as if there were something to protect me from and looked
in my face, smiling.

"Since then," said I, "we have never spoken on the subject except
once."

"And then I said Bleak House was thinning fast; and so it was, my
dear."

"And I said," I timidly reminded him, "but its mistress remained."

He still held me in the same protecting manner and with the same
bright goodness in his face.

"Dear guardian," said I, "I know how you have felt all that has
happened, and how considerate you have been. As so much time has
passed, and as you spoke only this morning of my being so well
again, perhaps you expect me to renew the subject. Perhaps I ought
to do so. I will be the mistress of Bleak House when you please."

"See," he returned gaily, "what a sympathy there must be between
us! I have had nothing else, poor Rick excepted--it's a large
exception--in my mind. When you came in, I was full of it. When
shall we give Bleak House its mistress, little woman?"

"When you please."

"Next month?"

"Next month, dear guardian."

"The day on which I take the happiest and best step of my life--the
day on which I shall be a man more exulting and more enviable than
any other man in the world--the day on which I give Bleak House its
little mistress--shall be next month then," said my guardian.

I put my arms round his neck and kissed him just as I had done on
the day when I brought my answer.

A servant came to the door to announce Mr. Bucket, which was quite
unnecessary, for Mr. Bucket was already looking in over the
servant's shoulder. "Mr. Jarndyce and Miss Summerson," said he,
rather out of breath, "with all apologies for intruding, WILL you
allow me to order up a person that's on the stairs and that objects
to being left there in case of becoming the subject of observations
in his absence? Thank you. Be so good as chair that there member
in this direction, will you?" said Mr. Bucket, beckoning over the
banisters.

This singular request produced an old man in a black skull-cap,
unable to walk, who was carried up by a couple of bearers and
deposited in the room near the door. Mr. Bucket immediately got
rid of the bearers, mysteriously shut the door, and bolted it.

"Now you see, Mr. Jarndyce," he then began, putting down his hat
and opening his subject with a flourish of his well-remembered
finger, "you know me, and Miss Summerson knows me. This gentleman
likewise knows me, and his name is Smallweed. The discounting line
is his line principally, and he's what you may call a dealer in
bills. That's about what YOU are, you know, ain't you?" said Mr.
Bucket, stopping a little to address the gentleman in question, who
was exceedingly suspicious of him.

He seemed about to dispute this designation of himself when he was
seized with a violent fit of coughing.

"Now, moral, you know!" said Mr. Bucket, improving the accident.
"Don't you contradict when there ain't no occasion, and you won't
be took in that way. Now, Mr. Jarndyce, I address myself to you.
I've been negotiating with this gentleman on behalf of Sir
Leicester Dedlock, Baronet, and one way and another I've been in
and out and about his premises a deal. His premises are the
premises formerly occupied by Krook, marine store dealer--a
relation of this gentleman's that you saw in his lifetime if I
don't mistake?"

My guardian replied, "Yes."

"Well! You are to understand," said Mr. Bucket, "that this
gentleman he come into Krook's property, and a good deal of magpie
property there was. Vast lots of waste-paper among the rest. Lord
bless you, of no use to nobody!"

The cunning of Mr. Bucket's eye and the masterly manner in which he
contrived, without a look or a word against which his watchful
auditor could protest, to let us know that he stated the case
according to previous agreement and could say much more of Mr.
Smallweed if he thought it advisable, deprived us of any merit in
quite understanding him. His difficulty was increased by Mr.
Smallweed's being deaf as well as suspicious and watching his face
with the closest attention.

"Among them odd heaps of old papers, this gentleman, when he comes
into the property, naturally begins to rummage, don't you see?"
said Mr. Bucket.

"To which? Say that again," cried Mr. Smallweed in a shrill, sharp
voice.

"To rummage," repeated Mr. Bucket. "Being a prudent man and
accustomed to take care of your own affairs, you begin to rummage
among the papers as you have come into; don't you?"

"Of course I do," cried Mr. Smallweed.

"Of course you do," said Mr. Bucket conversationally, "and much to
blame you would be if you didn't. And so you chance to find, you
know," Mr. Bucket went on, stooping over him with an air of
cheerful raillery which Mr. Smallweed by no means reciprocated,
"and so you chance to find, you know, a paper with the signature of
Jarndyce to it. Don't you?"

Mr. Smallweed glanced with a troubled eye at us and grudgingly
nodded assent.

"And coming to look at that paper at your full leisure and
convenience--all in good time, for you're not curious to read it,
and why should you be?--what do you find it to be but a will, you
see. That's the drollery of it," said Mr. Bucket with the same
lively air of recalling a joke for the enjoyment of Mr. Smallweed,
who still had the same crest-fallen appearance of not enjoying it
at all; "what do you find it to be but a will?"

"I don't know that it's good as a will or as anything else,"
snarled Mr. Smallweed.

Mr. Bucket eyed the old man for a moment--he had slipped and shrunk
down in his chair into a mere bundle--as if he were much disposed
to pounce upon him; nevertheless, he continued to bend over him
with the same agreeable air, keeping the corner of one of his eyes
upon us.

"Notwithstanding which," said Mr. Bucket, "you get a little
doubtful and uncomfortable in your mind about it, having a very
tender mind of your own."

"Eh? What do you say I have got of my own?" asked Mr. Smallweed
with his hand to his ear.

"A very tender mind."

"Ho! Well, go on," said Mr. Smallweed.

"And as you've heard a good deal mentioned regarding a celebrated
Chancery will case of the same name, and as you know what a card
Krook was for buying all manner of old pieces of furniter, and
books, and papers, and what not, and never liking to part with 'em,
and always a-going to teach himself to read, you begin to think--
and you never was more correct in your born days--'Ecod, if I don't
look about me, I may get into trouble regarding this will.'"

"Now, mind how you put it, Bucket," cried the old man anxiously
with his hand at his ear. "Speak up; none of your brimstone
tricks. Pick me up; I want to hear better. Oh, Lord, I am shaken
to bits!"

Mr. Bucket had certainly picked him up at a dart. However, as soon
as he could be heard through Mr. Smallweed's coughing and his
vicious ejaculations of "Oh, my bones! Oh, dear! I've no breath
in my body! I'm worse than the chattering, clattering, brimstone
pig at home!" Mr. Bucket proceeded in the same convivial manner as
before.

"So, as I happen to be in the habit of coming about your premises,
you take me into your confidence, don't you?"

I think it would be impossible to make an admission with more ill
will and a worse grace than Mr. Smallweed displayed when he
admitted this, rendering it perfectly evident that Mr. Bucket was
the very last person he would have thought of taking into his
confidence if he could by any possibility have kept him out of it.

"And I go into the business with you--very pleasant we are over it;
and I confirm you in your well-founded fears that you will get
yourself into a most precious line if you don't come out with that
there will," said Mr. Bucket emphatically; "and accordingly you
arrange with me that it shall be delivered up to this present Mr.
Jarndyce, on no conditions. If it should prove to be valuable, you
trusting yourself to him for your reward; that's about where it is,
ain't it?"

"That's what was agreed," Mr. Smallweed assented with the same bad
grace.

"In consequence of which," said Mr. Bucket, dismissing his
agreeable manner all at once and becoming strictly business-like,
"you've got that will upon your person at the present time, and the
only thing that remains for you to do is just to out with it!"

Having given us one glance out of the watching corner of his eye,
and having given his nose one triumphant rub with his forefinger,
Mr. Bucket stood with his eyes fastened on his confidential friend
and his hand stretched forth ready to take the paper and present it
to my guardian. It was not produced without much reluctance and
many declarations on the part of Mr. Smallweed that he was a poor
industrious man and that he left it to Mr. Jarndyce's honour not to
let him lose by his honesty. Little by little he very slowly took
from a breast-pocket a stained, discoloured paper which was much
singed upon the outside and a little burnt at the edges, as if it
had long ago been thrown upon a fire and hastily snatched off
again. Mr. Bucket lost no time in transferring this paper, with
the dexterity of a conjuror, from Mr. Smallweed to Mr. Jarndyce.
As he gave it to my guardian, he whispered behind his fingers,
"Hadn't settled how to make their market of it. Quarrelled and
hinted about it. I laid out twenty pound upon it. First the
avaricious grandchildren split upon him on account of their
objections to his living so unreasonably long, and then they split
on one another. Lord! There ain't one of the family that wouldn't
sell the other for a pound or two, except the old lady--and she's
only out of it because she's too weak in her mind to drive a
bargain."

"Mr Bucket," said my guardian aloud, "whatever the worth of this
paper may be to any one, my obligations are great to you; and if it
be of any worth, I hold myself bound to see Mr. Smallweed
remunerated accordingly."

"Not according to your merits, you know," said Mr. Bucket in
friendly explanation to Mr. Smallweed. "Don't you be afraid of
that. According to its value."

"That is what I mean," said my guardian. "You may observe, Mr.
Bucket, that I abstain from examining this paper myself. The plain
truth is, I have forsworn and abjured the whole business these many
years, and my soul is sick of it. But Miss Summerson and I will
immediately place the paper in the hands of my solicitor in the
cause, and its existence shall be made known without delay to all
other parties interested."

"Mr. Jarndyce can't say fairer than that, you understand," observed
Mr. Bucket to his fellow-visitor. "And it being now made clear to
you that nobody's a-going to be wronged--which must be a great
relief to YOUR mind--we may proceed with the ceremony of chairing
you home again."

He unbolted the door, called in the bearers, wished us good
morning, and with a look full of meaning and a crook of his finger
at parting went his way.

We went our way too, which was to Lincoln's Inn, as quickly as
possible. Mr. Kenge was disengaged, and we found him at his table
in his dusty room with the inexpressive-looking books and the piles
of papers. Chairs having been placed for us by Mr. Guppy, Mr.
Kenge expressed the surprise and gratification he felt at the
unusual sight of Mr. Jarndyce in his office. He turned over his
double eye-glass as he spoke and was more Conversation Kenge than
ever.

"I hope," said Mr. Kenge, "that the genial influence of Miss
Summerson," he bowed to me, "may have induced Mr. Jarndyce," he
bowed to him, "to forego some little of his animosity towards a
cause and towards a court which are--shall I say, which take their
place in the stately vista of the pillars of our profession?"

"I am inclined to think," returned my guardian, "that Miss
Summerson has seen too much of the effects of the court and the
cause to exert any influence in their favour. Nevertheless, they
are a part of the occasion of my being here. Mr. Kenge, before I
lay this paper on your desk and have done with it, let me tell you
how it has come into my hands."

He did so shortly and distinctly.

"It could not, sir," said Mr. Kenge, "have been stated more plainly
and to the purpose if it had been a case at law."

"Did you ever know English law, or equity either, plain and to the
purpose?" said my guardian.

"Oh, fie!" said Mr. Kenge.

At first he had not seemed to attach much importance to the paper,
but when he saw it he appeared more interested, and when he had
opened and read a little of it through his eye-glass, he became
amazed. "Mr. Jarndyce," he said, looking off it, "you have perused
this?"

"Not I!" returned my guardian.

"But, my dear sir," said Mr. Kenge, "it is a will of later date
than any in the suit. It appears to be all in the testator's
handwriting. It is duly executed and attested. And even if
intended to be cancelled, as might possibly be supposed to be
denoted by these marks of fire, it is NOT cancelled. Here it is, a
perfect instrument!"

"Well!" said my guardian. "What is that to me?"

"Mr. Guppy!" cried Mr. Kenge, raising his voice. "I beg your
pardon, Mr. Jarndyce."

"Sir."

"Mr. Vholes of Symond's Inn. My compliments. Jarndyce and
Jarndyce. Glad to speak with him."

Mr. Guppy disappeared.

"You ask me what is this to you, Mr. Jarndyce. If you had perused
this document, you would have seen that it reduces your interest
considerably, though still leaving it a very handsome one, still
leaving it a very handsome one," said Mr. Kenge, waving his hand
persuasively and blandly. "You would further have seen that the
interests of Mr. Richard Carstone and of Miss Ada Clare, now Mrs.
Richard Carstone, are very materially advanced by it."

"Kenge," said my guardian, "if all the flourishing wealth that the
suit brought into this vile court of Chancery could fall to my two
young cousins, I should be well contented. But do you ask ME to
believe that any good is to come of Jarndyce and Jarndyce?"

"Oh, really, Mr. Jarndyce! Prejudice, prejudice. My dear sir,
this is a very great country, a very great country. Its system of
equity is a very great system, a very great system. Really,
really!"

My guardian said no more, and Mr. Vholes arrived. He was modestly
impressed by Mr. Kenge's professional eminence.

"How do you do, Mr. Vholes? Willl you be so good as to take a
chair here by me and look over this paper?"

Mr. Vholes did as he was asked and seemed to read it every word.
He was not excited by it, but he was not excited by anything. When
he had well examined it, he retired with Mr. Kenge into a window,
and shading his mouth with his black glove, spoke to him at some
length. I was not surprised to observe Mr. Kenge inclined to
dispute what he said before he had said much, for I knew that no
two people ever did agree about anything in Jarndyce and Jarndyce.
But he seemed to get the better of Mr. Kenge too in a conversation
that sounded as if it were almost composed of the words "Receiver-
General," "Accountant-General," "report," "estate," and "costs."
When they had finished, they came back to Mr. Kenge's table and
spoke aloud.

"Well! But this is a very remarkable document, Mr. Vholes," said
Mr. Kenge.

Mr. Vholes said, "Very much so."

"And a very important document, Mr. Vholes," said Mr. Kenge.

Again Mr. Vholes said, "Very much so."

"And as you say, Mr. Vholes, when the cause is in the paper next
term, this document will be an unexpected and interesting feature
in it," said Mr. Kenge, looking loftily at my guardian.

Mr. Vholes was gratified, as a smaller practitioner striving to
keep respectable, to be confirmed in any opinion of his own by such
an authority.

"And when," asked my guardian, rising after a pause, during which
Mr. Kenge had rattled his money and Mr. Vholes had picked his
pimples, "when is next term?"

"Next term, Mr. Jarndyce, will be next month," said Mr. Kenge. "Of
course we shall at once proceed to do what is necessary with this
document and to collect the necessary evidence concerning it; and
of course you will receive our usual notification of the cause
being in the paper."

"To which I shall pay, of course, my usual attention."

"Still bent, my dear sir," said Mr. Kenge, showing us through the
outer office to the door, "still bent, even with your enlarged
mind, on echoing a popular prejudice? We are a prosperous
community, Mr. Jarndyce, a very prosperous community. We are a
great country, Mr. Jarndyce, we are a very great country. This is
a great system, Mr. Jarndyce, and would you wish a great country to
have a little system? Now, really, really!"

He said this at the stair-head, gently moving his right hand as if
it were a silver trowel with which to spread the cement of his
words on the structure of the system and consolidate it for a
thousand ages.

CHAPTER LXIII

Steel and Iron

George's Shooting Gallery is to let, and the stock is sold off, and
George himself is at Chesney Wold attending on Sir Leicester in his
rides and riding very near his bridle-rein because of the uncertain
hand with which he guides his horse. But not to-day is George so
occupied. He is journeying to-day into the iron country farther
north to look about him.

As he comes into the iron country farther north, such fresh green
woods as those of Chesney Wold are left behind; and coal pits and
ashes, high chimneys and red bricks, blighted verdure, scorching
fires, and a heavy never-lightening cloud of smoke become the
features of the scenery. Among such objects rides the trooper,
looking about him and always looking for something he has come to
find.

At last, on the black canal bridge of a busy town, with a clang of
iron in it, and more fires and more smoke than he has seen yet, the
trooper, swart with the dust of the coal roads, checks his horse
and asks a workman does he know the name of Rouncewell thereabouts.

"Why, master," quoth the workman, "do I know my own name?"

"'Tis so well known here, is it, comrade?" asks the trooper.

"Rouncewell's? Ah! You're right."

"And where might it be now?" asks the trooper with a glance before
him.

"The bank, the factory, or the house?" the workman wants to know.

"Hum! Rouncewell's is so great apparently," mutters the trooper,
stroking his chin, "that I have as good as half a mind to go back
again. Why, I don't know which I want. Should I find Mr.
Rouncewell at the factory, do you think?"

"Tain't easy to say where you'd find him--at this time of the day
you might find either him or his son there, if he's in town; but
his contracts take him away."

And which is the factory? Why, he sees those chimneys--the tallest
ones! Yes, he sees THEM. Well! Let him keep his eye on those
chimneys, going on as straight as ever he can, and presently he'll
see 'em down a turning on the left, shut in by a great brick wall
which forms one side of the street. That's Rouncewell's.

The trooper thanks his informant and rides slowly on, looking about
him. He does not turn back, but puts up his horse (and is much
disposed to groom him too) at a public-house where some of
Rouncewell's hands are dining, as the ostler tells him. Some of
Rouncewell's hands have just knocked off for dinner-time and seem
to be invading the whole town. They are very sinewy and strong,
are Rouncewell's hands--a little sooty too.

He comes to a gateway in the brick wall, looks in, and sees a great
perplexity of iron lying about in every stage and in a vast variety
of shapes--in bars, in wedges, in sheets; in tanks, in boilers, in
axles, in wheels, in cogs, in cranks, in rails; twisted and
wrenched into eccentric and perverse forms as separate parts of
machinery; mountains of it broken up, and rusty in its age; distant
furnaces of it glowing and bubbling in its youth; bright fireworks
of it showering about under the blows of the steam-hammer; red-hot
iron, white-hot iron, cold-black iron; an iron taste, an iron
smell, and a Babel of iron sounds.

"This is a place to make a man's head ache too!" says the trooper,
looking about him for a counting-house. "Who comes here? This is
very like me before I was set up. This ought to be my nephew, if
likenesses run in families. Your servant, sir."

"Yours, sir. Are you looking for any one?"

"Excuse me. Young Mr. Rouncewell, I believe?"

"Yes."

"I was looking for your father, sir. I wish to have a word with
him."

The young man, telling him he is fortunate in his choice of a time,
for his father is there, leads the way to the office where he is to
be found. "Very like me before I was set up--devilish like me!"
thinks the trooper as he follows. They come to a building in the
yard with an office on an upper floor. At sight of the gentleman
in the office, Mr. George turns very red.

"What name shall I say to my father?" asks the young man.

George, full of the idea of iron, in desperation answers "Steel,"
and is so presented. He is left alone with the gentleman in the
office, who sits at a table with account-books before him and some
sheets of paper blotted with hosts of figures and drawings of
cunning shapes. It is a bare office, with bare windows, looking on
the iron view below. Tumbled together on the table are some pieces
of iron, purposely broken to be tested at various periods of their
service, in various capacities. There is iron-dust on everything;
and the smoke is seen through the windows rolling heavily out of
the tall chimneys to mingle with the smoke from a vaporous Babylon
of other chimneys.

"I am at your service, Mr. Steel," says the gentleman when his
visitor has taken a rusty chair.

"Well, Mr. Rouncewell," George replies, leaning forward with his
left arm on his knee and his hat in his hand, and very chary of
meeting his brother's eye, "I am not without my expectations that
in the present visit I may prove to be more free than welcome. I
have served as a dragoon in my day, and a comrade of mine that I
was once rather partial to was, if I don't deceive myself, a
brother of yours. I believe you had a brother who gave his family
some trouble, and ran away, and never did any good but in keeping
away?"

"Are you quite sure," returns the ironmaster in an altered voice,
"that your name is Steel?"

The trooper falters and looks at him. His brother starts up, calls
him by his name, and grasps him by both hands.

"You are too quick for me!" cries the trooper with the tears
springing out of his eyes. "How do you do, my dear old fellow? I
never could have thought you would have been half so glad to see me
as all this. How do you do, my dear old fellow, how do you do!"

They shake hands and embrace each other over and over again, the
trooper still coupling his "How do you do, my dear old fellow!"
with his protestation that he never thought his brother would have
been half so glad to see him as all this!

"So far from it," he declares at the end of a full account of what
has preceded his arrival there, "I had very little idea of making
myself known. I thought if you took by any means forgivingly to my
name I might gradually get myself up to the point of writing a
letter. But I should not have been surprised, brother, if you had
considered it anything but welcome news to hear of me."

"We will show you at home what kind of news we think it, George,"
returns his brother. "This is a great day at home, and you could
not have arrived, you bronzed old soldier, on a better. I make an
agreement with my son Watt to-day that on this day twelvemonth he
shall marry as pretty and as good a girl as you have seen in all
your travels. She goes to Germany to-morrow with one of your
nieces for a little polishing up in her education. We make a feast
of the event, and you will be made the hero of it."

Mr. George is so entirely overcome at first by this prospect that
he resists the proposed honour with great earnestness. Being
overborne, however, by his brother and his nephew--concerning whom
he renews his protestations that he never could have thought they
would have been half so glad to see him--he is taken home to an
elegant house in all the arrangements of which there is to be
observed a pleasant mixture of the originally simple habits of the
father and mother with such as are suited to their altered station
and the higher fortunes of their children. Here Mr. George is much
dismayed by the graces and accomplishments of his nieces that are
and by the beauty of Rosa, his niece that is to be, and by the
affectionate salutations of these young ladies, which he receives
in a sort of dream. He is sorely taken aback, too, by the dutiful
behaviour of his nephew and has a woeful consciousness upon him of
being a scapegrace. However, there is great rejoicing and a very
hearty company and infinite enjoyment, and Mr. George comes bluff
and martial through it all, and his pledge to be present at the
marriage and give away the bride is received with universal favour.
A whirling head has Mr. George that night when he lies down in the
state-bed of his brother's house to think of all these things and
to see the images of his nieces (awful all the evening in their
floating muslins) waltzing, after the German manner, over his
counterpane.

The brothers are closeted next morning in the ironmaster's room,
where the elder is proceeding, in his clear sensible way, to show
how he thinks he may best dispose of George in his business, when
George squeezes his hand and stops him.

"Brother, I thank you a million times for your more than brotherly
welcome, and a million times more to that for your more than
brotherly intentions. But my plans are made. Before I say a word
as to them, I wish to consult you upon one family point. How,"
says the trooper, folding his arms and looking with indomitable
firmness at his brother, "how is my mother to be got to scratch
me?"

"I am not sure that I understand you, George," replies the
ironmaster.

"I say, brother, how is my mother to be got to scratch me? She
must be got to do it somehow."

"Scratch you out of her will, I think you mean?"

"Of course I do. In short," says the trooper, folding his arms
more resolutely yet, "I mean--TO--scratch me!"

"My dear George," returns his brother, "is it so indispensable that
you should undergo that process?"

"Quite! Absolutely! I couldn't be guilty of the meanness of
coming back without it. I should never be safe not to be off
again. I have not sneaked home to rob your children, if not
yourself, brother, of your rights. I, who forfeited mine long ago!
If I am to remain and hold up my head, I must be scratched. Come.
You are a man of celebrated penetration and intelligence, and you
can tell me how it's to be brought about."

"I can tell you, George," replies the ironmaster deliberately, "how
it is not to be brought about, which I hope may answer the purpose
as well. Look at our mother, think of her, recall her emotion when
she recovered you. Do you believe there is a consideration in the
world that would induce her to take such a step against her
favourite son? Do you believe there is any chance of her consent,
to balance against the outrage it would be to her (loving dear old
lady!) to propose it? If you do, you are wrong. No, George! You
must make up your mind to remain UNscratched, I think." There is
an amused smile on the ironmaster's face as he watches his brother,
who is pondering, deeply disappointed. "I think you may manage
almost as well as if the thing were done, though."

"How, brother?"

"Being bent upon it, you can dispose by will of anything you have
the misfortune to inherit in any way you like, you know."

"That's true!" says the trooper, pondering again. Then he
wistfully asks, with his hand on his brother's, "Would you mind
mentioning that, brother, to your wife and family?"

"Not at all."

"Thank you. You wouldn't object to say, perhaps, that although an
undoubted vagabond, I am a vagabond of the harum-scarum order, and
not of the mean sort?"

The ironmaster, repressing his amused smile, assents.

"Thank you. Thank you. It's a weight off my mind," says the
trooper with a heave of his chest as he unfolds his arms and puts a
hand on each leg, "though I had set my heart on being scratched,
too!"

The brothers are very like each other, sitting face to face; but a
certain massive simplicity and absence of usage in the ways of the
world is all on the trooper's side.

"Well," he proceeds, throwing off his disappointment, "next and
last, those plans of mine. You have been so brotherly as to
propose to me to fall in here and take my place among the products
of your perseverance and sense. I thank you heartily. It's more
than brotherly, as I said before, and I thank you heartily for it,"
shaking him a long time by the hand. "But the truth is, brother, I
am a--I am a kind of a weed, and it's too late to plant me in a
regular garden."

"My dear George," returns the elder, concentrating his strong
steady brow upon him and smiling confidently, "leave that to me,
and let me try."

George shakes his head. "You could do it, I have not a doubt, if
anybody could; but it's not to be done. Not to be done, sir!
Whereas it so falls out, on the other hand, that I am able to be of
some trifle of use to Sir Leicester Dedlock since his illness--
brought on by family sorrows--and that he would rather have that
help from our mother's son than from anybody else."

"Well, my dear George," returns the other with a very slight shade
upon his open face, "if you prefer to serve in Sir Leicester
Dedlock's household brigade--"

"There it is, brother," cries the trooper, checking him, with his
hand upon his knee again; "there it is! You don't take kindly to
that idea; I don't mind it. You are not used to being officered; I
am. Everything about you is in perfect order and discipline;
everything about me requires to be kept so. We are not accustomed
to carry things with the same hand or to look at 'em from the same
point. I don't say much about my garrison manners because I found
myself pretty well at my ease last night, and they wouldn't be
noticed here, I dare say, once and away. But I shall get on best
at Chesney Wold, where there's more room for a weed than there is
here; and the dear old lady will be made happy besides. Therefore
I accept of Sir Leicester Dedlock's proposals. When I come over
next year to give away the bride, or whenever I come, I shall have
the sense to keep the household brigade in ambuscade and not to
manoeuvre it on your ground. I thank you heartily again and am
proud to think of the Rouncewells as they'll be founded by you."

"You know yourself, George," says the elder brother, returning the
grip of his hand, "and perhaps you know me better than I know
myself. Take your way. So that we don't quite lose one another
again, take your way."

"No fear of that!" returns the trooper. "Now, before I turn my
horse's head homewards, brother, I will ask you--if you'll be so
good--to look over a letter for me. I brought it with me to send
from these parts, as Chesney Wold might be a painful name just now
to the person it's written to. I am not much accustomed to
correspondence myself, and I am particular respecting this present
letter because I want it to be both straightforward and delicate."

Herewith he hands a letter, closely written in somewhat pale ink
but in a neat round hand, to the ironmaster, who reads as follows:

Miss Esther Summerson,

A communication having been made to me by Inspector Bucket of a
letter to myself being found among the papers of a certain person,
I take the liberty to make known to you that it was but a few lines
of instruction from abroad, when, where, and how to deliver an
enclosed letter to a young and beautiful lady, then unmarried, in
England. I duly observed the same.

I further take the liberty to make known to you that it was got
from me as a proof of handwriting only and that otherwise I would
not have given it up, as appearing to be the most harmless in my
possession, without being previously shot through the heart.

I further take the liberty to mention that if I could have supposed
a certain unfortunate gentleman to have been in existence, I never
could and never would have rested until I had discovered his
retreat and shared my last farthing with him, as my duty and my
inclination would have equally been. But he was (officially)
reported drowned, and assuredly went over the side of a transport-
ship at night in an Irish harbour within a few hours of her arrival
from the West Indies, as I have myself heard both from officers and
men on board, and know to have been (officially) confirmed.

I further take the liberty to state that in my humble quality as
one of the rank and file, I am, and shall ever continue to be, your
thoroughly devoted and admiring servant and that I esteem the
qualities you possess above all others far beyond the limits of the
present dispatch.

I have the honour to be,

GEORGE

"A little formal," observes the elder brother, refolding it with a
puzzled face.

"But nothing that might not be sent to a pattern young lady?" asks
the younger.

"Nothing at all."

Therefore it is sealed and deposited for posting among the iron
correspondence of the day. This done, Mr. George takes a hearty
farewell of the family party and prepares to saddle and mount. His
brother, however, unwilling to part with him so soon, proposes to
ride with him in a light open carriage to the place where he will
bait for the night, and there remain with him until morning, a
servant riding for so much of the journey on the thoroughbred old
grey from Chesney Wold. The offer, being gladly accepted, is
followed by a pleasant ride, a pleasant dinner, and a pleasant
breakfast, all in brotherly communion. Then they once more shake
hands long and heartily and part, the ironmaster turning his face
to the smoke and fires, and the trooper to the green country.
Early in the afternoon the subdued sound of his heavy military trot
is heard on the turf in the avenue as he rides on with imaginary
clank and jingle of accoutrements under the old elm-trees.

CHAPTER LXIV

Esther's Narrative

Soon after I had that convertion with my guardian, he put a sealed
paper in my hand one morning and said, "This is for next month, my
dear." I found in it two hundred pounds.

I now began very quietly to make such preparations as I thought
were necessary. Regulating my purchases by my guardian's taste,
which I knew very well of course, I arranged my wardrobe to please
him and hoped I should be highly successful. I did it all so
quietly because I was not quite free from my old apprehension that
Ada would be rather sorry and because my guardian was so quiet
himself. I had no doubt that under all the circumstances we should
be married in the most private and simple manner. Perhaps I should
only have to say to Ada, "Would you like to come and see me married
to-morrow, my pet?" Perhaps our wedding might even be as
unpretending as her own, and I might not find it necessary to say
anything about it until it was over. I thought that if I were to
choose, I would like this best.

The only exception I made was Mrs. Woodcourt. I told her that I
was going to be married to my guardian and that we had been engaged
some time. She highly approved. She could never do enough for me
and was remarkably softened now in comparison with what she had
been when we first knew her. There was no trouble she would not
have taken to have been of use to me, but I need hardly say that I
only allowed her to take as little as gratified her kindness
without tasking it.

Of course this was not a time to neglect my guardian, and of course
it was not a time for neglecting my darling. So I had plenty of
occupation, which I was glad of; and as to Charley, she was
absolutely not to be seen for needlework. To surround herself with
great heaps of it--baskets full and tables full--and do a little,
and spend a great deal of time in staring with her round eyes at
what there was to do, and persuade herself that she was going to do
it, were Charley's great dignities and delights.

Meanwhile, I must say, I could not agree with my guardian on the
subject of the will, and I had some sanguine hopes of Jarndyce and
Jarndyce. Which of us was right will soon appear, but I certainly
did encourage expectations. In Richard, the discovery gave
occasion for a burst of business and agitation that buoyed him up
for a little time, but he had lost the elasticity even of hope now
and seemed to me to retain only its feverish anxieties. From
something my guardian said one day when we were talking about this,
I understood that my marriage would not take place until after the
term-time we had been told to look forward to; and I thought the
more, for that, how rejoiced I should be if I could be married when
Richard and Ada were a little more prosperous.

The term was very near indeed when my guardian was called out of
town and went down into Yorkshire on Mr. Woodcourt's business. He
had told me beforehand that his presence there would be necessary.
I had just come in one night from my dear girl's and was sitting in
the midst of all my new clothes, looking at them all around me and
thinking, when a letter from my guardian was brought to me. It
asked me to join him in the country and mentioned by what stage-
coach my place was taken and at what time in the morning I should
have to leave town. It added in a postscript that I would not be
many hours from Ada.

I expected few things less than a journey at that time, but I was
ready for it in half an hour and set off as appointed early next
morning. I travelled all day, wondering all day what I could be
wanted for at such a distance; now I thought it might be for this
purpose, and now I thought it might be for that purpose, but I was
never, never, never near the truth.

It was night when I came to my journey's end and found my guardian
waiting for me. This was a great relief, for towards evening I had
begun to fear (the more so as his letter was a very short one) that
he might be ill. However, there he was, as well as it was possible
to be; and when I saw his genial face again at its brightest and
best, I said to myself, he has been doing some other great
kindness. Not that it required much penetration to say that,
because I knew that his being there at all was an act of kindness.

Supper was ready at the hotel, and when we were alone at table he
said, "Full of curiosity, no doubt, little woman, to know why I
have brought you here?"

"Well, guardian," said I, "without thinking myself a Fatima or you
a Blue Beard, I am a little curious about it."

"Then to ensure your night's rest, my love," he returned gaily, "I
won't wait until to-morrow to tell you. I have very much wished to
express to Woodcourt, somehow, my sense of his humanity to poor
unfortunate Jo, his inestimable services to my young cousins, and
his value to us all. When it was decided that he should settle
here, it came into my head that I might ask his acceptance of some
unpretending and suitable little place to lay his own head in. I
therefore caused such a place to be looked out for, and such a
place was found on very easy terms, and I have been touching it up
for him and making it habitable. However, when I walked over it
the day before yesterday and it was reported ready, I found that I
was not housekeeper enough to know whether things were all as they
ought to be. So I sent off for the best little housekeeper that
could possibly be got to come and give me her advice and opinion.
And here she is," said my guardian, "laughing and crying both
together!"

Because he was so dear, so good, so admirable. I tried to tell him
what I thought of him, but I could not articulate a word.

"Tut, tut!" said my guardian. "You make too much of it, little
woman. Why, how you sob, Dame Durden, how you sob!"

"It is with exquisite pleasure, guardian--with a heart full of
thanks."

"Well, well," said he. "I am delighted that you approve. I
thought you would. I meant it as a pleasant surprise for the
little mistress of Bleak House."

I kissed him and dried my eyes. "I know now!" said I. "I have
seen this in your face a long while."

"No; have you really, my dear?" said he. "What a Dame Durden it is
to read a face!"

He was so quaintly cheerful that I could not long be otherwise, and
was almost ashamed of having been otherwise at all. When I went to
bed, I cried. I am bound to confess that I cried; but I hope it
was with pleasure, though I am not quite sure it was with pleasure.
I repeated every word of the letter twice over.

A most beautiful summer morning succeeded, and after breakfast we
went out arm in arm to see the house of which I was to give my
mighty housekeeping opinion. We entered a flower-garden by a gate
in a side wall, of which he had the key, and the first thing I saw
was that the beds and flowers were all laid out according to the
manner of my beds and flowers at home.

"You see, my dear," observed my guardian, standing still with a
delighted face to watch my looks, "knowing there could be no better
plan, I borrowed yours."

We went on by a pretty little orchard, where the cherries were
nestling among the green leaves and the shadows of the apple-trees
were sporting on the grass, to the house itself--a cottage, quite a
rustic cottage of doll's rooms; but such a lovely place, so
tranquil and so beautiful, with such a rich and smiling country
spread around it; with water sparkling away into the distance, here
all overhung with summer-growth, there turning a humming mill; at
its nearest point glancing through a meadow by the cheerful town,
where cricket-players were assembling in bright groups and a flag
was flying from a white tent that rippled in the sweet west wind.
And still, as we went through the pretty rooms, out at the little
rustic verandah doors, and underneath the tiny wooden colonnades
garlanded with woodbine, jasmine, and honey-suckle, I saw in the
papering on the walls, in the colours of the furniture, in the
arrangement of all the pretty objects, MY little tastes and
fancies, MY little methods and inventions which they used to laugh
at while they praised them, my odd ways everywhere.

I could not say enough in admiration of what was all so beautiful,
but one secret doubt arose in my mind when I saw this, I thought,
oh, would he be the happier for it! Would it not have been better
for his peace that I should not have been so brought before him?
Because although I was not what he thought me, still he loved me
very dearly, and it might remind him mournfully of what be believed
he had lost. I did not wish him to forget me--perhaps he might not
have done so, without these aids to his memory--but my way was
easier than his, and I could have reconciled myself even to that so
that he had been the happier for it.

"And now, little woman," said my guardian, whom I had never seen so
proud and joyful as in showing me these things and watching my
appreciation of them, "now, last of all, for the name of this
house."

"What is it called, dear guardian?"

"My child," said he, "come and see,"

He took me to the porch, which he had hitherto avoided, and said,
pausing before we went out, "My dear child, don't you guess the
name?"

"No!" said I.

We went out of the porch and he showed me written over it, Bleak
House.

He led me to a seat among the leaves close by, and sitting down
beside me and taking my hand in his, spoke to me thus, "My darling
girl, in what there has been between us, I have, I hope, been
really solicitous for your happiness. When I wrote you the letter
to which you brought the answer," smiling as he referred to it, "I
had my own too much in view; but I had yours too. Whether, under
different circumstances, I might ever have renewed the old dream I
sometimes dreamed when you were very young, of making you my wife
one day, I need not ask myself. I did renew it, and I wrote my
letter, and you brought your answer. You are following what I say,
my child?"

I was cold, and I trembled violently, but not a word he uttered was
lost. As I sat looking fixedly at him and the sun's rays
descended, softly shining through the leaves upon his bare head, I
felt as if the brightness on him must be like the brightness of the
angels.

"Hear me, my love, but do not speak. It is for me to speak now.
When it was that I began to doubt whether what I had done would
really make you happy is no matter. Woodcourt came home, and I
soon had no doubt at all."

I clasped him round the neck and hung my head upon his breast and
wept. "Lie lightly, confidently here, my child," said he, pressing
me gently to him. "I am your guardian and your father now. Rest
confidently here."

Soothingly, like the gentle rustling of the leaves; and genially,
like the ripening weather; and radiantly and beneficently, like the
sunshine, he went on.

"Understand me, my dear girl. I had no doubt of your being
contented and happy with me, being so dutiful and so devoted; but I
saw with whom you would be happier. That I penetrated his secret
when Dame Durden was blind to it is no wonder, for I knew the good
that could never change in her better far than she did. Well! I
have long been in Allan Woodcourt's confidence, although he was
not, until yesterday, a few hours before you came here, in mine.
But I would not have my Esther's bright example lost; I would not
have a jot of my dear girl's virtues unobserved and unhonoured; I
would not have her admitted on sufferance into the line of Morgan
ap-Kerrig, no, not for the weight in gold of all the mountains in
Wales!"

He stopped to kiss me on the forehead, and I sobbed and wept
afresh. For I felt as if I could not bear the painful delight of
his praise.

"Hush, little woman! Don't cry; this is to be a day of joy. I
have looked forward to it," he said exultingly, "for months on
months! A few words more, Dame Trot, and I have said my say.
Determined not to throw away one atom of my Esther's worth, I took
Mrs. Woodcourt into a separate confidence. 'Now, madam,' said I,
'I clearly perceive--and indeed I know, to boot--that your son
loves my ward. I am further very sure that my ward loves your son,
but will sacrifice her love to a sense of duty and affection, and
will sacrifice it so completely, so entirely, so religiously, that
you should never suspect it though you watched her night and day.'
Then I told her all our story--ours--yours and mine. 'Now, madam,'
said I, 'come you, knowing this, and live with us. Come you, and
see my child from hour to hour; set what you see against her
pedigree, which is this, and this'--for I scorned to mince it--'and
tell me what is the true legitimacy when you shall have quite made
up your mind on that subject.' Why, honour to her old Welsh blood,
my dear," cried my guardian with enthusiasm, "I believe the heart
it animates beats no less warmly, no less admiringly, no less
lovingly, towards Dame Durden than my own!"

He tenderly raised my head, and as I clung to him, kissed me in his
old fatherly way again and again. What a light, now, on the
protecting manner I had thought about!

"One more last word. When Allan Woodcourt spoke to you, my dear,
he spoke with my knowledge and consent--but I gave him no
encouragement, not I, for these surprises were my great reward, and
I was too miserly to part with a scrap of it. He was to come and
tell me all that passed, and he did. I have no more to say. My
dearest, Allan Woodcourt stood beside your father when he lay dead
--stood beside your mother. This is Bleak House. This day I give
this house its little mistress; and before God, it is the brightest
day in all my life!"

He rose and raised me with him. We were no longer alone. My
husband--I have called him by that name full seven happy years now
--stood at my side.

"Allan," said my guardian, "take from me a willing gift, the best
wife that ever man had. What more can I say for you than that I
know you deserve her! Take with her the little home she brings
you. You know what she will make it, Allan; you know what she has
made its namesake. Let me share its felicity sometimes, and what
do I sacrifice? Nothing, nothing."

He kissed me once again, and now the tears were in his eyes as he
said more softly, "Esther, my dearest, after so many years, there
is a kind of parting in this too. I know that my mistake has
caused you some distress. Forgive your old guardian, in restoring
him to his old place in your affections; and blot it out of your
memory. Allan, take my dear."

He moved away from under the green roof of leaves, and stopping in
the sunlight outside and turning cheerfully towards us, said, "I
shall be found about here somewhere. It's a west wind, little
woman, due west! Let no one thank me any more, for I am going to
revert to my bachelor habits, and if anybody disregards this
warning, I'll run away and never come back!"

What happiness was ours that day, what joy, what rest, what hope,
what gratitude, what bliss! We were to be married before the month
was out, but when we were to come and take possession of our own
house was to depend on Richard and Ada.

We all three went home together next day. As soon as we arrived in
town, Allan went straight to see Richard and to carry our joyful
news to him and my darling. Late as it was, I meant to go to her
for a few minutes before lying down to sleep, but I went home with
my guardian first to make his tea for him and to occupy the old
chair by his side, for I did not like to think of its being empty
so soon.

When we came home we found that a young man had called three times
in the course of that one day to see me and that having been told
on the occasion of his third call that I was not expected to return
before ten o'clock at night, he had left word that he would call
about then. He had left his card three times. Mr. Guppy.

As I naturally speculated on the object of these visits, and as I
always associated something ludicrous with the visitor, it fell out
that in laughing about Mr. Guppy I told my guardian of his old
proposal and his subsequent retraction. "After that," said my
guardian, "we will certainly receive this hero." So instructions
were given that Mr. Guppy should be shown in when he came again,
and they were scarcely given when he did come again.

He was embarrassed when he found my guardian with me, but recovered
himself and said, "How de do, sir?"

"How do you do, sir?" returned my guardian.

"Thank you, sir, I am tolerable," returned Mr. Guppy. "Will you
allow me to introduce my mother, Mrs. Guppy of the Old Street Road,
and my particular friend, Mr. Weevle. That is to say, my friend
has gone by the name of Weevle, but his name is really and truly
Jobling."

My guardian begged them to be seated, and they all sat down.

"Tony," said Mr. Guppy to his friend after an awkward silence.
"Will you open the case?"

"Do it yourself," returned the friend rather tartly.

"Well, Mr. Jarndyce, sir," Mr. Guppy, after a moment's
consideration, began, to the great diversion of his mother, which
she displayed by nudging Mr. Jobling with her elbow and winking at
me in a most remarkable manner, "I had an idea that I should see
Miss Summerson by herself and was not quite prepared for your
esteemed presence. But Miss Summerson has mentioned to you,
perhaps, that something has passed between us on former occasions?"

"Miss Summerson," returned my guardian, smiling, "has made a
communication to that effect to me."

"That," said Mr. Guppy, "makes matters easier. Sir, I have come
out of my articles at Kenge and Carboy's, and I believe with
satisfaction to all parties. I am now admitted (after undergoing
an examination that's enough to badger a man blue, touching a pack
of nonsense that he don't want to know) on the roll of attorneys
and have taken out my certificate, if it would be any satisfaction
to you to see it."

"Thank you, Mr. Guppy," returned my guardian. "I am quite willing
--I believe I use a legal phrase--to admit the certificate."

Mr. Guppy therefore desisted from taking something out of his
pocket and proceeded without it.

"I have no capital myself, but my mother has a little property which
takes the form of an annuity"--here Mr. Guppy's mother rolled her
head as if she never could sufficiently enjoy the observation, and
put her handkerchief to her mouth, and again winked at me--"and a
few pounds for expenses out of pocket in conducting business will
never be wanting, free of interest, which is an advantage, you
know," said Mr. Guppy feelingly.

"Certainly an advantage," returned my guardian.

"I HAVE some connexion," pursued Mr. Guppy, "and it lays in the
direction of Walcot Square, Lambeth. I have therefore taken a
'ouse in that locality, which, in the opinion of my friends, is a
hollow bargain (taxes ridiculous, and use of fixtures included in
the rent), and intend setting up professionally for myself there
forthwith."

Here Mr. Guppy's mother fell into an extraordinary passion of
rolling her head and smiling waggishly at anybody who would look at
her.

"It's a six-roomer, exclusive of kitchens," said Mr. Guppy, "and in
the opinion of my friends, a commodious tenement. When I mention
my friends, I refer principally to my friend Jobling, who I believe
has known me," Mr. Guppy looked at him with a sentimental air,
"from boyhood's hour."

Mr. Jobling confirmed this with a sliding movement of his legs.

"My friend Jobling will render me his assistance in the capacity of
clerk and will live in the 'ouse," said Mr. Guppy. "My mother will
likewise live in the 'ouse when her present quarter in the Old
Street Road shall have ceased and expired; and consequently there
will be no want of society. My friend Jobling is naturally
aristocratic by taste, and besides being acquainted with the
movements of the upper circles, fully backs me in the intentions I
am now developing."

Mr. Jobling said "Certainly" and withdrew a little from the elbow
of Mr Guppy's mother.

"Now, I have no occasion to mention to you, sir, you being in the
confidence of Miss Summerson," said Mr. Guppy, "(mother, I wish
you'd be so good as to keep still), that Miss Summerson's image was
formerly imprinted on my 'eart and that I made her a proposal of
marriage."

"That I have heard," returned my guardian.

"Circumstances," pursued Mr. Guppy, "over which I had no control,
but quite the contrary, weakened the impression of that image for a
time. At which time Miss Summerson's conduct was highly genteel; I
may even add, magnanimous."

My guardian patted me on the shoulder and seemed much amused.

"Now, sir," said Mr. Guppy, "I have got into that state of mind
myself that I wish for a reciprocity of magnanimous behaviour. I
wish to prove to Miss Summerson that I can rise to a heighth of
which perhaps she hardly thought me capable. I find that the image
which I did suppose had been eradicated from my 'eart is NOT
eradicated. Its influence over me is still tremenjous, and
yielding to it, I am willing to overlook the circumstances over
which none of us have had any control and to renew those proposals
to Miss Summerson which I had the honour to make at a former
period. I beg to lay the 'ouse in Walcot Square, the business, and
myself before Miss Summerson for her acceptance."

"Very magnanimous indeed, sir," observed my guardian.

"Well, sir," replied Mr. Guppy with candour, "my wish is to BE
magnanimous. I do not consider that in making this offer to Miss
Summerson I am by any means throwing myself away; neither is that
the opinion of my friends. Still, there are circumstances which I
submit may be taken into account as a set off against any little
drawbacks of mine, and so a fair and equitable balance arrived at."

"I take upon myself, sir," said my guardian, laughing as he rang
the bell, "to reply to your proposals on behalf of Miss Summerson.
She is very sensible of your handsome intentions, and wishes you
good evening, and wishes you well."

"Oh!" said Mr. Guppy with a blank look. "Is that tantamount, sir,
to acceptance, or rejection, or consideration?"

"To decided rejection, if you please," returned my guardian.

Mr. Guppy looked incredulously at his friend, and at his mother,
who suddenly turned very angry, and at the floor, and at the
ceiling.

"Indeed?" said he. "Then, Jobling, if you was the friend you
represent yourself, I should think you might hand my mother out of
the gangway instead of allowing her to remain where she ain't
wanted."

But Mrs. Guppy positively refused to come out of the gangway. She
wouldn't hear of it. "Why, get along with you," said she to my
guardian, "what do you mean? Ain't my son good enough for you?
You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Get out with you!"

"My good lady," returned my guardian, "it is hardly reasonable to
ask me to get out of my own room."

"I don't care for that," said Mrs. Guppy. "Get out with you. If
we ain't good enough for you, go and procure somebody that is good
enough. Go along and find 'em."

I was quite unprepared for the rapid manner in which Mrs. Guppy's
power of jocularity merged into a power of taking the profoundest
offence.

"Go along and find somebody that's good enough for you," repeated
Mrs. Guppy. "Get out!" Nothing seemed to astonish Mr. Guppy's
mother so much and to make her so very indignant as our not getting
out. "Why don't you get out?" said Mrs. Guppy. "What are you
stopping here for?"

"Mother," interposed her son, always getting before her and pushing
her back with one shoulder as she sidled at my guardian, "WILL you
hold your tongue?"

"No, William," she returned, "I won't! Not unless he gets out, I
won't!"

However, Mr. Guppy and Mr. Jobling together closed on Mr. Guppy's
mother (who began to be quite abusive) and took her, very much
against her will, downstairs, her voice rising a stair higher every
time her figure got a stair lower, and insisting that we should
immediately go and find somebody who was good enough for us, and
above all things that we should get out.

CHAPTER LXV

Beginning the World

The term had commenced, and my guardian found an intimation from
Mr. Kenge that the cause would come on in two days. As I had
sufficient hopes of the will to be in a flutter about it, Allan and
I agreed to go down to the court that morning. Richard was
extremely agitated and was so weak and low, though his illness was
still of the mind, that my dear girl indeed had sore occasion to be
supported. But she looked forward--a very little way now--to the
help that was to come to her, and never drooped.

It was at Westminster that the cause was to come on. It had come
on there, I dare say, a hundred times before, but I could not
divest myself of an idea that it MIGHT lead to some result now. We
left home directly after breakfast to be at Westminster Hall in
good time and walked down there through the lively streets--so
happily and strangely it seemed!--together.

As we were going along, planning what we should do for Richard and
Ada, I heard somebody calling "Esther! My dear Esther! Esther!"
And there was Caddy Jellyby, with her head out of the window of a
little carriage which she hired now to go about in to her pupils
(she had so many), as if she wanted to embrace me at a hundred
yards' distance. I had written her a note to tell her of all that
my guardian had done, but had not had a moment to go and see her.
Of course we turned back, and the affectionate girl was in that
state of rapture, and was so overjoyed to talk about the night when
she brought me the flowers, and was so determined to squeeze my
face (bonnet and all) between her hands, and go on in a wild manner
altogether, calling me all kinds of precious names, and telling
Allan I had done I don't know what for her, that I was just obliged
to get into the little carriage and calm her down by letting her
say and do exactly what she liked. Allan, standing at the window,
was as pleased as Caddy; and I was as pleased as either of them;
and I wonder that I got away as I did, rather than that I came off
laughing, and red, and anything but tidy, and looking after Caddy,
who looked after us out of the coach-window as long as she could
see us.

This made us some quarter of an hour late, and when we came to
Westminster Hall we found that the day's business was begun. Worse
than that, we found such an unusual crowd in the Court of Chancery
that it was full to the door, and we could neither see nor hear
what was passing within. It appeared to be something droll, for
occasionally there was a laugh and a cry of "Silence!" It appeared
to be something interesting, for every one was pushing and striving
to get nearer. It appeared to be something that made the
professional gentlemen very merry, for there were several young
counsellors in wigs and whiskers on the outside of the crowd, and
when one of them told the others about it, they put their hands in
their pockets, and quite doubled themselves up with laughter, and

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