Part 5 out of 21
"Not that claret!" he said. "Excuse me! This is an occasion, and
ON an occasion I produce some very special claret I happen to have.
(James, Captain Swosser's wine!) Mr. Jarndyce, this is a wine that
was imported by the captain, we will not say how many years ago.
You will find it very curious. My dear, I shall he happy to take
some of this wine with you. (Captain Swosser's claret to your
mistress, James!) My love, your health!"
After dinner, when we ladies retired, we took Mrs. Badger's first
and second husband with us. Mrs. Badger gave us in the drawing-room
a biographical sketch of the life and services of Captain Swosser
before his marriage and a more minute account of him dating from the
time when he fell in love with her at a ball on board the Crippler,
given to the officers of that ship when she lay in Plymouth Harbour.
"The dear old Crippler!" said Mrs. Badger, shaking her head. "She
was a noble vessel. Trim, ship-shape, all a taunto, as Captain
Swosser used to say. You must excuse me if I occasionally introduce
a nautical expression; I was quite a sailor once. Captain Swosser
loved that craft for my sake. When she was no longer in commission,
he frequently said that if he were rich enough to buy her old hulk,
he would have an inscription let into the timbers of the quarter-
deck where we stood as partners in the dance to mark the spot where
he fell--raked fore and aft (Captain Swosser used to say) by the
fire from my tops. It was his naval way of mentioning my eyes."
Mrs. Badger shook her head, sighed, and looked in the glass.
"It was a great change from Captain Swosser to Professor Dingo," she
resumed with a plaintive smile. "I felt it a good deal at first.
Such an entire revolution in my mode of life! But custom, combined
with science--particularly science--inured me to it. Being the
professor's sole companion in his botanical excursions, I almost
forgot that I had ever been afloat, and became quite learned. It is
singular that the professor was the antipodes of Captain Swosser and
that Mr. Badger is not in the least like either!"
We then passed into a narrative of the deaths of Captain Swosser and
Professor Dingo, both of whom seem to have had very bad complaints.
In the course of it, Mrs. Badger signified to us that she had never
madly loved but once and that the object of that wild affection,
never to be recalled in its fresh enthusiasm, was Captain Swosser.
The professor was yet dying by inches in the most dismal manner, and
Mrs. Badger was giving us imitations of his way of saying, with
great difficulty, "Where is Laura? Let Laura give me my toast and
water!" when the entrance of the gentlemen consigned him to the
Now, I observed that evening, as I had observed for some days past,
that Ada and Richard were more than ever attached to each other's
society, which was but natural, seeing that they were going to be
separated so soon. I was therefore not very much surprised when we
got home, and Ada and I retired upstairs, to find Ada more silent
than usual, though I was not quite prepared for her coming into my
arms and beginning to speak to me, with her face hidden.
"My darling Esther!" murmured Ada. "I have a great secret to tell
A mighty secret, my pretty one, no doubt!
"What is it, Ada?"
"Oh, Esther, you would never guess!"
"Shall I try to guess?" said I.
"Oh, no! Don't! Pray don't!" cried Ada, very much startled by the
idea of my doing so.
"Now, I wonder who it can be about?" said I, pretending to consider.
"It's about--" said Ada in a whisper. "It's about--my cousin
"Well, my own!" said I, kissing her bright hair, which was all I
could see. "And what about him?"
"Oh, Esther, you would never guess!"
It was so pretty to have her clinging to me in that way, hiding her
face, and to know that she was not crying in sorrow but in a little
glow of joy, and pride, and hope, that I would not help her just
"He says--I know it's very foolish, we are both so young--but he
says," with a burst of tears, "that he loves me dearly, Esther."
"Does he indeed?" said I. "I never heard of such a thing! Why, my
pet of pets, I could have told you that weeks and weeks ago!"
To see Ada lift up her flushed face in joyful surprise, and hold me
round the neck, and laugh, and cry, and blush, was so pleasant!
"Why, my darling," said I, "what a goose you must take me for! Your
cousin Richard has been loving you as plainly as he could for I
don't know how long!"
"And yet you never said a word about it!" cried Ada, kissing me.
"No, my love," said I. "I waited to be told."
"But now I have told you, you don't think it wrong of me, do you?"
returned Ada. She might have coaxed me to say no if I had been the
hardest-hearted duenna in the world. Not being that yet, I said no
"And now," said I, "I know the worst of it."
"Oh, that's not quite the worst of it, Esther dear!" cried Ada,
holding me tighter and laying down her face again upon my breast.
"No?" said I. "Not even that?"
"No, not even that!" said Ada, shaking her head.
"Why, you never mean to say--" I was beginning in joke.
But Ada, looking up and smiling through her tear's, cried, "Yes, I
do! You know, you know I do!" And then sobbed out, "With all my
heart I do! With all my whole heart, Esther!"
I told her, laughing, why I had known that, too, just as well as I
had known the other! And we sat before the fire, and I had all the
talking to myself for a little while (though there was not much of
it); and Ada was soon quiet and happy.
"Do you think my cousin John knows, dear Dame Durden?" she asked.
"Unless my cousin John is blind, my pet," said I, "I should think my
cousin John knows pretty well as much as we know."
"We want to speak to him before Richard goes," said Ada timidly,
"and we wanted you to advise us, and to tell him so. Perhaps you
wouldn't mind Richard's coming in, Dame Durden?"
"Oh! Richard is outside, is he, my dear?" said I.
"I am not quite certain," returned Ada with a bashful simplicity
that would have won my heart if she had not won it long before, "but
I think he's waiting at the door."
There he was, of course. They brought a chair on either side of me,
and put me between them, and really seemed to have fallen in love
with me instead of one another, they were so confiding, and so
trustful, and so fond of me. They went on in their own wild way for
a little while--I never stopped them; I enjoyed it too much myself--
and then we gradually fell to considering how young they were, and
how there must be a lapse of several years before this early love
could come to anything, and how it could come to happiness only if
it were real and lasting and inspired them with a steady resolution
to do their duty to each other, with constancy, fortitude, and
perseverance, each always for the other's sake. Well! Richard said
that he would work his fingers to the bone for Ada, and Ada said
that she would work her fingers to the bone for Richard, and they
called me all sorts of endearing and sensible names, and we sat
there, advising and talking, half the night. Finally, before we
parted, I gave them my promise to speak to their cousin John to-
So, when to-morrow came, I went to my guardian after breakfast, in
the room that was our town-substitute for the growlery, and told him
that I had it in trust to tell him something.
"Well, little woman," said he, shutting up his book, "if you have
accepted the trust, there can be no harm in it."
"I hope not, guardian," said I. "I can guarantee that there is no
secrecy in it. For it only happened yesterday."
"Aye? And what is it, Esther?"
"Guardian," said I, "you remember the happy night when first we came
down to Bleak House? When Ada was singing in the dark room?"
I wished to call to his remembrance the look he had given me then.
Unless I am much mistaken, I saw that I did so.
"Because--" said I with a little hesitation.
"Yes, my dear!" said he. "Don't hurry."
"Because," said I, "Ada and Richard have fallen in love. And have
told each other so."
"Already!" cried my guardian, quite astonished.
"Yes!" said I. "And to tell you the truth, guardian, I rather
"The deuce you did!" said he.
He sat considering for a minute or two, with his smile, at once so
handsome and so kind, upon his changing face, and then requested me
to let them know that he wished to see them. When they came, he
encircled Ada with one arm in his fatherly way and addressed himself
to Richard with a cheerful gravity.
"Rick," said Mr. Jarndyce, "I am glad to have won your confidence.
I hope to preserve it. When I contemplated these relations between
us four which have so brightened my life and so invested it with new
interests and pleasures, I certainly did contemplate, afar off, the
possibility of you and your pretty cousin here (don't be shy, Ada,
don't be shy, my dear!) being in a mind to go through life together.
I saw, and do see, many reasons to make it desirable. But that was
afar off, Rick, afar off!"
"We look afar off, sir," returned Richard.
"Well!" said Mr. Jarndyce. "That's rational. Now, hear me, my
dears! I might tell you that you don't know your own minds yet,
that a thousand things may happen to divert you from one another,
that it is well this chain of flowers you have taken up is very
easily broken, or it might become a chain of lead. But I will not
do that. Such wisdom will come soon enough, I dare say, if it is to
come at all. I will assume that a few years hence you will be in
your hearts to one another what you are to-day. All I say before
speaking to you according to that assumption is, if you DO change--
if you DO come to find that you are more commonplace cousins to each
other as man and woman than you were as boy and girl (your manhood
will excuse me, Rick!)--don't be ashamed still to confide in me, for
there will be nothing monstrous or uncommon in it. I am only your
friend and distant kinsman. I have no power over you whatever. But
I wish and hope to retain your confidence if I do nothing to forfeit
"I am very sure, sir," returned Richard, "that I speak for Ada too
when I say that you have the strongest power over us both--rooted in
respect, gratitude, and affection--strengthening every day."
"Dear cousin John," said Ada, on his shoulder, "my father's place
can never be empty again. All the love and duty I could ever have
rendered to him is transferred to you."
"Come!" said Mr. Jarndyce. "Now for our assumption. Now we lift
our eyes up and look hopefully at the distance! Rick, the world is
before you; and it is most probable that as you enter it, so it will
receive you. Trust in nothing but in Providence and your own
efforts. Never separate the two, like the heathen waggoner.
Constancy in love is a good thing, but it means nothing, and is
nothing, without constancy in every kind of effort. If you had the
abilities of all the great men, past and present, you could do
nothing well without sincerely meaning it and setting about it. If
you entertain the supposition that any real success, in great things
or in small, ever was or could be, ever will or can be, wrested from
Fortune by fits and starts, leave that wrong idea here or leave your
cousin Ada here."
"I will leave IT here, sir," replied Richard smiling, "if I brought
it here just now (but I hope I did not), and will work my way on to
my cousin Ada in the hopeful distance."
"Right!" said Mr. Jarndyce. "If you are not to make her happy, why
should you pursue her?"
"I wouldn't make her unhappy--no, not even for her love," retorted
"Well said!" cried Mr. Jarndyce. "That's well said! She remains
here, in her home with me. Love her, Rick, in your active life, no
less than in her home when you revisit it, and all will go well.
Otherwise, all will go ill. That's the end of my preaching. I
think you and Ada had better take a walk."
Ada tenderly embraced him, and Richard heartily shook hands with
him, and then the cousins went out of the room, looking back again
directly, though, to say that they would wait for me.
The door stood open, and we both followed them with our eyes as
they passed down the adjoining room, on which the sun was shining,
and out at its farther end. Richard with his head bent, and her
hand drawn through his arm, was talking to her very earnestly; and
she looked up in his face, listening, and seemed to see nothing
else. So young, so beautiful, so full of hope and promise, they
went on lightly through the sunlight as their own happy thoughts
might then be traversing the years to come and making them all
years of brightness. So they passed away into the shadow and were
gone. It was only a burst of light that had been so radiant. The
room darkened as they went out, and the sun was clouded over.
"Am I right, Esther?" said my guardian when they were gone.
He was so good and wise to ask ME whether he was right!
"Rick may gain, out of this, the quality he wants. Wants, at the
core of so much that is good!" said Mr. Jarndyce, shaking his head.
"I have said nothing to Ada, Esther. She has her friend and
counsellor always near." And he laid his hand lovingly upon my
I could not help showing that I was a little moved, though I did
all I could to conceal it.
"Tut tut!" said he. "But we must take care, too, that our little
woman's life is not all consumed in care for others."
"Care? My dear guardian, I believe I am the happiest creature in
"I believe so, too," said he. "But some one may find out what
Esther never will--that the little woman is to be held in
remembrance above all other people!"
I have omitted to mention in its place that there was some one else
at the family dinner party. It was not a lady. It was a
gentleman. It was a gentleman of a dark complexion--a young
surgeon. He was rather reserved, but I thought him very sensible
and agreeable. At least, Ada asked me if I did not, and I said
Richard left us on the very next evening to begin his new career,
and committed Ada to my charge with great love for her and great
trust in me. It touched me then to reflect, and it touches me now,
more nearly, to remember (having what I have to tell) how they both
thought of me, even at that engrossing time. I was a part of all
their plans, for the present and the future. I was to write Richard
once a week, making my faithful report of Ada, who was to write to
him every alternate day. I was to be informed, under his own hand,
of all his labours and successes; I was to observe how resolute and
persevering he would be; I was to be Ada's bridesmaid when they
were married; I was to live with them afterwards; I was to keep all
the keys of their house; I was to be made happy for ever and a day.
"And if the suit SHOULD make us rich, Esther--which it may, you
know!" said Richard to crown all.
A shade crossed Ada's face.
"My dearest Ada," asked Richard, "why not?"
"It had better declare us poor at once," said Ada.
"Oh! I don't know about that," returned Richard, "but at all
events, it won't declare anything at once. It hasn't declared
anything in heaven knows how many years."
"Too true," said Ada.
"Yes, but," urged Richard, answering what her look suggested rather
than her words, "the longer it goes on, dear cousin, the nearer it
must be to a settlement one way or other. Now, is not that
"You know best, Richard. But I am afraid if we trust to it, it
will make us unhappy."
"But, my Ada, we are not going to trust to it!" cried Richard
gaily. "We know it better than to trust to it. We only say that
if it SHOULD make us rich, we have no constitutional objection to
being rich. The court is, by solemn settlement of law, our grim
old guardian, and we are to suppose that what it gives us (when it
gives us anything) is our right. It is not necessary to quarrel
with our right."
"No," Said Ada, "but it may be better to forget all about it."
"Well, well," cried Richard, "then we will forget all about it! We
consign the whole thing to oblivion. Dame Durden puts on her
approving face, and it's done!"
"Dame Durden's approving face," said I, looking out of the box in
which I was packing his books, "was not very visible when you
called it by that name; but it does approve, and she thinks you
can't do better."
So, Richard said there was an end of it, and immediately began, on
no other foundation, to build as many castles in the air as would
man the Great Wall of China. He went away in high spirits. Ada
and I, prepared to miss him very much, commenced our quieter
On our arrival in London, we had called with Mr. Jarndyce at Mrs.
Jellyby's but had not been so fortunate as to find her at home. It
appeared that she had gone somewhere to a tea-drinking and had
taken Miss Jellyby with her. Besides the tea-drinking, there was
to be some considerable speech-making and letter-writing on the
general merits of the cultivation of coffee, conjointly with
natives, at the Settlement of Borrioboola-Gha. All this involved,
no doubt, sufficient active exercise of pen and ink to make her
daughter's part in the proceedings anything but a holiday.
It being now beyond the time appointed for Mrs. Jellyby's return,
we called again. She was in town, but not at home, having gone to
Mile End directly after breakfast on some Borrioboolan business,
arising out of a society called the East London Branch Aid
Ramification. As I had not seen Peepy on the occasion of our last
call (when he was not to be found anywhere, and when the cook
rather thought he must have strolled away with the dustman's cart),
I now inquired for him again. The oyster shells he had been
building a house with were still in the passage, but he was nowhere
discoverable, and the cook supposed that he had "gone after the
sheep." When we repeated, with some surprise, "The sheep?" she
said, Oh, yes, on market days he sometimes followed them quite out
of town and came back in such a state as never was!
I was sitting at the window with my guardian on the following
morning, and Ada was busy writing--of course to Richard--when Miss
Jellyby was announced, and entered, leading the identical Peepy,
whom she had made some endeavours to render presentable by wiping
the dirt into corners of his face and hands and making his hair
very wet and then violently frizzling it with her fingers.
Everything the dear child wore was either too large for him or too
small. Among his other contradictory decorations he had the hat of
a bishop and the little gloves of a baby. His boots were, on a
small scale, the boots of a ploughman, while his legs, so crossed
and recrossed with scratches that they looked like maps, were bare
below a very short pair of plaid drawers finished off with two
frills of perfectly different patterns. The deficient buttons on
his plaid frock had evidently been supplied from one of Mr.
Jellyby's coats, they were so extremely brazen and so much too
large. Most extraordinary specimens of needlework appeared on
several parts of his dress, where it had been hastily mended, and I
recognized the same hand on Miss Jellyby's. She was, however,
unaccountably improved in her appearance and looked very pretty.
She was conscious of poor little Peepy being but a failure after
all her trouble, and she showed it as she came in by the way in
which she glanced first at him and then at us.
"Oh, dear me!" said my guardian. "Due east!"
Ada and I gave her a cordial welcome and presented her to Mr.
Jarndyce, to whom she said as she sat down, "Ma's compliments, and
she hopes you'll excuse her, because she's correcting proofs of the
plan. She's going to put out five thousand new circulars, and she
knows you'll be interested to hear that. I have brought one of
them with me. Ma's compliments." With which she presented it
"Thank you," said my guardian. "I am much obliged to Mrs. Jellyby.
Oh, dear me! This is a very trying wind!"
We were busy with Peepy, taking off his clerical hat, asking him if
he remembered us, and so on. Peepy retired behind his elbow at
first, but relented at the sight of sponge-cake and allowed me to
take him on my lap, where he sat munching quietly. Mr. Jarndyce
then withdrawing into the temporary growlery, Miss Jellyby opened a
conversation with her usual abruptness.
"We are going on just as bad as ever in Thavies Inn," said she. "I
have no peace of my life. Talk of Africa! I couldn't be worse off
if I was a what's-his-name--man and a brother!"
I tried to say something soothing.
"Oh, it's of no use, Miss Summerson," exclaimed Miss Jellyby,
"though I thank you for the kind intention all the same. I know
how I am used, and I am not to be talked over. YOU wouldn't be
talked over if you were used so. Peepy, go and play at Wild Beasts
under the piano!"
"I shan't!" said Peepy.
"Very well, you ungrateful, naughty, hard-hearted boy!" returned
Miss Jellyby with tears in her eyes. "I'll never take pains to
dress you any more."
"Yes, I will go, Caddy!" cried Peepy, who was really a good child
and who was so moved by his sister's vexation that he went at once.
"It seems a little thing to cry about," said poor Miss Jellyby
apologetically, "but I am quite worn out. I was directing the new
circulars till two this morning. I detest the whole thing so that
that alone makes my head ache till I can't see out of my eyes. And
look at that poor unfortunate child! Was there ever such a fright
as he is!"
Peepy, happily unconscious of the defects in his appearance, sat on
the carpet behind one of the legs of the piano, looking calmly out
of his den at us while he ate his cake.
"I have sent him to the other end of the room," observed Miss
Jellyby, drawing her chair nearer ours, "because I don't want him
to hear the conversation. Those little things are so sharp! I was
going to say, we really are going on worse than ever. Pa will be a
bankrupt before long, and then I hope Ma will be satisfied.
There'll he nobody but Ma to thank for it."
We said we hoped Mr. Jellyby's affairs were not in so bad a state
"It's of no use hoping, though it's very kind of you," returned
Miss Jellyby, shaking her head. "Pa told me only yesterday morning
(and dreadfully unhappy he is) that he couldn't weather the storm.
I should be surprised if he could. When all our tradesmen send
into our house any stuff they like, and the servants do what they
like with it, and I have no time to improve things if I knew how,
and Ma don't care about anything, I should like to make out how Pa
is to weather the storm. I declare if I was Pa, I'd run away."
"My dear!" said I, smiling. "Your papa, no doubt, considers his
"Oh, yes, his family is all very fine, Miss Summerson," replied
Miss Jellyby; "but what comfort is his family to him? His family
is nothing but bills, dirt, waste, noise, tumbles downstairs,
confusion, and wretchedness. His scrambling home, from week's end
to week's end, is like one great washing-day--only nothing's
Miss Jellyby tapped her foot upon the floor and wiped her eyes.
"I am sure I pity Pa to that degree," she said, "and am so angry
with Ma that I can't find words to express myself! However, I am
not going to bear it, I am determined. I won't be a slave all my
life, and I won't submit to be proposed to by Mr. Quale. A pretty
thing, indeed, to marry a philanthropist. As if I hadn't had enough
of THAT!" said poor Miss Jellyby.
I must confess that I could not help feeling rather angry with Mrs.
Jellyby myself, seeing and hearing this neglected girl and knowing
how much of bitterly satirical truth there was in what she said.
"If it wasn't that we had been intimate when you stopped at our
house," pursued Miss Jellyby, "I should have been ashamed to come
here to-day, for I know what a figure I must seem to you two. But
as it is, I made up my mind to call, especially as I am not likely
to see you again the next time you come to town."
She said this with such great significance that Ada and I glanced
at one another, foreseeing something more.
"No!" said Miss Jellyby, shaking her head. "Not at all likely! I
know I may trust you two. I am sure you won't betray me. I am
"Without their knowledge at home?" said I.
"Why, good gracious me, Miss Summerson," she returned, justifying
herself in a fretful but not angry manner, "how can it be
otherwise? You know what Ma is--and I needn't make poor Pa more
miserable by telling HIM."
"But would it not he adding to his unhappiness to marry without his
knowledge or consent, my dear?" said I.
"No," said Miss Jellyby, softening. "I hope not. I should try to
make him happy and comfortable when he came to see me, and Peepy
and the others should take it in turns to come and stay with me,
and they should have some care taken of them then."
There was a good deal of affection in poor Caddy. She softened
more and more while saying this and cried so much over the unwonted
little home-picture she had raised in her mind that Peepy, in his
cave under the piano, was touched, and turned himself over on his
back with loud lamentations. It was not until I had brought him to
kiss his sister, and had restored him to his place on my lap, and
had shown him that Caddy was laughing (she laughed expressly for
the purpose), that we could recall his peace of mind; even then it
was for some time conditional on his taking us in turns by the chin
and smoothing our faces all over with his hand. At last, as his
spirits were not equal to the piano, we put him on a chair to look
out of window; and Miss Jellyby, holding him by one leg, resumed
"It began in your coming to our house," she said.
We naturally asked how.
"I felt I was so awkward," she replied, "that I made up my mind to
be improved in that respect at all events and to learn to dance. I
told Ma I was ashamed of myself, and I must be taught to dance. Ma
looked at me in that provoking way of hers as if I wasn't in sight,
but I was quite determined to be taught to dance, and so I went to
Mr. Turveydrop's Academy in Newman Street."
"And was it there, my dear--" I began.
"Yes, it was there," said Caddy, "and I am engaged to Mr.
Turveydrop. There are two Mr. Turveydrops, father and son. My Mr.
Turveydrop is the son, of course. I only wish I had been better
brought up and was likely to make him a better wife, for I am very
fond of him."
"I am sorry to hear this," said I, "I must confess."
"I don't know why you should be sorry," she retorted a little
anxiously, "but I am engaged to Mr. Turveydrop, whether or no, and
he is very fond of me. It's a secret as yet, even on his side,
because old Mr. Turveydrop has a share in the connexion and it
might break his heart or give him some other shock if he was told
of it abruptly. Old Mr. Turveydrop is a very gentlemanly man
"Does his wife know of it?" asked Ada.
"Old Mr. Turveydrop's wife, Miss Clare?" returned Miss Jellyby,
opening her eyes. "There's no such person. He is a widower."
We were here interrupted by Peepy, whose leg had undergone so much
on account of his sister's unconsciously jerking it like a bell-
rope whenever she was emphatic that the afflicted child now
bemoaned his sufferings with a very low-spirited noise. As he
appealed to me for compassion, and as I was only a listener, I
undertook to hold him. Miss Jellyby proceeded, after begging
Peepy's pardon with a kiss and assuring him that she hadn't meant
to do it.
"That's the state of the case," said Caddy. "If I ever blame
myself, I still think it's Ma's fault. We are to be married
whenever we can, and then I shall go to Pa at the office and write
to Ma. It won't much agitate Ma; I am only pen and ink to HER.
One great comfort is," said Caddy with a sob, "that I shall never
hear of Africa after I am married. Young Mr. Turveydrop hates it
for my sake, and if old Mr. Turveydrop knows there is such a place,
it's as much as he does."
"It was he who was very gentlemanly, I think!" said I.
"Very gentlemanly indeed," said Caddy. "He is celebrated almost
everywhere for his deportment."
"Does he teach?" asked Ada.
"No, he don't teach anything in particular," replied Caddy. "But
his deportment is beautiful."
Caddy went on to say with considerable hesitation and reluctance
that there was one thing more she wished us to know, and felt we
ought to know, and which she hoped would not offend us. It was
that she had improved her acquaintance with Miss Flite, the little
crazy old lady, and that she frequently went there early in the
morning and met her lover for a few minutes before breakfast--only
for a few minutes. "I go there at other times," said Caddy, "but
Prince does not come then. Young Mr. Turveydrop's name is Prince;
I wish it wasn't, because it sounds like a dog, but of course he
didn't christen himself. Old Mr. Turveydrop had him christened
Prince in remembrance of the Prince Regent. Old Mr. Turveydrop
adored the Prince Regent on account of his deportment. I hope you
won't think the worse of me for having made these little
appointments at Miss Flite's, where I first went with you, because
I like the poor thing for her own sake and I believe she likes me.
If you could see young Mr. Turveydrop, I am sure you would think
well of him--at least, I am sure you couldn't possibly think any
ill of him. I am going there now for my lesson. I couldn't ask
you to go with me, Miss Summerson; but if you would," said Caddy,
who had said all this earnestly and tremblingly, "I should be very
It happened that we had arranged with my guardian to go to Miss
Flite's that day. We had told him of our former visit, and our
account had interested him; but something had always happened to
prevent our going there again. As I trusted that I might have
sufficient influence with Miss Jellyby to prevent her taking any
very rash step if I fully accepted the confidence she was so
willing to place in me, poor girl, I proposed that she and I and
Peepy should go to the academy and afterwards meet my guardian and
Ada at Miss Flite's, whose name I now learnt for the first time.
This was on condition that Miss Jellyby and Peepy should come back
with us to dinner. The last article of the agreement being
joyfully acceded to by both, we smartened Peepy up a little with
the assistance of a few pins, some soap and water, and a hair-
brush, and went out, bending our steps towards Newman Street, which
was very near.
I found the academy established in a sufficiently dingy house at
the corner of an archway, with busts in all the staircase windows.
In the same house there were also established, as I gathered from
the plates on the door, a drawing-master, a coal-merchant (there
was, certainly, no room for his coals), and a lithographic artist.
On the plate which, in size and situation, took precedence of all
the rest, I read, MR. TURVEYDROP. The door was open, and the hall
was blocked up by a grand piano, a harp, and several other musical
instruments in cases, all in progress of removal, and all looking
rakish in the daylight. Miss Jellyby informed me that the academy
had been lent, last night, for a concert.
We went upstairs--it had been quite a fine house once, when it was
anybody's business to keep it clean and fresh, and nobody's
business to smoke in it all day--and into Mr. Turveydrop's great
room, which was built out into a mews at the back and was lighted
by a skylight. It was a bare, resounding room smelling of stables,
with cane forms along the walls, and the walls ornamented at
regular intervals with painted lyres and little cut-glass branches
for candles, which seemed to be shedding their old-fashioned drops
as other branches might shed autumn leaves. Several young lady
pupils, ranging from thirteen or fourteen years of age to two or
three and twenty, were assembled; and I was looking among them for
their instructor when Caddy, pinching my arm, repeated the ceremony
of introduction. "Miss Summerson, Mr. Prince Turveydrop!"
I curtsied to a little blue-eyed fair man of youthful appearance
with flaxen hair parted in the middle and curling at the ends all
round his head. He had a little fiddle, which we used to call at
school a kit, under his left arm, and its little bow in the same
hand. His little dancing-shoes were particularly diminutive, and
he had a little innocent, feminine manner which not only appealed
to me in an amiable way, but made this singular effect upon me,
that I received the impression that he was like his mother and that
his mother had not been much considered or well used.
"I am very happy to see Miss Jellyby's friend," he said, bowing low
to me. "I began to fear," with timid tenderness, "as it was past
the usual time, that Miss Jellyby was not coming."
"I beg you will have the goodness to attribute that to me, who have
detained her, and to receive my excuses, sir," said I.
"Oh, dear!" said he.
"And pray," I entreated, "do not allow me to be the cause of any
With that apology I withdrew to a seat between Peepy (who, being
well used to it, had already climbed into a corner place) and an
old lady of a censorious countenance whose two nieces were in the
class and who was very indignant with Peepy's boots. Prince
Turveydrop then tinkled the strings of his kit with his fingers,
and the young ladies stood up to dance. Just then there appeared
from a side-door old Mr. Turveydrop, in the full lustre of his
He was a fat old gentleman with a false complexion, false teeth,
false whiskers, and a wig. He had a fur collar, and he had a
padded breast to his coat, which only wanted a star or a broad blue
ribbon to be complete. He was pinched in, and swelled out, and got
up, and strapped down, as much as he could possibly bear. He had
such a neckcloth on (puffing his very eyes out of their natural
shape), and his chin and even his ears so sunk into it, that it
seemed as though be must inevitably double up if it were cast
loose. He had under his arm a hat of great size and weight,
shelving downward from the crown to the brim, and in his hand a
pair of white gloves with which he flapped it as he stood poised on
one leg in a high-shouldered, round-elbowed state of elegance not
to be surpassed. He had a cane, he had an eye-glass, he had a
snuff-box, he had rings, he had wristbands, he had everything but
any touch of nature; he was not like youth, he was not like age, he
was not like anything in the world but a model of deportment.
"Father! A visitor. Miss Jellyby's friend, Miss Summerson."
"Distinguished," said Mr. Turveydrop, "by Miss Summerson's
presence." As he bowed to me in that tight state, I almost believe
I saw creases come into the whites of his eyes.
"My father," said the son, aside, to me with quite an affecting
belief in him, "is a celebrated character. My father is greatly
"Go on, Prince! Go on!" said Mr. Turveydrop, standing with his
back to the fire and waving his gloves condescendingly. "Go on, my
At this command, or by this gracious permission, the lesson went
on. Prince Turveydrop sometimes played the kit, dancing; sometimes
played the piano, standing; sometimes hummed the tune with what
little breath he could spare, while he set a pupil right; always
conscientiously moved with the least proficient through every step
and every part of the figure; and never rested for an instant. His
distinguished father did nothing whatever but stand before the
fire, a model of deportment.
"And he never does anything else," said the old lady of the
censorious countenance. "Yet would you believe that it's HIS name
on the door-plate?"
"His son's name is the same, you know," said I.
"He wouldn't let his son have any name if he could take it from
him," returned the old lady. "Look at the son's dress!" It
certainly was plain--threadbare--almost shabby. "Yet the father
must be garnished and tricked out," said the old lady, "because of
his deportment. I'd deport him! Transport him would be better!"
I felt curious to know more concerning this person. I asked, "Does
he give lessons in deportment now?"
"Now!" returned the old lady shortly. "Never did."
After a moment's consideration, I suggested that perhaps fencing
had been his accomplishment.
"I don't believe he can fence at all, ma'am," said the old lady.
I looked surprised and inquisitive. The old lady, becoming more
and more incensed against the master of deportment as she dwelt
upon the subject, gave me some particulars of his career, with
strong assurances that they were mildly stated.
He had married a meek little dancing-mistress, with a tolerable
connexion (having never in his life before done anything but deport
himself), and had worked her to death, or had, at the best,
suffered her to work herself to death, to maintain him in those
expenses which were indispensable to his position. At once to
exhibit his deportment to the best models and to keep the best
models constantly before himself, he had found it necessary to
frequent all public places of fashionable and lounging resort, to
be seen at Brighton and elsewhere at fashionable times, and to lead
an idle life in the very best clothes. To enable him to do this,
the affectionate little dancing-mistress had toiled and laboured
and would have toiled and laboured to that hour if her strength had
lasted so long. For the mainspring of the story was that in spite
of the man's absorbing selfishness, his wife (overpowered by his
deportment) had, to the last, believed in him and had, on her
death-bed, in the most moving terms, confided him to their son as
one who had an inextinguishable claim upon him and whom he could
never regard with too much pride and deference. The son,
inheriting his mother's belief, and having the deportment always
before him, had lived and grown in the same faith, and now, at
thirty years of age, worked for his father twelve hours a day and
looked up to him with veneration on the old imaginary pinnacle.
"The airs the fellow gives himself!" said my informant, shaking her
head at old Mr. Turveydrop with speechless indignation as he drew
on his tight gloves, of course unconscious of the homage she was
rendering. "He fully believes he is one of the aristocracy! And
he is so condescending to the son he so egregiously deludes that
you might suppose him the most virtuous of parents. Oh!" said the
old lady, apostrophizing him with infinite vehemence. "I could
I could not help being amused, though I heard the old lady out with
feelings of real concern. It was difficult to doubt her with the
father and son before me. What I might have thought of them
without the old lady's account, or what I might have thought of the
old lady's account without them, I cannot say. There was a fitness
of things in the whole that carried conviction with it.
My eyes were yet wandering, from young Mr. Turveydrop working so
hard, to old Mr. Turveydrop deporting himself so beautifully, when
the latter came ambling up to me and entered into conversation.
He asked me, first of all, whether I conferred a charm and a
distinction on London by residing in it? I did not think it
necessary to reply that I was perfectly aware I should not do that,
in any case, but merely told him where I did reside.
"A lady so graceful and accomplished," he said, kissing his right
glove and afterwards extending it towards the pupils, "will look
leniently on the deficiencies here. We do our best to polish--
He sat down beside me, taking some pains to sit on the form, I
thought, in imitation of the print of his illustrious model on the
sofa. And really he did look very like it.
"To polish--polish--polish!" he repeated, taking a pinch of snuff
and gently fluttering his fingers. "But we are not, if I may say
so to one formed to be graceful both by Nature and Art--" with the
high-shouldered bow, which it seemed impossible for him to make
without lifting up his eyebrows and shutting his eyes "--we are not
what we used to be in point of deportment."
"Are we not, sir?" said I.
"We have degenerated," he returned, shaking his head, which he
could do to a very limited extent in his cravat. "A levelling age
is not favourable to deportment. It develops vulgarity. Perhaps I
speak with some little partiality. It may not be for me to say
that I have been called, for some years now, Gentleman Turveydrop,
or that his Royal Highness the Prince Regent did me the honour to
inquire, on my removing my hat as he drove out of the Pavilion at
Brighton (that fine building), 'Who is he? Who the devil is he?
Why don't I know him? Why hasn't he thirty thousand a year?' But
these are little matters of anecdote--the general property, ma'am--
still repeated occasionally among the upper classes."
"Indeed?" said I.
He replied with the high-shouldered bow. "Where what is left among
us of deportment," he added, "still lingers. England--alas, my
country!--has degenerated very much, and is degenerating every day.
She has not many gentlemen left. We are few. I see nothing to
succeed us but a race of weavers."
"One might hope that the race of gentlemen would be perpetuated
here," said I.
"You are very good." He smiled with a high-shouldered bow again.
"You flatter me. But, no--no! I have never been able to imbue my
poor boy with that part of his art. Heaven forbid that I should
disparage my dear child, but he has--no deportment."
"He appears to be an excellent master," I observed.
"Understand me, my dear madam, he IS an excellent master. All that
can be acquired, he has acquired. All that can be imparted, he can
impart. But there ARE things--" He took another pinch of snuff
and made the bow again, as if to add, "This kind of thing, for
I glanced towards the centre of the room, where Miss Jellyby's
lover, now engaged with single pupils, was undergoing greater
drudgery than ever.
"My amiable child," murmured Mr. Turveydrop, adjusting his cravat.
"Your son is indefatigable," said I.
"It is my reward," said Mr. Turveydrop, "to hear you say so. In
some respects, he treads in the footsteps of his sainted mother.
She was a devoted creature. But wooman, lovely wooman," said Mr.
Turveydrop with very disagreeable gallantry, "what a sex you are!"
I rose and joined Miss Jellyby, who was by this time putting on her
bonnet. The time allotted to a lesson having fully elapsed, there
was a general putting on of bonnets. When Miss Jellyby and the
unfortunate Prince found an opportunity to become betrothed I don't
know, but they certainly found none on this occasion to exchange a
"My dear," said Mr. Turveydrop benignly to his son, "do you know
"No, father." The son had no watch. The father had a handsome
gold one, which he pulled out with an air that was an example to
"My son," said he, "it's two o'clock. Recollect your school at
Kensington at three."
"That's time enough for me, father," said Prince. "I can take a
morsel of dinner standing and be off."
"My dear boy," returned his father, "you must be very quick. You
will find the cold mutton on the table."
"Thank you, father. Are YOU off now, father?"
"Yes, my dear. I suppose," said Mr. Turveydrop, shutting his eyes
and lifting up his shoulders with modest consciousness, "that I
must show myself, as usual, about town."
"You had better dine out comfortably somewhere," said his son.
"My dear child, I intend to. I shall take my little meal, I think,
at the French house, in the Opera Colonnade."
"That's right. Good-bye, father!" said Prince, shaking hands.
"Good-bye, my son. Bless you!"
Mr. Turveydrop said this in quite a pious manner, and it seemed to
do his son good, who, in parting from him, was so pleased with him,
so dutiful to him, and so proud of him that I almost felt as if it
were an unkindness to the younger man not to be able to believe
implicitly in the elder. The few moments that were occupied by
Prince in taking leave of us (and particularly of one of us, as I
saw, being in the secret), enhanced my favourable impression of his
almost childish character. I felt a liking for him and a
compassion for him as he put his little kit in his pocket--and with
it his desire to stay a little while with Caddy--and went away
good-humouredly to his cold mutton and his school at Kensington,
that made me scarcely less irate with his father than the
censorious old lady.
The father opened the room door for us and bowed us out in a
manner, I must acknowledge, worthy of his shining original. In the
same style he presently passed us on the other side of the street,
on his way to the aristocratic part of the town, where he was going
to show himself among the few other gentlemen left. For some
moments, I was so lost in reconsidering what I had heard and seen
in Newman Street that I was quite unable to talk to Caddy or even
to fix my attention on what she said to me, especially when I began
to inquire in my mind whether there were, or ever had been, any
other gentlemen, not in the dancing profession, who lived and
founded a reputation entirely on their deportment. This became so
bewildering and suggested the possibility of so many Mr.
Turveydrops that I said, "Esther, you must make up your mind to
abandon this subject altogether and attend to Caddy." I
accordingly did so, and we chatted all the rest of the way to
Caddy told me that her lover's education had been so neglected that
it was not always easy to read his notes. She said if he were not
so anxious about his spelling and took less pains to make it clear,
he would do better; but he put so many unnecessary letters into
short words that they sometimes quite lost their English
appearance. "He does it with the best intention," observed Caddy,
"but it hasn't the effect he means, poor fellow!" Caddy then went
on to reason, how could he be expected to be a scholar when he had
passed his whole life in the dancing-school and had done nothing
but teach and fag, fag and teach, morning, noon, and night! And
what did it matter? She could write letters enough for both, as
she knew to her cost, and it was far better for him to be amiable
than learned. "Besides, it's not as if I was an accomplished girl
who had any right to give herself airs," said Caddy. "I know
little enough, I am sure, thanks to Ma!
"There's another thing I want to tell you, now we are alone,"
continued Caddy, "which I should not have liked to mention unless
you had seen Prince, Miss Summerson. You know what a house ours
is. It's of no use my trying to learn anything that it would be
useful for Prince's wife to know in OUR house. We live in such a
state of muddle that it's impossible, and I have only been more
disheartened whenever I have tried. So I get a little practice
with--who do you think? Poor Miss Flite! Early in the morning I
help her to tidy her room and clean her birds, and I make her cup
of coffee for her (of course she taught me), and I have learnt to
make it so well that Prince says it's the very best coffee he ever
tasted, and would quite delight old Mr. Turveydrop, who is very
particular indeed about his coffee. I can make little puddings
too; and I know how to buy neck of mutton, and tea, and sugar, and
butter, and a good many housekeeping things. I am not clever at my
needle, yet," said Caddy, glancing at the repairs on Peepy's frock,
"but perhaps I shall improve, and since I have been engaged to
Prince and have been doing all this, I have felt better-tempered, I
hope, and more forgiving to Ma. It rather put me out at first this
morning to see you and Miss Clare looking so neat and pretty and to
feel ashamed of Peepy and myself too, but on the whole I hope I am
better-tempered than I was and more forgiving to Ma."
The poor girl, trying so hard, said it from her heart, and touched
mine. "Caddy, my love," I replied, "I begin to have a great
affection for you, and I hope we shall become friends."
"Oh, do you?" cried Caddy. "How happy that would make me!"
"My dear Caddy," said I, "let us be friends from this time, and let
us often have a chat about these matters and try to find the right
way through them." Caddy was overjoyed. I said everything I could
in my old-fashioned way to comfort and encourage her, and I would
not have objected to old Mr. Turveydrop that day for any smaller
consideration than a settlement on his daughter-in-law.
By this time we were come to Mr. Krook's, whose private door stood
open. There was a bill, pasted on the door-post, announcing a room
to let on the second floor. It reminded Caddy to tell me as we
proceeded upstairs that there had been a sudden death there and an
inquest and that our little friend had been ill of the fright. The
door and window of the vacant room being open, we looked in. It
was the room with the dark door to which Miss Flite had secretly
directed my attention when I was last in the house. A sad and
desolate place it was, a gloomy, sorrowful place that gave me a
strange sensation of mournfulness and even dread. "You look pale,"
said Caddy when we came out, "and cold!" I felt as if the room had
We had walked slowly while we were talking, and my guardian and Ada
were here before us. We found them in Miss Flite's garret. They
were looking at the birds, while a medical gentleman who was so
good as to attend Miss Flite with much solicitude and compassion
spoke with her cheerfully by the fire.
"I have finished my professional visit," he said, coming forward.
"Miss Flite is much better and may appear in court (as her mind is
set upon it) to-morrow. She has been greatly missed there, I
Miss Flite received the compliment with complacency and dropped a
general curtsy to us.
"Honoured, indeed," said she, "by another visit from the wards in
Jarndyce! Ve-ry happy to receive Jarndyce of Bleak House beneath
my humble roof!" with a special curtsy. "Fitz-Jarndyce, my dear"--
she had bestowed that name on Caddy, it appeared, and always called
her by it--"a double welcome!"
"Has she been very ill?" asked Mr. Jarndyce of the gentleman whom
we had found in attendance on her. She answered for herself
directly, though he had put the question in a whisper.
"Oh, decidedly unwell! Oh, very unwell indeed," she said
confidentially. "Not pain, you know--trouble. Not bodily so much
as nervous, nervous! The truth is," in a subdued voice and
trembling, "we have had death here. There was poison in the house.
I am very susceptible to such horrid things. It frightened me.
Only Mr. Woodcourt knows how much. My physician, Mr. Woodcourt!"
with great stateliness. "The wards in Jarndyce--Jarndyce of Bleak
"Miss Flite," said Mr. Woodcourt in a grave kind of voice, as if he
were appealing to her while speaking to us, and laying his hand
gently on her arm, "Miss Flite describes her illness with her usual
accuracy. She was alarmed by an occurrence in the house which
might have alarmed a stronger person, and was made ill by the
distress and agitation. She brought me here in the first hurry of
the discovery, though too late for me to be of any use to the
unfortunate man. I have compensated myself for that disappointment
by coming here since and being of some small use to her."
"The kindest physician in the college," whispered Miss Flite to me.
"I expect a judgment. On the day of judgment. And shall then
"She will be as well in a day or two," said Mr. Woodcourt, looking
at her with an observant smile, "as she ever will be. In other
words, quite well of course. Have you heard of her good fortune?"
"Most extraordinary!" said Miss Flite, smiling brightly. "You
never heard of such a thing, my dear! Every Saturday, Conversation
Kenge or Guppy (clerk to Conversation K.) places in my hand a paper
of shillings. Shillings. I assure you! Always the same number in
the paper. Always one for every day in the week. Now you know,
really! So well-timed, is it not? Ye-es! From whence do these
papers come, you say? That is the great question. Naturally.
Shall I tell you what I think? I think," said Miss Flite, drawing
herself back with a very shrewd look and shaking her right
forefinger in a most significant manner, "that the Lord Chancellor,
aware of the length of time during which the Great Seal has been
open (for it has been open a long time!), forwards them. Until the
judgment I expect is given. Now that's very creditable, you know.
To confess in that way that he IS a little slow for human life. So
delicate! Attending court the other day--I attend it regularly,
with my documents--I taxed him with it, and he almost confessed.
That is, I smiled at him from my bench, and HE smiled at me from
his bench. But it's great good fortune, is it not? And Fitz-
Jarndyce lays the money out for me to great advantage. Oh, I
assure you to the greatest advantage!"
I congratulated her (as she addressed herself to me) upon this
fortunate addition to her income and wished her a long continuance
of it. I did not speculate upon the source from which it came or
wonder whose humanity was so considerate. My guardian stood before
me, contemplating the birds, and I had no need to look beyond him.
"And what do you call these little fellows, ma'am?" said he in his
pleasant voice. "Have they any names?"
"I can answer for Miss Flite that they have," said I, "for she
promised to tell us what they were. Ada remembers?"
Ada remembered very well.
"Did I?" said Miss Flite. "Who's that at my door? What are you
listening at my door for, Krook?"
The old man of the house, pushing it open before him, appeared
there with his fur cap in his hand and his cat at his heels.
"I warn't listening, Miss Flite," he said, "I was going to give a
rap with my knuckles, only you're so quick!"
"Make your cat go down. Drive her away!" the old lady angrily
"Bah, bah! There ain't no danger, gentlefolks," said Mr. Krook,
looking slowly and sharply from one to another until he had looked
at all of us; "she'd never offer at the birds when I was here
unless I told her to it."
"You will excuse my landlord," said the old lady with a dignified
air. "M, quite M! What do you want, Krook, when I have company?"
"Hi!" said the old man. "You know I am the Chancellor."
"Well?" returned Miss Elite. "What of that?"
"For the Chancellor," said the old man with a chuckle, "not to be
acquainted with a Jarndyce is queer, ain't it, Miss Flite?
Mightn't I take the liberty? Your servant, sir. I know Jarndyce
and Jarndyce a'most as well as you do, sir. I knowed old Squire
Tom, sir. I never to my knowledge see you afore though, not even
in court. Yet, I go there a mortal sight of times in the course of
the year, taking one day with another."
"I never go there," said Mr. Jarndyce (which he never did on any
consideration). "I would sooner go--somewhere else."
"Would you though?" returned Krook, grinning. "You're bearing hard
upon my noble and learned brother in your meaning, sir, though
perhaps it is but nat'ral in a Jarndyce. The burnt child, sir!
What, you're looking at my lodger's birds, Mr. Jarndyce?" The old
man had come by little and little into the room until he now
touched my guardian with his elbow and looked close up into his
face with his spectacled eyes. "It's one of her strange ways that
she'll never tell the names of these birds if she can help it,
though she named 'em all." This was in a whisper. "Shall I run
'em over, Flite?" he asked aloud, winking at us and pointing at her
as she turned away, affecting to sweep the grate.
"If you like," she answered hurriedly.
The old man, looking up at the cages after another look at us, went
through the list.
"Hope, Joy, Youth, Peace, Rest, Life, Dust, Ashes, Waste, Want,
Ruin, Despair, Madness, Death, Cunning, Folly, Words, Wigs, Rags,
Sheepskin, Plunder, Precedent, Jargon, Gammon, and Spinach. That's
the whole collection," said the old man, "all cooped up together,
by my noble and learned brother."
"This is a bitter wind!" muttered my guardian.
"When my noble and learned brother gives his judgment, they're to
be let go free," said Krook, winking at us again. "And then," he
added, whispering and grinning, "if that ever was to happen--which
it won't--the birds that have never been caged would kill 'em."
"If ever the wind was in the east," said my guardian, pretending to
look out of the window for a weathercock, "I think it's there to-
We found it very difficult to get away from the house. It was not
Miss Flite who detained us; she was as reasonable a little creature
in consulting the convenience of others as there possibly could be.
It was Mr. Krook. He seemed unable to detach himself from Mr.
Jarndyce. If he had been linked to him, he could hardly have
attended him more closely. He proposed to show us his Court of
Chancery and all the strange medley it contained; during the whole
of our inspection (prolonged by himself) he kept close to Mr.
Jarndyce and sometimes detained him under one pretence or other
until we had passed on, as if he were tormented by an inclination
to enter upon some secret subject which he could not make up his
mind to approach. I cannot imagine a countenance and manner more
singularly expressive of caution and indecision, and a perpetual
impulse to do something he could not resolve to venture on, than
Mr. Krook's was that day. His watchfulness of my guardian was
incessant. He rarely removed his eyes from his face. If he went
on beside him, he observed him with the slyness of an old white
fox. If he went before, he looked back. When we stood still, he
got opposite to him, and drawing his hand across and across his
open mouth with a curious expression of a sense of power, and
turning up his eyes, and lowering his grey eyebrows until they
appeared to be shut, seemed to scan every lineament of his face.
At last, having been (always attended by the cat) all over the
house and having seen the whole stock of miscellaneous lumber,
which was certainly curious, we came into the back part of the
shop. Here on the head of an empty barrel stood on end were an
ink-bottle, some old stumps of pens, and some dirty playbills; and
against the wall were pasted several large printed alphabets in
several plain hands.
"What are you doing here?" asked my guardian.
"Trying to learn myself to read and write," said Krook.
"And how do you get on?"
"Slow. Bad," returned the old man impatiently. "It's hard at my
time of life."
"It would be easier to be taught by some one," said my guardian.
"Aye, but they might teach me wrong!" returned the old man with a
wonderfully suspicious flash of his eye. "I don't know what I may
have lost by not being learned afore. I wouldn't like to lose
anything by being learned wrong now."
"Wrong?" said my guardian with his good-humoured smile. "Who do
you suppose would teach you wrong?"
"I don't know, Mr. Jarndyce of Bleak House!" replied the old man,
turning up his spectacles on his forehead and rubbing his hands.
"I don't suppose as anybody would, but I'd rather trust my own self
These answers and his manner were strange enough to cause my
guardian to inquire of Mr. Woodcourt, as we all walked across
Lincoln's Inn together, whether Mr. Krook were really, as his
lodger represented him, deranged. The young surgeon replied, no,
he had seen no reason to think so. He was exceedingly distrustful,
as ignorance usually was, and he was always more or less under the
influence of raw gin, of which he drank great quantities and of
which he and his back-shop, as we might have observed, smelt
strongly; but he did not think him mad as yet.
On our way home, I so conciliated Peepy's affections by buying him
a windmill and two flour-sacks that he would suffer nobody else to
take off his hat and gloves and would sit nowhere at dinner but at
my side. Caddy sat upon the other side of me, next to Ada, to whom
we imparted the whole history of the engagement as soon as we got
back. We made much of Caddy, and Peepy too; and Caddy brightened
exceedingly; and my guardian was as merry as we were; and we were
all very happy indeed until Caddy went home at night in a hackney-
coach, with Peepy fast asleep, but holding tight to the windmill.
I have forgotten to mention--at least I have not mentioned--that
Mr. Woodcourt was the same dark young surgeon whom we had met at
Mr. Badger's. Or that Mr. Jarndyce invited him to dinner that day.
Or that he came. Or that when they were all gone and I said to
Ada, "Now, my darling, let us have a little talk about Richard!"
Ada laughed and said--
But I don't think it matters what my darling said. She was always
While we were in London Mr. Jarndyce was constantly beset by the
crowd of excitable ladies and gentlemen whose proceedings had so
much astonished us. Mr. Quale, who presented himself soon after
our arrival, was in all such excitements. He seemed to project
those two shining knobs of temples of his into everything that went
on and to brush his hair farther and farther back, until the very
roots were almost ready to fly out of his head in inappeasable
philanthropy. All objects were alike to him, but he was always
particularly ready for anything in the way of a testimonial to any
one. His great power seemed to be his power of indiscriminate
admiration. He would sit for any length of time, with the utmost
enjoyment, bathing his temples in the light of any order of
luminary. Having first seen him perfectly swallowed up in
admiration of Mrs. Jellyby, I had supposed her to be the absorbing
object of his devotion. I soon discovered my mistake and found him
to be train-bearer and organ-blower to a whole procession of
Mrs. Pardiggle came one day for a subscription to something, and
with her, Mr. Quale. Whatever Mrs. Pardiggle said, Mr. Quale
repeated to us; and just as he had drawn Mrs. Jellyby out, he drew
Mrs. Pardiggle out. Mrs. Pardiggle wrote a letter of introduction
to my guardian in behalf of her eloquent friend Mr. Gusher. With
Mr. Gusher appeared Mr. Quale again. Mr. Gusher, being a flabby
gentleman with a moist surface and eyes so much too small for his
moon of a face that they seemed to have been originally made for
somebody else, was not at first sight prepossessing; yet he was
scarcely seated before Mr. Quale asked Ada and me, not inaudibly,
whether he was not a great creature--which he certainly was,
flabbily speaking, though Mr. Quale meant in intellectual beauty--
and whether we were not struck by his massive configuration of
brow. In short, we heard of a great many missions of various sorts
among this set of people, but nothing respecting them was half so
clear to us as that it was Mr. Quale's mission to be in ecstasies
with everybody else's mission and that it was the most popular
mission of all.
Mr. Jarndyce had fallen into this company in the tenderness of his
heart and his earnest desire to do all the good in his power; but
that he felt it to be too often an unsatisfactory company, where
benevolence took spasmodic forms, where charity was assumed as a
regular uniform by loud professors and speculators in cheap
notoriety, vehement in profession, restless and vain in action,
servile in the last degree of meanness to the great, adulatory of
one another, and intolerable to those who were anxious quietly to
help the weak from failing rather than with a great deal of bluster
and self-laudation to raise them up a little way when they were
down, he plainly told us. When a testimonial was originated to Mr.
Quale by Mr. Gusher (who had already got one, originated by Mr.
Quale), and when Mr. Gusher spoke for an hour and a half on the
subject to a meeting, including two charity schools of small boys
and girls, who were specially reminded of the widow's mite, and
requested to come forward with halfpence and be acceptable
sacrifices, I think the wind was in the east for three whole weeks.
I mention this because I am coming to Mr. Skimpole again. It
seemed to me that his off-hand professions of childishness and
carelessness were a great relief to my guardian, by contrast with
such things, and were the more readily believed in since to find
one perfectly undesigning and candid man among many opposites could
not fail to give him pleasure. I should be sorry to imply that Mr.
Skimpole divined this and was politic; I really never understood
him well enough to know. What he was to my guardian, he certainly
was to the rest of the world.
He had not been very well; and thus, though he lived in London, we
had seen nothing of him until now. He appeared one morning in his
usual agreeable way and as full of pleasant spirits as ever.
Well, he said, here he was! He had been bilious, but rich men were
often bilious, and therefore he had been persuading himself that he
was a man of property. So he was, in a certain point of view--in
his expansive intentions. He had been enriching his medical
attendant in the most lavish manner. He had always doubled, and
sometimes quadrupled, his fees. He had said to the doctor, "Now,
my dear doctor, it is quite a delusion on your part to suppose that
you attend me for nothing. I am overwhelming you with money--in my
expansive intentions--if you only knew it!" And really (he said)
he meant it to that degree that he thought it much the same as
doing it. If he had had those bits of metal or thin paper to which
mankind attached so much importance to put in the doctor's hand, he
would have put them in the doctor's hand. Not having them, he
substituted the will for the deed. Very well! If he really meant
it--if his will were genuine and real, which it was--it appeared to
him that it was the same as coin, and cancelled the obligation.
"It may be, partly, because I know nothing of the value of money,"
said Mr. Skimpole, "but I often feel this. It seems so reasonable!
My butcher says to me he wants that little bill. It's a part of
the pleasant unconscious poetry of the man's nature that he always
calls it a 'little' bill--to make the payment appear easy to both
of us. I reply to the butcher, 'My good friend, if you knew it,
you are paid. You haven't had the trouble of coming to ask for the
little bill. You are paid. I mean it.'"
"But, suppose," said my guardian, laughing, "he had meant the meat
in the bill, instead of providing it?"
"My dear Jarndyce," he returned, "you surprise me. You take the
butcher's position. A butcher I once dealt with occupied that very
ground. Says he, 'Sir, why did you eat spring lamb at eighteen
pence a pound?' 'Why did I eat spring lamb at eighteen pence a
pound, my honest friend?' said I, naturally amazed by the question.
'I like spring lamb!' This was so far convincing. 'Well, sir,'
says he, 'I wish I had meant the lamb as you mean the money!' 'My
good fellow,' said I, 'pray let us reason like intellectual beings.
How could that be? It was impossible. You HAD got the lamb, and I
have NOT got the money. You couldn't really mean the lamb without
sending it in, whereas I can, and do, really mean the money without
paying it!' He had not a word. There was an end of the subject."
"Did he take no legal proceedings?" inquired my guardian.
"Yes, he took legal proceedings," said Mr. Skimpole. "But in that
he was influenced by passion, not by reason. Passion reminds me of
Boythorn. He writes me that you and the ladies have promised him a
short visit at his bachelor-house in Lincolnshire."
"He is a great favourite with my girls," said Mr. Jarndyce, "and I
have promised for them."
"Nature forgot to shade him off, I think," observed Mr. Skimpole to
Ada and me. "A little too boisterous--like the sea. A little too
vehement--like a bull who has made up his mind to consider every
colour scarlet. But I grant a sledge-hammering sort of merit in
I should have been surprised if those two could have thought very
highly of one another, Mr. Boythorn attaching so much importance to
many things and Mr. Skimpole caring so little for anything.
Besides which, I had noticed Mr. Boythorn more than once on the
point of breaking out into some strong opinion when Mr. Skimpole
was referred to. Of course I merely joined Ada in saying that we
had been greatly pleased with him.
"He has invited me," said Mr. Skimpole; "and if a child may trust
himself in such hands--which the present child is encouraged to do,
with the united tenderness of two angels to guard him--I shall go.
He proposes to frank me down and back again. I suppose it will
cost money? Shillings perhaps? Or pounds? Or something of that
sort? By the by, Coavinses. You remember our friend Coavinses,
He asked me as the subject arose in his mind, in his graceful,
light-hearted manner and without the least embarrassment.
"Oh, yes!" said I.
"Coavinses has been arrested by the Great Bailiff," said Mr.
Skimpole. "He will never do violence to the sunshine any more."
It quite shocked me to hear it, for I had already recalled with
anything but a serious association the image of the man sitting on
the sofa that night wiping his head.
"His successor informed me of it yesterday," said Mr. Skimpole.
"His successor is in my house now--in possession, I think he calls
it. He came yesterday, on my blue-eyed daughter's birthday. I put
it to him, 'This is unreasonable and inconvenient. If you had a
blue-eyed daughter you wouldn't like ME to come, uninvited, on HER
birthday?' But he stayed."
Mr. Skimpole laughed at the pleasant absurdity and lightly touched
the piano by which he was seated.
"And he told me," he said, playing little chords where I shall put
full stops, "The Coavinses had left. Three children. No mother.
And that Coavinses' profession. Being unpopular. The rising
Coavinses. Were at a considerable disadvantage."
Mr. Jarndyce got up, rubbing his head, and began to walk about.
Mr. Skimpole played the melody of one of Ada's favourite songs.
Ada and I both looked at Mr. Jarndyce, thinking that we knew what
was passing in his mind.
After walking and stopping, and several times leaving off rubbing
his head, and beginning again, my guardian put his hand upon the
keys and stopped Mr. Skimpole's playing. "I don't like this,
Skimpole," he said thoughtfully.
Mr. Skimpole, who had quite forgotten the subject, looked up
"The man was necessary," pursued my guardian, walking backward and
forward in the very short space between the piano and the end of
the room and rubbing his hair up from the back of his head as if a
high east wind had blown it into that form. "If we make such men
necessary by our faults and follies, or by our want of worldly
knowledge, or by our misfortunes, we must not revenge ourselves
upon them. There was no harm in his trade. He maintained his
children. One would like to know more about this."
"Oh! Coavinses?" cried Mr. Skimpole, at length perceiving what he
meant. "Nothing easier. A walk to Coavinses' headquarters, and
you can know what you will."
Mr. Jarndyce nodded to us, who were only waiting for the signal.
"Come! We will walk that way, my dears. Why not that way as soon
as another!" We were quickly ready and went out. Mr. Skimpole
went with us and quite enjoyed the expedition. It was so new and
so refreshing, he said, for him to want Coavinses instead of
Coavinses wanting him!
He took us, first, to Cursitor Street, Chancery Lane, where there
was a house with barred windows, which he called Coavinses' Castle.
On our going into the entry and ringing a bell, a very hideous boy
came out of a sort of office and looked at us over a spiked wicket.
"Who did you want?" said the boy, fitting two of the spikes into
"There was a follower, or an officer, or something, here," said Mr.
Jarndyce, "who is dead."
"Yes?" said the boy. "Well?"
"I want to know his name, if you please?"
"Name of Neckett," said the boy.
"And his address?"
"Bell Yard," said the boy. "Chandler's shop, left hand side, name
"Was he--I don't know how to shape the question--" murmured my
"Was Neckett?" said the boy. "Yes, wery much so. He was never
tired of watching. He'd set upon a post at a street corner eight
or ten hours at a stretch if he undertook to do it."
"He might have done worse," I heard my guardian soliloquize. "He
might have undertaken to do it and not done it. Thank you. That's
all I want."
We left the boy, with his head on one side and his arms on the
gate, fondling and sucking the spikes, and went back to Lincoln's
Inn, where Mr. Skimpole, who had not cared to remain nearer
Coavinses, awaited us. Then we all went to Bell Yard, a narrow
alley at a very short distance. We soon found the chandler's shop.
In it was a good-natured-looking old woman with a dropsy, or an
asthma, or perhaps both.
"Neckett's children?" said she in reply to my inquiry. "Yes,
Surely, miss. Three pair, if you please. Door right opposite the
stairs." And she handed me the key across the counter.
I glanced at the key and glanced at her, but she took it for
granted that I knew what to do with it. As it could only be
intended for the children's door, I came out without asking any more
questions and led the way up the dark stairs. We went as quietly
as we could, but four of us made some noise on the aged boards, and
when we came to the second story we found we had disturbed a man
who was standing there looking out of his room.
"Is it Gridley that's wanted?" he said, fixing his eyes on me with
an angry stare.
"No, sir," said I; "I am going higher up."
He looked at Ada, and at Mr. Jarndyce, and at Mr. Skimpole, fixing
the same angry stare on each in succession as they passed and
followed me. Mr. Jarndyce gave him good day. "Good day!" he said
abruptly and fiercely. He was a tall, sallow man with a careworn
head on which but little hair remained, a deeply lined face, and
prominent eyes. He had a combative look and a chafing, irritable
manner which, associated with his figure--still large and powerful,
though evidently in its decline--rather alarmed me. He had a pen
in his hand, and in the glimpse I caught of his room in passing, I
saw that it was covered with a litter of papers.
Leaving him standing there, we went up to the top room. I tapped
at the door, and a little shrill voice inside said, "We are locked
in. Mrs. Blinder's got the key!"
I applied the key on hearing this and opened the door. In a poor
room with a sloping ceiling and containing very little furniture
was a mite of a boy, some five or six years old, nursing and
hushing a heavy child of eighteen months. There was no fire,
though the weather was cold; both children were wrapped in some
poor shawls and tippets as a substitute. Their clothing was not so
warm, however, but that their noses looked red and pinched and
their small figures shrunken as the boy walked up and down nursing
and hushing the child with its head on his shoulder.
"Who has locked you up here alone?" we naturally asked.
"Charley," said the boy, standing still to gaze at us.
"Is Charley your brother?"
"No. She's my sister, Charlotte. Father called her Charley."
"Are there any more of you besides Charley?"
"Me," said the boy, "and Emma," patting the limp bonnet of the
child he was nursing. "And Charley."
"Where is Charley now?"
"Out a-washing," said the boy, beginning to walk up and down again
and taking the nankeen bonnet much too near the bedstead by trying
to gaze at us at the same time.
We were looking at one another and at these two children when there
came into the room a very little girl, childish in figure but
shrewd and older-looking in the face--pretty-faced too--wearing a
womanly sort of bonnet much too large for her and drying her bare
arms on a womanly sort of apron. Her fingers were white and
wrinkled with washing, and the soap-suds were yet smoking which she
wiped off her arms. But for this, she might have been a child
playing at washing and imitating a poor working-woman with a quick
observation of the truth.
She had come running from some place in the neighbourhood and had
made all the haste she could. Consequently, though she was very
light, she was out of breath and could not speak at first, as she
stood panting, and wiping her arms, and looking quietly at us.
"Oh, here's Charley!" said the boy.
The child he was nursing stretched forth its arms and cried out to
be taken by Charley. The little girl took it, in a womanly sort of
manner belonging to the apron and the bonnet, and stood looking at
us over the burden that clung to her most affectionately.
"Is it possible," whispered my guardian as we put a chair for the
little creature and got her to sit down with her load, the boy
keeping close to her, holding to her apron, "that this child works
for the rest? Look at this! For God's sake, look at this!"
It was a thing to look at. The three children close together, and
two of them relying solely on the third, and the third so young and
yet with an air of age and steadiness that sat so strangely on the
"Charley, Charley!" said my guardian. "How old are you?"
"Over thirteen, sir," replied the child.
"Oh! What a great age," said my guardian. "What a great age,
I cannot describe the tenderness with which he spoke to her, half
playfully yet all the more compassionately and mournfully.
"And do you live alone here with these babies, Charley?" said my
"Yes, sir," returned the child, looking up into his face with
perfect confidence, "since father died."
"And how do you live, Charley? Oh! Charley," said my guardian,
turning his face away for a moment, "how do you live?"
"Since father died, sir, I've gone out to work. I'm out washing
"God help you, Charley!" said my guardian. "You're not tall enough
to reach the tub!"
"In pattens I am, sir," she said quickly. "I've got a high pair as
belonged to mother."
"And when did mother die? Poor mother!"
"Mother died just after Emma was born," said the child, glancing at
the face upon her bosom. "Then father said I was to be as good a
mother to her as I could. And so I tried. And so I worked at home
and did cleaning and nursing and washing for a long time before I
began to go out. And that's how I know how; don't you see, sir?"
"And do you often go out?"
"As often as I can," said Charley, opening her eyes and smiling,
"because of earning sixpences and shillings!"
"And do you always lock the babies up when you go out?"
"To keep 'em safe, sir, don't you see?" said Charley. "Mrs.
Blinder comes up now and then, and Mr. Gridley comes up sometimes,
and perhaps I can run in sometimes, and they can play you know, and
Tom an't afraid of being locked up, are you, Tom?"
"No-o!" said Tom stoutly.
"When it comes on dark, the lamps are lighted down in the court,
and they show up here quite bright--almost quite bright. Don't
"Yes, Charley," said Tom, "almost quite bright."
"Then he's as good as gold," said the little creature--Oh, in such
a motherly, womanly way! "And when Emma's tired, he puts her to
bed. And when he's tired he goes to bed himself. And when I come
home and light the candle and has a bit of supper, he sits up again
and has it with me. Don't you, Tom?"
"Oh, yes, Charley!" said Tom. "That I do!" And either in this
glimpse of the great pleasure of his life or in gratitude and love
for Charley, who was all in all to him, he laid his face among the
scanty folds of her frock and passed from laughing into crying.
It was the first time since our entry that a tear had been shed
among these children. The little orphan girl had spoken of their
father and their mother as if all that sorrow were subdued by the
necessity of taking courage, and by her childish importance in
being able to work, and by her bustling busy way. But now, when
Tom cried, although she sat quite tranquil, looking quietly at us,
and did not by any movement disturb a hair of the head of either of
her little charges, I saw two silent tears fall down her face.
I stood at the window with Ada, pretending to look at the
housetops, and the blackened stack of chimneys, and the poor
plants, and the birds in little cages belonging to the neighbours,
when I found that Mrs. Blinder, from the shop below, had come in
(perhaps it had taken her all this time to get upstairs) and was
talking to my guardian.
"It's not much to forgive 'em the rent, sir," she said; "who could
take it from them!"
"Well, well!" said my guardian to us two. "It is enough that the
time will come when this good woman will find that it WAS much, and
that forasmuch as she did it unto the least of these--This child,"
he added after a few moments, "could she possibly continue this?"
"Really, sir, I think she might," said Mrs. Blinder, getting her
heavy breath by painful degrees. "She's as handy as it's possible
to be. Bless you, sir, the way she tended them two children after
the mother died was the talk of the yard! And it was a wonder to
see her with him after he was took ill, it really was! 'Mrs.
Blinder,' he said to me the very last he spoke--he was lying there
--'Mrs. Blinder, whatever my calling may have been, I see a angel
sitting in this room last night along with my child, and I trust
her to Our Father!'"
"He had no other calling?" said my guardian.
"No, sir," returned Mrs. Blinder, "he was nothing but a follerers.
When he first came to lodge here, I didn't know what he was, and I
confess that when I found out I gave him notice. It wasn't liked
in the yard. It wasn't approved by the other lodgers. It is NOT a
genteel calling," said Mrs. Blinder, "and most people do object to
it. Mr. Gridley objected to it very strong, and he is a good
lodger, though his temper has been hard tried."
"So you gave him notice?" said my guardian.
"So I gave him notice," said Mrs. Blinder. "But really when the
time came, and I knew no other ill of him, I was in doubts. He was
punctual and diligent; he did what he had to do, sir," said Mrs.
Blinder, unconsciously fixing Mr. Skimpole with her eye, "and it's
something in this world even to do that."
"So you kept him after all?"
"Why, I said that if he could arrange with Mr. Gridley, I could
arrange it with the other lodgers and should not so much mind its
being liked or disliked in the yard. Mr. Gridley gave his consent
gruff--but gave it. He was always gruff with him, but he has been
kind to the children since. A person is never known till a person
"Have many people been kind to the children?" asked Mr. Jarndyce.
"Upon the whole, not so bad, sir," said Mrs. Blinder; "but
certainly not so many as would have been if their father's calling
had been different. Mr. Coavins gave a guinea, and the follerers
made up a little purse. Some neighbours in the yard that had
always joked and tapped their shoulders when he went by came
forward with a little subscription, and--in general--not so bad.
Similarly with Charlotte. Some people won't employ her because she
was a follerer's child; some people that do employ her cast it at
her; some make a merit of having her to work for them, with that
and all her draw-backs upon her, and perhaps pay her less and put
upon her more. But she's patienter than others would be, and is
clever too, and always willing, up to the full mark of her strength
and over. So I should say, in general, not so bad, sir, but might
Mrs. Blinder sat down to give herself a more favourable opportunity
of recovering her breath, exhausted anew by so much talking before
it was fully restored. Mr. Jarndyce was turning to speak to us
when his attention was attracted by the abrupt entrance into the
room of the Mr. Gridley who had been mentioned and whom we had seen
on our way up.
"I don't know what you may be doing here, ladies and gentlemen," he
said, as if he resented our presence, "but you'll excuse my coming
in. I don't come in to stare about me. Well, Charley! Well, Tom!
Well, little one! How is it with us all to-day?"
He bent over the group in a caressing way and clearly was regarded
as a friend by the children, though his face retained its stern
character and his manner to us was as rude as it could be. My
guardian noticed it and respected it.
"No one, surely, would come here to stare about him," he said
"May be so, sir, may be so," returned the other, taking Tom upon
his knee and waving him off impatiently. "I don't want to argue
with ladies and gentlemen. I have had enough of arguing to last
one man his life."
"You have sufficient reason, I dare say," said Mr. Jarndyce, "for
being chafed and irritated--"
"There again!" exclaimed the man, becoming violently angry. "I am
of a quarrelsome temper. I am irascible. I am not polite!"
"Not very, I think."
"Sir," said Gridley, putting down the child and going up to him as
if he meant to strike him, "do you know anything of Courts of
"Perhaps I do, to my sorrow."
"To your sorrow?" said the man, pausing in his wrath, "if so, I
beg your pardon. I am not polite, I know. I beg your pardon!
Sir," with renewed violence, "I have been dragged for five and
twenty years over burning iron, and I have lost the habit of
treading upon velvet. Go into the Court of Chancery yonder and ask
what is one of the standing jokes that brighten up their business
sometimes, and they will tell you that the best joke they have is
the man from Shropshire. I," he said, beating one hand on the
other passionately, "am the man from Shropshire."
"I believe I and my family have also had the honour of furnishing
some entertainment in the same grave place," said my guardian
composedly. "You may have heard my name--Jarndyce."
"Mr. Jarndyce," said Gridley with a rough sort of salutation, "you
bear your wrongs more quietly than I can bear mine. More than
that, I tell you--and I tell this gentleman, and these young
ladies, if they are friends of yours--that if I took my wrongs in
any other way, I should be driven mad! It is only by resenting
them, and by revenging them in my mind, and by angrily demanding
the justice I never get, that I am able to keep my wits together.
It is only that!" he said, speaking in a homely, rustic way and
with great vehemence. "You may tell me that I over-excite myself.
I answer that it's in my nature to do it, under wrong, and I must
do it. There's nothing between doing it, and sinking into the
smiling state of the poor little mad woman that haunts the court.
If I was once to sit down under it, I should become imbecile."
The passion and heat in which he was, and the manner in which his
face worked, and the violent gestures with which he accompanied
what he said, were most painful to see.
"Mr. Jarndyce," he said, "consider my case. As true as there is a
heaven above us, this is my case. I am one of two brothers. My
father (a farmer) made a will and left his farm and stock and so
forth to my mother for her life. After my mother's death, all was
to come to me except a legacy of three hundred pounds that I was
then to pay my brother. My mother died. My brother some time
afterwards claimed his legacy. I and some of my relations said
that he had had a part of it already in board and lodging and some
other things. Now mind! That was the question, and nothing else.
No one disputed the will; no one disputed anything but whether part
of that three hundred pounds had been already paid or not. To
settle that question, my brother filing a bill, I was obliged to go
into this accursed Chancery; I was forced there because the law
forced me and would let me go nowhere else. Seventeen people were
made defendants to that simple suit! It first came on after two
years. It was then stopped for another two years while the master
(may his head rot off!) inquired whether I was my father's son,
about which there was no dispute at all with any mortal creature.
He then found out that there were not defendants enough--remember,
there were only seventeen as yet!--but that we must have another
who had been left out and must begin all over again. The costs at
that time--before the thing was begun!--were three times the
legacy. My brother would have given up the legacy, and joyful, to
escape more costs. My whole estate, left to me in that will of my
father's, has gone in costs. The suit, still undecided, has fallen
into rack, and ruin, and despair, with everything else--and here I
stand, this day! Now, Mr. Jarndyce, in your suit there are
thousands and thousands involved, where in mine there are hundreds.
Is mine less hard to bear or is it harder to bear, when my whole
living was in it and has been thus shamefully sucked away?"
Mr. Jarndyce said that he condoled with him with all his heart and
that he set up no monopoly himself in being unjustly treated by
this monstrous system.
"There again!" said Mr. Gridley with no diminution of his rage.
"The system! I am told on all hands, it's the system. I mustn't
look to individuals. It's the system. I mustn't go into court and
say, 'My Lord, I beg to know this from you--is this right or wrong?
Have you the face to tell me I have received justice and therefore
am dismissed?' My Lord knows nothing of it. He sits there to
administer the system. I mustn't go to Mr. Tulkinghorn, the
solicitor in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and say to him when he makes me
furious by being so cool and satisfied--as they all do, for I know
they gain by it while I lose, don't I?--I mustn't say to him, 'I
will have something out of some one for my ruin, by fair means or
foul!' HE is not responsible. It's the system. But, if I do no
violence to any of them, here--I may! I don't know what may happen
if I am carried beyond myself at last! I will accuse the
individual workers of that system against me, face to face, before
the great eternal bar!"
His passion was fearful. I could not have believed in such rage
without seeing it.
"I have done!" he said, sitting down and wiping his face. "Mr.
Jarndyce, I have done! I am violent, I know. I ought to know it.
I have been in prison for contempt of court. I have been in prison
for threatening the solicitor. I have been in this trouble, and
that trouble, and shall be again. I am the man from Shropshire,
and I sometimes go beyond amusing them, though they have found it
amusing, too, to see me committed into custody and brought up in
custody and all that. It would be better for me, they tell me, if
I restrained myself. I tell them that if I did restrain myself I
should become imbecile. I was a good-enough-tempered man once, I
believe. People in my part of the country say they remember me so,
but now I must have this vent under my sense of injury or nothing
could hold my wits together. It would be far better for you, Mr.
Gridley,' the Lord Chancellor told me last week, 'not to waste your
time here, and to stay, usefully employed, down in Shropshire.'
'My Lord, my Lord, I know it would,' said I to him, 'and it would
have been far better for me never to have heard the name of your
high office, but unhappily for me, I can't undo the past, and the
past drives me here!' Besides," he added, breaking fiercely out,
"I'll shame them. To the last, I'll show myself in that court to
its shame. If I knew when I was going to die, and could be carried
there, and had a voice to speak with, I would die there, saying,
'You have brought me here and sent me from here many and many a
time. Now send me out feet foremost!'"
His countenance had, perhaps for years, become so set in its
contentious expression that it did not soften, even now when he was
"I came to take these babies down to my room for an hour," he said,
going to them again, "and let them play about. I didn't mean to
say all this, but it don't much signify. You're not afraid of me,
Tom, are you?"
"No!" said Tom. "You ain't angry with ME."
"You are right, my child. You're going back, Charley? Aye? Come
then, little one!" He took the youngest child on his arm, where
she was willing enough to be carried. "I shouldn't wonder if we
found a ginger-bread soldier downstairs. Let's go and look for
He made his former rough salutation, which was not deficient in a
certain respect, to Mr. Jarndyce, and bowing slightly to us, went
downstairs to his room.
Upon that, Mr. Skimpole began to talk, for the first time since our
arrival, in his usual gay strain. He said, Well, it was really
very pleasant to see how things lazily adapted themselves to
purposes. Here was this Mr. Gridley, a man of a robust will and
surprising energy--intellectually speaking, a sort of inharmonious
blacksmith--and he could easily imagine that there Gridley was,
years ago, wandering about in life for something to expend his
superfluous combativeness upon--a sort of Young Love among the
thorns--when the Court of Chancery came in his way and accommodated
him with the exact thing he wanted. There they were, matched, ever
afterwards! Otherwise he might have been a great general, blowing
up all sorts of towns, or he might have been a great politician,
dealing in all sorts of parliamentary rhetoric; but as it was, he
and the Court of Chancery had fallen upon each other in the
pleasantest way, and nobody was much the worse, and Gridley was, so
to speak, from that hour provided for. Then look at Coavinses!
How delightfully poor Coavinses (father of these charming children)
illustrated the same principle! He, Mr. Skimpole, himself, had
sometimes repined at the existence of Coavinses. He had found
Coavinses in his way. He could had dispensed with Coavinses.
There had been times when, if he had been a sultan, and his grand
vizier had said one morning, "What does the Commander of the
Faithful require at the hands of his slave?" he might have even
gone so far as to reply, "The head of Coavinses!" But what turned
out to be the case? That, all that time, he had been giving
employment to a most deserving man, that he had been a benefactor
to Coavinses, that he had actually been enabling Coavinses to bring
up these charming children in this agreeable way, developing these
social virtues! Insomuch that his heart had just now swelled and
the tears had come into his eyes when he had looked round the room
and thought, "I was the great patron of Coavinses, and his little
comforts were MY work!"
There was something so captivating in his light way of touching
these fantastic strings, and he was such a mirthful child by the
side of the graver childhood we had seen, that he made my guardian
smile even as he turned towards us from a little private talk with
Mrs. Blinder. We kissed Charley, and took her downstairs with us,
and stopped outside the house to see her run away to her work. I
don't know where she was going, but we saw her run, such a little,
little creature in her womanly bonnet and apron, through a covered
way at the bottom of the court and melt into the city's strife and
sound like a dewdrop in an ocean.
My Lady Dedlock is restless, very restless. The astonished
fashionable intelligence hardly knows where to have her. To-day
she is at Chesney Wold; yesterday she was at her house in town; to-
morrow she may be abroad, for anything the fashionable intelligence
can with confidence predict. Even Sir Leicester's gallantry has
some trouble to keep pace with her. It would have more but that
his other faithful ally, for better and for worse--the gout--darts
into the old oak bed-chamber at Chesney Wold and grips him by both
Sir Leicester receives the gout as a troublesome demon, but still a
demon of the patrician order. All the Dedlocks, in the direct male
line, through a course of time during and beyond which the memory
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