Bleak House, by Charles Dickens (1852-1853) - Chapter 23 -
We came home from Mr. Boythorn's after six pleasant
weeks. We were often in the park and in the woods and seldom passed the lodge
where we had taken shelter without looking in to speak to the keeper's wife; but
we saw no more of Lady Dedlock, except at church on Sundays. There was company
at Chesney Wold; and although several beautiful faces surrounded her, her face
retained the same influence on me as at first. I do not quite know even now
whether it was painful or pleasurable, whether it drew me towards her or made me
shrink from her. I think I admired her with a kind of fear, and I know that in
her presence my thoughts always wandered back, as they had done at first, to
that old time of my life.
I had a fancy, on more than one of these Sundays, that
what this lady so curiously was to me, I was to her--I mean that I disturbed her
thoughts as she influenced mine, though in some different way. But when I stole
a glance at her and saw her so composed and distant and unapproachable, I felt
this to be a foolish weakness. Indeed, I felt the whole state of my mind in
reference to her to be weak and unreasonable, and I remonstrated with myself
about it as much as I could.
One incident that occurred before we quitted Mr.
Boythorn's house, I had better mention in this place.
I was walking in the garden with Ada and when I was told
that some one wished to see me. Going into the breakfast-room where this person
was waiting, I found it to be the French maid who had cast off her shoes and
walked through the wet grass on the day when it thundered and lightened.
Mademoiselle," she began, looking fixedly at me
with her too-eager eyes, though otherwise presenting an agreeable appearance and
speaking neither with boldness nor servility, "I have taken a great liberty
in coming here, but you know how to excuse it, being so amiable,
"No excuse is necessary," I returned, "if
you wish to speak to me."
"That is my desire, mademoiselle. A thousand thanks
for the permission. I have your leave to speak. Is it not?" she said in a
quick, natural way.
"Certainly," said I.
"Mademoiselle, you are so amiable! Listen then, if
you please. I have left my Lady. We could not agree. My Lady is so high, so very
high. Pardon! Mademoiselle, you are right!" Her quickness anticipated what
I might have said presently but as yet had only thought. "It is not for me
to come here to complain of my Lady. But I say she is so high, so very high. I
will not say a word more. All the world knows that."
"Go on, if you please," said I.
"Assuredly; mademoiselle, I am thankful for your
politeness. Mademoiselle, I have an inexpressible desire to find service with a
young lady who is good, accomplished, beautiful. You are good, accomplished, and
beautiful as an angel. Ah, could I have the honour of being your domestic!"
"I am sorry--" I began.
"Do not dismiss me so soon, mademoiselle!" she
said with an involuntary contraction of her fine black eyebrows. "Let me
hope a moment! Mademoiselle, I know this service would be more retired than that
which I have quitted. Well! I wish that. I know this service would be less
distinguished than that which I have quitted. Well! I wish that, I know that I
should win less, as to wages here. Good. I am content."
"I assure you," said I, quite embarrassed by
the mere idea of having such an attendant, "that I keep no maid--"
"Ah, mademoiselle, but why not? Why not, when you
can have one so devoted to you! Who would be enchanted to serve you; who would
be so true, so zealous, and so faithful every day! Mademoiselle, I wish with all
my heart to serve you. Do not speak of money at present. Take me as I am. For
She was so singularly earnest that I drew back, almost
afraid of her. Without appearing to notice it, in her ardour she still pressed
herself upon me, speaking in a rapid subdued voice, though always with a certain
grace and propriety.
"Mademoiselle, I come from the South country where
we are quick and where we like and dislike very strong. My Lady was too high for
me; I was too high for her. It is done--past--finlshed! Receive me as your
domestic, and I will serve you well. I will do more for you than you figure to
yourself now. Chut! Mademoiselle, I will-- no matter, I will do my utmost
possible in all things. If you accept my service, you will not repent it.
Mademoiselle, you will not repent it, and I will serve you well. You don't know
There was a lowering energy in her face as she stood
looking at me while I explained the impossibility of my engagmg her (without
thinking it necessary to say how very little I desired to do so), which seemed
to bring visibly before me some woman from the streets of Paris in the reign of
She heard me out without interruption and then said with
her pretty accent and in her mildest voice, "Hey, mademoiselle, I have
received my answer! I am sorry of it. But I must go elsewhere and seek what I
have not found here. Will you graciously let me kiss your hand?"
She looked at me more intently as she took it, and
seemed to take note, with her momentary touch, of every vein in it. "I fear
I surprised you, mademoiselle, on the day of the storm?" she said with a
I confessed that she had surprised us all.
"I took an oath, mademoiselle," she said,
smiling, "and I wanted to stamp it on my mind so that I might keep it
faithfully. And I will! Adieu, mademoiselle!"
So ended our conference, which I was very glad to bring
to a close. I supposed she went away from the village, for I saw her no more;
and nothing else occurred to disturb our tranquil summer pleasures until six
weeks were out and we returned home as I began just now by saying.
At that time, and for a good many weeks after that time,
Richard was constant in his visits. Besides coming every Saturday or Sunday and
remaining with us until Monday morning, he sometimes rode out on horseback
unexpectedly and passed the evening with us and rode back again early next day.
He was as vivacious as ever and told us he was very industrious, but I was not
easy in my mind about him. It appeared to me that his industry was all
misdirected. I could not find that it led to anything but the formation of
delusive hopes in connexion with the suit already the pernicious cause of so
much sorrow and ruin. He had got at the core of that mystery now, he told us,
and nothing could be plainer than that the will under which he and Ada were to
take I don't know how many thousands of pounds must be finally established if
there were any sense or justice in the Court of Chancery--but oh, what a great
IF that sounded in my ears--and that this happy conclusion could not be much
longer delayed. He proved this to himself by all the weary arguments on that
side he had read, and every one of them sunk him deeper in the infatuation. He
had even begun to haunt the court. He told us how he saw Miss Flite there daily,
how they talked together, and how he did her little kindnesses, and how, while
he laughed at her, he pitied her from his heart. But he never thought--never, my
poor, dear, sanguine Richard, capable of so much happiness then, and with such
better things before him-- what a fatal link was riveting between his fresh
youth and her faded age, between his free hopes and her caged birds, and her
hungry garret, and her wandering mind.
Ada loved him too well to mistrust him much in anything
he said or did, and my guardian, though he frequently complained of the east
wind and read more than usual in the growlery, preserved a strict silence on the
subject. So I thought one day when I went to London to meet Caddy Jellyby, at
her solicitation, I would ask Richard to be in waiting for me at the
coach-office, that we might have a little talk together. I found him there when
I arrived, and we walked away arm in arm.
"Well, Richard," said I as soon as I could
begin to be grave with him, "are you beginning to feel more settled
"Oh, yes, my dear!" returned Richard.
"I'm all right enough."
"But settled?" said I.
"How do you mean, settled?" returned Richard
with his gay laugh.
"Settled in the law," said I.
"Oh, aye," replied Richard, "I'm all
"You said that before, my dear Richard."
"And you don't think it's an answer, eh? Well!
Perhaps it's not. Settled? You mean, do I feel as if I were settling down?"
"Why, no, I can't say I am settling down,"
said Richard, strongly emphasizing "down," as if that expressed the
difficulty, "because one can't settle down while this business remains in
such an unsettled state. When I say this business, of course I mean the--
"Do you think it will ever be in a settled
state?" said I.
"Not the least doubt of it," answered Richard.
We walked a little way without speaking, and presently
Richard addressed me in his frankest and most feeling manner, thus: "My
dear Esther, I understand you, and I wish to heaven I were a more constant sort
of fellow. I don't mean constant to Ada, for I love her dearly--better and
better every day--but constant to myself. (Somehow, I mean something that I
can't very well express, but you'll make it out.) If I were a more constant sort
of fellow, I should have held on either to Badger or to Kenge and Carboy like
grim death, and should have begun to be steady and systematic by this time, and
shouldn't be in debt, and--"
"ARE you in debt, Richard?"
"Yes," said Richard, "I am a little so,
my dear. Also, I have taken rather too much to billiards and that sort of thing.
Now the murder's out; you despise me, Esther, don't you?"
"You know I don't," said I.
"You are kinder to me than I often am to
myself," he returned. "My dear Esther, I am a very unfortunate dog not
to be more settled, but how CAN I be more settled? If you lived in an unfinished
house, you couldn't settle down in it; if you were condemned to leave everything
you undertook unfinished, you would find it hard to apply yourself to anything;
and yet that's my unhappy case. I was born into this unfinished contention with
all its chances and changes, and it began to unsettle me before I quite knew the
difference between a suit at law and a suit of clothes; and it has gone on
unsettling me ever since; and here I am now, conscious sometimes that I am but a
worthless fellow to love my confiding cousin Ada."
We were in a solitary place, and he put his hands before
his eyes and sobbed as he said the words.
"Oh, Richard!" said I. "Do not be so
moved. You have a noble nature, and Ada's love may make you worthier every
"I know, my dear," he replied, pressing my
arm, "I know all that. You mustn't mind my being a little soft now, for I
have had all this upon my mind for a long time, and have often meant to speak to
you, and have sometimes wanted opportunity and sometimes courage. I know what
the thought of Ada ought to do for me, but it doesn't do it. I am too unsettled
even for that. I love her most devotedly, and yet I do her wrong, in doing
myself wrong, every day and hour. But it can't last for ever. We shall come on
for a final hearing and get judgment in our favour, and then you and Ada shall
see what I can really be!"
It had given me a pang to hear him sob and see the tears
start out between his fingers, but that was infinitely less affecting to me than
the hopeful animation with which he said these words.
"I have looked well into the papers, Esther. I have
been deep in them for months," he continued, recovering his cheerfulness in
a moment, "and you may rely upon it that we shall come out triumphant. As
to years of delay, there has been no want of them, heaven knows! And there is
the greater probability of our bringing the matter to a speedy close; in fact,
it's on the paper now. It will be all right at last, and then you shall
Recalling how he had just now placed Messrs. Kenge and
Carboy in the same category with Mr. Badger, I asked him when he intended to be
articled in Lincoln's Inn.
"There again! I think not at all, Esther," he
returned with an effort. "I fancy I have had enough of it. Having worked at
Jarndyce and Jarndyce like a galley slave, I have slaked my thirst for the law
and satisfied myself that I shouldn't like it. Besides, I find it unsettles me
more and more to be so constantly upon the scene of action. So what,"
continued Richard, confident again by this time, "do I naturally turn my
"I can't imagine," said I.
"Don't look so serious," returned Richard,
"because it's the best thing I can do, my dear Esther, I am certain. It's
not as if I wanted a profession for life. These proceedings will come to a
termination, and then I am provided for. No. I look upon it as a pursuit which
is in its nature more or less unsettled, and therefore suited to my temporary
condition--I may say, precisely suited. What is it that I naturally turn my
I looked at him and shook my head.
"What," said Richard, in a tone of perfect
conviction, "but the army!"
"The army?" said I.
"The army, of course. What I have to do is to get a
commission; and--there I am, you know!" said Richard.
And then he showed me, proved by elaborate calculations
in his pocket-book, that supposing he had contracted, say, two hundred pounds of
debt in six months out of the army; and that he contracted no debt at all within
a corresponding period in the army--as to which he had quite made up his mind;
this step must involve a saving of four hundred pounds in a year, or two
thousand pounds in five years, which was a considerable sum. And then he spoke
so ingenuously and sincerely of the sacrifice he made in withdrawing himself for
a time from Ada, and of the earnestness with which he aspired--as in thought he
always did, I know full well--to repay her love, and to ensure her happiness,
and to conquer what was amiss in himself, and to acquire the very soul of
decision, that he made my heart ache keenly, sorely. For, I thought, how would
this end, how could this end, when so soon and so surely all his manly qualities
were touched by the fatal blight that ruined everything it rested on!
I spoke to Richard with all the earnestness I felt, and
all the hope I could not quite feel then, and implored him for Ada's sake not to
put any trust in Chancery. To all I said, Richard readily assented, riding over
the court and everything else in his easy way and drawing the brightest pictures
of the character he was to settle into--alas, when the grievous suit should
loose its hold upon him! We had a long talk, but it always came back to that, in
At last we came to Soho Square, where Caddy Jellyby had
appointed to wait for me, as a quiet place in the neighbourhood of Newman
Street. Caddy was in the garden in the centre and hurried out as soon as I
appeared. After a few cheerful words, Richard left us together.
"Prince has a pupil over the way, Esther,"
said Caddy, "and got the key for us. So if you will walk round and round
here with me, we can lock ourselves in and I can tell you comfortably what I
wanted to see your dear good face about."
"Very well, my dear," said I. "Nothing
could be better." So Caddy, after affectionately squeezing the dear good
face as she called it, locked the gate, and took my arm, and we began to walk
round the garden very cosily.
"You see, Esther," said Caddy, who thoroughly
enjoyed a little confidence, "after you spoke to me about its being wrong
to marry without Ma's knowledge, or even to keep Ma long in the dark respecting
our engagement--though I don't believe Ma cares much for me, I must say--I
thought it right to mention your opinions to Prince. In the first place because
I want to profit by everything you tell me, and in the second place because I
have no secrets from Prince."
"I hope he approved, Caddy?"
"Oh, my dear! I assure you he would approve of
anything you could say. You have no idea what an opimon he has of you!"
"Esther, it's enough to make anybody but me
jealous," said Caddy, laughing and shaking her head; "but it only
makes me joyful, for you are the first friend I ever had, and the best friend I
ever can have, and nobody can respect and love you too much to please me."
"Upon my word, Caddy," said I, "you are
in the general conspiracy to keep me in a good humour. Well, my dear?"
"Well! I am going to tell you," replied Caddy,
crossing her hands confidentially upon my arm. "So we talked a good deal
about it, and so I said to Prince, 'Prince, as Miss Summerson--"
"I hope you didn't say 'Miss Summerson'?"
"No. I didn't!" cried Caddy, greatly pleased
and with the brightest of faces. "I said, 'Esther.' I said to Prince, 'As
Esther is decidedly of that opinion, Prince, and has expressed it to me, and
always hints it when she writes those kind notes, which you are so fond of
hearing me read to you, I am prepared to disclose the truth to Ma whenever you
think proper. And I think, Prince,' said I, 'that Esther thinks that I should be
in a better, and truer, and more honourable position altogether if you did the
same to your papa.'"
"Yes, my dear," said I. "Esther certainly
does think so."
"So I was right, you see!" exclaimed Caddy.
"Well! This troubled Prince a good deal, not because he had the least doubt
about it, but because he is so considerate of the feelings of old Mr. Turveydrop;
and he had his apprehensions that old Mr. Turveydrop might break his heart, or
faint away, or be very much overcome in some affecting manner or other if he
made such an announcement. He feared old Mr. Turveydrop might consider it
undutiful and might receive too great a shock. For old Mr. Turveydrop's
deportment is very beautiful, you know, Esther," said Caddy, "and his
feelings are extremely sensitive."
"Are they, my dear?"
"Oh, extremely sensitive. Prince says so. Now, this
has caused my darling child--I didn't mean to use the expression to you,
Esther," Caddy apologized, her face suffused with blushes, "but I
generally call Prince my darling child."
I laughed; and Caddy laughed and blushed, and went on'
"This has caused him, Esther--"
"Caused whom, my dear?"
"Oh, you tiresome thing!" said Caddy,
laughing, with her pretty face on fire. "My darling child, if you insist
upon it! This has caused him weeks of uneasiness and has made him delay, from
day to day, in a very anxious manner. At last he said to me, 'Caddy, if Miss
Summerson, who is a great favourite with my father, could be prevailed upon to
be present when I broke the subject, I think I could do it.' So I promised I
would ask you. And I made up my mind, besides," said Caddy, looking at me
hopefully but timidly, "that if you consented, I would ask you afterwards
to come with me to Ma. This is what I meant when I said in my note that I had a
great favour and a great assistance to beg of you. And if you thought you could
grant it, Esther, we should both be very grateful."
"Let me see, Caddy," said I, pretending to
consider. "Really, I think I could do a greater thing than that if the need
were pressing. I am at your service and the darling child's, my dear, whenever
Caddy was quite transported by this reply of mine,
being, I believe, as susceptible to the least kindness or encouragement as any
tender heart that ever beat in this world; and after another turn or two round
the garden, during which she put on an entirely new pair of gloves and made
herself as resplendent as possible that she might do no avoidable discredit to
the Master of Deportment, we went to Newman Street direct.
Prince was teaching, of course. We found him engaged
with a not very hopeful pupil--a stubborn little girl with a sulky forehead, a
deep voice, and an inanimate, dissatisfied mama--whose case was certainly not
rendered more hopeful by the confusion into which we threw her preceptor. The
lesson at last came to an end, after proceeding as discordantly as possible; and
when the little girl had changed her shoes and had had her white muslin
extinguished in shawls, she was taken away. After a few words of preparation, we
then went in search of Mr. Turveydrop, whom we found, grouped with his hat and
gloves, as a model of deportment, on the sofa in his private apartment--the only
comfortable room in the house. He appeared to have dressed at his leisure in the
intervals of a light collation, and his dressing-case, brushes, and so forth,
all of quite an elegant kind, lay about.
"Father, Miss Summerson; Miss Jellyby."
"Charmed! Enchanted!" said Mr. Turveydrop,
rising with his high- shouldered bow. "Permit me!" Handing chairs.
"Be seated!" Kissing the tips of his left fingers.
"Overjoyed!" Shutting his eyes and rolling. "My little retreat is
made a paradise." Recomposing himself on the sofa like the second gentleman
"Again you find us, Miss Summerson," said he,
"using our little arts to polish, polish! Again the sex stimulates us and
rewards us by the condescension of its lovely presence. It is much in these
times (and we have made an awfully degenerating business of it since the days of
his Royal Highness the Prince Regent--my patron, if I may presume to say so) to
experience that deportment is not wholly trodden under foot by mechanics. That
it can yet bask in the smile of beauty, my dear madam."
I said nothing, which I thought a suitable reply; and he
took a pinch of snuff.
"My dear son," said Mr. Turveydrop, "you
have four schools this afternoon. I would recommend a hasty sandwich."
"Thank you, father," returned Prince, "I
will be sure to be punctual. My dear father, may I beg you to prepare your mind
for what I am going to say?"
"Good heaven!" exclaimed the model, pale and
aghast as Prince and Caddy, hand in hand, bent down before him. "What is
this? Is this lunacy! Or what is this?"
"Father," returned Prince with great
submission, "I love this young lady, and we are engaged."
"Engaged!" cried Mr. Turveydrop, reclining on
the sofa and shutting out the sight with his hand. "An arrow launched at my
brain by my own child!"
"We have been engaged for some time, father,"
faltered Prince, "and Miss Summerson, hearing of it, advised that we should
declare the fact to you and was so very kind as to attend on the present
occasion. Miss Jellyby is a young lady who deeply respects you, father."
Mr. Turveydrop uttered a groan.
"No, pray don't! Pray don't, father," urged
his son. "Miss Jellyby is a young lady who deeply respects you, and our
first desire is to consider your comfort."
Mr. Turveydrop sobbed.
"No, pray don't, father!" cried his son.
"Boy," said Mr. Turveydrop, "it is well
that your sainted mother is spared this pang. Strike deep, and spare not. Strike
home, sir, strike home!"
"Pray don't say so, father," implored Prince,
in tears. "It goes to my heart. I do assure you, father, that our first
wish and intention is to consider your comfort. Caroline and I do not forget our
duty--what is my duty is Caroline's, as we have often said together--and with
your approval and consent, father, we will devote ourselves to making your life
"Strike home," murmured Mr. Turveydrop.
"Strike home!" But he seemed to listen, I thought, too.
"My dear father," returned Prince, "we
well know what little comforts you are accustomed to and have a right to, and it
will always be our study and our pride to provide those before anything. If you
will bless us with your approval and consent, father, we shall not think of
being married until it is quite agreeable to you; and when we ARE married, we
shall always make you--of course-- our first consideration. You must ever be the
head and master here, father; and we feel how truly unnatural it would be in us
if we failed to know it or if we failed to exert ourselves in every possible way
to please you."
Mr. Turveydrop underwent a severe internal struggle and
came upright on the sofa again with his cheeks puffing over his stiff cravat, a
perfect model of parental deportment.
"My son!" said Mr. Turveydrop. "My
children! I cannot resist your prayer. Be happy!"
His benignity as he raised his future daughter-in-law
and stretched out his hand to his son (who kissed it with affectionate respect
and gratitude) was the most confusing sight I ever saw.
"My children," said Mr. Turveydrop, paternally
encircling Caddy with his left arm as she sat beside him, and putting his right
hand gracefully on his hip. "My son and daughter, your happiness shall be
my care. I will watch over you. You shall always live with me"--meaning, of
course, I will always live with you--"this house is henceforth as much
yours as mine; consider it your home. May you long live to share it with
The power of his deportment was such that they really
were as much overcome with thankfulness as if, instead of quartering himself
upon them for the rest of his life, he were making some munificent sacrifice in
"For myself, my children," said Mr.
Turveydrop, "I am falling into the sear and yellow leaf, and it is
impossible to say how long the last feeble traces of gentlemanly deportment may
linger in this weaving and spinning age. But, so long, I will do my duty to
society and will show myself, as usual, about town. My wants are few and simple.
My little apartment here, my few essentials for the toilet, my frugal morning
meal, and my little dinner will suffice. I charge your dutiful affection with
the supply of these requirements, and I charge myself with all the rest."
They were overpowered afresh by his uncommon generosity.
"My son," said Mr. Turveydrop, "for those
little points in which you are deficient--points of deportment, which are born
with a man, which may be improved by cultivation, but can never be originated--
you may still rely on me. I have been faithful to my post since the days of his
Royal Highness the Prince Regent, and I will not desert it now. No, my son. If
you have ever contemplated your father's poor position with a feeling of pride,
you may rest assured that he will do nothing to tarnish it. For yourself,
Prince, whose character is different (we cannot be all alike, nor is it
advisable that we should), work, be industrious, earn money, and extend the
connexion as much as possible."
"That you may depend I will do, dear father, with
all my heart," replied Prince.
"I have no doubt of it," said Mr. Turveydrop.
"Your qualities are not shining, my dear child, but they are steady and
useful. And to both of you, my children, I would merely observe, in the spirit
of a sainted wooman on whose path I had the happiness of casting, I believe,
SOME ray of light, take care of the establishment, take care of my simple wants,
and bless you both!"
Old Mr. Turveydrop then became so very gallant, in
honour of the occasion, that I told Caddy we must really go to Thavies Inn at
once if we were to go at all that day. So we took our departure after a very
loving farewell between Caddy and her betrothed, and during our walk she was so
happy and so full of old Mr. Turveydrop's praises that I would not have said a
word in his disparagement for any consideration.
The house in Thavies Inn had bills in the windows
annoucing that it was to let, and it looked dirtier and gloomier and ghastlier
than ever. The name of poor Mr. Jellyby had appeared in the list of bankrupts
but a day or two before, and he was shut up in the dining-room with two
gentlemen and a heap of blue bags, account- books, and papers, making the most
desperate endeavours to understand his affairs. They appeared to me to be quite
beyond his comprehension, for when Caddy took me into the dining-room by mistake
and we came upon Mr. Jellyby in his spectacles, forlornly fenced into a corner
by the great dining-table and the two gentlemen, he seemed to have given up the
whole thing and to be speechless and insensible.
Going upstairs to Mrs. Jellyby's room (the children were
all screaming in the kitchen, and there was no servant to be seen), we found
that lady in the midst of a voluminous correspondence, opening, reading, and
sorting letters, with a great accumulation of torn covers on the floor. She was
so preoccupied that at first she did not know me, though she sat looking at me
with that curious, bright-eyed, far-off look of hers.
"Ah! Miss Summerson!" she said at last.
"I was thinking of something so different! I hope you are well. I am happy
to see you. Mr. Jarndyce and Miss Clare quite well?"
I hoped in return that Mr. Jellyby was quite well.
"Why, not quite, my dear," said Mrs. Jellyby
in the calmest manner. "He has been unfortunate in his affairs and is a
little out of spirits. Happily for me, I am so much engaged that I have no time
to think about it. We have, at the present moment, one hundred and seventy
families, Miss Summerson, averaging five persons in each, either gone or going
to the left bank of the Niger."
I thought of the one family so near us who were neither
gone nor going to the left bank of the Niger, and wondered how she could be so
"You have brought Caddy back, I see," observed
Mrs. Jellyby with a glance at her daughter. "It has become quite a novelty
to see her here. She has almost deserted her old employment and in fact obliges
me to employ a boy."
"I am sure, Ma--" began Caddy.
"Now you know, Caddy," her mother mildly
interposed, "that I DO employ a boy, who is now at his dinner. What is the
use of your contradicting?"
"I was not going to contradict, Ma," returned
Caddy. "I was only going to say that surely you wouldn't have me be a mere
drudge all my life."
"I believe, my dear," said Mrs. Jellyby, still
opening her letters, casting her bright eyes smilingly over them, and sorting
them as she spoke, "that you have a business example before you in your
mother. Besides. A mere drudge? If you had any sympathy with the destinies of
the human race, it would raise you high above any such idea. But you have none.
I have often told you, Caddy, you have no such sympathy."
"Not if it's Africa, Ma, I have not."
"Of course you have not. Now, if I were not happily
so much engaged, Miss Summerson," said Mrs. Jellyby, sweetly casting her
eyes for a moment on me and considering where to put the particular letter she
had just opened, "this would distress and disappoint me. But I have so much
to think of, in connexion with Borrioboola-Gha and it is so necessary I should
concentrate myself that there is my remedy, you see."
As Caddy gave me a glance of entreaty, and as Mrs.
Jellyby was looking far away into Africa straight through my bonnet and head, I
thought it a good opportunity to come to the subject of my visit and to attract
Mrs. Jellyby's attention.
"Perhaps," I began, "you will wonder what
has brought me here to interrupt you."
"I am always delighted to see Miss Summerson,"
said Mrs. Jellyby, pursuing her employment with a placid smile. "Though I
wish," and she shook her head, "she was more interested in the
"I have come with Caddy," said I,
"because Caddy justly thinks she ought not to have a secret from her mother
and fancies I shall encourage and aid her (though I am sure I don't know how) in
"Caddy," said Mrs. Jellyby, pausing for a
moment in her occupation and then serenely pursuing it after shaking her head,
"you are going to tell me some nonsense."
Caddy untied the strings of her bonnet, took her bonnet
off, and letting it dangle on the floor by the strings, and crying heartily,
said, "Ma, I am engaged."
"Oh, you ridiculous child!" observed Mrs.
Jellyby with an abstracted air as she looked over the dispatch last opened;
"what a goose you are!"
"I am engaged, Ma," sobbed Caddy, "to
young Mr. Turveydrop, at the academy; and old Mr. Turveydrop (who is a very
gentlemanly man indeed) has given his consent, and I beg and pray you'll give us
yours, Ma, because I never could be happy without it. I never, never
could!" sobbed Caddy, quite forgetful of her general complainings and of
everything but her natural affection.
"You see again, Miss Summerson," observed Mrs.
Jellyby serenely, "what a happiness it is to be so much occupied as I am
and to have this necessity for self-concentration that I have. Here is Caddy
engaged to a dancing-master's son--mixed up with people who have no more
sympathy with the destinies of the human race than she has herself! This, too,
when Mr. Quale, one of the first philanthropists of our time, has mentioned to
me that he was really disposed to be interested in her!"
"Ma, I always hated and detested Mr. Quale!"
"Caddy, Caddy!" returned Mrs. Jellyby, opening
another letter with the greatest complacency. "I have no doubt you did. How
could you do otherwise, being totally destitute of the sympathies with which he
overflows! Now, if my public duties were not a favourite child to me, if I were
not occupied with large measures on a vast scale, these petty details might
grieve me very much, Miss Summerson. But can I permit the film of a silly
proceeding on the part of Caddy (from whom I expect nothing else) to interpose
between me and the great African continent? No. No," repeated Mrs. Jellyby
in a calm clear voice, and with an agreeable smile, as she opened more letters
and sorted them. "No, indeed."
I was so unprepared for the perfect coolness of this
reception, though I might have expected it, that I did not know what to say.
Caddy seemed equally at a loss. Mrs. Jellyby continued to open and sort letters
and to repeat occasionally in quite a charming tone of voice and with a smile of
perfect composure, "No, indeed."
"I hope, Ma," sobbed poor Caddy at last,
"you are not angry?"
"Oh, Caddy, you really are an absurd girl,"
returned Mrs. Jellyby, "to ask such questions after what I have said of the
preoccupation of my mind."
"And I hope, Ma, you give us your consent and wish
us well?" said Caddy.
"You are a nonsensical child to have done anything
of this kind," said Mrs. Jellyby; "and a degenerate child, when you
might have devoted yourself to the great public measure. But the step is taken,
and I have engaged a boy, and there is no more to be said. Now, pray,
Caddy," said Mrs. Jellyby, for Caddy was kissing her, "don't delay me
in my work, but let me clear off this heavy batch of papers before the afternoon
post comes in!"
I thought I could not do better than take my leave; I
was detained for a moment by Caddy's saying, "You won't object to my
bringing him to see you, Ma?"
"Oh, dear me, Caddy," cried Mrs. Jellyby, who
had relapsed into that distant contemplation, "have you begun again? Bring
"Caddy, Caddy!" said Mrs. Jellyby, quite weary
of such little matters. "Then you must bring him some evening which is not
a Parent Society night, or a Branch night, or a Ramification night. You must
accommodate the visit to the demands upon my time. My dear Miss Summerson, it
was very kind of you to come here to help out this silly chit. Good-bye! When I
tell you that I have fifty- eight new letters from manufacturing families
anxious to understand the details of the native and coffee-cultivation question
this morning, I need not apologize for having very little leisure."
I was not surprised by Caddy's being in low spirits when
we went downstairs, or by her sobbing afresh on my neck, or by her saying she
would far rather have been scolded than treated with such indifference, or by
her confiding to me that she was so poor in clothes that how she was ever to be
married creditably she didn't know. I gradually cheered her up by dwelling on
the many things she would do for her unfortunate father and for Peepy when she
had a home of her own; and finally we went downstairs into the damp dark
kitchen, where Peepy and his little brothers and sisters were grovelling on the
stone floor and where we had such a game of play with them that to prevent
myself from being quite torn to pieces I was obliged to fall back on my
fairy-tales. From time to time I heard loud voices in the parlour overhead, and
occasionally a violent tumbling about of the furniture. The last effect I am
afraid was caused by poor Mr. Jellyby's breaking away from the dining-table and
making rushes at the window with the intention of throwing himself into the area
whenever he made any new attempt to understand his affairs.
As I rode quietly home at night after the day's bustle,
I thought a good deal of Caddy's engagement and felt confirmed in my hopes (in
spite of the elder Mr. Turveydrop) that she would be the happier and better for
it. And if there seemed to be but a slender chance of her and her husband ever
finding out what the model of deportment really was, why that was all for the
best too, and who would wish them to be wiser? I did not wish them to be any
wiser and indeed was half ashamed of not entirely believing in him myself. And I
looked up at the stars, and thought about travellers in distant countries and
the stars THEY saw, and hoped I might always be so blest and happy as to be
useful to some one in my small way.
They were so glad to see me when I got home, as they
always were, that I could have sat down and cried for joy if that had not been a
method of making myself disagreeable. Everybody in the house, from the lowest to
the highest, showed me such a bright face of welcome, and spoke so cheerily, and
was so happy to do anything for me, that I suppose there never was such a
fortunate little creature in the world.
We got into such a chatty state that night, through Ada
and my guardian drawing me out to tell them all about Caddy, that I went on
prose, prose, prosing for a length of time. At last I got up to my own room,
quite red to think how I had been holding forth, and then I heard a soft tap at
my door. So I said, "Come in!" and there came in a pretty little girl,
neatly dressed in mourning, who dropped a curtsy.
"If you please, miss," said the little girl in
a soft voice, "I am Charley."
"Why, so you are," said I, stooping down in
astonishment and giving her a kiss. "How glad am I to see you,
"If you please, miss," pursued Charley in the
same soft voice, "I'm your maid."
"If you please, miss, I'm a present to you, with
Mr. Jarndyce's love."
I sat down with my hand on Charley's neck and looked at
"And oh, miss," says Charley, clapping her
hands, with the tears starting down her dimpled cheeks, "Tom's at school,
if you please, and learning so good! And little Emma, she's with Mrs. Blinder,
miss, a-being took such care of! And Tom, he would have been at school--and
Emma, she would have been left with Mrs. Blinder--and me, I should have been
here--all a deal sooner, miss; only Mr. Jarndyce thought that Tom and Emma and
me had better get a little used to parting first, we was so small. Don't cry, if
you please, miss!"
"I can't help it, Charley."
"No, miss, nor I can't help it," says Charley.
"And if you please, miss, Mr. Jarndyce's love, and he thinks you'll like to
teach me now and then. And if you please, Tom and Emma and me is to see each
other once a month. And I'm so happy and so thankful, miss," cried Charley
with a heaving heart, "and I'll try to be such a good maid!"
"Oh, Charley dear, never forget who did all
"No, miss, I never will. Nor Tom won't. Nor yet
Emma. It was all you, miss."
"I have known nothing of it. It was Mr. Jarndyce,
"Yes, miss, but it was all done for the love of you
and that you might be my mistress. If you please, miss, I am a little present
with his love, and it was all done for the love of you. Me and Tom was to be
sure to remember it."
Charley dried her eyes and entered on her functions,
going in her matronly little way about and about the room and folding up
everything she could lay her hands upon. Presently Charley came creeping back to
my side and said, "Oh, don't cry, if you please, miss."
And I said again, "I can't help it, Charley."
And Charley said again, "No, miss, nor I can't help
it." And so, after all, I did cry for joy indeed, and so did she.