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Charles Dickens > Bleak House > Chapter XXIII

Bleak House

Chapter XXIII

Esther's Narrative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Certainly," said I.

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

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

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

"I am sorry--" I began.

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

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

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

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

"Mademoiselle, I come from the South country where we are quick and
where we like and dislike very strong. My Lady was too high for
me; I was too high for her. It is done--past--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 how

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 terror.

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

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

I confessed that she had surprised us all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"But settled?" said I.

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

"Settled in the law," said I.

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

"You said that before, my dear Richard."

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


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

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

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

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

"ARE you in debt, Richard?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I can't imagine," said I.

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

I looked at him and shook my head.

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

"The army?" said I.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I hope he approved, Caddy?"

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

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

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

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

"Father, Miss Summerson; Miss Jellyby."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Turveydrop uttered a groan.

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

Mr. Turveydrop sobbed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They were overpowered afresh by his uncommon generosity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Him, Ma."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

"I can't help it, Charley."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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