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Charles Dickens > Bleak House > Chapter LXII

Bleak House

Chapter LXII

Another Discovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Remiss in anything, my dear!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"When you please."

"Next month?"

"Next month, dear guardian."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My guardian replied, "Yes."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"A very tender mind."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He did so shortly and distinctly.

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

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

"Oh, fie!" said Mr. Kenge.

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

"Not I!" returned my guardian.

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

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

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


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

Mr. Guppy disappeared.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Vholes said, "Very much so."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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