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Charles Dickens > Bleak House > Chapter LXV

Bleak House

Chapter LXV

Beginning the World

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

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

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

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

We asked a gentleman by us if he knew what cause was on. He told
us Jarndyce and Jarndyce. We asked him if he knew what was doing
in it. He said really, no he did not, nobody ever did, but as well
as he could make out, it was over. Over for the day? we asked him.
No, he said, over for good.

Over for good!

When we heard this unaccountable answer, we looked at one another
quite lost in amazement. Could it be possible that the will had
set things right at last and that Richard and Ada were going to be
rich? It seemed too good to be true. Alas it was!

Our suspense was short, for a break-up soon took place in the
crowd, and the people came streaming out looking flushed and hot
and bringing a quantity of bad air with them. Still they were all
exceedingly amused and were more like people coming out from a
farce or a juggler than from a court of justice. We stood aside,
watching for any countenance we knew, and presently great bundles
of paper began to be carried out--bundles in bags, bundles too
large to be got into any bags, immense masses of papers of all
shapes and no shapes, which the bearers staggered under, and threw
down for the time being, anyhow, on the Hall pavement, while they
went back to bring out more. Even these clerks were laughing. We
glanced at the papers, and seeing Jarndyce and Jarndyce everywhere,
asked an official-looking person who was standing in the midst of
them whether the cause was over. Yes, he said, it was all up with
it at last, and burst out laughing too.

At this juncture we perceived Mr. Kenge coming out of court with an
affable dignity upon him, listening to Mr. Vholes, who was
deferential and carried his own bag. Mr. Vholes was the first to
see us. "Here is Miss Summerson, sir," he said. "And Mr.

"Oh, indeed! Yes. Truly!" said Mr. Kenge, raising his hat to me
with polished politeness. "How do you do? Glad to see you. Mr.
Jarndyce is not here?"

No. He never came there, I reminded him.

"Really," returned Mr. Kenge, "it is as well that he is NOT here
to-day, for his--shall I say, in my good friend's absence, his
indomitable singularity of opinion?--might have been strengthened,
perhaps; not reasonably, but might have been strengthened."

"Pray what has been done to-day?" asked Allan.

"I beg your pardon?" said Mr. Kenge with excessive urbanity.

"What has been done to-day?"

"What has been done," repeated Mr. Kenge. "Quite so. Yes. Why,
not much has been done; not much. We have been checked--brought up
suddenly, I would say--upon the--shall I term it threshold?"

"Is this will considered a genuine document, sir?" said Allan.
"Will you tell us that?"

"Most certainly, if I could," said Mr. Kenge; "but we have not gone
into that, we have not gone into that."

"We have not gone into that," repeated Mr. Vholes as if his low
inward voice were an echo.

"You are to reflect, Mr. Woodcourt," observed Mr. Kenge, using his
silver trowel persuasively and smoothingly, "that this has been a
great cause, that this has been a protracted cause, that this has
been a complex cause. Jarndyce and Jarndyce has been termed, not
inaptly, a monument of Chancery practice."

"And patience has sat upon it a long time," said Allan.

"Very well indeed, sir," returned Mr. Kenge with a certain
condeseending laugh he had. "Very well! You are further to
reflect, Mr. Woodcourt," becoming dignified almost to severity,
"that on the numerous difficulties, contingencies, masterly
fictions, and forms of procedure in this great cause, there has
been expended study, ability, eloquence, knowledge, intellect, Mr.
Woodcourt, high intellect. For many years, the--a--I would say the
flower of the bar, and the--a--I would presume to add, the matured
autumnal fruits of the woolsack--have been lavished upon Jarndyce
and Jarndyce. If the public have the benefit, and if the country
have the adornment, of this great grasp, it must be paid for in
money or money's worth, sir."

"Mr. Kenge," said Allan, appearing enlightened all in a moment.
"Excuse me, our time presses. Do I understand that the whole
estate is found to have been absorbed in costs?"

"Hem! I believe so," returned Mr. Kenge. "Mr. Vholes, what do YOU

"I believe so," said Mr. Vholes.

"And that thus the suit lapses and melts away?"

"Probably," returned Mr. Kenge. "Mr. Vholes?"

"Probably," said Mr. Vholes.

"My dearest life," whispered Allan, "this will break Richard's

There was such a shock of apprehension in his face, and he knew
Richard so perfectly, and I too had seen so much of his gradual
decay, that what my dear girl had said to me in the fullness of her
foreboding love sounded like a knell in my ears.

"In case you should be wanting Mr. C., sir," said Mr. Vholes,
coming after us, "you'll find him in court. I left him there
resting himself a little. Good day, sir; good day, Miss
Summerson." As he gave me that slowly devouring look of his, while
twisting up the strings of his bag before he hastened with it after
Mr. Kenge, the benignant shadow of whose conversational presence he
seemed afraid to leave, he gave one gasp as if he had swallowed the
last morsel of his client, and his black buttoned-up unwholesome
figure glided away to the low door at the end of the Hall.

"My dear love," said Allan, "leave to me, for a little while, the
charge you gave me. Go home with this intelligence and come to
Ada's by and by!"

I would not let him take me to a coach, but entreated him to go to
Richard without a moment's delay and leave me to do as he wished.
Hurrying home, I found my guardian and told him gradually with what
news I had returned. "Little woman," said he, quite unmoved for
himself, "to have done with the suit on any terms is a greater
blessing than I had looked for. But my poor young cousins!"

We talked about them all the morning and discussed what it was
possible to do. In the afternoon my guardian walked with me to
Symond's Inn and left me at the door. I went upstairs. When my
darling heard my footsteps, she came out into the small passage and
threw her arms round my neck, but she composed herself direcfly and
said that Richard had asked for me several times. Allan had found
him sitting in the corner of the court, she told me, like a stone
figure. On being roused, he had broken away and made as if he
would have spoken in a fierce voice to the judge. He was stopped
by his mouth being full of blood, and Allan had brought him home.

He was lying on a sofa with his eyes closed when I went in. There
were restoratives on the table; the room was made as airy as
possible, and was darkened, and was very orderly and quiet. Allan
stood behind him watching him gravely. His face appeared to me to
be quite destitute of colour, and now that I saw him without his
seeing me, I fully saw, for the first time, how worn away he was.
But he looked handsomer than I had seen him look for many a day.

I sat down by his side in silence. Opening his eyes by and by, he
said in a weak voice, but with his old smile, "Dame Durden, kiss
me, my dear!"

It was a great comfort and surprise to me to find him in his low
state cheerful and looking forward. He was happier, he said, in
our intended marriage than he could find words to tell me. My
husband had been a guardian angel to him and Ada, and he blessed us
both and wished us all the joy that life could yield us. I almost
felt as if my own heart would have broken when I saw him take my
husband's hand and hold it to his breast.

We spoke of the future as much as possible, and he said several
times that he must be present at our marriage if he could stand
upon his feet. Ada would contrive to take him, somehow, he said.
"Yes, surely, dearest Richard!" But as my darling answered him
thus hopefully, so serene and beautiful, with the help that was to
come to her so near--I knew--I knew!

It was not good for him to talk too much, and when he was silent,
we were silent too. Sitting beside him, I made a pretence of
working for my dear, as he had always been used to joke about my
being busy. Ada leaned upon his pillow, holding his head upon her
arm. He dozed often, and whenever he awoke without seeing him,
said first of all, "Where is Woodcourt?"

Evening had come on when I lifted up my eyes and saw my guardian
standing in the little hall. "Who is that, Dame Durden?" Richard
asked me. The door was behind him, but he had observed in my face
that some one was there.

I looked to Allan for advice, and as he nodded "Yes," bent over
Richard and told him. My guardian saw what passed, came softly by
me in a moment, and laid his hand on Richard's. "Oh, sir," said
Richard, "you are a good man, you are a good man!" and burst into
tears for the first time.

My guardian, the picture of a good man, sat down in my place,
keeping his hand on Richard's.

"My dear Rick," said he, "the clouds have cleared away, and it is
bright now. We can see now. We were all bewildered, Rick, more or
less. What matters! And how are you, my dear boy?"

"I am very weak, sir, but I hope I shall be stronger. I have to
begin the world."

"Aye, truly; well said!" cried my guardian.

"I will not begin it in the old way now," said Richard with a sad
smile. "I have learned a lesson now, sir. It was a hard one, but
you shall be assured, indeed, that I have learned it."

"Well, well," said my guardian, comforting him; "well, well, well,
dear boy!"

"I was thinking, sir," resumed Richard, "that there is nothing on
earth I should so much like to see as their house--Dame Durden's
and Woodcourt's house. If I could be removed there when I begin to
recover my strength, I feel as if I should get well there sooner
than anywhere."

"Why, so have I been thinking too, Rick," said my guardian, "and
our little woman likewise; she and I have been talking of it this
very day. I dare say her husband won't object. What do you

Richard smiled and lifted up his arm to touch him as he stood
behind the head of the couch.

"I say nothing of Ada," said Richard, "but I think of her, and have
thought of her very much. Look at her! See her here, sir, bending
over this pillow when she has so much need to rest upon it herself,
my dear love, my poor girl!"

He clasped her in his arms, and none of us spoke. He gradually
released her, and she looked upon us, and looked up to heaven, and
moved her lips.

"When I get down to Bleak House," said Richard, "I shall have much
to tell you, sir, and you will have much to show me. You will go,
won't you?"

"Undoubtedly, dear Rick."

"Thank you; like you, like you," said Richard. "But it's all like
you. They have been telling me how you planned it and how you
remembered all Esther's familiar tastes and ways. It will be like
coming to the old Bleak House again."

"And you will come there too, I hope, Rick. I am a solitary man
now, you know, and it will be a charity to come to me. A charity
to come to me, my love!" he repeated to Ada as he gently passed his
hand over her golden hair and put a lock of it to his lips. (I
think he vowed within himself to cherish her if she were left

"It was a troubled dream?" said Richard, clasping both my
guardian's hands eagerly.

"Nothing more, Rick; nothing more."

"And you, being a good man, can pass it as such, and forgive and
pity the dreamer, and be lenient and encouraging when he wakes?"

"Indeed I can. What am I but another dreamer, Rick?"

"I will begin the world!" said Richard with a light in his eyes.

My husband drew a little nearer towards Ada, and I saw him solemnly
lift up his hand to warn my guardian.

"When shall I go from this place to that pleasant country where the
old times are, where I shall have strength to tell what Ada has
been to me, where I shall be able to recall my many faults and
blindnesses, where I shall prepare myself to be a guide to my
unborn child?" said Richard. "When shall I go?"

"Dear Rick, when you are strong enough," returned my guardian.

"Ada, my darling!"

He sought to raise himself a little. Allan raised him so that she
could hold him on her bosom, which was what he wanted.

"I have done you many wrongs, my own. I have fallen like a poor
stray shadow on your way, I have married you to poverty and
trouble, I have scattered your means to the winds. You will
forgive me all this, my Ada, before I begin the world?"

A smile irradiated his face as she bent to kiss him. He slowly
laid his face down upon her bosom, drew his arms closer round her
neck, and with one parting sob began the world. Not this world,
oh, not this! The world that sets this right.

When all was still, at a late hour, poor crazed Miss Flite came
weeping to me and told me she had given her birds their liberty.

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